a blog about running fast with style
I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the emotions I felt when I crossed the finish line at the 2010 California International Marathon in Sacramento this past December. I’ve felt a lot of things over the past 20 years crossing finish lines, but none were as emotional as the CIM. The pictures really tell the tale you can see my joy. In the end I was happy to see my friends but to be honest I just wanted to be alone to cry. The tears were not simply of joy or pain, they were much more complicated than that, rather it was like I was finally breathing for the first time. It was this release, sure joy and pain were part of it, but it was so much more, it was like I was finally stepping into who I was supposed to be, and doing what I was created to do.
I think it’s easy to look at me and think that running must come easy, but nothing could be further from the truth. It has always been hard, maybe that’s why I quit 3 times before high school. Sprinting was a different story. You see I knew the pain was short-lived and I knew I could push myself into the pain because it would be over soon enough, I knew I could hold on for 60 to 130 seconds. Running was different. It was all painful and it just never seemed to end. But to my surprise something in this round of training changed for me and for once in my life those longer runs turned into what I once knew as sprints. Two miles turned in 13 or 14 minutes and I knew I could tolerate the pain for that long. And it was in those last two miles of 6 and 8 mile tempo run that changed my running. It was the first time I really started training my aerobic threshold. Now I’ve been hearing this term for years, but never with really any science behind, that is until Tom explained it. I won’t bore you with the details but this type of training really changed my fitness and it is the difference between a 3:20 and a 3:09 marathon.
Leading up to the race I have to admit I felt burned out. I don’t think it was really the training. It had been a long road. The stress of being in a job that made me feel suffocated and the combination of accomplishing workouts I never thought I could run left me exhausted at the start line. The first issue is rather self-explanatory, but the second may seem a bit more confusing. It is something I really have struggled with for a while. You see when I run a workout that I didn’t think I could run I feel like I have accomplished the goal and I lose sight of the my larger goal, the race. I ran several PR’s on training runs this year, and they really felt like training runs. It’s not like college where everyone was racing workouts. Once I ran a PR I felt satisfied and it was hard to push through that satisfaction to my bigger goal. I am really not quite sure how to fix this, but the end result of these workouts was confidence and belief in me. And as I stood on the start line I knew I just had 3 more hours of pain to push through till I reached my goal.
The flight down to Sac and that first day were tougher than most. December 3rd is never an easy day and this day was no exception. It was the anniversary of when my life was forever changed. Now I can see all the good that came from it, but I am still a haunted by the pain and hopelessness that the hospital memories contain. I hope to someday release all of the hurt from that experience, but I guess my heart just can’t quite let me in to do it. I know in time it will get better, but I still struggled with the ER memories and the long days that followed.
In addition to December third I was thinking about Marv. CIM will always be associated with Marv Rexius for me. My dad never ran CIM, but Marv did and I remember my dad talking about how windy it was for him and how it wasn’t his favorite race. I think this may be one of the reasons why my dad never ran it. Well if you know me at all you know that I am a reflective person (okay over-analytical), and I couldn’t help but think of how Marv’s not with us anymore. It brings me great sorrow to think about this, he was such a great man, but what hurts more is how it hurts my dad. I can’t imagine losing one’s best friend, and as I thought about Marv I thought about the void in my dad’s life. With Marv gone, and the potential that my dad my never run again I felt like I wanted to make the most of the time I had.
You see most of my life I haven’t really lived up to my potential. And it’s mostly my own fault. While others can see my potential, I only see walls and as I sat on that plane I was ready to turn over a new page in my life. So when I crossed that finish line it was much more than and 11 minute PR. It was the first time in my life that I had worked really hard for something, and stepped out into my potential and taken hold of it. Now it was by no means a perfect race, but I didn’t hold back at all. It was for Marv, it was for my dad. In the book of Hebrews the author talks about this great cloud of witness that has gone before us, and I can’t help but think that my dad and Marv are those witnesses in my running life. I’ve seen them do it, and now I am doing it too.
It had been rather cold on Friday when arrived in Sac, and Saturday seemed just as cold. But as we stepped off the yellow school buses at the start of the race you could tell it was going to be perfect racing conditions. The start was rather calm and peaceful. Porta-pottys for as far as the eye could see, they actually disappeared into the dark dawn down the road. I couldn’t find the Seattle group but we were running different paces so I wasn’t too worried. I was with Sarah and Shannon, two of my friends I met in Fresno. We made our way to start and Sarah found her friend from FCA and he prayed for us. Again I had to hold back tears, such a weeping weekend for me but still had Marv and my dad on my mind along with all the hours of training.
I found the 3:10 pace group and waited for the gun. I had hoped to find my two friends from Eugene (Pink Ladies!) but it ended up being a good thing that I didn’t connect with them, they both went out a lot faster than I had planned. The gun went off and I felt that rush you feel at the start of a marathon. The uncertainty, the hope, the unknown and well let’s be honest it is the first 2 miles of a marathon so the pace feels good! And for me it felt really good since our pacer when out pretty slow at one point I thought the 3:15 group was going to pass us. I think we were in the 7:35 maybe even 7:40 range and I was actually thankful. My previous best marathon had been about 7:40 pace, now I was attempting to run 7:08- 7:15 (ended up with 7:12’s). Our pace group leader assured us that we would make it up on the downhill but I was still a bit panicked. I have heard nightmare stories of pacers, but I made the choice to trust him and sure enough within a few miles we were right on pace.
The few downhill miles were around 7:00 min mile pace, now this normally would have freaked me out, but our pacer assured us that we wouldn’t feel like we were running that fast and he was correct it still felt like the same effort as the 7:35 pace. We continued on at around 7:12-7:15 pace per mile for the rest of the race (right on track). I knew I was having a great day with my breathing but my legs were another issue.
For the past few years now I have been struggling with extreme tightness in my hips and hamstrings. I had felt good through the latter part of our training. No issues with our 9 mile or 12 mile temp runs. However about a week and a half before the marathon snow hit Seattle and I hit the treadmill. In addition a Wednesday workout was bumped to Friday and the combination tied-up my hips. In addition I’d let my yoga practice slip because I was trying to balance two jobs.
I tried my best to get them worked out but was still really tight leading-up to the race. Drills and strides helped the day before but a third of the way into the race I could tell they were not having their best day. Now in their defense they were now having the worst day either, but still I was concerned. I decided I couldn’t do anything about it so I wasn’t going to let them hold me back. On two occasions (maybe 13 and 16) I tried to leave the 3:10 pace group, but each time came back to them. Tom had talked to us time and time again about running with a pack and I realized both times that I felt more comfortable with our group. Into miles 17 and 18 I started to feel the sun. I adjusted by looking to run in shade where I could and drinking more water. I was happy to see the 20 mile marker and again tried to surge. It went ok for two miles but connected with the group again for the next two. With two miles to go I knew I needed to go if I wanted to be under 3:10. I started running with this rather insane man who kept yelling at the small crowds. Seems he was just as excited as I was about our time and just need to let everyone know.
I am glad he was there, we ran our last two miles in 7:09 and 7:09 and I earned every step of it. I remember just trying to pick my knees up to generate some type of turnover. And then the race seemed to be over as quickly as I begun. I found my training buddies almost immediately. Alicia, Thury and Jody were waiting for me to finish and were thrilled I reached my goal. We took some pictures; I talked to my dad, ate some food and talked to our coach. It was an amazing day and I didn’t want to leave the finish line. Leaving the finish line meant that our months of training were all over and I didn’t want it to end. I knew in less than a month, I’d lace-up my shoes again and be training for the next one, but I wasn’t ready to walk away from this one yet. Maybe this is why I just now finishing-up this race report and it’s February. Maybe it’s why I hardly looked at my mile splits. It was a milestone race for me. One of those defining moments that don’t come by very often, but the moment was years in the making.
My hope is that as I train for future races I don’t lose sight of what happened on this perfect December day in Sac. I hope too that I don’t forget the many, many runners that have gone ahead of me as a witness and a testimony of what can be. To my dad, I am truly as a loss of words as I try to thank you for all that you’ve done for me. If I had never seen you do it, I am not sure I myself could have. I will never forget our first two mile run together the summer before my sophomore year in high school and it’s a story I retell often. We made it to the one mile mark, by the church (with the tree my class planted) and we were stretching by the big green dumpster. I remember thinking to myself that it was not humanly possible to run one more than a mile at that point. As I sat there and tried to stretch for as long as possible I thought about how you ran marathons. I’m now sure if I even knew how long a marathon was, but I knew it was in the 20’s, and I thought, well surely it is possible, so I’m not sure how I am going to do it, but I am going to make it that next mile.
I guess I’ve been putting limitations on my ability for a while, but Dad you were always there telling me that you believed in me, it must have been hard to not see me believing in myself, thank you for your patience, some of us are slower learners than others.
I am well aware that I didn’t get to this place on my own.
Mom, you are often the unsung hero. How many countless hours have you spent listening to me talk and patiently and lovingly telling me everything is going to be okay (and we are talking about life here not running). You also put-up with all my crazy running (much like how you put-up with dad’s running). You even coordinated our trip this summer around my training and made sure I had places to run. Thank you.
And I can’t forget my husband. I count myself lucky to have someone who completely believes in me and is willing to sleep-in on the weekends so I can run long. Thank you. I don’t know how I got so lucky but your support and encouragement means the world to me.
I need to thank Tom, not only for writing amazing workouts, but for pushing me when I didn’t think I could do it. I ran workouts that I never dreamed possible and a big thanks to all my running buddies and the many miles we shared together.
And lastly Marv you are no longer with us, but I love how you loved my dad and your friendship with him profoundly impacted me. You are dearly missed.
So that’s my race report. Maybe it’s not as much about the race as it is life. It is time to close this chapter, but what a chapter it has been. Thank you all for your support both on and off the roads.