Time doesn't always tell the whole story: While I didn't qualify for Boston Marathon, missing 4:00:59 by a mere 34 seconds, I ran the best marathon of my life on Sunday. Instead of feeling dejected and angry (at myself), I felt jublilant and proud. I ran hard and strong the entire way. In the end, the hills just took their toll (as everyone had told me they would!).
The sun shone brightly from the moment it rose, a rarity along the rugged western coastline of California. At the start, I didn't really need the throw-away sweatshirt I'd brought. Sporting capris, an Asics short-sleeve tech tee and matching hat, along with Smartwool arm warmers, I nervously chatted with other runners and tried to stop my teeth from chattering against my UnderArmour mouthpiece (more on that in another post sometime). Julie, a runner from Brooklyn put it best when she said, "I'm tired of imagining this: I want to get started."
The gun went off at 6:45, and as planned, I didn't let my pace get away from me despite the downhill start. I averaged 8:35 for the first few miles (stopping to pee under a low-hanging tree near mile 3). At mile 4, I noticed Dean Karnazes running down the double yellow line so I trotted over to introduce myself--probably the only time I've thrown out all three of my names in a race. (Might I proudly add: I ended up crossing the line ahead of Dean. Okay, so he had run the course in reverse before the start, but I'll brag anyway!)
I settled into a good rhythm, and the scenery lived up to its billing--breathtaking. The infamous 2-mile hill up to Hurricane Point from mile 10 to 12 proved less steep than I feared, but its length took its toll on my legs. I couldn't push the following downill mile as much as I'd banked on, but I still crossed the halfway point in the middle of Bixby Bridge at 1:58:57. I knew then a sub-4:00 finish was within contention, but it was going to be a push.
At mile 15 I had an epiphany: I wasn't going to make my goal of 4 hours unless I shifted gears. While training for Eugene Marathon last year, my coach/friend Lynn Jennings told me several times, "Remember in a race you have the ability to shift gears into a faster pace." Yet last year, at Eugene, when I tried that tactic, it didn't work. This year, I told my body to go faster--and it responded. I'm not saying it was easy, but my pace dropped on the flats and downhills. Alas, there were also a lot of long-ish, steady hills in the second half of Big Sur.
I dug for motivation wherever I could. Even in a long race, my mind can only hold onto short snippets. At mile 21, I thought about running for my kids. Nope, too large of a task for my mind to handle, Instead I thought, "Daphne, Daphne, Daphne" with nearly every step. The word "believe," borrowed from the ever-inspirational Kara Goucher, pulsed through my head for more than a few miles.
To keep my body going, I took in more Roctane gels than I have in the past--5 or 6 (I lost count)--and took water and usually Gatorade from the aid stations.
I still knew it was a big question mark whether my finish time would start with a 3 or not. Then I hit the famed hill at mile 25. It was far longer and steeper than the others in the second half of the marathon. Yet I passed tens of runners walking up the hill. I wasn't flying, by any stretch of my wacked-out imagination, but I was still moving steadily toward the finish line. With a half-mile to go, I poured forth all I had, and sprinted to the finish. I knew my good friend Joanne was waiting to cheer me on. With 150 meters to go, I heard her yelling and spotted her jumping up and down on the sidelines. I shouted out, "I'm doing it, Joanne! I'm doing it!"
I wasn't going to look at my Garmin, living by Dim's motto of, "it is what it is." But I sensed I had narrowly missed my goal-time. Yet I was ecstatic, jubilant, proud, and exuberant. Throw out a positive adjective describing happiness, and I was feeling it.
Big Sur Marathon was not a PR for me, but it was far and away my best marathon ever. Thank you all for your support and well wishes--I drew on that energy and love while I was on the course.
(Sorry for no photo: I'll add one when Joanne sends me one she took.)