Thursday, September 19, 2013

Big Cottonwood Marathon 2013 - Going Big and reaching my goal!

I'm still trying to absorb the feelings and come off the high that's been mine since Saturday.  Remember how I paced this race last year?  If you're interested, it was one of my better posts and actually got published in Utah Running sooooo......there's that.  You can click here to read it, but then come right back 'cause this one's good too :)

After seeing what a fantastic job the RD's did with this event, how pretty it was and the course, I decided that THIS year, I wanted to race it.  And not only did I want to race it, I wanted to race fast enough to finally reach my Boston Qualifying time.  For those that don't know, not just everyone gets to run the Boston Marathon.  Based on age and gender, you have to run a certain pace.  I've been chasing this for over 4 years now.  It's kind of a big deal, and for most marathon runners, a goal on their bucket list.

I registered early and then kind of put it out of my mind, it was months away so no serious training needed to happen just yet.  Ran a few events here and there, kept my health up and ran with no agenda other than enjoying the pure fact that compared to this time last year, I can actually RUN!

As time drew closer, I realized that I've been chasing a BQ for years with no success.  Clearly, I must not know what I'm doing.  I turned to an expert at work and D put together a plan for me.  Granted that plan didn't get started until 3 weeks prior, but I had been running and trying to increase my speed the best I knew how.

I followed D's plan to the letter. Some of the workouts, I did great, and some were, uh.....not so great.  But I followed them anyway and did the best I could.

The week before race day, I seriously started thinking about needing a pacer.  Someone who would be willing to run at the pace I needed and to help keep me focused.  I had planned on sticking with one the race provided for my BQ time, but rumors were floating that there wouldn't be one.  I knew, in my heart of hearts, I couldn't do this on my own.  I needed someone to push me when I needed pushing and hold me back when I needed holding.

I belong to several running groups out there on FB so I threw out the request and sure enough, a good friend, loyal customer, experienced runner/pacer offered.  I jumped at his kindness and after making sure he wasn't sacrificing a BQ or PR for himself, gratefully snagged his expertise.

Race day dawned bright and early as it usually does.  I got up even earlier than normal just so that I wouldn't be rushed in getting my things together.  Drank my monster, ate my maple bar (all race day tradition), gear packed and then waited for my buddy Chad to pick me up (he kindly offered to let me catch a ride to the start line since Splenda Daddy would be at the finish to drive me home).

Great time to catch up with Chad.  Since I've switched gyms, I haven't seen my work out buddies in a long time so we had a nice chat as we made our way to the parking lot and the bus loading area.
(i needed the flash...)

Once at the bus loading area, I hooked up with Galen and some other running friends of his and we got loaded.  The bus ride up to the start of a marathon is the WORST!  GAH!  It feels so long as you watch the road and realize that you are going to be running ALL OF THIS in just a short period of time.  Plus, with the winding canyon I started to get a little car sick.

As we approached a corner, we were stopped in our tracks.  A bus just ahead of us, cut the corner too close and ended up high centered.  What the NUT?!?!  Huh. exactly are we going to get to the start line?  People started getting off the bus to check it out, see if there was something we could do, while I could hear the bus drivers chatting on their radio's about how the situation was going to get fixed.
(high centered Le Bus)

(all the buses behind us with marathoners trying to get to the start line)

We finally got word to start walking and there would be some shuttle buses on the other side to get us the rest of the way.  That walking felt good.  I had started feeling pretty light headed and queasy from the bus ride and the cool mountain air, and walking was helping to clear my head.

We reached the shuttle bus, loaded and rode the rest of the way to the start at Guardsman Pass.  A porta potty break, finding some friends and snapping some pictures
(it was absolutely beautiful)

(Kris, me, Galen and Chad.  Love these boys!)

The starting time was behind schedule, but I don't think people really cared, we were just glad to be at the start line and ready to go.  I dropped off my bag, made sure I had my stuff and lined up with Galen and a few of his friends.

Next thing you know....we're off!

The first three miles are super steep down hill, so I was careful to make sure and watch my stride.  I feared getting so amped that I blew out too fast.  I made sure to not overreach and found a comfortable pace.  Galen and I were chatting and so far so good.

Several miles in, Galen began giving me some pointers on cadence and reminded me not to talk.  He would only ask me yes or no questions and then filled in the rest of the time with all kinds of chatter.  BLESS THAT MAN!  I can't even tell you how fast time and miles flew by.  I was so busy listening to him and his stories that I wasn't paying attention to what I was feeling or if I was getting tired.  I was just enjoying a nice run with a great partner!

D had warned me about coming out of the canyon too fast and if I hit the bottom at 1:50 or faster that I had gone too quickly and I would be doomed.  As we came through the bottom, I noted that we were at 2 and some change or so, so I felt good about that.  I had long ditched my hand held water bottle when Galen reminded me that it added 8 extra heart beats per minute.  I wasn't taking any chances!  If I didn't get my water bottle back, well then so be it - I wanted every advantage I could get.

As we exited the canyon and crossed the blvd to a bike path, I was thanking the officers and noticed my friend Paul among them!  GAH!!  I started yelling at him, he saw me, hollered back and that exchange amped me for the next mile or so.  Then I came upon Chad's mom Sal, waved and shouted hello to her and heard her cheering me on.  Wow - the power that comes from encouragement!

I started to feel some fatigue at this point.  Galen was doing his best to distract me.  I couldn't believe it when he pulled out some information and read to me the history of the old mill.  AND STILL RUN!

(clearly I am not a pretty runner - but hey - I don't even give a rat's a** right now)

We kept going although I think our pace was starting to slow a bit.  When we got out of the canyon I had banked about 17 minutes but I could feel that was getting chipped away.  At about mile 20 is when I felt the wheels come off.

My legs hurt.  I was tired.  I wanted to be done.  I came up on a friend who is one of the strongest runners I know, and he was walking.  What the NUT?!?!  I tried to encourage him, but he was done.  Galen called me forward and reminded me to keep my cadence.
"Cadence is your friend"

We talked military and the jody calls that are often done during drill runs.  He explained that those calls are designed to keep on cadence.  So he was would start calling something and I would answer in my head so I could keep the count.  Or, I would simply count in my head to try and stay on beat.

At one particular water stop, I slowed to walk through it and that walking felt so good, I couldn't bear to start running again.  The fast pace earlier had caught up to me, and I was feeling it.
 I thank God, for Galen.

He encouraged me to pick it back up, find the cadence and then started talking again to distract me.
As we passed by the area where the Cottonwood Mall used to exist, I passed a kid off to the side VIOLENTLY VOMITING.  Not just a lean over and puke, but it was violent.  The vomiting that comes from so far down in your gut, it knocks you off your feet.  If you know me, I am a sympathetic vomiter, so just seeing or hearing it will start the gag reflex in me, so actually, that side show helped me keep running.  

Once past him though, the sun was coming out, it was getting hot and I was fading faster than ever.  Galen proposed a 90 second run, with a 30 second walk.  Okay.  I can do that.  I listened for the beeps on his Garmin like I was watching for the Second Coming!  Those blessed beeps!

We did that for a mile or so, and then he looked at his watch calculated what needed to happen in order for me to reach my goal and flat out said to me: "This is what I need from you"
Now normally, my natural instinct would be an itchy middle finger, but too much was riding on this.  I didn't feel like I could do it, but I then also thought of all my friends who were cheering me on.  Who were WILLING me to get this BQ.  Who had even sacrificed chocolate in solidarity of my reaching my goal!  And I looked at Galen as my mentor who knew what he was doing and was being honest in telling me what I had to dig for.

Dig I did.

My whole mental focus at that point was to just.keep.running.  No more walking.  Run.  I heard Galen singing the USMC song and that got stuck in my head.  That was my song for the rest of the entire race.
"From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli......"
Oh how I love it!

We came up on another friend who is wicked fast, and I realized that the course was taking it's toll on many of us.

As we came up on Scott I said, "Hey, no way in hell are you gonna let me pass you.  Let's go!"  He turned back, smiled and replied "I've been waiting for the day to hear you to say that to me!"

At this point, the spectators are piling up. Anytime we passed someone Galen would point to me and tell them that I was going to qualify for Boston.  They would CHEER EVEN LOUDER!  Oh my gosh!  The feelings those cheers invoked are impossible to describe.

We rounded the corner and now the street was lined with people.  Galen kept pointing to me and telling everyone about me qualifying.  People would cheer.

I passed some friends and their high fives gave me some juice, I rounded the second to last corner and saw a dear friend, who I didn't expect to see, cheering me on - more juice!

As we came into the final chute, I. WAS. AMPED!
The chute was lined with hundreds of spectators and right in the middle Galen shouted and pointed to me "This is her Boston Qualifier!"

The crowd's reaction is something I will never forget as long as I live.  I have never had that many people cheering, clapping, hooting and hollering for me in my entire life!

Literally, adrenaline or endorphins or SOMETHING went coursing through my body and the physical feeling is not something I think I can ever describe.  Simply amazing.

I glanced up at the clock, realized I had made my goal with a few minutes to spare and crossed the line with a smile I think I won't be able to get off my face and soul for a long time to come.

Once I stopped, I started to sway and stumble.  I had been seeing black spots since about mile 20 and now, it was even worse.  I hugged Galen, hugged Scott, staggered around while Galen handed me my medal.  Got a water bottle pressed into my hand.  Grabbed by Ana for another hug and then staggered over to a cooler where I could sit down.  

Splenda Daddy found me, more hugs and now some tears.  I did it.  I really, finally did it!

Galen got us some popsicles and then after another picture, he was assured I was in good hands and he went off to find other runner friends and congratulate them.
(this man has my undying loyalty, love and friendship)

I sat trying to soak it all in.  Trying to absorb what had just really happened.  My head was buzzing and I still wasn't seeing clearly, but my oh good did I feel?!

Found another runner friend Rob - exchanged hugs and warrior stories from the race.  Splenda Daddy went off to see if he could find the official race results.  I found what I thought was the line for a massage and called Tib, Corb and sent texts to dear friends that I knew were waiting for word.

I found out the line I was standing in was for physical therapy.  I didn't need that so I wandered over to the correct place where Mindi found me for another sweaty hug!  GAH!!  I just don't even know how to explain how I felt!

Discovered that they were no longer offering massages, and Splenda couldn't find the official results tent so we bailed with the idea that I needed to get on line ASAP and get in the queue for Boston registration.

As I sat in the car on the way home, I relived the whole thing for Splenda Daddy.  Now I could cry.  Now I could express exactly how I felt and how grateful I was for Galen.  I could NOT have done it without him.  I can do hard things yes, but I also know that mentally, I would have given in.  And he never left my side for that to happen.  I am so blessed to call him friend and can never adequately express my gratitude to him.

Home, to an ice bath, Splenda Daddy trying feverishly to get me registered (Ended up having to wait until Monday) and trying to absorb the reality of what I had accomplished.  

A dream that almost every marathoner has.  I dream and goal I've been chasing for years.
I did it.  I finally. For reals. 
Did it!

Final Results:

And for the first time in I think, like ever, Splenda Daddy has something to contribute to this post.  In his words:
When I woke up that morning I looked outside as saw cloudy skies with no rain. I knew it was perfect running weather and would help Melissa run faster. I drove to the high school and waited for her to finish. The race had been going on for 3:30 minutes and I knew she needed to finish before the 3:55 mark to qualify for Boston. I set my phone timer to count down from 25 minutes so I could track her progress without constantly looking back at the official clock. When the timer got down to 10 minutes I found myself looking at the timer every minute. I had felt all morning she was going to make the time but began to get nervous as the time ticked away. I looked at my timer and saw 4 minutes left. As I looked up I thought I saw her about 75 yard out but was blocked out by some of the runners. As she got closer I could see it was her. I knew she is going to make the time and my adrenaline kicked in. As she came around the corner I yelled “You’re going to make it!” but she couldn’t hear me. The crowd was cheering for her because a guy was telling everyone “She is going qualifying for Boston”. As I saw her pass me she ran like she was starting the race. No pain, lots of energy and a big smile on her face. It was true happiness. Something money and fame cannot give you. Happiness comes when you do something very hard and see the positive results. I was so proud of her!

Isn't he so cute?  Love me my Splenda!  He got some fun video too, and I'll post it once we can figure out how to get it off his phone (stupid Smart Talkie Walkie Boxie Thingie's)

A huge thanks to:

Big Cottonwood RD's - You guys threw on another stellar event.  There were unanticipated hiccups, but you dealt with them perfectly!  See you next year!

D - for your training plan and encouragement.  He's a man of few words, but he gave me enough to believe in myself and to know what to do in the final weeks of training.

Q friends - you know who you are, and the thought of disappointing you kept me going.

Galen - there are no words my brother.  Simply, no words even adequate to express my gratitude for you.

Splenda  Daddy - I knew you were at the finish line.  I knew that YOU knew how much this meant to me.  More than anyone else could possibly know.  Your smiling face brought all the emotions full circle. And thank you for trying so hard to get me in the queue for Boston all Saturday afternoon.

I am such a lucky, blessed girl.  Surrounded with good friends who cheered me right through to the finish.  Some of them were clear across the country, some right there in the actual finish chute, either way, the good vibes were felt and I appreciate them.

Never underestimate the power of a pacer.  A good, experienced pacer.  They can make or break you.  G is the MAN!

More importantly, never underestimate the power of happiness, encouragement, and a smile for others.  So many complete strangers made this such an amazing experience.  What power can we have for good simply by being happy for others?  By smiling.  By offering words of encouragement?

Do it.  The world needs more if it.  

This event's tag line is Go Big.

I think of adapting that to not just yourself, but Go Big for others.  We're all running a hard race, and while some of us are struggling at a particular mileage point, maybe walking and simply putting one foot in front of another, or maybe we're off to the side on a break violently vomiting and purging some negativity, toxicity, addiction.... out of our lives or maybe we're running strong and feeling good - we never know what the next mile will bring us.  Go Big in being kind, tolerant, happy and constantly encouraging others along.  

We're all trying to make it to the same finish line.  Rather than battle and fight it all the way, 
Go Big and make the journey one of happiness, growth and friendship.

Post Script: Because of my time, I wasn't allowed to register for Boston 2014 until Monday morning.  Because there are more people wanting in than there are spots for, they are going to give slots based on speed.  Not sure that my 2 minute and 8 second cushion will be enough but it's okay.  I qualified.  For me, that will do for now. But you betcha my fingers are crossed!.


Michelle Farnsworth said...

Love, love love this post. I got chills reading your account of the race. I am so happy for you! I think I may need to chat with you about your training plan and meet this Galen friend of yours. He sounds amazing.. is he for hire?? LOL. Congrats lady!!

DesertHen said...

Taking my lunch break at work and decided to do a little blog reading. So glad I did!

WOW, WOW, WOW! I read from start to finish, glued to my screen!
CONGRATULATIONS MCAT! So Happy, Happy, Happy for you!

WOOT! WOOT! WOOT! I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you!

Jaymi said...

HOLY MOLY! I love you! For lots of reasons.

Pedaling said...

I can feel your emotion! Pretty Cool!

And Splenda Daddy, look at you, all posting on the bloggy! Awesome. LOve it.

Got a better feel for what a pacer does and the difference it makes by reading this time (even though I've read before and I know you've paced for others) Really got it this time.

That time...INCREDIBLE!
I hope Monday is very good to you...but yes, either way,
Way to go, Girl!

" Hit It......." said...

I am so proud that you did this. You are a blessed woman. I have to disagree. Earlier in the week, I saw pictures of you on FB. You looked beautiful and I thought to myself I wish I looked like her when I ran.

This is quite an accomplishment my friend. I am happy to observe. I am excited for Boston for you. Speed doesn't matter. You finished!

Welcome to the Garden of Egan said...

I am sitting here with tears running down my face.
And snot.

That was such a good post. I am so proud of you! I thought of you all morning, I had a Rexburg friend running in it so I was kinda cheering for you both.

I love Splenda's words. AweSome!
I am so proud to call you friend!

Flat Tired said...

Way to go! You really do rock. Thanks for just the inspiration I needed. I so wish good things for you on Monday. You deserve it!

gigi said...

This was such a GREAT post!! Thank you for writing it for the rest of us to experience it with you. These pictures are great too! I'm so proud and happy for you! You rock, my friend!!

Julie said...

I just clicked over here from MMM's blog and had to leave a comment on this post. I don't know you. I'm not a marathoner. I'm not even a runner! But this post totally had me in tears. Thank you for sharing your experience in such great detail- the hard, the inspiring, all of it. I was very moved by it.
Congratulations to you and I so hope you have the chance to run in oston.