Well, screw that race.

“Be brave enough to suck at something new”-Some inspirational internet quote

(This blog will jump around a bit. My last entry was from the start of my racing. This one is about last weekend.)

After Beast of Burden 100 miler, I got bored quick. I mean, I was looking for my next race on the flight home. There’s a lie I tell myself after every race. I’m taking a break after this. It took all of a week before I was running again. Or at least trying.

When Coach Kastor saw me running a week after I got back, he slowed the track club van and rolled down the window “Is this a good idea”? I had heard the exact same thing at home from Miles. Maybe Miles put him up to this.

The question of “What’s next” hung in the air with every interaction I had immediately after my second place finish at Beast of Burden.  I actually just got sick of not having an answer for people. In the back of my mind, I knew what I wanted.

I wanted to qualify for Boston. During our trip back east we spent time in Boston. Miles grew up not too far away in Beverly. His father lives there and of course we HAD to go to a Red Sox game the day before we flew out. After the game, we had some time to ride rented bikes around the city, have dinner, and we went to the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

I’ll be honest. No other road marathon has ever appealed to me. Boston has history. I’m not a city person by any stretch, but that place is beautiful. I took a photo at the finish line and made the goal of making it across that line in the actual race. Part of the draw of Boston is that you must qualify. I hadn’t run a road marathon in almost 4 years. I have to be stronger and faster and smarter than I was then, right? I wanted something before Thanksgiving so that I could enjoy that mythical “time off” I had been promising myself. I found the Bakersfield marathon was a week and a half before Thanksgiving. OH, perfect! I could train for 7 weeks and use it as a test. Where am I physically? How much do I need to shave off of that to get the BQ (Boston Qualifier)?

I jumped into training. I started going to the gym at 6am to do a half hour of low impact cardio (usually elliptical machine) and weights. I’d run during my lunch break. No booze. No sweets. Only one long run on weekend meant I could go hike and climb with my boyfriend (now fiance…we’ll get to that story another day). 

I was eating up this training. I bought funny little split shorts. And captioned photos with #marathontraining.

Everything went well, right up until race day.

We stayed with Miles’s cousin Colby in Bakersfield the night before the race. I woke up with my alarm. Miles went and got me some coffee and I made my oatmeal. I ate what I could. I pooped twice! Things were lining up for a great day.

We showed up to the start and I decided jump into the 3:40 pace group. Wow. What an insanely bad idea. The pacer was wearing what I’m pretty sure what he thought was a kilt. He proceeded to talk non-stop for the first 4 miles. I honestly got so sick of listening to him that I ran ahead to the 3:35 group. I kept pace and then I realized my stomach was not going to hold out the next 22 miles. If I wanted to enjoy this run at all, I would need to stop at the next porta potty.

Fine, whatever. Just be quick. I was. But, by the time I got back out there the 4 hour group was quickly approaching. Okay, I’ll just break 4. Things were going reasonably well until around mile 13.

It was warming up quickly. I don’t do super well in heat. I actually wilt like a salad in a hot car. Approaching the aid station I heard someone say “electrolytes” and hold out a cup. Yes. That’s what I need.

Gulp. Oh, no. That was Gatorade. I’ve been off sugar for two months and I just put straight sugar water into my system. Maybe it won’t get me. Maybe I’ll be okay.

About a mile later, the nausea set in. The temptation to stop was so strong. But, I’ve never been okay with stopping. I paid for this. I will finish this damn thing.

The pace slowed. And slowed. And slowed. I was dumping water on myself at every aid station. My run had become a jog. I couldn’t drink water because my stomach was threatening to ruin my day. Well meaning volunteers told me how good I was doing. How close I was. How good I looked. Oh lady, you are high. But bless you.

 The last half of the race was a mental battle. I could stop. I could call Miles and he’d pick me up and we’d still go out for lunch (I’ve already picked out a brewery!)and it wouldn’t matter that I didn’t finish. It wouldn’t matter to anyone but me. And I wasn’t having that.

Finally. Three miles to go. My phone died. No music. No tracking. Whatever. It’s a 5K, Jenny. Just finish. Approaching the finish line, I saw Miles jump out and start taking photos. He looks so proud. Smile. Don’t let anyone see how crushed you are. I crossed the finish line. Grabbed a bottle of water, my medal, and a patch of grass to collapse on.

4:24. It’s a far cry from the 3:35 I’ll need to qualify for Boston. And, since my first marathon was 4:05, I get to call this one a personal worst.

“Let’s get out of here” I walked to the parking lot (where my amazing partner told me to sit down and he’d bring the car to me) poured myself into the car and headed back to Colby’s house. I had a shower and a beer. I knew where things went wrong and I knew what I needed to fix. I just wanted to enjoy the fact that finished in spite of all that went wrong for me. I wanted that happy finish line feeling I’ve had so many times before. Where was it?

So, off to the brewery we went. Colby, his son Joe, Miles, and I had one of the most unexpectedly good meals. Tremblor Brewing in Bakersfield is totally legit. We drank beer, told stories, and laughed. Some random guy came to our table and gave Colby a hat. I felt great. Maybe it was the beer. Maybe I was letting myself enjoy the fact that I had just finished a marathon on 7 weeks of training.

We started the ride home and the clouds rolled in, metaphorically speaking. I was sad. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t done better. I worked hard. I got up early. I stretched dammit. I spent the next couple of days trying to keep my head up.

On Tuesday, I finally fell apart around 1pm. I realized I have to get my head out my ass. I’ve been pouting pretty hard. I thought about faking sick and staying home. I slept for 10 hours Monday night. Screw you, marathon. Or, thank you, marathon. I don’t know yet. I’m trying to look at the lessons learned and chalk it up to experience.
It’s a difficult place to be. I haven’t experienced disappointment like this in my running before. It hits hard.

I’m realizing now, processing this is what I need. Not every race is the best day ever. You’re not going to feel like you’re floating during every run. Eventually, you hit a bump and the rose-colored glasses fall off.

I questioned it a lot tonight. Why am I so wrapped up in this? I finshed with a pretty respectable time. So, why does a non-elite athlete get so committed and subsequently, so crushed. I’ve talked so many friends through this process. Why am I so reluctant to give myself that same kindness? How many of us are guilty of not being as kind to ourselves as we are to others.

That’s what I’m doing now. I will sleep late. I will have a cookie. I will enjoy the fact that my racing year is over. I might even wear that adorable “Run Bakersfield” top to work tomorrow. I’ll run again. Not until my heart and legs are begging for it though.

I have a couple of other things to do. I’m really close to being able to lead a 5.10. The ski hill is open and it’s currently flurrying. I’m taking on a few more athletes to coach this winter. Time to refocus. Maybe it’s time to pr my 5K.

One last thing: The Bakersfield Marathon is a quality event.  The medal is huge. The course is well marked. The aid stations are plentiful. Volunteers are amazingly cheerful and encouraging. Long sleeve shirt and a hat in the swag bag. Giant turkey at the expo.

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