During the two weeks before VUM, I moved out of a bad roommate situation, stayed with a friend for two weeks, and moved into my first home, a little bitty condo. I was supposed to be moved in a week and a half prior to VUM, so I'd have time to unpack and get settled. That didn't happen. My closing date was pushed back to just four days prior to the marathon. I was stressed out. I was tired. I couldn't find anything.
The morning of VUM, I didn't know what pace I should run. Prior to the accident, my "easy" goal was just to PR (sub 4:30), my "realistic" goal was to finish about 4:10-4:15, and my "reach" goal was to finish as close to 4:00 as possible. But after the accident, my knees sometimes hurt, and my back was a knotted mess (it still is a little bit). It wasn't until I was driving to the race that I decided that the only way to get close to 4:00 was to start out at that pace and just go for it as long as possible, and hope to not crash and burn. I was going to trust my months and months of training, and try to believe that my body knew what to do and could do it.
I started in a wave about 1 minute behind the 4:00 pace group, and caught up to them after a mile. The pace was just under 9 minutes per mile, rather than the 9:09 pace that would get us there in exactly four hours. My body felt tired and I was only one mile in. A few miles later, I kept waiting for my body to settle into the pace and perk up a little. It didn't quite get there. About mile 14, I hit a small wall... I felt tired and my face was crusted with salt. A friend was there to cheer me on, but I was fixated on the fact that my body didn't feel the way it should at this point. About mile 18 I started to fall a little behind the pace group as we headed up a hill and the half marathon route converged with the marathon route. I started to feel discouraged, especially thinking about having another 8 miles to go. I wasn't sure I was going to make it under 4:30 the way things were going.... At mile 20, I got a text from another friend saying that she and a few other friends were at mile 22 with electrolyte and food if I wanted it. I really needed to hear that, and to have a small goal....I just focused on the two miles it would take for me to get to my friends and fuel for my body. Seeing them at mile 22 and hearing them cheer for me made me feel a million times better, and I needed the electrolyte badly--I had already consumed all of the nuun I had brought, and additional water and Gatorade at a few aid stations. Over the next mile, I took a little time to walk and eat a few bites of my PB&J english muffin and chug electrolyte, figuring that the time I lost then would be gained back because my body needed the fuel. At mile 23 I told myself, "Just 5k left. Just a quick 5k." It wasn't an easy 5k, nor was it fast. Coming up the hill on Fort Vancouver Way (mile 24) sapped a lot of my energy, but I knew I was so close. I wanted to walk (many did) but I started to feel a little desperate. I was so tired and just wanted to be done right then. I felt almost completely DONE, mentally and physically. I felt like I was working harder than before, but my pace tanked. I struggled and told myself that 24 miles isn't a marathon. That I did have it in me to finish, and to finish under 4:15 but I would have to dig deep. That I just needed that last 2.2 miles, and that would crawl it if I had to. It was hard to make it to the 25 mile marker, and then to continue on. But once I saw the mile 26 marker, and knew how close I was to the finish, I just took off as fast as I could. I knew I was close to finishing under 4:05, but I had to MOVE. If I wanted it, it was now or never. I pushed myself as fast as I thought I could go and was shocked to see my Garmin display an 8:05 pace. As I sprinted, I kept looking at my Garmin, waiting for the nausea to hit me like it typically does, or for my pace to slow in spite of my perceived effort. It didn't. I saw Brendan as I edged closer, saw Deana cheering for me as I neared the finish, saw the clock and forgot about all of the miles that I had already run and just focused on putting all of the speed I could muster into that last fraction of a mile, like it was the most important distance I would ever run. When I crossed the finish line, with the clock showing 4:04 (chip time 4:02:54), I was in shock. I couldn't believe my pace at the end, at being done, at everything. Coach Ron came and put a medal over my head and gave me a hug. And then I started crying so hard I could barely breathe. "I didn't think I could do it," I told him. And while part of me knew I could do it, and part of me knew that Ron and my friends had believed in me, your mind goes to some pretty dark places when you're running a marathon, and the recent changes in my life had seriously left me wondering if I could finish or if my body would just give up. When I finally stopped crying, I went over to my friends at the finish line and hugged them too. My legs had felt pretty good post race, and so we headed into the Summer Brewfest to hang out and catch up with other friends who had run the full marathon or the half. It was an amazing day for me, and it was so exciting that so many of my friends had PR'd as well! Everything just felt perfect :)
I'm so incredibly grateful for all of my running friends, the Train With Energy group of runners, and especially Coach Ron, for all of their help as I prepared for this race. I'm already looking forward to getting my training on for the Portland Marathon, and seeing what I can do!