April 29, 2020 - How I dealt with my "A race" marathon being cancelled:
I was sad- ok that's a GROSS understatement. I felt like I had been kicked in the gutt. When I read the email in mid March, ironically, saying that the race organizers were still intending for the event to happen, I just had a feeling. A pit formed in the depths of my stomach. I looked at my husband with tears in my eyes, and said "It's not going to happen". I felt robbed. I felt betrayed. I had been training and, for the first time in a while, self-coaching since December to give myself a legitimate shot at running another BQ (Boston Qualifying) time; I had hoped that after a drought of good marathon races I would finally qualify again and run in the elusive race. Using my pace charts, reviewing my workouts and asking the guidance of fellow athletes and friends, everything seemed to be lining up for a great race, a race that was not going to happen.
In 2019 I ran the Carmel Marathon with the same goal and had a rough day. I turned an ankle in a pothole in the dark 18 days before the marathon that year, and although I don't think it hindered my performance, I lost some momentum and confidence leading up to race day. That day brought miserable conditions, downpouring rain and cold winds. I tried to fight through the adversity, but the wheels came off at 19 miles and I went from a 1:42 half marathon split to a 3:38 finish time. I remeber sitting in the warming tent for over an hour, fighting tears and silently vowing to myself that I would come back and have a better day.
I thought that day would be April 4, 2020, but I was wrong. The race was postponed to June (and I actually just got word that it has been pushed back even further to the fall) and so I elected to defer my registration to 2021. I didn't want to cram race close together and risk an injury or burnout. I asked AJ Bauco what he thought I should do, and after a few emails back and forth and one video chat, we decided I would run a time trial event. I would train for it, peak for it, recover from it and move on. I had never tried to run a "pseudo race" before but I was game to try. He warned me in an email "DO NOT RUN A FULL MARATHON" (all caps were in the message- just to make sure I got it)- so I decided to run a 10 mile time trial. That way, I would not compare this result to other half marathon races, where adrenaline and other runners can be such a boost, but I believed 10 miles would be far enough to challenge me. It would be an opportunity to show strength, resiliency and endurance.
That morning, I showed up, hair braided, in my lucky hat with my bottle of Infinit nutrition, just like race day. I had my snazzy sneaks and my IRONMAN tights. I convinced one training buddy to run the course with me on the other side of the trail, for emotional support and to redirect my focus if I got too negative. He chose the route, mostly flat with one (stupid) hill right in the middle of it. After a warm up mile and a few strides, we began. I'm not going to lie- it was hard. There were no cow bells, funny signs, or spectators cheering. There were no clocks at mile markers and no water stops along the way. Chasing my friend up the hill in silent suffering was super challenging and catching him on the downhill gave me a soundless smile. Making eye contact at mile 8, we nodded to each other and proceeded to drop the pace, more and more. By the end, I was trying to keep him out of my peripheral vision and was listening in desperation for my watch to buzz signalling 10 miles. While the last 1/4 mile felt like it lasted a full 5 minutes, I eventually found the virtual finish line. I bent over putting my hands on my knees, and caught my breath. I looked up and my friend was smiling at me, "That was a great day for you," he said.
He was right. It was a great day for me. I negative splitted my run, ran within 5 seconds of my target pace and added evidence against the argument that I can't do hard things. When my brain tells me that I "can't hack it", I honestly think I will recall this day and remind myself that I am fully capable of pushing myself, no bells or whistles needed. Looking at the pace chart at home, I realized that my time corresponded with a 3:25 marathon, which would have been a BQ time by 5 minutes. Perhaps I could have achieved it. Maybe I could have even had a great day and achieved my strech goal of breaking 3:20. I don't know and never will. But what I do know is that I will continue to train and work hard- my outcome does not define my process and race or no race, I will stay engaged in the process!