After my disappointment at Boston, I felt like there was a monkey on my back. I was eager to race and kick the icky feeling that comes with a DNF. Immediately after the race, I scoured Marathonguide.com and such to find a race that I could jump into quickly and "utilize my fitness" that I had built for Boston. If it had simply been a matter of finding another race quickly and showing up, I think I could have PR'd shortly after Boston.
Unfortunately (and I knew this going into Boston) after Boston, Nathan and I were faced with an unfortunately staffing situation in the bakeshop that meant he and I would be each working 1am-1pm on most days. This did not bode well for maintaining my fitness as I selected a race to pursue in the wake of Boston. I decided on Grandma's marathon which was in mid-June as my comeback race. I figured that I could just maintain my fitness during the tough work schedule and that I would just use mind over exhaustion to get my runs in and stay "training".
And then reality sunk in. Trying to work those hours and get real workouts in was nearly impossible. My "maintain" mode turned into "just get in as much running as I can" mode. Weekday workouts were out the window as after a 12-14 hr shift my legs are so tired and swollen, it is nearly impossible to run fast. I would muster a good long run every week, usually with 12-16 miles in the mid 6 minute range, but my confidence and feeling of fitness was fading. I managed to run 65-90 miles a week somehow, but I just felt dull. As June began, I started to feel very worried about running Grandma's marathon. The goal at Grandma's is to run fast. That is it. That is why you fly all the way to Duluth. I was not feeling confident at all in my ability to run fast and was worried that if things started to fall apart during the race and I fell off my goal pace (to make the OT qualifier) that my race experience would be intensely negative. What I need was a good race, a good finish and a confidence boost. I needed to get the pack of monkeys off my back.
So in a last minute change of plan, I decided to not run Grandma's. Instead, I decided that it was best if I took my weekend off from the bakery and fly to Seattle for a run-cation. Complete with friends, food, and of course, a marathon! It so happened that the Rock and Roll Seattle Marathon was the same weekend as Grandma's. Even though I grew up in Seattle and lived there a few years ago as well, I never raced in Seattle. I felt like doing a more last minute race on a not fast course would allow me to just run and race and start building back my confidence.
Before the race, I read a great article about Training Your Brain to Run Your Best and I could really relate to the struggle of silencing the inner critic. Over the past year, my inner critic has gotten loud and I've really struggled mentally in races when things were getting tough. I decided leading into RNR Seattle, that I would "shout down" my inner critic. On top of that, awesome coach Ian Torrence, suggested I use the experience to analyze my strengths and weaknesses so we can build from where I am. It was an interesting perspective to take because I felt more conscious of the thoughts, fears, doubts and criticisms that came up during the race and was able to play with and change my thought process a great deal. I was able to note the things that were coming up and actually take a hard look at where we can improve, where I am selling myself short (for instance by being super negative) and where I am doing well. I am so glad I opted to do a race as a building block, a starting point from which I can grow for my big goals over the next year.
The weekend was a blast. I got to spend a great deal of time with Jonathan (Bestest Everest) and his girlfriend Ariana, who were super lovely to let me stay with them and co-opt all their time. We ate great food, enjoy the awesome Seattle summer weather and got in some running too!
Bitterroot BBQ post-race! The cowboy killer.
The race itself? After the first 7 miles, when the half and full courses split, I was running alone. Up until that point, I thought I was very much in second place to 2 time defending champ Nuta Olaru who had taken off at 5:40/mile pace. I was clipping along on the easy section of the race in the low 6/upper 5:50s and had absolutely no inclination to chase her. It seemed suicidal on a course that she had only run 2:50 & 2:51 on. I knew the second half of the course was pretty hilly, so I didn't want to do anything ridiculous. And then it turned out, she had decided to run the half marathon. So from mile 7 on, I was rolling solo in first place.
The course is not an easy one. I headed south by the lake and around Seward Park. As soon as I turned towards the north to head back up along the lake and cross the I-90, I was meet with an incredibly strong headwind. Since I was very much by myself, I had no where to hide, so I fought off my negative brain and settled into an effort based pace. It was a beautiful day and I was enjoying the Seattle sunshine, the course, the cheers from the spectators and half marathoners (when we shared the course). It was very lonely on I-90 from mile 16-22 when I was on the expressway going over and back to Mercer Island. I continued to listen to my brain, see what thoughts arose and practice positive thinking.
Coming off the highway into downtown, I nearly started crying when I saw my cousin Erika screaming and jumping up and down cheering at the bottom. I hadn't expected to see her and it gave me such an incredible boost. I was where I wanted to be, doing what I loved. It was a great feeling. I was smiling and laughing as I climbed the last few hills and made my way to the finish.
Coming up Mercer to the finish line, I was filled with joy. I had gotten the monkey off my back. I was going to win a race in my hometown and feel good doing it. I had enjoyed every step, the easy and the hard. I had found a way back to being the racer I know I can be. In the end, my time is no faster than I had run at any other marathon in the past year (although to be fair the course/wind were much harder than any other course- Check out my Strava for the race), but it was an incredibly different experience. I feel like my goals for the fall and for 2015 are within my reach and that this race experience means that I can toe the line with confidence instead of trepidation. I am excited and inspired in running again and that means more to me than anything.
Plus winning is fun. Really fun.
Cheers to that!