Spoiler alert: I didn’t get my goal. I didn’t get my PR. And I didn’t even get a top 5 finish for myself.
Had I written this recap yesterday – a day after my race – it would have had a harsh self-deprecation tone. By waiting a day, I now have a more positive outlook and hopefully can tell the story without beating myself every other line.
Friday: After writing my pre-race post, I spent Friday evening prepping my mind. I had received the most amazing messages from friends with encouraging pep talks. I had a great exchange with my mom who has been pep-talking me my entire life and knows just what to say. And JD came home with gorgeous flowers and an inspirational card. I am still humbled by the amount of support I have received from my friends and loved ones.
And after eating pizza, drinking tons of water, I tucked into bed at an early hour with an extremely optimistic outlook. In fact, despite the freezing wind howling outside my bedroom window, I was actually looking forward to the race.
Saturday: I woke up at 5:52am and started the pre-race regiment. Bodyglide all over everywhere. Winter running tights. Tetris ski-top under my jacket. Braided hair. New stocking cap. Take all the pills (2 for energy, 1 for stomach). Drink a protein shake. Eat a powerbar. Pack my pockets with hand warmers, headphones and Gatorade chews. Take a picture before I loaded up on my throw-away clothes.
JD and I parked at my work parking garage and dropped off our “after clothes” at the bag check. We then made our way to the convention center where we had planned to meet up with our friends, find a bathroom and stay warm. On the way there, JD took a picture of me at the start – as you can tell, I was in great spirits.
We found the crew pretty easily and talked strategy while calming any pre-race nerves. All of us stayed inside until the last possible moment trying to preserve as much of the warmth as possible. And of course, the Perfect Strangers took a picture together.
Finally we went to the start line and because of our procrastination, we had to enter the corral in the first location we found. That just happened to be the seeded area – which meant we were surrounded by speedsters. JD left to go find Colin and Michael – his training buddies who were going for a huge PR that day. In the meantime, we took a selfie.
JD found us right before the clock ticked 8am…and we were off. Our goal was to be right around a 9:30 pace to start and with all the fast people running alongside us, it was difficult not to go faster. When we hit mile 1, my watch said 9:14, but the chip time said 9:30. I had already stripped off my sweatshirt as the weather seemed ok without it. My goal was to make it to mile 6 before I turned on my headphones and to just enjoy the scenery around me. Looking back, there are a lot of things I learned about myself in this race. This was lesson 1: Instead of stubbornly sticking to a plan that was based on strategy and not on how I felt, I should have turned on my music earlier. At mile 3, I already was feeling a struggle. It wasn’t massive and I kept telling myself I just had to find my stride but we were banking 15-20 seconds each mile and my lungs felt it. I should have calmed down, turned on my music and focused on something other than my lungs.
Right around mile 3, we saw Meghan, Ted and Jake cheering for us! They had planned an entire day based on cheering and day drinking and this was the first of many times we saw them. At mile 5, we ran right through our neighborhood. We knew our next door neighbors, Jon and Missy, would be at the Foundry Coffee Shop with a cheering crew and as I saw Jon, dressed in his hula girl costume, I jumped into a massive bear hug (hula hug?)
Immediately after, I admitted to JD that the pace felt a little too fast for me and so we slowed down. I turned on my headphones at mile 6 and started to listen to the podcast “Serial” that my brother recommended to me. That helped to distract me while we slowed to a 9:40 pace. We ran north up fall creek which was freezing cold in the headwind. Though I never felt a massive gust, it was more like a constant force to run through. As we hit 38th and Washington, we started up the worst stretch of the first half. We ran due north, against the wind, without sun from miles 9.5 to 12. The course is shaded from the houses and trees and there is plenty of incline. No – not San Fran hills – but just enough incline to make you winded, especially when going against the actual wind. My quads were a block of ice and my mind was racing. How on earth was I going to get through 14 more miles?
At mile 12.5, we saw Jason French – a dear friend and colleague who has been at that very same place every single year JD and I have run it. He ran alongside us handing us Halloween candy and encouraging us with cheers. Right after, I told JD we needed to walk at 13.1 so we could reevaluate strategy. He nodded but I knew my coach wasn’t going to give up on 4:10 that easily. At 13.1, we walked and I cried. I told him my legs hurt and my lungs were pushing hard and I just wasn’t in shape to do a 4:10. I begged him to forgive me. I told him I was sorry I disappointed him and everyone else. I stopped to stretch and as I did, cried to him ”Please just tell me it’s ok if I don’t get a PR. I need for it to be ok.” H knows how badly I wanted this PR and was desperately trying to find a way for us to regroup, take a little break and then to speed up and still go for it. But I knew it wasn’t going to happen. He told me that he was proud of me – that we went for it hard and aggressively and there is no shame in that. Yesterday, when recapping my race to one of my crossfit coaches, Coach Kevin said to me “How many times have you gone out conservatively to get a minute PR or to try to just get through the race? You went after it hard and went for your goal, and now can look at your race and learn what you need to do next time.” All great advice and a great way to define what happened.
We started running again soon after and tears just streamed down my face. JD put a hand on my shoulder, not knowing what else he could say. I kept running but what was running in my mind was that I failed myself.
When we turned south on Meridian, we once again found our friends. Jake, Ted and Jolie were cheering loudly from a hill on our left and that gave my spirits a good boost. By mile 16, we saw Becker pass us. I was thrilled that he was feeling great and was going to PR. And right at this time, I decided no more tears. It is what it is and we needed to just enjoy it.
So we hung on. With 10 more miles to go, I can’t tell you how many times I considered quitting. My body hurt, my spirits were broken and I wasn’t sure how I could keep going. But when I made the decision at 16 to not cry, I also recognized that there are no DNFs in my future. We ran and we walked. We ran fast and we walked. We ran slow and we walked. We actually ran a whole helluva lot more than I thought we’d do after my half point breakdown.
We ran through Butler and saw JD’s boss Dave and my former work husband, Michael. When we ran through the IMA, it was breathtakingly beautiful. And when we got to the cheering section by the museum, we both danced to the dirty rap beats. At mile 20, just as I was starting to derobe my jacket, we saw Cindy, Meghan, Jake, Jolie and Ted. We stopped and chatted with them and as JD drank a beer, Cindy helped me take my coat off and reattach my bib. We were approaching the WORST stretch of the second half and seeing them at the Armory gave us a boost. We also saw my friend Kate as we ran along desolate pavement. Her personalized cheers meant the world.
I was pretty desperate to get to mile 23 which is where I would recognize the area, see Meridian and know exactly how far I had to go. When we ran, we ran at a 9:45/mile pace and when we walked, it wasn’t for long. My hips, my knees and my achilles ached beyond definition. But when we turned onto Meridian, I had less than 3 miles to go. JD and I stopped to take a selfie.
We thought we may see our friends again at this time but didn’t see them at the turn, so assumed we missed them. That was until JD heard Jake’s voice. Jake has booming sound coming from him and when I looked back, there was he and Ted on the Indy Bikeshare bikes, riding our driection. Incredible. Ted gave me a Budweiser and I couldn’t believe how amazing it tasted. I was so sick of Gatorade chews you could have fed me Schlitz at that point and I would have deemed it craft beer. And then Jake reminded me the advice I gave him and Meghan when she was running this race a couple of years past: just get from one stoplight to the other. Break it into chunks. And that’s what we did.
At 24 we saw Cindy, Jolie and Meghan and I didn’t stop to say hi, I just waved. I wanted to keep going. And at mile 25, when we knew it was just a mile to go, I asked JD when I could speed up. He told me when we turned onto NY, it was time to kick it into gear.
Right at mile 26, our friend Christy came running up with her pup to cheer for us in that final stretch. And when we made the final left turn and saw the Finish Line, we sprinted. (Sprinting is relative given how badly my legs felt)
Whatever. We did it. It wasn’t close to my PR. Wasn’t close to my goal. But give the walking we did, it was pretty decent. And it was the first one we did together.
We found Dawn and Travis who got to see us cross the finish line and then we found Becker and Ted. Adam got an 11 minute PR at 4:31! So damn proud of my training partner. We gathered with all of our cheerleaders and asked them to hold tight while we got our warm clothes from bag check. From there, JD, Adam and I stripped down to our unders right in the open to get into those dry sweats. I felt no shame – repeating “we are all runners here” and then I saw Lilly and Dan right as I was mid wardrobe change. I yelled “Oh hey guys! I am in my underwear!” Dan has since sent me the link to a garment that allows you to change clothes in public. Har har.
From there, we recongretated with our friends and lined up on the sunny side of the course to wait for Jess and Chad to come through.
We saw Jess come in around 5:20 and cheered our faces off for her!
And when Chad came in hot down the final stretch, we were the loudest fans possible. Incredible to watch anyone who has that much drive in the last few seconds of a massively long race.
Immediately following the finsih, we went to La Marg and ate all the cheese and drank all the tequila. The best part of a marathon? The calorie deficit makes me a cheap date! Within a marg and a half, I was doing Drunk History: Hieroglyphics. After showering and changing, we went to House Freenaman for a day of hot tub drinking followed by a night of chili, mac and cheese, sweats and no makeup. It was everything I could have hoped for.
Sunday: When I woke up, I couldn’t move. My Achilles felt like they’d pop. My knees throbbed. My hips just plain hurt. I made it to the couch with a tube of Icy Hot and didn’t move again for 2 hours. At noon, JD and I went to CF so we both could roll out on foam rollers and lacrosse balls. I didn’t want to go – only because I didn’t want to explain why I had failed. JD convinced me that was silly and that no one cared about the outcome of my race as much as I, but within 20 minutes of being there, I was in tears. I wanted the people I respect so much physically for their athletic talents to see that I too could accomplish something amazing. I wanted them to see that all the work I put into speed training made a difference. I didn’t want to have to talk about my failure.
More tears. More self doubt. More beating myself up. But Coach Kevin’s talk helped – it helped to think that I did “go for it” and that I left nothing on the table. It helped ease my self criticism. And then I did what every competitive person does – I found my next race.
In conclusion, there are a lot of positives about this race. JD was an incredible coach and running partner. I am so grateful to have him by my side through every mile. I loved that we got to the point where we pulled out our headphones and just talked the last 10+ miles. I know this may be our last together – he has his own goals to chase and PRs to hit. But I will always remember 2014 IMM as ours.
I am humbled by the support – by my friends who stood out in the freezing cold all morning to cheer for us. For Meg who hugged me at mile 20 and reminded me I have done this 11x before. For Ted and Jake for that last energy boost. For Jolie, Dawn and Travis for being out there for the first time yelling and screaming our names. For Cindy who immediately upon my finish, dropped to her knees and started massaging my legs. For Jenny, Liam, Michael, Dave, Jason, Jon, Missy, Ryan and more. Having you out there meant the world. And I am so grateful for the wonderful tweets telling me to keep going when I tweeted “Mile 9: hurting.” For the texts, the emails, the comments – I am so very lucky to be loved by you all.
And let’s talk about the PRs! Though the weather didn’t seem to help me in any way, I have plenty of friends who fought through it. Michael and Collin with an astounishing 2:43 race. Becker with an 11 minute PR. Glenn getting sub 2:50! Amy – finishing a full hour+ faster than me. Chad and Jess, killing their first IMM. Lilly, Bri, Melanie, Mindy and Tracie for dominating the half. You guys all deserve that incredible cloud 9 I hope you’re still walking on.
No matter what – 26.2 is a wonderful accomplishment and the ceremonious draping of my medal on the rack of past race bling was a proud one no matter the finish time. I don’t know for sure what’s next. I can tell you I have my mind set that I will have my vengeance (in this life or the next) but whether I am ready to get back on the training wagon or not remains to be seen.
Saturday wasn’t my day. But I’ll have my day at some point. Retirement is postponed until I do.