Saturday, April 28th, 2018
Knowing that I wouldn’t get much rest the night before the marathon, I tried to sleep as much as possible in the week leading up to it. Saturday morning, I enjoyed a leisurely start to my day. I slept in, sat on my couch and drank coffee, and around 8:45am I headed out for my final shakeout run. I did 2 miles at a very easy pace and kept the run as flat as possible. My mind was filled with thoughts of my training cycle- the highs and the lows, and also about what was soon to come and my goals for the race the next day. Reflecting on everything and thinking about how I would feel if I actually met my goal had me overwhelmed. I imagined the time on the clock being the goal time I had trained for and literally had tears in my eyes. What can I say? Marathon training is exhausting and I had spent months to get to where I was, so of course, I was a bit emotional. It was the day before the race and I was simultaneously invigorated and frightened by my goal.
So what was my goal? This is something I shied away from sharing for several reasons. First of all, it was a LOFTY goal and I wasn’t sure I could meet it. I was worried I would be embarrassed if everyone knew my goal and I missed it, but I was even more concerned that people would feel bad for me if it didn’t work out the way I wanted. Also, I did not meet my goal at my last marathon (Boston) and I was left somewhat disappointed after that. I didn’t want my outcome of this race to be so black and white to the point where I either succeeded, or failed. My goal time for Boston was 3:20 (3 hours and 20 minutes)…if you read my blog about that, you know it was HOT and it was just not my day. I ran a 3:27:15. It was actually a good time considering the conditions, but nonetheless, I was still a little disappointed by my performance and how the final miles of the marathon went. My confidence was rocked a bit by that race, and going into this one, I couldn’t help but worry that I would have the same thing happen again. Regardless, I still had a goal in my mind…and it was even more ambitious than the goal I missed in Boston. It got to where I would tell people who asked me in person what my goal was, but I never put it in writing here in my blog. So, here they are:
A goal: Sub-3:17 marathon
B goal: Sub-3:20 marathon
C goal: Any PR (sub-3:27)
In an attempt to give myself some grace, I decided to set “A, B, and C goals.” But as you can see, my A goal was to run a 10 minute PR. That was why I was a bit overwhelmed by my goal.
After my 2 mile shakeout run, I showered and finished up some last minute packing. We stopped at Peet’s before we got on the road and happened to run into Michelle (who was heading to Eugene to race the half marathon) and her husband and son. I think we arrived in Eugene around 1:30pm and we headed straight to the expo. We chatted with some of my co-workers who were there (5 of them signed up to run the half!) and also saw Michelle again. I ate lots of pancake samples (they added fresh ginger and apple to them and they were AMAZING!) and picked up my bib and race t-shirt.
After about an hour we left and headed to check in to our hotel. Phil’s parents, Terry and Nadine, had booked a room in Eugene and came down to watch the race! We made plans with them to go to their favorite Italian restaurant for dinner. When my training ramps up and my long runs get more serious, I almost always eat the same dinner the night before, brown rice and chicken. I wasn’t about to change this now so around 5pm we went to Cafe Yumm and I got their chicken bento for dinner. After I ate that, we headed to the restaurant to meet up with Terry and Nadine. The food looked amazing and I decided to eat one of the fresh dinner rolls. That was definitely a good choice, it was so good! Dinner was fun and we loved getting to laugh and spend time with Phil’s parents. I was so touched that they came so far just to watch me run, and was thankful for the extra time with them. While at dinner, my mom texted and told me that her and my dad had spontaneously booked a hotel and that they were on their way to Eugene. I stopped by and visited with them for a few minutes after dinner, and then around 8:30pm, I started to wind down for the night. I knew I was about to have a long, restless night ahead of me, but I still wanted to rest as much as possible. I laid out all of my race gear for the next day (including lots of throw-away clothes because it was pouring out and the forecast was looking a bit wet!), had my breakfast set out, and set multiple alarms for the morning.
Sunday, April 29th, 2018: RACE DAY
I’m sure I must’ve slept some that night, but it honestly didn’t feel like it. I probably woke up 4 or 5 times to go to the bathroom (I was definitely hydrated for the race!) and tossed and turned all night long. At 4:30am my first alarm went off. I opened my eyes to a pounding headache that left me feeling nauseous. That wasn’t a great start to the day. As quietly as possible, I got out of bed and made my oatmeal and added a banana and some honey. I also took some Tylenol Extra Strength for my headache and drank a small amount of water. After I ate everything, I laid back down until my second alarm went off at 5:40am. (The reason I got up and ate earlier was so that my food was more digested before the race.) I brushed my teeth, splashed some water on my race, fixed my hair into my usual braid (to avoid terrible tangling!), and got dressed. My head was still killing me. Phil massaged my neck and upper back and I put a scoop of caffeinated aminos in about 2 ounces of water and it seemed to help some. At 6:30am, we headed out of our room to meet my parents and Michelle and her family. I was ecstatic to find that we were greeted by crisp, dry air! It was seriously perfect marathon conditions out! Our hotel was in an awesome location and we were able to easily walk to the starting line. I ran into 3 of my co-workers who were racing the half, and my friend, Brian, at the starting corrals. We all exchanged hugs and took some pictures together, and before we knew it, it was time to get into our assigned corrals.
Someone sang the Star Spangled Banner beautifully, and before I knew it, the race had started!
MILES 1-10 (7:31, 7:29, 7:34, 7:35, 7:27, 7:30, 7:27, 7:26, 7:36, 7:24)
Michelle was planning to run the half marathon at the same pace as I was shooting for for my marathon so we planned to run together as long as possible (the half marathon split from the full at mile 10). We were in a great position from the start and didn’t have to work hard to pass people and get into a smooth rhythm. My plan was to start out a little slower, but to average 7:30 paces for the entire race. Our first few miles were faster than I intended, but they felt smooth and I knew I wasn’t running too fast. There was good crowd support in the first miles of the race. I remember specifically reading a sign that made me actually laugh out loud. It read “If you think this is hard, try dating in your FORTIES!” Michelle and I chatted a bit as we ran together, but mostly just to check in with each other and give words of encouragement. We didn’t want to expend too much energy by engaging in our usual chatter. I felt good about our first few miles and was happy that the pace didn’t feel like too much of an effort at this point. I was careful to take water every couple miles and had a GU about every 30 minutes I ran. Mile 8 has about a quarter mile hill and this was where Michelle and I ended up separating. I was so thankful for her company up to this point! About halfway up the hill, I saw my co-worker, JoAnn, and her husband, Paul. They drove all the way to Eugene just to cheer for all of us from work who had signed up for the race! I was so excited to see them! I crested the hill and was on the backside when I realized I was running next to the same guy for a while. We chatted for a few minutes and I introduced myself to him. “My name is Jordan” he said, and then I heard “My name is Jen and I am following you guys!” I laughed and turned around and said “Get up here and run with us, Jen!”
Around mile 9 I saw Phil, my parents, and Terry and Nadine. We planned this in advance with the thought that knowing I would see them after the hill would give me a little extra boost to get up it. It definitely worked! I was smiling and so happy when I saw them! At mile 10, the marathon course headed right and the half marathon course headed left. I saw my co-worker, Kenny, standing right after the split. He gave me a high-five and told me he’d meet me at mile 16 (where he would join me on the course to help me through the late miles of the race).
MILES 11-16 (7:25, 7:30, 7:23, 7:27, 7:25, 7:21)
I really don’t remember a ton about these miles. I know I was happy, having fun, and encouraged that I was staying on pace. The crowd support was awesome and I had to be careful not to get too excited by it and run too fast. I kept checking my watch and slowing my pace down anytime I saw it dip below 7:25. Somewhere in here I lost my friends Jordan and Jen. I ran music free and interacted with the spectators as much as I could, soaking up their energy, Around mile 13 one spectator called out “Are you guys having fun yet!?” No one responded, so I called out “Heck yes! This is awesome!” My name was on my bib and he said “You guys should all be following Jessica!” Maybe I’m a cheese-ball, but I was on cloud nine. 😅 I kept reminding myself that I worked way too hard to get to this race to not enjoy it and to wish it all away. I made the conscious effort to be happy and live in the moment, one mile at a time. Before I knew it, I was to mile 16 and I could see Kenny up ahead. He started jogging along the side of the course, waiting for me to catch up to him, so he could match my stride.
MILES 17-22 (7:18, 7:27, 7:24, 7:25, 7:24, 7:17)
Either running with Kenny gave me a boost, or Kenny was running faster. Regardless, we picked up the pace just a smidge (I made sure not to run too fast yet, I still had a long ways to go!) and the miles ticked by. We were running along a beautiful river and through a bunch of parks.
I kept making sure to take my GU at every 30 minutes and drank small sips of water at about every other aid station. We chatted a bit and I was still feeling really strong. I knew that mile 21 had a bit of a climb as we had to ascend a ramp up and over a bridge, and I was feeling a bit anxious about it. However, when we got to it, it was no problem at all. The bridge was short and it did not feel like any extra effort to get up it. Somewhere between mile 21 and 22 though, things got real. I started talking less and less (to conserve energy) and was noticing that when I drank water it was going up my nose and causing me to choke some, which was spiking my heart rate. I was starting to feel ready to be done…but still had 4 more miles to go. Suck it up, princess.
MILES 23-25 (7:22, 7:13, 7:22)
We were finally on the other side of the river, which meant we were heading back toward the Hayward Field Stadium where the finish line was. I was thankful to finally be running toward the finish, and not away from it, but man, the fatigue was real. Kenny was doing everything in his power to keep my mind positive and my legs moving at a solid pace. Things get a little fuzzy here. I remember wondering how I was ever going to run 4 more miles at that pace. I remember Kenny telling me I could run 4 miles in my sleep. I remember thinking he was going to leave me at mile 24 and that meant I’d have to run 2.2 miles alone. I remember passing a lot of people. I remember refusing to take my final GU and shaking my head “no” at the volunteers kindly offering me water. I was worried that if I ate or drank anything else, my wheels would just fall off. Mile 24 came and went, and Kenny was still running next to me. My pain was obvious at this point, and he must have decided to stick with me longer to help me out. I didn’t say it, I was past the point of talking for fun, but I was thankful. We passed one guy who told us that he was headed for a PR that day and I responded “me too!” I think that’s when reality started to set in for me- Oh my goodness! Was it really going to happen!? I’d stopped looking at my pace in those final miles. I knew I was giving everything I could, so looking at my watch wouldn’t have made a difference. If I was slowing, it would only discourage me. I just kept running as hard as I could. Somewhere around mile 25.5 Kenny told me it was time for me to finish strong. He said some words of encouragement, patted me on my back, and sent me off in the direction of the finish, alone.
MILES 26-26.2 (7:08, final .2: 6:55)
As I neared Hayward Field, the number of spectators grew. People were lining both sides of the street, cheering us on as we were in the final stretch. I remember the finish still feeling so far away, but being determined to get there as fast as possible. I remember thinking to myself, “You’ve come too far to ease up now.” I pressed on, consciously aware of how ridiculous my face looked. I knew I was rocking the “pain face” and that I was approaching my family and friends who would inevitably be taking photos of me, but I didn’t even try to look presentable. All I could think about was getting to that finish line. I saw my long run training partner, Kassie, wildly screaming and ringing a cowbell. I tried to smile at her. I saw Michelle, Rick, and Jared, also screaming and ringing cowbells. I saw Phil, my parents, and Terry and Nadine. I remember seeing a huge smile on Phil’s face.
I averaged a 7:29 pace for the race.
THE POST-FINISH LINE
I stumbled through the finisher’s shoot, got my medal and walked out into the large area to try and find my family and friends. I saw all my co-workers who had finished their races long ago, and then saw Michelle, Phil, and everyone else.
We all hugged and shared quick recaps of our races. We took pictures and hugged some more. Kassie came and met me and was ecstatic about my time. It really hadn’t registered with me yet…I didn’t just meet my A goal, I beat it by almost a minute! After a while, I started getting cold and could feel my lips tingling- it was probably time to get out of there. We all hugged some more and said goodbye and Phil and I walked back to our hotel. Once we got there, I took a long, hot shower, put on the comfiest sweats, and laid on the bed for a while. Kassie stopped by and brought me the sweetest bag filled with all my favorite goodies. I seriously can’t express enough how thankful I am for her. She saved my training and pushed me to dig deeper than I thought I could. When I was running that race, I felt like I was running it for both of us. I felt like I owed it to her, just as much as myself, to do our training cycle justice. My time on that clock may have been individual, but as you can clearly see, I owe it to so many people. I had the most insane support on and off the course. I could not have done that without all the people, near and far, supporting me and cheering me on. We drove back home that afternoon and then met a bunch of my co-workers in Oregon City for dinner and drinks that evening. It was a truly perfect day and I loved ending it surrounded by friends, laughing and sharing stories of our races.
I know this re-cap was long. If it you made it to the end, I want to say thank you so much for sharing in my journey. This journey is about so much more than miles, paces, and running a marathon. It’s about commitment, dedication, friendship, learning about yourself, and chasing scary dreams. There is something so insanely powerful about setting BIG goals for yourself. They do not have to be about running or fitness. Maybe your goals are other forms of improving your health, changing your financial situation, putting yourself out there more…it doesn’t matter what it is, but set scary BIG goals. The satisfaction you get from achieving those goals is something everyone should experience. You are capable of amazing things. Sometimes you just have to step outside your comfort zone to realize it.
My running mantra has always been “Be Fearless.” When I misjudge the distance of my runs- and think they are shorter than they actually are, or misjudge the hills and underestimate how massive they will be- as a result, I go out what I would have considered “way too hard.” I have found that my best, most mind-blowing runs have been when I went out way harder than I would have because I thought my run was different than it actually was. But once I committed to it and pushed on, I surprised myself. I realized I could sustain paces for distances I didn’t think were possible. We tend to hold ourselves back out of fear. This doesn’t just happen in running, it happens in all facets of our lives.
Believe in yourself.
Control your mind.
Run too fast.
You might just blow your own mind.
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You guys are the best.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you!