Monday, May 4, 2015

A Dream Come True

First I need to apologize to all my faithful followers (yes my family members!) who have long been awaiting another family/kid update. I have been VERY distracted lately keeping up with all the kids sports, holidays, training 2 dogs, and my running adventures. I do have lot to catch up on (Easter, a birthday, sports achievements) but you are going to have to wait longer. Please bare with me because today I would love to share with you the day I achieved a dream of mine. On May 3rd, I ran my 4th marathon and qualified for the Boston marathon 2016!!

BACKGROUND
I ran my first marathon 8 years ago. If anyone had told me then that I had a chance of qualifying for Boston some day I would have laughed in their face. As I became a more serious runner, of course I couldn't help but dream of one day running Boston. It is a prize that every runner dreams of in one way or another...a badge of honor. I always put those Boston qualified runners on a pedestal and wondered "could I ever?". Marathon #2 in 2008 was just a story for another day, and marathon #3 in 2012 was a PR-my first sub 4 hour marathon-nothing to be ashamed of! I was elated but unhappy with my how I ran the race. I realized that day what race strategy meant and knew I could have done it differently with the right training. That was the year I learned about speed work, intervals, tempo runs, and the power of positive thinking. I met running friends who shared their wealth of knowledge in the sport, ran with me, taught me, encouraged me, and that was the year I started to PR everything I ran...a 5K, a 10K, and a half marathon. I was falling in love with running on a whole new level and couldn't wait to sign up for another race. All the while I still had that Boston dream deep in my heart. Then one of my friends had the courage to out her dream on Boston qualifying to all those around her. She told me that if you tell people then it makes you commit to it on a different level. And it ignited something in me. I didn't want it to be a dream that I never had the courage to fight for...so I outed myself. I told everyone I knew what I wanted and set my eyes on finding the perfect marathon to train for. Then we moved to Colorado (aka..elevation and yes it does effect you!). I was told I would ever be as fast here as I would be at sea level but I could not sign up for a marathon at sea level though. My dear husband and 4 kids are my biggest supporters. Joel would be crushed if I qualified for Boston and he wasn't at the finish line to witness. I had to try here despite what others said. So I signed up for The Colorado Marathon in Fort Collins, made public my goal of Boston qualifying in 2015, and started training. Jan 1 was day 1 of marathon training. I chose the 18 week Hanson's Marathon Training plan and let me tell you it is NO JOKE! 900 miles went into getting me to May 3rd. This is not an estimation folks. I actually counted every mile on a calendar.  The training was hard. There were tears, doubts, days where I knew I could do it and days where I thought maybe it wasn't possible at all. I still went out and fought for every mile (and soaked in an epsom salt bath 3 times a week). And May 3rd came.

MARATHON DAY
We stayed Saturday night in Fort Collins. Joel has an Aunt and Uncle who live there and graciously fed this family of 6 an amazing spaghetti dinner. I was such a tense stressed out mess that I wasn't a very good social guest. I can't even remember anything of what we talked about! We headed back to our hotel and had everyone settled in bed at 7:30pm (threatening the kids with their lives). I am not even sure how but I fell asleep! I slept pretty soundly until midnight and on and off till the alarm went off at 3:45am. My husband is a saint is all I can say (and I will say it over and over again) as he herded the kids out the door to drive me to Starbucks and then the shuttle drop off. Yes, Starbucks was open at 3am just for runners and offered a free drink to bib holders! It was awesome-they wrote "562" on my cup and cheered for me as they announced my order. All runners had to take a bus from Fort Collins to the start line (about a 45 minute trip up the Poudre canyon) as the race was run through the canyon on a 2 lane road along the Poudre River, and they were trying to minimize traffic. Even spectators are not allowed on the course until runners exit the canyon at mile 16. My husband left me in the bus line with a cheery "See you at mile 16" and my kids already holding signs up for all the runners waiting in line (they were quite popular). Then Justin and I became friends over Starbucks coffee and our nerves as we rode the bus along the marathon course to the start line. It was a great way to ignore the nerves...chatting over his first marathon and goals, running Pikes Peak this summer, our families, how to tackle the course. Once left at the start line at 6100 feet, we were able to mingle with other runners, find peaceful moments in the gorgeous scenery, and watch the sun rise as we waited for the 6:30am start. 
Not a bad way to wait for the race to start

With no cell service at the top of the canyon I began to panic that my GPS watch wouldn't work properly but what can you do now?! There was a 10 second count down and 1000 runners were off! Justin and I even fist bumped. The course drops in significant elevation over the first 16 miles (net elevation loss -1353) so I knew it would be easy to blow down the course and kill my legs. My plan was to play it conservative...first 2 miles slightly above pace, then drop down and stay at an 8:10 till I left the canyon and hit 8:15 to the finish. My time goal (and what I trained for) was a 3:35 finish which is an 8:12 average pace. I was right on target (even with a 30 second potty stop...yes I was mad but what can you do?!) and hit the halfway point at 1:47.45-only 15 seconds behind pace. I was pretty happy and feeling great. I had only lost GPS signal for half a mile so my watch distance was off. I also had a pace tattoo on my arm to keep track of my splits but I got so bleary eyed it was hard to read. So I just focused on keeping my pace even and eyes up.
And look at this view! We had 16 miles of this! I tried to remember to look up and drink in the beauty. If any of you ever want to run a marathon in Colorado, this is the one!! (photo credit to Kate Avery; IG @kate_runs_colorado who was right behind me during the start and we didn't know it until looking at these pictures). And oh the joy of seeing my family for the first time!

They had these amazing signs prepared ahead of time (yes see my husband is a saint!). They were right at the mile 17 point ringing those cow bells and high fiving me. It certainly put a pep in my step, but I was getting a bit nervous. I knew that the race really started at this point...where the elevation loss ends, the scenery isn't as gorgeous, the legs are tired, and the inevitable pain isn't too far off (and I was also dreading the hill at mile 19 that I knew was coming).  Oh but there is my family driving by ringing cowbells again! It was awesome. and there they were at mile 18.5 again. The sun is high and its getting hot. The sun is so unbelievably hot in Colorado. It may only be 60-70 degrees but the sun makes it feel like much more. I got up that hill at 19 no problem and there was this amazing volunteer with a hose, waiting for the thumbs up from runners for a hose down. It felt awesome. I love that guy. Then I focused on getting to mile 20 where I knew my friend Dan is waiting to take me to the finish.  I seriously felt on point when Dan fell into step with me confirming that I was right on target. I remember telling him "I've got this" thinking I was set for a 3:36 finish. I was tired, feeling a bit uncomfortable, but nothing too difficult.  My family was there one more time- right before we left the road and headed onto a bike path at mile 21. I'm not sure how Joel manages to load and unload 4 kids multiple times after being up since 3:45am-like I said, a saint. Then the back and forth turns started, and then over bridges.  Although beautiful bridges, they started to break me...it was hard to keep my stride with the back and forth. Dan, knowing my love of bridges, snapped a few shots.


And this is where I fell apart. I hit the wall at mile 22. It seems so close to the finish but it was an eternity. Miles 22-24 were very dark. I remember groaning, complaining to Dan that "it was too hard", my side hurt, my shoulders were cramping, it was hot, I wanted to quit. Dan started running in front of me coaching me to follow him to hug the turns and conserve energy. When I fell behind he would start motioning with his hand and say "get up here". I do remember him yelling at me once "You are not setting yourself up to come back here again, to run this again trying to qualify. You've worked too hard for this." I walked through a water stop at mile 23 seeing a hill in front of me. He gave me "till the end of the fence" to walk, coached me into slowing my breathing and lifting my shoulders, short steps up the hill, focus on the white mailbox. There was a 9:24 minute mile in there. I was slowly watching my time slip away and trying not to panic. A few spectators cheered "Your almost there!" and I am not sure if I muttered or yelled it but I know the word "Liar" left my lips a few times. But praise the Lord I found myself again in mile 24. I'm not sure how it happened. I started reciting all those positive mantras I spent so much time memorizing...

"You can give up or you can give more"
"It is a marathon. It is supposed to hurt. Smile at the pain and move along"
"Pain is temporary. Your time is forever."
"900 miles...you an give it a few more. Don't waste all those miles."
"Run the mile you're in. One mile at a time"
Hebrews 12:1-2, my life verse, and what a sweet friend prayed over me days before.

I thought of my husband and sweet kids, who just miles before were yelling "you've got this" and I knew were anxiously awaiting me at the finish line. All the hours they put into supporting my training even when it was inconvenient. I thought of the amazing running support I have found on social media, all those who have followed my journey and believed in me. And I dug deep. They weren't the 8:10-8:15 minute miles I was hoping for but they were 8:30-8:40. It was enough for me to hang on to that Boston qualifying dream. I did not want to lose that dream at mile 24! I am pretty sure is was at 25.4 miles that I said to Dan "I think I'm going to pass out". He gave me his water bottle, slowed me for a few seconds, and onward we went. We were 7 blocks away. Why does it seem so far? I see people but they are so. far. away. We got faster. I gave it everything I had. The crowd got closer and I saw the gates to direct you into the finishing lane.  Dan says "there's your finishing shoot" and he disappeared. I know my family was there but I couldn't see them. If I dared to look I might break down. I might slow down. I might pass out. I turned the final corner, focused on the finish line and just did everything I could to not slow down. 

If you were able to zoom in on this picture you would see 3 of my 4 kids looking at the clock and not me. They were so worried! I just find it so endearing. They knew the number I needed and they wanted it for me just as much as I did. I crossed and I saw 3:38 on my watch. I smiled at the guy trying to hang a medal over my neck and started to waver. "Are you OK" he asks. I shook my head, fell into his arms, and was carried to the nearest chair. 


I cried. I did it. I couldn't believe it and still can't. I feel like my guts were left all over the last 4 miles of that race and I had nothing left. There was a lot more crying when I finally left that chair and was greeted by my husband, kids, Joel's Aunt and Uncle, and some of our closest friends who made the 2 hour drive just to witness the finish. We were all crying!

And then we all went out for pizza and beer! 

So today I can't walk (in fact I go down the stairs backwards!) and life moves on. I had to pack lunches for school, drive carpool, walk the dogs, and go grocery shopping. But my dream is a reality. No one can take it away. I keep reliving it over and over in my head. At some moments I wonder how and where I could have gotten precious seconds back. All I can think back to are those dark miles when I was losing the mental battle. Maybe there is a key in there I have yet to find. But I can't for the life of me think of how I could have changed any of it. I am unbelievably grateful for the journey, the fight, and the ability to run.  I am overwhelmed and humbled by the amazing support from all over that has poured over me. I wore my heart on my sleeve and was blessed with those to ride along side me. I am so proud to have a 18 minute marathon PR and a BQ!!! Dreams really do come true!!! No looking back. 
Final results: Official time 3:38.35. 
165 out of 1017 runners
3rd in my age group (I got extra hardware for that!!)

Boston bound 2016.


18 comments:

  1. Congrats Mary! I'm glad we were there to enjoy your success.

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  2. Thanks for telling us about the adventure. Great job Mary. Praise the Lord!

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  3. I am so happy for you, Mary! Congrats! I'll never forget the first time we met and ran together. It was a cool morning and I had on my long sleeved Boston shirt. Later you said something about being blinded by my shirt, and hadn't paid any attention to my name when we were first introduced. Next year at this time, you'll have your own shirt! :-)

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    1. I was totally blinded by the shirt Deb! The idea of now having my own still brings tears to my eyes. I am so happy!

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  4. Congrats!!!I'm hoping for the same dream come true later this year!!!

    Deb Runs mentioned you in her blog post today...I'm glad to have found you.

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    1. Thanks Wendy! I can't wait to hear your story! You can do it!!!

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  5. Hearty congratulations on your BQ. It is such an accomplishment to earn that spot and Boston bib and hard work and race day guts are part of the equation. I ran my first Boston last month and cherish every minute of the journey. I plan to be back in a few years after I complete most of the other marathon majors. Next April I will be running London, but hope to cheer in Boston before I fly to England. Enjoy this sweet sweet time. Planning for and running Boston is like living in a dream!

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    1. Oh I can't wait!!! Thank you so much for your kind words.

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  6. So awesome!! What an inspiring post. Congrats on a great race BQ qualifier - it's going to amazing to run that course.
    Colorado holds some beautiful views ;)

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    1. Colorado is a runner's paradise! Thank you so much for your kind words. It is so special to share this experience with all of you.

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  7. found you from Deb at Deb Runs - what an incredible story. love it and congratulations!!!!!

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  8. Mary, thank you, thank you for your BQ story! You are a true inspiration and I am so grateful for your brutal honesty and openness about your journey. Boston has been on my radar for a long time and I've finally publicly shared that it is my goal for this fall (what will be my 20th!) marathon. I'd love to hear more about your thoughts on the Hanson method too. Congratulations...looking forward to reading about your Boston experience already! -Beth

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    1. Thank so much Beth! What an honor to inspire anyone. You can do it!! I am so proud of you for making your dream public. It definitely provides a different motivation. As for Hansons-LOVE IT! It will definitely be my plan for Boston too. It is intense and high mileage but the most prepared I have ever felt for a race. I believe the key is those long runs at goal pace

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  9. Mary, thank you, thank you for your BQ story! You are a true inspiration and I am so grateful for your brutal honesty and openness about your journey. Boston has been on my radar for a long time and I've finally publicly shared that it is my goal for this fall (what will be my 20th!) marathon. I'd love to hear more about your thoughts on the Hanson method too. Congratulations...looking forward to reading about your Boston experience already! -Beth

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  10. Congrats on your BQ, definitely teared up reading this. Glad Deb shared your story on her blog Jennifer @ Run Jenny Run

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