When I stepped up to the starting line in Eugene, I was about as far from focused as could be. Having bid Trey goodbye a week prior for a year long deployment, emotions were still very raw. Only two days ago, Mom helped me pack up the entire house in a single day so I could spend the year in NC. On little sleep and lots of allergy and cold medication, I was about to make a run (pun intended) at breaking 3:30, which has long been a goal of mine after coming painfully close in Arizona , Akron and Hartford.
A 9 year old with a Christina Aguleria style voice belted out the National Anthem before the gun signaled the beginning of the race. Her singing was beautiful and, in a very un-Suz way, I got emotional. Loud, sloppy sobbing (give me a break people, I miss my husband!). Many others reacted as well and there were very few dry eyes in our corral.
The first few miles were conservative. I'm typically a very social runner, but it was hard to breathe (due to that existing cold and stuffy nose), much less talk. I listened to music in an effort to dissociate, which is something I haven't done in a long time. It is fun to run with music- what a nice reminder! By 49:19 at the 10K mark, I felt much better than any medicine had made me feel in the last week and was maintaining a pace of slightly over 8 minute miles.
By mile 10, I was really enjoying the race. There were several 50 Staters and Marathon Maniacs to swap stories with. Many were curious what I had done for training runs during the months of February and March, when temperatures in Fairbanks averaged -40. I shared that most of my running was done indoors on a treadmill until it got warm enough to snowshoe. This was also the first time I adopted a training schedule with much lower mileage combined with heavy strength training and WODs at Crossfit Fairbanks 4 times a week. When asked how it worked for me, I smiled and said, "We're about to find out today, huh?!"
Despite sharing the first 12 miles with the half marathoners, it never got crowded enough to bottleneck. Temperatures had risen from 40 degrees to low 60s with a cool breeze- perfect running weather. After an out and back in the University area, we followed a bicycle path alongside the water through the city; it was gorgeous! I would have actually loved some hills for variety, but happily took the 7:58 pace instead. At half marathon, the clock read 1:43:50 and I could see the 3:30 pace group in the distance.
Spectators were out in full force and very spirited. Among the many signs alongside the course, my favorites read: "I'm proud of you, complete stranger", "There is tequila at the Finish",and "Chuck Norris Never Ran a Marathon". However, the best support came at mile 18 when I saw Mom and my dog, Pavel! Experienced runners will tell you (rightfully so!) that a marathon begins at mile 20. At 2:39:03, I ended my long run and began my 10K race. At this point, the difference between my training for this race versus previous traditional high volume plans was clear- I felt physically stronger than I ever have so late in a marathon. Any skepticism I had about trading miles for cross training was gone. As I passed the 3:30 pacer around mile 24, I was all smiles as I thought about chalking my hands up for heavy deadlifts and the hundred day burpee challenge, among other things Crossfit.
Having just finished reading Kenny Moore's Bowerman and the Men of Oregon, it was a special honor to finish the race on the track at historic Hayward Field. As an added bonus, I saw Mom cheering at the final 100 meter stretch and finished well under my goal time in 3:28:36. Personal record! I was 437 of 2239 total runners, 94 of 1079 women, and 26 of 198 in my division. I wish the story happily ended here, really I do...
You'd think someone with twenty plus marathon events would have a post race plan, right? A specific place to meet family afterward? Maybe $20 in cash for emergencies? Not your girl. After a half hour wandering through crowds, I began walking in the direction I thought our hotel was...which was, of course, the wrong way. After about 3 additional miles, I finally went in a random store to use the phone, through some red tape, and connected with Mom. I wasn't mad, though...at least I had crossed the finish line prior to doing those additional miles, unlike Kenai!