Tuesday, May 3, 2016

the stars weren't aligned

Pre Race Day - Ready to crush it!
After my second marathon on April 26, 2015 I missed a time goal by 13 seconds. I signed up within a month to run that same marathon on May 1, 2016 and told myself that I would train harder, faster, stronger than I did previously and that alone would make that goal a reality.

Today is two days post race day...my legs are sore. my toes are raw and my heart is happy. I missed that same time goal again...and I even missed it by more than the last year. All of my hard work let me cross that finish line in one piece, and let me be okay with the fact that "it" didn't happen that day. In all of my trying to figure out the perfect formula to have the perfect race I have realized that the day of the race pretty much has to have perfect star alignment. And despite the fact that my stars were not aligned on Sunday it does not take away from the hundreds of miles that I ran, the planks that I held, the cold and hot runs in the dark and blaring sunshine...all of that work was still needed.
Ready to RUN!

That race morning there was nothing I didn't think I would accomplish. I walked with my friend Julie(a real person, not me talking about myself in third person) to the start after we were dropped off and saw my friend Laura waving at me from the out shoot of the main runners exit. We had our picture quickly snapped and made our way to the corrals. Julie wanted to make sure I found my 3:35 guy and gave me a big hug and told me I was good and ready. I settled in with the fellow pace runners and we chatted a bit in the nervous energy to get to know each other a bit. We all wanted this 3:35 finish time and we were quite a pack.

Started at 7:33...we were the third corral out...and we were off. I saw my crew at the exit and there was a lot of hooting and hollering...it was awesome. We cruised along and headed to mile 2.5 and I knew the crew was going to be there again...they were in transit and I saw them sprinting towards the curb...my 11 year old made it with a big smile and wave and I saw my hubby shuffling along carrying our three year old and the others were in the space between. My heart was happy. I was going to see them again at mile 9 but they missed me...I was going to have to wait till the finish line to see their faces again.

Pace group 3:35
We moved along and the miles were ticking away...the weather was not ideal but we were still mostly inland and the wind had not hit us yet. The group was sticking together and the pacers were telling all these crazy stories trying to keep our mind at bay. I was with the front pacer for the first half no issue...then I was finding myself between the two and then at mile 15 I found myself just barely holding it with the second pacer. Paul was the pacer I ran with last year...and we had messaged prior to race day...he knew what I was training for.

We were now at mile 15 and Paul asked how I was doing...I shook my hand to say so so...he then said...Julie if you can't answer me then you need to back off...You need to be able to finish this. I knew I had lost the pace group last year at mile 18 and this year I knew I had family waiting for me down at mile 18 and 20. My goal was to stay with the pace group to that point and seeing my family would give me the energy burst I needed. My calf was killing me...and I knew my plan was going to have to change.

Crossing the mat at mile 20
I held as tight as I could to keeping 3:35 in my sights and that was all I could hope for. I wanted to make it to mile 23 before hearing the 3:40 pace on my heels. At one of the turn arounds Paul and the pace group were just cruising along...and he gave me a big shout out..."There she is...Orange Visor!!" I knew how bad I wanted to be running with them...and I knew it was not happening today. I saw my family at mile 20....I was doing all I could to just keep going and get off the boards after crossing mile 20. The wind and rain was miserable and it was going to be a long 6.2 miles to the finish.

I saw my buddy Mike who was getting served a very tough first marathon while I was on the stretch back up the highway. He was cruising along in cold, wet, windy conditions...left, right, left, right...while wearing his orange visor. He gave me a burst. I tried to push a little bit...doing the math I knew that sub 3:40 was not going to happen today and at this point I just wanted to finish without stopping. My leg was still in a lot of pain and I knew how lonely and long this final stretch to the finish was. One mile at a time was all I could focus on.

I made the turn at 25 to get back on the boardwalk...there were not a lot of spectators on the boards like last year...I so badly just wanted to be done...wanted to be warm...and wanted to see my family. I was not sad that it was not going to happen. The stars were not aligned....but I was still not going to stop. I went past the stretch were the bars were packed and hopping last year...I heard my friend Sharon shout in my head....go JULIE....and I so badly wanted to push. I had nothing left. I kept looking for the mile 26 marker and never saw it...that is where my family was last year and I just wanted to see them.

finish line in sight!
I finally saw them and I could see that coveted finish line. I had no juice left to sprint up to that shoot...and the cheers from the family were quiet. They knew that my time goal was not going to happen today and they just wanted me to finish. I crossed and walked and was so very happy to be able to stop running. I was freezing and felt a little sick to my stomach...but I just kept going to find my people. Paul was there talking with the runners he brought in with the 3:35 group...and he found me. He asked how I was feeling...and he assured me I will get it!
Happy Finisher 3;42:40

Ben found me as I made it through the food tables and just gave me a big hug. He was upset and I assured him I was okay. I knew at 15 it was not going to happen and to finish with a 3:42:40 in as much pain as I was in...was beyond a success. Qualifying for Boston is not an easy feat. Training to run a marathon is hard enough but then putting it all out there for such a HUGE goal makes it that much more mentally challenging. I never doubted myself that I was able to make this goal, I am still confident that it will...and maybe even this year...but I know that I gave all and everything I had that day to that race. My day was my day and I would not change it.

Life is full of so many ups and downs and we need them all to have balance. When I cross that finish line under 3:40:00 the stars will most certainty be aligned...nutrition, mechanics, heart, soul, weather, and a little luck all have to go in your favor on that day. My people were there with me, they hugged me while my teeth chattered for a solid hour after the race and they will do it again.

To say that I am not disappointed that my BQ did not happen on Sunday would be a lie.  To say that I didn't shed a few tears while recapping this here today would also be an untruth.  When you find something that you are passionate about and people believe in you and truly want you to succeed...you want that goal even more.  Work is work for a reason and I will go back to the drawing board and start this whole process over again.  Dreams have a funny way of coming true when they are supposed to.  So thank you for believing in me, for cheering for me, for asking if I am okay, and for smiling and congratulating me.  I never knew that these dreams would be the ones I would be chasing...and loving every minute of it! 

Embrace the suck...choose you....keep dreaming...the stars will align!
Splits NJ Marathon 2016

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