Recently, I ran the Shamrock Marathon. I had three goals for this race: my A goal was to earn my BQ (Boston Marathon Qualifying time), at an 8:12 min/mile pace, my B goal was to hit an 8:20 min/mile and my C goal was to simply finish. I did not hit either my A or my B goal, but I did finish the race and here is my race report with lessons learned looking ahead.
For some backdrop, I have been seriously training for the goal of achieving a BQ for about 2.5 years, since having my third child. My first triathlon was in 2008, but my first marathon wasn't until 2012, just a few months before I got married. Fast forward to 2014 and I was pregnant with my first. Then, every other year through 2019 I was either pregnant or coming off a pregnancy and breastfeeding. During this time frame I was running no more than half marathons and did not participate in any multi-sport events. After having my third child in March 2019, I began training and racing for Philly Marathon in November of that year. Fast forward through the pandemic, consistent training, some 13.1's, 70.3's, smaller distance tri’s and two more marathons under my belt, here we are today.
A full week prior heading into the event, I felt very confident in my training and how I felt overall heading into the event. My training had gone exactly to plan, I felt very strong heading into the marathon both mentally and physically and I believed this was the marathon which would demonstrate all the hard work I have put in to earn a BQ.
The Monday night before the race I started to get sick. In fact, my whole family started to get sick and we even kept the kids home from school a few days. I was completely wiped with a bad headache the first few days, cough, sneezing, etc (COVID negative). I had been taking Mucinex all week and struggling to drink water. By Thursday, I was starting to feel somewhat better and finally went on a 2.5 mile easy run that I thought would be the kick I needed to feel recharged and ready heading into the marathon. By the end of this short run I felt drained physically but mentally I felt better about the coming event. The next two days I took it as easy as possible, even trying to get in a few short naps.
On Saturday, the day before the race my husband had an 8k and our kids each had their own shorter distance events. I was feeling much better at this point, but not back to 100% and I was on my feet at these events well into the afternoon. I was tired, but my mind was in race mode.
Race morning arrived and I felt mentally and physically ready to tackle my goals. I did not waiver in my approach to my pace or strategy. The race began and within the first 3-4 miles I knew this was not my race. For the first 10k, I was holding onto just above an 8:12 pace (which was part of my strategy that early on) but based on my RPE I knew this was not a pace I could sustain for the whole event. I dropped my pace to my B goal pace and even that felt difficult to sustain. I knew in those miles this was going to be a long event.
I struggled hard both mentally and physically throughout this event, especially at the tail end of the race. As I mentioned earlier, I truly believed I could suffer through and still BQ after coming off being sick. While it seems like common sense I should have known to back off this goal, this is very difficult to do after you have put in so much work and the day has finally arrived. In complete transparency, throughout the event I became angry, frustrated and sad. I wandered through the phases of wondering why I even participate in these events, I felt at a total loss of joy in participating and, truth be told, I began to blame God for not giving me this win. I hurt physically because my body felt so sick and lethargic and I was hurting mentally knowing I was so far from a BQ. I felt as though I was letting myself and my team down. This led to the downward spiral of thoughts which I knew I had to turn back around.
I forced my thoughts to turn to praise and thanks. Praise for the ability to participate. Praise for the opportunity to see again what my body is capable of. Praise for the new lessons from this race experience. Praise for the support of my family and the success of their participation in the events the day prior. Praise for being able to do what I love, praise to be able to build a company I so firmly believe in and praise to be so blessed to work with each and every athlete on the AME team.
Overall, the biggest lesson I learned from this experience is a recognition that a week of sickness and dehydration plays a bigger toll on our bodies than we sometimes realize. Looking back, what I should have done was switch this race to a training race and pace it to finish (9:00 min/mile or slightly slower) while thinking ahead and planning for the next marathon. An extra training race at marathon distance could have been a help along the way to a BQ, versus what I did in pushing too hard, feeling miserable and keeping myself sick and lethargic for another week. Something to keep in mind if you experience sickness before heading into a long endurance event.
We run the races to learn the lessons. Some are victories, some are losses, both provide growth. I gave this race everything I had and there was nothing more I could do, so even though I didn't hit my main goal, this race was a win. All great achievements require time. It takes courage, strength, faith, dedication, perseverance and mental fortitude to continue to push forward after experiencing disappointment or loss. My choices reflect my hopes and I look forward to the training and racing ahead to reach that BQ. I know when I finally do, it will be all the more worth it.