Monday, October 6, 2014

Words and Feelings: Lakefront Marathon 2014

I'm going to attempt a race recap but everything important about this race doesn't have as much to do with the actual race itself. There was so much buildup to Lakefront Marathon for me this year (for obvious reasons) so the story is more about journey there than anything. From the hardest, most dedicated summer of training I've every gone through to the nonstop motivation and encouragement from friends (you know who you are), the fact that I missed my goal seems secondary.

In January of this year I put a big dream of mine out into the Universe. I said that I wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon this year. This is something that I never ever in a million years thought I would even attempt so it was a big hurdle for me to publicly say it was something I was going after. Having missed it three times now, on one hand I feel frustrated for building it up so big only to fall short, but I'm also more fired up than ever to smash this goal of mine with an iron fist. There are lessons to be learned from every race and after yesterday the tweaks I need to make to be successful are even more clear to me. (But more on that later.)

First the highlights of of the weekend!

Sara and I went together to pick up our packets on Saturday. She has had my back throughout this whole process. If you don't have a Sara already, I highly recommend you get one.

Then my friend Shiow came in from Chicago for a visit! We ate carbs and laughed and laughed and I went to bed at 9pm while she played Dungeons and Dragons with my family. Right before bed I realized we were out of wheat bagels and she and Jason ran out to the store to get some for me. It may seem like not a big deal but it made me feel special. The next morning Shiow even got up at 5am to see me off, declaring marathon morning "like Christmas for weirdos" and we snapped this photo:


Then all the usual race morning stuff. Long bus ride out to Grafton followed by an anxious hour of waiting at the start. I ran into some friends who wished me well and I was feeling good. Then we were off!

I'm not really sure how to explain the race other than it never felt like things were "clicking" for me. I started off a bit slower as planned- although in hindsight probably not enough- but I didn't feel super relaxed. My legs felt a little heavy and I kept thinking maybe I just needed to warm up since it was only 35 degrees and I was wearing shorts. I was running the correct pace for the most part but I've done enough marathons now to know when I'm going to have a great day. In Chicago last year I felt like the first 13 miles were a warmup, 20 miles is where the "race" started and I passed lots of people in the final 10K. (This is the only race where that has ever happened- I need to find that again!) This day, everything just felt...ok. I knew I would make it through the race but to have a blowout PR day in the marathon everything has to be nothing short of AMAZING. 

26.2 miles is a long way though and I wasn't about to write the day off in the first hour of running so I kept trying. Here's the amazing part about running a marathon in your hometown- everyone that comes out to cheer! Leading up to race day I lost track of how many people I would have to look for on the course and where they would be standing. I joked that I needed a spreadsheet to keep it all straight but it was really true. I saw people I knew everywhere! I don't even want to name names because I'll probably forget someone but if you were out there yesterday please know how much you were appreciated. Concordia was especially exciting because I saw my family cheering! I knew that whatever happened they were going to be proud of me. 

I think I reached the half marathon point in a little under 1:48, which was right on schedule but like I said before- it needed to feel like a warmup and it didn't. I had hoped to run miles 13-20 at slightly above goal pace and then "relax" the rest of the way in. Ha. When I tried to speed up though my legs just...didn't. Nothing. The winds were picking up and we hit some hills and it was difficult so I had no choice but to keep doing what I was doing. I knew this was a bad sign but again, there's no point in quitting halfway. 

By the time I saw my family again at 18 I pretty much knew I was toast as I was barely hanging on to an 8:20 pace then. (The bare minimum I needed to run, and it felt hard.) I tried to smile for them when I passed by but later they told me they could tell I was not happy.  I slipped even more into the 8:30s and 8:40s during the next two miles and when I saw friends again at mile 20/21 as I was wrapped up in a lot of messy emotions. The friends I saw at this point in the race were so positive and amazing and I wanted to run faster SO BAD just for them. It doesn't make sense because IT DOESN'T MATTER in the grand scheme of things but I wanted with all my heart to be successful for everyone who said they believed in me that day. Going into today I believed fully I was going to achieve my goal but by mile 22 that belief was gone. 

I walk/jogged in the last 4 miles because at that point the goal was missed and I was in that phase where I needed to come to terms with it so I could hopefully finish with a smile on my face.  At the mile 25 marker my minimum goal time of 3:38 flashed by on the clock. That was rough. Right after that I came by Rochelle, Marty and Tony and I wanted to lose it but at the same time I was so happy to see them because I had no idea I would be seeing anyone I knew this late in the race. I told myself not to be a baby and be strong for the finish so I picked myself up the best I could as I headed in Veteran's Park. I saw my friend Bill cheering and taking photos at mile 26 but after that I just kept my eyes forward and ran as hard as I could to the finish. I was done in 3:50:45. (Here's another reason why I'm kind of a jerk: This time was literally my dream time last year. Perspective.)

I put my hands on my knees and felt my face crumple right away which caught the eye of the medical staff so one guy was on me ASAP. I told him I was fine and just sad that I missed my time but he kept following me and helped me get my mylar cape and water, all while asking me a bunch of questions. I finally convinced him that I'd be ok and he let me go. I suppose it was nice that people are there looking out for you. Immediately after that I ran into a couple more friends who had finished right ahead of me and got some much needed hugs. The first few minutes after a finish is always so surreal so I was happy to see some familiar faces. I tried to pull myself together and went to go find Jason and Shiow so I could get wrapped up in even more hugs. MORE HUGS! Good lord I needed them. 
Ugh. This is longer than I intended. When I look back at the technical part of the race, I realize now that I probably need to start out even slower and build up speed from there. I'm kind of really afraid of beginning a marathon below my goal pace but I suppose it worked for me in Chicago last year so why not try it again next time I go for the BQ? What have a got to lose at this point? Seriously. As for when the next attempt might be I don't know right now. If anyone has a good suggestions for a favorable course, holler at me. I'm all ears. I still think when I do get to where I want to go it's going to be the best, most fantastic feeling ever having gone through all of this. 


  1. Tracey - you have great perspective on running and this race. Congratulations and I can't wait to cheer for you again.

  2. it seems like we all missed our goal this race. you, sun, my friend jim, and myself. we'll just all have to power through this disappointment to the next race. it will be better. :) i came in right behind you by about a minute i think so i must have been close to you the whole race and never even knew it! you did a great job and you should be proud of your finish! <3

  3. Thanks Renee- I can't wait to cheer for you when you get back running too!

    Nikki- Congrats on your finish too. We will all get there, I'm sure. :)