It’s been two and a half weeks since I ran my BMO Vancouver Marathon. I set out originally hoping to break 3:21 (apparently a bit of a long-standing goal now). This goal was adjusted based on training to a sub 3:30, which I honestly felt was doable. But I crossed the finish line in 3:35:07, which feels like I’m giving away the ending… But in fact is what anyone who might have looked up my results already knows.
What they don’t know is this:
I woke up race morning with a sense of calm excitement. It was going to be perfect day. A perfect race. It had to be… I’d put so much into making sure of it. A little cue card stuck to the fridge dictated the order of events for the mornings preparations – eat oatmeal, drink matcha, get on bus, drink beet juice (don’t spill!), get on Canada Line, walk to the start line in Queen Elizabeth Park. It wasn’t just the perfect detailing to the mornings preparations though. I’d successfully completed 10 days of fat-loading and 3 days of carb-loading in the 2 weeks leading up to this day. Truth be told however, it was much easier than my previous fat/carb loading rounds – to the point I began to wonder if I’d cheated somehow along the way.
Upon arriving at the start line, my hunny and I made our way to the VIP tent – without a doubt one of the best birthday gifts I’ve ever received!! No port-a-pottie lineups, chairs to sit on to, area to stretch, water and coffee available. Call it a mistake or not, I chose to forgo any type of warmup whatsoever for the comfort of my chair as I enjoyed my espresso and just relaxed. Saw a few other racers I knew, good luck wishes all round. Saw my dad who’d be running his first marathon! More good luck wishes.
After what was likely the most relaxing pre-marathon morning ever, it was time to race. In complete juxtaposition to my chill pre-race experience, a girl I know flew into the corral beside me, having just been dropped off a few streets away and dashed over to the start line. She grabbed the safety pins I’d found for her after receiving her anxious test message and with less than 60 seconds to the gun going off, was frantically pinning on her bib. I felt a bit guilty for the calmness of my morning. Later I found out that she beat me by like, 5 minutes – basically got the time I was going after. I didn’t feel guilty anymore LOL.
It was the most beautiful day. Some called it perfect. Unfortunately, I called it HOT. I knew it but I refused to accept it. I told myself it didn’t matter. I went out conservatively. I took my gels every 45 minutes. I drank a bit of water from every single aide station. And about 10km in I began to melt, in typical me fashion, under the heat of the sun.
For the next 20km, I felt as though I was slowly dying of the heat. Rounding UBC at around the 12km mark, I knew I’d fallen off pace. In the full sun, I couldn’t even muster much speed going down the massive UBC hill. I hi-fived people I knew out there cheering and tried to put on a happy face. By 24km in the struggle was real. I could hardly pretend. More hi-fives and thank you a million to those of you whom I saw and made me smile – Ali, Jamie, my coach Dylan, Joanie, Steph, Ashley… And others I know were there but in my hazy vision I missed – you were all so awesome to see/hear/hi-five out there.
By the time I entered Stanley Park, at about 31km into the race, I’d accepted that I’d completely lost this race to the heat and anticipated a 3:45-3:50 or so finish, similar to what happened 2 years ago (which happened to be a similarly crazy hot day). But something happened. The part of Stanley Park I entered was shaded and there was a cool breeze. I regained my energy. Along with this reprieve from the hot sun, maybe it was the fat-loading that kicked in? The beet juice? The caffeine? Who knows, at that point I didn’t care. I began to fly.
In the last 10km I managed to pass over 100 other runners. I smiled more in that last quarter than the first three quarters. I decided this race was not going to be like 2 years ago. I decided that there’d be no wall this time. In fact, I experienced what I’m sure is the exact opposite of ‘the wall’. I felt so strong for those last 10km. Don’t get me wrong – still the HARDEST THING EVER (as marathoning tends to be). But doable. Totally doable.
I know well that anything can happen in the last 10km (6 miles) of a marathon. Usually it’s where runners fall apart, slow pace, hit the wall, and the like. Some hold pace. Some speed up. I’ve only ever fallen into the first category! Now I know it’s entirely possible to feel strong for that last quarter. If nothing else, this experience has boosted my confidence for future marathons – knowing it’s possible to feel strong at the end. It did get hot again near the end, as I entered full sun again. I think by that point I was close enough to simply hang on. And as with any marathon, that finish line never looked so sweet.
And so I crossed it in 3:35:07. And right away, I was totally okay with it. I’d finished so strong and had been feeling so good the last quarter that I knew I’d left all I had out on that course. Sure, there’s always a certain amount of disappointment in not achieving a time goal and yes, I absolutely would have loved that sub 3:30. However, running so many races has only taught me that if I don’t cross with a shiny new personal best to revel in momentarily, the best course of action is simply to learn from the experience, try to find some moment(s) within the race I’m proud of, and move forward as quickly as possible.
Moving forward, I refuse to give up. Although they are now recycled goals, my number one goal – my dream goal – is a sub 3:21 marathon. My second goal, definitely realistic, is a sub 3:30 marathon. My third goal is self-acceptance. As with this race, I’ve made a pledge to be happy with my outcome, no matter what.
In the book In Pursuit of Excellence by Terry Orlick, he encourages us to set 3 goals:
- A goal we’d really love to accomplish – potentially possible if we stretch our limits;
- A goal that is realistic based on present skill and motivation; and
- Make a commitment to accept yourself and grow from the experience regardless of whether you achieve your dream goal or realistic goal.
And so this is what I’ve based my 3 goals on.
Now onward and forward to my next marathon where I’ll attempt to accomplish these goals… The training has already begun. Long Beach Marathon California… I’m coming for you!!!
PS. I also want to acknowledge my dad who, at 60 years old, ran his first marathon (5:12:43) – so proud of him.
PPS. And I want to acknowledge my hubby, who ran a personal best (2:56:16) – he is undoubtedly my biggest support and inspiration! He’s been on a roll last year and this year, setting new records for himself in every single distance from the 5k to the marathon – some significantly – proving that turning 40 can mean your best is yet to come!!!
So amazing! Congrats to you both.
Congratulations Sarah, amazing time! Also congrats to your hubby and father!
Years ago it was suggested to me that I wear a hat to protect myself from heat/sun ( now a days so many are light, ‘wickable’ styles). This Marathon, I wore a visor and before hitting Camosun Hill stopped at a water station and poured a cup of water over my head, repeating this several times throughout the race…so refreshing and cooling! I didn’t really feel too hot for the run, except in the last kilometres ( although other issues didn’t help my running in the 2nd half). Who knows my internal body may have been overheated! Anyways, it’s something you might want to consider if you frequently overheat! One of my Marathon friends did Boston and thanked me repeatedly for the suggestion! 😎
I said I would report in on how I did in the Marathon, however, I’ve been delaying because I didn’t come close to my goal time! I followed your carb loading advice for 3 days beforehand and believe it helped…would do it again!
Unfortunately, several side stitches/cramps impacted my run in the second half ( damn, the first half went wonderfully!) so I had to walk more often! I believe, the ol’ muscles started to ‘seize’! Making it harder to get going again, but I don’t really know. Happlily, I completed the race in 4:53, nothing was going to stop me from finishing! And best of all, my family and friends were there to see me cross the finish line. They said I looked really good (or was it great?😉) as I ran it in!