The Salt Lake City Marathon could not have been an OTQ attempt, even if I was physically ready. Not only does it have a net elevation loss of 680 feet (the max allowed is 450), but it’s sanctioned by the RRCA and not the USATF.
Last year I ran this course in 3:08 finishing 3rd, and I wanted to give it another try. This year I had a much better training cycle, and I wanted to race this course hard…maybe even go for the win.
After CIM, I took a month off from training because it was time, and because I needed to fix the IT Band/Quad issue. I didn’t stop running altogether, but I stopped training. It was a good break. I fixed my knee and came back feeling refreshed with sixteen weeks to train for the Salt Lake City Marathon.
During a marathon training cycle, I always have found myself reflective on some particular aspect of life. This time, it was unfortunately death.
Within a few weeks of resuming training, one of my friends lost their baby girl just two hours after giving birth. It was heartbreaking to see what was supposed to be a celebration of new life turn to death. Instead of a baby shower they were having a funeral.
I was hitting paces in training that I hadn’t been able to hit before, and I made new personal bests in the 5k, 10k, and 15k during the cycle. I was staying injury free, and grinding away the workouts. Everything was pointing towards a new personal best – one that I could be proud of.
My husband is a cyclist, a roadie, and of course there’s always a worry in the back of my head. I trust he is careful and tries his best to be safe, but a car against a bike is not a fair fight. And then it happened – Kyle was out on a ride when a truck turned left in front of him. He didn’t have time to stop and slammed his shoulder and head into the cap of the truck. He ended up with just a broken collarbone, but yeah I thought about all the possible outcomes.
I have enjoyed “coaching” myself and making my own training schedule. Trial and error has gotten me into A LOT of trouble, but has also taught me things about myself and how my body works that you can only get from experience. Nevertheless, I knew there’d be a day when I’d be ready to get a coach, or at least try to get one – finding someone who was willing to put up with me might be a challenge, but I reached out to one I was particularly interested in and asked if he maybe might possibly be potentially willing to coach me…in the future. Things were going so well with this training cycle, I didn’t want to switch things up just yet.
I like to brag on my immune system. When I do get sick, I can usually feel it coming on early enough to kick in 12 hours. But this was a whole different ball game. I woke up one morning feeling “off.” I was fine, but something was weird. When I was driving to work later that day, I started to feel really tired, and a little sore? even though I hadn’t done anything that day. Then in the middle of my first appointment, I found myself struggling to finish the hour. I didn’t know what was going on. I felt awful. I left work early and had a fever by the time I got home. I tried to sleep it off, but my spine felt like it was going to explode. It hurt to exist. I drove Kyle to work the next morning and told him I was going to urgent care later if I didn’t feel better. On the way back home, my vision started tunneling. “No, no, no” I thought as I moved into the far right lane as fast as I cou – BLACK. What? Cars were whizzing by, horns were honking, I could hear. My foot was planted firmly on the brake, hands gripping the wheel, I could feel. I was conscious, but I couldn’t see anything. What do I do? How am I supposed to get out of this? “Jesus, I need to see!” I started to get some sight back and saw a drive I could pull into just a few yards ahead. Drive, park, key, fall into passenger seat. I didn’t think I was going to die from the virus, but I understood how someone could.
After telling this coach my plans, my less-than-ideal race schedule, my current personal bests, and future goals, he offered to put me on his elite team. I wasn’t expecting that, but was I ready? He gave me a training schedule for the next four weeks, at this point with the marathon just a few weeks away, and I completely freaked out. No! I cannot change things this drastically so close to race day. No way. Not for this one. After stressing out way too much about it, I asked him to let me finish my training cycle for this race and he agreed.
Kyle dropped me off at the starting line, with fresh snow on the ground. It was cold, but the forecast said it was going to get warmer and be perfect racing conditions. I did my usual pre-race things, and lined up in the starting corral. I wanted to win, but my goal time was more important. I told myself to stay focused. On this course, you just have to roll with the hills by effort, so I knew my splits would be all over the place. Right away, with less than half a mile run, the lead escort tagged me. “Okay, I guess we’re doing this,” I thought to myself. Taking the lead early can be nerve wracking, but I wasn’t going to purposely slow my effort to not be in the lead. I sailed on, feeling strong. Halfway, past most of the steep hills, I felt I needed a few grace miles, so I took them before trying to get back to goal pace. My heart was full of energy, but my quads started really feeling all the elevation changes. My goal time was slipping, but I seemed to have a pretty strong lead as first female, even top 10 overall. I continued to press on and watched the miles come and go. I thought about some of my hardest marathon finishes and this wasn’t even close to being that bad. I was evolving. Just three more miles! They were slow, but they were steady, and I got my first marathon win – lucky number 19.
At first, I didn’t understand why I was losing my mind over my coach taking over my training. Isn’t that the deal? Was it really just a control thing? Because I was sure I convinced myself it was time to let go, and bring in “the big guns.” Why was I being so protective of this race? But then a few days out I started to understand. I needed closure. Training on my own for the past eight years has been quite the journey. And this training cycle, this race, was going to be the one where I used all those “lesson learned” disappointments to give my best performance ever – a poetic end to an emotional and dramatic roller coaster. And though it wasn’t a PR, it really was my best run marathon.
When one thinks about death, one inevitably thinks about life. We think about who we are, who we were, and where we’re going. We think about the level of importance we give to different areas in our life. As much as we fight for those people or things, we never have the guarantee of another minute of life on earth with them.
9th of 683 overall
1st of 263 female