Thursday, June 26, 2014

the power of orange

i don't care if it's your first or 8th marathon.  you still have "that moment".  that moment is where you are not sure if you can continue on.  it's where self doubt creeps in and all confidence you may have had flies by the wayside.  it is what you chose to do in "that moment" that can make or break your race.  here's my story from charlevoix....the marathon that taught me the most about myself:


the only good thing about turning 40 this year is that i move up to a new age bracket and gain 5 minutes on my qualifying time for boston.  after crossing the finish line 20 minutes before disaster struck in boston in 2013, i just knew i had to go back.  so badly, in fact, that i attempted to requalify in a race just 1 month after.  needless to say, that didn't work out so well.

so i set my sights on a marathon this summer in charlevoix.  i trained in the polar vortex, battled injury, and trained some more.  on marathon day i woke up to a perfect morning for running.  i toed the start line with a few friends from my running class and had zach cued up on the bike to cheer me along.  some of my closest friends would be at the finish line to celebrate my BQ (boston qualifier).  my mom and other close friends anxiously waited by their phones for updates from zach.  how could i not do this today?

it couldn't have been a more beautiful backdrop with lake michigan glistening in the distance as we started off.  my first 16 miles were effortless...on pace to run a 3:40 which was my goal to be 5 minutes under my qualifying time.  everyone needs a little wiggle room!  i saw zach at every 2-3 miles where he flashed his camera. i was all smiles. i am high fiving kids, thanking volunteers, and passing people, offering them words of encouragement as i zoom by.

probably around mile 8 feeling footloose and fancy free

then something happened around mile 16.  i was tired.   panic started to set in.  10 more miles of path laid in front of me and i was already freaking exhausted.  in the distance i saw zach with his camera, poised to capture my elation.  not so much.  

this picture says it all.  i am about to throw my spibelt to him and call it some not-so-nice names.  needless to say, the camera went away after this shot.

"i can't do it anymore", i tell him.  "i am just so tired", i complain.  my husband's response is, "do you want me to get the car?".  no, i don't want you to get the car...maybe a ride on your bike...

self doubt settles in as i try to press on in full concentration mode. with every water stop, i creep down to a walk. my pace drops and i realize that my boston qualifying dream could be slowly slipping away.  at mile 21 i need to be at 3 hours to be on pace.  i am at 2:59.  i keep telling myself  "keep it steady. keep it strong" over and over.  remember all those folks i passed?  well, some of them passed me.  there was one women that i had been trading places with the whole race.  she, also, was in an orange tank top. she flew past me (i swore she was on rollerskates), touched my elbow and said something like "you got this.  stay strong".  i would have responded but i was listening to kelly clarkston blaring in my ear "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  stand a little taller."

keep it steady.  keep it strong.

i kept her in my sights for the next couple of miles and then when we got off the path she disappeared.

full on concentration mode.  probably around mile 20 or so.

i somehow make it to my last water stop at mile 23.  zach is waiting there, looking a bit concerned.  i yank my headphone out of my ear and he calls out to me "you can still do this.  but it all depends on what you decide to do these last 3 miles".  my response to him is "i don't think i have it left in me". 

friends,  i could have SO easily given up.  i was SO tired.  my quads were screaming.  my hamstring felt like it was going to rip in half.  i couldn't imagine that i had anything left in me to stumble through 3 miles, let alone finish 3 miles at a pace faster than what i started at.  my grasp at boston was slowly letting go.  

so i had a little talk with myself. a little come to jesus.  i thought about the victims at boston and their strength to persevere.  i thought about a friend's little girl who would never herself feel the joy of running, but has the strength to fight Alexander's disease. i thought of a young mother whose life tragically ended on a morning run. i thought of a strong young woman that never gives up, despite a muscle disease that now has her wheelchair bound yet she continues to run races with a buddy in a freedom chair.  then, i thought of everyone who believed in me.  and i slowly started to believe in myself.  

i dug deep.  i am not sure where it came from but i just took off.  one foot in front of the other.  mile 24 approaches. you can do this.  katy perry screams in my ear that i am a firework. in the distance is my orange tank top friend.  just get to the orange tank top friend.  mile 25. in a fog i look at my watch. it is going to be close.  i mean, really close.  zach appears next to me on his bike. i give him a nod. i know what i need to do.

pour. it. on. 

mile 26.  i round the corner and see my friends screaming at me.  and then, i see the finish.  i sprint for the end, cross the line and stop my watch.


i look up and there is zach.  "you did it!" he says. i can't believe it.  i don't know what to believe.  the friend in orange finishes behind me and embraces me in a huge hug.  she tells me that she has qualified for boston 15 minutes ahead of her goal.  and she thanks me for pushing her the whole race.  funny, i thought she pushed me.  my friends come tearing down the to finish and it's sweaty hugs all around.  no tears yet...i sweat out all my salt.  

the friend in orange gives me another hug as we leave the finisher's chute and says to me "i knew as soon as i saw you along the course that we'd be running strong together.  it's the power of the orange. we did it!!". funny, i thought the same thing.  the power of orange.  boston, here i come.  

"it's always been inside of you...and now it's time to let it through..."