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When Finishing is Winning

Where to begin?

I’m sitting in the hotel room, still needing to shower, but wanting to get a handle on my thoughts.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, or that I hadn’t shed a few tears over what happened today.

The short explanation is that I had one of two options: get with the lead pack early and let the race unfold from there, or run extra conservatively and put myself out of contention from the beginning and hope for the best.

I went with something in between - my plan was to go out in 5:50′s and see where that put me. As it turns out, that put me right with the lead pack (hey-o, airtime on national TV!). So, obviously, I went with it. The problem, though, is that this wasn’t exactly my plan. I had hoped 5:50′s would put me in the chase pack, and I would be able to move in and out freely. After 4 or 5 miles, I knew that the pace I was running was not sustainable for me on this given day. I dropped back, thinking that if I could slow down a few seconds per mile that I could maintain contact while running a little bit more conservatively.

I ran with the chase pack for the next few miles, and felt myself fading. I got a great boost once I took my first elite liquids, as I was very thirsty. I looked ahead and saw a girl who had fallen off the lead pack, running in no-man’s land, and pushed ahead for her. After another mile or so, I was enveloped by the chase pack and tried to hang on.

Somewhere around 6 I took my first gel and my next water. I don’t know where it happened, but things really started to fall apart. bad. I just couldn’t will my body to run as fast as I wanted to. I was getting passed left and right, and I was really cursing myself for having gone out as fast as I did.

Somewhere around 10 my hand happened to brush against my stomach and I realized it was completely dry. I checked the rest of my body and noticed I had completely stopped sweating. This is pretty much the opposite of what you want to have happen while you are running in the hottest Olympic Trials on record.

I made the decision not to risk a heat injury or heat exhaustion and instead run as fast as I thought was safe (or my body made that decision for me. not sure). At this point, I was not even sure I would be able to finish at all.

The rest of the race is a little bit of a blur to me. I drank as much nuun/water as I felt I could, but I never started sweating. My brain went between telling myself to drop out, and telling myself no, that I had to finish. Every time I thought enough was enough, I would see a sign that someone had made for me or someone that I didn’t know when cheer. I kept going because of that.

I reached a point in the race where I got angry. I decided that I wasn’t going to be unhappy that this wasn’t going my way. I decided I was going to make this race MY JOURNEY and finish it how I wanted to - happy. I waved, fist pumped, and high-fived my way through the last 6 miles.

photo cred: Ali Schultz. high-fives in the home stretch, aka I’m so fucking happy to be done.

In the end, I finished 56th in 2:48:36.

I feel like regardless of how I had chosen to run today, I was a bit between a rock and a hard place. I likely would have run faster had I started out closer to 6:00 pace and ran what felt overly comfortable. But, had I done that, I would have given up any chance of being in the top 10.

By going out aggressively, I also gave up what potentially could have been a top-25 finish, which would have at least helped me achieve my “C” goal.

I have a lot to learn still, and a lot to work on. Everything that has happened since July has been unreal. I think the biggest challenge up next for me is to work on racing for place. Every race I have run since July has been based on time, and I think today threw me off a little bit.

Ultimately, I finished. There were so many points in the race where I did not think that would be possible. The carnage on the course was insane. By the last loop, everywhere I looked people were sitting on the side of the road.

I wanted so badly to run faster. I tried mantras, I tried positive self talk, I tried getting angry with myself… I tried everything. Even if I could just run a few seconds per mile faster, it would be good. Nothing was going to make these legs go any faster, though.

The good news is that this isn’t the only race I will ever run. I will come back from this and get on the track, and tackle those demons. It was a really great experience for me to be out there, to learn, and I will do a few things differently next time.

In the end, you have to remember when things didn’t go your way there are so many people who would have loved to have started today; who would have loved to have finished; who would have loved to have been there. I have accomplished so much, and am fortunate to still have fire left to compete.

There are many ways to win a marathon. Today, I won by finishing.

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