Yesterday was the big day. I finally ran in the Sugarloaf Marathon that I had been preparing for for the past 16 weeks. While I did not hit my goal time of 4:20:00, I did manage to shave approximately 12 minutes off of my previous marathon time for a new PR! When I hit the point in the race where my watch showed 4:20 and I knew I was not going to get the time I had hoped for, there was a split second where I felt really bummed out, but I knew that I was giving the course all I had and quickly realized I had no regrets. Maybe I didn’t get the time I envisioned, but I did damn good for myself nonetheless. When I crossed that finish line, sunburnt and sweaty, I finished on empty and THAT is always my race day goal.
This was my third marathon, but my first two were Chicago and Rock N’ Roll Savannah, GA so compared to those, Sugarloaf was a no frills event. I loved it! We had about a four hour drive from home to the mountain, but once we hit the back roads in the mountains, the views were gorgeous and nature was all around us. From the time we arrived until the time we checked out at the Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel, everything was fantastic. The staff were extremely helpful, the buffet dinner was perfect, and they even gave everyone a late checkout for race day which meant a hot shower after the race before we drove another four hours home. HEAVEN!
The race staff and volunteers were awesome! Everyone was extremely nice and so helpful when we had logistical questions about getting to the finish and parking there for spectators. The entire event was well organized which is always a huge plus. Bib pick-up was right at the hotel which made things very easy for me. They gave out long sleeve Under Armour HeatGear race shirts to the marathoners and short sleeve shirts for the 15k racers. SUPER COMFY!
The morning of the race was an early one because the marathon began at 7 AM. There were buses to transport us from the hotel right to the starting line starting at 5:45 AM. When we arrived at the starting area at Cathedral Pines Campground, there were plenty of porta potty’s, a bus to check your bag which was transported right to the finish area for pick up (so convenient!), and a BEAUTIFUL view of Flagstaff Lake. My friends and I hung out a bit, snapped a few pre-race photos, and before we knew it we were lined up to start. No National Anthem, so when the gun went off I was caught off guard, but my legs knew what to do…RUN!!!
I ran the first 11.5 miles or so with a friend I met that morning (Karen, above left in photo). Both of us had made a list of who we were dedicating our miles to and so this portion of the race flew by for me as we chatted about each individual and their story. The “big hill” from about mile 8-10 was no problem considering the amount of hills I had been running during training so that was a plus. It was warm from the start of the race and only got warmer and more humid from that point forward. My ideal racing conditions would be about 40-50 degrees, dry, and overcast. Yesterday was about mid 70’s, humid, and full sun. The portions of the course that did provide some shade were NOT taken for granted by this runner. We ran by a lot of beautiful lakes and raging rivers and there was a point around mile 17 or so that I debated sticking my head under a small waterfall that I ran past. Wow! Did that waterfall look amazing at the time!
After separating from my friend, I ran the rest of the race alone, meaning not with anyone I knew. However, you realize quickly that you are never alone in a race. I had my list of friends and family that I was dedicating each mile to and so thoughts of those people and their stories helped busy my mind each mile that passed. Another Mom and I ran several miles next to each other and never spoke a word, but we both knew that we were in it together. Her family was meeting her every few miles with water and encouragement and seeing her kids cheering her on made me think of my own and helped to push me a bit further every time. There was a girl I had seen in line for the bathrooms at the start that I ran next to for a few miles as well, again with no words spoken, but who needs words when you have the beat of your feet running together in stride toward the finish?
The volunteers were awesome with plenty of water stops offering both water and Gatorade. There were high-fives galore from volunteers and spectators and lots of people yelling “Go Heather! You’re doing great!” from the sidelines because our bibs had our names printed on them. BONUS!
I was feeling amazing up until about mile 21. I knew I had slowed my pace a bit, but up to that point, there was hope of hitting my goal if I could speed things up over the next 5 miles. Clearly, though, that was not going to happen and I knew it at 21. My legs just weren’t going to go the other way in terms of pace. My husband drove past me right about then on his way to the finish to meet me and asked how I was feeling and I gave him the “so-so” hand gesture, which was exactly how I was feeling at that point. Thankfully, miles 21-26.2 were dedicated to my Dad and my I RUN4 buddy, Angel, and if anyone has been through hell and back and shown what it means to fight every day, it is those two. I have them to thank for pushing me to the finish strong!
If you’ve given all you have, then you can live with no regrets and that is exactly what I did yesterday. I trained my ass off consistently for this race and despite missing 4:20, it showed. As I ran toward the finish line and saw the clock, I was smiling ear to ear knowing I had finished another marathon and I had finished on empty.
So what’s next? Stay tuned for more this week on future goals and marathon plans!