El Paso Marathon: Race Report

Right now, I am sitting in the backseat of my mom’s car riding back home from El Paso. Nine hour drive. It’s a long drive, giving me a lot of time to think about yesterday.

I go from being weepy, to being ecstatic, to being overwhelmed, to being numb. I don’t have the words. I will do my best to share my story, but no promises on the details or the cohesiveness.

I woke up at 4:06 AM, nine minutes before my alarm went off. I rolled over and checked the weather on my phone. The forecast had changed so many times for the past week. The latest was showing 35 mph winds, but not starting until early afternoon. That morning, the forecast had mostly stayed the same. For the 7 AM start time, it was showing winds 8 mph, getting up to 16 mph by the time I had hoped to finish.

My mom, Kenny, Doug and I all got ready and were out the door by 4:30 AM. On our drive to the buses, all three of them prayed and asked for God’s favor over me and the weather.

At 5:00 AM, I got on a bus with the other marathoners to be bused up to the starting line. I rode on the bus with Mindy, a gal from Carlsbad, that I struck up a conversation with. She told me that her goal was to break 3 hours. Eeeesh. Y’all, that is so fast. I loved getting to talk with her and felt like, based on last year’s times, that she could win this thing (for women). I picked a good bus mate.

We got to the starting line at 5:45 AM, which was a little annoying. With over an hour to wait for the start, we had a lot of time to get to know the folks around us. I met one guy who was running his 82nd marathon. He runs one every three weeks and averages 5 hour finishes. I met another guy hoping to break 3 hours and another gal that was going to be thrilled with a 5 hour finish. Nice folks on that bus. But c’mon, I was ready to start.

At 7 AM, I crossed the starting line and started my way down Transmountain. During the first four miles of the race, we lost around 1800 feet. It’s definitely a tricky part of the course. The temptation (that I fell for) is to start way too fast. It’s really tough to hold back when you’re going downhill at a grade like that. I don’t think I noticed much wind at this point. It was in the upper 30s when I started. I was wearing shorts and a long sleeve shirt, but I was already sweaty and hot by mile 3. For the first 4 miles, my slowest mile was 7:20. At this point, I felt a little worried about my pace, hoping that I hadn’t gone out too fast, and would crash later.

After coming down the mountain, I slowed down some, but not nearly as much as I felt. At 13 miles, my average pace was 7:41. The goal to qualify for Boston was an 8:12 pace. So, I thought, I have either screwed myself, or bought myself a little time. At the same time, at mile 13, the official time keepers told me that I was in 4th place for women overall. I was, in no way, expecting that. I was excited, but looking back, I think I would have preferred not knowing. In all my marathons, I have never once cared about competing against other runners. But, knowing that I was actually in contention for a top place, I think I probably used some mental and maybe physical energy on that rather than focusing on my goal.

I saw my cheering squad for the third time around mile 15. Doug told me that he spoke to my dad and he had said to slow down, if I needed to and to remember I was here to qualify, not to kill it. That helped, and along the wind that was steadily picking up, I did slow down quite a bit.

At mile 20, we had come out of Fort Bliss military base. The wind was WSW, which meant that it was almost always in our faces, and never at our backs. It was getting grueling. I was so tired and felt tempted to walk several times. At about mile 21, I passed the #3 female, which was exciting, but I was also feeling beat up and was starting to feel worried about my pace.

Oh, I wanted to walk so many times. Several times, I did the math to calculate if I had the time to walk for a minute. Ultimately, I decided I would be so disappointed if I missed my qualifying time because of walking. I decided that if I just kept running, even at a slower pace, I would give my body a little break and still keep moving at a faster pace than a walk. At mile 24, I felt pretty confident that I had qualified. I did the math and I would need to do at least a 10 minute mile for the last 2.2 miles, which I felt positive I could do, as long as I didn’t cramp or fall. I rounded the corner into downtown El Paso and saw my cheering crew for the last time. It was just the boost I needed. I gave it all I had and crossed the finish line at 3:32:27, just 2.5 minutes under goal. And what I never in my wildest dreams expected, I finished 3rd overall for women (behind Mindy, my bus buddy).

I crossed the finish line and doubled over the metal barrier separating the finishers from their families. I was spent – physically and emotionally – thanking God for this incredible experience and opportunity. Just me, a pretty average gal without any innate athletic ability, just qualified for the Boston Marathon and finished 3rd for women and 26th overall. What in the world!?

I really cannot describe the way I feel (except physically, I can barely move). I am so thankful for all the support I have received over the past months of training. I am incredibly thankful for Doug, my mom, Kenny, Cheri, Kelly, Joanne and Fred for being such an incredible crew on race day – for being exactly where I needed you, for giving me goo, for waking up at 4:15, for toasting me three times that day. I am so grateful.

For those of you that have followed my training, I hope that you are inspired to try whatever your little heart dreams of. Just try it.

Here are a few pictures from the day:

The starting area, and the prettiest part of the course.

Around Mile 15, a brutally boring and long stretch.

The Finish

The Top 3 Women – Me, Larisa Pitchkolan (#1), and Mindy Toothman (#2)

And finally, the man that made it all possible by providing me the time and space to train, and my biggest fan and supporter.

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  1. [...] on Monday, April 15th, 2013 in running Turns out that the last time I blogged was the day after the El Paso Marathon.  That day, there were so many feelings.  There was so [...]

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