Thursday, December 19, 2013

Race Recap - Texas "Whine Not" Another Marathon

After the craziness of the cancelation of the Dallas Marathon less than two weeks ago, I scrambled to sign up for a new race as soon as I could. I didn't want to travel very far, but it was looking like that would be inevitable, since most of the races that still had space were further away. My other option was waiting until February or April to run, but I wasn't sure that I could train for another few months. A friend of mine sent me a link to a race here in Dallas. It was the following weekend. The race was called the Texas Whiner Series Marathon. I had never heard of it, nor had I heard of the race location: Bachman Lake. On a whim, after Chance's encouragement, I signed up for it. 

As the days dwindled down to race time, I began to get really nervous. After all, I had completed some pretty unconventional training. I used the Hansons Marathon Method to train for this race: my first full marathon. My longest run had been only 16.5 miles. In comparison to most training plans, which have you run at least one 20-miler, this training plan capped at 16 miles for its longest run. I ran 6 days a week, incorporating strength, speed, and tempo workouts. It was hard, but so much fun. 

The night before the race, Chance and I were in the kitchen talking. I asked him, "So, how do you think I'm going to do tomorrow?" I was hoping for some major ego boosters as I was really starting to get the pre-race jitters. His response: "Well.. I know that if anyone can do it, you can." Um, not exactly what I wanted to hear, but I'll take it! He went on to explain that 26.2 miles is a reallllllly long way to run and since I had only run a few 16-milers, he wasn't 100% sure I'd be able to finish. Yikes. Now I wasn't so sure either...

Race morning! I didn't sleep well the night before (big surprise!) but still got up at at 5:30 to eat and get ready. Downed some gluten-free waffles, a bit of coffee, and got dressed. It was 32 degrees outside. Chance and Hudson took me to the race start where a group of about 60 other people were gathered. 

The race was so low-key and non-intimidating. I liked that a lot. The woman, who was giving instructions about the course, asked if anyone was a first-time marathoner. A number of other people (including me!) raised their hands. This was it, no backing out now! I was so ready to start running. At 7:00am the clock started and all of us runners were off.

The sun started to come up just after 7:00, and it turned out to be a beautiful morning. There was no wind, which was amazing. The course was eight 3-mile-long laps around Bachman Lake and then a short out-and-back about 3/4 mile to the finish line. I thought that going around in a circle would get monotonous, but it actually wasn't bad at all. 

I got near the front of the "pack" with about three other runners ahead of me. I was going to try to maintain about an 8:12 pace for the whole race. My first few miles I found it difficult to even out my pace, but once I got into a rhythm I was much more steady-going. I began talking to a woman who was running right behind me, who was shooting for a similar finish time. We were both trying for BQ's (Boston Qualifying times - 3:35:00). I was more or less just doing that for fun, to see if I could actually get close to that time. My actual goal time was 3:40:00.

At about the halfway point, I began to feel some soreness in my legs, but not too bad. As I got closer to that 16-mile mark, I was getting excited because I still felt really good. After I passed 16 miles and finished 17, 18, 19 miles I was pumped because I hadn't run that long... ever!

Around mile 20, I went to grab some gummies from my running belt and to my horror realized that I had dropped my phone (or so I thought). I spent the next two laps trying to remember whether or not I had actually taken it with me. When I saw Chance and Hudson pull up in the car, just as I passed mile 23 (still feeling somewhat fresh!) I was relieved to discover that Chance had my phone the whole time.. whoops. It was a nice distraction, anyways. 

I yelled to them, "Last lap!", and kept on running. I decided to push my pace a little bit when I got to mile 24, so my last two miles were under 8:00. Throughout the whole race, I had passed by other runners who cheered me on, or yelled things like "You're killing it!" That was truly helpful! Thank you, other runners! 

When I got to the turn around to make it back to the finish line, I thought that I might just make the 3:35:00 mark. As I sprinted to the finish, I looked at the clock which read "3:36:14". I  couldn't believe it! I had finished my first marathon, and had done it UNDER my goal time of 3:40:00. I didn't really care that I missed a BQ by about a minute. I was just thankful to have been able to run this race, cheered on by some other wonderful runners and my two biggest fans: Chance and Huddy.

Hudson after the race. He was just too excited to take his morning nap.

At the finish line, the race volunteers told me my official time (3:36:14) and told me that I had finished first female overall. Now THAT was a huge surprise. Granted, there were only 60 people in the whole race (not exactly the Dallas Marathon) but still! Overall, my first marathon experience couldn't have been better. I am super happy that my training**, as unconventional as it was, paid off. After three days, I am beginning to feel much less sore, and can't wait to get back out there logging more miles. 

Happy Running! 

[**I would definitely recommend the Hansons Marathon Method to anyone looking to train for a marathon. Whether it's your first or tenth, HMM will push your expectations and help you to achieve beyond what you think your body is capable of.]

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Post-[What Would Have Been My First]-Marathon Reflections

On Wednesday afternoon, I went out for a slow, four-mile run down Swiss Avenue, enjoying the beautiful 79 degree weather. I thought, "Surely tomorrow's forecast for freezing rain is a little farfetched." This picture can attest to how I could have rationalized that thought. 

On Thursday morning, the temperature had dropped to just above 32 degrees, and the clouds which hung in the sky looked unpromising. Unfortunately for me, I guess the weather man got it right. The plan was to have two friends and one family member of mine, from out of state, fly in the next day. We were all supposed to run the Dallas Marathon on Sunday. On Friday, I got the news that my friend's flight had been canceled. Then the truly unexpected happened...

After more than twenty-four hours since getting the news that the Dallas Marathon was canceled, I am still experiencing a whole gamut of emotions. I am frustrated, disappointed, and sad. I had such high hopes for myself, especially since this was to be my FIRST full marathon. My goal was to run under 3:40:00, having completed the Hanson's Marathon Method Beginner Program. 

As I said in my previous post just a few days ago, I learned a lot from my training; discipline, thankfulness, amongst other things. I still believe God's goodness and sovereignty despite this major disappointment. My theology is working for me! 

But disappointment is an interesting beast. We get most disappointed when our expectations are the highest. After four months of hard work, I had set high goals of completing this marathon and doing it well. Naturally, my disappointment is not minor. In the grand scheme of eternity, this is so insignificant. 

In the last day, I have even felt silly for crying about the circumstances surrounding this disappointing weekend. But at the same time, we are human beings created with very real emotions. It is all about how you control those emotions that determine whether or not your response to your circumstances is correct or not. 

By the grace of God, I believe that I have kept my perspective on eternity and my emotions in check (for the most part). Nevertheless, I am bummed about not running [what would have been my first] marathon. L

Perhaps, God is teaching me humility. Or maybe he is reminding me that He is God and I am not. Shoot, He desires to teach me all these things and in the midst of it, remind me of His grace which I do not deserve. I am reminded of what Paul says in 1 Timothy 6, that bodily discipline is of some value, whereas godliness is valuable not only in this life, but also in the life to come. 

That truth stings my flesh as I try to rationalize how important running this race was to me. On the one hand, finishing this marathon was going to be a great blessing and accomplishment; on the other hand, if my hope is bound up in just completing a road race, then I need to get my priorities straight. Talk about a reality check!

It has been helpful for me to write these thoughts down as I reflect on my unmet expectations. From here, I don't know what my running schedule will look like. I am not sure when I will run a marathon: next weekend, in the spring, or next December, perhaps. Whatever happens, I am confident that God will get the glory. He controls the details of our everyday lives and has proven to me [again] that His ways are not my ways, nor are His thoughts my thoughts (Isa. 55). 

Whether you are in the midst of disappointment, as I am, or you can look back retrospectively at disappointment in your life, rest assured that God is the same. Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." When life doesn't go according to plan, like I've experienced this weekend, we can trust that God has it all under control. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Pre-Marathon Reflections

After four months of training for my first marathon, I am compelled to take the time to think back on what my training has taught me. 

First, I am thankful. I have been able to run six days a week, for the past four and a half months. That is astonishing! My body has held up (for the most part), I have been injury-free, and I have been given both the time and ability to train. 

I am thankful for Chance and his self-sacrifice on my behalf. I am thankful for his support and love. I am thankful for him as Hudson's father, who loves to care for his son. 

I am also thankful that my runs have been times of prayer, reflection, and meditation on God. I love being able to go outside and enjoy God's creation while at the same time enjoying the benefits on exercise. What a gift. 

Second, I have developed a deeper desire for discipline in my life. Marathon training requires consistency, perseverance, and sacrifice. In a word: discipline. I think that my personality tends to gravitate toward routine and self-discipline anyways, which is one reason that I love have a training schedule. I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to have daily set goals (amount of mileage) then setting each day out to accomplish those mileage goals. It has been an rewarding and satisfying experience for me.

Lastly, marathon training has revealed to me the truth Jesus spoke of in Matthew 6:21, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." I have valued marathon training. Sometimes I have valued it too much, though, and when my plans don't go accordingly I become irritated. God has shown me the ways in which I can make running an idol if I am not careful to guard my heart. This is all a part of my sanctification. Running can be be both used for God's glory and abused to my shame. 

Well, the countdown continues as I wait for race day. I'm sure there will be plenty more to write about once I cross that finish line. Dallas Marathon 2013, here I come! 

(Stay tuned for Post-Marathon Reflections!)