Last Saturday, I ran the REVEL Canyon City Marathon. It was such an incredible race that we were on the drive home when I realized: “Shoot, I’m going to have to start blogging again, just to write a recap!”
I had big goals for this race, but I trained hard, and I was ready to run my heart out.
Goal A: 3:45
Goal B: sub-3:50, because I’d love to qualify for Corral B at the LA Marathon in February
Goal C: sub-3:52 for a PR!
More important than all of those goals, was the goal to not get injured and finish with a smile, never forgetting that I get to do this and that I love it.
***Spoiler alert: I smashed my goals, finished in 3:36, and had the best run of my life. The end.
If you want the whole story, here goes…
Race morning, I was up at 3:30 AM. By 4:30 AM, Jared and Liv had dropped me off at the busses for the hour-long shuttle to the start area, where it was teeth-chatteringly-cold. With an hour-and-a-half until the 7:00 AM start, and no cell reception, I wandered around, trembling from the cold and nerves. I was grateful to wedge myself in with a group of runners, huddled around a bonfire.
I lined up with the 3:45 pacer, Jen, who I’d run with at the Ventura Marathon (where I finished in 3:52) two months ago. I stuck with her group for a couple miles before reluctantly pulling ahead. It was hard to hold back at Jen’s pace, so I tried to trust my legs and training, but also worried this was a move that I might regret by Mile 20.
Mile 1 – 8:09
Mile 2 – 8:05
Mile 3 – 7:59
Soon, the 3:40 pace group was in sight. And then I was running with them! Immediately, my hopes were up, imagining a sub-3:45 finish. “I’m going to hit my A goal!” I thought.
Mile 4 – 7:36
Mile 5 – 7:49
Mile 6 – 7:54 *Gu #1
I was listening to the new music I’d asked Jared to upload to my iPod shuffle. It was early on that a surprise snippet of Liv’s bubbly, giggly, joyous laughter came through my headphones. A giant smile, tears in my eyes, my heart bursting, I ran ahead feeling absolutely unstoppable as Jared’s voice (from the OC Marathon 2011) popped up, cheering: “Yeeaahhh, Megan Lurieee! YEEAAHHH, Meeeegannn Lurieee!!!!”
Mile 7 – 7:45
Mile 8 – 7:59
Mile 9 – 7:52
Now ahead of the 3:40 pace group, I was running solo. These were my favorite miles of the course, running in and out of the shade of the mountains, with runners visible on the winding roads above and below me. It was beautiful, breathtaking, surreal. I felt (mostly) good and overwhelmed with gratitude, thinking of all my supporters, family, friends, and angels. I thought of the last text from my mom: “I love u so much & am so happy u r getting to do this.”
Mile 10 – 7:48
Mile 11 – 7:55
Mile 12 – 7:59 *Gu #2
It was Mile 10 when the downhill running started taking it’s toll. My legs hurt, aching like they usually do at Mile 20 of a marathon. Again, I worried I was in trouble, but clung tight to the gratitude: “I’m getting to do this.” I also reminded myself that I trained for this–months of hill running and strength training–not so it wouldn’t hurt, but so I could tolerate it.
I looked at my watch for the first time as I passed the half marathon timing mats. My watch read: 1:44:01, seconds faster than my half-marathon PR! It was the first time I realized I was averaging sub-eight minute miles. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to sustain that pace as a series of uphills were ahead. In the couple miles I’d run with the 3:40 pacer, I’d heard her warning that the second half of the race was “really challenging.” My legs were beat up. My quads felt weak and shaky, but I ran on telling myself: “Just get to 16. Just get to 16.”
Mile 14 – 8:27
Mile 15 – 8:40
Mile 16 – 8:26
Mile 17 – 9:25
Mile 18 – 8:39 *Gu #3
Mile 19 – 8:30
The uphill stretches were brutal. I’d trained on a lot of hills, but I’d never asked my legs to run uphill after 13 miles of downhill pounding. As much as it hurt and was hard, I knew negative thinking would be my undoing, so I did everything I could to stay positive, or at least distracted. I thought about my favorite mantras: “The further I go, the stronger I get;” “Easy, light, smooth, fast;” “Yes I can!” I thought about pizza. I started thinking about my next marathon.
Mile 20 – 9:23
Mile 21 – 8:54
Mile 22 – 8:19 *Gu #4
With such a unique, mountainous course, there are few-to-no options for people to spectate along most of the course (Sidenote: the volunteers at the aid stations were doubly awesome, offering support to runners, while cheering their hearts out for us, too). These final, toughest miles of the race wound through neighborhoods, where there were more and more people out with signs and noisemakers, offering encouraging words and promises that the finish was near. It was here that I spotted life-size figures of Sully and Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc. It was such a random, unexpected, heart-warming “wink” from our sweet Sully, and a boost to press on: “One more mile, one more mile.”
Mile 23 – 8:18
Mile 24 – 8:39
With each mile, I was counting down the clock, promising myself I could hang on for 34 more minutes. 26 more minutes. 17 more minutes until I’d see Liv and Jared. When I saw the marker for Mile 25, I knew I was going to PR, but I didn’t dare look at my watch. At that point, it didn’t matter, because I was giving it everything I had. I ran on, scouring the crowds for my people.
Mile 25 – 8:22
Mile 26 – 8:31
For the second time that day, I looked at my watch as I hit the stop button:
Official Finish – 3:36:51 (8:16/mile)
I couldn’t believe it then and I can hardly believe it now. That finish time was completely unexpected.
I’ve found myself saying marathon #20 was the best race of my life, not because of the time on the clock, but because as the miles racked up, and my body and mind fatigued, I swear, my heart grew. I felt increasingly and overwhelmingly grateful: Grateful for this healthy body that can run. Grateful for the beautiful destinations I get to explore. Grateful for the truly remarkable, supportive, inspiring people in my life.
Running (always) helps me love my life, no matter the circumstances, by drawing my attention to the most significant, as well as the simplest gifts all around me.
With all that said, here are a few thoughts about what I did right and what I’d like to work on for my next 20 marathons (and before I head back to REVEL Canyon City, because a race this over-the-top awesome is worth repeating!).
What I did differently:
- Hills. I live in a hilly area, so I made a point to run them 2-3x per week.
- Strength training and yoga. 2-3x per week, I focused on core, glutes, and legs.
- Long runs. I’ve been faithful with the super long training runs and ran many of them at marathon goal pace (which was 8:30/mile for my 3:45 goal).
- Positive thinking. The later miles are usually my undoing, but I read a great article about thinking of the marathon as two unequal halves: the first 20 miles and the last 10K. It said: “The final 10K of a marathon should hurt, it is only when a runner can accept that concept that they can truly reach full potential in the marathon.”
- Fuel. In most marathons, I have a packet of chews beforehand and take three gels (at Miles 7, 14, and 21). This time, I had a Larabar beforehand and four gels (Miles 6, 12, 18, and 22), as well as Nuun in my handheld water bottle.
What I’d do next time:
- Everything above… Hills, strength, yoga, fast long runs (plus, I’d like to add more midweek long runs), and that positive thinking was good stuff, too.
- Cross training. The strength training and yoga has been invaluable and I think even more variety with my workouts would be beneficial: stairmaster, rowing, spinning, spontaneous dance parties with Liv, etc.
- Build confidence. I believe my biggest challenge is the negative thinking, self-doubt, low confidence… I’ve got to stick to my training, practice race pace, train on (or simulate) the course, and be good to myself! After all, it’s hard to feel bad about a body you’re taking care of.
(Favorite race photo ever!)
Now I’d better get back to my foam roller, because a week out, and I’m still sore!