Sunday, December 11, 2011

Final 2011 Thoughts

I spent this past week in Canada for work, which meant to cell phone use and really no Internet unless there was free wifi. It gave me a lot of time to reflect on the year. I really hadn't had much time to think about it on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday since I had to hurry home, work, and pack for my work week in Canada.

It hit me pretty hard after reading an email Ryan sent to his grandma about my race:

"Race day was on Sunday. It didn't go well at all for Jacqui. She ran the Milwaukee marathon in October and had some hamstring problems but still finished 2nd overall. When she finished, she went to the physical therapist and he said there is most likely a small tear in the in muscle. Jacqui kept training and thought it was ok, but still could feel the pain every now and then. So during the race, I saw her at the 10 mile mark and she wasn't feeling very good. I told her to stop if she thinks there could be serious injury. She kept running until I saw her at the half way mark (13 miles). She stopped there and was very upset and crying. It was really sad. She had worked extremely hard for that day and it just didn't work out. I've never seen someone so dedicated for such a long time to achieve there goal..only to come up short. Jacqui was waking up at 3am on her travel days for work so that she could go outside and run. On weekends, she would get up and go run anywhere form 16-20 miles. It was A LOT of work. So just in that, it is something to be proud of. So overall, her race ended at the half way mark and she did not finish. "

This sounds pretty silly, but I didn't even think of the hard work I put in to get to this point. In my mind, I was just following my training plan set for me by Coach Cari. I'm the kind of person that if you write a plan, I stick to it. If you tell me it's going to work, I believe you. I had total faith in Cari's plan so followed it to a T. Waking up at 3am to get my run or workout in before my 6am flight never once seemed like a big deal to me. So when I got Ryan's email (he copied me on his response to an email his grandma had sent, asking how the race went since we were discussing California at Thanksgiving), I just broke down. I'm so extremely lucky to have the friends and family that I do in my life that are proud of my accomplishments, despite falling very short of the end goal.

Some of my running friends even reached out to plan with me on training for 2016, which I am GOING to qualify for. I think what I learned from this whole year is just how much fitness you can truly gain. I shaved 40seconds off of my 5k time and over 2 minutes off of both my 1/2 and full marathon times. IN ONE YEAR. I think that CIM would have definitely gone in my favor had I had two years under my belt. That being said, duathlons are my main focus this year (yay!), so I plan on really focusing on the bike, maintaining the run, and doing a lot of "prehab" with the hamstring.

Thank you, friends and family, for the incredible support you've given me...not just throughout this training year cycle, but after the race as well. I never would have gotten through this week without you. Time to go train...:)

Monday, December 5, 2011

CIM/the end of the year

California International Marathon would be my final attempt at qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Trials. Here's a little recap...

Friday, 12/2: Christina Overbeck and I both arrived around 1pm and headed to her friend's house in Sacramento to stay there for the day/night. We went to the expo, drove the course (good thing-- those "rollers" were a little more rolling than I thought) and grabbed a delicious salad for dinner.

Saturday, 12/3: Christina and I ran to the Capitol Building where she did strides and such in the park and I ran back to do strides by her friend's house. We were going 7:15ish pace and it felt SLOW to me. My strides also felt amazing. I took this as a sign that good things were to come tomorrow. We both had our interviews with Wendy Shulik (Miles&Trials film producer) and it was so cool to meet some of the other Elite women going after the 2:46. I went and picked up Ryan at the airport (!!!!) and then came back to hang out with Suzanne Ryan for a bit and grab a quick bagel and banana from the Hospitality Suite (appropriately enough in Room 2622!). Wendy had given me an awesome necklace that said "Believe" on one side and had a cross on the other -- she received them from a Trials qualifier and they are seriously so cool. I obviously put mine on for the race:) Ryan and I explored the Capitol Building and finish line and then went to church. We went to The Flaming Grill for dinner -- AMAZING. I had a buffalo burger (no surprise as per my night before routine) and Ryan had wild boar. Strange set up for the burger joint but WOW was it good. Coach Cari called at this time but it was a little loud in the "restaurant," so I planned to call her when we got back to our quiet hotel...before realizing it was almost 11pm at home:( I had a few Tootsie Rolls just like before Milwaukee (I go on a "healthy food only" diet before my races) and went to bed around 9pm.

Sunday, 12/4: Well, the day was here. After catching the 5am bus to the start, I started feeling my hamstring cramping. The guy in the bus seat with me was pretty much squishing me and I barely had any room. I kept scooting over and so did he. Really annoying. I got off the bus and made it to the Elite Tent where I was greeted by Erin Moffett and Kate DeProsperis! Very nice to see familiar faces. We ran a little warmup together and then it was time for bathroom break, drills and strides. After my last stride, I saw Ryan and gave him a quick good luck kiss.

Mile 1: the first mile is downhill until you get to Oak Street where you make a right turn and go into a HUGE hill where mile 1 is at the top of. I distanced myself from the 2:46 pacer and was pleased to see my watch ring in a 6:29. Perfect.

Mile 2: well, that HUGE hill had a pretty HUGE downhill too. And another and another. This was a super fast mile, although my distance from the 2:46 group never changed. 6:07 and I knew it was time to back off.

Mile 3: This one was a little rolling--everything that went up came right back down. I thought a 6:19 was justifiable for this type of mile and didn't feel bad at all.

Mile 4: I caught up to the back end of Christina Overbeck's group (just a tad off of the pacer that was a little too fast) and was happy with myself. 6:22 or 6:23 for that mile, which was just off of my desired 6:25. I took a gel and some Ultima (sports drink) and continued to stay focused in this group.

Mile 5: my hamstring started to tighten a bit on one of the downhills, but I didn't think too much of it as I had just done a 20mile with the last 8miles at Marathon Pace with the same tightness successfully, so it must just be a muscle memory thing. 6:17, time to slow down anyway.

Mile 6: here I saw Ryan. He told me after the race that I started to look tense, like I was in pain (ironic, huh?). But, at this point I had also picked up another OTQ hopeful, Kristina Pham, and we started working together.

Mile 7: we fell to a 6:28 here, but I was still under a 6:20 average (Kristina had paces down!) so felt okay. It was SO nice having her to run with as she really kept me calm and my mind focused.

Mile 8: another off-pace mile at 6:27. At this point, I was still okay with this as we were now at a 6:20 average and the course is more downhill at the end, so negative splitting was still very much a possibility.

Mile 9: don't even remember the split here. I just finished a gel and was starting to almost feel better. Mentally, I was still in it and just kept telling myself to be under 1:24 at the half and I was still in contention.

Mile 10: upon seeing Ryan, I updated him that my hamstring was bothering me and actually causing my stride to shorten a bit which caused my opposite hip to then get tight like he had noticed in Milwaukee (I just told him my hamstring was making my hip tight--he understood though). He told me to stop running if I could be risking injury. Then I saw Wendy with her camera -- I'm sure I look wonderful after just being told to stop!

Mile 11: holy cow. If I was feeling good, I bet I could have run a 5:30 mile in this marathon with the downhill that this mile brought. Unfortunately though, the downhill was what was hurting my hamstring. From where it connects in the butt area to where it connects in the foot area, it just felt like I was pulling a rubber band and snapping it back. Every stride I took, no matter how much I lengthened or shortened it, brought a strange sensation up and down my right leg. The site at which I "tore" (tiny tear--nothing to be concerned about at the time) my hamstring originally felt like it was being cut at with a knife. I kept wondering if I should drop out--it was the shortest 13minutes of my life.

Mile 12: I told myself that if I saw Ryan, I would stop. CIM is a point-to-point course so if I dropped, I'd have to wait to be picked up by course volunteers unless I dropped where Ryan was. Kristina had stopped to go to the bathroom, so I didn't feel bad about leaving her as we had already separated.

Mile 13.1: I went through the half at 1:25. I still think I would have PRd if I had finished the course. Ryan later told me he almost missed me, which makes sense because it was probably 13.3 that I saw him at. I just pulled myself over to him and immediately my hamstring tightened. I collapsed into his arms and just started crying. Another Saucony Hurricane runner was kind enough to stop and see if I was okay. I told her I didn't know if continuing would make it worse but I didn't want to be a quitter. She told me that she was a 3-time Olympic Trials qualifier and SHE was thinking of dropping out (at this point, we would have finished in 2:50/2:51 and qualifying is 2:46). She told me I'm young and it's not worth it to risk injury. That was really all I needed to convince me. Kristina passed by and made sure I was okay before she continued. The ladies I have met throughout this process are just so incredibly nice and unbelievably humble.

Driving back to the finish line was really hard. I just kept thinking of how much of a disappointment I was to everyone who had just been wishing me luck and believed in me throughout this whole process. I felt like such failure for not even being able to complete one marathon healthy.

It was INCREDIBLE watching Christina Overbeck (2:44:xx) and Kate DeProsperis (2:45:15) qualify. I couldn't help myself from crying (and actually am having that problem while typing this right now) because I so badly had wanted to be there with them. However, I do keep hearing from friends and family that had I trained like most of the girls that qualified, I probably could have too. The fact is, I was too stubborn back in 2009 to really believe my now coach (Cari Setzler) that I could qualify. After I ran a 2:56:58 at Chicago 2009, I didn't really care about anything else. I broke 3 hours and crushed my dad's PR, so I was happy and fine just running marathons now to break 3. And I did do that, just because. Maybe if I had focused and started having Cari coach me back then, I would be heading to Houston in January. But, everything happens for a reason. I know that I'll start training now for at least TWO FULL YEARS like most of the other OTQs I've talked to and really be able to give it a go for 2016.

Janeth Salazar-Ohst had asked for updates on the race. I told her about Christina and Kate and about my hamstring. It is UNREAL to me how many incredibly supportive people I have in my life. Her comment (on Facebook of course:)) now has over 15 other comments on it, all in support of my decision. I've received messages and texts and emails from so many other runners that commended me on my decision and are proud that I had the courage to drop. I agree with everyone who has commented -- I am NOT a quitter. I am still not giving up this dream. I have it in me to qualify for the Olympic Trials and now know that I truly need to devote more than 14 months to making that goal a reality.

So, now it's time to relax a bit and get back into BIKING!! I'm ready to focus more on Duathlons in 2012 and getting some speed back into me. Cari is going to help me get a better running base so that when I start running marathons for OTQ times in 2014, I'm in better shape. Thank you everyone for the incredible support and encouragement you have given me throughout this entire process. I wouldn't be where I am without you:)