For years, many runners have told me about the Bayshore races in beautiful Traverse City, Michigan. On the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, runners take over Old Mission Peninsula as they run the 10K, half or full. The races are capped, with the half marathon (3000 runners) selling out within minutes. I decided that 2016 was the year I wanted to give this event a try!
While my intent was to run the half marathon, when my future sister-in-law decided she wanted to take on her second marathon, I signed up for the marathon as well. I would have a great base to my training, having just finished the Walt Disney World Marathon. I had my eyes set on a new PR, along with an automatic running buddy for those long training runs.
Truthfully, training went well for me. There were only a few times that I cursed the training runs, right around peak week (which is usual – you are exhausted at that point!) My mileage was near where I wanted it (I had three months of 100+ miles), however my paces did concern me a bit. Then came the 5/3 River Bank Run where everything came together beautifully. In fact, after that race, I looked at Brent and told him I didn’t even care how Bayshore went.
Apparently, I had some sort of intuition.
The week leading up to the race, I stalked the weather as usual. I grew more and more frustrated as the temperatures just kept rising. I have had my fair share of hot and humid marathons, and I was looking forward to the cooler temperatures of northern Michigan. By the time race day arrived, the temperature at the start would be 70* with very high humidity – at 7 AM. Not ideal at all.
The race started and we were all smiles. (Of course, you usually are during the first 1/4 mile!) I could feel the stickiness of the air, but still tried to keep my race plan in place. We ran through Northwestern Michigan College’s campus, then made our way along the bay, heading north on Old Mission Peninsula. After the River Bank Run, I was going to run as much as possible before beginning my walk intervals, however with the heat and humidity, we began the intervals earlier. I knew they would help keep my legs a little more fresh throughout the race.
Around mile 6, we began to see the half marathoners on the other side of the road. (The half marathon course is point to point.) It was a great distraction as we looked for some friends we knew running the half. We continued to enjoy the beautiful views as we made our way to the halfway point. Our pace was still fairly steady, but it was clear the heat was a factor to not only us, but those around us.
Then at mile 15, things started to break down. Our friend ran ahead of us, and Jessica, being the trooper she is, stayed by my side as I worked through the heat. I can’t even begin to explain what happened at that point. I was hot, I was frustrated and there were moments where I just couldn’t run. I had been taking fluid at every aid station, and using my little handheld water bottle between stations. I had fueled fine up through mile 12, but after that point, I just couldn’t stomach any more fuel.
One great aspect of this course was that spectators had opportunities to see the runners multiple times. Brent not only saw us at the start, but made his way to the mile 7/19 point as well. When we saw him at mile 19, I burst into tears and had a complete breakdown. He was nothing but encouraging, and handed me a banana. That banana saved this race, because before that, I was 90% sure I was going to pull out of the race.
I will say right now, that aside from my DNF where I was sick, I have never thought about dropping out of a race. But at that moment, the thought of running 7 more miles seemed downright impossible.
After my little 2 minute breakdown, and some much needed encouragement from Brent and Jessica, it was back on the road. The heat was not letting up, as the sun decided to come out. We adjusted our intervals, and did everything we could to keep moving forward. Thankfully, a wonderful breeze appeared. Even though it was directly against us, it was the reprieve we desperately needed.
Those last few miles, the camaraderie among the runners was unbelievable. We were joking with one another, offering support and encouragement. (I’ve heard from many, many runners that this was a difficult race for just about everyone.) And the volunteers – they were fantastic as well! No matter what you needed at an aid station, they were there. It was truly spectacular.
Since my watch was off (due to changing the intervals), between miles 23 and 24, I asked Jessica what our time was, thinking it was well into the 5 hour mark. When she told me it was 4:45, I was shocked. I thought we had been going so slow those past few miles (and we had, in comparison to our first half – but that’s another story). At this point, I could no longer take in any fluid, no matter how thirsty I was. It was not a great feeling at all.
We kept pushing forward through those final miles, even when we lost our breeze and it felt like the temperature had rose 20* in a matter of seconds. Before long, the cheer of the spectators began and the school was in view. Jessica looked at me and said, “We can do anything for 2.5 minutes.” We turned just short of the start line, and headed into the Traverse City Central track. Brent waved and we ran toward the finish line, finishing in 5:11.
That time ended up being my second fastest marathon. I still do not know how that was possible, based on how awful I felt throughout most of the race. Yet once I finished, the support through text messages was unbelievable. Friends and family reminded me how great that was during a race where conditions were far from ideal. I also have to give major credit to Brent, who not only pulled me out of a dark place at mile 19, but continued to send me encouraging text messages throughout the race. (He does deserve a medal, but I’m not sure it’s that one!!!)
Now that I have had some time to reflect, I’m realizing that this marathon was about more than time. Yes, I trained for a time goal and truly believe I was prepared to PR. If the weather had been different, that may have been the case. (In fact, if the marathon had been on the day of the River Bank Run, I know I could have.) However, anyone who has run a marathon knows that distance is a beast, and you never know what the day holds.
I think this marathon training cycle was an outlet for me during a very busy time at work. It was time for me to decompress and put my focus on another goal for a few hours a week. Sometimes, that is exactly what you need.
The truth is, I did have a great spring race a few weeks ago. That race made all of the training worth it. It wasn’t a PR, but it was a confidence booster after a time where I thought I may never be able to get back to the paces I used to run.
Running isn’t always for the PRs. It isn’t always for the race distances. Sometimes, it’s to bring you confidence, sanity and a multitude of other emotions. While I am absolutely looking forward to running shorter distances for awhile, I am also looking forward to the additional lessons running has for me.