I think one would be hard pressed to find a runner, especially long distance, who hasn’t heard Dean’s quote. In the ultra marathon world, that quote is pretty much mantra status. When one has slammed up against self-doubt that quote gives the spark one needs to keep on going.
What does that quote really mean?
It means to get resourceful to accomplish what you have set out to do. Sometimes the journey to achievement doesn’t look like the way we have planned. Stuff, life, gets in the way. We may have to go at a different pace, take a rest, or shift priorities. This doesn’t only apply to a race, it applies to whatever one is trying to accomplish.
The race I really had to dig deep on was the Chilliwack Revel Marathon. Despite racing longer distances, I have never run a marathon before, but the Chilliwack Revel appealed to me and the timing was right. The Revel Marathon series is known for being downhill and having fast times. When I say downhill, it means that the whole race is downhill. Yep, pretty much all 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers is downhill.
I wonder if I could go that far
Sounds silly, but that was the thought that was circling in my brain even though the longest distance I have ran was 128 kilometers. The thing about road marathons, besides being on road, is that they are a different beast to run. It wasn’t whether I could go the distance, it was whether I could go the distance in the specified time frame.
Finish line #1: Getting to the race
The first finish line was getting to the marathon package pickup on time. The plan was to go as far as we could on the Thursday, find a campsite for the night, and then drive the rest of the way with plenty of time to spare. That WAS the plan, however…..
Less than 2 hours away from home the truck’s brake light came on. The discovery was that there was a leak in the brake line and a fix was needed. Insert a glitch: the soonest we could get into a repair shop was Monday morning. Considering that the race is tomorrow that option wasn’t going to work. Now what?
Luckily my friends live near the town where we were so we pulled into their yard to replace the truck’s brake line. Considering the antics of the day we decided that their yard would be our campsite and we would leave very early the next day. It would be a long day driving….
Not without having to do some repair to the diesel tidy tank pump just outside of Kamloops. I took this chance to do some stretching and take a few pictures of the pretty scenery. A diversion to save me from going into quasi panic mode.
The rest of the trip consisted of a “sprint” across the Coquahala highway, plunking our trailer at our campsite, and hurrying to package pickup with an only hour to spare. So much for an easy saunter to the race event. However, we made it! I had my bib, swag, and beer tent pass. Very important for after the race.
Marathon race day
With gun (start) time at 6 am, this meant being up at an ungodly hour to be on a bus to be transported to the start line. My husband even helped by informing that my alarm didn’t go off and that I should start to get ready. My alarm didn’t go off because it wasn’t time yet. His alarm was still on Alberta time, mine was on local time so I had another hour of sleep left. Fat chance. Despite this hiccup, I did get ready and to the loading area on time. Once I was at the loading area, I did have to make sure that I was on the right bus. Very important.
At the staging area I met up with a friend of mine to both say hello and to engage in nerve-calming (or exciting) chatter. Then it was the walk up the hill to the start line. Good for warming the legs up. Even though I wanted to have a sub-5 hour time, I lined up pretty much at the last spot because I know I need time to warm up and get into the swing of racing.
Gun time and we’re off! I’m having a great 10K! I love running down hill so this is my jam! I’m in the flow and this is so much fun! The scenery is pretty, people are chatting, aid stations are upbeat, this is great! Then …
The half marathon (21.1K/13.1 mile) mark came and I could easily have been done. If the bail-out bus was there, I would have been having a hard conversation with myself to NOT get on that bus. The truth was:
- The pain was starting to set in.
- I had hit the “finish” point of my usual road racing.
- There was another half marathon yet to go.
However, I didn’t come here for a half marathon, I came for a full and since there was no bus in sight, time to get stubborn and start digging. Head slightly down, eyes forward, ultra shuffle on “lock” and let’s go.
I won’t lie. The next 21.1 kilometers were HARD. The markers weren’t coming soon enough and I couldn’t wait for the race to be over. I wondered how my coach, Jacob Puzey of Peak Run Performance, races 50K road ultras while here I am wanting to gouge my eyes out. My lower legs were complaining loudly. The scenery, despite being pretty, was getting boring. I did, however, appreciate the kindness, enthusiasm, and smiles of the aid station volunteers because their efforts made me feel a little bit better.
Never give up
Then, all of a sudden, there was an enthusiastic “thumbs up” from a passing motorist that put a smile back on my face. Thank you to the fellow from Purple Hayes School of Kayaking. The feeling of wanting to gouge my eyes out turned into “I so got this!” Despite my lower legs screaming bloody murder at me, I had a good power hike pace going and I caught up to a runner who passed me long ago. After an exchange of encouraging words I forged on.
At the last aid station a sweet, angelic, young lady with braces asked if I wanted a popsicle. For a second I wondered if instead of turning right at the bridge I actually crossed over the bridge to the pearly gates. That popsicle was the best gift ever and gave the lift I needed to power down the street, make 2 right turns and halfway down the street there it was.
The Eutopia I Had Been Longing For
The entry to the finish line with a pom-pom armed volunteer wildly screaming encouragement. The closer I got, the faster my pace got despite the pain. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw it on the finish arch: 5:59:20 with a bit of distance left. I dropped the hammer and went for broke crossing the finish line before the clock struck 6:00:00. The deep dig paid off.
I’ve always wondered how I would cross the finish line after a hard-fought race. What would I do? Would I leap, would I have arms up, would I have the biggest smile ever? It turns out, it was none of that and I had the best finish line picture I could have asked for.
I was awarded my medal, handed a cooling towel, and spotted my husband who had videod my finish. I was so happy that he was there (he usually doesn’t come to my races) and so relieved to be finished the race. A smiling timekeeper walked up to me and said, “I bet you were trying to break 6 hours” as he handed me my results card. I did: 5:59:03 with an overall pace of 8:30/km. I was elated and hobbled over to the beer tent to have a finisher’s brew. How delicious and refreshing that tasted! My first road marathon, downhill no less, was in the books.
Would I run another road marathon?
Yes but I’d be pretty picky as to which one I’d choose. I’d run another Revel Marathon for sure because of the following reasons:
- High quality swag
- Gorgeous (and big) race medal
- Scenic course
- Unprecedented runner support from the lead to the very last runner. Volunteers were incredible, very helpful and always smiling.
- Free race photos. Usually in races the front of the pack get a selection of photos to choose from whereas the back of the pack may get 2. Not this race!! I had photographers to myself that resulted in over 50 race photos for me to choose from. Sweet!
- Free video capture of the race using 4 photos of my choice
- A vibe that was incredibly welcoming, fun, and supportive
Speaking of videos, here’s my personal race video that I’m very happy with as it shows me at the various stages of the marathon. I have to admit that every time I watch it, I smile because the memories are good. And I didn’t give up.
Even though my “dig deep” was at a race, where did you have to dig deep and never give up? Comment below.