We love race recaps. What we love about them is the stories, the lessons, and how we can all learn from each other (in running and in life). Below Melissa, She.is.beautiful founder, shares her experience in her Mountains to Beach Marathon and how positive self talk and letting go can be powerful.
Conan O’Brien sitting down next to my mom and I at our pre-race dinner was the exact omen I needed to remember this is all just for fun. Getting my period two days before the race instead of on race morning like I was worried about, was a reminder that the universe has my back and I need to trust it.
Two days prior to the race my sister (Sara, She.is.beautiful’s Assisant Race Director) and I spent the day in Santa Barbara meeting with some of our favorite She.is.beautiful race partners and then enjoyed a mellow late afternoon and evening to do anything we wanted. This was really special for us because it was the first time in a few years it was just the two of us for the night with nothing we had to do, no kids to look after, and no where we had to be. Going into a big performance in running or in life, it’s nice to set yourself up going into it relaxed.
I think goal setting is epic but I also believe it’s ok to take breaks from goals and just live. Over the last few years of having kids, I’ve had small goals but mostly it was all about keeping everyone alive and happy-ish– my kids, myself, my husband, and my business.
We all feel pressure in different areas of our lives. There are areas in my life where I feel pressure but running has never been one of them. Running for me is a breathing space where I know I can always go and come back feeling stronger, lighter, or more at peace. So when I set out to break 3 hours in a marathon at the beginning of this year, I never put my self-worth on the line of this goal. But I did choose to do some work to put me in a good position to reach my goal. I promised myself to commit to one track workout and one long run or tempo run each week–and then the other days I wanted to keep pretty normal and flexible (5-6 miles). I was never going to run more than once a day (for those of you who think running 2 time a day is too much- I agree!) and I knew I wanted 2 days completely off to make sure I didn’t get injured or get sick of feeling like I had to run. Typing this out I’m starting to think I am a contingent goal setter but I think it’s also good to set clear expectations for yourself and your life 🙂
Too often in life we try to create these perfect situations. I think it’s human nature to want everything to line up just the way we want it. I believe when you put in work but release the pressure and perfection you leave space to truly enjoy the experience of things. I have learned in my life the importance of going from “this was the plan” to “this is the current reality”, and adjusting quickly. Life is full of variables, kids have magnified this for me. Facing adversity and accepting variables like, these changes are “where the magic in life lies” vs these are “the scary things”, will let you live a little lighter.
Intention and manifesting are something close to my heart. It’s what guided me to start She.is.beautiful 8 years ago. Through my journey over the last decade, I have empowered myself to use positive self talk to overcome challenges and set out new goals. None of my self talk is damaging or negative–if I ever feel myself close to going here I redirect my thoughts because I know it doesn’t lead to anywhere good. It’s shown me how to set boundaries for myself and get clear about where I want to put my energy. A long time ago I decided I will forever be my own cheerleader, even when things go differently than planned. Going into the marathon, I knew this was my strength. I’ve learned in my life to always play your strengths.
Race morning I wrote some of my favorite words on my hands in permanent marker not to remind myself, but more as a statement. “Grateful to be here” and “Joy” adorn my hands for 26.2 miles but I hope they stay in my heart forever, because these words are how I want my life to feel.
Fitness (Skip this if you don’t want all the #RunNerd details, I won’t be offended!)
I’ve been running regularly since I was about 15 years old. I’ve never run because I was good at it, but because it kept showing me more and more of my authentic self. I was always “good enough” at running, not the best, not the worst, somewhere in the upper middle. The past 4 years I have been pregnant twice and re-entering fitness slowly after both of babies was humbling to say the least. My kids are now 3 and 1.
I’ve always run about 5 days a week and wanted to continue that through the marathon training (not any more days!). My longest run-bud Mary gave me and other women in our running club weekly workouts. She knows me well enough now to know that I probably won’t do it exactly the way I’m suppose to do it, but I’ll do enough to feel good and confident.
I built up to about 12 miles as my long run by February 2018. My longest run in March was 15 miles. I ended up taking a week and a half off in April because I thought I had plantar fasciitis…which it’s symptoms were spot on. I thought there was a good chance I was injured and done but soon realized I had bought and did a long tempo run in the wrong shoe (same brand, different model-oops!). I spent that time off taking turmeric pills once a day to aid inflammation, rubbed Arnica cream on the bottom and top of my foot like it was my job, and just chilled out. After that brief time off I eased back into training and jumped in to run a PR at the Silicon Valley Half Marathon a week later. This gave me confidence that I was more fit than I thought and reminded me to just trust all the miles I had run and would be running. I didn’t hit 18 miles until mid April. I ran one 20 miler (2 “warm up” miles, 6 miles easy and then 12 miles at Goal Marathon Pace) the first weekend in May (thanks Mermaid Series 18 Miler!)
This is a great time to talk briefly about under-training or feeling “more fit than you think.” If right now you’re thinking “this lady is nuts, I’m never ‘more fit than I think?!'” bare with me! As a “new-to-wearing-a-watch” runner I think it’s easy to get caught up in your Garmin or on Strava or Social Media these days but please remember that no one really cares how fast you run ( I mean this in a loving way–as in don’t feel the pressure to run because you know other people are going to see your pace or distance). I think a lot of people run their hardest in their workouts and while this is great and feels good, I think there is something to be said about running a little under what you could run in your training. Mary and I are also really big fans of running easy on days that aren’t workouts to let your body and mind recover (my easy pace is about a minute and a half slower than my marathon pace). I promise you will still get all the likes and Strava Kudos just for being out there;)
Like in life, when our goals are more specific we have more clear expectations when working towards them which helps takes all the guessing out of how to accomplish them. In the course of the last couple months, my Garmin actually became by best running buddy. Once I knew my realistic pace goals, it made it easy to reach these in workouts because it took the guessing out of it all- it would flat out show me the pace and I could adjust if needed to go faster or slower. It kept me motivated and accountable when no one else was there. I named it “The Leslie” after a run bud of mine who, before I had a watch, I use to ask what pace we were going:)
Marathon Race Recap
My mom signed up for the half marathon so we bunked together and my husband and kids stayed in a separate room as my one year old often doesn’t sleep through the night (especially when in a new place!). We had to get up at 2:45am in order to catch the shuttle so we were in bed by 9:30pm . With all of the times I have gotten up with the kids in the middle of the night over the last few years, sleep is basically just a bonus so I didn’t let this early alarm clock freak me out as much as it did my mom. She never got over it;)
The alarm went off and we were up, laughed at how early it was, ate and hydrated in the hotel, and then drove 15 minutes to the shuttle (if interested in all the fuel and apparel details they are listed at the bottom of the blog). I was on the shuttle at 3:45am sitting next to my first new friend of the morning. I love nothing more than chatting on a shuttle bus race morning. You never know who you’re going to sit next to, but you know they have a reason for showing up. That’s the incredibly rad thing about running, no matter your pace, it’s this commonality between people. We can all relate to each other on such a real heart level– the struggles in finding time to run, the feeling of being unprepared, the feeling of being injured, the feeling of excitement or relief. For the most part, I think all runners feel a huge amount of compassion for each other. All of our stories are very different, but we all use this movement to learn more about ourselves and life in general.
After a couple porto-pottie stops and 2 jump in a bush bathroom stops (which may have led to some not-so-ideal poison oak), the race was starting and off we went. This was the first marathon and 3rd race that I have ever worn a Garmin or watch that showed your pace. I’m a long time runner but resistant to all the new gear– finally I gave in during this marathon training and it turns out, WOW MAJOR DIFFERENCE. I knew exactly the pace range I wanted to stay in. It wasn’t too aggressive based on my workouts so I felt pretty confident I was going to be able to hold it if I didn’t go out too fast. My second mile was slowest mile of the race.
In the past in a race when I didn’t wear a watch, I would literally just run. I can be competitive so I basically just spent every race trying to catch the next person in front of me. It was exhausting. I have never officially “trained” for a marathon before this one so I have had my fair share of going into the other 5 or 6 marathons I’ve done feeling really unprepared and in a lot of pain in the middle of the race. Fast forward to last Sunday’s race where I mostly stayed in pace range I had done my longer workouts in and felt good basically the whole time. I have felt like this in the other 2 races I participated in this year leading up to the marathon. Staying in your own range, instead of worrying about others, is clutch to feeling strong and empowered in your race.
Ok so this race recap isn’t that exciting because I felt good. I don’t have a good “and then I felt like death” marathon story this time around. The last 3 miles were mostly one long uphill which I absolutely felt and slowed down. This is when I stopped looking at my watch:) I finished the race and saw 2:55 on the clock as I crossed the finish line. My official time reads 2:56:00 but I’m still calling it 2:55 because it’s what I saw with my own 2 eyes:) I finished the race and a friend kindly asked if I was on my period as blood stains ran down my leg. I quickly went from “F*&K Yes I hit my goal!” high to grounded humanness “Thank you, oh shit” and grabbed my gear bag to swap into my sweatpants.
I don’t know if I’ll do a marathon again, I still think 5k’s and 10k’s are really rad (this is the part where I plug She.is.beautiful Santa Barbara on Saturday, Sept. 22nd ;). What I do know for sure is that this experience reminded me that we all are more powerful than we think. Sometimes the best way to let our lights shine brightest is to work hard towards something but also let go of everything working out perfectly. In fact, you might just see that when you find gratitude in the moments but let go of the big picture, things line up just the way they are meant to be.
“Happiness is pretty simple: something to love, something to do, something to look forward to.”- Rita Mae Brown
***In the middle of the marathon, the entrepreneur in me was like, “this should be a sticker because this phrase is POWERFUL.” And so we did.
ALL the deets:
Pre-race Dinner: Spaghetti with sauce and parmesan cheese, bread, salad, water, and beer (I went with the old school carb loading because it’s delicious and easy to digest)
Pre-Race Breakfast: Raisin bagel with peanut butter, a water bottle full of Nuun, Starbucks iced coffee with cream (**early race tip: I picked up this coffee the night before and kept in my fridge because nothing is open at 3am)
Race Fuel: 4 Gu Energy Gels Chocolate Outrage flavor (it has caffeine !) and I grabbed water at every single water station. I took the gels at mile 7-ish, 14, 18, and mile 22.