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Hi there I’m Suzy!

I uplift other women in the areas of running, lifting, and motherhood

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With a Little Help From My Friends

All week I’ve had trouble answering the, “how did your marathon go?” question. The Amica Marathon in Newport, Rhode Island was routed along a gorgeous course. Add to that perfect weather, great volunteers at well stocked aid stations, and enthusiastic spectators. Total recipe for a PR. My performance sucked. 
Why is this recap is tardy? I’ve been wallowing in my own pity party. Silly. When I actually began writing, a positive takeaway was blatantly obvious: this race was about friendship and shared camaraderie between runners. Here’s what I mean…
Expo day- the wind had already started!
I chose this marathon because a friend from college, Jack, was running his first half there. Jack’s wife Heather and I were in the same sorority and lived together post college/pre-husband(s). I was even a bridesmaid in their wedding back in 2008! Nothing against the good folks of Rhode Island, but this was one where I really didn’t care. Enjoying the company of friends made it a great reason to knock out a needed state. As an added bonus, my friend “Super Suz” (of superhero fame in West Virginia) was running the half as her second in a double weekend and volunteered to be my roommate!
Whether they’ve been at it for many years or only a few months, runners always have a lot of shared thoughts and experiences. Jack, Suz, and I were no different and enjoyed fantastic conversation during our pre-race dinner. A 50 stater herself, Suz has some of the best running stories and her animated delivery had me laughing all night. You should have seen the look on her face when Jack called our room before bed and asked (in frantic ohmigosh-I-can’t-believe-I’m-running-13.1-miles mode), “When do you grease your nipples?!” 
After my favorite race morning breakfast of peanut butter and banana sandwiches (the only time it’s advatageous to eat quick buring white bread and I love every bite of it!), Heather saved us a good 45 minutes by dropping us off, allowing us to bypass the shuttle to the starting line. This was one of many helpful things she did over the weekend that made the experience much better. Any runner can attest to the importance of having a good support person; it goes far beyond standing at a specific mile marker and throwing a fist pump or two.
Post freak out on Jack when he called my favorite Lululemon spray dye shorts “dirty looking” (come ON!), we ran into Dane Rauschenberg. With a running resume that includes 52 marathons in 52 weeks and competing in a 200 mile relay as an individual, Dane has every reason to go all elitist on us, yet remains extremely humble and approachable. Even though Dane had an achilles injury and was debating whether he’d even run himself, he shared confidence boosters and words of motivation when Jack admit to being “nervous as shit”. That’s a runner for ya- totally unselfish, helpful, and positive. 

Since the half and full runners began together, I was able to line up and start with Jack. The course ran along the rocky coast and by the famous Newport mansions; it was a beautiful setting. Cue “Take My Breath Away” (but not the Jessica Simpson version).

…watching in slow motion as you turn around and say…
Somewhere during mile 4, I (literally!) ran into Shannon Hays, who was running marathon #2 in a double weekend. Shannon and I ran New Hampshire together a couple of weeks prior and she quickly became my new girl crush. We fell back into 8:20 minute miles alongside catch up and constant conversation. Some people think talking during a race wastes too much energy but I disagree. I’m the type who will use a ton of mental reserves worring about my target pace and what-iffing each split to death; conversation is a pleasant dissociation and keeps my active mind occupied. Our 10K time was just under 47 minutes.
Just before the half marathon point, our duo became a trio. I liked Laura when I saw she had a glittery pink bow in her hair. I loved Laura when she shared that she was running her very first marathon. While most people would just want to cross the finish line, she was aiming for a sub 4 hour because a coworker had achieved that time and she “just had to beat it”. Feminine and competitive? A girl after my own heart.

This was a figure 8 sort of course, setting us up to run alongside the finishing half marathoners. Mentally, it can be tough to hear “you’re almost done!” from spectators and then watch others run through the finish, receive their medals, hug friends and family, etc…all with the understanding you still have 13.1 miles to go. I experienced this during my first marathon; Laura “took” it much better than I did. Her focus was contagious even when we made a turn into a nasty headwind just after the half marathon mark at 1:49. If you’re open to it, you can always learn from other runners, no matter the experience level.

Calling us “chatty” is an understatement.
It’s okay to have more than one girl crush, right?!
Here’s where it got tough. The wind WOULD NOT STOP and we slowed to 8:30-8:40 minute miles. Gatorade hadn’t appeared until mile 8 and gels weren’t distributed until 15. Not that either of those was my main fueling concern; the 2 weeks leading up to this race were over Trey’s leave from Afghanistan and our eating habits left a lot to be desired. There was that one night with the bottle of merlot + cupcakes and brownies for dinner…yeah. As my trainer Phil in DC used to say, “you can’t out-train a crap diet“.
Shannon was incredibly encouraging, reminding me that the second 10 miles were the “focus miles” and even identified visual cues during hills- “See that mailbox? That’s your target. Don’t worry about anything else except getting to the mailbox. Great, you made the mailbox. Now see that road sign? Don’t worry about anything else..” type talk. It was really helpful and, 30+ sub 4 hour marathons aside, I can tell why she made a fantastic cross country coach a few years ago.
Looking happier than I felt in the late miles.
Unfortunately, I was reduced to a walk at mile 19 as my teammates soldiered on. It’s odd because I’ve been in a position where I feel like there’s nothing in the tank a bajillion times and am usually able to break through with a combination of positive self talk and mental games…not the case on this day. Even seeing the most enthusiastic Marathon Maniac, Dave Mari, on the course didn’t help my legs snap out of it. If you peek at my Garmin splits, it looks like a completely different person was wearing the watch during the last 7 miles. I went from a consistent 8:10-8:40 range to 10+ minute miles. I had to reset it at miles 20, 22, and 24 because my mind simply couldn’t take having more than 2 miles to go at a time. Nothing like seeing your 5K time on a 2 mile segment.
I finished in 3:49:53- still a sub 4 hour and far from a PW (personal worst), but nowhere near the performance I was hoping for. Frustrated as I was, those feelings quickly quickly vanished when reconnected with fellow runners: Jack was still smiling after his successful first ever half, Suz collected more funny race day stories to tell, Dane had finished all 26.2 miles despite injury, Shannon secured a time faster than her previous day’s marathon, and Laura had a full 11 minutes to hold over her 4 hour finisher/coworker’s head. These are the things I’m going to remember when you ask me about this race in a few years, not my time.
The shorts are patterned, not dirty!

Running is my partner in good health. Running is my coping technique for Trey’s deployment. Running provides an outlet to test my limits and improve my self confidence. Running is my platform for daily prayer and time with God. Running introduces me to new cities and towns as I have traveled for work or moved to new Army posts. Running allows me to connect with nature.  Running has introduced me to and kept me involved with some of the best people I have ever met. Thanks for the reminder, state #32!