Chasing the Dream Race

Have you ever had a dream so big that you are afraid to say it aloud? Been so afraid that if you venture to do so, you will have to not only admit it to yourself but also make a public proclamation. Afraid that this dream is so far out of reach you might get laughed at; hell, it might even make you laugh at yourself?

Ok, timeout. Let me reverse for a second and give you some background. In March of 2017 I had surgery for a torn hamstring in my right knee. There is never a good time for an injury but this happened to come shortly after I began reconnecting with my love of running. As a former D1 cross country, indoor and outdoor track athlete you can see that running has always had a large influence my life. As tends to happen, marriage, two kids and work changed my priorities quite a bit and I had to put running on the back burner for a while. Alright here we are now back in 2017 and now I am finally starting to get back in shape and also just sincerely finding the joy of really running again when bam, torn hamstring. I tried rest, I tried physical therapy but nothing was working. Everyday activities were becoming painful and running was not even an option. Finally it was suggested that if I wanted relief I would need surgery to clean up the tear and scar tissue, and PRP to aid in the healing process.

While waking from the anesthesia fog in the recovery room I remember the orthopedic surgeon coming in and saying that although everything went well, the hamstring tear was worse than originally thought. He looked past me to my husband and said, “her competitive running days are probably over and running any long distance is basically going to be out of question. Even in my groggy, anesthesia induced state my competitive nature was fairly intact so I looked at them both and quickly responded with “watch me.”

It was in that moment as somebody was telling me that my running days were probably over that a dream was born.

I didn’t know at the time I would be running marathons, I just knew that I wanted one more shot to see what I might be capable of; one chance to prove, not only to myself but also to my surgeon that running was not over for me. This would not be an ending but maybe actually just the beginning.

After a long and arduous recovery period there where times I thought I might not ever toe the starting line again and frankly times when I just did not even feel up to venturing a try, but I was finally running again. Fast forward eight months ahead and I am not only running again but also hitting PRs. PRs that I never thought I would get close to again. It was around this time that an acquaintance in my running community approached me after one of the local races saying that he wanted to put me in contact with a friend of his who is another running enthusiast. At the time I had no idea that this casual introduction and the conversations that would come after would forever change my running path.

These two gentlemen who I now consider family, approached me about running a marathon. Actually not only did they want me to run a marathon but they also thought that I had the potential to hit the B standard and qualify for the 2020 Olympic trials. Wait, WHAT? Are they crazy to believe in me and am I crazy enough to believe in myself? SHIT what have I gotten myself into? With their unwavering belief and support they pushed me to realize that this dream might not actually be that crazy but possibly attainable. These two men planted a seed and have supported me in my dream unconditionally ever since.

So now here I am. I have decided to run a marathon and try to achieve the B standard. In order to do this I need to get serious about running and get a coach. Somebody that will hold me accountable; push me when I need a little shove but also be willing to rein me in when I get carried away. Rather than spending my time focusing on my training plan I wanted to be able to totally zone out and just focus on the “actual” running. Well the stars must have aligned because I found that and so much more with Team Wicked Bonkproof.

Caleb put together a training plan in order for me to make my debut at Vermont City Marathon. He got me from running 40-45 miles per week to mid 50s. I was still having knee pain though and contemplated not running more than once. Self doubt starting creeping in and I was becoming more worried about the prospect of failure. I had the dream and the desire but the fear of not succeeding was starting to paralyze me. I was beginning to think that not attempting it would almost be better than trying and failing. On the flip side though I had a coach that believed in me, a husband who was supporting me wholeheartedly and two men who had faith in me even before I believed in myself. By giving up now I would be doing a disservice to all of these amazing folks as well as letting myself down by never knowing what I might have done. How could I not at least try?

By the time I got to the starting line in Vermont I was excited and now looking at this opportunity with a whole new mindset by actively making a decision not to put pressure on myself. Only 14 months prior I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to run again. Now no matter what the eventual outcome, just finishing would be a win in so many different ways. I crossed the finish line in 2:51:28 with a massive grin spread across my face. I had a blast! I know that sounds crazy but I truly enjoyed every single mile of that first marathon. Being able to run well and finish the race was a huge milestone in my recovery and dream. Now that I knew I could actually complete the distance, I was ready to do it again and this time I wanted to really go after the 2:45:00 mark.

Elle had a great debut in Vermont, and it was clear that running an OTQ was something that was very possible.

Elle had a great debut in Vermont, and it was clear that running an OTQ was something that was very possible.

The planning stage set in almost immediately for the next marathon. I was eager to get back on the starting line and see what I could do. I was conflicted though because I also knew that I needed a proper recovery period and then a longer training cycle for the next go round. After much debate with Caleb as well as lots of great input from Larry and David, we decided as a group that Houston would provide a really good opportunity to run a fast marathon.

Coming into the finish in Houston, where the time on the clock would be a 6-minute PR but 13 seconds shy of an Olympic Trials Qualifier time.

Coming into the finish in Houston, where the time on the clock would be a 6-minute PR but 13 seconds shy of an Olympic Trials Qualifier time.

With my sights set on Houston, a new training cycle began. This time I felt more confident knowing what I was getting into. I was hitting my training paces and felt stronger and more fit than ever. By the time January rolled around I was ready to take a risk and really go for the standard. I had switched my mindset from a questioning, “can I do this?” to an affirmative, “I will do this”. Race day came and standing on the start line I was more nervous that I had ever been because I wanted this dream to become a reality more than ever and I knew that I was prepared and within striking distance.

I am going to skip the race recap because I could write an entire post on that alone. In short I crossed the finish line, looked down at my watch and immediately burst into tears; 2:45:12. Are you shitting me? The first thought that popped through my mind was that 13 seconds stood between my dream and me. 13 FREAKING SECONDS! I was completely heartbroken. I gave that race my all and I can honestly say that when I crossed that line I was spent. In that moment I knew I had given it everything I had to give. Now those seconds haunt me and I continue to question my self. What could I have done differently? Did I waste too much time at a water stop or did I go out too aggressively? Could I have tried to kick it in any earlier, or did I possibly give up too soon? A million questions come to mind anytime I think back on the Houston race. One thing I do know without a doubt. Houston lit a fire in me that I did not previously know was there. I am more determined now than ever to hit my goal. It is not a question for me anymore of “If”; it has now become a question of “When”.

However you still might be questioning why I do this? Why I train months for one painful day (not even a day, 3 agonizing hours) that left me heartbroken in the end? That is easy for me to answer now and that is because I have proved to myself that I am capable of achieving this dream that once seemed so intangible. It is because I have an unbelievable support system that knows how much this means to me and have been unwavering in their commitment to helping me see this through. I want this dream to become a reality, not just for myself but also for everyone that believes in me. I want to prove to myself and my children that you are NEVER too old to dream big. That if you put in effort and believe in yourself anything is possible.