Oops, I Did It Again…. and the Story of My Two Near Misses

September 11, 2018 1:12 pm Published by 2 Comments

Since returning from my unforgettable African adventure, I have switched gears and am now focusing on triathlon training (when I wasn’t moving my older kids into their college homes and prepping the younger ones for another year in school.)  I know, I know. After swearing up and down that I would NEVER sign up for another full Ironman again, you guessed it! I will be toeing the starting line of Ironman Chattanooga (once again) at the end of September.

The pull of testing myself again is just too strong. Plus, I admit it. I’m starting to like swimming and biking. Both activities give my body a much needed break from the repetition of running. Plus, I like the challenge of trying to improve my skills in both sports. Neither swimming nor biking come naturally to me.

I started my four-month Ironman training season with a half Ironman race: Muncie 70.3. I like to use races as training tools for other races. Makes perfect sense, right? I’m not sure the experts would agree, but it certainly makes my training season more fun. I love participating in organized events of any distance: especially marathons! So, I sprinkled a few marathons into my training schedule.

In July, I ran Jack and Jill Marathon in Washington. This race was an excuse to get some valuable one-on-one time with my oldest daughter, Kelsey. We had an amazing weekend exploring the Seattle area. My race was pretty unremarkable, but my weekend with Kelsey was one I will never forget. The trip was certainly a success: I will always take more memories with my family over a great race time (though, I will gladly take both.)

In August, I ran Mesa Falls Marathon in Idaho. Idaho is one of the four states in which I am missing a Boston Qualifying (BQ) time. My ultimate running goal is to post a BQ in each of the 50 states. Unfortunately, I’ll be returning to the state famous for its potatoes in the future. I did not get to check Idaho off the list. And I put the blame on me. I should have done my homework and checked the course elevation before attempting a BQ at that race. The silver lining, though, is that the course was so beautiful. The organization of the race was so impressive too.

Despite my disappointing time, the Mesa Falls Marathon is now one of my favorite races. I highly recommend this event. I will forever be in huckleberry heaven, thinking about the milkshakes all of the runners were treated to at the end of the race. One word: Delicious!

I just got back from my final “training marathon” before I once again tackle Ironman Chattanooga at the end of the month. I picked the Erie Marathon in Pennsylvania, another state where I don’t have a BQ. Erie is a fast and flat course. Many runners go, hoping to get that coveted Boston Marathon time. The race is held right before registration for Boston Marathon opens.

It seems that Boston was on every participant’s mind that weekend in Pennsylvania. Just for fun, I started to count how many times I heard the word “Boston” during the Erie Marathon weekend. After 217, I started to lose track. (Okay, I didn’t count that high, but it certainly was the word of the weekend.) I may have a little bit of sour grapes attitude going on because I did not get the BQ time I was seeking. Even though I did get a sub 4-hour marathon time **my first since returning to running from my injury**, I missed the BQ time I was aiming for by a mere three minutes. But I do understand the obsession with Boston. Achieving that first qualifying time is such an elusive goal for runners, and the quest to break that barrier is consuming. My own first journey to Boston certainly was. Those of you who know me, or have read my book, know it took me more than five years to reach the coveted pinnacle.

Ironically, my Erie Marathon weekend provided me with another “close but no cigar” encounter. After the race, I had what I thought was enough time to run over to Niagara Falls. I knew I’d only have a short time there before catching my flight out of Buffalo, but it would be worth the chance to see the Falls. My mission, after all, is to see as much as I can when I go to a new city. I made it to the town of Niagara Falls, NY with just a few moments to spare. I knew exactly when I needed to leave the area before heading to the airport. When I approached the Falls, seeing the mist from a distance, I felt relieved. My plan was going to succeed!

As I got closer though, my excitement gave way to disappointment. I quickly realized there was not enough time to find parking and then quickly walk a considerable distance (on time-constrained, post-marathon legs) to actually view the Falls. I had to head to the airport. A photo of mist from the distant top of Niagara Falls would have to do. What a paradigm of what just happened at Erie Marathon. During the race, I thought I was on pace to make my 3:55 time goal. However, I went home with something that was second best. My “B Goal”: a sub 4-hour marathon time. Still great, but not exactly what I wanted.

There will be other races. I will get those BQ times in the four remaining states – one day!

For now, it’s time to focus on something else. In 19 days, I will be nervously waiting at the swim start of Ironman Chattanooga (hopefully it’s not as hot as it was in 2016). All of my previous “training races” will be long forgotten.

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This post was written by Michelle Walker

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