You may recall that last year I coached Cindy to run her first trail half marathon. It was not long after that race that Cindy asked me if I would coach her and run with her in this year’s Lakefront Marathon, her first. Knowing that my big race season would be over after Ironman Wisconsin, I happily agreed. We spent the following year preparing her for the marathon, and as the day approached, I was so excited to get her to the finish line.
Those that know Cindy will tell you that she is one of the most upbeat, friendly, outgoing, kind people on this planet. Her positive attitude is infectious, and her energy knows no bounds. To say that she was excited in the days leading up to the race would be a slight understatement. She kept assuring me that she was not nervous, she trusted her training, and she was just ready and excited to get the show on the road. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little pressure as her coach to get her to that finish line. I never doubted for a moment that we would do it, I was just hoping for things to go well throughout the day.
We met at Cindy’s house at 5:30am on race morning to get a ride to the start in Grafton. The race is a point to point course from Grafton High School to Veteran’s Park on Milwaukee’s Lakefront, and I was grateful not to have to take the race shuttle (yellow school bus) to the start. We arrived at the school with plenty of time to spare before the 7:30 start. We hung out in the gym doing last minute race prep until it was showtime.
(none of these pictures are mine, so thank you in advance to my Facebook friends from whom I stole them :))
Before we knew it, it was time to head outside to the start line.
Pre-race with Cindy and Liz (Quick shout out to Liz, another one of my athletes who absolutely ROCKED this race with a 35 min marathon PR!!)
My plan for the race was simple. Because Cindy’s goal was to finish and she didn’t have a time goal in mind, I wanted to make sure we started very easy and then slowed down as little as possible. I was the only one wearing a Garmin, and I had 5 hours in the back of my head as a feasible goal. Cindy’s friend Greg also decided to run with us, as he was recovering from an injury. So we listened to the National Anthem, and then our little entourage was off.
The first few miles went by quickly. Cindy was so excited to be running, I had to reign her in a little bit. Each time we hit a mile marker she got excited all over again. I was so happy that she was feeling good, and I couldn’t help but laugh every time she yelled out to the spectators that it was her first marathon. Speaking of spectators, I know without a doubt that Cindy had more people out there cheering for her than any other racer, hands down. We never went more than a mile or two without seeing friendly faces. The course is very spectator friendly, so it was easy for people to see us, drive a little bit down the road, and see us again. Greg ran with his video camera and was able to get a ton of footage and pictures throughout the race.
Pretty sure Brian winds the spectating award for this:
It was smooth sailing until around mile 16, when we hit a little bit of a rough spot. Cindy started having some tummy issues, which she has never experienced before in training. I think the nerves and excitement leading up to the race took a toll on her digestive system, and we had to make a few potty stops. I knew she was hurting, and I did my best to talk her through it and manage the situation. As she continued to feel worse every time she would try to put any nutrition into her system, I told her no more gels, just water and salt tabs. Even gatorade was causing problems. I told her that she was going to starting feeling depleted, but it was better than the alternative.
Once we passed mile 20, I knew we were “over the hump,” and even if we had to do a lot of walking, we would finish. Somewhere around mile 21-22, there was a lady standing at the end of her driveway with a bowl of pretzels. Cindy looked at me and asked if she should try eating some, and I said yes. I had a feeling that maybe something solid would help her stomach. She ate one tiny pretzel, and it must have been made of magic, because about 60 seconds later she was back to running strong. She told me she felt better and we pushed ahead. I was so relieved at this moment, and just hoped that she would continue to feel good through the finish.
We took a few walking breaks in the final miles along the Lakefront, and with 3/4 of a mile to go, I told Cindy no more walking, let’s finish this thing!
Coming down the finishing chute was awesome. Cindy got a surge of energy and picked it up to the finish line. The next photo pretty much sums it up.
I wish I could bottle up the joy in that moment. We finished in 5:11:03, and I have no doubt that without the tummy issues, we would have come in under 5 hours. I was so proud and so happy that I played a part in helping Cindy to achieve her goal.
We did it!!
During the race when things got tough, I told Cindy that when we hit mile 22 I would tell her a story to keep her going. The thing is, Cindy tells me all the time that I inspire her, especially when she came to cheer for me at Ironman and saw me dig deep and finish even though I was feeling absolutely terrible. At mile 22, I told Cindy that while I was training for Ironman, there were times during my long runs when I wasn’t feeling the greatest and just wanted to stop, walk home and eat ice cream. During those tough moments, I would often picture Cindy and I running this marathon. I would picture her crossing the finish line, and I would get goosebumps. It never failed to put a spring in my step, and I never quit a long run. So I told her that while I may inspire her, it is also she who inspires me with her enthusiasm and determination to set big goals and live them. While this may not have been close to my fastest marathon, it was one of my favorites, and one that I will never forget. Of all of the finish lines I have crossed, I don’t think anything can top this finish line moment.