Eleven hours in the sky. Three hours on the road...to then embrace a five hour time difference: Yes, travelling from Hawaii to Duluth, Minnesota was a long and tedious trip. But, Grandma's Marathon, one of the fastest and most elite marathons in the U.S., is held here, and I've arrived to race! Had I know back when my husband, Nate Carlson, and I decided to add it to my competition itinerary that it would become one of the greatest racing experiences of my life...Well, all my final pre-race workouts have been super-turbo-charged with excitement!
Arriving in Duluth, the temperature change slammed into us as we stepped off the plane. This was summer? I was glad that gloves, hats and thick sweaters were snuggly packed in our suitcases. I'd anticipated the weather...thinking it would be chilly. So, 45 degrees?! I think I can handle it. Feels like a good temperature for racing fast!
We drove from Minneapolis to Duluth to meet our host family. Their beautiful home was nestled in a quite community. Every year they host elite runners and love it. They were so incredibly helpful and welcoming.
Next morning, we picked up my race packet and had a lunch reception with other elite runners. The lunch was amazing and healthy, too. After the main course, I couldn't resist eating two delicious cake bars. Carbo-loading the day before a marathon is one of my favorite pre-race routines! That same afternoon, we drove the race course. Studying the serenity of the scenery and seeing the beauty of the city and the lake I'd be running alongside, gave me confidence and got me excited for the following morning. My husband, who is also my coach, truly believed that I would be able to get the Olympic Trials Marathon qualifying time. His support and encouragement, along with that of my friends and family who also believe in me, helped give me courage and peace for the upcoming challenge.
When the gun went off, I was full of joy and for the first part of the race, I couldn't stop smiling. I was running a little faster than my goal race pace, but I felt very relaxed and simply happy to race. Then, as the weather temperature started dropping, I could barely feel my fingers. I couldn't grab anything to drink with frozen hands. I ran with a pack of guys in a steady even pace, clicking 5:58-6:03 per mile. The fan support, volunteers, the cheer music: so many things were incredible about Grandma's Marathon, and it kept me going.
I loved seeing Nate cheering for me at mile 16. He was yelling and jumping in place! I smiled back and enthusiastically waved to him. At mile 22, I saw many people cheering on both sides, shouting encouraging phrases and one of my favorite songs was playing. That's the moment I got goose bumps and my second wind. The finish line was SO close! I prayed to stay strong and finish the last two miles hard. God gave me strength to do that, and I ended up finishing with time of 2:38:15 - an Olympic Trials Marathon qualifying time. I also came close to meeting the 'A' standard, which is now my future goal.
Looking back, even five years ago, I never imagined that I would ever compete in any other sport besides tennis. When I started running for "fun" at the University of West Alabama and then later, representing Hawaii Pacific University in cross-country, I didn't know where running would take me. But, I did know that God had good plans for me. A month after finishing my last cross-country season in college, I ran my first marathon and it was love from that moment on! Now, I'm an Olympic marathon trial qualifier, and I know it's just a beginning. I believe that nothing is impossible; I feel that I'm doing exactly what I'm meant to do and that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. So, I'm "running" forward...to see where I go!