Sometimes the best training in the world isn’t enough to reach your goal. Amy Puzey found this out easier this month when she lined up at Houston Marathon and struggled from the starting gun.
So how’d she handle the situation? Did she panic? Did she take a DNF? Looking back, did she have the strength to keep up the pace if she’d tried just a little bit harder? And what was the cause, considering every indicator showed that she’d have a successful time, taking her below the three hour mark for the first time?
In this episode, we talk about what caused her to keep going, rather than just calling it a day. What does Amy think caused her epic bonk? What can she do next time to hit her goal? Anything? And what’s it like to be married to a fellow elite MUT runner who rarely has a bad race? And we talk about balancing family obligations (she’s got six kids!) and training while recognizing the inherent guilt of taking time for yourself. We finish up with diet talk and a fun Fartlek round.
Houston Marathon recap for those who are interested:
I can see it now. I couldn’t a few days ago. But looking at this picture it has all become razor clear. Noah’s telling me: “Mom, we love you. No matter what. All we want are your cuddles, your love, your time. We don’t give a shit about the difference between a 2:45 and 3:10 marathon. We love you.
These are words that Jake has repeated to me over and over for the past three months, but it didn’t change my goal. I was determined and I was sure I had it in me.
The goal was always to break 3. Two other marathons of 3:01, or 3:00.51 in the past ten years. Surely I could do this with a little more focus, some higher mileage and dedication. My body seems to break around 100k/week so I can’t ever go much higher than that and I realize that’s not the best way to try to hit an Olympic Trials qualifying time when other athletes are doing double that mileage. And Jake was realistic about this with me as my coach. And the reality was that I only had two weeks over 90k.
But somewhere along the way, I started feeling good, confident. Workouts were going so well. I was smashing the predictor runs and they were hard but not impossible. So I adjusted. Maybe I can hold sub 6:30 pace. And then it kept going down to where I had actually convinced myself that there was a remote possibility that I could make a sub 2:50 marathon a reality.
I read all the books, listened to the podcasts. I was drinking the Kool-aid big time. All or nothing. Just do this and don’t look back.
Even training through my achilles injury, when I wanted to give up, when Jake wouldn’t let me, and coming back after those two weeks of swimming, biking and skiing, and feeling even stronger. I held this little shred of hope that maybe I had been holding back all these years.
So I had confidence going into Houston, something I haven’t always had a lot of in my life. It was cautious optimism, but it was still optimism. Do the work, embrace the pain, it will come together. You’ve put the work in Amy, trust it.
But the thing is, it just didn’t. None of it came together. When the gun went off, the pace didn’t feel easy like it had in past marathons or even like it did in workouts. It felt too hard, right from the gun. It felt like the 6:15s I was running in workouts were impossible. I was barely able to hold 6:30s. So I backed off and let the miles roll for a while, trying not to panic or focus on the watch.
I couldn’t find a rhythm. And when the gels did nothing to boost my energy and the miles continued to feel like a struggle, the doubt crept in. Actually it didn’t creep. It punched me right in the face at the halfway point when I came through 5 minutes slower than my goal of 1:23. “That’s it. It’s over. I didn’t come here to run over 3 hours again. Not again. I didn’t put all this time in, time that could have been spent with my family, money that could have been spent on my family, for a F*ing 3 hour marathon.” Mama guilt reared it’s ugly head and sat it’s ass down firmly on my shoulder for the duration of the race. “This is not what you worked for Amy, get moving.” But I couldn’t. My legs just wouldn’t cooperate. My watch taunted me with 7:45, 7:10, who knows. I’m sure it was off but I let it get to my head, something I had promised Jake I wouldn’t do. My calves started to seize almost immediately after that. So much that the knots felt like spikey grapefruits had implanted themselves in my lower legs. Good old mind body connection. By 30k I was standing on the side of the road planning my phone call to Jake: “I’m done, I can’t finish it, I’m going to wait for the sag wagon.” I walked to the bathroom and sat down and took a breath before trying to find a phone.
And there in the dark, stinky shitter, the reality of the shame that would stay with me if I quit really hit me.
See the thing with my husband is that he doesn’t quit. He doesn’t know what quitting is, and I’m not sure he even identifies with pain. I don’t think it has ever registered in his body or if it has, he has some serious mind control and refuses to identify with it. He bleeds and doesn’t notice. He breaks his leg and keeps running and barely complains. And he had done so much to support me every step of the way that quitting now felt like throwing it all in his face. An affront to him, to my kids, my parents who were home with them, and to God. To the gift I have been given of even getting to come to this race healthy and fit. The first world opportunity to train for and fly to a marathon. I’m not delusional. I know that my running is selfish. It’s not like I make a living at it. It’s purely for me and it takes time and resources away from my family. Sure there are benefits, but there are also days where I’m exhausted and broken from long runs. Where I give most of my energy to a run and then don’t have the energy to take the kids swimming or to the park. Or to ask the right questions and really listen to my teenagers who so badly need guidance at this stage. And if all of that was for nothing, then I was spitting in my kids faces as well. The shame of quitting now was just not on the table.
I opened the door, walked back out into the sunlight and jogged the last 12k to the finish.
And that’s really the end of the story. It’s not pretty. It’s just shit. It just didn’t come together and I don’t know why. I don’t know if it’s all the treadmill running, the lack of sleep, the shoes, the wrong nutrition, not enough miles. I don’t know. I won’t know. It will be waking me up for weeks. But if I’m going to walk away with even a shred of dignity from this race it’s that I didn’t quit. I may not be walking for a week, but I didn’t quit.
I don’t know why we put this pressure on ourselves as women, as moms, as humans. It’s not like I don’t feel like I’m enough. I’m incredibly grateful for my life and my family and it’s really all that matters to me but I do love to challenge myself, to push my limits, to see what’s possible. It’s something I do for me. It keeps me honest and holds me accountable.
#chaseyourdreams #antiquit #motherunner #iamenough