Veni, Vidi, Vici



I came, I saw, I conquered.

2013 Richmond Marathon

Admittedly, I didn’t conquer the marathon in quite the fashion I was hoping. But, I knocked almost five minutes off my previous marathon time and ran a Boston Qualifier, finishing in 3:31:26.

Thanks again to everyone who sent love, support, and encouragement via comment, email, Twitter, Facebook, ESP, etc. It meant so much to me!

On Wednesday I’m going to write about my overall experience and highlight the positive aspects of the race. Today I’m going to get the not-so-positive parts out of the way.

[Read: Nicole is going to bitch & moan.]

Thanks for bearing with me!

While I’m THRILLED with a Boston Qualifying time and PR, I’m a little disappointed I didn’t crack 3:30 or get closer to my A goal. Given my kick-ass training cycle, I felt capable of running a faster race.

But you never know what’s going to happen on race day.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

After stalking the weather all week, we watched it change from perfect conditions to chance of rain to torrential downpour Saturday morning. By the time the marathon started at 8 a.m., the worst of the weather was through, but it still rained on and off for the first two hours of the race.

I was prepared for the weather and wore a light running jacket for the first 12 miles of the race. I kept it on as long as possible because I wanted to stay warm and dry. Of course, not long after I ditched my jacket, it started raining again.

But the weather wasn’t really problematic during the race. It was more problematic before the race.

Even though my husband and I gave ourselves plenty of time to get downtown, we got stuck in traffic. Horrible, horrible traffic. Mostly caused by long lines of cars trying to get into the parking garages near the start.

A Not-So-Auspicious Start

We didn’t find a parking spot until 30 minutes before the start. Needless to say, we were freaking out. Especially since we had to hoof it 8 blocks to the starting line.

We got to the starting area with about 15 minutes to spare and immediately got in line for the port-a-potties. As we were waiting, we heard the half-marathon waves going off. They were running behind schedule, so we thought we had a few extra minutes. Surely they’d delay the start of the marathon to space things out. Right?

Ummmm, no. But we didn’t know that yet.

When we came out of the port-a-potties, everyone had disappeared. We started walking over to the start area, but we didn’t hear any announcements.

We started to make our way up the street, quickly realizing we were at the very back of the pack. We were supposed to be in Wave 1, at the front of the race.

At this point, we weren’t fully panicked yet. We thought we had a few minutes to spare since we hadn’t heard any announcements. We jumped on the sidewalk, so we could move faster and get closer to the front.

Then the realization hit us. The race had already started.

[Insert string of expletives and ramp to FULL panic mode!]

We jumped the barricade and about 20 feet later crossed the starting mat. At a walk. We never even saw the starting banner.

I’m pretty sure an F-bomb (or six) left my mouth.

And like that, we were off. But not really. Because we were stuck behind five million people who were moving WAY slower than we wanted to be.

To say this was not how I envisioned the start of my race is the understatement of the year.

Please Stand By. I’m Experiencing Technical Difficulties

Did I mention that I didn’t get my watch started? Yeah, I thought I hit the start button as soon as we crossed the mat. Thankfully I looked down about 50 seconds later and realized it hadn’t started.

So, I had that going for me too.

I concentrated on bobbing and weaving through the crowd. At a few points, I jumped onto the sidewalk to find some open real estate.

The first three miles were an absolute blur.

A sea of bodies. A rush of adrenaline. A flood of emotions.

Of biblical proportions.

Looking back, I wish I’d taken a moment to calm myself down. I was so desperate to get out of the crowd and on pace that I expended a metric ton of physical and mental energy.

I’ll give you the mile-by-mile on Wednesday. Sneak peek: I never really recovered and didn’t feel comfortable the entire race.

Humbled & Grateful

When I finally crossed the finish line, Bean and Monkey were waiting just beyond the barricaded zone.

Seeing their excited faces and sweeping them up into the sweaty bear hugs I’d promised was the best part of my day.

They didn’t care that I hadn’t reached my A goal. They just cared that I was with them again.

And, at that moment, that’s all I cared about too.

I had just finished my third marathon in a Boston-qualifying PR. I had nothing to feel ashamed or upset about. I remembered my primary goal for the race: to run and finish with a grateful heart.

Mission accomplished. Veni, Vidi, Vici.

Read the full recap, including the uplifting moment at mile 21 that kept me going!

Have you ever had a big race or event turn out differently than you expected? What did you learn from the experience?

74 thoughts on “Veni, Vidi, Vici

  1. WHOO HOO!!! LOOK AT YOU WITH THAT RIBBON!!!! And you knocked 5 minutes off your time even though you didn’t get to start properly…FANTASTIC!! I can’t imagine how panicky you must have felt beginning that way. My heart started racing just reading about it!!

    You really did conquer it!! I’m so impressed. You’re a superhero!! –Lisa
    The Dose of Reality recently posted…You Know You’re A MILF When…My Profile

    • Thank you so much, Lisa! Panic doesn’t even begin to describe what I was feeling. Not only was I freaked out, I was TICKED!! Big time! But there were so many silver linings to the day, so I can’t complain too much. Who am I kidding? I’m going to get a lot of mileage out of this story. Ha!

  2. You are awesome girl!!! I was already so proud of you but now? Holy crap!!!! I cannot believe all that happened before the race even started!? I would have been in a complete tizzy and totally cursing my way through the first few miles. Looks like it didn’t really matter to you though. So, so, so happy for you. You’re absolutely right that you have nothing to be upset about. BQ!!!!! Amazing Nicole…and I love that picture. Your smile says it all.
    Allie recently posted…It Takes A Village To Get Your Tonsils OutMy Profile

    • I was pretty much in a complete tizzy and my thoughts were a steady stream of expletives! I’m glad I didn’t totally implode…well, at least not until the last 10K! Those final miles are just brutal!!

  3. Oh I know that awful feeling at the start of the race all too well. Sorry to hear about all of it! Justin got me down there by 5:45AM so we got right into a parking spot and had time to hang out in a warm hotel before the start. Eitherway WHAT A RACE! Great job girl- you should be SO proud of yourself! Are we headed to Boston now?!!
    emma @ a mom runs this town recently posted…RVA Half Marathon RecapMy Profile

    • OK, let’s focus on important things, shall we?! 1:28 half marathon and 1st in your age group?! TOTAL ROCK STAR!! So, does this mean retirement is on hold for the time being? Ready to go for the full or going to stick with the half?

    • Thanks, Alison! You may have been dreaming while I was running, but I definitely took your support and encouragement with me through mile 17 and every other mile! Thank you so much!

    • You’re absolutely right, Hilary! Nothing ever goes according to plan! Ever! But sometimes the unexpected surprises are the best part of life. Not in this case, but sometimes!

  4. For years I lived with a man who thought that getting hit by a car while riding his bike, being near death, life flighted, in a coma, full paralysis on his left side, nearly severed right ankle, bleeding in the brain resulting in TBI, etc. etc. was the WORST thing of his life.

    I rolled my eyes inside and took a deep breath every time I heard about his “before” life and the bad accident.

    You see, as a result of the accident which I view as the BEST thing at the time in his life, he gained..

    1. an exit from a bad relationship and divorce.
    2. a closer connection with his family who adores and loves him. (One sis had her kids spell out L-O-V-E and took pics of them in each letter for a get well card.)
    3. a wife who loves him, believes in him, and was the partner he always wanted (Me).
    4. a daughter who is the best mix of her parents and has brought his family so much healing. (Hello, Susanna Hope!)
    5. a “new start” at life- he’s out of the financial and project management rat race and writes. He’s always had the talent, the deep talent, but was in the 9-5.
    6. a better living location (closer to his folks who have Parkinson’s so he can be of support to them).

    and so much more…

    We often sing the Indigo Girl’s “Closer to Fine” when we are caught up in something…. “You helped me take my life less seriously. It’s only life after all…”

    Your running is a gift. Not everyone can do it. Scott’s marathon PR is 2:51 and his half is 1:20. The last half he ran was 2:25. He was plenty mad that he ran a 3:06 at Boston in 2009.

    Right now, though, post accident, he’s okay with running 8 minute miles. His life is more than running and he knows that. It’s more than missing out on a Kona slot, too.

    (PS He’s met with the woman who hit him each anniversary year, except one, when he called her. This Thanksgiving, Susanna and I are meeting her. She’s a wonderful woman.)
    Wendy @ New Moms Talk recently posted…A Chat with the Realtor- 2 Months LaterMy Profile

    • Thanks for this comment, Wendy. It’s all about perspective, isn’t it? The marathon is just a race after all. And running is just running. There are far more important things in life!

  5. well done Nicole…fantastic time and you clearly have more in you given the circumstances of the race. I did a 5 minutes PR yesterday too in the Philly marathon in a time of 3:33:54 which i was super happy with so maybe I will do Boston also in 2015 :)

  6. WooHoo – way to go on that time, the PR and the BQ – you totally rock!!! And, after the horrific start?! I’m beyond impressed because I know how much energy that kind of frustration can suck out of you!
    Sorry that you didn’t have the time you were hoping for but I’m pretty sure we all know the start played a huge role in that – I’m sure that all of that bobbing and weaving at the beginning added quite a bit of distance onto your race!
    Way to go!!!!!
    Kim recently posted…Resistance Bands or Weights?My Profile

    • Thanks, Kim! I don’t own a Garmin, but I would love to know how much extra distance I added to my day with all of the bobbing and weaving! It was a DISASTER!! But I can’t complain too much – I’ll take a PR & BQ any day!

  7. Love your smile in the post-race photo!
    Congratulations on a fast time, shiny PR, and BQ. That’s a lot to celebrate about! With that being said, it is SO frustrating when you think you’re capable of more.
    Yikes- that sucks to have missed the start of the race and be stuck behind all those people. That would definitely throw my game off.
    Can’t wait to read about the miles next post!
    Abby @ Change of Pace recently posted…Operation strengthMy Profile

    • Thanks, Abby! I’m starting to let go of the frustrations and focus on the positives. I can’t complain too much about a PR & BQ!! Now it’s time to figure out my next race goals. I think a sub-1:30 half is definitely within my reach!

  8. You did great! I totally hear ya on that feeling when a race doesn’t start how you hope. Last race I was in, thought it started at 9, nope, 8! Needless to say that feeling of panic sucks. You want to be able to start feeling relaxed. All that being said you still did amazing! Can’t wait to hear more about it. Oh and my lesson learned…know what time the race starts! ;)
    Rosi recently posted…30 DAY SQUAT CHALLENGEMy Profile

  9. #1: CONGRATULATIONS. Any marathon finish deserves celebration (as long as you aren’t finishing injured) – and < 3:32 is nothing to sneeze at (albeit not quite what you were aiming for). But don't let that diminish your accomplishment. 26.2 miles. If that doesn't deserve a butt slap, nothing does. :)

    I had no idea how "small race sheltered" I had been when my husband and I toed the line (or, rather, a zillion meters back from the line) at the LA Marathon a number of years ago. Without recent qualifying times for faster corrals, we were with the "masses", and I was pissed from the moment our wave started – dodging crowds, walkers holding hands, groups 5 abreast – UGH. I definitely expended more energy than necessary throughout the first 3 miles…and I carried a chip on my shoulder over it the whole way. For plenty of reasons (not just these), that was NOT a stellar marathon performance.

    I imagine yours was doubly frustrating because you actually had a place in a corral that could have prevented this – except logistics and delays prevented it. GRRR. It's OK to be frustrated and annoyed about this. Ultimately, though, you'll settle and internalize this marathon's non-running lessons. Every race prepares you – somehow, in some way – for the next.

    So recovery, relax, rest up, be kind to yourself – and bring on the next adventure!!
    Holly @ Run With Holly recently posted…I Feel Like I Won The Lottery Today (Nov. 12)My Profile

    • Thank you so much for this comment, Holly. I LOVE every single word! You’re absolutely right – finishing a marathon is worthy of an ass slap, no matter what the time on the clock! And I’ll take a BQ & PR ANY DAY! I’m already starting to let go of the frustrations and what ifs and focus on the positives. And, yes, there are plenty of lessons to take to the next race!

  10. you started behind the entire race and still boston qualified?! whaaaat?! ok, if anything, you have MORE to be proud of than if you had run a problem-free race. I mean, i’m just impressed that you are STANDING there with your ribbon- the fact you werent sitting or lying down on a stretcher is an amazing feat in my book, not to mention the BQ, not to mention you started in the back!! omg im so impressed with you. CONGRATS GIRL!!!!

    • Thank you so much Charlotte! There were definitely parts of the race when I felt like lying down. And being carted off on a stretcher sounded DARN good! But I’m glad I kept putting one foot in front of the other, even if I was doing so at an incredibly slow pace in the last 10K!!

    • Thanks, Laura! It was definitely frustrating to have a rough start, but someone once shared awesome advice about ditching the ‘what ifs’ and celebrating the accomplishments. So that’s what I’m going to do! Hope you’re starting to feel better!

  11. So very proud of you. Things happened which certainly did not create the best in racing circumstances, but it sounds like you survived and actually conquered the obstacles in your way. I knew when I saw the difference between the clock time and your chip time that something had happend. There will be other races and other PR’s. Can’t wait to read all of the positive things that happend during your adventure. Congratulations on your new PR (by 5 minutes), but also on dealing with all of the obstacles in your way that morning.

    • Thank you so much, Rick! You’re absolutely right. There will be other races (maybe some trail ultras too!) and other PRs. And hopefully we’ll be able to run Boston 2015!

    • Thanks, Sarah! Yes, it’s hard to complain about a crappy start when I still had a great race! Congrats on rockin’ your 20-miler this weekend. Any time you hit a distance with a ‘2’ in the front is a BIG deal!

  12. Oh that’s really an awful way to start a race…and an easy way to throw things off right off the bat. I still think you ran a great race and deserve a big congrats for your day. Try to focus on the positives and know that your goal time is yours next time you toe the line!
    misszippy recently posted…I took option DNFMy Profile

    • Thanks, Amanda! As frustrating as it was to have a rough start which ultimately led to tanking – HARD – I’m still incredibly proud of the result. Can’t complain with a PR & BQ! And knowing I still have room to improve just keeps the fire burning! Hope you’re feeling better and starting the path to recovery!

  13. Congrats Kiddo. Larry and I thought about you all day, even though we were in Vermont to see my cousin who was diagnosed with brain cancer two weeks ago and is now in hospice unable to collect her thoughts and speak. You should be so proud of yourself and realize how blessed you are to have the gifts, talent, and people you have loving you. We are proud of you. As I told my entire family when I wrote them with an update about my cousin…..LOVE a little stronger today, HUG a little tighter today, and never think that the words I LOVE YOU can be said too much or often.

    YOU DONE GOOD, NICOLE!!! Proud of you for so many reasons, not just because of your fabulous marathon experience.

    • Thank you so much, Diane. I’m so sorry to hear about your cousin. I do feel incredibly blessed to have so many wonderful things in my life. A marathon is just a race after all. There are far more important things in life. Hugs & love to you and yours. xo

    • Thanks, Jennifer! I really wish I’d been able to conserve some energy in the beginning for a better finish, but I can’t complain too much. Time to ditch the ‘what ifs’ and celebrate the accomplishments!

  14. I swear I felt breathless and panicked at your descriptions of being late to start. Seriously. I’m so glad of all the positive- the Boston qualifying time, the Bean and Monkey in your arms at the end, the fact that you know you kick ass. You know that, right?
    Tamara recently posted…Look Ma, No Hands!My Profile

    • I was pretty panicked and breathless too! I guess another silver lining was not having a chance to really get nervous before the start. Ha! And the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. Right now I’m a little too sore to kick any ass, but I’ll be back to my regular ass-kicking mode in a few days! Thanks, my friend!

    • Thanks, Michelle! I’m definitely coming around to the silver lining to a miserable start. I’ve got one helluva a story now. And I can’t complain too much about a PR & BQ!

  15. I just teared up at the thought of your babies’ excitement to see you cross that finish line. This is the exact kind of moment I live in anticipation of….so much so I was wondering if I should have my mom bring the baby to the finish line at Memphis (probably not…I mean, he’ll be 5 months, he will have NO CLUE what I just did). They just get so excited about your big day, waiting and watching, and then so happy to see you. Amazing. (I’m crying now)
    Crystal@TheFastFitRunner recently posted…My Breastfeeding Manifesto (an F-U to breastfeeding bullies)My Profile

    • Crystal, you should TOTALLY have your mom bring your son to the race. Sure, he won’t remember it, but you will. Just be prepared to cry and possibly burst out of your sports bra when you see his sweet little face!

    • Thanks, Sherry. Yes, the start was frustrating, but I’m just glad to have another marathon under my belt. And I can’t complain too much – I’ll take a BQ & PR ANY DAY!

  16. You are awesome, Nicole. I know you wanted to do better, but you are a rock star to me! Besides actually running 26.2 miles, the fact that you did it after a bumpy start is amazing. I don’t know if I would have been able to shake it off and keep going. YAY YOU!!!
    Dana recently posted…Mustaches and Cara boxesMy Profile

  17. Ok, how do you look so good after running a MARATHON? I’m sorry it didn’t start like you wanted, but I’m glad you were able to get a qualifying time. Character building event for sure. You didn’t let the bungled start stop you- that matters.
    And you know I love the Latin words lesson you incorporated today!
    High fives.
    Julia Tomiak recently posted…What I Love About Eleanor and ParkMy Profile

    • Thanks, Julia! I knew you’d like the Latin lesson! And thanks for the compliment. By the time we got to the photo area, I’d recovered a bit and was ready to flash those pearly whites!

  18. Wow!! I already thought you did an amazing job, but after reading about your start, you should be EVEN MORE PROUD of your time! I’ve only ever been that late to a start once and it was just as you described, lots of energy being spent on panic and trying to make up for lost time. Can’t wait to read your full recap, but huge congrats on the PR and the BQ in less than ideal conditions! (to put it mildly..!)
    Carly @ Fine Fit Day recently posted…Scenes from a weekend #2My Profile

    • Thank you so much, Carly! It definitely wasn’t the way I wanted to start my race, but I’m still incredibly proud of my effort. I’m trying not to focus on the what ifs and celebrate the accomplishments instead!

  19. Yikes, I’m sorry you had to scramble at the start and that it caused you to be thrown off the whole race. I am glad you found the good in finishing with a grateful heart and scooping your daughters up into a big hug! Congrats on the BQ! I hope you’re able to get into the 2015 race!

    I can’t wait to read all of the mile-by-mile “dirty details”!
    Meagan recently posted…Thunder Road Marathon – Race ReportMy Profile

    • Thanks, Meagan! The mile-by-mile details are definitely dirty and very, very ugly, especially in the last 10K! But, more importantly, a HUGE CONGRATS on finishing your first marathon. So excited for you! Welcome to a very elite club, my friend and fellow Hokie!

  20. Congratulations, Nicole! I’m so happy you got your BQ and can’t wait to read your full recap on Wednesday.

    Like a rookie, I seeded myself near the back of the pack at my very first marathon (Marine Corps Marathon) and spent the first 8-10 miles running up on the curbs trying to get by people running (and walking) at a much slower pace than I had planned. Like you, I got around the crowds and found my pace and got my BQ, too!
    Debbie @ Deb Runs recently posted…Marathon In The Parks Recap(s)My Profile

    • Thanks, Angela! I’m kicking back right now with a bowl of Blue Bell ice cream. Yum! And as soon as I can walk normally again, I’m scheduling that massage!

  21. WAY. TO. GO! I was so, so nervous reading your beginning. I started a half like that this spring and I never really recovered from it and I finished 5+ min slower than my PR. So….I am even more impressed with you for powering through. Even those long, cold minutes of standing around wondering if I should go to the porta potty line one more time when the race is scheduled to start in 10 min and you have nothing to do but get more nervous are better than that. Again, way to go!
    Amy recently posted…Bike Path EtiquetteMy Profile

  22. I can imagine the delays and other things that impaired your day, but after all those, the joys of your life were waiting for you. Temper that competive spirit and put on the grateful face – you finished, qualified for Boston, and still had two loving spectators at the end. Who could match that day? You’ll just have to “complete your goal” in Boston. Congratulations on holding it all together, finishing with a best time, and still maintaining your sanity. Love, Papa Q

  23. By the way, I was in Dunkin Donut yesterday morning when Mike White, the owner comes up and announces your times and sends his congratulations to you for qualifying for Boston. I had mentioned a couple of weeks ago, over a cup of coffee, that you were running the Richmond race. Mrs. White was running a “half-marathon” and she was interested in your training schedule and running adventures. All are happy for your success. Papa Q

  24. Nicole,

    First, a huge congratulations on overcoming all odds to achieve a PR!! Woohoo!!!!

    I’m so sorry the race did not go as planned, but you are still a kick ass runner!!!! I’m already looking forward to reading about your future running goals!!! ;)
    Hugs to you!!

    • Thanks, Megs! It wasn’t exactly the dream marathon I was hoping for, but I’ll take a PR & BQ any day! Next up: more trail running, breaking 20 in the 5K, and cracking the 1:30 barrier in the half. Watch out 2014, here I come!

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