Strength in Discipline by Laurah Lukin
I was pretty shocked when “The Russians” told me they wanted me to race the Carmel Half Marathon (in Carmel, Indiana) nine days before the Boston Marathon …
Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself. 2014 has been my first season/year racing in the “Elite” category for road races. I am not sure that I actually qualify as an “elite runner,” but I am having the time of my life racing alongside professional runners and dreaming of someday getting to that status. At the end of 2013, I began training with “The Russians”, a husband and wife who manage, coach and act as agents for the L.M. Elite Running Club. I am the only amateur athlete among a rotating group of professional runners from Kenya, Ethiopia, Morocco, Russia and Ukraine. I honestly do not know why they took me on, but I am overjoyed they did. I am learning so much; we have become close and fast friends, and they treat me just like one of their own.
The stories and experiences I have and continue to accumulate during this journey are ones I never want to forget… ones that I want to share...and hence this blog.
So back to Carmel…
“Laurah, do you want to run Carmel Half Marathon on April 12? We can see your condition before Boston Marathon…..it would be good for you to see your condition. After that race you have time to get recovery.”
Yeah…nine days to get recovery, I thought in the back of my head.
But I agreed. I trust my coaches. This is why I have coaches….
I studied the results from last year. If I could run a 1:27 I could be competitive (based on 2013 results). Of course, anyone who has ever raced knows the problem with that line of thinking. Racing is all about who shows up on any particular day…not an average of previous results. I knew the field would be more competitive this year. Another girl from my team would be racing the half marathon, along with three other males and females for the half or 8k. But for me, the idea of being able to finish in the top 10 females in a race with an elite category was exciting….and terrifying. So far I had only finished in the top 20 female in 2014 elite races.
Race morning I set out to meet the Russian at the start line with my husband (who was also racing) and my best friend who is undoubtedly the world’s best good luck charm. After a quick hug, and a hand off of race bibs for my team mates (there was no race day packet pick up), the Russian gave a stern look to his watch, back to me and instructed, “Go do warm-up.”
My warm-up should have been longer, but I was a mess of nerves. So I rushed to the start line and opted to toss in some strides to calm myself. The plan was to go out smart and try and hold a 6:30 -6:35 pace all the way. This was a more of a dream than a “plan”, as my previous best for the 21k was 1:28+ set last month.
I looked around and tried to get a good picture of all the women doing the full vs the half marathon to have a mental understanding of the competition. Honestly, I assumed the start would play out much like my entire elite race experiences so far – a flood of women passing me in the first few seconds of the race, and then a steady stream passing me for the rest of the race.
At the gun, the field exploded onto the sunbathed asphalt.
After a couple minutes we all settled into our strides. I counted the women in front of me.
One, two full marathoners.
One, two half marathoners.
Was I really third?
Not possible. Don’t think about it.
Relax. Settle into your stride.
Mile 1. I glanced down at my Garmin. 6:20. Too fast.
Mile 2. 6:20. Crap. Still too fast.
As we came up on the third mile, I could still hear my husband’s footsteps behind me.
“You good?” he asked softly. I knew he wanted to tell me to slow down. I knew he thought I was going to blow up.
“Get it together, Falcon!” I screamed in my head.
I reached the cones at the turn-around, made my turn, started heading back, counting in my head and looking for the next female behind me.
12 sec gap. Yellow Jersey.
Mile 4. 6:30. Better.
Mile 5. Take a gel.
I started to relax and was happy to still hear my husband’s foot steps right behind me. We both had the same goal, but he knows I can’t mentally navigate talking whilst racing, so he quietly sat on my heels; the shadow of his visor peeking just into my peripheral vision.
Mile 6. 6:35.
The sounds of new footsteps and the shadow of a ponytail out of the corner of my eye.
I tucked in behind her and tried to figure out her pace, but I flustered. My heart wanted to go with her, but my brain kept thinking about pace. Would I blow up? Could I stay with her? A voice in the back of my head reminded me that Boston was in 9 days.
She started pulling away and my heart started to sink.
Without thinking, I jumped on her right heel and went; the shadow of my husbands visor disappearing from my peripheral view.
I sat on her heels for 3 miles. Stride for stride. Each step wondering how long I could hang on.
Mile 9. New footsteps. Another girl.
This time Yellow Jersey went with the new contender. I knew I couldn’t go with them. The 6:32 pace I had kept for the last 3 miles began to weigh heavy on my legs. I let them go.
5th place. And alone on the course….enter self doubt.
There was a lot of internal self-talk that happened. I began to lose my speed.
Mile 10. 6:40s
Mile 11. 6:50s.
Pull it together Falcon. 5th elite is better than 6th elite. Top 5 female. Lets go. Lets Fly!
Mile 12. 6:31.
The crowd picked back up and I could here the roar of finish line announcer and music. With a half mile to go I heard footsteps again. Familiar footsteps. My husband came up next to me. I smiled proudly knowing he would PR. I had to let him go. I was pushing with every fiber of my body to hold my pace.
Finish line. 1:27. 5th female and pleasantly surprised to get smoked by my husband in the last 500 meters.
After grabbing some water I stumbled over to the Russian.
“Laurah, tell me, what was your result?”
“I was 5th female! 1:27. PR by a minute!” I answered with a big grin.
He shifted his eyebrows, curled his lip, “Eh, it is ok.”
Written by Laurah Lukin. Laurah is a distance runner and triathlete. She trains and resides in Cincinnati, Ohio.