Magic On Race Day | CIM 2018

“Good teams become great when the members trust each other to surrender the Me for WE.” - Phil Jackson

I kept quiet during the drive to the start line. The only thing that kept my mind busy was the sound of Beyoncé blasting through the car stereo and my friends, Caitlin and Alys, chatting. I sipped on my pre-race fuel of UCAN, and kept reminding myself, “You got this.” I checked my Instagram account to read comments from my insta-friends wishing me “Good Luck!” I scrolled through IG stories to see if any of my other race friends posted last minute thoughts… Nothing except last nights pre-race flat lays appeared. “Why aren’t we there already?” flashed through my mind.. I was anxious. I felt like a wild horse trying to be tamed. I needed to get out of the car.

We arrived at the mile 2 marker on the course, and the police wouldn’t let us through. “We have a runner in the car!” my friend Caitlin pleaded. The police alerted us that the last shuttle was directly behind us and that would take me to the start. I frantically grabbed my things and I hopped out of the car. “Okay guys, see you at the finish,” I cried out nervously..

I climbed into the shuttle and asked the driver when we would leave. She said since we’re the last shuttle we have to wait till 6:49am. My eyes widened in panic that we wouldn’t make it to the start in time. Minutes ticked on slowly until the large clock above her rearview mirror blinked 6:49am. She turned on the engine, closed the door, and departed. I could feel the anxious energy from the other runners in the shuttle wondering if we’d make in time for the start also.

We pulled up and one by one, we trickled out of the shuttle. I grabbed my things and started jogging to the back of the last wave. The crowd was thick and dense all the way to the start line. Damn I had to pee. Do I wait in the porter potty line to relieve myself and risk the opportunity to run with my team? “5 minutes till the start!” announced the race official. Panicked, I started pushing through the crowd to find Coach Mary.

I got about a quarter of the way through and stopped at a standstill. I saw to the right of me people were charging toward the start outside of the corrals. I went for it hastily moving my way toward the front. Finally, I saw a pacer holding up the 3:30 sign. Then I looked to the right and I could see blue and green ribbons of Arete. “Coach Mary!” I beamed! “You made it,” she called back. Then I saw a few more team mates, Ashley, Haley, and Stephanie. What a relief! I looked at Ashley and said, “Let’s do this! I’m not letting you out of my sight.”

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5….and we were off, slowly shuffling to cross the start line. Together, we crossed and began our journey to the finish. Immediately, joy and excitement took over my body. “Just breathe and relax,” I told myself. Coach Mary called out, “Just another long training run. Time to relax into the miles…. Shake out your arms and breathe. Now is the time to reserve your energy and stay patient.”

By mile 2, I saw my friends, Caitlin and Alys, yelling “Go Elysha!” A flood of energy washed over me. My mantra “Yes I can” echoed in my mind. For the next few miles, my team mates and I kept checking off the miles. We were a large group of about 10-12 all aiming for the same goal, sub 3:30. Our energy was contagious. Coach Mary would remind us to stay patient and shake out our arms during the hills. I was 100% present absorbing every little detail of the course. The changing of the leaves. The families roasting marshmallows in their front lawn fire pits. “Go Melanie!” sign kept appearing every few miles. I joked saying the sign should read “Go Arete!” or “Go Elysha!” since it popped up so many times throughout the course.

By mile 10 we made our turns into the town of Fair Oaks. I remembered this part of the course from last year because the town was so small yet so lively. Cheers from the crowd and live music boomed making it impossible not to smile. Another little surge of energy pulsed through me. “Hold back. Stay patient,” I reminded myself, “Yes I can!”

By mile 11.5 Coach Mary alerted us that co-founder of Arete, Melissa, would jump in at mile 13. “Just hold on and keep being patient. We’re right on pace. You guys are doing great,” She smiled. We were doing great. I felt great. I was super calm and relaxed. At mile 12 I start nursing on my concentrated version of UCAN. I also sipped on my fluids of Nuun Hydration Performance to make sure my electrolytes were topped off.

At mile 13 Coach Mary passed off our group to Melissa. Her bubbly energy was a breath of fresh air. “How are you guys doing? You are looking strong. Remember take in your fuel. I have some just in case you need extras,” she piped up. Her energy was the perfect distraction for the next few miles. Music played from her phone and I officially found my groove. I closed my eyes to only hear the foot steps of our group. I could feel my body absorb the cadence like a metronome. I turned to Ashley, “We are so in sync.”

By mile 15 my mind flashed back to last year and how much pain I was in. My knee was throbbing at this point and I had to stop to walk. Now I was smashing on by the water stop feeling gratitude for my healthy knees and body. “Yes I can.”

Miles 15 through 20 our group truly found a rhythm. We kept checking off the miles and I was stayed fully immerse in the moment. By mile 20, a couple more teammates from Arete joined our group to pace the rest of the way. Melissa advised that if we felt good, we could take off. I asked Ashley how she was feeling and when she wanted to take off? She notified me her parents would be waiting at the bridge between miles 21 and 22 to pass off more fluids. As we charged up our last incline, up and over the bridge. I reflected once again how good I was feeling and how thankful I was for my body. Last year when I ran the marathon, I walked up and over. I was so physically weak and my knee hurt so badly. Now, I felt powerful and unstoppable. “Yes I can!” roared louder in my mind.

Patient and persistent, we stayed with our team until we felt strong & capable enough to demolish the remaining miles. At mile 22 we took off and I glanced down to check our pace. “Oh shit! My watch paused.” Frantic, I asked Ashley what pace we were doing. “Just wait till we get to mile 23 to manually force the lap,” she advised. At mile 23, my Garmin was back in business. “How did I accidentally stop my watch?” I laughed. For once I wasn’t fixated on the time or pace. I was running with joy and gratitude cracking jokes and living in the moment. It felt like magic.

At the final 5k mark, I didn’t want to jinx it but I knew we had it in the bag. Her friends and family cheered her on, I absorbed their energy for me. My friends cheered me on, and I know she absorbed the energy as well. At mile 25, the clock read 3:18 and I turned to her and said, “Even if we ran a 10 minute mile, we’ll still BQ! Yes we can!” The thought exhilarated us and we kept on. Shortly after I saw my two San Francisco runner friends, Jenni and Jhoanne, cheering as runners neared the final stretch. All I remember saying is “I’m doing it. I’m getting a BQ!” My eyes welled up with tears and I beamed with excitement.

The final stretch along the garden of the Capital Building, we pasted Coach Mary and the Arete team. I tried not to lose my cool and burst into tears... WE made the final turn to see the finish and charged! Tears streamed down my face and I smiled choking them back. Elated, I raised my arms in the air just like I had always visualized. Crossing the finish line, I covered my mouth in shock. I turned around for Ashley who came in a few seconds behind me. I hugged her and screamed, “WE ARE BOSTON QUALIFIERS! WE DID IT!”