Going into state number ten, I was really looking forward to the warm weather and where this training cycle’s efforts would take me. I had never trained as hard for a race as I had for this race. It was both exciting and scary. What if I worked this hard and I didn’t see results? What if I didn’t accomplish my A, B, or C goals? I felt very confident going into the race, but also very unsure. Training in the winter snow and freezing temperatures tends to slow paces and complicate speed work. The past month my training paces had slowed due to ice and snow on the roads and sidewalks. Even though my effort level felt greater than previous winter runs, my paces just said SLOW. When I ran inside to try to do my weekly speed sessions I was able to maintain the increased paces my training plan called for, but it didn’t feel as easy as I thought it should. I had put in more milage than ever before, around 520 miles, training for this race.
Ryan kept telling me I was in great shapes. He said I had trained harder than ever before and was confident in my ability. I discussed my goals with him and he thought they were all attainable. C goal-beat my old PR (3:47:35), B goal-3:40 or faster, and A goal 3:35 or faster (qualify for Boston). I was prepared that my A goal would take a perfect day…great weather, entertaining course, feeling good. I knew the weather was going to be much warmer than what it had been in Wisconsin, which would make it feel warmer than the temperatures actually were. I was looking forward to the warm temps after the race, but not during.
Race morning came and I had my typical bagel for breakfast. I was nervous, but not as bad as I had expected. Ryan drove me to the start and let me out a few blocks away. As miracle would have it, the Phoenix Convention Center doors were open and the bathrooms were empty! I hate having to wait in line before a race fearing you won’t get to the bathroom before the gun goes off. This time no worries.
I found my corral and had decided a week or two before that I would do something I had never done before a race and had always thought insane before a marathon, warm up! I’ve always thought 26.2 miles was plenty; why would you want to warm up for that. I’d always used the first few miles for that. The problem was I knew if I wanted to get faster, I couldn’t use those first 3-5 miles to warm up. I needed to be on pace from the start, so I took off on a warm up followed by dynamic stretching. Look at me practicing what I preach. The other coach I coach track with and I are always getting on the kids to warm up properly before their track events. Until this day, I’d been quite the hypocrite! Looking at my time, I guess it does make a difference. But that is getting ahead of the race recap.
I lined up with the 3:40 pace group. My race strategy was to run with the 3:40 pace group until mile 13-18 depending on how I felt and then break away. Marathon research says it is best to run a steady pace throughout the entire race. With glycogen depletion and fatigue, the body usually slows by a certain percentage in the second half. I know myself though, I always run the second half faster than the first. I’m a negative split runner. I couldn’t stray completely from what I’ve always done. Today I just had to run the first half faster than normal, and still run the second half faster. Today was a leave it all out on the course day. I didn’t want to have anything left in the tank when I crossed the finish line. I did make a mental note that I felt sort of hungry. Was that bagel enough?
During the first miles it was hard to stay with the 3:4o pace group. The temperatures were in the upper 40’s and lower 50’s and my legs felt awesome. I wanted to go faster. Around mile 3 or 4 I decided to go slightly ahead of the 3:40 pace group so that if I was to start to slow down, they would come up behind me and I’d know it was time to get moving! I wanted to run the first half of the race using as little mental energy as possible. I knew the lasts miles would hurt and I would need to use my mental powers to stay focused and keep my pace. My splits from my Garmin.
My new RnR Arizona Marathon playlist was helping the miles tick by in no time. Running towards the mountains and the palm trees were extremely helpful, too. Not running in cold and darkness might have had a positive impact on the mental state and running mindset as well. Early on though I noticed as every four miles came by and I took another GU, I felt like I needed the GU. My muscles were hungry. I decided to start my GU’s at mile 4 instead of my usual mile 5. As soon as I took my GU I would forget about it, for now anyway. I came through the 5k in 25:38 and the 10k in 51:42.
mile 4-8:21 (GU)
mile 8-8:21 (GU)
Ryan was playing #1 fan and photographer. I saw him near mile 9 and then he was at the half marathon, but I didn’t hear or see him. He has the photos to prove it.
mile 12-8:18 (GU)
I came through the half faster than any race before, and it was my second fastest 13.1 miles ever at 1:48:43. I was encouraged by this time. I was also feeling like it had been a jog in the park so far. I decided I would pick up the pace for now. I was confident, but also nervous. 13 miles is still a ways to go. I could crash and burn, but I had to take the chance.
Mile 13 began an out and back portion of the race. I enjoy out and backs at times because you know exactly where you are and it is fun the see the fast and elite runners. I’m always awed and humbled by the winners and elites of the race. How people can run 5:00 minute miles for 26.2 miles is beyond me. Watching them run by is both entertaining and a distraction from what I’m doing.
mile 16-8:03 (turnaround of out and back and GU)
Around mile 17, I knew it would be a challenge to hold on until the end. I decided to keep my pace up while I was still feeling ok and hope to hold on in the final miles. I saw a Marine running in front of me and kept telling myself to stay with the marine, stay with the marine, stay with the marine. Soon he looked like he was struggling though and I knew I needed to pass him.
Right after the mile 19 mile marker we made a left turn. Once you hit mile 20 this is when the real race begins. The first 20 are nothing in a marathon. It is all about mile 20 and on. I was getting tired, but told myself to just hold on, just hold on, you are on pace for a BQ (Boston qualifier). I knew I had to keep the pace. If I had a slow mile I would likely not be able to make up the time. Just hold on. As I said this, I noticed the temperatures were warming. I hate hot weather running. Just hold on!
mile 20-7:52 (GU)
Mile 23 was my demise. I fell apart. I just could not hold on. I felt like someone had strapped a 75 pound pack on my back and was making me run through snow up to my knees. I just couldn’t hold on. I felt defeated, but told myself to just keep moving forward. Put one foot in front of the other…It is funny the mantras we repeat to ourselves to keep our bodies moving in a forward motion.
I took my GU at mile 24 and I began to feel more energy. My glycogen was gone. That hunger from the start of the race was kicking my butt.
mile 23-9:07 (ugghhh!!)
mile 24-8:43 (GU)
I knew I wasn’t going to be able to meet my A goal. I decided to hang on and run as fast as I could manage until the end. I was hurting and then there were the only hills in the race. Runners next to me were swearing under their breath asking if we really had to run up that *&%#ing hill. I didn’t say it outloud, but I was thinking it. And yes, we did.
The last two miles were hard. There were small hills, but the only for the flat course. There was no spectator support until the very end. Those were the hardest miles. I just wanted to be done.
I saw the finish and was
happy ecstatic with my time even though it was not my A goal.
mile .2-7:38 (Garmin said I ran 26. 31 miles)
I knew that I had bonked at mile 23 and mile 24. Had that not happened, then I would have accomplished my A goal. I also knew I left it all on the course. I had nothing left that day. I was 1:36 from my A goal and qualifying, but I had blown away my B and C goals. I was 90% excited and 10% bummed. I had ran a negative split by about a minute (1:48:43-1st half and 1:47:53-2nd half). Next time, I hope to fuel better in the days before my race and the morning of. I hope to not finish in temperatures in the 60’s. I will run the tangents. I will train harder. There will always be another race. And I now have a renewed sense of determination! I will accomplish my A goal!
I loved this course and getting out of the winter weather. I always love the concerts at the finish of Rock n’ Roll races, too. Andy Grammer was great! After all PR’s or failures…you got to keep your head up! (Andy Grammer-Got to Keep Your Head Up). It is amazing what a weekend away can do to rejuvenate the soul!
RnR Arizona Marathon
Time: 3:36:36 (Garmin said 3:36:38/26.31 miles)
Pace: 8:16 (Garmin 8:14)