I was confident. I was calm. I was eager. Those were a few feelings that I hadn’t felt before a race in quite some time. Going into the race on Sunday, I had a plan—Tony and I had been talking for 2 weeks leading up to the race about a plan. I had envisioned the race unfolding a handful of times—I knew how I wanted my body to feel at 10k, the halfway point, 18 miles and 20 miles. I knew that if I was patient and executed the race plan, I could break 2:40 and come close to 2:38 if I was having a great day.
I flew out to Sacramento on Thursday evening so that I could adjust to the 3 hour time difference, get solid sleep and mentally get into race mode. Friday and Saturday flew by—since I raced CIM last year, I knew the best coffee shops close to the race hotel so I had plenty of things to do. Will met me in Sacramento Saturday evening so he was able to join me for the pre-race dinner. I am not a fan of pasta so my pre-race meal consisted of grilled chicken, 1.5 sweet potatoes and a wheat dinner roll. I have a hard time eating the night before a big race so I planned accordingly and started carbo-loading Friday afternoon and snacked frequently the 2 days leading up to the race.
On race morning, I felt excited and anxious but I reminded myself that I just needed to stick to my plan. The gun went off at 7am sharp and the first few miles flew by. There were a few other women who were wanting to run 2:40 pace so the race had setup a pacer—however by mile 3, I realized that the pacer was off because my split was 17:54 (way faster than 6:05 pace). I almost had a mental freakout but instead I took a deep breath and evaluated my body—I was perfect.
Will was at mile 5 and I knew that he was going to have an internal freakout when he saw my split of 29:56…still too fast in comparison to the race plan but once again, my body felt just as I had envisioned.
Mile 7.8 was the first fueling station that I had planned to take a Clif Shot with my Nuun—in the past, fluid stations made me anxious and I rushed them. On Sunday, I took my time and made sure to get the proper fluids and I forced myself to ingest a full gel.
Once I hit 13.1 miles (nearly 90 seconds faster than the planned goal time), I decided to break the race down by one mile at a time. I knew that I didn’t want to run any faster than 5:55 and since my stomach was bothering me, breaking the race up seemed like the perfect plan—I just kept reminding myself that anyone can run a mile.
Miles 13-17 went by fast despite the queazy stomach and my hamstring starting to tighten up. I focused on positive thoughts and by mile 19, all I kept repeating to myself “Just the second half of a long run at the Tow Path with my ladies (UToledo XC) stands between me and the finish”.
The race really started at mile 21. I wasn’t fading off of my pace but I was working a lot harder to sustain the pace—my stomach was still queazy and my hamstring was hating me. I could see 4th place but the thought of trying to catch her seemed daunting. At mile 25 all I could think was “anyone can run a mile hard”—my last mile was my fastest (5:43) and I was able to move into 4th place. As soon as I turned the final corner to go into the last 100m, I saw 2:36 on the clock and couldn’t believe it.
Crossing the finish line was emotional. I wasn’t afraid of 26.2 miles anymore. I was a marathoner again.
Post Race Thoughts
1. A week before the race, I was running with Will in Wildwood and was telling him exactly how I wanted to execute the race. I told him how I wanted my body to feel through 20 miles and that I just needed to be married to 6:05s. He replied by telling me that knowing how I want my body to feel is more important than a pace because on any given day, that feeling could be 2:35 pace of 2:42 pace. It was really the first time I thought about that and thank goodness I did because when I saw my watch at 3 miles on Sunday, I was able to stay relaxed and not freaked out by running too fast.
2. Even though my training cycle didn’t go perfect by any means, I put a lot of work in and that showed on Sunday.
3. I need to re-evaluate my marathon time goals- it’s a good problem to have but I jumped a few steps on Sunday????
4. I have so many people in my life to be thankful for. I have parents who believe in me more than I believe in myself some days. I have a coach who selflessly invests time and energy into my training and deals with my roller coaster of emotions (hopefully one day I make enough money running so that I can pay him rather than buying him bourbon as thank you gifts). I have Will who will listen to me go on and on about my workouts without ever complaining and he even made the trip to Sacramento with me. I have a boss and UT XC who encourage and run with me—I never have an excuse to skip an afternoon double because of them.