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My First Marathon

I know I promised a race recap yesterday but I was just too busy & tired to put my experience into words and pictures. Now that I’ve had a full 10 hours of sleep and a family celebration let’s get to it…

Quick Facts:

  • Marathon: Rock n’ Roll Arizona Marathon in Phoenix
  • Shoes: Saucony
  • Hair: French braids
  • Fuel of Choice: Gu packs (Espresso Love and Peanut Butter flavors)
  • Goal Time: sub-4 hours
  • Finish Time: 3 hours 27 minutes 14 seconds
  • Pace: 7 minutes 54 seconds per mile
  • Place: 251st out of 2878 (40th female out of 1238)
  • Pre-race breakfast: plain oatmeal, banana & coffee
  • Post-race meal: Cold Stone Love It create-your-own ice cream –> cheesecake ice cream with graham cracker, Crunch bar & hot fudge. Guilty? Not one bit.

The start line was broken up into waves so that 3000 people weren’t jammed across the 20-ft. start line at the same time. I was put in Corral #1 based on my estimated finish time, so I got to start immediately at 7:50am. Obviously the most important strategy in a 26.2 mile race is pace yourself. And based on my goal time of sub-4 hours, I knew I should be in the ballpark of 8 minutes per mile.

However….. adrenaline + excitement + competitiveness = 6:47 first mile. Oooops.

Marathon start line (stronglikemycoffee.com)

By the 10k mark I was at 45 minutes, still 5 minutes faster than my goal pace. I felt so stinkin’ good though that I just went with it. The first half, the first 13.1 miles, were nearly effortless because of the amount of runners I had around me, the crowds, the mile-marker bands and music and just my sheer excitement to be there!

Did I hit an infamous “wall”?

Absolutely, and a lot earlier than I anticipated. I took my first Gu pack at mile 6, and right away my stomach didn’t like the sudden intake of sugar. I took another around mile 12, and my stomach was really not happy. After mile 16 I struggled mentally, I think realizing that I had 10 miles to go was a bit overwhelming. That was a mental wall. The PHYSICAL wall came around mile 20 when my legs felt sore and heavy. Like I had done 400 squats. My quads and calves were on fire!

Things that got me through:

Slowing down was an option. Stopping at the water station for a sip and a splash was an option. Not finishing the marathon was NOT AN OPTION. Finishing in over 4 hours was NOT AN OPTION. I had a deadline and people at the finish line waiting for me! Mile 24 was a continuous gradual uphill and my legs hurt so bad that I literally just started counting my footsteps to distract myself and force my legs to keep moving. Luckily after the uphill, there was the reward of downhill and some water.

Once I passed mile 25 I knew that I was going to finish in under 3 hours 30 minutes. Thinking about that helped me push through all of the pain and make it to the finish line. There were crowds of people on both sides leading to the grand finish but I had my eyes peeled for my parents and Kerri. I spotted them a few meters from the mat and we all waved at each other :) Ooooh I just got chills.

Marathon family at the finish (stronglikemycoffee.com)I also happen to have the coolest parents who made a whole vacation out of the weekend. We stayed a couple nights in Phoenix, went out to some fun restaurants with my friends Chelsea and Kerri and definitely celebrated afterwards. The best moment was seeing them in the crowd at the finish line waving & cheering. That is the BEST way to finish a race! I owe them the biggest THANK YOU xoxoxo

Marathon friends at the finish (stronglikemycoffee.com)

After the marathon was over, the sponsors bombarded us with water bottles, chocolate milk, Gatorade, protein bars, pretzels, fruit. I met up with my parents and friends to bask in my runner’s high (and sweat-soaked clothes haha). I am so grateful to have amazing friends and family that were able to be there with me as I completed one of my biggest personal challenges of my life! It was an unforgettable feeling :)

There is only one post-race meal that I am interested in. You earn a MEDAL, you earn an ICE CREAM:

Marathon ice cream (stronglikemycoffee.com)

Three spoons because I share! ;)

Overall Race Impression: I couldn’t have asked for better weather. We started in 48 degrees, it was sunny but never hot. The course was relatively flat, all asphalt city streets so it was fast! I had no injuries, aches or pains aside from the inevitable soreness that comes with continual cardio activity for over 3 hours. The event was super organized with timers at every mile, plenty of water/Gatorade/Gu stations and nice sets for all 26 bands along the way. Best marathon experience I could have asked for!

marathon finish line (stronglikemycoffee.com)

The best part came from knowing that I exceeded my own expectations. Running a marathon has been a huge goal of mine for a very long time. As I began training, I didn’t want to just finish…. I wanted to finish in under 4 hours. So cutting over half an hour off of my goal time is a pretty successful race outcome for me :) It made all of the training, all of the time committment and sacrifices, quitting my collegiate cross country team and training by myself, totally worth it. I don’t regret anything! I wouldn’t have changed any of my training or pre-race prep. I’m every bit as satisfied and accomplished as I thought I would be and there is no better feeling!marathon finish (stronglikemycoffee.com)

5,000 meters

Last night I opened my Outdoor Track Season with a sea-level 5,000 meters. 27 girls from 10 different universities toed the line after the stadium lights lit up the Friday night field. The heat from the day had subsided with the sun and there was just some slight wind.

Going into the race, I have had about 2 months of training since my last surgery and recovery. Normally, 2 months is not a long time to build up both a mileage base and speed. So I wasn’t exactly sure what kind of shape my body was in; I knew my workouts were progressively improving each week and I felt strong and ready. One year ago, at this same invitational, I ran 18:05, and a month later ran 17:50. This race would just give me some sort of indication as to what kind of shape I am in after so much down time.

Tucson Track Meet (stronglikemycoffee.com)

First mile flew by in 5:43, spot-on pace to break 18 minutes.  Luckily I had my teammate Lauren right in front of me to push me the whole time.

For the next four laps, I focused on staying consistent, though the hurt definitely set in. The last mile, the true test of strength, is where the gaps started to form. I told myself to pass the two girls ahead of me, and don’t let anyone pass me. At the three-mile-mark, I was at 17:32. Breaking 18-minutes was no longer reasonable, so I just kicked with everything I had left – 39 seconds later, it was over.

Just a Blur

Just a Blur

Finishing Time: 18:11 (5:49 mile pace)

Finishing Place: 4th (of 27)

Laps 10, 11, and 12 definitely tested my mental strength; I won’t lie, I really struggled in the last mile. It would have been nice to have my teammates supporting and cheering for the 3 of us running the 5k, but they were chowing down on the aforementioned pizza.

Give me another few weeks of track workouts and I’ll be back in the 17 minutes :)

Ultimate goal: qualify for Conference Championships in Oregon in May. To do so, I need to run a 17:40 or better in the next six weeks. Which would be a personal record, but stranger things have happened. Challenge Accepted.

Travel Day!

The wheels on the bus go round n’ round….

Yesterday was spent largely in the reclining seats of the team charter bus, on a 4-hour trek to sunny Tucson, Arizona! About half of the track team, including distance runners, sprinters, jumpers and throwers started Spring Break a day early to make our way to the desert and heat for today’s track meet – the Willie Williams Invitational hosted by University of Arizona. Temperatures are rising to the 90s today, but luckily my 5k race will be under the lights at 7:30 p.m.

Desert Cactus

Before sitting on the bus for hours, I did a nice 30 minute run, finishing at Target to stock up on snacks for the weekend. After reading our itinerary for the meet, I learned that we would be ordering pizzas for dinner the night of my race, and ham-on-white-bread for lunch the next day. (Obviously my coach is not a nutritionist…) These aren’t exactly my idea of “fuel food” so I made sure get a post-race protein bar, plenty of bananas, apples, and oranges, some oatmeal and cereal cups, and pretzels. I did not train my butt off these last 2 months to splurge on greasy, cheesy pizza the day of my race.

Oh hey, desert sunset!

Oh hey, desert sunset!

Once we checked into the hotel, the team piled back into the bus for a shakeout run at Pima Community College. Gotta get that blood flowing! By then, it was getting close to sunset. It must have been the most beautiful time to run in the desert; the mountains and cactuses (cacti?) looked gorgeous and I could’ve gone a few more miles if it weren’t a recovery day!

After the run, the one thing on a bus full of athletes mind: FOOD. Since dinner was just at a mall food court, there was some major variety among the team’s dining choices. From burritos at Chipotle to Dairy Queen blizzards, it was definitely a far cry from the pre-race pasta parties I’m used to from high school. I stuck with a much simpler and healthier Mediterranean Salmon Salad – though I’m definitely not opposed to Dairy Queen after the 5k ;)

I have an entire day to relax and enjoy before the race, but honestly I wish I could just race RIGHT NOW. Sometimes (okay, every time) I have a nighttime race, I usually spend the day over-thinking and becoming more nervous; it would be better to get it done first thing in the morning before I have time to obsess over it. I need a distraction, maybe I’ll spend the day catching up on the entire season of Amazing Race!

Luckily, I have been waiting to run this 5k for so long, I feel like I have enough adrenaline to push me through it. :)

Tomorrow I’ll share how the race goes, hopefully good news!

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