I started this blog back in 2009 with the goal of qualifying for Boston. In that time, I have struggled to train for the marathon specifically and my 2 previous attempts were both derailed at mile 20 with hitting the wall - rendering a 3:25 and 3:10 on two chances that were on pace for BQs. In the 7 years of tracking my racing, I have met goals at all shorter distances, but the marathon remained a mystery to me. Today, in my 3rd attempt I finally did it and not only hit my BQ, but got well under 3 hours. The course was a huge downhill course, but it was between elevations of 10,500 and 6000 feet with several hills between 12-15. Technically, this is probably an aided PR, but on a certified course, it is a qualifer nonetheless and the way I ran the race was perfect regardless. Here is the extended RR (mainly for my future reference in training):
Pre-race - Race start was 6 am and because it was point-to-point, there was bus transport to the start for the marathoners, which meant a 2:40 am alarm clock. I was wide awake at 2 though and couldn't get back to sleep. Luckily, I was out by 9:30 last night so got a little sleep. Had my normal pre-race white bread and turkey sandwich. Build-up was pretty good on this marathon. I was unable to get any long runs of longer than 16 miles in, which I know is in violation of the timeless wisdom that long run training is the only way to get through the wall. However, in light of my lack of long runs, I did several back-to-back long-ish runs (i.e. 14 -13 back-to-back 3 weeks ago). For me, this seemed to work much better than past efforts at getting long runs in, which I struggle with. Got to to bus loading at perfect timing, got on the bus, it was really warm and I was sweating some, but I compensated with drinking extra gatorade on the 1-hour+ drive to the start line. Start line was a little turn-off high up in the mountains and as the sun came up, the view was amazing. Cool, but not too cool, although temps were predicted to be warm. About 30 minutes prerace, I did a little jogging for about .7, was able to take a few minutes on my own away from the chaos of the staging area and just take in the scenery and enjoy the world for a second. Made a decision to actually run the marathon in my training shoes, which are heavier than my DS trainers that i also brought and considered running in. In the end, it came down to wanting to survive the race and with no long runs under my belt and a sore foot (for several weeks now :/), I figured the cushioning would help. Plus - no downhill training meant that the pounding on the quads would be murder in anything lighter. GU 15 minutes before, was peeing a ton before the race, a sure sign of great hydration (honestly thought I had overdone it, but I was wrong and I think this was key to my race today). Race started right at 6.
People ran crazy fast out of the gate - I guess the promise of a downhill course encouraged them to go for broke. I laid back and settled in, intentionally dialing it back with the goal of running equal halves (wanted 6:50s for the race as I was shooting for sub-3 so I would have a BQ with some cushion). By mile 4 or so, I was probably in 50th place, but I had settled into my pace and was obvlious to all else (well, except maybe for the amazing views of the still snow--capped rockies. Here are my splits:
5- 6:50 (33:44, 6:45 pace)
10 - 6:51 (1:07:28, 6:45 pace -another perfect 33:44 for the last 5 by the way.) The pace felt remarkably easy at this point and I was super comfortable with how the race was playing out. I was able to take in fluids at evey single aid station today alternating gatorade and water as I saw fit. More gatorade than water though, the electrolytes helped my stomach and also kept me hydrated.
13.1 half - officially 1:28:03, 6:45 avg pace, spot on. Started hitting some hills at this point, but I have trained on hills and actually passed about twenty other runners during the hills between miles 12-15
15- 6:49 ( 1:41:01 for 15 miles, 6:44 pace for the race- 33:33 for these 5 miles, 6:42 pace)
20- 6:43 (2:14:13 for 20 miles - 6:42.5 pace for the race so far, 33:12 for this 5 miles, ratcheted up the pace, I'm not sure if this section was off even with my watch because my splits don't equal out later on, regardless, this was the key portion of the race - instead of fading, I was hammering) 1:48
Normally, I hit the wall at 20 and I am acutely aware of that, but today, mentally more than anything, I stayed intensely focused on what I was doing and with my aggressive hydration and GU strategy (miles 7, 14, and 21), I was trying to avoid the wall at all cost and I did! In fact, not only had I been picking people off the whole race, I probably passed another 15 or so the last 10k and I blazed passed most of them as they faded. I was very happy with myself for this effort late in the race.
21- 7:04 (had to stoppish quick lyat the aid station before this mile to pick up a GU, kind of a mishap, just a momentary stop to make sure I was able to secure one from the volunteer she didnt say gel available til I was almost past her, so I had to brake hard to get one, I was needing one more to finisht he race off- it was a caffeine one, but I downed it anyway and it seemed to do the trick
25- 6:46 (2:48:18 at 25 miles, 6:44 pace overall, 34:05 for this 5 miles, 6:49 pace
26 - 6:48
loose change = 2:29 -my watch had .31, I think the course was accurate, I missed a lot of tangents the last 8 miles as we merged with the half-marathon walkers and runners and I had to do a lot of weaving/not able to run tangents.
total 2:57:04, 6:45 avg pace, 10th overall, 2nd in AG
Reaction: I was very happy with how I ran this. I did not hit the wall, I got tough and ran hard the last 10k, even throwing a 6:35 in at the 24th mile. Passing runners the entire race, but especially the last 10k was an amazing feeling and it just snowballed my confidence in being able to finish under 3. This course was downhill and that certainly helped, but a marathon is still hard (especially at these elevations). I was also shocked to have worked my way up to 10th overall and 2nd in my age group - that is pretty cool to do in a bigger marathon like this. Got home and immediately got into an ice bath, quads were so trashed that I couldn't even feel the cold.
I always knew my marathon PR should be more in-line with my shorter distance races and now that is true. I will be running my first Boston in the spring and cannot wait to have that experience! I can't help but wonder what my PR will be at sea level after getting more marathon specific training and maybe using some lighter shoes (and hopefully a healed-up foot).