Tucson Marathon Race Recap

My Tucson marathon adventure started with a solo drive “down the hill” and through the beautiful state of Arizona. I purposefully worked on staying hydrated throughout the trip. I should always think about fueling my body properly… but this is the first time that I paid close attention to what I was eating and drinking the day or two before a race.

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The hotel was easy to find, packet pickup was smooth and I visited with a couple of Flagstaff runners at the Expo (they went on to place 11th and 17th – and one of them scored his first sub-3-hour finish – woot!). I tried to go to Wildflower for dinner but it wasn’t a Wildflower Bread Company… it was a fancy-pants restaurant called Wildflower. I ended up at Coco’s (a big supporter of FLOC) for chicken, rice, and a potato.

Race morning I set three alarms: 3:50, 4:00, and 4:10. I was awake before the first alarm went off! I headed down to the lobby for the shuttle and walked right on the bus. We waited a short amount of time for it to fill and then we were on our way. The ride was pleasant because the woman sitting next to me and I had plenty in common and she was easy to talk to. She was from NH (so is Glenn!), started running about 3 years ago (I have been running for almost 3 years!), and just picked up running ultras (I plan to run my first in February!). Normally I’d prefer not to chat that early in the morning before a race with a stranger… but my visit with her was so nice. At the risk of seeming like a stalker I may look her up in the results and try to FB-congratulate her and thank her for keeping me company.

The ride to the starting line took about 25 minutes. Once we were parked they let us sit on the bus and wait until it was closer to race time. The bathroom worked on the bus – Bonus! No porta-potty visit at the Tucson Marathon for this girl!

I got off the bus at about 6:40 and took a picture or two of the sunrise. The temps were pretty cold so putting on my sunscreen and taking off my pajama pants was no picnic! I kept my sweatshirt (though I tossed that right before it was time to start) and gloves, turned in my drop bag, and looked for the pacers.

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Locating pacers forced me to make a decision about what my goal was for the day. I struggled my entire training to commit to a goal for this race. My marathon in Phoenix was all about finishing. Mental breakdown and heat exhaustion aside, I got that accomplished in just under 5 hours (4:58). My unspoken goal for Peoria was to run faster than Phoenix and to have a better experience. Finishing in 4:57 meant I achieved one of my goals (barely)… but the marathon itself was ugly. I started to fall apart mentally in some ways at mile 13, contemplated stopping, walked a good half of the last few miles, and was miserable and hot for most of the race.

For months I told myself halfheartedly that my goal would be: finish Tucson without falling apart. Yet this time my training felt different. I ran all but maybe one of the runs in my intermediate-level plan, ran lots of trails, and incorporated speed work at the track occasionally. I called up Glenn and had him ride his bike next to me for the last two miles of one of my 17-milers but did it mostly for the company. 18-milers were long and hard, but I didn’t feel like I was going to die. My 20-milers landed on two of the worst weather days of the whole eighteen weeks – but I ran them both at faster paces than I intended to when I began. I realized I might be able to finish the marathon in Tucson in a significantly shorter amount of time than I had run my previous two marathons – if I took the risk.

Now, faced with the reality of the starting line, I acknowledged the whisper of a plan in the back of my mind that I had been unwilling to admit out loud even to myself. The truth? I wanted to try to RACE this marathon and not just RUN it. I decided to shoot for between a 4:15 and 4:30 finish and see what happened. I lined up between the 4:00 and 4:15 pacers.

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After a couple of announcements and Leanne Rimes’ Star Spangled Banner the horn sounded and we were off. There was a significantly steep downhill almost immediately. For the first few miles I focused on keeping my ear bud in my ear and feeling things out. What was the weather like? How did my body feel? How were the road conditions?

Glenn, Andrew, and my in-laws signed up to get text message updates about how I was running at certain points along the course. It was cool to cross the timing mat alerting Glenn that I was averaging a 9:15 pace 5.5 miles into the race. Slowly I saw the 4:00 pacer slip further ahead of me. In my mind operation “Don’t Let the 4:15 Pacer Pass Me” had begun.

At about the 9-mile mark we ran a 4 mile out-and-back. I was able to see my friends Stephanie and Katy and give and receive some much-needed encouragement. I crossed the timing mat at 12.5 miles and knew Glenn would see I was generally keeping up my pace (9:22). Another surge of motivation ran through me.

I passed and was passed by the same two guys a time or two a little while after the out-and-back. I sped up a bit to put distance between us so I wouldn’t have to worry about it. Then, as if he had been sprinting, one of them came right up beside me! He then slammed on his brakes and settled in to run with me.

Strange? Yes.

The best thing that could have happened? Yes!

Having this guy running with me between miles 15 and 20 was a complete distraction. He wanted to run with me for a reason… my pace? Well then I’d keep it up! A few of the miles we ran together were sub-9 minute miles. We had to pass people and make room for one another. We laughed/moaned together watching a runner ahead of us decide whether she should bend over to tie her shoe. My attention was entirely diverted from my pain. A diversion is exactly what I needed.

I must have bumped my phone because I took a few pictures from my hydration pack of my running buddy... Creepy!

I must have bumped my phone because I took a few pictures from my hydration pack of my running buddy!

For me the marathon is largely about listening closely to my body for as many miles as possible – what pace feels right, what fuel is needed, how much water to drink – and then knowing when to stop listening to my body! In my limited experience, the marathon has always tried to break me at some point. My mind exaggerates the incredible pain and exhaustion my body is feeling. I’m reminded of the quote, “Your mind will quit a thousand times before your body will. Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

My running buddy took off to run ahead and almost immediately pain and fatigue demanded my attention. I willed myself not to listen to any voice in my head that had anything to say about being tired or not being able to continue. This is the point in the race when I had slowed down considerably in Phoenix. This was where I had started to walk in Peoria.

The truth about this race was starting to sink in. This was a different race.  It was possible to finish this race still running, still maintaining a decent pace. I was still ahead of the 4:15 pacer. The miles until this point showed me I was a different runner than a year ago: I wouldn’t have ever dreamed I could run for 20+ miles at a 9:20-ish pace. The miles from this point forward would show me how much running has changed me.

New voices were winning and drowning out the others:

“There is no quit!” — A mantra a woman yelled at us earlier in the race.

“You are strong. You can do this. You have done this before. This pain is temporary. You didn’t do all of this training and come this far to let up now. How will you know if you could have finished strong unless you try? If it’s too hard you can always quit later – but for right now keep going! You are doing such a great job. I am so proud of you. You’re rocking this race. You can do it. Your body was made to do this right now. Today. This race. You are here for a reason. You’ve GOT this.” — My self pep talk.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13. This Bible verse is used often but has started coming to my mind at the end of my long runs. The verse was on a gentleman’s shirt running in front of me! I was meant to keep this pace and see this man at mile 21!

Mile 23… I wavered and my pace slowed. I heard a man encouraging his running partner, “You can do this. You’re going to get 4:10 easy.” His words were enough to keep me moving forward and to make me speed up each time I thought about slowing down.

Then… The finish line: 4:04:09!

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I saw Stephanie almost right away. She was standing with her family and she told me through tears and a huge hug that she had qualified for Boston. She’s such a rock star!

Though I was certainly tired and sore, I didn’t have the chills or feel lightheaded like I’ve felt after previous races. So many factors were different – the temperature was lower, I made sure to fuel regularly and drink water often, I spent almost an hour less out there pounding on the pavement.

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I hit the food tent and picked up my drop bag. I took the shuttle back to the hotel and drove home (with many stops along the way to stretch my legs). I am presently enduring the pain (my God the pain) that 26.2 miles of running downhill will deliver. One thing I haven’t done is shake the awesome feeling of accomplishment that comes from running a marathon. Stephanie’s Facebook status said it perfectly:

“And now it is a memory… Pain will pass, pride will last!”

 

Updates

Update on my attitude: Some of my recent runs have just been about getting in the miles. In all honesty lately I’ve been feeling that way about a lot of things in life. It’s like I’m checking things off of a list and not really taking the time to enjoy the people and the choices I’ve made about how to spend my time. Do you ever feel that way about your workouts or your day-to-day life?

Yesterday I reminded myself to enjoy the time I’m taking to do this wonderful thing. This amazing activity that has added so much to my life.Thankfully much of my time is spent in places that look like this:

It certainly helps!

Update on TRF: I had a chance to volunteer (way too early in the morning) with my teammates. Hopefully Stephanie won’t mind that she’s all over my blog post!

I get to work with new and returning-to-the-sport runners who inspire me in so many ways…

Among other TRF Pro athletes competing this weekend Nick Arciniaga is running in the NYC Marathon. We’re hoping for a great time for Nick! We’re rooting for all of our TRF Pros and TRF members that are racing this weekend.

Update on Andrew: The Black Barts fundraiser for TheatriKIDS was a win and all of the TheatriKIDS singers did a great job…

Black BartsArsenic and Old Lace was Andrew’s first play in Flagstaff and the cast has reunited to do another run. My how he’s grown in just over 3 short years…

ThenNowArsenicUpdate on Gabe: Gabe’s bicycle trip to the Grand Canyon was a success. Imagine riding your bike from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon (20+ miles a day for three days, camping along the way). How awesome is that? For some people a trip to the Grand Canyon is on the bucket list. Gabe got to do it by bike for a school field trip!

Update on Training: This weekend I have to run one of two 20 – milers in my marathon training program. My 18-miler a couple of weekends ago was really good (though I was exhausted) and I’m hopeful that this will be my first-ever happy 20 mile run. Here’s hoping!

Suggestions and answers, please!

I’m going to buy a new pair of trail shoes. What do you look for in a trail shoe? What is your favorite go-to pair?

How will you spend this weekend? Are you training for a race? What are your running plans?

Today’s Tip from my Runner’s World Calendar: JUST START

 

 

 

 

 

Brave

There are many ways to be brave ~ many much more noble than mine. Being brave can mean doing the very opposite of some of the things my family has done. Right now there are serious and dangerous situations in the world requiring bravery beyond my comprehension. However, today I’m asking:

What does BRAVE look like at your house?

Over here “brave” takes many forms.

Brave is four people deciding to move almost 2,000 miles away from where they call home to make a new life for themselves.

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Brave is a good father and husband who has chosen not to drive for the last 10 years. This difficult decision came after Glenn’s eye condition (which inhibits his sight considerably) caused him to bump into a few things with the car. In his early 30’s he was brave enough and humble enough to stop driving. His brave also involves running a marathon, auditioning for his first play last month, and going back to school…

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Brave is a soccer player who has to be the last line of defense for his team game after game. Lots of athletes avoid putting themselves in positions like this one. Not this kid. His brave is also sticking up for his friends, and not being afraid to be vulnerable with people and love life every day…

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Brave is an actor on a stage alone speaking a monologue or singing a solo. Dancing in front of a crowd. Brave is being yourself ~ your true self ~ even when the world might not accept your truth…

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Today I choose “brave” to describe how I feel about running in the Soulstice race. My age group finish was bottom of the barrel ~ but it was my first go at such a demanding trail run. I tried it. Who knew just two and a half short years ago when I was sedentary, 50+ pounds heavier, a hater of running, and a “former” athlete that one day I would sign up for a challenge like today’s? That one day I would start a race at all at altitude and climb another 1,400+ feet?

So, today I choose to feel brave when it comes to my race. I choose to focus on the part that is truly amazing to me – the fact that I showed up and did it.

When do you feel brave?

What does brave look like for other members of your family?