When you are dating someone seriously, the question people always ask is, “So, when you are getting married?”
Once you get married, they ask, “So, when are you having kids?”
Once you have a kid, they ask, “So, when are you having another one?”
And when you finish a race, naturally the first question is, “so, what’s your next race?”
I had purposely not had any plans for after my October 1 marathon. I wanted to focus on the race and depending on how it went, make a decision after that.
I had joked that if I got my sub-three time I was shooting for, then I could die happy and never have to race another marathon again.
But I didn’t quite get there…
Like I mentioned in my race recap, I’m thrilled with my 6.5 minute personal record, but it really is just a little bittersweet to be just thirty seconds away from cracking the big three.
It feels like unfinished business.
So I have chosen to build on my fitness and race sooner rather than later and I picked the Mesa Phoenix Marathon on February 24!
Here’s why I chose this one:
February is far enough away that I can recover from Milwaukee and have time for another good buildup.
My dad and his wife live in the Phoenix area so it’s a good excuse to go out for a visit
It’s competitive enough that I will have a good challenge and shouldn’t be on my own too much
It’s point-to-point, which I love, starting at a similar altitude (2082′) to my hometown, and dropping to about 1200′. It’s a net descent, but not ridiculously so and most of the loss is in the first quarter of the race, with a mostly flat second half so it shouldn’t be too pounding on the quads (I hope!).
Here’s a very quick video of the course:
But I do have to admit that I had a few hesitations signing up for this one.
I had this nagging voice inside my head telling me that running a downhill race for a PR is cheating.
It’s not, of course, since downhill courses are not automatically easier for everyone. While gravity makes running easier on your lungs, downhills beat up your quads, especially if the descent is early in the race like this one, which makes the finish tougher than an entirely flat course.
And this course is not simply falling off a mountain like many of the big downhill courses like my first BQ in Utah at Big Cottonwood which dropped 4000′ from start to finish (the new course drops 6000′!)
Mesa Phoenix only drops less than 900′ over 26.2 miles.
But it’s enough of a drop that this course, while a Boston qualifier, could not be used to qualify for the Olympic Trials. No course with a drop of more than 3.25m/km (about 447 ft) counts.
I did consider racing the Rock N Roll Arizona race in January in Phoenix instead, however, just so I wouldn’t have to wrestle with the “fairness” of a downhill course in my mind. That course is nice and flat and is an OTQ course, so I could have gone with that one.
But January just felt too close to be able to fit in the training.
Ultimately, I decided that this is really a non-issue.
While I like to think my talents are limitless, I’m not foolishly optimistic to think that I can chop 15 minutes off my marathon time in four months and qualify for the trials. I like to set big goals, but that’s just a little too big for even me!
26.2 miles is still 26.2 miles and it will be challenging no matter what the course.
But unlike Milwaukee, I will promise that I won’t sign up for another marathon right after this one. Perhaps something for the fall of 2018, but no spring marathons.
It will be time to switch gears and try something new.
Now that my goal race is over, I’m getting serious again.
About doing nothing.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I’m getting serious about eating. A lot. And often.
And after not having a single alcoholic drink for the entire month of September, I’m drinking a glass of wine every night with dinner and if I’m feeling overly ambitious, I might even have two! (Shocking, right?)
Ten days after the marathon, I gained over 5 pounds, which is almost 5% of my bodyweight.
And I’m happy about this!
You see, I was very careful about what I consumed during training and while carb-loading before the marathon. I made sure that I ate enough to fuel my training, but not enough to gain weight like I tend to do while marathon training.
So while I recover, I’m making indulging mandatory.
Thankfully, there’s never been a better time in history for vegan junk food!
In the past, I’ve indulged some during the recovery period, but I don’t think I’ve taken it this far before.
So this time, I’m taking the idea of polarized training to its fullest by eating and recovering as much as possible!
I took the first seven days after the race off from running completely. I floated a bit in the pool, and walked some, but no running or cross training.
Week two is just a few short jogs and maybe a swim.
And lots of eating.
Is gaining weight and barely running for two weeks going to make training harder when I start up again? Sure, but that’s the way it should be! It’s impossible to peak year-round so it’s best to embrace the seasons of training as they come by going all in.
Yes, I’m still eating a few healthy things here and there, but my normal off-limits foods are all on the table.
To be honest, I’m starting to get sick of eating family-sized bags of salty potato chips and drinking gallons of wine straight from the box.
But I’m committed and I’ll keep up the indulging for the full two weeks. And maybe a little longer.
Because this too is training!
It will take persistence and dedication, but I know I’ve got it in me somewhere.
Then I remembered that the race planned to have a 3-hour pace group. Those are a bit hard to find in smaller races since you have to be a lot faster than that to be able to lead a group comfortably, so I hoped I could just tuck in behind the pacer and draft.
Turns out there was a big pack of us and we stayed in a tight formation for 23 miles.
I had prepared two bottles of my lemonade starch fuel but this time, I used 60g of tapioca starch instead or corn starch and added 10g of corn syrup for glucose with 5g of powdered fructose. Each 8oz bottle contained 275 calories and 67g of carbohydrate.
But just like Charleston, I ended up only using one.
Miles 1-5: 6:44, 6:42, 6:54, 6:45, 6:52
When I found out that Thomas, our pacer, was a 2:35 marathoner, I decided to ignore my watch and just blindly trust him. I knew I would need a pack to brace against the wind as well as the mental relief of not having to worry about pace. He told me at the start that he planned to run even splits which is what I wanted.
This is a flat course with a slight downhill so aiming for negative splits (second half faster than the first) had a big risk of backfiring. Not to mention, I’ve never, ever run negative splits, so I wasn’t going to start now.
I occasionally checked my watch, but mostly ignored it.
The pack of 20 or so runners was so tight that we occasionally bumped elbows or clipped each other’s heels. As I bumped the guy in the navy singlet next to me for the third time, I said, “I’m just going to apologize now for the whole race!”
This stretch of the race weaved through cornfields with dairy cows mooing at us in the early golden light. We crossed the 10k timing mat and Thomas said we were right on target.
I try to avoid doing any kind of math when I’m running hard, so I took his word for it.
The pace was feeling fine and I was taking sips of my drink every other mile or so. I was sure to grab a cup of water at each aid station and it turned out to be like a well-choreographed dance as each member of our pack held out an arm to grab a cup from a volunteer.
Coming through the half with nearly perfectly even splits was certainly reassuring. As a coach, I so often talk about running negative splits, so there was a little twinge of wondering if the pace was too fast, but I let that thought evaporate as quickly as it popped up.
Looking at it later, wow, mile 15 was fast! Good thing I wasn’t looking at my watch or I would have slowed down!
At this point we were winding through oak-lined neighborhoods of beautiful historic homes. Our pack had grown smaller, but was still about 10 people. The two other women that started in the pack with me had faded.
The pace was still feeling fine for me at this point, but the wind was picking up. I allowed myself to wonder what would happen if I could speed up in the last 10k. But I knew I didn’t want to lose the wind protection and the mental boost of the group so I stayed put.
Miles 21-26.2: 6:52, 6:56, 6:49, 6:44, 7:23, 7:17, 7:10 (pace). Final time 3:00:29
I was really happy that I felt as strong as I did after crossing the 20 mile mark. I warned myself not to get too excited because there was a long way to go.
“If there is any day that you can do this,” I thought, “it’s today.”
At mile 23, I even started wondering if now was the time to leave the pack and speed up. I didn’t want a 3 hour time, I wanted a sub-three! But I knew as we left the protection of the neighborhoods and headed down to the beach, the winds would be in full force and I didn’t want to be alone for that.
Little did I know…
At some point Thomas mentioned there would be a good downhill at mile 24 before the flat beach and that last year he had taken the group 30 seconds too fast through it. I quite liked that idea, but just before we got there, the pack started pulling away.
I thought that I was slowing down, I had no idea that they were speeding up.
I lost contact with them even though I was running a sub-three-hour pace. I just didn’t know it.
So by the time I got down to the lake, I was all alone.
The full force of the 20mph headwinds hit me like a brick wall. One of the bike support volunteers (you can see her shadow in the picture above) told me that I was in third place.
Convinced that the pace group minutes ahead of me was on pace and I had fallen behind, I struggled to run as hard as I could the last two miles. I was not giving up and I do not think I could have run any harder than I did at that point.
I asked the biker if there was any woman behind me.
“Nope,” she replied, “this is all you.”
Oh, how I wish she had said, “Yes! She’s right behind you!!”
As I entered the finishing chute, I gave it everything I had and I was shocked to see how close I actually was to three hours.
When I talked with my coach, Jeff Gaudette, I told him I was worried that not taking in enough fuel played a big factor. He said that probably wasn’t the case.
“80-90% of the time you lost was due to the wind,” he told me. “But more importantly, what slowed you was mental.”
“When the pack pulled away from you,” he said, “you thought your goal was shot.” I subconsciously slowed down, even though consciously I was fighting as hard as I could.
Obviously, had I looked at my watch, I would have seen where I was, but at that point, I felt it didn’t matter. If I was running as hard as I possibly could go, what did the time matter?
Apparently, a lot.
Had I realized that I was not only on pace, but under pace during mile 25, Jeff told me, I would have gotten a shot of confidence and adrenaline that could have taken me to the the finish line just a little faster.
I’m also not in the habit of looking at overall time on a run. I look at pace, mile splits, and distance and ignore everything else.
Heck, if I simply had just the time of day showing, I would have known how close I was! Something to remember for next time.
But overall, I am thrilled with this race. I ended up finishing in 3rd place and I also have the swanky new title of being the 2017 Wisconsin State Female Master’s Champion!
“Don’t cha wish you coulda run 30 seconds faster, Mama?” asked my 8-year-old son the moment I got home.
Yes, of course I do. But this is still pretty good.