More than three years ago I set a goal to run a 3:30 marathon. The closest I got was 3:35. Last year I ran a 3:44 in Columbus and this past April I ran a 4:01 in Boston. That's when I decided I was burnt out on the marathon and decided to take up triathlon, again. Shortly into the training I remembered that I didn't like triathlon and also decided I was not done with the marathon. But this time I would get serious and I hired a coach.
I hired my coach about the same time I quit my job so I really haven't blogged much about my transition or my training. I had spoken with my coach early on saying I wanted to continue to bike and swim, but start to bring up my running miles. It wasn't long before we had to have another conference and I told her that I needed to be running more. Toeing the line today, I still had my doubts if it was enough. My biggest week was 39 miles. My last several marathons I have averaged 45-50 miles per week. But, this time around I worked hard! I did more speed-work than I've ever done. Even the last week of taper I was still heading out to do marathon pace runs and pick-ups. I did weight workouts. I shed 6 pounds. I followed strict nutrition plans. And, here's the kicker, I did ALL the workouts. I've never done that.
In September I caught a cold. Two weeks ago, it caught me again. Even now I am still coughing and have a scratchy throat. My whole training I've been battling plantar fasciitis. So badly, in fact, many of my last workouts have been on an elliptical machine. I've had some hip pain. And mostly, I've had a confidence issue. The reason I haven't yet been able to break 3:30 is that it's been in my head that I can't run an 8:00 mile for a full 26 miles.
This morning I was a wreck. I was cranky (per usual) and I was crying and I wondered what the hell I was doing. But, I lined up with the 3:30 pace group and shook all those demons. I talked to no one. I focused on the balloons, battled my way through aid stations, and kept the pace consistent. Every couple of miles I would do a full-body check: how's the head, how are the arms, how are the legs? Everything kept coming back as check, check, and check. At the half marathon point, I was just under a minute better than pace. By mile 18, I was right beside the pace leader. I listened to him, I checked my body, and I kept my mind clear. By mile 20, I was ahead of the pace leader and feeling great. Mile 21 went by, mile 22 went by. At mile 23, though, the pace leader passed me and I wasn't able to keep up. I kept my head under control, but my body was giving me mixed signals. I took a small 5 second walking break and I could hear my coach saying, NOT AN OPTION! I counted my steps and just kept turning my legs over. I remembered what the pace leader had said, "if you can see the balloons, you're fine." And I could. I kept falling further behind but I wasn't panicking. I passed mile 25 at 3:20 and knew I was going to PR. I pushed as hard as my little legs would take me. I saw my family at 26 and heard my dad say that I had to go if I wanted a 3:30. I ran and ran and ran and finished in 3:30:20. Sure, it's not sub-3:30, but it's still a PR by 5 minutes and now I've shaken that 3:30 monkey off my back.
Dave asked me on the ride home what was different this time and I'm still not sure I know. I have this great ability to block everything out when I run and think about absolutely nothing and today that ability came in handy. The miles passed by and I thought about nothing. There were no songs in my head, no mantras, nobody telling me anything. I just ran.
I want to thank my mom and dad, Dave, and my cousin Kenny for supporting me in the early miles. I want to thank all my friends from Wendy's Gymnastics who scattered the second half of the course. I saw most of you and those who I didn't see I definitely heard. I want to thank all my blog friends for sending such great warm wishes. And I especially want to thank Liz for helping me to trust the training, my abilities, and my goals. I might be the "rock star" today, but every good rock star needs a good manager, agent, and roadies to help them. Thank you all!