Pink is for PRs

Finally getting back into marathon racing. This was a last minute decision to run the Mesa, AZ Marathon as my originally planned marathon in January was cancelled because of what other than COVID. Could not waste a marathon training session!

I had begun my marathon training at the end of October 2021. My last marathon had been Chicago Marathon October 2018. It had been 3 years since I had pushed my body to another level but I was ready! I felt I had a good balance of interval speed work, tempo runs, easy runs, and long runs. The month of January left Michigan sidewalks covered in snow and ice so I had to take to the treadmill for my last 3 long runs but it allowed me to practice my fueling and mental strength which made me feel confident going into this race. 

I had gotten in Thursday night and had great conversation with a man named Mike for most of the flight down. He was also running the marathon and we had run in a couple halves together locally this past year. I knew I had recognized him from the Dexter-Ann Arbor half marathon I had done in August. Sara from Elevate Your Running coaching picked me up from the Phoenix Airport. It was already a busy weekend in the Phoenix area due to the PGA tour in town. I was very grateful Sara and her friends Austin and Abby had room for me to stay with them at their AirBnB. 

Friday we ran a 20 minute shake out run. Sara then lead Abby and myself through some dynamic stretching and strides. We went out for our run at 8am to get a feel of the temperature and knowing we would be almost halfway through our marathon around this time. It was so nice to not have the humidity in the air so I wasn’t all sweaty! I felt really good after running this and not feeling like the elevation was bothering at all.

We went to the expo to grab our bib and shirt for our races. It was nice that the expo was outside and could walk around. While I was wearing my Houston Marathon shirt and man had come up to me asking if I was the world record holder. I knew he was joking but I know I will never be at those women’s level of running. I’m here to chase down my own PRs. 

We were able to drive the course after the expo. It was useful to see how all the turns would go and the 2 mile hill climb we had starting at mile 4. Then we all relaxed during the afternoon. I enjoyed getting to know my roommates better who are all living in Colorado right now. While Sara and Austin recorded an episode of their podcast for Elevate Your Running, Abby made us a delicious dinner to have our fueled and ready for our race in the early morning. Flat Jessie was laid out after questioning what I would wear. I felt like I hydrated well throughout the day and had a great night sleep with an 8pm bedtime.

An early 3:15am wake up call (which was actually 5:15am for me back in Michigan which is completely normal for me) got us going in the morning. I packed me bagel and PB, banana, and Fig bar for the bus. Austin was nice enough to drop us off at 4:15am as Abby headed to the half marathon buses and Sara and I to the full marathon buses. We were able to hop right now to drive away and head to the start of the race. We got to the start a little after 5am. The street was lined with port-a-pottys and heaters and many many runners huddled up together. Sara and I decided to sit to rest our legs as the race did not start until 6:30am. I got to finally meet Krista who is a fellow IG and Strava friend who had actually recommended me joining this race. After multiple bathroom stops and a quick 5 minute shake out run between the lined up buses and dynamic stretching, it was go time. My kids and hubby actually tried to FaceTime be before the race but I couldn’t hear so they sent me the sweetest video that boosted my spirits before the race. We listened to the Star Spangled Banner at the start of the race as fireworks went off. Krista and I lined up in front of the 3:35 pacer. Sara had a much faster goal ahead of us.

The temperature was a nice cool 53 degree start. It was pretty dark starting off but was nice to run along the sunrise. I had Krista take off as I knew she was more ambitious to meet her goal for this race as I hoped to survive and wanted to hold back at the start. There was a good downhill at the start. I was averaging about 8:05 min/mi for the first 4 miles. I started taking in some pretzels as fuel at mile 4 but then switched to the rest of my fig bar as it was easier to eat. We then had the 2 mile climb which was definitely steady throughout it. I was averaging 8:30 min/mi during the climb but I still felt good during it knowing the rest of the course was either downhill or flat. I was staying ahead of the 3:35 pacer at this point. 

After the hill, we had more downhills where I was averaging 7:50 min/mi. I was feeling good. Around mile 9, I had an applesauce squeeze pouch. So far was so good as I kept my legs moving. My heart rate was staying in the high 160s/low 170s. As soon as I hit mile 12, I was noticing some stomach GI issues. I knew there would be bathrooms at mile 13 as that was the race start for the half marathon runners. I made it just in time before I reached the half way point of the race. I crossed halfway around 1:46. At this point I was still thinking that as long as I keep at my current 7:50ish pace I could maybe hit my Plan A goal of getting a BQ. It was nice to see Tucker (Sara’s coach and who brought us all together from our Mastermind meetings for running coaches) at the 13 mile mark!

As I hit mile 15 though, I could feel the heat beating on me. My pace started slowing down at that point. I took a salt tablet as I knew I was sweating a lot but not feeling it since there was not any humidity. I was definitely hoping I would notice a difference but many it helped me not to give in to the doom of trying to finish this marathon. Fueling was getting harder for me to take in at this point. I was trying to take in Chews. I was grateful I was running with my hydrating vest with water + electrolytes in it. I still grabbed water at every water station at this point. The 3:35 pacer had passed me around this point as I saw my Plan A goal go out the window.

We approached mile 19 and I needed another bathroom stop. This one was much quicker which I was grateful for. I took the 3 pink (pink for PRs) sports jelly beans Sara gave me as I do not own anything pink. They had caffeine so I hoped I would feel something since I never take in caffeine (no not a coffee drinker here). At this point I started walking through the water stations to grab water and take it all in. For the whole course, the water stations were on every odd number starting at mile 3. I was making sure to grab water at them all. I just kept telling myself I need to make it to the next water station and no stopping. 

There seemed to be a larger gap between water stations where the water stop switched to be at mile 22 instead of 21. The miles were really starting to feel long at this point. This was the first time I actually listened to music during a race. During the beginning of the race, a lot of the songs timed out well along the course to pump me up but not it was just grinding background noise to get me through. I really think I need to pick better song choices though. At first I was mostly picking songs that had a beat of 180bpm in hopes I would keep my cadence up throughout the race. The course was winding around a lot at this point and not one was passing me, course I think a lot of us were tiring in the heat.

I had grabbed my last water around mile 24 and could see the 3:40 pacer in the distance coming out of the bathroom. They had another one at mile 25 but I skipped it as there was only 1 mile left and I didn’t want to walk through another water station. At this point, I thought maybe I could hit my Plan B goal of under 3:40. I had been chugging along at an average of 9:15 min/mile for miles 21 through 25 at this point. The last mile I picked up the pace to 8:36 min/mile in hopes I could make it. My body besides my stomach honestly felt fine, but my heart rate had gotten into the high 170s for the second half of the race which had worn me out. The last 0.2 mile I was “sprinting” as fast as I could go at 7:21 min/mile. Some people were not happy I was passing them. I crossed the line with a chip time of 3:40:59…not making my Plan B but actually my Plan C of under 3:45.

I was glad to be done. I don’t remember having any feelings after this than “thank goodness”. The first thing I did was call my husband, who I hope joked about me not coming home unless I get a 3:20 then retracted to 3:30 then 3:40. I first asked if I could still come home…so I guess I was a bit disappointed because I did feel stronger going into this race. But can’t mess with the heat especially when I have been training in below freezing temperatures for awhile now. I’m grateful Abby let me know where they all were waiting. Abby got a PR in her half, Sara a PR and another BQ in her full, and Krista the same with a PR and another BQ. That is the great thing about running is there are so many things to celebrate with other people. I did get a postpartum PR as this was my first marathon after having 2 kids. 

We walked the mile plus back to our AirBnB to shower, despite not really being sweaty, I was definitely salty! Everyone wanted margaritas after the race so we found a good Mexican place to eat. My legs were sore pretty quickly after the race, especially my quads from all the downhill running and my calves. It was nice to reminisce on the race now that it was over and behind us. I soaked in the last of the warm sunshine as my new friends dropped me off to the airport to head home. Mike was also on the same flight home as we relived our survival stories from the race again. We all have different journeys and experiences from the race. 

As I plan my next running goals I am reflecting on a nice conversation with Sara during our shake out run about my goals and what I am hoping to achieve. I have definitely had different expectations about my running after having 2 kids now. It is hard not to compare to my previous self before kids. I seemed to be such a natural with running when I started as I BQed (Boston Qualified) my first 3 marathons before going to the Boston Marathon in 2013. I had self coached myself to reach new PRs in all distances yet now I feel stuck in my paces despite being a more responsible runner this time around. I definitely refuel better, allow time for yoga, use the Normatec after hard runs, back off if I feel an injury coming on, still incorporate speed work, etc. I also realized a key difference besides not enough down time with needing to be on with 2 kids is the fact that I have hormones to deal with in my training now. From the time I started marathon training in May 2011 until December 2020, I suffered from amenorrhea (whether due to my low weight and high intensity life style now called RED-S or due to the fact I was breastfeeding). This is not a healthy place for the body. I suffered from my share of injuries during that time that were on going and not fueling the body enough for the work I was requiring it to do but I also wasn’t dealing with the ever changing female hormones. As I move forward I need to learn to work with my hormones instead of fighting them to succeed in my running goals. I know I have much more speed still in me as I still see a marathon PR and possibly under 3 hour marathon this in me. I have not hit my peak fitness yet. Patience is really hard for me but we will get there. For now I will enjoy the time off not having to run in sub-freezing icy conditions. This year’s goals will include getting under 1:40 in the half, work on faster cadence (I’ve slowed up this winter), and getting faster at shorter distances before competing in more marathons next year.

Things I am grateful for from the weekend:

  • hubby being supportive of my dreams to let me attempt another marathon and be with the kids.
  • new friends who welcomed me by allowing me to stay with them last minute.
  • AZ sunshine (even if it isn’t fun to race in)
  • hubby waiting up with the Normatec for my legs when I got home.
  • my family who loves me and kids who think I win the race no matter my time.

Tell me about your recent race.

What are your goals for this year?

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