Even though the 18 week training plan officially started on October 26th, I really started building a good base in August. I wanted to get my body used to running 6 days a week.
I was laser focused and disciplined all through training. I literally followed the training plan to a tee, including both distance and pace. I only missed 3 runs (all easy recovery runs) due to strep throat in January.
The week before the marathon was rough. I was so excited, but also nervous and began to let doubts creep in. I could hardly run even a few miles cause I felt so sluggish. I kept giving myself pep talks and read every motivational thing I could. I even listened to the audio book Elite Minds on my drive to Phoenix and got some good advice.
I met Moni, Larissa, and Christie at Olive Garden for our pre race dinner. FYI my pesto is waaaay better than Olive Garden's.
After dinner I went straight to the hotel, made sure my race stuff was ready, and watched netflix. Lights out around 9:30, but to be honest I don't think I slept much. I woke up around 2:30 and couldn't fall back asleep so I finally got out of bed at 3:05 and drank some warm lemon water (my morning ritual). Then I slowly got dressed, ate my banana nut loaf, and drank a water bottle full of nuun. I finally left the hotel around 3:50, which I'm glad I did because the freeway on ramp was closed so I had to drive through main streets all the way to the race.
On the bus ride to the start line I ate half of my banana. I got to the start area at Usery Mountain around 5:15 and went straight for the porta potties since there was no line. Then I huddled around a fire pit with some random people and talked about running (what else?!) and finished my banana. After one last stop at the porta potties, I dropped off my gear bag and headed to the start line. Right away I found the 3:35 pacer and stood a little ways back from that pack. I didn't want to run with a big group of people, but knew I needed to keep the pacer in my sight at all times. I also did something I had never done before...I ate one of my gels right before the race started. I was feeling hungry and it had been awhile since my breakfast so I figured, why not?
The first few miles are downhill so I wanted my pace to be effortless. I started my audio book (Elite Minds) and just tried to think that this was no big deal, just another long run. I stayed right behind the 3:35 pace group and didn't even check my mile splits. After 1 mile I threw my long sleeve shirt off and dropped my gloves. Things were starting to heat up!
Miles 5 and 6 are a pretty significant hill, more so than I remember from last time. I definitely felt like I was working harder now, but I knew it wouldn't last long so I didn't let myself get psyched out. Although the 3:35 pace group had gotten a ways ahead of me, I could still clearly see them. Right on track. I had my second gel at the top of this hill, around 45 minutes in.
Finally the course started going downhill again and I got back into my groove. I was pretty close to the pace group at this point and just litening to my audiobook. I wasn't checking my watch at all yet. I was focusing on taking in a gel every 30 minutes, so I took a third one around mile 10/11.
When I got to the half marathon start, I rewarded myself with music and another gel. I also checked my watch and saw that I was at 1:47. A little faster than I had thought I could do, but nothing to worry about. I still felt really good at this point.
I don't remember much along the next few miles, except that I was happy. I kept smiling and picturing myself crossing the finish line with a BQ. At mile 16 I started the countdown for how many miles left. I thought about all the training runs I had done around 10 miles and knew that I could do this.
I continued to take a gel every 30 minutes, and also got water at every aid station (every odd mile). I think I took Gatorade a few times, but mostly stuck with water.
Miles 21, 22, and 23 were my hardest. I could feel myself starting to slow down, and usually I would just give in at this point and let myself. However, this time I kept talking to myself and refused to give in. I saw a lady run past me who had good running form. I told myself I was going to stay right with her, and I did. I talked to her a little and we kept encouraging each other. I used the beat from the music and the thought of crossing the finish line keep pushing me forward. Surprisingly, I wasn't in any pain (besides the usual fatigue/discomfort from running 26 miles) and felt pretty good.
At mile 24 I started to pick up the pace because I knew I was going to meet my goal, possibly even better than I imagined. I couldn't believe it, but in the last mile I passed so many people I had seen at the beginning of the race who I thought I could never catch up to. When I turned the corner and started coming down the last stretch, I saw my sisters waving and jumping up and down. I yelled to them, "I'm going to do it!" and got a little teary eyed. I ran as fast as I could until the finish line and threw my arms into the air. I was smiling and sobbing at the same time. I did it. I freaking did it.
3:34:59. A 20 minute PR, and qualified for Boston!!!!!!!!