I am, after all, retired from marathons you know. The last time I retired was in 2009 after the Tucson Marathon disaster.
I'm not gonna lie. While this marathon hurt less than any other marathon I've ever done, the training hurt 10 times more. I ran harder, longer, faster, and with many more miles than I've ever done. My body seemed to be handling everything really well until the Holidays. While we were in Mexico for about 10 days, I put in a LOT of miles. Long miles, short miles, fast miles, easy miles. The only thing I can think of was these miles were all on the same route. Our neighborhood is in a gated community where the "sand" roads are maintained by plowing over them and packing them down until they are HARD. It's very unforgiving and the pounding took it's toll.
After we returned from vacation I got back into my normal routine and headed back to Kinesis class. Even though I felt fine, I remember laughing about my quads just trembling during every exercise. Clearly, they were not recovered. I woke up the next day in some serious pain in my knees.
For the next 2 months I spent every night rolling out my quads. I was going to my ART guy sometimes twice a week just trying to keep the pain manageable. Most normal people would stop the training, but I'm too stubborn. I knew it wasn't really an injury, and my ART guy basically told me I just needed rest. 8 weeks out from a marathon doesn't really give much room for rest, however.
So, I did what I could to get through the training, but it was painful. My knees basically hurt for 2 months straight. Because of this, I sorta lost the fun in the training. I absolutely love distance training. I love been physically exhausted and soaking in the endorphins of training and racing. But, this was different. Of course I could have just quit, but I've never quit something just because it got hard, and I was most certainly not about to do it now....
Fast forward to the week before the race. I finally began to feel better. I cut back a bit on the taper that Michelle had me doing. I just listened to my body (and my mind) and did what I wanted. I went to the start of the race more calm and confident than any other race I'd been in. I knew that I had trained harder and the fitness was without a doubt there. My goal was a 3:35 which I thought was totally doable as long as I paced myself in the first half of the race and my knees held up. My BQ time was 3:40.
Jen and I had done completely different training plans, but our Tucson half times were very close so I figured we would be similar paces. While she had an extra 5 mins more than me to BQ we were both shooting for faster times. We lined up behind the 3:35 pacer and just tried to stay by him for the entire first half. While the miles just kept clicking away feeling effortless around 8 min mile pace, I started to feel pretty positive about how the day was going to go. I did have to make a potty break around mile 7, but it was on a downhill so I was able to catch back up to Jen very quickly. I did everything as scheduled. Gels every ~4 miles, e21 every hour and Tylenol halfway through.
My breathing stayed super relaxed and my knees never bothered me. I remember telling Jen around mile 8 how badly my body wanted to run faster, but I knew if I took off then, my race would be over at mile 18. This is 100% where years of racing (and epically failing) and practicing negative split runs comes into play.
Unfortunately due to lack of strength training in the last 6 weeks (because of my knees) and the downhill, my quads were already tight and feeling cramping about 8 miles into the race. I'm so happy I had my e21 with me, and that I had given Shane 2 extra just in case.
We went through the halfway mark slightly under pace at about 1:47. Shane popped in at mile 18 to pace me the rest of the way. I still felt pretty great up until about mile 22. Then it was all about keeping on Shane's heels and digging. I was scared to push too hard until the last mile, for fear of blowing up I knew that I had the BQ in the bag - but I still wanted to get under 3:35 to get that extra 5 min window to register early. I shoved every nutrient I could get my hand on and stomach in the last 3 miles (gotta love Ironman experience - eat eat eat!). I never sprinted, or pushed to the point of hurting myself, but I definitely pushed hard to get to that finish line in time.
Jen finished just behind me by a few seconds and we both went sub 3:35 getting our BQ slots, Jen also getting 2nd in her age group. Theresa also came in 3 minutes under her BQ time making all 3 of us hitting our goals!
The celebration continued into the next day with an amazing Sunday brunch. There is a whole lotta athletic talent sitting at this table, and in rare form we are all dressed like normal ladies instead of spandex and lululemon wearing tom boys :) It was a super fun day, full of mimosas good food and of course a little bit of peer pressure for others to sign up for a marathon.
Setting goals and laying them all out for everyone to see and watch is never easy, but boy is the success of hitting those goals worth the pain and hard work. All that said... I really am retired from marathons (Boston is the only exception but it is about FUN, not speed). I miss being a triathlete and can't wait to get back in the saddle.