Tuesday, March 4, 2014

the phoenix marathon synopsis

the time I qualified for the Boston Marathon

Day before the race
The day before started like any other.  It was a typical work day.  I modified my work hours to be able to leave at 2pm.  This allowed us to get on the road to Phoenix with plenty of time to have an early bedtime.  The ride from Winslow to Phoenix was rough.  The elevation change significantly effected my sinuses.  By the time we made it to the rim, I was feeling absolutely nauseous due to blocked sinuses and my ears draining.  

When we finally made it to Mesa, I quickly perked up because of the walking and fresh air during the rack pick-up.  It was extremely well organized.  We then went straight to Olive Garden for our obligatory night before marathon dinner.  I had my usual soup and salad.  I ate generous portions and am glad that I did.  I thought it was important to have a decent meal. 

By 8:30 it was lights out at Kimmy's Gilbert house.  I prepared the best I could and earnestly tried to close my eyes and not think about the race at all.  It worked pretty well. 

3:54 am
At this time Kimmy poked her head in our room and said get up.  My alarm went off a minute later.  I got my race gear on in a matter of 4 minutes.  Jason was very kind to drive us to the bus loading area.  Alma School Road was a parking lot.  Just in the nick of time, we finally made it to the full marathon buses and boarded the bus that would take us to our destiny.  The bus ride was fine, but I will complain about one thing.  The annoying guy behind us was sharing his entire racing resume' with the seats around him.  Guy, no one cares about how you did 34 walk/jog marathons in 2012.  And, I present to you the funniest moment of the entire experience.  

Six Flags Bus
As we pulled up to the pitch black mountain preserve area, there seemed to be a collective, "oh crap"  from the runners on the bus.  One person stated it best of all. 
 "This is the Six Flags bus, right?"  
With the irony of the statement strong in the air, we all dutifully unloaded the bus to await our fate.  

Usery Park waiting game
We were feet away from this sign
The first order of business always takes place at the port o potties.  We waited in line of a solid 40 people.  It moved slowly, and I was struggling to wait patiently.  After wasting a good 20 minutes in that line, we sought shelter to get ourselves ready for the start.  Poked a hole in the garbage bag I would wear, placed my nutrition in my bra, put my ipod in a Ziploc, and did only about  30 seconds of stretching.  After killing another 20 minutes, it was time for a last minute pee.  During this time it also started to rain.  A soft rain, but enough to make both of panic.  As we waited in the potty line again, we realized we were cutting it super close to the start time.  We also noticed that the rain started to get heavier.  It  was still pitch black, so it was hard to tell how long or intense the rain would be.  I was prepared with a  small garbage bag that I poked my head through and nothing more.  

The best parts about the waiting game was the National Anthem complete with fireworks.  I am glad I got my little sentimental patriot moment.  Those are so precious you know.  

The Start
We did a speed walk down to the actual start line and quickly realized that we had less than a minute to find our pace group and get going.  Ahh, it cut it way too close.  We should have been down there minutes earlier.  We found a spot just ahead of the 3:45 pacer. Truthfully, I could barely see amongst the rain and dark and thousands of runners.  It was overwhelming.  I did not have a chance to get nervous at the start because we cut it so close because of our bathroom stop.  The starting line was crowded and the rain was considerably heavy and it was still pitch black.  We pushed our way in and waited for our chips to go over the timing mat so the fun could begin. 

Miles 1-4
It was crowded and the roads were borderline slippery because of the rain.  I definitely had some hesitancy in my step.  I did not want to slip...I biffed it last week, as evidenced by the this post.  Kimmy and I were side by side and were even talking a bit about pacing and things.  A helicopter hovered over the route and spotlighted the runners.  That was exciting.  At mile 2 we were still together, but Kimmy decided to hang back, and I decided to move up a tad.  This put me with the 3:40 pacing group.  Kimmy was just ahead of the 3:45 group.  This was the last time I saw her during the race.  

The sunrise happened during this time frame.  Because of the rain, it was the most boring Arizona sunrise ever.  I was very excited to see it and figured I would get a real treat out there on the course. Not with the rain!  

Mile 4
The weird thing about the first miles was that I had no clue how many miles we had done.  I never saw markers.  The first time I saw a marker was at mile 4, and in my head this was a little treat.  I thought it was only going to be 2 miles in.  I was still running right on with the 3:40 pace group.  Referring back to my fatal mistake at Carlsbad, I did not feel that I was over excited and going at a pace that I couldn't maintain.  I felt that I truly was holding back a little and that I would thank myself at the end.  It was hard not to go faster, but I decided to just run my race and relax.  

The next 4 miles were completely uneventful.  They wound through countless cookie cutter houses with nothing in particular to remember.  There was a pretty intense uphill section around mile 6.  It was not very steep, but it was a long haul up an incline.  I certainly felt that one in the quadriceps.  At the mile 7 aid station I realized that I needed to stop drinking Gatorade and start taking the offered water.  I had eaten an entire Power Bar and had started sipping on my first GU.  Adding Gatorade to that sugary mix was beyond me.  From this aid station to the end, I only took water.  That was a first for me.  

Crossing the Freeway
We finally got out of the daze that was cookie cutter homes and crossed over the 202.  This marked mile 10 and something to look at besides manicured homes.  Well, it was too good to be true.  We crossed over and ended up in another fancy neighborhood.  Except there was something amazing in this one.  Orange blossoms!  There were orange groves lining the streets that provided visitors with the most pleasant fragrance known in this world.  The fragrance blew me away.  I did not want to exhale.  It was intoxicating.

Mile 10
Somewhere after crossing the freeway I decided that I truly needed to run ahead of the 3:40 pacer and not behind him.  I knew that the pace was too slow for what I could do.  I made this decision ever so carefully.  Again, proceeding with caution because of my Carlsbad woes.  I made the decision and never saw the pacer again.  I was now a lone ranger out there.  I have to tell you I was so incredibly positive.  Mile 10 was a huge milestone.  I kept thinking in my head...it is now just a 16 mile race.  That is nothing!  

Boeing Plant
I was genuinely excited to make it to this point in the course.  It was one of the only areas on the course that I knew previous to the race.  It was also ridiculously close the halfway point.  After mile 11 I was anxious to see if baby Motorcycle and Jason would be somewhere out on the course.  He said he would try to be out there somewhere, so I banked on seeing them soon.  As we approached the Boeing Plant, we crossed McDowell and something and there was a huge line of cars stopped by policemen.  This was just like every other intersection on the course.  However, this time I swear I heard my name yelled from a car.  It was a guy voice yelling my name.  I even looked back but assumed it was for someone else.  After the race Jason told me how the traffic was a nightmare, and he had gotten stuck in the car trying to find a vantage point to cheer for us and frantically yelled my name when he saw me.  It was him after all!  He saw Kimmy just a few minutes behind me as well and cheered for her from the line of cars.  

The Boeing plant was neat to run by because there were a ton of planes and things.  With my brother being a pilot, I always find it exciting to see things like that in person.  We had to run through an underpass, and the wind was ridiculous.  The rain was long gone by this point, but the wind was pretty ferocious down through the underpass and up out of it.  This stretch took you right to the halfway point. 

13.1 Halfway
The halfway point took us right through the half marathon start.  It had signs everywhere and took you right over a chip mat sensor so that our half marathon time would be recorded.  I was pleased to see that my half marathon time was at 1 hour and 48 minutes.  This was the first time I had looked at my time for the entire race.  I also knew that a 1 hr 47 min time was on pace for Boston.  I realized my BQ dream was not far out of reach.  I maintained my strong pace but still held back just a tad with the expectation that I would need it for mile 17 and onward.  I learned after the race that Kimmy was just 3 minutes behind me.  

At this point I continued to not put any pressure on myself.  I was running because it was fun.  I was doing well because I was ready to race hard.  

Miles 14-17
I started bracing myself to feel fatigued. I knew the wall was coming.  My mind was so positive.  I could have been running through a field of dog poop and still felt positive.  The one thing that was intense was my legs.  They were definitely feeling tired...maybe more so than other races.  I think this is because of the amount of downhill that the course had.  That can be good for your time, but hard on your quads.  By this time my ipod started doing weird things.  It would turn off during a song.  When turned on again, it would only play for about 3 minutes and turn off again.  I dealt with this for the entire rest of the race.  It was greatly annoying since all I wanted to do was enjoy my perfected playlist.  I only heard about 10 of the same songs over and over because of the malfunction.  I heard 50 Cent "Baby By Me" seriously 6 times.  The truth is that this malfunction occupied my mind.  I fiddled with my ipod the whole time.  This probably served me well in terms of staying positive.  

Also a word on food.  By mile 15 I had consumed 2 GUs, 2 Power Bars, Gatorade at 2 stations, and water at every station.  I was basically eating the entire race.  This was different from other races.  I have never consumed that much food out on a course.  

Mile 17
At mile 17 I had a personal celebration.  This was the placed where I died out in Carlsbad.  I knew that I was rocking the race when I passed mile 17 and still felt like I was holding back.  I was smiling and had spring in my step.  It was at this place that I finally decided to pick it up a bit.  I didn't know anything about my time.  I wanted to just run smart and get a PR.  If Boston came along with it, so be it.  I wasn't setting myself up to crash again. 
This mile check in was a strong indicator that I was destined to be celebrating at the line.  

Mile 17-20
This area of the course was along busy Mesa roads. I also thought to myself that the weather was way too good to be true.  How is it possible that the 3 hours on the one morning we were running a race in Phoenix did it actually remain cool, overcast, and absolutely perfect?  Your typical CVS and Circle K on every corner is all I could see.  I have no memory of anything notable along any part of this stretch.  At mile 20 they had the camera men set up taking the obligatory race photos that no one buys.  I won't even lie right now...I stood a little taller and tried to look a bit more photogenic as I passed through their photo area.  Mile 20 took us into downtown Mesa.  

Mile 20
At mile 20 I was seriously ready to start kicking it in. Again, I knew I was the real thing when I still hadn't hit the wall.  I picked it up a little and noticed that I was starting to reel people in.  In other words, I was catching up with the snail pace half marathoners and full marathoners who straight up were battling the wall.  A word on half marathoners for a moment...Why?  Why do you walk and/or walk-jog a half marathon?  You are setting yourself up for injury.  Train for a race that your body can be successful at.  That's probably mean, but I just don't understand. This is the conversation I was having in my mind at this point in the race.  There was just so many of them, and I just couldn't help but wonder.  

Mile 21
I had another gel shot offered to me even though I was so sick of eating such an intense amount of sugar and electrolytes.  I started really thinking about how and when I would start my final kick.  It took everything I had to not start it right then.  I was still so happy and positive.  Extremely tired legs but mind was so positive.  A race official could have said that the course had been extended to climb Camelback Mountain, and I would have smiled and said, awesome!  Seriously, nothing was going to ruin my good run.  

Miles 22-24
Still loving life...still mad about my ipod...still annoyed with walking half marathoners...still wanting to sprint.  I never saw the marker for 22, so when 23 came up, I really got excited.  At mile 24 I passed two diva girls that had passed me very early in the race around mile 8.  One of them had hit the wall bad.  And the other was doing all in her power to cheer her on.  It was a neat thing to see out on the course.  The one girl was literally willing the other girl to finish.  That is a neat thing about running.  

Mile 25
I never saw the marker for 25.  As a girl started to pass me, I told her good job and asked if it was the last mile yet.  She said we had less than a mile!  I immediately got in sprinter form and went all out gazelle stride down the hill (Alma School).  I seriously was hauling.  Again, completely unaware of my time.  I just had tons of gas in the tank and wanted to finish strong.  That has always been my motto.  Finish with everything you have...a lesson learned in high school cross country.  

Mile 26
I actually saw the marker for mile 26 and knew that I just had the .2 left.  When I saw this, I then went on my toes.  It was sprinter beast mode.  Then it happened.  I saw the clock amongst all the balloons and finish line.  The clock was reading 3:34:45...are you kidding me?  I had no clue how close I was.  I seriously sprinted even more than I was.  I crossed the chip sensor mat thing and I could actually see 3:35:07.  I figured I had barely missed out on Boston by 7 seconds but didn't care because I ran such a good race.  I was okay with hit.  Shoot, I was beyond okay with it.  I was so freaking happy.  

reunited with my Motorcycle minutes after the race
Jason was waiting on the other side of the gate and quickly put Callum over the gate, so I could hold him.  Oh, how I love those boys.  Jason chased us all around, and I'm pretty sure Callum had a rough day.  Jason lifted me over the gate so that we could stand and wait for Kimmy to finish.  While we were waiting, I sat on the curb and nursed Callum.  Jason said there were a few people that gave me weird looks.  Whatever.  That totally annoys me. 

Kimmy finishes
Kimmy finished with a PR despite a ridiculous foot injury on the course.  I won't expound...that is her domain.  We had Steve on the phone while she was in the medical tent.  It was bad.  

Steve was able to confirm my time at 3:34:30.  I could not believe I had done it.  Wow.  Incredible.  

I am somewhat dumbfounded about this race.  I knew I would PR.  I knew that I had somewhat of a chance to get near a BQ time, but I wasn't going to chase it during the race.  I think my laid back, have fun, don't get nervous approach really helped me.  I managed to stay positive for virtually every mile.  I never fought with my mind to keep going.  I also think that the amount of calories I consumed during the race was a big part of my success.  The grand total of what I consumed consists of : 2 vanila crisp Power Bars, 2 GUs (Lemon Lime & Strawberry Banana), 3 Cliff gel shots offered on the course, 2 orange slices, 2 small banana slices, large gulp of water at miles 7,9,11,13,15,17,19,21,23, Gatorade at miles 3 and 5.  Lastly, I think my lack of strategy and time keeping and nerve gathering were key ingredients to just running for fun.  

As always, I am extremely grateful that I am able to do things like this.  I truly believe that I am a better person because I have learned how to set a goal and see it through  This lesson transcends into many other parts of my life.  I am grateful for Jason.  He is way too supportive.  I am hard on him and sometimes even act like I am entitled to his support.  I will always be undeserving of his kindness and love towards me.  

What is next?  
Well, I am trying to walk and sit down and use stairs without pain at this point.  I'll go for some walks this coming week.  Other than that, I won't think about running until at least a week and a half.  I plan to finish out the school year running with my high school sprinters.  I have only been running with them on easy days since I have been right in the mix of my own training for the aforementioned race.  Now I will be able to beast mode sprint with my sprinters.  I would also really really love to get back to a more regular weight room routine.  

In terms of going forward with the Boston thing, I set the goal more with the idea of being able to say I ran that time.  Now that I could actually register and possibly be selected to run for 2015, I am seriouslyt thinking about it.  It is a once in a lifetime thing.  I may not want to pass that up.  

Yee'go Yee'go Yee'go

3:34:30 Personal Best

I end with some questions...Who says you can't do it all?  Working mom? Nursing mom?  Graduate student?  New career?  Marathon training? High school track coach?  Enough said.  


Janae Balibrea said...

You are one awesome woman. Seriously. Congratulations!

McKenna said...

This was amazing. I loved reading this and love that you are getting to do so much of what you love and succeed at it all with flying colors. RUN IN BOSTON!!!