Pre-Race and Goals:
I decided to sign up for this race in late March- quite a bit later notice than I would normally give myself for a marathon. I had just come off a BQ of 3:28 at California International Marathon in December and a strong half marathon (1:36) at the Austin half marathon in February. My motivation for doing another marathon was that I knew that a 3:28 was right on the cusp of wave 2 and wave 3 for Boston and from the advice of friends they all recommended I try to get into wave 2 to get an earlier start time. I knew if I could just cut my time down by a minute or two my chances would be much greater. My original plan was to run the new Sandia Crest Marathon in September in hopes that the 5,000 foot elevation drop would help me cut my time down quite a bit. However, after talking with several of my friends I decided that this would not be the best choice for my body and that the training would be pretty difficult to pull off logistically. I also wanted to feel like I truly earned my BQ time and not to put down anyone who has run a BQ on a downhill course but to me personally I feel like it is cheating a little bit. I knew it would not feel good to go to Boston and run 15- 20 minutes slower than my qualifying time. So for all these reasons and the fact that I was running so well these past few months I decided sooner is better and set my mind on Colfax. I had already run the marathon at Colfax two other times before so I also had the added advantage of knowing the course and what to expect.
I really stepped up my training for this race compared to CIM. Instead of running 40-50 miles/week I decided to run 60-70 miles/week and commit to strength training twice a week. I also really pushed myself to do more speed work and run my easy runs at a little bit faster pace than I had in the past. I was a little nervous about getting injured but knew if I wanted to improve from CIM I had to step up my game a little bit. I was pretty exhausted from the training and often went to bed at 8 or 9 PM in my peak training weeks but I just kept telling myself it would be worth it in May.
My goals going into this race were:
A-goal: low 3:20’s
B-goal: beat my time of 3:28
C-goal: BQ (sub 3:35)
My Running History:
I started running seriously as a freshman in high school and ran cross country all four years. Honestly, I was never a stellar runner in high school. I was mostly an upper JV-lower varsity runner. I had transitioned from being a gymnast to a runner and it took quite a few years for me to get the hang of the pacing and training. By my senior year I was becoming a pretty solid runner and even ran my first half marathon at the end of my senior year coming in at a 1:41.
When I went to college is when I became very serious about running and everything clicked for me. I joined the marathon team at UT Austin and my running really took off. By my sophomore year I was running a sub 20 5k, a sub 40 10k, a sub 90 half, and a sub 3:10 marathon. My all- time marathon PR was a 3:08 at Grandma’s marathon in 2011 my junior year of college. I was running 70-85 miles a week and had lots of fast teammates to push me along with some very good coaching and access to athletic trainers and nutritionists. While on the outside it appeared that everything was going amazing for me the truth is that I had some serious health issues going on during this time. The truth is that I was losing weight steadily throughout my sophomore and junior years of college. It was a combo of the stresses of majoring in math and the pressure to perform athletically. I didn’t have anorexia or bulimia, I just became obsessed with exercise and became consumed with exercising any chance I got- often 2-3 times per day. During this time I actually ate quite a bit by an average females standards- after having a nutritionist analyze my diet at the time I was eating about 3,000 calories a day but with the 10 miles minimum I was running every single day plus additional cross training it was just not enough to keep weight on me. I noticed that as I dropped weight running became easier for me and it took much less effort to run faster. I was constantly praised for how fit I looked and how well I was performing so I never doubted what I was doing. Before I knew it I was the strongest girl on the team by a significant amount.
Racing in Texas Independence Relay at my lowest weight
Ultimately, my constant PR’s and successes lasted for a good two years and then at the end of my junior year everything came crashing down on me. I got two stress fractures in my foot within a few months, lost my period for 2 years, constantly felt cold and dizzy, and became very irritable and cranky. Most notably, running became a job and I lost all the joy I used to get from it. I felt like everyone expected me to be the top girl on our team and I knew if I didn’t keep up what I was doing that would not be possible. Sadly after my junior year under the advisement of doctors and coaches I had to significantly reduce my mileage and focus on gaining weight and getting healthy. I still ran around 30-40 miles a week during this time but I took a couple of years off seriously racing.
After getting myself to a healthy weight and clearing up my injuries I started getting serious about marathons again in 2015. My first few marathons back I would run in the 3:40’s which was frustrating knowing that I used to run a 3:08. I qualified for Boston 8 times in college but never went because of the cost and not being able to take time off of school. In early 2017 once I was back in the groove with running and feeling healthy again I decided to make going to Boston a goal for myself. Long story short, I had a couple BQ misses due to throwing up in a race (RNR AZ 2017) and running in 80 degrees (Austin 2017) but at CIM 2017 I finally qualified with a 3:28 giving me a 7 minute margin from my 3:35 qualifying time. To date, I have run a total of 14 marathons and BQ’d at 10 of them.
When my alarm went of at 4 A.M. on Sunday May 20th I was surprisingly not that tired considering how little sleep I had gotten from tossing and turning all night long due to nerves and an uncomfortable bed. I was a little extra nervous about this race because I had put in some serious training and didn’t want to be disappointed. I had just come off of a 1:33 half at the Run for the Zoo compared to a 1:39 half training for CIM so I had much higher expectations for myself this time around. This also the first marathon I did not have a pace group to at least start with so I was nervous about pacing myself the whole 26.2 miles. My friend Sarah and I drove to the start and sat in the car for about a half hour to stay warm. Once it was getting close to the start time I went to the restroom twice and headed to start and found my place in my corral about 5 minutes before the gun went off. It was in the 40’s so I was shivering at the start but I knew that once I started running the cooler temps would feel great.
The gun went off and I used the pace setting on my watch to try to keep myself somewhere in the 7:40’s. I would look at my watch and kept finding myself dipping into 6:40’s-6:50’s so I really had to focus on holding myself back in the early miles. Not surprisingly I had to pee again at mile 2 which got me a little stressed but I still managed to run a 7:47/mile with a pit stop in there. My mile 5 I was getting in the groove and holding a pace somewhere between 7:40 and 7:50. Mile 6 was pretty memorable getting to do a stadium run through in the Broncos stadium. I felt pretty amazing at this point but couldn’t help but wonder how I would feel the next time I was in the stadium at mile 20??. After the stadium run through was some of the tougher miles of the course. Mile 6-8 and miles 11-16 were a net uphill so I know I had some pretty serious work ahead of me. Fortunately I managed to stay in the 7:40’s pretty comfortably and even I few miles in the 7:30’s despite all the uphill. I kept wondering if I was going too hard but tried to keep myself in a positive mindset despite my doubts. Thankfully miles 8-10 were nice and flat running around Sloan Lake so I think that helped me recover a bit before running more uphill. I stuck with my plan of taking a Gu every 4 miles and so far everything seemed to be going according to plan. Around mile 12 it started raining for about 20 minutes which I didn’t expect but I tried not to let it get me down. It was a bummer to be soaked and I could feel blisters forming on my feet with my wet socks but again I tried to keep myself in a positive state of mind. I had to pee again at mile 15 and made a pit stop again at a port-a-potty in the middle of a big hill. Mile 15 was my slowest mile at an 8:13 but I was still pretty proud of hitting that time despite a pit stop and a big uphill.
The rain stopped by mile 16 and mile 16 was also the highest part of the course so I knew things would get easier from here. I couldn’t help but feel a wave of excitement once we turned around and started going downhill. I didn’t want to get too confident because I know anything can happen especially in the last miles of a marathon but I just kept thinking to myself, “10 miles mostly downhill to go, I got this”. I also always save my music for the last 10 miles so I have something to look forward to. Putting in my headphones and listening to some of my favorite songs helped give me an extra boost and from miles 16- 24 I was running in the 7:20’s – 7:30’s without feeling like I was totally killing myself. The net downhill definitely helped and during these miles I kept reflecting on how much hard training I put in this spring. I kept telling myself it’s just another weekly tempo run from here.
Mile 20 through the Broncos Stadium
By mile 20, I was still feeling very strong cardio-wise but my legs were definitely starting to feel it. I tried to ignore the pain and kept saying to myself “My legs feel amazing”. Particularly on my right side everything kept getting tighter and tighter especially my hip and by mile 22 I started to feel like stride was shortening significantly. Around mile 24 there is a pretty significant uphill going into downtown Denver. I closed my eyes and pumped my arms as hard as I could but it felt like an eternity getting up that hill. By the time I reached the top my right hip, quad, and hamstring were very tight and I felt a slight limp in my stride. This is the point where I really had to dig deep mentally. I looked at my watch and I was at about 3:05. After struggling for a few minutes to do the math I figured I could hit my goal of a 3:25 pretty easily even if I had to slow down significantly these last 2 miles. This gave me hope and again I got a wave of excitement knowing I had this in the bag at this point. I was definitely in pain but it was no worse than the pain I felt on my grueling weekly tempo runs so I knew I was tough enough to work through it. I just focused on one foot in front of the other for all of mile 24-mile 25. Mile 25 was my second slowest mile at an 8:02.
Digging Deep-one foot in front of the other
Once I hit the mile 25 sign I was at around 3:13. I knew my watch was about a quarter mile ahead of the course so I would actually be running about 26.4 miles. Right at the mile 25 sign a woman from the marathon relay passed me and super enthusiastically told me that I looked incredible for running 25 miles and encouraged me to finish hard. This came just at the right time for me and gave me a boost to go all out for my last 1.2 miles. As soon as she passed me I gritted my teeth and pumped my arms as hard as I could while trying to ignore my very tight right side. Effort wise I felt like I was for sure running a sub 7 mile but I was really running 7:40’s. Everything was burning and I started to get that depleted delusional feeling you get at the end of a long endurance race. I closed my eyes several times during that final mile and just kept telling myself, “this will be over in a few minutes, you have sacrificed so much for this race, you have to go all out NOW.” I also knew that my coworker and travel buddy Sarah would be waiting for me at the finish. Sarah had sprained her ankle in the half marathon and ended up in the medical tent at the finish line so this gave me some added inspiration to finish strong for her. I knew she was disappointed and would be looking to me, her first coach- searching for some new motivation. I later found out that in the moment she watched me finish from the medical tent she made a commitment to sign up for her first full marathon. Of course the last .2 miles felt like an eternity but once I saw the finish line I tried to kick it in as much as I could. I couldn’t help but smile as I finished knowing I had totally crushed my CIM time by 6 minutes!!
I think I was in shock for a few minutes but as soon as I hobbled through the finisher zone and went to look for my friend Sarah it hit me that I was totally set for Boston next year and I felt an overwhelming since of relief. For the past two years everything has been about getting to Boston and getting the best placement time I can so it’s an amazing feeling to finally have that weight lifted off my shoulders and know that I should be in wave 2. As an added bonus since I now am 13 minutes under the standard I get to register a day earlier. Additionally, I later found out I had finished 8th overall female and 3rd in my age group for the marathon!!
Race Take Aways:
I am incredibly grateful for where my training has taken me this spring!! Don’t get me wrong I had to make a TON of sacrifices and the training challenged me more than I could handle mentally and physically some days. There were many days when I felt like maybe all this hard work and sacrifice was not worth it. After exceeding both my half and full marathon goals I can tell you that every tough workout and sacrifice that I had to make was more than worth it!!! Being able to cut 6 minutes off both my half and full marathon times just two weeks apart is something that I never ever expected to happen. It will definitely take some time to recover from all this but I am excited to get back out there and see what else I can achieve.
This training cycle has taught me not to be afraid to take risks and try new things. Myself and others had some doubts about my high mileage weeks but ultimately adding an extra 20 miles a week gave me the extra edge that I needed. Although I am still pretty far off my all-time PR of a 3:08 I have started to realize that I don’t have to be a size zero to be a great runner. I may be 20 pounds heavier and a little slower than I was in college but I can tell you that I feel so much healthier and enjoy running much more. While I still am a little crazy when it comes to exercise I am much less obsessive than I used to be and am getting better at finding other interests outside of running. Additionally, in college I was afraid of weight lifting and strength training thinking it would make me gain a ton of weight and slow me down. I have learned that a little strength training goes a long way. The weight gain is minimal especially if you are running pretty high mileage and I am now much better able to muscle out those last few miles of a marathon and also have SIGNIFICANTLY fewer injuries throughout my training. Even though I don’t particularly enjoy it I am now a true believer in strength training.
The race itself taught me that I am capable of pacing myself and trusting how I feel. This is the first race that I 100% ran by myself and relied on no pacers. It definitely required me to be more focused and I couldn’t just check out and follow a pacer like I had in the past. The race also taught me the importance of keeping a positive mindset. Although I had few issues overall there were a few points I could have just given up on my goal especially in the last miles when my whole right side tightened up. From experience I knew that especially in the last miles of a marathon you will look for any excuse to give up or slow down. As cheesy as it sounds the positive self-talk I gave to myself made all the difference. Even if my legs felt horrible telling myself my legs feel amazing somehow helped trick me into believing it.
Last but not least, there are way too many people to list her but I want to thank everyone who has supported me in any way throughout my training in both Sole Sisters and Trail Dog Tri- both of these groups have become an integral part of my life. Special thanks to Heidi Rothenberg who saved me when I had some quad issues before CIM and for helping keep me healthy throughout my training this year with her amazing sports massages. Secondly, thanks to Likhyah of Bosque Running Shop/Sports Systems for his constant encouragement and advice these past few years. As for training buddies I especially want to thank Kellie Nickerson, Noelle Wallace, and Julie Keith who did a significant amount of training with me this spring and really encouraged me along the way. I really look up to all three of you as athletes and just as amazing people in general. I owe a ton of credit to you guys and can’t wait to support you in your future goals!! Additionally, I am fortunate to have several of my coworkers and principal who are athletes themselves as well as super inspirational people. My coworker Maria Ladd is an amazing distance runner and I can only hope that I can run as fast as she does at her age!! My principal is a phenomenal cyclist who has overcome a few injures and competes in very long and challenging mountain biking events. Dr. Sarah Santillanes used to think I was pretty crazy but know that I have helped turn her into a runner she has been such an inspiration and great supporter of my running!! I helped her train for a 5k last summer and since then she has lost 75 pounds, run 3 half marathons, and is now committing to her first full marathon!! So impressive!!
In closing I want to end with a quote from Desi Linden, the 2018 Boston marathon winner:
“Some days it just flows and I feel like I’m born to do this, other days it feels like I’m trudging through hell. Every day I make the choice to show up and see what I’ve got, and to try and be better. My advice: keep showing up.”
When this quote came out in April I really took it to heart. At the time I was exhausted from all my hard training and doubting my abilities after some less than perfect workouts. We all have bad workouts and races but as long as you keep showing up and giving it your all you are bound to have a good race someday. As I learned after a few failed BQ attempts it may take more than one try but you will get there as long as you don’t ever give up!
Some of my biggest supporters and running friends:
Julie and I
Kellie, Noelle, and I at the Run for the Zoo
My coworkers and I running the Duke City marathon relay