I am long-winded. Grab a cocktail or hop on your bike trainer and settle in. a good 20-minute warm up can be done with this. If you read fast.
1) Beat my last marathon time 5:38.02
2) Break 5 hours
3) 11:00 avg pace (4:48)
4) aka the Charrissa “Pee your Pants” goal: 10:30 avg pace (4:35)
A very short summary to what was originally a really long intro/background:
We moved back to ABQ in the winter. I found TDT and from week 1, had people who were so encouraging and fast to run with. All of the local triathlons that I would have liked to have done were on weekends where we were out of town. womp womp. So I signed up for 4 half marathons throughout the spring and summer. I PR’ed the 1st two and therefore decided to take the plunge and sign up for the Duke City Marathon. One day I came across the Hanson’s Marathon Method training plan. I wasn’t sure about 6 days of running for 18 weeks but I was wanting to redeem myself from my first/last marathon that I had run in Honolulu back in December right before we moved. So I bought the book and jumped in at week 1, day 1. I did every speed workout, every tempo run, and only missed a few easy runs here and there. I woke up my whole house for 430am weekday runs and suffered through some seriously HOT temps during some afternoon jaunts around the track. No moisture + 90* makes Nicole really freaking tired. But I did it: I fully subscribed to the philosophy the book was teaching and ended up running about 670 of the 730+ miles in the beginner 18-week plan. That’s about 91-92%. That’s an A/A- in college, so yay. The day taper had finally arrived was GLORIOUS, especially as the weather was finally cooling down.
As stated, I talk a lot and that translates to writing a lot. I semi-promise to keep this shortish. Let’s jump to the race. The day of the race all I could keep think was CAN WE JUST DO THIS ALREADY? I had read the books, eaten right, hydrated right, worn the right clothing based on the weather report, KT-taped and body glided all the right body parts (AKA 50% of my body) and slept as good as possible the night before. This all meant to me that the only thing that would stop me was me. I had my little pace card in my pocket and new my game plan. I was not nervous; I was just ready.
The start was wonderful compared to so many large races I did in HI: not having to juke around the folks who want to walk after 50 ft of sprinting made for an easy start out. Plus there was so many friends and teammates at the start cheering for me that I was PUMPED! After half a mile I looked at my watch and saw that crap I’m going fast. I knew that I would burn out if I kept that up, and I forced myself to slow down. At the 5k turn around there was a bathroom coming up and I realized crap I have to pee!! No!! It was WAY too early to have this problem but I knew that if I could get so lucky as to have it be empty I could pull another Shalene and be in and out in < 20 and catch up to Ben who was running the same pace as me. As luck would have it, I had to wait all of 7 seconds before the bathroom became free. SUCCESS! Now I felt ready to rock, and no real time was wasted.
I had planned on settling in to Marathon Pace around mile 4. Well, it happened a little earlier than I was ready for. By mile 2 and turning onto the Bosque, I was already at GMP and feeling good. I was nervous that I was feeling too good because I knew I could bonk if I was going too hard too soon. I kept checking my watch and making myself (and Ben, sorry for yelling) slow down when going too fast. I kept trying to eat as much as I could because I realized while I had a great breakfast I had forgotten to have my traditional stroop and gel prior to the start. I will say that having a water station at every mile was great help. Have you ever tried to run while eating a stroop wafel? IT'S FREAKING HARD. So gel, stroop, and blocks I tried to take in for a few miles. Not easy, but necessary.
My husband Davin had told me he was going to try to cheer for me either at Candelaria or I-40. When we passed I-40 I didn't see him and when we passed what I thought was Candelaria I was bummed. Crap, where is here? Then there was another group of people standing together around the half-marathon turn point. There he was AND WITH OUR DOG, SOPHIE. I was even more excited seeing her there too! I'm sure I annoyed a solid 50 people with my baby voice HI SOPHIE!! but I did not care. It made me so happy to see both of them out there cheering for me. I was beaming and had to slow myself down after seeing them.
The miles ticked by between 7 and 11. My watch was reading the right goal times but it was .2 miles ahead of the course. I knew that and it was frustrating for me bc the watch doesn't matter: the course mileage does and that meant I was slightly behind goal pace. F. But I knew I was still really close and I could do it. The turn onto Paseo was longer than I had anticipated. I thought when I passed the relay hand-off we were almost at the turn but apparently we were like 1/3 of the way there. Another womp womp. Although it wasn't a crazy hill, it was a climb. about a 1/4 mi from the turn i looked to my right and there again was my husband, his buddy Russ, and SOPHIE!! I was so pumped. It helped me get to the top for the turn. I checked my watch. By my watch I had major league PR'ed my half-marathon. By the official numbers I was nearly there too. Ben told me as much after we had turned back towards the Bosque. I was still feeling good. I was able to take off my long sleeved undershirt right before the turn and passed it to Davin when we saw him again. Base layer gone, I was nice and warm and not over heating so I was happy. Plus the air felt good.
After the half-way turn, Ben and I met a guy named Daniel who had run with ABQ Fit and was asking about the Trail Dogs. We invited him to come out sometime, and we chatted while we ran a few miles back to the Bosque. He was super nice and made for great conversation. He eventually peeled back. Ben and I reminded each other that we had trained for the last 16, per the Hanson's Mantra, and now I was ready to execute that plan. Once we hit the Bosque, Ben was starting to hurt. He can tell his own story, but I was sad to lose him. He had been instrumental in us keeping up such a great pace the first half of the race and all throughout training so I was really sad that he wanted to peel off but I knew I couldn't take even a minute walk break without destroying all I had done so I told him to catch up and I'd see him soon.
Once alone, I did some self-assessing. I still felt pretty good. I kept checking my time and was still on pace for my A goal. Mile 15 -16 – 17 I tried to eat what I could stomach. I was worried that I was going to throw up as it all nutrition I took in was so sugary and the base salts were good but just salt, so not very appetizing.
A gentleman in a red tank (which was funny bc that’s what Ben, James, Burney, Tammy and I all were wearing during the race) who I had passed at one time around mile 16 caught me and began to chat with me. He was from Baltimore and was running a marathon in all 50 states. I enjoyed having someone who was running pace with me as it began to get hard. I passed my friend Elizabeth at the 3:15.xx mark and I could see that she was struggling but I was so proud that she was still plugging along. It was her first marathon and so getting to see her on the course made me so happy! She was doing so great!
At mile 19ish I saw Davin one more time. I was so happy to see him then as I was starting to feel fatigue set in. My new friend (whom I of course failed to get his name, sorry friend!) was telling me our splits: 10:26, 10:23, 10:19. We will both tired but we were running at my GMP even into mile 21. Once in the 20s, I was feeling the fatigue in my quads. Ut-oh: large muscle group soreness is never a good sign. But it was manageable. All of the volunteers handing out water were amazing. Except one girl who not once but TWICE handed me gatorade when I had asked for water. This wouldn’t have been such a big deal except she was busy throwing water on her friends as they ran by on the way out and she was not helping the rest of us on the way back. I did call her out as politely as I could that she needed to pay attention as it was beginning to get warm and that’s how people get sick. I was upset as I was really struggling to keep liquid down, so gatorade instead of water was rough. That coupled with a few aid stations that were out of water made it really tough late in the game.
Mile 22ish: my new friend had to peel off. While at first I wasn’t keen on listening to another person’s heavy footsteps and breathing, he ended up being a god send and I was sad to have him go. So now I’m all alone. I am really hurting in the quads and my hips are starting to remind me they are there. There are basically no people around cheering and it’s a rather dull stretch of the Bosque but I knew that less than 2 miles away I would be off the trail and onto the final stretch. Checked my watch and I was still in the right range although a little slower. I got a bit religious and began my conversation with the dead. My grandpa, family members, my BFF’s dad, my ‘aunt’ who we lost a few months ago. It’s not the first or the last time I’ll do this in a race. It helps when I am really wanting to be done, thinking that they would be there encouraging me to keep going. Weird? Maybe. But it works.
There’s a whole lot of nothing after Tingley Beach and although the turn is close by, it didn’t feel like it when I was running. Then I heard the sweet sound of cowbells and my favorite brood of munchkins with their fearless leader screaming. It was the McLaughlin family! I swear they should be hired to cheer for people on courses when they are at their darkest because they made me feel SO MUCH BETTER. I had like 2.5 miles left and I felt like it was never going to end, so hearing them cheering and seeing their smiling faces gave me the boost i was desperately needing. I hit the end of the bosque trail and did a U-turn onto Tingley and headed towards Kit Carson. Davin texts me and I can see the first half on my watch: “you’re at 4:12 and almost here…” Yes! I am so happy to see his text but I am so tired. So tired and I don’t know if I have it in me. I know I am on track but I want to be running faster than my body is letting me. I hit the left at Kit Carson and hear/see the McL’s again and it is the sweetest sound in the world because they are really yelling for me! Christine, you are the best and your kids are too! I don’t know if I would have kept pace if I hadn’t seen you guys when I did.
I hit the corner where the port-os were for the 5k turn around and know that I am so f*%&ing close, yet so far. My legs are moving at pace but I can’t make them go faster like I wanted to. I wanted to be 30-45 seconds faster at this point. I see the final water station and I know that I am going to be right on my pace and I want to pick it up but I am so scared of puking. Half of me wanted to just puke to get it over with and the other half was afraid I wouldn’t stop if I did. I was mostly afraid I would puke at the finish line which would make for a great finisher photo but my luck would have me puking on a poor innocent person trying to hand out medals. The water helped though, so that was good. I shook out my arms and I realized I hadn’t really done that all day and that was a mistake: they were really sore and tingled. I had kept my shoulders relaxed but failed to pay attention to my arms who had been pumping for 23+ miles and for over 4 hours.
Once on central, I saw I was at 15th street. Okay Nicole: 12 blocks. They were some of the longest blocks ever. I think I had forgotten how to count at one point. That’s how tired I was. I really wanted my legs to go faster, but I couldn’t get that request from my brain to my legs or even my arms to help pump me forward. 10 blocks. 8 blocks. 7 blocks. Wait, what’s 8 minus 3? Okay, 5 blocks. I was counting the traffic lights because addition was easier than subtraction at this point. Stay in school, kids. Math is useful, I promise. There are finally some people around again at 6th street. Thank god. 5th street. 4th street. 3rd street YASSS! As are almost all finisher shoots, it felt like another mile long, even if less than .2 miles in real life. I knew I could “sprint” with whatever I had left in me for that distance. I had given it everything I had. I heard people yelling my name but I couldn’t figure out where they were and I couldn’t turn my head to find out. I just kept looking at the finish line. Finally I crossed that SOB and I was handed a medal without puking on anyone. I looked at my watch: 4:37.xx. I couldn’t be mad I hadn’t come in at 4:35 because I was so tired and just wanted to sit. I almost cried but locked that ish down really fast. Plus I think I sweat it all out so I would have looked ridiculous.
My husband found me and gave me a kiss and Burney, Jeff and Steph gave me some big hugs. Tammy, Ellie, and Jim found me too and all of their congratulations made me realize what I had just done. I had to use the railing to keep my self up. BUT! I had beat my last/first marathon by over an hour. AN HOUR. OVER 60 MINUTES. While it wasn’t an original goal, it was really amazing to say out loud. 18 weeks of running 6 days a week had paid off. My official time was 4:37.37. that’s a 10:35/ avg pace. My watch said I had ran an extra .2+ over and so it gave me an official 10:29/avg pace. I like that better, but it’s not official so it doesn’t count (except on strava, which somehow made it into 10:28/avg. Thanks strava).
I learned so much doing this training cycle. About running and myself. I also am so grateful for my husband supporting me even with my 4am alarms, my 9pm bedtimes, and my talking about running all. of. the. freaking. time. I’d be annoyed if I didn’t run, but he was a champ. To the trail dogs who I ran with who made me faster: THANK YOU! Ben and Diane I think I ran the most with the 2 of you and I can’t thank you enough. To Christine who was my concierge pacer in 2 half marathons, to Burney who was always putting a positive spin on things, and to everyone who told me how much I had improved over the summer. To Jeff and Munoz who didn’t even blink when I told you back in June what my goals were and had merely responded with: oh you can do that, no problem! THANK YOU GUYS. I am one of those people who feeds off of positive affirmations and your encouragement and support was so much more helpful than I can accurately put into words.
Now I am going to rest for a few days until I get restless and either hop in the pool, on my bike, or decide to hit my 1000 miles for the year on my 2 feet (I’m 100 miles away!!). Next up: Boulder 70.3 and maybe a marathon after that. AT SEA LEVEL