(I’ve been working on this post for several days but it took me a while to get it finished. We’re in the process of moving and not having internet is seriously cramping my style.)
On Sunday, January 17, I ran the Houston Marathon!
Official time was 3:29.33 (7:59/mile) and I qualified for the Boston Marathon! It was easily one of the best and most memorable days of my life.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. I hadn’t run a full marathon in two years and the last one I ran was a 4:16. Two years is a long time in the world of running. I’d had a couple of half marathon performances since then that indicated I might be close to qualifying but I had nothing concrete to give me confidence and running is all about confidence.
The morning of the race I was a nervous wreck. I knew I had a shot at qualifying and I’d spent six months getting ready for this race. I was terrified I’d waste six months of training and not qualify.
The weather was PERFECT – 39 degrees F at 7 am and 50 by the time I finished, a slight north wind and sun with cloudless skies. Perfect. I lined up in the corral slightly in front of the 3:30 pacers, not because I was confident but because I was afraid to get stuck behind 100 people trying to keep up with the pace guy.
The race began and the pace of the group was FAST. 7:30/mile. I tried to slow myself down to my planned 8:10/mile pace but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t make myself go slower than a 7:55. So instead of fighting it, I went with it. New race pace was a 7:55. That wasn’t in the plan. Yikes.
The large field of runners made maneuvering the course difficult. Until the half marathon/marathon split I was constantly dodging stuff (curbs, potholes and people). The first 6 miles flew by. I don’t remember much about them. My body felt strong and the pace was easy. Surprisingly easy.
Mile 1- 8:06
Mile 2- 8:03
Mile 3- 7:55
Mile 4- 8:01
Mile 5- 7:57
Mile 6- 7:48
I had done a lot of research on fueling during the race and determined that in the past I hadn’t been taking in enough calories and I’d been waiting too late into the race to take them so I highly modified my fueling strategy. I took a Gu every other water stop and the stops were about 1.5 miles apart. 7 total. My first Gu was only 3 miles into the race.
Racing a marathon is all about being strategic with your glycogen stores and I figured that by fueling early and often I’d give myself a bit of an advantage. By the time mile 6 came around I was breaking into my second Gu and absolutely flying.
Mile 7- 7:58
Mile 8- 7:53
Mile 9- 7:49
At the water stop just past mile 9, I reached down for my third Gu. My belt only has space for 6 fuel packets and I brought 8. The first two I carried in my hands so the fuel I took at mile 9 was the first I had to retrieve from my belt.
My hands were numb from the cold and I couldn’t really feel my fingers. When I pulled the Gu out of the belt it flew out of my hand and onto the ground. I immediately stopped to pick it up. Going from almost 8 mph to 0 in a matter of 5 feet caused the muscles in my left hip to seize up and almost immediately upon returning to a run I felt a pain shoot up from my knee into my hip. It hurt so much that if this had been a training run I would have stopped and gone home. It was now or never though so I ran through the pain. It hurt, almost unbearably for the next four miles.
Mile 10- 7:55
Mile 11- 7:54
Mile 12- 7:52
Mile 13- 7:52
The pain in my leg slowly subsided over the next several miles and I was able to run with no problem but I knew it could resurface at any time so I was trying to be careful with every foot fall.
Mile 14- 7:37
Mile 15- 7:52
Mile 16- 7:56
My calves started to tighten up. Not badly but enough to care about but as the miles ticked by the tightness started to get worse. It wasn’t anything to worry about but it was pain that I needed to manage throughout the remainder of the race.
Mile 17- 7:43
Mile 18- 7:49
Mile 19- 7:50
At mile 20 the route crossed under the inner loop and I stepped on a reflector in the road trying to dodge someone who had started to walk. The pain in my leg came back immediately and didn’t go away for the rest of the race. Between the leg pain and the increasing calf tightness the rest of the race hurt.
Mile 20- 8:00
Mile 21- 8:01
Mile 22- 8:06
Mile 23- 7:56
Though I certainly slowed down in the last 6 miles, I didn’t slow down nearly as much as in previous races. I kept waiting to hit the wall – that moment when you feel like you’ve come to a standstill. It should have happened around mile 20 but it never did.
Mile 24- 8:06
Mile 25- 8:02
Mile 26- 8:10
Last .2- 7:05
26.2 – 3:29.33
Overall Female: 191/3026
Age Group (35-39): 50/632
I had enough energy left to run the last bit of the race (the last half mile, according to my Garmin) at 7:00/mile. Somehow, I raced a marathon and never hit the wall.
I crossed the finish line and immediately began crying. I needed a 3:40 to qualify for Boston. I finished in 3:29.33, I qualified by a full 10 minutes – all but guaranteeing myself entry. I have never been so proud of myself as I was in that moment.
Almost immediately my phone began dinging. People, who I had no idea were following my race, began sending congratulations. It dinged, pinged and made other sounds as various forms of messages came through. Facebook messages, text messages, gchat messages, posts to my Facebook wall, posts to my MOMS club page. So much love from so many people!
One of the trainers at the YMCA was spectating at the finish line and saw me come through the chute. I’m generally pretty reserved when I’m at the gym. I’ve only made a couple of friends there but when I showed up on Monday he cornered me. Let’s just say I’m a lot more popular at the Y now than I was the week before the race.
The day after the race my muscles in my calves were so tight I couldn’t bend my ankles and the damage from running through the knee pain was evident. Though I could bend my knees it hurt wildly. I walked around all day sort of like a zombie. I went to the gym that day and spent 30 minutes on the bike with no resistance just so I could try to re-establish some range of motion, then spent 30 minutes stretching out my legs and on my way home went to the chiropractor. I by the time I left I felt somewhat normal.
I went for a six mile run on Thursday, which was extremely painful to my tight calves. Sunday, I ran eight miles and my calves felt much better. I have some lingering shin pain that showed up in the second week of taper (it didn’t cause a problem during the race) and I want to let it heal before I hit the mileage hard again so I’m cross training for the next several days until it goes away.