For those of you interested, I like to summarize my thoughts as quickly as I can after I finish, so here goes... after the California International Marathon in December, it took me about a week to be able to start running a decent pace again, and at least a couple more until I felt semi-normal with my running. I slowly started working my mileage back up, but wasn't really concerned with pace a whole lot still. It was probably about 3-4 weeks after that I started hitting my normal paces and doing speed workouts again. I was right around 50-55 miles/week, I had one 70 mile week, and I did long runs of 13 miles, 16 miles, 17 miles, and 10 miles the week before the marathon (this one was mostly all at goal marathon pace).
This was my 4th time running AZRnR, and my 3rd time doing it back-to-back with CIM 5 weeks before, it has sort of turned into my redemption run. I always do significantly better in Arizona than CIM; with the exception of CIM 2013 (where I ran a then PR of 3:29). Last year I had just run a 3:34 at CIM, and then ran what is still my current PR of 3:28:08. Besides the fact that my family lives here, and it's always a good reason to come for a visit, I just love doing this January marathon. It's a good way to start the year, I don't have to do an entire training cycle, and the weather is always perfect!
I flew into Phoenix on Thursday night, picked up my race packet on Friday, and just relaxed and carb-loaded until Sunday. Race morning came and I was up around 5:20. I ate oatmeal, a banana, and had coffee (a new fueling strategy), I had a bag a walnuts and two "Eat Your Coffee" bars to eat at mile 5, 13, and 20. I feel like I don't usually fuel enough so I wanted to try these and I had been using them for training runs. My parents were going to come see me at the halfway point, Jack would refill my water while running next to me, and then they were going to take my daughter and Jack to mile 22 to run with me the final 4 miles. I warmed up for half a mile, did my drills/strides, went pee about 5 times (my nervous habit), and then went to line up right at the front in my assigned Corral 1 for the 7:50 start.
I was nervous, but not like CIM, the gun went off and I just ran. I didn't want to make the mistake of starting too fast like I usually do, so I stuck right to my 7:50 pace, which felt not too hard, but comfortable. First miles were 7:41 (I know, slightly fast...), 7:44, 7:49, 7:51, 7:54, 7:52. I ate my first bar during mile 5 and finished it right around the 10k mark. I felt good and was just enjoying the run through Phoenix and the great weather. The miles seemed to be going by fast. I grew up in Phoenix, so I enjoyed running through the streets that I recognized. I had to focus on staying on pace, it wasn't really hard, but if I didn't focus it would slow down. There were some very slight inclines that I could see for a couple of miles that I was starting to feel a little, but still felt good. "I'm going to get this PR," I thought. Keep pushing. I got a text from my oldest daughter back in Sacramento to keep pushing, and that helped. I decided to eat my bag of walnuts slowly until I got to the halfway point. 7:55, 8:06, 7:56, 8:03, 7:59, 8:08, 7:55...
As I came into the half-marathon mark I started scanning the crowd for my family and found them. Jack ran along me and filled my water and handed it back. "You got this, come on," he said! I was starting to feel those gradual inclines, and this part of the course is an out and back, so on the other side was the 20 mile sign. It kind of plays with you mentally, knowing you go out for 3.5 and then come back, but it's also fun to be able to see the race leaders coming on the other side already headed to the finish. I stayed focused and determined, but I was starting to fall off pace, mile 14 was 8:15. "Come on, you can do this," I tell myself. Then the 3:30 pace group started coming. "Okay, come on, Melissa, stay with them!" I pushed, I tried, but mile 15 was 8:19, and they slowly made their way off in front of me. I kept pushing, I felt decent, and decided to eat my second coffee bar to see if it would give me the push I needed. I kept my mind in it, telling myself, "come on!" Mile 16 and 17 were 8:12, 8:13. I was starting to head back out of this part, and I came up on a woman walking that I knew had been running most of the way around me. "Come on," I said, "don't walk, come with me." She did, and we talked awhile and got eachother through until mile 20. I always try to help one person (if I can) that just needs a little extra push to keep going. We didn't talk a whole lot, but I told her my name, and she said her name was Kayla and that she was here from Kansas. There was a slight headwind as well as a gradual incline and I told her we were going to try and do 8:30's, I knew my PR was gone, but I told myself to keep pushing and I could get a Boston Qualifying time and a pretty good time.... mile 17-20 was 8:32, 8:27, 8:28.
From here, you turn left and can start focusing on the finish line. My focus was getting to Jack and my daughter, Hannah at mile 22. Kayla had taken off just in front of me, and I could see her, but stuck with my pace. Mile 21-22 were 8:33, 8:42. I saw my kids waiting and waved at them, they jumped in and it was so great to have them there! I told them I'm sorry I had fallen off pace, but I was still in it and trying! "It's ok, mom, just don't talk," they said. So, off the three of us ran through the Papago mountains towards the finish line. My quads were tired, but I felt decent, I just couldn't get my legs to go that 8:30 anymore. Then we turned left and I could see the incline. "Just don't look, mom, keep going," Jack said, "do you need water?" Mile 23 was 8:55. We saw Kayla walking again, and I again told her, "come on, don't walk, run with me and my kids." She did, and she kept with us. The mountains were so pretty and we could start to see where the half marathon merges with the marathon, but then another big hill came. "Just don't look, mom, just run," they said, "you're doing great." Mile 24 and 25 were 9:10, 9:19. My legs were tired, but I was so enjoying this moment, the desert mountains all around, and my two kids running on either side of me, I loved it! We had one mile to go and could see the bridge that goes over the lake and then it heads to the final finish. We turned onto the bridge and just said to eachother how great it was, and I told them how much I loved them being there. We smiled for one of the picture people and I just told them again how much I enjoyed it. Mile 26 was 9:17, and then they jumped to the side and I took the final right turn to the finish. I saw the clock and that it would be just 3:37 something, and just ran and enjoyed the moment of finishing and feeling strong. I saw Kayla finish right in front of me.
I took a couple finish line pictures with my medal and then found my parents and my kids, who had made their way to the finish line. I felt tired, but good. I had a fun race, I felt great, I felt strong, and I was so happy with how the day had turned out. It was a little overcast, and not as warm as past years, I was getting really cold. We walked around, picked up my finisher Jacket, got my extra medal for finishing the last 3 years in a row, took some pictures in front of the lake, I stretched, and then we went to the car and to brunch on the way home.
While I didn't get my PR, I was happy. I finished feeling strong, I had my family there, and I had fun - and that is what counts right now for me! I do have some thoughts of, "did I push my hardest, could I have pushed harder up those hills, or harder in the middle?" I know my PR day will come, but until then, I'll just keep running, keep praying, keep working, and keep enjoying running!
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not grow weary... Isaiah 40:31