Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Phoenix Marathon 2019 Race Recap

As I slid out of bed on Saturday morning at 2:35 AM like a thief in the night, I didn't feel tired - only calm excitement. I had been waiting for this moment for nine long weeks and its called redemption with a capitol R. In the months following CIM, all I have felt is the focus of staying on a steady tighrope. Work hard, rest harder, and don't mess up this chance. There is a golden egg hidden at the end of the path and the question is: are you brave enough to grab it?



I've said this before, but I feel fit - like truly the fitness is clicking and I feel it in the depths of my soul. Is there more fitness to gain - heck yes, but in the weeks leading up to Phoenix, my body knew that it was primed and prepped to run hard. After Mountains To Beach last May, I set on a journey to see how much I could improve before the end of the year. The drive was there, the coaching was there, the support was there - no excuses, just do what you love to do... RUN.
I settled on the Ventura Marathon in late October, then decided to race the half and switch to CIM for the marathon. There is definitely something inherently special about CIM - the intense excitment, fast runners, beautiful course and perfect California weather that draws runners in like moths to a flame. I celebrated a birthday, woke up the next morning and as my stomach blew up in those early morning hours and derailed my plans, I knew I needed to make things right. As I staggered to the side of the road at mile 13, I knew I wanted to make things right.


Happy Birthday to me - my stomach blew up at CIM.


I wasted no time over thinking, called coach and we immediately crafted a new plan. Phoenix hadn't been on my radar before, but I'd heard really great things about the course and race management. The travel was roughly the same distance from home as CIM - suddenly Arizona sounded like the perfect place to test my fitness. I took a couple of days off after CIM (since I basically ran a slow for me half marathon, I didn't need much recovery), and got right back to training. Weaving Christmas plays, caroling, parties, gingerbread houses, playdates and work in between many miles - I just kept going. Don't overthink it, just make it work and don't forget to have a lot of fun along the way.


I had some really amazing training runs in beautiful locations.


I took my usual warm shower to wake up my muscles, dressed and ate a simple breakfast of a banana and a Picky Bar. I have done so much experiementing with my pre race food, but I felt like this was the best fuel for me. I was happy with my carbo loading going into the race - Thursday dinner was grilled salmon, white rice and small veggie. Friday lunch was pasta with red sauce and pre race dinner was white rice and a turkey sandwich. Jerold was sleeping as peacefully as a newborn and I felt pretty bad waking him to drive me to the buses, but that was the plan that we talked about a few times. I triple checked to make sure I had everything I needed and we were on our way. I heard about the bad traffic to get to the buses and that was accurate for sure. Finally, Jerold suggested I get out and walk the rest of the way, which turned out to be the best decision. I met a nice woman along the way and we chatted and sat together on the bus, which really took my mind off the race. The only negative about hydrating, is that you have to go to the bathroom out of the blue and it hits you like a ton of bricks. I stopped drinking two hours before the race, but that bus ride was painfully long and my bladder was not happy. The buses drive runners up into a beautiful mountain area and drop you off in the middle of the cactus filled desert. I made a bee line for the porta potties and then spent the rest of the time relaxing and staying warm. Temps were about 40 degrees, which is amazing weather for a marathon and the race director thought of everything. Bon fires were everywhere for runners to gather around and they also had a huge supply of heaters - this was really a nice touch to stay cozy and warm. I performed my dynamic warm up and soon it was time to take off my clothes and jacket, (they had a very easy and efficient gear check) and get ready to walk to the start. An eleven year old girl sang the National Anthem and ended with a fireworks display. I haven't attended a race with fireworks before the start and it was a very cool touch.


Bonfires everywhere



Just like that it was time to line up and then the gun went off right at 6:30 AM. Coach had carefully laid out a plan for me with the main theme being, don't start too fast. This course is very easy to run too quickly as you start running downhill. That coupled with fresh legs and a crowd of anxious runners can be a recipe for disaster. I immediately told myself to hold back - don't be an idiot and start too quickly, because I knew I would pay dearly in the later miles. I've never raced with music before and made a decision to use music at some point during the race. The playlist was cued up and I started it before the gun went off. Somehow, it skipped my playlist and landed on the Disney playlist that I made for my kids! As the song from Aladdin began to play, I immediately switched it off, annoyed with the disruption and thought I would fix it later, but right now I needed to think.

6:42, 6:43, 6:55. I felt like I was walking and 6:42 is too fast, Nat. What are you doing, slow your roll. I see the 3:00 pacer blow by me like he is racing a half marathon (or even a 10k) and I can't think about that dang pacer, that is too fast for my plan - run your own race.

6:44, 7:06, 7:19. I knew there was one hill in the race and that I would slow down for it, which was fine as I needed to even the pace out from the faster start. 

6:41, 6:50, 6:54. Settling into a good pace, the sun is rising and we are treated to gorgeous desert vistas. Ah, this is why people move to the desert. 

6:49, 6:59, 6:51. Switching between Gatorade Endurance (another good perk of this race) and water, plus taking a Honey Stinger gel every 35-40 minutes. I feel good.

6:56, 7:06, 6:59. Hit the half marathon in 1:30 and by now I have seen my family twice, which has been amazing! I feel relief on passing the half way mark and get ready to settle in as I know we are embarking on straight, flat road with zero hills. It sounds great, but I know the unchanging terrain is going to be tough through fatigue.

7:08, 7:08, 7:17. Yep - see, this is where the marathon is made or broken. Pull it together, Nat.

7:12, 7:25, 7:32. I see Jerold at mile 20 and you can see the desperation on his face. NAT. You are closing in on the three hour mark - you need to speed it up now. I love you. You can do this - come on!! I hated to hear the beep on my watch - I hate this part of the marathon that I just can't seem to master (for real 7:25, 7:32?). I am getting better though and the fade was not nearly as dramatic as it has been. He yells at me again - fix your form! Straighten up, you can do this! I'm running with a woman who passes me, then I pass her and then she passes me. She heard Jerold yelling and tells me to come on, let's do this together. I want to respond and say thank you, but I can't. Just keep running. I've reached the 2:20 mark and I try in my foggy brain to do the math - I'd have to run like 6:30 pace I think to get the 2:59 that my coach laid out for me. (goal in this race 2:59-3:03). Just keep running.




7:23, 7:34, 7:39. My stomach is not cooporating at all. I'm fighting through it. I dropped the woman who was kind to me. She's not there anymore, she is behind me and I have to keep running. Pick up the pace - fight for it. The 3:05 pacer runs by me like I'm standing still. I fight the defeat that starts to creep in. The evil voice inside my head wants to take over and whisper that I'm not good enough, I'm not fast enough, this isn't my event, I'm not a fast marathoner. I always fade. I'm not strong enough. I won't give in to that feeling, I won't give into my cramping stomach that doesn't freaking like me. I can't stay with the pacer, but I will keep him in my sight. I tell the evil voice to go to hell and I start to run for my life. There is another woman in front of me and I make it my mission to catch her. Go to hell evil voice. Goodness wins and today evil voice - you lose.




7:37. The people on the side of the road are screaming at me. Go girl!! You got this - you are almost there... GO! I keep running. Keep going. Don't stop until you cross the line.


Phil 4:13 #Icandoallthings



3:05:55 and I did it. 




I ran a PR and I'm so happy to be finished. For this moment, I am finished.

Turns out I won 3rd place in the women's masters division. Super surprised because there are a lot of fast women at this race!






We had a great meal to celebrate!




Now, it's back to regular life, lots of rest and recovery + planning out what's next (I have lots of plans!). First, I have to enjoy this...




Thank you to my family who always supports and loves me. Josh, Megan and Elle - my loves. I hope you always fight for what you want. My Mom, who is always up for an adventure and helps and loves on our kids so I can run. Oh, I have to tell you, they had such a fun time while I was resting on Friday - Jerold, my Mom and the kids went to Scottsdale to see the Frank Lloyd Wright house. This made me so happy as the kids missed school, but still got an educational and fun field trip!

Megan wants to be an architect.

To Jerold, my best friend and my love - thank you for driving me all over the place so I can follow my passion. For letting me lean on you and listening to my endless monologues about running. I love you infinity. Thank you to my coach, Mark Hadley for pushing me and believing in me. To Brooks Running for supplying me with an endless amount of shoes and gear so that I can run happy and healthy. To Oofos for my awesome recovery shoes, to Jaybird Sport for the headphones that give me great music along the thousands of miles. Lululemon and Lululemon Los Angeles for the kick ass race outfit that got a much deserved do-over :). To the Phoenix Marathon for having me at the last minute - thank you for your kindness! My friends that always support my crazy running and my neighbors that call out their support when I'm running all over the place - thank you. Thanks you guys for reading this and for all your sweet words of encouragement. It's such a fun ride - let's keep going!

Do Awesome Things. Always.

xo,
Natalie











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