Let’s start with the disclaimer that I didn’t exactly “train” for this.
I won’t say I was unprepared, or unfocused. I just prepared very differently than I have ever trained before, and I had a totally different approach and focus than previous races.
The last running event I completed was my 50 miler, and soon after went through a rollercoaster of a ride recovery + mini mid life crisis. I told myself I would only do run/bike events this year that brought me JOY and didn’t require brain capacity. I don’t have it in me to research races, courses, information, lodging, travel and all that. So, when my friends (San Juan Mountain Runners club) signed up for this several months ago, I did NOT sign up.
I told myself this winter that I’d put my time and effort into my business, my clients, doing choreography for my own programs, my marriage, and our hobbies. And I did. I ran and xc-skied all winter for FUN. I invested in nordic skis, upgrades on my road bike, and I joined a yoga studio. Those were all prioritized a little higher than my running. Plus, I focused very hard on my MINDSET this year. Hello 5-week yoga workshop with Annika having a LASTING effect on my mindset + activities that will not vanish. Seriously.
Yes, I spent many winter mornings chasing sunrise and logging the running miles. Then I’d come home and teach my fitness classes on zoom, which were a very important component of my cross training. But my mental game approach was so different from every other year. That’s a totally different topic for a different post.
This year, I was happy with every run, every mile, every workout. And that transferred into my mindset, the voice within my body, the affirmations I speak to myself, thus transferred right into my marathon experience.
Every workout I teach, I have my gals do a body scan, check their toes to temples, trust their feet/legs to know where to land, pull their core in, shoulders relaxed back and down, jaw relaxed, breathe smooth. There’s more to that. I have my gals doing a variety of calf raises, quad curls, hamstring curls, glute exercises, core moves. Without a doubt these components allowed me to TRUST my body and legs to work efficiently for 26.2 miles. No doubt. I’m biased, but my workouts + breathwork + mindset from meditation and yoga earned me a PR this weekend.
I did all of this all winter long until I felt my body was finally ready for an event again. So, I signed up for this full marathon 3 weeks ago after doing my 19 mile run. I very casually tapered by lowering my mileage and doing workouts at a less effort.
Ok…. so fast forward to this past weekend.
My dear friend and running mentor Jan is who I had traveled to Las Vegas with last year. So this year she had already run with me a few times. Every time we ran she expressed that I could ride with her, share a room, and just have a chill weekend. Everything was already booked; I just needed to commit and sign up. So, I did.
Jan and I hit the road right around 9am and made our way over to Golden, Co for the marathon expo. At the expo, I literally couldn’t decide if I wanted the pacing bracelet for running a 4:45 marathon or a 5 hour marathon, so I took the bracelets for both. When we got to our hotel and laid out our gear, I asked Jan if I should just run with the 5 hour bracelet so I didn’t stress over the need to run a 4:45. We both agreed to trash the 5 hour bracelet and I was well capable of the 4:45.
Gear laid out, mindset ready. Time to sit down with my marathon poster and hand write the affirmations that have lived in my head all year long.
This was like my marathon vision board. I started by writing out affirmations for each chakras: write them, read them, say them, see them, believe them – balance my body. I then continued by simply writing a few other beliefs that I know are true about myself, my abilities, my running. I do this for most of my ultras; it’s my form of journaling what I visualize coming to life.
Leave our gear, turn off my brain. Leave the room, go get dinner. Stop thinking about the marathon. No need to overthink anything. We had dinner plans to meet up with the rest of our crew at Olive Garden. I am not usually one to “carb load” before a race. But since I had zero expectations of running hard and zero expectations of “racing” for a PR, I decided to go eat whatever I felt like. I ordered a huge plate of pasta and meat sauce. It was so good. This is not something I’d usually do, but it worked for me?
We made it back to our hotel early enough for an 8am bed time and a 3:15am wake up. Usually before a marathon or ultra, I do not sleep. I overthink every step, every mile. I analyze my mile splits to the second. But hey – this time – I slept SOLID 8am-3:15am. Garmin tells me I slept almost 7 hours that night. Again, I had zero expectations for this run. I had nothing to overthink.
Most of my morning routines went really well, except that I had zero appetite and zero ability to eat. Woke up, got all my layers on, drank coffee, rode with Scott to the bus, took a shot of my energize (caffeinated preworkout), took the 75 minute bus ride to the start, used the bathrooms, removed all my layers, got my music ready, did all the things. The only hiccup in this order of events is that I had planned on eating on the bus ride. But I was still so full from the pasta the night before, I couldn’t imagine eating anything more. So, I took my chances and I didn’t eat before a marathon. I made my way to the start line.
The slowest pacer this marathon offered is a 4:30. So I started all the way to the back behind the pacing groups. Again, I was happy with a 4:45-5:00.
Ok. Go time. This is where the real good part of the blog starts.
First of all, I was so unfocused that I didn’t know the marathon started. When we started walking forward and I looked at my watch, it was 6:03am. I asked another gal if we had started. She confirmed, yes, we’re about to walk over the timing mat. Well, shit, I better turn my watch on? Hahahah
I turn my watch on just in time. And, go! The entire marathon was beautiful and I just kept looking at the clouds coming over the mountains. Stunning. But I never once touched my phone, not for pictures or anything. This was my time, my views, my memories.
Miles 1-3 weren’t too exciting. I kept watching my time on my watch versus the time on the pacing bracelet. I knew that I needed to start with 10:40s and somewhat maintain that to run a 4:45. But apparently mile 1 I ran a 10:01. I told myself I needed to slow it down a bit, as I would never hold that for 26 miles. I slowed myself a bit for the first 5k, but not by much as I came into that 5k in 31 minutes.
Apparently that got me excited because then I ran mile 4 in 9:58 – my first sub 10 of the marathon. Again, told myself I had to slow down til the 10k point. I hit the 10k point in 61 minutes – still averaging just over 10 minute miles.
Okay, pace myself right. MIles 6-13 were very pretty – a combination of mountain views, canyons, and then what felt like country side. Half way point – was on a freaking a highway. I was definitely motivated to make it through that section quickly. I hit the half point in 2:13 – averaging 10:13 minute/miles, so still pacing myself.
Clearly I was no longer using the bracelet. I knew I was coming in 20-40 second/mile faster than pacing bracelet suggested for a 4:45. By mile 13 I knew I could finish in 4:40 or less. This is where my mindset, mantras, and affirmations come in…. Just wait for it.
I realized that I still had a full tank of energy and could (fairly easily) pick up the effort and pace. So, I bring in my yoga breath. I breathe intentionally, send the energy through my body, to my legs. No one was really around me, so I open up my yoga hands to the universe ready to receive as much energy as I could. I energetically open my hands and literally out loud speak to myself. Several times, I repeat these affirmations in this order: I can do hard things, I am doing hard things. I can run a 4:30 marathon. I will run a 4:30 marathon, I AM running a 4:30 marathon. I’d say this went on for two miles or so.
Remember, this is at mile 13. I say these, I pick up the pace. I bring the energy in. Miles 13-19, were all in the 9:15-9:55 minute/mile pace. I couldn’t tell you the last time I ran 7 miles consecutively with a sub 10 pace. But, here we are.
I took my chances; this could have worked against me and I could have crashed at mile 20. However, it was at mile 19 I caught up to the 4:30 pacer. Remember, I started behind the pacers.
So, I made the executive decision to run with the pacer. Her name was Rebecca and she was great. I asked her if they were still on track for a 4:30 and she confirmed, yes. I explained to her my situation, my bracelet, and my intentions to run a casual marathon. But what the heck, go for the 4:30. I decided I am going to run with Rebecca from mile 19-24ish and then I’d re-assess.
Miles 19-24 we paced the miles 10:00-10:30s, but mainly averaged the 10:17 pace which is needed for the 4:30 group. Perfect. It was great, plus we had great conversations.
Miles 24-26 I just ran on my own at what felt like a do-able pace that far into the game, which oddly enough was a 10:06 pace.
Shockingly, I come through the finish line in 4:28:16, and realize that my overall average pace was 10:14. To me, this is a fast marathon. Obviously it’s my fastest. But not to worry, there were still 490 people that did it faster. I was middle of the pack with that pace.
Scott, who had also run the full marathon had already finished, as had our friends who did the half marathon. So, we all meet up, chat, hang out, and then made our way back to the hotel.
Back track a few details here of the marathon. I mentioned that I skipped breakfast. That was taking my chances. But I was very diligent in using Honeystinger gummies and gels every 30 minutes and at the aid stations they were offered at. I don’t know how how many I used in a total, but quite a few. While running at that pace, I cannot stomach eating real foods like I do in ultras. So, gummies and gels do work for me. Honeystinger is always my brand of preference. I know many many many people cannot do these; it took me years to figure out my nutrition while running.
I also mentioned that I cross trained with my own workouts + yoga this winter. Hands down, no doubt at all – I was well capable of TRUSTING my legs and my ability to run hard because I have very strategically worked every area of my legs and body all winter. My lower body workouts are designed to work hips, glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, feet, ankles strategically so that there isn’t one area worked more or less than another area. My entire legs to feet are very strong. My full body workouts are designed to work front, back, and side of the core strategically so that all areas are built up for good posture to support sports such as this. I do have a very strong midsection and posture. My upper body workouts are designed to work shoulders, biceps, triceps, down the arms, chest, back, side, front of the core, and everything in between. Yes, I am biased. But THESE workouts are choreographed to support our lives outside the homes, in our hobbies, and sports. No doubt these workouts are the reason I ran a strong PR and earned that time.
The entire weekend was a fabulous experience. I am very grateful I took the winter to just run for JOY and that my friends encouraged me to keep me distance/miles up, and eventually sign up. Thank you San Juan Mountain Runners for your beautiful, contagious energy. Thank you Girls on the Run Western slope for supporting my running and encouraging me to me a Sole Mates Ambassador, and Honeystinger for fueling me.
Happy Summer 2023 Running!