Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Success

I am so glad that is over.

The last five weeks have been very stressful for me. It felt like there was a huge weight on my shoulders, needing to get a legitimate Boston Qualifying time, while recovering from an illegitimate Boston Qualifying performance, and putting way more pressure on myself than I should have. I just wanted it to be over and done with and to breathe a huge sigh of relief that I wouldn't need to keep trying again and again to succeed.

I DID IT.

Five weeks after elation and heartbreak at Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon, I am an official Boston Qualifier, having run 3:49:53 at The Louisiana Marathon.

3:49:53!

You know what that 5:07 under my qualifying time means?? It means that I will likely know within a few days rather than a few weeks whether my time is accepted. I won't be in the last group to register, wondering whether I squeaked in under the cut off or not. Up until this point, the strictest cut off was 3:23, so I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that 5:07 is enough. If they open up registration again after my group registers, then I know I will be accepted.

I'll be running the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2019, as a QUALIFIER!!




It's surreal to me that I could improve on my marathon time so much that I could earn myself a spot at the starting line. I finally figured out how to race a marathon. It just took 9 years and 12 marathons to get it right. My 13th and 14th marathons were nearly perfect and finally showed me what I'm capable of.

But, Marathon #14 was still so different from Marathon #13. It was an epic battle of wills practically from the start. Where do I even begin?

I was a nervous wreck the entire week leading up to the race. The weather forecast was not really helping. It would be cold, but in all honesty, it was almost going to be TOO cold. The forecast kept dropping until it was set to be about 25 degrees at the start and not getting above freezing until I was well over halfway done with the race.

Packing for the race wasn't easy. How many layers would I want? What if the forecast changed again? Do I wear tights or capris, long sleeves or short sleeves, have a throwaway jacket, one or two pairs of socks? I basically packed about five different outfits. This would be my coldest race ever and it was making me nuts! On a positive note, I was running the 5K the day before, so it would give me a chance to test out clothing to see if I felt too cold or too warm.

Deja Vu time again - running both the 5K and the Marathon

LOUISIANA 5K


Saturday morning really was a lot of fun. My husband decided to also run the 5K and one of my friends, Tony, was also with us and was running the 5K while trying for a Boston Qualifying time in the marathon as well. It was COLD, windchill of 22 because of the 10 mph winds. My face hurt. But I layered up, sucked it up, and got my cold butt to the start line. The crawfish platter we'd earn for running both days was totally worth the freezing temps (not really.)

My plan was to run about 20 seconds faster than race pace overall, trying not to overdo it too much but trying to shake out my nerves. I had only run twice during the week so my legs were nice and rested. Greg was going for a sub-7 min pace 5K and Tony, who I had been coaching for this marathon, was told to take it easier than he'd like (he didn't listen). My first mile was right at my super stretch goal race pace of 8:35, and I picked up my pace slowly after that, finishing with a 7:40 final mile. Overall I ran 25:06, an 8:05 pace, about a full minute faster than last year's 5K but it seemed easier, so that was really nice. The cold weather probably helped. I got too warm during the race so I knew I was overdressed and it gave me a good idea on how to dress for Sunday's marathon.

I had a super competitive age group as my 25:06 got me 8th out of 112 in my age group. I was 28th overall woman, so there were a large number of those faster ladies in the 40-44 age group! Greg ran a 21:34, meeting his goal at 6:58 pace, and missing an award by 5 seconds. He's damn fast. Tony got a talking to since he didn't listen to me and raced too hard to pull off a 22:55 and first place Grandmasters. He's a pain in my butt.

The finish festival at the Louisiana Marathon is the best I've ever experienced but we only stuck around long enough to get a couple beers, some gumbo, and collect Tony's award for being the fastest old guy. Greg and I also collected our Beach to Bayou medals for racing at Mississippi Gulf Coast and Louisiana. We spent the rest of the weekend teasing Greg about his destination 5Ks and that he should start a 50 state 5K club. I need to get that guy to run another half marathon or actually want to run a marathon.







SUNDAY MORNING...

I was an absolute bundle of nerves as soon as I woke up. I was scared and excited and I pretty much wanted to cry. I was looking forward to racing through Baton Rouge, because it's a great city, but I knew I'd be in a lot of pain and just hoped it wasn't so much pain that I couldn't enjoy the sights.


I wore the same thing as I did in Mississippi, plus the pink jacket

Greg was awesome. He ran all the way back to the hotel to grab a second pair of socks for me because my feet were frozen as we waited for the race to start. Having to wear two pairs of socks during the marathon was definitely a first for me. But it really was stupid cold.

Tony and I spent several minutes warming up before the start. Just like in Mississippi, there would be no warm up miles in this race. We would both be going out racing right from the start. My stretch goal was 8:42 pace, which would get me under my 3:48:17 time from the shortened course Mississippi race. But what I really wanted as an "A" goal was to get under 3:50, giving myself the 5 minute buffer on my qualifying time. I'd have to run a few seconds per mile faster than Mississippi. I planned to speed up sooner than I did in Mississippi and just try to hold on to that pace, and hopefully speed up further, in the second half. It would once again be a big risk, just like in Mississippi, but I was willing to take that risk. If I didn't, then I'd kick myself for not putting in a surge sooner and missing my goal. Tony needed a 3:40 to qualify and didn't really have any goal under that necessarily; he just wanted to qualify whether it would be enough to get into the race or not.

Louisiana is a much bigger race than Mississippi. Instead of starting with 440 other marathoners, we started with over 3000 people, marathoners and half marathoners together. The half/full split wouldn't happen for 11 miles, and there are seven miles that meander around the lake by LSU. This was where I was going to get very nervous. Mississippi was straight for 24 miles, so I never added on any distance due to turns. In Baton Rouge, I needed to cut the tangents as tight as possible, which would mean paying attention to any runners behind me so I didn't cut anyone off. I'd have to be hyper focused for several miles until we left that area and moved into the neighborhoods, where there were many more straight sections. My goal was to add in less than 2/10ths of a mile.

FIRST 10K

The race started off without much fanfare. I planned to get through the first two miles in 18:20 and they came in at 18:09, with a 9:08 and 9:01. Those were the only miles over 9 for the entire race. Looking back, it's pretty funny that so much of my race mimicked how I ran Mississippi. I passed the 4:00 hour pace group during mile 3, and that mile was a bit fast at 8:41. I needed to chill out and relax. I slowed it down to around 8:45-8:50 pace for the next few miles. The first opportunity to see Greg would be at the 10K point, and this was where I planned to give him the lightweight jacket I was wearing over my tank/arm sleeves. I was a little nervous about taking off the jacket, however. I was sweating but not really very warm. It was still probably only about 27 degrees out, with very little wind thankfully. I wasn't wearing a throwaway I could toss wherever (I wanted to keep that jacket!), so either I needed to give Greg my jacket now or have to wait until I saw him again at the halfway point.



Running my pace felt only "ok." It wasn't as easy and effortless as in Mississippi. The combination of the sub-freezing temps and the shortened recovery period was most certainly having an effect on how I felt. I tried not to let it get to me, because I knew this was still a pace I could run and hold. It just would hurt more, and I wasn't looking forward to how that would feel. I needed to get over it, though, because my goal was way more important to me than a few hours of discomfort. I was terrified of failing.

I saw Greg right before the timing mat at the 10K point and I threw my jacket at him and stuck my tongue out at him like a moron. Nice photo, honey.


I was so glad to see him. I am so thankful he decided to come with me and that his parents could watch the kids at home while we were gone. I'm not sure I could have done this without knowing I would see him during the race. 

I hit the timing mat at 55:15, 8:54 average pace, with 6.22 miles on my watch, running a bit faster than I had in Mississippi. This was where I wanted to be.



ONTO THE HALFWAY POINT

After I left Greg, it was time to put my game face on. 20 miles to go and it needed to be fearless. I was warmed up (okay, so actually now I was kind of freezing my ass off without my jacket). I was in a good groove on my pace, not needing to look at my Garmin very much. It would soon be time to speed things up into the 8:30 range. We were running around the lake and I was focused on all the turns on this part of the course. There was one lady running right off my left shoulder who kept telling me she was on my left. I think she thought I was going to run her off the road or something because I was staying close to the edge. Thankfully she pushed ahead of me and stayed there for awhile because I didn't need someone getting feisty with me when I was, in fact, being vigilant about not cutting anyone off. I noticed that a lot of the runners were also trying to run the tangents well so it was fairly easy to follow along with them. 

I eased into some faster miles after a bit of a slow mile 7 (8:54). By mile 10 I was down to 8:51 average pace overall and hadn't added too much distance on yet (my Garmin read 10.03 miles when I passed the 10 mile marker). I think I was speeding up a bit too fast here as mile 10 was 8:36 and it felt like a little bit of a struggle, so I held back a bit during mile 11 (8:51) and calmed down, before easing back into some faster miles. Now it was time to have my miles in the 8:30s and hopefully not slow down. Damn, this wasn't going to be easy at all.

Greg was hanging out at the 13 mile marker and he was a sight for sore eyes. As I passed him I told him this wasn't going to be easy but he reassured me with his faith in me and off I went past him. 







I hit the halfway point timing mat at 1:55:49, and my Garmin read 13.15 miles, so I had run the tangents pretty well up until this point. I was a minute ahead of my halfway point time in Mississippi. From 10K to 13.1 I had run 8:47 pace.




HALFWAY POINT TO 19 MILES

It got a little awesome and then it started getting really hard. This was most definitely a different race than in Mississippi, yet at the same time it was a better race than that one was. I was now pulling 8:30 miles, including my fastest marathon mile to date at Mile 15 in 8:28. After seeing me at Mile 13, Greg ran through the neighborhood and waited for me around a corner before I hit mile 14. He's kind of awesome like that. I had been chatting with a couple runners who were aiming for a sub-4 (they did it, by the way!).





Mile 14 included an out and back section, where I got to see that Tony was about 3/4 of a mile ahead of me and we high-fived and then about halfway between us was the 3:45 pacer. Do you have any idea how awesome that was? I was only a couple minutes behind the 3:45 pacer, something I never in my life thought I would ever be. And the running buddy who I had coached through this training cycle was well on his way to a huge PR and possible BQ. This was also the section that needed to be 100% accurate on a turnaround in one location. Sure enough, as we came upon the turnaround I noticed a permanent painted "x" right there in the road. It was accurate! Big weight off my shoulders, that's for sure. It was really the only point on the course that could have gotten screwed up and it didn't. 

I think what kept me going during this 6 mile stretch was knowing that I would see Greg at mile 19. I wanted as many miles under 8:40 as I could get, but it just was not at all easy to hold that pace mile after mile. My heartrate was okay, however. I was still averaging no more than 150 and I wasn't seeing any unusual 160+ spikes. I think I was just feeling the fatigue from having done this only 5 weeks prior. Doing that is just damn hard. 

Greg was a sight for sore eyes at Mile 19. He mentioned something about a 3:45 being mine, but he was a liar. 3:40-something, sure, but I didn't think I could catch that pacer. 





I hit the 19 mile timing mat at 2:46:27 and had dropped my average pace down to 8:47. My mileage on my Garmin showed 19.07 so I was still doing very well not adding much distance. From 13.1 to 19 miles I had run 8:35 average pace. I still needed to try to drop the pace more, however.



THE FINAL STRETCH

This was where things just got HARD for me. I needed to maintain some semblance of a pace under 8:50 in order to break 3:50. It was a good thing I kept running the numbers in my head on how fast I needed to run to hit my goals, because it did keep my mind off the pain somewhat and it made the miles go by a bit faster. 



When mile 20 came in at 8:44 and then mile 21 at 8:48, but it didn't feel any slower, I sort of wanted to cry a little. I refused to slow down anymore and was getting really really worried I would truly hit the wall. Mile 20 to 24 messed with my head like you wouldn't believe. I knew I had less than an hour to run, and then when I had only five miles left, I only had to pull 9:50 miles to BQ, and 8:50 miles to break 3:50. I could do it. It would hurt, but it was totally within reach and that is about the only thing that got me through the next 45 minutes of this race. 

I'm pretty sure I did hit the wall somewhere around mile 22. I was full on in hell at this point. Everything was hurting, my mind was playing ridiculous tricks on me, and there was a lady that was run/walking, except when she ran she was probably going 7:30 pace, would pull out in front of me, and then start walking. Do you have any idea how hard it is to concentrate when you can't shake someone who keeps walking right in front of you? Eventually I didn't see her again and my focus went back to my own fight to finish strong.




After a long straight stretch, there are a couple turns that will eventually lead to North Blvd. and the final 2 kilometers of the race. Every turn I made, my mind became clearer as I could finally see the light at the end of this incredibly dark tunnel. Miles 22-24 were 8:49, 8:51, and 8:51....certainly very steady despite feeling like I was turning into a sloppy runner but not what I wanted to be running. I figured I could try to make a final surge after hitting the 24 Mile marker, but I still struggled through that mile, getting through it in 8:53. 

Right before the 25 Mile marker comes the only real hill during this race, an overpass. I don't think it looked so bad, and frankly was surprised that it didn't even feel any worse than running the flats. Perhaps it was the recruitment of some different muscles, I don't know, or the elation of knowing my final mile was coming up. As I crested the hill and passed the mile marker, my watch showed just under 3:40. A little over 10 minutes to run the final 1.2 miles. I had absolutely no choice but to speed up if I wanted to break 3:50. This was it...do or die!

I used the short downhill on the other side of the overpass to try to relax. I slowly quickened my pace until I saw the lap pace on my watch drop to the 8:30s. Oh, my gosh, this mile was SO DAMN HARD. I had so little left in the tank that even though there were less than 10 minutes to go, it was going to be a battle. I kept looking straight ahead, hoping to see the final turn coming up at 4th Street that would take me to the last 3 or 4 minutes and the finish line. The previous 3 hours and 40 minutes had seemingly gone by fast, but every minute now was a slow crawl...isn't that how it always is at the end?

I looked at my watch every 20 or 30 seconds to be sure my pace wasn't slowing. It wasn't, thankfully, staying right around 8:35. I just needed to get to the 26 mile marker with 1:50 to spare and I would be just fine. I passed it at 3:48:10 after running an 8:36 mile 26.

1 minute and 43 seconds later, I crossed the finish line.







3:49:53

A BQ by 5:07

The feelings I had when I stopped my watch were surreal. That's the best way to describe it. It just didn't seem like this had actually happened. I had pulled off the impossible, and had run even faster than at Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon. It was a whole hell of a lot harder, but I had managed to fight through those last miles to accomplish my goal. I didn't beat the shortened course time in Mississippi of 3:48:17, but that's okay. This was still my new personal best. An 8:46 pace marathon. A Boston Qualification by 5:07. 

(Side note: somehow in the finish chute, I restarted my watch, and I'm still thoroughly pissed about that. I edited the Garmin entry to reflect that I stopped my watch at the finish at 3:48:54 and 26.3 miles, but sadly my Garmin watch stats now show my fastest marathon as 3:57, the time I noticed I had inadvertently restarted my watch. Small beans in the big picture, but still annoying.)

I saw Greg and Tony right away. Tony was still in the finish chute waiting for me, Greg on the sidelines with what sure looked like tears in his eyes. I got my medal from the sweetest young lady, who gave me purple Mardi Gras beads from around her neck in addition to that hard earned medal. She asked for a hug, and I started crying. It wasn't the ugly cry finish in Mississippi, but rather much more subdued, but the tears were still there. What a sweet volunteer she was to give me the hug I desperately needed.

I got hugs from Greg (more tears!) and Tony (and more tears again!), who missed a BQ by only 51 seconds (those 51 seconds that he should have tacked on to his 5K, but hey, he gets to be 1st Grandmaster! Haha), but took 23 minutes off of his PR and ran a sub-4 hour marathon for the first time ever. A 3:40:51 marathon was just phenomenal. He and I were in an incredible amount of pain as we tried walking out of the chute. A few steps, cramping, a few more steps, whining, a few more steps. Did I mention I was still REALLY REALLY COLD? Greg got me blue and yellow balloons and made a sign for me to celebrate my second BQ (and first legitimate BQ). 





Just wow. 

Now, 3 days later, I'm still in a little bit of awe. I honestly don't know where that strength came from to do this twice in 5 weeks, to do it faster (barely!) the second time, and to push myself to Boston Qualifying caliber. I get to run the Boston Marathon and it just seems so damn crazy. I am one stubborn woman who just never gave up, even when I wanted to, even when my doubts were overwhelming, right up until those last few minutes of that race, when I finally knew I could do it and that I would. I'm also in awe that I basically coached myself (and Tony) to these new marathon times. I wrote the plan and executed it without anyone telling me what to do, with the exception of Tuesday morning interval and tempo workouts. Coach Christine from my triathlon group was the boss that morning every week. She would tell me what to run and how fast to run and I did what she said. Tony and I have to give her so much credit for making us truly see how fast we could run. Our determination combined with great running buddies, great advice, and priceless support all around, helped us to succeed.

It's interesting to me to look back on the past 38 days and everything that's happened. I BQ'd on December 10, only to see that the course was short. My time would've been just under 3:51 had the course been accurate. I had to recover fast and smart and try not to lose too much fitness over the next five weeks so I could do it again. I BQ'd again, this time by more than the 4:00 minute buffer I would've had in Mississippi. I think that's a really big positive to take out of this. I had a better finish time in Louisiana, so I have to see that as a silver lining to the stress from the last five weeks. Had my BQ counted in Mississippi, I doubt I would've raced as hard in Louisiana, and quite possibly would've only run the half marathon. I also learned something from this race that didn't really come into play in Mississippi. Be careful of hydration. I did not hydrate enough because of the cold and I'm sure that slowed me down a bit at the end. I still would've felt pretty icky but perhaps a little less. I fueled with gels very well, however, and I'm pleased with that. Every 45 minutes practically on the dot I had a gel and that was enough nutrition for me, in addition to the salt a couple of times during the race plus the hydration mix in my water bottle. But the water consumption was too little and I need to be better about that in cold weather. 

We learn something from every single race, no doubt about that. 

I have to note that I had three teammates running the Houston Marathon, and each of them ran a great race, too. Two new PRs and a BQ. I was actually the slowest marathon out of all five of us, so it was certainly a really great day. 

The rest of the day consisted of gumbo, beer, rum and coke, a hot bath, pizza, Fireball, more beer, king cake, Starbucks, and some good times checking out Mike the Tiger on LSU campus. Poor Greg had his hands full babysitting us. But I think it was worth it to him to be able to see me run another awesome marathon.





BOSTON!!!




Monday, January 8, 2018

Racing all the races

There have been times when I wanted to race EVERYTHING. At least a race a month, maybe more. The last couple years? Not so much.

Some years it's just better to be particular about what you do. Racing can be hard, and recovery can take awhile, and the last thing I want to do is mess up my body and turn out mediocre race after mediocre race. It's also very expensive. If I wanted a sub-par performance, I can do that in training without the $150 entry fee.

In 2017, I completed 4 5K's (one was legit racing, three were for fun, and two of the fun ones were the day before a marathon), one 5 mile race, one trail 10K, two marathons, one half marathon (training run), and one relay. That was plenty of "racing" for me.

As for this year, it remains to be seen what it's going to look like. My main focus right now is marathons. My year will take shape completely dependent on how the Louisiana Marathon turns out this weekend. If I BQ, and by what I think is enough of a margin, then perhaps Boston 2019 will be my next marathon. If I don't succeed in this goal and want to try for another one during the 2019 qualification timeframe, I'll have to find another marathon. That will be my priority. This means that once again, I'll be the world's worst triathlete.

But I'm okay with that. I'm finding that when I stretch my focus across too many goals, then I suffer. It's much better for me to focus on just one thing at a time. I feel like I'm in such great marathon shape right now, and I LOVE THAT, so for now that focus is exactly right for me.

A part of me misses all the racing I used to do, but then again not having to worry about tapering and recovery of minor races meant that my focus during the training season was 100% on my marathon training plan. Using the one half marathon I did as a training run was the best decision, although at the the time I was irritated about the weather derailing my ability to race it. In hindsight, by slowing it down and focusing on form, cadence, and breathing, without having to worry about a recovery period after the race, it did me far more good than had I raced it. I swear, you learn something new every training cycle!

I did race the 5 miler 2 1/2 weeks before the marathon, and because it was a short race in very cold temps, it ended up serving as a big confidence boost, a lesson in pace control and breathing, and exactly how to deal with freezing temps since that's what race day offered up. Because of it's short duration, there was no recovery required beyond one rest day. Instead, I was able to chalk it up as an intense speed session.

I'm nervous as heck going into race week. Louisiana Running Festival is this weekend, with a shakeout 5k on Saturday (aiming for marathon pace in that one), and then the marathon on Sunday. Start temps won't be above 30 if this forecast holds (and I think it will, or just get colder, because since the 15 day forecast came out, all it's done is get colder and colder and colder), so I know I'm being blessed with the exact conditions I need to run my very best. I have to hope that I did my recovery correct. My body is not perfect, but I think my grit and determination can make up for any deficits caused by the marathon last month. I know, based on the data, that I still had something in me to push even harder in Mississippi, so I'm going to try my best to tap into that on Sunday. I will be crossing that finish line with NOTHING left. Greg should have that inhaler ready!

I know what it feels like to qualify for Boston. It's the most indescribable feeling for someone like me, who wasn't born with a bunch of talent and had to fight hard to get to that caliber. I need to be thinking of that during every moment of that race.



And then, when it's all done, I can think about how the rest of my year will shape up and where my focus can be. Marathoner or triathlete...or both? Remains to be seen!


Monday, January 1, 2018

Breathe

When 2017 started, I chose PEACE as my "word for the year." It served as a reminder of who I wanted to be and who God wanted me to be. In order to accomplish my goals I needed to embrace peace. I'd like to say that for the most part, I was successful. It took a lot of outside help...friends, my husband, medication, a whole lot of running with some big goals, and a few cocktails.

It was a tough year on the parenting front. So very tough. I feel like I say that every single year, but it's true.

I just don't have easy kids. I have a genius son who has trouble expressing compassion, thrives on being contrary, and doesn't live up to his potential at school (although there's a lot of improvement this year), and an overly sensitive, anxiety-ridden daughter who requires therapy and struggles greatly at school.

It's never ending and exhausting and there are some days when I want to scream because WHY CAN'T IT JUST BE EASY. It's incredibly hard to not compare my situation with others' whose family lives seem relatively easy, with kids who smile for the camera, love adventure, and get straight A's. You know, what everyone thinks life is going to be like when you have kids.

Ugh.

But somehow I made it through the year with more peace. Somehow, some way, I managed to have a whole lot of wins in the midst of the losses.

This year, my word is BREATHE.

You know how when you're in the middle of a tough workout and you feel like your breathing is just way too hard and rapid? But then you take some deep breaths and force yourself to slow it down and you start to feel so much better and stronger?

That's how I need 2018 to be. I need to remember to BREATHE.



The other day we were driving from Southern California back home to Central Texas. My husband and I decided to take a little side trip to Tombstone, Arizona, a place we'd never been and thought might be fun to see. The week in California had been more stressful than we had anticipated, with a medical emergency that threw us for a loop and a bit of a chaotic Christmas Day that caused my daughter an incredible amount of social anxiety. We wanted to take our time a bit more on the roadtrip back home, to appreciate what was around us rather than being anxious to get home.

My son was having none of it. No way did he want to take a two hour side trip to a little town with "nothing to offer." He was just plain nasty to us. To keep from throttling him, I had to force myself to take deep breaths and to do my best to keep my mouth shut. Not too successfully, I might add. Unfortunately, his attitude didn't get better, but somehow we got back on the road with him still alive. It was a total test in parental patience. The next day his attitude did not improve much, as we took a side trip to Cloudcroft, New Mexico, for tubing. Once again, he was having none of it. Thankfully, once he started tubing, he actually found himself having fun. But leading up to that first run down the tube hill I was a wreck from dealing with his surly attitude and the effect it was having on his sister's emotions. I removed myself from his presence, took the dogs on a walk, and remembered to BREATHE. Things turned around and the day was successful after all.

Did I mention that I just really want things to just be easy? Just once?

I will have another opportunity to focus on "just breathing" in 13 days, when I try to qualify for Boston again. As you know, my first qualifying marathon from 22 days ago was disqualified due to a short course, forcing me to try again if I want to run the Boston Marathon in 2019. It's not ideal. It's actually downright scary. I waver between confidence and terror on a daily basis right now. Because I raced hard on December 10, my body needed time to recover in order to turn around and race hard again on January 14. I think I've done a decent job with recovery, even with the travel, but I'm not 100%. I know I'm doing things right, but I'm also slightly scared that I've messed up my fitness and that I won't be ready in time. I got so used to running 50 mile weeks that these last weeks of much lower mileage and intensity are really messing with my head.

When I feel like my anxiety about it is getting out of hand, I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths and feel so much better. Taking those moments to breathe deeply and focus on the positives I have going into the race definitely helps.

BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT

When I'm running the marathon, I'll need to remember to breathe slowly and deliberately. It's easy to allow your breathing to get shallow and rapid and it's a surefire way to derail a good race. With experience, I've managed to turn this around time and time again during a race. In the last 6 miles of my last marathon, I found myself coming up alongside several folks who were really struggling, as many do in the last part of a marathon. They were breathing heavy, losing their form, and just trying to get through each mile one step at a time. It reminded me to stand up straight, throw my shoulders back, take another deep breath, and relax my breathing so I didn't fall victim to this dreaded "wall." I'm sure I'll need to do this countless times on January 14.

JUST BREATHE.




Thursday, December 14, 2017

Unlucky #13 but I still won - THE FINALE

Now that the race is over, my stats have been analyzed, my emotions all over the damn place, it's time to truly reflect on the past several months.

(Note: For the purpose of my analysis, I'm using my adjusted Mississippi Gulf Coast time of 3:50:54 rather than my official shortened-course time of 3:48:17.)

How did I got from a marathon PR of 4:17:53 all the way down to 3:50:54? This equates to a time difference of 26:59, or 1:02/mile. It's been nearly four years since I ran that 4:17 marathon, and since then I've run a 4:21, 4:25, and 4:35. Not exactly stellar times, especially when I'm a much stronger runner at shorter distances.

The last few years haven't been too kind to me on the running front, and it's been a two year long battle to come back to better shape and better mental strength. When the weather in Baton Rouge in January forced me to hold back, I had to abandon my PR and run smart and slow, which was a bummer. But even if I had "raced," I likely would not have run faster than a 4:10 or 4:15. When I ran in the Texas Independence Relay in March, I fell apart and was miserable. It pissed me off.

So then came April and I made the decision that this was not acceptable and I was going to completely change things up and get my sorry ass into shape and blow my marathon PR out of the water. I've written several blog posts since then about my journey to Sunday's race.

From my 4/20/17 blog: Are you ready for a marathon? And OMG I want to go to Boston
"I want to go to Boston. I want to qualify. My new age group qualification window opens up in September, and it gives me another 10 minute cushion for qualifying. But I still need to run a 3:55, and because of the demand of the race even that time will not be enough to gain entry. I will need to shoot for a 3:52. This is nearly a minute per mile faster than my fastest marathon. I have run a 1:51 half, when I was in fantastic shape, so I know the speed is there for me. I just need to tap into it and have a really great BQ race day.
I WANT TO GO TO BOSTON.
I'm laying the groundwork now for making this possible. I want this. I'm ready for this."
The journey had begun. 

Then I began writing about how my Training Plan took shape and started to progress from that early version to something even more intense.

From my 4/30/17 blog: Training Plan
"Writing all of this out is helping me to see the big picture. I'm still slightly terrified of the work ahead of me, but strangely excited. It will forever be so weird to me that this girl who never really did any sports growing up (well, I tried and I kind of sucked) is talking about running 800 miles in the second half of the year and tackling two more marathons by the time I hit my next birthday. Pretty damn cool."
From my 6/7/17 blog: Progress
"I know this means that all the work I'm putting in with regards to my nutrition and consistency and effort is paying off. My head is telling me I can do it and my body is responding. Huge boost for my mental game, that's for sure. Knowing my body is stronger and my lungs are working better than usual tells me that no matter what crazy workout Christine gives us, I can do it. This also means she's probably getting wise to me and will make me run faster."
From my 6/19/17 blog: Summer has arrived
"There's a time and place for race pace and faster runs. Long run weekend is not one of those, especially in this part of my training cycle and in the summer. I'm building up my base so my body is ready for more mileage. I added a fourth day to my running last week, and I have 4 weeks until the difficult training technically starts. As I get deep into training, some of my long runs will incorporate race pace miles, but usually no more than 30% of the run, and the rest of the miles will be at long run pace. Speed will happen during interval runs, tempo runs, races, track nights, and runs like those, but in order to properly prepare oneself for the rigors of the volume of marathon training, you have to allow yourself the luxury of recovery miles and long, slow miles. If I ran 8:58 pace day in and day out, at 40 or 50+ miles per week, I would be depleted on race day."
It was becoming more and more clear to me at this point that my strategy, while frustrating because it forced me to run over 10:00/mile pace, I had to stick to it and be patient.

From my 7/13/17 blog: Intentional Training
"I'm not stressing about my long run pace at all anymore, whereas I used to be so bummed if I didn't train at a certain pace all the time. By focusing more on my heartrate and cadence I'm able to steadily improve my aerobic fitness."
"Proper recovery from the tougher workouts is vital (yay recovery runs!) to be able to continue to perform well during those particularly hard weeks. I'm just continuing to chant that mantra of "easy pace, easy pace, easy pace" (no matter how much my teammates laugh at how anal I've become). My long slow runs are paying dividends during hard workouts and will (hopefully, oh pretty please) pay off on race day." 
 From my 8/13/17 blog: Trying to see the light
"I'm doing just fine with intervals, tempos, and hill repeat pacing. I can see all that improving, I can see my cardiovascular strength improving, and I know I'm making progress. But those 10+ minute long runs....ugh....I think realizing the benefit of long SLOW runs is a tough thing in general for marathoners to deal with. It's hard to see that when you run so much slower than goal pace, you're actually doing something good for yourself."
"I know that my biggest strength right now, besides my improvement in cardiovascular strength, is my attitude, and while I am struggling to push a few doubts away, I do really believe in myself. Most of the time, at least. But I'm also human and have anxiety and need to take a few deep breaths now and then to calm myself down. My attitude is a thousand times better than it's been in recent years and I'm trying so damn hard to hold onto that!"
From my 9/15/17 blog: It's the strangest thing
"I read an article titled 'Change your mindset to improve your race times.' It couldn't have come at a better time, right when I'm starting to incorporate race pace miles into my long run and I'm pushing myself harder during hard workouts now that the weather is better.
Be mindful of the deceptive paralysis that can take hold when you become intimidated by your increasingly faster paces.
Basically this means that we allow the fear of the faster paces we are running, and the daunting thought of actually running that in a race, hold us back on race day. We are physiologically capable of our goal, but our minds work against us and we fail to truly believe in our ability. We fear going 'balls to the wall' and then failing."
 It's fascinating to me to read all of this again and see my newfound strength taking shape as the training cycle progressed.

My my 10/6/17 blog: 9 more weeks
"The next few weeks will really see some serious commitment. 170 miles in October, 190 in November, and then tapering to December 10 race day. Tempos, long runs, track work, easy days, strength work, balance work....did I mention serious commitment?
This shit is so good for me. It's hard and I love it. I'm scared as hell of failing at my goals, but dammit I'm going to do everything I can to get myself to that starting line in the best shape of my life."
From my 11/10/17 blog: Hello Hell Week
"My training volume is more than I have ever done and I can't deny that I was really worried when I wrote the plan. I knew I needed higher volume to do what I want to do, but it frightened me to think of doing midweek long runs in addition to the REALLY long runs over the weekend, to sometimes run 6 days per week...and even 6 days in a row.

But I'm still alive and I'm right smack dab in the middle of hell. Last week I ran 54 miles, this week is 49 and next week is 54. Then I get to taper. November 19 can't come soon enough!"
From my 11/24/17 blog: Turkey Trot Badassery
"I'm so glad that I decided to race this. I was in a good position to run well, to shake my demons out one last time, and to finish out the rest of my marathon taper with really good thoughts in my head. Running 7:45 average for 5 miles was not nearly as hard as I expected it could be, so to add over a minute per mile to that pace and hold it for 26.2 seems very doable to me. So far the weather in Biloxi is looking great for the marathon. I will have rested legs and I'm at my best shape ever. My confidence is as good as it's going to get and I'm very happy."
From my 11/29/17 blog: The Home Stretch
"I need to keep remembering how all of this feels, that race pace is not a big deal to me, that I'm perfectly capable of dialing into that pace during my race and being okay. I really need to remember that I can run a marathon probably much faster than a 3:52 if I tried even harder. Because I can. Every single data point is telling me this.
And I need to STOP remembering that if I run my stretch goal, I will have taken an entire minute off my pace from my PR marathon. I need to STOP telling myself that people just don't do that. Because I'm perfectly capable to doing that. I made it my goal, I did the work, and the glory is right in front of me to take."
Wow....going through my posts since April was fun and crazy.

Do you want to run a fantastic marathon? Do you want to improve beyond what you thought possible? Everyone has different strengths, and some plans that work for others might not work for you. But I can tell you what I did and why I think it worked, and perhaps you can take some of this into your own training.

1. I lost weight. I lost over 10% of my bodyweight since April. I am probably well below 20% bodyfat and am my leanest ever. I did this by cutting out sugar. I didn't eat desserts, I didn't eat candy, I avoided it like the plague. Any sugar I got was in the form of cocktails, because let's be serious...this is marathon training and I needed a damn drink sometimes. I cut out most refined carbs and processed crap. I cooked with whole grains and no white sugar. I snacked on fruit. It was exactly what worked for my body to drop all the excess. I'm sure a big side effect of this was also being able to consistently feel strong in my workouts.

2. I was consistent. If I had to run that day, I did. I didn't get lazy. I respected the training plan and the process.

3. I significantly, but intelligently, increased my volume. I had been working on my base from April to July, when the training plan kicked in. By the time the harder workouts really hit and the 30+ mile weeks started, I had a very strong running base. Adding on the volume and intensity week after week was completely doable. I decided that to be serious, I needed to consistently be running 40-55 mile weeks during the final 10 weeks of training.

August miles: 131
September miles: 163
October miles: 167
November miles: 186

I ran 5-6 timed per week, every week, and sometimes 6 days in a row. The volume was high and relentless.

4. I respected recovery. In order to run at a high volume, I never ran two intense training runs consecutively. A typical week would consist of Monday recovery run (4-6 miles), Tuesday interval or tempo run (7 miles), Wednesday easy longer distance run (8-10 miles), Thursday track work (6-9 miles), Friday rest, Saturday easy run (4-8 miles), Sunday long run (with 3 runs over 3 hours). Goal race pace, for my stretch A goal of a 3:52 marathon, was 8:51 pace. My long runs rarely were below 10:00 pace, my recovery runs were more like 10:15-10:30 pace, but because I took it so easy on those days, my Tuesday and Thursday quality workouts were intense and I ran better than expected. My Sunday long run, even in high humidity and high temps, were strong up to the end of the run. When I incorporated some race pace miles into my long runs, I didn't have much trouble hitting the right pace.

It's a difficult thing for us to throw out our ego and run slow and admit we ran slow. It's so much more glamorous to post that we ran our long run at 8:45 pace instead of 10:15 pace. But you won't hit your goals if you overtax your body. Your hard run days will suffer. Your body simply can't sustain that kind of intensity and you won't be rewarded on race day if you tear your body down. The goal is to build your aerobic endurance. If you do that, you'll be amazed at what you can do on race day.

5. I paid attention to my heart rate. I needed to stay in Zone 2 or less for 70% of my running miles. Because of the summer/fall temps and humidity I would get into low Zone 3 during long runs, but not Zone 4. As the training progressed, I was finding that my heart rate average was steadily declining during quality workouts, so I was able to see that I could start to push even harder during those. I could hold a Zone 3 and 4 heart rate for longer and longer during tempo runs. By analyzing this data, it gave me the confidence that my fitness was heading into the right direction and I was on my way to achieving a much faster pace for a marathon.

6. I took care of my body with non-running work. Strength training, balance work, physical therapy to work on my imbalances, foam rolling, stretching. All of this was vital to keep my body in tip top shape and injury free.

7. I believed in myself. Half the battle during a marathon is mental, not physical. During the last 10K, while your body is definitely fatiguing, most people give up their pace because they allow their minds to screw with them. They forget to trust their training and they give in to all the doubts. But with the right kind of training under your belt, you don't have to allow this to happen. It's not easy, but a slow down in the second half of a marathon is not inevitable. As a matter of fact, with the right training, you should be able to run a negative split race. You HAVE TO believe that. You HAVE TO trust your training. You HAVE TO believe that you are strong beyond measure.

8. I had nothing to lose. During the race on Sunday, which you can read about in yesterday's blog, I went out from Mile 1 with the intention of RACING. There was no real warm up in those early miles, no super slow miles to ease into the distance, like there has been in every other marathon of mine. It was great weather, it was a great course, and I had absolutely nothing to lose by racing fiercely and fearlessly.

I had put in the work, I knew I had tapered the previous three weeks properly, I had so much training volume under my belt, I knew what pace I was capable of, I knew I could probably run even faster, so that is exactly what I allowed my body to do. I felt good, I was running miles faster than my racing plan, but I didn't let that scare me. I kept at it and kept running faster and knew that even if I slowed a little at the end, that I had done everything I could do meet my goal. I ran a negative split race, just like I planned.

I HAD TO BE FEARLESS. 

I CRUSHED MY DAMN RACE. I ran a Boston Qualifying marathon by a long shot. I basically secured my starting place in Hopkington on April 15, 2019 (until the course was de-certified, unfortunately).

So today, four days post marathon, I am attacking my new plan with fervor. In 31 days I will once again get to a marathon start line with my plan to crush my Boston Qualifying time. As a matter of fact, I want to crush my shortened course time of 3:48:19, which would require me running an 8:43 average pace. I absolutely can do this. My legs feel great, I am ready to ease into running again, starting tonight, and my heart is ready to embrace this journey once again.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Unlucky #13 but I still won - PART 2

Sunday, December 10 was a gorgeous morning. I woke up a little after 4am so I could get ready, eat some breakfast, and catch the shuttle to the start line, a ride that would take about 45 minutes. It was dark and only 28 degrees out, but I bundled myself up, all my gear in hand, ready to crush the race I had trained so hard for.

The start area was so quiet. We would start on Beach Blvd in Pass Christian, MS, surrounded by practically nothing. A very mellow and relaxing way to get up the courage to run my race plan and be successful in my first attempt to qualify for Boston.

We were allowed to stay on our shuttles in the warmth while we waited for the start of the race, which was a great thing because it was brutally cold outside. As the sun rose along the Gulf, I said about a thousand prayers that this race would go well. It was truly a beautiful morning.


The marathon course was going to be a great one. The first 24 miles are run on Beach Blvd., with the beach on our right and some pretty impressive homes on our left. Once in Biloxi and Mile Marker 24, we enter the on ramp to I-110 for just under 2 miles round trip, then weave around MGM Park to enter the stadium for the finish. Great scenery, and because it's a straight shot for most of the race, it's a big opportunity to get into a good pace groove.

This is the first marathon where I actually did a jog and drill warm up. My race execution plan called for me to start at a much faster-than-I'm-used-to pace for an endurance distance. Coupled with 28 degree temps, a warm up was necessary.

FIRST 10K

I started just behind the 4:00 pacer, and let the group get slightly ahead of me for the first two miles. My starting pace felt fantastic! I got through the first two miles in 18:21, about 30 seconds ahead of plan. I did not let this freak me out, however. I didn't want to get caught up in the numbers on my Garmin unless I was running too slow. I had to run by feel and if I was lucky, my feel good pace would be better than expected. So far so good.

Mile 3 came in at 8:49. Ok, so that was a bit fast, but this was also when I passed the huge group with the 4:00 pacer. I was a little overly excited about that. I settled into a groove for miles 4-6, averaging 9:00 pace, and this was the last time I saw any miles over 9:00 for the duration of the race. It helped tremendously that I started running with a gentleman named Tom, a local whose goal was to break 4 hours and who was more than happy to run my pace and have some company. Thank you, Tom!!

The timing mat for the 10K was placed at about 6.3 miles, so while my split came in right where my plan called for it to, I was actually running faster. First 6.3 miles came in at 56:49, 9:01 pace. And I was feeling great. I also tried not to think about the fact that I still had 20 miles to run.

I got to see Greg for the first time at this checkpoint. Always a big boost to see him!


Giving Greg the all clear that I was racing well


ONTO THE HALFWAY POINT

I had settled into a pretty sweet groove at this point, taking in the scenery, chatting with Tom about the gulf coast area, and making sure my miles were on target or under and feeling comfortable but not too comfortable. Every mile between 7 and 12 was in the 8:40s and 8:50s. My plan didn't even call for me to hit anything under 8:50 until after halfway, so this was time in the bank for me, yet I wasn't overdoing it. I do remember thinking during mile 9 that I was a third of the way done, and strangely this didn't freak me out. It's almost like I was actually performing like a good marathoner now or something. Even my heartrate was under control, staying comfortably in Zone 3.

Mile 13 I like to think of as my Golden Mile. The timing mat came at 12.5 miles instead of the expected 13.1 miles (which is what the tracking app indicated). So all the people who were following me were probably wondering how I ran sub-8 pace between 10K and 13.1. No worries, folks...I did no such thing. I was at 1:51:42 at 12.5 miles and not 13.1. My average pace at this point was now 8:57. Mile 13 was my first mile that came in under 8:40 pace and while I could feel the fatigue setting in, I was still doing exceptionally well. I ran Mile 13 in 8:38! Just wow! I ran the first half of this marathon in 1:56:45.

I had just run my third fastest half marathon. Well, how about that!?!

I also got to see Greg again! I let him know it was starting to get a little hard.


Look at my scenery!

13.1 to 20 MILES

This is the point to where reality starts setting in during most marathons. Lucky for me, I was just getting started. I started knocking out miles in the 8:30's at this point, mile after mile after mile. Now, don't get me wrong. This was not an easy pace for me. I was working hard. I focused on a high cadence, on keeping my shoulders back, and just getting to the next mile marker. I needed to chip away at the course five minutes at a time at this point. It was working, though, because while it was not easy to maintain my pace, it was still completely doable. I was still running with Tom during this stretch.

I HAD TO BELIEVE IN MY TRAINING. It was probably right around Mile 17 that my mental game kicked in. I was down to single digits in miles left to run, I was not slowing down, I still felt pretty decent considering I was PR'ing every single distance past halfway at this point. Fastest 14 miles, fastest 15....16....17....oh hey, look, it's my fastest 18....19....20 miles.

I saw Greg again, and passed a timing mat at 20 miles. OH MY GOSH, I WAS AT 20 MILES! And I still was under 3 hours. Completely unreal to me, and a huge motivation to me as well that I had just run 20 miles in well under 3 hours.

I hit the mat at 2:56:32. From halfway to 20 miles, my pace was 8:40 average. My overall pace through 20 miles was now 8:49. I was under my goal pace of 8:51 (this is what I needed to run in order to be 3 minutes under my BQ standard). All I had to do was maintain this average pace for less than an hour and I was golden.

I told Greg that I had it in the bag.
Pay no mind to how bad I look here.


FINAL 10K

I refuse to let the 20 mile wall myth bother me. Okay, so it's not a myth. People really do hit a wall physically sometimes, but more often than not for me it's been a mental wall and I don't do that crap anymore. I've done this enough times to know how to toughen up in the last hour of a marathon, and with my training this time around I was in better shape than I've ever been. All I needed to do was run 58:28 for the final 10K and I was a Boston Qualified runner. That's 9:25 pace. I hadn't even run a single mile that slow yet and I wasn't about to start now! Unfortunately, I had lost Tom, so this last stretch was solo.

The fatigue was setting in. I was counting down the half miles, sometimes the quarter miles, and putting one foot in front of the other, trying to keep a high cadence, trying not to slow down. Mile 21 was awesome at 8:41, but then I started hitting 8:50 miles. I needed to stop looking at my watch, so that's what I did. At this point I just needed to maintain 10:00 average to qualify, and that was a huge comfort to me.

At this point, I just RAN. I was passing people like nobody's business and having a grand time responding to their comments of "great job!" with "I'M GOING TO BE A BOSTON QUALIFIER!"

The 23 mile marker is always a good one for me. I have about a 5K left to run, less than 30 minutes. I can always run 3 more miles. The more sub-9 miles I was clicking off, the more time I was banking and the better my chances were getting to BQ.

At 24 miles we turn off of Beach Blvd and onto the on ramp to I-110. I saw Greg at this point and I looked at my watch again. It was kind of a blur, but I thought I saw 3:31. I had 2.2 miles to run and 24 minutes to get there. I wasn't really slowing down. We went up the ramp and this was the only point in the course with any kind of real incline, but it didn't bother me. Using different muscles was a good thing and I tried desperately to not slow down. It's a long steady incline, probably about a good half mile before it levels out. My favorite part was being able to look down into MGM Park and the finish line and see people crossing it. Talk about lighting a fire in me to hurry my ass up and finish! Once I hit the flatter part on the interstate I relaxed a bit. I had about 15 minutes left to run and I would be done.

The half marathoners had a turn around point closer to ours and I was thinking that there needed to be a course marshall there to be sure none of the marathoners cheated and turned early. Our turnaround was about a minute further down the road.

This is where the race went sideways, unbeknownst to all of us. 

They placed our turnaround cone short of the certified spot. We didn't know this while we were running. I was elated to finally get around that cone and to truly be on my way to a great marathon finish. I hit mile 25 in 8:50 and began to hopefully speed up for that last 10 minutes, particularly on this downhill off the interstate.

It didn't even seem like that long before we were back to Beach Blvd and turning left to make our way around MGM Park. I saw Greg again, and this time he was waving my Boston Marathon shirt at me. He was so excited because he knew I had blown away my goal.

Seeing the Mile 26 marker and entering the stadium for my finish was like nothing else I've felt in any of the races I have done.

As I rounded the curve to the finish, I saw the clock and it surprised me. I know I hadn't paid a whole lot of attention to my watch the last several miles, but I was not expecting to see a 3:48. I felt like I had really kicked it in the end to pull that off.

I crossed the line in 3:48:19.

Greg caught my finish on video. It was incredibly emotional. I was crying like I have never cried at a race finish.



I WAS A BOSTON QUALIFIER! And I had over 6 minutes to spare!

My overall pace in the results showed 8:43.
I was 5th in my age group of 36 women.
18th overall woman out of 209 (although I did catch a cheater in the results that needs to be removed and that will make me 17th of 208).
77th overall out of 441 finishers (or 76 of 440 after the cheater goes bye-bye).
I passed 22 women and 33 men in the second half.
Nobody passed me after the initial few minutes of settling into our paces. NOBODY PASSED ME.

Never before have I placed so high in a marathon and it was an exhilarating feeling.

I started to hyperventilate a little, and medical came over to me very quickly to be sure I was okay. Thankfully, my breathing got under control once I stopped crying.

I was so damn happy! 

Half Split was really a 12.5 mile split




Awhile later, I looked at my Garmin and it showed I had run 25.91 miles. My heart about stopped.



The course was short. I hoped I was wrong, but in all honesty I knew they had messed up that turnaround cone and misplaced it and shortened the course. By this time, I had posted to social media, I had gone through all the emotions of a fantastic race, and I had to hold out hope that everything was going to be okay. I didn't want to say anything until I knew for sure.

To make a long story short, it wasn't okay. Yesterday, the race director conceded, after vehemently denying the course was anything other than the certified distance, that a mistake had been made. In the rush of the morning, the measurements were taken off of the wrong spot, placing the cone short, and making the course 25.905 miles.

I was no longer a Boston Qualifier. It was being taken away from me, despite being so far under my qualifying standard and there being no doubt that I would have run 26.2 in under 3:51 had I been given the chance to complete that distance.

I wrote a blog post yesterday about the official ruling and my initial reactions. Today, my sadness is greater and my frustration is high. I ran an incredible race. I am a deserving Boston Marathon Qualifier, just without the title. I still have to go out and earn that again.

Rather than focus on that, however, I'm going to use this blog post to focus on the positives in my race execution. For the sake of the analysis, I'm going to adjust my finish time to reflect what it likely would have been at 26.2 miles. I was running 8:46 in mile 26 according to my Garmin (definitely wasn't speeding up like I thought!). Assuming I maintained that pace for the 0.295 miles that the course was short, my finish time would have been 3:50:54.

My first half was run in 1:56:45 at 8:54 average pace. My third fastest half marathon at the time. My second half would have been run in 1:54:09, 8:42 average, making it my second fastest half and pushing my first half to becoming my fourth fastest. I seriously think it's time to go bust out a 1:45 stand-alone half marathon, amiright?

My average heartrate was 152. This is the stat that truly blows my mind. Max heartrate was only 162. I never hit zone 5, and I stayed in zone 3 for over 2 hours. It makes me think I have a faster marathon in me RIGHT NOW.




Because I feel like I have to fix this unfortunate situation, I am still planning to run in Baton Rouge on January 14. It's a fantastic course, from the same race directors, and I ran it earlier this year. I have to go for another Boston attempt. The race directors are offering Boston Qualifiers free entry, but because I already registered I am asking for a refund of my entry fee. Either that, or I'll accept a free entry to run Mississippi Gulf Coast again. The fact that I loved that race, that course, the people, everything about it has not changed. I will absolutely run it again given the chance.

I want to run faster than my 25.91 mile time in Biloxi. It will give me the ability to say without a doubt that my marathon PR is in the 3:40's, without an asterisk. I am going to recover, get back into intelligent training, get to Baton Rouge, and run that crap out of that course. I have the confidence and mental strength I need to do this again, no matter how many times it takes me.

Stay tuned for Part 3, where I will talk about why I think the training worked for me to take over 27 minutes off my marathon PR.

5th age group is pretty close to Top Finisher!

My miles 1-20 running buddy, Tom! He finished in 3:52.

Greg had TWO beers.

Here's my medal

My favorite cheerleader and biggest supporter