Tuesday, April 8, 2014

On top of the world

"Running is a mental sport, and we're all insane." --not sure who said this, but gosh is it true.  We had this quote on the back of our cross country shirts in high school and it still holds true for me to this day.  As you all will remember, my first 20 miler was quite the challenge. It was hot, I was alone, and I had a less than stellar attitude about the whole thing long before I took my first step.  My mentality is what played the biggest factor in my first 20 miler turning out less than what I had expected. I was determined to make sure that didn't happen again on my next long run. 

I had 10 days to prepare for my next attempt at 20 miles and I had it planned out perfectly.  My husband and sister planned on riding road bikes next to me while I ran on a local bike path.  They would carry water bottles on the bikes, and cell phones for musical enjoyment, and I would carry my Gu/fuel. The plan was to see how many miles I could cover in 3 hours.  I figured on around an 8:27ish pace, so told them that we would be likely riding around 7.0-7.3 miles per hour. The bikes have speedometers on them so they would be able to keep track of that if they wanted.

I planned my outfit based on my projected race day attire, but it was chilly so I went with a tech tee and a wind breaker type jacket to start.

Love my CEP socks, Oiselle arm warmers, stride shorts, KT tape for my sore knee, and my fabulous Mizuno Wave Creation's!
We got to the trail later than planned due to a pit stop along the way, and then flat bike tires that took awhile to get aired up.  But I was staying positive no matter what. I wasn't going to let my mind win. I wasn't going to let anything mess with this day and this run.  This was my last chance to prove to myself that I belong on that starting line, I belong in the marathon, and I AM capable of qualifying for Boston. 
Just before we got started.
So off we went.  The first couple of miles were fine, easy even.  I was running in the low 8's and kept thinking that I was going too fast, but with Jordan right beside me and April right behind me, I had the momentum to keep going at that pace so I didn't even attempt to back off.  Jordan mentioned a few times what our mph were and would tell me if I had sped up at all.  After a few of the announcements I told him I wasn't worrying about mph or pace, and I was going to run the rest based on effort.  I finally started ignoring my watch around mile 5 and just let the miles fly by.  We had some Beatles, Michael Jackson, Disney music, Avenged Sevenfold, Greek Fire, and plenty of other awesome tunes to help me forget about the length of time I was going to be out there.  I never listen to music when I run, but it helped so much.  It never distracted me from my run or my pace, but it helped pass the time faster since I couldn't gab the whole time due to my increased effort.  I was able to talk and didn't feel out of breath but didn't want to waste energy so I kept the talking to a minimum.  Around mile 7 (I think), April took my jacket because I was getting hot.  My miles were flying by at this point, I was passing people on the trail, smiling or giving a little wave, feeling awesome the whole time.  I looked down at my watch one time and saw a 7:20 around mile 10 and couldn't believe it.  I could feel myself pushing the pace some of the time, but still had so much energy at the halfway point.  I was getting excited to see what my 13.1 time would be.  I crossed the 90 minute (the true half way point) mark having ran 11.6 miles! I was running sub 8 pace at this point and knowing that just gave me the momentum to keep pushing. I wasn't looking at my watch at every mile mark so I had no idea just how good I was doing most of the time, I was just running on effort, something I hadn't done enough of through my training.
April took a video of me, it's posted on her Facebook page for those of you that are friends with her.  I crossed 13.1 miles in 1:43:20, my second fastest attempt at the half marathon distance, during a 3 hour run!  I crossed the 15 mile mark in 1:59, my fastest 15 miler ever.  I set out on 2 hour runs most weeks with the goal of reaching 15 miles in under that time, today was the first time I made it in under 120 minutes! :) The trail we were on was 8 miles long, so we turned around to head back out at 16 miles and I immediately felt the fatigue start setting in.  I ran an 8:48 and a 9:02 for miles 16 & 17, but considering many of my miles had been under 8:00 I didn't feel too bad about this.   
Miles 18 & 19 were foggy and my Garmin was acting up, but we turned around at the 19 mile mark with 3 miles to go.  I told myself not to wimp out and to push the last 3 like it was a regular every day 3 mile run. No big deal.  The music was rocking, the bike wheels were turning, my legs were aching and I felt like my feet were flying.  April set out some motivation for me and I attempted to catch people in front of me like she told me to do.  It looked like I might make 22 miles in under 3 hours and I told myself I would stop at 22 miles, that would be enough torture for my legs for one day.  The last mile I pushed and I pushed.  I swung my arms faster when I felt like my legs might fail me.  The elation I felt, knowing I was going to finish this run in almost the same time I'd done 20 miles the week before, is what helped me finish so strong.  April yelled out, "I don't know how you're doing this!" As I picked up the pace for the last 1/2 mile. Jordan said I was running way up over 8 mph for most of the last mile. He kept telling me to push it, to not give up, reminding me of the distance left the closer we got to my "finish line". My watch beeped for 22 miles, the last mile in 7:45!, and I slowed to a stop and looked down at my watch.
Holy cow! I'd say I beat my goal of 8:27/pace!
I was so happy, and so sore and stiff. My gait was terrible as I held my hips and hobbled to the car.  April pushed her bike next to me as we talked about the run and how things had gone.  I was in shock.  To qualify for Boston I have to run 8:12 pace for 26.2 miles.  Today I ran fast enough to allow myself 37 minutes to complete the last 4.2 miles and still qualify, more than doable as long as things kept going right. 

10 days prior I was ready to throw in the towel, say to heck with marathons and just survive the rest of my training and finish this race.  After those 22 miles I was on top of the world, knowing I am meant to run this race, and plenty more marathons if I put my mind to it and run with my heart.
My Josee Hope was on my heart the entire race.  When I would get tired I would glance down at my hand, where I had written her name before the run, and remind myself to pick up my feet and push harder, for her.  For all of the Down Syndrome sweeties like her.  She is such sweet motivation and I can't wait to race for her in 18 days!