I started 2019 with the goal of running a Boston-qualifying time at CIM. CIM is a point-to-point race from Folsom, CA to Sacramento. It's known for producing PRs, BQs, and OTQs. Last February, I ran a "test race" marathon in Mesa, AZ, on a downhill, "easy to qualify" course. I went out at my BQ pace of 8:50 and blew up around 13 miles. I knew I had my work cut out for me for CIM in December.
Over the next 9 months, I trained hard. I ran more miles last year than I've ever run in my life. I got stronger and faster. I earned new PRs at the 10K and half marathon distances. I prepared as well as I could. But my times on my training runs weren't fast enough to go into CIM confident about a BQ and I knew it would take a perfect day to achieve running 26.2 miles at BQ pace. But it was just so tempting. My previous best marathon time was 3:51 and my age group's BQ time is 3:50. If I got just a one minute marathon PR, I'd also get a BQ. It was sooooo tempting.
Kudos to my coach, Nell Rojas, for being very patient with me when I claimed that that was what I was going to try to do. She told me that if I ran conservatively in the first part of the race I could definitely run sub-4. But that's not what I wanted: I wanted 3:50. Because I tried for 3:50, I ended up with a 4:14. I ran strong for 12ish miles, started to try to hang on from 12 to mile 19, where I knew the hills would end. I expected it to be downhill from there, which might help me pick up the pace again...but it wasn't downhill. It was flat. I lost all momentum and fell off my pace. If my amazing friend Shelly hadn't caught up with me at mile 24 and dragged me to the finish, I would probably have run 10 minutes slower!
|Pre-race with Orissa and Shelly. This race was very well organized, including the buses to the start and the many many porta-potties available before and during the race (porta potties! Porta potties everywhere!).|
|Feeling happy before mile 13.|
I wasn't unhappy with my time. I had a lot of fun running the first half of the race with Shelly and I felt like I could fight until mile 19, which is an improvement over my performance in Arizona in February. I missed my time goal by nearly half an hour, but I ran faster than the race in Phoenix, which means I'm getting stronger.
So I still don't know if I was brave or stupid to race for a goal that is currently outside of my limits. After the race, Nell and I debriefed and she talked to me about the importance of patience: I'm improving, I'll get there, it will take time. We talked about how you should never hope for a miracle on race day - you should never hope to have a breakout race to get a goal. You should prepare and be ready and confident about what you can do.
Of course I know this is true. Every coach I've had has told me this. But after 15 years and 20 marathons, I still needed this reminder from Nell. How many times have I had to hear that I should be focused on the process and not on a specific time goal? Focus on the process and improvement will come.
Having a specific time to race for makes this difficult. It's not like triathlon, where it's understood that times at different races will vary because of the terrain and conditions. At an Ironman, there is no set time for each age group for a Kona qualification - you race against your competitors on that day and that's how it goes. In some ways I know that makes it mentally harder, but it also takes off some of the pressure. You can say "I'm going to do my best today" and then you do it.
So, what's next? Winning a slot to Ironman St. George through my awesome triathlon team, Big Sexy Racing, is probably the best thing that could have happened to me right now. I have no choice but to focus on the process and see what I can do with the bike/triathlon fitness that I can build between now and May.
For the first time ever, I'm going into a season where I'm doing an ironman but it's not my "A" race. I decided that in order to focus on process and improve my skill at racing a marathon, I need to stop signing up for "easy BQ" races. My next stand alone road marathon race will be the Kansas City Marathon in October. Between now and then, I'll "race" two more marathons - one at the end of Ironman St. George in May, and one on the trails around Leadville in June. Let's see if I learn anything along the way.
|It was so much fun to look forward to a girls' trip to Sacramento all year. Racing with friends and having friends on the course for support was priceless! Thank you to Aixa and Sanaa for being awesome Sherpas!|