Sunday, December 14, 2014

San Antonio Rock n Roll Marathon Race Report 2014

There's a THREE at the front of my marathon PR. Last Sunday, under perfect conditions, I ran a perfect race and grabbed a new marathon PR of 3:57. I can't even describe how amazing that feels. Really, I can't. I've tried and deleted at least 7 attempts at this post over the last week.

There's not very much for me to say about the race itself. I described the course in last year's report, and it hasn't changed (neither have the crowds). I'd rather talk about the reason that I had the kind of day that results in a 33-minute PR at a distance that I haven't been able to understand in 6 tries, until now, lucky number 7.

Except that I'm not going to credit luck. I wasn't lucky last Sunday. Yes, it's lucky that the weather was great: mid 50s and overcast. (And I did wish on a star that fell right behind the porta potties at the park n ride before the race!) But otherwise, luck is not the reason that I achieved something that constantly eluded me before. I was successful because I changed my mindset approaching the race.

When I'm talking about marathon or ironman, I tend to go on and on about having "respect for the distance." Clearly, that's important. There are some things that you just can't fake or muscle through, and marathon and ironman are two of them. Both take preparation, consistent training, dedication, and heart. However, as far as marathon is concerned (and maybe ironman too) I've been disguising fear as respect, and there's a difference.

Respect: This is a tough distance and I've set a hard goal, but I've trained, I'm ready, and I'm going to do my best to accomplish something and have some fun today.

Fear: Marathons are hard, so it's ok if you don't reach your goal.

In the week leading up to the race, I solicited the advice of everyone I could think of who would help me to get into the right mental place. People that I really look up to: Dad; Dawn, my coach; Trent and Rene, my super fast training buddies; and finally, in a desperate, late-night plea the day before the race: Bree, my Worlds-crushing travel buddy. They all said the same thing. Of course you can do it. Then, more importantly, they proved it to me: you ran that pace at Buffalo Springs and Norseman, off the bike. You ran faster than that pace on multiple long training runs. You can do it. You have it in you. It'll probably be easy. Try. Have fun. Go get it.

I cried over this. What if I fail? I've told tons of people my goal of going sub-4: what if I end up having a terrible day out there? I'll disappoint people, I'll look stupid. Looking back, it seems ridiculous to have struggled so much over something that doesn't really matter in the whole scheme of things. But oh my goodness, I struggled.

On race morning, under perfect conditions, I still think it could have gone either way. I consciously decided as I crossed the start line to put fear away and to have fun chasing a goal. And sure enough, mile after mile, my Garmin proved to me that I was doing it: one 9-minute mile after the next. For someone who has considered herself a 10-minute-mile runner for 15+ years, this was just huge.

Super happy to not be cramping at mile 18.
Even after my iPod crapped out at mile 8 and Shelly took off to crush the half, leaving me alone with my thoughts, I kept on running steady. Seeing Mom and Dad at mile 13, 18, and 24, out on the lonely back half of the course, gave me a boost. Using positive thoughts and singing a little to myself, taking strength from passing people, smiling as spectators called me "Pinky" like they've done at races all year, pretending that I was running in Norway, channeling that joy, I made my way to the finish line. My feet were burning and my legs threatened to cramp with every step after mile 24, but I didn't slow down. With half a mile to go, I checked my Garmin and knew that I was going to make it. I started smiling then. I beat my goal by 3 minutes and smiled so much as I crossed the finish line that the announcer even said "Now there's a smile, Kristina Cordova, Smash!" (Then I burst into tears.)

Photo by Dad at mile 24. I had so much I wanted to say, but all I could get out was a four-letter word. (Sorry Mom.)
I'm really proud of myself for reaching my goal, for putting fear away and going for it. It was hard, it hurt, but I didn't let myself stop or slow down or settle for something less than my best. As always, this is the stuff that will help going forwards, in racing and in life. Make new goals. Get comfortable being uncomfortable, and you'll reap the benefits. Hard work works, and so does believing in yourself. I proved it last Sunday. The future is wide open, and I'm so excited to see what happens next. I know I just keep saying this, but it's true.

In fact, what happens next is the Houston marathon in January. And I'll put the goal out there: I want to qualify for Boston. I'm 12 minutes away. Every marathon I run after this, that's what I'll be aiming at. Mindset = changed. And I refuse to be afraid.