I’m officially 9.5 days out from the Eugene Marathon. My first Boston Qualifier Attempt has taken on even more significance given the recent events in Boston. I want to race next year so bad. I want Eugene to go well.
A couple of weeks ago I was feeling very confident about Eugene. Maybe a little too confident My coach has now told me that he thinks I have 3:25 potential (he is not, however, having me run a 3:25 pace – the goal is BQ and we don’t want to take any risks) and he has said my continued improvement week to week is impressive. My runs were going well and I was feeling great. After my 22 mile run I felt really good knowing that I only had to run 4.2 more miles on race day.
Last weekend, however, was my last long run before the race. The instructions were 20 miles with the first 14 being at around a 8:50-9:10 min mile and the last 6 being close to BQ race pace, 8:10. I was actually looking forward to this run because I felt like it would be a good confidence booster going into the taper.
I ran with Asia and the weather was nice (i.e. gloomy) for running. When we first started I could tell the run wasn’t going to be as great as I had hoped. My left hamstring has been tight and my legs felt a bit heavier than I would have liked. I actually spent over 30 minutes stretching on Saturday after my easy run because my hips and hamstrings were so tight (an iPad is very handy in these situations to provide entertainment while sitting in uncomfortable positions for extended periods of time). The first four miles were somewhat slow going (with my first mile being a 9:45 pace), so we had to pick it up for the next 10 in order to get my average down into the 8:50-9:10 range.
Overall I felt fairly good and I was confident that it’d be easy to pick up to a 8:10 pace for the final 6 miles. Most of my tempo runs are done in the low to mid 7 min/miles so I figured 8:10 would feel easy. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Despite significantly increasing our effort, we couldn’t get our pace down to 8:10 (ideally I had said we’d run at 8 min/mile average – but 8:10 was worst case). There are some hills on the course which didn’t help, but it was still frustrating to be struggling and seeing the watch beep off 8:18 or 8:20 min/miles. I started thinking negative thoughts about how this could be what it will be like in the race – I’ve had that experience before when you know you should be going just a tiny bit faster per mile to achieve your goal yet as hard as you try it just doesn’t happen.
We were able to pick up the pace for the next couple of miles and got closer to our desired 8:10, maybe even a little under. Negative thoughts were flooding my brain. If this is hard, imagine race day. Try 26.2 of these miles. It’s going to suck. I can’t do it.
The final mile we put the pedal to the medal and pushed out a 7:50 average, which actually brought our final 6 mile average down to 8:09, barely BQ pace if you include some extra distance on race day. I was exhausted and tired. Asia and I had barely spoken for the last 6 miles because we were both working too hard to talk. I stopped when my watch hit 20 miles and Asia ran on home. As I walked back to the house I had mixed emotions – proud of myself for accomplishing 20 miles at a 8:45 average, and also disappointed at how damn hard it felt. I just reminded myself - don’t get too confidence – you have to respect the distance.
26.2 miles is far. No matter how fast I ran a 15k at the Hot Chocolate race or 13.1 miles at the San Diego Half, a marathon is a whole different ball game. I know I have the endurance for a marathon and I’ve put in the training. I am confident that Eugene will be a good race for me, but I’m also not going to get too confident that I do something stupid to mess it up. I will still be eating well the up until race day, getting plenty of sleep, not walking too much the day before the race and following every precaution there is. Even if my coach says in an ideal world I can qualify by over 10 minutes, I’m assuming that I will barely qualify and I need to not take any chances. A lot can happen over 26.2 miles.
So here we go… 10 days to go. #TaperTime. #LetsDoThis