Last Sunday I ran the Pensacola Marathon in Florida. My mom and sister ran the half which bears another interesting tale to tell! I had spent the last 12 weeks doing a condensed marathon training plan of sorts hoping that I could at least get back to my previous fitness level with regards to running. I already knew anything even close to a BQ was out of the question after being out for 5 weeks. I was simply happy if I got a 4-hour finish. I peaked at 65 miles a week and did 5 long runs up to 26 miles. I felt more and more like a sub 4:00 was at least possible.
I flew into my sister’s the Friday night before the race on Sunday. Us three girls headed to Pensacola on Saturday for the expo and to get settled in our hotel. We ate at Olive Garden for lunch, and I had an indulgent plate of spaghetti and sausage. Wow, when’s the last time I ate like that?! I skipped dinner that night other than a few beers, of course. Hey, don’t do anything different, right?
That evening, my sister worked hard trying to come up with progressive negative splits to meet each mile to make a 3:55 marathon finish for me. You would think by now there’d be some sort of fancy calculator online that would do this for you!
Race morning, I ate my usual chocolate peanut butter oatmeal and 2 Red Bulls. We arrived at the race about 30 minutes before the start, and unfortunately I felt there wasn’t time to pee as the porta-potty lines went on and on. Needless to say, every couple of miles, I was trying to tell myself that I didn’t really have to pee, that it was all in my head!
One would assume a marathon in Florida to be relatively flat. Think again! There were parts of the course that could be extremely brutal to someone who hadn’t put in enough time doing hill work. I felt extremely pleased with how I had trained. I had completed some extremely taxing long runs with menacing climbs late in the runs (simply due to poor planning, LOL). The aid stations and volunteers were absolutely fantastic! The entertainment was also really great. There was good crowd support as well. The whole event was organized so well that it almost seemed organic.
The first 3 miles I got really worried. My muscles along the front of my lower legs (damned compartment syndrome) started aching pretty badly, and I felt my left foot losing sensation. I was terrified. All I could think was that I should’ve done that 2-mile warmup this morning… should’ve gotten up even earlier.
I did my best to ignore it and refused to walk. One of my goals for this marathon was to run the entire way. I had done it in training, and there was no reason I couldn’t repeat that again! Amazingly, by 4.5 miles, it had eased up.
Most of the tension was gone, and I felt like I was ready to start upping the pace according to my cheat sheet my sister made. I ended up taking my Camelbak just so I could breeze through aid stations. I was glad I did. I liked being able to eat my gels according to how I had trained. I only grabbed water from aid stations to dump over my head. Oh, yes, I did slow down for the cup of beer! Ha! (What genius came up with the idea of a beer station?!)
I felt really strong all the way till mile 22. Then I made the mistake of thinking, “it’s not much further,” and glancing repeatedly at my Garmin. I always try to practice tricking my mind into not thinking about the distance and just keep spinning. As soon as I realize there’s only a few miles to go, I start hurting and mentally losing focus.
The last 2 miles I struggled to keep pace and fell back some. It was a good thing I had already been ahead of my scheduled paces for the last 24 miles. For the first time, I felt like my left foot was going to cramp up. Luckily, it never progressed.
As the finish line came into sight, I gave it everything I had left (which wasn’t much!), and I hear, “Go Tara!” Over to my left I spot my sister’s red poofy hair, and she’s sprinting through the crowd towards the finish line with me. It just gave me tears!
So, sub 4:00? Yes! Chip time was 3:53:14! I can’t wait to do it again! It was a good day for a great race with people I love. I miss you guys!