The Tucson Marathon – Sunday, December 7th, 2014
Since May, Tucson was my scheduled ‘A’ race for 2014. As a program director for our local Galloway Training Program, I decided to make this the target race for our group and began recruiting others to join me in either the half or full marathon that weekend. I made sure everything I did fit into the training schedule so I had no excuses not to hit my goal. After BQing in 2013 but missing the registration cut-off, I wanted to make sure I did everything I could to set myself up for a BQ – 5 min – I didn’t want to risk missing the cutoff again!
Then came the news – Chicago Marathon (October 12th) registration was open and they changed their registration process this year to allow runners to qualify for guaranteed spots (instead of all lottery). Both Kris and I had current marathon times to qualify us and Chicago has been on our bucket list for a while … so, we figured we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. It also happened to fall perfectly into my training program – landing on the weekend I was scheduled for a 26 mile run – I was golden.
Heading into the fall, things were going well. I had awesome running buddies who kept me on track through our brutal summer weather (although by September, I was VERY ready to be done with the heat!). There were definitely times I was discouraged by my pace/ability and I had to remind myself my race wouldn’t be done in 100+ degree weather. Even with the heat, I was hitting most of my paces and felt good about my progress.
Then came Chicago and the question of how much to push … if I pushed too hard I could risk bonking and may not recover in time for Tucson; however, anything can happen in a couple months and this may be my one shot. I finally decided I would run my BQ race pace from the beginning and see how I felt. At the halfway point, if I knew I wouldn’t BQ, I would back way off … and, if I felt good, I’d go for it. That morning I felt unstoppable – I just ran and ran. Without totally exhausting myself, I ended up BQing by just over 4 minutes and was ecstatic. I’m attributing a lot of that to the perfect weather and highly motivating course … everything just clicked!
Then it was time to get home and get back to work. Tucson would now be my race to get over the 5 minute mark. However, there was a problem, my motivation to push through the long runs and speed work was pretty much gone. Between the need to recover and knowing I probably already have enough of a cushion to get into Boston this time, I couldn’t mentally pull it together.
On October 31st, I received a text that changed everything … A friend of mine was getting ready to run the New York Marathon and let me know they changed the standards for 2015. New York qualification standards are tougher than Boston but you can use either a half or full marathon qualifying time (for Boston you must qualify with a full marathon time). My best chance to get into New York is with a half marathon qualifying time and that standards went from 1:30 to 1:34. In addition, qualified registration is no longer a lottery – it will be on a first-come, first-served basis. The gears started turning … I haven’t raced a half since January and was at a 1:38 … I just qualified for Boston and felt great … have I recovered enough to ramp up the speed work … can I add in enough speed work to drop my time ??? The problem – to get into New York 2015, I had to qualify by 12/31/14 … which meant Tucson was my only shot.
I have until September 2015 to better my marathon time before registering for Boston, so why not switch to the half in Tucson and go for it?! After talking to a few of my running buddies, that’s what I did – I got online, switched my registration to the half and changed up my training plan.
All I know is it lit a fire to get back to work.
Race weekend quickly approached and it was time to head down to Tucson. I rode down with two of my running buddies, Amy & Jen … unfortunately, Amy was practicing her race day speed a little too early and the local cop didn’t find it too funny …
We stayed at the host hotel – the Hilton El Conquistador. It’s a nice hotel with beautiful views … but, we were a little frustrated with the up-charge for just about everything ($25 to have a fridge in the room, parking fees, resort fees, late check-out fees). Some of those fees are to be expected but we also expect a hotel staff to be upfront about them. I had called several times prior to checking in and was told we would not be charged for certain things only to be told that was incorrect when we checked in.
After getting checked in, we went to the expo. It was pretty plain and simple – got our bibs, shirts and took a minute to look at the vendors …
We then went to relax in our room for a little bit before dinner. We ended up out in one of the casistas – it was a nice room with a beautiful view and the sunset Saturday definitely didn’t disappoint!
For dinner we met up with our Galloway Training Group for dinner at Caffe Torino. We had 18 in our party and they were happy to accommodate us (and the restaurant was close to the hotel). Unfortunately, I don’t think they could really handle that size of a group because the service was VERY SLOW and unresponsive. The food was okay but the bad service would keep me from going back, especially with a large group.
Despite that, our group enjoyed the time together!
When we got back to the hotel, we met up with Kris – he drove down after work and got in while we were at dinner. We finished getting our gear ready for the morning and called it an early night.
Both the full and half marathons started at 7am Sunday morning but they were making us get on the buses by 5:30 which meant our wake up call was set for 4am.
All racers had to take a bus to the start – either from one of the two host hotels or another location for runners not staying at the hotels. The last bus departed at 5:30 and we all pretty much waited for that last bus. They did allow us to hang out on the bus and stay warm at the start until about 6:30. At that time we made a final trip to the porta-potties and dropped our gear bags.
Unfortunately the porta-potty lines took longer than we expected and Leilah and I were running to the start as the gun went off. No problem, we stripped our final warm layers and merged in as far up as we could. As we crossed the starting line the race officials started yelling at us to come back because we wouldn’t have a time. Apparently they were using wave starts (although they had said there were no corrals) and wanted us to hold back with the next group. So, I stopped my garmin, turned around to head back to the start only to be told to proceed … I was so confused? Would I have a starting time? How much time did I just waste? I have lost the pack … how much to I push to catch up now? Then I kept thinking I couldn’t let that chaos ruin my chance to hit my qualifying time.
So, I just ran my pace and hoped it would be enough.
I’ve gotta say – with the downhill nature of the course, I was expecting it to feel a little easier. I normally fly on downhills – I love them. I felt like I was working pretty hard to keep my race pace that morning and it just wasn’t quite clicking for me. I was on target for my goal at the 10k mark and then we started to hit the uphills and I couldn’t hold it. As much as I didn’t want to give up on the goal, I knew it pretty much wasn’t happening by mile 8 and just tried to run as strong as I could and still hit a PR.
It was a pretty lonely course – the field spread out quickly (that may also be because I didn’t start with my pace group) and there were hardly any spectators … in fact, they tell spectators not to come out on course because there are only a couple places they can hang out. Aid stations were great and there were more photographers than I expected … but, overall, it was a pretty solitary run.
As I reached mile 11, I had 13 minutes to hit my goal … 6:30 miles … it’s still possible but I’ve gotta pick it up. When that next mile was around 7:30 I knew I wouldn’t be heading to New York in 2015 … now, how much can I cut off my current PR? Just keep pushing through!
I finished with a 1:36:49 … cutting 2 minutes off my PR and taking 5th in my age group (only 27 seconds back from 3rd). I knew qualifying for New York was an ambitious goal with the time frame I had to work with, but I had to give it a shot. While I’m disappointed I didn’t make it, I’m also very happy with my performance and excited to see where I go from here!
I quickly met up with Kris and Leilah. We took a few pictures and walked around … first stop was to collect our gear bags – they were super easy to find!
And there was a bounty of post-race snacks!
Then it was time to cheer on the rest of our runners. Since we had runners in both the half and the full, I hung around the finish for a few hours. I had subscribed to runner tracking for each person and that made spectating much easier. There were multiple check points along the course and it was nice to be able to follow their progress and have an idea of how they were doing and when I should expect them to finish.
One thing I noticed as I was hanging out at the finish line was how there really weren’t groups of people running/working together. At other marathons we’ve participated in, the pace group leaders normally have a decent crowd of runners with them since they are meant to be a source of support for people trying to hit time goals. Every pace leader I saw come through the finish was running alone … it struck me as odd, but maybe it’s just me.
In the end, everyone in our group did fantastic. We had a few first time finishes, a couple age group awards and lots of PRs!
Here are a few highlights:
My running buddy, Leilah, ran a 1:33:08 and won her age group! Unfortunately, her New York qualifying time is 1:32 … that just means she and I still have some work to do!
Then there’s this speedy guy … 1:21:22 and 3rd in age group … after a week or so of being sick!
This is Linda – an amazing lady I have met through our training group. This was her first half marathon and she placed in her age group! She inspires me!
So proud of these ladies – my running buddies – I couldn’t have done it without them! They kept me working hard through the summer and inspired me to push through when I just wanted to walk. They got me out of bed at 3am to get miles in before the sun came up and gave me a reason to keep running. Congratulations to Jen who finished her first marathon and Amy who has a new PR for hers!
Finally, I definitely couldn’t have done it without Hammer Nutrition! Here’s my race nutrition plan:
Leading up to race day: Race Day Boost, Endurolyte Fizz
Pre-Race: HEED, Anti-Fatigue, Endurance Amino, Hammer Gel
During: Hammer Gel, Anti-Fatigue, Endurance Amino, Endurolytes
After: Vegan Recovery Bar
I ended 2014 with 1200 running miles that include:
*20 races (7 5ks, 3 8ks, 2 10ks, 3 half marathons, 3 full marathons and 2 50ks)
*12 awards (overall and/or age group)
*4 new PRs (mile, 5k, 10k and 1/2 marathon)
In addition, I raced a triathlon in the spring and I had 1500 miles on the bike including a few time trials with new PRs and awards …
Thanks Hammer Nutrition for keeping me healthy & active!
Thanks also to the Galloway Training Program for keeping me injury free!
Overall, it was a nice weekend and I’m glad I went … but, I also don’t know if I’ll come back. It definitely won’t be an ‘A’ race anytime soon.
I’m glad I dropped down to the half – I wouldn’t have wanted to run twice as far on that course.
Now to figure out my goals for the new year – I’m excited to see what 2015 will bring!
Happy New Year!