Sidenote: there were also two very support dudes running this marathon too, but I couldn’t fit them into the catchy title 🙂
If you haven’t already read Leslie’s account of the race, you can do that first. Leslie and I are good friends and training partners, both coached by Hillary. Separated by about 100 miles (actually, I just confirmed on google maps, it’s more like 102. Sounds like a training ride?), we agreed to run Rock’n’Roll Phoenix together. Though the hard work and the miles were put in on our own schedules, the aches and pains of training eventually lead the both of us to one common point, hand in hand: The Finish Line. (Yes, I’m being dramatic but I feel like it could make a good story line for an ABC Family movie or something? Maybe?) I’m thinking of getting me and Leslie matching shorts for women for our next race, cool? No…? Maybe I’ll just get mine.
But, before I give you too much about the end, let me tell you about the beginning. I had been out in Tucson for a week. That ended up being a nice break from the cold East coast, getting used to the dry air and just enjoying riding in shorts and short sleeves! It also gave me a week to mentally adjust to the fact that I would go out for a time that was 5 minutes faster than I anticipated once Hillary told me my goal pace was actually 3:05. I’m a firm believe that once you start getting into the 3-oh-something times, let alone sub-3s, every minute matters. Instead of running 7:14s I would have to run 7:04s. It just sounds SO much faster, right?!
I wish I could tell you how I was able to get myself into the mindset that I would run a 3:05, but I’m not entirely sure. I had, however, been able to compile a whole slew of reasons why that 3:05 was crazy. Why it was doable? I just had to trust Hillary.
Leslie and I had a lot of funny texts throughout marathon training. Mostly consisting of things like “my legs hurt so bad”, “why do people do this all the time”, “I just pulled over to throw up on my way home from that long run” (true story), the texts of race week slowly evolved into race plans and expectations. It was the first time that Leslie clued me in that she was going for a sub-3, and that she was hoping for a negative split situation. Then she went one step further to say she thought I could do it too. I could barely understand the words I was reading. Negative split? She must have some Kenyan lineage in her blood that was making her think crazy thoughts. I’m pretty much a positive splitting champion. As if to prove that point to myself, the next day I ran a 400s workout with Hillary. As we progressed she was like “ummmm you do realize you go out balls hard and then die off, right?’ Ummm…..yeah. But I hit the right times right? “Right….but, that’s wrong. We’ll work on that.” But clearly we wouldn’t work on that in the next 3 days before the race, so I confirmed my own race plan: go out at exactly 7:04s, and hold on for dear life.
Fast forward to the race. I was super lucky that Ed’s dad was hosting us from Paradise Valley, so we were super close to everything we needed, and the days before the race were really relaxing. Race morning we were dropped off at the convention center, and then…..got to sit in comfy chairs for an hour outside a bathroom with no line. Nope, not making that up! That’s just actually how civilized this race start was. About 30 minutes before the start, we jogged to the start and I did a little warm up, then found Leslie and Nate and walked right into the corral. So calm.
Mile 1 – 7:06. Mile 2 – 6:59. Mile 3 – 7:00. Mile 4 – 6:59.
These splits kept happening. For the first time in a major running race I felt like I was in control. I felt the gradual inclines as we approached the intersections each block, leaning into them and giving slightly more effort, relaxing as I came across the back side of it. My legs felt good. Not effortless, not great. But, good. At about mile 8 it became clear that this wasn’t going to be a “gimme” to keep the pace up. But, I was doing it.
I saw Hillary at mile 13 and gave her the thumbs up that I was nailing the splits and would take her as a pacer around mile 20. Typical of a marathon, mile 13 felt drastically different than 16, and as I started to hurt the blinders went up and I ended up completely missing Leslie at the turnaround. I hit mile 20 and while I was working hard, 6 miles just sounded SO short, compared to the 20 behind me, compared to the hundreds I ran in preparation. I could do this. It’s no surprise that picking Hillary up was crucial for my race. While I felt like my pace was slowly inching towards a full out sprint effort, it was helpful that we began to reel people in. And, we were reeling in some women! 21….22…..23…..enter, the grunting. It was here that I finally lost all verbal control and just grunted at Hillary to which she just kept pushing me back towards the pace. In an attempt to distract me she pointed out that Leslie was in sight up the road. Step step step step. As we approached mile 25 we ran over this huge brick wall in the middle of the road. Okay, not a brick wall, but this freaking overpass felt like 45% grade.
Just after the brick wall, Leslie was quite close. In a last ditch effort to take Hillary’s focus off of making me miserable by not allowing me to slow down, I did what any great training partner and friend would do: I said “you can go up with Leslie.” This may have also come out like something to the tune of “you should probably tell Leslie we’re coming.” Now, truth be told, I really feel like in the moment I meant that she should sprint ahead and run with Leslie to get her going again. Instead she yelled up to Leslie “WE’RE COMING FOR YOU!!!! GET READY!” If I had the energy I would have let myself fall down laughing and at least appreciate how much Leslie hated me at that exact moment 🙂
Hillary let me go as I caught up to Leslie. Now – break for a second. Please tell me the last time in a race you were caught by someone, witnessed someone being caught, or heard about someone being caught…..and then they hung on? You can probably only think of a couple examples (to the tune of epic years at Kona) because it’s BASICALLY IMPOSSIBLE.
After I passed Leslie I realized I could hear something. I saw something in my peripheral vision. LESLIE WAS WITH ME! Holy bajeezus! If this doesn’t speak volumes to the athlete that Leslie is and what she’s capable, I don’t know what will! This move right here is why people should be nervous to race her as a pro this year.
Leslie and I ran stride for stride over the last bridge. I knew she didn’t have the GPS on the distance so I let her know when we had .5 a mile to go, then .25. I told her to go if she had it, to which she replied: yeah, I have nothing. Welp, me either. Haha. With the finish line in sight, I swear we were trying to go faster (to no avail). Approaching the line Leslie reached out, I took her hand, and together we sealed the envelope on a long offseason of training. This was one for character building, that’s for sure. We both finally have a legit marathon PR being under 3:05, and crushed our previous bests.
Now, the finisher picture. In my first round of race photos there was no hand-in-hand pic. However, about a week ago I woke up to the “look! we found more photos of you!” email. YESSSSSS. Here we have it folks, and Les, like I said, you already know your birthday present 🙂
Post race was super fun. After every one ran super fast, there was lots of food, some drinks, and good friends. Nothing gets better than that!
And finally, one more for dramatic effect! The Queen K kit remains lucky 🙂