A lot has happened since my debut "postpartum marathon"...in addition to a couple intensive projects as an Event Producer, I decided to get a RRCA certification as a running coach. And...ever since I ran a 3:45 marathon...I decided to make it a goal of qualifying for Boston. If I could run a 3:45 marathon on the most minimal marathon training schedule ever (or in my experience), I thought knocking off 10 minutes was certainly possible. Difficult, but not impossible.
After 3 months of solid training, I knew I was ready. My training had consisted with the typical speed workouts, tempo runs, and hill repeats, plus long runs that is in most marathon plans...but some of this was actually new territory for me (up until this point, I had actually never incorporated speed or hill repeat sessions in my marathon training....oops.) But it seemed to really work for me this time. I also had run 2 x 20 mile runs (again, all other times I trained for a marathon, I only had done 1 x 20 miler, not two), and my last one was super solid--a 2:42:44, or 8:08 per mile--that's FAST for me. I knew that even if I ran this pace (or certainly faster), I could totally BQ. In fact, my reach goal was actually a sub 3:30 (3:25 ideally). Regardless, I was ready.
Race day arrived. I did my usual "postpartum race day routine" (wakeup super early, breastfeed/pump, eat, bathroom, gear check, dress, eat again)...then was bussed to the start. Then we were off. I chose to run with the 3:20 pacer...I figured I'd start a little fast, then scale back as needed. This wasn't necessarily a "mistake"...but I should not have run with this specific pacer (of course I could not have known this). Around mile 10, I started to feel more tired than I should have been this early on. Up until that point, I hadn't really looked at my watch much. But when I did...I knew I was in for trouble. I had run a few miles at a 7:20-7:25 pace. That's way to fast for me. My sweet spot should be been more in the 7:40-7:50 range for the marathon...nothing under 7:30. When the pacer made a comment that "he was running by feel"...that was a huge red flag. (Pacers are supposed to run consistently even splits, and this guy was definitely not.) I started to fade back, and told myself to run your own race.
The middle portion was tough...unusual for a marathon...it's usually the last few miles for me! It was partly due to my confusion about pacing...and my early fatigue. By miles 16-17, I got my pacing back on track and kept repeating "BOSTON" in my head. But around mile 21...I really hit the wall. Hard. Mentally and physically. Maybe it was the guy puking his guts out in front of me that did it, or another guy who looked crazy fit but was just walking by then...or the fact that my fueling strategy that worked for me in my training runs was just not working anymore. Or the fact that I started to feel really tired 13 miles in. I felt so sick to my stomach...and my legs felt like lead. And I felt like it was a death march. This specific marathon (the Mohawk Hudson) may have been true to how it was listed (flat, fast), but there were NO CROWDS. We were on a bike path near a highway and there was no one to cheer us on. So I had to dig deep, and fight the urge to walk.
I kept going. Those last 5+ miles were probably the toughest I've ever run. But I pushed on. When I entered into the finish area, and crossed the finish line, I wasn't even smiling. I looked at my watch...a BQ. I still had managed to qualify by over 4 minutes. But instead of elation...I was just happy to be done. It was only after I managed to get properly hydrated, where it really stared to sink in. I had DONE IT. I set out to achieve something and I did it. 10 months postpartum. While my racing strategy and mental game was not what I had planned for...and while I didn't get a sub 3:30 which was my reach goal, I still qualified for Boston, which was my primary goal from the start. That's all that mattered.