It was really hard to get the training in and by the last three or four weeks, I was not really feeling it. Zach was gone a lot of the time and a lot of the workouts were forced. Our trip to Texas didn't really help my confidence because not only did I end up having to skip two long runs, it was hard to fit in my taper runs as well. The heat and humidity, along with kids and scheduling, made it not the best week leading up to the race.
A few days before the race, it hit me that I might end up suffering a bit. I still had those flashes of imaginary grandeur where the race turned out perfect and I somehow managed to PR, but I knew reality was going to be a little different. The problem was that I felt like it really could go either way.
I couldn't come up with a solid approach. I considered running watchless, to see how I did by feel. I considered shooting for 3:45. I considered going for a negative split. I considered going for a steady, even pace the whole way. The night before I got thinking and decided I would see how far I could go with the 3:35 (BQ time) pace group. I knew the likelihood of me dying out was high, but I also thought I might surprise myself as well.
I kept with the group, but paid attention to my effort as well. I didn't push too hard. I was feeling pretty good, and actually getting pretty optimistic. Around mile 8 I had some strange pains in my abs and rib area, mainly on the left side. I couldn't figure it out because I was actually feeling really well and not breathing hard. I had to walk to get it to settle down. I thought I had torn an ab muscle. So I lost the group. After walking and deep breaths, I was able to run. Then I had to walk again. It was back and forth for about two miles. I found if I took deep regular breaths it seemed to help. So around mile 10, on a good downhill, I was able to takeoff in hopes of catching the 3:35 group again. I was running about a 7:10 min/mile and I knew I would regret it later, but it was exhilarating and breathtaking. The scenery was beautiful and physically I felt unstoppable. But, that pace was not maintainable and I started pulling back as the downhill decreased. I did come within about a tenth of a mile of the pace group and kept them in my view until about mile 15. That's when it got a bit harder for me.
I was able to run and walk to keep a steady pace. I almost couldn't help but run a 8:12 pace, but then I would walk to let me body catch up. I tried to pull my pace back so I could walk less. I tried to go to the bathroom around mile 19 because I wasn't feeling super hot, but it really just served as a break. Then I mentally fought for the next several miles. Walk, run, walk, run. I was pretty happy that I was able to keep up with my goal at this point. My second marathon (first one I finished) was a 3:57 so I really just wanted to beat that. I kept track on my watch to make sure I was able to. Even though I walked way more the last few miles than I would have wanted, I was happy with my efforts since I knew I wasn't really prepared for the race. I was looking for Zach and Terran the last two miles, and I missed them, but I made it to the finishing chute with tears in my eyes. That was a hard one but I reached my goal and worked hard to get there, never giving up. I was worried I wouldn't be able to find my boys, but I heard Zach calling to me shortly after I got some fuel. I found them and just let my emotion come out in our hugs and talking to Zach a bit. Once the excitement of finishing and the shock of an exhausted body left me, I was simply feeling happy.
Marathons are hard, but rewarding. I want to say I won't do another one without proper training, and I hope that is true. Huntsville was hard because I pushed it the whole way, but St. George was legitimately fun and that's how I would like to run in the future. Not being ready takes a tiny bit of the fun out, but I am still very happy with that finish and being able to come back and beat my original goal.