Thank you Mesa-Phx Marathon, I’M GOING TO BOSTON!!!

The instant I woke up on Saturday, I knew it was going to be a good day. I didn’t know if BQ good, but I knew it would be good.

I had set my alarm for 2:30 a.m. (yes, this race requires an EARLY wake up), but my body naturally woke up at 2:15 a.m.–ready to go. I remember thinking, “Nice. My body knows what to do. It’s ready.”

My buddies Scott and Marsha, and my long-time friend Nadia (also trying to BQ) rode with me and my husband to the start line. I forced them to endure my pre-race song–Delta Goodrem, Believe Again–on repeat. We found parking and got to the busses without trouble. Parking can be an issue for this race but since we had arrived early, we had zero problems.

I had prepared for a cold wait for the start, wearing layers upon layers, so I was comfortable despite the 30 something degree temps. I felt good, I felt relaxed.

Me and my ❤

We (me, my training buddy Ashley, and our unofficial/official pacer Tomio) somehow ended up starting a couple of minutes after the official start so the first mile was spent navigating through crowds. We were behind the 4:55 pace group and passed a few other pace groups as we tried to find an opening to settle into our pace.

Mile 1- 8:15

I wasn’t worried about being “off” pace. The first mile is super downhill so I was okay with having kept that above goal pace (which was really anything under 8:00). I was shooting for a sub 3:30, ambitious considering my previous PR was 3:44–but go big, or go home, right?

The big hill began just after mile 4 and that was where I was really nervous. I didn’t want to expend energy trying to speed up it, but I didn’t want to slow down too much and ruin my pacing. I just tried sticking as close as I could to Ashley. I also knew our good friend Bob would be at the top, so I just kept chanting, “Get to Bob. Get to Bob.” The top of the hill was practically his front yard so his sign was fitting.

#InBobWeTrust

Hill miles

I knew the hardest part was over, and that from there, it was all about settling in to race pace and holding on.

Steady was the name of the game

I came into the half at 1:45 feeling really good. I was wearing a pace band and had my watch set for individual mile splits. One mile at a time, I kept telling myself. I knew at this point of the course, the downhill was over and it was flat, flat, flat the rest of the way.

It was just after the half-way point that I saw a familiar face–my brother!! It completely caught me off guard as I hadn’t expected him to come cheer. He works night shifts (5 p.m. to 5 a.m.) and had told him I would understand if he wanted to forgo spectating for sleep.

But there he was, and I found myself getting so emotional. I reminded myself that crying doesn’t allow for good breathing so I just mouthed a silent, “I love you!” and kept on.

I thought a lot about my family during those miles. I thought a lot about the sacrifices they’ve made for me, my husband–who was also on the course that morning and finished with a 3:13!–and how supportive he is with my running.

And I couldn’t believe how good I was feeling.

I saw my brother again at mile 18 and he asked how I was. I yelled, “I’m doing it!” as I ran and I heard him say he’d see me at the finish line.

Around mile 19, Ashley fell back. I kept pace for a couple more miles, plugged myself in at mile 21 and then started to hurt at mile 22.

The farthest I’ve gone in a marathon before falling apart –I’m getting better at this, lol!

It was sudden, but it was deep. The pain from cramping jolted me but I refused to give in to them and walk. Instead, I gritted my teeth and fought, fought hard.

At this point, I stopped looking at my watch and just ran. I didn’t want to see a pace that discouraged me so I ran what I could. At the time, it felt like I had slowed considerably. I was in so much pain.

The “slow” miles…I can’t believe it.

At mile 23ish, my friend Elle (@afastpacedlife) was waiting for me and while I wanted to say something, anything–I couldn’t. I was in so much pain. Her and my friend Andrew (who had replaced my pacer Tomio–he had gone back for Ashley) ran with me, saying words of encouragement.

My coach found me just after mile 25 in pretty rough shape. I hated her seeing me like that and I tried fixing my form and picking up my pace. She reminded me to lean in, pick up my feet, and BREATHE. “Every second counts!” she yelled at me.

But I was fading fast in that last mile, and as I turned the final corner, I saw my friends and my coach’s team yelling at me to GO!! I could see them, but I couldn’t hear them.

The final stretch to the finish line was time standing still. I was moving, but I wasn’t. I could see, but I couldn’t.

I knew I needed to finish soon. Things were getting ugly.

That was a Must. Finish. last mile

Throughout training, I envisioned crossing the finish line so many times. On so many tough runs, I pictured myself arms raised triumphantly, BQ time glaring on the clock screen. I pictured myself smiling, crying tears of joy, hugging whoever was near me.

Yeah, things didn’t turn out that way, lol!

I was in so much pain, so much pain that I honestly couldn’t even feel the pain anymore. I was on auto-pilot, system failing, Houston-we-have-a-problem mode. At that point, I had no idea what my time was, I had stopped looking at my watch a couple miles back. Instinctively though, as soon as I crossed, I stopped my Garmin and finally looked down.

And that’s when the tears began to flow. SUB 3:30!!! I had done it.

I waited at the finisher’s chute to see if Ashley had gotten her BQ–we had trained so hard, so long together I wanted both of us to make it. And she did!!! 3:34–six minute cushion for her, too! My friend Nadia found us having finished ahead and with an amazing BQ time of 3:26!!

But there was really only one person I wanted to see at that point. The one person who truly knew how much this moment meant.

I honestly couldn’t ask for a better partner in life. ❤

My rock. My everything. He’d been with me the whole way. When I was feeling strong, I thought of him. When I was feeling pain, I thought of him. Seeing the time on my watch filled me with so much joy, but there was nothing like telling him that I’d done it.

3:29:33

I’m going to Boston.

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Thank you all so much for your support, words of encouragement, BELIEF in me. When I first started this blog, qualifying for Boston was a distant dream. Friends, dreams do come true!!! They really do!!! Whatever they may be…

xoxo, 

helly

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ETA:

P.S. Random, but a big deal to me, lol!! I was SO looking forward to accepting my new PR on Athlinks.

 

If you have an Athlinks account, find and friend me!! If you don’t, create a profile here and you’ll have a sweet place to record your race times, find friends, and find races! (ICYMI, I am an ambassador for Athlinks and as always, only ever promote companies I actively use and love. Pretty easy to love athlinks.com honestly, lol!)

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It Went Down In Phoenix–The Expo

It happened. It went down in Phoenix.

3:29:33

I’m honestly still registering emotions and coming out of shock so I’m starting with recapping the Expo as I try and collect myself, lol!

I’M GOING TO BOSTON!!!!

Whew, okay… expo.

My friends Scott and Marsha were here to get married (on the course) so we all did expo together. I had convinced my buddy Carlos (you know him as Carlos The Runner on IG) to come down to Phoenix for the race and he joined us on our expo-dition.

Photo courtesy of Carlos 😀

I’m biased, this race is my favorite, and a big part is because I get to meet SOOO many people (partially because I convince many to come, LOL). I met Heather from Heather Runs Fast and her BRF Jolene from Zebra Girl Runs. These speedy ladies rocked the half marathon (Heather) and full marathon (Jolene).

They gave me speedy vibes ❤

I got to see Emily (RunEMZ on IG) and it was Carlos’ turn to fangirl (I did when I first met her in 2014, ha!).

Another Carlos original

After expo, we went back to my place for Scarsha’s rehearsal dinner….and I FINALLY got to meet Elle from A Fast Paced Life!!!!! You have no idea how long I’ve waited for this day!!! Elle has seriously been with me on this crazy running/blogging journey since the beginning and knows how far I’ve come–all the ups and downs and craziness.

I didn’t get a pic of us before the race, but here’s one of us drinking bloody marys after 🙂

YAY!

We called it an early night as we had a SUPER early wake up call (2:30 a.m.!!) the next morning. My flat me was ready and I was ready for bed! I wasn’t nervous…I felt good, I felt relaxed–probably the calmest I’d ever been the night before a race. I was excited! ❤ 

 

 

 

 

2017 Phoenix Marathon: Race Recap

I know you’re probably tired of hearing this 😉 , but I got another PR!!! That’s the short of it, but if you want the extended version, here it comes….

(By the way, excuse my absence–my last post should’ve also been titled Blogging Blues, lol!)

Okay, the Mesa-Phoenix Marathon. So, I had friends coming in from Texas–Scott who used to blog and that’s how I “met” him (and in real life in Chicago), his partner in crime and better half Marsha, and a cool dude named Roberto.

Me and Scott after Chicago Marathon 2015

Me and Scott after Chicago Marathon 2015

I had convinced them to come because Marsha was looking to BQ and I knew she could do it on Phoenix’s course. When we first met back in Chicago, she had, unknowingly at the time, gotten super close and didn’t need a whole lot to shave. I was certain she’d get the sub 3:45 she needed.

With her goal being sub 3:45 and my PR being 3:58, I figured I’d just hang with her for as long as I could and see how it went. I didn’t mind combusting if that’s what happened; this wasn’t a race I was going for a real time goal anyway. I could risk it.

Marsha also wasn’t putting too much pressure on herself to BQ. While it would be great if she did, she wasn’t going to be fixed to her watch and causing herself race anxiety.

Having that mindset, we went into the race stress-free and full excitement for a long run with friends. That’s how we were approaching it.

Shakeout run with the Texas gang

Shakeout run with the Texas gang

The race started out bright and early at 6:30 a.m. in the middle of the mountains out in nowhere. We saw the sunrise the first few miles and we were in really good spirits promising everyone tequila at the finish.

“You get tequila!”

“And you get tequila!”

“Everyone gets tequila!”

(Spoiler: I did not have tequila at the end, lol!)

Scott had pacing duties so I never looked at my watch, instead, just followed his lead.

This was a pretty steep downhill so I was proud of how controlled we stayed. Thanks, Scott!

This was a pretty steep downhill so I was proud of how controlled we stayed. Thanks, Scott!

I felt good and when we approached the only hill of the race, I knew if I just stayed close, I’d be okay.

screen-shot-2017-03-02-at-8-56-00-am

We didn’t skip a beat going up and my pace for miles 5 and 6 were 8:31 and 8:35!

It was a nice downhill for a while after that and our pace stayed relatively steady between miles 7-15.

17091307_10107563239000311_618192374_oOur conversation stayed steady too. We were running calm and enjoying the absolutely amazing weather we were having. We joked, we sang a little, we told Marsha to slow down. It was the most fun and relaxed I’d ever run a marathon… ever.

When we got to mile 16, I felt myself slowing down and I decided then to plug myself in and prepare for the last ten miles. I kept Scott and Marsha in my sight though, so I wasn’t too far behind them.

I stayed steady at around 8:30ish for a few miles

Call me Miss. Consistent :D

Call me Miss. Consistent 😀

and felt pretty good despite having slowed down a little (and really, I couldn’t believe I was still running an 8:30 something in the back end of a marathon!)

Cruising!

Mile 19–Cruising!

At mile 23, the cramping started. But like New York, I just accepted it and ran with it. They slowed me down, and I could feel them with each step in my calves, my shins, my quads, the tops of my feet–but I knew I had a sub 3:45 if I just kept moving.

And would you believe that the miles I ran with cramps were in the 9s?!!??!!  I mean, I honestly am just in shock that that was my pace with freaking cramps!!!

You guys, seriously!!!

You guys, seriously!!!

Must. Get. To. Finish. Line.

Mile 23–Must. Get. To. Finish. Line.

I turned the corner, and I finally saw the person I hoped to see–my husband. I knew that he’d finish before me and be at the finish line waiting, and it was that which kept me going.

Started and finished with a smile :D

Started and finished with a smile 😀

Me and my 3:17 marathoner <3

Me and my 3:17 marathoner ❤

As soon as I crossed the finish line, I saw Scott and Marsha who had also just finished. I could see the huge smile on Marsha’s face and I knew it–she had BQ’d!!!!! Scott snagged himself a nice little PR coming in after her (but before me)– we all finished within 4 minutes of each other!

We're awesome.

We’re awesome.

I cannot get over how amazingly awesome and FUN this race was. I know that all races won’t be like this one, but I’m glad I finally had a race that was absolutely a blast from beginning to end. The PR is the cherry on top but honestly, it’s the people that made Phoenix Marathon unforgettable.

My two halves though--and average pace--I can't believe it. CAN'T.

My two halves though–and average pace–I can’t believe it. CAN’T.

<3

–Have you had a race that was just an absolute blast??