Monday, October 3, 2016

140 Hours Away From Race Day

Well, here I am less than six days away from the big day.  The day I have dedicated the last several months of my life to.  The day I have had my sights on for the greater part of this year, with early morning wake up calls, lunch time runs in the sweltering heat, skipped social events so I can be rested for my long runs, the weight lifting, yoga, foam rolling, ice, Advil, ahhh the list just goes on!  By now, all my training has been done and I'm a mere 140 hours away from toeing the line at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon!  I am filled with so many emotions right now that it's difficult to even put into words exactly how I am feeling.  I want to scream, cry, laugh, jump up and down, and pinch myself because it all almost doesn't seem real!

So as I head into these last few days before the race (and in the midst of all my taper madness) I thought I would take some time to reflect back on this training cycle, my goals for the marathon, and my thoughts heading into the big event.

Marathon training is a true beast and I did not give it the respect it deserves heading into this cycle.  It sure humbled me quick though!  It takes so much commitment, dedication and sacrifice to take on a full marathon.  And it's not just the 26.2 miles I run on race day, it's everything leading up to that point, both physically, mentally and emotionally.  But the feeling of running shoulder to shoulder with thousands of fellow runners, giving it their all out on that course, the cheers from the spectators in absolute awe of our physical and mental capabilities, and of course crossing that finish line is a feeling like no other and makes it all totally worthwhile!  And that is what I had to keep reminding myself throughout this absolutely daunting training cycle...

But First, Let's Talk Goals
When I signed up for Chicago back in March, I was fortunate enough to have a guaranteed entry because of my sub 3:45 marathon time (my current PR is 3:38 from Donna in February).  So that was definitely a nice to not have to wait to get in.  Also, it was a nice little confidence boost especially since this race is my going to be my fourth attempt to obtain a Boston Qualifying time!  I was finally healed up from an injury I endured last Fall, I was rested up from my over training from back to back marathons, and I was on an absolute runner's high from PR'ing every single distance I ran this Spring.  So needless to say, I was amped up and ready to take on marathon training with a big goal in mind.  Though this training cycle has been a little rough and my long runs have done nothing to convince me I will crush my original goal (I will dive a little deeper into that in a minute), I am NOT letting go of what I have been fighting for over these past two years.  So here they are, all four (yes four, it's important to have a few for any given situation) of my goals for race day...

A. Sub 3:30, my ultimate goal that I have been working on since 2014
B. Sub 3:35, should be enough to get me into 2018 Boston since I turn 35 this coming May
C. Sub 3:38, enough for a PR and potentially still a 2018 Boston entry
D. Finish that b*tch if it kills me

I've talked, errr complained, about my training A LOT on my past posts and throughout my IG page.  I don't want to beat a dead horse by whining any more about the heat and humidity and how rough the summer has been, but I figured I'd revisit it to point out some key takeaways I got from this tumultuous training cycle.

I began training for this race back in Florida aka the surface of the sun!  It has been the hottest freaking summer of my life.  I have ran in 99% humidity, in triple digit heat, with the sun seemingly just inches away from my has been brutal!  I spent more time that I would have liked on the dreadmill because I just could not stand the heat and humidity at times.  On the plus side, I have had some KILLER speed workouts on the 'mill.  I have decreased all my intervals by several seconds, feeling faster and stronger than ever in those shorter distances (maybe I should sign up for a 5k now).  I also had some pretty solid tempo runs on the treadmill too, keeping up a great pace.  Although I cannot rely solely on those fast short to mid distance treadmill runs for a full marathon, they certainly come in handy as well as boost my confidence some, so I am grateful for that!

Most of my runs outside, especially the long runs, however, were another story.  I struggled so much to keep my pace, having to take several walk breaks on most of my double digit outside runs.  My 18-22 milers were absolute disasters.  After each and every one of those miserable long runs, where I was drenched in sweat and absolutely exhausted, I felt so defeated.  I would often spend the rest of the day and the next several days questioning everything from my training, to my nutrition and even my own capabilities.  Was I just not cut out to run as fast as I thought?  Did I already peak and it's all downhill from here?  Am I not doing enough with my training?  Am I doing too much cross training?  I would sometimes find myself in tears realizing my goal, my dream, would maybe just not come true in Chicago, or ever for that matter!

But one thing I have learned from this whole journey that started almost 20 years ago, is you NEVER fully know what you are capable until you give it you're absolute all.  I mean after all, I was the chubby girl who couldn't even run a 10-minute mile to declare her college major and now I am this close to qualifying for the marathon of all marathons!  You have to BELIEVE you can and will do great things.  So finally, after 3 rough months, it finally clicked for me in September.  No, I didn't instantly turn it around and started knocking my training out of the park, convincing myself I will crush my goal on race day, I am still left pretty uncertain.  But I was reminded that I am not out of the fight, anything and everything is still possible.  I have come so far and I am capable of anything I set my mind to.

So I ran my little heart out this past month, embracing the journey, taking the good with the bad, pushing myself a little harder than ever before on some runs and ditching the watch to just enjoy the scenery on others.  My body and mind are in a much better place heading into race day.

And Speaking of Race Day...
It's almost here and though I am a ball of all kinds of emotions, I'm not really losing my mind like I have during past race weeks.  I feel like I should be much more nervous, especially after a rough training cycle.  As excited and (somewhat) anxious as I am, there is such a sense of peace and calmness over me...for right now at least, that might all change when I land in Chicago!  I'm not really sure what to make of it, to be honest.  Is it a good or a bad thing that I'm just chilling, going about my business this close to race day?  In the past I wouldn't be able to sleep, hardly eat, my stomach would be in knots, and I would bark at everyone around me for the littlest annoyances, I would be a total mess!  With this being my 6th full marathon, I definitely feel it helps knowing what racing 26.2 miles feels like.  And with this being my 4th attempt to BQ, I also know what it feels like to come super close and to fail miserably, so I know from experience that anything can happen!

I guess you can say I just feel at peace with everything I have done to this point to prepare for race day, and thanks to my training and past experiences, I am equipped to handle whatever may come my way.  I want so badly to get that sub 3:30, and I am going to fight hard for it out there.  But I also want to soak in every minute, enjoying everything the city, the spectators and the race has to offer.  So yes, BQ'ing is and will be my goal come Sunday, and you better believe I'm going to give it my absolute all.  And all the better to accomplish that goal with a smile on my face, plenty of random high fives along the course and a lot of fun out there.  Because dammit I'm Christina and that's how I freaking do things!

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