Breaking the 3-Hour Barrier My Story

Breaking the 3-Hour Barrier, Part 1

After Boston, I took about a month off from running. I was happy with the progress I’d made, but now I needed to focus more on speed training. That also meant entering into some shorter races as well. I found a local 10k and also a half marathon (AFC) in July and August respectively. They were good training tools and while I continue to race and enjoy those distances, the marathon is definitely “mine.” My ninth would be the Carlsbad Tri-City Medical Marathon in January.

I made the usual long-run training plan and started training in late September. This cycle I was focusing more on speed work, heart rate, and cadence. Training was going well when I got an e-mail advertisement for a half marathon in November. My current PR was 1:38 and I knew I could do better than that. And what better way to test out how my speed work is going than to race it out? So, making a little deviation in my marathon training cycle, I signed up for this race.

It was pretty small, and not very competitive. I was the lead female after about 3 miles all the way through the finish line. Why didn’t I make that sound more exciting? At the time, I was very excited. Even though it was a small race, it was still a win for me. Plus, I bettered my half time – or so I thought. After being announced the female winner, getting the photo, the congrats by spectators and volunteers, I realized we still had time to make it to church, so we left. Thankfully I didn’t wait around for the awards ceremony to find out I’d cheated.

Later that day, when I was looking for the online results, I realized I had been put in the 10k category. Wanting to fix this “horrible” mistake quickly, I immediately e-mailed the race director, only to get a response saying that I had missed part of the course by turning around on a down and back too early. Therefore, I had been disqualified. He told me a few runners said they saw me cut the course short as well as water station volunteers. I don’t know why neither group of people cared to tell me I was going the wrong way. That bothered me a lot. I mean, the race was sparse at that point, but not THAT sparse. The race director admittedly said that given my pace, I still would have won, but I was furious. Disqualified?!?! That’s worse than a DNF (did not finish)! Especially after being announced the winner. I was so embarrassed.

The point of that story is the fact that that whole debacle got me into a funk for my training for the important race. I skipped the next week’s long run and struggled with the rest of my training. My “plan” was no longer a plan, but just whatever I felt like. My weekday runs were still consistent, and I continued to focus on strength and speed, but when race day came I knew it was a wild card for me. I had only completed one, slow, painful 26-miler four weeks prior, followed by a 10, 13 (ish), and 16. I was nervous, but still hopeful – feeling strong, but a little unsure of the lack of endurance training.  Oh well, here goes…

Everything I had and then some. My plan was to stick with a 3:10 pacer until mile 20 and then speed up for the final 10k. But I dropped the pacer at the half and was on track for a 3:05 finish until mile 21. Thunk! – I hit the wall hard, glycogen stores depleted. I knew exactly where I went wrong. My lack of endurance training left my body unprepared for this distance, and I just couldn’t. I walked/jogged the rest of the way. I was upset, but I knew. I knew I didn’t train hard enough. I crossed the finish line at 3:18:55, tying my PR from Boston down to the second – UGH!

It wasn’t the race I wanted, but it was the race I needed. My strength and speed training were on point for that training cycle – 7:06 pace (for 21 miles) coming from a 7:36 pace? That was good insight. But I had never been disappointed by a race due to under training. It had always been “but I trained so hard.” This new kind of disappointment was hard to deal with, but this race helped me better understand my body and how it responds to some training techniques. I knew I was improving. In June, I would try again.

“Here’s My Heart” – Crowder

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