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Breaking the 3-Hour Barrier My Story

Breaking the 3-Hour Barrier, Part 2

Finishing strong in a marathon is a feat worth chasing, but you have to break through the wall to do it. At Carlsbad, that didn’t happen, but this time I was determined to not “poop out” again. I had to make sure I got those long runs in training.

Between Carlsbad and my next full marathon I had a 10k, a 15k, and two half marathons. Though the races “disrupted” my training plan, I loved the competition. I counted them as speed training and raced some personal bests. Still keeping up with strength workouts, I gained a noticeably more amount of muscle mass. I was able to get some solid long runs in and PR in training quite a bit. My one setback was a minor injury in my right calf muscle which made me stop 6 miles into my first 20-miler. Not letting the frustration get to my head, I took a few days off, babied it a little, and was back training in less than a week. Other than that, I didn’t have any real issues. I felt pretty confident with how my training cycle went.

A little over a month before race day, I decided to go vegetarian. I was barely eating meat as it was and my husband said he wanted to slowly start morphing into veganism. I don’t know if I will ever go vegan, but I will say I don’t miss meat and my training hasn’t suffered.

Six weeks out I raced that second half marathon and then buckled down for some “series” long runs. I made it a high priority to get those distances logged. My last five weeks were 26-20-26-16-16. The second to last 16-miler was supposed to be 26, but I couldn’t. My head, legs, spirit, everything was tired. I knew I had a good training cycle. I knew I gained speed. Not finishing that run scared me a little, but I knew I’d be fine. I felt like I could break three hours.

Race morning came ever so quickly, but it felt like I hadn’t raced a marathon in ages. I was excited, but still the most calm I’d ever been on a marathon morning. Growth happened. Strength and speed improved. I was ready to prove it.

Because two Olympians were racing the half, the race coordinators made everyone start together. It was tighter than usual at the start line, but I was hoping it wouldn’t be terrible once we got moving. The gun went off and I struggled to find space. After about a mile, I found a good pace, but I still had to maneuver around a lot of people to keep it. The 5-mile marker came, and I was able to get some breathing room. Staying on pace, I tried to relax knowing the halfers would soon disappear around mile 8. Little did I know, that as soon as the split happened I would be the second leading lady for the full. I was shocked when the by-standers told me. That explained why there was a cyclist tagged on me. At first, I was annoyed because I didn’t know why he was there or what he was doing on the marathon course. I wasn’t really going for the podium, but I thought if I could, why not push for it? So I spotted a guy near me who was running a little faster than I thought I needed to go, and decided to try to stick with him. Turns out, he was trying to break 3 hours, too. We kept each other company for about 5 more miles, but then I began slipping behind and encouraged him to go on without me. During those 5 miles, I battled it out with the third leading lady. She was a familiar face, as she’s been the top female in shorter races “around town.” I knew she was a stronger runner, but I really wanted to beat her, and if I couldn’t, I was going to make her work  for it.

My legs were getting heavy, and she pulled ahead, never to be seen again. I kept third female until mile 22, when I just couldn’t go anymore. I made sure I pushed passed 20 (where I stopped at Carslbad) but again, I stopped to walk. I was disappointed in myself for going out too fast, but not crushed, because I was still going to make myself PR. I tried to run again, but couldn’t get my pace back. I walked/jogged the rest of the way, finishing seventh. I didn’t meet my time goal, I didn’t make the podium, but I still PR-ed by seven minutes for a 3:11:05 marathon. I wasn’t happy, but I wasn’t sad. It was a similar mistake as my last marathon, but it felt very different – at least I showed improvement. I understood I needed to focus my long run training on “breaking the wall” next time – increasing speed on fatigued legs. Come November, I’ll be ready to break the 3-hour barrier.

David Crowder Band – Sequence 4

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