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Breaking the 3-Hour Barrier My Story

Breaking the 3-Hour Barrier, Part 3

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I knew before I started this training cycle it would be my last time using this plan. Not that I ever end up sticking to the original plan anyway, but for the last several marathon races I’ve had similar training plans. I felt like my body was almost ready to switch things up.

My last summer race was a half-marathon at the end of August. It was time to “get down to business” and put in some early, long, hard miles. I missed my first 20-miler due to illness, but I was able to pound out a 22 the next week. Going out for a 20-miler again, I quit at 18. It sounds silly to stop just 2 miles short of what I was supposed to do, but I was done. I could tell I was getting stressed with work, life, and running in general. I didn’t have time to take a break from training, but the break came anyway. I left the house the next week with the intention of doing 24 miles. I did 4.5, walked home, and ate almost an ENTIRE pint of fudge mind ice cream – and it was only “almost” a full pint because my husband had apparently already had a few bites. Otherwise, it would have been the whole thing. Physically and mentally, I couldn’t. I didn’t run the next day, but I squeezed in a 10-miler on Sunday (which is normally a rest day). I needed to get my head together. I only had a little over a month left to train. However, I made those last weeks count – 22, 24, 26, 20, 16, RACE!

For the first time in a training cycle, I did a prep-race – two days after that last 20-miler. It was a small 15k, and the point was to see what I could do on legs that didn’t have much time to recover from a long run. I also thought it would be good for me personally to get some competitive energy out of me so I wouldn’t get overly excited and go out too fast again for the marathon. The race went well, with a 6:41 average pace. My legs were tired when I started, but not sore. My recovery routine was working out pretty well. With that and the past four weeks of solid long runs, I was getting excited for Charlotte. I tapered, I carbed up, I packed, and I was off. In and out of the expo in record time, I enjoyed the time I had with my family. My mom and brother were running the half together.

Looking back, I had a few rough patches in training, but overall I PR-ed a lot in my long runs this time around. I had gotten faster. My mid-week runs remained solid, and my nutrition strategy improved. I increased HoneyStinger intake and added Pasokin (a peanut butter candy) around miles 14 and 18.

Race morning I woke up feeling great. I knew the weather would be cool, so I packed arm warmers, but generally high-thirties, low-forties seem to be when I perform the best – even when I don’t live/train in that weather. Everything was perfect. This race was going to be so good – I was going to break three hours, and I was going to win (small race).

Leaving my mom and brother in their corral, I made my way to the front to get behind the 3-hour pacer. I was wearing my watch (for the first time during a marathon) to make sure I took it easy, but since there was a pace group I wanted to run with the extra support. There I go.

Immediately, I lost the pace group. I thought they were in front of me, so I figured I’d catch them after the pack dwindled. My first 2 miles were too fast, but then I quickly settled at my 6:50 goal pace. I was confused at why the pace group would be so far ahead, but whatever, I had my watch. I felt great through mile 9, and then suddenly the pace group came up behind me. How did I get ahead of them? I don’t know, but now there were two other female contenders. Just before the half, I started realizing something wasn’t right. But I couldn’t tell what it was. My legs, feet, and joints weren’t giving me any issues, and my breathing seemed okay. Nutrition was fine, and the weather conditions didn’t change. I just started feeling…awful. And almost sleepy tired. Identifying the problem in a distance race is half the battle because as soon as you identify the issue, you can use your mind power to start battling it. I was frustrated because I couldn’t figure it out. My goal pace began slipping away and I couldn’t bring it back.

At mile 19 they had a race clock, and when I looked at the time, my first thought was that one day, I will have just finished the marathon by then – I will have run 7 more miles by that time. My second thought was on that day, I hope I will remember how miserable and defeated I felt now. I never want to take fast for granted and forget what I had to do to get there.

The second place female dropped out, so I took her spot. I plundered on through mile 24, but had to start walking/jogging. I quickly fell into 3rd, but not before I gave one last “sprint” to try and keep my standing. It last for about 10 yards. I had nothing left in me and couldn’t compete. My stomach and head started to ache and then came nausea. I threw up in my mouth a bit. Even thinking about eating or drinking anything made it worse. And then it hit me. I was severely dehydrated. I hadn’t thought about how much (or little) fluid I’d been taking in, but I realized it wasn’t much. The cooler weather made me not feel thirsty, so I didn’t hydrate like I should have from the start. I understood. But it was WAY too late. Dragging myself the last few miles, I finished 4th female at 3:19:18 (small race). There was no hiding my disastrous mistake – into the medic tent I went.

Disappointment trumped any frustration I might have had. I had nothing to show for my training, and my next full wasn’t until June. I made a terrible mistake that ruined what would have been a great race. I was ready to break 3 hours, but I didn’t. It was a completely empty Nutella jar in the cupboard. It was there. I smelled it. But I didn’t taste it.