My training for the Phoenix Marathon over the winter went really well. I was running strong and working hard to build mental toughness as well. I truly believed I was ready to smash my 4:44:51 marathon PR from January 2009. I was targeting under a 4:30 marathon and the McMillan running calculator predicted I should be able to run closer to a 4:20.
Unfortunately race week arrived and I was feeling slightly under the weather. My throat was a bit sore and my nose was running non stop. On the day I was to fly to Phoenix I woke up with a plugged left ear which was definitely not ideal. On the descent into Phoenix it was incredibly painful and I was unable to clear my ear.
I tried not to freak out about how I was feeling. I bought some decongestant and I tried to stay well hydrated despite feeling completely dry and parched the entire time.
The Race Plan
The night before the race I talked strategy with Coach Angie. We both knew my health was not ideal but we both hoped I’d still be able to pull off a strong race.
The course is net downhill, however from mile 10 onwards it feels mostly flat. The plan was to use the downhill in the beginning to help me settle into my goal pace for the overall race and to work to hold it throughout the race. Here is a great write up for race strategy at the Phoenix Marathon that I had hoped to follow.
Phoenix Marathon Race Report
I was still feeling unwell and incredibly parched on race morning. I drank an entire bottle of Skratch Daily on the drive to the race start. It was going to be hot out today so I was especially worried about being well hydrated.
I created a playlist just for the race that started out with some slightly slower tunes so I could keep my pace in check. Unfortunately as I stuffed my iPhone in my SpiBelt the plastic covers on my Yurbuds earphones popped off and dropped on the ground just as the race was starting. Without them the earphones don’t fit in my ears. I decided to spend an extra minute or two searching for them…just in case… I found one cover on the ground and decided to abandon the search for the second cover. Time to get the race started.
The early part of the race through Usary Park was beautiful. The sun was coming up and all the cacti were beautiful to look at. The downhill was awesome, but I will say that the uphill climb over miles 5 and 6 was no joke!
My pace was right where I wanted to be in the first half of the race. I didn’t feel like I was pushing the downhill too much and I kept my effort on the uphill steady and in check. I grabbed one or two cups of Gatorade at each aid station unless I was taking a gel (in which case I just stuck with water).
Somewhere around mile 9 I remember thinking that I had a very noisy breather running right on my tail. I looked over my shoulder to see who it might be and realized that I was hearing my own breathing! It was like the congestion was draining from my sinuses, coating my throat and beginning to constrict my breathing. I sounded like Darth Vader.
Cue foreboding music.
Despite my crummy breathing my body felt pretty awesome until mile 15 when fatigue started to set into my legs. I told myself to keep pushing through and that it would eventually feel better. I found people to catch up to and there was a girl with a white tank top on that was just ahead that I tried to keep in my sights. I focused on getting to mile 16 so I could start counting down less than 10 miles to go. At mile 18 I started to break. My legs had no energy. My breathing was becoming more and more laboured and my voice was completely shot. My friend Tara was watching my race on Garmin Connect and could see I was slowing down. She and my friends Kelly and Shannon kept texting me encouragement to keep going. Finally I mentally broke, pulled out my phone and admitted to them that I was struggling.
Putting words to my feelings was the first step in admitting that my race and my drive to strive for a new personal best were over. I kept telling myself that I wanted to remember this race for my ability to slay the demons and turn things around but I just couldn’t do it. The energy and heart was not there.
The final three miles felt like an eternity. Both Angie and Tara called me to try give me the encouragement I needed to pick it up. I was overcome with emotion, my throat closed up and I could barely draw a breath. I hobbled my way to the finish line, feeling broken and defeated.
Angie, my Team Tri Life teammate Sarah, and my Oiselle teammates were at the finish line, waiting and cheering. Tara, Kelly and Shannon were cheering from Calgary. The support from my teammates and friends on this difficult day meant so much to me.
Final Race Thoughts
On Saturday I feel like I failed. I had a goal and I feel like my mind failed, my body failed and my health failed me. Considering I have worked so hard on the mental aspect of training and racing this feels especially disappointing to me. As I sat at the Phoenix airport I reread my post on embracing the fear of failure. I cannot let fear define me and make me believe that I am not capable of reaching my goals. I tried very hard on race day and I do believe I did the best I could on the day. I need to take the lessons from this race and move forward. Greatness and strength is born out of failure and vulnerability.
- Overall: 4:49:39 (1538 out of 2109)
- Division place (F35-39): 150 out of 191
- Gender place: 663 out of 974
- First half: 2:12:11 (pace: 10:06 , rank: 1601)
- Last half: 2:37:28 (pace: 12:02 , rank: 1494)
- 20-mile split: 3:27:40 (pace: 10:23 , rank: 1493)
- Last 10k: 1:21:59 (pace: 13:14 , rank: 1573)