I woke up on the morning of Houston Marathon to find that my good friend Michael Arnstein was leading the HURT 100 at mile 87. I was shocked and completely inspired. Michael has been indispensable to my running. When he lived in NYC, we were training partners and fruit-binging junkies and now, since he decided to ditch me for the warmth and glistening waters of Hawaii, he has become a daily sounding board. He isn't afraid to give honest advice and when I say honest, I mean brutally bare-bones honest as in 'lose 5 pounds' 'get that kid off the boob' 'you better be running minimum 100 mile weeks' 'keep your hands out of the almond butter jar'. He says the stuff that hurts. We have had some heated debates about training and I am not afraid to fight back but when it comes down to it, we respect and love each other. It is a friendship I cherish and to see him go after it in the jungles of Hawaii was the exact inspiration I needed to light a fire under my ass for my marathon less than 4 hours away. Michael said he was retired from running. He told us he didn't really train for the race. He convinced all of us he wanted to simply run around the 26-hour mark. Well, he WON! A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Hours below that 26-hour mark. Incredible. I knew it was my turn to run brave.
The truth of the matter was that all I needed to do in Houston was run a 2:42:59. That's it. 6:12 pace. I also knew that if I ran a 2:42:59, I wouldn't be totally satisfied because my training, my body, my mind was ready to run faster. I wanted to run to my potential not just a qualifying time. Of course, going after your potential could also mean bombing and drooling on yourself for the last 6miles...I've been there and it sucks. I had two things that helped convince me running BRAVE was the only way: a great NYC marathon 11 weeks prior and a friend who ran his heart out on one of the most challenging courses in the world. So, the gun went off and I ran albeit way too fast. Don't worry, I reigned it in. The fast pace didn't kill me because I was able to slow it down before it hurt me. I knew that running a 1:18 first half would not quite fall in the 'brave' category...that would fall in the 'just plain stupid' category so yes, I went out speedy with the half marathoners (my heart rate was low so wasn't concerned). When they all peeled off at 8 miles and left me alone, I was able to bring that pace down, back to boring but boring is good in the first half of a marathon. Unexciting is exciting in a marathon! Hit the 13.1 around 1:19:35.
The funny thing was my mind was so wired for the sub-2:43 that I never thought sub-2:40. I thought, “hmm, 1:19:35 first half means I only have to run a 1:23:15 2nd half. hey, that's not bad” – Pretty much, how lazy can I get out here? After the half, I just wanted to hit between 6:06-6:10/mi until the wheels fell off. They never really fell off. I took a gel every 3.5-4 miles (6 total gels for the race) plus Gatorade starting at mile 20. Learned my body needs fuel (minimum 6 gels for a marathon) or I die a horrible death. My stomach was solid – that's been an issue. The confidence was creeping in at mile 20 but never wanted to get overly confident as there can be a 26.2 surprise attack. I still was being cautious. I didn't want to test the fires because the goal was that sub-2:43, that was it. Well, I did have a minor surprise attack at mile 24 (24!?), yay, 24. I felt like I was going to pass out. It came out of no where. Felt a bit dizzy. Legs a bit wobbly and the only thought was 'oh shit bags'. The panic started growing and then I'm panic problem solving: slow the pace (we're ahead of schedule, run a damn 8 minute mile), eat another gel (tastes so bad, I'm gonna throw up), drink water/gatorade (got about 2 Tbsp of liquid, that'll hydrate), pour water on your face (nailed it). Once, I had accomplished the above mentioned goals, albeit I ran a 6:19ish pace not an 8:00/mi, I was pretty much at mile 25 and then my body sniffed home. Here's the worst part...I almost perfectly executed this race but as I was running towards the finish I saw the clock tick from 2:39 to 2:40 and I will not lie, it hurt. I was thrilled and relieved and emotional with my 2:40:13 but man, I can kick my own ass for not ever thinking sub-2:40. Alas, a goal for another day! I guess it is the competitor, time-whore in me. I me, dang.
BUT --- I DID IT! Mission Accomplished! I love that half the people that hear I qualified for the trials think that I am going to the Olympics...haha, perfect.