Phoenix Full Marathon (3:14.59)

I don’t know how to start this post.  I ran a marathon, I PR’ed and won my age group. 

I should be pleased (I am).  I do know, however, my fitness was a little bit faster than this race showed.  I also know that I finished this race not healthy.  Not a full blown injury but I did have a major issue in my hips and hamstring that lead to a painful finish.

There are a couple of factors that played a part in the “bitter aftertaste” with this race.

  1. My travel the Thursday night before. It left me not fueling accordingly, up for 22 hours and traveling for 14.  I didn’t know traveling made you sore….but it does.
  2. My hamstring became very aggravated around mile 21…not tired but it was in pain. My pace slowed because my stride shortened (not because I was experiencing the “bonk” like last marathon). While it’s tough to say, I lost around 5 minutes of time because my hamstring and hip were in pain.

Enough whining because despite finishing in pain, I did have a 2 minute PR.  I’m truly grateful for a PR but I would have liked to have shown a slightly faster time.

Incase you don’t want to read 1000 words here are cliff notes or a screenshot of my splits:

finish time hollie phoenix

The recap: 

I woke up at 4 am and made it to the bus drop off right on time.  Tim drove me to the start.  I chatted with people on the bus and got to the race start successfully.  The Phoenix marathon had fireworks at the beginning which was unique. With the exception of long bathroom lines, there was nothing stressful before the race. Sacrifices had to be made and I delayered my pink Avalanche jacket, never to be seen again.  I threw it to the side of the road and bid it farewell (I have too many jackets anyways and I paid 5 dollars for that thing…it lasted 3 years).

Before I knew it the race was off.  Unlike my first marathon, my Garmin actually worked. I made the decision to start with the 3:15 pacer.  My original goal was to stay with the 3:10 pacer but after everything happened, I knew it was best to start less aggressive.  I did not want to have an unenjoyable second half of the race (but I still did).

During the first mile, my shoe came untied.  So I stopped and tied it…Spending an extra 10 seconds tying my shoe was not the end of the world (or any world).  My first mile was 7:17.  I chatted with a few guys training for Boston.

Phoenix Marathon

During miles 2-3, were pretty boring.  I enjoyed talking with the pacer and a few athletes around me.  One thing I enjoy about marathons is the amount of talking people do!  (6:50, 6:55).

During mile 4, I went to get water and just kind of left the pacer. I didn’t mean to but I sped up and then proceeded to go forward.  Despite my finish time, I never saw the pace group again.

I took my first gel at mile 5.  I didn’t feel like I needed it but the (fueling) plan called for 4 gels and I’m a follower.  I ran with a few other runners and we formed a nice pack. We talked for a few miles and by the time I knew it, we were at mile 8.  My legs were feeling good and as a whole my body felt good too.  Each mile between 5-13 ranged from 6:50-7:00. I ran the only uphill mile of the race in 7:44.  I wasn’t too upset and I actually passed a lot of people during that mile.

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During miles 7-10, I found myself running with a really nice man from Colorado.  He had run multiple 100 milers and wanted to run one more marathon.  We had about the same goals in mind.

I took my next gel at 10.5 and started to focus on the half way point.  I hit the half marathon at 1:34.  This was about where I hit the half in NYCM.  My goal originally was to hit around 1:35 so I was on pace with my original goal.  I didn’t feel tired, my hamstring felt okay and I actually felt really good.  I counted my eggs early and thought I might be able to achieve a 3:10.

Everything after the half point increasingly got worse (I think that means I’m doing marathons right?). Miles 14-16 were extremely windy.  With NYCM, my most memorable mile (in a bad way) was mile 15.  It was exhausting mile up the bridge and I felt sore and tired.  For Phoenix, I was worried about this mile too.  During the Phoenix marathon, miles 14, 15 and 16 were all extremely windy and boring.  I had a no mans land clearing of 10 feet in front and behind.  They were mentally challenging miles and once again, I think those miles were the most mentally draining. I took my next gel around mile 16.  I had planned on mile 15 but I wanted to take it with water.

At mile 17, I saw Adam.  I mumbled something (who knows what?) and high fived him.  I grabbed water.   My hamstring began to feel tight but I choked it up to…oh I’m running a marathon, things should not feel good. I didn’t think the pain would progress like it did.

Waving

By mile 18, my hamstring hurt.  It hurt a lot. I almost stopped and stretched but I knew if I stopped, I would not start again.  The issue was annoying from mile 18-20 but it wasn’t painful.  I hit mile 20 and was overwhelmed that I still had 6.2 miles to go.  Not because I was tired but because my hamstring and hip hurt.

I really thought about dropping out due to the pain escalating.  Did I want to stop at mile 20? Doesn’t everyone ask that? I knew physically I had the energy to get through the last 10k but my hip/hamstring was hurting. It was quickly becoming more of a worry. I began to analyze my situation and figure out what felt the best. I realized turns made the pain worse as did a longer stride.  I shortened my stride and proceeded on.  I wanted to accomplish marathon number 2, PR or not.

I hit 21 and took my gel.  5 miles to go (7:59).  At this point I began calculating how much time I had left to the minute.  45 minutes, 44, 42…

Despite having 5 miles to go, I began to focus on the finish.  I thought to myself “no one drops out of a marathon at mile 21”.  That is inaccurate but it motivated me. My hamstring and hip pain was very much there.  It wasn’t altering my stride but it was a very noticeable pain.  If I had felt a pop, tear or anything alter I would have stopped. A 2 month injury recovery was not worth it to me.  The moment I felt I had to alter my stride I would have stopped.

When I hit mile 22, I blindly assumed just half an hour left.  Somehow dividing the race into half an hour then 2X15 minutes made me feel a little bit better.  My pace was slowing and my hamstring was getting progressively worse.  I decided that I might end up walking the race if needed.  I also knew if I stopped running I would not begin running again (8:04).

During Miles 23-25, I just focused on getting to the end.  We had a brief tail wind during mile 24-25.  I remember silently cheering to myself because at that point my hip and I needed all the help we could get.  I stared at the people running in front of me and noticed they were not getting further away and I was not gaining on them.  We were going the same pace and that made me feel better.  I passed several half marathoners who were walking.  I wanted to say “please walk single file and not 5 across” but decided it was too much energy.

The last mile was a blur.  For mile 26 was just focused on “less than 10 minutes to go”.  I repeated that to myself several times.  I was so mentally checked into finishing the race I was oblivious to anything and everything around me.

Thoughts during mile 26:

Who are these people?  Where is the finish line?  Which way to go?  So close, so close so close…OMG…no there is that .2…now so close.  Here I go..they are announcing my name.  Don’t cry, finish like a woman.  They are taking your photo.  Raise your arms, do something…why aren’t you race photo ready…you had 3 hours to think of a good  finish pose…omg just cross this damn line.

Seriously what am I supposed to do?
I’ll settle for bird pose I guess…I mean a Phoenix is a bird right (Absolutely no thought went into that. but I’ll let you think it was planned)

I crossed the finish line in 3:14.59.

Yes it’s a PR but not a PR I’m satisfied with because I spent the last 5 miles dealing with an issue (hopefully not to turn injury).  After crossing the finish line I found my friends and Tim then sat around.  I do remember repeatedly saying (being very dehydrated) that I must find my checked bag so I can get my pants.

Phoenix marathon finish

The awards ceremony was at 11 so we waited around until then.  I was second in my age group and 21st woman overall.  Since one of the top 3 women was in my age category, she was pulled out.  Therefore I was bumped to first.

Climbing the podium
Climbing the podium

Phoenix marathon

To summarize, it’s hard to complain about a PR.  I’m happy that I’m over my stress fracture hump, but I think I was in better shape than a 3:15.  I didn’t slow down because I was tired, I slowed down because I was in pain.  So far I’ve gotten another deep tissue massage and I’m resting accordingly.  I’m happy with a PR but I am leaving with a little bit of a sour taste in my mouth.  I’m not entirely sure I enjoy the marathon distance yet but I’m sure I’ll try again at some point.

I’ll write a few more posts discussing final thoughts, fueling thoughts and a comparison of both marathons.  As always thank you everyone for your support.  The love I received race day was overwhelming.