"But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philipians 3:13b,14

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tucson Marathon Race Report- Qualifying for Boston

Well, it's been nearly a month since Tucson, and I guess I had better get to blogging about it. I know the memories will fade more and more as time goes on... (which, by the way, is the factor which makes it possible to RUN another marathon, HAVE another baby...etc...etc...)

In case you missed a few of my earlier posts about this race, I picked this race in order to train for speed and try and qualify for the Boston Marathon. My qualifying time is 3:40:00. Here is the post about what happened right after I decided to give it a shot: Five Minutes

Wade and I drove out on Friday afternoon. We stayed with my friends Chris and Karen, with Chris' parents. Chris is an amazing runner. He is the one who talked my into trying to qualify for Boston, and was a fantastic resource/coach during training. He also ran the entire Tucson Marathon with me, as my pacer. It was such a huge encouragement to stay on pace, and to stick to my race plan with him at my side.

Friday night we basically got there and hit the sack. The next morning we headed out to the expo to pick up our packets and bibs. Several other friends were there also, doing the race, and it was fun to see everyone and have lunch together. Then we headed back to the house and had dinner with Chris' folks (who are AWESOME cooks). They made pasta and shrimp. Chris and I spent a bit of time discussing pace, race day plan, etc, then got our stuff ready and headed to bed.

Race day wake up came early, since Tucson is a point-to-point race, you drive to a lot which is close to the finish and then get bussed to the start. Since we had to leave the house at 4:15, we had to get up at 3:45 or so. Karen, Chris, and I headed out, Wade was going to come out with his bike later and meet me along the course.

When we got to the start, we stayed in the bus for a while. It was chilly, and we still had a good hour until the race started. After a bit, Karen and I decided to go and use the port-o-potties before the start. It's always comical waiting in line at those things before the race. You have some hyper people, some grumpy people, some people doing the "potty dance". It's always entertaining. From where we were standing, we could see the start line, and also the INCREDIBLE sunrise. It was so beautiful. We also saw our friends Ron and Janet, and high fived and shared the excitement of race morning with them.

Once great thing about a smaller marathon (this one had about 1,000 marathoners, which is quite small, Nike had over 25,000 I believe) is that the start line is very mellow. We all kind of stood around and waited, and when they blew the bullhorn it was very low key and not crowded.

Miles 0-5ish
So at the beginning, I knew my goal was to keep my pace right around 8:00/mile. I was surprised at the amount of hills during the first few miles of the race. I was also surprised about how I felt in the altitude- we started at about 4500 feet and I definitely felt it. It was good to get going and put some miles behind us. The mile markers were off by almost a quarter mile in the beginning, which was bad, but then they got back on track. Chris was manually lapping his Garmin when we hit a mile marker, and mine was on auto-lap every time the gps registered a mile. So I knew I would have both to check my average pace and make sure I stayed on track.

Miles 6-10ish
These miles were great. We met up with a girl who decided she'd like to run with us and the three of us started chatting up a storm. She had run several marathons in different states, and wanted to run one in each of the 50 states. We kept our pace right at an 8:00/mile average. I knew we were coming to an out-and-back section of the course that went into the Biosphere, this part of the course is very hilly and can be windy. I was dreading this part and was anxious to get it over with and see how it affected my average pace.

Miles 10-13 The Biosphere
As I approached the Biosphere Rd. turn, I saw Wade there on his bike!! I was SO excited to see him!! I waved to him and threw him my arm warmers (by this time I was plenty warm without them) and headed into the Biosphere.
Cheesy grin as we head into the Biosphere. Notice how cool and professional Chris looks. That girl I mentioned is in the middle- she fell behind us in the Biosphere part and I didn't see her after.

The Biosphere was not nearly as bad as I had anticipated, which was a HUGE relief. We hit the half marathon point right before exiting, and I was right on pace with an 8:00/mile average. 
Chris and I, exiting the Biosphere section

Miles 13-18ish
After exiting and heading back to the main part of the course, we settled in to a nice pace. Chris was very encouraging and pleased with how well I was doing and how "on pace" my miles were. 
Happy to see Wade at mile 14 or so...

Around mile 15-17 during a long run or marathon, I usually get a second wind, or feel pretty fresh. This happens around 70% of the time, I would say.

...unfortunately, this did NOT happen during the Tucson Marathon. When we started the race, I told Chris I had three goals. I categorize my race goals in order of priority, so I don't lose focus of my main goal. My "A" goal was to qualify for Boston, and do 3:40. By "B" goal was to do a sub-3:35, so that I could sign up for Boston a week earlier than if I hit just my qualifying time, since they have a tiered registration based on pace. My "C" goal was to beat my old PR(that stands for Personal Record) marathon time of 4:28 by one hour. 

When we were about halfway, Chris told me, "Shari, if you get your second wind, you will probably get all three of your goals today!" When he asked me at mile 15, 17, and 18 if I was feeling that second wind, I told him I wasn't. And by the time I got to mile 17-18, my legs were feeling pretty darn trashed, I was already VERY tired, and I knew that the last part of this race was going to hurt.

As you look back after a "bad" run (those who run distance will know what this is- you just never feel "on" for some reason, you struggle, it feels hard) you try and put your finger on any factors that were/are within your control to see if you can figure out what caused this. I can say honestly, it "just happened" that way. I did all the things I was supposed to do, I had my nutrition and hydration dialed in, I kept my pace under control, I trained on TONS of downhill.....

I am telling about this as part of this race report because I was anyone who has a "bad" training run, or a "bad" race to be encouraged! I had several training runs where I felt AWFUL, and I learned to push through. (Read Why the Worst Training Run is the Most Valuable for more on this concept). This was truly SO important during Tucson. Having the mental stamina to run through periods of feeling awful is something I definitely learned during training. It helped. So, so much.

Miles 18-23
I mostly just remember these miles feeling hard. I was tired. It seemed like I never really got any sustained downhill, and I had to always keep pushing. I kept up my hydration and nutrition though, and didn't miss any of my scheduled water or Gu. Chris said all the right things. Every time we would hit a mile he would say, "8:05.... you can run that all day long and qualify!" Everything he said made me feel VERY encouraged and helped me so much. At mile 20 or so, my friend Robin joined us.
Robin, Chris, and I around mile 20

I felt pretty horrid from mile 20 on. My breathing was fairly rapid and my legs felt awful. I am not a complainer when I am hurting during a workout- I usually just become VERY quiet and try and knuckle through it. I did complain about my legs several times, then I would immediately apologize to Chris and Robin for complaining. In hindsight, it is pretty hilarious. I knew we had some uphills coming at mile 23, and I was a bit worried about that. I told Chris, "don't let me walk on those hills." He wasn't worried.

Miles 23-finish
Yeah. The hills were terrible. That's all I have to say about that.

I groaned and panted and grimaced.
As you can see, it wasn't one of my best beauty moments.....

It hurt. A lot.

The only thing I remember liking about this period in the race was Chris' and Robin's encouragement. Robin kept telling me I was doing great. Chris was VERY thrilled that I was going to qualify, and kept excitedly expressing that. Chris has a way of encouraging me to run faster by running slightly ahead of me and looking back at me. It is perfect. This kept me on pace to hit my "A" and "B" goals. I knew my "B" goal would be close, but I pushed as hard as I could.

Around mile 25, we saw some poor guy completely shut down. First he started staggering, then he completely seized up and almost fell and was assisted by a Police Officer who was helping out. It was a bummer, he was less than a mile from the finish line.
Last big hill... groan...

During the last mile, I was SO tired, and there were a few uphills. As we got closer to the finish, all I could think about was getting in under 3:35, and being able to STOP RUNNING.

There was a short uphill before you turn into the finish area, and in my mind I decided that I was going to ask the people at the finish if Chis could put my medal on me when we finished. We turned up into the finish chute and saw the finish line, and I was still focused on getting across that thing!!
Steps from the finish!

As we crossed the finish line, I looked down and my Garmin said 3:34!! I knew I had made my top two goals!! I asked if Chris could put my medal on, and he did. It was such a cool moment, he had told me I could do this if I worked hard- I really didn't believe it but thought I would try. And here it was, happening!! 

Immediately after that, I was SO happy to see Wade. He was really proud of me and told me so, and that felt really special. It was so nice having him there. He helped me get around the gate, helped me open my water, helped me sit down and get more comfortable. 
Sitting down right after the finish, exhausted, relieved, and HAPPY!!

My friends Allie, Tony, Celeste, and Cristina did the half marathon, and were at the finish too!! It was SO fun to see them and be excited with friends!! Dale, Robert, and Robin were there too! It was nice to see everyone.
Talking to the friends- on cloud 9!

 I asked Wade to get me a Coke (my usual favorite post-race drink if I've pushed it) to settle my stomach. He immediately found one and then helped me change and get more comfortable. You know your husband loves you when he'll hold your sweaty running clothes and wait in the doorway of a port-o-potty to help you. That is romantic, I'm telling you!!
The medal!

It was really exciting to be at the finish line and cheer all the friends on as they came in! Nearly everyone had a PR that day, and it was fun to see everyone so pleased!!

....reflecting on this race, and on the training, it really hits me. This was a big deal for me. When I decided to try and qualify for Boston, I knew I would have to work really hard. I also knew that there was a chance I could have a bad race and not qualify.

 After the race, I really allowed myself to enjoy the fact that I had worked hard and made my goals. To be totally honest, it is the first time I have ever felt like I truly celebrated my accomplishment without feeling stupid, vain, or prideful. It is difficult, for whatever reason, for me to see the good parts of myself. But Tucson was a rare moment that occurred when I could really feel the joy and satisfaction of achievement. That was really good, and special. It was especially satisfying because I DID have a sort of bad race and still made two of my goals! 

I would love to say that I am going to continue to get faster and shoot for a better time. But, for now, I'm going to do more running for the joy of it- take pictures, share special chats with friends, encourage others, see the beauty around me..... I missed that during the training when I had to focus so much on my pace. 

In closing, I would encourage you that goals matter. Writing them down, making a plan, working hard- those things are GOOD and feel satisfying. 

Set a goal. Seek to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Feel the joy of being totally spent while working hard to achieve. It feels good. 

Then, sit back and eat Red Vines. Yes. And count your toenails. There may not be as many of them left as you would think.


  1. Fantastic job, Shari! So proud of you! You are truly an inspiration to all of us!

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  3. Great effort and incredible pics.. Please come join the party and post your blog to our Facebook page. Happy Running.. oh and btw.. BOSTON!!! :)

  4. Wow! Congratulations! What a post to read when I am minutes from registering for my first marathon!!

  5. Thank you! It was a GREAT experience!

  6. Pittsburgh marathon. I actually ran my first half there as well. I am excited, nervous, and scared all at the same time.

  7. I love to follow your running, recipes, and love for the Lord! Good luck in Boston, but more importantly enjoy the experience! Godspeed!

  8. Thank you Jenni!! I am so excited to go to Boston!!

  9. You will have a great time Erin!! It's good that you've been there before and are familiar with the course!