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On a whim I decided to enter a contest for a free entry to the Shoreline Half Marathon from RaceGrader.com (a great place to check for reviews of Southern California races and to find registration discount codes for many popular local races). I’m always looking for someplace new to run and 13 miles along the beach sounded spectacular. Of course as soon as I typed in my email address and hit submit, I had second thoughts. How far exactly is Ventura from my house? Two hours. How early would I need to get up for the race? 4 a.m. Ugh, that seemed a little early for what would basically be a training run for the REVEL Canyon City Marathon in November. But what are the chances I’ll win anyway? Pretty darn good, apparently!

So that’s how I found myself lined up at the start of the 2015 Shoreline Half Marathon on Sunday July 12. And what a gorgeous shoreline it was!

Part of the course runs along this promenade in Ventura

Part of the course runs along this promenade in Ventura

I had arrived at 7 a.m. and parked for $6 at the public parking structure next to the Crowne Plaza Hotel, an easy walk to pick up my race bib and nice grey technical shirt at Promenade Park. There were plenty of porta potties and also some public restrooms on the beach path (oh the luxury!)

The half marathon started promptly at 8. I loved how the race director asked people to self-seed in the corral by pace and sent us off in waves every two minutes. It’s an unusual way of doing it but it makes perfect sense to avoid a crowded mass start along the beach path and the chip time doesn’t begin until you cross the starting line.

I wore my Garmin Forerunner 10 GPS watch but vowed not to look at it for the entire race. Mike didn’t think I could run “naked” (he knows how I love my data!) but that made me all the more determined! I wanted to practice running by feel and not by the watch. I hoped to go out at a steady pace, slower than marathon or half marathon pace but not exactly an “easy” pace — just a pace I felt I could sustain comfortably for 13.1 miles. I guessed that would be in the low 9-minute mile range.

The first part of the course runs five miles north along the bike path and the wide shoulder of the 101 overlooking the ocean. As always in a race I felt grateful for the privilege of being there and being healthy and able to run. The course is nearly all flat with just a few dips here and there, less than 100 feet of elevation change. Around mile 4 I could see the leaders of the race coming back along the course after the turnaround at mile 5. It was fun to cheer them on and marvel at their speed! The north-and-back and south-and-back layout of the course meant that there was plenty of opportunity for people watching with the 664 participants in the half marathon and the people on the boardwalk. Somewhere in the first five miles I passed the 2:00 pacer so I knew my pace was faster than I had originally thought it would be.

Pace miles 1-5: 8:54, 8:37, 8:29, 8:32, 8:22

The course then runs the five miles back, past the start/finish line, a couple of miles out under the Ventura Pier and around Ventura State Beach Park, and back to the finish line along the promenade.

Around mile 8 the pace stopped feeling comfortable and started getting tougher. The 8 a.m. start time meant that we faced some serious heat on the course in the later miles (73 degrees and humid by the time I finished). I wore a visor and sunglasses and stopped at the aid stations every 1-1.5 miles for Gatorade and water. The volunteers were hustling and did a good job helping the runners.

Pace miles 6-10: 8:29, 8:38, 8:27, 8:26, 8:36

The last 5K of the race was a challenge. My training plan only called for 11 miles for my long run so when I passed the parking structure after mile 12 the temptation to call it good was strong! The plan also called for a “fast finish” though, so I picked it up for mile 13 and brought it home strong.

Pace miles 11-13.1: 8:24, 8:52, 8:30

Chip Finish Time: 1:52:15, 8:34 average pace overall

Females 40-49 age group: 9 of 113

Females overall: 33 of 408 (Interesting that there were more women than men in the race! Go ladies!)

All finishers: 94 of 664

I enjoyed the bananas, oranges and Gatorade at the finish line while I waited in line for the free tacos. There was free beer too but I wouldn’t have survived the drive home with that!

It was an interesting experience running the race “naked.” I ended up running faster than I would have had I been looking at my watch, and yet the pace felt easier. I found that when I run by effort, the pace feels more comfortable than if I try to “force” myself to hit a certain pace on the watch. Now would I pace a marathon goal race this way? Not likely. That would take a lot more practice for me and a lot better sense of how to run 26.2 by feel. Would I pace another half this way? Absolutely, especially if I wanted to use the race to gauge my current level of fitness. For not tapering (and for spending several hours the previous day cleaning and priming my daughter’s bedroom to paint), I was very happy with how the race went. I recommend the course for the views, the smaller size of the field, the ease of parking and same-day packet pick-up, the nice race t-shirt, finisher’s medal, and free tacos and beer at the finish. Just a few tips if you plan on going for a goal time on this course: place yourself toward the front of your wave at the start, be prepared to dodge a few runners and people on the boardwalk (which isn’t closed to the public), and dress for the heat. With early bird registration starting at $45 for the half and going up to $75 in the months before race day, it’s a great value for a well-run (no pun intended), gorgeous race!

Have you ever run a race “naked”? Do you find it easier to run by feel or by a GPS watch?

Random fact about me: I’ve never paid for a race photo. I am just too darn thrifty and I’d rather put that money toward another race. They’re never the best photos of me anyway. Case in point, the free race photos from my last two races:

iCureMelanoma 5K

Downtown Anaheim 5K

I’m not sure what I was pointing to in that photo. Maybe I was signaling for help in catching my breath? Anyway I’m glad to have these free photos.

Training officially starts next week for the Revel Canyon City Marathon on November 7. This week was a transition week and I filled it in with an easy 5-mile run on Monday and a tempo run yesterday. Spell-check tried to correct that to “temper” run. I did almost have a temper tantrum because I was scared to run 3 miles at 7:46 pace, but I convinced myself to just get out the door for the two-mile warm up and then see how I feel. Two miles into any run I usually hit my stride and feel a lot better. It’s like my legs give in and say, “Fine, if you’re really going to do this, I’ll cooperate.” It went well and I tacked on another two miles of cool-down for a total of 7 miles.

Today the schedule said “Rest or cross-train.” I wanted a nap and was in fact resting on the couch but my six-year-old asked if we could do one of my workout videos. How did she know I needed some motivation? We did the Insanity – Cardio Abs workout. Perfect! 17 sweaty minutes. I really believe that strength training has made all the difference for me in racing. Not only does it help with injury prevention, it also helps maintain good form in those last miles of a race where the leg muscles need the support of several other muscles in the body.

Cheryl from Why Mom Runs is also starting training for a November 7 race, the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. She laid out her race goals and inspired me to do the same. I always set out several goals:

1. Sub 3:55. The best thing about aging is bumping up an age group, and with that wacky Boston Marathon Qualifying math, even though I turn 44 in August, this is the year I move up to the 45-49 group for Boston 2017 and the qualifying time jumps from 3:45 to 3:55. I’ll take that advantage, thank you very much.

2. Sub 3:36:58. It would be nice to get a PR over my time from the 2015 Phoenix Marathon.

3. Sub 3:35. I’ve set my training runs/paces to hit a 3:35 time.

4. Sub 3:30. This is the in-my-wildest-dreams time. It would require perfect training, perfect weather, and perfect execution on race day, but it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility. In fact, if I plug my 3:36:58 time into the Marathon Time Converter from Find My Marathon, it says I could run Canyon City in 3:22:12, simply due to the advantage of the downhill profile of the course. But that comes with its own challenges. I am going to need to be careful about not going out too fast, not trashing my quads on the downhill, and not hitting the wall. Easier said than done. Plus I am taking a chance on a new training plan. I enjoyed the Run Less, Run Faster and Smart Marathon Training plans I used for my first five marathons, but this time I am going with the “Own It” marathon training plan from Train Like a Mother.

What training plan(s) have you used? What are you training for right now, if anything?

 

I love running new-to-me races and the 16th Annual Downtown Anaheim 5K Race did not disappoint!

The race offered free race morning packet pickup in addition to early pickup, which meant that I could sleep until 5:15 a.m., scarf down some oatmeal with brown sugar and a cup of coffee with milk, and hit Harbor Boulevard at 6 a.m. for the straight shot south to downtown Anaheim. I arrived at one of the two parking structures on Oak Street that had free, ample parking and I had no trouble finding the check-in table by 6:25 and the porta-potties by 6:30. No waiting in any lines!

Registration cost $35 but only because I was too chicken to sign up before May 1. Normal registration is $30 and there are discounts for teams and even a $20 early bird discount fee for those on the race director’s email list. Registration comes with a nice white cotton tee which I confess I used for a sweat rag after the race (what, it will wash clean!) and which I prefer over a technical tee if it keeps the cost down (same with the fact that there was no race medal – I don’t need more bling although I mention it because I know that’s important to a lot of people). Tons of great vendors lined the expo and offered free samples of everything from vitamin water to protein recovery drinks and bars. My favorite vendor though? The one offering two-minute lessons on hands-only CPR, something every runner (every person!) should know. Check out this demonstration video from the Boston Athletic Association, the American Red Cross, and the American Heart Association:

What the lesson taught me today is that to help you figure out how many chest compressions to do in a minute, you can perform them to the beat of the song “Stayin’ Alive.”

For more information on the cardiac risk associated with endurance events you can also listen to this great Runner Academy podcast: How Safe Is Marathon Running for Your Heart? (And when I say “cardiac risk” I am not talking scary hype, just the facts about the actual low level of risk and how to assess your personal cardiac profile).

Speaking of hearts, mine was beating pretty quickly with race jitters as I waited on the starting line. After a live rendition of the national anthem, the race began promptly at 7:30 a.m. under gloriously overcast skies, 63 degrees and 80 percent humidity.

I hope next year the race director has volunteers holding up minute-per-mile seeding suggestion signs in the self-seeding corral because I highly doubt the dude in cotton Bermuda shorts (no joke) who tried to place himself in front of me five rows from the start could run 7-minute miles. And I’ve never experienced more jostling at the start of a race. If I wanted to be elbowed I’d do an Ironman swim. Anyway, it is thankfully a relatively small race at about 850 participants and it soon thinned out on the wide straight streets of Anaheim. Unfortunately one of the train track crossing bars was stuck down and the course police directed us on the slightest jog around that. The announcer assured us the course wouldn’t run long and indeed, my Garmin measured 3.13 miles. Besides, this year’s winner clocked a course record so who am I to complain?

In spite of my best intentions and 1-minute warm-up intervals at race pace, I started the race a little too fast and had to settle into a 7-minute pace. The first mile seemed to fly by. My goal then became to “maintain.” Funny how mantras just pop into your head as you run. Mile two was good but getting harder, and mile three was a real challenge. I tried to walk (run) that fine line between leaving it all on the course and actually blowing up on the course. I did pretty well but my pace slipped a little. Perhaps I was demoralized by the woman who passed me as she pushed a jogging stroller (I joke — I wasn’t demoralized, I was awed!) I ended up finishing in 22:19, a PR by 1:25 over the iCureMelanoma 5K last May.

Gorgeous palm-lined finish with the American flag and balloon arch

Gorgeous palm-lined finish with the American flag and balloon arch

Turns out my time was good enough for second place in my age group!

Chip time: 22:19
Pace: 7:11
Overall: 136/851
Females: 25/434
Females 40-44: 2/36

I stuck around to collect my award but the timing company experienced a glitch and it couldn’t confirm the official results in time. Those came out at about 5 p.m. today and the awards will be put in the mail on Monday.

Overall I definitely recommend this race! The parking and packet pick-up are a breeze, the course is well laid out and flat, the finish line is beautiful and the expo has a real community feel. The race director gave out prizes from some of the sponsors and it was fun to watch a little kid get four tickets to an Angels game and an adult get a two-night stay at the Anaheim Marriott! One lucky lady with size 8 feet won a pair of Skechers running shoes (I curse you, size 11s! Actually I take that back — my size 11s have given me many happy miles.)

Racing a 5K was quite the experience after all my marathon training and racing. I followed this 5K training plan for advanced runners from About.com and I feel like it did the job well. I was surprised to note that my lungs gave out before my legs, and my arms were sore. Man I must have been pumping to keep up that pace!

What’s your favorite race distance? I like to mix it up. I would like to run another one-mile race some time but there aren’t too many around and the local ones haven’t fit in my schedule. I love an 8K — I feel like that is a nice middle distance race. My favorite race of all so far though has been the Revel Canyon City Half Marathon, just because the course was so spectacular in the San Gabriel Mountains, and I felt like I was flying down the course.

When I started running four years ago, I followed a fairly natural progression. At first I trained for a sprint triathlon. I enjoyed all three disciplines of swimming, biking, and running. While I continued to train for triathlons, I also ran a stand-alone 5K, an 8K, a 10K and a half marathon over the course of the next year. Once I had trained up for the half marathon and liked it, I figured if I was ever going to run a marathon, that would be the time to do it. Five months later I ran my first marathon and was hooked. And so began three solid years of marathon training:

4:02:39 at the Santa Barbara International Marathon – Fall 2012
3:57:29 at the Mountains2Beach Marathon – Spring 2013
3:52:42 at the Long Beach Marathon – Fall 2013
3:44:26 at the Santa Rosa Marathon – Summer 2014 (BQ minus 34 seconds)
3:36:58 at the Phoenix Marathon – Winter 2015 (BQ minus 8:02)

Those last two races took a tremendous amount of physical and mental energy as I raced to qualify for Boston. When my qualifying time at Santa Rosa did not meet the cutoff to register for Boston 2015, I felt a huge sense of disappointment. I dedicated myself to training for the Phoenix Marathon six months later. It took an incredible amount of focus and commitment to finish that race strong and not give up on qualifying with several minutes to spare. I accomplished that goal, and yet I felt an odd sense of letdown. I think I burned out on training 10-11 hours a week with three runs (a 4-5 mile speed workout, an 8-mile tempo run, and a long run) and two bike rides (20-30 miles each) and strength training (40-60 minutes per week). The training worked, but it left me ready to take an extended break from regimented training.

So, I took the month of March off formal training. I went skiing with my family at Whistler (where I still took advantage of the trails to get a few runs in) and I engaged in marathon housecleaning sessions rather than marathon training sessions.

Rest is great, and there’s lots of research that says muscle memory and endurance make it easier for you to get fit again after a break than it was the first time you got fit. However, I have to say that it took me a good two months of regular training before I felt back on track again, so to speak. I held off signing up for my next race because I just wasn’t sure it was worth putting myself out there. Finally I decided I was just being chicken and I signed up for the Downtown Anaheim 5K a week from tomorrow.

After that, I will start training for my sixth full marathon, the REVEL Canyon City Full Marathon on November 7, 2015. I had such a fantastic run at the REVEL Canyon City Half Marathon in 2014 that I couldn’t resist putting the full on my calendar this year. The challenge now is to train for the net -5,134 feet of downhill on the full marathon course. I take that very seriously and I plan to do at least a couple of long runs on the course to make sure I can handle the pounding on my quads on race day.

What’s up next for you? Have you ever taken a break from running? Do you like to have a training plan in place or do you enjoy the flexibility of some time off from formal training?

Celebrating Mothers

I hope all the mother runners out there had a wonderful Mother’s Day last Sunday and everyone else had a lovely weekend. I slept in and then rallied my husband for a two hour run/hike that I just did not want to end. It was so gorgeous outside and it was wonderful to spend time with Mike (knowing that the kids were happy at home).

When we got back, Mike made omelets for everyone and the girls gave me flowers and cards. I’m calling it a huge parenting win that my 6-year-old thinks my favorite food is “greens”:

Mother's Day card

Later in the week I packed up thirty technical shirts that were left over from the iCureMelanoma 5K. The printer mistakenly printed our 53 team shirts on cotton tees and when it mailed the right technical shirts, the shipment included several extras.

Technical shirts

They’re really nice, soft shirts and I knew just the people who could put them to good use. I sent them to Denise Dollar at Heart Strides, a non-profit organization that gives running shoes and running gear to mothers who need encouragement to care for themselves as they care for critically or chronically ill children or children with special needs. If you want to learn more about Heart Strides, listen to this great podcast of Denise being interviewed by Sarah and Dimity of Another Mother Runner. (I love listening to Another Mother Runner podcasts on my long runs!)

I had a fantastic morning with my family and friends at the iCureMelanoma 5K in Fullerton, California today! It’s a great community event for runners, walkers and anyone interested in supporting melanoma research.

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What started last year with our core group of book club members on Team BookIt! grew this year to 53 people on Team Beckman Coulter. With the generous help of the Beckman Coulter Foundation, our team raised $5,418 for melanoma research at University of California, Irvine (UCI)! We won the top prize for fundraising, and it felt really great to contribute towards the $100,000 that was presented to UCI at the end of the race. We thought we were in the running for the prize for largest team but Team Mac came in first with an amazing 107 members who came out to honor the memory of Michael Gerard MacDonald, a man lost too soon to melanoma in 2009. So really Team Mac’s victory is a huge win-win and it’s simply wonderful that so many people participated to support much-needed melanoma research!

My eldest daughter and I ran the race in the competitive wave that started promptly at 7 a.m. The course runs over challenging terrain — a mix of grass, road, and dirt. It forms a lollipop shape as it runs out to and around gorgeous Laguna Lake, which shades you with beautiful trees along the park path. I cannot say I’d recommend it as a “fast” course but man you wouldn’t know it when you look at the finishing times. The winner came in at a blazing 18:54! I managed to pull off a PR of 23:44 for 1st in my 41-50 age group of 33 women. And my daughter also set a PR (by 4 minutes!), coming in at 24:11 for 3rd in her age group!

My husband and middle daughter had fun on the course in the 8:00 a.m. open wave with many of our friends. There were tons of great vendors at the finish line and we feasted on pizza, Italian ice, peanut butter and banana sandwiches, and protein bar samples. Of course there were also sunscreen samples on hand, and my girls were thrilled to find free nail polish samples at the Solfingers booth. I am definitely going to check out the Solfingers line of sun protection gloves and arm sleeves. I’ve been wearing my plain blue Phoenix Marathon arm warmers for sun protection but the Solfingers sleeves and gloves offer several super cute designs.

I’ve got my sights set on another 5K at the Downtown Anaheim 5K Run on June 13, 2015, and we are already planning to come back next year for the 10th Annual iCureMelanoma 5K!

What do you use for sun protection? In addition to wearing a visor, sunglasses and as much clothing as I can tolerate, I like Coppertone Sport sunscreen. The dermatologist Dr. William Baugh who puts on the iCureMelanoma 5K recommends Neutrogena as his favorite brand. (Tip: he says it does not matter whether you use the spray or cream formula of sunscreen — the best sunscreen is the one you will use! If you have trouble with sunscreen running in your eyes he recommends a silicon-based sunscreen for athletes). I also try as much as possible to avoid peak sun hours (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and I choose a shady route whenever possible (not always easy in sunny Southern California).

Me ready for spin class this morning in the cute race tank top (the men got short-sleeved shirts in the same color), minus the blue arm sleeves we also received.

Me ready for spin class this morning in the cute race tank top (the men got short-sleeved shirts in the same color), minus the blue arm sleeves we also received.

On Saturday, February 28, 2015, I joined the 1,881 men and women who conquered the Phoenix Marathon in beautiful Mesa, Arizona. I had trained for five and a half months for this race. I felt ready physically, and yet as I took the 30-minute bus ride from Mesa Riverwalk up to the full marathon starting line, I felt like I had my feet and hands braced against the open door of an airplane as a skydiving instructor tried to shove me out the door against my will. The thought of taking on my fifth full marathon intimidated me to the point that my teeth chattered with nerves and not just the cold.

After a 3:15 a.m. wake-up call (that’s 2:15 a.m. for this California girl), I’d hopped a bus at 4:45 and arrived at the staging area by 5:15. Conditions at the starting line turned out to be perfect in spite of the prior threat of rain. The temperature was in the 50s and the pre-dawn sky was overcast. The staging area boasted firepits and propane heaters to keep the runners warm, but I opted to find a place to sit and rest my legs after my first trip through the porta-potty lines. I hopped back in the burgeoning lines at 5:45 and tried in vain to will the lines to move faster. Only when the first set of fireworks went off did the line get moving, much to my relief. By 6:10 I was back out and changing out of my sweats, then slathering on sunscreen. I dropped my gear bag at the truck and walked to the starting line by 6:20. There were no corrals and I placed myself behind the 3:30 pacer but in front of the 3:35 pacer. The race started on time and we were off in the dark just as the sky started to lighten.

Miles 1 through 4 (Pace in minutes per mile: 8:01, 7:49, 8:07, 7:57)

The runners started out more slowly than I would have liked but that probably was a good thing, reining in my enthusiasm and adrenaline-fueled nerves. The course starts on a downhill grade but nothing that tempted my legs to really fly (it’s much less steep than the Revel Canyon City Half Marathon, which I loved). The pack of runners thinned after mile 2 or so and everyone settled into their own race.

Miles 5 through 8 (8:26, 8:33, 7:37, 7:55)

Miles 5 and 6 are uphill. I had done at least one hill workout per week in training so I was prepared for the hills and I tried to keep a steady effort and not stress when my pace slowed a bit. Mile 7 was the downhill reward for all that uphill. By then it was fully light outside and I enjoyed taking in some of the scenic desert landscape.

Miles 9 through 12 (7:56, 8:01, 8:03, 8:07)

The slight downhill grade continued through mile 12, and while the course declines in elevation after that I did not notice it. The course felt flat from there on out and unfortunately, we faced some wind on several of the miles in the second half of the race.

Miles 13 through 16 (8:10, 8:06, 8:17, 8:14)

I hit the half marathon mark at 1:45:39, right on pace for a 3:34 finish as hoped. However, at mile 15 I really felt the wind fighting me and I struggled to maintain my target pace of 8:07. This part of the course runs through more residential and industrial areas (meaning that the half marathon race course is not quite as pretty as the full course), but I remember passing many orange trees in bloom and the course smelled heavenly!

Miles 17 through 20 (8:03, 8:12, 8:10, 8:43)

Somewhere during mile 16 I distinctly remember thinking, “Okay, this isn’t fun anymore.” That’s not the kind of attitude that’s going to get you through 10 more miles of running, so I started working on my mental game. I remembered what my sleepy six-year-old had said to me as she asked for water at 3:30 a.m.: “Good luck Mama. You’ll do great because you’re a speedy mom.” I just started repeating “speedy mom, speedy mom, speedy mom” to myself, willing my legs to prove I was indeed a speedy mom. Unfortunately, in mile 20 I developed an odd, pulling sort of pain in my left buttock that made me have trouble convincing my leg to lift up and forward. I managed to work through it, thank goodness, but my pace never quite recovered. I didn’t hit the wall like I did at Mountains2Beach, but it was taking all of my mental and physical energy to keep racing. At some point my brain and my body had a conversation that went like this:

Body: “I would like to walk now.”

Brain: “I know, me too, but we can’t. Don’t give up now. Keep going! You’ve come this far.”

Body, “No really, I want to walk.”

Brain: “Sorry. Just run to the next aid station.”

And that became my mantra. “Run to 21. Run to 21.” When I reached the aid station at mile 21, it became “Run to 23. Run to 23.” Somehow the thought of running two miles until I could walk through the aid station was a lot less intimidating than running the whole remaining 10K. At every aid station (miles 3, 5, 7, 9 etc. until 23 when they were every mile), I took in two cups of Gatorade Endurance, lemon-lime flavor (my favorite!) The aid stations were well-stocked with Gatorade and water, and several stations had Clif Shots and/or oranges although I never took any of those.

Miles 21 through 24 (8:42, 8:45, 8:30, 8:51)

Spectators scattered themselves along the course in small packs. My favorite race sign of the day: “Don’t be the Seahawks. Run it in!” Around mile 21, one of my fellow Boston 2016 Facebook group members recognized me and encouraged me by name. I needed that boost then — there’s just something about someone saying your name that gives you that extra surge of energy and I appreciated that so much! I also loved all the kids on the sidelines who offered high fives, and the guy who had the “touch this spot for power” sign (you better believe I touched it)! He popped up on the course several times and I felt like I had my own personal cheering squad in addition to my husband and three girls waiting for me at the finish line.

During mile 23, the 3:35 pacer passed me. I felt both disappointed and inspired at the same time. I managed to pick up the pace to 8:30 as I chased him, but I soon lost sight of him. As my Garmin clocked mile 24 at an 8:51 pace, I decided to check my overall time: 3:20 and change. I realized that if I could just keep my pace under 10 minutes per mile for the remaining 2.2 miles, I could still break 3:40! My PR from Santa Rosa was 3:44:26 and I felt confident I could beat that.

Miles 24 through 26.27 (9:08, 8:29, .27 at 7:57 pace)

The thought of breaking 3:40 really lit a fire under me (not that you would know it from that 9:08 pace). It was clear that I hadn’t hit the wall and I still had some gas left in the tank if I could just convince my legs to go go go! I always joke that I can pick up the pace in the last mile when I realize that I’m not going to collapse on the course. Sure enough, I brought mile 25 in at 8:29. As I approached the final turn on the course, I came up on a girl who was pacing her friend to a Boston Qualifying time. She cheered her friend on as she called to the spectators, “This girl is going to qualify for Boston! Boston Qualifier, right here!” I smiled at her exuberance for her friend, and my cheeks flushed with pleasure as I knew at that point that she could be talking about me, too. As I picked up the pace in the final straightaway, I heard the announcer call my name and say that it looked like I was going to qualify for Boston, “Yes, yes indeed, we have another Boston Qualifier, Angela White!” I threw my hands up in the air with joy and relief!

Phoenix Marathon finish line

I had done it! I had hung on to break my personal best time by 7 minutes 28 seconds and qualify for Boston with 8 minutes 2 seconds to spare, coming in at 3:36:58 (which, let’s be honest, is SO much more satisfying than 3:37)!

My husband and girls had positioned themselves right after the finish line. I got kisses from all of them and they handed me the chocolate milk I’d begged them to bring to the finish (and thank goodness for that, because I got my medal, water, and a hand towel right away, but I didn’t see any food or other drinks right at the finish. I know there were tents with food elsewhere in the finisher’s area, but all I could think about was making my way to my family). We checked my time at the timing tent. I’m always so impressed when a race provides a printout right at the finish line. I learned that I came in 16th in my 40-44 age group out of 150 women. Dang those ladies are speedy! A full 29 women in that group qualified for Boston! That’s a tremendous percentage, and it either means that the course is “fast” and favorable, or lots of runners gunning for Boston targeted this race, or both. Either way, I recommend the Phoenix Marathon. I had a great experience before, during and after the race. Phoenix is beautiful in the winter and my family enjoyed making it a race vacation. And you know what my 10-year-old said when I crossed the finish line? “We’re going to Boston!”

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