The backdrop: Heading into this race I had a PR of 2:26:42 set at my debut @chimarathon three months ago. I needed an almost eight minute PR (5:17/mile) to qualify for the trials. My training post Chicago was excellent, but it was still a long shot. But with the trials in late February Houston was the deadline to qualify.
Mile 1: I took a manual split and saw it said 5:40. I wanted to get out slow, but not that slow. “S*’$” I mumbled and slowly turned up the pace.
Miles 2-5: I kept searching for “the pack” (the group trying to run sub-2:19), but found myself in the lead woman’s pack for the half due to my muffed first mile. In front of us was a media and timing van tracking the woman’s marathon leader.
Miles 6-8: I was in an awkward spot now as I could see the pack I wanted to be in but couldn’t advance because of the two vans. Thankfully the van had an estimated finish time showing at 2:18:50 so I knew I had made up for my slow first mile. So I just settled in and waited.
Mile 9: Finally on a turn there was a chance to move past the vans and me and two other guys attempt to close the gap of 10 seconds to the 2:19 group.
Mile 10: Only 5 seconds off the back of the pack now someone goes down hard inside the pack. Minutes later we finally latch onto the back of the pack after 10 miles!
Miles 11-12: Finally with the pack and settling into a rhythm the mind work begins! For this race I dedicated miles to people close to me and thought about those people during those miles. My kids, wife, brothers, sisters, parents where all very present with me in my mind. It’s sounds weird but being able to free your mind as the pain starts to build was massively helpful during this phase of the race.
Mile 13: I go through half and forget to make the connection that I had just went through half. About a mile later I remembered and asked someone what our half split was. He didn’t know. I think it was a blessing. My half was 1:09:12 and if I’d seen that I would have been a little nervous we were going a bit to quick. Ignorance was bliss in this case.
Part 2: The Pack
Mile 13: I pass the halfway point and forget to make the connection that I just past the halfway point. As the race continues my capacity to think is reduced to a primal level. Blood is going to my legs not my nugget. About a mile later it clicked we were over halfway and I asked someone what our half split had been. He didn’t know. In hindsight I think it was a blessing. My half was 1:09:12 (I was targeting 1:09:30+) and if I’d seen that I maybe would have worried that we were overcooking.
Miles 14-18: It’s here I have to give a shout out to two guys (I’m still trying to figure out who they were) for setting the pace up front, breaking wind for the 2:19 group for 18 miles. Not only that but they shared their fluids with the group. It was the most cohesive pack I’ve ever run with. We all had the same goal. Sub 2:19. And those guys up front took the wind for 3/4 of the race so 10 of us could have a shot! During this stretch I focus on just existing and I truly feel the support and prayers of my friends and family. Like how can I still feel so good?
Mile 19: I’m at the front of the pack now and I still feel really comfortable, but I’ve heard all the stories over the years of people going to soon in the marathon. So I just tell myself to relax, stay calm, and hold pace. I tell myself that at mile 23 the gloves come off and I can go for it if I’m still feeling like a spring chicken.
Mile 20-21: @stevenandmartinez makes a move off the front, but since it wasn’t 23 yet I was nervous to go with him and he pulls away. Shorty after his move though I’m starting to itch and really feel like I need to accelerate so around 21.5 I decide to cautiously accelerate off the front. At this point I’m feeling like a breakaway guy in the Tour. Can I close the gap? Can I hold it till the end?? Will I get the most combative prize???
Part 3: Finish
Mile 22-23: I begin to pass a few guys and slowly make up ground on Steven after his acceleration. I see @jasminniemiec at 23, give her a heart, and realize the chips are down and I’m 100% committed to my move at this point. My thoughts are binary. It’s doubt contrasted with truth. A doubt would surface like hey you probably went to early...but the Lord is my shepherd...idk if I can hold this...the lord is my shepherd...wow that hill kinda sucked and it’s windy and are my legs even attached anymore?...the lord is my shepherd...and so on...those words comforted me and literally killed doubt as it surfaced.
Mile 24-25: No more thinking at this point just trying to stay on top of my legs. I am literally at cave man intelligence level. Get to finish line! Make fire! Survive! I see a clock and try to do math to see how much I could slow down and still get the OTQ but my brain doesn’t work and I’m bad at math so I just keep going. I pass 4 guys during this stretch, but then am passed back by one of them (he ends up being first American). I don’t even register anything at this point as I just really want to be done. It feels like I’m slowing down but every time I check my watch it’s in the 4:50’s. Just stay on top of your legs is what I keep telling myself. There are STILL moments I think my body could stop working. I never felt like it was in the bag till the final 100 meters.
Finish: After the longest straight away in the history of straightaways I finally see the finish and process that it’s ending. The last 100 meters I just start yelling my guts off. The emotion, pain, excitement, exhaustion, accomplishment of that finish is finally released as a caveman roar. I’m sure it sounded ridiculous, but it was an indescribable feeling forged in the fire of many many set backs, failures, and doubts that I could no longer keep inside. I cross the line, stop my watch (it didn’t happen unless it’s on @strava ), then promptly fall over. I lay on my back staring up at a really pretty tree enjoying the moment, till some guy tells me I need to move so I don’t get run over.
Official Gun Time: 2:17:23