By Sara Tanza
Arete Women’s Running Team Member
I’ve never written a race recap, so here goes nothing! My race may have been December 4th, but the journey really started in January. After having Dominic on January 1st, I was itching to run again. I didn’t run for almost 6 weeks, but I distinctly remember entering the lottery for the NYC marathon mid January (obviously didn’t get in, which was a blessing in disguise), so a post baby marathon was on my mind. The next step was the first run: 20 minute walk run in Nisene. It was way more than I would ever recommend to my patients getting back into running and I PAYED FOR IT! I didn’t try to run again for a week or so. Fast forward to May running Jenny’s Light 5k. I averaged 7:15 pace. The 5k had been HARD. My lungs and legs had burned, my pelvic floor let me down almost right after the race had started, leading to soaking wet shorts (which became a theme of 2016) and it was a struggle to finish at that pace. I texted Mary after: “Big scary goal: I want to run a marathon at the pace I just ran a 5k”. At the time, that was laughable.
Then Arete really started to get going. As we got stronger and faster each week, I began to chip away at not only my old running self, but a faster new one. After Wharf to Wharf though, I threw in the towel on the possibility of a 2016 marathon. I had the speed, but my body was not there endurance wise. Fortunately, I just continued to trust the process and trained for the Rock and Roll ½ in October. My body still wasn’t up to the mileage, only putting in a max of 10 miles on a long run. Fortunately that race went well, giving me the confidence to sign up for CIM.
Nick and I left Dom at home with the grandparents (I didn’t even cry when I left him) and drove to Sac. We had lunch (Chipotle, both of our favorite pre-marathon lunches) with my college roommate Steph Bruce who was racing as a professional. We discussed our goals: hers to win the race, mine to go for a PR (and finish within 45 minutes of her J) and laughed about the similarities and differences leading us up to our first post-baby marathons.
Before going to bed that night, I wrote out who I was dedicating every mile to on my arm (TRY IT!) and slept well. I woke up, pumped breastmilk so my sports bra would fit and rode the bus to the start. Gun went off and I said “here we go, the next time I’m stopping is in 26.2 miles” in my head. First at least half of the race has a lot of downhill, so coach Mary already had warned me to NOT go out too fast. While I was aiming for 7:15’s, I went 5-10 seconds faster for the first 5 miles or so because I couldn’t help it! I finally reined myself in and starting rolling through miles on pace. It was in the 40’s and PERFECT running weather! My best idea was to stick hand warmers in my gloves, which ended up being AWESOME and I kept them in until around mile 24! My inner anatomy nerd placed them right over the main arteries going into my hands at my wrist for maximum warming potential, which worked J).
I enjoyed the spectators (lots of people had brought fire pits out to their front yards and were having coffee cuddled up by fires which was a cool way to watch a race), as well as really taking in the energy of the people I was dedicating each mile to. I had my first moment of self doubt around mile 12, but found that a caffeinated Gu (Espresso Love all the way) was the perfect antidote to that. I ended up having 3, opening one at miles 12, 17 and 22 and “sipping” on them for 1-3 miles to not overload my stomach. I was so lucky to have NO stomach issues throughout the whole race…woohoo! In case you were on the edge of your seat regarding the state of my pelvic floor, it held strong for at least 14 miles. One of the things I was most proud of was that while I had many “leaks”, I never had the “whole bladder release” that had happened many times throughout my post partum journey…..that Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy stuff works 😉
I was clipping off 7:15’s through mile 18, before slightly slowing through mile 20. My “low” in the race came exactly 21.47 miles into the race when I was going up a false flat hill onto a bridge, looked down at my garmin to see where I was in the race and literally almost decided to stop. I didn’t, but allowed myself to slow my pace. From then on out, I didn’t look at my mile splits, but concentrated on my mileage, as well as all the people who had inspired me thus far. I also tried to channel myself in labor, remembering that at 12pm that day, I thought I was about to have my baby, but in reality, didn’t have him for almost 7 more hours. I kept repeating: “12, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…”, remembering all those hours I had foraged along through extreme pain, and reminding myself that I would be done SO soon!
With a mile or so to go before the finish line, the 3:13 pace group came alongside me. The two outspoken, encouraging pace group leaders were angels! They kept shouting motivating things, which was awesome at a time when I needed it most! With 200 m to go, I saw some of my Arete teammates and remembered all the track workouts I had done during the year. I kicked as hard as I could and crossed the finish line at 3:13:13….a 10 minute PR!!!!
The biggest lesson I learned throughout my training is the importance of building towards a big goal. Having expert coaching (BIG props to Mary Wright) all year long was key for me. What was essential was that I was not just coached in the few months leading up to the race, but throughout the whole year, with lots of little goals along the way. I 100% believe that the speed I developed in the summer for Wharf to Wharf and Rock and Roll were big parts of why my marathon was so successful. I always knew the importance of having a strong endurance base before starting marathon training, but I think that having that speed base was essential too. Besides helping me go into pure marathon training stronger, it also taught me the kind of mental toughness only developed during speedy, sweaty, track sessions!
Throughout this process, I learned the value of consistency, the power of showing up, the importance of listening to your body instead of your mind (aka taking 2 weeks off after having some foot pain following Rock and Roll which lead to it never returning, even when doing so meant that I would “miss out” on some of the endurance work I wanted to get in before the marathon) and discovered my own untapped potential. As I crossed the finish line, I was already looking forward to the future, because I think my lifetime marathon PR has not been accomplished yet. In the words of Kara Goucher “there’s still a lot of fast left in these legs”.