My confidence took a nose dive in the few days leading up to the Carlsbad Marathon. I felt like I was pushing too hard to run any distance at goal race pace. My nutrition improved, but I was still far from perfect. So on race morning, I made a decision that reflected my mindset. I wore my high-mileage, heavier and more cushioned trainers. No racing flats. Defeated before I reached the starting line.
Everything ended up better than I expected, however. I ran my third sub-three-hour marathon (2:59:32), which gave me a Boston 2018 qualifier. I also won second place in my age group and placed No. 9 overall male. It was an incredible success considering how everything started.
The Carlsbad marathon course runs along Coast Highway 101, providing beautiful ocean views. I was not happy with the 6:15 a.m. starting time for the full. That meant I had to wake up around 4 a.m. to eat something before the race.
From my early wakeup through the first five miles, I felt terrible.
I was wearing my every-day running shoes, so I didn’t feel like I was starting a race at all. Everyone around seemed dazed by the early start as well. Most races I’ve done (now 35 fulls and many more shorter ones) feature very little starting line space. At the Carlsbad marathon, it seemed like no one else wanted to start the race either. There was so much space at the starting line that the announcer had to ask people to move forward. We all shuffled grudgingly like zombies.
The first few miles were awful. The road had more hills than I wanted first thing, and my Garmin was immediately behind. By mile five, it showed 5.2.
Then came the hill. Starting in mile six, we ran away from the ocean on an out-and-back that was all up on the out. I also had to make a bathroom stop in mile six. That stop cost me two minutes. Then, as I tried to catch up to the 3:05 pace group, an interesting thing happened. I started running angry. I was mad at the hill. Mad that I had to stop that early in a race to use the bathroom.
We climbed for just more than three and a half miles. And by the top, I had begun running much harder. At the turn around at the top of Palomar Airport road, I found another gear. My pace started dropping.
By the time I could see the ocean again, I had gotten my pace all the way back down below 7 minutes a mile. That was the first moment I thought maybe I could hit a BQ after all.
From there (mile 13.5), we did a short out and back to get to 15 right as we rejoined 101 Coast Highway. We turned south and started the rolling hills along the coastline. My goal was to maintain pace from that point to the turn around at the far south end.
When we finally turned around to head back north to the finish (in mile 19), and I decided to go all in. I dropped my pace even more. I knew if I could run around 41 minutes, I would break three hours. It wasn’t going to be easy to run my fastest split last, but I had to try. I ended up running the final 6.52 in 43:30, a 6:40 pace. That final split was my fastest, by far, and it included my fastest overall mile (22) at 6:20.
I’ve never negative split a race that way. It was such a rewarding feeling to cross the finish line knowing how hard I fought for that time. Many things went wrong, and it didn’t matter.
If you take out the two-minute bathroom stop, I ran a 30 second PR. On a much tougher course than my current fastest time. I was so surprised that I didn’t even check to see if I won an award until much later (now I have to make a short drive next week to pick it up).
So, moral of the story: push through bad circumstances. You never know when the tide could turn in your favor.
Also, 2017 is going to be another great year.