California International Marathon 2017- A Dream Come True.

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This past Sunday, I ran a 2:42:42 during the U.S. Championships at the California International Marathon coming in 31st place female. This is a 6:13 minute per mile pace, qualifying me for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon B Standard.  Believe me when I say, it is surreal in the least to type those words out. After crashing into an exhausted slumber on a red-eye flight home, I woke up alone on a dark airplane and for a split second thought it was all a dream. It was a dream….a f*cking dream come true.

The thing I love about the marathon, my favorite distance, is that it is overwhelmingly honest. It’s symbolic of life.  People say you put in the work and you get the results you deserve but marathoners know that’s not always the case.  Life isn’t fair. The marathon is not fair either. Things happen that are out of your control. Even the things you can control can spiral out of grasp before you even knew the hit was coming.  If you haven’t stood at the outskirts of a finish line, in a tiny outfit, with gel all over your hands, wondering where it all went wrong, then I envy you.  I’ve been there plenty of times and then signed up for more.  You have to pick yourself up and fight again. So when I say it all came together for this marathon, I truly am humbled and grateful. It means so much because it is so rare for the hard work and the luck side of it all to come together for the perfect storm. Sunday was my perfect storm on a perfect weather day.

Since the majority of texts and messages I have received were asking how I did it, I’m going to try to provide the most practical info in this recap. It’ll be long. It won’t be a traditional race blog recap. I apologize in advance.  I also apologize for lack of good photos but I thought this was blog was going to die and truth is my desire to edit/add photos and writing is zilch. So here we go- I’ll start by saying that in March of this past Spring, I suffered an injury that killed my opportunity of a Spring marathon.  I was heart broken. I had wanted to race the Shamrock Marathon badly.  Truth is this was a blessing in disguise. My body got 45 days off training off. It was a fresh start. One I didn’t want or think I needed but I now believe was crucial to this past Sundays performance. After this break I had a long SLOW build up that was absolutely uninterrupted. I basically had 8 months of consistent training for the first time in years.

Secondly, that injury was a catalyst for a change in my program.  I’m stubborn as an ox but my coach was wise enough to say this isn’t working, lets experiment.  Short intervals were eliminated. Injuries can stem from many different places but one thing we noticed was my body hates speed. I am a heel striker and 400’s, 800’s, and mile repeats were killing my calfs.  So they were gone.  I did many 400 strides. Strides may not be an accurate description but this is different than intervals in that I never pushed them. They were all done at just a coasting pace and all after easy runs. They were never hard.

I NEVER ran doubles. The majority of elites/sub-elites do.  I’ve done twice a day runs in the past and they are exhausting for myself and my family. My husband travels very very often for Navy work (including deployments with zero or minimal communication) and we have no family nearby to help. I’ve learned that I can only do what I can do. It was very easy for me to compare my training to others and this cycle I told myself I wouldn’t do that. There is more than one way to do things. Please remember that. I saw many workouts done by my peers that left my jaw dropped. Workouts I could honestly NOT do.  I worked on my strengths and reminded myself that it was okay. Your PR peers may do workouts that you think are impossible but know that they may have better short speed or better endurance than you, but you may be better at other things. Every workout my coach prescribed me was specifically completely on tired legs. That is where my strength lies so there were few workouts that on  paper looked like a knocked-out-of-the-park workout or something a 2:42 marathoner would struggle at. There is no one exact way to be successful at anything in life and the same is true for marathon prep.

When it came close to race day, I did TONS of mental prep.  I had a lackluster New York City Marathon last year. I wasn’t proud of that performance and the fear of a repeat was huge. I can (and I say this so that YOU can) be proud of any time on the clock but if you know if your heart that you didn’t perform up to your ability, execute properly, or made too many mistakes, then it sits wrong in your gut. I did not want to set myself up for another grueling heartbreak. I had listened to many sports podcasts (sorry, can’t remember which) and one that stuck in my mind stated that you must face your fears.  You cannot tell yourself its only going to go perfectly on race day or visualize only good things because then your mind may react abruptly when something does go wrong. You must prepare for all potential problems. So I dove into the dark side. I anticipated a bad day at CIM. I was honest with myself. Could I continue if I ran a bad race? Could I continue with a terrible first half? Terrible mile? Stomach pains? Fear? The answer was of course.  I love running. I love training. I love the journey. I am doing this for the right reasons, simply because I love to run the marathon.

Once I accepted that something MAY go wrong, that a bad day was possible again, and that I knew I could handle it, a change came over me. I felt calm.  There was no more fear of the unknown. I went for it. I was all in.  I was “Fearless in the Pursuit of what Sets your Soul on Fire” as the quote says.

Now here are the race day specifics that I know were key to my success-

1.) Perfect weather and course.  We lucked out with the weather. Absolutely perfect. Course? Some people do not like the rolling hills.  They were relentless the first half.  I thrive on rollers. I knew I would be fine because the hills reminded me of the first 18 miles of Twin Cities where I also had a good day. The hills don’t stop until late in the game so you are forced to focus the entire time. Some people hate this, I love it. When I’m not focused is when my mind wanders and pace falters. Know your strengths. Some people would be better off on a course like Chicago that is flat.

2.) Time Change.  I live on the East Coast (Virginia Beach) so the time change to Sacramento time was huge for me.  I arrived on Friday and went to bed at 7:00 West Coast time. I woke up at 3:30 am and felt like a million bucks, then repeated the following night for race day. My body thought we were racing at 10:00 am. I was wide awake and ready to go.

3.) Nutrition.  CIM provides Nuun Performance and Clif Energy gels on course.  I was not given an Elite spot so I was not allowed personal bottles. Never having used Nuun, forced me to practice with it more than I would have. Honestly I thought I would hate it but truth is, it is a faint taste so was very easy to get down. I drank a few sips every single chance I could get on course. It has much fewer calories then Gatorade so I had no fear that it would upset my stomach once mixed with gels.  I had NO nutritional issues. Any experienced marathoner knows that is to be celebrated in a race. Caffeine- I also took two pieces of Run Gum thirty minutes before the race.  This was instead of coffee, which I love but can upset stomachs. I then took one piece of Run Gum at mile 16. PLEASE do not do exactly as I did. Experiment in practice. Caffeine affects everyone differently and is a little scary for me because I can get too jittery if I drink too much coffee. Each piece of Run Gum is supposed to be about one cup of coffee so I had the equivalent of 3 cups of coffee for the race. I have no affiliation with Run Gum so this is not an ad 😉  I NEVER hit a wall. I was full of energy the entire race as you can see from my splits. I also had three Clif energy gels that the race handed out beginning at mile 7.5.

4.) Splits. I’ve said before that one of my favorite time and places on earth is the last 10K of a marathon.  It’s pure guts out misery and all you can do is fight with everything you have. The goal for this race was to drop the hammer the last 10K and I did. I had practiced it a million times.  My coach and I discussed dropping to 6:10 pace the last 10K.  I blew this out of the water and averaged less than that the entire last half. I basically ran out of my mind. Sure I was in agony but I was ambitious as hell and embraced the pain. I felt LUCKY to get a chance to face that pain. I never wanted to settle because when I have tried to settle in one set pace, my legs get stale and can falter. Keep pushing always. I started conservatively and started to slowly drop the pace after the half. Every single time my mind screamed that I was running too fast and should be careful, I told myself to BE BRAVE.  Corny? Yes, but it worked. I never let ANY negative thoughts in my mind.  Shut that stuff OUT.   Here are my splits below.

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5.) Run with a pack. Someone told me that running with a pack will cut 10 seconds off per mile.  I have no clue if thats true. 10 seconds per mile seems insane.  Doesn’t matter though. I told myself to stick with a pack and I did.  I bravely contacted a woman I admire and said “Wanna work together?” and she said yes and it was awesome.  Runners are great like that. We stayed together for 12 miles and I’m so thankful we did. Once two men came up and started chatting with us. We all discussed pace and I noted in my mind that they were incredibly consistent.  So I latched onto them and took my turn leading as well. I kept my head down and kept grinding. They made me run the down hills faster than I felt comfortable and in the end that was good. I didn’t want to lose them so I pushed myself harder than I would have alone.  Eventually another man came up to our group to pass us.  I told myself to be brave and latch onto him. It worked. I did that the entire second half. The last 10K the most amazing woman came flying by me and I  was in awe so I stuck with her. We went back and forth leading not really working together but it felt awesome to just have bodies around that were cutting down the pace.  Any person who was faster than the current group, I latched onto and forced myself to help lead as well. There was no settling. People have asked and I never saw the 2:45 pacer.  This was probably a great thing that I missed them or else I may have felt compelled to stay.

6.) Watch Screens.  This was an absolute game changer. On my Garmin, I switched screens so that I could only see distance and OVERALL pace. I could not see my mile splits unless I specifically looked when we passed the mile marker, which I rarely allowed myself. At a half a few weeks before this race, my watch said I was running 6:13 pace for the entire race.  Because of tangents my actual race results average was 6:19 pace.  I’ll say again, THIS WAS A GAME CHANGER. The entire race I believed I was going to average much slower than I actually was.  I NEVER allowed myself to believe I would qualify for the Trials. I went into the race hoping I would set a PR (sub 2:47). Even the last 10K I thought I would be in the 2:45-2:46 range.  I NEVER let myself think about it. I focused on the mile I was in.  If I had known I was dropping sub 6:10 miles, I may have freaked out. The best advice I got was DO NOT OVER THINK IT. Focus on whats important at that specific second and nothing more. Do work. I never believed I would qualify until that final turn.  A man, who I do not know, pointed to myself and another woman and said “You and you are Olympic Trials Qualifiers.”  I will never forget that moment for as long as I live. Whoever that man is, I love you.  The photo below shows the look on my face during that final stretch.  Its complete disbelief.  Is this real??

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Alright, I am positive I am forgetting many things but considering I already wrote a novel, I will end here.  I wanted to say a HUGE thank you to Running, Etc.  They have supported me for years and truth is, they didn’t have to. I am so very grateful.  They are a knowledgable team that I’ve asked for countless bits of advice from over the years. Thank you to the J&A Racing Training Team.  They are an incredible group and if you are in the area, you should check them out. SO fun, great coaching, always positive.  I could write a novel on how wonderful the team is for runners of all abilities.  Thank you to my coach, Jerry Frostick, who also had no real incentive to take a chance with me. When he started coaching me, we barely knew each other. I was perpetually injured and socially awkward. I try to be as professional as possible but there are times I’ve done or said some really dumb things, like “What if I forget how to run?” and he just sighs and has patience. The biggest thank you goes to my husband, Steve.  Hearing his voice on the phone after the race was one of the best moments of my life. He is my best friend. Making him proud is something I’ll always crave and cherish so quite simply it was a dream moment.  He has been unrelenting in his support for me to do this insane sport. He is my favorite team mate.

There are about a million other people I could thank but it would go on and on,  and I would feel terrible not thanking everyone I’ve ever met right down to the darn UPS man who cheers for me as he drives by me on the road. I am SO grateful for everyones support. I set out on the goal many years ago and I don’t feel like I did it, I feel like We Did It. Thank you all!! Many congrats to the friends who had a successful race on Sunday! I’m so proud of so many of you!

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34 thoughts on “California International Marathon 2017- A Dream Come True.

  1. Incredible performance, Kristen! I hope to one day have that same dream come true for me! Thanks for sharing and for being such a great, hard working athlete!!!!

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  2. Thank you for taking the time to write this up! Ever since I saw your Twitter post on Sunday, I’ve been hoping for a full race recap, and it did not disappoint! I enjoyed every bit of this–congrats to you!!

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  3. So darned happy for you. Loved reading this blog post and with all of your CAPS and exclamation points (I’m an English teacher–I LOVED THEM!!!!), I could feel your emotion. You worked so hard, and this is all so so deserved.

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  4. Kris~I loved reading this and really really loved (as an English teacher!) all of your CAPS and exclamation points b/c I could truly feel your enthusiasm and excitement. You are so kind and humble—a true ambassador for this sport. And, you’ve worked so hard for this and are so deserving—-hope you’ll be celebrating this for a long, long, long time! 🙂

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  5. So happy for you! Thanks for sharing your story. I can relate to the not-overthinking it part – I’ve always run my best without a watch or with total time, like you did. (Though I wish I could run as fast as you!)

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  6. Oh Kris, my heart is full of joy for you! You are an incredible athlete and I have been heartbroken for you many times over the years (when you had stomach issues in Philly, last year in New York…). You work so hard, you deserved to have such a good day when everything finally came together for you! CONGRATS!

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  7. That photo of you down the stretch is amazing and powerful. I hope you won’t let this blog die, even if it means sporadic posts – the way you talk about running is so inclusive and thoughtful. Even a back-of-the-packer like me can take something away from your posts and insights. You are SUCH a badass!!!!

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  8. I love and relate to so much do this recap!! My training is unlike any other “PR Peers” I know, and people judge the effectiveness all the time. I had more faith this cycle but admit I often found myself comparing to what others were doig and having doubts. You are right/ there is more than one way to do it!What an incredible journey and breakout performance. Congratulations on the patience and work it took to get there! I’m sure you’re just scratching the surface. Best of luck and wish you continued success.

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  9. It was hard to click “like” on this post because this makes me want WordPress to add a “love” option. You. Are. Amazing.

    Congratulations on your PR and OTQ! You did an amazing job at the race and thank you for sharing so many tips in this recap. In fact, I like this more than if you recapped the race mile by mile like so many people do. This post has so much racing and life wisdom that all runners can take from it, not just elite runners or sub-elites, but also us glorified age groupers and really, ANY runner who is rising and grinding each day for success.

    This will be a post I bookmark and look back on a lot as I deal with injuries, setbacks, and doubts in my own training- and I think other runners should as well.

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  10. I left an Instagram comment, but wanted to leave one here. I cannot say enough how much I loved reading this. I think any runner who loves the sport will love and benefit from this post. All the years of hard work have paid off and you have the ultimate pay off – OTQ! So inspiring, so real – thanks so much for sharing your journey Kris. I am so excited for you!!!!!

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    • Thank you for posting! I love CIM — such a great event for my hometown. I cried actual tears when you mentioned the man at the corner informing you that you’d run an OTQ. So happy for you and all the others who had such a wonderful day. Well done.

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  12. Ah! Congrats!!! A beautiful negative split and well executed race. Glad everything came together for you.
    But also, nice post! I like how you broke it down into the different elements of race success. Really great!

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  13. Bam! You killed it! I loved reading this and am so glad I got to share the first 12 miles with you. In my race re-cap (that I’ve written in my head 20 times already but will hopefully get typed up this week), I note that a super speedy woman I admire reached out me about working together. 😊 I am so glad you did. I was telling my husband that it’s funny because we didn’t talk much, but you feel this bond racing side by side someone like that. I’m so glad you blew it out of the water! 2020 here you come!!!

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  14. Congratulations Kris on a great race and thanks much for this wrap up article. It is very inspiring to read and one of the best race wrapups I ever read….I could go on but will leave it at that…. best wishes for the trials too

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  16. I know I’ve said this a million times already, but you are such an inspiration girl! Everything from this race, to your training and parenting… you are killing the whole balance thing. This recap (as was the race) is AWESOME! Not everything works for everyone and I’m glad you shared your differences because some of mine are the same. Congrats again on a well run, well deserved OTQ ❤ So stinkin happy for you!!!

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  17. Ahhh, Kris!!! I really enjoyed this recap immensely. And so much of it rang true with me. The “marathon is not fair” and the feeling of standing at a finish line wondering where it all went wrong. And I totally agree- facing your fears is truly the best mental approach. Positivity is important, but so is being realistic. You cannot lie to your own mind. I’m really impressed with your training, your willingness to try a new approach, and your determination. Congrats!!!

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  18. Oh my gosh, Kris! What a race! And what a recap! I’ve loved reading along with your racing, and I’ve been rooting for you to run that OTQ for years. Never doubted you could do it, but you really blew that goal out of the water. Incredible race, and incredibly well executed!

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  20. Holy shit! I am so proud of you Kris! I think there are a ton of learning lessons in that your mindset is just as important as your training. So proud to call you a friend for all these years!

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