Monday, February 15, 2016

A1A Marathon Recap

So...last week I posted that I'd made the decision to only run the half at A1A. Despite solid training, my heart just wasn't in it.

I honestly wrote that post fully committed to running the half. But then I changed my mind.

Here's what happened. I was driving the two hours to Fort Lauderdale on Friday night all alone; Matt was already there, having had a followup for the protein/SUP clinic he's been doing, and I had all this time to ruminate on my decision. Suddenly, I wasn't excited for the half. Suddenly, I was overwhelmingly afraid to miss this opportunity at redemption that I had put so much thought into since crossing the finish line at BDR.

I talked it over with Kristin, hoping she'd talk some sense into me. Which she did, but not the way I planned:

Mind the typos - I use voice dictation when I text!
Over dinner Friday, I laid out my thoughts for Matt and Oden, and both agreed that if my foot was feeling better - which it had been for days - that I should go with my gut. I spent the evening comparing my mileage from the last month before Space Coast to January/February of this year, because what was holding me back the most was my fear that I'd tapered too extremely. The mileage was almost exact: 79 for Space Coast and 74 for A1A.
After my 20 miler, I literally ran a total of 6 miles and I hadn't run at all between February 3 and race day. That concerned me.
Saturday I had lunch with Kristina and Kerry (which was so fun!) and they both weighed in as well, mulling over my foot issue and the possibility of injury, but also the fact that if I was going to run a half and possibly hurt myself, why not just run the full? (Runners are nuts, guys.)
I know we've all shared this picture now, but it's too cute not to!
Okay, here we are looking proper.
I didn't lie in my post about choosing to do the half. But what I came to realize was that my disinterest in the full was actually fear masquerading as disinterest. I wanted my PR so badly, it was terrifying me. It was a huge risk; I didn't want to face failure again. But I realized all that fear meant I wanted this too much not to try.

So at 4:30pm on Saturday, I picked up my bib and immediately walked it over to be upgraded before I could think on it much more. And then I immediately looked at Matt and did that classic Home Alone face and shrieked, "WHAT HAVE I DONE?!"
Finding my name on the giant wall of runners.
I ran into Miriam, a Sub30 buddy, who was aiming to break her half PR!
Adding my name.
Officially holding that marathon bib.
That evening, I called my parents to tell them the news. I figured I may not be advertising that I was running the full, but they deserved to know!
Best mom ever!
We spent the rest of Saturday figuring out logistics. Oden and Matt decided to rent bikes and meet me along the course a couple times; my sister would meet them later on and then drive them to the finish. But I didn't want to see them too much on the course. I had a new plan: this race was going to be a secret. It was going to be a normal ol' long run. I wasn't going to post about it or tell people I was going. I was just going to do it. My theory was that if I focused on this race without any outside noise, I wouldn't psych myself out and I'd be able to just run the race I knew I had in me.

So that's what I did.


I slept poorly, which meant I was moving slowly when my alarm went off at 3:50am. I had all my clothes laid out already, and I set my pop tart to toast while I got dressed. I also took two Advil, had a banana, a ginger candy chew, and drank a Starbucks espresso double-shot. I was extremely nervous; I was shaking like crazy.
My lululemon top from Kristin, new flip belt (which I'm obsessed with), Asics Kayano 21, Pro Compression PC runners and calf sleeves, Skirt Sports redemption fitness shorts (aptly named), Apple watch, Jaybird headphones, and new Halo visor.
Once we got to the start area, I felt a little calmer. We knew the logistics better this year, so Matt was able to find parking easily and we found the hidden port-a-potties where the lines weren't too long. (Funny sidenote: After using the bathroom the second or third time, I realized my butt felt cold. I think the woman before me had icy-hot on her thighs and it transferred to me! I was sharing icy-hot with a stranger! So weird!)
The NE winds were gusting at 14 mph.
The weather looked nice. I did some dynamic warmups. I saw Kerry in the corrals and I ran into Miriam again. Things seemed to be falling into place.
Matt leaked my secret to the world.
I saw Kerry a couple times on the course.
One last picture with Miriam!
My plan was simple and I was dedicated to it: I would run 12:30 miles the entire race. It would guarantee a PR. I had a pacing tattoo on my right arm and planned to follow it religiously.
This time I really wanted to focus on having the courage to TRY and truly never back down. (We took this picture after the race - I'm wearing my new shirt from Kristina and Cecil! How cute is that?!)
Before I knew it, the starting gun had gone off and the race began!

I had to remind myself in the first couple miles to stay slow; I let a lot of people pass me. That was okay. Once I realized how easy 12:30 felt, I knew I'd be able to finish the race. I wasn't feeling emotional yet; I don't think the truth of my decision had hit me.
It was cloudy and cool, and the weather promised to stay that way. I was ready for some sun between 8 and 9am, but I wasn't prepared for the wind. The gusts were up to 14mph, but at least they were cold! (And at the end of the race, they were at my back, so that was nice, although around miles 22 and 23, I literally was almost blown off course as the wind was cutting sideways!)
Around mile 5 or 6, I caught up with a familiar face from BDR. We chatted a little about our "never agains" on that course, and then split around mile 7. At that point, I'd dropped my pace into the 11:40s and was having a really hard time slowing down.
I just let my legs take me. I kept it easy, but didn't fight it. At mile 9, the marathoners and half-marathoners split off, and I texted Matt: "I'm going straight! I'm doing the full!" And a sense of pure joy and elation overtook me. I felt fantastic. I had no foot pain. I wasn't tired. I was doing this!

The crowd thinned, but I was never alone on the course. At mile 11, Matt and Oden caught up with me and I waved at them and told them how great I felt. Matt told me I was way ahead of pace and I shouted, "I'm trying to slow down but I can't!"
I continued on. Miles 12-19 were the toughest mentally; the race was hard in the way marathons are hard, but I never had a doubt I was going to finish. At BDR, by mile 9 I wanted to be done. Sunday, I was absolutely filled with a quiet confidence and feeling of inevitability. I was going to do this.

Throughout the race I just kept thinking, "Oh my gosh, I'm running another marathon. I'm running my third marathon! I'm doing this!"

I won't say the race was easy. It did get warm, but luckily the middle miles were partially shaded by clouds and shadows. I got really hungry around mile 14. (Because I was planning to run the half, I didn't pack my UCAN, and I really think I felt the difference in my blood sugar and hunger levels.) I took a bag of ice from a volunteer. (The volunteers at this race cannot be beat. They're the best I've ever experienced.) The wind picked up and at some points I had to duck my head and cover my mouth to facilitate breathing, and I nearly lost my visor.

It wasn't easy, but I never doubted. I just kept plugging away.
I kept myself positive by thanking every cop I saw; the course is on A1A so there's tons of traffic to redirect, and the officers did a wonderful job of it. I thanked all the volunteers. I smiled at other runners and pedestrians.

I finally stopped to pee around mile 16. I didn't pause my watch at all; I think that made a huge difference in my being able to keep on pace. I knew I'd lost some time and knew I had to keep going.

I started to barter with myself around mile 17. I knew I could get to 20. I kept saying, "When you get to 20, we can talk, but you know you can do 20, so just do it. Just get there. You're fighting for a PR, and it turns out PRs take work, so fight for it!"
At 19 I took my first walk break, but Matt texted that they had a banana and Coke at mile 20.5, so I picked it up again. At mile 20, Steph ran out to meet me and distracted me from my wall.
Running with Stephie was such a morale boost!
I could feel the Coke rejuvenating me. Off I went again; once I got to mile 22, the beach was back in sight and I knew the final stretch was here. I walked again briefly, but I was determined to meet my goal and I was keeping a sharp eye on my pace-time tattoo. I knew the walk breaks were mostly mental because I was in the same amount of pain no matter when I did, so in the end I just bore down and dug deep.
(Steph posted a Snap Story of the day; she caught some cute moments.)

At mile 24 I got really emotional. I was in pain, but a weird sort of calm had taken over. I wasn't going to stop. I was so close I could taste it.
At mile 25 a seagull flew dangerously close to my head and I thought, "If that bird hits me, I'll fall over, and that'll be it. My race will be over. I'll never get back up."

At 26 I saw the clock and couldn't stop grinning. I felt like a lunatic. The tears were close. The second I crossed the line, I dissolved into tears; big, disbelieving sobs. I had done it. I had fought for this PR, this redemption, this vindication of my training, and I had done it. I freaking earned it, every step.

Kristina got a great picture of me finishing.
My pacing tattoo was for a 5:30 finish. I finished in 5:25:27...a 16-minute PR!
Tears and a coke. Perfection.
Matt, Oden, Steph, and Kristina found me. There were the usual post-race things: massage, disjointed recapping of the major highlights, a shower, a huge brunch.
How crazy is this medal? The turtle is a locket and is really cute, and I love the color and sand dollar, but that marlin is so weird.
How do you replenish after burning thousands of calories? Cheesy eggs, bacon, chocolate milk, and a chocolate chip GF Belgian waffle, how else?!
I had quite a few messages from friends that made me laugh. I guess running the full secretly was worth it in the end! It was fun to see all the "wait wait, you did the FULL?!" comments.

I honestly didn't keep it a secret to trick anyone, but the reaction was pretty entertaining.

Matt had booked a beautiful hotel room for Valentine's Day and my birthday. When we checked in, the bellhop was all, "You're in room 1429? That's the best room in the hotel!" And he was right; the balcony view was unbeatable.
We took a nap, had dinner with Oden, and then I opened my birthday gifts from Matt.
I've been wanting a new menorah, and Matt found some beautiful handmade ones at Art Fest this year.
Last year I saw these lemon paintings at Art Fest and really wanted one for our kitchen; he remembered! I can't wait to get it framed!
It was the perfect end to a perfect weekend and the perfect way to say goodbye to my 20s. I couldn't have asked for better.



  1. That is truly amazing! Congratulations, certainly a well-earned here! I love the surprise element as well ;)

    1. Thank you!! I definitely feel like it's even sweeter because I had to work for it.

  2. This is so fantastic! Congrats to you and happiest of birthdays. You were a *little* sneaky about this, but how fun to surprise everyone! I'm so happy for you!

  3. I just texted you my thoughts on this. :)

    1. You're text made me smile SO big! I'm definitely lucky for all the support I have.

  4. Ali!!!!!!! I'm so excited for you I can even form my comment! lol!!!! You did such a great job! And a huge PR!!!! Way to go!

    I'm sure you've seen the quote... Something along the lines of, "if your dream doesn't scare you, it isn't big enough". Race goals/PRs are scary but it's mostly mental. Way to overcome!!!


    1. I've heard that quote and totally agree with it. If we want to achieve something big, we have to face something we fear!

  5. Nice job, Ali! You've got toughness to spare. :) PS- It's not a marlin it's a Dolphin Fish; a Mahi Mahi.

    1. Last year's medal was a marlin, so I guess I just assumed it was a one this year, although I see it's missing the long blade-y nose haha.

  6. Way to go, Ali!! I enjoyed your surprise photo this past weekend. What a memorable birthday weekend. I loved every word of your recap!

  7. Congratulations Ali!! I'm SO happy for you! You deserved every bit of this redemption and that 16 minute PR and I'm so glad it all worked out for you - and on your 30th birthday, of all days. Like fate :) Enjoy your recovery and that post race high!

    I loved your thought about the seagull at mile 25. That made me laugh. Such a late-marathon thought :)

    1. PS, had to come back to say, I LOVE your running top. Pink is your color :-)

    2. Pink and red have always been favorites of mine to wear; I love this top, too, but now I have the funkiest tan lines from the straps in the back!

  8. Congrats Ali!!! I love this! You did amazing and just felt it! Nothing better than a race like that! :)

    1. Thank you! It's definitely a hard feeling to beat!

  9. WHAT A WEEKEND and what a way to close the door on your 20s with a bang!

    Remembering what you said in your last post and then reading this post it's easy to see the confidence you've built over the last decade. Of course I didn't know you in your early 20s, but I know to sign up for another marathon last minute must require quiet self-assurance that says "I know who I am and I know that I'm more than capable of doing this."

    Congrats again!!

    1. I think you're torn as I was about this decision, and as nervous and doubtful, there was still a nugget of confidence and self-awareness that urged me on that I didn't have in my early 20s. I wouldn't have even thought about running a marathon back then!

  10. You are a BADASS!! Congrats girl. But now the question becomes...what is next?

    1. Thanks Courteney! I think what's next is REST and then lots of 5ks! haha

  11. Oh wow! What a great story. Congrats on that huge PR!! I thought I had read you were doing the half. Too funny! Enjoy that runner's high. You very much earned it.

  12. That is so amazing. I'm so happy for you!!! It gives me chills... (And now I'm thinking maybe I want to do another one soon after all...)

    1. I thought of you when I decided to upgrade to the full - I remembered you had run a full without telling anyone and I thought maybe that strategy would work for me, too.

  13. Wow! Congrats Ali! I'm so glad to hear your redemption race went well. I hope you enjoyed a restful Valentine's Day after the big race!

    1. Thanks Lizzy! I know the LA Marathon was tough this year, but I'm SO impressed by your perseverance and your finishing time.

  14. Congrats Ali!!!! What an amazing accomplishment! Congrats on your PR!!! I loved reading this blog post :)

    ~Heather (from Run Like a G!)

  15. Great job on a great race!!! I am so excited when I heard that you PRed. I know that you needed that a lot, and this couldn't have been better. I really like the menorah Matt got for you. It's so pretty. Mine is like super old and has been passed down for a few generations, so I feel bad getting a prettier one. Haha!

    1. My menorah is from when I was 15 or something and it's cheap metal with chipping paint and just...gross. Matt wants to keep it because he feels like it's a special heirloom but it was probably $10 at our Temple store or something haha. I'm really excited to have one that's true a piece of art.

      I'm so glad you were there this weekend!

  16. Happy Birthday! Congrats on your race! I know I am still chasing my redemption for the half distance and it weighs heavy. Enjoy the recovery and the shorter distances!

    1. Thanks Christine! Keep working on that half'll get it!

  17. Hi Ali! New reader here from links on Kristina and Kerry's blog. I wasn't able to follow your journey so I'm sure I missed a lot, but I still felt chills reading this. Congrats!!! You're about the same pace as I am, and I'll be tackling my first marathon this fall in Philly, so I particularly enjoyed this recap.

    1. Hi Jennifer, thank you so much for stopping by! Good luck at Philly...I hope to follow your training!

  18. Aw I started to get misty eyed as I was reading this. Congratulations on your marathon PR!! You did such a great job! I hope you had a wonderful birthday!