Thank you Mesa-Phx Marathon, I’M GOING TO BOSTON!!!

The instant I woke up on Saturday, I knew it was going to be a good day. I didn’t know if BQ good, but I knew it would be good.

I had set my alarm for 2:30 a.m. (yes, this race requires an EARLY wake up), but my body naturally woke up at 2:15 a.m.–ready to go. I remember thinking, “Nice. My body knows what to do. It’s ready.”

My buddies Scott and Marsha, and my long-time friend Nadia (also trying to BQ) rode with me and my husband to the start line. I forced them to endure my pre-race song–Delta Goodrem, Believe Again–on repeat. We found parking and got to the busses without trouble. Parking can be an issue for this race but since we had arrived early, we had zero problems.

I had prepared for a cold wait for the start, wearing layers upon layers, so I was comfortable despite the 30 something degree temps. I felt good, I felt relaxed.

Me and my ❤

We (me, my training buddy Ashley, and our unofficial/official pacer Tomio) somehow ended up starting a couple of minutes after the official start so the first mile was spent navigating through crowds. We were behind the 4:55 pace group and passed a few other pace groups as we tried to find an opening to settle into our pace.

Mile 1- 8:15

I wasn’t worried about being “off” pace. The first mile is super downhill so I was okay with having kept that above goal pace (which was really anything under 8:00). I was shooting for a sub 3:30, ambitious considering my previous PR was 3:44–but go big, or go home, right?

The big hill began just after mile 4 and that was where I was really nervous. I didn’t want to expend energy trying to speed up it, but I didn’t want to slow down too much and ruin my pacing. I just tried sticking as close as I could to Ashley. I also knew our good friend Bob would be at the top, so I just kept chanting, “Get to Bob. Get to Bob.” The top of the hill was practically his front yard so his sign was fitting.

#InBobWeTrust

Hill miles

I knew the hardest part was over, and that from there, it was all about settling in to race pace and holding on.

Steady was the name of the game

I came into the half at 1:45 feeling really good. I was wearing a pace band and had my watch set for individual mile splits. One mile at a time, I kept telling myself. I knew at this point of the course, the downhill was over and it was flat, flat, flat the rest of the way.

It was just after the half-way point that I saw a familiar face–my brother!! It completely caught me off guard as I hadn’t expected him to come cheer. He works night shifts (5 p.m. to 5 a.m.) and had told him I would understand if he wanted to forgo spectating for sleep.

But there he was, and I found myself getting so emotional. I reminded myself that crying doesn’t allow for good breathing so I just mouthed a silent, “I love you!” and kept on.

I thought a lot about my family during those miles. I thought a lot about the sacrifices they’ve made for me, my husband–who was also on the course that morning and finished with a 3:13!–and how supportive he is with my running.

And I couldn’t believe how good I was feeling.

I saw my brother again at mile 18 and he asked how I was. I yelled, “I’m doing it!” as I ran and I heard him say he’d see me at the finish line.

Around mile 19, Ashley fell back. I kept pace for a couple more miles, plugged myself in at mile 21 and then started to hurt at mile 22.

The farthest I’ve gone in a marathon before falling apart –I’m getting better at this, lol!

It was sudden, but it was deep. The pain from cramping jolted me but I refused to give in to them and walk. Instead, I gritted my teeth and fought, fought hard.

At this point, I stopped looking at my watch and just ran. I didn’t want to see a pace that discouraged me so I ran what I could. At the time, it felt like I had slowed considerably. I was in so much pain.

The “slow” miles…I can’t believe it.

At mile 23ish, my friend Elle (@afastpacedlife) was waiting for me and while I wanted to say something, anything–I couldn’t. I was in so much pain. Her and my friend Andrew (who had replaced my pacer Tomio–he had gone back for Ashley) ran with me, saying words of encouragement.

My coach found me just after mile 25 in pretty rough shape. I hated her seeing me like that and I tried fixing my form and picking up my pace. She reminded me to lean in, pick up my feet, and BREATHE. “Every second counts!” she yelled at me.

But I was fading fast in that last mile, and as I turned the final corner, I saw my friends and my coach’s team yelling at me to GO!! I could see them, but I couldn’t hear them.

The final stretch to the finish line was time standing still. I was moving, but I wasn’t. I could see, but I couldn’t.

I knew I needed to finish soon. Things were getting ugly.

That was a Must. Finish. last mile

Throughout training, I envisioned crossing the finish line so many times. On so many tough runs, I pictured myself arms raised triumphantly, BQ time glaring on the clock screen. I pictured myself smiling, crying tears of joy, hugging whoever was near me.

Yeah, things didn’t turn out that way, lol!

I was in so much pain, so much pain that I honestly couldn’t even feel the pain anymore. I was on auto-pilot, system failing, Houston-we-have-a-problem mode. At that point, I had no idea what my time was, I had stopped looking at my watch a couple miles back. Instinctively though, as soon as I crossed, I stopped my Garmin and finally looked down.

And that’s when the tears began to flow. SUB 3:30!!! I had done it.

I waited at the finisher’s chute to see if Ashley had gotten her BQ–we had trained so hard, so long together I wanted both of us to make it. And she did!!! 3:34–six minute cushion for her, too! My friend Nadia found us having finished ahead and with an amazing BQ time of 3:26!!

But there was really only one person I wanted to see at that point. The one person who truly knew how much this moment meant.

I honestly couldn’t ask for a better partner in life. ❤

My rock. My everything. He’d been with me the whole way. When I was feeling strong, I thought of him. When I was feeling pain, I thought of him. Seeing the time on my watch filled me with so much joy, but there was nothing like telling him that I’d done it.

3:29:33

I’m going to Boston.

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Thank you all so much for your support, words of encouragement, BELIEF in me. When I first started this blog, qualifying for Boston was a distant dream. Friends, dreams do come true!!! They really do!!! Whatever they may be…

xoxo,

helly

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ETA:

P.S. Random, but a big deal to me, lol!! I was SO looking forward to accepting my new PR on Athlinks.

 

If you have an Athlinks account, find and friend me!! If you don’t, create a profile here and you’ll have a sweet place to record your race times, find friends, and find races! (ICYMI, I am an ambassador for Athlinks and as always, only ever promote companies I actively use and love. Pretty easy to love athlinks.com honestly, lol!)

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How I Ended Up In Women’s Running Magazine Online

I shared last week on my Facebook and Instagram accounts an old blog post that was published on Women’s Running online.

Well, it’s actually a funny story how that all happened.

Last month, I went to my coach’s holiday party. I was super apprehensive about going because I don’t know many of her athletes and had only been running under her guidance for a few months. But, I wanted to show my appreciation for her by attending so I mustered up the courage to go….alone.

Sure enough, I found myself standing all by myself, just kinda hanging around waiting for at least one of two people I knew would be there to arrive.

A girl who I had met briefly on a run remembered me and seeing that I was alone, walked my way and made conversation. She introduced me to a few of her friends, others who have trained under Susan, my coach.

One of them asked me what I did for a living to which I replied, “Well, nothing.” Talk about awkward! LOL!

I mentioned that I used to teach English, and now get my writing/reading fix through blogging and then turned the conversation to her and asked what she did. She said she worked for Competitor Group. I knew the company once owned the Rock and Roll race series because I’m an ambassador so I asked her if the sale to Ironman affected her at all. She said that she worked for the Women’s Magazine division so not so much RnR.

Then she said, “You should send me some of your blog posts and I can submit them to our web editor.”

Say what?!?

I immediately became self-conscious and said that my writing wasn’t any good and probably not what they were looking for. She was so sweet though and told me to think about it. We exchanged contact information and that was that.

A couple of days later she contacted me and told me to just give it a shot. I decided, why not? So I sent her a few posts…I didn’t tell anyone about it, and didn’t tell anyone when the web editor approved them, and didn’t tell anyone when she told me the first one would be published late January.

But when I got the e-mail that it went live, I still couldn’t believe it. There was my blog post for all the world to see.

Not gonna lie, I was super nervous. I’ve been very comfortable in my own private, small corner of the internet blogging world. I’m not a “big” blogger nor did I start blogging to “get big.” I know that the more exposure my blog gets, the more criticism and not-so-nice opinions come with it.

Sure enough, the first comment on the Facebook page was:

And that’s okay. I know that it’s tough to “get me” or understand the context of the article without having been a reader of my blog for a while. I know, or hope, you guys know, that I’m very grateful to be able to stay home with my kids while at the same time, struggling to let go of a career I studied for and worked at for a long time. And I’m choosing to use this time to put my energy into training and making things work for where my life is currently.

I picked that particular post as the first one to share with Women’s Magazine because it was a vulnerable one. I remember when I first wrote it, being worried then of how it would be received by you guys. It was me being honest. And that’s the Helly I wanted to introduce the rest of the world to. ❤

 

 

Rock n Roll Arizona: Race and Half Marathon PR!!!!

I previously wrote about how my pre-race jitters going in to this race were at an all-time high. I didn’t have my fuel, and I was a nervous wreck about breaking a cardinal running rule: Nothing New on Race Day. But, I figured a Huma gel was better than no gel, and I just had to deal.

Luckily, my husband and training buddies Ashley and Dallas were with me at the start. A calming presence for sure. Dallas and my husband planned to run together and Ashely and I would see how long we could last with each other. We’ve yet to finish a race together, ha!!!

My coach had given me a plan. Start miles 1-4 conservatively. And like a good student, I followed direction, holding my pace the first couple of miles. But when we turned the first corner, we were met with a head wind that all of sudden, made staying at half marathon goal pace difficult.

Seeing that 7:55 bummed me out, but I told myself to keep to the plan. Coach had said miles 5-8 needed to be slightly faster than goal pace and to move by effort up the big hill at mile 9. I slowly started to separate from Ashely as I tried to pick up the pace.

It was shortly after mile 5 that I found a buddy who is also under my coach’s direction. He was seriously a Godsend! I took the Huma gel and tried to just swallow that thing down. I could taste the tart strawberry and feel the texture of the chia seeds (way too healthy for me. Give me GU any day). But I was feeling okay.

We coasted along as best we could with the wind and slight upness when we finally reached it.

The hill.

I told myself not to freak out. Stay with Alex as close as I could. It was a short hill. I would be fine. After the hill, it’s down the rest of the way.

JUST GET TO THE TOP.

7:49!!!! Y’all have no idea how insane that looked to me. It was such a confidence booster seeing that split considering how awful I am at running uphill.

But my happiness was short lived once we turned to go down because WHAM!!!–headwind!!! I let out an expletive as I ran, so angry that I would have resistance going down hill.

But I had to deal. Nothing I could do.

According to the plan, once I reached mile 10, I was supposed to “Last 3, fast 3” as I’d been practicing during training. I wasn’t sure I could muster “fast” at the end of this long race, but I knew I had to give it a shot. I was cutting it close.

Mile 11 was a blur as I tried to concentrate on my form and moving my legs. I was expecting my coach and teammates after mile 12 but instead caught them right at the mile mark. My coach yelled out words of encouragement and I felt a rush of pride at how well I was doing–I wanted to show her I COULD DO THIS.

Her instructions had been to ignore the watch the last three miles, so I didn’t know at the time what paces I was hitting. All I knew was that I. Had. To. Move….FAST.

When I turned the corner at mile 13 and saw the time clock at 1:39 (I started about 30 or so seconds behind it) I gave whatever kick I had to the finish.

I was NOT going to let this opportunity pass. I ran knowing that it all came down to those final seconds and if I didn’t do it now, the chance would be gone and I would regret not giving it my all. Close but not succeeding wasn’t an option. I needed to get it done NOW.

I sensed two men increase their speed as I passed them and I hit turbo. NOT TODAY. NOT RIGHT NOW. This was MY time. I was going to be the fastest one to the finish these last few seconds.

I don’t know who this person is.

There was no picture of me stopping my watch. I ran that thing all the way through like a maniac. As evident by that 5:10 pace, lol!

Oh man, I was so happy. I was so happy when I finally looked down and saw 1:39. 1:39. I never, ever in my life thought I would be in the ’30s, that I would run a half marathon averaging 7:30 something. Sometimes it’s hard for me to accept reality–that I really am running the way I’m running right now.

I don’t take progress for granted. I don’t forget the long journey it’s been to this moment. I’m not sure how much longer the desire to continue to improve will last, but I’m so proud of how far I’ve come. I’m so proud of how I’ve overcome negative thoughts, feelings of insecurity to get to this point. I am fast. I’m not bragging, but I need to tell myself that so I can accept this craziness that’s happening. That it’s not a fluke. It’s not luck. It’s freaking hard ass work I’ve done.

This was a hard race. But I know the real hard is coming next.

And I’ll be ready.