Monday morning as I laid in bed with achy legs, I couldn’t help but think yesterday was all a dream. I was a flood of emotions when the reality set in that I qualified for the Boston freakin’ marathon. I’ve checked my official time over and over again just to make sure there wasn’t a mistake. Just to make sure there wasn’t a mix up. The weekend of CIM: trying to keep it together
The Friday before CIM was a rough day to say the least. Literally, everything went wrong and I was overwhelmed with stress. The next day I really had to focus on having a good attitude and resting as much as possible. I tried to not think about the race too much and have a normal night eating carbs and watching Dateline with Dan. My happy place.
At 3:30 am my alarm went off and I felt calm, excited, and ready. Once we arrived at the start line, we warmed up as usual and ran a mile before the race. Yes, I’ve become THAT person. I know, right.?! I asked my coach, “why the heck are we running before a marathon?!” As if 26.2 miles wasn’t enough?! His response, “Oh so you will be warmed up and ready to run on pace for 26 miles??” Touche Chad, touche. The start and the first 10 miles
Lining up at the start line of the marathon was a surreal moment. I stuck by the 3:33 pace group knowing that was my goal for the day. I needed to get a 3:35 to qualify for the Boston Marathon and 3:33 was my goal. For the first 10 miles I felt really good. I even had to tell myself to slow down and use that energy later because I knew it was going to get harder. I had my music playing and I was hitting my goal marathon pace with with even splits, just like my coach recommended. I saw my grandparents, and aunt and uncle at mile 8 and it made me so happy. Every year they are always at mile 8 and I can look forward to seeing them and their cheering faces. Mentally, I was feeling very strong. I would tell myself things like, “You can do hard things, trust your training, you got this.” I knew things were going to get harder and I would begin to approach the hillier part of the course. In my head, I was breaking down the course by 5’s. I was trying to not count down miles, but rather take it one mile at a time.
Mile 10-20: Time to put in the work
My friend Jill met me at mile 10 and I literally couldn’t tell her enough, “I’m so happy to see you.” Jill ran me through some hilly miles. We chatted back and forth at times, and someone even said, “I don’t know how you two are talking right now?!” I responded, “Just a casual run with my friend” lol. Jill was the best pacer a girl could ask for. She was attentive and stayed right on pace. She calmed me when I was breathing heavy and told me to “relax.” She even-handed me water over and over and would constantly check on me. At some points we didn’t speak at all. We ran through the hills together and she made it easier for me to feel strong when I was beginning to doubt my strength. We initially planned on running miles 10-17 together but as we approached mile 17 she asked me if I wanted her to stay until mile 20, and I without a doubt answered, “yes please, thank you so much.” I remember seeing my coworkers Lisa and Jeff along the way and it really gave me the extra energy I needed to remain strong and focused. Around mile 20 we saw Dan waiting to take over pacing and they switched off.
Mile 20-22: Some of the happiest miles of the race
Seeing my husband at mile 20 was a wonderful feeling. He was so happy for me and kept telling me how well I was doing. To be honest, I think he was a little surprised. In my past marathons I always struggled prior to seeing him and never met my time goal. We cruised through miles 20-22 and I was delighted to see my dad in front of Loehman’s plaza cheering with his coworkers and apparently making a Facebook live video. After passing him, I saw my friends from the Fleet Feet Racing team and yelled to Dan, “there’s my friends!!!” I was so excited to see them and I could feel their energy. Seeing my friend Jen and Cindy made me feel a sense of comfort and ease. Their smiling faces and cheering was the breath of fresh air I needed to keep going. I Felt like I was flying. We passed “the wall” and I was ecstatic. I even said, “F you wall, woo hoo!” I think I may have jumped up at this point. After passing the wall we were greeted by my dad and nephew who were cheering me along and telling me the rest of the family were coming up. Seeing my family on the corner of Fair Oaks and Howe Ave was one of the most special feelings. They were screaming and jumping up and down. It put a huge smile on my face and I couldn’t have been more happy in that moment, and tears of joy fell down my cheek. My husband saw how excited I was but reminded me to relax and use that energy to tackle the Sac State bridge ahead.
The last hill and fatigue setting in
Approaching the bridge I started to feel my legs get more and more tired. Seeing the Team Ride coaches on the bridge was awesome. I was waiving and smiling at them. Dan kept giving me water and coaching me along the mile, but noticed I was beginning to drop my pace. He kept telling me to “pick up the pace, let’s go.” When we got to East Sac I literally just stopped. Dan had no idea I was going to stop, and neither did I. I was starting to doubt myself and I knew the road ahead was still very long. He turned around and said, “what are you doing?” I screamed back, “I just need 5 seconds, give me 5 seconds.” He said, “you don’t have 5 seconds. These 5 seconds can be the difference between a BQ and disappointment let’s go, NOW!” I was a mess. I may or may not have cussed him out a few times, but no matter what he would never let me give up on myself. He grabbed me by the hand and holding hands I started moving again. It’s like he was recharging me with his positivity and coaching.
Mile 23.5: Cowbell corner and starting to want to quit
Approaching mile 23.5 I was in pretty bad shape. My face was telling everyone exactly how I felt. I saw my friend by Sacred Heart and she yelled, “keep going Tiff, Goooo!” I was so happy to see Mariana and Henry. Her yelling that at me was just what I needed to push through. I could hear the cowbells from afar and I knew my Volee friends were going to be coming up. I kept telling Dan, “My friends, Oiselle, they will be there, I hear them.” He was leading the way yelling at me, “well let’s go then, let’s see your friends.” I saw my volee friends and started to tear up when we locked eyes. I was struggling and seeing them made me feel like I was going to be okay. Mile 23 was my slowest mile the entire race. I went from a strong 8-8:05 to an 8:44 split. My legs felt exhausted and I kept questioning myself in my head. I would tell myself, “I’m so tired, this is hard, I can’t, yes you CAN, you can and you will.” I was mentally beginning to give up. Dan knew I was struggling and kept yelling at me and pushing me to keep moving and never ever stop. I saw my friend walking and visibly upset as we approached the end of East Sacramento. I panicked for a second and took every ounce of energy in my body to yell, “C’mon let’s go! Follow me!!” As much as my friend needed to hear it, I needed to hear it too. Dan was shouted, “babe c’mon you need to finish this.”
Midtown: My face said exactly what I was feeling
Running along L street I had to try my hardest to stay motivated. I wanted to quit, hell I wanted to walk. I looked down at my watch when I noticed I was losing time. For the longest time I was sticking behind the 3:30 pace group and suddenly saw them pass me. I began to freak out and yelled at Dan, “where is the 3:33 pace group, are they behind me?” He was yelled, “don’t worry about that right now, keep moving and let’s do this.” I saw my coworkers around Sutter and wanted to stop and stay with them. I wanted to cry and fall down. I felt really weak at this point. As we passed by they yelled, because they saw how much I was struggling, “we love you Tiffany.” My heart was so happy. I knew we were getting closer to the Fleet Feet Sacramento Aid station and that I would see more of my coworkers soon. I saw Dusty and Staci and looked over to them with a look that said, “please help me.” Dusty gave me a dose of tough love and it’s what I needed to hear. He yelled, “How bad do you want it?” At that moment I had to ask myself, “how bad do you want it Tiffany?” Dan kept counting down the streets and at this point I couldn’t really hear him anymore. I was in a weird place mentally. We saw the 3:33 pacers pass us and I felt like I was seeing my dreams slip farther and farther away. Dan wouldn’t let the gap between the pacers and myself get too big. He kept telling me about “how hard I worked and he wasn’t going to deal with me upset because I gave up on my goal this close to the end.” He kept asking me what time I had on my watch and I ignored him. He kept telling me to go faster, and I yelled with frustration, “I’m doing the best I can!” At this point, I had picked up my pace but I wasn’t at my targeted pace. I saw how close the end was and I questioned if I was going to be able to do it. Dan grabbed my hand and forced me to move faster. He yelled, “what the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve.” He had made signs with motivational sayings the week of CIM and posted them around the house. This was the one saying that stuck with me the most, and I needed to hear it at this moment.
The race to the finish line
I saw my coaches and suddenly knew I was approaching the finish. You know when they say “run with your heart?” That statement has never been more true than the last half mile of the race. I had to dig deep, and run with what little energy I had left in my body. My legs were exhausted, and mentally I was done, but the heart is a powerful thing. I raced as fast as I possibly could with every ounce of my heart I had left. My arms were all over the place and I could hear my family yelling my name. I could see the clock and see my goal getting closer and closer. I ran as fast as I could. As I was beginning to pass the finish everything went into a blur. I felt my body need to throw up. I moved to the left side of the finish and began throwing up. I felt like I couldn’t breath and was crying. My body was in shock. A woman came over to me and told me we needed to move me over and I asked her “to stop my watch.” I had no idea what time I had finished at. I didn’t think I hit my goal, especially after seeing the 3:33 pacers pass me. I laid a few feet away from finish line, collapsed forward. As I began to stand up I could feel myself dry heaving and very light-headed. Again, I stumbled past the crowd and fell to the floor and threw up water and bile. My husband rushed over to me. As I sat in vomit, completely exhausted he received a text with my official time. He looked at his phone and showed it to me and yelled, “You fucking did it babe!! You qualified for Boston, YOU DID IT!!” A flood of emotions took over both of us and we started crying, I couldn’t stop crying. We hugged and held each other and it’s like at that moment we were both relieved and happy it was over. For the record, Dan was NOT crying haha. Dan had something in his eye that generated tears and he was NOT, I repeat NOT crying.
Finally, I stood up and drank some water and began to feel better. I saw my family waiting in the cheer section. My parents shouted at me, “Did you get it, did you get it?” I broke down sobbing and said, “I did it!!! I qualified for Boston!!!” I hugged my mom, dad and sister and we cried together. This was the first marathon my sister has ever been to and it was a special feeling having her there. My parents were ecstastic and my mom cried as much as me! Being greeted by my family at the finish is always one of my favorite highlights. We all hugged, we cried, and we laughed. My niece and nephew who are only two and four were so excited to see me. My nephew asked me to carry him and my niece wanted to wear my medal, I love these two so much. My friend Mariana and Henry met us at the finish and we cried and hugged. She has heard me complain and talk about everything running for months, and always encouraged me to never give up and go for a BQ, even when I doubted myself.
I am a Boston Qualifier!!! What I learned.
For anyone who knows me or has been following my journey for sometime will know the journey has not always been easy. My first marathon in 2014 I finished at 4:57, a year later my second at 4:29, and my third 4:17 in April 2016. Initially, my coach and I decided my goal for CIM would be to try to run a 3:45 marathon. It was a big push from my last finish in April. After running Urban Cow half marathon and talking to my friend who encouraged me to go for it, I asked my coach if I could try and train at a 3:33 marathon pace. We decided we would try it out and in a few weeks evaluate how it was going. I had two separate injuries during this training cycle (my IT & hamstring) and we didn’t know if it would be possible to get hit my GMPs during the marathon. I missed runs because I needed rest and would email my coach weekly asking if I should change my marathon goal. Every week, he said no. No matter what, he would never let me quit and calmed my nerves even when I would go into panic mode (which was often).
I learned that with consistent training/good coaching, a strong support system, my family, and whole lot of determination anything is possible. If someone were to tell me last year I would become a Boston Qualifier at this CIM I wouldn’t believe them. When I showed up to the start line I was a new person, a runner I had never been before. I was strong, focused, and determined to run my heart out. There were so many times when people doubted me or even made me question if meeting my goal was possible. Heck, on some days I didn’t think I could do it. I’ve learned that dreams really do come true and we are much stronger than we think we are. I’ve learned that I can work through anything I put my mind to and to never give up even when things get hard. The two-year journey to reaching my goal was some of the most valuable life lessons I could have ever imagined. Dream big guys, and as always never stop running with heart.