Archivo de la etiqueta: Netherlands

No Regrets Rotterdam

It’s almost been a week since I ran my eighth marathon. It was a race I looked forward to for five months and expected it to be the best one of my life. I started by dreaming of running a three-hour marathon and as the day got closer I could visualize it as a reality. April 10 was the due date to be ready and that I felt like I was hours before the gun went off.

Some of you already know how it all ended and unfortunately for me it did not go well. I dreamed of the perfect race, prepared for the perfect race and in the end it was far away from it. The anticipation I created for myself and for those around me was incredible. I only dreamed I would not let anyone down with my performance.

Almost one week since April 10th, 2016, I look back at the race and have nothing to regret. For me, when you give it your all and it does not work out, there is nothing to be worried about. Yes, I would have loved to wrap up a great training plan with a Boston-Qualifier performance but as much as I wanted it, April 10 was not my day.

Those around me saw how hard I trained every day to get closer to my goal. Not only was I looking for a B.Q., I was trying to get back in shape and still aim for a sub three hour marathon. I did everything I could to get stronger, faster and in the right mindset. I would train for 3-5 hours a day doing multiple exercises while taking good care of my body. Long runs, speed workouts, tempo runs, weights, yoga, massages, biking, swimming and other activities were part of my training routine for over 15 weeks.

I never saw myself stronger and more mentally prepared than how I felt before what would be my first marathon in Europe. The idea of running thousands of miles away from home was part of the motivation and in one of the races that offers one of the three fastest courses in the world, where world records have been broken. The Rotterdam Marathon provided me with an immense amount of motivation.

As the day got closer I trusted my training more and more. Having run a perfect half-marathon one month before and an excellent 21 miler just two weeks after was part of what I felt was necessary to have enough confidence for the next challenge. I was my own coach during the entire process and very proud of the progress from day one to the last one before the race. I lost over ten pounds during training but felt very strong. I felt like I was in the best shape  of my life.

Running a marathon in a place where you don’t even understand the language is an interesting experience. There were less than ten mexicans in a starting line of over 40,000 participants. Rotterdam is a nice city to look at, with the largest port in Europe and some nice modern architecture. The small population does not allow it for people to flood the streets but those that stand along the course make plenty of noise. The streets are very narrow and overpassing was definitely the biggest challenge.

I can’t point to the moment or thing that made it impossible for me to qualify. I had done everything within me to be ready for that day and I felt I was. I had strategized for many scenarios and it just was not enough. I started from the very back of my wave and found it really hard to run at an even pace with so many people in front of me. I do not blame that because that is an excuse. I ran some solid first ten kilometers, held on for the next five and tried to see where I was by the time I reached 20.

At the time where I did not see it possible to run a faster second half having put a lot of effort into overpassing, I decided it was time to step aside from my dream for that day. I walked for a few meters, tried to take all the negative thoughts out of my mind, even cried for a bit and continued my way. I still had 16 kilometers to go.

I decided to enjoy the rest of the course. Give high-fives to those on the side of the road, encourage runners that were having a difficult time and take in the experience of running a European marathon. It was a dream by itself and I was not going to quit. I did not care about the medal, but I did not travel halfway across the world to step out and not finish.

Before I knew it, I was in the last two kilometers of the race. Those were two fun kilometers for me despite the physical and mental pain of not running a good race. I was happy to be where I was. The music was loud, but the cheers were even louder as I approached the finish line. I looked at the sky quite a few times and enjoyed what I had worked for (in some way) during the past five months.

I went past the finish line, happy to be done but sad it was not my day to qualify. I thought about all the effort I had put to do better, all the hours I spent pushing my body to the limit and this was not even in my top five marathon times. 3:52:20 in the fastest course I have ran.

On the other side, I can’t thank enough those that supported me. It was truly special to see the support coming from old and new friends from across the world. A continuous pouring of support on social media and other outlets. You all made this race even more special than what it already was.

This has been a huge blow in my athletic career but the story won’t end here. Now I will take some time off to think straight of what could be an even better approach for my next marathon. I am not giving up on my Boston dream, a lesson like the one I learned in Rotterdam only makes me want it more. I know I have it in me based on my training results. I know it was not enough and it was not meant to be on April 10.

Thank Rotterdam for the experience of a lifetime even though it did not end how I wanted it, but how it was supposed to based on destiny. I can now say I have ran eight marathons including one in Europe, that is pretty cool in my book. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I am still alive!



It’s Starting to Feel Real

It has been a long journey but now I am only five weeks out of what could be the best day of my life. No, I am not getting married, but I am hoping that five weeks from today I can call myself a Boston Marathon Qualifier.

What has changed since the day I started training? Everything has changed since I got back into running by the end of october. If you asked me back then if the goal of running a sub-three hour marathon was possible, the answer may have been, no.

The Planning Process

November was my first month of formal training. I was still working long hours but managed to get three-four runs during the week. I managed to train for a half marathon but sometimes even running five miles was a struggle. Knowing that I wanted to run a marathon in April and do the best one ever was still a pretty crazy idea.

When I ran my seventh marathon, back in March 2015, I promised myself not to do another one for at least a year. Give my body some rest, recover from a serious injury and then think about another one. That was the first smart decision of this whole training process. That is really when the preparation for this next race began.

I avoided getting back into formal running during the summer. I waited for the weather to cool down a bit and it worked out. As I said, November was good, but December was even better. I was able to log 100 kilometers that month by the last day of the year. It was nothing compared to what was coming but it was a milestone in the process.

Training for this next marathon has been a unique experience by itself. I looked for training programs but was not convinced about following one. I then took another smart decision. Listen to your body, most coaches tell you that but barely any of them let you work based on that. I knew that if I wanted to feel comfortable with the process, I could not go by what a sheet of paper told me to do.

I did some research about techniques used by athletes that want to run in the same timeframe I want. I combined that with what I know I can do and the rest is history. These last two months have been amazing. I am  hitting my goals in distance, pace and strength like never before. I rest when I feel it is needed, I push the pace when needed and take it easy when needed. I overtrain once a week but just to the point I know I can recover quickly.

The Woodlands Checkpoint

To make sure everything was working out, I needed to have some sort of checkpoint. After some analysis, I decided that the Woodlands Half Marathon was the place to do it. A flat course with similar characteristics to the one in Rotterdam. My goal was to run a 90 minute half-marathon without pushing myself to the limit. I wanted to feel like I could go further once the race ended.

The week leading up to this race was also unique. I was coming off my highest mileage month in the program. Six days before the race I was out going for 19 miles at a solid pace in a very humid place. I had to recover, travel and be ready for The Woodlands shortly after. In the next five days, I really reduced my mileage and felt that a sub-1:30 half-marathon was really possible.

The day before the race I heard an elite athlete say. If you feel good in the beginning “don’t go”, if you feel good halfway through “don’t go”, if you feel good 10 miles in, “don’t go”. It was a tip that stuck well with me when I planned the race.

Go easy in the first mile, stick with someone in the next two-three miles and keep the pace for the next nine. Try not to run by yourself and within yourself. By that I mean, running within what you feel comfortable and don’t push it even if you itch for it. Easier said than done but I knew I was prepared to do well.

I looked at the time I had to do in every mile. I looked at what I had to be doing every three miles. I took a closer look to the course mile markers and told myself I can do it. The day of the race I was confident I was going to have a great race. I had not taken a race so seriously since 2014 so it was a special day. After jogging, stretching, hydrating and getting into my corral, I was ready.

The gun went off and so did I. My biggest fear was to feel I went out too fast, but I held myself back and ran easy in the first mile. Before I knew it, I was on target after the first 1600 meters. I started running with a pacer and a group that was aiming for the same goal. I knew I just had to stick with them. The second mile felt easy as well. It was the next two that felt a bit rough. After skipping the first water stop, I took water in the second one. I skipped the next one but felt that was a mistake. By mile five I saw I was slightly ahead of my goal so I held back even more.

I kept running within myself. By mile six I was supposed to see a friend. That is the toughest part of the course with a bit of rolling hills. I saw him and that gave me the boost I needed to keep going. Shortly after, I saw a group of spectators with a mexican flag, there came another boost of energy. By mile eight, everything was going well. At that point I only told myself “don’t mess up”.

I’ve done some races where I mess up in the last few miles. That day was not the day to take chances. I knew that if I kept it together until mile 11 I was going to make it. At mile 10 some people within the group started making moves but I still told myself to stay back and relaxed.

At mile 11, I felt I could go faster but decided to hold on at least another half a mile. That’s exactly what I did and halfway through mile 11 I pushed away from the pacer slightly. I kept hearing their steps. At mile 12 I wanted to see if I could go even faster without burning out. I was averaging 6:40 per mile and ran the last one in 6:15. My finishing time was 1:28:53 with some energy left in the tank.

The Aftermath

I still can’t get over what a great race that was. I wanted it so bad I did everything to get it right. I tried some new things during the race and everything worked out. It was not my personal best but it felt like one. It was my confidence booster for the next 35 days of training.

Now, heading into the last month of marathon training, I know I’m on the right path. Today, I am really starting to believe that running a marathon in under three hours is possible. I am doing the work, putting in the hours and effort but most importantly, being smart about it. Coaching myself and getting the results I want is a great feeling. I can’t wait for the final test, the Rotterdam Marathon.