For my marathon debut, I decided to go big. Why start with any other marathon other than the USATF National Championships in LA? I had nothing to lose. So I signed up and was accepted into the elite field. I wasn’t really thinking at the time that the field would be completely stacked with professional runners and Olympians. This was also my first race of the season and I wanted it that way, I wanted to be as fresh as possible. I also had some ambitious goals in mind and that was/is to make Olympic Trials 2016 and this could be the place to do it. To do that, I had to run a 2:43.
The night before the race the temperature didn’t dip below 69 degrees. This one was going to be hot! The race director even moved the start up by fifteen minutes to help combat the record high temps. I wasn’t really thinking about the temperature though. I couldn’t take my eyes off the pack of male African runners whose nice easy stride was so mesmerizing and quite calming. I fell in line right behind them and tried to shut my brain off from all the pre-race thoughts and feelings that drive me crazy before the gun goes off.
Once all the women were lined up at the start, I knew there was no turning back now. All my hard work for the past 3 months (well really years, all my previous training and racing was helping to lead up to this) was going to be put to the real test. 90 seconds to start…..30…..10…3,2,boom! I immediately settle in with the second pack and try and just relax. Breathing was quite easy at a 6 minute pace. I felt great and was trying to stay as conservative as possible as everyone usually goes out to fast. I was pretty comfortable but knew it was still very early and anything could happen. I did not anticipate such a huge 3 mile decent right off the bat though. Even though I didn’t feel it, I knew my quads would take a beating later.
Miles 4-8 were very hilly, which I also was not expecting. This was supposed to be a flat, downhill course that was also pretty fast. Coming from Montana, hills are my strength and every time we hit one, I would close in on more women. I tried not to think about hitting hill after hill, but by mile 9, my body felt depleted of something and I couldn’t figure out what. I still felt pretty strong, everything was feeling good, but I couldn’t hold my pace. I dropped to 6:40. I had a plan of what and when to eat/drink/take electrolytes and had been doing so accordingly. What in the world was happening? Still I pressed on. Miles 11-14 more hills and it was getting hotter. Again, I tried not to think of either and just kept telling myself that I could do it. I trained for this, I’m fine, I’m not going to die, pain is temporary and everyone else is suffering just like I am.
When I hit mile 15, I knew my game plan had changed and I just needed to finish. I began cramping in my quads and hamstrings, but not severely. I was taking all the sodium I could and keeping myself hydrated. It was all uphill until mile 22 and then all downhill from there. Mile 18-19 is where the cramping got bad and I was doing anything to not think about it. I was trying to listen to the crowd of people cheer us all on, but it was specifically helpful to hear people yelling my name. I knew I just had to keep my legs moving and finish. I was by now way off pace and ready to be done. The last 5 miles were super frustrating as I wanted to run faster, but couldn’t. I saw a couple women that I had worked so hard to pass, move in front of me. Still, I remained mentally strong and just kept telling myself that the faster I ran, the faster I was finished. I crossed the line in 2:59:40. I was about 15 minutes off my goal, but glad to be done.
Immediately after the finishing, my legs seized up and I could barely walk for about an hour afterwards and it was slow going for a while from there. I was mainly just trying to get water down and some food to balance things out again. When I got to the elite conference room I noticed several disappointed women, knowing that they didn’t make their time goal either. In chatting with some of them later, no one was expecting the hills and the heat to be such a game changer.
To sum things up, I would say that this was a great learning experience for me. Things didn’t go how I had planned, but nothing is ever perfect and you have to roll with it. I feel I did a great job taking in the unexpected and dealing with things as best I could. I have my first marathon under my belt and I broke 3 hours. I found out what some of my weaknesses were and will focus on them to prepare for my next race. The biggest take away is that I was left very unsatisfied with my time and it’s already fueling the fire to find my true potential. Please keep following me on my journey to make the Olympic Trials. I will have many more race reports as the year goes on. Cheer me along as I press on towards the goal.
-Lindsey Hintz, M.S. in Holistic Nutrition, is the founder of Wholicious Living and consults people from around the world. She loves working with anyone and everyone, but especially athletes looking to better their performance.