The night before a race can be one of the most nerve-wrecking nights as we anxiously look forward to the start of the race. A runner might aim to be good by setting up their race gear the night before and hit the sheets early to perhaps find themselves lying in bed, eyes wide open with their thoughts going a million miles per hour. I hope I don’t sleep in… I hope I maintain a strong pace… I hope I don’t have any GI issues… I hope, I hope, I hope. So what was going on through my mind the night before the race? Everything or so it seemed.
Approximately 23,000 participants toed the line at the 27th annual Los Angeles Marathon each with their own journey and story that inspired them to tackle the 26.2-mile foot race. Thousands of students in the Students Run LA program were there to run their first marathon. Some were there to help a friend or even a stranger finish their first. Others were regulars as we have come to know as your frequent weekend warrior seeking the excitement of another 26.2. Then others were there to get after a specific goal: a PR. The LA Marathon has a very special place in my heart: it was my very first marathon and I wanted it to be the race where I broke 3:20:00 for the first time. I ran my first in 1999 at age 14 and ran only one marathon per year for the following seven years because I was either racing shorter distances competitively in high school or I was dedicated to my academics and professional career at UCLA. It wasn’t until 2005 at age 20 when I began graduate school that I had the time again to begin training as I had in high school. My journey of training restarted and I couldn’t have been happier to feel the drive again to compete. After only running one marathon per year for the first seven years, in 2006, I upped it to 5 marathons. 2007: I ran 4 (I was finishing my master's degree). 2008: I ran 6 and in the three years I was able to return to maintain a fitness of a 3:40-3:50 average finishing times injury-free. Then the craziness exploded. I had become drawn to the pain of marathons so I decided it was time to look for the next challenge: my first Ironman. I discovered a whole new meaning to the word dedication. From 2009 to 2011, I ran 45 more marathons, but marathons were not the primary focus. I divulged into the Ironman world and loved staying busy swimming, cycling, running, weight lifting, and remaining focused on always aiming for my best. While I balanced my personal life, family, career, coaching, training, and competing in marathons and Ironmans, I began to see my times drop consistently to 3:40s then 3:30s the more dedicated I was. In 2012, I decided this was going to be the year that I changed things around a bit. I placed marathon training for the first time as my primary focus with Ironman training coming in secondary. The one thing I wanted to see was: can I break 3:20 averaging 30 or less miles per week? The answer was yes. How did I do it? I still cycle occasionally, swim, lift weights, and do yoga whenever I can but this time each mile I ran came with a very focused time goal. Break 3:20. I ran a tempo run: Break 3:20. I ran a fartlek run: Break 3:20. I ran a speed session: Break 3:20. I wasn’t just hoping for it, I was training for it mentally for approximately three months while still triathlon training as secondary.
The night before the race, I laid in bed nervous like it was my first marathon. It kinda was. It was the first time that I really felt that I had aimed for a specific time goal in the marathon and I wanted to prove to myself I could do it with an average of 30 mpw. Shortly before midnight, I finally fell asleep and woke up in a dream at the starting line of the Rock’n Roll New Orleans Marathon. It was the place where I ran a 3:20 for the first time in 2011. In the dream, I ran the race almost skipping-like effortlessly floating on clouds with a time of 3:17:00. I was overcome with joy and excitement, but couldn’t find anyone to share it with. I quickly ran to a shaded area under a tree and decided to take a nap. With one jolt, I woke up again inside my dream, but this time it was 3:00am and everyone had cleared out of the race area. I asked myself within my dream: did I dream the 3:17? I got up and ran off into the darkness…
My eyes opened again this time for real Sunday morning 4:00am in my bed. I then realized I had dreamt that I was dreaming I had run a 3:17… I had run the entire race in my mind and I did it. I had envisioned what I wanted to do and it was time to make it a reality. I know I could do it. I could no longer be afraid to start strong. My secret mental recipe to break down the marathon was run the first 10 as a warm-up, cruise the next 5k to the half, begin your race at the half, stay strong till 20, and run your heart out the last 10K. You find a strategy that works, you stick to it. There is NO wall in the marathon or creating an excuse that you cramped as the reason why we slow down in the 2nd half. If you are well trained for the given pace you start out at, you can finish the race near the pace you started out with or even faster for a negative split. Statistically, research shows that the fastest elite times and personal records of age group marathoners are when the race is ran with very close half splits or 1-2 minute negative split. At the LA Marathon, my strategy changed because I knew I was ready. I saw it. I warmed up the first mile sharing it with my friend, Steve, and then the race was on. Steve took off up the hills comfortably while I settled in at 7:30-7:40. Halfway point, I came in a few seconds under 1:38:00 and saw my mother and sister volunteering at the aid station. “Goooooooo, Nadia!!!” I looked into their eyes and saw a gloss of excitement as they jumped up and down waving their hands in the air. They recognized my pace and knew I was going for it! I managed a smile and wave in return as I felt the tears begin to creep in my eyes. Hold it together, Nadia. I swallowed my tears and I powered up Sunset Blvd. I’ll see you, Mom and Sis, at the finish! I remained in 7:30s until Mile 17 - 7:52… oh no. Stay calm, stay focused immediately came to my head. It is important to remain mentally focused within a race regardless of distance. There will be moments where we doubt ourselves, where we question our ways, and where we are at the edge of giving in. Your mind is your most powerful force. Use it. Accept it will be painful. Accept it will be uncomfortable. Accept you are willing to work for YOUR goal. And do it. Ahead, I saw my good friend, Kino. Déjà vu from Myrtle Beach. “Let’s go, Kino! We can do this!!” He had started his race much faster in the first half with a strategy to hold on for the second half. We both had the goal on this day but with a smile of encouragement, he told me go. It was the help I needed to drop back into 7:30s. Male after male I passed and I just begged my legs to hold on. Then the more significant hills began Mile 21 - 7:50. Mile 22 - 7:54. Mile 23 - 7:54. I was losing it! I couldn’t have worked this hard this far to lose it in 3 miles. I pushed Mile 24 - 7:43. I felt as if I had nothing left. I had no personal or group pacer. I didn’t have my brother or my dad at the finish to yell at me to push harder. I almost gave up and slowed down. Then in the field of spectators I heard, “Nadia!!!!!!!” It was my girl, Shangrila, at the perfect moment at the perfect spot. “Girl, you can do this!” She ran by my side for about a half mile and my pace dropped to 6:25 min/mi. “There’s Mile 25, go for it Nadia!” I could barely mutter a word but I hope she knows I could have given her a million hugs at that moment. Mile 25 - 7:11. Down the hill I ran, turned the corner on Ocean and I felt the westward winds push against me harder than ever before. How bad do I want this? How much am I willing to make this hurt? I glanced down at my watch and could no longer calculate if I would make it. I just sprint my heart out. I could not give up being this close. Mile 26 - 7:06, my fastest mile split and the winds had no mercy. I finally looked up and saw the finish line time clock. I was going to do it! Raising my eyes to the sky, I whispered with what breath I had left: thank you for giving me strength and carrying me on this journey. I ran a 3:18:17!! My little dream from the night before had become a reality.
The 2012 LA Marathon was a stepping stone for me to demonstrate that if I can do achieve my personal record at 30mpw, so can you. It begins with training, it continues with heart, and it ends with believing. Now I ask myself, what can I do if I pick up my mileage to 50mpw, 80mpw, 100mpw or raced less frequently and focus on one race? I have a pretty strong idea; however, that is not my journey. I finished in 3:18 not the slimmest runner of them all, not a high mileage runner, and not being paced by anyone but my mind. I had proven to myself that I could do it if I truly believe I could. You can motivate by fear, and you can motivate by reward, but both methods may only be temporary. The one lasting thing is finding a sense of purpose. Find your motivation and let it be your fuel to go after your dreams because the only difference between the impossible and possible lies in one’s determination, faith, and perhaps a vision.
|Mile 20 (Photo: Dominic)|
Week 1: 17 (Jan)
Week 2: 35
Week 3: 32
Week 4: 16
Week 5: 38 (Feb)
Week 6: 25
Week 7: 37
Week 8: 19
Week 9: 32 (Mar)
Week 10: 30
Week 11: 31
The eater that I am, I had began the carb-loading a week in advance. Since I had eaten my fair share of volume the week prior, I needed to maintain a lighter than normal volume pre-race food consumption.
1 cup of Greek yogurt with strawberries (breakfast)
2 bowls of sweet potato chips
1 plate of ceviche de mariscos (lunch)
1 entrée of Lomo Saltado-Peruvian (dinner)
1 brownie with vanilla ice-cream
1 cup of Greek yogurt with granola and honey
1 slice of wheat bread with organic PB & nutella
5 milk chocolate Hersey kisses
1 cup of Greek yogurt with granola and honey (race morning)
2 energy gels (during the race)
1 20oz whey protein drink (immediate post-race)
Los Angeles Marathon
Sunday, March 18, 2012 7:24am
3:18:17 (7:33 pace) PR
Half Splits 1:38/1:40
15st/1148 division place W25-29
50th/7,360 female overall
7th 2012 marathon