By Blake Wageman
My name is Blake and I’m an Osmo athlete. I wanted to share my recent experience at the Mesa marathon, where, after about 5 years of persistence, I finally snagged my goal of a sub-3 road marathon.
If you’d like the TL;DR version, I’ll hand you this:
Never give up on yourself
Fuel your body
Strength training is vital
If you enjoy the process, little else matters
My training cycle leading into this marathon felt different than most. I’m not completely sure why, except maybe finally after 20+ years of running and racing, I’m learning to really understand what running means to me. Racing can be riddled with anxiety and what-ifs, as most of us know. And I still feel those things but I’m practicing holding that anxiety and inviting in excitement as well. I’m practicing enjoying the process instead of the result. I am not a runner because I enjoy doing well at races; I am a runner because I enjoy running. I enjoy setting goals and working hard on a daily basis. Shifting my mindset has been such a healthy and fun experience.
All that to say this training cycle went really well. I hit some strong workouts and was feeling confident and happy. For the first time in my 5-year sub-3 journey, I voiced out loud: “I think I can actually do this.”
If you read the bullets above, you’ve been warned that fueling and strength training are vital components to my running. I cannot emphasize that enough. I lift 3x per week and that, with a focus on good recovery, is what I credit years of healthy running to. Some days I lift heavy but I try to listen to my body – if I’m fatigued or have a big workout on tap, I lift lighter or just do body weight. Plyometrics and band work are also a part of my strength work.
On the fueling side, let me tell you – this girl can eat. I usually hit 60-80 miles of running per week, lift 3x/week, walk my dogs for 3+ miles daily, and I am not afraid to eat enough to support this lifestyle. So when I discuss fueling your body well, I am not just talking about during the run. Of course that’s important too, but you should be fueling well on a daily basis or else you will get injured.
I think it’s important to share all that with you because we all know the true work in any race lies in the months leading up to it. The race itself is an exclamation point on your training cycle! But yeah, okay, let’s get to the race now.
The Mesa marathon is a point-to-point course and you are bussed to the start line. The race started at 6:30am but I was up by 2:30am to get ready and to the bus on time. Eek. I was nervous about eating breakfast that far before race time because I usually eat 60-90 minutes before a workout or long run. But this time I ended up eating at 3:30am – 3 hours before the race! I ate Picky Bar Can’t Beet Chocolate oatmeal and toast and had a cup of coffee. This is my long run or workout ritual. Always practice your fueling!
Around 5:30am, I got off the bus to stand in line for the bathroom, warm up, drop my bag – all that stuff. I ate 1/2 of a Picky Bar around 5:45am to top off the tank, then lined up about 6:10am to jump around and chat nervously with everyone else. The National Anthem played at 6:20am, complete with fireworks! I think at that moment, everyone had to be thinking, “how lucky are we to be here right now?” I felt very grateful and excited.
At 6:30am, we were off. I almost always carry a soft flask bottle with gels in it. I realize how weird that sounds but the gels I use are more watery than most so it’s perfect, and I prefer smaller amounts of gel hitting my stomach than an entire packet. I use a combination of regular gels and electrolyte gels and I take sip every 20 minutes or so. Based on what was left over at the end, I think I had 5-6 gels total throughout the race. And again – this is something I practice during training!
Starting at mile 3, there were aid stations every 2 miles until mile 21 – then they were every mile! This was awesome. I grabbed a cup of water at every single aid station. Hydration is a major obsession of mine. For real.
They did offer Gatorade at the aid stations but I don’t train with Gatorade, I train with Osmo! Thankfully, my husband and one of our kiddos were able to hang out at miles 12 and 20 and they handed me a bottle of my Osmo electrolyte drink (Active Hydration for Women). I was able to stay in my rhythm, take a few swigs, and toss the bottle to the side where they’d scoop it up and move to the next spot.
Typically, in road races, I try to hit even splits throughout the course. I also race a lot of trail races and decided to pull over my trail mentality for this – I planned my splits based on the terrain of the course. (Seriously, why did it take me 16 marathons to do this?)
In Mesa, the 1st 4th miles are the most downhill. Based on my training, I knew (/hoped) I could comfortably run 6:40 pace or faster on this section, so that’s what I did. It was a dark and chilly start and I enjoyed the rhythmic pounding of everyone’s feet. I kept doing a full body check – HR, breathing, legs, etc. Everything felt alarmingly comfortable.
Miles 5 and 6 are uphill and these actually felt harder than I had anticipated. It was way too early to push hard so I made sure to keep the same effort and not panic when one of the miles clicked off at 7:09. (Remember, a 2:59:59 requires a 6:52 average pace.) “You’re fine. Stay relaxed.” (If you run and don’t talk to yourself, I don’t understand you. Haha.)
After that climb, it’s back to downhill/flat. I was able to settle back into 6:30s-6:40s comfortably and really just felt amazed that I was pulling this off. Even in the early miles, I was thinking about the cushion I was building so that if I had to stop for the bathroom or the course was long (you never know, gotta be prepared!), I would still make sub-3. And lo and behold, I did have to jump into a porta-potty during mile 16. I can see my overall average pace on my watch – I was sitting at 6:43 pace before the potty break and 6:45 after. “NO BIG DEAL. Keep running, stay smooth. Everything is fine.”
Miles 18-24 flatten out and you lose the downhill sections, so while I was nervous about this change in the terrain, I was prepared to slow down here as needed and knew I had a great cushion. A few times in this section, I looked at my watch and was running 7:00 or close to it. “Can I drop it back down to 6:50 or 6:45?” And then I would, with very little effort. I had never experienced this in a marathon, truly. Usually, I’m willing myself to pick it up a little and absolutely nothing happens. My body refuses to respond. But this time was just 100% different. I knew at any point I could speed up if needed.
With 1 mile to go, I just went for it. Reeling people in, enjoying the moment and the crowd, feeling strong. Closing in 6:22 pace is unreal and yet somehow I did it. I DID IT. And it felt great. It’s races like this that make you believe you could’ve gone faster – I do think I could’ve gone faster, which is unreal to me. But I also think I ran a perfectly smart and smooth race and if I would’ve tried to go faster, maybe I would’ve blown up. Who knows. I’m so happy with how it all played out. 9th female (2nd in age) in 2:56:40.
I had a few aches and pains along the way, as we all do, but I didn’t experience any true lows. I’d like to emphasize that this isn’t normally how it goes for me so I don’t want anyone feeling bad if they do experience those lows. I just think every once in a while, the stars align and we’re able to execute our training perfectly. I’m so very grateful for days like this one. I’m also really grateful for the hard days! Everything is a learning experience and at the end of the day, it’s important to remember that we CHOOSE THIS weird, painful hobby, so why would we choose it if we didn’t enjoy it?
Within 20 minutes of finishing, I made sure to eat a Picky Bar and drink a chocolate milk. (Wish I had my Osmo Rapid Recovery but alas, I did not.) Once we made our way out of there, I enjoyed a burger and a shake.
Recovery went well, full of eating and resting and walking my pups (I’ve got 3 dogs so there are lots of walks to go around). I take a full week off after every race and while I don’t love this part of my training, I accept its importance and listen to my wonderful coach. I’m back to running now and looking toward the next line-up of races with excitement, especially because now I swap over to the trails, which is where I find the most joy. Trail marathon, 50 miler, and 100 miler on deck. It’s bound to be beautiful and hard and wonderful.
Remember: run, lift, eat.