My Road To New York

Updated: 11/10/2018

New York, New York

New York Marathon Vision Board

An iconic setting, an epic moment and the vision of my dreams.

I’ve been dreaming about qualifying for the New York Marathon for years.

To qualify for New York, I need a time, a really fast time. A time my legs have never done.

Like all my big dreams, I first write the goal in my journal.

I force myself to believe I can succeed.

It’s not always easy, sometimes I don’t believe myself. Okay, most times I don’t believe myself.

The beautiful part is at some point, through hard work,  I DO BELIEVE myself.

“The body can only go, where the mind has been.”

 

My first qualification attempt took place at the Boston Marathon in 2016. Boston’s euphoric event amazed me. I understood why this race was every runner’s dream. Robert and I worked for years to qualify. After hundreds of hours of training, and 2 qualifying attempts. We finally qualified in at the Long Beach Marathon in 2015.

We broke the coveted 3 hour mark. Coming in at 2:59.

 

 

It was a chilly, sweet morning in Boston. Robert and I boarded the bus to the start line accompanied with the world’s greatest runners. Everybody looked fast. Mind you, Robert and I finished the Long Beach Marathon 19th and 22nd out of 3,300.

I felt nervous. I felt excited. I felt ready. We wore the coveted red bib. The fastest bib Wave #1.

“I set the race target: 2:53

The time needed to punch a ticket to the World’s Fastest Marathon, the New York Marathon.

The crowds erupted as the race began. The nervousness was gone. The fastest march to the finish line began.  Robert and I were swallowed by the sea of runners. Besides the sheer number of people, I was surprised by the speed of the runners. Surely this will clear out, I thought. Everybody can’t run at this pace.

But they did.

Mile after mile after mile.

6:25, 6:18, 6:20…

No, matter how fast I ran. I couldn’t pass anyone. Everybody was fast, lightning fast.

I was supposed to be the fast one.

I’ll be honest, I get this weird feeling, whenever someone runs at my pace. Like I’m drowning. Like I can’t maintain the pace. Like I’m not good enough. You see, I’m not a runner, I played basketball and baseball in high school. So running with the world’s elite, I felt like an impostor. Everybody at that level, including Robert, ran track or cross-country. I lifted weights. I wished we we’re lifting weights that day.

Imagine if someone tied you to a car and drove off.  You hang on for dear life, running at speeds your legs weren’t designed to handle. That’s how I felt that day, and then I cracked.

I felt like I got hit by a truck. My legs ached so much. The pace was ridiculous. The runners speeding by me, adding salt to my fresh wound.

By mile 13, I knew there would be no NY Qualification. Heck, there might be no finish. Robert was nowhere to be found. He dropped before I did. I decided to wait for Robbie D.

“To either suffer or celebrate together. We did both.”

We gave painful high-fives to the thousands cheering.

Boston became the celebration for years of effort.

As we turned in Boylston’s street.

The finish line neared closer. Robert and I embraced.

 

“We did it!”

Well almost…

3:37?

Not exactly the 2:52 we aimed for.

I set many goals that seem impossible. They can overwhelm me. Whether they be business, personal or life goals. I set them as big as possible. Then I go out there and fail.
I fail again and again.
Failing never feels good. But failing is a prerequisite for success. There was no  NY qualification in Boston, but I vowed to try again.

Then the injuries began…

“The unimaginable happened. During a comfortable 40-mile bike and six-mile run, I felt my calf pull.
I shut down my run immediately. Uber to the rescue. I was crushed.
For a moment.

Then I realized all the blessings in my life. I would recover, and if I didn’t I would be okay.
I focused on different workouts, nutrition, flexibility and promised myself I would control what I could.”   -June 2017

 

One year went by.

 

“Not all stories have happy endings. In life, sometimes the hero doesn’t win.
I worked all year for a chance to qualify for the New York Marathon. Mile repeats, sprints, Ironmans, hundreds of hours of training.

I suffered a fluke calf strain back in June. I rested, I healed, and I completed my best Ironman to date.
2017 was supposed to be the year I qualified.
Today, I woke up excited. My calf felt great. But at 1.5 miles, the pain returned. I instantly realized New York 2018 was out.

As I ran in pain, I knew this would be my last sad mile of 2017.
I share this, not for you to feel sorry for me. I share this because sometimes people wonder why I work so hard? Why I try so hard? Why I get up so early on a Sunday?

I try so hard because I’m deathly afraid of failing. Failing at anything. Failure scares the sh#t out of me.
I’ve failed more times than anyone will ever know. And it always hurts. Always.
As many times, as I’ve failed. I’ve always found a way to pick myself up. Never give up on your dreams. In life, in sport, in business. Never give up.

Sorry, New York. I’ll have to wait another year.”  -November 2017

 

Two years went by.

But my New York dream never relinquished.

When injuries happen. When accidents happen. When life doesn’t go your way.
It’s easy to be sad.
I’m working my tail off and nothing?

This freaking sucks, life isn’t fair.
But wait…
Life was never supposed to be fair.
Life doesn’t care.
Life relies solely on your attitude.
Life is what you make it.
Life is what you do.
Life is how you respond.
Life is what happens when you get knocked down.
Life happens when you get up.

I trained, I trained not only the body but the mind. I know what needs to happen to qualify for New York. I know it’s a two-year goal. I know, I need to run faster than ever. I know, I know, I know!

For the past year (when I wasn’t hurt.)

  • I did speed work (fastest mile: 5:07.)
  • I did half-marathon work (ran 5 in practice.)
  • I worked on my cardio through the bike and swim.
  • I lost weight (I’m 5 pounds less than my fittest weight ever.)
  • And I added my secret weapon:

Breaking Two’s Turbo Pegasus coupled with yellow laces.

My generation’s PF Flyers

Guaranteed to make every kid run faster and jump higher.

The body can only do what the mind believes.
My body is ready.

The mind is ready.
The time has come to punch my ticket to New York.

The Long Beach Marathon is here. Oct 7, 2018

Goal needed to qualify for New York:

13.1 miles <1:25  Pace: 6:25/mile

 

 

 

 

Things go exactly as planned…

“My saddest finish line ever. I did everything right. The weather was perfect. The course flat. The training complete. I just didn’t have it.
The goal 1:24:59 for 13.1 Qualify for NY.
It was going great. No injuries, minor cramping on mile 6, but no big deal.
I beat a huge hurdle at mile 7. I fought and held up.
My pace was still there.
3 more miles and then the turn to the finish line.
I had a choice. If I pushed, I would be close. If I pushed, I had a chance. If I pushed, I could blow up.
Only one real choice, push.

Boom!

I blew up and I was walking.
There would be no qualification today.
In fact, it ended up being my worst half ever.
I crossed the finish line, filled with sadness.
But the pity party will only last a few more hours.

Then it will be time to get up, reassess and do what I believe in my heart is possible.”  -October 2018

 

“What happened? What went wrong?”

I had no idea what happened. I went to the restroom, and then the answer literally came out, bright yellow.

Yellow Pee?

I replayed my water stations:

mile 2: skipped

mile 4: dropped cup

mile 6: missed station

mile 8: done

Rookie mistake, hydration. A tip so basic, something I always cover with my clients, water?

Nevertheless, I would learn my painful lesson.

  • I added low heart rate training (new insight from my NASM Optima Conference)
  • I added tempo runs.
  • I read more (brain power.)
  • I ran the Temecula Half Marathon and practiced drinking water from cups at race pace.
  • I competed in an Olympic Triathon and practiced drinking water from cups at race pace.
  • I found another race: 

The Silver Strand Half Marathon

Coronado, CA Nov 11, 2018

Goal needed to qualify for New York:

13.1 miles <1:25  Pace: 6:25/mile

Here’s the link to track my race: https://register.chronotrack.com/event/tracking/eventID/45521

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently” -Henry Ford

The time has come to embrace the pain. Come on little legs, don’t fail me now.

Tony Arreola

Runner

Author, “Get Me Medals”

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