1. Don't set big goals! However, I do not think a sub 4 was the impossible but it was a stretch since it was asking for a 12 minute PR after not doing a marathon in 4 months. I have always had an A, B and C goal. While I have played with the other goals in my head I had never thought about anything else but the sub 4.
2. Envision the other options. I have read many strategies on envisioning yourself finishing and rehearsing how you would feel at the finish. During all my long runs and training runs I have had these visions of me crossing the finish line under the big clock saying "3:55:50" and my parents would come hug me and I would be SO excited. When I saw that number get to 4 hours and 4 hours plus some change I didn't have another vision in my head.
3. NEVER think other people will be disappointed. I do not know one person that would ever second guess my effort at a marathon but I felt like so many people were cheering for me to meet that sub 4 I was embarrassed to cross the line with anything else. I started thinking about what I would say and what my reason would be. So silly now that I look back on it but I once I thought about "disappointing" my parents I started crying and even became hysterical at some points. Once I started crying that much my chest started to tighten and my breathing was a mess.
4. USE your mantra! My Mantra is "get mad at it" and "push"! It took me 1.5 miles to get mad at it and push it out. I kept letting myself get distracted by other things; shirt, ipod, iphone, time truck and other runners. I totally lost focus on what I was doing.
5. Do NOT run with my phone. There are medics and volunteers on the course. I should have never called my parents and husband to tell them I had not made my goal. Instead I should have pushed hard to gain my time back and get closer to my goal.
6. Do NOT do complicated math when you are delirious from running 23.5 miles. At 18 and 20 miles my time was spot on! I should have stopped calculating. It was slowing me down and I was wrong with my math. On the way home from the race I pulled up the 9:09 lap times and my lap times and I was within seconds for every mile until I feel apart. If I had not stopped to walk I would have been a 4:03-4:05 easy; possibly a sub 4 if I had pushed out the end.
7. Realize that if you are going to be a 50 stater you have plenty of more races to get it right and you have to be slower on some races.
8. Make friends. I made friend with a guy named Ryan from 5 until mile 15ish but never remade a friend from that point. The people I had been noticing and thought about talking to did finish ahead of me. The mental distraction of talking to others is a huge benefit and mental trick.
9. Start your GARMIN when you cross the mat not at the gun. STUPID mistake on my point but I was always wondering how much I might be off from the real race time.
10. Learn from it and move on! The race is over and I have plenty more races. PLUS it is no big deal if I do not go sub 4. I should just enjoy the excitement of completing each race and doing the best I can that day.