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Boston Marathon 2016 Race Recap

Considering that race recaps are the last lingering content on this little blog, you’d think it would be easier for me to put words to my experience at the 120th Boston Marathon. In a lot of ways, I should be ecstatic to talk about it: I ran a 4 minute marathon PR (3:25:39), and I showed up on race day an entirely different runner than when I was in Boston two years ago. I had the best training cycle I’ve ever had, and I ran the race nearly exact to my planned strategy. So why the hesitation to share?

We spend the months of training for a big race picturing the finish line; winning the hard-fought battle that’s taken so many early mornings, daunting long runs, and gut-busting workouts to get to. I know I do. Picturing the sweet majesty of the real-life finish line gets me through all the adversity that comes with a marathon training cycle. It’s what I keep in my head to get me out of bed, to finish the final interval, to prepare for the mental challenge of racing 26.2 miles.

I didn’t get that finish line experience at Boston. I finished the race, but the glory I’d visualized so often wasn’t there. That’s because immediately upon finishing, I was put in a wheelchair and proceeded to spend two hours in the medical tent, followed by an additional hour at the hospital.

99.9% of my race was everything I’d hoped for, and unfortunately I’ve allowed the final 0.1% to overshadow what was an amazing day. In a lot of ways, I’m still feeling a bit blue over it, but I’m hoping that writing about the whole experience may help lighten the load a bit. And if nothing else, a little catharsis never hurt anyone.

So, to the best of my abilities, here’s my Boston recap – the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly.

We had an exceptional amount of difficulty leaving Denver on Saturday before the race, and it was actually a small miracle we made it out at all. A rogue spring snow storm swooped in on Friday night, and flights out of the city were being cancelled by the minute. Our flight was not, luckily, however it was delayed by nearly 5 hours – which after connecting through Dallas landed us in Boston around 1 am. We were so happy to have actually arrived there that it didn’t really matter, but my plans for a nice long pre-race eve sleep was kind of shot.

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Hi Boston! It’s so late!

Regardless, the show had to go on, and we spent Sunday brunching with my best friend Anna and her boyfriend, going to the expo, checking out the finish line, and generally soaking up the pre-race atmosphere. The city was electric, and I was so excited to let it rip the next day. As stated, I went into this race with superb training. My mentality for this training cycle was all about embracing fear: when a workout of a prescribed pace scared me, it meant that’s what would make me better. I incorporated track workouts, hill repeats, trail running, tempo runs and fast finish long runs all throughout my training, and I have never felt fitter than I did when it came time to taper. Needless to say, I was chomping at the bit to run a great race.

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My A goal for Boston was to run around (ideally under) 3:25. Truth be told, on a different course on a colder day, I felt in shape to run a low 3:2X, but considering Boston’s complexity and my experience with the toughness of the marathon, 3:25 felt just right as an “A” goal. I had “B” and “C” goals, but honestly I came up with them very last-minute for the sake of having some saving grace if something went wrong. There was very little doubt in my mind that I was capable of a 3:25, and I’ll admit that part of me believed that something even faster could happen as well.

I thought that mayyyybbeee I could pull off a good night of sleep the night before the race, especially considering the late night of travel beforehand, but alas…my nerves were high and I was restless most of the night. To be expected, but slightly discouraging.

We were up and at ’em around 5:15 and headed into Boston with plenty of time to catch my assigned bus. I had brought a lot of throwaway clothes (and a blanket) to have with me in Athlete’s Village, but even before arriving in Hopkinton (the start of the race), I could tell I wouldn’t need a lot of it. I sat next to a sweet older man on the bus who was a marathon veteran and Boston local, and although I thought I’d spend the bus ride visualizing the race…we chatted nearly the whole time.

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Lest you forget who won Super Bowl 50, Boston…

Athlete’s Village was a-buzz with the usual hoopla of porta-potties, coffee, old mylar blankets, and sunscreen. I situated myself in the shade, drank half a cup of the free coffee, and tried to relax while nibbling a bagel and drinking a big water bottle. I was really pleased with my pre-race hydration, as I’d paid adamant attention to it for the 3-4 days beforehand. I knew the temperatures would be warm, so I wanted to give myself as much of an advantage over hydration as I could on the front-end.

Sitting in Athlete’s Village though…it was hot. I tried hard to focus on what was controllable: I needed to start drinking earlier than normal, I needed to grab ice if I saw it offered, and I needed to douse myself with water whenever possible. Focusing on these things kept me from worrying about the heat, but looking back…I wish I would have allowed myself a little more concern.

Once they called our wave, everything happened really fast. There’s a moderately long walk to the start line from Athlete’s Village, and as we walked along I focused on taking deep yoga-style breaths and narrowing my vision: it was game time. One last pee-stop, a few more swigs of water, and I made my way into my start corral. I did notice, right as we were getting ready to start, that my throat was dry, and I resolved to grab water at every possible opportunity.

The gun went off, and we were running Boston! I was running Boston! AGAIN! This time with so much more working in my favor and with a goal that two years ago would have been a pipe dream.

I vowed to not start fast. Boston loses a lot of elevation in the beginning, and I’ve run enough marathons to know that the easiest way to kill a race is to try and bank time early on. I kept an eye on my watch for this reason, and since I planned out my paces pretty specifically, I just needed to stay under control.

Mile 1: 7:55

Mile 2: 7:50

Right on pace. I wanted these first few miles to stay above 7:50s, and 1 and 2 felt veryyyy easy. I felt light and sharp…and happy! I’d forgotten just how great the crowds are at Boston right out of the gate, and I smiled and soaked in all the great energy. It was hot though, and everyone was feeling it. We were ALL grabbing water right away, and I remember thinking the volunteers had their work cut out for them that day. I would grab two waters, drink as much as I could out of one, and dump the other one on my shoulders and head. My shirt was already soaked just a few miles in, and I knew I could expect some bad chaffing by the end, but it didn’t really matter since it was helping.

Mile 3: 7:45

Mile 4: 7:48

Mile 5: 7:45

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I was really happy with the consistency throughout this section, especially considering I still felt like I was holding back. I continued to take liquids (both Gatorade and water) and tried to stay relaxed. In the early miles of marathons, I’ve adopted the mantra, “Stay boring.” Don’t get ahead of yourself, don’t think about the what ifs, and don’t get cocky. I was starting to get hints of side cramps though, which was a little unnerving. I knew it had to do with the extra liquid I was taking, and I tried to just focus on altering my breathing to fend them off. I also grabbed a big cup of ice somewhere in this section and put half of it in my sports bra and the other half in my hat. Heaven! I could feel a huge cooling effect from this, and I knew to keep my eyes peeled for more ice along the way.

Mile 6: 7:34

Mile 7: 7:43

Mile 8: 7:43

Mile 6 was a checkpoint of sorts for me, as I knew the course would flatten out a bit through the next 10 miles. This was the section of the race that I planned to drill down to my marathon goal pace, around 7:45s. I knew I’d be seeing my cheer crew around mile 6 as well, so my head was on a swivel for a lot of this section. I got a big boost when I spotted my people with their “Run Birdie Run!” sign in hand, and I felt strong and in control.

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Mile 9: 7:40

Mile 10: 7:36

Mile 11: 7:44

I continued to fend off the faint onset of side cramps, which seemed to pop up when I was on a downhill. But, I knew I needed to keep up with hydration, so it was a delicate balance between getting in water/Gatorade and keeping my stomach happy. I was slightly concerned that I didn’t have to pee considering how much I’d been drinking, but again…”Stay boring, don’t freak out.”

I remembered that around mile 10 last time I ran Boston, my quads already felt pretty tired, so when I cruised through the 10-mile mark and still felt peppy, I was highly encouraged. I really counted on my year-ish of consistent trail running to help me through the hills of Boston, and it was proving successful so far at this point. My next “check point” was mile 13, Wellesley, where I wanted to  high five as many of the screaming girls as I could. What’s amazing about the Wellesley scream tunnel is that you can hear it thundering from at least a half mile away. The sound hits you smack in the face when you finally run by all of them, and it’s pretty fantastic. I gave a ton of high fives and smiled and laughed at all their signs.

Mile 12: 7:32

Mile 13: 7:32

Mile 14: 7:33

I was moving well at this point; I felt like I was working, but not too hard, which is exactly how it should feel. I continued to take water as often as I could and dumped cups on my head and shoulders. I didn’t love the extra effort this was taking, but I knew it was necessary to ward off the heat. When I drop into 7:30s on standard long runs, I get a little nervous about maintaining the pace, but I felt great. If I were to define the point of the race where I felt the most like I was in the marathon-pace zone, it was miles 10-16.

I knew the hills would start during mile 16, but I was more focused on my next checkpoint – the November Project cheering section at mile 18. Focusing a little further out helped ease me into the hills a bit, and this was the part of the race I wanted to focus on effort rather than my watch. After each uphill, I tried to relax and recover on the following downhill, so on and so on. The wind had picked up a bit too, and while I’m the first person to complain about a headwind, it felt SO good to get a breeze. I continued to drink a good amount of water, but I stopped dousing myself as often since the wind seemed to be cooling. Hindsight, probably not the best decision.

Mile 15: 7:37

Mile 16: 7:19

Mile 17: 7:53

I was scanning for the November Project crew for a while. Along the way, I was amazed (once again) by the hoards of people that were out to cheer. It was unreal! I definitely think there were more people out than the first year I ran, and surely the sunny weather was pleasant for viewing.

I heard the shouting pick up, and there they were! Tribe members from Boston a-plenty, but also NP representation from all over. It was amazing! I gave a ton of high fives and smiled so wide throughout this section.

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Photo by the only-and-only, Paul Rohde!

Seeing everyone gave me a definite boost, but I was also starting to feel a bit fatigued and nervous for the climbs to come. Truly, Heartbreak isn’t that bad, but the back-to-back hills on top of a lot of miles already run has a compounding effect that makes the otherwise minor climbs pretty difficult. However, focusing on effort rather than my watch helped a lot, as did watching other people start to walk while I kept pressing on.

Mile 18: 8:03

Mile 19: 7:38

Mile: 20: 7:55

Mile 21: 8:27 <- Hellloooo Heartbreak!

My pace was kind of all over the place throughout this section, which was very planned but also throwing me off a little bit. While I knew generally what sort of min/mile would yield different finish times, I’d entered the point in the race where mental math was way too difficult.

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I felt wiped by the hills, but ready to cruise down into Boston. I kept trying to remind myself to relax: my arms, my jaw, my hands…anything that could help save a little energy. I think I took a final Shot Block between miles 22 and 23 (I’d been eating these the whole time), but I don’t really remember. I know I was still taking water, mostly out of habit at this point, but I’d completely stopped cooling myself off and just zoned in on one foot after the other.

Mile 22: 7:32

Mile 23: 7:50

Now, the course profile appears to be all downhill between Heartbreak and the finish line, but there are actually a few rollers that are unrelenting during this section. I was hurting, but still in control. My left hamstring specifically was ridiculously tight, so I kept interspersing some faster strides to shake it out a bit. It helped for sure but only for a short period. I considered pulling over to stretch it, but I was too scared of stopping and having to start again. I’ve run this distance enough to know that starting to walk or pulling over to stretch can be a little bit of a death sentence. Not to mention I knew walking wouldn’t feel much better than running at this point, so on I went.

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Mile 24: 7:50

Mile 25: 7:50

Admittedly I’m impressed with my consistency through miles 23-25. Everything felt so far away during these miles. I spotted the Citgo sign during mile 24, and it took for-ev-er to finally get to it. Once I passed Citgo, and knew there was 1 mile to go, I started talking to myself a little bit.

Deep breath.

Stay calm.

Keep it together.

Again, everything was in slow motion. It was less of hitting a wall and more of my vision narrowing. It was a finale I’d imagined over and over and over again throughout the past months of training, but all I could focus on was simply moving forward.

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We finally, finally, turned right on Hereford, and things started to feel a little dream-like, and unfortunately, it wasn’t in a good way. When I pictured turning left on Boylston during my training, it was a triumphant highway to the finish; the final stretch of all the miles I’d run to finally get to this point. Looking back on it, I don’t really remember turning left on Boylston.

I remember some photographers and a lot of noise. I remember raising my head to look toward the finish line, desperate to kindle some kind of magic feeling, but all I could think of how vast and far away it looked.

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Mile 26: 8:18

I kept my head down, I was too overwhelmed by how far away the finish looked. I was moving, but I don’t really recall feeling my legs. I knew I was so close to being done, and the only thing I could think about was getting over the finish line and being done.

I could see the finishing mats. I could hear the crowds roating. I remember looking down and seeing the three painted blue lines in the middle of the road. Just follow the three lines.

I was moving in the slowest motion of the entire day, and in the blink of any eye, everything sped up.

I mis-stepped. It might have been a trip, it might have been my brain surrendering, it was probably both. My feet stumbled and I fell straight to the ground, as if my body were craving the pavement if it meant being done running. No, no, no. I remember my chin hitting the ground, and I remembering hearing the resounding reaction from the crowd when they saw me go down. I remember feeling so irrationally angry in that moment. Fuck, not again. I remember refusing to stay down without a fight.

I hoisted myself up on legs that had already given up, immediately to be helped by police officers that were guarding the barriers. Everything that happened next is fuzzy. I was helped to the finish line, I put my feet down to finish my race on my own, and immediately I was put in a wheel chair and taken by people in bright pink jackets into the medical tent.

I proceeded to spend two hours in the medical tent, being treated for severe overheating. A lot happened in there, most of which I remember, but a lot of which I’d care not to remember. I threw up twice immediately when we got in there, I was put in an ice bath to lower my 106 degree temperature (yep), I experienced my first time being in shock and my first panic attack, and I spent a brief period of time thinking that my running career was over. I was so scared of my family being mad at me, of Adam being mad at me. Of course in hindsight this was irrational, but long time readers know that this is the second time this has happened to me. I was so upset that I had given all of them another reason to be scared about what would happen to me, and all the while I was completely swept away by the turn of events that had happened so fast.

I was having the race of my life. I felt strong and in control and happy and determined. Within a matter of minutes, that control and joy fell from my grasp, and I let my pride lead to this place…again. Why?

You were running the Boston Marathon. You were doing everything you planned on. You were having the day you dreamed of.

 You’re staring at the ceiling of the medical tent. You have strangers asking you questions that are hard to answer but they shouldn’t be. You have never felt this terrible.

 You’re done. You can’t do this anymore. This isn’t what it’s supposed to be like. It’s time to find something else. You can’t be a runner anymore.

 There’s a pit in my stomach remembering those thoughts, but for the sake of honesty, that’s where my head was at while I was being treated after the race. Medical volunteers kept telling me how well I’d run and asking me about the race, and all I could say was that I didn’t want to talk about it. I thought about Adam and Anna who had been there for me that day and who were waiting for me and how ashamed I was to have let them down. I wondered where they were and if anyone had been in touch with them.

The worst of everything, speaking physically and mentally, happened during the ice bath and the 20 minutes after they took me out. I went from being dangerously hot to dangerously cold, and my body felt utterly and completely depleted. I couldn’t move at all (numbness) which really, really scared me. The entire time, there were 5+ people tending to me and talking to me and trying to keep me composed, and I can clearly remember when one of the MDs on site looked me in the eye and said, “You’re at Boston, you have the very best volunteers in the world, you’re going to be okay.”

Once they started wrapping my in blankets and got me out of my wet clothes, I started to feel immensely better. My color returned (or so I’m told), I became much more lucid and calm, and I was finally able to call Adam. They gave me chicken broth, which to this day may have been the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted. One of the volunteers went and got my medal for me, and another one literally gave me the sweatshirt off her back so I wouldn’t have to put my wet tank top back on. To say that this team was exceptional would be an understatement; I am in complete and total awe of the care and expertise I experienced for those two hours following the race.

To make an already long story a little shorter, I left the medical tent and was able to finally walk through the finish line area. I was wrapped in thermal blankets, walking so gingerly on my sore legs and blistered feet, and generally I was a-gasp at everything that had just happened. I met up with Adam (who at this point had been in contact with both me and the medical volunteers) and we headed immediately to Tufts Medical Center to get stitches in my chin where I’d fallen. That was another impressive medical-team experience, and eventually, after what felt like the longest day I’d ever lived, we made our way back to our lodgings and salvaged what was left of my “celebration.”

You probably guessed this, but I didn’t feel celebratory. I felt like a fool, to be quite honest. I knew better than that. I’m an experienced marathoner who has had made race mistakes before that I vowed to never make again. I couldn’t figure out where or what went wrong. I felt completely in control of my race until mile 26, and seemingly out of the blue all that control and training and success was gone.

I had 35 text messages after the race from wonderful friends and family who had been tracking me, along with a ton of emails and facebook messages. I felt like a fraud though; no one had seen what really happened. Officially, I had finished the race. But in a lot of ways, I didn’t feel like I had. I had pictured my return to Boston ever since the last time I was there two years ago, and the stronger I got and the better my training became, the brighter that picture became. I didn’t feel bright and shiny after the race, and I really only started to feel some pride after some heart-to-hearts with my family and friends.

So why can’t I help but be hard on myself? I ran a 3:25 marathon, precisely what I said I wanted to do 5 months ago. I ran consistently, smartly, and very aware. I thought I was considerate of the conditions, but clearly not enough precautions were taken.

Initially, the thing I was most upset about was knowing that I knew better. Considering a similar thing has happened before when I was a much less experienced runner, I was certain I knew my body and my capacities much better. I’ve played the “what if” and “if this” game so many times in my head. And truly, there are probably 100 different tiny tweaks I could have made that would have led to a different outcome. But the thing I’ve finally allowed myself to accept is that my mental game is both my greatest strength and greatest liability as a runner. It’s easy in hindsight to imagine myself walking at a few more water stations or slowing down a bit when it was feeling so hot, but in the moment, with a big goal pounding in my brain, settling for anything less than my best wasn’t even an option.

Truthfully, and I’m saying this in the least-boastful way possible, I actually think my exceptional (for me) fitness going into this race worked against me a bit. Not only was I unable to recognize what was too much to handle, but mentally…I knew I was running what I was capable of. The problem was, however, that just because I was in shape enough to run the way I was didn’t mean I was impervious to the rough conditions. I literally had the thought in my head before the race, “I’m in shape enough that the weather won’t really matter,” which in some ways is bold, but in a lot of ways…this mentality was my kryptonite.

There are several lessons to take away, namely how to readjust goals according to conditions. I’m not the kind of runner that likes to let months of training be dictated by small things like weather, course difficulty, and race start times, but, much like life, uncontrollables are inevitable. And, much like life, we need to prepare to navigate the uncontrollables just as much as we prepare for the things we can control. After some time of reflection and recouping, I know this experience will make me a smarter runner and more seasoned racer, even if it did take some pouting and tears to get to that place.

When all is said and done, though, I am proud of myself. I wasn’t, initially, but as a coworker of mine (and fellow distance runner) put it: point blank, I showed up on the biggest stage in running and ran the time I hoped to run. Like I said in the beginning, a 3:25 at Boston was a pipe dream just two years ago, and I’m thrilled with the training and running I’ve been able to do in the months ahead of this.

I have utmost respect for the marathon, and while I may have sworn them off immediately following this race – I have an unwavering, albeit volatile, relationship with this distance. I’ll be back at some point; it likely won’t be very soon, as there are other (dirt related) goals in my mind right now, but someday. If this race taught me nothing else, it reminded me that the joy is in the journey – not the ending. I put too much focus on the finish line of this race, when in fact every step that was taken before that finish line, and before the race even started, was the real accomplishment. It’s a lesson I believe transcends running, and it’s something I’m grateful that Boston helped to remind me.

Official Results

Strava File

 

 

 

Boston Marathon Training Weeks #1 and 2

Considering I averaged approximately one post every four months last year, it’s a little ambitious to think that I’ll be able to keep up with these posts for the next 16 weeks. However, it’s worth trying, and personally I enjoy reading training recaps on other blogs, so might as well put some of it out there myself. I’m thinking doing 2 weeks at a time will be more manageable than individually, so that’s where I’ll start.

So…I’m running Boston! Again! If you’ve been around for a while, you might remember that Boston wasn’t exactly my best race. I had a lot of fun and it was an incredible experience, but generally it just wasn’t my day. Several factors went into the outcome, and I certainly don’t admonish my decision to run the race whatsoever. Regardless, I’m thrilled to have another shot at running this infamous course. The factors working against me last time could not be more different this time around, and I’m really excited at the prospect of what this training cycle could bring. I’m doing 16 full weeks of training, and I intend to truly put my all into them; I’m on a mission to make some magic happen on April 18.

2014 Boston Marathon. We were 3 blocks from our lodging and had to take a cab home. Ow.

2014 Boston Marathon. We were 3 blocks from our lodging and had to take a cab home. Ow.

I have perhaps the best base I’ve ever had going into a training cycle, and I’m intent on both refining and capitalizing on all the benefits I’ve been afforded coming off of my first 50k race in December. I rested well, I recovered hard (read: slept and ate a LOT), and I psyched myself up to turn up my training mojo. Training for a 50k was heaven; weekends required long, slow, relaxing jaunts up and around the Colorado mountains. It certainly wasn’t easy, but there was a vacation-like feel to it. Going to the track to run mile repeats in the pitch black in 20 degree weather lacks that same dreamy-running factor. Nevertheless, I’m prepared to take on the hard stuff, and I’m operating under the training mentality that if something scares me and sounds hard, I should probably be doing it.

Moving on, the first week of training was mostly in warm(ish) Southern California – which granted me both a weather edge and a sea level edge. It was a nice way to start things off. This past week (week #2) was a bit more back-to-reality and resembled the truth of training for a marathon in the dead of winter.

By the way, I’ve been regularly using Strava, so the details of all these miles is spelled out here.

Week #1

Monday: easy 8 miles – loops around Wash Park

Tuesday: 10 miles on Green Mountain with Julia – an absolute favorite and a great start to a weekday

Wednesday: easy 6 miles – first day in California, a welcome change from the frigid cold

Thursday: 8 miles with some faster splits – 7:37 avg. pace. I liked this because I started the run at exactly 7:37 am, too.

Friday: Rest! Happy New Year!

Saturday: easy 5 miles with Adam

Sunday: long run – 13 miles.

I split up my long run to end with some hill repeats. The downhill (and uphill too I suppose) killed me at Boston last time around, so I’m determined to mitigate that happening again with very specific hill training. For this long run, I started with 9 miles that were pretty flat – averaging 7:48s (again…sea level). Then, I headed for the big hill by my grandparents’ house and completed three up and down repeats for a total of 4 miles and nearly 800 feet of gain. Nothing extraordinary, but it served its purpose.

Total: 50.5 miles

Week #2

Monday: easy 7 miles

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: November Project workout + run to/from (7.5 miles) – hard workout! 100 leg throws, 100 push-ups, stairs, dips, squats, so sore…

Thursday: easy 7 miles – icy Wash Park loops. I really, really dislike running on/around the ice…

Friday: easy 8 miles

We woke up to a full-on snow day. I was reluctant to run (obviously), but it ended up being pretty decent. Also running on fresh snow >>> patches of ice

Saturday: long run – 14 miles on North Table Mountain in Golden!

happiness is a run in the sun with friends

happiness is a run in the sun with friends

This run was the best. Julia invited a few of us out to show us her and Dan’s stomping grounds on a 14 miler around North Table Mountain. It had it all: rolling single track, a steep climb, a fun descent, and a fresh mountain lion kill (we think it was a deer?). Okay, the last part wasn’t the best, but overall it was a wonderful run and I felt great. I cannot wait to do this run in the summer (and a bunch before then).

Sunday: 9 miles in the afternoon

I woke up really not feeling well Sunday morning, just kinda cloudy and tired. Adam and I went to a long brunch, we did some chores, watched some playoff football, and around 2 PM I knew there was a very small window of time for me to get off my butt and run or it wasn’t going to happen. I was feeling more energized and generally frustrated by football, so I headed out and it was surprisingly great. I started off a little quick and just kind of went with it, finishing with a 7:40/mile average without a ton of effort. It was really encouraging, but mostly it made me consider that I might need to run in the afternoon more often. I’m thinking having a full meal, which was then fully digested, was really helpful and it’s something to consider going forward.

Total: 52 miles

So that’s that, two weeks down! I’m really excited about this training cycle. I’m allowing myself to set big goals and imagine a lot of possibilities. I’m ready to buckle down and prepare to do the things that have always been scary to me in the past. At the same time, though, I’m going to integrate some of the invaluable lessons I’ve learned over the past year, primarily in the case of staying on the trails. I plan on running plenty of runs on trails and maintaining a looseness to my schedule, scheduling out only one week at a time. This works great for me and allows me to pay attention to how I’m feeling and not get overwhelmed with completing a 16-week-long checklist of runs.

I have no snappy way of ending this post. See you in 1.5 weeks!

 

 

 

ECSCA 50k Race Recap

Hello…it’s me.

(clenched teeth emoji)

So…yikes. This has been quite the hiatus from the blogosphere, and I’ll admit I’m a little overwhelmed at the thought of trying to paraphrase ALL that’s gone on since we last chatted.

In a few words: a lot has happened over the past year, which is entirely related to my internet absence. I can’t make any promises, but I would love to recap this year, my training, and my upcoming goals at some point before 2016 starts. Time will tell, but here’s hoping.

But that’s not why I’m here. I’m here because something crazy happened this past Saturday.

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I ran my first ultramarathon!

Most likely, you didn’t even know that I was training for or even considering running an ultra, and with good reason. I’ve been a diligent servant to the roads since I started running, I’m scared of big hills, and I only really started trail running this year. But, all those excuses are part of the long list of things that changed this year.

For the past six-ish months, I’ve found myself entranced by the siren sound of the trails. The running is more enjoyable, more rewarding, and exponentially more scenic. I recover much quicker, and I can feel myself getting fitter and faster. Do I still have big goals for the road? Certainly. But I’m discovering that what I once thought were mutually exclusive identities (being a road runner vs. being a trail runner) are actually quite complimentary to one another. I’m really enjoying it all, which ultimately lead me to the decision to forego a fall marathon for the sake of a new goal: a trail 50k.

I chose the North Face Endurance Challenge Series – California for a number of reasons, but namely because of all the rave reviews I’d heard from my friends who did it last year. Specially Julia, who ran it as her first 50k, could not say enough great things about the experience. Not to mention that there would be a deep November Project field attending, it was uncharted terrain (for me), and at sea level. No brainer all around.

My training for this race was easily the least diligent I’ve ever been while training for an “A” race. I mainly just followed a week-by-week schedule, never really planning ahead anything tied to certain distances or paces. If I’m being honest, for maybe the first time in my running career, I felt a little under-trained going into it; not horribly, but my longest long runs were 18 miles seven weeks out and 24 miles three weeks out.

Regardless, I was really excited going into the race and shockingly relaxed. I kept waiting to get overwhelmed with nerves and incessant butterflies (as per usual), but it never really hit me. I was mostly just amped and ready to spend a day out on the dirt. The lack of pressure to achieve a specific finishing time helped a lot too, not to mention the knowledge that I would be walking and hiking for plenty of it.

Enough already! Onto the race.

My goals (you knew I’d have ’em) were as follows:

  1. Run with joy
  2. Be proud of my race
  3. If things went well, finish under 6 hours

The race took place in the Marin Headlands just north of San Francisco. The course traversed up and down the sweeping vistas along the peninsula, in and out of grassy farm pastures, and all around the Muir Woods. It was an enviable set up no matter what type of runner you are, and I highly recommend a visit to this area if you’re able.

We started at 7 am, which meant the sun was barely creeping into the valley when the gun went off. It was picture perfect conditions: 50-ish degrees, mostly cloudy, and a slight coastal breeze to ward off any glimpses of overheating. It would remain that way the entire day, and none of us could have asked for better weather.

My approach to the miles focused on two key things: maintaining my “coyote pace” (run like you can run forever) and staying mentally present. Remembering presence is not only a good distraction, but it really helps me to not get overwhelmed by how much more is left and to just enjoy the day. Sounds cliche (it is), but it works.

So with these thoughts in mind, we were off on a 31.1 mile journey! Considering the length of this race and the fact that I don’t want to water down its greatness with superfluous detail, I’m going to recap it in sections that stood out to me.

-Journey to Cardiac

Miles 1-8 of the race were a superb “warm up,” and I was entirely exhilarated the whole time. There was a lot of up and down, but nothing that was unmanageable. The rising sun was altering the surroundings by the minute, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the scenery and camaraderie. Everyone was amped up and so encouraging of one another. I loved feeling fresh, strong, and ready for a good day.

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-Cardiac

The longest climb of the day took place between miles 9-13, with 1,300 feet of gain up to the Cardiac aid station, and it was the part of the course I’d been nervous about ever since I saw the elevation profile. I’m not great at sustained climbs, and I knew mentally it would be challenging to be going up for that long.

I look less happy than I was. But I was! Also: views on point.

I look less happy here than I was. But I was! Also: views!

Turns out, this was one of my absolute favorite parts of the entire race! I focused specially on running a very steady, easy pace up and up the whole time, and I found that not only was I able to keep running, I was also passing people. I felt so good as I traversed up each of the winding switchbacks, and I tried to mentally preach to myself that I was a strong hill climber. Fake it til you make it, right? But it worked really well, and I’d say this was my proudest portion of the race. I made it the entire way up without stopping or walking, full of confidence when I reached the aid station on top (full elevation profile pictured below).

Muir Woods

Following Cardiac, we went into the woods for a long, long time. It was a lovely change of scenery as we quite literally dove down into a lush, shaded forest after spending hours atop the hills. I had a very love-hate relationship with this portion of the race. One minute I’d be thinking:

” I love this! My favorite kind of single track! This will definitely be my highlight of the race!”

Minutes later:

“Ugh, this is going on foreverrr. More wooden stairs?? When will we start going back already?”

So, some definite highs and lows in the Muir Woods. Specifically, there was one point where I was sure we were approaching mile 20 (my watch was showing the digital clock the whole time), and when the mile buzzed, it displayed “Mile 18.”

Womp womp.

But I pressed on, and I joined a little group of five men and women or so for the final 3-ish miles of the woods, which was wildly helpful. The terrain leveled out just enough to offer a big mental reprieve, and I pulled myself out of a low spot between miles 19-21.

Muir Beach to Alta

Miles 22.5-28 were definitely one of the toughest points of the race for me. I was so ready to just bring it home, but the big steep descents that we flew down at the beginning of the race were now ominous climbs, ready to taunt our already exhausted legs. My left IT band was tightening every time I tried to sustain a run uphill too, so I started an alternating pattern of hiking and running. I admitted to myself at this point, too, that I definitely could have afforded myself more hill training.

LIES. I was not smiling on the inside at this point.

LIES. I was not smiling on the inside.

We were granted a few big downhills along with all the ups in this section, however they were so steep that they didn’t offer much recovery for my already chewed-up legs. In terms of mental games, this section certainly required the most of them. Something I tried to remind myself of when I was overwhelmed with the obstacles, whether it was a climb, a descent, or just the overall time on my feet, was that I’ve hiked mountains for more than twice the amount of time I’d been out there. It might not be “running,” but reminding myself of the other high-intensity, high-vertical endurance endeavors I’ve done was a great confidence booster and calmed me down.

The Finish

The last 3 miles were almost entirely downhill, and although my legs were certainly not happy with the pounding, it was mentally very helpful to know that it was all down to the finish. And boy was I ready to be DONE. I just kind of let my legs go and catapulted as gracefully as I could down the big hills to the finish. We’d also met up with the course for the marathon relay at this point, so it was nice to have some fresher people around to share the ending with. I got a lot of “Yea NP!” high-fives, which certainly boosted my enthusiasm. I was moving pretty quickly too considering I’d already run almost 30 miles, but I was so close to being done I figured I might as well dish it all out.

The final quarter mile stretch toward the finish line was amazing. There were tons of people lining the way, full of cheers and woops and everything you hope for at the end of a big race. I felt really strong coming in, and full of pride for having just run further than I’d ever run before. Finishing amongst November Project people is truly the greatest way to finish a race, and I felt like a champion running through all their high-fives and screams.

“Finishing her first 50k from Denver, CO…welcome home Robyn Mayer!”

That was a highlight too🙂

Numbers

I finished in 5:34:39, which I was incredibly happy with. Strava file tells more of the story.

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

All in all, I could not have asked for a better first ultramarathon experience. It had it all in terms of playing on my strengths, highlighting my opportunities for growth, and generally showcasing the culture and joys of trail running. Not to mention my fueling was – I’ll just say it – flawless! I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to how my stomach and energy levels would do, but I’m mighty proud of the result. I never bonked and didn’t even have a glimmer of intestinal distress. I credit this to a superbly plentiful and nutrient-dense dinner the night before, ample hydrating in the days before and during the race, and starting to eat early on. I followed a menu of electrolyte drink, plain salt, PB&Js, and shot blocks the entire time, and it all sat really well. Sorry for the extensive nutrition tangent, but it is a big factor when it comes to super long races and it’s something I was really pleased with last Saturday.

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Adam ran the marathon relay!

A few days later, I’m still buzzing from the entire experience. My legs are just now beginning to regain some normal functionality, and I’m looking forward to taking some real down time for the next little while.

If you’re still out there reading, thank you! And if you are even considering the idea of running an ultra, I highly recommend it. I ran my first half-marathon in 2010, and at that point I could not even fathom running a full marathon, let alone 31 freaking miles. Even just a year ago, I was scared of and intimidated by trail running. Often times, I still am, but it has completely redefined both my respect and love for the sport. The opportunity for running goals and adventures spans a whole new horizon with trail running, and I’m really excited for all that’s to come.

 

 

 

Platte River Half-Marathon Race Recap

I will fully admit that I have actively avoided writing about this race.

photo by Dan Berteletti

photo by Dan Berteletti

It happened, it didn’t go the way I wanted it to, and I wanted to stuff it in my back drawer and forget about it.

The problem, though, is that keeping something hidden away doesn’t mean it’s gone; it mostly just means it’s taking up extra space and energy when it shouldn’t be. So here I am, putting this race in the proverbial recycle bin as opposed to letting it lay around, clogging up my life.

It’s not that it was even that bad, and it’s not that I’m necessarily “embarrassed” by it. It’s just that it was technically a goal race that went awry, and I didn’t want to really own the fact that my goal race for the spring didn’t go according to plan.

Which is pretty petty, in hindsight. Because c’mon…it’s running! Sometimes it goes great, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you can run fast and light and strong, and sometimes you feel like you’re trudging through hot mud.

The point is, bad races happen, and this bad race happened to be the race I had my eye on for a few months. There are several reasons it didn’t pan out the way I wanted it to, and I’ll take the blame for a lot of them. Regardless, here’s the recap:

I was feeling exceptionally fit going into Platte River, fitter than I’d felt since late 2013. I’d had an effortless tempo-long run just two weeks before in which my tempo pace was easily below my goal half-marathon pace, and it felt completely do-able. I thought that my PR of 1:36:11 was within reach for this race, and I had fairly solid confidence that it was going to be “that” kind of day. To be blunt, my instincts about how races are going to go is typically pretty accurate, and I’ve always thought that there is a direct correlation between my race execution and my “hunch” ahead of time.

Needless to say, I was excited on race day. Ready to run fast and prove to myself the huge strides I’d made since moving to Colorado. The race is a point-to-point that starts in Littleton and ends at the South end of Denver. I lined up near the front of the pack (overly cautious to not do any weaving), and after a beautiful National Anthem, we were off. I had a loose race plan to start between 7:25-7:30, then drop down after the first few miles or so to 7:15-7:20. It was moderately daunting, but again…I thought it was attainable. I’ve learned time and time again the advantages to negative splitting, so this race plan seemed perfect.

Well, somewhere along the way, that race plan was entirely forgotten. I have no explanation or justification other than getting caught up in the excitement of the start of the race and feeling really, really good. This was, however, where my race kind of imploded – without me knowing it at the time.

Mile 1: 7:10

Mile 2: 7:17

Mile 3: 7:09

I actively avoided looking at my splits after this race because I knew I would face-palm myself for the tangible proof of the mistakes I made. Really Robyn?! Really? There was no reason to run that fast, but I did…and it will explain more later on.

These miles wound through Littleton downtown and spit runners out onto the Platte River trail, where we would spend the majority of the race. At this point, I felt great; in control, working, but not overworking. I also noticed very quickly that it was going to be a warm race – and I’ll spare you from my ranting once again of how I feel about that.

The trail navigates along a river and is primarily a paved bike path. It’s a net downhill course, but the terrain itself is moderately rolling. I tried to control my pace a bit more after the first 5k and get into a rhythm, but around mile 5 – when I should have just been getting into a settled pace – I was already feeling like I was working.

Mile 4: 7:14

Mile 5: 7:16

Mile 6: 7:21

Right around halfway is when I started not feeling well. I was hot, my legs were heavier than they should have been, and generally I just felt kind of lonely. It’s a smaller race, and there weren’t a ton of people around me, which is typically fine – but the scenery itself was just kind of dull and lonesome.

Still, I was trying to hold a 7:20-7:30 pace. I knew I had gone out too fast, but I also knew I had the fitness to back up my effort. Alas, this became very difficult, very fast. I could not get under 7:30, no matter how hard I pushed, and when you’re already counting down the miles at mile 8 of a half-marathon, it’s hard to find a sense of confidence.

Mile 7: 7:32

Mile 8: 7:34

Julia and I had planned beforehand that she was going to jump in with me at mile 10 to run me into the finish. In my head (and probably both our heads) it was going to be a fast, celebratory finish with my training partner towards a new half-marathon PR (or close to it). So it’s no surprise that I was disappointed before I even got to her knowing this wouldn’t be the case. It’s not even that I had given up, as I was pushing as hard as I could, it just wasn’t happening for my legs. Regardless, focusing on getting to her was a good distraction, and I was desperate for anything I could get at that point. Again, there were little to no spectators, somewhat blah scenery, and I was feeling every little up and down we came across; getting to Julia felt like a beacon of hope.

Mile 9: 7:43

Mile 10: 7:50

I had certifiably hit a wall at this point. Yes, a full marathon wall. I wanted so badly to walk, to be done, to just be doing ANYTHING other than running that race. It felt crummy in all regards. When Julia picked me up, I signaled a thumbs down to her and told her it was not my day. I actually felt bad that the low-7 min/mile pace she’d been planning on was barely a sub-8 at this point (which, in hindsight is silly…but you know, race brain). I let her chatting distract me as much as possible, but I was confined to ugly death-march status at that point.

Mile 11: 7:48

Mile 12: 7:56

In the middle of mile 12, you hit the only significant uphill during the course, in which the course veers from the trail onto a highway overpass. It’s steep, it’s ugly, and at that point in the race…it’s unrelenting and brutal. I had Julia run in front of me and held on for dear life. The only saving grace was knowing the finish was close once we were up.

Mile 13: 8:33 (HA!)

Once we were on the other side of the hill, I did the mental math for the first time since the race started of what my finish time would be. Realizing that I still had a shot of running under 1:40, I gave all the gusto I had left when turning the corner toward the finish line.

Last .1 Mile (.19 Mile on my watch): 7:00 pace

The final sprint was brutal, but seeing Dan, Corey, and Adam was enough encouragement to sneak in right below the mark.

photo 1 (7)

Final time: 1:39:46

In all honesty, my first thought upon finishing was, “FUCK, that was so bad.”

Within a few minutes though, I was consoled with the realization that if a bad race for me right now is a sub-1:40 half-marathon, then I should have some confidence in where my speed is at. Sure, the race was terribly executed and it generally just was not my day, but knowing that just 6 months ago this would have been a very, very good time for me…I can hang  a hat on that.

I somehow used to run without this girl, I don't really know how though.

I somehow used to run without this girl, I don’t really know how though.

I considered for a hot minute trying to salvage my grand half-marathon PR spring goal plan, but truthfully…my heart wasn’t really in it. The true goal for the spring was to bring my speed back to the level I was once at, and I’m feeling very good about how that has progressed. The fact that I dropped nearly a minute off my 5k personal best in March and followed up Platte River with a 35 minute 5-miler is highly motivating that progress is happening. I’m also running Bolder Boulder this upcoming Monday which I’m hoping should be another fun test of where my legs are at.

So yes, this was not a great race, and generally just not a very smart race. But, all these experiences teach us a little something more about ourselves and our running – and I intend to utilize this hard-learned lesson in whatever is to come.

In the meantime, I’m loving the shorter, speedier races, as well as the training that gives me the option to run when I want, how far I want, and how fast I want. Hard to complain about a measly half-marathon when running life in general is just swell, and I’m grateful for it.

Onto the next!

5k on St. Patrick’s Day Race Recap

Yes, you read that title right. I somehow went from not blogging about anything to writing race recaps about 5ks…?

Now is when I really wish I could include emojis in blog posts, because I would include the scared face with the white eyes and the blue on top of its head. You know the one.

No offense to the distance at all, I’m just generally not a short-distance racer – so I tend to equate a “race recap” to a half or full marathon. Regardless, this was a race I am proud of…so you get to hear about it, like it or not.

Let me back up first, because I realized I’ve given absolutely zero detail about how my “training” this spring has been strategized.

I decided a while ago that I didn’t want to run a spring marathon for a couple of reasons. 1) Our wedding is in June, and while running is a great stress reliever and I do it no matter the circumstances, I didn’t feel like intensive/heavy training would fit well into all the other to-dos that this occasion requires. And 2) I really don’t like spring marathons. They are always hotter than the temps I’ve trained in, and historically I just haven’t run that well in them.

So, a full marathon was out, and since I still wanted a “goal” to get my butt out of bed in the morning, I decided to focus on shorter distances and reclaiming my speed. My target race is a half-marathon in the middle of April, but generally I just wanted to think (for the first time) less about mileage and more about shorter, hard key workouts. My other “short distance” PRs were dusty as well, so I figured this spring would be a good time to do an overall refresh and reset on my running. The end goal, ultimately, being a faster marathon time (because they’re still my jam), but that can wait for now.

Anyway, onto this past Saturday’s 5k!

I was really pumped up for this race, namely for the fact that I really wanted to race it. The time on the clock was certainly a consideration, but mainly I wanted to focus on embracing discomfort and pushing through it. In researching race results from last year, I also hypothesized that I could break into the top 10 women as well. Game on!

I planned a light training week beforehand, and the morning of I did everything 5k-specific I could; a slow 1.5 mile warm up, activation exercises, and strides. Mentally, I treated it as I would another “big” race, including a lot of visualization of running strong and shutting down fear. I lined up near-ish the front of the pack (which with over 2,000 runners was not easy) and took some restorative, calming deep breaths. And then boom, we were off!

I knew the course started on a very slight downhill, followed by a slight uphill, and finished fairly flat. I told myself to take advantage of that first mile and not be scared of a fast split – which in hindsight was a good forethought. My watch buzzed right at 1 mile in 6:16…which might be the fastest mile I’ve ever run. But I felt great! My lungs were a little fiery, but it was manageable and I mentally checked out of mile 1 and focused solely on mile 2. And shortly after…things started to get uncomfortable. We were on that “slight” uphill at this point, and it felt anything but slight. I focused on maintaining my form, maintaining my position (although I had zero idea how many women were in front of me), and keeping calm.

I peeked at my watch a few times, but it frankly felt like too much wasted effort, so I just tried to stay strong. Closing out mile 2 (6:47), I was excited to finish the thing off, since I could mentally handle 1.1 miles to go. There were two hair pin turns in mile 3, which kind of threw off my groove, but they made for nice landmarks to focus on. I was also able to run back by the other runners coming out to mile 3 on the way to the finish line, and I got a wave and cheer from my dad and step-mom who were also running the race. I might have even mustered a smile, but who really knows what it looked like.

pain face, coming down the finishing stretch

Pain face, coming down the finishing stretch. Photo by Adam.

The finish line was closing in, and things were hurting. I had no energy to think about anything other than holding my pace and getting it done – so all thoughts of finishing place and time were completely out of my mind. As I neared the end, I could see the large clock ticking below the 20:20 mark – which was the first time  I realized that my goal of breaking my 21:05 PR was going to the crushed.

photo 2 (3)

I busted over the line, immediately stopped my watch, put my hands on my knees, and tried to catch my breath through the huge smile on my face.

20:17, 9th female overall, and 1st in my age group.

Leading up to the race, I was generally just hoping for a strong finishing spot and a 20:xx finishing time. This result was beyond my expectations for the day, although I won’t say it was beyond my expectations for myself. I think part of why I was excited for this chance to run hard was because I know there’s more out there for me to reach toward, and this result validated that I should probably stop limiting myself as I tend to do. I’m feeling encouraged and motivated after the fact – and somehow for the first time I haven’t sworn off the distance for another two years😉

Additionally, since I was able to beat a record previously set at sea-level at 6,000+ ft elevation, I realized I need to stop sand-bagging myself with the “altitude” excuse. Sure, it’s a factor, but I think I’ve reached a point where comparing myself to my Seattle-self isn’t really relevant anymore. Which is exciting! I also think these last two paragraphs may have come across as a giant non-humble brag, but…just trying to keep it real.

I’m looking forward to what’s to come, both within the next few months and for the rest of this year. I’ve got the aforementioned half-marathon on April 12th coming up, a 10k on Memorial Day, and I might try and schedule another little race pre-wedding. I’m excited for the momentum shift that seems to have happened, and I’m hoping to capitalize on it throughout the spring.

Hope everyone had a good weekend! Hallelujah for the (almost) end of winter, amiright?

Ch-ch-changes

…hi

Yep, I fell into a deep pit of not blogging (and not even considering blogging for that matter), and I just now managed to drag myself out of it. There are a million excuses, per usual, but they’re all either not interesting, too personal, or some combination of those two.

The short story of what happened after Philadelphia goes like this: I recovered what I thought was a proper amount, it wasn’t, I was burned out hard, Colorado was super cold and snowy, we moved, more burn out, more snow, and now, at long last, I’ve finally started to feel motivated again. Unrelated (read: completely related) is the fact that my speed reappeared, and in a very encouraging way. I’m actually running faster now than I was during Philly training, which is really exciting given the fact that I’ve generally been a Grinch regarding my speed for the past year. However, I’ve finally started thinking beyond “getting back to where I was,” which is the mode I was stuck in for far too long.

photo (32)

Mountain-top handstands for feeling BACK!

In this aforementioned year, a lot has changed in regard to my training and running in general. Chalk it up to the Colorado move, boredom, or just natural exercise-evolutionary process, but I’m not really the runner I was when I left Seattle. Most of it’s for the better, at least I like to think, but it’s generally just been a big overhaul. Here’s what has been going on:

I don’t run with music anymore

I don’t know the exact point in which this switch happened, but somehow I turned from someone who listened to music on 90% of their runs to a person who runs almost exclusively without music.

This still kind of blows my mind, considering the amount of panic I used to feel whenever music wasn’t going to be available for a run. When I first started in the long-distance world, plugging into my headphones and hitting the pavement went entirely hand-in-hand. Which I totally enjoyed; particular songs elicited different emotions, several of which I could tie back to either running or however I was feeling that day. My “running music” became the soundtrack to this passion I was building for distance running, and I enjoyed the background noise just as much as I enjoyed the miles.

Exhibit A: First half-marathon ever! Check out that i-pod arm band!

Exhibit A: First half-marathon ever! Check out that iPod arm band! Also, pretty sure I bought that cotton Target shirt exclusively for this race. Totally makes sense.

As most people can probably guess, running (namely, long runs) can get a little boring, which is why a good playlist can be clutch in getting the job done. I was no exception to this line of thinking, and therein spent years ensuring my little nano/shuffle/whatever was as well-prepped for the miles to come as I was.

But then, something happened. Namely, moving to a new city and needing frequent restroom breaks happened.

I run in the morning, and for most of the year, it’s completely dark out when I start. Living in a new place where I was navigating uncharted routes didn’t feel entirely safe with my headphones in. I would use the music on weekend long-runs when daylight was guaranteed, but for my early morning jaunts, I accepted that for the time being, it was safer to stay alert.

At the same time, I realized fairly quickly that my frequent need for potty stops and listening to music did not go well together. It’s a little hard to explain, but essentially it took all of my concentration to keep my digestive system calm and manageable – and even that hardly ever worked. Listening to music when I was dealing with an incredibly unpredictable and temperamental gut just kind of made me more wound up, and I found that when I was in desperate need of a nearby bathroom, having music on did nothing to help keep me calm. That might not make sense, but basically the combination of my irritable stomach and wanting to stay safe on the streets was enough to break my music-listening habits.

And now? I’ve remained unplugged, despite the fact that my location awareness and Crohn’s issues are much better. And I love it! It feels simpler, more purist, and I’ve found a love for the routine sounds that occur on a run: the pitter-patter of my feet, the friendly “hello” from a stranger, and the chirping birds as they wake up. I’ve tried listening to music again as inspiration to get me out the door, but I’ve found I almost have a distaste for it at this point. Even on long runs, when I am indeed bored and ready to be done, music just kind of annoys me when it’s on. Granted, this is partly due to the fact that I have more company now on runs than I ever have before (see third bolded statement below), but even when I’m alone – I much prefer the sounds on the run as opposed to the sounds on the ‘pod.

Look at me! Running a full marathon! No iPod! Booyah!

Look at me! Running a full marathon! No iPod! Booyah!

I don’t go to the gym anymore, and I don’t really cross-train anymore

If you’ve read here for a while, you might remember that I used to be a boss at doing different types of cardio. I would run and train for races, but I always incorporated frequent spin classes, lap swimming, and Body Pump classes. Seriously though, if you compared a week of training for me two years ago compared to a week now, the difference would be kind of astounding. In fact, for fun, here’s one from 2012. Stair stepper, treadmill, spin, swimming, and lifting all in one week?! I don’t really know who that person was, but since then I’ve either become a lot lazier or just less manic about being an A+ exerciser.

Nope

Nope

I cannot tell you the last time I went to our gym. The thought of going kind of revolts me right now, which is why I’ve somehow managed to do every single run this winter outside, no matter how slow and slippery it may be. Or, I just don’t exercise. It used to be that I wanted to get a good cardio fix no matter the medium (run, spin, pool, etc.), but now my disinterest in anything other than running has forced me to accept more rest days, which I’m really appreciating and enjoying.

Oh, and let’s not forget an important factor here: November Project! In some ways, I do consider this cross-training, considering the plyometric and body-weight emphasis in a lot of our workouts. But more than anything, no matter the conditions – I would always rather be outside with those people than inside either alone or with a bunch of strangers. The workouts are always quality, but the community and the camaraderie are what have really caused me to remove my “gym rat” name tag altogether.

But seriously. Sledding + running up hills with your friends > everything else

But seriously. Sledding + running up hills with your friends > everything else

One thing that I have reintroduced to my routine is yoga, which has taken on an entirely different role than it used to. Before, it was simply a check-list item which I begrudgingly tolerated since I always had running aches and pains, and I knew it would help ward off injury. But, I spent every class with my third-eye focused on the clock in the room, counting down the minutes til savasana.

Now, my practice has entirely transformed – and I find myself sometimes craving an hour in the studio more than an hour on the roads. I’ve been loving the trifecta of spiritual, physical, and restorative elements incorporated in yoga, and I love that classes can emphasize either one or all of those aspects together, depending on the day. Not to mention that I’m certain doing yoga (I’ve been going about twice a week) has been tremendously beneficial in my desire to run most days of the week. The balance between running, NP, and yoga has all my exercise needs entirely filled right now, and then some, so for the time being – I’m going to stay far away from the gym.

*for the sake of not jinxing myself, I wholly acknowledge that being injury-free has helped me avoid the gym

I run with other people now

This is easily the biggest change in my running, and I think the very best one. In fact, it kind of saddens me just how long I jogged along by my lonesome.

There were a few reasons why I never ran with people before, but mainly it was due to the fact that A) I had no running friends within the vicinity of our neighborhood, and B) I didn’t really know how to run with other people. That second point sounds weird, but the only running I ever really did with other people was for a fun run or a run before an event. Does that make sense? Never was it the pavement-pounding, boring grind of just getting a regular run done. I was too conscious of coordinating speeds, schedules (5 am typically doesn’t make you many friends), and logistics to attempt finding a training buddy. And, a big part of me enjoyed running alone. I could choose my own pace and route, and I wasn’t accountable to anyone else’s schedule but my own.

One of those blue-moon times when I would run with other people. Also, hi Seattle peeps! I miss you.

One of those blue-moon times when I would run with other people. Also, hi Seattle peeps! I miss you.

I’m actually going to write an entire post about this, so I’ll try to refrain from explaining more of my thoughts (and there are lots of them!). But, currently I run with someone else maybe 50% of the time, which is a HUGE change. Most of the time, it’s with this girl, who’s been a training game-changer in so many ways. But like I said – that’s a love letter for another day.

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Holy shit this is a long post. I hope you’ve made it this far. In fact, if you even opened up this post – thank you, I know it’s been while. I have to hit publish soon before this disappears into the abyss of drafted posts that are piling high right now. But, I do pinky promise to not let this be my only update until another three months go by. I do have more things to say and some races coming up – so you’ll be hearing from me sooner rather than later.

I’m also going to end with something I haven’t done in YEARS. And generally I don’t love to do this, but I am curious:

What is something that’s done a 180 degree turn for you in your running life?

 

2014: The Year of Everything

Without question, 2014 was the biggest “holy shit!” year of my life.

It wasn’t necessarily “the best” (although in some ways it was), and it wasn’t even the most “life-changing,” but it was certainly filled with the most moments where I couldn’t really believe everything that was happening.

In the spirit of the New Year, and because I feel like I want to actually document the craziness that was this past year, here’s a look at the big stuff that happened in 2014. Warning, there was a lot of it. And in hindsight, a great majority of it had to do with running.

January

After being immobile, inactive, and basically a waste of space for so long, I finally returned to the land of the living and started, well, living again. And running.

One of my first runs post-injury and in the midst of flare recovery. I was in California and elated to be in shorts and a tank. Obviously, based on the mirror selfie.

One of my first runs post-injury and in the midst of flare recovery. I was in California and elated to be in shorts and a tank. Obviously, based on the mirror selfie. 

February

Surprise! We’re moving! I left my 8-years of Washington residency and followed Adam and his new job to the motherland, Colorado. I quit my job and took a leap of faith into the unknown of a new city and no employment.

The view from my beloved old commute to/from work in Seattle. I miss this every day.

The view from my beloved old commute to/from work in Seattle. I miss this every day.

March

Duh

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But also! I got a new job approximately 60 hours after our moving truck pulled up to our new apartment. Trust me, I do not take for granted my luck in this department. Now I had a new city, new fiancee, and a new job. Life was blowing up in my face.

April

Crohn’s is back. Bad.

Running the Boston Marathon despite Crohn’s being back. Good! This was a huge highlight for the year. I like to daydream about this experience a lot of the time.

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Go with my new friend Julia to a workout group called, “November Project.” Get my ass kicked. Become hooked.

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May

Nothing huge happened in May, but here were some fun things I did. Also, Crohn’s starting to settle down. Good!

Running a half-marathon with my best friend Anna on her journey toward her first full marathon (see: October below)

Running a half-marathon with my best friend Anna on her journey toward her first full marathon (see: October below)

Running up Bergen Peak for Julia's birthday, get a taste for this "trail running" thing

Run up Bergen Peak for Julia’s birthday, getting a taste for this “trail running” thing

June

I climbed ten 14ers this summer and became addicted to the all-consuming, primal feel of being in the mountains. The first one was in June, therefore June gets to be highlighted.

Atop Mt. Sherman

Atop Mt. Sherman

They're calling

They’re calling 

July

Ragnar NWP! I made my way back to beautiful Seattle and ran 35+ glorious miles with my wonderful WA running family. I felt the best stomach-wise and running-wise than I had in 8 months. Happiness all around.

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August

Bird Camp! Had a lot of fun running around Bend, OR with Oiselle teammates plus old and new friends.

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September

Ran a super fun half-marathon with my family, start to feel my speed coming back, get a little more confident in potential for Philadelphia Marathon.

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October

Witness a “first marathon” experience from the other side. Seeing Anna cross that finish line was unbelievably inspiring.

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I also start going to yoga again, which made me wonder why I ever stopped. I’m resolved to continue my practice throughout 2015.

November

The best race I’ve ever run. Unexpectedly PR’ed the marathon, broke 3:30, and actually enjoyed every step of 26.2 miles.

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December

We’re moving!

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Yes, again. Our site-unseen tiny apartment worked temporarily, but it was time for an upgrade. Adam and I found a perfect little bungalow (rental) house, and we’re in the process of moving all our things in several back-and-forth 8 minute car trips. We’re elated.

It’s hard to believe that 2015 could top 2014. So many changes happened, and if you told me on December 31, 2013 that all of the above would occur, I would never have believed you. But that’s the wonderful thing about life; the unexpected tends to hold the most fun. I can’t imagine life right now without some of the things that occurred in 2014 (NP, Denver, etc.), and I have a feeling the good stuff is only going to continue to get better.

Oh, and there’s a certain occasion happening on June 20th this upcoming year. I’m just guessing here, but I’m pretty sure that milestone will make it’s way to the top of my 2015 list. I can’t wait to see, though, what the rest of it holds.🙂

Happy New Year everyone!