Category Archives: Marathon

Philadelphia Marathon Race Recap

I haven’t told many people this, but when I ran Eugene back in Spring 2013, I wasn’t very happy with my race. Of course I was glad I qualified for Boston, and I felt like a tool saying I was displeased with a 10+ minute PR, so I kept it to myself that I felt like I had a better race in me.

But ever since then, I’ve longed for a different kind of marathon; one that left me proud and satisfied that my execution, training, and heart were all acting in harmony for 26.2 miles. It’s a tall order, no doubt, but I refused to believe it wasn’t possible.

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Going into Philadelphia, I felt incredibly calm and prepared, but not prepared in the same way I felt before Eugene. At that point in time, I knew I had a BQ in the bag, and because I was so confident in that goal, I let the disappointment of the secret A+ goal (sub 3:30) overrule the achievement of qualifying. With Philly, I was hesitant to make time goals – not so much for fear of being disappointed, but because I didn’t really know what I was capable of in the same way I used to be. I trained loosely for a goal pace, but that pace never felt very easy or like I could keep it up for a full marathon. So, when pressed for some tangible goals, this is what I decided:

“A” Goal: 3:3x on the clock. Of course I wanted to re-qualify for Boston, but because I was so unsure of how the race would go, I thought it would be more realistic to go for a time frame instead.

“B” Goal 3:4x on the clock. It wouldn’t be great, but it wouldn’t be too bad. Not to mention it would still be 20 minutes under my time from Boston this year.

“C” Goal: Faster than my Boston time (4:08). I wasn’t really concerned about beating that time, but you never really know with these things.

So those were my goals. A very wide range, but they gave me some room to work with and kept me from being too stressed about pace or splits.

But there was one thing I didn’t really tell anyone, and in hindsight I probably should have paid more attention to it; I had an incredibly good feeling about this race. I don’t know if it was the amount of visualization I did ahead of time (there was a lot), the solid training cycle, or just a gut feeling, but there was something telling me that something special could happen.

So as not to bore you with all the details leading up to race morning, let’s just kick things off right from the get go.

"Pre-race details" includes being paranoid that I walked too much the day before and this is how I looked for a lot of the night beforehand. Also, I'm wearing the same shirt as I wore for the race. Underpacked? Yea...

“Details” include being paranoid that I walked too much the day before and this is how I looked for a lot of the night beforehand. Also, I’m wearing the same shirt as I wore for the race. My Oiselle jersey was going to be too cold, and this was my only long-sleeve. Underpacked? Yea…

We woke up around 4:30 am on Sunday, and I was fairly pleased with my sleep the night before. After some breakfast, our pre-ordered cab arrived at 5:30 on the dot. We were only about 1.5 miles from the start, but I didn’t want to waste any energy walking there. We arrived, went through security, and checked our bag really quickly…too quickly. We had just over an hour until the race started, and it wasn’t exactly toasty in the waiting area. Note to self: the next time I choose a late-November marathon, buy more throwaway clothes! We were freeeeezing, and I started to panic I would shiver off all my extra tapered energy before the race even started. While standing in the port-a-potty lines, Adam and I were “that” couple holding each-other way too closely just for warmth purposes. And speaking of…my PRP seriously left something to be desired. WTF? Luckily, this didn’t cause any issues during the race 🙂

After a few times through the bathroom line, it was time to line up in our start corrals..the race was about the start! I proceeded to strip down, toss my throwaway fleece directly into some dude’s face (we all had a good laugh about it), and take some deep breaths. And just like that…off we went!

Very standard crowded race start. I didn’t want to do any weaving, but it quickly became clear that people didn’t exactly start in their assigned corral. So I wound my way around some folks, trying to stay as streamlined as possible, but oh baby did it feel good to just be running! The sun was rising, and we were running right toward the Philadelphia skyline – good stuff! My goal for the first few miles was to stay around 8:15-8:20 pace, so I tried to sneak some peaks down at my watch early on to get into this rhythm. I managed to get pretty comfortable right around there, and I tried to just relax, soak it all in, and enjoy the city. Miles 1-4 or so wound all through the downtown streets and they were pretty packed with cheering crowds. It was awesome! There was such great energy, and I was feeling really calm and collected.

I don’t remember a ton in those earlier miles, except that I kept trying to remind myself to stay smart and stay boring. I would shake my hands out by my sides and wiggle my jaw loose to keep out any tension, and generally I was just trying to run by feel and keep my breathing easy. I wanted to just stay in the moment and not get carried away with the miles to come or the emotion I knew I had invested in this race. There was plenty of time for that later on.

In the back of my head though, I knew that running a negative split meant that the second half would need to be run under an 8:00 pace. I tried to block that out, although there was definitely a lingering feeling that at some point soon, I was going to need to step it up.

Mile 1: 8:15

Mile 2: 8:17

Mile 3: 7:54

Mile 4: 8:03

Mile 5: 8:14

I took my first two Shot Blocks and grabbed my first water cup at the 5.5 mile aid station, and it was the perfect time to start gearing up for the “hill” portion of the race. The first major hill of the course came around during mile 7, and this was the first time I definitly noticed the training-at-altitude advantage I had; it was no problem! I cruised up, and despite having planned on that mile being a bit slower, it ended up being right on pace with the rest of the race. I was definitely thankful for all the stair climbing and trail hills I managed to include in my training at this point. I also tried to capitalize on the downhill that followed, which always gives my turnover a good boost. Miles 9 and 10 had another up and another down, more water and Shot Blocks, and although I felt a little energy drain on the uphill effort, I was able to recover quickly and get back in the zone.

Mile 6: 8:11

Mile 7: 7:59

Mile 8: 8:10

Mile 9: 7:44

Mile 10: 8:15

At this point, we were running along the river, heading back toward the city. I knew that once we got close to the halfway point, everyone running the half-marathon would peel off toward the finish line, so I tried to keep focus and not think about the fact that I’d still have an entire half to run (with many fewer people along for the ride.)

Mile 11: 7:34

Mile 12: 7:47

Mile 13: 8:02

I clocked the first half right around 1:46, which is exactly where I’d hoped to be in terms of first-half pacing.

No idea when this was taken, but this is the expression I had for the majority of the race.

No idea when this was taken, but this is the expression I had for the majority of the race.

There was actually something kind of magical about heading back out along with the other marathoners; a shared battle we were all ready to take on together. Things were also spread out enough at this point that I could keep step with some people around me, and I started to listen in to some of the conversations happening. I had my iPod with me and had actually planned on plugging in once we completed the first half, but it didn’t feel necessary yet – so I stayed tuned into the race around me. The second half of the course is essentially an enormous out and back, with a small out and back tagged on in the middle, which I thought might be a little tedious, but again – I was just trying to stay in the mile. Mile 14 went by, mile 15 went by, and I still wasn’t interested in my headphones. I continued to shake my hands out, take deep breaths, and continue on at the pace I was holding. I felt good; strong, controlled, and ready to let my heart and emotions play a bigger role.

Mile 14: 7:40

Mile 15: 7:51

Right around mile 16, a girl saddled up next to me and asked if she could hang onto my pace for a bit. Indeed, new friend! I’d overheard her talking to someone else earlier, so I knew she was after a BQ, and after I told her I’d run Boston this last spring, I think she trusted I knew what I was doing. Ha! But fake it til you make it, right? I could tell she felt strong and ready to race the rest of this thing, so I figured for however long this lasted – we could help one another out. I learned her name was Sadie, she was from New York, and this was her second marathon. She had some sass, and I loved it. Around mile 17 or so, we started to see the lead runners coming back on the other side of the road, which was super fun. We both cheered everyone on, and these miles seemed to go by pretty quick. My watch was decently behind the mile markers, but since she was doing manual mile lapping, she read off our splits whenever we hit one. We were averaging right around or right below 7:50 miles, which at this point was exactly on par with my negative splitting ambitions.

Mile 16: 7:57

Mile 17: 7:44

Mile 18: 8:01

Mile 19: 7:43

At one point, we saw a man on the other side of the road with a Central Park Track Club jersey on and Sadie yelled, “Way to go NYC!” She explained that he was part of a big Central Park running group, and I had to stop myself from saying, “Homegirl, I read hella running blogs and I know way too much about both that club and some of its members already.”

Around mile 19.5, we were getting close to the major turnaround and Sadie was clearly rearing to go. After she got a couple strides ahead of me and I noticed our pace was around 7:35s, I told her to go ahead. She’d definitely helped me out, and I wanted her to have the kickass finish I could tell she was after. Sadie, if you’re out there, I’m pretty sure you killed that BQ goal! Thanks for carrying me along.

We turned around right near mile 20, and I still felt great. I had grabbed some orange slices from a good samaritan a little while beforehand, and I could feel them kicking it. Time to finish this thing! It was a definite energy boost to be heading back toward the finish line as opposed to away from it. And although the crowds weren’t as thick as they were in the city, I was so impressed with the people that were out. Without my iPod I could hear all the times people yelled my name or “Go November Project!” which was so helpful. Speaking of, around mile 22 I ran by what had to have been the Philly NP cheering station. One guy (maybe the leader?) saw me and yelled, “NP DENVER! WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU!” I wanted to accept/give so many hugs, but their high fives and cheers would have to suffice; I couldn’t stop now!

Mile 20: 7:53

Mile 21: 7:45

Mile 22: 8:00

I refused to do any mental math in my head in terms of finishing time, but I was certainly running at this point with the hope that something awesome could happen at the finish line. I kept reminding myself that I was in control; the was my race, my story, and I was the one in charge of the outcome. I’d told myself for 16 weeks that I was capable, and now was the time to bring all that visualization to life.

Maybe I was in more pain than I remember, according to this photo. Definitely getting a little harder...

Maybe I was in more pain than I remember, according to this photo. Definitely getting a little harder…

So on I ran. I kept waiting for my pace to slow, for the wall that I knew all too well to smash right into me. But there was no wall, and although my legs were aching and my feet were killing me, I kept pushing. I continuously replayed over and over in my head the mantras I’d told myself all through my training, and I let those emotions I’d kept in check all week beforehand and throughout the first half of the race pour energy into my legs. I was writing this story, and I was going to make it a good one.

Mile 23: 7:52

Only a 5k to go. That was once around Green Lake in Seattle, right? I remember running that loop when I first started running again in February; it was the first time since being sick and injured that I kind of felt good again.

Mile 24: 7:52

Ugh, I’m .2 miles behind on my watch! So is that 2.2 miles to go? Or 2.4? I don’t know anymore. Keep running!

Mile 24.5: Are those gummy bears? Yes! Gummy bears! GIVE ME!

Mile 25: 7:56

Wait a minute, holy shit, I might be under 3:30. How long have I had these gummy bears in my mouth? I can’t swallow them, I can’t spit them out, I guess I’ll just carry them in my mouth.

Mile 25.5: Less than a mile. Make this happen, Robyn. This is the race you’ve been waiting for. This is yours. Go get it.

Mile 26: 8:07

We saw that mile marker flag this morning! It looks so much prettier now! There’s the finish line! Goooooo.

I was flying. Without even thinking about it, my finishing kick came from somewhere else; an energy source that was stored away just for this moment. I peaked down at my watch just in time to see that with enough gusto, my finishing time wouldn’t just be faster than Boston, wouldn’t just be a PR, but would be under 3:30.

Final .38 (clearly ran the tangents like a boss): 7:24 pace

With 50 yards to go, I spotted Adam in the crowd, waving and then motioning for me to finish the damn thing (he knew I was within seconds of that 3:30 mark). I strode and strode, realizing that the dream I didn’t even know was possible today was coming true, and I had made it come true.

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I heard my name, raised my arms in the air, stopped my watch, and let out some sort of exclamatory yell.

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Official time: 3:29:49. Booyah! I was elated, overwhelmed, and in a daze. Did that actually just happen? Who was that person running for the past 10 miles at a faster pace than they’ve run in almost a year? Holy shit, that was me! I did it!

The trudge back through the recovery area include a little eye mistiness, a lot of looking for my fiancee, and a quick realization that everything, literally everything, hurt. While I may have been able to block out the pain while running, it was quickly catching up with me.

At some point I got a bag of food and some water, and after calling Adam on a random cell phone, I finally was able to meet up with him – at which point it all came out; lots and lots of tears. Adam killed the half too, finishing in 1:54, way under what he expected for the day! So proud.

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I’m still kind of processing the entire experience, and I still can’t really believe it. It was the race I’d been picturing ever since I started running marathons, the race that I visualized when I needed inspiration throughout the past year, and the race that kept me training and kept me pushing even when none of it felt worthwhile.

I have a lot of thoughts on the things that I felt I did well in terms of both preparation and race execution, but I’ll save that for another post. For now, I’ll just say thank you to all of you; your encouragement, your cheers, and your support over this past year in every capacity was in the front of my mind for all 26.2 miles. I feel unbelievably lucky to have a system of friends and family who without question have supported this crazy sport, and none of it would be possible (or fun) without you.

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Now, when’s the next one??

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Philadelphia Marathon Training Weeks #15 and (most of) #16

It’s race week people! And I’m weirdly calm. I can feel some nerves creeping in a little, but generally I’m just feeling good; rested, ready and excited! I feel like I did (most) everything I could in terms of training and preparing for this race, and so now it’s just time to let it rip on Sunday.

I am still having a really hard time figuring out my goals and/or pace plan. I know where I could be on an incredible day, I know where I could be on an average day, and I know things could just get ugly, but there’s a very wide time range between those outcomes. I’m not going to sandbag myself at all, as I will certainly be racing and running as competitively as I can on Sunday, I just don’t really know what that will mean. I suppose I’m just going to try to run the best I can on that day, give my very best, and stay as mentally strong as I can.

My mantra for Sunday is to be smart in the first half and be brave in the second half (also known as: don’t be an idiot, then don’t be a wimp).

If I were to have ONE main goal, it’s to negative split the race. Out of my five marathons, the two that actually felt good were the ones I negative split. I have drilled this technique into my head over the past few months, and I’ve been running my long runs this way as well. Baring something terrible happening, I am determined to run the second half faster than the first. I’m less concerned about the “holding back” in the first part element of this equation so much as the pushing it after mile 13 element. Digging deep on tired legs is a scary thought, and it’s going to necessitate a great deal of mental focus and strength. I like to think I have these qualities, but the marathon is a merciless beast and has eaten me alive before. I’d be lying if I said the distance doesn’t scare me anymore since I’ve run it five times now. In fact, I’d say it scares me more because I’ve already faced it.

But here’s what I’ve been taught about fear: When things are important to us, there is always going to be an element of fear involved. When it comes to goals that we’ve been focusing on and working toward, this fear (namely the fear of failure) is even more pronounced. But when you want something more than you fear it, when you can channel those scared feelings into feelings of deep determination – you take control over fear, and consequently – you cannot fail.

There are some big goals that I want in regard to the marathon distance, and while it will take more than one race to achieve them, I intend to use Sunday as a step toward getting that much closer.

Here’s how the last two weeks of tapering have been:

Week #15 (aka: the week of the polar bomb)

This is the average amount of clothing I had to lay out before every day I ran last week.

This is the average amount of clothing I had to lay out before every day I ran last week.

Monday: rest

Tuesday: 7.5 miles + PM hot yoga

13 degrees outside and the first time I wore tights to run in this year. Thankfully Julia joined in on the fun, or else my bed probably would have won out.

Wednesday: November Project workout + run to/from (5.5 miles)

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ONE DEGREE. Good thing I’ve got a weatherproof crew of badass people to inspire me to get outside. This workout was slow and easy stairs, and it was so special. To be out there in frigid cold, defying all natural instincts to hibernate, with some awesome people was an incredible thing and was one of my more memorable NP workouts.

Thursday: 75 minute yoga class

One of the best classes I’ve ever been to at my new studio. Good stuff!

Friday: November Project workout + run to/from (6 miles)

We ran up and down a gentle hill in the 9 degree weather. I took it easy, smiled a lot and probably shivered more.

Saturday: 12 miles

Last “long run” of the training cycle! It was snowing the whole time and I had a hard time seeing since snowflakes kept sticking to my eyelashes and not melting since it was so cold. It was beautiful, but this run seemed to take forever. My speed was fine, my legs felt fine, it just seemed to drag.

Sunday: 4 miles easy + hot yoga

Hottest hot yoga class I’ve ever been to. It was certainly cleansing and relaxing, but it was a little too hot for my preference.

Total= 35 miles

 

Week #16 (aka: this week, aka: RACE WEEK)

Monday: rest

Tuesday: 7 miles with Julia

Wednesday: 6 miles

I ran to November Project, sat out of the workout and took pictures, and still loved it as much as if I’d been participating. Really great to see my people, give some hugs, and get some good lucks before the race.

Thursday: yoga

Easy flow class this morning, it was lovely.

Friday (planned): 4 easy miles, shake out

Saturday (planned): rest

Sunday: yea…

You can add “binge watched Lost” to most days up there, as that’s been my chosen taper distraction technique. It’s really good for keeping me occupied, not so good for keeping my heart rate low.

Generally, I’m really happy with how things are feeling this week. I feel like I’ve balanced resting and continuing to move really well, and my body is feeling more and more ready every day. My legs, somehow, have felt great on every run this week – let’s hope that’s a sign of good things to come on Sunday! I’m trying a new technique of not doing the shake out the day before the race, and I’m excited for it. I always feel like my legs feel best after full rest days – so let’s hope this holds some truth. My guess is that we’ll be walking around Philly enough to get blood moving and to calm any nerves.

This is it! I’m really excited. Thank you all for your encouragement through this training cycle – it’s been a good one!

Here is tracking information, and my bib number is 2276.

Gah! Okay, time to buckle it in until Sunday. Booyah!

 

Philadelphia Marathon Training Weeks #8 and #9

Training! It’s been happening. Let’s recap before I forget all of it.

Hard to believe I’ve been marathon training for 9 weeks now. It feels like I’ve done nothing…but I suppose that’s not true. These next few weeks are going to include some hard workouts and high mileage before I taper down for three weeks. In a lot of ways I feel like I haven’t been doing the tough work I need/want to be doing, but when I look back I suppose things haven’t been too lackluster. There’s been progress, and I need to remember that.

Week #8 (9/22 – 9/28)

Monday: rest

Tuesday: 8 miles, or at least…this is what I think I did? Not a lot of recording happened this week

Wednesday: November Project workout (clovers) + run to and from, ~6.5 miles total

Advantage of shorty shorts: even the most height-deprived of us get to have the illusion of long legs

Advantage of shorty shorts: even the most height-deprived of us get to have the illusion of long legs

So. Hard. This is a workout that is always hard, but since the first time I did it…it’s become a little easier every time. Not today. Following my half-marathon the Sunday before, my legs were not happy during these 35 minutes of stair running.

Thursday: 9 miles

Friday: November Project workout + happy hour run, ~7 miles total

We played capture the flag for NP and it was SO fun. After work, some members reconvened for a little jogging followed by beers. Again, so fun.

Saturday: 6.5 miles, so slow

Sunday: 20 miles

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A friend is running the Denver Rock ‘n Roll full marathon in a few weeks and wanted to log her 20 mile run along the course. Julia and I joined her, and I’m still in shock at just how much better long runs are with friends. They go by so much faster, they’re so much less boring, and in a lot of ways I think they’re easier. This was a great run – my energy was high, my legs felt good, and it was followed by a great brunch.

Total= 57 miles, highest yet!

Week #9 (9/29 – 10/5)

Monday: rest

Tuesday: 9 miles + Core Power yoga class

Would you look at that…something new and exciting! After months of hating my gym and not lifting or really cross-training, it was time to do something that would help my running. Julia and I decided to try out a few yoga studios via newbie deals/Groupons and choose one we liked to stick with. This month is Core Power, and I’m digging it so far. A great combo of stretching, strength, and sweat, with just the right amount of “om” factored in.

Wednesday: November Project workout + run to/from, 6 miles total

High fives and hugs, natch

High fives and hugs, natch

Thursday: 9 miles w/ 5 mile tempo + 5 x 100 meter strides + Core Power yoga

I had very good intentions about doing 800s on this day, but when the track was pitch black my desire to be in the people-filled park changed my workout plan to a tempo run. Which, ultimately, is fine – as marathon training necessitates longer hard effort workouts rather than short intervals anyway, IMO. Anyway, I ran two laps of Wash Park (2.5 miles each) at a 7:30-7:40 pace, stopping twice briefly (once halfway through for a breather and once for a bathroom break…). Regardless, I was happy with the splits (avg. 7:35), although I wish this had felt a little easier. Finished off with some striders, which are always my favorite. More Core Power that night, more yoga love.

Friday: November Project workout + running pre and post, 7 miles total

Such a fun circuit, Friday NP workouts are the best!

Saturday: 14 miles w/ 8 miles at GMP

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I don’t really know what my goal marathon pace is yet, but as of late I’ve just been using my old goal pace for Eugene which was 7:50-8:00. That was my benchmark for when my speed was really clicking, so while it might be a little ambitious (/delusional) to use it as my default, I still find comfort in it. Anyway, I was in Portland for the weekend and didn’t want to spend 3 hours running super long, so I decided on a shorter long run with fast miles in the middle. Here’s what happened:

3 mile warm up, 8:09, 7:56, 7:43, 7:36, 7:41, 7:43, 7:28, 7:50, 3 mile cool down

Guess what? Running at sea level is the best. I ran almost solely on effort since I used a borrowed Garmin and couldn’t figure out how to change the display screen, which meant my paces didn’t show up until the end of each mile. Really pleased with this run; I felt controlled and it was just fun to run fast.

Sunday: ~5.5 miles of marathon “pacing”

I was so happy to get to watch my best friend Anna run her first marathon this weekend! Portland was my first marathon too, so being on the course from the other side brought back all kinds of happy memories. Anyway, we got to see her a handful of times in the first off, and then we plopped ourselves at mile 20 or so. Spectating is seriously so fun, especially when people have their names on their bibs like they do for PDX. Being at mile 20 was great too – because I always feel like that’s when I need a crowd booster.

SPOILER: she finished, like a boss.

SPOILER: she finished, like a boss.

Anyway, I hopped in with Anna (per her request) from miles 20-24, at which point she wanted to finish alone. In order to get back to the finish line to see her finish, I didn’t really have a choice but to run along the course until right around mile 26, where I scooted off. Want to feel like an asshole? Run past a bunch of marathoners when they’re on mile 24-26 on fresh legs that have only run a few miles. Seeing Anna finish was worth it though – she killed it, and there’s nothing like watching someone complete their first 26.2.

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Total = 50.5 miles

I was happy with training this past week, and I’m hoping to continue to see some fitness improvements over the next month before I have to taper! Here’s to the weeks ahead…

Happy Tuesday!

 

 

Playing Catch-Up: Fall Marathon Training, etc.

And suddenly it was almost September. Where has my blogging gone? There’s a handful of different posts I’ve been wanting to/meaning to write, but whenever there’s time available to write them, I’d rather be sleeping instead. Most hours of my days have been super full all summer – which is great – but again, I’m left with too much to say and no blog posts to show for it.

Life is hard, wah wah wah.

But hopefully there’s still a few of you out there that read, so I’m going to try and get down a few updates before I’ve lapped myself too much.

I’m training for a marathon, woo!

Training for Philadelphia officially started 3 weeks ago, and I’ve got 12 more weeks to get myself in fighting shape. My plan this time around is to get uncomfortable; actually do the workouts that I’m always scared to do instead of mindlessly clicking off junk miles. I’ve got a longgg way to go before my body and mind are in the spot I want them to be on November 23, but luckily I’ve got both time and decreasing temperatures on my side. In the meantime, I’m really happy with the base I’ve got, and provided I stay smart and stay hungry (figuratively of course..I’m always hungry literally), I think I have a decent shot at making good progress over the next three months.

The “plan” I’ve developed for myself is basically made up, with a little help from the Advanced Marathon Training schedule, which is what I used for Eugene. While I’d like to be the kind of person who can follow a by-the-book plan, it’s more important to me to keep certain things (like November Project) as a part of my routine. My schedule is focused on a key workout per week (unless it’s an off week), a long run, and overall mileage. I’d really like to peak around 60 miles per week, maybe a little higher, this time around— which I’m guessing shouldn’t be too hard since I’ve been around ~45 all summer. But generally I’m just listening to my legs and trying to ignore my head when it yells negative and discouraging thoughts at me. Admittedly the goals I have for this race are high, and it’s going to take a lot of umph to get there. I’m counting on fall weather, friends, and faith in myself to make it happen.

And because I need to write this down somewhere or it’s never getting in my spreadsheet (ha), here’s how training has gone so far:

Week 1

M: 8 miles w/ 5×100 meter strides

T: Rest

W: November Project workout + run to and from (~7 miles total)

T: 9 miles w/ 5 miles @7:30

F: Quandry Peak climb!

S: 5 trail miles

S: 14 heavenly miles @ 8:05 average <- best long run pace in a long time

Total: 43 miles

14er number 9 of the summer!

14er number 9 of the summer!

Week 2

M: 5 trail miles

T: 8 miles

W: Rest

T: 9 miles total, 3 in the morning, 5k race (22:00), 3 miles warm up/cool down

F: 7 trail miles (Smith Rock!)

S: 16 trail miles of perfection

S: ~3 miles

Total: 48 miles

Smith Rock is running heaven.

Smith Rock is running heaven.

Week 3

M: 7.5 miles

T: Rest

W: November Project workout + run to and from (6.5 miles total)

T: 8 miles total, 3 mile tempo @ 7:15 + 5 hill repeats

F: November Project workout + run to and from (9 miles total)

S: 6 miles

S: 14 miles

Total: 51 miles

Generally, I’m feeling pretty good. Despite my lack of strength training of any kind and not much cross training (oops…), I’m pleased with how things are going so far. Mileage wise, my legs are very comfortable here, which gives me confidence for gaining some momentum before too long. Once the weather stops being so perfect I suppose I’ll get back in the pool/gym, but for now I’m trying to integrate as much at-home strengthening gimmicks as I can…which isn’t much, but it’s something. Luckily, my twice weekly November Project attendance has done remarkable things to the strength (and size…) of my booty, which is where a lot of my running problems have stemmed from. The camaraderie also does remarkable things for my soul, but we’ll talk about NP another day. Overall, I have no doubt that keeping it in my schedule is not only helpful, but necessary.

Let’s see… what else? I ran a 5k for the first time in a year and a half (which you can see up there). I’ll recap probably in my next post, which needs to be followed by a post about the setting in which I ran said 5k: Bend, Oregon. I went to Bird Camp! Specifically, running summer camp for Oiselle runners that was all kinds of fun.

River soak post 16 trail miles. Bliss!

River soak post 16 trail miles. Bliss!

Oh, also, I’m running a half marathon this upcoming Monday, so I suppose I’ll need to work that in somewhere too. So you see, lots to talk about over here, and I’ll do my best to get it up. In the meantime, I’m really going to try and commit to weekly training recaps since they help me actually log the sweating that I do.

 

Thanks for sticking with me friends, happy fall race training to you!

 

Boston Marathon Race Recap

If I’m being perfectly honest, I actually have very little recollection on the specific details of the 26.2 miles I ran during the Boston Marathon.

It’s not because I was too tired and cloudy-headed; in fact, the entire time my mental energy was mostly upbeat, and I felt very aware of everything going on around me. But when you have an experience that wasn’t about pace, goals, or PRs as I ordinarily do, something different happens. Or at least, it did for me.

You see, my experience wasn’t really about my race. Because this time around, perhaps for the first time ever, very early on I let go of my always-competitive, tooth-and-nail means of running a race. And in doing so, I became aware of everything else: the other runners, the volunteers, the kids handing out orange slices, the college girls offering kisses, and the millions that came together to make this marathon come to life.

All those factors carried me throughout the Boston Marathon, and when you use as many distractions as you can to pull your aching legs and tired body to the finish line, you tend to forget the nuances of each and every mile.

Let’s see what I can remember though, because it was a special day.

This is happening!

This is happening!

As I’ve talked about perhaps one-too-many times, I went into this race with a lot of self-doubt regarding my running abilities and my stomach’s disabilities. I accepted that it wouldn’t be a great performance by my standards, and I accepted that more than likely it would be a personal-worst time. Knowing those things ahead of time certainly lessened the pressure, but I also envied those with big goals and impressive training.

Nevertheless, I wanted to enjoy the experience no matter what, which is exactly the mentality I woke up with on Marathon Monday. Shockingly, I slept great the night before. Perhaps at least 7 hours, with a few wake-ups here and there. Solid gold by race-eve standards, so I was feeling chipper and excited when it was time to get up and going.

Does anyone ever not take a picture like this?

Does anyone running a marathon ever not take a picture like this?

I ate a quiet breakfast by myself before starting to get ready, which was a nice time to really try and relax and focus on the day to come. Before too long though, it was time to suit up in my race kit and all my various throwaway layers and make the short walk over to the Boston Commons with Adam.

I met up with the wonderful Julia and we loaded up on the buses to head out to Hopkinton. I tried not to focus too much on the distance it took to get from Boston all the way to our starting point, but between chatting and admiring the scenery it wasn’t all that bad. Generally, there was an excitement among all the runners, and it was pretty contagious.

Arriving in Hopkinton and heading into Athlete Village was a little surreal; it was something I’d read about and heard about so much before, however to actually be there myself preparing to run the Boston Marathon was a pretty crazy feeling. The Village was totally outfitted with all pre-race necessities, including water, bagels, coffee, and lots and lots of port-a-potties. There were long lines even so, and I feel like a lot of our time was spent waiting in line multiple times.

Mckendree and Julia. Both are kickass runners and people.

Mckendree and Julia. Both are kickass runners and people.

Here’s where I tell you that despite months of having unhappy and overactive intestinal issues…on race morning, I had nada. Zilch, zero. WTF? While ordinarily this would have been a welcome change, it was not part of my “maybe I won’t have to stop a lot” race plan. My biggest fear going into this marathon wasn’t the hills or the distance…it was urgently needing to make pit stops. I’d gone over lots of bad-scenarios in my head, and none of them were pretty at all. Needless to say, this lack-of-activity I was experiencing on race morning wasn’t a good sign.

The show needed to go on though, and knowing there would be plenty of places to stop along the route helped ease my mind. Those none-goals I already had? Yea, they became much more lax given this new factor.

Enough already, let’s get to the race.

Once the B Wave was called to the start line, we all headed out, I made one more bathroom attempt (fail) and there was no turning back: it was time to run the Boston Marathon!

It all seemed to happen faster than I anticipated. All of a sudden, there was the start line, lots of television cameras, screaming fans, and holy shit…we’re running!

The first few miles felt very downhill, as expected. I’d heard over and over again that going out too fast was the surest way to screw up during Boston, so I drilled it into my head to not do so. I dialed it back, watched people fly past me, and did everything I could to feel really comfortable and relaxed. Of course, still, these miles ended up being my fastest overall, although the 8:35-ish pace I was holding felt so slow. It was really nice to be cruising so comfortably though, and I tried to soak up the atmosphere and be as present as possible.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 5.56.36 PM

The whole time, though, I was worried about my stomach. Full disclosure: recently when I’ve been running, the urgency comes on without much warning and very quickly, so I was really hyper-aware of where the upcoming aid stations would be. It was around mile 6 or so that I decided to duck into a bathroom for the first time. I’m not going to provide the details of every stop (there were 5 of them total) but none were necessarily satisfying, and I ran the entire race with a good deal of bloat and some unwelcome cramping. Love you, Crohn’s.

1-6

Lucky for me, there were plenty of distractions along the way. Every time we entered a new small town, the sides of the roads were completely lined with cheering people. In fact, I would say that 95% of the course had people supporting all the runners, and it was pretty unbelievable. I noticed early on that wearing your name on your shirt was a huge crowd-pleaser, and I think it would have been helpful to have had my name on me somewhere. Although I did get a fair amount of “Oy-sell!,” “O-sell!,” and my personal favorite, “Go Giselle!”

Regardless, the energy from the onlookers was palpable, and I definitely used their encouragement to keep me motivated.

I don’t remember much between miles 6-10, except that it was getting warm. I’ve definitely said this too many times, but I am NOT a fan of running in hot weather. Not one little bit. It’s the reason I typically dislike spring marathons (disregard the fact that I’ve run 3 of them now). I was happy for my tank top and shorts and remembering to wear sunscreen, but I could tell that the heat was going to take its toll on the race. The road was fairly exposed the whole time, and there wasn’t a cloud to be seen. Lovely for a spring day, not lovely for running a marathon.

I was paying marginal attention to my pace, but mostly to make sure I was staying comfortable and not running too fast too soon. I was around 9 minute miles which felt really smooth, although it was hard to guess exactly since I had stopped already and didn’t know how that had affected my pace.

After mile 10, I began to notice that my quads, specifically my left quad, was feeling a little sore. Fantastic. I had heard so many times of those downhill beginning miles taking their toll later on, but I suppose I didn’t really believe it until it snuck in all at once. Of course, my downhill training was nonexistent, but even still I figured that I might be spared since I started off conservatively. Wrong. Sad.

I spy...bathroom stop #2.

I spy…bathroom stop #2.

I began focusing on checkpoints, since I started to get overwhelmed by the thought that I wasn’t even halfway done. I thought about getting to mile 13, since that’s where Wellesley would be with all the screaming college girls I’d heard so much about. After that I thought about getting to 16, since I’d heard that if you feel good at 16, you’d have a good finish to the race. I didn’t exactly feel “good” at this point, but my spirits were still high and my legs still felt (mostly) strong.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 5.57.23 PM

I didn’t stop smiling the whole way. Fake it til you make it, right?

Right on cue around mile 13, all the Wellesley girls showed up in full-force, and it was awesome. They were so enthusiastic, so encouraging, and hilarious. I appreciated all of their signs and watched many of my fellow runners accept their kisses. I myself opted to stay on the shaded side of the road, but I definitely blew the girls a few kisses. It was really fun to see that tradition, and the whole time I kept thinking that college girls look really…young. Has it really been 4 years since I was there?

It was time now to focus on 16, since thinking that I still had the entire second half to go was too overwhelming. Ordinarily, I really like reaching the halfway point in a marathon, but this time I had more a feeling of dread than one of “it’s all downhill from here!” My legs were definitely feeling tired, specifically my quads, and I knew the hills were coming soon. And it was hot. I took another bathroom stop around this point, and decided to start taking water at every aid station instead of every other. I had a system where I’d grab two waters, slurp most of one down, and throw what I had left on my shoulders and my back. The temporary relief from the sun was very welcomed.

12-16

I kept pressing on, pretty oblivious to my Garmin. I don’t know if it was denial or the fact that I truly didn’t care, but I just didn’t want to do the math of predicting paces and finishing times. I knew I’d be slowing down on the hills, and I knew I’d be stopped more at the bathrooms, so I suppose that I just didn’t want to add the mental exhaustion of hoping for a certain time.

After mile 17, I was really excited that I was into single digits in terms of miles left to go. Even so, the thought of running so much longer was daunting, and I knew the best mode of operation would be to stay in the mile I was in. It became a systematic game of, “Okay, get to 18.” Then at 18, I would take my short walk break through the water station, gather myself up, and repeat the whole process over again. I’ve never really needed to go mile-by-mile that early in a marathon, but it was necessary on Monday.

I direct contradiction to "not paying attention to my Garmin." Busted Broker! I swear this was one of a handful of times :)

A direct contradiction to “not paying attention to my Garmin.” Busted Broker! I swear this was one of a handful of times 🙂

Between my precious water stops, I did everything I could to stay distracted and stay in the moment. I’d written “Be Here” on one of my wrists that morning, and I really tried to focus on remembering the fact that I was running the Boston Marathon. It was never lost on me how cool of an experience it was to be having, and I thank the spectators for that in large part. They never stopped reminding me of the pride that’s held for this race and its runners. Multiple times I heard, “Thank you for running!” and saw signs like, “You make us Boston Strong,” which was such an incredible reminder of the honor it was to be running the race. There would be moments where I was so enamored with the energy of the crowd that I’d temporarily forget my wavering stomach and my fatigued legs.

See? Smiling!

See? Smiling!

The hills of Boston begin in Newton, and while I didn’t really think they were anything to write home about, they definitely do not come at a welcome time. My quads were getting more tired by the mile, and when we started on the uphills I focused a lot on trying to get different muscles to engage. Regardless, each uphill was met with another downhill, and I had to accept that the true marathon pain wasn’t going away. On my other wrist I’d written “embrace” which was supposed to be a reminder to embrace the pain when it came. This was that time, and I knew it would be a battle to the finish.

Things are getting real now...

Things are getting real now…

I’m pretty sure I tried using a bathroom again around mile 21 (as evidenced by the stellar pace below), but it’s all kind of blending together at this point. Like I said, there were 5 total stops, one of which was useless since the person using the singular port-a-potty decided to take their sweet time and I bailed after over a minute of waiting. That was a little blood-boiling.

Heartbreak Hill came during mile 20, and I didn’t actually think it was too bad. Sure, my pace sucked big time and my legs were dying, but the people were incredible and carried me up the entire way. I discovered that smiling and acknowledging the crowd was the surest way to solicit some cheering, and I smiled as much as I could up that hill. Heartbreak was definitely one of my checkpoints though, as I knew the bulk of the climbing would be done after it was over.

A fairly accurate representation of how I felt from miles 16-26.1. I'm also convinced this was on a hill which makes my form a little more excusable...yikes.

A fairly accurate representation of how I felt from miles 16-26.1. I’m also convinced this was on a hill which makes my form a little more excusable…yikes.

I was still playing my “stay in the mile” game, and it had turned into, “Just get to mile 22…23…etc” I think I managed to trick my brain this way, especially since I’d surrendered to walking every aid station we came by. In part, I felt a little lazy since I’d never done this before, but more so I think it was necessary to keep my energy up and to keep my head in the game. Quite simply, I just wasn’t in shape enough nor prepared for the heat enough to fight through the pain of those miles, and without a goal other than to finish…why suffer more?

Yep, definitely some stopping and walking in there :)

Yep, definitely some stopping in there 🙂

If miles 21-24 were a chug-a-long fest, I’d say that I started to rise in spirits when we got to mile 24.5 or so. The crowds were thick and loud, and knowing I had less than 2 miles to go was encouraging. Anything more than that had seemed demoralizing before that, but now I started to feel the excitement of finishing. While I didn’t have a lot of doubt that I would finish the race, I realized early on that I would be completely heartbroken if for some reason I wouldn’t be able to finish. That thought was motivation enough to push through, no matter how slow it felt.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 5.53.09 PM

And slow it was. I knew my pace had dropped considerably and my form was nowhere to be found. But I kept smiling, and it was hard not to with the support of the cheering crowds. I tried to focus a lot as well on the other runners around me. Thinking that we’d all taken on this journey together was a really moving thing, and I tried to take in the moment of being one of the people who were nearing our way to the Boston finish line. After mile 25, I vowed to ignore my desire to walk, push the pain aside, and take in the rest of the race. I remembered my mantra that the marathon is supposed to be hard, and that’s why it’s so great. Channeling that internal motivation didn’t stop me from grabbing a grape ice-pop from a little boy at this point though…desperate times, man. And oh baby did that taste good.

25-26

Approaching the right turn onto Hereford, I started to get really excited. Excited to be done, obviously, but excited to experience the moment that 5 months ago I didn’t think was possible. I remembered how running this race was just a dream to the girl who was too sick to leave the house, and how I owed it to her to savor and love every moment of the finishing stretch. I drew so much energy from the crowds, and despite how slow I may have been moving and how tired my legs were, I don’t really remember feeling anything other than joy.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 5.55.59 PM

The left turn onto Boylston was euphoric. It was the picture that kept me motivated through these past few months of frustrating runs, and to see it in real life was the most beautiful and satisfying thing. I soaked it all in, smiled at every face I saw, and choked up a bit when I finally saw my fiancee cheering for me near the finish line. After a few more strides, the blue paint came into view and I had made it: I was a Boston Marathon finisher!

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 5.58.37 PM

I stopped my watch and looked at the cumulative time for the first time since the halfway mark. 4:08, an average pace of 9:25/mile, and over 20 minutes slower than I’d ever run a marathon before. But I couldn’t have cared less. My heart was so full, and I was so happy to have just been a part of a race that was so much bigger than the time on the clock or the outcome of individuals.

Afterwards, it was fairly standard post-marathon procedure: I received my medal (a highlight!), was draped in my finisher’s cape, and very, very slowly made my way toward the exit. Luckily, I didn’t really feel sick or light headed much at all, but my legs were like bricks. I met up with my cheering crew, and Adam and I made our way back to our temporary apartment to rest, shower, etc. Climbing the two flights of stairs to get to the apartment was laughable.

image_2

The rest of the day isn’t all that exciting. I took an ice bath (big self-pats on the back for that one), laid on the bed in a curled up ball for a while, and made all necessary phone calls to my family. I was completely overwhelmed with the amount of support I’d received throughout the day, and I floated like a cloud throughout the rest of the night.

pain...lots of pain.

Pain…lots of pain.

Soreness, stomach, and personal-worst times aside, this was an incredible experience. I felt so honored to have been a part of such a historic race, and the outpouring of love for one another was an incredible thing to witness. This race was a true testament to the glory of the marathon; the demonstration of the power of the human spirit. This glory was glowing throughout every runner, fan, and volunteer out there, and it was a beautiful thing to witness.

Thank you all so much for your support over these past several months and this past weekend. This community has been an incredible source of comfort and strength for me through the good times and the bad, and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of it.

image_3Congrats to all who participated in Boston on Monday!!!

Boston Marathon Training Week #9

Quick little training update post while I have a few minutes!

This was technically my first taper week. Some people go with only two weeks of taper for the marathon, but I’ve always had success with three. Don’t mess with a good thing…especially when it comes to preparing for the all-mighty 26.2.

This time around, especially, I’m hyper-conscious about resting up for the big day. The theme of these three taper weeks is restoration, and I plan on using every trick in the book to arrive in Boston feeling sparkly and fresh. And I mean every trick…but that’s a topic for another post.

Here’s how week #9 looked:

Monday: 6.5 miles

Pre-first day on the new job miles = necessary

Tuesday: 50 min. stair stepper + lifting

I had intentions to go to spin, but apparently I picked the day when the most popular class was going on. I arrived ten minutes early and there wasn’t an empty bike seat in sight. But, I took the opportunity to lift some weights instead which ultimately may have been smarter.

Wednesday: 8 miles

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 2 mile swim

The pool was too warm but I felt great otherwise. Magical swimming, I’ll tell ya.

Saturday: 6 miles + lifting

BF and I ran to our gym and back and it was rough. I had to stop twice on the way there (yes, that’s twice in only three miles) and generally running after lifting is tough stuff.

Sunday: 16 miles

Bliss. Total and complete long-run perfection. After the train wreck runs I’ve been having lately, I really needed this one. I rode the high on this for a few days.

Total= 36.5 miles

That’s all the time I’ve got! I’ve wavering back and forth between uncontrollable excitement and paralyzing fear about the race. Sound like taper-time? I think so too.

TEN days left!!!

Boston Marathon Training Weeks #7 and #8

I’m here, I’m here!

I realize I’ve been super MIA recently, and I know everyone is sorely upset about it.

Turns out… when you move, attempt to settle into a new routine, start a new job, and continue to train for a marathon, blogging gets put on the back burner. Huge surprise! And while I certainly haven’t had any time to spare for RBR, the truth is that I’ve also kind of been avoiding talking about training, running, and generally how I’m feeling about Boston.

I’m trying to spare the internet, in a way, because all I’ve really felt inclined to do when it comes to running and exercise is whine about it.

But, for the sake of honesty, here’s a bit of an update.

I’ve been severely lacking in both motivation and inspiration when it comes to running. As in, I can barely get out of bed in the morning every single time I’m supposed to run. This is probably not unrelated to the fact that my legs in general feel really heavy and off, and just about every workout takes an insane amount of mental and physical effort. Not to mention that my IT band still aches sometimes, my feet have been unhappy, and – perhaps most significantly- my stomach has not been on board with running whatsoever.

Before you get too concerned, I am not in any way experiencing the same ailments as I was last December when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and was out of commission for a month. Not at all. Generally, my daily life is just fine and normal – with the exception of making bathroom stops when I run. I was doing much better in this regard a few weeks ago, but with the stress of the move and the general routine switch-up, my mending stomach wasn’t having it. So, I’d call it a small step backward, which I’m hoping will improve before too long, but it’s definitely not helping my running motivation.

Ultimately, I’m just not feeling like myself. I don’t feel fit, and despite the fact that I’ve logged the miles and on the surface I should feel ready to run Boston (see: training below), I just don’t have the confidence I normally have. Part of this is self-inflicted by my inability to ignore the clock and to accept the fact that I’m not as fast as I used to be. But a bigger part is due to the fact that I simply don’t have the endurance or the strength that I’ve had before, and a lot of that is out of my control. I wholly admit that I underestimated the toll that being so sick and being injured would have on me. In certain respects, I still think both are still having an impact, and while my brain feels ready for full speed ahead, my body isn’t ready yet no matter how much I wish it were.

So, while it’s really hard for me to accept my limitations, I’m going to need to put my pride aside at least for the time being. It’s easy for me to say that I want to just enjoy Boston and survive the race, but there’s always a voice in my head that hates the fact that the clock won’t reflect what I know I’m actually capable of. As awful as it is, I can’t help but play the comparison game to both my former running self and to others. Real talk: it’s so hard to hear the Boston goals of others who have a similar qualifying time as me and not cringe at how I would otherwise have the same goals.

If you think I sound like a stubborn asshole right now, I agree with you.

And perhaps the worst part of all is that I know I should be appreciating the journey for what it is and be thankful for the position I’m in. I’m lucky enough to be running the most historic race in the running world, on perhaps the most significant occasion of that race, and I should just put aside my personal issues and just enjoy it. Again, this is much easier said than done, and while I certainly do not take this opportunity for granted, I am having a hard time expanding my perspective.

I suppose it’s been a good learning process though, and it’s forced me to have some serious self-talks about my priorities as a runner.

So, these next few weeks before Boston are going to be about letting go, being grateful, and trying to garner as much positive energy as possible before race day. I am very excited for the race, and I think with a little work on my mindset it’s going to be an incredible experience. Let’s hope that my body follows suit, as well.

So now that I’ve admitted to just how competitive and self-critical I am, let’s look at some training. The past two weeks were my technical “peak weeks” and here’s how they looked:

Week #7

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 8.5 miles + lifting

Wednesday: Spin + stair-stepper

Thursday: 7.5 + lifting

Friday: 2 mile swim

Saturday: 20 miles

Sunday: 6.75 miles

Total=42.75 miles

Week #8

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 10.35 miles

Wednesday: 7 miles + lifting

Thursday: 2 mile swim

Friday: 6.75 miles

Saturday: 22 miles

Sunday: Rest

Total= 46.1 miles

Time to get it together. Both my body and my brain need a good dose of rest and TLC in order for Boston to be a great day. Hopefully my next post will have a little more cheer and optimism and a little less negativity. As I’m sure you know by now, this current mindset when it come to running is not my style – and I’m hoping these past few months of frustration will result in a brighter running future for the rest of the year.

And hopefully at some point I’ll get to tell you all about my new Denver life. It’s pretty great so far 🙂