Category Archives: Race Recap

The Salty Half-Marathon Race Recap

It seems that the theme of this past summer has carried over into the fall—that theme, being, complete and total race/running spontaneity. I suppose this comes with the territory of not being extra strict with training or having a huge A race on the horizon… two things of which are my typical M.O. 24/7.

My broadly stated goal this fall was the work on speed, and while there is/was a tangible goal time I’m working toward, it’s been fairly loosey goosey around these parts for the past few months.

Which is why, when asked on a Tuesday if I wanted to run a half-marathon (The Salty Half) that following Saturday, it took me all of a few minutes to happily accept. Those who know me wouldn’t think that this was an exceptionally random decision, with the small caveat that I’m running another half this coming weekend, the Snohomish River Run. I couldn’t pass this one up though; not only was it $22 and included the company of these two, the start line was about a half mile from my house.

That said, I knew that I’d have to choose one of the two races to actually race and one to fun run. Since the Salty Half was a last minute decision, less official, and wouldn’t be tapered for whatsoever, I decided to take it easier on this one. Anddd, that actually didn’t end up being the case, but we’ll get to that later.

Saturday morning bright (dark) and early, I trotted down the hill to meet Lindsay and Nicole at the start line. There were just under 100 people running the race, so it was easy and casual—not timing chips or mats. It was super foggy, probably 85-90% humidity, but it was brisk and cold which is always my jam.

I had very little plan in terms of race execution. I wanted to save race pace for the next weekend, but I also know myself well enough to know I would want to compete a little. And considering the size of this race…I knew I could probably do fairly well if I tried. So, upon starting, I decided to just feel out the first few miles and settle wherever I felt comfortable. I knew for sure I wanted to go for a fast finish, so the only plan really was to save some for the end.

I settled into a group of two girls and a dude running a ~7:45 pace, which felt super comfortable. We were continually switching spots in the pack, and it was the first time I really understood to concept of “doing the work” in a pace group. I took the lead a few times, but otherwise I decided to just stick with this group so long as the pace felt manageable.

The course circled around Alki beach to Lincoln Park, which is my normal long run 80% of the time. Needless to say, I knew every upcoming turn and divet in the road, which meant I didn’t need to worry about course surprises.

We dropped one of the girls around mile 5, and then it was primarily another gal and me side-by-side, nearly stride-for-stride. She introduced herself, thanked me for the company, and we kept on like that for nearly 3 miles. It was the perfect silent runner agreement: You keep me going, and I’ll keep you going.

The turnaround in Lincoln Park was right at the halfway point (out and back course) and my legs felt good. I admit, I heard the siren sound of the race atmosphere get a little louder, and I started to think about executing a kick.

As we exited Lincoln Park (~5 miles to go), my new friend fell back a bit, and since I felt great, I kept on at the same clip. To go from having lots of fellow-runner support around me to instantly having no one was weird. Crazy how simply having someone to share the miles, fatigue, and pace with can make such a difference.

I was in a bit of a conundrum at this point. I knew I was the current 5th overall female (they were giving out prizes out to 5th place), and I  (obviously) liked the idea of a top-5 finish. I also knew that the girl behind me could be thinking the same thing, and playing an A+ game of letting me take an early lead. I went back and forth or whether I should slow down, speed up, or stay where I was. It was the first time I’ve ever actively thought about placing strategy in a race. Kind of fun! But stressful. I ultimately decided that since the pace I was at felt good, I would stick with it. If she caught me, I’d let her go by, and I’d save the chase for the final few miles.

Between miles 10 and 11, a familiar face strode up beside me; my friend Charles was out for his weekend long run and I filled him in on the spontaneous race decision and my current position. Charles is faster than me, and when he offered to help me ward off the girl behind and nab a top-five finish, I was 100% on board. He told me to tell him what felt pace manageable, and we’d hold that until the end.

And so we ran. I attempted to chat, but he made me save my breath while he distracted me with his own stories. Around 11.5, I started hurting some, but I was determined to keep stride with Charles and finish the race strong.

It was a little hard to determine exactly who around us was running the race and who wasn’t, since it wasn’t a closed course and there were tons of people out, both racers and non-racers. So, when Charles asked if a girl about 200 yards ahead was the 4th place female, I wasn’t sure. He said we could catch her if I wanted, and with a nod, we were on the hunt. Sure enough, once we passed, he verified that she was wearing a bib and I was now in 4th place. There was less than a mile to go now, and I was feeling both anxious to finish and determined to keep on my game face.

I have a fairly instinctual finishing kick, which comes I think from my track days, but also from my ingrained competitiveness. With a half mile or so to go, without even realizing it, we were passing another girl, and Charles turned to me and said the most Robyn-Broker-esque motivation there is: “You’re in third now, and you have to prove it.”

So, with my aching legs and screeching lungs, I officially kicked my “fun run” intentions to the curb, opened my stride, and gutted it out—determined for my first “podium” finish.

(Side note: The nice thing about having a pacer is that they can check and see the progress of the person behind you)

With the finish line in sight, I gave it everything I had, only to be directed into a mini-turnaround and loop to the actual finish line (way to throw off our momentum guys!). Charles took off running on his own, I squawked out a thanks, and ran my way to cinch the 3rd place female spot.

Unofficial finish time: 1:40:06 for 13.2 miles

salty half

Hooray! I was awarded a huge plastic fish with a “Third Place” tag on it as soon as I finished, along with a “Salty Half Marathon” sweat towel. Sweet!

*FYI, the race has self-declared “messed up” the places and timing on their results page, which they promised to fix. Just in case anyone decided to lurk 🙂

After thoughts: Obviously, this wasn’t exactly the relaxed race I intended it to be. Did I shoot myself in the foot though for this upcoming weekend? Not necessarily. Yes, it was a harder effort than I intended, but with the exception of the last three miles, I felt composed and comfortable for the entire race.

This was certainly a small, pick-up race, but I’m glad I was able to actually learn a lot from it. This was a first time for running in a pack, “making a move,” and truly executing a big finishing kick. All of these are valuable training tools, and I feel like they’ll come into play more often now that I have a better feel for them. I was also really encouraged by this race: it was my 5th day of running in a row, my legs were pretty wiped going into it, and yet the 7:35 pace I averaged felt very do-able.

Good things from a small, random race.

I’m excited for this weekend. As has become standard, I’m not sure of my specific goals, other than to log another solid half-marathon. This distance has been really fun to practice recently, and I’m looking forward to seeing how racing 13.1 more often affects my next 26.2 endeavor. On that note: less than 6 months til Boston!!!

And since this race recap is void of any pictures whatsoever (sorry…) here is a picture of Jasper with my fish prize. He is not too impressed.

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Thanks Lindsay for the race idea and Nicole for submitting to peer pressure 🙂

Bellingham Bay Half-Marathon Race Recap

Lots of things to say about yesterday’s race. For a quick minute in there, I was disappointed that I was (spoiler) only 20 seconds off my PR. I was also disappointed for an instant that my watch (along with those of several around me) read a long course and not a true 13.1. However, after those thoughts subsided and I thought back on the race that I’d run, I landed in the spot I am today: both very pleased and very encouraged.

I went into this race with some trepidation about the conditions (blustery and rainy) but also with a lot of gusto to run a good race. Relatively speaking, I hadn’t raced in a while, and I was ready to see what my legs could do. I rested all day Saturday (a new approach for me), hydrated well, slept well, and treated the run like a real race.

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Low and behold, race morning comes, and the drive up to Bellingham was…ominous. It was pouring, windy, and the perfect conditions for sleeping in and hot coffee…not running 13.1 miles in spandex and a tank top. But I kept my spirits high, and after an easy bib pick-up and some dynamic stretching, I forgot about the weather and tried to get in the zone. Spotting some fellow Oiselle teammates helped kindle my excitement, and I felt proud to be wearing the same singlet as such fast women.

Before I knew it, the countdown was on, and boom…we were running a half marathon. Tried and true to the start of any race, I a) felt incredible and b) knew I was going too fast. A look down at my watch about a half mile in would verify that my 7:00 “easy” pace was certainly not the way to start off a distance race, so I tried to tug back. Ugh, why is this always so hard? Every time I swear to myself I’ll follow the rules and hold back at the start, and every time I cross a start line I abandon all those good intentions. But, I forgave myself, let a faster mile 1 clock in, and prepared to reel in the reigns.

I felt so good during these first few miles. Like, better than I’ve felt running in a long long time. Isn’t that what we hope to feel during races? Anyway, I alternated between sharing paces with others, pulling back when they surged, and going ahead when they fell behind. Generally, it just felt great to be racing, and I let that mindset and momentum carry me through the early miles:

Mile 1: 7:14

Mile 2: 7:22

Mile 3: 7:23

In terms of pacing for this race, my goal was to stick to 7:30s for the first half and open it up if I could during the second half. So, once I reentered the 7:20s, I considered it okay and just went with it. I also knew that there was an incline coming up in mile 4 which would get things back in line.

That incline came and I already knew that my legs were in for a hard race, should I keep this pace up. My breathing sped up and my HR surged a little, reminding me that I was—in fact—racing. But, per usual after a hill reclines to a flat grade, my legs started turning over again and invited the steady downhill that would come in the next few miles.

Mile 4: 7:47

I knew that miles 5-7 were on a downhill, and I’d planned ahead of time to use those miles to my advantage. What I hadn’t considered, though, was that these miles would also change the direction of the course directly into the forecasted wind. These miles were also pretty exposed, which made the wind even more difficult to avoid, but nonetheless…I tried to gun it a little.

Mile 5: 7:18

Mile 6: 7:06

Mile 7: 7:01

There was a bit in there where my watch read 6:xx, which both horrified and exhilarated me. I’d never seen a pace in the 6s during a half marathon, and it was a definite confidence booster to see that pop up.

The course flattened out after this, and the headwind seemed to take a turn directly into our faces. I tore open my gel around this point too and held it for the next few miles, taking drags from it whenever I felt steady. We reentered downtown Bellingham, and there were a few twisty inclines that definitely slowed me down and reminded me of the miles I’d already logged. My energy started waning a little around miles 9-10, and looking back on the elevation profile of the course, it’s obvious that those mini hills took their toll.

Mile 8: 7:34

Mile 9: 7:45

Mile 10: 7:40

We were on a dirt path along the bay at this point, which was warmly welcomed after all the pavement pounding. Although my watch had been a little off the whole race, it was really off once I got to mile 10, which was a little discouraging. My miles were beeping at least 2/10 of a mile before the mile markers, and a fellow racer confirmed that her Garmin was at the same distance as mine. Admittedly, I fumed about this for a bit, considering I thought a PR was within reach should the course be 13.1, but I put that thought out of my mind and tried to just run the race I was running and enjoy it as much as I could.

Once I got to mile 10.5 or so, I resolved to kick it up in the last 5k, and that mind shift seemed to give me a bit of a second wind as well. I was hurting, but not done yet, and I wanted to finish strong. There was a STEEP boat ramp during mile 11 that felt like I was walking, which took a lot of self-talk to get up and over especially with another hilly ~1.5 miles to go afterward.

Mile 11: 7:17

Mile 12: 7:58

Alas, up I went, and we turned into the homestretch. Something I really like about this race is that it’s an essentially straight shot to this finish, and it seemed like everyone around me was pulling out everything they had to fire their final canons. I’d been leap-frogging with a few men the whole race, and all of us were straightening up and putting on our best race faces during this final stretch. Lots of fun.

However, things were hurting. This last mile was consistently up and down hill, and I was definitely feeling all the changing elevation, despite how minimal it actually was. When my watch beeped “13” I was nowhere near the mile marker, so I made a mental note to check “my” half marathon time in another .1 miles.

Mile 13: 7:12

Eventually, the finish line came into view, and I dug out my final dregs of speed as much as I could—I’ll be damned if that clock changes to 1:39!

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Final .32 miles: 6:37

Official finish time: 1:38:47, 16th woman overall

After a momentary feeling of being punched in the gut, I pulled it together, got my medal and space blanket and regaled on what just happened: Was that the fastest I’ve ever run before?

Technically, no. My official half-marathon PR is 22 seconds faster than that. But, in reality…it actually might be.

I am certainly not someone to play the, “But my watch said xx:xx!” card. I believe we all run the same course, the same race, no matter what, and the numbers we clock individually are secondary. But, .2 miles off is significant enough that I’m inclined to look at my pace according to the distance I logged rather than a 13.1 distance. Furthermore, in the case that I ran 13.32 miles in 1:38:47, I ran a 7:24 pace, which is easily faster than I’ve ever run a half marathon before. Take it or leave it, I realize this is a controversial topic, but I’m having a hard time ignoring that figure.

Despite the could-haves and maybes of the off-distance, I certainly had miles during this race that were both unexpected and mini personal-record breaking. The fact that 6.32 miles were under 7:20s is incredibly encouraging, and it brightens my hopes for a 1:35:xx in the (hopefully) not-so-distant future.

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I also felt like I was able to handle discomfort during this race much better than I’ve been able to before. One of my goals going into it was to keep my head on and not let the pain shadow my confidence. I tried to keep this in the front of my mind during those tougher miles, and I’m happy that I feel like I was able to stay comfortable being uncomfortable. There were some bleak minutes, certainly, but it felt like my resolve to push through was able to suppress those dark voices—which is something I’ve definitely struggled with in the past.

So, all in all, it was a great race. I’m happy that the rain held off (mostly), and despite the comprised conditions, I ran the best race I could. I have high hopes for what’s to come, and a little more gusto in my motivation to start training a little harder. The half-marathon is a fun and tough distance, and I’m excited to see what the next two this year have in store.

And a huge congrats to the other ladies who ran this race! In case I needed a spoonful of humble stew, the other 4 gals I ran with finish in 3, 4, 5, and 7th. Yes, really. Speedy ladies! Super impressive.

Happy Monday all!

Spokane to Sandpoint Ultra Relay Race Recap

This summer has been a seemingly endless stream of events, namely in the form of sweating and running. And I’ve loved it! It’s been one of the best summers of my life, and despite the excessive traveling, late nights, early mornings, and chronically fatigued legs, it’s all been worth it. I feel like I broke out of my comfort zone a lot over the past three months, and along the way I learned a lot about myself as an endurance athlete.

The Spokane to Sandpoint Relay, furthermore, was sort of a grand finale to all the summer hoopla. Both in the sense that it was an intense, multi-day endurance event— but also in the sense that it was kind of my last “big thing” for a while. And let me tell you…I think my body understood the whole “this is the end” ethos of this race.

But let’s get to the running. This was a 200+ mile relay, which started at the top of Mount Spokane and ended on a beach in Sandpoint, ID. Our “Girls Just Wanna Run” ultra team of six each had 4 legs to take on, and I was lucky number runner 6.

It feels incomplete to write about my experience without detailing the runs of my teammates. I was so impressed with every single one of them throughout this entire race, and it’s truly not adequate to recap a relay without their stories, too. So while it’s not possible, I have to acknowledge that the magic of this race for me was in each and every member of the team—including our driver.

So to Tasha, Jordanne, Amy, Rose, Kaitlyn and Luke…you all are heroes. Thanks for letting me run with you!

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Buckle up, kids, this is a long one.

5:30 PM: Leg #1, 13.9 miles

I’d waited the entire day, since our 7 am start time, to run. I was equal parts really antsy and really nervous. The primary theme of the day was just how hot it was, and after seeing each of my teammates affected by the 90 degree weather, I got more and more wary of what my ~14 miler would hold.

Proof of heat: Kaitlyn using our go-to cool off method.

Proof of heat: Kaitlyn using our go-to cool off method.

Kaitlyn handed over our bracelet to me, and off I went— happy to be moving and excited to be knocking out the longest of my four legs.

See? So happy!

See? So happy!

Well, that feeling lasted approximately 3 miles, and that’s when the heat started to affect my stomach. I’m not sure if it was the end-of-the-day run, the food I’d had beforehand, or simply the temperature, but for whatever reason— I quickly went from happily running to extreme digestive discomfort (which we’ll just call “feelings,” because I’m fairly certain you all understand what I’m implying here).

I’ve experienced this running before, and normally it just passes, but whenever those “feelings” felt like they were going away, I’d immediately get another round. The frustrating thing was that my legs felt great. All of my body wanted to run, expect for my lower stomach. I tried my best to focus on the beautiful scenery (which WAS beautiful!) and I knew that when I’d run through the first exchange, my team would have fuel and supplements that could help.

Around 7 miles in, I made it to the exchange and took salt and magnesium pills which I prayed would help alleviate my issues. It was great to see the team also and I was amazed at their support– it felt like my own personal fuel crew!

Taking pills mid-run: true talent.

Pill swallowing mid-run: true talent. Looking this beautiful: even truer talent.

Unfortunately, the two pills didn’t do much, and in fact the “feelings” kept getting worse. I did all I could to not think about needing a bathroom, but simultaneously I started to plot exactly what I would do should the situation get worse. The heat was also starting to get to me at this point, and I could feel the energy quickly being zapped from my body.

Once I got to the next exchange area (I was running through twice), I debated using the port-a-potty or not. However, from experience I knew that one quick stop wasn’t going to make a difference in how things were feeling. I decided against it, told a few of my teammates how I was feeling, and just wanted to get the last 4 miles over with.

"Rose, I'm gonna poop my pants."  "Fine, but make sure you're practicing safety first with this vest and headlamp."

“Rose, I’m gonna poop my pants.”
“Okay, but make sure you’re practicing safety first with this vest and headlamp!”

Just after leaving the transition, I got to cross over the Washington/Idaho border, which was definitely a highlight. I was trying as hard as I could to distract myself from the heat and the discomfort, but things were seemingly getting worse. The miles that felt strong and quick before were starting to crawl by, and eventually when I saw a public bathroom on the side of the path, there wasn’t really another option.

I finished the last few miles a little more comfortably (and managed to pass a few more people), but as I got to the end, those “feelings” reached an all time peak of pain.

Al-most-done...

Al-most-done…

I was thrilled to hand off and be done running, but more thrilled to stop the stomach jostling. It was discouraging, to say the least. I still had 3 legs and over 20 miles in front of me, and things weren’t going to go well if they were anything like the first leg.

Peace out, first leg.

Peace out, first leg.

So, I frequented the Honey Buckets, took some Tums, kept my hydration and nutrition systematic and clean, and hoped things would be a bit better during my next three runs.

Didn't have satellite for first part (~.2 m) of the run

Didn’t have satellite for first part (~.2 m) of the run

leg 1 e

^^^ wtf, that’s not what the map looked like??

12:55 AM: Leg #2, 7.5 miles

First middle of the night run ever! Despite the pain of run number 1, the promise of cooler temperatures and a shorter distance kept my spirits higher for this run. Plus, I’d gotten a little sleep beforehand, so I tried to maintain a positive attitude. The run was all through farm land (read: DARK) and pretty flat the whole time.

There were very few people around me during this run, which meant that I was relying almost solely on my headlamp for guidance and light. I immediately felt so much better than I had earlier, which I was sure was due the decreased heat and sun exposure.

So, despite the run being a little spooky and smelly (so many cows), the 7.5 miles ticked by moderately pleasantly. It was encouraging to finish and know that not only had my stomach settled a bit, but I was over halfway done with my mileage!

The best part of this run was when it dawned on me halfway through that I was in the middle of nowhere in Idaho, at 1 in the morning, with a bunch of strangers, running. I almost started laughing out loud at the obscurity of it all, but I also realized that this was half the fun in relays…and in running. There isn’t a lot of sense to it, but we love it anyway.

leg 2

leg 2 e

 

8:15 AM: Leg 3, 8.9 miles

After my 1 am run, I’d been able to get a little more sleep, which meant that cumulatively, I think I totaled around 3 hours for the night…which in relay terms might as well have been a coma. I was so happy! Thanks goes entirely to our driver Luke, who ended up driving the entire race which enabled some uninterrupted van-sleeping.

Needless to say, I was feeling pretty good about my next leg. It was about 9 miles, and although it was getting war,m I thought that running closer to the time of day I normally run would help with how I felt.

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And as much as I hate to say it, I was completely wrong.

I stopped enjoying this run about two miles in, and it got progressively worse until the very end.

What was going on?! I normally have a bad run once every three weeks or so, if that, and here I was in my second in less than 12 hours. Part of me found it amusing, but a bigger part of me was just frustrated. I was in good shape, I had slept-ish, I was hydrated, fueled, etc…there was no reason to feel like this.

Except for the most obvious factor which I’d been afraid of all along: the heat.

Let me paint a quick picture of what this third leg looked like: Approximately 75 degrees, on exposed highway, with the first 5 miles gradual uphill.

So looking at it that way, it sounds a little bit more understandable as to why it didn’t feel great. But, I was still down on myself for feeling so low. I knew all my teammates had struggled, but I felt like this just wasn’t acceptable. My inner monologue was something along the lines of:

“I hate running, why am I doing this?”

“Buck up captain! You need to keep up a game face for your team!”

“Better you than them, better you than them…”

“Where’s the nearest Slurpie machine?”

In essence, these miles all sucked. There was little to no shade, long and unforgiving highway roads, and a general negative attitude to boot.

As I’m sure you can guess, I was, once again, thrilled to see the exchange. It was great to know that handing off to Tasha meant that my team was in the homestretch of finishing this bad boy up.

Go, Tasha, Go!

Go, Tasha, Go!

I don't even care that I'm getting a GoPro in my face right now, just hand me more water.

I don’t even care that I’m getting a GoPro in my face right now, just hand me more water.

leg 3

leg 3 e

Just before my final leg, our Runner #4, Rose, ran her final 4 miles—and managed to do so a minute per mile faster than she’d been averaging before.

Essentially, right before she started, Luke asked her if she thought she could push it in those last 4, and she immediately jumped at the idea. She’s a former track/cross country athlete, so I knew the idea of a little speed would be fun for her—despite her tired legs.

Watching her gut out those last few miles at a sub 8 pace was incredible! Our van followed along almost the entire time with Luke coaching her the whole time. It was so inspiring and it reminded me of just how much fun you can have with running, even in the most trying circumstances.

rockstar

rockstar

The best part (for me) came near the end of her leg. As we prepared to drive off to the exchange, Luke asked if anyone could pace her the rest of the way. It took me approximately one second to go from my seat belt and flip flops to my running shoes and running alongside Rose. We had about a half mile to go, and I had such a fun time helping her push til the end. It was the best my legs had felt the entire relay, too, and although I knew I still had 5 miles of my own to do later on, it was completely worth it to help Rose leave it all out on the course. And I say “help” loosely, since I’m fairly certain she would have done it all on her own. At least I got to enjoy the high with her 🙂

It was easily the best highlight from the relay.

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3:35 PM: Leg 4, 4.75 miles

I knew I shouldn’t have too many expectations going into my final leg, given how the morning run had gone. It was also hotter now, and although I only had about 5 miles to go, I knew it was going to be a test for my tired legs.

Nevertheless, I was SO excited to finish things up for my team and to complete the adventure. Since everyone was done at that point, I was so full of pride that I wasn’t too concerned with my own final leg. It had been so inspiring to see all of them finish, and I just hoped I could muster up a little bit of strength to bring it home for everyone.

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After being peer pressured by Luke a bit, I told him if possible…I would try to push my pace a little. As soon as I started, I didn’t see another option: it might hurt, but it would get me to the finish line faster.

So push I did. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was certainly faster than my end-of-relay legs were planning on. However, I didn’t see much point in trying to conserve.

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The sun was hot, but I didn’t really care anymore. The only thing I was focused on was getting those last miles run so I could get back to my team at the end.

The final 2.5 miles of the Spokane to Sandpoint course finish on a very long, open bridge—which I initially thought would be an awesome and scenic end to the race.

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And while it was certainly scenic, there really wasn’t anything pleasant about it—specifically after running over 30 miles in the day beforehand. It was so ridiculously hot, and there wasn’t anywhere to hide from the exposed sun. I kept my focus on picking off the runners ahead of me, while trying to ignore the desire to walk/jump in the water/curl up on the path. (5 kills in the last 3 miles!)

After crossing the bridge, I got a little jolt knowing that the end was near. There were spectators and fellow relay-ers along the sidewalks, which helped get me excited to finish. I was really feeling the 8 minute pace and the previous 35 miles at this point, but I didn’t care…it was time to finish this thing.

I don’t know if I’d ever been happier to see a finish line once it came into view. I got to run along a grassy lawn which felt like heaven after all the pavement pounding, and my wonderful team was right there waiting to finish what we started.

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my face here really explains it all...

my face here really explains it all…

33 hours and 13 minutes after Tasha took off at the top of Mt. Spokane, we made it.

leg 4

leg 4 e

It took me a few minutes to get my wits about me at the finish line, but after the sweat stopped dripping and my heart slowed down a bit, I was completely overwhelmed with excitement and pride. Somehow, all those brutal miles disappeared from my memory and were replaced with joy for my team and for the sport.

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We were announced the women’s ultra team winners over the loud speaker, and we gathered our prizes (shiny metal goblets) and medals along with our t-shirts and beer tickets (obviously the most important part).

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My favorite picture of the race.

Draping each of my teammates with their medals was a true highlight, and I felt so honored to have run alongside all these incredible women and athletes.

After some cheers-ing, reminiscing, and photo taking, we were spent with our Spokane to Sandpoint adventure and headed home for pizza and showers. The hour and a half drive back to Spokane was a little surreal; it took just 90 minutes to return to the place we’d started over 30 hours beforehand.

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This race proved to be a true momento to the summer I’ve had. It was an adventure in running but also in mental endurance, in teamwork, and in handling adversity—all of which, in the end, makes each of us a stronger athlete and competitor. This race, and this summer of running, has shown me that hard work truly does yield the most satisfying results. It may be tough getting there, but the reward is so much sweeter knowing that you fought hard the whole way…especially when it’s alongside such an incredible group of people.

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I’m hoping to carry the things I’ve learned this summer into my next running adventures, wherever they may lead. Because if I’ve learned nothing else, it’s that you never know where running (and running friends) can take you.

And I can’t wait to find out.

Thank you Spokane to Sandpoint for making this event so memorable. You tested every ounce of endurance we all had, and while we may have cursed you at the time, in the end you put on one kickass show.

Girls Just Wanna Run, you’re an inspiration. Congratulations to you all!

 

See Jane Run Half-Marathon Race Recap

Never before in my running career (except in high school) have I raced as much as I have this summer. It was 100% unintentional, but somehow I have found myself at several start lines (with more to come…). It helped that two of these races were free. Actually who am I kidding…that’s more or less the reason I’ve done so many. But free or not, I love racing, and I’m really happy to get the chance to do more of it.

As I wrote in my last post, I like to have intentions behind my races—even if those intentions have nothing to do with time. So with the See Jane Run half-marathon on Sunday, I definitely had some “guidelines.” Including (roughly):

1) Save your energy—conservative start

2) Fast finish

3) Make it hurt (a little)

I’m really trying to use the chance to race in the heat to my advantage, despite how much I dislike it. I’m 100% a cold weather racer, always have been, and I have always felt defeated a little when the temperatures rise and my speed and energy decline. But, I’m trying to turn this into a positive and hopefully by doing the hot work now, it will make the cooler temps all the more luxurious.

So let’s get this race recap started already, shall we?

Pre-race mirror selfie + dirty room.

Pre-race mirror selfie + dirty room.

I did something I have never done before a half before this race—I warmed up. Not far—just a little half mile jog with a couple of strides to get my legs warm and my turnover going. I was a little wary of not storing all my energy, but I actually really liked this and I started the race feeling more ready to go than usual.

After said warm-up, I scuttled my way to the first corral and right at 8 am, we were off.

I immediately felt really happy to be racing a half on such a beautiful day with a bunch of runner gals. Despite how competitive I am (which would be proven later on), there was something great about racing among a (primarily) all-female group. There’s this unspoken sisterhood between ladies who run, and I could definitely feel it crossing the start line on Sunday.

Moving onto the nitty gritty:

Miles 1 and 2:

7:39, 7:40

Well, my “guideline” number 1 was kind of blown, but I figured that this would just make guideline number 2 even tougher and thus make guideline number 3 a success. I couldn’t help starting this way—I felt so good! But eventually, once reality settled in, I dialed it back a bit and focused on getting into a groove.

Miles 3 and 4:

7:48, 7:44

The beginning miles of this race are all along Lake Union and the canal, so there was a lot of shade and a nice breeze. It was very comfortable running, and once the crowds thinned a little I really felt in a groove. There was an out-and-back after mile 3 or so, and I quickly realized that the mile markers were very off. I verified this when I heard some gals around me comparing their own measurements, but I figured it would all settle itself eventually.

Miles 5, 6 and 7:

7:45, 7:50, 8:10

These are the miles where a half-marathon starts to get more real for me—kind of like miles 14-18 of a marathon. The middle miles. The miles you forget about until you’re in them and you realize you’ve already run for an hour or so but you still have the harder stuff left. Luckily, I was still feeling good—a little hot, but luckily we were still reasonably shaded. I was also having a grand ole time targeting and leap-frogging with other runners. I knew I was in the top 30 or so women, meaning that it was safe to assume that everyone around me was down for some racing. I definitely noticed a little sass between runners during this race, especially when I would pass someone— but in a good competition kind of way. Anyway, it made it fun and offered some distraction. Around mile 7 I felt like I was primarily passing people as opposed to getting passed, which gave me some hope that all my goals going into this race weren’t lost. Around mile 7 was the dreaded “super steep” hill on the course. It was definitely steep and slowed me down, but it wasn’t awful.

Miles 8, 9, and 10:

8:10, 7:42, 7:53

This is where the only hills in this race were, but they didn’t bother me too much. With every uphill comes a downhill, and as much as the uphills can drain my energy, I always gain momentum on the way back down. We passed back by Gasworks and the finish line on the way to the final out-and-back, which was a little deflating, however I was prepared for it and didn’t actually mind as much as I anticipated.

I should also note that the mile markers were still off, and I was pretty certain around this point that the course would end up short. Kind of a bummer, although ultimately we would all be running the same distance. Good thing I wasn’t going for a personal best, but this seems like something that should definitely be fixed next year.

I was getting warmer and my stomach started to squirm a little around mile 10. Heat does this too me—especially if my fuel isn’t sitting properly (which it wasn’t). I tried sucking on a Honey Stinger gel packet around 8.5, and despite my best efforts it wasn’t going to happen. I need to get better at fueling somehow.

Nearing mile 11, I was dreading my self-proclaimed “fast finish,” but I was also excited to try and gut it out with a few of the girls around me. This part was also exciting because we were able to see the lead ladies coming back by us, and the first gal (who was crushing everyone) was SO YOUNG. I think she may have been 14-16 years old? Ridiculous. I gave her an obligatory, “You go girl,” as she sprinted by me.

Miles 11, 12, “13”

7:52, 7:31, 6:17 (final .86 mile)

I was happy I was able to punch it up a little in the end. I didn’t feel great, but I didn’t feel completely depleted. It was right where I wanted to be—a little pain, but not all out. The final mile was fun as we entered back in Gasworks with lots of people watching and a nice final path to run down. About 200 meters from the finish line, I was around 1:39:30, and I did all I could to keep that 1:39 on the clock. It was probably the fastest sprint I’ve ever done at the end of a race. Seeing BF and high-fiving him right before crossing the end was fun too 🙂

My watch read 1:40:06 when I finally finished, which was too bad, but since I was sure the course measurement was wrong anyway, it didn’t matter too much. Also, duh, this wasn’t a goal race, so I was mainly just happy to be done and to have (mostly) accomplished what I wanted to.

Half-marathon number #8, check!

The finishing area was fun, with lots of samples and not enough hands to hold it all. My stomach was still waging war, so after one failed attempt at a donut hole I had to refuse all the other goodies. I felt better after two bottles of water, but I just don’t think my system will ever get used to racing in warmer temps.

It’s all part of the training though. And this race was exactly what I wanted in terms of race practice and getting into a manageable pain place.

Oh and I started wearing sunglasses when I run. LOVE.

Oh and I started wearing sunglasses when I run. LOVE.

Final results:

Time: 1:40:08

Overall: 26/975

Age Group: 6/171 <— homegirls are FAST! The next closest girl to me ran a 1:34.

Pace: 7:38 (if the course was 13.1, if it was 12.86 like I clocked, pace was 7:47)

Overall, I was happy with this race. It felt challenging but not too hard, and while the thought of averaging a pace 30 seconds faster than this in just over two months is still horrifying, I’m thankful for the opportunity to practice racing the distance.

I also know there’s lots of time before Bellingham, and I have some strategies up my sleeve to help my 1:35 goal become a reality. More to follow later on. See Jane Run will, however, more than likely be my last half before that goal race, which I’m hoping will help to kindle some necessary race-day fire.

Special thanks to RoseRunner for my entry to this race!

And now…let’s run some ultra relays!

Did you run See Jane Run? How did it go??

Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon Race Recap

Surprise! I ran a half marathon on Saturday.

This literally is "proof" I was there. No timing chip= ghost runner!

This literally is “proof” I was there. No timing chip= ghost runner!

Early last week, I was hit with the overwhelming desire to do a half that weekend. It just sounded fun—and I knew there was trail half I’d considered earlier this year, so I went to the website to check it out. Alas—the race was sold out, and so I decided to shelve my race desire and hold off until See Jane Run in July. That was the last I thought of doing a half marathon that upcoming weekend.

Then Friday morning came around. A coworker sent out an email to my office’s runner distribution list (yes, it exists) asking if anyone wanted her bib for Saturday’s Rock ‘n’ Roll race. She is/was injured and didn’t want her entry to go to waste—essentially, the bib was up for grabs.

It took me all of five minutes to consider the offer, and after deciding that sacrificing a morning of sleeping in was definitely worth running a free race, I emailed her back and presto…I was running the Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll half! I had been planning on doing a long run that day anyway, so I figured I might as well get a medal in the process 🙂 Plus, I’d never done a Rock ‘n’ Roll race before, and I wanted to see what all the hype was about—especially if it wasn’t going to cost an arm and a leg to do so.

It was definitely a low-stress race eve and morning. I didn’t do much to prepare ahead of time other than stretching a bit more on Friday night. And, considering that I’d run three days in a row already at that point, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of fast legs. But, that’s the price you pay for an impromptu race, so I went into it without much of a strategy other than to have fun and enjoy the race atmosphere. I also decided to try racing for the first time without headphones, mostly to see how it felt, but also to soak in some of the “rock ‘n’ roll” atmosphere.

Sleepy eyes but excited to run!

Sleepy eyes but excited to run!

BF dropped me off with plenty of time to meander around, find some blogger peeps, and get set in my corral without any stress. Luckily, I didn’t need the porta-potties because they had perhaps the longest lines I have EVER seen at a race. Yikes…happy to have dodged that potentially very stressful situation.

Photo courtesy of Stacie!

Photo courtesy of Stacie!

I was in corral 6 so it didn’t take too long before we were shuffled to the start line and were sent off. Woo, race time! I wasn’t wearing a timing chip, just my Garmin, and it was kind of fun to feel like a phantom runner. The beginning was crowded, and per usual a lot of weaving happened. It was inevitable, but apparently my pace was more panicked than I thought because once I was able to get past the crowds I was looking at a low 7:00s pace. Holddd up there homegirl, this is supposed to be fun.

Miles 1-3

I dialed in and tried to find my rhythm. To tell you the truth, those first three miles were kind of tough. My breathing was distracting me, and although I run without music a lot of the time, it’s normally at a slower pace, and I think race-day conditions got the better of my heart rate—consequentially increasing my breathing. Also, I was already hot—definitely not my favorite racing conditions. And by not my favorite…I mean absolute least favorite.

But I tried to relax, got excited when I saw the Oiselle/Nuun/runner gals a little after mile 2, and finally found a comfortable pace.

Here’s also where I admit that while I definitely didn’t have a set time goal, I still wanted to use the race as an opportunity for pacing practice. So while shooting for another ~1:40 was tempting, I decided that aiming for just a sub-8:00 average would be both more feasible and more constructive.

1-3

Find the up and down hills!

Clearly, I was all over the place, and I really wanted to work on just getting comfortable and cruising.

Miles 4-8

We circled away from downtown at this point and headed on a long stretch of road. I started feeling much better—more relaxed and in control—and started enjoying the atmosphere and the scenery. I thought the whole band element was kind of fun, and even though I was kind of missing my music, it was nice to hear all the various sounds of the race. I got more than one “Go Ducks!” which I realized was due to the Eugene pride I was sporting 🙂

The course veered left during these miles and took us along the water on Lake Washington—easily my favorite part of the run. Lots of people cheering, lots of enthusiasm, just generally a happy running ethos.

4-8

You can't really tell, but I'm happy here!

You can’t really tell, but I’m happy here!

Miles 9-11

I was definitely feeling the increasing temperatures, but it was encouraging to know that we’d shortly be headed back toward downtown. Not so encouraging, however, was knowing that all the hills on the course were still to come.

A STEEP ascent lead us up into the I-90 tunnel, which is never my favorite in Seattle races, but there was a band inside which made it a little more tolerable. We were nearing the 10 mile mark when I felt a tap on my shoulder, and it was a guy who goes to my lifting class who said he “recognized the back of my head.” Kind of fun.

He passed me pretty quick, and it gave me a bit of a jolt to keep treking toward the finish. I loved exiting the tunnel and eventually flying down the I-90 ramp back toward downtown. I recognized the same place I picked up Nicole last year when she was running the full, and it felt really good to actually be running the race this year.

9-11

It was very noticeably still getting hotter, and running on the highway gave no relief from the sun. Still, I tried to start some mental math and garner some energy for a solid kick at the end.

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Miles 12-13

Alas, no kick was had. Not sure if it was the heat, the hills (of which the end had way too many), or the fact that I was running on very un-tapered legs, but I was toasted. However, I was still excited for the finish line and did what I could to get there with a smile. The crowds at this point had also thickened and provided a lot of encouragement.

12-13

The finish line chute was definitely exciting, and despite feeling hot and tired, I was really happy crossing at the end. Two weekends in a row of finish lines, I feel lucky.

As for time, my Garmin showed a 1:43 and change for 13.2 miles. I’m not sure if the tunnel threw off my distance calculation or if the course was long, but it doesn’t really matter.

I was a little sad I wasn’t closer to 1:40 for a bit, but then I knocked myself off my high horse and decided to be satisfied with the run. A 7:50 average on tired legs and a dehydrated/not carb-loaded stomach isn’t anything to complain about for an impromptu race.

Ultimately, I had a great time at Rock ‘n’ Roll. It was a beautiful day with a ton of fun people and a fat ole medal to boot.

I feel really grateful for both the opportunity to have run this race (for free!) and also for the physical ability to do a half on a whim. It’s definitely not lost on me that I was injured a year ago and could only run about 3 miles at a time. A lot can change, and I only hope the healthy legs will continue!

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Eugene Marathon Race Recap

Something funny happens when you finally experience something that you’ve been thinking about and dreaming about for a long time: it doesn’t feel real.

That’s how I feel today about Sunday’s race. Because although I definitely felt the build-up, the pain, and the joy of it at the time, I’m still having a hard time internalizing that it happened. 

And it did happen…that moment that I’ve been focusing on and training toward for months and months; it’s actually a reality.

Spoiler alert:

CaptureSo while it might not have totally sunk in yet, I’m so happy that today I can announce that I did indeed qualify for Boston!

This race had the quintessential makings of a marathon experience: the adrenaline-filled, blissful first half, the scary and lonely middle miles, a head first slam into the wall, and a finish line that felt like the best place in the world.

Let’s go back to the beginning:

I was really confident in my training going into this race. I felt as if I had done everything I could, and I knew that unless disaster struck, I would have a pretty good shot at my goals.

BF and I did a little shake out 4-miler on Saturday, and we headed to the expo which helped crank up my excitement.

There was a little caveat though in terms of my race prep that had me worried. On Thursday night, I slept really poorly, as I did again on Friday night thanks to a late night of driving down to Oregon. Now, I think we all know that the golden rule of marathoning is that you want to get a lot of sleep the night before race eve, as a restless sleep is pretty much a given on the night before any race. So, on Saturday I was already worn out from the two nights before, and couldn’t stop thinking about how important it was that I sleep well that night.

And guess what? When you think about sleep, particularly on a night before you attempt a huge running goal, there is no possible way you can fall asleep. And that’s exactly what happened to me. Despite my fatigue, I spent hours awake attempting every trick in the book to wind down and shut off my brain. When my 5:30 alarm went off, I knew there was no way I had slept more than 3 hours…all of which was in 20 minute increments. Not exactly comforting.

But, I couldn’t do anything about it. And despite feeling exhausted, the race day hype kicked in like clockwork, and I was excited to get going.

I got to the start line in plenty of time for a porta-potty stop and good corral placement. I even managed to see Lora at the start! I was really impressed with the set-up and general energy of the starting area, especially that it was right outside of Hayward field where we would eventually end up.

After the National Anthem was sung and a moment of silence was held for Boston (so beautiful and powerful), it was only a matter of minutes before they let our corral cross the start line. And off we went!

Despite a gradual uphill start, I was filled with energy from the crowds and the general atmosphere. I really internalized that I was in track town, running a marathon, and striving for a goal that felt unattainable just a year ago. Needless to say, I clocked in a wee bit too fast:

Mile 1: 7:36

I knew I needed to buckle in, get it together, and run the race I planned out. I didn’t want to regret going too fast, so I spent a good amount of time in the first few miles getting to an 8 minute pace. I don’t like looking at my watch so often, but in races, I’ve found that a lot of my pacing instincts are thrown off.

Mile 2: 7:55

Mile 3: 8:01

I ran into Sarah just before mile 4, who stood out immediately in her bridal running outfit. She was running the half and gave me some good words of encouragement. Thanks Sarah!

Mile 4: 8:03

Mile 5: 7:49

The “hill” that was promised at mile 4 was barely anything to worry about, and there was a very nice downhill for a while afterward. I try to use downhills to my advantage as much as possible, so I forgave the quicker paces that were showing up.

Mile 6: 7:53

Mile 7: 7:58

Still, I needed to focus on the “slower start” I had promised myself I’d stick to. I knew another hill was coming up in mile 8, which would obviously help.

I saw my cheer squad for the first time also around 7.5, which is where I took my first few Honey Stingers as well. I loved seeing them, and I knew seeing them later on during the race was going to be really helpful. It certainly added that they were wearing these shirts:

My family surprised me with Run Birdie Run shirts!

Surprise! Run Birdie Run shirts!

Mile 8: 7:56

Mile 9: 8:04

Side note: The “hills” in this race aren’t anything to worry about. If you train with hills even a little bit, you wouldn’t bat an eye at this course.

By this point, we were leaving the cute Eugene neighborhoods and heading toward the river. We passed by Hayward and I caught a glimpse of the enormous sign that read: “Believe in the Power of the Run.”

Track town, you cut me right to the core.

I knew we would be splitting from the half-ers around mile 10, and I mentally prepared myself to get into the marathon zone. It’s those middle miles that can feel scary and daunting, so I tried to psych myself up for them.

Mile 10: 7:57

Mile 11: 8:02

Mile 12: 7:55

I was leap-frogging back and forth with a few runners, but it felt like we were pulling each other along instead of competing. Around this point, a shirtless dude with the shortest shorts I’ve ever seen starting matching me stride-for-stride, and it was obvious he wanted to share a pace. Alrighty sir, let’s do it.

Mile 13: 8:00

I LOVE reaching the halfway point in marathons. Mentally, I start to count down instead of up, and I was feeling pretty good at this point as well, which was encouraging. I had clocked just under a 1:44 half, which made me think that a sub 3:30 might be possible.

Miles 13-17 were probably the least memorable for me. They were in a lonely, residential area that was a little boring. I remembered getting to mile 17 and thinking, “Less than 10 to go!” which helped. I was definitely starting to feel tired at this point, and by tired I mean literally…I could have curled up on the side of the road and fallen asleep.

Mile 14: 7:53

Mile 15: 7:55

Mile 16: 7:49

Mile 17: 7:55

My legs were feeling pretty good, although my right leg was doing a strange thing that it had done on a few training runs where my glute, hamstring, calf, and even foot all got tight. Not painful, just tight. It wasn’t anything I couldn’t run through, but it definitely reminded me that I was running a marathon. We were on a beautiful path along the river at this point, which helped mix up the race and kept things interesting.

Mile 18: 8:00

Mile 19: 8:00

I saw my family again during mile 18, which provided another boost. More Honey Stingers, and my mom ran with me a few paces to check in. I admitted to her that I felt tired, and she reminded me to slow down if I needed to. No worries Ma, I had been thinking that same thing.

It was comforting to know that I’d gained a lot of time in terms of running under 3:35. While I always love the idea of negative splitting, sometimes in the marathon you need to go with the flow and let your body do the talking, so I gave in and let myself slow down a little bit. And much to my dismay, at mile 20, that horrible iPod Shuffle voice came on and said, “Battery low,” which elicited more than a few four-letter words. Probably the worst timing. So I shut it off, saving the final dregs of battery for the end.

Mile 20: 8:02

Mile 21: 8:10

I could feel the pain creeping in, and while it didn’t feel all-consuming yet, I knew it was going to be a long final 5 miles.

“But it’s only 5 more miles! You almost always run further than that on average days.”

Those were the kind of thoughts I kept trying to get in my head, but unfortunately there were other voices shouting a bit louder.

Just before mile 22, the familiar dark feeling from Tacoma last year started the veer its ugly head. I had a hard time telling if it was actually the same type of pain as last year or just the bad memories that got me so unnerved, but either way, I did everything I could to remind myself to be smart. I allowed myself a 5 second walk break to get my bearings, and then pressed on.

Mile 22: 8:24

At this point, my legs were toasted. My feet felt hot, and it didn’t help that the temperature was rising. I stuck to the shady parts of the path as much as I could and dumped water under my hat at the water stations. Most of the fatigue was in my head, which I instinctively knew was from having not slept the night before. I saw my family again at 22, which certainly helped, but I didn’t like the idea of them seeing me in such a bad space.

Apparently though, I hid it well. BF started running with me for a bit and said I looked great, which was nearly impossible for me to believe- but I took it as a sign that my body was doing better than my head.

Mile 23: 8:28

Admittedly, it was comforting to know that I could run up to 10 minute miles and still come in under 3:35. I had already resolved that I would have a huge positive split, and that was okay. As much pain as I was in, it kind of humored me to think, “Oh, this is why the marathon is so hard. This is what the wall feels like, huh? I get it now.”

But, I knew that with such a big goal, a goal that was far below my current PR, this race was going to take a fight. So I fought. The miles felt so incredibly slow. The 8:30 pace I was holding felt like a 7 minute pace, and I could feel every single incline and decline in the road.

Around this point, I spotted Lauren up ahead, who I’d already seen twice earlier cheering like a champ. She started running alongside me and asked how I felt, which I fully admitted to feeling horrible. She gave a lot of words of encouragement,  including offering to continue running with me. While I was incapable of expressing it or realizing it at the time, this was a huge save for me. She distracted me and kept me going when all I wanted to do was stop. I took another short walk break, and as slow as they were…the miles kept going.

Mile 24: 8:39

Mile 25: 8:49

It was excruciating at this point. I felt like my head was crushed into tunnel vision, and it took everything I had to keep the BQ goal in sight. Seeing Hayward come into view was helpful, and while I was still battling the ghost of Tacoma Marathon past, I knew I was stronger this time around. Lauren was a game-changer, and I cannot begin to thank her enough for pulling me through those final miles.

She dropped me right before the entrance to Hayward, where I was greeted with a huge Oiselle cheer group of familiar faces which helped get me excited.

Mile 26: 9:03

Coming into Hayward was surreal. It was something that I’d been envisioning for so long it didn’t even feel real. I was in so much pain, but so happy to be done. It’s actually a little hard for me to remember since I was so foggy and tired at the time, but when I heard my name on the loud speaker and saw the 3:32 on my watch, all those dreadful and slow miles melted away.

Photo courtesy of BF.

Photo courtesy of BF.

I’d done it. I held my hand over my heart and raised my hand in the air. Boston, that was for you.

It was so relieving to be done. I was a little off kilter once I crossed the finish line, so a volunteer helped support me a little bit. I got my medal, got my bearings, and headed toward the finisher’s chute. I immediately felt nauseated and steered clear of the food they were offering. I wanted so badly to sit down, actually to lay down, but I knew I needed to keep walking. I have never felt so sick after a race, which was annoying considering all I wanted to do was celebrate, and I knew I needed to find my people.

BF was on the hunt for me, and we spotted each other pretty quickly. Not too long after, I joined up with the rest of my crew, and after a few minutes of my hands on my knees and some deep breathing, I started to feel a bit better and the accomplishment started to register.

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The whole crew!

The whole crew!

It’s funny how pain can mask other emotions so much. Of course all I wanted to do at the finish line was cry tears of joy and relish the feeling that I’d accomplished my goal, so it’s a little disheartening that hitting the wall so hard took away a bit from that.

However, my wonderful support crew helped draw me back into the light. We visited the foam rollers they had available in a tent (quite convenient), hung out on the turf, and eventually made our way out.

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Granddad and me...perhaps my new favorite picture.

Granddad and me…perhaps my new favorite picture.

After a heavenly shower and a change into flip lops and stretch pants, I started to feel like myself again. My appetite was no where to be found, my legs were completely shot, and my arm was chafed to the point of a scar, but I knew that it was all worth it. There’s something incredible that happens at the end of a marathon. You are stripped of every last defense and ounce of strength inside of you, and yet you still manage to do what your body and brain are both fighting against. It’s supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to hurt. It’s the fight against the pain that makes the marathon so mighty.

And in the end, I don’t care that I had a 4 minute positive split. I don’t care that I can’t walk down stairs today, and I certainly don’t care that I lost so much sleep over this race. I did exactly what I came to Eugene to do, and the reality that I nabbed my BQ is settling in more and more every minute.

And truth be told, something as great and as honorable as running the Boston marathon, especially next year, shouldn’t be easy. It supposed to be earned, to be fought for, and it took a good kick in the butt Sunday for me to truly realize what that honor is all about.

Another new favorite.

Another new favorite.

I cannot begin to thank everyone enough for your words of support and encouragement. This community is filled with an unbelievable kinship, and on Sunday I was reminded once again of how proud I am to call myself a runner. A big congratulations to everyone who raced this weekend! I hope you all celebrated well and are resting properly.

If you need me, I’ll be with my chocolate and my pillow. Probably wearing my medal.

Thanks Eugene! You proved your legacy ten-fold. And here’s hoping that next year’s spring race takes place in another legendary place, on a different coast 🙂

St. Paddy’s Run Half-Marathon Race Recap

As I briefly mentioned at the end of my post last week, I—along with the rest of the green-and-beer loving Americans of the running world—ran a St. Paddy’s Day race this weekend. I didn’t spend a lot of time prefacing this week with a blog post full of goals and nerves, because this wasn’t really an A-race for me. In fact, I wasn’t even looking at  it so much as a race as a training run; a training run in which I would wear a bib and get to practice running in the race atmosphere.

My main goal was to stay at marathon goal pace (7:55-ish) for the entire race. I also wanted this pace to feel do-able—comfortable enough to cruise in, but quick enough to feel like effort. If this was accomplished, I was going to be happy.

The other goal I had going into this race was to really practice and hone-in my race brain. This included not going out too fast, conserving energy, ideally negative-splitting, and generally getting a good “race-day” feel.

One condition I had to accomplish before toeing the start line was to do a 7-mile “warm up” beforehand, in order to get my prescribed 20 miles in for the day. I was probably most nervous for this part. I knew on fresh legs, 7:55 miles wouldn’t be a problem. But after 7 miles and a questionable night of sleep beforehand, I felt a little less in control. Not to mention the fact that only two days before, I had an intense speed workout that pretty much kicked my confidence and butt to the curb.

Nevertheless, 5 am rang in on Saturday—and out I went for a slow 7 miles. I didn’t wear headphones (saved the jams for the actual race), and I focused on staying slow and in control. Before I knew it, an hour had passed, and I was back home changing clothes and scarfing down a banana and Picky Bar. 15 minutes later, and BF and I were on the road to Tacoma.

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After a quick packet pick-up and finding the best race-day parking spot EVER, we leisurely rolled up to the start line, along with several other green-and-shamrock clad runners. I even managed to spot a few friends who were running—which is always fun. (Tacoma is the home of my alma mater—Logger for life!)

I kid you not...this is where we parked. High fives all around.

I kid you not…this is where we parked. High fives all around.

The gun went off right on time—and off we went!

The better part of the first mile was largely downhill, which kind of screwed up my “start slow” plan…but I wasn’t worried. A little padding time would help with the hilly section I knew would come up. I planned to settle into 7:55 in the second mile and cruise from there.

There was a lot of leap-frogging going on during the first few miles. I had a private chuckle to myself whenever I’d pass someone and they’d immediately sprint back ahead of me. I didn’t let it egg me on…and if anything, it was a good reminder of what happens when you waste too much energy early. “Even pacing…stick to your plan,” is what I kept telling myself.

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After the first three miles, the course started along a long, flat stretch of waterfront that I have always loved running on. The last time I ran this route was during the Tacoma Marathon, so I was happy to reestablish a better relationship with the terrain.

I felt fantastic. 7:55 felt very in control and comfortable—and luckily at this point we had thinned out to the point where I didn’t have girls anxiously gunning to run by me. I knew I was probably the 20th woman or so, and while this little fact added a competitive glimmer to my brain, I didn’t let it take over my plan.

I kept cruising, enjoying the scenery and being in a race. I knew that miles 6-7-8 were going to be hillier, so I prepped myself to bust through those.

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As the hillier, neighborhood miles approached, it started to rain. Not the worst thing in the world—a lot of the time rain feels nice in the middle of the race—but I did have a chafing concern.

And here’s where I potentially TMI, but it happens: My legs were already a little raw from how sweaty my Thursday workout was, and despite my better attempts at BodyGlide and bandaids…I knew that they’d be no match for wet shorts. No matter. If my biggest complaint was mild inner-thigh stinging, then I was doing good.

The hillier miles were a little tough, but really nothing too bad. I actually enjoyed the change of pace/terrain, and it was fun to bolt on the downhills. Around Mile 8, I took a couple Sport Beans and got a big surge of energy. I was excited to head back on the flat waterfront again and finish this thing.

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I should also state at this point that I’d been consistently running down a couple girls for the first 9 miles. My technique would be to find a runner whose pace I liked and stick right behind them. This really helped simulate a good race feel, and I made sure (at least until mile 9ish) that they were within my goal-pace-range.

That’s when I came across green bow girl. This chick had—frankly—the prettiest stride I’ve ever seen (is that weird to say?), and she was holding an incredibly steady pace up ahead of me, and I decided she would be the next target. Once I caught her, I felt great and assumed we were right within my right time frame.

The 7:35 on my watch said otherwise.

But, at this point—I knew my primarily goal would be accomplished, so I decided to have a little fun at the end.

So, green bow and I ran stride-for stride, me right behind her. I could tell she was into it though—so it turned into more of a joint effort than a caddy girl-race. The rain had let up at this point and it was time for a gut-out to the finish. I still didn’t feel like I was all-out though, which was incredibly encouraging. I was really pumped at the fact that a 7:40 pace after 17 miles of running for the day felt good.

9-11

With about 2 miles to go, an interesting twist in the plot developed: the half-marathon runners merged with both the 5k AND the 10k. The two races had started after the half, and although the runners of the two races were already done…the walkers were not.

So, despite the better efforts of the race officials to keep the lanes designated to walkers and runners, the last two miles was a weave-fest of the half-marathon runners and the 5 and 10k walkers. It was a bit frustrating, but I suppose it also kept things interesting. My iPod had also died at this point so it was fun to chime into the mid-race chatter.

I had passed green bow at this point, along with a few other girls. I knew they were hot on my trail, and in the final mile I decided to not let any of them pass me. It helped that we were all dodging people, so none of us could really see the others through the crowds.

With less than a half mile left, it was time to bust some booty. The only other thing I wanted to accomplish for the day was a strong finish, which I was set and ready for. That is…up until I remembered/realized that the finish was straight up a marginally steep hill. If the hill didn’t crush my sprinting-finish effort, then the corresponding people-dodging definitely did. It wasn’t pretty.

Check out the end there...NOT COOL.

Check out the end there…NOT COOL.

But before I knew it, I crested the last ascent where we were siphoned off into a separate “half-marathoners” section (better late than never…I guess). I ran the last hundred yards or so to the finish line, tried my best to smile, and clicked my watch to stop.

12-14

1:40:47, 12th woman overall

My second fastest half-marathon time, a negative split, and on the tail end of a hard week and a 7-mile warm up.

I was pretty excited, to say the least. Good work Tacoma, you redeemed yourself.

I got my medal, a water bottle, and quickly got back to the finish line so I could see BF finish. I managed to see Lauren accomplish a huge half PR with a smile on her face which was just great, and before I knew it—there was BF, pulling in an awesome 1:54. Once again, I was marveled by his natural athleticism—he didn’t train for this race and had taken the entire week off beforehand. Seriously dude?

It was at this point that I saw the chafing damage on my leg. I was so distracted with race euphoria that I hadn’t realized just how much multiple patches of skin were stinging. Let’s just say there was blood on both my legs and my shorts…and the spot under my right arm that always gets trashed was nice a raw.

MARGINALLY GRAPHIC IMAGE AHEAD

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So pretty. Again, let’s blame the Samoas.

But things were still too exciting to care. We went to check out official times at the results booth, where I discovered that I’d won my age group! This has never really happened before, so it was quite the icing on the cake. I even got a blue ribbon!

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I love my ribbon! It's so pretty! It also says Bud Light on it...so, thanks for that too? Also booty-booty-booty photobomb behind me.

I love my ribbon! It’s so pretty! It also says Bud Light on it…so, thanks for that too? Also I spy a green booty-booty-booty photo-bomb behind me.

This was a good day. It was a fun race, a strong run, and exactly the confidence builder I needed going into this second part of training.

While the AG placing definitely feels good and adds a layer of encouragement, it’s really the feeling of strength I felt the whole time that made this race for me.

We finished off the morning the only way there is to after lots of miles and sweat:

fork added for scale purposes

fork added for scale purposes..so much pancake, so much glorious pancake.

And that photo pretty much summarizes the rest of the day. Lots of food and rest was essentially all I could muster, but it was all with a smile on my face.

I’m feeling good about Eugene right now, and I don’t think I’ve really vocalized that feeling yet. I know there are bound to be a few more kinks to work out and per usual—bad runs will happen. But if Saturday is any indication, I think my training is headed in the right direction, and I’m getting more excited for my next 26.2 endeavor.

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