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Philadelphia Marathon Training Week #14

Three-weeks of taper is a tricky thing. Initially, you’re psyched for some well-earned down time in which you’ll spend hours of blissful sleep/rest regenerating every muscle fiber just in time for race day. In reality, the first week of taper doesn’t really feel like tapering, the second week (where I’m currently at) is when you question if you’re doing too much or too little, and the third week is just mayhem.

For my first week of taper, I still had to run 50 miles based on the 20% reduction rule off of my peak mileage (65). That’s still a lot of running! I ran 5 days last week, some of which felt great, some of which weren’t so great.

Monday: rest

Tuesday: 9 miles + Core Power yoga

Solid run with Julia around Wash Park x2 and some sweaty yoga after work. Mmm.

Wednesday: November Project workout + run before/after (7 miles total)

So many humans! Biggest NP5280 group yet.

So many humans! Biggest NP5280 group yet.

Thursday: Core Power yoga

Friday: November Project workout + run before/after (11 miles total)

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Super fun workout last Friday. We did a running circuit with some steady inclines/declines in between strength moves. There was a gorgeous sunrise, and I felt strong and happy the entire time. Julia and I ran before and after too, for a total of 11 miles for the day.

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Proof of the glorious sky! I swear I don’t just go to NP because they take photos that I can conveniently use as a blogger.

Saturday: 7 miles easy

Sunday: 16 miles

A very stereotypical long run story: up too early, didn’t feel great for the first half, felt monumentally better for the second half. While I’d rather feel good for the entirety of my long runs (HA!), I’m glad that I seem to have a trend going of negative splitting my long runs in both pace and general attitude. One of my biggest hopes for Philly is to race, not just survive, the second half, so hopefully this is good practice.

Total= 50 miles

Generally, this week was fine. Nothing was groundbreaking, nothing was terrible; just doing to work and going through the motions. In terms of where I’m at now, I’ve dug a little mental ditch this week and need to get myself out of it. Things are just achy, and I’m questioning all training decisions by the minute (despite the fact that I’ve had it all planned out already). I’m really trying to just listen to my body, and I know more rest is better than less, but it’s all just kind of hard to gauge at this point. I’ve decided to not really abide by mileage targets anymore and just stay conservative.

I kind of can’t believe that the race is 10 days away. I kind of feel like I should take some time to internalize it a little more, because it doesn’t really seem to stay in the front of my brain. Maybe that’s a good thing, but I feel like after 14 weeks of this business, I should be getting a little more excited, nervous, something?! I’m certain to eat those words next week, but this taper just feels a little different than previous ones. I’m still trying to nail down some goals for the race, although I have a general framework of times that I think are possible, depending on the day.

I do know that I want to run a smart race. At my last goal marathon, Eugene, I hit the wall so hard I had a difficult time even enjoying the feeling of qualifying for Boston, and it was entirely my own fault. I know the distance will hurt no matter what, but I’d like to beef up my mental toughness a little more this time around.

More goal talk and taper talk to come, I’m sure. Thanks for sticking with me 🙂

Philadelphia Marathon Training Weeks #12 and #13

Yep, another two-in-one training recap. I almost just bailed on recapping last week since it wasn’t very exciting, but considering I’ve managed to get every other week up…I might as well. The following are a cut back week (between peak weeks) and my final tippity-top peak week, which was finished on Sunday. Here’s what was up:

Week #12 (10/20-10/26)

Monday: REST

So very necessary after Denver Rock ‘n’ Roll the day before!

Tuesday: 9 miles + Core Power yoga

Wednesday: November Project workout (PR clovers) + run to/from, 7 miles total

Somehow I managed to have a half-marathon scheduled the weekend before we do this workout twice now, which doesn’t leave me in a great position to “PR” the workout. No matter, it’s still a butt-kicker and I love it.

Thursday: 6.5 miles PM

This was one of the very few times in my running career that I was so happy I pushed my run back to the afternoon. Not only did I get a little more sleep, but it was a gorgeous evening and I loved ending my day in the cool fall splendor.

Friday: Core Power yoga

As much as I love a morning run, a morning yoga session is pretty awesome as well.

Saturday: ~11.5 mile trail run up and down Bergen Peak

I was so excited to do this trail run for a second time, and it came at a perfect point in training. I wanted to do a long run, but I still wanted to keep it shorter since it was a cut back week. I didn’t feel too great on this jaunt, unfortunately, mostly due to a wonky head and stomach, but it was still great to be out there with good people. Not to mention that climbing 2,000 feet in 5 miles at an average altitude of 8,000 feet isn’t the worst marathon training 🙂

No pictures, somehow.

Sunday: 8 miles + Core Power yoga

Fun fact: I was late to yoga, therefore speeding, and was then pulled over (for the second time in my life) and not only did I manage to only get a warning, but I still made it to the class. Namaste indeed.

Total= 42 miles

There was definitely some good training during this week, despite the fact that I feel ridiculously tired the whole time. Although it was a good step-back week in terms of mileage, I’m guessing the rebuilding that was occurring just sucked a lot of energy out of me. Not to mention it takes me probably 3-4 days to fully recover from a fast half-marathon – which took place the Sunday before. But, I was happy to get in 3 yoga sessions and a beautiful trail run a little later in the season.

Week #13 (10/27-11/2)

Monday: 12 miles

I had to get up so early to get in 12 miles before work, but it turned out to be a great run. Super quiet park, relatively fast legs, and generally really peaceful.

Tuesday: Core Power yoga

Wednesday: November Project workout + run before/after, 8 miles total

The best thing in the world happened last Wednesday: Adam came to NP!!! As if I didn’t already get enough of a happiness boost from going myself, having him there left me glowing all day.

My 6:30 am giddiness caught on camera.

My 6:30 am giddiness caught on camera.

Thursday: Back at the track! 6 x 800, 7 miles total + Core Power yoga

I’ve put off/avoided the track for speed work in favor of stairs, trails, etc. basically this whole training cycle. Lucky for me, I managed to wrangle two friends to join in on my last attempt to get in a real interval workout. And the results were encouraging: 6 x 800 in an average of 3:18, the last one in 3:14. Boomshakalaka! I felt strong and in control, and it made me excited to find some shorter races to do post-marathon.

Friday: November Project workout (stairs!) + run before/after, 7.5 miles total

I was a little apprehensive about a hard NP workout the day after speed work, but this one turned out to be awesome. Steep stair repeats, mixed up with some body-weight exercises. So good!

Saturday: 8.5 miles easy

This run could be classified as death warmed up. I was in a fog the entire time and unable to enjoy almost any of it. But, I was a little overdue for a bad run, so I accepted it and moved on.

Sunday: 22 miles

This run was a big check mark to make, in my mind. I’ve done two other 20 milers, technically, but the first was perforated with a lot of stopping (it was run around the city) and the second was broken up into two parts (7 miles + a half marathon). So while I don’t want to discount either of those efforts, I needed a long, steady big kahuna of a run. Julia and I headed out to the Highline Canal trail, and after the first 12 together, I headed back out for the last 10 on my own. And it went great! There were a few instances where my head was getting a little bogged down by the distance and time on my feet, but I was generally able to pull myself out of it and get in the zone. I was also able to negative split the run  (one of my huge goals for Philly itself) and the last 4 miles were the fastest overall. Really encouraging, and despite normal fatigue, my legs felt pretty darn good for having run 22 miles on the back end of a big week.

Total= 65 miles

BIG number! That’s the most miles I’ve ever run in one week, and it felt like the perfect finishing point of build up over this training cycle. Which also means: TAPER is here. I used to be a stereotypical runner who hated taper, but I’ve grown out of that a bit and I intend to enjoy this stage of training. I’m bound to get a little batty somewhere along the way, but I know at this point the only real work I can do now is recover like I champ. This week will be down around 50 miles, next week 35, and the week after probably a little under 20 pre-RACE DAY.

This has been a really good training cycle, and I haven’t really felt burned out at all. I mostly just feel ready to rest, rebuild, and get myself in fighting condition to let it rip on November 23. It’s been a very long time since I went into a big goal race feeling fit and ready, and while I definitely still have some apprehension and self-doubt, I intend to approach race day with a lot of gusto.

But for now, it’s time to sleep and eat.

Have a lovely week!

Philadelphia Marathon Training Week #11

Last week was my first peak week of this training cycle! And it was the most miles I’ve ever run in one week! And I ran a half-marathon! So many exclamation points!

I had been hoping to peak around 60 miles this training cycle, but I wasn’t going to force it if it didn’t feel feasible, or if it felt like I was pushing it too much. Like I said in my last update, recently I’ve started to really feel my fitness creeping in, so I thought I’d set the goal of 60 miles and see how it went. My long run this week was also going to be a hybrid 20-miler: 7 easy miles early in the morning, followed by the Denver Rock ’n’ Roll half marathon with the goal of running my hopeful marathon pace. Lots of big numbers, lots of good training, here’s how it all unfolded:

Monday: 9 miles

Tuesday: 8 miles + Core Power yoga

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

Killer NP workout, including bounding up big stairs and bunny hopping up little stairs. Also, I won the Positivity Award! It may or may not have sat next to my bed for the entire week…which may or may not have made me smile every time I went to bed and every time I woke up.

This is Alli Bell, who is the best, bestowing me with the Positivity Award via a stellar poem. It was all awesome.

This is Alli Bell, who is the best, bestowing me with the Positivity Award via a stellar poem. It was all awesome.

Thursday: 10 miles

This run was heaven. Perfect fall temperatures and a sunrise that stopped me dead in my tracks and made me wish I ran with my phone.

Friday: Core Power yoga

Yoga in the dark in the early morning was close to the most relaxing way to start a Friday. I’m really enjoying supplementing my running with yoga, and it definitely does not feel like a chore or a hassle at all.

Saturday: 6.5 miles easy

Sunday: 7 miles easy + Denver Rock ‘N Roll half-marathon in 1:43:17 (7:52 average pace)

I was a little apprehensive about how this whole crazy scheme would shake out. Doing this made me feel a little insane, but I’ve done this same “20 miler” scenario before and it ended up being the biggest confidence booster on the road to Eugene. Which is why I decided to schedule it for this Philly training cycle, and as you can see above – it worked out great, once again!

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I’ll write a full recap soon (promise), but essentially – this was as good as I could have hoped for in terms of how this race unfolded. My pace was spot on where I’d like to run at Philly, and it was on the back-end of a huge week, which gives me a lot of gusto for the added benefits tapering will provide. Not to mention this was hillier than Philly will be, and I’ll have sea-level on my side for the marathon as well. So, while I realize running 7 miles before a half-marathon seems positively wild (and it sort of is), I’ve really become a fan of it for marathon training. Not to mention running 13.1 miles of a 20 miler alongside thousands of people around your city is infinitely more entertaining than designing a route to run solo.

Total=60.1 miles

Really happy with last week, overall. It did, however, take it out of me a bit – as this week hasn’t exactly been top notch. But, my plan this week is to take it easier as a step-back, crank into high gear next week for my second and final peak week, then lock it in for a three week taper. Holy shit, I can’t believe tapering is only a week and half away! Scary. But, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now, I’m still focusing on keeping the balance of hard work and quality rest in harmonious equilibrium…and judging by the amount of sleeping in I’ve done this week, I’d say I’m doing a solid job.

On one final note from last week, Peyton is the best, and now it’s going to be hard for people to keep denying it. GO BRONCOS!

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509, adios Brett

Philadelphia Marathon Training Week #10

At some point last week, I realized that this has been perhaps the most diversified marathon training cycle I’ve gone through so far – and it’s entirely not on purpose. But I love it! Every week has been a little different, and I’ve hardly been bored over the past 10 weeks. Between the slow runs, the fast runs, the trail runs, the road runs, the runs with friends, the solo runs, and the Crohn’s runs (sorry…I had to…and jk, things are a-ok in that department!) things are feeling well-rounded and fun.

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Last week was a good example of this happy mix of running…here’s how it looked:

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: AM Core Power yoga, PM 6.5 mile trail run with Julia

Things got wild as we headed out after work for some miles on Green Mountain. Julia wanted to run some hills, and I tend to happily follow along with any adventure that involves being outside and running shoes. I figured this could be my speed work for the week too, considering running up a mountain at 6,000 ft elevation is basically equivalent to interval repeats. And oh baby…did this deliver. Here’s the elevation profile of the trails we ran:

Capture

That 800 feet in the first mile was seriously no joke. My lungs were burning practically the whole time, but the view and the cruise around on top was beyond worth it. An A+ Colorado evening.

Wednesday: November Project workout +run to/from, 5 miles total + 3 miles PM

By the end of the day on Wednesday, my quads were feeling royally brutalized by the steep decent we flew down the day before (see photo above). Needless to say, Adam and my evening jog was a struggle, but my legs did feel a little less robotic afterward.

Thursday: 9 miles easy + PM Core Power yoga

Still loving on the yoga, and managing 2x per week so far. It’s not extraordinary, but it’s something!

Friday: Rest

Unplanned but necessary rest day. I wanted my sore legs to feel fresh and ready for a weekend in the mountains!

Saturday: ~16 mile trail run in Steamboat Springs, CO

You know how everyone talks about getting uncomfortable and getting out of your comfort zone etc, etc? Well, this run about summed that up for me, although I naively didn’t really think it would going into it. Some November Project brethren had the brilliant idea to spend a weekend in beautiful Steamboat Springs, with activities including running and eating/drinking. A Fun Run “race” was planned with two separate courses laid out, a 16-miler and an 8-miler, and being the “in training marathoner” I am, I went with the 16-er group. Please note that everyone in this group was wearing trail shoes, hydration packs, and more than a few had finished 50+ mile races. And then there was me… with my tiny hand-held and Adidas Energy Boosts. Superb, ready to rock.

I felt supremely out of my element during the first few miles of this run. Not only was the altitude over 8,000 feet, but the course started on a climb which quickly reminded me that no, in fact, we don’t have hills in the big city (Denver). Not to mention I was attempting to keep up with trail runners who not only knew what they were doing, but they were all good at what they were doing. There were a few mild instances of fright, needless to say, as I heaved myself along in my very non-technical footwear.

But not too long into it, things started to click. I may not have been very fast or agile, but hot damn it was FUN. The dirt, the single track, the nice longgg descent we got along awesome switchbacks– it was all so enjoyable. And the scenery? You guys, this wasn’t even real life. I had to make sure I didn’t fall several times because I couldn’t stop looking around at all the yellow, red, orange, and green that blanketed the area. Fall to the max; it was perfect.

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This run wiped me out in all the right ways, and while it was a little nontraditional for a road marathon training run, I’m pretty sure that spending 3.5 hours on my feet running up and down in the mountains at 8,000 feet of altitude is pretty decent training.

Sunday: 6.5 miles

It took literally all of my strength the lace up and get out the door once we drove back from Steamboat at 6 PM, but I was wildly happy I did. I felt fantastic on this run; fresh, grateful, and just happy. Fall was/is whirling through Denver, and I’m trying to soak as much in as I can.

Total= 46 miles

This current week is one of my two peak weeks for this training cycle, and I kind of can’t believe I’m already at this point. I’ve been incredibly back and forth between thinking my marathon ambitions and goals are far-fetched, and feeling confident in my training. I’m still a little bipolar about it, and I don’t really know if I’m ever going to fully shake that tendency, but I did feel this week like fitness is really starting to creep up on me. I’ve been told that’s the way it’s supposed to happen, so I’m hoping that the momentum I’m starting to feel will escalate me through the next few weeks, just in time to lock it in and start tapering. Time will tell. In the mean time, I’m really enjoying the journey.

Representation of "enjoying the journey." Colorado mountain sunset with some seriously awesome friends.

Representation of “enjoying the journey.” Colorado mountain sunset with some seriously awesome friends.

Happy Friday everyone!

Philadelphia Marathon Training Week #4

It’s hard to believe that I’ve already been marathon training for four weeks. Probably mostly because I haven’t been following an exact schedule, per say. I’ve mostly just been trying to run a lot, within reason, and get in some quality workouts when I can.My main priority whenever I’m marathon training has always been the long run, so that has been something I’m diligently doing, but otherwise things are a little loosey goosey. Which is fine, but I realized this week if I want to accomplish the big goals I’m hoping for, I need to buckle down and start doing more of the extra steps other than just logging miles. Primarily more lifting, more stretching, and more annoying-yet-necessary stabilization/injury prevention exercises. My occasional clam-shells while watching Jeopardy and one-minute planks after runs aren’t going to cut it on their own anymore. I don’t want to look back on this training cycle and say, “I should have done more of…”

I’m in control right now, and I want to do everything I can to set myself up for success.

That said, here’s how last week looked (which is now almost two weeks ago…). It was a little weird since I was running my long run, a half marathon, on Labor Day – therefore I’m including this past Monday in this week’s recap. A little confusing, but it’s how I strategized my week.

M: Rest

T: 8 miles

W: November Project workout, 8 miles total

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This November Project workout is done once a month, and it’s a butt-kicker. I realized ahead of time that by doing it, I was going to be slightly sabotaging my half-marathon, but that was part of the idea. I wanted to run the half on tired legs, and doing this workout would help do just that. I’ve done this workout now 5 times, and while it’s gotten a little easier every time – it’s still an awesome benchmark workout.

T: 9 miles

F: November Project workout (5 miles total) in the AM, 3 easy miles after work

We did the ice-bucket challenge in a fountain post-workout.

We did the ice-bucket challenge in a fountain post-workout.

S: ~2 mile swim

S: 6 mile hike in the mountains, continuing the theme of sabotaging the half…oh well

M: America the Beautiful 1/2 Marathon + 2 miles 

Race recap to come, but essentially this race was about what I could have hoped for. My legs were definitely tired going into it, but it was a solid and smooth effort, and I was happy with my pace consistency. I finished in just over 1:46 and 8th female overall.

Total: 46 miles

I was toasted in a good way after this week. It was a decent variety of things with the swimming, hiking, NP, and running. While I’d love to still be able to run an “easy” 1:40 half, it felt good to continue to push those times down closer to where they used to be. I’m running two more halfs during Philly training, and I’m looking forward to using them as long-run workouts. 

Otherwise, I’m hoping to log more workouts and “extras” in the upcoming weeks. Consider that an invitation to call me out if you keep seeing a lack of strength training in these recaps 🙂 There’s also some yoga Groupons floating around, so maybe I’ll actually get back into that habit one of these days.

Generally, I’m happy to be marathon training, happy it’s almost fall, and happy to be (slowly) making progress. I’m trying to take a lot of ownership over my training this time around in terms of not making excuses, but also in terms of staying intrinsically motivated. If I want it, I’m the one that needs to go out and do it, and there’s something really empowering about feeling so in control. I haven’t felt this way in a while, and it’s good to be back.

 

Ragnar Ultra Relay Northwest Passage Race Recap

Holy Moses I need to get this post up!

It’s been two weeks since all the epicness of Ragnar Northwest Passage commenced, and I need to nail down my recap before it all falls out of my brain.

I did this same relay last year with this same* team, and although I knew a bit more about what to expect, I was still apprehensive about how 35+ miles of running in 30 hours was going to feel.

*our team name and three of the team members were the same…there were also three new peeps!

Regardless of my nerves, I was so excited to be in Washington with some awesome running friends and to be doing what I love. I was also lined up to be the first runner in the relay, which I was ecstatic about. In the two ultra-style relays I’ve done, I’ve always been the last runner which is a giant mental battle to deal with on top of the physical challenges. Needless to say, I was carrying a “one and done” attitude with me.

Our Team: Six Pack with Racks

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Here’s the quick-and-dirty of who comprised our small team of 6…in runner order!

Runner #1: Me, boring.

Runner #2: Lauren —the incredible captain behind the whole operation. Lauren ensured everything ran smoothly and tackled some high mileage herself.

Runner #3: Marilyn — the “relay rookie” who dominated basically the entire time. She had lots of miles and ran them all with a smile on her face.

Runner #4: Jordanne — the “underdog” who hedged her running abilities before we even started, and then managed to kill all her runs and made us all laugh the whole time.

Runner #5: Nicole — the comeback kid. Poor girl had some bad stomach problems early on, but by her last run was proclaiming her love for running and dancing with animals, literally.

Runner #6: Bethany — the closer. Bethany took my spot from last year as the 6th runner, and she proved to be incredibly resilient and determined as she tackled some tough and long-awaited legs.

Driver: Travis! Having a driver this year was huge, and we were all in awe the entire time of how patient and easy-going Travis was. Thanks for loaning your husband as our chauffeur, Marilyn!

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Leg 1

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I kicked off our race at 9 am with a 13.1 mile run starting in Blaine, WA, which is right on the border of Canada. I was excited about this leg, but I also knew it had the potential to take a lot out of me for the rest of the race — so I decided to just take it easy and enjoy the running.

I loved starting at the actual start line of Ragnar, and everyone’s energy was on fire as we made our way out of the shoot. I quickly fell into step with another ultra team runner (number 129 in the photo above!), and we starting chatting away about our teams, our relay experiences, and everything under the sun. The two of us stayed together for NINE miles, talking the entire time, which made the time fly by. I found out that her (Amy) husband works for the same company in Seattle that I used to work for, AND they live in West Seattle which (as most of you probably know) is my former beloved neighborhood. Bascially…besties.

But, besties aside, this was still a “race,” and when Amy started to slow down a little bit, I decided to finish the leg on my own. Bye bye! When I broke away from her, we started running along the water and I was completely overwhelmed with a joyous feeling. Ocean! Running! Washington! All of it merged together into a giant cloud of happiness, and I was loving it! I also started passing a lot of people, which only fueled the run-love I was already basking in.

Before I knew it, my own personal half marathon was done and I handed off the slap bracelet to Lauren. I was ecstatic to be done with my first (and longest) run and to have felt SO good the entire way. When Amy came in I thanked her for all the miles we spent together, and good news…she didn’t begrudge me for leaving her behind 🙂

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Onto the next!

Leg 2

My second leg started around 8 pm that night, and after a long day of waiting around, I was ready to run again! This leg also started from a major exchange, so there were lots of runners and people to get energy from. This leg was 8.6 miles or so, and while that distance on its own wasn’t really overwhelming, the thought of running it after my 13.1 that morning was little scary.

Pre-run 2, finding friends!

Pre-run 2, finding friends!

But, the show must gone on, and after Bethany came running through the exchange, off I went.

Photo Jul 18, 7 56 04 PM

Immediately I could tell that this run was going to be different than the first. The scenery beforehand had been beachy and full of little snow-cone shops and kayak huts. This second run was along city streets in a town that was full of projects and closed businesses. Needless to say, it wasn’t exactly scenic, and honestly if I had been running it out on my own…I probably wouldn’t have felt particularly safe.

But with decorated vans and headlamps abound, it was all good. My legs were definitely fatigued though, and after 4 miles or so, I could feel all the hills that covered this leg. My energy was draining a little bit too, and I tried to just focus on getting to the end.

Around mile 6.5 or so, in an effort to boost my mood and energy, I took a couple of chews which immediately improved just about everything. My form straightened up, my pace quickened, and my attitude brightened. I knew we were over the bigger hills on this leg, so I decided to push it to the end a little (mainly to get things over with…). And pushing it was so fun! I was running a mid-low 7 minute pace, which isn’t anything wild, but it felt great to turn my legs over and crank out some faster miles.

I think I got a little too carried away though, because when I trotted into the exchange…there was no team member to be found! I stood there like a lost child with a slap bracelet in hand and no one to hand it off to. Luckily, my team was on their way over, and quickly hopped-to as soon as they realized I was already there.

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2 runs out of 4 done! Now it was time to “sleep” and get through those long nighttime hours.

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 Run 3

This was the run I was probably the most wary about out of the 4. I was scheduled to start around 4 am, and this would be my hilliest run by far; mainly climbing and not a lot of descending. It was 7.3 miles, which again isn’t bad relatively, but after 21+ miles the day before and very little van sleeping, I knew it would be a challenge.

Keep smiling friends! It's 3 am!

Keep smiling friends! It’s 3 am!

Photo Jul 19, 3 53 01 AM

And right out of the gate, it certainly was a challenge. My legs were heavy and tired, and there was a sharp head wind combined with rain hitting me right in the face. Just lovely. The first part of this run was a straight shot on a paved bike path along some railroad yards, so it wasn’t exactly scenic. But that didn’t really matter, considering it was very dark anyway and all I could really see was the ground 20 feet in front of me.

Once I ran through the first exchange and continued on to the second leg of the run, things started to improve a bit. We entered a very woodsy area, and the familiar smell of damp bark and pine was super comforting and gave me a nice little boost. We were climbing and climbing seemingly forever, but I did what I could and managed to keep a steady pace. At one point I looked up and saw a long stream of blinking red lights all along the road in front of me, which was a nice reminder that I was definitely not alone.

I savored any minor descent I got, which seemed to only be met with an even longer climb. Eventually though, the lights of the exchange came into view, and after trudging up what was the steepest hill of the run, I handed off to Lauren as she sped off to traverse the rest of Whidbey Island.

Only one left!

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Run 4

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I was supremely ready to be done when it came time for my last run around noon. It was a 6.2 miler, and I wanted to see if I could push my pace a little bit—namely to just get ‘er done (I’d been running between 8:30-45). After nearly 30 miles though, I knew it would be a challenge.

"Do I have to?"

“Do I have to?”

I tried to psych myself up as much as I could, and when Bethany came around the corner, it was go time…time to finish this biz!

Pretty sure I said, "Oh shit" as this photo was being taken.

Pretty sure I said, “Oh shit” as this photo was being taken.

The start of this leg went all along an open field, which was pretty but really exposed and a wicked headwind was making any kind of “speedy” pace I’d been wanting to run a struggle. I was clipping along around an 8-minute mile and then I’d get blasted by a gust that would totally throw off my groove. Let it be known: I really, really don’t like the wind.

After a couple miles though, we turned left at the coastline and once again I was running along the water. Hurrah! This lasted all of three minutes, and immediately the course routed back inland up what was easily the steepest hill of my race. Womp womp. But, I knew that this climb was going to be rewarded with a nice long gradual downhill, so I didn’t waste any time attempting to power my way up.

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Once reaching the “summit,” I immediately quickened my turnover to take advantage of the descent, and all remnants of fatigue in my legs seemed to disappear. I was flying! It felt so good to move a little quicker, and with just a few miles to go, the delicious knowledge that I was about to be done started to seep happiness into my brain — which then worked its way through my whole body.

I looked down at my watch as I continued to trek closer to my own personal finish line, and while the speed wasn’t anything wild, it was still the fastest I’d run all weekend. I felt strong, I felt so much gratitude, and most importantly…I felt like me. After months of not feeling quite like myself, I cannot describe the joy of finally feeling like the runner I know I am. After 35 miles of running, a 7 minute pace magically felt effortless and freeing, and once again running proved that it can have magical powers.

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I turned a corner, and there was my team, ready to finish their own runs. I couldn’t contain my smile…I was DONE. All hopped up on run love, and ready to bask in the adrenaline of a great relay.

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It was so fun spending the remainder of the day cheering in my teammates as they finished up their legs. We had such a great team dynamic, and spending 32 hours with them was easily the best part of this whole shebang. Relays have a funny way of bonding people; through the abnormal nature of these beasts, there’s a unique camaraderie formed through a shared passion, shared pain, and shared experience.

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We finished in just over 32 hours, and every minute of it was a blast. I loved this group and I loved the fact that just a few months ago, I didn’t think I’d be able to pull this off. And in case anyone was keeping track…I did not have to stop for a bathroom once on any of my runs. Not…once.

Thank you SO MUCH to Six Pack with Racks for including me once again on this adventure. I loved spending time with these gals (and guy) in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

When’s the next one?? 🙂

 

Summer Training (and Living)

Somewhere between summer starting, working, and most of my free time being occupied, my inclination to “just blog about something!” has turned into, “there’s too much to say, so I’ll just say nothing.”

So, “saying nothing” has unfortunately left this space a little sparse. I go back and forth between wanting to write about all the great things that happen and wanting to keep them all preserved in my real life, away from the tangles of the internet. So, I suppose that’s landed me in more of an “I’ll blog when I want to” mentality — which is probably good for content, not so good for consistency.

Alas, I do want to share some of life’s happenings today. There really isn’t too much of interest, to tell the truth, but all of it has been making me gracious and happy each and every day.

Training

I’m currently training for Ragnar NWP in two weeks. This year’s training has been a little different than last year’s, but I’m excited to see how things shake out. Basically, my method of ultra relay madness has been to piece together about ~40-45 miles per week, including a long run, and to pair that with climbing/hiking a big mountain.

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It sounds a little obscure and unreasonable, but it has actually fit really well into my preferred summer routine. For the past month, Adam and I have managed to spend one weekend day traversing up and down a peak, two of which have been Colorado 14ers. While it’s not actual running, I have very little doubt that this kind of cross-training will pay dividends both during the ultra relay and in fall marathon training. The altitude, the elevation, and the time on my feet are all substantial and challenging— and I’m excited to see how these climbs translate into running.

 

Here’s how the past few weekends have looked in terms of Ragnar training:

June 14/15: 16 mile long run, 8 miles + 3,000 ft elevation gain on Mt. Si

Celebrating our 6 year anniversary atop a mountain in beautiful Seattle.

Celebrating our 6 year anniversary atop a mountain in beautiful Seattle.

June 21/22: 14 mile long run, 6 miles + 3,000 ft elevation gain on Mt. Sherman (14er)

14er selfie on top of Sherman. Broncos hat and Boston jacket=clutch.

14er selfie on top of Sherman. Broncos hat and Boston jacket=clutch.

June 28/29: 18 mile long run, 10 miles + 4,700 ft elevation gain on Mt. Elbert (14er)

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The view from the top of Mt. Elbert, unreal.

Coming up this weekend: 12-ish mile long run, 7 miles + 3,000 ft elevation gain on Mt. Byers

This wasn’t exactly the Ragnar training plan I’d intended, but it allows for me to both gain fitness and partake in activities that highlight Colorado and allow me to spend time with Adam. We’ll see how it turns out in two weeks, but I’m feeling optimistic.

All this Ragnar build-up is really helping me to pack on a base of fitness for marathon training —which will start at the beginning of August. I’m putting together a full, customized 16-week plan (a first) in hopes that I can whip out a really special race by the time November comes around.

Speed wise, I’m inclined to say I wish I was doing better, but instead I’m going to focus on the progress that’s been made. My average pace for runs is inching further down in the 8s, which for a long time felt like a far-fetched dream. It’s been a humbling process, but I’m learning to appreciate the smaller milestones more and more. I recently uploaded my Garmin data for the first time since the beginning of May, and it told an encouraging story of little improvements. No, I’m probably not close to the “easy” 7:30 tempo pace I used to hammer out, but for the first time in a long time— it doesn’t feel quite so far away.

I have a half next weekend, which I’m hoping to run as a moderate indicator of where my speed is at. It will be the weekend before Ragnar, so I can’t necessarily kill myself, but I plan on trying to make it hurt a little —whatever that may mean at this point.

Health

Let’s just all have a big, “Eff ya!” moment right now folks; my health is GOOD.

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After crawling back to life in January, followed by a downward spiral in April, I’m really feeling like I’m almost back to “normal.” Now, my version of normal isn’t necessarily the same as your average person, but for me — I couldn’t ask for better. I’m crediting the magical combination of summer bliss and expensive medication. I’m still taking daily pills and have to give myself a shot every two weeks, both of which will continue until the unforeseeable future, but it’s a small price to pay for feeling like myself again.

I definitely live with a fear of things relapsing without notice, but I’m trying to focus on staying gracious for the health I do have and confident in my ability to stay strong. Fitness is a great means of feeling power over a chronic condition, and I’m thankful that running has given me a somewhat tangible way of measuring my progress over Crohn’s.

The Rest

I do have a life outside of running (kind of 🙂 ), but I don’t need to bore anyone with the details that really only mean much to me. Generally, things are really, really great. I’m loving taking advantage of all the opportunities that longer days and warmer weather offer, and my happiness meter is feeling very high on a regular basis.

We’re slowly but surely settling into the wedding planning frame of mind, too. We have a date and a venue (two very important check marks!), and I’m finally starting to accept that a little more strategic planning needs to happen. I’ll probably buy a wedding planner book one of these days, but for now perusing Pinterest and talking about ideas with Adam are my preferred method of planning 🙂

In hindsight, this post was essentially a carbon copy of my last few posts, save for a few prettier pictures. I promise once real training starts again, I’ll be a little more active on here; I have a feeling there will be a lot to say along the way.

Happy (almost) 4th everyone! Enjoy some watermelon and some sunshine!

Denver Life, Running Life

You guys, life is crazy. Apparently I never did anything before moving, because I used to have a lot more time to blog. Actually that is partly true – we are doing a lot more since we moved, which is all good, but it’s taken me away from the virtual world and into the real world. It’s a good thing for sure, but I do miss this place.

Basically, in the blink of an eye, Denver went from a questionable spring/still winter to full-blown summer, and I love it. It’s (mostly) light out when I get up to run, I don’t need to wear a coat everywhere I go, we can play outside until 8:30 pm, and the mountains are slowly losing all their snow. Hiking awaits!

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Generally, all this daylight and warmth have brought on a lot of activities. Kickball, November Project, bags in the park, baseball games, hiking, trail running…it’s all abundant and it’s all awesome. I feel like I’m slowly transitioning out of my, “This is a new place and it’s fun but I’m homesick for Seattle and I’m a little scared all the time” mindset into, “This is a new place and I can’t get enough of it!” Fun stuff. I’m a little wary about the heat that has already hit us, and inevitably will only get worse, but I’m just going with it and remembering that hot summers=fast falls.

Speaking of (whoa, unintentional running transition!), my plan for this summer revolves around one goal: work my ass off, then kill it in fall marathon training. Speed and volume are both important parts of that plan —and while they don’t necessarily go together very well, I’m hoping that over time I’ll be able to incorporate both at a moderate rate that will ultimately land me with faster and more durable legs. I’d like to peak around 60-65 miles/week when I train for my fall marathon, which is going to require a lot of steady build up this summer. Which, fortunately, isn’t that hard to do considering there’s a little race near the end of July which necessitates increased mileage-based training. So, I’m hoping that by the time I start officially training (cirque the beginning of August), I’ll have a really solid base and enough toughness to endure some heavier mileage.

At the same time, my speed is still wandering aimlessly, and I’m anxious to help it find its way home. I’m slowly getting a little closer to where I used to be, but man…it’s hard. I’m yearning for the days when an 8-minute mile pace was a breeze, but until then I can only hope that by incorporating some faster miles in my normal runs and gradually building up my strength, I’ll get there eventually. I realize this sounds like I want to have my cake and eat it too, but while I’m definitely wanting my “old speeds” back, I’m also really wanting for them to be faster. When I got hurt/sick/etc., I was at a place where I was ready to be-rid of my standard routines and run-habits and establish a new set of goals, paces, and workouts. Now that I’m better, I still have those goals, but without the base I previously had to work with. Woe is me, right? No but really, I’m thankful for any progress at all – I’m just anxious to work hard and hopefully have it reflected in the clock. I’ve always said speed was my biggest motivator – so none of this should come as a surprise 🙂

Photo credit: November Project DEN

Photo credit: November Project DEN

The GREAT news is, I’ve got a group of gals who all have the same types of goals. Super bonus: we’re all around the same speed. Freakishly, Julia and I have almost identical PRs in the half and the full, and we both (surprise!) want to get faster in the half and the full. The loose plan right now is that we will do speedwork once a week with the goal of all getting faster this summer. Summer of speed! Yes there’s a hashtag.

I have never trained with people before (with the exception of my team sport and track days) so this is the perfect way to shake up my routine and be held more accountable. We’ve already had our first group workout, and running 800s in a pack around the park is infinitely better than running alone on a track or a treadmill. Oh ya, and it was super mf HARD. It was humbling that the pace we were at was my previous “go-to” 800 pace (~3:30), and I could barely hold my own for just 4 of them. But hey…it’s supposed to be hard. That’s the point. And that’s what I need to drill deep in my brain when I take on this summer which inevitably will be filled with gut-busters.

Otherwise, I’m really looking forward to switching up my weekend long runs and incorporating more trail runs and 14-er climbing.

While I’ve dabbled a little before in trail running, it’s mostly been pretty easy forest trails around Washington and Oregon- nothing with much terrain or climbing. Colorado trail running is a different story, and after my first peak ascent last Saturday, I’m convinced that climbing and descending these mountains are the surest way to get fit fast. We ran up and down Bergen Peak for Julia’s birthday, per her request for a sunrise trail run. And despite my lungs gasping most of the way up and my burning rookie legs, there was nothing quite like being at the top of a mountain before 7 am on a Saturday. So much run love and so much Colorado love…I rode the high all weekend.

Top of Bergen Peak selfie

Top of Bergen Peak selfie

And one other special thing about that run…it was the furthest I’ve run since getting sick that I didn’t need to stop for the bathroom. Over 10 miles— and happy intestines the whole way. The day after, I ran 8 more miles and didn’t need to go once. Progress! Prednisone seems to have kicked things in the right direction, and I’m using every ounce of positive thinking I have to hope that things continue this way.

That’s all I’ve got today, which I’m now realizing really wasn’t that much.

Basically, life is good. Running is plentiful, and I’m anxious and willing to do the work necessary to reach the goals I have for myself. Colorado is beautiful, and I’m so excited to explore more of it. And my health is (generally) quite good. I have a newly restored energy that I’ve been missing since December, my stomach seems to be calming down, and overall I’m just feeling fresh, happy, and motivated. All things I haven’t felt in a long time, and it’s good to have them back.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!!!

Redefining Success: My Plan for the Boston Marathon

In less than 24 hours, I’ll be headed off to complete a journey that started 12 weeks ago. 12 weeks of battling through an injury that never totally quit, 12 weeks of questioning my capabilities as a runner, and 12 weeks of all the ups and downs that comes with marathon training.

Except that, it really started 2 years ago.

I will be the first to admit that my attitude and perspective on this training cycle haven’t really been the best. I’ve been hard on myself way more often than I should have been, and instead of focusing on the progress and the journey, I focused on all the numbers that weren’t up to my standards. Numbers like amount of bathroom stops while I’m running, paces that are slower than I’ve run in years, and perhaps worst of all, constantly comparing myself to the miles and the workouts I was logging just months ago. Let’s just say, the number of times I’ve berated my current 9:00-minute mile pace compared to running a 7:20/mile half-marathon pace last October is a little embarrassing.

It hasn’t been the healthiest of outlooks, and consequentially it’s been the toughest training cycle I’ve ever been through; physically, of course, as I’m certainly not in my prime condition, but mentally, I’ve made this a lot harder on myself than I should have.

But somehow, within the past few days, I’ve had a bit of an awakening.

It started with the realization that my road to Boston has really been much more than just the past 12 weeks. It all began back as a simple idea; a sparkling dream in my newbie-marathoner brain. That dream would then take three marathons to complete, all of which were filled with lessons learned on how hard work and patience are necessary in this sport.

While I didn’t really realize it at the time, that third marathon, the one in which I finally claimed my ticket to Boston, was still just a stepping stone toward the grande finale of the dream.

In some ways, I think I thought that the idea of adding “BQ” to my runner resume ended after I’d solidified that sub-3:35 time. In my mind, after that, it was time to move toward improving my paces, my times, and my mileage even more. But that would be doing all the work without reaping the reward.

This weekend is the ultimate reward, and instead of viewing it as a false representation of my abilities, I’m changing my entire perspective.

Here are the numbers I’m choosing, then, to remember as I go into this weekend:

The hundreds and hundreds of miles I’ve run to earn my bib.The 0.02% of people in the world that will ever get the chance to run this race. The mere 4 months it’s been since I was too sick to even get off the couch. And most importantly, the amount of people who’ve supported me throughout it all.

This whole training cycle, I was mostly upset that I wouldn’t get to be my very best during the race. Normally when I show up at a starting line, I thrive off of doing (or at least attempting) the very best of my abilities. And although I went into this training cycle knowing that I could only really hope to makes it to the start line, I realized recently that I was never actually okay with surrendering my need to do my best. I couldn’t relinquish that control over my running and training, and consequentially I could never accept my lower mileage and slower paces. This made for a lot of disappointing runs and way too much self-doubt, all of which I could have taken a lot more control over.

But I was wrong.

can do my very best on Monday. It might not be the perfect, fast marathon dreams I have for myself, but it will be the best with what I have to work with right now. That includes inevitable bathroom stops along the way, an IT band that’s more than likely not going to like the hills, and legs that for the time being don’t want to move as fast as I’d like them too.

So despite the fact that I’ve hated all these truths for the past 12 weeks, on Monday they will be a part of the runner that shows up in Hopkington. And that’s okay. I’ll be carrying all of them with me, and doing the very best I can with what the day has to offer.

Because it is going to be a glorious day. A day that is the reward for so many people and for a city that has demonstrated the resilience and power of the running community. I am honored to be a part of it, and when I think of the grander scheme of this race and my own journey in getting here, I don’t feel any of the self-doubt that’s plagued me. I feel so much joy, enthusiasm, and passion for this sport, the people in it, and the people who’ve followed all along the way.

On Monday, I want to turn my Boston Qualifier title into a Boston Finisher title. I want to cherish every step of the way, I want to embrace the pain when it comes, and I want to smile the entire time. Those are my goals for a successful race, nothing more, nothing less. And I couldn’t be more excited for it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my mantra for this race, because I feel like the right one is out there…it just hasn’t been coming to me. The line from “Roar” by Katy Perry that says, “I went from zero to my own hero,” kept me motivated when I was so sick in December, so that was an option. “Let it Go” from Frozen is also, I admit, one of my current favorite anthems, and it resonated with the theme of kicking my negativity to the curb.

(now is when you get to snicker at my teenage song-loving tendencies)

Both of those felt too trivial, and perhaps more than anything, too self-centered. I want this race to feel like a celebration of more than just me, more than just the runners, but of the symbolism of the race. Because it’s a race about people, and the transformative power that adversity and perseverance can have on us all.

And then, on my little recovery 6-miler last Sunday morning, my mantra came to me:

“It’s the hard that makes it great.”

In A League of Their Own, Tom Hanks says this to Gena Davis when she’s threatening to quit baseball since it’s too hard. He comes back with, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.”

This is the idea I’ll be remembering in the toughest miles on Monday, and it’s what I’ll be remembering when I observe the strength of the runners and spectators around me.

The hard is what makes the marathon so mighty. Pushing beyond the hard, in running and in life, is what draws out the resilience in people. The theme of embracing, overcoming, and conquering challenges is incredibly relevant for this running of the Boston Marathon, and I want to remember that the whole 26.2 miles.

Thank you all for your support along the way. I couldn’t feel more honored to be one of the 36,000 runners lining up next Monday. If you do want to follow along, my bib number is 17245.

Time to finish this wonderful journey. Let’s do this thing, Boston!