CO Half-Marathon Training Week IV

Roman numerals just feel right for blog post titles recently. Going with it.

I’m typing this while a snoring doggy is snoozing away in my lap, and frankly I feel about the same. This was a big week! It was mostly all good, and I’m happy with the momentum that seems to be building.

Here’s how training went over the past 7 days:

Monday: Lookout Mountain (9 mi)

After last week’s weather fiasco, I really wanted another go at Lookout for the full experience. Luckily, the weather was positively perfect last Monday; crisp, clear and still. Thanks to good ole’ DST, it was much darker on the way up the road than it has been recently, but the sun rose on the way down and it was gorgeous! Julia, Meaghan and I all agreed that this jaunt more than made up for the week before. And bonus…I felt super strong and fresh. I was encouraged by this run, as I’ve been trying to get stronger on hills, and it was overall a great start to the week.

Also, I wore a new pair of shoes (Saucony Freedoms) and I loved them! They are super lightweight but also sturdy and good for all-around wear.

Tuesday: Long Fartlek workout (9.5 mi)

I read about an awesome time-based workout on the Picky Bars blog (designed by Lauren Fleshman, no less) that I was itching to try out. I’ve never done an interval workout that’s based on time instead of distance, which is what really piqued my interest. Here’s what was on tap:

10x – 3:00 on, 2:00 off (10 minute warm-up, 10 minute cool-down)

For the “on” intervals, my goal was to run around 10k effort, which I thought was probably around a 6:45 pace. I managed to wrangle Nina to do this workout with me, which I was so thankful for because it kept me honest to stick to the plan and not skimp! Nina did 7 of the 10 intervals with me, and overall we stuck closely to the prescribed “on” pace and enjoyed a nice easy jog during the “off” 2 minutes. I felt good through about 7.5 intervals, and the last 2.5 were tough! I had to muscle through them, but I felt very satisfied and comfortably wiped afterward.

When I finished, I texted Julia that the workout really compounded on itself; I felt really good at first and the fatigued just gradually settled in. Great workout!

Wednesday: NP5280 + run to/from (8.2 mi)

I was ready for an easier day on Wednesday after hills on Monday and speed on Tuesday, so I took it pretty easy on my run to and from November Project as well as at the workout. My stomach also felt kind of terrible when I woke up, so I was wary of it throughout the morning.

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On your marks! Look at those pretty new blue shoes and that dirty old white hat (lower left)

We did a couple of sprints around the Capitol Building which were fun, as well as a stairs + push up + sit up workout that acted as my lone strength work for the week.

Thursday: Dino Ridge hill repeats (7.5 mi)

I slept approximately 3.5 hours on Wednesday night, and had I not already been awake when it was time to get up to run, I would have bagged the whole thing. Not exactly setting things up for success.

I really wanted these hills to feel good, but deep down I knew I was probably in for a not-so-great run, which I was unfortunately right about. My legs had zero gusto! I was happy enough to just be out there with the PlayGldn crew under a beautiful sunrise. Hopefully next time I’ll have a little more fire.

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Sky!

Friday: Rest

 

I think I had less than 4,000 steps on Friday. Taking rest days very seriously over here.

Saturday: Mt. Bross – March 14er! (6.2 hiking miles)

Oh man, Adam and I were about as close as you can get to not doing this one. We were both so tired from the week, and generally a 14er day didn’t sound super appealing to me. But, I knew there wouldn’t be much more time to get in a 14er for the month of March, and as we’ve said so far throughout this “challenge,” we want to at least give ourselves a chance to succeed at it. So, on Thursday I made a dog boarding reservation for Mona “just in case,” and somehow that was enough of an inspiration to muster up the energy to go.

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It was so fun! We decided to hike Mt. Bross, which is a mountain ordinarily done as one-of-four in the summer months (Democrat, Cameron, and Lincoln are the other three). Admittedly, Adam and I have poked fun at Bross for just being kind of a walk-over, ant hole of a mountain that you happen to do when you do the others.

However, after doing this peak on its own from an alternative route, my respect for it has greatly increased. We didn’t follow a standard trail due to avalanche safety precuation, but the route we did create for ourselves was super steep! We hiked the east-facing side so it was nearly all dry above treeline, and we both wore t-shirts for most of the hike. It was lovely but also a bit alarming considering it’s technically still winter and there was hardly any snow. Anyway, we were up and down in about four hours and it was overall a great day.

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Third 14er of 2017!

Sunday: Long run (16 mi)

The adventure of Sunday’s long run started before we even put our feet on the pavement! The plan was for a group of us to run Magnolia Road in Boulder which is an iconic 16 mile, high-altitude rolling dirt road. The weather was ideal, everyone’s schedules synced up, it seemed too good to be true. And unfortunately…it was. On the way into Boulder, we noticed that there was smoke billowing out of the foothills and wondered if there was some kind of fire. Sure enough, Meaghan called me minutes later and told us that the road up to Magnolia was closed. We tried to keep the group momentum going and opt for another Boulder option, but it was frankly too smoky for anyone to safely run outside.

My car (Adrienne and me) weren’t on any time restriction necessarily, so we decided to follow Julia and Meg back to Golden so we could copy-cat Dan on the long run he’d done the day before near Golden Gate Canyon State Park.

And it turned out as the best happy accident! The run was so beautiful, challenging and all-around awesome. The climbs and descents seemingly never ended in the best kind of way, and you truly felt completely isolated from any nearby city. Loved the run, the company, and loved how (mostly) good I felt! My legs were feeling the mountain climbing from the day before, but I still felt strong and capable throughout the 16 miles we covered. Near the end, I was flirting ever so slightly with the threat of bonking, but it never happened and I ended feeling exhausted in the best kind of way.

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Longest run since December, too!

Total (running and hiking):  56.6 miles, 7,826 feet of climbing

Highs: 14er and awesome long run. My kind of perfect weekending!

Lows: Bad sleep throughout the week, poor stretching/rolling/recovery regimen. Will do better this week!

 

 

 

 

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CO Half-Marathon Training: Week III

Well look at that…three blog posts in three weeks! According to my TimeHop app, this hasn’t happened in a long time. Speaking of which, I’m shocked at how much I had (or at least thought I had) to write about back then! I used to run alone so much during the early blog days, so I suppose I had no other outlet for all my running-related thoughts. Now that I have training partners (teammates!) to share my runs with, I think I’m just left with less to say online. I positively prefer the way things are currently; running friends are the best.

Last week was finicky, but overall good. I began the week thinking that I’d have a lower-mileage/down week, but then I got into a bit of a groove and just rolled with my new “normal” mileage (40-45 mi). I did do a shorter long run, on trails no less, which made my weekend a lot less pound-inducing than usual, which I’m happy about.

Monday: Lookout Mountain attempt + easy after work (10 mi)

Monday was wild! I headed to Golden to run Lookout Mtn. road with the Monday crew, which ordinarily would have meant about 9 miles with 1,200 ft. of gain. It was a crisp, bright, and calm morning…almost eerily so. Meaghan even commented about how “weirdly calm” it was out. Well, within a few minutes we turned a corner and were hit smack in the face with a massive headwind and snow! It was so fast-moving and strong that we had no choice but to turn around, which all of us did without any hesitation. Even after so many years of living in Colorado, the craziness of our weather patterns never ceases to amaze me.

After work, I decided to add on some miles for the day with an easy jog with Mona! It was super cold out and I was feeling less-than-stellar, but I was really glad I went afterward and Mona hit a personal distance record! Proud dog mama.

Tuesday: Full rest day

Wednesday: November Project + run to/from (7.5 mi)

I wanted to take Wednesday a little easy since I was planning a speed workout on Thursday. However, NP got sneaky and did a workout that kind of necessitated sprinting and races plus some body weight exercises. It was super fun and the vibe was strong, but I was wiped afterward! My hip flexors were super stiff the whole day following, and since I actually tried to do my burpees with correct form for the first time…I was sore from those too.

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Fam

Thursday: 8 x 800s + warm-up and cool-down (9.75 mi)

Track Thursday! There’s an NP group that’s been going to the South High School track on Thursdays and I’ve been itching to join them. It’s infinitely easier for me to go to the track when there are others around rather than just going on my own, so I jumped at the chance to recruit people to join in.

800s are my default track workout, partly because I really like them, and partly because I’m too lazy to figure out my paces at other distances.

Ideally I wanted to do eight, but I decided six would suffice if I was feeling overworked. The goal was to run around 3:15s for each interval (6:30 pace) and for them to feel like work but not entirely out of my comfort zone. This is a little embarrassing, but I only recently discovered the Garmin feature that shows average pace for a single rep instead of just current pace. Game changer for intervals! I checked my watch every 200 meters or so to make sure I was staying in range of my goal pace. After four intervals, I was feeling a little cooked already but decided to keep going and try for the eight I’d planned on. Splits:

3:13, 3:10, 3:13, 3:13, 3:12, 3:13, 3:11, 3:10

Needless to say, I was psyched with that consistency! I jogged a lap between each one and including the run there and back home, I ended up with a little over 9 miles for the day.

Friday: November Project hill repeats (7 mi)

NP was at my favorite Friday location: Little Man hill at Hirshorn Park in the Highlands. I normally love to run the hill repeats hard at Little Man, but after the workout day before I was more than happy to just cruise up and down while socializing instead. I jogged a few miles beforehand too, which I was thankful for since my legs needed some warming up!

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Saturday: Green Mountain (10 mi)

Oh sweet, glorious trails. I’ve been wanting to take advantage of the dry March trails, and since I also didn’t want to do a very long run this weekend – the standard 10 mile loop at Green Mountain was calling my name. Before heading over there, I drank coffee and ate breakfast over an hour (very pleasant) and registered for my third Pikes Peak Ascent! The Ascent might be my favorite race of all time, so I was positively giddy after submitting my registration and was brimming with excitement to run some trails as a celebration.

The combination of my good mood and the foggy 40 degree weather made for an A+ run! The trails were ever so slightly damp, which meant the traction was perfect, and as much as I love the sun, the humid and cloudy air felt so good after how dry it’s been otherwise.

I decided to push a little bit on the final descent, and I ended up running the whole loop faster than I ever have before! It was really encouraging and I rode high all day afterwards.

Sunday: 6 mile hike

I planned on not running on Sunday and just doing whatever felt good, which ended up being a hike with my family (Mona included). It was lovely out and a great, easy way to move on an otherwise sluggish DST day.

Total: 44 miles

Highs: Green Mountain unicorn run and speed consistency on the track

Lows:  The forced bailout of Lookout Mountain was disappointing, as was my continued inability to implement a regular at-home stretch/strength regimen. Trying harder this week!

Goal for this week: Take some darn photos!

 

 

 

 

Real Training: Week 2

I don’t really have a countdown yet in my head for Colorado Half-Marathon prep, so we’ll just call this officially week 2. This week started slow and picked up a lot of steam at the end; I had nearly chalked it up to a dud, but then two awesome runs made all the difference. Isn’t that how it always goes, though?

The best part of this week, aside from those two key runs, was that I finally, finally, felt like myself again. I feel like over the past two months I’ve been running in a “walking-on-eggshells” fashion. I’ve been hyper-aware of aches and pains, I’ve been fearful of doing too much or going too fast, and generally I’ve just been a little overly-cautious most of the time. Not that having caution is a bad thing at all, but it’s not a very enjoyable way to constantly be feeling with running. But this week, I felt strong, controlled, and like I was actually in a groove again. A great feeling, especially on the onset of spring.

My goal for this week was to run 45 miles, which I managed to do in only 5 days of running – meaning 2 rest/non-running days. While I would love to comfortably run every day, my body responds well to two days off from running, especially when I’m in the midst of coming back after a break (which I still feel like I am right now). Not to mention, I freaking love rest days.

Here’s how the week shook out:

Monday: Easy (7 mi)

I ran 4 miles around Wash Park nice and easy. I was a little creaky from the cross-country race the day before, but it felt nice to get some blood flowing. After that first loop, I swung by home to pick up Mona for a few miles with her. Two birds with one stone; I love running with her!

Also,  I decided to go rogue and do squats and abs after my run. I felt super smug about it, but then I was so sore from the squats all week. Note to self: even air squats will bite you if you don’t do them regularly.

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: NP + to/from (7.5 mi)

It was pretty cold on Wednesday, and after a few weeks of moderate weather and nicer mornings, I resolutely decided that I am DONE with the cold. My muscles really don’t love sub 25 degree weather either, and running in the cold is just all around achey. Hugs were still had, kumbaya.

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Thursday: Dino Ridge hill repeats! (8 mi)

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Together Everyone Achieves More (®Turbo)

Real talk: Doing hills with the PlayGldn crew is a humbling experience for me. Hills have never been a strong suit of mine, and these Golden kids are a bunch of fasties – especially when it comes to moving up and down anything. The first time I met them all for the 0.7 mile repeats at Dinosaur Ridge, I sorta got my butt handed to me. All that to say, I wanted a little redemption on Thursday! We had a big group of runners, and somehow the combination of the lighter morning, the beautiful weather, and the larger crew netted out to a super kickass workout for everyone! I haven’t had that much fun running in a long time; everyone was working hard and encouraging one another – it truly felt like running with a team. I finished with 8 miles total and 900 feet of climbing all in a 7:46 average pace. Not to mention, I felt super strong! I had a runner’s high the entire day after.

Friday: Easy (8.6 mi)

I am really trying to use recovery runs for just that…recovery. Still getting in miles while soothing my tired muscles from the day before. Luckily, I actually felt pretty good after our fast workout from the day before, and a run around both Cheesman Park and Wash Park seemingly flew by.

Saturday: Long run (15 mi)

I’ve been piggy backing off of Julia’s half-marathon training, which has worked out well for me for a number of reasons. Not only do I not really have to think about what to do, I always get in a good run, AND I get to run with friends. Win, win, win!

On Saturday, Julia, Meaghan, and I teamed up again for a 5-5-5 mile workout on Cherry Creek trail. Jules wanted to run 5 easy, 5 at her goal half-marathon pace, and 5 more easy for 15 miles total. Meaghan ran 5 ahead of time to get 20 total for the day, so we all had our heads down for the task at hand. And it went so well! The 5 fast miles went by so quickly, and the sub 7:10 pace felt much more do-able than expected. Probably the easiest that pace has ever felt in a workout, which was super encouraging. Good miles, strong women, and coffee in the sun with our men afterwards. Great morning!

I also took an Epsom salt bath afterward and walked Mona in the afternoon – both of which encouraged some good recovery for my legs.

Sunday: (Active) rest day!

Sunday was going to technically a rest day, but I’m not really counting it as one since I did yoga and hiked! I went to a 75-minute flow class which was good, not great, but a nice way to start the day after sleeping for over 9 hours. Then in the afternoon, Adam and I took Mona on a hike up Lookout Mountain trail. It was 5 miles total, and while I love hanging out with the two of them, it was admittedly a little frustrating just how many people and off-leash dogs there were on the trail. PSA: unless you are at an off-leash designated dog park, keep your leash on your pooch!

Total: 46.4 miles (running only)

Highs: The literal runner’s high from Dino Ridge and feeling super strong on Saturday’s long run

Lows: Realizing that winter isn’t gone, and we’ll still have darkness and cold for another month (at least)

 

 

 

 

 

Testing…testing…training!

Does this thing still work? Why yes…I think it does! Jokes about my lack of blogging aside, this is kind of how I’ve felt about my legs and my running recently. It’s been kind of two steps forward, one step back ever since the 50k in December. I was full-fledged burnt out and showing signs of generally being over-trained after that race, and I was ready to approach the spring season with patience and caution. I took a few weeks off, I ran very infrequently in the  weeks following, and I didn’t stress myself out with any immediate goals or expectations.

Once I did start “really” running again, both of my hamstrings – particularly the left – were essentially achey rocks more often than not. While running, while at work, when I woke up in the morning…it was impossible to get any kind of fluidity going through my hammies and hips. Nothing painful, just clearly overworked from the past season. I maintained an every-other-day type of running routine through January, and until recently  I never ran more than two days in a row. Slowly but gradually, things are feeling much better and in working condition. It’s an interesting and tricky thing to not feel injured but to still feel so off. Basically, I focused on ingraining the “little things” that I ignored for too long and consequentially landed me with all my achiness; lots of evening flexibility work, a few chiropractor trips, and generally taking it easier than I had in 6 months. I only got frustrated a few times with my slow progress, but that’s kind of what this winter season is all about: resetting and regaining.

All that said, I feel like I’ve been “training” again for about three weeks. For what race, you might ask? Well, since I’ve retired from spring marathons, I decided to focus my efforts over the next few months on one of my absolute favorite distances: the half! I’m registered for the Colorado Half-Marathon in the beginning of May, and I’m pretty psyched to really fine-tune my fitness and speed over the next 2+ months.

Taking a hint from my favorite fast couple, I’ve decided to start recapping my training again on this blog. It helps me stay accountable, it keeps me honest, and after all…I renewed my domain subscription for a reason, right??

Here’s what this past week looked like:

Monday: Mt. Bierdstat! 8.5 hiking miles, 3,241 ft of elevation gain

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President’s Day! Adam and I had the day off from work so we decided to head for the hills. I had this crazy idea last year to try and do a 14er every single month in 2017. Obviously we pack in a ton during the summer months, but there’s something so wonderfully challenging and exciting to me about tackling these mountains in the winter. Anyway, we had one last shot in February to attempt a summit, and Monday did not disappoint. I really didn’t feel great on the majority of the ascent, but once we reached the top I was instantly reminded of why I love these mountains. Not to mention Adam and I got to spend a whole day just the two of us, which is always my favorite part of our big hikes.

Tuesday: Rest – much needed after the long day before

Wednesday: November Project clovers + run to and from – 8.4 miles

Clovers! I decided before even starting that I wanted to take it easy at November Project’s PR day in order to save my legs for the race on Sunday (spoiler!), so I stayed relaxed for most of the 35 minutes and cheered everyone on. Particularly, I was focused on Julia who was attempting a new clovers PR of 18! She is the absolute queen of clovers and I was happily distracted watching her cruise. I jumped in at the end with her and wound up doing 16.5 myself, kind of surprising given I felt very relaxed otherwise. Love clovers, every time.

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Photo by: Morgan Anderson

Thursday: 6.6 easy miles

I took recovery miles seriously and ran very easy around the park once then picked up Mona for an additional 5k! I love running with her; she’s getting much better on the leash and I barely feel like I’m running because I’m so distracted by encouraging her the whole time 🙂

Friday: HotVin yoga

I was sad to miss November Project with TROY leading it on Friday morning, but I was in desperate need of some extra sleep and I’m glad I stayed in bed, ultimately. I managed to make it to a rare after-work yoga class which was one of my favorites: a combo of hot and vinyasa which is always super sweaty and stretchy. Exactly what I needed at the end of the week!

Saturday: 10 mile long run

I met up with Julia and Meaghan for an easy 10 mile out-and-back on the Platte River. Continuing the trend of what happens when I long run with these ladies, we intended to go slow and ended up running faster than any of us expected. Regardless, I always feel strong running with these two and it was a beautiful, albeit cold, morning.

Sunday: West Side Best Side XC race! 8 miles total (3.3 warmup, 3.0 race, 1.7 cool down)

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This was the third time November Project has participated in the West Side Best Side cross-country races, and we showed up in a big way at today’s race! We had SEVEN teams of five runners and made up the majority of the field. I’ve been thinking of this race as a jumping-off point for the spring, and I wanted to run hard and execute my best effort to kick off real deal training.

I am mentally incapable of not getting unnecessarily nervous about these races. Running fast is my absolute favorite thing, as is racing, but I still get flooded with nerves at that thought of pairing them together, especially among peers. However, I also think my ability to channel this energy toward my race is a strength, so I just kind of embrace it.

Anyway, I managed to chill out once we all got there (which is what always happens…), and a crew of us warmed up along the course. It was clear that the course was going to be much more authentically “cross-country” than the other races we’ve done; the terrain was a combination of dirt road, rocky trail, sidewalk, and generally unstable footing. Not to mention…hills! It was going to be fun.

My loose goals for the race were to finish in the top 3 NP females, and it would be a bonus to finish in the top 5 females overall (they award top 5). Generally, though, I wanted to race hard from start to finish.

From the gun, it was hard to not have fun since I knew basically everyone around me! There’s nothing quite like running with a team, and I felt focused and powerful to be surrounded by friends. I felt controlled in the first mile as everyone weened out a bit; not too fast but still keeping up with the front-ish pack. Eventually I was running basically side-by-side with Erin, another NP lady, and I knew if I could keep up with her I’d have a good race. Around mile 2 there’s an out and back where I was able to assess where we were among the ladies, and I noted that I was currently around 7th female. Time to buckle up! Like I said, the terrain of this race was super fun and wild – it was more like a trail race than anything else, and I knew Julia would be loving it. Erin and I passed another woman, and as we rounded the bend to the final 800 meters (uphill!), I knew it would be a guts race to the finish. Erin turned on her 4-wheel-drive and I held on the best I could, finally managing to pass the 5th place woman in the final 100 meters. I finished in 20:38 as 5th lady, 3rd for NP women! Our team finished 2nd overall and the other NP women’s team finished 1st! How lucky am I to have such fast friends to run with and against??

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I am really happy with this race and my effort, and mainly I’m excited to capitalize off this race and start training hard.

Total weekly miles: 41.8 miles (including hiking miles)

Highs: 14er on Monday, XC race, and running the exact same mileage as Julia without us even trying.

Lows: My knee bothered me for a couple of days, but then I realized I was pushing 650 miles on the pair of shoes I was wearing. Swapped shoes, problem solved!

Taking ownership of my goals and training is something that’s always helped me in the past, so my intent is to keep  up these weekly recaps. The Colorado Half-Marathon is on May 7th which is my primary “A” race, and I’m planning to schedule a couple more short races along the way.

Here’s to a fast, healthy and fun spring of running!

2016 ECSCA 50k Race Recap

Here’s the deal: I ran a huge race, the same huge race as last year, and it didn’t go exactly as I’d hoped. But, that’s okay! I still finished, I still ran a PR on the course, and I still had a great time with my friends. Dang…spoilers!

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While the results may not have felt like the grand finale to my year as I’d hoped, I probably learned more from this race than I would have on a unicorn day. In the weeks afterward, I’ve wallowed a little, but mainly I’ve reflected a lot on this past year and withdrawn the key snippets of takeaways that I hope will carry on through 2017.

So while the title of this blog states “race recap,” this post – certainly my last of 2016 – is also a reflection on what was undoubtedly my biggest year of running yet.

The Lead-Up 

The best part of this 50k wasn’t the race at all, but rather the training that went into it. I had so much fun, I ran with people – namely Julia – more often than not, and I felt fit. Following a summer or 14er hiking and consistent mileage, both my endurance and speed felt in tip-top shape. I was recovering quickly too, which meant that I could pack on mileage week-after-week while seemingly still making progress and not burning out.

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25 miles on Saturday, then winning a cross-country race on Sunday!?

That was until…the end of training. Two weeks out from the race, kind of all at once, everything caught up to me in a not-so-subtle fashion. My left hip and hamstring started to feel irritated and sore; not painful, but just…lazy? I really hoped it was early-onset taper craziness, but I kind of knew it was potentially problematic. Anyway, I was still able to run and the feeling would ebb and flow, so I just focused on tapering and hoping for the best. I really, really wanted to have a good race – and I felt so ready for it!

So in the days leading up, I was willing myself to get psyched. I ran very little, I slept a lot and I went through all the motions as I normally would. But in the back of my head, I just felt a little overcooked. I was worried about my hip, certainly, but I was also having trouble garnering my usual pre-race focus and energy. I just couldn’t find my hype, simply, which I don’t think has ever happened to me.

But like I said, I wanted a great race and I wanted to be mentally strong, so I hoped for the best and kept up with standard protocol.

Pre-Race

Adam and I stayed with friends on the Marin side of the Golden Gate Bridge which worked out perfectly. We had a nice relaxed night before the race, ate a substantial and nutrient-dense dinner, and went to bed around 9 pm.

I slept like a rock. From 9:00pm to 4:30am I didn’t move. It was great in the moment, but in hindsight, this was probably a warning sign of my blasé mental state going into the race. I have never, I repeat never, slept well before a big race – let alone any race? I normally don’t sleep well before 5ks, so this instance was a bit shocking. Also shocking – I had no pre-race bathroom success. What!? Again, not something that ever fails me, but my PRP was nowhere to be found. Luckily I knew there would be more opportunities and worst case – this was a trail race. There would be natural bathrooms literally everywhere!

We drove to the shuttle very easily and arrived at the race start with a little under an hour to go.

Julia and I had planned to run the race together which I was really excited about. It was relieving to think of sharing the effort with someone else, plus we each have our own respective strengths in races – helping one another only made sense after all our training together.

I was admittedly worried though about how my bum booty and less-than-stellar attitude would impact our race plan. Before we even started, I was prepared to tell Julia early on to run on without me, because I didn’t want to hold her back in any way. PSA: while this is certainly polite, it’s not exactly the best pre-race mentality to have.

Regardless, the show had to go on. We all lined up, I gave Adam a pre-race hug and kiss good luck, and Julia and I situated ourselves near the front of the pack. I was nervous, mostly for how my hip would do, but also excited to spend a beautiful day on some beautiful trails!

Miles 1-9

The plan was to not go out too fast (first mile is downhill) and focus on keeping ourselves reigned in for the first half. There are six big climbs in this race, two of which (nearly 2,000 feet of vert. total) are within the first 9 miles. We were prepped for this, and even though we were probably able to run the whole time right out of the gate, we decided to start hiking early in the second climb. I was proud of this decision, and even though my hip felt fine and my energy was super high, my legs just felt kind of…beat.

I realized this around mile 5, and it was a bit frightening. After two weeks of tapering and tons of rest, I should have felt peppy and fresh. Not the case whatsoever, and this early into a 50k I certainly did not want my legs to feel as tired as they did. I hesitantly expressed this concern to Julia, and she said she was feeling the exact same way. Okay, I thought, maybe if we’re both not feeling great, it’s just a taper fog that will gradually wear off. Julia said during this point that we’d make up for our physical woes with our brains, and I wholly believed it: we were well trained mentally as well!

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Along with the two big climbs in this section, there were steep declines as well. We held back on these too and tried to just cruise. I felt okay – warming up a little bit – but generally just cloudy. I was willing my body to recognize that it was running a race – an A race, in fact – and to get it together! Luckily nothing hurt and our pace felt fine, so I just tried to keep trucking.

Miles 10-14

Miles 10-14 are the longest climb of the day up Cardiac Hill. I loved this climb last year as it’s easily the most runnable climb of the race and you get to traverse back and forth on awesome switch backs. We had joined a great conga line of runners that were all moving in a similar pace, and we all chatted and steadily made our way up and up.

This was the point that I knew in the back of my head that Julia and I were going in opposite directions physically and mentally. I’ve run with her enough to know when her energy is picking up and she’s feeling strong, and without her even saying anything I could tell running behind her that she was gaining momentum on Cardiac. Yours truly, on the other hand, was starting to struggle. The running was manageable, but I knew that the fatigue I felt early on wasn’t going to let up; in fact it was increasing, and it was on Cardiac that my lazy glute started to feel especially tired. Basically, it felt like I was getting no help from my left hip and hamstring, and while I’ve never had a muscle-firing issue, I imagine this was what it felt like. The only reason I didn’t stop to hike during this climb was because we were in a long line of people, and I wanted to stay with Julia for the time being.

Alas, we made it to the top where there’s an awesome aid station. A lot of people hit the bathrooms and pulled over for a big food refuel, but Julia and I quickly had our bottles refilled (Tailwind!), grabbed a few things, and were off. We were about to plummet into the Muir Woods which was the most technical section of the day, and it was a good opportunity to put a little distance between the big group we were with.

Miles 15-23

Just as I suspected, Julia was totally reinvigorated following the Cardiac climb. I think she made a comment about her new found energy, but at this point I was just trying to keep up on the root-filled and rocky descent we were on. It definitely felt good to be going downhill, and I was trying to rethink my way into actively competing in this race. I thought that the Muir Woods could be the catalyst for what would be an exceptional rest of the race…right? Well, just as that thought came about and we were trapezing deep into the woods, the outside of my left foot hit a rock and my ankle rolled right over it. Gah! Not good.

My ankle bounced back up without any issue, but I wasn’t sure how dire of a situation it was. I gingerly kept hopping on it but pulled over to let the runners behind me pass. The guy directly behind me who saw it happen shouted a friendly, “Just run ‘er out, run ‘er out!” as he went by, which made me smile. I could tell nothing was too bad so I got back on the trail and kept moving. At this point though, Julia and I had been separated by the people who passed me. Not to mention while I was cautiously trying to assess my ankle situation, Julia was doing what she does best – tactfully bombing down the descent. I admitted to myself that our races were officially going to be split, and although I was sad, it was probably the best thing that I could have done for myself and for her.

My ankle felt okay, but my pinky toe was on fire. For about five minutes of running, I thought it could possibly be broken, or badly sprained, but the pain started to subside gradually so I resolved to just pay attention to it and hope for the best. Since I was alone now, I decided to truly assess how bad my less-than-stellar physical condition was: my left hip was fast asleep, my left IT band was getting super talkative, my right foot was tingly and numb (?), and my left pinky toe was on red alert. It wasn’t ideal given my fitness going into the race, but so long as nothing got worse or painful, all in all I was going to be fine. And the primary saving grace…my energy was super high! I felt awake and alert, which gave me some confidence that not all of my physical strength was depleted.

On and on through the woods we went. I was happy to be running my own race and to be able to tend to the needs I had that day, namely hiking more than expected and taking it easy on the downhills. This isn’t exactly what I’d pictured, but it kept me composed and in-the-moment. I thought about Adam a lot (as I always do when we’re running the same race) and hoped he was having fun out there. I focused on getting to mile 20, since this is where I knew we’d be out of the woods and headed back toward the start line.

I wasn’t especially thrilled with my running during the Muir Woods portion of the race, but once we started to make our way out, I was happy that my body hadn’t seemed to have broken down much more. Things were still tight and fatigued, but I was hanging on. I had been fearful that I might have to DNF (something I’ve never had to do) once I realized it wasn’t going to be my day early on, but as the miles continued to tick off, I became more resolute that I could make it.

I ran into the mile 20 aid station anxious for some full-sugar Coke and a deep IT band stretch. As I stretched out, I got a pat on the back from NP founder Brogan, whom I was surprised I’d caught up to. After a minute or so, I darted back out in anticipation of the long flat section to come, followed by the hardest climb of the day.

I remember enjoying the flat-ish section from miles 20-23 last year, but this year it just seemed to go on forever. Strangely, my legs and bum booty felt better when I was either going up or down. This flat stretch just felt like never-ending work without much production, and I was actually excited to get to the steep uphill. I did hear a familiar, “Yea, Birdie!” as superstar 50-miler Dan passed me around this point, and it was so nice and encouraging to see another familiar face.

Miles 23-31.8 (Finish)

The only flat section of the course finally changed into the intimidating fire roads I’ve remembered clearly ever since I faced them last year. They aren’t even close to runnable (for me at least) which I was somewhat grateful for in the sense that I could put my head down and focus on a strong and steady power hike. With each stride I tried to stretch out my tired legs too, which really helped especially with my super-tight IT band.

Up and up I went, cheering on the marathoners as they came bombing down and also looking out for NP Denver leader, Woody. He was running his first marathon and I knew it would be an energy boost to see him. There were small portions of this ascent that you could try and jog, but generally the whole thing was a power hike, and along the way I realized I was actually feeling…recovered? My energy had felt good all day for the most part, but as I hiked and extended my stride, I started to feel a little more relaxed and pumped up.

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I saw Woody close to the top of the climb, got a big hug from him, and a switch flipped in my brain. I was ready to finish this thing and run strong! In my head I thought, “Took ya long enough, huh?” but all at once my brain and body found their symbiosis.

I bombed down the next descent. I was so, so happy to be going downhill, and I grinned the entire way down. I finally felt like myself and I was on a mission to not let a bad day get the best of me. I thought of Julia up ahead of me and just knew she was crushing it, which made me proud and determined to show some strength. I came up to the mile 26 aid station which was electric! So many people were cheering, including friends from Denver, and I smiled from ear-to-ear. I grabbed more Coke, filled my bottle with water, and set out for the final chapter of a long day.

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Photo by: Nina Pantz

I plugged along well enough on the next ascent (the last one of the day), mostly implementing a hike-run combo. I’d run for a few minutes, hike for a minute, so on and so on. This section is tough because you’re so close to the finish yet the uphill goes on longer than you’d expect, but I was prepared for it after last year and still riding the high from my new-found enthusiasm.

I reached the final aid station and by-passed it entirely. My energy was solid and I was ready to put this thing to bed. The final miles of this race are steep downhill, which I thoroughly enjoyed last year, and no matter how my trashed legs may have felt – I was going to get the most out of them.

Down I went, and it was wonderful! I was passing a ton of people both going out and coming back and everyone was cheering and smiling. I felt more alert and determined than I had all day, and without any knowledge or care of my finishing time or place, I was intent on putting in a solid final effort. I ran my fastest mile of the day (7:07 pace) for mile 30, in fact, which I’m really proud of since I’m not normally very aggressive on descents.

It was a *tad* disconcerting when I realized that the course was a little longer than last year as I approached the final mile, but regardless…I was nearly there! I trucked along the best I could up the final road stretch, and up ahead I saw familiar faces cheering me in. I took the sharp turn toward the finish line, looked up with a big smile, and exhaled deeply as I crossed. Holy shit…done!

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Official time: 5:31:02

I regrouped and re-hydrated immediately upon finishing, and proceeded to spend the next couple of hours cheering in friends at the finish line. It was magical and a solid reminder that running is infinitely better with a team around you.

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Aftermath

I will be the first to admit that I love to perform well when I’m surrounded by my peers. I love to run fast, I love to race hard, and I’m highly motivated by the thought of succeeding on a big stage. I’ve always been fiercely competitive, which can be both an asset and a liability, and I assumed that I’d experience that kind of competitive takeover at some point during this race – regardless of how good or bad I felt. But that never really happened, and for maybe the first time in my running career, I ran a race content just to finish and to not quit.

I’m both proud and not proud of this. Immediately following the race, I was super down on myself. I felt like I hadn’t even showed up and that I’d given myself an out before I even started. And honestly, both of these things aren’t untrue. I’d never experienced this kind of mental surrender before, and I hated the way it felt.

But the fact is, quite simply, when I showed up to run this race, I was over-trained and mentally wiped. I’d run all year – without really coming up for air – and I’d run lots of miles week after week. Not to mention I’d run a lot of races, including three big PRs, and I never really let my body or brain chill afterwards. Like I said in the beginning of this post, I was having so much fun with my training that I never really considered that I could be overdoing it. I’ve certainly overdone it in the past, but there were so many more warning signs then, so I never really thought that I’d reached a tipping point. I am normally so cognizant of prioritizing rest in my training, so I was disappointed that I had to relearn that lesson the hard way.

However, given my mental and physical state when I showed up, I am proud of how I ran this race. I finished with my head held high on a day where I very easily could have beaten myself up the entire time. It was a great reminder that sometimes accepting what the day has to offer is the greater accomplishment than the time we hope to run.

Also, if you had asked me before the race how I would have felt chasing Julia from mile 15 on, I would have told you it would have defeated me. Not because I wanted to be the one in the lead, but because I would have known that we weren’t going to have a magical hand-holding moment at the finish line. However, knowing that she was paving the way was actually unbelievably comforting and motivating. I realized as I trudged along in my own race, that if only one of us was going to have a good day – I absolutely wanted it to be her. I’ve had a ton of good races this year, along with generally a long and healthy year of running. Julia’s training was top-notch for ECSCA, and after several months earlier this year of being sidelined with an injury, she deserved to have a killer breakthrough race. Do I still want us to have that unicorn hand-hold finish line moment? Of course! But there’s time for that, and it just means we’ll need to keep honing our training and our racing.

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So after all that, what’s the lesson learned? Well, I’ve primarily understood that there is a very fine line between the perfect amount of training and too much training. This was the first time I was over-trained without a horrible injury or complete mental burnout, and unfortunately I didn’t recognize it until it was a little too late. Fortunately, this race and the months of training beforehand have nestled me right into a super restful offseason, and I’ve had a good time reflecting on what to do and not do in the year coming up.

And frankly, I can’t wait for next year! Despite tipping the scale a bit, my training this year was the most consistent it’s ever been – and I’m excited to see how I can take the lessons gleaned from it in the months to come. Maybe I’ll even write about my plans and goals for 2017 – who knows!

Thank you for making it this far, if you have, and thank you to my running family who has made this sport infinitely better for me.

Details:

Strava activity: 31.8 miles, 6,249 feet of climbing

Race results: 5:31:02, 63/515 overall, 17/218 females, 7/41 age group

Fastest mile: 7:07 (mile 30)

Slowest mile: 16:25 (mile 24)

Fuel during race: Tailwind (3-4 bottles), 1/2 pack of Shot Blocks, 3 (?) cups of Coke, two handfuls of pretzels

 

 

Patriot Day 5k Race Recap

Hello! A blog post! I wish I could insert an amusing gif to hyperbolize just how shocking my publication of a post is nowadays, however my skills with iOS 10 (not actually skills) don’t translate to my ability to insert media into a blog. Womp womp.

Anyway, I managed to run a quality (for me) race last weekend, and the suggestion was made to blog about it, so here I am.

The 5k has been a confounding and alluring distance to me over the past 4 years or so. It speaks to my former sprinter-self in terms of the pain-train, but it also involves some endurance strength in order to not entirely implode. The hybrid of the two, I’ve found, has worked well with my small set of skills, and I’ve managed to slowly but surely shave off time each time I’ve raced the distance.

Last year, following a very surprising 20:17 finish in the spring, I realized going under 20 minutes was likely within my reach if I put in a little work. However, given my tendency to train for distances much further than 3.1 miles, I always had an excuse to never sign up for a 5k (long runs, mountain climbs, blah blah blah). However, the desire to try and go under 20 minutes was still there in my head, but admittedly…it scared me. That’s a 6:25ish pace, which I never ever run unless it’s for some kind of interval. I’ve become so adapted to practicing “race pace” with the half and the full that the thought of going out into unknown territory was horrifying.

You never know until you try though, right? So, in November last year, I signed up for a local race at City Park. It was flat, it would be cold (my favorite) and I’d get a super-fast pacer, NP co-leader Matthew! Unfortunately, my wish for cold weather went a bit too far; it was under 20 degrees at the start and the roads were dusted with snow/ice. Nevertheless, Matthew and I went for it and after a heaving effort finished in 20:07. So close! A new PR, but going under 20 was still a to-do list item.

Obviously, it took me until last weekend to sign up for another 5k (see: Boston Marathon training and being in the mountains every weekend), but I felt good about going for it! Long, slow trail running and 14er climbing oddly lends itself well to road speed, and if you add in the couple of workouts I’d done recently, I felt pretty good about my chances. I picked a very flat, very small, nearby race that was exactly 3.1 miles (hey…you have to check that stuff sometimes!) and would offer me a great shot. Ready for my 19:xx!

The weekend before the race, we spent 4 days/3 nights camping in the Chicago Basin and hiking every day. Fast forward a few days to the middle of the week, and I was an absolute train wreck, physcially. I had the worst run I’ve had all year (quite literally), my body chemistry was all f’ed up (some kind of electrolyte/dehydration issue), and I generally just felt awful. Running sounded terrible, let alone running a super-fast pace for 20 minutes. So, I shut everything down; I took two rest days, slept a lot, drank a lot of water, ate a lot of food, and tried to will myself back into fighting shape. Granted, this was all only over the course of a few days – but I had a race to PR! This mini-taper was easily the best thing I could have done for myself, though, since I woke up Saturday morning with a fire in my belly.

Geezum, how’s that for a 5k intro? Get on with it!

As stated, this was a small race (like, 150 people small) so I knew the whole bib-retrieval/parking/warm-up process would be a cinch. Sure enough, it was easy-peasy, and I was off on a slow, 20-minute warm up about half an hour before the start time. As I finished up and got back to the start area – who should be standing there but JULIA! Sneaky little thing surprised me to come and cheer! At a 5k! What a gal, right? She knew the stakes, and although she was worried her presence would make me nervous, it was actually really encouraging. Let’s just say if races were a stage, I’m someone who thrives with an audience. Call me a diva, whatever. Anyway, I did two strides (whoops) and it was go time.

I lined up right up front at the start, since a quick peak at last year’s results would indicate that I could be fighting for a first-place female finish. Kind of exciting, mostly intimidating, but I went with it. The “gun” went off (don’t really remember if there was a gun) and the challenge was on!

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And…we’re off!

My strategy for this long-last sub-20 attempt was the exact opposite of every other race I run: go out fast, run my first mile the fastest, and try and hold on. I’ve found that it’s really hard to make up time in the 5k, but it’s easy to bank time in the beginning. Plus, the race is so short that crashing and burning at the end is somewhat short-lived – so why not make it interesting? So, that’s just what I did. About five men and myself all hurried up to the front and quickly we spread out in a nice even distribution. I was third and realized I’d be running my very own race the whole time – no people to draft off or to split the pace with. Alrighty then! We were running on a bike path the entire time, which is perhaps my least favorite surface to run on, but I chose to think of it like a track instead, which is one of my preferred surfaces to run on 🙂

My first mile buzzed seemingly right after the race started: 6:07. Whoaaa there. Pretty certain that’s the second fastest mile I’ve ever (formally) run, and while it was a little quicker than expected – it followed my race plan perfectly. In the 5k, I try really hard to focus on one mile at a time, which is way easier in a 3 mile race than a 26.2 mile one, so I was onto mile 2.

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Hi Julia! Photos at the beginning of 5ks=smiles. Also, someone please remind me to work on my pronating.

I was still in third place overall behind two men, and while I was encouraged by this, I was much more focused at the task at hand: get to that line before the clock hits 20! I had to run through a giant sprinkler at some point during this mile which was a bit alarming but a nice distraction. We came up to a 180 turn on the path which rerouted us on a different part of the loop, meaning I got to see exactly where I was in terms of contention. I made the turn, and saw one guy and one woman behind me, maybe 30 seconds or so. It was something I paid moderate attention to, but I knew if I didn’t entirely explode I’d have a good podium shot.

Mile 2 FINALLY clicked off, 6:17. Somewhat better than expected! I knew I’d banked enough time to get in under my goal assuming I could hold on, but because math is hard and 5ks are harder, I had no sense of what the final 1.1 needed to clock. At this point, it was the “hang on for dear life” portion of 5ks that always rears its ugly head. But, with less than a mile to go I was able to remember my mantra and my big shiny sub-20 goal that was waiting for me if I wanted it.

Mantras have always helped me, and after being so inspired by Jenny Simpson in her Olympic performance, I chose something awesome that she’s said about racing:

“The secret to racing is not about digging deep for more than you’re capable of, it’s about knowing exactly what you’re capable of.”

I love that! The focus is so much more about having confidence in what you know to be true rather than extending onself into the unknown. I felt very sure that this goal of mine was achievable, and when I found myself hurting (which I was), it was an inspiring reminder to know, from the get-go, I could do it.

And all at once, there was Adam! And Julia! And mile 3 (6:33). Both of them were running behind me shouting super encouraging things, but my vision was tunneled – get to that finish line!

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Bada boom, bada bing – there it was. I raised my arms in the air (I don’t know why…it felt right), clicked my watch, and basically stopped dead in my tracks to put my hands on my knees and regal myself after all that.

19:39!

I’d been so focused on simply moving the clock under 20 minutes, I never expected to drop even lower into the 19s. I was pumped! And perhaps the most surprising part of all…I actually felt pretty great?! The last 1.3 or so was a bit of a suffer, but I’ve never run a 5k where my lungs and legs felt so good afterwards (one that I was actually racing, at least). The cherries on top were 1st overall female and 3rd overall finisher, which is definitely a first for me!

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This race was unbelievably encouraging and satisfying. Although I’d classify myself as a long-distance runner foremost, I really do love these shorter races, and it felt so good to work toward a scary goal and finally check the box next to it. Add having some of my favorite people there and it was one heck of a perfect morning. I’m planning on hanging my hat on that 5k for the time being, but I’m excited to see how this can translate toward the Rock-n-Roll half next month and other upcoming races.

Finally, I’d really like to stand on a soapbox for a minute and advocate for the 5k, no matter your preferred distance. The race gets a sophomoric rep because it’s tied to being a beginner distance, however it’s truly a great challenge and change-of-pace (literally) from the sluggish nature of long-distances. It’s good for your legs to move fast, and it’s such a good feeling to finish a race and not need to recover for a week afterward. Not to mention they’re cheaper, more ample in options, and much more fun than doing a speed workout by yourself. Read this article if you’re not convinced. The 5k is freaking awesome.

Thanks for reading to those of you still out there. I know this was a verbose post about a race that was super short in length, but really I just like the opportunity to ramble sometimes in this space. I might not be here often, but I did renew my domain registration, so I’ll still be around every once in a while.

Happy Friday!

 

Boston Marathon 2016 Race Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hi Boston! It’s so late!

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

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

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

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

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Lest you forget who won Super Bowl 50, Boston…

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

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

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

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

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

Mile 1: 7:55

Mile 2: 7:50

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

Mile 3: 7:45

Mile 4: 7:48

Mile 5: 7:45

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

Mile 6: 7:34

Mile 7: 7:43

Mile 8: 7:43

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

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Mile 9: 7:40

Mile 10: 7:36

Mile 11: 7:44

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

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

Mile 12: 7:32

Mile 13: 7:32

Mile 14: 7:33

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

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

Mile 15: 7:37

Mile 16: 7:19

Mile 17: 7:53

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

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

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

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

Mile 18: 8:03

Mile 19: 7:38

Mile: 20: 7:55

Mile 21: 8:27 <- Hellloooo Heartbreak!

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

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

Mile 22: 7:32

Mile 23: 7:50

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

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Mile 24: 7:50

Mile 25: 7:50

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

Deep breath.

Stay calm.

Keep it together.

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

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

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

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Mile 26: 8:18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Official Results

Strava File