Tag Archives: marathon

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.

1-6

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

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

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

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

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

I spy...bathroom stop #2.

I spy…bathroom stop #2.

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

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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.

12-16

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

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

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

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

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

See? Smiling!

See? Smiling!

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

Things are getting real now...

Things are getting real now…

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

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

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

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

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

Yep, definitely some stopping and walking in there :)

Yep, definitely some stopping in there 🙂

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

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 5.53.09 PM

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

25-26

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

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 5.55.59 PM

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

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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!!!

Boston Marathon Training Week #3

One more week in the books! Boston is starting to feel closer and closer, and I kind of wish there was an extra two weeks or so to play with. Oh well. Quality is going to need to trump quantity in terms of miles and training days.

Step-back week must have: absurdly huge pancakes. To those of you who choose smoothies after long runs, I'm sorry.

Step-back week must have: absurdly huge pancakes. To those of you who choose smoothies after long runs for refueling, I’m sorry.

This past week was a step-back week, which in hindsight was a great idea. I’ve been building up mileage and fitness in general for the past month+ after having essentially no base, and I wanted to do a little tempering before continuing to add. My legs are a bit unpredictable at this point, and I’m trying to baby them as much as possible, as evidenced by the two rest days this past week and lack of much strength training.

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 8 miles

This run was a little forgettable, but generally it was fine. I was glad to get in some decent weekday mileage again.

Wednesday: 45 minutes elliptical, 30 minutes stair-turner, lifting

I like to call this day: “Being Bored at the Gym.” Ugh. I wanted a good cardio workout but didn’t want to run two days in a row. The new issue of Runner’s World was the only thing that kept my sane. I was reminded of the days when I was much more of a gym rat than I am now, and I didn’t miss it at all.

Thursday: 7 miles

Gross, awful, no-good run. This was one of those runs where I was just so mad the whole time. Mad at my legs. Mad at my stomach. Mad at not feeling like a runner. I rallied by the end, but there was nothing encouraging about those 7 miserable miles.

Friday: 4,000 m swim

photo 1

For the first time in history I went to the pool after work on a Friday. But by some miracle, I was really into this swim. I guess subconsciously I’ve been craving some pool time, and I just kind of got lost in thought the whole time. I was definitely getting tired by the end, but otherwise this was a lovely swim. Yo’re welcome from my pruny fingers and mangled pinky.

Saturday: 12 miles

Mentally, this long run was very manageable considering it was shorter than I’ve been doing the past few weeks. And physically, it went well. I wore a watch again, and while I’m still far off of my “old” normal pace, it wasn’t too disappointing. Inching closer and closer back every week. I’ve been positive splitting my long runs like a champ recently, which shouldn’t be surprising at all, but I’m going to try and maybe spread out my effort a little more next week.

Good thing the dim lighting is hiding my Malbec-colored cheeks.

Good thing the dim lighting is hiding my Malbec-colored cheeks.

Sunday: Rest

I took an unplanned rest day yesterday, which I was fine with. My knee (not the recovering IT band-injured one) has been stiff this week, so I didn’t see a point in logging junk recovery miles. Instead, BF and I walked around Greenlake and I stretched a ton.

Total= 27 miles

Generally, it was a solid week, especially for a step-back week. I’d really like to be logging more miles, but I need to keep reminding myself of the end goal —Boston— and not immediately getting back to fitness I had four months ago. It will come, I just need to keep April 21 as my focal point for the time being.

More miles this week though, and an 18 mile long run as the grand finale. Starting to feel more like marathon training, and I like it.

Happy Monday!

The Boston plan, for now

In my head, I really want to write out your run-of-the-mill “Goals for 2014” blog post. There are two problems with doing that though: 1) I’m goal-less, and 2) I’m a little unsure of what this year will look like, and don’t want to set myself up for disappointment.

Neither of those things are a solid recipe for a motivational “Hell ya let’s do this 2014!” post.

Truth be told, being unsure about the future scares me less than feeling like I don’t have any goals. If the end of 2013 taught me anything, it’s that you never really know what life will throw your way. Admittedly, I’m a little scared to put my all-in ambition out into the universe just yet, because I was knocked on my rear pretty hard not too long ago. In the same breath, while I am definitely recuperating nicely and feeling more and more like my old self, I also know that there are some changes coming up that will put a wrench in any plan-making. Therefore, it’s hard to think of setting goals in a somewhat unpredictable environment.

*Cryptic blogging, I know. Sorry.*

But as I said, those changes and uncertainties regarding my health and life in general aren’t actually what’s getting to me. In fact, I feel a certain sense of resilience when I imagine all the unknowns, and in a weird way I feel more ready for them.

What is digging at me is how directionless I feel.

For so long it’s been all about dedicating a training season to a new distance, a certain time goal, or a qualifying standard. While there are plenty of those options still available to me, for whatever reason I am just not feeling inspired by much of anything. Perhaps it’s because I’m so gravely out of shape (strong likelihood), or perhaps it’s because I’ve been so out-of-sorts for the last few months. Either way, it’s irking me that I can’t seem to get excited about anything.

I’m sure it will come, and I realize it’s only 1 week into the new year, but in the mean time I’ve decided to just focus on the next upcoming months of rebuilding, restrengthening, and (if I’m lucky) getting myself across the Boston Marathon finish line.

So, in lieu of shouting a big sparkly goal time from the rooftops for Boston and proclaiming all the magical sweat-filled things I want to do in 2014, I’ve instead settled upon a step-by-step road map of sorts for getting myself from a wheezing, calf-less, cheese-binging girl-on-the-mend to a Boston marathon finisher. And please note, finisher is the operative word here.

January

This month is 100% devoted to building back my endurance, strength, and generally learning how to run again.

I’m optimistic that my IT band injury is on the way out the door, but that doesn’t mean that it’s ready for full-clearance. Generally, my entire right leg seems to have a mind of its own nowadays. Even on days when I do absolutely nothing at all, it seems like a new area is irritated for no apparent reason. I’m going to have to match my “rebuilding” ambitions with equal amounts of TLC to ensure that I don’t sideline myself even further.

I’ve also very intentionally decided that getting back in shape does not need to be exclusive to running. And in fact, it shouldn’t be. Lots of swimming, elliptical (bleh), spinning, etc. will all be incorporated in attempts to reestablish my endurance. Running will be very purposeful and tactical throughout this process. I.E: my runs will be spaced out, will be done only when I’m feeling good, and will be built up slowly and steadily.

I’m also trying very hard to ignore the fact that most people running Boston have already started their training. I would have started by now too should conditions have been different. But, this is the hand I’ve been dealt, and instead of focusing on the miles and paces that shoulda, woulda, coulda…I’m going to keep focus on what I can do right now.

So, January is about recuperating while still getting some fitness back. And I am very intentionally not starting “Boston Marathon training” yet.

February

Should things go well in January (running without pain, not wallowing through every single workout, happy intestines), I will “officially” being training for Boston on February 1. I don’t have any idea what this training will look like, other than I’m fairly certain it will not resemble marathon training of the past. At this point, I’m going to be focused on getting in the long runs and generally building mileage. That’s about it, running wise. Maybe a miracle will happen and I’ll be inspired to get all tempo/goal pace/mile repeats crazy…but I’m doubting it. And that’s fine.

In December, in the midst of failing health, I decided that should things turn around and should I be able to get myself to Boston, it would be for the finish, and not the clock. At that point, getting out the door seemed like a success, so the idea of even getting to Boston felt like a reach goal.

Now that I’m (hopefully) able to try and pursue that goal…I want it to be without pressure or chance of disappointment. At the same time, this is going to no doubt be a special year at Boston, and I’d like to soak as much of it up as I can, should I make it there. This is the same mentality I went into Chicago with…no pressure, just enjoy the race…and I had the most enjoyable marathon of my life, easily.

So, in a perfect world, I will start training and building mileage on the 1st of February, giving me 12 weeks to get myself marathon-ready. If I were at my normal level of fitness, I would feel fine about this. However, given my current state of patheticness, I’m much more nervous. Rediscovering just how hard running (and marathon training) really is is not exactly what I’d been hoping for in training for Boston.

But, it is what it is. And ultimately, I’m grateful to even having the ability to make a “training plan,” given the unfortunate state I’ve recently been in.

As for March and April, ideally, I’ll be carrying on per standard marathon training procedure. It will all be very dependent on my body’s temperament, but overall I’m planning on getting myself in shape to run a marathon and enjoy it. No killing myself with workouts for the sake of a certain time this time around, and I’m fine with that. And to tell you the truth, considering my current “pace” is MINUTES slower than I regularly run, I know I’m no where near ready to even think about my time, training wise and race wise. And that’s okay.

So, the name of the game for the next three weeks is to get myself back into shape. Run some, swim some, stretch a lot, roll a lot, and generally let my body be my guide. Should all go according to plan, I’ll be looking at 12 weeks of prep to get myself to the Boston start line. It’s not going to be pretty, and it won’t always be fun, but if nothing else…I’ve got determination on my side. I fought hard for my BQ last spring, and I am going to be relentless in ensuring that effort is rewarded in April.

Getting into Boston 2014: Patience is a Virtue

I’ve never been the most patient person.

When I get something in my head that I know I want, I want it to happen immediately, and I tend to get anxious and restless when I’m forced to wait. This is both a blessing and a curse… although I’m sure some (my family) would argue more toward the curse side of that.

Essentially, I feel like I know what I want the majority of the time, and I don’t like to waste time not going after it.

This is why, when I ran my first marathon in Portland almost exactly two years ago, I started plotting a way to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I may not have been ready, I may not have known the qualifying standards, but I knew I wanted in. Those “BQ” letters were coveted in the running community, and I wanted to earn them for myself.

Post-first marathon mug shot

Post-first marathon mug shot

As long time readers know, it took me a while to get that BQ.

But of course, I was impatient. I absurdly thought it was possible in my second marathon, which resulted in a catastrophic finish and a hard slap of reality. In my third marathon, I was injured and ran only to finish…going for a BQ time would not have been smart.

One of these ankles is not like the other. Do you think I needed a pedicure?

One of these ankles is not like the other. Do you think I needed a pedicure?

And then came Eugene. The race that I so openly expressed as the race. The one where I had a very public goal of qualifying for Boston. My training, my preparation, my nerves…all of it was focused on one number:

3:35

I had all the confidence I could hope for going into Eugene. I even thought that a sub-3:30 was possible, although that was kept under wraps. I knew that unless catastrophe hit, I was well prepared to run a BQ time.

Now, truth be told, I didn’t have a good race in Eugene. I hit the wall harder than I ever have before, and it took another dimension of willpower to drag myself into Hayward Field and across the finish line. But, despite the pain, I’d done it.

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3:32:06

A bonefied, “Females 18-34” Boston Marathon Qualifying time.

Honestly, it took a while for this reality to hit me. Despite the fact that I’d pined and hoped for a BQ time for so long, I don’t think I’d taken the time to internalize exactly what that would mean when it happened.

After the pain of race day subsided, I started to realize that it was the process of earning my BQ that ultimately mattered, perhaps more so than achieving it. I’d become so focused on the outcome that, in a way, I’d neglected the journey. It wasn’t until I looked at it that way, then, that I came to appreciate the patience and diligence it took to get those two little letters.

The closer Boston registration came, the more I began to realize just how badly I wanted that patience and training to pay off; in the form of actually running Boston next year. I know I don’t need to remind everyone that space for 2014 was tight, and even those that had qualified didn’t know how their chances of getting in would be. As those first two weeks of registrations went by, I watched the entries get swept up as expected and wondered if and when the “rest of us” would get a shot.

Patience, patience…

Eventually, the “squeakers” were given the opportunity to register. I have never been so eager and anxious to wish away $175. It didn’t take long, though, for the news to hit that registrations had surpassed the number of remaining spots, and we’d all to have to wait…some more…for the BAA to determining the cut off time. Yes, a process that truly started in February this year was going to need an extra week and two days. So I kept waiting, along with everyone else, speculating if my time would make the cut.

I had high hopes, admittedly. Some easy math would indicate that my 3:32:06 should be within the top 50% of the outstanding entries; although without any definitive numbers, it was still hard to tell. It was like waiting on a college admissions letter in a way…the same type of feeling of either being “in” or “out.”

The day finally arrived for the final announcement to come, and I was refreshing my inbox every 5 minutes in anticipation of the yes or no email. Finally, around 10:30 am, the news broke, via the ever-prompt Runners World:

“Runners whose qualifying time for the 2014 Boston Marathon was at least 1:38 faster than their age and gender qualifying standard will receive notice starting today that they’re officially registered for next year’s race, which will be run on April 21.”

My eyes widened, heart fluttered, and a 26.2-mile wide goofy smile spread across my face. I was in!!!

Yet another look at my inbox would confirm: I was accepted to run the 2014 Boston Marathon.

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It’s all still a little surreal. I’m euphoric, of course, but I don’t think the reality of the situation has really sunk in. And I’m okay with that…because throughout this process, I’ve learned that there’s beauty in patience. It forces us to focus on the fruit of our daily actions as opposed to constantly looking toward something else. So while it’s my inclination to look at course maps, weekend schedules, previous recaps, and any and all pre-race literature… instead, I’m going to hold off. It was patience that got me to this point, and I want to allow the excitement and anticipation of this dream to unfold in a one-thing-at-a-time manner. I’m intent on keeping the magic of this race alive from now until the finish line, and I think that means letting all the details unfold organically.

So, aside from my initial giddiness, overall I’m feeling incredibly honored. I feel like that’s an overused expression, but that’s the word that first comes to mind when I think about running Boston in 2014. It will be an incredibly important year for the already important race, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to wear one of the 36,000 bibs on race day. I intend to treat the training, the race, and the overall experience with an incredible amount of care and appreciation. This will necessitate staying present both on the run and off, and for the first time…I hoping for the journey to take its sweet, sweet time.

Spring 2014, I’m so excited for you!

Playing Catch-Up: Running, pets, and Boston

Hello! Long time no talk. How is everyone?

It’s so exciting that fall racing season is in full swing—it’s been fun to hear about everyone’s super long runs, tapering, and race results! I’ll admit I’m a tad jealous that I’m not doing a fall marathon (ahem, Chicago), however it’s made scheduling more relaxed and gets me even more excited for whatever’s next.

For now I thought I’d just give some updates—on running and otherwise.

Lately, I’ve been running between 40-50 miles a week, and recently it’s been closer to 50. It’s been fun, and feels surprisingly manageable. A year ago this would have been really high mileage for me, but it’s starting to feel a little more “normal” I guess you could say. I feel like I’m developing a really good base, and by alternating between speed, long runs, cut back weeks, and easy runs, I’m hoping that my base will be really strong by the time I gear up for my next marathon.

This is what a typical week has looked like lately:

M: rest, always

T: ~10 miles, no watch

W: ~8 miles, some kind of speed work, mostly tempos, and Maximum Sculpt class

T: ~8 miles easy

F: 6 miles slow and Maximum Sculpt class

S: 14-18 mile long run. I did do one random 20 miler last weekend, but otherwise I’m normally around 16

S: cross-training, normally swimming

My Wednesdays are Fridays almost always look the same, but otherwise things float around a lot. I’m starting to switch my long run days to Sunday for the fall/winter because the only thing better than finishing a long run is finishing a long run and laying on the couch watching football for the rest of the day.

Football season=Sunday long runs

So, despite the “not training” higher mileage, I do have some method to my madness—in the form of fall half marathons where allegedly, I’ll be testing my fitness.

Full disclosure/honesty: I’m 99% sure I’m not ready to run The Big Goal Time at the Bellingham Bay Half, which is two weeks from now. I could ramble away on a variety of excuses, but instead I’ll just take ownership and admit that I haven’t put in the amount of work necessary. Yes, I’ve been running and I’ve been diligent about workouts and miles, but I never feel like I jacked things up to the level I need to be at. It might have been fear, laziness, burnout, etc—but whatever the reason, the result is that I’m not feeling prepared to attempt a 1:35 half marathon in two weeks.

However, I do feel like the work I have done could be worth something, and I think I’ll use Bellingham as a fitness test and benchmark race as opposed to an A race. There is the chance of a PR (my current is 1:38:25), although I won’t be all that disappointed if I don’t break that either.

Do I want to be in shape to gut out 7:15 miles at Bellingham? Absolutely. Do I feel guilty for not being there yet? Not really. And here’s why:

I spent the summer having an incredible time running spur-of-the-moment races, spending hours in a van and on the road in two ultra relays, and generally living a life that didn’t revolve around A-race training. And it was fantastic! I don’t regret it for a minute. It was so good for my hyper-competitive self to take a break from the grind and live life a little less strictly. However, my summer didn’t come without some hard work—and in fact it left me more exhausted than I anticipated.

So, I suppose what I’m trying to say is that while I don’t feel ready for a 1:35 just yet, I do feel like with a little more time I’ll get there. I have a few more half-marathon plans up my sleeve this fall, and in no way have I discounted those as opportunities for fast races. I’m also secretly hoping that as the temperatures drop, all my hot weather training will have miraculously made me faster without changing anything else. 🙂 Point blank, my goal to get faster and to be a better runner hasn’t changed one bit, it’s just taking a little more time in the short-term than I originally hoped for.

In other news…

In case you haven’t seen on my social media posting spree:

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We got a kitten!!!

His name is Jasper, he’s 11 weeks and 5 days old, and he’s perfect.

He’s completely stolen our hearts, and every day I love him even more. I’m also a paranoid kitten owner, and I’m chronically afraid that something’s going to choke him, electrocute him, or that he’s ill with some rare kitty cancer. This definitely bodes well for how I’ll be with a baby.

Nevertheless, he’s a happy, healthy, curious little kitty and makes my day brighter.

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He is also very helpful at drawer organization.

He is also very helpful at drawer organization.

And lastly…

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Stay tuned folks! Boston registration is still open for all us “barely there” qualifiers, and this morning at exactly 7:08 AM, my registration was sent in. I’m guessing we won’t hear until the end of the week, but I do know that if space does fill up…every second counts. Let’s hope that my -2:54 minutes helps me!

I do have my hopes up, admittedly, but even if I don’t get in, it felt so incredible to even have the chance to register. Two years after I ran my first marathon, I never imagined I could be on the Boston Athletic Association website hitting “submit” to my very own application. It was awesome, and I can only imagine what it will be like to actually run the race, whenever that may be.

That’s all for now! I think it’s safe to assume most people are as excited as I am about the upcoming crunchy leaves and cooler weather. And as much as I scoff at all the “scarves!” and “boots!” and “OMG PSL!!!” yammer, I have to admit that fall is seriously my jam, and I plan on soaking it up to the fullest.

Happy Monday!

A Year Without Injuries

This is potentially the most jinx-filled post I’ll ever write. But since I’m not a huge believer in that type of thing, I’ll just go ahead and write it.

(Knock on wood, knock on wood…)

As of this past weekend (Saturday to be specific) it has been one year since I’ve been injured. One year, you guys!

On Saturday, September 8, 2012, I was forced to cut short a 20 mile Chicago Marathon training run because my ankle blew up to the point of not being able to walk. It was heart-breaking, and although I ultimately was able to run the race and had a great time doing so, the injury was still a wake-up call of sorts.

And since then, I haven’t had to take a day off of running for anything other than basic aches, pains, and soreness. Kind of hard to believe! And if any of you are thinking, “It’s just a year Robyn, what’s the big deal?” let me recap some things for you:

In 2012 I was hurt three separate times, all of which were the result of improper (too much) training and general bodily negligence.

– In April, I got horrible knee bursitis which completely threw off my Tacoma Marathon training. It took a cortisone shot and a lot of Aleve to weasel my way out of that one in time for the race.

-In May/June, the evil IT Band Syndrome got me good, and I was limping with knee pain for nearly two months. No running whatsoever.

-In September (as previously mentioned) my ankle tendonitis nearly eliminated my chance to run the Chicago Marathon. It was a little miraculous that I actually made it to and finished the race, and it wasn’t without a lot of luck and prescription anti-inflammatories.

I was actually very fortunate in my year of injuries. While they definitely were the result of over-training, none of them were very permanent and could mostly be quick-fixed with rest and drugs. I definitely consider myself lucky in that regard, but I still knew that my luck wouldn’t hold up if I didn’t make some changes.

It’s one of those “Fool me once, fool me twice…” scenarios. But in this case, I was certainly the one to be shamed, and I knew that these running injuries were going to keep happening if my habits stayed the same.

Nothing changes if nothing changes, and it was time for me to change.

And here I am…a year later, and (okay fine, lots of knocking on wood) I’m healthy and running happily. I will be the first to admit that a lot of this is luck; running and injuries sometimes just go hand-in-hand, no matter how careful you are. For some reason, I’ve been able to avoid the inevitable injuries that can knock us out.

However, I have definitely made changes that I’m certain have played a role in eliminating overuse injuries. Here’s a few things that I think have made the biggest difference:

1 rest day per week. No matter what. I used to take a rest day once every 2 (sometimes 3) weeks, and now I don’t know how that was even possible. I start to crave my rest days, which I also think means that I’m working harder during the other days.

Foot strike. I know this is a debated topic, but between last year and this year, I have fully transitioned to a more minimal shoe and have completely changed from a heavy heel-striker to a mid-foot striker. It could be a coincidence, but I’m guessing that this has a lot to do with the lessened impact.

Added walking. I walk every day between the water taxi and my office building (~.7 miles each way) and often times this is right after I’ve run and showered. I could be wrong, but I think the prolonged striding and extra “shake out” that walking provides has helped my legs recover more from my running.

Strength. This is potentially number one. Up until last August or so, I never did any kind of leg strength training. I always wanted my legs to be fresh for running, so I never bothered with squats or lunges or anything like that. I kind of cringe to think about this now, given that I’ve done a 180 in that regard. Currently, about twice a week, I do all kinds of strengthening, flexibility, and balance (<–super helpful!) work thanks to the lifting class I found. Not only do we work the big running muscles (hammies, quads, and glutes) but also the smaller, less obvious muscles that ultimately make a big impact on both performance and injury-proneness (not really a word, but I think you understand). In a nutshell, I think I had it wrong before; cross-training for running should actually be more about strength and less about other types of cardio. This might not be the same for everyone, but I’m convinced that adding strength training and dropping spinning has been perhaps the number one injury prevention technique.

Here’s the kicker to all this: I’m actually running more days per week and more miles than I was last year when I kept getting hurt. I have built up to this in a totally safe way, no doubt, but I think it’s interesting to look at how I’ve actually been able to do more since I’ve made the above changes.

And let it be known: more running wasn’t even the intention when I decided I needed to reevaluate my habits; in fact, it was actually more the opposite of that. But along the way, I think I found that with the added balance and the added rest, running was granted to me more freely. Some weeks are better than others, and some weeks require more rest and less miles. Ultimately, though, I think I’ve finally gotten a handle on the balancing act of the sport. Much like any relationship, it’s very give and take; the more you nurture your running with things like rest days, stretching, rolling, and nutrition, the more it will give back—in the form of more pain-free and happy miles.

I’m constantly reminded of how much like life running is, and how much it can teach us about other aspects of our lives. This past year has really solidified my belief that nothing changes if nothing changes, but also that we are in control. I think for all of last year, I felt as if running owned me; like it was an abusive relationship, and running had all the power. Of course this was wrong, but it was hard to see things otherwise when the sport I loved so very much kept disappointing me.

Now, I realize I had the power all along, and in fact I was the one who was abusing it. Today, I feel infinitely more control over my training and my running, which is an incredibly empowering and comforting feeling. As a result, I feel like I’ve become both stronger and faster—and perhaps most importantly, more conscious of both my limitations and potential within the sport. So long as I continue to give and take, I have a feeling that that potential will continue to turn into results.

As evidenced also by this past year of three different PRs, it’s safe to say that there’s nothing wrong with being a little bit safer.

Take care of your bodies everyone. We all love to run as much as we can, but sometimes our running, just like us, needs extra TLC.

And if you are hurt right now…here’s one of the most wonderful things I discovered last year after sitting on multiple sidelines: running isn’t going anywhere. It will be right there to take off with you whenever you’re ready again.

“What’s Next?”

That’s the question I can’t quite get out of my head lately. Since finishing Eugene, I’ve had a hard time coming up with exactly where I want to focus my goal-setting energy. There have been lots of potential ideas out there, but none of which have really stuck. The only thing I do know for sure is that I’m someone who needs a goal, even if it’s in the distant future. And right now, considering I’m goal-less, I’m going a little stir crazy.

And the relays don’t count…those are really just for fun/I’ll be happy if I simply survive.

There are lots of factors to consider, some of which are out of my control, but here’s my attempt at conveying the big, jumbled picture. Be warned, it’s somewhat all over the place and almost doesn’t even make sense to me.

Since even before I ran Eugene, I was not planning on running a fall marathon. Assuming I got into Boston, I wanted a break for a little while from the 26.2 distance and to save my legs for Marathon Monday in 2014. Had I not qualified, obviously this would have been a whole different story 🙂

There was one exception to this plan though: if I got into the NYC Marathon.

I entered the lottery, just like everyone else, and honestly didn’t expect to get in. That didn’t stop me on Wednesday though (the day of the marathon drawing) from refreshing my bank transactions and NYRR status way too many times. Spoiler: I didn’t get in. As expected.

But what surprised me was just how bummed out I was about it. It made me think that if my one fall marathon prospect gave me such high hopes, maybe I want to/should do a fall race after all?

Who knows.  I do really like the idea of a fall marathon. I absolutely love fall races (way, way, WAY more than spring), and undoubtedly I will be seething with jealousy if I don’t get in on the action.

However, this desire is not at the expense of Boston. I really do like the notion of bottling that 26.2 energy and focus up until next April…and if I was guaranteed an entry, this decision would be a no-brainer.

But that’s the thing. I’m not guaranteed an entry. And with every article and headline that comes out about 2014 being the “Biggest Boston Ever!” I get more and more skeptical of the likelihood of getting in. That would suck, frankly, but it’s a fact that everyone who qualified will have to face. Except probably Shalane…homegirl doesn’t need to worry,

Essentially, then, I don’t want to sacrifice a fall marathon and then not be accepted into Boston. We don’t find out about Boston until the end of September, leaving little to no room to “salvage” a fall/winter marathon.

Then there’s the other options: the ones that completely eliminate any thoughts of a fall marathon in favor of other sports.

There was a point in time when I declared 2013 “the year of the triathlon,” and in case you were curious on how that plan is going…it isn’t.

But! There is that option. Which both excites me and further confuses me. It would be a huge change in gears and a complete overhaul in the training I’m used to. And while I absolutely love the idea of competing in triathlons, I’m not quite sure if I’m up for it right now. Maybe that’s just fear of the unknown talking (or laziness) but something just doesn’t feel quite right about it yet.

So that leaves me with the next choice (the third choice? I lost count): getting away from distance and working on speed.

This is the decision I find myself leaning toward, as I feel like it’s something that I’ve wanted for a while but haven’t really had the chance to really take on.

I constantly feel like there’s an untapped reservoir of improvement that I have yet to really dig into. At the risk of sounding like a total d-bag, I’ve relied a lot on natural ability ever since I started running and racing. Yes, I put in work, but more often than not, I shy away from anything that sounds too “hard.” Essentially, I stay in a comfort zone. And while it seems silly to call the still relatively high number of miles I run a “comfort zone,” it is what I’ve been used to over the past few years.

I really hope that last paragraph didn’t sound too jerky, because that’s not at all what I intended. In fact, my intention was to state that in a lot of ways, I don’t try as hard as I think I could be. And I’m becoming more and more anxious to get over my fears of the unknown and bust a gut for a little while.

I recently realized that I’ve either been training for a marathon or injured for the past three years. Neither of which is very conducive to really working on speed. And it’s kind of funny, since sprinting and speedwork were the only types of running I did when I ran track so many years ago.

The times when I have done a little speed work here and there within marathon training—I actually loved it. There’s something so rewarding about a hard interval workout that feels so different from a long, single-speed run, and despite my self-proclaimed love for the long run…I think I’m ready to shake it up.

…..

I suppose my little narration about the confusion that is my running brain actually turned into a little bit more clarity than I expected. Isn’t writing nice that way? 🙂 Essentially, I think what I’ll do is a combination of all ideas, in smaller proportions. There are some races out there that I’ve all but pulled the trigger on, and I think once I do that, the rest of the specifics will fall into place.