Tag Archives: race recap

Chicago Marathon Race Recap

Yesterday was a very, very good day.

If you want the quick-and-dirty version of how I fared in the Chicago Marathon, you can scan to the bottom. If you’re interested in the full race recap, read on! Spoiler: it’s full of happiness and run love—and a little bit of past and present tense confusion. Forgive me.

Those of you who’ve been following me know that I was nervous with a capital N about this race. To briefly recap those of you who haven’t had to listen to my whining for the past month, this is how I went into the race:

1 month ago, my ankle blew up in a horrible case of tendonitis, and I couldn’t walk without a limp let alone run at all. 2 doctors visits, lots of icing, and positive thinking later— I could sort-of, kind-of run again. This was a mere 2 weeks out from the race, and it wasn’t without irritation, but it was running. Another two weeks of a little running (12 miles being the furthest) and continuing to rest my angry ankle, and I decided I would try and bust out a marathon. Flights had been booked, plans had been made, yada yada yada yada (Seinfeld?), so I figured…let’s go for it.

Mind you…my last 20-mile run was on August 25, and that 12 mile run mentioned above was not easy.

{I am not sharing these facts for any sympathy votes or to throw myself a pity party…I just feel they’re essential to detailing both how I approached this race and how I felt about the end results. Take ’em or leave ’em.}

I lowered my expectations for this marathon. I planned a conservative pacing strategy, and I went into it knowing that a) I would probably be in pain at some point, b) I wouldn’t be very fast, and c) I could end up re-injured.

My best case scenario was finishing without too much ankle pain. I wasn’t looking for speed, I was merely looking for a finish line crossing.

And what did I get?

One of the most fun races of my life—and what I believe was the most well-executed running I’ve ever done.

Enough Tarantino, let’s go back to the beginning…

Saturday night, after some Chicago exploring, my feet were up, my compression socks were on, and BF was making me a perfect carb-heavy dinner. I wasn’t feeling the same nerves I’d been grappling with all week. I felt ready—a little anxious—but mainly content with that fact that all I could do was my best. Without any high goals or expectations, I knew all I could do was run smart and hope for the best—and as someone who is always so numbers-oriented, this was a pretty relieving approach.

Nevertheless, my sleeping was not ideal Saturday night, but that’s to be expected.

At my 5:00 am alarm, though, it was game time. A face wash, gear check, and banana later—we were on our way to the start line. The nice thing about Chicago was all the accessible public transportation—the trains made all the coming and going much simpler!

Let’s go run a marathon!

Girls on the Run did such a wonderful job with a pre-and-post race set up. We had a warm place to hang out, food, real bathrooms, easy gear storage, and PT masseuses! Fancy stuff. I felt very lucky/grateful.

I would appreciate this set up at every race from now on. Please and thank you.

7:00 am rolled around, and it was time to jet to the start line. There were so many people doing this race. Of course I knew this ahead of time, but you can never really know what a single event for 40,000 people looks like until you’re there. It was quite the production, and the Chicago Marathon volunteers/staff had the whole thing down to a science. Despite the crowds, it was largely controlled chaos and really just felt like a huge party. I tried my best to stay calm, soak it in, and appreciate the fact that I was part of such a spectacular event. The announcer told us that 114 different countries were represented amongst the participants, as well as ALL 50 states. Amazing.

Pre-corral entrance, a good luck send off.

The gun went off, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” played over the speakers, and we were running! It took me about 4 minutes post-gun time to actually cross the start line, but it didn’t matter—I was so hopped up on running-gratitude and adrenaline that I didn’t feel any urge to push or weave.

I also started this race without my music playing—which was both abnormal and intentional. I wanted to be able to enjoy the crowds which I’d heard so much about—and I figured that starting my music later on might give me a helpful jolt of energy when I’d need it. This would end up being a very, very good strategy.

We were off—cruising through the beautiful streets of Chicago. There are so many different buildings, businesses, and general attractions to see around that city, and it was easy to be distracted (in a good way) by it all.

And the people! Right off the bat, there were crowds at least 3-people-deep lining the course, all of whom were so encouraging, happy, and motivating. There were some hilarious posters as well—my favorites being, “You’re definitely NOT going to win” and “Remember, Liam Neeson is proud of you!”

The first 5 or so miles went all through down town, and I felt great. My plan going into it was to stick around an 8:40-8:45 min/mile for the first half, and then reassess depending on how I felt. However, due to a massive Garmin fail about 1.2 miles into the race—my pacing was based solely on my stopwatch function and some mental math skills.

Because of the clouds and the tall buildings, my satellite was more off than on, and when I did have a signal, my watch’s pacing was definitely not accurate. So, I was able to distract myself a lot with a good deal of addition, memorization, and division.

And in the end, I’m actually very thankful for the Garmin mishap. Not only was I distracted by my need to configure my own pacing, but I wasn’t obsessively checking my watch. I would say I ran 80% of the pace solely by feel, and in the end this would result in a great overall strategy. If I felt slow, I picked it up, if I felt fast, I pulled back. Back to basics—it was refreshing.

However, I did want to make sure I stuck to my slower-first-half plan, and so I was trying my hardest to get to each mile marker based on my self-calculated 8:40 pace plan. Looking back on the results, I think I did a fair job sticking to this. I felt great through the 10 mile mark, and it was around this point that I started to get wary about my ankle.

Teal hat on the left, photo courtesy of BF.

I knew that I could make it to the halfway point or so without too much worry about my ankle—but after that, it was pretty up in the air as to what would happen.

The pain I’d been experiencing beforehand with my injury would come on without warning, really quickly, and so there were a number of times from miles 10-15 where I was paying a lot of attention to how it was feeling. There wasn’t much sign of anything too threatening, though, and eventually I was able to stop thinking too much about it.

I couldn’t believe how quickly the halfway point came. It felt like I’d just started running—and feeling good at this point was really encouraging in terms of how I felt I would bode for the rest of the race.

I was constantly analyzing both my energy levels and my form—and I think this “checking in” was good for my pacing and my motivation. With both a lot of energy left and a completely pain-free ankle at the 13.1 mark…my fears of needing to drop out were slowly diminishing.

The miles continued to tick by—just the way you would hope they would in a race. The crowds also continued to be huge, loud, and just fantastic. I slapped hands with so many strangers, took oranges offered by various folks, and smiled at most everyone I saw. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face, and the further I ran, it seemed the better I felt.

Looking back, I think I felt the best from miles 13-19. My pace felt steady, my energy felt strong, and I couldn’t believe how good my legs felt given my huge lapse in training. I consciously didn’t let the fear of missed training keep me from enjoying the running and instead I credited the resting I’d allowed myself and the taper plan I followed. No questioning….just running.

I thought that at some point the course would enter a no-man’s-land of sorts, as most marathons tend to do. But there was never really any point of the run that felt deserted. There were always people spectating, and generally there was always something interesting to see. There were bands, DJs, huge video monitors, funny signs, and generally a good atmosphere throughout the course—and I never felt that there was a point where we were forced to look down and grind on.

And as an added bonus, I saw BF 3 different times! He was able to make it to miles 4, 11, 21, and the finish (I couldn’t see him at the end) and I loved being able to see him along the way. I also loved the Swedish fish he gave me at mile 11…

I didn’t ever consciously think to pick it up in terms of speed. However, after looking through my results it seems as if miles 15-21 ish were where I ran the fastest. My 35k (mile 21.7) clocked in at an 8:18 min/mile, which is much better than I could have expected, particularly considering I still felt good at this point.

Around the 22 mark, though, I was feeling the fatigue I knew would come. It was mainly just tired legs, nothing too brutal, and considering that I only had 4.2 miles to go, I wasn’t too daunted by it. An expected soreness really.

At this point, I was breaking the race down into small portions. At mile 23, I tried to think, “Okay, just a 5k to go,” and then at mile 24, “Just a little 2.2 miler—just like you did yesterday.” Admittedly, knowing that I could run 10 minute miles to the end and still tie my PR was definitely encouraging.

I was hurting at this point, but not horribly. It felt like the kind of pain you expect from a marathon, and it was primarily my legs and not my energy. Endurance wise, I still felt good, and it was more of a mental battle with my quads than anything else.

Chicago did a fantastic job with making the finishing miles just what you’d want them to be. There were signs for 1 mile to go, 800 m to go, 400 m, 300 m, and 200 m…all leading to the finale of an enormous finish line lined with stands of cheering crowds. Unreal amounts of cheering, cameras, and crowds…it was amazing.

Part of the final 400 meters or so was quite uphill (the only uphill during the whole race!) so that wasn’t too spectacular—but as soon as I rounded the corner and saw the huge “FINISH” ahead of me, I was elated.

I’d done it. No ankle pain, no dropping out, and no collapsing before the finish line.

And somehow, to cap it all off, I crossed the finish line at 3:42:10—a 2 minute PR.

I felt so incredibly redemptive from my Tacoma finish, and I felt so over-the-top in love with the marathon distance—again. It did feel great to stop, and as I slow-trudged down the recovery area along with all the other tired runners, I had a 26.2 mile-wide smile on my face—I couldn’t believe how well the race went.

Here are some of the more official results:

I was surprised to see that my speed progressed throughout the race. While I was trying my best to keep track using my stopwatch/mental math method—my brain became a little too fuzzy to keep up this kind of stats work. I’d say the last 10 miles were run solely on feel, and I’m really pleased with just how well that ended up working.

Here are some more numbers:

If you’re wondering, there were 1614 women in my age group and 16,767 women overall.

After slowly finding my way back to the high school, I met up with BF, thanked the Girls on the Run ladies, and got a good stretch done by one of their PT volunteers. Lesson learned: a good amount of walking + a quality stretch post-marathon yields far less sore legs.

Very happy girl.

I loved this race. I loved the course, I loved the crowds, and I loved the way I felt the whole time. It was the perfect combination of happy running and well-earned pain, which always results in the most satisfying kind of runs. The PR was truly just the icing on top of what was already such a memorable race, and I was mostly just thankful for finishing and finishing without an injury relapse. Afterwards, my ankle felt as good as when I woke up in the morning…and with the exception of some tight quads and IT bands, my legs feel pretty darn good today.

Coffee and chocolate donut holes…post marathon perfection.

I so appreciate all the support both before and after from all of you. Knowing there were people tracking my times made each timing strip crossing all the more encouraging, and I cannot thank everyone enough.

I loved Chicago, I loved this race, and I love that I’ve become reacquainted with the magic of the marathon.

Congratulations to EVERYONE who raced this weekend! I hope you all are resting well and soaking in the post-race glory. Thanks to everyone for the texts, tweets, tracks, emails, and phone calls—your support means so very much to me. Thanks to Eminem and the cast of Wicked for getting me through those last few miles. And a special thanks to both Girls on the Run and those who donated to my fundraising efforts—I would not have been able to run this race without you.

Alright, done with my Oscar speech. If you’ve made it this far—bless you.

And let it be known…Boston, next time, you are mine.

Did you race this weekend? Next weekend? Have you run Chicago? Results? Opinions? Pizza?

Disneyland Half-Marathon Race Report

Chances were that I was going to have a fan-flipping-tastic time at the Disneyland Half-Marathon. I wrote all about how obnoxiously tickled I was to be doing the race, and after the fact—it’s pretty safe to say that overall, my expectations were definitely met.

But let’s start at the beginning—because what’s a race recap without expo and pre-race details?

On Saturday, BF and I made our way from Pasadena, CA (where we were staying) to Anaheim to get our race packets at the Disneyland Hotel. This is about where my Disney-themed excitement really began and lasted until our final farewell to the park on Sunday afternoon. Typical expo scene—plus a boatload of Disney-themed running things, music, DJs, etc.

BF has a toothpick in his mouth, he doesn’t just look creepy normally.

Sorority pride in the form of exercise headbands! I didn’t buy one, but I appreciated the gesture.

The best part was the option to SEE the finish line.

I actually have never seen a finish line before the end of a race, and although I consider the finish line to be sacred ground, it was definitely fun to see where the grand finale would take place the next day.

If you read my post on Friday, you know that I really didn’t have high ambitions in terms of actually “racing” this race. I never intended on taking it too seriously, plus with peak weeks for Chicago afoot, it was the best decision to lay-off in terms of speed and effort during this race. Needless to say, I wasn’t nearly as nervous come race morning as I normally am.

It’s 3:45 am!!! No one has ever been up this early!! Let’s take a photo!

BF and I were both in Corral A, which was very nice, and we managed to do the whole wake up-drive-arrive-park-porta potty-corral-wait thing like champs. We had enough time that we weren’t stressed out, but we also only wait for the race start for about 10 minutes.


After the National Anthem played, FIREWORKS went off (yes, at 5:45 in the morning) and with the shot of a gun, we were off!

The race course was designed to highlight both the Disney parks as well as Anaheim, and it showed. I knew this race was bound to be impressive (both due to Disney’s reputation and the first born child fee it cost to get in, but I wasn’t expecting quite the spectacles we were given.

To start off, there were spectators nearly the entire race. And not just one or two “Go Mom!” signs…like, crowds of people lining the course, cheering everyone on. And not only general fans—there were cheerleaders, volleyball teams (weird?), bands, even a rally of old-time cars honking their horns. It was mighty impressive, and there’s something so great about getting your name called out even if it’s by a stranger.

We started off going through California Adventure, winding our way through the park. All the lights on the attractions were on, so it was really easy to see everything and everyone. It was at this point that there started to be characters along the course, which was highly entertaining. They were all definitely in character in terms of the mannerisms. Oh, and just about every princess was there EXCEPT for Belle. She was probably too busy reading and being an independent woman.

Mid-run photo fail. But you get the idea.

After leaving California Adventure, we headed into Disneyland for a run around all the different lands. It’s surprising how much smaller Disneyland feels when A) you aren’t 7, B) you’re running through it, and C)there aren’t hoards of people to meander around. Perhaps my favorite part of the race was when we ran down Main Street toward the castle. I got all kinds of giggly and we stopped for a photo.

Dark shot…but you get the idea.

At this point, the course was still decently crowded. I normally don’t mind crowds too much, but with BF and I staying together the whole time, all the weaving was a little annoying. But relatively speaking, everything was still well and good, and without a goal time—we really didn’t mind the bunching.

When we left Disneyland, we were around mile 5 or so and for all I knew we hadn’t really been running at all. BF and I were clocking a cool 8:50 pace or so, and I was so distracted/enthralled with the whole thing that it barely felt like a race.

The next 5 or so miles took us through Anaheim toward Angel Stadium. These miles were definitely less scenic than the rest of the course, but the race did a good job of making sure there were still groups cheering along the way. There was even an authentic mariachi band and Spanish dancers which was great.

There had been a few rolling hills at this point but really nothing significant. It was flat mostly, and it felt like a course someone would choose for their own run, if that makes sense.

Around mile 10 we came into Angels Stadium which is where the real cheering began. The stands were piled with all kinds of people cheering, and it was really encouraging to run into a professional ballpark feeling like the competitor. We ran nearly all the way around the warning track of the field, and they projected all the runners on the big screen by the scoreboard.

We were starting to realize at this point where some of the enormous registration fee went…

{BTW I took a video of the stadium crowds, but WordPress wouldn’t upload it. Sad.}

You might be wondering exactly how I/we were feeling at this point. I know race reports are typically filled with minute-by-minute details of when every Gu was consumed and when each calf began to cramp. But honestly, I have never felt better during a race. I almost felt like I was on an easy recovery run rather than an actual half marathon, and by Mile 11 I felt it might as well have been Mile 3. I did have, by the way, only two cups of water and no Gus during the race…and I choked on both cups. Still a skill I need to learn.

Now, it would be a lie to say that BF felt as good as I did. He was in pretty high spirits up until this point in the race, but around this time his endurance started to wane. We both expected this—so it wasn’t surprising, but let’s just say someone was not very excited about all of my “Look at that!”s and “I love this!”

However, he went almost two weeks without running at all (severely rolled ankle) and it wasn’t until two and a half weeks ago that he actually even started running again. He maxed out mileage at 8.5 miles last week, and although he was pretty confident he could finish the half—he knew it wouldn’t be pretty.

And although he was definitely feeling it around Mile 11—I was in awe of him. After very little endurance exercise, clocking 8:50 and below miles consistently is pretty damn awesome—especially when that’s only slightly above what he does when he’s in great shape. He was a rockstar.

We picked it up a little bit toward the end, and I asked if he wanted to hold hands across the finish line. He was game, and as we approached the end both of us were getting so excited and we picked it up a lot. Once the finish line was in sight, I knew we’d finish in under 2 hours (which wasn’t even a goal) and..behold, Mickey and Minnie were at the finish line! So, despite my hand-holding idea and BF’s compliance, the poor boy was left holding his hand out unheld while his Disney-freak girlfriend scurried over to Mickey and Minnie for her euphoric finale.

The photos are hilarious, and in the end we did hold hands across the finish line, but not before I got to slap those big gloves of love.


For a race with no goal other than to go slow and have fun (and stop and take pictures!) this wasn’t too shabby. Mostly, I was just impressed that BF was able to pull off such an impressive display without much training.

And as for me, the race might as well have been 5 miles. It FLEW by, and I credit that to going slower than normal but also how much fun it was to see and hear everything going on. I LOVED not wearing headphones for this race, and it was really nice to be able to chat with someone the whole time. I’m not convinced these strategies would work in an actual goal race, but for a race with no agenda—it was perfect.

Ignore Mr. PhotoBomb in the background.


Disney Half-Marathon success!!

I loved this race, and after a quick baby-wipe bath and change of clothes, we were ready for a day at the park. That’s a post for another day…but I’ll show you how it started off:

Mickey waffles!!!

Going to the Minnie and friends BUFFET breakfast was perhaps the best idea I’ve ever had. Refueling from the race and prefueling for Disneyland at its finest.

The heaviest/coolest medal ever. We wore them all day.

Have you ever done a Disney race? What did you think of it? Did you dress up? Were you up as early as we were?

Float Dodger 5k Race Recap

So, let’s rewind to last Friday, where I said that I wasn’t going to try to PR my weekend 5k.

Was that a lie? Yes. But I didn’t call my own bluff until the second the gun went off.

I truly was planning on a fun, no pressure 5k. And that’s actually what I feel like I had…except that the results, and the effort, were higher than I expected. No harm, no foul…I think I should probably just forget ever saying that I am not going to compete in a race.

But let’s start from the beginning.

BF and I jogged the 1.5 miles to the race start…which ended up being a great idea in terms of preparation, however it was IMO a little too long for a 5k warm up. Oh well.

There were a few hundred people gathered around the start line, which was outside of our local running store—West Seattle Runner.

{Side note} Seattle runners, if you’ve never visited WS Runner, I highly recommend going. They really know their stuff, they sell great products, and they are super nice! They know my name and I love it…maybe because I spend ample amounts of money there, or maybe because I have a bumper sticker with their logo on it, but I choose to believe it’s because they love me and want to someday sponsor me. It’s fine guys…I’m cool with that.

I digress. So, yada yada yada…typical race start, everyone lines up in their corrals, and we gear up to go. I was a little afraid because there weren’t very many people between me and the start line, but I figured I would just run my own race and hope for the best.

Gun goes off, Lady Gaga starts singing to me about the edge of glory, and I feel great. It felt so so so good to be running a race, especially in my own neighborhood. It was very Mr. Rogers’ theme song-ish, and I loved it. I looked at my watch about 3 minutes in and saw a 6:15 looking back at me.


Holy shenanigans Robyn, hold your horses. Yea, I had committed the single worst rookie mistake ever. But, I did feel great, so I slowed a bit…but when I turned the 1 mile marker corner, I was sitting at a 6:23 mile. In my head I was all, “Okay, sweet. But slow the f down homegirl.” Which I did, and kept on cruising.

It wasn’t until I turned the mile 2 marker that I started to feel a bit wheezy. Luckily, 5ks have this wonderful thing about them…they don’t last very long. I knew I could huff it out another mile, no matter how biley my throat was feeling. TMI? No…this is a running blog peeps, get over it.

It was at this point also that I knew there weren’t too many females in front of me. I had picked off a few from the start, and because the final stretch was a straight shot…I could see pretty far in front of me. I started to get a bit of a kick thinking that I might be able to place. I knew it was a long shot, especially since that has never ever ever been a race goal for me, but I figured if there was ever a time to try…it was in the last mile of a 5k.

Then came the hill. Oh, the hill. I have one thing to say about that hill:


I am, by the way, repeating the sentiments of every. single. racer in this 5k, as this hill was placed at literally the worst possible spot of the course. The majority of the course was either flat or a slight downhill, ideal for any racer. However, come mile 2.3 there was a fairly steep and half-a-mile long hill that destroyed any remnants of energy you still had in your legs.

I hated that hill. I’m a baby. I wanted to cry.

BUT I didn’t cry. I kept on going, and about 300 meters from the 3 mile marker, I picked off the girl I was fairly sure had the 3rd place spot.

SHWEEEET, I thought. But I was gutting it out and not feeling super awesome.

Not the most attractive shot…weird, I know, because race photos and flattery go hand-in-hand. BUT look at that mid-foot strike!

So I kept pushing, really wanting to just be done. About 20 feet from the finish line, while garnering all my hope for a sub 21:57 time, I saw something out of the corner of my eye.

Not one, but TWO females were sprinting each other to the finish line…and before I could gather my wits about me, they BOTH passed me, and finished within .02 seconds of one another, and about a second and a half ahead of me.


I got totally chicked, by TWO chicks.

However, when I looked at my watch, I was pumped. I had PR’ed by over 10 seconds, and I had a good feeling I was still in the top 5 females.

A few quick minutes later, BF ran in, and I got to cheer him in while simultaneously recruiting him to assist me in free sample collection.

Later, when the actual results were posted…I found out that I did finish number 5 for females, and first in my AG! I was/am definitely happy with the results, however it stings just a *little* bit that I had a 3rd place finish within my grip.

But it’s okay. It felt so good to go fast, and it felt great to exceed my own expectations. I love 5ks, and I feel like they don’t get enough credit. You don’t need to taper for them, they don’t take much recovery, and you don’t need to worry too much about pacing. Sure, if I hadn’t done that 6:23 mile initially, I may have finished stronger, but I don’t really regret much about the race. I think that might have been the fastest mile I’ve ever run, and I’m excited to see if I can push that number lower in some upcoming speed work.

And if you’re wondering how BF felt about the free coconut water at the finish, here’s about how it looked:

That’s actually an understatement. That first and only sip might have been spit into the sink.

But aside from some not-so-good coconut water, it was a great start to our Saturday. I ran a slow 3.5 miles afterward to round out to 8 for the day, and I rode the faster-than-normal running high for the remainder of the weekend.

Oh, and I found out yesterday that peacing out immediately after BF and I finished the race was not a good idea. I missed out on a ribbon and a prize for winning my AG. Sad face. Fail, RB.

Do you like 5ks? What do you think is the best race strategy for only 3.1 miles of racing? Do you like coconut water? We think it tastes like salt and toilet water.

Tacoma Marathon Race Recap

I’m not entirely sure if I’ve had the time to fully process the outcome of this race, and in fact I think it may take a few days for it all to sink in. I can say, though, that this race was without question one of the most exhausting, humbling, and all-around intense experiences I have ever had. It is probably safe to say, as well, that this race was perhaps the most memorable—for better or for worse—that I’ll ever go through.

I’m going to start with the end (Tarantino style), just to set the stage for what the race resulted in, and then I’ll back-track with more details of how everything set up.

The good news about this race: I PR’ed, and I finished.

The bad news: I was carried across the finish line (and over the last .3 miles), and I spent an hour afterward in the medical tent being treated for severe heat stroke.

Rewind, rewind, rewind…

Leave you hanging much? Well, prepare for a lengthy race report…and I promise to flesh out the details that resulted in the most physically grueling experience I’ve ever been through.

Let’s start at the beginning of it all.

Not a detail missed. I was really feeling psyched for this race. I was nervous, obviously, but really I was just ready to see what I could do. I knew my training was right on with where I wanted it to be, I knew my taper was smart, and I certainly knew my carbo-loading went perfectly. I was ready to run.

It’s 5:30 am! It’s race day! Let’s run a marathon!

The race was quite small, but still well-run and organized. I managed to see most of the people I knew beforehand, which was very comforting and helped get me excited. My sister had come down for the race, and she managed to capture some corral pictures right before the gun went off.


Ready to run! (These photos seem so ironic right now…)

My strategy was to stick with the 3:40 pacer until the halfway point, and then try and chase down 3:35 if I was feeling up for it. The 3:40 pacer, as you might be able to tell from the above photo, had a ridiculously fantastic mustache, and I knew we were going to get along from the very start.

My sister was also able to capture this video right before the gun went off. I admit, I hate videos of myself, but I figured it’s a good way to get a glimpse into the beginning of race excitement:

And off we went! The weather was a perfect 45 degrees, slightly overcast, and ideal for racing conditions. The first few miles felt great, and although I could tell we were going a bit quicker than 3:40, I figured we’d settle into a proper pace before too long. The first 5 or so miles wound through Tacoma neighborhoods, and I really enjoyed seeing some of my old token running spots along the route. My legs felt springy, my knee didn’t hurt at all (which was perhaps my biggest worry), and I was feeling very comfortable with the 8:15 or so pace we were averaging.

At this point, I will admit, I was already a bit hesitant about our slightly faster speed. I knew that miles 10-22 were the hilly parts, and I wanted to save my strength for that, so I did fall a bit behind the group for a bit. I was trying very hard to run my own pace, as opposed to following the pacer, however we seemed to be right on par with one another, so this approach seemed do-able.

I hate to say that it was really only the first 10 miles that I can say I felt “good.” I started to feel tired much earlier than I expected, and than I knew I was in shape for, and I credited this to the hills, the humidity, and the speed. I didn’t feel too bad, but I knew that the way I was feeling around miles 12-16 was not how I should be feeling. I was staying more hydrated than normal, wary of the humidity and the exertion, and I was taking in a bit more fuel than normal as well.

At mile 16, my sister ran a bit with me, handed me a caffeine energy gel pack, and gave me a bit of encouragment. It was great to see her, but (as I told her) I was not feeling the way I knew I should have at that point.

moral support from CB

mile 16, on a hill, SHOCKING.

Between miles 16-19, I purposefully fell behind the 3:40 pacer. I wasn’t trusting his timing (which, rightfully so, because we were about 3 minutes ahead), and I trudged on myself. I was hoping that somehow the hills, which plagued nearly every mile since mile 11, would somehow let up a bit…but alas, they never really stopped. I was prepared for this, certainly, and I can’t necessarily say that they were worse than I expected—but I had never really had the experience of running that fast, for that long, with so many hills.

I was trying desperately to relax, to let the music energize me, and to remember that I was in sight of a BQ. Because I was…and I forced myself to focus on this goal. If I let myself wander away from that thought, all I would be thinking about was stopping—because that’s all I really wanted to do. Every so often, I would get a mini surge of energy—normally due to a quick gulp of my gel pack or a brief slowing at a water station—but truthfully my body was done around mile 20. My mind, however, was relentless, and despite my nausea, my aching legs, and my fuzzy brain, I maintained my speed and kept going.

And you know what else kept going? The hills. Despite all my mental and physical preparation for the hill factor in this race, they really seemed to be the biggest physical representation of my mental state over the last 10k. I muttered more curse words than I care to admit every single time I saw another upward slope ahead of me, and despite every molecule screaming inside of me to “STOP!” I kept going. I tried desperately to maintain the thought that I was well within sight of a BQ, however that thought—despite how bad I wanted it and how hard I had worked—was being completely eclipsed by my desire for it to be over.

On top of this battle, as well, I was so frustrated. I kept thinking, “This is not how I felt during my first marathon, why does it feel so hard now?” and I was mad at myself. I started cursing my failed race strategy, my ill-hill preparation, and my overly zealous attempt to make this race—one that I KNEW was a hard course—my try at a BQ.

I kept going though, fast, and at this point I was about 1 minute away from the 3:35 pacer (BQ time for women.) Based on my own timing, I knew that I had about 28 minutes to run the last 5k—a task that would be a piece of cake on any other day. I tried to remember that I knew I could do it, that the ultimate, ideal goal of a BQ was still within my sight—despite my body rejecting every bit of mental encouragement.

However, my body’s desire for the race to be over had finally surpassed my desire to BQ, and it would offer no waves, surges, or even glimpses of energy. It was done. My brain, however, was still on a mission. I was very back and forth between these two conflicting feelings. I think at this point, my brain had overtaken my body’s desire to stop, and I was running solely on the dream of completing the goal. All I could focus on were the mile markers, because all I wanted was for it to be over—and of course, the mile markers…22, 23, 24 were going by slower than any other race I’ve ever been in. At mile 24, my vision was getting a bit distorted, and all I wanted to do was close my eyes. I felt so tired that I was overwhelmed with a feeling of wanting to sleep. In fact, I think I did close my eyes for a few paces in there. Truthfully, I’m having a hard time actually remembering things after mile 22.

When I saw mile 25, I felt the smallest morsel of encouraging energy—my first since way back in the middle of the race. I knew if I just kept going, just a little bit further, I would be done and I would be under 3:35. I had never been so overwhelmed with the desire to be done with something than I was at this point—which was frustrating. I know how to push through pain, I should be so excited…I’m about to qualify for Boston, mind over matter…these were the only thoughts I could use to make my body keep going.

I rounded the final corner of mile 25, and I spotted both the mile 26 marker and the finish line. At this point though, my desperate running was only focused on finishing. I wanted nothing more than to be done—this desire had officially overwhelmed both my body and my brain, and although I was still within reach of a 3:35 finish time, all I could attempt to do was finish.

I was hunched over at this point, the picture of physical exhaustion, and all at once, just before I crossed the mile 26 marker, I collapsed.

My legs had given out and they crumpled beneath me. I tried desperately to get up, over and over, but I couldn’t even get halfway up without completely falling over again. In my head I thought, “No, no…not now, not when I’m so close!” but I was also in a panic for help. There weren’t too many runners around me, and I was just far enough away from the finish that there weren’t any spectators or volunteers near me. My brain was so warped and my body was so overheated that I could barely managed to look around, let alone call out for help. All at once, though, two half-marathon finishers stopped their race and offered to help. I pleaded for them to go on and finish their races, but instead they so graciously took me on either side of them and carried me.

I am a bit fuzzy on the memories of exactly how everything afterward went. I remember the woman who picked me up feeding me a chocolate GU, which I definitely did not want, but she insisted (understandably…since I was so decrepit at that point) and I remember insisting that they let me walk over the finish line myself. They had to essentially carry me, since I was unable to put any weight on my legs, and eventually a few volunteers caught wind of what was going on and ran over to help out.

From the sidelines (where Corey, BF, and my friend Kawika were standing), they saw that the Medical Director had been alerted that someone needed attention. As soon as they saw it was me, BF jumped over the barrier, and ran over to me as well (a miraculous feat, given he had incredibly tired half-marathon legs himself). Unfortunately, I actually don’t remember this—but apparently I was very gracious, insistent upon crossing the finish line myself, and  I said it was okay to take pictures (hey, perhaps my good humor doesn’t entirely disappear when my physical capabilities do). With hoards of people around me as we got to the finish line, they let me down to walk about three steps over the actual line, and I was immediately picked up by the Medical Director and taken to the medical tent.

The next several minutes are a big blur, but I remember a lot of doctors around me, while I was laying on a table, taking my vitals, putting an IV in me, and asking me questions. I wasn’t really able to talk, so they were mainly talking to me, telling me I would be okay and instructing me on what they needed to do. They took my temperature (rectally, which was awesome…except that I didn’t really care at the time) and my temperature was at 105.

At this point, I regained some consciousness, and I was very scared. I repeatedly asked them if I was going to be okay, and they assured me I would, but I needed to be cooled down immediately. They lifted me, very gingerly since my muscles were cramping so badly, and completely immersed me in a huge ice bath. I regained a lot of sensation at this point, and the ice bath felt so amazingly good. They covered every part of me with ice, ensuring I would cool down, and they started asking me questions to gauge my mental state. I was able to answer all their questions coherently (for which I was proud of myself) and they let BF come in to be with me. My left hamstring and my right calf were cramping so badly, and two people had to continually clench and massage them to make the seizing stop. I was completely unable to move my legs without my muscles clenching, and I remember this being the most painful part.

They kept me in the bath for a while, making sure that my core temperature was dropping, and I began to be coherent enough to ask BF how his race went. He ran a 1:47…and despite my current state of being, I was (and am) SO proud of him! The doctors kept asking me questions and letting me know I’d be okay, and at some point while I was still in the ice bath I became stable enough that my emotions got the best of me. I burst into tears, completely overwhelmed with everything, and mainly concerned for the state of my running career. I said out loud, “What if I never want to run a marathon again? What if I’m done forever?” which was a paralyzing fear, despite the fact that I had just been chewed up and spit out by the marathon. BF…in all his logical and rational thinking…said, “Babe, if you are saying ‘What if?’ at this point in time, I think it’s safe to say you’ll be fine.”

Eventually, I got myself together, and the doctors were able to carefully hoist me out of the bath. My legs continued to cramp pretty violently, and they had to keep my legs lifted at a 90   degree angle to drain the blood. They took my temperature again, and I was down to 101…which they seemed very impressed by. I felt very feverish, and the thought of sitting up was very daunting. They eventually began giving me Gatorade, which was sitting fine, and they took it as a good sign. Eventually, they very slowly hoisted me up so I was sitting up-right on the table. I felt dizzy and flu-like, but definitely much better.

Slowly but surely (and because this detailing is getting a bit long), I was able to get up walk very slowly. I was absolutely freezing, given the fact that my clothes were soaking wet and I had just been in ice-cold water (and just ran a marathon), and they took me outside with a space blanket to warm up. I was able to meet up with my group at this point, and eventually I regained both my cognitive and (limited) physical abilities. The mustache pacer actually came by as well, as he’d seen the less-than-glorious finish, to check and see how I was doing. The doctors told me that I had to pee before they would let me go (which I accomplished) and we were allowed to leave.

From entering the medical tent to leaving, it took approximately an hour, and by the time we were allowed to leave all I wanted to do was changed my clothes, warm up, and sleep.

Afterward, everything was somewhat post-race standard. I was able to congratulate some of my fellow marathoners, we got a big farm breakfast, and I spent the afternoon laying on the couch. Unfortunately, I was not left with the accomplished, satisfying feeling of finishing a marathon. After my first marathon, I was on a high of feeling so happy and proud of myself, and despite the fact that I did finish this race…the aftermath took away from the whole “I finished a marathon” experience. I felt a whole range of emotions, but primarily I felt grateful and scared. I cannot express how thankful I am that such a thing happened so close to the finish line and there were people around to help. I can’t imagine what would have happened if this had occurred any earlier. I was blown away by how helpful the volunteers, the runners that picked me up, the medical staff, and “my people” were through this whole thing. I tried to thank them all as much as I could, and I wish I could fully express just how gracious and humbled I am to have had such incredible support.

Like nothing happened, right?

After assuring my family that everything was okay, the only feeling I could really feel was exhausted. Marathon exhausted, certainly, but mainly emotionally and physically drained from the whole experience. Unfortunately, I wasn’t actually able to sleep as well as I’d hoped last night—my heart rate was still a bit high, and I was unable to rifle through all the different thoughts going through my head.

Today, despite my very sore legs and general fatigue, I feel much better. Like I said, I can’t really begin to articulate how this experience has affected me—because it all hasn’t really processed yet. I feel a combination of embarrassment, fear, shock, and stupidity. I can’t really help but be critical of myself, for running such a physically demanding race at the rate I was and for not obeying the demands of my body. I believe this feeling will go away—because honestly, I know that I am exactly the type of runner that this would happen to. My brain was stronger than my body, which most of the time is a great strength, but this time it got the best of me.

I will post later on my feelings following this whole experience, once they’ve all sunk in a bit more, but at this point I can say this: I know how it feels to push to the absolute furthest points of my limits, and there is not one more ounce of stamina or mental toughness I could have given into that race. Unfortunately, I was over my limits—and despite my will to keep trying, my body’s resistance finally overcame my mental determination.

I am sure I will take more away from this experience than I can actually wrap my head around, but for now I am going to let some rest, reflection, and recuperation help rebuild both my mental and physical strength.

And if you were curious, my official finish time was just over 3:44…three minutes faster than my first marathon. I find this humorous, and although this is a PR, I do think it should have a big fat asterisk next to it. Also, somehow in the midst of my collapse and being picked up…I managed to stop my watch at 3:33, meaning that had I been able to keep going, I’m pretty sure I would have been able to pull it out. Am I disappointed? Sure. But I also know that there was really nothing more I could have done…and I’m actually comforted in knowing that I was right there, and had the course been more forgiving, there is no question I would have had it.

Still got my medal! And it has a bottle opener on it…awesome.

So, there you are. A very long, detailed explanation of one of the more intense experiences I’ve ever had in my life. Out of all the scenarios that could have happened yesterday, this occurrence never even crossed my mind, and although I know these collapses can happen…I never imagined it would happen to me. I can assure you though that I am feeling better, I am going to continue to take care of myself, and I have no doubt that the lessons I draw from this experience will eventually make me a much stronger and prepared runner. That is, of course, when running doesn’t sound like the most painful thing on Earth.

Thank you for reading and for everyone’s unbelievable support. Congratulations to BF for his PR, and to all the runners who raced yesterday! Tacoma was without a doubt the hardest course I’ve ever competed on, and I admire every single one of you for taking it on.

Lastly, despite the shock and the drama that occurred at the end of this race, I have no doubt that the things I will take away will be more influential and more beneficial than any BQ or goal time could ever give me. And mark my words, the marathon may have scared the crap out of me yesterday…but I am nowhere near done with it.

Magnuson Series MLK 10k Relay

So, Saturday’s race was really, really effing cold.

The combination of snow/rain/wind/frigid temps made running perhaps the least desirable thing for any rational person to go and partake in. BF and I, however, are not rational and decided that despite it all—we would uphold our race day commitment.

The Magnuson Series is a set of races held every month in Magnuson Park, Seattle. The park is 3.1 miles around, therefore each month on race day you can choose to run a 5, 10, or 15k depending on your preference. It’s a great idea, a good course, and an easy way to keep up your racing mojo every month.

As part of a stocking-stuffer Christmas gift, BF signed us up for a 10k relay team, meaning that each of us would run a 5k, and then they would total our times together.

We arrived dressed in somewhat wintery running gear (which means instead of shorts and a t-shirt I was wearing a long-sleeved tech jersey), and we soon discovered that starting a race next to a lake when the wind is whipping in a big snow storm is somewhat equivalent to the definition of misery. We sat in the car until the last possible second, got out for a quick warm up jog, and positioned ourselves at the start line.

ready to run!

The race couldn’t have started soon enough. My toes, fingers, and ears were all freezing cold, and I had to have my hat strapped on super tight just to prevent it from coming off in the wind. I really had no clue how fast I was going during the first mile, as I was so distracted by the cold conditions, but when we got to the Mile 1 marker and I saw 6:59 on my watch, I was pumped. Doing the race at 7 minute miles was my goal, although I wasn’t saying it out loud. As I reached the second mile marker, I was still hovering around 14:00, though the pace had slowed down a tad. At the end, I ended up finishing unofficially around 21:57, which in 5k terms means I was running 7:05 minute miles.

New PR!

Not long after I grabbed a water cup and tried to regain control of my winded/frozen lungs, I saw BF finish strongly with a 24:49, giving the “Grizzly Birds” (our obviously awesome team name) a 10k finish time of 46:46!

We both agreed the course was good, the weather sucked, and we’d definitely be doing these races again soon.

Doing 5ks are a great way to practice speed, and I highly encourage everyone, of all racing levels, to sign up for one whenever they can. I know I’ll be bulking up my marathon training with plenty of shorter races, as they’re great practice for racing strategy and general racing atmosphere.

Question: What are the worst conditions you’ve ever run or raced in?