Tag Archives: running

5k on St. Patrick’s Day Race Recap

Yes, you read that title right. I somehow went from not blogging about anything to writing race recaps about 5ks…?

Now is when I really wish I could include emojis in blog posts, because I would include the scared face with the white eyes and the blue on top of its head. You know the one.

No offense to the distance at all, I’m just generally not a short-distance racer – so I tend to equate a “race recap” to a half or full marathon. Regardless, this was a race I am proud of…so you get to hear about it, like it or not.

Let me back up first, because I realized I’ve given absolutely zero detail about how my “training” this spring has been strategized.

I decided a while ago that I didn’t want to run a spring marathon for a couple of reasons. 1) Our wedding is in June, and while running is a great stress reliever and I do it no matter the circumstances, I didn’t feel like intensive/heavy training would fit well into all the other to-dos that this occasion requires. And 2) I really don’t like spring marathons. They are always hotter than the temps I’ve trained in, and historically I just haven’t run that well in them.

So, a full marathon was out, and since I still wanted a “goal” to get my butt out of bed in the morning, I decided to focus on shorter distances and reclaiming my speed. My target race is a half-marathon in the middle of April, but generally I just wanted to think (for the first time) less about mileage and more about shorter, hard key workouts. My other “short distance” PRs were dusty as well, so I figured this spring would be a good time to do an overall refresh and reset on my running. The end goal, ultimately, being a faster marathon time (because they’re still my jam), but that can wait for now.

Anyway, onto this past Saturday’s 5k!

I was really pumped up for this race, namely for the fact that I really wanted to race it. The time on the clock was certainly a consideration, but mainly I wanted to focus on embracing discomfort and pushing through it. In researching race results from last year, I also hypothesized that I could break into the top 10 women as well. Game on!

I planned a light training week beforehand, and the morning of I did everything 5k-specific I could; a slow 1.5 mile warm up, activation exercises, and strides. Mentally, I treated it as I would another “big” race, including a lot of visualization of running strong and shutting down fear. I lined up near-ish the front of the pack (which with over 2,000 runners was not easy) and took some restorative, calming deep breaths. And then boom, we were off!

I knew the course started on a very slight downhill, followed by a slight uphill, and finished fairly flat. I told myself to take advantage of that first mile and not be scared of a fast split – which in hindsight was a good forethought. My watch buzzed right at 1 mile in 6:16…which might be the fastest mile I’ve ever run. But I felt great! My lungs were a little fiery, but it was manageable and I mentally checked out of mile 1 and focused solely on mile 2. And shortly after…things started to get uncomfortable. We were on that “slight” uphill at this point, and it felt anything but slight. I focused on maintaining my form, maintaining my position (although I had zero idea how many women were in front of me), and keeping calm.

I peeked at my watch a few times, but it frankly felt like too much wasted effort, so I just tried to stay strong. Closing out mile 2 (6:47), I was excited to finish the thing off, since I could mentally handle 1.1 miles to go. There were two hair pin turns in mile 3, which kind of threw off my groove, but they made for nice landmarks to focus on. I was also able to run back by the other runners coming out to mile 3 on the way to the finish line, and I got a wave and cheer from my dad and step-mom who were also running the race. I might have even mustered a smile, but who really knows what it looked like.

pain face, coming down the finishing stretch

Pain face, coming down the finishing stretch. Photo by Adam.

The finish line was closing in, and things were hurting. I had no energy to think about anything other than holding my pace and getting it done – so all thoughts of finishing place and time were completely out of my mind. As I neared the end, I could see the large clock ticking below the 20:20 mark – which was the first time  I realized that my goal of breaking my 21:05 PR was going to the crushed.

photo 2 (3)

I busted over the line, immediately stopped my watch, put my hands on my knees, and tried to catch my breath through the huge smile on my face.

20:17, 9th female overall, and 1st in my age group.

Leading up to the race, I was generally just hoping for a strong finishing spot and a 20:xx finishing time. This result was beyond my expectations for the day, although I won’t say it was beyond my expectations for myself. I think part of why I was excited for this chance to run hard was because I know there’s more out there for me to reach toward, and this result validated that I should probably stop limiting myself as I tend to do. I’m feeling encouraged and motivated after the fact – and somehow for the first time I haven’t sworn off the distance for another two years 😉

Additionally, since I was able to beat a record previously set at sea-level at 6,000+ ft elevation, I realized I need to stop sand-bagging myself with the “altitude” excuse. Sure, it’s a factor, but I think I’ve reached a point where comparing myself to my Seattle-self isn’t really relevant anymore. Which is exciting! I also think these last two paragraphs may have come across as a giant non-humble brag, but…just trying to keep it real.

I’m looking forward to what’s to come, both within the next few months and for the rest of this year. I’ve got the aforementioned half-marathon on April 12th coming up, a 10k on Memorial Day, and I might try and schedule another little race pre-wedding. I’m excited for the momentum shift that seems to have happened, and I’m hoping to capitalize on it throughout the spring.

Hope everyone had a good weekend! Hallelujah for the (almost) end of winter, amiright?

Advertisements

Guest Post by Julia Griffith: ECSCA 50k Race Recap

I’ve got something super awesome for you all today. My badass training partner, dear friend, and all-around wonderful person, Julia Griffith, ran her first 50k on December 6th and I’ve asked her to recap all the dirty details that happened. Considering that the 50k distance (and trail running in general) is way out of my league at this point, I thought it would be fun to read something a little different and muddier. Julia’s report totally inspired me, and I’m pretty sure it will elicit some trail-running interest from you guys as well. Take it away, Jules!

Robyn asked if I’d be interested in posting a recap of my first 50k at the North Face Endurance Challenge Series in California (ECSCA). So, I wrote this long detailed post that included information about my training and the trip to California but it was all boring and what really matters is what actually happened on race day. What happened on race day was magical. It was the best race of my life and I truly loved almost every minute of it. The trails were absolutely gorgeous, the people were amazing, and I blew my goals out of the water. If you love mountains and to run for a long time and be outside and play, you should think about doing a 50k.

image

Just a little background first. ECSCA was held on December 6th & 7th in the Marin Headlands, just north of San Francisco. The week of the race, NorCal experienced some exceptionally heavy rainfall which left muddy trails and the need for a slight course modification to the 50 mile and 50k races. The 50 mile race was the championship of the entire series and attracted a really awesome elite field. There are a ton of amazing, inspiring ECSCA 50 mile recaps out there that you should read if you want to learn more about the series and what the scene was like that day. The series also included a marathon relay which attracted 100ish November Project tribe members from across the country. The NP community is unrivaled and having the group there turns race day into a party. I traveled to the race with about 10 friends from November Project – Denver, including my boyfriend, Dan, who also raced the 50k.

photo (19)

My goals going into the race were: a.) to love it. To have fun and finish feeling proud of myself and my effort. b.) To feel like I was racing (at my level), and not be out there just to finish. c.) If everything went well, to finish under 6 hours but to not be hung up on paces during the race.

With that, here are a few highlights:

  •  Running up Cardiac. Cardiac was on every racer’s mind as it was the longest climb up the day, starting around mile 14ish and going up to 18. It was a single-track trail (with a river running down it) turned into double-track for the day because of the course modifications. There was an aid station at the top and even though this wasn’t truly the halfway point, I thought of the trip down Cardiac as starting the second half of the race. As I was climbing (aka trudging through mud), I saw the first 50k runners start to make their way down which meant I was on the lookout for Dan. I spent all my time watching for him and as soon as I saw him (in 6th place), I yelled out. It was so great to see him on course and I wanted him to know that I was having a good day. Also during this time, the elite 50 milers were making their way down. I casually cheered for Sage (in 1st place) and Timothy like they were old friends.
  •  Running down Cardiac. Running up was muddy and all, but running down was a shitshow (in the most fun way). Shortly after the aid station (which was my favorite of the day), I saw three friends. I’ve given a lot of high fives in my life and the ones I gave to Twig, Malone, and Sophia on Cardiac were three of my favorites. Two other women and I naturally grouped together during the descent and it was so nice to have people to talk to, though most energy was spent trying to stay upright. The trail was so slick and muddy that for those running down, you had to let go of any hesitation and just GO. Fortunately, almost all of the racers running up moved out of the way for us and many cheers and thanks were exchanged. During this time, I was pretty vocal about how fun it was and how much I love trail running and runners. Near the end of the descent was where I took my one fall of the day. I almost lost a shoe in the mud but nothing was hurt and I quickly got up and kept moving.dirty shoes
  • Resilience around mile 27. I had been focusing on the word ‘resilience’ and how being resilient means to keep pushing forward when you’re tested and you’ve been challenged. I knew that accomplishing my 50k goal would take more than just enduring and it was right after the mile 26.3 aid station when I proved to be resilient. The 26.3 station came after the toughest hill of the day and my legs were feeling pretty beat from both the ascent and descent. It was the first time during the race that I actually wished to be done; I should also note, it was probably the only time I didn’t smile. As I left the aid station, I gave myself a mental pat on the back for my brand new personal distance record but looking at the hill ahead of me, it was hard to want to keep running. I was with Amy, one of the women I befriended coming down Cardiac who also happens to be from Denver, and we were both feeling a little beat up but also determined. As we were trudging along, I said something to Amy about how it was the time to be resilient and saying it out loud was like flipping a switch for me. I started running again with a second wind that carried me through to the finish.
  • Final aid station and seeing relay runners. The last aid station was at mile 29.2 and I knew after that it was just a cruise down to the finish. I also knew this was the course for the relay runners so I would start to see some familiar faces. With every NP runner that passed me, a “Yeah, NP!” was exchanged. Brogan (co-founder of November Project) ran by and yelled out “Proud of you, dude.” right after another tribe member I’ve never met reminded me to be present in that moment right then. Amazing, yes. I pulled into the aid station already fighting back happy tears. I stopped for a few seconds to eat an orange slice and drink a cup of Coke and as I started out, Lauren (leader of NP San Diego) caught up to me and told me that Dan crushed it. As if I needed any more motivation to get to the finish line, hearing how well he did was it. Lauren, thanks for he update and  telling me I looked good – you helped me push those last couple miles! All fired up, I felt like I was flying down that hill and then I noticed a familiar woman up ahead – it was the other lady I was with coming down Cardiac; we had been leap-frogging with each other all day. So, I caught up with her and passed her for the final time of the race with a “hell yeah! go get it” exchange.image (1)

I finished in 5:38, muddy and tired but completely in-tact, with a massive smile on my face. There are no words for sharing a feeling of such accomplishment with people you love who are celebrating too and I’m so grateful for the friends I got to experience this with. I’ve been racing for a few years now and many of my recent races have ended with me feeling beat up and defeated. I walked away from this race feeling energized, excited, and proud. I’m fired up for the next one and after a little bit of a break, I’m ready to start training again.

All of this really doesn’t mean all that much without people to experience it with. Without November Project, I wouldn’t have this community that’s become my family made up of badass, inspiring, caring individuals. Huge thanks to Dan for running up mountains with me on the weekends (among a million other things I’m grateful for that contributed to this day). And, many, many thanks to Robyn for being the best running partner I could ask for! It’s been so special to share this training and race cycle and to truly feel like I have someone who is experiencing it all – the hard work, the tough times, and the achievement – with me.

photo 3 (1)

5 Happy Things (for Friday)

Whoa, whoa…what? A post that isn’t a training recap or a race report?

Remember way back in the day when I would do Friday Favorites religiously every week? Well, somewhere in there I got busier and/or ran out of things to talk about. But since it’s been a little while, and since I’m desperate to help move this Friday along, let’s talk about some things that are making me happy recently. I’ve been in the midst of an upswing in terms of both running and health, and while I’m still proceeding with caution, it’s really been great to break through the clouds and let a little sunshine in. And I mean this both literally and metaphorically. Because…Colorado, obviously.

Colorado

photo 1

This really is a beautiful state. When I grew up here, I never really appreciated just how splendid and unique Colorado’s geography really is. When I moved to Washington, I realized that maybe I shouldn’t have taken all those years of being in the sun and near the mountains for granted. Low and behold, here I am again, and I’m trying to take in every beautiful view and day that comes my way. I’m anxious for adventures aplenty this summer, and I’m looking forward to experiencing this beautiful place to the fullest.

New Shoes

I spy...pretty blue running shoes!

I spy…pretty blue running shoes!

So, I’ve had shoe issues since last summer or so. I’ve been able to get by on rotating between a few suitable pairs, but I’ve been missing that running shoe magic. Since the few I’ve been using have been mostly getting the job done, I kind of gave up on my quest for a new shoe. That is…until one came to me. I’d had a few running friends mention to me (and by mention I mean rave about) the Adidas Energy Boost.

At first I was all…Adidas? Really? Pretty sure I wore their sneakers once in 5th grade and that’s because I liked the color. I’d never heard them in running shoe conversations before, so I was skeptical.

(Sidenote: never mind the fact that Adidas is the athletic sponsor of everything at the Boston Marathon…minor detail.)

Nevertheless, after 5 minutes of convincing in the shoe store and an A+ first run in them, I was a changed woman. I love these shoes. Everything about them. The cushion, the weight, the support, etc. They’re a bit of a change from the lower drop shoes I’ve been wearing for the past two years, but I don’t feel at all like my foot strike or stride is compromised. On the contrary, my feet feel way better than they have in a while. Not to mention the fact that these shoes are currently the best-sellers at just about every running store, and allegedly they last up to 700-800 miles. Wins all around, I love these blue beauties.

Moscow Mules

Change out of my running clothes for day-drinking? Nah.

Change out of my running clothes for day-drinking? Nah.

I’m a beer girl all the way. In fact, cocktails are the lowest on my preference list of alcoholic beverages. BUT, that’s changed a little bit recently, all for the sake of this yummy concoction. I know I’m late to the party, and essentially everyone’s known about this drink forever, but it’s still new-to-me and I’m crushing on it hard. Ginger beer, lime, and vodka-y goodness. Additionally, I think the concentration of sugar and carbonation in beer is a little rougher on my stomach than other libations, so this seems to be the safer route nowadays. Pro tip: try it with whiskey.

The November Project

988473_2084308347287_2540536291066377341_n

If you’re a regular Runner’s World reader, you may remember back in December a group called “The November Project” featured on the cover. It took a while for me to connect the dots myself, but the originally Boston-based group of running and fitness buffs has expanded their reach and grown to 17 different “tribes” throughout the country. One of those tribes is in Denver, and thanks to the encouragement and enthusiasm of this girl, I decided to try going a month ago.

Basically, the November Project is a free, twice-a-week group who meet up at local parks, city centers, etc. to get in a workout. I’ve gone four times now, and let’s just say I’m not only drinking the Kool-Aid, I’m close to injecting it into my veins. I love it.

Sorry for the drug joke, but seriously…the November Project is a game changer. I’m planning to do a whole post about it at some point, but essentially this group is exactly the kind of shake-up I’ve needed in my exercise and running routine.

I spy again...shoes!!! Also, I'm still sore from these.

I spy again…shoes!!! Also, I’m still sore from these.

This Weekend

Guess what! My best friend Anna is running HER FIRST MARATHON this fall!!!

(Anna, I’m sorry for telling everyone. This is a safe space, don’t worry.)

Senior year? Junior year? Either way this is a very sober picture. Maybe I should wear my hair curly again?

Senior year? Junior year? Either way this is a very sober picture. Maybe I should wear my hair curly again?

I think that I might be a little more excited about it at this point than she is, but regardless…she’s already killing it in terms of preparation. Case in point: this weekend, she’s signed up to run the Happy Girls Half-Marathon in Bend, OR. Which is all well and good, and then I realized that she was running it alone. As in…driving from Boise to Bend by herself, running the race, and then driving back.

Well that won’t do!

So in what was perhaps the quickest text-based planning session, we orchestrated the best Memorial Day weekend plan ever. This afternoon, I’ll be flying to Boise, tomorrow we’re driving the 5 hours to Bend, Sunday we’re running the race together then enjoying all the wonders (beer) Bend has to offer, and then on Monday I’ll be flying back to Colorado. The best, amiright? I’ll be running the race entirely with Anna, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

There you have it! Five Friday things. I’m so proud of myself for being so blogging-savvy today.

I hope everyone has a great weekend! Tell me something you like!

Updates!

Once upon a time, I used to write on this little blog more often.

Hey folks! I’m not quite sure where the time has gone, but somehow when I kicked up my feet after running Boston, blogging got kicked aside too. In its place came a lot of sleep, a lot of work, and a lot of food. I played the marathon recovery game oh-so-well, if I do say so myself. It was wonderful and it was necessary, and I’m really starting to appreciate the vegging-out period that comes with big races.

One last stolen photo. Running and smiling knowing that rest, sleep, and cake are on the other side.

One last stolen photo. Running and smiling knowing that rest, sleep, and food are on the other side.

Luckily, all that cake and sleep did a lot of good for my recovery, and I’m happy to say I’m back on the roads and feeling better than I have in a long time.

I thought it best, since my life has basically been a whirlwind of change recently, to provide some updates on just what’s going on in my life currently. Some might be super uninteresting, so feel free to skim, but this is what I’ve been up to lately (and why my blogging has been non-existent).

Work Update

Did I tell you all I got a new job? Like, three days after moving? It happened ridiculously fast and threw me for a bit of a loop, although I’m not going to complain about receiving quick employment.

See? I'm official!

See? I’m official!

Since I’ve settled in and no longer feel horrified every day of asking where everything is, I’m happy to say things are going really well in my work life. I’m super busy most of the time, but I really enjoy that. My days fly by, and I like feeling like I’m actually getting into a groove with my workload as opposed to merely dog-paddling through it.

I work exactly 7 minutes from where we live, which is also super convenient. Run-commuting perhaps in my future? I’m generally just really thankful to have found a job, that I really like, so soon and to not be relying on Adam for all my running-related purchasing (…and food and living and stuff, too).

Health Update

I’ve had some people ask me, so I thought I’d give the skinny on the current state of my intestines. And let’s get real, you all have been along for the Crohn’s ride for a while now— you’re used to it. 🙂

After Boston, my focus became to get my stomach and general health back in order. I had a bit of a set-back after we moved given the change in routine and general stress of it all (I’m guessing?), so it was time to get back to the doc.I found a GI in Denver that I liked enough, and once I gave her all the nitty-gritty about my shitty stomach’s history (puns and rhymes forever!), she came up with a course of action.

So, despite me telling her that previously steroids did nothing for my flare ups, she prescribed a small, tapering dose of Prednisone which she hopes will kick my regular medications back into gear. They were working before, so apparently there’s no reason they should have fallen off the wagon. I was hesitant, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. Luckily, too, my charts all looked normal with the exception of higher inflammation levels – indicative of my current symptoms.

I’ve been on the ‘roids now for a week and despite some altered sleeping patterns, puffy cheeks, and emotional rollercoasters— I think they’re working. My stomach seems to be improving, and I’ve had two stop-free runs for the first time in months. Winner winner. I just hope that I’m able to seamlessly taper off the steroids and enter into a forward-moving health progression.

As always with these issues, we’ll see, but I have high hopes and fully believe that a positive outlook is directly related to increased healing power.

Running Update

Ah, running. You’ve been a fickle beast over the past 6 months.

I don’t need to recap all the complaining I’ve been doing since last November for you, but the short and long of it is that running had just been so hard. Honestly, since I was hurt and then sick, I could count on ONE hand the number of “good” runs I’d had…and it was getting to be so defeating. This thing that I loved so much and was so dedicated to had become such a chore and so frustrating. Running had never been as hard as it was for me, and between the constant emergency bathroom stops, the lingering IT band issues, and overall fatigue, I was wondered how I’d ever been (relatively) good at this sport.

Then something happened. I don’t know how or why, but within these past two weeks, my gears started to click again. My stride felt familiar, my legs felt strong, and running felt…good. Good! Like, really good. Certainly part of this has to do with the steroids and their impact on my stomach, but generally I think I’ve actually started to regain some of the fitness I once I had. My breathing no longer feels strained by the air, and I’ve found myself enjoying hills again rather than avoiding them.

I hadn’t been wearing a watch since I started running again after being sick, which I think was the only way I didn’t completely melt into sadness. But after being gifted with this beauty for my birthday (thanks fiancee!), I’ve started using the pace-awareness to keep myself a little more honest.

<3 <3 <3

❤ ❤ ❤

And it’s been great! I’m not keeping track every run, but I’ve found that with the numbers flashing at me, I’m held more accountable to not sink into my current easy pace and try pushing it a little.

Now, “pushing it” currently is equivalent to my former easy paces, but you have to start somewhere. And I’m thrilled to even be making a little bit of progress.

More than anything, I’m thrilled that—for at least the time being— running is starting to feel fun again.

Training and Racing Update

While I don’t have anything in the near future when it comes to big race plans, I certainly have a long-term outline of what my year will (ideally) look like.

I’m running Ragnar Northwest Passage again this year in July as an ultra team, so there will definitely need to be a step-up in terms of volume. I’m so excited to do this again! My base last year for this race was so much better than it currently is, so I’ll need to step it up in order to survive the 35+ miles of running in 24 hours.

Otherwise, I have very little on my calendar. Which I’m currently very comfortable with— because other than getting my numbers up for Ragnar, I want to make a very serious transition into reclaiming my former speed…and then some. I’ll write about this in another post, but after Boston (as in, a few hours after) a fire was lit…and it’s currently blazing. I love the feeling, I’m scared of the feeling, but I’m ready to get serious about the long-term running goals I’d like to achieve.

That said…I do have one more race on my calendar.

I’m registered for the Philadelphia Marathon in November, and after a summer of heat and speed training, I’m absurdly excited to take on an aggressive marathon training plan. I love fall marathons with all my heart, and my plan right now is to go all-in on this one.

But, that’s a long ways out. But, for the sake of this being a running blog, I figured I’d share.

And the best part….

Adam’s running it too!

Denver Update

We moved! Remember? I can’t believe that it’s been over two months since we left Seattle in our massive Uhaul.

Getting acquainted with his new home wonderfully. These windowsills are heaven for a curious kitten.

Getting acquainted with his new home wonderfully. These windowsills are heaven for a curious kitten.

Life in Colorado is generally going very well. It’s been great to see our families and old friends so often, and I’ve loved meeting new friends as well. Despite having lived in Colorado for most of my life, Denver still feels like a very new city and with that comes all the fun surprises and a general sense of novelty. The sun, the people, the atmosphere…it’s all very good.

Car picture, but look! Sunrise!

Car picture, but look! Sunrise!

I do have to admit, though, that I miss Seattle more than I expected. I suppose I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of how severing my Pacific Northwest ties would feel, but on the other side of it all…I have to say my heart is a little broken. I know this is perfectly reasonable given that Seattle was home for me for so long, but that doesn’t really make it any less sad to think about. I miss the water, I miss the people, I miss my favorite spots, and dear lord do I miss West Seattle.

We’re visiting in June and I’m euphoric with excitement.

That’s about all I’ve got in terms of updates! I’m hoping to write soon about my plan of action for getting my butt back in gear. I’m feeling good about it.

Happy Wednesday!

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.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 5.56.36 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 5.57.23 PM

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!

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 5.58.37 PM

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.

image_2

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!!!

Closing the Thigh Gap

Just to be clear, I absolutely hate the term “thigh gap.”

If you’ve never heard of this term, consider yourself lucky. But essentially, it’s exactly what it sounds like: the elusive distance between your thighs.

From what I’ve gathered, the gist of the thigh gap “ideal” is this: the more light that can shine through the space between your legs, the better. Makes sense, right? I mean, if skin-and-bones is the goal for our waists, arms, and faces…why not throw in the most naturally muscular part of a woman’s body? Who cares about strength and fitness when you can have light shine through your crotch!

The thigh gap is the latest love child of the fitness industry, and while it may be a term of aspiration for some, it kind of makes my blood boil. That term, along with the vast majority of the “ideals” put out by the industry, represents so many of the falsities currently being spoon fed to women, in my humble opinion.

Nonetheless, as a woman who is inevitably barraged by all the latest and greatest body “must-haves,” I’ve been somewhat forced to question my own thigh gap.

My initial reaction?

I’ve never had a thigh gap.

And while this whole notion is absurd to me now, when I look back on all my tumultuous years of puberty, I realize I didn’t always feel this way. There were definitely periods of time where I wondered why my legs weren’t straight and thin like some of my friends’ were. And this was back when I was young; as in, my body hadn’t even begun to morph into that of a lady. Eventually, through years of basketball, softball, track, and all the weight-lifting that came with high school sports, I began to accept that my body was going to look a certain way if I was intent on being an athlete.

When I transitioned from a recreational to a {relatively} competitive runner in my early 20s, that cordial acceptance of my bulky legs started to turn into appreciation. The fact that I could motor myself through 10 miles before most people were out of bed became a source of pride, and I realized that I would much rather be a strong athlete than a lithe twig. Not everyone would make the same choice, and I understand that, but for me—running fast would and will always trump looking a certain way.

Which brings me to present day.

As you may or may not have heard me mention, back in December in the midst of my terrible Crohn’s Disease flare up, I lost a decent amount of weight. I don’t ordinarily weigh myself, so I don’t know exactly where I started off, but I know that at my sickest point I was probably hovering around my early high-school weight. Needless to say, it wasn’t natural nor healthy for my 25-year-old body.

Once I started getting better, I stopped weighing in (I was only doing so beforehand per doctor’s instructions), but I figured eventually things would level out and I’d get back to normal.

What I didn’t realize, however, was just how much of that lost weight had been muscle. Sure, my pants fell in a way that I knew was due to decreased glute and quad size, but I suppose I didn’t calculate just how much of a physical impact it would make.

Case in point: when I started to exercise again, nothing felt the same. I was sore in spots I’d never been before, certain muscles had to work harder to compensate for the loss, and my speed was slower than it’s been in years. Part of this was due to loss of fitness, certainly, but I’ve been out of shape before…and this was nothing like previous experiences. I knew my muscle loss was the culprit.

I may have had a thigh gap for the first time in my life, but I was also without all the things that make me, me.

I’m not going to pretend like I don’t have narcissistic, body-conscious thoughts. Of course I do, probably on a daily basis. And yes, I’ve pondered about how “nice” it would be to be smaller in certain places. I’m human, and unfortunately there’s not many ways around these types of thoughts.

But when my body did whittle down to what, at some point, may have been my “ideal” size, I never felt less like the person I wanted to be. Of course, part of that may have been because it was an effect of a very bad period of time (the flare up). But I’m not so sure that I wouldn’t have had the same adverse reaction should the circumstances have been different.

What I’m trying to say is this: the literal thigh gap that came from this weight loss created a bigger figurative gap between the person I saw in the mirror and the person I wanted to be. Despite achieving a look that, by society’s standards, is optimal and coveted— I never felt more disappointed in my body.

It was a telling experience, to say the least.

Today, my clothes are nearly all fitting the way they were pre-flare up, and consequentially my health has been steadily increasing every day. These two things aren’t unrelated, and it’s given me a whole new appreciation for what my health really means.

Something else that isn’t unrelated: as my short-lived thigh gap has been closing, the pace of my runs has been dropping. And while society may define success as keeping that gap wide, I define it as the ability to feel fast, strong, and capable. It’s ironic, in the best kind of way, and it’s helped remind me that success is determined by my own guidelines and never someone else’s.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve upon your physical appearance. As I said, it’s an internal conversation I have with myself all the time. But I suppose the takeaway I’ve had from this whole experience is that it should matter so much more to us, as women, to focus on what our bodies can do and not what we are lacking. Because in the latter mindset, there’s inevitably always going to be something that we feel we’re missing. This mentality ensures a life constantly in the negative. 

Changing our “I wish I had…” language into “I’m proud of my…” language has transformative effects, and not only can it help us to love ourselves a little more, but it can be the catalyst for society’s ideals to change.

Because…fuck society’s ideals.

My thighs are reclaiming their territory, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

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!