2017 Year in Review

I cannot believe we are mid-way through December and almost done with 2017. As the new year has been approaching, I’ve found myself reflecting a lot on everything that has happened in the past year, running and otherwise.

On the non-running side of things, I changed jobs which was a little scary but ultimately a good move I think. I also adopted Callie (my kitty) which was 1000% a great move and I feel beyond lucky to have her fluffy little face to come home to everyday.

As for the running…. it was not quite the year I had hoped for. My goals going into 2017 were to run a big PR in the half marathon in the early spring and then train for the Philly Marathon, hopefully running another big PR. It certainly did not work out that way. Maybe this was ambitious of me but  honestly, I think it was mostly bad luck that did me in.

I did eek out a small PR in the half, but looking back, I still feel that my time did not really accurately reflect the fitness I had or what I was trained to do.

But the real kicker of the whole year were the injuries that plagued my marathon training. First the Achilles tendinitis and then the hamstring strain. The decision not to run the full at Philly was literally gut-wrenching, though I know it was for the best.

So I rounded out 2017 with a 1-minute PR in the half marathon and NO marathon at all. Not exactly what I had in mind when I was looking ahead to 2017 all starry-eyed and optimistic about the coming year.

Strangely enough, I thought I would feel more annoyed looking back on this. But honestly, I feel a confidence that delayed gratification will be coming my way. Yes, in terms of actually meeting my goals, this year was a bust. There’s no way around it. But it was also the first year I feel I fully trained to my best ability. It was my first year working with a coach, and I truly do feel that in many ways, this was a building year for me (isn’t that what they always say in baseball when a team has a horrible season?). For the first time ever, I ran truly consistent mileage (with breaks only after goal races… or when injuries flared up).

Pre-Coach:

2017 Weekly Mileage

And with a coach:

2017 Weekly MileageJust to dive into these numbers a little bit, from August-September, I was averaging just about 40 miles a week. In 2016, I think I put in about 2 weeks in that range right before Baystate (I peaked at 49 miles for that marathon). This year, I learned it’s not really about what you hit during your “peak week” in training – it’s about steadily maintaining a high volume for several weeks (I averaged 42 miles/week for 4 weeks leading up to my goal half).

If there’s a secret sauce for improvement in running, it’s consistency. I KNOW the cumulative mileage I put on my legs this year has made me a stronger runner. And I’m also not afraid of running high(er) mileage anymore.

Going into 2018, I still have some major time goals for the marathon, but I also don’t want to make that my only focus. More than anything, I want to focus on becoming a stronger, more injury-resistant runner. I want to be disciplined about doing the small stuff that will keep me running healthy – namely PT exercises and general strength training.

In spite of all the disappointment this year, I still feel incredibly passionate and excited for this sport. I’m eagerly awaiting my next crack at 26.2 miles on February 25th (**fingers crossed because I’ve learned it’s better not to jinx things). After that, who knows? I just want to keep running with a smile on my face.

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Philly Half Marathon Race Recap

So this post is coming to you very late but I figured better late than never!

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about going to Philly after having to downgrade from the marathon to the half, but with train tickets booked and time requested off from work, I was determined to have a good time.

My mom and I traveled down by train on Friday afternoon. It was an easy and comfortable trip and once we got to Philadelphia, we took a cab right over to the expo. It was a little bigger than I expected but well organized and I was quickly able to grab my number and shirt. We didn’t spend too much time shopping around the expo since I wanted to limit the swag purchasing.

That evening, we checked into our Airbnb with some takeout hamburgers from Spot Gourmet Burgers. If you are ever in the Philly area, I highly recommend as this burger might have been the best burger I’ve ever eaten.

We had a very low key evening, watching some Netflix and going to bed early since the half marathon was on Saturday (the full was on Sunday).

Philly Half Marathon

Obligatory pre-race bathroom selfie

The next day I woke up early and Ubered down to the start which was only a mile and a half or so from our Airbnb. I had heard the security lines could get long for this race so I showed up an hour early. There were hardly any other runners there at this point! It was a pretty cold morning and I hadn’t brought any layers since my mom was was going to bring my bag at the finish so I didn’t love having to wait so long in the cold to get going. But, I suppose it’s better than running late.

Philly Half MarathonAt least I got an awesome view of the sunrise!

Philly Half Marathon15 minutes or so before the start, I headed into my corral. It was not crazy packed like the NYC Marathon gets which I was extremely grateful for. I was wearing my Heartbreaker (that is the name of my Boston run club) singlet and within five minutes of being in the corral, another Heartbreaker said hello! (if you’re reading this, hi Sarah!) After chatting for a few minutes, it sounded like we had similar pace goals in mind so we decided to run together for the first few miles.

Right at 7:30, we were off! The start of this race was really beautiful, right through downtown Philadelphia. A decent number of spectators lined the start area and it was great to have that support. I think I have done one too many small races because I get way too excited anytime I see people cheering while I am running a race. 🙂

I’m not sure why, but looking back at my splits for the race, the first six miles fluctuate between around 8:30/mile pace and low 8s. Truthfully, this was a little faster than I had really intended to go, but once I was running I felt great and decided to just roll with it.

At mile 6, I said goodbye to Sarah and made plans to meet up for a photo at the finish. Then I decided to push the pace a little more. This stretch had great support. There was cheering, signs, marching bands playing drums – it was an incredible atmosphere. I definitely got a little swept up in it all and ended up running a 7:43 for that mile.

From there, I backed off a little bit back to my marathon pace, right around 8:00/mile. There was a bit of a hill at Mile 9 but I felt strong and didn’t get intimidated by it. I hit Mile 9 in 8:05 and Mile 10 in 8:10. From there, I could tell I still had plenty of gas still in the tank so I decided it was go-time.

There’s nothing I love more than being able to pick it up and pass tons of people at the end of the race. I’ve had races where I’ve had injuries act up which have kept me slow and races where I’ve just died in the final miles and it’s given me such a deep appreciation for that feeling of strength at the end of the race because it doesn’t always happen.

I hit Mile 12 in 7:33. At this time, I started to get a stomach cramp which hardly ever happens for me, but it did force me to slow down a bit, running Mile 13 in 7:45. By my GPS watch, I ran a 1:46:57 with an 8:03/mile average pace.

Philly Half MarathonI was absolutely stoked about this. For one, this is only a couple minutes off my PR and I felt like I was running really easy in the beginning. Two, this is right where I need to be for my marathon pace in February.

February 25th is still a long ways away and I’ve learned not to overly fixate on a goal race because who the hell knows what will happen with injuries and whatnot, but I will say I’m cautiously excited. I know postponing my marathon was the right decision and it will be fun to see how it pays off.


Boco Gear Review

Disclaimer: I received a BOCO Gear hat to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Hey there!

I know you are all still waiting on a recap of the Philly Half Marathon (life got a little busy between Thanksgiving and work), but it is coming. Promise. Today, I wanted to share a product review with you!

Back in September, I received a BOCO Gear Run Hat through my Bibrave ambassadorship.

Boco Gear Hat Review

At first, I wasn’t sure that I loved the style as it has a pretty flat brim. However, I have to say that it’s grown on me. It’s also pretty flexible so you can kind of bend it a bit to give it a little more of a traditional curve. It also looks great at a jaunty angle, as demonstrated above. 🙂

I also love how lightweight this hat is. It’s made of a tech material that is wicking and breathes very well. Ideal for those hot end-of-summer long runs! Another HUGE plus for this hat is that it’s machine washable. So many of my running hats get disgusting because I wear them everyday and I can never get them fully clean. I always run with a hat to help keep the hair out of my eyes so being able to quickly wash this hat after a sweaty run is a big perk. No more gross salty sweat lines!

The back also has an adjustable strap so it was very simple to get the fit just right.

Boco Gear ReviewI loved rocking the Run Hat around Halloween. The Bibrave orange was so perfect for the season!

If you’re a runner who swears by hats to help keep the sun/sweat/hair out of your eyes (like me), then I definitely recommend giving Boco Gear a try.

Boco Gear is also dog-approved for what it counts. Brady very much enjoyed the opportunity to model my Run Hat.

You can check out the rest of Boco Gear’s products at Bocogear.com and on social- @BocoGear on Twitter and Instagram.

Have a great week!

 


Philly Week

Hey there!
This Friday, my mom and I will be hopping on a train bound for Philadelphia. While I could be disappointed that I won’t be running the marathon, I’m choosing to be excited about running the half. I’ve been slowly working my mileage up in the past couple weeks and have been having zero pain in my hamstring so I feel confident that my body will comfortably be able to handle 13.1 miles. Not at a crushing speed but definitely in the “fun run” range.

When I look back on 2017, it really has been the year of Taking It Seriously. This was my first year working with a coach and understandably, my big focus was on PRs. It was also the first year that I actually experienced some really rough races. In March, I went after my half marathon PR at the Half at the Hamptons. It was a freezing cold day, the course was hillier than expected and I faded badly in the final miles to finish in 1:45 (my old PR). I was pretty disappointed afterwards and couldn’t even really enjoy the post race party. For the first time ever really, I did not have a pleasant experience running a half marathon.

Half at the HamptonsI then rallied my strength and gave it a shot a couple months later at the “Fast Half”. While this one was slightly better, I still struggled in the last two miles and ended up just squeaking under my PR at 1:44. While I wasn’t thrilled, I decided to view it as a success. It was definitely not the flattest or fastest course I have run so who knows what I could have accomplished on a more PR-friendly course.

Fast Half Marathon Race RecapAnd then there was the RnR Montreal half. This truly should have been a blast. And it was for the first 7 or so miles. I was using it as a workout and I felt great, nailing my splits. And then my hamstring seized up and that was that. The second half of the course was decidedly painful and filled with anxious thoughts about Philly. Despite wonderful spectator support in the final miles, I couldn’t enjoy it. I felt beaten up and depressed by the end.

So… not a great year for me and the half marathon.

But something positive can still come out of not running the marathon in Philly – I will be running the half. And my only focus for the race is to run it feeling healthy and happy for the whole damn thing. I am going to smile and relax and enjoy running a race with zero pressure or expectations. I think that is what I need more than anything right now. And afterwards, I’ll get brunch with my mom and enjoy exploring Philadelphia in a way we wouldn’t have been able to do if I was running the marathon.

Another added bonus: I will be able to run a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving! (This would have been ill advised if I had been running a marathon only 7 days earlier).

So maybe it’s a good thing I won’t be going for a marathon PR. That can wait till February.

How has your fall training gone?


Shalane Freaking Flanagan

By now, most of you have probably heard about what happened at the NYC Marathon last weekend. I know we are a week out from the race but I couldn’t let this pass without writing something about it. Never have I felt so fired up about a race I didn’t even run. The running world LIT UP with Shalane Flanagan’s historic win. In case you missed it, it was the first time a US woman had won the TCS NYC Marathon in forty years. And it was freaking SHALANE FLANAGAN who won, arguably the most popular and well-recognized female marathoner in our sport right now.

Full disclosure: I wasn’t in New York to watch the marathon nor was I able to watch the whole thing online. I saw the start of the elite women and then I pretty much had to leave to go to work where I continued to stalk the event on social media. Even with all of these degrees of separation, I couldn’t help but get excited about what was happening on the streets of New York.

Shalane Flanagan | NYC Marathon

(Shalane’s Instagram)

A little context: Last winter, Shalane was training for the Boston Marathon and she ended up fracturing her back. Not a minor injury to say in the least. She had to drop out of Boston, a race she had been very open about wanting to win. I can only imagine how much that must have hurt, to have to set aside this major dream that she had been working so hard towards to focus on healing.

Fast forward to November 5th: By mile 20, the lead pack of women was down to three – Flanagan, Keitany and Daska. From there, Shalane was able to run away with it, running 5:08, 5:11 and 5:04 splits in her final miles. I would be grateful to be able to run that time in a mile race, much less at the end of a marathon. It was freaking incredible.

Shalane Flanagan

Pure emotion.

(Shalane’s Instagram)

So you might be wondering how in god’s name can I relate to this insanely fast professional runner? I have no hope of running a 2:26 marathon anytime in this lifetime. But honestly, it comes down to some of the statements she made in her post race interviews (and if you want an extra dose of emotion, watch the video of her interview) –

“I’ve dreamed of a moment like this since I was a little girl… It means a lot to me, to my family—and hopefully inspires the next generation of American women to just be patient. It took me seven years to do this. It took a lot of work for just this one moment…  About nine months ago I was heartbroken over not getting the opportunity to race the Boston Marathon… I just kept telling myself that there’s going to be delayed gratification and a moment down the road that would make up for it.”

Sometimes I find myself feeling a little frustrated about my race results. I’ve worked so hard in 2017 and I don’t feel like I currently have PRs that actually reflect my fitness. I had thought the Philly Marathon would be my break-through at least, that even if my half marathon PR had only dropped a mere minute, at least I would shave a huge chunk of time off my marathon this year. Well, you all know that that it clearly did not work out that way.

But then here is this incredible marathoner who has literally clawed her way back from a BROKEN BACK and just won the biggest marathon in the world talking about delayed gratification. And it just felt like she was talking to me and to every other injured runner out there.

This sport is hard. You pour so much of yourself into training and even if you are able to get through a cycle with no major injuries, it then all comes down to one day. You have to hope that the weather is on your side (cloudy and 40 degrees with no wind – is that too much to ask?!), that your stomach cooperates, that every other variable is just right. And more often than not, it doesn’t work out perfectly. So yeah, as runners we definitely need to become comfortable with the idea of delayed gratification.

2 Generations Running

Winter running is coming…

So while 2017 may not have been the year of PRs for me, I will still celebrate and hold my head high because my best races are still ahead of me. Here’s to delayed gratification.

Did you watch (or run) the NYC Marathon?


The Comeback

Thank you all for your kind comments on my last post, it meant the world.

Since my last post, I’ve been doing much better. Very shortly after I posted that, I listened to an interview of Neely Spence Gracey (a professional marathoner for Adidas) on the Ali on the Run podcast. In it, Neely spoke about her first season as a professional. She was gearing up for the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2016 when she had to withdraw due to injury. More recently, she had to withdraw from the New York City Marathon due to tendonitis hampering her training (SOUND FAMILIAR?!).

Ali on the Run podcastListening to this podcast, I had a few thoughts.

  1. I feel like I could be best friends with this girl (too bad she lives in Colorado!).
  2. I made the right decision to postpone my goal race.
  3. Thank goodness that I’m not a professional runner and that I get to do this because it’s fun and I actually just love running.

It was a really great interview and I highly recommend giving it a listen if you’ve been struggling with some injuries or are just fascinated by the lives of professional runners.

Mentally, I’m feeling much more positive and happy about the decision to not run the Philly Marathon than I was a few weeks ago.

And what about the hamstring??

Well, I’m happy to report that that actually IS feeling much better (and that’s not me just saying that trying to trick myself into believing it). Since my decision, my coach and I cut WAY back on my running. Last week, I ran 3 miles 4 days a week and this week I’m up to 4 miles. And that is without any tightness in my right hamstring!

Strava MilesWhen I think about it too much, I get a little sad looking back at the workouts I was doing back in the beginning of September and how strong I was feeling, but I know that I’ll build back up to that again. I also have to keep reminding myself that training stacks on top of training. No, I didn’t get to run a goal race after those all those weeks of work in August and September, but the fitness that I gained during that period will only make me stronger as I build up to that again.

Fall RunningIn the meantime, I’m going to continue to enjoy getting out for easy runs as the temps finally cool off this Fall! I haven’t signed up for one yet, but I’m hoping to be able to get in a turkey trot in a few weeks on Thanksgiving.

Oh, and as a sidenote, this happened –

Chicago Marathon

I’ll let you guys know on December 12th whether I’ll be going to Chicago in 2018!!

Anyone else already getting excited for Thanksgiving?? I think it might be my favorite holiday.

 

 


The 7 Stages of Grief

Bear with me for a minute here because this post is going to be dramatic.

I KNOW in the grand scheme of the world and life, running is really not all that important and there are people out there dealing with problems and crises far greater than mine. I know that.

But when something you’ve been dreaming about for the better part of a year fails to come together, it really hits like a punch to the gut. I will not be running 26.2 miles on November 19th.

Philadelphia Marathon 2017

The decision to not run Philly was incredibly difficult and really did fall into these 7 stages.

  1. Shock and Denial

When I felt my hamstring give out running RnR Montreal, I was terrified about what it meant for the rest of my training. But in my head, it was still a given that I would run Philly. I texted my coach basically begging for reassurance, asking what this meant in terms of my training. I knew I would have to take some time off, but in my mind, I was already ready to go crazy packing on miles and extra workouts when I was healthy again. My mom even suggested that I could drop down to the half. I flatly told her that come hell or highwater, I was running the marathon.

After the initial rest for the strain, I started testing my leg again with some easy runs. At first, all seemed well. And I was desperate to pronounce myself “pain-free” so that I could resume training again. So at first, I tried to ignore the subtle tightness that had taken over my right hamstring. I could run and it wasn’t really painful – it was just tight and different than my left leg. With each easy run, I hoped that that would be the day where I wouldn’t be able to notice any difference between hamstrings.

2. Pain and Guilt

I literally cursed myself for doing the extra strength training and those stupid hamstring curls where I first tweaked the muscle. I kept running through timelines, trying to think about how Philly could still work. Where would I find the time to complete multiple 16, 18, and 20 mile runs?

3. Anger 

I was angry at myself and anyone/everyone semi-involved in my running. Even though I know in my heart of hearts, that this was a random accident (and that strength training is really not the devil), I wanted to be able to point fingers and direct blame. I really started to realize that even if I made a miraculous recovery, my training had now been interrupted twice (once to back down when the Achilles tendonitis flared up, now for the hamstring), and the chances of me running a strong, break-out performance were seriously dwindling.

4. Depression

I came back from an easy 6 mile run one morning where yet again, the back of my right leg had felt tight. I was supposed to test out some gentle speedwork later that week. And in my heart of hearts, I knew that was not a good idea. And then I opened up Instagram and scrolled through people’s posts about running the Chicago Marathon – the PRs, the BQs, the triumphs and disappointments. And I’ll admit, I started crying.

Sure, I could probably run Philly to complete it and get the medal and the finisher’s T, maybe even PR by a minute or two. But that was never what I wanted.

I wanted the difficult training. I wanted the 18 mile tempo runs where I was nervous going in, unsure whether I’d be able to hit the paces, only to surprise myself. I wanted to string together 45-55 mile weeks, running higher volume than I’d ever trained at before for a marathon. I wanted to feel healthy, be able to run my speedwork, and to go into my marathon with the confidence that I was about to blow my PR out of the water.

Baystate Marathon 2016 Race RecapHappily running my third marathon.

5. The Upward Turn

Just when I was about to throw my phone out the window to escape social media, I came across a post from another runner who had run Chicago, except she hadn’t. It was supposed to be her goal race but when an injury sidelined her long enough to compromise her training, she pushed back her target race to the California International Marathon in December. She ran 17 miles of the Chicago Marathon as a training run, using the energy of the crowds to fuel her running at her goal race pace as a workout. And that’s when I began to think I might have some other options too.

6. Working Through

That day at work, I got advice from some of my coworkers. It felt so good to lay out my situation and goals and get an unbiased, third party perspective on my options. I was basically an emotional wreck at this point. My coworker actually mentioned another local marathon that was held in February every year. I had been thinking that I would need to travel for any winter race I could potentially sign up for, but this gentle reminder showed that there was another way. A way I could salvage my goals and what hard work had already been put in.

As my coworker pointed out, I could probably run Philly – but not to the best of my ability. And if I was to run it, I would have to take time off to recover, which would delay any further chance to run a marathon. And if my main goal is to BQ, than it wasn’t really logical to beat my body up running a marathon where that was very unlikely to happen.

7. Acceptance

So here I am. I literally have been dreaming about Philly since last April when I registered for it on the same day I spectated the Boston Marathon. As I’m sure you’ve seen, it’s been a bitter pill to swallow to accept that I won’t be running 26.2 miles in 2017. The only thing that’s given me hope is that I’ve signed up for another marathon – the Hyannis Marathon in February. I know that the weather on Cape Cod in February will be a total wild card. Last year, it was sunny and almost 60 degrees. In years past, it’s been 20 and sleeting. But, the race was relatively cheap to register for, so if the weather ends up being disastrous, I will once again wait a few months and run a spring marathon. But, I’m feeling hopeful that things might just come together after all of these bumps in the road.

Either way, I’m looking forward to finally letting my hamstring heal (all the way so that this annoying tightness goes away) and getting back into the thick of training. Call me crazy but I still love this marathon stuff.