Some pictures that were meant to go with my earlier post. Some day I will get the hang of this! 😂
So, after a long silence, I am back. I am not going to write about my health because I don’t want to dwell on things if they are bad, and I don’t want to jinx things if they are good. For now all I want to write about is my new, modest, but exciting running goals.
Nora began this blog back when we had made it our goal to run a half marathon ( or better) in every state. We managed to do 12 before my health torpedoed our plans. And life moved on. Nora graduated college, got a full time job, and met a great young man. And she continued to run, running 4 more marathons and getting that much coveted BQ, this fall in Manchester, NH.
I went to PT and was coming along slowly…. and along came COVID 19, which pretty much changed everything for everyone.
So obviously our goal was pretty much done for.
Until, one day, walking with my dog,Penny, I started to think about all the canceled races, and how many of them were going virtual.
I wondered if maybe I might still be able to run a race in every state – though obviously not a half marathon.
I started signing up for races and running them along my old familiar routes. I told myself I would blog about it when I had “enough swag to take a good picture”.
To date, I have run races in 12 new states and I have a bin full of nice shirts and cool medals so I suppose it was time.
For the most part I have stuck to 5ks, though my Montana race was 4.06 miles because that is the local area code, and there was the California race that was an 8k in honor of Hanukkah.
There are a lot of event companies out there that put together virtual races that are strictly virtual, usually connected thematically, like “run every state” but there are some that are even more unusual. Like the series that was just different distances all centered round avocados. The swag for that series was a pair of socks which I have to admit were super cute.
In keeping with our original goal, I’ve signed up for actual races that have had to cancel, or that simply added a virtual option. There is no method to my madness. I just look for races that fit in my busy schedule 😂 , that donate to good cause , or that simply have nice swag. I love my Wild Hog socks from Grand Forks, North Dakota, and I got a chapstick with potato extract from the Idaho race. (Also 2 buffs, and one mask, a sign of the times.)
I don’t run fast. With the guidance of my physical therapist I have gotten into a run/walk rhythm that makes running less stressful and way more enjoyable.
So, with my 3 races in December, I will have 12 “virtual” states under my belt, and 12 “real” ones. I guess I will keep going , both because it’s fun, and because it would be fun to reach our goal of running in all 50 states, even if most of them are virtual. And perhaps when COVID is finally over, I will be able to check off those remaining states by actually racing there in person.
What a strange time we live in.
As some of you may know, I work for an endurance events company based in Boston. In mid-March, we had our first wave of event cancellations, followed very suddenly by orders to bring our work laptops home and to begin working from home indefinitely. Well, I had about one lovely day of working from the comfort of my dining room table before I received the news that I had been furloughed, along with approximately 85% of my coworkers.
So here we are – it is now mid-May and the beginnings of spring are just beginning to show in New England. I’ve been fluctuating between moments of calm, enjoying the extra time to myself and moments of significant anxiety (When will life go back to normal? Will I still have a job when this ends?)
The only bright side in this whole horrible pandemic has been running for me. And while it might seem trivial, training has been the one thing keeping me sane through this sh*t show. See, in January of 2020, I ran a paltry 52 miles total for the whole month. In February, I managed to increase that to 87 miles total.
While there’s nothing wrong with those numbers, I remember feeling so deeply stressed out about work that it was incredibly difficult to find the motivation to crawl out of bed at 5:30 in the morning to go out for a run. Nothing was terribly wrong at the time, but I wasn’t exactly happy either.
Contrast that to the past few months. In March, I ran 120 miles. In April, I hit 175. In the past four weeks, I’ve averaged about 39 miles a week. I’ve been running about 6 days a week with one rest day. I’ve been strength training at home (thank goodness for the collection of dumbbells and various gym equipment pieces I’ve amassed over the years!). My body has been feeling strong and resilient (even when my mind feels the opposite). My creaky Achilles tendon has been happily managing the increased load and my injury-prone hamstring has been fully present and engaged at speed work sessions.
In addition to all of the training, I’ve also had more time on my hands to think about my goals and what I want to do with my life. One of those things is run coaching. I’ve been interested in coaching ever since working with a coach myself (I credit my coach with helping me knock 20 minutes off my marathon PR, taking if from a 3:53 to a 3:32). Before all of this pandemic stuff started happening, I had even signed up for a coaching certification course through Road Runners of America. I’ll be taking that seminar in July, though whether it will be in-person or virtual, remains to be seen. I have had plenty of time to review all the various running and training books I’ve purchased though, and it’s been fun to educate myself on the science, physiology and various schools of thought regarding running performance.
I know many people have taken up running since the pandemic begun, as it’s one of the simplest forms of exercise, not requiring anything more than a good pair of sneakers and an open road. While I’m not an expert, I do have lots of experience and a lot of time on my hands. 😊 So, if you have questions about starting a running program, good sneakers to run in, or anything else marginally related to road-racing, please reach out or leave a comment! Hope you are all staying safe and sane during this pandemic. Depending on what the next few weeks bring, I may be checking in here more, sharing life updates and training tips. Stay healthy and happy running!
Hello. This is still Marie. Nora continues to be super busy with work and the final weeks of training for the Baystate Marathon. But you will hear from her soon!
Meanwhile a little update from me. By this time next week, I am hoping to have run for the first time in 3 years. I’m excited but also a little scared. I know I am starting this process again from the very bottom rung. Even lower, I guess because I do not have that 40 year old body I had at the beginning of my running journey.
When I started running, I would run a mile from my house and then walk the mile back. For a while, I was pretty happy with this. Then one day, after the mile run, I said to myself, “I’m a healthy 40 year old woman, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to run 2 miles…” So I did. I worked my way up slowly, but some of the milestones are still very vivid. Like the day I ran my first 8 miles, doing this run on the Battle Road in Minuteman Park. I finished at the visitors center overlooking the beautiful garden and the Old North Bridge. For me, that day it felt like I had finished a marathon and I texted my husband, “you are married to a freakin’ Amazon Queen!”
It was soon after that that Nora expressed an interest in running longer distances – possibly even a half-marathon. And thus began our crazy love affair with running – and this blog.
So we will see how things go as I try to get back to something which had become a pretty big part of my life. In the meanwhile, I am still playing around with the ten or so programs my Boston Scientific rep made up for me. I am trying to see which ones get me through the night, (still some issues with this) and which ones are good for sitting for extended periods of time. I am trying to get used to the sensations, and even though it feels weird at times, there are also periods where I completely forget about it.
So the journey begins: I will keep meeting with Boston Scientific rep to tweak the programs, and I will keep in touch with their patient ambassadors for info and encouragement. And I will try to stay positive and I will be sure to celebrate all the milestones – even the little ones. Because I am still an Amazon Queen…
But along the road to my SPS, there were a few bright spots, so I think it makes sense to mention these….
My new friend Cindy. She only lives around the corner from me, and though she is also a runner, we belonged to different running clubs and so we had never run together.
We saw each other at races and began to chat, mostly because our husbands knew each other. (Also, I had seen her running stats on line and didn’t think I could ever run with her. She is super fast and I was a little intimidated.)
Then we met again, as we tried to get involved in the local Achilles chapter. The group walked, because I couldn’t run, and we got to chatting. That led to meeting a few times for coffee, and then an occasional movie. That “occasional” movie ended up turning into a Friday night dinner/Netflix tradition, and since Cindy’s husband works nights, it’s perfect for a girls’ night in! Many nights we never turned on the tv, or turned it on pretty late because we talked so much over our bottle of wine. There were many world issues to be solved and we discovered we had so much more in common than running.
(Disclaimer: I did not drink and drive. Even though she is only a mile away, my husband Jim, or Uber Jim as we came to call him, always waited patiently for my call in order to come and get me…)
Over the last three of years, these Friday nights have meant a lot to me.
And then there is Penny. Feeling down for so long I had really been craving some “pet therapy”. From my recent post about Brady, you guys know we still had a wonderful pet but we had always been a two-dog family, and I was really craving a dog that I could call mine. After Nora ran the Chicago marathon for Paws New England, I started cruising their instagram feed… I found Penny, who was called Gayle at the time. She was a three year old mutt and they said she was gentle and very affectionate and cuddly. I filled out the paperwork and hoped for the best and two weeks later she was ours. I was eight weeks out of my first surgery and things were not improving.
Penny joined me on my walks and on my bed, the first of our dogs to ever be allowed to do that. She was a soothing presence when I woke in pain in the middle of the night and my thoughts began to spiral into sad places. Her breathing, or touching her paw, helped. After my second surgery, my husband had to take over the dog walking duties and Penny was fine with that. I wanted her to be “ mine” but basically she loves everyone and that’s a good thing. She is a sweetie and I’m anxious to see if she will make a good running partner!
And lastly there’s my husband, Jim, though this maybe doesn’t fall into the category of silver linings: he drove me to so many appointments, took notes and asked questions when I sat there close to tears, my mind a muddle of fear and despair. He tied my shoes, walked Penny when I couldn’t, and didn’t complain about eating so much frozen food because I couldn’t stand long enough to cook.
So now that my pain is lessening, I know I am on track to getting my life back…maybe not the exact same life, but that’s ok, because in my new life, I have Cindy and Penny.
So this is my second post since my surgery. I’m about 2 and a half weeks out and have met with my Boston Scientific representative once to work a bit on the programs. I would say things are pretty good though we have yet to find a program that will get me through the night.
But in the meanwhile, our 12 year old lab, Brady, began to fail and we finally made the difficult decision that it was time for that dreaded visit to the vet. But it got me thinking…
Just about three years ago, Brady and I had a little adventure. (I was already in pain but it hadn’t turned into the 24/7 nightmare that would start a few days later.) Brady was a big lab, but despite that he was afraid of his shadow.
So on this day, I took him out for a bit of exercise. We were at a pond and we were walking because Brady, who was 9 then, or 49 in dog years, could not chase the tennis ball the way he had in the past. Instead we walked around the pond and I would throw the ball gently just a few yards ahead so he didn’t have to go into an all out sprint to retrieve it. He was up ahead of me, and on this particular day, he decided to be brave – and to check out the little black furry creature he could see up ahead. As I got closer, I made out the white stripe and I began to run- but it was too late. As I got to him, he was rubbing his eyes and foaming at the mouth as he tried to rub off the skunk spray! The skunk “hightailed” it into the woods nearby. I cursed; the one time he decided to be brave!
We drove home and my son and husband and I tried all kinds of shampoos to get him clean. For months, he still smelled skunky if he got wet, and my car smelled for a year!
But the reason I’m writing about this is because this incident- and his final day with us just yesterday kind of bookmark my three year saga with my back.
And it made me realize he kind of grew old with me, and I with him…. he was “49” and I was 57 when this all started… three years later he would be 84 in dog years …and in a sense we grew old together…
When I would watch him struggle to get up, and I felt like crap , too, I would tell him, “I know honey, getting old sucks”. Because until this thing with my back felled me, I had felt as good as any 57 year old woman who can run a 4:15 marathon, so pretty damn good.
Brady was not a cuddly dog, but one morning when I burst into tears, he came over to me and stuck his face into mine, which was both out of character and comforting.
When he couldn’t chase the tennis ball anymore, we would take him to a local pond, because he could still swim, and we would toss the ball and sip our ice coffees watching him do the thing he loved most. Swim. We managed to do this up until last year, because at that point he could no longer get into the car on his own – and of course, I could not lift him.
I feel like I grew old with him and by the time we realized he was just too uncomfortable too much of the time, he had shown me how to age with grace. There were never any “f-bombs” when he tumbled down the 2 stairs into the yard because he was losing control of his legs. He was always happy to eat, and always ready to go out for even those short walks up and down our dead end street. There was never a snarl or a whimper when he struggled to get up, though he had to have been in pain.
He was sweet and gentle and happy in all the good moments, and I bet he didn’t dwell too much on the bad ones – the way I have for the past 3 years.
So even though I now have this new Spinal Cord Stimulator, which I hope means that I will- at least for a few years yet – not feel so old and decrepit, I hope I can hang onto the lessons in aging that Brady taught me.
Age with grace…don’t forget to eat… and when the time comes to leave this home, trust that there will be tennis balls in the new one…
I know it’s been a while, so let’s catch up on a few things before I dive into the recap of the 5k I ran on Sunday.
- I got to watch the Boston Marathon and saw Des Linden run by. As crazy and cold as the marathon was, it was also magical. I’m so glad I had a group of friends to spectate with (and an apartment to run inside and warm up in between cheering).
- I’ve had a bit of a career switch again. While I don’t want to get into the details, I’m happy about it and think it’ll be for the best.
- After getting some much needed rest after Hyannis, I am back to training and feel great! My last few weeks have been around 30-35 miles per week and I think I’m laying a solid foundation for Chicago (October 7th).
Ok! Now, let’s dive into this weekend.
The Run for the Troops race is one of my mom’s favorites and we’ve been doing it for several years now. The week before, I had gone back and read my race recap from it in 2015 and I was cracking up. In it, I write “I knew I wanted to push the pace, so I wished my mom good luck and went to stand with the 8-minute mile section. Mile 1 – 7:55. I was quite happy to look down at my watch to see this split after the first mile…” I ended up running a 23:34, which is an average of 7:35/mile, and at the time it was a PR (though I had broken it since then).
Considering I ran Mile 22 of Hyannis in a 7:53, I was pretty dang confident “pushing the pace” was no longer an 8 minute mile. But honestly, I hadn’t raced a 5k in so long that I didn’t know what I was capable of. I tentatively thought I should go out at a 7:20 and push the pace from there, but in the end I just decided to run by feel.
We got there early and my mom and I picked up our bibs. I went outside to warm up on a little paved track next to the Andover Senior Center. We cut it a little closer than I wanted with walking around trying to find the bib pick-up so I only had time for a 1.75 mile warm-up and a few quick drills. After all my hamstring issues, I don’t like to skimp on the warm-up for a hard effort.
Right before 9, I headed to the start and made sure I got a good spot towards the front. It’s a pretty popular 5k and can get congested so I wanted to make sure I had the room to open up my stride without dodging walkers and kids. Right on time, we were off!
The course is pretty rolling and right in the first mile, we were going up a gradual uphill. As expected, everyone took off at an insane pace and people were flying by me. I was running around 6:50ish pace early in the mile and told myself to rein it in and just focus on running my race.
I knew I was running the first mile faster than I had originally planned on, but my coach had told me that mile 1 should be “manageable”. I honestly felt like I was managing fine. It was a fast pace but I felt strong. I hit Mile 1 in 7:03.
Ok, so a little fast. But I was still feeling relatively good-ish. Mile 2 had more small rolling hills and I focused on my arm drive to power up. At this point, I was starting to pass some folks who had gone out too fast and that was just the mental boost I needed. Around 2.5, I spotted another woman I recognized from the Good Times Series 5ks – I ran those races every week during the summer of 2015 and this lady had beat me EVERY TIME in those. She wasn’t too far ahead so I focused on maintaining my pace and keeping an eye on her. We must have been the only women near each other at this point in the race because at one point, a friend called out hi to her and said that there was one “right behind” (ME)! Mile 2 was a 7:13. Again, I was almost surprised to see this split, but I had come this far, so I wanted to close out the race right.
Mile 3 was where I had to really step up my mental game. I had been creeping up on the Good Times Series lady and eventually I was passing her. I threw down a surge and passed as authoritatively as I could so that she wouldn’t try to come with me. But then I also had the fear that she would pass me before the end. I thought a lot about Deena Kastor’s new book which I had just finished reading. She talked a lot about positive mindset and self-talk, and I tried to implement every one of her tricks. There were a couple of brutal hills in the last mile, and by the last one, I was starting to feel a little grumpy (and vaguely tempted to walk).
And that was when I realized, this is it. This is the mental moment where you can check out and run comfortably, or you can continue to push until you taste blood in the back of your throat (her words, not mine). So I grinded up that hill and tried to take advantage on the downhill. Mile 3 – 7:01 (I definitely think this would have been sub-7 if there hadn’t been that brutal hill).
Finally, I could hear the music and see the turn-off into the parking lot where the race was finishing. Whipping around the corner, I could hear someone shout “5th female”! Which was such a cool feeling. I’m not usually that close to the front and it just made me feel like such a badass. The Good Times Series lady never passed me and I crossed the finish line in 22:02.
I was indeed 5th female, and 3rd in my age group. I was also a good 1 minute and 30 seconds faster than when I ran it in 2015. It’s moments like these that are why I love running so gosh darn much. There’s nothing like good old race results for looking at how far you’ve come from when you started. And you know I’m coming for that sub 22 minute 5k!
So overall, a really fun day and it’s got me feeling even more excited for the other races I have coming up! May is going to be a busy month with the Harpoon 5-Miler on the 20th followed by the Run to Remember Half on the 27th. Can’t wait to run those and keep cruisin’ towards Chicago!
I have something very exciting and noteworthy to share with you all – I ran on Monday for the FIRST TIME IN TWO WEEKS. Yes, I went a full two weeks with absolutely zero running (apart from a frantic jog to catch my train a couple times).
Haha, my lack of running might not make for the most interesting blog post, but I wanted to take a minute to post about it because rest is one of these new hot topics in the running/training world, and for good reason. It’s really freaking important.
While I LOVE running, I knew that I was going to need a break after Hyannis, both mentally and physically. Much of 2017 was spent in training cycles – chasing PR’s in the half marathon in the spring which then transitioned into marathon training in the summer… which then dragged on into the winter after my hamstring issues. I love racing and going after goals, but I did get a little tired by the end of 2017.
As far as the mental side of things, 2017 was a bit of a roller coaster. I was so dead set on a half marathon PR last year and I trained really hard for one. And then I had a bad race and didn’t get it. So… I signed up for another half marathon 2 months later and went right back into work mode. That race was better, but still not the breakthrough I had been dreaming about. And then there was the major disappointment of Philly.
I know running is not the be-all end-all, but when you spend several months working really hard and targeting a specific goal, it can be a little upsetting when the race does not go according to plan.
I knew I didn’t want 2018 to be a repeat of 2017. Whatever happened in Hyannis, I had promised myself going in that I would chill out after. No big spring races. I’m signed up for Chicago Marathon which is in the early fall, which kind of works out perfectly. I can relax through these last few crappy weather months in New England and as the temps start to warm up again, I can slowly build up my mileage.
And let me tell you, I have been LOVING the whole not running thing these past two weeks. Everytime we get hit by another nor’easter, I think to myself, “Well, at least you don’t have to run!” (Sorry to all you Boston Marathon runners).
Instead of heading out for morning miles everyday, I’ve been doing a lot of baking and cuddling with Callie.
I’m excited to eventually start training for Chicago, but right now I can tell this is exactly what I need. And when the time comes to really buckle down and get to work again, I know I will be ready and 100% committed because I took this time to fully regroup and rest.
If you are in the northeast, I hope you are staying safe and dry and that your power does not go out with this storm!!
Wow, here we are.
I know I’ve been very quiet on the blog in the weeks leading up to Hyannis and truthfully, it was a combination of things. Like I posted about before, after the heartbreak of Philly, I really was paranoid about jinxing myself. I was also training pretty hard, and between running, working and trying to keep up with everything else in my life, I gave myself permission to let the blog stuff slide for the timebeing (knowing of course that I’d be back!).
But anyway… time to talk about Sunday.
Leading up to the race, I knew I was in EXCELLENT SHAPE – far better than I had been for any marathon I had run previously thanks to my coach. I had zero doubts that I would be able to run a big PR. My previous PR was a 3:53 that I had run at Baystate in 2016. The question was whether I could sneak under the 3:35 mark, thereby securing a Boston qualifying time for my age group. After running the Boston Prep 16-Miler and having a great race, I really allowed myself to start hoping. I was hitting that 8:00/mile pace and feeling strong and comfortable holding it. The big factor was going to be the weather on race day.
So like any lunatic who has been training for months on end, I started stalking the weather (well before there was any chance the forecast would be accurate). At first, it was supposed to be sunny and a high of 50. Then, partly cloudy and a high of 50. Then, a chance of rain. And as race day got closer, there was a 100% chance of rain. ALL DAY. It was going to be rainy and windy from start to finish in Hyannis.
Not ideal marathon weather.
I won’t lie – this made me nervous. But I thought back to the book Chasing Excellence by Ben Bergeron (great sports psychology book that I highly recommend). In one scene, he talks about how one of his crossfit athletes responded to doing a warm-up outside on a particularly cold February day in New England.
She’d been about to say, “It was really cold,” but she’s conditioned not to complain to the point where something like that – which to others, is simply stating a fact about the weather – physically can’t make its way out of her mouth. Saying it’s cold outside may appear to be simply stating a fact, but it’s actually more detrimental than it might seem in the short term. Focusing on negative feelings or circumstances… brings greater focus to things that are ultimately outside of your control and are potentially detrimental to your performance. In no competitive or life scenario will focusing on negative uncontrollable factors improve your performance or stress levels.
Everytime I found myself concerned about the rain, I reminded myself I was too prepared to have a bad day, no matter what the weather. I told myself that some rain and wind was just going to make achieving my goal that much more special and my goal race more ‘epic’. In the days leading up to the race, I kept feeling that I was on the verge of something special. I’m a big believer in sports psychology and looking back, I’m really proud of how I shaped my mindset going into this race. I truly believe it made a HUGE difference.
The race started at 10 am Sunday morning. I had asked my friend Lis to help pace me in the final miles and she and her equally speedy roommate had decided to sign up for the marathon relay. My friend would run the first 13 miles with me, and her roommate Mckenna would take over for the second 13 miles (it was a double loop course). We made the drive down from Boston with plenty of time to spare and picked up our bibs no problem. The race was hosted by the Cape Cod Resort and Conference Center so thankfully we were able to hang out inside and stay warm (and use real bathrooms) in the hour and a half we had till the start.
Before I knew it, we were in the starting corral, waiting for the gun to go off. I had already soaked through my shoes doing a short warm-up and drills and I idly wondered to myself how many blisters I was going to rack up on this race. My friend and her roommate used to run for Ole Miss and they had decided to wear their old singlets and shorts, so there was a lot of joking around with other runners at the start about how tough she looked among the other well-bundled runners. Finally, the gun went off and we were on our way.
My coach had sent me over an awesome, very detailed race plan for what paces I should hit to negative split the race and I was so happy to finally get to work. In the training build-up, my favorite workouts were always the long tempo runs with sections at 8 min pace and faster. Something about these workouts always made the miles FLY by for me. It was time to execute again, just over the course of a few more miles. 😉
Mile 1 – 8:09, Mile 2 – 8:09, Mile 3 – 8:07
This was a hair on the fast side of what my coach had prescribed (8:10-8:15), but I felt very comfortable and relaxed so I tried not to worry too much. The rain was coming down steadily but it wasn’t a torrential downpour, so I was grateful it wasn’t impacting my running. Yes, there were some HUGE puddles and some were pretty much unavoidable, but apart from that I was good.
Mile 4 – 8:04, Mile 5 – 8:09, Mile 6 – 8:05, Mile 7 – 8:07
I’ve never been much of one to talk too much during a race, but having Lis with me on this first lap kept me so relaxed and I was heartened to see I felt fine having short conversations with her. I had one earbud in for a little music but we were able to chat and joke a little which helped me forget I was going to be running in the rain for the next 3 hours. She kept checking in and asking how I was doing and I think it was around mile 7 where I told her that I thought I could do it. No, the weather wasn’t great, but it wasn’t negatively impacting me apart from being soaking wet. It was definitely early in the race to be having these thoughts, but I think it was also good that I ran with confidence.
Mile 8 -8:08, Mile 9 – 7:58 (whoops, got a little fast there), Mile 10 – 8:12
The Hyannis Marathon also has a half and marathon relay so there were still plenty of other runners around us at this point which helped keep the atmosphere a little more festive. The volunteers were also AWESOME. We got so many cheers going through water stations and I am so grateful to all those poor people who must have been SO COLD standing there in the rain passing out water. Even on a nice day, I’m guessing Hyannis doesn’t draw a lot of spectators so I was doubly thankful for those volunteers.
Somewhere in this phase, I realized I wasn’t even counting down miles like I usually do in a race. I was generally aware of what mile it was, but I wasn’t thinking much about how many miles to go or how long I had left. I truly was running the mile I was in. I think partly because of this, I was almost surprised when it was Mile 13 and I said goodbye to my friend and hello to her speedy roomie.
Mile 11 – 8:06, Mile 12- 8:04, Mile 13 – 7:59
Right as we set off on the second loop, I had the thought, “Ok, sh*t’s about to get real.” All the half marathoners were gone, there’d be fewer runners on the course, the miles were getting up there, AND it was time to start working a little harder. I felt nervous for a second and then I pushed the thoughts away.
I told myself – ‘Get to Mile 20 and then you can grind it out to the finish.’ McKenna did a great job during this stretch of latching onto a pace and setting the rhythm.
Mile 14 – 7:59, Mile 15 – 7:59, Mile 16 – 7:55
There was a time not too long ago when I thought it would be a cold day in hell before I saw a split with a 7:xx on my watch during a marathon. Part of me still felt a sense of disbelief that here I was, at mile 16 of a marathon and I was actually running FASTER and feeling good doing it.
Right around Mile 20, things got tough. I had been working hard before, but at Mile 20, it got exponentially difficult. Not like I hit a wall and physically couldn’t run – but like suddenly every environmental factor possible conspired to slow me down.
My coach and I had talked about cutting down to the mid to high 7:40s for the last 6 miles, but as she had also said to me, “you’ve got to play it by ear and see what you’ve got in those last 6 miles.” At that point in time, a 7:45 mile was unfathomable to me. But I said to McKenna, “Let’s see if we can cut down to 7:50 miles”.
No sooner had I said that, that we started hitting the hills in the course. Overall, the course is pretty flat with a couple of rolling hills. They hadn’t felt like much in the first 13 miles, but now I was suddenly feeling them. I’m also convinced the wind picked up during the last 6 miles, but it honestly could have been that I was just more tired.
Mile 21 – 8:02, Mile 22 – 7:52, Mile 23 – 7:55
Things were really and truly starting to suck at this point. Gone were the moments of lighthearted conversation from the first half. I could only grunt or throw a thumbs up when McKenna would point out a runner ahead of us and say “Come on, let’s catch the guy in yellow before we hit 22”.
Somewhere around here, we hit my least favorite part of the course. Overall,the course was very pretty, passing by the ocean and crossing quiet neighborhood roads without much traffic. This stretch was a coned off section along a very busy main road. The coned section was extremely narrow and filled with puddles, making it difficult to pass. To make matters worse, the wind along here was BRUTAL. I was desperately trying to hit my 7:50 splits and coming up short pretty much every single time.
It was in this stretch that my mental game wavered. For the first time, I wondered if I was going to completely fall apart in these last few miles and lose everything that I had worked so hard for up to this point.
Mile 24 – 8:09 (I think there was a hill here), Mile 25 – 7:57, Mile 26 – 8:03
Finally, we made a turn into a neighborhood and I remembered from studying the course in the weeks prior, that there was this weird little segment through the neighborhood right before the finish to get the mileage just before turning into the Cape Cod Resort parking lot. I said to Mckenna, “We’re so f**king close” (I don’t usually swear a lot but I was kind of an emotional wreck at this point). She asked what my cumulative time was on my watch but I didn’t even have the energy or courage to click the button on my watch to change the screen and look. Part of me really believed that I hadn’t been fast enough in the final miles and that I would lose all my motivation if I looked at the number.
.4 to the finish – 7:27/mile pace.
Somehow when I realized the finish was actually RIGHT there, I was able to kick as we came up on the finish. I could not believe my eyes when I saw 3:32 on the clock, crossing right then (official time 3:32:01). I nearly burst into tears because I could not believe I had done it. 3:32. A BQ by 3 minutes. A PR by a full 21 minutes.
I think back to how heartbroken I was after straining my hamstring and not being able to run Philly, and it’s amazing to me how it all worked out. I was so depressed to not run the full there, but now I am so unbelievably grateful about how the whole situation played out. I am so thankful that my coach supported me and never stopped believing in me (even when I came to her with the crazy goal of BQing 16 months ago when my marathon PR was a 3:53). Or when I said I wanted to run a full marathon in February on the Cape. I am so glad I have wonderful running friends who were so willing and happy to help me achieve my goal, even when it became clear just how terrible the weather was going to be. I am so thankful to all my wonderful, supportive friends who remembered that February 25th was my race day and took the time to reach out and wish me luck.
Honestly, I think even now 5 days later, I’m still high on running endorphins.
I think there was a second right after I finished when I thought, I may never run another marathon – that was so painful. Famous last words! I’m already thinking about what’s next. I just took 21 minutes off my marathon time. I have taken OVER AN HOUR off the time that I first ran the marathon in. (4:36 -> 3:57 -> 3:53 -> 3:32). I truly feel like anything is possible right now.
So I’ll just be here, soaking in this magic for as long as I can.
It’s been a minute since I’ve shared any updates here. Part of it has been the whole ‘don’t jinx yourself’ mentality and some of it has been just the sheer craziness of life.
But things have been going well in marathon land, so I wanted to quickly touch on some of the things I have been doing differently recently that seem to be helping. For better or worse, I think 2017 taught me that I am injury-prone. Some people seem to be able to pile on the miles and workouts without running into issues … but I am not that type of runner. So with that said, here’s what I’ve been working on during this training cycle.
- Smarter commitment to strength training. I became more focused on this in 2017 but I didn’t really know what I was doing, my strength training was disorganized at best, and it led to some very stupid accidents. I love checking out the strength training moves of professional runners on Instagram, but implementing these moves was not always a good idea. For example, the one time I clunked myself on the head with a weight not once BUT TWICE while attempting a fancy plank with a weight on my back (supposed to help keep my hips from moving). And then there was the time I tweaked my hamstring doing curls on an exercise ball that turned into a full-on strain later that same week when I was running Montreal. So I finally realized I probably needed a little help in this department. Thankfully, my coach Mary, is also a strength and conditioning coach. So now I am following her strength plans and thoroughly watching the directional videos she sends on all the moves so that I actually know what the heck I’m doing. Unsurprisingly, this seems to be working better than putting together piece-meal strength training routines based on what I see on Instagram. LOL, good job Nora.
- Foam rolling like a boss. I’ve never been into foam rolling. It’s kind of uncomfortable and I am always in a rush to do something else. But after reading some training books, I’ve been understanding just how much scar tissue is developing around my muscles which leads to that tight, achy feeling. And if rolling for 20 minutes on my tight-as-guitar-string IT bands will keep me from pulling something down the road, then sure, I will foam roll.
- Give me all the recovery. Lately, I’ve been making the time to take 20 minute epsom salt baths (always after a hard workout and periodically throughout the week as well). The idea of an ice bath is pretty horrendous this time of year, but an epsom salt bath I can do. The science seems to be pretty mixed on whether these actually work beyond a placebo effect, but I feel like what the hell. Might as well try anything I can! Along those lines, the opportunity came up last week to try a new recovery spa called InBody with my mom. I’ll have a full review coming up in a separate post, but I got to try cryotherapy along with an infrared sauna and it was awesome. As cold and uncomfortable as the cryotherapy was, I think it really did work wonders! The past two weeks I’ve been running between 40 and 45 miles, and I felt so fresh after the treatment.
- Sleep Sleep Sleep. Honestly, I love to sleep. I don’t understand how people function on 5-6 hours a night. However, getting a full 8 hours used to be really hard at my 9-5 job while marathon training. I was getting up around 4 in the morning to get my workouts in and that was really exhausting, no matter how much of a morning person I am. Thankfully, my hours are very different now and I can sleep till a pretty reasonable hour while still getting my runs in during the morning. I really do think the extra Z’s are helping me recover better. I wish I had time to take naps the way professional runners do, but oh well, I suppose I can settle for a full night of sleep 😉
So in between all the running, that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Here’s to hoping it helps me keep this up for 1 more month!