Chicago Marathon 2018 Race Recap

Here we are, a week out from Chicago and I am finally sitting down to write my recap. To make a long story short, I didn’t achieve my goal. After running 3:32 in less than ideal conditions in Hyannis, I felt ready to break 3:30 and that’s what I had trained for this whole cycle, but unfortunately I didn’t get it done on race day. But I’ll get to that.

Chicago BoundI flew out Friday afternoon and thankfully had no issues with my flight. I landed in Chicago around 3 and quickly Ubered to my hotel downtown (I stayed at the Congress Plaza hotel directly across from Grant Park and highly recommend it). I dropped my bags quick as I could and walked a couple blocks up the street to the Hilton where I was able to catch a free shuttle to the expo. There were multiple shuttle pick-up points throughout downtown, which I thought was an awesome touch on the organizers’ part.

After picking up my bib without incident, I wandered the expo, picking up some great swag and bumping into a few friends who were also running. With Chicago being my first World Major (and big city marathon), I was really excited to get some good gear at this one and the expo did not disappoint.

I got a late dinner with friends that evening and then crashed pretty hard back at the hotel.

Saturday came bright and early with some pretty intense thunderstorms. Thankfully, they seemed to have passed by the time I went out for my 20 minute shakeout run, but it did make me nervous about the weather for Sunday and whether the start would end up being delayed if there were storms. After my shakeout, I met up with the other Oiselle Volee members who were in town at a nearby Panera. I ended up sitting across from Allie Kieffer there, and LOVED getting to chat with her a bit about marathon training and her build to NYC (Allie is a professional runner who came in 5th at New York last year).

Oiselle Volee at Chicago Marathon(Allie is the one in the middle holding the baby – haha, that’s not her baby!)

In the afternoon, I went to a live podcast recording hosted by Bibrave, featuring Peter Sagal and Meb kKeflezighi. This ended up being SO entertaining (love Peter Sagal!) and the perfect activity to keep me off my feet and relaxing.

Oiselle VoleeThe Oiselle group who attended the podcast recording!

Chicago Marathon Bibrave live podcastAfter that, I just headed back to my hotel to relax and get ready for the big day. I watched some Netflix, laid my things out and generally did a good job keeping things very low-key. Going into the marathon, I knew I was going to be tempted to do ALL of the meet-ups and special events that were going on with the race, so I wanted to make a concerted effort to relax and do everything I could to ensure a good race day. Mission accomplished on that front at least.

That night, I read and tried to go to sleep around 9:45 or so. Unfortunately, as soon as I laid down, I started thinking about the race and getting excited. Despite using every trick in the book to try to fall asleep, my body wasn’t having it. I knew my sleep had been pretty good leading up to the race so I wasn’t overly stressed about it, but it was more annoying than anything else. All told, I think I got about 3 hours of sleep MAX that night. It was definitely the worst I’ve ever slept before a race, so maybe it did affect me but it’s hard to say.

FINALLY, my alarm was going off and it was time to get up. I got ready in my room, alternating between drinking coffee and Maurten. I had my bagel and peanut butter which I had brought with me and I was ready to go. Team Paws was doing a bag check/breakfast for team members right in the hotel I was staying in, so I popped down and dropped my bag off. This was much nicer than trying to deal with the craziness of the race bag check.

Team Paws Chicago MarathonI used the indoor bathrooms a couple times and wanted to use it ONE last time before heading out to the corrals, but the lines suddenly became INSANELY long in the hotel. The wave 1 runners for Team Paws were on their way out, so I headed out with them thinking I could just do a quick porta-potty stop before jumping in my corral (this was about 6:30 am, the race started at 7:30).

I should have known this would be cutting it too close for another bathroom stop. The lines for the porta-potties were INSANE. And even though there were a lot of them, the line barely moved. At 7:15, I heard someone say behind me that they closed the corrals at 7:20, so I immediately jumped out of line and headed to my corral (E – the last one in the first wave).

At this point, the crowds were PACKED. We were all standing on top of each other and people were jostling for position, but it was impossible to move very far. I tried to relax and stay calm, but mostly I was freaking out about the fact that I hadn’t been able to use the bathroom. I debated whether to stop for a porta-potty on course, but I knew that would probably add at least 1 minute (probably 2) to my time and I didn’t want to risk that and possibly miss my goal. I figured I’d give it a few miles to see if the feeling went away.

Chicago Marathon(Picture of the start from Saturday, hence the lack of runners)

FINALLY, the race began and my corral began to creep towards the front. It took a good 15 minutes for us to finally reach the start chute and actually cross the line. As we started, I thought to myself, “Here we go. 26.2 miles.”

The first few miles ticked by quickly. My coach had advised me to use the manual lap function on my GPS watch since the tall buildings and bridges completely throw GPS watches out of whack in Chicago. I was supposed to be around 8:10 – 8:15 for the first 10k. I clicked off the first mile in 8:06, followed by 8:26 and then 8:09.

I felt great. I was so excited that after MONTHS and MONTHS of hard work and anticipation, I was finally running the freaking Chicago Marathon. The spectators were amazing. Even though it was cool (low 60s) with spitting rain showers, the crowds were out and they were cheering.

(I was too focused to notice and/or smile in a SINGLE race photo. Oh well…)

I tried to settle in, knowing the plan was to pick up the pace a bit after the first 10k. According to the Chicago tracking app, I averaged 8:10/mile for the first 10k. On the fast side of what my coach had prescribed, but still within reason.

Miles 7 through 11, I was aiming for 8 – 8:05ish pace. I ran 7:52, 8:02, 8:02, 8:04, and 7:58. Pretty good. I was running relaxed and soaking in all the cheers I was getting for Team Paws along the course. I particularly loved the woman who was standing with her two dogs, who yelled out to me “We love Team Paws! They gave me these two!” I focused on sucking down my gels every 3-4 miles. I think around this point, I may have started using a mantra I had heard from Amy Cragg that I really liked – “I breathe in strength, I breathe out weakness.” I was still feeling good, I was more just trying to focus on my breath.

After mile 11, it was time to start getting more serious. The goal was 7:50-7:55 pace for the next 4 miles. I ran 7:58, 7:54, 7:51, 7:56 and 7:53. I checked my overall time as I came through the halfway point and I was at 1:45:56. A little behind where I wanted to be, and I definitely felt a little rush of nerves. On top of that, I could feel some light fatigue in my quads. I knew it was WAY too early to be feeling the miles, and that was my first inkling that maybe it wasn’t going to be my day.

It was after mile 16 that things began to fall apart more rapidly. I was supposed to be running 7:45ish pace, but I hit a 7:57 and then 8:06 for mile 18 and it was pretty much at that point that I realized sub 3:30 was not going to happen. I was using my mantras and trying to stay strong, but I just knew I didn’t have any more 7:45ish miles in my legs and I didn’t want to blow up with 8 more miles to go.

To my credit, I didn’t freak out. I decided to ease up and to try to have fun and enjoy the crowds and the experience as much as I could to the finish. I was NOT going to let myself walk, but I would run slower. Mile 19 was 8:09, followed by 8:49, 8:48, 8:49, 9:01, 8:50, 8:49 and 9:01 for mile 26. I wish I had been able to kick a little more at the end, but I was having this awful high chest cramp that wouldn’t go away.

After crossing the finish line, the emotions started to wash over me. 3:37 is a great marathon time and definitely not something to be ashamed of, but I just felt so sad to miss my PR and the BQ. On top of that, my legs were in HORRIBLE pain and the damn finishing chute was so long and they kept yelling at us to keep moving forward. All I wanted to do was sit down but there was nowhere to sit and I was getting cold and my bag was back with the Team Paws bags at the hotel.

In the hours after finishing, I really thought that this might be my last marathon. I couldn’t get over how much my legs hurt (and how much the last 8 miles hurt). To devote so many months to training and to miss my goal just sucked. Now that I’ve had a little time to reflect, I know I’m not done with the marathon. I’m going to take the spring off to focus on shorter stuff like the half marathon and the 10k – and any other race that sounds fun. 🙂 I also want to focus more on strength training so that I can really get ahead of the Achilles and hamstring issues that tend to plague me during marathon cycles. Next fall, I hope to be ready to take another crack at 26.2 miles.

And I would be remiss not to give everyone who reads this blog and supports me a HUGE THANK YOU. If you donated to my fundraising efforts, I am so grateful. I ended up raising $1800, $300 more than my required minimum. If you cheered for me or tracked me, THANK YOU. All of the positive vibes and support I felt throughout this training cycle was incredible.

Team Paws Chicago MarathonMarathon #5 is in the books!

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RACE RECAP: Hyannis Marathon

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.

Hyannis Marathon 2018

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.

Hyannis MarathonMile 17 – 7:57, Mile 18 – 7:54, Mile 19 – 8:04

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.

Hyannis Marathon Race RecapI 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.

Hyannis Marathon Race RecapI 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.

hyannis marathon

 


2018 Marathon Plans

So I haven’t even run the Hyannis Marathon yet and I’m already signed up for another 26.2. Oops!

I entered the lottery for the Chicago Marathon back in November and on December 12th, I found out I didn’t get in. Initially, I was really disappointed. For some reason, I’ve felt a pull to run Chicago more than any of the other Marathon Majors. Maybe it’s all because before my first marathon, I watched the movie Spirit of the Marathon which chronicled the stories of 6 marathoners preparing for Chicago. Needless to say, I was inspired. After watching, I vowed to myself that I would someday run Chicago.

After talking it through with a couple of my running friends (who also didn’t get in), I decided to look into running it for a charity. I had heard about Team PAWS before from listening to the Bibrave Podcast and thought it sounded awesome. After adopting Callie this summer, it felt even more perfect. The amount of joy, love, and laughs she has brought into my life since July is immeasurable. Being able to support an animal shelter that helps connect animals with loving homes in the Chicago area felt like the natural choice.

Team Paws Chicago

Team Paws ChicagoI’ve never run a marathon for a charity before but I’m excited about the opportunity to raise money for a great cause while doing something I love. My fundraising minimum is $1500 but I’m hopeful I can raise a little more than that.

If any of you are interested in helping me in my fundraising efforts this holiday season, this is the link to my fundraising page.  Leave me a comment if you donate and I’ll be sure to send you a funny cat or dog picture as a thank you! Lord knows, I have plenty of options. 🙂

So we have not even entered 2018 yet and I’m already signed up for 2 marathons! At least there will be a long break between February and October for my toenails to grow back. 🙂


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.


5ks vs. Marathons

I have run a lot of 5ks recently (even excluding the Turkey Trot mishap). There was the Boston River Run, then the Indie 5k at The Running Event in Orlando, FL (I skipped the recap on this one… There wasn’t much exciting about it to be totally honest), and this past weekend, I ran the Yulefest 5k (though I used this as more of a workout and less of a race).

Vazee 2090 Review | 2 Generations RunningAfter all these races, I had a bit of a realization.

5ks are really, freaking hard.

The 5k I ran in Orlando was PANCAKE flat, though hot and humid and I was seriously wiped out by Mile 2. It was such a struggle to keep running, which seems ridiculous given that the race was only 3.1 miles.

As crazy as it sounds, I think I prefer the slow burn of 26.2 miles to the intense blast of pain that comes with racing a 5k. Yes, the marathon beats your legs up more (and I have yet to lose a toenail from a 5k), but there is something about ticking off the miles in a marathon that makes me feel almost superhuman strong (as tired as you are by mile 20).

Baystate Marathon 2016 Race RecapI have yet to really race a 5k where I did not feel like I was at death’s door by the end.

It’s funny because people automatically assume that it’s the “less serious” runners who are running 5ks for the most part. But running a really good, fast 5k is arguably much harder than running a decent marathon time. And this is definitely something I struggle with. I was really happy with my performance at Baystate. I’m proud of running a 3:53, and I’m also 100% confident that I can improve on that. It’s harder to feel that way about the 5k, when I feel like I am clawing tooth and nail to take a few seconds off.

The 5k brings back memories of the first time I raced the 400 in high school (one lap around the track). I took off fast and kept up fairly well with the older girls at first, until the final 150 meters where my legs just locked up. I felt like I was still running hard but to everyone else, it looked like I was jogging it in.

Obviously, everyone tends to prefer things they are good at and I won’t lie that that probably plays a big part in my preference. My marathon time has improved in huge jumps over 3 attempts, but with the 5k, it’s been quite the challenge to shave off SECONDS, and I have raced more 5ks than I can count.

I know I’ll get there in my 5k, it’s just a question of putting in the work and training.

So shoutout to all the 5k runners out there! Props to you for crushing it in a race that doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves. And if you haven’t read Lauren Fleshman’s article, 10 Reasons the 5k is Freaking Awesome, you’ve GOT to read it. 🙂

Happy weekend and try to stay warm out there! It is going to be in the low teens in New England this weekend and I am pretty much ready to spend the entire weekend curled up under a blanket. 🙂


Baystate Marathon Recap!!

Marathon #3 is in the books and boy, this was a good one. I’m still finding it hard to put into the words the excitement and giddiness I feel over this race, but I know I owe you all a race recap so I’ll give it a shot. 🙂

2016 Baystate Marathon Race Recap

I went into this race a little bit nervous after what happened in Delaware – I finished but ended up going to the hospital with heat stroke. Not an enjoyable way to wrap up 26.2 miles.

Delaware Marathon Race Recap

Back when my mom convinced me to sign up for Baystate, I was excited by the idea of running a marathon in very cool temps (we had frozen our butts at this race in 2015). So I started getting apprehensive when the forecasted temps for Sunday crept up from the low 60’s to a high of 67. There’s nothing you can do about the weather though, so I just promised my parents (multiple times) that I would not run myself into the ground on this race.

I also went into this race with the goal of running relatively consistent splits. I had gone back and checked my training log to see what I had done in Delaware and saw that my mile splits were ALL over the place in that race. Granted, it was a little hilly, but in hindsight, I think I was a little too aggressive in my goal pace for that race. My training for Baystate had been compressed since I signed up late, so I backed off a little on the pace and decided to aim for splits between 8:45 and 8:55/mile. I did not want to fall apart at Mile 20 the way I had before. I figured I would take it a little easier the first 3 miles to let myself warm up as well.

On Sunday morning, my mom and I headed out bright and early to make the short drive to Lowell. My mom had to back out of the half marathon because of ongoing injury problems, but I was SO thankful to have her there with me before the start to keep me company and help keep the nerves at bay. We had no issues getting in and parking. As always, the Greater Lowell Road Runners had things running like clockwork!

We hung out inside the Tsongas arena for a while (which meant I got to use real bathrooms – score) and then before I knew it, it was time to head outside and line up in the corrals. I lined up between the 9 and 10:00/mile pace signs. I knew everyone was going to be excited and running fast, but I wanted to make sure I stuck with my plan. I saw the 4 hr pace group was a bit ahead of me. The National Anthem played and we were off!

I felt good once we started running. The nerves were mostly gone and I was just excited that the race was finally happening (no more 20-mile long runs for a while!!) I clocked my first mile in 9:18 – which also happened to be my slowest split the entire race! Mile 2 was a bit faster in 8:56 and Mile 3 was a 9:01 – very close to my plan. Once the first 3 miles were over, I worked on slowly bringing my pace down to goal pace.

By Mile 6, I had caught up to the 4 hour pace group. They were a huge pack at this point. Part of me was tempted to stick with them for longer, but they were running a very consistent 9:00/mile pace and I knew I could push faster than that. Plus, I knew I wanted to beat my previous 3:57 and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to make up enough time if I stuck with them for too long. So with a little maneuvering, I made my way past and just prayed that I wouldn’t see them passing me later in the course.

Going into Mile 7, we hit some AWESOME water stations. Local high schools were volunteering and had gotten so into it! Some had gone with an 80’s workout theme, others were decked out in pretty intense Star Wars costumes – it was amazing!

From Miles 7-11, I focused on making my way to the bridge where the half marathon and marathon courses intersect. The half marathoners are looping back towards the finish at that point and the marathoners are going out for another loop. I remembered it being a really high energy area the year before with tons of spectators and I was excited to get that boost again. Plus, my mom had planned on heading to this spot to watch. 🙂

As expected, it was an awesome spot with tons of spectators with funny signs. I reached the other side of the bridge and saw my mom! Look, I’m actually smiling while running a marathon (didn’t think that was possible)! She was a fantastic course photographer and managed to take a bunch of great photos!

Baystate Marathon 2016 Race RecapI’m actually smiling!

Baystate Marathon 2016And off I go to run another 14 miles.

After crossing the bridge, I made the turn to make my second loop. I knew this was when things would potentially get tough. I checked in on my breathing and effort levels and felt shockingly good. I thought about the bit of advice my mom had gleaned from Bart Yasso in the most recent Runners World podcast (that she kept reiterating to me in an effort to keep me from the Fly and Die method) – It should feel so easy that you feel like you could run forever. My pace was hovering around 8:50/mile and shockingly – I did feel like I could run forever. I hit the halfway mark in 1:57. On track for a sub-4 hour finish, but I knew that would be contingent on staying strong even through the last 6 miles (where I really fell apart in my last marathon).

Around Mile 15, I actually started speeding up a bit. My pace dropped down to around 8:46 and stayed there through Mile 19, where I hit an 8:40! I think I was excited to get to Mile 20. I wanted to find “the wall” and kick it’s a$$. Throughout these miles, I also found myself checking in on my form. As marathons progress, runners have a tendency to stoop forward and tighten up as things get tough. I made sure to keep my shoulders back, arms swinging straight instead of across the body, and stay relaxed. By this point, I was passing a decent number of runners. I’ve been that runner before – the one who has gone out too fast only to be passed by someone who looks incredibly strong when you’re thinking you can hardly go another step. Boy did it feel good to be feeling so strong.

My mom called me just before I hit Mile 20. I had called her last year during this race and she had always said it was a great boost for the final miles of the race. This was technically her second time calling me during the race. She had called me around Mile 5 because she was tracking me with the online timing software, which was apparently HORRIBLY inaccurate as it was telling her I was running an 8:26/mile pace, so she had called me to tell me to slow down. Lol, I was so confused! Not a single one of my miles had been at that pace! This call was a better one though and she told me to just stay strong through the finish. We chatted for probably a minute before saying our goodbyes.

Shortly thereafter, I hit Mile 20. I checked in on my effort levels again. Did I have another 6.2 miles left in me? I felt like I did. I knew at least, I didn’t need to walk. Mile 20 I clocked an 8:48, followed by a 8:52, 8:52 and 8:54 for Mile 23. I will admit that around this point, things were starting to get uncomfortable. Around Mile 21, it became clear to me that I was going to lose the same toenail that I had lost in Delaware (that wasn’t even fully grown in yet). I could also feel a couple blisters despite the fact that I had applied Body Glide to my toes.

The last 3.2 miles were easily the most difficult miles of this race for me. Despite knowing I only had a 5k to go, my stomach was beginning to feel slightly queasy (though nowhere near as bad as Delaware, which I now think may have had something to do with the Gatorade I drank at the water stops). This was also probably the least attractive part of the course. Most of it was along a river with beautiful views of the foliage. The final stretch is along a highway in full sun. This was where I finally had to dig deep. Mile 23- 8:54, Mile 24 – 8:49, Mile 25- 8:52. At Mile 25, I checked my watch and knew I had a PR. Even if I ran a 10-minute mile, I would still be finishing in sub-3:57. This was a relief, but I also told myself I couldn’t relax too much – I wanted to finish strong with as big a PR as I could. Just before Mile 26, I was back at the Tsongas Arena where the course began. You make a sharp turn and run down this road, lined with spectators with an announcer reading off the names of the runners as they hit Mile 26 and head around into the final .2 of the course. I knew this wasn’t the finish, but there was a part of me that was confused about how close (or far) I was from the finish. What can I say, it’s hard to think straight after running 26 miles. 😉

Baystate Marathon 2016

The course makes a sharp left turn and then there it was – the finish!! I actually had enough left where I was able to kick in an 8:15/mile pace for the finish and crossed the line, looking and feeling strong. Official chip time – 3:53!! That works out to an average pace of 8:51/mile.

Baystate Marathon Race ReviewCruising into the finish feeling strong!

I am so pleased with that time. I feel that I can confidently say I ran the race I was trained for. I ran smart, I never walked (a first for me in a marathon!), and I finished feeling strong. My splits were very consistently in my goal range of 8:45 – 8:55/mile, with my very first mile being my slowest. I also managed a negative split! I ran my first half in 1:57 and second half in 1:56. I’ve heard it’s incredibly hard to negative split a marathon and I am stoked that I managed it on my third attempt at the distance. This was the race I so desperately needed to convince me that marathons aren’t necessarily god-awful. I’m sad that my mom wasn’t able to cross the finish line as well, but I loved having her there serving as spectator, coach, and my own personal race photographer!

Baystate Marathon 2016 | 2 Generations Running

I have a thousand more thoughts and feelings to share about Baystate, but this post has already turned into a marathon in and of itself, so I will hold off and share those in a few more posts. For now, time to let my legs rest up and my toenails heal. Again. 🙂

Also, because it’s a funny picture… I looked strong crossing the finish. Here’s what I looked like approximately 15 minutes later –

Baystate MarathonStretching, cramping and rolling around on the ground like a baby. Marathons will do that to ya. 😉

 

 


Long Term Goals and Short Term Plans

So I have some news…

Most of you probably know by now that my mom is planning on running the Baystate Marathon again this year. Last year, she had run it while I had done the half marathon and we both really enjoyed the race (you can catch last year’s recap here!)

Baystate Marathon 2015After having a not-so-great experience at Delaware, it was kind of a no-brainer for my mom to sign up for this race again. Originally, I was thinking I would go just to spectate and cheer her on.

But then I started getting that itch again…

Originally, I was looking for marathons in January and February. With my work schedule the way it is, I have less travel and more time to train between the end of October and the beginning of March. After that, things are likely to pick up again, making marathon training difficult.

So why do I even want to run another marathon (especially after what happened last time)? In all honesty, it’s because in looking at the long term of what I want in my running, it’s that qualifying time for Boston. For me, that’s a 3:35 or better, which seems scary and fast and very far away. I’m well off that time right now, and I know this will most likely require years of training and more experience with the distance. From everything I’ve read, people don’t run PRs on their first or second marathons. 26.2 miles is a whole different animal from any other race, and it takes time, experience, and a lot of patience to figure out how to run this race right. I know I made some big mistakes in Delaware – I went out too fast, I didn’t fuel at mile 20 when I needed it most, and I finished feeling worse than I have ever felt in a race before. But I’m ready to take all those lessons and give the marathon another shot.

I was discussing all this with my mom, trying to figure out what I should do. The marathons I was considering were all relatively far away and would have required air travel as well as hotels, making them more logistically challenging. Then, she pointed out that I could just run Baystate with her. I’m not sure why this never really occurred to me before, but once she mentioned it, it was suddenly an easy decision.

Baystate Marathon

We are about 10 weeks out, and I’m not starting from scratch, but it definitely doesn’t leave any time to mess around! I am officially back in marathon training mode! Bring on marathon #3!!