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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Training Check-In + the Malden 10k!

Happy Monday!

I wanted to pop in quickly to share an update on all things Chicago Marathon-related!

First off, I got my singlet so I can represent Team Paws in October and I am so excited.

Team Paws Chicago Marathon

Fundraising is also going great! I am so SO close to reaching my fundraising goal! Less than $300 to go!! (If you would like to donate, you can visit my page here). Again, HUGE thank you to everyone who has donated! It really means a lot to have so much support.

Now for the training stuff! For the past 3 weeks, my mileage has been hovering right around 40 miles a week. I’m still doing a lot of shorter, faster interval workouts, but I have started getting some marathon pace work in during my long runs, and boy are those workouts fun. My A-goal for Chicago (assuming everything goes well in training and I get a nice weather day) is a 7:45/mile pace. I don’t know if it’s just a confidence thing, but this pace has been feeling a lot more comfortable from the get-go than my 8:00 pace did when I first started training for Philly last summer. Last year, it took quite a while for that pace to feel comfortable and like it could be sustainable for 26.2 miles. Maybe I’m just learning to trust the process, but I feel in my heart that 7:45 is totally doable for me in Chicago. But time will tell!

Speaking of marathon pace miles, yesterday I ran the Malden 10k. My coach had me use it as a workout to do a marathon progression, and I was SO happy to comply. The course had a really challenging uphill pretty much from mile 1.5-2.5 and it was a hot, sticky morning so it would have been a tough day to race hard.

Malden 10k Race RecapThe elevation profile from the course. See?? I was not kidding about that hill!

I did a 3 mile warm-up to tack on some extra miles for the day, and met up with my friend near the start. It was pretty crowded in the corral, but thankfully the pack of runners thinned out quickly. My coach had told me to start out around 8:00-8:10/mile and to cut down from there, just focusing on making each mile faster than the one before it.

Malden 10k Race RecapNot perfect, but pretty darn good! I had looked at the course elevation profile before, and I was a little worried about how the hill was going to affect me, but thankfully it was early enough on that I was able to handle it. And you know what they say – what goes up must come down! Mile 4 had a HUGE downhill section that felt amazing. That 7:22 pace threw off my perfect progression, but it truly felt effortless. Mile 5 was back to reality, but even then I felt really strong and in control running that 7:36 split.

By Mile 6, I definitely got excited. I still had some juice in my legs and I was passing a lot of people which always pumps me up. 🙂

Malden 10kI think my friends were cheering for me here at the finish, which is why I’m smiling even though I’m desperately trying to kick.

Malden 10kOverall, I’m really pleased with how this went. I ran within myself and finished feeling strong and like I could have gone further – and that’s with the hills and humidity! This has me so excited for what’s to come. I’m toying with the idea of doing a half in early August and I think I’m leaning towards doing it. It’s time to knock a few minutes off the half PR!

Hope you have a great week!


The 2018 Wine Run: Race Recap and my first WIN!

So I’m back again, this time with another race recap!

I think I had forgotten how many awesome races there are to do in the spring in New England and it becomes really easy to sign up for a different race every weekend! Case in point – I ran Harpoon on May 20th, the Run to Remember Half the week after, and this past Sunday, I ran a Wine Run in North Dartmouth, Mass!

Harpoon 5 Miler Recap

Run to Remember

I ran the Run to Remember super easy, just treating it as a supported long run. The Wine Run was supposed to be another casual fun run. I had signed up to do it with a friend months ago, in the dead of winter. It sounded like a blast – a 3 mile run through a vineyard, followed by a wine tasting, buffet dinner, and live music. Not a bad deal for the price of the race registration!

In the week or so leading up to the race, they sent out a participant information guide, and I noticed that all age group winners received a free bottle of wine! Well, the wheels in my head started turning, and my plan to take this easy evolved into “let’s see if you can win your age group!”. Haha, whoops.

The race was a little over an hour outside Boston at the Running Brook Vineyard. My friend and I arrived with about 30 minutes to spare to pick up our bibs and warm up. However, the check-in process was taking FOREVER and I started to get a little anxious. It eventually became clear that the race was not going to start on time because there were still plenty of people behind us in line who also still needed to get their bibs. After a good 40 minutes of waiting in line (not exaggerating), we finally got our bibs and were able to get settled and ready for the run.

Wine Run 2018I knew the course was going to be interesting. It was more of a trail run, looping through the grassy field and then zig-zagging through the aisles of the vineyard. Ideally, I wanted to run fast enough to place in my age group, but slow enough so that I wouldn’t trip and break an ankle. It was a pretty small race, probably around 400 people and I felt like winning my age group would be doable.

The “map” of the course –

Wine Run 2018 CourseRight before the start, the race director warned us to be careful of our footing and remarked that the course was a little short – around 2.7 miles instead of the advertised 3 miles. ‘No problem‘, I thought to myself, I was ok with running a little short. Then, with the blasting of the air horn, we were off!

I started towards the front of the pack, with two other fast looking ladies in front with me. Within the first quarter mile, the group settled into single file as that was about as wide as the track allowed. My early thought was to settle in behind the other women and then push later in the race. I didn’t stick with that plan long.

Wine Run 2018By about half a mile in, I was essentially on top of the first woman and felt like I had the energy to pass her. So with some trepidation, I passed on a slightly wider part of the trail, moving into the spot of first woman and third overall. At this point, my thought process was a little something like, “Oh shit. You better commit to this pace now. Don’t get passed!” Not exactly positive self-talk, but oh well – that’s still a work in progress.

At this point in the course, we started the weaving through the vines. I had to really focus on my footing and making the sharp turns at the end of the aisles. They had arrows directing the course, but there were a few spots that were a little confusing with me and the second place guy almost going down the wrong way.

Wine Run 2018 Race RecapI hit mile 1 in 7:20. I was a little surprised to see I was able to manage that time on this terrain, so I celebrated it as a small victory and kept pushing. Finally, after no less than 8 hairpin turns, we were done with running through the first vineyard and had a brief straightaway to recover on. I tried to soak it in and took a moment to assess where the nearest women were. The first woman I had passed was a ways back, but a different girl seemed fairly close, about one length of the vineyard aisle back. I would have to hold it together if I wanted to win the race outright, which by this point was the new goal.

I hit mile 2 in 7:20. Hot dang, only another .7 to go! Or so I thought. We entered the second vineyard and started running through the aisles with the sharp turns again. Ugh. I was so ready to be done with all the zig-zagging. In this stretch, I was clearly able to see where the second place woman was and the fourth place guy behind me. While this should have been a positive, I felt like it just heightened my anxiety about getting passed in the late stages of the race to know exactly where they were.

I was working pretty hard by this point – harder than I had really wanted to run, but I HAD to hold onto first. My watch hit mile 3 in 7:35. Wait, what? We were still running down the aisles of the vineyard, not near the finish yet and it was clear the course was NOT 2.7 miles, but actually over 3!

Wine Run 2018I had a moment of grumpiness, but it was relieved by finally finishing with the loops through the second vineyard. All that was left was a stretch of straightaway through a grassy field, onto a dirt road and into the finish. Without all the hairpin turns, I was able to pick up the pace again, running 7:06 pace for the last .37 of a mile, nearly catching the second place guy. As I came around the final turn up to the finish, I was surprised to see the race organizers pull out a finish tape – which I got to break!! It was such an exciting moment for me, never having won a race before!

(There were race photographers there so I am hopeful that a good picture was taken but as of this writing, no race photos have been published yet. I’ll update this post to include some if they ever go up!)

The first and second place guys congratulated me, and we all stood around catching our breath and chugging some water. Not too long later, my friend finished and we celebrated by grabbing our wine glasses and bee-lining it to the sampling.

Wine Run 2018It was such a beautiful day for a run and some wine. 🙂

My prize!

Wine Run 2018Overall, this race was a ton of fun and I’m not just saying that because I did well! Even with the troubles with bib pick-up, the run and post-race party more than made up for it. And I am SO excited to now be able to say that I have WON a race! Now please excuse me – I’m going to go have a glass of my wine. 🙂


Harpoon 5 Miler Race Recap

Hello hello!

I am always so slow to post these, but I figured it was finally time to share my recap of the Harpoon 5-Miler that I ran last week.

Harpoon is a hugely popular race in the Boston area, and I’ve always heard it spoken about with the kind of reverence typically reserved for races like the Boston Marathon. In the past, it had a lottery system to get in and I was never alert enough to actually throw my name in. But this year, registration was on a first-come, first-serve basis and thanks to some friendly reminders from folks in my running groups, I was actually able to sign up! And good thing I did right away because it sold out in 30 minutes.

I haven’t been doing any crazy speed workouts since Hyannis, but I’ve been steadily base-building and getting more serious about focusing on my strength and core routine so I knew I was in pretty decent shape. After the 5k PR at Run for the Troops, I was pretty sure I’d be able to run fast, especially on such a flat course. My coach suggested taping my watch for this race – something I’ve never done before! I was excited by the idea. I could just go out and run hard and see what kind of time I could throw down with zero pressure.

The morning of the race, my friend and I parked in the North End and then jogged over to the Seaport, about 2 miles. It was cloudy but muggy and we were both sweating and happy to peel off our longsleeve shirts once we got there. We had a little time to walk around and check my bag and then it was time to make the way to the start!

Because the race is so big, I was having lots of anxiety about getting boxed in during the early miles. I was probably a little too worried about this honestly. But because I was being neurotic, I made sure I got up towards the front, amongst a LOT of very speedy runners (like former collegiate D1 runner types). Haha, I was a little out of my league, but I just kept telling myself that I was gonna go out “hard but comfortable”.

Well, the gun sounded and off we went! As I mentioned earlier, my watch was taped so I didn’t know exactly how fast I was running, but I knew I was pushing it. I kept telling myself to be careful; that I had 5 miles to go, but I felt good(ish). There were so many fast runners around me and I kind of let myself get pulled along with the tide.

The first mile was fast, but ok. I told myself to ‘lock in’ to the pace and I think I managed to do just that pretty well. I hadn’t really thought about it, but of course being in the shipping district of the seaport – there weren’t really any spectators. I was also running without music so it was almost eerily quiet.

Just after mile 2.5, the course looped back on itself and I was able to see all the other runners. At this point, I was entering the pain cave so I was honestly pretty oblivious to seeing anyone I knew. I was also trying really hard to keep pushing – it can be so easy in the middle miles of a 5k or 5-miler to become complacent and ‘reserve’ energy and I was trying to avoid doing that.

By mile 4, I was in rough shape. My watch was still beeping at mile splits, but I was so out of it, I had lost track of what mile I was on and thought I was finishing when I really still had a mile to go. That was a bit of a slap in the face. I could feel my pace slipping and I was cursing myself for going out so hard in the first mile. I also swore to myself I would never race another 5-miler as long as I lived.

I got passed by a lot of people in the last mile. I hate that. I love negative splitting and finishing strong. I tried to be mentally tough and I would say I held up for a long time, but the last mile was pretty dark. When I crossed the finish line, I sat down immediately against the fence with the help of a nice volunteer who was clearly a little concerned about me.

I was having a lot of difficulty figuring out my watch for some reason (seriously, I was out of it!) but I finally figured out my official time was 34:59, 7:00 average pace. 1 second faster per mile than on the 5k I ran in April. 🙂 I had taken the first mile out sub-7 and while I held on pretty good for 4 miles, I did fade badly by the end. And I can honestly say that in all my years of running, this was the closest I ever came to puking at the end of a race (I didn’t, but it truly was a close call). Not sure I should admit that on the blog, but I really am proud of how far I’ve come in being able to endure hard efforts for extended periods of time and that almost-puking sensation felt symbolic of my newfound grit.

Once I had recovered a bit, I looped back up with my friends and was able to take advantage of my drink tickets, grabbing a cider, which tasted pretty awesome by this point. The finish area filled up quickly as runners came in and the place took on a festive, party vibe. I was able to relax and soak in the accomplishment of what I had done.

Harpoon 5 Miler 2018 Recap

Initially, I was kind of beating myself up for going out so fast, but I had a good conversation with my coach about it. As she pointed out, rarely does anyone execute a perfectly negative split race with a taped watch. That’s not the point of it. You’re supposed to just throw down and see where the chips land. I never would have guessed I’d be able to average 7 flat over 5 miles. If I had run with my watch untaped, I probably would have aimed to be around 7:10/mile and I never would have discovered what I was capable of.

Harpoon 5 Miler Recap

So overall, I’d say Harpoon was a tremendous success and I hope to continue to run it in future years!


Run for the Troops 2018 RACE RECAP

Hello again!

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.

  1. 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). Boston Marathon 2018
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Run for the Troops 5k Course MapI 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).

Run for the Troops 5k elevation profileAnd 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.

Run for the Troops 5k

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!

Post race starbucksNo medals at the race this year so we got some Starbucks to celebrate with instead. 🙂

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!

 


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

 


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.