Category: races

Tips for the Taper….

caution - tapering runner

caution – tapering runner

In every marathoner’s (and half marathoner’s) life, there comes the dreaded, feared, hated TAPER. Soon it will be that time for many of us. So, I thought I’d provide some resources, thoughts and tips to help you make the best/most of this critical period.

I hear there are some people who love the taper. I’ve never been one of them. Last race I started using a peaking approach (per Greg McMillan) which worked much better for me. I’m using that approach again this time.  Don’t Taper, Peak! You might also like an e-book Greg put out that covers the last few weeks pre-race: Surviving the Marathon Freak-Out. It’s got tips on the last few weeks of training, peaking, preparing for your race, executing your race, and a bit on mindset.

If you’ve got a taper approach that’s worked for you, I suggest you don’t change it because of something you read here! If your training plan has a taper included in it, it might be best to follow that approach and take any tips here that are different under advisement for use next time. If your taper approach hasn’t worked in the past and you’re looking for info or help, then I hope you find something useful here. Please remember, I’m not a coach or expert, just providing information I found and comments on what I’ve learned.

The taper is a tricky beast. The point of the taper is to give your body time to recover, absorb the last few weeks of training, and be prepared and rested/fresh for a great race day performance. In theory, it also gives you a little bit of a mental break, as training can wear you down.

However, reduced training time also gives you a bit more time and energy to worry, fret, etc. I suggest you use some of that that time for race planning/preparation. That helped me a lot for my last race, and I’m doing it again. I cannot recommend strongly enough that you read Sage Rountree’s Racing Wisely and go through the checklists in the book, some of which are also on her site. I also suggest doing some other mental training – visualizations (including watching course videos if available), reading books like Running Within (one of the few running-specific books in this area) and The Champion’s Mind. Other books I’ve read include Elite Minds, 10 Minute Toughness, and The Triathlete’s Guide to Mental Training (by Dr. Jim Taylor, mentioned in podcast list below) which is co-authored by Terri Schneider who wrote the book I’m reading now Dirty Inspirations.

I’ve gotten real inspiration and learned a lot from the book From Last to First by British Olympic marathon bronze medalist Charlie Spedding – I’ve probably read it four or five times. I also read and re-read articles, memoirs and biographies of favorite marathoners (Joanie, Meb, Deena, Billy, Grete to name a few), triathletes (Chrissie) and other endurance athletes (Rebecca Rusch, some ultrarunners), as well as (for Boston) course descriptions and race history. I find this reading relaxing, inspiring, motivating, and helpful.

Do NOT take on big projects at work or at home – it’s not the time to clean out your garage/closets, work 12 hour days, or otherwise load your system as it tries to prepare for race day.

Be prepared for little niggles to make themselves heard, and for you to be convinced you’ve got some injury/illness. Barring some pre-existing issue, it’s likely your body is just behaving a little differently because of the changes to your mileage/training load and that your mind is messing with you a little due to pre-race jitters. That said, don’t ignore anything that seems unusual, really painful or that is causing you problems. Get it checked out.

This is not the time to decide to throw in extra core work, extra stretching or weight work or that Bikram yoga class someone’s been telling you about. The risk/reward approach during taper is much like that on race day – do nothing new or different.

Get some extra sleep if you can while sticking fairly close to your regular routine. For some of us, the body loves routine and will complain about changes, even ones that should be good.

Carry and use hand sanitizer, and stay away from people with colds or the flu (even if you got your flu shot). Do this all the way through to race day – especially if you have kids or work with kids, and if you’re traveling before or for your race.

Know that your taper mileage may vary – literally and figuratively.  Some runners do better on more rest, some on less, some on big reductions of miles, some on reductions of miles but continued speedwork, etc. What taper approach works for you for any given race is part science and part art – and part luck (or lack thereof). Tapers can be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on your race, your experience level, and other factors specific to your situation.

To quote a really cheesy but true phrase – the hay is in the barn. You’re about as fit and ready as you’re going to be. No workout you can do once you hit taper is going to have enough of a beneficial effect by the time of your race – as it takes time for your body to absorb the training and adapt – to offset the risk of fatigue or injury.  And no single workout that didn’t go well or that you missed during training will, in and of itself, make or break your race.

Easy rule for this period: when in doubt, don’t.

Nutrition/Diet

By now, you’ve nailed down or dialed in what your nutrition and hydration strategy for the race will be since you’ve been practicing it on long runs. (right?) But there’s also the question of how to eat during taper. I suggest looking at the taper section of The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition by Matt Fitzgerald for helpful tips. The book is a worthwhile read for your next training cycle (if you haven’t already read it) to understand more about race fueling and for suggested approaches. You may also be able to find him on podcasts talking about this topic.

If friends/family have a good sense of humor and “get” you as a runner, one of those “warning, tapering runner” signs, tshirts or mugs might not be a bad idea.

Here are some resources to help you have a successful peak or taper!

Podcasts

MarathonTalk – they have taper tips (often the same ones) in their Training Talk segments around spring/fall marathon time, here are some

Episode 169 April 3, 2013 – also has Matt Fitzgerald as a guest

Episode 219 March 19, 2014

As your race gets closer, listen to MarathonTalk “race week” tips

Episode 65 April 6, 2011 – bonus of guest Greg McMillan

Episode 220 March 26, 2014

The MT boys even have specifics for race day!

Episode 227 May 14, 2014

Episode 205 December 11, 2013

Other choices might include Trail Runner Nation podcast episodes with Lanny Bassham on mental management, Dr. Jim Taylor on dealing with pain and fear of failure. Note these are focused somewhat on trail and ultra running.

There are many articles in the running magazines and online about tapering – here are a couple I like.

The Three Most Common Tapering Mistakes

5 Pre-Marathon Mistakes to Avoid

Other useful reads

How to Taper for Your Next Marathon or Half Marathon

The Art of the Marathon Taper

The Art of Tapering Like a Pro

The Art of Peaking for a Goal Race

(like I said, it’s a science AND an art…..)

How to Taper Correctly (not my title)

But in the end, you’ve got to keep a sense of humor about it. (look for tweets with #tapermadness or #eatallthethings to find fellow tapering runners)

The Five Stages of Pre-Race Tapering

One last thing….you can taper or peak exactly per plan and have things not work out. Or you can have a wrench thrown in your taper and still have a fantastic race.

For Shamrock 2014, I was doing well following my peaking plan. Then the Monday night before the Sunday race, I got some food caught in my throat. Not enough to cause me problems, but enough to feel. Tuesday morning, it still wasn’t gone, so instead of my planned run/chiro appointment, DH and I made a trip to the local emergency room, where we waited for 6 hours for me to get an endoscopy (which requires twilight sedation). While we were waiting in the ER cube, I did some of my chiro exercises and Wharton flexibility work. (yes, I AM that crazy…plus it was something to do and helped my nerves) All was ok, and we were home before dinner – having spent about 10-11 hours in a hospital without food or water (hadn’t eaten in 24h), some of that unconscious with a tube stuck down my throat into my stomach. I think the whole incident was so freaky it put a stop to most of my regular taper and worry nerves. (and in theory I could always blame a poor race on the procedure/anesthetic though I would have been pretty devastated)

The next day (Wednesday), I nailed Tuesday’s planned cruise intervals workout, Thursday I nailed that planned run, Friday off for travel, Saturday a short, pleasant shakeout run. And you may recall, I PR’d and beat my BQ on Sunday. So the bottom line is – stay as calm as you can during your taper and roll with things that are out of your control. It may work out just fine in the end!

Wishing you the sanest, healthiest possible peaking period (aka taper)!



To Those Running The Olympic Trials

First, CONGRATULATIONS!

Qualifying for the Trials is a huge accomplishment, one many of us can’t even dream of.

Getting to the start line seems almost a separate accomplishment – staying healthy, getting funding, making the trip safely, avoiding last minute bugs.

I don’t know any of you. Some of you I’m a fan of, some of you are elite or professional, some I’m a fan of, some of your names I recognize from media coverage. Most of you, I’d only know your name from reading the start list.

But each of you has an amazing story. I wish I knew it and could learn about your unique journey.

Each of you has worked hard to maximize your physical gifts and made choices – from little to big – that weren’t easy or fun in the moment or popular (sometimes even with yourself) – from getting up early and going to bed early, to skipping treats and parties, to doing extra training (or not), to deferring dreams, taking extra jobs, getting loans or crowdfunding or selling things, to moving away from home and loved ones….the list goes on and on. Kudos on doing what it took to get where you so wanted to be.

Each of you has had moments – or days or weeks or years – filled with pain, struggle, disappointment and frustration – when you could have given up, wanted to give up, had people telling you to give up, maybe did give up (briefly)…but in the end, you said “I can and I will” and got back up to try one more time.

I hope you know you are or can be an example and inspiration to others, adults and children, for your dedication and hard work, for pursuing your dreams and goals.

I hope as you stand on the start, that you can breathe in the moment, the wonder of where you are and what you’re about to do. I hope you can sear it into your memory so you can revisit it and share it with others.

I hope you have family, friends and other supporters who are not only there with you on Saturday (in body or spirit), but who have been with you through the good times and the dark times. I hope you can share this experience with them and help them understand how grateful you are for their role in the day and getting you there.

I hope you run the race you want to run, whether you are competing with others or just with yourself, and that you remember, during the inevitable tough patches, how strong you are, what you’ve overcome, and how lucky you are.

I hope you cross the finish line healthy and happy with the effort you’ve given and that the memories, the wonder of it all, stay with you for the rest of your life.

Know that I will be cheering for each and every one of you with a heart full of admiration and respect and tears of pride and joy in my eyes.

You are all winners.

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” -Baron de Coubertin

 

 



Race Nutrition Dilemmas & Decisions

Apologies for the TMI you’ll find below, but hey, I’m among friends and fellow runners, right? We all deal with this stuff at some point. Hoping you can share your thoughts, experiences and perhaps help me with a decision. I’m not crowdsourcing the decision or anything like that, but always looking for data, balance, more objective points of view.

If you’re a past blog reader or follower of mine on Twitter, you may be aware I have some GI issues. GERD (low acid diet & PPIs), hiatal hernia, gluten/lactose intolerance, possible FODMAP intolerance, IBS (“we don’t know the cause or a fix so we’ll name it”), other food sensitivities and GI crankiness from hormone swings or other unknowns.

Pre-race (day before) and in-race nutrition are things I am very careful of, practice in training, and try not to change. Especially 2 weeks before race day of a goal marathon. It’s all about finding what works, repeatability, control, and minimizing variables.

BUT.

(here’s the TMI part….)

I’m getting pretty worried re GI issues on my runs, specifically, bowel/elimination. There have been several long runs (today’s, at mile 13 of an 18 miler) or long speed sessions where I had to stop my run to sprint to the bathroom. (so glad I train on my treadmill!) Looking back, I see one occurrence in this week and each of the last 3 weeks prior (at least) where I either had to stop or by the end of the run (including this past Tuesday) or if I’d gone further I was going to have to stop. This is in addition to having multiple movements pre-run (and every day), which has been happening over the last few months.

I don’t know the reason for these issues. I don’t know if it’s that I’m trying to get faster, or if it’s something in GU (what I’ve been using this year) that my stomach just won’t tolerate after a certain time/distance/speed. I also don’t know if there’s some other thing going on, but I’m going to address what seems to be the proximate cause, run nutrition.

Background: last year for my Shamrock and Baystate BQs and PRs, I was using EFS Liquid Shot gel, which I loved, and didn’t have any stomach issues (other than regular burp-back, which can happen for me with plain water), and I didn’t have to stop. (I did take about half a Vanilla GU at mile 24 of Baystate, according to my race report, and they will have GU on course if I needed it.) But EFS is only available in flasks, which means carrying it those flasks somehow either in a belt, which my tummy doesn’t love, or a vest, which was prohibited at Boston.

So in 2015, preparing for Boston under those constraints, I switched to GU and carried it in a flipbelt at Boston, and was going to carry it in pockets of shorts and bra at Baystate. If you recall, I had some bowel issues around mile 19 of Boston, requiring a portajohn stop. At the time I put it down to undercooked veggies the day before, and to hormones (which were certainly in play) but now I’m wondering if it was the GU. (I’ll deal with what I do for Boston 2016 later.)

DH says it could be nerves and that I’ve been nervous for my long/hard runs for weeks now. He may be right but I didn’t perceive that today and didn’t feel that way (not a nervous agitated stomach). Today and Tuesday were just one of those “gotta stop NOW” things. Also, I could be nervous on race day, so should take that into account.

In terms of day before race/long speed session/long run:

I have been trying to eat less fiber/more carbs the day before my long runs and my long speed sessions (like Tuesday’s 15 miler with 12 at goal pace). I moved away from my chicken and steamed veg dinners and have had white bread with honey, turkey, rice, soup, etc. for dinner. I’m trying to nail down a suite of safe packaged foods I can buy when I travel to races (soup, GF bread, nut butter, lunchmeat, chips, oatmeal or similar) or things I can cook in the hotel (sweet potatoes). I can see no reason for these changes to cause GI problems, and because I’ve been trying a variety of meals, I’m not immediately seeing a common factor in what I eat the day before these issues.

For in-race nutrition:

I’m considering options (aka changes), of which there are only a few in my mind, and all of which I have limited time to try. But the “nothing new on race day” rule means I DO need to try whatever option I think I’m going with. The race is 10/18, so I’m entering peaking (or taper, for those who use that). Tuesday’s plan is tempo intervals, if I feel my legs are up to it, next Saturday is a half distance run with goal pace miles, the rest of the runs are shorter/easier and might not require gel or be good tests.

Options

  • Stick with GU, load up on Immodium pre-race

Pros: it’s what I’ve been training with; not sure it’s the problem; I like the variety of the flavors and choices for added electrolytes, caffeine, amino acids; I’ve used Immodium in non-race situations in the past without incident and have read of other runners with twitchy tummies taking it pre-race.

Cons: if it’s really something in GU that my system can’t take, the Immodium may not be enough, and the combo might be unpleasant. I don’t know if I have enough runs to know that the Immodium will sit well with goal pace miles or if it might cause other problems during the race.

  • Go back to EFS, whether in hard/soft flasks, carry in the waistband of shorts or go back to my vest

Pros: this worked well for me in PR races last year, the liquid consistency and using the flasks allows me to add water to the gel and not have to take as much water at aid stations, not be gulping a packet and spilling/gulping from a cup which could add to GI distress.

Cons: since I don’t know if the GU is the problem, I can’t be sure this is the fix, and have limited test opportunities; just because it was fine last year doesn’t mean it would be fine now; carrying the flasks is a pain/annoyance/weight, and one that I haven’t trained with in over a year – are a couple of runs enough to test the stomach, the vest and weight/speed effects?I suspect I’d wind up wearing the vest even if I could fit a soft flask in the waistband, as I might want extra gel. Of course, having to stop would be likely to take more time than the weight and the vest would add.

(FYI, I am not considering the cost/waste of shipping stuff pre-race in this decision, as I plan to do it anyway with some food and other items/backups – due to TSA restrictions and wanting to fly carry-on only. Also not considering cost/waste of leaving extra behind, tossing empty flasks…gotta do what you gotta do for a race. #firstworldproblems and guilt, but hey)

  • Go back to EFS and load up on Immodium anyway (belt and suspenders)

Pros: see 2nd bullet, above

Cons: see 2nd bullet above plus don’t know if the Immodium will sit will with goal pace miles or if it might cause other problems during the race

I’m leaning toward going back to EFS, trying flasks in shorts on Tuesday and the vest after that. I’m also leaning slightly toward one dose of Immodium after my first clear-the-pipes at the hotel on race day. I plan to get up by 4:30 for an 8am race, to have plenty of time for use of the hotel bathroom before and after a warmup, and before heading to the race site where it’s just portajohns in the cold. I’m also looking at anything else I changed recently in terms of food/supplements and if possible, reverting whether or not it seems possibly related.

Here’s where I ask for your experience, thoughts, opinions….please share! 



My First Boston Marathon – Recovery, Week 1-ish

Wednesday

Up early in Boston to walk Newbury Street a bit and get one last coffee from a place DH found and we both liked. Then breakfast in the hotel room and farewell to the place that was home base for us. It served us well.

We had an 11:30 flight and due to our protective scheduling and less traffic/travelers than anticipated, had plenty of time to kill in the airport.

Arrived home early enough to get inside before a rain storm blew through. DH even had time to mow the lawn before going for his run. I went to the grocery store and started washing running gear (priorities). Discovered that sitting in a cab, in an airport, and on the plane activated soreness in some areas (glutes especially) that really hadn’t been sore. I guess the solution is to keep moving.

In the evening, we got Thai takeout, trying a new place that we’ll definitely get food from again. We had yummy pad Thai, chicken satay and fresh spring rolls along with peanut sauce I can’t get enough of. We watched a little taped TV and back to regular snacking/reading. A bit of thrash for me as I’m pretty much out of running books to read (don’t find the magazines as relaxing in the evening) and still nothing else appeals.

DH went back to work Th and F, and I am glad I took the rest of the week off! I certainly could have returned to work – especially Thursday which is usually a telework day, but will take the extra time away.

Thursday

Slept 9:30-6ish (waking every 90 min), got up around 630. Puttered, started laundry. Around 8, walked at a stroll pace on treadmill for 40 minutes. Then breakfast and reading online. Stiffer than I have been, maybe due to travel and being in bed so long.

I feel TIRED and brain is not working. Think I’m still way down on sleep, and my allergies may be kicking in again as so much is in bloom here. I notice my reaction time, memory, attention span, and ability to perform tasks is off. Wasn’t my usual self driving. Super distractable.

Went to chiro – he was so happy for me! We talked about the race, but early in the appointment, he said – “1 year minus 3 days till next year, let’s get started!” Gotta love him. They put a congratulations sign on the front door and I walked right past it….the office manager told me to go out and back in again, and then I saw it. They were so pleased for me and proud of me. It was just lovely. Apparently my chiro had been tracking me and sent me a text when I finished, but sent it to the wrong number. I was so tired I almost fell asleep face down on the chiro table!

I ran an errand, went to Whole Foods and Mom’s Market. I know better, but let myself get dehydrated and hungry. That only added to fatigue. Eating and drinking not helping so much, really felt like I could nap mid afternoon but I didn’t. Didn’t get much done. My afternoon massage was cancelled as my therapist had some sort of cold/allergies and we decided I shouldn’t risk picking up a bug.

I’m becoming aware of heavier fatigue and a more “down” mood.

I don’t want my first Boston Marathon to be over…I’m missing the preparation, the focus, the anticipation. But I know I need a break after the last year or so, and I’ll be trying to take one, of sorts, for the rest of April and most of May. Easy running, some swimming and cycling and walking, as much sleep as I can get. Figure out the exercises I need to add (my gait analysis in late May and my chiro will help with this, as will Meb’s book, Coach Jay’s routines and Magill’s book)

Friday

Slept 10ish to midnight in the chair, then upstairs. Woke 3a, 4a, 6:20 (with the sun).

Looked like a beautiful morning (for a run – 40 degrees and sun rising though breezy) so I decided to walk to Starbucks and back rather than walking on tmill. That’s about 1.25mi round trip with an extra block or two thrown in. It was beautiful – saw and smelled lilacs in bloom.

lilacs

lilacs

On the way there, my stomach started being unhappy, so I decided not to get anything and walked back home enjoying the sunlight shimmering through the green leaves as they fluttered in the wind.

sunlight through leaves

sunlight through leaves

Of course I was comparing the walk and the view to DH & I walking on Newbury Street to the cute coffee shop, and it was coming up a bit short.

On the way back, I felt a little sad and isolated – it occurred to me that was one of the fantastic things about the Boston Marathon weekend was that the community of runners came together. You could walk up to anyone who kind of looked like they might be running and ask “have you done the race before?” (tell them it’s your first and you’ll get useful info and stories) and launch a conversation about all things running. It really felt like a community and I think I miss that. Of course nothing else will be like that weekend – especially the first time, though I imagine it can actually get more magical as you do more of them – but the conversations on the shakeout runs must be something like you get with a running group, and perhaps those even get deeper as you share experiences and build friendships.

My seat mate on the bus was telling me about her group with her local Running Room store (apparently there are a LOT of them in Canada and they all have groups) and how at the famous Around the Bay race in Hamilton (older than Boston and reputed to be a great race and great prep for Boston). Her group probably had 40 people in the race so when you finished in this stadium, you’d get changed and grab coffee and then come back out to the stands to cheer your friends in. I want to do that race, but I’m not sure if next year will be the year or not, as I have so little experience with racing in a training buildup and it’s a hike (and plane ride) so close to Boston.

I’m not sure if it’s allergies (my eyes feel puffy) or fatigue, but by 8am I feel like I could nap. Had breakfast, messed around online. I got myself to pool for “swim” at 11am, go me! (more time in transit than in the water, and some willpower to make it happen at all). Sport-specific fitness is truth, especially 4 days after a marathon. We’ll call what I did “intervals” to account for the times I was hanging onto the wall waiting for my HR to recover.

Spent some more time online and did more laundry. Eventually I took myself to the porch and worked on my race recap. It was quite chilly and almost blustery, but I wanted to be outside in the sun so I bundled up and made tea, and was out there till DH came home with our Friday Chinese takeout. Did my Whartons for the first time since the race. As usual, we watched a couple of TV shows and called it a night pretty early.

Saturday

Slept in, woke 610 but didn’t get up until 7. After much puttering and iPod fiddling, walked 1.35mi as a warmup, mostly at 0% as my L ham didn’t seem to like 1%. Ran 2 recovery miles. Went between 0% & 1% mostly at 1%. Quads sore! First time since race & only on run. Both at start, R got better after 1st mi, L got worse, sharper, so stopped. (now hurts when squatting, stairs) Glutes sore, all & mins. Hips tight. All else as ok as expected, calves little tight, feet little sore esp outer L bottom. ARGH. May just walk tomorrow as that doesn’t seem to bother it. People say they take 2 weeks off running (elite and non). Maybe I should. Crazy-making, but I’ve got to get this next month of recovery and return to running right to set myself up well for Baystate in Oct (and Beach to Beacon in August) and Boston in April. Don’t want to repeat the mistakes I did around my triple. So, will be trying to control the crazy with walking, biking and swimming. Maybe elliptical/arc at gym but suspect quad won’t love that. Poor DH – he’s racing tomorrow and next Sunday while living with me who’s not running and trying to control calories.

Spent a good bit of time finishing and posting my race recap and working on other Boston-related posts. Read the March Runners’ World while I had some toast and green tea. Dinner – going with Chinese steamed chicken and veg leftovers instead of the incredibly yummy pad Thai, chicken satay, and rolls we had Wed night. If I’m going to eat any potato chips or GF cookies this weekend, have to cut back somewhere. (seems so unfair)

Saturday night, a couple TV shows and an early night. DH is racing in the morning, and I’ll…..walk I guess or maybe bike.

Sunday

Wow. It’s already almost a week ago?! That just seems wrong somehow. I’m still not ready for it to be over.

Apparently my body has decided that sleeping in=sunrise. Ah well. Went to the pool, got in 1 hour pool run – just suit, no wetsuit! – listening to the remainder of the Marathon Talk ep with Yuki Kawauchi (started Sat) and part of the Another Mother Runner ep where Bethany debriefs her Boston Marathon. I wanted to do 90 minutes and finish the podcast, but they started pulling over lane markers for kids’ swim lessons, and I was getting colder and thought I shouldn’t push it. Probably good, as when I climbed out my left calf threatened a cramp and both calves felt like they were twitching. (calf cramps tend to happen for me when I have been off pool running for a while) The middle “meat” part of both glutes feels pretty sore too. Not sure if my massage will address that or if trigger point will need to. I can still feel my L quad strangeness, trying not to panic and just give it time as it seems a bit better than yesterday.

Filled the car with gas and stopped by the grocery store for more produce on the way home. I’m consuming asparagus, sugar snap peas, romaine, mushrooms and strawberries at quite a rate these days. Got some more Brussels sprouts too, even though I roasted a bunch for work yesterday. Breakfast of egg whites and artichoke hearts, cinnamon raisin toast and some coco bread toast. Finished up the podcast while doing food prep for the week and supplements.

Then headed out to the porch – such a gorgeous day, though a bit chilly yet. Working on posts and trying to catch up on blog reading. So much blog/magazine/etc running reading to do. Due to massage, my normal mid afternoon time slot will be taken, and afterward will need to shower before dinner.

In terms of my recovery protocol, I have gotten in a swim and a pool run, some walks and a short run. I haven’t yet done any core or strength work. I haven’t done rolling, icing or yoga. I have started doing Whartons again. Overall I’d grade myself low on recovery except for the first day after Boston. I know what to do, I just didn’t do it. Maybe the rest is doing me good? Yeah, lets go with that.

Monday 

Back to work. As my sis says “re-entry is hard”. 25 min bike in the AM. Glute mins hated standing, sitting, just kinda hated everything. Took a walk to the library before dinner, then Whartons. Worked on getting the Tuesday blog post done – lots of photo editing, kept me online way too late.

Tuesday

I chose not to run today, figuring I’d give my quad, which has been improving – knock wood the tweak may be gone – more time and telling myself that there is NO downside to taking a few more non-running days. None. NONE. (the loudness is for me, not for you) The rest will do my body good, and it’s not like I’ve got a race soon or even the start of training. So, I walked 5.25 miles this morning on my treadmill. My quads didn’t complain, but my hammies did. They also haven’t liked me sitting as much as I have been now that I’m back to work – even with a standing desk, I sit for some meetings, to eat lunch and sometimes to read documents.

Saw my chiro, who stretched my quads (saying the right was tighter than the left which I’d tweaked), e-stimmed and Graston’d them. He said my hams were probably getting more use because my quads were tight (in addition to my known gotta-get-em-stronger ham issues). He was quite amused at me wanting a gold star for stopping my run Saturday and not having run since then. He enjoys teasing me.

Week 2 is proving to be an interesting challenge as I REALLY want to start running again, even short runs, BUT I want to be overly cautious and set myself up well for returning to running and starting training again. I do NOT want to dig myself into a hole like I did last year. I may still be digging out of that hole, in fact. After each of my marathons last year, I got in 15 miles by the end of the following week and was up over 20 the next week. That doesn’t look like it will happen this time. I need to be ok with that.

I’m also finding I’m still easily distractible, a bit moody, having a hard time staying focused and mentally processing when doing even easy things (car keys? oh, they’re on the passenger seat, that’s helpful when I’m trying to drive) and not doing much productive like finishing putting away things from the trip, cleaning or other such required tasks. I’m only moderately useful at work, and the effort required to stay on task is high.

Right now I’m thinking I’ll bike or walk Wednesday instead of run. Saturday I plan to run; whether I run will Thursday or not I don’t know. It’s a different kind of challenge to see if I can make it all the way to Saturday without losing it – or making DH or others too crazy. The pool times don’t work well around my work schedule, so a pool run is unlikely.

Fortunately – or unfortunately (allergies, desire to run) – we’re having good weather if a bit warm. That means a walk to the library, a nearby store, or a lunchtime stroll are possibilities.

Rest and recovery is the priority this month, and staying as active as I can to maintain as much fitness as I can. Eating well but not too much is important (and not easy!). I’m working on getting as much sleep as I can and trying to head toward a routine that gets me to bed even earlier since my “get up” time is fairly fixed due to work. This isn’t easy as there’ll be very little time when I get home to do anything (including spend evenings online), and trying to get to sleep as the evening is light later will be challenging. The schedule may mean not eating dinner or eating a smoothie or soup or something very light.

My gait analysis is May 20th. My training for Baystate will start around Memorial Day (that’s the plan anyway) with a 4 week hill module, 4 week speed module, and 12 week marathon-specific training. I have many tweaks I want to make to my training, and things that need to be caught up on around the house, appointments, etc. (oh, and work) So I have training to plan and things to do to keep me occupied, but I really want to be running!

You know what I mean, don’t you? I thought you would.

Share your best recovery tips for the weeks post-marathon, especially how you stay sane and don’t gain too much weight. I need ideas!

 



My First Boston Marathon – Race Recap

I AM A BOSTON MARATHONER!

2015 Boston Marathon medal

2015 Boston Marathon medal

Pre-race, my goals were:

1) Finish healthy and safe (don’t do anything stupid, don’t injure myself, don’t push too hard if something hurts, don’t get tangled up with someone, fall or get overheated/go hypothermic)

2) Give it my best effort on the day

3) Embrace the experience

I achieved all those goals.

….and then there were some time goals, none of which happened. Am I disappointed? A little, mostly because they were very conservative goals that on a typical “day at the office”, I “should” have been able to hit. I realize saying I’m disappointed with my time may sound ungrateful (and I always thought I’d be thrilled with a finish no matter the time), and I don’t mean it that way. I just want to be honest about how I feel. Being disappointed in my time doesn’t mean I’m disappointed in the race. I got to live my dream come true and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity.

I am proud of my effort. I ran every step. I gave it all I had, I just wish I’d had more to give on the day.

Now, the LONG stream-of-consciousness recap you came here for…get a snack and some coffee, settle somewhere comfy and let’s get this party started!

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WEATHER AND GEAR

The weather was cold (not a big problem, better cold than hot!), and sometimes windy (but not “Shamrock bad” to me anyway). Then there was the rain… I ran a 5k in the rain many years ago and didn’t enjoy it. My second marathon, the one I ran injured, had cold spitting rain and wind that was not pleasant when I had to start walking at mile 20. Those two races, both many years ago, are the sum total of my experience running in the rain and so the weather was freaking me out a bit. (DH would snort – “a bit?!”) If it had been a local marathon with another one available soon, I might not have run the race – but it wasn’t, it was Boston….and if you’re healthy and think you can be safe in the conditions, you run Boston. (waiting for this to bite me next year) I don’t know if the conditions messed with me as much physically on the day as they messed with my head, but considering how cold my hands got (added to the difficulty getting gels) and the rain dripping off my visor onto my face at some points, it might well have. But it didn’t rain the whole time, for which I was grateful.

I’m thankful to the people who helped me do better in the conditions than I would have without the extra new and new-to-me gear.

Laid out kit the night before, pinned on bib, debated s/s v tank, both are super light weight, made for summer running, but I’ve worn the tank in every marathon, including the cold Richmond in November. Briefly thought of long sleeve (would have been my Shamrock shirt or a very warm base layer) but I was afraid I’d overheat. (you can laugh, knowing I’ve done 4 marathons now where I thought I’d toss gloves/arm warmers and didn’t) I’m almost always cold – sometimes REALLY cold – and I don’t like being cold, but I am not used to running hot so overheating scares me as I know less how to deal with it and less how it feels before things go bad.

I went to the Village with bra, tank, arm warmers, Teflon-coated running vest (extra pair of cotton gloves and some, ahem, supplies in the pockets), warmer “water resistant” gloves, ear band, visor, shorts with wet wipes in the pockets, and quad compression sleeves under my toss sweats. (along with wearing my FlipBelt loaded with 10 gels, and a flask in the sweats pocket with a Vanilla GU mixed with water for the start) I also carried a rain poncho which I used in the Village, overshoes which I ditched in the Village never having worn, but would bring them again, and carried a yoga mat via strap – had a yard garbage bag stuffed in the center in case of extra need. I didn’t carry my phone, and there were times I wished I had, to get people’s names or to chat with DH and friends pre-race. But once the race started it just would have been weight. I knew I wasn’t going to take pictures or text during the race, and I knew it wasn’t possible I’d be out there alone at any point in need of help that I couldn’t get, so I left it with DH.

Note that the vest, quad sleeves, ear band and gloves were new. Yes, I violated the “nothing new on race day” rule with my kit – and that, plus the shirt I added in the Village – probably saved me from hypothermia. I don’t recommend such big changes, but sometimes you have to take the risk, and I’m thankful to the folks who helped me!

New on me as I left the hotel, and all purchased race weekend:

  • CompressSport quad sleeves – purchased per my chiro’s Thursday direction as I’d pulled a groin muscle in my left leg Wed night getting out of a chair – you can imagine how freaked I was. The pull improved on its own and with e-stim, but after talking to the sales guy, I grabbed a pair. I did manage to test them before the race by wearing them from Sat afternoon through the Sunday shakeout run and was prepared to ditch them if needed. I think they helped my hamstrings a lot, my quads too – never even noticed the groin pull – and they added a little extra warmth (and made finding me in the finish line video easier). I think they’re awesome and am still wearing them, recommend. Just realized they come in other colors than the black I got. Goal of course is to be stronger and NOT need them. DH was so impressed with the sleeves he picked himself up some of their trail shorts. They appear to only have men’s shorts, boo.
  • Frank Shorter Teflon-coated vest from jacket w zip off sleeves (would have bought yellow, but blue was what they had at expo, may get yellow later) and warm ear band
  • Brooks running gloves with pull over nylon mitts (no longer for sale I guess, not on Brooks’ site) – L instead of needed XL but keeping these!

I didn’t pin my bib to my vest, in case I wanted to ditch it. I pinned it to my tank, which meant that every 5k, for the timing mat, I unzipped it partially and then re-zipped it. I had to trust that the chip would register that way. I didn’t think much about the photographers except the ones at the end (thought about that ahead of time) and it turns out that so far there’s only one photo of me that’s not in the last 600 meters where they could clearly see my bib – it’s one at the 10k split mat (where there are photographers above) and I found it in the unidentified photo section. My logic was that race photos usually aren’t that great, the conditions were bad, and timing is the priority – except for finish line photos!

PRE-RACE MONDAY

Monday morning, up 5am. Race schedule: bus loading start 7:55, those buses arrive at the Village around 9, to corrals 10:15, wave start 10:50. I ate my small cup of applesauce with 1/2 scoop of Hammer Whey around 6 or so. We’d decided the night before that we needed to leave the room shortly after 7am to allow for crowded elevators and the walk to Boston Commons for the buses , as well as one or more portajohn stops at the Commons. I paid attention to the tales of traffic backups and people begging to be let off the buses to relieve themselves anywhere. Didn’t want that to happen if I could avoid it. I carried a squeeze pouch of applesauce and a pouch of Vespa. The applesauce was to be taken if I got hungry on the bus or soon after getting to the Village so my stomach/blood sugar weren’t affected pre-race, and the Vespa to be taken around 10am.

BOSTON COMMONS

Even in my toss sweats, with the hood pulled up, it was quite a chilly walk to the Commons. I was pretty tense and in my own head, fretting about the rain, so it was a good thing DH walked me over. I might have found a pod of runners to tail, but I might not have, and I surely couldn’t hold directions in my head. We happened to leave our hotel and pass the tents at the time a huge number of race volunteers in their orange jackets were heading out – we followed them for a bit, then DH said they were going elsewhere and we changed course.

Got to the Commons and got in line for the portajohns. There were a fair number of runners, dressed in interesting combinations of toss/warm clothing, but not as many as I’d have expected. I think that’s because people kept moving into bus lines and heading out. There was a constant stream of announcements about not being able to check gear in Hopkinton, not being able to take gear bags on the bus (though people did seem to be able to get small bags with food/drink through security) and which wave was to be where. We hung out for a few minutes, hoping Leah, who I’d met at the shakeout would show up, but she was delayed leaving her hotel so I missed her. (found out the Sheraton had fire alarms go off at 12:30am, felt bad for those runners!) DH tried to block the wind for me, but it kept changing direction. Decided one more portajohn stop was in order, then we said farewells. The plan post-race was for me to return to the hotel, figuring the family meeting area would be too crowded for us to find each other (on a decent weather day, probably true) and I’d decided I’d just ask people for directions afterward….my brain function, memory and sense of direction are not high post-marathon.

THE BUS

I got in the security line for the buses. As I did, I passed a wide-eyed runner saying goodbye to her husband. He said “you look terrified” and she replied “I am!” (I chimed in “me too” – hoped to find her in bus line but didn’t happen)  Had to wait longer to get on a bus than I wanted, given the cold, and while it was warmer, it wasn’t warm. I don’t think our bus left until 8:25.

On the trip out, it started to rain, and the bus steamed up so much the driver opened his window. Again, not so warm. It stopped raining by the time we got to the Village. My seatmate, an Eastern European woman living in Toronto who only started running around age 50 (now 58), chatted. I think we got started because was shaking with cold and she asked me if I was cold. I put the hand warmers DH had given me into my gloves, and it helped a bit. (I kept them in through some of the early miles in the race.) We compared clothing notes (she was afraid she’d overdressed, I suspect she was fine), talked about this being our first Boston. Turns out our original BQ times were pretty close. I gave her my garbage bag since she didn’t have a poncho. She plans to run NYC (she qualified and happened upon registration) and is going to run the Grand 2 Grand ultra this summer. It was lovely talking with her. We unfortunately split up on arriving at the Village around 9:30 (as I headed for the portajohns) and I didn’t get her name or number. I hope she did well.

ATHLETES’  VILLAGE

In the portajohn line, standing on the grass/mud in the field (oh yeah, snow=mud) I jumped into the conversation the two women behind me were having (I will do this at races, especially if I’m nervous). They were charity runners I think, one was from South Carolina, the other from Vermont – the person behind them was local but was talking about skiing in Vermont. We wound up talking all the way through the line, me mostly listening, and then the SC & VT women and I wound up in the tent in roughly the same place. There wasn’t really a place to sit, so we stood. I could have made a place, probably, and had the mat for just such a purpose, but in my cold brain’s logic, I thought the ground would be even colder than standing and was afraid I might pull or tweak something sitting down or getting up. (see, I’m already not thinking too clearly)

I wasn’t doing well at this point. I could not stop shaking from being so cold. I don’t mean delicate little shivers, I mean shaking/trembling so that it’s visible to others. The last time I was that cold was before Richmond, but that was just waiting in the line for 20 minutes, not standing outside for an hour on top of already having been outside and cold. I also couldn’t think straight. I kept wondering if I should be taking my applesauce because I must be burning calories but now it was past 10 and too close to the start, what should I do. I couldn’t decide. I couldn’t decide if I should take the Vespa (knew I could run w/o it) as it was ~2oz of liquid and in the cold, liquid causes me to need to relieve myself more quickly, not optimal in a race. I also completely forgot about my FRS chews (so hadn’t had any caffeine either) – they wound up banging around in my pocket and annoying me for the race. Never wound up taking my pre-race Energy Surge tablet or the extras of that & Endurolytes I carried in baggies in belt. The Energy Surge might have helped. Actually, given how good salted gels tasted, the Endurolytes might have too.

This is where the Vermont woman pretty much forced her long sleeve toss shirt (midweight tech) on me, after being incredibly patient when she kept offering and I couldn’t decide. Of course then I had to take off my sweat jacket, vest, and tank to put the shirt on – when she saw what I was wearing, she said “oh yeah, you need this”. It helped right away, but I was still shaking.

At some point it was time to go to the corrals and then the start line. On the walk to the start, it began to rain again. Suddenly things seemed to be happening faster than I was quite ready for. I met a charity runner along the way who distracted me, kept me company, made sure I got to the portajohn by the start and helped me out of my toss clothes. He was planning to run at a very slow pace due to an injury, so we said goodbye before the start.

I must put a plug in for two books that really helped me be familiar with the course (along with whatever videos are online):

Boston Marathon: The Legendary Course Guide by Raymond Britt – he took photos while running the course himself one year and puts comments, tips and his splits as well.

and

26.2 Miles to Boston by Michael Connelly – a lot of history about each mile, but also helpful information and photos

Because of those books, I knew that the start was narrow and the first few miles were going to be very crowded, no way to find a clear path or make a pace. Just go with the flow and try to hold your own place in the crowd. People were very cautious – I didn’t get elbowed, stepped on or shouldered…at one point later in race someone bumped into me and apologized, I know I did the same. I’ve been elbowed and stepped on worse at other races. Many people wore ponchos (some the whole race) and the only almost oopses I had were with two runners who’d run their iPod cords outside their poncho, and there was a huge amount of slack cord. Both times, I caught the cord between my fingers on a forward right arm swing, realized it and yanked my arm back. Glad I didn’t wind up pulling it out of their ears, ouch. Also, guys really do peel off into the woods next to the road shortly after the start to urinate – and they’re not shy (I’d read about this so it was kind of funny).

THE RACE

So how’s the downhill start? Not unmanageable, even in the rain with the crowds. I think you’d need more space to really be able to take advantage of it and go out too fast, but that may have just been how it was on the day. I was nervous about downhill with the rain, but it was fine. I was being careful, trying to watch my footing and run with the best form I could.

Each of the towns you pass through has a sign on the course saying either “Entering X” or “Welcome to X”. The sign for the second town, Ashland, came very quickly – I thought “already?”

One really cool thing is that from the start, even when you begin to get some space in the pack, if you look ahead, as far as you can see are the bobbing heads and bright colors of the runners ahead of you. Britt had mentioned this in his book and it shows in photos.

Spectators giving out orange slices (I’d read about it) must be a Boston thing. I’ve never seen it anywhere else. People were standing out in the cold rain and wind with tubs and dishes of oranges they’d spent time preparing, hoping to help us. A few places were giving out their own water, one woman was trying to hand out Twizzlers. I think there were some sort of ice pops being given out at the top of Heartbreak, but doubt they had many takers. I did see at least 3-5 spectators handing out paper towels, a nice thought as you could dry your face or glasses and feel less soggy even for a moment.

Early on, I saw the man who does the race in a wheelchair, backwards, pushing only with his feet. I saw Peter Sagal guiding his Team with a Vision blind runner. Saw a few more guides/runners from them and Achilles. I saw charity runners supporting a variety of causes, some with names and pictures on their shirts. One in particular struck me, running in memory of her mom and someone else, made me wonder if I would have the guts to run for that knowing how bad I’d feel if I wasn’t successful. Props to the charity runners – training for and running the race is hard enough, raising funds is a whole extra effort.

The first half of the race felt like it took a long time to happen, though it was my faster half of the race. Somewhere around mile 9, it felt like some energy went out of my legs. I didn’t feel like I was bonking, but I wonder if I ran the race more glycogen-depleted than I thought due to all the time pre-start and being so cold. I knew there was a lot of race yet to go.

I started thinking about getting to 10 miles, then after that to the halfway, then thinking of it as a training run in terms of mileage (only 13 miles!), then told myself “get into the hills and you’re into single digits”, “get to Heartbreak and you’re under 6 miles to go”. I also was looking for landmarks and thinking when I would take my next gel. Sometimes I wasn’t thinking at all, just moving and watching out for anything in the road that might be a problem.

I was very lucky. I had no real physical problems including the “boo boos” (as my chiro would say) that had been nagging pre-race. Neither of my PTT tendons acted up, my glute mins were silent for the first time in months, my hamstrings were the quietest they’ve been in maybe a year (go quad sleeves!) and my quads didn’t hurt. My hips (flexors) and calves felt a little tight, and my feet definitely were feeling the pounding on the pavement, but there wasn’t ever anything that made me concerned or made me consider stopping. Somewhere around miles 9-10, I started to feel the weird “pre-collapse” sensation in my left ankle. I fretted about it a bit and tried to watch how I was landing, check my form. Thankfully, the sensation did pass without incident. Afterward, I noted real soreness (to the touch) in my upper arms (biceps). This happens to me post-race but less so on training runs unless they’re long/goal pace. Interestingly, Shalane apparently had the same problem at Boston.

At multiple points during the first half to 16 miles, I was getting cramping that almost felt like a side stitch, but not in the right place for that. It didn’t seem to be related to when I took gel/water, which sometimes has happened in training runs, and it felt different than that. I tried to treat it like a stitch and exhale hard when my foot hit on that side. It helped momentarily, but then it would come back. Slowing down a little seemed to help, and when I tried to speed back up, sometimes it would come back. I tried to do what I could when it wasn’t happening in terms of pace, but I’m not the greatest judge of pace, and the rolling course made it harder to hold a steady pace. After that, the cramping seemed to improve. Well, up until mile 19.

After the halfway point, then I started to think about the course more, knowing “downhill at 15, then the hills start, then downhill, then get to the Citgo sign, then you’re close”.

It looks “flat” from about mile 6 to the downhill before 16, but I knew from running the course profile that it wasn’t. I’m so glad I trained for the seemingly constant rolling. There is so little flat on the course, and sometimes my brain would say “geez, ANOTHER uphill, come on!” but it would be short and fairly shallow, and then over. If I’d not been expecting it or hadn’t practiced it, I think it could have gotten in my head.

It’s interesting how some irritating things you can just force your mind to ignore and tolerate during a run or race, and others just keep bugging you. For example, I had put the FRS chews in the upper chest pocket of the vest so I could easily get to them. However, since I hadn’t taken them, they started bouncing against my chest and were painful and annoying. It took a lot of work with gloved hands, on the run, to get them out and into another pocket.

FUELING & AID/SUPPORT

I took my Vanilla Bean & water at the start. The plan was to take a gel every 3 miles, which isn’t exactly what happened. I took a Vanilla at mile 3, Salted Watermelon at 6, Strawberry Kiwi Roctane around 10, Salted Caramel at 13, Blue Pom Roctane at 16 & 19, and Caramel Macchiato at 22. The “salted” gels tasted particularly good. (a sign I was down on eletrolytes? had some in my belt but no way I could have gotten them with hands so cold)

It was taking me longer to get the gel out of the wet cold belt (sweat more than rain) with wet cold hands (gloved or not) and I don’t think it was consistent whether the aid stations were before or after the mile markers. This made it harder to anticipate for me – it’s also easier to see them in advance when there are less people on course, the volunteers stand out more in empty space though their orange jackets were helpful for visibility.

I went through several iterations/process improvements with the gels. I started taking my right glove off to fish for the gel. (it eventually got so hard to get back on soaking wet that I just shoved it in my pocket) Then I’d transfer it to the left hand, open it, get as much down as I could and get a couple sips of water (which was pretty darned chilly).

The next improvement was to – since I was losing time at each stop anyway – get the NEXT gel out and put it in the chest pocket of the vest. Then I changed that to just carrying it in my left hand for the next 3 miles. I couldn’t get the gel I wanted at mile 9 (which is why I wound up taking the gel for mile 12 at mile 10) and got frustrated.

I turned the flip belt around after mile 10 – moving the emptier pockets in the front to the back – but what I didn’t realize was that the belt had rolled so that the slits to get to the gels were now facing my body, not away from it. This became frustrating and tiring. It was taking more and more effort to get any gel out, and it was work to make myself keep digging for them, holding them and taking them. I went from tossing the top you tear off to ripping it off with my teeth and attempting to at least spit it away from me before taking the gel. By the time I got to 22 and took what turned out to be the last one, I don’t know if I figured I’d make it without another or it just seemed like too much work. The Jet Blackberry might have perked me up if I’d taken it at 23 or 24.

The aid stations themselves were excellent. They were every mile starting at 2, great idea…. 4 tables of Gatorade then 4 tables of water…then another set on the other side of the road a little further down so you never had to change sides of the road…that said, you spent a lot of time running through a lot of cups.

There was plenty of on course support. In addition to the race volunteers, there was a huge law enforcement/security presence (local police in fluorescent vests & uniformed National Guard, guys in fatigues and barriers in some places) and a med tent about each mile with big electronic sign reminding us of that before you got there, certainly was each mile late in race. Some of the police and National Guard guys were even clapping, cheering and encouraging us. I tried to thank a few, but didn’t have much energy.

And, every med tent/aid station also had portajohns. This became important to me when the cramping finally indicated something was going to happen no matter where I was. Fortunately, I was approaching the mile 19 aid station at the time. I ran all the way to the curb, and afterward I made sure to go back to the point where I stepped off the road and start running right from there, so I do believe I ran every step of the race. I lost about 4 minutes, best I can tell. Glad it happened before Heartbreak.

MORE RANDOM THOUGHTS 

The crowd support was amazing, all that people had said it was, very impressive in the conditions and very helpful to me, surprising as I can get annoyed with people, crowds. The only thing that bugged me was so many spectators were on the course – not off to the side – for hand slaps, really too far into the road so that you had to move to not run into them if you didn’t want to slap. At one point, the crowd was pounding on the sponsor ad banners that are zip-tied to the barricades (in some places there are barricades) as they do in cycling races, and I really liked the sound effect of that. It was almost like the beat of music.

Due to the crowds, I paused my iPod a fair number of times. I repeated a couple songs early. While I wouldn’t want to run without music, as I like having that boost, I couldn’t rely on being able to hear songs or on the timing of them given the crowds and varying paces. I’d run with music again, but probably be quicker to pause or skip or repeat. It was also a little challenging in that my shuffle was on my bra, under the vest and 2 layers of shirt, so some fiddling was required any time I wanted to adjust. Managed it mostly with the gloves while I had them on, and was glad I didn’t screw it up somehow. The iPod came through unscathed as did my fantastic yurbuds.

People were cooking (or restaurants were) in the first 10k or so and it smelled wonderful. Wood smoke, barbecue and I think burgers. The thought did flash “I’d love to stop and get warm and have a hamburger” but only for a moment. Fortunately there weren’t really any smells that were unpleasant or made me queasy. (and with the rain I didn’t notice anyone’s cologne or detergent smells, as I have in other races – nice)

As far as the wet conditions, I think the rain didn’t affect my feet as much as unavoidable puddles did. I tried to get around them but sometimes I just couldn’t. Also, runners kicked up water onto my shoes as they passed. I suspect I did that to some folks too. I used Trail Toes on my feet (rec by my friend Felicia, she used it in Marathon des Sables) and it was was awesome, not a single blister including the one that had been popping up on runs at home! I body-glided the heck out of everything else, which I usually don’t. I think under arms, at bra straps and around where the vest hit my neck probably helped. I had no chafing.

I had a lot of moments of thinking, “Oh yes that’s that place I saw in the book or on video” – TJ’s bar, the ice cream store, the Ashland clock tower, the Framingham train station, shops I’d seen on video….somehow I missed seeing the Stylianos Kyriakides and Johnny Kelley statues as well as the Team Hoyt statue. So much is already hazy in my memory….Only on reviewing Britt’s book to help me with this recap did I recall that “yes, we ran by a lake” (Lake Cochituate, in mile 10). I’d completely forgotten. I wish there was a recording chip in my brain that I could play for myself as well as for you, to re-experience the race.

I’m glad I knew the places where there were train tracks to be careful of in the wet conditions. I really appreciated people who’d told me their perspective on different points on the course. I also appreciated DH’s tips on running in the rain – avoid running on the paint on the street and steer clear of manhole covers or other metal. The dips for some of the utility access, covered by small round metal plates set down below street level, collected water and were things to be careful of. I managed with the metal and only got forced onto paint a few times. With so many runners, you don’t always get your choice of where to run.

There wasn’t very much camber or tilt to the road, which I had worried about – yay!

I spent a lot of time focusing on the ground for caution, people around me, thinking about gels, looking at spectator and sights. I didn’t have a lot of spare brain power to think thoughts or really hear my music. Looking back, it seems like I was mostly focused on the race or not thinking at all, with some stray thoughts coming in, or giving myself reminders about gels, form, etc. I wasn’t spending a lot of time talking to myself either. Some encouragement, some nudging or determined “I will do x, I won’t do y” or things like that. I went through my apparently typical process (seems to happen each race) of telling myself “you can walk if you need to, or crawl, but you’re finishing” to realizing that I’d be really ticked and really cold if that happened, and that I didn’t NEED to walk, and then telling myself that I would run the whole race, no matter the pace. I can begin to understand how the elites race without music (believe they have to, under the rules) and how many of us regular folks do as well. I still like the option for myself though.

I have so many snapshots in my head of towns, trees, buildings, people and signs. I wish I could share them all with you.

I didn’t see any of the people I knew who said they’d be out cheering at different points along the course. But I didn’t spent much time looking, except scanning for Christine near Wellesley. By the way, her mom Pam really has some grit, running though she’d spent Saturday night in the ER with dehydration from food poisoning.

It was interesting to be running in such a huge event, surrounded by people and crowds, and also be quite alone. I didn’t see that many people running in pairs or groups (makes sense if you’re running for time, Baystate was like that). It made me wonder what it would be like to run the race with someone.

It was helpful to have run the Runners’ World Heartbreak Hill Half even though it was last June. I recognized the turn at the firehouse (which I’d also seen in pictures) and passed the hospital and BC thinking “been here, run this”. I really hope they can have the event again in 2016.

At the time I passed through, Wellesley college women were not out in full force (or I didn’t think so) and I didn’t see the sign I’d put in for. It wasn’t a scream tunnel, but people on one side. The Boston College cheering section, on the other hand, was deafening. Families out in Newton Hills. So many people out to cheer us the whole way.

I saw a woman w 75+ on her back and, in the last mile, a man with 80+, inspiring. I saw people with shirts indicating how many Bostons or marathons they’d done, or how many/which of the World Marathon Majors. I saw someone running in what looked like a gladiator costume, complete with helmet, cape and sword he was holding out in front of him. He was running with someone else, I’m not sure if he was supposed to be chasing her or what.

At some point in the first half I thought, “I can do this course better, this isn’t an unmanageable course for me”. I was pleased that I thought that and pleased to discover that it wasn’t so far outside my ability that I couldn’t do it or could never improve. I ran the whole thing the first time!

THE NEWTON HILLS

All my research and course-specific treadmill training paid off – the hills were not as bad as I would have expected, including Heartbreak! This is not to say they were easy, but I was pretty afraid of them after all the warnings and given my lack of downhill training and general hill experience.

The first is what I call “Dave McGillivray Hill” – because he always talks about it, says it’s hard and that people get surprised by it. It’s when you cross 95/128 and is basically an overpass open to the conditions. He says whatever the weather is, it’ll be accentuated there – more wind/cold/heat. I thought of Dave several times, particularly regarding the weather, as in his memoir he jokes that it rains whenever he puts on a race, and because I knew he’d be going back out on the course, later, when the forecast was for worse weather, to run his Boston. (He did, and the weather was worse. He’s such an impressive guy, I’m a fan.)

So I knew “that was the first, 3 more”.

I repeated some songs – Uptown Funk and My Body (thanks Felicia) almost the whole way in the Newton Hills. The beat and the lyrics helped.

I don’t remember much about the next 2 hills, I was trying to look at the houses and see if I remembered any from the half marathon, look at the people. Also, the aid stations every mile are a distraction and something you must pay attention to even if you’re not going to stop as you need to be aware of cups, other runners, etc.

I kept an eye on my Garmin, knowing from my training where Heartbreak was and knowing the offset of my Garmin from the course markers, and I thought, “ok, we must be starting pretty soon”. There was a fairly large hill, but I’d expected more spectators and sponsor tents at the top (from Britt’s book). I kept thinking “this must be it” and when I got to the top I saw a sign that said something like “top of Heartbreak Hill” off to the side, by its lonesome. I’d expected lots of hoopla, signs, yelling, music.

AFTER THE HILLS

If I recall there’s a little flat following, then another slight up, then the downhill I’d been warned about by the woman on Metro. It was noticeably down, but not bad on my legs.

I knew from the profile that there was one more brief incline before we got closer to the Citgo sign.

Somewhere late in the race volunteers were handing out heat sheets (think it was after the hills) and some people took them and ran with them. The people who were walking surely needed them but it can’t have been close to enough.

The Citgo sign appeared somewhat suddenly, and with the misty rain it was almost like a mirage as well as a beacon. Glad I knew that when you first see the Citgo sign (just around 24) you are NOT at mile 25 – it’s when you’re AT the Citgo sign. Happily, there are signs that tell you you’re at 25 and signs for 1 mile to go. By the time we got to mile 25, the crowd support was so deafening I stopped my iPod and pulled out my earbuds to soak it in. I had planned to pull them out on Hereford and tuck them under the vest so I wasn’t wearing them in the photos, so this was just early.

THE LAST MILE

Running on Commonwealth, the crowds were thick and very supportive, and could cheer for individual runners as we were spread out more now.

As I approached Mass Ave, I heard chants of “USA” from the crowd on Mass Ave, and I chanted for a moment. In front of me was a dual “blade runner”, and the back of his shirt said “The voice inside your head that says you can’t do it is a liar.” This choked me up a little. As I passed under Mass Ave, it got very quiet, as I’d read it would. When we climbed the small incline and I saw what I knew (from running it on 2 fun runs and walking it, and from videos) was THE turn onto Hereford, it started to hit me. Right on Hereford, left on Boylston, just like everything I’ve read, just like the tshirt I bought. It’s hitting me what it really means.

I‘m about to finish the BOSTON MARATHON.

I nearly lost it on Hereford, I was both smiling and in tears, I could feel myself start to gasp like I was crying and had to tell myself out loud “keep it together”. I put my sunglasses on top of my visor so the photos would show my face.

THE FINISH

Left on Boylston. The last stretch on Boylston after you turn the corner is indeed – as you have heard and read – longer than you think, even when you know that you’ll feel that way and know how long it is! You can see the finish at the turn, but mostly because you know it’s there (at least for someone with my poor eyesight) and you’ve seen it in the days leading up to the race. The crowds help you avoid that “will I ever get there” feeling when you see the finish far away, and you can see everyone trying to come up with a finishing kick with whatever they’ve got left. I know I did.

I knew the photographers were up above, so when I came around the corner, I unzipped my vest and tried to keep the sides behind my elbows so they could see my bib. I managed to flick my eyes left as I passed The Pour House, a bar/restaurant my father-in-law used to stand in front of when he went out to cheer the runners. He and my mother-in-law weren’t able to make it to Boston, but I knew they were sending me good vibes and I wanted to acknowledge that. I started that smiling/crying/effort thing again, and tried to keep my head up as I moved forward. I raised my arms a few times, or tried anyway (they didn’t get up that far) as I approached the area where I knew – from seeing other photos – they’d start snapping. I looked up, smiled, crossed the mat and went under the arch. Then I stopped my Garmin and walked forward.

AFTER THE FINISH

The finish volunteers were great. I was so overcome people kept asking me if I was ok (I was almost crying) and I just kept nodding saying, “my first Boston” and they’d congratulate me. I probably also looked a little cold. My lips can go kind of purple when I’ve been very cold for a long time.

First you get water, then you go longer than you think you would until you get that beautiful medal. There are a LOT of volunteers giving them out…I got a lovely woman in a Canada hat who gave me lots of hugs when I said it was my first. She said, “but not your last, right?” She volunteers while her husband runs – this year was his 15th Boston. I said I was coming back next year and she should wear the same hat, I’d look for her.

Then you go further to get the “heatsheets” which – in a lovely touch – the volunteers actually put ON you, requiring very little effort. One woman rushed over to me saying, “you look so cold” and I was. She asked if I had gloves (I’d shoved my soaking wet gloves in pockets, seemed colder to have them on) and when I told her they were wet, she said, “I bought dress socks and I have an extra pair in my pocket, do you want them?” I took them. So wonderful how nice people are. I know Boston’s a big race and a big deal, but the sheer number of volunteers, all of whom seemed pleasant and well trained/equipped to deal with runners, is impressive and appreciated.

Then I headed back to hotel, basically asking every little way – “can I get out of the runner area this way” and then “where is my hotel”. A few of us begged to cut through the hotel’s restaurant entrance and staff let us in even though they weren’t supposed to. Then there were (no kidding) 40 people in line for elevators, and some security guy took the 3 of us in our heat sheets into a service elevator to get us to our rooms quickly. Kudos.

I got back to the room where DH helped me get out of some of the wet cold clothes. I started drinking my Ultragen while telling him everything I could think of from the race, putting it in his memory so he could remind me. He’d gone out and watched the race, so had only gotten back to the hotel shortly before I arrived. He had a great vantage point at the turn onto Boylston but didn’t see me (of course, I was dressed differently than when I left the room).

Garmin geek moment: I ran only 0.29 extra miles, not bad especially given it includes the walk off the course to/from the portajohn – so I’m getting better at tangents and not weaving. More race experience helps I guess.

As time has passed since the race, and given I seem to have fared relatively well in terms of stiffness/soreness, it’s become easy to think that maybe I didn’t push hard enough. That’s when DH reminds me that the day before race, I’d started to have GI and (sorry guys) female issues. These weren’t caused by – but were not helped by – a more “al dente” chicken and veggie dish at PF Chang’s than ordered. (the server also put his thumb in the rice bowl when serving it – 3x they’ve screwed up my food pre-race, done with them)

These issues did affect me during the race, which I haven’t had happen before. I know there were times when I consciously pulled back my pace to see if I could get various GI/tummy pains to stop, and I’m sure there were times when I adjusted my pace without being aware I was doing so. I think those issues combined with getting very cold pre-race and possibly being down on fuel contributed to my pace slowing. Also, I lost ~4 minutes to the urgent portajohn stop. The GI issues have continued post-race but have gotten better in the days since.

We managed to find me on the finish line camera. DH watched the replay a couple of times and asked “were you raising your arms?” I replied, “I was trying to”. He said that watching me finish, he could tell I’d given it everything I had. He also saw me relatively shortly (20 minutes) post-race and knew how I was doing at that point.

I’m not saying the GI/female issues were the sole cause of my time being what it was but I do believe the GI stuff had more than a minor impact. There’s no way to know how much other situations (fatigue/poor sleep especially the week before the race, eating bars for meals most of Fri/Sat, standing in the bus line and in the Village, how the training cycle had gone) contributed, but they certainly may have. I plan to assess food strategies (I don’t think in-race fueling was a problem, will look at pre-race and day before) but I also know that sometimes things just happen, and certainly that’s the case with female hormones. One does what one can, but one is still not in control of them and when they go awry, it can be unpleasant.

I liked this quote from Shalane post-race: “Despite a rough race, I’m truly grateful to have had the opportunity to race the best in the world on the most storied marathon course. Races that don’t go well always make me appreciate even more the ones that do. Success is not linear. Time to keep pushing on.” I’m also encouraged by similar perspectives expressed by Andrea Duke in her recap and Kris Law in hers. One “bad” race is just one day, it doesn’t mean more than that. I love the Kenyan approach that you’re as good as your best race, even if you haven’t had it yet. They shake off bad days/races very quickly, from what I’ve read, and move on.

I don’t know that I’d put this race in the “bad” category – I don’t like my finishing time, but there was a lot of good on the day. I RAN & FINISHED BOSTON! I ran every step, I kept my head and achieved my main goals, I did better on the hills than I expected, better on the hills than I would have thought, and I didn’t do anything to set myself back. I learned some things about myself as a person and a runner too, and that’s always good. I can draw on the race in the future, and I plan to.

I had some near-perfect races last year that got me BQs and PRs. I happened to have a less-than-perfect day physically for my first Boston, but you know what? It was still a pretty terrific experience – even with the weather that so scared me before the race, which now I know I can handle!

I plan more posts on the weekend’s events (pictures!), the day after the race, and recovery once we returned home. If you have questions I didn’t answer above, or on those other topics – or anything related to my Boston experience – please get in touch.

May I always remember what a gift this race day was, and be grateful for it as well for as all the hard work and support and luck that got me to it. I am so lucky to have been able to do this once in my lifetime. That I have a BQ for 2016 and thus the opportunity to run it again, and do better, is very precious to me. I intend to work hard to do honor and justice to the legendary race that I’ve fallen for. I can see it being a race I do as many times as I earn the privilege to stand on the starting line.

Boston, love ya, mean it! I’ll be back……and yes, IT WAS ALL WORTH IT!

runner finish area exit sign

runner finish area exit sign



Thankful Thursday after my first Boston Marathon!

2015 Boston Marathon medal

2015 Boston Marathon medal

It’s the Thankful Thursday after my first Boston Marathon!

I am so very thankful for all who helped me along the way to my first Boston Marathon finish, all the way from DNSing Richmond 2013 and training for Shamrock 2014, supporting my BQ efforts that culminated in a dream come true.

  • DH – for so long, for so many things and everything, and extra special gratitude for amazing race weekend support
  • my chiro (especially all the last minute support/appts and calming me down)
  • my sister
  • my friends – especially K
  • my massage therapist (texting me during the weekend with support and after, eagerly asking “did you wear the jacket?”)
  • tweeps & blog readers – for all your support and encouragement every day and especially the times I’ve needed it most – I thought of you all during the race…..and many of you inspire me as well

I’m thankful for my role models and inspirations  – inspiring me in training, in not giving up and coming back, in putting in the time and effort to do the “little” and “extra” things that aren’t truly either: Meb, Deena, Joanie

And I’m thankful for people I’d never met before who helped me me race weekend:

  • The European CompressSport sleeve guy at the expo – If I could hug him, I would. I went to get quad sleeves, which I’d never used before, per my chiro, as I pulled a groin muscle Wed night before the race. The CompressSport guy promised they’d be fine on race day, He was right. I wore Sat afternoon, evening and slept in them, wore them for the Sun shakeout run and then walking around. I then broke rule #1 and wore them for the race – they really helped my hams, groin pull and probably quads for downhill, just as the guy had said! (also kept me a bit warmer as I was wearing very thin shorts) Utterly sold. Wearing for recovery also.
  • The helpful young man and woman at the Saucony expo booth during my desperate search for warmer gloves who sent me to Marathon Sports on Boylston, and the young woman at Marathon Sports who put gloves aside for me when I called ahead. Those gloves, though they eventually were dripping wet and so cold I had to take them off. I think having the warmer gloves really helped.
  • A fellow runner waiting in the Athletes’ Village….a Vermont woman who was one of the charity runners, I think her bib was something like 28xxx. She gave me a long sleeved midweight tech shirt that she was going to toss. She pretty much forced it on me as I was standing there shaking like a leaf as I was SO cold – I think I would have been way too cold without the shirt. In the cold, wind and rain, having that extra shirt layer on my core, plus on top of the arm warmers, really made a huge difference and may have saved me from hypothermia…in retrospect, based on my poor cognitive processes and inability to make a decision in the Village. I may have been inching toward hypothermia pre-race. I couldn’t decide the simplest things: Should I eat my applesauce and Vespa as planned though it was a bit late? Should I take the shirt? I dithered on that for a LONG time and the woman finally almost demanded I put it on.
  • I met Nico, a charity runner, while we were in the corrals. He had such an interesting and inspiring story and was a “double agent” Marathon Maniac. He also helped me find the last set of portajohns and helped me get my sweatpants off without having to sit down.
  • Post-race, the heatsheet volunteer who rushed over to me saying “you look so cold” and I was. She asked if I had gloves (I’d shoved my soaking wet gloves in pockets somewhere back around the hills, seemed colder to have them on) and when I told her they were wet, she said “I bought dress socks and I have an extra pair in my pocket, do you want them?” I took them. They may have helped a bit on the way back to the hotel, when the breeze was quite unpleasant even with the heatsheet (which doesn’t cover everything).
  • People who gave me directions that helped me get back to the hotel (I was pretty cold and tired at that point) and people who let us cut through the hotel’s restaurant entrance though they weren’t supposed to. Then there were (no kidding) 40 people in line for elevators, and some security guy took the 3 of us in our heat sheets into a service elevator to get us to our rooms quickly.
  • The many, many, many volunteers who stood out in really unpleasant conditions to make sure the runners had what we needed and were taken care of. What incredible spirit.
  • The law enforcement and medical personnel who kept us safe start to finish and were a supportive presence along the way, some clapping and cheering us on while they did their duties.
  • The spectators. The crowd support was amazing, even deafening in places, and it really helped. Kids and elderly folks in the road wanting hand slaps, families out in soaking cold weather, people with orange slices and candy and signs, people making noise however they could to lift our spirits and help us keep moving forward despite fatigue or pain or weather. You all are a credit to Boston!

The unicorn had to visit my pal the treadmill who enabled me to achieve this goal….I think they look great together. Dreams CAN come true.

unicorn and treadmill

unicorn and treadmill

And yes, I’ll probably leave the course profile there – why not? We know I’ll start training for Boston 2016 ASAP.

What are you thankful for? If you ran Boston, I hope it was a wonderful experience for you regardless of weather and finish time! 



Arizona – Where I Went

Many thanks to Tara for graciously allowing me to cover multiple weekends (and the days in between) as part of her Weekend Update linkup!

While most of my time in Arizona was spent in the “Across the Years” zone – preparing for, running, recovering from, crewing, recovering from crewing the race – we did manage to see some sights and enjoy some favorite and new places. Note, there is some crossover between this and the “what I ate” post that’s coming soon.

Friday 12/26 – Hit up the great folks at Tribe Multisport for an extra flask of my gel in case I needed it. Turns out I didn’t, but I am glad I was able to get it. They have the largest section of nutrition products I’ve seen anywhere! Their friendly folks talked to us about races, trails and the general area. Also went to the iRun running store, again, great folks. Really enjoyed talking to people in both stores. What a terrific endurance sports vibe and community in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area!

In the evening, we went to the Desert Botanical Garden – a place we’ve enjoyed before for the plant life and the Chihuly exhibits. They were running a holiday event called “Luminarias” in which the garden was lit with hundreds of luminaria and “fairy” lights on trees, and various local musical groups were playing at different spots on the property. It’s a hugely popular event, we ordered tickets well in advance. I was captured by some great jazz music while walking the path through the garden….it drew me to a tent where I heard a great jazz group – the Adam Roberts Jazz Ensemble (he’s the saxophonist and appears to be the leader, and he has some stuff on youtube). I actually recorded their version of Holly Jolly Christmas (which the leader said was their “demented” version, seemed perfectly fine to me) but it’s too long to embed and I haven’t figured out how to clip it. Perhaps for next year.

 

Luminaria

Luminaria

 

tree at Luminarias

tree at Luminarias

more Luminarias lights

more Luminarias lights

star lights, jazz band

star lights, jazz band

Adam Roberts jazz ensemble

the jazz group I liked – Adam Roberts jazz ensemble

Saturday 12/27 – Across the Years (ATY) race packet pickup started at 2pm. After a lazy morning at the hotel, we drove the 35-40 minutes to the race site. We were able to get our bibs and race belt, and the extra swag bag (purchased, got some nice logo stuff!). Here’s the registration tent (white, on left).

ATY registration tent on left

ATY registration tent on left

Below, on the right you see the edge of the red medical tent (not shown and closer to me would be the white warming tent) and the blue/black large aid station tent where the vast array of foods and drinks provided by the race organizers were available during the race (they even changed some of what they served during the race, depending on time of day and across days so people would find something they liked and wouldn’t get bored). The volunteers were uniformly terrific, whether at the registration tent, the aid station or anywhere else. Friendly, welcoming, enthusiastic, helpful.

aid station on the right

aid station on the right

We scoped out the “tent city” – you could order a tent of different sizes, a cot, and tables. We ordered a tent big enough to stand up in the center (smart move by DH), a cot and a table. To our delight, the tents were set up, sparing us the (planned) time and stress of doing it ourselves, and cots already inside. Brilliant! One more reason Aravaipa Running ROCKS! We chose a tent right next to the track, across from a light, and put our name on it. We also put the table up in front of the tent, next to the track.

tents for runners & crew

tents for runners & crew

We even got a chance to walk part of the course (the part that wasn’t inside the Camelback Ranch gates, which were closed to us until the race). I saw this 30 times in the course of my race (this is the way the last 90 minutes or so went, the first part of the race I was going the other way).

part of the ATY course

part of the ATY course

Sunday 12/28 – my race! In case you missed it, here’s the recap. The only places we went other than the race were to Five Guys and Picazzo’s to satisfy post-race cravings that evening. I’ll share all the food details with you in an upcoming post.

Monday 12/29 – Recovery day, so nothing was planned. I did some light biking in the hotel gym before starting the gluten-free binge with breakfast out at the tremendous Jewel’s totally gluten-free bakery/cafe. (more on that to come, just let me say….pancakes) We spent some time at REI shopping for rain and cold gear due to the race forecast. We hoped that by doing (as I called it) the “credit card anti-rain dance” and dropping a fair amount of funds, the rain wouldn’t show up for my runner’s race. No such luck, though it could have been worse. (more on that in an upcoming post on crewing a 24 hour race) For dinner, a new yummy place called Chelsea’s Kitchen.

Tuesday 12/30 – aka the day before crewing my runner’s race…..I had a massage while DH went out to breakfast to a non-GF friendly restaurant. For dinner, we hit Picazzo’s again.

Wednesday 12/31 – Up at 5am, at race site by 7am for 9 am start – enjoyed crewing the race!

Thursday 1/1 – (still) Crewing the race till 9am, then getting runner & car full of stuff back to hotel, not a trivial task given all the supplies we’d brought. Got back to hotel. slept, got up and ate (I don’t even remember what!) and tried to get more sleep, which was tougher than you’d think.

Friday 1/2 – DH & I both got massages. I was so tired I almost fell asleep in the lounge afterward (the massage therapist suggested I lay down for a while). We went out to eat BBQ – tried one place that smelled fantastic but after standing outside in line for 15 minutes, we decided not to wait for what looked like another hour to get in the door to order, and found a second only okay BBQ place. Later we went to Whole Foods and got some Sweet Republic ice cream/gelato.

Saturday 1/3 – Started the day with my first run since the race, 6.5 miles on the hotel treadmill. We visited the Japanese Friendship Garden, lovely, fairly peaceful, and interesting. Apologies for forgetting the names of the stone sculpture structures (we didn’t keep the pamphlet). I even bought a packet of food to feed the 300-500 koi that live in the pond (some gorgeous colors, especially a blue/white and a blue/orange). It took both DH and I multiple attempts and a combined effort to get the food to the koi instead of the really pushy ducks (who’d peck at the koi, follow you around….they get a lot of practice at stealing food I think).

Friendship Garden sign

Friendship Garden sign

castle guardian fish

castle guardian fish

 

waterfall

waterfall

stone sculpture

stone sculpture

stone lighthouse

stone lighthouse

koi

koi

We also walked in the neighborhood as it had interesting houses, more like Portland or Craftsman type – with green grass lawns, not the norm in Arizona! I didn’t take any photos, just enjoyed the stroll.

We made a quick trip to Walmart for a luggage strap, with a stop at Jewel’s for pastries. I think we just ate leftovers in the room for dinner. The iPhone Health app tells me I managed 6.5 miles of walking on Saturday.

Sunday 1/4 – Our last day in Arizona (sad face). After a quick 3.5 miles on the hotel treadmill, headed back to Jewel’s for one last breakfast and to pick up pancakes, mix and a variety of pastries to bring home for my next week of GF binging, ahem, recovery. We walked the neighborhoods around the hotel a lot – another 6 miles according to my iPhone – and up and down a hill near the hotel. Some lovely views.

house overlooking golf course

house overlooking golf course

 

view of Camelback Mountain from neighborhood behind hotel

view of Camelback Mountain from neighborhood behind hotel

cactus lit by the setting sun

cactus lit by the setting sun

sunset our last night there

sunset our last night there

Monday 1/5 – We headed to the airport before 7am, saw a lovely sunrise from the rental car center, and flew back to DC/NoVa. Here are a few photos from the plane, which came out surprisingly well! I don’t really know what any of them are of, though….

Phoenix from plane

Phoenix from plane

river in canyon

river in canyon

snow-capped peak

snow-capped peak

Hope you enjoyed seeing a bit of my trip – posts on what I ate and on crewing the 24h are likely coming sometime relatively soon. (ICYMI, I updated my podcast list.) I’ll also be getting back to more “regular” posts on training (here’s an update) and such, as the day job, life and training permits. I’m toying with putting up a page of book recommendations and a 2014 recap as well.

Happy Monday and have a great week!

 

 



Boston Training so far

Welcome to new readers! I’m pleased to join the Runners Connect linkup today to share my training for my first Boston in April 2015.

Boston 2015 Acceptance Confirmation

Boston 2015 Acceptance Confirmation

NB: I do my running on my treadmill unless it says otherwise.

Training Recap Week of Dec 1, 2014 

Run summary – details here

Bet you thought I’d forgotten how to write training recaps! Looking back, the last one was for the week of November 3rd (two weeks pre-Richmond). I don’t know why I didn’t post the week leading up to Richmond, but I didn’t post the weeks post-race because I figured my recovery wasn’t all that interesting.

BUT, since December 1 was 20 weeks to Boston, training has started again. (and the ultra is fast approaching) So here we go!

Run: 47.1 miles – this week, wearing the men’s Brooks Adrenaline 13s, size 9 2E, with toe separator for bunion

Training Recap Week of Dec 8, 2014 

Run summary – details here

Inside 18 weeks to Boston, less than 2 weeks to the ultra.

Run: 55.1 miles (woot!) Stopped wearing toe separator as of Wed. as it seemed like it was causing knee problems. Through Saturday, wearing the men’s Brooks Adrenaline 13s, size 9 2E. Sunday, had to go back to the women’s Adrenaline 13s (10 2E) I’m trying to save.

The two weeks above were hard but great training weeks (details at the links). I nailed the workouts and the second week I felt stronger than the first week. Then, the next two weeks, I was tired, sore, and heavy-legged.

Training Recap Week of Dec 15, 2015 

Run summary – details here

Inside 17 weeks to Boston, the ultra is this weekend! The hay is in the barn for the ultra. Hoping that last week’s fatigue is finally starting to move on out and this week will be an upswing to get me to the race.

Run: 42 miles Turned out to be kind of a “down” or “cutback” week – unplanned, though I probably should have planned it – after 2 great weeks of training. Pretty high fatigue load all week, and some sore, tired and heavy legs. So I went with it instead of trying to push through. We’ll consider that a win – trying to be smart about it.

Training Recap Week of Dec 22, 2014

Ultra race week pre-race week (structured just as I structure race week for marathons)

Mon – biked in the AM and at work at lunch

Tues – 7 mi including cruise intervals

Wed – 6.3 mi including leg speed intervals

Thurs – travel, up for 19 hours

Fri – biked 45 min at hotel gym

Sat – 3.35 mi easy pace shakeout run

Sun RACE DAY – 50k! Completed my first ultra! Race report here

Across The Years

Across The Years

Training Recap Week of Dec 29, 2014

Recovery week 1

Mon – biked 40 min at hotel gym

Tues – biked 25 min at hotel gym

Wed – crewed a runner at 24 hour race starting 9am Wed. (I am working on a post about this.) Up at 5a, to race site at 7am. Over the course of my crewing duties, I was up 33 hours, on my feet and outside most of the time, mostly standing, some walking, a little short running to and from the tent. It was very cold and rainy on and off. My iPhone Health app says I walked ~6 miles during the 24h of 12/31.

Thurs – finishing crewing, back to hotel around 10:30a, started to crash around noon. My iPhone health app says I walked 6.5 miles during the 24h of 1/1.

Fri – hanging with recovering runner, walked about 6 miles just easy out and about at hotel property and running errands, sightseeing

Sat – first run post-race! 6.5 miles easy pace on hotel treadmill, walked an additional 6.5 miles during day at property and sightseeing

Sun – 3.5 mile easy run on hotel treadmill, walked an additional 5 miles during day at property and sightseeing

Training Recap Week of Jan 5, 2015

Recovery week 2

Mon – travel day, no workout (sitting on plane should count for the soreness it caused)

Tues – 7 recovery pace miles, back on my own treadmill (yay!)

Wed – 7.1 miles, easy pace, increased pace 0.1 each mile

Thurs – 8 miles, recovery pace, followed by my chiropractor-prescribed “skaters” exercises (I call them “Ohnos”) and “hard day, weeks 1-2” of Coach Jay Johnson’s General Strength Exercises.  Of course, all my runs are preceded by a 15 min walking warmup and Coach Jay’s Lunge Matrix plus calf stretches on a rocker and drills including high knees, butt kicks, Monty Python walks, karaoke and lateral/front leg swings.

Fri – XT day

Saturday will be my first long run since the ultra. I’m hoping for anywhere from 10-16 miles but will take the “discretion is the better part of valor” approach and go shorter if any problems or excess fatigue seem to be in evidence. Sunday will depend on how I feel, longer would be better, but don’t want to push it. Monday is 14 weeks to Boston! I’ll be working to increase mileage, speed and hills over the next week or so before picking up my “official” 12 week plan.

What’s your biggest concern going into Boston? Mine is the downhills. I can simulate the uphills on my treadmill just fine, but it doesn’t have decline capability and 0% isn’t sufficient (though since I run at 1%, I do feel a difference). In past races, I’ve built confidence and comfort in the training cycle by simulating the race course to the extent I can during my long runs. I’m doing that as best I can for Boston.

Boston elevation spreadsheet and course profile on my treadmill

Boston elevation spreadsheet and course profile on my treadmill

I need to get my leg strength plan laid out (whatever I add to Coach Jay Johnson’s General Strength progression and my chiro exercises). I want to do whatever I can to improve in that regard as well as get outside at least once a week to do whatever downhill I can in my area. I also have core and upper body work to do. I’d like to add in some exercises from Sally McRae for whole body/running strength. I will keep up my usual Wharton Active Isolated Flexibility and hopefully add some Sage Rountree yoga via DVD/podcasts or YogaVibes. I’ve been reading books like Unbreakable Runner and Ready to Run as well as Build Your Runner’s Body. The concepts and exercises in those books, as well as things I learn from my favorite podcasts, will all play a part in my plan/training. I have to be careful not to do too much strength work though, as past experience has shown me it can tire my legs too much and affect my running.

I am torn between trying to soak in the experience of my first Boston (which is what most people suggest) and running as hard and strong as I can to give it my absolute best and do justice to the race, its history, and all the work and years it took me to BQ. If you’re interested, here are the posts on my BQ races: Shamrock – my first BQ, for 2015; Baystate, PR & BQ for 2016, and Richmond, 3rd BQ. I am thinking of a goal time that’s pretty ambitious even on a flat course, but I like to set the bar high. I’ll adjust during training if needed.

How has your training been going? Are you excited, nervous, both? Tell me in the comments or on twitter.

See you in Hopkinton!



Across the Years, my first ultra

Across The Years

Across The Years

Short version: I am an ultrarunner! First 50k in the books. Also got my Maniac. Tougher race than I was expecting, for a variety of reasons (makes perfect sense in retrospect), but I’d do another road 50k or timed event and might go back to this one someday. Met all goals (except the shouldn’t-have-had-one time goal).

Thank you to readers & tweeps for your encouragement and support leading up to the race, and your cheers and congratulations after. It makes a difference and is much appreciated. Want to know more? Read on…..but this is going to be an ultra-length somewhat stream-of-consciousness recap, so get your beverage and snack of choice ready.

ultrarunner shirt

ultrarunner shirt

Of note – there was a brief moment (DH tells me) where I was first female! I’m going to enjoy the fact that the moment existed, however fleeting. Apparently there was also a slightly longer period of time (a few minutes, max) where I was second female, long enough for DH to yell “second female!” at me as I passed him – I savored that for the whole lap. (Correction – DH has told me I was second female until I stopped, and 6th place overall until I stopped. That’s even better!)

I’d show you my heavy glass finisher’s mug/stein, but it’s being shipped to me (thought it safer than carrying on the plane) and I forgot to take a picture before I sent it! Perhaps after it gets here next week.

It’s worth taking a minute to revisit my goals:

1) do nothing to affect my ability to train for Boston (don’t do anything stupid, stop if something hurts too badly, etc.)
2) finish
3) put in an effort I can be proud of, regardless of the outcome (do the best I can “on the day”, whatever that turns out to be)

And of course, despite cautions from smart and experienced ultra folks like Lucho and the ultra-peeps at IRunFar, I had a secret goal time. I didn’t hit my time goal, but I hit all the other goals, so we’re considering this a success….not that the time thing doesn’t bug me, because, well, it’s me, but I gotta stick to the positive and realize it was just not realistic to have a goal time. (that’s why it was a secret, dream goal)

Weather/Pre-race

The weather for my race worked out to be close to perfect in the end (and far better than the day I crewed) but it was COLD at the start. The night before, it went down to 29, and we left the hotel just as the sun was rising. The cold affected my gear choice, at least in the first loops. Once the sun came out, I was able to start peeling off layers and be quite comfortable. It clouded up right after I stopped and the temp immediately dropped. Cold temps in the desert, unless you’re in the sun, seems to be a different animal – colder than the temp would indicate – even folks who live here agree. I didn’t get my full 15 minute walking warmup, but I did walk a bit back and forth and I did do my leg drills – no one looked at me funny, just walked around me. Love these folks.

Race kit

My usual 2014 race outfit of Champion yellow bra, The North Face Better Than Naked yellow singlet, The North Face Better Than Naked gray/yellow split shorts (by the way, the folks at iRun, a local store, agree with me that TNF makes awesome running clothes), my yellow Feetures socks, women’s Adrenaline 13s. PLUS: yellow RUSeen running cap, gray Nathan arm warmers under yellow Frank Shorter arm warmers (like at Richmond), blue toss gloves (which the runner I crewed wound up using and are came home with me again…got those over a decade ago at a running store in Indy called the Athletic Annex) AND my purple The North Face winter running jacket. Yes, it was THAT cold. I peeled off the jacket after the first 3 loops and swapped the hat for my usual The North Face visor. Within another few laps, I dropped off the gloves and arm warmers.

Kit without jacket

race kit w/o jacket

race kit w/o jacket

I listened to podcasts instead of music, and I think that worked out really well. It gave my brain something to focus on and made me laugh a few times. Nice distraction. I have gone back to a couple of the episodes to pull info I wanted – didn’t quite retain it after the race.

Marathon Talk 12/24 episode, guest Simon Freeman
Endurance Planet Ask The Coach ep with my treadmill Boston Q
Trail Runner Nation grab bag with Ian Torrence
Ultrarunnerpod 2014 recap with Tropical John Medinger and Sarah Lavender Smith (I liked the Q of who would you want to run with)
Diz Runs with Bart Yasso (planned this for what I expected to be tough miles, Bart helped me keep going!)
Trail Runner Nation lost and found drop bag call-in with Sally McRae & Coach Jimmy Dean Freeman – only got partway into this, listened to the rest of it on the bike the day after the race.

The physical stuff

The race was fairly difficult from the start in terms of pace. I wanted to go out at a conservative, reasonable pace that I’ve held in “easier” long runs, figuring that if I could hold it, I’d reach my time goal. Not only did I not hit that pace in the first miles (15 sec slower), I didn’t hold it. My average pace for the race looks to be about a minute per mile slower than my intended pace but that’s somewhat skewed by a 3-4 minute portajohn stop late in the race. My per lap pace (and pace per mile) slowed quite a bit after mile 18. I figured I’d hit a “normal” slowdown toward the end of marathon distance, post 20 miles or so, but I didn’t expect the early miles to be as much work as they were. Somehow I thought a slower pace would be more help than it turned out to be.

I wish I’d been able to wear the men’s Adrenalines that had a bit more shoe between my foot and the road….I noticed all the lumps, bumps, grooves and ruts in the road and many of the stones. The Adrenaline is a cushy shoe, but has a high road feel. (Also, I really don’t know how many miles I have on these shoes, probably too many but that’s a challenge when you’re trying to find your next shoe – you wind up putting more miles than you’d like on whatever is still working for you.)

I didn’t have gaiters, though the race organization said runners might like to wear them. I’ve never worn them running, so it would have been a change from my training (and I would have been buying them last minute). I’d checked with one runner who’s done the race and said she didn’t need them. I didn’t need them, but they might have kept some small rocks out of my shoes or at least kept me from being nervous about them. I’m pretty sure I got at least a couple in my shoe as I felt them under my foot. I’d try to shake my shoe a little in an effort to get the rock to move off to the side, i.e., not directly under my heel or arch, and sometimes it worked, sometimes I just dealt with it. I will admit I did wind up thinking “how many more miles with a rock in that place in my shoe?” (we did get gaiters for the runner I crewed, and they really helped) Not sure gaiters would have kept my shoes/socks from picking up dust though! My shoes seem to be shaking it off, but my socks may be permanently tinted, a souvenir. (to go w/ great swag)

 

dusty shoe/sock

dusty shoe/sock

There was a 90 degree turn relatively close to the timing mat (maybe 200 yards away) – it was harder on the loops the way we started than the (reverse) way we ran after 4 hours. It was some mats and a board (I think) to create a slant instead of the curb that was underneath, but there were some metal barriers along one direction to keep non-runners off the course, and that caused the hard turn in a short space (<10 feet).

How did I feel during the race? Slow. Weak-ish. Possibly under fueled (though looking at my in-race fueling says that’s not the problem). I didn’t feel as strong as I have on at least some, if not many, of my long runs. I didn’t perceive high HR or a level of exertion that concerned me about my ability to continue safely, it just felt harder than I’d expected or hoped. My RHR had seemed high the couple of days prior to the race, and we’d been up for 20+ hours on Thursday (race was Sunday) with travel, trying to get our room, food, etc. Could have been dehydrated due to the desert air and the cold not making me feel thirsty the few days beforehand. Didn’t get enough sleep Wed, Th nights and had a bad stomach night either Fri or Sat, cat recall. There was some trip stress going on (which includes food stress) and I was out of my normal routine. But I’d hoped to feel fresher, not as “blah” and heavy-legged as I did. It felt like I was working harder for a slower pace.

Notes from shakeout run day before:

Hams tight,esp L. Calves very tight, also feel in shins. outer hips. Feet feel impact. Bunion a bit sore. (toe on R foot sore from slamming it into the metal leg of the bench in the hotel room during the night a couple days before race….the nail is horribly purple now, but the soreness went away)

During & after race:

Hams didn’t hurt too much during run, not bad after. They were actually more aggravated by the seats in the rental car! (Hyundai Sonata, good to know not to buy one – affected DH & I both the same way.)
Hips hurt some, tight, especially hip flexors. Glutes hurt.
Neck and shoulders hurt A LOT as the race went on. Really painful, especially when I looked up. I was whimpering about it at the finish. DH says maybe from so much time spent looking down at the running surface because of stones, unnevenness. I’m not used to having to look down when I’m on the treadmill, and in road races, I look down but perhaps I scan further out. I was probably looking more just in front of my feet. I had to remind myself to look up at the trees or the little lake in the interior part of the course.
Feet hurt, of course, but more the soles of the feet from the impact of the stones, not much problem with bunion or tendon (yay!). Though I did discover this less-than-happy spot when I took my socks off….it quickly improved. This is the L foot, the emerging bunion, not the already-problematic and deformed R foot/bunion.

L foot hot spot

L foot hot spot

Lower back sore – this has been happening on longer/faster runs, suspect there’s some hip/glute issue in play.
Calves were ok, felt my shins/extensors but it wasn’t horrible.
My biceps and triceps hurt, surprised by that since I wasn’t carrying anything except the water bottle for a few steps to drink it (then I’d toss it and DH retrieved it).

Nutrition

BeetElite (40cal) with water and 3 FRS chews (60 cal, 60mg caffeine) before leaving hotel along with my usual MAP, Wobenzym, etc.
1 serving EFS Liquid Shot Vanilla w/ water at start
The plan was to take gel/water after every 3 laps. I wound up doing that and also taking water the loop after that, then nothing on the next loop. There was an aid station about halfway where you could get some water from a sports cooler and put it in a paper cup or your own water bottle. The table was staffed but they were there to help, not hand out water. You could also leave your own marked water bottle at that aid station so it would be there at any time. I’d written out a fuel plan for DH, who crewed me, and what I actually did turned out to be very close.

I alternated EFS/Gu:
After 3 laps – EFS (no caffeine)
6 – Vanilla Bean GU (20mg caffeine)
9 – EFS
12 – Salted Caramel GU (20mg caffeine)
13/14 – EFS
16 – Strawberry Kiwi Roctane (no caffeine)
19 – EFS
22 – Blueberry Pomegranate Roctane (35mg caffeine)
25 – EFS
29 – Blueberry Pomegranate Roctane (35mg caffeine) I’d planned to take Jet Blackberry but changed my mind, can’t recall if it was taste or worrying about too much caffeine as JB has 40-45mg or if I wanted the extra amino acids and electrolytes of the Roctane.

I didn’t have any problems stomach-wise, though I didn’t feel like I was getting as much boost from the gels as I normally do, or maybe they were wearing off sooner. It was great being crewed though with the loop format I could have crewed myself with just a table and some preparation of water bottles and gel. I did decide at one point to carry an extra gel (Vanilla Bean) in my shorts pocket in case I felt I needed to take one while out on course, near the halfway aid station, but I didn’t use it. I did feel it in my pocket for a while, on my left glute min.

Immediately after stopping, DH handed me my Ultragen recovery drink with ice water (320 calories). I also had a small cup of flat cola (80 cal) from the aid station, as I’d craved it during the run, which has never happened before (DH went to look for it then but they didn’t have it out yet).

So, from waking through the Ultragen, I took in roughly 1600 calories. During the race, 227 total g of carbs, or about 41.27 g/hr. I think that’s about what I have taken in my other races this year.

I also took in roughly 200mg of caffeine, or a little less than a strong real-size coffee. Maybe a little more than my usual daily tea which I didn’t have race day. I tracked caffeine to see how my stomach handled it but I also wanted to know why I was so wired the night of the race, couldn’t get to sleep until the wee hours which is not my normal post-race pattern….I know runners who have this problem, apparently it’s quite normal, but it was new to me so of course I wanted to figure it out.

The mental stuff

During the race, I thought, “I am stronger than I think (mentally) but obviously I need to get even stronger physically!”

Watching people pass me and people who were just clicking along was so interesting. Many of them don’t look “like a (stereotypical) runner”. I was intrigued and super impressed especially by the large number of runners older than me – some by decades – out there chugging along. I’d love to know more about each of them, all these folks have to have such interesting stories. I knew many of these people would do the full 24 hours, some would be out there for 48 or 72 hours, and some were doing the full 6 days. (I started day 1) By the time I was done with my short race, I had even more appreciation and admiration for those going longer. (and after crewing, even more! the concept of doing a 6 day race, with as few breaks/sleep as the top runners take, is mind-boggling)

The loop course was both helpful and hard – it presented its own benefits and challenges, as any course does. If there was a part of the course you didn’t like (the stumbling rutted minor “uphill” comes to mind) you’d best just deal with it, because you were going to be seeing it a lot. But if you were a runner competing for place, you could do a few loops to get a feel for the course and plan your strategy. I found my brain moving from “I have to do this loop how many more times?” to “I have to do this loop HOW many more times?!” to “I only have to do this loop X more times”.

It was very helpful to me to have DH crew (in a loud shirt I liked and a bright hat, made him easy to see – also, we got a table right next to the track). I knew every loop I’d see him, whether for gel/water, just water, or just to wave hi. He’d give me updates and cheer me on. The way we did fueling also let me think “next lap is gel/water” (whatever) and think whether I wanted a different flavor of gel or to try the GU chomps we’d bought in case I wanted something different (never used before, but thought they’d likely be okay if I needed variety).

During the race I thought, “maybe the marathon is my distance”.

I kept thinking of stopping, finishing and saying “I’m DONE”. I was tired.

While I was doing a race I thought HOW do people do 24 hours? Or even 12? Such mental toughness on top of the physical. (after crewing I think this even more, but have to wonder if I could do it)

I did look at my Garmin to notice when I ran further than ever before, new territory!

As I passed DH on the second to the last loop, I asked him to go check my mileage/k (they had live tracking with computer screens set up near the timing mat) and make sure I only had one loop left the next time. I didn’t want to stop and then find out I had to do another lap to make 50k.

The above sounds like I was in a negative headspace the whole time, which I wasn’t (thank goodness for podcasts). Whereas in Baystate, the drumbeat of “I want to stop” was constant, in this race the thoughts I’m sharing sort of came and went, and if they didn’t seem to be leaving on their own, I was able to push them out with various reassurances, bribes, distractions, etc.

The after

At the end, my legs were wobbly. The Ultragen helped and walking helped. I stopped to talk to people at the merchandise area and aid station (when I got my flat cola) and to one of the race organizers, and started to feel better. By the time I was in the shower at the hotel (maybe 90 minutes post-race), I was thinking of a podcast I’d listened to (Marathon Talk) with the founder of the UK running magazine Like the Wind and thinking about ultras and the great people you see there. I started thinking I might do more, but maybe just 50ks or shorter timed races (like 6 hour) and wondered if I could have completed 6 hours at this race. (There’s a 6/12/24 in June in San Francisco that I’m eyeing, but it’s a lot of money and travel and then I might be too tired to tour SF on my first visit there.) By a few days later, I was considering if I could sign up for the 48 hour to get to 50 miles, so I could take walk breaks, perhaps go to the hotel and sleep at night. The nice thing about a timed race is you can do that if you want to.

The race was tough, mentally and physically. Not exactly in the same way as Baystate, I wasn’t actively fighting the desire to stop the whole time, but I thought about it multiple times, and about walking – I only needed to finish. It also may have been tough differently because I had different intentions going into the race, and when, early in ATY I realized my time goal wasn’t going to happen, I reminded myself that my goal was to finish healthy with my best effort on the day. So I just held the best pace I could as long as I could. But it was still tough to keep going. It would have been easy to stop or to walk (especially with so many of the 24h or longer runners walking). BUT I DIDN’T! And I’m proud of that. I think one thing that “got” me was thinking that it WASN’T going to be as hard because I’d planned a slower pace. I expected hard late, not early – underestimated the fact it was my 3rd marathon in 71 days, the cumulative fatigue, the effects of my 2 weeks of hard training prior to taper, travel stress and poor sleep. Calibrating expectations is important, though sometimes not pleasant. You alway wants to do something great, right? (at least I fall into that)

I understand better now why those more experienced/coaches say you shouldn’t have a time goal for the first time you race a new distance. Perhaps I’ll shoot for a time goal next time if I do another 50k. Toward the end of the race, I was listening to a Trail Runner Nation podcast in which a 50k was referred to by Coach Jimmy Dean Freeman as “the gateway meat” of ultras, like bacon is a “gateway meat” for vegetarians to return to eating meat – as a former vegetarian who loves bacon and was at that moment running a 50k, I laughed out loud. Someone had called in and asked about doing a 50k and Jimmy’s first advice was “don’t do it!” – everyone laughed.

I was STILL wired at 11:30 at night on race day. Took stuff to help me sleep but it didn’t seem to have any effect. Maybe my body was confused by having the caffeine so late in the day? (maybe my body was still on ET, and the race didn’t start until 11am ET) Or possibly the amount of sugar from the gels, cola, Ultragen and then the Coke Zero with dinner (which was soooo good). Or maybe the chocolate chips in the skillet GF chocolate chip cookie I had for dessert after my Five Guys fries dinner. (ok, I had a bite of burger) I didn’t feel excited, energetic or anything “up” like that – just utterly AWAKE. I got maybe 3-4h sleep and was still wired when I woke up, but a little tired.

Interesting that I was up at least as long on race day as I was on our 12/25 travel day (19 hours) and put forth more physical effort but I was much less tired at the 19 hours up mark on race day. (I think the physical effort on 12/25 was less – though lugging suitcases, being in airplane seats and then wandering the hotel property for hours till our room was ready was quite an effort.)

How I felt the next day:

knees hurt a little – top inner, esp L, started race night
Achilles tight
feet sore
neck and shoulders, lower back still sore but better
Better than I’d expect overall

Biked 40 minutes the next day (Monday), pretty decent. My right knee bothered me a little on the bike. Tuesday, I biked for 20 minutes and got a Swedish (light) massage. Made me miss my regular massage therapist and her therapeutic sports massage, but I didn’t think I should have one so close to the race; I also prefer my regular person who knows my body and how it behaves. (Didn’t stop me from having a second Swedish massage with a different therapist who I liked better on Friday. I’ll be glad to get back to my regular person this Sunday! She’s been IM’ing me asking how the race went.)

Ultra People

Met Maria Shields, prior and now current women’s 60-64 (?) 100 mile record holder, who did 106.55 miles in 24 hours. She lives near Annapolis! So very nice, encouraged me – as she passed me. When I gave up my moment as first female, she was the one I was second to.

Met Israel (of The Long Run podcast) – only in passing, as he was running the 48h starting same day

Met Jester Ed at the start, and he gave me a hand slap at one point during race, he also carried a cowbell a lap or two. Such an encouraging guy, ambassador for ultrarunning. And what amazing results!

Everyone was so supportive and enthusiastic for me doing my first 50k. Utterly welcoming. I kept saying “I’m just doing 50k” but they treated me like everyone else, respect, kindness, community.

Notes on the race itself

Highly recommend Across the Years – the organizers and volunteers are BEYOND AMAZING! I can’t think of a better race for my first ultra. I’d consider any race put on by the organizers, Aravaipa Running.

Course info (more on this page – you can even watch a video of the course)

Across The Years is the original fixed-time multiday running event celebrating the New Year.  Runners have 24, 48, 72 hours or 6 days to cover as much distance as possible.  Each runner is free to walk, stop, eat, and sleep whenever they wish, but the clock is always running! 

The course at Camelback Ranch is a USATF certified 1689.5 meter (1.0498 mile) loop, certification number AZ11005GAN.  It consists of primarily gravel paths (0.90 mile) with short sections of asphalt (0.12 mile) and concrete (0.03 mile).  The path averages 10-20 feet wide, with a short section that narrows to about 8 feet wide. Features include desert landscaping, lush greenery, and a lake with waterfall. 

Hard Packed Gravel Road – 1.14 km (68%) This is a very hard packed gravel topped road that is used to drive vehicles on around the outside of the ball park complex. 
Asphalt – 0.19 km (12%)
Concrete – 0.05 km (3%)
Packed Gravel Trail – 0.29 km (18%)

The surface is not completely smooth as much of the route is gravel and/or dirt. There are natural waves and bumps along the way.

The course is on the ‘flatter’ end of looped courses, but don’t come expecting a quarter mile track.  The outer road section slopes only a few feet over a half mile, while the inner paths contain more variation.  The most significant hill is on the north side of the lake and rises approximately 5 feet over the course of a few hundred feet.  Early on, the course will seem flat and fast.  However, the 6 day and 72 hour runners will readily recall their many battles with “Camelback Mountain” late in the race.

Why am I giving you the detailed course info? Because I think the hard packed gravel played into my race experience and time. As a treadmill/road runner, I’m not used to other surfaces. From my one personal experience (and a bit of talking to others), gravel does slow you down a bit as your foot plant is a bit off and requires more stabilization, and the gravel doesn’t provide the same energy return as a hard surface. On the other hand, I think that the primarily gravel surface reduced a bit of the impact and helped with recovery. The closest simulation of the course in my area would be the gravel paths on the National Mall, but I think the majority of the course is harder packed than the Mall – I think the “packed gravel trail” (versus “hard packed gravel road”) is more like the Mall.

A couple of things new to me in this race – direction change during the race and ankle transponder.

Because of the timed nature and the loop course, every 4 hours, they’d turn the runners around as we came through the start/finish. You realized they’d done it as you would see (faster) runners coming the other way toward you on the path. Kind of weird, and at first I didn’t like the direction change, but then in the part of the course with a tiny hill, it felt more like downhill than the clumsy uphill it had been for the first 4 hours, so I liked it. It does provide a bit of mental variation and helps those who will be out there longer with the physical aspects. Running in one direction, even on a decent size loop like this, will affect one side of your body more than the other. I think the shorter the distance, the greater the effect. Think of running a school track for extended periods of time…and by the way, there are ultras, timed, on really short tracks, just imagine!

Instead of a bib with chip, you are given transponder/chip to be worn on a velcro ankle strap. I was worried about this but it really wasn’t too bad. I have a little mark on my right ankle that could be from the transponder but could just as easily be from a rock or me hitting my ankle with the edge of my shoe. The chip was tracked every lap (you must run over the mat every loop, and it’s only about 2-3 people wide, but people spread out) and at the halfway aid station (same caveat). We also got bibs which had different color backgrounds for each of the 24/48/72/6 day races so you could know if you were in competition with another runner, and our names printed plenty big on them along with a little flag for state or country you were from, nice touch. Part of the swag was a race organization logo’d bib belt holder which I didn’t wear since I don’t like things on my stomach but most runners did, made it easier to change clothes during the race. Also, most folks wore their belts with the bib facing backward so you could read their name and know who they were, chat with them if you wanted. Mine was on my front since I pinned it (didn’t think of pinning it to the back, might in future) which caused one runner to turn around to try to see my name as she was passing me and saying hi.

If you’ve read this far, you’re a dedicated ultra-reader! (or probably family or a close friend) Thanks for caring enough to read about my race. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions. I’m working on a “Thoughts and Musings” post as well as posts related to my gluten-free eating and tourism during my time in Arizona, and probably one on crewing at the 24h race. 



Richmond Post-Race Thoughts

After the race report and the pictures….what’s left to say about Richmond? What I think and what I’ve learned…..

So what happened with all my back and forth about goals, you may ask? (and fairly so, since as a blog reader and/or twitter follower, you heard a lot about my indecision….)

Even the afternoon before the race, I was debating goals with DH over our pre-race “dinner” at PF Chang’s. So many options….

I think I finally went into the race – while still wishing for a PR, magic day, whatever – with reasonable goals:

1) don’t do anything stupid – and by stupid I mean anything to jeopardize my health, Boston training or my ability to do the ultra in December and become a Maniac

2) finish, and

3) do the best I could on the day, whatever that turned out to mean. I had thoughts of seeing what I could do and pulling back if it became evident I couldn’t hold the pace I wanted, and that’s exactly what I did.

How’d I do?

100% at least as far as I can tell at this point.

I think I’m in reasonable shape, stiff and sore but not more than I’d expect, and no new niggles I’m aware of (did have some disturbing twinges in my outer left ankle during the race, and my left PTT/arch is no happier than it was pre-race but why would it be). I do feel (I think) a bit different for “running” the marathon instead of “racing” it (at least half of it) though if/how that translates to faster or better recovery and return to training remains to be seen. The chiro said my hips and back weren’t “that” out of whack. He seemed surprised, as even training weeks can do that sometimes.

I think I can do the ultra, though I’ve got to look at how to train for what my goals are for that without impacting speed and ability to train for Boston – and I need hill work for Boston but not for the ultra, so…For the ultra, debating a time goal in addition to goals 1, 2 & 3 above that I had for this race, but I may just leave that be. I finished my 2nd of 3 races to Maniac, did so with an effort and attitude/mindset that lets me hold my head up as well as continue on my plan, and got a pretty decent time out of it.

So I’m in the satisfied to pleased headspace, tilting toward happy. Whether I left it all on the course or not, probably not, given I was a bit more coherent at the end. I knew I’d have to be though, as I was on my own and had to get back to the hotel, etc. and the point of this race was NOT to drain the tank. But could I have pushed any more without driving myself into a hole of past-niggle injury, wiping myself out system-wide due to the cold? (blowing up and having to walk would have probably caused me to go hypothermic) I don’t know and there’s really no way to say. I think I ran smart, and that’s what’s required to be able to run for years to come and continue to improve.

Things I learned:

I can run 2 marathons within 4 weeks.

(I have to say that again – I can run 2 marathons within 4 weeks – it’s pretty awesome and amazing on its own! Having it be my 3rd marathon of the year, plus running a half and a 10 miler, well, that’s not shabby. And this race was not a slog-fest, and my time was okay/acceptable, especially considering.)

As DH said – I learned that my performance – a better than BQ time – is likely REPEATABLE. Not a fluke, not just lucky in one magical race.

I learned I may be decent at running downhill, especially if I work on it & I found a new way to run uphill at least on one hill.

I re-learned – no surprise – I need/want to be a lot stronger, especially late race, and get more hill experience. While watching the 12k Championships online Sunday morning, I looked at one of the small hills in Alexandria and told DH I wanted to be strong enough to not even notice those hills.

I am proud I didn’t beat up on myself much (would say at all but probably did a little) during the race. I told myself to do what I could. Later in the race, I did look at people and wonder what it was that made them (look) stronger than me, and how I could get stronger next race and in training. But that just means I want to get better and am willing to work to do so!

I learned that Baystate’s mind/will issues are not always going to happen. (whew!)

Musings:

I was pretty nervous beforehand about whether I’d be able to pull off a 2nd marathon (at all, let alone one I wouldn’t feel bad about) in 4 weeks. I did, and I don’t feel bad about this one. I’m sure there are finish times that would have made me kind of upset, where I’d have to remind myself that the goal was to finish, uninjured and able to go forward to the ultra/Maniac and on to Boston, more importantly, but I finished with a time I’m still proud of. Lucky and I know it.

I think of where I was a year ago – DNS’d Richmond due to injury, ran the 12k instead.

I think back to 10 years ago, and the injured (and much slower, less trained & fit) runner I was then. If you had told me I’d run this time – regardless of anything else – I would have been THRILLED. If you’d told me the circumstances – my age, having had cancer, lingering/new injuries, 3rd marathon in a year, 2nd in 4 weeks, I would have been SPEECHLESS. And disbelieving. I AM GRATEFUL.

And I will say it again – IT WAS ALL WORTH IT.