Category: races

Richmond Marathon Race Report (BQ #3!)

Here’s the Richmond Marathon race report….more thoughts/musings may come in another post. Just like every race is different, every report is a little different, so if I don’t cover something you expect to see or want to know, feel free to ask.

The short version: BQ #3, 2nd in 4 weeks!

Least fast of my 3 2014 races & BQs. Please don’t read that and think “Is she complaining?” and stop reading. I absolutely am not. That’s simply a comment on my finish time – which still beat BQ by 3:26!  I am GRATEFUL. I am – taking a big step back – a bit flabbergasted. Of course I pretty much always want to PR even if I say it’s not a goal (don’t most of us?), but at least part of me knew that would be pretty unlikely without magic dust or something similar. But I DO know that if you’d told me, during injury struggles last year and 10 years ago, that I would have run 3 marathons in a year, gotten BQs in all of them (a couple pretty big ones), PR’d big time in 2 of them, run 2 in 4 weeks and be feeling pretty decent – I’d have been speechless and probably thought you were crazy or had mistaken me for someone else.

The long version (get your coffee/snack ready): 

Pretty good race!  The leaves were incredibly gorgeous, especially for a couple of miles right along the river (though that path could use some resurfacing). There’d be points where leaves would just rain down on us, glowing in the sunlight. Some were huge! The colors were something else. I tried to imprint them on my mind and kept thinking/saying “so pretty” and trying to absorb how lucky I was. I wish I could share the images with you. Having run both the half and the full at Richmond now, the full is definitely the prettier course.

As you’ve no doubt heard/read, it was very cold – below freezing at start (28 maybe, may have hit 40 by finish). I couldn’t stop shivering while standing around pre-race. Probably burned more glycogen than I expected that way….walked to start, then spent 20 min in portajohn line, then had to hustle to corral, get spectator help to take off my fleece pants and start! (My shoes’  tongues felt kind of misplaced from the pulling off of the fleece, which concerned me a bit but eventually settled out.) So my legs were completely not warmed up despite drills in the hotel and the walk over. I even think the cold affected in how my shoes felt – the road felt very hard on impact in the first few miles (and I think my feet were sorer later too). I couldn’t really feel my toes and the front half of my feet till we got through the first mile.

Fortunately, we had full sun for most of the race, and other than the bridges there were only a couple of light breezes where I thought “ooh, that’s chilly”. (the Lee Bridge around mile 16 had a NASTY crosswind for the whole half mile) We did pass through shade in a number of sections, so every time I thought about ditching a piece of my kit, I reminded myself of the possibility of shade again and kept it all. I think it worked well. I’d say it was my coldest race this year, but more sun – and less wind – than Shamrock, thank goodness. My legs were quite chilly at several points during the race, and especially during the breezes, which went right through my shorts and over my bare legs….

I wore:

  • North Face Better Than Naked Split Shorts (very light – bought some shorts the day before, but…..rule #1 “nothing new on race day” won out here)
  • Champion C9 seamless bra
  • North Face Better Than Naked s/s shirt (again, light, meshy – the race bib and vest helped some)
  • Nathan arm warmers, then a charcoal handwarmer on inside of wrist at bottom and inside upper arm under a 2nd set of arm warmers (Frank Shorter brand, fleece-lined, bought at expo – yes, I know, violating the rule). Wound up keeping that config the whole race. Managed to wash one of the charcoal packets with my kit yesterday, but no issue.
  • Manzella gloves (bought at expo)
  • Smartwool earband under North Face visor – kept the earband on until the last downhill into finish as I knew it wasn’t a great look in pix (proofs prove me right)
  • Of course, sunglasses

I went out around race pace, found a guy clipping off super-consistent miles who had to be local based on how many people were saying hi to him by name (“hi Adam!”) even in areas with minimal spectators and from how well he seemed to know the absolute best place to run in the road at any point. He was impressive in his consistency and how well he prepared for/ran corners (learned a lot from him) so I hung with him till maybe 10. I slowed down a bit, he speeded up. (Earlier, in the first few miles, I had horrible sharp pain in some of the small muscles between my left lower ribs – not exactly a stitch, maybe something to do with the vest….wasn’t sure for a little bit if I could keep going in the race if it kept up, but thankfully it passed. Maybe being so intent on watching Adam helped.)

I tried to keep pushing the pace (keeping an eye on average pace as it dropped) till about mile 16 even though I knew pretty much in the first mile it wasn’t going to be a PR day. Then I said “ok, now its’ a training run” and stopped pushing. I was getting a little more tired and feeling heavier legs as the miles went by. Eventually I got worried about how many people seemed to be passing me and what my time would be, but kept telling myself finishing was all that was important. I realized somewhere after 20 that I could beat BQ and picked it up from 23 on.

I actually had fun on the downhills! There was one long shallow one around 6-7 that I really enjoyed running. Once I got a sense of how long it was, I just got to clear road space, opened up my stride and took about 30 seconds off that mile. I knew about the super-steep one at the finish (about the last 0.3 – 0.5 miles) and tried to get ready for it and run it carefully, resulting in only one moment where it felt like my shoe scuffed or caught and I almost stumbled. I finished really fast because of the downhill, and it felt pretty cool. Seeing Bart at the end of the chute was great – though I almost ran into him as I was going so fast! But I got my high five and hug from one of the nicest, coolest guys around.

This was the slowest of my 3 races this year, but I still beat BQ by a few minutes! (average pace only 6s/mi slower than Shamrock on a much hillier – comparatively – course, 2:09 slower total time than Shamrock) Slowest BQ of year, but since I had a great BQ for 2016 at Baystate last month, doesn’t matter. This one would probably would be enough to get me in to 2016, but my Baystate time lets me register earlier and be in an earlier start wave. (I’m very excited about that and proud of my Baystate time.)

I think there were more little hills than the course profile suggested – or than I understood…since reading profiles isn’t perhaps my strongest skill.

My Garmin says this was the profile:

Richmond 2014 elevation

Richmond 2014 elevation

There was that one extended downhill I hadn’t expected to be extended, and the super-steep uphill in the late miles wasn’t where or what I thought it was. Nevertheless, in both cases, I managed well. I even found a new way of running uphill on one hill that might work better than how I usually try to run uphills.

I may not have hydrated enough. Given the cold, I’m not sure I’d do it differently….I needed to make a pit stop of much of the race, but didn’t stop. (that whole “then you have to get started again” thing…) I had a headache at dinner Saturday night. We had to keep the hotel room thermostat set into the 80s to get the room tolerably warm, so all that heated air did not help. (I pushed fluids Saturday night but woke up Sunday with a headache which dissipated quickly after allergy meds, tea and water.)

Someone tweeted an interesting RunnerAcademy piece today on how cold affects pace that suggests the cold would have affected my ability to hold pace and the energy I used/needed…but I think I run best in 30s/40s, maybe low 50s if it’s a shorter race, so it may not have affected me this much. Good to know it’s a factor though and good to keep in mind the caloric effect of trying to stay warm. (For other cold weather tips, see this.)

Should I have taken more gel to offset the cold and my pre-race shivering, which no doubt burned glycogen? Maybe. But I hadn’t trained with much more than I took, so that would have been a risk. I wasn’t hungry (once we started) or bonky, so it’s hard to tell if I’d have felt better or run faster with more fuel.

I took the same amount of gel as at Baystate (1 serving at start, then every 3 miles then half a GU Jet Blackberry gel at 25) but I may have needed more due to the cold….not sure how I would have gotten more in me though except to take it every 2 miles which seems excessive and might have caused stomach issues. Took a mouthful or two of water a few times on course (cold water!) and with the gel at 25. My EFS is mixed with a little water in the flask though, so I wasn’t completely without. I think I took in ~190 g of carbs over the race, about 50g/hour. Water, maybe 12 oz total.

From a geek perspective, my Garmin time and chip time were an exact match, which has never happened before. Also, my Garmin shows 26.36 miles, which is probably the closest to 26.2 I’ve ever gotten – glad I followed “Adam” and hopefully I can retain what I learned from him and use it in future races.

The mental game: 

I was a bit worried about how my mind would handle this race given how hard Baystate had been.

Richmond had moments of pain or discomfort (ribs, a couple of ankle twinges and a ham complaint on an uphill) or once I thought “you know, I could do the half and walk off the course” (not true, since the race split early, and would have derailed my Maniac efforts) but those moments were pretty fleeting. My legs certainly weren’t happy about the Lee Bridge and my brain/ego wasn’t happy with me slowing down. Really, I’m not sure how much happier my legs were running slower, but I pushed them hard early so who’s to say they wouldn’t have been fine if I’d gone out slower. But there wasn’t that overwhelming, continuous “I want to stop, I just want to stop” that I felt at Baystate.

I even enjoyed part of the race near the river (still in first half of race, miles 7-9ish), it was so pretty with the leaves and the sunlight and the river. I wanted a wide angle lens to take it all in. I really loved the beautiful trees along the way (I love fall colors).

I liked the challenge of following Adam and trying to run his lines and learn from him and his consistent pace.

At one point in the middle part of the race, knowing the course profile (I thought) and that we’d have an uphill ending at 18 after which it would smooth out till the finish, I told myself I couldn’t walk or use the portajohn till 18, then I could do whatever I wanted to the finish – take restroom breaks, walk, whatever – as long as I finished. Of course, I immediately would tell myself I couldn’t walk because I would get too cold, but I’d go through the promise/don’t walk cycle in my head every so often. Fortunately, my need for a portajohn seemed to vanish eventually (though it really didn’t).

Later in the race, I thought about the people I was seeing and how hard it must be for most of them in their own ways. I don’t know that running a marathon is easy for too many people, so you have to think everybody’s struggling with something, especially after mile 20 or so. I was impressed with the Richmond SportsBackers team folks, especially late in the race, coming back to encourage their runners, running with them, riding next to them, whatever it would take to get them to finish. I thought of other people I knew doing the race like Christine and Briana, and what their goals were.

When I was hurting a little, watching my average pace drop and getting passed by what seemed like lots of people, I’d remind myself by talking to myself that:

  • the goal is to finish and not be stupid, do whatever it takes to make that happen – if it turns out to be walking or running a pace that you’re unhappy with, so be it….but don’t walk because you’d get way too cold and you don’t really need to (I didn’t walk at all)


  • I’m so lucky….this is beautiful and there are people who’d kill to be able to be doing this, no matter how you might feel at the moment

I probably dropped off pace more than I needed to once the goal became “just finish”. I say this because when my brain finally kicked in and I realized that “hey wait, I can maybe still BQ”, I was able to pick up the pace by about 15-20 seconds a mile (ignoring the downhill boost). I’m glad I realized it, and it’s good to know I can make a final push like that.

I’m generally satisfied to pleased about this race, both my effort and the outcome.

I’m grateful I was able to do it, and I thank you for your support!

Miscellaneous thoughts about the race/event organization:

  • Beautiful leaves on the (heavy) medal, and pretty leaf ribbon. Blanket seems nice enough, and the finisher’s hat is kind of nice. The tech shirt – women’s cut option! – is a nice fit and drape with lower hems in front and back.
  • Gear check for the full, at least for my wave (I moved up a wave at the expo) was MUCH better than it had been for the half, both drop off and pickup.
  • The expo was well-organized, but as in past years, big enough to be a bit overwhelming, and crowded because we got there at lunch. Something about the overhead lights makes me tense and want to get out of there quickly. Probably not the worst thing as otherwise it’s some decent shopping – though I wish the organizers wouldn’t funnel you through all the race merchandise to get to the rest of the expo, a bit tacky and I tend not to buy if I feel forced in some way.
  • Nice of them to have water at every mile after 20 (earlier was every 2) but some of the streets were narrower and there was still a bit of slowing at water stops that possibly could be improved with changing placement or staggering of tables. Seemed to be plenty of volunteers and water when I came through.
  • The cheer stations are a great spirit item for some, as are the bands – but I prefer my own music and found myself getting irked at having to repeat a song after having it drowned out. This got more frequent when the water stations were only 1 mile apart. Just me being late-mile cranky.
  • There were plenty of spectators. (Best sign I saw: “Vortex Shmortex”) Even on the Lee Bridge, some of the (few) people walking would stop to cheer and clap, and the race (and maybe SportsBackers) had a few folks out there to cheer us on, one with a megaphone. On that bridge, cheers could be helpful.
  • The folks at the finish line were organized, each doing there job, including taking the top off the water for you…wish I’d noticed it was gone as I spilled a little. (however, they couldn’t answer my question as to where the bag check truck was, which was just up the road)
  • The post-race festival was probably nice, but I don’t stay at those things. I knew they’d have finisher merchandise available from running the race before (stashed a $20 just in case) but they should tell folks ahead of time as if you didn’t carry cash/credit card or have someone meeting you who did, you couldn’t buy anything. Nice to have hot food/drink (coffee, hot chocolate, pizza) available for those who could/wanted to indulge.
  • The steps/bridge and walk back to the hotel aren’t any more fun after the marathon than the half, but at least I knew to expect them, and truly, it wasn’t THAT bad. I think the walk back to the hotel probably helped me in fact, but I felt bad for some of the people I was walking with who hadn’t checked warm gear for post-race. Can’t imagine how cold it would have been to walk back in just running clothes, sweaty and cooling off, but at least they had the finisher’s blanket. I put – on top of my gear – a shirt, sweatshirt/hoody, hat, sweatpants and was okay.

Overall, I’d recommend the race and would consider running it again.

So, that’s the report! More to come in another post on post-race thoughts and what I learned. If you have questions, please ask! 




Training Recap – Week of Nov 3, 2014

Here’s last week’s training recap. 3rd week post-Baystate. Richmond is 11/15. Knock wood, legs seemed to start coming back this week.

Updated Monday night:

I’m sort of not processing that Richmond is in 5 days, and really haven’t figured out how to deal with running in 28 degrees. (short sleeve & arm warmers w/ shorts – will it be enough? in full sun, would my tank be ok?). I expect tomorrow (a day off work, thankfully) and Wednesday (telework) to be a suddenly accelerating flurry of list-making, packing, etc.

I’m also starting to get nervous, as I might have goals for the race. Yes, I know I said “to finish” and “training run”, but I may go for something else. Or I may not. Or I may start that way and back off. Goal #1 is healthy body for Boston training – Boston is 23 weeks from today. Goal #2 is to finish for progress toward Maniac. After that….but I’m not sure if I’m more nervous that I’ll 1) want to go for a goal and not have it on the day and fall short of that goal 2) not push myself and thus possibly not learn the extent of my abilities as well as test my limits (and execution, and mental toughness, and physical fitness). I guess no matter what, I’ll learn some things about myself.

Run: 41.2 miles

  • T – 10 miles, tempo intervals:  3mi warmup, then 3x(1.25 on, 0.5 jog) at 27s/mi faster than race pace, 33s mi faster than race pace, 39s/mi faster than race pace. 1 packet of Vanilla Bean GU, took some before each rep. HR132 at end. 1st rep was a little work, 2nd good, 3rd ok but harder. Same workout I did at this point before Shamrock and Baystate except I forgot the jog intervals were supposed to be 0.25, not 0.5. Oh well.
  • W – 3.1 miles at recovery pace. Better as it went along. Noticed a definite boost from my FRS chews this morning – either the new bag has a bit more oomph, or I really needed the little caffeine they provide and reacted to it. (probably the latter as the time change has left me a bit more tired this week)
  • Th – 8 miles, including tempo. (pre-Shamrock, this was a fartlek run, but Greg McMillan’s new e-book plan had this as a tempo run, which I did before Baystate, so I stuck with that workout for Richmond) 3mi warmup, 4mi at 20s/mile faster than race pace, 1mi cool. Calves very tight. 1st mi a bit hard, 2nd mi good, 3rd ok, 4th settled in but not sure how much longer I’d have gone. Used Salted Caramel Gu, split between 1st 2 tempo, 2nd 2. Reasonable. Maybe I’m doing sort of a reverse taper & peak for Richmond by accident. (it’s actually an approach but I hadn’t really planned it)
  • Sat – 13.1mi: 6 mi w/u ez pace (increased pace every 2mi), 3mi race pace, 4x1mi each 0.1mph faster than prior mile (about 7s faster per mile), finishing with 0.1mi at 0% incline (downhill) at 50s faster than race pace. Wanted to load up on GU without my usual EFS gel to buffer it, see how my stomach took it. Took a Salted Caramel at mile 3, a Blue-Pom Roctane at mile 6 (slight headache in the temples after this, which passed within a mile) and a Vanilla Bean at mile 9. I’d originally planned the Jet Blackberry – the most caffeine of all the ones I use – for mile 9, but decided to go with the less-caffeinated Vanilla in case my brief headache was from over-caffeinating. (I figured out on the run that taking the 4 GUs I plan to is almost the equivalent of my mug of tea in caffeine levels, plus the FRS chews I take beforehand on run days – might be a bit more than I’m used to.) My stomach handled them fine though, so I think I’ve got my fueling plan for the race now. Tried my North Face BTN short sleeve shirt with arm warmers – I think I can use that for the race if needed or I may just go with my tank as the vest does help keep me warmer (overnight low the night before is forecast to be 30, with race day sunny, high of 49). I’ll bring both and decide (I always bring multiple outfits for an away race.)
  • Sun – 7mi, recovery pace. Despite the gorgeous weather – and breaking with the pattern I’m trying to hold of mimicking the runs up to Shamrock and Baystate – I ran inside on the treadmill. The “reason” – I have a tendency to go too fast on recovery runs (hit goal pace in this run pre-Baystate) and the treadmill prevents that. The reason behind the reason – wasn’t sure how my legs felt or if I’d be able to push myself to hit the mileage I wanted if I went outside. And – bonus – I listened to Desiree Linden’s interview on the excellent Cloud259 podcast (they describe her in a tweet as “unflappable” and I’d tend to agree). I am enjoying learning more about this accomplished runner (5th place in 4 of the World Marathon Majors, and 2nd at Boston by seconds!) who flies under the radar. She’s smart, tough, funny and has a good perspective. I also heard a brief interview with her on Babbitville Radio. I’ll be looking for more with Desi, especially as we approach the Trials.

Bike: M: 40 min in AM, 40 min at lunch at work; 40 min at lunch at work; F 30 min in AM, 40 min at lunch at work
Core: M, W, F
Wharton flex: 5 (skipped W & F to keep dinner on schedule – gotta keep an eye on this)
Chiro exercises: nope
Coach Jay GSM routine: slacking….at best Myrtls a few days
Calf stretches: Didn’t actually count it – did them most days, multiple times. Calves have been a little tight.
Walk: 15 min before runs. Added a 30min post-work walk to test new Adrenalines.
Drills: Back to regular drills, if a bit less energetic than usual.
Other: Chiro Tues, massage Sun

Onward to Richmond!

Almost Wordless Wednesday

As of Tuesday evening…..(yes, I know I picked odd times)

the countdown....

the countdown….


Training Recap – Wk of Oct. 20, 2014 – and thoughts stuck in a loop

Here’s last week’s training recap. Recovery week post-Baystate! Slightly even more “recovery” than useful due to fighting off either allergies or DH’s cold. Actually took a sick day from work Wed and didn’t work out at all. I did not run for 5 days after the race, per past experience and suggestions from coaches. Never did get to the pool.

Run 10.02 miles 

  • Sat – 2.42 mile shakeout run with the Runner’s World Marine Corps Marathon Challenge group (kind of them to let me participate). More on that run in my Weekend Update post.
  • Sun – 7.6 mile recovery run on my treadmill, catching up on part of the Marathon Talk podcast from this week and the Another Mother Runner podcast ep detailing Sarah’s BQ at Victoria Marathon.

Bike: 1h Monday in hotel, 30 min Tues, 1hr Th, 1h Fri
Core: F AM 
Wharton flex: 6 (skipped Tues post-chiro)
Chiro exercisesWas able to do Ohnos Thursday, 4 days post-race! Full 6 set, jumping – not huge wide leaps, but real jumps nonetheless!
Coach Jay GSM routine: Thursday, LC #1 fine. Laterals a bit clumsy. Pedestals w leg raises! Laterals and front fine, back as usual tougher. L ham complaining a little, did Myrtls.
Calf stretches: Didn’t actually count it – did them  most days
Walk: Sunday, walked 15 min before run.
Drills: Didn’t wind up doing much in the way of drills Sat outside with other runners. Sunday, did normal drills but forgot my lunge matrix.
Other: Chiro Tues, massage Sat
Nutrition: Gave myself M/T to have extra treats at dinner/evening, then tried to get back to “normal” eating (vaguely controlled/regimented with uncontrolled periods). Ate like a weekday on Sat/Sun since I didn’t run much. Much nutrition stuff to figure out.

Looking forward:

I’m trying to figure out how to approach Richmond. Originally it was to be an “easy” (as in take it easy, not it will be easy!) training run for my ultra in Dec. per Coaches Tawnee and Lucho at Endurance Planet. Then, I started thinking that really, everything after Baystate is actually training for Boston, and less important on its own than for what it gives me in that regard. (I want to finish Richmond and the 50k well and may have a goal time for each – and then will submit Maniac forms.) Richmond has a good stretch of downhill around mile 6-7 and a good/nasty stretch of uphill around mile 16. Great Boston training.

THEN, my DH (as he is wont to do) put a bug in my ear, thought in my brain, etc….of wondering if I could do even better at Richmond than I did at Baystate. He suggested I go out with a faster pace group and see how it felt, see how long I could hold it. If I feel good, maybe I do better. If I’m not feeling it, drop back and finish. He tends to be more of the “go hard, see what you can do” type in races, where I will go hard, but I want to have a fair amount of confidence and training to back up the goal I’m after – and I try to want to stay even pace, not blow up. I guess I set goals that aren’t gimmes, but that I think I might be able to reach. (unless you count my super-ambitious goal for Baystate that I backed away from during training) On the other hand, he has always had more confidence than I have in my abilities, and so far, he’s been proven right. I’ve been able to do things I thought were only dreams, and I’m dreaming bigger (well, faster) now. Why NOT go for it, being willing to pull the plug at the first sign of any physical discomfort that might cause me problems in maintaining consistent, healthy training for Boston?

OR, I could just run however I feel, go with podcasts, start with a slower pace group or maybe find a tweep to hang with and take it very easy for those 26.2 miles……I don’t know what I want to do or what the “right” thing is to do – quite often that’s only clear in retrospect once you’ve done something that went well or awry.

And so my brain spins on the hamster wheel. I may only decide day of race or as I start the race – and may even change my mind then!


The other main hamster wheel topic is my nutrition, diet, food, whatever you want to call it.

I still need to decide whether I’ll go back to gluten-free grain (and possibly goat cheese!) for a while to see if I note a performance improvement. (and if so, when) It’s an experiment I’m leery of, because I did well last year and at Shamrock and Baystate with the paleo-ish non-grain diet.

Looking at what I could eat before a late start race and still follow my current constraints leads me to maybe a cranberry Hammer bar but it’s pretty high fat and high sugar. Obviously, a GF bagel or oatmeal would be easier.

One part of me is really tempted to try GF grains again – the part that misses options and yumminess,and eating out with DH would be SO much easier if GF were the “only” constraint. It’s darned near impossible now, quite stressful except for one restaurant that’s a bit pricey for a regular visit and one where I have one or two things I can get but it’s limited. (ignoring our Chinese and BBQ takeout joints)

I almost think “keep the diet till after the ultra, then go wild in Arizona with GF and see what happens”. I would love to eat GF pizza, GF chocolate chip cookie and GF treats from some places there. (sadly one fave closed in Scottsdale but is open in Gilbert… and Tammie Coe still wouldn’t be an option) And would I dive into dairy? (goat cheese on pizza or maybe Sweet Republic, which didn’t make me sick the last time I ate it some years ago, maybe no additives is key?)  Do I want to get sick in Arizona and on the way home, and start the new year that way? Would i get sick? (wow, I’m really obsessing about food lately – and missing certain things, obviously…it’s hard because you have to eat, and it’s all choices, all the time)

My sister suggested I try going back to GF grain as an experiment, see how it goes, and that I didn’t have to eat everything all the time. My MT suggested maybe try 2 days a week of GF grain and see how that went. But it’s often easier for me to be an abstainer rather than a moderator, maybe because I’m so rule- and routine-oriented. (I think my sister is a moderator – she can eat a small bowl of something and stop. Sometimes I can do that, more often I get a second bowl! I envy moderators…..)

I just started reading Older, Faster, Stronger by Margaret Webb last week, and am finding it interesting. Trying to read a chapter a night. (keep reading, I do have a point here)

Description from her web site: Older, Faster, Stronger: What Women Runners Can Teach Us All About Living Younger, Longer (Rodale Books, 2014) grew out of my midlife crisis. Forget the sports car, I wanted to achieve the seeming impossible: To enjoy the wisdom of a 50 year old but inside the body of a very fit 20 year old. So I set out on a quest to shake off my midlife malaise and get fitter after 50 than I was as a varsity athlete at university. My journey took me across North America to run with pioneers of the women’s running boom and uncover secrets as to how they manage to run well into their 70s, 80s and even 90s; to Africa to train with elite marathoners and reach back to the dawn of the human race to explore why women can live so strong and for so long; and, finally, to Europe where I tested myself in a race against some of the fittest 50 year olds on the planet. Along the way, I consulted with a team of experts, tapped the minds of leading researchers and delved into physiology and aging labs, all in my quest to understand how to live longer, younger and enter a glorious second act to my life.

Part of the advice she gets is on eating….and she winds up going essentially Paleo (she calls it “Cavemam”) with timed carbs/high carb before, during, and after races and specific runs. The book argues well for staying the course i’m on.

And then there’s dairy (goat cheese! whey protein! Arctic Zero!) and things to address my GERD like not eating after dinner, eating dinner really early and trying to get to bed by say 8:30. I don’t know which of these changes I *should* make for improved performance and recovery, which I can tolerate in my life – although I can pretty much do anything if I want it bad enough….but Boston is 6 months away (only or a long time depending on what I’m thinking of).

So many decisions! Almost too many, decision fatigue. And all I really want is to get back to training. I need to put my plan together for Boston. I need some hours to focus on that, figure out goals and work through my trusty YOU again to come up with the plan. I’m thinking hill and speed modules first, along with Richmond and the ultra, then the regular 12 week module starts in January. Need to figure out what additional core and strength work to do, and other tweaks (mostly adds, I think) to my training so I can give it my absolute best on April 20th. Also need to figure out if I’m going to Greg McMillan’s Boston training retreat in February – Valentine’s Day weekend – in Phoenix. Would be the first time I’ve run a half in training for a full. Would also be first V-Day away from DH since we got together many years ago….

And in random running/racing thoughts…I was having race envy with all the MCM vibe this past weekend, and that really hasn’t happened before. I like training more than I like racing, generally. I’m sort of thinking about a 10k on Sunday (someone reminded me that post-marathon or in marathon training, one can often set 5k/10k PRs, and my 10k is really old) and some 5ks in Nov/Dec. But Sunday is the NCYM (I plan to watch Deena and Meb after my run is over) and it’s also fall-back day….that extra hour of sleep is something I prize. Is a 10k – driving into DC early, walking a mile plus each way to and from my car, etc. worth it? I’d like a better PR, sure, but marathons are really my thing.

Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts on any or all of the above.

Note: I wrote this post Monday night. Tuesday morning, I was adding a few links when I got a (much-needed?) dose of perspective. Michael Csapo just posted an update on his fight with pancreatic cancer. He’s been having a very, very difficult time. Perhaps you could read his post and offer some words of support to him via twitter (or if you’re on tumblr maybe you can comment). Thanks!


Post-Baystate thoughts and musings

Some thoughts and musings post-Baystate.



Baystate Marathon shirt (back) & medal

Baystate Marathon shirt (back) & medal

Your mind can be a bigger enemy – or ally – than your body.  I’ve read this, thought I understood it, and probably even RT’d some related quotes, but it really sunk in from this race. I have some experiences with physical aches, pains, niggles, past injuries and how the physical side of a marathon (and worrying about all the aforementioned things) can feel and can be in your head, both in the race and in training. Trying to hit new paces and get faster and stronger is also tough in both ways. But in this race – and, thinking back, in this training cycle – it was the mental aspect that was the most challenging. That was kind of a surprise to me, as I can be fairly driven and goal-oriented, and I like that and use it to my advantage. My mind turning into a balky horse that didn’t want to go anywhere wasn’t something I’d expected during the race. Sure, I’d had early morning speedwork/tough runs or long runs where it seemed like it was taking me longer and longer to get going or where I had to coax myself through it, but for my mind to chatter at me about stopping before 10k in the race itself? I didn’t see that coming, and I hadn’t spent time training for it. (I’m still feeling kind of surprised and battered by it, wondering what my own mind was doing behaving that way, seemingly out of my control.)

I hadn’t done as much mental training and visualization for this race as I had for Shamrock, preferring most nights to read and eat bananas and nut butter and Arctic Zero (aka lazy). So perhaps fear had gotten hold of me even in training – fear of not hitting my goal (and disappointment at adjusting my goal, followed by fear of not hitting THAT goal), fear of injury, maybe even fear of success? Whatever it was, it reared its ugly head for several hours on Sunday. But I beat it back. I may have had to do so ridiculously frequently, and with any and every means at my disposal (gel, music, watching people’s shoes), but I did it. And I kept the physical side of myself going while I did it, keeping my fueling on plan, my speed up and getting me a better BQ and new PR.

Though I wish it hadn’t happened, I am proud of how I handled it – the effort and the process – and I’m so lucky to be happy with the outcome and proud of that too. Beating BQ by 12:13 is awesome (sort of still in disbelief that it happened, AND a spiffy PR), and I’m looking forward to being in the second wave of registration for 2016. And someday I intend for that first wave to be MINE.

I am mentally even tougher than I thought. I thought I was fairly tough after the Fort Story miles at Shamrock, and after pushing myself through training basically since the end of last year. But I really showed up in the mental toughness game for this race. That said, mental toughness shouldn’t be taken for granted, and I plan to get back into the mental training aspect in this new training cycle. Improvement in all things if I can!

I wished at some point on the Tuesday after the race – driving to chiro and feeling fatigue hit – that I was one of “those people” who could finish a marathon so strong they would jump across the line, go out and tour around, etc. But then I thought, “that’s just not the way I do it”….if I had that much energy left, I probably could have done the race faster. When I’m going after a PR, or even just wanting to give it my best, I want to know that I left it all on the course and gave it all I had. If that means I cross the line spent, exhausted and a little incoherent, so be it. If that means I’m tired and low energy for a while after, so be it. I’m okay with that. I don’t want to be left wondering “what if I’d pushed myself harder?” or “did I really do all I could, was that my best?” I may not run every race full out (Richmond will be done as a training run) but when I do, I want to know that I gave it everything I had, whatever that was on the day. That’s one of the things I’m proudest of with both my marathons (both BQs!! and PRs!!) this year, and I think that’s my approach, at least for now.

All the strength exercises – from my chiro, from Coach Jay’s GSM or anywhere else – they mattered. They helped. I could feel it during the race. So every time I made myself do them, made myself late for something else BY doing them, or otherwise overcame whatever trivial barrier there was between me and strength training – paid off. Same with my Whartons.

Though I am much stronger than I used to be, I need some serious hill training for Boston as well as more strength work – core and leg, including single leg and balance. That said, I have told myself the story in the past that “I’m not good at hills” and I don’t think I’ve run enough of them to be able to say that. I think I did pretty well in this race! I never walked, tried to keep even effort on the uphill and take what I could from the downhill. Hills are an area I can really make some improvements in, which will pay off in strength, speed and my Boston times! I could also try to do some knee drive and more “gazelle” like form work to open up my stride and increase my speed. Up to now, I’ve been more of a glider by “nature”, and it works, but I’ll take improvements and benefits in any part of my running.

The regular chiro (weekly) and massage appointments (every couple of weeks) helped keep me healthy throughout the training and allowed me to get to the start line healthy, trained and grateful for that and the opportunity to race. I am so lucky to have the ability to take advantage of these professionals on my team, and I know it. Their support is needed and deeply appreciated.

All the focus on running goal pace or faster miles during long runs and at other times paid off.

I can’t say if adjusting my goal pace to be a bit, um, less fast, was the right thing to do, but given I got to the race and through the race healthy, uninjured, with good results, it probably was. It was a  tough choice, disappointing and upsetting. I’ll always wonder if I could have hit that other goal. (I plan to hit it eventually, haven’t let it go!) I’ll never know if it was just fear on my part or some internal warning signal that said “this is a lot harder than maybe it should be, you might be taking a risk here you don’t want to”. Would it have been “better” to push harder during training and wind up with an injury, or try to do something I wasn’t ready for and blow up in the race?  While there is some appeal – ok, a fair amount of appeal for me – in the hardcore push-it-to-the-limit approach, the problem is that you often don’t find the limit until you’ve passed it, with consequences that are unacceptable. I have to be able to train consistently to improve, and for my health and sanity. So what keeps me healthy and able to run consistently is the right thing to do. Sometimes that’s not pushing as hard as my ego wants.

All the decisions about eating this or not, sleeping or not, doing a workout or backing off….they were tough in the moment, and I second-guessed myself, but on balance, they worked out for me. It’s hard to know with any one decision or choice if you’re tilting the balance the “wrong” way and getting yourself into trouble. I was cautious in some ways and not cautious enough in others, and it’s a constant learning experience. Hopefully I will get better and “smarter” as time goes on, learning from others and sharing what I learn.

I was once again very lucky – my health, my training, my GI tract, the weather, the course and a host of other variables came together to allow me a great race. Perhaps not easy as I’d hoped, not necessarily fun, but in its own way – in what I learned and my results especially – great.

Last and by no means least:



Baystate Weekend (non-race) with pictures

Since my race recap was a LOT of words (thanks for reading and commenting!) I thought I’d go picture-heavy for the non-race stuff. I don’t have any photos of the race itself as I didn’t carry my iPhone and didn’t have anyone waiting for me at the end. I’m sure there will be photos of the race online at some point (though not of me) if you want to see what it looks like. You can also check out Nicole’s recap and follow-up posts. I may still have one more race-related post coming, thinking about it.

Here’s what greeted me on arrival

fall at Manchester airport

fall at Manchester airport

I didn’t take any photos of the expo on Friday, so let’s move on to Saturday.

I got up to do a shakeout run to the start/finish and back, in part so I would know where I was going on Sunday! After warming up on the hotel treadmill and doing drills in the small fitness center (yes, even for a shakeout run, you know me and my routine), I checked my map one more time and the guidance folks at the expo gave me and headed out the back door of the hotel, to be greeted with this terrific view:


canal behind hotel

canal behind hotel

Lowell - The Venice of America

Lowell – The Venice of America

another canal view

another canal view

canalway/walkway toward the race venue

canalway/walkway toward the race venue

I headed up the canal way – that little ramp you can see is where I started my 2.3 mile shakeout run. The first mile felt loose and good, the second was tighter in my hams/glutes. My hips were painfully tight from the super-pillowy-soft bed, making me wish my chiro was handy. They hurt almost all day, making me worried for the race! I even thought about sleeping on the floor, but decided not to, and was fine on race day.

I ran over to the Tsongas Center (finish) and high school (start) – which are across the street from each other. I ran what I thought from the course video I’d watched was part of the finish (it was, just in the other direction!) noting that the pavement had a lot of potholes and rough surfaces in it, reminding myself to be careful at the end of the race when I’d be tired and perhaps my foot placement less careful. I headed back to the hotel on the other side of the streets I’d run, so I could look at different shops. I saw a running outlet store and decided to swing back there later.

Once back at the hotel, ate my usual weekday (pre-long run day and thus pre-race day) breakfast of asparagus, paleo bread turkey sandwich, sweet potato. Then showered and did my Whartons, arranged to meet up with my sister later. I walked over to the running outlet store I’d seen, only to find it closed (someone had been in it on my run) and figured out that they were closed because they were part of Marx Running, and thus at the expo. Oh well. Saw a t-shirt I’d seen at the expo and decided against getting for DH, but took a pic to send him, and he concurred I’d made the right choice not getting it. Walked around a bit more, found the place I planned to have dinner post-race with my sis & BIL and a coffeehouse I’d seen online. For some reason, being in the Northeast was making me crave coffee more than ever, and I thought I might take the risk of a little on the day before the race but I decided to wait for my sister.

My sister arrived and we headed over to LifeAlive, which had been highly recommended by Nicole and others. I didn’t want to load up on veggies by this point in the day (1:30) so wanted to try the famous FoMu coconut milk ice cream they served. I liked the vibe of the place, but the service was a fail. It took 10-15 minutes for me to get my little cup of ice cream, which it wasn’t all that great anyway so I only ate a few bites. (I like pints I’ve gotten in the store better.) Also, no coffee for me here as they didn’t make decaf! Fortunately, I’d called ahead and knew this so avoided being surprised on site. I also noted that they do their dishwashing by hand – which I can appreciate – but it raises a cross-contamination risk for me, so they’re off the list in the future. The food I saw being served looked quite good, and cute decor. I did get a Not Your Sugar Mama’s chocolate bar (oh, to eat gluten-free oats! look at the chocolate chip cookies on their web site!) and a Budi Bar that I will try once I’m back running decent mileage (both are in fridge now).


LifeAlive restaurant

LifeAlive restaurant

Not Your Sugar Mama's Salted Caramel bar

Not Your Sugar Mama’s Salted Caramel bar – gluten, dairy and grain free! from a place on Martha’s Vineyard

Not Your Sugar Mama's Salted Caramel bar  - back label

Not Your Sugar Mama’s Salted Caramel bar – back label of ingredients, nutrition info


Budi Bar - front label

Budi Bar – front label – another gluten, grain and dairy free local treat

Budi Bar - back label

Budi bar – back label with ingredients, nutrition info

From LifeAlive, we wandered over to a “coffeehaus” called Brew’d Awakening, small and funky, even had a live musician on Saturday afternoon! Another service fail however, as they left the chocolate out of my sister’s mocha and my Americano tasted burned. They fixed my sister’s by adding some syrup, but we were both disappointed. I seriously thought about buying some of the local gluten-free, dairy-free treats they had on display – if I were eating “just” gluten-free, they would have gone back to the hotel, no question! But rice, sorghum and pea flours are among those I’m currently not eating and didn’t want to tempt myself. The apple cinnamon donuts, blueberry pie (!) to bake/micro and the HOMEMADE POP-TART were super tempting though. Took the picture in case I go back to eating GF grain and want them to ship me some yumminess. Looks like Something Sweet Without Wheat may not ship all their items, but I bet my sister could be persuaded to pick me up any goodies that they won’t ship like the pop tarts and pies and ship them anyway!

Something Sweet Without Wheat treats

Something Sweet Without Wheat treats – blueberry pie and pop tart!

We took our less-than-sublime coffee beverages back to the hotel and sat outside being soothed by the rushing water and chatting, until we were chilled by breezes turning into gusts and adjourned back to my room.


chillin' with my sis by the canal

chillin’ with my sis by the canal

We chatted a bit longer, then it was time for me to start cooking my pre-race dinner: shredded carrots, baby bok choy, sliced mushrooms and coconut aminos along with more of the smoked turkey sliced lunchmeat I’d had for breakfast. (I’m a pretty decent hotel microwave cook by this point.) Also on the evening meal plan were dried bananas, the rest of the vanilla maple Arctic Zero from the night before and some so-so sweet potato chips that I had to keep salting – I mistakenly bought the no salt version.

I spent some time laying out my race kit (see race recap for those pix) and talking to DH about singlet v. short-sleeve and other consuming thoughts. He said he thought I hadn’t eaten enough calories during the day (he was probably right, due to timing I wound up skipping lunch) and convinced me to cook another sweet potato, but after I got off the phone with him I decided it would sit too heavily in my stomach and put it in the fridge, where it came in handy post-race – after my recovery drink, while getting cleaned up.

Sunday, the race!

I’d researched a restaurant called Fuse Bistro for post-race that looked to be very gluten-free friendly but turned out to be something of a fail. I’d planned on getting their burger (BBQ sauce on the side, no bun of course) and sweet potato fries and maybe one of their two rib appetizers. When I stopped in the day before to make sure that we wouldn’t need a reservation, I asked about some of the GF items, to be told that making, for example, the short rib appetizer GF meant leaving off the sauce. Boring, no thanks.

Turns out I should have done more research. Fortunately, on Sunday, even in my post-race depleted (physically and mentally) state, I thought, “hey wait, what else do they serve that’s fried?” I asked the server if they fried the GF items in a separate fryer and she said “no, but not much of the flour stays behind, and we have a guy here who’s gluten free and fine with it and we’ve never had any complaints”…..I worked really hard not to cry or lose my temper. (remember, this is something like 3h post marathon!) I just explained to the server that they didn’t really understand GF and they needed to tell people all these details. I also said that if I’d gotten sick after eating there, I wouldn’t call them to complain – I just wouldn’t go back and I’d tell other people about the experience. (She was nice and well-meaning, but this gives you some idea of the risks I have eating out – imagine this kind of oversight for a pre-race dinner!)

So I wound up with a (tasty enough) burger patty, one piece of bacon, and some spring mix (didn’t eat the lettuce/pickle/tomato/onion as they don’t agree with me). I got the huge side of fries and truffled salt that came with the meal for my sis/BIL, who said they were excellent, took the rest home with them. The BBQ sauce resembled no BBQ sauce I’d even had (BIL concurred) and wasn’t that good. I didn’t bother to try the sherry vinaigrette, just ate the spring mix dry. Not the best post-race meal, and not the one I’d been craving.

my burger and bacon

my burger and bacon – the burger is under the bacon, which is broken into multiple segments but is only one piece

On the other hand, both my sis and BIL really enjoyed their meals and plan to put the restaurant in their regular rotation, as they’re in the area fairly often. I will say that the prices are quite reasonable for the quality and quantity of food.

My sister’s meal: fried chicken breast, pumpkin waffle, red gravy, butternut squash with port-soaked cranberries.

fried chicken and pumpkin waffle

fried chicken and pumpkin waffle

My BIL’s ahi tuna burger with “tater tots” which turned out to be huge deep fried “coins” of yukon gold mashed potatoes and cheese.

ahi tuna burger with "tater tots"

ahi tuna burger with “tater tots”

He also got a “blueberry beer”, from a local company. Both he and my sis said it was good, subtle but not overwhelming.

blueberry beer

blueberry beer

They were full enough that I couldn’t entice them to have any of the dessert so I could live vicariously. Warm pumpkin cake or an ice cream sandwich with housemade salted caramel ice cream sounded really good to me (even though I wouldn’t be eating any), but they didn’t go for it.

We dropped my BIL off at the hotel, then my incredibly kind sister drove me 10 miles each way to a Whole Foods for more vanilla maple Arctic Zero and some taro chips so I could at least have some treats in the evening in the hotel room while I watched Netflix and read.

Monday morning, up and at ’em around 6am, got myself down to the fitness center for an hour on the comfiest, smoothest, quietest exercise bike I’ve ever ridden. It was Matrix brand, like the treadmill I walked on for my warmups and the elliptical (in the picture) I tried momentarily on Monday till I thought “bad idea right after a marathon”.

great exercise bike

great exercise bike

I enjoyed the fall leaves in Massachusetts and New Hampshire on my way back to the Manchester airport. After only a brief delay, I was safely back in Northern Virginia. But wait….there’s one more thing… when I dragged my suitcase up the front steps, I was reminded once again how lucky I am to have DH….new Boston flowers to celebrate my new BQ! (and because the other ones keep dying in the unseasonably warm temps)

new Boston flowers!

new Boston flowers!

more new Boston flowers!

more new Boston flowers!

That’s all, hope you enjoyed the photo tour of the weekend!

Baystate Marathon Race Report (BQ #2, PR!)

The very short version:

BQ #2! Beat my BQ time for 2016 by 12:13!!

Being over 10 minutes faster gets me one wave earlier in registration if they do it the same way. I’m also told that I can submit my time to Boston and possibly get an earlier wave/corral for 2015!


And beat my Shamrock PR by 6:38!

Below is my long Baystate race report, crafted from a fatigued brain and notes I put into my iPhone on the flight home – so don’t be expecting the most polished and eloquent post ever written. I figured sooner was better than later, especially given MCM and those race recaps to come. Posts on Fri/Sat/Sun pre/post/non-race activities and a race assessment may come later in the week or next week, and possibly some recovery and lessons learned type posts. If there’s a question you want answered about my race, race gear, fueling, whatever, please ask in the comments and I’ll try to include it in another post!

Get yourself a cup of your favorite beverage and a snack, and settle in…..

Ready? Here we go!


The forecast has been for cloudy, low 40s (real feel low 30s) with variable gusty winds 15+ mph. Last night I spent time freaking out over the possible cold, asking for advice on twitter, then trying on my short sleeve shirt and deciding it would chafe, so singlet is the way to go. Fortunately, it was a little warmer than they’d forecast – I think mid to upper 40s at the start – which helped, though it was COLD going over and waiting to start.

What I wore (same as Shamrock):
race kit

race kit

Champion yellow bra, The North Face Better Than Naked yellow singlet, gray/green The North Face Better Than Naked shorts, Feetures yellow light cushion socks (3rd wearing), The North Face visor. Nathan arm warmers, black toss gloves. Sunglasses.


Pre-race supplements and fuel I carried in UltrAspire Spry vest :
pre-race supplements, gels, vest for race

pre-race supplements, gels, vest for race

Two 5 serving flasks of EFS Liquid Shot vanilla (filled each Hammer flask with 4 servings plus water, combined the remainder in one flask with water that I took at start) plus a number of GU in case I needed more fuel. The winds at Shamrock had me burning a lot of effort and fuel, and I wanted to be prepared. Pre-race, my usual supplements, FRS chews and Beet-Elite. I took the pre-race stuff at 5:45 for an 8am race and that was the last fluid I took in until the bit of gel/water I took at the start.


At 6:30, I went down and walked 15 min on the hotel treadmill and did my drills. (glad I did as I didn’t get my mile warmup run as I’d wanted!) Felt fine. By 7 am I was hungry and thirsty, but that’s way too late to take in anything pre-race. Just after 7, I gathered my pre-packed gear bag (extra gloves, hat, Ultragen powder, bottle of water and empty Hammer bottle to create my recovery drink immediately post-race, a tyvec lab coat I’d planned to wear pre-race, my teal Yellowman shirt and a blue SportHill hoody DH loaned me). I wore nylon wind pants and an illuminate jacket over my race kit – it was a chilly walk of about a half mile to the finish/start area. I tried to jog a little on the way but tough with a gear bag.


(Aside: this race was incredibly well organized….there are no paid staff, ALL volunteers and most are runners who know what’s important to runners. There’s a reason the slogan for the race is “for runners, by runners”. May say more on that in another post.)


I went into the Tsongas Center hoping to meet up with Nicole and maybe see Colleen or Liza (warmth and indoor bathrooms, supposedly) No luck on finding anyone and only one bathroom was open. Waiting in a long line at 7:30 was out of the question. Plus I still had to check my gear. So, outside to the portajohns – plenty but somehow never enough. Met a young woman doing her first marathon and hoping to BQ – saw her after and she missed BQ’ing by about 3 minutes, but I’m sure she’ll get it next time. After that brief stop, needed to get to gear check and get in the corral. No time or place for a warmup mile at this point (something to work on in the future as I think it helped me at Shamrock).


Gear check was super-easy and located at the back of the marathon corrals. It was staffed by local high school XC runners who were efficient, cheery, and friendly. I made my way through people to try to get to my targeted spot ahead of one of the pace groups. My goal pace put me between two pace groups so I decided I’d start at my goal pace, hold it for as long as I could knowing I could tag on to the pace group behind me if needed. Talked to that pacer – bright orange shirt, carrying a big sign on a stick – asking him some Q like “how do you go through water stops, run or walk?”, “are you running even splits?” He appreciated that reminder as he’d forgotten to tell the group he was going to run through the water stops! He said he was going to try to run even splits a couple seconds faster than target (target splits were on the back of his shirt – brilliant!) and that a second pacer would join around halfway and he’d drop at 16, leaving the second pacer to get the group to the end. Again, brilliant on the part of the organizers – I’ve never seen a race rotate pacers through, everyone should do it.


We all huddled together for warmth (I was about midway between the sides of the corrals) and listened to the nicest Star-Spangled Banner performance I’ve ever heard at a race. There were multiple voices and harmony. It was lovely. Not sure if it was live or pre-recorded. Chugged my gel/water and got the nice guy next to me to pitch the empty flask out of the corrals as I was afraid I’d not get it far enough and hit someone.


Here’s a fun video of the start! (I love the guy yelling “GO GO GO” at the beginning) The right side of the road (as you watch this) is the full marathon, the left is the half. We’re on the same course for a while, but it does split – there’s plenty of signage. Here’s a video tour of the course.


Spoiler: this may have been the toughest race mentally for me of any I’ve ever run, including the Shamrock Fort Story wind tunnel and my 2004 injured marathon finish (walking last 6.2 in pain, in rain). It was so hard. I don’t know why, it may have been a reflection of my odd mood and mental state during this training cycle, all the stress I’ve been under and my weird feeling of detachment as the race approached. I don’t know if it had to do with changing my goal time during training – don’t think so, but I know that had affected my mood. My chiro (post-race) said that in the last couple of weeks pre-race, he thought I was really overthinking it and stressing. At my last appointment pre-race, he told me to “just have fun and do what you love to do, run!” That really made me think about when and how I love running. I will say that this race had its good moments, but it was not “fun”.


After the announcer’s yell to start us off, we crossed the timing mat and I started my music. Or so I thought. My iPod started with a song I knew in the middle of my specifically-ordered playlist – those of you who know me know how well I’d react to something like that – so I got briefly consumed trying to fix it. I thought of Sarah’s problems the night before her recent BQ, but I knew I’d checked the order of the playlist, so some sequence my gloved hand pressed screwed it up. I kept trying to fiddle with it and thought it might be on the shuffle setting, which requires fingernails to adjust and looking at the darned thing, partially hidden by my vest and singlet. I pulled off my R glove trying to fix it (and sent the expo-purchased pace band flying) and then gave up as I could see the leader of the pace group I intended to stay ahead of was now ahead of me! We were also running on half the road (middle divider) with cones between the lanes that kept getting knocked down. (the shouts of “cone” would ripple back through the pack) I decided I’d live with shuffle and try not to be too irritated, just go with it being a different race experience as my sister had said. But I was thrown, frustrated and worried about time loss already as I pushed around and through people to get ahead of the pacer. (FYI, the iPod DID play in order, just played the 2nd half of the list first, causing me to mess w forwards/back later to keep peppier songs going.)


I decided right away that I would take gel every 3mi starting at 3, which is more frequently than I usually take it. I often go more for 4-5 miles between, and tend not to take it until I feel a need. However, I realized that sometimes that might be too late to enable me to stay on a tough pace, and that the hills and gusts of wind were going to make me burn more energy as well. Also, from reading Sage’s Racing Wisely and my own experience, I recalled that negative thoughts can sometimes be an indicator of needing more fuel, and I needed to bat away negative thoughts any way I could. I got through mi 24 taking the gel every 3 miles on my 2 flasks of 8 servings of EFS mixed with water. Love that stuff. Only a couple of times did my stomach momentarily have an opinion, and it passed. I took water at aid stations maybe 4-5x on course, running through the stations yelling “water” to get matched up with a  volunteer. I took only mouthfuls, sometimes after my gel but sometimes separate from it, if it was just a desire to wet a dry mouth or some sense of “hey you might need some water”. I even purposely spilled some out of a cup that was too full to drink and ignored the splashes on my face. So I may be getting better at this aid station thing! It helped that the stations were well organized and fully supplied, with runners (high school mostly) staffing them, and that the race field wasn’t that big – no crowding. Also, this race doesn’t really attract lots of people running in pairs or groups or people who don’t know water stop protocol – no one cut across in front of me, came to a dead stop or any of those other issues you might encounter at other races.


So why did I say this race was mentally tough? Because from very early on in the race, the first miles, it just felt hard and I kept thinking that I didn’t want to do it. I thought “what if I just stop, walk off the course, DNF”. I wanted to walk. I can’t remember feeling like that in a race before at the beginning, and certainly not as often as I did during this race. It was hard and the effort hurt physically of course (I checked in on myself periodically physically but nothing was “wrong” – no odd pain, no tummy upset, nothing like that) and I knew I’d already done 18 miles at my goal pace as part of a 22 miler, so I probably could do at least that – but I just wanted to stop. I don’t know if it was the hills or the gusty wind or being on my own, which I was for the whole race. Yes, there were people in front of me and behind me, but because of the field size, the roads (we ran on the shoulder a lot, single file in something no wider than a bike lane), it was basically a solo effort. I fought myself for the whole race.


I paced myself with my Garmin and sometimes used the clocks (every 2 miles). I’d check my Garmin at every mile split buzz, looking at instant/average pace and how many miles covered. I’d think “x miles till the next gel”. I also checked the Garmin every couple of songs. I don’t think I’ve ever kept that close of an eye on my pace before, and I know I wasn’t accounting properly for hills/wind, though I did try not to get freaked about instant pace, coming up with explanations when it was weird, like “there are trees” or “you just took a gel” but always coming back to “speed up, keep going”. (DH tells me average pace is a lagging indicator….great.) That said, though my splits aren’t even pace, I think they were as even an effort as I could manage. I “took” what I could get on the downhills and tried to stay steady on the uphills. Every single mile was marked on the road, which was helpful. I was within 0.1 of the course markings for most of the race, but by the end I was off by 0.24 – all of a sudden in the later miles it jumped. I tried to stay close to the road edge and run the corners as efficiently as possible. There were few enough people that I didn’t really have to go around anyone or spend lots of time weaving in the early miles (yay – people self-seeded well too), though when we were mostly single file, you did have to go around to pass.


The course is mostly double loop, which has the advantage of letting you “learn” the course for the second loop, if you’re alert enough to manage it and be able to make any adjustments (I wasn’t, forward was the only thing I cared about). The first time though it was hard as you’d see the “marathon mile 14” mark just before the “marathon mile 4” mark, and that went on for many miles, making me think every time “oh, I have to do this part again”. There was one fun thing I noticed the first time – where mile 20 was marked on the road, someone had painted or chalked a small red brick wall (helpfully labeled “the wall”) and a few stray bricks marked on the road past that point, as if you’d broken “the wall”. Strangely though, I looked for it the second time when it actually would be mile 20, and didn’t manage to see it.


I don’t remember enough details to give you a mile by mile recap, so here’s more of “how I ran the race”.


I watched people ahead of me a lot. I tried to keep people in sight who seemed to be doing the right pace. I watched lots of shoes as I spent a lot of time looking down at the road – especially while we were on the shoulder – for grates or pavement problems in road. I watched people’s gait and looked at their clothes and how they carried fuel or water.


I looked at the trees and water as much as I could tried to express gratitude for the beauty – the fall colors were quite nice. I tried to take snapshots with my mind. I tried in the beginning and at end to be grateful and express it out loud (quietly) for getting to the start trained and healthy, for all the people who helped and supported me. I had my music up loud, breathed and sang along some if I felt so moved. I tried some tricks I read about in Kristin Armstrong’s book, like Kristin’s coach Cassie saying  “up and over” before some hills. I’m not sure it helped, but it gave me something to do momentarily. I used Kristin’s tough race mantra of “just run to the end of your hat” and also told myself to just follow the shoes of a runner I picked in front of me.


In the late miles, I followed a small muscular young woman with a ponytail wearing a race shirt with Montrail and some Hagerstown trail race info on the back. No headphones (maybe half the people wore them), no hat or sunglasses, not carrying fuel or water. She came up in the 20s and I hung with her for a while then she sped up at maybe 23 or 24. She looked really strong and steady, just clipping away but she obviously was going fast. I kept thinking “stay with the Montrail chick” and marveling at her ability. And how easy it looked, wondering if someday I could do as well. I decided she was probably more of a trail runner, maybe ultras, so this race may have been easy for her (or just may have looked that way).


At some point, I thought of Richmond in 4 weeks and laughed at myself for thinking it could be anything other than a training run, and how am I going to do even that in 4 weeks, how crazy must I be?


I refused to let myself slow down or stop or walk. I just kept moving my legs, pushing hard no matter what I felt. I don’t know how I did it.


Thoughts along the way (italics are thoughts as if you were inside my head, scary!):
  • Get to 6, 6.2 then only 20 miles to go, a long run
  • I get stronger as I go longer
  • Just get to 10
  • Get to 12, toss one flask, you’ll be lighter
  • Just get to 13.1, then halfway done
  • Run to the next gel, just run to the next gel
  • Get to 16.2 then single digits left
  • Get to 20, then it’s just another hour even if you slow down, don’t slow down, what’s my pace, how slow can I go and still hit my goal, can’t slow down
  • Do NOT let the pace group catch you! (I repeated this to myself MANY times)


Somewhere in the late miles after 20, on the first loop you turned but the second time through you go straight. Not only was that clearly marked with a sign, there were spectators several people deep cheering and blocking the turn so you couldn’t mess it up. Appreciated that!
  • mile 23 – could maybe still hit goal with 10s, no, have to stay below 9, no, don’t slow down, less than half an hour
  • mile 24 – take last gel, toss flask…… OMG are you kidding me with this hill?! Come ON! This is just MEAN! (I said this out loud several times….too tired to muster up anger but got irritation/crabbiness and used it to push myself on)


I knew there was one more water stop at 25.2 (I had the water stop list on my treadmill during training). I decided to take a GU and settled on vanilla bean GU – least caffeine and I’m still new-ish to that in hard running – just in case it would in any way – even mentally – help me push to the line. I ripped open the pack, got a little more than half in my mouth, swallowed it and grabbed a cup for a mouthful or two of water. I’m glad I took it. We turned a corner – and I lost 2 GUs, they bounced out – to be met with a nasty uphill bridge, slanted sharply down toward the outside of the road, and open to traffic in both directions. We had to run to the right of the cones again, and on the slant, every time my left foot struck the ground, I felt the pain of that slant all the way up that leg.



Come ON where is the turn?


Had realized I’d have to run to almost 26.5 on Garmin. Realized we were running opposite way than I’d run shakeout (but glad I watched video as I had recognized things and glad I ran it so I knew road pavement conditions were not good). Turn L onto main st, L again, see another L to go, hear announcer, try to speed up (trying to finish fast and alone…see guy on my L but think I dropped him). I hear them say my first name, mangle last name but get closer on the second try. I’m try again get closer, sprinting as much as I can…I can see the clock and arch, raise arms where is mat?


I cross, stop my Garmin and make sure to save, then see the time on my Garmin. I put my gloved R hand to my mouth and break into OMG “I did it” tears and sobs.
Suddenly my legs stop working, lock up and I’m off balance. One volunteer cracks open a bottle of water and hands it to me. I’m still crying, can feel the tears running down my face. Someone tucks a mylar blanket around me. A female volunteer puts my medal on me and asks me if I’m ok. I tell her I beat my BQ, she excitedly hugs me. (these people understand what that means and how hard you worked to do it!) I’m still crying, ask her for Garmin help, she sends me toward the bag check & finish area.


The first tent I see is from the Marx Running store, they were at the expo. I recognize the founder/owner, Mark, and stop to ask for help with my Garmin, but he doesn’t know. I ask him again about the jacket I’d looked at the night of the expo. (I hadn’t wanted the colors they had and hadn’t wanted to jinx myself by buying it. The logo has “Bridge to Boston” on it, just like the medal, and I didn’t want to presume, kind of like not wearing the race shirt IN the race – he said I wasn’t the only one.) He says to call him, they’ll do whatever I want. I tell him I beat BQ by over 10 minutes and he grins, says “that’s FANTASTIC!” and gives me a huge hug. He then says they can even stitch “Boston Qualifier” and my time down the arm if I want.


I go stumbling along and see the girl from the portajohn line at the start who was running her first and trying to BQ (3:35). She had hard time with either hills or wind, got 3:38. I congratulate her on first and tell her she’s going to get BQ. See she’s got Garmin. Ask her for help and she is able to help me make sure I can see my results.


Everybody looks kind of dazed. I head to bag check. Nearby there’s a guy on ground with a girl rubbing his legs – he’s saying glad she’s there as he couldn’t possibly do it himself. I see two women bent over from cold & leg pain, speaking to each other in a foreign language. The nice XC kids quickly get me my bag, though I had to have one untie the strings. Everybody’s legs seem to fail in the same clumsy way, we’re all walking differently than other races I’ve been at. Maybe camber & turns in last miles? I take off the vest and visor (hey, conscious thought!) put on yellowman shirt (so glad I brought it), DH’s blue hoody, hat, illuminite jacket. Lean against pole to pull on wind pants, nearly fall over. Hard to make Ultragen – which requires opening a packet, putting it into an empty Hammer water bottle, adding water, putting the top on and shaking – but manage. I start drinking it.


Looking for trash bin, see a computer setup. You can check your results already! Absolutely fabulous setup, so cool. Shows you splits on a screen, you can compare yourself to women/men/everyone (shows bar chart by time). And if you’ve got someone with a camera (I don’t) you can get your finish time on a digital clock next to the setup and get your picture taken.


I walked past the medical tent through the finish food area – there was nothing for me due to dietary restrictions (and I wasn’t expecting there to be), but they had:
  • bottled water
  • bananas too green to eat for me (why is that always the case)
  • a selection of PowerBar Crunch items
  • homemade PB&J sandwiches in big boxes – this choked me up thinking of the volunteers making them for us all, wish I could have had one
  • homemade minestrone soup
  • homemade chicken noodle soup
My stomach handled the Ultragen fine, lurched a bit while drinking but finished it. I walked back to hotel very slowly, thinking about the race and tearing up along the way. As hard as it had been to believe it was coming, then here (that detached feeling), it was now hard to believe it was over, and that I’d achieved my goal of a faster BQ and a new PR. My brain kept making me repeat “that was SO.HARD.” out loud even to myself. I got back to the hotel and went into the bathroom to start cleaning up, saw myself in the mirror and burst into tears, saying “I did it” while smiling (grimacing?) and sobbing at the same time.


Even now, 2.5 days after, it’s hard to process and I’m not as coherent as I’d like putting this together. I think some of that is the fatigue hitting me now that I’m home and not having to care for myself on travel or be around other people much. The mental stress of training and getting myself through travel and then clamping down to get through the race is something I probably underestimated post-Shamrock (and even after the Heartbreak Hill Half), so while it’s unpleasant, it’s less of a surprise. The lack of sleep over the last few weeks and the physical effort of the day are also catching up with me, I’m sure. I’d say I’m surprisingly not too sore – parts of me might disagree depending on what I’m doing – but I had no problem negotiating stairs immediately post-race and I can feel things improving. The underlying fatigue is really the thing, and not doing a run before I’ve recovered more. (planning a short run Saturday, some folks in town I can’t miss seeing)


More thoughts about the race:
  • So many beautiful trees and leaves along the course. Fall is so beautiful in New England. I’m so glad I got to see it.
  • There were many great views of the water – you run with the Merrimack River on your right for a lot of the course. I have some postcard-level pictures in my head, I tried to burn in the views but am not sure how much stuck.
  • There was a waterfall/dam thing on the river near the end. It was loud and I tried to pretend the rushing water was pushing me on.
  • The dreaded wind gusts did happen. They were not insignificant, but mostly short, under a minute. They blew leaves across the road and once in a while tugged at my visor. It wasn’t every mile or all wind like Fort Story at Shamrock. The sun came out after 10am and then the wind sometimes felt good. I thought about taking off my arm warmers and gloves but decided not to because of the wind and some shaded portions. I will say when the wind and the hills combined, that was a bigger challenge.

I reminded myself at the start and multiple times during the race how lucky I was be able to do this, and to have gotten to the start line trained and healthy. It was a lot of work on my part, yes, but I also have a great team in my super chiro and great massage therapists.

Though I ran the race alone, I knew there were so many people thinking of me and rooting for me. Thank you all so much! My brain didn’t work well enough during the race to go through the list I’d made the night before (more names than miles!) but I know your energy helped, and I tried to send some to those of you I knew were running your own race on Sunday.

I also wouldn’t have gotten to the start line without the amazing, unfailing support of my DH for the last months and years. It can’t be easy being tethered – by choice yet! he’s a little nuts, yes? – to someone who’s as obsessed with running and my goals (as well as nutrition, schedules, routine,  and all my other quirks, neuroses, etc.) as I am. Words are inadequate to express how lucky and grateful I am.

Training Talk Thursday – The Taper

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!

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), reading books like Running Within and The Champion’s Mind. (still reading other mental training books, not yet ready to rec).

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 for your race 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.

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!


RunnerAcademy Mastering the Taper (go listen to this if you don’t do anything else…I listened to it multiple times during my taper)

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

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, 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)!




Race Bucket List – Runners Tell All linkup

This post is part of the Runners Tell All linkup hosted by Amanda at The Lady Okie and Becka at Sunshine to the Square Inch. There’s a running-related topic provided for the post on the 21st of each month. Thanks to Deb at Deb Runs for posting as part of this linkup, that’s how I found it!

This month’s topic is your Race “Bucket List”. What races would you love to do if you had the time/money? (note this isn’t exactly the same as “which ones must you do before you leave this earth”, and I like this twist better)

It’s not just time/money, it’s energy/physical health. I’ll pretend I’ve got unlimited amounts of all! If I could, I’d probably run a marathon a week.

  • Beach to Beacon 10k (because it’s Joan Benoit Samuelson‘s race – she’s a hero and role model for me, would love to meet her)
  • Zion Half Marathon – so pretty
  • Big Sur Marathon and the Boston to Big Sur Challenge – because Big Sur is so pretty, and the challenge is HARD!
  • San Francisco Marathon – because it’s hard and pretty
  • Avenue of the Giants Marathon – I’ve wanted to visit the redwoods
  • London Marathon – love London, was there as a child, want to go back
  • Dublin Marathon – I want to visit Ireland
  • Reykjavik Marathon – I know a few people who’ve visited Iceland and said it was worth the trip, and the race looks nice, saw it featured in a contest Runner’s World held.
  • Mad City 50k and 100k – love Madison, and I want to do ultra distances, so few road ultras which I think I would prefer
  • Way Too Cool 50k – this was one of the first ultras I ever saw live streaming of, and it’s supposed to be a great race – it’s a trail one, so I’d be starting down that path too 
  • JFK 50 Mile – an iconic race, nearby (and my BQ actually qualified me!) – I’m afraid of the trail part, but heck, if this is just dreaming…
  • Comrades Marathon – I’ve heard so much about this race now that it’s oddly appealing. Again, dreaming. 
  • Western States 100 – and since I’m dreaming, why not make do the iconic 100 miler that you have to qualify for and that is not only getting more popular every year but is really darned tough!

Hey, some of mine made this list! (I promise, I’d written this post before I saw it….)

What races – given unlimited time, money, energy and physical health – would you want to do? 




Training Tuesday: Recap, Week of Sept 8, 2014

Last week was a mixed bag, as you’ll see below. (and you’ll know if you follow me on twitter – thanks to all my tweeps for your support on Saturday!) Tuesday’s run was okay, but tough. Wed and Fri were recovery, so didn’t expect much. Thursday didn’t go the way I wanted, and neither did Saturday. Sunday was a pleasant-ish surprise. So it’s hard to tell what’s going on and how this week will be. Maybe I need to do double run days – add short recovery runs T/Th after work (not sure about Sat) to help with recovery and make the other runs a little better. I had started doing that last year right before I got injured (which I think was the effect of going from 50-80mpw in only a few months, not the adding on of easy 20-30 min runs a couple of times) and I noted that while the 2nd run itself was never that great, the next morning’s run was much better than if I hadn’t run the evening before. Fueling is an issue for me if it’s not first thing in the morning, but since T/Th are telework days, i could just eat lunch early then take some gel at the start.

(Reminder about that flu shot – there’s already a flu going around here, and the shots take 2 weeks to hit max effectiveness. If you’ve got a race in 3-4 weeks, especially with travel, it’s not too late!)

Run 60.53 miles this week. 2nd week above 60 in this cycle. I am sort of happy about this, wish I was happier. I’d wanted to have more weeks above 60, we’ll see how the rest goes.

  • T – 10.5 miles – The plan was 3-4 x 2mi tempo intervals, and I got it done! (took in as much gel as I did on my weekend long run, yeesh) 2mile warmup, then 3x2mi at (7sec slower than MGP, MGP, 6s faster than MGP) with 0.5 mi recovery after each set and 1mi recovery at the end. Hard physically and mentally, but I managed to hold out for each interval. Didn’t follow my whole routine after, as I had to go into the office after my chiro appointment. Then, the fridge/freezer died….so a little stress. Earliest tech appt late Thursday.
  • W – 6.2 miles, recovery pace. Kind of blah.
  • Th – 11.03 miles – today’s plan was either tempo intervals or easy. For the first time I can recall, I took the easy option. Ran 1.5mi warmup, 8.5mi at low end of ez pace zone, then the last mile did 0.25 faster, 0.25 faster, 0.5 faster, ending at the top end of the ez zone. No idea how I got through it – I feel like a weak wimp, but there must be some mental toughness because despite really wanting to stop a number of times, I got myself to keep going. Legs were kind of sore, and I was tired. Not feeling great. I’m starting to think some of my other physical/medical stuff – more than normal training fatigue and life stress – is affecting me, but not ready to talk about it and will require longer investigation than there’s time for right now. Still obsessing about what my goal pace should be or can be for Baystate. Today wasn’t encouraging.
  • Fri – 4.5 mi. I don’t usually run on Friday (do XT) since my long run is Saturday, but how could I not run before doing this? It was at a recovery pace and just fine. Legs felt looser after.
Boston 2015 registration

Boston 2015 registration

  • Sat – 21 miles. The best I can say is that I got it done, how I got myself through it is anybody’s guess. I’m both a wimp and mentally tough, apparently. (well, I’m very stubborn if nothing else) The PLAN was 10 miles easy pace, 10 miles goal pace, 2 miles faster than goal pace, with the last 0.25 as fast as possible. Actual: 10 miles increasing through easy pace one, 10 miles at (new, slower) goal pace (yes, I’m adjusting….) and 1 mile cooldown. Took plenty of gel. (~300 calories) I’m not sure whether I could have pulled off any more miles at goal pace, let alone faster, but one of the ways I got myself to get through the 10 was to tell myself I could cool down after – maybe you can only lie to yourself so many times to get through a run, then you’ve got to follow through. I think the goal pace was harder than it should have been given all the training I’ve been putting in and given that it wasn’t much faster than I trained for Shamrock – and that it was much slower than the pace I’d been trying. 10 at this pace, and I’d managed 8.5 at the faster goal pace some weeks ago. Truly don’t know what this all means. I am slowly realizing how much stress and poor sleep may be affecting my training, and how much stress I have been under in the last 4-5 months (much of it still present). There’s probably one or more aspects of my GI and related issues playing in as well. Not sure if I’m hitting diminishing returns on my no-grain diet (since Jan. 2013 roughly). I’d tweeted with Matt Fitzgerald and he said he’s seen athletes get great results from Paleo type diets for a while….lean out, better performance – and then it starts to go the other way (poorer performance, recovery, not sure about the weight/lean). But that’s the only data point I have on that possibility.
  • Sun – 7.25 miles OUTSIDE! Faster than I should have gone for a recovery run (I’m not very good at pacing), but less sore and bad than I expected after yesterday. Wore the below for the first time, comfy on the run.

Sustain the Pain tank from Reckless Running

Sustain the Pain tank from Reckless Running

Bike:  30 min after Saturday’s long run
Core: Skipped Monday as I didn’t get it in the AM and wanted to protect Tuesday’s run. Did it W AM, a bit modified. Skipped Friday. May need to move Core to T/Th/Sat along with other strength to give body a break…but no idea how to find yet more time on those days post-run!
Wharton flex: 6 days, skipped Tues 
Chiro exercises: Nope. No time on Tues, too sore on Th. Bleah.
Coach Jay GSM routine: 1 hard day T, 1 easy day Th (normally a hard day), easy day Friday. Sticking with wks 5-6.
Myrtl routine:  4 (days I do the Coach Jay GSM, there are some of the Myrtl moves in there)
Calf stretches: 6x 
Elliptical: None. 
Pool: none
Walk: pre-run 15 min warmups, plus 3 miles on Monday pre-interview (mind wanted to run but body didn’t feel like it wanted to)
Drills: before every run – lunge matrix, high knees, skips, butt kicks, butt kicks moving in reverse, karaoke, added front & lateral leg swings
Other: Chiro Tues, sports massage Sun.
Nutrition: Looking at nutrition again. Seem to be even more sensitive to volume with things like salads. Appetite weird, digestion slow. May not be eating enough carbs. Trying to use sweet potatoes for that. Controlling Arctic Zero early in week, as stress went up, started “treating” myself. (now I had someone tell me that xanthan gum, in all Arctic Zero, could be something I’m sensitive to – the symptoms are similar, but then again I get the symptoms without Arctic Zero too – think I’m sensitive to everything at this point….) Still avoiding nut butter, though not sure why. May just eat the darned stuff. (May do so tonight – Monday) Have been eating Terra original chips, putting extra salt on them. Had some good Taro chips (from Terra) Sunday, along with my yuca puffs. Those who worry I am not eating enough, no worries. I’d list all the food I eat daily or in a week, but you’d be really bored. It’s pretty healthy and very repetitive, since I can only eat certain things. And, if you read my Weekend Update post, you know that I tried decaf coffee made in an AeroPress over the weekend, first time in quite a while for coffee for me. Who knows, maybe the solution is to eat whatever the heck I want (except for the things that make me sick or in pain). I’m trying to only worry about the numbers on the treadmill, Garmin and chip – but you know it’s hard.

Life/work stress: You know how I thought this would get better? Yeah, that didn’t work out…doesn’t look like it will be decreasing soon due to stuff at work and in life in general. Not optimal for <5 weeks to Baystate.

My current struggles, challenges, whatever you want to call them are definitely making me appreciate how lucky I was in all areas in the buildup to Shamrock and a fairly magical race day (winds notwithstanding). I can still hope for best on race day and do the best I can to prepare, but I’m certainly not feeling the same level of readiness or confidence as I get closer to the race. I’m disappointed, deeply, that I may need to recalibrate my goals and expectations for Baystate (didn’t have many for Richmond or my ultra, but would look at those too). I also need to think about focusing on Boston. I wouldn’t say I’m giving up on my ambitious goals. I spent some time during one run thinking “well if I can do X at Baystate, maybe I can do Y at Boston and then Z at a fall marathon next year”.

I may have to think of Shamrock as my first marathon instead of my third – there was such a huge difference in my times and my training and race execution that Shamrock kind of stands alone. It may not be “fair” (to myself) or “reasonable” (not that I’m known for setting reasonable goals!) to try to cut as much time off in one training as I’d originally targeted. I ran Shamrock mid-March, recovery took a bit, ran a 10 mile race in April, the Heartbreak Hill Half in June, then started immediately with some extra training modules before the “official” 12 week cycle. It may take more of a progression – more time, more cycles – than that to get where I want to go.

It’s hard to think I may have just set up too ambitious of a goal for the time available and that that’s the real problem, not what the goal is, just when I can achieve it. But I learned the hard way in 2013 – by ramping up from ~50mpw to 70-80 in a few months and getting hurt – that trying to make the type of increases in mileage (or in this case speed) that would or “should” take years to do carefully and in a measured fashion can too easily lead to injury and having to take a break from running. I don’t want that. I’m in this for the long haul. But I DO feel like there’s a clock ticking, maybe because of my age/health, like I only have so long to do what I want to do. Wish I had some of the years back when I wasn’t training as much, but I was doing what I could then…and if wishes were horses, Wombles would ride! (anybody get that?) Certainly doesn’t lower the stress level. But it is what it is, and I will do my best to play well the hand I’ve been dealt.

Going forward, I’m not entirely sure how I’ll tweak my plan. I think I’m adjusting my goals for the race and thus the goal race pace, and will likely reflect that in my long runs. (I really don’t want to adjust, so I’m sort of dragging my heels and fighting with myself, but I think that’s what has to happen.) I’m of two minds of whether to try to continue to push toward my original goal pace in my T/Th long/speed workouts (tempo, intervals, etc.) in case I CAN actually do it – have a breakthrough or something – and because it might give me a little extra speed in the race. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments.

I’ve also got my first acupuncture appointment set for the 23rd, someone (who used to be a PT) recommended by my sports massage person. I want her to try to work on my posterior tibial tendon crankiness, sleep issues, GERD/hernia and some other health stuff. Apparently we’ll do an hour interview where she gets to hear all my concerns (should be fun for her, not) and then she tries to figure out how they hook together or don’t, we prioritize and then she starts treatment. I also am scheduling sports massage weekly if I can get it, and trigger point every 2-3 weeks (she’s much harder to get an appointment with) as well as my weekly chiro visits. At some point, I’ll return to my regular doc for annual blood tests and checks of things which may reveal underlying problems that are affecting me, but there’s no time to get that all done (tests, results, appointments) much less treat anything, before Baystate, so I’ll have to press on with what I’ve got.

Whew, that was a long one! If you’re still here, thanks for reading.

Hope you’re having a great week!