Tag: Boston

Pacing at HHHalf & Boston-related misc

After posting the race recap last week, I got some feedback from a reader (runner/coach) interested in more pace detail.

Some of the reasons I don’t put much detail in terms of speed in posts and tweets are the same reasons I don’t blog under my full name – privacy, safety, day job. Additionally, I know I can find myself challenged when reading the posts of those faster than I am (many folks) – they can be inspiring, irritating or depressing depending on how I feel and how my running is going….someone who to me is “fast” complaining about a “slow” time sometimes is tough for me to read. Thus you’ll note my tweets and posts talk about which pace “zone” I am in or paces relative to each other (e.g., 30s faster miles x-y). Since I’m slower than some and faster than some, I don’t want to be the cause of anyone else feeling bad, or losing a feeling of kinship with fellow runners because someone thinks I’m too different one way or another.

However, point taken that more detail might be interesting to some readers and might be useful for me to look at in the future. So what follows is my attempt at balancing detail with the other concerns.

I started the race running with a pace group, since I don’t have much experience with hills and I wanted to run with folks who did. The pace leader was clear we would run even effort, not even pace, given the hills, so some variability no doubt was in her plan as well as making sure to hit each water stop. I finished the race ahead of the pace group’s target finish time. According to the race results web site, my average pace was 7s/mi faster than the pace group’s target pace; my Garmin has my average pace at 15s/mi faster than the pace group’s target pace.

I don’t think I’m that great at pacing, given I have the treadmill to do it for me. It’s something I need to work on. When outside, I tend to run by feel (trying to not feel unpleasantly pushed, mostly) and just check my pace from time to time. In races, I generally have some idea what I’d like to run, will check my pace at mile markers or other splits, and try to adjust as I can. If I feel I’m working harder than I should be, I’ll definitely check my time and see if I need to pull back. Speeding up is, of course, usually harder….. My DH ( @mrrdeatwriterun ) tells me I tend to go out conservatively in races and then speed up at the end, possibly out of old fears of not finishing. (He may not be wrong, though I think at least now I’m more afraid of going out too fast, blowing up, and then having to trudge at a slower pace than I want to finish the race and likely in a time I won’t be happy about.) Much for me to improve upon in pacing for my fall races and Boston!

Note the mile pace info I’m using as the basis for comparison are the ones from my Garmin (since the race splits/pace aren’t to this level of detail). My Garmin shows a different average pace and finish time (Garmin was about 0.15mi longer than course) than the race results. So the below is deltas of what Garmin says is my pace for that mile with the other relevant paces.

Here’s a graph of my pace and the elevation of the race according to my Garmin (pace is blue, closer to the X axis is slower).

HHHalf pace and elevation per my Garmin

HHHalf pace and elevation per my Garmin

Note: “-“ means this mile’s pace per Garmin is faster than the other pace,  “+” is slower, both in seconds & ignoring the last 0.1 or 0.2…..

pace deltas HHHalf per Garmin mi pace

pace deltas HHHalf per Garmin mi pace

Re Boston:

I’m starting to think about what I might want or need to change, improve, tweak for Boston. It’s hard when it’s all N=1. Do I go with what worked to get me where I am, which is someplace I’m thrilled and amazed to be (BQ!), or do I change things up to see how much faster, stronger, better I can get?

One example is changing the timing of my Saturday long run. Since Boston starts so much later than I normally run, I think my training cycle starting in January will need to be adapted to start around the time I’d expect to start Boston. This definitely means I need to think about pre-race fueling. While now I take my required meds at 4 am and may be up by 6 or so on the weekend, running by 8, Boston will be different in how long between when I get up and when the race starts, and the level of activity and alertness required of me in those hours.

Another example of something I may want or need to play with is fueling. I love my EFS Liquid Shot gel, but again – can I get better performance from something else or a different approach? Fueling changes are something I want to try now, and use my training for my A race (Baystate in October) as a learning/testing ground. I don’t take food before a race or long run since my stomach tends to rebel once I start running if there’s any food in it (water and BeetElite with my supplements seem to do ok). Right at the start of a race, I take a tiny bit of Liquid Shot during with water.

Lately, I’ve seen more and more runners (Meb and OT hopefuls ultrarunner Larisa Dannis @larisa_elaine and Erin Henderson @seemomrunfar among others) talking about the success they’ve had with UCAN, which is a gluten-free “superstarch” made from nonGMO corn. It appears they take UCAN before running, and sometimes also during the run. Using UCAN would violate my self-imposed grain-free status (a choice for GI comfort and performance; gluten-free isn’t really a choice given how horrible I feel if I consume gluten). I’m wondering if it’s worth a try given the results I’m seeing/hearing.

Re my dietary constraints, some are because the items in question make me sick, some are avoided for other reasons like GERD or autoimmune concerns, and some are choices for comfort or some other benefit like lower carb eating. I have made limited exceptions to my “rules” in certain areas, for particular reasons. For example I use (isolated) whey protein for recovery and supplemental protein in bars, powders and in Arctic Zero, because the research seems to show it’s the best bet and because I can tolerate whey (possibly not casein). However, I am otherwise dairy-free due to significant lactose intolerance (as much as I miss goat cheese, yogurt, etc.)

It is challenging for me to make these consider and make these tradeoffs. I know there really aren’t dietary “police” and no one is grading me except me, though I’m my toughest critic. My performance and health/well-being are the real goals rather than conformance to rules, even my rules – but it’s hard for me to change these decisions once I’ve made them and they seem to be working out. Occasionally doing so can seem like a “failure” or “compromise”. (kind of strange, I know, but being honest here) Risk vs. reward vs. ego? A challenge on multiple levels for me.

Have you encountered similar challenges in trying to improve your running? How did you decide whether or not to stick with what’s apparently been working and when/how/why to change? What have your experiences been?

Thanks for reading!


Friday Five – Heartbreak Hill Half edition

Welcome to the Friday Five Linkup, hosted by my blog buds/local tweeps
Cynthia at You Signed Up for What?!,
Courtney at EatPrayRunDC and
Mar at Mar on the Run.
Make sure to stop by their blogs for their picks and hop along to the other bloggers in the linkup, featured at the bottom of their pages!
This week’s theme is “free Friday” – pick your own topic, so may I present:

The Post of Fives from the Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Weekend

5 Things I Loved About the Weekend

  • I got to hear legendary and inspiring folks: Bart Yasso, Dave McGillivray, Sarah Reinertsen, Shalane Flanagan, Amby Burfoot, and others
  • The setting and location were outstanding. What a great concept and opportunity for people.
  • I felt like part of a big community of runners, many of whom share my interests and struggles, whether that’s women’s running, masters running, how to get faster/go longer, BQ’ing and running Boston, whatever. My tribe!
  • I loved seeing so many of the RW staff (and being able to identify them). Putting faces and conversations with the names of the people who come into my home daily/monthly and talk to me about one of my absolute favorite topics (running) was absolutely great.
  • I got to give suggestions to Liz Comeau on content for the women’s running channel she’s just joined RW to edit.

5 Takeaways

  • Running truly does unite us regardless of other differences.
  • Runners are – by and large – incredibly friendly and generous, eager to strike up a conversation or help a stranger.
  • While there were plenty of men, it felt to me like an overwhelmingly female event – I think this reflects the growing participation of women in running and in half marathon and shorter events.
  • “Run often, at different paces, mostly easy.” Jonathan Beverly, RunningTimes editor
  • All runners can/should work on hips (see recent RT article) and cadence. Jonathan Beverly

5 Things About My Fall That Were Lucky

  • I was going uphill – I think I would have been more injured (or trampled) going downhill
  • I didn’t hit my head or face or suffer any serious injury (or even break my iphone)
  • It happened early – when I was fresh enough to keep going and able to regroup, and others were fresh enough to avoid running me over
  • I was near Meghan Loftus and friend, who got me up and stayed with me (see “runners are incredibly friendly and generous”, above)
  • I learned that I could handle a fall and keep going – knowledge I hope I don’t have to use, but I am pleased with how I thought, what I did, how I checked on myself and made my decision. I’m kind of pleased with myself on a quasi-badass level for refusing to quit and finishing so well, a confidence-booster!

5 (+1) Suggestions/Comments

  • Make the aid station tables consistent in the order of the drinks available (I don’t think they were), and let runners know ahead of time. What I mean is that Gatorade is always first, last or in the middle.
  • There were a lot of stairs for runners to deal with. The expo was one thing, but all the stairs between the parking garage and athlete’s areas were tiring for Hat Trickers on Sunday going to the race and apparently people were in bad enough shape that they were falling going down the stairs after the half. Kudos to getting a volunteer there to warn people though. This may just be something folks have to accept to be on the beautiful and convenient BC campus.
  • Publicize event details as far ahead of time as possible and don’t limit it to Facebook. I found out at the event that the pasta dinner menu had been publicized on FB (which I don’t use) but I hadn’t gotten an email with any details, nor had anyone responded to repeated Twitter requests for info as to gluten-free options. Since you have our email addresses, it’d be easy to send out plenty of info that way. Allowing people to indicate special needs or submit questions to a designated account would also be helpful.
  • Much of the weekend seemed targeted to those doing the Hat Trick, and the comments at the seminars “for those of you who did the races this morning/were here yesterday” reflected that. Could feel a bit exclusionary for those “just” doing the half, which I’m sure wasn’t intended.
  • The expo could be a bit larger – not too much though. This was the first year, so I think the expo will grow. There were plenty of nice folks and good giveaways. The RW cover photo was a blast, a fun take-home! (I’d have gone to the Shoe Lab, but I think I’d stump them.) The small size wasn’t bad for me (quieter) and I wasn’t looking to buy anything. I did like being able to just sit in the stands and watch the expo and chill out/eat.
  • It was nice that some food was available at the concession stands at the expo. I didn’t realize it was from the RW cookbook for quite a while, the signage could have been bigger and better. Also, publicizing that info (and even the recipes chosen) would have helped me in determining ahead of time what I could/couldn’t eat on site. Given my restrictions, I had to assume there wouldn’t be anything I could eat. (I was right) I had to pack and carry all my food around with me, which wasn’t fun. (I do realize I’m a special case in this regard but I may not be the only one.)

5 (x2) Quotes – I love quotes

  • “Have no fear. Cold execution.” Shalane Flanagan
  • “Never cross a finish line – ever – and be disappointed. That’s selfish. There are so many people who can’t do this.” Dave McGillivray
  • “There are 2 million runners who want to be in Boston. If you are one of the ones lucky enough to be there, enjoy it.” Bart Yasso, talking to runners before the Boston Marathon
  • “Tragedy is not equally dispersed. You don’t know how long you’re going to have the body you have.” Sarah Reinertsen, talking about Jim McLaren, one of her role models
  • “Quitting isn’t an option. It’s never an option.” Sarah Reinertsen
  • “You can’t let fear or embarrassment stop you. Feel it and do it anyway.” Sarah Reinertsen, about learning to swim
  • “I don’t tell you my story just to impress you; I tell you to impress upon you the possibility that exists in each and every one of us.” Sarah Reinertsen
  • “Every step forward, no matter how small, is progress.” Sarah Reinertsen
  • “Fear less, live more.” Sarah Reinertsen
  • “We all have the potential for success; you are UNSTOPPABLE.” Sarah Reinertsen

5 Reasons I’m Glad I Made the Trip and Ran the Race

  • I got to run part of the Boston Marathon course. I have a little bit better feel for it now, and have ideas about how to incorporate course specifics into my training. It also means that Boston won’t be the first time I’ve seen some of the later miles, which I’m sure will be helpful.
  • I made new friends! I got to meet and spend some time with cool people like Alana Bonner, a tweep of mine from Montreal and Kim, a (currently) local Boston area runner.
  • I learned that I’m a little better with heat/humidity/hills than I thought and/or that I did the right things with regard to hydration, electrolytes and pacing.
  • I learned that even without access to my normal pre-race dinner and all my routine comforts, I can run a good race, and I’m able to take care of myself in slightly odd situations without it impacting my performance. (yes, some of that was surely luck, but I’ll take it)
  • My performance, with or without the “spill”, shows me I may be a little stronger/faster than I thought, and reconfirmed that all the extra work that takes time, energy and commitment (hill reps, strength exercises, stretching, drills) is WORTH IT.

Have a great weekend!



Hills, Spills & Thrills: Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Half recap

Hills  – that’s really the point of the event, to run on the infamous Newton hills….here’s the course profile according to my Garmin:

Heartbreak Hill Half course profile

Heartbreak Hill Half course profile per my Garmin

Spills – well, only one – we’ll get to that, but if you follow me @readeatwriterun you know what I’m talking about

Thrills – finishing strong AND under my goal time (and not far off my half PR) despite a challenging course (especially for a flatlander), heat, humidity, not perfect food or rest the day before AND the spill….and getting to run part of the Boston Marathon course before April. It was a terrific opportunity!

AND my pace wasn’t all over the place, despite my lack of pacing experience, the hills, the heat, etc. You can see one problem water stop though – it was more of a pace hit than the fall!

Heartbreak Hill Half pace top faster x axis zero

Heartbreak Hill Half pace top faster pace, x axis zero

Quick take: Good race, well-organized especially for the first year (but I’d expect nothing less from RW and Dave McGillivray). The hills were hills, but – dare I say this, knocking wood – not as terrifyingly hard as I’d thought they’d be or I made them out to be in my mind. That said, they weren’t coming in the last 8 miles of a marathon, so I’m not taking them lightly and plan to continue hill training.

Though it’s much later in the year than I normally race (I don’t like heat), I’d do the half again. I also find myself vaguely tempted by the Hat Trick (5k & 10k Sat, half Sun). So many people did it, but I know at least one who’s going to only do the half next year to focus on it. So we’ll see what next year brings.

Now on to the details! (get a cup of coffee/tea and a snack, this is a long one)

Saturday – the race-related parts (more on the expo/festival in a later post)

Up at 3am to get in a warmup and 2 mile shakeout run before a snack, tea and heading to the airport for a 7am flight. All went fine at the airport and on the flight, and had a really nice flight attendant.

Grabbed a cab after my flight landed around 830, not realizing I’d be approaching campus while the 10k was still going on. The road closures caused traffic backups and detours which gave me plenty of views of the lovely houses of Newton (yowza, and what landscaping), and a cab fare that was more expensive than I’d planned. I got in a little extra walking as a cop at one of the detours told the cabbie it’d be easier to let me walk. Cabbie kept driving around for a bit after then gave up and took me back to the cop. So I walked a block (me and my backpack of food, race gear, etc.) and then walked along the 10k course, probably the last 0.5miles or so, clapping once in a while. At about 930, it was over 80 and sunny, and walking up the hill toward BC, I thought, “this is not gonna be good tomorrow!”

Saturday on fast forward: expo; seminars; lots of eating the food I had brought throughout the day – was so hungry I ate about every hour;  a failed attempt to get to my hotel mid-afternoon which had me walking almost an hour and a half with my backpack on in the heat/sun; dinner of food I’d packed and convenience store purchases at tables outside the building where the pasta dinner was being held; listening to Sarah Reinertsen’s amazing story

I finally got to my hotel via cab around 845pm. The cabbie was so nice – when I mentioned my struggles to find a cab earlier and find food I could eat, he insisted I take one of his two bananas. The hotel couldn’t find my gel for the race which I’d shipped ahead though they’d confirmed receipt via phone multiple times. I went up to the room and they brought it up within a few minutes. (Turned out to be the pattern with this hotel – I encounter some minor problem, but they solve it quickly.)

I started “unpacking”, pulling everything out of the backpack I’d been lugging all day. I knew I had to get race prepped and then get as much sleep as possible. I put a bath towel down on the couch and laid out my full race kit on it including ipod, Garmin, and loaded fuel belt. I find the white background of the towel helps draw my eye to remember to look there and makes the items stand out. I made a list of the things that HAD to come with me to the race in the morning – I don’t trust myself to remember. Then I set up my post race (hot pink, from Eukanuba at the expo) bag with Ultragen, bottled water, empty water bottle, sportlegs and a few other items. I’d been crashing and feeling sleepy but getting everything laid out and the bib pinned on – with emergency info on the back, of course –  woke me up. I made some hot water in the coffeemaker (didn’t drink much because it tasted like coffee) and read a little before trying to go to sleep around 1015. I don’t think I slept much between then and 1am when I had to get up briefly, but I slept pretty well between 1 and 4am….

Sunday – race day!


I woke just before my 4am alarm in the hotel room and turned off the alarm. I thought perhaps I could get a bit more sleep before the next alarm went off at 445, but nope, so I got up around 420. I’d actually set 3 alarms: my usual 4, then 445 and 5 as backups. Given that the charming & gracious Alana Bonner @alanadbonner was picking me up at 6, I wanted to be sure to be ready! I got up and started puttering around, taking my usual pre-race (and pre-long-run supplements, including my BeetElite).

It felt awfully quiet in the hotel room and I knew it would be easy for me to get distracted and lose track of time, so I listened to an old Endurance Planet podcast episode I have stored on my iphone. It helped keep me moving, kind of like background music (but endurance sport focused) and it was one where Tawnee mentioned my BQ, so that helped pump me up. (thanks Tawnee & Lucho!) Also sent some tweets, DMs and IMs to various folks while I was getting ready. I so appreciate everyone’s support and encouragement – it helped to know you were thinking of me!

Slathered on lots of sunscreen, then added a bit more, recalling the full sun of Saturday. The RiteAid sport version I got (it came in a travel size) smells just like Coppertone sunscreen from my teenage years. I got lucky that my skin tolerated it okay as I hadn’t tested it before – I know, violating the rule. Heck, at this point with my eating and hydration on Saturday, I was pretty far past the “nothing new or different” rule. Got dressed and still had plenty of time, so back onto twitter for a bit. Alana was right on schedule, and down I went.

It’s a lovely gift from the universe when you meet someone you’ve only corresponded with and they’re just as nice and cool and interesting and fun as you hoped/thought, as well as generous and thoughtful. That’s Alana! So glad we got to meet, looking forward to our next time together!

We very quickly got to campus (thanks googlemaps! weird to hear distances in k, for my Canadienne driver) and parked. Alana had done the 5k & 10k the day before, so she was more familiar with the athlete’s village and start areas. She graciously offered to grab my bag from the car after the race – since she’d finish ahead of me – and bring it to me at our designated meeting point, building steps in sight of the finish. (see what I mean?) She put on some sunscreen and we threw stuff in the trunk.

My Garmin made its usual pre-race dive for the concrete in the garage but I caught it this time. At least it wasn’t at the start like it was at Shamrock and the Parkway 10 miler, where it picked up a ding on the edge.

Re the Garmin: The problem is the plastic band broke, and I replaced it with a Garmin velcro band, but my wrist is so small only a little of the velcro loops meet. It’s very easy to knock it apart if you hit the end of the strap, which sticks out – I’ve even done it on the treadmill. The watch face (610) is bigger than my wrist as well, so the watch always moves around. I think perhaps this third time was the charm and I’m really going to get the 620 before my next race, sooner if possible so I can train with it. (the question is white or black – I’m leaning white like Meb!) I’m also thinking of selling my 610 with HRM and footpad on ebay. Hey, why not?

We strolled toward the start, with a stop at the outdoor facilities, chatting and having fun. We stopped by the water table for a while and met up with a friend of hers (whose name escapes me, sorry!) and talked some more. I should note that at this point, I was comfortable in a super lightweight tank, running bra and shorts, especially if I was in the sun. So….I knew it was going to be a warm one. (my Garmin says 70 and sunny with 69% humidity at the start) Alana’s Garmin didn’t want to play and apparently died. Fortunately, she had a different Garmin in the car, albeit with less charge, so she went back to get it. I headed back to the portajohns but happily discovered there were campus buildings (with indoor bathrooms!) open. That just rocked. (not sure if it was intentional, but much much appreciated)

I headed back to the water table. I wasn’t going to take any, but decided to take a 2nd dose of Endurolytes (had one at the hotel) just in case. Swigged a little water with it, stuck an Energy Surge tablet in my mouth and went to find the pace group I was going to run with. The pacer was an energetic woman, tiny (didn’t come up to my shoulder!) and very experienced. She explained we’d try to run even effort not even pace, she’d take water at every stop and suggested we do too, and said she’d talk during the race and hold the pace sign the entire way. (helpful because of her size, but that’s gotta be tough) A little chat within the pace group about races we’d run, times, goals, nerves and all the fun stuff that comes up when you pack runners in corrals, and then it was time for the National Anthem. You could hear the silence roll back through the corrals as the notes carried on the warm air. It was a lovely rendition. Then the front pack was off, and shortly thereafter, so were we!

The Race 

The start was quite crowded and of course everyone wanted to stay close to the pacer. So there was a fair amount of jostling, weaving and bumping. I remember turning right after heading out the gates, and running down a road I’d walked yesterday, then heading toward a downhill and thinking, “don’t go out too fast” (echoes of Dave McGillivray in the strategy seminar). I did remember to start my iPod but couldn’t really hear it until we had gotten on the road. I kept turning it down to hear the pacer or a conversation or up to try to get the music in my head.

There were so many people it wasn’t really possible to get into your own rhythm/head and just run your own race in the early miles. It would have been almost dangerous to do so given we were limited to half the road in many places, so if – like me – you tend to run in the middle of the road, you need to sidestep the cones meant to keep you to your half. (I need to get better at this, the lateral motion is wasted energy.) Runners needed to pay attention to the hills, to manhole covers and occasional poor pavement (spoiler alert!) and to where everyone else was. I know I bumped into one runner trying to pass and though I apologized, saw from her shadow behind me that I’d unbalanced her momentarily and felt horrible about it. I was grateful it was on a flat section, not on a downhill.

According to the pacer, we were doing well on our pace even with the hills. The road we were on had some trees on it so there were little patches of shade, but not much. It was mostly full sun.

The Spill

Somewhere around mile 4, perhaps a little before, I was running uphill and caught the toe of my right shoe on something in the road. Not sure if it was a manhole cover edge (they’re recessed, so there’s an asphalt lip) or some other pavement oddity, but whatever it was, it was enough. I felt the catch and realized I was going down, and got my hands out in front of me. I slammed hard into the pavement on the heels of my hands and my knees (especially the R knee) and my right shin (road rash & bruise). Thoughts flashed through my mind about runners being “trampled” after a fall, and I moved my body to look behind me. All I saw were legs from about shorts’ end down coming at me, and I was scared. Then I heard two female voices saying “are you ok?!” and saw hands reaching down. I grabbed the hands and they pulled me up. We almost immediately turned forward and started running again.

My rescuers were two women – one whose name I didn’t get, a blonde in a blue sparkle skirt over shorts, and Runner’s World editor Meghan Loftus. (note to David Willey – having the staff in shirts so they could be identified was a terrific idea) I was a little bit shocky – first the adrenaline rush, then the pain, then the feeling shaky and like you’re going to cry, all typical after such an incident – but I didn’t want to stop. I’d been so nervous about the race, and had the stress of travel and food worries the day before – now I was running it and I didn’t want to DNF, couldn’t stand the thought. My saviors asked me repeatedly if I wanted to stop, if I was ok, told me the medical tent wasn’t far, and offered to go get medical personnel.

As we were running, I looked at the palms of my hands and saw red, so figured I’d scraped them up. I couldn’t really see much of what happened to my knees/legs given the angle, but I didn’t see blood running down. I asked them how bad it was, and Meghan ran ahead, looked back and said, “not too bad”. She wasn’t totally convincing; the look on her face conflicted a little with what she said, so I figured she was trying to give me the choice to keep going. The places I’d met the road hurt, but not in a way that suggested an injury that would affect my running (though my right VMO twinged for a minute or two, making me think ‘uh oh, the chiro’s going to have to fix that’). I didn’t feel like my gait was different. Every step just hurt my knees in a new and different way, but I didn’t think I’d be doing myself long-term damage, so I said again that I didn’t want to go to the medical tent. (I figured they’d just clean me up, but it would take a while to clean me up and then my race would be over and that was unacceptable.)

I realized after the race that I had these clots/scabs of blood on my right knee, lots of red on my right shin and a red spot on my left knee. 

legs after RW HHHalf 06-08-2014

legs after RW HHHalf 06-08-2014

Explains why the medical personnel at every aid station looked at me carefully as I passed. Very pale runner with blood on her leg? You’d be keeping an eye on her too. I can’t wait to see the on-course photos. I really want one of me that shows the injuries.

We were chatting a little, trying to get my head back into the race. Having a water stop at 4.5 (soon after the fall) helped, I had to focus on that. I knew it was hotter and more humid than any conditions I’d run in since last summer, and since I’m not an outside runner by any stretch, I thought I was probably at higher risk of dehydration. I think just prior to this station I took a swig of my gel, figuring the sugar would help not only energy but my mental recovery from the injury. I swallowed the water I could and kept going. I lost the blue sparkle skirt runner pretty soon after, but Meghan and I stayed sort of together or in the same area for a while longer.

Water stops seemed to collect bunches of runners more than they usually do – you had to be careful where you stepped and to not knock into anyone. There were plenty of stops – about every 1.5 miles – and except for one, they were well stocked. Everyone seemed to be using caution and taking water or Gatorade (offered at all stops but the first), and I saw some people carrying liquid in belts, handhelds and even a few Camelbaks – good day to do that. I don’t remember if the stops were consistent about whether water was first or Gatorade, my recall is they weren’t and if that’s the case, that could be improved. Shamrock had a water table, Gatorade table, water table order at every stop, and they publicized that pre-race, worked great.

For the rest of the race, I remember snapshots or moments over the rest of the race, and where certain things happened may be mixed up, which seems to happen to me when I try to go back through the miles:

  • starting to dump water on myself, down my back – first time ever – at the mile 6 water stop, and every time I took water after that
  • hearing the pacer, shortly after the 10k mark saying “halfway there!”
  • the water stop at 7.5 (I thought it was 9, but my Garmin thinks otherwise) that was overwhelmed – I kept yelling “water” and got to the last table, had to keep going, stopped and turned back trying to get water only to be handed about an ounce of Gatorade by a frantic young woman; I tossed it, knowing it was only 1.5mi to the next stop – I really was thinking water stop to water stop, and then “only x miles to the finish” at each one
  • lovely flower scent wafting from some of the beautiful yards on the course
  • patches of shade from leafy trees that were so much cooler everyone tried to run in them, and one breeze for about 10 seconds in the last 3 miles
  • the nice houses and yards in the neighborhoods
  • seeing the Heartbreak Bill gorilla high-fiving runners and the HHRC Newton store on a corner on the course
  • a few spectators out on the course with signs or dogs – not that many and in some places none, but there were enough runners to keep the energy up
  • the famous Newton fire station (mile 17.5 on the marathon course I think) with its Boston Strong sign up – I waved to the firefighters out front but got no response
  • the “frontage” road we ran on alongside Commonwealth for the last few miles – the pedestrian crosswalks had a foot-wide strip of concrete, maybe 8-10 rows of flat cobble-like bricks and another strip of concrete; I was already trying to be really attentive to anything in the asphalt that could be a problem like manhole covers, holes, overfills, dips, and then got the added concern of these crosswalks as I figured the bricks might be overly smooth
  • appreciating that I’d had to walk the last bit of my trek to campus on Saturday, because I recognized when we were getting fairly close to campus and paused my iPod – I even high-fived one guy I’d seen the day before (who I swear I know but I can’t place him) and another woman
  • turning into the gates of campus, then heading toward toward the finish and everyone speeding up, like when a jet surges just before you land
  • speeding up myself, seeing the long straight line to the finish, and moving to the left to try to not be behind anyone but not necessarily pass anyone
  • the announcer (not Bart) announcing my first name, pausing (my last name isn’t easy) and just moving on to the next runner
  • realizing too late that I was stopping my Garmin right in front of the finish line photographer, then double checking I’d actually stopped it
  • getting my medal a few steps later, then seeing photographers who asked if I wanted a picture with my medal (yes), then heading to the food tent and the steps to meet Alana

Post-race, Alana continued to be a terrific running buddy. She kept asking if I wanted to go to the medical tent, and I said maybe I would but after I got my drink in me, found a bathroom, etc. She went and got a security guard, who looked at my legs as I sat on the steps and said he’d get medical. Apparently in addition to all the medical support people on the course and at the medical tent at the end, they had roving medical staff too (big kudos to the race organizers, best med support I’ve ever seen). A guy came over with a bag and checked me out. He sprayed something on my right knee to clean it (guess in addition to the blood there were little pavement stones in the skin/blood) but it didn’t hurt too badly. He didn’t work on it a lot since he said it had stopped bleeding and clotted nicely. He saw things were bruising and suggested I go get ice and told me to clean it well back at the hotel. I said I’d ice it back at the hotel too. (I still haven’t iced it, and it’s Tuesday – just didn’t feel like I needed it)

Alana took this photo to share our triumph over the heat, hills and humidity (triple H threat – hey, HHHalf)

HHHalf medals shoes photo courtesy Alana Bonner

HHHalf medals & shoes photo courtesy of Alana Bonner

What I don’t remember but wish I did: the Johnny Kelley statue. I’ve seen photos of it and the course description as well as the strategy session mentioned it. I don’t remember seeing it AT ALL.

Music – I don’t recall hearing that many of my songs. I could probably only say for sure I heard less than 10 of them, identifying them in my mind with particular snapshots of road and sun. I think had the volume pretty low. I felt like the course had enough people that I needed to be paying attention and be able to hear runners around me whether or not I was talking to them. Given that we ran near a hospital with ambulances going in, and at once point a fire truck & ambulance were brought onto the course, I think it was the right decision. I prefer to take the “change the volume” approach rather than go completely without a player, that way I can make the decision real-time and the music is there if I need/want it. No song reached the 5x pinnacle of Wild Wild West in Shamrock, but I do recall playing Tusk twice – good beat for the uphill section I was on – and Raise Your Glass twice, mouthing along with the words.

Thanks for reading! To come, probably Friday – my thoughts on the festival (expo, seminars).

Read on if you want info on my race kit and lots of detail on my fueling.

Race kit
Brooks Adrenaline GTS13 with custom orthotic
Feetures socks
The North Face Better than Naked shorts
The North Face Stow-n-Go bra (iphone in ziploc)
The North Face Better than Naked tank
UltrAspire Quantum fuel belt
Garmin 620
ipod shuffle with yurbuds
The North Face visor
lots of sunscreen!

Race day fueling & hydration
Pre:  The usual supplements – Hammer Endurolytes, Endurance Amino, and Anti-Fatigue Caps, Wobenzym, Acid-Ease, glutamine, MAP.  2 FRS chews and 1 packet BeetElite (mixed with about 6oz of SmartWater). Also made sure to take my regular meds (4a), my Prevacid and my Allegra. Just before race start, I took 2 more Endurolytes with a sip of water, and a Hammer Energy Surge.

During: I think this went well. I took water at all but one stop though I wasn’t really ever thirsty. I think I got down probably 14oz of water total. I am better at drinking from a cup on the run now! Calorie-wise I took EFS First Endurance Liquid Shot (vanilla) at 4.5, 7.5 or 9 (I think, whichever stop I missed water at because I remember thinking how glad I was that it goes down ok without water) and maybe 10.5. I was trying to make sure the fall didn’t mess with my energy too much and keep up on electrolytes which the gel has. So though I didn’t feel like I desperately needed it, I made sure to take it regularly and wound up taking the whole 400calorie/5serving flask. (BTW, I don’t like the new flask tops but the new shape is ok. I’ll still use Hammer flasks at home though.) During the race I wasn’t really thirsty, I wasn’t hungry – my stomach did “re-announce” a few of the water/gel inputs but that’s fairly normal for me so I wasn’t concerned. I wasn’t queasy and my stomach wasn’t rebelling. All good.

Post: I think this went well also. I grabbed a bottle of water at the post-race food setup and took a few sips. I wasn’t really that thirsty but knew I should drink. Alana was incredibly nice and grabbed my gear bag from the car after she finished so that she could meet me and I could have my recovery drink immediately. I think it was less than 10 minutes after I finished the race when I started mixing it. I used a full 2scoops (travel packet) of EFS Ultragen cappuccino (only for races, at home I use 1-1.5 scoops) and about 12 ounces of water and swigged it down in maybe 5 minutes along with 3 sportlegs. I had a few sips of plain water as well.

When we got back to the car to head to my hotel, I opened the 11 oz bottle of Zico coconut water I’d put in the gear bag. It was warm but not hot, and still palatable, so I sipped at it and eventually finished it back in the hotel room. I got back to the hotel and took 5 MAP and 2 more Endurolytes. I brewed about 12oz of tea using SmartWater. I drank the tea, finished the Zico and ate the rest of my last JSP with salt. I had a second Zico, which I opened and started drinking; I wound up taking it in the cab and finishing in the airport. I filled up my 12oz Klean Kanteen with water from a drinking fountain for the flight. On the flight I ate a Quest bar (protein/fiber). I really think having the Ultragen immediately and taking in so much fluid made a big difference in how I felt and recovered (well) and that my Saturday hydration and eating helped as well.

Saturday fueling – different than usual so thought I’d log it since the race went well
Pre-flight – 12oz tea, 2oz chicken breast
Flight – Quest bar (protein/fiber), JSP with sunflower seed butter, 12oz matcha tea
At expo – 12oz water from fountain, coconut bread sandwich with almond butter, dried bananas, a bite of a JSP
After first seminar – half an Epic bison bar, half an apple/mango fruit bar, more water
After second seminar – other half of bison bar, more water then
1.5hours walking outside carrying my backpack looking for a cab and finding a convenience store, followed by half of 11oz of Zico coconut water, serving of kale greenola, more dried bananas before last seminar
Dinner (530pm, after second trip to convenience store, sitting outside) – Muscle Milk (vanilla), second serving of kale greenola, remainder of JSP and salt, 3/4 of a (6 serving) bag of Terra crinkle cut sweet potato chips, dried bananas, rest of the Zico, probably some more water
Hotel before bed – maybe 4oz hot water with stevia
I felt REALLY hydrated and somewhat overly carbed, but I had been getting hungry about every hour, really hungry, so I just went with it. I probably ate 1000 calories over what I’d normally eat or had planned, but it sure seemed to work out for me on race day!


Ready or Not, The Heartbreak Hill Half is Coming…

Some tweeps have been asking me if I’m ready for Sunday’s race. The answer is “I really don’t know”….and I’m a bit nervous about that. I suppose it all depends on your definition of “ready”.

I haven’t trained for hills or in warmer weather, but I am used to covering the distance. The intent of this race is to be a learning experience for me (my only chance to run on some of the Boston course before the big day) and a hill training run at a good pace. I am struggling with my expectations knowing it won’t be a PR (there’s just no way that’s gonna happen), trying to keep a “just run strong and have fun” mindset. I don’t really think of myself as competitive but I have been told (by DH) that I am, especially with myself.

I’m trying to decide whether or not to run with a pace group. At the moment, I’m thinking yes, because I don’t yet have a good feel for my pace on flat roads, much less hills. A pace group would let me just follow people familiar with the course, and help me learn a little by watching them – as well as, hopefully, keeping me from imploding from rookie mistakes.

In preparation updates, I shipped my preferred gel to the hotel today, but will bring packets of a second choice and an empty flask as backup. I also have to carry bread, nut butter, bars and some other food since my dietary restrictions mean not much of what’s readily available works for me. If I want lunch or snacks, I’m on my own. I’m not looking forward to lugging the whole kit & caboodle around all day and night, but that’s what’s got to be. I won’t hit the hotel until after Sarah Reinertsen’s speech, cabbing it there and then back to the race start the next morning. (then back to hotel post-race, and airport to fly home!)

Still TBD: what’s on my iPod, music v. podcasts. I’m leaning music, faster-paced to help me keep pushing. I love my podcasts, but I might unintentionally slow down listening to the interesting discussions. I realize the race “discourages” headphones, but I need all the help I can get! I’ll keep the volume pretty low, and if I’m with a pace group, that should mostly allay concerns about missing instructions or announcements. Of course, this means a bit of playlist tweaking and syncing has to happen in the next (gulp) 3 days as well as laundry and packing (list-making!). Hoping to have a semi-regular/relaxed Friday night, even if an early bedtime, means everything needs to be done by COB Friday. Yay for teleworking!

Also TBD: whether i get up even earlier on Saturday (need to leave the house around 5:45am) so I can get in a quick 3mile max shakeout run. Right now I’m leaning yes, but we’ll see. I find the shakeout runs help me – so do drills and a brief run before race start. I won’t have any other chance to do a run on Saturday, and while walking to dinner and back will help, a lot of Saturday will be standing and sitting (including the plane), not ideal for the day pre-race. If I don’t want to do it Saturday, I’ll need to run Friday instead of bike or my body will be even more confused as it will have had two days between runs, something that only happens post-race.

If you’re going to be at the race, the expo or the seminars, I would love to meet up with you. Get in touch ahead of time, or if you want to look for me there, I’ll probably be the only one attached to a bright green Speedo swim backpack (aka my carryon luggage). My “schedule” such as it is, is below.

Current Saturday Plan:

I expect to get to the expo around 10. (7am flight lands around 830, cab to expo) I’ll do packet pickup and see what goodies I might “need” (and what fits in my backpack). While I love that they’re doing book (and autograph card) signings, I already have many of the books, so not sure I’ll do more than wander by.

12pm Women’s Running seminar (if that doesn’t hold my interest, I’ll move to the Masters seminar)

12:45 Bart Yasso’s seminar!  (if possible given the previous seminar, not sure how long sessions last)

1:30 How to Get Faster and Go Longer

(looks like I might have some free time between these two to chat, probably not enough to get to my hotel and back)

3:45 Course Strategy – How to Run the Heartbreak Hill Half (a must, and probably helpful for me for Boston too)

I would have loved to attend the 3:45 blogging session – and hope to meet some of the panelists – but course strategy has to take priority. I’m actually surprised they scheduled anything else at the same time.

Then, I’ll walk a mile or so off campus to a casual restaurant called Boloco (seems Chipotle-like) that assures me they can meet my dietary constraints with a salad and chicken, and then walk back for the 7pm Sarah Reinertsen keynote. Can’t wait, I’m reading her book now, amazing woman. If anyone would like to join me for dinner, I’d welcome the company!

Whether or not you’re going to be at the race, sending strong and speedy thoughts my way on Sunday morning (race start 7:30 ET) would be much appreciated! If you’re racing, in Boston or elsewhere, know i’ll be sending some good vibes your way too.

Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Half!


I’m used to running flattish races like this (Richmond half, my last half PR)

or the Shamrock course, which had an overpass “hill” at around miles 2 and 9 in the full.

In fact, I look for races reputed to be “flat and fast” and I haven’t ever done much hill training. I’d say any, but on my occasional Sunday outside runs, I do run some of the hills in our neighborhood.

But Boston looks like this

So I need to start working on my hill training!

I signed up for the Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Half on June 8th to get a bit of familiarization with part of the course and a little experience running hills.

And, to add to the fun, I’m doing this solo AND it includes travel! (which, if you recall, isn’t my favorite thing….)

As it happens, the whole weekend is really kind of a challenge to myself in many ways.

The race is Sunday morning. I’m going to fly up very early Saturday (not early enough for the Bart shakeout run, sadly). I’ll take a cab to Boston College, the race HQ. I’ll spend the day at the expo/seminars. Then I’ll need to find myself dinner at Whole Foods a few miles away – unless they can tell me there’s something for me to eat at the pasta dinner, which I’d love to attend given the presence of people like Bart Yasso and Tish and Shalane Flanagan.  (If you know the area and can suggest other nearby casual gluten-free and paleo-friendly options, please let me know!) I’ll listen to Sarah Reinertsen speak (just got her book from the library), cab it to the hotel, prep for the race, and try to get some sleep. The combo of first night in a hotel and night before the race probably isn’t a good one for sleep, so I’ll try to stock up on sleep the few days before the race.

I’m likely to get up wicked early on Sunday to cab to the race in plenty of time to warm up, etc. before it starts at 7:30. I’ll hang out for a bit after, head back to the hotel via cab, shower, cab it to the airport and be home (Jet Blue, weather and traffic willing) a mere 36 hours after I leave, in time for a late dinner.

I’m a little nervous about all the logistics working out. Flight timing, traveling with so little stuff, finding safe food that I can eat at the right time, finding my First Endurance Liquid Shot vanilla gel in Boston (flask is too big for carryon) and that kind of stuff.

So what are my goals for the race? I’d love to PR. But realistically, I’m not trained to PR on a hilly course, and it’ll be warmer than my usual race temps, so I’m taking a PR off the table unless the universe decides to gift me with it. I’m hoping to run as strong as I can, with people who make the miles fly, and maybe have some course experience they can share. I’m looking forward to seeing some of the Boston course so it won’t be a total surprise on race day.

I’m trying to tell myself the time is irrelevant, it’s the experience on the course that matters (even if my time is likely to make me grind my teeth). I’m going to ask you all for help with maintaining that perspective/mindset, I’m sure! I know there’s pretty much no way for me to get noticeably better at running hills in the 4 weeks until the race, so it’ll be what it’ll be. Till then, I am going to keep strength training, do some hills on the treadmill, and add in some elliptical work to help my quads (just minutes at a time so as not to trash them for actual running).

One race doesn’t buy me a lot, I know, but I need all the help I can get. I intend to do more hill work in my training for the remainder of the year, despite the fact I have no hilly races planned until Boston – Baystate is flat and so is Across the Years. (unless you consider the Richmond full – only a possibility at this point – hilly).

I plan to – at some point during this year – set my treadmill up on boards so I can do decline training. If you’ve done that, I’d love to hear from you about what worked and what didn’t. I haven’t decided when the setup will happen as the treadmill is so heavy DH can only set it up that way once – then it will likely stay that way till this time next year. I’m also about to start a 4 week hill module from McMillan. (that will be followed with a 4 week speed module, then the 12 week training plan for Baystate)

All you runners out there with more experience on hills than me, or who eat hills for breakfast and love it – what tips can you give me for hill training? Any and all will be appreciated.

If you’re running the HHHalf too, please get in touch. I always love to meet the people I know from the internet!