Tag: BQ

Boston Training so far

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

Boston 2015 Acceptance Confirmation

Boston 2015 Acceptance Confirmation

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

Training Recap Week of Dec 1, 2014 

Run summary – details here

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

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

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

Training Recap Week of Dec 8, 2014 

Run summary – details here

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

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

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

Training Recap Week of Dec 15, 2015 

Run summary – details here

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

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

Training Recap Week of Dec 22, 2014

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

Mon – biked in the AM and at work at lunch

Tues – 7 mi including cruise intervals

Wed – 6.3 mi including leg speed intervals

Thurs – travel, up for 19 hours

Fri – biked 45 min at hotel gym

Sat – 3.35 mi easy pace shakeout run

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

Across The Years

Across The Years

Training Recap Week of Dec 29, 2014

Recovery week 1

Mon – biked 40 min at hotel gym

Tues – biked 25 min at hotel gym

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

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

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

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

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

Training Recap Week of Jan 5, 2015

Recovery week 2

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

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

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

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

Fri – XT day

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

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

Boston elevation spreadsheet and course profile on my treadmill

Boston elevation spreadsheet and course profile on my treadmill

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

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

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

See you in Hopkinton!



Richmond Post-Race Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

2) finish, and

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

How’d I do?

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

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

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

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

Things I learned:

I can run 2 marathons within 4 weeks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Musings:

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

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

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

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



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)

and

  • 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! 

 

 

 



Post-Baystate thoughts and musings

Some thoughts and musings post-Baystate.

IMG_0119

 

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:

IT WAS ALL WORTH IT.

On to BOSTON!



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!

SUNDAY MORNING

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”.

 

THE RACE
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?

 

There! 
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.
THE AFTER
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.



SHAMROCK 2014 RACE REPORT or HOW I GOT MY FIRST BQ!

RACE MORNING, PRE-RACE

I woke up around 5 on race morning (race start 8:30) and started puttering around the hotel room.  I went through my normal routine of taking supplements, making and drinking my Beet-Elite (beet root concentrate) and munching FRS chews. I also prepared multiple flasks with my gel and water combination (EFS First Endurance Liquid Shot in vanilla). Then I put on sunblock and got dressed in my race kit, which was laid out in the living room.

I’d pinned my bib on as part of race prep Saturday afternoon (thanks to Sage Rountree’s Racing Wisely book for suggesting me I do this ahead of time). However, I had to re-do it Saturday night after I realized I hadn’t written emergency info on the back. At least I wasn’t doing it now!

I spent some time looking out from the hotel room’s balcony at the ocean, at the race tents and setup, and watched the sun rise.It seemed warmer and less windy in the darkness than after the sun showed its face. (this turns out to be true later)

 

sunrise photo from hotel balcony

sunrise photo from hotel balcony

Around 7:00, I put sweats on over my race kit and went out with my dear husband (DH) to walk down and find the marathon start line and do a quick warmup. This was the first time I’d done a pre-race warmup, but I knew I couldn’t afford to start any slower than goal pace. We walked quickly in the cold – I was so cold after a few blocks I started running. I ran down to the start and back past my husband, warming up quickly and feeling pretty good in my sweats. Nothing hurt that doesn’t usually complain (tight hamstring, cranky tendon, etc.) so I thought that was good.

THE START

We went back to the hotel so I could have a few minutes to myself, use a real bathroom one last time, and get my fuel belt on. Put the sweats back on, and around 8:00 we headed off to the start. At the expo, we’d been told the pacer would be in the corral 10-15 minutes early to talk to the runners, discuss water stop strategy, etc. I was starting one corral back from my assigned corral to stick with a pacer instead of go with what I’d projected as my dream time. There was only one pacer for my group. We got to the corral and kept looking for the pacer, who didn’t show up until 8:20ish, making a few of us nervous. He showed up in the orange pacer tank, with his sign (the handle had already been broken in half by the wind) and a small water bottle filled with some kind of sports drink.

I handed off my sweats to DH, who melted into the crowd, and started talking to other runners. I met Natalie, who had the same goals as me (BQ but faster) and was from the area. She said she “owned” the hill we’d run around miles 2 & 10 and was very confident. (I lost her well before the hill.) I met Susan and Ella, who I also lost contact with early on, and a woman in a long-sleeved red shirt with a Camelbak (I’d originally planned to use one) who ran right on the pacer’s heels most of the early miles.

Just before the start, I knocked the velcro strap on my Garmin 620 apart and was lucky to catch it as it fell. (the original strap broke in the classic way earlier in the year, but I won’t be joining the lawsuit) I had a brief moment of panic getting my gloves off, the Garmin secured, and my gloves back on, but had enough time before the start. We listened to the National Anthem – nice job by the vocalist – and then the first corral was off and we all moved forward. I remembered to start my Garmin as we crossed the mat, but it was a minute or so more until I remembered to un-pause my iPod.

THE EARLY MILES

For the first few miles, I was running very close to the pacer. I spent some time chatting with a guy from the DC area in a Marathon Maniac shirt (wish I remembered his name, just know he’s a member of the VHTRC (Virginia Happy Trails Running Club), a member of the Pacers Old Town team and was running the HAT 50k the next weekend) and a guy named Sandy from DC who was new to VHTRC. We talked about running around DC, Marathon Maniac-ing and other chatty runner things. The hill – Rudee Bridge – wasn’t bad at all. My head said, “oh, the hill…yep, still the hill…how much long – it’s over” as we crested. So my incline treadmill training simulating the hills during long runs must have helped. I remember a woman saying to me “you look like you’ve done this a few times before” and I said, “a couple”.

I spent some time in the first miles after the bridge (maybe miles 3-4) trying to slow down as I could tell pacer was a few seconds fast. There were more elbows bumping and people stepping on my heels – we all REALLY wanted to stay with the pacer – than in much more crowded races I’ve run. It was definitely race pace or better, but I was holding it and reminded myself I’d trained for this, running 18 miles of a 21 miler at goal pace (which was 3 seconds faster than the official time the pacer was to be running).

From very early in the race, it seemed like every step was painful in my legs. Not in an injury way, just sort of an all over hurt. It was very strange, but since it was consistent, and not getting worse, so I just tried to make it into background noise and ignore it. I later figured out it was my muscles hurting because of the cold and wind. When I’d done my pre-race warmup in sweats, I didn’t have any of that kind of pain. DH later said it must have been like running in an ice bath.

I took water at an aid station around mile 7. The water was very cold & it took extra energy to get back to the pacer even though I ran through the aid station, so I decided I couldn’t do that again unless I really felt super thirsty. Thankfully the cold took care of that and I wasn’t thirsty at all, getting by on the water I’d mixed in with my gel in my gel flasks. I got really lucky – I probably only took in 4-6 ounces of water the whole race and while I was dehydrated at the finish, I don’t think it affected my race performance.

Most of what I remember in the first 6-9 miles, aside from chatting and trying not to run into/onto people, is being annoyed with my fuel belt, which kept trying to slide down my butt. I kept having to pull it up and readjust it. Because of all the chatting, I don’t remember hearing much of my music early. Oddly, later when I was by myself, I don’t recall hearing much of it either, until toward the end of the race.

Running through Camp Pendleton between miles 8 and 9, I appreciated the uniformed service members who came out to cheer us on, though I didn’t spare the energy to do more than smile or raise my thumbs. They were loud enough on both sides of the small road that I thought “oh, that’s what people mean when they talk about the wall of sound from the Wellesley girls at Boston.” It was a brief lift as we headed back toward the hill.

I think there was headwind from around mile 9 for a while. Someone asked the pacer how long the wind lasted and I remember him saying, “9 miles” and people groaning. “That can’t be right”, I thought. At some point after the hill, running back toward the hotels, the woman who’d spoken to me before saw me again and asked “how are you doing?” I just looked at her and said, “it’s HARD”.

HALFWAY

I saw DH on the sidewalk around mile 13. We’d pre-arranged where he’d be, and he was carrying an extra gel flask in case I needed it. I had put songs on my playlist for around that time into the race (estimated by goal pace) that reminded me of him to signal me to look for him. Thank goodness I actually heard them and remembered what they meant! He saw me, we made eye contact as he clapped and shouted support, but I didn’t need anything so I just nodded and kept going.

At some point after that, it seemed to get harder for me to stay with the pacer. I assumed I was slowing down, because that was what I was afraid of. (later DH would tell me, and I would figure out that pacer speeded up, maybe banking time against the wind) I felt like I couldn’t go any faster and didn’t want to risk trying and blowing up, so I tried to keep the pacer in sight as long as I could but eventually lost him. (Later I saw that at the mile 18.1 split, I was 50 seconds behind him when up till then I’d been within 2 seconds.) If I’d checked my Garmin, I would have felt better as my pace would have looked fine. But I didn’t think to do that, I was working hard and all my thoughts, if there were any, were about continuing to push.

At some point I realized we were past mile 16, so single digits to go. I’d thought about that point in the race miles earlier, thinking how good it would feel to have only single digits left, but now it just seemed like there was still a long way to go.

Running through the Shore Drive section (no wind! trees!) I appreciated the tip from Christine,  who I’d met on Saturday at the Bart Yasso shakeout run, to watch out for the camber of the road. I’d said, “I’ll run in the middle” and she said no, the shoulder was the best place, and she was right. I stayed on the shoulder except when I had to move off for a music vehicle or something else parked on the shoulder. The runners got a lot more strung out in this section and I saw other people who’d been in my pace group though the pacer was long gone from sight.

FORT STORY – aka THE WIND TUNNEL

Miles 19 to almost 23 were through Fort Story, and were the worst – very cold, hellacious wind right off the ocean, not enough people around to block or hang on to. Someone later said they thought the sustained wind was 15mph, with gusts to 25mph. So I was running into or across a 15mph wind or more the whole time. This was the very hardest part of the race, and I’m so proud that I didn’t give up here.

This section was brutal. I was so cold. My legs ached as they had the whole race. I kept telling myself “you’re not injured, that’s not what it feels like”. I watched the average pace on my Garmin tick up one second, then later another. I normally can’t do math at all during a race  and completely forgot I was wearing a pace band as a backup. Somehow my math brain worked and I  frantically calculated and re-calculated – can I make my goal time, can I make the BQ time, can I finish under 4?

I felt like I was watching my goals slip away. I felt like I was running as hard as I could but like I was no faster than walking, it was so much effort. My worst mile time per my Garmin was in this section, at 10:09 – I would have said it was 12:00 easily. I saw people walk, then try to start to run again. I was fighting with myself – a total head game – for a moment I wanted to cry but I told myself “NO!” I thought of what it would feel like to DNF, to disappoint myself and so many other people, everyone who believed in me, my family, friends and my running twitter friends. I’d taken the risk, unusual for me, of sharing my goals with people and being enthusiastic and vocal about them and soaking up their support, encouragement and belief in me. I told myself I couldn’t walk, I’d go hypothermic. I convinced myself it would be faster to keep running. There was no visible on-course support from the race organizers (or I didn’t see it). There were a few spectators near some military housing and momentarily my brain said, “I wonder if they would drive me back to the hotel, or would let me call my husband to come get me” then I thought, “no, no one could get through with the road closures, it’s faster to run”. I saw one or maybe two soldiers standing by vehicles blocking intersections and thought that it would be warm in the cars and they’d probably have to help me if I went over. But I kept moving.

I kept looking at the lighthouse so far away, knowing that the curve of the road to reduce the wind was around or after the curve (and that there were photographers there). It didn’t seem to get any closer for a long time. I saw the ocean off to the left. I kept thinking “the wind can’t keep up, it has to stop”. In a photo taken near the lighthouse, I can see the wind trying to tear my bib off, and I look like I’m slow-motion running.

I don’t remember any of the music that was playing through these miles. I thought about how I had only put a certain amount of music on my iPod, enough to get through my dream goal time, the pacer time, and the BQ time. I knew after that it would go silent or start over and wondered if I’d get to that depressing point. I couldn’t remember the mantras that I’d come up with during my long (treadmill) runs and repeated over and over on those runs. I only used the mantras once in the race, somewhere in the first quarter, way before I really needed them. I kept looking at my miles elapsed and what was left to run, trying to figure out “you’ve got this long to run this many miles so if you can just hold this pace, you can do it, just keep going” and doing that over and over every time I recalculated. I kept doing that periodically through the rest of the race, but in Fort Story it seemed like that was all I was doing, in some sort of continuous loop.

THE END OF THE WIND, FINALLY!  LAST MILES & THE FINISH

We finally got out of Fort Story and on to Atlantic Avenue – it seemed like forever, but that turn happens shortly after mile 22. At some point just after the turn, I remembered how long the stretch was on Atlantic, since we ran it outward and saw people heading the other direction toward the finish. It was strange to now be the person heading back, seeing people still heading out!

I kept calculating how long left to get what finish time, trying to make my legs go faster. I didn’t really feel them anymore except for the pain I’d felt for much of the race. I felt so clumsy and slow I wasn’t really sure if I *was* going any faster. I’d stopped looking at average pace, just elapsed time and miles mattered now. At some point, the 80s song Wild Wild West came on my headphones and it seemed to give me a good pace beat. I kept hitting the “back” and I think I played it at least 5 times in a row, and it’s long. I remember it all the way down Atlantic. As I saw the corner up ahead with cones where we’d turn left to finish on the boardwalk, I paused the iPod. I didn’t even want to hear the song I loved so much & had carefully chosen to be timed with my dream goal finish time. I knew I’d finish, and I just wanted to get to the line as fast as I could.

After the turn onto the boardwalk, I could see the Finish arch, but it looked so far away! I looked at my Garmin and calculated again and thought, “it’s gotta be half, maybe 3/4 of a mile, you’ve got x minutes, you could walk and still do it – but keep running”. I ran and picked up more speed. There were now spectators cheering the runners on, reading our names off our bibs and shouting encouragement. I started to smile and feel some emotion as the finish approached, but tried to just keep pushing faster. I looked for the mat and reminded myself not to hit my watch right then because of the photographers usually at the line so I hit it a second or two after crossing.

I started stumbling a bit then. No one was handing out mylar blankets and I sure could have used one. (I’ve never been to a half/full where they didn’t but perhaps they meant us to use the towels.) I looked at the people handing out medals, walked toward them stumbling a bit and said, “help” but they didn’t seem to hear me, as a young kid handed me a medal. There were two photographers in yellow vests (thanks to the organizers I was still able to process that yellow vest = photo) and I raised my arms and smiled, dangling the medal in one hand. I think I said, “I did it! I did it! I did it!” For the second photo, I even remembered to take my sunglasses off.  Someone also gave me a hat.

POST-RACE

I was so cold. I recognized the female runner, roughly my age, who’d spoken to me twice earlier in the race.  She had her back to me but I patted her shoulder and she turned around. I suddenly got emotional and with numb lips thanked her for her encouragement and support. She asked in a lovely accent how I did and I told her I BQ’d – she gave me a big hug and then asked if I was ok. I said something like “I’m so cold”.  She offered me Gatorade (no) then got me water and a banana, helped me get the race towel and asked if someone was meeting me at the finish. (DH later told me I looked pretty bad, and with the cold and exhaustion probably seemed in need of help.) I told her my husband was coming and happened to see him off to the side and pointed him out to her. She shepherded me to where he could get to me (and apparently told him I needed taking care of) and then melted away.

At the point where spectators could meet their runners (thank goodness I didn’t have to find some reunion area or remember a colored flag after all) while I was looking left at my DH, a petite person in a hood approached me on the right. I looked down to see Christine, a new friend from the Bart Yasso shakeout run the day before. She’d finished the half, heard from her mom who BQ’d at a different race, and then stood in the cold waiting for me to finish to find out how I did. Amazingly sweet, generous, thoughtful! When I told her I BQ’d, she got the hugest grin on her face and was so happy for me, gave me a hug and told me her mom (age 60) had BQ’d too. I asked about her race, which I think went well, then she left so DH could take charge of me.

He got my sweats out of the bag and found a bench and helped me get the sweats on as my hands weren’t working that well. He put together my bottle of Ultragen recovery drink which I got down in record time. I was excited trying to tell him things, but I know I wasn’t fully functional and my lips were still cold. I was insistent on going to the finisher tent so he had to find it (on the beach) as I was hoping for a shirt that said “I BQ’d at Shamrock” or “ I SHAMROCKed my way to a BQ” but no luck. I bought a mug and a tech shirt and we left as quickly as possible for the slow, cold walk back to the hotel, passing people still out on the course on the way.

As soon as we got in the hotel room, I started brewing hot tea and getting into my compression gear. I noticed in the bathroom mirror that my lips were blue! I had prepped some food (sweet potato w/ nut butter) the night before knowing we’d be short on time, and stuck it in the microwave. I did a little stretching and used my Roll Recovery device while I was eating. DH was looking out the window giving me reports on the people still out there. As soon as I could manage getting the rest of our gear together, we checked out and were on the road by 2:30. Only a couple of hours after finishing the marathon, I was in a car for 5+ hours. I wouldn’t recommend it, but sometimes it has to be done. We were trying beat the storm home, and we did. Getting out of the car on breaks and once we got home wasn’t fun, but also wasn’t the worst I’ve ever felt.

LAST (FOR NOW) THOUGHTS

Without the wind, the weather would have been darned near perfect. (yes, I’m thinking I could have hung with the pacer and done even better) I had originally worried about heat, then rain and truly, I think either of those would have been worse than the wind. The race organization and runner support was terrific. The size of the field was about right given the constraints of the course (sharing one side of the road); they could probably even cut back to 3500. The course is terrific, flat and fast (the hill is no biggie), not too many turns. Spectator and on-course support is minimal to non-existent in some parts of the course, so that has to be something you’re okay with, and I am. Would I do this race again? I’d certainly consider it, though the wind would be a concern. Would I suggest it to another runner? Definitely. But I’d try to convey the wind more concretely based on my experience. I had folks tell me it was windy, but I had no idea what they meant…now I do! But I also know that I prevailed. I didn’t give up, I didn’t give in, I fought back hard and gave all I had on the day – and I beat my BQ. I’m still grinning about it, days later.

I plan to write additional posts on the gear I wore, nutrition before, during and after the race, on my training, and other related topics. If there’s something specific you want to know, feel free to leave a comment, use the contact form or tweet me about it. Given the demands of the rest of my life, I may not get back to you immediately, but I do plan to try to be as responsive as possible. Thank you for reading!

One more thing….though I ran the race alone, I wouldn’t have gotten to the start line without the amazing, unfailing support of my DH for the last months and years. Words are inadequate to express how lucky I am, or how grateful I am every day for him.