Tag: marathon

Race Nutrition Dilemmas & Decisions

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

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

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

BUT.

(here’s the TMI part….)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For in-race nutrition:

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

Options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pros: see 2nd bullet, above

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

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

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



My First Boston Marathon – Race Recap

I AM A BOSTON MARATHONER!

2015 Boston Marathon medal

2015 Boston Marathon medal

Pre-race, my goals were:

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

2) Give it my best effort on the day

3) Embrace the experience

I achieved all those goals.

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

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

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

======

WEATHER AND GEAR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRE-RACE MONDAY

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

BOSTON COMMONS

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

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

THE BUS

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

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

ATHLETES’  VILLAGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

and

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

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

THE RACE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FUELING & AID/SUPPORT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MORE RANDOM THOUGHTS 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE NEWTON HILLS

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFTER THE HILLS

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

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

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

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

THE LAST MILE

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

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

I‘m about to finish the BOSTON MARATHON.

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

THE FINISH

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

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

AFTER THE FINISH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

runner finish area exit sign

runner finish area exit sign



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! 

 

 

 



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.



Training Tuesday: Recap, Week of Sept 8, 2014

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

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

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

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

Boston 2015 registration

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

Sustain the Pain tank from Reckless Running

Sustain the Pain tank from Reckless Running

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope you’re having a great week!



UPCOMING RACES & FUTURE PLANS

Boston 2015 is the “big dance” for me and everything will lead up to that, assuming I am fortunate enough to get a slot. My races and training between now and then (less than 13 months, less than 55 weeks) will be geared to at least not adversely affect Boston if not in some way support it and other ambitious goals I have.

So, here’s what’s up for the rest of 2014, starting with 2 races 4 weeks after Shamrock.

April 12
Marine Corps 17.75k

Why: It’s supposed to be a good race, a unique distance (automatic PR) and finishing gets you a slot into the Marine Corps Marathon. My husband suggested we do it for all those reasons, even though he’s running the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler the weekend before, and I went with his idea. We both managed to get registered in the 9 minutes it took the race to sell out online. This is a very hilly course, which I’m not used to, so just completing it healthy is the goal. Getting some hill experience is a good thing for me, something I need to work on for Boston.

Late breaking as of Tuesday night: Looks like there’s a fair chance of rain for the 17.75k. If that happens, I will likely pass on the race. As you learned last week, I don’t like to run in the rain AND – not being experienced on a hilly course with some (potentially slick) trails – the risk/reward equation would be skewed the wrong way for me. One race – particularly not an A race – isn’t worth derailing my future training and racing.

April 13 (the next day)
George Washington Parkway 10 Miler

Why: It’s a really pretty race, the only time the Parkway is closed. I ran it last year and liked it. I’d forgotten it was the day after 1775 until after we’d registered. I was briefly bummed, then DH suggested “Why don’t you run both? You are interested in doing ultras and the training is often back to back long runs. Your long runs for Shamrock were longer than the two races combined.” His rationale seemed sound and the challenge caught my fancy. When I get one of those ideas in my head, it plants roots quickly. How I approach this race depends on how the race Saturday goes. If I can run it at a decent pace, I may try, or I may just take whatever pace my legs are willing to give and not push.

May-September: no races

It’s generally too hot here in the summer, for me, to race, and I’m not into 5ks or 10ks. So I’ll be starting my next training cycle in May, after recovering from the April races. That’s probably a good thing anyway as I may have some trips to make, we may need to move over the summer, and those efforts, plus training, my day job and blogging will keep me plenty busy.

October 19
Baystate Marathon

Why: I love fall marathons and I wanted to have a chance to BQ if I didn’t make it at Shamrock. Now I’d like the chance to better my time for 2016 and see what I can do. I’ve been looking at this race for a couple of years. It’s got a good reputation as a BQ race (25% of the field usually BQ’s) so it’s flat and fast, and it’s put on “by runners, for runners”. Also, runner tweeps I’d like to meet recommended it and my sister lives within a couple of hours of the venue, so I might get to see some folks while I’m up there. DH won’t be able to make the trip with me, so I’ll be solo. This would be an “A” race for me, as Shamrock was, so my training after the April races would be focused on Baystate, probably starting in May with a hill module then a speed module from Greg McMillan‘s YOU (Only Faster) book (which I used to train for Shamrock) before starting the 12 week marathon plan.

October 26 (one week later)
Marine Corps Marathon (MCM)

Why: Good question. DH is considering run/walking this (see rationale for 17.75k). Though we’re local, we’ve never done the race. Last year I was going to go cheer some of the runners but friends came in from out of town. It kind of seems like since we’re here we SHOULD do the race. It’d also be another chance to see and run with Bart Yasso at his shakeout run (only partially kidding). And, it would get me Marathon Maniac status! (2 marathons in 16 days is the one of the criteria for entrance into the “club”)

I haven’t run it before as it does have a little hilliness (when I want flat, I want really flat), it’s huge and I prefer smaller races, and (pet peeve) I run with headphones and MCM prohibits them. The big question is – what can I do, what should I do – the week after putting forth a big effort at Baystate? Thinking back to a week post-Shamrock, I did 6 miles fine at a slow pace, not sure I could do 26.2 at that pace. It would definitely be a “finish it” race, not done for time. Two weeks post-Shamrock, I did 11.5 miles Saturday and 10.35 miles Sunday. I was sorer than I’d like Saturday post-run and worried going into Sunday that I wouldn’t be able to get the run done due to soreness or injury concerns. The third week – day 18 post-Shamrock – was the first time I started to feel the training in my legs more than the race effects. Given the timing, unless I get my recovery to be faster or get fitter (both possibilities), I wonder if it’s wise to do two marathons so close together, especially when I plan to run Baystate at least as hard/fast as I did Shamrock.

I will have to decide whether or not to register for Marine Corps quickly as the 17.75 “access granted” only lasts a couple of days post-race. I could sign up and then transfer the bib if I decide not to run it, but that is money gone, of course.

Then, another suggestion of DH’s that burrowed its roots into my brain and won’t let go. I may try to do my first ultra in 2014! I’ve been interested in ultras for a couple of years now, but hadn’t chosen my debut race.

Because I’m not a trail runner (yet) and my goals for the next couple of years are road marathons, it makes more sense for me to look for road or track ultras. Many of the road ultras of interest to me, like Chicago and Mad City, conflict with other races or important segments of my training. But, as I learned more and more about ultras and the community, I started hearing about Aravaipa Running (the Coury Brothers) and the races they organize, including Across The Years (ATY).

ATY is a timed ultra (24, 28, 72 hours and a 6 day) run on a 1+ mile loop track at a baseball training facility in Arizona across days at the end of December into the New Year, hence the name. I’ve been in contact with the organizers, and they have no problem with me signing up for the 24 hour and only running 50k if I want, 50k being the shortest ultra race distance, 31+ miles. I plan to go for 50k (not sure if I want a particular time or not) and then see how I feel. I surely wouldn’t go more than 50 miles and probably wouldn’t go that far, keeping Boston 2015 in mind. But the Courys sound great, the race looks unusual and fun, and I’ve heard the community of runners at the race is fantastic. DH and I like Arizona, so there’s the potential for a vacation for both of us if things work out. Also, I could run it either in 2014 or 2015 (since it goes “across the years”). I think if I train for it and run it wisely, it could help me for Boston or at the least, not cause me any problems. It would help keep my mileage up, and taking a couple recovery weeks afterward wouldn’t affect the start of my Boston training.

Other possibilities for the fall…

One alternative that’s recently come to mind and would still get me Marathon Maniac status, since 3 marathons or more in 90 days is another way to get in at the entry level, is:

Baystate 10/19, then the Richmond Marathon 11/15, then Across the Years (minimum 50k distance)

Why Richmond? I’ve done the half a couple of times, and in 2013 I’d planned to run the full marathon and try to BQ. Then, in August 2013, I got injured because I’d ramped up my mileage too quickly (started the year at 50mpw, hit 80mpw just before injury). I pulled back and rehabbed and probably could have done the race “to finish” but that wasn’t what I wanted and I decided to retarget for Shamrock. Richmond 2014 would have the advantage of being 4 weeks after Baystate, and thus potentially less damaging to my body and a more pleasant experience. The disadvantage would be a 2 hour car ride each way, at least one night in a hotel, and the concerns about food I have away from home. Also, DH probably can’t make this trip either.

No matter what I decide about a second or third race in the fall/winter of 2014, Boston training starts in January. Eyes on the prize for 2015, which is a Boston I can be pleased with and hopefully proud of, so a strong race though I haven’t decided on a time goal. Keeping that in mind, I may not do MCM, may do Richmond (or not) and I may change my mind about trying to get Maniac status this year. I’d love to reach a lot of goals in one year, and am already planning to race more races than I ever have in one year, but I have to be wise about my choices. I need to be able to keep training to keep improving. Anything that puts my consistent and continued healthy training at risk is not a good idea, no matter how appealing it sounds.


Thanks for reading! If you have thoughts on the above, questions or want to share your plans, feel free to do so in the comments, by reaching out to me on twitter, or by using the contact form on the site.



Not Exactly a #WhatIAteWednesday – Shamrock race nutrition report

Fueling is a very personal issue. It’s taken me quite a while and a lot of trial and error to get to “what works for me” and even then there are days where my very twitchy tummy has issues on the run.

As you’d expect, I race with the products and protocol I’ve used in training. For Shamrock, I got lucky – the day wasn’t warm so I wasn’t thirsty, and my stomach cooperated completely. Some days it all comes together, and it’s pretty amazing. I still can’t quite believe it.

Below is a LOT of detail. You may wish to skip to the “during the race” section if that’s your primary interest. Reminder, I link to products only for your information. If I’ve mentioned something in a prior post, I may not re-link here.

PRE-RACE

Let’s start with food before the race. Because of GI issues and food sensitivities, I’m even more set on eating EXACTLY the same things before, during and after long runs and races than your “average” runner (who might easily get labeled superstitious or OCD by those who don’t understand how the tummy affects your run).

At home, Fridays are Chinese takeout and snacks. I always eat the same thing (moment of pity/sympathy for DH please). That’s steamed chicken and vegetables (broccoli, carrots, water chestnuts, baby corn, mushrooms) from a local place, with some Coconut Aminos (fake soy sauce) and sunflower seed butter on top. Then I move into snacks like a few kale “salt and vinegar” chips and some kale “greenola”, some frozen organic strawberries, a pint or so of vanilla maple Arctic Zero with frozen organic blueberries, and my nightly snack of frozen banana chunks topped with a variety of nut butters and sea salt: pistachio, cashew, walnut, pecan, almond and Nuttzo peanut-free creamy. (my snacks deserve a whole post of their own)

I realize the above has a lot more fiber than most would recommend and doesn’t adhere to the carb-loading protocols many follow. But it’s what works for me, and what I’m used to. Since I don’t eat grain, I get my carbs primarily from sweet potatoes, which I eat daily, squash, and a variety of fruits/vegetables.

How to recreate this on the road? Enter PFChang’s, a restaurant with a reliable gluten-free menu and educated staff that serves just such a dish in the form of Buddha’s Feast with modifications. This time I brought my aminos and sunflower seed butter along with the rest of my food. (I don’t travel light when food’s involved and the stakes are high.) We ate both Friday and Saturday dinners from PFC – Friday to test their ability to provide what I needed and ensure my stomach didn’t have any problems, and Saturday (takeout) as a regular pre-race meal, a bit earlier than normal, around 5pm. I brought/created the rest of my evening snacks thanks to coolers, lots of space in the car and Whole Foods. For the entire trip, everything I ate was either brought from home, purchased at WF or from PFC. Also, while on travel, anything I haven’t brought and prepared myself gets eaten with a dose of Gluten Defense enzymes just in case.

RACE MORNING

I take a number of supplements daily (again, a post or two could be devoted to these). Do they do what they say? For some it’s hard to tell, and I may go through times of not using all of them, but once I find something that works and I’m in a training cycle, I won’t change it.

Among the dailies are Wobenzym, Endurolytes, Acid-Ease and Master Amino Acid Pattern (MAP) as well as Prevacid for acid and Allegra for my allergies. I down two FRS Chews (a little caffeine and some taste).

On long run and race days, I add Endurance Amino and Anti-Fatigue Caps. I also take BeetElite beet root concentrate – I mix it with about 4 ounces of water and use it to get my supplements down.

Before runs, I take an Energy Surge. On race day, I took a second one right before the start while waiting in the corral (good suggestion by DH).

I can’t eat before running. Once my stomach starts processing solid food, it’s going to be very displeased with that level of activity, and bad things happen. However, I can usually manage just a smidgen of gel before I start a run, especially if mixed with water, and I did that for Shamrock (see below).

DURING THE RACE

I use EFS Liquid Shot in vanilla (we’ll call it gel). The taste, texture (runny) and electrolytes suit my palate, my tummy and my body. I thank Ray Maker at dcrainmaker.com for mentioning the product a while back when I was looking to get off other gel products due to some blood sugar spikiness.

I put my gel in Hammer flasks (because they fit in my fuel belt better) in this ratio: to the line marked 4 (4 ounces), then added SmartWater (which I drink) to the 5 line. So a flask had about 320 calories in about 80g of carbs with 1 ounce of water. I added the water to ensure I’d get some water along the way even if the aid stations didn’t work out and I’m glad I did! I made 4 flasks, carried 3 flasks in my belt, plus gave an extra to DH to carry and meet me along the way.

I made an extra flask of 1 serving of my gel with 1 ounce of water, brought it to the corral and downed it a couple of minutes before the start.

I had a plan going in to take some gel roughly every 3-4 miles, with more if I felt like I was starting to need it. I don’t really remember taking it except in the Fort Story section where I was trying anything to make the badness stop, but from what I had left and the fact I didn’t bonk, I must have been taking it about that right for the day.

When I finished the race – didn’t take the flask from DH – I had one full flask, had pitched one empty flask, and had a flask with contents to about the 1 mark left in it. I estimate I took in only ~700 calories pre and during race, and maybe 6 oz. of water in total.  I took somewhere between 160-180g of carbs from the gel, which works out to at least 40g per hour if you assume a constant rate of consumption…unlikely because I know I didn’t take gel early and sipped more late. (one benefit of the flasks is you can take as much or as little as you want) Supposedly at least 30g of carbs per hour is desirable, more up to 60 or so if you can tolerate it. (read The New Rules of Marathon/Half Marathon Nutrition for an interesting discussion and ideas)

I didn’t have any problems with dehydration during the race but I was probably dehydrated at the end. However, the more I read and hear about hydration, the less I worry about it during the race itself. If I go in hydrated, drink to thirst whether from aid stations or what I carry, and rehydrate well after, that seems to be a reasonable balance between health/safety and performance concerns, as long as I’m mindful of conditions.

POST-RACE

As I mentioned in a prior post, DH brought an empty bottle and a packet of Ultragen and mixed my recovery drink immediately after finding me at the finish. The packet is – to me – 2 servings. At home I’ll use the canister, which allows me to use 1 or 1.5 scoops instead (2 scoops = 1 packet), but the packets are great for travel and I figured I’d need all the help I could get. Ultragen is amazingly easy on my stomach, and seems to help recovery. I try to get it in down the first 10-15 minutes after long runs, usually when I’m cooling down on the bike (at home). I’ve also started taking SportLegs again. I’d take the product years ago and stopped when I started reading about how lactate is good for you instead of bad. But in this past training cycle, after particularly tough long runs, about 4-6 hours later I’d get what I called “screaming legs” when suddenly my legs would just ache horrible and that would last 4-5 hours. One day I decided to pull out the SportLegs (DH had a bottle) and took a dose with my Ultragen. No screaming legs! I’ve been using it since then and plan to continue.

It’s taken me years to get to the above, which is what works for me. Trial and error can be such an unpleasant process, but maybe something I’ve shared can help you – I hope so!

Questions, comments, tips of your own to share ? Leave them below, tweet me or use the contact form. Thanks for reading!



Recovery & Return to Running Post-Shamrock (week 1)

POST-SHAMROCK RECOVERY 

Because I had already planned to run two back-to-back races in April (“for fun”), a few weeks ago I asked the coaches at the Endurance Planet podcast (a fave) for a recovery/training plan to fill the four weeks post-Shamrock. Lucho at EP said the first week post race was to be 4-5 days of NO running, then easy 3-4 miles on Saturday and Sunday to test my recovery. So that’s what I did, though it was awfully tempting to run a couple of those days, psychologically if not physically. I also used one of Sage Rountree’s books – The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery – for tips.

Workouts the week of 3/17:

Mon 3/17 – light core workout, bike 40 min.
Tues 3/18 – bike 70 min.
Wed 3/19 – light core workout, bike 40 min.
Th 3/20 – bike 60 min.
Fri 3/21 – core workout, bike 60 min.
Sat 3/22 – run 4.35mi at recovery pace on treadmill
Sun 3/23 – run 6 mi at recovery pace on treadmill
Other: some use of Roll Recovery in the evenings, chiropractor appt, 3 massages. I’m fortunate to be able to have those appointments, and they really help.
Overall, noticeably better each day with no new complaints from my BQ body!

If you want more detail, read on….

Notes:

I was incredibly lucky to start the race healthy and with no more than niggles than the ones that I seem to have to live with. I was also incredibly lucky to finish the race feeling only the same niggles: no new ones and no injuries! (I don’t count the joint pain that’s just what happens after 26.2 miles of pavement impact — it’s expected and it fades.)

I mention products, coaches, podcasts, etc. only to be specific about what I do & use in case it’s of help to any of you. I’ve paid for these things (unless I say otherwise), I’m not shilling for anyone, I don’t have any affiliate store or get any benefit from you trying any of them. My use and mention of something isn’t necessarily a recommendation for you. But I know we’re all looking for new products to try, to help with a problem, to get improvement, whatever, so if you try something and it works for you, that’s great. I link to some items that might not be as familiar to you or easy to find, but I suggest you shop for best prices and at retailers you like.

Day of race/trip home — nutrition, gear & routine

When we left our intrepid runner (me), I’d finished the race, swigged my post-race cappuccino flavor Ultragen recovery drink within 10 minutes, gotten sweats on and gotten back to the hotel. I ate a sweet potato with some nut butter for the carbs and some protein/fat (though I wasn’t hungry pre or post Ultragen) and made hot decaf tea for the road. I also wasn’t thirsty, though I had to be dehydrated.

I cleaned up a little, stretched a little, and put some magnesium lotion on my shins/calves and Biofreeze on my quads, hammies & glutes. I layered my favorite recovery socks (SL3S) and 110% knee sleeves and shorts under sweatpants, and put on a wicking turtleneck under my race shirt (since I finished, I could wear it – I don’t wear a race shirt unless I’ve completed the race). I also did a quick pass over my legs with my Roll Recovery, which came with me in the car, easily accessible (and used) each time we stopped.

Knowing we’d be driving for a while, particularly if the weather hit before we got home, I packed a bunch of snacks in one of my many “front seat” bags, including bacon jerky (protein, fat, salt), another sweet potato w/nut butter (carbs, fat, protein and well tolerated by my tummy), some Terra chips for salt/crunch cravings, a Larabar and an applesauce packet for quick blood sugar hits if that became an issue. Along with tea I had Zico coconut water for electrolytes and hydration. As it turned out, I drank the Zico (11 ounces over maybe 3 hours) plus a few swigs of tea and ate the sweet potato. I was only briefly hungry, an hour or so into the drive (probably caused by eating the first sweet potato, how it works for me) and still wasn’t thirsty. I have a bad habit of dehydrating myself on car and plane trips though, so I was making myself drink.

We stopped three times on the way home — twice at gas station/convenience stores with restrooms, where I could walk for a couple of minutes to stretch my legs, which were pretty well locked in one position due to the amount of stuff packed in/around my legs in the front seat. After I walked, I’d take a moment in the cold outside the car to use my Roll Recovery on my legs, and it helped. I also sat on a trigger point ball for a while, trying to soothe an aggravated glute min that tends to act up sometimes and doesn’t like car rides. I was already sitting elevated on two blankets (our swag from a Valentine’s 5k) to keep my hips at a decent angle. My legs were sore and stiff, certainly, but some of that was probably from the cold they’d endured as much as the effort. The worst thing probably was that my knees seemed to stiffen up into a slight angle, and they didn’t like bending/straightening for things like stairs once we got home. But I was walking pretty well, considering the circumstances, and far far better than after the marathons I did years ago.

When we got home, my DH (angel!) told me to go in and start eating the food we’d picked up while he unloaded the car in the falling snow. I didn’t have much of an appetite though and wound up putting all that food away until the next day. What did I eat that night? A frozen dessert I’m fairly addicted to called Arctic Zero (it’s like a whey protein shake w/fiber, but tastes sort of ice cream like once you get used to it), plantain chips with extra salt and Terra sweet potato and apple chips. Hey, it was what appealed to me!

I got to bed not too late, but had a really hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. I woke up multiple times during the night with snippets of my playlist songs in my head. (I must have heard the music after all!) I knew to expect this for one or two nights (turned out to be two) from reading Sage Rountree’s book Racing Wisely, which suggests mental/emotional excitement and the physical effects of hard racing may cause sleep disruptions. I was able to get to the bathroom and back during the night with no problem (and no pain-induced moans, hisses or profanity).

Monday 3/17 (the day after)

DH and I had both taken the day off work, since we’d originally planned to stay in Virginia Beach Sunday night. I slept in until about 7am. I did a shorter, easier version of my M/W/F core workout and got on my trusty bike up on the trainer.

trusty bike on trainer

trusty bike on trainer

I rode with about as little resistance as you can imagine for an hour. For the first 20 minutes or so, my knees (still probably the unhappiest part of me) weren’t thrilled. Then everything seemed to loosen just a bit and the next 20-30 minutes felt pretty good. After that I started to tighten up again, but wanted to make it to a full hour (I’m like that) so kept going. The inside hamstring behind both knees particularly didn’t like stair activity — so it wasn’t helpful that the downstairs toilet broke that day (still broken), causing a rehydrating runner a lot of trips up and down stairs. Thinking positively, maybe all the stair climbing/descending helped work out the kinks.

The rest of the day was spent online and hanging out with DH. We ate the yummy dinner we’d picked up Sunday and watched some TV. I didn’t want the day or the post-race glow to end!

Tuesday 3/1

I telework on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I didn’t have to get myself to the office just yet (yay). I did 70 minutes on the bike, after another night of broken sleep. Some old familiar crankiness (L tendon behind the ankle, L glute min) made its presence known. I was still surprised at how good I felt and how mobile I was without real pain or significant problems. Tuesday I saw my chiropractor who did a “runner’s tuneup” (general focus) and some e-stim. Tuesday night, I saw one of my massage therapists for a light massage and stretch session.

Wednesday 3/19

Up and at ‘em — well, up anyway. Back to work after a light core workout and 40 minutes on the bike, less time than I’d wanted because I was a little poky. Had some GI trouble overnight that woke me for a while (this happens to me sometimes) so I was a little tired after 3 nights of broken sleep but otherwise physically better than the day before. My L hamstring (a known crank) was a bit sore at the point where it attaches to the glute, possibly from Tuesday’s massage. Other than that, the only thing I noted different was that despite a little less soreness and stiffness in general, my hips were tighter than they had been. I have a standing desk at work, but made sure to sit more than I normally would to help me legs out. I got a light sports massage Wednesday night, which felt pretty good.

Thursday 3/20

I started to feel even better. I was impressed with the other full and half marathoners from last weekend’s races who were tweeting about their quick return to running. I was tempted. Heck, it was day 4 and the coach said 4-5, and I was teleworking…but I told myself it wasn’t worth the risk to run yet. So, another hour on the bike for me, telework, and a light trigger point massage in the evening. Started having those “a week ago we were…” thoughts. Hard to believe I was packing for the race a week ago.

Friday 3/21

Back to the office after a core workout closer to my usual length & difficulty, and an hour on the bike. Wanted to run today mentally, legs probably would have managed it fine. But I decided to stick with instructions — they’d said 4-5 and since I wanted 4, I should go for 5 (it’s easy for me to overdo sometimes and restraint had gotten me to the race healthy, so I decided to stick with it). A relaxing evening of TV watching and carryout Chinese (if you consider steamed chicken and vegetables with no rice in that category – I do) part of our regular routine. I was getting a little nervous about my first run post-race the next day (how would it feel, would it hurt, was I sorer or more damaged than I’d thought). A week ago we’d been at the expo and I’d been getting ready to run with Bart Yasso!

Saturday 3/22

I slept in until 6:30 or so, then got up and puttered through my slow pre-long-run routine, though this run was to be only 3-4 miles. Got my podcast iPod set up and got on the treadmill. I do a 15 minute walking warmup before all my runs (5-10 minimum, 15 usual/preferred) as I read once that Amby Burfoot said the thing he did most to prevent injury was add that type of walk and warmup to his runs. (or as Lucho said, “Recovery starts with the warmup”) Then I ran 4.35 miles at a recovery pace (my usual recovery pace, per my feel and McMillan’s calculator, at the low end of the pace range). It felt okay, a bit sore, stiff and tight as I’d expected, but no surprises, which had been my biggest concern — something that wouldn’t show itself until I started running. I started feeling better toward the end of the run (typical, usually after 6 miles I start to feel good) but I restrained myself and stopped. Got on the bike for 30 minutes (still with laughably low resistance, just enough to spin the wheel) which is what I normally do after long runs to stretch my legs out.

Relaxed the rest of the day, read running-related stuff. (all I’m reading these days it seems!) Had  a scare when I was wearing socks in the kitchen and slipped and fell on my tailbones, tweaking tweaked my right knee a bit. I thought, “oh no, seriously?!” It was just a careless move on my part, lucky I didn’t get really hurt by cracking my head on something. My knee responded to some ice, Traumeel and my 110% compression knee sleeve. I probably just yanked something in it, but DH had to spend some time calming me down, asking me when it hurt, telling me it would be okay. What would I do without him?

Sunday 3/23

Another “sleep-in” day. I could have (maybe should have) run outside, but it was another rough GI night and I thought perhaps I should be close to facilities…though I turned out to be fine. Warmed up, then did 6 miles at recovery pace. I know, it was only supposed to be 4, but I really wanted more. As on Saturday, felt better toward the end of the run. My right knee was still unhappy about my fall (but less so, and not during the run at all) and my hamstrings at the attachment points made their presence known (but evenly on both sides, that’s good) but nothing that would make me stop running or inhibit other activity.

Overall, I was in pretty good shape to start with and every day got better and better. I never needed to take any painkillers (I can only take acetaminophen anyway) though I took some arnica and extra Wobenzym after I tweaked my knee on Saturday. I didn’t even need to ice anything from the race! I probably haven’t stretched enough as I was afraid of over stretching something that was still mending from the race. I haven’t gotten back into my Wharton flexibility routine (note there are free videos of him on youtube and info online) or yoga stretches yet, and certainly didn’t do any of my chiropractor-instructed leg strength exercises. I’ve used the Roll Recovery briefly most evenings, which has probably helped. I wear compression knee socks every day since I stand a lot for work, but hadn’t noticed any swelling even immediately post-race. During this week, I kept eating my regular diet (I eat the same things over and over on a daily/weekly basis) just less quantity since I figured I basically wasn’t burning any calories biking.

Excited for week two, when I will get to run more!