Tag: PR

Post-Baystate thoughts and musings

Some thoughts and musings post-Baystate.

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Baystate Marathon shirt (back) & medal

Baystate Marathon shirt (back) & medal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last and by no means least:

IT WAS ALL WORTH IT.

On to BOSTON!



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

The very short version:

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

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

 

And beat my Shamrock PR by 6:38!

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

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

Ready? Here we go!

SUNDAY MORNING

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

What I wore (same as Shamrock):
race kit

race kit

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

 

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

pre-race supplements, gels, vest for race

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Come ON where is the turn?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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



Race Report: Parkway Classic 10 Miler

This is a long post – feel free to skip to the last section if you don’t want the play-by-play.

In last week’s post about my race plans last week, you may recall I was going to run the 17.75k on Saturday and the Parkway 10 Miler on Sunday. By now you’ve read the weekly recap (right?) or seen on twitter that because of a nasty calf twinge, I decided to DNS 17.75k. It was a disappointment, and a decision I felt a little bit bad about, in the “am I being wise or a wimp?” kind of way. However, I believe it was the right decision….and not only because I PR’d Parkway. I have to keep in mind that, just as short-term pain can equal long-term gain, short-term gain can lead to long-term pain and problems. Parkway was a race I cared more about doing (though the unique challenge of 17.75k and its prize of MCM entry were appealing) and it was more suited to where I am right now in my training and where I’m looking to get in the next year.

Saturday (day before race)

Sat 4/12: RUN 6.2 miles, increasing easy pace. Walked 15 min before as usual, then did my chiro calf stretches. Felt fine during the run. I seemed to be running more from my quads, which meant my hams complained less. Not quite sure what I’m doing differently, need to figure it out so it’s more controllable or so my form improves overall. Afterward I spent some time spinning on the bike, then did the chiro stretches again. Mid-afternoon, I did my Wharton flexibility routine, plus trigger point on the calf, per a video from Athletes Treating Athletes (a site I like) that I saw cross-posted on Kinetic Revolution. I also found a spot on my L lower glute that, when trigger pointed (so to speak) with the ball, seems to help my ham, bonus! In the evening, I did the calf stretches again. I decided I’d try the race, just go and run easy and try to have a good time, though I really wanted to PR and had a “dream” time goal beyond that. I was looking forward to meeting some local runner tweeps and just appreciating the experience.

Prepped gel flasks. Made a bottle with my recovery drink mix (no water) in it, a packet of SportLegs and a Larabar for DH to bring with (along with water) when he picked me up post race.

Ate regular pre-race dinner (think that’s 9 times in a month!) of steamed chicken & veggies with sunflower seed butter, etc. However, something was definitely amiss, as I slept for about an hour, then woke up from an absolutely horrible, deeply upsetting dream dripping in sweat, with my heart racing like I’d just done intervals and my head pounding. It took me a while to get my heart rate down, and then the tummy troubles started. So, I was awake and in pain most of the night. Not what you want the night before a race. (so glad it was this race and not Shamrock though!)

Race day

Got up around 4am. Stomach sore from my overnight difficulties. Walked on the treadmill for 10 minutes, then did trigger point on my calves and glute and did my chiro stretches. I took my pre-race supplements (not my beet stuff though) and added water to the gel flasks I’d prepped the night before – one with 3 servings of gel (+2 of water) to carry during the race, and another with 1/1 to be taken just before starting and tossed. Made my tea to have when I got back.

The race starts at 8am, but because of the start location, it’s best to take one of the shuttle buses Pacers provides. There’s a stop less than a mile from my house, with buses running 5:30-6:30. Buses to the race are only for bibbed runners, but they’ll bring you and spectators back post-race, all for free. DH woke up and graciously drove me to the shuttle buses (yay). This year I aimed closer to 6 am for a bus boarding time as last year I got one of the first buses and froze in the cold waiting in the start area for way too long. This year it was probably at least 15 degrees warmer pre-race and at the start than it had been last year; mid to upper 50s and perceptibly humid. I thought “this is gonna be warm when the sun comes out”. Despite it being warmer, because I dressed for heat and am easily chilled, DH gave me an old cycling jersey he was going to donate, which helped.

I met a nice runner on the bus, Rachel, who lives in a nearby apartment/condo complex, and we whiled away the drive down the Parkway chatting about running (she’s new to running and loves the Disney races). I love these situations, people you’d perhaps never otherwise talk to become people you share things with just because you’re both runners. Saw the clouds pinking up as sunrise approached, and saw volunteers setting up water stations on the side of the course. We got off the bus, found our way to the portapotties and back to the waiting area, where we got heat sheets. We continued to chat about running shoes/gear, special diets and other fun topics until I excused myself for another hike down the road, after which I went in search of some local running tweeps I’d wanted to meet – we’d arranged a time/place to connect.

I finally got to meet Teresa, Kristin, tai_fung and a friend of theirs (not on twitter, and I’d only mangle his name) – and they were just as nice and as much fun as I’d expected from our “conversations”. (love when that happens) I wish I’d taken photos of them, but if you check back in their feeds, I believe they all took photos of each other hanging out after the race. While we were chatting in the bag drop area, I managed to knock the velcro band on my Garmin and the watch took a nice fall onto the asphalt – again…I did this in the corral at Shamrock! It got a bit dinged up, and now I’m itching even more to get a new one as the 620 DH has actually seems to fit me reasonably. (think someone would still buy a dinged-up one on ebay?)

Teresa, Kristin and I smushed into the corral together (there’s really no other word for it). I wasn’t sure where I should start time-wise given I didn’t know what pace I’d run, so I just hung with them and chatted till the start. We had fun comparing Garmins and other toys and talking about past/future races, running stores, places to run. It was great! I look forward to catching up with them again, maybe on a run. The National Anthem was sung (I remember buses still arriving at this point, later than normal) and the anticipation mounted. I did remember to take off the cycling jersey and take my gel/water and Energy Surge. Teresa and I ran together for a minute or two, losing Kristin behind us, until she suggested I go ahead, and I did.

The race – first half

I reminded myself just to run so it felt good and easy, and to monitor myself, not overdo the downhill start. It was pretty crowded for the first few miles. I did a LOT of weaving (I’d love to see the Garmin map of that). I started on the left side of the road, wound up passing people in the middle, or running in the right gutter to do so, doing quick zig then zags to get around multiple people, etc. I tried to stay as close to the middle of the road as possible, road “furniture” and potholes notwithstanding. I noted at the first mile flag that my Garmin was about 0.1 off already, so would have to keep that in mind. There are huge mile flags at every mile, which is really helpful. I’ll warn you that my recollection of what mile I was near when something happened is a bit fuzzy, so I may be mixing things up a bit.

Somewhere in the first half, I started thinking “I must have forgotten that this race has almost no flat”. No big hills really (except one that feels big at the end) but it is a pretty good prototype of a “rolling” course. I kept checking my pace, happy with it…ok, very happy and kind of surprised…and thinking, “well, this doesn’t feel too bad, maybe I can just keep going at this pace”. I kept wondering if I might be going too hard and blow up, but it didn’t feel that way, just solid effort. I took some of my gel/water mix just before the first aid station, which I think was between 2 and 3. I also took water at the aid station (did so 3 times!) since I figured it was hotter and more humid than I’m used to, and I’d hate for dehydration to affect my time. I think it did help me. It also proved to me that I CAN take water at aid stations at a reasonable pace and get some or most of it down (in addition to wearing some), which is good, though I can use more practice.

If you’re considering running this race, I’ll say the water stops were frequent (about every 2 miles), well-staffed and supplied. No worries about not getting water (except for not crashing into other people), nice cold water, plenty of trash cans past the tables and people raking the course to try to keep it clear of cups. Thanks Pacers for using the regular wax paper cups instead of the slick, dangerous plastic I’ve seen at some races! There are also portapotties at the water stops – I can’t remember if they’re at all the stops, but at least two or three.

Past mile 4, I started noticing more spectators with dogs on the side of the road. That’s always fun for me, since I love dogs. I remember one late in the race that looked like a huge curly-haired teddy bear with a big grin, wriggling in its owner’s lap for a tummy rub. Some of the spectators clapped, cheered or had cowbells, and there were a few signs. I kept checking my pace (good) and how I felt (fine) and wondering how long I’d keep feeling this way.

The next thing I remember is the sort of stone bridge that goes over the Parkway. Last year and this year (I’m guessing it happens every year, but I’ve only done the race twice) there were quite a few cheering spectators on it. I was in good shape, so I raised my arms, clapped, cheered back and appreciated their support. It’s a nice lift, though the course there is pretty enough it’s not needed.

Somewhere in the first half, it had gotten sunny and started to feel warm, especially given that the trees hadn’t fully leafed out yet. I could see people sweating quite a bit, but I wasn’t aware that I was. I felt warm, but not unmanageably so, and spilling some water on myself every time I went through a water stop probably helped. I do recall some lovely breezes around mile 7.5. (not wind, like at Shamrock, breezes)

The race – second half

For the second half of the race (didn’t notice him before that, he could have been there) a skinny male cyclist with a yellow jersey and what looked like a Go-Pro camera on his helmet was cheering and clapping at every mile marker  – which meant he had to ride between them, leaving after I saw him and arriving before I did…it got to be kind of fun to see him, he was very encouraging and looked like he was having a great time. I don’t know if he was supporting one runner in particular, or part of the Pacers volunteer team or just a nice guy who decided to cheer us on.

My pace was still pleasing, and I still felt good. Not that I wasn’t feeling the effort or impact in my legs, but I didn’t feel stressed from a cardio perspective, wasn’t huffing or gasping (except after drinking water) and my stomach continued to accept my gel around mile 6 and 8.5. So I just kept going.

I heard one guy shouting “almost there” encouragement between 7 and 8. It made me think “there should be a rule that you can’t have those signs or say those words unless you’re a certain distance or less from the finish line…”

I kept wondering if/when I would blow up, and after mile 7 started thinking things like “well, if you had to drop back to 10 minute miles now, you’d still make it in x time”. I also thought “I’ve held this pace or close to it for a marathon and long training runs, I can get through 10 miles just fine”.

When we got up toward the city, we went up a small rise, then turned a corner into Old Town (where there was a woman with an “almost there” sign), running up the last hill that was right about mile 9. It’s an unpleasant place for that level of incline, but at least it’s pretty short. Then you get a quick downhill into a sharp left turn onto the final straightaway. You can’t see the finish immediately, but within a few blocks you can start to make it out. I got a kick out of the fact that this race, like the 12k I did a while ago, runs right past my chiropractor’s office.

As we ran toward the finish, in the last block or so I tried to keep track of the runners around me as I wanted to speed up toward the finish but didn’t want to make a point of passing anyone – or having anyone pass me right at the end as someone did at Shamrock. I think I succeeded, but haven’t seen photos yet. I was a little tired at the end, breathing hard from the last kick and the warm temps/humidity, and immediately started drinking the water bottle a volunteer handed me (usually I don’t bother and sometimes don’t take them). I got my medal, picked up a banana and a food box (though there’s usually nothing in it I can eat) and headed out of the runners-only area toward the post-race festival.

Post-race

I’d given my beer ticket to Teresa pre-race, since I don’t drink and wasn’t going to hang around afterward. I could feel my legs tightening up, so I tried to do a little stretching. Stretching my L ham made my L calf cramp a little. I chatted to a couple of runners while I was stretching, then happened to see tai_fung, talked to him for a minute until DH called (he was driving around Old Town waiting to pick me up). I had my Ultragen & SportLegs in the car on way home. Then once home, I had coconut water & hot tea while spinning legs 20 min or so (R calf cramped on bike) then Roll Recovery. Then, on to breakfast.

Later on Sunday, I finally loaded my Garmin data for the last three years (!) into their online tool and geeked out a bit. My pace graph is beyond spiky, far more than the race profile. Some of that surely is all the weaving that was necessary to stay toward the middle of the road, avoid potholes, pass people or back off when someone slowed down. That said, I only ran an extra 0.11-0.2 miles per my Garmin, not too bad.

Race swag

The gray shirt isn’t as attractive as last year’s navy, would have preferred another blue shirt or maybe green. 

2014 Parkway shirt

2014 Parkway shirt

Also would have liked the option to pay less and not get a medal, though it’s nicely done. They gave medals as this was the 30th year of the race, but I believe it hiked the registration fee to $75.

Parkway finisher medal with ribbon

Parkway finisher medal with ribbon

closeup of medal with red center image

closeup of medal with red center image

closeup of medal with center spun to other side

closeup of medal with center spun to other side

Gear details

Wore my The North Face Stow-n-Go bra to have a place to carry my iPhone (it doesn’t bounce, really). Other than that, same race kit as Shamrock: The North Face Better Than Naked gray shorts, The North Face Better Than Naked yellow tank, The North Face visor, sunglasses, Feetures yellow socks, Brooks Adrenalines, UltrAspire Quantum belt w/ Hammer gel flask. Listened to my a shortened version of my Shamrock playlist on my iPod, found some songs I used to run to unbelievably slow and liked some of the newer music I’d added.

So how’d I do?

The race results tell me I PR’d by 8min 35sec over last year, with my average pace 3sec/mi faster than goal pace for Shamrock had been. According to my Garmin, one mile had a new (to a race) first digit!! And, I surpassed my “dream” time goal (which DH assured me I could easily do). Also, I ran the second 5 miles almost 2 minutes faster than the first – negative split!

So all in all, a good race. Fun, pretty course, got to chat with nice folks, and a time I am very pleased with! I’m quite happy with my performance and with how I felt. I’m even more satisfied with my decision to skip 17.75k – I don’t think  could have pulled off this result at Parkway with that race in my legs from the day before.

Parkway is a well-organized enjoyable race, and I’d do it again. I noticed when i was looking for race results that Pacers already had the date and registration page up for next year, with an early bird discount. I mentioned it to DH who told me that I won’t PR at Parkway next year. I asked, “why not?” and he answered “because you’ll be in Boston”.


Thanks for reading! If you ran the race, how did it go for you? Leave me a comment, tweet me or use the contact form.

 



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

RACE MORNING, PRE-RACE

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

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

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

 

sunrise photo from hotel balcony

sunrise photo from hotel balcony

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

THE START

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

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

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

THE EARLY MILES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HALFWAY

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

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

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

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

FORT STORY – aka THE WIND TUNNEL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POST-RACE

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

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

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

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

LAST (FOR NOW) THOUGHTS

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

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

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