Monday, May 26, 2014

Boston's Run to Remember: Run for Something Bigger than Your Time

Yesterday I ran the 10th Annual Run to Remember Half Marathon in Boston.  I'll have notes about my specific race/training/take-a-ways (yadda, yadda, the same stuff I always do here) in a minute.  But honestly, this race means a lot more to me than all of that, and I'd much rather talk about it as an overall event first.

In other words, grab a snack or a cup of tea, because this could be a long one.

I was at the Run to Remember last year as a volunteer.  It was right after my first half marathon and while I felt running another half so close to my first was a pretty bad idea, I really wanted to be a part of it.  It was just a little over a month after the Boston Marathon bombings and took on a much larger meaning as a result. Volunteering last year was an amazing experience.  The conditions were a little cold and damp, but it was my first experience with a larger race and I knew I wanted to run this one next time.

Boston's Run to Remember is hosted by the Boston Police Department every Memorial Day weekend in honor of all of the fallen police officers who have served.  Upon entering the Expo you encounter this amazing display, which was literally too awesome to capture in one picture:

Each of the flag panels has names of officers and the dates of their tour. 
They also do a ton at the start and throughout the Expo to honor the troops and firefighters.  The race has a race within it between different police officer teams.  The cadets for the Boston Police Academy run as a unit, groups of troops run together.  It's an amazing event and an awesome reminder that for this weekend you are running for more than yourself.

To top it off the race runs through really iconic parts of Boston, starting in the Seaport, running through the city, continuing across the bridge and up and down Memorial Drive, before returning through the city and finishing on the seaport.  It's pretty flat, except for the hills on the bridges, which are not really hills.  The course for 2014 is below:

Course Map for 2014 Run to Remember
As if it couldn't get more awesome, it was also my friend C's first half marathon and I was pretty excited to get the chance to run at least part of that with her.

So to recap: Great cause, awesome course, a friend's first half.  Pretty much a recipe for awesome, even if things go slightly askew.

Oh, and bonus - the BPD (Boston Police Department) knows how to put on a race for 12,000 runners.  I was very happy to see that they had arranged for a suitable number of port-a-potties for the size of the event. (Seriously, this is a quirky obsession of mine.  I take pictures of it way too often, and admit, I judge your race by the port-a-potty-preparation, or PPP factor.  I know.  Obsessive much).
Many port-a-potties.  They had this on the other side too.  Well done BPD

After bonking at Shamrock I devoted a substantial amount of time the week before the race to nutrition and water.  I also SHOULD HAVE devoted more time in the months leading up to solid training and cross-training, but a couple of injuries, Ragnar Recovery, life...well, that was just off.  I plan to step that up from here on out this summer before some big fall races.  But there it is, in print, I'm under-trained for my early summer race schedule. Shmer.  I decided that running this slower was in the cards as a result.  I still have another half in 2 weeks and the Mt. Washington Road Race (aka the Big Bad) in less than a month. There would be no racing of this half.  It would be a nice, easy training pace.

The lovely people at Boston Bodyworker taped up my aching Extensor Tendon, and preemptively taped up my always troublesome calves as well.  They are fantastic by the way, highly recommend if you are in need of some kineso-taping in the Boston area.

The Run to Remember starts EARLY.  A 7 am start on a Sunday meant 2 things in regards to my nutrition plan. 1) Dinner had to be done by 7:00 pm. 2) My tradition of a early morning venti dark roast from Starbucks along with a multi-grain bagel was out.  There are no Starbucks open at 4am on a Sunday in Boston (anywhere?).  Plus, I'm a bagel snob, I didn't want a store bought fake bagel.  So I had to find something else.

I had dinner with my friend M and her friends J & S.  We went to one of the most amazing places I have ever encountered for pre-race fuel.  OMG how have I lived in Boston for so long and never been to Rino's? The place is tiny, 13 tables, and everything is obviously homemade.  The portion sizes are literally insane (I think I ate less than 1/3 of my food and took the rest home for post-race lunch AND dinner).  It was delicious and perfect.  Gnocchi may be my new favorite pre-race food:

Gnocchi for dinner: nom.

The rest of our table's food - ie food for 20, not 4.
Before heading home I had to stop at the store and get some whole wheat bread for toast and some bananas for the next day.  I got home a little after 8:00 pm, plenty of time for 7 hours of sleep before the alarm went off at 3:45 am.

I woke up (as I always seem to) 5 minutes before the alarm.  I started the coffee, crawled back into bed until 4 am and then got up to drink my coffee and eat my toast with peanut butter and a banana.  I also drank a 16 ounce bottle of water, filled my 16 ounce handheld with Gatorade (I prefer to fuel with Gatorade rather than Gu on a race) and was headed out the door by 5:15 to meet M and head into the race. On the way into meeting M/before the start of the race I drank another 20 ounces of water (this obsessive logging of liquids will become relevant shortly, I promise).

J (who is a rock star) drove us to the start at OMG O'Clock (ie any time before Starbucks is open) and had our drop bags.  We walked to the start and I realized I'd accidentally left a jacket on that I really didn't want to lose.  So we found an extra bag, checked it, and then went to use the port-a-potties before the start.  It might have been the fastest trip through there ever in a race for me.  30 minutes before the start and the line was 5 people deep.  For a 12,000 person field.  Seriously.  A+ BPD.

We met up with C by the 10:00 mpm pace sign, snapped a quick picture, sang the national anthem and were ready to start. (Aside-I still get teary every time I hear the national anthem at a race.  I thought it would stop eventually, but it hasn't.  I'm not sure what it is, but I just feel so privileged to be there and healthy enough to do this thing, in this space.  I hope I always tear up at the start of races.)

Ready to start!
I only have one small complaint regarding race logistics.  The 5 mile and half start together.  They said there were 12,000 total runners and 8,000 for the half.  There were not official corrals or waves.  Boston streets are not wide.  That makes for a really crowded field at the start.  The first 2.5 miles were spent dodging people and trying to find some place to move.  This isn't really a complaint, because I wasn't looking to PR or anything, but I wouldn't pick this race for a PR attempt for that reason.  Additionally, the start mat was a little confusing because you cross the finish mat before the start mat.  As a result, my Garmin started about .15 miles early.  Again, not a big deal since I was just having fun, but I would have cared if this had been a PR attempt.

We ran through the (now very crowded!) streets of Boston and really just had a blast.  One of mine and C's coworkers was cheering right at mile 2 and it was really awesome to see her.  Then at the mile 3 water stop a friend of mine and M's was working and we stopped for some high fives and hugs.  It was great.  The first mile was pretty slow while we bobbed and weaved in the crowd: 11:14.  We hit a groove after that and JFR through the city, across the bridge and up and down Memorial Drive.  It was a blast running this part of the course, really.  We chatted, joked around, didn't pay attention to splits, high-fived little kids and police officers, it really was just fantastic.  Splits for miles 2-10: 10:29, 10:20, 10:41, 10:05, 10:11, 10:17, 10:08, 9:41.

M & C were going strong at this point and I could feel that something was super off with me.  I looked down at my hands and realized they had swollen to something like 3 or 4 times their normal size (I am not exaggerating on this, they were ghastly large).  I couldn't really pay attention to what M was saying to me while she was trying to chit chat our way in on the last 5K and at the next water stop I waved them on.  I  knew they could finish stronger than me and I needed to get a handle on...well, my hands.

Mile 11 I walked through a water stop and then some, with my hands over my head.  I got my bearings again and felt less confused/dizzy and started cautiously running.  M&C were long gone by the time I started cautiously running again.  This mile took me 10:27.

I was similarly cautious on Mile 12.  I actually used the water stop here (I never use the first/last water stops in races) just to try and get things stable again.  More walking.  More hands over head.  This took a ridiculously long time for me: 11:37 (not surprised by this at all since I walked for probably close to .2 miles all told.)

When I (thought) I was in the last mile I figured I was really close and could push it again to the finish, hydration problems or not.  I began to actually run like it was a race for the first time all day.  If my Garmin hadn't recorded this I might not have believed it, I CRUSHED* this mile: 7:32 in what I (thought) would be a very fast finish. *(Part of me thinks this must be a data error.  I was going fast, but this is wicked fast for me...I have no explanation for this being the only error in the data though, everything else seemed to record normally.  Things that make you go hmmm...)

This is where I realize the course is long (or my bobbing and weaving earlier really, REALLY added on some distance), because I heard the beep from my Garmin, and knew where we were on the course and definitely had WAY MORE than .1 left to go.  Since I wasn't sure exactly how much was left I pulled it back a little bit but still stayed faster towards the end.  .71 (yes, .71) in 6:38, or a 9:38 pace.

Garmin splits - what a weird finish
For the first time in my race history instead of going straight for water and a bagel I went to the med tent.  My hands were still super swollen (they would continue to be for most of the day.  They eventually got down to about double the size by the end of brunch but they didn't look 100% normal again until I woke up today.)  They took my blood pressure (which was a little off) and pulse.  Had me lay down, asked me a bunch of questions and were super nice. The only thing they didn't give me was an answer to what was going on (which kind of sucks, because my research yesterday/today indicates it could be either dehydration or overhydration, or an electrolyte imbalance caused by either one of the above...ergo making it really hard to figure out what to do better next time.  Grrr....)  Once the light-headedness passed and I felt less out of it I left, met up with M&C and we got our (very cool) medals and made plans for brunch (which is my favorite meal ever and at least half of the reason I run).

We walked to a little place called Barlow's and took a picture for my friend S's "Choose Joy" project.  We had long leisurely discussions of work, running and life.  We just generally enjoyed being there and the amazing experience we had just shared.

I came home and showered before passing out for a really long nap (it was AMAZING) and then started to assess the damage done by this race.  Honestly it really wasn't bad.  Not too sore, Extensor a tiny bit cranky but pretty good considering I just put almost 14 miles on it.  Really, the biggest damage from the day was this obnoxious blister that developed around mile 8.  It's the second time I've gotten a blister in that SAME SPOT during a half.  Methinks a shoe/sock issue might be to blame (which sort of sucks because that's a rather expensive trial-error process to fix).  Warning-gross blister pic below:

13.1 miles always leads to blisters here.  Grrr.  
All in all, a great day with a few setbacks.  Stuff to do before the next race in 2 weeks:  1) I need to figure out this shoe/sock thing.  I can't be dealing with blisters at mile 9 every time.  I've got these nifty Dr. Scholl's blister treatment things that work pretty well to cushion/speed up healing, but I'd rather just not have a problem. 2) I clearly am botching the hydration angle of this half thing.  The problem is I don't know if I'm doing too much or too little.  Or maybe I'm doing the right amount, but need to focus more on salts or something, who knows.  I need to figure that out in the next couple of weeks before the Heartbreak Hill Half, though, for sure.

Even with my slowest half ever and the mile 11/12 shenanigans I feel pretty good.  I had a ton of energy left in the tank.  That's a ridiculously fast finish for me at the end of a half, and would have been more impressive if it had been 13.1 instead of 13.71.  I have very little muscle soreness today at all.  Assuming this blister pack works, I may even go out for a recovery mile or two to see if I can join the RW Summer Run streak. I've never felt strong enough to run the day after a half before, so that's a total win.

I will definitely do this again:

Sunday, May 18, 2014

On a Mission from Cod

I have run 3 half marathons to date, so when some friends asked if I would join them on a Ragnar team I figured I was good to go and it would be a blast.  I was definitely right about number 2, I was sort of right about number 1.  Ragnars, it turns out, are HARD.  Like, really, REALLY, HARD.  Definitely a blast, 100% worth it, but that was orders of magnitude harder than a half.  I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let's start at the beginning.

Last year while having drinks with some new runner friends I was asked to join a Ragnar team with Digital Running.  They are amazing, by the way.  It was easy to join, they allowed for monthly payments and they took care of everything.  I didn't worry about vans, gas, water, support crews, safety gear, nada.  It was all taken care of.  It cost a bit more initially to run with them then it would have if I was just paying the registration fee, but it was well worth it.  They took care of all of the details.  All I had to do was train and run.  If you're going to do a Ragnar - do it with Digital Running.  And thus was born the amazing team: On a Mission from Cod.

Some of my non-running friends (there are one or two who have read this blog, or so they say) are probably like "um, wtf are you talking about?"  A Ragnar is a ~200 mile, 12 person relay that takes place in 24-36 hours.  Everyone runs 3 legs that total 11-20+ miles, some at night, some on trail, some on the road.  It's a pretty epic undertaking.  But considering I'd run 3 half marathons to date, and my mileage total was pretty low (12.8 miles) I was sure I was fine.

We met near the start in Raynham for a team dinner.  Some of our group were new recruits so it was a good time to get to know each other and make new friends.  We pretty much had a blast, eating a wonderful meal, enjoying good company, and getting ready for our very early start.

At Oh.My.God O'Clock we all got up and headed to the start in Hull.  For those that are wondering, Oh.My.God O'Clock is so early that the Marriott doesn't have coffee yet, so you are sort of wondering how on earth you are going to keep moving, let alone how you are going to run. (To the Marriott's credit, they managed to get coffee up and going before we left.  I took the largest cup they would give me.  This is why I love Marriotts.)  We loaded a day and a half's worth of gear into two 12 passenger vans and started on our way to the start.

The start was beautiful.  Right by the sea...and a Dunkin Donuts.  I got more coffee.  We cheered for our first runner.  I have a lack of pictures here - which is really too bad as it was gorgeous.  The whole time was 50-60 degrees, cloud cover, a light mist at times, but really, perfect running weather.  You'll see later.  I was getting kind of nervous here though. You see, I was runner 2, and even though I only had about 2.5 miles I was a little nervous about keeping my pace and not letting my team down.

What follows is the worst picture of me I've ever posted on this blog, but it's worth it, because it's also my first exchange at a Ragnar ever.  So we'll deal with the fact that it's a terrible pic.

This leg felt fantastic.  No one passed me.  I passed 5 people.  The weather was great.  I was actually speedy enough that when I got to the exchange, my runner wasn't there yet because of traffic.  I saw her running like crazy towards me across the parking lot.  All was good, this was great.  2.5 hilly miles.  Check.

Leg number 14 (or 2, for me) was the one I was fearing the most.  The elevation profile for this leg was not pretty.  In fact it was about 2 miles of a steady hill.  To top it off, I'm a really music dependent runner and there were no headphones allowed on this leg because it ran straight through a really busy road on the Cape. So.  To recap.  5.2 miles.  Wicked hill.  No headphones.  Yikes.

I managed to act cool about it before the exchange though.

I took off.  And I ran.  Easy at first knowing the hill was coming.  I kept hoping that all of the hills I've done lately in training for the Heartbreak Hill Half and Mt. Washington would pay off.  This hill was not Mt. Wasthington, btw.  But it was sustained and lots of people were struggling.  I passed 4 of them with my steady 9:45 miles.  I also got passed by a few people, mostly guys, all of whom were very good cheerleaders for my slow self powering up the hill.  Honestly the hill wasn't the worst, the worst was the cramps that came the second I started running downhill/flat again.  My calves seized up.  I was ready to walk.  I had no music, no distraction.  Just me and wicked crampy legs, and almost 3 miles to go.  And I decided, I would not walk.  Under no circumstances would I walk.  I sang power songs in my head.  I thought about family and friends who have passed and wondered what they thought watching me at that moment, or if they were.  I had mantras.  I kept running.  I was so incredibly happy to finish that leg.

I finished in the dark.  I knew I'd be running the last 4.7 in the dark.  I was sure I could crush that though.  It was the least hilly of the legs.  I was almost done.  I just had to find a way to rehydrate, uncramp and sleep for a little bit before my 3:50 am start.

This leg did not go like I planned.

For starters, waking up from 2.5 hours of sleep to run 4.7 miles is maybe the hardest thing I've ever tried to do.  I was tired and sore and wanted to sleep.  I was also WICKED cranky (<3 to my van mates for not killing me as I got ready - I know I was no Pollyanna.)  I got ready.  I got to the exchange.  I was *terrified* I was going to miss one of the turns on the route.  In retrospect, I should not have been concerned about this.  They are all really well marked.  I should have been concerned about my footing and the road.  Not the turns.  But reason is foggy at 3:50 in the morning and I just wanted to be done.

I was terrified I would lose sight of the runner ahead of me and miss a turn.  So rather than put my headlamp on the ground (ie, smart) I kept looking straight ahead to make sure I didn't lose the guy who was way faster than me and pulling away.  Less than 1 mile into a 4.7 mile leg I stepped into a pothole.  I twisted my ankle. And for the first time in Ragnar I walked.  I walked for a minute to make sure I could, and I could.  It hurt, but I could.  I started to run again and it was tight, really tight.  I ran for a couple of minutes and then walked again.  I thanked God I had carried my cell phone with me, texted my van, and told them I was going to be slower than planned, but I would finish.  I started to run walk to the end.  2 minutes running, 2 minutes walking.

And then, my lovely van came back.  I was so overwhelmed with emotion that they would come to check on me.  Our next runner came out and said she could do my leg.  I said I wanted to finish.  She said she'd run with me.  I was so thrilled to have the company.  And so we "ran." Very, very slowly to the finish.  We averaged 12 minute miles (run/walking) to the end.  I was so incredibly thankful Cheryl was there, and was also so thankful to be able to finish.  I didn't want to let anyone down, but it was nice to have a friend and support at that moment.

*Sadly, no pics of all this, too dark to get anything, but it was amazing.*

And then, our van was done.  Van 2 had about 34 miles left, but we were good.  We got brunch at an amazing place in Truro and enjoyed each other's company and tales, and then we headed to the finish to meet van 2, and cross the finish together.

We were so excited and proud of what we'd accomplished: 192 miles in 30 hours.  We overcame a couple of injuries and had a lot of fun. We were pretty happy to get our medals, though.

We were a little tired and the beer line was long.

But it was worth it, and even though it was harder than a half (by a lot, even without the ankle) I highly recommend a Ragnar.  This will not be my last.  Cheers.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A 3.32 mile prayer.

The weather today in Boston is definitely worse than Shamrock, but nothing was going to keep me inside.

One year ago today I was training for my first half marathon and watching my first marathon.

I had never been a runner, you see.  I'm not fast, and only newly athletic.  I started running reluctantly, because my trainer told me it was the trick I needed to lose my last few pounds.  She was right, so I kept doing it, but I didn't really like it...until I had a race to train for, until I had my half marathon.

I diligently trained.

I logged miles and miles in cities I travel to for work, sometimes waking up at 4 am to get them in before a busy day.  Sometimes doing 8 or 9 mile runs on a treadmill (this takes a long time when you're slow and 90 minutes on a treadmill is not the most fun thing ever) so I could get them in when I was at an airport hotel surrounded by industrial areas.

I learned I liked training.

On 4/12/13 I logged my first 10.25 mile run.  I had never in my life dreamed I could run 10 miles without stopping.  When I finished I was sort of dumbfounded.  To top it off, I did it on the first day of a trip for work.  Me.  The non-runner.  Running 10.25 miles on a work trip.  I was elated and in love with running, and training.

On 4/15/13 I didn't need to run.  But after working in the morning I caught some snippets of the elites finishing the Boston Marathon.  I was just in awe.  I knew all the places, I saw my friend Sarah's house.  I thought of a former student who I knew was running, I was so impressed.  I wondered, in the back of my mind, if somewhere after my half marathon there was a full lurking out there somewhere for me...and so I finished working, changed, grabbed my shoes and went out to run.  Nothing fancy, 4 miles.  Easy mileage now, even for a former non-runner.

At mile 2.5 something was wrong.  My phone rang, and then it rang again.  My text messages started going off.  I stopped (I never stop when running) and saw that I'd missed calls from my brother, mother, a guy I'd recently started dating...I was very confused...and then I got in touch with my brother who asked if I was okay, and told me what happened.

I didn't really understand how someone could have bombed the utterly inspirational scene I'd just witnessed. I got literally sick to my stomach at the thought of my former student, friends and other people who would be crossing the finish at that moment.  These are the people you know.  The people who find the time to run 40-50 miles a week balancing kids and schoolwork and an office to do something spectacular.  These are your family and friends.  These are my family and friends.

I finished my phone calls and started to walk back and decided that I would run.  That no one would ever take running from me. Ever.  In that moment, running became personal.  Anger drove me to the fastest mile I'd ever run, at that point.

Since that day I've run hundreds of miles.  I've run 3 half marathons, 2 One Run for Bostons, a 10 mile race, 2 10Ks, 2 5 mile races, countless 5Ks and a lot of training miles.  On the horizon I have 2 half marathons, a Ragnar, a hell of a hill to climb, and, God willing, a marathon before the end of the year.  I've made so many good friends and learned more about myself than I ever thought possible.

I learned that the city of Boston has some beautiful places to run.
I learned I can run through the rain.
I learned I can run through silence and it's sort of like a prayer.
I learned I can run when it's frozen outside.

I learned I can run when it's sweltering hot.

I learned I can conquer hills.

I learned I can conquer injury.
I learned some races feel easy...
..and I learned I can persevere through those that seem to go on for miles

And so, today-I watched it rain and bluster all day, progressively getting worse.  I grew teary eyed during the NPR coverage during the drive into work, during a moment of silence in homeroom, and during a moment of silence at the moment the bombs went off last year as I drove home...and I decided I just didn't care what the weather was like today.  Today I was going to run.

I ran for everyone who can't anymore and everyone who wants to.  I ran for the new friends I've made and the old friends who have supported me through everything.  I ran for the family that gave me life and unending love and support

And yes, I ran for me.  For the me that wasn't a runner and all of the things she didn't know.  And when the wind blew harder, I ran harder.  When the rain burned my cheeks I put my head down and kept going, and when it wanted me to quit, I didn't, and I won't. This is a sad day for my city, and a sad day for runners and those who love them.  Here is my very humble contribution: a pensive 3.32 mile prayer.

#OneBoston #BostonStrong

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Belated, Beautiful, Breezy, Blow-up: Shamrock RR

I just sort of knew this wasn't going to be my race but I didn't want to believe it.

I will talk more about the amazingness that is Loopfest in a separate post.  I had so much fun meeting everyone and chatting (even though it was briefer than I would have liked!) however before I can think about the fun I need to process what the heck happened on this race/training cycle/etc.

When I registered for Shamrock last year I registered for the full.  I was in the middle of training for a half marathon which was going remarkably well.  My mileage was increasing, my speed was steadily improving, everything was looking optimistic and amazing.  I had visions of grandeur, pulling off 20 mile runs in the winter like a true badass, triumphantly completing my first full marathon surrounded by loopsters, friends from Boston, and a beautiful seaside setting.

I gave up on the full in the middle of January.  There were 3 main culprits: illness, altitude and travel.  The first two kind of helped each other out.  After 9 days of running at altitude while visiting my parents over Christmas my lungs just lost it.  I tried to push through a hilly 14 miler at 6,000 feet and wound up walking after an asthma attack hit hard at mile 10.  It took me a week to recover and I basically missed 2 long runs as a result.  Work had me traveling pretty much every weekend in January and I wound up shorting a 15 miler to 8, and just realized I didn't have the mileage or time to get that training cycle back.  My marathon goal was put on hold.

My mileage and times were looking pretty good for a half, though.  I switched to the half and figured I would try to finally break the sub 2:00 barrier.  I added in some intervals and pace runs and was feeling pretty great.  A 5 mile race in February resulted in a PR despite being pretty hilly.  I was feeling amazing and was pretty sure this race and I were good to go.  I don't think I've ever been more optimistic about a race 3 weeks out.

So of course something went wrong.

After an easy 4 miler one day I did a yoga class and my left leg...I don't even know.  My calf would cramp and then it moved and felt like my Achilles, or my hamstring, or my hip.  I'm pretty sure I did something to my Sciatic nerve after enlisting the help of expert Loopsters on Facebook.  Having a diagnosis didn't change the fact that I needed to take some time to recover and my long runs and speed work suffered tremendously as a result.  I told myself, loopsters, my friends, my family, I was not trying to accomplish a goal anymore at Shamrock.  I was going to JFR and see how it went...

My mind has a really hard time letting go of goals.

I went out in my (optimistically) assigned corral ahead of the 2:00 pace group, and figured I would start slower than them, and if I felt good try to match them when they caught up to me.  With any luck I'd still have some gas left for the last 2-3 miles and I could push ahead, making up whatever time I'd lost at the start.  I tend to run every race slower at the start and fast at the finish anyway, so I figured that would fit my past trends.  I found my groove during mile 1 and 2 and felt amazing. My calf was totally fine.  A 9:35 mile in mile 2 felt easy.  The 2:00 pace group was right behind me and I decided to keep close to them for as long as I could.  

Miles 3-6 were actually pretty fantastic.  I was cruising through this part of the race.  I felt great, temp was good, fuel was good, I was smiling, I was fast (for me).  It didn't hurt.  I actually pulled ahead of the sub 2:00 group for a bit and hit the 10K mark at right around 57:30. New 10K PR!!!  Not quite sub 2:00 pace but pretty close, and I almost always have a good kick at the end...

...and this is where the wheels came off. I turned into the wind at Fort Story and I felt like the wind was an invisible wall I was trying to run through.  I realized that my "easy" quick pace was a torturous effort, and when I looked at my Garmin, I saw that I had lost :50 seconds on my mile pace almost instantly.  I got passed by the 2:00 group and while they were doing some cheerleading it didn't look like they were suffering the way I was.  I couldn't figure out why this was so much harder on me than it seemed to be on everyone else.

I started to doubt all sorts of things.  I wondered if my calf had been better during training and I'd had a couple more longer runs, if this stretch would have gone differently. I started to question my food from the day before and the morning of the race and looked down at my hands and was shocked that they were super swollen, indicating I had a hydration problem.  I stopped looking at my Garmin because the number kept getting slower and it was depressing me.  I just mentally lost it and gave into the slower pace.  When I got to the water stop at mile 8 I started walking almost immediately and walked through the whole thing getting Gatorade/water.  I walked a little after, drinking the fluids trying to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of this race.

My body answered that question as I started to "run" again.  My legs felt like lead, there was still wind.  I could feel a blister forming on the bottom of my right foot.  My gait was off now and my hands were still totally swollen.  I decided I would run the rest easy and just finish running.  I spent a lot of time ruminating on how painful these last miles were.

I wasn't upset, I was actually sort of grateful for the experience.  Obviously I would rather have an awesome race and feel fantastic at every mile and every stop, but I didn't and there were lots of reasons for it, and I knew I couldn't change any of them on the course.  I could literally only finish or not and the mode of that finish was up to me.  Given the drop off in pace from the first part of the race and the state of my legs I was pretty sure a PR was out of the question, even though it was mathematically possible and should have been doable.  So I just focused on maintaining a steady pace.

Somewhere around mile 11 I remembered that even if I hurt I should enjoy what I was doing on that beautiful day, by a beautiful beach.  I gave kiddos high fives and tried doing the peace sign for a few photos as per Loopster recommendations the day before.  I said hi to the OSOM loop ladies when I ran by and was so happy to see them.  I started to get it in my head that I would finish the last mile strong, that this pain and anguish was all mental and I just needed to push.  I started to push, I felt a little better, I came around to the boardwalk and got SLAMMED with wind again and knew that was it.  I would finish, it would be under 2:10.  It would not be my slowest half ever.  But it would not be pretty.

I finished in 2:08:47 and was so relieved to be done.  I thought the finish chute would be miserable and long given how I was feeling on the course, but it immediately seemed pretty awesome.  There were smiles, congratulations, I actually took a picture with my finisher's medal for the first time.  This one was harder than the others, I wanted to remember it.  That picture wound up being amazing, it doesn't even look like I wanted to collapse for 5 miles.  

I met up with some friends from Boston after and walked around the finishers tent a bit.  They were kind enough to let me warm up at their hotel and get cleaned up since I had to head back pretty quickly after the race.  

I'll be back, Virginia Beach.  Shamrock and I have a score to settle.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Various and Sundry Things

Brace yourselves, this will be a long (but hopefully entertaining) connection of various and sundry things...

I've been in Michigan for a summer job for less than 24 hours and have already had enough happen that a bloop was in order.

Yesterday was a travel day.  I'd originally intended to squeeze a few miles in when I got to here, but it became an impossibility because of meetings, key shenanigans (ie I didn't have them for a few hours after I got there) and my realization around 9:30 pm when I finally got settled that despite my best intentions a 4 miler was just not going to happen.  I'd been up since 5 am and had traveled most of the day and was just beat.

It was not the way I wanted to start my time at my summer job.

Speaking of which a bit of a tangent to hold myself accountable here:

I intend to use the next 5 weeks in different surroundings to amplify, not destroy, my current training cycle.  I am committing myself to running 4 or 5 days a week, in the AM, before work plus 3 strength training days geared at finally kicking these injuries to the curb.  That will occasionally require 2 a days.  I'm doing it.  I am recommitting myself to clean eating during this time.  There is a full kitchen here and an excellent salad/pasta bar at the dining hall.  There are no excuses for me spending extra money on food that is worse for me that doesn't help my training.  If that means I am slightly less "fun" and not going out at nights I am okay with that, because it will translate to better running later.  Will it always be easy? No.  Am I capable of making these choices for the betterment of myself?  Absolutely.  I will periodically be assessing my ability to pull this off in future posts (I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat...) 

Now that that's out of the way and I have created some public accountability...

Today started off much better than yesterday.  I was up at 6:30 am and out the door at 7 for my long run.  I'd like to make that a tad earlier in the future, but the weather was cooler today so no harm no foul.  It's the first time I've had a chance to run in 70 degree weather in weeks and I planned on enjoying every minute of it.  The streets were pretty deserted except for a few other runners and I was excited to try out my new long run shoes: Glycerin 10s (they fit the same as the 11s on me and were on sale, score!).  I ran in them on the 3rd for a 5K that I decided couldn't possibly be raced in the heat we were experiencing (I was right) but this was my first chance to try them out for more miles.

They felt luxuriously soft after my Pure Connects.  Like downright sinful.  And slow. But, hey, it's a long run and I've been battling shin splints forever, so slower is probably good anyway.  I ran 7.9 miles in a very easy 1:19 and enjoyed 95% of it profusely. The other 5% consisted of what I can only describe as a knee "thing."

Three times the following weirdness occurred (I use the term weirdness, and not pain, deliberately.  I'll explain more below).  The run was hillier than I've done recently and when I tried to accelerate on the uphills my left knee would sort of spasm and almost lock.  I'd stop, walked a couple of steps.  No pain.  Tentatively resumed running and was fine...until it happened again about a mile later when I forgot about it and attempted to accelerate a bit again on a hill.  Wash, rinse, repeat - although this time it wasn't because I forgot, I was attempting to see if there was a pattern to this spasm.  I finished the run (but still no pain!) stretched thoroughly afterwards and foam rolled and was about to treat myself to a shower/cold bath for my legs when I realized a packing error:

I had not packed a bath towel. 

It is 8:30 AM.  On a Sunday.  I am near the University of Michigan campus.  I have no towel and very limited prospects for getting one.  I have just run almost 8 miles and am sweaty and icky and my knee is being weird and I need a cold bath and...


So I figured challenge accepted:  I would walk around the downtown area and surely somewhere must be a) open b) selling a towel.  Any towel.  A beach towel, even.  ANYTHING.

A venti cup of black coffee, 90 minutes and 4.89 miles later I returned to my apartment towel-less and determined to MacGyver a solution from the rest of my luggage.  After searching for about 20 minutes I found it - the solution to my problems: a spare pillow case (You laugh, but it worked.  Not ideal and I don't recommend it but it was better than the alternative which was a pair of sweatpants I might actually want to wear tonight if it gets colder...) 

It was a serious amount of ridiculous to occur before noon. *hmpf*

If anyone got this far (and if you didn't I don't blame you, b/c holy long batman...but if you did, I am thrilled - and have a question) does anyone have any ideas as to what this knee thing is?  My cursory googling/searching of the RW forums seems to signal ITBS.  Which would be consistent with glute weakness I've already identified, but I'm a little skeptical because I have had that before on the other side a few months into running and it manifested totally differently...

Anyway, Michigan is off to a crazy (although 95%) good start.  And I finally have a towel!

Monday, July 01, 2013

So Much More than a Race Report: The One Run For Boston

I tend to throw myself into things I get involved in - my job, running, the Loop, you 6 weeks ago when I found out about the One Run for Boston (ORFB) and signed up to run a very modest 6.5 miles from Framingham to Wellesley on the Boston Marathon Route I characteristically became a little obsessed (in a good way) with the relay.  

Pretty much every entry I've posted here since late May has referenced the ORFB in some way - sometimes a plea for runners, sometimes as a reminder of something amazing that I was thrilled to be a part of.  Everyday since June 7th the first thing I've checked when I got home or woke up was the progress of the relay.  I love pretty much everything about it.  The stories of the individual runners, the energy of the Brits who dreamed this up, but most of all I loved the people who were involved in this great event.  Everyone was so positive and generous.  It was a beacon of pure hope in an answer to a truly hideous event.  We need more of those in this world. 

Two weeks ago, after the BAA 10K I got to meet some of the amazing runners for the first time in person.  We all grabbed brunch and talked about how excited we were to be a part of this amazing event.
 Brunch Two Weeks Before

And the night before Miles le Baton reached Massachusetts we gathered at Patriot's Place outside of Gillette Stadium for a pre-race carb loading feast and great company:

Dinner the night before

It was a very diverse and wonderful group of people.  Some people had run the Boston Marathon before.  Some had run multiple times.  Some were running their first Boston this April and got stopped between 24 and 25 miles.  Some were long time runners who were celebrating at or near the finish.  Some had never run Boston, and came from as far away as New Mexico and Missouri.  Some had run earlier and flown to Boston to be part of the finish as well. Some, like me, were new runners, who had never run Boston or any other marathon - but just needed to be part of this somehow.  

Yesterday I ran my very modest 6.5 miles from Framingham to Wellesley as part of the One Run for Boston relay.

We started later than we thought we would.  The relay was running about 4.5 hours behind when it reached us 3,000 miles from where it started.  That's a miraculously small amount of time to be delayed when you consider that the relay traveled through 110 degree weather in Death Valley and Arizona, lightening storms in Texas and torrential rain in Connecticut.  So we adjusted our outfits, adding headlamps and glow sticks and anxiously awaited our small part in this epic event.

 Ready to run!
One run!

While we waited to run, we added our signatures to the One Run Banner, which has been traveling with Miles le Baton and the runners all the way from California.  I was able to sign right over Price, Utah, which choked me up a little bit and felt, well, perfect.

The banner - Price

The group ahead of us arrived at around 9:15.  We cheered for them and got to take a few pictures before we got started.  This is us with the flag and the baton about 30 seconds before we take off!

The flag and the baton!!!!

We started our journey at 9:17 pm from Framingham - 20 miles from the Boston Marathon finish line.

And we're off!

And...we're off!!!  That's me with the flag at the start of leg 317.

We ran through the very modest hills that precede the famous hills of Newton.  We had some epic ultramarathoners, and some really strong runners with us.  I fell a little behind but kept chugging along with my 9:00-9:30 miles all the way to Wellesley with a new friend who runs at the exact same pace as me. 

It was my first time running with others, it was my first time running at night, it was my first time running without music, and it was my first time running without a clock going.  All of that feels strangely very appropriate.

And then...after what felt more like 15 minutes than a little under an hour, we were done.

Done - and Gatorade!!!

My wonderful friend S brought me some Gatorade, which I demolished and brought me back to my car, which I hopped in to drive to the finish so I could be part of the amazing end to this epic journey.  The baton was pushed over the finish line by one of the marathoners whose father was hurt in the bombings just after 12:30 am.

Miles comes over the finish
One Run Finish [and me!!!)

There are really no words for the emotion we had at the end, so I'll let those pictures speak for themselves.

It was about 12:30 am, and we had done it - almost 1,500 runners had run 3,000 miles.  Together.  It was the strength of the human spirit answering an event that had affected everyone in different ways.  It was time to celebrate, so we took over a little bar down the street.


The cameras literally couldn't capture all of the joy in one shot.  That's about 1/3 of the people who took over the Rattlesnake.  We didn't leave until they made us, right about 2:30 am.

I know I've written a lot above, but I really don't  feel like words are enough to convey the truly amazing events that made up the ORFB.  The pictures do a slightly better, although still incomplete, job.  I am humbled and in awe that I was able to be a part of something so amazing.  I am very thankful that running allowed me to participate.  The word "awesome" is overused in modern language.  I'm as guilty as anyone else of this.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

June Swoon

I feel like this month has been a bit of a let down in terms of running, even with the PR last week.  I suppose that was inevitable after the high points of running my first races and a successful first half marathon, but I really didn't expect to look back at June and feel sort of meh about the whole thing.

In May I ran 100 miles in a month for the first time ever.  One of the things I didn't really talk about all that much while doing that was that I was running them battling this constant nagging pain in my shins.  It came and went.  Was the worst right before my half, seemed to miraculously disappear for a few days right after my half, and then came back right towards the end of the month.

After a conversation with my new (and utterly fantastic, I might add) running coach we dialed my mileage back and focused on flat, easy, running in an effort to defeat this silly injury now.  It's the right move.  It's still the very early stages of my next training cycle and I really don't want this to get worse.  I don't know what I would do with a summer sidelined from running completely because I can't get a handle on this injury.

In fact, I was being perfectly rational about all of it, chugging along with short easy miles, doing hip/glute strength training diligently (because she's pretty sure that's the source of the problem), hanging out with my new best friend: the foam roller, swimming (more on that below) and going about my day.  I was a little antsy that my miles were lower, but I didn't worry about it too much.

Until I looked at my June mileage tally and realized it was already the 20th: 51 measly miles and 10 days left in the month.

Granted I still have two weekends left (read: two long runs) but suffice to say there is nothing impressive about following up a 100 mile month with what will likely be something like a 75-80 mile month.

I know I'm being a little hard on myself and I'm trying to remember that I am doing all of this now so I can run faster and pain free later.  I'm trying to remember that it's a process and it's better that I take a step back now than actually injure myself in a way that puts me out of commission for weeks or months later.  I keep reminding myself that the goal races are the Philly RnR Half and Rehoboth and I *need* to heal now to get my sub 2:00:00 there.  I'm trying to remind myself that I didn't *just* run 51 miles this month, I also worked up to 80 push ups a day (from 36) and swam again for the first time in ages, and spun and did strength training and got a new 5K PR...

...But man, 51 miles in 20 days seems low to me.  And I haven't missed a goal by this much in a while (wanted 110 in June at the start of the month).

Okay, enough whining.  New blog rule: I have to find some positive things to finish up these posts.  So here goes:

1) I replaced some of my miles with swimming/aqua jogging this month for the first time in years.  I am in total and complete awe of swimmers/triathletes.  Holy hell swimming is hard.  Last week for the first time I finally did some serious continuous swimming (1 lap swimming followed by 1 lap aquajogging for 30 minutes. Made it 30ish lengths of the pool (I think, I only started counting mid way).  That was ridiculous hard and definitely something I a) couldn't do before b) wouldn't have been able to do if I hadn't added swimming/aqua jogging at the behest of Coach S.  So thank you for that accomplishment, shin splints.

2) I have gotten much more diligent about foam rolling/strength exercises for my lower body/core.  I am relatively certain this will pay huge dividends in the long term (hopefully in the form of staving off injuries far into the future, hint, hint).  I basically have a little corner of my apartment set up to be foam rolling, stretching, strengthening zone.  And I use it.  Daily.  *pats self on back*

3) I have learned how to use KT tape.  I'm not thrilled with the cost of said tape, but I'm pretty damn good at taping my shins now, and it really does help.

4) I saved the best for last.  The run I'm most excited about this month will also be the last run of this month and my limited miles have not hurt my ability to complete that one at all.  On June 30th I get to be part of the One Run For Boston.  6.5 easy miles (prob right around a 10 min pace) with a group of other people to bring to a close the first relay across the United States.  It ends on the marathon route and will raise money for the One Fund.  I posted more about my feelings on this event here.  There are currently more than 1,000 people, some of whom have already ran, some of whom (like me, are waiting to run).  People have run in 100+ degree heat across California and Arizona.  People have run 30 and 40 mile stretches across some of the most desolate areas you can imagine.  People have flown across the country to run stretches that were hard to fill.  But most importantly they keep going.  I'm thrilled and humbled to get to be a part of this awesome relay.  I think it will make up for any feelings of disappointment I'm struggling with today.