Thursday, August 25, 2016

Bergen Road Race 2016

Almost two weeks ago now I ran my first "real race" since returning to running. Granted I did the 20k the weekend before, but I ran that as a workout and emotional band-aid-ripping.

Last year for this race I was in the middle of peak training for Erie Marathon, this year definitely a far cry from that at this point- BUTTTT before I get all negative nancy, I'm feeling pretty good with where I'm at all things considered.


I had a little bit of a stink attitude before the race, talking about how I didn't even think I could break 21 minutes in this weather and because I'm so out of shape yadda yadda. In reality, that was my insecurity coming out full force. God, sometimes I really need to be slapped and told not to take myself so seriously. Thank goodness Heather was there to cheer, and also bring me back down to earth a bit.

It was already really warm at 7:30 in the morning when I got into Bergen, add in the 80+% humidity and I knew it wasn't going to be pretty. I finished my Gen UCAN and then did about a 20 minute warm-up in my Zealot's and was soaked with sweat by the time I got back to my car. I wanted to be as comfortable as possible for the race, so I opted for sports bra, Bullet Shorts and Type A6 racing flats even though I was going to blind people with my stomach. It was worth it to feel maybe 5 degrees cooler.

The Race

This race is hard to NOT go out fast with the caliber of athletes that show up. It's even harder to not go out fast when you have only done one race/workout in months and don't have a good grasp on pacing or where your fitness level is at. With that said, I ran a 6:09 first mile and knew that wasn't going to last. Spoiler alert, but that's okay.
Mid race naps are always welcome.

I didn't look at my watch at all after that, because it didn't matter. I just focused on running hard and getting from turn to turn and passing people when I could. I encouraged a girl in the second mile and tried to pull her along with me.

While the course changed last year, the last mile has always been the same as long as I have been running the race. So I know it well, which is good and bad. On this day it was good because I knew where to hold back a little or push and also....when to just freaking go because being done sounded amazing. I passed quite a few people including 4-5 women in the last tenth of a mile- sometimes you just need to feel that competitive fire again to be reminded what you can do.
In finish chute: Photo courtesy of Heather!
I finished in 19:55. It's far from a personal best, but I was happy to be under 20 and also not run a personal worst for this race (though it was close). Strava told me I ran roughly 5:08 pace for the last bit of the race which made me feel good knowing I had a kick....and probably should have ran faster sooner. My heart rate was probably also a sign I should have ran harder- I'm going to say I simply don't have the mental will to push right now. But that's a topic for another day.

All in all it really was a good morning. I was so grateful that Heather came out to cheer and support me. We also ran into my good friend Dawn who I did a lot of Boston training with earlier this year.
Dawn, me, Heather
 Being part of the Bergen Elite running team was even better this year as we had even more runners than in the past. Our men's team won the open division and our women's team took second. I was a bit frustrated that I couldn't pull my weight more but man we have so awesome fast ladies representing and leading the team!

After the race, Heather and I had breakfast and long talk- some of my favorite things! Always good to catch up and also unwind for a while with a good friend. I then raced home, to hop on a skype chat with Lindsey, Erica, and Michele. Basically my entire morning was spent around incredible women in person and afar. I was so excited to chat with the girls for Lindsey's I'll Have Another podcast. I was first on her podcast back in February (but released in April) and loved getting a chance to do it again for her 25th episode! If you haven't listened to her yet I urge you to give it a shot- she's so much fun and interviews some incredible people like one of my favorite Olympians Emily Infeld! As for our "roundtable" episode that we had this time, I was so lucky to have that time with the ladies. We talked Olympics, Doping, running safety, and also some incredibly personal stuff- go take a listen!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Running Update & Sauerkraut 20k

It's been a little while, so overdue for some running updates- and a random race report because, why not?

Getting back into running has been about as you'd expect. There are lots of WTF moments, but also those moments where I start to see a glimmer of my old self and can't help but smirk. There are times Brian, coach and friends get texts where they need to talk me off a ledge and times where I think they assume I'm vying for the 2020 Olympics because I'm so amped up and excited. For an admittedly very grey person (I rarely see things in black and white, this is a post for another day), I can be very all or nothing when it comes to my running. So, the last few weeks have been spent trying to find my grey area. That's where the balance is, where life and running coincide but neither dominates. This is something that has become so important to me the last few years, I don't want running to be my everything but I don't want it to be nothing either.

Finding my grey area has been going well though-but certainly have had my slip ups (Probably a few too many Shandy's). One thing that really helped me was going to Salty Running Camp in Ohio a few weeks ago. I have had the pleasure of getting to know these women and getting to spend a weekend with them running, eating, drinking and OH SO MUCH LAUGHING was just what the doctor ordered. Each person truly brings something different to the table, and each person reminded me in some way of all the good things in running and life. I am already looking forward to next years camp, you really should join us- I promise we will keep you entertained.
Salty Camp Shenanagins!
Back to training though... I've noticed my easy paces come down a little, my heart rate has been a little more steady, and adding in workouts isn't overly daunting. Although, workout paces ARE a little humbling compared to where I was- but I am doing my best to not compare because it really doesn't matter. I wouldn't change a thing from the last few months. Sure, the happy ending we wanted wasn't there- but that physical and mental break still had it's benefits for me. I'd be remiss not to acknowledge that.

Emotionally, I just have my moments- like anything. Some things trigger me to feel all the feels- and I have to do my best not to let it drag me down. I'm not avoiding feeling things, but I'm also not allowing them to consume me.

There is one thing I knew was going to present a challenge to me; pinning on a bib again. The last time I did that, I was 5 weeks pregnant on the starting line of one of the most iconic about feeling all the feels. Dramatic? Maybe, but doesn't change that it's how I feel.

When we decided I would start running again I knew that there would be some races I didn't want to miss. Bergen 5k was one of those races- unfortunately that is also a race that comes with a lot of pressure. It's our local chapter of USATF championship 5k event with a fast field and PR course. Admittedly, having that be the first bib I pin on since Boston scared the crap out of me(especially since I am nowhere near my competitive or PR shape). I wanted to use it as a time trial to see where I am at but worried the emotions would overshadow the race for me and hold me back. <-----This is me taking myself far too seriously.

I didn't think I really had another option before that though, until I saw a post on Facebook about the Sauerkraut 20k. It's only about a 45 minute drive, but a notably challenging course (specifically miles 6-8) and VERY low key. I ran this race in 2010 and 2011 and vaguely remember enough about it (Garmin logs helped fill in blanks). After looking at the plan for the weekend runs, I pitched the idea to coach (the day beforehand).  He agreed, as long as I was willing for it to be a workout, and not a race....which I was 100% on board with. It's low key race, and no pressure to perform at a certain level so backing off for some recovery mid-race wasn't going to be an issue. So, I bucked up the $45 knowing that it would be a good workout and a huge weight lifted emotionally for me.

My goal was to sneak in, run, and sneak out. That changed the moment I pulled in and saw two old friends, but I was SO glad to see them. Back when I started running road races I used to run with this group of guys all the time- they pushed me, encouraged me, and became like family. I don't live as close anymore so we only see each other a few times a year. In fact, both times I ran this race in the past they were there- so I should have expected to see them. Anyways, it made for a good morning and they reminded me to have FUN and just go run and see what happened. Get back to the basics of going out, running- and not taking it too seriously. You know, the things that made me fall in love with running in the first place.

So, I did my warm-up and then chatted at the start. This race has REALLY gotten smaller over the years. I ran it in 2010 and there were over 230 runners, the last time I ran it in 2011 there was 194. This year, just 89 runners for the 20k. Granted, it was just the kind of "race-workout" setting I needed- but still sad to see a very old race slowly dying out.

Plan: 4 miles around 7:15-30, 1 mile easy, 4 miles around 7:15-30, 1 mile easy, 1 mile tempo, half mile easy and the hard into the finish.

Actual: 4 miles at 7:15 average, 1 mile easy, 4 miles (6 and 8 very slow uphill, 7 and 9 fast downhill) at 7:14, 1 mile easy, 1 mile at 7:08, half mile easy and then 6:40ish pace to the finish for the last little less than a mile. Final time was 1:30:16

I settled into a groove and just hung out for a few miles. Having this be a workout was really good mentally because it broke it up for me. Run 4 miles comfortably hard and then you get to chill for a mile. The first five miles are gradual uphill anyways-nothing nuts but it gets you over time. Mile 6 and 8 are notable uphills, and I managed to pass the other woman on 6 to take the lead. I was using every water stop as a sip of water and dumping the rest on myself. The 72 degrees with 83% humidity definitely not ideal- but about average for this race (August, folks).

I bobbled back and forth with 2 guys the last few miles which helped- and turned on my race gear a little bit but not enough that I forgot the point of the workout. The last mile was spent maneuvering all of the 5k runners coming through- but it wasn't that bad. I crossed the finish line in the midst of a few others and went about my day cheering for other runners and friends, hanging out and then heading back to Rochester. It was JUST what I needed- low key, confidence boosting, and a hard effort.

Shoes. Bra.
Where does this leave me heading forward? Well, the biggest thing is continue plowing forward through whatever comes my way. Deal with the roller coaster, find the joy in running again, and hop on the training wagon in a few weeks. I am running the Bergen 5k this weekend and then will run a half marathon on my birthday Labor day weekend. Once we get through those- I can better figure out more of what this fall will hold in regards to running.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Returning to Running

I said before that I would talk about the return to running, and here it is. As much as some might scoff at me saying that I'm out of shape after 2 months off- it simply means I am not in a place where I feel comfortable (it's not about a number on the scale). I don't feel like myself, or even feel like a runner- honestly those things take time even when there aren't a lot of emotions involved.

It's not a secret that getting back into shape can be tough, and there isn't some quick-fix. My successes in life came from hard work, not quick fixes- something I remind myself of often. With that said, there are also a lot of emotions surrounding this. I want to run more again, but I also wish things were different- obviously. I also know though that routine is good for me, and so are plans or some semblance of plans. So Brian and I have a loose timeline of what we want to see happen for us and our life in the coming years(*insert snark about the best laid plans here*). I also have my own timeline for my career in the next few years. After those priorities, comes running. My running timeline is dictated by the others, and never the other way around- but I do have the time and desire to train again at the moment, so that is what I am going to do.

I originally said I would wait a few weeks to get myself in some semblance of running shape before starting a training plan with coach again. When the hormones started shifting though and I found myself unnecessarily stressing about it, I knew it was best to bring him in board sooner. One of the biggest things James does for me is remove any running stress, I trust him to guide me and work with me on what is best for me training. So, there is a plan in the calendar as it's been helpful to feel like I have some routine. The last 2 weeks of June I started to see some consistency and that mentally was helpful. I will log my training as normal, and publish training logs over on Salty Running where you can follow along if you choose.

As for goals, I have a few in mind. But for the time being most are going to be held a little closer to the chest until I really feel ready and at a point I can tackle those goals. Right now the main goal is getting consistency back with my running, build back to 5-6 days a week and eventually back up to my pre-Boston mileage. Beyond that I am working to get back into routine with strength training as well, I know it will help me come back stronger and faster, but also healthier/safer. Coach has given me some workouts to do but I also am getting back into regular work with mini-bands, as this is something that has helped me a ton in the past. Of course I'm spending some quality time with my favorite Addaday roller because, well....returning to running is tiring and makes you just as sore as the thick of marathon training.

Race wise, I have a few I am eyeing (5k-half) that will be used as time trials/tuneups to see how my training is progressing. I MAY run a fall marathon, but nothing is set in stone. If I do I already know which race it will be but not until later fall, and ONLY if I feel ready to race it for a PR. I ran one marathon this year for the hell of it, and the next time I toe that 26.2 start line I want to be able to use everything from pre-Boston and everything I build this summer to bring me to one killer race. I have no regrets about Boston, or this spring- but that doesn't mean I don't want to see big things happen this year still if I can make it happen.

Call it retail therapy, or call it the desire for even MORE data- but I bought myself a new running watch. My Garmin 910XT is awesome (and I will still use it), but I've really been enjoying my new 225(Great deal on Amazon for a refubed one). The optical wrist heart rate is nice (I hate chest straps for HRM), and gives me good feedback on how hard I'm really working. Coming back into training is tough to gauge what is easy pace. Even though I'm not coming back from injury, I still want to make sure I don't set myself back. I won't live and die by the heart rate but I do think it will be a good tool for feedback.

On the same note of wanting to ease back into things and not get hurt. I have been wearing some more supportive shoes lately, particularly the Zealot ISO 2. The Kinvara's are my go-to trainers but I admit the Zealots have definitely stepped up in the competition. They are similar, but offer a bit more cushion and support for pounding the pavement. I will write more about this another day though, I have lots of good Saucony things to talk about!

Lastly I'd say that focusing on my nutrition and general health is key for life but also getting back into running. I mentioned I started taking my Iron and Vitamin D Supplements again, which I know makes a difference. I also have been better about packing lunches and healthier snacks for work (especially on days I work both jobs). Sleep is the one area I definitely need improvement, but that has been a work in progress with new schedules and less time in the day to get things done.

So with all of that said we will see where things go. It won't be some breakthrough overall, but more generally a physical and mental reset...fresh start. I can't call it a comeback, because I don't ever want to think of pregnancy as a setback. Even though it didn't go how we wanted, I don't want to associate negative feelings with it.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Moving Forward

First and foremost I want to thank everyone for their support, Brian and I are incredibly lucky to have great people in our lives. We are also lucky to have the support network all over that we do, we know we're not alone and that is comforting. To all who took the time to call, text, email, comment, tweet, whatever- THANK YOU.

The last few weeks have been a reminder that life goes on. I don't mean that in a negative way or that we simply flick a switch and move on. I mean it as, the world doesn't stop spinning when bad things happen. Bills still come, work still piles up, other people still exist-and more things will continue to happen(good and bad). While there are times it feels we are standing still, it's almost a comfort that everything keeps moving. Because it forces us to keep moving, even if we slow down to wade through the emotions we have to keep moving. So, we're focused on that.

Everyone processes things differently. I tend to hop on the roller coaster with things like this, I'll be "fine" one minute and the next I'll be sitting in traffic crying to my steering wheel. Part of this is the grief and part of this is the changes in hormones going on. Overall though we are doing well, because we are doing it together.

When I'm sad, I talk about it. When I'm happy and want to make light of something, I'm gonna laugh and try to make whoever I am with at the time laugh as well. When I'm frustrated, I TRY and express it as a fact and not towards someone (for the most part, but I'm human). When I want to cry, I do and honestly it happens most at night when the dust settles after the day is done. I talk about it a decent amount, even when others are like "I'd be in a hole, how can you talk about it?". It has nothing to do with my strength. Most simply put, not saying "Voldemort" doesn't make the evil not exist it only breeds more fear(Thanks Hermione). For me, the more I can talk about what is going on- the less sadness/fear I feel when doing so. I don't want to be sad or afraid, because according to the doctor we have NO reason NOT to believe in our future with kids.

We are both exhausted, because emotions do that to you let alone life and everything else. I'd say that is one of the biggest things we are facing to be honest. We're tired, ALL.THE.TIME.

Physically there were definitely some things to work through for me though. The drastic change of pace from marathon training at the highest level (for me personally so far) to working out in a recliner watching Gilmore Girls and Grey's Anatomy reruns for 2 months had just as much if not more of an effect than pregnancy did on my body. My body composition definitely changed, I hadn't gained much weight but my weight did shift to certain areas. I fit back into normal clothes pretty quick but still wasn't my normal self. It has been far less about how I look and so much more about how I feel. It's hard not to feel like crap, feel drained, and feel like I took the time off with nothing to show for it. I know that is a mix of emotions about wishing I was still pregnant and also emotions from....getting back into shape is really freaking hard. I'd be lying if I said that any other way.

Granted I cannot control how long it takes my hormones to chill the F out, hopefully it happens soon. I'm stuck in an "in-between" phase I feel like (Not 100% back to normal but obviously not still feeling 100% pregnant).  I am working on the things that I can control though. I had stopped my supplements in order to just take my prenatal ones. I have since resumed my Iron and Vitamin D dailies, and I am trying to get extra sleep when I can. I know the combination of those will help my energy return to normal, or at least I hope.

Life is busy but that is a good thing for us. We are working on house projects and renovations to sell next year and move to the other side of Rochester. It's fun to work on these things, as we can do some together but we each have our side projects to work on too.

My schedule also changed a bit as I took on a part time job. This is not a new thing for me, for people who have read here for a while- running between jobs and carrying an odd schedule is second nature for me. After 9 months of one job though, finding a new routine with a second job has taken some time. We are finding what works for us though, to make sure extra work doesn't take away from our lives. Extra money is good, but not if I cannot have time for Brian, take care of myself, take care of the house and stay on track. We're a really good team about this though, and I'm lucky to have someone supportive of whatever I choose to do.

On that note, nothing is really a personal decision anymore its something we decide together. WE, OUR, something we really embrace a lot more. We're building our life, and we know what we want for the future and that starts with building us. As hard as this situation was, it brought us even closer than we already were. We learned how each handles the harder more emotional stuff, and how to best work together to get through things. We saw each other in crisis mode, and there is no one I would rather have holding my hand when things just plain old suck(or when things are good obviously). (I should save that for our vows one day. Note to self.)

This is honestly a whole topic in itself and another post to be written. I AM trying to return to running, I know that it is going to be a slow process. 2 months off (uninjured) doesn't sound like a lot but man, I've got some work to do. Right now the goal is simply to get back into a routine, find love for it again (my heart isn't quite there yet honestly), and work on putting one foot in front of the other. Do I have dreams of what I'd like to see when I'm "back", yes. But who knows where things will go for us, and our life and everything else is a bit more of a priority right now.

At the end of the day we've got SO much good in our lives. So we take the good with the bad and work on moving forward.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Love, Mom.

My Little One,

I don't know if I can put this all into words, but I'll try my hardest. You deserve that, and I think it will help me too. I hope.

You appeared so quickly, far less than the expected 2 minutes we were instructed it would take. You were a surprise, but the best kind. Your dad and I were pretty quiet that first night as we both processed everything, but went to bed knowing that an amazing adventure awaited us. We both couldn't wait to be parents together, it was scary but we knew it would be so worth it.

Just a few short days later we headed off to Boston as a family of 2.5, though we were pretty much the only ones who knew. The race didn't matter to me anymore, at least not in the sense that it did a few weeks prior. You gave me a good explanation of why the last few weeks felt so off, and why my motivation was lacking. We enjoyed the weekend together, I loved showing you and your Dad around Boston.
Come Patriot's day, I was very conflicted. I wanted to run, but I wanted to do what was best for us. I started with a very loose plan, but come the halfway point I knew that the best thing for us would be to pull the plug. So I slowed down and we took it easy- something I will never regret. I crossed that finish line with my hand on my stomach, and said this was for you. The 2016 Boston Marathon was for you.

After returning home, you and I spent all of our time together. You got me to slow down, relax and take a much needed break from running. You wanted me to rest, and I did. We ate a lot of food, we grew together, and my body started growing with that. 

At 8 weeks, we heard your heartbeat. I think my heart skipped it's own beat in awe of how strong and amazing you sounded. You were growing perfectly, you looked like a little peanut and we had our first picture of you. We felt safe, and comforted knowing you were growing up fast. We went to bed early, we ate well (and often!), and we did everything we could for you.

We spent the weekend before you marked the eleventh week up at the cabin in The Thousand Islands. We shared that time with my parents, and we all talked about the things you would do as you grew up creating memories here- just like your Aunt Megan and I did. Your dad and I started making plans, talking about names, and sharing the news. Family and close friends knew about you, and soon everyone else would too. 

As we were about to end the first trimester, and since we had heard your heartbeat already, the risks had decreased drastically.We went to the doctor to check up on you and get some genetic testing, we could even know if you were a baby boy or girl soon from that! We were so excited for the next step, and went in with hope and love. 

It was a Tuesday morning, and everything changed in an instant.

We found out that your heart had stopped beating, and we instantly felt like ours had too.  I still looked, and felt pregnant, you were still there but at the same time you weren't. It was confusing and scary and incredibly sad. Your Dad and I cannot stop hearing those words and that is something that will take time to process but it's something we will go through together.

We're sad, and mad and we keep questioning every breath from the last few months. The cold fact is there was nothing we did wrong, though we will always wonder. Because we cared about you, and wanted to keep you safe. It's hard knowing your heart just wasn't strong enough, regardless of how much love we had for you. We know we're not alone and we know that many have suffered like us. We have hope for the future together with kids and we know that some will never have that- I promise not to take that for granted.

We were ready to share with the world, we had it planned and we couldn't have been more excited. At first I wondered if we got too excited, if we got too far ahead of ourselves but then I realized I wouldn't change a thing regardless of the outcome. I don't think it's possible to detach and not be hopeful just to try and preserve yourself in case something happens. Expecting the worst is not the way to live. Regardless of how we felt and who we told or what we did- it was still going to hurt. Putting a wall up doesn't make things easier, it just prevents people who love you from supporting you and being there. 

Your Dad and I spent a lot of time just sitting, talking and being together. We had each other and I cannot tell you how important that is. While I was the one carrying you, WE made you, and it was something WE both have to process. Together we also decided I would still join your Aunt Heather on our planned trip to Utah shortly after this all happened. We believed it would be good for me, even though being apart during this time would be tough for us. The days would be filled with adventure, and the nights we were only a phone call away from each other when things were harder (okay, the nights were really challenging).

The trip to Utah did indeed help, even if some wondered why or how I could go. I put on a happy face and allowed myself to experience things. Not because I wasn't sad, not because I wasn't hurting. But because sitting down and letting the silence take over would have consumed me. So instead, I focused my energy on taking care of myself, supporting one of my biggest supporters, and experiencing things that I could only have hoped to do with you one day. One of the mornings, it was just you and I listening to music as we drove up a dark winding canyon road in search of a good spot. We found that spot, and we sat while I cried watching the sunrise over a reservoir nestled in the mountains. While I knew I had a long way to go, I feel like that moment gave me a piece of hope and a sliver of acceptance.
I flew home late on a Monday night, I was beyond ready to be there with your Dad. It had been 6 days since we got the news and those words still felt like they were a broken record in my head that I couldn't turn off. On that 7th day we spent a few hours with people who helped us get the closure we needed.  My body hadn't yet realized what was going on, and simply waited until I was in a safe place with your Dad and some incredibly caring nurses and doctors. As hard as that last week with you was, I'm grateful I had that time to process and grieve at my own pace. While you're gone now, we know it will take time. Sad just takes time.

In your few months you saw and did more than some do in a lifetime. You ran a blizzard half marathon with me being your unknowing Trojan horse to the finish. You welcomed your cousin Max into the world with us. You took part in the 120th Boston marathon in a blazing time of 3:16 (it took me 6 tries to get a time like that, you did it in one!). You flew on a plane, went hiking in a canyon, and so many other things I could have only hoped to do again with you. Perhaps the most important thing that you experienced though, was love. You were so incredibly loved, and I cannot express that in any words that will do it justice. You were loved,  you showed your Dad and I even more love in each other and those around us.

I debated sharing this letter with anyone but you. But you were a part of my life, something your Dad and I were happy to have even though it ended too soon. I don't want to pretend you weren't there, because you were and probably always will be in some ways.

Love, Mom 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Boston Marathon 2016

Almost two weeks ago I ran my third Boston Marathon. There was a time in my life I didn't know about Boston, I didn't know how far a marathon was, and a time after I knew those things- that I still never believed I'd get to achieve Boston. Maybe those facts make last Monday's race easier to just "let go" of. I ran a 3:16 marathon on a day I was trained for a 2:55. As much as people may not believe me- I really am okay with this. I was in control, and I made the choice that got me to that time.

My first Boston was undeniably the bright spot I needed at a hard time, and was incredibly proud of running to enjoy that experience. Last year, Boston was just as spectacularly epic but in a different way. I didn't need Boston this year, in that sense. I didn't need it to be a breakthrough that was long time coming, and I didn't need it to be some shining light in the dark. So when I got to the half and knew it wasn't the day to push, I was incredibly at ease with that decision. It didn't even feel like a decision.

My peak and taper were far from ideal this time around, after a great training cycle it was tough to see it crumble so late in the game. Three weeks out from the race I took two unplanned days off(personal stress & family loss), but rebounded with the best 24 mile run I've had in training. One week later I had a funeral and followed the next day with a planned half marathon workout turned nightmare. As much as the weather was to blame, my confidence never really came back from that. I focused on trying to get back on track mentally in taper, but a poorly timed bout of the stomach flu 7 days before the race about wiped any confidence I had left for Boston. My coach was awesome through all of this, helping me adjust and also not go insane. We took the repeated hits and just kept going as best we could.

Two days before we were set to leave, I simply found a way to file it under "it is what it is". I had such a strong training cycle with a new coach and I wasn't going to let this ruin all of that. It was still going to be a great weekend away with Brian, and another chance to run a race that so many would love to- I refused to take that for granted. I hadn't ruled out a PR race for myself, but I did not have my happiness tied to the outcome. It was a freeing feeling.

Brian and I spent the weekend bopping around Boston together, and it was so much fun. We did stuff associated with the race (Expo, finish line...the usual) but we also did a lot that wasn't- because life is so much more than running. Don't get me wrong, I love running and I love Boston but this weekend wasn't just about me running it was about US (and the best lobster roll I've ever had).

We stayed a bit outside the city but race morning was a breeze with an uber ride and then a few stops on the red line. I ran into Julia which was a great way to start the morning, as I got to share the morning with her last year too! Eventually I met up with Jessica, Michele and a few other new friends which just made the bus ride and time in Hopkinton that much better. No shortage of inspiration from these ladies, I hadn't seen Jess or Michele since Chicago but it felt like we never left.

Athletes village was the standard sitting on a towel in a field, with the best people watching you can imagine. I always get a huge kick out of everyone's throwaways. I had scrub pants this year and I was sad to leave them behind as they were super comfy.  While standing in bathroom line with Meg, I remember hearing them talking over the loud speaker reminding everyone to write emergency contact info on the back of their bib. I thought about it and was like- meh and went back to chatting. This will haunt me later.
About to board the bus to Hopkinton with these awesome women.
Eventually it was time to head to the start for those of us in the first wave. The good luck hugs went around the circle and then I made my way through the crowds. For the second year in a row, I got to walk with Norman as we made our way through start corrals. I ate another pack of Honey Stinger chews while we walked and chatted about running, life changes, and smiled our way to our respective starts.  I had no idea how I was feeling for the race, but spending the morning with awesome people and knowing I'd get to see Brian in a few hours was enough to tell me that it was going to be a good day (in general).

As I stood in my corral waiting to start, I heard my name and looked over to see Mike! I was so happy to see another friendly face! I've been friends with him and his wife Michelle for a few years now, so it was nice to catch up a little while we waited. It was Mike's first Boston and I was so excited for him- he worked his tail off to qualify and was now training for his first Ironman.

I noticed I was already warm, and made a mental note to double up on hydration throughout.

After the start, I had my watch set on overall time and overall average pace. I had originally made a 2:55 pace band, but left it in the hotel on purpose that morning. I kind of knew off the bat with the rising temps and recent issues that 2:55 wasn't going to happen, but possibly sub-3 if I played it smart. The miles ticked away, I smiled and settled into a groove. In the first 10k I remember hearing my name and whipped around a little too late to see who it was- but I waved to the nice woman (whoever you are, thank you!). I wasn't feeling awesome but I also wasn't feeling awful, so I made a deal with myself to make it to the half and readjust as need be. The sun was blazing and my sunglasses definitely helped but I wish I had brought my visor from the hotel too, live and learn.

Around the 15k I was getting the feeling that I should probably hit a bathroom, but didn't know when I would see one and didn't want to weave too far out of my way to get to one. So I bided my time and just took in the sights and sounds (hello, Wellesley) along the way. My gel wasn't sitting well and I decided that I probably wasn't going to be able to stomach any more of them, but I had drank a bottle of UCAN in the morning so I wasn't too worried about fuel. I continued to double up on water at each stop, I knew it was getting warmer and combating dehydration would be key.

I reached the half (1:29:33), and then I put all my energy into finding a bathroom. I had to wait about 30 seconds for one to be vacant, then got in and out pretty quick (and then back in). I did a little self assessment about how I was feeling and knew right then it was time to pull the plug.

Some people say they didn't think the conditions were that bad and ran fine- and that's okay. Everyone is different and I don't take offense when people say that. Because, you know what....last year that was me. While the conditions were far from ideal last year at Boston, I ran a (small) PR and conquered the course. This was not going to be one of those days.

For me, this wasn't even a question- I knew it was the right call to back off at the half as everything inside of me was screaming to just take it easy. The last few weeks had been a roller coaster with a messy peak/taper, which doesn't exactly help heading into a goal race. I was not feeling 100%, the conditions weren't working for me, and I didn't think it was worth it to push. I could push and make myself super uncomfortable for a non-PR and probably finish worse for the wear and with a less than stellar attitude. Or I could back off, run with others, soak in BOSTON and finish with pride and gratefulness. I chose the later.
Pretty consistent first half
and also pretty consistent (yet slower/easier) second half

So, I downshifted mentally and physically and took off down the road. Not too long after I saw a guy on the side of the road, I quickly realize it was Ryan and I stopped to see if he was ok. We took off running easy together, he too wasn't have the best day. He knew he would see his wife Jess around 20, so we just set a goal of getting there and seeing what happened. We ran together for a few miles, walked occasionally and I started taking Gatorade for the electrolytes. My spi-belt wasn't helping my stomach and I couldn't get comfortable with it AT ALL, so I ended up ditching it as I knew it was replaceable.

I also was watching everyone who was flying past us, not feeling negative about it but actually looking for friends. I was thinking of all those I knew and hoping they were having better days, that was a happy thought that helped me keep going. Almost like a "let me take one for the team" kind a feeling.

Eventually Ryan and I got separated, I felt bad that I couldn't find him but I knew he would see Jess soon. I was looking for her as I got to 19-20 but didn't know where she would be. Turns out, she saw me but I never saw her.

I was worrying about Brian and my family worrying (worrying about worrying, is that a thing?). Eventually I pulled to the side to ask a couple if I could use their  phone to text him and let him know I was okay. Well 20+ miles plus 70+ degrees = Laura spacing on the order of the first 3 numbers of her boyfriends cell phone. FABULOUS. The girl asked me if it was on the back of my bib (you know, like it should be) and I hung my head and muttered some choice words to myself. Note: next time just don't be too damn proud to write a number on your bib.

I was frustrated with myself for being a space cadet about a number but hopped in a bathroom again quick and then got back to the race. The last few miles, like any marathon really were a blur. The smell of beer through Boston College was stronger than ever. The cheers and the signs were much needed, and helped pass the time. I walked occasionally, but not too much. I kept telling myself to get to Brian, as I knew I'd see him in the last mile.

Somewhere in the last few I heard my name called out and looked over to see Rachel, this was MUCH needed! I stuck my tongue out and threw my hands up, we had talked a lot the few days prior so she knew it just wasn't my day based on the week leading up to it. But seeing her smiling face and hearing the cheers was such a bright spot.

A little while later I was GLUED to the left side watching for Brian. I wanted to see him. I needed to see him. The good news is, since I was watching so intently I also saw some other friends! I stuck my tongue out, waved and then kept going on my way. Finally I heard Brian before I saw him. I blew him a big kiss (and the guys in front of him thought it was for them) and made the turn onto Hereford with a fire lit. It was just what I needed.

I took a peek at my watch, and took off and made the best left turn and didn't stop until I was officially done. Marathon number 14, I won't forget you that's for sure. It wasn't some epic finish, there were no tears, in fact it was probably the least emotions (good or bad) I've had about a marathon in a while. I was content and proud to have another Boston done. I finished tired, and feeling as if I ran 26 miles. My one sided sunburn and minimal chafe marks were the only "battle wounds" as quality running socks and shoes that kept my feet unblistered and unbeaten. I call that a win.

Not every race will be a PR, this is just kind of a fact of running. Look, I won't sit here and say I wouldn't have liked the race to go differently. I won't say a PR wouldn't have been awesome. I won't say that it's a little sad not to see a killer training cycle with a new coach not come to fruition on race day. But, there is a time and a reason for everything and I can sleep just fine knowing that Boston 2016 wasn't the epic marathon PR. I didn't let the outcome of the race dictate how I viewed the training cycle, or the amazing weekend, or even the day in general. That is leaps and bounds of how I would have acted a few years ago about it- so with that I say it's pretty cool to see personal growth.

The training cycle wasn't a waste by any means. I have a great coach who I trust. I hit workouts I didn't think I could. I set a HUGE 10k PR, and a small 5 mile PR (even though I ran a tempo run right before the race). I ran my second fastest half marathon as a WORKOUT. I ran through all kinds of weather, and also battled the mental aspects of treadmill workouts. I did the work, and come race day I did what was best for me. So yeah, I'm pretty happy about that.

Onto the next adventure, and it's gonna be good.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Johnny's Running of the Green 2016

Even though I raced my way through the winter, Johnny's is always considered the unofficial start of racing season in the area. This past weekend was extra special though, because it was going to be a morning full of family too. My sister and her husband planned on coming with my nephew, and Mom made last minute flight plans and was able to be there! Dad and I....we were the runners!

I always try and wear some green, as many runners do for the race. I wore my Green Saucony PE shorts with my Bergen singlet. I was eager to test out my new Tifosi sunglasses in a race, perfect sunny day for it! I left pretty early since I knew I needed more warm-up time, I ate some Honey Stinger chews and drank GenUCAN on the way. I knew it would be a long morning of running so wanted some extra fuel.

Due to training for Boston, and having raced recently it was decided it didn't make sense to all out race the 5 mile for me. The 10k PR recently, gave me good information on my current fitness level. So the plan was to run 2 x 5 mile that day. I got there and did a short warm-up, then did 5 miles around tempo pace (I wore my workout shoes for this part, the Fast Twitch) . The paces were a bit slow and it took me a while to feel "alright", but I chalked that up to my allergies and being low on sleep.

Family time with my Nephew and Dad!
I then ran a little easy back to the start area to find my family and change into my Type A6 racing flats and shed my run strong sport top. I gave dad his shirt and bib and he was ready to go. I gave him a few reminders, and told him to stay to the left so when we hit the out and back portion I could see him easier!

I found my Bergen Elite teammates and we chatted a bit before the start. Then it was pretty much time to go. My goal was to just run and see what happened, maintaining consistent effort.

Having run the tempo before the race was a good way of making sure I didn't blow out of the gates and start too fast. It's a slight uphill into headwind to start, and I tucked in with a group of guys that I knew I normally would be around.

I hit the first mile around 6:10 and made my goal to just hold the effort. I picked off some people, and kept telling myself not to do anything crazy and to just get to the turnaround point. The turnaround comes after a short uphill and then it's a hairpin turn around a folding chair (which is totally dumb, it was way better when the turnaround was 5 feet sooner...and went around the actual traffic circle...but I digress). After that, I peeked to my left to see who was coming up behind me and basically made the goal not to let anyone pass me. I think I did good in that department, and I just kept the same effort.

I spent the next few minutes staring at everyone coming at us on the left side. I didn't want to miss Dad coming back at me! I exchanged cheers and high fives with some people I knew, and then finally saw dad! We cheered for each other but totally failed and missed our side fives- but we tried! After that I used the Ford St. Bridge as another checkpoint to work my way to.
Mile 4
Once I got back on Exchange it was just, hold on and go for it. I passed a few more people and got excited when I saw my sister out in the road cheering.

Pushing in the last half mile
I crossed the finish in 31:03 which is technically an official 5 mile PR. Although, I did run a faster 5 mile time in the middle of that 10k PR recently. It's fun though, and nice to see that I can do so even on tired legs. Pretty sure I could run faster if I didn't tempo beforehand...duh. BUT, I succeeded in the goal for the day and I am looking forward to my main goal of Boston right now.

My sister came and found me after the finish and then we went back to my Mom, nephew and brother in law. I love how excited Alden gets, makes my heart melt!

I took the stroller and pushed Alden backwards on the course with Mom while looking for Dad. We just kept telling him to look for Boppa! Eventually we stopped and waited, and then got super excited when we saw him coming! Dad swung over for a high five, and then I took off running with him towards the finish. He was passing people and running really well- and certainly faster than his goal! I cannot tell you how happy him running made me!
Running in with Dad, I need to frame this!
Overall it was just a great morning all around. I got to run hard, see friends and spend quality time with family. We of course went to lunch after, and celebrated with a Guinness!

Now back to the marathon training grind, Boston is getting so close! I'm running Syracuse half two weeks prior but that will be a marathon paced workout due to how close it is.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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