Monday, May 18, 2015

Recovery Life

It's been four weeks since Boston, four weeks of straight up life and recovery. I'm finally getting back into routine, and back into gear to train again which is a welcome change.

The days following Boston were very emotional. Post-race foggy runner brain, combined with my grandmother passing away two days after the race, and also finding out that my Mom would potentially be moving to Chicago. It wasn't the easiest of weeks, it was a lot to take in at once.

Five days after Boston I decided to run. Normally I am good and wait as per coaches instructions but I NEEDED to run after that emotional week, a few easy miles to see how the legs would react.

I was already planning on spectating the Flower City Half Marathon that Sunday morning, and after running a little Saturday thought about maybe doing the 5k Sunday. Sunday morning came around, and I knew that I needed to run. I needed to feel something and get out there, so I went to spectate and also registered for the 5k. I was able to still watch the start of the half, run the 5k, and be back to spectate the finish- it worked out well.

The start line was pretty amusing. Lot's of "Laura, what are you doing?" from friends giving me funny looks and shaking their heads{but still smiling}. I just smirked and did some strides, running a 5k six days after a 3:04 at Boston wasn't the craziest idea but we got a kick out of it. A few people recognized me from the article a few days prior and congratulated me, I may not be a pro and I may not be the fastest runner in Rochester but it is cool getting recognition {that's me just being honest :), here's the article}.

I ran a 19:38, which was good enough for first place female. It's 30 seconds slower than my PR, but felt good to go out and knock a sub-20 down so soon after my PR in Boston. Was it the smartest of ideas? Probably not. But I needed it, and when I told coach afterwards he understood.
Short Stubby legs for the win, literally.
Article & Source :)
The following week was pretty emotional as well. Still coming off of the Boston highs/lows, and also attending the wake/funeral for my Grandma. The only thing I can really say about this is that I have amazing family and friends. It was a tough time in so many ways, but I never felt 'alone'.

I ran here and there but nothing over the top, taking recovery day to day and not wanting to push. A little over 20 miles that week, not even close to normal miles but enough to keep me from going crazy.

That weekend I got away for a night in Toronto, so I could cheer for friends running the half and full marathon. It was fun to be there for others for THEIR race, and be able to support they way they do for me. Jess ended up with a big PR in the half, and Amber went on to run her first BQ time. She was there the first time I qualified for Boston so it was really cool to be there for hers. This whole weekend, being around runners and races- solidified my fall racing plans, but more about that another time.

More easy running, and more getting back to life after that. The following week was the first week in over a month I worked a full week. Due to travel for Hollie's wedding, Boston, Funeral etc. I hadn't worked as much as normal so I was in for a big 'back to reality'. I admit though, it was a welcome distraction and getting back into routine was much needed.

I was rewarded for a full week of work (the humanity! ha!) with being able to spend time with Heather. She came into town on the weekend to spend time with me and so we could run the Pink Ribbon 5k on Sunday. We went to the Lilac festival for a bit, got rained on, and sat in one of my favorite bars (fantastic draft beer selection) for a while- much needed friend time.

Sunday's 5k was not what we hoped for, but it happens. It was a hot morning (and being in Upstate NY, not exactly acclimated yet), and neither of us felt fantastic. I promised coach that I wouldn't 'red line' during the race especially if I wasn't feeling 100%. I ran a 20:23, not my best but I wasn't overly upset. Heather and I both walked away with age group awards which are Wegmans gift cards, and then we drowned our hot selves with Starbucks S'mores Frappe's. Things could have been worse.

Since then, its pretty much just been more of life. Getting back into running routine, working, taking care of an allergy ridden dog, etc. I've been taking recovery pretty seriously, getting back on track with the little things and the big things. Nutrition, injury prevention, rest, all of that so once it's really time to dive back in I am 100% ready. This past weekend I ran my longest run since the marathon (12) and felt good after a more consistent week of training.

I am excited that I actually have my first workout this week, back to the track! Training can be tough, and time consuming- but there is something calming to me about having a plan and a goal to work towards. Next weekend I will be a pacer at the Buffalo Half Marathon and after that, it's truly back to building and getting ready for summer and fall.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

These are my people, This is my life.

Back in December, while travelling to Memphis with my Dad for the marathon- we had lots of conversations about the upcoming weekend.

"So Dad, YOU can go out late Friday- but I cannot. Just don't be loud when you come back, I'm running a marathon in the morning I need my sleep" {this is the more PG version of this conversation, for those of you who know my father...}

"So I have never met this guy in real life yet, but he is picking us up from the airport and chauffeuring us around"

"Don't mind me eating a bag of cold pasta on the plane"

"I'll be up really early, like really really early before the race"

Just a few of the things said over the course of the trip. My Dad was thrown head first into 'my world', a world of running and also friends through social media. He's been to some of my races before, but travelling and being right there for the 'process' that marathon weekend can be, is a different experience. As I have said before we had an amazing weekend as father-daughter, and also as friends.
Father Daughter Duo, Post marathon celebrations in Memphis!
My Award from Memphis came a few weeks ago, of course we had bourbon to celebrate!
When it came time to plan more for Boston, my Mom decided this race was hers to experience (Dad isn't the biggest fan of cities and people, Memphis was easy to get him there with talk of BBQ and Bourbon--Mom was the better bet for the crowds of Boston though). The plans were set, I would be driving and staying in Boston with my Mom, as well as my good friend Carrie.

Carrie is my friend Joe's sister. Joe and I went to Boston together last year, so it was great to be able to have her there this year at her first Boston the way her brother did for me. I met Joe through running, and his sister through him. Funny how those things work. I can't tell you how many times I answer the question "how did you meet so and so" with---"Running/races/dailymile/etc." These are my people.
Joe and I, Boston 2014
Carrie and I, Boston 2015
My Mom and Carrie hit it off right away, which made for a very fun and entertaining trip to Boston. Once we got into town on Saturday we decided to hit the expo first. It's a process, you get your bib and your bags, you pa rouse the expo (where I was lucky enough to meet up with one of the companies I am proud to represent {Zensah!}). The whole marathon weekend is a process, what/when you eat, when/how much you drink, what nights sleep is most important. You know how it goes.

Then, the meetups began (and the subsequent "how do you know this person?"). I had planned to see Norman at the expo, FINALLY getting to meet after following each other/talking for a long time virtually. He then reminded me of the Dailymile meetup that was happening that afternoon, not far from the expo. All I had to say to Mom and Carrie was--Food and beer. So we finished the expo and wandered over to the restaurant.
We spent a few hours there, talking and meeting with people that I have "known" in some way shape or form for a while- but finally meeting in person. Also, didn't recognize half the people because they were in "real people" clothes and not running gear.

Then it was time to meet up with "the girl you sent the feather to". Krista is such an awesome person, and happens to love Hawks. So as a pre-Boston present, I sent her a Red Tail hawk feather with a note. Boston would be the first time we met in real life. I think by this point my Mom was done being shocked seeing me run up and hug someone I had never met before.
Sole Sister.
The day before the race, I got to do something I never really thought would mean as much as it did. I got to run, along the Charles with my mom the day before running The Boston Marathon. Sharing another piece of 'my world' with the woman who has always supported me, but more recently understands the running thing I love so much. I was incredibly grateful to have her in Boston with me. Supporting me, seeing me in 'my element', and we even shared some bourbon. 27 or not, I'm still Mama's girl.

So between Memphis and Boston, I was able to let my parents into my worlds a little bit more. The world of running, and the world of knowing people without having met them before. Both of these worlds have been important to me for so long, and I LOVE that I feel like they understand it more. I may be 27, but having your parents "get" you is a cool feeling. Both of those worlds have brought some of the best friends, and experiences a person could ask for into my life.

Sometimes I think the task of explaining the running world to people, is impossible. There are no words to describe the grind, every gritty detail of training, that feeling of "this is happening"(good, and bad). I can't put into words what this 'running thing' does to me, and more importantly...what it does for me. I may never be able to explain it all to those in my life who don't run- but I know that with each time I share it with them, they gain a little more appreciation for it. I can't explain those start line emotions, the fear and excitement wrapped in one. I can't explain the mile 20+ hazy mental feeling, or how hard simple math can be when on the go. I can't tell them how AMAZING that finish line looks and how it feels to step over it. But I can show them that it's important to me.

I can show my parents that I have taken the amazing skills they shown me over the years, and put them to use in my career and in my running. Hard work, dedication, persistence, and also the passion and commitment I see in their lives. They have seen me at bad races and good, but I am so grateful they both were there for two pretty incredible races. They've seen me at my worst (not just in running), and I want them to experience me at my best as well (in running, and life). P.S. I love you guys.
A VERY old photo from College, but one of my favorite of the 3 of us.
How lucky am I to also be able to share running and life with my sister? 
Or how about the fact that I have a bunch of extended family that runs? (This isn't even all of them) 
I have met some incredible people over the years through running, and social media. Some people mock that kind of thing- without really understanding. Yes, a LOT of social media interactions are superficial. Liking or favoring something isn't the same as actually having a conversation, but it can START one. In all reality, I have people I have never 'met' before who actually know me better than a good chunk of people I see in my day to day life. But, I also have some people in my every day life whom I met through running/SM who know me and support me like family.

Yes, I'm short. Yes, he's tall. Yes, he's one of the best friends ever
All runners. All met on SM. Some of the BEST friends a girl could ask for.
Britt, Loo, Hollie, Heather, Me, Theresa (& daughter Elizabeth)
More Runners, more SM friends.
Danielle, Heather, Me, Amelia
Oh hey, another runner and best friend originally from SM.
Ellen and I in Cali, saw her again in Boston (mid race!)
Regardless of what it is (running or not), or who the people are in someones life(or how they met). Don't judge. Take a minute to learn something, or appreciate the relationships someone has in their life. Isn't the goal of life to have something to do that makes you happy, and people to share that with? Who are we to judge how each person chooses to go about that.

Nothing but a reminder not to take this life and the people in it for granted.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Growing Strong Friendships through Running

Sometime during the summer of 2013 I started following a girl on social media who was a runner from Buffalo. Her name was Brittany, we both liked running, drinking good beer, and both have a tendency to bruise easily{#bruisertwins}. When we realized that we, as well as Heather and Hollie would be running Lake effect half marathon together in February of 2014- we HAD to meet up. 13.1 winter miles later, we were all sitting jammed into a booth at Empire Brewing Company- drinking beer and chatting in real life for hours on end.
Heather, Me, Hollie & Britt
Brittany and I have since become great friends{we all have!}. She's supported me through so much this past year and I am grateful for any chance I have to return that favor. Races, football, beer tours, girls weekends, road trips- its a well rounded friendship. One that is about to get even stronger.

I love when my 'worlds' collide. Such as Running + Friends.

You know what I love even more?

Getting to combine running a marathon with one of my best friends, not just any marathon- but her first marathon.

Most everyone who knows me, knows my addiction to all things Saucony. I've run in their shoes for years- and practically live in their clothes when not in work attire. I have followed their 26 Strong Program the last 2 years and love the concept behind it all. Women helping women, through running.

The short of it: 26 runners comprised of 13 coaches and 13 cadets. Each coach (veteran marathoner) picks a runner (female, who has not yet run a marathon) and helps coach them through training, and the program concludes with a weekend away & running a marathon side by side. All coaches/cadets travel to the same race, spending a few days together and celebrating marathon weekend. This year Saucony and Competitor group chose Chicago Marathon in October!

I LOVE marathons, but I understand that training is hard, time consuming, and truly a process.  I don't remember a ton about my first marathon- but there are certainly memories about that journey I'll never forget. That feeling of "what did I just do!" when I registered. Each long run being a new "distance PR", literally going further than you ever have before. A long run with a friend training for the same race, where we came back frozen and soaking wet but happy none the less. The excitement of my first big race expo, and picking up my bib. Right down to the pep talk my Aunt gave me on the phone, the night before the race. After 11 Marathons I can't say that I have it all figured out, but I have learned SO much over the years. I feel incredibly lucky to have been chosen as a "coach" this year. To help someone train for their first marathon, offering guidance and encouragement along the way- and that someone being one of my best friends.

I didn't choose Britt to be my cadet for the sole reason of her being a great friend. I chose her because she truly exemplifies "find your strong", something Saucony is all about. She's dealt with setbacks, crappy upstate NY weather (something we commiserate about, often), and has been working so hard to come back stronger and healthier. She worked with physical therapists, and sought out strength training help in conjunction with her run training. Working on training smarter and not just harder. It's been an inspiring comeback to watch, and now I get to be a part of it in a way.

In a few weeks she will be running Buffalo half marathon as her big comeback race- after that, we can sit down and come up with a training plan to get her to the start AND finish line of Chicago healthy and well-prepared! I am so excited for October 11th, to be able to spend 26 POINT 2 miles side by side with Britt. She will totally be sick of me by the end of it- but I promised her it will be worth it :)

Over the coming months we will update on training, and experiences within the program. We won't be doing all of our training together, but definitely will make for some extra thruway trips (we're only a little over an hour apart!) for runs/training meetups. She also will be subject to me texting her constantly with cheesy inspiration, and bribing her with tasty things for post-long runs and workouts.

To say I am excited is an understatement. I get to be on an awesome journey with a great friend, supported by my favorite company- and travelling to Chicago to run and meet up with some inspiring people (Can't wait to meet the other coaches and cadets!).

BIG big thank you to Saucony, Competitor group- and special thanks to my good friend Michele who is also part of the program {and supports/encourages me ALL the time}.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Boston Marathon 2015

I struggled to find the words to describe how I felt during Boston this year, all I could come up with was 'angry' but I knew that wasn't it. As luck would have it, Tuesday morning while driving to work, this song came on and then it hit me like a ton of bricks------> "Fight song"
"This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I'm alright song
My power's turned on
Starting right now I'll be strong
I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me"
I felt like I went into the race with a chip on my shoulder from this past year and I was determined to get rid of it. It's a really good feeling to have hard work pay off, to see this past year come together{we all know that doesn't always happen}.  I'm VERY proud of the race I ran on Monday. In fact, during the race (once I started feeling strong) I remember thinking I was having the race of my life in regards to execution. See ya later Chip.

Much like most of this training cycle, race day was about "Control the controllables". No I couldn't change the weather Monday, just like I couldn't change those bitter cold and snowy days that this winter training cycle brought. But I could control how I reacted to it. I changed my shoes from flats to the Kinvara's a few days before the race- to allow the shoes to absorb some of the hills instead of just my quads. I changed my outfit the night before, to things I KNEW could handle being drenched in rain and not drive me insane. Hell, something as simple as not wearing a ponytail so the wind wouldn't make me bitch slap myself with my hair for 26 miles. I controlled everything that I could, including my attitude. No matter what I was going to run this race with my head and heart- and be grateful that I have the chance to run the Boston freaking Marathon.

Race morning went smooth, I carried on with my usual routine. Early wake up, cold coffee, shower, bee bop to some tunes, get ready and think about what I want to see happen. My mom was doing anything she could to help Carrie and I get ready, and took a few pictures before her and I left for the train into the city.

I had planned to meet up with Julia and Norman, we found them and then checked our bags to hop on a bus. Little did we know what we were about to get ourselves into.

I could write a post on this whole bus ride alone- but the "short" of it. Our bus driver was either exhausted, drunk, or on drugs. We were swerving all over the place, almost hit other cars and buses. She almost drove the bus into an overpass abutment too, that was fun. No one on the bus had phones, and there was nothing we could do. People were yelling at her to wake up as she nodded her head. The people up front tried talking to her to keep her on track. This was fantastic to add to a bus full of already nervous people for a short run we were about to do.

You guys, I don't get motion sick. I'm the kid who would eat 4 pounds of carnival food and 5 minutes later go ride the tilt-a-whirl 5x in a row. Apparently throw me on a crazy bus to a marathon and I about lose it. All of us were nauseous and tense from the drive. When we got off, someone went and told a volunteer- we then saw a cop rush over and jump on the bus before she headed back to Boston to get more runners. We all chatted walking into the village, hoping that no one had to get on a bus with that woman EVER. We also noted that no one was ever going to believe us, I wish I was making this up.

Once we got into athletes village, we managed to find a warm place to sit under one of the tents. We watched the rain come down, chatted, stretched and tried to pass the time. The rain stopped before we walked to the corrals which made it a little better but we knew it was coming back at some point. Took advantage of one last bathroom stop near the corrals and then it was time. Big hugs and good lucks, time to do this thing.

Standing in a crowd full of guys (HELLLOOO wave 1, nice to meet you...and you...and you...), we chatted while waiting for our corral to be released to the start. I looked around and joked that they were all taller and if they felt a bug on their back not to worry about it, just me tucking in if wind picked up. The one guy then joked something about eating burritos that morning. We all laughed, smiled and enjoyed the fact that we could joke about flatulance together. Seriously, runners are weird but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Guys.... why are you peeing on the side of the road 10 feet into a race?

Moving on.

5k {22:20, 7:12 pace}
I wanted to ease into it. I wanted to let everyone fly past me down the initial drop, regardless of how mentally tough that is. I went into the race with the plan of having my first 5k be around 7 minute pace and then starting to drop. This didn't feel hard but it didn't feel super easy either, which I admit was slightly concerning. Just hold on.

10k {44:25/22:05, 7:07 pace}
This section is kind of a blur. I didn't feel great, I simply felt flat. My legs didn't have the pep, and mentally I was getting down on myself. I did everything I could to pick myself up by the boot straps and shake it off. I high fived kids, and stayed a little closer to the edges trying to soak in the energy of the crowds. I think the rain started somewhere in here, but I honestly don't remember for sure. Keep holding on.

15k {1:06:02/21:37, 6:58 pace}
At this point I just started to think of random things to occupy my brain and pass the time. I started doing what I did at Memphis, calculating multiples of 7. I knew I was behind my PR pace but locking those multiples in my head helped me press on. I was running by feel, but checking my watch a lot more than I should have been just "to see where I was at". Hold it, I'm serious.

20k {1:27:45/21:43, 7:00 pace}
Ladies of Wellseley, you never cease to amaze. Cold and rainy, and you're still out there making 30,000 runners go deaf in their right ears. Still kissing, and high fiving, and supporting. I stayed more left this year, I didn't want to expend the energy this year because I was already lacking it{Last year I remember high-fiving for what felt like a mile straight}.

The best part about staying to the left this year? "Oh there's a sign for guide exchange point...I wonder what mile Ellen is coming in at for her runner" more than 10 seconds later...I spot her! "ELLEN!" I threw my hands up screamed and waved and got a cheer back. This was a really good mental boost, amazing what a familiar face can do for your mood. The last time I saw Ellen was at CIM 2013 (we both had big races that day!), which put a bunch of happy speedy thoughts into my head. {P.S. Ellen is amazing, and was a guide for a blind runner at Boston- her recap is here...much love to her!}

13.1 in 1:32:24 {7:03 pace}
At this point I knew I wouldn't break 3 unless I also broke my half marathon PR on the back half of the course. Wishful thinking. But I also knew if I could hold on, that I could break 3:05. I was doing LOTS of math at this point. I was also prepping for what I knew was in front of me, oh Newton where art thou. I was actually craving the hills. Give me those climbs, 1-2-3-4 and then down into the city. I wanted to prove to myself that I could not just survive them but TACKLE them. This is what you trained for.

25k {1:49:17/21:32, 6:55 pace}
Somewhere in here is when I stopped looking at my watch all together. I was using the mile clocks on course to calculate where I was, but even that was sporadic on my part. I was slowly starting to feel stronger and I didn't want to see the numbers. I just wanted to get my ass through the upcoming hills and not stress. I do remember one cheer section blasting "uptown funk" and it made me think of Heather and Britt- I knew what they would want me to do. So I sang and shook my ass a bit to dance while I ran by "Don't believe me just watch!" You're welcome dudes.

30k {2:11:33/22:16, 7:10 pace}
The way I see it, if there is one place you want to start feeling better and better- the hills of Newton are probably it. I spent these miles staring at the ground 2 feet in front of me on the ups, and far in the distance on the downs. The Thriving Ivory song "Angels on the moon" popped into my head around here, which was so fitting.

"Don't tell me if I'm dying
'Cause I don't wanna know"
Cruising through Newton Hills/HBH
I didn't know my pace, I didn't know what my ETA was, all I knew was I needed to keep going. I didn't want to know if I was slowing, I didn't want to know if my chance of PR had slipped away. I felt good and wasn't about to let a number ruin that. Just a few more hills. Just keep holding on.

35k {2:33:34/22:01, 7:06 pace}
I stayed to left for most of these miles. Passing people, and soaking in the energy from the crowds. I raised my hands a few times to get them louder, it worked and I smiled...every time.

When I reached the top of Heartbreak, I looked at some guys near me and said "lets fucking go" with a boss smirk on my face. It was like the switch flipped{finally}. The guys smiled (also looked a little shocked), and one said- "little but feisty, I like lead the way". We were stride for stride for a while, I dropped one about a mile later and the other about half mile after that. The wind was pretty tough here but I think I was so wrapped up in how much better I was feeling- that I didn't really care. Just hold on.

40k {2:54:39/21:05, 6:48 pace}
Somewhere between 35-40k the rain slowed, but it didn't make much of a difference. I could feel a pool of water in my left shoe, I was drenched head to toe but I was on a mission.  I was so proud to be finishing strong, happy to be getting into the city, and ready to be done. When I look at the photos my face just says "enough already" with the weather though.

Not knowing my pace at this point  I just kept telling myself to get to 40k. Get to 40k, cross that last timing mat and let everyone know I'm coming in hot to the finish. For all I knew, "coming in hot" meant 6 minute mile or 12 minute mile- it didn't matter...I felt awesome. I was fist pumping and encouraging some of the crowds and their response only made me do it more. This was happening. I remember thinking "You're conquering this course, THIS course". Just hold on like hell.

I was scanning the left side HARD, staring intently not wanting to miss my mom. I knew roughly where she would be and I needed to see her for that final boost. I heard her then we made eye contact and bolted over to give her a high five. I had to have had the BIGGEST smile on my face after that. I was like, okay now lets just finish this thing.

I soaked in the crowds on Boylston and told myself to hold on- when I could squint and see the finish clock I knew I was about to PR. Then, I heard it. "Laura Anderson from Rochester, NY". I know I'm just one tiny little person in this amazing race and realistically they just pick random peoples names to call but....yeah that made me happy.

I got closer and closer and eventually stared at that amazing thick blue line while throwing my arms in the air. Done. Done. And DONE.
3:04:03 {7:01 pace}

It's not running in the rain that's hardest. It's being soaking wet and STOPPING that's hard. The chill set in quick, and the wind didn't help. They handed us water first, and heat sheets were like third...personally I would have thought they would have switched that, but that's just me. We all wrapped ourselves up, teeth chattering, walking like silver penguins through the streets to the Common.

I got my bag and meandered to the meeting place my mom and I had decided on. When I found her, there were some F bombs flying, and lots of big hugs. If anyone doubts my happiness with this race- just measure the width of that smile.

There weren't a ton of people in the women's changing tent and the volunteer let my mom come in with me. I felt like a kid again, needing serious help getting dressed. I managed to get all of my wet clothes off and into dry ones. We then found a coffee shop to sit in, get warm and chat about the race while waiting for friends to finish {we knew getting back through the crowds would be difficult, not like I was moving super quick}

The Weather
In my honest opinion it wasn't THAT bad. Was it cold waiting at the start? Yes. Did I want to run in the rain and squish around in my shoes for 3 hours? Nope. Do I think the wind made sections harder? Yes. The day may not have been ideal, but I personally think I've had some tougher conditions for races before. Due to the start format (different waves) I think we all experienced different conditions, so each person may have different perspective. I never remember serious gusts of wind and hard rain at the same time, but I know people who certainly did. I feel like I was always battling one or the other, with the occasional gust that chilled you to the bone. But beyond that, the temp was actually ideal for me for was the being soaking wet and stopping thing that sucked.

60-90 minutes before the start: Honey Stinger Waffles and water
Walking to the start: 1 pack of Honey Stinger Energy Chews
Every odd mile (starting at 5): squeeze of a gel & water {total of 3 gels for the race}
Finish/Recovery: Coffee, coffee, coffee, Baklava, chicken nuggets, ice cream, cheesecake, Moe's, Mac and Cheese, wine, beer, thai food, pizza, chocolate lava cake {it's been a good week of recovery food}

1st half 1:32:24 {7:03}
2nd half 1:31:39 {6:59}
Fastest Mile 6:39 {Mile 23}
Slowest Mile 7:18 {21 Heartbreak Hill}
Overall Place: 3,415 out of 30,251
Gender Place: 216 out of 13,751
37 Second PR
16:11 Course PR

Little goals was the name of the game. Each timing mat was my way of communicating with people. I'm doing good guys, I'm hanging on. I'm feeling better guys, watch what I can do now. Each odd mile was a water and a swig of gel. Get to mom, just get to mom. Just get to the right turn, then the left one. Just get to that amazing heavenly gate with the thick blue line on the ground. One little goal after another.

No, I didn't break 3 hours. I'm sure some people are expecting me to blame the weather, but that isn't the case. I'm sure had it been a nicer day, I would have been faster but I can't sit here and quantify that as 4 minutes faster. Do I think that if I was on a different course, a 2:59 could have happened- yes, the training is there. But that isn't me blaming the course either, I knew what course I was running. I ran a PR, on a tough course in tough conditions and also managed to negative split- I ran the race of my life controlling everything that I could. No blaming to be had. No excuses to be made. I'm proud of this.

I have a bunch more to say about the weekend in general but that's a whole other discussion for another day. A weekend with my Mom, great friends (old and new) in one of my favorite cities deserves its own post:)

 Boston, I love you and I'll be back for you.

"But there's a fire burning in my bones
And I still believe"

Friday, April 17, 2015

Boston Goals & The Sub-3 Elephant

Rewind to Boston 2014
Because of the lackluster training cycle (from my semi injury--basically a nagging soleus), and the personal hurricane in my life- Boston was a run and not a true goal race. I went into it with no real goals other than to just enjoy the race, the experience and smile as much as possible. If I felt great and ran faster, awesome. If I felt like crap and slowed down, that's cool too. That morning when asked what I thought I was going to run- I said 3:20 given my training. I ran a 3:20. I'm pretty good at knowing my body and what it's capable of on a good day, sometimes I underestimate it but sometimes I'm spot on. {I try very hard not to overestimate my abilities because that led to some serious upsets early on in my running days}
Some amazing 2014 memories

Boston 2015
This year, while only a year later- feels like a different world to me. I'm not going to Boston for just the experience, I'm going to race. I've been working my ass off {like everyone else}, and know that even though Boston is a tough course- a PR is possible.

While race strategy isn't solidified yet, some things I do know.

I know that I'll start conservatively and not kill myself on the downhills.

I know I will focus on being relaxed and not letting my form get sloppy (which, I tend to do).

I know that I will embrace the crowd. The high fives. The kids. The kisses. BOSTON.

I know that I will be chugging up the Newton Hills, keeping my head up and effort consistent.

I know that I will do everything I can to come into those last few miles like a runaway freight train.

Those are the things that I can control, and I will do everything I can to stay true to that.  Although I might spend the weekend looking up witchcraft to figure out how to turn the predicted 21-mph wind direction around. If the wind doesn't switch, a note to any tall men near me at the start: pardon me for tagging along behind you. We will file that under, huge perks of being short.

Now I'll bring up the elephant in the room. You know, the circus elephant sitting in the corner wearing a shirt that says Sub-3. Yeah, that one.

While that is something I have thought about for a while, it was always a 'long term' kind of goal. As much as I am a "dive right in" kind of person, there are other things I prefer to take a little slower or reel in over time. I call that a healthy fear of bonking hard/failing.

After Memphis, that sub-3 goal turned into an elephant that sat next to me anytime I started talking about another marathon with someone. With the finish of that race I was less than 5 minutes from a marathon time starting with a two. I have had so many people encouraging me for working towards it, and also those realists with the kind reminders that there is still a big difference between 3:04 and 2:59. Neither of those types of people are wrong. I truly believe it is something I am capable of, but I also know it's gonna take work to get there. It's not just a gimme.

Yes, it's on my mind and I know that it's coming. Maybe it happens at Boston if I have a great day (I won't rule it out), maybe it happens in the fall on a less challenging course. Maybe it doesn't happen for a few years- and that's OK. I don't plan on quitting running marathons before, or after running a sub-3 hour time.

I love having a big goal to chase, it drives me every single day. After qualifying for Boston the first time, I floundered a bit- well what now? I'm not a pro runner, I'll never make a living off of this, BUT I can embrace my passion and continue to push myself to be a better person and runner. Some days that won't be chasing times at all, but for right now I'm chasing a time starting with 2. My life right now allows me to make that a priority- that's a decision I have the right to make for myself.

Like any race, there is so much that is out of our control. In the mean time I will obsess about all the things I CAN control. Like the 10 outfits packed. Like the mass amounts of food I will inhale this weekend. Like pushing away any negativity, and embracing the positive (awesome) things that this weekend will bring.

So on Monday, Marathon Monday, Patriots day, the 20th of April- I WILL be competing. I will be competing against the clock, and against myself. As for the goal, I simply plan on using the mantra that got me through Memphis....Just hold on like hell.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Taper & Travel Time

Wrapping up Training
The final few weeks of training went pretty well. Some runs were better than others (as always), but finished with a solid 20 miler this past Sunday. Of course it snowed for the run (which prompted some cursing), but I was happy with hitting the first 10 at 7:52 average pace and the second half of the run at 6:57 average pace{7:25 average for the run}. Feeling strong at the end is always a good thing.

I also did my final longer tempo run yesterday morning, I ended up cutting it short and changing it a bit. I wasn't feeling 100% and right now the goal is to get to Hopkinton feeling fresh, happy and healthy- no point in risking that by pushing a workout a week and a half before start time. Eye on the prize.

My overall thoughts on this training cycle are still being formed (read: I have been staring at charts on my running ahead account for hours). The general gist of it though: quality over quantity, and consistency is key. Oh, and a giant middle finger to the never ending winter. It wasn't a perfect cycle (is there ever one) but it's been the smartest and most consistent one to date, another testament to coach and I working well together.

I can honestly say I used to HATE taper. I'd freak out, lose my mind and drive everyone around me batty in the process. Now, I mostly look forward to it. Sure there are aspects of it that are still hard, and there are times that I don't like it- but in general I welcome the taper and the extra rest with open arms.
I should just wear this for all of taper.
I do my best to focus on what I CAN control, something coach and I talk about often. I make my packing lists, race gear check, plan a bazillion outfits (for a gazillion possible weather scenarios), meal planning etc. I obsessively check the weather- not to really freak out about it (maybe a little) but more so I can PLAN what I want to do to best be prepared for it. It's safe to say at this point I put ZERO faith in weather reports though. I will be travelling to Boston with clothing/gear suitable for the Idtiarod, as well as a marathon running along the equator. Fingers crossed it's somewhere between the two.

My least part of taper is the carb deplete. I love carbs. I love refined carbs (sue me). I don't like micromanaging my diet (literally reading every label), but that's what I do during taper because I know that it works. Carb deplete has worked very well for me in the past, so no point in fixing what isn't broken. Just don't talk to me next Tuesday- Friday. There's your warning. You're welcome.

I will be spending a good chunk of taper in Virginia. Heather, Britt and I leave today for road trip shenanigans. Tomorrow we will get into VA, just in time to start Hollie's wedding weekend festivities! Luckily I'll be travelling with two other runners, so there will be no judgement on the level of my food consumption, or on the compression attire I will be donning for the 10 hour trek.

Looking forward to a weekend with the girls, celebrating Hollie & Tim, running in warmer weather, and generally just being away for a few days. Then we come home, I'll work for a few days and before we know it- I'll be back in the car heading to Boston with my Mom and Carrie! Talk about a whirlwind of a taper.

I already have my post written about race goals, but that will come closer to the race and give me a little more time to ponder. Basically, another week to stare at my training logs, and also evaluate every muscle twitch I and bound to feel between now and then. I'll try to diagnose myself with no more than 10 imaginary injuries and illnesses during this time.

Enjoy the social media bombarding for the next week and a half about road trips, weddings, coffee, taper, and Boston. #SorryNotSorry 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Syracuse Half Marathon 2015

After Lake Effect, coach and made Syracuse half a 'maybe' on the calendar. Mainly because of the mental state LE put me into- and because 'Cuse was 4 weeks out from Boston. We decided after Johnny's that I would actually run Cuse but that I still had the ability to pull the plug on it at any time (i.e. if it was a blizzard race morning like last year). So I was going into the race weekend pretty relaxed because it wasn't certain I'd be racing, therefore it wasn't a goal race. The goals for this race were less about time and more about running controlled, confident and keeping my head on straight.

After watching weather reports, I knew that morning could be tough and didn't want to drive so I booked a cheap motel for the night before. This allowed me to go out to Syracuse Saturday, have a beer and some food with Heather and then relax. I think I watched Hulu on my laptop in bed all night, crazy Saturday party girl I know.

I woke up before my alarm Sunday morning, which isn't unusual for race day- but it wasn't my mind or body, it was the sound of snow plows. Looked out the window to see...
No, not crazy amount of snow. But still not what you wanna see on race morning!
I got ready as if I was going to run, and decided I would make the call when I actually got there. It was only a 10 minute drive, but traffic was really bad once I got into downtown so I parked in some random apartment building lot and hoped I'd remember where I was. I had time to run to the Oncenter, pickup my bib and then bag check. I sent a last message to coach "cold and snowy, will be slow" so he wouldn't worry if he saw slow splits on tracking. The fact that they do bag check is huge, especially on a cold day.

As I was running around warming up, I realized the roads weren't THAT bad. The RD had posted on Facebook that they actually took the time to hand salt the course over night. I have to praise them for this, last year the course was a MESS and this new RD made sure that wasn't going to happen if he could help it. I did some strides, and decided I was going to run even if it was a little slower. Luckily Heather found me before the start, her photo proof that I was incredibly at ease going into this race. We chatted and talked about our plans to go to Empire Brewing Company after (one of my favorites), and she told me to run the race for the beer. Good friend I tell ya.
"Do it for the beer!"
Start Conditions: 15 degrees, 15-20mph winds

Traffic was so bad they delayed the start 15 minutes, but eventually we were able to get going. I settled into a pace and didn't look at my watch a ton, just plugged along. The longest hill of the course comes early, I just tucked in and focused on powering up without killing myself. I pictured myself running up one of the Newton hills, and then realized this was a GREAT chance to work on stuff for Boston. I pretty much forgot I was in a different race. I tackled the uphills, relaxed and focused on form on the downhills. I enjoyed not being a slave to my watch and really just wanted to take the course bit by bit. I forgot how many little rollers are mixed in, and how many turns there were- but it gave me good opportunity to focus on small chunks instead of being concerned about my overall time.
No, the elevation isn't crazy but there really are no flat parts. Constant up and down- Great Boston Training!

I don't remember a ton about the middle miles, I do remember swearing a bit about the nasty headwind from 5-7ish. I decided I would pick up pace more once I got to the 15k, I remembered looking at the map before the start and thought that the steep downhill was mile 9....not 8. So, I saw the downhill and tackled it and was like "Weeeeeeeeeeeee" and then realized that I was pushing a mile early. Well fuck. It didn't make a difference really but was just one of those forehead slapping moments. I'm 27 and apparently suck at reading a map, I'll blame it on a frozen brain.
I'm not sure what this face is.
Anyways, after that downhill I was near a very tall lean man in shorts and a singlet. In my head I named him thin man. Thin man and I were step for step for a while, which was amusing because his legs came up to about my shoulders. I could tell he was struggling with his breathing, I encouraged him a few times as best I could. When we were coming down a little hill and passing the Irish bar Kitty Hoynes (fantastic aid station/cheer section), thin man ruined our unofficial race friendship by cutting me off. He was fading and getting a little loopy and nearly plowed me over stepping in front of me. Luckily I backed off and then darted around him(never to see him again), which triggered lots of "You go girl" from the crowd. Tall Thin man-0, Short Laura-1.

After that it was 'okay I wanna be done', I looked at my watch for the first time in a while and knew that I could squeak in under 90 if I picked it up a bit. Well, okay then! {The whole time I was running I assumed I was more on 1:32-3 pace but again I wasn't paying attention to my Garmin} I knew it wouldn't be a PR but I was really happy to know that even though I wasn't giving 100% I could still break the 90 minute barrier that for years seemed so impossible to me.

As I approached the finish line I could hear Heather cheering, the word "growler" stuck out loud and clear and I ran faster. My name is Laura, and I run for beer (specifically EBC "Local Grind").

Overall really happy with this race, no it wasn't a PR{actually it at the very least IS a course PR by a few minutes} but it was a great training day. I ran at a comfortable pace without killing myself, focused on form with the rolling hills- and I finished with my head on straight. I'm in the peak part of training, the part where I am feeling beat up but still able to knock out some solid races and workouts. Things like that make me uber happy. When I got to my phone, coaches message to me was awesome- because we were 100% on the same page. Talking about not getting greedy during this race because Boston is the goal. Talking about discipline and managing expectations while thinking about long term strategy and overall technique. So no, I didn't throw down a PR 4 weeks before Boston but I gained the confidence from this race as if I had.

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