Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Post Boston Thoughts: Race, Security, Time, & Experience.

Warning: Cheesy post ahead! Might end up being longer than the actual race recap...sorry about that.

I've been to Boston before, but never for the Marathon. I have NEVER seen a city/town get so into a race, it was incredible how excited everyone gets about it. This was the biggest expo I have been to for sure, this is both good and bad. So many great companies and vendors to see, but I'm not a fan of crowds. I get anxious when I can't walk fast or feel like I can get out of a situation if necessary. Chalk that up to my fear of being trampled. Swag wise, you get a poster, goodie bag, sticker, a shirt (but not in the size you ordered...really BAA? You knew my size for 6 months and still ran out?) a great medal and an awesome race experience.

The race itself was very well run, they really have it down to a science. Obviously being a point to point course, and in a big city...logistically it isn't the easiest and requires some extra walking etc. on race day and planning(for runners AND spectators). But all things considered, it is as logistically sound as it could be. I thought the course was pretty, and well marked (just stay between the millions of people on each side of the road and you can't get lost), Banner & clock at each mile. Definitely not a 'flat' course but I wasn't as traumatized by the hills as I thought I would be. Overall, Boston knows how to run a race (not like I needed to tell you that).

I've gotten a lot of questions on what the security was like, but its hard for me to compare to previous years since this was my first. For the most part I feel like it was non-invasive, as in I didn't feel like it ruined the atmosphere or the experience. There was clearly a strong law enforcement presence, but they were just doing their jobs and not causing issues. There were lots of 'eyes in the sky' on race day, from the moment we walked out of the hotel to get to train station. Even during the race, many helicopters flying overhead. I am sure that some of those were news cameras etc, but I'm also sure some of those were the watchful eyes of some government agency. The race officials were really big on your bib being visible at all time, especially in the morning. I lifted up my shirt for way too many people that morning (sorry mom!). As for the no bags thing in the morning, we couldn't have asked for a better day to not need a lot of things(had it been colder or rainy it might have been different story). I brought throwaway clothes as well as an old towel to sit on. I opted to bring my phone with me in the morning and run with it in my spibelt (turned off and put in plastic baggie), I don't regret it and I don't think it affected me.

My Time
I had 3:20 in my head for a few weeks, and even on race morning when the girls asked me what I was looking for....I said 3:20 or better. Even with a less than stellar training cycle, I felt confident in being able to beat my third fastest time (3:21) so I did just that. Obviously there were times I considered trying to do more (even that weekend I considered trying to at least beat my WG time, I knew CIM would be a stretch) but I knew that 3:20 was the most controlled and reasonable goal. So while it was 7 minutes slower than my PR, it was still the most consistent paced marathon I have ever ran and still a solid time. Also being able to say I came in the top 6.6% of women...yeah doesn't hurt my self confidence at all;)
Look at me being all consistent and stuff. WEIRD. 
The Experience
Boston itself is an amazing experience and no matter what I would have enjoyed myself. BUT my weekend was made even more memorable by the people I spent time with, I'm truly grateful for that. It was a weekend of chances WELL taken ;) , time with friends, and celebrating Boston/Running/Life.

It's a humbling experience to have friends who would do anything for you, support you through everything and truly enhance your life. I had friends with me, and friends supporting from afar but felt like everyone was right with me the whole time. Messages of encouragement and support, calls, emails, tweets, comments...all of it- nothing short of overwhelming (in the best way).
You don't get to this line alone. 
There aren't enough ways to say thank you to people. To family and friends supporting me along the way to BQ and then to race weekend. To those who went above and beyond to make sure I was taken care of that weekend when all of the sudden my life was turned around. In a time I expected to feel more alone than ever, these past few weeks (especially at Boston) I never felt like I didn't have a full blown army of support by my side.

As for race experience, nothing compares. I said it before and I will say it again- spending the morning with Danielle, Lindsey, Ashley and Sarah was HUGE. Lindsey had mentioned how she did her first Boston a few years ago and was alone that morning. I can't even imagine. I was lucky to have smart, funny, talented ladies around me who treated me like we had known each other forever. You know, no big deal taking a selfie in the back of a bus with a bunch of girls who up until that morning...I had only talked to via social media.
Back of the bus selfies are where it's at! Sarah, Ashley, Lindsey, me & Danielle-- Photo From Lindsey
During the race, well nothing has ever compared to that for me. I'd never ran through crowds like that, with screaming like that and with the general Boston atmosphere. I will definitely be going back to Boston, probably next year as I know my sister is going to BQ next month at Buffalo and some of my best friends are also going to qualify. It's definitely a race you do with others, it really makes the experience that much better.
Post race with some awesome new friends. (Ashley, Mary, Lindsey & myself)
I'm well aware that Boston isn't for everyone. Some people have no desire to run a marathon, and even some marathoners have no desire to run Boston. Some people will struggle qualifying, some people won't even try. I've been in those shoes. I've been the girl who said I'd NEVER run a marathon, let alone Boston. I've been the girl who then got the urge to run a marathon, and subsequently wanted to BQ. I ran 4 marathons before getting that BQ. I do believe that running Boston doesn't define you as a runner. Maybe it's easier for me to say that because I have qualified and now ran it, but it's true. I defined myself by it for so long and never realized that what defined me was that desire to push for ANY goal and not just one of one single race. With that said though, I do believe being there for Boston should be on every runners bucket list. Maybe not to run (because you don't want to, can't or whatever it is), but maybe to volunteer or spectate....I promise you won't be disappointed. The city, the people, the race- you can't walk away from it without feeling proud. Even with last year, look how everyone stood strong together- you just don't see that kind of thing every day. Something about it restores faith in so many ways. (look at me being cheesy again!)

So Boston, I miss you already. Cheers to close friends and family, new friends and new feelings, mile after mile...4-21-14 is one of those days I will always look back on...THAT was the day I knew everything was going to be okay.

Keep on running & keeping on laughing at me for being a cheeseball. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Boston Marathon 2014 Recap

I'm pretty sure I don't have to tell you that this will be a long post- there really isn't a way to put this whole thing into even a million words let alone short enough for people to read. Nothing I say will do it justice, but I will certainly try my best. I already know there will be a few different posts- so if you don't want to read about Boston, check back in like... a million years.

Race morning really went off without a hitch, got ready and made our way to Boston Common to catch a bus to Hopkinton with everyone else. Somehow it all worked out that I was able to meet up with Lindsey, Ashley, Danielle and Sarah near bag check before the race. It was the least awkward internet-friends-meeting-for-first-time-IRL ever, I felt like I had hung out with them a million times before. We sat in the back of the bus like rebels, laughed and enjoyed the morning of what we all knew was going to be a big day.

Athletes Village was nothing short of insanity. We went through metal detectors, got felt up a bit and then made our way through the sea of people. Literally, people EVERYWHERE.
Ashley, Danielle, Lindsey, Me & Sarah
We had a pow wow on the ground and chatted about life, running, and everything in between. I really was grateful to be around these ladies, it made the whole morning fly by and kept a huge smile on my face.

Me, Lindsey, Ashley, Sarah & Danielle
We were all in the second wave so we walked our way to the start together, taking in the energy the residents of Hopkinton were putting off. We had our pre-race hugs and meandered into the corrals. Danielle and I were next to each other at the start, and both jumped a little when the gun went off (didn't hear the warning). Before I knew it, I had just crossed the start line of the Boston Freaking Marathon. Maybe some people don't care if they ever run Boston, but for me...that was a moment I waited for, for a very long time.

The first few miles were crowded, as expected. I had a side stitch for the first 2-3 miles which didn't do anything but annoy the crap out of me. I took some deep breaths and eventually found a comfortable stride and pace. I was 100% running by feel, I looked at my watch out of curiosity at each mile marker but never really for pace control. I wanted to see what I could do without being a slave to my watch. I  high-fived a million and one people, especially kids and I couldn't help but get the goofiest grin on my face. I even got a blue/yellow bracelet a little boy handed me and gave me the BEST high five ever (along with the cutest little smile). Jewelry on the first date, normally would be a little much but for that 5 year old...I'll make an exception.

I was happy with the times I was running, while still enjoying myself taking in the sights and sounds of the insane amount of spectators. 6-10 people deep on both sides of the road, screaming so loud I couldn't hear myself think. Almost everyone wearing blue/yellow or anything with BOSTON STRONG on it. I fought back some tears quite a few times, there really was nothing like it. (Insert *omg cheesy eyeroll* here).

I thought about so many things while running. Wondering how my friends were all doing as they took to the course, crossing my fingers that everyone was having a great day. Thought about all those affected by last years events, and how amazing the running community and Boston have pulled together since then. I thought about where I am at in my own life, thinking about things past and things to come. I also thought about how the journey of getting to Boston changed me and how grateful I am for that desire to keep pushing myself.

According to the BAA Splits, my first four 5ks of the course were almost dead on-- 23:13, 23:27, 23:13, 23:13. Uhh yeah, I've NEVER been that consistent. Normally I am the negative split girl, but control and consistency was where it was at for me Monday. Running by feel wasn't the worst thing in the world.

I had been told before the race that I would hear the Wellesley girls, well before I could see them. I can confirm that is an incredibly true statement. Ladies were fabulous and I hope that they have boyfriends to make them tea with honey the rest of the week because they certainly aren't going to be able to speak again, like ever. I high fived a bunch of the girls, and stole a kiss from the girl holding a sign saying 'I'm from Upstate NY, kiss me!'. Hopefully my little boyfriend from earlier in the race who gave me a bracelet isn't mad I was kissing a girl a few miles later.

I crossed the half in 1:38:11, this is when the math started. Okay, I was on pace for 3:16ish...but knew I wasn't going to be negative splitting that second half. This is the point where I pretty much knew I was going to run around 3:18-3:20. I kept the pace I had settled into and held it as long as I could knowing if my predictions were correct I would still run my 3rd fastest marathon.

Trucking up a hill...
The hills in the second half were definitely noticeable but I made sure to drive my elbows back and shorten my stride to get up them. I actually felt stronger on the hills than I thought I would, I'll chalk that up to the strength and cross training I did while fighting the 'injury'.

I think mile 18-19 was about when I decided to stop taking my gels. They weren't sitting super well, and the last thing I wanted was stomach problems. So I started taking oranges (thank you to all the spectators handing them out!), and Gatorade instead of water.

I could pretty much see Danielle not far in front of me for most of the race, it was comforting seeing someone I knew in a sea of thousands of strangers. Around mile 19 she came up to me and told me I was looking good and gave me a mini pep talk- that meant more to me than I could say, I really needed it. I pushed through the rest of the hills, and even made it up 'heartbreak' without too much struggle. I knew I was going slower than before but definitely still holding on.

Once I hit mile 21 I tried to pick up the pace. The last few miles of the marathon have really become a love of mine in a sick and twisted way. This is where I have been able to push harder and really pour my heart out onto the course (particularly at Wineglass and CIM). At Boston, that push lasted about a half mile before I realized it just wasn't going to happen. I settled back into a pace I hoped to maintain for the remainder of the race.

 I'm not going to blame that on the course, the hills, the heat or anything- I know EXACTLY what it was. I knew going into this race that my speed and strength were good but my endurance was nowhere near where it was in the fall. I knew that at some point between Hopkinton and Boston that this was going to catch up to me, and it did. No excuses, I was running what I was capable of on that particular day.

My goal the last few miles was to hold on. I knew I had slowed but the crowds in those last few miles wouldn't let me get down. The road narrows and the crowds thicken as you get into the heart of the city, I can still hear it (maybe that is because my ears are still ringing). I definitely struggled, I won't deny that. Twice in the last mile I stopped for 15-ish seconds to compose myself. I didn't get down on myself about it then, and I still don't regret it. Even with all of this, my last few miles were all within a few seconds of each other, who am I and what have I done with myself?

Once I made the turn onto Hereford, my eyes shot straight up while making the quick left onto Boylston. I wanted that damn finish line.  Boylston street was incredible, but I know that I didn't embrace it as much as I could have. I was so focused on moving forward and was lost in my own little world. Maybe that sounds selfish, maybe it sounds like I didn't care- but in reality it was nothing less than keeping myself composed for a finish line that would most certainly be unlike any other.

I finished in 3:20:14 which is a 7:38 average pace. I'm super proud that I managed to crack the top 1000 women, coming in at 958 (top 6.6%). Not too shabby for my first Boston. As for my personal standings, it was marathon #8 and my 3rd fastest (knocking my first BQ 3:21 from 2012) into 4th place :) I finished feeling tired for sure, but my legs held up really well especially considering my lower right leg boycotted the last few months of training.

Shortly after crossing, my mind was going a million miles a minute. I immediately asked someone who won, as I had been wondering all day. Kind of one of those surreal moments that I still can't make sense of. Danielle crossed very shortly after me, and came up and gave me a big hug as we congratulated each other. We got our medals and pictures and then made our way through the food & finishers area. At one point we sat down and took our shoes off basically in the middle of it all... the white coats (medical) kept asking us if we were okay. We were tired, sore, hot, and just ran 26 miles-- can't 2 girls just sit their butts down? Finally we made our way through the rest of the lines and parted ways to go to family area/bag check.
Danielle and I  after the race :) 
The walk to Boston Common took....FOREVER. People were staring at me walking barefoot down the road but well, I didn't care. I grabbed my gear bag from the tents and proceeded to camp out on the ground where we had all planned to meet. I was in a daze, as I usually get afterwards and just kind of sat there. Our group had all met up again and chatted about the day, each of our races and how we felt.

I have a LOT of thoughts regarding the race, and how I feel about my time etc. But that is a whole post in itself. Short version: Boston reminded me of that fire I have, to be happy, to push myself, and to never settle. I'm not mad whatsoever that I didn't PR, I didn't have any intentions of running one on April 21, 2014. I ran that race for me and for Boston, with everything that's been going on I needed control and that's what I did.

More thoughts to come on the race, my time, my experience and....WHAT'S NEXT :)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Checking In...

Oh hey there, apparently this is my blog where I write about running and life. Lately there has been running, and living but not much writing--sorry about that.

Let's see here, I already dropped the news on you last week that I moved. Well, I spent most of last week doing the many tasks required in such a thing-- you know, packing, moving things, unpacking, signing things, buying things, cleaning things, and generally NOT sleeping. Good news, that part is over. I still have some settling in to do, but the hard parts are pretty much behind me. I've been enjoying my housewarming presents from people-- most of which involve food and/or alcohol, my friends know whats' up.

Other than that I haven't been overly busy, I have been enjoying the downtime. Giving myself time to relax, go do things with friends, and generally work on feeling like myself again. On that front-- I've made a lot of progress. People who know me and talk to me regularly have seen that I'm more and more like myself as time goes on- it feels good. I haven't felt alone in all of this, which says a lot about the amazing people in my life.

Sure, life is still complicated in many ways but well...that's life. Finding the beauty in the mess is important.

I have so many awesome things going on, time with friends and family, oh and going to Boston this weekend for that little race you may have heard of? Dear God, it's finally here! I am looking forward to this weekend for many reasons that I can't even begin to explain- I'm pretty sure I will be smiling...the entire time.

As for running and working out- yeah it's been happening. My cross training time has been pretty much non-existent with the other things going on, but sometimes you just need it. Running wise, I'm feeling relatively good, some days my leg bothers me more than others but right now there isn't much I can do right now. So I am resting, and resting HARD. I'm taking taper more serious than normal because I know the healing time for my leg will pay off come Monday.

Speaking of running- Monday I had one of those runs that was just freaking insanely amazing. It was pouring rain, and I loved every second of it. Turned into a great progressive run, and left me feeling incredibly confident for some big things this fall. As much as I am excited for Boston (believe me, I AM!), I am also excited to heal and get back to 100% so I can train my ass off this summer for big running goals in the coming months. I'll save the new goals for the year until after Boston though. Boston goals will be coming at you tomorrow.

I'm aware that I have been more absent in the blog wold with social media, blog reading, etc.- know that I will get back to a normal routine, and I do promise to respond to the emails those of you have sent me ( I really do appreciate the amazing support). I didn't forget about everyone, just needed some time away :)

So....if we were catching up,
what would you have to tell me?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Endings & New Beginnings

I mentioned the other day that I have been going through a lot lately. I guess I could have done some big long emotional post about this, but in all honesty I had no desire to do so.  I'm just going to give the facts of the situation because some of these things are obviously going to come up at times.

  1. I'm choosing happiness, better days are ahead. <----most important fact.
  2. Tonight will be my first official night in my new 'home'.
  3. That new apartment is mine alone. It's a small studio in a cute part of town, and it's just what I need.
  4. Yes, moving into new place alone means I am no longer living with J. 
  5. Giving up & moving on are NOT the same thing.
  6. There won't be a wedding anymore.
  7. This was my choice, and I truly believe it is the best for everyone.
  8. Ironman Cozumel is no longer happening (for me) this year. I'm actually happy about this right now.
  9. I never really talked about our relationship much on the blog before, so this won't change things.
  10. The reasons for #'s 2-7 are not really anyone's business but ours. Everyone in this world deserves to be happy, and each of us need different things to find that happiness. 
I'm ready to feel like myself again. This is something that didn't just happen overnight, it's something that built up with time. During that time I became a different version of myself, I wasn't very happy with that person I became. I don't want to be so busy building a life that I forget to live the one I already have. I have so many goals and passions of things I want for the future, and I am beyond hopeful for those things. 

What I can say with 100% certainty is that I have the BEST support system a girl could ask for. Between sending me messages of support, bringing me candy, helping me with transition to new place, reminding me what it feels like to really smile again, drinking with me, running with me, giving me things to look forward to, all of it. I'm in a good place right now, while yes some big changes are taking place which is hard... I firmly believe that I made the best decision and that better days are ahead.

For those of you who have reached out to me lately, I truly appreciate every kind word and the time it took to send a message or comment. Life has certainly been busy with work, moving, training, taking time for myself and dealing with everything that I haven't had a heck of a lot of 'spare time'. The next few weeks are going to be crazy, finalizing moving this weekend, Boston next, and NJ the weekend after.... I honestly think it's just what I need to get back on my feet with things. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Boston Training: That's life.

Last week was the final week before I start a semi-taper for Boston. I haven't really trained excessively this cycle due to injury so a taper isn't the most necessary thing right now. I could tell you what my workouts were but it was nothing over the top. I biked some, I used the elliptical a little, and did some core work. As for running, I had some good runs (Tuesday running with coworkers, and Wednesday had awesome hilly progression run) and some bad (i.e. Friday's run ended up being only 2 miles due to dizziness and pain in my leg), and I had some runs that were plain old necessary (Sundays hilly hungover emotional 18 miler).

I would have loved to have more work in last week(training wise), but I also had to take the time to take care of myself. Sometimes I think we focus so much on training and numbers that we forget that health and happiness still have to be a priority. Stress of life eliminated my appetite and found myself struggling with energy from not enough food. If you know me, you know I LOVE food so this is not something that happens to me often. Thankfully my appetite is coming back (slowly) and should be back to normal just in time to carb-load for Boston next week. I'll just consider this whole appetite issue an extended carb-depleting phase?

Life is complicated (I'm sure you knew that), and last week it got really messy for me. While in the long run it will be a good thing, and believe that better days are ahead- it doesn't make it any easier. I will talk about this a little more soon, I'm not trying to 'vague update' but right now just isn't the right time to go into it.

Last week wasn't all bad, it definitely had some positive things going on. Mainly I'm just really grateful for the amazing friends and family I have, and even some unexpected support from outsiders. Certainly know how to make a girl feel loved.

As for this week, technically it's my first week of 'taper' but it won't be much different from the last few. I have some workouts I would like to do and some medium long runs but nothing over the top. 2 weeks from today I will be running my first Boston Marathon, so basically I'll be spending the next 12 days trying to contain my excitement until I leave for Massachusetts.

I also don't think I'll be taking my jacket off for a long time. My friends Tom & Deb gave this to me yesterday, pretty much one of the best presents ever. Can't wait to spend a weekend in Boston with them and the rest of our friends (and a million other people). Until then I am just going to focus on the positives and keep my head up :)

Tell me something good...anything at all... what's been a highlight for you lately?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Syracuse Half Marathon Recap

This race was a week and a half ago now, sorry for the delay. I'll blame it on training, life, work, weekend away, and ALL the food. Because, well..that's life.

I decided right after Lake Effect that I was going to do this race as a tune-up for Boston (good timing for it, a month out from the race). I knew a lot of people doing it, which meant I would get to see some friends who I don't see often, and run
Heather & I 
Shortly after registering, my 'injury' started getting to be a problem. My goal of a faster time slipped away a little but I also knew I could use the race as a good workout.

That morning was one of the most stressful race mornings- woke up, prepared for the 90 minute drive....only to find that it snowed...again. The roads were covered, and it was crazy windy creating poor visibility(in the already pitch black of early morning. I white-knuckled it the whole ride and considered turning around many times.

Somehow I managed to still get there on time and get everything taken care of pre-race.  I have to say, had the logistics of the race not been as good as they were...this wouldn't have happened. I was able to park right around the corner from the Oncenter convention center (where expo was, as well as start and finish line). I got inside, grabbed my bib, checked my bag, ran around the whole convention center looking for shortest bathroom line, and got outside for start without ANY issues. Everything was so close and centrally located...I have to give them an A+ for that.

I decided going into it that I needed to throw out my original goals, the roads were slick and the conditions were far from ideal. My only real goal was to stay upright and finish. In my head thoguh I really wanted to keep it under my current marathon pace (1:36ish), but I knew between injury and weather conditions- might not be in my control.

The course itself is fair, LOTS of turns, a few rollers but nothing crazy (worst part is mile 2). The course was well marked, although most of us were not running inside the cones (it was safer running in the tire tracks from cars because there was less snow).
Source one ran inside the cones.
I remember being afraid running down this, slick conditions! (source)
 I was actually surprised at the people cheering along the course, much more than I expected for a snowy cold Sunday morning in Syracuse. The only part of the course I really disliked was the 'Creekwalk' section. It's a sidewalk by the creek (imagine that!) but it wasn't plowed or cleared. I almost fell multiple times through here and I heard others complaining about it afterwards as well. Granted- that section probably would have been nice, had it not been the section I looked like I was trying to be an ice dancer.

As for my paces, well these are the splits from the race timing company. I never felt fabulous but I never felt like dying either. I managed to pull negative splits for the first 15k, but after that I was just toast. C'est la vie.
5k- 22:15 (7:10 average)
10k- 44:00 (7:05 average)
15k- 1:05:43 (7:03 average)
Last 3.8 Miles 27:22 (7:12 average)

I finished in 1:33:05 (7:06 average) which is 3 minutes slower than my PR but still a solid time. Anytime I can run around that pace for a half, fine by me. I used to dream of a time like that- and now that's my 'bad day', we call that PROGRESS.

One of the best parts of the day was getting to see friends--Carrie, Joe, Thomas & Family, and of course Heather! Heather and I hung out after the race for a while, and then she kindly let me be a bum and shower at her office gym (I had a birthday party to go to in the area after the race).

I really can't say anything bad about the race- it was incredibly well run. As I said the logistics were awesome, the course was fair, chip timing, big pre-post race warm area (in the convention center), lots of food and drinks post-race, and the medals were nice too. I see this becoming a bigger race in the next few years (this was only the second time the race was done and it's already a good sized race). For a 'new' race, they really know what they are doing and it's nice to see good quality races in the area. Obviously can't blame the race for the weather- I mean, it's March in Upstate NY....could be 80 degrees and it could be below 0. I will certainly do this one again, maybe next year the weather gods will be a little nicer?

Anyone else run Syracuse Half this year?

Seeing as it is April 1st, I'll ask---who did you prank? Or were you the victim?

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