Thursday, September 25, 2014

Rochester Marathon Recap (Part I)

As per usual marathon recap protocol this is gonna get long. Grab a beer and some snacks, kick your feet up (mine certainly are). Also, Hi...sorry it's been a while.

Race Weekend
As race weekends go, it involves the usual- Food, beer, shameless bib photos, restless sleep, outfit decisions, race prep, and general feelings of complete scatterbrain. I was incredibly lucky to have some great people around me all weekend to handle all of the above, and more.
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Saturday morning I did my final run before the marathon- while it wasn't amazing feeling, I typically don't put much stock into how things feel the day before anyways. After that I spent the morning with my sister traveling to Buffalo for our cousins baby shower. Of course I wore a maxi dress so I could hide compression gear look nice. Later that day I anxiously awaited the arrival of not one, but two incredible people who would be my 'race crew' for the rest of the weekend. Britt and Heather helped me keep calm, made sure I was eating and drinking, helped me decide what to wear (the singlet debacle of 2014), and generally made the weekend that much more fun.

I was up right at my first alarm- which most people know for me...only happens on race days. Shower, cold coffee, some food, typical race morning stumbling around. Heather and Britt were meeting me out on the course so they left while I drove the 2.25 miles to the race. I spent that time chatting with coach (thank you for getting up early on a Sunday to call me!) and mentally preparing myself for the next few hours.

After parking, I quickly found my family. My sister and I don't do the same races often, but we both had some big goals this time so it was great to support each other and have our parents there as well. Meandering over to the start area was quick and easy, I managed to find a bunch of friends and exchanged lots of hugs before heading to the line. While standing there I was getting emotional, but felt ready. I found a good friend across the road while looking around- ran over and stole a final big hug and then finally situated myself right on the line where I needed to be. This was it. We had a moment of silence for the recently fallen RPD officer Daryl Pierson, listened to the National Anthem and then it was go time.

The Race
In my head, I said I wanted to be around a 3:10 pace for the first 9 miles until the canal. This would allow me to not kill myself on the rollers that are within first few miles and feed my desire to finish stronger. Within the first mile I found myself with a group of a few guys, myself and 2 others stuck together for the first 9 miles. We chatted a bit, laughed, wondering if the rain was indeed going to hold off. The one guy then told us, if he got tackled off the course it was because his wife is 9 months pregnant and was going into labor. We joked that we got first dibs on his gels if that happened. I saw my family around mile 7, I smiled and high-fived while looking like I should be singing an R Kelly song.
I'm either landing a 747 or jamming to "I believe I can Fly" on my invisible headphones. The dudes in Yellow and Orange were my homeboys those first few miles. 
I warned the guys that around mile 8 there would be some girls screaming and jumping up and down. They didn't disappoint, I was so happy to see Heather and Britt out there. It gave me a little boost and I sped up the hill a little after that to get to the canal.

Once on the canal I knew this is where the true grind begins. From mile 9.5-24.5 you are on a narrow path. Aid stations are further apart, spectators are fewer, and by this time in the race- the field of 600ish runners is incredibly spread out. Welcome to no-mans-land. Rochester, I really do love you, but there is SO MUCH MORE about this city to see than 15 miles of water on the left and land on the right. Okay, okay you get my point (yes, I knew these things going into the race).

I ran the first 10 miles of the race at 7:18 pace(average), or roughly 3:11 so I was slightly behind my goal of 3:10 pace for that section. My goal after that was to pick it up bit by bit and see how much I could negative split the course. The weather was humid, but not horrible. I made sure to sip a little water at each stop and was using margarita shot blocks (extra sodium) and gels(Clif shot w/Caff) to stay fueled. The rain looked like it was going to hold off so I knew it was time to try and ease into a quicker pace.

I hit the half way point around 1:35ish so I had made up ground and also knew I was about to see the girls again. Coming around the curve to Great Embankment Park and seeing Heather and Britt was just what I needed. Heather was jumping up and down cheering, so I did a little shimmy and shake dancing for her. Britt got a video of this, but you can't see me dancing- you do see Heather bouncing like Tigger though and it makes me giggle so much. (Britt's IG Video-->here).
The pockets on the sides of the Saucony Bullet shorts are AMAZING for gels, except the fact that it makes my hips look like saddle bags (My sisters term).
About a mile later I had the fabulous site of Laura running towards me. She asked if I wanted company for a few minutes, of course I said yes. We chatted for a few and then she let me go into the crowds of Schoen Place solo. I got to see my family again, and steal a fist bump from my nephew which gave me a good boost. The sprinkles of rain started here but it actually felt good to cool off a bit.

Miles 11-16 I averaged a 7:04 pace without really 'hammering' to get it. By this point, my 'A' Goal (stellar day) of 3:05 wasn't even a thought. But I knew if I held on my 'B' Goal of sub 3:10 was definitely possible.

Shortly after leaving Pittsford, a volunteer yelled to me "she's only a minute ahead of you"

*Insert racing heart and bulging eyes here*

By my assumptions, I was in 2nd or 3rd which meant this guy could be talking about the leader. BUT I had gone into the race knowing I needed to back off pace a tiny bit from 17-20 because of slight incline(effort vs. pace). Well shit, what do I do now. I promised myself I would keep my time goal priority until mile 20 and then depending where I was in the field would change strategy. So, I stuck with my plan and backed off a bit at 17.

Around mile 18, I caught a girl- this is the one I assume the guy was talking about- but unfortunately was not the girl that I knew was in front of me. Which meant that I had no idea what place I was really in. I passed her, and about a minute later...the sprinkles turned into showers. By 19, it was just chaos. I wiped my eyes with my singlet, put my glasses down hoping to block some water but still couldn't see too far in front of me. I remember hitting mile 20, hearing cheering (spectators were sitting under an overpass) and just being like- okay I can do this just keep holding on. I had actually sped up a tiny bit in the rain, but I knew I was spending extra energy fighting the wind.
Official photos are not in yet- but the Fleet Feet page posted this photo. I assume this was taken at the finish around the time I was running miles 19-20...if that gives you a better visual.

Miles 17-21 I averaged 7:21 miles. I was actually happy with this, considering I felt like I was going much slower (thank you wind and rain).

Around mile 21 the rain calmed as I got closer to Genesee Valley Park. By 22 the rain stopped but the air was thick and breathing became work. Here enters 'wheezy Laura'. Here also enters the battle of....the half marathon walkers. In the last few miles of the course the half marathon cuts back in, even though the half starts 15 minutes later than the full- there is still some overlap.

So miles 22-25 were spent wheezing out "on your left" and weaving in and out of groups of walkers. In some cases this meant running through huge puddles, on the grass and right between people. Many of them were encouraging, "you go girl" was a common one (thank you!). I did however get a few negative comments which was a little frustrating (I don't view passing those walking the half marathon while I'm trying to finish a marathon as 'showing off'). This was my slowest section of the race (for many reasons) averaging 7:31 for those 3 miles.

Getting off at the Ford Street Bridge was actually a nice relief, I surged up the incline and just told myself not to stop. I knew 3:10 wasn't going to happen but I wasn't walking away without a new marathon PR. I made the last few turns, and was grateful to be on a road with more breathing room while working my way through aid stations and those walking. I hadn't seen a female marathoner since passing the one at 18, and I hadn't passed a male marathoner in a few miles as well (So yeah, almost 8 miles of no marathoners).

I kept thinking about my friends and family waiting at the finish. I managed to pull a 7:22 mile for 26. On the last stretch before the left turn I was dazed, I could hear and see everyone cheering for me but couldn't process it all. I tried to high five my friends kids, but think I missed (fuzzy brain). I saw my dad cheering on the corner and pushed. That last little push sent my left calf over the edge, it seized up right before the turn. I definitely let out a cry of pain but made the turn and got my ass down the chute to the finish.
Riding the Pain train with a left turn and 0.1 to go (and clapping cheering Daddio on the right)
Heading into the Chute....
4th Female
16th Overall
1 min 45 sec PR
30 min 7 sec Course PR

I got my medal and within about 30 seconds had 2 smiling faces in front of me hugging me. There aren't a lot of words I could use to describe how grateful I was to have Britt/Heather there. We confirmed my 4th place finish while I took in as much water as I could and tried to remain on my feet.

I did the "fat guy in a little coat routine" (putting on calf sleeves) and then we made our way back to the corner to find my family. Even when you are 27, mom hugs are the best and nephew kisses/fist bumps will always make me melt. Having friends and family there was such a great feeling.

Where's my head at now?
In the spirit of full disclosure. I didn't go into this race with the goal of finishing. I didn't go into this race with the goal of a BQ. I didn't go in with the "don't finish DFL" mentality. I wanted 2 letters the most...PR. But there was also the W...I wanted that too.

I decided back in the winter that this was the year I would seek revenge on my 2011 Rochester Marathon performance. I figured it would be a good goal to work towards, and that it could be feasible for not only redemption but a PR. I'm also not an idiot with the internet. Race websites typically hold the last few years results, I may have checked these a million few times in the last 9 months. With the times I thought I could be capable of, I knew my chances of winning the marathon (or at least top 3) were pretty damn good. I'm smart enough to know that I can't control who shows up, but I certainly put the effort in to make sure that I would put up a damn good fight regardless of who was on that start line.

Obviously, I didn't come in first place. I still PR'd by almost 2 minutes, and threw down a 30 (yes, 30) minute course PR. I never walked, I never cried (well, kind of), I never gave up. Personal victories that day will outdo an overall Win. But 4th place and $200 with that PR doesn't hurt either :)

I've thought a lot about my goals and if I was being realistic, or if I had my sights set too high. Fact is, I know I can run sub-3:10 and on a different day I wouldn't even rule out 3:05 right now. On Sunday I never felt that 'amazing' feeling of 'I've got this'. I worked for every second of that 1:45 PR. The hard work and the consistent training I have done has not gone to waste. I don't have that 'back to square one' feeling- I know I'm on the right track and there is nothing wrong with chipping away at my PR bit by bit.

So while I have a feeling of 'unfinished business' with this race/this course- I'm young and healthy and have a lot of life and many more marathons ahead of me. Maybe I'll try to conquer my hometown marathon again next year- or maybe I'll wait another few years. Who knows, I have others to focus on in the mean time! ;)

The post- race is something I'll talk about in separate post, because it deserves more than a paragraph :)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Hay is in the Barn, or something like that.

Last night I completed my final longer/hard workout before the marathon. With the stop of my watch I had officially entered true taper mode, and to be honest...I'm thrilled. Yes, this coming from the girl who has previously complained about taper before marathons...many times.

For 100 days (officially, not including all the miles before training started) I poured my effort into training for this one race. 740+ miles later. Today, being day 101 with only 10 days until the race- I pour my effort into rest and recovery. More sleep, more rest, more compression, more water, more food (well, until depletion starts). More, more more everything. Except running. Normally I dread taper, and there are still parts I don't look forward to but as a whole I am embracing it this time around.

In the last week and a half I have had my final 'big' workouts for the race. A tempo last week, which unfortunately didn't go as planned (although looking back, it could have been much worse and I really was being a big baby about it). Last Friday I did my final long run, a 23+ miler all of which was done on the marathon course. This run, like the tempo did not go as planned. The heat and humidity took a large toll but at the end of the day I still got the 23+ miles in, and changing to effort over pace mid-run made that possible. I'm also a big believer in 'better today than on race day' when it comes to 'eh' long runs.

I put some pressure on last night's tempo, I wanted to go out on a positive note. The short of it, I got the workout done and feel confident about this training cycle. 12 miles with 10 progression tempo miles (6:47 average for the tempo miles). The slightly longer version- it wasn't perfect, it didn't feel amazing but I did it anyways. I know that the cumulative fatigue on my body right now is there, and it's time to rest.

Now it's time for some easy running, a short MP tempo, lots of compression, lots of hydrating and lots of nutritional calculations. Bring on the list making, weather checking, sleeping and motivation seeking. Something I constantly have to remind myself during taper is, THE WORK IS DONE. Focusing on what I can control, and keeping my eyes on the prize are huge. Running extra miles or adding workouts, are NOT going to help. Sleeping more, eating right, and giving my mind and body some TLC, those things WILL help.

While I KNOW that I will still be on the emotional roller coaster we like to call taper, I'm ready for this. I've got one of the best support systems a girl could ask for, and I'm certainly grateful for that. I'm also certain they are grateful that I know when to take time for myself so I don't drive everyone else bonkers too :)

Now, someone get me a Guinness. STAT.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Letter to my 26 year old self

Dear 26 Year Old Laura,

Today you turn 27, and that means that 26 is now officially behind you{insert huge sigh of relief here}. You have also survived much harder years than this past one, please remember that while you sit there beating yourself up (Because I know you are).

Let's peek at the last 365 days.

You had a kick ass fall racing season, a 10k PR and then back to back marathon PR's? Remember how amazing that felt, especially when you break that PR again in a few weeks at Rochester.

You also had some really fun adventures last fall, remember drinking a Guinness with your best friend at a rooftop pub in times square? What about running through Central park, and watching your other best friend finish her first marathon? Then there was that time you took a leap of faith and flew across the country and truly let yourself go and raced your heart out.

Winter, quite honestly was a bitch. It was colder and snowier than ever but you still got out there and did work. I am really proud of you for pushing through it when in the past you would have used it as an excuse. You ran more consistently, trained smarter and you started making better decisions with training and life in general. Just try and stay on your feet and not fall down the stairs this year, okay?
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Spring is where things got tricky, but you handled it with grace (most days). While training for Boston you had to back off for a bit to deal with injury, but you did it smart and managed to bounce back strong. You then made some very hard life decisions which forced a lot of changes all at once, and all only a few weeks before the biggest race of the year. Leaving a 'home', calling off a wedding, moving on your own, and essentially starting over was brave, and sometimes I think you forget that. You asked for help when needed, leaned on friends and family and eventually came back stronger and happier. Happiness looks good on you, smile more please.
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You ran 26.2 miles through Boston while you were 26 years old. Don't ever forget that day. While you didn't run a PR, that race was about so much more than that...Boston Strong. You worked so hard to get there, and I can't wait to see you go back next year with a clear head and a happy heart.
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Your late spring and summer were pretty crazy and had their share of ups and downs. Trip to Jersey shore to escape life and spend time with friends. A night in Buffalo followed by a huge half marathon PR and first time going sub-90. After that, the dust settled leaving you feeling pretty off. Despite some not-so-awesome days and situations, you managed to find the bright side and pull positives or lessons out of everything. Midwest trip gone crappy = Amazing support and rallying from friends/family to make sure you were safe, comfortable, and "drunk on a plane". A few lackluster summer races and a running rut = the final straw leading to you hiring a running coach, which now has you running stronger than ever. Finding the silver lining wherever you can, take pride in that.
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In general this year taught you a lot. You learned some ways to make yourself a better runner (with what works for  YOU and not necessarily everyone else), and you have seen the consistency pay off. You learned a lot about yourself, what you need and want and what you are not  willing to stand for in your life. You learned a lot about who really cares about you, and who simply doesn't. Remember to hold on to those that do, and don't settle for anyone treating you poorly. You've made a lot of mistakes in your life, but you have learned from them and I hope you never ever forget those lessons.

You spent a chunk of this year being 'alone', allowing yourself to work the days(and nights) away and focus on nothing but yourself. I truly think you needed that more than you realized, regardless of how much those 70-80 hour weeks took out of you. But later in the summer you started to come out of your shell. More time with friends, more time allowing yourself to be social and open up again. That wall you built started slowly coming down, not so low that anyone could get in, but high enough so that those who want to be in your life earn that right. You are surrounded by the right people instead of just people who happen to be in that place at that time.

Your last few weeks as a 26 year old have pretty much been devoted to finding balance. Balance with training, working, friendships, new relationship, family and also making time for yourself. This will be a lifelong process to find that balance, so don't get discouraged because you cannot do everything no matter how hard you try.

We could sit here and dissect what this week was 'supposed to be' or was originally planned to be....or we could sit here and focus on what it is. This week you turn over to a new chapter, 26 is a thing of the past. We can mark it as one of those chapters in a book that we just would love to never read again (right behind the 2008-2009 chapter). This week you will be surrounded by friends and family, count those blessings please and don't take it for granted. All these people support you, and you have so many chances in the next few weeks alone to support in return and many more in the future.

On this day last year you sat there thinking about how much things have changed, and all you went through to get there. Things have changed even more, and you have hurdled even more obstacles over the last 365 days. You know what though? You're going to continue hurdling things, and sometimes you will stumble and fall on your face. Laugh, shake it off and remember that you've got a lot to be grateful for.

Cheers to the next 365 days.
The good.
The bad.
The adventures.
The lessons.
The life.

If you could write a letter to your previous self, what would you say?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

ROC Training: Bye bye August

I think I am still struggling to wrap my head around how fast this training cycle has gone so far. June was "Yay, I'm training!", July was "Eff Everything", August was "getting shit done" and now here we are face to face with September. September is a jam packed month, and I couldn't be more excited.

September is my birthday month... few more days to get me those presents, just kidding. September is also birthday month for some other great people in my life. September is the month I get to support and cheer for my best friend at Lehigh Marathon. September is the month I have final hard training week. September I get to look forward to a taper after months of hard work. September is the month I finally return after a few years to demolish the Rochester Marathon. September is the month I get to stand beside a long time friend as she gets married. I could go on and on, and on.

But August. Oh, August you were a pretty darn good month.

In August I ran 231.5 miles. A solid month of training (86.4 were long run miles, 50.1 were tempo miles, 91.9 were easy miles and 3.1 racing miles) and a new monthly mileage PR to boot.

I think one of the best things that came out of August though, was my confidence. I have a level of confidence and steadiness with training and life that I haven't had before. Or in Heather's words to me... a "Calm happy", and that makes 100% sense to me & I'm happy others see it as much as I feel it.

As for training this last week of August. It was a good week, a 51 mile week and a relatively 'easy' week so to speak. I had one tempo run and the rest of my miles were to be done at easy pace, including my long run. While I know those easy miles help me aerobically, I know the biggest benefit is being fresh and ready for upcoming monster week (Final hard week of training, including another long tempo and a 23 mile long hard run).

I was a nerd when I realized that my tempo was 13 miles on Wednesday, I decided to do that run along the Rochester Half marathon course. The first few miles and the last few miles of the course are the same as the marathon course so I figured it would be good training. I have run this half before, in 2012 I finished in 1:31:46. Wednesday's tempo run included a 1 mile warm-up, 10 mile Tempo run and a 2 mile cool down. I completed this workout in 1:30:58. A new unofficial course PR, in a how things have changed in the last few years. I don't believe in going out and trying to best your time on every single run but in doing the workout as worked out to be that way. Once Rochester is over, I think coach and I need to find a half for me to race- all of these long tempos have me itching to take that 1:29 from Buffalo and smash it.

Besides the tempo run, my focus was on EASY miles and active recovery. I even got my butt in the pool a few times this week, imagine that. I know it helps to loosen things up without adding pounding on the joints. In addition to some core work/strength training I also did some easy miles on my bike while returning the favor of 'the 20 mile bike escort':) I also tried to get more sleep, hydrated well...and got a massage (it had been way too long).

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Being bike escort on the canal path for 20 miles :)
The weekends strength training involved some 22oz. curls. This is active recovery people, it's real. Particularly when those are Rogue Chocolate Stout Curls chased with cookies/brownies while staring at the stars listening to the sounds of people talking while the waves are crashing.
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This view from our family cabin in 1000 Islands...NEVER gets old.
Now onto my last full hard week of training. The good news is, all the hard runs this week will be well fueled with Birthday lunches and dinners:) Should be a busy but great week, then onto taper!

Am I the only one who has a crazy busy September?
(I'm sure those of you who are parents are busy with kiddos back in school!)

What did you curl this labor day weekend? Weights or beer?

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