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 
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