A New Year & New Goals

Welcome to 2016!

2015 was an exciting year, running my first Boston Marathon and then following it up like a ridiculous person with another marathon barely 5 weeks later. While enjoyable, it did set me back a bit in regards to how my knees felt and slowed me down a bit more than I was expecting. Luckily, with no other races planned I kept it light until the end of September with a half marathon. Then I kept with the time off.

Well the madness of the end of the year is gone and I’m back at it. No races on the schedule and nothing planned besides adding exercise back into my routine, including regular strength training and more variety of activities like hiking.

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#BostonStrong Comeback

Today was the 118th Boston Marathon but it meant much more than just another event for this prestigious race.

One year later, a field of nearly 36,000 runners went out to show that the running community is stronger than ever. The last year has been spent healing and today was the chance to wash it away with new, greater memories.

It couldn’t have been more perfect conditions. Clear and sunny skies, a crispy 40 degrees for the Elite women’s start and an almost unheard of lack of wind. And the performances by the athletes showed it.

The Elite women’s winner, Rita Jeptoo, set a course record and ran the 8th fastest women’s marathon time. Ever. American Shalane Flanagan took 6th with a  new American Record. And nothing could have crowned the day better than Meb Keflezighi being the first American  man in 31 years to win the Boston Marathon. The last American male winner was in 1983.

As the folks over at Mashable said, “it was more than just a race — it was a comeback.”

I spent the day like any other day, at work, but with the BAA live stream my background noise and a page on my browser refreshed every 5 minutes for updates on my friends running. It seemed everyone came out with their best today; one of the ladies I’ve trained with (and hope to be like some day) ran her own personal best in 3:11. The entire group did fantastic!

If ever you want inspiration to go out and do something, anything, the Boston Marathon is it. Even though I’ve told myself I won’t run a marathon this year, today definitely tested my strength of will to hold to that.

Now obviously, I’ve been a bit silent recently. Lots going on in life but I wanted you all to know that I’m still moving along. Got in a 6.2 miler today in honor of the Boston Marathon and all who ran it this year and the last. For now, there’s no races on my calendar so I’m just chugging along. I’ve been contemplating tackling a triathlon later in the summer. We’ll see if that actually happens or not.

For now, I’ll leave you with this article on Mashable of 15 Uplifting Photos from the 118th Boston Marathon. It’s well worth the look, and in some cases, the caption read.

2013 Marine Corps Marathon Recap

I RAN A BQ!!!!

Oh, and it was also a PR by nearly 17 minutes (my first marathon time was 3:50:41). That’s exciting too, but not as much as a Boston qualifier!

Official finish time – 3:33:23.

The entire race weekend was amazing and the experience of running the 38th Marine Corps Marathon will be hard to beat. This one will be a brief overview of the weekend, mostly focused on the race itself.

20131025_145741I flew in early on Friday morning to hit up the expo for my packet and grab all the goodies I wanted. It was packed full of people and quite cold (for this Florida raised girl). But alternating from sun to shade while waiting in line kept my from getting too chilly. The packet pick-up itself was swift and off I went into the expo. Besides spending way more than I probably needed, I enjoyed running into some friends. Josh and Justin from the running group were two of them, while Scott one of my DailyMile buddies was another.

I enjoyed all the signs hung up and definitely got pictures of each of them.20131025_120304

Saturday was another adventure of a short run to shake out the legs and test my tolerance to the cold. The run felt good and I wasn’t quite as affected after the first half mile as I expected which boded well for race day. After a quick and warm breakfast, the mother—who was amazing enough to travel up to support me in the race— and myself rented some bikes to check out part of the course and her best options for spectator points. What followed was an adventurous few hours of consulting course maps, area maps, getting turned around, and enjoying the sights.

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The day was followed by a lazy and relaxing afternoon about the hotel and it’s lobby. One fun thing about race weekends is most people you see in the hotel are also there to race! So I got to take part in some fun conversations and learn some stuff about the course from a variety of strangers. Then it was time to meet up with the charity team for our pre-race dinner and shenanigans. By the way, the food was delicious! I only knew a few members of the group, so it was fun to finally meet in person many of the individuals I’d chatted with about training on the Facebook group page.

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There was a good amount of silliness and a lot of volume to the dinner. Of course, no charity team is complete without their own picture! The Little Things 4 Cancer reps Wendy and Stephanie gave awesome speeches that let me know they really felt touched by the effort of our team which raised nearly $31,000. A fun evening all around.

The night before is always early after all the gear has been looked over, prepped, and set out in order of necessity. Then it was to bed where I admit to waking up just a few times thinking I had overslept.

100_4281Race morning was damn cold, but the misery was shared with friends and family. We headed out for a quick walk to the metro and then an extra long walk around the Pentagon to the staging area. I spent the entire time cold.

Once I made it into the corrals, it wasn’t quite as bad since all the bodies generated some warmth. It was awesome to hear the a capella version of the National Anthem while parajumpers descended with huge American flags. A beautiful way to get me pumped up even more and ready for the race to start.

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I ended up placed a bit behind the 3:45 pace group (not my intention at all) and so a bit further back than I planned. However, it wasn’t too bad as the first 2 miles were severely crowded and I would have had to dodge people to get up to pace regardless. Fear not, there was no starting out too fast for me with the crowds in this race.

The course is beautiful with fall colors and all the sights through Arlington, Georgetown, and the memorials of Washington, D.C.

It was cold – low 40s at the start and while it did make the 50s near the finish we had to deal with some chilly winds and cloud cover through the middle. While I didn’t exactly want the first 2 miles as slow as they were, it was a lot of fun dodging around people while taking in the course and spectators. I especially liked the point about a mile in where they had a U.S. flag hanging over the middle of the course, just low enough that if you had the height or a good jump you could brush it with your fingers (which of course I did).

100_4313The atmosphere was AMAZING. Passing retired veterans carrying flags in a diamond formation for each of their services, with a U.S. flag as point- and rear-guards. Individual military members and units taking on the marathon in full gear. There was no lack of inspiration or motivation across the full 26.2 miles. Plus just the sheer amount of spectators and on course entertainment (from regular bands to marching bands to drum lines). I settled into my pace by mile 4 (and also dropped all my throwaways) and just enjoyed everything I could see.

Around mile 11 I got to see my mom and that was a sweet boost. Then we hit the 13-16 mile area which is Hains Point. That was very emotional. This portion of the course has the least amount of spectators which I felt was appropriate for what was placed there. On the left side of the course every few feet were the pictures of each Marine killed in action. As the ‘quiet’ portion of the race, there was a respectful reverence for those who have given their lives in service to our country. And to help balance that, the right side of the course had posters set up with the usual race sayings from the motivational to the funny. It helped me keep from fully breaking into tears to glance from one side to another, to mix those runner sayings in with each picture I passed.

Then the course swung you full on into the National Mall and once again the course was lined with spectators and all the beautiful monuments, memorials, and museums that make up our capital. I really enjoyed just looking around me for the next few miles especially because it was so different from my last visit. There weren’t many tourists out crowding the sights—most people were bunched up on the course cheering on runners. So the view of the buildings and their architecture was largely clear and very nice. Especially the swing in front of the capital building which offered a fantastic view on approach for the runners and a sweet backdrop for pictures once we turned around.

Then it was across another bridge into Crystal City where I got to see Beth of Discombobulated Running in her cheering costume (which was absolutely hysterical). I think of the entire course that Crystal City was my least favorite. Partially due to it being the last area before you make it back to the Pentagon towards the finish and mostly because the roads there weren’t as well cared for as the rest of the course. But I made it through the torturous miles 20-24 with legs that were burning.

Thanks to where I ended up in the starting area, besides starting behind the 3:45 pace group (who I passed in the first half mile), I had no gauge for when I crossed the start line in relation to the gun or where exactly I was placed. Luckily, I actually didn’t think too hard on it until I reached mile 25. Then my not-questions were answered. Right at the mile 25 marker I caught the 3:35 pace group. Also amazing, Beth had managed to trek from the start of the bridge on the Washington, D.C., side at mile 20 to the ramp next to the Pentagon and Route 110 (to the finish) a mere 20 feet after the 25 mile marker. It was great encouragement not only to see her a second time, but to have her screaming “BQ!!” at me as I caught the end of the pace group and began my pass.

While that highway that made up the last mile was a mental challenge due to seeing a seemingly endless sea of runners, I had my boost thanks to Beth. I kept pace and passed many others who were losing steam. The last half mile was most amazing because of the crazy amount of spectators. They were ranged on both sides of the course as far as 3/4s of a mile from the finish, packed in and cheering loudly.

A girl with one of my favorite signs (a star symbol with the words “touch here for power” much like these two) got a tap from me as I went by. Near the end and just before I passed the 26 mile marker and turned to take the hill, I could hear my mother cheering. I couldn’t see her in the dense crowd, but being able to make out her voice was a relief. Any and all spectators are such a boost during a race, but having it be someone you know and so close to the finish just helps to dredge up that last bit of reserve, that last bit of strength, to make it to the end.

Once again I was dodging runners who had already emptied their tank, but I took that hill like the race had just started. Though there was definitely some dismay to realize I still had a few hundred feet to go once I reached the top. But I did! I crossed the line as the clock was breaking 3:36. I had done it! Months of preparation had awarded me an awesome race.

20131027_140424There was some stumbling and helping hands after I crossed the line. I offered my thanks for their service to the Marines I passed as I continued upwards to receive the totally awesome finisher’s medal. I had to wobble and take the stairs very, very slowly but I got myself up to the Marine Corps War Memorial for a finisher’s picture with my medal and a huge smile. It was only after that I finally had the courage to look at my Garmin and see my finish time.

I cried! Even if it wasn’t exact, my watch said 3:33:32 and the difference couldn’t be so great as to deny me the 3:35 that would be a Boston qualifier. I spent all of training trying so hard NOT to put the pressure of attempting a qualifier on my shoulders. I wanted a great race, a PR, and to break 3:40. Anything more than that would be a pleasant bonus. So the fact that it happened deserved at least a few tears.

After that it was the usual post race of picking up water, gatorade, snacks, and making my way to meet family. My mother was waiting for me as I exited the finish area and I admit to a few more tears as I hugged her. We spent a bit of time in the finisher’s festival, but my legs were shot and I was looking forward to food and a shower. As luck would have it, I ran into Beth a third time and got to chat with her a bit.

Without a doubt, I would recommend this race to any and everyone. Not only is it a fantastic course with tons of spectator support, but the military and volunteers were great. The Marines, volunteers, and other service members all across the course at water stops, aid stations, and more were simply amazing. I never felt like any of them didn’t want to be there or weren’t excited for what each and every runner was trying to accomplish. Plus it’s like your own mini-tour of the capital and surrounding areas. And starting with 2014, they’ll be doing a lottery registration. Probably the only thing I wish I’d done differently was take a camera, but I’m too competitive to slow down or stop to snap pictures.

To talk briefly of strategy I think the main difference, besides the temperatures, in this race from my first marathon was that I took advantage of every water stop. I alternated taking e-caps and eating gels; made sure I got water at every stop even if I wasn’t consuming something or felt good. While I did skip the Dunkin Donuts stop, I grabbed some sports beans (as I lost one gel around mile 8) to fill the gap. As a result (at least in my mind) I didn’t hit the wall this time. My legs were definitely protesting, especially after the hills in the first 10 miles, and I could feel the burn of activity, more than ever after mile 20. But as some signs say, what wall?! I don’t see no wall!

So now I look on to future races and the possibility of Boston in 2015 (insert squee of excitement). I leave you with some numbers and more pictures. And yes, I did negative split! Huzzah!

Average Pace – 8:08
1st half – 1:48:30
2nd half – 1:44:53

T-Minus 24 Hours & Tracking Info

Just to be clear, I am already in D.C, and it is COLD! With that out of the way, it is less than 24 hours to the Marine Corps Marathon. Actually, in 24 hours from now I’ll have finished (I hope) and be celebrating a race completed.

100_4262I’ve been in D.C. since Friday morning when I flew in and headed out to the race expo. Bib was acquired, friends were seen, and lots of things were bought at the many vendors. It was fun, if tiring, and I spent way more money than I originally planned but that’s okay.

Just have to say, it’s that official race gear that’s the really pricey stuff. Most of the vendors have small discounts from their usual stores/prices because it’s an expo.

bibSo here it is! My bib number (and the official jacket) for anyone interested in tracking my progress. Of course, I’ll be posting my official report of the race later to include my finish. This is for any who may be up and about tomorrow morning and want to check how I’m doing.

The conditions are looking excellent. Early morning temps in the high 30s and finish temps in the mid- to high- 50s. Maybe not my favorite for being a tourist, but fantastic for running a marathon.

Training went very well, so I have faith a good race will follow. Here we go!

MCM Training: Week 14/18

I can’t start a report without saying 14/18 down! So there’s no confusion on the specific workouts, for this particular week Monday-Wednesday was pretty much downpour of rain the entire time.

Total Miles: 56

Modified Hills: 6.63 miles

8:55, 8:39, 8:33, 8:02, 8:13

Yeahh, was not on for this workout to begin with and then the rain just made it worse. Normally I love running in the rain, but this workout just did not happen. Got started, had to ease into the pace, and finally just decided to cut it short.

Modified Tempo: 6.54 miles

8:12, 8:21, 8:04, 8:00, 7:52

Changed my Tuesday recovery into a tempo to semi-make up for cutting hills short. Felt much better, except for the fact that it was still raining. But in this case it just kept the run relatively cool, though I did nearly face plant into the wall trying to run to the shower without leaving puddles of water all over the house. Not as long a workout as I was planning, but obligations kept it from going farther.

Intervals: 8.63 miles

9x800m – 3:27, 3:28, 3:24, 3:25, 3:20, 3:27, 3:20, 3:24, 3:22

By Thursday I was struggling a bit from being tired – made up the miles I’d been missing so far in the week on Wednesday with a double run. So I crashed and slept in Thursday to meet up with with someone around 7AM instead of 5AM. Glad to have gotten the sleep, but wasn’t sure I’d be able to do as good pacing without Kathy running in front of me. Not nearly as consistent as with her, but still managed pretty well I think. It was hotter and the sun had come up, so not as good conditions as 5AM, but not bad. After getting all that sleep (like 9 hours), it was like a reset and the second half of the week went much better.

Long Run: 18.19 miles @ 9:10 pace

Recharged after Friday off, decided to just breeze my way through this one. Joined a couple people for a slower early 8 – we averaged around 9:40 or so. Then hopped on with two of the guys for around 9:00 pace for the next 10. Think the easier early 8 helped to ease into the run and kept the miles relaxed. Even the next 10 that were all sub-9 felt good. While I just wanted the miles, quite pleased that the pace was dropped as much as it did.

Almost to taper! Others starting to race has me super excited for race day to get here. While this week wasn’t ideal with the rain throwing everything off and just having an exhausted time getting through the workouts (plus some other stuff), it ended well and I still met my mileage goals. I’ve broken in both pairs of new shoes and retired the old ones (they needed it). Pretty sure I know which pair I’ll wear for the race, but Saturday’s 23 will be the true test. Less than 4 weeks to race day!

Tips: Rest & Recovery

I feel the need to reiterate the emphasis on rest days and recovery after workouts.

Played the part of the irresponsible athlete over the weekend. Sunday was a full day at Disney World in the hot Florida summer with not nearly enough water to drink. I guarantee I was more dehydrated than usual. Then of course we got back and I went for a short run without really making sure to re-hydrate myself before or after the run the way I should have.

Jump to Monday’s workout in 90+ degree weather with some high humidity percentages. Again, the workout itself didn’t take as much out of me, but I once again failed to hydrate during the day the way I should have. Not just to recover from Sunday, but to prepare for the hot workout Monday evening.

As such I was in a much worse condition than normal for the Tuesday and Wednesday runs. More tired and I didn’t feel like the rest I was getting was enough to keep me going, much less support marathon training activity. I’ve been good friends with my compression sleeves and socks, even though the workouts themselves haven’t been that difficult.

So two big points. Rest! Slept a little longer, didn’t push as hard on the two 5 milers I did, and chose to opt out of the cycling I had intended to do. While I may want better fitness, I know that I had already strained my body in a way I shouldn’t with this heat. So I skipped the bike workout and focused on keeping a water nearby.

Finally, recover! Because I figured the workout on Monday wasn’t “that bad” I made the decision not to have my usual recovery drink. By the way, that’s the Nuun Hydration (http://nuun.com/) tri-berry drink for post-workout. I should have. Likely if I had, my Tuesday and then Wednesday would not have been quite as bad.

It’s important to pay attention to not only hydrating yourself, but having the tools to recover properly after a workout. Things like electrolytes are important. My favored recovery drinks are chocolate milk and a 16 ounce bottle of water with a Nuun tablet thrown in.

I’m not saying you have to empty gallons of water post run, but you need to recognize that hotter months require different needs than cooler ones.

Here’s a nice guide from Runner’s World that talks a bit about hydration and recovery drinks. They explain some of the how and why, so you have the theory behind the practice. Here’s another article from RW that talks about what kinds of drinks you should aim for based on the activity you’re doing. While they may reference it to running, you can make times and effort comparisons to other sports.

So just to reinforce: be mindful of your body and the conditions. Rest as needed (extra if necessary! Modifying a plan for how your body feels is perfectly fine) and make sure you’re taking the proper steps to recover. Especially if you are in training and have continuous weeks of workouts planned.

I’ve had the rough reminder that I need to be more careful. Now back to training.

Not So Many Summer Races & Why Summer Training Works

If there’s one thing I know in relation to summer is that the race choices thin out. A lot. Not to say that there’s nothing to run, but there are usually more in specific areas of the state (at least in CA & FL) or the more northern states (for the country as a whole). Marathons are their own thing, but the pickings for 5Ks, 10Ks, and half marathons are much fewer and farther between.

Which makes sense. It is summer, meaning it’s hot and there are a lot of additional concerns (such as heat stroke) especially as you get into the southern states. In my search for either a southern California or central Florida race, the pickings are relatively slim. Of course, I’m also trying to pick ones that mix in well with my training schedule, so I may be asking too much.

Besides, while road races may dwindle down during the summer it is a much stronger time of year for triathlons. Admittedly, I haven’t committed to doing even my first tri (which will be a sprint). But still, lots of those races happening nearly every weekend. So if I do decide to try something different and take part in a multi-sport event, that would be a little diversion from marathon training.

While I’m a bit dismayed that I’ll be looking closer to marathon race day for some smaller races to test myself out, there are some positives.

Many do not like training through the summer. I completely understand this as it gets very hot and in some places, like Florida, very humid as well. This completely wreaks havoc on expectations and just general fitness. But at the same time, there are some distinct benefits from training through the summer season.

The most important is of course that you’re training! Getting out and doing something, even if it is at a slower pace or shorter distance to compensate for heat still means you’re doing work and helping out your body. I do want to emphasize that it is extremely important to be careful and aware of conditions when you train during the summer. Heat stroke and de-hydration are just two of many things you need to keep in mind and consider.

What I feel is a factor we don’t always look at is that summer training, even if it doesn’t match your level in the other three seasons, prepares you so much. Sure, I may be slower during the summer. But once those temps start to cool off and we roll into fall I’ll be awesomely conditioned to race.

So while I’m sure I’ll start cursing training through the summer soon, I’ll be happy for it come fall when I’m already in racing condition.