ETS Firecracker 5k

I have a laundry list of things to catch up on! Might as well start at the beginning: I ran a 5k on Tuesday the 24th of June. It was hosted by ETS and the YWCA, and it’s a very popular race among…well, almost every local runner I know. This, coupled with the fact that I had to sit out and watch the race last year, made me really excited to run it. My goal was to have fun, be grateful for being able to race, and run hard. After all, I had already tested my limits in the mile two weeks before and the 3k a week before, and in both I had felt like I could extend that fast effort to longer distances. Such as a 5k. So, I wanted to see how long I could hang on to a pace that’s slightly outside of my workout comfort zone. If I was successful, I thought I could PR, so that was in the back of my mind. I knew that a.) the course wasn’t flat as a pancake, b.) it was at 7:30pm and it would be hot, and c.) I wake up at 4:45am on Tuesdays and rarely get the chance to fuel properly if I’m not going to risk feeling sick. So I had no idea how it would go.

The group pre-race.

The group pre-race.

I biked to the ETS campus, which was only about five miles away. Steve was in town for the week, so I warmed up with him, his 14-year-old host-family member Harry (no other way to really explain…), and our Asics rep Joe, who decided a few days before to run. The start line was really congested, mostly of runners I knew, which was funny and nice! One of them, however, was my former college teammate who just graduated in May, fresh off a good track season. I knew there was no chance in beating her but I figured I’d see how close I could stay. When the gun went off, Sara found me quickly and I was determined to run side by side with her, since we do a lot of times in workouts. The first mile felt really long…maybe because it included more than one uphill, downhill, and flat section. I hit mile 1 in 6:09 – quick, but I was okay with it. The second mile was pretty much all flat, but I settled in a little and ran 6:28. The final mile was part of the first mile again, and it was agreed upon by everyone that the uphill felt much harder the second time around…I could see my college friend up ahead the entire time, but she was too far to catch (she won, in eleventh overall, 19:12). I pushed as hard as I could for a 6:16 last mile and 47 seconds for the last 0.15 mi. to finish in 19:41, twelfth overall and second female. I was very pleased with my time and effort, especially under the conditions. It was a 16-second road PR, and of course it made me think that 5ks aren’t so bad, and I should do a flat, fast one someday…more on that another time.

The start. My face is in this, it's just...small.

The start. My face is in this, it’s just…small. Photo credit: Martin Griff/The Times of Trenton.

Interesting thing about Joe’s race: he decided to move up after pacing Steve for awhile, and was leading the race when the lead cyclist turned the wrong way just before the third mile marker. He wasn’t giving a race effort, so he said he didn’t mind much, but I know he was annoyed by the incident. He’ll have to come back next year for redemption (but he probably won’t…)! He was grateful for the abundance of free food after, for what it was worth. 

The Intervals group ran as a team, and we placed 2nd! Most of us individually won our age groups too (in this race you actually didn’t get a medal unless you placed in your age group)! I think the racing high got the best of us, as we took a lot of pictures after….

Bling and shoes.

Bling and shoes.

Age group award. There's a whole thing inside, it's a big deal....It just occurred to me that I saw that girl running today. I only know it was her because I saw the shoes....

Age group award. There’s a whole thing inside, it’s a big deal….It just occurred to me that I saw that girl running today. I only know it was her because I recognize the shoes now.

I was going to keep up my weekly habit of running shorter races (they progressively got longer) on the 4th of July, where the group ran a 10k together, but then I decided very last-minute to go with my family to Maine after all, so I missed it. Maine included a lot of miles, both on foot and on the bike. It made me realize that I do like training here much, much better though. Strange to say, but even in beautiful places, I need variety. The fact that I can go any which way from right here and not get bored, rather than just one or two ways, is awesome. The possibilities are endless. If you are a runner or cyclist in the Princeton area and do not agree, come talk with me.  

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2014 ETS Firecracker 5k results

Triathlon training updates coming soon!

 

 

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track is back

So, remember that time I raced a road mile? Apparently I wasn’t quite done with the speedy stuff. Despite almost bailing on the idea due to feeling a little burnt out, I biked over to a track last Tuesday night to participate in an all-comer track meet. I had watched the meet last summer from the sidelines, due to my frustrating injury. This year, I am on a mission to replace all the memories of those summer races spent wishing I could run with new ones of, well, actually running. And attempting to run well. My main event of the evening was the 3k, and I figured I would do the 800 too to get more of my money’s worth…why not.

Running the 3200m at my county meet in 2007.

Running the 3200m at my county meet in 2007.

Let me give a brief history of the 3k, in the context of my personal running career. In high school, I didn’t race the 3k, but rather the 3200. I can’t even count how many 3200s I have raced, between dual meets, conference meets, county meets, and state sectional meets. I’ve raced the 3200 a lot, both indoors and outdoors. My PR is 11:53, from a scrimmage held two days after what was supposed to be my time to shine in the conference meet, pulling out my first sub-12 despite doubting coaches. I was never fresh for a 3200 (I always raced the 1600 beforehand, and my PR was 12:09 from a meet when I raced fresh indoors), so I knew I had it in me to do it if it was my sole event. A thunderstorm minutes before the race was scheduled halted my plans, and so I angrily gutted it out at this little scrimmage instead. That season (spring 2007) was my last [pretty much] entirely healthy season until…2013. I got back into the 12:20s after only a month of running the next year after a stress fracture, but I never really had time to train for a PR again unfortunately. In college, we would run a 3200 time trial the second day of preseason, and again, always coming off of a post-stress-fracture summer buildup, I’d run in the 12:50s and be satisfied. Indoors, the 3k was my main event, but there was only one season when I got to race it multiple times. I was always very unhappy with my results – I’d usually run 11:50-something. My official best time for 3k was 11:48 indoors (also not happy with that, as I expected to be running that kind of time for two miles).

So, I showed up to the meet Tuesday not knowing what to expect. I knew I was in shape to get a 3k PR. I didn’t expect to get a 3200 equivalent 3k PR, if that makes any sense – just because I was only two months out from a marathon and wasn’t training specifically for the event. I should mention it was ninety degrees and sunny, and the track was black….I had some chest pains warming up, and honestly expected to tank the race due to that. I also gave up on trying to find my hardly worn track spikes, so I wore flats. Having awoken at 4:45am, I had wanted caffeine but admittedly had it too late in the day, causing the distress. Oops. I know better. I got on the line anyway and hoped for the best. A lot of fast runners ended up showing up, so they took it out fast! My first lap was way faster than I planned, about 84 seconds, but at least that was what I used to do in high school 3200s….I was still under 6-minute pace at 800m, and my mile was 6:03ish. I was surprised how good I felt: the caffeine-induced chest pain was unnoticeable now which never happens (it always gets worse the faster I run), and my legs were not nearly as tired as I expected them to be after biking around all day. I could tell I was dehydrated, but a 3k race is hardly cause for concern, especially since I was over halfway through it. I picked it up with about 600m to go, and gave it all I had the last 200m. My official time was 11:24.0, satisfying my unspoken goal of sub-11:30. While one of my first thoughts was that I would have been faster on the day of the College Ave Mile, because of all the unfavorable circumstances of this particular day, I was happy with my time and the way I felt throughout. Now if only I had ran that time during indoor conferences in college…better late than never I suppose.

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Oh, so then I ran an 800 too. That was sort of laughable, and I didn’t really prepare too well for it (mostly because the chest tightness/acid reflux returned after the 3k…), but it was fun I guess. Anything that’s two laps can’t be too bad. I ended up running it alone, because there was a big pack of guys and one younger (really fast) girl who ran in the 2:20s, and two little kids who ran 3:30. I ran 2:40.0 even and called it a day. 800s are so short and fast…. Results from the meet are here.

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Start of the 800. The kids were intimidated I think.

Biking back home afterwards, I felt way more relaxed about, well, life, than I had before. I was in quite the funk on Monday, and I was at a loss as to what could possibly pull me out of it. Turns out throwing myself into two track races in ninety degree heat after a super long day was the answer, at least for a little while. I suppose this is proof for the argument that runners aren’t 100% sane. I wouldn’t want it any other way, though.

GOTR 5K and College Ave Mile

When I said I wanted to do crazy things this summer, I bet you didn’t think racing a mile was first on my agenda. Well, neither did I, but that was what I did on Saturday evening.

I have to back up and begin by explaining that the Girls on the Run 5k – the culminating event for the two-month program I’ve been coaching – was scheduled for Saturday morning. There was also a triathlonreally wanted to do in Staten Island that was the same day…which I didn’t realize until recently (I thought the 5k was Sunday the 8th and the tri was Sunday the 15th for some reason…turns out they were both Saturday the 7th all along). Later, I saw that the College Ave Mile was in the evening on the same day, so instead of feeling left out of the races for the weekend, I decided to take on an entirely different challenge and race the mile.

First, the Girls on the Run 5k event was great; all the girls finished and were really proud of themselves (as were their coaches).

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gotrIn the afternoon, I met up with Jen to drive up to Rutgers for the mile. I should mention that I was donning something new….My Garmin’s start/stop/up button had been working only

It just occurred to me that the date was wrong before it found satellites for the first time...this was definitely taken on Friday.

It just occurred to me that the date was wrong before it found satellites for the first time…this was definitely taken on Friday.

intermittently for the past week, and it eventually refused to work on Friday. So, I ended up trading it in for a new Forerunner 220. While it is similar to my old 210, I was still figuring things out, obviously. On my warmup I realized it was hot. And I was dehydrated. It was only a mile though, so I figured that wouldn’t affect me too much (and it didn’t). I entered in the “women’s emerging elite” heat. They announced everyone’s names at the start if they had pre-registered…but I had not. I finally got to meet Danielle (Foodosaurus Rex), and she was in my heat too. The gun went off about 15 minutes behind schedule but I never have a sense of time regarding races anyway so I didn’t mind. The route was two half-mile loops around a couple blocks on the Rutgers University College Ave campus. Because we were all lumped together, the first couple turns were sharp. We had to slow down for them, it was so tight.

The start of my race. Photo from New Brunswick Today.

The start of my race. Photo from New Brunswick Today.

I somehow managed to set my watch to auto-lap every quarter mile, but I’m not sure if the splits were as even as they would be for a track race. Regardless, it gave me an idea of if I was running too fast or slow, which was what I wanted. I went through the first quarter in 83-84, and the 800 in 2:53. Thinking that was slower than I wanted, I picked up the pacve a couple seconds on the next quarter mile. With 400-500 meters to go, I noticed two things: 1. A pack of a few girls ahead of me, and 2. that I still felt pretty good – not acceptable for a race of this length! So, I dug deep and passed the pack decisively. The thought that I could try to win the heat popped into my head, but there was a single girl still ahead of me, not within reasonable reach. We rounded the last corner, and I remembered the finish seemed not far at all from it on the previous loop, so I gave it all I had to the point where I actually felt like I was flying. My legs felt awesome, like they were operating on a motor that didn’t take physical effort. It was weird and great. Another hundred meters and they might have really felt it, but I can honestly say I am excited about how I felt at the finish, because I felt fast. I must have closed in about 80 seconds for the last quarter, give or take. My final time was 5:41.35 and I was second in the heat (the first girl ran 5:29). With a runner’s high to blame, I almost signed up for the mile relay (2 x 800m) at the end, but opted not to when I found out I’d have to pay extra for it. Thus concludes a short race recap of an equally short race – so easy when it’s only a mile long!

Finish photo. Again, I swear I'm not mad here, I am having a lot of fun! No sarcasm!

Finish photo. Again, I swear I’m not mad here, I am having a lot of fun! No sarcasm!

The elephant at the race…

As you may have noticed from the starting line photo and the meet website if you clicked the link, the event was very much dominated by a particular NJ-based club. It also attracted other clubs because it was a USATF mile championship event. I chatted with a lot of people that day and it seemed like running clubs were the primary topic of conversation. I think clubs are great, and serve as a way for post-collegiate runners of all ages to stay socially connected and compete as a team. It also can be difficult to find people to do workouts with, and I totally get that reason for joining a team. I’ve thought a lot about the idea…and ultimately, at least for right now in my life as a runner, I am satisfied with not joining a team. I personally like the freedom that comes with being non-partisan: free to do whatever run or workout I want, when I want. To choose to race certain races, or not. To wear whatever I want to for a race. To do runs with members of any club, and attend their sponsored events. I also feel like I have a lot of people I can text or something to run almost any time I feel like it, and I feel incredibly lucky to be able to say that. Maybe I will join a running club someday, who knows. I’m not close-minded about it, but right now I am happy bouncing around and enjoying running with me and for me.

Craving speed

A couple weeks ago I did a fast and simple track workout with the Intervals group (while I just finished mentioning I am not on a club, I should mention that this group is more of an eclectic group of friends in the community that come together weekly due to a shared love of running…and if I’ve ever suggested that you come to a workout, it’s because I legitimately think you’ll have fun and want to see you!): 3200, 1600, 400. It left me a little discouraged about my current level of speed, but I guess the heat and wind gusts played a factor that day more than I realized. After a great workout the next Tuesday night and then the fast finish at the mile, I changed my mind and decided that yes, I do want to get back on the track for a little more fun. So, the plan is to jump into the last all-comers track meet this month at a nearby school (hosted by, yes, yet another club) for a 3k next Tuesday evening. I want to have fun and see what I can do.

20140612_000125If you were thinking my next post would be about the joys of being a newbie cyclist…don’t worry. That is definitely coming.

 

Jerseyman Triathlon race report

jerseymanlogoOn Saturday the 17th, I ran the Jerseyman Triathlon, hosted by TMB Racing at Spruce Run Reservoir in Clinton. To say I was under-prepared for competing in a tri less than a month after Boston and so early into the “tri season” is on paper an understatement. Looking at the numbers, this race marked my: fourth swim of 2014, third ride on my new bike, first open water swim of the year, first time wearing a wetsuit, and second hard-effort run since Boston. My goal was to have fun, see where I was starting from before seriously triathlon training, and further testing out the new toy bike. And of course, I was itching to race, so I was looking forward to getting back in the competitive spirit.

I was exhausted from a week that included a lot of work, pre-dawn wake-ups, and training, but all of the above motivated me for just one more 5 AM alarm for the drive up to the park for race-day registration. In addition to learning last-minute that Brian (of biking in the shed and delicious beer adventures, who also owns this bike) was going to be there after all. I ended up seeing a familiar face (Pat of RunBucks) at the registration table, which was nice. I am very social pre-race, and when I don’t see anyone I know I get more nervous. Transition was closing sooner than I thought, so I didn’t have time to do a [running] warmup before. I decided the 24-mile bike would do the trick anyway…I should focus on putting on my wetsuit and feeling it out down at the lake before the first wave went off. The water was surprisingly not too bad, despite the rain that had occurred nonstop the previous day. Just as I was freaking out that I wouldn’t survive (this always happens to me), I found Brian – a difficult feat considering everyone was in wetsuits.

JerseyMan-Swim-Course

As pictured above, the swim course was a long rectangle that fortunately did not appear long from where I stood on the beach. Brian and I were in the same wave, since we both registered on race day…along with females 40 and over. Waves were three minutes apart and there were seven or so of them, so by the time I began I was already dry again after my initial dip in the water. Fun fact: in all of my tris (three…), my wave has always been assigned white caps. How boring is that? Anyway. It was my first time running into the water for the start, but it was sort of fun. Right before I entered the water, I saw Pat, who said, “Have fun,” probably after realizing how nervous I looked. I lost some time at first because I panicked over the neck of my wetsuit…once horizontal in the water, it felt like it was strangling me. I cursed myself for not getting up early the day before and testing it out in the pool like I’d planned. I told myself, you’re just out for a swim. To have fun. That calmed me down immensely, and I got on with it. The wave of people was much smaller than I’m used to, which was so nice. The turn buoy never seemed too far away, and I was there before I knew it. I found myself a “lane,” albeit a but farther over from the buoys, to get out of everyone’s way and make up some ground. There, I was able to keep my head down more and speed up a lot. This was such a good idea, I thought. This is really fun. My back started to spaz out towards the end from only breathing to the right (I was trying to see the buoys and not go off course), but I made it to the beach and it felt okay.

The first transition involved running over the beach, on some concrete path, over the parking lot, and into the transition area. I felt a little dizzy, and managed to accidentally rip part of my bib off of the shirt I’d pinned it on. Fail. I wasted time pinning it back on, and then more time shoving Shot Bloks into my shorts pocket, since I don’t have a bag on the front of my bike and didn’t want to drag the Bloks through the water with me, obviously. I knew T1 was taking too long, but…ugh. I got through it, and got on my bike.

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I wasn’t sure what my pacing plan was for the bike. I hate holding back in a race situation, but I knew this was 24 miles of rolling hills. I wouldn’t say I “held back” at any point exactly, but first of all, I was still getting used to my new bike and the gears and whatnot, and second, I’m just not in tune with what that means yet like I am with running. I also had no bike computer or anything on the bike, and was saving my Garmin to use for the run, so I didn’t know how fast I was going at any point, or what mile I was on. The bike course was definitely challenging, but also very scenic, which was a plus!

bikecourse

I had all the Shot Bloks periodically except for two, because they were starting to make me feel sick and I’d choose less energy over feeling sick on the run any day. I went through the second transition in less than a minute, and headed out to hunt people down. This is my absolute favorite part of the tri. My only complaint/worry was that I could not feel my feet at all. I hadn’t been able to feel them on the entire ride either – I guess they were numb from the water and never warmed up since they weren’t getting much blood flow on the bike. It was the weirdest feeling, and I was concerned that I would end up injuring them, from stepping wrong and not feeling it at the time…like maybe my tendons and muscles wouldn’t support them or something. A strange thing to think about mid-race….The run course was fairly flat, with a slight uphill on a trail at the beginning. It was an out-and-back to the boat launch on the paved paths on the park. We ran along the beach that we had started the race on, which was cool. I passed Brian and Joe when they were on their way to the finish and I was heading out. I kept waiting to feel tired and slow down, but I was very comfortable at 6:40-6:50 the entire time (except for the numb feet…). Four miles felt incredibly short, mentally. After the part along the beach, there was the same path up to the parking lot that was part of T1. I saw a woman ahead of me. I could see from her bodymarking that she was 25, so, just shy of my age group. I debated if I was too tired to try to catch her anyway…I thought of Boston, and how I was definitely nowhere near that level of fatigue, then went for it. This happened just as we entered the parking lot area, and I could hear people I knew who had finished cheering me on. There was another woman just ahead, so I sprinted after her and caught her too. The finish line was at a strange angle – I knew it couldn’t be over just yet – and sure enough, we had to run down and turn around at a cone before heading straight toward the finish line. This is hard to explain, but basically, the cone thing was such a tease. Regardless, I was pleased with the final push I gave at the end. I forgot to stop my watch right away, but the splits for four miles I have from my Garmin were: 6:49, 6:43, 6:47, 6:25.

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The results…

A triathlon isn’t really over until the results are published. That’s when you can over-analyze everything for days and figure out how you really did….

Overall: 2:12:51 Place: 114/240 
Swim: 18:26 Pace: 1:45 Place: 148 
T1: 3:05 Place: 175 
Bike: 1:23:30 Speed: 17.2 Place: 145 
T2: 0:54 Place: 56 
Run: 26:56 Pace: 6:44 Place: 23 
F20-24: 1st

Random thoughts: There is definitely room for improvement on the bike. No one who finished ahead of me overall had a slower time than me on the bike. I am very happy with the run. I’ll have to figure out how to make my feet not go numb in the future, but otherwise I ran faster than I thought I could after a hilly 24 mile bike. I should probably work on my 10k PR now….I also had the fastest female run split (by a second). T1 was worse than I remembered. Overall, I had so much fun in this race despite not being totally prepared and despite what my race pictures would suggest. Sorry I look angry when I race, I’m really just having a great time, I swear. I need to pick my next tri now, since I now have a conflict with the one in a couple weeks I really wanted to do…I’ve definitely got the fever. Now, it’s time to ride.

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2014, summer of crazy?

The first weekend after running the Boston Marathon was spent learning that marathoners are not, contrary to popular belief, the craziest people out there. This experience (I’ll explain, don’t worry) led me to want to, well, do some crazier things. Because, quite frankly, why not? The body is capable of some pretty cool things, and there aren’t two feet of snow on the streets and trails anymore, so there’s really no excuse not to try.

That weekend, I went to two nights of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour at Princeton University. I watched the videos in awe as people climbed ridiculous rocky peaks, biked hundreds of miles a day, and made a house out of trash and wood on a deserted beach. Since I can’t really describe everything, here is a trailer:

 

After the marathon, I found myself kind of regretting that I hadn’t raced more this spring. I only ran the E. Murray Todd Half Marathon in March, and then just trained hard. I think right now I would be capable of training for PRs in every distance, though, so that thought makes me want to go ahead and do it, and have fun in the process. It works out well that I am doing a half ironman in September, given this state of mind, I suppose.

I started putting this plan into action by racing a triathlon today, when, logically, I was way underprepared. But you know what? Sometime early on, during the swim, I took a stroke and thought to myself, this was such a good idea. I can’t wait to write about how it went soon. 🙂

I might as well reveal that this beauty is now mine as of Monday:

10259868_10152428575758834_6709899225870745370_n…and now has nearly 60 miles on it.

 

2014 Boston Marathon Race Report

While my quads have finally began to feel like they didn’t run a marathon less than two weeks ago, I still hold all the memories of my first Boston Marathon on April 21, 2014 as if they were brand new. So without further ado…here’s how it went.

Race morning proceeded without a hitch. I arrived in Boston on Saturday, and it was nice to have an extra whole day to chill, since Saturday involved a lot of trains and walking, but it was starting to feel like a big waiting game – I wanted to get on with it! There was a free shuttle for runners from the hotel in Quincy to Boston Common. We all chatted off our nerves, and it was then that I received my first “small world moment” (of several) that day: two men on my van were members of the Raritan Valley Road Runners (somewhat local club) in New Jersey! This whole morning, pre-race, felt like I made several good friends only to walk off and not see them again: in bathroom lines, on the van, in Athlete’s Village, etc. I suppose that’s just a reflection of how friendly runners are, and the spirit we all shared toward this incredible day. Once at Boston Common, I found my friend Melissa, who had told me she’d be wearing a white 761496-1003-0022ssweatshirt. Yeah, I have skills like that, apparently. We boarded a bus together, where we shared stories with excitement and tried not to think about how we were a little too hydrated at the time. Athlete’s Village was just as epic as I’d imagined – hardly room to walk, with runners spread out on blankets and clothes all over the grass, a big white tent with hardly anyone underneath because the sun felt nice at the time, and porta-potties for days lining the sides of the huge area. In one bathroom line I spotted a friend I’d worked with at a cross country camp, here for the first time as well (she went on to run 3:07:04!), and in another I chatted it up with some strangers. As we were being called out of the Village by wave and corral, I started to look for my aunt after ditching my outer clothes, since we were only one corral apart. Sure enough, as was the pattern that day, I found her as soon as I started looking. We took the long walk to the starting line together, and it was really great to be able to wish each other good luck as we finally parted ways. As we were walking, I heard someone say my name. I turned around to see Lauren, who I had just been talking about because she helped me so much, who had guided me through 13 miles of the New Jersey Marathon last year! What a crazy thing – to find her among all these people, walking to the starting line (I ended up seeing her again around 10k I think)! I couldn’t help but be overcome by the magic surrounding this race at that moment. It was incredible.

Wave two took off, and my corral (5) ended up crossing the line about four minutes later. I focused on taking it all in and being really comfortable – hardly working – for the first six or seven miles. I could see why it was easier said than done  – here were all these people in all these little towns, shoulder to shoulder on the curb, shouting for thirty thousand plus runners traversing through their neighborhoods, holding signs and clanging bells. Sitting on roofs, blasting music, and having parties. We were the show. How cool is that? I think I did a pretty good job of not working much yet, I felt really relaxed…though I realized it was a bit warm for my liking. Miles 1-6, Hopkinton & Ashland: 7:40, 7:38, 7:32, 7:33, 7:42, 7:32. 

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So…I thought this was 15k until I bought the photo and zoomed in to see the gel I took at mile 19. Who knew I was still happy then?

Once I got through 10k, I felt things somewhat level out; that is, I didn’t feel like I was doing downhill as much and I could open up a little more if it still felt easy. So I did. I took half of a Gu at mile 7 and finished it at the mile 8 water stop. Mile 7 was also the first water stop where I had water. The 15k had a timing mat and a camera, and was positioned right by a big body of water, which was nice. Every time I went over a timing mat I thought of all the people tracking me, and it made me stay strong, and also excited that things seemed to be going well. Excited for the rest of the race, too. Around mile 12 we passed a sign that said Entering Wellesley, and I thought immediately to keep an eye out for my college cross country and track coach, who had recently moved to the Boston area and was coaching the teams at Wellesley College. Sure enough, as soon as I thought to look for him, I saw him and his family cheering on the right side of the road. I yelled his name and waved, and he and his wife cheered back! that gave me an extra boost, just thinking back on how I was constantly injured in college and now I’m here, running the Boston Marathon and feeling strong and healthy. I honestly don’t know if I would have thought I’d be here, two or three years prior. I wanted to, yes, but like all other running goals of mine from college, it seemed but a dream. I think Wellesley might have been one of my favorite parts of the entire marathon. Not just for the entertaining signs along the road, i.e., all the reasons the runners should consider kissing the girls, but it was also when I started feeling even better. It was also in the shade, I realized later. It was a sunny day, and while it wasn’t “hot” by any means…after all the cold long runs I did this winter and spring, it certainly started to feel quite balmy as the race went on. Miles 7-12, Framingham & Wellesley: 7:26, 7:28, 7:28, 7:30, 7:29, 7:21. 

I passed through the half marathon in 1:39:08, which I was content with. I knew it was far from being the real “halfway point” of the 761535-1313-0050srace, so I chose not to think of it like it was. I did another “Gu mile” from 13 to 14. By mile 15, I was starting to feel that awful feeling I’d experienced on every long run that I was really, really hoping to avoid during the race…the having-to-use-a-bathroom feeling. By mile 16, it was really bad. I felt really good otherwise, and so I weighed by options. I decided I would stop (and I really promised myself I wouldn’t) if and only if 1. if it would allow me to actually enjoy the rest of the race and run faster later, 2. it would only take seconds, and 3. if it wasn’t out of my way and there was no one in a porta-potty when I approached it. Mile 16 was a big downhill I didn’t anticipate, and because I was thinking so much about my emergency bathroom plan and not my pace, I dropped a 7:16. During mile 17, I spotted my opportunity in the distance and knew that I had just accidentally put some seconds in the bank anyway…so I took it. I got right back on pace and prayed that I didn’t loose too much time. I’m still not positive how long I was in there, but I ran a 7:44 17th mile, so I’m guessing twenty seconds tops. I’m pretty impressed with that, just saying…so it was probably worth it. Miles 13-18, Wellesley Hills, Woodland: 7:20, 7:25, 7:26, 7:16, 7:44 (bathroom!), 7:30.

I knew the Newton hills were coming, and all I could do was stay relaxed and hope that all the hills I did on every single long run would get me through them in one piece. The PowerGel station was during mile 17, but I didn’t want to take one just yet. I grabbed a vanilla gel and held it until well into mile 18. I was heating up quickly and the last thing I really wanted was to put anything sticky and sweet into my mouth. But I knew I should, because two gels probably would not be enough for the rest of the race. I sucked it up and ate it between miles 18 and 19, but I might have left some in there before tossing it aside at some point during mile 20. I had started taking some Gatorade too after the half marathon mark, I think. I knew my family would be at a point near the closest T station to mile 21, so I used that to get through this stretch mentally. The strangest thing happened as I approached this point…the thought that it was almost over popped into my head. Months and months of training and anticipating, and mile 21 was upon me already. Wow. Heartbreak Hill, as a standalone hill, is not that bad. Throw it into any of my long runs this year, and it would not be the toughest hill. Its location in the marathon is pretty cruel, however. I didn’t slow down horribly on it, but the main issue I had with it was its aftereffects…. Miles 19-22, Newton: 7:29, 7:40, 7:59, 7:26. 

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Charging up Heartbreak as best I could….

I thought I bounced back well and would feel fine, avoid the wall and such, since I ran 7:26 for the 22nd mile. Little did I know, sufferfest awaited me, in the form of a quad-bonking zombie march down Beacon Street. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, even on paper. But, it felt bad. Worse than anything I’ve ever felt on a run. I was also mentally concerned because I really didn’t think this would happen to me. I thought I did everything right! Trained my quads to be as strong as possible, went out easy, tried to be light on my feet on the downhills. Everything! Why did I still feel like this?! I felt like I had no control over my pace, but if I did, I would have been nervous to try to go any faster in fear of my quads just totally shutting down on me. I couldn’t walk. It would have been so, so easy to stop and walk. I already felt like I was hardly moving. But I couldn’t. I had to just keep moving. If this was the pace that would allow me to do so, I needed to just do it. Just get there. I tried embracing the cheers from the people yelling my name, which I wrote on my arm for this exact purpose. I smiled inside when I saw a guy holding up a sign that said, “MEB WON.” I watched the people encourage the physically impaired athletes rolling alongside me in their chairs. Tried to soak it all in. To keep moving forward. As I went up and over the overpass by Fenway I had walked over many times while cheering the past couple years, I tried to think about how much I wanted to be out here running in years past, how I couldn’t wait for my turn. And about the thousands of people to whom running Boston only seems like a dream right now. And I kept going, because I know that they wouldn’t want me to stop.

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Zombie march.

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I saw a turn up ahead, and knew it was the turn onto Hereford. Almost there. The roaring crowds must have injected some more resistance to lactic acid in my quads, because I did apparently manage to pick up my pace as I turned right onto Hereford and left onto Boylston. I looked up to see it up ahead at last, the finish. It seemed far away but I kept my head up the whole time, for the first time since before that awful feeling overcame me. While it seemed far, I knew this moment, the time spent here on the final straightaway, was not a moment to just get through, but rather to live out as best I could. I crossed the line with a smile, or at least, what seemed like a smile in my mind. Miles 23-26.2, Chestnut Hill, Beacon Street, BOSTON: 7:54, 8:18, 8:23, 8:16, 3:09 (last 0.43).

Official time: 3:21:41.

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Seeing the finish line for the first time.

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anddddd done.

After the finish line, I actually never felt so bad in my life. My body hated me in the most sincere way. However, I, like everyone else around me, embraced the unique, awful post-marathon feeling with each and every curb and crowded side street. I’ll spare the details.

I’ve had some time to process the race and put into words how I feel about it. Obviously, my goal was to run under 3:20, and I didn’t do that. I was on pace for 3:18 through 30k. I think I was in shape to run a sub-3:20 marathon in general; I know I was. Possibly 3:16-17. But not at Boston. I definitely underestimated the effect that the downhills would have on the last few miles – because honestly, who does a point-to-point 20+ miler in training with the first half all downhill to practice getting through this feeling? I don’t even know where I would do something like that. Which brings me to my next point: I really do think I ran a smart race. There isn’t anything I would change about my splits for the entire race before that bonk. This is slightly concerning, since I don’t know what to do to avoid it happening on that course again. I do have a year to figure it out, though….In the meantime, yes, I am happy with a PR, and I am also glad that I didn’t lose that much time during those last three to four miles (about three minutes I’d say). It definitely could’ve been worse. In the end, I’m 100% happy to have been able to run the 2014 Boston Marathon. In 2012, I ran five miles on the sidewalks along the course while spectating. I was getting over an ITB injury and that was my longest run since coming back. At one point, there was a guy who yelled at me, “next year!” referring to me actually running Boston the following year. I smiled and gave a thumbs up. In my mind, I said, “2014,” because I knew realistically that was my plan. I am so grateful that it actually happened: in 2014, I was running toward the city, on the roads, with over 30,000 other people.

I’ll conclude the “report” in pictures…

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the final countdown…

boston3daysGiven that I am leaving for Boston tomorrow morning and hope to get in a shakeout run before I leave, sleeping should really come before writing right now, but I would be remiss if I didn’t capture some of my excitement in these final days before the Big Day in writing.

I’ve been insanely busy and haven’t had time to share my awesome 19-miler last Sunday (the 6th): basically, I ran midday to mimic potential warm and sunny weather (okay, I just wanted to sleep in because it was the one day that week I could…), and decided that my final [very] long run would have to go through downtown Hopewell. I altered the route so that I would get a gradual uphill rather than downhill on Crusher Rd., a road that far exceeded my expectations. Having only remembered being on it in a car at night, I had no idea what beautiful views awaited me. Also on the run, I learned of a new bike shop opening soon in Hopewell called Sourland Cycle, and I found the exact location of a cool quarry-turned-swim club my college team had visited during preseason (aptly named the Quarry Swim Club). I consumed two Tri Berry Gus and 12 ounces of water on this run, and the method seemed to do me well. Farewell, Shot Bloks. Gels were not the cause of my unusual stomach distress, and therefore I will take them during Boston because they are way easier to carry. I averaged 7:47 for the hilly 19 miles, my fastest average yet this spring. I was pretty pleased with that, especially the fact that I finished the last couple miles at 7:28.

The weekly elevation check-in....

The weekly elevation check-in…I honestly think Garmin went a little crazy this day though, so there may be a couple errors.

While I am on the subject of hills, I found a site that previews what some of the vendors will have to offer at the expo, and apparently Brooks is selling THIS beauty:

Brooks-Boston-Marathon-Shirt_2I may just have to purchase it. The pointing finger is quite an open-ended question, however: at first glance, it seems like the statement refers to the one wearing the shirt…but is it really for a girl who convinces her running buddies (running/standing next to her) that hills are awesome as well? Both sound good to me. Expect me to wear this whenever I want to intimidate a new running partner (just kidding).

“Taper” week 1: I did one final hard workout last Thursday the 10th, because I couldn’t bear to start my taper in earnest until the weekend before….I warmed up two miles and did a five mile tempo, and out-and-back on the towpath. The intention was to keep it flat and even, but the wind coming off the lake had other plans. I hard to work much harder when I turned around after 2.5 miles to keep the same pace. Splits: 6:43, 6:40, 6:54, 6:52, 6:45 (average = 6:47). What was most interesting about the entire run was that I averaged 7:32 on my warmup and 7:24 on my two-mile cooldown, which was uphill, and I felt like I was taking it really easy after the tempo effort. Huh. I’ll take it. The next day I did a recovery trail run without my Garmin. I fell in a stream. Not going to lie, it was refreshing. I’m weird. This weekend was a twelve-miler with the usual hills…while it felt too warm (it was 64) and somewhat tiring, it felt really short, so that was a good sign.

Taper week 2: I was a good girl this week, in the world of tapering. Shocker! It helped to be working on my feet 50+ hours…I didn’t feel like running much. I did a really easy 6.5 miles Tuesday afternoon and then some pickups yesterday which felt amazing and left me with 5.3 miles at an average of 7:18.

A year since 4/15/13: Tuesday was an emotional day. All the news reports and the coverage on the memorial ceremonies and such on Boylston Street just brought back memories of last year: how I saw it everywhere I went, and how everyone asked me where I was, what I heard, what I did, how I felt. How I felt the need to read everything about it for some reason, and how I felt unsafe on the crowded streets of my town for a couple weeks. Now that it feels more like springtime here in New Jersey, the memories of those feelings post-Boston are easier to recall and feel again, and that’s a little hard to think about. I’d reflect more, but instead I’ll announce that on this past Tuesday, my aunt Diane and I ended up sharing our experiences last year and our thoughts on running this year with a reporter for CBS Philly, and the article will be run tomorrow (Saturday)! I’ll post a link via some means of social media, but for now I’ll direct you there for what I have to say about all that.

BOSTON 2014: I am so, so, so excited. All I’m nervous about is logistical stuff about race day. I trust that everything I’ve done from January 1 until now has 100% prepared me for this race. I hadn’t decided yet, going into this post, if I wanted to publicly share my specific goals. I probably wrote a long time ago that I definitely want to break 3:20, but that’s old news now. I’ve started to have some more confidence that I can actually surprise myself even more, and so I think I’m just going to leave it at that. I do have a plan, but the plan mostly entails responding to the race itself – the course, my body, the energy, the crowds, the magic. For some reason I’m really not stressing over it. So, track me to see what happens! I am Bib # 13857 (emphasis on my lucky 13!), and for text alerts, text my number to 345678.

On that note, I should stop listening to my “Boston Pump Up” playlist so I can actually go to sleep.

Tale of two workouts: lemonade & an audience

During what was probably simultaneously the busiest, hardest, and generally most awesome week of my training thus far, the week that just ended, I ended up doing two workouts. I  mentioned two posts ago that I was leaving to do the “Michigan workout.” Well, no such luck. For the second year in a row, something went wrong and I didn’t end up doing it, meaning I haven’t actually done the workout since March 2011. Someday. I swear. Anyway, it wasn’t the end of the world. The track area was completely occupied because of a lacrosse game, and there was too much traffic to drive to another track. I had also already warmed up two miles to the track. I took control over the situation (there was a group of four) and decided we should do mile repeats on the neighboring roads instead. We did a trial loop together to figure out a good mile to use, and luckily got it on the first try (my sense of distance is getting good, what can I say). We basically just ran until our watches said 1.00 anyway, because we were all wearing GPS watches. We alternated directions and there were rolling hills the whole time, especially during the mile where I didn’t make a turn and improvised. Yeah that’s right, I got lost and made up the loop myself. It happens. I could tell I felt pretty tired though, almost moreso than after the 21-miler the week before (I only did 16.5 Sunday), so I chose to just do four repeats and then cool down two miles: 6:17, 6:31 (the one I accidentally made super hilly…), 6:21, 6:28. It was hard to compare the effort to track times, but I’d say I would have been hitting 6:08-6:14 if I had been on a track. Overall I finished feeling like I gave a pretty good effort but felt a bit flat. Being my typical corny self post-workout, I exclaimed that these were the “lemonade miles,” because we made lemonade out of lemons (the lacrosse players occupying the track). Ha, ha, ha.

 YASSO 800s

I don’t know where the fatigue went from Tuesday’s workout, but it was gone by Wednesday night and I was itching to run so much that I did a rare after-work run in the dark around 8:00pm, averaging 7:36 and feeling smooth. Maybe I was partially just mad that my bike tube was flat when I went to ride it in the morning. ( 😦 ) Regardless, the week was not over yet. Friday, I had a marathon of a day that included a 6AM-12PM work shift at one place and a 3PM-7PM shift at the other, giving me less than three hours – more like less than two – to do something worthwhile, running-related. Not to nap, who would think of that idea?

I was torn between a six-mile tempo on the towpath at 6:35-6:45 pace or Yasso 800s. Then on Wednesday night, I saw online that Jenny had beasted her Yasso 800s and it inspired me so much that I knew I had to choose them for my workout too. I got excited to see how my times this year would compare to last year. It was a wet and windy afternoon. I headed to the University track having recently remembered that there was an evening track meet there. A few teams had already arrived, and it looked like people were doing drills. Not many, though. Normally I would leave because I a.) don’t like to be in anyone’s way, I really should work on that because sometimes I don’t even recognize my own rights to be places/etc., and b.) I would hate it  if a coach told me to get off the track mid-workout…especially during Yassos, when I would not be stopping at all. Luckily, I took the risk and everything was totally fine. The meet didn’t start for several more hours, and hardly anyone was running on the track for more than 100 meters, and not even in lane one. Phew (I can only make lemonade so many times in one week).

Last year, I averaged 3:22 or 3:23. I remember there were a couple times I stopped after a hard 800. I was not feeling mentally 100% that day. This year, I did not stop once, or even want to. I know there are different versions of Yassos out there, so for clarity, I did 8 x 800m with 200m recoveries at a not-super-slow pace. I could have done 10 but I was short on time and I thought 8 was sufficient since I did the mile repeats two days before. The results….

So, I averaged ~6:24 pace (I could’ve sworn I calculated a 3:10 average, oops) for the 800s and 8:01 pace for the 200m recoveries, which I consider “normal pace.” I’m pretty sure I can credit the latter faster-than-“recovery” pace to the fact that 1.) There were a few dozen people around me watching, and if I ran them really slow I’d look lame for using the track if someone didn’t see me do the fast portions, and 2.) I was afraid I’d get asked to leave at any moment and wanted to get the workout done as quickly as possible without cutting it short. Sounds ridiculous I know, but hey – there is apparently something to be said for having an audience (of probably very good athletes) during a workout! Overall, it went by really quickly and I felt really good throughout. There was a strong headwind on the backstretch, but just as I made the turn after, I was almost being pushed by the wind, so it was both my friend and foe. While I’m not one to say that Yasso 800 times = Boston times 100%, it was a good workout regardless and it made me more confident in the way any good workout does. One more stat that’s pretty cool to think about: the workout totaled (I know Garmins are a little off on the track, but whatever) 5.02 miles in 33:09, 6:37 average pace. It might be fun to run one of the big five-mile races at the shore early this summer….

Girls on the Run!

The next day was my first day coaching Girls on the Run! It was pretty awesome. The highlight was a literal goose chase: a dog jumped in the pond to chase a swimming goose, and the girls freaked out and started sprinting the path around the pond chanting, “get the goose!” At this rate, they are going to learn the importance of pacing a lot earlier than is in their curriculum. The incident channeled my inner 9-year-old, because I thought it was just as hilarious as they did and proceeded to tell friends about it as I’m sure they did (and, I just told you all now…). I think it will be an interesting adventure for both me and the girls. 🙂

I forgot to take a picture (there are pretty yellow flowers among the brown branches on the little island!), but here's one of the pond we run around (also for Intervals!).

I forgot to take a picture (there are pretty yellow flowers among the brown branches on the little island!), but here’s one of the pond we run around (also for Intervals!).

Next, a recap of my final [really long] long run before Boston on Sunday, a day that ended up having an itinerary mimicking those in my book of hypothetical Best Days Ever (which only exists in my head as of now, if you were wondering).

Through the woods and over the river, year two

A couple weekends back, I did my longest training run to date: 21 miles from Montgomery to New Hope. Last winter, I did a shortened version, but this year it fell perfectly on my calendar and I did the whole thing. I am not kidding when I say (and I said this during the last couple miles and everyone agreed, so it’s not hindsight speaking) it felt like six miles. Never before had a run of such a great length felt so short. I ran with Kate and Sarah, and we caught up and exchanged stories and chatted the whole time. Martin and Kate’s husband Nick had driven to Lambertville (across the river from New Hope, technically our “finish line”) and then ran back on the route until they found us and turned around to run with us into town. The landmarks we passed on the run, which have become iconic to the runners who have participated in this run several times, were no less exciting to pass this time around, and also made the run fly by. It felt so good, and so easy, that I forgot to take the Gu that I had brought (I had Clif Shot Bloks though). I’ll take that as a good sign. Most consider the route to be hilly, but compared to all the ups and downs I’ve done on every other long run this year, it was actually easier. There was a gradual up – then several miles – and then a steep down, basically.

Me, Sarah, and Kate, immediately after finishing the run. Note the Welcome to Pennsylvania sign.

After touching ground on the PA side and seeing my watch hit 21 miles, we stopped, snapped some pictures, and walked back over to New Jersey. Recoverosas at Full Moon Cafe were in order, as well as eggs and the like. For being called Full Moon Cafe, there is a lot of half moon decor. Just saying. They do have specials on every full moon night though, which is pretty cool.

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Recoverosas!

While standing up and walking to the car after our meal did not feel as good as walking back over the bridge right after finishing the run, I must say that I felt pretty darn good after this run. Recovery felt 100% within a couple days, and while I was still a bit tired, I even did the weekly intervals workout two nights later.

Boston is in thirteen days! I have many more training updates to share, since this run to PA was a long time ago (or so it feels – it’s even “warm” now!). Stay tuned for all sorts of runners-high-induced banter.

Run the Edge meets Princeton & life updates!

runtheedgeLast weekend was a “Weekend with a capital W,” as I like to say (mostly to myself…). As I mentioned in my last post many days ago, it kicked off with dinner and drinks with Adam Goucher and Tim Catalano. During dinner we mostly talked about food and the YMCA, since YMCA staff members who were helping organize the event were there. I hardly got to talk with the guys then, so I was pleased that they wanted to go out for drinks to chat some more after dinner. We were joined by another one of their former Colorado teammates (and a customer of mine…and the husband of the lovely, inspiring Oiselle bird Jen) who lives in the area, and the stories and laughter that ensued was quite the experience! It was really cool to just be sitting there chatting about running and everything over beers, right in Princeton. Both Adam and Tim were really chill guys – if you ever get a chance to meet them, take it!

20140321_223108Unfortunately, as I mentioned, I was unable to attend the event for which they actually traveled to Princeton the following morning. I really wish I could have gone, or at least heard about it from one of my coworkers (the store was so busy no one ended up being able to sneak out) so I could report on it as well! I got there at the tail end of everything after the CPR class I had to attend about 25 minutes away, but it was wrapping up. If you are from the Princeton area, I hope you were able to attend! I am definitely adding Running the Edge to my list of running-related books I must read ASAP, especially now!

On a related note, a few life updates that will help explain things better…might as well share them here since we all know I won’t have time to dedicate two whole posts to them. I took the CPR course Saturday the 22nd (and it had to be on that day) for two reasons: First, I am coaching Girls on the Run this spring! I went to training this past Saturday, and I have a lot more reading to do to prepare, but it starts this Saturday and I am really excited! I think it will be a great experience. I love helping young girls in that age range with shoes when they come in the store, and so I think it will bee really fun and rewarding to become a good influence in their lives even more!

logo_girlsontherunWhy do I still have a ton of preparing and reading to do? Because…I started a new job last week! I am now working part-time as a Rehab Aide at a nearby physical therapy clinic. After what seemed like the longest process ever of orientations and physical appointments up at the affiliated hospital a half hour away (now that I hardly drive I hate it!), I am finally on the schedule and working at the clinic. I actually opened the building all by myself today before 6:00 AM. So, I’ve been pretty exhausted! I’m still working at the store, so don’t worry…the ultimate shoenerd remains the voice behind this blog. 🙂

I was going to write all about my awesome point-to-point 21-miler to PA last Sunday (we’re going way back to the 23rd now…) and other thoughts on Boston training, but I’ll leave that for next time. I’m about to run off to do one of the hardest workouts in my training cycle (deep breaths, deep breaths…don’t get yourself sick...), the “Michigan”, which still scares me even though I’m not on a college team anymore.

See you on the other side!