Monday, November 12, 2018

Don't Fall, Just Run 5k, Bridgewater, NJ. 11/10/18

Oh, what a journey. You can skip down to the section about Today's Race if you just want to read about that. But I use this as my journal so I want to share some thoughts about what happened first. 

I have been running since I was 9 years old. Never have I had an injury that has lasted this long. In fact, I am still not even 100% sure what it is.  After going to Physical Therapy until my insurance refused to continue to pay for sessions, I was diagnosed with a myriad of problems all working together to keep me from training and racing. 

Initially, it was clear I had severe bursitis. Once that started to resolve, I was left with such significant hamstring weakness (could not move even 5lbs of weight) that a tear of the lateral hamstring was diagnosed. Based upon my radiating pain (down to my ankle at times) and limited to my ROM as well, sciatic impingement was also diagnosed. 

Today it has been more than 6 months and I still feel pain when moving in just a few specific ways that really challenge the flexibility of my hamstring. I can't lift as much with my left as I can with my right still.  I can do more than I could months ago.  For there to be pain this long after an injury is baffling. It is also baffling that running slow and flat did ever and does not hurt or leave me in pain later. Sitting, Bending, Lifting, Stretching, or trying to up the pace my left leg was excruciating. Jogging was not a problem.  

I did a lot of jogging over the last 6 months. I also did a lot of hiking and that seemed to help.  I also joined a gym and started doing 2-hour full body strength training sessions 3 times per week where I included all the personalized exercises my PT assigned for me.  I have relearned how much I LOVE the gym.  

So What Happened?  I suspect Overuse from a marathon that was very hard on my body, and then one week later I raced a Master's Women's Team Championship 10k race before I was actually healed from the Marathon. I felt obligated to show up to run for my road racing team. and I felt obligated to run as fast as I could. I ran HARD that day and had a great result, but I left that race feeling worse than after the marathon. Any other race effort, I would have just slowed down if I felt something was wrong, but when racing for a team, I felt that I needed to power through. 

Still, I did not actually realize how bad the inflammation and injury was. During the week I took training so easy and stuck to the flat bouncy treadmill. I felt the hamstring was much improved by that Friday and there was a local 5k I wanted to try to run that weekend, which ended up being the last race I ran before this one. I ran an 8M warm-up, felt a little stiffer than I would have liked to feel, but I was not in pain. I didn't even think about not racing. I just assumed I would run slow if something was too tight. BUT the race has a weird false-start, followed by too fast of a  restart before runners were back behind the line.  As I was walking backward to the get back behind the start, the started yells "GO!" and the rapid shift from stepping backward to then trying to push off forward with my left leg, was the final straw.  Again, I did not recognize the severity of the problem until after the run when I stopped and then tried to start my cool down.  I just couldn't run without pain by then. The damage was done.   

So again what happened? I broke a basic rule, week after week after week... I failed to listen to my body and I ran when I was in actual pain but I just didn't recognize it as pain.  I should have been more conservative. I know myself better. But I wanted to get myself back on track. I wanted to race hard in the Fall.  I wanted to resume my training I tend to have trouble recognizing pain. I broke my arm when I was about 6 years old and went to gymnastics class for a full week (complaining only that it hurt to twist my arm it into my leotard) before we realized it was actually broken and I needed in a cast. I used to have 13 piercing (just ears) but all of those except the first two, I just pierced myself with a stud, no ice, whenever I felt like I wanted another piercing and it would feel just a little sore but not painful. Once, I had a needle biopsy on my thyroid without any Novacane. Five times in a row this doctor shoved a needle into my neck without a numbing agent and all I could do was ask him if he was trying to save some money. To which he told to me "Cut it out, it is a thin needle!" (He was correct. It was and it really didn't hurt). 

So maybe what others would feel as pain I register as tightness? This is scary.  This makes me not trust my own judgment. As a result, I have spent the last 6 months missing a part of my soul because I have been too afraid to push myself. I did a LOT of damage and I needed those months to ensure that when I did try to run fast again, I would not retear my hamstring and have to start healing all over again.

This setback was hard. I dropped from 3 marathons. I was hoping to run a BQ at one of those races. For the first year of my life as a marathoner, I have not qualified for Boston. (I have mixed feelings about this. My brain needs a rest from the stress of Boston for me. I feel a sense of freedom now that I haven't felt since I raced the year of the bombings.  A break from the race will be good for me.)

Now for Today's Race: 

When I tried to restart my training in Spring 2019, I ran a "Check-In" 5k in 7:24 pace. That day back in March felt very hard and I felt sluggish. I expected the same feeling for this race, and because I am not actually back to 100%, I expected to be slower.  So for today’s race, I set a soft goal to just try to break 7:30, but My Job for this race was to find the fastest pace I felt was sustainable, just try to hold a "fast" pace for the entire way without hitting the wall or getting hurt.  

Today I did my job and it felt wonderful at the end but I was very worried about racing from the start. 

During my warm-up, I felt heavy, slow, and very concerned that this would a very very bad decision. I had a low sense of self-efficacy during those warm-up miles. I was afraid I would retear my hamstring. But training was going well lately and I have done some speed sessions at a fast pace.  I knew I needed just to run something to regain a realistic perspective. My last race was hard on my body and soul.  This race, if I do well, could reset my psyche.

This race was very small. But I wasn't racing people. I was there to challenge myself. I ran by myself the entire way, with 4 guys pulling ahead of me. I started entirely too fast and by 0.1M I was running 5:00 pace! I got swept away with the lead guy at first who ran a 16:39.  It took me most of M1 to burn off that speed and get down to a pace I felt I could hold for 20 minutes. To be honest, when I glanced down and saw how fast I was moving, my self-efficacy skyrocketed! "OMG, I CAN run! I can run FAST and my butt is OK!  I got this... now slow the F' down!'   M1 - 6:44

And then we turned into the wind, ugh. About halfway into Mile 2, despite the wind, I continued to feel strong and my confidence builds. "Ok, I can do this. I AM doing this!" A few spectators cheered us on and one confirmed that I was the First Female. This triggered me to think about placement. I wasn’t sure where the second place female was and I surely not going to look. Instead, I imagined she was chasing me and I ran as if there was someone right on my heels. 

In the middle of Mile 2, I start to realize I may actually win this race but immediately shook that thought away. "Stop that! Who cares what place you are in? This is not competitive! Your job is to manage your pacing today. Your job is to not fade at the end. Your job is to not get hurt. Your job is to run the mile you are in and stay focused on the now. It is way too early to think about the finish. Save that type of thinking for later." And I refocused on my pacing and effort. M2- 6:53 (I am ok with this fade because the mile was into the wind. My effort was even and I don't feel like I was getting myself into a hole I could not get out of)

With just 1.1M left, we turn out of the headwind and this helps. I started to feel strong again. I was still running away from my imaginary competitor, running as fast as I could run, pushing myself to keep the pace and effort as even as I could. 

And then I found myself thinking about a few people who love me and believe in me and how I know they will understand why running this race this well is a big deal for me.  And I thought about how many single leg squats I have done in the last month and how that has to mean something.  M3 - 6:48

As we turned back INTO the wind for the last 0.1(3) miles, I tried to find a kick but I felt I  was at my red line. I was not fading but I had no other gears. This was ok. Admittedly, I lost a little motivation to really dig deep and push hard once I saw where the 2nd place female runner really was. And since I had already achieved my goal (even pacing as fast as I could hold, ideally under 7:30 pace, without hurting myself) I did not want to actually force a kick that could re-injure my hamstring, glute, bursa, sciatica or whatever hurts me. Last 0.13 in 6:43 pace

I finished just as Lynyrd Skynyrd came on the loudspeaker. This made me smile. As an aside, today I wore a tech shirt with birds on it because one year ago today we were able to capture the beautiful stray parakeet who was flying into our yard for 7 months. Sadly, he was not well. He survived only 2 months longer (even with Board Certified Avian Vet care, a safe and healthy environment, and nutritious food :( ). The song felt special as if I could let a little of the grief I still carry with me at times go. I realize it may sound silly for a person to get so attached to a small stray parakeet, but I did and Skynyrd changed me for the better. Animals do that to people.

Final Time: 21:17 (6:49) 
OA Place: 5th
Gender Place 1st

This is a good start. My left side is still stiff, but it did not hold me back. I am starting to accept this as my new normal. But I do have an MRI scheduled to rule out any issues that might need more medical treatment in addition to the weeks of PT I already did to try to treat this problem.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Lakeview 5k, Edison, NJ. 6/2/18

On Monday (Memorial Day), I had a wonderfully positive experience racing the Ridgewood 10k. I was faster than in 2016 (which is the training cycle I am using to model my Fall Training after this season). It felt wonderful to be “ahead of my pace bunny,” but in that race I could still feel the lingering soreness that manifested at the end of the Run for the Red Marathon. That pain in my butt had me walking it in the last 4 miles.

I was supposed to also race the 5k after the 10k at Ridgewood, but decided I did not like the tightness I felt high up in my hamstring where it met my butt. There was no reason to turn a great experience into a bad day so I skipped the 5k and returned home.

I have strained muscles before. I have some idea of what that feels like. This felt different. I took some recovery days, but noticed I was not really bothered when I walked or jogged. I could run eay and felt fine. Climbing bothered me when running but not when walking.  I was in much greater discomfort when sitting or when I increased intensity when running. It seems like the entremes were out but if I stayed in the middle of the intensity continuum I was ok.

That discomfort when sitting was isolated only to a small area exactly where my sit-bone is. This area is the ischial tuberosity and it is where the hamstring attaches.  This could be high hamstring tendonpathy or something else. After a few days of rest, by Thursday AM I was running 95% problem free.  With each day that passed, I was feeling better.  That is a pretty fast recovery for tendonpathy. I began to suspect something else. 

I had this 5k planned and figured if I was tight or sore I would not need to “race” it. I could just slow to whatever pace was not bothersome. Alanna who was kind enough to come join me for pre-race milage and the race.  3.1M is simply not enough for me right now. 

I ran 8.6M comfortably slow paced miles before the race. I was a little tight at the top of my hamstring but nothing hurt. It was hot and humid. I didn't expect to be fast. After a long warm up I felt like I could run 3.1M more.

The Start. 
The start was a little disorganized. There was a “Ready… Set”… and then nothing.  Then people spontaneously starting to run. And then, after a few steps, everyone suddenly stopped and started to take steps backwards to the starting line.  While taking backwards steps to the start, the starting gun then goes off and everyone starts running again. This was the moment I tweaked something.  Unfortunately, this sudden back and forth change of direction and my gut reaction to GO! when I heard the gun caused me to press off very hard on the side of my body that was already tender as I was stepping backwards. The force to suddenly get moving forward while momentum was going backwards triggered a sharp pain on these initial step. I gave myself a few strides to feel it out.  Due to the acute sting that settled down a bit quickly but not fully, the hill in mile 1, the humidity and heat, I simply had no power, felt less than 100%, and decided to not race.

Today was NOT the day to worry about time. I shut down my intensity, trying to find a place that felt comfortably fast but not problematic. That was as about 7:30-7:40 pace.  

However, by the time I hit the last mile, my hamstring/glute was aggravated. In the last tenth of a mile, my stride was altered. I skipped the 2M cool down I planned, walking just a few mintues instead, because walking did not hurt.

The race was small and not incredibly competitive.  I must say that Kathy Rocker was awesome and ran a wonderful smart race in tough conditions for the win.  I was 3rd Female.  Great work Kathy! 500 points! 

I was about 3 minutes and 17 seconds slower than my pace bunny from 2016... Oops. ;)  

So it is back to the drawing board for me. Time for more rest, more recovery, and to figure out when it will be time to see a PT about this. 

After doing some research to self-diagnose (like all panicked runners do), I have determined that I most likely have bursitis. I followed some recommendations about how to manage it and now 6 days later I am back running. I am not discomfort-free.There remains tightness that leads to discomfort if I try to push through it. I suspect this would become painful if I ran too fast (I am not sure. I haven't tried to test this). But slow paces are painless. I am back up to 8M without much trouble when running. I am still taking it easy and allowing recovery between longer runs. I am hopeful that soon I will be training and racing just fine again. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

Ridgewood 10k, Ridgewood NJ Monday, 5/28/18

So it has been about a week since my fumble at Run for the Red (Poconos Marathon). I rested, recovered, and felt about 95% ready to go for my target pace of 7:20 +/- 10 seconds for this 6.2M.  

Looking back over my logs from my best racing of my life, I ran this race at 7:10 pace before training on to eventually PR in everything I ran later in the Fall of 2016.  

I don’t need to best my PRs right now to feel like I have a chance at new PRs when racing and weather gets good months from now.  I just want to be close to the same place I was in the last time I took this journey.  I am comparing my past training volume and paces, nutrition, body composition and race performances along the way to determine whether or not I am on track to race well come Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec. Myself from 2016 is my pace bunny.

Being realistic, I aimed for 7:20 pace for this race because the last time I ran Run for the Red I was about 20 minutes faster. It didn’t feel smart to expect to be faster than 2016 myself at this race only one week later. So using my past performance as my guide I set a realistic goal. I hoped if I ran smart I would beat that goal. 

At Run for the Red, I ran with wild abandon, knowing I was too fast too soon but ready, willing, and able to take my beating when it came. It hit hard around 21M.  My ego was bruised. My hamstring too.

This 10k was a Masters Women’s USATF-NJ State Championship Team Race so I wanted to be a part of my team. We have some fast masters women and it feels good to be pulled along by some amazing people.  They make me want to do better.

Unlike Run for the Red, which was a Check-In Race where mistakes were encouraged, this was a race that I planned to practice some skills. Success was not measured by my finish time. I was measured by my execution of the pace plan. I wanted to practice negative splitting and self-restraint. There is no value in blowing up at every race. It is tremendously harder (from a discipline stand-point) to start slow than it is to start too fast, but it is better in the long run. There is value is practicing how to feel the sensation of running "as fast as possible while retaining one more gear" (or two) for the last 1/4 of the race. 

Today the weather was a gift. We had the best weather I have ever experienced at the Ridgewood Run. There would be a lot of PRs today!  Not for me, but for those who were ready for one. I line up towards the front of the race, a few rows back, more rows back than I would if I was fit and fast.

The starting gun is sounded and we are off.

I am careful to not get swept away with the crowd. 7:20 +/- 10 second from M1 is my goal.   There is no excuse to not nail this. I have a computer on my wrist that tells me exactly what I am doing. There is no need to be any faster than that target pace. I would love a 7:10. After Mile 1, I can forget the watch and feel for that sweet spot that is just fast enough but no so fast that I can’t get faster. When racing smart, I always want to know I have more speed in my legs for the end. M1- 7:09 (perfect!)

Mile 2 has a little descent so I find my flow and start concentrating on my body, my legs, my breathing, and my effort. I want to appear to be working less hard than those around me not harder. I focus on myself, but notice how hard others around me seem to be working too. I try to gather information internallly and externally.  

I have no intention to race anyone in M2. I am ignoring the watch because I know my best running happens by listening to my body, not by watching the clock. I am in a comfortable place, in my own head, cruising along, knowing I can work harder later. I am not sandbagging, but rather riding what feels like just a few seconds slower than my red-line effort. My breathing is controlled and I am trying to run as smoothly as I can. M2- 6:50

I don’t look at my splits until the end of the race until after I finish.  I can tell if I am running faster along the way just by how hard I am working.  I think about the mile I am in and assess if I am feeling like I am running smart.  Today the answer is "Yes. Yes I am.”   

I start to notice people around me fading. I am starting to pass many who flew past me in M1 and M2. I am working hard. I am careful to not work so hard that can’t shift gears.  I adjust my pace as needed to stay in that sweet spot. I am ok with slowing a little to retain my gears. I remind myself that my best race will be determined by what I do in M5 and M6 not what happened in M3 and M4. 

I find my zone and I settle in for the ride. I have more to give, but now is not the time. M3 - 7:02

I am hitting a flow state. Oh, how I miss this feeling
. I can "hear" music start to play in my head. I am lost in the song. I am overtaking more runners than those who are passing me. I am moving in slow motion and everything else is a blur. Nothing else matters. I am working exactly as hard as I am capable of sustaining. Running feels like work. It is not easy. But nothing hurts. I am not worried that I can’t hold on. I know I can. M4 - 7:03.

I learned a while ago when racing a 24 hour race to think about the lap I am in by saying “Working lap [and naming the number]” rather than naming the lap I just started which then confuses me as I wondering if I had just completed that number.  I still do that now when I race. It keeps my mind on the mile I am in.  I think to myself “Working M5. Get ready to move at the M5 Mark.”  

In this mile, I allow myself to shift my focus from internal, task-focused pacing to external, ego- (or competition-) focused racing. This is when start to open the gates that I have put up to hold back my ego-focused side while I focused on my task. 

[Ego is not a bad word. Ego-focused just means Outcome focused. It is that part of you that is preoccupied with the overall results like finish time or placement. Task-focused is the part of you that is focused on smaller bite-sized tasks a long the way].

My task was to run hard but not too hard and to make sure no matter what I did, I had another gear.  The ego is the part that cares more about beating competitors and doesn’t care about the task. I race best when I am task-focused for 3/4 of the race and 1/4 of the race I let my ego pull me to the finish. It is a race, after all, and the point of racing is to try to beat competition. That is all ego-focused stuff.  If I let my ego-focused side take over from the gun, I can expect a crash and burn beginning to happen by the half way point. Discipline for me is to hold back my ego-focused runner-self until I know that once I let her loose she can do nothing to destroy my result, but only make it better. There wont be enough time for crash and burn if I wait long enough to shift gears. M5: 6:57

I am side-by-side with Karl. Karl has been part of my “pack” for a while. We both get faster and slower and sometimes don’t run together but over the years Karl and I have raced many miles side-by-side.  Runners who race a lot know who their pack is. Sometimes they are collaborators and work together. Sometimes they are "freinemies."  In racing, you get to work with your pack, but by the end it turns into a race and you are happy for whoever wins the day. You push each other to better times than you can alone in those last final miles when the race is ON. It is never certain who will take the lead over the finish line.

Karl and I greet each other in M5. I say something about how it is time to do work. M6 is a fast mile.  Karl asks “Where’s Ben?”  [I love this]. First I say (not getting it at first), “Well, he is on the side-line cheering and I think he is racing the 5k…(then I get it)... but right now, Ben is right there (and I point to the ground a few steps ahead of us)… Ben is one step ahead pulling the pace home.”   

Karl, Ben, and I were a pack. The three of us ran many races side-by-side just like Karl and I are today.  But Ben was injured when he was hit by a car while he was riding his bike and literally broke his back. His comeback has been miraculous. But he wasn’t racing the 10k today… in person.  But he was there with Karl and me. 

Karl and I do not like to let Ben win ;) so we kick it up hard, as hard as I could at the time. We picked up Laura, my teammate. Laura rises to the challenge and doesn’t miss a beat as Karl and I are flying. She joins us. Now we are three and we are haulingM6 - 6:33

Me and Laura flying. Photo by Blanca Alvarez Blaskovic 
My breathing is crazy. My body is working harder than it has worked in a long long time.  I am giving 110%. Karl pulls away. I can’t match him but I give everything I have to give.  

Laura is on my side. We are not giving up. We are in a race. There is no "let's finish together holding hands" :) or letting the other one have the win out of friendship. No. This is a race and we are racing. We will be friends after. ;)  It doesn’t matter who wins because we are on the same team. We push each other to a 6:06 paced last .2M and it feels amazing! I finish a half step ahead but Laura started behind me so she gets the win today!  

Laura turns to me and says (as I am hunched over dry heaving) that she just set a new 10k PR!  

Karl turns back after he finishes to say “I just set a new Age Group Personal Best because of that last mile.  That wasn’t just me out there. That wasn’t just you… it was Us… and Ben.” 

Karl is my pack. Ben too. And now Laura.     

42:49 (6:53 pace). Negative Split!
24th Female OA
8th in Age Group (40-44)

My final mile was the fastest mile I have run in half a year.  I followed my plan completely and beat my goal by over 15 seconds per mile. I am now ahead of my “pace bunny” <3

What a fantastic day! 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Run for the Red, Pocono Summit, PA, 5/20/18

Run for the Red - Check-In Race

Early in the start of training, I like to race something hard to check in with myself to see how much work I have to do. Run for the Red was that race for me. 

Despite knowing that I have not actually properly prepared to race a fast marathon, I still felt a little pressure to perform. This is funny because if I don't do the work, I should not expect to see results, but running is funny like that. We still often try anyway. Maybe we hope our hearts can carry us through despite not preparing. I know it is foolish for me to think this way. 

I was entirely too focused on the outcome goal of this race and not really mindful of what was realistic for me along the way. However, I have to admit, I really needed to just not care and to see what I could do if I pushed myself. I did not truly expect great results, but I was not going to assume I would fail either. I just wanted the race to unfold for me naturally.  This also was not a Goal Race and I could take risks because failure would be ok.

The week leading up to this race was a fantastic week for me in terms of training, nutrition, sleep, etc. The problem is I was actually training hard, getting leaner, and as a result feeling beat up. Changing body composition is stressful on the body. If I really wanted a good shot at a good run, I should have been resting. But resting from what? From a 5 hour Strolling Jim where I mostly strolled along? From NOT running any long runs over 12M at a hard effort? From lower (for me) weekly mileage?  

I have plans to aim high for the Fall and Fall is not that far away. I don’t want to start training by tapering from nothing so I made a decision to train right through Run for the Red and to consider it a hard long run, not a "race".

To get myself in a positive frame of mind, starting on Friday, I simply started focusing my attention on every detail I could find that suggested I had a chance to run strong. I ignored all the reasons I should not. For example, based upon my last race (a 15k), I had the potential for a 3:31 (if I had actually done some long runs at something even close to training paces that would support a 3:31, but I did not. I was resting and this is the start of my training so I knew I was going to struggle). I was also lighter and leaner than when I raced that 15K so maybe I still had a short.  Even though Strolling Jim was a slower race for me, it was not easy so I know I was fitter for having done it. I think I had a chance to run a marathon within my goal window. Not a good chance, but a chance nonetheless.

The last time I ran Run for the Red in 2016, I was not very well-trained either (but better trained than this year) and I did run a 3:33 so I knew the fast course could pull me along, especially if the weather cooperated. In 2016, the weather was bizarre, but perfect for fast running.

I need a 3:40 to BQ and since I have not raced many marathons seriously in about 18 months, I definitely need a BQ if I want to return to Boston. I do know that June, July, and August are not the months that I am most likely get that BQ, due to the stifling heat and humidity and also because that is when I am in the middle of marathon training (building up my fast finish long runs from 14-24 miles or using 50k and marathons as long even effort time on my feet fun runs). I rarely race marathons for time in the summer. So if I wanted to snag a BQ to, at least, get my foot in the door, Run for the Red was where to do it.

Accordingly, my Goal Window was 3:31-3:40 or blow up trying.

So the weather… ah, the first really humid race of the year. This is not ideal. But I try to disregard this as it doesn’t matter. I have to go for my window regardless of conditions. The clock doesn’t care what the humidity is.

I start off trying to find a comfortably-hard pace. I sense I am running slightly too fast, but again I have not run anything far and fast in such a long time that I expected the pace to feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable. 

I keep checking in with myself to try to determine if I think I can hold this the entire way and the answer really is “No. No you cannot.”  So I made a choice to see how long I could hold it. If I do fade in the hills at the end, I may still end up in my 3:31-3:40 window. If I can't, I can accept that too.

Part of the point of my Check-In race for me is to allow me a “throw away” race that I am free to go out and mess up royally. I need to do everything wrong once in a while, especially early in training, just because it helps remind me about how important it is to do things right. It also shows me that doing everything wrong never turns out as bad as it seems like it should. 

If I could train well, get lean and strong, taper, carb-load (yes, I do this and it works for me), and stick to a realistic pace plan that is task-focused and not outcome-focused… then I know I can negative split and have a great run. But I am not there yet. However, I wanted to know what I could now, today, untrained, undiscplined, and tired. 

Run for the Red was awesome and demoralizing at the same time.

I managed to stay either just ahead of or just behind the 3:30 pace group through 19M. I really did not feel as terrible as I thought I would at that pace, but the humidity and warmth of the day were catching up with me. My body simply was not prepared to handle the intensity.

At about mile 20-21 I started to get a tremendous migraine. I am sure it was from dehydration and working too hard. The top of my head felt like someone hit me with a bat. I was consuming calories and fluids along the way but race day nutrition is never going to make up for lack of preparation. I knew the crash and burn was coming. I wasn’t sure how bad it would be. The 3:30 pace group drifted off as I slowed down to try to get a grip.

At the next aid station, I stopped running for the first time and grabbed three cups of fluid and walked a few strides to just drink. I was so dizzy and nauseated that I was a little concerned. Once I started running again, I knew I had nothing left.

With 4 miles to go, the death march started. I was done. I had enough for the day. My body, my mind, both had completely checked out. The idea of running or run/walking, or just walking in 4 more miles was soul-crushing. I was overheating and my butt was whooped. But truly I did not expect anything less. I am actually surprised I got as far as I did!

My biggest concern was my left hamstring/glute.  Everything was so tight that I feared straining my hamstring if I pushed through.  I knew I had already done some damage and since this is the start of training I cannot afford to take 2-3 weeks of rest to heal. My gait was altered and there was mild pain. So I walked. 

Kim comes flying past me, yelling something about how I need to go with her now because she is still on pace for the 3:40 and we could do it. And I laughed and I laughed. As if I had a choice. Kim did well in training. Probably not as well as she wanted to prep (but who ever feels their prep is perfect), but she got her butt out there for 20+M fast finish long runs on hot days by herself when it mattered the most. That is how to do work!  She rested, tapered, and stuck to her plan. She kicked ass! I waved good-bye as she drifted off in to the distance wondering how the heck I was going to make it another 5k!

I took my time on the way in and ran when I felt I could and walked most of what was left. I didn’t care if it took me another hour to get done. I did not need to pull a hamstring for no reason at all. Not now. 

But ultimately it wasn’t that bad. I ended up with a 3:53 after running the first 20M at 3:30 pace. And this makes me happy. I have taken a lot of time away from marathon training. Marathon training, for me, is the hardest training I can do. I have not run anything under 4 hours for the marathon in a long time. In fact, I have run a mostly 5 hour marathons just taking my time and enjoying the trails, mountains, and company.

My heart is so happy I was able to gut out a hard 20M LR… too bad the race was 26.2M. :) I am not sad that I did not or could not run a faster time. I did not deserve to. I did not train. I do wish I was in better shape that I am in right now, but when looking back, I know I am exactly where I should be. 

I needed a lot of rest after training so hard in 2016. I am 42 and the work I did at 40 years old was hard on me. I needed to rest my body and soul. The sacrifice, commitment, and intense focus on training that it takes for me to run that hard does detract from my overall quality of life in other aspects. I can’t live life that way year-after-year and expect to feel balanced and happy. Being the fastest marathon runner I can be is not "everything" to me. I am so much more than just a runner.  However, I can give myself 18-20 weeks to try to be my best athlete-self again. And if/when I get the results I seek, I am certain that joy will fill my soul for a long long time.

So Run for the Red was my reality check. I truly feel like I got more than I deserved to get out this race. I am ready to see what I can do from here.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Strolling Jim, The "Marathon", 5/5/18

Four years ago I raced the 40M (41.2M)  and had a fantastic day. I just ran my heart out, powering through the hills until I hit the wall hard and suffered in the heat at the 50K and ran/walked my in to a 6:35. This was a time I was proud of, despite some sloppy execution.

Today I wondered if it might take me 6:35 to run the marathon distance. I was initially registered for the 40M, but last week I took a real hard look at myself and knew I was not prepared for 40M. 

When in shape, the 40M is my favorite distance. It is my best event, that and the 6 hour, which I can cover  40-43+ miles in that time. I want to protect my love for that distance and not destroy my positive experiences by doing something I am woefully under-prepared to do and feeling miserable. I am also still rebuilding my endurance and fitness. 

I always run. I can always "cover" a marathon on foot, maybe not by running every single step but I can get through it. Marathon training is the hardest thing I can do and when done well, I can fly.  But right now I am still in my base-building-just-show-up-and-pin-on-a-bib phase of training.  I enjoy getting my long runs done at races where I can actually relax and be social when I feel like it ... or I can practice race day skills without some important performance goal on the line. 

I took nothing seriously about today's, well except that carloading. I carb-loaded like a champ! That was fun. ;)

The race weather was predicted to be rainy the entire day. I rhetorically asked Alanna if maybe I could just run one marathon soon NOT wearing a poncho ;)

But race day morning turned out to be lovely.  It was much more humid that I am used to but the 60 degrees felt so nice. I wore more than I would have preferred mostly because my skin is not ready to handle long runs in rain and humidity and not get chafed raw. I ended up in bike shorts and a tank top to save my skin.his worked.  

I really do not love racing in a vest. I feel like I am too heavy with a vest on and often the vest makes my back hurt. But the rental car keys were GIGANTIC and two of these monster-sized key fobs were tethered together making it impossible to put them in my small zip pocket. I also decided to carry a bottle since aid stations at this race tend to be gallons of water left under a tree every few miles, with some random real aid station dropped in along the way.  It can be a long way between drinks.

So once weighted down, I knew I wasn’t going for time today. I just wanted the climbing and the long time on my feet. This marathon delivered on all accounts.

Early in the race, I ran next to a guy who looked a little flustered. He explained, worried really, that he was diabetic and his monitor was reading very low.  He was trying to eat something but he was concerned.  I asked if he had enough calories on him and he said “probably not enough. I thought I was good, but this is low so I have to eat now”  We were at maybe mile 4?  He was running 40.

I had two gels on me and gave them to him. He wouldn’t take them but I did insist. I was “only” running the marathon and I could grab soda or something with sugar from the aid stations. I told him I had set a carb-load PR yesterday so I really don’t need them.  I insisted that he take them.

We passed the first aid station and with only a quick glance, I did not see any fast sweet things. Water and SWORD… what the heck is that and where was the coca cola or potatoes or anything I could eat. Oh well. I was ok, and not running fast, so I proceeded on my way. There were slim jims and pork rinds. Pork Rinds. I know I didn’t race ultras last year but are pork rinds at aid stations at thing now?

Oh well, I don’t remember eating much during the Boston Sharknado Marathon so I felt like I would be ok. I would have liked some sports drink. My pace was a blazing 10:30 pace so I felt I could sustain that on water and something palatable from an aid station along the way.

By mile 18 I was still feeling good and with only 8.6 to go (b/c this is Strolling Jim so nothing is what is supposed to be, which is ok with me). The hills crush my soul. Adding few extra tenths is nothing to fret over.  At 18+ we hit a downhill and I wondered if I could push my pace to the finish. So I tried. 

I make it to 20.5M and I hit the wall. Slam right into it. My legs power down like a transformer blew. I have no energy. None. Nothing hurts, but I just can’t “go.”   The humidity was high but I have been in worse and the cooler air helped mitigate that.  I just ran out of glycogen and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had grabbed a few things from the last aid station but didn't eat because I really just wanted to see how far I could go on water only. I like to do tests like this. The sudden crash was clearly due to under-fueling.

 So at 21M I decided to eat the Nature Valley granola protein nut bar because it had a little of everything (carbs, fat, and protein). I walked a lot while trying to wait to see if it helps. As I walk it my legs are made of lead. I have no motivation to power through. I have 5.6M to go and they are feeling like a million miles. I am alone, so alone on the course I start to wonder if I am off course. But keep walking and running and walking.

By M22 I feel about 50% better which is good but not great. At this point I decide that I have done my job for today. I got a good long run in and depleted my glycogen down to 0, nothing hurts, and I feel like I made the smartest choice I could have made when I asked to drop down to the marathon from the 40. There was absolutely no way I was running 19.2 more miles like this. 

The drizzle that started at the end is refreshing. I finally find my way into meditative practice.  I feel a complete sense of acceptance of my pace and with myself as I approach the end. I wonder if I will break 5 hours and then wonder why a number matters at all. What matters most is that I push my body further and harder than I have in many many many months, even if on paper the numbers seem “slow” to others. What others think doesn’t really matter.  I am at peace. I am pleased with myself and my work.  

I turn the last corner and see the finish and the clock is ticking down 4:5x…. I cross in 4:54. I feel so grateful to have been able to do what I just did today. Someday I will not be able to run hilly marathons. Someday I will not be run flat marathons. Someday I will not be able to hike or walk marathons. Today is not that day. Today I did my job and it felt realy good to be present and to do work.

I sat under the tent eating a gigantic grilled chicken thigh when the sky opened up and thunder cracked… and my heart broke a little for Alanna, who was and still is out there on the course tacking the 41.2M distance as I type this race report. I am very proud of her.  I know it stinks to run in a deluge. I did give her one of my ponchos. I bought them in bulk. :)

If I hurry now, I may be able to get back to the race to pick her up. I think I will be a good friend and bring her a warm tea as her prize for persevering thought this rough patches. 
Maybe if I am lucky I might get a poncho photo for this report. :) 

Friday, May 4, 2018

Clinton Country Run 15k, Clinton NJ, 4/28/18

Photo by Karl Leitz. Clinton Country Run. 15K
So last week’s half did not go as planned. The week before was Boston which was also pretty rough (understatement of the year ;) ). The week prior to that I ran a hilly 8:24 paced 20k. Today was a 15k on a course with some rolling hills. Based upon my real life recent performances, I set a goal for 8:15 (+/- 10 sec) for myself. However that was an estimated prediction, but not what I actually planned to aim for mile by mile. 

Instead, I wanted to practice two important skills today at this race. First, I wanted to pay attention to my pre-race routine and sharpen up what I do before every race so that I can setting myself up for success. Next I wanted to use the mindfulness meditation practice I have been working on daily in a race setting. I wasn’t going monitor my pace. Instead I was going run by feel, with my job being to negative split this race.  I wanted to be mindful about my pacing, focus on how I felt it the moment and ask myself whether I had another gear for the final 4 miles, where all the hills are. I did not want race people. I did not want to race the clock. I wanted to race as fast as I could race without getting ahead of my own ability too early.

I met Kim early and we ran 6M of warm up. I was trying to pay attention to timing to see how long I really need to do all the things I know I should do before I race. I am tired of scrambling around at the start of races, missing my change to get my body warmed up and my mind prepared to tackle the work I will do.  If I know exactly how much time I need and exactly what my pre-race routine will be, I will have a greater ability to do what I need when it becomes much more important to me to have my pre-race warm up routine sharp. 

So first we ran a long warm up. We ran the course backwards in part, paying attention to the terrain, becoming aware of where the last mile began. Then we did dynamic stretching. We changed shoes and did some pick ups rather than strides. 20 steps slow 20 steps fast. We talked about music that we could include next time. I still know I need to work on my pre-race game more. I need to protec that time from unnecessary distractions on those days I plan to do my best. For now I am learning. 

The gun goes off. I was not trying to push to hard. But the start is fast. I did not want to know my splits, but that was impossible because the wonderful volunteers were calling them out at each mile. Of course most people want this information to make sure they are on track.

[For the first time since I started racing, I finally had no shin pain!  This is fantastic. I had spent time cleaning up nutrition, sleeping better, and training better. I could feel the impact of healthy decisions. I watch my heart rate drop over the week as my body and mind felt better!]

Mile 1 was a fast downhill mile and the volunteer called out 7:20, 7:21, 7:22…  as I passed.  Now I know the course would roll little and that 7:20 was merely the result of the descent that we would climb at the end. 

I settled down and did not pay attention to the watch.  Runners flew past me and I passed a few but the most important tasks I had to do were only two things: (1) Negative split, and (2) Focus on the Mile I was in…  Time did not matter, place did not matter, racing others did not matter. Not today. 

I spent the first 4 miles really focused on how I felt in the moment. The rest of the world around me felt like a blur. Nothing outside was touching me and I felt content.  

At mile 4 a woman runs right between me and another runner who was wearing gigantic head phones and she exuberantly exclaims! “So what’s the plan today!” 

Now this was not what I expected. I was in my flow, doing my job, being mindful about how I felt and what I was doing and then suddenly there was this very sudden and somewhat abrasive intrusion into my headspace. 

I contemplated what to do. I did nothing at first. I did not want to disrupt my peaceful exisitance in my race. This is going to be an interesting challenge, to practice mindfulness while racing with people who have no idea what I am doing, who just want to be social. If I really want to practice this skill, I am going to need to figure out how to not get distracted while also appearing rude to friendly people. I am not sure how to reconcile this yet. 

So I think that just maybe if I say nothing the other runners on her left would engage her.  But I am no longer doing one of my two jobs.  I am not focused on running the mile I am in. I am fully distracted by others. This is interesting from a mindfulness perspective. I don't intend to be mindful at all costs, but I do want to first see if she will use someone else as her diversion.  

I glanced over and saw the giant headphones and knew there was no chance of that happening. She had a buffer. This was a USATF-NJ championship race. Headphones are illegal. They are considered to be an aid. I can see how they really can help. 

The woman then says So what you are trying to do today!  Maybe we can help each other out today!”   Normally, friendly supportive conversation is nice, but often this happens when two people want to chat. It was clear she didn't care if I was interested in chatting or not.

I wanted so badly to say, “I see you want to work together but I don’t actually need help right now.”… but that really wasn’t necessary to say that.  I did have some empathy, recognizing a sense of insecurity she must have been feeling about her ability.  I remember how that was me when I first started running and racing.  I remember wanted to run with people because I thought maybe I could do better feeding off someone else energy, not really trusting that I had what I needed inside myself. I felt that my best on my own wasn’t the best I could do but maybe I could latch on to someone else’s pace and their energy will pull me. Or maybe their presence will ignite some competitive edge in me that I would discover was relentless. Somehow I felt I needed help. I just don't feel that way any more. I feel like that only person who can help me is me. 

But in 2016, when I learned how to listen to my body and master my own pacing, I found out that I can negative split everything I do if I am open and accepting of my ability and I set goals that match my strengths. When I run my own race there is no better outcome.  My best races are not a result of anyone else doing anything. They are all me. 

So again she says, “Do you have a plan?

While focused with my attention straight ahead, I think about my plan to just run the mile I am in... I say “Just Run”. 

Now what I meant to say was ‘My plan is to just run… to focus on the moment I am in and just run”  But as I said "Just Run" it came out sounding more like a command... I am sure that I actually meant it both ways. I really did want my space back. I was in my flow and here was someone who doesn’t yet know how to run on her own race trying to make me join her to help her. I wasn’t interested in being someone else’s diversion.
I wan’t interested in being her reluctant pacer. Sometimes it is really fun to be the distraction that helps others shine, but I do think it is better to help people figure out that they are enough. 

But I wasn't coaching her. I wasn't coaching anyone. I was there as an athlete. I just wanted to focus on my skills. I immediately tempered what sounded too harsh with more of what she needed to hear. I added quickly, “My plan is to Just Run. I want to just run and not feel badly. I want to not work too hard too soon and I want to run faster as I go along and feel good as I do it.” That was enough for her. 

Then I went back into my zone. 

She sat on my shoulder for at least a half mile, but we had not even hit the hills yet. I was waiting for the hills. I wanted to have the strength to push and I knew that I could. I had done good work in the first half of the race.

As soon as the hills started, I pulled away. I was able to push my pace faster as we rolled and I was going my job. I could hear the music starting in my head. When I race well there is always music. 

I was digging and pushing and then we hit M8-9, with the super steep ending.  I was pushing, but I felt a part of me contemplating reducing the pace. I did not feel bad about this. I feel like I am learning. I am finding my line and recognizing just where my body and mind are at this time. I need to do a lot more work.

But even with a hard final mile, I managed to negative split the race.  My last mile was not my fastest mile but it was still a good one.  I did my jobs today!

When I looked at my final time, I was in shock. I had felt 8:15 pace was realistic but I managed a 7:41 pace overall instead. I can’t even begin to explain how thrilled I am with this run! 

I ran 3M miles to c/d with Kim. I went home with 18M run, feeling like I am moving in the right direction.

Blue Ridge Marathon and Half Marathon, Roanoke, VA, 4/21/18

I can’t say enough about how much I loved this experience, even with some struggles that should have simply ruined my day.  

The week leading up to this race in Roanoke VA was a tough work week for me. I missed a full day of work because I was at the Boston Marathon on Monday. I would miss two more work days (most of Friday for travel, and Saturday for racing and traveling back). As a primarily self-employed person, there are no days off, no personal time, no one to cover the work. As a graduate student the same rules apply. I found myself challenged to do the same amount of work in 3.5 days that I would normally need 6 days to complete.  This was not going to be easy!  

I have been protecting my sleep lately as I find that everything else goes better for me when I am well rested. My teaching job concluded so I have more time back to train, race and sleep! However, there really wasn’t much I could do this week to make sure I got my 8 hours each night. I just needed to steal from sleep time this week to get myself to the start.

On paper, the trip should have been 6:45 of driving. In real life it was 8+ hours. I can’t even begin to share how much I really missed long road trips by myself. I registered for audible and used my credits to get two wonderful audiobooks.  My journey to Roanoke Virginia was filled with stories about how smart birds are ("The Genius of Birds").  Just as I neared my destination, I reached the end of the book where the author shared some stories about the birds of the Blue Ridge Mountain. That was just perfect!

Normally, I try to arrive earlier enough the night before a race to have dinner 12 hours or more before the gun time. Gun time was 7:35 am. I arrived at 9:00 am.  My dinner consisted of gas station snacks on the drive down, which included a gigantic chocolate chip cookie and some terrible coffee. Thank goodness I wasn’t actually racing seriously or I would have been a little concerned. Unbeknownst to me I would have welcomed an upset tummy over what I had to deal with race day morning.
I check into my hotel, organized my race day gear, asked for a 5 am wake up call and begane to unwind for the night. I had just run Boston in 4:19 and expected tomorrow’s marathon to take me at least 5 hours or more to get through it. The elevation is tremendous and I was very much looking forward to the climbs!  Nothing get me in shape faster than climbing!

I was up before my alarm and took 5 minutes only to practice mediation while my coffee brewed. So far nothing was wrong.  But once I attempted to contort myself in to my sports bra, I managed to strain something so badly in my back that I was afraid I slipped a disc!  

Currently, I am not fit, I am still too heavy for my best racing, and I do a lot of sitting. My back hurts often when I am not on top of my game.  Once I gain a few pounds and stop doing my regular strength training, I quickly end up not even fit enough to handle basic activities of daily living, like putting on a sports bra!  Unless I am training, my life is atrociously sedentary.  

I couldn’t stand up without pain and decided to lay on the disgusting hotel floor hoping that if I stayed really still and really flat my spine would stop acting out and get back on track. But once down on the groun, I discovered I could not actually get back up.  Any twisting motion was painful. If I turned to put my weight one one hand to push up from the ground, the pain was debilitating only because I refused to test the limited. I could have powered through but I was afraid I would make things worse. I laid on the floor for 20 minutes wondering if I would end up being discovered by housekeeping. I wondered how I would get home. I had an 6:45-8 hour drive back to NJ after the race.

Time was ticking and I was already 15 minutes later than I wanted to leave for the start. After 20 minutes on the ground I could feel my back muscles loosening up a little. There was some hope! 

I was able to get up only by rolling forward, essentially crunching up and somehow getting up on my feet. I had to leave if I wanted to get to the race. Once upright, I was able to walk and I could jog slowly.

I drove to the race and was able find a parking in a free garage so easily. I walked out of my car and realized that even with me getting to the at 6:45 I was able to find a spot across the street from the finish line.  This was wonderful!

I got my bib in minutes and had time use the port-o-potty, go back to my car to change into something more comfortable. It was so painful to bend or twist. Fortunately running doesn’t ask for bending and twist! I stilled believe I would have a chance to run. 

I lined up at the start. Gun goes off and off we go. I start running and so far everything is "ok". My back is not ok, but I can move… then we start to climb up hill.  The strain on my back while going up was already causing me some pain. But even worse, just like at Boston, my shins were on fire. I start walking because running is just making things worse. I stop at the side of the course. I try to do some dynamic stretching to loose up the tightness. Just ankle rolls and that helped.  

As soon as the 5:30 pace group blew past me and I was not even at mile 2 I knew I was not running a marathon today. 

A guy next to me mentioned he was in the half and said that if I want to drop down I need to decide soon. I stopped to enjoy the view of the mountains, called Sidney to tell him I would be home a lot earlier than expected and I continued on hiking up the hill. I took a photo at the star and found that I was feeling better. I know I made a good choice.

I was able to run when my shins loosened up and found that by Mile 5, the course finally dropped and the descent felt fantastic. My shins were pain free. My back was not getting worse. Again, no twisting or bending but I could run and/or hike and it was glorious! 

The only trouble was I was clearly the first marathon bib spectators were seeing and everyone was so excited to see a woman crushing the countries toughest marathon!  Yet them seemed to miss how I was in no rush. I even called Kim at one point because I needed some conversation and while hiking and talking, some spectators yelled out “Oh wow, she is winning and she is having a conversation on her phone!” 

“No. I am definitely not winning.” 

“But you have a red bib! You are in the marathon!”

“Oh I am definitely not in the marathon. I am running the half. This bib was a mistake ;)”

I started to feel good enough to run some of the hills and start pushing myself to get some  work out of this experience.  A cyclist is climbing next to me, passes me, stops, turns around. I can see he has a camera.  He says, “Are you winning?”… I say “Oh no… I am not winning. I turned with the half marathoners b/c I threw my back out this morning”… he says “I was killing myself trying chase you up this hill!”  He was taking race photos. I apologized profusely and decided I needed to fold over my bib so people would not think I was in the lead. But then I was afraid people would think I was banditing. I have to admit, it felt nice to be up front again ;)

I ended up finishing the half in 2:37. I walked to my car and drove straight home.

I am sure this is a personal worst time but it was not a personal worst experience. My back was killing me, but for the duration of the half, with those glorious hills and the wonderful weather, I was in heaven.  

I feel like I am on my home.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Boston 2018

Boston 2018…. what a day!

Yeah, there was a lot rain. It was cold. And the wind! Holy cow. I loved how it got stronger as we ran further along. That was fantastic! ;)  
So, it was definitely not great running weather, at least not for those hoping to race their best race ever. Fortunately, for me I was not one of those people.  

I could write about the stress Boston causes me. But I would rather not. That is personal to me. For context, I can share at least that I was there in 2013. I have recurring stress each year that impacts my ability to function and is triggered by this race and everything related to it. I would like to not think about it, but as a marathon coach, it is hard to get away from being tagged, emailed, messaged, texted etc from people who don't know me well enough to know to please not message me, tag me, text me, email me asking me about my plans and whether I am racing.  The reality is each year I am battling to get there and I just don't know if I will win. 

But that is all I need to say. There is no reason to take a great experience and turn into something else. 

I am a streak runner. I am always running. I haven't missed a day of running since 2011, BUT that is not the same training to race a marathon. Marathon training is hard.

About 4 weeks ago, I started racing again (with a 5k) just for fun while I work on getting back in the flow of training. At this stage, all I am doing is showing up and pinning on a bib while I work on building my endurance again. I can still cover distance, but just not like I used to. I am heavier than I would like to be when racing.

I almost didn’t go. In fact, I was sure I wasn't going. I told everyone who I tell my personal business to (my #Top5) that I was definitely, absolutely not going. I canceled plans with Elizabeth who was going to come with me and told her to not come b/c I wasn't going.

I believed that f I just decided to NOT go, then maybe I could sleep. Maybe I could relax. Maybe the stress would disappate... but there was this little voice in the back of my mind, maybe it was coming more from deep within my heart, that whispered over and over to me "..but you know you want to be there.."  (and besides I do this every single year and decide I am NOT going, then go... except for last year when I strained my achilles). 

... and then leading up to the race this little girl, Sheena, who lives in Boston right along the course, asked if she could use my FB profile picture to make a collage about runners for a class project to show during her school's visit from Katherine Switzer.  When this little girl thinks of a runner, she thinks of me. Omg, how could I not go to Boston now! 

The only disappointing part of Boston for me was that due to the weather being brutal, I missed my chance give Sheena a hug along the way but that was my fault. I missed my start.

I had a fantastic bib. I worked so hard for that bib. I had a 2:55 qualifier. But I am not in that type of shape. Rather than start in Wave 1, Corral 3, my plan was to dress warm an dry, drop to the back of my corral, run 10:00 miles the whole way, and have a great time  I had shared that info with Michele before I headed off to the race.

My wave was to take off at 10:00 am, but for some reason ;)  Kim and I had a little trouble motivating ourselves to get out of my warm car and onto the bus to the start to hang around in the rain. We ended up arriving outside the Village at 9:40 am. By the time we got close to actually using a portopotty it was already 9:55. I was not planning to rush to get in my Wave, just to watch them all run off into the distance as I chased behind them calling "hey guys! wait for me!"... so I let it go and I dropped back to the middle of wave 2, which was still too fast for me, but a little more reasonable.  I didn't get trampled.

With the hard rain falling, my phone wrapped in two ziplock bags, my hands wrapped in two layers of mittens, I was not able to text Michele to let her know my plans had changed. I hoped she would figure it out from the tracking.

The emotions of the day were strong. I feel like this caused me some pain. Maybe I am just that out of shape or maybe my this was some odd defense mechanism at play... just my mind trying to convince me to just get off the course. "Just stop running. You should not be here!"  Before I even get to mile 1 at 8:15 pace my shins were cramping badly. I just ran a very very hilly 20k at 8:24 pace, finishing that race in sub-8 pace, no shin pain. Here at M1, I am in plain? Mile One! There is no reason why I can't run downhill at 8:15 pace for a little while…. but I simply could not and my shins were on fire. 

All I could think was "OMG, this is M1! I bought way too many Boston 2018 things! I never buy things! I need to finish this race even if I walk!"  By M2, everything felt terrible and by M3 I was walking.  Then I stopped to try to do some dynamic stretching to loosen up my shins. I knew nothing was wrong physically, but I needed to convince myself that this IS happening. I am here. I am running this, well... “running (used loosely)” ... no matter how long it takes.

After walking a little, my left shin started to unsieze and I felt hopeful. Soon the right was loosened as well.  Finally I was able to start running again. I wan’t looking at my watch because time did not matter. I just needed to perserve at whatever pace I felt I wanted to run.

I wished I had seen Rory's (Sheena's brother) sign because he captured my feeling exactly! 
"Run like You Want To!"  I was definitely doing that!

Being in no rush, I stopped at a portpotty to try to adjust my gear. I had my phone in my capri pocket wrapped in two bags and I was worried it was getting wet.  It took more time than I expected to get myself organized.

"Run like you want to!"
I knew I was able to run non-stop the entire way. The last marathon I ran was Jan and then my training stopped short.  The longest non-stop hard run I have run was the 20k last weekend and that really isn’t much help. I had no business expecting to run 26.2M, so rather than run as far as I could and crash and burn in the hills, I took the opposite approach. I used the first 8-10 miles as my warm up and once ready to go, I ran the rest of the way in non-stop, with the point being to NOT walk through the newton, and heartbreak, hills.

It fell so amazing to run those those rollers and get stronger and stronger as the race proceeded on. I see runners who were clearly underdressed getting carted off to the med tent or walking with mylar wraps. I did feel bad for those who trained their hearts out and had a weather-related meltdown.

Once over Heartbreak Hill, I felt victorious. I knew I would be able to run the rest of the way in. I negative split Boston by 12 minutes. My body felt good. I was warm, but comfortable. I was moving well through the finish and feeling grateful that I did not let anyone or anything stop me from attending this race.

At 2:49 pm, just as my foot hit the finish line in 4:19, just under 10:00 pace, the announcer stated that at that exact time 5 years ago, several lives were lost due to the bombing attacks and a moment of silence was called for. It was amazing to hit the finish line just in time to pay respects and to honor the lives lost. And then there was a moment where I realized someone was in my exact place 5 years earlier, crossing the line at this exact time and that is just a very emotional thought.  I walk through the finishers area in tears. Everything felt surreal.

I collected my medal, snack, and mylar cape. I took the bus back to my car that was parked in Hopkinton. I change clothes in my car and drove 4.5 hour straight home to NJ. 

I am so grateful that I went. I left knowing that I have to come back. I left knowing it will be just as challenging for me as it always is each and every year. It doesn't get better. It seems to feel harder each year, not easier.  If I can return, I would like to.