My life has slowly been changing since 2012 when I was in pure Ironman training, and everything I did was on the road. It's tough to describe where most of you may have stopped hearing from me, but as a quick summary, I finished Ironman Wisconsin in 2012. After that, I went through a huge depression with a job that was not only not challenging me, but also, left me feeling like every day was the worst day ever. Anyways, I found the trails to be my outlet.
By 2014, I decided that I wanted to complete a 100 mile race. I entered the Leadville 100 lottery, and I was denied. I took this as an opportunity to work backwards and work up to that distance slowly. By 2015, I ran Superior 50 in Lutsen, MN. The SHT (Superior Hiking Trail) gave me all I could handle that year, and I realized my decision to take a step backwards was the correct one. Since then, I've completed three more 50 mile races, and four 50k's.
The trails have claimed me. They call to me. I dream about them. I get nervous about not being out there. I also made a pact on December 22, 2016, to continue into a streak until I complete that 100 mile race.
I have spoken to my better half, and she has fed me with confidence that we're ready to attack this huge distance. I haven't announced it to anyone but the Loop currently. I have spoken to my coaches about it, and they've all given me the feeling that I'm on track to do this. Here's me once again announcing my bid for 100 miles on foot. Next year, I'm going to sign up for two different 100 milers in the Minnesota area in hopes to bat 500. It's scary! But I've often been heard saying if it doesn't scare the s*** out of you, it's not worth doing.
Anyways, the two races are Zumbro 100 (in April) and Superior 100 (in September). Superior is a lottery, so there's no guarantee I'll get in, so if very well only be a single bid next year as well. Zumbro will be six, 16.7 mile loops. Superior has my heart and is 103.3 miles of point to point running in some of the most technical trails I've ever attacked. I have a few Loopsters in mind to ask to pace and crew me, but I haven't even asked them yet. Anyways, I'll leave it there for now. Hopefully, I post before I click that entry button in November.
As always, run strong and never give up!
"We're going to run this whole way" I say to PegLeg. "Yep" she says. "That is so stupid."
We’re on the bus with slow_running on the way to the start. It feels like we've been on the bus forever. How can you go this whole way on foot? Why would you want to?
Earlier I had sat down in PegLeg's car and immediately something was wrong. My ass was cold. No-wet. Why is my ass wet? I felt under me and realize that I sat on the hose of my hydration pack and soaked myself and the seat. This is a perfect metaphor for the lead up to this race.
PegLeg and I are talking about the race and paces and I think she's calming me down. We both have a nervous energy but also a fatalistic sense of calm. Wineglass has been poop theater (trying to keep the new loop family friendly) for everyone. A third of the people cancelled. Those of us who came all had injuries and twinjuries and sickness leading up to it. Our goals were all over the place and came with many asterisks. I'm nervously checking my phone every few minutes to see if HPS has responded.
We make it to the start, make the first of many trips to the POPs and stake out seats in the tent for J-Zee and HPS. I'm worried about her. We were supposed to meet at the buses but we got there insanely early and decided to forge ahead to get seats. She hasn't read our messages and I'm scared she may still be sleeping or something.
Eventually we find HPS and J-Zee and we take turns guarding the seats and visiting the POPs. J-Zee politely listens to my nonstop nervous chatter. I can hear myself talking but it’s mostly to distract myself from the fact that for some reason I told everyone I know that I’m going to run a marathon and it’s too late to back out now.
I'm coming into mile 18 and I feel myself starting to falter. My legs hurt. I want to stop. I know that I'm in trouble. I'm telling myself to just try to hold on. It's okay that it hurts. I knew that it would.
I try to make myself little bench marks. Little things to look forward to. At 20, I'll put my headphones on. At 21 I get to eat another gel. I'll get a boost then. Am I drinking? Have I been drinking? I taste water in my mouth but I can't remember. Why did I think it was smart to run the first half sub 9? What is wrong with me?
Can I keep this going now? Yes. So I keep going. Mile 20 hits me like a newspaper hits a roach. I want to be done. I put on my music and I hate every song. I am angry at everything. I ignore the crowd. I want them to be quiet and let me concentrate. I want them to cheer louder so I can get some energy. I do my best to not project anything because I know I really appreciate them but everything hurts and I am not reasonable.
Mile 21 I take a gu and I need it. My legs hurt. My shoulder hurts. A truck goes by with a sign taped to the side cheering on someone named Laura. I know in my heart of hearts that if I were Laura, I'd hop right into that truck and call it a day. I think about quadracool and tell myself to woman up. She’s running multiples of what I am and I’m sure she’ll hurt and I’m sure she’ll want to stop so who am I to complain.
Mile 22 this is just stupid. Effing stupid. I am never doing this again. I am throwing my shoes out the second I cross the finish line. I know everyone says that but I mean it. I am never doing this again. I hate this. I want to be done. I hate that nothing will make me feel better. I am toast and I am so stupid.
Mile 23 Literally left my body. That’s all I know about this mile.
Mile 24 I can run 20 minutes. I can do anything for 20 minutes. Oh look at that bench. Maybe I can sit on it until the race is over. No one will miss me. I’ll be fine.
Mile 26 I want to walk. I took two micro breaks earlier. One for a few seconds while I drank a cup of water. And once for even less while I tried to drink water but really just poured it down my face. But not now. Not in this mile. I will not walk. IS THAT A FUCKING BRIDGE!?!?
.2 There's the finish line. Am I running backwards? Am I running? I can't feel anything and yet everything hurts.
I cross the finish line and I'm vaguely aware that the announcer mispronounced my name. It's a blur and then there's J-Zee. I give him a big sweaty hug choking back tears. I'm babbling at him again. I ask about PegLeg. I show him my watch. He says something about sub 4 and I'm glad to hear the verification. Did I really finish? Did I really run a sub-4? I realize I didn't ask about him. He tells me his time. I congratulate him. I ask about HPS and NavEng. I'm taking it all in in that super slow on the uptake post-race way. Just slow_running after me and I'm anxious for him to come in.
A few minutes later, I'm sitting on a row of camp chairs with Peg. "I keep tearing up." I say, feeling my face start to scrunch up again. "Me too." She says and for a second we're both sitting there, our eyes welling with tears, unable to articulate any further.
I'm starting to think I should get the prize for the longest injury. Here's my timetable:
November 2015 - pikermi PR
January 2016 - hyper colleague insisted on helping me move stage equipment that he didn't know how to move (I was accustomed to moving it by myself and didn't need anyone being a "gentleman.") Result - sprained ankle.
March 2016 - Sprained ankle healed. Feral cat momma and kittens acquired and moved indoors, necessitating many trips up and down stairs. Ran a bit, but sinus infection prevented full return.
May 2016 - began running again in earnest, but very slowly and gradually.
June 2016 - peroneal tendons began popping painfully, the week before a long-planned anniversary hiking trip. Usual podiatrist not available, so cold-called and got an appointment with another. There may have been a reason this one had an opening. I was diagnosed (correctly) with peroneal subluxation. Prescribed "conservative treatment" (incorrectly.) That meant one month in a cast, one month of PT, and one more month of rest and prescription NSAID. The more medical journal articles I read, the more I saw the phrases "high failure rate" and "rarely successful" in relation to conservative treatment of peroneal subluxation. But I think insurance requires trying it before an MRI is allowed. I'd happily have paid for an MRI myself.
September 2016 - finally allowed to have MRI, which of course showed that I'd had a tear of a peroneal tendon all this time. Wasted summer.
October 13 2016 - surgery to repair tendon. Surgeon blithely said I'd be back to running in 6-8 weeks.
End of November 2016 - finally started PT - still on crutches. PT lasted till...
End of April 2017 - when my insurance benefit ran out. I could walk fine, and run a little. PTs had watched me run, analyzed my gait, and given me exercises to correct imbalances in my hips and strengthen my toes and the other ankle. Ankle still bigger than the other one, and stiff, but perfectly trustworthy. I was the owner of two pairs of custom orthotics.
May 2017 - began a return to running. Very slowly and gradually - starting with intervals of one minute running, one minute walking.
June 2017 - pulled out my Newtons and did an interval run. After about the 4th interval I realized my big toe was hurting. I thought it was just a fleeting pain, but it has hurt off and on ever since when weightbearing. Two of my podiatrists have moved away, and a third one is not in my current medical practice, so I need a new one. My primary physician knew of my problem, so I thought I could get a referral by phone, but no - I have to go for a referral to the walk-in (no pun intended) clinic - which has very limited hours, all of which are times I teach. I'm planning to cancel teaching next week to get there, and hopefully I won't have to wait a month for the appointment. I suspect sesamoiditis. My chiropractor suspects a bunion, my massage therapist turf toe. I wonder how fixable it will be since the main problem is that the ankle is still swollen and stiff.
Over the course of the last year and a half I've gained a good bit of weight. For months my husband was doing all the shopping, and while I was in the cast and also after the surgery friends brought high-calorie meals, plus there might have been some comfort eating, too. I can walk and do the elliptical - but not for very long. I do ride a stationary bike, but even that starts to bother me after half an hour. Swimming is not my choice of exercise because I don't like soaking my violin callouses. But I know the extra weight is not helping the injury.
I've tried not to post about this - really, it's no fun posting about non-running. I'd love to hear some happy stories about folks who have survived long injuries and returned successfully to running! I know it's going to be a long way back.
His name was Otto Lam and he was yelling every 5-6 steps. “Go, Go, GOOOOO…. PASS ME… YOU HAVE TO GO FOR IT… DON’T STOP…. RUN FASTER… GET AWAY FROM ME.”
He was the 3:40 pacer, and he was 10 steps ahead of me and he was running a solid 8:20 pace. The sign he carried had a world of significance for me. Let it get out of sight and my dream of qualifying for Boston was gone. I was 1.5 miles from the finish and I had been falling apart for the last 5 miles. I could not believe this was happening. Not only was I not going to qualify- again- I was going to have the pain of watching the golden unicorn gallop past me in the homestretch.
Bangle had put the thought in my head the year I started running, 2012, at the Marshall University half marathon. It was my first half. “You’ll be qualifying for Boston before you know it” he said.
When I went on to complete my first marathon in 2013, it was all I thought about when I thought about running from that day forward. Getting that ticket. Hitting the benchmark. A dream was born.
Of course, back then the qualifying time for me was 3:35. So I set my sights on it, Somehow I thought that it wouldn’t be the hardest thing in the world. After all, it was only 11 minutes less than my first marathon time of 3:46.
It wasn’t the hardest thing in the world, but it was hard. In 2014, my troubles with the marathon started. Here’s a timeline, for some of you who may not be familiar with my ill-fated history that I’ve been told is like a Greek tragedy of running tales.
Fall, 2013. Ran first marathon. Set my sights on a BQ in 2014 for BOS2015.
Spring, 2014: Two weeks after beginning marathon training, acquired a Hamstring tear(??). Benched for 9 months. Lost ALL fitness (and I mean all…). DNSed Erie Marathon and Marshall University Marathon.
Winter, 2014. Started running again, very slowly. Eventually came back to 5ks, 10ks, and a half marathon.
Summer/Fall, 2015. Trained for Marshall University Marathon, again. Had a great training cycle. Ran a 1:39 half 3 weeks before race day. At 2.5 weeks out, injured my IT band on a routine easy run. Tried to run Marshall anyway, dropped at Mile 11 when I could no longer walk. Devastated.
Winter, 2015. Injured. Had a January birthday that gave me 5 more minutes for BOS2018, moving the barrier to a sub-3:40.
Spring, 2016. Started running again, with the sights on a fall BQ at Wineglass. Did some tris and duathlons, ran races.
Summer, 2016:. Had a strong marathon training cycle until August, when I dislocated my cuboid (it’s a bone on your foot, I didn’t know I had one, either) during a trail Ragnar relay. Was out for about 5 weeks, the most important 5 weeks of marathon training. Made the decision to defer Wineglass to 2017, and go for the later marathon at Philly.
Fall, 2016. Made it to Philadelphia Marathon. Race day dawned with some of the worst running weather imaginable… a 30 degree drop in temps, 25 mph wind at the start gusting to 50 mph at the finish. Made it to Mile 18 before I crashed and burned to a 3:56 finish, more than 20 minutes slower than my goal.
Winter/Spring, 2017. Nursed a mild case of peroneal tendonitis before firing things up again, this time for a spring BQ at the Glass City Marathon in Toledo. Started working a new job a couple of months before Glass City, caught the mother of all plagues and was sick for a month. Lost 4 weeks of running, plus my body was completely run down for about 6 weeks. Dropped to the half at Glass City.
Summer, 2017. Trained for a BQ at Erie. DNFed by Mile 13 at Erie after inexplicably straining my IT band.
Sept/October, 2017. Ran very little, between Erie’s taper and getting the IT band healed.
October 1, 2017. BQed at Wineglass.
Except I came to Corning with low and daily plummeting expectations. I had run less/tapered more than recommended in the final weeks leading up to Erie, but tried to tell myself that the rest would help. Then Erie happened… the bizarre muscle strain, the DNF, trying to regroup and get my head back in the game. I ran little between Erie and Wineglass; my only quality workout was one 16 mile long run. So I was running Wineglass after basically a 5-6 week taper. NOT optimally trained at all.
I left my house Friday evening to drive up to Corning, about 2 hours and 50 minutes due east. It’s a pretty drive- nothing but scenic countryside and little villages tucked into calendar-picture backdrops- and the weather was perfect. After arriving, I met up with Liz (KRG) at our podunk little hotel room that we snagged last minute when other lodging plans fell through… and were extremely lucky to get! We heard that Caitlin (Hot Pink Sneakers) was already in town with her parents, so we arranged to meet at a nearby Applebees for drinks. Before we got there, though, we had some interesting interaction with a lonely and obviously “seeking” pipeline worker from Tennessee who was 2 rooms down from us… and was toting a 10 week old puppy. His puppy ploy did not work on us as we announced our plans to meet up with friends and hastily exited.
I started the race weekend and Loopfest with a margarita. YOLO!
We are the Comeback Queens!!
And I was starving so I had steak quesadillas and they were divine. One thing I did well in the 2-3 days leading up to this marathon: eating!
Back at our hotel, Liz and I caught up with each others’ news before calling it a night. I slept long and well, which was a huge plus seeing as I don’t sleep well the night before the race. I’m all about banking sleep 2 nights out.
Caitlin, Liz and I had a shakeout run planned for Saturday morning, so we met up at 8:00am for that. It was drizzling and a little chilly. Perfect for running!
The next day was a fun succession of activities, friends, and food. Brunch at a local diner, packet pickup, touring the glass museum, getting souvenirs for my kids, seeing more running friends who were arriving into town. We even got in some artsy wine glass designing...
Eventually we ended up back in Corning for a delicious pasta dinner at an Italian restaurant. And a glimpse of the next day’s finish line. What a beautiful town and street… just charming and pretty. I felt my heart thud with anticipation looking at it. Would I sweep beneath that banner in triumph or defeat? It’s the gamble of the marathon.
Back to the hotel room for (hopefully) some pre-race shut-eye... Liz is a great sleeper and was off to dreamland in no time. I, however, was awake and tossing. I distracted myself by texting my husband and a couple of friends, which helped until about midnight when I started getting sleepy.
Race morning! Ughhhhh. I don’t bounce out of bed happy and excited on race day. The butterflies are gnawing, the nerves are rattling, frankly, I’m kind of a mess. I choked down a banana, some cookies, and started sipping Gatorade.
The bus ride to Bath was calming. Even more so was the location the race starts in. We were just up the road from a farm surrounded by rolling farmland, cow pastures, and trees. Upon arrival, Liz and I were relieved to see a huge white tent set up with signs and announcers telling us to go inside to stay warm. It was just under 40 degrees at about 6:30am. There were heaters being blown into the tent and 100 yards away was a long row of porta potties so everything was easy and convenient. Huddle in the tent, hop out to use the porta-potties, hop back in and warm up again. Our group started dropping in one by one… John P (slow running) Jonathan (J-Zee), Caitlin. We took some group selfies to commemorate the occasion.
The arrival of the 4:20 pacer caused a bit of a stir. Young skinny fellow with normal running gear on top… and nothing but a Speedo from the waist down! I guess he was really committed to distracting and motivating his pace group. He promptly found a spot near the middle of the tent, jovially chatting and seeming to thoroughly enjoy seeing everybody trying hard to, you know… pretend we don’t see. On one of my porta potty trips I happened to pass just behind him as he was exiting the tent… one poor lady who was sitting down was staring off into space when Speedo guy passed directly in front of her, squeezing through a narrow space between the lady’s face and another person’s backside. She suddenly realized that his um… package… swathed in Lycra/spandex was maybe 6 inches?? from her face. I had to put a hand to my mouth to suppress a giggle at the look on her face as her eyes widened and she recoiled. Like, whattheheckdidIjustseeOHMYGOD. Yes, ma’am, we’re all thinking that.
The minutes ticked down and suddenly it was time to toss checked bags into the trucks (again, so organized and easy!) and amble to the start. We exchanged hugs and good luck with everyone as we headed to our respective pace groups. I found a spot by the 3:35 pacer and shed my throwaways. The 40 degree air felt crisp… the sun was partly hidden by a thick cloud of fog hanging over the rural countryside…hardly any wind… perfect fall day to run!!
So we ran!
My goal for the first 10 miles was to keep things easy. The best way to do that, I figured, was to stick to the pacer. I was behind him like glue for about 5 miles. He chatted with some of the group, so I listened to that. Everything felt good. Easy. Not much effort. Just right. There was a hill just before Mile 6, but not a bad one, and I took a gel thereafter to put some more zip in my system. Not a complaint from the IT band. Not a complaint from anywhere! I was gradually pulling away from the 3:35 pacer and by Mile 7-8 I had lost him a good half mile behind me. Still reeling in mostly 8:00-8:10s.
Feeling OSOM and cheesing for the photographer...
Continuing on, miles 7-14 were my fastest of the race, all between 7:58 and 8:10 pace. They still felt easy. I was in a good, good place. By now I knew that my IT band was not going to give me a repeat of Erie, at least not nearly as quickly, since Erie already had me feeling pain by Mile 9.
Although some people don’t like a race course that is fairly quiet and isolated, I am a country girl… green grass and trees and mountains give me peace. I absolutely loved this course. There were animals in pastures and stately farmhouses and the smell of earth in the air. High rolling hills or baby mountains behind the picturesque tableaus, still covered in the fog gave it an ethereal feeling. Every few miles we would enter a quaint little town or village, and it would be a nice pick-me-up to have spectators. There were kids high-fiving and people sitting on their front porches. At one church we passed, the parishioners and clergy came out to cheer as a group, dressed in their robes and church finery… wearing out their voices for us before even beginning singing and praying! One barnyard had about a dozen people spectating… they had set up tables with coffee and a variety of snacks, and were holding out plates of cookies for the runners. I didn’t see anyone taking any cookies or coffee, but I figured if they’d done this before they knew they’d get plenty of love from the later runners who were more about the experience than losing a few precious minutes at a snack table. For just a second, I wished I was one of those today… I wanted a cookie!! Eyes on the prize, Peg… cookies afterward.
There were lots of wine references in the handmade signs spectators were holding. “Pain Now, Wine Later” “Hurry up, there’s wine at the finish line” “Just get to the finish wine”. The wine theme is, hands down, one of my favorite things about this event. I got the sense throughout the whole weekend that the areas the race runs through, and Corning, especially, are very proud of their reputation with this race. Everywhere we went, folks were accommodating, friendly, and intent on making a good impression.
Mile 15-17 8:07, 8:06, 8:08. I was so happy! Being in such beautiful surroundings, feeling good, doing something I love. I was also getting excited that everything had gone well up to this point and envisioning finishing well. I was in single digits going home, the majority was behind me. At the same time, oof… 9 miles is a long way.
And then, bam. In a big way. I suddenly felt fatigue creep in, and not just a little. I needed another gel, so I decided to slow down a little, walk through the water stop, assess how I feel, etc. This is the point where, if everything went perfectly, I hoped to pick things up a little bit. I don’t know if taking a little moment killed my momentum or if it just happened that the miles were taking their toll on my legs after so much time off from running. But I went from feeling amazing to feeling like crud. I became very aware of a dull ache in my hip, up where the IT band attaches to the bone… the spot that had been sore ever since Erie.
Knowing I was still way ahead of the 3:35 group and on 3:32-3:33 pace, I gave myself permission to just scale back a bit. Take a mile or two and breathe. Walk through the water stop, drink plenty.
Mile 18-19: 8:27, 8:22. Nope. Not getting better. In fact, the hip pain was now traveling down my leg to my knee, the one that had been all the trouble at Erie.
Mile 20: 8:41. I was taking walk breaks.
Mile 21-22: 9:02, 9:04. Full on bonk and pain and hurting everywhere from the waist down and having my energy drained away like water in sand.
Somewhere in here the 3:35 pacer passed me. I tried to glue myself to them, maybe I could just pull together enough to stick with them? But the steady 8:12 pace was too much and I fell back.
Mile 23: 9:11. I was sick at heart. Mentally and physically done. Every now and then I tried to kick up the pace and hold on to something in the 8s, but when I did my heart rate would soar up to 180-185 (which is 5k effort for me), pain would take over, I’d be a hyperventilating mess and have to walk. Run… die… walk… recover… run… die…walk... RINSE. REPEAT.
Mile 24: 9:15. It’s over, I thought. My knee and hip is killing me with every step and I am bonking. I’m lucky to finish with a 10:00 minute pace and maybe a tiny PR? I’d banked enough time that a PR was still going to happen. But I didn’t come here for a PR, I came for sub-3:40!
Mile 24.5. Where I had The Moment. You know how when something high-stress or particularly intense triggers all kinds of crazy in you and you break down and maybe cry and go into a place so dark it feels like you will suffocate… it only lasts a few minutes… and then you snap out of it and are like, “sorry, wow, I just really had a moment there.” ?? Well, that was me. I heard the 3:40 pace group in the distance. I took off running, hoping I could get back into some momentum. Instead, I fell apart a little. I swore, I started crying, I prayed, I just HAD A MOMENT. Now the darn 3:40 pacer was coming up alongside of me as I was run-limping off to the side. I glared out of the corner of my eye, sobbing quietly under my breath, my brain a fog of defeat and pain. I couldn’t do any math anymore, so I had no idea where I would finish. All I knew is that the number on that sign was the barrier. The bridge. The dividing line between what is and what could have been.
You can’t be doing this!!!! You CANNOT LET IT GET AWAY. Peg, you are an idiot. No matter how much pain you are in, no matter how little energy you have, this is a choice you have to make.
Faces and names started flooding my mind, breaking through the fog of negativity. The people who had been texting, calling, talking to me in the days and weeks leading up to this race… sending me their positive energy, their prayers, their wishes, their love for my race. My running friends in Erie. All you people on the Loop. My husband, who has been my most faithful fan and wanted this for me badly. A couple of non-running friends I’m close to who have been amazing in supporting my crazy hobby even if they don’t fully understand it. Looking back, I feel like God put those people in my mind to carry me through the final stretch. It was as if all their collective voices were in my head saying, “Peg, don’t let us down now… don’t let yourself down.”
And Otto Lam, the 3:40 pacer! Bless his heart, he was yelling and trying to get his flagging, tired group of about 3 runners to stay with him. PASS ME, PASS ME! He bellowed. GO GET IT, YOU PEOPLE! DO NOT FALL BEHIND ME! LEAVE ME! PICK IT UUUUUUUUUP!!! Seriously, it was like a nightmare in which Roger (ocean101), Loop pacer/sadist extraordinaire, suddenly became Asian and developed the ability to project his voice to about 3 times its current volume. Then you would have Otto, the bellowing 3:40 pacer of the Wineglass Marathon.
I snapped out of my moment, thanks to Loud Otto and the mirage I just had of all the people I loved and envisioned urging me on. Whatever pain I was feeling and whatever energy I was not feeling… it would not compare to the pain if I let that 3:40 slip away and finish just seconds or minutes behind it. Seriously, in that moment… though I know that’s overly dramatic, but c’mon, I was an emotional mess at this point, melodrama is inevitable… my thought was that I would not be able to live with myself coming so close and failing. Gathering myself together, I prayed one last time to be able to bear the pain, to not pass out, to not fall down or end up in an ambulance (I’m fine with a hospital right afterward, Lord, just let me finish first). Then I dug deeper than I ever have before and started running.
By now, I was at 24.75. The Moment had lasted a quarter mile. I never stopped again for the next 1.5 miles. I closed the gap between myself and Bellowing Otto. He screamed at me to pass him and I did. I was gritting my teeth, breathing hard, feeling stabs of excruciating pain on my left side with every step. Along with, you know, everything else that hurts in the last miles of a marathon. All I thought was YOU WANT THIS, YOU WiLL GET THIS, YOU WILL NOT LET THE MARATHON CURSE STRIKE AGAIN.
And you can finally make the people who believe in you proud.
Mile 25: 8:38.
As the next mile started, I didn’t know if I could hang on. I knew I wouldn’t stop on my own will, but I wasn’t sure that I would not pass out or collapse from exhaustion. Well, so what, at least then I’d know I tried and died with my boots- er, running shoes- on…
Hardest mile of my life, though. I’ve had painful sprints to the finish, lots of them. In 5ks, halves, etc. But none that carried this combination of fatigue and pain and desperation. And none that lasted for an entire mile and a half. I could still hear Otto yelling for a little bit and I was scared that maybe I was not running as fast as I felt I was. I could not bring myself to look at my watch. Maybe he would still catch me? Maybe I wasn’t even close to coming under 3:40?? Refuse to feel anything physical right now, I told myself. Stay in your mind. Just RUN.
Then there was a mean little bridge, just before turning into the final homestretch. It hurt. Which is probably why they put a photographer there. Sadists.
After what seemed like an eternity, I reached the final turn. I couldn’t hear Otto anymore. But I could see the finish line. The entire length of the street was lined with people. There was music and sunshine and flowers everywhere… the most beautiful finish line ever. Adrenaline, just about the purest, hardest shot of it I’ve ever had, kicked in and my mind kept screaming that I am DOING IT! My face kept wanting to crumple with the emotion I felt about doing it and it was hard not to bawl my eyes out the entire length of the street but dang it, that takes energy and I gotta run! I couldn’t feel my legs anymore, everything seemed kind of hazy and floaty and AMAZING. I didn’t even realize that I went from crying to smiling just before the finish, but the photos prove it:
My eyes never left the arch with the huge FINISH words on it. Except just before crossing when I saw the clock reading 3:38 something. I realized that my long-sought dream of years and miles and sweat and tears was coming true, right here, right now, in this beautiful moment... oh my God, this is real? This is happening?! I threw up my hands in some fashion of a victory salute… it’s ½ Bangle-Pump, ½ my-fist-clenching-my-heart-because-I-am-so-overcome-right-now-that-I-can’t-breathe.
My last mile? 7:49. Desperation, desire, and adrenaline. And joy, for the last 100 yards. So much joy.
I alternated smiling and crying my way through the chute, taking my heat sheet, trying to say Thank You to the volunteer who handed me a medal, hardly able to fathom what happened. My legs completely shut down on me, of course. Normal marathon lock-down plus being unable to bend the right knee thanks to the now livid and throbbing IT band. But I loved that this time, the pain was what brought me to the goal. Not just today’s pain, but all the disappointment, defeat, and injury I’ve accumulated since I started dreaming of qualifying for Boston. Yes, I know it won't be enough of a cushion to get into Boston, but being a Boston Qualifier is something no one can take from me. A huge mental block is lifted from my mind... I know I can do it now, and do it again faster soon to get those 2-3 extra minutes.
4 years. 4,800 miles of running. And here I am.
PS. And a huge shout out to all the OSOM Loopsters who were there… who made the weekend so enjoyable… and who smashed their own races with amazing performances. You all rock. A special thanks to NavEng/Tim who found me in the crowd and was the first Loopster I saw right after finishing (and survived seeing me ugly-cry and babble, it’s a wonder he stuck around to see the rest of us after that). The 6 of us all came into Wineglass with sub-par training and lost fitness because of illness or injury… but we all PRed. It was a great day to be a runner!
I’m not really sure how to explain New York.
Let me go back.
2015 I had to defer. It hurt. A lot. I devoted to day to being there for someone I was sort of in a complicated situation with. His race blew up and I supported him through a five and a half hour finish. It hurt not racing. There were a lot of emotions with him too. I was honestly afraid the race would always be associated with this going forward.
2016 I ran the first 16 before a planned drop. I tried to wave at my friend from the 59th St Bridge to cheer him up. I was grateful that fivestarks had chosen that year to come up and cheer the race and graciously offered to trip me if I decided to try to finish. I was overwhelmed by all the support I got, people that checked in, well wishes and encouragement. I’m pretty sure that money changed hands when I actually dropped where I should have.
I just PR’d at Wineglass. No one needed my support. No one was holding their breath about my race. It was for me. No clock. No expectations. I was here to have fun and do what I wanted.
Not finishing the race the previous year had left it like an itch in the back of my brain. That feeling of a stuck sneeze. Or smoking only half a cigarette. I needed to finish it. I needed to cross that finish line. But that’s all I had to do. Everything else, between the start and the finish, was up for grabs.
Dr Whiskers had suggested that I run it in a costume which was an amazing idea. I quickly nixed the luchador because running with a face mask quickly becomes like waterboarding yourself. I looked at a few other options before deciding to just run in a tutu. I knew this race was going to hurt, I might as well not make myself to uncomfortable too. Plus, I looked cute in it.
So that’s how I found myself, running down 4Th Ave, high fiving every child, grown up, and teddy bear (I counted four) that put their hand out. It was liberating not worrying about my time. Brooklyn is in my blood. It's my favorite part of the race. I love soaking up the cheers of the crowds. People are there for YOU. They love YOU. And the streets are narrower than elsewhere so you get a lot more interaction with the crowd.
I let myself truly enjoy the day. If I started to feel like I was racing, I'd pull back. I walked through water stops, stopped for pics, stopped to pee, walked parts of the 59th Street Bridge, and just did whatever I felt like. I made sure to high five all the little ones who may have been getting overlooked. I don't think I ever realized how much fun relaxing could be.
It started to hurt around mile 18. That’s really when it stopped being fun. Or rather, when it stopped being just fun. It still had it's moments. I let myself walk the first minute of every mile and through every water stop. I briefly regretted the tutu because I was getting a lot of attention and every time I started to walk, someone would call out to me from the crowd with words of encouragement. I felt obligated to react even though I just wanted to be alone with my pain for a bit. After a few repetitions of this, I decided that I’d respond with a smile and/or a high five. I realized that it was actually helping to have to smile.
Yes, this hurts. Yes, I’m happy. Yes, this is fun.
I remember making it into the park and wanting to walk it in but also not wanting to make it take longer to finish. Everyone was really loud but I don’t remember a lot of it. Why are these miles always so difficult to remember? I thought I was on mile 24 when I was on 25 which was a nice surprise at that point but also shows where my mind was at. My garmin was pretty much useless since the bridge and was an entire .6 short.
The finish line is fuzzy. Somehow I crossed and got my medal. I was soaked, nauseous, in pain and I couldn’t stop smiling.
I planned two big races this year, a 50k in July and the Wineglass half.
I ran the 50k to get tons of time on the trails during training and to see how good I am at enduring several hours of suffering. It didn’t disappoint, with almost 8 hours of mind-numbing sloshing through the mud. I discovered shortly after that the many long runs and weekend doubles I used to train for the 50k increased my speed. In the weeks that followed, my speed workouts were MUCH faster than ever before, making me reconsider my goals for Wineglass.
I ran this half to focus on a race for speed, the only time I’d do that this year. Maybe not the wisest thing to do, putting all the eggs in one basket and relying on everything to work out right for that one moment, but what the hell. I ran this half previously in 2015 with a PR of 1:43:33, so my initial goal was to PR, with a number of 1:40 secretly in the back of my mind. When a couple really fast tempo runs happened, the goal changed to 1:40 with a secret goal of 1:38. I’m too big of a weenie to announce any goal that is remotely stretchy. Everything was going really smoothly.
Until I stepped in a pothole. (had to try it out)
As is chronicled in a lost episode of the Loop, the wonky ankle and strained quad went from barely walking to no pain faster than expected, and I still had 5 weeks to prepare. Once again, all was well. I just had to hurry up and get back up to speed.
Race morning started at 2:30 getting dressed and anti-chafing items in place. I was on the road by 3:00 with cup of coffee and doughy bagel for the in-car breakfast. In the days leading up to a race my focus on everything is razor sharp. I'm not sure if it's game day nerves or what. This was intensified even more on the drive to Corning going through some dense fog. I’ve never been more awake at 3:00.
I was able to park, pick up my bib and get to the bus to the start before the masses. Yes- I realize 3,500 is a small race, but I prefer the 150 runner trail race where you have more than 2 ft² to do some final butt-kicks and high-knees at the start. I generally like people, but not that close.
Weather was perfect. 38F with a fog that stayed until my finish. Slight breeze at our backs.
I probably started too far back. I didn’t want to start with the 1:40 pacer, since my starts are always sucky, and the space between him and the 1:45 pace lady seemed way too close. So got in front of Mr 1:50. The first miles didn’t feel like any of my typical runs, where my feet, ankles and achilles are cranky for at least two miles. Everything was smooth. Still slow navigating the traffic, but smooth. Maybe that’s the difference between rolling out of bed to run and 5 hours of walking around and driving before a race.
First two miles: 8:19, 7:37
Then I created my pacing plan. Excellent time to do that, huh? I thought if I could catch the 1:40 group by the midway point, I’d hang with them for a while, then empty the tank after mile 8 or 9. I bumped my pace up to an comfortably uncomfortable level, and everything still was feeling good. I surprised myself when I saw I was running these catch up miles at a stupid fast pace for me. I was even with the 1:40 pacer before mile 6.
Mile three 7:11
My next decision was when to start being stupid again.
I have to mention how well organized and supported this race is. I got there super early which made it quick, but the race day bib pickup was right at the base of the parking garage filled with cheery volunteers, and the busses were lined up within blocks of that. There were plenty of water stops and tons of people supporting you going through the neighborhoods. One high school was especially raucous and gave a good energy boost around mile 7 or 8 where I had my gel and washed my face with their water. I was amazed that high school kids were even awake at 9:00.
I gave myself a couple miles to figure out when I was going to leave the 1:40 group. The 7:35 pace seemed too comfortable, but pushing too soon meant dying sooner, and I didn’t know when that would be. I had never seen these paces before. I pretended to do math, and came to the conclusion that a 4 mile gasser would get me close to my secret goal.
Mile six 7:30
The struggle started in mile 11. Just a 5k to go, and they’re supposed to be painful. It was time to summon the mental toughness acquired at the 8 hour mud slog in July. Through a few more neighborhood streets and a couple more high 5’s with kids before scaling a little bridge that felt like Everest before the finish.
1:37:41. A 5:52 PR. And 6th out of 100 for M45-49. I may be catching up with the fast geezers.
Times are trending down since my first 3 years ago:
Here are my mile splits compared to 2015. Eerily similar shapes to the lines.
Then I got to meet some really cool Loopsters, all with amazing stories to tell. Each finish more amazing than the last. My first taste of Loop magic was pretty sweet, being witness to that many epic finishes. This was the first time I’ve been able to talk to people after a race about the race and they understood what I was talking about.
Maybe all Loopsters are this awesome, but HPS, KRG, J-Zee, Slow_Running and Peg turned a good race into a great day.
In my last bloop I was feeling like I was finally getting off the DL. I ran 19.5 miles one week and then boom 💥! Where’s that exploding hot dog when you need it? My whole hamstring was inflamed—top to bottom.
Last week I tried to play nice with it. A 2 mile run, 3 miles ellipticaling and weights. Finally it has started to feel better this week.
I ellipticaled 3 on Tuesday and ran 3 yesterday followed by 2 more on the elliptical. I promised myself just weights today. By the time I got home from work I really didn’t feel like hitting the gym but had no excuse not to.
Changed and headed out. Did a 10 minute warm up on the bike and then hit the machines. Hamstring curl, leg extensions, glute press, abductor/adductor machine and then the leg press machine. Next up was arms. That stupid chest row machine I hate so much.
I tried a new “machine” where you lay on the bench at a 45 degree angle and lift the bar to your chest. Hard but doable.
Then I finally got the courage to do bench presses at the gym. I copied a girl who had just finished. Bench just the bar first and then add weight. I’m cracking myself up because all I could add on each side was 7.5 lbs! Seriously?? What kind of 🏋️ weightlifter girl am I? (My friend later told me with the bar that’s 60 lbs.)
So now I’m feeling pretty happy that I came to the gym. Workout is going well. I’m jamming to my AC/DC playlist. Life is good.
I’m moving on to my favorite machine - the lat pull down- when one of the trainers stops me. I have to pull out my ear phones. He makes note that we’re both wearing pink shirts. He’s always really nice to me and I see him a lot. Tells me I’m doing a great job.
Today he wants something from me. Says he’s running a Fit-X class for breast cancer awareness and tells me it would really help him if I join. I try to bow out pointing to my hamstring.
“Trying to do no evil.”
“We’ll modify anything you have an issue with.”
Gah! Cue up the Sucker for Pain song.
Push up, squat, burpee, thrusters, toe taps, TRX, running, core, boxing, biking. You name it, we did it.
So now I’m laying here on the floor. A gelatinous pile of very tired muscles. Don’t ask me to do one more squat or one more plank or lift one more barbell.
I really thought I was safe. I was wearing headphones.
“Keep your sunglasses on, I want to take a selfie.”
The Wife looked at me with a skeptically raised eyebrow. “A selfie? Since when do you take selfies?”
“Well-” I said “-this is a big trip, and I know you like to take the occasional selfie, so I thought you might want one.”
“Why the sunglasses? This isn’t for some stupid Blues Brothers joke you’re going to make that no one is going to get is it?”
“Yeah, I thought so, no selfie.”
I spent the rest of our ride on the Plane Train (1. this is its official name, and 2. it’s Atlanta, of course this story starts at the airport) quietly sulking at the lost potential of my Blues Brothers joke. I travel so much for work that once I enter the airport my body goes into autopilot until we’re in the air, so as I gave up on figuring out a “106 miles to Chicago” bit my mind drifted to the task soon to be at hand. Or at foot. Whatever. Unlike the lead up to Philly, the week before Chicago had been eerily calm. No work disasters. No abnormally idiotic clients. The partners were all traveling. And aside from some minor taper madness, training had gone exceptionally well. I marveled at all of this at first, and then had a horrible thought. Nothing goes this well for me, ever. Things had actually gone too well, and I began to feel that the other shoe was surely about to drop. And then I started thinking about how many different things could go wrong during a marathon, and grabbed the brown bag our sad airport lunch had come in out of The Wife’s hand and started doing some deep breathing.
I rarely get nervous before a race anymore. There’s no worries about finishing, and I generally know what will hurt and when, and for how long. There’s just not that many surprises left out there. But the marathon is, as you’re well aware, a wholly different animal. It's so long that doing half of one is considered a long race in and of itself. You need to train entire physiological systems to perform when they’re damaged and broken, and prepare yourself to ignore tremendous pain and suffering far beyond what you experience in shorter distances. All of this gives the marathon an epic feeling, and it was this sense of an impending monumental struggle which was racing through my mind as I filled my lungs with deep breathes infused with eau de soggy chicken panini. The Wife grabbed the bag back to take her lunch out before I ruined it and I disengaged the autopilot and rejoined the world around me. I started to give myself a little “there’s nothing to be afraid of, you’ve done this before” pep talk, but realized the anxiety wasn’t coming from fear. Before Philly, I was afraid of what lay beyond mile 20. I’d never been there, never seen the wall, never felt the despair of that last 10K. But this time, there was no mystery. I knew how cold it was in the shadow of the wall, how it feels to empty the whole tank fumes and all, and how a 4 inch curb could bring a grown man to tears. And I realized that what I was feeling wasn’t fear.
I have a delusional sense of grandeur and often view approaching challenges, be it protesting some asinine policy against “the man” at work or a local 5K, as epic struggles testing every ounce of my physical strength and mental fortitude. The root of this is likely some deep seated psychological demon revolving around a fear of living a life of no consequence. I wake up every morning in my Ikea bed surrounded by the beige apartment walls, go to work at my big city office job greasing the wheels of capitalism but making absolutely zero impact in the lives of the people around me, and ride the train home as an anonymous member of the mass of daily commuters. I pay my taxes, I feed the meter, I obey the honor system. A good worker bee. But knowing I live this life without consequence eats away at me, rots my soul. So I seek out chances to feel like I’m a part of something grand, something that matters. Imagining being a part of a herculean struggle against insurmountable odds with my very worth as a human being in the balance helps to keep me from leading a worker bee revolt and burning down the hive. There’s a lot more to unpack here, but this is already more than enough for a running blog.
Visualizing this epic struggle is how I mentally psyche myself up and prepare for big races. I was rolling this around in my head as I bit into my soggy chicken panini, and it dawned on me how ready I felt for this. I knew I was well trained. I had nailed my tune up race. I was well rested and fueled. And as I approached the field of battle for my profound clash of Revlite and carbon rubber against hot asphalt, I knew I wasn’t afraid. I felt like a mythic warrior from some old epic poem about to enter the dragon’s lair. A confident, purpose built and finely tuned machine driven by a razor sharp focus. It wasn’t fear. It was anticipation. I felt ready to slay some demons.
“He then went to visit and see - when night came -
the high house how it, the Ring-Danes
after the beer-feast had occupied;
He found then therein the nobles’ company
slumbering after the feast; they did not know sorrow,
misery of men”
-Beowulf, lines 115-120
We checked into the Hilton Chicago, a massive, beautiful, old fashioned hotel whose shadow cast onto the edges of Grant Park. The Wife and I did a 5 mile shake out along the Lakefront Trail and prepared to meet a friend for dinner. We were chatting as we exited the hotel and bumped into two people doing the same on their way in. I looked up and started to apologize but the words never made it out of my mouth. The Wife barely noticed and kept going until she realized I had stopped and was staring at the two people we’d passed. Before she could get mad at me for making us late, I told her that we almost just took out Galen Rupp and Alberto Salazar. Upon hearing this she started geeking out and I got to chide her for a change for making us late and we finally went on our way. After dinner at Pequod’s (highly recommended) we stopped by the hotel bar for a night cap. While looking for the bar we wandered first through the coffee shop, where I again spotted Mr. Rupp. I elbowed The Wife as we walked past, and in response she punched me in the arm. We grabbed a seat near the window and looked out at the park, sipping cocktails and discussing our race plans and anxieties as we watched the world unencumbered by marathon jitters pass by. And then I saw a familiar looking woman. Slight but strong looking, with short gray hair and dark, deeply intense eyes. I wasn’t sure at first, but the eyes were unmistakable. In every picture I’ve ever seen of Joan Benoit the intensity of her gaze has always struck me. I did a double take, which caught her attention through the thick glass of the window, and we exchanged half smiles and nods. This would have been the highlight of my weekend, had the race gone differently. But we’ll get to that.
We hit the expo Saturday morning and after picking up bibs and t-shirts sat in on a discussion with Deena Kastor and Emily Hutchins nominally about women in running moderated by the new editor of RW magazine. Despite the title though, the questions from the moderator mostly focused on general topics like “how to recover” and “how to incorporate strength training into your routine” which was a little disappointing considering the panelists. But, in answering one of these vague softball questions, Deena said something that I couldn’t get out of my head. I’m paraphrasing here, but the gist of it was:
“Don't judge the race just by whether or not you hit a specific time. Even if you don't hit your primary goal, think about how this race and this effort will change you and help you continue to grow and develop as a runner and person, because it will regardless of your time.”
Because this was only my second marathon, in the run up I kept comparing everything in training or preparations to Philly, which was my only frame of reference. And while I didn’t hit my A goal in Philly, I still saw it as a major success. Yes the conditions were awful and all that, but the fact that I was able to run a marathon at all, regardless of time or conditions, was something that had been unthinkable just a few years prior. I was reflecting on all the ways the marathon had changed me and by the end of the talk my head was swimming with all the feels. So when they asked for questions from the audience, I raised my hand. The Wife turned her head and whisper yelled to me “WHATTHEHELLAREYOUDOING” while the emcee brought over the microphone. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to ask, but as I grabbed the mic my thoughts coalesced into this: What, other than being good at it, draws you to the marathon as opposed to the 10K or 5K or other events?
I thought it came out well off the cuff, and was pleased with myself until I realized Deena was just giving me a blank stare and not saying anything. Oh God what the hell did I say? I replayed the question in my head to make sure the thoughts up there and noises that come out of my mouth had been the same, and I may have broken into a cold sweat. Then the emcee calmly repeated my question at an actually audible volume, Deena smiled and I felt a whole lot better. And then she said this (again, paraphrased, I’m not a frigging court reporter here):
“When I ran the 10K and 5K, it was always on a track in a stadium and I always felt like I was performing for people. But the marathon is different. There’s a community around the marathon. Not everyone who runs a 10K knows what it’s like running in stadiums full of people, but everyone who runs the marathon has the same experience. We all run the same course, from elites to the slowest finishers. We all have the same aches and pains and hydration and nutrition struggles and digestive issues and injuries. We pass the same aid stations and timing mats. We’re all in it together, and there’s a huge community all sharing in the highs and lows and supporting each other. That’s what I love about the marathon.”
I don’t remember the rest of the expo because I only have so much brain power and it was all being used absorbing this. If you ever get a chance to hear Deena speak, take it. Responsibly of course, please don’t go up to her in a restaurant and stick your fingers in her food to hear her yell at you or anything like that.
After the expo we met my brother and his family for lunch and had run-ins with Khalid Khannouchi, Tatyana McFadden, Feyisa Lelisa, and Rupp again. We had a low key dinner of pizza margherita and my traditional two beers and headed back to the hotel for an early bedtime. As we went through the ritualistic pinning on of the race bibs and laying out our fuel and gear I also went through my final mental preparations.
I planned out my pacing, which called for 7:45-7:55 for the first 3 miles, 7:35 for the next 17, and then as fast as I could manage for the last 6.2. The results would hopefully be 3:20 with a slight negative split. With every physical and logistical detail now finally tended to, I laid down to sleep. I replayed the day’s events to keep something positive passing between my neurons and stave off the anxious tossing and turning. It had been a day full of meeting heroes and legends, seeing family and friends, and enjoying good food and drink. A day without sorrow or misery, full of the feast of life.
“He came then to the hall the fighter journeying,
cut-off from merriment; the door soon rushed open,
firm with fire-forged bands, when he tapped it with his hands
plotting evil then he tore open, now that he was enraged...”
-Beowulf, lines 720-723
I woke easily, which is no small miracle, and quickly set to the task of making breakfast. Peanut butter on a bagel and hotel coffee were the morning’s fare. The bagel was stale and the coffee tasted like an old kitchen sponge had been floating in it, but I knew this offense against my palette paled in comparison to the abuses I was about to subject the rest of my body to. The patented two beer system worked perfectly, and with my top end full and bottom empty, we dressed and headed to the start line. The atmosphere in the hotel lobby was so charged the hairs on the back of my neck stood up as we made our way through the crowds of high strung runners and headed across the street to Grant Park. On our way we happened to bump into a large crowd of fellow Atlanta Track Club members from the marathon training group who were running together, wished them luck and found our gate. Once we passed through security, The Wife and I separated and entered our corrals. The journey of months and miles to this time and place was now complete. Very soon we would rush through the starting arch, leaving merriment behind and searching for the pain we all knew was out there waiting for us. There was nothing left to do now but run.
A few minutes after the starting horn sent the elites off to warm up the asphalt for the rest of us, our corral started moving and made our way into the start area, slowly shuffling forward. I kept moving with the crowd, expecting it to eventually stop and then have another horn sound to send the corral C runners on our way. But as we approached the starting arch, people just started running through it and I realized this was a rolling start. I panicked briefly and fumbled to ready my Garmin, which thankfully connected just in time, and in the least dramatic fashion possible I crossed the start line and my race began.
The Wife had warned me that the first few miles pass under several roadways and bridges, and that this would likely throw my Garmin off. She had also warned me that with the course’s roughly 9,436 turns, it was important to find the blue line and follow the tangents to not run an ultra distance. I kept this advice in the back of my head and checked my pace right before we reached the first overpass, even though it was something like a quarter mile into the race. But it was 7:55, which was right where I wanted to be. I felt absolutely perfect, and now that my anxious energy had a productive outlet even my mind was clear. I enjoyed the gorgeous Chicago architecture, took in the crowds, and enjoyed the fresh bounce in my stride because I knew it wouldn’t be there long. In between overpasses I checked the Garmin and saw paces hovering around 10:00, which I knew wasn’t right so I ignored them and went by feel. This is not my strong suit, but there was nothing I could do about it and I tried not to let it bother me. The first 3 miles were 7:46, 7:52, and 8:02. After mile 3, I made an effort to pick it up a little bit to get to closer to race pace. There was no worry or stress, I knew there were plenty of miles left, but I didn’t want to get too far off plan too early. We were no longer running under bridges, so I tried to rely on the Garmin hoping it would be accurate. It kept showing paces in the 8:00-8:15 range, which given my mile 3 split I assumed was correct and accordingly kept trying to pick it up. When I passed mile 4 in 7:10, I did worry.
I did some deep breathing and calmed myself down. I told myself one slow and one fast mile offset each other and comforted myself with some runner math, convincing myself I was right on track. I focused on getting the legs settled into goal pace. I took my first Honey Stinger and some water at mile 5 and found a groove as we left the city streets and entered Lincoln Park. The pathway through the park is decidedly narrower than the roadways which caused some congestion, but by now the mass of runners had settled into loose groupings of similar paces so there were no serious ill effects. Just an increased risk of being hit with some neighborly flop sweat. I was looking forward to miles 8 and 9 as I have a friend who lives nearby that neighborhood and was planning on coming out to cheer, but as we left the park and approached his neighborhood I was distracted by my first rough patch of the race.
The neighborhood we were running through had little to no shade, and by now the sun was high enough overhead to remind us that it was not going to stay cool for long. I also started feeling the shooting nerve pain which is a remnant of the piriformis injury I had two years ago and comes and goes periodically. This combination had me more uncomfortable than I was comfortable with this early in the race, and I slowed again in mile 8 to 8:02. This was far sooner than I had expected for my first visit to the Valley of the Suck, so I did some self-evaluation and revised my plan a bit. I was taking a Honey Stinger every 5 miles and had planned on taking Gatorade halfway between fueling points, but given how much I was sweating I decided to at least sip some green go juice every mile to make sure I stayed hydrated and full of those delicious lemony limey electrolytes. There was nothing I could do about the periodic shooting pain in my leg, and I knew it would come and go all day. So I borrowed a mantra from someone I knew was also on the course that day. You all remember the story of the runner who was assaulted last year and managed to fight off and beat the shit out of her attacker. She kept telling herself “not today motherfucker” as she fought back against her assailant, which I remember thinking at the time was the height of badassery, and she was running Chicago today with the rest of us. If she was able to fight through an attack like that I could beat this comparatively insignificant pain in the ass. Every time the pain flared up I would yell out “NO, not today” and press on until it passed. We turned into my friend’s neighborhood and a tunnel of cheering crowds and I started to feel like I was getting back on track.
I found my groove again and began ticking off goal pace miles like a metronome. I don’t know if it was the incredible crowd support, the modified fueling/hydration strategy, the defiant mantra or some unknown celestial favor shining down but I was feeling perfect again. I was ignoring the piriformis pain, I still felt fresh, and the pace was downright relaxed. I never saw my friend, but I did see my brother and his family at mile 11 which gave me a boost and I started the runner math to get an idea of what my half split would be. In the middle of my arithmetic I felt my Garmin go off for mile 13, and looked down to see a 6:23 mile split. I momentarily panicked until I realized I couldn’t even see the mile marker on the road yet, and I decided the Garmin was officially useless. Mile 14 was also way early, so I hit the manual lap button when I hit the 14th mile marker to try and give me some frame of reference based in reality. Which I found ironic as in my daily life I seek out every opportunity to escape reality. But, the marathon makes you do crazy things.
This minor Garmin drama actually turned out to be a fortuitous unpleasantness. The Chicago course is basically three out and back sections, and the stretch I was on heads west and away from the finish line which can be deflating if you reflect on being more than halfway done but somehow still running away from the finish line. It’s also where the crowd support thins a bit, and it starting to get noticeably hot. But because I was fumbling with my watch and doing runner math off my half time I hadn’t really noticed any of this. My goal was to be out around 1:41, and I crossed the 13.1 timing mat in 1:40:57 per the official timing. I was ecstatic with this, especially considering the early pacing hiccups, and as we turned around and the Sears (up yours Willis) Tower came back into view I resolved to ignore the watch, check my splits only at the mile markers, and focus on my fueling and hydration to combat the heat.
Mile after perfectly paced mile passed without even the hint of an issue, so I did something I rarely do in a race. I took in what was around me and enjoyed what I was doing in the moment. I knew I was getting very close to a whole world of pain, but for the time being, I felt amazing. And not “for mile 16 of a marathon” amazing, I felt “first night of the honeymoon” amazing. In fact I have never felt so strong, so in control, so capable during any stretch in any race I’ve ever run. My stride felt graceful and fluid, my legs felt light, I wasn’t breathing heavy, and I was even managing the heat well. I thought to myself at one point “who the hell feels GOOD in mile 18 of a marathon?”, but I didn’t have an answer. So I made sure I didn’t pick it up too much and prematurely empty the tank, and just kept feeding on the swelling crowd support and cranking out the miles as we made our way back into the heart of Chicago.
One of the things everyone is told when they sign up for Chicago is how great the neighborhoods are. And they are, with each having it’s own unique way of showcasing their city for the runners. The two I had heard the most about were the Frontrunners in mile 8 (who absolutely lived up to their billing) and Chinatown, which I was now approaching. But first was Pilsen, about which all I knew was that it was a Latino neighborhood. I was wearing my Atlanta Track Club singlet, and although the cheering was all in Spanish, I started hearing “Atlanta” (well, “Ad-a-lanna”, but close enough) in the cheers from the spectators. And damn were they energetic cheers. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t understand the words themselves, the energy and excitement with which they were screamed made their meaning perfectly clear. The blaring music and enthusiasm of the crowds manning pop-up aid stations was infectious, and I felt as though I was dancing through this stretch. Other neighborhoods were great, but for my money the energy of Pilsen was the best. Gracias amigos.
“Woe be to him who must.
through dire terror, thrust his soul
into fire’s embrace; hope not for relief,
Or to change at all”
-Beowulf, lines 183-186
It was just after the Pilsen neighborhood that the course turns south, away again from the Sears Tower and the finish line. I don’t know if it was a let down from the crowd support high, the psychological effect of running in the wrong direction again, or just the 20 miles I’d run, but here I had my first rough patch since mile 8. It only lasted a few hundred yards or so and only cost me a few seconds, but I knew this was the start of the race. For the next few miles, I would have stretches where it felt as though my body remembered what it was we were doing and sought to punish me for it. My legs would get heavy, the heat would get to me, and that bone deep fatigue would set in. And then, as quickly as it arrived, I’d pass through the Valley of the Suck and be back to skimming the pavement on feather light legs. Every time one of these rough patches hit I would remind myself “Don’t you fucking stop”. I knew if I did, or slowed down, or allowed myself to physically or mentally back off in any slight way I’d never be able to recover the pace. We approached Chinatown, and I kept an eye out for the famous dragon everyone had told me was such an incredible sight. And I needed the pick-me-up, because I was again descending into the Valley, and the visits were beginning to increase in frequency and unpleasantness. But when I finally saw the dragon, it was just a guy holding the head. The rest of it was nowhere to be found. Now, I’ve read and heard stories about the importance of being in a good mental state when indulging in psychedelic pharmaceuticals. Being in a bad place mentally while partaking in mind altering substances can, apparently, lead to what the kids call a “bad trip” and leave you in a terribly frightening hysteria. So I’ve heard, at least. And while I wasn’t preparing to expand my mind in quite this manner, the last 10K of a marathon certainly causes it’s own mind alterations. Distraught over a beheaded dragon was not how I wanted to enter this stretch, and I tried to shake the disappointment quickly. The Valley of the Suck is a bad enough trip on its own, I didn’t need any help making it worse.
I thought back just 2 short miles to Pilsen, and how strong and in control I had felt then. It felt like another lifetime. I went from the toes up to see if anything was wrong. My feet hurt, and for the first time I was wishing that the NB 1400s has a touch more forefoot cushion. But I didn’t have blisters or toenails shooting off, just fatigue. OK. My legs were sore and tired, but I was running a fucking marathon, so they should be. I wasn’t listening to anything coming from my piriformis so as the status reports came in there was nothing suggesting injury, just the fire of fatigue warming my lower extremities. It was a different heat I was feeling that was beginning to concern me though. By now the shade had all but disappeared from the course, and there was no avoiding the beating sun.
I reminded myself that it was still a full 20 degrees cooler than what I trained in all summer in Atlanta, and with a fraction of the humidity to boot. I’d tell myself this or remind myself that I wasn’t hurt, just hurting, and would gradually rise back out of the Valley of the Suck. Then, in a familiar pattern which would repeat for a few miles I’d slip back down and have to claw my way out gain. Somewhere around mile 24, we passed under a railroad bridge which required a short downhill stretch and then an equally short climb back up. I distinctly remember this as the last time I felt good. The little hill sucked enough life out of my tired legs that they weren’t able to keep pace and recover, and since I wasn’t slowing down, they just never recovered. As the walls of the Valley of the Suck grew higher and steeper, I realized I wasn’t going to get out of it this time. It was tough to judge how this was impacting my pace because my Garmin was telling me I was running at 8:30, but every time I passed a mile marker it would beep and show me a 7:3x split, which I verified with fuzzy runner math. I’d been trying to figure out if I was on track for my 3:20 goal since mile 16, but the Garmin issues and mental fatigue had made this like trying to navigate to the moon with a compass and sextant, and I kept alternating between a minute or two over and then under. As we passed mile 24 the math simplified enough that I knew I wasn’t going to make it, but still had a chance for 3:20:xx if I could pick it up a little bit. I tried to dig, but nothing happened. I tried to do a status check, but couldn’t formulate the questions in my head. I tried to repeat my mantra, but I couldn’t remember it. Then I forgot what I was trying to do all together, and all I could do was run.
“Fate often spares
the hero not fated to die when his courage endures.”
-Beowulf lines 572-573
We were on Michigan avenue now, heading back north to Grant Park and the finish. I was aware of this, and knew it meant I was almost done, but that was about all my mind could process. I never lost awareness like in Philly, but I could no longer form complete thoughts. And all there was to be aware of anyway was pain and exhaustion. There were no more pace calculations, or nodding to people yelling something about Atlanta, or mantras, or feeling bad for the guy cramping so bad he was sideways crab walking just to keep moving. Or maybe he wasn’t really there. I honestly don’t know. This was supposed to be my epic showdown where I pushed beyond my physical limits and dug deep to gather the strength for one last attack to slay the dragon, and instead I couldn’t even remember to swallow when I took Gatorade at the last aid station. I remember passing the 800 meters to go sign. I knew how far 800 meters was, but couldn’t understand what that meant to me in terms of how close I was to being done or how long I would have to keep enduring this. I knew we were supposed to turn right, and then go up a hill, but I couldn’t process how much further that was. It wasn’t until I saw a sign that said 300 meters to go that I was able to have a coherent thought again, and it was one of crushing disappointment that we’d only run 500 meters in what felt like 20 minutes. I couldn’t make out the numbers on my watch and had no idea what my pace was, but as we turned up Roosevelt and climbed the hill whose viciousness multitudes of Chicago veterans had warned me of, I managed to feed off the fact that I was passing scores of people on the incline. As we turned onto Columbus Drive for the final stretch, I remembered from Spirit of the Marathon and from watching the race in the past that this stretch was longer than it looked, but I had lost all sense of time and space by this point and have no idea how long it was. I crossed the line under a clock that read 3:29:xx, which I knew from when I started meant I had a 3:21:xx. I stopped my Garmin without looking, and for the first time in 26.61 miles I allowed myself to stop running.
The picture worth a thousand words
I wobbled through the finish chute like some alien life form adjusting to Earth’s gravity for the first time, grabbing whatever food and beverage I happened to be stumbling past because I didn’t entirely have control of where I was going but I knew I needed to eat and drink something, and slowly made my way to the after party to meet The Wife. That journey took a full 45 minutes, complete with multiple hands on the knees pauses to do some awkward am-I-gonna-puke-or-cry thing until I made my way to the Goose Island beer tent. Which naturally was at the furthest possible corner of the park from the finish line. I enjoyed the best Goddamned beer I’ve ever had, and sat on a bench chatting missed goals and exploding blisters with a nice Canadian couple while I waited for The Wife.
As I did my marathon post-mortem I keep focusing on two things. The first is, I set out to run 26.2 miles at 7:38 pace. For the 26.61 miles I ran, I averaged a 7:34 pace (and even managed a roughly 30 second negative split!). The second thing is, I didn’t hit the wall or bonk. I was in a world of pain at the end to be sure, but my last 5 full miles averaged 7:38 pace on the nose. The last 2.2k was my fastest of the day. So, while the number on the clock isn’t what I wanted it to be, I’m pretty damn happy with how this race went. I executed my pacing and fueling almost perfectly, I just ran too far. Which got me thinking. Did I run this pace because that’s what I trained for, or because that’s as fast as I can go? What if I’d trained faster? How much faster could I try for next time and still hit? It’s way too early to start setting goals for next year, but I might be setting some big ones.
I have also been thinking about this through the lens of Deena’s talk. I’ve never run in a stadium in front of a crowd, and never will. Nor will many of you. But we all participate in this little internet community and even let it bleed into real life when the opportunity arises, so we definitely embody the special thing that is the running community. We all share the same struggles and injuries and fears and anxieties, the joylessness of waking up at 3 am to get the miles in, or of running in sub-arctic temperatures. And those shared experiences are what the community is built on. And I don't think there's any deeper shared experience than the marathon. Because of what it does to you, stripping an otherwise highly intelligent and advanced creature at the height of the evolutionary ladder down to nothing more than a stinking panting starving animal barely capable of the most basic motor functions, to be a part of the marathoning community is to expose your naked soul. The well of your physical strength and mental will are on full display to your fellow road warriors and how you react in those darkest stages of the race shows more about you to the world than almost anything I can think of. I’ve shared a lot about myself with the running community, but more of it has come out through the marathon than from anything else. The support marathoners show each other is also unparalleled, bonded by the shared experience that is only understood by those who’ve lived it.
The marathon is something special indeed. Thanks for making it that way.
Well, that was embarrassing.
I signed onto the new Loop on Saturday night, shortly after enjoying one adult beverage. It was fairly simple. Just fill in all the fields, upload a picture, press enter -- then OMG -- I SPELLED MY FREAKING SCREEN NAME WRONG. COMPLUSIVE? Really? You, the English major, the writer, the proofreader can't put the letters in the right order? What the hell is wrong with you?
Determined to fix things before anyone noticed, I started toggling and googling like a madwoman. But in the end it became clear that only the administrator could solve the problem. It took a couple of days before I could connect with Cliff, but he came through and now I can stop loathing myself. (The last time I was this embarrassed about a spelling error was in 7th grade when I was about to be crowned the school champion, but took my eye off the prize just long enough to get robbed by my 5th grade brother. On an incredibly simple word. I swear the judge said "eightieth" not "eighth." Still cringing from that one).
Anyway, a brief running recap.
Injured in March, had to abandon Boston training.
Resumed in May or so. Back to about 25 mpw. No speedwork, just easy miles.
Used my downtime to get a little more compulsive about strength training. Pretty consistent now, thanks to a small group in Loopville, some of whom just killed their fall marathons.
Really inspired by last weekend's marathoners and ultramarathoners. Googling spring marathons now, but not sure my body can handle it.
Seeing a new massage therapist who's working on my terrible posture (which is probably a key contributor to my injuries).
Had to wear full tights, mittens, earband and two layers on top this morning. Not ready for that.
Planning to "race" a double (5K +10K) with Chris (NC Athlete) in November. There will be pie afterwards.
Having a ton of fun encouraging a friend who's running her first-ever half marathon in November. She's 56 (just a kid ) - and never believed she could do something like this. It's such a kick to be there when she hits new milestones.
That's about it for now. One last thank you to Cliff (if he's reading this) for helping me put my world back in order.
BTW -- ocrunnergirl = fivestarks
Wondering if I should just have Cliff change me back to fivestarks. I like ocrunnergirl better because that's who I feel I am - a girl who grew up in Ocean City. Also belatedly I realized that it could stand for Obstacle Course (runner girl) but that was not intended.
My healing from the hamstring tear has been fraught with ups and downs.
One PT tells me I'm fine to do anything that doesn't hurt. The next tells me that I can only do 1 mile 3 times a week. <== I kicked that one to the curb.
I finished my 12 sessions of PT, but they recommended another 12 sessions. I'm calling it graduate school. I'm actually not struggling with this. If they want to point out my weaknesses and tell me how to fix them I'm all for it!
I've started a very loose Higdon beginners plan to get me to be able to finish the Rehoboth 1/2. I started it late because who knew December was less than 12 weeks away?? I struggle with how many races I've DNS'd.
First week called for running 15 miles total. I ran 6.1 of those miles. Ellipticaled, stairclimbed and rowed the other ones. I struggle with being smart.
It seems not all of my speed has left me. I managed an 8:44 mile one day when running alternating light posts fast and slow.
Two days ago I ran 4 at the park where I tore my hamstring. I wanted to be fast. I wasn't. I was in between and it didn't feel good. I struggle with remembering my paces and # of miles last year.
I had my 1st session of Graduate PT yesterday. I told the PT about some pain in my hamstring. He graston'ed a little and said he felt it was just from my leg not being used to running. Thought I was okay to keep running - smaller steps, Chi running.
My friend called and asked if I wanted to do a short run. Before PT I would've said no. I taped my leg and we ran a glorious 2 miles. It was slow. We chatted. It was perfect.
I have so many hopes and dreams, but right now I don't know what to do with them.
My strength is at an all time high due to cross training. As long as I can keep my running progressing I feel I could run a great Obstacle Course race. I'm signed up for one Dec. 9th, but with my friends and family. So a fun run. I could sign up for one in North Jersey in November but it's hilly and hills are not my hamstring's friend right now. I'm not willing to have another setback. I struggle with being too competitive.
There's a marathon in Vegas in April of next year that I'd love to sign up for - Revel Mt. Charleston. I'm in no position to think about signing up for anything other than a 5k right now.
With the Loop shutting down it was painful to walk down memory lane and see how fast I was and how far I had come. I struggle with feeling like I will never return to that.
The PTs keep telling me I may look young but my muscles are those of a 50 year old. I also found out I have flat feet and should be wearing orthotics. Seriously? I struggle with getting old.
I struggle with all of these being FWP.
On Sunday, for the first time in three years, I ran a race longer than 5K. This hiatus was caused by a series of bizarre non-running injuries. The worst was two summers ago, when I pulled a groin muscle while trying to pick a hard-to-reach squash. More recently, I tore an intercostal muscle when I fell to the floor while sleeping.
Waking at 5:00am to begin race prep, I was greeted with this local weather alert:
Fortunately, I always try to keep a low profile.
As I started to leave for the race, something felt amiss in the shoe department. Glancing down, I uttered my first obscenity of the day.
I had put a Clifton racing shoe on my left foot, a Bondi walker on my right. Next stop: THE HOME 😳 !
The following pic shows me at the starting line, 41 minutes before race time. At this point the temp was 45, which was fine, but the wind gusts were in the 20-30 mph zone. I hunkered down in the stairwell of an open building until race time.
The first 9 miles went pretty much as planned. Using a 5:1 run/walk strategy, I was averaging exactly 12 minute miles. But I had used a lot of energy fighting the wind on the river bridges and in the skyscraper canyons of downtown Des Moines. I was tired, and resorted to more frequent walks. This pic, taken late in the race, fails to reflect how miserable I really felt!
I ended up at 2:44:30 for a 12:34 pace, but was pleased to learn that I had won my age group. (Whether or not two constitutes a "group" is a semantic issue that I refuse to discuss.)
On Saturday there had been a brief flurry of Loopster excitement. Mrs. SR told me she had seen an "Awesome Sauce" sign in one of the hotel elevators and wondered if that was a Loopster name. I said it was, though I didn't know the person's real name.
Earlier that day I had seen a sign in the lobby welcoming "Jerry and his 'runbuds' on his 50th," so I assumed someone could be welcoming Awesome Sauce. My APB on Facebook quickly identified her as a young woman who had been a star collegiate runner in southeast Nebraska. Sadly, a check at the front desk failed to show that this person was staying there.
When I finally located the right elevator, I found the following:
Turns out to be an ad for various sauces offered in the hotel restaurant.
I guess sauces are haute cuisine at the Des Moines Hampton Inns!
Long overdue race report, as usual. Lots of pictures, as usual.
Waaaaay back in mid-May, I traveled north for the second annual “Caitlin’s Birthday Mother-Daughter Race Weekend.” Last year’s inaugural event was the Martha’s Vineyard Marathon, where my Mom ran her very first half- marathon and I ran my 13thmarathon. This year we were keeping it in New England but heading north to Maine, where Mom would run her third half- marathon (she’s a total pro now) and I’d run my 12thhalf- marathon AND my 17thmarathon, because why run one race when you can run two??
I got home to Massachusetts from DC on Thursday, and Mom and I hit the road for Maine on Friday morning. But first, an important stop for apple cider doughnuts, because New England.
We hit the expo at the University of New England in Biddeford, ME and picked up our packets, then had a tasty early dinner at a cute little Italian place in Saco, where we were staying. I got Flat Caitlin ready for Saturday’s half- marathon (race #1), and we called it an early night.
Saturday morning dawned cool and crisp (sunny and 50 degrees!), which felt amazing to me since DC was already in the throes of its hot, humid summer weather. Mom and I drove over to the start/finish area at the University of New England (about 20 minutes from where we were staying; it seemed like everywhere we needed to be over the weekend was about 20 minutes away from each other…) and parked the car, then headed inside the nice warm student center to wait for the race to start. Lots of other runners slowly trickled in, and I kept an eye out for the yellow bibs that indicated another crazy person who was doing the 39.3 mile challenge. It was so awesome to have a comfortable place to wait indoors and to have real bathrooms to use prior to the race! With about 10 minutes to go, Mom and I walked the little ways over to the start line in a nearby parking lot. I was in the first wave, so I lined up in my corral and chatted with a couple of other runners while we waited for the race director to blow the official starter conch shell.
At 8am sharp, the conch was blown and we were off! Given that I had a marathon to run the next day, my plan was to take the half- marathon nice and easy. This turned out to be a fantastic race to just run for fun, because the course was so beautiful! Almost all of it was right along the coast and I had so much fun soaking up the ocean views and marveling at the gorgeous beach mansions in the quiet neighborhoods that we ran through.
The race seemed to fly by, and before I knew it I was coming into the finish back at the university campus! I was really happy with how consistent I kept my pace throughout the race, and how comfortable it felt.
I collected my medal and commemorative water bottle (way to be both green and fun, Maine Coast Marathon!), went to the car to grab my warm layers, and then camped out at the finish to cheer on runners and wait for Mom to come in.
I met two super cute and very good dogs waiting for their person to finish the race as well, so that was fun. And cheering at the finish line is ALWAYS a great time! Mom came flying in so much sooner than she’d expected – she finished in 2:54:xx, breaking three hours for the first time and getting a ridiculous 14-minute PR!
After enjoying a post-race Shipyard beer in the beer garden, Mom and I got cleaned up and then headed into Freeport, because it was only about half an hour away and I was desperate to visit the HUGE L.L. Bean flagship store! It didn’t disappoint!
The rest of Freeport was super cute and we had fun walking around and window shopping (and maybe doing some actual shopping too!). We stumbled upon the Wicked Whoopie store, which was SO exciting because they always come to the Big E (basically a New England state fair that’s held the next town over from my parents) and are a family favorite!
Look at the size of this whoopie pie!!
That is 5 entire pounds of sugar and fat. A little much even for my huge sweet tooth. I did get a few regular-sized whoopie pies though, including a chocolate-dipped one! Mmmmmm….
After walking around Freeport for a while, Mom and I had dinner and some beer flights at a really cool brew pub over in Portland: Liquid Riot Brewing. It was so delicious! Then we went back to our hotel, I got the marathon version of Flat Caitlin ready, and I hit the hay.
I got up nice and early to have my pre-race breakfast and coffee, and Mom and I drove the 20ish minutes to the Marathon start at Kennebunk High School. Yet again, we had a nice warm indoor space to wait and real bathrooms! Maine Coast Marathon FTW!
There was a bit of confusion after we moved out to the start line. The race director made an announcement that there was an emergency with the volunteer crew that was setting up the aid stations, and that there would be no hydration stations for the first 8 miles of the race. They would also be delaying the start by another 15 minutes to allow the volunteers to get the aid stations set up for the remaining miles of the race. We never found out what happened with the volunteers, and while I wasn’t super thrilled about extra time standing out in the chilly morning, I’d much rather do without water for the FIRST 8 miles of a marathon rather than the last 8! (as I sit here in August in DC thinking about 8 miles without water, I shudder a bit, but it was only in the 40s that morning!)
Finally we were off! I had zero plans for this marathon other than to take it easy, have fun, and try to run fairly consistent splits, which meant starting off at a really easy effort. The course itself was mostly really enjoyable. We wound through Kennebunkport, which was such a cute little town! And there were more breathtaking ocean views and gorgeous beach houses to look at. There was a stretch along the shoulder of a highway that was less than ideal, and it’s also where pretty much all the uphill was. So that was a little unpleasant, but I got through it and the last few miles were back to scenic ocean views.
I started with gloves and tube sock arm-warmers because it was so chilly! Oh to feel cold again…
The volunteers were great, and by the time I came through Mile 6 or so, they’d gotten a makeshift water station set up. I honestly didn’t notice the lack of water for the first several miles, though I was thankful to have it once it was available again. Hopefully that issue didn’t mess up anyone else’s race too dramatically!
It’s been a little while, so I don’t remember as many specifics about the race as I might have immediately afterwards. But I remember just genuinely enjoying running it, and kind of marveling at how fresh I felt given that I’d just run a half the day before. In the couple of place where there was an out-and-back that allowed us to see the runners ahead of and behind us, all of the people with the yellow 39.3 Challenge bibs cheered for each other, which was really cool!
Before I knew it, I reached the final few miles. There was a photographer right at the 26-mile mark, which I thought was both hilarious and a little bit mean, so I had to cheese for him a bit.
I made the final turn and heard my mom cheering before I spotted her.
I crossed the finish in 3:54:53, which combined with my 1:54:40 half- marathon the day before, gave me a 6th place finish among the women doing the 39.3 Challenge!
I was so happy with how I’d paced the marathon, and I was thrilled to have gone sub-2:00/sub-4:00 for the race weekend, since even though I didn’t officially have any goals, doing that was my not-so-secret goal.
I picked up my marathon medal and Challenge medal, and borrowed Mom’s half- marathon medal (which she wore to the marathon finish line because why not?) for a photo shoot! So much bling!
It was still cool enough at the finish for me to rock the Challenge jacket, so that was great!
Mom and I hung around in the finish line beer garden for a while, and met up with Amber and her DH, which was great! Mom had packed up the car and checked out of our hotel while I was running, so everything was ready for our road trip back to Massachusetts. But we made a slight detour on our way out of Maine to see the famous Portland Head Lighthouse:
After getting back to MA, I enjoyed a super relaxing week at home to recover, hang out at the stables, and celebrate my 32nd birthday!
Next up: more catch-up bloops about summer training, crazy 5Ks, and chasing big goals!
I'm giving this a try. I'm not running as much as I used to run. I no longer consider myself a "runner." I run when time allows and I feel like running. I try to run one "longish" run per week. I do not enter races anymore and I don't follow a training plan. There's much more to my life than running now. I stopped "blooping" a while back because all I do is run when I'm running. Most of the things that happen when I run are forgotten by the time I stop running. I'm going to try to post something once in a while on this site to see if I can get back into the swing of remembering anything that happens on my run. Wish me luck.
The first two things I had for lunch. The last thing I had for a run/walk/hike/whatever the heck it is I'm doing these days.
Gratuitous nature shots!
I ran a bit less than I was hoping but didn't stress out about it. The weather was perfect and I saw only one other person so it was really relaxing. I lost myself a few times just chugging along and thinking... love it when that happens.
Something that didn't quite work: I may need to get some new shirts sometime soon because this whole situation seems inappropriate.
Something that totally worked: Chewie is a good boy and knows how to use the hydration pack.
Totals, charts, splits and elevation! I didn't hit pause for any Chewie potty breaks but I'm not trying to impress anyone with my blazing fast times, haha.
I had it in my mind to do this today and found myself waffling midafternoon whether to do it or not. Then I thought about what I could post and immediately went and got it done. So this new site has at least one confirmed positive effect!
My brain is foggy. I will forget parts of the story - some temporarily, some forever. A runner who saw me finish my 100th mile last year recognized me and I had no recollection of our conversation. I apologize to anyone who I have forgotten to mention in this journey.
I am satisfied, but always in pursuit.
Maybe it seems unjustified to never be done. But I see it as a reason to keep learning. And to keep running. When it starts to ache and my mind goes to dark places, I do question my pursuit. I seek relief from the pain, but the will to push my limits is often stronger.
I ask myself to just run to that tree, finish this lap, get to the next big benchmark. It isn't about the entirety of the race - I cannot fathom the 115+ miles as a whole. It is too big. But it is manageable in parts.
Experience was bittersweet in my second 24-hour race. I knew the highs would be like no other, but the lows would be as well. It is in some regards far easier to fight the beast if you don't know how hard she punches.
I was not feeling great about running 4 weeks ago. I had logged so many miles and hours of running that I was teetering on burnout. So I ended up starting my taper early and hoped that reduced mileage would help me feel good again. It was slow to come, but my mojo (& VO2 max) slowly returned to normal. By race week, I was getting antsy that I hadn't been running as much so I knew something was in my favor.
My training and game plan were under control. Pretty much nothing else was though. I realized on race week that all of my Hoka Challengers (the 1s that are long ago sold out) had at least 400 miles on them. My first pair, though encrusted in a casing of mud, seemed to have the most tread left so they became my race shoe. I had 1 Huma gel left from a box I got about 6 weeks prior so I made a pit stop between work and a run on Wednesday evening.
Megan came over Thursday night after I frantically threw a bunch of gear together - re: overpack to the max. She came up with the best Minion/banana nails yet and even better, we finally caught up a bit. She left me a card that she said came from my former coworkers and I told her I would save it for mile 90.
Adam wanted to watch a TV show with me after she left and so I decided to forgo the alarm in the morning and get whatever extra sleep I could muster. Too excited to sleep, I got up at 7:00 a.m. and was on the road by 7:30ish. I got gas, I got Starbucks, and then I got a dead battery.
In Gaffney, South Carolina, I stopped to used the restroom at QuikTrip and came out to a dead battery. There was a slight panic and I quickly ran through my backup options if I couldn't get my car started right away. Luckily, I was able to get a jump from the people parked next to me. They ended up being super cool and reassured me that I would be okay once I got going again. They had college football magnets posted all over their car and of course I had to buy one! Thanks FlippyMagz for rescuing my day.
Once I was on the road again, I was afraid to stop. So I powered through to Rockingham and pretty much sprinted to the restroom as soon as I got there. Jenster was talking with Irene who makes the beautiful pottery pieces for the race winners and is the most badass lady in her age group. 72 years old and did 50K at Hinson and is running Chicago this upcoming weekend! Talk about an inspiration.
After Angie arrived, we went to Wal-Mart to pick up more supplies and I was able to wolf down some hummus and tortillas in the car as a really late lunch. Matt arrived to the campsite soon thereafter and we sat around in the shady afternoon, drinking beer and trying to relax.
We went to the lodge for dinner where $8 gets you a heaping plate of spaghetti, bread, salad, and a slice of cake. I ate every bit. Mornings can be hard to top off the calories so I tried to get as full as possible. The crew went back to the campsite and we made preparations before heading off to sleep.
Luckily, I slept pretty well and the noise was minimal. I woke up around 6:00 a.m. and decided to just take my time getting ready for the 8:00 a.m. start. I ate a couple of pieces of raisin bread, drank half a bottle of cold brew, and prepped all my stuff so it was easy to access. About 15 minutes until the start, I ate a mini Snickers (tradition!) and a Huma gel. I talked to Jay for a few minutes before the start and then lined up near Matt.
Ready, set, go.
I knew that 10-12 minute miles would be the pace to aim for through at least 100K. Too fast and I risk blowing up. Too slow and I risk not being able to catch up. It felt comfortable enough the first lap and I tried to just settle into a pace that seemed doable for a long, long time. Matt and I ran together for the first couple of laps, chatting and enjoying the morning.
I peeled off my tank early knowing that I didn't need it and would be more comfortable. After the 3rd lap, I decided to grab a gel and a mini water bottle from my cooler. On the 4th lap, I decided to just put my handheld on and deal with it. Luckily, it kept me hydrated all day and didn't annoy me too much.
By mile 10, I noticed that I actually still felt really comfortable. The temperature was really nice outside and it was partially clouded that morning. Runners and walkers were happy and chatty and I listened to the conversation snippets around me. I was happy to just be there - it took me by surprise that I felt so good.
Into the 3rd and 4th hour, I really just zoned out. In a happy way, I lost track of mileage and time. At one point, I was trying to guess if I was on mile 15 or 16 when my watch buzzed and it was actually 18! Sa-wheet!!! As we headed into the heat of the day, I tried to make sure I was eating lots of salty stuff like Goldfish crackers, pretzels, and pickle juice.
I really wasn't too interested in sweet solids the entire event. It might be because after about 3-4 hours of doing half Gatorade/ half water, I decided to try half sweet tea/ half water. OMG! It was so good. I'm not even much of a tea person, let alone sweet tea, but this was so good. Plus, I was hoping the caffeine would stave off some of the sleepiness.
I hit a bit of a slump in the 4-5 hour mark. Physically, I was okay, but I got super emotional? On the verge of crying and I really didn't have a good reason for it other than perhaps the impending 20 hours of running left. Someone ran with me (Laurie? Jay? Tim? I can't remember...sorry) and kicked me out of my slump.
At the marathon and 50K mark, I tried to just ignore the time and focus on the distance. As I crept closer to the 40 marker, the day grew considerably warmer. I put ice in my sports bra a few times and noticed that my shoulders, neck, and face were caked in salt. I kept reaching for the salty foods and refilling my bottle every lap. Though I was worried I was losing time stopping each lap, I knew that spreading out my food and drink was much better for my tummy. And I wasn't hanging out, I was grabbing my stuff and eating while running or walking.
At some point, a girl shot out from a 10x10 tent and started running alongside me. She was spectating and said that she had been challenged to see if she could keep up for one lap with the women's leader. I laughed and welcomed the company. We talked for 1.5 miles around the course and it was great to just take my brain offline for 20 minutes or so.
The afternoon wore on and the crowds started thin out on the trail. When I hit 50 miles in about 8 hours, 40 minutes, I was surprised that I still felt reasonably okay. My major problem was boredom and like Angie and I talked about, boredom is okay in ultras. Boredom means that nothing is too painful.
Right at that 100K mark, everything got a lot harder. In retrospect, I stopped eating as much by that point - I was just not really interested and it seemed like too much effort to decide. And though my mind and stomach seemed to be cooperating, my legs and feet were aching really badly. Yes, that isn't so surprising with 62 miles on them, but I recognized it as more of a bonk pain. I tried to remedy the situation in the upcoming miles with chicken broth, ramen, etc.
In any regard, I knew I had my "rewards" all set for miles 70, 80, and 90. I originally was going to call Adam at 10:00 p.m. like I did last year, but I was at mile 70 over an hour before then. It kind of put things into perspective at that point that I was actually having a really good race. I am sure I sounded like a mess on the phone because I craved any sort of motivation I could get at that point. We talked for a couple of minutes while I walked and then I hung up so I could shuffle on.
I originally planned to give myself music at mile 80, but then I wasn't in the mood to mess with it again. I think that was when I finally put a shirt on? I honestly don't even remember. I do remember thinking that it was a long time between miles 70.5 and 81. And that I needed a jolt of caffeine. Though I risked a revolt from my tummy, I did sip a little bit of cold brew.
My first Garmin died at 89+ miles. Here's the data:
Luckily, I had planned to read my card at mile 90, so I connected to GPS with Garmin #2 while I read the card. All the feels and exactly what I needed to read. This took less than a minute and I was ready to plug on until 100 miles. 10 daylight miles on fresh legs can go by pretty slowly. 10 nighttime miles on legs with 90 miles feels like infinity. The course was pretty much a ghost town at this point. There were maybe about 30 people out trudging along. The timing guy and the aid station volunteers were the only non-zombie people around.
Again, my recollection is terrible, but I do know I was running with someone (I think it was Aaron) at that point for awhile. We ran into Matt and by the time we looped back around, he kind of unknowingly took over pacing me the last 2 laps to get to my 100 mark. I was happy for a huge PR and really grateful that I was able to cross that mark with a friend by my side. Too tired to be emotional about it, I collected myself and allowed 10 minutes of chair sitting. I took off my shoes for the first time and changed into a different pair.
My legs were just too sore at that point to push for more running, but I was determined to keep moving. So at 3:30 a.m., after running 100 miles, I began power walking. Matt agreed to come with me and so we spent the next 3.5 hours walking and keeping each other company. The only thing I remember us talking about were the constellations at one point on the bridge when we turned off our headlamps. He was going full-on NPR-mode with the stars and typical me, yeah, those are nice, let's keep walking. (Deano/Matt, if you guys read this, know that your dude soulmate is out there)
I felt like we were really walking hard and was just about to ease off our pace when both of us started cooking up ideas on the fly. Delirious from lack of sleep and too many miles, I decided I could still hit my PR. Then we had to hit 50 laps for him. Then I remembered the course record was like, 115 or something. My competitive nature came out and I grabbed my phone the next time we went by our campsite. I confirmed it was 114.6 and made Matt do a bunch of runner math to see what kind of pace I needed.
Shortly thereafter, he realized he could hit 80+ if he ran the last hour. I was in no place to keep up with sub-9 miles, but I encouraged him to go for it! He took off and I shuffled along at a 16 minute per mile pace. I got my banana a lap early and grabbed my phone again to get a picture.
Once I crossed over the timing mat with 115+ miles, I walked with my banana to our campsite and placed it in the pile nearby. Done.
Here are my lap splits.
Jenster and Angie were already huddled in their camping chairs trying to stay warm. My body temperature dropped almost immediately and I could barely move to get pants on. I grabbed my sleeping bag for warmth and sat in the chair shivering.
When the horn sounded, everyone dropped their banana and the race was over. With the happiest and worst pain, I hobbled to the timing mat for the awards. I found a very pointy rock to sit on and waited for the men's winner to come over.
I talked to Ron, last year's winner, for a few minutes. He had been tearing up sub-8s all day and came in 2nd place overall. Mark ran 136+ miles for the win overall and still looked amazingly upright. On the other hand, I was trying to figure out what camera to look at.
Crawling into my tent passing out for over an hour was amazing. By the time I woke up, pretty much everyone had left except our little group. I broke down all my stuff and with millions of miles on their own legs, they helped me carry everything to the car.
I followed Matt to Charlotte where we had noodles and then took naps in our respective cars for a half hour. I was so glad he suggested it because I was exhausted after eating half a bowl of macaroni. After the 2nd nap and a cup of crappy gas station coffee, he peeled off to go home to Greenville and I carried on to Georgia. Home sweet home!
Food early, often, & don't stop. Ginger chews and sweet tea are amazing. Dilute the soup and ramen with water to eat quickly. Walk for a couple of minutes to allow for digestion. Drink until you have to pee. If you haven't peed in awhile, hydrate. Ice in the sports bra when it gets hot. A clean shirt works miracles when temps drop. Use more Vaseline than you thought you should. Don't forget your butt crack. Mojo fixers: run with a friend, run with a stranger (who is now your friend), pet a dog for 20 seconds, get a high five, run through a mister, fake a smile until you have a real smile. When you want to stop, find the thing that made you start going in the first place. Remember that nothing ever lasts and that you are capable and brave.
It's been a rocky few months full of extreme highs and lows. Rudyard Kipling's poem If has this great line, "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same".
So thankful for all of my support, every day. It's a cheesy repeat from last year, but must be done. To all my former work peeps who check in with me, signed my card, etc., thank you - it really means the world to me and I miss you guys every day. To my new work peeps - the fun is just getting started! My Loopster network - this kind of crazy stuff never would have happened if you guys hadn't planted the seed. Jenster & Angie - I can talk to you about squirrel nut butter and puking up ramen like most girls talk about fashion and diet fads. Your badassery is my favorite kind of cray. Top 10 bitches!! Matt - thank you for so many hours of running this weekend and countless hours of runchatting. You are such a good human. Congrats on 81 frickin' miles! To all my Hinson people (sorry if I forgot anyone!! #ultrabrain) - Jay, Tim, Laurie, Ron, Paul, Aaron, Nathan, David, Bill, Irene, you make me want to run in circles every year because you are my people. To my local running peeps - Dan, Hal, Casey, John, Sam, Sean, Sarah, Deano, Kevin, John, Nikki, Brandon, thank you for making mornings suck less and being there when I needed you this summer. Thank you to Megan for not only the nail art, but being the best BFF ever. I love you fierce. Thank you to my family for being proud of me even though you think I'm nuts.
And of course, thank you Adam. For putting up with the long days away, the grumpy nights after training, the stinky clothes, runger/hangry moments, etc. You support my crazy dreams and give me inspiration to keep moving when things get tough. You are the first person I call in both Triumph and Disaster. I think they call that love.
I wrote a draft of this a couple weeks ago, but never got around to proof-reading or editing or posting it. Given what I titled this and why, when I heard the news about Tom Petty today, made me want to get back to it. Which may have been a mistake on taper brain. Sorry Tom, you deserve way better than being associated with this sloppy thing. Also,I realized I put a race report not in the race report folder. Oops.
A lot of people say they perform best under pressure, when the stakes are highest. Most of them are full of shit and are either stroking their own egos or justifying procrastinating until the last minute to do whatever the task at hand happens to be. Just because you get things done under pressure doesn’t mean they’re any damn good. I mean, if I pulled a knife on you and told you to draw a self portrait in 10 seconds you could probably get something on paper, but it would be terrible. Unless you’re one of those caricature artists on the street who failed out of Pratt or something and draws those things up as people walk past then harasses them all the way down the train platform trying to sell it to them for $10. But if you failed out of school you probably can’t claim to be good at performing under pressure anyway so the point is moot. Regardless, I fall squarely in the camp of procrastinators. I’m not lazy or anything, I just loathe most of what makes up my inbox on any given day and the things which I find least interesting or most unpleasant to deal with get handled at the last possible second so I don’t have time to dwell on the misery of the task in question. The ol’ rip off the band-aid technique.
Now despite my admitted proclivity towards procrastination, I do think I have an uncanny ability to rise to the occasion when the stakes are high and the odds are stacked against me. As Exhibit A I submit to you my racing history, which is full of surprise PRs. You remember the beer and kimchi fueled 5K I somehow crushed (was gonna link to the bloop, but…). And there was the 5+ minute PR in the pikermi I ran on residual marathon training fumes and muscle memory (again with the missing link to the dead bloop). And this same race last year (oh yeah, BTW, this is a race report), where I went from too exhausted to warm up to channeling Raging Bull on the way to another unexpected PR (yeah...no bloop). None of these races should have gone well given the lackluster training or exhaustion or hangover, yet all were PRs. So even though my legs were still recovering from a 16 miler 36 hours before and I was awash in accumulated Hansons fatigue, I quietly held onto some hope for this year’s Big Peach Sizzler 10k (which was on Labor day, but procrastination remember?).
The dead legs I had to drag to the train station for our ride up to the start line were a constant reminder that yes, I was in the middle of marathon training. Any commands to move my lower extremities felt like they were being transmitted south from the brain via tin cans and string. As we milled around the start line I eschewed all of my usual pre-race routines out of sheer exhaustion, not once thinking about paces or doing my neurotic shoe retying routine. When I had put my Chicago goal time into a race predictor it had spit out a 43:29 10K time, and even though this was supposed to be my fitness check race I hadn’t give pacing or goals much thought as we toed the line, waiting for the national anthem and countdown to the start. I was entertaining myself trying to turn “toed the line” into a Toad the Wet Sprocket joke when I saw the starter, without saying a word, raise his arm and fire the starting gun. Everyone looked at each other for a confused half a second, then took off like we were charging into a Best Buy on Black Friday. I guess we weren’t feeling very patriotic, which bummed me out because I’d worn my American flag socks. See?
I avoided the mistake I had made last year starting too far back in the pack and was able to quickly find some running room for myself. I finally started thinking about pacing and remembered how this race had gone last year. I was equally exhausted and hobbled by worn out legs then and I had also not done much of a warm-up, but after a slow first mile I had somehow managed to crank up (down? whatever, make faster) the pace and even kick at the end to a big PR. So I decided to see if lightning would strike twice and tried to keep up what felt like a decent effort for the first mile. And for a moment, I started to feel almost good. The legs were still a little creaky but I felt like I was moving at a good clip and wouldn’t have that far to push to get to what should be 10K pace. Then the Garmin announced a 7:31 first mile. Well, the plan WAS for a slow start, so I guess I nailed it.
Given the disconnect between what my pace felt like and reality, I started to do the usual status checks to see where the problem was and realized I wasn’t really working all that hard. My breathing wasn’t that labored, my heart rate wasn’t in the “racing” zone, and I wasn’t even hurting that much. My legs just didn’t want to respond. So I got mad and started swearing, because that’s what I do when I’m mad. Some of the runners around me didn’t seem to appreciate it. I didn’t appreciate their judgmental side-eye, so I figured we were even. To get myself going I started to pick out nearby runners and focus on reeling them in, one at a time. I concentrated on my stride, struggling to lift my legs out of the marathon shuffle and into some semblance of a running gait.
First victim up was a hipster looking guy who in no way appeared to be in good enough shape to be ahead of me. He had the full Brooklyn barista look going, with the sides of his head shaved but long enough hair on top for a man bun, the retro looking sunglasses, and even a handlebar mustache. He definitely wore suspenders and sleeve garters to his job as a mixologist at a speakeasy with an idiotic password like “funicular” and rode his fixed gear bike home to the loft apartment his parents pay for while he “finds his path in life”. I passed him just before we got to mile 2, which was 7:01.
I reassessed things, and still felt as if I’d go as far as I could drag my legs. (Brilliant assessment in a foot race, no? I was going to change this but it’s such a bad line I decided to leave it in as the highlight of this hack job of a race report.) So I kept pushing up the small hill in front of me and prepped for the mostly downhill mile 3. I had my aim set on an older guy whose graceful, effortless, metronomic stride was a far cry from my desperate uneven lashes at the pavement. As I passed him and looked for my next target, I saw the 45 minute pacer about 150 meters ahead. My first thought was I don’t recall ever seeing a pace group for a race this short. My second thought was DAMN IT I didn’t think I was going that slow. The sight of that 45:00 flag launched another wave of profanity, and further sharpened my focus. Properly motivated and riding the slight downhill I was hoping for a fast split in mile 3, so was disappointed to see a 7:06.
I again checked my heart rate and breathing, and again neither was where it should be for a race. What the hell was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I get my legs and lungs aligned? I passed the halfway water station, but the temperature was only in the low 60s and I didn’t think I deserved water anyway, so I skipped it. I remembered listening to a recent interview with Des Linden where she talked about her upcoming training goals. She mentioned that with so many years of nothing but marathon miles and paces, she wanted to get some speed back into her legs and do some shorter faster running. I wondered if I was suffering from the same phenomenon, and if I’d just forgotten how to run fast. I looked up again and saw the 45 minute pacer, still well out of reach. I was at the bottom of the last little hill on the course running behind another hipster, but one who actually looked like a runner. I knew I was running out of miles and was apparently way behind where I should be, so I got mad again. Really mad. I released a new stream of violent cursing and pushed myself to what felt like an all out sprint.
The mini-hipster tried to stay with me, and matched me stride for stride up the hill. I kept the hammer down as the course flattened out, and as the pace started to drop so did my mustachioed companion. Mile 4 passed in 6:58, and I momentarily cracked a smile. Then I became infuriated again when I realized it took me 4 miles to get to what should have been my goal pace, and I kept focusing on just driving myself forward, step after step. A new mantra suddenly popped into my head. They were playing Tom Petty’s Runnin’ Down a Dream at the start line, which on some background channel in my brain behind all this other nonsense somehow got me thinking of the album “Damn the Torpedoes”. That’s not even the right album for the song, and I don’t know how my brain had the ability to subconsciously make that connection and suggest a wholly appropriate mantra in the middle of a race, so I just went with it and every time my legs would protest the pace, my inner monologue would scream back DAMN THE TORPEDOES. I closed in on my next target, and was right on his heels as we entered the high rise canyon of the Buckhead business district. The road here turns slightly to the left, and I maneuvered to pass him on the inside and keep the tangents tight. I ran through another status check and was happy that my cardiovascular system had finally joined the effort, but kept wondering if my legs could hold the pace. And then, the bastard I was passing moved over and cut me off, almost tripping me and even giving me a track-worthy elbow. I suddenly forgot about my legs, and vowed to destroy this sonuvabitch and feast on his withered soul.
I moved right behind him, breathing down his neck and almost clipping his heels as we ran through the gentle turn. The road immediately curves back the other way, and I knew this guy would try to move over to follow the tangents. So as soon as we hit the inflection point in the twisting road, I moved to his shoulder and blocked him. He looked over at me with a clearly annoyed look on his face, to which I responded by throwing my own elbow, and pulled away from him. I didn’t realize that we’d passed the mile 5 marker in 6:54, and didn’t even have time to check my watch for pace because just as I passed the jackass, I got passed. I recognized the passer as one of the employees at our LRS who we’ve become friendly with over the years of biweekly visits. From The Wife’s stalking of race results I knew we were about the same speed, so I tried to hang on to him as long as I could.
As we continued to weave through the canyon of post-modern glass towers, my LRS friend was slightly pulling away, but I noticed we were both finally gaining on the 45 minute pacer. I tried to do one last status check, but gave up when I realized that I didn’t have the mental energy for it. I was drooling on myself, my form was a disaster, and despite the 60 degree temps I was flinging flop sweat like a dog shaking off after a bath. So I swore out loud one more time since that seemed to be working and kept on the gas. We turned off of Peachtree Road and I passed mile 6 in 6:36. Both my LRS friend and the 45 minute pacer finally looked as though they were running out of steam, and the thought of catching them on the last downhill stretch helped me maintain pace. When I caught LRS guy I glanced over and nodded, and he looked at me and said “you got this”. Now, and I don’t know how or why, but when he said that I suddenly thought to myself “yes, I do” and took off. I had no idea where this extra gear came from or how long it would last, but it felt like I had jet fuel pumping through my veins and I rode it down the hill and through the last turn. Don’t run like this at home kids:
I ran the last quarter at a 5:43 pace, passed the 45 minute pacer right before funneling into the finish chute, and crossed the line in 43:29. Which means the 45 minute pacer finished in something like 43:35. Perfect. This also means I really should get better at runner math if I couldn’t figure out they were that far ahead. I mean, it’s not like I took 6 semesters of calculus or anything. (It was only 5)
I caught my breath and realized I had hit my predicted time to the second, and had repeated last year’s race almost exactly. Just faster. I stumbled around on gummy legs waiting for The Wife to finish and thinking about how I had somehow again delivered when I had no business running fast. In my post-race daze, all I could come up with was that I must have some kind of superpowers to keep pulling this off. When I told The Wife what I ran she got mad and started yelling something about perfect training never working for her but I can show up hungover or sick or so tired she has to help me tie my shoes and I somehow PR anyway. I tried to tell her about the superpowers, but she only yelled louder. Which meant that all the people trying to hand us flyers and sell us crap as we walked through the train station were terrified of her and left us alone, which I think might be her superpower.
As a fitness check race, this was a resounding success. I finished right in the middle of the window which predicts a 3:20 marathon, and the remainder of training went extremely well, so I’d say everything is on track and we’re all systems go for Chicago this Sunday. I also thought about how awful I felt on race morning, and how awful I’ve felt for so many of my best races, and started planning for my pre- marathon routine. Deep dish with extra sausage for dinner the night before with a couple pitchers of beer oughta do the trick. Maybe hit the clubs a bit and roll straight from the velvet ropes to the starting line. That seems to be how I activate these superpowers, so I may as well go all in.
Or maybe, ya know, it’s just the training.
So, one more post about Saturday's race because I had time to chew on it and analyze some data.
Last year when I set my old PR on this same course, I had spent the entire spring training for it. I was a beast and singularly focused. (Remember PITW?) And I ran the race that way. By the end, I was just trying my absolute best to hang on and cling to my pace. This year, my training was spotty, at best. And I ran the race easy and relaxed.
Last year, my lower abs were so sore after the race. (I started a group on FB to whip them into shape.) This year, thanks largely to the group, I've been doing weighted high knees for months and that area is becoming the strongest part of my body.
I finally had a chance to look over my splits in more detail and realized that the second 10K in the race was only 3 seconds slower than my 10K PR (set last year). I also ran it about three minutes faster than the first 10K. I still can't get over how good my body felt.
So on one hand, I am really excited to see how training goes for fall. On the other hand, I may need to take some time off.
I woke up on Saturday with just the slightest touch of pain in my heel. I think I may have had some sensation that wasn't quite pain before that. It was familiar. I remember this. It is the beginning of PF. Before it stops you. I missed this last time around because it is so subtle.
I shut it down after the race. I *think* I caught it early enough to keep it from getting full blown but it's still bothering me. I'm supposed to be PF proof after the rupture so I'm feeling a little bitter. BUT there were some things that may have provoked it. My orthotics are old, my running shoes were starting to get near the end of their running life span, I was wearing keds a lot (with my orthos but still) I was only stretching in the most half hearted way.
I see the Wonderful Dr Langone tomorrow to order new orthos and get her take. I think I may be able to train through this if I correct what caused it because it's soso early. Baby PF. In the meantime, I'm taping, hand stretching, using the half moon, ice rolling, golf balling, night splinting, running shoe wearing, Voltarening and as soon as I get a new foam roller, doing the stretch that cures everything. (I only have a plastic core roller and PVC pipe these days and it hurts too much to do the pose correctly.)
Wish me luck.
I've decided to make it doubly confusing by 1) posting here for the first time in a while and 2) by changing my username. Oops. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I made christine.eliz way back when I was super new to running and didn't feel like having a weirdo handle as I dipped my toes into this community. Now that I know how strange you all are I have no problem with it! It might help that @tinkbot is also my Instagram handle so feel free to follow me if you want periodic reminders of who I am.
So what's been going on? I know I posted in Loopville that DH and I are expecting our first child - a girl! - in January but I don't think I officially blooped about it. I'm almost 25 weeks (~5.5months) pregnant and entering the phase of discovering that the shorts that fit last week aren't quite swinging it today. I'm feeling really good though and partially attribute that to my OB being really supportive of exercise throughout pregnancy. At our first meeting I told her I "used" to run - meaning that I had been struggling with anterior tibialis tendonitis and then PF for a while, not necessarily because of the pregnancy, which is what she thought I meant - and she made a face and said, "Why'd you stop?" I like you!
The first trimester wasn't horrible but I did have periodic bouts of morning sickness and didn't want to deal with the suddenly hot and humid summer weather. My outdoor exercise waned. I still had to walk the pup but he didn't like the heat either so we definitely enabled each other to be more lazy than we should have been. We would probably walk about 3-6 miles a week.
About three weeks ago I started getting ominous email updates from my baby app about preparing for labor. Commence exercise!!
The "runs" are really run/walks with varying average paces from ~15min/mile down to around 12:30min/mile depending on how I was feeling. My breathing was decent and I felt like my stamina was better than I was expecting; the things that were getting me were my poor feet and ankles were just like WHAT IS HAPPENING NO and going numb or seizing up. That'll happen when you add an extra 10-15lbs. I was getting some unpleasant side stitches too which is nothing new but I couldn't exactly stumble down the street holding the side of my obviously pregnant belly without feeling like I would get an ambulance called on me. Grin and bear it! Good to practice that, too... ugh.
I also added in some light free weight arm exercises and core stuff. (No abdominals, but I can do obliques and those other supportive core muscles.) I've seen multiple recommendations of planks since they really help with core strength and also train your mind to endure 30sec-1min bouts of severe unpleasantness. I just can't escape you, planks, can I? *shakes fist*
The weather has finally cooled down to true autumn temps so the plan is to do a nice hike with DH this afternoon. I'll be tracking it and adding it to my miles!
Hope to see posts from people here. Happy running!
I’ll do the best I can to not drone on forever.
1. Decided to run a marathon For the first time.
2. Signed up for Wineglass in Corning where all the awesomeness recently took place.
3. Trained through a 15 miler in spring
4. Realized I’m insane, I hate racing, always have hated racing, hate any mile over 13, planned to drop to the half at Wineglass, can’t drop down - half is full, decided I’d still go and cheer, I’m good at cheering.
5. Find house of my dreams, proceed to purchase it, issues complicated things, things get expensive, closing delayed, plan to close on race weekend, closing delayed to October 12, ran out of money, cancelled out of race completely.
6. Wallow in self pity and cry over not seeing friends and celebrating their awesomeness. Life goes on.
Started Crossfit in May of this year and love it more than I’d ever imagine. I run 3-4 days a week in addition to Crossfit and I’ve never in my life has this level of positive feeling about my body and how great it is. If you’ve met me you know I’m not a dainty framed woman. I’m built to be strong and powerful but never thought I should because I was raised to think skinny is optimal even if you’re frail and sickly. Screw that. I can power through hills and distances like never before. I’m still a slower runner but that’s my build. I’d rather be slower and powerful than starving myself to be someone else’s image of what a runner looks like to them.
This winter I hope to get many miles under my x-c skis since I have excellent trails just 10 minutes from my new house.
And I’m growing my natural curls out... never embraced my waves and curls in my hair before.
Thats the Cliff Notes version!
Here it is folks! Not only did I get the keys to my new house yesterday at 3 pm but then it snowed like mad all day today so I snapped a picture of the first snow and my house combined. I'm more in love with it every minute I'm there. I could "wax poetic" about my home.
I will be sleeping there starting Wednesday night (tomorrow) with minimal "stuff" because everything is in 2 storage trailers. I met with the boiler guy this morning so I understood how the heating system operates and what to watch for and things to do so I'm comfy. It's a steam boiler system which means I have those really big tall old radiators and very comfortable warm heat that isn't dry. Dry forced air heat is misery for my allergies so I'm hopeful this is good for me all winter. However, steam systems are more technical than a regular boiler so I have plenty of learning to do.
I'm super excited to get my stuff moved in on Friday and Saturday and then start running in my new town. New routes! A river! An old fashioned bakery! Coffee shops! 4 breweries! Who's coming to visit?
The details: technically 4 bedrooms; 2 down, 2 up. The upstairs I have closed off right now and will probably have a student renting starting in January but until then, it's empty and I'm not heating it. 1 bathroom. Built sometime between 1895 and 1913 (conflicting information) and I'll be digging into the county records to get the best info I can. 1/3 of an acre because it's a double lot on a corner. 2 car garage with a seriously leaky roof to secure as best I can for winter. Basement for utilities but not at all for "living space conversion".
I'll share interior pictures once I settle in. Thank you so much to everyone for cheering me on and sending congrats my way. You all are beyond wonderful people!
I envy those whose diagnosis has a name. Mine has several - and none.
I had a CT scan done yesterday, and saw the doc today for the verdict. (note: I'm VERY pleased that this doc is so speedy and wasn't interested in wasting my time waiting weeks to find out.)
It seems the bony overgrowth he'd seen on my xrays was not a stress fracture. I might prefer it had been. It's a bit of bone spur, and there seems to be indication of an old injury to the fibular sesamoid bone. It's inflamed (hence the sesamoiditis) and just generally not happy.
He thinks, as do I, that my Newtons were at least a contributing factor, if not the main cause. This particular toe injury started in May. I'd been gradually resuming running after my ankle surgery, and realized my Sauconys were in bad shape, so I took the Newtons out for one run - a very short run. Shortly into that run the toe started hurting. I should have gone to the doc then, but I didn't have a foot doc at that time (the surgeon had moved away) and had SO many medical appointments scheduled this summer. I just couldn't bring myself to add another. But at least when I went to my health care provider I was referred to the best podiatrist in town - the head of the foot and ankle area of the med school.
At various times he used all those words - arthritis, sesamoiditis, turf toe, and bone spur. The upshot, however, is that I have to get rid of the inflammation, and the best way to do that is not to push off with my toe in any sort of walking or running. Which means wearing a walking boot for 3-6 (probably 6) weeks. Can't take a single step without it. After that I may have to put a pad in my shoe to offload some of the stress on the sesamoids. I see him again in 3 weeks.
Funny little things, the sesamoids. Tiny little bones embedded inside muscle, not connected to other bones. Surgery on them would be a last resort (I inquired about removing the bone spur) and would involve removing all or part of a sesamoid. But they do have a function and that would probably mess me up further.
The doctor knows about my running and was talking about getting me back to it. He did say that when I get out of the boot I need to find a running shoe with mega cushioning in the forefoot. Hokas haven't fit me well in the past. Any other suggestions?
Gotta say, spectating at the Marshall Marathon a second year in row just about killed me.
OK so I've been a little absent lately with work (I actually work for an overly large US company but our real overlords are via the UK), my running has been decidedly slow in returning plus a few other side projects have kept my down time away from here. So to make up for it I'm actually going to post a blog (yep it doesn't happen often).
Last weekend here was Melbourne Cup (well the Tuesday so most take the Monday for a long weekend). It's our horse race that "stops the nation" and everyone becomes an expert (a bit like obscure sports at the Olympics). Being a bean counter & the proximity to month end I'm usually working but everything aligned so was able to join a bunch of my friends & headed off camping to a place called Cathedral Range State Park about 1.5hrs northish from Melbourne. No power, running water or (mostly) phone network (hooray!).
We managed to snag our spot on one edge of the camp group so we had plenty of visitors, which of course included plenty of roos (which had a habit of bounding past my tent in groups around 6am every morning).
Plus lots of birds, in particular Kookaburra's searching for food...
We even spotted this cuddly Koala nearby...
There are a lot of hiking options in this area but one particularly popular one is a short a sharp climb up sugarloaf peak. Young & old made the climb even my friends carrying their twin 14months boys which was pretty impressive! The pic on the right is an alternate route which if you look closely you can see my friend standing in the thin gap between the rocks which goes about 100 metres slowly downwards and is really only accessible by those with a runners build (and not claustrophobic)!
Being spring time here there were plenty of wildflowers in full bloom and despite most of our bush areas being somewhat "rugged" much like our fauna our flora have their own type of beauty.
So amongst some great walks, a bit of rock climbing/abseiling, eating loads of amazing campfire meals I did also manage to get in one run along this really pretty walking track (along with a nasty 3.5km hill climb) for just on 11km out and back. I even spotted a wombat & a rare black cockatoo (sorry was too slow for those shots).
So that was my extra long weekend. On the running front I'm still trying to get 4 runs a week which is proving to be difficult though I've had my long run up around 21km so it's slowly coming back.
My friend runs (started/writes/directs…) a youth theatre (Fresh Youth Theatre for social change) which I usually help out in their production week but this season they are doing a musical so I've been promoted to musician. Most of the songs I didn't know (some more obscure Jewel/Macy Gray/Pearl Jam songs) so plenty of my time has been taken up figuring out band parts/adaptions & practice. Next weekend is production week (4 performances) so super excited (especially for the kids). Let's hope I don't stuff it up!
Oh I nearly forgot. Not quite a loopmeet but last night I had dinner with Longboat (Neil) - for anyone who perused the sub 3:30 pages on that other platform that we no longer mention might remember. He is here downunder (and NZ) for and extended holiday with his girlfriend so we caught up for a great Italian dinner (which he picked up the tab - cheers!). It's amazing how runners you've never met (even from the other side of the world) can fall into such easy conversation on anything and everything.
This morning I had 800's and a lot on my mind. I wanted to burn it all off, lap after lap after lap, but I felt heavy and slow and I struggled with my pace.
So I stewed about things. It's really hard to stew and do speed work at the same time but I was determined on both counts.
I'm struggling to channel a lot of my... uh... struggling... into my running. It's not so easy at the moment because I'm running with friends a lot more than I ever had. My long runs aren't hours and hours and hours of being alone with my thoughts, dealing with things, not dealing with other things, and committing myself to my own conclusions. It's hours and hours and hours of going places with people. It's weird.
I'm hoping when I switch from goofing off for the Brooklyn Half, to *serious training* for Wineglass, that I'll be able to fit in time for both.
Speaking of which, I'm signed up for three marathons over five weeks. I'm not really sure what I'm doing with that as I clearly have no business running like that. Maybe I'm trying to find the KRG of 2014 that might have maybe had a shot at completing all three? Idk. I think I just need something outside of work, ya know?
That's it. I wish I had interesting things to say and a pretty way of saying them but really this is all I got.
Guys, I signed up to run three marathons in five weeks. I'm not sure if it sounds better if I say three in three months but it doesn't change the timeline either way.
That actually sounds exactly like me. Biting off more than I can chew.
Then I started having anxiety about training for them. What do I do? How do I get enough mileage on my legs? Should I drop them and just run a 50? I mean, that's kind of what I want to be doing but I'm too afraid I'll break my running again. But maybe I just want to run a 50 because I KNOW i can train for that and finish but I don't KNOW that I can train for a marathon and get fast(er).
This still sounds like me, right?
Then I decided that what I should do is use a 50 mile plan to train for these races because I'll get used to running a lot of miles, recovering, repeat. What could go wrong?
Yep. Seems like Liz Logic. I'm committed to this course of action.
Then I volunteered to lead a pace group for my club's last training run before Brooklyn. I'm not social and barely run with my club.
I legit have no idea why I did that.
I also found a track club. I'm planning on doing my speed work with them on Tuesdays. I should start to plug in to my local scene more, right? Which made me decide to start linking up with this other club that does tempo runs through the Lower East Side. They are fast and pretty and I have no business running with them but I think I'm going to try.
It's like I don't even know who I am.
Then my RB signed up for the speed series in Prospect Park that meets every other Wednesday in the summer. This won't fit into my schedule this year but my club does Form Runs there every Wednesday night so I'm going to go to that and meet my RB after she's done racing.
Why am I joining all these strangers doing things?
"Biggest sandbag job of all time?" -NavEng, posted to my Strava feed, 10/2/17.
I suppose I deserved that. Two days prior to the race I posted a rant in Loopville about injuring my back and complained that I didn't think I could run the race. A quick recap in case you missed that: After the best training cycle to date I was down to the last 5 days before the marathon. Everything was pointing to a huge PR. (Even bigger than the expected PR in Philly... Before the weather gods dealt us the windstorm from hell.) But then there was this sudden sharp pain and tightness in my low back upon pushing up and out of the car on a hill with a file in my lap. I could hardly walk by the time the elevator arrived on my floor. My dreams of a Wineglass PR, or even finishing, seemed to disappear in those few seconds climbing out of the car. A PT pushed, pulled, twisted, kneeded and raked those tight muscles until I could walk. She also had me change my form slightly to take some pressure off the tight area. Still, it seemed that running Wineglass wouldn't happen.
Or maybe it would? After a successful test run Friday evening (and a very large Margarita) it was decided that a DNF would be better than a DNS, so clothes were packed and on Saturday morning I was off on the long car ride to Corning, NY for the Wineglass Marathon. KRG, Peg, J-Zee and I met up at the expo. From there Peg drove KRG and I to a restaurant in Corning where we gorged on pasta while catching up and making plans for the next morning. After dinner we enjoyed ice cream. You can do that all this without guild when you're planning to burn 3,000 calories at the crack of dawn.
The alarm went off at 4:00 AM. Not sure why I even set it since sleep was elusive, at best. After instant oatmeal and juice I met Peg and KRG in the lobby. We drove a few miles to Corning and were safely in a parking garage with minimal delay. After parking and peeing we boarded a bus for the starting line 26.2 miles away. Not quite the same as Dave driving us to the corrals in Philly, but we made it, peed again and were directed into the warming tent. We passed the time by goofing around and taking selfies while waiting for Hot Pink Sneakers and J-Zee to arrive.
After J-Zee and HPS arrived.
We talked about goals. Mine had gone from a 9:10/mile (4:00) to "just take it easy and finish without aggravating my back." Then we noticed that speedo man was holding a 4:20 sign. He was a pacer. I had no choice but to change the goal to "stay in front of that guy." Soon it was time to pee one last time and check our bags.
It was cold and foggy when we lined up behind the starting line. I had decided to take it easy through the first half and see how my back felt after that. If everything felt loose I would pick up the pace. I lined up with the 9:30/mile pacer since that would keep me just in front of speedo pacer man. After the National Anthem and some announcements the gun sounded and we were off. Apparently 9:30 was a popular pace group. We were packed in very tight for the first 6 miles. Everything felt good. The back was loose. For a while I was running with a woman who was running her 100th marathon. Yes, 100 marathons. So impressive. But, that isn't the most impressive part of her story. Prepare to have your mind blown. This was her 100th marathon in 5 years and only 3 were in her first year of running marathons. She ran 97 marathons in 4 years! Absolutely amazing.
The 9:30 pace group reached the halfway point at 2:06 and I had no back complaints so I picked up the pace. My back didn't bother me unless I let my posture relax or if I twisted to the left. No problem because the lane was closed so there was no need to twist left and watch for traffic. The course is a net down hill, but it was still hilly in between. There was another hill at around the 19 mile mark, which is never appreciated at that point in a marathon. I was tired and starting to drag by mile 22. The slight posture change helped avoid back pain, but it's tiring to try to hold a different form than you're used to. My hamstrings were tired and close to cramping up. By now the sun was high in the sky and it was hot. I drank water at every water stop after 20 miles and also walked 30 steps at each water stop, hoping that would keep any hamstring cramps away.
Finally, we turned the corner onto Market Street and the finish line. I was the last of our group to finish. The official time was 4:07. A new PR. After staggering through the chute and chugging chocolate milk and water, J-Zee led me to the others where I learned we were 6 for 6 with new PR races. Here we are celebrating:
The race was well run and the free stuff was nice.
Eventually we made or way back to the hotel and then home. These weekends are always over way too fast. I miss everyone and can't wait to do it all over again.