Mt. Baker - 10,781' - North Cascades, Washington
July 5-8, 2018
The last scheduled training for the VetEx women's Denali team is in the books, and we are now down to six team members. We started with 12 and now we are six. Myself, Amy, Candice (team leader), Harmony (co-team leader), Shanna, and Stephanie. With each training, we've really been able to dial in the skills that they've taught us and I'm finally beginning to feel a lot more comfortable with everything. Except for carrying a really heavy pack on a steep trail. My weakness in that area was painfully apparent on this trip.
Happy July 4th! Me, Amy, and Stephanie
Wednesday, July 4th, myself, Amy, and Stephanie headed to Seattle on the same Southwest flight out of Denver. It was nice to fly with the two of them because I typically fly alone. There may have been some pre-flight shots involved... When we got to Seattle, we were picked up by "Coach" Nate and taken to Lake Union where they knew someone that had rented an AirBnB house-boat! We were able to hang out on the boat, have some beers and snacks, and then sit on the rooftop to see the best fireworks show I've ever seen! Later that night, we all crashed at Nate's Aunt and Uncle's house and got up early the next morning to head to the trail-head.
The house-boat was super sweet with a great view of downtown Seattle
It was an incredible show and those are the best fireworks pics I've ever been able to take!
We stopped for breakfast (where I crushed some yummy biscuits and gravy!) and also shopped for our food for the next three days. Some of those food items where: salami and prosciutto, canned chicken, mac 'n cheese, brie, oatmeal, deli meat and cheese, crackers, trail and nut mix, hot chocolate, and Mexican rice. We also each had two Mountain House freeze-dried meals; I picked chicken and dumplings and biscuits and gravy, naturally. One final stop before we reached the trail-head was at a ranger station to pick up poop bags. These bags were just small blue plastic ones with a twisty-tie in them.
We got to the trail-head and divvied out the group gear and food. By the time I squeezed everything into and on my pack, I feel that it weighted at LEAST 45 pounds. Here's list of most of what was in my pack:
Clothing: top/bottom base layers (x2), top/bottom shells, puffy jacket, several pairs of thick socks, underwear, and bras; beanie, headband, Buff (x2), hat
Personal Gear: Sleeping bag, mat, and pad; ice ax, crampons, trekking poles, helmet, headlamp, rope, harness, seven carabiners, three full 1L Nalgene bottles, and toiletry bag
Group Gear: kitchen tent (with pole and stakes), three WhisperLite International cook stoves, one metal MSR fuel bottle, bag of six rolls of toilet paper, hand sanitizer
Group/Personal Food: two Mountain House meals, oatmeal packets, hot chocolate packets, trail/nut mix bags (x3), and bag of personal snacks (four Snickers bars, Skratch, Cliff Shot bloks, jerky, bag of corn nuts, and a couple protein bars)
Wow, after typing it out...that is a lot of shit! We all had pretty equal amounts of group gear/food. I had to sit down on the ground to get my pack on and then grab someone's hand to help me up! One detail about this that worried me from the beginning was having to hike to our base camp in our mountaineering boots. I rented the same La Sportiva boots (you mutherfukcers) that I used when we hiked Mt. Shavano and I knew this wasn't going to turn out well. I hadn't realized we'd be hiking the initial, non-snow covered miles in those boots. I haven't bought any mountaineering boots yet because I don't want to be stuck with something that is going to chew my feet up.
It was a beautiful forest hike, but I unfortunately didn't get to enjoy it because I was dying. As per the usual for these training, I was bringing up the rear. I thought I'd see some improvement with all of the mountain running I've been doing, but nope. Not one fucking bit. I've learned that all the mountain running in the world doesn't compare anything to carrying a heavy pack on your back.
Heavy pack + mountaineering boots + 2260' elevation gain over 4 miles = SUCK. I had thin sock liners and thick hiking socks on and the freaking thicker socks kept going down into my boots. Ugh. By the time we got to the top, I was feeling like I had blisters on my heels. Luckily, they just turned out to be hot spots.
We set up camp, two tents with three of us in each, and took turns digging out our kitchen tent. We didn't camp on the snow this time, but was still able to find a deep enough spot to dig out our kitchen. We had a beautiful view of Mt. Baker and the surrounding North Cascade mountains. We were expecting some bad weather Friday and Saturday and knew we'd just have to wait out a window for a summit attempt. I slept pretty well Thursday night.
LOVE this pic
The ice is blue but you can't tell from this pic
Friday, we practiced running belay in each position of the rope (front, middle, and back). Each position has their own responsibilities so it's important to know and practice them all. I was on a rope team with Candice and Stephanie, and I was put in the middle for the weekend. We also practiced self arrest with our ice axes and crevasse rescue. They found a shallow one by our camp and had us practice there. We repelled down into it and then used the Texas Kick rope method to get ourselves out. It's a pretty cool and highly effective technique!
I tossed around most of the night because the wind picked up a bit and rattled the tent. I was the first to get out Saturday morning so I thought I'd start melting some snow so that we could have coffee. This was the first time I started the WhisperLite stove all by myself and I was so proud! I didn't burn down the tent! I even had the water boiling already when the first person came in
We didn't have much of a plan for the day because we were hoping to get a weather report. We did, which said it would clear up halfway through the day and would also be clear all day Sunday.
We had a decision to make:
Leave for the summit Saturday morning and try to get back before dark; have the night to rest up and then hike out on Sunday.
Leave late that night and get up to the summit just after sunrise (our best chance at a successful summit) on Sunday morning. When we got back, we'd have to pack up camp and hike out. We were worried about our drivers not getting any sleep, but still having to drive us back to Seattle.
Can't even see the top!
My initial vote was to complete the summit on Saturday. I just didn't like the idea of having to summit on no sleep, get back to camp and pack up, then head back to Seattle in the same day. However, when I learned that Option 2 would be our best bet, I was down. We all agreed on Option 2 so we decided to take it easy all day Saturday. We practiced knot tying in our tents and then took a nap from 2-4; I only slept about 30 minutes. We made and ate dinner, then tried to sleep more; we'd be getting up at 10pm and needed to leave by 11pm. I think I might have slept two hours, as I couldn't get my mind to shut down.
The view at 10pm
Even though I had my pack ready to go before we napped, it still took me forever to get situated when 11pm rolled around - that is something I definitely need to work on. No one else around base camp was stirring around their tents so we were the first ones to take off up the mountain. Shortly after takeoff, one of the ladies shouts out, "Look! Paw prints!" We later heard from some of the other climbers that we must have been the "boisterous group" that started around midnight. Oops! Starting the climb in the dark was a little scary, simply because we couldn't see everything around us, i.e. crevasses. Also, I hadn't thought to change the batteries in my headlamp, so I could barely see. I brought extras but only three - it needed four. I didn't realize how dim it was until we started climbing.
Our first stop was about two miles up the mountain. I was getting pretty warm and wanted to shed a layer. I had on a t-shirt, base layer, and my waterproof, light shell jacket. I hadn't thought to unzip the sides of the jacket, and when I removed it, I was SOAKED. You could see how wet the jacket was on the inside and my base layer was completed soaked. Not good. Luckily, I had another base layer to change into and William's light puffy jacket to put on. Saved! We were all relatively quiet because we needed to be able to listen out for warnings. "Crevasse on the right!" "Crevasse step-over!" We each had to relay those warnings to the person behind us.
Each position on the rope team has their own difficulties. The front has to make sure to keep a pace that isn't too fast for everyone else, and will sometimes get pulled by those behind them. The middle has to make sure not to go too fast so that the rope doesn't trip the front person. Then they also can get pulled from the front and the rear members. Being in the middle, that got really frustrating at times. You have to be focused and alert at all times. The rear has to keep the pace set by the other two and also not let the rope trip up the middle person. Do you know how hard it is to keep three people going the same pace while climbing a mountain?! Sheesh! Our team kicked some serious ass though. Go team!
For a majority of the climb, we had steps to use from previous days before. When someone steps through the snow when the snow is soft, then it freezes over, it makes a nice step. However, some parts were really hard and you really had to dig your boots/crampons into the ice. My ankles were getting really sore from constantly turning them in some of the rough patches. The hardest parts where when we had to really dig our boots in or place our feet sideways where it was really steep. At one point, Nate and Scott had to put in pickets so that we could start a running belay. The intent with pickets (anchors) is to have a place to stop you if you were to start falling, rather than fall all the way down the mountain. Once you get to a picket, you clip in (or out). If you are in the middle, you must first clip in the ascending side of the rope, then unclip the descending side so that you are never completely unclipped. "Chris anchor!" "Chris clear!" I feel like I have the hang of that pretty well.
About a half a mile from the summit, and on the Roman Wall, I felt like my calves were at muscle failure. Just when I thought I couldn't go any further, I gritted my teeth and kept pushing. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and I knew I couldn't break down. I was feeling too stubborn to ask Candice to slow down a bit, but luckily Stephanie shouted at us to slow down. Whew! We finally reached the plateau at the top and could finally relax a bit! We had to go about a quarter mile across the plateau to get to the actual summit. It was gorgeous at the top! You could see jagged mountains for miles and the sun and clouds were beautiful. We were the first team to make it to the top, but we had another one behind us that we could finally see once we reached the summit. We took some pictures, but tried not to take too long so that we could give the small summit hill to the next team.
The summit hill
We didn't spend much time at the top before we headed back down. Traditional mountaineering etiquette says that those descending should give right of way to those ascending. When we reached the end of the plateau and started to descend, we could see the conga line of folks coming up. That's when we really realized what a good call we'd all made to start the climb early. Parts of the Roman Wall, we had to get off to the side and wait for others to pass us going up. Honestly, it was a nice rest break for me. I knew my feet were not going to like the decent in those boots. I typically have issues with my toes always jamming in the tips of shoes when going downhill - this was no different. The snow was still too hard to really dig our heels into so my toes were taking a beating.
Glad we weren't stuck in that!
We were definitely getting looks by others as we were coming down. Some of those looks appeared to be...
Wow! They are coming down already?
Are they all women?
Those are the girls that were making all that racket last night.
Can you NOT say hi to me? This sucks.
Look at those bad-ass women!
I'm sure there were others, but those were the obvious ones. All of the other ladies that we passed were loving us! Most of them seemed super excited to say hi. I'm not saying that we were special but we kinda were. Most of the people we passed were men. When we did pass women, they would be the only one on their rope team of 4-5. We didn't see a single other all-women rope team that day, and you certainly didn't see any leading the rope teams. There were lots of guided groups, and teams with REALLY poor/dangerous rope practices. We did pass one family that had the dad in the front, two teenage kids (boy and girl) in the middle, and the mom in the back. The mom had a ton of slack in her rope which made me nervous.
Check out that snow cave!
We took a long break towards the bottom so that we could eat some food. The snow was pretty hard to walk on at that point because so many people had come through, creating foot holes everywhere. I can't tell you how many times I turned my ankles or stumbled. When we got to Heliotrope Ridge, it was WARM. We were all dying in our layers but just wanted to be done. I had on a heavy, black base layer and I was roasting. This was another one of those points where I just had to keep pushing even though I wanted to stop and just lay in the snow.
We finally got to our camp and it felt like the bottoms of both of my feet were just a big blister. Somehow, I didn't have a single blister but had lots of hot spots. We got back to camp around 10am, making it almost an 11 hour round trip. We hadn't slept much, hadn't eaten a real meal, and now it was time to pack up camp and hike back out. Fuuuuuuuuuck. That was the last thing any of us wanted to do, but no one complained. No one ever really complains excepts for maybe under their breath. I've definitely had points of complaining but it would just be out loud to myself - lots of groans and grunts but never any protest or resistance.
I couldn't imagine hiking the four miles back to the trail-head, on tired feet and in those mountaineering boots, but I managed to do it anyway. Just when I think something is impossible, I am able to do it anyway. I told everyone that I'd have to take it at my own pace and that I'd be slow, but I finished it. I wanted to enjoy the sunshine and gorgeous trail, especially the waterfall we walked by, but I couldn't. I couldn't stop thinking about how much my feet hurt, how badly I wanted to be done, and how heavy the pack was on my already bruised hips. I definitely cried a little bit, but I think my dark sunglasses covered it. At one point Amy asked if I was ok, and I just nodded as I was sobbing.
We made it back to the trail-head (which I think took about 3 hours!), packed up all our gear, and headed out. We stopped to eat pizza and have some beer, then headed out for the 2.5 hours back to Seattle. My long, tired legs being cramped up in a backseat for that long was treacherous. When we got back to Nate's aunt and uncle's house, we had to unload all the gear and separate everything out. We were all wiped the fuck out and it felt like the tasks would never end.
I finally got a shower and crashed on the couch. I didn't feel like eating anything else so I didn't. I think I fell asleep around 10pm but then had to wake up at 3:45am to catch a Lyft to the airport for our 5:55am flight. WOWZER.
It is now almost a week since the trip, and I am STILL sore. My quads and calves have been really tender and I've just been doing what I can to recover. I used some NormaTec booties at the gym on Wednesday morning, and did a shakeout 2.5 miles with Scott Jurek at my local running store (LRS) Wednesday evening. He and Jenny were at the store for a book signing! Woohoo!
I have a lot of thoughts and reflections about this trip, and about being on this team, but I've decided to make that into another blog. Stay tuned...
Thanks for reading,
“I knee and pride is it hurts.”
The two women who had stopped to check on me just stared blankly.
“It’s pride, OK just the knee.”
Now they looked at each other, then back at me with an expression of growing concern.
I bent down to pick up my water bottle and snuck a quick glance at my knee. I expected the blood, but not the flash of pearl white in the middle of the crimson flow. That rattled me, so I took a deep breath and tried to make the words right one more time.
“I’m fine, think my pride is hurt worse than the knee.”
With that lie I forced myself to get running again. The whole thing, from feeling my foot catch the lip of the concrete slab to hitting the deck to picking up my water bottle and getting moving again had taken maybe 3 seconds. Not even long enough to stop my Garmin. But you can learn a lot in 3 seconds.
I cursed my stupidity as I forced myself back into my normal gait, despite the searing pain. It was true that I was embarrassed by the fall, but the pain radiating from my knee was far worse. There had been a lot of blood really quickly. And that bright white thing sticking out… well I didn’t even want to go there. But I was running, so it couldn’t really be that bad. Could it? I briefly recalled a hockey player a few years back who broke his leg in a playoff game and tried to keep playing, which wasn’t helpful so I immediately tried to banish it from my train of thought. Afraid of what I might see if I looked down, I continued on fueled by denial and willful ignorance. As I ran I checked the faces of the walkers, bikers, and runners coming from the opposite direction to see if they reacted. Most of the runners and bikers were in their own heads and paid no attention. The walkers, though, they did double takes. Shit, I thought, that’s probably a bad sign.
I tried to assess the pain to see if I could figure out if it was just a flesh wound or if there was going to be a real injury here. I clearly felt the sting of dirt and sweat rubbed into torn flesh. I also felt the warmth and tightness that accompanies a swollen joint, which I took as a bad sign. But when I checked my pace and gait, both were still normal. And the pain was constant, not really exacerbated by any particular motion or impact. Convinced I wasn’t going to look down and see a tibia sticking out or my kneecap flapping loosely around I decided to stop and take a look at the loop trail’s turn around point.
The streams of blood running down my shin looked like a river delta spilling into my now bright red sock. I forced my eyes to where I had seen the shock of white in the sanguine pool. It was still there. I tentatively moved my hand towards it to see what it was and for the first time noticed blood dripping from some road rash on my palm. This had an unexpected calming effect as I now realized what the white object was and carefully removed the stone from where it had embedded itself in my leg. It was roughly the size of a small kernel of corn, and had gouged out a nice little gash which continued to weep blood down the front of my leg. There was definitely some swelling, but after rinsing the knee with my water bottle and doing a “well I have that bump on both knees” comparison I decided to try and finish the last 3 miles I had on the schedule.
The more I ran, the better it felt and the tense single-mindedness of damage assessment faded. I again cursed my stupidity. I had run this path dozens of times, ticking off hundreds of miles on these trails and knew every rock, ditch, root, and mud puddle. I thought back to what had been going through my head before I’d so carelessly tripped. My mind hadn’t been on the trail. I had been thinking about the nagging tenderness in my other shin and knee which I had apparently injured during yet another night of excessive drinking. I had been telling myself how disciplined I would have to be going forward and how I had to get my shit together if I wanted to hit the goals I’d set. And I was so focused on berating myself I didn’t pay attention to the extra inch or two of erosion that the recent rains had caused in front of the small concrete slab that spans the narrow drainage ditch. That was all it took, a momentary lapse of focus and an inch or so of erosion to nearly ruin everything. Sure, I’m still young and healthy and can try again next year or whenever whatever injury I’d caused had healed. But when you set big goals and invest four months of your life into them, not even making it to the start line isn’t an acceptable outcome. I realized there was a lesson here: take nothing for granted. It’s easy to get complacent with the familiar. But the bigger the goals, the more the details matter. So pay attention.
Thinking of the other knee, I realized I hadn’t noticed it one bit since the fall. And even now, when I was actively thinking about it, I felt no pain. I didn’t know if the pain had actually gone away, if it was all just psychosomatic and I now had something else to distract me, or if the new pain was just drowning out the old. Whatever the case, there was a lesson here too: whatever your biggest worry is in one moment may seem insignificant the next. A sore hamstring is a lot less worrisome when you feel your plantar getting tight. Debating the need to do the last rest interval before your cool down seems foolish in the middle of your next tempo run. Traffic on the way into work is forgotten when you get in and check your emails. The emails seem don’t really matter anymore at the end of the day when your car won’t start. And even that is put on the backburner when you get home and find out your kid is in trouble at school or your fridge died and all your foiled spoiled. Something new will always come up. Priorities can change in an instant, and to succeed in running or in life, you better be flexible.
Feeling quite profound, I pressed on and noticed my stride picking up and the pain dissipating. Garmin signaled my tenth mile was complete, and I noted it was the fastest of the day. So I just kept running. The Wife watched me streak past her in the parking lot, hands upturned in a prayer for understanding of my insanity, shaking her head disapprovingly. I made it another third of a mile before I remembered I’m starting marathon training and shouldn’t be mucking up the plan no matter how great I suddenly felt. This was my last lesson of the day: don’t give in. I went from worrying I had shards of bone sticking out of my leg and fearing a marathon derailing injury to wanting to run all the miles. Now, is it wise to keep running when you think a bone may be sticking out of your leg? Probably not. But if I had stopped, who knows what would have happened. Maybe the knee would have swelled up and gotten tight and I would have been sidelined until it felt better. Or maybe not, who the hell knows, I’m not a frigging doctor. But if I didn’t try, I wouldn’t have known I was OK. Stopping may have been the smart, safe move. But people who always play it smart and safe rarely accomplish great things. We face adversity every day in all that we do. Don’t give in.
When I got back to the car The Wife had abandoned the disapproval and now looked more amused than anything else.
“How was your run?” she asked. She thinks she’s funny like that.
My shoe was starting to get squishy from the water I’d squirted on my leg to try and wash off the dirt and gravel and with each step pink bubbles were getting squeezed up through the mesh toe box. People were staring. The Wife noticed.
“C’mon, let’s get out of here before someone calls the cops or something.”
While toweling off the mix of dried salt and perspiration and mopping up the rivulets still running down my leg I couldn’t help thinking about the old “blood, sweat, and tears” idiom.
“You want onions in your omelette?” I asked The Wife. I think I’m funny sometimes too.
I've successfully stayed out of the deep, dark pit of despair with Louie the Jerk knee. (that's a thing now) I'm terming it as "successful" because over the weekend I finally felt a noticeable reduction in pain and a slight reduction in swelling, as well as an increase in range of motion with this troublemaker. Been sort of penciling in a call to the doc early this week out of frustration. Shouldn't I be feeling better by now? A little ice a couple of times. A little pressure on the outer fold of the envelop of flexion and extension. Three one mile walk/jogs (Monday, Wednesday and Friday). Those all seemed to have a positive effect and I'm going to stay the course for the present.
Going to stay with a mile at a time with a rest day in between again this week. I've been using the sleeve for the runs but have stopped wearing it the rest of the time. Baby steps.
The weekend before the Fourth we tripped up to Toronto for a rare international vacation. We did mostly touristy stuff, plus caught a couple of baseball games, since the Tigers were in town. We'd planned one of those and sprang for good seats. The other was a last minute thing, and we just bought the cheapest ones. Tigers lost one and won the other. I'll dump some pics at the end.
Painted Connor's old room, then painted the old dresser and nightstand that were in there. They never matched each other or the room before anyway, so it seemed like a good idea. Apparently there is a lot of painting in my near future. Gotta do something instead of running, I guess.
I think not running has effected my writing mojo. Not that I've posting anything especially creative in a long time anyway. But just getting a bloop into the system has been quite a chore, the longer this knee has dragged on. This is my longest injury-caused layoff since 2008-09. That's when I hurt my knee playing basketball for the last time. That's also when I decided the marathon wasn't going to wait any longer. Also, when I joined the Loop.
Took from March until July to get up to my first 10 miler, and a 20+ mile week.
Anyway. After Toronto, I spent most of the holiday week in training classes. Mrs. Dave worked on Independence Day while I spent it quietly at home.
Oh, happy ending to the cracked/slashed/whatever tire episode. We paid for a new one at the Firestone store, but when I got home and went to add the receipt to the car warranty file, I discovered that we had paid for road hazard insurance when we bought the car. Trouble was, the instructions on the warranty were to call their 800 number BEFORE authorizing the replacement. By that time the manager had gone home and there was no way to reach him until Friday (this was Wednesday and we were going to be in Canada by then). Would they let us do it? We called from the middle of Ontario and the manager agreed to call and see what could be done. I'd spent the previous two days beating myself up over the $200 (AND the $800 I'd spent on the warranty!), so it was a little stressful until he called us back and let us know the warranty company had agreed to cover it. Win!
Big Mac came through yesterday and spent the day with us. She's here with a couple of friends to visit Cedar Point for some serious roller coaster-ing. So great to see her (she's my favorite, after all).
Anyway, here's some images from the trip.
The CN Tower is sort of a requirement.
Friday night in the nosebleed seats.
Saturday at Casa Loma. This was one man's expensive home project.
Sunday in the second row.
Here's hoping for continued progress with Louie the Jerk knee, and some real running soon.
Total mileage for the month: 231.9 (in comparison: January - 207, February - 254, March - 298, April - 307, May - 355). My marathon taper and recovery stole some June miles, but that's the nature of marathoning!
May 28-June 3: 73.2
June 4-10: 61.7
June 11-17: 57 (race week)
June 18-24: 37 (recovery/vacation week)
June 25-July 1: 58.1 (unstructured training, and I was surprised to end up with this many)
June 16: Grandma's Marathon in 2:49:08 (6:27 average pace). I was pleased to dip into the 2:40s off of this training cycle, and proud of how I executed the race. This was my second ever fastest marathon, and my third time in the 2:40s on course less fast than the other courses I’ve broken 2:50 on. Of course, 2:45:00 is still my Big Dream Goal, but I really believe I got the best 26.2 miles out of myself that I could have on this day, and that was a great feeling! You can read more about my race here.
June 30: Sertoma Duck Waddle 5K in 18:11, but probably more like 18:26-18:31 and 5:58ish average pace. This was a for-fun local race that I've now run 3 years in a row, and that I had no expectations for not only because I was 2 weeks post- marathon, but also because we were in a heat advisory on race morning. I was plenty happy with how it ended up. The course was not certified, and I believe it was a tad short, so my official time of 18:11 wasn't legit, unfortunately!
Final stretch at Grandma's
June 2: 10 x 0.5 mile repeats (0.25 recoveries, 2.1 warm up, 1.8 cool down) in 2:55, 2:57, 2:58, 2:56, 2:59, 2:56, 3:03, 3:01, 3:04, 2:52 - average of 2:58 which is like a 2:56 800 m. This was supposed to be 10 x 800 m on the track (a.k.a. Yasso 800s), but we arrived at the track to find it under construction. The day before I'd told my coach that if he wanted to change my workout to something like 10 miles at marathon pace I wouldn't be mad, and the torn up track situation made me further feel like the universe was begging me not to run this workout, but I, alas, I made it through. My average was pretty much the same as I ran for this workout before CIM (which was very unsatisfactory to me at that time!), but I was happy with it for this one because it was 78 degrees with dew point of 73 degrees, i.e., terrible weather conditions for running performance. Also I historically bomb every Yasso workout I ever run, so I've stopped worrying about how they translate to my marathons. It IS possible for me to run 2:47-2:49 marathons off of 2:55-2:56 Yasso averages, and I figured heat/humidity-graded this one was more like 2:52 (dew points at this level = "expect pace to suffer greatly"), so it seemed like winning to me! My coach ran the same workout so I had someone to chase, and his super speedy wife ran 4 repeats with us as part of her workout, and she was kind enough to slow down on the last one to help me finish strong...that's how I got the 2:52 when I was clearly dying, you know, just running with the 8th female in the 2018 Boston Marathon. All in all, this was just another data point for me indicating that 2:56 Yassos = 2:49 marathon.
June 6: 20 x 400 m repeats (200 m recoveries between reps, 400 m recoveries between sets of 4, 2.3 warm up, 2 cool down). My goal was to run faster each set, aiming for 89, 88, 87, 86, 85 on the sets of 4 reps. This workout is interesting due to the pace control it takes and the sheer volume of repeats. As far as speed workouts go, it is more suited to my strengths because I am good at negative splitting and volume (I am not good with raw speed). But it is a lot of 400s and a long time to be on the track, especially alone! My splits were: 89, 88, 89, 89 / 87, 88, 88, 87 / 87, 86, 88, 86 / 87, 87, 87, 86 / 86, 86, ??, 85 (average 87). I missed my watch on rep 19 and it took me a bit to notice it, but I suspect it was 85-86. I was either exactly on my target times or 1 second off for every rep, so I accomplished the exercise in pacing and leg turn-over. This was not the fastest I've ever run this workout (I have averaged 85-86), but it actually was the fastest 400s I'd run in 2018, which was humorous since it was double the reps of the other 400 workouts I'd done. I didn't exactly set the bar very high in my other 400 repeats this year, but I always say that I can't go any faster but I can keep going, and this workout proved that! This workout also really illustrated where one of my weaknesses is with speed work, and that is getting going. I never came through my first 200 any faster than 44, and on most of the reps I came through at 45, meaning that when I was running 86 I was splitting them 45/41. I've told my coach that I'm flummoxed that I can finish a half marathon with a 5:52-6:02 mile, but I struggle with dropping into the high-5:00's on speed work, and he said it's probably because I have a hard time getting going but once I'm running I can ramp it up, and after this workout I realized he is 100% right on that. Just another reason I'm better at longer races!
June 9: 10 miles with 2 fast finish at marathon goal pace-ish (pick up miles in 6:17 and 6:09; 6:52 for all 10). I started this run feeling sluggish and blah, but finished it feeling great. I always have a time period during my taper when I feel awful, and this run was the turning point to feeling better again. The fast finish miles felt more like half marathon effort, probably because they were.
June 12: Final tiny tune-up workout of 2 miles at dream marathon goal pace: 6:21, 6:14 for an average of exactly 6:17 (2 warm up, 2.5 cool down). Like always, this workout inspired NO confidence that I could maintain this pace for much farther than 2 miles. It was rainy for this run, and at the time the Grandma's race day forecast included heavy rain and a 80% chance for it (that forecast actually didn't change until race morning!).
Double on June 7...this list is very sad.
Strides on June 14 and 15, 27, and at least a few before all workouts and the 5K.
Full body strength workouts on June 2, 6, 9 (abbreviated), 27 (abbreviated), 30, and 5-10 minutes of core work most days, with the exception of a 7-day span right before and right after the marathon.
Favorite workout: Err...the choice is really between two speed workouts, so...I choose the marathon, haha!
If it's on the Internet it must be true
God telling me not to run a track workout
June 3: 15.3 miles (7:05). This was the first run in weeks that I finished with some of my clothing still dry! It was in the high 60s and the dew point was 57*, in sharp contrast to the heavy humidity we'd been experiencing (plus I did not over-dress, which clearly helped!). I could feel the previous day's 10 x half mile repeats and strength workout on my legs, but the shorter distance and nicer weather evened it all out! Rebecca ran the first 10 with me and then I was nearly finished!
June 9: 10 miles (6:52), described above and really not long.
Favorite long run: Well, there was really only one, which makes me even more sad than the list of my doubles above. Again, I choose the marathon!
My running streak lives on - my last day off was January 26. I didn't take the week after Grandma's off because I love running on vacation, and also because I didn't want to! My last days off were after Houston, when I was feeling burned out both physically and mentally, and I wasn't afraid to do that again, but I didn't want it this time and was excited for my short recovery runs. After CIM I ran on vacation in the same manner. I don't plan to streak long-term, because I'll take the time when I need it, but it's been fun to count since I've started running 7 days a week in June 2017 -- within the 13 months since then, I've taken 5 days off, all after Houston.
This arrived (I'd completely forgotten it was coming)!
Albani has been losing teeth like crazy! She is onto us about the non-existence of the Tooth Fairy, but still gladly accepts her dollars.
Albani was in her school district's newsletter, reading.
We vacationed after Grandma's Marathon, in Grand Marais, Minnesota, Grand Portage, Minnesota, and in Thunder Bay Canada. You can read more about our vacation here.
2 teeth lost within 10 minutes!
Half of my department at our ABA BBQ
Photo from the district newsletter
Good morning! I hope you all had an excellent 4th of July, whether you were celebrating Independence Day or not. Last week, I decided that I was ready to give racing a try and signed up for the local Percival’s Island 5 miler. It’s flat, fast and fun.
If you’re just now tuning in, I ruptured my Achilles tendon way back in December and worked long and hard to get to this point. I got back to running at around 16 weeks and made up my mind that I was just going to ENJOY running instead of being so damn goal oriented. I’ve mainly been a social runner and taking it easy, but the more I’ve been running, the more natural it’s starting to feel and the more I feel myself wanting to pick the pace up a little. I really miss racing for the competition and the camaraderie too, so combine that with feeling good and there you have it.
I haven’t been doing much running while holding anything close to race paces, so I felt like I needed to “feel it out” with a fast run a couple of days before the race. Public Runemy #1 Robbie was a willing partner to help me out. We ran 2 hard miles sandwiched between 2 easy miles. They were around a 7:00 mile pace and to be honest they felt harder than I remember them feeling. The tricky part is that it’s HOT (you may have heard). It’s hard to tell if the struggle is how out of shape I am or how miserably swampy the weather is. I think it’s both, really.
I was so nervous the night before the race. I had so much doubt and even some fear. It’s hard to forget the complete shock of a ruptured Achilles. The thought that one wrong move can cause such damage is tough to shake. Sure, the injury was a freak accident in a way, but there was a clear path to set it up to fail.
The morning of the race, I felt better. Friends help. People told me what I needed to hear. Seeing and chatting with other runners got me relaxed. I remembered that there’s no pressure at all for me to do well. I’m doing well just by running again.
Off we went in the sweltering, suffocating heat. I started out a bit too fast (surprise!) but got settled in after a quarter mile. I felt alive! For 2 miles, I held a 7:00 pace. Then came reality. Mile 3 was over 30 seconds slower, but felt no easier. The wheels were falling off. My unreasonable optimism sometimes causes me trouble. How could I think that after struggling through 8 miles last Saturday at an easy pace I’d be able to get through 5 miles at race pace?! Dummy.
Once I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to sustain what I’d started, I lost the drive to push through. I slowed down. I walked. I got passed by several runners that knew how to pace properly. Crap. Mile 4: 8:31
Definitely some pain in that face.
With less then a mile to go, I got passed by two more guys that looked about my age. I finally drew a line and decided not to let them beat me. I picked up quite a bit the last half mile and left those two guys behind me with a 7:46 mile 5, finishing strongly back at my 7:00 pace that I started with. I ended up finishing 33rd overall and 4th (I hate that) in my age group.
So there’s a video of the finish, which is pretty cool. My finish is tainted somewhat by the guy PUKING AT THE FINISH LINE, just before I come in. I wish I’d given that much effort. I’d feel better about myself.
I was pretty drained after the race…so I hydrated with some of the red, white and blue ribbon.
This race was good for me. I now know my current limits and I know that I don’t like them. I will change them.
Anybody else race yesterday? How’d it go?
This is a late post, the run was a few weeks ago on June 18.
This is the third year in a row I did the Mt. Washington hill run. For those that don't know of it, it's an auto road, 7.6 miles, that goes to the top of Mt Washington. It's average grade is 12%, there are no flat spots.
Well, I planned, I trained, I made it to the top, but it was from what I hoped for.
Thursday night I had a family / personal crisis that is going to take months, probably some court dates, and a lot more pain to resolve. I did't get to sleep until after 3am. Then silly us, two friends who ran it with us came over last night and we stayed up late chatting, got about 6 hours of sleep. Woke up still a mess from Thursday, still now, will be with me for a while. I'm not going to share more about it here, it's too troubling right now.
The weather at the base this morning was perfect, probably low 60's. I stood in the front today for the start, just behind the elite guys. I didn't run nearly as fast, and also feel I didn't get in their way, but it was cool to be in the front.
I "ran" the first half, no walk breaks. There is a timer at the halfway point, I was at 1:03. Not what I was hoping for, I walked the rest.
It was a very windy day. The treeline goes about halfway up the mountain, then quickly thins to nothing. Once I cleared the trees, the wind really picked up. About 20mph for the rest of the run, 90% of it a headwind. It was brutal. This years winner finished about 10 minutes slower than last years (who also ran today). It was also pretty cold at the top, I heard low 40's. I had a cycling jersey and running shorts.
I don't have an official time, but the race clock and my Garmin both said 2:10. Same as last year. Very disappointed. I trained hard for this. Even though I've been a lifelong couch potato, overweight most of my life, the past 5 or so years have been a big change foe me, I really expected under 2 hours this year.
I finished well before my friends. The last few hundred yards are 22%, that's kinda tough at the end of a 7.6 mile run at 12%. I went to the bottom of that part of the run and waited for my friends. I forgot my bag of warm clothes at the bottom, so a lot of shivering was involved. I saw the guy friend come up first, he seemed OK, so I just high fived him. He actually was pretty dehydrated and felt sick for a couple of hours after.
Next I saw a women a little wobbly, I was yelling some encouraging words. Her hat blew off (remember, 20mph winds). I yelled, loudly, a couple of times, I'll get it, just keep going). I think she was delirious and didn't hear me. She bent over to pick it up and face planted. She stayed down for a bit, didn't appear seriously hurt (probably broke her nose), so a few of us picked her up. She wanted to continue. So me and another guy grabbed her under each arm and ran the 22% with her. We got her across the line and we brought her right to the EMTs. This was the coolest part of my day.
I went back down the 22% part, saw my girl friend and she was having a tough time. I took her under her arm and got her near the finish line, then she completed it on her own. Also pretty cool
Back down I went, saw the wife. She was doing OK, I ran next to her, and she didn't need any help, so I let her cross on her own.
I hate making excuses, but the personal issues are weighing heavily on me. It was horribly windy. It was not the race I hoped for.
I finished, I will do it again next year, I will train harder. My coach is awesome, he did a fantastic job getting me as ready as I could be. The failures are all on me. I needed to lose 15 pounds that I didn't, I needed to get my head into the race today, I couldn't.
Here's a pic with me, George (98 years old and a 2018 finisher) and my wife.
Me finishing (yellow cap)
My (and some stranger) helping (some other stranger).
“So are these guys like college buddies or something?”
“Well, we all met in high school” I responded to Young Female Coworker. “I’ve known them almost 23 years.”
Her face dropped and her eyes widened a little bit. “I’m 23.”
“I guess I just didn’t realize you were that old.”
Goddamned kids. It was my last day in the office before heading out to the Outer Banks for a week for our annual shindig. As we’ve all moved on in life and a few of us moved away from New Jersey we’ve made it a point to pick at least a long weekend every year to all get together in one place and engage in shenanigans both old and new. Four of the six of us have had additions to their families in the past year, so we decided a beach house where we had easy access to not only surf and sand but also cribs and bottles was a good idea. I suspected The Wives also hoped that the mellow setting would keep our usual late cigar and brown liquor fueled evenings in check. My hunch was confirmed when we arrived on Sunday and began unloading the car. I had offered to pick up a supply of adult beverages before hitting the islands since I didn’t have to fit a pack ‘n play in my trunk and no one wanted to pay the premium prices island locales command. As The Guys and I set up the bar, we noticed The Wives huddled in the corner and gesturing in our direction while conferring in hushed tones.
“Everything OK over there?” I asked, knowing full well we were about to be lectured like teenagers heading off to prom weekend.
“Seems like overkill, doesn’t it?”
“Well, I just wanted to make sure we had a selection. Don’t worry, we’re not planning on finishing all this or anything.”
The Wife made eye contact with me and smirked as the rest of The Wives dispersed, seemingly satisfied. She is in the unique position of having known The Guys since high school, and of being an eyewitness to most of the “OHMYGOD you remember that time…” stories. I won’t bore you (further) with the details, but we had to make our first run to the liquor store on Tuesday, and made daily trips the rest of the week. Our average per day was 2.5 cases of beer, a bottle of liquor which varied based on the theme of that day’s cocktail hour, and a bottle of whisk(e)y for the evenings. Plus wine with dinner, naturally, but that doesn’t really count. We’re not savages, after all.
It’s now the Wednesday after we got back, and it’s the first day since we got home that I didn’t wake up feeling like I was on an alien planet breathing a toxic atmosphere. It’s also the first time I ran since a slow, hungover 10 miles on Saturday. Next week starts training for the NYC Marathon. Most people in my shoes would be taking things easy or at least making sure they were getting to the start of training healthy and well rested. Instead, I’m in the final stages of a 3+ day hangover, am nursing a badly bruised knee/shin I don’t remember bruising, and am somehow 9 pounds heavier than before I left. On the plus side though, I now have a totally bitchin’ tan. As I was enjoying a post run shower beer today and thinking about all of this I had one of those moments of clarity where some deep personal truth is revealed to you through intense meditation, prayer, endorphins, or chemical enhancement.
I was thinking about how stupid it was to spend a week trashing my body right before I planned to push it harder and ask more of it than I ever have. I took a long pull on the beer and stared at the can for a moment as I set it on the towel rack-cum-beer stand. I thought back to countless 5Ks and 10Ks I had raced hungover or with stomach issues caused by choices like gas station sushi or spicy kimchi cheesesteaks. But as I watched the mix of condensation and shower spray drip down the side of the can I realized it’s not just running where I make these choices. I wear a giant unruly beard to work in an uptight corporate office. I never do my mandatory training or administrative reports on time. I antagonize every single figure of authority in my life. I always renew the registration on my car a week late and almost never floss. This is where the epiphany came.
On some level, we’re all a little broken. Some of us in serious ways, some superficial. Some physically, some emotionally or psychologically. We cope by going to therapy, doing yoga or meditating, or with pharmaceuticals (prescribed or otherwise). Some of us run. I’m broken in many ways, but I’d never quite realized the depth of this self-sabotaging fracture. As I stood there watching to see how long the drop of shampoo lather could cling to the bottom of the beer, I ran through all the times I’ve blown myself up and suddenly understood the source of this all wasn’t a lack of hugs from my mother or a longing for daddy’s approval or the effects of sitting too close to the TV. It was fear. Fear of taking a chance, of laying it all out on the line. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of being happy. Fear of rejection. I realized I stayed deep in this fissure of my psyche because it was small and cozy and safe down there. If I set myself up for failure before I even started something it removed some of the fear of foundering because I’d given myself a convenient excuse. And if I succeeded despite the artificial handicaps, well then it was just a more impressive accomplishment and a better story. In a few short months I’m going to be chasing the biggest running goal I’ve ever set for myself, and I know I’ve been a little intimidated by it. I wondered if I was already so scared of it that I was subconsciously sowing the seeds of catastrophe. I committed to myself that I would buckle down and start rationing the beer while training like an animal for NYC. Instead of feeling motivation or a sense of purpose though, I felt hollow. Something was missing.
Despite my penchant for hara-kari making the path here twice as long, I’m in a pretty good position in life. I have a well-paying job with quality, affordable healthcare and live in a nice neighborhood in a bustling city. I don’t have to mine coal or handle toxic waste or give root canals to lions. And although I’ve at times had to lie about where the rent check is, all the bills are now on autopay. I’ve worked my ass off to get here, but I also know I’ve had every opportunity available for the taking and wasted plenty of them. Reaching this point while I’m still young and healthy enough to think I’m invincible is what’s allowed me to say yes to the marathons and travel and literal and metaphoric mountains I’ve climbed in the past couple of years. But because of this perfect little slice of the venn diagram of money, time, and health I’m currently in these aren’t really risks or real avenues for self-improvement I’ve been saying yes to. They’re just a life that I’m finally living. I may be heading down a better path, but I can still see the parking lot from where I’m standing. So how do I do something with this epiphany I’ve had?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Patti Smith lately. I was rolling the lyrics of Pissfactory around my head for the roughly 5,432 time and wondering what to do with my newfound psychological awareness as I worked on a post-shower beer and a half-written blog. The train of thought was stalled due to signal problems, so I took a sip of beer and tried to let the bubbles clear my head, hoping one might float an idea to the surface. And just as the effervescence stung the back of my throat, Patti sang:
I got something to hide here
And I will get out of here
I put the song on repeat and listened again. I may not be in a sweatshop doing hard manual labor, and I’m not looking to escape to the big city to be a big star. But I am tired of the monotony, of a place that chews people up and shits them out. We laid off a guy in our group this past year. He did good work and was well-liked, we just realized we could offer a junior person a promotion to fill part of his workload at ⅔ the cost and the rest of the senior managers could split up the big clients and grow our own revenue streams. I had my best year ever because of it, and the partners are looking for another sacrificial lamb.
I saved my biggest client a ton of tax money as part of a recent project, not long after which I learned they fund PACs lobbying to remove legal provisions protecting the healthcare of people with preexisting conditions. My father’s a cancer survivor.
I may be living a comfortable life, but the cost is sickening. I’ve known this, and I’ve long had the desire to change it. But I’ve been hiding it deep in the back of my mind, buried in that chasm of fear. It’s time to let it out.
So I’m going to be taking some chances. Throwing everything I can think of at the wall to see what sticks. Doing more of this networking thing the kids are always talking about, maybe taking a class or two and exploring career options to atone for the sins of my past. And I’m going to try and write something. Don’t know what it will be yet, most likely nothing more than pseudo-intellectual masturbation, but who knows what’ll stick. My first training run for NYC is Thursday. I think I’ll write about it.
Every marathon is a different adventure, and the person who starts the race is never the same person who finishes it. Anyone looking to maximize personal growth within a few hours should race a marathon! Grandma’s Marathon was a 2 hour 49 minute 8 second finale to a training block that made me a more thankful person.
Race morning brought nearly perfect running weather, with temperatures in the 50s and overcast skies. The much lower than expected temperatures made it impossible to complain about 100% humidity. I wrote the verse “With God all things are possible - Matthew 19:26” on my arm; only because of Him did I even make it to this marathon after a rocky start to the training block. On the bus ride to the starting line I was thankful that it wasn’t hot or a deluge, both of which had been forecasted at some points. I was thankful for the amazing perks I received as an elite athlete in this event, which included a nice bus from our hotel to the start, an elite tent/staging area (Kellyn Taylor was in there too!), separate porta-potties and bag checks, and the ability to have my own bottles placed on the course (more elite details coming in later posts). I was also thankful to share the bus ride with my friend Michelle, just like we had before the Bill Snyder Half four weeks prior.
My race verse
I stuck to my typical pre-race warm up and routines, found Nichole who I planned to pace with at the beginning, and felt ready to go on the starting line. Although anytime I line up for a marathon, the 2:45 standard is on my mind, I knew it would be a huge stretch off of the training cycle I’d had, and we planned to start at 6:30 pace. I am pretty good at gauging what I have to give, so I knew that once I got rolling I’d know if I should stay at that pace or drop.
I started with Nichole and her friend Craig (you can read Nichole's race report here). The pace felt perfect as a marathon effort and the crowds thinned out. I looked at my first 4 mile splits and then switched to effort-based racing. I suspected my pace would drop a little as I got more warmed up and into a groove, but I didn’t want to force it down in an effort to hit certain splits and have that come back to haunt me later in the race like happened at Houston. One thing I’ve learned about marathoning is that just because you’re in shape to run a certain pace doesn’t mean you’ll be able to run that pace on race day, and forcing it early sure doesn’t do you any favors! Plus I wasn't actually at a fitness level to run 6:17 pace; I just had a small outside hope that race day magic would happen, but knew 6:20-6:30 was more realistic.
I wrote additional posts with the details of each section of the races (links below), but overall the miles flowed and I felt like I was running at the correct effort-level for me that day. I was thankful to be out there feeling good, although like any long race some parts were easier and some were rougher. I saw course clocks at the 10K, 10 mile, half, and mile 20, so I knew about where I was at based on those. After pulling away from Nichole and Craig during mile 5, I never ran with anyone for more than a mile or so, but I kept focusing on the runners ahead of me and working towards them. I'm pretty good at getting stuck in no man's land no matter how large the race, and the faster you're running the more likely that is to occur!
At mile 20, I felt like I had more left than I’d had at that point at CIM, which I was thankful for -- I was also about 2:40 slower so that probably had a lot to do with it! Although I loved the Grandma’s course (especially the straightness of it!) and would describe it as flat, the first half is a net downhill and from the half to about 23 is a net uphill. It’s not enough that you notice it racing, but it influences pace, especially when you're getting nit picky about seconds. I wasn’t sure how my body would respond in the final 10K, but I tried to focus and to catch and pass as many people as I could.
The closer I got to the finish line, the thicker the spectators became, and the more confident I became about having a strong finish. I drank my entire 8 oz bottle of nuun energy at mile 22, mainly for the caffeine, and shortly after I developed a terrible side cramp. It persisted from about 22.5-24.5, and I was able to keep running but wow it hurt. I’d kind of accepted that I’d have it through the end, so was extremely thankful when it abated and I was really able to cruise in. It also rained for awhile starting around 23 and Lemon Drop "hill". I developed some neck pain in the final few miles, which I've experienced at the end of my last 3 marathons now, and although it makes me lean back a bit and tilt my head upward, it was nothing major (at CIM it was debilitating, but at Houston was also fairly minor).
Around mile 25 I heard a spectator say “You’ve gotta move if you want under 2:50” to someone, and I thought “I sure want under 2:50!” and moved with all I could, which meant a 6:12 final mile and 5:55 pace final 0.2. After 25 miles with only 4 turns (all added to the course they've run in the past, due to construction, and all after mile 20), the final mile of the course had 5 turns, but I thought it was almost helpful at that point because it made it easier to lie to myself about how close I was to the finish line! There were also 2 clocks in the last mile, although they weren’t marked with distances so weren’t actually helpful; it never occurred to me that I could look at my watch to check the distance, but it didn't really matter at that point.
I remember running over this, I think
in mile 24 or 25
As I came down the final straight, I was again filled with thankfulness for making it to the finish line, for making it through my training cycle, for being 100% healthy, for my third marathon in the 2:40s, and for my second fastest marathon ever. My smile in this photograph that was taken just after I finished (and was immediately handed my gear bag - another wonderful elite perk) says it all!
Few things match the thrill of the
Results & official course splits
My official results, along with a lot of fun stats and two finishing videos, are here. I was 43rd female (I was ranked 42 so finished very close) and 9th in the 35-39 age group. 2:35 won my age group!
My family found me from the sidelines (Jon and Albani got to sit in a special section of bleachers with my elite pass!), and I think I surprised them with how elated I was. Sure, I was 4:08 off of my Big Dream time, but I met all of my realistic goals for the race. Those were to pace within myself and evenly (not by my watch), to negative split, to finish strong, to finish in the 2:40s, and to be thankful no matter what. I truly believe I got the best marathon I could have gotten out of myself on that course in that field on 6/16/18, and that’s a fantastic feeling! Before the race I’d been stuck on 2:48 as a realistic ideal day finishing time, so I was very close in my prediction. One big lesson I learned this training cycle is not to have 2:45 as my singular goal, because while I certainly want to hit that time standard, it can’t be the only way to success if I want to maintain the pure love I have for the marathon and the joy I find in racing it. I’m thankful for my passion for this hobby, and wouldn’t trade that for any marathon finishing time.
Post-race celebration with most of my
cheer crew (Jon took the photo)
On the other hand, I like to believe I’m improving, even though my time progression isn’t linear. I give a lot of myself to this pursuit. I wouldn’t have it any other way and I truly love marathon training, but I dedicate a lot to it in a life where I don’t have a surplus of time, plus traveling to ideal races is an investment each time. I am thankful that findmymarathon.com told me that based on course differences, I am improving!
I've said it 1 million times: Too
bad you can't OTQ at Phoenix
With God all things ARE possible, and I am most thankful for that.
Garmin splits 1
Garmin splits 2
More about my Grandma's experience can be found:
Elite excitement and expo
Race morning anticipation
6.2 to halfway there
Half to 20
The finish line is just the beginning of a whole new race
Caffeine taper, pre-race meals, & race day nutrition
Minnesota Vacation (how to family vacation along with Grandma's) - coming soon!
When you get to the part about The Loop, that is an explanation for my non-Loop readers on my other blog
"Chris is the girl that runs a lot..."
More and more things are becoming nostalgic triggers for me – certain 90’s songs, those Welch’s jelly jars that had cartoon characters on them, and the smell of running through the woods, to name a few. Those woodsy smells have always held a place in my heart and the other day it got me thinking back, way back, to when it all began and how I became frequently referred to as, “Chris is the girl that runs a lot...”
I was a REALLY active kid and felt like I just lived outside. My grandfather taught me to appreciate the outdoors at an early age and was a huge part of my life.
He was the father-figure for the early part of my life and I unfortunately only had him for 16 yrs.
My mom would have to yell and holler at my brother and I to get us to come inside. We built forts, played in the dirt, explored the woods as far as we could go, and would just get lost for hours at a time. I liked the idea of playing sports but we couldn’t really afford to, and my mom just didn’t have the time to take us to practices. I was always mad that I didn’t get to play much, but looking back, my single-parent mom was fucking Wonder Woman.
I have the best mom ever – and brother too. I think she was about 20 here! Wowzer. A baby with babies.
I did play one season of soccer in the 2nd grade, and attempted cheerleading in the 5th grade because all the other girls were doing it. Why I ever thought I should try cheerleading, I’ll never know. I quickly and happily gave that up.
Right before this picture was taken, I was at my grandmaw’s house taking pictures with balloons in my shirt (for boobies). Also, I had a black eye from where my brother accidentally kicked me on our trampoline! HAHA! I was called “Black-eyed Susan” that year! I’m just impressed now that kids knew what Black-eyed Susans were back then! Sure wouldn’t now! I’ll give you a cookie if you can pick me out!
I didn’t try any other organized sports again until high school. Actually, I joined JROTC my freshman year after being talked into it by one of my friends. After trying out, my friend hated it and quit, but I love it and stayed. My freshman year was the only year I went to this particular school, because my mom got divorced and we moved after that. The JROTC program at this school was LEGIT and they made us do lot of tough exercises and run. This was my first real taste of working out and running, but I hadn’t caught the running bug just yet. When I moved to the high school where I graduated, the JROTC program there was a lot more relaxed.
A friend talked me into trying out for the softball team my sophomore year – see the friend-talked-me-into-it pattern? I’d played ball around our yard with my brother, but never on a team. A majority, if not all, of the girls on the team grew up playing and all knew each other. I didn’t know any of the rules and just went with it. I picked it up nicely, as I usually do with new challenges. I found rides to practice and games until I got my own car.
I kept playing softball, but in my junior year (end of 1997) yet another friend talked me into joining the cross-country team. I honestly don’t think I would have went out for it if she hadn’t talked me into it. Again, my friend hated it but I LOOOOOOVED it. At first it was a great way to stay active while I wasn’t playing softball. I can remember huffing and puffing, and not being very good at the beginning. However, I picked it up really quickly and became pretty good. I don’t have the best memory in the world but I can remember a couple of meets where I sprinted so hard at the end that I couldn’t feel my legs! I remember one in particular where I sprinted, with dead legs, to the finish and was so thrilled by the floating feeling that I had. I had a big smile on my face when I finished! I was never able to reach my full cross-country potential because I didn’t run that much in the off-season and focused more on softball my senior year. We switched over to fast-pitch and I tried my hand at pitching for a while. I made all-conference in cross-country my senior year and was always curious how good I could have been if I’d started running sooner and trained throughout the year.
I ran my first 10K on January 10, 1998 and ran a 54:22 (8:44 pace). Gotta love Athlinks! Check out my profile!
I was 16 years old! Check out those Adidas shorts!
After I graduated, I went to community college where I can remember running occasionally on campus, but it was never a regular thing. I also ended up gaining the freshman 15. Folks in that part of NC just didn’t run for fun and I’d never really thought about it either. I was on the school’s volleyball team and played some intramural sports. I graduated there in 2001 and joined the Army. A few months before I went to basic training (I was in the delayed-entry program from June-September. My first day was 9/11/2001. Seriously.), I began to run to get in shape for the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). In basic training, they would break us up into run groups A-C, with A being the fastest group. I was too fast for the B group so I ended up in A where I was always the only girl, and would have to fight to stay with the guys. There wasn’t a single APFT where I didn’t max out my required run time. I had other girls coming up to me to ask for advice on how to get faster. During that time, I was just running and had no idea why/how I was able to run that fast. I did help one girl who was really struggling and on the verge of getting kicked out because of it. I made her run extra with me and paced her during her final test. I basically just yelled at her the whole two miles! HAHA! It worked though! The fastest two miles that I ever had for a APFT was a 14:30, 7:15 pace. That isn’t THAT fast, but I only needed like an 18:something to pass. Sheesh.
I didn’t run another race until 2005 when I was stationed in England. A few friends and I went to Scotland and ran the River Ness 10K. I let myself get out of shape in England and only ran a 54:11 – faster than my first but it could have been much better.
My first half marathon was the Victory Junction 13.1 in 2006 where I ran a 1:53. I got my race bib signed by “The King”, Richard Petty! (Abby, another blog with NASCAR in it! Haha!)
I need to bring that race hair back. That became my signature for a while…
That half really ramped things up for me. I had to attend a school in Arizona and was there for several months. I loved running in Arizona and did a couple races out there.
LOVE that race hair, those legs, and the giant Saguaros in the back!
My favorite race pic EVER
The first race I ever came in first overall female, was a memorial 8 mile run that took place while I was deployed in Afghanistan in 2008. There was one other girl that was as fast as I was and she lead the entire race. I played it smart and tailed her the whole way. She had no clue I was behind her, especially in the final stretch, because she had earbuds in. She didn’t realize I was about to pounce, and when I did, it was too late. I could see the finish line and just took off in a sprint. I remember how amazing that felt. I think she was really pissed off. HAHA! The next and only other win I ever had was a local 10K in 2010
My commander gave myself and the male winner an AWESOME aviator kit bag and knife, embroidered and engraved with the Special Forces logo, that I still have.
I ran my first (unofficial) 50K during that 2008 deployment. Myself and five other people planned and did our own Fatass 50K around the 8 mile perimeter of the camp. I hadn’t even ran a marathon at that point, and I remember high-fiving the guys when we hit that distance in the 50K!
Before the start of the Fatass 50K. We ran through the night and I worked the next day!
I think it was during this deployment (or maybe 2006) that I stumbled upon the Runner’s World website where I wanted a place online to log my training. They had a great, free training log back then, but I also found this awesome place called The Loop (which no longer exists, unfortunately). You could make a blog there, post it, and other runners on the site could read it. I didn’t post anything for a long time, but just logged my training. Little did I know that The Loopwould change my life, in many ways.
I had to throw in an Army pic That’s me in a Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan
I ran a handful of races in 2009 and 2010, but really hit my peak year in 2011 when I had a goal of doing at least one race every month for the whole year. That year included my half marathon PR (VA Beach Shamrock – 1:42:08), 10 mile PR (Ft. Bragg Army 10 miler – 1:18:38 – where I was asked to be on the Ft. Bragg Army 10 miler team but had to turn it down because I was already out of the military…ugh!), 10K PR (Jingle Bell Job – 43:53 -where I almost won the women’s race and had an epic battle with the winner), my first marathon (Nashville Country Music), and my first official 50K (NFEC Georgia). I also completed my longest adventure race, 30 hours in Northern Georgia. That was an incredible year for me. I was on a high that wouldn’t end!
I kept things going in 2012 where I completed my first 40 mile run (Uwharrie), marathon PR (VA Beach Shamrock – 3:53:08-barely over a month after the 40 miler!), a 24 hour run (Hinson Lake) where I ran 38 miles, and my only 50 miler (Mountain Masochist) to date. I had an undiagnosed injury from the 50 miler which took away my momentum for a bit and I didn’t run a single race in 2013. We moved to Colorado at the end of 2013 and that’s when I developed exercised induced asthma, and found running to be really difficult.
Being “Chris is the girl that runs a lot...” has been my identity since my teens. Running is my thing – that thing that I am REALLY good at – and I’ve always been proud of it being a huge part of my identity. When I found it really hard to run out here, when it had never been hard before, I didn’t know how to handle it. I would run here and there and even managed to run a marathon back in NC in 2014, but running really trickled off after that. I got REALLY depressed. I could run, but I was just so pissed that I was struggling that I didn’t want to do it. I was hiking some but got SO out of shape, gaining about 25 pounds and weighing the heaviest I’ve ever been. I’d always told my mom, who would constantly give me crap about being so “skinny” that if I ever stopped running I would gain a ton of weight. I love to eat!
I tried everything to get my motivation back, including several gym memberships that just went to waste, but nothing worked. August of 2016, I found a gym that offered HIIT type classes and I fell in love! The class environment, the coach I had (who is now a good friend!), and the atmosphere was great! These classes got me moving again, but I wasn’t ready to run yet. It wasn’t until last year that I got some simple words of wisdom and encouragement from a great friend that somehow snapped me out of it! I will never be able to thank my dear friend enough for helping to pull me out of that misery. The people I have met because of running and The Loop (including W!), have been some of the best people I will ever have the privilege of knowing. The community, camaraderie, and friendship of runners is amazing.
It’s now 2018, about 20 years since it all began, and I am back with a force. I finally feel excited and proud again that people referred to me as “Chris is the girl that runs a lot...” The future has much more in store for that girl and I am excited to see what happens!
Thanks for reading!
I had some hill sprints on tap today, which seems fitting since it's the 241st anniversary of our local Revolutionary battle, the Battle of Short Hills. On June 26, 1777, a sweltering day according to reports, General Howe of the British army attempted to lure George Washington out of his defensive position in the Watchung Mountains, and force a final battle in the American Revolution. Howe was met by the Continental Army under Lord Stirling in a running skirmish that focused on a swampy area about 2 miles from my house. A 1777 map of the area shows the short hill where I did my workout.
Prior to the hill sprints, I had a 5-mile run on tap, so I decided to head past Betty Frazee's house and down the road taken by the British army as it marched back to Perth Amboy after failing to catch out General Washington. There are still a few houses on that road that were there in 1777, and the swamp still borders the road in places, but at 5:45 this morning, the only people I saw were runners and bike riders, and they didn't seem to be in a fighting mood.
This was a different type of race. There are two 1.2 mile loops, course A for the first 10 loops, then course B until the end. You have 22 minutes to finish the first loop. If you don’t finish, you’re out. Then after 22 minutes, everyone starts together with a reduced amount of time to finish. Repeat until the winner remains.
Times were not recorded, only completed loops, so the correct strategy had to be learned. You can take it easy, essentially walking, the first several loops, and conserve energy. Or you could go a little faster and take breaks after each loop for food, bathroom, etc. I did a combination.
There just plain walking to start:
Some walking on the large wet rocks with slippery moss (the Table Rock):
Some climbing up a rock wall. These were nice dry rocks, so just a fun thing to do:
More slippery rock walking:
And there was a hurdle:
And many times walking across the finish line when I knew the lap was “safe”. You couldn’t see the countdown clock until you turned the corner with 200-300 ft to go. I’m not good at working the watch, so I trusted people around me who looked like they knew what they were doing.
The RD purposefully switched from “A” to “B” so people wouldn’t kill themselves trying to beat the clock. I thanked him for that.
Course B was all runnable, so I was still getting 2-3 minutes of rest between loops from miles 12-18 (through loop 15) as I sped up, although the time limit was shrinking. Then it got real. That 2-3 minute break disappeared really quick, and although the RD stuck with 12 minutes for awhile (10 min/mi pace), I was running out of steam, and was tapped out after 19 loops. Later that afternoon, the winner crossed the line for the 30th time. I don’t remember the time for that last loop, but I don’t think he started sweating yet when I finished.
The women’s winner (28 loops) was a straight poker face the entire time. She had the timing perfect, and beat the clock with less than a minute each time. She ended up being my “sweeper” - right in front of me as I got knocked out.
It was a pretty neat format for the race, since you got to run with people of all abilities every loop, and the winner finished last.
Back to a good speed run this morning, so all systems seem to be recovered.
Proof that I actually ran some:
While the surgery site seems to be doing well - almost pain free most of the time, the back of my knee continues to be a problem. As a matter of fact, this pain was the first issue back in February and why I first took time off. The day before I ran again following the first break was when the meniscus started to hurt. That became the worse of the two problems. I figured that all the rest would let that one settle down and by the time I was ready to run again after the 'scope it would be all better, too.
Yeah, didn't happen that way. It's usually OK in the morning getting out of bed, but I don't have full flexion on it without pain and resistance. Putting on socks and shoes, washing my feet - those activities are hard. I'm supposed to be stretching my hamstring more and strengthening my quads/hamstrings, according to this website. This is a little weird because I'm not the typical runner in this area. I've always been pretty flexible back there. I can easily reach the ground with a standing stretch, knees locked. Let me remind you that this is the left side, not the right that gave me the freak hammy issue in December.
I've giving it another two weeks and then calling the doc again.
Took the new lawnmower for its maiden voyage on Wednesday last week. What a difference. The only tricky part was finding the right setting for the variable speed control. I had to nearly jog to keep up with the machine unless I dialed it back from full. I'm in grass-cutting heaven. I almost wish it was spring so I'd have to mow more than once a week.
Painted one of the bedrooms last week. Finished up the trim, installed new electrical receptacles and light switch on Saturday. The window sill and trim had a little damage that needed repair before painting those. This week.
Friday morning, Mac called me on her way home from work, with a loud flapping noise I could hear in the background. She had a tire blow out as she started across the Lake Washington Bridge. It's almost a mile and a half across. I've run there, since it's part of the Seattle Marathon route. There's no shoulder. No place to pull off safely and change a tire or even wait for a tow truck, so she kept going all the way across. By the time she could get out of the traffic lane, her tire was in pretty sad shape.
The rim wasn't totally trashed because it was steel and not aluminum, so the guys at Les Schwab were able to straighten it out, saving her $500 or so for new wheels. Just glad she was safe.
In a bizarrely related story, on Saturday, Mrs. Dave and I were out at Kensington Metropark, scouting it as a location for the Dave Schultz Family Reunion in August. We'd just parked near one of the beaches and talking to Mac about her tire repair, when I noticed a HUGE crack in one of the CR-V's tires. Like about 6 inches long and who knows how deep, along the side wall and onto the tread. Not good. We drove from the park to a couple of tire places to see what they'd have to say. It's going to be close to $200, unless we need to replace two. Since these are original with only 40,000 miles on them, I decided to check the warranty and it may be covered as a defect. We don't recall a road hazard event and there seems to be no sign of any other damage close by like there might be from something hitting the tire. Check that out after work this afternoon.
What an interesting year 2018 is turning out to be.
Next weekend we're taking a little break and traveling to Toronto. No big plans. We'll catch the Blue Jays hosting the Tigers, ride up the CN Tower, see a museum or two, but really we just want to get away for a few days.
Hopefully nearing the end of my time off the roads.
Since I have a separate blog, is it easier for you to just click the link to this blog so that the pictures aren't screwed up?? Let's try it... please leave comments below after you read it, if you wish. If this way is annoying, please tell me!
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Thanks for reading!
How YOU doin? Yeah, YOU. It’s Friday, I DO have a job and I do have s–t to do. One of those things is to finish this post! I may have had a bit too much coffee, so forgive me for the use of expletives, exclamation points and CAPS.
Getting back from travel is always an adjustment. With my Grandmother’s passing leading to an unplanned trip to CA followed by our planned vacation 2 weeks later, I was gone for 2 out of 3 weeks. This can certainly put things out of sorts. I ran plenty of days during my time away, but in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar climates.
I sincerely miss those unfamiliar climates, since the familiar climate here in Virginia is hot and muggy. Some of these runs have really been kicking my butt! It’s hard to tell just how out of shape I am from the 6 months away due to injury and how much of it is that I’m dying in the weather.
My first 20 mile week since December! I’m on my way.
That 6 mile run was certainly the highlight of my week in running. I’ve always kind of looked at a 6 miler as the threshold where a run becomes “long” in the sense that physiological and mental concerns kick in. That’s a distance where I need to consider hydration and fuel. That’s a distance where I can lose focus, become complacent, or lose interest. For me, it brings new challenges that I don’t really deal with on shorter runs besides the obvious that “it’s longer”.
I can't wait until I run out of fingers!
I did follow up that long run the next day with a challenging 4 miler with running buddies Robbie and Ed. It was great to run with them, since I hadn’t done so in quite a while. Running with people that I tend to compete with added some pep to my step and had me wanting to go. That’s a feeling that I’m having trouble finding at times.
We got faster as we got going. That’s always fun
Everything I learned about pushing it, I learned from Salt N’ Pepa.
I feel like I’ve had a plan or a goal on my mind for most of the time that I’ve ever been running. There was always a race coming up, or a BQ to dream of, or a time to beat. I’ve let that all go for a little while and it feels great!
I’ll admit that some of this is out of necessity. I don’t have my kick back yet, even if I wanted it. I seem to tire earlier than I used to before I got hurt. The lack of pressure and expectations are probably a way of protecting myself from discouragement or disappointment.
That may be the case, but it really doesn’t matter WHY I’m choosing to do this. I’m enjoying myself and that’s what matters. I don’t know how long I’ll feel this way, but I’m certain that eventually it won’t be enough. I’m going to want some race to conquer or some PR to chase, then I’ll just be enjoying myself in a completely different way.
... and I bet you local folks thought I was doing the Hospital Hill Half Marathon ...
So that 13.1 that I was training for? It was the Thelma & Louise Half Marathon, a classic, run-with-your-best-girl, ladies only race set in the rugged cliffs of Moab, Utah. This race was an excuse for a girls trip with one of my closest friends. She's must faster than I am (former 400 m hurdler, that one), but she is the type that abides by the "run with", as opposed to "run at the same time" rule. In this race, it was especially fun to have a person that you run right beside every step.
As Moab itself is at about 4,500 feet and surrounding terrain can get up to 7,000 feet, we decided to fly in Tuesday for Saturday's race - to get adjusted to the altitude change and to also take advantage of the national and state parks surrounding the town. We hit up Arches National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park (where T & L famously drove their convertible into the Colorado River), part of Canyonlands National Park and also some zip lining on petrified cliffs that somehow aren't part of any park, but are owned by the touristy places in Moab. For pics of those adventures, hop on over to my Instagram and check out #girlstrip.
Race day was an early early wake up call. Our alarms were set for 3:45 am in order to get to the buses by 4:45 that would take us to the starting line. It's the desert. It's summer. The race started at 6 am. Friend, M and I agreed to join the sports bra squad on race day, but found ourselves needing long sleeves in the incredibly cool and windy morning that we awoke to. We literally had been moving about our tiny home rental, barely mummering to each other until we stepped outside and the cold air caused us to scream in surprise.
That woke us up.
The bus ride was relatively quick and uneventful. The race starting point was right along the Colorado River and surrounded by cliffs - an insanely beautiful sight. However, that early in the morning, before sunrise, it was cold and the wind was not helping. Luckily, we found a spot that blocked most of the wind, and wound up chatting with two other women who had traveled from Seattle. When it was finally time to head to the start, we shed our layers, dropped bags, hit up the toilets one last time and lined up literally at the very end of the pack. It was chip timed, so who cares, right?
The course was described as a slight decline out and a slight incline back. So, the strategy was to keep things reined in the first halfso as to not crash and burn in the second half. M let me control the pace, which I'm sure was painfully slow for her at first. We ticked off the first 3 miles in 12:24, 12:37 and 12:28. Starting at mile 3, there were aid stations every 1.5 miles - key in the heat and dry air for us Midwesterners who weren't used to this climate. Our goal was to run all the miles, walk all the water stops, because we both suck and drinking and running anyway.
This was a great strategy, except for the part where it really messes with my split data, LOL.
Around mile 4, we ran by an arch (jug handle arch) and this amazing group of women drummers, Moab Taiko Dan that energized us and quite frankly, made me so happy I've been trying to find a similar group at home. Miles 4-6: 10:48, 12:14 (water stop), 11:34.
Slightly after this, we hit the turnaround and also the relay exchange point, so there was an amazing crowd, cheering everyone on. We both felt pretty darn good at this point, and we both were wondering when things were going to feel hard. For the first half, we'd been running in the shades of the cliffs, but the sun was up and over most of the terrain now. It was bound to get hot, right?
Miles 7-9 ticked by in 12:01 (water stop), 11:04 and 11:26. We both kept making comments about how things still felt easy. Should they feel easy? There was a surprising amount of shade, and the wind was still blowing, keeping us relatively cool. Every now and then, I would glance down at my watch and see us nearing 10:00 pace, but then I would get scared and back off a little bit.
Seriously, I need to stop running scared. LITERALLY.
The last few miles I could feel myself tiring. It was a mix of emotions, because I was getting tired, but I knew I was doing well. I also knew M was full of energy and could have jetted off easily, but she stuck by my side, staying slightly in front of me to "drag" me along. UGH. Push, push, push, dig a little more. One last water stop and onto the finish. As we neared the finish line and hauled it in, I just felt all kinds of emotion welling up inside me. Tears were already forming and we hadn't even crossed. When we finally did, I just lost it. M's watch didn't have 13.1 yet, so she went off to "finish" her mileage and that was fine with me. I just needed to be alone in the crowd, half crying, half trying to not cry.
I hadn't stopped my watch right away, but was thrilled by the time: 2:32.16. My previous PR was 2:35 and change. I actually did it. I finally broke that PR - set all the way back in my first half marathon. I was looking forward to seeing the official results and getting my actual chip time. Guess what? This race doesn't do chip time. Only gun time, which had us at 2:33 and change. Slightly frustrating, as I won't know my true PR. But hey, it's at least 3 minutes, maybe 4. Not too shabby.
PS - this race has the best snacks
Will I do another half marathon? Eh, I don't know. I know if the opportunity presented itself, I would do another race in Moab that is done by this race company and I would probably be willing to tackle this specific course again. After the race, I told M I'd love to actually be able to race her one day. She smiled - her goal is to get faster, too, so I may never catch her.
But I'll have fun trying.
BTW, girls trip came on the heels of a very exciting time in my life. The BF and I celebrated one year of dating ... and he asked if he could call me by another title for the rest of our lives. I said yes.
Time for my weekly update on Louie's lack of progress.
Saw the doc last Wednesday (maybe it was Thursday - whatever). He was pleased with the level of swelling (not much) and the way the incision sites looked (good). He was surprised when I answered his question about the amount of pain I was in compared to before the operation, "Not much different." He recovered quickly, but it didn't leave me with a warm fuzzy. Either the operation as a bust or my pain before was less than what he imagined it was.
He said to begin stretching and strengthening as long as it's tolerable, and in a couple of weeks I should be able to start some walking/jogging.
I'm hoping that the pain I'm still having is residual from the surgery and not a sign that something more needs to be done.
"Don't regret anything. At one time, it was exactly what you wanted."
B1 is still so fresh on the mind, so fresh on the body that it is almost too easy to make correlations between the two. And while the physical implications are ripe with similarities, my mind is a completely different spot. It's liberating that I don't feel the same darkness looming over me. I cannot pinpoint exactly what I was afraid of except that it was fear of the unknown. The uncertainty of when I would run again. The uncertainty of finishing the year's biggest race. The uncertainty of the weeks that followed. The uncertainty of this thing that had defined me for so long that I truly struggled with coping without it.
It is a classic case of too much, too soon with the possibility of an old injury hampering my efforts. A VO2 max ready to climb mountains and bones that said "hell no!" I was so anxious to get back to the same level that I didn't see that I had to complete steps B through Y. I just thought I'd go from A to Z. Looking back, I was aware of my own reckless behavior and aware of the potential consequences. I got part of the results I wanted: finish Boston and successfully pace Lauren at CJ100. The downside is that I likely overcompensated with my (formerly) good right side and wound up with a stress reaction* in my right tibia.
*I'm not even sure we are calling it that - the bone scan showed it was likely not just a soft tissue thing, but there were no definite cracks either. The x-ray was inconclusive as these things often are with stress reactions/fractures. The good news is that I've had no official breaks or even cracks seen. The bad news is that something (um, probably overracing the first time and too much, too soon the second time) is making my bones angry.
If we were to backtrack to about a year ago, I would relay the story of whacking my right tibia so hard on a stone planter that I bled though a pair of khakis. The bruising that followed was nothing short of epic. Over the course of the next year, that spot seemed to get angry from time to time, but never appeared to impact my running. It was just this funny little bump on my shin that almost looked like the blood vessel was swollen. I'd run my finger over it and it would feel like a bruise - tender and mildly irritating, about a 2 on the pain scale. I have no idea if it is related to this, but certainly didn't help.
Flash forward to June 2018 when the same area started to hurt again. The thing about most running injuries is that they typically are not pinpointed to one particular run or instance. They often start out with teeny niggles of pain and creep their way further in until you cannot ignore them any longer. My mind was slightly more attuned to watching out for these warning signs, but admittedly, I wanted to just keep marching on into my normal summer running. It was just 2 weeks ago that I somehow thought I was ready to jump back into weekly double digit runs.
But by that weekend, I had the ominous feeling that I was to be facing another DL sentence.
I cross-trained early in the week and by the time I had the bone scan on Friday, I decided to just take an entire week off of exercising. A whole week. No cross-training. No weight-lifting.
The following Monday, the podiatrist told me to drop by for another boot - I needed a taller version to protect my tibia - and to schedule a follow up appointment in 4 weeks. In my permanently optimistic brain, I am hoping that the 4 week time period means there is a slight possibility that I won't have to wear it after 4 weeks. After all, my foot recheck was at 3 weeks and I was sentenced to another 3 weeks after! But using that logic, I would be booted this time for a total of 8 weeks. <insert cringe face here>
Honestly, it doesn't hurt in the same way that my foot did. I'm sure part of that is because it is a different bone (duh), but also, I am hoping because I caught it early enough, it won't have suffered as much damage. Walking doesn't seem to bother it and I'm not changing my gait while walking because of it. In fact, it really only started to bother me towards the end of my runs and later in the day. The straw that broke the camel's back? It started to ache when I was just sitting around in the evening and lying in bed.
During the first weeks of B1, I threw all of my angry energy into working out. I went from running 60 mile weeks to zero. I had a lot of extra time and energy on my hand. Plus, I was so pissed that I was injured that I was determined to make my body stronger. I can't say I have regrets about any of it because I do believe it helped me finish Boston. But perhaps a little more R&R could have been beneficial if I had been able to channel some of that energy later. I ended up spending more hours per week working out while booted than I usually did while running!
In any regard, when I received the news last Monday that I was going to be booted again, I had a much different outlook than B1. Being in the middle of an exercise hiatus helped (pats self on back for forced laziness). But also knowing the value of myself as a (hopefully temporarily) non-runner was huge. I'd happily taken on this persona of runner girl and let the other pieces of me just kind of fall out where they could. When I couldn't run, I was so stressed out about not running that I was a mess.
B2 is different already. I'm working out again, but don't feel compelled to reach the same levels I did during B1. I obviously want to return to running as quickly as possibly so some movement over the next 4 (....to 8, FML) weeks will be good. I just don't have to go nuts. Also, B2 is happening during summer which is a loathsome time to be running in Georgia anyway. I miss those long, hard, hot days on the trails like you wouldn't believe, but there will be more of those. The runner girl will return, but she will hopefully have an even rosier outlook than before.
One likes to think there are reasons for this kind of thing happen. Reasons give us validation and purpose when life throws frustrating stuff our way. I don't know if there are reasons (beyond the science of overusing my body) that I feel strongly about with this hiccup. It has given me a chance to look at other areas of my life with a little more clarity. It has provided me with a bit more empathy. It has made me realize I'll be okay if I'm not running.
I am taking note of the progress I have made this year in other aspects of life and being grateful for what I have accomplished thus far. I set out 10 goals for myself in January:
Volunteer/Crew/Pace >5 races (7 total!)
Strength or stretch >30 minutes weekly (24 of 24 weeks so far)
12 new recipes (8 total)
Read >20 books (18 total)
200,000 impressions on LinkedIn
100 mile race (not in 24 hours)
Prepare financially/fiscally for Everest Marathon 2019 (halfway to financial goal)
Camp 2+ nights (1 night...ish)
Finish the GA Appalachian Trail
I'm not really a person who takes anything for granted, so ten years ago, when I was a new runner, I would have been skeptical if anyone had told me I'd still be running a decade later. But my t-shirt collection tells me that in 2009, I participated in the Fishawack Run, a 4--well really about 3.97--mile race in Chatham, NJ, that I've run every year since, including this past Saturday, which was the 41st running of this race.
This isn't my favorite race. It's in June. It starts at 9:30. It's almost always just on the wrong side of bearable humidity. The first mile and a half is a nearly 200-feet gain in elevation. But I have relatives who live walking distance from the start, and they've had someone in this race every year since probably the early 1990s, so it's a family event that marks a kind of summer kickoff for me.
For the first 7 years I ran this, I was chasing PRs and training for other goal races, so my times were always in the 29-32 minute range. In the last two years prior to this year, I was fighting burnout, so my running was a lot more casual, and often without a watch. This meant I would sometimes take long breaks or run once or twice a week. In those years, I finished this race in the 35-minute range. But in February, I hit the NYC Marathon lottery, which meant that I needed to add some structure back to my running. I chose Fishawack as a goal race to help me increase miles and get used to a regular schedule again. It also happened to be run a week before I planned to start my marathon training, so it would be a good transition point and a way for me to see where my fitness is at before training starts.
And it worked out well. My approach to this race has always been to try to find the balance between completing the initial climb with enough gas left to speed up through the middle miles before hitting the gift that is the last mile (or .97 mile) back down the hill to the finish. And that's what I did.
I passed more often than I was passed. I repassed some people who had passed me earlier. I high-fived many kids standing by the course with their hands out. (That never gets old.) Official time of 31:43 (7:56 pace). My fourth fastest time for this race, and about what I expected to run. I'm knocking out about 25 miles a week, and I feel ready for my next 20 weeks of running.
Some random thoughts:
I've yet to run a Jersey race where some house along the route hasn't had Born To Run playing through a speaker, because it's Jersey and it's Springsteen and it has "run" in the title. This race had that, too, but hearing it got me thinking that I would like it better if someone kept the Springsteen part but played songs that trolled the runners, like One Step Up or Long Walk Home or My Best Was Never Good Enough. Kind of like the time when I was at a 5k on an unseasonably cold May morning and the local high school jazz band played Let It Snow.
I met Bangle's evil twin after the race. (Bangle's words. Not mine.) He's fast like his brother.
This race is an informal reunion for some of the local cross country runners past and present, so it can be competitive for such a small field (231 runners). Winning time this year was 19:58. The fastest time of the 10 races I've run here.
This race is part of Chatham's annual Fishawack Festival, and the last two years, a food court has been set up in the parking lot where the start/finish line is. I can confirm that soft tacos and churros are a fine post-race meal.
I typically choose my half races based on how fast I can run them. End of season, point-to-point, flat or net downhill, fall temperatures. Sunday’s was none of these.
A few months ago my wife saw that there is a race 3 miles from our house to raise money for Charity for Children. In the back of my mind, I was thinking it was the wrong time of year and an awful course to race and run fast. But she encouraged me to run, so what the heck. This was a warm day half, with some pretty good hills.
I went in thinking I should run strong, but not do anything stupid. It’s been forever since I’ve done a tempo run of any distance. Or any speed work. Or hill sprints. Or running when the sun is out. With all my excuses neatly lined up ahead of time, I went out with the expectation that I’ll achieve a new PW.
And I crushed it. 1:51:15 for an all-time PW, beating my previous by 2 minutes. That was my first half, 4 years ago on a flat, fast course in the cool fall temps.
Most important, nothing stupid happened on the course, and I’m healthy going into next week’s race: a last runner standing event, The Table Rock Challenge. You’ll remember from my last report that I have this on my calendar. It’s a 1.2 mile loop. Everyone has 22 minutes to finish the first loop, then the time limit gets faster from there. You can either take it really easy in the early loops, or go a little faster and give yourself time to take care of business between loops. In order to take a stab at a strategy, I’m using my 19 mile run from last week.
Here’s a chart showing the required pace for the race (black line) and my pacing for my long run last week (gray). The bars show the elevation gain for my long run (blue) and the race (yellow). The race course changes after lap 10. Of course, laps for my long run were miles, and the race laps are 1.2 miles, but you get the picture: things will start to get hairy around lap 13. The time limit for laps 16-20 are all 12 minutes (10 minute miles), and that’s about where I was throughout my run on 6/2 with a little more elevation mixed in. Should be fun!
Mt. Evans Ascent – 14.5 miles – June 9, 2018
I signed up for the Mt. Evans Ascent mostly to get in some altitude training. I haven’t really ran at altitudes that high, and I knew it’d likely be a run/walk situation. Nonetheless, good training no matter what.
Weather warning from the race director:
“The weather at the start line has little to do with the weather you may experience once you pass Summit Lake at 9 miles. We have had a beautiful and calm start, but the wind above treeline was blowing at a steady 50 miles per hour. We have seen snow, hail, and lightning at the finish line more often that we see sunshine. We have also had runners stopped for 30 minutes at over 13,000 feet when a Flight for Life helicopter landed on the road to meet a rescue crew with an injured climber. Anything can happen, so we ask that everyone come prepared for the worst.”
This is exactly what I wore, minus my UD Vest
Having climbed multiple 14ers, I knew they weren’t kidding. We were required to bring a long-sleeved shirt, which I️ ended up wearing anyway. Having a cool race in June is pretty awesome, as it has already gotten really hot here on the front range in CO. I wore my Ultimate Direction Adventure Vesta, and carried: my UD Ultra jacket, Buff, gloves, a water bottle, my phone, and one pack of Cliff Shot Bloks. I wanted to ensure I was prepared for anything, and I really didn’t even notice the pack on my back. That vest is comfy!
I drove up Mt. Evans road and was stopped about 1.2 miles from the start line. I had to park there but was able to hop on one of the shuttle vans to the start. I was able to find a “secret” bathroom located in the campground by the start so that worked out really well! I’d attempted to just squat in the woods but folks kept coming by and I didn’t want to flash them.
The start line sat at about 10,600′ at Echo Lake. From the lake, they had the road to the top closed to the public and any spectators. In previous years, the shuttle vans had major problems getting to the top and back down. Plus, there are no guard rails along the sides so it can be quite dangerous to runners.
14 of the 14.5 miles to the top are uphill. The only real downhill part wasn’t until mile 8-9.
There is a cutoff time at mile 9 of 2 hours and 30 minutes. You had to finish the whole race before 11am (that’s 4.5 hours to finish the whole thing).
You get a special rock with a placard on it if you finish under 3 hours (for ladies) or under 2:40 (for guys). William earned a rock for his one and only time doing the race (ya freak!).
It’s literally a piece of rock with stickers on it. Haha
Once we started, I was actually able to run a mile or so before I started taking quick walk breaks. Starting on a hill is always hard for me and I tend to need a few miles to warm up. For something like this, there was no way I was going to do any warm-up miles beforehand. Pffffffft! I passed quite a few people and finally ended up in the group of folks I would play leap frog with the rest of the race.
Honestly, the race was quite uneventful. Run, walk, run, walk, run, walk. I ran when I wanted to and walked when I wanted to. Everyone else around me walked pretty often too. If I fell behind someone I’d been running with, I’d make a goal to catch back up to them. I feel like there is always that token runner that drives me bat-shit crazy. The one for this race literally talked strategy the ENTIRE time. I felt bad for the guy he was running with because he would not shut the hell up. He even used the word strategy many times. “I think I saw this curve on Google maps.” “Around this bend, it flattens out just a little bit.” Let’s run until that pole up there.” “I don’t see a pole or another landmark to use as a start point! What should we use this time?!” “We are using good strategy for this thing.” Shut. The. Hell. Up.
Around mile 8, I hit the only downhill section and tried to make up as much time as I could. This was also the only section where my knee hurt – uphill doesn’t bother it at all. Go figure. If I was going to get the sub-3 hour rock, I’d have to average a 12:something pace. That wasn’t happening, and that was 100% fine with me. I hit the 9 mile cutoff at two hours (30 minutes ahead) so I knew I was good to go for the rest of the race. They had aid stations at miles 3, 6, 9, and 11.5. The only thing I was getting at the aid stations was Gatorade, and it was STRONG! They didn’t have it watered down nearly enough so I tried no to drink too much – from previous experience, I’d get a tummy ache if I did. However, the only thing I ate the entire race was one block of my Cliff Shot Block packet. This may have played a role in how I felt later.
This was the bottom of the downhill section and just past the Mile 9 cutoff aid station
Around mile 10, the wind started to pick up and I started getting a little chilly when I wasn’t facing the sun. The wind was whipping through my thin long-sleeved t-shirt and buff. My arms and ears got quite chilly. I still managed to feel pretty good and was able to run/walk until I hit mile 12 at 13,500′. It was getting pretty steep and I wasn’t able to run very much, but any time I did try to run I’d feel really light-headed. I don’t think I ran any during the last two miles. I was just proud that I knew I was going to finish and I just didn’t care about my time.
I crossed the finish line at 3:29 and was handed my medal and a water bottle. We had to then wait for a shuttle van to pick us up (because they’d all headed back down to take earlier finishers). I hadn’t packed a summit bag because I thought my UD jacket would be enough to keep me warm. I was wrong. Some folks were making the 134′ trek to the actual summit of the mountain, but I didn’t give a fuck about that. I’m glad I didn’t because they had a few 15 passenger vans and several 6-8 person Suburbans, but I still had to wait in line about 30 minutes before I got on one. I was FREEZING and shaking by the time I got into the warm van. I was also feeling quite nauseous and my head was pounding. Luckily, I was able to sit in the front seat of the van, but I still felt quite queasy when were making the switchback turns. I honestly felt like I was drunk and could puke at any moment. I took deep breaths and made sure the keep my eyes straight forward. I felt bad for the driver because I couldn’t carry on a convo with her the whole way. I think she got it after the second question she asked me where I just nodded. Sorry!
My watch was a whole quarter mile off by the time I finished…
When we finally arrived back at the start-line where the post-race food was located, I still felt really bad. I went over to a picnic table and just sat there. I saw others eating the food, BBQ and baked potatoes, and I thought I was going to puke just smelling it. I finally got up, took a GIANT deuce in a porta-potty, and started the 1.2 mile walk back to my car. I did have a guy stop me to say thank you for the pace that I had kept because he was just trying to keep up with me the whole time. That was nice! I also got behind a couple guys I’d followed the whole race and talked to them about the race while we walked.
Once I made it back down to I-70 at Idaho Springs, I think I was at about 7,500′ and I felt 100 times better. I was also HUNGRY. I wanted Chick-fil-A and knew I’d have to wait until I got almost home to get some. It was SO GOOD.
Yesterday, I went to a local trail running festival where they actually ended up having the women’s winner as a guest speaker. She ended up talking to me for a bit after someone else there told her that I’d run the race too. She said something about it being hot at the top when she finished and I thought, I guess it may have been warm the hour and a half before I got there.Haha! I was going to run a few shake-out miles but two of my co-workers came and I ran/walked a mile and a half with one of them. The temp was sweltering and too hot to run during that time of day anyway.
Today, and the whole time since the race, I’m not sore at all. I’m not kidding. I can’t even tell that I ran uphill for 14 miles! That just goes to show how sore downhill running can make you. I also didn’t have any kind of blisters or hot spots on my feet either. I think running downhill makes all the awful shit that can happen, happen.
I did get some adjustments and needling for my back from my PT this morning. I tweaked it a little doing too-heavy deadlifts last week. I knew better. The Leadville Heavy Half is Saturday and I’m excited and nervous! I just hope my stupid knees hold up. I’m already anticipating them hurting because of this elevation profile…
That downhill after Mosquito Pass is gonna HURT. Ugh.
I’m just going to have to power through and deal with the aftermath later. I plan to use some Rock Tape to see if that helps mitigate anything.
Does anyone have any knee tricks I can use? I tried a patellar strap but it did nothing.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for another race report!
Getting a knee operation isn't a big deal anymore. The worst part of this was getting approval for the MRI. We've been through that story already.
I was the doc's second surgery scheduled last Wednesday. Mrs. Dave brought me in at 7:30. Paperwork, blah blah blah. In 2018, why do I still have to fill out the same information on twelve different forms? On paper! Whatever happened to carbon copies? Where's the computer/database/cloud efficiency?
Can someone tell me why I need to be buck naked for them to make two half-inch incisions in my left knee? Or why they need to shave my leg from ankle to upper thigh?
The last thing I remember was making fun of the anesthesiologist for failing to get the IV in my left hand. The nurse took over and then I was ready. The next thing I knew, Mrs. Dave was with me in recovery and I was getting dressed to go home.
They gave me a bottle of NORCO (Hydrocodone/paracetamol), but I never used any of it. The worst post-op pain I had was in my throat from the tube they stuck down it in case I had trouble with the anesthetic (which I didn't), and Tylenol took enough of the edge off that to let me sleep. On Thursday I worked from home and Friday was back at the office. The hardest part of that was walking from the parking lot to my desk (two round trips since there was a lunch off site for a colleague who's leaving). I was ready to sit around the house after that.
Small amount of fraying in the joint, zero arthritis, and a small tear in the medial meniscus (didn't show up on the MRI).
Minimal swelling around the knee, and the two incision sites are healing up nicely. Until yesterday I had this weird squishy noise when I bent or extended Louie fully. You could hear it across the room. Squish, squish, gurgle gurgle. It takes weight just fine. There's a little pain/stiffness at the back after sitting with the knee bent for more than a few minutes. I'll ask about that on Thursday at my follow-up appointment. That's also when I should get a date for my first tentative steps at walking/jogging. Maybe this weekend, maybe the weekend after.
Of course, we're already talking about the next marathon. I don't see anything sooner than December, and until I actually get back on the roads I'm trying not to think about 2018 at all. Trying hard.
One of the stitches came out yesterday morning. One of the knots was undone after my shower. I grabbed the end and the whole thread just pulled out. There was always going to be a little scar there, so nbd.
So, my assessment of arthroscopic knee surgery - so far - is, "ho hum."
Last December I was at the grocery store and I heard someone say, "Gwen, I've been hoping I'd see you!"
It was a friend's boyfriend. His name is Jim.
Jim had been losing weight after a health scare. He said he had a challenge for me. He wanted to race me across the Ocean City bridges. He would be walking the bridges once while he wanted me to run an equivalent amount of time.
I explained about my hamstring but said we would talk later.
I saw Jim again in March and he was beyond excited about the bridge challenge. I on the other hand was more worried than ever about my silly leg. Jim's infectious excitement made me realize come hell or high water I'd be racing Jim across those bridges.
Jim has been using a nutritionist at the hospital to lose weight. When I saw him in March it was the day before he found out he'd lost 100 pounds. The hospital did a big story on him and he told them about our race.
Jim and I decided on June 6th for our race not even realizing it was Global Running Day.
I kicked my butt to get ready for the race by combining Crossfit and intervals. Jim walked at the gym and even completed the bridge twice.
Jim was starting in Somers Point and I was to run from Ocean City to Somers Point and back. The goal was for the winner to claim the bench first.
We each had an official starter. My husband was with me and our friend Charlie was with Jim.
I was way more nervous than I should've been. Jim confirmed he was too.
At the word go I took off like a shot. The weather was perfect- 60 with little humidity. Up the first bridge and my calves were grumbling but my breathing was good. My husband had brought his bike and got some great shots.
Coming down the backside of the 1st bridge - a flying shot!
I just kept cruising along not really sure what pace I could manage. Mile 1 clicked in at an 8:42. Holy cow!
Mile 2 is flat at the beginning and then there's another bridge at the end. I got about 2/3 of the way across and stopped to ask my husband if he saw Jim. We finally saw him coming down the 2nd bridge (His 1st bridge). Jim admitted later when he wasn't further along when he saw me he got worried.
We high fived when we passed each other. Another friend tooted and cheered as she drove to the finish line so she could grab some pictures.
I cruised up to the top of the 2nd bridge still feeling strong. Mile 2 was an 8:40.
I bemoaned the fact that as soon as I hit the bottom I'd have to turn and immediately start climbing again.
Suck it up, butter cup! How lucky am I to be out running with a friend when nearly a year ago my running came to a screeching halt with a torn hamstring?
Up the bridge again. Climb, churn, go!
I crested the top and still felt fantastic. My husband would talk to me every now and then and I eventually had to wave him off. Every time I looked at him I would almost trip on the concrete curbing. I'm still favoring my left leg due to the injury. Not sure why because my left leg is almost as strong as my right.
Mile 3 was an 8:21. Hell yeah! The wind was at my back. One more bridge to climb!
My DH was keeping an eye on Jim and I'm still not sure if he was keeping an eye on me so I didn't win. I had to slow on the final bridge as Jim was only 6 light poles ahead.
Look at him! He was loving life!
I came flying down the final bridge just amazed because without Jim's prodding I would have never figured out how to train while still rehabbing. Mile 4 - 8:33.
Hell yeah, baby! Jim and I both set bridge PRs on Global Running Day! Both total winners! 37 minutes and change!
We are setting up another showdown for a 6 mile race. Stay tuned!
Immediately on the heels of a fantastic Parkway Classic 10-Miler I dove head-first into another fantastic race weekend, this time involving some of my favorite Internet weirdos!
Saturday, April 29th, was the North Face Endurance Challenge 50K and 50 Miler (and a marathon, but we didn’t know anyone running it, so who cares?), which Zamgirl, RunningPlaces, ASchmid, and NCAthlete were all participating in, and which Vblevins, Bblevins, Running_Eng, SLCAthena, and I were all spectating/cheering for. And then Sunday, April 29th, was the inaugural National Women’s Half- Marathon, which Keep Running Girl, SLCAthena, and I were all running, and everyone else was spectating! So much moral support to fit into two days ❤️
To kick things off, I met up with Zamgirl for lunch on Friday afternoon when she came into town to pick up her and RP’s packets for the 50 Milers. The fact that we’d just seen in each other in Raleigh only three weeks earlier didn’t slow down the talking. It also gave us a chance to strategize for the next day, when I was planning on jumping in to pace her for the last of three loops that she’d be running on the section of the course that was accessible to spectators and pacers. Let’s be honest: I was more nervous about the 7 miles I’d be running than she was about all 50! I’m so inexperienced on trails, and obviously didn’t want to do anything horribly wrong as a pacer that could negatively impact her race. But this was kind of a perfect first pacing opportunity, because Zamgirl can run 50 miles in her sleep at this point, and was basically letting me tag along for my own fun and not because she actually needed the assistance.
On Saturday morning, I woke up bright and early, picked up my rental car (car-free life is great most of the time, except for when you need to get out to the middle of nowhere for races!), and drove across town to pick up SLCAthena from the friend’s house where she’d been staying earlier that week. We then hit the road out to Great Falls, VA, about 45 minutes outside DC. We got to the aid station area and met up with Running_Eng, VBlevins, and BBlevins just in time to see Zamgirl come through for the first time (Mile 15ish). We’d just missed RunningPlaces, but we’d see him again after each of the three loops they ran around Great Falls park. It was great to see the Blevins duo and Running_Eng, since it had been a long time since I’d hung out with any of them! After Zamgirl went through, we moved closer to the aid station and set up our chairs and picnic blanket to mark our spot for the rest of the afternoon. This is the central hub of the race, and we’d see the 50K runners come through on their way in and again on their way out after a single loop, and we’d see the 50 Mile runners a bunch of times as they completed three loops: at miles 15, 22, 29, and 36 before they set back out on the 14-mile trek to the Start/Finish at a different park. It was a lot of fun to hang out in the park with my fellow spectators, chit-chatting about all manner of things and cheering for all of the runners coming through the aid station.
At 11:45am, Zamgirl came in from her second loop and picked me up to run her third and final loop. By this point it was hot (75*) and sunny, but Zamgirl looked as strong and steady as ever. We set out onto the trail after she’d replenished some fluids, and met up with another runner that she’d been running with for most of the day. Rachel was doing her first 50 Miler that day, and had been wisely taking in all of the advice Zam was doling out! The three of us ran together for most of those 7 miles, and chatted on and off as we navigated the technical terrain of the park. I was having SO MUCH FUN running and power-hiking in the woods and soaking up the dramatic change of scenery from my usual road and bike path routes. It was a gorgeous day to be out in the woods, the technical course was an awesome challenge for me, and the volunteers were so helpful and perky at all of the check points and aid stations. Plus I was running with a totally badass ultra veteran who makes this stuff look easy.
All too soon for me (though probably not for Zamgirl given how much farther she’d run by then!) we came back into the main aid station and heard the cheers of our friends.
Zam took off for the last 14 miles, and we packed up our picnic stuff and headed back to our cars to drive over to the finish area and wait for our runners. Aschmid and NCAthlete had already finished by the time we got to the beer garden, and they met up with us shortly after we got ourselves settled at a table. There was more chatting, with beer this time, and watching the tired, muddy, happy runners come through the finish chute. SLCAthena were able to stay and see RunningPlaces finish, and then we had to drive back into the city to meet up with the final member of our weekend crew: Keep Running Girl!
The three of us met up for dinner at a pizza place downtown (because carb loading is important!), and then called it an early night in preparation for our own race the next morning: the inaugural National Women’s Half- Marathon. We shared a ride home since KRG’s hotel was near my apartment (SLCAthena was staying with me that night to simplify race morning logistics), got our flat girls ready, and hit the sack.
This half- marathon was just supposed to be a fun run for me, since I’d raced hard the previous weekend, and had two more long races in just a couple of weeks (to be continued in the next bloop…) So I decided that since it was a women’s race, and I wasn’t going for a time goal, it was the PERFECT opportunity to bust out the Wonder Woman running costume that I’d gotten last summer for the Vermont 100 on 100 relay! I’d decided on this race outfit several weeks ago, when I assumed that a race on April 29th in Washington, DC, would likely be pretty warm. The reality was that it was 35 degrees out with a windchill in the mid-20s (!!) that morning. But I was way too invested in my costume plan at this point, so I added some arm warmers and called it good. It would only be a couple hours of suffering, right?
SLCAthena and I had coffee and breakfast, and then headed out to pick up KRG at her hotel, and then share a Lyft down to the start line near the Lincoln Memorial. It was dark and oh so cold out! Definitely not what anyone expected of a late-April race in this area. We got the start area soon enough, and joined the crowd of bundled-up women heading over to the port-a-potties and the bag check. The wind was pretty relentless, but I was somewhat comforted by the fact that what would likely be the windiest part of the course was in the early miles, so we’d get it out of the way quickly.
My race plan was simple: run comfortably and have fun. Ideally I wanted to run strategically enough to negative split, because that type of pacing isn’t deeply ingrained yet, and it’s always good to practice racing that way (or so Coach says). I figured I’d start off at an easy 8:45-9ish minute pace, and see how that felt after a few miles, and pick up the pace from there, with an aim to finish a bit under 2:00:00. After all, I’d just raced a week ago and there wasn’t much point in pushing myself to run hard in a non-goal race.
Well. My legs had other ideas.
I FELT SO FREAKING GOOD!! I blame the costume. There was just no reasoning with it. The first mile felt super easy and fun, but the first mile often does when you’re burning off the adrenaline of the start corral. I figured around Mile 2 or 3 I’d start to feel a little tired and would rein things in, and deal with the bonk when it happened. But the bonk never came! And I felt so energized the entire race! It definitely helped that I was getting SO MANY wonderful cheers from both the spectators and from the other runners, especially on the out-and-back section. I’d expected a race like this to have a pretty strong costume game, but I was the only one that I saw, and I totally soaked up all the extra mojo.
I figured the crash would come eventually, and I’d just enjoy the ride until then. But nope! I hit halfway still feeling great, and figured I might as well step it up a little bit and try to negative split. I finally started feeling a little bit tired at Mile 11, but shortly thereafter I saw the whole gang of Loopsters cheering! I got high-fives down the line, and that gave me a great boost. I made the final big turn back towards the finish line, and ran into (pretty much literally) the only negative part of this whole race: the back of the pack of the 8K. They’d apparently been instructed to stay on the left side of the road, but of course they didn’t and there were many people walking the last mile of the 8K (in large groups, naturally) all over both sides of the road and I, and the other half runners, had to dodge and weave around them. Not the end of the world by any means, but pretty darn annoying when you’re trying to finish strong in the last half-mile of a race!
I crossed the finish line in 1:45:46! Only 19 seconds slower than my PR from New Orleans in March! (I 100% blame the 8K walkers for those 19 seconds, but oh well).
I got my medal, hurried over to bag check so that I could get back into my warm coat, and then walked over to where the Loopsters were cheering to join them! We cheered for a while longer and saw SLCAthena come by (apparently I’d just missed KRG), and then we walked up to the closest coffee shop to thaw out before our brunch reservations.
It was so cold out and the coffee tasted so good!
KRG had waited for SLCAthena to finish, so they walked up together and met us at the coffee shop just in time for us to all walk over to our brunch spot. We enjoyed warm food and bottomless brunch beverages!
All in all, an extremely successful Loopster race weekend!
(Why yes I did wear my costume for all of brunch! Did you expect anything different?)
I still can’t quite believe how fantastic I felt during that race. It makes me feel so good about my training and fitness, especially since I still have six months to go until Rehoboth. The barn isn’t close to full yet, but the hay is definitely starting to pile up.
This was my 3rd year running the race and each time it was a goal race. I missed my goal the past 2 years (2:11 instead of 2:10, then 2:01:5X instead of sub2). After last year, I swore I wouldn’t do it again. It’s obviously a huge race so logistics make me more anxious than necessary but it is well organized with lots of support along the course (both aid and spectators). The downsides are it takes several miles to feel a bit of space and the course profile does not agree with me. It is net downhill but has 420 ft elevation (including some incline near the end) but more importantly, you don’t really notice most of the downhill. So there’s not much to look forward to…except the end. I didn’t sign up for the race until April because, like I said, I swore I wouldn’t do it again. But after my marathon in January, I started running more and saw my fitness improving. I felt like I wanted a goal HM at the end of my season and this was the only race to fit the bill. But I should have known, sigh.
Training went great! I worked with my same coach again and hit 180 miles in April and 170 miles in May (vs 100 and 141 in April/May last year). Based on the workouts I was nailing, she felt like a 8:55 pace was doable. I really wanted an official sub2 since my “PR” half in December was a short course and decently net downhill at 1:55:21 (pace 8:57) for 12.9 miles. So my plan was to start at 2 hour pace (9:07 pace) and try to speed up. LOL as I’m typing that. No injuries during training and I didn’t miss any workouts. I cut a few runs short the weekend before the race because I was traveling and it was 95 degrees with 1000% humidity.
Race morning started just before 4am. I splurged for the VIP experience through RnR since the parking and PoP situation is awful for this race. My first year, I stood in line for almost an hour and missed my corral start. Year 2, I got in line immediately but then had to pee again before the race started and just held it throughout the race. Not ideal. For $69, I got parking in a garage right next to the finish line, shuttle directly to the start, and then a tent area that had seemingly 1 PoP per person (!), light breakfast, chairs, VIP gear check, sunscreen, etc. Worth the $$. There were also heaters but they weren’t turned on…because at 5am, I didn’t even need my long sleeve. By 6 am, before my warm up, I was already warm in a tank. Desi Linden was supposedly part of the 2 hour pace group. The corrals are madness so while I saw the sign for the group, I didn’t see her and couldn’t get close to that corral.
Race started at 6:15am and it was close to 6:30am when my corral crossed the start line. Why are there people walking at the start?? I started off, aiming for 9:05-9:10 which felt a bit harder than I expected. Through the early miles, I really tried hard to focus on the current mile, try to stay relaxed and take in water or Gatorade at most of the aid stops. The Sun came out blazing after the 5K mat and I never saw a cloud again. It gave me PTSD flashbacks to my marathon in Phoenix back in January where I was running directly into the sun for hours. Not good. I saw mile after mile click off that was around 9:10 or a little slower and I knew I needed to start picking things up, but I just couldn’t. With every small hill, I felt myself slowing more and more. Around Mile 8-9, I gave up. I didn’t have sub 2 in me that day and reasoned I’d rather run quite a bit slower and enjoy the remaining miles rather than really crash and burn. I even walked briefly up an incline while my brain was screaming (hopefully not out loud) how much I hate this race. There is some nice downhill at Mile 10 and it was here that I realized just because I won’t go sub2 doesn’t mean I can’t PR the course. So I picked it up a little more but too little too late. I would cross the finish line about 10 second slower than last year in 2:02:07. Which kills me –less about the actual time—and more because I am fitter this year but I have no race to show that. The weather definitely played into things a little but it wasn't crazy hot. Probably mid to high 70's and very sunny.
So yeah, I’m a bit bummed. I was really hoping to be able to put this sub2 obsession behind me and make new goals for the future. Time and time again, I just don’t have the mental game for these goal races. I get through the training just fine (and enjoy it!) but then come race day, I give up rather than push through. I know that my current fitness isn’t a waste and it will benefit me going forward yada yada yada but I’ll allow myself to be disappointed for this week.
For those reading, this race is really a great course and I look forward to running it again but ONLY FOR FUN.
After the Chicago Marathon last year, The Wife and I were discussing races and goals for the year ahead. We were heading down wildly divergent paths; while she was deciding to take a break from the marathon, I had spreadsheets devoted to selecting my next one and was wondering how big a chunk to try to bite off. I kept throwing out times I thought I might be able to improve by, 5, 7, or maybe even 10 minutes. But then I started to think how close that 3:15 or 3:11 was to a BQ and kept dismissing it as unrealistic. I’m not fast enough, can’t run enough miles, I don’t do strength work or stretch, I’m a Gemini born in a year of the dog, and a whole host of other excuses were bandied about. The Wife cut me off mid-sentence with an exasperated sigh and got up to walk away. She responded to my slightly hurt, confused look with:
“Stop debating and just do it.”
This didn’t help. “...wha… you mean… Vaporflys… ?” I feebly offered.
“No you idiot. Just go for it. You always spend weeks hemming and hawing over times like you’re planning to invade Russia in winter, then go run whatever you want to anyway. You’re like a machine. So just shut up and go BQ.”
I’m a machine. Visions of Rocky-esque training montages ran through my head and my swollen ego decided yes damn it, I’m going to BQ. I figured I’d be running the friendly Wineglass course and started writing up the training plan and convincing myself the workouts and paces weren’t beyond my ability. I downloaded the Rocky IV soundtrack. And I slowly started to believe. Then I got into the NYC Marathon, and my focus changed. I was ecstatic, this was the race I’ve wanted to run since before I even wanted to run, and for a while I forgot about goals and just enjoyed the fact that I would finally be joining the party on the Verrazano Bridge. Any running train of thought quickly ended up at Grand Central and included images of flying up 1st Ave through a tunnel of noise, and I spent weeks in this euphoric daze like a kid who got the “it” toy at Christmas. But as the spring racing season began the excitement gradually faded and I revisited my training plan for the year. The NYC course is definitely tougher than Wineglass. And I remember watching some nasty windy days in recent years on the first weekend of November. I need to run a 3:10 to BQ, but to get in I probably need to cut it down to 3:05. That’s almost my current 10k pace, and I couldn’t imagine running that over the 59th Street Bridge (sorry Mayor Koch).
Then Boston happened. You all know how that went. The winners weren’t the flashiest athletes or the ones in the most commercials or those with the best PRs. They were the grinders, the ones who don’t take no for an answer, who don’t make excuses, who don’t ever stop. The telemarketers of the marathon world, you could say. I marveled watching elites drop like flies while the regular folk endured and in a few cases even finished in the money. It was a race for those who lace up not because they’re getting paid to, but because they want to. Or maybe need to. It was a race celebrating those who consciously choose, without glory or paychecks, to be perpetually exhausted, always hungry, in pain, and forever lacking a complete set of toenails.
There were a lot of theories about why the elites seemingly suffered worse than the citizen runners. One thing I didn’t see mentioned but that I kept coming back to was that for most people who endured the conditions, they probably didn’t know if it was their first or last or only shot to run Boston. They couldn’t drop out and collect a check a few weeks later and try again next year. They may never again have the chance to go right on Hereford, left on Boylston and they weren’t going to be denied the opportunity, even by an apparent act of God. If you’re not inspired by that, you either need someone to check your pulse or you’re about to lecture me on how running will ruin my knees.
They say you should announce your goals and put them out there for all to see. Helps keep you accountable, they say. Helps you to, with apologies to the already long dead horse, keep showing up. So here we go. On November 4th I’m going to return to the city of my birth and qualify for the Boston Marathon. I’m not going to try, it won’t be an attempt. I’m going to just fucking do it.