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About Me

  1. Turns out grad school takes up a lot of time. I haven’t written since January (when I was between class periods) and have barely been able to even visit the loop. I feel out of touch. Ultimately it will be worth it, but it’s going to be busy until late 2020 at least. My training has gone relatively well even with working full time and taking classes. All I do is run, go to work, study, eat and sleep. (More or less) It’s a good thing running feels mostly like a break to me and I never had any social life. Otherwise this would never work. After a good training season, I thought shooting not only for a PR but that big 4:30 goal might be a possibility. If the weather was good at least. I ran my spring half at GO St. Louis at goal pace and I ran nearly all my workouts as planned. I think most missed workouts happened due to weather. Travel to NJ went smoothly. My friend Rachel picked me up at the airport on Friday. We went back to her house to have lunch – we considered going into NYC for the afternoon/evening but decided it was better to stick to closer things. Instead we went to Patterson Great Falls National Park. It has the second highest volume of water in any waterfall east of the Mississippi. We spotted a skunk (WAY to close for comfort, but luckily we were way more alarmed than he was – didn’t get a picture because he went into the bushes and I wasn’t going to try and get close again!) Then drove around and looked at some of the beautiful, (and EXPENSIVE) houses in the area and did a little shopping. I got a present for my mom for mother’s day and a gift for my sister for her birthday. Then we had dinner at a Lebanese restaurant (Uncle Momo Bistro). We had a falafel salad and beef shawarma which we split. SO GOOD. (Not pictured is the giant, fresh pita bread that was inflated like a balloon on the beef shawarma plate.) Saturday after we ran a couple miles as a quick shake out run and had breakfast Rachel drove me down to Ashbury Park where we walked along the boardwalk. Friday had been very rainy and Saturday was SUPER windy. Rachel headed home and I headed to the expo. There wasn’t a lot to see there but I got some pictures, and chatted with the Team in Training people and the guy at the table trying to sign people up for triathlons including the Chicago triathlon. I’d like to try a tri (ha) someday, but there is no way that is going to happen until I’m done with school. Soon it was time for the Team in Training inspiration dinner. I found a few other solo travelers to sit with and as always was truly inspired by the stories of just what our fundraising has done – and how much still needs to be done in the fight against blood cancers and other cancers (many treatments originally developed from research funded by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has also gone on to benefit people with other cancers). I failed to meet up with any loopsters on Saturday but I was hoping to catch up with some on Sunday. My alarm went off at 4:45 am (3:45 central time!) but I was already awake. Not sure why this hotel has such hard beds – but it didn’t make getting prerace sleep any easier. TNT met up in the lobby and we rode buses together to the starting area. I walked over to the farthest bank of POPs and got in without waiting. At first the sun was shinning but then it clouded over and got a little colder. I was keeping an eye peeled for loopsters, especially Gwen and Greg, because we had talked on facebook about running together until the half broke off and I knew what they said they were going to wear. I had about given up when I spotted them in line for the coral and called their names. They joined me in the corral and after waiting what seemed like a really long time we were off. We ran together for a few miles before Greg stopped for a bathroom break and fell behind. Gwen and I chatted and ran for the full 11ish miles before she turned and went on to the half finish. Up to this point I was pretty close to on pace for the 4:30 I’ve wanted for so long. However I was already beginning to fade a little. The weather was perfect. I felt ok, but it quickly became clear this was not going to be the day for 4:30. I’m just not there yet. The full course felt a lot less empty that it does sometimes. I felt like there were more people around than when I did Austin last year. We started on the long, long out and back. Except for a couple of quick places where the “out” branches off everything from mile 10 or so on is part of the out and back, although not all of it is quite along the same road. We ran past beautiful houses, and houses that were less beautiful but still huge and expensive looking. Some of the fancy houses we ran past (picture taken on Saturday) Part of the boardwalk I ran along, picture taken Sunday evening. (The race route was going toward the camera) I never got off course but missed the moment when I actually turned around and started on the return part of the course. Just after that point the 4:45 pacers caught up with me. I held on and ran with them for a mile or two but when I slowed at a water stop they didn’t and then they were gone. The chance at 4:30 had disappeared miles ago, but now I knew there could be no PR either (PR is 4:43). My C goal became no walking outside the water stops. I just kept plugging along, my pace had really slowed, but I was still running (and somehow passing people). The ocean was to my right and a nice distraction. I thought of all the people I run for who are battling cancer, and those whose battle had ended. I was not feeling great, but it was still way better than what people undergoing cancer treatment deal with, and that kept me running. Team and Training coaches would join me for a short time every once in a while, which is also one of the great benefits of being a part of this group. Finally, the end was in sight. But I had no kick. So I just kept up my slow pace. I managed to smile and do my “trademark” thumbs up as I crossed the finish line of marathon #8. Again, this one was a long time coming. I need to work harder at cross-training and hopefully avoid getting hurt. Stepping up to the beer table I realized I had lost my beer ticket along the way. So, no free beer for me. I signed out at the TNT table and then headed to the shuttle (provided by TNT) back to the hotel. I showered and was lounging around thinking about lunch (at about 2:30 pm) when I checked facebook and saw that I had an invite to join the loopsters still in town for lunch at the Robinson Ale House that was basically across the street. Yes, please! It was so great to meet everyone. I’m glad I got the chance. After we all left lunch I went down and put my feet in the ocean. It wasn’t as cold as I expected, and no colder than when I did it in Ireland. This trip was the first time I’d seen the Atlantic from the US side. After that I was pretty done for the day. I went looking for ice cream about 7, but wasn’t able to find any place that was open. (I think I should have tried harder, but I went back and ate some of the snacks I had in my room). On the way to the train station, shortly before I tripped and fell down (but long enough before that it wasn't because I took this picture - it was because I was rushing). Monday morning I got up early for the long travel day home. I walked a mile to the nearest commuter train station – tripping and falling along the way, ripping a hole in my sweatshirt, and my NJ marathon long sleeve t-shirt, scrapping my wrist and elbow and bruising my knees. Then I took the train to Newark International Airport, which required switching trains twice. Luckily people were very helpful, and I didn’t have to go down any steps! Then at the airport I took the airport tram to my terminal, got through security relatively easily, bought a sandwich for lunch and waited for my flight. It was delayed and I began to worry about making my next flight. My first flight landed just as my second flight was supposed to be boarding! But I made it, and when I got home I saw my luggage had too thankfully! It was a long day of travel, but I was glad to be home. I didn’t run or workout at all until today. I always take 6-7 days completely off. Today’s run/walk felt really good, though I was glad to take walk breaks. I was sore through Wednesday, but I’ve felt worse. I’m not sure what I’m running next. I’m off classes until the 14th and intend on soaking up the break.
  2. I recently read my Top 5 Running Highlights of 2017 when searching for my yearly mileage history list. I was correct when I noted in that post that 2017 would be hard to top! My 2018 running wasn't quite what I wanted, but I have a lot to be thankful for. My Instagram Top 9 wasn't far off! My Highlights Were: With 3,047 miles, I ran my highest yearly mileage ever, surpassing my 2017 mileage by 4 miles (the 2017 mileage was a huge yearly mileage PR). I had 8 weeks of mileage in the 80s, which before this year I had only done for 1 week, in 2017. All other "normal" training weeks were in the 60s-70s; the weeks that were not that high were when I was tapering, recovering, injured, or returning from injury - the majority of those when I was healthy were in the 50s, but several were big fat zeros when I was injured. I am pretty pumped that I managed a yearly mileage PR with 8 weeks of downtime, and I know I can improve it next year if I don't get injured. I counted my AlterG treadmill miles in this total, which feels a little like cheating, but I did run the distance so I'm keeping them (my outside miles are around 160 less). I ran a huge 10K PR. Everything really came together for the Plaza 10K even though I did not rest for it or do any 10K-specific training. Although I was extremely disappointed that my fall season was cut short, I am so thankful that I got this race in before I got injured. I was thrilled to better my track best on a rolling road course, but more importantly it really showed me how well my body responded to consistent higher mileage training (higher mileage is all relative, I know 70-80 is nothing for some but it is the most I've ever done). I'd been targeting running a 36:59 10K for over a year, but I really never thought I'd be able to run a 36:34 on the road. I ran two solid marathons. Although I did not accomplish my time goal in Houston, it was a great experience and I'm glad I went for it. I am proud to say that my complete bonk/bad day marathon there was a 2:54. Grandma's wasn't what I dreamed of when I selected the race, but based on how terrible I felt for most of the build up, I am proud that I pulled off a 2:49:08, my second fastest marathon. I sure hope I have more in me as far as marathon PRs go, but regardless I sure enjoy the training process and the races! I set two Missouri single age state records, in the half marathon at Rock the Parkway and the 12K at the Big 12 12K. Neither are great times, but they are currently the best a 37-year-old female in Missouri has managed. I bombed nearly every run in the months leading up to those races, so even though I don't think I ran good times, I do think I ran really well compared to how I was performing in training. I persisted. In February, March, and April I had an illness and a slump (which was extra hard since I was coming off of several break-through performances in fall 2017), but I raced beyond what my training said I should have in everything I raced for the first 6 months of the year. I was injured in September, but I did everything I could to strengthen my weaknesses and to return to training. I learned. I learned how much consistent mileage helps my race times. I learned to be more cautious about running when sick, and about running and racing on potential injuries. I re-learned just how much I love the sport and how empty I feel without it. I learned that my running friends mean the world to me. I re-prioritized. My biggest goal is to run for the rest of my life. This is more important than any PR. That doesn't mean my Big Goal (2:45:00 marathon) has changed, just that it's decidedly second on the list, at best. I was more thankful. I still have a ways to go in this arena, but I did better. I've always been pretty bad about wanting more and more, in running and in other aspects of my life. Looking back, I haven't appreciated many milestones and PRs because I was already onto my next goal. The first time I broke 3:00 in the marathon, I left the finish chute ecstatic but also thinking, "I can run faster." I distinctly remember waiting for my flight at the Phoenix airport following my break-through 2:49 marathon emailing my coach saying I wanted to train for a 2:45, instead of relishing in the post-race high. I wasn't nearly as happy about my 2:47 at CIM as I should have been, because it wasn't "enough" compared to a very specific cut-off time. I regret that I didn't savor those moments, but this year I found more joy in my performance at Grandma's Marathon than in any of those marathons, even though it wasn't a PR. I really let myself ride a high after my PR at the Plaza 10K. I do want more, but if I never get more I will still find great joy in the process. I am more thankful than ever now. I helped others. Whenever someone tells me that I helped them, I am reminded why I was given my passion for running. I typically don't realize I'm doing it, but whether it's by answering running questions, giving training advice, encouraging others, inviting someone to join our group runs, listening to my friends when we run together, helping my local running club, or making individualized training schedules for friends free of charge, I have opportunities to give back often. That has to be why God made me a runner. I know I'll remember all of the people that running has brought into my life more than I'll remember any PR; however... Bring on 2019 training blocks and goal races! I have a long way to go to get back to my best fitness, but I'm ready to try!
  3. Oh goodness, where to start? The New York City Marathon was so much more awesome than I ever imagined, and I’m sure I won’t do justice to the experience here. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try! I left DC on Thursday via Amtrak (my favorite way to travel anywhere on the I-95 corridor), with coffee in my hands and manic excitement in my eyes… I arrived at NY Penn Station around noon, and walked the handful of blocks north to the Port Authority bus terminal, where my mom was due in at 12:30 from MA. We walked another handful of blocks together up to Hell’s Kitchen, where our (definitely illegal but super convenient) AirBnB was located. Checking in was fast and easy, and within a little while we were on the move again, this time south towards the Javits Center where the expo was held (with a quick stop for lunch first; a girl’s gotta eat). Entering the expo was SO EXCITING and a lot less hectic than I’d imagined. We got through security quickly and were free to wander the many, many aisles of NYC-branded running-related goodies. But first, I just had to pose in front of this huge blow-up of one of my favorite race pictures ever: In the small section of the expo not dedicated to blatant consumerism (no judgement; I succumbed) there was a HUGE tabletop map of the marathon course. This this was practically life-size! On Thursday evening, Mom and I went to the New York Road Runners (NYRR) Marathon Pavilion located next to the finish line in Central Park, because I’d reserved us tickets for a screening of the Boston Marathon documentary that was released in April. The Pavilion had the ginormous wall of names of *almost* all the race entrants (sorry Jay-Zee). Thanks to Mom for spotting me! Seeing the movie again was so great, and definitely stoked some fires in my goal-oriented little mind. I think Mom enjoyed seeing it too, as well as getting a preview of what a ridiculous blubbering mess I’m going to be should I ever be lucky enough to qualify for and run Boston. As a special treat, Bill Rodgers was in the house and did a Q&A after the film! He was a bit spacier than I’d expected, and didn’t so much answer questions as reminisce about races of yore… But who can blame him? He’s Bill-freaking-Rodgers and can talk about whatever he wants. On Friday morning, I woke up early-early to go get a fresh bagel at 6:30am. Because, New York City. Then at a more civilized hour, I made my way to the NYRR Run Center to join a marathon-focused running tour of some of the historical sites of Central Park! There were about 20 people in the tour group, and the leader kept the pace to a nice and leisurely 10:15-10:30/mile. While we were hanging out in the Run Center waiting for the tour to depart, guess who walks in. Emma Coburn!! You know, the World Champion and American record-holder steeplechaser. #steeplepeople I didn’t talk to her or anything, but let me tell you, she is just as gorgeous in person as she looks on tv. Anyway, the tour got underway and we made it to the Park! One of the places we stopped for a story was on Cat Hill, so named for this cool bronze statue of a mountain lion-type kitty perched on the side of the road ready to pounce on unsuspecting runners and cyclists. Another place we paused for some stories was at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, which was just beautiful: Thankfully it was a nice warm day, because we stopped for stories and pictures about every quarter mile, which would have been torturous had it been cold! One of the last places we stopped was at the marathon finish line, where this guy was hanging out for the weekend: This is Fred Lebow, founder of the NYC Marathon, standing watch over the finish line ready to click off your time on his watch. Normally he lives over at the 90th Street entrance to Central Park, but the NYRR move him over to the finish line for race weekend. I imagine he appreciates the gesture. On Friday afternoon, Mom and I did some wandering around Manhattan. We visited Washington Square Park, walked around Soho, window shopped along 5th Avenue, did some top-notch carb loading… We paid a visit to the finish line in Central Park so Mom could see it (she would be avoiding that insanity on race day): Then on Friday night we had dinner with my cousin and his wife, who live in NYC, and then saw Kinky Boots on Broadway! What an incredibly fun, uplifting show that is!! If you have the chance, I highly recommend seeing it! On Saturday, we did some more wandering around the city, because it is just too wonderful not to enjoy! NYC architecture blows me away, whether it’s huge skyscrapers or gorgeous little details that are too easy to miss. On Saturday evening, Mom and I met up with the other Loopsters running the marathon (plus a local one - hi christine.eliz!) for a delicious pasta dinner. After dinner, we managed a group photo in the craziness of Times Square. I needed to be at my bus to the start line by 5:45am the next morning, so we called it a night very early on Saturday. But not before getting Flat Caitlin ready! (wow, three pages in and the race hasn’t even started yet! #sorrynotsorry #doallthethings #yolo) My alarm went of so very early on Sunday, but I bounded out of bed with all the energy I seriously wish I had on speedwork mornings. I left the apartment to walk over to the library where the bus would take me to the start line on Staten Island. It was about a 20-minute walk from the apartment, which I normally wouldn’t recommend at 5:15am, but it was one of those special race experiences because I was accompanied by so many other throwaway clothes-clad runners! As I walked towards the long line of buses, I looked up and saw the Chrysler Building in all its Art Deco glory: Quickly enough, I was settled in on the bus and ready for the hour-ish long drive to Staten Island. I noshed on my bagel and peanut butter, drank some Gatorade, and dozed a bit during the ride. Eventually the sun came up, and shortly thereafter we arrived at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, and I tried to figure out where I was supposed to be in this massive runner village. It was pretty exciting to see the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge off in the distance, and know that I’d be running over it so soon! I passed the Dunkin Donuts truck and got my awesome orange and pink fleece hat! It was chilly enough that the warm hat was a nice bonus while sitting around. I found my way to the Orange Village, and settled into a comfy patch of grass near the corral entrances to hang out for the 3ish hours before my wave was called. I ate a bit more of my bagel, as well as a fun-sized Snickers left over from my parents’ Halloween stash (which Mom very nicely brought with her to NYC), and passed some time by reading the race program. There are always so many compelling human stories in a marathon. I laid down on my foil blanket, wrapped snuggly in my throw-away sweats and blanket, and actually managed to fall asleep for about 45 minutes. I awoke abruptly, and lost at least 5 years off my life, when I heard the sound of an explosion seemingly right next to my head! Having just watched the Boston documentary, which prominently featured the 2013 bombing, and given the truck attack that had just occurred in NYC earlier in the week, I was apparently VERY on-edge, and awoke in an absolute panic thinking that something unconscionable had happened. No worries! It was just the first start canon, signaling the beginning of the professional wheelchair division at 8:30. I did not get back to sleep after that… And I jumped every time the cannon subsequently, which it did numerous times before my own start (Achilles handcycle and disabled athletes start, Footlocker Five-Borough Challenge start, professional women’s start, and Wave 1 start). Finally it was time to start my own migration towards my corral (which luckily had portapotties in it since we have to be inside 45 minutes before our start time!). I made it through the three bib checks and into the corral, where I hung out some more and chatted with a woman from Ireland and a man from England. And took a selfie, because why not? FINALLY it got to be almost 10:15, time for Wave 2 to start! The ropes were dropped, and the corrals started moving slowly towards the starting line on the bridge. We got to the staging area just before the bridge, and could hear the announcer introducing the wave. They played “God Bless America” over the loudspeakers, and then Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” which some German guys behind me tried to sing along to, with hilarious results. Being in the middle of this crush of enthusiastic humanity was absolutely electric. And then the cannon sounded again and we were off! It only took me a couple of minutes to cross the start line, and then I was running on top of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge! I think I spent the first two miles just whispering “this is really happening; I’m running the New York City Marathon” to myself. I barely noticed the incline of the first mile on the bridge because I was too busy enjoying the moment and soaking up the view from the bridge, foggy as it was. I tried not to look at my watch too often because pace wasn’t important to me today. I had no time goals for the race, and with so many people around me at all times it wasn’t going to be easy to maintain an even pace anyway. We got off the bridge at Mile 2ish, made a couple of turns, and started up 4th Avenue, which would take through Brooklyn all the way to Mile 8. And this is where the real fun started, and didn’t let up for the next 24 miles. The crowd was absolutely deafening. I thought I was prepared for raucous crowd support, but I had no idea. I’m SO GLAD that I put my name on my shirt for this race, because I felt like a freaking superstar the entire time. There wasn’t a single mile where I didn’t hear multiple people yelling “Go Caitlin! I see you Caitlin!! You got this Caitlin!” at me, and it was AWESOME. A friend of mine happened to be visiting Brooklyn over race weekend and she took this picture of me somewhere along the course. I didn’t see her and certainly didn’t know she was taking a picture, but I had this goofy smile on my face the entire way because it was so much fun! I stayed along the left side of the route so that I could more easily high-five everyone within reach. Tangents be damned. My watch registered a 26.8-mile marathon but it was totally worth it. I kept waiting for the fatigue to set in, or to get annoyed by the constant press of runners around me, or to get to the mental state of just wanting the race to be done with. It never happened. I felt so strong and fresh the whole time, and every new cheer from the crowd and high-five from a group of kids or police or firefighters gave me a new burst of energy. Literally the only stretch of the race where I felt just a little bit tired and cranky was on the Queensboro Bridge from Miles 14.5-16. We were on one half of the lower level of the bridge, so it was narrower than the course had been previously, and created a pretty bad bottleneck that slowed everyone down, and being on the lower level was kind of dark and gloomy. I also had a near-collision with the people next to me when someone who had stepped off the course to the left decided to step back onto the course directly in front of me *at a walk.* #rude But no one fell over and everyone seemed pretty chill given the crowded conditions we were all trying to navigate. I knew that my mom would be near mile 18 at 93rd Street, so that was a good motivator to get through the bridge section and the first couple of miles up First Avenue in Manhattan. I ran over to see her and give her a hug, and hand off the Dunkin Donuts hat that I’d been hanging onto for 18 miles! The crowds in Manhattan were awesome as well, although I think Queens and the Bronx are tied for loudest, rowdiest spectators. The stretch through the Bronx was short but memorable thanks to the enthusiastic support of the crowds. At Mile 21, we reached the Madison Avenue Bridge leading back into Manhattan, and proceeded south on Fifth Avenue. I saw my cousin and his wife at 110th Street, and they’d even made a sign for me, which was such a fun surprise to see at Mile 22.5. I knew that we entered Central Park at 90th Street, so I was counting down the blocks until we go there. There was some uphill along Fifth Avenue, and it gave me a nice mental boost to pass people this late in the race AND going uphill #sorrynotsorry #yougotchicked We entered Central Park at 90th Street, just before Mile 24, and proceeded down the hill we’d run up during my NYRR tour of the park. We exited the park a bit past Mile 25, and ran along Central Park South nearly the whole width of the park. The crowds here were still awesome and loud, despite the fact that it had now been raining for about 3.5 hours and wasn’t the loveliest day to stand outside. I kept passing people here, and made a special effort to pass a dude in a full-length Superman cape. I was determined not to have some big red cape ruin MY finish line photo! We jumped back into the park off Columbus Circle and passed the Mile 26 marker shortly thereafter. I started getting really emotional as I simultaneously pushed towards the finish line and tried to soak up every last second of these final moments of the race. This was my 15th marathon, and the first time that I’ve ever been sad to cross the finish line. Of course I was also super happy with my experience, and completely thrilled to have finished well under the 4-hour mark! Official time: 3:52:16 I got my medal, and immediately stopped to capture the moment. A few minutes later I got to the foil blanket distribution, which was much appreciated because the chilly rain felt a lot less good while hobbling along than it did while running. I had opted for the post-race poncho option rather than bag check. I’d heard such wonderful things about these ponchos that I was pretty excited to get mine! The walk to where the volunteers were handing them out was considerably longer than I’d expected, and it was uphill. #notcool But about 20 minutes after crossing the finish line, a lovely volunteer finally wrapped me in the warm, waterproof, insulated poncho and life was grand. I walked for a few more minutes to wear Mom and I had planned to meet. I saw her waiting for me, and the first thing she said when I reached her was, “SHALANE WON!!!!” My approximate reaction? (thanks to Corc-o-rama for the image) It was such a perfect cherry on top of an already perfect marathon sundae to learn that Shalane finally got her so-well-deserved moment of glory! And knowing that I crossed that very same finish line 90ish minutes later was so cool! On Monday Mom and I had a lovely breakfast at a cute little diner near our AirBnB, and then headed back towards Port Authority and Penn Station to catch our respective transportation home. But first I needed to get my hands on the Marathon Monday edition of the New York Times! I really can’t say enough good things about my New York City Marathon experience. It was impeccably well organized for such a huge event (over 51,000 finishers!), and the people of New York completely floored me with their energy and support through every mile of the race. I’m so thankful that I got to have this experience this year. Marathon #15 is definitely one that I’ll never forget!
  4. Hello and good morning! I didn’t plan on posting anything today, but I have stuff on the brain and I need advice. My post title song will probably be in my head (and your heads) all day now. I hope I don’t sing it where I can be heard. The reason for today’s title is related to where I am with my Achilles recovery and my relationship with running. I’m having good days and I’m having bad ones. I have runs where I feel almost normal and there’s pep in my step and no limit to how many miles I feel like I can run. I also have runs where I look down at my watch and say, “that can’t be right.” Fortunately, none of the runs involve any pain associated with my injury. Last week, after one of those “good” runs, I started to think seriously about a training plan. A marathon training plan at that. Sounds good Randy, just skip over those silly half marathons and get right to it. Sink or swim, baby. So this morning I had one of those “not so good” runs. I felt like I was giving plenty of effort. My heart rate was up nice and high. My watch told me otherwise. The idea of working on a training plan didn’t seem quite so exciting anymore. I know for a fact that I’m caught up in the excitement of so many of the plans of my runner friends. People are signing up for their goal races and excitedly making plans. I’ve been there. It’s a great place to be. I want to be there, badly. I think maybe I want to be there so much that I’ll ignore any reasons not to be there. Once I start a training plan, I won’t quit it and I’ll rarely deviate. No matter what. Is that what I want? Is that what I really, really want?
  5. There was a time when I would look forward to the punishment of the long run on Saturday mornings the feeling of preparing Friday nights, getting up while most were sleeping in, the freedom to eat and drink Saturday night knowing that you just clocked 16 miles because you could. Those days are a distant memory to me, my last race was the Marshall Marathon in 2013….2013! Many of you from the old loop remember my post about how I got to that point and how I changed my life. While I am still able to keep the weight down, my blood pressure has become an issue again and to be honest bouts of depression. My work life is horrible and has been for some time, I am trying to make a change buy changing careers after working for the Government for 16 years is hard and hard to get an interview etc. I love my family, my kids are amazing and my wife is the best, but I am not happy and haven’t been, my wife thinks I am depressed and I probably am, I just go to bed, show up at work, go to some practice and go home and repeat every day. It is not healthy nor productive and is affecting me and the people around me. Last year I signed up for the Charlotte Marathon and on the second week of training I tore my calf muscle, which my Doctor said, was the worst he had seen. I could not run and actually had to use a cane for about 3 months…. so no marathon. Then work got crazy again and I settled into this dormant life yet again. I have ran twice this year. This isn’t a pity me post, this is not yet another I am going to “change” posts where I attempt a comeback. This isn’t a comeback, this is a rebirth. I was once an unhappy, fat, sedentary person who changed and become a marathoner. I am now a busy dad, husband, who has little ones who depend on me, this is no longer about fixing me, or making me better, this is about them and what I show them a person is capable of. I am 40 now and it’s a different ballgame, I don’t bounce back as quickly, schedules are tighter, life gets in the way, so I have to become the person who can handle all that and still train for a marathon, 26.2 miles is the cure to my illness, it will fix me…or break me but either way I will be different. So here I go and try to awaken the ghosts of Saturday mornings and the feeling of completeness in my soul. Thank you for listening, I promise to update here and be held accountable.
  6. amarie2009

    Austin Marathon RR

    I finally finished marathon #7! It took 3 tries. It was a long time coming and it was hard. It took 3 days before I felt mostly normal again. By Wednesday I could stand up and sit down without whimpering or using my arms. Stairs were no longer to be feared, but walking down was still uncomfortable. The massage at the chiropractor hurt so good, and I felt a lot better after. I didn’t run at all until yesterday, and my legs still felt all those marathon miles when I did. Tomorrow I’ll go back to running before work. Travel down to Austin went well, all the St. Louis Team in Training people had just happened to book the same flight without talking about it ahead of time. I caught the shuttle to the airport hotel I was staying at the first night just as it was about to drive away. If he hadn’t been trying to drive off with the back doors open I’d have missed it and had to call the hotel back and have them send him back right away…and I would have had to wait around 20-30 minutes. Luckily I didn’t have to jump in, but I did have to yell at him to get his attention before he drove off. Free breakfast at the hotel and some family members (second cousins if you’re wondering) who decided to drive to Austin for vacation since I was running, gave me a ride to the expo and lunch. They also spectated a little at the race, though they only caught me near the finish. Lunch was at Green Mesquite BBQ, which looked like a little under the radar treasure, but since it was once on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives it wasn’t really. (I didn’t know that until we were eating, we just sort of stumbled on the place.). The expo was crazy so I just grabbed what I needed and stopped at the TNT booth and got out of there. I got to the hotel and settled in and then went to the pre-race Team in Training inspiration dinner. During dinner the all too familiar cramps of that lovely time of the month hit. I was expecting it, but it wasn’t welcome. At least I run better on the first day of my period than the day before, cramps aside. (There was a minor not cramp related issue by the end of the race, but I’ll spare everyone the details) Race day dawned misty and comfortable temperature wise. I felt good, but it wasn’t until late in the race I really believed I was going to finish. Just recently I’ve developed an odd issue where the collar of my right shoe is rubbing and pressing on the bottom of my right inside heel bone. I have no idea why this is suddenly an issue since my shoes aren’t that old but not new either. I thought maybe the shoe got bent a little from side lunges, but I don’t think that is actually the problem. My running buddy John and I set off at a good pace, and chatted much of the race away. We stuck together until the very end where he stopped to kiss his wife before the finish and I kept going so I finished a few seconds in front of him. During the race we counted some of the more interesting things we saw. 15 people in onesies, all of whom were spectators (only one of those was a baby) 5 people dressed as food items, a banana and a taco running the full marathon (both of which beat us), another banana as a spectator and two cliff gel packets at the aid stations where those were being handed out. Late in the race the taco was just ahead of us so we heard lots of “Go taco” and “Mommy, look, there’s a taco running”. 1 guy spectating in a long pink nightgown. (worn over regular clothes) We also saw several people pushing strollers running, a few dogs running on leashes (apparently that is allowed in this race?) and I saw one guy running on a running blade…he also beat us. This isn’t a RNR race but Austin is a music town so they had lots of bands and music groups along the course. Near the end of the full a bagpiper was standing in the median under an overpass we ran under. Clearly taking advantage of the acoustics to make a loud instrument even louder. It was good though. I think there were as many people out just playing on their own as there were race sponsored music stations. I didn’t catch a lot of the scenery. It all blurs together. It went from being super crowded for the first 12 miles to lonely when the half split off, even the crowds of spectators all disappeared. We went up and down rolling hills the whole time. Austin has a lot of murals, which were interesting to see. Not even one of the better murals (this building was apparently supposed to be torn down in December according to a countdown clock in the front window) We ran past the University and the Capital. Even the flat parts of the race weren’t actually flat. We still held a steady pace until about mile 22 where we faded a little but not badly. Mile 25-26 had a killer hill, I didn’t want to walk because I was SO CLOSE to the end but I just couldn’t make it to the top running. It seemed like the steepest and longest hill of the whole race. I ate more than I ever have in a marathon, 5 gels, a cookie, a slice of an orange and two bites of bacon. The orange was at mile 23ish and one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. Bacon is good, but I confirmed that I don’t really like it when I’m running. Nuun was the electrolyte drink and I was concerned about adjusting for the lack of carbs from that source but I think I more than made up for it. I also used some Eduralytes. For once I didn’t get an awful headache post race. I did work hard on shaking out my shoulders and making sure I wasn’t clenching my teeth or fists, but it looks like in general I can go even heavier than I have been on food and electrolytes. Good to know I can run a marathon without getting a headache later. Late in the race I was trying to do the math on how close I was to my PR – I knew I wasn’t going to make that, but for a little while I thought I’d be close. Then I realized I was about 10 minutes slower than I’d been thinking. That still meant that at mile 23-24 I felt good about finishing under 5 hours. That was before I saw the giant hill – but even with that I was safely under 5. My final official time was 4:55:02. I am very happy with this, especially since the race was so hilly. My PR is on a mostly flat course. I really wish I could write a more detailed, orderly race report, but my mind wanders all over during a race and it’s hard to remember the details and where and when things happen. So you get a wandering RR not a mile by mile account because that’s how my mind works. I was a bit happy to be done and successful with marathon #7.
  7. amarie2009

    Race day is Sunday

    The marathon is Sunday! Forecast for Austin looks ok. Low 47, High 67, chance of rain. It’s going to feel warm compared to what I’ve been running in but should be manageable. Hopefully it doesn’t rain but I’ve run a marathon in similar conditions before (Alaska was steady, moderate rain for the first 13 miles and a bit cooler.) It was soggy, but fine. I’m more nervous than I’ve been for a race in a while, but it’s been more than a year and a half since I completed a marathon. I’m nervous about the travel too. It’s been more than 3 years I think since I’ve flown and that makes me nervous too. I’m always afraid the TSA is going to take one look at me and say, nope, you aren’t going anywhere… Plus flights could be delayed or cancelled. Once I’m on the plane and in the air I worry a lot less. Physically I feel good. Nothing especially worrying. My right shoe was rubbing on the bottom of my inside heel bone, but it seems better with a little shoe adjustment. I think I remember this happening before when I’ve done side lunges to warm up. So no more side lunges in shoes I’m running in. It must bend the side of the shoe somehow…No huge boost in energy. Yet. I did do a bunch of extra chores the Saturday afternoon after my first taper “long” run. The bathroom got a real deep clean, I even washed the walls. I want to paint in there, but I have more prep work to do before I can do that. This morning I ran on the treadmill because we had a little freezing rain over the weekend and there were still icy patches on the sidewalks. Ordinarily I probably would have taken the chance and run outside, but not right now. The run felt really good but really boring since my antient ipod died a couple months ago and I can’t afford to replace it at the moment. I feel like I’m forgetting something important. It’s not packing since I don’t leave until Friday. I was super busy at work today, so that could be why, I’m not used to being that busy. Goals? Mostly to finish. I know I’m not ready for sub 4:30. A PR would be sub 4:43. I don’t see that happening either. Under 5. Under 4:50 would be better. But really, after a DNF and DNS I want to FINISH. And have fun. My camera hasn’t been working very well (since I love photography this is a real problem) but I plan on taking lots of pictures of everything except the race. I may have one more post before the race or not. I’ll update when I can after. I've met my goal for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, but a cure for blood (and other cancers) is still to be found and every dollar counts. This is the last time I'll ask here for a while so now is the time if you've thought about it. Even a little bit helps.
  8. I know it's already February, and some people might think that the ship has sailed on end-of-year bloops. But hopefully none of those people are here, and if they are, they're free to move along. Maybe my bloops just like to be fashionably late? So. 2017. In retrospect, this year was really focused on race experiences more than goal times. I started out the year in questionable fashion, battling a nasty bout of piriformis syndrome in January and February after not quitting a long run when I should have because finishing that run would mean breaking 60 miles/week for the first time. In retrospect, that was real dumb, as running those last 11 miles on a bum piriformis (lol, pun intended) took me out of commission for 6-7 weeks, during which there were a LOT fewer than 60 miles/week. You'd think I'd know better than to let the numbers be the boss of me by this point. By early March, my butt was feeling much better but my training had taken enough of a hit that I dropped from the Whale Challenge (8K + marathon) at Shamrock to the Dolphin Challenge (8K + half-marathon). But that turned out kind of awesome because 1) the weather was f-ing AWFUL, even by Shamrock standards, and 2) I was able to PR in both the 8K and half-marathon! Yay! My first marathon of 2017 came in April, when I went down to Raleigh to hang out with three of the most BA runners you'll ever meet and we ran the Rock n Roll Raleigh marathon the day after spending lots of hours on our feet volunteering at a 100-mile ultra. I didn't get a finish time PR, but I'm pretty sure I set a personal best for 1) elevation gained in a race (Raleigh is hilly yo!), 2) fun had working at an aid station. Despite the hills, I was able to finish in a very comfortable 3:56:xx, setting me up for a streak of sub-4:00 marathons last year. In May I went home to Massachusetts for my birthday and a race weekend! My mom and I went to Martha's Vineyard for the inaugural Martha's Vineyard Marathon weekend, which was a lot of fun except for the race, which honestly kinda sucked. But nevertheless, Mom finished her very first half-marathon!! And I squeaked out a 1-min PR to finish in 3:51:xx, which was also good enough for 1st in my AG (serving to remind me to run tiny races more often, because that is kind of ridiculous). July contained my first 5K in 2.5 years, which turned out to be a PR even though it was an evening race and evening-time in DC in July is basically the worst running conditions ever. In August I returned to the wilds of Vermont to join my second Vermont 100 on 100 relay team, which was once again super fun and awesome except that it screwed up my back pretty badly. I had big marathon plans for the fall, so coming out of August with a bad back was definitely not what I had in mind. Plus, just typing "bad back" makes me feel way too old. I'm only 31; I should not be worrying about throwing my back out. My mildly-herniated disc disagreed, apparently. And obviously I trained through that longer than I should have, because I had goals dammit! So I was finally forced to take some time off in early-mid September, right when I was supposed to be hitting my peak mileage for the Wineglass Marathon. On the plus side, I got to try muscle relaxants for the first time. I went into Wineglass weekend with some trepidation, but in keeping with the theme of the year I was really more focused on the whole weekend rather than just the race. Both of my parents were with me, because Mom was running half-marathon #2 and we'd planned a side-trip after the race to Ithaca, NY, to visit my college stomping grounds for the first time since I graduated in 2008. Plus there were going to be a whole bunch of Loopsters at Wineglass, so it was going to be fun no matter what! It ended up being an amazing weekend all around: I finished in a strong-feeling 3:45:21, a PR by nearly 6 minutes and had a ton of fun with my family and the other Loopsters. A few weeks later I traveled north again, this time to the Big Apple for the most amazing race experience EVER: the NYC Marathon! My mom met me in the city and we had an awesome mother-daughter weekend staying in Hells Kitchen, going to a Broadway show, and soaking up the whole marathon weekend experience. The race itself was beyond incredible, and wrote an entire bloop on that if you need any convincing to throw your name into the lottery for a future race. Talk about an amazing race experience. My nearly easy-feeling 3:52:xx finish was just the icing on the NY-style cheesecake. Finally, December brought my all-around favorite race weekend of each of the past 5 years: Rehoboth!! We had another houseful of Loopsters traveling to Delaware (plus one who lives there) for the race and accompanying shenanigans. I had a much better marathon than last year's 12-mile puke-fest, thankfully! I felt really strong through the first half, and set a nice little 90ish-second PR at the halfway point (1:50:xx), and then crashed and burned pretty thoroughly, which was not exactly surprising as this was my 3rd marathon in 9 weeks. But I finished out my streak of sub-4:00 marathons with a 3:50:xx finish time and a smile on my face! It was still lots of fun, and everyone knows that the race is pretty much the least important part of that weekend anyway! As evidence, here is a carefully chosen (read: censored) selection of photos from the weekend: Packing the essentials... Me, SCLAthena, Ron Swanson's Stache, Zamgirl, and Bangle in our party van heading to Delaware! Loopsters in the kitchen! Flat HPS Finishing with a smile! Always my A-goal. Obligatory medal selfie. I do it for the 'gram. The medals were legit pretty cool this year tho... Selfie with Bangle and Quadracool! Party tent group pic! Posing with props More posing! OCRunnerGirl, Zamgirl, and I "rescuing" the balloons from the party tent Coffee, because going out the night after a marathon calls for a caffeine boost Post-race dinner! There will be no pictures from the shenanigans that happened after dinner... but lots of fun was had! On Sunday morning, I went for a nice walk along the boardwalk with NCAthlete, ASchmid, OCRunnerGirl, and Ron Swanson's Stache. Cozy Sunday afternoon watching football All too soon, it was Monday morning and time to head back to the real world. But this beautiful sunrise was a lovely way to start the journey home! After a stop for coffee, my vanpool of awesome Loopsters hit the road back to DC. My collection of Rehoboth medals. I'm already planning on adding another one in 2018! I ran 1,870 miles in 2017, a new personal best by 315 miles. There were some ups and downs in there, but overall it was an awesome running year, and I'm so glad that I got to hang out with Loopsters for five of my races this year and have some incredible new race experiences! I have some big goals for 2018 (really, just one BIG goal), but that's for another bloop. Maybe I'll even get that written before another month has passed? Anyway, happy 2018 Loopsters!
  9. amarie2009

    20 done

    I’m tired. Like really tired. Falling asleep ½ hour early every night and almost falling asleep at work tired. (Good thing I’m not an air traffic controller or a surgeon). Afraid at moments it’s an oncoming flu, but so far so good. I’ve never been more germophobic. I ran my one and only 20 miler for this training cycle on Saturday. It went well enough – I finished at a fair pace for me, but the IT band grumbled slightly again in the last 2 miles. This happened when I ran 15 a couple weeks ago. My 18 miler in between was fine. I’m working the MRTYL routine and core work and foam rolling hoping the IT band doesn’t so much as whisper in the race. I’ve been there and dealt with that, and I don’t want to do it again. My training has been abbreviated, but gone well. The 1 mile PR two weeks ago was a real surprise. It’s very unlikely I have the endurance to hold the pace I’d need to PR in the marathon at this point but I think I have a good shot of at least being under 5 hours. Since I haven’t completed a marathon in over a year and a half that’s something. (And the last marathon I did run was 5:17, but it was at elevation and a “trail” race.) So we’ll see. Just finishing without being miserable is a good goal. But the faster the better. I’m more nervous than I’ve been in a while. Usually getting to the taper makes me feel a little better (for the first week of the taper anyway) because I’ve made it through training without injury. I don’t feel a lot better yet. My freak foot injury happened after a perfect 20 miler when I missed doing St. Jude. I think I’ll feel confident about making it to the start when I’m standing at the start. All the things that could stop me are floating through my head…Flu bug (so much flu around!), tripping and falling, another freaky injury, travel problems (we haven’t had a major snowstorm here in forever, what if it comes the day I fly out?), oh I’m sure I could think of other things but I’m trying not to think about it. My last two marathons were fails close to the last minute (Well I’m past the point Memphis actually went bad for me). Random pains here and there, but since they haven’t lingered in anyway, I can chalk those up to high miles, and my head messing with me. My chiropractor did make a very good point last week when I saw him – he said “Don’t anticipate pain, because then your body will give it to you.” Good thing to remember. Hard for a worrier, worst case scenario anticipating person like me to actually do. Still running for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, making that final push to reach my fundraising goal - I'd love it if you donated, but I get that there a ton of places for your money to go, and I don't plan on asking continuously (here anyway). If you feel so inclined here's the link. Austin LLS fundraising
  10. The short: My finishing time of 2:54:XX (I have a few different finishing times at this point, but they all begin with 2:54) was nearly 10 minutes slower than the big dream goal time I went to Houston to chase, but I finished the race at peace with that. My attempt at double-peaking failed, which I knew was a risk, but I don't regret taking the chance; I had to try. I executed my race plan well, but simply didn't have enough in reserves. At mile 16 I knew that I could run 10 more miles, but I also knew it was going to be nowhere near 6:15 pace. I then went on to provide a fantastic example of how NOT to pace a marathon! With no chance at accomplishing my time goal, I ran those final 10 miles with all I had in me, with a big smile of my face, and while thanking God that I was out there. 2:54 is still my third best marathon (behind 2:47:14 and 2:49:20), and my fifth consecutive sub-3:00, so I am proud that I accomplished that on a day that I didn't have gas in the tank, even though of course I wish my risk has paid a better reward. Taking no chances means wasting your dreams, and I'm certainly not doing that! "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11 The actual finish wasn't quite like this The details: After running a 2:47:14 at the California International Marathon while on the tail-end of vertigo, I felt that 2:45:00 was within the realm of possibility off of my fitness if everything went perfectly, and decided to try another marathon mostly off of the same training cycle 6 weeks later. I've had good luck running two marathons close together several times, and often run slightly better in the second. Houston is known as a pancake flat fast course, and I was accepted into their Athlete Development Program way back in September when I decided that having a Plan B marathon would be nice. Because the winter dealt very cold temperatures to most of the country, the Houston race day weather ended up being ideal for fast racing, with a start time temperature of 34 degrees. Even though I had a lot of ups and downs (also detailed here and here) during the 6 weeks between my two marathons, I knew I'd always wonder "what if?" I didn't try Houston, so I went for it. Such an amazing field and race ambassadors I had a tentative pace plan for the race, but I also went into it with no expectations except to get the best 26.2 miles that I could get out of myself on that day. After chatting with several friendly runners while waiting and warming up in the ADP corral, I took off from just behind the amazing elite field that included Molly Huddle and Jordan Hasay, among many others in both the half and full distances. Unfortunately I could never see any of them, because my corral was brought up behind the invited elites at the last second before the gun. My plan was to run a tad slower at the beginning of the race than I did at CIM, starting with a 6:30 mile, keeping the rest of the first 5K at 6:25 pace, then dropping to 6:20 through the half (targeting 1:23 or slightly over for the half). For the second half I planned to target 6:15s. It was still mostly dark at the start! Jumping for joy (or to stay warm) pre-race Everything went according to plan for the first 14 miles (except for dropping half of a gel, which didn't phase me because I carry an extra; I also dropped my headband and arm warmers, intentionally). The course was very flat except for a few overpasses and underpasses, the pace felt easy, the miles clipped away, and I had people to run with. The field was not nearly as thick as at CIM, but I could always see others and ran with a few different groups. My Garmin was beeping right at the course mile markers, which was nice because I'd been worried about the tall buildings messing with it. There were also clocks at each mile marker, which I loved. I came through the half at 1:23:27, exactly 30 seconds slower than my first half at CIM, but I wanted to err on the side of being a little more conservative early on to see if that helped me finish stronger, so I was happy with that. However, unlike at CIM I did not feel confident about dropping to 6:15 pace, so I decided to stay at 6:20, figuring that it might not be my day for the 2:45 but maybe I could sit at 6:20 and come in for a PR of 2:46. We also turned into the wind just after the half, and those next few miles were pretty windy ones. At mile 15 I began feeling more unsure of myself, and by mile 16 I knew that it wasn't my day. I knew I could run 10 more miles, but that it was not going to be at 6:15-6:20 pace or anywhere close to it. My mile 15 split was the last one I looked at during the race, because I knew seeing my pace climb would hurt me more than it would help me. With my big time goal out of reach, I set a new goal: run the final 10 miles with joy and thankfulness, and with all my body could give. I put a big smile on my face and thanked God for the opportunity to run another marathon. After the race, several people commented that I was tough for sticking it out and that it must have been a rough final 8-10 miles. The funny thing is though, it wasn't. I was fine running 7:00ish pace for those final 8 miles. I sure as heck couldn't move any faster, but I wasn't breathing hard or in oxygen debt, and I never thought I was going to need to drop out, nor did I want to stop running. My pace did not show the progressive decline that I'd had before with a marathon bonk, and the miles still went by relatively quickly (unlike the final 3.5 miles of CIM, which seemed to take longer than the first 22.7 miles of it!). The best way I can describe it is that I simply didn't have gas in the tank to finish it fast, but my endurance allowed me to finish it consistently at around my long run training pace. Perhaps my glycogen stores weren't replenished fully, but I could operate in fat-burning mode? I really have no idea, but it was just different. I'm glad it wasn't a death march, but also perplexed as to why I couldn't for the life of me pick it up. For the first 15 miles of the race, my Garmin was beeping pretty much right at the mile markers and I made a very strong effort to run the tangents, but during the final 8 miles especially, I had a difficult time figuring out the tangents because of how the road curved and weaved, and my Garmin's distance kept creeping further and further off the course markers -- not that it really mattered, but if I run this race again I need to know the last long stretch of the course better and make a better effort to run the shortest route. A man around mile 24 even told me, "Run on the other side of the road, girl, it's shorter", which made me laugh. Many spectators told me that I was looking strong, maybe because of the smile on my face instead of my pace. It was a much different end compared to CIM. Mile 25 was a little slower because I stopped for a bit to check on and encourage a girl who was walking and crying (to be completely honest, this is something I would not have done had I been on PR pace), but otherwise I hovered right around 7:00 pace and then mustered a 6:20 pace kick at the end. The video my dad took of my finish is here. I laughed at the announcer saying that I was coming in with a "strong finish", but I guess did get back on pace for the final bit! Final stretch Finishing on the right (half marathoners are on the left) Finishers medal Prior to the race, if someone had asked me how I would feel about running 2:54 in it, I would have said that I'd be terribly disappointed, but in the end I wasn't. I was joyous to have run another marathon! Of course I would rather have had everything go perfectly and have run the 2:45:00, but it wasn't in me in this race. I didn't do anything wrong in regards to what I could control, and any day you can finish a marathon is a good one. The event, course, and weather were ideal; I simply didn't have the gas in the tank, which was a risk I knew I was taking going in. God is good all the time, and His plans are better than mine! Plus, being mad at yourself when you gave your all doesn't make you any faster next time (it has taken me many years to learn this!). Having my dad on the trip was a blessing Meeting up with Halley after her big half PR was also a blessing! In addition to providing a fantastic example of how NOT to pace a marathon, I learned several things. I will run two marathons mostly off of one cycle again, but I won't do it with a power-packed vacation (which we took in conjunction with CIM) and the holidays between. It was all just too much (not to mention all of the 10-12 hour work days I had between). It is probably also preferable to run one of the marathons close to home, as I have always done before. I liked the Houston course and if I run it again I'll be familiar with it and the area, which would reduce a lot of stress -- navigating the area in an unfamiliar huge city was no easy task in regards to parking, getting to the expo, finding restaurants, getting to the start, etc. (plus our map of and specified entrance for the ADP corral were not correct!). The entire experience was full of lessons that will help me in the future. This was also the first time I ran a marathon with an average pace in the 6:30s, as my other 4 sub-3:00's were average paces of 6:22, 6:27, 6:47, and 6:49. A year ago, my marathon PR was 2:58:53 and my big dream goal was to run under 2:55 (that was revised to 2:52 a few weeks before the Phoenix Marathon in February 2017 though). At Houston, I ran a 2:54 on a day when I had no gas in the tank. Maybe there is some chance that eventually I will be able to run 2:44:59 on a bad day. However, right now I am going to keep chasing it on a perfect day! Even if I never accomplish it, I will never regret trying. I don't regret running Houston, and I know that the results were a step for me in one way or another. Staying positive doesn't always mean things will turn out great; it's knowing that you will be great no matter how things turn out! Results can be found here, and mine are summarized below too. How NOT to pace a marathon! Additional details on how NOT to pace a marathon!
  11. Back in 2016 when I trained for the Fresno Marathon in November, I was in the best shape ever and ready to go for sub3...the race came, the weather was perfect and the miles passed by until mile 21 when my hammy had enough for the day....on 2:55 pace, I booked my first DNF, oh well. Fast forward, a 50 miler and a 3:02 training marathon later, I started training for the California International Marathon in August. The training cycle was mixed. Besides moving from Seattle to altitude in Denver, I had some issues with left lower hammy in October. The hammy/knee eventually improved but I missed 2 of the so important MP runs and adjusting to the Denver altitude took about 5-6 weeks. My confidence was boosted when I ran a +20 miler with 15 MP miles 3 weeks before the race, followed by a brisk 14 miler a week later at the same pace as in Seattle with less effort. I tapered well but honestly had no clue what would happen. I mainly put my hopes on the altitude bonus and the fact that I certainly had the training volume. I arrived in Sacramento on Friday afternoon, already on a carb high since my carb loading phase started that morning after a 5 day fat loading phase. I picked up my packet and consumed way too many of these delicious coffee latte cans they gave out at the expo. FWIW, I consumed about the equivalent of 9 espressos on Friday and 12 on Saturday... Later on Friday, I met for a late lunch with Kyan Matz. I got some good sleep from Friday to Saturday and headed to the hamster wheel in the hotel before 6 am....I wasn’t the only or the first one in the gym. No wonder, CIM served as the US Marathon Championships this year and the elites were staying at the same place... I ran 3 miles and finished my workout at 6:11 pace, further giving me a confident boost; maybe this altitude bonus is for real. Later that day, I met Sara, Dan and Donald. As I waited for Dan and Donald to head out for a pizza dinner, I saw Ryan Hall in the lobby. It was kinda funny, while current athletes were stopped for pics, Hall was in the lobby for 30 minutes and nobody cared. Dan, Donald and I got pizza and headed back to the hotel lobby. Dan’s buddy Eric joined us. The guy was blazing fast and ended up winning the Masters category on Sunday in 2:17, punching his 3rd OTQ at age 40. Damn! On Sunday, I got up at 3:30, had my bagel, gel and coffee before getting on the bus at 5:00. Everything was really well organized. I started my race with a 59 year old from Canada. The first 4 miles were strangely easy but I was running at 6:30 - 6:40, I decided to abandon my cautious racing plan to run 2:58-2:59 and just go big. The miles clicked away and I was on 2:53-2:55 pace, passing the half in 1:26 and change. Mile 15 came around and I realized for the first time that sub3 is mine if sh$% didn’t hit the fan. I decided to bank time until mile 20-22 and continued to run on pace...As I approached mile 22, I got super nervous: Would my leg hold up or blow-up again out of the blue like last year? Of course, I started to tire around mile 20 like all people do if you race and gun for a PR but I felt great and nothing hurt. A quick calculation and I realized that I could run 8:00 pace and still come in below 3 hours....Instead of pushing, I took some pace off, still running at sub3 pace for these miles but 15-20 seconds slower than before. The finish ended up more dramatic than expected, in the last curve, my left hipflexor cramped, a few seconds later I was across the finish in 2:55:07. I kneeled down to stretch my hipflexor and couldn’t get up...I tried but it wasn’t meant to be. Two volunteers arrived plus a third with a wheelchair...:”I am not getting into this thing, just put me back on my feet.” The two volunteers helped me to get up and I hobbled off while one volunteer ensured that I don’t hit the pavement in a few feet.. I got my Boston Cream Pie Cupcake from the Whole Foods stand and made my way back to the hotel. The race, while not easy, is fast. The field is usually deep, this year especially. I instantly fell in love with this race, of course the 5 minute PR helps but I really enjoyed the varied course, the supportive crowd and the great organization. I will def. be back.
  12. I wrote an excessive amount of detail about this race (links at the end of this post), but here is a short-ish overview! When I chose CIM, I selected it with the express purpose of trying for a 2:45:00 or faster marathon. God placed the dream of achieving an Olympic Trials Qualifying time on my heart, and after an almost painful amount of marathon research I decided that CIM would be my best chance after the qualifying window for the 2020 Trials opened this fall. As race day grew closer, I felt like I was ready for a PR, but not for a 2:45. 2:46-2:47 felt more realistic, and I lamented on this quite a bit during my taper. I ended up deciding to target 2:46:55, 6:22 pace. As marathons always do, once the race began, it took on a personality of it's own. Miles 1-10 were at an average of 6:22 pace - right where I wanted to be. Then something clicked in my head, and for the first time I felt confident that I could run a 2:45:00 after all. I typically hit a stride like this in the marathon, where I feel like I can conquer the world. I start thinking with endorphins, and thoughts like "6:15 is way too fast for that many miles" are replaced with "6:15 seems doable for the rest of the race". Around mile 10, I could hear my husband's advice in my head: "You should try for the 2:45; if you lose it at the end, you lose it at the end...but you'll never get it without trying." I could hear my coach saying, "6:22 is a good starting pace, but don't be afraid to drop the pace as the race progresses." I prayed, "God, please make us strong and brave" ("us" being my friends Jamie, Kris, and I -- full story about the miles I spent with each of them during this race to come). I suddenly believed that I could run the remaining 16 miles of the race at 6:15 pace, which I knew would get me in at just under 2:45. From miles 10-22.5ish I did just that. Each mile that passed I was hitting right around 6:15 pace, with some variation for elevation, and each time I passed a mile marker I just knew I could run the remaining distance at 6:15 pace. A similar thing happened to me at BMO Mesa-Phoenix, when I just knew I had the rest of the race in me at 6:30 pace or better (on the other hand, at Dallas I knew I was going to come up a few miles short). Mile 18 - yep, I've got 8 more miles of 6:15s in me. Mile 19 - yes, I can do 7 more miles of this. Doubt crept in here and there, and I would question if I had enough left, but I just kept running the mile I was in and praying to be brave. When I hit mile 20 in 2:06:10, I believed I could run the final 10K in 38:50, or 6:15 pace. For the first time in this entire training cycle, I fully believed I was ready for a 2:45. I thought of all of the fast finish runs I'd done; I was ready to close with a solid 10K. Then around mile 22.5, my neck started spasming. My legs were still intact, so initially I didn't worry, but tried to tilt it forward and to the sides for some relief. It quickly worsened, and I also became dizzy. I knew it was the benign paroxsymal positional vertigo (BPPV) I'd experienced during my taper, and I knew it was trying to steal my 2:45! I wasn't going to let it take my dream without a fight, but I quickly felt like I was losing the battle. I felt like a puppet, my head pulled back on a string. I couldn't keep my head forward and I couldn't see the road. My peripheral vision was off and I almost felt like I was running into the unknown. I tried to focus on a girl's head in front of me, and kept telling myself "just follow her in, just get in". I didn't see my final 3 mile splits because I couldn't look at my watch, but they weren't nearly good enough for the 2:45 (6:40, 6:46, 7:01 -- I did see mile 23 which was 6:26 for the start of my slow-down). I wasn't sure I was going to make it in at all, so my disappointment with slowing down was replaced with thankfulness to finish. Something is going to give at the end of a marathon, and this was just it for me in this one. I crossed the finish line in 2:47:14, a PR by over 2 minutes on a course that was more difficult than where I ran my 2:49 (you can't earn an OTQ at Phoenix due to the amount of net downhill). I was overcome by so many sensations at once: excruciating pain as I fell to the ground in the finish chute, joy for the PR and to have made it to the finish, and disappointment that after finally feeling like I could run a 2:45 for about 12.5 miles, I was unable to even come close. I finished 65th female in the USATF National Marathon Championships, after not being seeded in the top 100 going in. Could I have run faster had I stayed at 6:20-6:22 pace instead of dropping to 6:15? Most likely; pretty much anytime you slow down at the end of a marathon you're well-trained for it's because you didn't pace within your capacity earlier on, and it's always better to negative split. I may have gotten in at 2:46:30ish, but I still wouldn't have gotten the standard. As much as I hate not having a strong finish, I am glad I took the risk. A marathon PR is always a risk, and this Big Time Goal was a Big Gamble for me. One thing that's changed in addition to my bright shiny new PR is that, for the first time, I feel confident I can run a 2:45. It's going to take everything going right (no BPPV!), but now I know I have it in me. Phoenix was a turning point because I knew I had to try (who is going to run a 2:49 and not try?); CIM was the point that I knew I could do it (who is going to be content with a 2:47 when that 2:45 is right there?!). Just like after my 2:49 at Phoenix, even if I never run a faster marathon, I am really proud that I ran a 2:47. I am thankful God gave me the strength to run it and put people in my life to help me get there. It wasn't that long ago that 6:22.7 pace was my 10K pace, and as Jon told me, I ran 19:49 5Ks for 26.2 miles straight! I have over 2 years to find 134 more seconds. Trying is always going to be intimidating, because it's freakin' 6:17 pace for 26.2 miles! But as at CIM, God will make me brave enough to try. Official results aren't yet posted, presumably since it was the national marathon championships, but my unofficial results are here. This link also has a few race videos and links to several super ridiculous-looking race photos (we will just say that the crazy posture I ran the final few miles in is illustrated well, and I now can't look at them without laughing!). More from CIM: USATF National Championships Panel & Expo Pre-Race Calm & Camaraderie Miles 1-10: Anyone can run a good first 10K Miles 10-22.5: Finding confidence for the first time Miles 22.5-26.2: The beginning of the end Post-Race Tears & Post-Race Planning Marathon Day Fueling
  13. Marine Corps Marathon 2017 But there are times in our lives when we need to tilt at windmills, times when the scale of the quest frightens us, focuses us, and motivates us to stretch higher than before. The fact that we’ll more than likely fail is largely the point. (Jonathan Beverly, Runners World) This was my 3rd time running the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) and my 8th marathon. Getting a BQ back in January put me in an interesting place for this marathon. I wasn’t worried about my finishing time and that meant I could just race without worrying what would happen if everything went wrong. 17 weeks of training, more miles than I had ever run before, intervals on Tuesdays, long tempos on Thursdays, no injuries. I was ready ….. but how ready? My PR from January was 3:31:25 and I was pretty sure I could go under that. Was a sub 3:20 possible? (Hint – nope) I had a plan, well maybe not so much a plan but maybe a dare – run by feel, run hard and see what happens. Glory or spectacular failure. The local running club offered a bus ride and a hotel conference room near the finish line which worked pretty well – I was able to avoid dealing with the metro system or parking and got to meet a number of other local runners. After being able to relax, use a real bathroom (several times), it was time to walk the 1.5 miles to the start line. The only worry now was about the weather – how warm would it get and how quickly. The start temp was low fifties, not bad but it wouldn’t stay there. The MCM has start corrals but they operate on the honor system – and, unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of honor going on. I lined up between the 3:15 and 3:25 pacers; and after the National Anthem, a V22 Osprey flyover and the other usual start line ceremonies, the cannon fired and we were off. Kind of. It seems like a lot of slower runners decided that they needed a head start and had seeded themselves with the 3 hour marathoners. So the first mile had a lot stutter stepping and weaving; at one point I was on the shoulder of the 3:15 pacer who expressed some frustration over the situation. (I’ve had a lot of races where there is some weaving, but this was at a whole other level.). So after a slow first mile I did the natural thing when I hit the long downhill and made up all of the lost time (not smart but it was fun to turn the legs loose). Finally settling down after the madness of the start, I started to get the reins gathered back in and settled into the race. Knowing the heat to come, I made sure to get a cup of water to drink and another to dump on my head. After romping through the early miles in Virginia it was time to spend a bunch of time in DC. First was Georgetown where I knew Caitlin would be cheering. Resulted in a nice boost in early race morale and my favorite photo from the race (and the one I didn’t have to pay for). 8:00 7:26 7:23 7:06 7:24 After Georgetown, the race took on an out and back up Rock Creek Park. Downside: out and backs mean ugly u-turns. Upside: got to see the race leaders Upside: I really enjoy running in Rock Creek Park. Factoid: Rock Creek Park was the third National Park created by Congress Bonus Factoid: it’s larger than Central Park. 7:22 7:41 7:28 7:27 7:27 After the Park we hit what is, for me, the mentally tough part of the course – East Potomac Park and Haines Point. This part has been a real hard for me in the past. There aren’t any hills; it’s actually dead flat. It’s not that far into the race; Haines Point is the race’s midpoint. I’m not sure what the problem is other than it is a bit lonely and maybe bit boring? Got through it this without having a brain meltdown and felt pretty decent this time. 7:18 7:35 7:28 7:30 7:28 Now the race started get fun as it made lap of the National Mall which is the highlight of the race. Monuments, the Capital, Smithsonian buildings. It was somewhere in this section that I started to the burn in my quads. Since it wasn’t hamstrings or hips (old injury sites) I wasn’t too worried except for just how much the race was going to hurt in the end. By now I was also starting to notice that it was getting warm. 7:28 7:25 7:30 7:23 7:33 And then the race got really hard. This where the course crosses the Potomac on the I 395 bridge. There are some really iconic bridges in DC and isn’t one of them – uphill, highway, no spectators, mile 20. And you’re on it forever. I was hoping to be able to pick the pace after the bridge in Crystal City but it wasn’t happening – for me or anyone else either. I slowed down but there weren’t many people passing me either. The heat caught up to us and the slog was on. 7:38 7:46 7:57 7:41 8:17 The final mile of the race is a slight uphill from the Pentagon toward Arlington finishing with a short and very nasty final hill to finish before the Marine Memorial. The hill hurts but you can see the finish and there are Marines urging you on – finish as strong as you can. 8:17 8:34 – 3:20:55 After shaking hands or fist bumping about 20 young Marine 2LTs after the finish I received my medal, a salute and the race was officially over. I missed my “everything goes great goal” of 3:20 but I made all the important goals and was on pace for most of the race to have crushed the 3:20. · PR (previous was 3:31:25) · BQ (needed 3:40) · Make the top 20 in the Age Group; I finished 9th! · Run aggressively. OK, I may have overdone this one a little bit. A walk through the finish area and I was soon back to the running club’s hotel convention room where I was able to clean up a little, change clothes, get something to eat and catch up with other runners as they finished their races. I finally took the Metro home and spent several days hobbling around – my legs were completely trashed but trashed in a good way. I didn’t break 3:20 and I maybe could have if I had run a little more conservatively but I’m actually happy with how I ran and how the race ended. Age-Graded Score: 71.39% Age-Graded Time: 2:52:13
  14. Jeff C.


    A long time ago… The four of us huddle in the dorm room, lights low, a single candle burns on the coffee table. The candle sits in a mountain of wax covering what was simply a Budweiser bottle just a few hours ago. Each of us digs at the candle, at the wax-mound with glowing hot paperclips. Heat the paperclip in the flickering flame, sculpt the wax; heat, sculpt, repeat. We’re stoned silly. And profoundly drunk—yet hyper-aware, attuned to our surroundings. Deafening music rattles the room. Screaming guitars, pounding bass. Each note dissected and analyzed. Our sharpened senses register the smallest nuances—the pulse, the electricity in the room. Our dilated pupils catch the slightest movements. All except for the half-full bottle of beer sharing a bookshelf with the stereo speaker. Ever-so-slowly, the bottle has vibrated its way to the edge of the shelf. It teeters. Eight eyes snap to attention, watching. The bottle tips, plunges to the carpeted floor. It hits just beyond parallel, spits out a splash of beer and bounces up straight. It lands squarely upright and sticks the landing. A small fizz of foam escapes from the neck. But barely enough to dampen the carpet. We dissolve into laughter. A half an hour later, it’s obvious the trip has climaxed. We begin the long process of sobering up. Wait. This story is about the other LSD. Runner’s LSD—Long, Slow Distance. The last time I ran fast was a year ago—during the first loop of the two-loop Big Elk Trail Marathon. I was well trained, fit, properly tapered, and mentally prepared. I attacked the first half—a brisk pace, everything according to plan. But then the heat picked up, and it picked me apart. The temperature took control. The second loop was more of a jog… or a walk. I’m not sure I’ve ever recovered. It took me weeks to get my legs back. By then, I’d settled into a plodding jog—sixty to ninety seconds off my pre-marathon pace. My running program stalled for the summer. Maintenance mode: one run per week. Out at sunrise each Saturday, the grass drenched with dew, pockets of chill still in the air, I’d jog off for an hours-long run. Slower and slower each week. Months later, for my October birthday, I checked an item off my bucket-list. I knocked out a 50K. Running at a pace I could sustain all day, I did just that: I ran all day—or most of it. My languid pace reinforced by achievement. That slightly sore heel I ignored all summer finally stepped from the shadows. Plantar fasciitis—a hobbling case. I took a break from running. Nothing until March, almost: In November, I ran my favorite season-ender. A rocky, hilly 15K in the foothills of the Appalachians. When the gun went off, the small crowd raced away from me. The men, the women, the seniors, even the children, they all set a pace I couldn’t match. Historically, I’m a mid-packer, occasionally an age-group winner. For the first time in my life, I lost a race. I came in last. My winter break is over. My foot is mostly healed, but I’m limiting my distance anyway. I’m capping my runs around five miles right now. When I started up again, I vowed to use this cautious, low-mileage period to work on speed. I planned to push my pace back down to a respectable clip. I’m not trying to win races, but I set myself a clear goal: don’t lose again. In the two months since I restarted running, I’ve focused on a couple of primary workouts. Tempo runs and hill repeats. These are my favorite ‘hard’ runs. Speedwork? No—I figured I’d put that off for a while. Here’s what I found: The running I’ve enjoyed the most this year is when I’m grinding up a long, relentless hill. As it turns out, I like running slowly. It relaxes me. I enjoy my runs more when I jog. I don’t mind running hard—many of my hills are tiring even to walk—I just don’t seem to like running fast anymore. My long, slow distance runs throughout last summer left me feeling peaceful, happy, maybe even intoxicated. I didn’t notice because I wasn’t paying attention. I gave up drug use decades ago, but I only quit drinking last year. Alcohol was an addiction that weighed heavily on me. There was no joy in it, it no longer relaxed me. Alcohol became something to fret over—it stressed me out. And a few months later, without realizing it, I replaced alcohol with distance—long, slow distance. My new drug. I won’t say that I’m done trying to push my pace; I might even attempt to train-up for another age-group medal someday. But for now, I’m done beating myself up over LSD. It’s become my favorite way to get a buzz.
  15. Hello everyone! I wrote this post a little over a week ago and posted it in my non-Loop blog runeatralph.wordpress.com. If you’ve been reading there, you might know that I ran the Richmond Marathon, which I trained hard for 16 weeks to prepare for with the hopes of a Boston Marathon Qualifier. Unfortunately, things just didn’t work out the way that I’d hoped or planned for. That’s the tough thing about marathons, really. You can do it all right up until race day and just not have it. I didn’t have it. I was supposed to run with MC, but we never met up at the start. I ended up spotting her about 50 yards ahead of me, pacing like a metronome. When I spotted her, I decided that I needed to run my own race and didn’t want to expend the effort of chasing her down until later in the race. That time never came. She ended up running the goal time and doing an amazing job. I’m happy for her and proud of her. As you can see above, I started out right on pace (a little fast, actually) and things seemed to be moving right along. The weather was just right (uncomfortably cold to start out). My watch wouldn’t get a GPS signal. Several of us had that problem. It could be because thousands of us were trying all at the same time. That led me to try to run my first few miles by feel. They were fast, and that led to a 10k time that was more aggressive than I wanted to be. Even with that, I felt fairly relaxed. I don’t think I had quite the lung capacity that I normally have, which could have been the cold weather but it also was a bit of residual effect from being sick all week. Up until race day, I was popping Vitamin C like a crazy person while chugging tea and taking those little dissolving zinc cold therapy pills all in a last ditch effort to get well. Around mile 11 is when I started to notice something bad. My left achilles tendon. It wasn’t a deal breaker, but it was noticeably unlike my right achilles tendon. Here’s the worst part…there were signs. For weeks, I’d been complaining about a tight left side from my calf down. It was nagging, but I ran through it. Basketball made it worse, but I kept playing anyway. I stretched it out every once in a while, but not enough. My wife even did her best to suggest that I do more to take care of it, but I just assumed everything would be fine just like it always is. I’ll bet I can look back at my training posts and I mentioned the issue at least once. As I crossed the half-marathon marker, the discomfort became a stabbing pain. It was the kind of stabbing pain that a normal person can’t (and shouldn’t) run through. I had to stop. I rubbed it and stretched it. I got going again. The pain subsided for a bit and I was cautiously optimistic that maybe things would be ok. As I got back up to speed, I realized that I was going to have trouble getting any sort of push. I tried to change up my stride to more of a shuffle with less need for pushing off. I got that going for a bit, but I knew that eventually that wasn’t going to cut it. For the first time in all of my running, I considered a DNF (Did Not Finish). The thoughts came before mile 18 where my brother in law and lovely wife were waiting for me. At that point, they knew something was wrong based on the time I came in. I tried not to cry when I told them that something had gone wrong with my achilles. I wanted a hug. I grabbed a drink and went on my way. I had decided to go ahead and finish. I spent the next 8 miles shuffling when I could with lots of walking in between. I stopped caring. I had some beer at around mile 20. It was the WORST beer I’ve ever consumed. Some abomination called Sprint Light. It made me smile though. After that, I spent the next 6 miles feeling pain and shame. I tried to tell myself that this stuff happens, but that didn’t make it any easier to swallow it. Lots of people tried to encourage me onward and I appreciated it, but I hated it too. As I came closer to the finish, I was talked into jogging it in to finish strong. As I jogged in and heard the crowd, I stopped being sad. I even managed to smile when running buddy and fellow Hill City Harrier Robbie took a pic of me coming in. I wish I had a good story to tell about Richmond. They took some good pictures and if things had gone well, I’d buy them. Here are a couple that really show the optimism of the early race and the pain of the 2nd half. It’s all in the eyebrows. This isn’t much of a race report, but I also want to say how much I love Richmond and the race. It truly is the friendliest marathon. I can’t blame anything about the race at all. They do an amazing job. Check out the awesome SWAG we got. I only wish I didn’t have to associate it with failure. I want to say thank you to every single one of you that have read, or commented, or anything. So many of you have shared encouragement, or wisdom, or just a laugh. It’s all been appreciated, believe me. I tried to think of all of you as I struggled through. It makes me smile. It brings me inspiration and motivation. I also want to say congrats to others who got their BQs, or their PRs, or whatever goals they had in mind. It takes courage to set goals (and tell people about them) and strength and determination to meet them. I’m proud of all of you. Now if you’ll excuse me, Rehoboth is in 3 (now less than 2) weeks. I need to get ready…
  16. I think my best answers are: ...worked late, completed my second run of the day, then helped my daughter with homework, prepared and ate dinner, and did other random things at home, then quickly it was 9:00 p.m. I went to bed wearing the clothes I'd run in, and then the next morning I woke up and ran in them again! ...almost ran 3 times in a day. I had a double, and ran my second run at lunch, but all of my days were running together and I forgot I'd run it. I got dressed to run after work, and then saw my lunch run laundry and double checked Strava to ensure that I was in fact done for the day! But in the end this was winning, because I just slept in my running clothing and ran in it the next morning (clean this time!). Clearly I am most likely to make tired errors on double days that result in sleeping in running clothing! What's your fill in the blank? Disclaimer: I actually felt fantastic overall throughout this marathon training cycle (and the three before it). If you are constantly tired and worn down with beaten up legs during any training cycle, you are probably over-training (I did this a lot prior to working with a coach).
  17. mattw

    Piece Of Cake

    The chocolate cake in the glass case caught my eye as soon as I approached the counter of the small town coffee shop. My wife saw it too and smiled knowingly at me. I said, "But I gotta have some kind of lunch first." I asked the guy for a bagel and he said, "Sorry we're out of bagels." It was approaching 1 o'clock; you can't expect bagels to be available all day. "Okay," I replied without much hesitation, "I'll have a piece of chocolate cake. And a glass of plain milk if you have it." Chocolate cake is not good fuel for a Sunday long run. Running Buddy Tim who is training for Phoenix has been dragging me along and the next day was to be no different. Luckily for dinner I did a little better with a roast beef sandwich with au jus and chips. RB's plan had 16 miles with 12 at marathon pace. He says 7:10 for those MP miles, but we somehow averaged 7 flat with the last one being the fastest at 6:48. A good workout despite a lunch of cake. The Charlotte Marathon was this past weekend. I ran that marathon two years ago today and pulled off a sub-3 finish. It was not an easy feat and I don't know if I'll ever do it again. I blew up at Boston this past April for whatever various reasons. But I suppose the itch has been persistent enough that it's time to think about it again. Eighteen weeks from this past Sunday is the Tobacco Road Marathon up near Raleigh. I have not run it but know a few who have. The majority of it is on a mostly flat railroad converted trail that is partially paved and partially fine crushed gravel. I'm not 100% on the details, but I think instead of Gu, the aid stations provide chewing tobacco. I guess I'll have to practice some long runs with that. And I have heard the post-race cigarettes are top quality. Due to the MP miles on Sunday, I already shuffled this weeks plan around a bit, but still got in 9 miles this morning. My alarm has been set for 4am on 3 days of the week so I can fit it in before eating, showering, and biking to work. Unlike my Saturday lunch, this training cycle will not be a piece of cake. I leave you with a family pic from Sunday evening where we waited for the Santa parade and tree lighting at a local shopping center.
  18. TL;DR: Wineglass Marathon was amazing! I ran my most consistent race and got a PR by nearly 6 minutes. Parents and Loopsters made it extra-special. 10/10, would run again. The parents and I arrived in Corning, NY, late Friday afternoon. We checked into our hotel and met up with Liz and Peg for a drink and bite to eat nearby. It’s always great to catch up with Loopsters, and it was fun for my parents to meet some of the people that I talk about so much. It had been a long day of driving from Massachusetts, so we called it a night pretty early. Saturday morning started out with a short and fun shakeout run with the Loop ladies: Later in the day, we went to the Corning Museum of Glass, where the race expo was held. Very cool venue for sure! The expo was surprisingly large for such a small race, and the swag we got was top-notch. High quality half-zip pullover specific to the race distance (which I LOVED! I’m always kind of disappointed when there’s a single shirt for all distances), a wine glass, a split of sparkling wine, and a nice drawstring backpack to put it all in. After the expo, the parents and I visited the museum itself, which was very cool! We saw some contemporary art installations made of glass, as well as some breathtaking glass mosaics made and/or designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. On Saturday evening, the parents and I went to the official pre-race pasta dinner, because securing a dinner reservation in Corning turned out to be way more stressful than I would have expected. So the official dinner seemed like the safest bet, and the menu we saw online was much actually really great-looking! Turns out that this was one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend! I shouldn’t have been surprised, because runners are the best people ever. But our tablemates were completely delightful, and we quickly got into sharing race stories and training experiences and our goals for the next morning. The food was plentiful and delicious, and I tried a couple of new things that worked out amazingly well and might become part of my goal race routine: gluten-free pasta (this one was corn-based) and a baked potato. I picked the corn pasta because it was spaghetti-shaped, while the regular wheat pasta was short (farfalle or something) and I just like long pasta better. But my stomach was noticeably calmer than usual the next morning, so maybe it’s something to consider for future races. Anyway, the main attraction of the pre-race dinner was the featured speaker: Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray! He was funny, self-deprecating, charming, and inspiring as hell. It was such a great way to get pumped up for the next day’s race, and definitely further stoked my desire to qualify for and run Boston in the near-ish future (more on that eventually. I’m not ready to put my plans down in black and white yet.). After dinner, we went back to the hotel and got ready for race day! Mom and I got our flat girls ready (she was running her second half-marathon!) and we put ourselves to bed. #racenailsonpoint The next morning dawned cold and crisp, which was exactly perfectly right for an October race in central NY! But for this pseudo-Southerner used to the never-ending DC summer, it was soooooooo cold!! I just kept telling myself how good it would feel once we got running. Mom and I caught our respective buses to the half- and full-marathon start lines (the half-marathon started at the half-way point of the full course), and I quickly found the other Loopsters once I got to the marathon start line staging area. Another awesome thing about Wineglass: they had a lovely big tent for us to wait in, which got nice and toasty once several hundred runners were packed inside! It was so great to be able to stay warm-ish and sit down on actual chairs while waiting to toe the line. Eventually it was time to walk over to the start line and get this show on the road! I chucked off my layers of Dad’s old sweatshirts and lined up next to the 3:45 pacer. Most of my training this summer had been done with a 3:40 in mind, but then I hurt my back in August and missed about three of the highest-intensity weeks of the training plan. I’d felt good in the few weeks leading up to the race, but I knew those weeks off had cost me something. I thought that an 8:35 pace seemed reasonable, all things considered, and figured I’d start there and if I had to back off, then so be it. The gun went off and we ran into the misty morning. The fog was pretty thick for almost the first half of the race, and it kept the air quite chilly! I didn’t ditch my gloves or makeshift tube sock arm warmers until at least 10 miles in, which is highly unusual for me. I stuck to the pacer like glue, and to my pleasant surprise, the 8:35ish pace felt practically effortless. After battling the heat and humidity of DC for so many months, feeling cold while running was kind of amazing and definitely made a huge difference in my race. The course (or at least what we could see of it through the fog) was pretty and quiet and rural. There were small pockets of spectators as we went through small towns, but it was pretty zen overall. I just listened to my music and tried to trust the pacer rather than check my own watch every few minutes. The pace group was pretty big, and several people were chatting steadily as we ran. I tried to tune them out and just keep my breathing steady and not worry about anything more than taking my gels on time. The pace was still feeling really good at the halfway point, and when the pacer peeled off to use the bathroom I took the opportunity to surge ahead a little bit. I was tired enough that his banter and people’s talking was getting annoying, and I wanted to just run my own race from this point on. I tried to keep my pace as steady as I could just ahead of them. I felt pretty good about the fact that they never passed me after that. Around Mile 18 or so I really started to drag, and I focused on just getting through the intervals in between gels. I felt so good about how the race had gone thus far, and worked hard to maintain that psychological momentum if not the physical. I didn’t let my pace stray too far above the 8:35 target, and I tried to take it one mile at a time. Eventually I reached the little bridge that leads into downtown Corning, and there was only one left turn remaining between me and that finish line. I took out my earbuds when I made the turn onto Market Street with about half a mile to go. This would be the greatest number of spectators I’d seen all day and I wanted to soak up the cheering, because I knew that I’d run my butt off for a nice PR! This was my face when I knew that I was about to finish in 3:45:xx: Official time: 3:45:21. A PR by 5 minutes and 39 seconds, and my most steady marathon splits ever: I definitely credit the pace group with keeping me in line during the first half of the race, and enabling me to save up the energy for the second half. Such an awesome race calls for another Bangle Pump: I spotted Peg shortly after I finished and got the quick version of her race. After getting some snacks, I found my parents back along Market Street. My mom had finished her race with a 7-minute PR! Then I got to see Liz finish looking crazy fast and strong! Eventually we got all the Loopsters back together for a group picture. PRs all around!! Wineglass is just that awesome! I printed out my official results, which I have almost certainly since lost but it was nice to have the record in-hand even briefly. In another super cool feature, they had these race clocks where you could punch in your bib number and bring up your time for a photo op: Everything about this race weekend fell into place perfectly. I really can’t recommend it highly enough. I was really worried about how my unplanned time off would affect my fitness. This may not have been exactly the time I’d planned for at the beginning of my training cycle, I really couldn’t be happier with how I felt or how I did once it all came together. Now that the goal race for the fall is behind me, I’m focusing on having fun! To that end, I leave on Thursday for what will surely be a VERY different New York marathon experience: the New York City Marathon on November 5th!! I can’t wait to get to the city and see all of the craziness of the expo and race pavilion and everything. It’s sure to be an unforgettable race experience.
  19. The babe with the power... For some reason my whole life, my sister and I have had a strange obsession with the movie The Labyrinth our whole lives - Bowie is dreamy. Random, I know, but it fits in with my 2017 MDI Marathon experience because I added "Magic Dance" to my playlist for the race. As I mentioned in my race preview, I wasn't feeling super confident in my training going into this race. It had even come to the point where I was telling myself, "if you don't finish, it's okay, you can rationalize it with the training..." Regardless, I got up on race morning and felt pretty good - a little tightness in my lower back that I had been dealing with for about a week, but everything else felt fresh at the start line. This race has the best start line tradition. After the National Anthem is sung or played, they blare "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC, and the atmosphere at the line immediately becomes charged. It's something I've never felt before at another race. Halfway through the song, while everyone bounces and dances in place, a cannon sounds and the race is off. Mount Desert Island is a really hilly island, so almost every part of this race is up or down. Miles 1-5: I was right around 9 minutes for all of these miles. There's a killer hill that lasts from basically 3-5 miles. It's not steep, but it goes on for all two miles and can be a little bit soul sucking. One of my favorite things about this race is that it winds its way through tiny towns across the island, and there is support all over the place - some locals sit on their front porch and give you a nod or a little wave as you wander by while others are banging drums, strumming banjos, or bouncing up and down cheering their heads off. Having lived in Maine my whole life, I find that it is a really interesting snapshot of Mainers. Miles 6-13.1: This section might be the "flattest" of the whole race, while definitely not being flat. I was still feeling really great at the halfway point, averaging between 9 and 9:30/miles in this section. I made it to the halfway point in 2:01:42 and was really surprised at how good I felt. I had a friend running who was doing the two person relay, but her partner got injured so when she was supposed to switch out with him at the halfway point, she kept going. Usually she's way ahead of me, but she was taking a break at the half when I came around the corner and jumped back into the race with me. I remember telling her that I might have been a little aggressive in the first half of the race, and that I was going to try to run for as long as I could before taking a walk break. She said she was going to run to the St. Jude aid station (mile 19) and drop there. She got a bit ahead of me, but I was proud that I could keep her in sight for the rest of my race. Miles 13.2-20: About mile 15 I started to feel the first half of the race a little bit. I thought my pace might have been a little aggressive for the level of training that I had put in, but I maintained the 9-9:30/mile pace through this section. This part of the race is pretty lonely as you are running down Solmes Sound - fun fact, it's the only fjord on the East Coast - which is totally isolated except for the aid station at mile 16. However, an awesome surprise this year was a big fishing troller in the water blaring music and honking its horn with the crew waving and cheering. They were a huge pick me up. At this point my play list was really playing a big part in keeping me moving. I basically danced from mile 16 to the finish as a distraction. In retrospect, I'm pretty impressed with the playlist that I put together; it ran the gamut on genre and it was excellent. When I passed my parents at mile 18 "Magic Dance" from the Labyrinth came on my playlist and I briefly serenaded my mother as I ran by her. Miles 20-26.2: Here's where my early pace caught up to me. I ran every. single. step. through mile 20. Considering I didn't do a single 20 mile run during my training for the race (things kept coming up each time I had one planned), I was pretty proud of this. Even after 20 miles, my walk breaks were short, and typically hill related. Basically, once you turn the corner at mile 20, the rest of the race goes uphill. I was still feeling pretty good at this point, despite taking some walk breaks. This part is really spectator friendly so DH and my parents basically leap-frogged me in the car from about mile 18 to the finish - I saw them before this, but it's not super easy to get to most of the "spectator spots" on the course. We've got it pretty much down to a science at this point since this was my fifth time running the race. I see them at mile 12, 18, and then they stop as many times as they want until the end of the race. It was really nice to get a little boost from seeing them each time they would stop. When you get to about mile 24.5 you've made it to the top of the last hill and are greeted by the best aid station in the whole race. First, they had cardboard cut outs of Star Wars characters set up along the prior mile, and their music is so loud you can hear them before you see them. At this point in the day it was drizzling, so they had been standing out there for a while getting wet, but they were so enthusiastic. One woman had candy corn in a bucket which she was covering with her jacket; every time she offered it to some one it felt like a shady street deal, which was making me giggle. From the top of the hill aid station it's a glorious, but painful downhill to the finish. I hit about 25.5 miles and all of a sudden I hear my name over a loudspeaker and a couple of short siren blasts. My dad is a retired police officer and he had friends at the race. My parents and DH saw two of my dad's cop-buddies at the finish line getting ready to leave and jokingly said if you see her blow the siren. And they did. It was a really funny moment as people looked around to see who the cop was cheering at. It started raining a little harder as I got closer to the finish, but I was pushing it. I realized at about 25 miles that I was close to matching the time I ran at the Maine Coast Marathon earlier this spring (I was in much better shape for that race but the rain, cold temps, and gusty winds squashed my time goals), so I was pushing hard. I ended up finishing in 4:13:52, three minutes slower than my spring race, but way ahead of where I thought I would be. I never feel much like eating as soon as I'm done the race, but I wandered into the food tent and grabbed a bagel to snack on because we wouldn't be stopping for food for a little bit (MDI is VERY rural other than Bar Harbor). The worst part of the race is that parking is about a 1/2 mile from the finish line. The last thing you want to do after running a marathon is walk a 1/2 mile to sit down. I'm just about a week and a half post-race and everything feels great. I recovered quickly from the race and was back to my normal routine (maybe a little slower) on Wednesday last week. As far as the rest of the year goes, I've got a couple of turkey trots coming up in November and then Rehoboth in December. Can't wait! I'm running the half again this year. Not only is it a super fun trip with Loopsters, but we get to see DH's mom and stepdad while we are down there for our Hanukkah/Christmas celebrations. They live in Maryland, so it's an easy excuse to go down for the race. Happy running everyone.
  20. amarie2009

    Intimidating 18

    At what point does a distance start to get intimidating? For me right now I think it seems to be about 18 miles. Up to 13 I do all the time, even when I’m not training for anything I will run around 10-12 miles every weekend. It’s always nice to be ready to run a half at any time. 14, 15, 16 seem like only a tiny bit more – no big deal. But 18? 18 miles took me 3.5 hours this past weekend. 18 requires serious planning. I need make sure I have enough gus, water, sports drink etc. I know I need to think more carefully about what I do the day before. A lot can go wrong in 18 miles. You want to make sure you end up where you started at the right point. Plan wrong and you have to run even farther because you aren’t home or by your car. Or you have to run past your car to get another mile or two in at the end. And that is hard. Then comes 20 the following week… I did my 18 as 3 loops of Forest Park in St. Louis. I usually see people I know beyond the Team in Training people I usually meet. First loop was easy and with a TNT friend all the way, but she just did a marathon a couple weeks ago and not running any farther. The next 2 loops were on my own. I did see other people, included Doug who took my picture. It was an unusually good running picture. For one thing I actually look like I’m running and I at least look like I’m enjoying myself. It was only mile 9 so I wasn’t too tired at that point. The rest of the second loop wasn’t bad except for the thought I had to do it all again! Once I got going on the third lap it was better because I could think to myself, I don’t have to run past this spot again and I had enough miles I didn’t have to add the extra bit to make the loop an actual 6 miles. It was a nice day, but I was worn out by the end. My legs and feet ached the rest of the day. But by Sunday morning I felt fine. No soreness is good. I haven’t been taking ice baths and it is supposed to be cold on Saturday so I doubt I’ll want to then either, but maybe I’ll take an Epsom salt bath in the evening. Scientifically it may not be proven to do much, but it feels good and I can enjoy the placebo effect. Tomorrow night I’m going to a Halloween party, I’ve got my costume together, it’s a retro Hawaiian tourist complete with authentic 70s era dress, camera from anytime from the 50s to the 70s and free leis all from running expos I think. The biggest problem is that it is going to be cold. I’m not going to want to spend a lot of time outside by the fire. And since I’m running 20 miles the next day starting by 7am I won’t be having more than 1 drink (probably none, and since I almost never have more than 1 anyway, I guess it’s not that big of a loss) and I’ll be leaving early. I made chocolate chip cookie brownies and I’m taking crackers and dip as well. There will be all kinds of food that isn’t ideal for before a long run. I’m going to eat it anyway, but try to limit the amount. Usually I’m fine as long as whatever I eat isn’t super heavy (like a lot of pizza or a huge burger). The 20 is looking pretty intimidating, but maybe less so than it might because although the group itself isn’t meeting officially, I have people who have all promised to run part of the 20 with me and they will cover the whole thing if it works out right. So I’ll actually have a lot more company than I have had on my long runs so far. I’m glad. The late miles have been challenging. Long miles are more enjoyable when you share them.
  21. Hi guys! I feel like a lot has changed since I used to post a lot more a couple of years back. The difference between my first marathon (2010) and my tenth marathon: one of them I just wanted to finish, and one I was desperately trying to hit a certain time goal so maybe, possibly, I could come close to a BQ. Just wanting to finish was my goal last week, for the running of my tenth marathon. Isn't life freaking funny? Spoiler alert: I did finish, and it was an hour and two minutes slower than my first marathon, and idgaf. The difference between now and then is that I've realized some things can be measured empirically: like the time it takes to finish 26.2 miles, and some things cannot be measured- like mental health. I could wax poetic about the struggles of having mental health issues and how it affected me, but I'm so over it. I signed up for a marathon, struggled with anxiety & depression and then things got weird and I stopped running, finally saw a therapist, got medicated and now I'm back to normal- maybe even better than normal! Albeit, maybe 10 pounds heavier and slightly out of shape. Anyways, this marathon. I looked back at my training log and it is pitiful- my longest long run was 16 miles twice, and I averaged maybe 25-30 miles a week on peak weeks (I will mention, I'd go to at least two hours of intense power yoga classes a week). Add to that, I had created a really cute training log journal and then ... very sporadically used it. About a month prior to the marathon, on another botched long run (I was hoping for 20, only got 16) I realized how poorly under trained I was, that it was too late to switch to the half, and that I was just going to have to suck it up and do the full and try to have a good attitude about it. Fast forward, about a week before running this marathon, I discovered a beautifully fabulous running group in my vicinity- including a trail running group that runs at the very same trails I frequent solo- as well as a group that meets about 5 minutes from my house almost every morning of the week before work. I started with a wonderful 7 mile trail run, then a Tuesday and Thursday 6am run. I am not a morning person. But I RAN IN THE MORNING and I survived, and it actually worked amazingly with my schedule. The more I ran with this group, the more I actually loved running and the more excited I got about this marathon! There were no nerves, no expectations of time, just to finish. I felt so supported and accepted by my new running group, plus feeling like I wasn't the only crazy one in this city. Packet pickup had me all sorts of excited. Race eve I attended a wedding of my college roommate, but the BF and I snuck out early and went to bed at a reasonable hour. It was basically the ideal pre-race evening even with such a crazy day before the race. I woke up excited and refreshed, and minus some pre-race confusion, the race seemed to start really smoothly. It was like 75 degrees though, and pretty humid. I started two corrals behind where I was placed because I knew I was going to be running a lot slower than originally planned. I took it easy the first half- 9:50 - 10:30 minute miles, felt great! Even when things got dicey around the 17th mile and I needed to refill my water bottle (yes, it was THAT humid) and then got crazy windy, I never once guessed not being able to finish. I got it in my head I'd finish under 5 hours, no matter what it took. And I did- 4:54, and a LOT of chafing and I earned my medal. I have decided I can't be as obsessively focused on tracking workouts, making crazy detailed plans and doing hard workouts all the time right now, which kind of sucks, but keeping myself half-marathon ready is much more do-able. And hey- new running buddies! I'm looking forward to trying to (attempting) to become active here like the old days of the loop in my sparse free time. Yay, loopsters!
  22. Avivocaruns

    I did a thing

    First: Good news! My dad does NOT have cancer! His oncologist said it looks like a cyst on his kidney and they will do a follow-up MRI in six months to see if it has desolved or changed. He still has Hep C, so he will begin treatment for that soon. Now. I did a thing. I printed out a marathon training schedule that takes 30 weeks and builds slowly and steadily. I am signing up for a marathon on October 27 (aka payday). It will be the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon on April 28. I planned to do a fall marathon but then I remembered that my husband is gone for work for most of the summer and the thought of pushing my kids in the stroller for anything over six miles in the dead of summer made me cringe and sweat. So I thought, hey, there are 28 weeks until this marathon and I will get to do my long runs with other people and without my kids, lets shoot for it! Also my ultramarathoner RBFF and coworker assured me that I could do it with the right plan (this one) and building a good base (which this one will help me do). And my youngest daughter is doing a lot better with the whole sleeping at night thing now that she's cut two teeth and is on antibiotics for an ear infection. So it starts today with a rest day.
  23. I’ve been putting off writing anything about Chicago because I feel ungrateful and a bit guilty about the race. I ran a decent time but it was pretty far off where I thought my fitness was but in hindsight I think I was over trained and the weather did no favors. Going in to the race I had had a good training cycle, never felt great throughout and definitely bombed a tune up but I had been hitting MP in some pretty humid weather and figured after a taper I’d be in a good position to run a big PR. However as the race got closer my legs never got any pop back and I began to worry that the week after the tune up where I went overboard had caused me to go over the line (i think you can guess which week it is). The in-laws flew in for the weekend to watch our son so my wife and I could go to Chicago and she’d be able to run around without a almost 3 year old pitching a fit. We drove up to Chicago Friday afternoon, got settled in to the hotel and proceeded to wait a long time for some Chicago style pizza at Lou Malnatis. From our hotel room balcony we could see the starting line which was cool. Saturday was pretty laid back, I did a 5 mile shakeout by the lake and then we took it easy at the hotel until the pasta dinner. We went hoping to meet and/or hear Deana Kastor speak but we were either too late or she went on after we left, but i wanted to get to bed early. I laid everything out for the next morning and hoped the weather would miraculously cool off more. For what it’s worth, those are the Nike Vaporfly 4%’s and they are awesome. Race morning I woke up at 5, grabbed some coffee and food downstairs and got ready to go. Did a short easy warm up down to the security gates and navigated the mayhem that is the corral system of a big race and finally got settled in on the right side where I got to watch Galen Rupp do strides prior to getting lined up. I wasn’t feeling super great, it was pretty humid in the upper 50’s and was going to warm up fairly quickly (note, I run like crap in the heat, I “run” very hot and prefer temps in the 40’s). I was very careful not to go out too quickly and was hoping to run the first few miles in 6:30-6:40 then settle in to 6:25-ish for a goal time of 2:48. Long story short, I didn’t make it to goal pace until around miles 8-9 when I finally started to feel like I was in a rhythm and then it was gone shortly after the halfway mark and I fell back to 6:40-ish again. Started struggling around 18 and began to slow down even more into the 7’s. 2nd marathon in a row i was able to finish without ever walking and not running a single split slower than 7:xx’s so there is that bright side. My final time was 2:58:57 which is about a minute slower than last year at Indy. I’m feeling generally ok now after some time to think about it, especially considering that I can go sub-3 on a bad day, but still bothers me a bit. I feel bad because people keep congratulating me for going under 3 and I feel like an ungrateful sh**head for saying “yeah but...”. Reflecting back on the past year, I really ran subpar race results all year and think I really was skirting with overtraining the entire time. Don’t think I ever fully recovered from the marathon last year before jumping back into higher mileage and then it just continued to compound as the months went by. I’m taking a conservative approach to returning to running this time, took a whole week off completely and this week I ran Monday, took today off, will run easy 2 days take another off and then proceed from there. No races are scheduled except for pacing my wife in Indy next month and then I will do some easy running for a few weeks before doing any training. The winter will be some casual racing to keep some speed going before turning the focus to Boston training. I’m viewing Chicago as a stepping stone in my marathon progress and the PR in Boston will be that much sweeter after a tougher race. Thanks for reading, hope everyone’s training is going well.
  24. J Zee


    Note: All 5 of the other Loopsters who participated in the Wineglass weekend are stellar individuals, outstanding people. Words don’t do justice, so I have copped out and not written about them. It’s too difficult to find the right sentiments. To be honest, it’s hard enough to write about this race. My feelings are complicated. Despite the successes across the board that the weekend brought to us, I feel we’re all poised for even better things. May the running gods smile on us, every one. October 1, 8:15 AM: The gun fired and we were off. September 7, 6:15 AM: I panted, bent over with my hands on my knees at the end of a 10 mile tempo. It was a little over 3 weeks until race day and I had been feeling bullet proof. Not a disappointment to be found for weeks and weeks of the training cycle. Until today. Hansons had called for 10 miles at marathon pace, but I had been sluggish from the start. I had pushed the pace to where I wanted it to be, but at more effort than expected. And then I felt them coming on slowly: abdominal cramps. The hell? When’s the last time that happened, a decade ago? More? They grew sharper and more insistent. Finally I had to stop, gulp air, wait for them to subside. I started up again and tried to find pace but there they were, lurking, aching, sharpening. I stopped again. In the end I managed 6:40 for 10 miles, not counting the stops. Just eking out goal pace on a perfect running morning. Except for those stops. “Oh well,” I wrote in my journal later. “They can’t all be great.” October 1, 8:20 AM: We were cruising now, headed down the first gentle incline. Fiddling with my sleeve to check my Garmin (not used to long-sleeved mornings, I had failed to tuck it under my watch) I hit a button and the display flipped over to the time. As in, 8:20 AM, not race time. I panicked a little and began stabbing at buttons, including briefly stopping my chronograph before getting things back the way they needed to be. “Calm down,” I told myself. At the first mile marker I manually hit the lap button. “OK. Relax. You got this.” “Maybe,” said a quieter voice in the back of my mind. September 7, 9:00 PM: During work, throughout the day after that bad tempo, my body had gone through cycles of too cold and too warm. I put on a fleece and then took it off again. I realized during a meeting that I was feeling more than a usual Thursday morning listlessness. I was able to forget about it for a while, occasionally feeling worse, sometimes not too far from OK. But as the day wound down I was definitely perking up. No doubt I had been fighting something off, explaining the lackluster training morning. My confidence was coming back and I wrote a status on Loopville on being so BA my body had killed off the flu in a day. It was tongue in cheek; I knew that wasn’t exactly true, but was reassured to be returning to myself. October 1, 8:35 AM: I was moving along at just under 6:40 pace. That was fine, but I wasn’t sure it was as easy as it should be. A few weeks earlier I had expected to be about the same pace, but sailing, wondering, “Am I running too slowly?” Instead I was wondering, “Am I running too fast?” I had seen my family cheering around the 2 mile mark and their energy and support had buoyed me, but now the doubts were creeping back in. A pack of six had formed a few yards ahead. I attempted a gradual acceleration, to pull them in and draft. Slowly, slowly I increased my effort. The experience of thousands of miles of training and a dozen or so marathons whispered in my ear: “Too much.” I fell back and set my own pace. September 10, 9:00 AM: I stopped my watch at the 20 mile mark, wrapping up my longest training run with a 6:59 pace. Success! Despite my confidence of a few days before, there was no doubt that I hadn’t been quite right since then, more tired than I should have been as each long day came to a close. At least it didn’t seem to affect my early morning running. And this run clearly showed I was past all that. I was over this minor cold and good as new, getting ready to sail through Hansons’ gradual taper and look for a big PR on race day. October 1, 8:40 AM: What was with the fog? It was going to burn off, right? And was that a breeze in front? There wasn’t supposed to be any head wind. I must have been imagining it. Still, I couldn’t get comfortable, feeling more chilly than expected. If only the damn fog would burn off. I thought back to the ice on the car windshields as I’d left the motel that morning. That was a first for the fall. Just like the icy windshields that morning at Mohawk Hudson a few years back. That had turned into a disappointing day. “Be quiet,” I told myself. “You’d over-trained three weeks out. That’s the last thing to worry about today.” I watched the group of six pull ever so slowly away and then gradually became aware of footsteps approaching from the rear. September 13, 9:00 PM: After a successful 4 x 1.5 mile workout the day before, “Not quite right” had turned into “Pretty well wrong.” I hadn’t checked, but there wasn’t much doubt I was running a fever. My head was clogged. I was coughing up phlegm. My muscles were letting me know that some crap was going on that wasn’t OK. A rest day hadn’t seemed to help much, but I didn’t want to mess up the plan. Another 10-mile tempo was waiting in the morning. Stick to the plan. Everything depends on the plan. “I’ll get a good night’s sleep and see what happens.” October 1, 8:45 AM: The footsteps slowly pulled up to me and then stayed there, just behind. It sounded like two of them but I couldn’t be sure. I didn’t much care if they passed. As much time as I’d spent before the race, reviewing previous years’ results, wondering if an award was possible, I didn’t care at all about that now. Just go around me. Run your race and let me run mine. Let me focus here. I concentrated on my pace of just-about-comfortable and tried to ignore them. They stayed right there. It may have been a mile, a few minutes, a few steps. Then one came up just off my right shoulder, a foot away, and parked there. I could see him in my peripheral vision. I couldn’t stay quiet. “You can pass if you want,” I grunted. He fell back. A minute later he said, “You can take a turn in back if you want.” Was that reasonable? Expecting me to slow to take my chance to tuck in behind? I wasn’t sure, but decided to dislike him. September 14, 5:30 AM: My 10 mile tempo became a 1 mile tempo. The pace was fine for that mile, but after that I was done. I took a few more steps at tempo and then slowed to easy pace. I cruised, questioning whether I had given up too easily. Then a growing weariness assured me that there was no way I could have maintained the pace. For the last few miles I began wondering if I should have gone straight home after abandoning the tempo. At what point does the plan become an inflexible command to do the wrong thing? But the race was just over 2 weeks out. I felt I had to keep walking a fine line. A PR goal left about no room for error. The next few runs were supposed to be all at an easy pace. Maybe I could slip a few more tempo miles in there. No harm in that, right? October 1, 9:00 AM: The footsteps stayed behind me. I ran my pace, generally just under 6:40, sometimes creeping above. Eventually the guy who had run up on my shoulder came back. I could see now the white hair, probably prematurely white as I stole a glance at his face, but surely another Master. “Are you from Cleveland?” he said. “Because you’re not letting anyone pass.” What’s that? Oh, a baseball reference. The way he said it, with a smile and followed by some words about working together, convinced me he was trying for a friendly reset. I apologized and explained I’m used to running alone. It sounded lame but was true. I’ve tried pace groups. I don’t like them. Too many constant, almost imperceptible adjustments to everyone else’s running. Plus, I’m an introvert, a strong one. It doesn’t mean I don’t like people. It doesn’t mean I can’t interact, be friendly, shoot the breeze. But each of those interactions, especially when they become a conversation, is a tiny withdrawal from my energy stores. And I was thinking that by the last few miles of the race I would have approximately zero energy to spare. September 17, 8:30 AM: I wrapped up an 8 mile run including 3 at tempo pace. Ten the previous day had included 4 tempo miles. My 10 mile tempo for the week had turned into 8 tempo miles over three days, each time shutting it down when I began to feel done. I was walking, well, running a fine line. Was it too much? Was it enough? How could I possibly do 26.2 at this pace in two weeks? Calm down. This isn’t mono or bronchitis or strep. It’s a cold. An annoying, lingering cold. There’s no way it can last for two more weeks. No way. October 1, 9:45 AM: The miles pounded by. Our group of three had grown to five as we neared and then passed the half mark right around 1:27:30. The first new runner to join us and take the lead was a lanky redhead in a cap. Looking smooth. Looking young. A shorter, dark haired guy joined him at the front of our group, letting Red take the lead. The other three of us stayed just back, and I was now convinced we were all Masters, possibly all in our late 40s. I found myself now naturally exchanging positions with the older guys. Sometimes near the front, sometimes just behind. No longer from Cleveland, I guess. The pace wasn’t hard yet but wasn’t easy. Sometimes it felt like I was just where I was supposed to be; sometimes like I was about to drop off the back. Focus. If the young guys are stronger, let them go. Just run somewhere around 6:40. Not quite there anymore but close. Stay with the middle-aged guys if you can. Almost surely headed for another positive split, don’t let those guys go. Smart? No idea. Hold on. September 19, 6:00 AM: Yes! 6 x 1 mile ranging from 5:57 to 6:05. The intervals weren’t easy, but not bone-crunching either. I was feeling better, finally putting this stubborn illness behind me. No doubt my immune system had figured out how to beat it. Beautiful, beautiful T cells. What a miracle, the human body. A solid 10-mile tempo waited in two days, then I would be sailing into race day. October 1, 9:55 AM: I knew it was coming, a small hill right around mile 15, and there it was. I had felt like I was hanging on during the previous mile, but as the incline began I naturally moved past my Masters companions. It wasn’t much of a hill, really. On my home paths in Hershey it’s impossible to avoid hills like this. None is brutal, but they come one after another. One after another. I was in familiar territory. I kept my head down, smoothed out my stride, pumped my arms, and heard the two behind me fall back. As we neared the top, they may have been 20 feet back. Not a lot, but a gap. Then we were cresting the hill and descending, and here came their footsteps, catching up again, until at the base of the other side they were right behind me. Had they come back too fast? Maybe. Because when the road leveled out I noticed them falling behind again, very gradually. The two younger guys were still in front, but the sound of my other friends slowly began to fade behind me, and this time I didn’t hear them coming back. September 19, 6:00 PM: Is the fever really coming back? How can I be getting sick again? This is a cold. It’s not supposed to relapse. I Googled it. Once I beat it, it’s beaten. Race day is just around the corner. Rest day planned tomorrow. Maybe this time I’ll take another rest day after that. Yes, another rest day after that. October 1, 10:30 AM: “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” I heard my daughter’s excited screech a few seconds before I saw my family, waiting by the side of the road, close to the 20 mile mark. Immediately I began to peel off my top shirt and gloves. I surprised myself with how long I’d held onto them, but the fog had finally burned off and it was time. I still couldn’t shake the feeling that we had been running into a breeze much of the way. Was it in my head? Probably. No matter now. Time to shed that layer and bear down. “Love you!” I shouted as I dropped the clothes at my wife’s feet. “Love you!” “Love you!” “Love you!” I called back one more time over my shoulder. OK, this is it. The race starts for real now. September 22, 6:30 PM: I had managed seven tempo miles that morning before cutting it off. Only nine days left to the race now. That bothered me, because the rule of thumb is that it takes 10 days to gain fitness from a workout, but there was no way I was ready to run yesterday. And quite possibly, there was no way I should have run that morning. “Go to urgent care,” Kim said, taking a look at me when I’d arrived home from work. Finally, I had. The nurse was now reading the thermometer and giving me the news: 102. The doctor looked down my throat. Into my nose and ears. Listened to my chest. “I don’t hear any congestion in your lungs,” she told me. I knew that. It was a blessing and why I had been able to train some during the ups and downs of this illness. Or maybe that was a curse. “I’m concerned that you have a fever 15 days after getting sick.” Yeah. Me too. Here I sat, just over a week out, feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. Was there any way I could get well in time? “I’m going to prescribe you a Z-Pak. It’s well tolerated and the cycle is only 5 days so you’ll have a few days left before your race. And it kills a lot of bugs.” “Except viruses,” I said. “Except viruses,” she agreed. October 1, 10:45 AM: Two had fallen back, and they hadn’t come back. Two in front had gone ahead. I was on my own now, occasionally reeling in a fading runner, occasionally being passed by a runner who had paced more wisely than myself. “Good job,” I would pant each time they passed, and then congratulate myself for that. It was a good sign. If they had passed and all I could offer was silent hate, that would mean I was close to collapse. The course was now winding through a city park. Tiny ups and downs that felt like mountains. Plenty of race volunteers to point the way, and also families enjoying the warming morning. I could stop for a rest with them. Give my tightening hamstrings a break. It would feel so nice. So nice. Snap out of it. Check the watch. Do the runner math. Let’s see. About 2 minutes ahead of PR pace, I think, and not getting any faster. Time to bear down. September 24, 7:00 AM: An easy 8.5 with Mr. Andante, in town with the family to visit the park. After another rest day I was now a week out from the race. Was I well? No. But maybe scraping myself off the pavement. That truck that had hit me hadn’t quite finished the job. It was a welcome interlude, running at an easy pace, chatting with a Loopster. But not feeling right. Better, maybe, but not right. I’d felt better before. I didn’t trust it. A week away. I couldn’t even remember feeling normal now. Only a week to go. It didn’t seem sensible to hope. October 1, 11:00 AM: It felt like my feet were barely lifting from the ground. My hamstrings were very close to done and wouldn’t allow any extra lift. But the pace was OK. I was keeping it under 7:00. Would I ever negative split a marathon? Maybe, but not today. A few more runners passed me, and I passed a few. Everything else was a blur. How many minutes to go? Where would I be if I were in training Hershey, headed home? Oh, that’s an uphill. Don’t think about that. What’s my mantra? Mantras are stupid. Just run. It’s impossible, but never mind. Just run. September 27, 6:30 AM: Two straight days of easy runs at a good pace, not pushing. Maybe the antibiotics were taking hold. Maybe my body was just finally winning, for real this time. Either way, I was feeling just a little better each day. Maybe this would happen after all. October 1, 11:05 AM: There was the bridge, somewhere just past 25 miles. I remembered it from my first time running this race, a dozen years and a lifetime ago. That was a warm day, pushing past 70 degrees. An unexpectedly fast pace turned into cramps and walk breaks, but I still eked out a 3:10 and 3rd place male, 35-39. The picture, taken on this very bridge, sits on a shelf in my dining room. Twelve years later a photographer was there again in the same place, but now a new PR was coming into focus. A PR that would have been unimaginable to my younger self. Pain was turning toward confidence. No walking this time. I put down my head and did my best to power up the bridge. September 30, 7:00 AM: That was it, the training done. The last 3 mile easy run finished. Race tomorrow and everything felt OK. Miraculous. I did the math. I’d missed about 30 miles in the last three weeks of training. The last three tempo runs were misses. And though I felt fine in the moment, I had no idea how I’d feel after 10 miles at marathon pace, or 20, or 25. If another Loopster was looking for reassurance in the same situation I would have written about the potential benefits of an increased taper, about all the hard work accomplished, about the strength and stamina in my legs. It was all going to be fine. Have confidence, you got this. Confidence. Looking at my own situation, I saw nothing but question marks. October 1, 11:10 AM: But there I was making the last left turn that brought the finish line banner into view. A few blocks away but inevitable now. I charged. Block by block became foot by foot. I reeled in one last runner and passed him. The crowd packed in tighter and tighter, the cheers louder and louder. Another runner sprinted past me in the last few meters like I wasn’t even moving, and then the announcer was calling his name, and then he was calling mine. I crossed at 2:56 and change. Official results put it at 2:56:14, a full two minutes under my previous PR, and first of the 45-49 year old men. I stumbled through the chute, got my medal, my water. A volunteer wrapped me in Mylar. I heard familiar voices and there was my family calling to me. I found a gap in the barriers and went to them. I gave them sweaty hugs, then more hugs, thanks, and love. They shepherded me to the massage tent, then to pick up my drop bag. Shivering, I pulled on a layer, then as Kim went to get the kids something to eat, I went back to look for Loopsters. They came in one by one and you know the stories: PR, PR, PR, PR, PR. Read their bloops. Read them again. They are Rock Stars. Wineglass had become magic. October 1, just before 8:15 AM: “I hate marathons,” I said to Peg as we left our cozy tent and took the final few steps toward the start in the chilly fog. We’ve all had that feeling at the start of a race when the pressure and the uncertainty come bearing down. I hate this. Why do I do this to myself? But the marathon is a different beast. I’ve run races longer and shorter. There is something magical and terrible about marathons. So much training, so much grind, so much sacrifice for one race where everything can go right and everything can go wrong. Pounding out mile after mile at a pace that seems just this side of crazy. I hate marathons. And I love them. Of course I do. Everything is crystallized during that last 10K when the pain comes in waves and running is impossible and you’re still doing it. Moving forward in devastation or triumph. Hundreds of days of work coming to one point of focus. All of the unknown, the hopes, the dreams, the fears becoming that one simple, burning point of focus. You run and you run and you pour your blood across the ground and then cross the line and all of the question marks, all the uncertainty leading up to that race are gone. You’ve done it. It’s done. Success or failure. It’s done. Until it’s not. Until it’s the week after the race and it’s sinking in that there will not be another marathon for at least a year, through agreements both internally and externally made. Through tattered muscles that, though they feel better every day, will not fully be back for months. It’s too much to launch into again right away. Too much sacrifice to every other part of a life. Some balance must be restored. Shorter races. More sleep. More energy to give back at the end of the day. And it’s not simple to know how to feel when 2:56:14 would have been an impossible dream just a few years back, a two minute PR over a previous mark that in itself would be treasured for a lifetime. But does it feel the same when a few weeks earlier you knew you could go under 2:55, and were wondering just how high to aim? It’s not simple with the knowledge that the next marathon will come within spitting distance of 50 years of age. A half century. Maybe even after that. How many more chances will there be to set an all-time mark? How much longer can a person expect to get faster? How much longer will it be possible to cheat time? And if that 2:54 or 2:53 or 2:52 had come this day, would that have been enough? Enough to say, that’s it, forever, I’ve done it, it’s accomplished? Of course not. This all sounds gloomy and unappreciative. But really, it’s never been simple, knowing how to feel in the aftermath. It wasn’t simple the first time and it’s never been simple since. There is always another dream, another goal, another marker that feels that it would be even more meaningful. A thousand more miles of work and it could be real… But all those thoughts are for later. For now we are shuffling toward the line. The National Anthem. We take a deep breath, the gun fires, and we’re off.
  25. This is my first post on the new Loop! Woot woot! While I'm sad the other one left, it was nice to see so many people sharing their appreciation of each other. Love you all! The last marathon I ran was 2016 Grandma's Marathon, where it was black flagged, hot AF, and I got the worst sunburn of my life and had to put medical grade burn cream on it. I had signed up for Kalamazoo Marathon in May, but I didn't go. I hadn't trained in the least and I just didn't want to. I was sick of traveling here, there, and everywhere. I can't wrap my mind around running more than 13 miles. So, I took the summer to try to find my love of running again. Turns out, I just needed a shake-up. In April, I won a 10 week bootcamp at a kickboxing place that started in July. I didn't really like it for the first 6 weeks, but since then, I've really liked the way it's challenged me to use muscles I don't use (hello, upper body!). Now that I feel like I'm "in shape" and will have something to keep me going in the winter, I signed up for the Flying Pig Marathon. Yes, it's hilly, but my only real goal is to get under 6 hours. They have a generous 7 hour cutoff, and looking at the results, some people even finished in 8+ hours. I will just need to work to take down some of my long run mental roadblocks. Cool thing is there's a finisher's jacket this year because it's their 20 year anniversary. Thanks to the Loopsters who gave their input on the race. Best thing about Cincinnati? Holtman's Donuts. It feels good to have a goal again, even if it is nearly 7 months away. Speaking of donuts, I'm doing a donut 5k on Saturday! RR and pictures to come.
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