Marathon Training Prep Mode

Hola!

If you are anything like me, then you were probably going NUTS yesterday when Shalane was leading the way (she ended up finishing 7th), when Meb just completely dominated and became the first American male to win the Boston Marathon since 1983, and while watching various real-life and internet friends pass timing mats along the course.  I wasn’t able to watch the live coverage, but thankfully twitter described things perfectly in real time. What a morning!

The whole experience made me so pumped to run another marathon and hopefully get the chance to run Boston 2015.

And really, all of this excitement couldn’t come at a better time.

I can’t believe that I’m about to say this, but training for marathon #3 starts in less than 2 weeks.  The whole thing seemed so far into the future when we signed up for the race back in February (or was in January?) and now here we are, about ready to embark on the madness once again. It’s so hard to believe that just 2 years ago, a bunch of us were heading into training for our 1st marathon together, and now we are all repeat offenders.

We are now less than 18 weeks away from Santa Rosa.

Not that I'm counting...

Not that I’m counting…

Aside from desperately wanting to pin on a bib again and run through the streets while strangers cheer me on, mostly, I’m excited to have something to blog about again.  It’s hard to maintain a running blog when all you have to talk about are 3 mile runs every once in awhile.  Soon the internet will once again be bombarded by my training recaps, and occasional (and by occasional, I mean weekly) panic attacks over not hitting paces or wondering how I’m supposed to run 26 miles at a 7:53 pace when I can’t even hit that during my 800 repeats (I just shuddered thinking about 800 repeats).

Fun times.

With 12 days to go until training officially begins, we are starting to get into preparation mode.

We have:

* Started building up the mileage again and we are now running 6 days a week

* We’ve been modifying our marathon training plan

Training Plan

* Purchased new running shoes

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* Started stalking up on our arsenal of coconut water, Nuun, and ClifShots

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* We’ve started to become reacquainted with our BFF the Foam Roller (we will become very intimate at least twice a day over the next 4 months)

Hi, Friend! I HATE YOU AND YOUR PAIN

Hi, Friend! I HATE YOU AND YOUR PAIN

* We’ve looked into getting a chiropractor appointment in to correct any lopsidedness

* We’re also planning some sort of “kick-off” event.  I love being deep and symbolic, so we always try to do some sort of ceremonial thing that prepares us for 4 months of putting ourselves through running hell which hopefully yields Marathon PR Glory.

Climbing a mountain to kick-off Chicago Marathon Training in 2012

Climbing a mountain to kick-off Chicago Marathon Training in 2012

It may involve climbing a mountain again (but a bigger one since the goals are loftier this time around), or maybe something else.  I have just a few days to decide.

Also, Despite all of my big plans, I haven’t signed up for any other races.  We might still sign up for the Run For the Zoo (10-K since the Half sold out) which is on May 4th along with some shorter summer races, but I’ve really just can’t make myself excited over anything available.

Random question: I need to change my blog reading system.  Right now I use the WordPress reader (which sometimes includes all of the blogs I follow and sometimes doesn’t), email subscriptions (I’ve kind of been slacking on email reading), and the Blogger reader for those bloggers not on WordPress.  I need something a bit more comprehensive because my current system isn’t quite time efficient. Any reader suggestions? I know this was a big topic maybe a year ago, but I didn’t pay attention.

What’s your next race?

Will we be late summer/fall marathon training buddies? 

 

 

Committing to Marathon #3

FIRST: Remember to enter to win a free race entry into any 2014 Spartan Race! Right now, your chances of winning are pretty darn high! Winner is announced tomorrow. 

There is some sort of general theory suggesting that no matter how painful pregnancy and/or childbirth might be, and no matter how much someone might swear that she will never (ever, so help you God) subject herself to this torture again in the moment, most women look back 1-2 years later and remember 36 hours of labor as “bad, but not THAT bad,” and many (most?) decide to do it all over again. Multiple times.

(I am obviously at the life stage where 75% of my facebook friends are either pregnant or have a child in the newborn/toddler range).

While I have yet to bring myself to the whole childbirth thing, I think that this general theory also applies to marathons.

While there is nothing like the pride I experienced crossing the finish line at Chicago, my body HURT so very bad in ways I didn’t think possible starting at about mile 22, I was violently sick to my stomach all day, and I couldn’t walk like a normal person for about a week. Stepping up from the street to the sidewalk? Forget about it.

I thought, “wow, that was a great accomplishment, but this distance isn’t for me, or even humans in general.” Yet, despite all this, I registered for Boston the next day.

The whole cycle did a repeat 4 months later.  Except, when I crossed my second 26.2 finish line, I knew that I would do another one in the (far off) future when I could forget about blisters and chaffing.

Slide3Who’s idea was this anyway?

I didn’t apply to get into Boston this year.  I could have used my Chicago qualifier again, but I decided in September that a trip to Boston in April wasn’t in the cards. Closing on our house probably had something to do with this.

Turns out, it wouldn’t have mattered.  My qualifier wasn’t fast enough to get me in. Truthfully, it was a blow to the ego.  I had never thought of my time, 1 minute and 5 seconds under, to be a “squeaker,” but in the end, it wasn’t even that.  It was just plain insufficient.

So, it was with renewed enthusiasm that I made a commitment to not only run another marathon, but also attempt another BQ and run a time that would, without any shadow of a doubt, get me into Boston 2015.

And perfect timing really, because all of that pain that I described above (soreness, sickness, blisters, chaffing, fatigue, aching feet, etc.) is now a very abstract memory.  Like, I don’t even remember what it feels like to seriously contemplate whether it would be less painful to just chop your feet off than run another step on them.

However, I suppose saying that I’m going to run a 3:27 marathon (that’s my goal, which is a big fat YIKES) is the easy part.  Training for it is much harder.  But before I can even begin to train, I need something to train for.

STEP 1: Choosing The Marathon

For me, choosing the right marathon felt similar (if not more intense) to figuring out what we wanted in a first house.  For both, we had a list of non-negotiables along with a list of things we could compromise.  Except, with a house, we could fix almost anything with enough time and money.  I can’t exactly remodel a marathon course to fit my needs.

So, what was I looking for?:

1) Held in June, July, or August: Since I’m going for a BQ, I need the race to be prior to September’s registration, which essentially eliminates all of the big fall races.  Add on 4 months of training, plus about 2 months of base-building, and I’ve crossed off all late winter/spring races off the list too.

2) Mild Summer Weather:  Since I’m looking at a summer race, it needed to be in an area that has at least some chance of not being ridiculously hot or humid.  This really limited us to the Coastal West part of the country, or the far Northeast.

3) Needs to compliment our strengths: That means a relatively flat course without a huge elevation gain and something at sea level to take full advantage of our training in the mountains. Mentally, I’d prefer a course that wasn’t 2 loops of a half course, and a substantial marathon field (1000+) because I do well when I have the energy (and competition) of other runners off which to feed.

4) Within close-ish proximity to New Mexico: to keep travel costs down. We’re talking second tier on the Southwest Airlines sale scale.

There were slim pickings after all of the elimination.  Slim pickings.

It came down to Eugene, OR and Santa Rosa, CA.

E vs. SR

These marathons were ridiculously similar.  Both are designed as “Boston Qualifier” fast and flat courses, both are held in smaller towns, both run on bike paths and scenic nature routes, both appear to be well-organized with lots of positive reviews from fast runners, and both offer post-race pancakes which is actually sounding really good right about now…

But neither offer substantial spectator support throughout the entire 26.2 miles (unlike Boston or Chicago), and both have courses that do a bit of back-tracking. And, considering my first two marathons were World Majors, these two are pretty small without the bells and whistles you get from having Shalane Flanagan somewhere ahead of you.

While Santa Rosa’s course seems a bit harder (runs on a slight uphill during the last few miles, and portions run on gravel) and the the field is considerably smaller (capped somewhere around 1600), in the end, the fact that that Eugene moved it’s date from mid-April to July this year (meaning potential hiccups), and the 2 hour drive from the Portland airport helped us in our resolve to choose Santa Rosa.  Eugene is also the weekend before my sister’s wedding, so Santa Rosa fit better into bridesmaid duties.

With a bottle of wine and a jacket (and rumors of a Lululemon bag!) included in the $125 registration fee, Santa Rosa also appears to offers more bang for the buck.  Plus, the fact that it is only 1 hour from San Francisco adds about 10 points. I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it (HA), but I’m obsessive over San Francisco. And wine.

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So, I will be attempting a Boston qualifying time at the Santa Rosa Marathon at the end of August (and hoping to meet some of you California folks!).

I am beyond myself excited (27 weeks and 1 day).  Training will officially start at the end of April, and I am looking forward to every 800 repeat in 90 degree temperatures and every 20 mile long run that I have coming up.  What pain? What torture? All I remember is the amazing feeling of looking down at my Garmin, and knowing.  I hope to have that feeling again.

The rest of our 2014 racing schedule looks pretty dismal, especially compared to all of the fun we’ve had over the last 2 and a half years. But I do need to get back into the racing groove with at least a couple of half+ distances because it isn’t second nature to me anymore.  What do I eat for breakfast? How many trips to the porta-potty do I need to make before lining up? These are answers I don’t think I have anymore.

1) Albuquerque Half Marathon: I really don’t like this race.  But, with the uninspired course, the heat, the smell of farm, and the small race size, it should help build up some mental toughness.

From 2012

From 2012

2) Shiprock Half Marathon: This is a HUGE maybe. Initially, I was thinking that the full version might be my goal race, but I don’t think the course lends itself to not-quite squeakers like me.  I do want to run it eventually because it is one of the best races in the state.  Plus, I’d get to see 50-states Dan in action as he crosses New Mexico off his almost complete list.  BUT, it is on the same weekend as…

3) Run for the Zoo Half: I love Run for the Zoo.  I ran my first ever 5-K here in 2010, and I haven’t missed a year since.  It really feels like everyone in Albuquerque is involved in some way, and I love all of the high fives you get from friends, co-workers, family, etc. as you turn into the last stretch.

So, there we have it.  One big race with the sole goal of qualifying (and wine), and some small local races.  And with any luck, the 2015 schedule will include a bus ride to Hopkington, a battle with Heartbreak, and a left on Boylston.

So, who wants to come join me in some running and wine drinking in Santa Rosa?

The expo is held at a winery, a bottle of wine is included with entry fee, and you actually run through a barrel room.  GOOD TIMES! 

Hope you have a wonderful three day weekend! Remember to spread some LOVE and eat lots of chocolate!’

*Also, thanks to the Santa Rosa Marathon facebook page for supplying most of the photos! 

One Run for Boston Part II

Remember last summer when Aaron, my dad, and I volunteered to drive to the remote parts of New Mexico to run several miles through the desert, sometimes in temperatures hot enough to melt the asphalt under our feet? And if that wasn’t absurd enough, that I also volunteered to pick up a complete stranger named Ty from Maine at the airport so he could run with us?

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Just in case you don’t follow my life as closely as I do, last June a nice man from England emailed me because he and a couple of his British runner friends were organizing a relay across America in order to raise money for the OneFund, the foundation that supports those most affected by the Boston Marathon bombings.  We enthusiastically participated and made some friends along the way! (You can read the recap HERE).

Well, they are doing it again.

One Run for Boston Round II is kicking (running) off  this March in Santa Monica, California, traveling (running) across the country, and concluding in grand style at Harvard Stadium in Boston about a week before the 2014 Marathon.  Bart Yasso, the social media running maven from Runner’s World, has committed to running a stage along with almost 600 other people (Aaron, my dad, and myself included).

The relay runs though California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

ORFB

The cost to sign up for a stage is $50 (they are also asking for a $250 fundraising minimum but you will not be charged if you don’t meet the fundraising goal and as far as I can tell nothing bad happens to you).  Most of the stages seem to be in the 5-17 mile range (I know a lot of people split up the longer stages).  There are also group stages organized in major cities along the way (cost is $25 for group stages).  You can get more information HERE.

All participants get a free t-shirt and access to a very supportive and encouraging online community along with the excitement of running in slightly oddball locations during slightly oddball hours while raising money for a cause that I know has touched many people in the running community.

Aaron, my dad, and I are all signed up for stages in New Mexico (they changed the route this year, so our stages are in a much more accessible place which makes me very happy).  I get to run through a place called Pie Town! I LOVE pie! I’m also hoping not to have to pee roadside this time…March is also typically much less scorching hot than June.

I would love to have you join our ORFB family! And, it goes without saying, that if you want to fly to Albuquerque to help us cover New Mexico, I will gladly pick you up from the airport (at least, probably…for all I know, I have a bunch of secret internet stalkers who are ax murderers…I would probably not agree to pick up someone who is an ax murderer)! You can also donate toward my fundraising goal HERE (this is actually the first thing I’ve done in the way of fundraising for this adventure).

I KNOW you want to be this cool too!

I KNOW you want to be this cool too!

Let me know if you sign up (or if you just want to come and feed us snacks and give us water).

Hope everyone had a wonderful first full week of 2014!

Imogene Pass Run Race Recap

Once upon a time…like…more than two months ago, I ran a race.  That race has long since been forgotten by all, so I am here with my tres tardy race recap to bring it back into the forefront.

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Even before I ran my first marathon, I was intrigued by the Imogene Pass Run.  Aaron ran this race back in 2005 ( BA…before Amy), so maybe it came from him describing the amazing course, or maybe I liked the fact that snacks were provided at aid stations. I am pro snacks.

If you don’t know, Imogene is a 17.1 mile race with an elevation gain of more than 5,000 feet, peaking at an over 13,000 foot summit called Imogene Pass.  The race starts in Ouray, CO, climbs up for 10 miles, and then steeply descents into Telluride, CO for the remaining 7.

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Like many races these days, registering for this small (1500 participant) event now requires insider knowledge and advance planning.  We did not have insider knowledge or advance planning for several years.  But this year we added Imogene to our list, and we were ready when the time came.   Registration opened up at 6:00 am on Saturday, June 1st, and closed two hours later with our names on the roster!

Training leading up to the race was…interesting.  I transformed from a terrible, inexperienced trail runner in July to a slightly less terrible trail runner by early September. I didn’t necessarily feel confident in my abilities to complete this race without falling on my face, but I set out with just two goals 1) Not to finish dead last (or just dead in general) and 2) to not be completely miserable for 17.1 miles.  Secretly, I wanted to finish under 4 hour without any notion what my mountain trail pace might be.

Ouray is a short 5.5 hour drive from Albuquerque, so we headed up that way on Friday morning, but not before running into a little frienemy hanging out in a “scenic overlook” rest area.  I have never seen rattlesnakes in the wild before, and within two weeks I saw two. This is some sort of omen I am sure.

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Once we got into Ouray (a very small resort town), we did our 2 mile shake out run (something I ALWAYS do the day before a race, especially if we’ve been traveling), showered up, and headed to packet pick-up. Imogene has a pretty runner friendly packet pick-up system.  They have one on Friday morning in Telluride, they have one on Friday afternoon in Ouray, or you can pick up your packet on race morning.

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Packet pick-up was very basic and well organized without the frills of an expo.  The first thing that jumped out was the number of really fit looking people.  Even the Boston expo had nothing on the athleticism that I saw in that room.  And the calves. I have never seen so many perfectly sculpted calves in my life.

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Next door the local EMT’s hosted a spaghetti dinner, but it wasn’t gluten-free friendly, so we found a pizza parlor that served gluten-free crust, and feasted.  And then we headed to Ouray Brewing Company for our tradition night-before-race beer.

When we got back to the hotel, I was looking at the news, and on the MSN homepage, I found a video showcasing a determined baby mountain goat who had to get across the river to his family.  This entire training cycle, I’ve been using “be the goat” as my mantra.  Unfortunately, I forgot about my usual 2 week pre-race mental workout until Thursday, so I was trying to cram a bunch of positive, strong, mountain goat thoughts into a couple of days.  Finding the goat video felt like a good sign.

RACE DAY! 

The alarm went off at about 5:00 am the next morning.  Imogene does not have frequent aid stations (which I believe is typical of remote races), so we both brought belts/hydration packs with us.  I ate my usual pre-race breakfast of a honey pretzel Luna bar and a glass of Nuun. My Garmin, which had been “charging” all night, was actually faking it, so it was closer to dead than not. I hoped that the spirits of the Mountain Goat would keep it alive.

Parking in town was easy to find.  It is my unconfirmed belief that most people stay in Telluride and take the race bus to the start line, so there are less cars taking up parking spaces.  They had plenty of porta potties at the start, and the community center was open for restroom needs (however that line was longer).

And the goat thing.  IT WAS A SIGN!

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At about 7:20 they called everyone to line up (no corrals).  The race director started listing off cities where most participants were from.  Surprisingly, there weren’t very many people cheering from Albuquerque… we were kind of the only people that cheered when he called it out.  Only slightly awkward.

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Quite literal...the start line was right there.

Quite literal…the start line was right there.

At 7:30 sharp, the pistol went off, and we started the race! I felt really good for the first 2/10 of a mile!

And then we turned off Main Street and into the mountains.

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I knew this race would be hard.  But I took my first walk break a whopping 3/4 of a mile in, and I wasn’t the only one.  It never crossed my mind that I would be walking during the first mile, but here I was, already needing some recovery.  My little mountain goat spirit was crushed, but at the same time, everyone else was doing it, so I had a weird inner conflict going on. Was I defeated or cool?

And here’s another thing about this race.  On about 3 different occasions, there was a fork in the road and no indication of which choice was the right one.  As a result, half the runners went one way, and half went the other.  The first time it happened, I actually stopped and stood there, strategically contemplating the pros and cons of each.  Ultimately, I followed the crowd that looked older and wiser, hoping they’d run the race before and knew the secrets.  After about a 10th of a mile, the  trails met up again, and as far as I could tell, neither provided any advantage over the other, but it was a bit stressful to deal with, especially multiple times.

After that ordeal, I had a sudden and intense bout of nausea starting at mile 2.  I really pride myself on just getting through it no matter what types of weirdness I face during races, but this is the first time that I really thought I was going to have to drop out. Without any porta potty options or aid stations nearby, I was pretty much forced to just kept running despite the discomfort.  It felt like a desperate situation at the time, but looking back, I’m glad I didn’t really have the option to stop, because I may have actually quit.

At mile 3, I finally started feeling better, and my legs finally felt like they were warming up.  And about this time, the trail transformed from pleasant to awesomely amazing. I never run with a camera or a phone, but I really wish I had taken some sort of picture taking device on this course because I can’t even describe what it’s like to run on the edge of a cliff looking down to a waterfall and a lush forest valley, so I guess this means you’ll actually have to run the race to experience it.

Between miles 3-7 there was a lot of walking, a lot of climbing, a bit of running. Throughout the course, we did encounter splashy mud, mid-trail streams (some with thin wooden planks to help you get across), a few breathtaking waterfalls, and a lot of rockiness. I’m really glad that I did get experience on very technical trails, because thanks to all the rain this part of the country has seen this year, the trails were more torn up than usual.

One of my favorite moments of the race came at “Lower Bird Camp.”  Each of the aid stations seemed to be competing with each other, so they were all pretty outrageous. Runners were welcomed to Lower Camp Bird by a man wearing a bird hat actually squawking like a bird.  I think I owe that nice squawking man quite a bit of thanks for lifting my spirits.

Because I was doing so much walking (which I hadn’t been training for) my muscles were really fatigued. With several more miles to go, I wasn’t sure how much longer I would be able to hold up before bonking.  So, I did what felt natural…I ran.  I was able to run for about 20 seconds at a time before tiring myself out, but it gave my legs a little bit of variety which helped.  I did however get a lot of dirty looks from people who were convinced I was doing it to make up time.  Nope, mountain running snobby people, I was just trying to do what it took to keep me going!

At mile 7, we hit Upper Bird Camp (luau themed), and the trail took a turn.  My gorgeous mountain views slowly disappeared behind me and were replaced with an environment too high in elevation to sustain life, which I feel was a metaphor for my overall state of being.  Even though I was taking in a bunch of “real” food at the aid stations including peanut M & M’s and bananas, I took my Mocha ClifShot when I noticed the elevation changing.  The mocha flavor has caffeine, and apparently caffeine can help thwart the effects of altitude sickness (including headaches and nausea). I can’t positively say if it worked or not, but I didn’t experience any altitude sickness symptoms.

These last three miles up really showcased my weaknesses in training for this race.  For the most part, I’d been staying with the same people on the ascent.  But those people left me in their dust as they continued to climb.  No amount of determination or intense “BE THE F!@#$%^ GOAT” chanting (I think in my head, but maybe not…) could make up for the fact that my legs did not have the strength or training to keep up the pace.  Because the grade was too steep to mix things up by running, I was attempting to push the effort for 20 seconds and lay off for about 2 minutes.

I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t discouraged.  At some point, pretty early on, the summit came into plain view, and the joyous sounds of cowbells ringing at the top could be heard among the groans and grunts of the climbers.  Someone turned to me and asked if I that was the top. Since I obviously had no idea, I said YES with authority.  Others were focused on IGNORING the distant oasis because it really was a good 2-3 miles away which is a cruel amount of uphill time to think that you’re “almost” there.

With my Garmin reading about 9.5 miles, I knew that I was relatively close to the top.  I had about 10 minutes to go before hitting the 3 hour mark, so I dug deep and pushed myself to get to the top before 3 hours.  Toward the top, the trail narrows, and we filtered into a single-file line.  Spectators were lined up to give runners high-fives, which was really helpful.  One lady was yelling out ranks to the women (I was woman #220).  Random, but strangely motivating (I counted backwards every time I passed a female for the rest of the race).

In what felt like a giant sigh of relief, I took the step that took my journey from uphill battle to It’s All Downhill From Here. The summit was a huge party.  Cheers loud enough to hear from three miles down the mountain, people taking joyous pictures with the summit sign (another moment when I wished I had my camera), and people gobbling up as many snacks as they could.  I could smell the famed chicken broth, but I literally couldn’t find it among the candy and cookies which should tell you something about my mental state (Aaron said he got some, but it was too hot, so he wasn’t able to eat it).

I wasn’t sure how much time to spend at the summit. I didn’t have a camera to capture the usual photo ops.  I wasn’t hungry enough for lots of snacking, and I knew Aaron was already well down the mountain, so I didn’t have anyone to hang out with. So, I took a few handfuls of M&M’s, took a moment of forced reflection to enjoy the view from the top/savor the accomplishment/look down upon the the mountain that I had just dominated, and then went on my merry way.

For months leading up to this race, I had been looking forward to the downhill.  I am a strong downhill runner, and I was anticipating fun times barreling down a mountain for 7 miles despite warnings that the first 2 miles coming down were rather terrifying.

Race photo from Elevation Imaging

Race photo from Elevation Imaging…DO YOU SEE THE HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT???

But holy steepness.  Within a mile my quads felt significantly thrashed and it was taking intense concentration not to fall flat on my face. The trails were well washed out, leaving almost no place to run.  People were trying really hard to not run into each other, but it was chaotic times.

At the top, I started running in front of two female runners.  From what I gather, they had planned to run together, but one of them just kind of abandoned the other one at some point because she just wanted to be done with the uphill (it doesn’t sound like she bothered to tell her friend), but waited for her at the summit and this was the first time that they were talking since the great abandonment. Talk about passive aggressive fake friendliness going on. I dealt with the back and forth for about a mile, and I knew that if I wanted to not punch these people, that I needed to get away from them.

Luckily, I got away thanks to running faster than advisable, I didn’t fall down, and I never had to hear their dumb conversation again.

With about five miles to go, the crowd started thinning out.  I was only passed by one group of three women on the way down, but passed several people.  As a somewhat trained endurance runner, I felt I had an advantage at this point in the race, because even though this course was hard, my body is used to the long mileage.  So while I was able to keep going, I could pinpoint the runners without that endurance training because they appeared to have just been run over by a bus.

I continued on my pace, still hoping to come in under 4 hours.  I did come across a trombone player walking down which was unexpected and awesome (how did he get up there with a trombone???).  And because the crowd had thinned out so much, I hit a couple of aid stations completely by myself.  I didn’t necessarily need to stop, but I felt weird running through when they all sprung into action. I high-fived some kids, took some snacks, and gratefully accepted some cold water poured down my back (considering this was a mountain race, the temperatures were perfectly warm).

With three miles to go, my Garmin finally made good on its promise and died.  This is the first time my Garmin has died on me mid-race, and strangely, instead of derailing my mental state (which, let’s be honest, was derailed somewhere between 12,000 and 13,000 feet), I think it made me run faster because of the pace uncertainty.

Spectators started to pop up sporadically along the course, which was reassuring…surely spectators wouldn’t be hiking further than 2 miles to cheer!

At one point, I turned at a switchback, and a green valley with little buildings came into view.  I was hopeful that I was descending upon Telluride.  I hadn’t studied the course enough to know how far the finish line was from the first spotting of Telluride, so I wasn’t sure if I should be excited that I was almost done, or scared that I was going to have to see this town for a few miles while wishing for the end. But it was a happy sighting nonetheless.

Taken post race from the gondola, but what it looked like during the race

Taken post race from the gondola, but what it looked like during the race

As the course became lined with spectators, I picked up the pace.  The trail finally started to improve as I came into Telluride.  I spotted Aaron, so I knew the finish line must be coming up soon.  He yelled, with camera phone in hand, that the finish line was right around the corner.

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As I turned the corner, the trail turned into asphalt and I spotted the finish line maybe a tenth of a mile away.  I felt like I was flying as I sprinted across the fabulously steep downhill slant and past the cheering spectators as I crossed the finish line in 4:08:10, 32 in my age group, and 203/579 females.  About 8 minutes slower than my goal, but I was truthfully happy that I made it and stayed in one piece, and got to finish strong considering how crappy I’d felt for most of the race.

Yay! Done!

Yay! Done!

After the race I was handed my finisher’s pin (while I’m not medal motivated, I was a bit disappointed that my grande mountain adventure didn’t warrant something slightly more significant).  They had the usual water/Gatorade/snacks available, but no finisher’s photos.

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After the race, we refueled at Smuggler’s Brewpub which was fantastic except for the bathrooms which were located down a full flight of stairs…painful both ways.  We opted to take the later bus back to Ouray, so we explored  the area a bit and took the gondola to Mountain City (famous people have houses there!).

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Smuggler’s Brewpub

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Mountain City, CO

When we got back to Telluride, we hopped on the bus.  A nice volunteer brought oranges and cookies (leftover since the race had finished and they were cleaning up).  The ride took about an hour, and it was raining the whole time, so I’m glad the weather held up during the race.

Bus snacks

Bus snacks

We were both exhausted and sore.  I would say that my fatigue level was greater than it has been post-marathon. We both decided to forgo celebrating out in Ouray, so Aaron stopped by the grocery store, picked up a six pack of Telluride Brewery beer, and we ate leftover pizza and fell asleep watching TV.

Details:

Finish time: 4:08:10 (14:30 average pace)

Splits, minus the last 3 miles of Garmin deadery

Splits, minus the last 3 miles of Garmin deadery

Fuel: Luna Bar pre-race, ClifShot (with caffeine) at miles 7, cookies, peanut M&M’s, oranges, banana and peach slices along the course (provided at aid stations)

Hydration: One glass of Nuun pre-race, hydration belt with two little bottles filled with water, Sports Drink at aid stations

Gear: Brooks Cascadia trail shoes, ProCompression socks, Lululemon Fast Cat skirt (no pockets which was a big bummer), Lululemon CRB, Nathan’s Hydration belt (I packed gloves just in case, but didn’t need them).

Favorite Moment: The summit: the figurative and literal peak to conquering challenges.

Least Favorite Moment: The last few uphill miles.  I felt very weak and discouraged.

Advice: Incorporate power hiking into your training, and train on technical trails.  From what I hear, the downhill portion is usually very smooth, but because of recent rains, it was pretty torn up.  Invest in trail shoes, bring your own water, and a camera.

RACE LOGISTICS:

Packet Pick-Up: Offered in both Telluride and Ouray. No frills, but well organized (the t-shirt was the least flattering race shirt I’ve ever received though).

Transportation/Parking: Bus rides from Telluride in the morning, and back to Ouary post-race (there was plenty of room, and they leave at a couple of different times, and are announced), we had NO problem getting a parking space near the start line in Ouray.

Hotels: We stayed in Ouray at the Hot Springs Inn which I would recommend.  Hotels were pretty reasonably priced considering the amount of tourists.

Aid Stations: the best I’ve ever seen.  Lots of good food.  BUT there weren’t very many of them (6 total).

Bathroom situation: I saw one on the course at the summit (I believe there were more)  I suggest bringing toilet paper.  You are in the woods after all.

Even thought this race was HARD, I would like to do it again now that I know how to train better for it, and I really want to hit sub-4 hours.  It’s close, it’s cheap, and it really presented a challenge that was humbling and exciting.   This race also has a great “local” feel…everyone knows each other! My only issue is that there was definitely a feeling of mountain runner snobbery among a small minority of the people, but overall, it was a great race!

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What Goes Up Must Come Down…Hopefully on Two Feet

Every time I write a post about trail running, I focus on all of the stuff we’re doing to get up the mountain, but not really even mentioning the whole “getting back down” part, even though multiple people have said that for Imogene, the downhill portion is more physically taxing than the uphill portions. I tend to think I am a strong downhill runner which almost seems like a silly and maybe even embarrassing thing to admit. It’s like saying I’m really good at the one thing in running that requires no skill aside from just being a body of mass subject to the laws of gravity. BUT at least I have that!

Not only does my pace slow down considerably while running uphill, I also feel completely miserable/tired/frustrated any time I’m faced with an incline.   I can handle flatness and seem to do ok with it as evidenced by the Chicago Marathon, even though I prefer to add little elevation changes so my muscles don’t get tired.

But when I’m running downhill everything works in conjunction to make me feel like I am the most fast, amazing runner on the planet. Stand in the way, and I will knock you down with my downhill runner awesomenss.

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So, basically I spend a lot less time worrying about downhill training because overall I LOVE it.

BUT. But.

I have noticed that this whole thing gets a little more complicated when it comes to trail running.  Suddenly being a body of mass subject to the laws of gravity seems like less of an advantage when I can’t control myself going down, and as a result my quads get a beating because they are trying to stop me from missing a switchback and ending up going a bit too far over the side of the mountain.

Also, rattlesnakes. Not having control of your body might make you run into a rattlesnake like the run we saw during our 18.5er on Saturday. This alone is reason enough to consider going about downhill running in a strategic way. photo (5) Even though downhill trail running is different than running down a street I think the general tips and tricks and principles still apply: allow gravity to do its thing while attempting to reduce the amount of “braking” action you’re doing. But on some of these trails (and apparently at the top of Imogene Pass when you first start the descent), this requires considerable bravery and skill…things I don’t necessarily have as a strict “body of mass” downhill runner.

So, we have been practicing descending upon steep downhills (mostly because once you reach the top, you generally have to get back down). For me, my most obvious weakness has been  my core.  While a strong core will do wonders for just about anything in life, a weak core will make steep downhill running without falling down pretty impossible. At least for me.

But after all the talk about downhill training, I decided to do a little bit of research in hopes that I could improve my abilities and maybe be more prepared for this race.

After reading a bunch of lists on how to improve downhill running (actually, there are like 3 lists out there about downhill running), it looks like these other things are also important:

1) Hot Potato Steps:

Remember when you played hot potato as a kid (or yesterday…) and you tried to get whatever object (usually not actually a hot potato) out of your hands as fast as possible because presumably, it was “hot.” Kinda the same thing, except your feet are your hands and the trail is the hot potato. Think of times when you’ve missed a stair and ended up going farther down than you anticipated.  It usually results in a hard landing.  This is the same type of thing. Your foot is going farther than it thinks it is going, so it lands harder.

Apparently the more you replace “pounding the pavement” (dirt?), with being light and springy, the less pressure you are putting on your legs.

2) Bend slightly forward: 

This helps you use gravity while giving you more control.  Leaning back is part of the “braking” action that increases impact on your legs.  If you’ve ever been skiing, this makes a lot of sense.

3) Trail Shoes: I went against my own advice and purchased new/unfamiliar shoes last week.  I went with the Brooks Cascadia because most of the people in the facebook group said having traction on the bottom of your shoe will help prevent sliding during the initial steep descent from the summit. Trail shoes are made for this very purpose, so it makes sense to use what tools are available.

 So, I decided to put these two secrets to downhill success to the test during our last 18 mile run on Saturday.  We ran up the La Luz trail to the Sandia Peak summit, and then back down.  This course actually has a larger elevation gain than Imogene, so it was a good training run and in the very least assured me that I wouldn’t come in dead last at the race provided I stay in one piece.
We started down where those houses were: 9 miles up, 9 miles down

We started down where those houses were: 9 miles up, 9 miles down…check out those new shoes!

So, did incorporating these super secrets for downhill running success work?

Well, attempting to focus on not tripping while simultaneously playing hot potato with my feet and remembering to bend forward was…a good way to slow down.  It was just too much for me to concentrate on at once.

Bending forward: I feel like I worked hard to improve my running posture and keep my shoulders up, so bending forward felt a bit counter intuitive…but it worked.  I felt so much more in control of my body than the flailing around that I usually do.

Hot Potato Feet: Just didn’t work out. I tend to really lengthen my stride which makes each foot push off feel heavier and harder, but when I tried to shake things up,  I felt like I lost control of my steps. In general I think it is too late in training to try and change my form that much, and I’d rather not attempt something this new this close to a race for fear of making things worse.

Trail Shoes: Worked well, and I think helped my feet take less of a beating on the rocks.

In conclusion….I’m hoping that by incorporating the “bend forward” technique, I’ll at least add some control to my downhill running and reduce a bit of the impact that my legs will feel.  We’ll see how it turns out during race day!

What are your downhill tips and tricks? HELP ME PLEASE! 

What is you elevation “strength?” 

I hope everyone has the most amazing Labor Day Weekend!

Training for Imogene

So, Imogene.

(I’ve watched this video a few times to give me inspiration and to experience some of the course).

In less than 3 weeks, I will be standing at the base of a mountain before running 10 miles up and 7 miles down.

As I do with all longer races, I’ve been studying the course and memorizing tips from seasoned participants.  Instead of a regular “fan” facebook page, the run has a private “group” which acts as more of a forum with pretty specialized advice and lots of pep talking.  Ed, a seasoned Colorado trail runner, is a frequent participant!

But even with all of the studying and analyzing, I am (like usual) more than a little apprehensive about how this will turn out. I am still a pretty new runner overall (just a little more than 2 years in), so I haven’t figured out my groove, nor do I have the experience to know with certainty that I won’t die during any given race. Add a 5,000 foot elevation gain into the mix, and you get a little Amy who has spent the last month really frustrated with the process because I am uncertain and afraid of spending 17 miles completely miserable. Or dying. It happens to people occasionally.  Even with all of the reassurances, I know my fears won’t be eased until I cross that finish line for myself.

Hill sprints up this trail hill have really brought my abilities into question

Hill sprints up this trail hill have really brought my abilities into question

Initially, before actually starting to train, I set out with a goal of placing third in my age group. The last time I did an untraditionally distanced small trail race at the Bataan Memorial Death March Half, I ended up 3rd female overall, so I figured this could be manageable, even though I really didn’t know how the pace per mile differentiates between regular running and Imogene running   Based on last year’s times, to place 3rd in my age group, I’d have to run a 3:03, which didn’t seem too far fetched for a 17 mile distance.  But then someone said that your Imogene time is actually pretty close to your marathon time.

Well, there goes that dream.

So, after that bubble burst and once I actually starting to run on trails and feel the affects of limited oxygen, my goals have really switched to:

1) Don’t be dead last

2) Don’t be too miserable

I also figured that while my body can train hard and race hard, it doesn’t recover very well at all, so putting myself through a grueling training schedule in an attempt to be an age group competitor when it doesn’t appear to be realistic seems like a way to spend another post-race month trying to get my legs to function correctly without actually getting a “PR” time or even a gauge of my fitness and speed levels. No thank you?

So, with the anticipation that I will sign up again for Rock n Roll Arizona in January with every intention of a sub 1:40 time, I’ve decided to use this race (for the first time ever) as a race where I “stop and smell the roses” (or in this case, “stop and check out the view from the summit while enjoying a bowl of chicken broth). But I do also value my life and I don’t want it to end somewhere beyond the tree line with all of the mountain people mumbling about “being prepared” and “cocky road runners who think they can run Imogene.”

Looks friendly…. via USDA

So, we’ve definitely been putting at least a little effort into training for this bad boy. I won’t even pretend that we’ve been consistent or super die-hard about this training cycle.  We started training later than I wanted to, and we’ve really been skipping a lot of workouts. But luckily, I’m at least finally starting to feel faster than I had been (still about a minute per mile slower than I was last summer which is kind of YIKES), and I’m starting to gain my confidence on the trails, so overall, considering my goals, I think I will be ok.

What Imogene Training Has Looked Like: 

1) Long runs: this is still a 17 mile race, which isn’t necessarily short.  Next week we will max out at 18 miles.  Usually, for road races, I don’t do long runs farther than the race distance, but since Imogene will be harder in elevation gain than any of our training runs, I wanted to build up a strong endurance base.  Like regular races, these long runs are also key in perfecting a fuel and hydration schedule.  We’ve been incorporating some solid foods in with our ClifShots, and I’ve been working at stopping for a good drink of water every mile beep.

2) Runs at elevation: At about 6,000 feet, Albuquerque doesn’t have a wimpy elevation, but we’ve had to go out of town and do a couple of runs a bit higher.  The 15 miler was at about 7,200 and the 12 miler peaked at about 11,600.  Next weekend, we’ll probably peak at about 10,000.  While none of these are preparing me for what 13,000 feet might feel like, running with less oxygen will hopefully be helpful.

15 Miler Elevation Profile

12 Miler Elevation Profile

15 Miler Elevation Profile...looks like an angry face!

15 Miler Elevation Profile…looks like an angry face!

3) Runs on trails: Almost all of our runs are now on trails. Unlike normal running, there is a constant change in direction, and you have to get used to rocks and tree roots and navigating around people since trails aren’t very wide.  It is also a bit different running on dirt than relying on the constant pushback from asphalt.  Your body is used differently for trail running than road running, so for me, getting accustomed to the changes has been a good (and I hope useful) method.  I went from a sad contender a few weeks ago to running an 8:30 trail mile (albeit, only 1) on Saturday.

Typical short trail run elevation profile

Typical short trail run elevation profile

4) Stepmill: This is that machine at the gym that looks like a staircase.  Usually, the people on it are all the way hunched over and walking very slow up them stairs.  Thanks to the steep uphill portions of mountain running, many trail steps really do feel like “stair” steps.  They really engage the quads, and I am having to do a huge push with one leg to launch the other forward. The stepmill helps stimulate that motion.  As an added bonus, (assuming you are hitting around 90 steps per minute and actually standing up like a normal person), stepmill is hard! I am completely dying and dripping in sweat after 30 minutes.

Machine o’ torture

5) Occasional speed work: We’ve done 2 track sessions and 2 hill sprint sessions.  For our hill sprints, we’ve been doing half mile repeats which are really long and torturous.  If I had to guess, I’d say that hill sprints are more valuable than track sessions for this race, but I wouldn’t say that we’re putting very much effort into increasing speed (which is really apparent with my paces).

Hill Repeats Elevation Profile

Hill Repeats Elevation Profile

The bottom of the hill, looking up

The bottom of the hill, looking up

6) The easy runs.  The relief.  The ones where you finish and you are like, I wish I could run 3 easy miles everyday and still BQ during marathons. (But not really because I know myself and I know you and we are all crazy). We had a couple of days of yoga written into our plan and we haven’t been doing a great job actually doing it.  Because trail running uses up so many different muscles instead of the same ones over and over, I really haven’t felt all that sore. I know that’s not a good excuse, but when I’m feeling good, and it is Friday night, I just don’t want to.

So, this is what a typical week of Imogene training is looking like:

Monday: Stepmill

Tuesday: 4-5 trail miles

Wednesday: 3 easy miles (sometimes on a trail)

Thursday: hill sprints followed by 1-2 trail miles

Friday: Yoga (or happy hour)

Saturday: Long Run (sometimes on a trail)

Sunday: “Long Recovery Run” 6-10 miles on the trail

Will this training plan get me to Mountain People glory? Probably not.  But I am hoping that I’m at least establishing a strong base and that come race day I won’t regret not doing more. In the very least, I have improved leaps and bounds with my trail running, I have shipped my comfort zone far far away, and I’m allowing myself to relearn everything I know about running and my personal limits. And I think for me, this time around, that is enough.

Ooo! Shiny!

Ooo! Shiny!

A Tale of Two Trail Runs

Happy Hump Day!

I’m still working on the Imogene Training Recap (detailing my thoughts of training for this 17.1 race over a 13,000+ foot mountain), but mostly working to tone it down so it doesn’t scream, “I HATE THIS RACE” quite as loudly because the world does not need my negative shenanigans.  I’m ALMOST there.

In the meantime…it was the best of times, it was the worst of times (figured with a title like that, I had to throw in a Dickens quote).

Since we are doing a mountainous trail race, we have started doing our long runs on trails, and we now have 2 under our belt: the 15 miler that resulted in the camping trip last weekend, and the 12 miler that we did on Saturday. One sucked beyond my wildest imagination (that’s way overdramatic. It obviously could have been worse, but at the time I wanted to punch trail running in the face).  The other one sucked considerably less to the point that I would say it was almost enjoyable.

Unfortunately, I took the “breath away” part a little too seriously

The 15 Miles From H-E-Double Hockey Sticks

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Last weekend, we did a 15 mile trail run near Lake Heron in the north central part of the state during the camping trip mentioned last week. At one point around mile 13, I almost started crying because I was so frustrated with the run. At mile 14, both of us did far more walking than running because we hit the wall and kept ramming ourselves back into it for more torture.

We didn’t fuel properly for the amount of time that we were out (mostly because we didn’t think it would take 4 hours and 20 minutes to run 15 miles), a torrential downpour the night before (that we experienced from inside a tent) turned the trail into a mud run obstacle course, and sometimes the trail was more of a river.  Also, aside from a 3 miler, this was the longest I’ve ever tried to run on a trail, and road running really doesn’t translate very clearly to trail running.

Among the sites, a swingy bridge and a staircase up the hill (going down was fun, but going back up at mile 12 killed my spirit). We also found a fresh track that I’m convinced was either a bob cat or mountain lion.  Because what better way to end a bad run than with a mauling?

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Climbing back up these stairs was the worst.

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Not the most awesome thing I’ve run on

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Hmm…that looks like a long way down…

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I really have not loved training for this race, but this run made me seriously regret signing up for Imogene. I’ve never considered quitting, but I did feel overwhelmed and unprepared to jump into something so different.  It’s not like ambulances are readily available at the top of mountains.

This run was also what convinced Aaron that I needed to forgo most other speed workouts and easy runs and focus on getting my body accustomed to trail running.  I don’t have the stabilizer muscles developed to glide effortlessly through frequent obstacles and changes in direction.  I don’t have the confidence in my step to not tip toe around every rock and tree root  And I don’t have faith in myself to get up the damn mountain without an emotional breakdown.

All of that needs to be fixed in the next 4 weeks.

ONTO THE GOOD!

The 12 Not As Terrible Miles

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This past Saturday, we had 12 miles on the schedule, so we headed up to Santa Fe to run a trail that ends up at the Santa Fe Baldy Peak (second highest point in the state).  Our run started at 10,000 feet and worked its way up to 11,600 (you could go even higher but we didn’t).  This trail was gorgeous from beginning to end with majestic pine trees and whimsical mushrooms (perfect for gnome houses) and babbling streams! And it wasn’t muddy which made things much easier.

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Aaron also let me in on a secret training method that really helped my approach: WALK.

So simple, yet so scary.  I have never walked during a race.  (I did stop to use the bathroom during Chicago, but I figure that’s kind of different).  In my mind, walking equates giving up, so I don’t do it (I know that is a big fat lie).

Half the time, when attempting to run up a steep hill while navigating trail obstacles, I am going about as fast as I would if I were walking, but using more energy (running is a really inefficient way of getting around).  So why would I waste more energy going just as fast (or slower)?  IT MAKES NO SENSE.

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So, with that in mind, anytime I noticed my pace dropping on the uphill, I walked until I could feel my legs relax, and then I’d run again. A lot of times this meant running for about 30 seconds and walking for about 30 seconds. I don’t think I actually ran a full mile in the 12 that we did, but I felt great, and even the high elevation really didn’t kill me in ways that I thought it would.  We did bring more fuel (this is important), and the trail was in better condition, but overall I felt so much better on this run than I did on the 15 miler.

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Weee! Downhill is fun.

I’m still not completely confident about my race performance though.  We have 2 long runs left before we taper down, and I’m hoping that both of those will help my body get even stronger.

But, aside from the misery and the extreme slowness, how beautiful is trail running?  A good portion of our 12 miler time was spent standing at the tree line, swooning over the amazing world around us.  I’ve had some amazing runs this year with some incredible scenery, but nothing quite matches the feeling of standing so high above the world and knowing your little tired (and thoroughly harassed) legs have actually carried you up there.

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At the tree line!

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And having every hiker (who were all amazingly friendly) stop to comment about how badass you are for running this trail is pretty dang cool.

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Overall take-aways for long trail runs:

1. Even though I can sustain myself on 1 ClifShot during a regular 15 mile run, trail running takes a lot longer and requires different fueling needs.  Having a sufficient fuel stash ready will help make those last few miles much less terrible.  Also, low glycogen levels actually spin your emotions out of control, so not fueling properly might actually make you cry.

2. Walking is cool, especially if you are going the same speed that you would be while running.  And walking uses less energy while allowing for a bit of recovery.

3. These training runs at elevation are important! I am so glad that I didn’t go into this race without practice because I don’t know if I would have been physically ok to do it. I still don’t, actually…

4. Mantras are just as helpfult, but for me, they need to be a bit different.  “BE THE GOAT” is what seems to be working to get me up the hills, but it wouldn’t make any sense sprinting down a city street.

5. CORE STRENGTH and strong quads:  These are always a big deal for runners, but when you are going down a steep downhill stretch, gravity will throw you off the mountain if you don’t have a fine tuned brake system. I’ve had more scares than I care to admit.

Trail Running: Love it or hate it? 

Favorite trail running shoes?  I’m likely going to go with the Brooks Cascadia, but I could use suggestions for a more supported trail shoe.

At Least the Lake Was Pretty

I don’t like camping.

It’s not so much the eating hot dogs in the wilderness or the smell of campfire, or even the prospect of getting swept up in a giant rain storm while sleeping in a tent.  I can handle all that, and mostly even enjoy it. But I truly detest not having an actual toilet for longer than a race morning (and a sink to wash my hands), and sleeping in a little cramped space on mere mat padding for an entire weekend.

Call me high maintenance if you will (mostly every one does), but I want a bathroom and bed. If camping included those things and combined the greatness of the outdoors with human comforts, I’d be willing to go every summer weekend.

I want to camp HERE!

I really try to be a good sport about it though. It may not be the way I want to spend my time, but I try not complain…at least while we’re there. Just, you know, on the blog after the fact.

Aaron on the other hand, is a mountain man.  He even considers “car camping” to be a lesser form of the activity.  He’d rather back-pack into somewhere and live off of the land with whatever supplies he can fit into his sack.

Look at all that camp gear!

During our first few months of dating 5 years ago, I consented to go camping (gotta impress), but other than that, I’ve kind of managed to avoid this whole hobby of his.  But that means that he hasn’t gone either. And while I may hate camping, I also don’t want to deprive poor Aaron of something he truly loves (but kind of, because BATHROOMS).

Long story short: we went camping last weekend. We’re getting to the peak (hehe) of our Imogene training, and we’ve been trying to get some higher elevation mountainous trail runs in, and all of those trails are closer to camp grounds than actual cities, so there you have it.  Leave it to running to break my non-camping streak. Our trail run was 15 miles, and afterwards I wanted nothing more than to prop my feet up, and sleep in a very comfortable bed. But, it is what it is.

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That car (which isn’t ours) shows how close our neighbors were

We went up to the North Central part of the state to a place called Lake Heron which is almost more of more of a resort campground where you have people on either side of you, lots of happy Forest Ranger friends, a latrine style toilet (which was ok on Saturday morning but downright disgusting by Sunday morning with all of the use and ten million flies swarming).  The next cluster of sites next to ours even had a camp host and showers (which were actually pretty decent). IMG_7335 - Copy They even had daily activities like ukulele lessons and snake education.  Aside from the fact that we could hear everything our camp neighbors were saying (and every scream of the sick toddler they brought with them), having a shower, and something resembling a toilet was nice. But I was mostly obsessed with the lakefront property. I spent the weekend taking pictures of our amazing view.  And enjoying the water since it is mostly non-existent in Albuquerque.  IMG_7321 - Copy IMG_7301 - Copy

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View of the lake from inside the tent

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The water levels statewide are ridiculously low right now, so the lakes (I think all of them here are man made) are having to let out a bit to provide water for the rivers.  It looks like they just did a major water lowering a couple of weeks ago, so the shore right by the lake was not only very muddy in a “hasn’t been dry in decades” type of way, but also filled with treasures.  And by treasures I mean really old beer and soda cans.

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I was also amazed at how many fossils I found right next to our campsite.  Nothing too amazing like dinosaur skeletons or fish bones, but plenty of sea shells!  Considering the number of people who hang out there, it looks like I’m the only person who has ever rock hunted.

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Aside from our 15 mile trail run (more about that on Monday), other activities included drinking wine, playing with the camera, bike riding, kayaking (oops…forgot to take pictures), middle of the lake picnicking, and exploring. We even saw a herd of deer! (hopefully they were not caught by the gang of howling coyotes that woke us up later that night…).

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If you look closely, you can see the train of ants

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The drive to and from Lake Heron was also quite beautiful.  We were surrounded by dramatic cliffs and Northern New Mexico landscape.  We also stopped by a small town called Abiquiu to take a picture of this neat mission church built in 1920.  IMG_7377 - Copy IMG_7232 - Copy

Overall, if this is something I can get away with doing once every five years (heck, I’ll even make it four!), than I think I will survive. As always, it was nice to get out of town and do a long run on a new (yet ridiculous) trail.  The weather here is already starting to cool down (sadness), and our warm summer weekends are numbered, so just getting to spend time outside might have even been worth some of the yucky parts of bonding with nature. Maybe.

Love camping or want to join me in the whimsical canvas tent and king bed resort place?

Favorite camp food? 

HAVE A WONDERFUL WEEKEND!  It’s turned into an unofficial holiday around these parts because of the Breaking Bad premier on Sunday.

Staying Active with Arthritis

A few weeks ago, Tali asked if she could please take over the blog to talk about  something very personal to her and something I thought was incredibly inspiring and interesting.

Tali is in her 20’s, and she has arthritis, BUT that hasn’t deterred her from staying active which is AWESOME. I absolutely love stories about people who don’t let medical issues get in the way of fitness.  Her guest post is below, but also make sure to check out her blog, Wee Picket Fences (her last name is Wee!).  

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Bike Ride

Tips to Staying Active with Arthritis

The human body is designed for physical activity and has evolved to perform impressive feats such as long distance running.  Getting regular exercise improves fitness, sleep, body weight, energy level, brain function, immune systems, moods and overall health to prevent disease.  However, approximately 21 million adults in the U.S. have limited activity levels due to the restrictions of their arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis causes inflammation, fatigue, stiffness, pain and joint damage and does not have a cure.  These symptoms often flare with physical activity but worsen without it.  Exercise is a catch 22 for those living with arthritis.

Experiencing Arthritis:

Of the 50 million Americans living with arthritis, few cases are alike (CDCP). Some arthritis patients have just one joint affected with painful symptoms where others might suffer throughout their entire bodies.  We’ve all seen the commercials for Enbrel or Humira where patients can’t open a jar or comfortably travel up and down stairs prior to being medicated.  Medication to suppress the immune system decreases inflammation which typically relieves the pain, allowing patients to live fairly normal lives.

I’m one of the 9 percent of U.S. adults who are physically limited by arthritis.  By the time I found a doctor who could properly diagnose and treat my disease, she was shocked to find that I’d maintained a fairly healthy body weight and attitude without medication.  The doctor mentioned most patients suffering from severe cases become ‘couch potatoes’ after years of untreated symptoms.

Think about a time when you worked out so hard that you awoke the next day barely able to move.  The pain is a nice reminder that you’re building muscles, and it’s sometimes laughable when trying to accomplish daily activities.  Maybe you need a day to rest your fatigued muscles, or perhaps you just hit the gym and work through that sensitivity.  Living with my arthritis is similar to waking up with a sore body.  Only I have to monitor carefully if exercising through the discomfort will be pushing my body into a state of inflammation and increased pain, or if it’ll loosen my joints and alleviate the stiffness.

Pacing Exercise:

Originally, arthritic patients were instructed to lay low and not add pressure to their joints.  Now, experts suggest getting consistent, low-impact, aerobic exercise.  When my entire body feels too heavy, stiff and throbbing to get up and exercise, I try to focus on small goals.  My theory is some activity is better than none.

My Manageable Exercise Goals Are:

  • Just 15 minutes of stretching.
  • Take the dog for a brief, casual walk.
  • Make it to the gym for 20 minutes of Elliptical exercise.
  • Swim laps for 30 minutes.
  • Complete an at-home yoga video.
  • Attend a hot yoga class.
  • Attempt a P90 video and complete only what’s reasonable.

I simply try to do what I can that day without pushing it.  The trick is to not take it too far on the good days.  When I feel amped to get a quality workout in, I have to tone it down and do what I know my body is prepared to handle.  Otherwise, I won’t be able to workout at all for the next three days.  This took many years to master.  Exercise as an arthritic person can be a serious test of self-control.  It’s important to monitor how my body responds, not just how energetic and competitive I feel.  Some days I’m internally motivated but my body refuses.  Those become my rest days.

Poster Style Biking

Staying Motivated:

Arthritic exercisers are like anyone else trying to stay motived to keep fit, despite their slow ramp-up period.  It’s helpful to have a schedule of how many days of the week should include exercise.  Try to block the time off in the calendar to be sure not to skip exercising.  Purchase a gym membership to feel slightly more obligated to attend.  Get involved in activities that feel refreshing such as walking, yoga, bicycling, dancing, gardening and Pilates or Tai-Chi.  Pair up with a friend to make mellow activates more enjoyable.  When energy is lacking, try setting a minimum time for an activity; just a 20 minute bike ride is mentally manageable on fatigued days.  Those with arthritis often suffer from fatigue.  Inactivity actually lends to further fatigue.  Getting out in the fresh air on a short walk can be enough to shift energy toward a healthier lifestyle.

What I’ve found from personal experience is the slow, steady increase of activity is the ticket to health.  With arthritis, there is no way to quickly jump back into exercise, we have to work ourselves back in.  It sounds lame in the beginning; try a 10 minute walk every day coupled with a few stretches.  This leads to 15 minutes, 20 minutes and then the eventual transition to solid a 45 minutes of aerobic exercise.  Truthfully, I go through weeks of feeling discouraged, uncomfortable and lazy.  But I can get inspired by the ultimate challenge of running.

For years, running was my goal.  That goal for an arthritic person can take months to work up to.  I used to be an athlete and know there is nothing quite like running with determination, winning and feeling exhausted from the triumph.  I’ve worked my way back up to running a couple of times over the years.  Between balancing medication, diet, weight and the slow fitness acceleration, running is a truly challenging goal to keep up with.

Takeaway:

Remember that exercise is healing for people living with arthritis.  Monitor your pace and take it slow.  Set weekly goals for the amount and type of exercises you’ll attempt.  Pay attention to your body’s resistance and think about how it’ll feel tomorrow.  Stay hopeful that tomorrow is one workout closer to running, jumping or whatever fitness goal you may hold.

Bio: Tali Wee currently blogs about life in the northwest and handles the community outreach for Zillow.  She owns Wee Picket Fences where she writes about being a foodie, new homeowner, bargain hunter and activity enthusiast.  Tali enjoys family, food, travel, writing and spending time on projects around the house.

The 117th Boston Marathon Race Recap

10:19 a.m., April 15th.  I was looking down compulsively at my Garmin.  I had activated the satellite location finder a few minutes before and it had sprung into action faster than anticipated (it usually takes 5 minutes), so I was worried that it would shut off before I could initiate the timer as I crossed the start line.

Lined up in corral 7 of the 2nd wave, my Garmin was my most pressing concern.  At that moment, the Boston Marathon was still just the Holy Grail of races for marathon runners, an impressive race for some non-runners in the know, and for most people in the world, an event with little to no importance.  In fact, I imagine that very few people outside of Boston or the running community had any idea at all that some 24,000 runners were nervously lined up in a small Massachusetts town called Hopkinton, waiting to embark on possibly the most coveted 26.2 mile journey in all of road racing.

I wish that was still the case. But, we all know what happens next.

I’ve seriously contemplated whether or not I should write a race recap.  After a lot of encouragement, I decided that while these people hijacked our lives and thrusted us into the era of successful “soft target” terrorism in America at 2:50 pm, I won’t let them have a second more.

So, let’s talk about the Boston Marathon as it was at 10:19 a.m.  A simple yet momentous road race that signified determination and achievement to runners across the world.

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Pre-Marathon Monday

Aaron and I flew into Albany on Thursday and explored three different states (and two counties) with stops in Saratoga Springs, Burlington, Hanover, and Montreal before making our way to Boston on Sunday.

We checked into our Cambridge Hotel, and took the “T” (Boston’s public rail transportation system of which I am personally not a fan) across the Charles River and over to the Copely Square station for the Expo. The historic town of Boston slowly came into view as we emerged from the underground, and we were greeted with a sea of blue and yellow jackets…2013 jackets…walking in all directions.  Apparently, in Boston, wearing the current year garb before the race is more than acceptable.  It is expected. It was here that I got my first glimpse of the famed, brightly painted finish line from the other side of the barriers.

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The Expo

The expo was held at Hynes Convention Center right on Boylston which is apparently a different location than it had been held in years past.  The expo is a 3 day long endeavor, but it seemed as if most people decided to go right when we went…at 1:30 on Sunday.  The bib distribution was held in a hallway and the process was pretty painless, but I was sad that they were out of my t-shirt size. TIP: Don’t wait until the last minute to go to the expo. 

When we entered the main expo and I was immediately overwhelmed by the hoards of runners crowding the narrow aisles, snatching up free samples and Boston themed merchandise (EVERY company has special Boston themed merchandise).  Luckily, the Adidas store was the first exhibit, so I was able to locate the Unicorn Jackets and buy myself one. They were well stocked, and none of the sizes appeared to be in danger of selling out.

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In a moment of non-run nerdery, I didn’t look up when any of the elite runners would be appearing (I only obsess over Kara Goucher every day, yet apparently I have no desire to actually see her), but we did come across Katherine Swisher, known as the first woman to (illegally) run the Boston Marathon.  As can be expected, she had a ridiculous line of fans waiting for her autograph, so I snapped this stalker type photo and moved on.

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We exited the expo, and hopped back on the “T” to get to Cambridge. We took the “T” twice during our time in  Boston and both times it took far longer than it should have to get where we were going.

Because of all the driving we’d been doing (from Vermont to Montreal the day before, and from Vermont to Massachusetts that morning), I wanted to do a shake out run (I do this before every race).  Our hotel was right on the Charles River in Cambridge, so we ran a lovely two miles with great views of the city.  All of my body parts felt ok, and overall it was a run that at the very least, reassured me of my ability to run 2 of the 26.2 miles required of me the next day.

We headed back to the hotel, showered at the speed of light, and met Jon, Ellie, Adrienne, Mike, and Susan downstairs for drinks.  If Jon wasn’t my first ever blog friend, he was pretty close, so it was one of those situations where you kind of forget that this is your first meeting.  They all ran the B.A.A. 5-K that morning, and I think just about everyone PR’d! We had a wonderful time talking about Boston (I complained a lot about the “T” to my captive audience), and I hope to meet up with everyone again should we make it back next year!

After drinks, Aaron and I headed across the River to Boston’s North End which is exactly like San Francisco’s North Beach…an entire neighborhood made up of small, family-owned Italian restaurants, aka, carb-load heaven.  I had made reservations about a month in advance at Panza on the recommend of Hyedi. The place was small and packed, and about 10 parties walked in with 7:00 reservations which they obviously couldn’t accommodate, prompting some of the locals to get quite heated.  I love the people of Boston, but they can be quite… high strung? We actually had to share a table with a couple from Sacramento (he qualified at CIM). It was nice to sit next to our fellow Westerners who were refreshingly laid back.

I ate the linguine carbonara with sangiovese (I don’t think that is a recommended wine pairing, but whatever).  The meal was perfect, and my glycogen felt sufficiently stored as we headed back to Cambridge to settle in for the evening.

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Marathon Monday

Despite my 10:20 start time, the logistics of the morning required a typical 5:00 a.m. wake-up call. I’ve never participated in a race that started after 8 in the morning, so I had to plan nutrition, water, bathroom, and supplies accordingly.  At the hotel I drank a glass of Nuun, but held off eating.  I showered, got all of my stuff together, and headed out the door at 6:10.  Aaron went with me into the city because the last thing the world needed was a nervous, sleepy runner trying to navigate the Boston public transportation system by herself.  Plus, he was planning on walking the Freedom Trail while I ran.

I had made arrangements to meet Beth and her friend Sheliah, also from Albuquerque, in the bus line.  She said to look for the tall blonde lady wearing a black baseball hat and throw-away clothes which easily described 30% of the population.  When we emerged from the underground,we were met the with sight of thousands upon thousands of runners waiting for the bus (it took us over an hour to get through).  In some sort of miracle, we were able to find Beth and Sheilah, and we hopped in line.  Sheilah has run Boston multiple times, so she was a great resource.

At 7:30 I ate a Luna bar, and was mindfully sipping water throughout.  Somewhere in there, we came upon a group of porta-potties.  They were emitting a pretty rancid smell, so I was hesitant to use one, but Sheliah assured us that even after we got to Hopkinton (an hour drive), we’d still have a long wait, so using it now was a really smart choice.  I heeded her advice, and it was absolutely the right decision. TIP: Use the porta-potties in the bus line.

IMG_0745 IMG_0744Bus line craziness

By my estimation, school buses from the entire state were being used for marathon transportation.  They would load about 10 at a time, those buses would drive off in unison, and 10 more buses would drive up. The whole thing was being run by MIT students, and it worked like clockwork. I sat next to a man from Utah.  He had run Boston in 2008, and this time he’d brought his brother with him.  They both qualified and they were going to run and cross the finish line together! I hope they were able to do it.

IMG_6402I’m waving!

The drive was pleasant.  I got to see some of the Boston suburbs and multiple crew teams training in the river. You could feel the excitement on the bus as we reached the town of Hopkinton and pulled up to our final destination, the Athlete’s Village.  As a seasoned pro, Sheliah led us away from the herd and up toward the bag check (there was a lot of uphill walking) toward a second set of porta-potties with less people (still about a half hour wait).  TIP: Bring toilet paper because there was none to be found.  Luckily I noticed with enough time to make necessary adjustments, but I can imagine there were some uncomfortable situations.

In a moment of desperation, I decided to pop a couple of ibuprofen.  My calf had been giving me issues for weeks, even driving me to see a specialist, and I had lost my most valuable training weeks trying to rest it.  It hadn’t been bothering me during our last few shake out runs, but I didn’t want to get a few miles in and be in pain.  This isn’t something that I think you’re supposed to do, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s that marathon runners aren’t particularly rational when it comes to racing. And, of course, the pain relief starts fading right at about 3 hours when you need it the most.

I had opted to stop drinking water aside from small sips after 9:00.  I ate a banana at about 9:20 (1 hour before start). We started organizing our stuff, peeling off the layers (it was comfortably warm at this point), reapplying sunscreen and body glide (apparently I did a good job…no chaffing!), and prepping to head to the start line. Gear drop off was fast and easy, and with little time to spare, we started on the LONG walk from the Athlete’s Village to the start line at about 10:00, and we had several Wave 1 runners (10:00 start time) frantically run past us. I’d heard that there was an epically long walk from the Athlete’s Village to the Start Line, and turns out this was not an exaggeration.

Much to my surprise, a whole colony of porta-potties was situated at the start corrals.  These ones had toilet paper and the lines only 1-2 people long which was a miraculous sight!  They also had what I can only describe as “out in the open” urinals…so that was awkward. TIP: Be prepared to see lots of peeing men. 

I parted ways with Beth and Sheliah as we headed into our respective corrals.  I got my Garmin set up, tried to focus my energy, and attempted to pump myself up (I forget what song was playing) as I heard the gun. AND WE WERE OFF!  I remember smiling, completely satisfied, as I started running and waved cheesily at the start line video camera.

Every course guide tells you to start Boston slower than you want to because it starts at a steep downhill.  For the most part, everyone started off slow, and kept that pace for the first half a mile.  But then, half a mile in, we got our first taste of spectating, Boston Marathon style.  And that resolve to keep a reasonable pace disappeared as every runner got caught up in the energy of the crowd.

The First Half

In my head, the first half of the race is a series of snapshots strung together.  It seemed jam packed with new sights and a new town every few miles.  Highlights include:

1) The huge “All in for… (insert town here)” signs as you exited each town.  I liked being able to check each town off a mental checklist as I ran through the course.  And each town takes great pride and pleasure in making sure you remember THEM as the best. I don’t remember why, but I have Framingham in mind as my favorite.

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2) Having about 10 kids jumping on trampolines with inspirational signs, and one at the end, holding up a giant Sam Adams cut-out.  Because what’s Boston without a Sam Adams cut-out?

3) The sheer number of people handing out wet towels/oranges/water/snacks/Popsicles, alcohol, Vaseline, etc. along the course.  These people literally spent their money on supplies for the runners and their day off handing them out.  While Chicago spectators were more entertaining, Boston spectators were far more functional.

4) How “amateur day” the whole thing felt.  Considering this is the marathon of seasoned professionals, I saw many rookie mistakes, like people just coming to a complete stop in the middle of the course (I literally ran into two people who did this).  I also saw more people stop to walk in the first few miles and along the entire course than I saw stop in the last 6.2 miles of Chicago. And men were peeing everywhere.  If we ran by a slightly wooded area, guaranteed there were male runners peeing in it.

5) The fun college kids. We passed by several college campuses, and a lot of areas where students lived.  You could easily identify them because the whole place started smelling like beer.  They were loud and enthusiastic cheerleaders.  I don’t remember any groups handing out beer specifically, but some girls were handing out jello shots, and cheered wildly when one runner slurped it down with experience in the earlier miles.

6) Noticing how different a race feels in the back.  For Chicago, I was near the front and the course was relatively clean.  In Boston, about 15,000 people had already gone through the water stations by the time I came through.  It was like running through a sticky Gatorade river of yuckiness.  I was sufficiently grossed out by the feeling of having Gatorade splash ups on the back of my legs.  And the cups.  They were everywhere.  I had visions of slipping on a cup and breaking my leg.

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Ewe.

7) People with homes along the course used the occasion to host big BBQ’s and parties in their front yards.  Marathon Monday is truly a day of celebration, and I was impressed at the atmosphere for the entire race.

8) Running by the Hoyt’s.  This is a father/son team who runs the marathon every year.  The father pushes the son (who is in a wheelchair), and they are easily the most popular (and maybe even the most famous) runners on the course.

All through this, I was keeping a pretty good pace and I was on track for a 3:35 finish time. It didn’t feel as effortless as my last few races, but I didn’t feel like I was pushing it to the point of epic failure toward the end either, and I was having fun.

I will say this though.  If I had never heard that this was a downhill course, I wouldn’t have described it as such.  There was downhill and, especially at the beginning, it was severely steep downhill.  But for the most part, the course was full of rolling hills.  I had done plenty of downhill training and quad strengthening, but I hadn’t done really any rolling hill training (mostly because it is impossible with the Albuquerque landscape). TIP: Train for rolling hills. 

Somewhere between miles 11 and 12, I started hearing a humming noise.  As I ran on, the hum increased in volume.  I started looking around at my fellow racers, and we all started smiling.  So this is what thousands of screaming girls sound like from half a mile out! And sure enough, in a few minutes, we entered the Wellesley Scream Tunnel, a stretch of road in front of Wellesley College where, what appears to be the entire student population, lines up with their “kiss me I’m from (insert home town/state/country here)” signs.  The energy was incredibly motivating!  I actually ran my fastest mile of the race during the Scream Tunnel. If only every race could include one.

The Second Half

We hit the halfway point, and I was starting to get worried.  I wasn’t feeling tired necessarily, but I felt a blister forming (my shoes were soaked from the aid stations) and my feet were staring to ache.  As we passed the half marathon timing mat, I heard a man say, “Oh, you all know the second half of this race is the easier part, right?”  We all laughed because we knew the worst was about to come.

I don’t recall how we entered Newton exactly.  I remember that most of the towns had beautiful signs announcing your entrance, so I’m guessing Newton was similar.  However it happened, I remember getting butterflies in my stomach.  Despite the fact that the entire course had been littered with hills, I knew these were different.  All of the hill repeats and elevation gain during long runs would come down to the next 4 miles.

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The Newton Hills are a series of four.  The first one is long.  The next two are steep.  But it’s the last one that gets you.  This one has been infamously named Heartbreak Hill because, not only it is both long and steep (though to a lesser degree than the other ones), but by the time you get there, you are 21 miles into your marathon and not in the mood to deal with any shenanigans.

The first hill felt long, but I managed to keep up my pace.  Just when I was feeling good again after the downhill, I spotted the sea of runners winding their way up the next hill. This hill was steeper, but it was shorter, and the downhill portion felt like a wave of relief.  But the relief was temporary as the next hill came into view.  I was starting to run out of steam, and my fellow comrades were losing it even more.  As much as I was slowing down, I was the person passing people.  In fact, several people started to walk.

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My mind starting getting fuzzy.  I had studied the course, but I suddenly couldn’t remember how many hills there were.  Three? Was that Heartbreak? Four? Or were there five?  I didn’t think I could take much more of this. I approached the base of the next hill, and started wishing with all my might that this was Heartbreak because I was done with these hills.  This was my slowest mile. I remember looking down at my Garmin and seeing my slower pace, and not even caring.  I didn’t have the will to push forward with any sense of urgency.

I reached the top and I was looking for the giant inflatable Boston College arch that let me know that Heartbreak was over.  I didn’t see it.  I immediately panicked, wondering if that wasn’t it.  The prospect of the largest hill looming ahead was frustrating.  But then, probably half a mile after that last hill, I spotted the arch. I had survived! Like most people say, Heartbreak Hill wasn’t all that bad.  But my legs had been fighting hills all race and I didn’t train well enough to not have it affect my pace, so it was a little bit heartbreaking for me.

Someone yelled, it’s all downhill from here! And I had a sudden resurgence of energy.

But that person lied.

The hills just kept going.  They weren’t big ones, but after Newton, I hadn’t really counted on having to use more energy on more hills. The last four miles felt really long.  I remember deciding (again) that marathons were stupid and I was especially stupid for running them.  I was incredibly envious of the drunk Boston College kids and how unmiserable they looked.

I also knew that Aaron would be somewhere around here.  I started looking back and forth, but we were now in Boston, and the streets were packed with spectators.  It turns out that looking back and forth for someone requires a lot of energy and focus. More energy and focus than I wanted to use. My calf was hurting, my IT band was hurting, my blister was hurting, and my feet were screaming in agony.  I could tell that the ibuprofen was wearing off.

IMG_6516Aaron’s picture from where he was waiting for me.  As you can see, blue tank tops were pretty popular.

IMG_6515Aaron’s picture: Elites making their left turn from Hereford to Boylston

At mile 24, I gave up looking for Aaron and instead switched to focusing on the finish. (Meanwhile, Aaron was at the 40K mat, chatting with none other than Bart Yasso. He didn’t see me pass by, and started back toward the finish area when he got the notification that I had passed the 40K mark).   I was tired, and I really didn’t feel like running another 2.2 miles.  I had to dig deep and focus on my mantras and remember the wounded warriors from Bataan and how any pain I was going through was insignificant.  Except in my head it sounded more like “THIS ISN’T PAIN,” and I knew what I meant.

I remember seeing the Citco sign, another noted Marathon landmark, and knowing that I was supposed to be excited, but not remembering if that meant I only had 3 miles or if I only had 1 mile, and that you could see it from deceptively far away, so I might still have 4.  My brain was done with the thinking.

Luckily, somewhere right around here, someone was blasting Don’t Stop Believing, which is my jam for life.  I owe much of my ability to finish to that person!

The course took a sharp turn to the right.  I looked down at my Garmin, and realized that, with only about half a mile left, I had officially taken THE right on Hereford. Hereford was short, and I could see the next turn (the big one) directly in front of me.  In my head, I was screaming something like “The left! The left!”  The left turn onto Boylston. I remember my first sighting of the finish line and being so happy that I was so close to it.  And I also remember thinking that there was STILL so far to go (I think almost half a mile).

IMG_6512The Finish line area.  This picture was taken at about 1:00

Slide1I LOVE this photo…what marathoners look like when they see the Finish Line for the first time.

I passed the 26 mile sign, and looked down at my Garmin.  I was at something like 3:38, and I was sad that my 3:35 had gone so far out the window during Newton, but if I hurried, I could get there in under 3:40.  So, I pushed as hard as I could.  I remember reaching the famously painted finish line, looking down in excitement, and realizing that the mats weren’t there, but several feet ahead.

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I crossed the finish line in 3 hours, 39 minutes, and 52 seconds.  6 minutes slower than my Chicago time, 5 minutes slower than a Boston qualifying time, and about 5 minutes faster than what I was expecting. I was elated, but I also felt slightly dizzy and weak. I started noticing runners collapsing all around me.  There were so many people, and I was starting to hyperventilate a little bit with claustrophobia.

I heard someone call out my name, and I looked over and was surprised to see my childhood neighbor Brandon (he guest posted here last summer!).  He works for ESPN and lives on the East Coast now and had gone to watch a couple of other friends run. We said a quick hello, but I knew I needed to keep moving. The finisher’s chute had all of the necessities for tired runners. First space blankets, then water, then Gatorade  then little snack packs with some amazing dinner rolls, and at the end, the medals.  I’m not sure if there was one of those backdrop photo stations.  If there was, I didn’t see it, but a photographer was standing there snapping as many people as he could.  So, my finish line photo was kind of gross with my space blanket.

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Gear check was at the end of the chute, and after a few minutes of waiting, a volunteer handed me my bag and I made my way back the opposite direction (walking against the crowd was pretty hard), and to the next street over from Boylston toward the family reunion area. I called Aaron and he said he was waiting for me at the “L” sign (they had signs with all the letters of the alphabet).  The letters were lined up on both sides of the street, and it turns out that “L” was pretty much the farthest back down toward the finish line, which felt pretty annoying at the time since essentially I walked the distance of the finisher’s chute twice. The annoyance turned to excitement as I spotted Aaron and he handed me a rose and let me know that I had a giant ClifShot goober on my face.  Lovely.  I had talked to my neighbor, taken my finish line photo, and talked to a bunch of other runners and volunteers with a giant poo brown goober. TIP: Use those wet towels handed out along the course to wipe your face.

I wanted to rest for a bit and munch on some items in my snack pack, so we walked down the street until we found an empty spot on the curb.  Aaron took my victory picture and texted my mom before coming to sit down next to me.  She replied back at 2:48 saying that I looked quite burrito-esqe, wrapped in my space blanket which was a pretty accurate statement. We were still laughing about my resemblance to a burrito when the first explosion went off.

IMG_0748About 2:45 p.m in my burrito outfit.

Post Race:

Once we got back to the hotel maybe an hour or so later (I had no concept of time), we sat downstairs in the bar watching the news. I forced half a cheeseburger down, really the first thing I’d eaten since the Luna Bar at 7:30, and ate a wedge salad much later at about 11:00 p.m., definitely not the post-race fuel I’d normally go for, but I wasn’t hungry.

IMG_6521Back safely in Cambridge.  I thought this was clever, and shows just how much the city embraces the race!

I actually recovered much faster than I did after Chicago which I attribute to the 2 mile walk to Cambridge after the marathon.

In Conclusion:

Even though I truthfully enjoyed almost everything about Chicago more, Boston is still a world-class race.  With so many potential logistical nightmares like busing 24,000 people 26 miles out of town before 10:00 am and setting up a course that runs through multiple municipalities, the execution ran like clockwork.  And the spectators had so much heart.  They did an amazing job of taking care of the runners, and I really think they, along with the dedicated volunteers are what makes this race so great.

From the social media interaction over the last 4 months, the “Unicorn Television” YouTube videos, the walking down the street and seeing a sea of blue and yellow jackets, and running from one historic town to the next, you aren’t going to run a marathon that will make you feel more special and more appreciated as a runner.  And while I was a bit worried about potential Boston run snobs, the general attitude from the runners was one of support and joy.  I had a wonderful experience (even during the miles when I wanted to punch the man who ran the first marathon…those are the miles that show you what you are made of).

I do want to make it clear that in no way do I feel cheated, and in no way do I feel like my experience or my achievement were taken away from me.  I got to finish (an estimated 5700 runners were stopped before crossing the finish line), I got to get a medal placed around my sweaty, goober-covered face, and I even got to celebrate with Aaron before the marathon became a national headline for all the wrong reasons. I fully intend to run this race again, because in the end, there is nothing quite like crossing the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Details:

Finish time: 3:39:52 (8:24 average pace)

Fuel: Luna Bar and banana pre-race, ClifShot (with caffiene) at miles 7, 14, and 21

Hydration: One glass of Nuun and one water bottle pre-race, alternating between water and Gatorade at every aid station (located almost every mile)

Gear: Brooks Adrenaline shoes, ProCompression socks, Lululemon Pacesetter skirt, Lululemon cool racerback, Nike Visor, LOTS of sunscreen and Body Glide

Favorite Moment: The Wellesley Scream Tunnel

Least Favorite Moment: running through aid stations and getting splashed with stickiness

Biggest Piece of Advice: Thank EVERY spectator and volunteer that you can

IMG_6706And with that, I am ready to move on.