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#BostonStrong

April 15th, 2014 | Posted by Lindsay Runs in Blog Posts - (2 Comments)

After the Boston bombing took place a year ago today, I vowed to do whatever it takes to be a part of the event in 2014. While I wasn’t there in 2013, the 2012 race holds such a place in my marathon-loving heart. Despite the heat, I discovered a new way to love the marathon. It wasn’t about PRs or executing the perfect race strategy– it was about enjoying the experience and soaking it all in. The city of Boston was alive that day and I’ll never forget it.

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Qualifying for the 2014 race meant running a marathon on a stress fracture, since it had been a while since I last raced and I needed a BQ time. With an abbreviated time period to train for this race once I got out of the boot, I knew I likely wouldn’t be in PR shape and just focused on getting in what training I could. Then, I got tendinitis and couldn’t run for a few weeks, and have been rehabbing my foot pretty intensely to make it to the starting line healthy. In my personal running bubble, it’s been a frustrating process getting here, but next Monday will put everything in perspective.

Mom & I in 2012

Mom & me in 2012

Races can be selfish when you’re gunning for a PR, even when running with a team. But this year, my Boston race isn’t about me. I’m running to join in a community that means so much to me. I want to give back to that community and celebrate our strength and resilience the best way we know how: running. To prove we are strong and can’t be stopped. I’m thankful to be healthy enough to be able to run the entire race, something I wasn’t sure would be possible just a month ago. I’m so excited to get up to Boston and be a part of the atmosphere I’ve been looking forward to for nearly a year.

I don’t think I’m fully prepared for what the weekend and race day will bring, but know it will be deeply emotional. Being here in NYC, it’s easy to feel a little disconnected from those in Boston who have been training with such a deep sense of rallying purpose. The last few days, and today in particular, I’ve read through stories of the survivors and those deceased, watched tributes and recaps and it’s starting to feel a bit more real. I cannot begin to imagine what Marathon Monday will be like, but it’s going to be one to remember. My heart and soul is ready to soak it all in.

I’m heading up Friday morning and will stay through Tuesday morning. Thankfully my last long run went really, really well. Following a reverse taper plan of sorts, I had a great 15 mile run on 4/5 and a final 20 mile run this past Saturday. I had friends to keep me company the entire 20 miles and it was a beautiful spring day. My pace averaged at 8:00, which felt really relaxed and comfortable. It was a confidence booster that I’m not completely out of shape after barely running for the last month.

My legs are surprisingly feeling pretty good this week, but I’ve been focusing on resting, icing, stretching and keeping up with my PT exercises. I haven’t felt any pain in my foot at all since I’ve returned to running, and I’m not concerned with not being as ‘fresh’ as usual considering I’m not racing. Whether I run 3:15 (lolz..) or 4:15, I will be happy with my race if I enjoy the day fully and my foot doesn’t hurt.

Good luck to everyone else running, I can’t wait to be a part of this day with you!

Never, ever, did I think the day on which I ran my slowest marathon would be one of the happiest.

But Monday was exactly that: a new personal worst time and a new favorite marathon experience. I can honestly say I have never been as happy during or after a marathon as I was on Monday. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been this purely happy at a race since college. I think I’m still glowing from it (but more likely, it’s the sunburn).

Ignore my awful form & lack of abs. Pay attention to my smiling, happy face!

It’s no secret: I like to run fast. I am internally competitive and incredibly driven by time goals. Sometimes I think a bit too much of my happiness depends on my running goals, but that’s a story for a different day. You all know Boston was my big race to break 3:00…believe I mentioned it in just about every post for the past two months. I thought I’d be heartbroken if I didn’t; what could possibly be wrong with me if I couldn’t pull it off in a race? For the 2nd time?

On Sunday before the race, I readjusted my expectations. Well shit, I likely wasn’t going to run under 3:00 or close to it. I didn’t want to be an idiot in this heat, run too fast, and suffer for it. Quite simply, I had to respect the weather and accept the fact I couldn’t control anything but my mindset. I could choose to soak in the experience and remain positive, or dwell in the disappointment and frustration. I chose the former.

We have to run the whole way back?

I met Alex and her friend Neal to board the buses to Hopkinton around 6:20 in the morning. My hotel was a quick 2 minute walk to Boston Common so I didn’t have to travel far. The bus ride was long, and I realized we’d soon be retracing our route by foot. The entire pre-race experience was so much more mellow than my experiences the last 2 years at NYC– the village was calm and non-herd-like, bag check was in close proximity to the waiting area, porta potties weren’t crazy, and we were just fine getting into our starting corral with 10 minutes ’til race time. The relaxed atmosphere certainly soothed any nerves pre-race.

Once we left our shady resting area in the starting village and hit the sun, I started getting hot and nervous. Before bag check, I made the last minute decision to race in a sports bra vs. my CPTC singlet. I’m aware that this sounds really vain, but I didn’t feel comfortable racing in sports bra. Despite being in my best marathon shape running-wise, I’ve gained about 8 pounds since I started this training cycle..and it’s not all muscle. I don’t worry about my weight too much as I always tend to gain during marathon training, and I’d rather be faster & stronger but a few lbs heavier, but this is the highest weight I’ve ever been at in my life. I’m not sure what’s going on (or it could simply be more drinking..ha), but probably warrants a separate post. Anyways, a soggy, heavy singlet felt like it’d be a burden so sports bra it was. And now, I hate every one of my race pictures but will post them on the Internet anyways.

I’m currently without the USB to plug in my watch to get all of my splits, so we’ll just have to go off the official race splits & pace at each of them for now. I’m also too lazy to calculate each individual 5K split so the paces are cumulative.

“Welcome to Hopkinton, It All Starts Here!”

  • 5K- 21:36 (6:57 pace)
  • 10K- 43:23 (6:59 pace overall)

The gun went off and as soon as we crossed the starting line, I started smiling. This was so cool. Seeing the packed crowd of runners ahead trail down the narrow street was so surreal. The streets/bridges are so much wider in New York City, I hadn’t ever witnessed anything like it. I was running the BOSTON MARATHON! Everything about it was so novel.

Alex and I decided to keep the early splits steady– with a few under 7. We clicked off mile after mile and I felt comfortable aerobically. It took a bit to shake dullness from my legs, and I noticed sweat starting to pour down very early on. We ran through Ashland and Framingham, simply taking in the sights and grabbing fluids at just about every stop. When people are already walking at mile 4, you know it’s going to be a long day.

We're running a marathon in 86 degree weather! This is so much fun!!!

“Entering Natick”

  • 15K- 1:05:30 (7:01 pace overall)

At mile 10, Alex told me she wasn’t feeling great and needed to back off a bit. I didn’t want to leave her since I wanted my running buddy, but she urged me to go ahead. So into the sun and heat I went solo: comfortable, confident, and happy. I knew I could continue to click off that pace easily, since we never really ‘red-lined’ the pace early. I wasn’t in the hole, I was cruising. My pace at 15K was pretty on par with the 5K and 10K marks.

Around mile 11, my stomach really started to bother me. I kinda had to pee when I started and the feeling hadn’t dissipated like it usually does. And the sugary Gatorade was not sitting well. I’m not used to taking in so much Gatorade and sugars while running, but I knew I needed the extra electrolytes to keep hydrated. I started to notice there weren’t very many portapotties along the course and hoped the feeling would pass.

“Kiss me I’m  ________”

  • 20K- 1:27:39 (7:03 pace overall)
  • Half-Marathon- 1:32:59 (7:05 pace overall) – bathroom stop @ mile 13

As we approached the shady streets of Wellesley, someone said, “Can you hear it?” I tuned in and took in the deafening sounds from ahead. It was incredible. As we approached, I drew right and stuck out my hand, high-fiving the entire throng of girls with a ridiculous grin on my face. I actually think I was laughing at this point– were the signs really funny, was I having a blast, or was I already delirious? All three, probably.

After the deafening screams, I still couldn’t shake the uncomfortable feeling and had to stop to go to the bathroom right before mile 13. I have never stopped during a race before- it’s always been my biggest fear. I was a bit bummed that I lost around 45 seconds, but better to have a happier stomach on a non-PR day than one where time mattered.

Quads, meet hills.

  • 25K- 1:53:33 (7:07 pace overall)
  • 30K- 2:13:37 (7:10 pace overall)

As we wound through the downhills, my quads started to feel a bit off. I knew it was only going to be a matter of time until the steady pace started feeling a bit harder to maintain. I tried to stay controlled on the downhill to keep my quads intact, but my pace was slowing to around 7:15. I wanted so badly to cruise down the hills, but I knew it was smarter to hold back. There were hills ahead!

My mom was supposed to be stationed at mile 16, but we completely missed each other! I looked for her on the sidelines, but it was so packed and we had pretty poor planning. Once I hit the gel stations at 17, I knew I definitely missed her. My pace slowed as we climbed the Newton Hills, but I just focused on making it up and staying as relaxed as possible.

Hills are not my strength and never have been. Maybe it was the slower pace, but I didn’t think they were too bad. Yeah, they come at a sucky time in the race right after some steep downhills that kinda rip up your quads, but they’re relatively spaced out to allow enough recovery between. I was expecting more back-to-back hellacious climbs.

And all of the sudden, we were on Heartbreak Hill. People were stopping. Spectators shuffling alongside runners, offering water and ice. I just focused on powering up and passing people. Suddenly, I reached the top and broke into the BC crowds and instantly felt a wave of relief! The worst was over.

Almost home, rockstar.
  • 35K- 2:36:28 (7:11 pace overall)
  • 40K- 2:59:22 (7:13 pace overall)

The crowds at BC were my absolute favorite. Heartbreak Hill was over and I powered down a sweet, steep downhill. The college kids made you feel like a rockstar. I high-fived and smiled this entire mile and recall clocking a 6:55 down it. I had a second wind!

But that spurt was a bit short-lived, as I continued to coast until I finally hit the wall around mile 23. My quads had been fading bit by bit up until that point, but 23 was where my body really started to shut down and feel the heat. My run felt like more of a shuffle. 7:20 and 7:30 pace was harder to maintain. I tried to grab a gel from my pocket, but my hands & shorts were all wet and it slipped from my hands…and I was too tired to stop and pick it up. I kept pushing forward bit by bit. I saw my CPTC teammates around mile 25 which gave me a boost. I felt myself trying to push the pace, but struggling in frustration to do so. I actually made the conscious decision to stop trying to push faster and simply relax and get to the finish. Time was out the window, so why make it stressful? Relax. Breathe. Enjoy the sights.

Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston…

The turn onto Hereford felt like an eternity, but I started smiling the moment I hit Boylston Street and saw the finish line– there’s my silly grin in the first picture up top. I did it. Here I was. I could still break 3:10? What’s happening? Why do we have to move to the left side? Why can’t I run in a straight line? Should I throw my hands up when I finish? How many guys can I outkick? Why is this the longest .2 miles ever?!

Finish. 3:09:28, 7:14 pace overall. 58th female finisher, 994th overall finisher.

My slowest marathon by 5 minutes. Off my PR by 6, and off my goal time by 10+. I know it could have gone much worse. Even now, I don’t know how I still managed to run this pace in the conditions. Without the stupid bathroom stop, it would have been in the 3:08s. I am proud to say that I ran a smart race. I started conservatively and kept my head on straight, focusing and soaking in the experience: something I don’t always do when I’m gunning for a PR. I’m also proud that my hard training paid off in some capacity.

In 2011, the 58th female finisher ran 2:54; In 2010, 2:56. I realize this comparison is unsubstantiated, but I wanted to see how my performance, relatively, would have fared on an average day. I am confident that a 3:09 in Monday’s conditions is easily a 2:59 or under. While it is a bit frustrating to not have been able to cash in my training and hit that time on Monday, it’s simultaneously very comforting. It confirms that I’m right there, just like I knew I was. I am fit now, and I can be fit again for Chicago in October. My confidence is actually boosted, given what I was able to achieve on Monday and what could have been achieved, speculatively, on a cooler day.

See ya in two weeks, Big Sur Marathon! Love, Lindsay & Alex.

I suppose I only have my two experiences at NYC to compare to, but the crowds in Boston were incredible. Like no other.  I preferred the atmosphere of Boston over NYC. Maybe it was the heat of the day, but I loved the throngs of supporters- from little kids with ice pops to the fire department’s cooling tunnels. Everyone came together to make it a race I’ll never forget. I couldn’t have done it without the incredible spectator support, offering ice cubes to stick down my sports bra and cold sponges to soak over my head. Their water was colder than the sun-soaked cups at the aid stations. For a really well-written description of the race atmosphere on Monday, check out this article on Boston.com that sums it up beautifully.

Thank you to those who cheered on Monday & spotted me, including Susan (who wins best spectator as she saw me in 3!!! spots!), KellyLizzy, Lauren, Brenda, the CPTC gang, coworkers Kara and Emily, Erica, and I’m probably forgetting more. And reader Freddie who spotted me at the finish! I could not have done it without your support on the course. And everyone for tracking from afar, and texting, calling, Facebooking, Tweeting, Instagramming and any other method of communication. I felt very, very, very loved and supported before, during and especially after.

On Monday, I reminded my overly stubborn self that running is about so more than PRs; I run because I love it. That pure love and sheer enjoyment drew me into the sport and has kept me here for 11 years. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. I hope I haven’t become too robotic and numbers-driven to forget that. I am so proud of my 3:09, and happy to say it’s not always about the numbers. Sometimes, it’s simply about enjoying the run. 

And of course, celebrating with drinks & friends after.

And now, decompressing for a week before jetting out to CA for the Big Sur Marathon as part of the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge. Big Sur’s hilly course is not conducive to a PR, so I won’t be gunning for sub-3 there as a redemption/’B’ race as a few friends suggested. Even if it was a flat, fast course, I’d still just run it relaxed. My body needs a break and I don’t care how slowly we run it. I probably won’t even run more than once or twice before the 29th. If I can steal a memorable quote from the BAA, “this is not a race, it is an experience.”

Thank you again for continuing to follow me along on this journey! While for a different reason than originally planned, Boston 2012 will have an incredibly special place in my heart.

Well, I survived my solo 20 miler in Montclair on Saturday. I felt relatively good and kept a decent pace despite hillier terrain miles 9.5-15. I started out around 8:00 pace and dropped it down to 7:20-7:25 pace for the last 6 miles.

Here's what 20 miles in the 'burbs looks like- lots of little loops combined.

I felt a mixture of awe and nonchalance staring at the ‘20.00‘ on my Garmin once I stopped. “Whoa, I ran for 2 hours and 35 minutes totally self-motivated! And really didn’t want to die or stop at any point!” coupled with “Whatever, 20 miles, just another long run, done this by myself before.” I’m happy I’m getting to the level of fitness where 20 miles feels like no big thing. But at the same time I always seem to surprise myself a bit. Know what I mean?

Lucky for me, I suppose I front loaded my mileage a bit and ended up hitting 60 miles in 5 days of running. This was fantastic news when I woke up Sunday with a huge hangover from going out on Saturday night and couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my bed. So I didn’t. Nice non-planning, Lindsay.

As always, you can check out my training log doc here.

———-

Okay. I have put off posting about this because it is one of my absolute least favorite topics but I’m pretty intrigued by the results so figured I’d share.

So, I have an extreme aversion to blood, needles, veins and the like and thus absolutely hate getting blood drawn. I have Valium prescribed so I don’t hyperventilate and pass out, and apply a topical anesthetic cream to numb the skin, but I still hyperventilate and cry and act like a 5 year old.

Nevertheless, after being anemic my junior year of college (with the way-too-low ferritin level of 8), I’ve tried to face my fears and get a comprehensive blood panel yearly or every other year to check iron levels & indicators and just make sure everything is running properly. I’d strongly advocate all runners do this even if you’re feeling good, to have a baseline to compare when you start to feel bad. I would also strongly recommend getting a doctor who will sit down and go through your results in depth with you. I have a great one here in NYC if you need a referral!

As runners, I feel like we’re pretty in-tune with our bodies but it’s hard to listen sometimes. Well of course I’m tired and lacking energy; I’m running 60+ miles a week, working a full time job, traveling, and squeezing in sleep and fun somewhere between it all. Is this just the way you should feel, or is something really wrong? My last test was in early March 2011 as I trained for the NYC half and started feeling pretty awful. My results came back just fine and a few days later, I had a kickass workout and a few weeks later, ran a new PR of 1:24 in the half. Shows how much I know.

This year my ferritin was 22 (down from 34 last year), my hemoglobin was 12.8 (down from 13.3), hematocrit at 39 (consistent with 40.1), and red blood cells were 4.16 (down from 4.3).

All of these levels were within the low end of the normal range, but I don’t need a medical degree to think that ‘normal’ differs for marathoner vs. sedentary individual. They should make ‘athlete’ ranges :)

My levels tend to skew a bit on the low side compared to other runners, and though training is going pretty darn well I’m probably going to be a bit more consistent about supplementing with liquid iron (taken with Vitamin C to aid absorption). Can’t hurt, ya know?

Ever surprise yourself with getting through a run you thought was going to be awful? Ever experience low iron or symptoms of anemia? 

 

Post-Marathon Recovery

November 13th, 2011 | Posted by Lindsay Runs in Blog Posts - (14 Comments)

I LOVED reading each and every comment to my marathon recap. New readers, welcome and hope you stick around! First time commenters, thanks for saying hi, please do more often! Regular readers, loved each and every word you said, and thanks for keeping with me on this journey. It made me feel better that I was not alone in my feelings, and really made me think about why I’m writing and sharing my stories and training.

Marathons are tricky. You pour months of your life and soul into this one day, this one dream, and cross your fingers that it’ll pay off. “Putting all your eggs in one basket” (to be cliche) is a risk, but delivers a magnificent reward when all goes well. This reward, this feeling of pride, achievement, success, accomplishment, and so much more is the reason I run and will continue to race (hopefully) for the rest of my life.

Putting so much at stake and testing yourself for a few hours of your life is tough, and it’s easy to feel let down and disappointed when it doesn’t go as you’d hoped. But we all know the opposite feeling, that sheer elation when things do go well. Beating our goals, running faster and farther than we thought, pushing ourselves, overcoming doubt, feeling that runner’s high, achieving a PR…this is why we run and despite bad races, will continue to return to the starting line to test ourselves yet again. Okay, maybe we’re a little crazy too…but that’s okay.

Nevertheless, I got a bit overwhelmed when I came home to receive this shirt in the mail. The last thing I want to think about right now are the 2 marathons I’m already signed up for. Gulp.

This week, I haven’t run a single step. I’ve found it pretty hard to stop waddling and walk like a normal human, and needed serious assistance going up and down my friend’s 5th floor walkup on Friday night. I have no plans to run at all next week. I am completely perplexed (and somehow amazed) how anyone who raced on Sunday is doing any type of cardio activity, physically or mentally. I have no desire to run right now, and won’t lace up my running shoes until I do.

For me, I need a solid break in between big races and goals. I like to segment my training cycles so they culminate with a goal race, then back off for a few weeks and then start building back up again slowly for the next goal. Having a concrete “divider” period in between gives my body a much needed break, but more importantly, allows me to mentally recharge and get excited for the next goal. This helps me avoid feeling burnt out and lets me start from a fresh slate when it’s time to gear up for Boston. Since I won’t be increasing my mileage and adding in workouts until late December or early January, I’ve got some time to keep it low-key and run by feel.

This weekend has been pretty nice so far, and I’m not missing running one bit! On Friday, I went out with a group of girlfriends and had a blast catching up over sangria and then hitting up the bar and dancing until 3:30 in the morning. A few too many drinks, shots and sore quads later, I found myself in bed all day yesterday, watching Season 1 of Parenthood (I recently got addicted and had to start from the beginning!). It felt nice to stay out as late as I wanted, without feeling exhausted from running or worried about how much sleep I’d get. It felt equally as nice to allow myself to lay in bed all day (and night) and not feel guilty about not getting in my miles or jam packing my day with activities. Balance is key.

How do you recover from a marathon, or any tough race? Do you take time off? Favorite post-race treat? I finally got a mani/pedi on Friday to reward my feet for carrying me 26.2 miles…I’m sure my bruised toenails were a treat for the pedicurist lady, too.


I really didn’t want to write this post, and I know I’m a few days late to the recap game. I put it off partially because it wasn’t the sub-3:00 marathon I had hoped for, but mostly because writing this would mean it was over. I can’t go back and change the way I felt on Sunday. I’ve taken a few days to digest the race, which included a healthy mix of basking in pride and sulking in disappointment.

I’ll be honest, yes, I am disappointed. A time like mine should not reflect disappointment, but it does for me. I trained for, wished for, and pushed really hard to complete my second marathon in under 3:00. I know my time is still great, and it’s a 55 second PR from last year’s NYC. Who can’t be happy with a PR?! And NYC is a tough course! At the end of the race, the feeling of sheer depletion meant I gave it everything physically and that’s what mattered. I am proud of myself for finishing, setting myself up for success with a really great first half, and staying mentally strong and fighting despite the way I felt.

Finished!!

2011 NYC Marathon: 3:03:37 official finishing time. 83rd female, 1425th place overall, 7th in age group (20-24). My 2nd marathon. Now let’s get to the fun stuff :)

Sub-Elite Start

I woke up at 5 a.m., feeling pretty well-rested and excited! I made some coffee and a hugeeee oatmeal with bananas to heat and take on the bus with me. Around 5:45, I left my apartment and headed to 54th street and 6th avenue to board the sub-elite bus. Around 6:30 a.m. we headed east down the FDR, our caravan of buses escorted by police. Seeing the highway completely shut down to traffic for our buses was the first of many unreal experiences. We arrived in Staten Island pretty quickly and were escorted away from the starting villages into a private heated tent, next to the elite athletes.

Sub-elite tent

While we were separated from the elites, we still shared portapotties and a little warmup area. Luckily, I had my CPTC teammates to keep me company! I didn’t even need half the layers I packed since we weren’t out in the cold, but I sure was thankful I had brought them anyway. I drank Gatorade and ate another banana and Gu Chomps while we waited. Around 8:45, we checked our bags in a private truck and were escorted to the top of the Verrazano bridge.

The next 45 minutes until the start were the most incredible moments of my life. We were able to start right on the line, and were free to do striders and roam the starting area. I strode out about 100 meters over the bridge and took it all in… just me and the closed bridge, nobody else in sight.I turned around and the crowds were so far away. It was surreal to be standing by myself with the bridge wide open. It was at that point I realized I was going to go for it. I’ve worked so hard the past four months to be standing in this exact spot…and suddenly I was here, standing on top of the Verrazano, taking in these gorgeous views from a truly special spot. I started to get choked up, I was so thankful.

New York, New York!

Miles 1, 2, 3: 6:45, 6:19, 6:32

The gun went off, and suddenly we were running! I tried to stay steady up the Verrazano, and found myself trailing back a bit from my CPTC teammates. I had anticipated hitting the first mile in over 7:00, so 6:45 was a bit of a shock but I felt fine. I tried not to pay attention to the second mile marker since that’s down the Verrazano’s steep decline. I thought mile 3 was a tad more steady as we wound the streets and found our way to Brooklyn, but I see it was quick!

Miles 4, 5, 6, 7, 8: 6:42, 6:42, 6:46, 6:41, 6:53

Around the 5K mark, I found myself back with my CPTC teammates Erin, Erin, and Maria. We strode across the road in a line of 4, trying to reign each other back and get closer to 6:50s. But it just wasn’t happening. I know you know that feeling. So, everytime I felt like speeding up, I tried to picture myself absorbing that energy I wanted to use and saving it for later. During this portion, I felt like I was working a bit more than I wanted to, but I definitely felt smooth. Erin pulled away around mile 6. At 7.5, I swung out to the left side of the road as my Dad was supposed to be standing near 7.8. I scanned and scanned the crowds but missed him! I was a bit thrown off, but quickly hopped back with my teammates as we approached mile 8 and joined in with the green & blue corrals! I took my first gel at mile 8 and felt good.

Miles 9, 10, 11, 12, 13: 6:45, 6:38, 6:49, 6:47, 6:48. Half-marathon mark 1:28:06.

A bit after mile 10 (why did I run a 6:38??) I realized I felt like I was working a bit harder than I should be. The crowds, the energy, the noise, and my thoughts propelled me to continue pushing. It’s a marathon, it was going to hurt no matter what. I pushed any doubt and panic aside. We passed the halfway mark in 1:28:06 and I felt a boost. I knew we had to hit the halfway point in 1:28 low or under to run under 3:00. Being a bit OCD, I checked the past year’s results and saw that anyone who ran sub-3:00 ran between 1:24 and 1:28 for the half. Nothing slower. Yes, this was fast, and YES this was aggressive, but I wanted to know I did everything I could to set myself up for success. I was on track, and just had to run under a 1:32 second half– heck, that sounded reasonable!

Miles 14, 15, 16, 17, 18: 6:56, 7:09, 7:09, 6:48, 6:53

I continued through Queens and started to feel like legs going a bit. My breathing was a bit heavier than I wanted, but I was chugging along where I wanted to be. I fell way behind my teammates going up the Queensboro bridge, but tried to keep steady. Hills are not my strength, and I didn’t mind the quietness of the bridge. I used it to collect my thoughts and my strength while taking my second gel and working to draft a bit as it was pretty windy. As we wound down the bridge, and I heard the wall of noise of 1st ave. Manhattan! I made it! I knew I had friends in the 70s and 80s, and scanned the crowds while trying to stay focused. I felt my quads really going and started to get nervous. Last year, I felt pretty good on this stretch of 1st Ave and my current state concerned me a bit. I used the crowd’s energy to propel myself forward, still happy with my splits around goal pace. My mom was on 97th street, and I was so happy to see her…though I had very little to say but wave.

Miles 19, 20, 21, 22, 23: 7:07, 7:26, 7:21, 7:26, 7:32

After mile 18, the crowds thinned and I took a 3rd gel in hopes they’d revive my legs. My quads. Oh, my quads. I rarely have issues or soreness in my quads during long runs or workouts, but they felt paralyzed as we hit the Willis Avenue Bridge. My breathing was okay, aerobically I felt I could continue to push, but my legs were not having it. I lost major time on these miles. I looked at my pace bracelet and saw the 2 minute cushion I had to break 3:00 start to shrink. It was frustrating knowing I was mentally and aerobically feeling ready to push but physically unable to increase the turnover in my legs. I was stuck in the same gear. Around mile 23, I actually didn’t know if my legs would hold up to carry me to the finish line. But I fought.

Over the Willis Avenue Bridge... (19.5)

Miles 24, 25, 26, .2: 8:00, 7:28, 7:20, 1:38

The 5th Avenue hill was the worst, as expected. I counted down the blocks one by one, feeling like I traveled 10 blocks but only having made it one. 90th street felt like it would never come. I saw my parents and barely mustered a wave. As a whole, I really tried to enjoy and savor the course but this stretch was one I just about closed my eyes and wished away. Once we entered the park, I was hit by “The Wall of Orange”– my CPTC teammates cheering their heads off. I got a boost and knew I would finish. Unlike last year where I think I blacked out for part of Central Park to the finish line, I was extremely aware during this time. Again, I wanted to just go but my legs wouldn’t let me. I remained positive and focused, knowing I’d have to continue to push if I was going to PR at all.

Seriously, are we there yet?!

Cresting up the small hill to the finish line the last .2 miles, I tried to kick and push, and was suddenly hit with a wave of exhaustion. All the blood rushed from my head and body, I wanted to pass out or throw up. It was then I knew I was physically spent, a sign of a good race. I somehow raised my arms upon crossing.

Finish!

Victory!

Upon finishing, a volunteer quickly spotted my bib and escorted me to a special finisher’s area. On my way, I spotted my CPTC teammates I had run with and all finished around the same time. And, Alex who had started in local competitive found us too!

Alex, Me, Erin, Maria

The volunteer escorted us from the sub-elite to a special tent right after the finish line. I was so thankful I didn’t have to walk all the way to the end of the baggage trucks like I did last year. I barely made it to the tent, fighting the urge to pass out or at least sit down. The volunteer let us sit while she found my bag. For that, she was my hero! I sat and breathed and stared around for a while before changing into dry clothes and calling my parents.

That was it. I didn’t break 3:00, and the world wasn’t over (shocker!) I didn’t feel upset at that moment because of how physically spent I was. I wanted under 3:00 and my mind said yes, but my legs said NO. I felt proud of myself for finishing, and fighting, and still setting a new PR. So often, the mental piece of the puzzle is what goes awry and makes for a bad race. I can say despite some frustrating moments, my mind was really in the game. My legs just went a lot earlier than I anticipated which made for a really rough second half.

The Aftermath

After the race, I met up with my Mom and Dad and went to brunch at Fred’s on the UWS. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait and I had a pretty good grilled chicken sandwich. I hobbled back to my apartment and immediately got into bed and started crying to my mom. I’ve had a pretty rough few weeks, and part of me felt like I needed a sub-3:00 race to boost my self confidence and affirm I’ll be okay. After working so hard and sacrificing so much, I fell short. I failed. Running kicked me when I was down.

After drying my tears and saying bye to my mom, I brushed myself off and hopped in the shower. I knew sulking in my apartment wouldn’t help, so even though I was physically drained, I headed down to Opal for the CPTC afterparty celebrations. A few beers, a bottle of champagne, and shots later, I left with a happy heart and head. Sure, my time wasn’t the best, but I PR’ed. And the experience was worth every painful second.

Free bottle of champagne? Okay!

So now what? I’m trying hard to let this race just be and not analyze my splits, training, diet, lifestyle, etc. I feel like I did the right stuff, and it just wasn’t my day. Maybe NYC isn’t my course, and I’d fare better on a flatter one where I can keep a steady pace and not get crushed by awful hills and bridges. Part of me really doesn’t get why this year felt so much harder than last year, when I know I am a stronger runner right now. Maybe my pacing strategy was off, but I stand firm on the way I went out because it put me in the right position.

I’ve got Boston 2012 next, and I’m holding off on making any goals for that race quite yet. I’m a bit hesitant to say I want to break 3:00 there. However, I know I’m competitive with myself and probably won’t want to go into that race without the goal of setting a new PR. Let’s be honest.

For now, I will take the next week or two entirely off running and exercise of any type. For me, I need a solid rest period to break up training and racing cycles. Taking it easy until after Thanksgiving will ensure I am fresh and eager to train for Boston, and not get burnt out or injured. I’ll be sleeping in, enjoying my free time, and living a little more until then!

Finally, THANK YOU again for all the kind congratulatory messages. Even though it wasn’t my day, I felt extremely loved and supported before, during and especially after the race. As I said before the race, I’ll be back here working hard and writing about it until I get that sub-3:00!

That title pretty much sums it up. Going into the Nike Women’s Half-Marathon, I had two goals.

  1. Have fun and enjoy the ‘vacation race’!
  2. Practice marathon pace for the first 10K, then work on gradually bringing down the pace.

Welp, I only met one of these, but at least it was the more important one :) My time was actually new PW- personal worst-but I had a blast doing it! In fact, it was about 7.5 minutes slower than my half-marathon PR, and about 2.5 minutes slower than the first half-marathon I ever ran. Yowza.IMG_1180

I finished in 1:32:09. I was 24th out of 16,423 half-marathon finishers, and 6th in my age group. Pretty cool!

Let’s rewind. I landed late on Friday night and my sister picked me up from the airport and took me to her house to stay for the weekend. We headed to the expo in Union Square on Saturday, but the crowds were kinda intense, so we pretty much just picked up my bib and walked around before going to a few shops in the area.

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My aunt and uncle also live near San Francisco in a suburb south of the city, so they came in and took us out to dinner on Saturday night at a restaurant called Spork. It was soooo good, we shared a few appetizers and I had the seared scallops with coconut rice for dinner, along with a sampling of just about every dessert on the menu. Sweets=great race fuel!

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Luckily because of the time zone change, I had no problem falling asleep very early on Saturday night. We awoke bright and early and my sister dropped me off near the starting line. It was a madhouse. The bag check buses were so disorganized and it took me about 20 minutes, squeezed against dozens of others, just to get my bag on the bus. I then realized I should have just left my bag with my sister to hand to me at the finish. Durrr.

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Because of all the time I spent and the massive crowds, I couldn’t even find the starting area. I finally weaved my way through people and found myself in the 9:30/mile pace group. There was literally no way to get any closer. I missed the NYRR corral system. I wanted to be near the front. I was surrounded by people who were clearly going to be walking or jogging, and I wanted to set out at 6:50 pace. Seriously?! The gun went off. I panicked. My Garmin wasn’t getting any signal. We were barely moving. It took me just about 4 minutes just to cross the line. As soon as I saw a clear path, I darted. I was running on the sidewalk, weaving, being ‘that’ rude runner doing anything to get people out of my way! I didn’t even see the 1 mile marker. I was getting really angry, annoyed and frustrated. It was not good.

Finally, around the 2-mile mark, I looked down and saw my time. My pace was fine (fast, almost). The crowds were easing up and I could get into my rhythm. My legs weren’t feeling so hot, but they weren’t awful, either. I finally shifted my focus to the positive. I was running in a gorgeous city, on a fun course, amongst thousands of other women, and I was going to enjoy it. Plus, it was only a half-marathon. After three 20-milers, this was going to be a breeze.

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A breeze? Not so much. The course was probably the hardest I have ever run. I knew San Francisco was hilly, and I studied the elevation profile, but nothing could have prepared me for the massive, continuous, steep, never ending inclines. In general, hills are not my strength. I always lose my stride up hills, and I always fall off the group a bit whenever we hit hills in workouts or races. Always been this way. So, this course felt especially cruel, preying on my weaknesses.

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Seriously? Look at that elevation profile. Those aren’t nice, normal hills. Those are straight inclines.

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My splits don’t really make a ton of sense given I missed some markers and my Garmin didn’t pick up satellite for quite some time. Split 1 is really miles 1 and 2 combined, pretty quick given the crowded start so I think my anger fueled the (too fast) splits as I wasted a lot of energy. Split 6 (mile 6-7) was all uphill. Mile 7-8 was about half uphill. Mile 11-12 was a long, slow incline. Up and up and up! I also didn’t see the 13 mile marker, so the last split is really 1.1, meaning at least I finished strong.

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But the views. Oh, the views. In the middle of the race, as we were up in the Presidio, we had breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge and bay. It was a bit of a foggy, warm morning, which made the scene quite serene. The climbs were 110% worth the views. I remembered why I was doing this race (for fun!), threw my pride out the window majorly (seriously, thought I had a shot at being top 10 given previous years’ results), and tried to run in the moment.

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Before I knew it, I was powering down along the Pacific Ocean towards the red carpet finish line.

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My cheering squad, Aunt Deenie and my sister, Marly!

Honestly, as much as I enjoyed the race (and I did, I really did!), I am a bit disappointed that I wasn’t able to practice my race pace/negative splitting and use this as a gauge of fitness for the marathon. Had I really known how hard this course was, I definitely may not have had that plan or expectation. All things considered, I still gave a hard effort, and the experience was even better.

After the race, we headed home to shower and rest up a bit before heading to lunch at Umami Burger, LA’s ‘trendy burger spot’ that just opened in San Francisco. I was starving, and the signature Umami Burger hit the spot.

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And, what would a celebratory meal be without frozen yogurt? One of my sister’s roommates suggested Yogorino, which has super light/fluffy/creamy plain frozen yogurt. Delicious!

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We spent the rest of the weekend walking around the city, eating, and relaxing. I flew back home last night on the red eye, landed, ran 4 easy shake out miles (oh.my.god.im.sore), and went to work. Which means, I’m just about ready to pass out now. Luckily, this week is week 1 of the taper. After weeks and weeks of hard effort, bring it on!

What was the highlight of your weekend? Are you a good hill runner? Hardest course you’ve ever run or raced? Ever done the Nike Women’s Half-Marathon or Marathon?