Entry 24: REVEL Mt Charleston Marathon 2018

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14 weeks ago, on April 28, 2018, I ran my best marathon to date. Crossing the finish line, of my 14th marathon, I was exhausted and elated at the same time. I couldn’t believe that after several attempts, I had finally succeeded in holding the pace I had trained for, a seven-minute-mile average.

The Race That Almost Didn’t Happen

I’ll be honest, the 2018 REVEL Mt Charleston Marathon almost didn’t happen for me. I trained for it, but the Boston Marathon, just 12 days prior to Mt Charleston, with its record rain and cold temps, was such a mental battle that I didn’t have anything left between my ears to get me to the start line of Mt Charleston–well, almost nothing.

I can’t put my finger on what made me get on that plane to Vegas the Friday before my Saturday race, but something did.  Something I am glad I didn’t brush aside, but fed enough to get me there.

The year prior, I had pulled out of Mt Charleston after Boston. Boston 2017 was brutal in a different way than this year. And with Mt Charleston’s refund policy, I could pull out without losing any money so it was almost too simple to just stay home and not put myself under the kind of internal pressure racing requires. But, I went.

Arriving in Vegas

I arrived in Vegas, to heat, heat and more heat. After a FREEZING Boston experience, it was a welcome change, but it did have me worried about my aggressive marathon pace goal.

I was met at the airport by my cousin’s husband, Adam, and some second-cousins who were planning on running the Mt. Charleston Half Marathon. We went immediately to the marathon expo, a mere five minutes away.

We picked up our race bibs and equipment and posed for pictures. They had this goal-time clock you could pose with. They asked me what my goal was for Mt Charleston. I felt sheepish admitting I wanted to get a 3:05 or better.  And although I knew I wasn’t ready to break the coveted 3-hour marathon barrier at this race, it is always out there, like a dangling carrot. It was my out-there goal. And then I had my goal of just getting a PR which would be running faster than 3:13. They convinced me to pose with the clock posting each of my A, B, and C goal-finish times.  I was super self-conscious to do this. I felt like the pictures with the 2:59 goal and the 3:05 goal were “you’re dreaming” goals. I had just come off a marathon two weeks before, and the race the following day was predicted to be hot–which slows race pace. Did I really have the physical stamina to pull off a seven-minute mile for 26.2 miles??? I had never achieved this.  Was it even possible? I had some significant doubts, but I started this body experiment of mine in 2014 and couldn’t deny being a little curious about what I could do if I tried.

Pre-Race Dinner

Following the expo, we went to my cousins’ hotel and hung out before dinner. We spent time chatting and catching up. (My hotel was a good 30 minutes from where they were staying, but they had graciously offered to drop me off there after dinner.)

Being able to dine out at Maggiano’s the night before the race, with family that was also racing the next day, was a definite perk of this race. Knowing I would have family at the finish line cheering me on was encouraging as well.  It was so fun to catch up with them over dinner and be with them.

I took my Maurten water bottle to dinner with me and dutifully sipped on my 320 mix as part of my carb-loading plan with the salad I had ordered.  I didn’t eat at Maggiano’s even though the food there is exquisite.  I have adopted a strict pre-marathon dinner meal of rice and chicken and had already eaten prior to dinner at the hotel.

The drive to the Best Western Plus North Las Vegas was long so I was especially grateful to my cousin and her daughter for taking me. (They had to drive back too!!) Las Vegas traffic is CRAZY.

The hotel we were driving to was chosen by my dear friend, Sharolyn, who was also there from Castle Rock, CO, running the marathon with her sister as a kind of sisters’ girl-trip. It was out there, but it was comfortable and affordable.

My family dropped me off around 8:00 pm and I immediately went in to start my bedtime routine. I had to be up at 3:00 am for our marathon bus-loading window from 3:30 am-4:30 am. Bus-loading was about a 25-minute drive away from our hotel at a Home Depot parking lot.

Preparing for Sleep

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Temporary tattoo from Marathon Expo. They were applying them for free.

The hotel room was comfortable and I went through the motions of preparing my clothing and gear for the next day. It was predicted to be chilly at the start of the race, but steaming at the end so I had warm clothes to donate at the top of Mt. Charleston right before the race.

I pinned my bib to my singlet, laid out my shorts, sports bra, Altra Torin 3.0 running shoes, Boston Marathon 2018 cap, my Apple iPod Nano, my Garmin Vivoactive HR pace watch–made sure it was fully charged after my Boston 2017 experience–charged my BackBeat Plantronics wireless earbuds, and packed my throw clothes–sweatshirt, sweat pants, and gloves.

I prepared my gear bag that I was taking to the top with my 2:59 pace band (gave myself some rest-stop minutes to achieve my 3:05 goal), Base Salt Performance salt vial, my pre-race and post-race recovery Maurten 320 drink, a Clif Bar, my course notes, some Ibuprofen, water and my six nutrition gels I would need for the course.

I was going through the motions, anxious to get to bed, get to the start line and begin the race. Pretty much every marathon eve is the same. There is so much anxiety between the night before and the start of the race. All the moving parts to get you to the start line and the waiting to start. It’s brutal. I just want to skip over all that and start running!

My mental depletion after Boston was still there and all I really wanted was to get this race done and get home! But, I did the best I could to focus on the experience at hand and enjoy it….

Early Up, Early Out

I slept fine, awoke, and did my pre-marathon drill. I took my teaspoon of Mio in water first to get my system moving, then had my Quaker oatmeal. I would save my Maurten drink for the bus. I got dressed, grabbed my gear bag and headed to the Lobby to meet up with Sharolyn and her sister.

The Buses

There were so many buses at the Wal-Mart and Home Depot bus pick-up locations that it was challenging to find our marathon bus. The Wal-Mart buses were for the half-marathoners, and the Home Depot buses for the full marathoners, but the buses just lined the streets and weren’t labeled in any noticeable way. We had chosen to board our bus as close to the end of the loading window (4:30 am) as possible so we could get more sleep and have less time waiting at the top of Mt Charleston in the cold.

We were slightly anxious since 4:30 had arrived and we weren’t on a bus, but eventually boarded the with the rest of the marathoners–a large group–that had also decided to board on the 4:30-side of the boarding window.

The buses were comfortable and had a bathroom on them–yes! We got on and prepared for the 30-minute, dark drive to the top of Mt Charleston.

It is always a little intimidating to drive the distance of the course and take-in just how far we are running.  It always feels very far. I guess because it is!

Prior to leaving for Las Vegas, I had studied the course and watched a REVEL Race Series video, with mile-by mile coaching on how to approach the course. I took notes of the recommendations and hills to help me plan my race strategy. The last 10k of the race was going to be the most grueling. Not only because of the hills and then flatness of the course after coming down Mt Charleston, but also because the heat was going to be a real speed zapper those last six miles of the course.

I tried to visualize what I had learned about the course as we drove over it. Mt Charleston was definitely scenic. I was getting excited to get my feet on the road.

Arriving at the Top

We arrived at the top of a warmer-than-expected Mt Charleston at 7,633 feet of elevation. The road race would take us from the forests of Kyle Canyon on Mt Charleston to Las Vegas, Nevada, on a 2-4 percent downhill slope through the spectacular scenery of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. From start to finish you lose 5,126 feet in elevation. That’s some significant downhill, but my body is built for it. I have learned on other REVEL courses that I handle downhill impacts well.

The warm temperatures of the peak of Mt Charleston were worrisome. That meant it was definitely going to be a warm finish. They were estimating it would be in the low 80s at the finish. It was in the mid-50’s at the start. Perfect temps for starting. The winds were going to be an issue at different parts of the course because they were headwinds, but there was nothing to do but embrace the weather for what it was.  I was thrilled it wasn’t going to be freezing and raining the whole time like Boston had been!

Our bus arrival was slow so we only had like ten minutes before race start once we arrived. We booked it to the bathrooms to get in line so we could go once before getting on the course. I had been drinking my Maurten 320 drink on the bus and was feeling really full. I couldn’t even finish it.

It was time to take my Clif Shot Cherry Chocolate pre-race gel–I take it 15 minutes before start–but my stomach felt so full and, well, “off” really, that I didn’t want to put it in me. I opted on taking half of it on our walk to the porta potties.

The porta potty lines were moving slow and I was starting to get really nervous about missing the start of the race. I really wanted to get in with the 3:05 pace group to help me stay on track for my goal.

Sharolyn and I were a ball of nerves at this point. She was going for a 2019 Boston entry spot with a BQ at Mt Charleston and also felt the stress of the looming start with us still in line for the bathrooms!

I gave her a hug and wished her luck, made it in and out of the porta potty and started jogging to the start line, shedding my “donate layers” as I ran.

The Start Line

Lucky for me, the race didn’t start on time. I was able to weave myself up to the front of the starting pack close to the 3:05 pacer. I felt out-of-place among all the men and again questioned my sanity for thinking I belonged there.  A few women were also sprinkled there among the men and I began wondering who would stay the course.

My stomach still felt too full and unsettled. It was too heavy for a race start and I didn’t like the feeling of it. It was my first time racing with the Maurten and I felt like I just had too many carbs in my system. I was too fueled. There was nothing to do about it, but it was troubling me a bit.

Time to Run

The countdown began and it was time to run. I knew from my course studies that I wanted to keep the first mile easy. One, because my 41-year-old body always takes a mile to get to pace and I didn’t want to burn through too much glycogen right out the gate, and two, because the course climbs the first mile.

I started the course at 6:07 am.

I was feeling sluggish out the gate and surprised when I could no longer see the 3:05 pacer. I kept to my commitment to run “my race” and didn’t panic. About a mile in, my side started to hurt. I could hear the liquid sloshing around inside my stomach with each foot fall. Yuck. I knew that side aches typically resolve if you just keep going and try to breathe regularly so I did this.

After the first mile I found that I was running with the 3:30 pace group. What??? This was not the plan. I needed to start accelerating, but it had to be a steady increase so I wouldn’t ruin my race in the first three miles–yeah, I’ve done that before.

I slowly kept speeding up, to try and make up for my slow first mile.  I kept my eye on my heart rate at regular intervals to make sure it wasn’t climbing. My side was still killing me and I could tell it was affecting my speed. I was cursing my Maurten drink at this point and wondering what to do.

I had read that if you can hear water moving around in your stomach it means you needed more sodium; that the body isn’t absorbing the fluid properly because there isn’t enough salt.  So I reached for my salt vial–the salt vial I had never used before but was counseled to take because of the predicted temps–and attempted to consume some salt while running.  That was an epic fail. I found out (after the fact) that you tip the vial over on your finger and lick off the salt particles to get a few granules. I had attempted to put it to my lips and lick out some granules while still staying at my 6:30 per mile pace. The result was WAAAAY too much salt. I sputtered, spat, and swallowed. Oh, well. There was nothing I could do but hope for the best at this point, but needless to say I was not feeling too optimistic at this point on reaching my goal.

Sometime around mile four my side ache stopped. Maybe the salt helped? I’ll never know, but I was able to continue at my 6:35-6:40 pace and was slowing getting back on track. I hadn’t even passed the 3:15 pace group yet!  I wouldn’t until around mile six.

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So, I’m running along and the 3:05 pacer runs by me. What?? I look at him and mention how I had been trying to find him. He had stopped to use the bathroom at the most recent water stop and was running to catch up to the 3:05 group. I followed him and finally landed myself with the 3:05 runners. All male except for one other female by me.

I was meeting my split goals at this point, and keeping my heart in check.  Anytime I saw my heart rate start to climb I would slow a bit until it would steady out and then keep on. My body felt good. I was keeping up with the group. The scenery was beautiful, the grade was perfect. Not too steep, but just enough of a descent that my lungs weren’t dying from the speed I was maintaining. So far, so good.

The 3:05 pacer was funny. He had a cyclist friend biking beside him while he ran. The cyclist was barely peddling, but when he did pedal you knew you were on a climb. There were several rolling sections thrown in there over the course of the race, but nothing terrible. Really, the first 19 miles are pretty dreamy.

One to Drink, One to Drench

Around mile six, I began to take two water cups at aid stations. I would drink one, and then pour the other one on me.  I hadn’t really taken in any water until mile six because my stomach hadn’t been up to it. I had even delayed my first gel. Typically I would take it at mile six but ended up taking it at mile eight. I worried about this, but, again, my stomach was just not happy.

The temperatures were already warm and I just kept on, hoping to stay on pace and make my goal.

And Then There Was One

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I look like I peed my shorts, nope, just the result of multiple cup-drenches to bring my temp down.

It is pretty exhilarating to find oneself competing at a level you trained for, hoped for, but weren’t sure you could do. I was 16 miles in and I was keeping pace with the 3:05 pace group.  The men I ran with encouraged me. “Doing good, Timex!” (I seemed to pick up this nickname since I was sporting my Timex Factory Team singlet. I was called “Timex” through the entire course.)

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This girl didn’t want me to run beside her, only behind her. Finally, she started to slow and I moved by her. Never saw her again.

After we turned onto the highway at around mile 20, the 3:05 group really started to thin. The girl I had been trying to pass for forever, slowed and I passed her. I was slowing too which was concerning, but I knew I would the last 10k. I just had to make sure I didn’t slow too much.

It was so hot.

It came down to me and the 3:05 pacer in front of me. Everyone from our pre-existing pack was gone. At one point, we pass a guy who had been with us, but who had pulled out to go faster. He cursed loudly when the 3:05 pacer passed him, with a frustrated and drawn-out F-bomb. He must have been trying to qualify for Boston. 3:05 is the time for men ages 18-35. The pacer told him not to quit; that he could still do it. But I could tell as I ran past the guy that he was done.

I think he was surprised to see that I, and I alone, still remained with the pacer. Yeah, I was surprised too!

Delusional at Mile 24

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Around mile 24, my legs were starting to feel weak. I really wanted to stop and walk. I was hot, my heart rate was up there and it was all I could do to try to catch the 3:05 pacer who was now about 30 feet in front of me or more. I knew there was still one more hill to crest and then I had a slight downhill to the finish.  If I could just get over this last hill and then take advantage of that slight downhill grade to recover and get me over the finish line.

In my head, I knew my friends and my family were tracking me. They knew exactly where I was on the course. They knew I was just a couple of miles from my goal. Thinking about them cheering me on–somewhere out there–kept my legs turning around.

At some point, either mile 24 or 25, I’m not sure now, I was REALLY fighting stopping and walking for a bit and I suddenly could visualize my friend, Natalie, running right beside me.  It was almost like an apparition it was that real. She was yelling at me–in loving Natalie style–“Don’t you stop!! You can’t walk now. Just keep going! Don’t stop!” She ran with me. I didn’t stop.

Mile 25.5ish

(See me crest the last hill here at: 2:03:32)

Sometime after I crested that last course hill, I started to get some speed back. I had slowed into the 7:30s, but that last stretch I started to feel the finish line. The 3:05 pacer was still off in the distance. I kept trying to catch him, inching myself closer.

I hit a group of rowdy spectators and they saw that I was close to the 3:05 pacer,  and nearing the finish line. “Go Timex!! Pass the Pacer! Pass the Pacer!” The crowd must have felt my goal; must have known that I needed to get in front of the 3:05 pacer to make my goal. I wasn’t looking at my watch anymore, just running as fast I could. Their cheering cheered me and I was able to find some kick. Pass the pacer, Krista. Pass the pacer.

I passed the pacer.

26 miles and the Finish

I hear my family but don’t ever really see them. All six of them were lined up just before the turn for the finish line. I heard them yelling, “Go, Krista! Go!” And it touched my heart. I was giving it all I had at that point. I felt like I was running through mud, but I just kept pushing. The finish line was now in sight. The clock read 3:03 something. What?? 3:03?? But I just passed the 3:05 pacer? I hadn’t known that he was coming in under time.

I passed over the finish line, exhausted with a time of 3:03:37.

I had done it. (See me cross at 2:04:45 below).

Contentedness

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I crossed the finish line, took my medal with glee and immediately sought water. Once I had water and a towel, I worked to stabilize my breathing and approached my family on the other side of the finish line gates. They were so congratulatory and excited for me. It was so wonderful to see them and to have them there when I put down my fastest time ever.

Adam had my stats up and told me my average pace and finish time.  It was definitely a time of celebration.  I needed to keep on moving for a bit because I was feeling light-headed. I excused myself and went to calm my breathing and try to settle my body from the past three hours of rigorous mental, physical and spiritual effort.

I really feel like race directors need to have the finish line and then like a quarter-mile straight stretch where you can jog it out and bring your heart rate down more slowly rather than racing 26.2 miles and then abruptly stopping.  I have to keep moving after until my heart rate has reached its recovery BPM.

I downed some chocolate milk–for recovery reasons only–and returned to the group. I was awash with emotions, but the ruling emotion of the moment was contentment and gratitude. Victory.

We went over to the results table to get my official time card. It was then that I learned I had placed first in my age group and 5th female overall. I was immensely proud of this.  My 41-year-old body had competed with much younger girls/women and a large field of men. I was 40th place total out of both genders.

This was a happy moment.

Looking for Sharolyn and Recovery Time

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I retrieved my recovery bag next because I knew I wanted a couple of my items in there. Namely my Ibuprofen and the Maurten recovery drink I had planned on taking. Typically, I cool down so fast at the end of a marathon that I also need extra layers of clothing, but it was sooo hot that I didn’t need any of those. I did want my phone, however. I temporarily left my family and went in search of my recovery bag.

On the way, I took advantage of the Deep Blue stations and had my legs sprayed to ease the muscle soreness that was present already. A youth volunteer met me in route to the gear bag check and offered to go and retrieve my bag for me so I wouldn’t have to walk as far. That was nice! Bag in hand, I returned to the course to be on the lookout for Sharolyn crossing the finish line.

The Las Vegas sun was already so hot even at 9:30 am.  There was no shade to be found. I waited and looked for my friend but never saw her. I decided to check my phone for race results and discovered she had already crossed the finish line with a time of 3:30.  She had qualified for Boston with room to spare! I was so elated for her. I went looking for her and found her near the gear pick up station.  We celebrated together!

I got lots of “congratulations” from strangers that saw me on the course which was fun. I still couldn’t believe it had all come together for me.  Reading through the texts from family and friends post-race brought tears to my eyes. Reading their communications between each other as I raced made me feel so loved! I have awesome friends and family!

Waiting for Sharolyn’s Friend

Although we finished around 9:10, 9:40 am, we remained at the finish line for hours.  Sharolyn’s friend was still on the course.  She was having a really hard time and having to walk almost the entire last 13 miles. The upside of all the waiting time was that we got to take advantage of the Rapid Reboot recovery station they had.  This pneumatic compression technology is supposed to improve blood circulation post-marathon by transferring higher volumes of oxygen-rich blood to muscles as they recover and rebuild. It helps reduce recovery time while curbing delayed-onset muscle soreness and inflammation.  Honestly, I don’t know if the ten minutes I spent in the Reboot system helped or not, but it felt good–and it was in the shade.

When I went to look for Sharolyn,  I got separated from Adam, my cousin Monique and their kids and didn’t get to see them before they left.  I knew they were headed back to their hotel to recover and we planned to try to meet back up later for dinner before my flight that night.

By the time Sharolyn’s friend arrived, we were ready to go.  It was approaching noon, it was even hotter and I just wanted a shower and to get out of my race clothes. It was 1:30 when we arrived back at the hotel, four hours after our marathon had ended. I had missed my 1:00pm check-out time, but luckily they didn’t tack on extra charges. I grabbed my stuff, checked out and headed to Sharolyn’s room down the hall.

Borrowing a Shower

Sharolyn and her sister let me invade on some of their sister time and use their shower since I had to check out of my room. (They were staying an additional night). They let me shower first–so nice!–and I quickly did.  As we calculated how long it was going to take for me to get to the airport for my 6:30pm flight, we realized that we would have just enough time to go to dinner and then hit the airport. Meeting up with my cousin and family by their hotel was going to take too much time. I was sad that I wasn’t going to be able to see them again before I left, but it was just kind of how the cards fell that afternoon.

Holsteins – Best Burger Ever, (Other than New Zealand’s Fergburger)

Sharolyn had done some pre-Vegas sleuthing and learned about a burger place on the Las Vegas Strip called Holsteins. It was near the airport so we decided to venture down there for dinner.

Navigating through all the traffic and madness that is the Las Vegas strip was a little tiring, but we eventually found a parking garage and made it up to the restaurant situated in The Cosmopolitan hotel.

Sharolyn and I shared a pricey $18 burger called the Fun-Ghi. (All beef patty with forest mushrooms, caramelized onion, gruyere cheese, frisee and truffle mayo—DELICIOUS! That salt hit the spot. The strawberry malt shake did the trick as well. Post-marathon food is THE best.

Delayed Flight & a Sketchy Airport

I have to say, I was really happy to leave Las Vegas. The visual pollution, noise, traffic, and slot-machine heavy atmosphere that assails you on every front makes you  feel like a constant passenger of a 2-star amusement park ride. The Mt Charleston course was beautiful, and apart from all that mania, but, yeah, Vegas is just not for me.

I arrived at the airport with just enough time to spare, but my flight was delayed 45 minutes so I got to hangout a little longer than anticipated. I took advantage of the extra time to FaceTime with my family and catch up on responding to texts and congrats from family and friends.

These moments when the race is over, you have completed your goal and you are just waiting to board your flight home are priceless. Your body is full with positive endorphins and life is just, well, good.

Final Thoughts

This marathon will forever be one of my favorites because of who was there and because I finally achieved a big goal I had been chasing. The marathon experience was so positive that now, months later, I have settled into a running contentment I didn’t have before. While breaking the 3-hour marathon barrier would definitely be sweet, I am so happy with what I achieved on that course that I feel peaceful. I’m still running daily, still trying to improve, but something has definitely shifted in me with the sport.

Next up for me is the Black Squirrel Trail Half Marathon in Fort Collins in September and then the St. George Marathon in October. St. George will be a new course for me and I earned a sub-elite spot and perks from my Mt Charleston finish time so it should be fun. Running it with some Fort Collins friends too which always makes a big difference. We’ll see what I can put down there.

Thanks for reading!

Entry 23: 2018 Boston Marathon

April 21st, 2018

As I’m sitting here in my cozy living room, by the fire, with my feet up, I am contemplating how different I felt crossing the Boston Marathon finish line 5 days ago.  Here I sit warm and relaxed. Clear-headed. But I was anything but warm or clear-headed when I ran down Boylston Street to the finish line a few days ago.

I woke up to snow today. Snow mixed with rain at the end of April. That’s Colorado for you. I had an 8-mile run on my schedule, but one look at that weather, and even though the temperature was like 40 degrees, I just couldn’t muster the willpower to go run outside.  It brings back rather unpleasant memories/sensations from Monday’s race to be in any conditions that are wet, windy and/or cold. Almost like a weird kind of PTSD…. I know, that sounds kind of dramatic, but it was….dramatic. And a little traumatic, if I’m being honest.

Over the last couple days, more and more of the running community that ran Boston this year have been posting their experiences on social media. Everyone has an epic tale to tell. There is this sense of catharsis with these posts. Like you have to share your story to come to terms, mentally, with it.

It was one of the hardest mental battles I have ever fought.  Why? The race-day weather. The starting temps were in the low 30’s with a wind chill around 20 degrees.  Along with those weather challenges we also had headwinds up to 35 mph, and constant, heavy rain. Tough stuff.

I feel this kinship with everyone that was out there on Monday; taking on the elements as they battered our bodies and souls. We were down in the trenches together. Our adversary was the weather and ourselves.

There is definitely something dreamlike, something ethereal to my memory of Boston, but I will try my best to capture, in words, my experience.

This is when I give you the disclaimer that this will, more that likely, be a very long post.  Read on if it interests you; if not, well, thanks for visiting! My running memoir is just that, a memoir.

The Training

So, it is important to note some key players in this year’s Boston story.  My good friend, Brooke Clayton, plays a starring role. Other characters include a vibrant, talented group of Fort Collins runners that traveled to Hopkinton with us by bus this year.  We had the privilege of hanging out with them in the Running Club Athlete Village (more about that later).

The training cycle for Boston had its ups and downs. While I stayed injury – free during this training cycle–except for some minor Plantar Fasciitis–Brooke was hit with Influenza B hard our last month before Boston. She was so sick she couldn’t even run. But, she came back strong about three weeks before Boston, totally Brooke-style.

Sunday, April 15th, Race Eve

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We left Fort Collins around 5 am on Sunday to catch our 7:57am departure out of DIA. Emptying our bags of liquids and foods at the TSA screening was comical.  Only a fellow marathoner could understand why we had so much food! Carb-loading was still in full swing AND we had all our in-race nutrition and post-race stuff too!

We boarded our plane without any incident, but then United decided to keep us on the runway for an hour and then add an hour to our flight. That was long. The problem was Boston. Boston was being hit with freezing rain and causing United to reroute and approach from a different direction. To do this, they had to add fuel to the plane to compensate for our extra traveling distance.

We were a little concerned by our delay because we were already landing, without the delay, just three hours before the Boston Expo was ending. Arriving before the end was crucial because we had to pick up our racing bibs in order to be able to run!

We ended up landing at 4:30pm and went directly, by Uber, with our backpacks, to the expo. The expo was pretty deserted by then, but we were able to get our race bibs and spend a little bit of time visiting the different vendor booths and getting a few gifts for family.

The Boston Athletic Association (BAA) had set up a free shuttle from the expo to the Back Bay where our hotel was, but finding where to grab the shuttle proved impossible.

When we left the expo, the wind was blowing, a light rain was falling and it was FREEZING. We gave up on finding the shuttle stop and decided to hail an Uber.

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The three minutes the Uber app reported it would take our Uber driver to get to us stretched into 15! Brooke sought shelter in a nearby garage and I kept look out. It was a desperate time. We were tired from flying, fatigued from carrying our backpacks/bags around since the airport, we were cold, and filled with anxiety for the race the next day, oh AND hungry!

Finally, the Uber arrived and we jumped in.

The Boston Marriott  Copley Place

We got settled into our hotel room at the Boston Marriott Copley Place and went in search of food. While in Fort Collins, I had done some sleuthing and had found a restaurant near our hotel called SweetGreen that could make a rice, chicken, salad meal to order so that we could get the carb-loading, pre-marathon meal that we desired. Getting to the restaurant was another fun adventure–we took the sky bridge.

The Boston Marriott Copley Place is the sweetest Boston hotel that I have stayed in.  It is connected to the Shops at the Prudential Center by an enclosed sky bridge. This meant we had access to 40 shops and 18 restaurants without having to feel one drop of rain. Since this trip was pretty much non-stop rain (aside from the day we left–of course) the sky bridge access to these incredible stores and restaurants was beyond convenient!

We dined and then Brooke grabbed some pre-race Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for the walk back. (Hey, everyone carb-loads in their own way. I could be persuaded to try her method next time!)

We briefly checked out the hotel and discovered a hot tub on one of the levels. Yes! We decided we would definitely need to visit that after the race.

Our First Encounter with Buttonless Elevators

(Side note, we discovered on this trip the existence of elevators with no floor numbers or buttons to call.  I don’t know if you can fully appreciate this scene without being there, but when we first arrived at the hotel with all our stuff, tired hungry and cold, we went to the elevator section and found 6 or so elevators with no buttons to call them. We walked around in a noticeable stupor until Brooke exclaimed, “Krista, what is happening!” She too felt like we must be missing something with the buttonless elevators. We did, eventually see a screen off to the side where you put in your floor number and it assigns you a lettered (ABCDE) elevator to go stand by that will take you to your floor. Once you are on, it stops on that floor. You don’t have any buttons to choose inside or out…#crazy)

Preparing to Race

We arrived back at our room and prepared for the next morning by laying out everything we would need and loading our bag for the bus. My Timex Factory Team jersey had arrived in the nick of time. Luckily, Boston’s late start meant we didn’t have to get up before 5:30am. I ordered an Uber to pick us up at 6:00am to take us to meet our private bus at MIT, and we hit the light.

At this point, we were both feeling pretty nervous because of the weather and because of all the moving parts to get us to the race start. We were both ready to start running and to finish running.

Monday, April 16th, Race Day

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Ready to meet our Uber to the bus

Alarms woke us up on time and we prepared for battle. We dressed, I had 8 oz of water with a double-serving of Mio (getting a little caffeine in the system; wakes me up but also helps wake up my intestines which is helpful if you have a few hours to go before a race). We took a quick pre-race pic and left our hotel to look for our Uber.

Anxiety level high.

Intersecting with our Uber was going to be tricky because I wasn’t planning on running with my phone. This hadn’t occurred to me until that morning, but with the Uber already scheduled, there wasn’t much I could do! I took screenshots of the information about the Uber car and driver and texted them to Brooke and we headed down.

Running Down an Uber in the Rain

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We are the black dot. That’s our Uber….

We headed downstairs to look for our Uber. We had an arrival window and we weren’t sure if he was there yet. Brooke spotted him a block or so away and we headed toward him as fast as we could in the rain–oatmeal and bag in tow. We were about half way to him–running–and Brooke noticed he was starting to drive away. That would be disastrous!! We had to make it to our private bus on time to get to the start and to get a seat with our friends.

We kept on running while our Uber, luckily, was stopped at a red light. I literally jumped in front of his car to keep him from leaving and we jumped in.

At this point, he had cancelled our trip and was pretty annoyed with us for jumping in his car.  But, seriously, it was raining, we were freezing, and he was our ticket to MIT. He said he had tried calling me several times and I explained I didn’t have my phone. (Eye roll.)

Brooke quickly downloaded the Uber app to her phone and we re-ordered him, promising him a nice tip for sheltering us and taking us anyway.  He really seemed annoyed, but once we got him ordered–and he knew he was getting paid–he turned on the charm.

We breathed a sigh of relief as he started us on our way to MIT, about 15 minutes away.

Duke’s Private Bus

Okay, let me just say right now, that getting a seat on the private bus enabled us to finish the 122nd Boston Marathon. Period. This was such a crucial part of our experience! A BIG shout-out to Terry Grenwelge of Fort Collins for the hook-up and for telling us to meet the buses at 6:30am–we had been planning on getting there later.

Our Uber got us to the private bus right in the nick of time. We were able to hop on board immediately–still raining–and were surprised to see that it was already partially full even at 6:25 am–nearly 45 minutes before we were set to leave! Not long after our arrival, the bus filled. There were supposed to be 4 private buses parked along MIT for scheduled riders, but something happened and the other 3 were delayed. This meant that the other runners that arrived after our bus was full had to wait outside in the wind and rain until the buses arrived! We felt so bad for those runners! Fighting to stay warm was not how you wanted to spend your energy right before a marathon!

So, A Little Bit About These Buses….

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Brooke’s Instagram Photo for the Fort Collins Fitness Festival

Running clubs provide comfortable intercity “coach” buses that go directly to Hopkinton from MIT.  In Hopkinton, the buses park in a private lot adjacent to the Athlete’s Village at Hopkinton High School, in a lot set aside by the BAA exclusively for running clubs.  The buses remain in Hopkinton, and available for passengers to use, until after the race begins. There are a limited amount of these buses so getting a seat is pretty awesome. That $35 was well spent.

Not only did the bus keep us sheltered from the rain, but it also had a bathroom on board that I frequented several times. Once we arrived at the village, we had our own private porta-potties, right out the door, so didn’t have to wait in lines or even get more than a couple drops on us.

The bus driver kept the heat going for the entire 3 hours we occupied this bus before race start.  Seriously. Hanging out with our friends from Fort Collins, and meeting new friends on the bus, was such a great way to distract us from the pending, wet challenge ahead of us.

(In years past, before I learned of private buses, I would board a school bus at Boston Common–no bathroom–for the 45-minute, bladder-bursting ride to Hopkinton, then immediately upon entering the village, when you have to depart the buses,  I would hightail it to a porta-potty line. There is one large canopy to shelter under, but other than that, you are just outside until race start. The lines for the porta-potties get really long…. Remember, 30,000 runners run the Boston Marathon.)

Time to Go

We watched our red and white-bibbed friends begin to slowly exit the bus to head for the starting line corrals.  (Although my Tucson Marathon time had earned me a white bib in wave 2, to run with Brooke, I needed to join wave 3–wouldn’t miss running with Brooke for the world! We took advantage of this extra time to prepare and try and pysch ourselves up for what we were about to do.

While on the bus, we were also focusing on fueling ourselves physically.  From the time I entered the bus, I finished my oatmeal, 16 oz of Maurten 320, and a 1/3 of a bagel.

We also took some time to hunt down some discarded grocery bags from our departed friends to secure around our running shoes for the soggy walk to the race start.  (We were prepared to walk in our extra donation shoes we had worn, but then thought it would be a pain to change our shoes standing out in the pelting rain before race start.)

They called our wave and I was still loading all my gels, fixing my music, adjusting my poncho, tying bags over my feet etc. The time to depart had crept up on me and I was behind! I didn’t have my poncho set up and had an unopened space blanket in one hand and hot pockets in the other when I carefully stepped down the bus stairs in my bag-covered shoes. The wind and rain instantly assailed me.  Trying to keep my poncho and space blanket around me was a joke.

We joined the mass of runners walking up to the corrals from the Athlete village and then things started to get real.

Earth, Wind and Water and an Alien Trudge to the Start

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This was my fourth Boston, but nothing prepared me for the mess that was the Athlete Village. While we sheltered on our warm, cozy buses, thousands of other runners huddled under the massive canopy in the middle of the athlete village field; a field that had turned into a swampy, muddy mess from all the rain! What was usually a field of order, was absolute chaos. The race announcer kept reminding runners that only the blue wave should be headed to start line, but we were seeing yellow bibs everywhere–the wave after our wave.

I started to feel panicky that we were going to miss our wave.  It wouldn’t have been the end of the world; we could have started with yellow, but I didn’t want to stand out in this pelting rain and wind for any longer than necessary.

At this point, we were all walking kind of blind. You wanted to look down to keep the rain out of your eyes, and everyone around you had their silver space blankets wrapped around their heads so it was hard to distinguish between one person and the next. We were a slow-moving, silver mass packed together like a bunch of slimy sardines.

Mud and puddles of water were difficult to dodge as we tried to weave or way into the blue wave and out of all the yellow wave runners that had lined up–prematurely!  I spotted several runners’ shoes that were already soaked and in some cases covered in mud. Brooke’s right shoe had lost its garbage bag and was completely soaked–not the way you wanted to start a marathon. I was worried for her; for us all!

Somewhere in all this weaving, I lost Brooke and our bus friend, Marissa Mercurio, that headed to the start line with us. Not good. I started shouting out Brooke’s name, but couldn’t hear or see her. I had the horrible thought that we would be separated for the entire run, lost in this sea of soggy runners. I finally gave up looking for her, happy she at least had Marissa, and concentrated on not falling down (or getting too muddy) and kept shuffling toward the start line. My hope was that I would reunite again with Brooke in our starting corral as they divided this mass of runners into smaller groups.

Clothes, trash bags, and food lay discarded everywhere in the two villages.  (Usually, runners respectfully leave these items in the trash bins provided, but today, it seemed everyone was in pure survival mode and had just dropped things as they went.)  It was such a mess. I can’t imagine how long it took to clean up!!!!! (26 tons, 50,000 pounds, of clothing were left behind. The good news, the proceeds all go to supporting local children).

Head down, feet forward, rain pelting, wind blowing we all moved forward to the start. Through what could only be described as a miraculous event, I heard my name above the elements and crowds and saw that Brooke and Marissa had found me!! We joyously reunited and continued our forward movement.

Missing the Start

Our delayed departure from the buses, and our extra-long walk to the start line, resulted in us missing our wave start!  This was absolute craziness. We are rushing as best we can to the start line, trying to decide when to shed our final warm layers that are offering us some protection from the rain, and realize we just have to start running! The volunteers aren’t even checking our bibs; they are just telling us to start running to catch our wave!

We quickly stop and shed everything except our ponchos and sweatshirts. I gulp down my gel and we take off.  We not only missed our wave, but the yellow wave is just about to start.  We head over the start line with absolute zero fanfare and join the last stragglers of the blue wave as we begin our very wet, cold journey to Boston.

A Very Different First Few Miles

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The one upside to being late to our wave and missing the start is that there is hardly anyone around us when we start. Typically, you are so sandwiched in that you have to run at the pace of the pack. In our case, there was no pack! That was nice, but so weird at the same time. We fought to settle into a pace and to figure out the best way to run with the driving rain.

I learned quickly that my “waterproof” gloves were getting saturated, and Brooke recommended I not use the poncho arm holes and just keep my arms/and hands inside under the poncho the whole run.  This was genius and kept my hands from getting completely soaked.

As I ran, I put the hot pockets into the top of each of my gloves and instantly my hands started to feel better–thank you, Brooke, for the foresight!! My hands stayed warmish a long time because of this factor.

Trying to Enjoy It

Once all my gear was situated, I tried to get my mind to a better place and enjoy what I was doing. We had planned on an easy-pace, under 4-hour-marathon finish since I was racing in the Mt. Charleston Marathon 12 days later. The easy pace allowed me to look around and try and absorb all that we were passing and seeing.

I DID enjoy many parts of running the Boston Marathon in spite of the horrible conditions, but it was a far cry from my other experiences out there.

The number of blind runners–yes, blind–we saw out there taking on the elements inspired us.

The wet roads acted as a constant reflection of the travelers they were carrying. So many beautiful images I wish I could have captured with a camera. . . .

Brooke and I both steeled our minds and were focused on getting this marathon task DONE, so we weren’t talking much. Luckily, we both had good tunes because we needed the distraction. Usually at Boston, it’s the crowds that overpower your ability to converse well. This year it was the rain and wind.

The miles began to tick past and we kept our forward movement, one foot in front of the other.

Gear Issues and Kind Volunteers

Most of the race is pretty foggy in my memory, but I recall all our stops. We stopped so I could shed my sweatshirt when I started to warm up–ha, yeah, that actually happened in the beginning; we stopped when Brooke was ready to shed hers; and we stopped to take gels and water.

I was doing okay taking my gels until Mile 12. At mile 12, I couldn’t get my gel open because my too-cold fingers wouldn’t work. Brooke had to tear it open for me with her teeth!

At mile 18 when we stopped to take our gels, I was struggling to even get the gel out of my pocket. A male volunteer witnessed my futile efforts and offered, sheepishly, to get it out for me! I hitched my hip in his direction and said “PLEASE! And will you open it for me too??” He was more than willing to help me out and then we were on our way again.

I have to say, the spectators and volunteers that were out in this horrible weather  helping the runners were AMAZING. What a thing to do. They made it possible for all of us to continue! Everyone was so encouraging. You could tell that everyone not running was sympathetic to what we were doing. You could feel their hearts. That is something I DO remember.

Dancing on Top of Heartbreak

Despite all the running drudgery and misery, I do, vividly, remember the Newton hills. This section had quite a bit of crowd support, especially as you ascended Heartbreak Hill. The hills felt remarkably easy this time around compared to other Boston Marathons.  (Brooke had me training more hills and that definitely helped.) When we crested the top of Heartbreak I did a little dance–literally–because I was so excited that we were through that and into the last 10k. The hardest part of the race was over….or so I thought. Turns out I may have started celebrating a little too early.

Forget This! The Crucial Mistake of Discarding My Poncho

So, around mile 23, I was done with my cheap-o poncho. Seriously, I hadn’t invested in a nice poncho because I hadn’t planned on running in it. But discarding it never became an option because the rain was so fierce–everyone was running in their ponchos. But my poncho was unique in that it had an off-the-chart annoyance factor. The rain and wind turned it into Saran wrap around my body. It would cling to my wet skin and inhibit a good arm swing while running. Then at other times it would get totally turned around so that the hood was blowing up into my face. It was ridiculous. It was akin to Dr. Strange fighting the desires of his red cloak of levitation–my poncho definitely had a will of its own.

So, at about 3 miles to go, I figured it couldn’t be doing that much for me–other than frustrating me to no end–so I whipped it off my body and spiked it to the ground with triumphant pleasure, much like a professional athlete would a touchdown football.

The immediate use of my full arm swing was euphoric, but then I started to become acutely aware of other sensations. As my body temperature began to plummet, I could hear the cocky cackle of my discarded poncho from its gravel graveyard taunting my foolishness. (Okay, that was dramatic, but seriously, this was not good. Not good at all.)

Mile 24

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Olympian, and New York Marathon winner, Shalane Flangan, put what I was feeling at mile 24 perfectly when she described her 2018 Boston Marathon experience:

“Well that was a memorable, horrible, wonderful, epic adventure. I’ve never run in conditions that brutal. Around mile 16 my body decided it was not thriving and instead went into surviving. My mind had to shift from competing to just completing. I’m not sure how I found the finish line. Like many I was experiencing hypothermic symptoms. I’m so proud that I finished and so proud of everyone else who finished. 👊🏼💪🏼🙌🏼 We gave it our all…..and that’s all that’s ever needed. “

At mile 24, I was so cold I was shivering and my teeth were chattering while I was running. This was new. I mean, in 2015, when I ran Boston in the wind and rain, those symptoms didn’t start until I stopped running.

I was so cold that my legs started to feel like they were going to fall out from under me.  Not like glycogen depletion; it wasn’t that.  This wasn’t stiffness. This was simply frozenness.

Brooke’s visor was so saturated it kept falling into her eyes, but her hands were too cold to tighten it. We pulled to the side and a kind volunteer tightened it for her and offered her a Ziplock bag with some dry socks for the finish line. Brooke profusely thanked her and proceeded to put the socks over her frozen hands! Lucky for Brooke, she still had her poncho on, but we were both frozen to the bone.

We kept on.

Mile 25

I can’t remember if was mile 24 or mile 25 but somewhere in there, we almost landed in a med tent with the other 2,500 hypothermic runners that day. Our legs just weren’t working. My vision started to go wonky. But we were so close to the end and we knew that if we stopped at a med tent, chances were we wouldn’t finish.  We kept thinking about the hot tub that awaited us back at the hotel and the desire to just get done overpowered our desire to seek medical assistance.

As we got closer to Boston, and to the coast, it got colder, if that was even possible. But, it did. More humidity. More wind. And then we had the hardest downpour of the whole day as we turned at Hereford. A runner went down right in front of us. Just collapsed. She was quickly attended to so we kept on going. The crowds were thick and loud now and the blue line that marks your path to the finish was now beneath our feet.

We kept on.

Left on Boylston

We took our final left turn on Boylston and could now see the finish line. It was more than a beautiful sight, but felt like a mirage.

I don’t remember the noise of the crowds at this point. I don’t remember the feeling of victory that we were going to finish. I was numb. Physically and mentally.  The finish line didn’t appear to be getting any closer despite the fact that I knew I was moving towards it. It was like an optical illusion, suspended just out of reach.

At some point, the distance between us and the finish line disappeared and we were crossing it.

We did it. We did it. We did it.

My feet floundered a bit after I crossed and I reached out for Brooke and gave her a hug as a brief sob escaped my chest.  Tears clouded my vision, but my body quickly reminded me that there was, simply, no time for this right now. I would have to breakdown later.  We needed to get warm. We needed to get warm right now before our body temperatures fell even further.

Mission Heat Shields

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At this point, I’m not looking around. I’m not taking in any of it. I have one thought and that is that we need our heat shields (BAA blanket-type, hooded ponchos).

The exit from the Boston Marathon course is a long funnel of blocks with different race-affiliated things at each block or so. The medal tables came first. Then the heat shields. Then the recovery bags with food/water to replenish the spent athletes.

Getting the medal was memorable–we definitely fought for those–but of more immediate need was warmth.  We stopped to pose for a quick pic from a race photographer that Brooke had the foresight to stop for; she knew we would want it at some point. I was shaking violently at this point. The trembling shook my body so hard I felt like I was having seizures. It was like my body was trying to shake some warmth into me.

We arrived at the heat-shields station and you could tell that the volunteer was worried about us. He quickly got the heat shields around us as we fought to catch our bearings. We had our heat shields, but now we needed our hotel. We needed to get out of this driving rain and wind.

We were near a course exit, and decided rather than walk the extra block to get our recovery bags, that we would rather walk the block to the hotel. A race volunteer pointed us where we needed to go and we went.

A Bell Boy, a Heater and a Momentary Breakdown

The walk from the finish line to the hotel was less than a half-mile away, but dodging the people and trying to make our convulsing bodies move, while keeping our teeth from chattering off, made the walk seem endless.

We got more than a few concerned stares as we moved on. We sought shelter in the Westin Hotel lobby when we didn’t see our hotel and quickly asked the bell boy how to get to our hotel. He told us, but demanded that we first stand by their lobby heater before we went another step.

Much like a mother hen would her little chicks, he shuffled us towards a standing, top-venting heater and we willingly obeyed. We felt the warm heat and it was here that my quaking body, and frazzled brain lost it.  I started to weep. I was soooo cold. I was so tired from the last four hours battling the elements. The crying was cathartic, and I just let it out much like you would a breath you had been holding for much too long.

Brooke let me cry, she may have been crying too, I can’t remember, but after a little warming, she kindly urged me away from the heater so we could really do something about our condition at our hotel.

We kept on.

Up an Escalator, Up and Elevator, Down a Hallway, Almost There

Still shaking.  Totally not all there mentally, but we made it up the escalator, and across into our hotel lobby. I don’t remember the ride up the elevator to the 23rd floor or getting into our room. I do remember entering the bathroom and getting all the wet clothes off me. The survivalist that was leading the show told me to turn on the tub and get in; that I didn’t have time to get in my bathing suit and seek out the hot tub some floors away. This seemed sensical, but the tub handle wouldn’t move. I pulled and pushed and yanked and blinked. Was this some trick of my mind? Why couldn’t I get the handle to move? What a sick joke. I discarded that plan and got my bathing suit on.

I grabbed some recovery food from the nightstand that I had left from that morning, grabbed my phone, a water and we headed for the elevators.

Hot Tub Heaven

 

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If I could have cannon-balled into the hot tub, I would have. Spiritually, I think I was, minus all the dramatic flare. It took me about 15 minutes in the water, and then I started to feel my survivalist persona take a backseat in my brain and myself return. The shaking stopped. The combination of blood supply and nutrition from my Clif Bar started to fire my neurons again. What did we just do???

Other racers slowly joined us and much like warriors after a battle, we shared our tales and victories over the course of an hour in the hot tub. The water didn’t feel hot enough, even though I’m sure it was piping. It did the job though.

Usually, I can last 15-20 minutes in a hot tub before I start to feel too hot. Not the case here. I’m not exaggerating that it took me an hour to finally feel like I could get out. So grateful for that hot tub. That was bliss.

Warm Now, Time to Get Clean & Eat

Once we were warm, we were able to communicate with our families, shower and go  for food. (I should mention here that, upon returning to our hotel room, I told Brooke about my issues with the tub handle. As a point for my sanity, she wasn’t able to get it to budge either.  It wasn’t some sort of post-race delirium I was experiencing. We called the front desk and had a guy muscle it into action for us.

Warm, clean and safe, it was at this point in our Boston journey that we were awash with contentment and satisfaction for a fight well fought.

As the day proceeded, the question of the day wasn’t “did you run Boston”, but “did you finish Boston?” People seemed less concerned with finish times, and just awestruck if you were a 2018 Boston Marathon Finisher. I have to admit, I felt kinda like a rockstar, when I answered yes, we ran AND we finished.

Looking back, it all seems more like a dream (or nightmare) then an actual experience. I too am amazed we were able to finish.

Our long stops brought us in at a 3:44:55 finish, (well, 3:44:56 for Brooke because she was taking her poncho off as she was crossing the finish and so we weren’t exactly in sync over the line) but under four hours which was our goal.

Just a Little Traumatized

My favorite place to eat in Boston post race is the Shake Shack. Nothing screams recovery to me like a salty burger and fries chased down with a sweet, strawberry shake. There was a Shake Shack about a half mile from our hotel on Newbury Street; a walk that was primarily rain-free due to our convenient sky bridge and Prudential Center location. About a block of that distance was uncovered. When we exited the Prudential Center and stepped out into the rain to walk the remaining distance, we both froze in our tracks.  We took one look at each other and walked right back inside. I love a good burger after a race, but just a drop of rain, mixed with wind, and the memories of our freezing ordeal just a few hours prior was too much for us.

Brooke had remembered seeing a burger place in the Prudential Center so we easily discarded our Shake Shack dreams and headed to 5 Napkin Burger instead. It was no Shake Shack, but the bleu-cheese-bacon burger and black/white shake I ordered did its job. We shared a table with a runner and her mom from Australia and swapped stories.

Content.

Time for Sugar

The nutrition discipline required for pre-marathon racing doesn’t really allow for some of the sweets I often crave, so post-marathon is all about justified indulgence. Even after a shake, we still had room for a florentine cannoli after perusing (and drooling) through Eataly.  Definitely want to try dinner there sometime, but the basement cafe had some great treats too. The cannoli was no Mike’s Pastry, but, yeah, rain? Not having it.

Luckily, my husband had packed some post-marathon Mary’s Mountain Cookies, for me as a surprise in my bag, so I had those to enjoy back at the hotel too since it was too wet outside to go in search of the Boston Cookie Monstah.

After some delightful strolls through the Prudential Center, we headed back to hang out in the lobby of our hotel and wait from some Fort Collins friends.

That’s a Wrap

We returned to our hotel room, prepared our bags for our early airport departure and soaked in the happiness of a goal achieved.  Sleep found me sooner than I thought it would and we were both out like a light.

We left our soggy, mile-heavy shoes as a hotel donation and grabbed a 6:00am Uber to the airport. We were welcomed with an EXTREMELY long security line, but when the TSA agent asked if we had run the marathon, we were quickly given VIP treatment and taken straight to scan our boarding passes and through the x-ray without taking our shoes off OR emptying our suitcases of any liquids etc.  That felt pretty good.

So many people wanted to hear about our experience. It has been fun to share.

Jet Blue Baby

Our travel home was so much smoother than our trip out.  For one, our Jet Blue plane was so posh. We both watched a movie on the way home, rehydrated and relaxed. We landed at 10:30am and still had a drive home, but made it home without a hitch, and in astonishingly good time because Brooke was driving.

Looking Back and Looking Forward

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It’s May 6th as I finish this entry–life has been busy.

When I think about the 2018 Boston Marathon, I feel a real sense of accomplishment. It was brutal and I really disliked the run itself. REALLY disliked it.  BUT it will forever be one of my favorite marathons because it was such a fight and we finished. It is one of those Boston Marathons that will be remembered and talked about for years to come because of its brutishness.  It was the coldest in 30 years–some say the coldest EVER–and the first one in 33 years that had been won by an American woman (Desiree Lindon).  It was a race that brought even elite runners to their knees and opened the doors for former unknowns to shine in the 2nd-6th spots.  It was a marathon that stripped you to your core and showed you what you are all about.

We kept on.

We are strong.

Why Did/Do You Do It?

Some might ask, why would you put yourself through that? What drives you? Why didn’t you just stop?? Some mistake it for pride. But they are inexperienced.

It’s not the medal or the label, it’s something far more valuable than that. It’s the journey–beginning, middle and end.

Our experiences shape who we are.  Every struggle I have faced–both those I have signed up for and those I haven’t–have chipped at me and etched me in defining ways.

Life sculpts us, and if we allow for those chipping and etching moments, we begin to discover a more detailed version of ourselves underneath. We are so much more than our outer layer.  We are multifaceted. But excavating those layers that lie beneath the surface of our character, necessitates that we allow for struggle.  We must permit hard things to test us, then give them everything we have at that moment.  The joy of prevailing is hard to top.

The result is, I love more deeply, feel more acutely, see more closely and can give more freely with each iteration of myself that I uncover through adversity.  That’s the gift.

“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.”
― Socrates

Entry 22: The Tucson Marathon

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I ran my first marathon in June of 2014. I thought then that I would run that marathon, qualify for Boston (fingers crossed), run Boston and be done with marathoning. 12 marathons later, I find myself still running, still reaching for bigger goals, still trying to discover my potential in the sport and amazed at what my body has let me accomplish thus far.

Marathon number 12 led me to the desert region of dusty Arizona. Why Tucson? Well, I’ll tell ya….

Why Tucson

In July of 2017, I ran the Desert News Marathon.  It was the first marathon where I achieved my race time goal after two significant marathon fails where I hit the wall on the course and came in well over my desired time goal.

The Desert News Marathon not only encouraged me to keep on working at my goal to get faster, but restored my faith in my ability to still improve in the sport despite injury and advancing age.

I shopped around, mainly using a website called FindMyMarathon.com, to find a Fall or Winter marathon that I could get excited about.  Most Fall marathons were too soon after Desert News to run safely. Finding a winter marathon can be tricky because of weather across the United States that time of year, but Tucson had ideal temps and pretty good stats/reviews to back it up.

The real deciding factor was learning that my long-time friend, Annie Ballard, who lived in Phoenix near Tucson, had signed up for the marathon and was planning on running it.  (We have run two previous marathons together; she inspires me to no end!) Annie’s proximity to Tucson made marathon logistics that much easier.

The prospect of running another marathon with her sealed the deal!

The Training

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A little elf send-off the night before I left for Tucson.

I have found over the past few years, since I started running marathons, that a race on the horizon helps hone my goals and keep me testing my current abilities. However, this training cycle was a rough one for me. I found myself lacking drive and floundering with what goals were attainable. I also found myself questioning whether or not I wanted to continue pursuing the sport on a competitive level. I dreaded more runs than I looked forward to and couldn’t find that inner fire to push me past the pain/discomfort to the results I desired. Or, in this case, didn’t desire enough. My mental game was off. But, once I started, I just couldn’t bring myself to throw in the towel. I had to see the training through.

Body-wise, I had a pretty smooth training cycle. Other than some occasional lower back pain, I was injury free. Considering that I threw in three 20-milers and a few 60+ mile weeks, my body demonstrated that it has, in fact, made some significant progress in adapting to longer and more intense running distances.

Sidenote: I switched from my Altra Torins to the Brook Ghost 10s for this training cycle to try something new and they did the job just fine. Honestly, Altras are still my favorite, but I have to acknowledge that I didn’t have to use KT Tape during this training cycle and my body seemed better supported by the Brooks shoes than the Altras.  My Altras still feel more comfortable to me, but perhaps their zero-drop feature doesn’t work as well for my body and injury history?? Hard to say….

Carb-loading and Tapering

The weeks leading up to my race, I was still logging 50-60 miles and not feeling like I was really tapering.  So, I abandoned my training plan the last week and reduced my miles, significantly, to try and give my body time to repair and prepare for Tucson (as seen in the Strava graphic below):

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The week leading up to the marathon you are both reducing your miles and increasing your carbohydrates (carb-loading) which can leave you feeling really weighed down. Tapering and carb-loading are my least favorite parts of marathon training (other than the hour before race start). That said, over the years how I carb-load has evolved to a system that I feel works for me.

The three days before my marathon are my carb-loading days.  I rely heavily on the MyFitnessPal app to hit my goal of 300 grams of carbs per day without overdoing it on the calorie end.

I avoid heavy pastas and breads and rely more on the carbs found in vegetables, rice and fruit while making sure I get lean protein as well.  (If my stomach could handle sweet potatoes, they would be on the list, but I have a food sensitivity to them.)

I also started using a product called CarboPro after my aforementioned friend, Annie, recommended it. CarboPro is great because you still benefit from complex carbohydrates, but without the feeling of heaviness they often pack. (It was a great recovery tool too. I packed a Ziplock bag of it in my gear bag and added it to my water right after I finished the race to help boost my muscle recovery).

Anxiety, Anxiety, Anxiety

The week, days and hours leading up to my marathon departure date were anxiety-filled days. Despite all the hours and weeks of training, I wasn’t sure I would make it to Tucson.

I was a bundle of nerves whenever I contemplated running the marathon. Literally, the night before I was still “do I stay, or do I go; do I stay or do I go….” Again, I wanted to see my training to its end; to finish what I started, but I was NOT excited about testing myself.  My body may have been primed and ready to go, but my mind wasn’t. So much of marathon success is mental. The fact that my love for the sport was waning wasn’t helping me have the mental grit that I knew I would need out on the course.

My 2016 New York Marathon fail and 2017 Boston Marathon fail were still to fresh in my mind. After experiencing what it is like to hit the wall during a marathon—after all those weeks of training—I also was struggling under the weight of possible failure yet again.

Honestly, I couldn’t exactly pinpoint what was causing all my anxiety. At some crucial point, I remembered the quote “what would you do if you could not fail” and when I applied that to my upcoming marathon it became clear that I was, in fact, very afraid of failing. Most of why I didn’t want to go was wrapped up in that.

Once I realized that; once I realized it wasn’t just that I was going to miss my family, or that I would get behind in my work responsibilities or neglect other demands of a busy time of year–examples of the excuses I was leaning on during my debates with myself—once I realized I really was just afraid of failure, I knew I had to go.

Fear of failure was not a worthy reason for me to pull out; to not attempt. I hadn’t put in 18 weeks of training to not go and test myself and my progress.

The Expo

After reuniting with Annie at the Phoenix airport, we headed to the marathon expo in Tucson. It was about a 2-hour drive so we had time to catch up and enjoy the beautiful Arizona scenery.  The expo was held at the host hotel where we were staying the night, The Hilton El Conquistador. Considering the smaller size of the race, I was really impressed with the quality and organization of the expo. They had some great vendors and Whole Foods had a table where you could grab a paper bag and make your own trail mix— very clever!

The Hilton Conquistador is a very impressive resort.  Settled in a rugged mountain range, it was decked with cacti, palm trees and exquisitely manicured lawns by refreshing pools. Inside, they had a life-size gingerbread house—the real deal; all made with food goods—that was big enough to walk inside! That was magical!

Race Evening

Our evening was spent preparing for the race and visiting/catching up with one another.  With a 4 am alarm on the horizon, our goal was to be in bed around 8pm.

I have adopted Annie’s pre-marathon meal of white rice and some protein. Nothing exciting, but it does the job!! We ate and went to bed!

Race Morning

Neither of us slept very well despite the comfort of our room, but readied ourselves for our 5:15am bus rendezvous. Poor Annie wasn’t feeling well and was nursing a hip and hamstring injury but was still going to go out and give the course her best. Her grit, determination and resilience were inspiring in the face of the looming 3-hour physical and mental battle we were about to enter.

The Race Start

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An image of race start provided by Action Media.

I must say that of my 11 marathons before Tucson, not many stacked up to the organization of this race.

We met the buses outside the hotel at 5:15 am. We were welcomed by the site of not school buses, but coach buses equipped with bathrooms! The bus ride to the race start was comfortable AND, drumroll, we were allowed to stay on the buses as long as we wanted at race start. This was great because it meant we could stay warm on the buses and conserve the energy normally spent trying to stay warm during the hour before race start.

High-elevation-influenced temperatures before sunrise are no joke. (The temperature at race start was a chilly 28 degrees–not bad once you start running and descend, but when you are just sitting, pretty brutal.)

They also had plenty of porta-potties so we never had to wait in line–another unheard of component to this race compared to others.  They also provided food, water and gatorade at the top of the course for those that needed it.

We chatted on the bus for the hour before start and prepared for the race. About eight minutes before race start, we decided it was time to leave the comfort of the heated buses and head for the the starting line.

These moments, right before race start, standing at the starting line, getting ready to embark on a 26.2 mile journey into the unknown, are both exhilarating and terrifying. I can remember each of my 12 race starts vividly. This race start was framed by a beautiful sunrise and rugged mountain peaks.

Strategy dictated that we position ourselves toward the front to avoid getting clogged with runners of slower speeds. (The beginning of the race is always somewhat congested until the pack spreads out.)  If you get caught behind pace at the beginning, it can adversely affect your speed goals for that first mile. We analyzed the field, counted the number of women with us and estimated how many would remain a few miles in.

I kept my sweatshirt on and my fleece blanket wrapped around my lower body to stay warm. I took my pre-race gel (CLIF SHOT Energy Gel: Cherry Chocolate), hooked up my earbuds and made sure they were working and ready to go. I turned my pace watch on so it could begin to search for the GPS signals it would need for accuracy. I checked my course-specific pace band I ordered from FindMyMarathon.com to see what pace I should keep my first mile at and then waited for the countdown to begin.

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These minutes before race start are the longest of the race.  We stand, shoulder to shoulder, trying to conserve energy but still stay warm.  All are wracked with a similar nervous energy to get the race underway.  Hopes are high, fears are higher, but when the gun sounds and you start to move the anxiety starts to fade and grit, training and determination take over.

The countdown from ten begins, I throw my thrift-store sweatshirt and blanket to the side for donation and prepare for what’s before us.

10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1….The gun goes off, and so do we!

On the Course

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Graphic provided by official Tucson Marathon site.

The Tucson Marathon Course has a total ascent of 369.41 feet and has a maximum elevation of 4,810.66 feet. The course begins with racers running downhill. The first couple miles felt pretty effortless because of this downhill factor (and due to all the adrenalin coursing through my system.)

I had chosen a “very conservative start” option because I wanted to prevent burning through too much energy at the front end while my body warmed up–a mistake I have made in the past AND learned from!

Those first few miles are very telling.  You can judge pretty early on how your race is going to go based on how you feel those first three miles. My body was feeling good, my heart rate was staying pretty steady so I was encouraged.

Early on in the race, Annie started having some problems keeping her heart rate down and just feeling good in general and encouraged me to go ahead; to stay on pace.  We knew this was a possibility based on how she had been feeling, but I was still sad to not have her by my side.

She and I would reunite several times during the race for bouts together–she is SO strong and fast–but the majority of the race I ran alone. Well, not alone, there were several hundred others running as well, but no one I knew. 🙂

At the 10k timing strip, someone dropped a water cup in my path and I had to hurdle it not to trip over it. This hurdling maneuver just happened to launch me over the 10k pad that marks that you have crossed it when you land on it.

When I realized I hadn’t put my foot on it I started to panic. I knew that races were really cracking down on cheaters and that one way they are cracking down is making sure that the marathon participant has cleared all the mile check points. I considered turning around and running back, but luckily a sage woman running by me, eased my worries by saying that the chip in my bib would log that I had been there, not the track pad beneath my feet. That was good news!!

The Biosphere

One of the really cool landmarks of interest on the Tucson Marathon course is the Biosphere. “The Biosphere is an Earth system science research facility located in Oracle, Arizona, owned by the University of Arizona. It operates as a center for research, outreach, teaching, and lifelong learning about Earth, its living systems, and its place in the universe. It is a 3.14-acre structure originally built to be an artificial, materially closed ecological system, or vivarium. It remains the largest closed system ever created”[2]” (Wikipedia.org).

While this research facility is undoubtedly cool, the run up to the facility and back was not something I was looking forward to on this course. You leave the main highway and begin a 2.5 mile ascent to the Biosphere around mile 10.  I knew the long climb would mess with my split averages because I was going to have to ascend about a minute-per mile slower (in some spots 2-minutes per mile slower) to not burn myself out this early in the race.

Racers that have summited this section pass you on the their way back down to the highway, so I took the opportunity to count how many women were in front of me. I counted 12. 12 women were in front of me about halfway through the race. I would see how many of them I could catch and pass over the next 13 miles.

I was SO happy when I reached the top, around mile 12, and started back down to the highway.  The hardest part of the race was over. (Other than the hill at mile 24 that was coming up).

Once I hit mile 14, I knew I was in good shape for the next nine miles. This nine-mile stretch had a slight downhill grade to it. Perfect.

Miles 24 – Finish

I was feeling good at the end of the race, but did see a noticeable inability to keep my pace-band splits after mile 20. My goal to stay at a 7:20 per mile was easing into 7:35 or slower, but I just kept on moving as fast as I could. The uphill, rolling section of the last part of the course is not ideal. Most courses I  have ran, except for NYC, mercifully descend on the last couple miles or are flat at least. Not Tucson.

My Strava Splits According to My Pace Watch

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I kept my cadence average at 188 which was great, but something definitely started to slow me down there at the end. I need to figure that out.

Since we had driven the course the day before, when I reached the point where I knew I had one, 400 meter section, a right turn, another 200 meter section and then the finish line I started going into an all-out sprint.

I had stopped really paying attention to my pace band at this point since the last couple miles I was off pace. I was turning my legs over as quickly as I could for where I was in the race.  I really had no idea what my time was other than I knew I was around my goal.

When I rounded the corner and could view the clock, I saw that if I kicked it up a notch, I would come in under 3:17. I didn’t know I had another level of speed to kick up to, but surprisingly found it and dashed across the finish line strong and happy.  It felt great to grab that medal at the end.

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My Race Results

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After crossing the finish line, my eyes quickly filled with tears–something that pretty much happens after every marathon.  It is inexplicably emotional. There is such a release after 16-18 weeks of training, 3+ hours of running and plotting and then being done.  What made that moment even sweeter was finishing strong and meeting my goal.

While it wasn’t my pace band projected time of 3:15, I was VERY happy with my 3:16:45. The course had been challenging, and I had had a great race. AND an added bonus was that I had not only qualified for the 2019 Boston Marathon, but also the NYC marathon (if I desired to run it again).

My finish time placed me as 5th woman overall.  At some point I had managed to pass eight of the 12 women I had counted at the halfway mark.  I also placed second in my age group so I received an award made by a local artisan:

Finish Line Fun

My first order of business after crossing the finish line was to get some recovery fluids into my system. I was quickly met by a young, eager volunteer who went and retrieved my gear bag for me! That was really nice. As mentioned earlier, I took my recovery drink –and a couple of Advil to head off the pending inflammation–and put on my warm clothes, discarding what I could into my race bag. My body temperature drops quickly after I stop running so I always put on extra layers after if they are readily available.

Once I had some recovery fluids in me, and my jacket on, I went back to the finish line to look for Annie. Given her struggle on the course, I didn’t think she had crossed yet, but was surprised (and NOT surprised) to see she had.

Despite her sickness and injuries she had still put down a 3:23:55!! Her PR is a 3:04 so she is obviously capable of faster times, but I was immensely impressed with what she accomplished in the face of real physical challenges. Rockstar.

After the Race

The Tucson Marathon also had a pretty impressive spread of recovery food options. Fruit, peanut butter, nutella, and pbj sandwiches, coconut water, fruit, etc.  I only wished they had had chocolate milk; my stomach doesn’t really tolerate anything else post race.

I tried to put down a peanut butter and flatbread sandwich, but could only swallow one bite.  My Latex Fruit Syndrome doesn’t allow me to have bananas so there wasn’t much for me, but Annie found several things she could recover with.

We claimed our age-group awards (she placed in hers as well) and we boarded the bus they provided back to our hotel.

A Couple Hours at the Spa

The race host hotel, the El Conquistador Resort by Hilton , really was top notch. We were (initially) a little annoyed that they didn’t have a late check-out option, which forced us to check out that morning before we boarded the buses. However, they gave us the option to use their spa for our post-race needs. The spa was perfect. We were able to shower and get cleaned up in a luxurious environment followed by some relaxation poolside.

Tucson Weather in Dec: Perfect for Winter Marathon

It was a little chilly at the start, but I found that I quickly warmed to a comfortable temperature. I chose to run in shorts, a singlet, arm sleeves, and a headband. I thought I would throw my arm sleeves to the side once I warmed up, but found I was comfortable with them through the entirety of the race. Race temperature after descending the first couple miles was around 50–which is perfect for racing. At the race conclusion, it was about 65. Not bad at all. Luckily, although some stronger winds had been predicted,  the wind didn’t feel stronger than about 5 mph throughout the race.)

Marathon Strategy

I gauge my speed highly on what my heart is doing. I frequently look at my Garmin Vivoactive Heart Rate pace watch to make sure it isn’t climbing to quickly and to keep it out of the 170s. Ideal heart rate for me is low 160s when I’m racing a marathon. The last 5k, I let it creep into the 170s, but not earlier or I will hit the wall.

I use my pace band to have goal paces throughout, and check my mile-splits average to make sure I am on track for my goal-finish time.

Tucson was tricky because the course is much hillier than you would think with all that net downhill you end up with over the course. Having to slow down to keep my heart happy on the uphills meant I had to speed up on the downhills or flatter sections to stay on pace.

I always walk the water stops too. I’m trying to make those stops quicker, but if I try running through them, I end up spilling most of the water I am trying to drink out of my cup while I bounce around.

I don’t like to run with water so rely totally on the water stations on the course. I do carry my own gels though. Gu Roctanes are my go-to marathon gels. I take them at miles 5, 10, 15, 20 and sometimes 25; often I will just go for gatorade at mile 25 since I am so close to the finish.

Grateful

Despite all my pre-race anxiety for Tucson, I am extremely glad that I faced those fears and raced. The outcome and experience were immensely positive.

The freedom to move my body how I like, as fast as I like, as long as I like, etc., is a freedom that I don’t take for granted. Hopefully, if I train smart, it will be a freedom that I can enjoy for another 40+ years.

Next Up

2018 will have me experiencing some new courses and some old. I will return to Boston for the 4th consecutive year with my training pal and friend, Brooke Clayton.  Annie is planning to be on the course as well!

The plan for that race is to treat it like a long training run, at about an 8-minute per mile pace. The reason for this being that two weeks after Boston, I am signed up for the REVEL Mt Charleston Marathon in Nevada.  It is much closer to Boston than I would like, but I have been wanting to race this marathon for a while now and am not ready to eliminate Boston from my annual racing schedule.

Thanks for reading!

Entry 21: The Deseret News Marathon

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One of My Favorite Marathon Experiences

A couple months ago, on July 24, 2017, I completed my eleventh marathon. Reflecting on this marathon experience still makes me smile. There was beauty. There was struggle. But neither could have existed without the other.  We went in with a plan and after 18 weeks of effort–and 3 hours and 27 minutes on the course–we achieved it.

For me, this was an especially meaningful race. I had failed to achieve two marathon goals prior to it and was really needing a “win” so to speak.  Wanting to run the Boston Marathon course for my 4th consecutive year in 2018, it was especially important to me to put down a Boston Qualifying (BQ) finish time to secure my spot. I had come close in the two marathons prior, but had missed a BQ by extremely close margins both times (largely due to technical issues, improper training, and overestimating the pace I could sustain for that distance.) I’ll explain more about that later.

A Historical Race, A Historical Course

The Deseret News Classic is billed as the oldest marathon west of the Continental Divide and the oldest road race in Utah. The full marathon starts at 7,900 feet to a finish at 4,400 ft. The marathon course follows the path Mormon pioneers took when they first settled the valley.

The Deseret News Classic takes place on July 24th, Pioneer Day, every year in downtown Salt Lake City. The Marathon, Half Marathon, 10k and 5k routes all join the Days of 47 Parade route where runners will be greeted by over 100,000 cheering Utahns! Running along the parade route is one of the most fun and unique aspects of the Deseret News Classic. All of the races finish at the same location on the north side of Liberty Park. Once you cross the finish line, enjoy the post race festivities and join your friends and family watching the parade come in! Utahrunning.com

So, Why the Desert News Marathon?

I chose to run the Desert News Marathon for a few different reasons. The first reason was because my good friend and training partner, Brooke Clayton, invited me to run it with her; I knew that would be fun! The second reason was because I still didn’t have my BQ for September’s Boston Marathon registration and wanted that.  And the final reason was because the course ran through an area I group up in.  Ages one-eight, I spent in the foothills of Salt Lake City.

Returning to Where I Grew Up

The Deseret News Marathon course runs down a canyon I frequented in my youth and in my college years when I attended Brigham Young University.  The marathon course goes right by an LDS chapel that I attended in those early childhood years. It also runs a block away from the elementary school I attended back then.  The race runs all around areas that I have associations with dating back more than 30 years!

The Desert News Marathon was also an extremely convenient race for me to attend. I have lots of family that live nearby to visit and stay with and the drive over from Fort Collins, Colorado, is easy.

Find My Marathon Course Research

Find My Marathon (FMM) also ranked the Deseret News Marathon as a good course for qualifying for the Boston Marathon. Its Course Score of 100.11 ranked it as the 32nd fastest marathon course in the U.S., and the 4th fastest course in Utah.  Because the course has some nice hills, and because of high temps/humidity levels in late July, the FMM gave the course a PR Score of 98.74. This PR Score ranks it as the 166th fastest marathon in the U.S. and the 4th fastest in Utah. In other words, this wasn’t going to be my easiest marathon, but it wouldn’t be my hardest either!

The Path of My Ancestors

This course was meaningful to me in other ways too.  I had many ancestors that traveled west to find religious refuge. The fact that the marathon course follows the route the pioneers–my ancestors–crossed when they first entered the valley was meaningful to me–especially to be able to do it on Pioneer Day! Poetic indeed.

Deseret News Marathon Course Information

I don’t like to go into any marathon without some serious research. Map My Run provides a good map of the route and some kind soul even created a YouTube video of the course.  Both references are helpful as you work on your individual race strategy.

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The Deseret News Marathon begins at the top of Big Mountain above Emigration Canyon, descending a 3,200 foot total elevation drop. This hill, mentioned in the graphic above, is something to prepare for, but not fear.  Run it at an equal effort to how you run the rest of the course and you won’t burn out at the beginning of the race.  I was really afraid of this hill going into the marathon, but it ended up being much more manageable than I had anticipated.

The rolling nature of this mostly downhill course offered good recovery options for your lungs and muscles as you traversed the length of the course.

Definitely do you hill training, and try and simulate a 2.5 mile climb, with a 3-4 percent grade, to help you ease right through the major hill on the course.

Where We Stayed

The Salt Lake city Marriott University Park offered great accommodations for runners the night before the event and houses the expo adding to its convenience factor. The hotel was extremely comfortable and offered easy access to Rice-Eccles Stadium where you meet the buses the next morning.

My marathon piggy-backed a trip I  had planned to San Francisco. I flew back to Denver on Saturday morning, then, a couple hours later, jumped in my car with my kids and drove to Little America, Wyoming.  (I was too tired to drive the entire distance to Salt Lake, and was extremely glad we chose to stop at the Little America Hotel for the night.  (I had one of the best night’s of sleep ever at this hotel!) Slept in as long as my body would let me, and then we drove the rest of the way into Salt Lake on Sunday.  A good night’s sleep, and staying of my feet for most of Sunday were great helps for my race on Monday.

After spending some time with my family in Highland, Utah, I left my kids in the care of my awesome sister and drove the 45 minutes to Salt Lake to prepare for my marathon.

The Night Before

So, I started carb loading for this marathon on Thursday before the race.  I used Carbo-Pro to help me reach my daily carb goals–in addition to other carb-heavy foods–which was something I hadn’t used before that I feel helped me load my muscles without getting that super heavy feeling. I also carb loaded the night before the race with white rice and some protein. This was a new approach for me. I typically go for pasta or pizza. I think the rice option was a better choice for my GI tract and stomach on race day. I try to complete my last meal 12 hours before race start so my body has ample time to absorb the nutrients my muscles need, and so my stomach isn’t bogged down on race day!

Laid out my clothes and went to bed early!

Race Day

Awoke early and had my instant oatmeal breakfast in the room. No microwave so I just mixed it with hot water. I also had a half a bagel and some peanut butter–my typical pre-marathon breakfast.

Marathon buses pick up runners from Rice-Eccles Stadium between 3:30 am – 3:45 am to shuttle runners to the start line location. We drove my car to the parking lot–about a mile and half away–and met the buses about 3:45. We didn’t want to get there any earlier than we needed! Buses transport you to the top of Big Mountain. You can’t drive yourself. They close the roads and only allow the buses up.  Don’t drink too much water before boarding the bus since you have about a 30-minute trip up the canyon!

Important Pre-Race Tip

Waiting at the top, and for the first mile or so after race start, it is really dark. I had read about this factor before the race on a race review. I purchased the Swift-Clip Cap light by Amphipod to give me light so I wouldn’t trip all over myself on the way down the canyon (see it on my cap in first pic in post).  It was also extremely helpful for being able to see in the porta potties at the top.  DO plan on bringing some sort of light to help you–you won’t regret it!

We brought throw-away clothes and donation blankets to the top to stay warm pre-race, but it was warm enough we didn’t really need them.  I would still take them again, because you never know.  Shivering for an hour pre-race is NOT fun.

On the Course

Because of the elevation drop at the beginning of the race, you will be tempted to run really fast. Be careful with that. You can burn out your legs in the first few miles if you aren’t careful.  I always use a pace band during my marathon to help me stay on track. FindMyMarathon.com has course-specific pace bands that are great for keeping an even effort and planning your strategy.

We actually ended up negative splitting pretty much every mile of this course so I ended two minutes ahead of schedule at the finish.  I was a little worried about this early on in the race–that we would regret “banking time,”–but in the end, it worked out!

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We chatted back and forth over the course of the marathon which was such a nice change to my usual solo marathons. We also picked up a couple of new friends that ran along with us for the first half.

Brooke had some family in the area and they had positioned themselves at different points along the course. This was so fun! Especially since none of my family was able to be there that day.  Around mile 21, her sister had bags of ice for us! It was warm at this point so the ice was welcomed! Knowing we only had 5 miles left was exciting! I was encouraged because we had passed the “wall” and I was still feeling strong.  My two marathons prior to this I was dying at this point, so taking inventory and feeling strong here was an awesome point for me during this race.

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A little over a mile to go! This picture was taken by Brooke’s husband a little before we turned onto the parade route. We were starting to see more people out and about at this point.

Around mile 23 or 24 we hit another hill which was not a welcome sight this late in the race, but luckily it wasn’t very long.  This area of Salt Lake is so pretty with all the lush trees and victorian architecture. We were also starting to see more race spectators and people which was fun.

Surprisingly, the parade route–which was lined with thousands of people–was super quiet.  The parade hadn’t started yet, so you would think the spectators would have been entertained by the runners coming by, but they were pretty absorbed in other things, which is understandable since they came to watch a parade not a race.  There were a couple groups of people that were cheering racers on, but the majority of the spectators were oblivious to the inner fight that was going on in each of those runners running down that strip towards the finish line.

At this point in the course I was feeling really great. This isn’t to say that I wasn’t feeling the distance, I totally was, and I knew I needed to keep my legs moving or they would stiffen up and slow down.  But, it was looking like I was going to accomplish my goal so I was feeling pretty happy.

About a mile or so from the finish, I broke off from Brooke.  Since we were two minutes ahead of schedule, she was on track to meet her 3:29 goal, but was slowing down and her rhythm was no longer matching mine. With my glycogen stores near empty, I felt I needed to keep on pace to avoid cramping or other issues.  We had discussed beforehand what we would do if one of us slowed down, but it was hard to break off from my running partner.  We were (are) an amazing team!

Running towards the finish line, my tunes beating out a rhythm in my ears and seeing all the people out celebrating the holiday was such happy moment for me in this race.  Even with the quieter crowds than I anticipated, I was so happy to being finishing strong and fast.

I was a little disheartened when I passed 26.2 miles on my watch and still didn’t see the finish line! My watch clocked the course at 26.4 miles. (You wouldn’t think that extra .20 miles would matter that much, but at that point, believe me, it does!) But, once I crossed the finish line, this factor was history. I had done it! I was elated. Brooke came across a couple minutes later meeting her 3:29 goal and earning first place in her age group! She did amazingly well, especially when she started to feel knee pain in the later part of the race. I was so inspired by her ability to run through that pain and to her goal!!

My Results

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I was really happy with my results of this marathon.  We had a plan, we stuck to it and we achieved. I earned 2nd in my age group, and 5th overall for my gender. This graphic below also has an Age Grade time.  This is something that I learned about recently and that you rarely see reported with the race results. Age grading is a formula for putting all race participants on a level playing field, regardless of age or gender. It compares your race times to older and younger runners, as well as those of the opposite sex. My age grade time for this course was a 3:17:48.

After the race, there are shuttle buses at the finish line area at Liberty Park to transport runners back to their vehicles at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Since Brooke’s family was there, we hitched a ride with them back to the stadium.  It was so great having them there!  It was fun to celebrate our accomplishment with them.

Sore But Blissful

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Happy.

Post-race I was feeling a little dizzy so I sat down and drank gatorade and tried to help my body stabilize. Walking was–as always–slow going until the carbs start to hit the system.  (If you are new to marathoning, take this tip:  you may not feel like eating at the end of the race, but if you want to be able to recover more quickly–and walk relatively normally–you need to get some carbs into you as soon as you can after you finish. Believe me, it makes a world of difference in how you feel following the race. )

No awards ceremony at this race, but they mailed both of us our additional medals a week later. The medals are really nice quality (see medal picture up above).

Lessons Learned

This race was a great learning opportunity.  It was great to see that post my serious calf injury in February of 2016, I could still finish the marathon distance at a respectable pace.  It further validated my theory that I needed to run more outside, incorporate more hill training, and that I am not yet able to sustain the 7:15 per mile paces over the marathon distance that I thought I could.  I really think that was a huge reason I failed to meet my goal finish times at the two marathons before and hitting the wall. While I can sustain those faster paces over shorter distances, my body is not able to over 26….yet.

I would totally recommend this marathon to anyone looking for a new marathon to challenge themselves with.  Do your homework, do your training, lock-in your mindset and go for it!

 

Entry 20: Boston Marathon 2017

2017 Boston Marathon Runner's Passport

Why I Ran

Choosing to return to the Boston Marathon for the third consecutive time was not something I was sure about. As a matter of fact, even after registering, I didn’t choose to race it until a few weeks before the race.  Not because the Boston Marathon isn’t fantastic and awe-inspiring; of the 11 marathons I have ran, it is still my favorite. But, I was flirting with a different marathon that was two weeks after Boston, and I didn’t feel I could do them both well that closely spaced.  However, the idea of missing out on the Boston Marathon didn’t sit well with me.  It is such a fun event to be a part of. I also had a score to settle with the course.  The year before, I ran it injured with a grueling 5-hour marathon finish time–a full 90 minutes slower than the first time I ran the course.  I didn’t want to exit the marathon that way.

I was also lured by the idea of running the course with two of my friends who had qualified and who planned to be there (Sharolyn Lindsey and Annie Ballard).  Sharolyn was running it for the first time and I was excited to share in that with her! These ladies are golden!

Pre-Race Details

I contacted Annie and mentioned that I was more seriously considering running Boston. She encouraged me and even offered me to bunk up with her at her AirBnB.

My plan was to fly in on Sunday, hit the expo, go to sleep, run the marathon on Monday and head home that evening.  I didn’t need to sight-see. And, I didn’t want my race to keep me away from my family nor be a huge expense. I booked my flight with Southwest points, gave up my spot in the REVEL Mt. Charleston Marathon I was planning on running a couple weeks after Boston and committed myself to the 2017 Boston Marathon.

A Struggling Mindset

Injured in February of 2016 with a gastrocnemius calf tear and deep vein thrombosis blood clot, I worked hard to rehabilitate.  Some things healed, some things still haven’t from that bitter winter. The cold temps and the convenience of an in-home gym (given an increase in the number of hours I was writing a day for work) had me doing 95 percent of my training on my treadmill.  It was an arduous process recovering, but eventually I was maintaining a 6:30 per mile pace and feeling ready to really give breaking the 3-hour marathon a go.

My experience at the New York Marathon the November before–hitting the wall for the first time in a race–shook my foundation and my faith in my abilities and training. Shaking that was tricky.

After months of rehabilitation efforts, working on getting faster and constantly striving toward my marathon goals I was also feeling a little burnt out. I wasn’t finding the same joy I had found in running before. Reaching my running goals was starting to feel more like something I was driven to do for all the wrong reasons; it had lost its fun. I had lost my fire.  Going into the Boston Marathon, my head just really wasn’t in it, but I was driven, almost mechanically, forward.

Coming Into Town Later

The decision to fly in the day before the race was a good one.  The last two marathons I had come into Boston with too much time before the race; I was on my feet too much, I wasn’t able to carb-load the way I wanted, and I was thinking too much about the race.  Back at home, I saw posts of racers in Boston touring and enjoying the pre-race fun, but was SO glad I could be apart from the stress that that causes before the marathon. If you do want to sight see, do it AFTER the race!

The Marathon Expo

Arriving in Boston on marathon eve, alone, was a little surreal. I took an Uber to church and met up with my friends. Following that, we hit the expo.  The expo only had a few hours left when I arrived, but the only real drawback of that was that some of the sizes for clothing I wanted for myself/children were gone and all the commemorative unicorns they put out each year were gone. (My daughter likes those). I was excited to be with my friends at the expo; I was beginning to feel the marathon energy and pre-race excitement.  Getting my bib is always an exciting highlight.  Being in Wave 2, Corral 1 was something I was proud of!

My Race Goals

After New York, I knew that  breaking the 3-hour mark was not going to happen for me at Boston in 2017.  My goal turned to trying to beat my 3:13 marathon PR. My goal was to leave the course feeling like I had redeemed myself from my performance at Boston the year before and from my horrendous experience on the New York Marathon course 5 months earlier.  Anything had to be faster than running injured the year before at Boston!

Race Prep

I made a reservation on Open Table before I left Colorado so I wouldn’t have to worry about finding a good, carb-heavy meal the night before the race. (My first year I attended the official Boston Marathon race dinner, but was left feeling like the line was waaay too long to wait in for food that wasn’t worth it. My friends and I went to one of my favorites in North End and made sure we didn’t leave that part of town before securing some Florentine Cannoli from Mike’s Pastry–thank you Annie–to take home to our families.

Next stop, the AirBnB!

An AirBnB Nightmare

So, my first experience with AirBnB turned out to be a disaster.  My sweet friend and I found ourselves in a smoky, dimly-lit accommodation hosted by a woman we had come to learn was anything but forthright.  The ethnicity of the host really made no difference to me–why should it??–but apparently she thought it would.  She advertised the room as belonging to a young, white, blue-collar couple, but we later learned, after she refused to talk to us or see us–and from the Black Lives Matter poster in the closet–that she was of African-American descent.  Perhaps she felt that her race would affect her popularity on AirBnB?? Don’t know…. Sad.  Her dishonesty, coupled with arriving to find the studio apartment door unlocked AND her dodging meeting/talking with us, started to make us feel a bit unsettled about the whole arrangement.

We couldn’t find the promised air mattress and when we did uncover it we couldn’t find sheets to cover all its dust.  It was also like 5 feet long….Worried that it may not retain its form through the night, and the lack of sheets and cleanliness, Annie–being the amazing friend she is–demanded I share the queen bed with her.

We prepared for our early morning.

I tossed and turned all night.  The smoky room was irritating my lungs, and the stuffiness of the room couldn’t be helped since we were on the ground floor and opening a window felt a little too precarious in this unknown area of Boston. I had weird dreams all night of our nameless, faceless host opening the front door and coming in during my sleep! Worried I would disturb Annie’s sleep, I tried not to make a sound, or move too much but it was a rough night.

A Crucial Error

A poor-night’s sleep in a questionable accommodation wasn’t the only thing that was getting my race day off on the wrong foot. Before entering a bed I sincerely hoped was free of bed bugs, I discovered that I had left my pace watch charger in Colorado and my watch was in desperate need of a charge.  At 8pm in the evening, there was nothing to be done about the missing charger; I would just have to see how long the battery would last. Sigh.

The Athlete Village

One of the highlights of this trip was being reunited with Mike and Sharolyn Lindsey who had traveled with Stephen and I to New Zealand a few weeks prior to Boston.  (I just love this couple!) Having Mike there was so helpful too! They had a rental car and he drove us where we needed to go. I was so grateful to see their car show up at the AirBnB that morning. He gave Sharolyn and I a ride to the buses for the athlete village and I said goodbye to the AirBnB for the day. The shady actions of our host made me wonder if my things would still be there when I returned later that day after the marathon. . . .

The ride to the village, and our time in the village, was another highlight of the event.  Annie left early that morning on foot because she had qualified for the first wave–no small feat–and needed to meet the buses earlier.  We met up with her briefly in the village so I could give her the keys to our AirBnB studio, and then she was off.

I was feeling REALLY nervous about my pace watch surviving, and the heat of the day since it was already really warm, but, mostly, I was just excited to get the race underway.

Sharolyn and I were in the same wave, but different corrals.  Since I was going to try and accomplish a PR, we said our goodbyes and I went to join the other racers in corral 1. Everyone that had qualified for wave 2 corral 1 were really fast runners so it was fun to rub shoulders with them and chat while we waited for our turn to cross the starting line.

Running the Course

Early on, I felt that my body was tired. My heart-rate spiked early with my 7:20ish pace. I worried about what that would mean for the later part of my race, but just kept pushing. I worked to stay on pace and still enjoy the experience.  That course is so scenic and so full of energy. The crowd is so encouraging and fun. I was having a pretty good time on the course until about mile 12.

Around mile 13 I started to notice that I didn’t have as much umph. By the time I hit the Newton Hills at mile 16, I knew I was going to have to readjust my goals. I let my body slow down to an 8-mile pace and just kept moving.

At mile 19, my watch died.  This was really unfortunate because I really needed it. I had hit the wall and was needing all the help I could find to finish this race with even a B or C race goal.  At the very least, re-qualifying at the Boston Marathon was something I wanted to achieve!

I walked through all the water stops, but kept on moving. The wall left my body stiff and reluctant to grant me any of my former speed. I couldn’t even guess what pace I was running. My lungs heaved. The heat was strong, the sun merciless.  My mental strength was flickering out and I found myself feeling very similarly to how I had felt on the New York Marathon course in November.

I was frustrated,  hating the race, cursing the reason for running marathons in the first place and just wanting to be home. I think I was deciding to retire from marathon running at that point. . . . After months of working towards a faster race time, I had failed. I couldn’t get my mindset where it needed to be.  I couldn’t find the light; the strength; the will.  But, but I kept on going as fast as my body/mind would let me. I kept on working, all the way to the end. I knew I would at least have that. I wouldn’t quit. I would finish the race. I would give it all I was a capable to give it that day.

My Splits Until My Watch Died at Mile 19

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Some Comic Relief

Aborigine at Boston

Sometime right before my first sighting of the infamous CITGO sign, I noticed larger-than-average crowd noise soon followed by watching what appeared to be a near-naked, barefoot aborigine passing me on the course. Clad only in a g-string loin cloth, this dark-maned physique cruised by me at a pretty decent clip!  You see lots of things on the streets of the Boston Marathon, but this was the best of the day. He made me laugh right when I really needed to laugh.

Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston Street

When I saw the blue stripe under my feet indicating that I was a mile from the finish line, I found some kick. I actually felt like I took Boylston Street at a pretty good clip.  The extra umph I had that last mile revealed that I could have been running faster. Had I had a working pace watch, I have no doubt that even though I had hit the wall, I would have re-qualified for Boston.  As it was, I crossed the 121st Boston Marathon finish line at a 3:46:34, 1 minute and 34 seconds too late to BQ.

Oh My Hips

Not exactly in the best frame of mind when I crossed the finish line, I also developed a keen awareness to the soreness in my hips and feet.  I was a slow-moving mess.  I usually feel pretty good when I finish a marathon. Not so that day!

I retrieved my phone from my pocket and saw a text from Annie.

Annie Ballard at the 2017 Boston Marathon finish line!

Annie Ballard at the 2017 Boston Marathon finish line! (We have a picture together somewhere out there–not at the race finish but at the park later–but I can’t find that pic!)

She had finished in an amazing 3:15 time despite a hamstring injury and had booked it to our AirBnB because our host had contacted her–while she was running the course–informing her that we needed to check out. Annie explained to her–while running–that we wouldn’t return until after the race; that she was running the course right then.  The host, who had apparently forgotten this important detail of her guests itinerary demanded that we return and hung up.  Annie returned after the race in haste and tried to grab a quick shower before I got back. She  was interrupted by the host entering the studio apartment and telling her to get her/our stuff and get out. Seriously.

Changing in the Park

So, I’m shuffling towards the marathon exit streets, talking to Annie on the phone and she is telling me that she (and her sister and husband that had come to the race finish) had gotten all our things and that they were waiting for me at a park about a block away from the cursed Brownstone we had spent a shady night in.  I should have been able to walk there–it was just a little over a mile–but my hips were so sore that every step was excruciating. My brain wasn’t working. I hadn’t grabbed a recovery bag at the end of the race, just a failing heat shield and I was wandering lost.  I decided to call an Uber and tried to find a street outlet from the masses and street closures that the Uber could reach me from.  This required more pitiful, snail-pace walking, but I finally found a corner to wait at. The first Uber couldn’t get to me and cancelled after I had been left waiting–on my aching feet–for 15 minutes.  The second Uber got to me and I wanted to cry. I forced my limbs to bend and got in his car.  It took us 25 minutes to get to the park because of all the people and traffic even though it was only like a mile away.

When I finally got to the park, I was in bad shape. And I was freezing. I needed to get out of my wet clothing, but there was no where to change so I rummaged through my bags–in the park–and found some clothes to put over my sweat-soggy race clothes. The time it had taken me to get to the park had seriously encroached on the time we had before we needed to be at the airport for our flight.  We called an Uber and went straight from the park to the airport.

Washing My Hair in an Airport Bathroom

We arrived at the airport with considerable time, so we found a family restroom and went in and locked the door.  We stayed in there for like 45 minutes while I tried to recover, change, and make sense of myself and my situation.  Annie clued into my lack of mental awareness and demanded I drink her recovery drink that she had received at the finish line. Once I got that in me, I got out of my wet clothes as she helped me wash my hair in the bathroom sink with her shampoo. This sweet, angel friend washed my hair for me while I gripped the sink and tried to stay upright. After the calories started to restore my system, and my temperature started to rise from shedding my wet layers, I began to feel less convalescent.

I will never forget that airport-beauty-salon scene. By the time we emerged, I actually felt pretty refreshed and was moving at a normal speed again.  (Recovery drink success!) We hit the security line and then hunted down some airport carbs before our non-stop flight to Denver.

A Sad Flight

Annie and I weren’t able to sit by each other on the plane, so I plopped myself between two strangers and tried to make myself comfortable for the 4.5 hour flight. Lucky for me, my post-race soreness really isn’t bad the day of the marathon–it peaks about two days out–but, my limbs still rebelled at the idea of being in one position for so long.

I pulled out the surprise chocolate chip cookies my husband had hid for me in my bag–my number one craving after a salty cheeseburger post-marathon–and let my mind sort itself.

That was a sad flight.

I couldn’t help the tears from brimming in my eyes.  All those months of effort to hit the wall.  The disappointment I felt was just overwhelming. I could find no real satisfaction from any of my efforts that day.  I was going to need some serious time away from marathoning to try and recapture my fire for it. I was being too hard on myself–for sure–but, I am wired to work hard, perform and achieve. I don’t take anything less very well. Never have. I know, I know, lighten up already. Don’t take things so seriously….I know. Major character flaw identified.

Lessons Learned

One of the biggest lessons I learned from this marathon was that you have to train on the type of terrain you race on.  All that treadmill running/training didn’t prepare my body for the speeds I was attempting on the course. My body may have been able to sustain those speeds on a 1 percent grade, predictable incline/surface (treadmill) but the muscles you develop from running on changing, turning, self-propelled surfaces are crucial for 26.2 miles of sustained effort. Hitting the wall was just inevitable.

Secondly, I will, quite possibly, never forget my pace watch charger ever again.  That error really messed up my final 10k of the race and cost me a BQ.

Thirdly, for the 2018 Boston Marathon I have already booked a room right at the finish line at a reputable hotel–no AirBnBs for me again pre-race.

And, finally, regardless of how fast or slow you run a marathon; regardless of whether or not you take that flight back feeling victorious or defeated, the fact that you finished has added something to you that wasn’t there before. This is true in so many facets of our lives.  Challenge yourself. Test yourself. Do your best. Don’t quit. Every experience in our lives–the good and the bad–shape us and prepare us for all the bumps and slides along the course of life.  I didn’t give up. I finished the race. I learned and left the course with plenty of knowledge/experience to apply to my next life event.

I will be returning to the Boston Marathon course in 2018 for my fourth consecutive year. How I got there again is outlined in a post to come: The Deseret News Classic Marathon.

Entry 19: 2017 Canyonlands Half Marathon

2017 Canyonlands Half Marathon Awards Ceremony

Receiving my 2017 Canyonlands Half Marathon 1st Place Female Masters Award.

Running the CanyonLands Half Marathon (Moab Half) for the 4th Time

The Canyonlands Half Marathon (CHM), USATF Certified course and I have a long-standing relationship. I have ran it four times, only missing out on it in 2016 due to injury. It is one of my favorite races because it is held in one of my favorite places–Moab, Utah! It is fun to see the progress I have made with my race pace over the years:

  • 2013 – 8:50 pace avg (1:55:55)
  • 2014 – 8:06 pace avg (1:46:07)
  • 2015 – 7:34 pace avg (1:39:10)
  • 2017 – 7:18 pace avg (1:35:44)

My return to the course in 2017 piggybacked our annual family trip to Moab. Both my husband and I had been working on improving our speed and were excited to return to the course.

Moab, Utah

Cycling along the race course with our kids.

Pre-Race Fun

This year, the race was at the end of the kids’ spring break so we did all of our playing before. The downside of this approach to a race is you: 1) have the race hanging over you the whole trip; 2) feel like you have to restrict your steps/activity to conserve race glycogen; and 3) you feel more restricted in your dietary choices.  Not the optimal way to run a race, but family time trumps racing!

As far as destination races go, Moab, Utah, ranks right up there with the best of them! Our traditions always include biking, swimming at the rec center, visiting our favorite food joints, sliding Sand Hill outside of Arches National Park, and hiking in and around Arches National Park. The Fiery Furnace (permit required) hike is always a MUST DO on our list.

Click on image to enlarge.

Race Day

Race day started with an early morning hotel breakfast and bus ride up the canyon to the starting line.  The absolute worst part of this race is the freezing wait and the late, 10:00 am start time.  You board the buses at 7:30 am, which makes for a long wait after your 11-mile transport up scenic highway 128. This year, I failed to pack my space blankets and froze during the 90-minute wait up in the windy, shady canyon.  But, even with the teeth-chattering cold that was shattering my body, I was excited to test my pace on this course.

I stayed in my extra clothes for as long as I could until it was time to check our gear bags then I stripped off those crucial layers and prepared to find my pace group. As I was adjusting my Ipod Nano and wireless earphones, I was very disgruntled to learn that my earphones had decided to not work.  After two months training with this new tech, I had never had any problems, but, of course, three minutes before race start, they decide not to work. I had checked the battery power that morning before leaving the hotel and they were set for 6 hours of performance after being fully charged that night. As the race director counted down the seconds to race start I gave up my attempts to force them into action and stuffed them in my pocket just as the gun went off. Racing 13.2 miles without tunes was not cool. I will forever have a spare set of non-wireless headphones in my gear bag just in case from now on!

The Race Was On

This video clip offered by the Canyonlands Half Marathon organizers can give you a little idea of the race start.

I was totally off rhythm during the first part of the race. I was frustrated that my earphones weren’t working and was struggling with a pace watch that was clocking me going much slower than I actually was.  (GPS issues in the canyon). Because most of my training that winter had been on the treadmill, I struggled with knowing what my pace was “by feel.” This challenge, coupled with a skewed pace watch output, caused me to run my first few miles too fast, clocking my first mile at 6:40–much faster than my goal first mile time.  Expending too much glycogen in the first few miles of a race can kill your race.  Sigh.  Subsequently, the race felt like a fight from the get-go.  Training on a treadmill just doesn’t transfer well to the road.  The speeds I was capable of on the treadmill didn’t sync up with my road performance on this rolling course.  You have to log time training on the type of surface/conditions you plan to race on. End of story.  I knew this, but thought the impact it would have on my overall race would be marginal. Ha! No.  I fought to stay strong even though I was running in the red zone of my heart rate for pretty much the entire race.

Knowing I had kids and family waiting for me at the end of the race drove me forward. My kids don’t get to see me race as much as I wish they could so when they are there I feel especially driven to do well! Much of why I run is for them; to teach them to work for goals and always do their best.

Approaching the finish line was exciting as I knew I was almost to the end and could use the last of my reserves–which wasn’t much, truth be told.  I didn’t know where I was in the pack or just how many women were in front of me, but I knew I had put it all out there and had given the course everything I could that morning. I heard my family before I saw them and that was THE sweetest part of the race. Sweeter than crossing the finish line and sweeter than my moments on the stage later. Hearing my children and extended family cheering me on, and being reunited with them after a long haul, was worth the pain and struggles on the course that day!

My Results

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Surprisingly, my finish time earned me a first place ranking for my division–First Female Master.  Overall, I was 14th for my gender which–at the age of 40–I’ll take with a smile! The majority of the women in front of me were in their twenties.  . . . I’m determined to keep the aging process at bay as long as I can!

My 1:35:44 time also qualified me for the New York City Marathon if I want to run it again.

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My splits were:

  • 6:40
  • 6:57
  • 7:05
  • 7:07
  • 7:26
  • 7:21
  • 7:22
  • 7:26
  • 7:08
  • 7:31
  • 7:26
  • 7:32
  • 7:28

Avg: 7:18

You can totally see how I burned myself out in the beginning of this race and it showed as the race progressed.  Totally started slowing down!

Family at Canyonlands Half Marathon Finish Line

My finish line crew! My husband, my 3 children, 4 nieces and 1 nephew, two sisters-in-law and two brothers-in-law!

I raided the recovery tents for water, electrolytes and glycogen-restoring foods and then we returned to the course to look for my husband.  Stephen finished strong and made his goal to come in under 2 hours!  He finished with an admirable 1:54, 8:46 per mile pace.

Following his finish we camped out to wait for the official results and discovered I had earned first place in my division and would be honored at the awards ceremony.  That was an exciting race result for me since I had my family with me to celebrate with me!

The Awards Ceremony

My son and daughter both captured footage on their phones of the awards ceremony. They both caught different parts of the ceremony so I will include both of them. Here is the first:

 

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I love the backpack they gave me for my award. It is hard to read the text in this picture but it says: Canyonlands Half Marathon: Sheri Haymore Award Female Master 1st Place 2017. (Apparently, 12 years ago on this course, Sheri Haymore, a 40-year-old mom of four, collapsed a half mile before the finish line and died so her girls present this award to the first place female master each year. Made me tear up receiving this award from her children!

Post-Race Celebrations

After you get done with a race, regardless of how you finish, there is a tangible weight lifted of your spirit and body.  All the unknowns you carry before a race are gone. Hopefully, goals have been achieved and you can finally just unwind and relax from a season of hard effort!

Being the foodie that I am, I love the extra guilt-free calories that are afforded me on race day to replenish what I have lost.  We definitely feasted at Miguel’s Baja Grill that night–my favorite restaurant in town!

Miguel's Baja Grill Moab, Utah

Santo Rosalia Enchilada at Miguel’s Baja Grill in Moab!

 Places to See/Things to Do in Moab

  • Arches National Park – Fiery Furnace Hike (get permit right when you get in town because there are limited permits and they go fast!)
  • Sled Giant Sand Hill (in front of Arches National Park Visitor Center entrance) Bring plastic sleds (discs). If you use Sandboard was you can go faster. You have to do a few runs with the sled to make a track and then you will fly!
  • Milt’s Stop and Eat (Burgers and Shakes!)
  • Jailhouse Cafe (Breakfast)
  • Corona Arch Hike
  • Cycling: 1)Colorado River Trail; 2) paved path from out of town into town; 3) Bar M Trail; 4) Countless others, but these listed are good with kids.
  • Lions Park Playground
  • Arches Thai Restaurant (Huge portions. Plan on sharing)
  • Moab Rec Center Swimming (Slide, diving board, zero-entry area, fountains)
  • Sweet Cravings Bistro (for sweets and to-go lunch food/sandwiches)
  • Rock and Fossil Shop
  • Dinosaur Museum and Park
  • Miguel’s Baja Grill
  • Paradox Pizza – Delicious garlic knots!; Order pizza by the slice.
  • MOYO Frozen Yogurt
  • Quesadilla Mobilla for Lunch (closes at 5pm)
  • Love Muffin (6:30am-1pm)

Until next time, Moab! Adieu!

Entry 17: Breckenridge Half Marathon

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In preparation for running  the NYC Marathon in November of 2016, I decided I would do a warm-up half a couple months before to try my running equipment/routine out and to see how my training was going for me. I decided to run the Breckenridge Half Marathon because it was being held in a city I love that is just a couple hours from my home, and because I knew the fall scenery would be spectacular. Since the race starts at 11, 481 feet above sea level, and stays at 9600 feet above sea level for the majority of the race, I knew this wasn’t going to be a race that I could plan to achieve a PR at. The half is just part of the action here; there is also a full marathon–America’s Highest Road Marathon–and a 1/4 marathon option. All races start up on Boreas Pass Road and finish on Breckenridge Main Street.

September 17, 2016 – The Race

I must say, for this race only being in its second year, it was done quite well.  The small field was appealing and also helped with the superb roll-out of this event. Vertical Runner Breckenridge–the premier running store in the area–helps sponsor and host this amazing event. The half starts at 8:15 am and shuttle vans take runners to the start up Boreas Pass.

Running through beautiful Summit County Colorado in September is hard to beat. Fall colors abound! The majority of this race is on a paved rec path with generous downhill at the start and then steady rolling hills for the remainder of the race.

It was 36 degrees at race start and topped off at 46 degrees by the finish, so I had to dress appropriately for that temperature, but with the sun out and shining, it really didn’t cause me any problems. (The highs for us that weekend were in the low 60s.)

My Experience

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To view video, click image or here.

I loved the small-town feel and charm of this scenic course, but be warned that you will feel the elevation! Even with regularly training at 5200 feet above sea level, doubling that really makes a noticeable difference! I felt like I was running up a hill constantly, even on flat terrain because of the elevation component.  That being said, I was still able to run about a 7:45 average pace and achieve a top-finishing time–but I fought for it! Especially over the last 4.5 miles of the course which are a slow ascending paved trail to the finish.

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Having my kids and husband find me on the course and run with me through the finish were beautiful highlights of this experience.  I run/compete for them; to teach them to do their best at whatever they choose to pursue, so having them there to see me finish and be on the podium, was really great.

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Depending on your goals, this race could be for you! Even though I loved landing on the podium,  it took significant work to get there because of the elevation.  If I was to return to this race, I would run it at a fun, comfortable pace rather than try and race it. That component took away from the experience for me. So, if you are looking to put your racing skills to the test, this may not be the course for you. If you are looking for a fun, beautiful, well-organized unique race in a gorgeous setting to just get out and enjoy running–it is definitely for you!

Race Results

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2nd Female with a time of 1:42: 17; 5th overall. I loved the wood medal that I received at the finish, the delicious food they provided at the Vertical Runner store after the race, and the unique wood trophy I was awarded for my finish time.

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The Lodging

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The Beaver Run Resort in Breckenridge is the host hotel, and offers discount rates for race participants.  This hotel was SOOO fun! Our family had a blast trying out their row of outdoor hot tubs, swimming in their heated pool that is half outside, half inside, and playing mini golf in the basement of the hotel. They also have a fun arcade in the basement that awards tickets and prize machine the kids can use to trade tickets for trinkets.

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Post-race relaxing! (I did get in and swim too!)

 

Breckenridge and Nearby Frisco

Breckenridge has no shortage of things to do, so it is a perfect place for a family-race-weekend.  Biking, hiking, exploring main street, riding the gondola are all recommended! Nearby Frisco is also one of my favorite Colorado towns. Peppino’s Pizza in Frisco is a great place for a pre-race, carb-loading meal the night before (try their garlic knots!) We also love getting ice-cream/treats at historic Foote’s Rest Sweet Shoppe on Main Street in Frisco. We often bike around Dillon Reservoir in Frisco. It is a beautiful, paved path with picturesque bridges and landscapes. Main Street in Frisco is also charming! Summit County in the Fall is hard to beat!