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 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!

Entry 18: New York Marathon

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Crossing the finish line for the 2016 New Your City Marathon!–The 2016 NYC Marathon was the World’s Largest Marathon in History!

40th Anniversary of the New York City Marathon and I ran it in my 40th year. Poetic, don’t you think? So, when thinking about what to headline this post with, I thought the following would be appropriate:

HOW NOT TO RUN A MARATHON . . . .

TRAIN ON FLATS WHEN IT IS A HILLY MARATHON

Know the course and train for the course. I mean, that’s a no-brainer, right? But, yeah, totally didn’t incorporate hill training in my marathon training and it hurt me big time. There is a reason the New York City Marathon is not advertised as a fast marathon. It isn’t. It is a hard, grueling, hilly course.  Prepare for it and it is possible to have negative splits. Don’t prepare for it and you will, most likely, crash.

BUY NEW SHOES THE WEEK BEFORE YOUR TRIP

Yes, I did. Everyone knows this is NOT something you should do. Running in new shoes is a no-no. But the week before the marathon, I started developing shin splints–a sign, for me, that my shoes have reached the end of their lifespan. From my research, I read that it would be better to run in a new shoe, identical to the shoe you have been training in, rather than try and run a marathon in a shoe that is done. So, I purchased a brand new pair of my beloved HOKA Bondi 4.0s and tried to get as much running in them as I could during the last week of my taper. I should have been tracking my miles in my shoes better during training to avoid this. (The lifespan of shoes is usually between 300-350 miles). Or, I also read, that you should buy a new pair of the shoes you want to run your marathon in, run 50 miles in them to break them in, then box them up until race day. May try that next time around.

TAX YOUR MUSCLE GLYCOGEN STORES DAYS BEFORE THE RACE

The three days leading up to race day I had logged 34 miles on my feet and then threw in 4 hours on bikes–11 miles–the afternoon before the race. If you have a time goal, do your sightseeing AFTER the race. Come in a couple of days before the race–even just one day before if you can swing it–then sight see after.  While I knew that would have been a better way to safeguard my vital muscle glycogen stores, I didn’t want to be in NYC with my son on election day and after. I figured, regardless of who won, there would be unhappy people and it could get dangerous. And it did. So, there really was no way for us to avoid putting the sightseeing at the front end of the race this year since the NYC Marathon was just a couple days before election day….

AND–this is a BIG ‘AND’–my top priority for my trip to NYC was to make some solid, beautiful, educational, foundational, AMAZING memories with my son and husband.  I wanted to show him the NYC I have grown from and grown to love from my visits. So, when I look back on my marathon outcome, it was definitely a 3-star-out-of-10 experience for me compared to everything else we did.  But, we had SO MUCH FUN in NYC, that I can’t look back on how we spent our pre-marathon days and hours with any real regret. I knew I was risking my race glycogen stores traipsing all over the city, but it was a risk I was willing to take. No regrets.

DON’T DO YOUR HOMEWORK ON COURSE STRATEGY, AKA:  THINGS I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN

  1. Try and get on a color course that goes over the Verrazano bridge, not under. One, it is prettier; 2) your GPS won’t have as many issues–hopefully–and 3) the pacers are up there!! I really wanted to run with the 3:05 pacer, but the courses don’t intersect until mile 8! My race was already destroyed by then.
  2. GPS goes haywire ESPECIALLY if you are on the green course on Verrazano Bridge (which I was under the bridge on this course and GPS was crazy.) GPS also struggles in congested areas like: Queensboro, First/Fifth Ave, and Central Park.
  3. The bus ride from the ferry to Fort Wadsworth (athletes village) is like 45 minutes.  If you don’t get a seat–which I didn’t–sit down in the aisle. Don’t stand the whole time-like I did.
  4. Force yourself to conserve in the first half of the marathon or you WILL die in the second half.
  5. Do train hills!!!!  There are five,long, steep hilly bridges on this course! And undulating terrain throughout.
  6. Don’t go too fast on the Verrazano Bridge–it can–and will-kill your race in the first mile.  The first mile is a 3% grade hill for 8/10 of a mile. Hold back on the 3.4 % decent for the mile down the bridge. Go too fast on that one and you’re a goner too. The first two miles should feel annoyingly easy. THIS IS WHERE I KILLED MY RACE.
  7. The race starts at mile 17. Get to mile 17 as if you haven’t started the race yet and you are good. Mile 16 has a mile-long 3.4% grade uphill. Oh, man, why didn’t I train hills!!
  8. Miles 20-23 in Bronx/Harlem are hilly!  These are “the wall” miles and you will need to dig deep because of the hills.
  9. Mile 24…The ninja hill at 5th Ave.  This is a mile-long 2.5% uphill.
  10. Mile 25-26 are all undulating hills, people.  Again, why didn’t I do hill training? There is a 3.3% grade hill for a half mile up Central Park South. You will feel it.
  11. The race ends on an uphill. Yes, I’m serious. A 5.5% grade uphill. It isn’t incredibly long, but seriously, right at the end!!
  12. screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-11-26-59-amAFTER the finish line, you will then walk for about 30-45 minutes. I’m not kidding.  (Check out the map graph above. See where it says finish line? See the teal line that merges with the green line that loops around to the red exit sign on 73rd? All of Central Park West was unaccessible until it intersected with 58th. My hotel was on 54th. I had to go all the way around.) Security is tight and they don’t let any family in, or any racers out, for blocks from the finish line. They do warn you in your race packet that it will take you approximately 30 minutes to get from the finish line to the exit. This was accurate. Herds of racers are all limping their way down Central Park West trying to exit the course. I think it was another mile (or more???) just walking to the exit from the finish line. Then when you finally do exit, you have to weave through all the family waiting for people and find out how to get where you need to go because they close so many streets! I had planned to walk straight through Columbus Circle by Trump Tower to get to my hotel, but had to walk several detour streets before I got to the hotel.
  13. Unlike some other races I have run, race etiquette is to wear your medal on Monday–on Medal Monday. I saw many racers wearing it on race day, but apparently, just Monday is the standard ritual for New York.
  14. Don’t rent bikes outside of Central Park and bike over to it. CRAZY you WILL die. It was a miracle we didn’t. Get your bikes right there in the park. And DON’T bike the park the day before the race thinking it will “keep you off your feet.” The park is super hilly. Sigh. Burned waay too much muscle glycogen the day before the race.

THINGS I DID RIGHT

  1. Train hard. Check. I did this.
  2. Get good sleep the night before. Lay out all your gear. Get a race-specific pace band. I like racesmartpacebands.com.
  3. When you know it is going to be a windy race, don’t panic. It was a VERY windy race. Beautiful, sunny weather, with temps in the high 50s–perfect–but incredibly windy. Especially on the bridges.
  4. Do take an Uber to the Staten Island Ferry terminal. Do plan on leaving at 5:15 am from your hotel if you have 6:00am ferry departure. DO get on the earliest ferry you can. Don’t miss your wave trying to get on a ferry while the Staten Island Ferry terminal gets crowded.  Do your waiting in the village at Ft. Wadsworth. Subways are delayed that morning and crowded. Pay the $25 and take an Uber. So worth it.
  5. Do go to the bathroom before you exit the ferry. The lines at the bus stop after the ferry are crazy long.
  6. Do bring tons of clothes. They have donation bins all the way up to race start. I had fleece pants, arm warmers, a sweatshirt, beanie, gloves and a winter coat on that I found at goodwill before I left Fort Collins. I needed them all.  Before I lined up for the race, I discarded them all in the donation bin, but kept my space blanket. I only ditched my space blanket 1 minute before race start. I was glad. You warm up quick after you start running up the Verrazano Bridge.
  7. Do take the ferry–so pretty and relaxing and lots of bathrooms on board to use.
  8. Do bring a couple of space blankets for waiting for the bus after the ferry and for waiting at Fort Wadsworth.
  9. Do hit the New York City Marathon Pavillion on Monday after the race to get your NY Times edition with your name printed in it, to see the wall with your name on it and checkout the finisher gear.  Be prepared that if you want to do the medal engraving, the line is gargantuan. We skipped that part. I’ll engrave it at home.
  10. Do opt for the New York City Marathon race poncho at the end vs. using the gear check.  The race poncho is super nice. Flannel lined, heavyweight material, velcro enclosure. It kept me warm while I walked for 45 minutes after the race and while I walked to my hotel.
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    Abbott Dash to the Finish Line 5k with my Son and Husband (taking pic)

    Do run the Abbott Dash to the Finish Line 5k with family.  This is a great shake out run and SOOO unique to run down empty New York Streets!!

  12. Plan on hours at the EXPO. Best I have ever attended. SOOO awesome and the Javits Convention Center, with all its glass roofing is spectacular.
  13. Do get a pair of the New York City Marathon Special Edition shoes. Just keep in mind that ASICS–HUGE race sponsor–is NOT the only shoe company that makes them! I bought my ASICS then saw a cooler shoe made by ALTRA for the marathon, but ASICS wouldn’t let me return the shoes–even when only 10 minutes had passed since I bought them. They won’t tell you that “all sales are final.” It prints on your receipt AFTER you make your purchase, but they won’t tell you. . . until you try and return something.
  14. Do use the Subway as much as possible. The city is so crowded that Uber takes 2-3x the amount of time to get around. (Accept at 5am on race morning. Streets were empty.) Buy an Unlimited MetroCard when you arrive in the city.  That $31.00 up front will get you far!
  15. Do get a hotel close to the finish line. It is worth the cost. You won’t be driving anywhere after the marathon – streets are all closed near the finish line. Subways are delayed and overcrowded. We loved staying at the Hilton Garden Inn Central Park. It was less than a mile from the finish line so we just walked there after the race.
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My son taking a very well-timed selfie with me when I went by at the 25th mile in Central Park.

MY SPLITS – A Race Unraveling

Start Time:  9:52 am:  Green Wave, Corral 1 Wave A: –Goal: 3:07 finish; 7:10 pace. Trained for a 6:59 mile pace.  . . .

  • 1Mile: 8:40 (GPS tracking me totally wrong. Reporting 12-minute mile pace.)
  • 2M: 6:50
  • 3M: 7:10       (5k: 7:13 min/mile pace: Legs feeling weak. Knew I was in trouble.)
  • 4M: 7:17
  • 5M: 7:12
  • 6M: 7:22
  • 7M: 7:02
  • 8M: 7:26
  • 9M: 7:34
  • 10M: 7:25
  • 11M: 7:57
  • 12M: 7:32
  • 13M: 8:03 (Half Marathon: 1:37:23: 7:26 min/mile pace avg.)
  • 14M: 8:02
  • 15M: 9:16 (started to not feel well. stopped and walked through aid station. Decided to let go of time goal and just try to enjoy the marathon. stopped using watch at this point. ran just on what felt good.)
  • 16M: 8:15
  • 17M: 8:57
  • 18M: 9:11 (stopped and walked through aid station)
  • 19M: 8:53 (felt sick. stopped taking gels)
  • 20M: 9:22
  • 21M: 10:26 (felt sick; bathroom stop. first time I have ever stopped to use the bathroom on a course….)
  • 22M: 10:40
  • 23M: 11:51  (stopped to walk)
  • 24M: 11:49 (stopped to walk. started to think marathons are crazy; that I should never run another one. 🙂 Took my one earbud out and ditched all music. Nothing was going to help me at this point. And it was really loud.)
  • 25M: 10:00 (remembered running this mile with my son. made me smile. short time later see my son and husband! “We love you!” Made my race!)
  • 26M: 9:11 (bottoms of my feet hurt. new symptom for me. rest of the body felt fine, just tight/stiff. Glycogen at zero).

FINISH Time: 1:39 pm

3:46: 56 marathon time (8:40 min/mile avg). 

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BIG MARATHON TAKE AWAY FOR MY BODY EXPERIMENT

  1. I may be comfortable with 7-minute miles on flat terrain, but my body is NOT comfortable with 7-minute miles on 2, 3, or 5 percent grades. Time to start training hills and if I do run on a treadmill, I will ALWAYS have it on an incline now. Let’s face it. Most courses are NOT going to be flat. Granted, they may not have as many challenging uphills as the New York City Marathon, but training on flat terrain really isn’t helping you out.
  2. Reserve your glycogen and get those carbs in. I failed to do both and I paid for it. Early.

 

SOME OTHER THINGS I WILL NEVER FORGET

I met a really friendly woman who was waiting for an Uber at the same hotel that I was race morning. (Heather Kiersznowski from Connecticut.) She and I hung out on the ferry and bus ride and parted ways when she headed to the blue village and I to the green village. Really enjoyed getting to know her.

Because of my predicted race finish time and my race qualifying time of 3:13, I was in the first wave, first corral of the green course. It felt really great going into that corral. I was one among a handful of women. Felt like a rockstar. Everyone looked super fast. I really thought I was going to be able to compete with this crew. With different pre-race preparation and some hill training, I think I could have. Fun to hang out with them. So many foreigners!!

So many porta-potties!  So many, in fact, my longest wait in line was like three minutes–unheard of. Seriously, New York runs an amazingly organized event. I was really impressed.

They filled huge trucks full of sand to barricade off streets to the finish line–so no one could potentially try to ram their way through. (Pic by Stephen S.)

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When we finally reached the hotel, after the race, and we went up to the room, housekeeping was cleaning it. Seriously. I had to wait in the hallway–on my feet–for another 10 minutes. It was kind of funny actually. Three cleaning women all scrambled in when they saw me and worked together to get it finished fast.

My husband and son were great.  They went and got me “recovery” treats and had them waiting for me in the room. Baked by Melissa cupcakes and macaroons. Yes! I showered and they patiently chilled in the hotel waiting for me and then we headed to Shake Shack so I could get my sodium fix! Delicious.

I will never forget being in NYC with my boys! Priceless.

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Did I mention that the weather was PERFECT while we were there? 5 days of sunshine, no rain, and the only windy day was on the day of the marathon. Temps were in the mid to low 60s. Perfect.

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-2-27-56-pmNEW YORK CITY MARATHON RECOVERY SURPRISE

One of the most astonishing pieces of body-experiment information for me was how my body felt post-New York City Marathon vs. the other eight I have run. I had virtually no soreness. Never had to walk down stairs backwards, never had any of the usual 7-day challenges. My body was recovered and ready to run again after day 2. I can only assume this is because I ran the latter part of the marathon so slowly? Or the other theory is that this race didn’t have the aggressive downhill that so many of my other races that I have run have. But, even Boston leaves me super sore and it doesn’t have aggressive downhill so I am chalking it up to having run a slower race.  . . ?

NO PLANS TO RUN NEW YORK CITY MARATHON AGAIN

Although there is a part of me that wants to return to the New York City Marathon to conquer all the areas that I failed during this race, once was enough for me. I don’t have any plans to return. It’s a stressful marathon. Lots of moving parts to get you to the starting line. Long wait for the start.  A really torturous walk from the finish line to the exit and back to your hotel.

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Redefining the runner’s high at 1250 feet  – on top of the Empire State Building after the race.

And, as cool as it was to run from Staten Island to Manhattan–to see the amazing distance I traversed from the roof of the Empire State Building–I really didn’t enjoy all the hills and the 5 bridges you have to climb an descend.  Was it an epic experience that I am glad I did? Yes. I will NEVER forget the feeling of walking down Central Park West and seeing my son and husband standing near Columbus Circle waiting for me. With my NYC poncho wrapped around me keeping me warm, and my medal dangling around my neck, I did feel victorious. I had to surrender to the pain each footstep issued me (new shoes..arrgh), but I felt honored to be among the other finishers as we flooded the streets; streets that had been barricaded and closed just for us. We shut down Manhattan! So many strangers congratulated me during my mile trek back to the hotel. So many smiles. So much positive energy.  Even without the endorphins chemically lifting my soul, it would have been hard not to feel high and happy. Finishing a marathon–regardless of how you do it–always feels good when you are done.

I went to bed that night with my Garmin Vivoactive HR telling me my feet had gone 34.9 miles. It was a VERY full day.

Next up. . .Canyonlands Half Marathon in March 2017, Boston Marathon in April, Deseret News Classic Marathon in July, FORTitude 10K in September, and maaaybe the St. George Marathon in October.  

FUN NYC EATS and ACTIVITIES

  • Pepolino (Not in Little Italy: 218 W. Broadway) Excellent homemade pasta and sauces. Get the signature ricotta cheesecake. AMAZING!
  • Bryant Park. Play ping pong if you get the chance. Stroll through the shops, people watch, and if you brought ice skates, skip the $20 rental and hop on the ice!
  • WOOPS! Macaroons (Bryant Park)
  • Hilton Garden Inn Central Park – cookies everyday, and GREAT location.
  • The Metal Shop (Bryant Park)
  • Cafe Habana in Soho (best street corn ever. and try the pork)
  • Shake Shack.
  • Crown Tour Statue of Liberty – Awesome.
  • Blue Man Group at the Astor Theater. So funny. (I was highlighted as a 2012 Olympic Bronze Medalist for Synchronized swimming and asked to show some moves. So funny. I played along well, I thought.) 
  • Serendipity 33 (Frozen Hot Chocolates!)
  • Times Square  Picture taking in the hallway of mirrors art installation “The Beginning of the End” by Cuban artist, Rachel Valdés Camejo. (There until Nov. 21.) The art installation was super cool.  Other recommendations….Times Square is great for people watching, but always great to leave in my opinion.
  • Carnegie Deli – Pastrami Sandwiches and Cheesecake. (HUUUGE portions).
  • Magnolia Bakery (Banana Bread Pudding)
  • 9/11 Museum. Plan on at least 3 hours (Seeing this with my son–his first time, my second, was such an amazing experience.)
  • Baked by Melissa – miniature cupcakes are SOOO good.
  • Bike Central Park – Beautiful. Bring Bike lock to stop along the way at places. Eat a crepe from a vender.
  • Maison Kayser Bakery (Ham and Cheese Croissants and their cookies are scrumptious),
  • Bike the Brooklyn Bridge; buy art from a bridge/street artist; eat at Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn. Get ice cream at Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.
  • Empire State Building – 86th floor Observatory.
  • Lemon Scones at Irving Farm Coffee Roasters.  (At the Fulton Center.) Delicious.
  • Angelina’s New York Style Pizza

 

Entry 16 – Boston Marathon 2016

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147 Days Late, But Here.

I find it fitting to start this entry on the same day that I registered for the 2017 Boston Marathon. What can I say. Life has been busy. My race recap may be 147 days overdue, but better late than never, as they say.

The road to this marathon was incredibly rocky. On February 17, a couple months out from race day, I tore my gastrocnemius tendon (in my calf) while I was playing tennis. This was a particularly unwelcome event because my marathon training was going extremely well.  I was running between 60-70 miles a week and my body felt good–no aches or pains.  I had just put down a 16-mile, medium long run at a 7:14 mile pace a couple days before and I had finished a strong 8-mile tempo run at a 6:40 pace a couple days before that.  Breaking that 3-hour marathon time was beginning to look less like a pipe dream, and more like a possibility.

Earlier that month, I was diagnosed with skin cancer. We were able to remove all of it and it hadn’t spread but it was a stressful start to 2016 for me.  My spirit was a little tattered, to say the least, from recent life events and challenges. So, the leg injury was, well, yeah.

My calf injury left me swollen, immobile, uncomfortable, sedentary and, yes, totally deflated. It took several days of some pretty classic self-pity sessions, but somehow–with, some divine intervention–I  traversed through the quagmire of my negative thoughts, sadness, and emotions and came out with a renewed outlook and a determination to heal quickly and still make it to Boston.

 

Faith and Healing

So, some people mock religion. God. Faith. Unseen forces. They don’t believe in all that. I am not one of those people.  And while I am not immune to doubt, nor have I been spared from heartache or times when I question the purpose of life, trials and this wild ride we are on, I do believe that this life is more–and for more–than we realize. That there is purpose. That there are unexplainable things that logically don’t add up.  And while I am very logical, I also believe in the illogical; the things that don’t seem rational or aligned with what we think we “know.” I have been astounded by events in my life–especially in recent years–that have happened by seemingly invisible hands and means.  This recovery process I went through was plastered with evidence that we are not alone and that faith can heal. I put in the work, but what got me to Boston, and across the finish line, was so much more than me.

 

My Injury – Instagram Diary

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So, I don’t feel like this post would be complete without spending some time talking about the challenges this injury brought me! Talk about feeling my 40th birthday approaching–this injury made me feel like my whole body was falling apart! Here are my Instagram messages over that period. I thought I would post them here, because, they reflect exactly where I was those many weeks ago:

2.17.16 (Ok, this one is actually a Facebook entry.)

So… I was going for a ball in my tennis class today and moved in some abnormal way that caused me to tear a muscle or tendon in my left calf. Pretty excruciating injury and haven’t been able to walk since it happened.

I have WONDERFUL friends–and classmates–that rushed to my side providing me care (ice bags, phone calls to my husband and orthopedists, getting me pain medication, driving crutches to the gym, picking up my kids, driving me to the doctor, driving my car home from the gym, cleaning my kitchen, making me dinner, bringing me flowers, cards….Seriously. I’m so touched. THANK YOU, dear friends.

The doctor said I either tore my plantaris muscle (healing time a couple days) or my gastrocsoleus tendon–healing time 3-8 weeks depending on the severity of the tear. Going to MRI it Monday if the pain doesn’t subside. No surgery so that’s good and I may be able to still run Boston….(Praying that it is the Plantaris muscle!!! ) I’m supposed to keep using the crutches either way, and see what the next couple days reveal….Hard day. Pretty Bummed I have to lose my marathon training momentum and be benched for a time. But, so comforted by friends. So grateful for them!!!

The diagnosis could have been soooo much worse so I’m grateful it isn’t what it could have been, but still seriously praying that it is my Plantaris muscle….

2.22.16

One of these is not like the other….My calf swelling from my tendon tear (?) follows gravity giving me a pronounced cankle. Waiting for an MRI to find out what I did to myself in tennis last week. Note to self: when you are in the middle of intense marathon training DO NOT dabble in other sports!

After several days of feeling sorry for myself and bemoaning my situation, I got up this morning at 5:30 with renewed determination to try and have a positive outlook; do what I COULD do. Attempted to bike on the bike trainer….After a comical scene figuring out how to mount it with my injured leg, I discovered I can’t bend my injured calf enough for a full rotation, soooo that is out. I turned then to weights. Spent 40 minutes with upper body hand weights, knee push ups and core work. Will continue strength training and my diet efforts to shed some pounds and try and acclimate to this no-running period as much as I can!#runner #injured #marathoner#bostonmarathon2016 #endureandenjoy#projectgetlean

2.22.16 (Later that day)

Very swollen left foot.

The day after my injury. My foot of my injured leg was so swollen. This is what made the doctor think I could have a blood clot.

What. A. Day.
Two generous friends helped taxi me to and from my doctor’s appointment for an MRI today for my calf injury. Unfortunately, there was a disconnect between my doctor and his nurse so I wasn’t in the books for one. He evaluated my leg and was concerned by all of the swelling. He felt impressed to have me go to the hospital to get an ultrasound to see if I had a blood clot. After a very thorough ultrasound they discovered I have a blood clot in the peroneal vein of my left (injured) calf. After a very long day, I’m home now with a prescription for some blood thinners to take for the next three months and instructions to ‘take it easy.’ Life is never dull. Never dull. Grateful for a great doc who followed his gut and who continues to show me he is in my corner! Big shout out to @sparklingfitgirl for arriving at my home tonight with a hot bowl of soup, warm roll, big hug, and a smile when my exhausted body, literally, could go no further! And to her husband @lclint76 for being at the clinic to wheelchair me to my car. And @notsoidlehands for taking and feeding my children while I was at the hospital. And the texts and calls and offers to help from so many. Angels. All of you! Feeling loved. Grateful.

2.24.16

So the doc said he doesn’t want me up and moving for 3 to 5 days while my blood thinner (Xarelto–a whopping $450 per bottle every month!) starts to do its job with my blood clot. I will continue to take this blood thinner until mid June. . . .So I went on YouTube and found some upper body/core seated dumbbell exercises I could do to keep myself moving this morning while still ‘taking it easy.’ Felt great to do something! I’m encouraged to see that my foot/calf are beginning to look normal again, even though they don’t feel normal yet. Nice to see the swelling is being kept at bay if I keep my foot up. Also helps with the discomfort even though it’s hard to go from running 70 miles a week to sitting all day…. A lesson in patience!

I’m really grateful that my employment as a writer for LocalGiant is a remote position so that I have that to keep me busy while I sit! At least I can still feel productive on one level! #runner #injured #marathoner#bostonmarathon2016 #projectgetlean#patience #dowhatyoucan#seateddumbbellexercises

3.2.16

So…It’s been two weeks on crutches, and 336 hours since I ran last, BUT, Amazingly, I haven’t gone crazy yet. Making some progress with calf recovery. I’m off the couch today with 9-days worth of blood thinner in me for my clot, and pain free. Not swelling like I was so that’s encouraging too. But my injured leg has definitely atrophied–my favorite jeans here are loose in one leg and fitted in the other–and my lower calf mobility is pretty nonexistent. Working to teach that leg how to walk again. Working to stand (not from sitting…not yet) on both feet with my weight evenly distributed. Each day brings a new challenge, but it’s definitely not dull. Any little improvement makes my day. One shuffle closer to recovery.

My clean eating/calorie tracking coupled with the exertions of crutching around and upper-body work with hand weights have helped me lose 6 pounds. (I’m not going to think about how much of that weight is lost muscle mass. Not right now anyway.) But, at least getting my eating back on track, and getting leaner have been good results of this ordeal.


Finally going to have my MRI on Friday and find out what I did in there.
If you haven’t seen the film, “The Martian” you should. That film continues to inspire me. There’s a great lesson in it, well, there are several great lessons in it, but my favorite quote and theme of the movie is from Matt Damon’s character, Mark Watney: “At some point, everything’s going to go south on you…everything is going to go south and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem…and you solve the next one…and the next. And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home. All right, questions?” #solveit #endureandenjoy#marathoner #runner #injured#dowhatyoucan #projectgetlean #patience#bostonmarathon2016 #themartian#lifelessons

3.3.16

Posing with my friend and her son after they commandeered a walker for me.

Posing with my friend and her son after they commandeered a walker for me.

That friend….that drops everything to run get you a walker (😂) before the medical supply store closes to help relieve the burden you have been putting on your good knee–hang in there, knee!– while the other leg has been healing!! Everyone needs a friend like that. Golden. Love ya, Natalie! (And Colten!)

3.7.16

Day 18….For those that are interested….MRI results came back today showing a (healing) gastrocnemius tendon tear in my left calf. (Who knew tennis could be so dangerous!!) Doc thinks 6ish more weeks until I’m healed, but I can start PT now and work towards walking without my crutches…. Blood thinner until June so no dry needling. We were so hoping it was the Plantaris muscle–quicker healing time. Still absorbing the news.

3.10.16

Up at 5 this morning to exercise. Far from my marathon training routine, but right now this takes about as much concentration as a good tempo run! 2 sets of ankle rotations, ankle pumps, light calf stretching then 40 minutes of this with my crutches. By the end I was ready to try it without them. I still wobble and toddle like a child learning how to walk, but my physical therapist really helped yesterday–so grateful for her! Boston isn’t looking too promising so I’m setting my sights on NYC in November! #progress#gastrocnemiustear #recovery#injuredmarathoner #nycmarathon2016

3.14.16

Today’s rehabilitation work out: 30 minutes on the bike-no resistance; 30 minutes shoeless walking on the treadmill to work on lengthening my scar tissue/calf muscles and strengthening my weakened foot/ankle muscles. I can only walk about 1 mph and that is if I’m holding onto the treadmill rails. Without the treadmill rails I can only walk about .5 mph because my balance still hasn’t returned. (But, hey, I’m walking!!) It is amazing to me how much concentration is required with each step. Sometimes if I roll my foot too much or step a certain way I’ll get a shooting pain so I have to concentrate and be very careful with each step. It is hard work! I’m definitely developing some more mental muscles too! It is difficult to find the balance between stretching the scar tissue appropriately so it heals right and not overdoing it and reinjuring!! So far, it feels like I’m moving in a forward direction. Today I definitely felt stronger. Really, I felt like I turned a corner on Saturday. Something in my injured leg just felt more solid. Sturdy. Maybe that means that the vascular restructuring that was occurring due to my clot has finished most of its work. Honestly, it is just great to be up and moving again. I’m not getting any real cardiovascular benefits right now, but spiritual and mental benefits definitely!! #gastrocnemiustear#injuredmarathoner #progress #runner#nycmarathon2016

3.15.16

My leg may be lame but my tape isn’t! (My doctor gave my PT the go ahead to start taping my calf. We have to handle my rehabilitation with care due to my clot.) Love my PT even though she did tell me that I have to wait 2 to 3 more weeks for aggressive rehabilitation due to my DVT. Hey, at least the crutches are starting to gather dust and the couch is getting its regular form back! #progress#gastrocnemiustear #injuredmarathoner#runner #nycmarathon2016

3.16.16

Received my bib and corral assignment this morning….From bib number 18,384 in 2015 to 9,321 in 2016. Wave 2, corral 2. Body willing, I’ll make my goal Wave 1 in 2017 to make up for missing out this year! #whatmighthavebeen#bostonmarathon2016 #injuredmarathoner#runner

3.21.16

I think my kids think I’ve gone crazy, but I’m just seriously joyous/giddy that I can walk with even weight distribution and a proper ankle roll today! The freedom of this simple, but recently very complex act, is exhilarating!

I went to the gym this morning–first time in 5 weeks–and did the upright cycle for 30 minutes, then the elliptical for 30 minutes–another first, then a half-mile walk at 2 mph. Progress! Definite progress. Thank you, body! #runner #injuredmarathoner#gastrocnemiustear #nycmarathon2016#bostonmarathon2016

3.24.16

Progress. Goal is to jog without the handrails by the end of the week. I don’t have any pain, but I’m just nervous to go too hard too fast. Just easing back into things and seeing what my body is ready to do. My heart is ready to take off, my mind is more cautious.#injuredmarathoner #recovery#gastrocnemiustear #runner#pearlizumirun #nycmarathon2016#bostonmarathon2016 #progress#onestepatatime

3.25.16

I am THE best air drummer EVER when this song (The Funeral by Band of Horses) is playing. Just ask my eight-year-old who enjoyed my theatrics this morning while I was spinning in the bike trainer and singing like I’m a performer 😉 (ha)! Love that song. Love spinning my legs. It is the only thing I can do fast–safely–right now. But, I’m going to get there. Closer every day. My body may be injured but my spirit has been emboldened from this experience. I’m grateful for that positive outcome. More determined than ever to reach my goals. Take that, Gastrocnemius tear deterrent!! Respect for anyone that suffers from chronic pain or a permanent injury. So grateful my physical setbacks are temporary. Taking the lessons they taught me with me and moving forward! Sub-three, I’m coming for you! #onestepatatime#recovery #determined #goals#myrunningjourney #progress#injuredmarathoner #runner#nycmarathon2016 #bostonmarathon2016

3.26.16

Goal achieved! Jogging without using the handrails for support. Started my morning with a long warm-up of 50 minutes spinning on the bike. Once my muscles were warm moved to treadmill for a 3-mile workout. I alternated walking and jogging at half mile intervals. 3.5 walking speed, 4mph jogging speed. Avg. heart rate when jogging was 127. Calf feels great. Hamstring and ankles feel tight. Being careful, but trying to help this scar tissue/soft-tissue remodeling phase give me the muscle length and range of motion I need for my normal activities so I can avoid reinjury when I return to them more fully. Really wish I could foam roll or massage but that’s not allowed with my clot….#onestepatatime #recovery#progress #runner #injuredmarathoner#gastrocnemiustear #bostonmarathon2016#nycmarathon2016

3.30.16

6 weeks since my injury. This morning I warmed up on the bike for 25 mins then did a 5-mile jog at a 10:55 pace. My heart rate average was 160. I felt like I could go faster and further but, waiting for the green light to start running again from my doc. (I meet with him Friday.) I’m so curious to find out what level of fitness remains from this interruption in my training. Thank goodness for muscle memory. Feels great to get some miles under my feet even if I’m going 4 mins slower per mile right now than I was in February. Thankful.#recovery #painfree#injuredmarathoner #gastrocnemiustear#running #bostonmarathon2016#nycmarathon2016 #goals #progress#bodyexperiment

3.31.16

Got my Boston 5k bib yesterday!! This I know I can do with my post-injury fitness. My husband,@singletracksid is going to run it too and our two friends: @sparklingfitgirl and@lclint76! The course crosses the Boston Marathon finish line too so that’s cool! It is the Saturday before the Marathon. We leave two weeks from today!#excited#boston5k #running

4.1.16

Getting my potassium (O.N.E. coconut water) and BCAAs (IdealLean) this morning (along with 21g of Quest protein) after 50 minutes on the cycle followed by a 400m walking treadmill warm-up, 5 miles jogging at a 9:30 per min pace, and a 400m walking cool down. Heart rate peaked at 172, but stayed under 170 for most of the five miles–high 160s. Crazy that it can get that high at that pace! I have a ways to go, but progress. No pain so that’s good. Slowly adjusting my speed to determine where my fitness level is right now and what my leg/body can handle safely. Forcing myself to jog every other day right now although I’d rather go every day! #recovery #injuredmarathoner#6weekspostinjury #gastrocnemiustear#onestepatatime #runner

4.4.16

Climbing back. 8 miles @8:57 pace. #runner #running#injuredmarathoner #7weekspost#gastrocnemiustear #bodyexperiment#bostonmarathon2016 #nycmarathon2016

4.13.16

Newest challenge in my 8-week, post-gastrocnemius-tear recovery process is some peripheral neuropathy in my foot caused by nerve compression/adhesion to my scar tissue in my calf that’s affecting my foot (we think). The symptoms vary from random shooting pains, tissue inflammation, swelling, tingling and numbness in my toes. My foot got really mad at me on Saturday after a run so I’ve been doing cycling and elliptical workouts since. After an excruciating foot massage with my PT yesterday, and another MRI, I am awaiting my results which I should receive at 1pm at my follow-up with my doctor. We leave for Boston tomorrow.#onestepatatime #notgivingup#injuredmarathoner #runner #recovery#gastrocnemiustear #bostonmarathon2016#nycmarathon2016

 

To Run or Not to Run

So, about this time, before we leave for Boston, I’m still struggling with my new challenge of some peripheral neuropathy in my foot.  Calf tendon feels good. Heart feels good, but my foot hurts after a few miles of running.  This does NOT look good.  I really wanted to TRY running the Boston Marathon if I could, but I also didn’t want to get re-injured.  I had an MRI done of my foot and had it examined by a podiatrist.  After we determined that there was no stress fracture, he felt I could attempt the marathon and suggested a cortisone injection at the nerve root that was causing me problems to help me get through the marathon without pain.  This was distressing for me.  While I didn’t want to have pain/numbness/dysfunction while I ran, I also was VERY nervous to do anything to that nerve. I was worried about side effects, irreversible damage, making things worse….etc. In the end, after talking with another podiatrist for a second opinion, my orthopedist and my physical therapist, we decided getting the injection was a good idea.

I endured one of the most painful things of my life – a nerve massage by my physical therapist a couple days prior to my injections.  Seriously, it was excruciating. I hope I never have to endure something like that again.  The injections weren’t that fun either. He gave me like 12 right where the nerve was inflamed. But, after I completed the injections, I got the green light to TRY and run the marathon from the physical therapist, orthopedist and two podiatrists that were involved in my care.  This was an awesome moment, but I was still unsure what my race day would be like – if I would be boarding a bus at an aid station and dropping out, or if I would be able to complete the whole thing.  So, after two months of bi-weekly physical therapy from my dear friends at C.O.R.E. PT in Fort Collins, they taped my foot/calf with KT tape, and sent me on my way.

 

The Why

I should probably pause here and add some key information.  The why. Why was I going through all this trouble just to be able to run the Boston Marathon again? What was the point?  The point was, I had a goal. I had a goal that I had started pursuing in 2014 with my friend Natalie Brown to run the race with her.  We had a goal. She qualified for the race in Canyon City with me in 2015 after months of hard work together.  I wanted to be in Boston with her in 2016. I wanted to celebrate the culmination of all our effort, all of our runs together all of that dreaming by running that marathon with her.  And beyond that, I just don’t like anything to rob me of my freedom to do what I want when I want–not if I have any say in it.  If something knocks me down, you better believe that I am doing everything I can to get back up.

Life will test us again and again. And again.  It is in those moments when we are fighting back from a fall that we “become.” It is those moments that mold and shape our character and determine how far we will rise the next time we fall.

We all fall. We all fail. But the choice to rise is on us. The power to rise is within all of us.

 

A Shout Out to Family & Friends

Okay, back to the story.

The fact that I got the endorsement to run Boston from these 4 health professionals involved in my care was nothing short of miraculous if you look at where I started. I still remember crutching into physical therapy that first day and my physical therapist tenderly telling me that the chances of me being ready for Boston 5 weeks later did NOT look good.  (My blood clot made everything more challenging too. They couldn’t do any aggressive therapy–even massage–because they didn’t want to dislodge the clot or cause internal bleeding from my thinned out blood. Blood thinner doesn’t exactly accelerate healing.  The first week or so I really felt the effects of it. It didn’t help that I was so fearful of all the many side effects that accompanied the drug.)  My physical therapist’s targeted treatment efforts coupled with my stubbornness and diet and rehabilitation efforts brought results! So much time logged practicing walking, so much anxiety over my good knee that was compensating for my bad leg. So much fear in the simple act of standing. It felt really good to finally be on the other side of this injury.

There is always a silver lining to be found. My family really stepped it up during my injury. There was so much I couldn’t do for myself. Going up and down stairs was just too much of a task so my room for two months was the guest room on the main floor. My daughter, Afton, was on standby on her phone and would check-in on me at night and in the morning, bolting downstairs if I needed anything.  Sometimes it would take me 10 minutes to stand. I would have to wait for the blood to reach my extremities–slowed by the clot–and the pain/sensation of that was not pleasant. Then I would have to muster the courage to rise from sitting which was always tricky.  The pain was one thing, but my problems with balance made me fearful that I would fall or injure something else! Those were challenging times!! My family was there every step of the way.  They cooked for me, cleaned for me, helped me stand, gave me encouragement to stand when I was afraid to, helped me walk, helped me shop–they were amazing.  We all grew closer through their service to me.  Friends brought me meals. . . .So much love and care. I will never forget it.

 

2016 Boston 5K –4.16.16

(Click on an image to enlarge)

So, fast forward a couple days from my injections and you will find me in Boston getting some short 5k runs in.  My first 5k run – a fun run around Boston and our hotel organized by my husband and friends  – was NOT encouraging. I could run at a pretty decent clip – 8:30 miles – but my foot was still starting to bother me even with the cortisone in place.  I had to pull out from our run 3 miles in and walk back to the hotel.

We hit the race expo – always a fun highlight of our trip – and I was still unsure about the outcome of my race, but was determined to try.  I got to meet Olympian, and former Boston Marathon winner, Meb Keflezighi, and he signed my race bib with: “Krista, Congrats! Best wishes! Run to Win!” I loved that. “Run to Win.”

The Boston 5K was So. Much. Fun. I will do that again.  My foot, miraculously, did better. Maybe the medicine had had time to work a little longer on the inflammation in my foot? We were walking 10 plus miles around each day sight-seeing and I didn’t have problems walking. But, running was different story. The 5K was just solid fun.  No pace goals. No stress. AND I had the added, very cool benefit of being able to run it with my husband and friends all together.  That never happens.  Great, beautiful morning. Great, beautiful memories.

 

Places to Visit/General Gluttony Tips

We were carb-loading and visiting some pretty amazing places along the way. Recommendations/Highlights:

  • Boston LDS Temple
  • Mike’s Pastry – Florentine Cannoli
  • Durgin Park at Faneuil Marketplace (clam chowder)
  • Cheers Restaurant (Original Set Seating at Beacon Hill)
  • Take in the authentic Russian Matryoshka stand at Faneuil Market
  • Holocaust Memorial
  • Cookie Monstah Cookie Truck–Track this down and LOAD UP
  • Minute Man National Historical Site
  • Stroll or bike ride on Commonwealth Avenue
  • The Shake Shack – Newbury Street
  • Shopping on Newbury Street
  • Boston Public Park
  • Boston Museum of Fine Arts
  • Chinatown -skip the Winsor Dim Sum Cafe. Blah
  • Flour Bakery–for sure
  • Ristorante Saraceno in North End (best spaghetti ever!)
  • Kane’s Donut-Creme Brûlée and Chocolate Glazed deliciousness. Great day-after race replenishment
  • Boston Harbor cruise
  • Modern Pastry -Boston Cream Pie Cupcake
  • Paul Revere House
  • Freedom Trail
  • Sam LaGrassa (Pastrami Sandwich Heaven)!

 

The 2016 Boston Marathon

The night before the Boston Marathon is always so exhilarating. We laid out all our clothes, pinned our bibs, charged our devices, got our pre-race throw-away clothes, grabbed our in-race nutrition, earbuds, sunglasses, headbands, water, space blankets, socks, shoes, and Race Smart Pace Bands – love them!  I made sure I had my breakfast items ready for the morning, set three alarms, put in my ear plugs and attempted sleep. Some marathons I succeed in getting some sleep, but this one had me all in knots.  I wasn’t sure what kind of game plan to follow. Typically, I put my race smart pace band on and just stick to the splits I need per mile to reach my goal. But for this race, I had no time goal. My goal was to finish.  If I could finish, before they closed the race, at 8 weeks post gastrocnemius calf tear with my foot neuropathy issues, AND WITHOUT new injuries…if I could just finish with all that on board it would be a miracle. Finishing was the goal.

My plan was to go ahead and start in the second wave that I had qualified for with my 3:13 time in LA that November prior.  This was a tricky decision because I really wanted to run the course with my friend, Natalie, who was in a different wave then me; a later wave.  The risk with starting 45 minutes later – with her wave – was that I might not have enough time to finish the race.  I honestly didn’t know if I was going to have to walk miles of this race!  Additionally, I knew that Natalie would jeopardize her race goals if she ran with me because I would have to stop and possibly walk much of the course and she would never leave me!

Natalie and I got up together, prepared together, and my husband escorted us to the busses!  We rode up to the village together and hung out, mainly rotating through the porta-potty lines until it was time for me to split from her to line up in my race corral.  (It was already warm at the race start so that was a little nerve-racking. Heat is never fun to run in.) And then I was off!  I was in one of the faster waves in one of the early corrals, so I positioned myself at the back.  I started out at about a 9-minute mile pace.

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-4-31-30-pm

If you look at my results image above, you can see that at the half, I was averaging about a 9:08 minute pace–not too shabby considering I couldn’t feel each foot strike on my injured leg/foot and had to concentrate on my form and weight distribution with every step. I was feeling pretty good actually until mile 16 and then you will see that I start to slow down.  At this point, my calf started to ache.  This scared me because I did NOT want to re-injure that recently healed tendon!! So I started to do a run a mile, walk a minute race strategy.  It was a grueling way to finish the last ten miles of the course, but, BUT, it was faster than walking!! And safer than continuing to run without resting the calf some.

Every time I stopped to walk my minute recovery someone in the crowd would offer me something–water, food or words of encouragement.  I wished I could tell them what was going on. I wished I could tell them I was running injured.  Part of me wished I could tell them that I averaged a 7:19 pace at my last marathon, not his 11-minute mile I was showcasing now.  I wished they knew just how much what I was doing meant to me.  I was determined to finish. I was determined to return to this race that I loved. To this distance.  I was determined to share this experience with my friend Natalie! We had fought hard to get here together! Little did these onlookers know what I was feeling with each step and how far I had come in 8 weeks time.  I still didn’t know at miles 16, 17, 23…if I was going to make it.  I knew my heart wouldn’t give up, but I also knew that if my calf pain escalated I would withdraw.  Finishing was NOT worth re-injury to me!  Lots of prayers that day on that course.

Despite the challenging aspects of the run with my numb foot and my aching calf, it was such a joy to be on the course.  I LOVE that marathon.  It is lined with spectators the whole way who are rooting for you and cheering for you–the WHOLE way.  There is such a feeling of positive energy everywhere. It’s indescribable really.  Cresting Heartbreak Hill at mile 21 was such a beautiful moment.  It was a hot day for the marathon, but I don’t remember heat being an issue for me I was so distracted with everything else going on!

 

The Final Mile – My Angel

Facebook post from my friend, Natalie Brown, after we ran the 2016 Boston Marathon.

Facebook post from my friend, Natalie Brown, after we ran the 2016 Boston Marathon.

So, I’m “running” along and catch a good glimpse of the infamous CITGO sign and know that I have about a mile to go.  I’m slowing down even more since I have now been on the course for almost 2 hours longer than my marathon the November prior.  But, I’m starting to let real hope in.  I’m so close. The odds of finishing are definitely in my favor. So, I’m shuffling along and suddenly I feel a hand grab mine. I turn and it is my friend, Natalie! I thought she had passed me long before and that I had missed her in the 30,000 people that were on the course that day.  The fact that we intersected was the perfect bookend to a beautiful story. My angel friend grabbed my hand and ran the last part of the race with me!

 

4.18.2016 – Facebook Post Right After Finishing

Miracles do happen!!

Since February I’ve been diagnosed with skin cancer, torn my Gastrocnemius tendon, developed a DVT (blood clot) in my calf, learned to walk again, learned to run again and faced dorsal nerve (perineal nerve) damage/issues in my left foot. I faced pain and fear but I have looked them square in the eye. I have not turned my back. I’ve gotten knocked down again and again just as I’ve gotten back up. But I did get back up.

Will power is our superpower.

The only way to get back in it, is to get back in it. It may have not been my fastest time, but, nonetheless, it was definitely a personal record for me. When doubts came, I held onto the promise I had received eight weeks prior that I would still be able to run this race. Best Coach ever. I did my part, He made up the rest. He carried me and sent my angel friend Natalie Muirhead Brownat mile 25!

They say the marathon is a metaphor for life. I. Will. Not. Concede.