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.

Entry 15: REVEL Canyon City Marathon 2015

2015 REVEL Canyon City Marathon photo of me approaching the finish line.

Rounding the corner to the finish line at the 2015 REVEL Canyon City Marathon, in Azusa, CA.

This time last week I was on a plane headed for sunny Ontario, California, to meet up with family and a Portland-based friend to run the REVEL Canyon City Marathon course. I was able to run this course last year in its inaugural year.  It is my favorite race I have ever run for a few different reasons (see the race entry from last year).

REVEL puts on great races. Since my first marathon last year, 5 of my 7 marathons have been in REVEL-organized races. The courses they offer are fast and scenic and you can’t beat their organization. They didn’t disappoint this year at the Canyon City Marathon.  In fact, they only improved upon last year.  This year the race field was larger, the expo was bigger, and the buses were nicer. Always improving should be one of REVEL’s mottos; they are always looking for ways to better each race/course from year to year. I like this evolving approach they have to the sport.

What follows now is my race recap.  Since this blog is primarily a place for me to house my running stories, it will be filled with details that may or may not interest you, but each detail is meaningful to me. Thanks for reading….

The Night Before

After a very early start for an 8:15 am flight out of Denver, I spent the remainder of my first Ontario day carb loading, keeping my feet up, and chatting with my friend, Annie, and my cousin, Monique at her Chino Hills home. Monique hosted my friends and I the year prior and was gracious enough to do it again.

After visiting the expo and getting our race bibs and swag (love the race singlet they offered this year) we decided to drive the course to help us mentally prepare.  This was both a good and bad idea.  When you drive for 26.2 miles, it really hits you just how far you will be running.  It seems incredibly far. (Probably because it is!)  As we snaked up some of the steeper, curvier pitches toward the top I was feeling really humbled. Here is when my lack of hill training started to make me nervous.  I had to mentally reassure myself that: 1) I had run the course the year before and loved it; and 2) I had run the REVEL Big Cottonwood Marathon with its mile drop in elevation without any hill training either and faired fine.

We returned to home base for a 6:00 pm pasta, rice, chicken, vegetable dinner and race prep.  I’ll be honest, after 16 months of constant running/training and 6 marathons, I was filled with anxiety for this race. My training sessions had been revealing tired legs and an annoyed IT band that had found its voice.  The longest run I had done since my marathon was 13 miles.  My heart was ready for this race, but I wasn’t confident that my body was. I wrestled with deferring my entry, or transferring to the half marathon distance.  My biggest fear was injuring myself. But I had made certain goals for the year and I really didn’t want to end my 2015 race season with them incomplete due to my worries and “what ifs.” In the end, I really felt like I could do it, and thought it was definitely worth trying.  I could always pull back once the race started if I was feeling like my body wasn’t going to be able to do it. So I committed, and tried to push my doubts aside.

I had a goal to PR on this course and had Race Smart Pace Bands for 3:10 and 3:14 finish times, but wasn’t sure which goal to pursue.  My race time 8 weeks prior on the REVEL Big Cottonwood Marathon course was a 3:19. I was looking to take 5-9 minutes off my PR and I wasn’t sure if I was being realistic. The REVEL Canyon City Marathon course was the course I had most been looking forward to all year. Not just because of the beauty and speed of the course–and all the associated positive memories from the year before–but because this course starts at 5,700 feet in elevation (I train at 5,000) and ends at 600 so my high-altitude training and extra red blood cells oxygenating my muscles would give me an edge over the other races I had run so far.  In the end, I decided to go with the more conservative race goal of 3:14 and I am glad that I did.

Between 8:30 and 9pm, I tried, and failed, to rid my body of some serious pre-race angst.  8 weeks hadn’t been long enough for me to forget how hard marathons are. 8 weeks hadn’t been long enough for me to forget the painful post-race recovery journey. But, 8 weeks had been just long enough to remind me of how much I love to run, how much I love to cross the finish line, and how good it feels to achieve something you’ve worked hard for.  In the end, with warring emotions, I finally succumbed to a deep sleep, waking at 2:45 am to prepare for the day’s events.

Race Day

I had laid out all my clothes/tools the night before the race so the morning was pretty quick and easy. I dressed and consumed my regular pre-marathon breakfast (oatmeal with peanut butter and a bagel) 2 hours before the race start and then Annie and I drove to meet the buses.  There was a little excitement when we accidentally parked in the half marathon parking lot and walked blocks to the front of the bus line only to find we were in the wrong place. We had to use up precious glycogen to jog back to the car and maneuver–quickly–to the marathon lot and onto a bus before they all left. Giving yourself extra time always pays off! We were glad we had given ourselves an extra 30 minutes that morning!

On the bus, I had my two Advocare O2 Gold® pills (to enhance my body’s use of oxygen) and my Crunchy Peanut Butter Clif Bar an hour from race start. Once we arrived at the top of Azusa Canyon and disembarked the bus, we hit the porta potties for some relief and then continued our preparations.  It was chilly up top, but I had my thrift store throw-away clothes to keep me warm during the 15-minute window between gear bag drop and the race start.  SOO glad I had those, although the space blankets REVEL provides are effective too.

I took some time to talk to the 3:10 pacer and the 3:15 pacer to find out what their course strategies were.  The 3:10 pacer seemed nervous and admitted he was pacing his first race.  My instincts told me I should stick with my 3:14 pace goal.  The 3:15 pacer was sharp and asked me thoughtful questions about my race goals.  He informed me that if I was able to get under 3:15 I would qualify for the New York City marathon.  I hadn’t realized that and he made me want to reach my goal even more after talking to him.

I consumed my Clif Shot Cherry Chocolate energy gel 15 minutes before the race start, parted ways with my friend, and went to the front of the pack to join the 3:15 pace group near the starting line. I would run my own race, but position myself near them to get off to a good start. I felt sort of foolish standing there with the 3:15 pace group. I was surrounded by men. There were a couple girls scattered here and there, but primarily I was surrounded by men. Was I kidding myself that I could do this? I decided it was time to shut the door on my doubts. While I can argue that they may keep me grounded, the ground was not where I planned to be that day; I needed to fly.  My doubts would play no helpful role in my success. I started to tell myself that I belonged there. I had worked and trained for this. It was up to me to go out and do it. No excuses.

7:00 am came and, BOOM! We were off.

My Race

After enduring the marathon taper, my body was ready to run. It needed to run. I took off and had no problem hitting my splits. My body felt strong, my tunes were honed in and doing their job; I was dialed in and ready to go.

45 minutes in and every 45 minutes after I took in a GU Roctane energy gel. These work great for me. The main ingredient in them is Maltodextrin–one of the highest glycemic index carbohydrates available.  Maltodextrin’s low osmolarity and quick absorption rate makes it a great choice for endurance athletes. These gels also pack a generous 125mg of sodium and 55mg of potassium.  I never suffer from cramping of any kind when using these gels. You need to take them with water. I like to take in a cup of water from each aid station I pass. Most aid stations I will quickly walk through so that I don’t spill all of my water. You make up the few seconds easily on the course.  It is worth it to just walk and make sure you get the water in! This way, I don’t have to be weighed down carrying water while I run. All I have on me are my gels and my tunes. Well, and my clothes.

The first 13 miles of this course flew by.  You really have only one, short hill during this segment.  My right IT band was starting to talk to me and I prayed that it would just hum and not yell for the rest of the race.

Miles 15-21 are trying because they are hilly.  Honestly, after all the earlier downhill miles, you are grateful for some uphill terrain to give your muscles a break.  My race was going well at this point. I was meeting all my splits and I felt strong. There would be no hitting the wall today. This isn’t to say that I wasn’t offering up pleas for strength and endurance at every turn–I was–along with practicing my visualization techniques and exercising every form of disassociation available to me.  Marathons are hard, no matter how well you train or how many you do. If you are pushing yourself faster, they are hard every time. You find yourself in this place where you are crossing over from a very physical realm to a very spiritual realm to achieve your goal. You have to find strength from both to succeed.

Around mile 24, the 3:15 pacer passed me. This was really confusing to me.  My pace watch still had me coming in at a 3:14. Was my watch off?? What was going on? Maybe he was bringing in the guy and girl running with him faster so they could make sure to be under 3:15 for a qualifications standard. But part of me got worried that my watch was wrong so I started to chase down the 3:15 pacer like a rabbit chases a dangling carrot on a stick. I wanted to keep my split times and not sabotage the end of my race, but I also wanted to narrow the gap between him and me. He was like 50 yards in front of me. For the remainder of the race I just kept trying to–conservatively–catch up to him.

I started thinking about my kids around this point. I visualized them at the race finish even though I knew they wouldn’t be there today. I visualized their smiling faces and encouraging yells and tears came into my eyes. I visualized the clock and how it would feel to achieve my goal. I only had to stay strong for a couple more miles. . . .

You come around a corner at mile 25 and you see it.  What is that mirage in front of me? It can’t be. Wait, it is.  A hill.  They changed the course from last year and there is a hill at mile 25.  Argh!! No!  That sight really took the wind out of my sails.  My body was feeling the fact that I hadn’t ran a long run past 13 miles in 8 weeks. My heart was working harder. I was working harder, but I was so close.

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Post-marathon text from my great friend–and star of this blog–Natalie Brown. She’s the best.

I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other and keeping my 7:30 pace goal. I kept trying to catch the 3:15 pacer.  Then, I heard the most welcoming sound…crowd noise. I couldn’t see the finish line, but I could hear it. The energy of the crowd was tangible and I fed off it. I let it fill me and it gave my kick a little boost. I was going to do this.  I finally passed the 3:15 pacer and there it was, the finish line.  I started to run as fast as my legs would let me using my arms to power my stride. I could see the clock. I was under 3:14!  So my watch was right. I sprinted to a 3:13:50 finish.  That 3:15 pacer had helped me get under my time goal.  That…that was a great moment.  I qualified for the New York City Marathon and I qualified for the Boston Marathon with a time that the guys in my age group would need to qualify–a secret goal of mine ever since I learned of the HUGE discrepancy between the men/women qualifying standards. (Not that I am a feminist or anything…).  I crossed the line, smiled, and enthusiastically accepted my medal. I did it. I had taken 17 minutes off my time between the Boston Marathon in April and this race in November.

Post Race

So my IT band never started yelling at me during the race–my body’s endocannabinoids, endorphins and opiates did their job–but it definitely started to get louder after the race. I downed a couple cups of gatorade and then went straight for my gear bag to get my 1,000mg dose of potassium via coconut water for recovery.   Then I generously applied Kool N Fit Performance Sports Spray (with camphor and menthol) to my sore, stiffening muscles.  This stuff works immediately to alleviate pain and increase mobility. Love it. A must-have in a marathoner’s gear bag. Then I went to look for my friend who was set to finish about ten minutes after me.

REVEL Canyon City Marathon Finish Line

Annie and I at the finish line celebrating meeting our time goals and a great race!

Annie, actually came in at 3:21, totally obliterating her 3:25 goal and setting a PR/BQ. I wish I had seen her cross the finish line, but it was fun to reunite with her and swap stories about the race.  We both were feeling amazing.

We hung out at the race finish for a little bit and then spent 30, hilarious–though somewhat frustrating–minutes trying to find our Nissan Sentra rental car.  It had been dark in the morning and we had been rushing to catch the bus so neither of us had spent the time noting landmarks that would help us with finding the car after the race.  It probably didn’t help that we had post-marathon foggy brains. So, yeah about 30 minutes, and a hitchhiking trip later, Annie located the car and we headed home for some relaxation! (Worth noting: keyless start cars will not start unless you have your seat belts buckled. We learned this the day before in a comical scene between us and a perplexed roadside assistance phone operator while we were stranded in a Panera parking lot.  Oh the laughs after we terminated that call!!)

Talking to Friends and Family 

My husband had signed up for live text results during my marathon that let him know how I was doing at the half mark, the 20-mile mark and when I had 5k to go. (Another awesome REVEL Race perk.)   I was touched to learn that he was tracking me so studiously (and secretly) during a church youth song practice he was helping out at during my race. He was discreetly passing race updates to my children while they (and 140 other children) practiced.  He was also text-forwarding my results to my good friend and they were discussing me back and forth while I was running. I was moved to hear of their support and to learn of how emotionally invested they were for me.  Friends/children like that carry you in invisible but powerful ways. Every marathon I finish I want to cry when I’m done.  Every one has tested me as I have tested me. Seemingly small gestures from friends and loved ones can mean so much; do so much.

Talking to my excited children is always the highlight of the day.  They are such a large part of why I race. I want them to believe in themselves and to understand that we are the only ones that put limits on our potential. We must not do that.  We believe. We set goals. We endure. We enjoy. We fall, but we rise.  We grow. We find joy.

My 2015 race season is done and I’m looking forward to my 5-week recovery and easing back into my training for Boston in 2016.  Next up will be the Phoenix Half Marathon in February 2016.

Thanks for reading!

My Results

REVEL Canyon City Marathon 2015 Results

2015 REVEL Canyon City Marathon Women’s Results

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Results and Timing Points for my 2015 REVEL Canyon City Marathon

My Splits

  1. 7:07
  2. 7:02
  3. 7:06
  4. 6:31
  5. 6:56
  6. 7:12
  7. 7:06
  8. 7:28
  9. 7:06
  10. 6:54
  11. 7:11
  12. 7:06
  13. 7:07
  14. 7:35
  15. 8:08 (hill)
  16. 7:54 (hill)
  17. 8:26 (hill)
  18. 7:46 (hill)
  19. 7:04
  20. 8:16 (hill)
  21. 7:44 (hill)
  22. 7:12
  23. 7:22
  24. 7:40
  25. 7:38 (hill)
  26. 7:30

Gear

  1. Pearl Izumi E:Motion Road M3 v2s
  2. Pearl Izumi Team Jersey
  3. Lululemon What the Sport Short
  4. Compression Socks
  5. Garmin Forerunner 220 Pace Watch
  6. Garmin Vivofit
  7. Ipod Shuffle/and buds
  8. Junk Headband
  9. Race Smart Pace Band

Trip Highlight/Must Do

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Temple, Chino Hills, CA

You MUST take a slight detour and visit this intricately hand-carved Hindu temple in Chino Hills.This private tour was a highlight of my trip. The attention to detail, the awe-inspiring, hand-carved pink sandstone exterior, the ornate materials, the obvious devotion of the Hindu people to their faith and beliefs through the artistry and building of this temple took my breath away. We couldn’t take pictures of the white, Carrara marble interior carvings/structure, but I definitely understand why they asked us to remove our shoes. Truly a wonder and must-see after or before the race. Everything was hand carved in India and shipped over. Talk about dedication to quality. This structure is built to last 1,000 years and has an impressive, state-of-the-art engineered foundation to keep it rock solid regardless of seismic activity. Go see it!

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The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Temple. 15100 Fairfield Ranch Road, Chino Hills, California 91709

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Visiting the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Temple with my friend Annie after the race.

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The intricate, hand-carved, pink sandstone of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Temple.

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Entry 14: How Balance Exercises Prevent Serious Injuries

When I first started to train for the Boston Marathon and work on increasing my speed, I suffered from a couple different bouts of tendonitis. The first thing the physical therapist did was check my balance when I was standing on one foot and then the other.  It was pretty comical to see how that simple act was difficult for me. Ask me to do that today and you will see a completely different result.  Ask me when I had tendonitis issues last and I would answer over a year ago. Working on improving my balance has helped me avoid injury and has improved my running performance.

Earlier this year, a study released by Reuters Health made a bold new statement: “Strength training and balance exercises are more likely to help prevent sports injuries than stretching.” While this new evidence does not call into question the importance of stretching when exercising, it places new emphasis on a type of strength training that many are not participating in.  Learning how balance exercises can prevent injury, and what exercises are recommended, can help you avoid serious injuries and enjoy healthy activity levels.

The Importance of Balance

Balance is your capacity to sustain your center of gravity over your base of support. Most don’t spend much time thinking about their balance until their balance is called into question.  But you don’t need to let a good fall or injury awaken you to your body’s unmet needs.  Balance training is an important part of active and non-active lifestyles.  If you are one that hasn’t given much thought to balance training start now.

Attention to balance and strengthening your core lead to improved posture, a decrease in back pain and performance improvement during physical activity.  Furthermore, having a good sense of balance is a crucial skill for avoiding injury.  If you have developed this skill, your mind and body will be able to make the fast adjustments necessary to avoid falling or to reduce damage from the impact of an unpreventable fall.

A 2013 study published in the British Medical Journal  showed that out of 17 clinical trials involving more than 4,300 participants over the age of 60, those that had incorporated balance exercises each day had a 37 percent reduced risk of injuries from falling and a 61 percent lower risk of breaking a bone from falling, in comparison with those who hadn’t attempted the balancing exercises.

The Benefits of Balance Training

Balance training has shown to have the following positive benefits:

  • Accelerated reaction times.This aids in reducing the impact of a fall by causing you to put out an arm or grab something secure.
  • Increased brain activity.Consistent exercise keeps the brain active and alert decreasing your risk for falls.
  • Enhanced coordination.This benefit prevents falls but also can help you react with better agility when you fall.
  • Increased muscle mass.Building muscles provides protection around bones and joints and can help soften a hard fall.
  • Healthier bones.Resistance exercises bolster bone tissue and make bones more able to avoid breaks.

Improved Balance Helps You Avoid Injury

Falling as a child was a common occurrence that rarely resulted in serious injury, but falling as an older adult is another story entirely which often results in broken bones and impaired mobility.  A Harvard Health publication estimates that at least one out of three people over age 65 fall each year.  These falls are often associated with things that affect the sense of balance.  Inner ear disorders which can cause dizziness, neuropathy, deteriorating eyesight, and muscles that don’t respond as quickly as they did years before all affect your sense of balance. Limited mobility can lead to an onslaught of other health struggles that are often difficult to recover from.  These injuries and challenges have psychological consequences as well as the victim begins to doubt their mobility, experiences fears of falling, and develops a growing sense of dependence on others.

Simple Balance Exercises You Can Try

Committing to improve your balance through weekly exercise means taking a big step forward in your current and future wellness.  When beginning, choose simple exercises that don’t rely on individual strength or endurance. Almost any activity can be adjusted to improve your balance.

The following simple exercises are recommended to help improve your balance:

  • Stand on one foot.Stand on one foot for a count of 10 to 20 seconds a few times a day. This is a simple exercise you can do just about anywhere at any time.
  • Stand up with no hand support.  Stand from a seated position without using your hands to balance yourself. Try sitting without using your hands as well.
  • Put your socks on while standing.Try putting your socks on while standing up. Lean against a bed so if you lose your balance, you’ll land on something soft.
  • Walk a line. Practice walking in a straight line–heel to toe, heel to toe.
  • Do one-legged squats.Bend one leg and dip down into a squat while balancing on the other leg. Do this ten times then switch legs.

Make sure and take the time to incorporate balance training into your weekly training workouts–you will be grateful you did!

Entry 13: The Big Cottonwood Marathon 2015

REVEL Shot of me running on the Big Cottonwood Marathon course.

REVEL Shot of me running on the Big Cottonwood Marathon course.

I ran the Big Cottonwood Marathon on September 12th and had such a positive experience. (If you haven’t participated yet in a REVEL race, you really need to search one out and do it!) For those of you who have been following me on this blog, you know that I ran this same course last year with my dear friend, Natalie Brown. Last year’s experience on the course was heartbreaking when my friend missed her goal to BQ by mere seconds.  This year, I was determined to rewrite the story.

Pre-Race Training

Because I had just run a marathon a couple months before, my training for the Big Cottonwood Marathon had been in progress for months.  However, I made three changes for this race: 1) I calculated my ideal racing weight and made the goal to run at it; 2) I altered the way I carb-loaded so that I wouldn’t feel so weighed down on race morning; and 3) I decided to run this marathon faster with the goal to finish the race under 3:20–I thought it would be fun to be able to register for Boston on the first day of registration by being 20 minutes under my 3:40 qualifications standard.

The Night Before

I was really excited to run this marathon for several reasons. The course is fast and scenic–all those fall colors changing are great mood enhancers while you are working your body hard! I also had several friends running this race that came down with me from Colorado. And, as I mentioned before, I REALLY wanted to leave this course with a happier ending than last year.

After carb-loading at the Lindon Pizza Factory with a large group of my family that live in town and my friends, we headed to the expo at the South Town Expo Center in Sandy.

2015 Big Cottonwood Marathon Race Shirt--Love it!

2015 Big Cottonwood Marathon Race Shirt–Love it!

We were really excited with the REVEL race shirts this year and excited to take our gear bags and get checked into our hotel after a long day of driving.

Big Cottonwood Marathon Racing attire

Laying out my race attire and tools the night before the Big Cottonwood marathon.

We stayed in one of the race-affiliated hotels–the Crystal Inn Hotel–and were pleased with our accommodations and the breakfast they provided for us. They also had a bus for us (that we met at 4:30 in the morning to take us to the race start.)  We got our clothing all laid out and hit the sack quickly since we were waking at 3:00 am to eat our breakfast and prepare!

Race Morning

We woke up a little before three and had our breakfast (oatmeal with peanut butter and a bagel.) We walked down to get on the bus and had to part ways with Natalie–she was running the half distance this year because of a knee injury.  I was really sad not to be able to run with Natalie this year, but she is running Boston in April with us and needed to keep that body healthy!!

The Scene on Guardsman Pass at the Big Cottonwood Marathon.

The Scene on Guardsman Pass at the Big Cottonwood Marathon.

Clint and I rode up to the marathon start together and exited the bus into what looked like a scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  There were bright, white lights illuminating a sea of runners all clad in sliver space blankets sitting under a sky full of stars in the middle of a grove of pine trees. Not to be missed, of course, was the long row of porta potties directly behind all the racers.

REVEL did a great job of taking care of us before the race start.  They had gatorade and water stations, fruit, space blankets, plenty of porta potties, and frequent announcements on what time it was and what was going on and when.

The temperatures that morning on Guardsman Pass weren’t bad–about 50 degrees.  I was prepared for at least ten degrees cooler. I had two space blankets, gloves, my down coat, pants, a top….etc. I was warm. I loathe being cold.

I was surprisingly calm race morning despite my nerves. I had done zero hill training and was a little concerned in how this would work against me in the mile-elevation drop from the beginning of the course at 9700 feet to the end of the course at 4400. I found a place to lay down and just tried to relax and take in the beauty of the stars and the energy around me.

Missing the Start

So, about 30 minutes before race start, you will typically find me cycling through the porta potty line.  Pretty much everyone does this. You get in line, use the facilities, then get back in line because by the time you get to the front again you will need to go again. You have to start a marathon well-hydrated and nerves also play a part. (I don’t stop to use the bathroom once I start the race.) Unfortunately, in one of my cycles through the line, I picked a line where the guy in front of me decided to camp out in the potty and I actually missed the start of the race! This kind of stressed me out.  I was way in the back of the group of racers.  Luckily, I knew that my starting time for the race would be based on my chip time which began when I crossed the start line.  But even with this knowledge, I didn’t want to have a huge discrepancy between my gun time and chip time and confuse my family that was waiting for me at the end who knew my goals. I also didn’t want to risk the chip failing and having to rely on an inaccurate gun time.

Starting at the back of the pack was also challenging because my goal pace for the first mile was a 6:54 and at the back no one was running with this pace in mind. Trying to get around people to run the pace I wanted was extremely challenging.  In hindsight, I really should have just left the porta potty line so I wouldn’t miss the start, but I just had this fear that I would have to use it on the course and lose valuable time….By some miracle, I was able to weave myself out of the pack and kept my first-mile pace goal.

Feeling Strong

Big Cottonwood Marathon

Coming down from Guardsman Pass.

One of the greatest realizations a few miles in, was that my legs felt strong. At this point at my race in July, my legs had not felt strong like this due to illness the day before the race.  Feeling the difference encouraged me and pushed me forward in my race goals.

I had a pace band for 3:21, but I really wanted to go sub 3:20 so I started subtracting 6 seconds off of what my pace band said I needed to run per mile and hoped that my body would keep up with my heart!

I spent time enjoying the course during this half of the race. It was just so beautiful to see fall blooming up in the canyon.

Mile 4

One change this year in the course was Mile 4. To shorten the out-and-back section from miles 20-23, they added a loop up at the top. This loop included a significant hill. I would rather have had a longer out-and-back than a hill at Mile 4, but it all worked out in the end. But, prepare yourself to slow down at Mile 4 so you don’t burn through too much of your reserve in the beginning of the race.

Miles 20-23

Those legs working hard for me!

Those legs working hard for me!

Okay, so since I hadn’t done any hill training, I was actually glad when I saw the mile 18 sign because I knew that we were heading out of the canyon soon and I felt like my body needed a break from all the downhill.  I wasn’t hurting–which I mostly attribute to shedding some pounds before this race–but I could tell I needed to work some different muscles in my legs for a while.

So, I’m not going to sugarcoat it.  This part of the race is challenging. You have just worked your quads over miles of downhill and then you hit some uphill and it will challenge you.  You just have to mentally prepare for it.  My pace band slowed me down in this section and I was glad for it! I banked some time on the downhill sections in the canyon before this section so I could afford to slow down. But, mentally, this part of the race had me worried that I wasn’t going to meet my goal. I had slowed significantly and was mentally having to really push myself to keep on going. I could see the turn ahead of me that signaled I had finished the out-and-back portion of the race and I just kept my eyes fixed on it as best as I could.

Miles 24-26

REVEL race shot of me on the Big Cottonwood Marathon Course

REVEL race shot of me on the Big Cottonwood Marathon Course

Once I hit mile 24, life was good again. This course has the best last two miles of any course I have run (except maybe Boston.) It is just a straight, descending, spectator-filled road all the way down to the finish. The slight downhill helped me get my legs moving back to a competitive speed again and lifted my spirits.  And then, and then I could see the finish line and all I could think about was my family and friends at the finish and how badly I wanted to finish strong and meet my goal.

Big Cottonwood Marathon Picture Approaching the Finish Line. I love this picture from REVEL because if you look closely you can see my family looking on on the right.

Big Cottonwood Marathon Picture by REVEL of me Approaching the Finish Line.

I looked at my pace watch and I was still on track to meet my goal!  Because I started after race start, the finisher’s clock was showing me approaching 3:20 and mentally, even though I knew I was under, I started to sprint.  I couldn’t see or hear my family cheering me, but I saw the video later and they were pushing for me to get under 3:21 because they thought I had missed my 3:20 goal and knew my secondary goal was to get under 3:21. (I love this picture above from REVEL.  That is my dad holding the black umbrella, my sister taking a picture of me, my husband cheering me on and capturing a video of me, friends who had taken time out of their day to come see me run, and my son and daughter leaning over the barrier so they could see the clock. . . .priceless.)

The Finish

Natalie and Clint Brown at the finish line of the Big Cottonwood Marathon. A girl couldn't ask for better friends than these two!

Natalie and Clint Brown at the finish line of the Big Cottonwood Marathon. (A girl couldn’t ask for better friends than these two!)

When I crossed the finish line I was immediately met by my friend Natalie who was there helping Clint who had finished about ten minutes before me (and qualified for Boston for the third time!!). I had to keep my legs moving so I couldn’t stop to talk to her, but welcomed a big hug!

(I really wish that race organizers would have a runway after the finish line so that runners wouldn’t have to cross and then just immediately stop running.  You need an area where you can slowly jog it out or at least walk it out. I really like to keep my legs moving as much as I can immediately after I run.  If I don’t they really like to stiffen up fast.)

Family and Friends who were at the finish line waiting for me.

Family and Friends who were at the finish line waiting for me.

My husband found me and congratulated me and then congratulated me even more when he realized that I had actually turned in a time under 3:20! (I explained to him that I had started late at the top).  He has only been able to be at two of the finish lines of my six marathons so it was really great to see him there.  One of my favorite things about racing is seeing his reaction when I finish–he has a way of making me feel like a superstar. And my kids!  They hang on to me and follow me everywhere I go like I won first place no matter what place I actually received. They are some of my biggest cheerleaders. I hope I am inspiring them to go for their dreams–big and small and to never, ever give up.

My Splits 

11951590_10153028912745841_3670783334506593374_oAfter I saw my family and friends, I headed over to the table to get my official time card. The lady entered my bib number and then said (very dramatically): “Oh, you just missed it! 4th in your age group….” (If you get 1st-3rd in your age group you get an additional medal and sometimes prize money). Honestly though, I was happy with my finish time so I didn’t feel that badly that I didn’t place in the top three. The ladies that were the top three finishers were 3:04, 3:03, and 3:02 times….

Here are what my splits looked like from this race.  You can tell where the hills were!

Mile 1: 6:53
Mile 2: 7:33
Mile 3: 7:13
Mile 4: 8:31
Mile 5: 7:26
Mile 6: 7:14
Mile 7: 7:21
Mile 8: 7:22
Mile 9: 7:31
Mile 10: 7:36
Mile 11: 7:39
Mile 12: 7:39
Mile 13: 7:21
Mile 14: 7:15
Mile 15: 7:17
Mile 16: 7:21
Mile 17: 7:27
Mile 18: 7:24
Mile 19: 7:36
Mile 20: 8:16
Mile 21: 8:27
Mile 22: 8:12
Mile 23: 8:22
Mile 24: 7:53
Mile 25: 7:22
Mile 26: 7:36

Lessons Learned

So a few of my biggest take aways from this race are:

  1. Race weight really does matter. Being about four pounds lighter on this course than I have been on previous courses made this race so much more enjoyable.
  2. Upper body strength pays off.  I really focused on letting my upper body carry my lower body so that I could lessen the impact on my joints. I’ve been working on this in training and on engaging my core and glutes more. It really helps lessen all the work your lower half has to do when your upper body is doing its part.
  3. When you feel strong, go for it. Trust your instincts. I could have been conservative and stuck with my the 3:21 split times on my pace band, but my mind and my heart were telling me that I could give more and I am glad I listened to them.
  4. Never give up.  Even if you start to slow down and you start to think there is no way you are going to achieve your time goals, don’t stop. Just keep doing the best you can. More likely than not, you are on a slight hill that you can’t see but that your body can feel and that is what is slowing you down.  It will pass.  Just keep moving.
  5. Don’t over carb-load before a race.  If you are eating to the point of feeling too full each day, you are overdoing it. Carb-load 2-3 days before, so you can top off the glycogen in your muscles but don’t overdo it!

Celebrating

Right after a marathon I rarely feel like eating, but give me a couple hours and I am ready to go!  We have the tradition of going for burgers and fries as a post-marathon lunch. In-and-Out never tastes so great! So, after an hour or so getting cleaned up at the hotel and checking out, we hit the streets for some burgers and a stop at the Sweet Tooth Fairy for a delicious chocolate chip cookie for later–also a tradition–then I spent the rest of the day with my family, the kids and their cousins.

I refueled that evening at Tucanos Brazilian Grill in Orem, Utah. (I was craving some red meat!) I won’t soon forget this time with my family chatting about life, the race, goals, dreams and basking in all the extra endorphins running through my system.

I love race days. I love the whole day (especially since the lactic acid doesn’t really set in until day 2 for me….) This race day was especially sweet because I got to spend so much of it with my family and because I met my goals.

Thanks, REVEL for another great, professional race! We’ll see you in a few weeks in LA at the Canyon City Marathon!

Gear

  1. Pearl Izumi E:Motion Road M3 v2s
  2. Pearl Izumi Team Jersey
  3. Lululemon What the Sport Short
  4. Compression Socks
  5. Garmin Forerunner 220 Pace Watch
  6. Garmin Vivofit
  7. Ipod Shuffle/and buds
  8. Junk Headband
  9. Race Smart Pace Band

In-Race Fueling

  1. 1 hour before: Clif Bar Crunchy Peanut Butter
  2. 1 hour before: Advocare 02 Gold (two capsules)
  3. 15 minutes before: Clif Shot: Chocolate Cherry
  4. 45 minutes in (and every 45 minutes after): Gu Roctane Energy Gel
  5. Water at every aid station. Yes, I stop and walk so that I get all the water down.
  6. Gatorade at aid stations that are at least 30 minutes after I have taken a gel or before I will take another gel.

Entry 12: Finding Your Ideal Racing/Running Weight

Weighing in.

My September 24, 2015, morning weigh-in.

In preparation for the Big Cottonwood Marathon that I ran two weeks ago, I decided to set a goal to try and run at my ideal racing weight. To do this, I first had to determine what my ideal racing weight was.

In a popular article written by running coach, Peyton Hoyal, I learned a couple tips:

  1. I learned that I have a small frame structure.
  2. For my small frame structure, the formula for calculating my ideal racing weight requires that I double my inches (5’4=64 inches) and subtract 5-10 pounds: 64×2=128; 128-10=118, or 128-5=123. *(Note: The formula is the same for medium frames. For large frames: Double the inches, then add 5-10 lbs.)

I have run races at 123 (and higher) and I ran this most recent race at 118 and I can tell you that I felt the difference. I mean, I really felt the difference. 118, definitely was a golden spot for me. In the space of two months, I took 7 minutes off my marathon time and attribute much of that success to shedding some extra pounds.

Being lean and light put less of a burden on my joints keeping me pain-free throughout the Big Cottonwood Marathon and decreased my post-marathon recovery time. It helped me keep my running form intact throughout the race, and improved my overall marathon experience—substantially.

I have recently shed a few more pounds—still within a healthy weight range (110-144) for my height and frame—and feel like I am flying when I do my training runs.   I also don’t find myself tiring as quickly even though I’m running at a faster pace than I usually do.

I KNOW that you don’t have to be a certain frame, or a certain weight to be a great runner or a fast runner. Lighter and leaner just feels better for me.

It is exciting to see some real changes happening from my consistent efforts. Keeping my weight down and losing weight is not easy for me. Believe me, I have to watch what I eat and I track it daily on MyFitnessPal.com, but the results of feeling like I’m running my body vs. my body running me are empowering.

The body experiment continues. . . .

Entry 11: The Aspen Valley Marathon

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The Beginning.

I ran the Aspen Valley Marathon on July 18th, about ten days ago.  I started training for it just after Boston around the beginning of May. From what I had read about the race online it looked like a nice, gradual 20-mile descent followed by a potentially heinous 6 mile out and back. The reviews and pictures portrayed a beautiful run down the Rio Grande Trail from Aspen to Basalt. I figured the last 6 miles would be tough, but overall the race would be beautiful and fast so it wouldn’t matter.

So, I had planned to shoot for a 3:25 time goal on this marathon because in the four other marathons that I have run, I have had too much energy left at the end of the marathon; it just seemed like I had more to give so I decided to increase my speed. I completed the Boston Marathon at a 3:30 with headwinds and rain so I really felt like 3:25 was an attainable goal for Aspen especially with 2.5 months to train.

About midway through my training, I discovered I had been running my strength workouts faster (7:08 per mile pace) than necessary for my goal and as a result, my tempo runs at the 7:47 pace felt too easy. But, I felt good running the 7:08 strength pace so I decided to adjust my marathon goal pace to 7:41. Training at that pace felt challenging but not too challenging and as the weeks went by, I felt ready for the race. I purchased a pace band from FindMyMarathon.com for a 7:39 pace, or a 3:21 finish time, to give me a little bit of wiggle room for water breaks etc. Going into the race my goal was to finish at a 3:25 or faster and if I could somehow pull off the 3:21, great!

The Monday before the race I started carb loading–300 grams per day. (I typically start about 3-4 days before, but felt I should start sooner for this race.) By Friday, I was feeling way too weighed down. Too many carbs. My bowels were moving very slowly. When my system gets slow like that, I really like taking some Magnesium Serene to help get it moving.  It naturally/gently helps lighten my system before a race. Usually. So I took some early Friday morning. Here is where things really started to go wrong.

Independence Pass, Colorado

Independence Pass, Colorado

We started our drive to Aspen and I was hydrating with water and G2 and snacking on carb-rich foods and my stomach was just not happy. It wasn’t hurting, but it was NOT normal. We were stopping regularly to use the bathroom–I was like a jockey before a race if you know what I mean. I was losing everything I was putting in. By the afternoon, I was really worried.  I hadn’t been able to really keep anything in my system all day and had lost a ton of fluids. Not good. The day before a marathon you need your calories and you need your water and electrolytes. Nerves coupled with my dose of magnesium and 32 ounces of G2 had not been a good combination. Lesson learned.  Will NEVER do that again!

Laying out my clothes the night before the race.

Laying out my clothes the night before the race.

I went to bed at a decent hour and slept fine. I awoke at 3:45am excited/nervous, but my stomach was calm. I took my usual, pre-race breakfast–oatmeal with peanut butter and bagel–2 hours before the race start and they stayed down just fine, but I was really worried about how my body would perform given how I had felt the day before. (Luckily, I had started carb loading on Monday so I hoped that my glycogen stores would be full enough to help me perform.)

The Aspen Valley Marathon was the most laid back race that I have experienced thus far. Being a smaller race, the fastest pacer was pacing for a 3:40 finish, so I was on my own.

We started running at 6:00 am.  The sun was bright and it was already 54 degrees so it didn’t feel cold. We started down the cobblestone streets of Aspen’s main shopping district and wound through neighborhoods towards the Rio Grande Trail.  I noticed that there were two girls running my same pace. The rest of the crowd around us were guys. Just two?? Wow, okay, that was a good sign. A podium finish might actually be attainable. However, I decided before the race started that while being in the top three female finishers would be awesome, I would run my race and not try to keep up with the girls running by me/in front of me. One of the girls got a pretty good distance ahead and I let her. Then the next girl pulled in front.

What was concerning at this point–a mile or so in, was that my legs felt weak. Tired. I recognize what tired legs feel like because I have experienced days like that in training. Not good. I hoped that by mile 3 they would wake up, but they still felt weak.  I knew I was going to have a battle ahead of me in this race. Not against these girls, but against myself and my goals. The other disturbing factor was altitude. Even though Aspen is 2,000 feet higher than my training ground in Fort Collins, I thought I would be okay, but I could feel my lungs working harder than usual. The air felt thinner.

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The two girls seen here in this picture with me were with me for the first 14 miles and then dropped off. The girl seen in the front in this picture ended up grabbing the bronze medal for 3rd female finisher.

The two girls and I played leap frog for about 14 miles and then just all of the sudden they were gone. One girl stopped to tie her shoe and I never saw her again. The other girl dropped back a little and I never saw her again. I just kept running my race.  They were so strong for the first half of the race, I was really surprised that I never saw them again.

The next water stops were fun, because people kept shouting to me that I was the first female. “Keep it up!” “Your the first female!” “Go!” This is was fun to hear. I was still doing okay at this point. I was meeting my splits. I wasn’t meeting them perfectly, but my average pace was showing that I was on target for a 3:21 finish with a 7:39 pace average.

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My husband grabbed this shot of me coming down the trail around mile 17.

Around mile 17, my husband met me on the trail on his bike. He was excited for me for my first place lead, but I was really having to focus at this point. We didn’t talk. He picked up pretty fast on where I was and just cycled by me in silence.  I didn’t want to sacrifice any oxygen or focus. The Rio Grande Trail reminds me of the Power Trail in Fort Collins. Very rolling terrain. A wide sidewalk path under your feet the whole way pretty much. That was surprising. Where was all that downhill I was expecting?! Some guy passed me around mile 18 and said, “hey, we’re almost there!” and that lifted my spirits substantially for some reason. Thanks, random stranger-racer-guy!

It really is too bad that I wasn’t feeling strong that morning, because I was not enjoying the course or the run at all which is kind of sad.  I mean, the scenery was probably beautiful, but I was so focused on just staying on pace and breathing that I hardly took the time to look around. This is very atypical for me and very different than my other marathons. Usually I am looking around, conversing occasionally with others by me and enjoying the race from the beginning to the end. Not here. No. I couldn’t wait for the race to end. I tried to find the “joy of the run” but just couldn’t that day. And after 2.5 months of training I wasn’t about to let myself just fall into an easy pace. I knew I wouldn’t feel any satisfaction from that at the completion of the race.

My husband hung with me for a few miles and then he split off so he could meet me at the finish.

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A chart showing my goal splits (on the left) and my actual splits on the right).

Somewhere around mile 21 or 22 my race completely fell apart. I hit the wall and I hit it hard. My legs weren’t cramping, but they just refused to turn around as fast as I wanted them to. You can see from this chart image what my splits were for the first 20 miles of the race and then the drastic turn towards the end. The left column are the splits I was trying to meet that were printed on my pace band. The right column shows you what my actual splits were and a little ways down you can also see what my average pace was up to that point. I was still on target for my goal up until about mile 21, but then. . .yeah. The Wall.

Around this point, I was really feeling the heat, and I was just done. I really really wanted to walk.  I haven’t felt this way during a run for more than a year, way back when I was training for my first marathon. I hate that place.  It is not a fun place to find yourself at. But, but at the same time, that place is what keeps me respecting the marathon distance. 26.2 is a respectable distance regardless of how hard you train or how strong you may feel you are when you leave that starting line. There are so many factors to finishing a marathon how you want to.  Every time I have met a course goal I know a little miracle has occurred.

So, for the last 4-5 miles of the race I stopped looking at my pace watch, let that marathon goal time rest and just concentrated on not stopping. I mean, I glanced down a few times to see just how slow I was going, but for the most part the battle in my head was just to keep on going.  I was sure that at any moment I was going to see those girls pass me, which was disappointing, I won’t lie, but I knew I couldn’t go any faster than I was and a win now seemed pretty impossible. But, I also knew any chance I might have at finishing in the top three required that I keep on moving; that I didn’t quit.

Crossing the finish line.  My actual finish time was 3:26:41 a little faster than the posted time here because that clock is for gun time, not chip time.

Crossing the finish line. My actual finish time was 3:26:41 a little faster than the posted time here because that clock is for gun time, not chip time. (The girl right behind me was a half marathon finisher).

When I passed the 25 mile sign, I started to perk up a bit. With every foot fall I knew I was getting that much closer to the finish. Usually, by now you have crowds cheering you on, but there really weren’t any crowds anywhere except at the actual finish for this race. When I rounded the corner and saw the finish line in sight I was pretty excited. I still kept thinking that one of those girls must be right behind me, but I never looked back during the race.  I wanted to make sure I ran my race and mentally I just didn’t want to know how close they were! Crossing the finish line as first female was definitely overshadowed by my desire to just stop running, but it was still very cool to hear them announce that I was the first female marathon finisher.

When I saw my husband it really hit me that I had done it. I had finished the race. I had not quit and by not quitting, I had won. I didn’t meet my time goals, but I really didn’t care. Given how I had felt when I started the race and how difficult the whole race had been for me that day, I was elated with my results. My husband’s face, smile and expression were priceless: “You did it!”

Shortly after hugging my husband, we were met by a guy from the Aspen Times who interviewed me and took my picture.  That was a surreal moment. Several people that had seen me on the course came and congratulated me. It was fun to have a little “star” moment. After downing some water, we headed to the massage tables.

I FaceTimed with some excited children of mine and their grandma. That was the highlight of the morning for me. They were so excited about my accomplishment. My son kept throwing out insane figures for the prize money he thought I had won.  (He had learned the winner of Boston received 150k so he was really grabbing at some high numbers there.) That was a fun moment. Being a winner in their eyes is what it is all about. Being able to be an example of not quitting even in the face of something really difficult was a great take away from that race.

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Wearing my gold medal after the awards ceremony.

After my massage, we headed to the food tents.  They had really great looking salads and donuts (?) I never crave sweets after a marathon. Salts, yes, but after 5 Gus I don’t want sugar. No sodium in sight, unfortunately. It usually takes me a few hours before I want to eat anything so I let my husband eat “my” salad. We hung out for a bit under the tents and then they started the award ceremony where I received a gold medal for my first place finish. (I was really happy to see that they weren’t requiring us to bridge the three foot distance from the ground to the top of the stage to meet them for our medals. With sore legs, that would have been comical.  We just walked up to the front of the stage and they leaned down to us to put the medal around our necks.) I was surprised to learn that I had a five-minute lead on the 2nd place female finisher. (She wasn’t one of the girls I had been leap-frogging with in the beginning, but one of those girls placed 3rd.)

Race Results. I placed 17th overall.

Race Results. I placed 17th overall.

After the race, I still had quite a bit of race adrenalin in me and couldn’t sleep even though it had sounded nice after a long hot soak in the hotel tub.  The soreness hadn’t really set in so we decided to get an early dinner and cruise around Aspen.

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Truffle fries, salted caramel donuts and ginger ice cream.

IMG_2094 After seeing as much of Aspen as we wanted that day, we returned to the hotel for a long soak in the largest hot tub I have ever seen–which felt heavenly.  We then decided to visit the hotel restaurant even though it was like 9:00pm. (When you eat an early dinner and are low on sodium and sugar, you order truffle fries and salted caramel donuts with ginger ice cream and eat them on your hotel bed.)  I slept pretty well that night.

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Hiking near Maroon Bells Lake. That walking stick came in handy on the descent!!

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Hiking up towards Crater Lake.

The next morning, I awoke feeling like someone had beaten my legs with a bat. Moving them around seemed to help work out some of the soreness, but I really struggled going down stairs.  It was comical.  A rainy-day Aspen kept our Sunday activities pretty mellow which worked out pretty well for my thrashed legs. When the rain finally subsided, we went up to do some hiking in the renowned Maroon Bells. That was painful at times, but definitely worth it!

IMG_2103I found a copy of the Aspen Times in our hotel lobby and it was pretty fun to see my picture and parts of my interview in there–I snagged a couple copies to take home to my kids. I don’t recall ever saying that I thought the course was flat–because it was anything but that–but whatever. (A link to the article is here.)

Over the past week, my son has been broadcasting my results to pretty much everyone he sees.  It touches my heart to see him so proud of me.

As much as I disliked this race, it taught me so much about the power that is within all of us to succeed regardless of how the outlook may look to us at the time.

I’ll learn from this one, and take what I have learned to the next one in September.


Aspen/Snowmass Favorites:

  • Snowmass: The Stonebridge Inn and The Artisan Restaurant
  • Aspen Main Street
  • The Maroon Bells
  • Restaurants: Bangkok Happy Bowl (Chicken Pad Thai), La Hosteria (Italian), New York Pizza, Annette’s Mountain Bake Shop (macaroons!!)
  • Aspen Art Museum
  • LuLuLemon Aspen
  • Hanging Lake Hike (Glenwood Canyon about 30 minutes away from Aspen/Snowmass. Get there no later than 8:30am for parking.)