The setback: Old port half marathon

Portland Half Marathon

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”
-Haruki Murakami

There is no harm in one more half marathon, right? This past weekend I ran my 10th half marathon, the Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon in Portland, ME. It was a great way to have a great run weekend in another city with a few of my friends and also get a medal from another state. I knew this race would be in June, which made the weather a crap shoot, so I wanted to just enjoy this one and not put pressure on myself for a certain time.

Portland Half 2 hr pace

I’ve been having a pretty good year with my running, meeting my under 2-hour half goal twice. I’ve been working really hard on getting faster and I can feel my legs taking a bit of a beating. There is some inflammation in my left leg which had caused me some pain, but luckily it has not developed into full tendinitis yet. The pain goes away when I run so it’s hard to stop while everything is feeling so good. Never the less, I did back off my training a bit and had been noticing a decline in my speed from this past March. Running my weekly 5K with my running club has been leaving me with disappointment as I realize how far I am from my 24:30 PR a few months back. I don’t know why I’ve been so disappointed when I’m running better than I have in my whole life, but lately I’ve felt I really have something to prove. I’ve improved a lot, but I have this need to keep on improving. As the realization sets in that I am approaching 40, I don’t want to peak.

Waking up Saturday morning, I realize the weather is totally ideal for a half marathon. I was psyched – the previous weekend I had run a 10-miler in some pretty hot weather and it felt pretty difficult to push through. I knew today would be easier.

Running in Portland
Here I am around mile 9 – feeling fantastic!

The race starts at 7 AM and I made my way to the 2-hour pacer, thinking I would at least try to get 2 hours or 1:59. As soon as the race started, the rain started, and these small sprinkles went on for about 45 minutes. I have to say, the rain felt great, especially since I’ve been struggling through some hot and humid races this month. I passed the 2-hour pacer at mile 2. I’ve been having trouble with pacers since they seem to run the first mile way too fast and then have to back off drastically. Also, trying to stay in that group is challenging as people around me keep getting too close and kicking my legs. I charged the first hill and was feeling great and this feeling stayed with me for most of the race. In fact when I got to mile 7, I couldn’t believe how good I was running. At mile 8, I realized there was a chance I could PR. I kept focusing on my running, paid attention to my breathing and charged ahead. I loved the course, weaving through the city then through a park and a long steady bike path. The only negative was there were some narrow spots that caused a few bottle necks and was challenging passing some people. But I was able to keep a good pace, until I felt my first calf twinge, around mile 9.

Somewhere around mile 12 – I definitely could not hide the pain in my face

I don’t usually get leg cramps, the only time I had experienced them was during the Chicago marathon. That morning I had made a last minute decision to not wear my compression socks, even though I had worn them for my last 3 half marathons. I wasn’t sure if they were helping me or not, and I had run without for the 10-miler and had been fine. I thought they might be annoying in the summer heat. However, I wonder if I needed them more than I realized – I’m not really an expert so I have no idea if they can prevent leg cramps or not. But as I sped up, the cramps shot through both my calves causing me to go off balance, as it felt like my leg wanted to seize up. I could feel the pain getting more intense the further I went and the faster I tried to go. Eventually I had to stop for a few seconds to stretch them out, which I ended up doing a few times. I was so frustrated because I knew time was getting away from me. My pace ended up slowing down a lot for the last 2 miles, because my calves screamed every time I tried to go faster. I was really at a loss as to how to solve this problem as this was totally new territory for me. At mile 11-ish, I took in some Gatorade. It didn’t seem to do much as I battled with my legs and my speed the whole way.

At mile 12.75, being so close to the end, I tried to pick up the pace. Suddenly it felt like someone had hit the back of my left calf with a sledgehammer. There was the immense pain like you would get with a charley horse, but it just kept going and spasming. I actually screamed out loud and fell to my knees. I could hear people yelling from the side lines to see if I was okay. Still grunting painfully, I managed to tell people it was just a cramp so that they didn’t think it was anything serious. One runner came over and helped me up along with another woman who just happened to be walking by. It took a bit of time for my calf to stop contracting enough for me to get on my feet. It turns out the woman who happened to be walking by was also a runner and as she let me lean on her asked me how far I had run and if I had any salt or Gu or anything. The only thing I had on me was my Huma chia energy gel. I began to squeeze the last of in my mouth as my muscle cramps started to subside. I needed to finish this race, so I thanked her and limped away. The time on my watch said less that 2 hours still, so I tried to lightly jog, however that calf kept letting me know it was hurting. The final stretch was exciting as there were people on either side, cheering like mad. Then…cobblestones. I curse as my legs clumsily bumped around on the uneven surface. Then I see the 2 hour pacer go by. NOOOOOOOO!

Struggling to manage a bit of a smile for the cameras at the end or very glad to be done

I had to finish slow, even at the last tenth of a mile, and ended up with a time of 2 hours 38 seconds. I didn’t make it. Although this was still not a bad time for me, it was heartbreaking to not be able to keep my pace when I was running so well. I’ve been so focused on improvement this year, it was a huge disappointment to fall short. The worse part of it is I don’t know what the cause was and I don’t know how to prevent something like this from happening again. The temperature was ideal, I fueled the way I normally do and my legs felt strong and well-rested. I may need to do some research on this and consult other runners, as I don’t want to experience that kind of pain again.

Set backs happen, but things aren’t all bad. I finally got a new job earlier this month with a great company and I’m really enjoying it. Maybe the second half of the year will be better than the first and I can put all the bad stuff behind me. A new beginning means new goals – and I will need to figure out what these are.

If you have any advice on leg cramps, please let me know!

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Providence divine: My goal half-marathon

Providence, RI

“Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.”
-Emile Coue

Looking for a new job just plain sucks. The constant letter writing, internet searches and networking follow ups is exhausting. Not to mention the constant rejection. One minute you are on a high because people are saying you are the greatest thing they’ve seen, the next minute you are hearing how inadequate your experience is. I actually had someone tell me during the interview I was going to fail…well thanks for bringing me in.

Things have not been all bad during this current period of transition, but it is still so much easier to focus on my running goals since everything else in my life is up in the air. I mentioned in my last post that I had finally accomplished my goal of running a half marathon in under 2 hours. Since that goal was reserved for the Providence Half Marathon, I wasn’t sure what I should set my sights on. Should I try for a faster time? Should I just relax and enjoy myself?

Providence, RI
The view from our hotel room, I think you can see the whole city!

A few weeks before the big day, some pains in my left knee and calf kind of made some last minute decisions for me. I had to back off my training a little. The pain tended to go away while I was running, but the next day I found it difficult to even walk. Despite this, I did not want to give up Providence completely – I had come so far. I dialed back some of my training but stuck to a few things – making sure I could get a few higher mileage runs in and sticking to my speed goals at the track. I ended up skipping some short runs and one of my long runs turned into a short run. I started to get worried that I would even have a good time at Providence, since I was not being as dedicated. As I prepared myself mentally, I said goodbye to the notion of a PR. However, I still wanted to get under 2 hours – and I would try as hard as my leg was still attached.

Atwells Ave, Providence
The entrance to Federal Hill, a great place to get Italian food.

What I am most proud of this year is my improvements in running. It’s easy for depression to set in when everyday is the same old job search/job interview routine. But when I get on that track and realize that I did all my 800’s within my 3:45 goal or when I run a 5K in under 25 minutes, I feel alive again. I feel I have purpose, that I’m finally accomplishing something instead of just waiting for people to get back to me. It carries me on those days when I’m just angry at the world for not seeing the value of me. This is why I had to run Providence – the final race that I had set for my 2018 plan.The birthday girl

Providence, RI is kind of a special city for me. It was where I got my undergraduate degree , so it’s the first real city where I felt semi on my own. It’s also the city where I met my current boyfriend (we met at college). My family has ties to it as well since my mother grew up not far from there and my father also went to college there. The weekend of the race also happened to be my 39th birthday, so I knew I would need a distraction from the inevitable downward spiral of thoughts that occur when you are close to 40 and unemployed. It all came together beautifully as I somehow convinced two of my closest friends to run the race and spend the weekend there with me and my boyfriend. I got to celebrate my birthday, get some great Italian food and run this race I had deferred from last year. I knew it would be a fun race since the marathon was also happening at the same time, which usually means there is a great energy from the crowd. The weather forecast was showing cooler temperatures and no sun – which was great since you never know what you are going to get in May.2:00 pacer

 

At the start of the race, I decided to make my way immediately over to the 2 hour pacer. I figured I could stay with him for most of the race and he could get me to a point where I could at least get a 1:59:59. I noticed we were pretty far up front and when the race went off, I realized we were going out pretty fast. The wave of momentum of all the racers behind us pushed us even faster and I looked at my watch and thought “This is a 7:55 mile! Too fast! Too fast!” We started to slow down a little but the first mile was so chaotic with the crowd of people and almost getting tripped multiple times. I sped ahead of the pacer at this point, figuring he would probably pass me at some point. I never saw him again.

Start Line at Providence

 

The air felt cool and even though there was a potential for rain in the forecast, it never came. I decided to get some water around mile 4, but could only see the Gatorade people. They told me water was further up. I passed the whole table before I realized they meant the water was at the same table, not a separate table so I turned around to get some. I reached out as someone handed me a cup and another runner stole it right from under me. I tried to grab the other cup the volunteer was holding but another runner did the same. I turned to the guy next to him and he was holding Gatorade for some reason. “AUGH! I need water!” I yelled and  grabbed a cup from the table and took off, annoyed that this probably cost me a few minutes.

Start of the Providence Half marathon

At the beginning of this race, I was told this was one of the hilliest courses there is. I don’t quite agree with that, although I wouldn’t say the course is flat. I was warned about mile 5, but when I got there, I scoffed at how ridiculous the complaint was. However, when I reached mile 7, that is where things got hard, as the hill lasted a full half mile. The route was nice, going through some neighborhoods, up by Pawtucket and then through some parks. By mile 11, I was feeling the fatigue and not feeling as strong as I remember during my last half in VA. I kept up with my pace and pushed myself towards the last turn. I saw the finish line and bolted to it, giving all I had. I finished in 1:57:19, which was not as good as last time, but still under my goal time. I did it, I had beaten Providence in under two hours. I made it happen with all the challenges that occurred that month.

Preparing for the race

The after party was mellow, but fun since I had some friends there. I enjoyed my victory beer and thought about what’s next. Working towards this goal was a nice distraction from the painful job search process, but now I need a small break from all the hard training. I need to heal physically and mentally. Most importantly I need to get back to crushing my life goals as well – hopefully things will turn around soon.

Finished the race

 

Mission Accomplished: The Shamrock half marathon in VA beach

VA Beach Half Marathon

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”
-Robert Collier

Goals are meant to be accomplished. But when they are met ahead of schedule it can feel amazing and at the same time give you a feel of “Now what?”

Let me back up a bit. After my first marathon last year, I felt pumped to start a new running goal for 2018. That goal was to finally get a half marathon under 2 hours and my target race was the Providence Half Marathon in May. I will have just turned 39 (yikes!) and would be getting this ultimate PR in the city where I went to college and also met my current significant other. I was following a 12-week training program that started in February and noticing some significant improvements in my speed. I had some half marathons planned in the meantime, as a gauge to see where I was. The first was Hyannis which I wrote a post about. I got close but no cigar. Then for St Patrick’s day, some friends and I had planned a run-cation to Virginia Beach to run the Shamrock Half-Marathon (some of these friends actually ran the marathon). Weather was favorable, wind was at my back and the course was flat. In turn, I totally crushed my goal with an official time of 1:55:27. And I was only on week 6.

Running Group
Our group at dinner the night before. We were ready to crush the Shamrock Half/Full Marathon!

This was a huge win for me, and not just because I accomplished a running goal. I’ve been kind of down lately about myself ever since I lost my job last month. It’s easy to let these things affect you mentally, especially since I’m prone to depression. This victory told me something about myself – how I am able to set goals and actually make them happen. It told me that I am the type of person who is constantly improving. If you were to tell me just a few months ago that I would be able to run a half marathon in the same pace as my original 5K pace, I would have probably not believed you. Yet I just made that happen. I feel bad for any company who decides to let someone like me go, someone who has the drive to make things happen and work hard until I accomplish my goal. I will find another company, but they are going to have a really hard time finding another me.

I had a feeling I could get the time I wanted for this race, but I was still a little unsure of myself. I’m not used to flat courses since New England race courses are usually quite hilly. I thought I might need those downhills to make up the speed I needed to get the right pace. But I knew it was in my sights when the weekend before I ran the Black Cat 10-miler race in Salem, MA and took 9 minutes off my original 10-mile PR with a time of 1:28:47. This was an 8:49 pace on a pretty hilly course with strong head winds. Even I couldn’t believe it when I finished.

Running in VA Beach

This carried me in when I arrived in Virginia. My SO and I were there a few days early since we were also visiting his sister. We got some runs in on the boardwalk and enjoyed some much needed vacation time. Friends kept telling me that they knew this was going to be the race where I sub-2. The pressure took over. Race nerves grabbed me while I waited in my corral for the start. I quickly located the 2:00 pacers -these guys were going to help me reach this goal. I was going to stay with them until the last mile and then jump ahead so I could at least get the 1:59:59 I needed. Instead, I ended up getting a little ahead of them around mile 4 and then I never looked back. I just focused on my run and checked in with my pace every so often. At mile 11, I knew I was on target. I just needed to keep it going and not screw up. Then my phone rang, and it was my landlord. Crap! I forgot to put the Do Not Disturb setting on! I didn’t answer obviously, but it definitely was a distraction, especially in my head thinking, “What could she want? Is there something wrong with the apartment? Does she need to get in?” Bah!

Shamrock Half Marathon Corral
The start of the race – I moved up to Corral 5 so I could follow the 2-hr pacers

I was able to put this out of my mind with the thought that I was almost done. I turned onto the boardwalk for the final stretch and I couldn’t quite tell what I had done because the race clock was pretty far ahead because I had started in Corral 5. I glimpsed at my watch as I crossed the finish line and saw my approximate time of 1:55:XX. I immediately burst into tears. I did it, I couldn’t believe it. And I did it faster than I ever thought was possible.

The rest of the day was an alcohol-induced blur. It was St Patrick’s day weekend after all! The after party was great, with live music and plenty of beer on the beach. There was dancing and congratulating all around. My SO also crushed his goal, with a huge PR that he was ecstatic about. I was so happy to have him and my friends there to celebrate my victory, in running and also about how I felt about myself.

After party

When I came back home, I knew that reality was going to hit me soon. I still don’t have a job. I need to figure out how to pay my bills with my reduced income. Providence is still over a month away. I need to get focused on my life goals so I can become a whole person again. But also, I need a new running goal for Providence. What should I be striving for?

Readers –  what are some of your running goals?

Me in VA Beach

 

After the storm: Battling monsters & the Hyannis Half Marathon

Road closure

“Life is bare, gloom and misery everywhere. Stormy weather, just can’t get my poor self together. I’m weary all the time.”
-Lena Horne

We had a Nor’easter here in New England on Friday. I stayed indoors for most of it, not looking outside. I binged-watched Twin Peaks as the lights flickered a few times. I didn’t give it a thought as I went to bed, just another day of crappy weather. When I awoke Saturday morning for my 8 mile long run, I was amazed at what I saw. Closed roads, downed trees, DPW vehicles everywhere scrambling to lift giant tree trunks. I scooted under some fallen trees and felt the debris roll under my feet as I tried to increase my pace, trying to stay focused on something.

After math of the storm

My life has felt a bit out of control lately.

The weather was a familiar sight – last Sunday I ran the Hyannis Half Marathon. On race day, it basically felt like we were running in a monsoon – torrential downpours and deafening wind that turned my hands into useless claws. I was using this race as sort of a test, as I hadn’t run a half in over a year. I was on week 3 of my new training plan for a sub-two hour half and I just sort of threw it in to get a pulse on where I was with distance racing. Testing things out is a part of my personality. I can’t shut it off. It’s why I went into business analytics for my chosen career. I wasn’t planning on doing a sub-2 (I was only on week 3 after all!) but I wanted to see how close I could come. How much do I need to move the needle to improve? I’m always trying to improve, this is one of the reasons I started running in the first place – measurable results.

At the start of the race, I began to panic as I tried to pull up my playlist. I had my phone in a ziplock, but my wet hands were just not able to get my music to work. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get through this race with no sound, mentally I needed the distraction. I finally got it working and put it away, knowing the whole thing could fall apart if I touched it again. I trudged into the wetness, rain pelting the left side of my head. There were many large puddles to move around. Unfortunately this mostly put me in the mud, but I managed to keep my socks dry for the first 5 miles anyway. After that, everything was wet so I didn’t pay much attention to the puddles. At the halfway mark I noticed I was just around 1 hour. If I could keep it together I could possibly sub-2 in this race. I imagined the tears that would come seeing the clock and then my announcement of my retirement from running. Just as a joke of course.

Hyannis Half
I was not able to get pictures outside as it was too wet for my phone to work. This was the only picture I was able to get – back inside after the race.

However, the conditions did prove to be quite difficult. At mile 9 I dug some energy gel out of my pocket and realized my hands did not work anymore. My fingers were frozen in position so I tried to rip the package open with my teeth as I painfully grabbed a water from a volunteer. The rain was in my face as a cop stopped me from crossing the road, since drivers were getting impatient. At the next water stop, a volunteer was pushing Gatorade on me, but I just yelled out “water!” as I tried to grab a cup from the next table. My permanently frozen hands knocked over a row of waters as I desperately grabbed for anything that I could pour down my throat. Around 12.9, I think my watch read 1:58 and I thought “I’m not going to make it.” Just then I saw my parents and my aunt & uncle cheering me on from the side lines. I waved frantically and picked up the pace. I will finish this strong, I thought. They gave me the added boost of support I needed. As I crossed the finish line, I saw the 2 hour mark already there and I thought, Damn. However, my results did show a significant PR at 2:01:07. Not bad for a monsoon.

My official time for the half

All the dark clouds above my head reminded me of the storm that was going on in my head. A few weeks back, I lost my job and the pain and confusion surrounding it has caused some real anxiety. I had hoped to not be in this position again for awhile, I hate the process of putting yourself out there, making yourself vulnerable and asking for help that is required. But here I am, not knowing what will happen in the next few months, unable to really make any plans for my future. More stress upon stress, as thoughts whip around my brain with turbulent force.

Tree blocking road

Seeing the aftermath from this most recent storm surprised me. Large branches blocked the sidewalks almost everywhere I went. An extremely large tree was uprooted and lay across an entire street, making it completely impassible. As I made my way around one of the obstacles on the bike path, I saw the DPW trucks jumping into action, pulling branches and towing whole trees out of the way. As I watched the clean up crew doing their job, I thought about what I needed to do. It’s time to focus on cleaning up the aftermath and getting myself back.

The storms have cleared and I need to focus on my goals, both running and career. I know I can be tough enough to weather even the stormiest of weather. I just need to believe it.

Friends
We look so happy! This was before we braved the elements for the Hyannis Half.

 

Badasses in the the snow: The assault

Assault on Mt Hood

“The only other sound’s the sweep; Of easy wind and downy flake.”
-Robert Frost

Me: Trains for months for a marathon and doesn’t get injured.
Also me: Runs a few 5K’s here and there and gets injured.

The Assault on Mt Hood in Melrose, MA was the last race of the year for me. The week before, I had really felt some pain coming off my relay race. That damn calf just kept feeling more and more sore, so I knew I better rest it. Well what’s one more race, eh?

This course is definitely one of the toughest I’ve done. It’s only 3.5 miles, but it’s a cross-country course on a golf course that is part paved path and part trail. The hills are short but very very steep. And there was one other detail that made this course even tougher…snow.

Lake in Melrose
The calm before the storm…

When I first arrived, the sky was dim but the weather seemed calm. By the time I had gotten my bib and settled at the lodge at the start, the storm had started. When we all lined up at the starting line, there was a thin coat of ice on the ground. I knew I would really have to take it easy on the downhills, especially since they were so steep. The last thing I wanted to do was fall and get even more injured.

Slow on downhill

We took off and there was immediately a downhill so I started down easy – step step step. I noticed the paved pathway was pretty icy at this point, so I stuck to the side where the grass was. Even though there was snow there too, it seemed to be less slick. I saw many others also moving around the paved sections, trying to find traction where they could. Despite my leg soreness I was able to power up those steep uphills, but was extra cautious on the downs, which led to a not-so-great time. Another problem I encountered was that I didn’t fuel properly for the race. I had meant to grab a granola bar on my way out and completely forgot. The race started at noon and I had only eaten a light breakfast many hours before. At mile 2, I suddenly felt wiped out and exhausted. At one point the race bottle-necked into a one lane death march up a steep hill. I was so tired at this point, I was actually grateful for the slow down. The trail opened up a bit and people started breaking away, building their speed. I reluctantly picked up my speed again.

uphill

As I was approaching mile 3, I started to get some of my strength back. I powered through and reached the end, which was a nice downhill driveway back to the lodge. Normally this would be the place to speed to the finish, but it was so slippery I had to take my time. I think my time ended up being about 40 seconds slower than the previous year, but in those conditions, I’ll take it.

Snowy race

The main reason I didn’t want to miss this race was the post-race atmosphere.The lodge is decorated with nutcrackers and you even get to keep one as a souvenir, along with a very cool pint glass. There is also beer and food – the whole thing feels like a fun Christmas party and always gets me into the holiday spirit. Plus many of the people from my running club tend to be there as well – the post race part really warms your frozen body. There is even a roaring fire.

Swag from Assault on Mt Hood
Post-race swag from the Assault on Mt Hood

The one thing that really got me through this challenging run was my new trail shoes – my Brooks Adrenaline ASRs that I bought at New England Running Company. I bought them this summer, but was too afraid to break them out during my marathon training. I think these really prevented me from falling when racing on the snowy grass and icy surfaces. There were definitely better grips on the bottom while I moved through the course, not to mention it was a very comfortable shoe.  I’m hoping to do a bit more trail running next year so glad to know these work well on my feet.

Brooks Adrenaline

Well the year comes to a close and I have some time to plan for what’s next. Especially since I’m trying to heal. I’m hoping to start my training back up in January, to get going on that under-2 hour half. Not being able to relieve my holiday stress by running has been killing me, plus I’m pretty anxious to start my training. However, I know this rest period is necessary to keep me on track for my next half in February. Until next time…Happy New Year and Merry Running!

Supporting your team: Mill cities relay race 2017

Mill Cities glove

“Support the team.”
-David Puddy

Back when I made my marathon plan, I had decided that the final quarter of the year would be to rest, relax and try to have fun with running again. So what could be more fun than running a relay race with your friends?

27 miles. 5 legs. 2 states. 1 river. That is the Mill Cities Relay race description. This race is also a chance for the running clubs in the area to compete against each other – and the competition is pretty fierce. Since I’m not fast enough to be on a competitive team, we got to put our own team together and we had some really terrific average runners (like myself) who try their hardest, never let their teammates down and also manage to have fun and a great attitude. I could not ask for better people backing me up.

Mill Cities team

I had the first leg, which was perfect since the previous year I had the last leg. It was a 5.6 mile leg that started in Nashua, NH and ended in Hudson, NH. I have been feeling a nagging pain in my left calf and behind my knee that had been occurring off and on, so I was a little nervous the morning of the race. Luckily the pain seems to go away as I’m running – it’s only the aftermath that has me screaming in agony. I have been getting a little faster in my 5K’s lately, so I wanted do really well in this relay. I wanted to keep my leg under a 9 pace. I felt confident about it up until the morning of the race – I was worried I would not have the race I wanted.

Start of Mill CIties
Heading to the start in Nashua, NH…

Many of the leg 1 runners stayed inside until right before the 8 AM start, since it was around 30 degrees. I had been up pretty early since I met my teammates at the finish where we would need to leave some of the cars – except the two we were using along the course. As I lined up for the start, my car was being driven by a teammate, who would meet me at the end of my leg. The start was pretty casual. I waited and chatted with another person from my running club until we got the call to start. All the anxiousness and waiting got me to take off fast – too fast in fact. After mile 2, I started to realize I may not be able to sustain my current pace and tried to dial it back a little. I saw someone from my running club that I know is faster than me just ahead. I wanted to keep her in my sights, but the distance between us increase. Oh well, I was starting to find my groove. Through the rolling hills, I could feel my breathing get better. No more pain.

I did warm up a bit during the 3rd mile, but noticed around the 4th mile how frosty the air felt. My lungs felt like they had a little fluid in them and rattled a bit. But I still felt really good. In fact, I was surprised when I saw the sign for the exchange – I couldn’t believe I had already run 5.6 miles. I ripped my gloves off, so I could get my slap bracelet off for the hand off. As I turned the final corner, I heard them announcing my team number. I heard people calling my name…but my teammate, I couldn’t see him! He was there of course, there were just too many people in the way, it took a minute. I finally saw him and rushed over to hand over the bracelet. I checked my watch – 8:28 pace. I even exceeded my reach goal of 8:30. Ecstatic that I did right by my team, I took off with my other teammate and headed to another exchange.

The exchange at Mill Cities
My teammates making the exchange…and flying through the air!

It was a nice feeling being done so early. My other teammates did their best too and we beat our overall time goal. There is some friendly competition between some of the other average running teams as well and we definitely held our own. I felt good about our effort. The race ends at a bar where we all hung out with the rest of our running club and all the other participating clubs as well. The after party is definitely one of the best as you can connect with so many other people who run in the area.

Comparison of Mill Cities

I always look forward to this race every year and can’t wait to do it all again next year. Our car logistical planning also went smoothly thanks to another teammate who designed it. Everyone was where they are supposed to be and no one missed an exchange – there is nothing more disheartening than getting to a leg and not seeing your team there. I saw it happen a few times. Looking at my time from the previous year, I can also see how I’ve improved. This is always an encouraging feeling as the year winds down. I wonder what next year holds for me? Will I continue to improve or will maintaining this speed take everything I have? Will I finally get rid of this calf pain? I guess I will just have to find out.

 

My first marathon: The aftermath

Marathon shoes

“Running is nothing more than a series of arguments between the part of your brain that wants to stop and the part that wants to keep going.”
-Unknown

It’s been over a month since I ran my first marathon in Chicago. There have been times when I wanted to write in this blog, but something always seemed to stop me. Even though I have more free time without this rigid training schedule, that time keeps getting taken up with all the stuff I couldn’t do when I was training. Cleaning my house, getting rid of some houses junk and getting back to one of my other passions – sewing.

But I’m still running, and after a much needed two-week break I was able to settle back into a more normal running schedule. My first run after the break felt really horrible. I think since it was only 4 miles, I was thinking I could go really fast without an issue. I died around mile 3. The last mile I began cursing myself for taking this break since I felt like all my fitness had disappeared. However, that weekend I decided to run a last minute 10K that happened to be right around the corner from my house. I ended up getting a PR. I couldn’t believe how easily my legs completed these miles in less than a 9-min pace. I went back to running at my club’s weekly 5K and have been amazed at how good I feel getting my time back down to around 26 minutes. And recently I decided that my new goal now is to get faster. I was not super happy about my marathon time and I think getting all my race times might help me with the next one – whenever that might be. There is nothing wrong with being an average runner – and I’m sure I will always stay one – but improving my times feels so good.

Retired marathon shoes
My retired marathon sneakers…they got me through many a mile

Last week I had an opportunity to get into the Boston Marathon. My running club gets bibs that can be distributed to members. It is done in fairest way possible – with a lottery. The more volunteer work you do for the club, the more times your name is put into the hat. I had spent the whole year analyzing how to get more points and even created a spreadsheet to keep track and maximize my chances. It’s kind of what I do. I ended up with the 2nd most points in the club, Continue reading “My first marathon: The aftermath”

Chicago marathon 2017: The people’s race

Chicago medal holder

“…Chicago is. One town that won’t let you down. It’s my kind of town”
-Frank Sinatra

29 neighborhoods. 26.2 miles. That’s the Chicago Marathon.

I’m not sure I counted 29 neighborhoods though, so I may have that wrong. However, I have to say the experience of running through an amazing city like Chicago is something I am really going to cherish. I come from Boston, which is a pretty cool city. Up until a few weeks ago I was commuting into downtown everyday for work. But Chicago feels more like a real city to me, as much as I love Boston. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get the chance to actually run the Boston Marathon, so for now, this will be my comparison marathon.

getting ready for the marathon
In the apartment before the race. We are ready…and it is still dark out.

The morning started out slightly cool and I was grateful for that. I was starting in the last wave of the last corral – this was a big concern to me because I knew it was going to be in the high 70’s that afternoon. I’m not a fast runner and I knew I was going to be out there in that heat. I tried to adjust by putting all my time goals out the window – just finish and be healthy. Listen to your body. Don’t push it for your goal – this is your first marathon. It’s hard though when you’ve trained harder for this than any other race. I wanted to crush it and impress everyone – I wanted to prove to everyone that I was a runner, Continue reading “Chicago marathon 2017: The people’s race”

Week sixteen: Acceptance

Chicago Marathon bib

“I’ve learned that finishing a marathon isn’t just an athletic achievement. It’s a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible.”
-John Hanc

I know this post is late…my last few weeks have been a whirlwind as I finished up my training and actually ran the Chicago marathon. This last week ends with my final long run – 26.2.

This final week the training is taken down a bit, with the speed workout at the beginning of the week and easy runs and cross-training for the remainder so that you are well rested for the big day. Because I had a lot of things to do before my trip to Chicago, my 5 mile workout of 9:30 pace mile repeats were done in pitch black Monday morning. I was nervous about my footing in the dark, but I knew I had to get it done before work. The speed felt good on that cool morning and my legs felt ready for the challenges ahead. This marathon was going to happen and I had finally accepted it. As I slowed down for my cool-down, I think it all finally hit me.

My 4-mile easy last run on Wednesday brought up some emotion as I thought about what was to come. It was about 6:15 AM when I made my way out. I noticed some tightness in my ankles and Achilles. My mind started to wander as my body took over, knowing exactly what to do without needing to think about it. I began to think about the marathon and how amazing it will be to run through the neighborhoods of Chicago. I thought about the challenges of training. Then my mind wandered into challenges I’ve faced in my life. I began to think about people who had hurt me in the past, one in particular who had promised to grow old with me but then discarded me on a whim. I don’t usually think of this person but sometimes my mind tries to resolve things when I am running. I thought about what I had been doing with my life since and realized that no matter where that person was, Continue reading “Week sixteen: Acceptance”

Week fifteen: Panic

Firearms photos

“Well, I’m a mushroom cloud-laying motherf#cker, motherf#cker.”
-Samuel L. Jackson in the movie Pulp Fiction

Song Mood: “The Distance” – Cake

I am still sick, this cold really likes to linger.

All of last week I’ve had to deal with a lot. Most of my friends are running this marathon so everyone is in taper-mode. And everyone is cranky as hell, present company included. It didn’t help that I also had my period and had to do my 3AM migraine check every morning. Oh and I started a new job. Great timing.

People have been driving me crazy. Everyone is checking the weather non-stop, saying the marathon will be canceled due to the heat. The weather changes every minute I look at it. It makes it impossible to pack. Everyone is also reminding me Continue reading “Week fifteen: Panic”