Chicago ITU Triathlon

I knew going into this race that it probably wouldn’t be my best race ever. I spent the majority of the 2 weeks prior in Europe for work and my workouts were limited. I had access to a stationary bike the first week, but did zero rides the second week and I only managed one swim the whole trip. But despite all of that, I knew that the race would be a good indicator of my fitness level to see where I am at with no taper and less than stellar preparation.

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Paddle Boarding in Hamburg counts as a bike workout, right?

I did have 2 goals for the race: First, I wanted to improve my transition times from last August and second, I wanted to run well. I have had some really great speed workouts lately and I thought there was even a chance I could PR the 10k. I *knew* the bike would be slow because of the many u-turns and tight spaces, but I was okay with that. I planned to be conservative and not take any risks that could cause an accident.

How did I do? Well I completely surprised myself…but not in the “OMG I accidentally PR’d” kind of way.

Race Eve

I woke up around 7, happy to finally sleep until a reasonable time (hello jetlag) instead of being up at 4 a.m., and headed out right away for my shake-out ride to bike check-in. I rode about 6 miles, got my packet and dropped my bike in transition. When I got home, I went straight to the pool and did a full swim workout (2400 yards). Since I wasn’t tapering anyway, I really wanted to log some more time in pool after missing so many workouts. After the swim, it was time for a very important event.

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The Beer Run Crew.

We ran about 3 miles total at a very slow pace, but it was HOT. I only drank 2 beers, but finished the run by sharing a massive plate of pork covered fries with Jenny, Manny and CT. Maybe not the best pre-race meal?

After I left the crew, I headed over to Belmont Harbor to meet Brad where he was hanging with a group of his high school friends on a boat. We played a hilarious game of Cards Against Humanity, but were home in bed by 9:30.

Pre-Race

I debated back and forth for days on what I should do on race morning. Transition closed at 5:45, but my race start wasn’t until 9:45. Ultimately I decided to get up at 4 and drive down to set up transition then go home and get some more sleep. This worked out perfectly. I was back in bed by 5:15 and slept for 2 hours before having a leisurely breakfast at home then taking the L downtown to the start. I had plenty of time and even got to chat with my Nuun friends for a bit before heading to the swim staging area.

Right before the start I ran into my friend Katy who had several friends racing in my age group.

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The Swim

The race director gave us a few minutes before the start to get in the water and swim around to get acclimated. The lake was 66*, which was shocking at first, but even in my sleeveless wetsuit was fine after a few minutes. After treading water and chatting nervously for a few minutes, the countdown started and we were off.

We swam north for about 400 meters (my guess) before turning back south all the way to the finish. I got out front with the lead group right away and tried to grab some feet to draft. Unfortunately the fast feet sped off quickly and no one settled in around me. I was squarely in 5th place within 200 meters of the start, with no one even close to me for the rest of the swim. I tried to control my effort and get into a smooth rhythm, but I just never really found it. Similar to Nationals last year, I was breathing way too often and felt sloppy. There were a few short periods where I settled into a strong, controlled pull, but as soon as it was there, it was gone again.

Some days the orange buoys come to you faster than you think they should and some days you pull and pull and they never seem to get closer. Today was definitely the latter

1500 m: 25:53, 1:35/100 yd (5/80 AG)

Bike to Swim

The volunteers were great in pulling me up the slippery ramp from the swim, but then I was on my own for a long run (400+ m) into transition. My bike was right inside the swim-in and I was thankful for the quick rest to get my gear on. It had rained in the morning so it took some finagling to get all of the trash bags off that I used to cover everything, but I felt like I moved pretty quickly. Once I got my bike, I had another 0.16 mile run (according to Garmin) to get to bike-out.

T1: 4:17 (goal #1: fail…but let’s blame that on 0.3+ mi of running!)

The Bike

When I first hopped on the bike, I struggled for almost a half mile to get my feet clipped in (thanks to new cleats). Once I got settled, I focused on pushing as heavy a gear as I could but still holding 90ish rpm. This is a good way for me to stay focused and on top of my effort in races and not think too much about how far I have been/have left.

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Going into Lower Wacker (think a VERY long tunnel or underpass) was dark and a little strange on the first loop, but by the time I hit it the second time, I felt more confident and knew where the majority of the rough patches in the road were. I would pull my sunglasses down for a few minutes going in, then slide them back up once my eyes adjusted. My Garmin lost signal immediately after hitting the Lower Wacker portion so I never knew my pace. It wasn’t until the start of the 4th loop that I did some math and realized how well I was riding. I tried not to get too far ahead of myself and told myself to focus on the final lap so nothing stupid happened.

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Halfway in aero?

Overall, I was shocked at how open the roads were throughout the bike. I never felt crowded and even the turns weren’t too much of a cluster. As much anxiety as I had about the u-turns on the course, I have to admit, it wasn’t THAT bad. I took them relatively slow (hence sitting up in all the pictures), but then tried to push hard to pick back up on the other side. I am really, really happy with the outcome of the bike.

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Focused on making it through the turn.

From the pics it appears that I was never riding in aero, but the camera men were all set-up at the u-turn on Congress or on the turns into and out of it. In fact, I felt like I stayed in aero more this race than I ever have since it was so flat!

24.8 miles: 1:04:06, 23.3 mph (11/80 AG)

Bike to Run

Once we dismounted, we had to run all the way around transition to enter on the far end. Running in bike shoes isn’t the greatest, but I think I prefer that to being barefoot. Despite another long run with the bike, I feel pretty good about this transition. I felt like I was quick to get my shoes changed and move on.

T2: 2:54 (This includes another 0.3 miles of running through transition!)

The Run

I felt really good in the first half mile of the run. It usually takes me that long to get my legs underneath me and feel “normal” running, but I felt strong right away. Unfortunately, the feeling didn’t last long.

My plan was to hold a 7:00 pace for the first half and then see how I felt. Toward the end of the first mile, my pace was already slipping to 7:20 and by the 2nd mile, I had an incredibly sharp cramp in my side. Breathing through it didn’t help at all and I considered just walking it out. But I knew that walking was a dangerous luxury and eventually pinching it and massaging it worked. By the halfway point it was gone, but my pace had dropped well above 8:00 and I think I kind of gave in mentally.

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Look Mom! No collapsed hip! (even late in the race too)

Miles 1 & 2: 7:26, 8:07

I did pick things up a little in the 3rd mile (Mile 3: 7:51) but by the time I finished the 2nd loop and started on the 3rd (and final) loop, I was deep into the pain cave. The sun felt like it was baking me and I was SO THIRSTY. I was grabbing two cups of water at the two stops on each loop: one to drink and one to dump on my head, but toward the end, I drank them both and still felt thirsty. I got a boost everytime I got some water in me and that makes me wish I had carried a bottle, which I normally wouldn’t even consider for a 10k.

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Will it ever end?

Miles 4 & 5: 8:10, 8:11

In the last 400 m, my stomach started cramping and I headed straight for a porta-potty immediately after crossing the finish line.

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Mile 6: 8:06

There is no doubt that I was dehydrated and it caused some GI distress. I am just very thankful that it didn’t come on until the very end so it didn’t make the run even worse.

10k: 47:47; 7:42 avg.* (14/80 Age Group)

*My Garmin (and others) had the run course a little short. Mine showed 6.0, but two others I talked to both had 6.09. According to my Garmin, avg. pace was 7:58.

Overall ITU Chicago Olympic Distance Time: 1:24:54 (9th Place Age Group)

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SO happy to be done!

Overall I am pretty happy with the race. I am ELATED about my bike time (and still not convinced the course wasn’t short?!), but I definitely have some work to do on the swim and running off the bike. Admittedly I have only done 1 brick workout leading up to this race, so I am not sure why I expected so much more on the run. I do have a feeling that the side cramp and feeling out of gas on the run was probably also related to poor pre-race prep and general fatigue from travel, etc. I haven’t felt that bad on a run off of the bike since my first Olympic Distance Race in 2011 and I really, really hope that I can pull off a better performance in 6 weeks at Nationals.

My expectations for the race itself were definitely exceeded. The communications leading up and the people that were on-site seemed to be lacking in information, but I am pretty impressed that the organizers pulled off a seemingly successful event on the first time in what was a surely a limited geographic area granted by the city.

 

Posted in bike, Chicago, Food, friends, Goals, Race reports, Races, running, swimming, training, triathlon, work travel | 10 Comments

Friday Fun X

Somewhere in the midst of post-Boston, triathlon training, state hopping and enjoying summer, I have forgotten all about my Friday Fun posts. But I am back…because, well, life is good. And I want to share.

  1. Weekend Fun. Last weekend Brad and I flew back to Chicago for a quick trip (although I ended up staying longer). We would have been gone for over a month if we didn’t make the trip back and I really missed being home. We went to two Cubs games, had day drinks with friends and brunch with some of my favorite runner girls. It was a perfect weekend.
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    Friday afternoon. Sun shining. Cubs Baseball = Heaven.

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    Beautiful friends.

  2. Triathlon Training. I talked a little about this here, but I am loving the swim, bike, running that is happening right now. Especially swimming. The last few years I found myself not loving the pool and being burnt out on Master’s, but this year I have looked forward to doing swim workouts on my own. I get lost in my thoughts and the rhythm of pull, pull, breath and the time flies.
  3. Summer. Summer in Chicago. ‘Nough said. I love this place.
  4. The Lake. And as much as I love the City, I almost equally love being at the lake. Nature fills my soul in a way that I never realized until it wasn’t right out my front door. I have really enjoyed the bikes where the view gets better with every turn and the runs where the only noise I hear is the distant sound of a boat on the lake. And the sunsets…well, I’ll let that one speak for itself. photo 2 (21)Now, if only I could clone myself and be in both places at once…
  5. Birthdays. Brad’s birthday is tomorrow and his dad’s is Monday (with Father’s Day sandwiched in between). We will have a fun weekend relaxing at the lake with his family and enjoying time with our nieces and nephew. I love birthdays and am excited to give Brad his gifts…which I don’t think he will be too disappointed in ;)
  6. My Boys. The only downside of the trip back to Chicago was that the pups had to stay in Virginia. They were at camp over the long weekend and with Brad’s parents’ for a few nights. As menacing as those little rugrats can be sometimes, I sure do miss their snuggles and the constant laughter when I am away from them.

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    My two + Sofie (left) and Carter (right) soaking in some rays. I watched all 4 of them for most of the time I was in Virginia.

  7. Car-less. After Brad switched jobs and no longer had a company car, we went from having two cars down to one. This wasn’t a big deal considering you really don’t need a car to get around in Chicago. But we drove to Virginia in May (with the dogs and my bike) so our car was there while we were back in Chicago. Not having a car forced us to rely on walking and public transportation and I kind of loved it. Sure, it is much less convenient when I want to drive to the pool instead of a 30+ min bus/walk, but last weekend we found ourselves enjoying our public transit commutes instead of hopping in the car. After seeing a movie Sunday night, our typical 5-7 min drive was replaced by a lovely, long walk home filled with great conversation about the movie. I hope even when we have the car back in the city we will take advantage of the summer weather and continue to leave the car at home.
  8. Travel. In addition to the state-hopping that I have been doing in the last month, I will be adding some international travel to the mix. On Monday I am headed to Hamburg, Germany then on to Amsterdam the following Monday. It is a business trip so there won’t be a ton of free time, but I do have a full weekend in Hamburg. I have mentioned several times that Hamburg is one of my favorite places ever to run so I am very much looking forward to getting some miles in. But I also am SUPER excited to see our friends, Heather and Mike, who just moved to Hamburg this spring. I can’t wait to see their new place, meet their new friends and catch up on life.
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    Heather & Mike after they got engaged on our trip to Italy

    I am off to finish up my Friday work day…then ready to enjoy Virginia and birthday celebrations!

Posted in Chicago, Ernie, Food, Friday Fun, friends, life, Races, running, the boys, training, Travel, walter, work travel, Yoga | 3 Comments

What’s Next & Where I’ve Been

After posting multiple times a week for months, it feels weird to just go silent here for weeks on end. I have written some really great blogs in my head during runs or in the pool over the last few weeks and then I get home and just never get the words from my head to my computer screen. But it doesn’t mean I haven’t been training (I have!) and it doesn’t mean there is nothing interesting to share (There is!).

But since all those really witty posts (<–sarcasm) that I have written in my head are now long forgotten, let’s just start with what the heck I am training for.

First up: ITU World Triathlon Chicago (Olympic Distance) on June 29th.

ITU

I registered for this race the day it opened last August because it was relatively cheap (at the time) and I was excited to do a race right in my own front yard. Plus it was advertised as the same course for ITU Age Group World Championships in 2015. So if by some miracle I qualify, I would get a firsthand opportunity to preview the course.

Speaking of the course…they finally posted maps about a month ago. And um, let’s just say that I am less than impressed.

ITU course

For those of you not well-versed in triathlon…that yellow line is the bike course. I spy 3 u-turns and 4 hard corner turns x 4 loops. This country-road {barely} turned city rider, DOES NOT corner well. I am also curious to see how they enforce the USAT no drafting rules on such a tight multi-loop course. My prediction is that it will be a nightmare.

I had also hoped that this would be a potential 10k PR since I was only 30 seconds shy of mine off the bike at Nationals last year, but with 3.5 loops of the run course, I predict it will be a shit show too.

I will go out {and be very careful}, knowing it will be a slow day and use it as a good chance to prepare for the next little race on my schedule…

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I loved this race last year and I am excited to go back to Milwaukee with Char to race it again. It is my goal tri for the summer and I am hoping to finally break 2:20 in the Olympic. Then we plan to break our PR from last year in Milwaukee brewery hopping and cheese curd eating.

It will be a bit of a balancing act training for Nationals while I am also training for my BIG fall goal race.

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I couldn’t be more excited for the Chicago Marathon. I already get butterflies thinking about it. I will be sharing the streets of this city I adore with many friends and I am hoping for a magical (and cool) day. I am also excited to host a few of those friends for the weekend and share in the excitement together.

So where does that leave training now?

Once I finally bounced back from the destruction to my body caused by Boston, I hit the ground running…literally. I took things super easy for about a month, but once my body got over the recovery plateau, I felt fantastic. So great, in fact, that it is a little scary for me to talk about it because I am afraid to jinx myself. Maybe it’s the absence of the brutally cold temps from the winter or the rewards of strength training, but some of the nagging pains that I have had for a few years are nearly non-existent. I feel like I haven’t lost much (if any) fitness through taper and recovery and I was back up to nearly 40-mile weeks at 18-20 weeks out from the race. This is a mileage point that I didn’t hit until 13-14 weeks out from Boston.

That is all good news. But one thing I am trying to be very careful about is not letting my body get too worn down. Like I mentioned, on top of running mileage, I am also swimming and biking and trying to keep up with a little bit of strength. It was overwhelming at the start to say the least, but I think I now have a routine that works and feel like I found a good balance. I think my body has re-adjusted to two-a-days, so the next step is getting the hunger under control!

To add more complexity to this whole thing? I spent the last few weeks in Virginia where I got smacked in the face with heat, humidity and HILLZ. While I thoroughly enjoyed miles and miles of open roads to ride on just out the front door…

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the relentless up and down of those roads was a bit challenging at first. My legs finally started to adjust just in time to have a scary bike mechanical problem that left me stranded on the side of the road with no one within an hour’s drive to pick me up.

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Derailleurs should not be in between wheel spokes.

Luckily a female construction worker and her big truck came to my rescue and now the BMC is at the bike hospital on the transplant list for a new derailleur and hanger. I will be headed back to Virginia later this week so I hope to get the bike back for a few rides before I trek off to Europe for a 2 week business trip. If not, I will at least be working with this view for a few more days.

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and of course enjoying the built in hill work that will no doubt pay off come October in Chicago.

Happy (AND SAFE) running (and swimming/biking) to everyone. I hope to be back sooner than later with more training and life updates!

Posted in bike, Chicago, friends, Goals, Races, running, Strength Training, swimming, the lake, training, Travel, triathlon, work travel | 5 Comments

If I were…

For some reason, since posting my Boston recaps, I just haven’t felt like writing here. I am not sure why, but every time I opened the tab with a post idea, I just didn’t feel like writing. There is no deeper meaning behind it, the words just didn’t come. But that isn’t because there is nothing happening in my training world. Because if I were going to come here and update the world on my training and life in general…there is actually quite a lot to say!

So, if I were going to update you all on what’s happening lately…

  • I would tell you that Boston recovery has been very slow and how after 23 days, I FINALLY had a run where I felt better at the end than at the beginning.
  • I would talk about how I never believed the whole “one day of recovery for every mile” adage, but now I am 100% on board.
  • I would share that triathlon training has begun….slowly.
  • I would have complained here at some point about my inability to check pool schedules before going to swim, resulting in scrapped pool workouts.
  • I would tell you that getting back to swimming after a 7 month hiatus has been quite humbling and that my goal 1600 meter pace is now my 50 yard sprint pace.
  • But I would also share how much fun it is to see progress at the pool and how I look forward to every swim to see what breakthroughs will (or won’t) happen that day.
  • I would be super excited to talk about the 44 mile ride that I did with customers today and how I was over the moon that my bike fitness isn’t as lacking as I thought.
  • I would talk about finally getting the new carbon wheels I got for Christmas put on my bike and how that makes the bike feel like it just rolls on its own.
  • I would share that Brad’s new job has him gone from home and how much I miss him.
  • I would also tell you that we are trying to work it out so I can go with him for some weeks and the anxiety I get about not knowing where I might be from week to week.
  • I would have talked about a short trip to Houston where I got to see my parents briefly, followed by a trip to Canada, where I learned that my Canadian business partners really know how to have a good time.
  • I probably would talk about my upcoming race schedule, what I am training for and how I feel about it all. I might still do that, but not today.
  • I would share that work has been absolutely crazy busy…making up for this winter when things were super slow.
  • I would share that I have had some amazing times with great friends lately, (not limited to, but) including Elizabeth’s trip to Chicago, Chanthana’s birthday, a few bike rides with Char and a stupidly hot/humid run with Jenny.
  • But most importantly, I would tell you that life is good and I am really, really looking forward to all the great things that are coming this summer.
Posted in bike, Chicago, family, friends, Goals, life, Races, running, swimming, training, Travel, triathlon, Weather, work travel | 3 Comments

Boston Marathon Reflections

Outside of the race report itself, I find that the more time I have to think about a race, the more I feel like I can take away from the experience. After 7 marathons, I can definitely say that Boston was by far the most challenging for me.

What Went Right

  • Training. As a whole, I am not sure that training could have gone too much better. Every cycle has highs and lows, but I felt like this training block was right in the middle for the majority of the time. It was a steady progression of improvement leading to what I felt was the most fit I have ever been.
  • The Journey. I have never, ever had so much fun leading up to a race. In the months, days, hours and minutes that led up to the Boston start, I was able to share the process with incredible friends. Some were near and some were further away, but the support and company could not be beat and I feel very very fortunate for that.photo (9)
  • Coaching. Kevin and I both feel like we found a nice sweet spot for training for this race. It was a good relationship between mileage and intensity with a balance of cross and strength training (and weather). We pushed when it was appropriate and backed off when it was the right time. After two cycles with Kevin, I am ecstatic to build on my fitness and the trust that we have developed to see what I can do in the fall.
  • The First Half. Despite already knowing that things were going downhill around the halfway point, I look back at the first half and believe that I ran a smart race. Even with the rollers, I was able to lock into a consistent pace around 7:47-7:56. As I have in my last 3 marathons, I wore only a lap watch and felt good about locking into the upper end of my goal pace. I came through the half right at 1:43 slightly slower than my 1:42:30 target. And crazy enough, that also happens to be the 3rd fastest half marathon I have ever run.
  • Never giving up. After walking the majority of the last 7 miles of my first marathon, I have made it one of my missions to never walk in a marathon. I know that once I allow myself that first walk, it is over for me. Some people can walk and then pick right back up where they left off, but for me, it creates a downward spiral that gets ugly fast. So no matter how slow my shuffle is, I try to do everything I can to keep running. I ran a few 10+ min miles and lots of 9+ min miles during the last 7 miles, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other and that is something I am happy about.

What Went Wrong

  • The Weather. I know many people would say that this is a cop out. And in some ways I even agree, because “control what you can control”, right?! BUT, this entire brutal winter (my first in the Midwest) I half joked that the cruelest joke that Mother Nature could ever play would be to give us warm weather on April 21st. I know this was not the 90* heat of 2012, but for so many of us who hadn’t seen temps above 50* since October, the 60* start was a big challenge.
  • Doing too Much. I mentioned this in my post about the days leading up to the race. I was EXHAUSTED two days out from the race. It was reminiscent of pre-Eugene tiredness and well, that didn’t turn out so well. I know I probably tried to squeeze too much into those days leading up to the race. This is something that I will have to change if I want to do it right in the future. But as far as Boston goes, I have zero regrets.
  • My Stomach. There have been only 2 races in all of my many races of varying distances where I have had to stop because of tummy problems. The first was Eugene (ahem, see above) and the second was Boston. I believe that when my body doesn’t show up to race, this is one of the side effects. The heat may also have been a contributor and the Gatorade (blech) could have been a factor as well. (Although, I took Gatorade in NYC and Houston and didn’t have problems at those races.)
  • Not my Day. We all know that there are good days and bad days in our running lives. All we can ever do is cross our fingers and hope that our good days overlap with big goal races and then battle it out when they don’t. When the body that shows up to run on a race day is the one that is light, airy, fresh and feels no pain, that’s when magic happens. When the body that shows up isn’t there to race, we learn just how tough we are. Last year in Eugene and this year in Boston, for various reasons, I just don’t think my body came to race. I guess that’s just how it goes sometimes.

Lessons Learned

  • Goals must be flexible. I have to give credit to Jenny on this one. She said in her Boston Recap, “Don’t be a silly goose. Readjust your expectations up until the minute the race starts according to the weather.” Looking back, I think I could have run faster (or run a much more joyful 3:41) if I had started 15-20 seconds slower. When it got so warm, so quickly that morning, I should have readjusted my goals.
  • Boston is a Beast. There is a reason that this race is arguably the most famous marathon in the world. It’s significance in the sport is largely driven by the challenging nature of the course. The downhills will wreck you and the placement of the climbs is brutal on trashed legs. I had talked to many, many people and studied course descriptions for hours on end, but nothing could prepare me for the beast that it is. I believe that you absolutely can PR on that course, but it’s definitely something I had to experience before I could truly understand.

Final Thoughts

  • I left it all out there. And if I didn’t, I don’t even want to know how my body would feel if I did. I was sore for well over a week after the race. And when the soreness started to dissipate, it was replaced by what I can only describe as “the aches”. Both of my legs ached so bad a week after the race that I had to take ibuprofen just to sleep comfortably. A typical marathon effort would cause me to be sore for 2-3 days MAX and I have never experienced aches like that.
  • Regret is Ugly. My dad and I had a great conversation after he read my race recap. One of the points that he made that really stuck with me is about regret. He told me that I can’t look back and regret what did or didn’t happen in Boston. He said that I have an amazing memory that I should be proud of and that I can be thankful that I have the opportunity to try again someday. He reminded me that this isn’t like my last college softball season where there is no “do over”, but that I have many, many more races to look forward to. This really helped me get over my disappointment and look forward to what’s next.
  • Boston Do Over. With that being said, the words “Never Again” were among the first out of my mouth after the race. I was wrecked and never wanted to feel like that again. The more my short-term memory takes over and the pain becomes harder to recall, the more I know I will be back in Hopkinton in the future. I don’t think it will be next year (although I do have a qualifier from NYC), but I WILL have my day at Boston.

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    Telling my family I was happy to be done, but NEVER AGAIN.

  • 2013 Reflections. It was hard for me last year when I learned about what happened near the finish line. It was hard for everyone, especially those of you who ran the race that day and passed that area hours and minutes prior. Despite not even being there, it felt so personal. So close. But it hit home more than ever when I digested the thought that MY FAMILY was among those standing in the exact spots this year. It overwhelms my entire being and brings me a kind of guilt that makes me want to crumble into mess on the floor. It also makes me understand terror in a way that I never imagined I could or would. That day was life changing for so many innocent people, and I know that I will never, ever comprehend the agony that the victims have endured over the last year. It’s unjust. I am proud to have been a part of the race that reclaimed at least part of what it means to be at the Boston Marathon finish line…from both sides of the barriers.
Posted in family, friends, Goals, Race reports, Races, running, Strength Training, training, Weather | 7 Comments

Boston Marathon: The Beast

I have so many mixed emotions as I sit down to write this recap. If I had written it last Monday after the race, it probably would have been very different than it will be now that I’ve had some time to reflect on the day. When I finished the race with a time on the clock that was nowhere near what I hoped for, it was important to me that everyone knew that I was NOT disappointed. It was the first thing I said to my parents and Brad when we reunited and it was the among the first things I texted to Coach. I was proud that I never walked. I was proud that I finished in a respectable time (my 3rd best). I was stunned by how the course destroyed me. I was unbelievably happy to be DONE. And most importantly, my heart was full from the amazing support in those 26.2 miles. I have no words that will do justice to the people from Hopkinton to Boston and their enthusiasm for every single person that ran the streets of their towns. It was incredible.

Boston Strong

On the flipside, now that I am removed from my initial reactions and have digested the emotions a bit more, I am disappointed. But not in the way you might expect…Sure, I wanted to run a 3:25 (or better) and in my heart, I know I was fit enough to do that. But I am not as upset with the time on the clock as I am with how I experienced the race: I hate that I am saying this, but I didn’t enjoy a large part of the race. All those spectators…I heard them but acknowledged very few with the smile they deserved. I didn’t fist pump when I got to the top of Heartbreak (I ran to a porta potty). I didn’t feel excitement at the sight of the Citgo sign. I didn’t savor the moment as I took the Right on Hereford and Left on Boylston. All of these things that I wanted to be a part of my first Boston experience, I didn’t embrace. And because of that I feel like I missed out on something really, really special. I feel like I let myself down. So while the time on the clock is important to me (and I will never pretend it isn’t), if I could rewind the day, it wouldn’t be about what to change to get a PR. It would be about what to change to make the experience the BEST that it could be.

With all that being said, let’s get down to the details…

The Race

When I last left off, Lauren and I were walking to the start line. We went the moment they called our corrals, but there was a huge bottleneck to get out of the village. We separated right away because Lauren wanted to jog to the start and I wanted to save every ounce of energy for the time between the start and the finish lines. As I funneled through the masses with tons of people, I looked to my left and immediately saw Asia. We met briefly in Eugene and are social media buddies so it was cool that we ran into each other in the masses of people. We chatted for a bit and then eventually got split up as we made our way to the start. I knew that we were getting close to starting time as I walked down but there were still so many people around me that I wasn’t overly concerned. As I walked into the corrals, my wave had already started so I just kept walking until I hit the start line then I took off!

Miles 1 – 5

  • 7:51
  • 7:47
  • 7:56
  • 7:53
  • 7:56

Missing the actual start wasn’t stressful at all and turned out to be nice because I never had that crowded moment in mile 1 that everyone complains about. It was completely open road right away.

Kevin told me to save all of my emotions for miles 21+ so I did everything I could to not get emotional as I crossed the start line. I was smiling huge because the crowds were already amazing and trying to soak it all in. The words “I am running the Boston Marathon” kept repeating over and over in my head. It was very surreal.

The plan Kevin gave me was to stay between 7:40-50 until Mile 21 then let go. He told me to cruise the downhills in the first 4 miles and not to worry unless I saw a pace under 7:30. My legs felt great from the start and I seemed to just settle right into 7:50ish pace. I didn’t feel like I was holding back or letting go on the downhills, just running nice and easy. I checked in with myself repeatedly in those first few miles and the only thing that was bothering me was my stomach. It wasn’t upset (yet), but I had a sharp gas pain (crazy right?!) from nearly the first step I took. It was manageable, but annoying and I still don’t know what caused it.

Mile 6 – 10

  • 7:50
  • 7:52
  • 7:47
  • 7:49
  • 7:51

Most of these miles are a blur, but I remember feeling really fresh and taking it super easy. The rollers felt easy going up which I thought was a great sign and I just ran on feel, lapping my watch at every mile. I side-fived kids when they were close enough to reach and waved and smiled at the crowds. Also, at some point in this part of the race, the stomach pains became less sharp and eventually went away completely.

I wasn’t thinking much about the heat in the beginning but since it felt super warm and there was very little shade, I knew that if I wanted to survive (and not cramp), I needed to hydrate like crazy. I took a sip of Gatorade and then drank at least one full cup of water at every stop and sometimes on both sides of the road. I think I started dumping a cup of water over my head around mile 10 or so.

Mile 11 – 15

  • 7:56
  • 7:44 <–Wellesley
  • 7:56
  • 8:23 <–Bathroom stop
  • 7:55

Around mile 10 or 11 is when I first started questioning my race. I didn’t feel bad or like I was working too hard, but I just didn’t feel awesome. In my last two marathons, I remember crossing the 10-mile point and thinking that I felt better than I did at the start. In Boston, that definitely wasn’t the case. I stopped wanting to take in the crowds and needed to pull my visor down and focus. This is something that I usually do late in the race (18+) so I knew the fact that I felt the need to do it this early wasn’t good. But I also knew that something as simple as taking a Gu could change my attitude so I tried to push all the negative thoughts out and just stay steady.

I can do this

As I entered Wellesley at mile 12, three really amazing things and one not so great thing happened…

First, I heard the girls screaming and it was awesome. I read as many signs as I could see and laughed out loud repeatedly. It was probably my favorite moment of the whole race. Second, for a brief few minutes, the course was shaded and there was suddenly a cool breeze. It felt unbelievable and I got a huge boost. Third, just past the scream tunnel, a spectator yelled, “AN AMERICAN WON THE RACE!!!”. Everyone around me just looked at each other in disbelief and without thinking I said “Hall?!” (Never imagining that Meb’s 2:08 PR could win Boston). Everyone around me sort of shrugged, but smiled. A couple of minutes later I learned that it was Meb who won and I was ecstatic.

meb

My mom got this shot of Meb checking out his lead at mile 26.

The low I had in this section was that almost out of nowhere, my left quad started to feel tight. It was the first sign that the downhill portion of the course had shredded my legs. It concerned me a little but not as much as when my right quad joined the party shortly after. I knew that this was a really bad sign, but I held out hope that I would still be able to continue to run strong.

focused

To add more distress to my already crumbling confidence, just after the half, my stomach rebelled. I went from thinking “I might have to stop at some point” to “OMG EMERGENCY”. When it hit me, I looked around for a porta potty and saw nothing. I was in a rare section with very few spectators so when I saw a big dumpster on the side of the road, I bolted for it. I felt SO much better, but when I came back out, I expected to see the two people who were standing in front of the dumpster look at me with disgust. Thankfully, neither of them even looked my way and I wondered if they even noticed?!

Mile 16 – 20

  • 7:58
  • 8:15 <– 1st Newton Hill
  • 8:35
  • 8:31
  • 9:23 <–2nd Newton Hill

When I got to the Newton Hills and my legs already felt destroyed, I knew that my sub-3:25 goal was out the window. At that point, I hadn’t yet given up on a PR, but it didn’t take long.

{I will stop for a minute here to say…the Newton hills really aren’t that bad.} 

Despite already feeling a bit rough, I held an 8:15 pace up the first hill. Because of how I felt, I knew things were falling apart, but looking back, I should have been encouraged by that!

There was never a time when in the hills that I felt like it just broke me. It was more of a steady deterioration and when it hurt so bad to run downhill that I couldn’t make up any time, I knew it was over. At some point in this section, I plastered a stupid grin on my face and just kind of laughed at my race. I just kept thinking that the course had absolutely chewed me up and for some reason it was funny (delirious?!). I let go of my hope for a PR and just focused on continuing to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

When I was going up the 2nd Newton Hill I heard someone yell “Corey Parker” and turned and saw Chicago friend (and NYC Marathon buddy), Lynton. It was a really good time to see a familiar face.

Mile 21 – 26.2

  • 10:04 <–Heartbreak
  • 10:23 <–Bathroom Stop #2
  • 9:00 <–2nd (3rd?) wind
  • 9:28
  • 9:54
  • 9:42
  • 1:59 (9:55 avg.)

Heartbreak was long, but the crowds at the top and for the remainder of the race into Boston were incredible. When I got just over the top, I had another OMG EMERGENCY, but fortunately this time I saw a porta potty. There was someone in there (a spectator) but the other two girls waiting let me go ahead. Because I had to wait, it took much longer than the previous stop. It felt like 10 minutes, but in reality I think it was 1:30 max.

scared

5 MORE MILES?! I’m scared.

After the stop and thanks to some declines over the next mile, I got a little boost. I picked up the pace and briefly felt like my head was winning over my protesting body (something I know I need to work on late in marathons). I started to calculate and knew that if I could keep my pace around 8:30 that I could squeeze out a 3:35. Unfortunately this last wind was short lived. I hadn’t been able to stomach another Gu or any more Gatorade so any hope for a final surge was likely unrealistic since I probably was running on fumes with no calories.

looking right

Something over there must have been interesting because I have 3 pics of me looking like this!

The rest of the race was painful. I was exhausted, hot, my quads felt like they would snap at any moment and I just wanted to be done. The crowds were so supportive, but there was nothing even left for them to propel me. I gave a wave and a smile to Danielle when I heard her scream my name around mile 23. I couldn’t believe she spotted me and that I recognized her right away from across the street!

At some point I registered that the Citgo sign was right in front of me and thought how I should be rejoicing, but at that point even one more mile seemed like an eternity. We went down then back up the viaduct and I saw someone collapsed on the road with 5-6 medical people around her. It was scary and I silently hoped that she was okay. I saw more of these type of medical situations in the last 5 miles in Boston than I have ever seen in a marathon.

Then I was finally making the famous right on Hereford.

finally

Shell shocked.

And shortly after…the left on Boylston. The crowds were thick but my eyes were focused left trying to find my parents and Brad in front of Whiskey’s. As usual, Brad and I saw each other at the same time (never fails!) and the whole crew cheered and jumped up and down. It made me so happy to see them. I was so grateful that they spent the entire morning out there, just for that one brief glimpse of me crossing the finish line.

shocked

I can’t believe I made it!

I have never, ever been so happy to see a finish line.

Boston Marathon {#7}: 3:41:45

finish

After I finished, I bent over and put my hands on my knees and just stayed there. An amazing volunteer came and picked me up and walked with me for a few minutes to make sure I was okay. The finish line shuffle was ugly. I was nauseated and my body was wrecked.

I was resistant, but a super, super nice photographer coaxed me to stop and take this picture. It was obviously the happiest I had been all day!

done

 

I ran into Mollie and Stephanie right after that and we chatted for a few minutes before I slooooowly made my way back to the condo. Nearly every person I passed on the street during that walk congratulated me or asked if I was okay (since I stopped a few times thinking I might throw up). The people of Boston are incredible.

reunited

Reuniting with Brad

I will be back with more thoughts about the aftermath, what went right, what went wrong, and what I learned. For now I think it’s important to say that despite it not personally being the day I hoped it would be, April 21st, 2014 was a monumental day for Boston, the BAA and the running community. The race was an undeniable success and Meb’s win made it that much sweeter.

 

 

Posted in family, friends, Goals, Race reports, Races, running, training | 20 Comments

Boston Marathon: The Weekend

I usually don’t like to break my race recaps into multiple posts, but Boston was about so much more than just the race that I want to do justice to the whole experience (without writing a novel in one post!).

Going into the weekend, I was excited, nervous, emotional, anxious and ready. Take all of the emotions that go into a big goal race and multiply them times ten because it was BOSTON and it even more important it was Boston 2014, where the entire world had eyes on the city and the marathon. I am honored to have been able to be a part of such a momentous race and to enjoy the weekend with so many friends and my family. It was definitely an unforgettable experience.

Friday 

Brad and I flew out super early in the morning. Once we arrived and dropped off our bags at the apartment we rented for the weekend, I went for a run along the Charles River. I got my first glimpse at the Citgo sign and my legs finally felt really good, which was a welcome change from the sluggishness I felt all week.

photo 1 (16)

Gray & windy day, but I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face!

Shortly after the run and quick change, my parents arrived and we all went to the expo. Picking up my bib was emotional because the Boston Marathon was a LONG time in the making for me and having my family there made it the perfect experience.

photo 2 (18)

 

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Making sure the shirt fit!

The expo was crazy crowded and kind of exhausting, but I got my jacket (and other Boston goodies!), said hi to a few friends (heeeey Nuun peeps!) and just tried to take it all in. The atmosphere was absolutely electric, the volunteers were amazing and it was obvious how excited everyone was.

After the expo, we went back to the condo to relax a bit before heading to dinner and the Red Sox game. It was cold, but we had a great time! How could I go to Boston and NOT visit Fenway?!

IMG_8202

photo 3 (8)

Saturday 

I woke up exhausted. The early morning flight, late night and being on my feet all day wore me out. We relaxed in the morning before heading to the North End to go to Quincy Market, Fanneuil Hall, the Wharf, etc. It was cool out but beautiful and sunny and we had a really nice time taking in Boston.

We met the Chicago crew for lunch back near the finish line area and it was fun to see everyone and share their excitement!

photo 2 (19)

Photo Cred: Chanthana

After lunch Brad, my parents and I hung out until it was time for our Duck Tour to start. This is something I claimed I would never do in any city, but my cousin lived in Boston for 5 years and swore it was a good idea. And I figured what better way to see the city and stay off my feet, right??

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After the Duck tour (which was actually fun!) I went across the street to meet Molly and Jess, at Copley Plaza for some (decaf) tea and lots of catching up. The time FLEW as we chatted. These are two of my favorite people who are such an inspiration to me and the time with them filled my heart with so much happiness.

photo (8)

Photo credit: Molly

By then it was almost time for dinner {in the same building} so I waited for my parents and Brad to meet me and we ate a nice, carb-filled dinner at Legal Seafoods. Dinner was quick and I was back home in bed by 9. It was an amazing but tiring day after already being exhausted from the day before. Looking back…this is might be a contributor to at least part of what happened Monday, but I am not sure I would change any of it because taking in Boston with my friends and family was a really important part of my experience.

Sunday

I slept until 9 a.m. and woke up refreshed and energized. I relaxed at the apartment in the morning before meeting the Chicago crew for a shake-out run in Cambridge. It would have definitely been easier to run from the apartment to the same place along the Charles, but again, taking this whole experience in with my friends was something that I wouldn’t trade for anything. We had a super easy run and it felt good to work some tension out with a ton of laughter!

photo 1 (17)

This picture was NOT coach approved.

photo 3 (9)

After the run, I finally had a chance to sit down with Kevin to talk race strategy. We had a really great talk and for the first time since I arrived in Boston, I found myself getting really, really excited to run as he walked me through the course and the plan. While the strategy scared me a little, I completely trust Kevin and I truly believed that I was fit enough to execute.

I finally made my way back into the Back Bay Area for lunch, then headed to the apartment for some downtime. Brad went out for beers with Manny, my parents went sightseeing and I had all afternoon to myself to just relax. It was exactly what I needed to try to get focused and mentally prepared for the next day.

That evening we went for another quick dinner and were back home before 9. I got my tail kicked in a few rounds of cards with the fam and finally laid down to try to sleep around 10:45. It was probably the single worst night of sleep I have ever had…totaling maaaybe 3-4 hours max.

Monday – Pre-Race

I was relieved when it was finally time to get up. I got dressed and ate in the dark, while smiling at all of the texts and tweets that were already flying around. The nerves hit me like a ton of bricks that morning and the distraction was more than welcome.

A little after 6, I walked to Molly’s hotel to take a taxi together to the Commons. We easily found Jenny, Chanthana and Lauren and made our way to baggage drop then the buses!

photo 1 (18)

Looking homeless in throwaway clothes at the Commons.

The bus ride was long, but we spent the whole time chatting and it was so.much.fun! I absolutely LOVED being there with some of my best friends…all of whom had run this race before and were able to share bits and pieces of their experiences with me.

Once we arrived at Athletes’ Village, we made our way over to where Kevin and Scott were saving a sunny area for us. The atmosphere in the village was buzzing. Everyone was excited and enjoying the pre-race nervous energy. It was a large contrast to the moment of silence for the 2013 bombing victims where the whole place went quiet. It was very touching and a little sobering. I reminded myself to keep them all in my thoughts throughout the rest of the day.

photo 2 (20)

Despite being cold in the early morning…the temps warmed up FAST.

We got settled and just tried to chill out, but since bathroom lines were growing steadily, we ended up spending a majority of our time there. The second time I went up it took nearly 45 minutes. This is also when I knew it was getting really warm because we were standing in the sun and I was getting hot enough to take off gloves, hat, etc.

A little before 10 a.m., the announcer started calling our waves and it was time to go! Hugs and well wishes all around…and after a little talk off of the ledge from Chanthana, Lauren and I were headed off to our corral.

The Race: Coming soon…

 

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