Running and Exercise Lately

With no races in the next couple of months, my schedule is wide open for whatever I want to do. One thing I’ve really been missing over the past few years when I’ve been working towards qualifying for Boston, is strength training. Unless I was going to workout twice a day, I just didn’t have time to do both with all the running. Now I can.

Three weeks ago, a week after Boston, I started a strength training program. It’s 12 weeks long, but I’m not necessarily making sure I fit all the sessions into a single Monday-Sunday week. I’m loving it so far. I lift 3-4 times/week in addition to my weekly Orangetheory class.

While the program doesn’t always call for cardio, I still throw in a run here and there. Some days I run three miles, some days 5-6. I’ve been trying to keep one weekly long run of 9-10 miles to keep my base pretty strong. I feel heavy and slooooow. I think that my body is hungover for years of training cycles in rapid succession. It’s also getting use to being challenge by weights again. Hopefully the strength training will help me become a stronger runner and it wouldn’t hurt if I looked a bit more toned.

As I mentioned, I signed up for a half in late September. Josh and I are also going to do a half the last weekend in October. That means I don’t need to start training until July or so. A break from prescribed running workouts is so nice. No paces to hit, to distance I have to run. I’ve forgotten what that’s like. This little breather may be just what I needed to not slog through my half marathon training cycle.

Training in Review {Boston Marathon Edition}

Not to beat a dead horse with Boston, Boston, Boston, but this is all a bit therapeutic for me. Honestly, though I’m physically recovered, I don’t know that I’m mentally or emotionally recovered. I worked so hard for that moment, that day, that race, that now that it is over, I feel a sense of loss. Strange?

I won’t lie to you, my running ego took a bit of a hit in Boston. While I never went into the race with a PR as a goal, it was a total blow to run nearly 21 minutes slower than my qualifier. I did not expect that at all. Yes, the course is much more difficult than Lake Wobegon, yes it was 40 degrees warmer without any shade and during the warmest hours of the day, yes those all impact performance.

I keep telling myself that it was a hard day for a lot of runners, but I find myself being jealous of my friends who are running marathons soon and are sure to PR and likely to qualify for Boston. I want those things for them. I’m so excited for them! I’m not a jealous person and find these feelings really unsettling. Running is an individual sport and I certainly don’t compete with anyone but myself. I think it’s just knowing that I don’t have an opportunity to qualify again before September to join them in Boston next year. I thought I’d do it once and not want to do it again, but I really want to. I want to run the race I know I can on that course.

Let’s look back at what worked well leading up to the race.

  1. My body handled the increase in mileage well. I was healthy, other than my silly shoulder, when I got to the starting line.
  2. My eating/carb loading was on point. I had zero stomach issues on race day and plenty of energy.
  3. Fueling also worked well. Honey Stinger gels have worked well for me, without causing GI issues. I ended up taking four gels during the race because I started to get hungry. I was also out there longer than expected. Luckily, I never hit ‘the wall.’
  4. I was well hydrated going into the race which was good because I dehydrated quickly.

Here are some things I want to work on or do differently next time.

  1. Heat conditioning. When I’m doing a race with the potential to be warm, I need to prepare myself. Sure this is easier when I train over the summer, training during winter in Minnesota, is a whole different animal. I’ve been reading on how to acclimate your body to heat even when you live in cool places. Definitely going to work on that next time.
  2. Try out salt tablets or some other sodium replacement. I was sweating profusely for a long time before it suddenly stopped. I think if I had replaced some of the salt I had lost, it may have helped my body regulate itself a bit more.
  3. I think I was trying to out run myself during some of my speed intervals. I don’t know if it was adding more miles to warm-up and cool-down or trying too hard to run at the high end of my paces, but some of those workouts were so hard. When I went back and compared my training paces from Wobegon, I sped them up quite a bit. I’d probably step back to my previous paces until they feel super easy.
  4. Add another easy run. Even if it means just a slow mile or two.
  5. I say this every time, but strength train more. I usually have the opportunity to run or strength train. I choose running obviously. I just started a strength training program which I hope will get me going again. I won’t be able to continue at this level during a training cycle, but will definitely have some moves that I can incorporate to a training plan.
  6. Get my weight in check. I very rarely weigh myself these days. Mostly because I’m afraid of what I’m going to see. It’s not even the number on the scale necessarily, I just feel flabby. My clothes are tight and my old jeans have collected dust because there is no way I can fit into them.

Boston is not the final chapter. I will run another marathon. I actually entered the lottery for London. Knowing that my chances of getting in are slim to none, I’ve started making lists of marathons I’d like to do. Hopefully I will be able to qualify again and have the opportunity to run a better, for me, race performance-wise.

Boston Marathon Part Two {Race Recap}

Even though I set three alarms, I was up well before any of them went off. I was up at 6:15 am, ready to go. I got dressed and just sat around. I ate a single piece of toast while I packed up my other two pieces to eat on the bus ride to Hopkinton. I was abnormally calm considering I was able to leave to run the marathon I’ve worked towards for years. I said goodbye to Josh and went to get on the buses at Boston Common. Looking at the weather, I knew that I wasn’t going to get to run in my optimal conditions. Luckily I had already told myself, this is about the experience, not setting a new PR.

I was able to get on a bus right away which was great. The bus ride was long and hot. So warm that I took off my sweatshirt immediately upon sitting down. I definitely wasn’t going to need it. I choked down my toast as I talked to a guy from LA who had qualified in Chicago, the same year I ran it sick. The ride was about an hour long. When we arrived in Hopkinton, we walked about a quarter mile to the athlete’s village.

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The village was buzzing with runners. I dropped off my sweatshirt in the donation bags, got in line for a porta potty and waited. As soon as I had my turn, I grabbed a bottle of water and got right back in line. I was in the village about 90 minutes before being called to start walking to the start line. I finished my water and headed out. I wished I’d grabbed one more bottle for the walk.

It was almost a mile walk to the start line. Along the way, spectators were offering sunscreen, Vaseline, shots of whiskey and beer. As we got closer, my nerves turned to excitement until I realized I only had about eight minutes to get to my corral. I lead a group of five others through the crowd to get up to our spots in the first corral. I made it with four minutes to spare. Phew. I was sweating already.

After a few announcements, we were sent on our way. I crossed the start line of the Boston Marathon with a gigantic grin on my face. I probably looked ridiculous. I teared up again as I looked around me. I told myself, do not go out too fast. Let people pass you. My goal was to run the first 4-6 miles at an easy pace. I didn’t want to burn myself out on the downhills. I settled in checking my watch every once in a while to make sure I was in the 8:15-8:20 range. I was taking in the spectators and the people running with me. While the first few miles are mainly downhill, there are a few rolling hills. The first 5k flew by. I felt pretty good but I was hot already. There was no shade and the sun was almost directly overhead.

5k split: 25:55 (8:20 min/mile)

Between the 5k and 10k points, I decided I should grab a cup of water from every water stop. While I had water with me, I needed that for my gels and it was pretty warm already. This lead to some congestion and bumped elbows. Just past the six mile marker, the Sixth Mile Experience was bumping. The crowd was amazing, their was music and people on loud speakers. They were so into it and I loved it!

10k split: 51:54 (8:21 min/mile)

With the first six miles under my belt, I started to speed up a little bit. I was finally warmed up and ready to start making up some time before the Newton hills hit. I knew that I was no longer going to speed up substantially because my body was just not responding well to the heat, but I was going to knock a few seconds off. There were some little rolling hills that reminded me of some of the trails I had run during training. I knew once we hit Natick that Wellesley was the next township we would run through. I was looking forward to seeing some fellow Support the Girls affiliates who found out I was running and made a sign to cheer me on.

15k split: 1:17:22 (8:18 min/mile)

Honestly the only thing I remember here is how cute Natick was. I focused on reading signs the spectators were holding. Same favorites included: “Hold onto your uterus!” and “If Trump can try to run the country. You can run this marathon.”

20k split: 1:43:31 (8:19 min/mile)

I was entering Wellesley and getting closer to the “Scream Tunnel.” I was also trying to figure out what I needed to do in order to cool off. I was already drinking one cup of water and dumping some over my head and running through any sprinkler that was on. I was slowing my pace to compensate for the heat, but I was still struggling to bring down my body temperature. I decided I’d try to make it a few more miles before I started walking through water stops if I hadn’t cooled down a bit.

Half split: 1:49:14 (8:19 min/mile)

Just past the half, I was running by hundreds of Wellesley ladies holding their Kiss Me signs. The signs with all the reasons why to kiss them were hilarious. Kiss me…I have no ties to Russia, Kiss me…I’m not a Patriots Fan, etc.

And then I saw my Support the Girls cheer squad with their amazing sign!

I was so excited for their support. It made me perk back up and keep working towards the finish line.

25k split: 2:10:35 (8:24 min/mile)

By mile 16 I was walking through all the water stops. I had stopped sweating which really freaked me out. Training through the winter in Minnesota had not prepared me for 70+ degree weather and direct sun. I knew that I had to do what I had to do to safely get to the finish line. There were medical tents at every mile and each one I passed was full of runners. I tried to just focus on keeping my legs moving and looking forward to seeing my cheer squad in the next few miles. A spectator was handing out ice. I was so excited. I grabbed a handful and put it down my bra. I held onto an ice cube in each hand until they melted. It really helped temporarily. We made our biggest turn thus far on the course at the Newton Fire Station a slight breeze started blowing across me. It felt so good!

30k split: 2:39:40 (8:33 min/mile)-18.6 miles

I’d just passed the 30k mark when Josh called to tell me that they were at mile 19. I was ready to see them. I was almost to the base of Heartbreak Hill when I heard them cheering. I was so excited to see them and just felt so lucky as I ran toward a dozen people schlepping all around the Boston metro area to cheer for me. I was soaking wet after running through water spraying from one of the fire hydrants the fire department had opened.

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Then I did something I’ve never done in a marathon, I stopped and talked to them. I drank some amazing ice cold water and started running again.

Then it was time for Heartbreak Hill. I was so happy when I saw a sign that said “This is the top of Heartbreak Hill.” I knew the biggest hill was now behind me. I also knew that there was another hill right after Heartbreak, regardless of what a few signs said. It was no big deal, though I’m glad I knew it was there and didn’t take me by surprise.

35k split: 3:09:05 (8:41 min/mile)- 21.7 miles

Heartbreak Hill was behind me. I could walk back to Boston under the 6 hour limit if I really needed to. This thought totally crossed my mind as I poured another cup on water over my head and took another gel. I was wishing I had brought some salt tabs with me because I think it may have helped me replace all the salt I had been sweating. Something I needed to think about for warmer races.

I started looking for the Citgo sign. I knew I was going to be able to catch a glimpse of it. That was my sign that I was going to finish this thing. I was almost to Boston! A head wind started picking up as some clouds started moving in. I was so thankful for a bit of shade and even for the head wind because I needed some cool air.

40k split: 3:37:28 (8:44 min/mile)-24.85

Seriously, a foot cramp. Yes, I got a crazy cramp in my left foot. Out of all the aches I worried about, I never thought I’d have a foot cramp. I walked up the final hill just past mile 25 while trying to stretch it out. Once I had that worked out, I started running again. The crowds were amazing. They were helping carry me through. All the sudden I saw the Hereford street sign. I was almost there! I made my right on Hereford, ran the short block up to Boylston, Left on Boylston and I could see the finish line. The streets were PACKED with people cheering. I did everything I could to pick up the pace. I was smiling from ear to ear. I tried to sprint and as I really started pumping my arms, I heard these guys yelling out, go orange shirt go!

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I raised my arms as I ran across the finish line. I had done it. I’d finished the Boston Marathon. I’d achieved a goal I’d been chasing for years. I’d qualified for Boston, trained hard and taken my victory lap. My friend Ashley captured me on video crossing. So cool.

Finish: 3:50:10 (8:47 min/mile)

I didn’t even know what my official time was until almost a week later. I stopped looking at my watch somewhere around mile 18. I pushed stop and save before I even glanced at the screen. I still haven’t looked at my mile splits. I knew I was not going to be as exciting after performing well under my ability. Anyway, once I crossed the finish line, I saw my family. The tears started flowing especially when Ella told me that she was proud of me. I hugged everyone then turned to get my medal.

Lucky for me, my family brought me a change of clothes. I popped over to the changing area and got into dry clothes. After changing, we took a few more pictures before I decided I was ready to head home.

I walked the two miles back to the North End. It actually felt really good. I think it helped delay the onset of post-marathon soreness. First stop, Mike’s Pastry.

A sweet reward, for a hard earned race.

 

Boston Marathon Recap Part I {Expo and the Night Before}

After a mere four hours of sleep, I was wide awake at 6:30 am, anxious to get to the expo so I could hold my bib. With hours to go until that was even a possibility, I got cleaned up, ate my toast and requested my Lyft to the convention center.

As our driver started getting closer to the convention center, I started seeing signs for the marathon, Boston Strong signs and hoards of runners walking around with their celebration jackets on.

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As we pulled up, I could see the finish line about a quarter mile in front of us. Walking into the convention center, I was on the verge of tears. Who had possessed me? I’m not one to get teary over packet pick-up.

We got in line with all the other eager runners and waited for the doors to open.

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Once we were moving, the line went quickly. Before I knew it, I had my bib in hand and a tear on the verge of falling. We snapped some pictures before heading into the actual expo.

I went into the morning thinking I was going to buy all.the.stuff, but the official merchandise area was a zoo. Not wanting to waste energy on fighting the crowds, I grabbed a tank top, beer glass, a couple of Spike stuffed animals for the kids and got out of there.

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After paying for those, I hit the KT Tape booth to have them tape my shoulder. It was pretty achy but once the tape was applied, it actually felt normal-ish. I walked around a bit more and picked up one more t-shirt. I was getting overwhelmed. Suddenly I became fearful that I was going to have a bunch of Boston Marathon stuff and then DNF. What would I do with it all if that happened? I stopped looking for anything else to buy, which I’m a bit bummed about. I should have bought the water bottle I wanted (only available at the expo), the license plate cover and  key chain that I need for my new car keys.

Done with the expo, it was finish line time. There were yellow daffodils in blue foiled pots lining the windows of the businesses all down Boylston.

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The closer we got to the finish line, the more anxious I got. Again I started worrying about having my first DNF. I really had no reason to think I wouldn’t successfully finish the race, but my nerves were getting the best of me.

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We crossed the street and there I was. Standing in front of the finish line I’d be crossing the next day. Of course we took a million pictures. And once again, I was all choked up. Who was this emotional basket case?

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Pictures taken and crowds getting bigger, I was ready to leave. It was nearing 86 degrees. Not wanting to get dehydrated, and getting hungry, we swung by Whole Foods to pick up my bland food to make for my dinner that night. When we got back to the apartment, I ate my safe lunch and took a nap while the rest of the family went to enjoy delicious looking pizza.

A short while later, our friends Ryan and Claire arrived from Providence. We met up with the family and headed for a stroller through Boston Commons and the Public Garden. We even took a ride on a swan boat before walking across the street to Cheers. While I drank more water, we all discussed spectating plans for the race.

Shortly thereafter, we went back to our apartment, I made my sweet potato and pork chop with a side of toast with almond butter and jam. Super exciting. I laid out all my race stuff and pinned my bib to my tank top before sending Josh to get me some melatonin so I could actually fall asleep. Of course the next morning I ended up changing my shirt and having to repin it all over again. I seemed to get it on properly without any trouble the second time around.

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By 10:30 pm I was out…for a few hours. Then I was waking up every two hours, just in case I overslept.

A Week Later

It’s been a week since I crossed the finish line on Boylston. It seems like it’s already been a million years. I’m not sore anymore and am proudly sporting my Boston Marathon gear. I’ve been working on my race recap for days now but it’s just not ready. I feel like I’m not quite getting it. The words aren’t flowing just yet. They will come and so will my recap.

In the past week I’ve let myself recover. I’ve done little activity save for my run Saturday morning with my friends. My legs are no longer sore and the only physical evidence of the marathon are the crazy tan lines I got from my taped shoulder.

To be honest, I’m feeling a bit of post-race blues. With no marathons on my calendar, and no possibility for qualifying again, I’m a bit sad. I need this break from marathons, but it’s hard. I accomplished my ultimate marathon goal. Now what? Will I ever be able to qualify again and run the race in Boston I’d like? Will I ever get to feel that excitement and energy that made that right on Hereford, left on Boylston so incredible?

I registered for a September half marathon. That will give me a few months to relax before I train for that. I just have to make myself actually train for a half with the same enthusiasm I have for marathon training. I’ve also starting looking at races for next spring and fall, even considering entering the lottery for London. I might just for fun to see if I get in. I mean, that would be so fun! Other than that I’m looking for local races, one spring and one fall. We’ll see what happens.

How do you get over the post-race blues?