2018 Ithaca Gorges Half Marathon Race Recap

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Ithaca Gorges Half Marathon – 1:28:29                       2nd Female

This is a long overdue recap because..to be honest...I had a hard time remembering how to recap a half marathon.  I am so used to recapping full marathons where you go through so many different emotions and stages in those 26.2 miles.  I basically use those stages to guide me through my race recaps.

When I first started this recap a couple days after the race it was ..write.delete.repeat.  I eventually just gave up…people probably don’t care too much about a half anyways.  I almost gave up entirely but it kept creeping in my head because let’s be honest, I am proud of it… and at the end of the day, this blog is for me.  It is my personal highlight and lowlight reel.  I use it pump myself up before big races or lift my spirits when I am in the thick of another injury that feels like ‘the worse thing ever’ to remind myself that it too will pass.

So..here we are.  I will do the best I can to try to piece the race together even though there really aren’t that many pieces.  The race was the type of race all runners hope for.  The run just comes out of you, the momentum is strong and the miles pass by at a comfortably uncomfortable pace.

Race Goals – The half marathon distance is probably my favorite distance but once I started doing marathons, I just kind of got sucked into the distance and always seemed to have a race on the calendar….and when there wasn’t a race on the calendar, I probably wanted nothing to do with racing/running and wanted to focus on enjoying the down time and doing well at Crossfit.  This has been an ongoing cycle for 3 years which is why I haven’t truly raced the half distance in that time period .  In those 3 years, I’ve had moments of not wanting to go back to the half because I felt like my 1:26 PR from 2014 was just untouchable and so out of reach.  I’ve also had moments where I wanted so badly to go back to the half just to prove that other part of me wrong.

When I put Ithaca Half on the calendar after coming back from an injury that kept me sidelined for Boston, I wanted this to be my chance to see if I can come close to my old times.   I knew 1:26 was not realistic with only 2 months of training post injury so I set my goal to sub 1:30.  I haven’t gone below 1:30 in over 3 years so despite being almost 4 minutes off my PR, it would still be a huge accomplishment.

Goal 1 – sub 1:30, Goal 2 – Top 3, Goal 3 – stay consistent with my splits.

The race was one that all runners dream to have…well…the second half of the course  and the temperature were not a dream..so maybe it wasn’t a runner’s dream but it was a race where things just came together and stayed together.  As runners, we set all these little goals but at the end of the day, we just want to run our best on that day and hope that it is an accurate reflection of what our best should be based on training.

The Race – As always, I got over excited and went flying off the start line, clocking a 6:24 first mile… eekkk, not part of the plan…pull back ASAP!   In hindsight, it may not have been such an awful way to start because I snagged some confidence from that first mile.  Wow, definitely not what I should have done but DID 6:24 really feel that good.  Now, of course I am sure it wouldn’t have felt good for much longer but I didn’t think that far ahead, I simply pulled back and pocketed that little piece of confidence.

At about mile 1.5, we entered an 8 mile long gravel bike bath.  Leading up to the race, I was nervous about the gravel slowing me down but it actually was perfect because it kept us in the shade for a good portion of the race which was a major plus on a sunny and 80 degree day.

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This picture right here sums up the first 8 miles perfectly – laser focused, tucked in with a pack, and staying calm.

At mile 8, we entered downtown Ithaca and the gravel turned into pavement.  The pavement felt nice, but it didn’t take long for me to miss the gravel and the straight, shaded path.  The sun was MUCH stronger on the road and I didn’t expect all the sharp turns.  Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 8.45.21 AM

For all the times, I looked at the course map, I don’t think I ever really focused in on all those turns!  I felt like a ping-pong ball bouncing back and forth all while trying to maintain momentum.  When I started getting frustrated with all the sharp turns, I just kept telling myself to ‘RESPOND’…I can’t control the course so I need to just respond to each sharp turn.  Bounce back as quick as possible and find my momentum immediately. My watch splits were staying consistent so although I may have been exerting more energy, I was still getting the job done and it wasn’t the time to think about what I COULD be doing if there weren’t so many sharp turns.

At one point, we crossed the Ithaca Farmer’s Market rock-filled parking and it was the first time in the race where I had to slow down because stepping wrong on a sharp rock was a recipe for disaster for either my ankle or the sole of my feet.  Thankfully, that portion was only about a minute but it was definitely my slowest mile.

Another comical part of the race was crossing two suspension bridges.  As I was approaching the bridge, it looked like a nice, solid, wooden bridge. False. The second I stepped on the bridge, it started moving and it felt like my feet were stuck in quicksand. What is happening?!? Thankfully, the bridge was short and probably only 15-15 seconds so it wasn’t a big deal until… oh look another one, Jesus take the wheel.   At least this time, I knew what I was in for so I approached it with caution and just took very short and quick steps to avoid any large movement.

As you can see from the map, mile 11-13 is pretty straight and bless our soul there were no bridges and no rock obstacle course.   My heart, legs and feet were happy…sorta..at this point, fatigue was hitting but I was drawing strength from knowing that all I had to do was hang on and I was going to hit 1:28 or 1:29.  I knew I wanted to go sub 1:30 but I never thought I would be close to 1:28 so naturally, I started thinking, wait, if I pick it up a bit, can I go closer to 1:27?!  That idea kept me fighting hard even if my math was way off and that wasn’t actually realistic.

You know how I complained about all the sharp turns from mile 7-11?  Well, Jesus took the wheel and straightened me out because mile 12 was just one straight road to the finish.  Don’t get me wrong, the straightaway was exactly what I wanted after the 4 mile obstacle course but seeing the finish line for a solid 3/4 of a mile is a major tease.  Does anyone else find themselves closing there eyes when they are kicking it in?  And every time I opened my eyes, I thought the finish line would be RIGHT THERE but I really only moved an inch.  I think the only reason I wear sunglasses is so people don’t think there is something wrong with me when I enter the pain face stage.

Ok, ok..I am sure you all are as anxious for me to wrap this up as I was to reach the finish.

As soon as I crossed and saw that 1:28 on the clock, I was on cloud nine.  FINALLY.  It’s taken3 years to come close close to old times and in those 3 years, I’ve let plenty of negative thoughts creep in. You don’t have that speed anymore.  You should probably just stay away from half.  I can finally put those negative thoughts to rest.  I know I am capable of touching that 1:26 with more training and time.  I don’t have any half marathons on the calendar for the year and will be focusing on marathon training come August, but I am definitely going into training knowing what I am capable of and with the right training.  This was a nice little reminder that I CAN run comfortable 6:45s for  13 miles.  Also a reminder that these paces never really feel good in training and can mess with your confidence but on race day, things really do come together.  Don’t let tough training runs get in your head too much.  Run what you’re supposed to run, ride the struggle bus and move on to the next day.

And one more thing about the day…this cutie won her age group.

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That’s a wrap.  Ithaca, you have always been one of my favorite places to visit but this experience just adds to the many reasons why I love you!

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“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon” Boston 2018

“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon”

-Katherine Switzer

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In an Instagram post from the weekend, I wrote, “What I’ve gained from backing out of Boston is more than I’d gain from running it.”  At the time, that was certainly true, but if I could go back to it now, Id write,  “What I’ve grain from spectating Boston is more than I’d gain from running it”

What I saw yesterday has left me speechless, inspired, motivated and even a little heartbroken from the pain I saw on the face of any runners… Is it possible to have post spectating marathon blues???

I stood on Heartbreak Hill yesterday and was incredibly inspired by everyone’s effort, hard work and determination.  What I saw yesterday will stick with me and be fuel to my fire as my training resumes because it was pure strength and grit.

I witnessed wheelchair racers tirelessly working their way up the hill despite frozen hands.  Each time their hands slipped or they had to change a rim in the middle of the hill, my heart sank.  All I could do was cheer them up the hill and it still never felt good enough.  But they never stopped working their way up Heartbreak even if it was inch by inch.

Soon after the wheelchair racers, the Elites and Wave 1 Runners started passing by.  I saw everything from people crying/ walking to people crying/running to people cramping to people running fearlessly and unphased.  I couldn’t help but feel for those who were chasing down dreams and watching them slip away with each burst of downpour.

I am sure every runner had been told prior to the start “you can’t change the weather so all you can do is take what you’re given and adjust your goals.”  But it is simply not that easy.  You don’t train for months just to simply adjust your goals without having any anger or sadness. And even when you do accept that your goals have been altered, it is still hard to see those Plan B or C paces tick on your watch.

It was clear that some runners were handling the cold way worse than others and unfortunately, it had nothing to do with their training or their mindset.  Some were simply frozen to the core.  Regardless of how the weather hit them, they all displayed an overwhelmingly amount of grit and determination.

I’ve never felt more Boston than I did on the sideline of Heart Break Hill.  Early on in the race, a woman was walking up Heartbreak Hill with goosebump covered legs and a cramped calf.  As I cheered for her, I quietly heard her say something about extra clothing.  Because I didn’t catch the whole sentence, it took me a second to process what she was saying/asking. She was about 10 feet ahead of me by the time I realized that she was asking for spare layers.  I ran to catch up with her and asked if she needed pants.  Her eyes lit up and she was like “ Do you have a pair?”…I ran back to my bag and grabbed an extra pair of dry spandex that I had packed. A couple of spectators and I helped her slide them over her legs, gave her an awkward leg rub and sent her on her way.   I had to laugh when her shivering lips asked for my Venmo account so she could pay me later.  There was no way I was going to have this poor woman try to take down my Venmo account when her mind should be focused on mustering up the energy to make it through the final 6 miles.  I am not saying this to boast about how sweet I am because lets be honest, I am currently recovering/coming back from an injury all while trying to graduate in May…translation: I have been the most selfish human this past month.

I say this because THIS IS BOSTON. This is just one small act among MANY that happened on Marathon Mondays.  These kind acts are not thought out or planned, they happen organically because that is what the marathon and Boston is all about.

I saw a woman walking and sobbing her way up Heartbreak Hill.  A random man came up behind her, put his hand on her shoulder, said a few words and kept running.  Within seconds, her walk became a jog and I’m sure the man will never know how much of an impact his words had.

We all know by now about the sportsmanship Des Linden displayed when she slowed her pace to help Shalane get back into the pack after a bathroom break.  None of these things are part of the plan, but even in the most competitive moments, they happen because at the end of the day, everyone is out there fighting the same 26.2 fight.

When the race was over and emotions settled, people continued to be inspiring in the way they handled their performance.  Some people had personal bests and some had personal worsts but I have yet to see or hear a single person complain or show signs of defeat.  It was physically and mentally exhausting but people were taking pride in their fight and that truly is all that matters.

For all the runners out there – when the marathon emotions really start settling, and you start to get hard on yourself and your performance, please remember that these are the races that will fuel you in your future races.  It may not have been the PR you had hoped for but the next time you chase your PR, you will be mentally stronger and ready because of Boston 2018.  Des says it perfectly #keepshowingup

 

Winter Training Update and New Goals

Hello! Wow it has been a while since I wrote a post!  I figured today would be a good day to pop in and give everyone a little life update since it is a snow day…and was my first run in two weeks!

In my last blog post, I mentioned that I had registered for Boston after debating whether I wanted to go back to marathons.  I wrote, “I ran my bucket list marathons in 2017 and I want 2018 to be more focused and goal oriented.  No more just running for fun to prove that I can simply because I lost confidence in my ability after my injury.”  I knew that if I was going to push myself to a new marathon PR and focus on running fearlessly and out of my comfort zone, hiring a coach would be in my best interest.  The idea of being coached was still very unsettling. I had convinced myself in 2017 that I am simply ‘not coachable’ and being coached just results in an injury rather than a PR.

I forced myself to sit down and reflect on why I felt that I am not coachable….and it was pretty evident that ‘being coached’ doesn’t make me injured.  It is the person I become when I am coached that makes me injured.  I lose my voice and my ability to listen to my gut/body when I am being coach.  I look at my training plan and my desire to please others just takes over.  I want to do everything written on plan perfectly simply so I can make my coach proud.  In the process of trying to be the perfect athlete, I ignore the one thing I should cherish the most…my mind and body.  THAT is the reason why I get injured.

My 2018 goals are all about running fearlessly and mental/personal growth so I decided that hiring a coach would be a good step in learning how to let go of trying to be the perfect athlete and learning how to speak up for myself .  I have been eyeing Mat Nark from Nark Running Strategies for a while because he coaches some amazing ladies that I see on Instagram, incorporates strength in marathon training and is located fairly close to me in Albany NY.  I reached out to him and within a few hours, I had committed with him.  What really sealed the deal was how he didn’t judge me when I told him how I train for marathons and that my peak mileage for marathons hovers around 35-40 miles.  He assured me that he would take that into consideration but asked if I would be willing to slowly increase as we got deeper into training.  I was willing to make those adjustments so long as they were done carefully and he was willing to accommodate my style of training…it felt right! And despite this little setback, it HAS been right.

January and February had a good mix of easy long runs, ‘Wednesday Workouts’, recovery runs and variable pace long runs.  Despite having a pretty nasty head cold for a couple weeks in February, I felt myself getting stronger and fitter by the day.  When I saw my first 45 mile week in January, my heart skipped a beat and fear started to set in. Was I ready? Is this smart? I reminded myself that this was the perfect time to work on speaking up for myself and not being afraid to simply ask clarifying questions.  I need to learn to let go of the idea that ‘asking questions’ is rude or a sign that you don’t trust the person.  It is actually comical because I am also the person asking my physical therapist or school professor a million questions because I am just a curious person and love to pick people’s brains about anything and everything.  But when it comes to a running coach, I clam up and don’t want to look like I don’t trust their knowledge or process.  Moral of the story, I asked about the jump in mileage and was given a great explanation and was told that if it felt too much then adjustments could be made.  It was a good reminder that at the end of the day, he will respect my feelings but also pushes me to step out of my comfort zone.  I ended up tackling the 45 miles and it was actually one of my favorite weeks of training.

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Fast forward a couple weeks to my first 20 miler.  I felt ready to tackle the distance and had company for the second half of the run.  The cold and rain was bearable for the first 14 miles but by mile 17, I freezing and ready for those final 3 miles to be over.  Aside from the cold, my body felt fine and there was really nothing I could complain about.  My hip/groin tightened up after I finished but that is pretty normal after a long run.  I had my usual 6 mile recovery run planned the next day.  Recovery runs are probably my least favorite because 1.) I never run slow enough so I basically never hit my paces #fail and 2.) They HURT after a long run.  In prior training cycles, I never ran after a long run and just stuck to yoga so these recovery runs are new to me.  My mental game is tested more in these runs than any other run.  When my legs feel like trash, I remind myself over and over again that these are the moments where I grow.

In hindsight, I think I trained my mind to deal with the pain of recovery runs so well that when my body was ACTUALLY giving me signals to stop…I just ignored them. My hip was having NONE of that recovery run and it was clear that it needed a couple days off from running.  I pushed my Wednesday workout of 7 x 1k to Thursday (yes, I spoke up and listened to my gut!…AND my coach didn’t think less of me! …this is actually a big step for me! haha) The workout got done and went surprisingly well.  My hip didn’t bother me too much but  on Friday’s recovery run (of course), it was relentless. My coach and I adjusted my Sunday long run to an easy 8 and it felt decent.

I left for Disney on Tuesday and was back on track with all my runs.  The runs in Florida weren’t painful but they weren’t comfortable either…runs in the sun are my favorite so I loved every second of the runs even in the discomfort.

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I really wasn’t sure how everything was going to unfold in the long run (no pun intended). I was relieved that I could still run but was scared of the path I was on.   In the back of my mind, I knew this was going to go one of two ways…the minor groin injury would work itself out on its own and my training could ramp back up OR it was all going to blow up in my face and leave me sidelined.

Well….Disney Princess Half Marathon…you were fun but you didn’t grace me with your magic and miracles.  The pain during the race wasn’t unbearable but I had a feeling the adrenaline was masking some of it.  At mile 12, my lovely pacer/elite runner/friend/brother’s girlfriend Whitney, was telling me to push to finish.  I don’t remember being in a ton of pain but I do remember being exhausted and telling myself, “Mel this may be your last race for a while so you better finish strong and not let up“…I can’t help but think that was my body’s way of telling my mind that I did some damage.

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My only accomplishment of the day was making it on the @RunDisney Instagram page.

The idea of a cool down was frightening and when I started to move my legs in a jogging motion, it was clear it was not going to happen.  Later that day we walked around Disney and I actually felt decent but once we got back to the hotel I was in a ton of pain.  I had to head to airport in an hour and spent that hour on the hotel floor icing.  I limped around the airport and when I finally sat down at my gate and processed everything, my emotions took over.  I was disappointed with my run, I was in a ton of pain and I knew that this great Boston training was coming to a stand still.  I let myself be sad (yes, in the middle of the airport) but I promised myself I wouldn’t handle it the way I handled last year’s injury.  I will not be miserable for 3 months and I will not let this leave me heart broken.

The week after Disney was filled with a lot of doctor’s appointments and workouts that did not cause pain.  It took a couple days to stop limping and within a week, there was really nothing other than jumping and running that caused pain.  I feared that the injury was possibly a stress fracture so I didn’t try to run until I discussed my MRI with the doctor.  I mentally prepared myself for the worst and promised myself that I would be OK with whatever the outcome was.

While I played the waiting game, I was certainly bummed but I wasn’t unhappy.  This was a huge step in my mental game and I shocked myself with how well I handled this setback.  I cross trained smart and focused on the activities that I could do rather than on what I couldn’t.  I started to be happy simply because I was proud of how I was handling it all.  When people said that lovely line, “are you dying now that you can’t run.”…I simply responded, “No I am not.  It is part of the sport.”

So where am I at now?  Well it is not a stress fracture so the doctor is sticking with an adductor/groin strain.  I attempted a pretty uncomfortable 1 mile on Friday and today I did my first run/walk interval.  5 minutes of running and 1 minute of walking for 3 miles on the treadmill.  I am still not pain-free but taking it day by day.

I made the decision to not run Boston this year and the moment I committed to that decision, a weight was lifted and I just felt free.  I will still aqua jog, bike and strength train but I don’t feel the pressure of cross-training to make up for an important training run.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”

Fighting through an injury to make it to the start line of Boston and showing up underprepared is not the path I want to take in 2018.  I took that path in 2017 and I don’t regret that choice because that race taught me that I am capable of getting back up after being knocked down.  I did well in Boston last year but this time around I am not looking to do well. I want to find a level of marathon fitness that I haven’t discovered yet and if that means staying patient and riding the setbacks out then that is exactly what I will do!

I still want to attempt a Spring marathon and attempt a PR so as of now, the plan is to run Grandma’s Marathon in Minnesota in June.  It is a race that has always interested me and my brother will be racing it this Spring.  My brother is one of my biggest running inspirations and the last time we raced the same marathon was the Boston Marathon in 2015.  He was first American, I set a pretty nice PR and our parents and Whitney were at the finish line.  It was a memorable race and when I think about reliving that experience at Grandma’s Marathon, I get super excited and I know I am making the right decision.

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Lets hope our running skills on June 16th are a little better than our swimming skills here.

A Look Back at 2017!

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“HERE WE GO 2017! Embrace the good times and let the bad times run their course so you can be a better and stronger athlete and person!”

This was the closing line of  my 2016 recap and it is frightening how this single line perfectly sums up 2017.  I DID embrace every single good moment there were a lot of them, I DID let the bad times run their course at times I thought the course was never ending and the combination of lows and highs made me a more humbled, reflective and stronger person than I was a year ago when I over-zealously wrote my 2016 recap about all my new PRs.

A year ago I was writing my 2016 recap while nursing a minor knee/IT band injury.  I remember being discouraged and upset but I was not prepared for what the rest of January had in store for me.  January sucked. 

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My knee injury manifested into a hip injury which then led to a mild labral tear diagnosis..a diagnosis that I let tear me down and defeat me.  I fought hard through Boston training (with the help of 4 prolotherapy injections) but mentally, I was the weakest I have ever been in a training cycle.  I felt limited and defined by the diagnosis and could not seem to get it out of my head.  In hindsight, I truly believe much of the discomfort was more in my head than in my hip.

The only time my mind felt at peace while running was halfway through the Boston Marathon when I was finally able to say to myself for the first time in 2017…“I AM GOING TO CROSS THE BOSTON FINISH LINE..I CAN FINALLY STOP WORRYING”.

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My body felt strong and pain free and my heart felt so happy. I was finally here and doing well.  Every single run before Boston was a worry-fest.  I overanalyzed every run, every ache and the constant obsession of how my body felt was more mentally exhausting than physically.

On the bus ride home from Boston I just starred out the window trying to process the last 4 months.  How do you have 4 months worth of frustrating runs (as short as 2 miles) and then a great 26.2 miles?? I didn’t have the answers but the one thing that kept coming up was that maybe my own fears were what held me back.

I was still registered for Big Sur for the Boston2Big Sur Challenge but held off buying my flight until after Boston.  Honestly, I stopped thinking about Big Sur altogether and convinced myself that there was no way I could make it happen.  Well 42 hours after Boston, I was sitting in my parents’ kitchen with legs that felt pretty good and a mindset that was ready to stop letting fear win so my mom and I bought the damn tickets to California 11 days before the race.

I bought a Momentum bracelet in preparation for the race that said “Limitations only exist if you let them” and wore it the entire time I was in California.  I needed the constant reminder anytime my mind started to wander toward that negative place.  Big Sur was probably the most uncomfortable marathon and my legs were still pretty trashed from Boston but it still managed to make its way to the top of my marathon list!

 

I took time off after Big Sur to reset.  When I started back up again at the end of May, I was only doing short runs, daily strength training and more yoga.  I spent most of May and June just doing the things I love.  I raced shorter distances and had zero structure in my training.

July was an awkward month where I wanted to keep doing my own thing but also knew that if I was going to race Chicago, I needed to start adding more structure to my training.  I let the process happen organically and just added a longer warm up and cool down to my Thursday night 5ks and tacked on some additional Sunday miles.

August rolled around and training was amping up.  I used some of the creativity that I had in July for my August long runs.  I found local Sunday 5ks that I would run to, race and then run home or do a cool down with someone I knew at the race  This definitely made the long runs more fun and the mid-run 5k was a good reminder that my legs have the ability to speed up at mile 16 when given the chance.

At the end of August, I met with a hip specialist in Boston who focused on female athletes.   My hip wasn’t bothering me, but I still needed answers and closure to my injury.  She did a lot of movement tests, looked at my MRI and asked questions.  She said that labral tears are very common in females and many women are walking around with a labral tear and have absolutely no pain or are totally unaware of it.  Basically, just because it shows up on a MRI does not mean that it JUST happened or is the root cause of hip discomfort.  She said,  “If you were able to run two marathons in two weeks without pain, I don’t think this was a result of the minor labral tear in your MRI.”…I needed this.  I had very little hip discomfort going into the appointment so she couldn’t pinpoint exactly what my issue was in January was but we narrowed it down to maybe a small muscle pull or tendonitis. It may not seem like I left the appointment with much but mentally, I left with the closure I needed. 

September was the highest mileage week of the year.  My training for Chicago had peaked and was starting to calm down.  The race was getting close and the nerves were picking up but I knew this training cycle was very solid and my confidence was where it needed to be.

The 31 days in October can/will be summed up in two days…Chicago Marathon weekend.

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As I reflect on that weekend, I can’t help but smile.  I was a completely different person than I was during Boston Marathon weekend..I was confident and fearless.  Instead of being scared of race day pain, I was welcoming it.  I knew I would feel pain because I was ready and willing to push the boundaries to see what I was capable of doing.  I really felt like I was in PR shape and I STILL feel like I was in PR shape.  Unfortunately, I left Chicago with sun-kissed skin rather than a PR.  There were a couple days after the race where I would get down and frustrated with the outcome and the weather.  I found myself saying “damn you 2017 why are you out to get me”…but 2017 wasn’t out to get me.  It was just making me work a little harder.  It’s prepping me to be a better athlete in the long term. 

I kicked off November with the New York City Marathon!

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I would say that NYC marathons was THE BEST but I feel like I have said that after every marathon in 2017.  So this will be my segue into reflecting on 2017 and the year of 4 incredible marathons that, according to all my past race recaps, were all the best.

I do not recommend running 4 marathons in a year, especially when the year started off with a month-long injury.  There were many moments in 2017 where I said to myself, “GIRL WHAT ARE YOU DOING!”…but..right or wrong…I would do it all over again.  Those 4 weekends were some of the best weekends of the year and I covered 104.8 miles on foot through the streets of Boston, Big Sur, Chicago and NYC. I shared the road with some of my favorite Instagram friends and I learned so much about myself in the final the 24 miles that made up the last 6 of each one of those marathons.

I don’t regret my choice to run 4 marathons at all but sometimes I think I ran them as a BIG FU to my January. I ran them to prove to myself that I could.  I ran them to prove to others that I could.  I ran them because I could and I remember when I was stuck in a pool because I couldn’t. In my constant attempt to prove that I could, I sometimes outran my love of running.

When December rolled around, the thought of training for Boston caused my face to scrunch up in utter disgust.  I told myself that I would start training when I felt ready and if I never felt ready then I would drop Boston and push training back to my fall marathon (California International Marathon in December).  I ran my bucket list marathons in 2017 and I want 2018 to be more focused and goal oriented.  No more just running for fun to prove that I can simply because I lost confidence in my ability after my injury.

I am still pretty undecided but that itch and fire to train again is coming back.  The other day I chose to go do mile repeats in 10 degrees for no reason…that may be a sign.  If I chose to begin training soon, I want to tackle this cycle differently.  I want to set short term goals that will eventually lead me to Boston.  I don’t want to eat, sleep and breathe Boston for the next 4 months.  I want to focus on smaller races/goals and gradually build up with the ultimate goal of having a successful marathon performance.

Thank you 2017 for proving to me that success isn’t linear and life doesn’t always go as planned but that doesn’t mean it still can’t be worthwhile and wonderful.  There were moments that felt like rock bottom running related and due to the loss of a very special person and it was hard not to say WHY ME in those moments.  But I always eventually discovered the why.  Because I may have needed a reminder to stop and cherish the people I do have.  I needed to learn when to be patient and when to be resilient.  I needed to learn when to be selfish and when to be selfless.   I needed a year of learning and thankfully (I can say that now), that is exactly what I got.  I am packing up and taking all the lessons learned in 2017 with me into 2018 and putting them to use!

2018…let’s do this! You have nothing to prove…just be fearless, be confident and dream big

“Make your vision be so clear that your dreams become irrelevant.”

2017 New York City Marathon Race Recap

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Pure Happiness

I was on the fence about running the New York City marathon after Chicago but I went with it.. shocker…I just couldn’t turn down a Friday evening with a best friend from college who I haven’t seen for far too long and a 26.2 block party through New York City.

I posted on Facebook about my decision (or lack there of )and received a variety of responses but one in particular stood out…”Do what makes you happy.”….Running through the streets of beautiful cities makes me happy.  Traveling for races makes me happy.  Connecting with friends from Instagram makes me happy.  Catching up with old friends makes me happy. Running makes me happy.  The smile in the picture says it all.  Pure and genuine happiness and gratitude.

Over the past couple of months, I have been thinking about different goals and the directions I want to head as 2018 approaches.  I wanted to run NYC as a way of closing this marathon chapter (for now) with a bucket list race.

Race Weekend

I stayed with my friend from college on Friday night and did a Saturday morning shakeout run around Rye, New York while she went to grab us bagels and smoothies because she is the absolute best.  We dropped my car off at the train station and she drove me right into the city.  I hated saying goodbye because I could spend forever catching up with her and because I was not ready to tackle this giant city by myself! 

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The first thing I had to do at the expo was get my transportation to the start line figured out because I just assumed I could casually walk to Bryant park and jump on the bus like it was no big thing.  Nope.  I guess with 50,000 runners, it is more organized than that.  The lady at the runner support desk was amazing and assured me that I was not the only lunatic to mess this up.  She also commented on my predicted time..I think I put 3:10. I quickly and humbly replied that I must have been in a good/confident mood when I filled that out because that was not going to happen.  I mentioned that I was still recovering from Chicago.  She was so excited because she is currently deciding between Chicago and NYC next fall and her goal is to get a PR so she wanted to know which course would help her get that PR so we exchanged contact info so I could report back to her. (I told her Chicago if anyone else in the same boat!)

Race Morning

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A 4:45 wake-up for a 9:50 race is always scary because you have to figure out fueling and you have 5 lovely hours to spend with your nerves.  I brought a bag and had all intentions of checking it but was running late when I arrived to the athletes village so had to ditch it on the lawn.  RIP my wonderful Gap sweats, my chapstick and my $4 Erin Condren black pen…whoever ends up with my bag, please know that you have an amazing pen for grading papers and the most fashionable pair of sweatpants!

When I travel for big races, I don’t worry too much about getting to the start line because I know the second I walk out of the hotel, there are crowds of people walking in the same direction… and only on race morning is it 100% normal to fully trust strangers at 5am.  Well, NYC marathon is different…know where you are going because you can’t trust strangers.  People are staying ALL OVER THE CITY and taking different forms of transportation (bus, Uber, ferry) so there are not a ton of crowds walking in the same direction.

The bus line was VERY LONG…and the bus ride was even LONGER…GO TO THE BATHROOM BEFORE YOU GET ON.  It is comical now thinking about all 30 of us sitting on the bus trying to keep our composure but are dying on inside because we have to pee so bad. The athletes village was within a quarter mile of us for a good 45 minutes but we couldn’t get off the bus until we were right in front of the drop off. Brutal. Now picture all 30 people sprinting off the bus… some rushing right to bag check so they could get to the bathroom sooner… and some throwing their dignity and class out the window and sprinting to any bush they could find.   I won’t tell you what group I was in but if you know me well enough you don’t have to think too hard.  READ: bathroom > dignity

By the time I got through bag check, it was already 8:45.  I had my bagel and banana on the bus around 6:45 and was hungry again so I jogged over to the athletes village, snagged a bagel from the Dunkin Donuts booth and shoved it in my mouth as I made my way to my corral for the last call.  Yes. Last call was at 9 for a 9:50 start.  We sat in our corral for about 15 minutes before we had to walk to the start line.  I met a ton of great women and we filled the time by creating a female barricade so we could all go to the bathroom one last time before the race went off. #girlpower #menhaveitsoeasy #thebeautyofrunning

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The gun finally went off and it was time to see what the next 3 hours had in store for me.  The race started off with a climb over the Verrazano Bridge. Based on all the blogs I read, a big piece of advice was to NOT go out too hard on the climb…and trust me I didn’t. I took my sweet time and just got comfortable with the pace.  The first mile ticked away at 8:27.   I was a bit shocked and thought to myself, I am either going to negative split the heck out of the race or I am going to rock a personal worst.  Mile 2 was 7:16 and now confirmed that neither of those two options were going to happen.  And that right there is pretty symbolic of how the entire race went.  I would have thoughts like ‘oh no! my calf feels tight and it is still early on’ and then 10 minutes later I totally forgot about it.  But of ALL the concerns I had, my left hamstring was NEVER one of them.  YupTHE HAMSTRING THAT ALMOST KEPT ME OUT OF THE RACE WAS NEVER 1 OF THE 4593 CONCERNS THAT CROSSED MY MIND OVER 26.2 MILES.  I sure am happy it was never a real issue but it really makes me question my sanity!

I stayed pretty consistent around the 7:30s and felt stronger than I had anticipated.  The first 10k passed by quickly and I really settled in and found a solid groove.  Whenever I had moments of doubt or negative thoughts creep in, I just told myself to make it to mile 16 where my parents were located.  It was the best mental strategy because rather than counting down from 26.2, I counted down from mile 16 and it was much more manageable.  I hit mile 16, ran down the Queensboro Bridge, rounded the corner onto First Ave and immediately saw them.  It lit me up and gave me so much energy!

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The next benchmark in the race was mile 19 because I knew I had a friend cheering on the Brooklyn Bridge.  She is just an Instagram friend but I knew she would be cheering her head off and her bubbly personality would be just what I needed…and sure enough, it was. I used her energy to power me through 19.  The infamous mile 20 approached and this is where things always get interesting.  This is where people randomly grab their cramped up leg or their face turns to pure agony rather than the usual mile 20 struggle face. After 9 marathons, you would think I’d be used to this part but I am not…it always breaks my heart even though I know they are fine and just experiencing a cramp.

I certainly wasn’t hitting the wall but my legs were getting that weird feeling like they could cramp at any point but were also still willing to grind out the final 6 miles.  I had to keep reminding myself that this is where it is SUPPOSED to hurt.  This where you embrace it, you keep fighting and like Deena Kastor said on a podcast I listened to the night before the race, this is where you DEFINE YOURSELF.  

We headed toward Central Park at mile 23 and although the end felt so close, there were still 3 more miles.  Mile 24 was definitely the most challenging mile with the gradual incline but my mental game was pretty strong because I knew my legs would hold up and I just needed to be able to fight through the pain.  I crossed at 3:22:22 and although it was slower than I had anticipated, I was so happy!   I got a little choked up because the day was just perfect.  Strong running, perfect weather and I really embraced every moment on there.

I had about 2 seconds to celebrate by myself before I realized that I had no idea where my parents were or how far away I was from my hotel and checkout was in an hour…even after spending $50 for late checkout!

Only in NYC do you JOG back to your hotel after a marathon.  City of nonstop rushing.  Thankfully, the front desk gave me an extra 30 minutes so I had the luxury of taking a shower while my parents questioned how they birthed such a messy human helped clean my room and pack my stuff.

We made it out with 15 minutes to spare and stopped for a celebratory meal and mimosa on our way to Grand Central.

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Fact – mimosas taste better after a marathon

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\So now what…

9 marathons completed over last 3 years, 3 of the World Majors and 4 in 2017.  There are so many more I would love to do but it is time to take a break from the distance.  The training is the easy part.  The maintenance, the recovery and the stress are the hardest parts.  I am proud of my accomplishments this year but there is no doubt that I have hit a plateau.  I could blame the heat in all my goal races this year but I am not going down that route.  The truth is, I have become a timid and fearful runner.  It may be due to the injury in the winter or the fact that the marathon is a slower and more conservative race.  It is a long distance and the idea of not finishing is always a possibility.  Before the marathon, I was very competitive in the half marathon distance.  I would still get those pre-race nerves but was never fearful of failing.  I want to go back to those those shorter distances where I trained hard but didn’t worry too much about mileage.  I pushed myself in all my workouts whether is be running workouts or strength training.  I wasn’t  worrying/training cautiously because of a 20 miler coming up or some big long run.  The 13-14 mile long runs were manageable and allowed me to be a faster and more diverse runner.  Plain and simple…I didn’t worry as much and that allowed me to push myself to become stronger and faster without getting minor injuries/setbacks.

I don’t have any concrete goals for the rest of 2017 or 2018 but I do want to find that fire and speed again.  To be completely honest, I think I’ve lingered around the marathon distance for so long because it is easier for me.  It sounds crazy but it is true.  The pain in a marathon is not nearly as painful as the pain in a 5k, 10k or half.  Yes, I am aware that this probably means I am not running it properly or hard enough but I will fine tune those things later down the road.  Right now, I want to have fun with my training, build strength and find some of the speed that I have lost.  Having a blank schedule and training plain and no upcoming races is the most refreshing feeling at the moment!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

To Run or Not to Run – NYC Marathon

I was scrolling through the internet looking for a picture that captures the current relationship between my legs and my brain.

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Yup.

Legs –  “PLEASE! NO MORE MARATHONS IN 2017. “

Mind – “OH BUT IT IS NYC MARATHON! YOU CAN’T TURN THIS DOWN!”

..also Mind – “Be smart!!!

…anddd also Mind – “Ugh that line so irritating. What IS smart.”

If you couldn’t tell from the snippet of inner dialogue that is nonstop over here, the decision to run NYC was not as easy as deciding to run Big Sur.  I have gone back and forth everyday since Chicago.  Just when I accepted the idea that NYC may not be in the cards for this year because recovery has been rough…I had a pretty good run that changed my entire mindset.  

The rough recovery after Chicago started almost immediately.  I was nauseous all afternoon after the race and my back and feet were killing.  The soreness in my legs hadn’t started yet but my back was immediately jacked up to the point where any sneeze, cough or burp would result in the most horrific/ugly pain face in public.

I continued to use my Normatec boots after walking around the city and was hoping to wake up with decent legs. Nope. My quads were destroyed.  We had an early flight and were home by 10am so I attempted a trip to the grocery store.

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This child and I had very similar experiences.

I spent the week foam rolling, getting deep tissue massages and just hoping and wishing for the soreness to be gone.  I wasn’t sore for very long after Boston and Big Sur so by day 4 of soreness I was like WHAT IS GOING ON!

I attempted a light strength training session on Saturday and felt confident that Sunday would be the day I attempt my first short run.  I slept in and was taking my sweet time making it out the door…until my Mom called asking me to bring something to the race that she was timing.  Naturally, my first reaction was, I might as well just jump into the 5k seeing as I will be there, it is supporting a great cause and my shakeout run was only going to be 3 miles anyway.  I headed to the start line and made my way to the back with all the young kids.  Do my legs remember how to do this???

In the first 5 minutes, I could feel that high hamstring ache that I thought I had put to rest back in September.  I ignored it because I pretty much knew this run wasn’t going to be pleasant from the second I put my sneakers on and because this ache has reared its annoying face many times before.  I finished that race and knew that my legs were not ready for more running yet so the following week I swam and did strength classes at Train for Life.  I tried out the new hybrid strength class for the first time on the Monday after the race.  It was not one of my best decisions because the soreness set in almost instantly.  The knots in my quads and hamstrings that I had spent the previous week working out had knotted back up.  Such a vicious cycle…..but I did like the class!!

Long story short, I tried to run a couple more times in the following week and they were all very slow and uncomfortable.  I went into the third week post Chicago ready to take NYC off the table.  I had set Tuesday’s run as the deciding factor but my legs were tired before I even got out the door from heavy strength sessions over the weekend.  Even though my heart was telling me to just call it, I gave myself ONE more attempt.  I took Wednesday completely off to give my tired legs some extra recovery and made Thursday’s run the real test.  I woke up Thursday to pouring rain which made me laugh at how much of a sign this all was.  I felt like the signs were SCREAMING at me and I was like ..

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I set out in the rain just waiting for it to feel terrible.  I was at the point where it seemed easier to have a crappy run, pull out from the race and move on. Simple as that. No more stress. But to my surprise – actually I am not surprised that everything became more complicated – the run was enjoyable and I felt pretty strong and bada** running in the rain.

Don’t get me wrong, I was ecstatic to finally feel a little like myself again, but this meant that NYC was now fair game after spending a good amount of time wrapping my head around my decision to bail on it.

My optimism for NYC grew more on Sunday after a solid 9 mile run along the Cape Cod Marathon course while my friend ran her FIRST MARATHON!  The run felt pretty good and I had minimal ache in my high hamstring after.  I ran another few miles this past week and it felt even better than all my other decent runs.  The race is 3 days away and as of now, I am following my usual taper week schedule, still have my hotel room booked and my travel plans are becoming more detailed and concrete.  But if you were to ask me if I am running NYC, I am likely to respond, “Ohhhhh I dunnoooooo.”  I am pretty sure you could text me the morning of the race as I am heading to start line and my response will be the same.  I am not indecisive at all. No way. Not me.

I am a pretty superstitious person which makes blogging before a race very nerve-racking.   I am always afraid I am going to jinx myself the second I post it.  This post has been sitting in my drafts since Monday.  SO…I am going to end this blog post saying that I am excited, nervous and happy for what is in store for whatever I do this weekend.  I want to explore New York City on foot, feel the amazing energy from the crowd and meet up with college friends.  I have zero expectations and just hope to have a solid marathon.  NYC has always been on my bucket list for years and I was fortunate enough to have run a half marathon time in 2016 that guaranteed me a number for 2017 NYC Marathon.   I do not have a 2018 guaranteed entry time so I will not be eligible for NYC next year.

This opportunity is something I can’t seem to pass up.   I have spent the last few weeks really listening to my body and listening to the signs it has been giving.  I have been trying to decipher between typical tired marathon legs and a brewing injury.  Not an easy task EVER but especially difficult now because I am simultaneously tapering…and we all know taper pains are vicious and real/not actually real.  I did my best to take care of myself and ditch any running ‘plan’ after Chicago so I could focus on recovery.  Prepared or not, we all go into races blind and unsure of how it is going to unfold so here is to another race where all I can do is hope for the best!

It has been 3 great years focusing on the marathon and falling in love with the distance but I think 2018 will be a year of shorter distances and different goals.  I look back at some of my 10k and half marathon PRs and can’t fathom cranking out those times.  I want to prove to myself in 2018 that those times are possible again.  I can’t think of a better way to close put a bookmark in this marathon chapter of my running career than on the streets of New York City.

…but I am registered for Boston 2018 so if I DO follow through with that then disregard that last paragraph 😉

 

Mobility Monday

I can’t help but start this post with an ECard that is quite possibly the most inaccurate description of myself…

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If you know me or coach at any of the gyms that I train at, you KNOW and either hate or admire (thankfully my current wonderful coaches are the latter)  that I spend an obnoxious amount of time stretching, twisting my body in all sorts of disturbing shapes and jamming lacrosse balls in every crevice of my body.  I like to think that I look like some graceful yogi on the cover of Yoga Journal..

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But then I take picture of myself…

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…and laugh at how far off my vision is from reality.

Over the summer, I contemplated starting weekly ‘Mobility Monday’ blog posts that touched on mobility and recovery.  Each week would focus on a specific recovery tool or mobility movements that target specific body parts.  I am not a professional with this stuff but my list of daily stretches (from yoga moves to PT stretches) is a mile long and I have enough recovery tools to start my own physical therapy business out of our guest bedroom.

I didn’t end up going through with the Mobility Monday idea because I feared I would get too busy and wouldn’t be able to keep up with the Monday blog posts and because I am not a professional haha.  But here I am on a Monday wanting to get a blog post up so I might as well tap into my drafts and post a little Mobility Monday.

“Started from the bottom now we here” 

I doubt Drake was talking about foot care, but he has got a point!  It all starts in OUR feet.  Tight calves? Tight Hamstrings?…the tightness could be contributed to tight feet!

For being intelligent and hard working individuals – runners have a tendency to put blinders on and fixate on the exact spot they feel an ache or pain when in reality, it all may stem from other areas.

We explode off our feet over hundreds of times in a run yet the second we hit the foam roller we gravitate toward the hammies, IT band and quads.  Don’t get me wrong, those are all super important areas to take care of but DON’T NEGLECT THE FEET.

Now some of you may be saying, “Well I don’t have plantar fasciitis so why do I need to put myself through the agony of a stiff lacrosse ball rolling over my tender feet?” …well, releasing your feet is far more than preventing/rehabing plantar fasciitis.  Stimulating your feet releases and stimulates other areas of the body.   

If you are not familiar with reflexology, it is the idea that one part of the body relates to another part of the body.  Reflex points on your hands, feet, face and ears are points on the body that correspond to different body organs and systems.  Applying pressure to various reflex points can have many beneficial impacts on overall health and tightness. (all learned from being an annoying acunpunture patient that doesn’t relax and just asks a ton of questions)

I will not dig too far into the research but if you have ever been to or talked to an experienced acupuncturist, you will notice that they don’t take all their needles and simply stick them into you hamstring just because you tell them you have a tight hamstring.  You will often find needles in and around your feet, hand and wrist as well as other meridians that are associated with your specific complaint.

I will admit, when I first went to my acupuncturist for some high hamstring pain a year ago, I was a bit annoyed that he didn’t poke my high hamstring with a ton of needles. There is that intense runner personality and stubbornness.  However, I vividly remember him placing a needle in a area between my ankle and foot and all of a sudden, there was this pressure in my glute area. It was eye opening to see the relationship.  I had to pick his brain after the appointment because this idea of channels and meridians was so intriguing and would shed some light on recovery and other steps for taking care of my body aside from being glued to a foam roller.

So now that you have a general sense of how important the feet are, lets talk about how we can stretch and release them.  Before I start, let me throw a quick pro and con at you.  The PRO – it is fairly easy and can be done while your brushing your teeth, watching TV or simply having a conversation in the kitchen.  The CON – it is not the most comfortable feeling in the world…hehe (blog version of a devilish laugh).

Toe Squat – Tuck your toes and just sit back onto your heals.  Try to hold this for 2-3 minutes.  It will definitely take time to train your feet to make it through 2-3 minutes and some days are more challenging then others.  Take breaks in those 2-3 minutes by rolling onto the tops of your feet.

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Lacrosse/Tennis/Acumobility Ball – I just roll a lacrosse ball or Acumobility ball (in photos) all over my feet and focus on tender areas and the arches.  I used a racquetball to do this in a Yin Yoga class and the instructor told the class to pretend the ball was a crayon and you were drawing all over the bottom of your feet.  It seemed like a strange analogy but it actually does make perfect sense.

I can assure you that the feeling is as glamorous as my post marathon feet.

Well that is all I got for Mobility Monday! I have no real education on this topic.  I am just a girl that attempts to be graceful in yoga but my runner hips don’t lie so I watch YouTube/Instagram mobility videos and pick the brains of different professionals that do work on me 🙂

Get your mobility game on!  In an attempt to get my tired Chicago legs ready for NYC, I need all the mobility I can get!