Chicago Marathon 3:05:34

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This bracelet tried to completely fall apart several times, I was able to put it back together with a safety pin, it held together for the race but only barely. This was my body.

Greed is the enemy of the marathon; the marathon requires a humble approach, a put your head down and work hard kind of attitude. It’s a good fit for my personality most of the time. I’m happy to grind out long training weeks and cram in as many miles as possible, keep my easy runs easy and do all the extra little things – extra mileage, extra recovery. But this time I got greedy following the Bronx 10 Miler; less than 2 weeks to race day.

Race week is usually calm for me, I don’t get particularly nervous about more than just not catching a cold. But I was terrified. The Sunday before, I attempted my last long run and had to stop several times to stretch, my back hurt, and I could feel that my glutes weren’t activating. On Monday, I woke up sore, my legs were not feeling good. I couldn’t tell if my body was hungover from the deep tissue massage or if I was truly wrecked; I also couldn’t tell if I should continue to massage it or back off and hope for the best.

I gave making it to the start line in one piece , it would take a miracle and a half but I was going to throw everything at it. I threw a hail mary and bought a Hypevolt, I took Aleeve to help reduce the inflammation and kept massaging, I ate anti-inflammatory and healing foods, I stretched regularly. Throughout the week, I continued to feel sore and none of my runs felt good. It wasn’t taper tantrums or phantom pains, I over did it and I was paying for it.

img_4331I was still a bit sore when I got off the plane on Friday so I went straight to my hotel to relax a bit and figure out a game plan for the day. I stretched out a bit, used the Hypervolt, ate, shopped then headed the expo. I was nervously excited but starting to feel a bit better. I met up with a friend and had a good time walking around, buying a few things then heading back to relax.

My hotel had a bath tub so I opted to make full use of it to help relax my muscles. I decided to stay in and rest instead of going out to dinner with friends that night. I was exhausted after getting up at 4:30 AM to catch a flight so I napped and took a second bath while waiting for Joe to get in. We got a late dinner nearby and I went to bed early after another massage.

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Saturday I woke up feeling a bit better, especially knowing I had the whole day to focus on just preparing for the race. We did a quick shakeout with friends before we separated so he could finish his long run. I got coffee with a friend and we had a long conversation about everything from stomach issues with running to pumpkin spice. There are some people that just have a way of taking your mind off of feeling anxious and she’s one of those people so I was glad to hang out for as long as possible.

img_4374Afterwards I jogged over to the bean, saw the finish line then did a bit of last minute prep at Target. I realized, while on the plane, that I had forgotten my pumpkin spice clif bars. Everyone has their weird pre-race tradition and this was mine. Target had exactly one box left and that was when I knew it would maybe work out.

Race morning, I got up at 5 AM to start getting ready. The Starbucks downstairs didn’t open until 5:30 which made me a little nervous knowing I’d only have 40 min to drink the coffee and be able to let it work its (💩) magic and then hope that’s enough time pre-race to take Imodium. I wasn’t able to let my stomach hijack another 1:23 off of my marathon this time.

98686f57-a9a6-4621-8cc5-89b7a8920f22I left my hotel around 6:15, feeling a bit anxious about getting to the start on time and with plenty of time to check my bag, warm up and use the port-a-potty again. Joe and I walked to the start which took a little over 20 minutes. I was glad to have someone to nervously ramble at.

I got to the security line with about 40 minutes to the start of the race. I was cutting it a little close but walking there had warmed me up a bit. I changed shoes quickly, checked my bag then jogged to the corrals. I was able to get in a couple of strides and figured that was good enough, I wanted to have time to hit the port-a-potty again and not get stuck at the back of the corral.

I hopped in around 7:15 and wormed my way up to something that looked to be in between 3:10 and 3:05. I wasn’t 100% sure of how my body was going to hold up. You can’t put a bandaid on a bullet hole in the marathon, it will strip it down and reveal every weakness. I felt mentally apathetic from the get go but I let the marathon excitement carry me. I did not feel optimistic, I did not feel hopeful nor did I feel particularly bad.

We walked to the starting line, and in the words of Kanye, “the only thing that I pray is that my feet don’t fail me now”. I had a game plan, roughly 22 min 5Ks; speed up around mile 19 if feeling good. I settled in quickly with my first mile coming in at 7:08 and lining up decently with the mile marker. I came up to the first 5k right on pace and felt good about that, but still wasn’t entirely feeling it mentally. Around 40 minutes in, I hit my first mental rough patch where I just was tired. Knowing I was about to take a gel soon, I focused on that. It had caffeine, it would perk me up a bit.

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Around this time I ran into a friend and we ended up running a lot of the race together since our goals were similar. At the 15k mark, I was feeling okay enough though my left foot had started to hurt and my legs didn’t feel sprightly. I felt anxious for the moment when the other shoe would drop, anticipation of that moment weighed heavily on me. I knew I could probably still manage a small PR even with a blow up but it would be miles away from what I was capable of.

11 miles in we hit a headwind and my knee began to ache. I tried to focus on anything but the pain, telling myself it’d loosen up. The crowds pulled me through and I focused on them. I had come through the 11 mile mark in 77 minutes so I was still right on pace and I wasn’t about to let that go to waste. I marched on.

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At the halfway point I saw Joe out of the corner of my eye and was briefly happy again. I crossed through in 1:31:48. At mile 14 I began to feel terrible, and was in the dark place again. I was still on pace but fully started to understand what other runners call “fighting for it”. I was fighting, I was full of fear and loathing. I feared when the shoe would drop and my glute would give out, I loathed how I was feeling. I fought through it for the next couple of miles when I got to mile 16 I felt good again, briefly. I was coming up on getting to take the heavy dose of caffeine and I was fully looking forward to it. At mile 17, my mind went back to a dark place. My GPS had fully malfunctioned just after half way and I couldn’t quite figure out the mental math anymore – all of my mental energy had gone to keeping pace. I knew in 4 miles I would get to see Joe again but that seemed too far away.

I fought every mental demon possible, my knee was throbbing but I pushed my mind to another place. I thought of how hard I had worked since mile 1. I didn’t come this far, and go through this much pain to fade now. I started counting down in miles, a dangerous activity this early in the marathon.

We came up on more headwind and I felt fatigued. We hit mile 19 and I began to think of how I felt at this point in the marathon last time. I was so happy and feeling great, I tried to channel that energy here. Mile 20 felt okay but it was still years away from seeing Joe again and a lifetime away from the finish.

img_4389Mile 21 came, I scanned the crowd and threw on a smile so Joe could get some good pictures of me for “the ‘gram”. I saw him and swung over to the side to wave. It temporarily helped me keep it together but I was starting to hit a mental wall. I had slowed a bit to this point (a few seconds, so nothing to fret about) and I began calculating how slow I could still run and hit certain times. This provided a lot of relief, but did nothing for helping me keep up. My body was fatigued from pushing against the wind and my mind was slipping from trying to stay out of a dark place.

I was working so hard, I didn’t have much left to give and I could feel myself continuing to slow. I hit a mental wall as we approached mile 24; and when I clocked a 7:15 I felt discouraged. I was working so so hard. We hit 24 a few minutes later (my watch off a bit from earlier) but at least the mental math was finally easy again. 3:05 was still within reach but I could not afford to slow down. This was a kick but despite the effort I was throwing in, I could only manage 7:15 and then 7:21 for the next 2 miles.

With a ~3/4 of a mile to go, I knew I was going to make it. I kicked and kicked, I gave everything I had – we came up to the mountain that is the infamous finish line hill, the only real hill in the whole race. I didn’t think much of it except that I need to run hard. I saw a slight downhill past the hill and powered to it, knowing that was my time to kick it in. I wasn’t soaking up the energy or the crowds or even the excitement, I was emptying out the last bits of me that I had left. I saw the finish line, threw my arms up and tried to smile but I didn’t even have that left to give. I clocked a 6:48 pace for that last three-quarters, paused my Garmin then my body seized up and I could barely manage a waddle.

I finished in a state of shock and I don’t remember much else. I was in pain, a lot of pain. I had thrown a few hail marys and haphazardly stitched my body back together to make it to the start. I grabbed a beer to put another bandaid over the gaping bullet hole I had just created so I could get to my bag of warm clothes maybe just a bit quicker.

My mind carried me much further than my legs were able to. And at the end of the race, it was never about the time on the clock, it was about pouring out every last drop I poured in; pushing myself further and faster and feeling proud about the effort. I took up residency in a mental dark place for most of the race, but I pushed past it, I kept chugging along. In more ideal conditions, I could’ve run faster but it’d be a shame to dwell on that when I learned how to push past pain and discomfort, mental fatigue and that truly dark place everyone who has had a bad race has been in.

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Bronx 10 Miler – Legs Are Feeling Good

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I was on the fence for this one. Being two weeks out from a marathon, racing is maybe not the smartest idea and I hadn’t done much speed work since it’s summer and summer + speed work isn’t my thing. I sweat too much and overheat to quickly for that. On the other hand, this was the best opportunity for me to try to move up a corral since its a longer race and on a flatter course.

Despite being at the tail end of a 75 mile week, legs were feeling good; sprightly even. I clocked 6:45 for the first mile and was shocked at how easy that felt, I decided to go with it and see how long I could hold on. I ran fairly even splits for the first half and realized that if I could negative split even slightly, I’d move up corrals.

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I usually despise out and back courses, but this one was fun — I loved seeing everyone on the other side! Around mile 7, I started doing mental math and realized I could actually slow down and still hit the time I needed if I started to not feel well; and a part of me was not feeling well – the heat was starting to make me a little nauseated.

Having started fairly far back meant that I was passing people the entire way, so I shifted my mindset from running a particular pace to catching people. Mile 8, I started to do more mental math and realized I could potentially go under 67 minutes if I kept it up, it would be close but I could do it.

Mile 9, I started to fade slightly – I think it was my stomach forcing me to slow a bit and I knew if I got a side stitch there’s no way I’d be able to hold on. Despite grabbing water at every stop and gatorade plus water as some, I was a bit dehydrated due to having a very high sweat rate. Towards the end of mile 9 something lit a fire, I don’t know if it was more mental math or trying to reel in other people.

Mile 10 – 6:03; I was on fire. Legs were still feeling good and I was ready to completely empty the tank if possible. I ran hard and with no awareness of how fast I was going and at no point was I wondering when it was going to be over – I was (somewhat unfortunately) ready to keep going and keep hammering down. I crossed in 66:36 and felt fantastic, but was bummed this wasn’t a half and knowing that I could have mostly kept up that pace.

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It was the confidence boost that I needed going into Chicago and helped me pick a marathon pace that was both challenging but reasonable. I felt that the Brooklyn Half was far too long ago to make any fitness assumptions off of and the summer left me unable to do much speed work. This was how a race should feel, conservative as you settle in, hard as you fight to hold on and hammer down the pace then emptying the tank with no concern over pace. I felt great and there wasn’t a better way to head into the taper than with a bit of a confidence boost.

Friday, Gear-Yay!

I love running shoes. I never really loved shoes until I got into running. Then I REALLY got into shoes. Trying to find the just right shoe can be challenging, and involves a lot of trial and error. A good shoe sale makes it easier. I’m almost always looking at or looking for running shoes. Mostly looking for deals on ones I love, but also looking for new ones to love.

Around Memorial Day is one of the BEST times to shop, especially for running shoes. Memorial Day ushers in a lot of sales and the start of summer means new releases for most brands and sales on old inventory.

Here’s a few gems I’ve found lately:

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Nike Pegasus Turbo: $90-$120, depending on size and color

Why I love these: They’re soft, bouncy and have the Pegasus upper that I love. These do well on workouts and long runs, but I know people who also like them for recovery days due to how soft they are. I liked them so much, I bought a second pair. These can also be worn for races as they’re pretty lightweight. Most people go with a true “racing” shoe over these, but they’re very comfortable without being clunky.

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Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit: $75-$110, link is men’s but women’s is on sale too and can be easily searched on their site!

Why I love these: Lightweight, durable, not quite the 4% but has a similar feel. These make for a great fast day training shoe or even some long runs. I’ve used them for runs up to 23 miles and they felt as fine as you could expect a shoe to feel at that point. At a market value of $160, the $75 is quite a steal!

Nike Pegasus 35: $90

Why I love these: Great workhorse, everyday shoe. These can handle a lot of mileage AND are fashionable enough to wear out which will save valuable packing space on your next trip. (I know, running shoes are for running only but I don’t have unlimited space in my carry-on so I tend to use my workhorse daily running shoes to walk around in.)

New Balance 1400v6: $70

These I don’t have personal experience with, but if you’re a New Balance fan looking for a racing shoe these are worth a look or test trial (JackRabbit has a great return policy). They’re ~6 oz so you won’t be weighed down, but I’ve seen them worn for marathons and halfs so they have enough cushioning for distance (but this is obviously a personal preference and should be tested!)

Not Shoe Related–

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Recovery Miles = ❤️

Garmin Forerunner 235: $250

Why I love it: This was my intro to fancy running watches. Previously I was rocking a hand-me-down Garmin or Apple Watch. Neither were particularly bad, but not great for the runner looking to analyze and improve their performance. This watch has all the fancy things you need (workouts, lap features, HR monitor) but none of the extra things that drive the price up. I love mine and have zero desire to replace it until the Forerunner 645 (same capabilities + music) comes down in price. Bonus! This is a massive discount from what I paid for mine a year ago.

HyperIce Vibrating Foam Roller: $200

Not on sale, but worth a plug anyways. Foam rolling is pain and difficult. This makes it easier and is more effective. I use mine almost daily and definitely notice a difference. It is best for the hamstrings, calves, glutes and IT Band. You can use it elsewhere, it just works exceptionally well for these muscles. I’ve had multiple hamstring issues, so I know how important it is to keep them loose – it’s not a muscle you want to mess around with.

What is your favorite running gear? What are your favorite places to look for deals?

 

 

 

5,396 Seconds | Brooklyn Half 2019

It was a bold move to say I wanted more after the New Jersey half. Brooklyn and New Jersey were exactly 20 days apart and New Jersey was a respectable sized PR, on a flat course, with beautiful weather. Who was I to say, I can do it again and better despite hills and heat?

My splits for New Jersey were damn near perfect, I have a metronome like consistency. I had one slower mile due to a pit stop but other than that, I saw no room to shave off time. There was nowhere that I faltered or slowed or bonked; I had run my strongest race.

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I buckled down and reminded myself that I was entitled to nothing. Just work hard for the sake of working hard; it would pay off in someway, somehow, sometime.

The Training:

The week after New Jersey was peak week. Navigating this was tricky, but I knew with easy miles and “tempo” efforts, I’d be doing the best mix of intensity and volume possible without getting hurt. Tuesday I did a longer hill workout with some faster miles mixed in where I was feeling good (aka the downhills and then a little stretch in between bridges), then Thursday I did a shorter but more intense track workout. I skipped the 6 mile threshold run, attempted to move it to Saturday but by the time I got out to run it was far too hot so I split up the mileage slowed the pace a bit. I finished the longest training run I’d ever done for a half while cheering on my friends running the 5k. Four days of training later it was time to taper.

I haven’t tapered for a half, ever. This gave me a bit of confidence that I could chip off some time from my recent PR. My legs would be fresh for once.

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Pre-race I focused on eating healthy fats and eating ALL of the beet things

The taper:

The taper was rough. I went out for my dress rehearsal on Tuesday and it was a massive blow to my confidence. I barely managed a mile and a half at the pace I wanted to run a whole 13.1 miles at and it was a struggle. The proceeding half mile was even harder but the strides felt strong. I wasn’t sure what to think. I wasn’t sure if I needed to scrap my goal or what. Wednesday was a short, easy run; completely unmemorable. Thursday, I rested and Friday I did a hot hot hot shake out run in the middle of the day with a few strides.

Pre-Race:

img_0058Wednesday my mom flew in, she was also running but as a fun run. After work we went to the expo to grab our bibs, take a few photos and then get dinner with Joe. The expo was small and crowded but the location was amazing and I appreciate them removing all temptation for me to put extra steps on my feet. As per usual, my last best pace with NYRR was not my actual last best pace so with a recent race result I was able to be moved up a corral. This was super easy to do and I very much appreciated that they did this; now I was in the corral with a pacer for my moonshot goal time. I grabbed a pace band, I’m not sure why I felt so bold as to grab the 1:30 band but I did.

After enjoying the breeze off the river and views for a bit we headed out to dinner then home to sleep. I got up early, had coffee then off to work. After work we hung out at a patio on the river, got dinner then went home. I sat in the compression boots until I almost fell asleep.

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Thursday night I was excited to get some quality sleep pre-race and have zero things to do the day before.

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After a shake out, we attempted to get our nails done (apparently you need an appointment to do this on a Friday), decided that was not going to happen so we went to a boat bar on the river to kill some time before dinner.

This was the best choice and I want to make it a pre-race ritual to go there. Sitting on the deck with the boat gently rocking and in the sunshine was relaxing and a great way to de-stress. We got home around 7-7:30 and I spent the next 3 hours rolling out, relaxing, and getting my stuff together. I wasn’t worried that I wouldn’t be getting to bed fairly late since I knew I wouldn’t sleep much anyways. I spent about half an hour scrolling through my Instagram feed then shut it off and fell asleep.

Race Day:

I woke up frequently which I expected but I got 10 hours of sleep the night before so I felt fine. I had coffee plus a clif bar and rolled out a little. We left in an Uber for Brooklyn around 5 and got to the start around 5:30 AM. Knowing race day weather was looking quite toasty for racing, I hydrated a lot prior to race day and that morning. I got out of the car once we got close to the start and made a bee line for where I assumed there would be port-a-potties. I had hydrated a LOT. There were none before security/the starting corrals and I wasn’t ready to ditch my bag yet so I hunted down a semi-secluded tree.

I managed to find Joe and my mom again near the bag check, I changed shoes, grabbed my bag of food, gels, and biofreeze and checked my larger bag.

img_0104We went through security and we were in the corral area area by 6 AM-ish. We wanted to find a place to warm up but there was no room on the other side of the security area. I went straight for the porta potty; the coffee finally had kicked in. Afterwards I took half a dose of Imodium and sat on the curb with Joe for a bit. They had water just outside the corrals so I continued to hydrate. I finished munching on the cereal I brought and we attempted to warm up outside the corral a bit. There was not enough space for it and it was a little frustrating. I estimate that we got in about a mile in total. We hopped back in the porta potty lines and then squished up to the front as much as possible. By this point they had collapsed the corrals and I lost sight of the 1:30 pacer. I managed to squeeze up to the front a little further in my search for an open porta potty again. I had hydrated maybe a bit too much.

I started the race knowing I would have to make a quick pit stop. It wasn’t worth starting late and having to dodge too many people or not hydrating more given the temps. I spent around 20 seconds stopped between running over the porta potty and jumping back into the race. I also was in such a hurry that I didn’t quite get my shorts up before dashing out. Oh well, it saved 5 seconds.

I pushed a bit too hard trying to catch back up, my watch read 6:00-6:05 for longer than it should. I quickly reigned myself back in to reality. I had almost caught up to the pack from where I dropped off. Catching up took a lot of energy and once we entered the park and began climbing the hills, I could feel it. I could also feel the heat and humidity setting in a bit. I knew I’d need to grab water at every stop and even though this broke my pace a bit and required exerting a bit extra effort, had I not I would have bonked from the heat. I alternated Gatorade and water, being conscious of not taking in too much sugar to avoid any stomach cramping.

img_0179The first 5 miles really zoomed by. I couldn’t believe we were nearing the halfway point, the last and worst hill but also the last hill. This hill was rough. I focused on keeping pace with other people and not my watch. The girls around me looked competitive and so I assumed, correctly, that they’d be making efforts to hold on strong. As we exited the park, I saw a couple of friends and shouted out to them when they called my name. Seeing people I know always makes me so happy and gives me a massive boost. This was my fastest mile and it felt the best.

At this point I knew we were entering Ocean Parkway. Everyone complains about this section, it’s exposed, lonely and boring. It’s also flat so it was very welcome. There was a small incline, a good downhill and then we were on the steady stretch. Holding a steady and even pace is my strong suit. I am an absolute metronome and once I settle into a pace – I can and will hold it.

I started counting down the avenue blocks as check in points, every few letters I’d check in on my pace and how I was feeling. If I was feeling good, I’d reel in someone in front of me otherwise I’d focus on my form and maintaining what I was doing. At one point I felt like sub-90 was completely out and I decided I’d be fine with a New York City Marathon qualifying time but once I got to the 15k mark, I redid the math in my head and realized it was definitely not out of the question and I just needed to stay strong.

I kept counting down the avenues, I knew that once we got to Z we weren’t done, but we were in the home stretch and my friends were nearby at the cheer station! By mile 11 I was feeling amazing, I knew that the time I wanted was very much in reach and seeing them was that final boost I needed to keep it up.

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Around mile 12, I was fading a little but the energy here was incredible. I saw the Strava final mile sign. I had clocked a 6:28 on a downhill mile earlier in the race so I knew this wasn’t really possible but I could maybe beat my 6:36 last mile from NJ. I focused on reeling people in. Once a pace felt comfortable, I pushed it a little more.

We turned a corner and I saw 800m to go. The first thing I did was check my watch. My best ever 800m was a 2:58 and not at the end of a half. I needed 3:30 or less to hit my goal. 3:15 was reasonable given some of my previous workouts and factoring in adrenaline.

By 400m I was feeling fired up, but so was my stomach. Either the heat or Gatorade was getting to me and I started to cough up a bit like I was going to lose my lunch so I did some quick mental math and reigned it in a bit.

At 200m, I don’t remember much except that I floored it. I knew my goal was within striking distance. I crossed the line in 1:29:46.

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Somehow in the past 7 months, I’ve taken 11 minutes off of my half time. I worked hard through the winter, kept showing up, did whatever I could and had zero expectations. A lot of the workouts I did intimidated me or made me feel nervous about not being able to do them but at least trying made a difference. There was no special or fancy diet (though I did eat a LOT of beets, olives, hummus and nuts). Maybe one day I’ll cut back on my sugar intake but probably not any time soon.

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New Jersey Half Marathon Recap

1:31:13. 2:23 PR. New York City Marathon Qualifier.

In my usual fashion, I signed up for this race 1 day in advance. That tends to be when I do best. I’ve been doing the training since mid-January, and had logged 700 year to date miles leading up to NJ, so it wasn’t that crazy of a spur of the moment decision.

Despite the lack of taper (53 miles the week before 😱), I was feeling good enough, the weather was perfect, my friends were there and even though it runs a smidge long, it’s a GREAT course. And, unlike bigger races, you get to self-seed which meant I could line up with the pacer I needed versus dodging people.

Before races I’m usually anti-social. Joe and I usually get our own hotel and do our own pre-race dinner. For New Jersey we stayed in a beach house with 15 people, went to the expo with a packed car, did our shake out run with half a dozen people and loaded up a couple of cars to go eat dinner. Way outside my pre-race norm.

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Why didn’t I do this every time? Before some races, it’s nice to have my own headspace but it’s also really nice to have friends there.

Saturday morning we slept in hung out a bit before doing our shakeout then headed to the expo. It was a smaller expo which was good since I usually walk around them and I was needing to save my feet and legs any extra expenditures. They had an area with free printed photos of you with your bib and race magnets. A+ on this one, New Jersey. The expo was on the beach and it was tempting to go walk around but we had a lot to get done before dinner and I needed to save my feet.

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I dropped Joe off to finish his run then headed to the grocery store. This time around I tried a different diet strategy, lots of nuts, olives, beets and hummus leading up to the race. I read a Runner’s World article about the benefits of a Mediterranean diet on performance. I love these foods so it was a nice excuse to eat them!

Pre-race, I never, never, never share my goals. Usually Joe might know (not always – last marathon he didn’t even know I was training for one), but otherwise I keep them to myself. I even shut down my Strava or at least hide my workouts in the few weeks before a race. I have a lot of doubts about what I’ll be able to do and I’m one of the least confident people out there. But no one, literally no one, cares if I fail at my goal and no one is going to laugh at me for trying – we’ve all failed before.

Before dinner I went outside to enjoy the nice ocean air and had a really good conversation with one of my friends who asked what my goals were, I decided I didn’t care and I would just be honest, “I want to qualify for New York”. I said it several times. Something about saying it out loud was a relief. I knew I could it, I had practiced that pace, over and over and over. I memorized it and learned to feel comfortable with it.

Finding a spot for dinner was tough. Most places didn’t take reservations and we had a group of 10. Thankfully after a few phone calls we found a great place and I had my usually pre-race pasta.

After dinner I hung out downstairs for a bit. Massaging my achy calves and getting in a few last minute carbs, aka more beets.

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Around 10 I laid out my flat runner and went to bed. Knowing I wouldn’t sleep much, I spent some time scrolling through Instagram looking at puppies, something mindless and happy to help me sleep.

I got around 4 hours of sleep before the race and woke up at 5 AM, ready to go. Joe, who should win a Nobel Peace Prize for this, also woke up at 5 AM and went downstairs to make me coffee.

Most of the house was awake at this time and downstairs eating breakfast, stretching and having coffee. I went with my usual clif bar and coffee breakfast and packed a bagel to munch on for the ride there.

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We got to the race a little late and I ended up having to cut a guy off in the port-a-potty line (sorry – but I can’t pee in a bush as easily!) then dashed to my corral with a couple of minutes to spare. I lined up with the 3:05 marathon pacer to ensure I wouldn’t go out too fast as the next one down was the 1:30 half and 3:00 marathon. I saw a couple of my friends, we took a pre-race selfie then I pushed them ahead of me and I plugged in.

 

Since NJ is a mostly flat course (a few little bunny hills in the beginning, if you could even call it that) and I’m a very consistent metronome I decided even splits with surges where I felt good was the way to go. I started a bit ahead of the 3:05 group and got caught up a little bit with the faster people but quickly realized this and was able to back off. I felt great up until mile 5 when I had a strong urge to back off the pace, this was due to my stomach (AGAIN). At mile 6 I was not feeling hot and started scanning for a port-a-potty. I spotted one at the just right time and darted off to it. Absolute perfect timing. I was in and out in 38 seconds. A second best for me.

By this point the 3:05 group had passed me but was in sight and I knew I would see Joe soon which was enough excitement to push me a little faster. I spent this mile and the next slowly reeling them in. Shortly after my stop I saw Joe, then my friends about a quarter of a mile later.

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I was starting to gain on the pace group but felt like I was struggling. I’m new to racing so that struggle feeling is uncomfortable and I end up backing off quickly unless I’m sufficiently distracted. Something I’m learning to do less of.

Once we were up the last hill I caught to them. I stayed with the pack for a bit not wanting to waste energy passing them just yet.

I took my first bit of “fuel” here. I opted to use honey stinger chews so I could just have one little piece at a time and not a whole gel full of sugar. These also taste fantastic so I “rewarded” myself every so often with one for keeping up the pace. I ended up eating about 5 total of these the whole race, not quite a serving and I was a bit hungry toward the end of the race.

img_4252Around mile 8 I broke off from the group. I was still feeling pretty decent here and knowing I only had about 35 minutes to go and that I’d be seeing Joe again very soon made this part go by quickly. Since I had broken off from the group I started looking for people to catch up to and run with for a bit. I still ended up running mostly alone but this helped mentally.

Just before mile 10 I missed Joe, but thanks to affinity for neon race attire, he spotted me easily and was able to snap some great shots. I saw my friends again which made me happy. Once I hit 10, I looked at my watch and allowed myself to start somewhat doing race math. But concentrating on my form and pace plus doing math was too much so I decided to just run instead.

The turn around was near, we went from a downtown area to a residential one and I saw the signs for the half split off and relay. There was a massive group cheering near the relay swap and this was quite a boost! As we turned off from the marathoners the group really thinned out. This was around mile 11. It was just me and a couple other around me. I focused on catching people and running hard. Mile 12 was a lot of headwind but thankfully it was short lived and at the end of the race were I was more focused. These mile were undoubtedly the strongest part of the race for me.

img_4249Once I hit mile 12, I knew I was in the home stretch – I had told myself earlier I could slow down at mile 11 (where I started to feel tired and hungry) and still hit my goal but adrenaline took over. I chased down everyone I could and didn’t even think about looking at my watch. I don’t remember what music was playing or even what I was thinking. When we hit the last stretch of the race, it was time to fly – I let myself push it as hard as I could. I did this a little early but seeing Joe again gave me that last little boost to fly to the finish and in the process complete the Strava last mile challenge.

The second I crossed the finish line and scooped up some pretzels (I was super hungry), I texted Joe and my mom then found a cozy little spot on the grass. About a minute later I received a text from Nike about their new racing shoes – it’s like they knew – perfect timing but I was unable to scoop up a pair (also $275 for racing shoes is insane). Once I met up with Joe I took my shoes off and we walked back to the car where I changed then then went back out to the finish area to cheer for our friends doing the marathon.

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Post race group Fireball shots – I still stand by this as the perfect recovery drink. It warms you up and has carbs.

I’m still over the moon excited to see my hard work pay off. I spend an average of 8-11 hours in the gym or running each week and its not easy to always find or carve out the time. At the beginning of the year, I said my goal was to work hard for the love of the grind. That still holds true.

If you’re still with me, here’s a more technical break down of the race starting with splits:

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What went right:

  • Mental attitude – I felt calm, prepared and no pressure going into this race. I was excited and just overall felt good. Being with a great group prior to the race was key.
  • Preparation – I had done a lot of races recently leading up to this one. Running hard in that type of environment prepared me well. Specifically the Cherry Blossom race where I ran the exact same pace for 10 miles and felt like I could have kept going. It was a perfect “training” run
  • Pre-race fueling – I never felt full or bloated and I felt really well hydrated. I drank nuun all day long a couple of days before. The morning of I had a clif bar when I woke up and ate about half a plain bagel in the care ride there
  • Pre-race recovery and stretching – we all spent a TON of time hanging out downstairs, during which I spent of a lot of time massaging and stretching problem areas. This made me feel so much fresher.
  • Factors outside of my control – the weather cooperated, the race was cool enough to not overheat but I did lose a lot of fluids

What could have been better:

  • GI pain – I’m altering my diet a bit more now and trying Imodium for races in hopes that it will keep certain things at bay. 38 seconds is a LOT of time in a race.
  • Race fueling – I didn’t have the packet of gummies ready to go and fumbled with it a good amount. This cost me about 10-15 seconds and a bit of frustration. I also likely needed a gel because I was actually hungry during the race.
  • Timing – We should have left earlier, I just assumed there would be more port-a-potties since I heard that there were a ton last year. I was a bit nervous in the line and had to be a jerk so I could pee pre-race. Next time I’ll bring a heat sheet so I can squat in a corner.
  • Pace – I could have pushed harder in the beginning. I didn’t know this at the time but seeing how the end of the race played out – I had a little more to give.
  • Taper – No fault of my own here, I didn’t taper at all for this because I wasn’t 100% sure I was going to race, but I think it would have been beneficial.

 

Gear Crush Monday

I’m what you’d call a high maintenance runner. I have a lot of gear and I’m always shopping for new running things. Anything related to running and I’m probably in market for it or already have it. I like new gear. It’s fun and exciting. Anything from the latest and great footwear for every type of run to all the recovery tools.

One Monday a month I’ll bring you the latest gear I’m loving. However, for this post I’ll also cover all the other gear I use on a daily basis for those newer to running – you need the basics like a watch and good socks before worrying about the rest. 😀

Current Shoe Crush: Nike Pegasus Turbo
Uses: Long Runs, Speedwork, Up-tempo Efforts

img_2679What I Love: These shoes really don’t get enough love.  They’re lightweight (6.9 oz!), responsive yet soft and supportive enough to handle longer efforts. I find them best for speedier days and faster paced long runs but you really could use these for any run. I hear they don’t last as long as workhorse shoes like the Pegasus or Brooks Ghost so speedwork and long runs are probably a better use of this shoe’s limited mileage. I would even consider doing a marathon or half in these if  I didn’t want to use my Vaporflys.

Price: Originally $180, but now marked down across most retailers.

Where to Buy:
Jackrabbit: $116 (but you get rewards points)
Farfetch: $114
Finish Line: $120

Recovery: Rollga Health Roller

Uses: Recovery, post or pre-run; legs and back
What I Love: The shape of this foam roller is amazing. It is able to better massage my hamstrings and glutes since the grooves dig in but don’t hurt. I’m also able to massage my shins effectively with this little guy. My go-to non-vibrating foam roller.
Price: $39

Where to Buy:
Amazon

Gels: Science in Sport

Uses: Long runs, races
What I Love: I’ve talked at length about my running-induced stomach issues. Particularly during races so I’ve been testing them all on long runs to find something before the Brooklyn Half that I can reliably use and not be worried about 💩. These have been the most reliable. No water needed, not too thick like GUs and the taste is decent all while being gentle on my stomach. The only drawback is the weight. These guys weigh 2 oz a piece. For a half, no big deal – I’m only carrying one gel anyways; but for a full marathon you may want something more lightweight to have adequate fuel without being weighed down by gels everywhere. And the price of these is in line with other gels.

Where to Buy:
Amazon

For Aches and Pains: KT Tape + Biofreeze
Uses: MINOR aches and pains, workout soreness
What I Love: If you need extra ankle or knee support taping it can help but if you need tape you probably need to rest instead. Same thing with the Biofreeze. That said a little extra support and pain relief feels good. KT Tape stays in place for days (please shave before you apply, I’ve made this mistake and OUCH!) and is super easy to apply. They also have tons of YouTube videos showing you how to apply. KT Tape was a life saver both times I got shin splints. Biofreeze is great after a hard workout, I find that it soothes the pain better than Tiger Balm and IcyHot.

Other gear:
img_1895Watch: Garmin 235
What I Love: Has all the things I want/need, without any of the extras I’m not going to use but that would make it more expensive. I can program workouts into it, see my heart rate, and set up different data screens to see things like my cadence, current pace, average pace, etc. I don’t need the extras since I’m only running and cross training indoors. Garmin is also super accurate so if it says I ran 20 miles, I didn’t actually only do 19.5 like some of the phone apps do. Also important for doing workouts so I’m not cutting an interval too short. The price is also really good for what you’re getting and you’re not being charged for bells and whistles you won’t need.

Where to Buy:
JackRabbit

Socks: Stance and CEP Compression
What I Love: Stance is comfortable, stylish and I’ve never gotten an sock related blister with these. They’re also very reasonably priced and Jackrabbit usually has great deals on these. For compression, CEP is a favorite. These are not cheap but if you’re looking for true compression, they won’t be cheap. These will also last FOREVER. I like using compression socks for races and hard workouts. I like the tight feel and I don’t have the strongest ankles in the world so having a little extra support is nice. Zensah calf sleeves also deserve an honorable mention as they’re true compression, slightly less pricey and have super cute colors.

Shorts: Lululemon Speed Up Shorts (4″) and Tracksmith Session Shorts
What I Love: The Lululemon shorts have pockets (just as exciting as when dresses have pockets) and they’re built into the waistband which keeps my gels stable and not flopping around, getting in the way or irritating me on the run. These also fit great on any legs and are cut so they don’t ride up. They also come in a lot of fun colors/bright colors (great for helping your friends/family spot you easily in a race). For shorter races, Tracksmith is the way to go. The pockets aren’t as great as the Lululemon ones but the fabric is incredible and light and I could (and have) sleep in them. These are the most comfortable shorts that I own, hands down. The fit is great and they don’t hold sweat like other brands do.

Sports Bra: Lululemon
What I love: Again, THE POCKETS. Way more exciting than a dress with pockets, is a sports bra with pockets. This time around, being a female has a distinct advantage – extra storage! I always run with a phone, it’s unsafe not to and I like running with music but I hate armbands. My phone fits perfectly in this one and I can carry gels in the other pocket. I caution against putting your keys here though. 100% not the place you want to chafe. Aside from the pockets, this bra is supportive and comfortable. I’ve run 2 marathons and a half marathon in 75* weather in it with 0 (boob related) problems.

img_1647Everyday Running Shoes: Nike Pegasus 35
What I love: The ultimate workhorse shoe. Comparable to the Brooks Ghost but lighter and more colorway options. These can go for 400+ up to 500+ miles before they need to be traded in. These are stable enough for a slight overpronator (like me!), lightweight, but also fairly cushy. I’ve taken these for short runs, long runs (up to 21 miles), speedwork and recovery runs. I also love them for travel. Since they work for a variety of runs but also look cute I can use them to walk around (this does shorten your shoe’s lifespan! Walking miles still count and do breakdown the shoe) meaning one less pair of shoes to throw in my suitcase.

Where to buy: JackRabbit (best deal I’ve found, plus rewards points!)

If you’re still with me, one: thanks for reading this far and two: what’s your go to running shoe? And where do you tend to go for running gear?

Cherry Blossom 10 Miler Race Recap

This one is a little late, it’s been hectic over here lately with the move, work (naturally one of the busier weeks at work would coincide with a trip and my move), training for BK Half and then catching a cold. Clearly I’ve worn myself a little thin this week.Race week was busier than usual. Prepping for the move, no taper and having a little more work stuff on my plate meant not a ton of rest ahead of time.

I have trouble just going into a race for fun but given the odd distance of this race I was able to just say, I’ll run hard and see what happens. Friday we left for DC after doing a final walk through of the apartment, finishing up packing and heading into the city to catch our bus. 5.5 hours later we arrived in DC, hopped on the train and checked into our hotel.

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By this point it was dinner time so we found a super nice place by our hotel and gave it try.

Normally not a take pics of your food person, I’d rather just eat it, but this was in a PINEAPPLE. So I had to.

 

 

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After dinner we walked to the mall and walked around the monuments, mainly in search of a charged scooter for me to play with. We never found one so we ended up walking the 2+ miles back to our hotel. It was a planned rest day, but we ended up walking over 13 miles throughout the day…not exactly rest.

Saturday morning we woke up – relaxed a little bit then headed out for a shakeout run through Georgetown. This was one of the most beautiful running days of the year, the day anyone who survived a Northeast winter desperately deserved.

 

 

It was hard to keep it to just 4 and some change, especially once we found the coolest hidden (paved) trail. But I also wanted a cupcake since we hadn’t eaten yet. I ended my run at Baked & Wired and Joe ran back to the hotel. I grabbed us a couple of cupcakes, popped into the Nike store and then walked back to our hotel.

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We showered and headed out to the expo, this also included a lot more walking than it should have given it was the day before the race. The expo was great – tons of cute cherry blossom gear and good vendors. I bought some cute Zensah socks and almost got a flower headband (still wish I had!).

img_3874It was a bit crowded and the actual packet pickup part was a bit out of the way, but not really a big deal. We picked up our bibs and I realized that I, once again discounted myself way too much and was in a much further back corral than I should have been. I was slightly panicked about this knowing how crowded the race was going to be, I really didn’t want to waste energy that I could be using to run on dodging people.

After the expo, we walked (ugh, why!) to go see the cherry blossoms before dinner. I live in New York so I should be used to crowds and lots of people, but there were more people here than I’ve ever seen in Times Square and possibly more people than actual blossoms. It was quite a spectacle.

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We were going to walk around a bit, but with the crowds we decided it’d be too stressful and not very fun so we headed back towards the hotel but with the crowds we didn’t have time to stop by the hotel and just headed to dinner. Dinner was a welcome de-stressor (despite the Saturday night Georgetown crowds), we had ravioli and tons of bread. We ubered to Trader Joe’s afterwards and stocked up with snacks, coffee and pre-race breakfast.

Race morning I was up just before my alarm, as per usual. I immediately cracked open the coffees and started getting ready. Somehow I spend more time on my hair and makeup race morning than any other normal day (to be fair, I have a boat load of hair and I either double french braid it or straighten it out to attempt to tame it). I decided to deviate from my normal clif bar breakfast and went with a cherry pop tart, it was tasty and made me happy.

About half an hour into getting ready, I figured I needed more coffee so I sent Joe out for lattes to help move things along. This was far far far too much caffeine and a terrible idea. But I’m learning. I haven’t done a ton of races so I’m trying to figure out what works for me, clearly a lot of caffeine does NOT.

I put together the last of my race kit, pinned on my bib and we headed out. I ran to start OG 4%s in hand and oversized t-shirt to stay warm – I’m sure this was quite the sight! It was about 1.5 miles to the start and 2 miles total of warm up including finding the bag check, port-a-potties and then getting to our corral.

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I didn’t see anyone checking bibs so I decided to just hop into Joe’s corral. I was planning to run just under 7:00 anyways. We lined up with the 7:00 pacers and waited. We were quite a bit early but the weather was great so this wasn’t much of a problem. I threw away my shirt too early, but was able to use Joe as a heat sheet (he used me as a pacer until I had to tie my shoe, so we’re even).

I knew I was in a little bit of trouble when I already had to pee right as we started. I figured I could just drink only a couple of sips of water and be fine, not factoring in the 80% humidity and how much I sweat. I settled into my pace from the get go and decided to let go of any notions of surging ahead then praying I could hold on. Today wasn’t the day for that. I turned off my brain and just settled in for the ride, trying to tune out the jitters and stomach cramps from the excess coffee.

At mile 3 I had to stop to tie my shoe. Rookie move, I didn’t triple check these at the start. I jumped back in but had lost Joe. I considered surging ahead to catch him but stomach started screaming at me so I settled back into my pace, surging a little where I could then backing off. I started getting into the groove a bit for the next few miles but never really felt 100% comfortable (welcome to actually racing?).

img_3833I bargained with myself to hold on until the 10k, then to hold on until the 8 mile mark then I could cruise. At mile 8 we turned into the park where we got the most stunning views of the cherry blossoms, also where my stomach started really screaming at me. I wasn’t opposed to being a like a bear in the woods, but something felt really wrong about doing that to a poor cherry blossom tree. img_3840

I made it to 9.5, the 800m to go sign is usually my cue to kick but my stomach was absolutely not having it. I’d be lucky to hold on. The last 800m was probably the most uncomfortable 800m I’ve ever run in my life. I was gaining on Joe, but I was unable to kick and catch up to him. At least I narrowed the 30 second lead at the 10k mark down to 14 by the finish. I’ll take it.

At the finish they had cute Cherry Blossom water bottles for us and tons of great snacks that I somehow missed, likely in my mad dash to the port-a-potty following grabbing a bottle of water. Can’t win them all I guess.

Overall, great race with a couple of rookie mistakes and my even an consistent pacing ever. Even more so than Philly. Unfortunately the course was short by 80 meters (so about 16.5 seconds at my average pace) but I highly doubt I wouldn’t have lasted 16 seconds longer at that pace and with all the weaving I ended up doing + missing a few tangents I ended up running a full 10 miles anyways but it does mean I missed that sub-43 10k by ONE second.

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Post race we took a few pics then Joe and I walked/jogged back to the hotel to clean up then head over for brunch. After brunch we all met up to grab cupcakes then get a drink and head back home.

img_3816I’d highly recommend this race – it’s especially perfect for anyone tuning up for a later spring half. It’s mostly flat, weather is perfect and the cherry blossoms are beautiful. The views of the cherry blossoms at the back half of the race are so much better than the ones you’d see around the festival area. Signing up is also relatively risk free since you can transfer your bib (you’ll have NO problem finding someone who will want to take it either) or you can drop to the 5k up to the day before. It’s mostly well organized, the start area had plenty of room to warm up, plenty of port-a-potties and even gatorade + bananas and granola bars. The only issue we had was with the bag check. They switched from a tent set up to UPS trucks and it was really disorganized and the lines were horrendous. That said they responded quickly on social media about this issue and I anticipate that they’ll rectify it next year. NYRR had the same problem at the Brooklyn Half last year and for the NYC Half this year the bag check experience was the easiest I’ve ever had (they called out to me before I even got there and had my bag waiting!).

What spring races do you have lined up? Have you ever done a race-vacation?