New Jersey Marathon race report!

I PR’d at the New Jersey Marathon today! 3:49:08! It was a tough day — rainy, windy, surprisingly chilly — and it didn’t go my way, but I still nabbed a pretty big PR, so I’m calling it a win! Read on!

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Start and conditions:
7:30 am start, with waves going every 1-2 minutes
Around 50 degrees, warming to maybe 54. Winds 8-15 mph. Began with a drizzle that turned into a light rain… but after 26.2 miles, I was definitely drenched!

Results:
3:49:08 – 8:45 chip pace; 8:40 Garmin pace (clocked it at 26.5, ugh!)
This is a 13.5 minute PR for me, so I will gladly take it!

Event Logistics:
Arrived at the race start around 6:15; parking was easy, but I know people who planned to arrive between 6:30 and 7:00 barely made it with time to use bathrooms and dart to gear check. For anyone looking at doing NJM, plan to get there plenty early to get parked, settled, and bathroom-ed with time to spare! Gun went off pretty much right on time; corrals were well-labeled and just the right size (not too full), with each corral going off every 1-2 minutes. I did the half last year, so I knew where to go and what to do, which was pretty fun.

Goal(s)
I really wanted to BQ at this race — and looking at the results, you can see that I didn’t. I aimed to run 3:27-3:32, which would be a 7:55-8:05 pace. Looking at all the hard work I put in this training cycle, that was totally in the realm of possibility… but it was just NOT my day. Details below!

Gear and fuel
With rain forecasted, I went with basics: Oiselle Distance shorts, Oiselle Pacers singlet, a running cap to keep the rain out of my eyes, and my trusty Saucony Ride 8 shoes with my favorite Feetures socks. I treated my feet, sports bra line, under arms, lower back, and thigh chub rub area with a ton of Aquaphor (on and between toes) and Vaseline (everywhere else). I still ended up with thigh chafe, but that can’t be helped with how soaked I was by the end of the race. As for fuel, I had a cup of coffee and oatmeal for breakfast before we left at 5 am. During the race I had nuun in my handheld water bottle, plus I was drinking some water and Gatorade on the course. I planned to take 4 gels, but I ended up running 20 mins longer than I anticipated so I took my 5th & extra gel (gels at 1 hour, 1:40, 2:20, 2:45, 3:15). I also took 3 salt stick caps, one at mile 8, 16 and 21.

The Race!
I was super jazzed about this race. It’s all I’ve been thinking about for weeks, and it was the main focus of this training cycle. I had a firm plan in place for the race: 8 miles at 8:00 minute/mile (ish) pace, then from 8-20 run 7:40s-7:50s, and then go as hard I could the for last 10k with whatever I had left in me.

Miles 1-8: 7:41, 7:55, 7:59, 8:01, 8:05, 8:10, 8:06, 8:12
Well… the 3:30 (8:00 min/mile) pace group started a tid bit fast. So I backed off and got behind the pace group after miles 3-4 were also too close to 8:00 for comfort…. And then I never caught back up. Oops.

Miles 9-12: 7:54, 8:07, 8:05, 8:24
After mile 8, I did what I always do during speedwork. I thought, “Ok, now race pace!” And… not much happened. That 7:54 mile felt like a 7:40 mile. And that was my last sub-8 of the race. My legs just had no “oomph.” I had been worried about this. Because of where I am in my cycle (ladies…), I knew that sometime soon my legs would get “flat.” I was just really, really hoping it wasn’t going to be today. My shakeout yesterday felt so good and easy. I ran an 8:22 pace and it felt effortless. That 8:24 mile in this stretch felt as hard as a 7:24 mile.

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I felt blah, but I managed to smile for my teammate’s camera!

Miles 13-20: 9:06, 8:34, 8:54, 9:10, 8:34, 8:55, 9:20, 9:12
By mile 12, my shoes were getting HEAVY with rain. And so after I hit 12, I had a choice: a) Let my wet, heavy shoes stay tied as they were (a bit loose) and keep gripping them with my toes to keep them on OR b) Stop at a park bench and retie them so they wouldn’t fall off. I chose b. That’s why I had my (first) 9 minute mile at mile 13. But then my miles still didn’t improve. In fact… I just kept getting slower. By mile 16, I decided I was going to run by effort and run whatever time I could. While I was shoe-tying, I was passed by the 3:35 group, and while I tried to keep up… nope. I couldn’t catch them and they faded away into the distance. It was getting really rough. It felt awful to be trudging along at paces that any other day would be a cakewalk.

Miles 21-26.2: 9:31, 9:42, 9:26, 9:19, 9:32, 8:58; last half mile at 8:18 pace
The last 5ish miles were a suffer fest. I had determined by this point that the course was going to run long by about .3 of a mile, which means 2-3 minutes tacked on at the end of the race. I just kept trudging and trying not to walk, even though around 20-21 I got hit with the unavoidable quad cramps. I’ve gotten them at every marathon no matter the hydration, sodium intake, etc. And once they hit, there’s no real chance for stepping it up. You just gotta slog it out. A buddy of mine who was having an excellent day caught up to me at 23 or so and we ran together for a bit until I told him to go on without me since he was feeling good. (I out-kicked him down the 1.5 miles on the boardwalk, but barely.) This was just a really bleak set of miles. I couldn’t enjoy it because of the cramping, and the wind we’d run into for most of the race was at a weird angle so we were still running against it going the opposite direction. And knowing I had to run MORE than 26.2 was really disheartening. But I tried really hard to smile for the cameras, and I pushed it despite my aching, cramping quads in the last 2 miles because I knew if I put a little bit of effort in and kept below a 9:30 pace, a sub-3:50 was doable.

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Finish and feelings
Was I disappointed in my time? Yes. I trained for a 3:30 race. I worked so, so hard. I ran 800+ miles training for this thing. I dedicated hours and hours to running and reading about running and thinking about running. But today just was not my day. I gave it what I had, but I just didn’t have much in me to begin with unfortunately.

All things considered, 3:49 is a great time. It’s a huge PR for me, even if there was no BQ victory at the finish line. It just feels a little anti-climatic to have my race totally fizzle out the way it did. There was no crash and burn… I just didn’t have it in me today. And I’m trying to convince myself that that’s ok. There will be more races and Boston will always be there. I have already scouted out late May races I could use to try to BQ, but they’re all pretty darn far away (6-7+ hours) and I can’t afford a hotel stay somewhere (yay grad student life!). I’m hoping I can find a favorable early September race before the BAA application deadline (which frustratingly isn’t posted on their site yet)… maybe VIA marathon? I really want to do Boston in 2017 because I have so many friends (online and IRL!) who will be running it, but if Boston has to wait until 2018, then I will have to come to terms with that. But I’d love to at least have the chance to give it another shot before I throw in the towel for 2017.

And, well, in summary…
I am happy with this huge PR. And I know I have a 3:30 in me if the conditions are right. But it’s also tough that this is my second lackluster marathon in a row… though at least this one I didn’t spend 10 miles in leg-cramping misery! I just know now not to schedule my marathons the Sunday before my period starts! I am even more determined now to a) figure out how to avoid my quad cramps and b) figure out how to RACE a marathon and not just SURVIVE it and c) get that darn BQ! But for now… ice cream, Netflix, and putting my feet up for a few days! And, you know, finishing my Masters… aaah!

 

General format is borrowed from this article in Women’s Running:
http://womensrunning.competitor.com/2016/03/fat-girl-running/why-you-should-write-a-race-report_55754

 

The Taper is Over! Race Day Looms!

The taper is over! New Jersey Marathon is tomorrow and I am simultaneous psyched, excited, nervous, and anxious. I was totally chill until yesterday (which is not like me!), but then going to sleep last night I started to feel the nerves and they haven’t gone away. I think it’s taken a while for the reality to sink in. Luckily, this is the first marathon I’m not injured for so I’m not feeling the usual poo-inducing terror that I normally would.

Brief rundown of miles from this week:
Monday: 4 miles easy with my Monday coffee group
Tuesday: rest and core work
Wednesday: core work and 6 mile workout: 1.5 up, 3 miles at marathon pace (7:47, 7:45, 7:46), and 1.5 easy to cool down.
Thursday: 6.4 drizzly miles with my Thursday crew; conditions very similar to race day forecast
Friday: carb loading and core work
Saturday: 3 mile shakeout run pre-expo

So I ran a grand total of 19.4 miles this week to prep for the marathon. The workout Wednesday was a really good choice, I think. I started off really slow and feeling blah, but I still managed to think, “Ok, cruising marathon pace!” 1.5 miles in, and down my paces went like switching gears in a car. If I have learned anything this training cycle, it is how to run a 7:45-7:50 mile like nobody’s business 😉

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Now the marathon is, quite literally, right around the corner… less than 12 hours to go! And Flat Kristine is ready! We’ve got a zillion gels to choose from, throw away arm sleeves made from socks, and extra Aquaphor in a tiny tube in case the (forecasted) rain brings about any unexpected chafing. I’m all kinds of nervous and excited and anxious for tomorrow, and I just hope that I can race my plan for this BQ. This training cycle was a great one, and I can’t believe the victory lap is almost here!

5 (Atypical) Pieces of Marathon Advice

Going into my fourth 26.2 this Sunday at the New Jersey Marathon, I’ve decided to write up some of my advice that I haven’t heard/read over and over elsewhere. I’m no expert, but I know a lot of other people racing on 4/30 and 5/1 too, so maybe this can be helpful to other people who are also suffering taper crazies and marathon anxieties 🙂

Advice the First: Always bring an extra gel.
No matter what your favorite marathon fuel happens to be, no matter what, on race day, BRING AN EXTRA. You may think from your training runs that you know exactly how many gels you’ll need to go 26.2. But let me tell you a story.

When I ran the 2015 Philadelphia Marathon, I figured I’d need four gels. But I’d packed five in my overnight bag so I figured, “What the heck? I’ll bring the last one. Don’t want it to get lonely!” And this turned out to be a very fortunate decision when at mile 21 I ripped the top off my fourth gel and… nothing. It wasn’t open. The tear-off was just a little bit misaligned. So I angrily threw the traitorous gel aside and pulled out my fifth and EXTRA gel… and miracle of miracles!! Gel emerged! Sweet, delicious, life-giving gel!

Lesson: Always bring an extra gel. It may give you an extra boost or it may save you from a major crash when your final gel of the day betrays you!

Advice the Second: Lube. Everywhere.
Body Glide. Vaseline. Deodorant. I don’t care what you use. Spread it everywhere. I’ve finished three marathons chafe-free and let me tell you how. Vaseline in my arm pits. On my thighs. Slathered on my feet. Under my sports bra. EVERYWHERE. I’ve learned in the past that even if I don’t chafe during training, that extra 4-6 miles on race day can often produce unique and painful hot-spots later. Play it safe: lube everything.

On a related note to spreading stuff all over your body: sunscreen is good too. Highly recommend.

Advice the Third: Make a mantra and stick with it.
I have some mantras that I will think on repeat when the going gets tough. Some remind me to stay tall and (relatively) light on my feet. One of these is “Butterflies,” which I stole from Bill Rogers after reading his memoir. Also just repeating the word “strong” in my head helps.

Some are inspirational or encouraging. “You can do it.” “Why not me?” “Feeling good.”

And lately, a line from Hamilton pops into my head during the hard parts of a workout: “Hercules Mulligan, I need no introduction; you knock me down, I get the fuck back up again!” Since this marathon is largely redemption for me after struggling to run-walk and finish Philly last fall (after my legs started cramping intermittently starting at mile 15/16), this line gets me super pumped.

But honestly, in the final miles of a marathon, nothing beats (for me), simply muttering, “Fuck fuck fuck” to myself. Swearing is a special kind of catharsis that relieves the pain of 26.2 — even if only momentarily.

Advice the Fourth: Visualization is key.
Something that helps me a lot in the last miles of a long run or at the end of a hard race is visualization. I visualize coming across the finish line strong. I visualize the food I’m going to eat and the sweet, sweet blue G2 Gatorade I’m going to drink. I will also (and this may sound a bit crazy) visualize friends or family running with me, cheering for me just ahead, or waiting for me at the finish line. Thinking about people who are near and dear to me gives me a little extra push when I’d rather just give up, lay on the ground, and take a nap.

Advice the Fifth: Gear check/bag check is your friend.
I was texting with a running buddy the other day, and he told me that he has never once checked a bag for a race. I was shocked. And so here I am to tell you that gear check is your friend! Especially for a long race like a marathon, and double-especially if you’re going to be hanging around for a while (without access to your car/home) waiting for others to finish, before going to lunch, etc.

For a marathon, here’s what typically goes in my gear check bag:

  • A change of shoes (or at least fresh socks): By the end of a marathon your feet are GROSS and in desperate need of a change of scenery. I can’t wear flip-flops post-race without major foot cramps, so I usually go for my well-worn pair of Toms.
  • A jacket and possibly sweatpants: Depends on the weather, but I guarantee that once your sweat starts to dry and if you’re going to lunch in an air-conditioned restaurant, you’ll want something to keep you warm.
  • A change of clothes: Always a good idea to bring a change of clothes if you won’t be getting home or to your hotel for a while. Fresh clothes means less time sitting around in stinky, sweaty clothes feeling disgusting.
  • Baby wipes: Wanna go above and beyond in feeling fresh? BABY WIPES. Wipe that grime off your face, out of your pits, off your feet, etc. It feels so, so good.
  • Gatorade and a protein bar: Races give you bottled water and maybe a cup of Gatorade, but that is never enough for me. I almost always bring a giant bottle of G2 (or two smaller 20 oz bottles) to guzzle post-race as well as my own snack because I never ever feel like eating a banana, a giant pretzel, or a bag of chips after a race, but I can certainly stomach a chocolatey protein bar.
  • Money, ID, keys, phone: If you can’t fit these things in your shorts, you gotta have ‘em in your gear check bag for reunions, beer tents, and post-race food. I keep my keys on a lanyard, so I toss that in my gear check bag rather than have a key jingling in my pocket for several hours. Usually if my phone is going in gear check, I put it in a case and then wrap it up in my jacket just in case the bag gets stepped on. I’m never really worried about theft, just breakage, though I do try to keep the valuables out of sight.

Hopefully these are some tips that you haven’t read on every single running website and advice column. Do you have any good “lesson learned” stories? What other tips and tricks do you have for race day?

Self-Sabotage Goals and How I’m Trying to Avoid Them

In my Run of the Mill 5k race recap, I mentioned that when I set race goals, I tend to self-sabotage the closer the race gets. For the ROTM 5k, this came in the form of signing up for the race with two very realistic, achievable goals: to run under 22 minutes (a ~20 second PR) and to place #1 in my age group; and then daydreaming even harder goals that left me unhappy with a solid race day performance.

As the race neared, my confidence (or maybe arrogance?) grew. When I signed up all I wanted a sub-22, but in the days leading up to the race I started to dream of 21:30… or 21:15 for a whole minute faster than last fall’s PR… or even a 21 minute 5k, a huge (and totally unrealistic!) improvement. I should note that I don’t actually train for the 5 kilometer distance and my training didn’t support any of this dreaming. On treadmill ladder workouts, I never practiced more than a 6:53 pace as my 5k pace. My mile PR is still in the 6:30s officially. Pacing 6:45 for a 21 minute 5k would take a miracle… and I was going to be running this race at the tail end of a 60 mile training week.

So instead of sticking to my realistic original goal, I had a mental image of crossing the finish line in a triumphant 21:30, and when I came in at 21:56 and first in the 20-29 age group — achieving both of my original goals! — I was a little disappointed in my performance. Despite hitting my goals and running a decent race, I couldn’t find it in myself to be happy about it.
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I should look much happier in this photo… I smashed my (original, attainable) goal!

And this happens to me far too often. Last fall, I ran a surprising 1:43:38 at the Princeton Half Marathon in early October. I’d done 10 easy miles the day before and expected to come in at 1:47 or 1:48, so I completely exceeded my own expectations when I snagged a 9.5 minute PR! But then, two weeks later as I toed the line for the half marathon at the Baltimore Running Festival, buoyed by my recent and surprising success, I wanted a sub-1:40. Even though I’d run a 20 miler one week earlier and my race was coming at the end of a 5 day streak (I usually don’t run more than 3 days in a row), and Baltimore charts a hilly, challenging course! In hindsight, sub-1:40 was way outside my reach, but I talked a big game to myself pre-race and was totally let down by my 1:44:24… even though it was less than a minute off the huge PR I set just 13 days earlier!

I have countless examples of times that I ran a race with an A+++ goal in mind, failed to reach this extraordinary (and overambitious) goal, and then felt disappointed in myself for a performance I should have been happy about.

Two of my best races in the last year have come from a totally opposite mentality. Rather than dreaming big, I kept my goals realistic and in tune with my training. Last spring I ran the Minneapolis Marathon thinking I could do 4:20… maybe 4:15 — which would have been a 23+ minute PR from my first marathon (4:43). I was then both blown away and overjoyed when I ended up crossing the finish in 4:04:39 — a 39 minute PR and a time that was beyond my wildest dreams. And I was smiling for days after my 1:43 at the Princeton HM, coming in 5 minutes faster than I had expected. In these cases, I set realistic goals, and when I surpassed those, I was full of pride.

And that is the mentality I want to have as I go about setting goals for my two big races this season: the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon on April 3 (this Sunday!), and the New Jersey Marathon on May 1. Rather than set crazy goals that I’d have to be having a miraculous day to pull off, I want to set goals that I have a real chance of meeting. And I don’t want to inflate those goals the closer race day gets!

So, considering my recent race and training times, here are my realistic and unwavering goals for my spring half and full marathons:

Caesar Rodney Half Marathon, April 3
Goal:
1:38-1:39:59 (7:29-7:37 pace)
I want to break the 1:40 barrier, and I truly think I can do it. A half marathon is the perfect distance for me to dig deep. I do 10 or 12 mile midweek runs every week, so 13.1 doesn’t feel like a foreboding distance anymore. The CR course is pretty flat in the first half, with a long stretch of uphill in the middle (about 2.5 miles), and then a long bit of downhill (3 miles worth) before an incline up to the finish line in the last quarter mile. This is pretty similar to the elevation chart for the Princeton HM, and I tend to do fairly well with hills. I am taking a cutback week the week of the race (my mileage in the 4 weeks leading up to the race has been 58-61 miles, and the week of the race I’m cutting back to “just” 40) so that my legs will be fresh and ready to race the morning of April 3.

However now that the week of the race is here, I can hear myself thinking, “But what about 1:35? How close to that could I get?” And I am shutting that down right away! I am not going to start daydreaming about super fast times. I am going to stick with my 1:38-1:39:xx goal no matter what, because I know that’s a time my training has set me up to run. And looking at the weather forecast, I’ll probably be running in challenging conditions (20-30 mph winds and about 40-45 degrees at the start if I’m lucky!), so it is best to keep my goal very realistic.

New Jersey Marathon, May 1
Goal:
3:26-3:32 (7:52-8:05 pace)
Last fall, I know I was in shape for a 3:40 marathon, had I not gotten injured 10 days pre-race. So this spring I want redemption in the form of a kickass BQ time. 3:32 would get me under the Boston buffer I hope — last year’s cutoff was 2 minutes 28 seconds under qualifying time (and was a record high). I am in much better shape now, both physically and mentally, than I was last fall, and I’m optimistic about how fast I can run a marathon, because lately I’ve been doing tempos at the end of my long runs and meaning to run 7:55-8:00 pace, but hitting 7:40s with ease. 7:45-7:50 seems to be a great cruising speed for me these days, but I don’t want to make a lofty goal of pacing under 7:50 for the whole 26.2. I think something in the 7:50 range will be challenging in the later miles, but achievable — plus I’ve never paced under 9:00 minute miles for a marathon, so I’d love to skip the 8:00s altogether! I’ve got a big taper in my schedule in the two weeks before the race, so fresh legs should yield fast results!

Does anyone else tend to make self-sabotaging goals, and how do you avoid letting it get into your mental game?

What are/were your goal races this spring and how have you gone about setting goals?

My Running Renaissance

What I call my Running Renaissance began in April 2014, when I had the idea to train for my first full marathon. Let me tell you how this happened.

Up until this fateful April, I had been content to run half marathons and trudge along with painful knees and an out of shape mental game. However all that time I had spent NOT running in 2013? Apparently that did wonders for my knees… all that time off healed them right up! When I went out one day for a 7 mile run and returned home only to realize that my knees weren’t sore and I wasn’t even tired mentally… that was when I started to get the idea. A half marathon? Of course! A full marathon? Perhaps!

As I got through an 8 mile run… a 10 mile run… a 12 miler… all with ease, I decided to give 14 miles a try at the end of June. And while it wasn’t a breeze, it wasn’t painful — physically or mentally. So I shopped out a few marathons within an afternoon’s drive of Princeton and decided on the Baltimore Marathon. We had a family friend I could stay with, and that was that. I registered and tweaked a Hal Higdon training plan to my liking and got on the training band wagon.

That first training cycle was not ideal by any means. I would run 16 or 18 miles on a Sunday and then half-ass my way through meager mileage the rest of the week. I think I topped out at 32 or 35 miles in a week during that training cycle. I was definitely overtraining; my long runs were often 50-66% of my weekly mileage. I ended up with a calf strain after a local half marathon that utilized some sandy trails for a couple miles — a hot late August race that netted me a 2:02:02 finish and a blow to my confidence — and then suffered with IT band pain in the weeks leading up to my marathon.

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But race day morning, my knee finally bounced back and gave me no problems. However that marathon was a hot mess. I was so anxious I barely slept the night before. I felt confident when we started. The first few miles were a breeze. But I started to deflate around mile 11 and by mile 14, I hit the wall… and the many hills of the Baltimore Marathon. I walked about 30-40% of the next 12 miles and came across the finish line at 4:43:43. It was a true slog, and I was exhausted, but I was done. And I was the fittest I had ever been in my life… so immediately I began shopping out my second marathon.

I decided on the Minneapolis Marathon (not to be confused with the Twin Cities Marathon!). It was May 31, which was right after the end of the first year of my Master’s program, so I could fly into Minneapolis and meet my parents at a hotel and we could stay there for the weekend, then they could bring me back home to Iowa with them. It ended up being a great plan. Recovering from my marathon in the gigantic, soft guest bed at my parent’s house was a great way to kick off my summer vacation!

Training for Minneapolis went much better than training for Baltimore, but it wasn’t perfect. I had some overtraining strain my left calf, but I was able to run through it and it went away on its own in June. I ran the half marathon at the New Jersey Marathon that spring as my race prep race and surprised myself with a 1:53… a 5 minute PR! It was my ninth HM and the first one in which I didn’t walk a single step. I felt unstoppable.

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The race in Minneapolis went much better than Baltimore as well. Though my training still maxed out around 35-40 miles, I was much more mentally prepared. I started out pacing 8:40s as the first half of the course trends downhill. My parents met me at mile 11 to give me the water bottle I’d carry the rest of my race, the pocket filled with gels. They barely made it down to mile 18 in time to cheer me on as I was still running a much faster pace than we’d planned on the night before when we came up with their spectating plan. My dad ran with me from about mile 18.5 to mile 20.5 which was a big mental boost. And then I slogged through the last 5+ miles alone. Going into the race, I expected a 4:20… 4:15 at  best. I was shocked to cross the finish line in 4:04:39, a 39 minute PR!

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And so I wondered… if I stepped up my mileage, how much faster could I run? I hadn’t really done anything new this training cycle besides add about 5 miles a week to my schedule. What if I added even more? How much faster could I get… could I qualify for Boston?

And so the summer of 2015 was the summer of “trying out high mileage to see if I crash and burn.” And you know what? I didn’t. I didn’t do a single mile of speedwork from June through August; all my miles were easy. But I stepped up to 45, then 50 miles a week. By September, my training range was 45-60 miles. And I had an amazing racing season. I dropped my 5k PR from 24:40 to 22:17. I lowered my half marathon PR from 1:53 to 1:43:38. I expected that I could run my fall marathon in 3:40… maybe even somewhere below a 3:35… I was not-so-secretly hoping for a 3:32 so that I could qualify for Boston under the buffer time.

My third marathon was late in November at the Philadelphia Marathon. And despite all my amazing fall races, this one did not go well at all. I decided during my taper madness to do some yoga, despite never doing yoga otherwise. And in the midst of this yoga, I strained my right hamstring. And because I was in a taper, I had no way to evaluate how injured I was. I optimistically believed I’d be fine by race day. But oh boy, was I wrong!

The race started and I was on pace, hitting my 7:55-8:10 splits on the nose. I was feeling good, feeling confident. But around mile 9 or 10 of the Philly marathon there’s a hill. Basically the only major hill on the course. And after that I could not get my pace back on track. My legs felt weird and tired. I thought about pulling away with the half marathoners and cutting it short, but — ever the optimist — I chose to continue on the marathon course. By mile 15, my calves started to cramp. Then my quads. Then my feet. All my muscle groups were overcompensating for my strained and uncooperative hamstring. By mile 18, I figured it’d take me just as long to drop out and walk back to the finish than to just push on and run-walk the last 8 miles, so… continue I did.

My amazing Oiselle teammates met me around mile 24 and ran with me to mile 26. I just had to make it through 0.2 miles on my own at the end. But those last miles were miserable. I was swearing up a storm, almost in tears, and I instructed them not to let me stop under any circumstances! I was running on cramping feet, and I was in so much pain. I crossed the finish line in 4:02:32, a two minute PR. On one hand, I was happy to have finished at all, but on the other hand… I had wanted to run thirty minutes faster. I was disappointed. I even cried a little — the only time I have cried at the end of a marathon to date! — because I was so mad to have all that season’s hard work be “wasted” because of my stupid hamstring.

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I let myself take a week to have a pity party. I rehabbed the hell out of my hamstring. And then I got back at it. I got back to 35 mile weeks… then 45 mile weeks over winter break. And I started up training at the end of January 2016 at 50 mile weeks, with my schedule’s training mileage ranging from 50 to 65 miles per week. In my mind, I’m not training as a 4-hour marathoner. I know that I could have done 3:40 at the very least at Philly. I’m working hard not only for a BQ but for redemption, to prove that my fast fall times weren’t flukes, and that I can run a Boston Qualifying time… and even faster.

For the first time since I started running ten years ago, I finally see that I have some potential in this sport. As a high school and college athlete, I thought that I just wasn’t fast… as if fast was a trait you were born with. But it just took me a lot longer than some to realize that to be successful in running doesn’t require innate ability. Rather you have to learn to be comfortable with discomfort, to embrace suffering, and overcome self-doubt. Now that I’ve finally learned that I can do this, I’m eager to see how far and how fast I can push this body of mine.