Sunday, October 31, 2010


No, it doesn't mean what you think.  Try "post-marathon-syndrome", combined with a little "pleaseletmepassmy-midterms-syndrome", lol.  Put these two together and it's been a pretty lame couple of weeks on the running front. I took my standard 4 days off after the race and tried to start running again on Friday, but it's been pretty craptastic due to a combination of my hamstrings still being really tight, and the fact that I've had 3 major midterms since the marathon that required more than a little bit of studying and caused me more than a little bit of stress.

I think I was a little bummed out the week after the marathon too, obviously not because I was disappointed in my race [on the contrary...I was flying high on cloud 9 about my performance] but it was just a bit of a letdown...which I supposed is fairly normal to experience after something big has just happened.  As nice as it's been taking a bit of a break after the race, it's been weird knowing that I'm not going to be doing that again for awhile.  I had already decided that I wasn't going to run Boston until 2012, which turned out to be probably a good thing after the race closed in 8 hours...I can tell you that there's no way I would have signed up the day after Baystate even if I WAS planning on running.  I feel like I'm making a smart choice in taking the opportunity to try to run some fast times and bring my PRs down on the track this spring, since as long as I'm young and still speedy there's really no time like the present, but I have to say I think that I might be more built for the longer distance races.  And I really like the marathon.  Sure I bitch and moan about the Sunday long runs and there are days when it feels like I'm skimping out on all sorts of real-life responsibilities because I need to go do a workout, but there is something about the marathon and the training for it that's different for me than for all other races.  So I may feel like there's a little something missing this winter/spring when I'm not pushing myself through long runs in hurricane-like Nor'easters and such, but then again, I'm probably still going to be doing plenty of LR's in the higher teens as part of my "higher mileage = faster at all distances" discovery, and if I start seeing things in the 19:30 range on the track, well then, I'm sure I won't be whining about missing the marathon anymore haha.

So I will definitely be doing track in the spring, and my original plan was to focus on XC in the fall, but I made the interesting discovery that my time at Baystate gave me an auto-qualifier for NYC.  To be completely honest the NYC marathon isn't something I'd ever really considered because a) I had no delusions of hitting the qualifying time, and I don't like leaving my fate up to a lottery and b) I don't really think I like big-city marathons [which reminds me of a post idea I have entitled "why I like running Baystate better than Boston"]....but since the qualifying standard is so much faster than Boston, it is slightly enticing.  I mean, or I could just run Baystate again....I think now and forever, in the rest of my marathon career, I will always consider Baystate my "home" course.  Anyway, next fall is a long way off and I have plenty of time to figure it out.

That was a fairly pointless rambling.  Apologies. It happens here frequently.  On a more exciting note, since my own training is pretty lame at the moment, I think I've finally convinced Andrew to start running a little bit with me!! I told him I want to get him up to half an hour of running, and I'll never make him run more than that if he doesn't want to...seems fair, right?  So far we've only gone a little over a mile but he's doing pretty well with running straight and not stopping.  I tried to get him running a couple summers ago but I think he had the tendency to run too fast for his level of fitness and he hated it because of's much more pleasant taking it slow, building up time, and then working on speed.   I also have a friend in my PT program who doesn't run much these days, but wants to train for a half and she wants me to help her train...I think it would be fun coaching her, I don't have much experience training a beginner besides myself, but I think it would be a fun challenge.

Well, it's been a decent 2 weeks of rest - honestly, couldn't have come at a better time, because I had so much studying to do, and it was sort of nice not having to feel guilty about skipping a run because I needed to study.  But I've probably lost some fitness and definitely feel kind of's high time I got back on a solid weekly mileage schedule to start the buildup for indoor track!

And here's a fabulous picture from Baystate to finish off this post
There is nothing in the world to compare to this feeling.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Looking good, feeling great: Baystate Marathon 2010

aka Don't Stop Believin', taken to the extreme
aka Tom isn't completely insane
aka loving my life
aka becoming legit.

This is probably going to be like 20 pages long. And it will probably take as long to write as it took for me to run the damn race.  And it's sappy, and a little ridiculous, and more than a little rambly. So if you read the whole thing I salute you...and would recommend finding a blanket and a beverage [I am enjoying a victory Fin du Monde as we speak]...otherwise feel free to skim, there are several pictures!

So you may have noticed that I didn't blog for pretty much the entire 2 weeks before the marathon - no crazy pre race jabberings, non of the usual.  To be honest, my life has been CRAZY the past couple of weeks - last weekend I went back to my beloved Madison for the homecoming football game and insanity ensued, and this past week I was slammed with an exam on Monday and my first ever PT clinical on an inpatient rehab floor on Friday...not a whole lot of time to think about or dwell on the race.  Which was a GOOD thing - it's hard to psych yourself out when you are spending the day helping with rehab on spinal cord patients [so. freaking. cool. I've been thinking that I might really want to go the neuro route in my PT career, and day 1 of my clinical has only confirmed this theory]  So pretty much this entire week I haven't even had 5 seconds to think about the race.  I did my usual taper runs, an easy 6 on Tuesday which pretty much felt like poo, then a couple of 4s and just some really short shakeouts at the end of the week.  Everything was feeling pretty good and in place, but then again, it was before Boston too, so I wasn't exactly shouting from the mountaintops about what a fantastical race I was going to have.  Just trying to stay focused and relaxed.

The day before the race I took the commuter rail up to Lowell to pick up my packet, which was an interesting experience in itself...I planned to take the noon train, but got into a crazy snafu at Government Center, waited forever for a green line train to North Station that apparently was never going to come, ended up power walking to Haymarket [great thing to do the day before a marathon, no?] and miraculously getting on an orange line train to North, and literally getting on the train to Lowell with 2 minutes to spare.  On the train to Lowell I created my marathon day playlist and was actually planning on writing a quick pre-race blog...buuuut my computer has literally 40 minutes of battery life so that didn't quite pan out haha. I took a leisurely walk to the high school, and picked up my packet without much ado...compared to Boston, the Baystate 'expo' is about the most low key thing you could imagine...pretty much little tents for all the major shoe companies and a couple of cafeteria tables set up for packet pickup...and you know what, I am completely fine with that. No fuss whatsoever, I was in and out in 15 minutes with my number [171] and race packet in hand.  The tech shirts this year are AWESOME, I absolutely love the new Baystate logo, and it was really nice that they decided to go to tech shirts this year, as well as different shirts for the marathon and half.  Then I walked back to the train station and played Bejeweled on my phone for like 45 minutes while waiting for the next train home haha....really really addicting by the way. On the train on the way home, I wrote myself a little mental checklist sort of thing...just random reminders to myself for race day.  Things like:
-listen to your legs/breathing...above all RELAX through 15
-if you're feeling good at 20, go for it the last 6.2
-gels at 7, 14, 21 (if you want)
-water every other stop, only take Gatorade if you think you need the sugar/salt
-the first few miles might feel weird, no panicking, RELAX
-pick off as many club women as possible

You'll notice how many times the word "relax" appears in that checklist...and really, I think staying relaxed came to be a huge, huge factor in my success in this race.  Anyway, I finally made it back to Boston and pretty much grabbed my stuff and headed to Charlestown, where we were staying with my friend Kelly who was driving us to the race.  This was also the night of the HUGE Wisconsin vs #1 Ohio State game [BADGERS!!!!] and as it turns out Kelly's boyfriend used to play football for OSU...I don't think he liked me very much haha.  At halftime they headed out to a bar to watch the rest of the game, and Andrew and I just relaxed and watched the rest of the AMAZING Badger victory.  It was incredible seeing the student section storm the field and honestly watching the end of that game was the first time I really, truly got nervous about the race.  For the Badgers to win was such a huge long shot [we haven't beaten a #1 ranked team since 1981, and we definitely haven't beaten Ohio State since I've been in school] and somewhere deep in my mind I had thought to myself "if the Badgers win, I'm going to have an amazing race".  So stupid, but I felt like it was a good omen for the day to come.  As soon as the game was over it was lights out...I still don't think it had quite hit me yet that once again I was here...on the bring of running a marathon...26.2 miles to glory.

I woke up only once during the night, at 4:15 am, and I fell back asleep pretty quickly and had a RIDICULOUS dream about putting my spandex shorts in the laundry, them somehow morphing into super baggy capris, and running around a mysterious marathon expo in a hotel ballroom trying to find some running shorts to buy before the race started, and NO ONE was selling running shorts. about nerves manifesting themselves in an interesting way? Anyway, I was instantly awake with my alarm at 5, up and about, putting on my racing attire, grumpy that I couldn't effectively crumple my number because of the timing chip attached to the back, eating my banana and deconstructed peanut butter sandwich, making sure I had all my Gus and random crap I wanted for pre race...the half hour before we left went by in a flash and soon enough we were out the door and on the road to Lowell.

After a little bit of confusion with the GPS, we made it to the Tsongas Arena without incident.  Everything was just as I remembered it...plentiful bathrooms, plenty of space, a comfortable lovely building to find a corner and prepare to race. Perfect. I quickly found myself a space after making a lap of the building to see if I could find any GBTC teammates. And here I was again, exactly a year my corner, ipod on, stretching and waiting and hoping and wondering what the day was going to bring. Which is the thing about the marathon, or any race for that matter - you just don't know.  You could be about to have the race of your life, an absolute breakthrough, or you might be about to have a total breakdown on the course.  But unless some external factor- sickness or injury or whatever - is changing your have no idea what the day is going to bring.  All you can do is let it unfold and hope that your legs and heart and mind are ready.

We were there EARLY which is just my style...plenty of time to hit up the bathroom like 4 times [there was a HUGE line for the men's bathroom and none for the women's...I have to say, this was the first time in my life I've ever experienced that.  And perhaps it accounted for the multitude of men I saw peeing off in corners out on the course...or the one man I saw randomly peeing into a bottle on the concourse of the arena...awkward.]  ANYWAY...enough bathroom tales.  I bounced around and assaulted Andrew [I decided that after 3 years he deserves to actually be called his name instead of the BF...haha] with my ipod music and he told me I was nervous and I was like, no just excited!  Which was amazingly, true!  I can't say I was ever nervous-nervous. Maybe I've finally reached the turning point in my career where I'm able to not have a panic attack over races?  Because I really had no specific goals set for the race, but I knew I was fit, I was pretty much just excited to get out there and see what I could do.  Soon enough it was time to head to the start sooner were we out the door of the arena when we ran into Kelly, who has been my training buddy all summer and pretty much the one who got me through the darkest days of marathon training.  We walked together to the start, I really wanted to hit up the porta potty one last time but the lines were INSANE and I wasn't messing with my start for the sake of what was probably just nerves I headed back to the start with Kelly.  I also saw a gaggle of 3 PUGS right before the start...which had to be a good sign, right? Because I love pugs, and pugs x 3 are even better. :)  Just like last year, we were right at the front of the pack which was fine by me...better the front than the back!   And then we waited...making small talk with a girl nearby, bouncing up and down, waiting.

Finally the loudspeaker came on as someone welcomed us to Lowell and to the marathon...they were going to play the national anthem but apparently there was some glitch in the player or mike and so they couldn't play it.  Suddenly, someone out of the crowd of runners started singing, and people started joining in.  It was such a quiet morning and the only sound was of this crowd of runners, each of us standing on the line, about to begin this marathon journey, all singing the national anthem.  It was, no lie, one of the coolest moments I have ever experienced, and I was holding back tears as I was just so powerful and really, really cool.  I had to keep the emotions in check though because as soon as the song was was go time!

I can't even remember if there was a gun, or a horn, or just someone saying go, I don't even know...but we were moving towards the line, and about 10 seconds after whatever mysterious GO signal occured, I was over the timing mat, starting my watch, and off on the journey that would be my 3rd marathon.

Miles 1-8: Calm mind
7:04, 7:24, 7:41, 7:41, 7:38, 7:41, 7:43, 7:36
The first mile was the usual flurry of adrenaline and half marathoners shooting by and just general blazing insanity.  My mind was on a continuous loop of relax relax RELAX but it's really hard to relax when everyone is busting out of the gate and it's always hard to get a handle on pace the first mile of any race, let alone a marathon.  My effort seemed a little high but I wasn't sure if that meant I was about to have a very bad day or if I was just running like a fears were alleviated when I came through the 1 mile mark in 7:04...err...AHH! Way, WAY too fast, obviously. But, ya know, keep calm and carry on.  I have to say I was sort of in shock because yeah, I knew I was running harder than marathon effort, but to be didn't feel THAT much harder.  Alright, dial it back Audrey, don't be an idiot.  Mile 2 was a 7:24, still too fast, and I must have made some sort of noise when I saw the 2 mile go by at under 15 minutes, because a dude in a grey shirt next to me was like "yikes, too fast" and I was like "uh yeah"...which of course he took as his signal to begin a conversation with me, which was OK I suppose...for a couple minutes.  He asked me what I was hoping to run and for the first time I actually blurted out "3:20...if I have a really good day. But probably 3:30" And he was like, "oh, I HAVE to run under 3:30"...I assume that would be his BQ time.  We actually hung together for awhile, and I can't remember whether I passed him or he passed me, but one way or another I didn't see him any more after awhile.  I also got the first sight of my cheering section of Kelly and Andrew at the 2 mile - which was so much fun because I wasn't expecting to see them until later in the race!
Mile in the red singlet off the shoulder of the girl in the red long sleeve

Finally, with mile 3, I fell into the steady steady pace that I would keep until mile 20. Mile 3: 7:41. Mile 4: 7:41. Nice little downhill through the back neighborhood, I seriously felt like I knew this course like the back of my hand.  Every mile marker, every little hill, I remembered it all so vividly from last year and it was really mentally nice to be like "oh yeah, I remember feeling like this mile took forever, but the mile marker is just after this store..." or whatever.  Mile 5 - 7:38.  Mile 6 -7:41.  I took my first Gu [Tri-Berry...which I had made a special trip to Marathon Sports to buy because although I've shaken most of my ridiculous racing superstitions, I needed the damn Tri-Berry Gu...not mandarin orange, not vanilla..tri-berry. OK?] and it was delicious, and the "hills" in the backside of the course were pretty much nonexistent compared to the crap that I ran on at Cape Ann and Nahant, and I was feeling like a rockstar.  At the same time I was mildly perplexed that I was running as fast as I was and feeling as good as I was, because in all of my raceday prep/calculations, the fastest I even dreamed of running on like...the best day ever...was 7:50s.  And thus far I had seen exactly zero miles at or over 7:50s.  So obviously that kind of factored into the back of my this all going to end in disaster?  But I really tried to keep the negative thoughts at bay and just focus on the moment, and at this moment, I was feeling strong and amazing.  Might as well ride it out and see what develops!

At mile 7.5 there was a great water stop, I actually forgot but I probably should have voted for them in the high school challenge.  They were super enthusiastic, they were playing music, and there was a girl with a giant DON'T STOP BELIEVIN sign which for some reason almost brought me to tears.  I was only at mile 7 but down in my gut...somewhere...I just know.  You know when you are in a race and you just KNOW? That today is your day and everything you could possibly dream of is out on that course for the taking? I think that was the moment I realized it. Everything just felt so, so RIGHT.  I was feeling fantastic and strong at this pace, reeling people in and passing them like it was my job, occasionally a girl would fly past me but something told me she would come back...everything just seemed to be falling into place. At mile 8 I got to see my cheering section again and I was grinning and waving my arms in the air, giving the thumbs up for the camera, etc.  Never in a race could I ever remember feeling this wonderful and happy.  In the back of my mind there were still a few doubts as to whether I could keep it, after all there were 18 miles to go.  But I think in my heart I knew that I would.

Mile 8, feeling great!  Onward to the bouncy bridge...

Miles 9-13.1: Hips don't lie
7:42, 7:36, 7:37, 7:34, 7:37, 1:39:30 at the half
Over the bouncy bridge I ran, it was just as unsettling as last year although less slippery which I appreciated.  Honestly it almost felt like I didn't have to do any work to run over it which was nice...I guess...but still weird, and felt very weird when I got back on solid ground. I still was looking at my splits with this feeling of disbelief  and vague anxiety...I just kept expecting to see the slowdown before I felt it and so far I was just clicking off steady splits like it was my job.  I spent what seemed like eternity with my eyes trained on a girl in blue shorts [you can see her ahead of me in the picture] and for the life of me I can't remember if I ever ended up passing her or not...but regardless, thank you blue shorts girl for giving me a target to pace off for some of the middle miles! I kept thinking to myself "I don't even know what I'm doing right now!"...which somehow made me think of the song Hips Don't Lie and the lyric "I don't, don't really know what I'm doing...but you seem to have a plan"...and then I thought to myself hah! It's like my legs have a plan, right? and I don't even know what's going on! And the song is about hips, and my hips are working really hard! So fitting right? Uh...okay...thank you marathon induced insanity lol. Anyway, 10 miles came and went and here I was still running under 7:40 pace, what in the world. Once again the little sneaky negative thoughts started sneaking in..."it's only the 10 mile, you can't keep this up, bah"...but I crushed them with my two mantras for the race: "Looking good, feeling great" and "LOVING MY LIFE!"...positive thoughts only. :)

I knew the half was coming up and was getting excited because that meant bridge + crowds + cheering section + halfway, etc. Miles 11 and 12 seemed to take a very long time, and I though that I was slowing down, but like clockwork I kept looking at my watch and there those beautiful splits were. Lots of cheers for GBTC along this stretch, and I saw Tom who yelled something to the effect of "you're running for the winning team right now!" Unsure of how to respond to that, I think I threw my hands up and yelled woo! or something equally stupid haha. If I remember right, mile 12 or so was the only time during the race where I took Gatorade [vs water, which I took at about every other stop, but I've realized I really dislike the taste and stickiness of Gatorade during a race]...and part of my motivation was this high school kid who was singing and dancing and yelling about his glorious made me laugh.  Soon enough we were at the bridge...and did I miss the memo about the whole bridge being a gradual uphill? seemed to last pretty much forever, and I was psyched to see the other side. As soon as I hit the other side, I saw Andrew and Kelly again, yelling and just going crazy.  I was grinning from ear to ear, and I yelled at them "who AM I????"  I was just in complete and utter disbelief at the pace I was running, what I was doing, and how this race was unfolding. 
Probably the best race photo ever taken of me...complete and utter joy :)

I hit the half in a minute off my half PR and my second best half ever...WHAT?? A guy nearby said something like "I have this strange sense of deja I've been here before" as we headed out on the second lap...I was like "yeah, but I didn't expect to be back so soon!"  At the half I was already 10 minutes ahead of last year and showing no signs of blowing up anytime soon...

Miles 14-20: I'm not afraid
7:37, 7:41, 7:37, 7:45, 7:43, 7:45, 7:55
I remembered the second time around the backside of the course being tough mentally, and this year was no different.  It's like after the adrenaline rush of passing the half in such great time, you go back into the somewhat ugly, sort of "hilly" as far as this course goes, section, and you're too far out from the finish to be close to home but far enough away from the start that fatigue is definitely starting to set in.  I took my Lemon Sublime Gu at 14 or so, and saw Ryan, Katie, and Kelly's parents around the same time...who told me I was looking strong!  And I felt strong! It was around this point of the course that I picked up Chatty Cathy and her pal Chatty McChats a lot. Remember my tale of the talkers at Nahant? This was just as bad, if not worse.  Ahh! These two girls, running along and just talking! I'm not knocking people who talk during races, it's just...we're clearly running a fairly competitive pace, and I couldn't deal with being near these two just talking away about their social lives and plans for the week and just random crap while I was trying to focus on my race.  It took me a couple of miles to pass them, and even then they were on my heels for a solid 3 miles more before I finally lost them for good. To distract myself from the talking I tried to find a song to throw into my mental mp3's what I came up with
I'm not afraid to take a stand
Everybody come take my hand
We'll walk this road together
Through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just lettin' you know you're not alone
holler if you feel like you've been down the same road

And it was true.  I wasn't afraid anymore.  All of the demons that had plagued me since Boston, that I wasn't good enough or fast enough or strong enough to ever run a better marathon than I did last year, that I couldn't really compete, that I didn't have that mental toughness or something....I just KNEW.  I finally knew that I did.  And after coming this far in this race I knew - even if I hit the wall from here on out - I'm coming in under 3:30.  And holy crap, is this happening? Is this for real? It is, it is, it IS!! People were slowing down and I was passing them, as I chug chugged along.  Soon enough we came up on the 7.5/17.5 aid station, where the girl with the Don't Stop Believin sign was...I couldn't help but to throw out my hand [which had DON'T STOP BELIEVIN written on it] and be like "I love your sign!!"  Once again, the entire backstretch I really felt like I was slowing down, but really I guess it was that my effort was going up [obviously] but I was still holding pace.  Freaking holding pace!  I knew the breakdown was coming and when it did it wasn't going to be fun, but at this point I knew that barring walking the last 6 miles, a PR was in the bag, now all that was left to do was see just how big of a PR it could be.

At 18 I got to see my incredible cheering section again, which obviously gave me a boost, and Kelly jumped it with me briefly and told me that if I needed her at mile 23, she'd be there to run me in.  I was still feeling great at that point but had the feeling that 5 miles down the road it was entirely possible that I would be in need of support.  Having her and Andrew out there at so many spots along the course all day was just incredible for me...knowing that they were going to be there in just a few more miles was such a huge energy boost, and being able to smile and look strong when I came past made things all the better. :)

Mile 18, and over the bouncy bridge once again!  There was a lot of cheering going on for myself and the pack of girls I was with, which I guess should have been my first indication that we weren't too far back in the general scheme of overall women [I ended up as 32nd woman overall].  I wasn't feeling bad yet, but I was definitely starting to feel...well...less good.  Relaxation and fun times and rainbows were over now...with 8 miles to go of one of the best races I've run in my life, it's time to get down to the nitty gritty.  But I still kept repeating that mantra "looking good, feeling great. looking good, feeling great"  You could see people starting to break down and the number of people I passed increased by a lot over the last 8 miles as people began walking, stopping to stretch things out, or just dramatically slowing down.  I had grabbed a Gu at the 17.5 aid station and was planning on waiting until 21 to take it, but I could feel my legs starting to grumble and I was thinking glycogen depletion was probably a reason, so I decided to mow down on it at like mile 19...with no aid station in sight. GENIUS I tell you...let's just say I hope there were no photographers in the vicinity, because I probably look like I crawled out of a swamp with chocolate Gu absolutely coating my teeth, lovely!

At the mile 20 mark someone had painted "THE WALL" on the sidewalk...I yelled out to no on in particular "THERE IS NO WALL!!!" I was slowing down a bit but nothing super significant, and I figured even though I had dropped a bit of time I could hold it for the last 6 miles.  I can't remember what the clock at 20 read, but it was something like 2:30.  I came to the realization that I had an entire HOUR to run the last 6.2 miles to come in under 3:30 [still, STILL not even considering the sub 3:25.  I still couldn't even believe it.] and it was like...this is happening.  I may crash and burn and burst into flames in the next 6 miles, but unless I am reduced to a walk for a significant portion of the rest of this race, I'm hitting sub-3:30. 

Miles 21-26.2: Don't stop believin'
7:56, 7:59, 7:56, 7:57, 7:59, 7:55, 1:38
And just like last year, this is where it gets really, really hard.  And you have to dig deep and find, somewhere, those last ounces of strength and will that are going to carry you home.  I really don't think anything could have adequately prepare me for the incredible pain in my left leg that started emerging at mile 21 and continued on through the finish.  It was probably the most painful thing I've felt in a race - and that includes the hamstring cramps at Boston.  It was like every single muscle fiber in my left leg [right leg? totally fine.  Kind of  makes no sense, but okay] was screaming NO NO NO like an angry child throwing a temper tantrum. It. HURT. Would I have loved my life if that hadn't been the case? Yeah. But I was accepting of the fact that it was happening, because DUH, it's the last 5 miles of a marathon. It's SUPPOSED to hurt.  And if it doesn't, you're not running hard enough. 

I think it's a scientific fact that the further you get in a distance race, the further apart the mile markers are. Seriously, it's science.  Because I swear I thought the 22 mile mark was never going to show up. All I wanted was to get to 23 and see Kelly and Andrew and have Kelly come talk to me through the last 3 miles...and it just felt like I was never going to get there.  Once again I was trying so hard to keep the negative thoughts and doubts out - every time I would think to myself "well, if you go over 8 minute pace at this point it's totally OK..." I would snap out of it and be like NO! You do not need to go over 8 minute pace!  Come ON! "Looking good, feeling great" didn't seem super applicable anymore, but any sort of random motivating phrases I could throw into my head were doing the trick at keeping me moving. 

After what seemed like an eternity, I FINALLY hit the 23 mile mark, and even though the pain was..well...painful! I still managed to smile and fist pump at Andrew...and hit myself on the chest...meaning "it's all here now...from here you run with your heart".  Kelly jumped it with me and I told her I just needed her to talk to me.  I could not have asked for a better person to get me through the 3 toughest miles of my life...she was so incredibly motivating, telling me how strong I was and getting me to stay on pace, to pass people, to just keep moving...without her I doubt I would have kept my pace through the last 3 miles, and I am so grateful to her for that.  We came to the last water station just past mile 24 [2 miles to go!] and I veered over to grab one last drink.  As I started running out of the station, I suddenly heard the most glorious opening bars of any song in existence that I know of...


Oh. My. God.  Words absolutely cannot describe the level of happiness that I felt in that moment. It sounds ridiculous but I'm not kidding when I say that every single time I hear the opening bars of that song, whether it be in a bar, on my ipod, randomly playing out of a car, in a store, whatever...a jolt of happiness runs through me. I literally threw my arms in the air, thought I was going to burst into tears,  and let out some sound that was somewhere between a scream and a yelp, and Kelly was like...what? what? I was like no no no...this is MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE SONG EVER!!  2 miles to go, in the best race I've run in my entire life, and this song...this perfect perfect perfect was like at that moment I was simply exactly where I was meant to be.  All the miles, cramming in workouts between exams and studying and everyone I knew thinking I was completely insane, the times and times when I just didn't think I could do it, when I couldn't see the point, when I just couldn't understand why I was doing this...and feeling like I would never be able to truly RACE a marathon.  This...this moment....this was why I was doing it. To be more than I ever dreamed I could be.

2 miles to go.  I can't imagine 2 miles hurting more than those 2 miles hurt.  Dear sweet lord I thought my left leg was going to come ripping off of my body.  And yet I STILL was holding pace.  After I slowed down by 10 seconds at 20, I kept that pace for the rest of the race, which I have to say given how I felt, I'm really proud of.  Kelly continued to be the best motivator imaginable, urging me to pass people, and just getting me through to the next mile marker.  Mile 25 and here we go...1.2 miles to go. This is really happening and I am about to run a sub 3:25 marathon....I couldn't even believe it was real.  Finally we ran down that beautiful hill, past that beautiful track, and past that beautiful sign of ONE MILE TO GO...where someone had leaned a poster board with a drawing of the Citgo sign.  And yet again...cue the near waterworks...because it was just one more reminder that every bit of negativity, how much I was beaten down, and every single thought in my mind after Boston that was "I'm not good at this, and I'm never going to run a great marathon", every demon I had harbored since that race...all of it was finally gone.  And here I was, knowing I could doing it, and believing in my heart that I was for real.

The last mile seemed to take a second and an hour at the same time.  Knowing exactly where the finish was and having to sort of loop around it before you got to go there was just agonizing, I think last year it was raining so hard that I couldn't SEE the finish so I had no clue how close it really was. My form was totally falling apart and I was struggling like crazy, but I refused to slow down.  Finally - FINALLY - we hit that glorious "speed tunnel" bridge [straight into the wind, of course, not exactly lovely haha] and Kelly was like "I KNEW you could do it, GO GET IT!" and off I went, around the turn and the 26 mile mark, and into the glorious stadium.  The warning track seemed a LOT longer than last year but I "kicked" with every single ounce that my body had left to give.  Looking up and seeing 3:22 on the clock, all I could do was throw my fist in the air, close my eyes, and just revel in the absolute magic of this moment. 

I think they have space blankets on Cloud 9 :)

After the race, I went through my usual semi-hyperventilation/almost crying from happiness/laughing from joy all at the same time.  And also, in a lot of pain.  You know the kind of pain where you almost laugh because it hurts so much? That's what my legs felt like.  All I wanted was to find Andrew and Kelly, but without my phone I had no idea how I was going to go about doing that, so I basically just aimlessly wandered the stadium and occasionally plopped down in a random chair when I couldn't deal with walking anymore.  Finally I found them, and was starting to pull myself back together...although food was still of absolutely no interest whatsoever. But by about 20 minutes after my finish, I was coming back to life pretty well, and was able to stand around without feeling like my legs were going to collapse like Jello underneath me or possible just straight up fall off.

So we went to the awards ceremony to watch Marybeth get her 2nd place OA award and Zandra get her 2nd place AG award, and just generally reconvene as a team.  I had a beer which tasted delish, but food still wasn't so enticing at this point.  We drove home and of course had to go to American Craft for the necessary post race fries with blue cheese beer sauce, burgers, and some tasty pumpkin beer...yes yes. :)  Annnnnd then I fell asleep at 9:30 while watching Arrested Development...because I'm awesome like that.  Clearly after a day like that sleep is 100% necessary.  My legs started to get kind of achy later in the night, so I took an aspirin which I think helped with the inflammation a little bit, because I feel much better today that I did after my previous 2 marathons...actually semi-capable of walking around like a normal human being, although I definitely am having some trouble with stairs, especially after sitting in a lecture hall for 2 hours.

So. Yeah. 17:05 shaved off my PR in one shot.  Never, never, never in my absolute wildest fantasies and dreams did I EVER expect to run this fast. In the back of my mind I knew I would most likely go 3:35, it would be sweet if I went under 3:30, and if I was anywhere near 2:25, well, that would be freaking incredible. But 3:22? No way. Not on the radar.  But everything came together, the training, the mentality, the lack of psych-outage, the staying relaxed, the just letting my damn legs RUN...and I could not have asked for a more magical, amazing race.

Somewhere, in the deep recesses of my mind, I must have known I could do it.  If I didn't think I could, I would have backed off the pace, or never gone out that fast in the first place, or panicked, and would have never known what I could truly do.  But somewhere there was that tiny spark of a thought that was whispering "You are better than you know.  You are better than your times make you seem.  And today is the day to show the world, and show yourself, what you really are."

It's funny, because when I signed up for this marathon I had no specific aspirations or goals other than to requalify for Boston.  And my training was so much less regimented, and so much more about getting the miles in, doing the long runs, getting workouts in when it made sense and when it felt good, running easy on the easy days and hard when it seemed like a good idea. I really thought that even if my fitness was right, I would never have the guts after Boston to go for a goal time ever again. But somehow, I knew, that yesterday was the day.  And now I feel like I've blown my marathon possibilities wide open...that this is a huge breakthrough race for me. I mean, I basically just ran a time that in my wildest imagination I didn't think I would achieve in my lifetime.  All because I finally figured out how to relax, let my legs do their thing, and not be afraid to take my shot.

Boston 2012, you better get ready.  I've got a score to settle. :)

As a PS though it's likely none of them will ever read this, I also have to give the biggest thanks possible to Kelly my training partner, for being the catalyst for pretty much everything I've done this training cycle, talking me out of tears when I just couldn't bear the thought of going on another 7 am long run in the middle of the summer, and generally being an incredible role model and inspiration.  And a thanks to Kelly my new running buddy, for the pasta, couch to sleep on, ride to the race, and for getting me through the last 3 miles, I could not be more grateful.  And finally of course, thanks to Andrew, for not being mad when I occasionally ditch him for running and for learning that spectating a marathon can actually be very fun...which is a good thing, since he's got many more coming. :)

And if you made it this far in my race report, congratulations to you as well!  Because given my wordiness that's quite an epic feat haha. I'm sure I'll be back with some sort of wrap-up recap and what's next post sometime in the near future...but I think I've given you enough to read for now. :)

 Never, never, never stop believin'. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I always knew :)

(yes, for those of you keeping score at home, that's a 17:05 PR)

Words cannot accurately express how thrilled I am about this race.  I never, NEVER in my wildest dreams expected to run sub 3:30 at this race, let alone 3:22.  I am absolutely overjoyed....full race report coming soon...for now...burgers and beer!!!!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

I'm not afraid

So much running, not enough blogging! Y'all know how it goes.

Well, I think I've sat down like 3 times in the past couple of weeks to write about something or another - mostly about the events of the week where I ran 80 MILES due to having to do my long run from the previous week (20) on Monday and then that week's long run (22) on Sunday. The short version: the 20 miler was probably the best 20 I've ever done, I felt completely relaxed and smooth the entire time, and completely forgot about the fact that I was running 20 miles...never had that happen on a major long run before.  The 22 was definitely harder, the fatigue of the week had obviously caught up (since I did a hard track workout of 2 x [800, 1200, 1600 @ 5K pace] on Tuesday...yup...the day after the 20 miler) and another easy 10 on Friday.  But it was hard in a good way, in the way of "I know my legs are fatigued, but this feels pretty damn good for having run 80 miles this week" way...and I also guarantee I negative split the last 5 miles as usual...that's just my style haha.

Which led into this week, the last "big" week of training I guess you could say, even though in reality by this point the hay is pretty much in the barn.  This week was more of a sharpening time with a long tempo on Tuesday and *gulp* a 5K race on Sunday.  If you had ever told me before now that racing a 5K 2 weeks before a marathon I would have called you crazy, but Tom was really adamant about the marathoners doing it and that guy knows his stuff, so 5K it was!  Tuesday's practice was a 10K on the track in disgusting humidity and mist, and I felt like shit during the warmup and through the first couple miles, just logey and like my legs didn't want to fire.  Then the further along we got, the better I felt, and the girl I was running with ended up dropping after 4.5 miles and I finished out the last 1.7 with negative splits. Fun! 

Nothing much exciting the rest of the week, just easy-moderate running, which could really be the title of this training cycle for me.  Do a few hard workouts, and other than that, just run. Run fast, run slow, just run. And I was about to discover that the "just run" philosophy apparently pays dividends on the shorter end of the racing spectrum too, since Sunday I went out and ran my second fastest 5K EVER, less than 20 seconds off my track PR and a road PR by over a minute.  Oh, and I spent the entire day before drinking while standing watching football.


For serious. The race was the RMH Providence Women's Classic, which this year was the USATFNE grand prix 5k for women's teams. As an aside, I cannot recommend this race enough!!!  Pro #1 - $15 entry fee...tell me when the last time you saw one of those was! Pro #2 - for the cheap-o entry fee, you get not only your choice of either a long sleeve cotton shirt or a short sleeve tech shirt [being able to choose was a nice touch], but also a cute little polka dot spike bag with the race logo on it, and my personal favorite thing...a coffee mug with the race logo! Oh, and none of these things have advertising logos anywhere.  I love it! Pro #3 - flat, well marked course ending with a really cool finish on the Brown U track. So huge, HUGE props to the RMH Providence running guys put on a fantastic race!

I was very mehhh about the race going in....given my lack of speedwork, my confidence was not high about running a solid time even though I know I'm obviously fit.  I also woke up and just felt weird the morning of [maybe just a little bit hungover...ooops] but some Gatorade and breakfast helped that.  Didn't feel great on the warmup, but whatever, that's pretty standard.  I was SO excited to race in my new road flats...which I am completely in love with. 
Not that easy to see in this pic but...Saucony new pride and joy :)

Got on the line with the HUGE group of GBTC girls...that was pretty cool.  The past 2 races I did with the club there were only a few women racing but since this was the grand prix the team was out in force.  So there was all sorts of cheering and clapping and yelling and high fiving and general excitement and it was GREAT!!!  Such a change from every other race I've done the past year where I've stood alone in a sea of people, looking around and just waiting for the race to start so I could stop awkwardly standing there. I still don't really know many of the girls but it was fantastic just to be a part of the team thing again, finally. 

So we all thought the race was about to start, but then of course they had to sing the national anthem, and then without warning the gun fired and off we went!  I forgot how crazy the first half mile of a 5K is...just screaming insanity, and your body being like "what the #*%)# are you doing??" as you try to run as faaaaast as you can. I just locked on a couple red singlets in front of me and went.  First mile was a 6:08 or something, I hit my watch a little late because Tom was taking pictures and I didn't want to be taking splits for a picture haha, but as I came up on the clock and saw it ticking down the ends of the 5s I honestly let out a little gasp/odd noise because I had NO IDEA that I was/was capable of running that fast at the moment.

It hurrrt obviously, that's the fastest mile I've run a year and a now we were into mile 2 and it seemed to take FOREVER. Like longest mile of my life, seriously. I got passed by a couple women but I also passed a couple others so it evened out.  I could tell I had slowed down a little bit but it was fairly obvious that that was going to happen haha.  Mile 2 finally showed up, the clock wasn't working but I had 12:45 net time on my watch and I knew if I could hold on I would at least come close to a PR.

The last mile is where I wish I could have manned up juuuuust a little bit more. (of course its always easy to say that in retrospect, when you aren't in the process of feeling like you're going to puke everywhere and like your legs are going to fall off, hah) I think if I had known the course a little better I would have kicked earlier - I didn't realize that when we got into the stadium it was only like ~150m to the finish.   But regardless...when I got close-ish to the finish I started trying to push it even though I honestly thought I was going to vom...passed a Whirlaway into the stadium, onto the track, and in my mind thought "kick like Jade!" (my former teammate who just has a wicked kick) and blew past one other girl, through to the finish. I was a little disappointed when I saw the clock click into the 20s, but I couldn't deny that I had just run my second best 5K ever, on NO 5K TRAINING, and a road PR by over a minute.  Holy eff. 20:12. 

It's funny because I think about track two years ago, and how I was about ready to explode with joy when I ran 20:27 and 20:18 when I was really seriously training for the 5K...and those were on the track.  And now I just busted out a 20:12 on the road, and granted this is at the end of a marathon training cycle so obviously I'm fit, but with no real speed workouts to speak of.  So this is...good.  And needless to say, makes me very, VERY excited to see what I can do on the track this spring.

And then I got home from the race and ran 10 miles. Because that's just how I roll. :)

But wait, you say, isn't this girl training for some marathon that's in 2 weeks? Ohhhh right! Haha. Well it's been interesting actually having a coach/being a part of a team for the end stages of this training cycle, because it's made me rethink some of the things I did in taper the last couple of times around. (Case in a 5K 2 weeks before the marathon). Tom doesn't really believe in taper, or he does but not the extreme, drastic way I've done it in the past.  It kind of once again falls under the category of "don't overthink it, just run". 

So you may wonder: do I have some goals and aspirations for the marathon given that I've been racing and training well lately? Obviously in my mind I have them...yes.  But I will work with whatever my body gives me on race day and there is a wide continuum of numbers that I will be pleased to see.  That's about all I'll say about that for now...Tom apparently thinks I'm going to run out of my brain (I refuse to even put the number he threw out at me up here because its so insane, and if I actually achieved it I think my head would explode), and he wants us to win the team title again at Baystate.  I will most likely be the 3rd GBTC runner which means I count for our score - meaning I actually need to run well for the sake of the team, not just for myself.  The combination of team pressure and high expectations is making me a little bit nervous, I must say.  But I refuse to get sucked into what happened at Boston and let my mind get carried away and completely psych myself out before race day.  It's interesting because throughout this whole training cycle, I've never really thought to myself 'damn, I am MARATHON TRAINING!! I need to do all of these crazy pace workouts, and run fast a lot, and run my long runs as hard as I can'  I have just been doing these runs, running a lot of miles, once in awhile doing a workout. Simple. And yet, over August and September, the two 'big' months of training, I've run 7 miles less than I ran before Boston. 7. And by this point before Boston, I was overtrained, sluggish, and miserable. Now, I'm just doing what my legs tell me and enjoying the ride. And I think that's the plan for raceday: shut off the brain, and let my legs do their thing.  They're obviously's time to sit back, relax, let them loose and see what happens. :)

AND - I cannot be afraid to absolutely let it rock if my legs say yes.  Because I know I've got a really good marathon in me and if the conditions and day is right, I've gotta go big or go home. :)