Sunday, November 17, 2019

You crowd, you cramp, you're still the champ, amen for NYC: NYC Marathon 2019 Race Report

[This took FOREVER to finish because I've had an insane couple of weeks since this race, but I'm so happy to say it's finally done and out in the world. Kind of hard to believe I've written 15 of these novel race reports now, but I'm so happy to have them to look back on!]

I fell in love with New York City the first time I ever set foot there.

I had just finished 6th grade, and I felt like the luckiest kid on the planet to get to travel to the big city for a national dance competition. As a young dancer, making it to Nationals for the first time felt like Making It. We stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria, which sounded fancy, and I will never forget stepping out of the taxi from the airport, into the lights, noise, smells of the city, and just feeling It was unlike anything I had ever felt before. And I knew, in my 11 year old heart, that I loved this place.

And so, NYC has continued to call me back as the years and decades have rolled by. Each time dance nationals roulette landed on New York, my heart soared - no offense to Vegas or Orlando (actually whatever I'll offend those cities happily), but neither could offer anything close to what NYC did. When I was about 14, I competed in a tap dance to a song entitled "NYC", from the musical Annie, at nationals in New York. I vividly recall the music swelling as we moved into our final kickline, feeling so full of happiness I thought I might burst. I lived in Manhattan during the summer of 2012 while completing my first physical therapy student rotation. As far as the clinical went, I struggled - turns out acute care PT was not the path for me. But as for the rest of the summer? Pure magic. Living alone in a one room studio on 103rd and Central Park West, knowing no one, I spent that summer exploring the city that I had come to know as mine, whether I lived there permanently or not. At that time, I was in an off phase from competitive running, but I still spent many miles looping through and exploring Central Park. I once sprinted from my apartment to Times Square after the shittiest day at work in an attempt to score tickets in the Book of Mormon lottery, grinning like a maniac all the while. When I was 29, my long term relationship crumbled, and with nowhere else to turn I impulsively booked a bus ticket to NYC, then spent essentially my entire life savings on a ticket to see the original Broadway cast of Hamilton. The relationship mended (heck, we're married now!) but that weekend remains one of my favorite gifts I've ever given myself. It doesn't matter why I'm there, who I'm with, or what else is going on in the world, when I step off a train or a bus or a taxi and into the whirlwind vortex that is New York City, I feel like I'm home.

So you would think, given my extremely strong feelings towards this place, that at some point in the past 10 years I would have contemplated running the massive marathon that's held there every year. I did enter the lottery a few years ago without success, and then just sort of gave up the idea. There were other races that didn't cost $300 or require running with 50,000 other people, and anyway, most of the race was outside of Manhattan proper anyway. For whatever reason, there was no strong allure. And then, I had a dream. Literally. I dreamed that I ran NYC in 3:05:26. As dreams go, the course was certainly much different than the real one, involving stairways and fire escapes and cutting through buildings, but I woke up with a smile as I remembered the time on the clock. A couple of hours later, that morning, I got an email from NYRR that registration was open for the marathon. Only then did it occur to me: I had an automatic time qualifier. And as they say, the rest is history.

I knew going into this marathon that my training would be...unconventional, to say the least. My fall season goal race wasn't actually a running race at all - after the disaster that was Boston, I sort of said to hell with the marathon and decided to become a triathlete, and as it turns out trying to train yourself from 0 to a decent 56 miles on a bicycle requires sacrificing some hours on the road. From June through September, I averaged between 32-38 miles per week, with a couple of outliers in the 40s but nothing over 45. Long runs were held to 10-11 miles with one accidental 15 miler in the mix, and generally as summer came into fall I felt extremely globally fit, but not particularly in great running fitness. I took 4 days off after the half ironman, promptly raced 21 miles over 24 hours at Reach the Beach, and then dove into my mini marathon cycle. I knew I didn't have the time to spend on attempting to bring up my top end speed, so track workouts were not a priority. Instead, I tried to build mileage and the long run as quickly and safely as I could while also maintaining my sanity. In the end, here's how the mini-cycle shook out:
Week 1: 40.3 miles, included a short tempo workout, long run 13.5 easy
Week 2: 46.9 miles, 11 mile MLR on Thurs, long run 20 miles with a 2/1 x 4 workout (this should have been a 50 mile week but my adductor was pissed after the long run that definitely was beyond my current fitness)
Week 3: 50.7 miles, no MLR because I had to do my long run on a Friday, long run 18 miles relaxed
Week 4: 55.3 miles, slow/terrible 10 mile MLR, long run was 21 total with a half marathon in 1:34 + some slower miles for cheering/pacing
Week 5: 52 miles, 10 mile MLR with 5 mile tempo (one of the best workouts I've ever done), long run 16 miles with 2/1 x 4 workout that felt great
Week 6: 44.2 miles, a not great tempo workout, and a 12 mile long run
And then a week of taper. So...not a lot of mileage, but I did the best I could with the tempos and long runs. I knew there was an off chance that I could run out of my mind and PR or something, but that seemed gut instinct was that on a perfect day something just under 3:20 was possible, and 3:20-3:25 seemed very doable. The fact that a PR was really never on the table was actually quite wonderful because it took ALL the pressure off. Still, I was nervous - would I even be able to run a reasonable time, or would this be an embarrassing outing? The thought of another 3:35 performance was almost too much to bear (not disparaging anyone who runs that time! But 25 minutes slower than your PR is...a lot). So I set my number 1 goal as having fun, and secondary to run a qualifying time that would put me in a relatively good position to return to Boston in 2021 (because I obviously hate myself, lol).

I headed down to the city bright and early on Saturday with Joy, who joined me for the weekend to cheer (do I have the best friends or what?) The moment I emerged out of Penn Station and into the crisp light of a fall morning in New York, all of the feelings that I just described came rushing back. I did a dance like a 5 year old and was practically spinning in circles with glee.
Taking photos in a crosswalk because I'M HERE

The first order of business was to head to the expo, which was much less overwhelming than Boston's but still a project. Joy commented that she actually wished that she were running the marathon, which I found hilarious because I still couldn't quite wrap my brain around the fact that I was running a marathon the next day. Were we sure this was real life? I don't know if it was the extremely short nature of the training cycle or the fact that I had always viewed this race as more of a celebration but I definitely didn't feel like I had to cover 26.2 miles the following day. Still, I got some standard photos at the expo, purchased my Gu (yup, didn't even have Gu for the race, got my nuun bottle, and then pretty much got out of there. I didn't buy ANYTHING extraneous, which is shocking. But I honestly wasn't wowed by any of the official gear, and unlike Boston there wasn't any other race specific stuff. I did end up buying the race photos, as you'll see, which I do feel sort of makes up for my lack of spending at the expo.
 Please recall my tap dance background as you look at this picture lol

The old "find your name on the poster" shot

Giggling because at this point they were asking small children about their advice for the marathon and the girl's advice was "it will be over...eventually!"

We ended up going to Rattle & Hum for lunch, because I apparently gravitate towards that one place when I'm in the city and also because I didn't feel like wandering about looking for an appropriate lunch. I had a pretty great turkey club and some pretzel bites along with a couple of tasters of some interesting beers (a bahn mi inspired sour = fascinating). Then we hopped on the Q train to Brooklyn, where our Air BnB was located. It turned out to be a really interesting and eclectic apartment, with lots of unique artwork and an interesting layout. It was also in an EXCELLENT location, about 3 blocks from the subway I'd need to take in the morning (and also the course itself) and close to Prospect Park, which is where Joy and I headed for a little shakeout run.

A random guy jogging by saw us struggling to take a selfie and offered to take our photo, and I have to say he nailed it! Nice framing, guy! 

I definitely didn't feel awesome but when do you ever feel awesome the day before a marathon? Again, that specific situation hadn't fully sunk in. The rest of the afternoon we just kind of hung out at the apartment; I went to the grocery store that was a couple of blocks down to get some last minute items including tupperware and PLASTIC SPOONS for my oatmeal so that I wouldn't have to steal kitchen items from my Air BnB host and abandon them on Staten Finally remembered that you need silverware to eat oatmeal, which has only taken me like 2 years to figure out. We went out for dinner at a local Italian spot which was cozy and very nice, where I ate chicken parmesan which is apparently my new thing. We headed back to the apartment where I sorted out my last minute preparations (drink the traditional prerace beer, paint my nails, organize my stuff, set up my oatmeal...etc). Daylight savings time is a blessing, since my 4:27 wake up call would feel like 5:27, but still by 9:45 or so I felt like I should probably head to bed. Nothing left to do but get up in the morning and race!

Please note the AMAZING cheetah socks which I bought to match my Kinvaras (after much waffling back and forth I decided that I wanted to stick with what felt most comfortable and wear the Kinvaras vs. my Freedoms for this race. But then, the horror...I don't have socks that match! A frantic spree on my Tuesday morning commute solved that issue and quite frankly I think it was an excellent choice)

Race day! I got maybe the best night of sleep I ever have before a marathon, waking up only once (interestingly right at the time change at 2 am) and despite my ridiculous stress dream that my socks had transformed into slipper socks, I woke up feeling refreshed, 20 minutes before my alarm, at 4:07 am. I lay awake in the darkness, thinking, waiting for the first strains of Thunderstruck to come blasting through my phone and for race day to truly begin. It felt surreal. I still don't think I had wrapped my head around the fact that I was running a marathon, and truthfully I probably didn't until halfway through he race. I knew that my run volume was low and my marathon specific cycle was short, but that mindset actually allowed me a sense of relative calm as I went through my morning routine.  I wanted this day to be a celebration of all that I loved about the marathon before I took a break from it in 2020. A chance to wash the taste of Boston out of my mouth and maybe for the first time to truly enjoy the experience of a marathon, not just the time on the clock. Whatever I ran today, it would be enough. After a brief snafu with my food prep - our host did have a microwave, which I had pondered during my 2 am wakeup, but it wasn't functional! Luckily a teakettle + water = good enough oatmeal for me. I also forgot to buy brown sugar and so made do with some random agave syrup I found in the kitchen...again, seemed good enough! I walked to the subway in the dark and the quiet, briefly crossing the course I'd be running later on. In the R train station, an eclectic mix of runners in throwaway sweats and other humans of New York awaited the R train. It was silent as we rumbled underground; I sipped my can of coffee as men and women in Tyvek suits and worn sweatpants shifted in their seats awaiting the call for the Whitehall Station. We emerged from the subway to the glow of massive blue letters announcing the STATEN ISLAND FERRY, along with the most chipper volunteers who seemed to have no purpose other than to wish us a good morning, a good day, good luck. We were funneled into lines where our bags were sniffed by the goodest working doggos...heart! In the ferry terminal I encountered a highly unusual sight: a lengthy line for the men's bathroom, and NONE for the womens! I felt like I was in a parallel universe! I munched on a banana while waiting for the call for the 5:45 am ferry. As we walked down the gangplank, I remember just being absolutely delighted that I was taking a BOAT to my race! On boarding the boat, the first thing I saw was the glow of the Statue of Liberty in the distance, bright against the dawn light just starting to emerge. I'm not even going to lie, I got emotional! Again, I just love this place so much, and I just felt so completely grateful to have the opportunity to do what I was doing today.  (Something strange happened with the formatting here, and I dont know how to fix it!)<3 5:45="" a="" about="" absolute="" also="" am="" an="" and="" any="" around="" as="" ascended="" assume="" ate="" attempt.="" await="" baggage="" banana="" be="" because="" been="" beginning="" boat="" but="" call="" chaos="" comes="" darkness="" dawn.="" day:="" day="" delight="" does="" doing="" earlier="" early="" emerging="" end="" energy="" ever="" experience="" eyes="" felt.="" felt="" ferry.="" ferry="" first="" for="" fortunate="" from="" glanced="" good="" had="" halfway="" happen="" happiness.="" heard="" horror="" hundreds="" i="" in="" into="" island.="" it.="" it="" journey="" just="" let="" liberty="" line="" lines="" listening="" love="" loved="" low="" marathon="" me="" men="" mode="" moment="" morning="" most="" murmur="" my="" next="" no="" of.="" of="" often="" omen="" on="" once="" one="" our="" out="" p="" palpable="" part="" place="" pr="" quiet="" race="" regarding="" relaxed="" restroom="" right="" room...when="" room="" runners.="" s="" several="" she="" sign="" situations="" smooth="" snaked="" so="" staten="" statue="" stories="" taking="" tell="" terminal="" that="" the="" then="" there="" thing="" this="" times="" to="" towards="" transportation.="" transportation="" up="" ve="" waited="" wake="" walked="" was...the="" was="" we="" well="" welled="" which="" while="" window="" with="" without="" women="" worth="" you="">

The ferry ride itself was uneventful, about half an hour of gazing out the window at the statue and the skyline beyond, finishing my coffee, and listening to the guys next to me talk about Maurten and how "I set a 6 minute PR in my half marathon, and it was totally because of this gel and my shoes. I mean, I trained a lot better too, but there's NO way it was all the training". LOL! Why not give your training some credit, man? As an aside, never will you ever see me in Nike's "magic" shoes. First of all because I don't believe in spending $250 on shoes that you can essentially race in once, but second of all because if I can't run a time without the help of a carbon plate, then maybe I just can't run that time! And that's OK with me. Anyway, we disembarked at Staten Island just as the sun was beginning to rise over the city. Again, I was just shocked by how few people there seemed to be - it was rather delightful for the biggest marathon in the world to feel so small! I used the restroom again (seriously, if you see a rest room with no line at ANY point in the morning before a marathon, you just take advantage of that shit, no questions asked) and then wandered out onto a promenade. There was 1 other person out there and I almost gasped at what everyone else was missing out on. The sun was rising on a clear, stunning day, light reflecting off the Freedom Tower, the skyline still aglow as night turned into day. I took a moment to just stand in the silence and look at it, and I smiled. There was no questioning it: today was going to be magic.

Back inside, people were hunkering down on the floor, I assume with the goal of waiting as long as possible to have to stand outside. I personally just wanted to get where I needed to be, and so I headed towards the buses - but not before stopping in a random souvenir shop and buying Chapstick! This was really the first weekend of truly fall weather with dry air, and my lips had been feeling terrible but I hadn't had the opportunity to locate any lip balm. What better place than on the way to a marathon? I sort of chuckled to myself at the silliness of it all but my lips were SO happy. On the way to the bus we passed by the happiest bunch of people trying to bring people to Jesus you ever did see, smiling and shouting "Run to WIN! Run to JESUS!" and while I won't be converting any time soon their energy was truly delightful. Got on a bus (literally New Jersey city buses) without really waiting at all and ended up in the far back corner. The bus ride seemed to take ages, as they always do. I drank some water, ate a couple of ginger clif chews since my stomach was feeling a little unsettled, and chatted with the guy next to me who had run several times. I told him a little bit about the Boston course ("Oh, is that race hilly?) and he told me about a nightmare morning he'd experienced in the past at NYC when he took a later ferry, waited for an hour for a bus, and then the bus ride to the start village took 90 minutes (it should/did take 30 minutes in my experience). NO THANKS. You can bet I'll be on the 5:45 ferry no matter how long I have to wait in the village if (when) I run this race in the future. 

We arrived at the fort around 7:15 and after a brief security checkpoint I was walking up into the fort. I wasn't really sure where anything was so just followed the signs to the blue village (there was a village for each start - green/orange/blue) where I AGAIN walked right into a porta potty with no line?! What parallel planet was this? I'm so used to spending like 17 hours at Boston waiting in line for the various porta potties along the way that this was just shocking. It actually felt pretty chilly at the village! Great vibes for racing, but it took a bit of effort to stay warm. I felt for the people who clearly hadn't thought this part through who were wandering around in shorts and these crappy plastic ponchos that they were giving out. I found a sunny spot and proceeded to eat my oatmeal, which was the least shitty 2 hours-cold oatmeal I've ever had! I actually didn't have trouble getting it down and was very happy about that. They were giving out handwarmers, so I stuck one in each glove (I somehow had the foresight to bright gloves for the village, which is very unlike me) and one at the back of my neck, which actually provided some really nice heat. Then I wrapped myself up in a mylar blanket from some long-forgotten Boston and I was perfectly cozy! I didn't bring any entertainment for the village, so just passed the time by scrolling through Instagram, people watching, and taking selfies. 

V. proud of remembering to bring a spoon, also please note my CLASSIC crushed velvet ensemble. Shoutout to the Davis Square Goodwill for that gem of a jacket.

Cold! Which when you know you're going to run a marathon = happy! 

I had heard that we would be called into corrals about an hour before the start (for me, 9:40) so I elected to return to the porta potty line at 8:20 to ensure I had enough time. Now there was actually a line, but it was maybe 10 minutes...again, no big deal when you've had the experience of waiting 50 in the the Boston village. I still had some time to kill which I spent in truly the best way the THERAPY DOG CORRAL!! Yes, they literally had a little pen with therapy dogs and their handlers, and I will never turn down the opportunity to snuggle with a dog at any point in my life, including before a race. They were adorable, and also total hams.
I cannot even.

His parka!!

Just as I completed my puppy time, we were called to the corrals. I got rid of some aspects of my throwaways but was still pretty chilly so hung onto my crushed velvet jacket and pants. I thought the way the corrals were was so great - basically you went into your corral "box" (still in the start village) which was essentially just another waiting space - there were porta potties, etc. I got in the porta potty line (AGAIN) because you just literally can never be too sure. Then I stood around for about 15 minutes trying to decide when was the right time to get rid of the rest of my throwaways. In the end, I took off my pants and gloves but hung onto my jacket and headband right up until the bridge. Finally at around 9:20, we were released onto the bridge. As per usual, I suddenly was struck with a dramatic urge to is where the corral system is amazing: as you walk towards the start, you walk through all of the other corrals...which are all lined with porta potties! I popped in and out of one in the B corral and was finally really ready to go. I took my lemon lime Gu with 15 minutes to go and then just let the energy of the crowd flow through me. 

As we approached the ramp, music was BLASTING, the sun was brilliant, and the bridge loomed ahead with 26.2 miles of running to follow it. The energy was absolutely electric, and when I first stepped out onto the ramp and the bridge came into view ahead, let's just say I'm glad I was wearing sunglasses because I again teared up with happiness. It was so BEAUTIFUL! The bridge and the people, the police blasting the music, the city beyond, the fact that we were basically standing on a freeway on ramp...all of it was glorious. I started a tradition a few years ago of writing a word on my arm, just above my watch, that I want the race I'm about to run to be about. It took me awhile to think of what the perfect word was for this race, and I ended up with "delight" - because I wanted to delight in every moment and every piece of this experience. Standing on the ramp waiting for the start, delight and joy were coursing through me. I kind of felt like I was going to a carnival or something, not running a marathon! I've been trying to put my finger on what made this marathon so spectacular and one of the things I've landed on is that the energy is just SO different from, for example, Boston. At Boston, people are excited to be there, but in general they are also quite serious about the endeavor. At New York, sure, people were serious - and I was far enough up in the corrals that I knew that everyone surrounding me was a solid marathoner - but there was this energy of just pure joy that had a different feel to it. Like even though I assume many of us had done multiple marathons, there was this aura of "Hey, guys, can you believe it? We're running a MARATHON. How cool is that?" And you could hardly turn your head without hearing a new language being spoken - in the village, announcements were made in I think 4 different languages? - and I saw runners from Sweden, Germany, France, Australia, Mexico...the list goes on. It was an incredibly cool international vibe. A Broadway actress sung the national anthem (of course!), announcements were made, and then there was the cannon and "New York New York", just like I knew that there would be, and we were moving off towards the start.

The start

The Bridge
According to my watch it took 4 minutes from the time the cannon sounded for me to cross the start line - a start line which, I have to add, was almost comically small for the pomp of the event, nothing more than a timing strip and a small arch on the right hand side announcing "Start". In keeping with my plans to make this race all about the party, I had decided to listen to music. This is a VERY divisive topic and I read so many reports that strongly recommended not doing it "because the crowds are so great!" As we'll get to later, I was more than capable of enjoying/hearing the crowds while ALSO enjoying the best playlist I've ever made in my life, so to those who judge me for my headphones I say...pshaw. I waited until the last strains of Sinatra's voice were echoing into the distance, then pressed play on the song I had selected to start my race. It's a song they play during the Gameday show on college football Saturdays, which I only recently discovered is an actual song (it's called Silver Scrapes if you want to hear what it sounds like). As I ran up that bridge with thousands of people around me, this song blasting in my ears, the city skyline ahead, I burst into a smile that did not leave my face for the next hour and a half. The sunlight, the skyline in the distance, helicopters flying alongside the bridge, the energy of thousands of people starting out on a journey. I wanted to reach out my arms and just capture the feeling. 

The first mile of the race has the largest elevation gain of the entire race, but there was so much happiness coursing through me I felt like I could have been running downhill. I purposefully relaxed the first mile, easing in and soaking in the moment. I took to the right hand side of the bridge since Joy had told me she'd be on the right in Brooklyn, hurdling abandoned Biofreeze ponchos and feeling a sense of mild anxiety about the guy in front of me running in a bathrobe, belt flapping in the breeze and threatening to trip him. I hit the mile marker in 7:45 - perfect! Up ahead, I noticed a woman in a shirt with the New York Times logo on it and the name "Tali" taped across the back. Wait a second...I ran in college with a girl named Tali, who now works at the New York Times! I pulled up along side her and kind of awkwardly looked sideways before turning off my music and incredulously shouting "Tali?!!" "AUDREY?!!" Seriously, what are the odds of running (literally!) into someone you haven't seen in 10 years during the first mile of the world's largest marathon? We briefly chatted - she had just run a PR at Chicago and so was running for fun, and I mentioned that I had the same goal. "Just wait until Brooklyn", she said "It's unbelievable!" Meanwhile, a random guy running near us was loving this event, and literally said something like "That was AWESOME!" as we bid our farewells and I pulled ahead. Thanks to adrenaline, downhill, excitement, and serendipity, mile 2 was a 7:00...which is in fact the fastest mile I've ever run in a marathon. WHOOPS! But my thoughts about it could be described the same way I'd describe the 10 miles that followed: I knew it was a bad idea, but I was having too much damn fun to care. 

Brooklyn. I could attempt to write thousands of words to describe how much fun I had running through Brooklyn, and it would never be enough to describe the feeling. I have run so many races in my life, and I have NEVER had as much fun in any one of them as I did during the 10 miles I spent in Brooklyn. After the stupid second mile, knowing I was making bad choices but not caring, and without the weight of time goals or expectations, I felt utterly and totally free. In the notes I wrote the day after the race, the first line is: BROOKLYN. FUCK YES. PARTY!! High fived EVERYONE! This is not an exaggeration. I've definitely had my share of high fiving kids at Boston and whatnot, but at the end of the day my focus has always been on racing and the minute that hamming for the spectators becomes tiresome, I stop. In Brooklyn, I was on some other level all together. I ran my way down the right hand side of the course, literally finding every opportunity I could to high five, yell, fist pump, whatever, with an enormous smile on my face all the while. Hard as I tried, I could NOT stop smiling, nor could I stop running at a pace that I knew was well beyond my capabilities. I was doing the exact opposite of what I had said I would do (be patient!) and doing exactly what everyone says not to do (get sucked in to the crowds and the flatness of Brooklyn!). I knew that, 100%. And I didn't care. I said after the race that I probably added 5 minutes to my time with my silliness in the first half of the race, and I wouldn't trade the experience for all the minutes in the world. I was so, so happy and it was bursting out of my heart and my face and my legs to the point where I couldn't slow down even if I tried. Miles 3-5 were all around 7:25, "that's too fast, you said 7:40s", I thought. My attempt to slow down resulted in a 7:15 mile 5. That was the point where I completely gave up on running any sort of smart race and just gave myself over to the fun of it all. All I could think was this, this is why I run, this is why I do all this stupid shit, because THIS is amazing, THIS is so fucking fun, THIS is being present and alive. Brooklyn is a blur of hands held out to high five; tiny sweaty palms of 5 year olds, gloved hands of elderly men, signs saying "touch here for power". Cowbells and bands with drums, a saxophone playing somewhere, the occasional shout you could hear within the roar: let's go BOSTON! YEAH BOSTON! FUCK YEAH BOSTON! And on for miles and miles. I felt like I had finally been invited to some kind of party that I hadn't known how to get to. 15 marathons and I finally realized that at the end of the day, I do this because I love it and because it's FUN. 
Brooklyn, a summary. 

I somehow had the wherewithal to remember to take my first Gu at 5 (Triberry) At mile 7, I saw Joy and Allison cheering and I literally threw my arms up and SCREAMED at them "THIS IS SO FUCKING FUN!!" At this point I was still cruising pretty comfortably in the 7:20s-30s, although there was starting to be a little flicker of I Notice This Is Effortful somewhere in the background. This didn't bode particularly well for 90 minutes down the road, but that was a problem for future me to deal with. Right now, I was still in the midst of the Brooklyn party. Random things stand out in my memory: A guy with an inflatable Trump doll and a sign with instructions to "Punch The Trump for Power!"...if ONLY I'd been closer to that side of the road! A building called The Audrey. Someone quoting Lizzo with a sign that said "You're 100% that bitch" and I was like YES I AM! Somewhere in here I took my second Gu (Lemonade Roctane) and was taking some water, really just a sip or so every station. I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of difficulty I had getting into/out of water stops, as this is always something that seems to be a massive pain at Boston and I assumed that this being a bigger race that the situation would be worse. But really, I had no problem getting what I wanted and getting out of there!  At one point we were running down a shady, tree lined street full of brownstones - maybe around mile 10? - and I was decidedly starting to feel like my legs were headed into a less pleasant place than the one I'd been living in. Right around that point, I saw a man standing relatively quietly, with a relatively small sign compared to the other spectators, that said: "You are beautiful and free". And I almost started crying! And then, a few moments later, the song "YALA" by MIA came on my playlist. That song is a jam, and is one of only a couple of songs on the playlist that wasn't just a techno/EDM song. It fit SO perfectly with my Brooklyn party mood and it instantly picked me back up as I had myself a little jam session at mile 12 of the marathon, to the tune of a 7:24 mile! Unfortunately, like any party, this one was going to have to end at some point, and the point was coming up rapidly as we began to approach Queens. 

The half marathon mark of the race is on the second bridge of the race, between Brooklyn and Queens, and I don't know if it was realizing the Brooklyn party was over or just the fact that I had run 13 miles at a good clip, expending a ton of extra energy with my party time, but it was just about exactly at the half marathon mark when I realized the good times were over. Just very abruptly on the uphill heading onto the bridge my legs lost all the spring that they'd had for the previous 13 miles in what felt like an instant. I came through the half marathon split at just under 1:39 and one thing was very clear: my plan to negative split was NOT going to be a possibility. In that moment I thought OK, we're shooting for a 3:25 and that's just fine. And I continued onward. I don't have a whole lot to say about Queens itself. You aren't there very long, and I think I mostly was just trying to manage the rapid downturn my legs had taken and readjust for the second half. At some point in here I also took a cup of what I thought was water but turned out to be Gatorade, and it didn't go down super well. Oh well, no matter. I ran a couple of 7:45s, and that was fine. I took a Gu at 14 (espresso love). And then we hit the Queensboro Bridge.

Queensboro Bridge is the one everyone talks about. I basically dismissed it all. I didn't even know what the bridge looked like until I was on it but all I had heard was that it was quiet, and that it was a nasty hill at a bad time. The first part I wasn't concerned about as I had my bangers playlist going for me. The second? I had looked at the elevation profile and thought, a gradual uphill, mile 16, come on, how bad can it really be? Well, as it turns out, when you went out too fast for your fitness...pretty freaking bad! Almost immediately as we started heading onto the bridge I started to think uh oh. Far too many people were moving past me like I was standing still (people who, I assume, are smarter than me but probably ALSO had way less fun in Brooklyn, so who's the real winner here?) The bridge that you run on is under another section of the bridge, so you're kind of in this cave and it felt like a sadness cave to me. I tried to look around and grab some happiness where I could find it: a subway train clattering across the other side of the bridge on the right, the full glory of the NYC skyline on the left. A couple of people were pulling off on the skyline side of the bridge to take selfies - just a bridge too far for me (heh!). Hitting mile 16 at 8:21 was a pleasant surprise in some ways (I literally felt like I was running 10 minute miles) but a major gut check in others. If I had already crashed so much with 10 miles to go, what was the rest of the race going to be like? My state of mind wasn't so much upset at my current state as concerned about my future. Reaching the crest of the bridge was a blessed relief, and while I still didn't feel amazing heading down the other side it was certainly an improvement from the ascent. And now it was time to enter Manhattan, to make the fabled turn onto 1st Avenue which I had read about as a "deafening roar". I turned off my headphones, for some reason had a very clear image of Des Linden making this same turn an hour earlier pop into my head, and prepared to be deafened.

1st Avenue
...but I wasn't deafened! What the heck! I don't know, I think the reviews of the crowds at this section really overstated things a bit. People were cheering, and maybe we were in a weird lull or something, but it just really wasn't that loud! I'm starting to think that all of the race reports I read in the week prior to the race were sitting on a throne of lies, because the other thing I swore I read was that 1st Ave was a slight uphill all the way. JK! It's slightly downhill! In this particular moment this was probably a great deception, because I started to feel better on what I assumed was an uphill, but it would come back to bite me later on. But either way, as we hit the long straight stretch of 1st Ave, I was starting to hurt. I knew that I needed to dig in here because if I continued on with 8:20s and higher, I risked the chance of my BQ time, my one moral victory goal, slipping away. So I told myself to woman up and tried to put my head down and groove. I'm really proud of my mental toughness in this stretch - it would have been easy to lie down and die after that mile on the bridge, and I was definitely hurting enough to do so. But I knew I had more than that and I owed it to myself to hang on as best I could, even if it wasn't perfect. Having been unimpressed by the crowds, I found myself more in the middle of the road and just tried to put my head down, listen to my music, and grind. I definitely went weaving all over the place from this point forward; the roads were super wide and really not that crowded, and my brain sometimes decides that maybe I'll feel better if I just go run over there instead!  Happily, whether it was the downhill, the mental toughness, or the fact that I kept trying to fake it til I made it and smile at the crowds whenever I felt my worst, I did manage to find some sort of rhythm for the 3 miles on 1st Ave, hitting in the vicinity of 7:50 for the stretch. Seeing 7's appear on my Garmin gave me a boost - as I like to say about the runs where you know you're running too fast but you want to see if you can keep running fast, "speed begets speed".  I thought perhaps that I could hang on to this rhythm and wind up with something in the low 3:20s, but all that mattered was continuing to move forward. As best I could, I kept trying to look around and soak it all in. The buildings. Billboards. The blue of the sky. Sunlight shifting through the buildings and across the street. Somewhere on this stretch people were drumming, and a Strava "Kudos" station included a line of people with orange foam "thumbs up". I kept telling myself that I was still having fun. Cardio wise, I felt totally fine, but my legs, which I knew would be the limiting reagent given my limited mileage, were getting ready to give up the ghost.

1st Ave Instagram vs. Reality or, how I'm trying to pretend I feel vs. how I really feel lol

The Bronx
Oh boy. The Willis Street Bridge, I think it's called? SUCKED. This was 100% the point in the race where my legs were just like "you're done, son" and I knew the remaining 10K was going to be a battle of will. I don't know why the uphill onto the bridge just felt so very, very uphill, but it did. The way I would describe the Bronx is as follows: 2 minutes of awesome followed by 5 minutes of suck. The crowds in the Bronx were WONDERFUL and dynamic and exciting - I think there was a marching band? Drums of all sorts! Blasting music with the base pumping! And from time to time during this stretch of just over 2 miles, I would feel GREAT. Like when I ran past a group with an enormous banner that said "RUN HIM OUT OF OFFICE" and I decided to jump on that hype train and yelled and gave a fist pump, and in return got an absolute ROAR of approval (more deafening than 1st Ave if I do say so myself, go Bronx). Then there was a tight corner that I ran around where I high fived like 7 people and that just lifted me back up. But then 5 seconds later I would be back in the pits of despair because my legs were just not want. DO NOT WANT. My muscles were balking at even the slightest hint of an uphill and I could tell that the final push into the park were going to be rough. Now let me just say: having your legs crash out in a sort of normal way in a marathon? Still 8000X BETTER than the way it feels heat stroking in a marathon!! Like, I'm not going to pretend it was all sunshine and roses, but at least I felt like I was sort of in control of the situation. I could lean into the pain to a degree and could keep running, at least, although I did slow to a walk for a few moments at one of the water stops because I started feeling really lightheaded and dizzy. I think I was dealing with some kind of minor electrolyte imbalance - per usual, my salty sweating always gets me, and the air was so dry that I think I may have actually been drinking more than was strictly necessary because I felt like my mouth was full of cotton. I actually wished that I had taken some salt that spectators were handing out earlier on the course (literally like restaurant salt packets) but I ended up just taking my last Gu a little early instead (cold brew Roctane) which definitely seemed to help the lightheaded feeling. By this point I had completely stopped looking at my watch all together, but knew I had slowed after the 1st Ave resurgence. In fact, aside from the awful mile up the bridge, I would end up running exactly 8:14s with one exception all the way into the finish...when I looked at my splits later, I almost laughed at the consistency. Hey, at least when I fell off, I didn't KEEP falling off the cliff...I was just clinging on to a lower ledge somewhere by my fingertips, hoping the grip would hold until the finish line. The last bridge from the Bronx to Manhattan was by far the least momentous of the 5, but was made memorable by 2 factors: a random woman sitting by herself with a megaphone yelling "you've reached THE LAST BRIDGE OF THE NEW YORK CITY MARATHON! I've been sitting here all morning just to tell you that!" to which I again waved my arms in the air and gave a yelp of happiness, and a confetti cannon?! The confetti cannon, in my current mental state, was more confusing than anything else. It was almost like a mirage. Is that confetti? Where is the confetti coming from? Lol.

5th Avenue
Back in Manhattan, here we are, with 5 miles to go. I had been checking my overall time and starting to get a little bit concerned that, with the combination of how bad my legs were feeling and the number of minutes I'd already let slip away, I could be at risk of losing the sub 3:30 that was LITERALLY my only goal for this race. I consoled myself with my usual sloppy mental math of "you could run 9:30 miles from here on out and still go sub 3:30" and soldiered on. My notes from the day after the race say "5th Avenue: good for 9 seconds and then WOOF". You see, based on my understanding that 1st Ave was a gradual uphill, my mental logic dictated that "if we were running uphill going uptown, we must be running downhill going downtown!" Alas, said mental math relied on 1st Avenue actually BEING uphill, which, as I have mentioned, it was not. Now, the first couple of miles on 5th Avenue were relatively flat. I felt in a rhythm at what ever pace I had found my way into, and I was banging out my 8:14s as best I could. Harlem was a lot of fun with more loud music that I could hear even over my playlist (I don't care what anyone says, I really enjoyed having my playlist and could totally still tune into the crowds. They were loud. I could hear them. It was great.) I had somehow found my way to the left side of the road (like honestly, how/why do I need to wander around the road so much in these big races) and was hunting down the mile markers like they were my only hope in the universe. By this point, both of my calves were starting to cramp pretty unpleasantly, and I mentally patted myself on the back thanking myself for choosing to run in my Kinvaras instead of my Freedoms which are hard on my calves on the best of days. Honestly, I think wearing the Freedoms could have ruined me those last 5 miles and I'm so glad I let my brain win out over my ego/feeling like I need to wear "racing flats" for the marathon. Plus, I got to buy my new favorite socks! 

Anyway, back to the situation at hand: it was rough, and getting rougher by the second. It's been a minute since I ran a marathon where it was just regular old legs giving out that got me (vs. getting heat stroke or just having the race of my life) and I kind of forgot how unpleasant it is! Yet somehow, at the same time, I was happy about it. I didn't come to New York to have the best race of my life, I came to have the best race I could have under the circumstances. All I wanted was to have a blast and leave everything I had on the course. And despite the fact that pain was seizing through my calves and threatening to stop me cold in the middle of the road, I wasn't giving in to it. I was moving slower than I'd like, sure, but I was moving as fast as I could. Every time I thought about how nice it would be to walk I shut myself up and tried to find a spectator to latch onto, or a street sign, or a damn pigeon...anything to convince myself, just a little more. 

At some point I glanced off to my right and saw trees, and I was honestly so out of it that I was confused for a second before it dawned on me that the trees to my right were, in fact, Central Park, and that we were within 5K of the finish line. So close, and yet so far, as mile 24 would prove. Mile 24 is one of those things that people don't talk about like the Queensboro Bridge, but they allude to it like an elephant in the room that you just don't want to discuss. "Oh, 5th Avenue". 100 ft of elevation gain over a mile doesn't seem like a lot but when you're running this long, straight stretch at mile 24 of a marathon, wondering when in God's name you're actually going to get to enter the damn park, it feels like Mount Everest and a lifetime. This uphill was the point where my legs just decided they couldn't hang anymore. I don't know if it's because my last several marathons have either been perfection or such disasters that I spent the better part of the second half walking, but I truly had forgotten how BAD mile 24 can feel. My calves were seizing to the point where I felt like one questionable step was going to send me falling to the pavement, and my quads, calves, back, everything else felt like joining the party. I was riding the pain train and I was trying, desperately, to love every minute of it, but the hill just seemed to keep going on, and on, and on, eternally. We were back in Manhattan now, my happy place, but all I wanted to see was Columbus Circle.  My mental math kept up - 30 minutes to run a 5K - but the window seemed like it was getting shorter and shorter. Was I really going to be happy if I ran a 3:29? Finally, somewhere in the middle of the mile, I couldn't do it anymore - my left calf seized and I was reduced to a walk. Randomly, there was someone with an inflatable Pikachu up ahead on the left maybe 50 meters ahead. I told myself, you can walk to the Pikachu and then you HAVE to run. But not 10 seconds into walking, a guy in a Tracksmith kit tapped me on the back as he ran by. "Come ON, Boston, let's GO!" he shouted. For a split second I thought, no. I can't. And then: God damnit, yes. Yes I can. And I was running again, the Tracksmith sash fading into the distance. To that random guy, whoever he was: thank you.

Not totally sure where on the course this photo was taken but I think it's somewhere around 22-23 based on the orientation of the buildings and the look of desperation on my face. Of note, this is the first time I've ever raced a marathon in sunglasses and I LOVED it. I felt so protected lol. 

I continued on, step by step, each landing more and more careful as I knew if I stepped the wrong way my calf was going to cramp up completely and I would be done for. Past Pikachu, past more signs, past the mile 24 marker, and finally, finally, turning right into Central Park. Finally, I've made it home.

The Park
As soon as I entered the park I tried to orient myself to where I was, how many hills remained, anything to make this part of the course that I know and love so much an advantage. Unfortunately, I almost always ran the park counter clockwise (and this was also 7 years ago), but it was a pleasant mental diversion thinking "OK, now at some point you're going to run down Cat Hill...but was there an uphill or downhill prior to that?" The fact that we actually got to run down some REAL downhills in the park was glorious, and in my mind I picked up the pace in majestic fashion. In reality....I ran more 8:14s! Hahahaha. Truly, though, I was riding the pain train in every way possible and I just kept praying that my calves in particular would hold out for another 2 miles. After the incident on 5th Ave, I was done walking. It was everything I had from here on out.
STRUGGLE BUS. I actually remember seeing this photographer at the same time as I was sticking out my tongue in struggle and thinking "lol, there's gonna be a photo of that". And lo and behold...

Somewhere in the park, I almost started laughing because the one extremely random song I had added to my playlist (a death metal song that one of the Milwaukee Brewers used as their walkup this year) came on and it was just SO perfect for mile 24.5. Everything was awful but also beautiful. I was dying but also so alive. I was in so much pain but it was perfection. As I kept glancing at my watch I knew that all I had to do was hold on, and I wouldn't run a 3:25 but I would be damn close. And I kept on. Where the FUCK was the turn out of the park, where was Columbus Circle? The miles had now stretched into what felt like eons. Somewhere around mile 25, Joy SOMEHOW managed to lock eyes with me from the sidelines, screaming, and I gave her what I thought was a smile or perhaps a grimace, but apparently looked like a death glare! I think I gave a similar look when I crossed the photo op mat at mile 25...


At long last, like the light at the end of the tunnel, the turn out of the park approached. Past mile 25, a mile to go. A mile that felt like an eternity, but also felt like home. Central Park South, now known as the longest street of my life. I have never wanted to stop, walk, lay down, anything as badly as I did on that stretch. But there were people screaming BOSTON, and I was running in the shadows of skyscrapers in this city, my favorite city, "the greatest city in the world" as they say in Hamilton, and I would NOT give in. This was for me. It wouldn't be my fastest marathon but it was mine - on my own terms with no weight of expectation, no goals, no pressure, only freedom and joy. And despite the pain I FELT it. I already knew as my calves screamed that one more step and I'd be locked in plantarflexion forever and my quads threatened to lay me out on the ground that this one was special, that I wanted to do it again and again and again.

In a tunnel of sound and shadow, I rounded the corner, the skyscrapers and silver globe of Columbus Circle rising above me, and I smiled. I was there. It wasn't perfect, but damn it, it was enough. Eyes up. Rise up. Finish it. Turning back into the park, where you know it's over, and I've run these roads enough times to know exactly where I am. I ran them as a college student jumping in a random 10K while my sister danced at nationals because why not, as a PT student during the summer where I learned who I was, as a 20 something wondering if who I thought I was with someone was still who I'd be without them, and as a 30 something knowing that I was. And now, here I was, running them again, this same loop through Central Park. No matter how old I am, what distance I'm running, what stage of my life, I know this: when I'm in this city, I'm home. 

And it's one last push through the park, one last beep of my Garmin that comes well before one last mile marker, and when I look at my watch I know that I've done everything I can and that it's going to be enough for now. I put everything I have left into that last 0.2 miles, 7:29 pace and it feels like a full on sprint, willing my calves to give me 30 more seconds, now 10, now 5, and finally, I cross the line with relief, with pain, with joy, with delight. And literally the INSTANT I cross the finish line, the final song on my playlist ends. That final song (The Hum by Dmitri Vegas) also happened to be the FIRST song I played on the first real long run of this cycle, when I was like, OK, we're doing this.  Seriously, was this meant to be or what??

3:26:26. I may not have run the exact time I dreamed, but I did run the perfect number of seconds

I can't remember ever feeling so elated about running a time that was 15+ minutes off my PR. As I made my way through the (eternal, neverending, 9th circle of hell) finish chute, there were so many ways I could have felt if I had been basing my life only on the time on the clock. Disappointed, meh, accepting, whatever. Somehow, and perfectly, I was just delighted. I had done this thing! It had been messy and painful and with a training cycle I knew didn't quite add up to greatness, and yet I had hung in there, had a BLAST, stayed mentally tough, and gotten my damn moral victory of a BQ that, in all likelihood, will get me into the 2021 race (because...I hate myself lol). And I had done it all in this place that just means so much to me, always has, always will. It was, in a word, magical.

Approximately 9 hours later, I finally made my way out of the park (seriously, people are NOT exaggerating when they say the post race process of NYC takes almost as long as the race itself). At one point I attempted to sit down on a curb because I was just so sick of walking but immediately was stricken with an INSANE calf cramp and had to work a little of my PT tone management magic to avoid having someone call for a wheelchair. After that, I found I was just extremely nauseous and only just managed to avoid puking in a planter by sitting down on a random sidewalk for a few minutes while I attempted to figure out where Joy was. 

In the midst of my nausea I took this photo, which I really like!

Eventually I made my way back to Columbus Circle, where I met Joy by the large globe. She, as well as my family, were a little tentative in asking how I felt about my race - probably because it was clearly so far off my PR, and I don't think anyone believed me when I said my goal was just to have fun. So everyone was pleasantly surprised by my happiness and delight - in fact, I was downright giddy. We made our way to a local pub where I downed a couple of beers but couldn't handle food yet. In the midst of this, I had an idea: one of my former patients was running the marathon in an incredible comeback story. I had secretly hoped I could cheer for him but knew it would be along shot, but I also love cheering with an insane passion, and was still riding some kind of life high. And that's how I wound up back in Central Park at 4 pm, cheering like a MANIAC for the marathoners still racing. 

Literally an insane person

If there was anything that could have made my day even better than it already was, this was it. Joy and I literally lost our voices going absolutely INSANE for the hundreds of people still finishing. Once in awhile someone would be walking, and we would go nuts for them and they would start running again, and it would almost make me cry every single time. People kept looking at me with my medal like WTF, this girl already ran the race and she has the energy to be out here cheering?? It was just so magical. I literally could have stayed out there all day. And THEN, I actually saw my former patient!! I am not sure I've ever felt so proud of and lucky to be in the career that I'm in. Getting to witness someone who built themselves back up from something devastating and came so far in the 6 months we worked together finish a freaking marathon was unlike anything I've ever experienced - I was SO proud and inspired and overjoyed that the universe aligned to let me actually be present for a small part of that moment. 

Finally, with an overflowing heart, no voice, and legs that felt like logs, I headed back to Brooklyn. Joy and I ended up wandering to a local pub, where the owners of the pub bought us a round, and then to a great little brewery (Strong Rope Brewery) where a random Brooklynite bought me another round! How nice is that? All in all, I ended the day aglow in a feeling of joy, contentment, and pure happiness. This was everything I could ever hope for from a marathon day. And maybe this was the day I finally realized that PRs are wonderful, and training to run fast is a lot of fun, but there is glory in the non PR days too, and sometimes the best days are defined by more than just the time on the clock.

I said when I signed up for New York that it was a one and done situation, and let me tell you, now having done the race, that is NOT a true statement. Not only do I feel like I could really run a PR on this course if I was in great shape, but I truly think the magic of the city gives me something extra special, something that even a place like Boston, my real adult home, can't give. I don't know how to explain it except in the immortal words of NYC from "Annie":
You're standing room only
You crowd, you cramp
You're still the champ
Amen for NYC

New York, I freaking love you. Boston, I GUESS I'll see if I can find something similar on your course in 2021...

NYC Marathon 2019
5271/53515 OA, 851/22716 women, 179/3449 F30-34

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Finally think I found what I'm chasing after: Pumpkinman Half Iron Triathlon race report

I found myself thinking in the weeks leading up to this race about how long it's been since I really did something new. Something where I didn't know what my abilities were, that was completely beyond anything I had ever tried before. For the majority of the last 10 years, my athletic life has consisted of marathon, rinse, repeat. All other races were background noise and if I performed well in them, sure, that was great, but the marathon was it. And don't get me wrong: I love running, and I love the marathon. I still think I have more potential at the distance and I still couldn't be more proud of the work and performances I put in during 2017-18. But honestly, Boston this past year just broke something for me and I realized that I needed something new...not leaving running behind, but just mixing things up and seeing my athletic pursuits from a new angle. Enter: triathlon. I have tossed around the idea of doing a half iron triathlon for probably 5 years now, and each time found reasons not to. My primary reason was "because it will mess with my marathon training". So this summer, with zero interest in training hard for a marathon (yeah, I AM running NYC in 7 weeks but that is more of a curiosity/experiment situation than anything else), I finally took the plunge. And I tell you what, I have had more fun during this summer of training than any summer I can think of. I still ran a lot, but the pressure that I've always put behind running was gone. I rediscovered a passion for swimming and being in the water that I had completely forgotten about when I became and adult. I embraced the beginner's mindset and the fact that I still have SO much to learn (especially about bikes. LOL. I seriously don't know anything about bikes.) I came into training with no preconceived notions of my ability and just kind of took things as they came, especially on the bike. I didn't follow a specific training plan but applied marathon and running principles to the process, trying to make sure I did enough of the things I was weaker at (biking!) while keeping plenty of time for running...based on other triathletes I follow on social media, you could call my plan a VERY run heavy plan...and I'm OK with that. :)  This plan also left me with a whole lot of questions about how I would perform on race day...I truly didn't know!

All this being said, my rough goals for the race were as follows:
#1 goal - FINISH!
C time goal: under 6 hours
B time goal: 5:45
A time goal: as close to 5:30 as possible

I did pretty well on the nerves front for most of the week leading into the race, but by Saturday the ridiculousness of the task before me (5-6 HOURS of racing) hit me like a wrecking ball, and I got SUPER nervous. I couldn't focus on anything and spent the majority of the day checking and rechecking my packing list and attempting to watch college football, but mostly just scrolling aimlessly through my phone without actually seeing anything. Luckily, I was able to do a lot of training with my friend and former colleague Elise, and we drove up to Maine together later in the afternoon. We both realized that we were mainly nervous about things we couldn't control (crowded swim, mechanical issues on the bike, etc). Thankfully, one thing we did NOT need to be nervous about was the weather, as the forecast was absolutely spectacular for early September - highs near 70, low humidity, no wind. We then proceeded to find the most delightful little sports pub to have dinner, and over the course of a beer and some chicken parm my nerves melted away! We got back to the hotel and one of the best things ever happened...Joy and Taylor were doing a half marathon in Rhode Island, so they were also staying in a hotel down there on Saturday. We received a HILARIOUS hotel room dance video from the two of them and obviously had to respond...let's just say that our rendition of "Old Town Road" had me laughing so hard I was almost crying. We facetimed after and it was just so amazing getting to cheer each other on from afar...I love my teammates so much. With an early wake up call ahead, we got our gear situated for the morning and then went to bed! I definitely had some trouble falling asleep but once I did I slept quite well until the alarm went off at 4:30 am.

Gear ready to go! 

At zero dark thirty we were up and at 'em, going through the typical pre-race routine. Race outfit on, hair braided, gear checked (again), start trying to eat. I had been patting myself on the back for how good at gotten at packing race breakfasts (I had oats, a tupperware of brown sugar, a jar of peanut butter, and a banana to create my usual pre-race breakfast)...however Elise and I soon realized that it had not occurred to either of us that you need some form of silverware to consume We ended up crafting spoons out of cardboard (this was actually more effective than my infamous foil spoon of Boston 2019), maybe 3rd time will be the charm on actually remembering to bring something to eat with! I ate half a Clif bar as soon as I got up along with a can of cold brew coffee, then ate my usual oatmeal/PB/brown sugar/banana mixture in the car on the way to the race. There is going to be an obnoxious amount of nutrition detail in this race report because that was an aspect of the day that I was very nervous about and that I felt went VERY well, so I want to remember it for future reference!

The struggle is real lol

After a short drive on winding country roads and blasting pump up jams, we arrived at the race in darkness. I still get struck by imposter syndrome a little bit when I pull into a triathlon and see all these gorgeous, gorgeous bikes, but that was not my biggest concern today. On the way to get our chips we encountered a precious German shepherd puppy named Luna, which really set the morning off on the right foot. We went to get our packets and chips, and let me tell you...this race knows how to do SWAG! Everyone got a lightweight backpack, nice fitted t-shirt (I've noticed triathlons tend not to give out tech running occurs to me that triathletes actually don't wear those types of shirts that often, so it kind of makes sense? Anyway I actually love having race shirts that I can wear with jeans.), water bottle, stickers, and a koozie, along with some cute items from sponsors (first aid kit -random but great). Finishers also got a medal that doubles as a bottle opener, a long sleeved tech finisher shirt, and an amazing post race meal. Just...WOW. So armed with all of our new stuff, chips, numbers to stick on various items, we headed back to the car to get the bikes, and then headed to transition. We had an AMAZING transition spot, literally right in front of the bike in/out, which means no awkwardly running through transition with your bike. So clutch. So there I am, setting up my stuff and feeling my anxiety rising, when the girl setting up next to me comes over and says something like..."this is weird...but you're llama something, right?" Her name was Rachel and she was/is a reader of this blog! It was so hilarious and random (particularly because I feel like maybe 2 people read this blog currently?) and again really set a nice tone for the whole day. She was really nice and also as it turns out super fast! Hi Rachel, if you still read this, you're awesome! I feel like setting up transition has gotten easier the more of these I've done, and it wasn't long before everything was in its right place. There was still about half an hour before we had to head down to the beach, so I went to watch the sun rise over the pond and then hit the porta potty again before getting my wetsuit on and heading down to the water. I also want to note: the swim caps that we were given were SO NICE. I feel like this is a really silly thing to comment on but I was impressed lol.

Transition situation

Sunrise with the mist rising off the pond was absolutely magical

In my mind I had envisioned doing some kind of warmup swim but that never really came to pass; by the time we got down to the beach there was pretty much only enough time to walk in and feel the water temp (68 degrees, lovely) and then come back out for the national anthem. Again, not usually something I comment on but the national anthem was really cool - several times the singer paused at the end of the phrase and you could hear it echo back across the lake and like...chills. I got a little teary actually, as I sometimes do during the anthem before a big race. I always feel in that moment so much gratitude for being able to do what I'm about to do, and an appreciation for what a big deal it is to do it. We waded into the water with the rest of the under 45 women and without much further ado we were sent off!

Swim - 1.2 miles, 38:25 (1:50/100 yds), 3/9AG, 22/95F, 76/201 OA
Goal/anticipated: I was prepared to be happy with anything between 35-40 minutes, but was hoping for closer to 35

Welp, I did not expect the swim to be my toughest/least enjoyable leg of the race, BUT IT WAS. Oh, it was. My first issue was the start/swim to the first buoy. I had never experienced swimming with such a large group of people before, and maybe I seeded myself a little closer to the front than I should have but HOLY SHIT it was just insanity. I was getting whacked, slapping people's butts, twice I went to breathe and had a giant mouthful of water go down my throat from someone kicking next to me...I know that's kind of the way it goes but it made it really hard to find a rhythm. In addition to that, the first buoy was set at sort of a strange angle from the shore and we were swimming DIRECTLY into the sun, so even with my attempts to sight I had no idea where I was going. I figured I'd just follow the sun and follow the pack and sort it all out once we got past the first turn. I sang some Madonna to myself for some reason ("get into the groove, boy you've got to prove your love to meee...") and was just so happy to finally see and turn around the first buoy. Once we got on this long straightaway, it was a lot easier to sight and the pack spread out a lot more. I was a much happier camper but still felt like I wasn't finding my usual rhythm - I think after the initial clusterfuck my body was just all out of sorts. Thankfully, one of my strengths as a swimmer is just that I am really comfortable in the water and don't get anxious, so while I was pretty sure I wasn't swimming as fast as I wanted at least I wasn't losing my shit. I sighted well on the long straightaway; I had some difficulty once we made the turn back to shore to finish the first loop but was able to correct pretty quickly. I took a peek at my watch at the turn buoy to start the second lap and was at 18 minutes, pretty much exactly where I wanted to be. And THEN all hell broke loose. I tried to line myself up with the first buoy but once again it was straight into the sun and I couldn't even see it. To complicate matters, now swimmers from the Olympic distance had started and they were swimming towards a different buoy, set to the inside of the one I was aiming for. I somehow basically started swimming into the middle of the triangle until I hit a kayak; I popped up and literally had no idea where I was, had to ask the kayaker which way to go, and then had to swim perpendicular to a whole mess of Olympic swimmers to get back on my course (and somehow got confused for a second time in the process)! I have no idea how much time I wasted with all this fuckery but it was at least a couple of minutes...note to self...WORK ON SIGHTING and swimming in a straight line. Once again my rhythm was totally broken and I was so inefficient until I got to the first turn because I was sighting every 2-3 strokes in an effort to not get off course again. Once I made that turn I knew I'd be fine, but now I was just annoyed and ready to get the hell out of the water. At least by this point the field had spread out a bit, but I still made some contact on the last leg of the triangle. As usual, I had no idea when to stop swimming and stand up, and once I stood I just sort of meandered my way out of the water with limited urgency lol. It definitely could have been worse but I was hoping for a stronger swim - I also think as a moderately strong swimmer to begin with, I do have room to get faster here...I'm never going to swim 27 minutes like the crazy elites, but I'd love to see if I can work my way down under 35 next year!

T1/Hill Climb Thing
This race has an extended T1 because you climb a ridiculous grass hill back up to transition. It's cute, and they actually give out a special award for the fastest people up the hill, but I had already decided before the race that it would be a waste of energy to even attempt to jog up it and so I devoted the hill climb to trying to get my heart rate back down after the absurd swim. My legs felt TERRIBLE coming out of the water - I felt like my hamstrings were working way harder than usual while swimming so I don't know if I was just flailing around or what. There were wetsuit strippers somewhere but I decided that if I lay down on the ground I wasn't getting back up, so I just went on my merry way. It took me 1:41 to do the hill climb - really not that bad considering I just power walked...I don't think the extra 15 seconds I'd have gained by jogging were worth it. The rest of T1 took 2:21, which has been about my norm for swim to bike transition. I had decided prerace that I was going to take the extra 20 seconds to put on calf length socks (I regret nothing) and I think just really wanted to double check everything before heading off on the bike. I also chugged a bunch of water.  I noticed that a decent number of bikes were gone from the rack, so I knew I had my work cut out for me. I mounted up on Bahamut and I was off!

Everyone else seems to have taken advantage of the wetsuit strippers, maybe next time...

Bike - 53.31 miles, 2:53:36 (official results say this is 19.4 mph but pretty sure that's incorrect; per Garmin 18.4 mph), 2/9AG, 17/95F, 81/201 OA
Goal/anticipated: My A+ goal was to squeak under 3 hours, A goal was around 3:08 (17.5 mph)

As I set off on the bike, I almost burst out laughing because through the speakers was blasting this AWFUL song, "Mmm Yeah", that I did a terrible dance to a few years ago. Between that and finding some humor in the "WTF just happened" of the swim, I was in a pretty good mood heading onto the bike course. We were almost immediately in farmland, riding past some horses and GOATS, who I obviously squealed and said hello to. The first 10 miles of the bike though, were kind of rough. I've learned that it usually takes me at least 5 miles to get into a rhythm and actually feel good on the bike, and that time seems to double when I'm coming off the swim. It didn't help that the majority of miles 4-10 is up a long incline, which I was aware of having looked at the course before the race but just conveniently...forgot about once I was in it. I also still struggle a little bit having to deal with people when I ride, figuring out when/who to pass, etc so the fact that these miles were more crowded was challenging as well. I ate my Honey Stinger waffle at mile 4 along with some Skratch. I wasn't really looking at my watch (as a triathlon noob I only have a running Garmin so I get splits every mile which is just...TMI on the bike lol) but I wasn't feeling that great and at one point I did catch a glimpse of a split and it was SO slow. To the point where I literally shouted into the abyss "WHY AM I RIDING SO SLOW?!" It was also really hard to sort out how much I wanted to push on the bike, since I knew overdoing it could lead to disaster on the run. This internal dialogue went on for a couple more miles, and then I came to a conclusion: I'm not having fun right now, and I WANT to be having fun. So I forced myself to rearrange my mindset, stop worrying so damn much about my pace, and just ride. Sing a song. Shout weird shit into the wind. Whatever I could do to get me back in a happy place. And it worked! I was also having some, erm, saddle issues, but I was sort of like, welp, sorry, there's nothing I can do about that!

Literally laughing my way out of transition as "Mmm Yeah" plays

At some point I looked at my watch and realized that I was nearing the 18 mile mark, but hadn't been riding for an hour yet. Wait a second...does that mean...I'm actually riding 18 mph?! I know that in the grand scheme of triathlon that's really not that fast, but having spent the whole summer trying my best to eke out an 18mph average for a ride and never quite getting there, I was thrilled to the point of shrieking "18 f&cking miles per hour!" into the breeze. But still, lots of time to go. After the first 12ish miles, the majority of the rest of the course was a super pleasant double loop without too many turns and pretty mild rolling hills. It was delightful riding, and I found myself really getting into a rhythm. At some pointed I decided to start singing "Shots" every time I took a drink (so...every 4 miles lol). I randomly got this Lil Jon/children's TV show mashup ( stuck in my head and started singing the Lil Jon part aloud...I'd like to think a couple of the guys who went flying by on their aero bikes heard me singing profane lyrics to myself hahaha. I sang "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go", because something made me think of Zoolander, which obviously made me think of that song. It was really my own little bike DJ party adventure out there haha. Throughout the first loop, I spent a lot of time right around the same people - there was a guy doing the aqua bike who I kept passing on uphills, would lose track of him, and then he would come bombing by me on the downhills...I probably saw him 15 times during the bike. Somewhere around mile 23 or 24, we passed a house whose occupants were having an amazing morning, sitting in Adirondack chairs and drinking bloody marys while cheering on the cyclists. I thanked them for cheering and told them their drinks looked great, and for some reason then proceeded to almost start crying! For some reason, that was the moment that it just dawned on me that I'm DOING this. I'm really doing this!

I kept on with my nutrition plan, taking a few big drinks of Skratch every 4 miles and 2 or 3 clif chomps every 7 miles. I had a little trouble getting the gingerade ones down as for some reason they seemed stickier than the other flavors, which I wasn't prepared for (at least they taste good, since I bought a box of 24 sleeves of Between miles 25-30 or so I felt like there were suddenly a lot of people around again...I kept playing leapfrog with a girl in an MIT tri kit, another woman in a pink Coeur top who I had sort of been going back and forth with since the start of the bike, and of course aqua bike bro (who was probably like 50 but shall forever be known as aqua bike bro). I felt like I was caught in a conga line and eventually summoned up the courage to just make a big move and see if I could get past everybody. worked! For the next 10ish miles, I basically had the road to myself- literally to the point that I was occasionally questioning if I was still on course. There was one guy that I could see wayyy up ahead, but otherwise it was just me, my bike, and the road. Also amusing: somewhere around mile 30, I sort of zoned out for a second and shifted my left shifter (down to my small ring) instead of shifting within my big soon as I did it, I knew that I wasn't going to be able to use the left shifter again. This had happened during a ride last week and apparently is just due to my shifters being old...luckily, I knew that there weren't any more major hills on the course although the grinding sound that my bike now makes when it's in the lowest gear of the big ring is kind of annoying...oh well, it's just a sound, no big deal. I felt very smooth and in control throughout both of the loops. I knew I was riding fast (for me) but didn't feel like I was pushing too aggressively, so it seemed like a good level of effort - I'm sure this is something I'll continue to learn more about as I gain more experience in this sport! When I took my chews at 35, I decided that I was sick to death of sugary foods (perhaps it was the fact that when I took my last handful of cran-razz chomps, all that came to mind was a vodka cranberry...) and that at 40 I was going to pull out my ace in the whole...yes, I had brought a small handful of the delicious snack of PIZZA COMBOS on the off chance that I just really wanted a salty snack. I sang a little song about it..."5 more miles...then time to eat some comboooos". I was also quite pleased when I hit mile 36 under the 2 hour mark -still holding 18+ mph pace! I tried to do math and realized that I only had another hour of riding to go...then I was like actually, scratch that, because an hour sounds like a LONG time lol.

But that last hour actually went by really quickly! I did indeed eat my Combos, which I had awkwardly wrapped in a cup wrapper from the hotel (this was surprisingly effective) at 40. They tasted amazing, but afterward my stomach felt a little sketch. I got a little nervous...the idea of dealing with stomach cramps for a half marathon sounded unappealing at best...but then I drank some Skratch and got some quality burps out, and immediately felt much better. All in all I only ended up drinking about 36-maybe 40 oz of fluid on the bike? At the very end I felt like if I drank much more I was going to start feeling sick, so I figured I'd deal with hydration at the aid stations on the run as needed. The last 5 miles I was VERY ready to get off the bike, but we got to ride down a lovely road with the most BEAUTIFUL horses standing in a pasture, as well as running in parallel with the runners for their first/our last mile which was great - I was cheering for everyone and they responded in kind. I also realized as we made the turn for the last stretch that I was not only about to meet my crazy sub-3 goal, I was going to smash it!! I passed one last aquabike woman just before transition and made it to the dismount line. No mechanicals, no stomach issues, no problems...except a RIDICULOUS hamstring cramp getting off my bike! On to the run!

T2 - 1:39
1:30-1:40 has been about my going rate for T2...much more of a quick in and out than T1. I quickly stretched out my hamstring, swapped my helmet for my hat, put on my race belt, grabbed another swig of water, and got out of there. Last leg, here we go!

Run - 13.1 miles, 1:40:37 (7:41 pace), 1/9 AG, 3/95 F, 19/201 OA (lol)
Heading out of transition with happiness in my heart

THE RUN! I was overtaken with such happiness to have made it through the preceding events without any major problems and to finally be doing the thing that I know how to do well. So I bombed down the hill out of transition with a smile on my face and not a care in the world to the tune of a ridiculous 7:05. I knew that wouldn't last, but it really set the tone for the rest of the run - my goal was to keep the effort level on par with a moderate effort run, as I figured my legs wouldn't tolerate much more. This was the best thing: in comparison to a typical half marathon race effort, the pace felt EASY, and my delight in being in a running race but not actually having to go to the red line was on full display (as an aside: this probably means I'm capable of a faster run leg in the future, but at this moment in time I really didn't care). I'm pretty sure every endorphin my body could produce was flowing through my body and I was flying high through the first few miles. We passed a field full of cows, including some babies, and I literally shouted aloud "OMG, COWS! HI COWS! YOU'RE SO BEAUTIFUL LOOK AT THE BABY COW!" The first 5K floated by in a haze of delight. Shortly after that, I realized that this course was hilly 
AF, which for some reason I was not anticipating. When you're headed out on a double out and back and just keep encountering hill after hill after hill, it's easy to get a little beaten down by it. While I can't say I was overjoyed by the hills, I felt strong at the pace I was running and decided to just try to keep it rolling until I couldn't anymore. One of the best parts about the double out and back (combined with being a strong runner by triathlon terms) was that I was constantly passing people and people were constantly coming from the other direction. In my giddy state, on the way out of the first loop I literally said something or cheered for EVERY single person I passed or who was coming the other way, and SO many people were doing the same! I'm not sure where I got the idea that triathletes were kind of snobby, because I had the polar opposite experience during this race. There was very little crowd support on the run but with all the runners cheering each other on it felt like we were creating our own cheer kind of gives me chills just to think about. Because I was motoring along at a pretty good pace and I imagine I looked like I still had some gas in the tank, I was on the receiving end of a bunch of really nice "looking strong" and "crushing it" type comments. At one point a guy said something to that effect to me, and I sort of laughed and was like" well, this is the one thing I ACTUALLY know how to do!" 

One amazing thing about this race, which I think all summer races should adopt, was people handing out ice cold sponges at the aid stations along the course. There was this adorable little girl handing them out around mile 3, and I was sort of like "why yes I WILL take a sponge" when she offered me one. It wasn't really hot, but 70 degrees feels warm when there's no shade and that cold sponge felt like HEAVEN. The second half of the out to the turnaround felt like it took a small eternity, and I was already kind of dreading having to do it again. Still, my splits were encouraging; I was generally sticking around the mid 7:30s, much to my surprise and delight. I was still enjoying cheering people on around particular there was one girl in an MIT kit who I think I passed on the bike who was really friendly and cheerful when I would see her going the other way, and I also had a nice high 5 with my new friend Rachel, who was ahead of me after crushing it on the bike (she would go on to take 2nd overall!). I took a Gu at around 4 miles and continued taking a little bit of water at each station - I think there were 3 on each loop. 

Somewhere around mile 7 everything started to hit me a little bit, and it seemed like the second turnaround was NEVER going to appear - in fact, I asked some random spectator standing in a field where the turnaround was, lol. Somewhere along here I finally saw Elise coming the other way - we high fived and she shouted to me that she had gone off course on the bike...noooo! I also finally found the turnaround, took ice sponge kid up on her offer once again, and headed out into the second loop. Things were definitely becoming a grind, and I was losing the energy to cheer people was everyone else, and you could tell the mood had shifted from "YAY" to "let's just get this DONE." There was a particularly nasty hill around mile 9 that just seemed to last all day, but as I had done with all the others so far I just put my head down and got up it. That's one of the greatest gifts I've found about running in triathlons - because you've done all this crazy stuff beforehand, pace has no's totally about effort, and taking the numbers out of the equation makes it SO much easier to keep my head in the game and just do what I can do. You'd think this would be something I had learned already in running, but for some reason the comparison game always gets me in straight up road races. I think taking that pressure away is where a lot of my joy has come from in triathlon, and I was feeling it despite the fatigue. At the top of the hill was an aid station and I walked for a second to get a full cup of water down along with a Roctane (the new cold brew flavor which was GREAT). Then I was back to trucking. At this point the mile markers were appearing about 1/4 mile before my watch said they should, and I had a background curiosity about whether the course would be short or if the markers were just wrong (spoiler: it was just the markers!) 

I approached the final turnaround, which was in a little cul de sac where the neighborhood had gone ALL out for the race - there were tons of cute yard signs, a big sign advertising "THE OASIS" on the traffic island, and lots of people out and about cheering. An adorable young boy (maybe 5 years old?) offered me something and I was like "no thanks, but I LOVE your dinosaur outfit!" With 3 miles to go, I knew this was not only happening but happening WELL. A race vehicle briefly tried to squash me against the curb around mile 10.5 - I didn't really have the brainpower or drive to go around the vehicle so I just kind of made a woeful noise to which the guy in the car noticed me and apologized...he thought I had already gone ahead. I knew the way back was mainly downhill until the finish, so I was hoping I could just ride things out and that my legs would hold on for a couple more miles. On my way back, I came up behind a girl who was moving pretty well; I tried to read what age group she was in (another thing I love about triathlon - everyone has their age written on their calf so you know EXACTLY who you really need to hunt down and who you can sort of ignore if you want). I thought it said 33, and I hadn't seen her on the bike. "Well, maybe she's in the Olympic, or on her first loop", I thought. "But do you really want to take that risk?" the dumb competitive side of my brain replied. "UGH, NO" I internally replied, and shifted into a higher gear to get past her. Based on the fact that I finished 50 minutes in front of the next person in my age group, I'm pretty sure it was one of the earlier options, but you can never be too careful, ya know? 

On the way back I grabbed some flat Coke from the aid station, which I have ALWAYS wanted to tasted delicious although it did leave a less-than-awesome taste in my mouth for the final stretch. I did my best impression of picking it up throughout the downhill section, although truth be told I didn't have much left to give. Finally, after 60 something miles of racing, my legs were just gassed. I also started getting a truly awful cramp in what I initially thought was my left calf, but actually turned out to be the arch of my left foot. I'm not sure if I was electrolyte depleted (let's be honest, probably) or if I had been holding my foot awkwardly on the bike and it was now paying me back (also probable), but it was REALLY unpleasant and got to the point where I actually couldn't push off at all for the last mile - if I pointed my toes at all, my foot would lock up into spasm. Not fun! Even less fun when for some sadistic reason the last mile of the course is uphill! As I passed through the aid station for the last time, my foot seized and I had a strong urge to curse loudly, but SOMEHOW managed to hold it back to a "FRICKIN' A" because there were multiple children Really proud of my self control on that one. The last mile was really just a battle to hold things together and mainly to keep my leg from seizing up on me. I was sort of following this guy in a white tri top up a neverending hill and at one point again had to walk for a second because my foot was cramping into a ball. But then I looked at my watch, said out loud "You LITERALLY have less than 5 minutes left of this race, you can deal with this for 5 more minutes, now stop being lazy and GO". And I went.

Finish line where are youuuu

The final chute was hilariously a very steep downhill, on grass, and I felt like an awkward robot heel striking like crazy because I was afraid if my foot seized up on the downhill, I was going to wipe out and ain't nobody got time for that. As the finish line clock came into view I saw 5:2x...which assuming the clock was counting from the 7 am start, put me at UNDER 5:20. I was in SHOCK. I had been pretty happy with my individual performances in each event so far, but hadn't really put the pieces together up until that point. I ran into that finish chute beaming.

So happy and also so trying to not push off my left foot at all

5:18:16, 2/9 AG, 3/93 amateur women, 5/95 OA women, 37/201 OA

I got my medal and finisher shirt and then, for lack of anything better to do, wandered over to the results tent. I was somewhat curious as to where I'd placed in the grand scheme of things as I hadn't been passed by ANYONE on the run and felt like I had been passing quite a lot of women. My eyes immediately went to the AG place, and I was thrilled to see that I was second, as one of my random outside goals knowing this was a smaller race was to place in my age group. But then my eyes shifted to the overall women's placings, and I scanned down...1, 2, 3, 4....5. 5TH OVERALL WOMAN?! 

I don't know why, but that was the piece of the puzzle that put me over the edge. I wandered off into the grass and sat down and just started crying tears of pure happiness and elation and exhaustion and wonder. I had done a hard thing. I had done it well, particularly for a first timer. And I had loved every single second of both the process and the product. What could be more wonderful than that? In training for this race I recaptured a joy and delight in just going out and seeing what I'm capable of that I for some reason had lost in the endless marathon grind. To then have validation on top of that that what I'm capable of is actually pretty damn good was just...a lot to take it. I'm still having a hard time describing the feeling but suffice it to say: I was on top of the world.

Elise finished not long after me and we headed to the post-race meal (AMAZING Thanksgiving dinner style) with pumpkin beer, and the awards ceremony. The awards ceremony brought more surprises: they did a special award for the age grouper who was fastest in each event, and as they're reading out the female run winner a part of my brain was like "huh, I think that's the time I ran?" Sure enough, it was me! I literally was like WHAT?! and got up just laughing to go get my award. Then, I re-learned another neat thing that I had forgotten about triathlon, which is that when you enter as an "elite" you're in a whole different category - there are separate podiums for "elite" and amateur/age grouper. So instead of winding up on the AG podium, as I had assumed I would, I got to stand on the overall amateur podium and let me tell you...I will claim that doing sports is all about competing against myself and that winning this is not what drives me, and I will say that a lot of the time that is true...but I also will tell you that I was grinning like a crazy person getting to stand on a damn overall podium in my first half iron triathlon ever. 

During my last brick run of the training cycle, the song "Alive" by Krewella came on my playlist and for some reason just really spoke to me as an anthem of this training cycle. I had tried to listen to it so many times during the week leading up to the race that I would have it in my head for the run leg, which actually worked surprisingly well. Some of the lyrics are as follows:

Come on make me feel until the pain don't matter
Every second here makes my heart beat faster
Finally think I found what I'm chasing after
All alone, just the beat inside my soul
Take me home, where my dreams are made of gold
In the zone, where the beat is uncontrolled
I know what it feels like, come on make me feel alive

Training for and experiencing this race has made me feel like I'm chasing after exactly what I should be. I love this sport. I love that I was bold enough to try it. And I can't WAIT to see where it takes me next.

In case you were concerned that I had completely given up running, though, I was a part of a Reach The Beach relay teams and did some of the best running of my LIFE in a no pressure environment on the back roads of New Hampshire, and I have half and full marathons lined up in the next 2 months (in other news: I'm insane). If anything, I think triathlon is going to make me a better no, I'm not done with the marathon yet. But that, I think, is a story for another day. In the meantime, I'm not signing up for Boston this week because I don't have a qualifier for next year. I'd sarcastically thank the weather gods who made Boston 2019 such a miserable disaster, but I think maybe I should be thanking them for real...that experience was a big part of what made me finally pull the trigger on this triathlon in the first place, and as a result...I do have something to register for tomorrow. And as it turns out, it's just a little bit bigger than Boston...stay tuned. :)