Every marathon training cycle, you wait for one of those great, confidence-boosting long runs. One of the ones where you feel stronger than ever, and your legs seem like they're on autopilot, just pulling you along.
And when you finish, you know - you just know - that you're ready. You're beyond ready to tackle those 26.2 miles on race day, and you'll have moments where you struggle, but you're ready to push through those moments and cross that finish line like the strong, healthy runner that you are.
A few months ago, I wasn't waiting for one of those runs. I was just waiting to run any distance without pain. The idea of having a great 20-mile training run seemed like nothing more than a pipe dream. But yesterday, I made it a reality.
The forecast all week had been calling for 40-degree temps and steady rain on Sunday. That forecast quickly deteriorated to become torrential rain. Downpours. Flash flood warnings started coming in. It became very clear that this was going to be ugly.
For various reasons - none of which now seems nearly compelling enough - we decided to stick with our plan to run Sunday instead of Saturday (when it wasn't going to rain at all). Our plan was to run 10 miles, and then jump into a local 10-mile race to finish up the 20.
My personal plan was to to run easy with my friends beforehand, and then run the race at a slightly faster pace, which I figured would mean somewhere around 8:15 or 8:20.
Amazingly, not a single one of us bailed, and we all met up as planned to carpool up to the race location Sunday morning, driving through enormous puddles that covered the entire road in spots. We geared up, commented several times about how insanely stupid the whole thing was, and set out to get it done. Because we are runners, and that's what we do.
Not even 100 yards into the run, our feet were soaked. Avoiding puddles was almost pointless, as the rain was relentless, and we were going to be drenched no matter what. We ran a few loops around part of the course, and avoided (or so we thought) one section of road that was completely underwater. Unfortunately, when we looped back to make our way back to the race start, we came up against this same section of road, but we didn't have time to backtrack, so were forced to wade through the freezing cold ankle-deep water.
As we completed our ten miles, we reminded ourselves over and over again that we were building character - we were hardcore! - we would always remember this run - and if we could do this, we could do anything!
We had time for 9 miles before the race, and got done just in time to pick up our numbers and put on dry socks and shoes and clothes. We knew they'd be soaked again in minutes, but it was nice to at least start out feeling slightly less soggy.
I had made a playlist for this race - something I haven't done in years. I had a feeling it would be a good thing to do, and I was right. I put in my headphones almost immediately and really enjoyed having some music to listen to, now that I was running alone. In the rain.
It was a small race, but due to the washed-out road (that we had waded through), the course had been changed to an out-and-back, with a turnaround at mile 5, so there was always someone running relatively close by, which was nice.
I took off way too fast and ran the first mile in 7:46. I knew that wasn't going to be sustainable, so I tried to back off a little bit, and a few glances at my Garmin told me I was staying right around an 8:00 pace.
I didn't know if I'd be able to hold that for the full 10 miles, but I was feeling so amazingly good, I thought I'd try to stick with it for as long as I could. I couldn't get over the fact that I had just run ten miles, yet I felt like I hadn't run at all, and was starting out with fresh, rested legs.
There were a couple of turnarounds where I got to see my friends, and also got to see three other friends from the running club, who were the first, second, and third female finishers - so great to see them in the lead!
The course is nothing to rave about. It's run through Quonset Point, which is a decidedly non-scenic industrial area, with some train tracks, some nondescript buildings, and a lot of very flat, open stretches of nothingness. Throw in the gray, gloomy weather, and it was even less inspiring. It was flat and fast, though, and I had my tunes keeping me distracted, so the miles were really flying by.
As we turned around at mile 5, I was still feeling good, but I was glad to be halfway done with this part of the run. I was still staying right around the 8-minute pace, and I knew if I had kept it up this long, I'd be able to finish it off. I also knew it was going to start to feel a lot tougher, though, and I mentally prepared myself for that.
Miles 5 - 7 were ok - I started to get tired, but my legs were still cooperating. At mile 7, I had to start playing a lot of mental games to keep things moving. At mile 8, I came back to my old "just get through this mile" tactic, knowing that once I hit mile 9, I could count on adrenaline to get me to the finish.
As we turned the last corner and headed into the finish, I passed a woman I had been running just behind for most of mile 8 and 9. I was mostly competing with myself at that point - I wanted to finish strong - but yes, I was competing with her, too. And as it turns out, she was in my age group, and that last little push at the end put me in first place for that age group.
I crossed the finish in just over 1:20, and was absolutely elated. Running 10 miles, then taking first place in your age group in a 10-mile race is a guaranteed confidence booster, for sure.
I waited for two of my friends to come in, and then headed out to run one more mile. We had only gotten in 9 beforehand, and there was no way I was going to go through all that and not run a full 20 miles.
The weather during the race was a teeny tiny bit better than it had been during our pre-race miles - showers, rather than downpours - but I was still drenched all over again, and couldn't wait to get into warm, dry clothes.
Since it was a small race, the awards were done pretty quickly, and I scored a nice mug and a keychain for my age-group win. Always nice to get something I'll actually use, instead of a medal or a plaque.
There are so many more stories to tell about this epic run - how we tried to come up with some kind of military-type cadence to sing/chant as we ran. How two of my friends tried to outdo each other by seeing who could remember - and sing - all the lyrics to "Eye of the Tiger" and "Gloria." How there was very randomly a swing on a tree next to a dumpster, in the middle of this absolute nothingness we were running through, and how one of my friends got on for a quick swing (I wanted so badly to take a picture, but the thought of extracting my phone from the plastic bag and armband it was in was too daunting). How we waded through the ankle-deep puddle and almost lost our shoes to the muddy grass. How I came to a point during the race where I almost laughed out loud at the absurdity of it all.
But what I'll remember most is how thankful this run made me to have this group of friends. I was so tempted on Saturday, when it was nearly 50 degrees and blissfully dry, to just go out and do my 20 miles solo. But we had plans, and I knew that even though the weather was going to absolutely suck, I'd rather run with my friends than run alone. And I am 100% certain that I made the right decision.
As I trained for Boston last year, I got all the emails about when everyone was running on the weekends, and I wished I could go and run with them. But I was focused, and I had goals, and I didn't want to sacrifice those goals. And I'm glad I didn't. That's what Boston was about for me last year, and I'm proud of how hard I worked and what I gave up in order to succeed at what I set out to accomplish.
But this year has never been about that. I had thought it would be, but then I got hurt, and I had to shift my way of thinking. I had to shift it a lot, and it wasn't easy at first. I let go of my PR goal. Then I let go of my re-qualifying goal. Then I nearly let go of my 'please let me just run it and finish' goal.
And as I've made my way back and been running regularly again, I've been tempted over and over to try to find a way back to some of those goals.
But every time I thought about going out for my long run alone so that I could try to run a faster pace, I quickly changed my mind and opted to go with the group. I have nothing to prove this year - not to myself, and not to anyone else.
What I have is a need to be there, and to run the course, and to soak it all in, and to reclaim my Boston Marathon experience - and to be a part of the field of 36,000 that is reclaiming it for all of us.
The phrase on this year's banners is "We run together," and that just couldn't be more perfect.
The last time I wrote about Boston, I was feeling pretty certain that I'd be there as a runner, not a spectator - and I was absolutely determined to do everything in my power to remove any lingering doubts.
Now, a few weeks later, those doubts don't stand a chance.
What's happened in those few weeks?
I moved from a 10-mile long run, to a 13-mile long run, to a 15.5-mile long run.
I increased my total weekly mileage to just under 26 - pretty much a 'normal' mileage week for me. (not a normal marathon training week, but I'll take it!)
I threw a few tempo miles into one of my midweek runs, and ran several sub-8-minute miles in a row - something I haven't done since October - and it was really, really fun!
I continued swimming, and I continued lifting weights, and I continued getting on the elliptical, and I took a few more bike trainer classes.
I stretched, and iced, and kept up with my PT exercises, and had a few PT appointments and one acupuncture appointment.
What's also important is what I didn't do - I didn't run as far as I wanted to (yes, 15 miles is a long way, but I'm itching to get in that 20-miler). I didn't try doing any real speedwork. I didn't add in a 4th or 5th run in any of those weeks, even though I've been oh so tempted.
Patience is key for me right now. As much as I want to be ready to tackle those 26.2 miles, I need to be cautious and careful to not overdo it and end up back on the sidelines.
A new issue has helped me to maintain my cautiousness - some pain on the ball of my right foot after my long runs.
I'm not freaked out about it, because it only flares up after the long runs, and it goes away within a day's time. I will see my podiatrist about it, just to get his opinion and diagnosis, but I'm not going to let it stop me from running Boston.
One tactic I'm trying in the meantime is new shoes.
I've been loyal to my Mizuno Alchemys for several years, and it's a little unnerving to try a new type of shoe, but although the Alchemy provides the stability I need, it's far from cushioned, and I think having a little more cushioning will help with this pain on the bottom of my foot, so I'm going to try out a pair of Saucony Omni and a pair of Brooks Adrenaline. Hopefully one or both of those models will make my feet a little happier.
And as another step on the road to Boston, I have a half-marathon this weekend, which I'm really looking forward to. It's been months since I raced, and I'm anxious to get back out there.
I truly have no idea what that's going to mean, in terms of pacing. I've been running relatively well for my shorter midweek runs, and when I run by myself for my long runs, I've been able to comfortably hold a pace between 8:30 and 8:40. I'm truly very curious to see what will happen when I just let myself go. It'll be an interesting experiment.
And after that - onward and upward - hopefully to a 17- or 18-miler the following weekend, and a 20-miler the week after that.
And through it all, I keep my fingers crossed that my shin and my foot and every other joint and muscle and ligament and tendon continues to cooperate.
This morning I finally got a rush of nervousness about Boston - something I had yet to experience this year.
I've felt a lot of things - disappointed, anxious, concerned, sad, sometimes a tiny bit excited - but unlike last year (when I experienced it nearly every day!), I hadn't yet felt that flurry of nervous butterflies that made me pause and take a deep breath.
I loved feeling it this morning. That nervous energy is one of the things I love about racing. It's such an integral part of the journey, and it's instrumental in keeping you motivated and focused, and come race day, it's almost magically transformed into a rush of adrenaline that you can barely contain as you stand in your starting corral.
I've missed those butterflies, and I'm thrilled that they're finally back.
45 days : )
It's a wonderful thing when you're told by both your physical therapists that you can cut your visits back to once a week, rather than twice a week; and by your acupuncturist that you can cut back to every other week sessions rather than weekly.
It's also a wonderful thing when you can start running with your friends again.
It's even more wonderful when you set out for a solo 10-miler (your first double digit run in 4 months, but scheduling issues meant you couldn't meet up with your friends when they were heading out), and you just happen to run into those friends who are also out for their run, and you're able to run 4 of those 10 miles with them.
But the most wonderful thing of all is when you finish that 10-miler feeling better than ever, and feeling completely confident that you will in fact be able to stand at the starting line in Hopkinton on April 21st, and you will be able to again run the 26.2 miles to Boylston Street.
More wonderful things -
Bike trainer classes that have served very well to kick my butt on a few Saturday mornings this month, and have satisfied my need for a long endurance workout while I've been unable to get out for hours-long training runs.
Running Dante's first 5K with him earlier this month - a day that I know neither of us will soon forget. We made it to the 1.5-mile mark before we had to switch to a run/walk, but he made it the whole way, and per my instructions, when he hit the final turn and headed into the last .1 of the course, he ran for all he was worth.
The best part of the day for me, though, was at mile 2, when he turned to me and said "This is the best day of my life."
I hope we run more races together in the future, but even if we don't, I'm glad we had that one.
And the most wonderful thing is that if someone were to ask me right now if I'm training for Boston, I'd say yes - no qualifiers, no maybe, no hopefully - I am all in!
It's a far cry from a 'real' training plan, and I'm totally making it up as I go along, but hey - I'm a coach, I can do that : )
It's a very fine line I'm walking, and I'm aware of that, and I'm doing my best to balance playing it safe with running enough to prepare my body for the marathon distance. Hopefully it works.
And if a good attitude counts for anything, I'll be all set, because I am positively oozing optimism right now. I keep imagining myself at the start, on the course, and crossing the finish line. I know it's going to be a tough race for me, and I'm going to be woefully undertrained, but I'll be there, and that's what matters.
Just going to keep doing what I'm doing, and keep hoping that more wonderfulness comes my way in the next 9 weeks.
I always like to look back at my 2013 races, and take stock of where I am, and what I accomplished, and where I hope to go next. And I usually take a lot of time to do this, and write a very long post as a result.
But this year, time is scarce, so the recap will be brief.
The year kicked off with what still stands as one of the toughest, and best training cycles I've completed to date. I had a big goal for Boston, and I worked my butt off to get there. A few races worked their way into my training schedule - the Super 5K and the Ocean's Run half - but it was ALL about getting to Boston and getting my 3:30.
Some snowstorms got in the way, and Scott recovering from hernia surgery made scheduling some of my long runs a little difficult, but in the end, I only missed two long runs, and I nailed every other workout on the schedule, and arrived in Hopkinton on April 15 feeling stronger and more confident than I had ever felt going into a race.
I still struggle with the emotions surrounding Boston, and it's sometimes tremendously difficult to put into words what I'm thinking and how I'm feeling, so I'll just post the link to my two blog posts about it from April - here, and here.
And I'll also re-post my absolute favorite race photo ever, taken by my incredibly talented photographer friend who was at Mile 13 of the race, and captured so perfectly the joy that I was feeling for every single step of those 26.2 miles - the joy that I am so looking forward to experiencing again this year.
Boston 2-13 was undoubtedly the most important race I've ever run in my life, and Boston 2014 will be the second most important. Ever since I sent in my 2014 registration, those 26.2 miles have been all I can think about, and every ounce of energy I put into my running goes toward that singular goal.
Post-Boston last year, I needed to run. Instead of taking my usual week off post-marathon, I only took a few days off. Mentally, I needed it. I needed to get out and pound the pavement, and I needed to get out and log the miles with my friends. It wasn't a great idea, and I paid for it with a month of feeling sluggish and unrecovered, but it was what I had to do at the time.
Two weeks after Boston was the State Police 5K - a new favorite of mine, and this was my second year running it. All my friends were there, and even though I had a mild allergic reaction after finishing, it was still a great race. The Nooseneck 18K was a fundraising run for the One Boston fund, so there was no way I wasn't running that, and I suffered through the approximately 11 insanely hilly miles with a couple of friends.
May was my 6th running of the Cox Providence half-marathon. This is where I really felt the full effects of not recovering properly from Boston. I surrendered the fight halfway into the race and slowed dramatically, not caring how fast I ran or how I placed. It wasn't a very fun race, but I finished and I kept my streak going.
June was my first 5K in a long time, and it was a tough one. It was fun because all my friends were there, and I managed to win an age-group award, but I struggled the entire race, and decided right then and there that I pretty much hate 5Ks.
The Blessing in July brought much cooler weather than previous years, allowing me to run a new PR, even though I hadn't really done much actual training at all, so that was a high point of the year.
It was followed by a low point in September, though, at the Back in Track 5K. HATE the 5K. Another tough run, and another 5K finish way, way off my PR.
Luckily I regrouped in October, and finished the year with two great races - my first 10K at the inaugural Ocean Road 10K, where I ran a very respectable 44:09 and won 3rd place in my age group. And the following weekend, with no Garmin, I pulled off a 1:37:56 at the Newport half, winning 3rd in my age group again.
Unfortunately that was the end of my racing for the year, due to the tibial tendonitis that had me sidelined for a good 6 weeks, and that has kept me to very, very, very minimal running through the month of December. I had to skip my planned Seacoast Half in November (but still got to get away with my friends for the weekend, so had a great time anyway), and there was no Jingle Bell run in December.
I certainly haven't finished the year the way I had hoped, and I won't be starting 2014 by diving into my Boston training as planned.
But I am running, and for that I'm grateful.
2013 was by all accounts an extremely memorable year, and 2014 will be the same, as both will be defined by THE race. Boston.
Getting there this year is going to be more of a struggle, and I have a feeling I'm going to have to fight for every mile, but it's a battle well worth fighting. I will do whatever it takes to get to that starting line and to cross that finish line, and I'm so thankful that my friends are going to be there with me.
I wasn't quite as focused on chasing PRs for most of this year, and only had two of them, but I'm ok with that. My heart just wasn't in it for most of this year, and I was happier just going out and running and doing what I could do, without putting too much pressure on myself.
I still had a great year, and learned a lot about myself as a runner, and look forward to taking those lessons with me into the new year.
2013 by the numbers:
1,270 miles run
11 races (a very low number for me)
One 1st place age-group award
One 2nd place age-group award
Three 3rd place age-group awards
One 3:30 marathon.
Here's to many more healthy, strong, hopefully injury-free miles in 2014.
The good - no, actually, the best news is that I do NOT have a stress fracture!
Finding this out was no easy feat, though. I scheduled my MRI for last Wednesday at 9am, only to arrive at 9am and find out that the appointment had mistakenly been scheduled for 9am at a different location.
Sensing that I was on the verge of tears (guess I was a little more stressed out about this than I thought), the receptionist was able to get me an appointment for later in the morning at the other location, about half an hour away.
Having an MRI is slightly torturous, in that you have to lie perfectly still for nearly an entire hour. Tell me I have to run a 7-minute pace for an hour, and I'm all for it. Tell me I have to lie perfectly still for an hour, and I cringe.
It was for a good reason, though, so I managed. And after two more torturous days of waiting, and several phone messages left at my doctor's office, I got the good news on Friday that there was no sign of a stress fracture.
I hadn't been feeling any pain, but still hadn't been running, and it had been a total of 4 weeks. So when I got the news that I was fracture-free, I figured I was ok to start back up running again, but also knew that I'd need to continue with PT for a while, too - even though I was feeling good, I knew I wasn't completely recovered from this injury.
However, instead of being smart and following the advice I'd give to anyone else who was just coming off an injury - starting back slowly and gradually - I went out and ran 5 miles.
It was fabulous. It was wonderful. I felt great. My shin felt fine. I had an amazing run, and I didn't feel like I had lost even an ounce of running fitness - I was not short of breath, and my legs weren't heavy. It felt just as if I had been running all along.
I felt so good, in fact, that I thought I could even go ahead and run the half marathon that I had been planning on running with my friends the next day (part of our weekend getaway to NH that we had been planning for months). I packed my running clothes and thought if I ran slow and easy, I'd be fine.
And this is right about where most of you are thinking "You did WHAT?? And you thought WHAT??!!!!"
So, um, yeah - don't do what I did.
I shouldn't have run 5 miles on my first run back, and I know better, and unfortunately sometimes even when we know better, we make bad decisions anyway. Even though I didn't feel any pain during that run or immediately after, I definitely started to feel some Saturday night.
And when I woke up Sunday (race morning), I knew I couldn't run. I knew that going out and running 13.1 miles was going to do nothing except put me right back at square one, and would mean several more weeks of no running. And I did not want to put myself through that.
So I redeemed myself from the 5-mile mistake and at least didn't make it any worse by running an additional 13.1.
I truly wasn't all that upset about it, either. I knew it was what I had to do, and I hadn't been expecting to be able to run this race anyway, so I had already made peace with not running, so it wasn't a stretch to get back to that place.
Being at the start was a little tough, but once I got past that, I was fine, and it was fun to cheer on my friends and hang out with them afterward and hear about how their races went. And of course we had the rest of the day and night to shop, eat, drink, and relax, so there was plenty of fun to be had even though I didn't run.
So the important things to take away from this are that I did get good news on the MRI, and although I made a bad choice going and running 5 miles, I followed that with a good choice to not run the half.
My shin is feeling ok, but I definitely aggravated it a bit, and I think I'm going to wait at least a few more days to run. And when I do run, it's going to be a very, very, very short run. I need to continue to be as patient with my comeback as I have tried to be these past 4 weeks.
When I dealt with a similar shin injury years ago, my return to running was painfully slow, but taking it so slow paid off. So that's what I'll be doing again - logging my runs in increments of minutes, rather than miles.
I'll be frustrating, but it's what needs to be done if I want to make sure this injury truly heals in time for me to hit the ground running in January, when Boston training will begin.
So do as I say, not as I do. I've learned my lesson, and won't make that same mistake again.
And luckily having to skip the race wasn't much of a disappointment, since I still got to go away and have a fabulously fun weekend with my friends. Not a bad tradeoff : )
Earlier this year, I had grand plans of getting my half-marathon PR down to 1:35 (from 1:37:28). Then, as the weeks and months passed, my motivation to chase down that goal waned. I kept up with some racing and some speedwork all summer and into the early part of the fall, but my heart just wasn't in it. I didn't feel the drive to work as hard as I knew I needed to in order to run a half at that pace.
I've struggled with this over the past month or two, feeling like I was losing my edge, and like maybe it was the beginnning of the end of my PR days. Being a little dramatic, I know, but for someone who's spent the past few years so completley focused on time goals and PRs and competing, it's felt strange to not have that desire.
It came back a little bit with the Ocean Road 10K two weeks ago, and having a great race experience there definitely got me a little more excited about racing in Newport last weekend. And although I wasn't feeling PR-ready as I drove over Sunday morning, I was feeling race-ready, and I knew I was going to give it my all, which is all I can really ask of myself.
I met up with friends as we waited before the start, but since I had actually gotten there a little later than I planned, it wasn't long before we headed to the starting line. And then we stood at the starting line and waited. And waited. And waited some more. The race start was delayed last year, too - my only complaint about an otherwise fabulous event.
Waiting at the starting line is when I discovered that my Garmin was dead. Kaput. Not functioning. I reset it at least a dozen times (had plenty of time for that, since the delay ended up being a good 15 minutes!), but still nothing. I had my phone with me, since I had decided to listen to music for this race - something I haven't done in years - so I fired up mapmyrun and figured I'd use that. Even though I know it's nowhere near as accurate as my Garmin, I thought I'd try to have at least some data.
But since it was in my armband, I wouldn't be able to see the numbers, so I'd be running blind. I was surprisingly not rattled by this, though. In the past couple of years, I've gotten much better at pacing myself, and I usually only glance at my watch a few times even during a long race. So I'd just have to run by feel this time, and I truly wasn't worried about it.
I knew the start would be crowded, and I knew the huge hill at the beginning would keep my pace down a bit anyway, so I didn't fight too hard to navigate the crowds. I did work a little harder during the second mile, though, to try to make up a bit for what I knew (even without a watch to tell me) was a relatively slow mile 1.
I actually like the fact that you get this huge hill out of the way immediately - and then get to run back down it just before the finish!
Miles 3 through 5 were pretty uneventful. It was a gorgeous day - the temperature was absolutely perfect, and I quickly tossed my armwarmers, and was very comfortable in my shorts and tank top. There are a couple small hills in that stretch - including the driveway leading into and out of Fort Adams State park - but they aren't very tough hills, and they didn't slow me down much at all.
It was comfortable, but warm enough that I grabbed water at every aid station, but didn't stop to walk. And even though I haven't practiced drinking on the run lately, I did a pretty good job of not spilling water all over myself.
As we headed out of Fort Adams and down toward the water, I braced myself. My experience here last year was not a good one, with winds gusting up to 30 mph. It didn't seem anywhere near that windy this year, but I prepared myself mentally, just in case.
But luckily, conditions this year were blissfully calm. There were a few spots where we ran into a headwind, but I almost laughed at how wimpy it seemed compared to last year. And since it wasn't a battle running up that long stretch of ocean road, I was actually able to smile and enjoy it, which was a nice treat!
I was also having fun listening to my music. It's been so long since I raced with a playlist, and it was a nice change for me. I don't plan to start doing it all the time again, but for this race, it was the right thing, and I'm glad I did it.
The ocean road stretch is beautiful and scenic, but it's also a long stretch, and always feels like it just goes on forever. Having just run it a few weeks earlier, though, I knew what landmarks to look for to gauge how much further I had to go, which really helped mentally.
And at this point, I was feeling pretty good. I was racing, and I was working hard, but I felt strong, and I knew I was having a good race. I considered asking someone who was running near me what their goal was, to try to and figure out how I was doing, but I opted not to. I felt like not knowing was working for me, so decided I'd stick with it.
There was a moment between mile 8 and 9 where I was hit with a wave of exhaustion and wanted to be done. But it passed really quickly when I charged up the hill around mile 9, passing several people as I went. I swear, I felt like I accelerated going up that hill, and I felt stronger than ever when I got to the top.
That was the last real hill of the course, and I knew it, so I settled in and worked on trying to push it a bit for the last few miles.
As we ran back towards town, I knew the final miles were all flat or downhill, and I definitely picked up the pace here. I wish I had some kind of data so I could see how my pacing played out, but when I checked mapmyrun after I finished, it told me I had run 13.63 miles at a 7:06 pace - which is why I only use phone apps for running when I have no other option - far from accurate!
I know I was running faster in those last 4 miles, though, and I passed a fair amount of people as we wound our way up Bellevue Ave and through the side streets that would bring us back toward the beach.
I also knew that I needed to not sprint as soon as I hit the beach parking lot at the bottom of the hill. I made that mistake last year and it was not pleasant, as the finish line is a full half mile away at that point, and sprinting for a half mile at the end of a half marathon is really, really painful.
The long final stretch to the finish.
I was running at a good clip down that final stretch, though, and I had taken my headphones off about a mile earlier, so I soaked up all the cheers and cowbells and crossed the finish at just over 1:38. I knew my official time would be a teeny bit faster, but since I had lined up pretty close to the start, probably not that much faster - and I was right, as it ended up being 1:37:56.
I admit I had kind of hoped I might be able to pull off a small PR at this race, but I didn't spend too much time thinking about that.
Instead I focused on the fact that I ran with no watch, no pacing feedback whatsoever, and I was able to run just 28 seconds slower than my PR. And I also accomplished that just one week after running a 44-minute 10K, so I think taking all that into consideration, this was a pretty great effort for me!
And it was a good enough effort to get me a third-place age-group award, which I was not expecting at all!
A lot of friends were also running, so I spent a good amount of time at the finish line cheering them on as they came in, and then headed back to the shuttle buses to begin my afternoon and evening of relaxation (courtesy of my free night at the host hotel, which I won in a contest held by the race organizers).
It was everything I had hoped it would be and more. Quiet, peaceful, restful, and rejuvenating.
Even though I had just raced 13.1 miles, I spent the afternoon walking around Newport shopping and people watching, treated myself to an enormous burger (my favorite post-race meal) at the Brick Alley (one of my favorite Newport spots), enjoyed a leisurely glass of wine at a bar right on the harbor at sunset, and then spent the evening lounging in my very luxurious, beautiful hotel room.
I wish every half-marathon could end that way, but alas, it's not par for the course for us non-elite runners. It was a nice treat, though, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time alone.
So, despite not getting a PR, I did walk away with another age-group award, and with the knowledge that I may not have made a lot of progress with my running over the summer, but I certainly have not lost any fitness. And I've gotten very good at pacing myself, which is a really valuable skill, and one I'm glad to have finally mastered!
1:37:56, 7:29 pace
3 of 418 age group
22 of 1,751 females
147 of 2,800 overall
And now, unfortunately, my cranky shin is being extra cranky (almost as cranky as it was a few years ago when I had to take many many many weeks off from running to let it finally heal). I thought I had nipped it in the bud a few weeks ago when it started feeling a little sore and I gave it my own home treatments - massage, ice, stretching - and it began to feel better.
But I guess two weekends of racing in a row was a bit much, and it's time to get myself back into PT. And it's also time to give it a rest.
So, in the interest of not doing anything stupid to jeapordize my Boston training - which is going to be starting before you I know it! - I'm taking some time off now. Hopefully it won't require too long of a layoff, but if it does, it's better to take it now rather than be faced with injury in the middle of a training cycle.
Right now I have a good attitude about the whole thing, and I've been living in my compression socks the past few days and have already felt huge improvements in how it feels, so I'm hopeful that this won't drag on too long, because the longer I go without running, the harder it is to maintain that good attitude.
Fingers crossed that my optimistic outlook isn't put to the test!
Last weekend we did something we've been wanting to do for a long, long time - brought the boys out to Block Island, which is where Scott and I first met, 22 1/2 years ago.
This little island is an absolute treasure right in our backyard, and given that it's where we met, spent 4 summers living and working together, and where we got engaged, it's a pretty special place to us.
Which would lead you to believe that we'd go out frequently - but for one reason or another, it had been nearly 10 years since the last time we'd gone. And now that we finally went back, I know for sure that it will NOT be another ten years before we visit again.
It was a short visit - just a day trip - and we didn't do an awful lot besides have lunch and walk around, but it was enough to bring back a flood of memories and make me very nostalgic. And it was enough for the boys to see that it's a pretty cool place, and one that they can't wait to go back to.
The boat ride over was an adventure in itself for three boys who have only ever been on the steamboat at Mystic Seaport and the ferry over the CT River in Essex (a 5-minute ride). A whole hour on a 'big' boat was quite the event, and we checked out every square inch of that boat - up and down the stairs, in and out of the cabin, and back and forth across the deck. And luckily the water was very calm, so it was a nice, smooth ride.
We were about halfway across when Gabe told us he saw dolphins in the water. We brushed it off, telling him there was no way there were dolphins out there, but then I looked and sure enough, he had actually seen dolphins! Bonus excitement for the boat ride!
Lunch at one of our old haunts was our first stop, followed by the walk up the hill to the Spring House, where we wandered around and pointed out to the boys where Scott tended bar, and where I chopped and prepped and cooked in the kitchen, and where our rooms were in the bunkhouse and barn (nearly unrecognizable due to major renovations).
A walk through town, some window shopping, and some ice cream, and our day was done. But it was a fabulous one, and I was sad to leave.
But we're already talking about what we'll do next time - hopefully we'll bring bikes and be able to explore more of the island, because they loved the small bit they saw, but there is so, so much more I want to show them. Lucky for us, it's a trip we can take just about any time we want, so I know we'll get to all those spots, and I know the older they get, the more they'll appreciate them.
Tomorrow I start gearing up for this weekend's festivities - spectating in Hartford with Gabe and Dante on Saturday (gotta dig out the cowbells!), and my half-marathon and overnight getaway in Newport on Sunday.
I think the boys will have fun in Hartford. From what I remember when I ran it a few years ago, they have a lot of kids' activities set up in Bushnell Park, so there should be plenty for them to do while we wait to head over to the finish line to cheer.
I know they won't fully get how amazing it is to watch all these people crossing the finish after running 26.2 miles, but they are beginning to get a sense of how big a deal it is, and hopefully they'll enjoy it.
And although I'll have some time on Saturday afternoon to get my stuff packed up for Sunday, I'm going to get started on it tomorrow, so that I don't feel rushed. One thing I'm doing that I haven't done in a long, long time is making a playlist.
I think the last race that I listened to music at was Gansett, more than two years ago. And the only time I listen on training runs is if I'm on the treadmill. But for some reason I'm feeling like I want some tunes for this race, so I'm going to go with that.
I'm excited to race, and I'm excited to run hard, and I'm also excited to hang out at the finish line after I'm done and wait for my friends (several are running) to come in. And with the weather forecast calling for mostly cloudy and a high of 61, it looks like Mother Nature is cooperating, too. As long as she doesn't hit us with the gusty winds we had last year, it'll be nearly perfect!
Ready to cheer, and ready to run!
I had a feeling I was going to like the 10K distance, and I was right. I liked it, and I ran it well, and I will definitely be racing more 10Ks in the future!
This was the inaugural year for the Ocean Road 10K, and it was a point-to-point course heading up a road that I run on at least once a week (sometimes two or three times!), so I knew exactly what I was in for.
As I waited in the shuttle bus to head down to the starting line, I considered just getting out and running down there instead. I had gotten to the shuttles really early, so would have had plenty of time.
But I wanted to really race this one, and running 6 miles to the start would be a little excessive for a warmup, so I stayed put and rode the bus.
I walked around a bit at the start - a really pretty, scenic spot - and hit the porta-potties a couple times, then headed out for my warmup. I had only planned on 2 miles, but I had so much time, I took it nice and easy and ran 3.
It was cloudy and gray race morning, so not quite this pretty, but still a very nice spot to begin a race!
I had seen the direction the flags were blowing as we drove past the beach on the way down, and I knew we were going to be running into a headwind the whole way. It wasn't a super-strong headwind, but it was enough that I felt it would be a bit of a factor mentally, if nothing else.
The race went off right at 8am, and I had lined up pretty close to the front, but I didn't want to start out too fast, so I kept a pretty close eye on my watch for that first mile, and I felt good that it ended up at 7:16. That's the pace that I've run for a lot of my tempo runs, so I was pretty confident that I could hold it for the whole distance.
I had a bit of a side stitch during the first 2 miles, but it never got too bad, and it went away after mile 2, thankfully. Despite the side stitch and the wind, I ended up running mile 2 in 7:07. This mile was pretty much completely flat, so I think that accounts for the faster pace.
At the beginning of mile 3 we were still fighting the wind, and then we started up one of the hills on the course, so my pace went back down to 7:17 for that mile. The second hill on the course was during mile 4, which kept that one at 7:18.
The hills made this stretch of the course a little tough, but thankfully, shortly after mile 3 we were largely sheltered from the wind, and I'm so used to running these two hills that I was still feeling pretty good. I was working hard, but I felt like I could work harder. So I did - got mile 5 down to 7:04.
And now we were heading back to the beach, and back into the wind. But we were also heading into the final mile, so I stopped looking at my watch and just ran.
Finished mile 6 in exactly 7 minutes.
I knew the finish line was in the beach parking lot, and I knew that final .2 was going to feel like forever, and it did. And it was even worse than I thought, because we had to turn a sharp corner to enter the parking lot, then had to run to one end of the lot and then circle back and run back to the other end. Tough to sprint a stretch like that, but I definitely gave it my all, and got down to a 6:26 for that final .2.
Crossed the finish line in 44:09, which I was thrilled with. I had hoped my pace would be around 7:15, so to end up with a 7:07 pace was fantastic!
And I ended up winning 3rd place in my age group, too - not bad for my first 10K!
If I'm honest with myself, I think I could have pushed a little harder during the first half. But having never raced this distance before, I know it was better for me to start conservatively. Learning how to pace yourself at different distances takes some practice, and I look forward to practicing more at this distance!
Final results - 44:09, 7:07 pace, 3rd place age group, 8th female, 25 of 287 overall.
And now it's on to the Newport half next weekend, which had been my big goal race for the season - until I decided to go all out and race yesterday.
I know full well that racing a 10K the weekend before a goal half-marathon is not advisable, and I know that as a result, my time in the half may be a little slower than I planned. But I'm ok with that. I had fun racing the 10K, and I'm glad I finally added that distance to my repertoire.
I do hope to run well in Newport, though - hopefully at least close to my PR of 1:37 - but whatever the day brings, I'll just do my best and be happy with that.
I'm getting a huge bonus this weekend, too - I won a contest on the United Healthcare Triple Crown Facebook page, and the prize was an overnight stay at the Hotel Viking on race weekend! Since I'm local, there's no need to stay the night before, so I opted to stay the night following the race.
We had hoped to find someone to babysit the kids so that Scott could join me and we could have a little getaway, but unfortunately we've exhausted all our possibilities and have come up empty-handed.
I am disappointed that we can't have a getaway together, but we're not going to let a free hotel room go to waste, so I'm still going to stay over.
And I can't deny being pretty thrilled that I get to finish the race, linger as long as I want (will be hanging out at the finish line cheering on lots of friends who are also running), return to the hotel, get cleaned up, spend the afternoon hanging out in Newport browsing all the shops, enjoy a late leisurely lunch, and then return to the hotel for a quiet dinner and a night with the entire room all to myself. The silence is going to be blissful.
I'm also hoping to bring Gabe and Dante down to the Hartford Marathon on Saturday morning, to watch my friend who's running and is going to hopefully break 3 hours - something I don't want to miss!
So, a fun fall weekend to look forward to - race spectating Saturday, race running Sunday, and a day/night of rejuvenation Sunday into Monday - lucky me!
Two months into the school year, and I feel like I'm finally making some progress on my enormous to-do list. I thought that with Gabe and Dante in school all day, I'd have so much time to get stuff done, but it's not working out that way. The hours fly by, and before I know it we're out at the bus stop waiting for them to come home, and I've barely checked off one or two items (and usually added three more).
Part of the reason for that, though, is that we've been enjoying some glorious fall weather, and I can't stand the thought of me and Carmine being inside all afternoon. So we often find ourselves strolling along the seawall, or at the playground, or just playing outside in the front yard.
And even though it sometimes makes me anxious to while away the hours like that, I'm making a real effort to just slow down and enjoy it. There is a part of me that does look forward to the peace and quiet that I know I'll have when Carmine joins his big brothers in going off to school for the entire day.
But another part of me is well aware that I'm going to miss constantly having a companion.
Sure, it'll be a lot easier to run errands and get stuff done around the house. But it'll also be kind of boring. Nobody following me around asking "Why" twenty times an hour. Nobody 'helping' me do things which I then have to re-do because of said 'helping.' Nobody sitting on the bathroom floor playing trucks while I get myself ready to go in the morning.
I know I still have almost two years before that day arrives, but I also know how incredibly quickly those two years are going to fly by, so I'm making a conscious effort to not rush the hours, and to indulge the little guy when he wants to stop and spend 15 minutes throwing rocks in the ocean, even if it means 15 fewer minutes for me to get things accomplished.
The gorgeous weather has also made for some fabulous running. Faster paces feel so much easier, and easy paces feel so enjoyable.
I've also been able to run with my friends a lot lately, which has been great. I've gotten in on many of the weekend long runs, including one this past weekend in Newport. We ran the course for the half that a few of us are running two weeks from now, and it was another perfect day.
And a couple of us have been meeting up for weekly track work, also, which is so nice. It's tough to get out there and do those track workouts all by your lonesome. We don't always all do the same workout, but it's still nice to not be there alone.
I'm still feeling slightly frustrated about the downward trend I've seen in my 5K times, but I'm not letting it defeat me, by any means. If anything, it's lit a fire under me and made me want to work harder.
Yes, I've been doing long runs and track workouts and tempo runs here and there, but I haven't been training to run a fast 5K, so I can't expect to magically run a fast 5K. And I'm not entirely sure what I can expect for next week's half-marathon, either. I'm hoping to at least run the same pace I ran last year, but without having specifically trained for that, I need to prepare myself that I won't.
I did have one absolutely awesome run last week that did a good job of rebuilding my confidence a bit, though. I set out to do a tempo run at approximately a 7:25 to 7:35 pace - that's what I thought I could manage at this point.
Instead, this is what happened -
It felt so good to hit those paces. And it was far from easy, but it felt appropriately hard for a tempo run. It was nice to have a little bit of confidence restored.
But since I'm feeling somewhat ambivalent about my Newport goals as of right now, I'm going to just do what I feel like doing on Sunday. If I feel great, I'm not going to hold back. And if I feel crappy, I'm going to just run whatever I feel up to. No matter what I do, it'll be an automatic PR, since this is my first time at this distance.
The final stretch, heading under the Towers and up to the beach.
It'll be interesting to see, given the results of these two races, if I've made any gains over the course of these last couple of months, or if I'm just holding steady (or going backward!).
Whatever the outcome, I'm going to work really hard to remember that this was supposed to be my 'offseason,' and that it's good that I didn't push myself too hard, because Boston training is right around the corner. Time flies when you're having fun - and when you're a mom of three kids who's also trying to start a business.
I have made some progress on that front, though. Minimal, but it's still progress, so I'll take it.
The first step was setting up an area where I could work. Hauling out notebooks and running books and folders and spreading them out on the kitchen table was not working out so well, seeing as how I'd have to put it all away before the boys came home from school every day.
I came up with a decidedly unfancy and simple solution, but it's working out really well. It gives me enough space to get stuff done, areas to stash all my books and manuals, and also allows me to keep an eye on what the kids are up to.
I'm also working with my first official client - woohoo!!!!!! - and am talking to one other possible client, and am working on getting a logo designed, and setting up a website. It's slow going, but it's going, and that's all that matters.
Relentless forward progress - in life as in running. That's all I have to keep doing. It may not always be quite as much progress as I want, as long as I just keep moving forward, that'll be good enough.
Boston Marathon, April 21
2014Quonset Point 10-Miler, 1:20:02 Ocean's Run Half-Marathon, 1:42:51 Super 5K, 39:36, Dante's FIRST 5K!
2013United Healthcare Half Marathon, Newport, 1:37:56, 3rd place age-group award Ocean Road 10K, 44:09, 3rd place age-group award Back on Track 5K, 21:53, 1st place age-group award The Blessing of the Fleet 10-Miler, 1:14:58 - New PR Katie DeCubellis 5K, 21:39 2nd place age-group award Cox Rhode Races Half Marathon, 1:40:57
Boston Marathon, 3:30:19 - New PR
Jingle Bell 5K, 20:51 - new PR, 1st place age-group award
Newport Bridge Run, 27:31 - 2nd place age-group award
Zooma Cape Cod Half Marathon, 1:38:07 - 1st place age group award
Shoreline Biathlon, 1:26:35 - 1st female finisher and new PR
Roger Schonning 5K, 21:31 - 2nd place age-group award
United Healthcare Jamestown Half-Marathon, 1:41:26 - 1st place age-group award
Matty Siravo 5K, 21:40 - 1st place age-group award
Jingle Bell 5K On the Beach, 24:18, 1st place age-group award
Hartford Marathon, 3:43:11 (Gansett/Boston qualifier!)
Hazard Castle 7-Miler - 54:01 - PR and 3rd place in age group
Matty Siravo 5K - 22:20 - 1st place age-group award!!!!
YMCA Indoor Tri, 15 min, 600 m; 20 min, 9.7 km; 25 min, 3.35 mi - Top Runner Overall, and 6th of 24 Participants
DVRC 5K (actually 3.8 miles) - 27:55 - Third Female Overall!!!!
Matty Siravo 5K - 24:42 - 2nd Place Age-Group Award!
2009Racing for Two
A Race to Grow 5K - 23:39 - 3rd Place Age-Group Award!
Matty Siravo 5K - 24:11 - 1st Place Age-Group Award!
Chiller Chase 5K - 27:28
Super 5K - 26:58
Shoreline Biathlon, 1:47:56
Jingle Bell 5K on the Beach - 29:05
Shoreline Biathlon, 1:53:52
SNA 5K By the Bay 5K - 26:47
Shoreline Biathlon, 1:37:54