Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Intense Training

The Boston Marathon training plan that I've been following is pretty hard core. Yesterday I woke up at 5 to fit in 8 miles before work. I'm definitely not averse to getting up early to get a run in, but usually I don't do more than 5 miles when I need to be in the office before 9am. I was running in the dark yesterday, alternating between outside and the treadmill so that I could focus on speed, and I was thinking to myself, "why am I doing this?" So far in January I have run over 70 miles and it's only January 15!

This might be hard to believe but I usually don't run this much. I run for fun and so far, it's really worked for me. I still like running. I've completed 11 marathons, more than half of them under 4 hours, and qualified for Boston. Of course, I've had fantasies that I am perhaps a professional runner hiding underneath a normal person's body, and following training plans like this will ultimately lead me to marathon glory and world domination. But in reality, I think that following a training plan like this, running over 150 miles a month for 3.5 months, will probably just lead me to burn out.

But in response to my question of "Why am I doing this?" my brain immediately fired back at me: "because it's Boston." I'm not training for just any race. I'm going to run the Boston marathon and surely that merits trying a new training plan, budgeting for a massage every month, and getting up a little extra early every few days to fit in a 10 miler before work. However, I do think that I have to be careful to listen to my body and not get carried away. It's Boston but Boston is one piece of my life, one (very important) marathon in what will hopefully be hundreds of marathons throughout my life. Maybe if I tell myself in writing, it's ok to stretch and do some yoga on a day when you're supposed to run 10 miles, it will make it a little easier to do?

Ok better go run 10 miles now...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Here's to 2014

2013 was absolutely one of my best years yet, particularly, but not only, in running. I qualified for the Boston marathon and ran 3 marathons in under 4 hours. I completed a new race - the Richmond Marathon, and managed to stay injury free all year. I focused on stretching, massage, and nutrition and saw the benefits.

I also got engaged! My fiance has been to every marathon except one and has even starting doing 5k races with me. Now we just have to figure out how to incorporate running into our wedding...

So 2013 was a year of promises - a year of qualifying, engagements - a year of promises. 2014 will be the year that things HAPPEN. I will be running Boston on April 21 and getting married on September 12. That's only two days out of the whole year, but in the meantime, I'll be training and we'll be planning. My resolution for this year is to live in the moment, to live positively in the moment. I will try not to get bogged down by the insane training schedule that I'm following for Boston and I will try not to turn into a stressed out bridezilla during wedding planning. I want to try to enjoy every moment, to look at things without judgement, and to see how beautiful everything can be. This is a momentous year for me - I feel like the luckiest woman in the world. I get to run the race of my dreams and I get to marry the man of my dreams.

September on the calendar that my mom made me for Christmas! It's the fiance and me at the Flying Pig Marathon!       
Confirmation: I'm going to Boston!



Boston Training:
December 30: 5 miles on the treadmill
December 31: 7+ miles - 4 miles outside, 3 miles at marathon pace on the treadmill (8:13 min miles)
January 1: am switching Thursday's workout for today and will do another 7-8 miles, some outside, and 5k on the treadmill at marathon pace

Friday, September 27, 2013

BOSTON BOUND


I can’t believe that I actually get to write this…I will be running the 2014 Boston Marathon!!!!!!!!!!!

Registration opened on September 9th, but for the first week, it was only open to runners who had beat the qualifying time by 5-20 minutes. I was unbelievably happy with my qualifying time (as we Boston Marathoners call it, BQ) of 3:31:25, a full 3 minutes and 35 seconds faster than I needed, but I was really nervous that the race would fill up before I could get in. When registration opened for all qualifiers on Monday the 16th, I immediately registered. But of course, I didn’t find out if I got in. Registration was not first come first served, but rather continued to be based on qualifying time. Registration closed on the 20th, but runners still didn’t find out what the cut off would be. Did 10,000 people beat the qualifying time by 4:30 minutes? Or were there a lot of “squeakers” who barely made the cut off time? I didn’t know and I was trying not to worry. I consoled myself – if I didn’t get in, I would register for BOTH the DC rock’n’roll marathon and the Flying Pig Marathon. But of course…how would that compare to Boston? It would be heartbreaking to qualify and STILL not be fast enough to get in.

Boston Athletic Association announced that it would accept/reject runners on Wednesday, September 25. So I woke up at 6:30am and immediately started checking my email. Nothing. All morning long, I could do nothing but hit refresh on my email and check my credit card account – a pending charge was a good sign. If it went away, I probably would not be getting the email that I wanted.

After waiting all morning, I decided to go for a lunchtime run. It was a beautiful day and I managed to forget about registration for a little while…until I got back to the gym where I immediately checked my email. The top email was my ACCEPTANCE email!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Within 2 hours, I had my flight and hotel booked and I had announced to everyone that I know (and some people that I don’t!) that I, MarathonMennone, had accomplished the dream. I ran, I qualified, I registered. I was accepted. I am in.

There’s no way around it – the 2014 Boston Marathon will be bittersweet. Our hearts will be solemn as we stand at the starting line and I know that we will all be looking over our shoulders as we cross the finish line. Not because we’re afraid, but rather to acknowledge those who didn’t make it across in 2013.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Where to go from here?

I'm still processing Sunday's race. I'm trying to figure out how it happened - how do you go from running 26.2 miles in 3 hours and 44 minutes to in just over 3 and a half hours? What was it that pushed me to accomplishing this major goal? How did I cruise for so long without feeling sick, anxious, pained, tired?

There's probably a number of reasons contributing to success. First, this was, after all my 10th marathon. There has to be something said for running so many of these - I'm used to the starting line, used to water stations, used to working my way through crowds, used to pace groups, used to cheering crowds. I have my race shirt with my name on it. I know how many GUs I should eat. I know that if I drink gatorade at every aid station, I'll feel sick and so I have to alternate with water. So of course having previous experience helped.

I also started doing more stretching and massage therapy, something that I really haven't done too much of. I started doing yoga more seriously a while ago and I'm sure that contributed to my breaking 4 hours. Maybe more stretching and massages helped me not feel too sore 24 miles in? Maybe the stretching is strengthening muscles that I wasn't working before? I'm not sure and I don't want to assign 100% credit to stretching just yet. Let's see how I'm doing after a few more months.

The week before the race, I tried really hard to eat well. I didn't eat a lot of carbs, so that I could carbo-load the day before the race. I ate a pint of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or raspberries every morning for a week. I know that a lot of berries have anti-inflammatory properties and of course, they're just plain good for you. Did that necessarily help me cut 30 seconds off my pace time? I can't say for sure, but I do know that I'll be eating a lot more berries in the future. On the day before race day, I ate carbs but didn't go crazy - an english muffin and raisin bran for breakfast, a SMALL bowl of pasta with bread and salad for lunch, and my burrito for dinner of course. It was lots of carbs but not so much food that I felt gross. I drank a lot of water, but didn't feel bloated on race day.

And of course, I have to give a lot of credit to the Flying Pig Marathon. It is such a well-organized race. The volunteers are fabulous, there are water stops at EVERY MILE, the crowds are everywhere. The course isn't too crowded and the pace groups were friendly and fun. It is somehow my favorite race, which is surprising considering that I never thought I would go to Ohio, let alone go several years in a row.

There are a lot of contributing factors to my qualifying for Boston. I have a wonderful support system of family and loved ones. I have a mom who works at a running store and who can send me cool running gear. But now my question is - what next? What are my long term running goals?

It would make sense to turn to 50 and 100 mile races. Conquering a new distance would be a logical next step. However, I'm not sure if I'll ever be a serious ultra-marathoner. As much as I enjoy the 24 hour races, I think my distance is the marathon. I love the big marathons and the small marathons. I'm a big fan of the distance - it just works for me.

I want to run the Boston marathon. But it's looking more and more like there's no possible way that I could get in for 2014. Runners are all alike - we all want to be there for 2014. I anticipate that Boston will sell out with the runners who have qualified with 15, 10 minutes to spare (not 3). But if I can't do Boston, what can I do?

Perhaps New York. The NYC marathon has even stricter qualifying times than Boston. For Boston, I need 3:35:00. For NYC, I would need to run in 3:10:00 or less. (For Boston times click here.  For NYC click here). So maybe a new qualifying time is a goal? That would certainly take me quite a few more marathons to do. I've come to the realization that doing well in marathons isn't something that happens overnight. It's a process that takes years and years, which is a good thing since I plan on running for the rest of my life.

Maybe I'll become a pacer. Maybe I'll lead runners in marathons to their goal. Or maybe I'll become a pacer for visually impaired runners. Achilles International is a foundation that I would love to work with one day.

Who knows what will be next? For now, I have to make it through the 24 hour race and then see if I can get into Boston when registration opens in September. One step at a time, just like running a marathon.








Monday, May 6, 2013

BOSTON QUALIFIER!

3:31:24!!!!!!!!!!

I love running so, so, so much!

Yesterday, I ran the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati, OH. First of all, I can't say enough good things about this marathon. It is extremely well organized, the volunteers are fabulous, the course is lined with spectators, and the medal is hard core awesome. Plus, you really can't beat a race that has a pig with wings as its official mascot! There is a reason why I have now done this race twice!

Last year, I beat my personal best by 5 minutes at the Pig. This year...I somehow managed to top it.

I was extremely anxious before the race. I almost didn't think that I wanted to do it. I was sore, my knee was pulling a little bit, I wasn't sure if I had trained enough after my last marathon in March. But I had made poor boyfriend come all the way to Cincinnati and there was no way that I was going to miss the fun of the Pig. I read the newest issue of Runner's World on the plane and was incredibly inspired by the story of Bret Dunlap. What really stuck out to me was his determination in finishing the Disney Marathon, even after a huge setback at mile 8. If he could finish, so could I.

I figured as long as I finished in under 4 hours I'd be thrilled. Then I revised that and thought...under 5 would be fine. I really, really wasn't feeling super confident going into it. I'm not really sure why. What I think happened is that I started doing a lot more stretching and I did a bit of massage therapy a week before the race. When you start stretching, I think you suddenly become a lot more aware of your body. You become aware of the twinge in your lower back, whereas before you might have felt merely tired. Maybe after you become better at stretching and after you get more massages, stuff like that doesn't really phase you. That twinge in my lower back completely freaked me out.

So when I took off at the starting line, I was just happy that it wasn't raining. The local news was predicting a "soggy start" and instead we got a beautiful sunrise and perfect, perfect running weather. They started on time and boyfriend made it out to the starting line with me. I wasn't feeling queasy at all (sometimes the early morning starts make it hard for me to eat). I had on some KT tape, my compression socks, and my shirt with my name on it. I was in marathon mode, but barely. I just wanted to have a good time. I found a friend at the starting line who was doing the half and we joked around until the start.

Off we went! I was in the second corral (or pigpen, as they call it) and so I didn't have to maneuver around many people to find myself a bubble to run in. As it happens, my bubble was near the 1:45 pace group for the half marathon (which was incredibly close to the 3:30:00 pace group for the full). Although I thought it was a little crazy, I decided to hang out near the 1:45 group for a while just for fun. Their pace was working for me, the guys leading the group were friendly but not too chatty (they liked to get the crowds going for the group, which was fun) and I figured that I could get a good start on the race before I slowed down at the end.

When we split from the half marathoners, I found myself trailing the 3:30:00 group. By this point (around mile 11), I almost got a bit misty eyed as I thought to myself "this could be it! I could qualify!" but I quickly reminded myself that there was no way that I could maintain this pace. MAYBE, maybe I could hang with the 3:35:00 group if I tried really hard. But 3:30:00?? No way. That was almost an 8 minute mile pace throughout. But again, the pace was working for me. The leaders were nice but unobtrusive. There wasn't a huge crowd with them. So I hung out by them. I didn't stress if I lost them at water stations and I didn't sprint to keep up with them, but I had the balloons on their pace sign in sight for almost the whole marathon. After mile 11, I thought I would stick with them until mile 16. Then I thought, maybe until mile 18. Then suddenly, it was mile 21. Mile 22. I had them in sight pretty much until mile 25 and then I was starting my slow down.

 Of course, by mile 25, I knew that I had it. Even if I did the last mile in 14 minutes, I would hit the qualifying time!! But I didn't want to do 3:35:00. I wanted to do better! I kept plowing forward, going as fast as I could without hurting and without exhausting the last of my reserves. The crowds lined the streets starting more than half a mile from the finish. I started pointing to my name on my shirt, encouraging the crowds to cheer for me. AND THEY DID! Imagine running for more than 5 minutes with people screaming your name, encouraging you onward!!! It was incredibly, incredibly exhilarating!

As I headed up towards the Finish Swine (pig humor, gotta love it) I saw the time - under 3:35:00 by more than 3 minutes! There were far fewer people at the finish line than usual. They announced the name of the guy finishing ahead of me and I vaguely wondered if they would say my name - I don't even remember now. I remember shaking the hand of one of the race organizers (I'd seen him on the news in the morning before heading out to the start) and one of the volunteers, upon seeing my face, asked if I was ok.

Was I ok??? I was amazing! Happy tears came to my eyes as I realized what in the world had just happened. I still don't really know what happened. I wandered around grabbing food, water, and trying to get as many people as possible from MarathonFoto to take my picture. I fondled my medal, fiercely proud of it and not wanting to take it off, EVER. I found boyfriend waiting for me right at the end of the chute where runners can meet their families and after some valiant kisses (he didn't even acknowledge how stinky I must have been...and wet and gross. The rain had started 5 miles before I finished) he told me my official time - 3:31:24!!

I was able to walk back to the hotel, didn't need to sit down, wasn't hurting too bad, wasn't nauseous, wasn't bloody, wasn't ANYTHING except exuberant!

I still don't really know what to do with myself. It seems like there needs to be something that happens now - a parade perhaps? A champagne toast to me? But then again, I don't really need anything else at this point. I am still in disbelief that I have ever run so fast for so long. Some of my splits were under 8 minute miles - how did that happen?? I don't really know. I'm sure I'll be analyzing it in future blog posts, but for now, I just have to say that I am so thankful and happy with yesterday's events. I feel so fortunate to have running as a part of my life and I'm so lucky to have friends, family, and a wonderful boyfriend who will support me every step of the way.

I love the Flying Pig Marathon and I love running! Hopefully, this marathoner is headed to Boston in 2014!!!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hacking Minutes

On Sunday, I'll do marathon #10 - the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati! After a successful race last year, I'm feeling anxious about having another good run.

Last year, I did the DC Rock n Roll in March (just like this year) and I hacked off a ridiculous 10 minutes from my PR - from 3:59 to 3:49 (notice I say hack and not shaved. It wasn't a shave - it was a ridiculous chopping of minutes that I fear I can never repeat!). Then I went to the Pig, just to have fun, and cut off another 4 minutes, from 3:49 to 3:44.

This year, I started off by finishing Rock n Roll in 3:44:47 - almost a full minute faster than the 2012 Pig (3:45:39). Can I still cut some time? Maybe the adrenaline of a new race won't be as strong this year. Last year's conditions were absolutely perfect - it was sunny, a little warmer than usual, and a gorgeous day. Of course, things didn't go off without a hitch - I didn't eat my typical dinner, a mariachi band was playing until 1am outside the hotel for Cinco de Mayo...and things still went well.

It's impossible to know how things will go, but I just keep reminding myself as always - the city is shutting down so that I can go for a run. I need to cherish the time that I have on the street, even as I try to make that time just a little bit shorter.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Running: mental or physical?

Marathon #10 is on its way...in less than 2 weeks, I'll do the Flying Pig Marathon for the second year in a row in Cincinnati, Ohio! I'm both excited and nervous - with the DC marathon only a little over a month away, I haven't been doing super long training runs. The longest I've done since the March 16 marathon is just over 10 miles. Will this help me or hurt me? Will I feel too tired in the race or would I have burned out with longer training runs? I just don't know.

Running marathons goes beyond your physical endurance. I've done it 9 times now and although it has gotten a bit easier, running for that long can really get to your head. Running is definitely a mental sport. For someone like me, who isn't running to win the whole event, I am my own competition. It's rough when the only person you can trash talk is yourself.

Right now, I'm overwhelmed by different thoughts. I'm inspired to dedicate my race to the victims of the Boston Marathon attacks; will this dedication be what carries me to a Boston qualifying time? Will the lack of 21 mile training runs in the last 4 weeks overpower my dedication to do well? Will the stretching that I've been doing backfire (the bad thing about stretching is that you are much more AWARE of the aches and pains) or will it propel me forward to victory against myself? Will it finally rain on the day of one of my marathons, a terrible event that I've somehow managed to dodge so far?

The truth is, I can't control my race. What's funny about races is that even if you train for weeks and weeks, you can still have a crappy day. As much as I want to qualify for Boston, I know that what I really care about is having fun and enjoying having a city shut down for me to run its streets with its residents cheering me on. The people who support their runners are the ones who keep us sane in an insane, crazy sport.

RUNNING: GET ADDICTED

Race Schedule 2013: February 11 Love The Run You're With 5k March 16 Rock n Roll Marathon Washington, DC April 5, 12, 19, 26 Crystal City 5k April 7 Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Fridays May 5 Flying Pig Marathon July 20-21 Back on My Feet 20in24 Lone Ranger Ultramarathon October 27 Marine Corps 10k November 10 Richmond Marathon