Friday, April 24, 2015

My Boston Moment

I have no idea how to start or end this Race Review. I am still overwhelmed by the race, the experience, my run and that city. We arrived in Boston 4 days early to do some sightseeing. We saw historical sights, drove the coast to New Hampshire and Maine, and ate incredible seafood. I also had the opportunity to meet some incredible Loopsters (online Runner's World Loop blog friends). The Loopster meets would become essential in my final race preparation. Thank you to all of those that offered advice and support.

The day before the race, the unimaginable happened. Ryan got the stomach bug. Ended up finally puking at 8:00pm...14 hours before THE Boston Marathon...seriously. He had eaten only breakfast so he was planning to run the next day on zero calories, zero carb stores. He had trained so hard and was determined to run, but we both knew that even if he was able to stomach alot of calories at breakfast that it wouldn't last for 26 miles at his maximum effort. 

Ryan was in the first wave so he left our rental apartment before me. I followed about a half hour later. 

So many thoughts in my head. I'd been told by some: "You can't PR on this's just too hard." "The crowd is too distracting to run your best time here, it's too easy to get involved with them." "You go to Boston for the experience...not to run your best." 
Are you kidding me? Why the heck did I train so hard to find this out the week of the race? And anyway, ShaunP45 had told me that the hills in Boston were nothing compared to those in Colorado and New Mexico and that he didn't even really know he'd run up one. And if no one PRd at Boston, then why was Boston still happening...I mean really. And I'm going to Boston to do what I trained to do. I have PRd every. single. time. that I have run a marathon; no stopping me now. 

I had shipped a box of throwaway clothes so we could just have carryon luggage. The box had yoga mats to lay on at athletes village, plus hats, gloves, down vest, and of course pants and shirts for both of us. Well, great planning but the box never came. Actually it did...the day AFTER the marathon!!! Thank you USPS...they said it'd take 4 days to get there and it took 13. Way to go.  Once the weather report came out...48 degrees all day with 20-30 mph wind and "soaking rain" we headed to Goodwill and Walgreens to get more clothes and rain parkas.

Riding the buses out to Athlete's Village in separate waves was weird...honestly it felt sort of like Concentration Camp. Loading separate buses, making up a possible meeting space and kissing him goodbye "I will find you." haha. I did find him right along the fence line that we had agreed upon. It started to rain shortly after. We huddled together to stay warm eating bananas and bagels. Soon, his wave was called and again I had to say goodbye and wait my turn. I was worried about him as I knew this race would be a soul searching day for carb stores, rainy weather, and chilling wind. My wave was called and I headed to my corral. We had to walk about 3/4 of a mile to the start. I was getting overwhelmed that I was headed to THE starting line of the greatest running race on Earth. How did I get here? 

I hit the final group of porta-potties for one last pee and headed to the corral. The announcer told us that we were 2 minutes away from our start and that we should move forward in our corrals with our new best friends. There were girls on either side of me. We put our arms around each other and I said "Good luck new best friends. May today be everything you ever dreamed of." The people of Hopkinton were on their porches singing, playing music and cheering. We hadn't even started yet and I was already seeing more of a crowd than I ever have at any race I'd done.  Moments later, we were off. 

The downhill, the crowds, the forests, the old beautiful New England homes, the screams, the yells, the RAINDROPS hitting my face...WHAT THE HECK????  I mean, I knew it was coming but why so was only mile 2. I told myself it didn't matter. I ran 34 miles through a sandy canyon with wet feet. I can do this. I trained in snowstorms and windstorms. I can do this. Great opening miles. I let myself go on the downhill...I held back on the downhill at the beginning of Colfax marathon and I think that hurt me in the end. Rebecca (Running with Music) had told me that as long as I'd trained hills that I should go ahead and go my pace right away. I knew that no hills in Boston would be like the hills I have at home so I planned on hitting pace right away. I would let myself cruise a little extra on the downhills and I would push up the hills but not overexert myself.  My 5k average was exactly what it should have been: 7:30 per mile. I though of my friends and family at home getting my splits as I ran over the first time strip and I grinned that I was so accurate.  They knew what I was there to 7:30s and break 3:20.

Around mile 4 I took a gel way too fast and choked myself. I was gasping for air...the gel was pluggin my airway. I grabbed water at the aid station and had to pull off the side of the road. I was choking and gasping. Hundreds of people were running past me. I drank water and coughed hard. I had to some serious self talk "Tennille, you idiot. You can't take gel that fast. This is Boston. Pull yourself together and catch up."  And I did. Back at it. It would end up my 2nd slowest mile in the race.

Framingham was off the hook. So loud. Every school kid, teenager, grandparent and puppy was outside to cheer us through their town square. I couldn't believe the enthusiasm for thousands of people that they don't even know. Who am I? Why are they cheering for me? 

10k timing strip...exactly on pace. 7:31 average. Holy crap. I am doing what I wanted to do at Boston. 

I had taken off my extra shirt before the rain began. It was a throw-away but I decided to tie it around my waist in case the wind picked up at the end. I had to unpin and repin my bib and did a terrible job. Kept trying to redo was crooked, it was sticking out, it was too tight, too high, too low, ugh. Seriously it's 2015. Can't we come up with something better than this??? 

Mile 10 had passed and all the sudden I was at 12. I feel a tap on my shoulder and it's my "new best friend" from the start. I asked how she was doing and she said great. What happened to 11? I don't know but the race was going by too fast. I'd be in Wellesley in no time and that was halfway. At 12.1, I heard something ahead like I had never heard before and can't be described. wind through the cracks of an old barn. When I reached the Scream Tunnel, my watch read 12.6. I could hear them a full half a mile away. I imagine when the weather is nice that it's even louder but I couldn't imagine that right now. It was so loud. I am pretty sure my jaw was dropped as I ran past. Runners were grabbing kisses and high fives and there were so many funny signs. "Kiss me I'm a math major." haha.

Halfway and my shoes were going pshhh, pshshh with every step. Totally soaked. No point in trying to stay out of the puddles now. It wouldn't matter. The rain was really coming down. My new turquoise Newton visor had been continuously dripping water since mile 5. I hit halfway. 1:38:xx. Yes. I can SO do this for 13 more miles. Left hamstring was nagging a little but nothing serious.

I was getting concerned about the wind. I knew as we neared the coast it could get worse so I was trying to bank as many fast miles until then. We hit Newton and passed the fire station and I could only grin. I had given alot of high fives and was taking in every beautiful town along the way. Natick's clock tower, beautiful huge homes, gorgeous tall trees. This race was incredible. The hills...hmmm...were more like slight inclines to this high-altitude-New-Mexico-girl. As I plunged up Heartbreak Hill, I wasn't completely sure that it was it until I read a sign that said "This hill can't break your heart." People in the crowd were yelling my number, 11792. "Go 11792." "Way to kill it 11792." "Go 11792 got this."  I plowed ahead. I felt amazing. This was nothing. These people need to go run the hill at mile 22 in Denver's Colfax Marathon. I'd like to start calling it "Soul-crushing hill". Anyway, this Heartbreak Hill had nothing on me. I got to the top and asked "Was that it?" and a guy in the crowd said "YES you're done...go runner!!" I gave a bunch of high fives and stomped through puddles, letting them splash. Everyone was saying it was all downhill from there. I felt so good except for that left hamstring but it's been like this for months so I knew it wasn't going to effect me today.

I began doing the math. How slow could I run and still break 3:20? Hmm....8:00s? 8:15s?  "Tennille, you idiot. GO! Run! This is Boston. No calculating how to make it easier. You go hard the whole way." At the same time, my nose was so cold I couldn't sniff anymore. My hands were completely frozen and my toes had not been warm since I was in bed that morning but my legs felt fine and that's all that mattered. There were moments that the wind mixed with the rain flirted with being soul-crushing. Luckily whenever it started to get to me, I'd head over to the side and get some high fives from adorable children and incredible racing fans. I even saw a beautiful golden retriever holding a Boston Strong flag in his mouth. Ahead I could hear another "scream tunnel", I knew it must be Boston College. It was so loud...and incredibly exciting. I high-fived hundreds of students and I was flying down that hill. My legs didn't even care about this downhill. Quite a few of my long runs ended with a downhill 3 mile stretch from running buddy Allison's house where I would often flirt with marathon pace. That paid off big time. I felt great....I mean I was tired but my legs had so much pop in them still. I come around a bend and see the famous Citgo sign.'s HUGE!!! I had no idea it'd be so giant. I was getting so excited and picturing the finish line in my head. Would I smile? Would I throw my hands in the air?  The faster I run, the sooner I will be there and the sooner I can get on warm clothes. I was so cold. The wind was brutal to the bone through my wet clothes. Everyone around me looked freezing too. I passed the "One mile to go" sign and realized if I pushed that I might break 3:18. That'd be more than I could have ever hoped for. 

I arrived at the famous right onto Hereford St and felt like I was running on a cloud. When I arrived at the famous left onto Boylston and saw the banners lining both sides of the street, I was holding back tears and trying hard to just breathe. What a moment. What a street. The crowd was so loud. I was waving and the crowd would roar. I gave more high fives up the right side of the street. I was trying to take it all in. Then on my left was "my new best friend" from the starting line and she said "Hey new best friend, congratulations!" How crazy in these thousands of runners we would start and end together?  I crossed the line, head held high with the biggest smile ever. When I looked down to stop my watch it said 3:17:59. Only time will tell what my official shows up as but I was SOOOO happy. And freezing. I started to shiver and shake. I grabbed a bottle of water and drank the whole thing. I kept walking. Wow. I mean, I COULD walk. This was a first. I usually can't walk at all. I was tight but I could actually walk almost like a normal person. I got my medal and posed for a quick photo. The volunteers were all so amazing. So nice. So genuine. A girl had one of the heat shields open and helped me into it. She velcroed it and pulled my hood on. I was so thankful. The wind was terrible. I have never been so cold in my life. No day of skiing compares with this. The soaking wet clothes and no energy left to produce warmth was turning out to be miserable.

I exited the runner's area as soon as possible. I had to walk a half mile to get home. Three different medics asked if I was ok. Each time looking me in the eye and making sure I meant it when I said "yes."  So amazing. The support. After I got out of the family meeting area, a hotel doorman was urging runners to use the hotel lobby to get warm. "Please come in. You don't need to have a room here. Please come get warm." I couldn't believe this. So inviting. So welcoming. So generous. It was frigid though and many runners were hypothermic. I'm sure my temp was low but I asked one medic if my lips were blue and he said no so I figured I could keep going. I turned the next little corner and was hit with a ridiculous amount of wind. I couldn't take it. I ducked into the next hotel lobby where a bunch of other runners were. I took the cape off and started to put stuff down. I though maybe the white top around my wait might be dry on the back and that I could put it on. I couldn't untie it. This girl from Toronto CA whose husband had run came over and helped me. I asked her to help me sit down and she did. It felt good. I looked over and another runner had to be suffering from hypothermia...I mean I was shivering and my entire body was convulsing with the shivers, but this guy looked bad. I was actually very mentally ok too. Usually I'm super emotional and all over the place but I knew exactly where I needed to go and what I needed to do.  I took my watch off and visor off and headband off and the nice girl helping me took my shirt off for me and helped me put my more-dry shirt on. It was damp, but not dripping wet. I tied the wet one around my waist and sat a bit longer with her husband's heat shield doubled on my legs with mine. After what seemed like only about 5 minutes, I decided I needed to get moving. I hadn't eaten and knew I would crash if I stayed too long. I was still shivering but I asked the doorman to pull up google maps on his phone so I knew exactly how far I needed to go...I needed my mile I left the hotel and only went about 100 yards before I saw the subway station that is only .4 from our apartment. I cut through the station. I stopped in the middle for a moment to get warm. I made it. Ryan was waiting. He was showered and dressed and not shivering so I knew there was hope. I began dropping everything on me and went straight to the warm shower. 

Ryan had run great for 16 miles and then his body was empty. He jogged in the last 10 miles. He walked some and pushed through. I'm so incredibly proud of him. I would have been so broken-hearted and that weather would have been the last straw for me. I am not sure I would have endured. He said he had come all that way, and paid that entry fee so he wanted to finish...whatever it took. He said other runners would pat him on the back and push him ahead and say "Run!"  The crowd cheered him on and worked to lift his spirit. 

I am still flying high on what an amazing race and experience this was. From the day we decided to do this race, we said that we were only going to do it ONCE. So much of the motto stuff this year read "There's only one."  It seemed like it was specifically for us...this ONE Boston. 

I am so thankful for Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning and how it worked for me; how I hit my taper right on; how I gave the finger to the rainy weather and did what I planned to do at Boston. 

And now for the splits. When I saw my sister's facebook feed after the race and then looked at the text alerts she was getting, I realized her excitement. She knew I was on pace and she and many friends were cheering me on on fb during the race:
Real splits:
07:37  1
07:29  2
07:17  3
07:45  4
07:19  5
07:19  6
07:16  7
07:28  8
07:30  9
07:33  10
07:34  11
07:38  12
07:24  13
07:25  14
07:27  15
07:11  16
07:32  17
07:38  18
07:30  19
07:42  20
07:48  21
07:20  22
07:32  23
07:37  24
07:34  25
07:26  26
03:09 (.47 on my watch..I shouldn't have avoided so many puddles but the traffic surfing is unavoidable)

Endomondo tells me where my fastest sections of the race were. The fastest 13.1 was through the middle..mile 5-18.  The craziest thing was that my fastest mile was form 25.2-26.2 (or on my watch 25.47-26.47) and it was a 6:58. Are you kidding me?????  I have always aimed to just keep the last mile under 8...and this was under 7. I cried when I saw it. 

My little Boston moment will be treasured forever. I will never forget that day; that race; that weather; that moment turning onto Boylston. 

 Our apartment rental was on a perfect little Boston street:

Friday, December 19, 2014

2014 miles in 2014

On December 6th I ran my 2014th mile for the the midst of a 14-miler...funny how that worked out.  (As of today I'm up to 2115).

I started Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning 18-week program this week to get my Boston on.  I have been doing a nice slow build-up since the Ultra I ran in October and am feeling pretty good. Somehow I had a little time to set up my tree....and Sentry has posed for about a billion-and-a-half photos since that day.

Sentry also enjoys his post-run cuddles on the sofa.  92-pounds is kinda of a lot for a "lap dog."

The current Newton rotation.  I have always been a Gravity girl until I tried the Distance for racing.  Then I decided to try the new Fate for recovery.  I'm loving this rotation!!!!

Christmas is full of big concerts.  Here are all "my" kiddos at our performance at the Festival of Trees.

And a fun one of me with my favorite students, my sweet nephews. They are 6 and 10. 

So, that's the happy parts of the last month or so.  November was a month that rocked my soul to the core with sadness and darkness.  I lost some people close to me. Two of my students lost their brothers and my students are all extended families and so my entire studio was in a rough place (and still is).  I also lost one of my neighbors...a sweet woman who disappeared without a trace. I had to play my violin at the funeral of one of the kiddos, a 14 year old boy who accidentally took his own life.  By far, the hardest thing I have ever had to do.  I felt as if I had an outer-body experience...while I played, I was calm and strong and played well...the moment I was done playing I completely fell apart emotionally.  Throughout the month, I ran to find solace in the Earth and my life.  I ran for comfort. I ran to cry it out.  And it helped.  I welcome 2015 with open arms. I am thankful for my Sentry who cuddled with me when all I could do was cry and who ran with me when all I could do was run. I am thankful for wonderful friends. I am thankful for the greatest parents I could have ever been blessed with. I am thankful for amazing siblings and all that they do for me.  I am overwhelmingly thankful for the greatest guy on Earth that chose me to spend his life with.

Do what you love.
Stop at never.
Hold on to those you love.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Canyon de Chelly 55k Ultra RR

I have lived my entire life in the Southwest.  I have lived most of those years just a few miles from the edge of the Navajo Reservation.  When I discovered that there was a new Ultra through Canyon de Chelly in Arizona, I knew I wanted to do it (even though I have sworn many times that I would not run an ultra). The canyon is about 2 1/2 hours away and it's known for it's beauty but I'd never been there.

My preparation was worse than crappy. I have been nursing an angry TFL since February and spent my time since Colfax Marathon in May trying to help it recover. After cutting back mileage, then cutting back days, seeing a sports therapist, massage therapist, chiropractor, I gave up. I was entered in a Half Marathon already so I decided to run it and see how it went. Depending on how the hip was I would decide to run the first Ultra I had signed up for (8 weeks after the Half) or give up my spot to a waiting list runner.  (The October race opened for entry in February for 150 filled in 52 minutes).  I ran the Half and paced my running buddy to her best time by 5 minutes. I left her in the last mile and managed to finish only 3 minutes off my best time (not bad since I had been only doing easy runs for months).  1:38:21.  Sore as ever the next day!!!! There was a lot of steep downhill mixed into some good climbs so my quads were ruined!

I managed to get a 16, 18 and 20 mile long run in preparation for my first ultra.  Yep...that's it...I've done a heck of a lot more for every marathon I've ever run but I was concerned about adding too much mileage and getting a real injury or just plain being exhausted when I arrived at the starting line.  So, I just chilled and worked more on my strategy of what I was going to have to do to be successful (fuel, gear, etc.).

Driving the 2.5 hours from our home in New Mexico past Shiprock and around the Chuska Mountains of Northeast Arizona, we had amazing views. The open landscape, red mesas and gorgeous blue skies were only preparing us for what we'd see the next day.  We arrived at packet pickup and Shaun Martin (Navajo runner, coach, and race director) greeted us.  We got our bibs and waited for the evening ceremony to begin.

Other runners chatted with us about the race (some had done it the year before).  At one point, another runner asked what other trail races I'd{as I frantically scan my library of races in my head sure that there is a trail run in there somewhere....but there isn't} finally answer "None. This is my first trail race."  Her response: "Oh....well, what other Ultras have you run? Any around here?"  Me: " this is my first Ultra too."  She looked dumbfounded (and I'm pretty sure I did too).  What was I thinking??? I'm going to go run 8 miles further than I ever have, on less training than I ever have, through sand.  Good idea. Ok. Let's do it tomorrow. I actually wasn't questioning myself...seemed totally logical.

Weeks ago my brother had given me the best advice when I was discussing my concern in my lack of training and prep for this event.  He said "You could run a lot further if you had to."  He was right. I could.

Shaun told us the story of how the race came about. He discussed the Navajo culture of waking up before sunrise and running towards the east every morning. He told us about a day where he ran through Canyon de Chelly with a lot on his mind and was accompanied by a group of wild horses that ran with him for many miles.  The entire experience was so overwhelming to him that he decided he wanted to put on an Ultra in that canyon and a few years later he did. He had tears in his eyes as he described the whole experience.  The Canyon is sacred land and cannot be entered by non-Navajo without a permit and a Navajo guide and even then it's a jeep/truck tour where you rarely get out to put your feet on the ground.  This was a rare opportunity for a bunch of white folks and their fancy running shoes to go prancing through this land. Shaun was a wonderful story teller; funny and personable and natural in front of the crowd. His father in law dressed in the native clothing and discussed more about the culture and sang some Navajo songs for us. I felt like I learned more about the Navajo culture that night than I had my entire life.

We stopped for some ice cream on the way back to our hotel and headed off to bed. I slept like total crap even though I wasn't nervous. I really wasn't. I was definitely excited to see the canyon but I wasn't concerned or stressed like I get before a marathon.

Up early, we had some oatmeal and bananas and made sure everything was ready to wear and that our drop bags were loaded with whatever you're supposed to put in one of those things????? I had a bag of my favorite potato chips (Boulder Avacado Oil), and an extra pair of shoes and socks, plus extra Tailwind.

We got to the start in time for the Navajo blessings facing east.  The words were soft as they sang towards the rising sun.  The sunrise was beautiful.  We stood quietly listening for probably 15-20 minutes. Humbling and empowering.  I was ready to see the canyon. We were encouraged to yell as we entered the canyon and to yell whenever we felt like it to announce ourselves to the spirits.

We stood in a giant wash...I mean GIANT.  Shaun counted down 3-2-1 and off we went, all yelling.  As we "ran" up this wash for the next few miles, the red canyon walls began to appear growing around us...starting at 6 inches high, and then growing.  The cottonwoods in the canyon were beginning to yellow and against the red rock walls, they glowed in the sunrise. Around mile 4, we got to witness the wild horses. They were grazing under the cottonwoods and as we ran by, they decided to join us...only for a few hundred yards but they were beautiful and after hearing Shaun's story the night before, it was a special moment in the canyon.  When we arrived at the first aid station (mile 5.5), Shaun was there waiting for us.  By this time, the canyon walls were probably 500 feet high and I exclaimed how beautiful it was.  Shaun told me to just wait...that they'd get at least twice as high.  We ran and ran, and around every new corner I found myself saying "Wow" or "Beautiful" or "Amazing" or "This place is captivating" or "I feel so lucky to be seeing this". Our feet were still dry and we were mostly running on two-lane jeep road now where we frequently crossed the wash. Around mile 11 my left knee started to idea.  I have never had knee pain before. It wasn't debilitating, just annoying, so it didn't really slow us down. Shortly after the second aid station (mile 12ish), the water crossings began.  I think there were about 12 in the next 4 miles. We rounded a corner and ran towards the famous Spider Rock....a very tall rock spire.  Gorgeous. When we reached mile 15ish, we turned onto a single track and began our 1200 foot climb (in less than a mile) out of the canyon and onto the rim.  It was pretty technical...loose rocks and many deep grooves from the fall rainstorms.  We began to see the race leaders coming down the climb, headed back to the start/finish.  One of them said as he ran by: "Best view in ultra running is straight ahead." When we reached the top, there was Shaun waiting for every runner.  He told Ryan and I that we looked relaxed and fresh.  I felt relaxed and fresh. The view was spectacular. You could see the canyon stretching with its long arms both directions (at this point we were about halfway into the canyon so we were in the middle of a "spider" of canyons). I changed my socks but kept the wet shoes on as I liked that pair better and they were going to get wet again in a mile anyway.  My socks had gotten super fine mud in them on one of the water crossings and thought with 17 miles to go I should probably try to get rid of that.  I ate about 25 of my favorite chips and then left the bag for others to enjoy.  Down the climb was really aggravating the knee.  The big down-steps and jumps were getting painful. Finally we reached the bottom and were able to start running again.  Based on all the people we had seen before and after us, we'd determined we were around 50 or 60th place (not that we really cared). We got through all the water crossings again and passed some runners.  As we neared the mile 23 aid station, things began to ache.  My mind and body were fully aware that we were entering the zone of being on our feet for longer than ever before, that my training was...well....not much, and that we still had more than 10 miles to go.  Still, I found myself with my jaw dropping open in awe at the beauty of this place. About a mile before the aid station at 28.5, we both ran out of water. It was getting hot. My knee was still aching but wasn't getting worse; just annoying. We made it to the aid station and filled our bottles multiple times.  The cross country team from Chinle was running the aid station and they were nice kids...chatting with us and helping us with what we needed. We started having some walk breaks with about 5 miles to go. We'd allow only a quarter mile at a time and then made ourselves run at least .75 of a mile.  Ryan said he thought I was doing better than he was. I loved having him through this entire thing. To share the beauty of this place with someone; to share this experience with my favorite person in the entire world. He ran a PR in a marathon only 3 weeks before so I imagine his body wasn't fully recovered for this type of event.  We were passing the 6 hour mark and knew what we had to do to stay under 7 hours (my goal). We pushed on as the canyon walls got lower and the sun grew warm.  Some cloud cover was creeping in and we had some good shade for the last few miles when we were in the thick of the sandy wash. We finally round the last corner and could see the finish line, we ran it in. Finish time: 6 hours 44 minutes. 52nd and 53rd place. As we crossed, Shaun gave us both a hug and decorated us with Navajo turquoise necklaces all hand-beaded by him and his family.  By far, the most special finisher's medal I will ever receive.

So much community went into this race. The melons at every aid station were grown by one of Shaun's friends on a hillside right next to the canyon. The awards were all made locally (jewelry, moccasins and rugs).  The volunteers on the course were all runners or friends and were so helpful and genuine.  This RR is lame...I can't explain so much of this experience and why it moved me so much. Every step of the journey made me love running more and made me want to run more to celebrate life. I know that this run made me a better runner and a better person. It was refreshing to step onto a course with such history and meaning for the love of this sport. I feel so honored to have had this experience...words just can't express.

In my swimming days, as a sprinter, I couldn't believe anyone would run a marathon (I didn't even know how far a marathon was) and swore I'd never do anything like that.  I read Born to Run and that changed me.  After my first marathon, I swore I'd never do an Ultra, but from the moment I read about Canyon de Chelly, I knew I had to try.  I told Ryan for months before this race that this would be the only one.  Turns out, if you go back a second year, you get a coral necklace....I love coral.
saw this printed on the inside of Ryan's asics jacket pocket during the evening ceremony...thought it'd be great on my arm for the race.

the wash...

the start of the cliffs

Ryan running in the cottonwood carriageways...loved this part!!


me and Spider Rock

red cliffs and cottonwood...and southwest blue sky!

a short video from mile 30...just to remind myself that we were still running

towards the end of the wash. Canyon walls getting smaller and the clouds coming in.

Our sweet gaiters! I'd never worn them before but I was sure glad I did for all this sand! Totally worth the $20.

most treasured finisher's medal

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Colfax Marathon RR

My 6th marathon:
Goals: Break 3:20. Place in the top 15 women. Place in my age group.

Not sure where to start or end this thing.....
Weather...low of 52 and high of 84.  52 is a pretty warm marathon start in my opinion. I was a little worried but the forecast ended up calling for mostly cloudy which it was until the last 8 or so miles.  Weather ended up fine. I was never hot and never cold.  Pretty comfortable after all.
Things with my body were ok but not perfect.  A few little things weren't right and my legs just didn't feel fresh from the start. I also didn't have my "normal" breakfast.  I ALWAYS have milk with breakfast as it keeps my stomach settled and I love my dairy all the time.  And like an idiot at the grocery store the night before I bought OJ and bananas and bagels...but NO MILK!  Idiot.  So I had OJ for breakfast and I was burping up acid all day.  My stomach is NOT used to no milk....literally it's been years since I have gone a morning with no milk.  At the grocery store I accidentally dropped one of the OJs and had to go to the deli to call for a clean-up and in the drama I forgot to get milk.  For the first 10 miles I was breathing too hard and it just didn't seem as "easy" as it should have been. My legs just didn't have the usual "pop" of race day.  Maybe they would have the next day, or the day before; but they were working so I just went with it (not like I had a choice).  I was holding back on some miles but on other miles I was having to work in order to stay at 7:40s.  
The Plan: 
miles 1-6 hold steady at 7:40s on the downhill
miles 7-10 hold steady at 7:40s around the flat lake
miles 11-16 push a little to hold 7:40s on the UPhill
miles 17-20 let it rip....7:20 or faster....downhill
miles 21-26.2 fight with whatever I have left. Leave it all on the course for this 10k....mostly UPhill
This should put me around a 3:18 (allowing for some error).  Previous best time 3:26. 

I did pretty much as planned for the first 16 miles even though it seemed harder than it should have been. I don't usually breathe very hard for the first 10ish miles. Remember 10-16 is all uphill:

 The downhill started to get tough. I had managed to stomach gels at 7 and at 14 so I felt like I had some energy but my legs just weren't under me. I was aiming for UNDER 7:20 on the downhill.  Just couldn't get it going.  After 19 I had to have a little talk with myself.  I actually walked through the aid station, took my gel and took TWO cups of water and drank both of them.  I told myself I'd gone too far to stop or give up or settle. I had to push the last 10k as planned even though the downhill hadn't been what I wanted.

When I reached mile 23, my soul was crushing.  I wanted it so bad but my legs just didn't have the kick.  The last 6 miles are mostly uphill...slow grade but enough to make the wheels fall off.  We had cloudy skies up to this point and the weather had remained pretty nice. I wasn't hot at all....why couldn't I go?  
The buildings mess up the splits and the read on the garmin because of all the mirrored skyscrapers.  
Mile 23 was probably 7:55-8:05....felt that way.
Mile 24 was probably 8:00 or so.

I got a total surprise shortly after 23, two of my old violin students that live in Denver now were on the course to cheer me on.  I almost cried. I hadn't expected them (or anyone) at this point in the race.  My head was hanging low as I rounded a corner in downtown and then I heard my name and looked up to see them.  I gave high fives and told them how awesome they were for being there.  I headed up the hill...pushing...using my arms to try and add more thrust. Their mom snapped a picture in my moment of happiness:

Finally out of downtown I had 1.5 to go.  I had walked this street the day before and I thought we would NEVER get to the turn onto Vine Street.  Felt like MILES!!!!  Finally we got to the turn and I worked to pass as many 10-mile racers as possible. I was so done. I had nothing.  I started to beat myself up and say mean things. Why wasn't it working?  I was doing the math....was it even possible for me to break 3:20 anymore?  Would I have to run a 5 minute mile to do it?  No...just a 6:30. I tried.  I "sprinted".  I looked down....8:04 pace.  Seriously.  That's it legs? That's all you got.  I round the corner to turn into City Park for the final mile.  My parents are there and 4 of my brother's friends yelling and screaming.  I'm shaking my head and almost in tears.  (My parents account was that I was smiling and looked great....ha!)  I go and go and go and go until I finally see the start (I think it's the finish)'s one is's empty. Why is it empty?  Where is everyone? WHERE IS THE FINISH???  I keep looking around the corner and there it is. I look at my watch. 3:20 has passed. My heart breaks.  I keep pushing anyway. I cross the finish and stop to rest my hand on my knees. 3:21:45  A medic pats me on the back and asks nicely if I'm ok.  I tell him I'm fine and that I just need a minute.  He said to let him know if I needed anything and congratulated me.  I got my medal and got waters.  I had to ask people with nothing in their hands to open the waters. I couldn't do it. I couldn't really walk either. My legs were shot.  I finally made my way over to the side of the finish chute and held on tight, lowered myself into a deep squat to rest my quads and stretch my calves.  I immediately started to cry...sob really. I was so disappointed.  I was hiding under my visor crying for like 5 seconds when a girl tapped my shoulder (she was wearing a 13.1 medal) and asked if I was ok...if I wanted to use her phone to call someone or anything.  I told her I just needed to cry for a minute because once I found people I knew I wouldn't be able to.  She giggled and gave me a little hug and told me congratulations. I got up (after crying for like 3 more seconds) and got some food.  When I got out of the chute I couldn't find anyone. No Thomas (my brother). No Ryan (my husband). No parents.  I stopped by a tree to drink some more water and sit down. As I leaned on the tree, I saw my brother through the crowd and he saw me.  He came over to me and we hugged. He had gone 3:03 (he went 2:59 in January 2013).  And let me know that he had passed Ryan around mile 20 and he hadn't seen him.  This worried me since Ryan had trained so hard and was set-up so well to be 2:55. We finally found him.  His stomach had been rough. He couldn't take any gels after mile 6.  At 20 things fell apart.  His arms and back were cramping and his pace slowed into the 9s. Not a great day for him. Ended up 3:11 (he was 3:01 in November).
Another friend of mine who has been a runner since 3rd grade and done probably 20 Halfs ran her first marathon.  We love running together since we are both very competitive and love setting training and racing goals.  She crossed in 3:41...a Boston cut as she will be turning 40 this fall. So extremely proud of her!!!
We walked back to our place and eventually found out that I had won my age group and gotten 8th place woman and 68th overall.  I was so mad I didn't stay for awards...would've been so cool to go on the podium/stage they had set-up. I am happy, but humble.  I left it all on that course.  I couldn't have run faster (although it only would've taken 4 seconds per mile).  I have to be satisfied because when I wanted to give up and slow down, I pushed harder....all the way to the finish.  And I really can't be upset about a 5-minute PR.  
What a day.  What a race.

So, that's it in a nutshell. I think it's all a testament to Pfitzinger's program. My stomach wasn't happy, my legs didn't feel great and I still pulled off a huge PR on a medium-tough course.  Another testament to this program is that in the last 6 weeks I have run PRs in the following distances:
1 mile
....yep. For real. A PR in every race distance in the last 6 weeks.  This Pfitzinger thing works for me like a very lucky charm.