RunNerdier

musings on running, life, and everything in between


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Boston

I hear a lot of people talking about feeling humbled by others’ praises. So often it strikes false. The humble brag of, “I’m so undeserving of this really competitive amazing thing, and I just can’t believe people think I’m so amazing (like I think, ha).” And it’s probably the cynic in me for thinking this. However, I truly was humbled by the outpouring of support from my friends. I was actually embarrassed that people were paying attention to me and thought I was doing something awesome. I mean, Boston IS awesome, but I am very uncomfortable receiving compliments or accepting support or acknowledgment from others (*cough, crazy family, cough*).

I also realize that some of this, particularly in regards to athletic accomplishments, is particular to women. I remember from my first Ragnar Relay, we were literally one of the first teams in the entire field and a bunch of us were marathoners and a guy from another said, “Wow, so you guys are pretty serious runners, huh?” We all hemmed and hawed like, “Oh, no.” We couldn’t accept the label that we WERE awesome and we WERE serious. I think back on that, and how I have to learn to accept support and acknowledgment gracefully. And, while I don’t want to get a big head, I can also admit that I’m doing something pretty amazing and it’s ok for people to say that. With that said, I will say that I did choose to NOT wear my marathon jacket and medal on the air plane ride home. Baby steps, people.

My awesome running group brought (to my kid’s preschool musical performance no less) balloons and a care package for the trip. Highlight of the bag? Trashy magazine! I also got a yard sign!

My good friend, Misty, also gave me Wonder Woman knee high socks and chocolate. Don’t worry, I didn’t run in them. 🙂

I escaped Chicago’s airport with little trouble. I felt a little guilty leaving the kids for the second time within two weeks, but it’s the last bit of traveling for a long while so they’ll survive. I stayed for most of the trip with my dear friend, Swati, who just defended her dissertation! She’s officially joined the ranks of Dr.’s that can not medically help you. We got to go out solo (she’s also a newish mom to Asha, who’s about to turn one year old) for dinner and ice cream. Like tourists, I made her take a picture with me and the cow at the famous J.P. Licks.

I have some other photos and stuff about my time in Boston, but I’m going to stick to marathon stuff for this one to help keep it from being a tome.

Saturday morning, Jen, Patty, and I decided to meet at the expo. Actually, Patty’s in-laws were awesome and picked me up so we rode together to the convention center. It was massive. You get almost 30,000 runners and their families and it’s going to be crazy. To be honest, I actually wondered about fire code because some of the exhibit lanes were narrow and tended to bottle neck up…Total mom mode, right? Anyhow, we took the requisite cheesy photos at the five million various photo op possibilities. Because the packet pick up and expo were on different floors, there really were a crazy number of opportunities to take photos. One of my favorite ones was the huge wall of names of every single runner. We each got free posters of it. Mine, sadly, got left behind in Boston at Swati’s house, but she promises to mail it to me.

Because this is the big mama of marathons, there were quite a few celebrity sightings at the expo. So…like total creeps, we took photos of these unsuspecting individuals. On the left is Shalane Flanagan promoting her new cooking book; top right is the back of Katherine Switzer (white jacket), first woman to officially run the marathon, and bottom right is a cardboard cutout of Meb. Ha. He was in town, but we didn’t see him live.

Patty and I did the bus tour of the whole marathon route. I was surprised to see that there were tents with souvenirs and food and things at the start already. For those unfamiliar with Boston, it’s a point to point course, which means you take a bus out to the start ~25 miles west of the city to Hopkinton and run your way back to Boston proper.

I took the obligatory start line photo. Some people were taking photos kissing the ground. Um, unless it’s like the foot of Jesus (and I’m not even religious), I’m not kissing it.

Riding the route, I was simultaneously nervous AND calmed. There were way more hills than I had thought, but they also seemed somewhat flatter than I had imagined. The tour guide, who was formerly a competitive runner, stressed the importance of really taking it easy the first half of the race, which has a net downhill. Most people take it too fast and trash their legs before the hills of Newton.

The night before was “dinner” at 4:30 at Vinny’s in Somerville. Good food, and we were glad to have time to hang out and lounge instead of eating and then going straight to bed. Jen and I were staying at friends, but we shacked up with Patty in her hotel room for the night before the marathon. Jen ended up using a great deal of her waking hours trying on the same two tank tops over and over, trying to determine which one would or would not chafe. We also went back and forth because the weather was supposed to be in the upper 60’s when we started. Trust me, Patty aka “Radar” was giving me minute-by-minute updates on every degree change in temperature and wind.

The rest of the night, we ended up buying a movie, How to Be Single, to watch in the hotel room. It was predictable and a bit young for us, but Rebel Wilson was funny and it was perfect for a group of women looking for a distraction. Patty fell asleep during it and had no trouble sleeping. I tossed and turned for over an hour, but eventually fell asleep and slept solid. Jen woke up throughout the night several times, so I guess it’s good we went to bed early!

Because there are so many stages to getting to the actual start line, we all got up around 6 am. We were going to take our hotel’s shuttle to Boston Commons to take the marathon shuttle to Hopkinton (which was supposed to leave at 8:15 for our wave). When we got outside the hotel, though, the line was like 30 people deep for a 14-person van. One of the door guys suggested we pay $5/person for a private shuttle. We thought it was a little shady, but we were also getting nervous about having to wait for several loadings of the shuttle so we did. Well, actually I had no cash and Jen only had $10 so we haggled that for the 3 of us.

We got to the Boston Commons and met up with Kelly, a colleague’s wife who was also running. Coincidentally, she was in the same wave and corral as Jen. I was actually in the wave before Jen, but I had decided to drop back so we could run together. Sadly, Patty was in the wave after us, almost 20 minutes later. We all got on the school buses and headed out to Hopkinton. We arrived at the high school and the athlete’s village was out on the fields. It was a huge area with tents (for shelter), free bagels, Gatorade, water, and coffee. We had over 2 hours to kill, which we spent mostly going to the bathroom and people-watching. We were surprised to see that some people still had their gear check bags, as gear check happened in Boston by the finish lines. I’m not sure what they ended up doing with them.

Finally it was time for us (sans Patty) to start moving towards the entry point. We gathered together in the parking lot before heading down the chute, which was probably over a quarter mile through the streets of Hopkinton. Before we started moving, I noticed what looked like sharp shooters on top of the high school. While I appreciated the safety concerns, their presence actually made me more nervous.

Along the way, right before people headed into the corrals, there was an area designated with the last port-a-potties (which they call port-a-johns out there). This was like two concentric circles of over 100 potties–a human waste Stonehenge of sorts. With all the waiting in between, we ended up doing another last ditch effort. Despite that, I still saw a woman squatting next to a light pole. Once we got into the corral, Jen did her obsessive shoe-tying shuffle. First it was too loose, then too tight, then the other one was weird. All while trying to keep moving along with the crowd.

We were off, and I got nervous right away. Between the heat and downhills, the run felt like a struggle right away. And I would struggle with hitting a rhythm for a good deal of it. I perked up a bit when I saw a runner up ahead wearing an Every Mother Counts shirt. My friend, Ayesha, is an ambassador for them and our Ragnar team ran miles for them last year. (Side note: Ayesha is running the Big Sur Marathon as a relay for them this weekend). It’s a charity that works to make pregnancy and childbearing safe for women. I had remembered reading that Christy Turlington, its founder and former supermodel, had qualified and was running Boston to raise funds. This could be Christy up ahead, and next to her was a tall, curly-haired man with a bandana–perhaps Scott Jurek? I couldn’t be sure, though, and when I mentioned it to Jen, she suggested we speed up to check. I couldn’t fathom pulling up any speed, though, and shrugged off such crazy talk. I would actually end up leapfrogging with them throughout most of the race and did end up chatting with them a couple times. Also, like a total creep, I took a running selfie with them. Marathon of creepy celebrity photos. Ha. At one point, Jen also said that her goal was to beat a supermodel. Spoiler: That dream didn’t happen. Christy beat us by 2 minutes.

This is me at mile 13. You can see I look pretty tired. I was beyond grateful to see Mr. UnRunner (he’s been demoted recently). I was mentally really struggling with the idea that I was going to be doing this for hours. HOURS, people. I just wanted to lay down and go home. I was really struggling with the heat and the downhills. Seeing a familiar face in an unfamiliar place was amazing.

I really had to suppress my urge to punch him, though, when he told me to “go catch Jen.” By this point, Jen had left me behind. She had spent a good deal of the first several miles a few yards in front of me, constantly checking over her shoulder that I was still there. I told her that I did not want to watch her doing that for the next several hours so go ahead. Deja vu to Chicago.

The Wellesley girls were out and screaming, but the way the literature described it, I thought it was going to be like Beatles-style screaming hordes of hysterical coeds. They were out and yelling and had the “kiss me…” signs, but, shh, I gotta say I wasn’t THAT impressed. I don’t know that I would call them legendary. I did see two girls who appeared to be naked under their posters, which read, “If you run fast enough, I’ll drop my poster.” My favorite sign along the course, though, was “You’re running better than our government.” This is particularly true in Illinois.

Another welcome break was seeing these girls around mile 17. These are the super fans that came from Chicago to cheer for us (mostly Jen, but also me and Patty): Dorene, Michelle, Michelle, and Jen. They are all runners and the two Michelle’s are training for a May marathon. Michelle (with sunglasses) ran Boston years ago in her youth and hopes to return again one day.

I got some very welcome hugs from the girls, although someone totally rammed their shoulder into my throat at one point, which was AWESOME. Choking and running. Good combo.

At some point between miles 17 and 19, Jen and I hooked up together again. She decided running alone sucked (again, deja vu to Chicago) and waited for me. We did conquer Heartbreak Hill together (next pic is us at the top). I have to say that Heartbreak hill wasn’t all that bad. I mean, it sucked, but I think the million OTHER hills were what were quietly crushing my soul. By that point, Jen and I just wanted to be done. We joked about rolling each other down the hill. Joked. Not really.

We split up again. See a pattern? Fortunately, I saw Mr. UnRunner and my friend Swati around mile 21 at the Boston College gates. (on a side note, the race goes through THREE college campuses, Wellesley, Boston College, and Boston University AND it’s a state holiday so the crow support along the route is crazy). Again, I was really excited for a reason to stop and see happy, familiar faces. Mentally, knowing I was more than half done, I was doing a lot better than the first half even though it was physically more challenging. Knowing I had a dozen marathons under my belt helped me push through. At one point on the course, I do recall chanting mentally, “I know I can” to get me over a hill.

The physical demands of the downhill and the heat took its toll on runners. I saw A LOT of runners down at medical tents along the way, on the side of the road, and even a runner in the middle of the course with medics towards mile 21. Two of the running bloggers I follow had to stop and receive some medical aid before being able to finish the course. I think they still beat my time. Sigh. I even saw one runner just completely stop and stand in the middle of the road, teetering. I stopped and asked him if he was ok or needed help. He said he was fine, even though he kept standing there teetering. I decided his male ego would be bruised by a chick helping him and we were only a few yards from a medical tent so I figured he’d be ok.

Jen and I did hook back up around mile 21 I think in time to see the super fans one more time. She was really struggling mentally and pulled ahead again a couple miles later. I could tell she just really wanted it to be over, though, and wasn’t going to be stopping again for me. She finished about 30 second ahead of me.

You can see I didn’t do a great job with the tangents, running .3 over. Thanks for the BLM bracelet, Bill! The personal is political!

The finish line was akin to the starting line, a long chute stretching out over a couple blocks to get your medal, water, bag of food (nice stuff!), banana, thermal blanket, gear check, and then finally heading out to the family reunion section. Jen and I got massages while waiting for everyone to meet at the designated spot. We were pretty out of it, but it helped getting to lay down and worked on a bit. The massages were inside and there were probably like 40 tables in the room, with massage therapists from all over. The guy working on me was from 2 hours away, and it was his fifth year in a row volunteering at the marathon.

Patty finished (on the clock, since she started later) only about 15 minutes behind us. She said she had a GREAT race, which just shows who’s the best runner in our crew. We got to take one big group photo before everyone head their different ways. The super fans were heading home, Jen was going to meet back up with her friend, and Patty and I were going to dinner together with her family.


Patty, our spouses, and I went back to the hotel to get cleaned up and hang out before having dinner with Patty’s family at Morton’s steak house. The dinner was AWESOME, hot shower was divine, and the company was stupendous. Morton’s even had the menus printed with our names on it (gotta find the pic I took). By the end of the night, I was dead on my feet and looking forward to bed.

The next day was uneventful, with a chill lunch with Swati, and an early departure for the airport. It was funny seeing the sea of stiff-legged runners in their aqua?/teal? marathon jackets tottering towards the gates. I didn’t wear my jacket cuz I’m weird like that.

I came home to this loveliness. Cuz nothing says I love you like toilet paper strew on your lawn. Ha.

Even though I’m not in this photo–actually it’s only the super fans and none of the actual Boston runners–I love it and wanted to end the post with it. I’m still processing my emotions from the race, but I couldn’t help but love the connectedness of the ladies. I did not get to Boston on my own, and I couldn’t have finished Boston on my own. I am blown away (again) by these women and (and men) that have encouraged me, supported me, and praised me. All of the texts, Facebook messages, calls, and well wishes. I don’t feel worthy of any of it, truly. It was such a communal effort and can only offer my warmest thanks and love for everyone that’s been part of this. Patty is already concocting what to do for next year. Good luck with that, I’ll be supporting you from home, haha. I’ll follow up this post with some of the other things I did in Boston, but for now, signing off.


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Hilly hump day …

Ok, so after much haranguing, harumphing, and general boohooing, I finally looked at an elevation map of the Boston Marathon. I was totally in that “ignorance is bliss” stage. Not SO ignorant that I didn’t know Boston was hilly nor unfamiliar with the dreaded “Heartbreak Hill.” However, when I finally decided to do some Googling and actually SEE what all the insanity was about, I wasn’t sure I made the right choice. Here’s the comparison between Chicago and Boston by the numbers.

But then, here it is visually (I didn’t even bother attaching an elevation map of Chicago. It’s essentially a flat line…).

Click here for image source

It’s a NET decline…but you can see that there are pretty significant climbs. Now, when you consider climbs, you have to consider not just the amount of climb, but how quickly it happens. I’ve run many a path I thought it was flat on an out-and-back run, and realized that there was a slight decline on the way out, which feels mountainous on the way back. Also, the reason it’s called Heartbreak Hill is that it hits right at the point in the marathon where a lot of people bonk, doubt their sanity, or start crying for their moms. Right around/after mile 20. From the bit I’ve read, people will also trash their legs taking the downhill the first half of the marathon too hard. By the time you get to Heartbreak Hill, you don’t have much left.

That is why I’m glad I’ve gotten TWO, count them TWO, hill workouts in this week. Well, part of last week (Saturday’s long run) and Tuesday’s run. Here’s Kelly’s Gramin elevation breakdown from our Palos adventure.

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It was also GLORIOUSLY warm on Tuesday, hot even, so I decided to be in nature and do the hills of Morton Arboretum. I’m not gonna lie, I was tired and took them too fast. I even did some form drills–overachiever, I know.

Here are some very professional-looking shots of my run… I know my hair looks crazy, but I feel silly enough taking selfies running. To spend time fixing myself to take the selfie when I’m a hot sweaty mess? Meh. As I said to someone last week, I like to keep expectations low so people are amazed when I can clean up 🙂

This picture was to show some of the elevation change at the Arboretum, but the 3-dimensional aspect isn’t quite capture, so it just looks like flat brown grass all the way to the water. I promise it looked hilly.

This “strength” bench is still one of my favorite bits.

You can see from my Garmin data, though…hardly impressive compared to BostonSnip20160309_2

I’m gonna have to get out to Palos more or do interval hill repeats at Big Bertha at Waterfall Glen. Ugh. This whole Boston training thing is draining. Really. Jen and I have been constant Negative Nellie’s about it. It’s not simply good enough to train for a marathon, but you have to do all this extra stuff you’re not used to running as a flatlander. Yes, yes, I know it’s “good for us.”

Boo, I don’t like things that are good for me. And, the insecurity complexes come out when I read about other run bloggers trying to PR at Boston and such. My training mileage is barely breaking 35 miles right now. This coming off of last fall’s training where I was running 55+ miles weekly BEFORE peaking. Patty, Jen, and I are trying to talk ourselves up about the FUN we are going to have at Boston and it probably (at least for me and Jen as of right now) is a “once in a lifetime” experience (although this year’s Boston jacket is so ugly, I feel like I will need to run it again to get a better one. Insanity, right?). Still, I can’t help but wonder if I will feel like a failure if I don’t reach some non-determined goal time. I told Jen last night that we should force ourselves to stop and take photos to “ruin” our end times and not think about the clock. We’ll see.

It IS hard, though, isn’t it? To not compare yourself to other people? Whether it is in regards to running, parenting, or general appearances. It’s a struggle to accept what is right FOR YOU and not for someone else. Long ago, I became a distance runner because I accepted that I wasn’t fast. Then I got a bit faster and started fixating on time and wanting to be “above average” (I’m pretty happy with race times if I’m above the midpoint time, ha). Then, when everyone started running marathons, I felt the need to be “above average” by qualifying for Boston (let’s ignore the fact that the average person does not run marathons, so that fact alone makes one above average…or at least NOT average). And now that I’m training for Boston, I feel a bit unsure I guess. I am NOT going to be above average there. And the more stable-minded, balanced folk reading this might ask, “What’s wrong with average?” Or maybe “average” is relative. I’m not even sure if this makes sense. The mind hamsters on their wheels are spinning and going nowhere, right?

It’s just that lately, even that pressure of getting out and doing the tempo runs or intervals is feeling burdensome, because there’s no clear goal. I am not going to be “above average” at Boston, so then I just want to go out and run now for fun. But I also have a hard time completely accepting that.

So I guess I’m at a crossroads of sorts in trying to figure out my feelings about running and racing (which are NOT synonymous, by the way). I still love running, but I’m trying to figure out what kind of training makes sense for me after Boston. Stay tuned! And feel free to pipe up with your thoughts on mixing things up and trying to figure out your own truth.


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Last Chance Review of Last Chance BQ.2 Marathon

Alright, so my jaw just dropped when I realized that this race recap is two weeks late…BUT, better late than never??

The Last Chance BQ.2 Marathon-Chicagoland was September 12. And it was AWESOME. It’s not a cheap race, especially when I saw the lack of real food afterwards, but it will get you to BQ!

It’s an interesting premise. A race that is solely set on getting you to Boston. You actually have to submit a qualifying time to get IN the race. In other words, Boston has got to be more than just a bucket list to “one day” cross off. You had to be within 10 minutes of your qualifying time at marathon from 2014 or 2015, a half marathon at your qualifying pace in 2014 or 2015, or a marathon at qualifying time in 2013. This is only the second year of the race, but last year 60% of the field BQ’ed and last year’s reviews online were glowing.

The registration process was easy via their website and communication was good.

Geneva isn’t super-close to me for a quick roundtrip drive, but I decided I didn’t want to mess around with race day packet pick-up so I got it done in just under 1.5 hours. Packet pick-up was at Geneva Running Outfitters, and the race director was actually there helping with packet pick-up. There was only one person in front of me, a guy from Georgia, and the director was super-nice and personable. There was a long-sleeve, gender-specific tech shirt in the Boston colors, a water bottle, and a chapstick, all in a bright yellow drawstring bag.

I hemmed and hawed about what to eat for dinner the night before. I went with a white pizza and picked some of the cheese off. I had been drinking alot of water that week and eating pretty mildly, so I figured I’d be ok.

Here’s my race outfit, although I ended up changing out my shorts. I was also torn about wearing the old Kinvara’s, but the new ones still felt stiffer than I wanted and I was afraid of it rubbing on the run.
Race morning was a bit rough. I got to bed fine, but a 4:30 am wake up is no fun. I had treated myself to a piece of Momentum jewelry. I wrestled with which motivational statement to get. “Make it happen” seemed like a good one.   I made a mapping error and was a bit rushed getting to the parking lot. Good thing I left early enough! We parked in a business lot across the street from where the race was starting. It actually helped me get a little shakeout/warmup in, running towards the start/race village. The sun was barely coming up.

Things were pretty quiet at the start. I made sure to get my bottles in my “elite” table. One of the coolest features of this race was that every runner had an elite-style set up. 11988622_10208301904692425_15571114270966449_nThey had 10 tables that were taped off with runners’ numbers. You were given two numbers that matched your bib to tape to your bottles. Since you were doing 8 loops, you had 8 shots at your own hydration (although there was water and gatorade at two places on the course also). You’d grab the bottle off the table and a bit of the way down the course, they had a “drop zone,” a target you threw your bottle at. They would then get your bottles back to the table before you came back around. It was the perfect amount of time to grab and drink.

The weather was absolutely perfect. Well, it was misting a tiny bit when I left the house, but it cleared up before I got to the start. It was in the 50s for most of the race. There was a little bit of wind later in the race, but barely noticeable for most of it.

As we got ready to line up, I had a small moment of panic because I couldn’t find the pacers. My plan was to stick with the pacer for the 3:37 group. They purposely had pacers 3 minutes under each of the qualifying times. Perfect. I realized, though, the pacers were wearing bibs with their times on their backs and not carrying the sticks you usually see. 
Patty and Jen were trying to see me at the start, but they were late. Probably because they were doing selfies….

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I’ll be honest. I didn’t have a clear plan of attack for the race. I was thinking I’d try to stick with the pace group as long as possible, but I wasn’t sure how the pacing would go. I’d never run with a pace group, and this one was supposedly 40-50 deep. I wasn’t super-close to the pacer (it wast just one guy, Tom?, who we’d swap out for another guy, Scott?, halfway through), but I made sure I could alway see him. I’m really glad I decided to stick with the pacing group because by the second lap, I’d already lost count of the laps. Ha. It was actually a relief to mentally let go of keeping aware of the pace and just get pulled along by the group.

Just in case you’re wondering why my upper chest looks so lumpy, I was storing my gels in my bra. My race belt didn’t have enough room for gels and my phone, and my shorts only had room for one.

The first lap was good. I felt a little nervous but also strong. Little did I know that these fools were getting ready to cheer me on each of the laps. I had made threats about not coming to see me possibly fail, but thankfully they didn’t listen. Seeing them all their different signs, and hearing Swati on her crazy megaphone, made me look forward to each lap. It was seriously amazing.

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12004837_10208301904292415_7887830290073945556_nI found out later that Stephanie’s (with the poms above) husband works for a TV show and they were using cue cards from on set.

Ha! I just realized that I’m wearing the same shoes as this other runner. I ran behind her for a good deal of the race. it was weird, though, because she was listening to music loudly and didn’t hear when we shouted at her to move because of people coming from behind us. And she wore a shirt that said “runforgod.com”

This sign made me laugh out loud. I yelled, “Classy, ladies” as I ran by. 11200915_10153360452094934_2902290599689748049_nThis next shot is one from the official race photos. These ding-dongs were doing some laps to get their training miles in (well, not Jenny, she’s just crazy), and were mistaken for runners in the race.

21205816420_0c68af7527_oI had been nervous going into the race that the 8 loops of the same route would make me crazy. It actually helped me pace myself better. I knew different landmarks along the route and knew how to break down each loop. The fact that each loop was just over three miles helped make the marathon much more manageable and “bite-sized” without being overly micro-managing in feel. There were some route features that were annoying though. We ran over some weird construction bits and over a ramp that was a tiny bit slick the first couple loops. There were two bridges also that were picturesque, but one bridge was super-bouncy as we ran over it. Every time, I kept thinking of “shake shake bridge” from a Dora the Explorer episode. I kept envisioning myself bouncing on the bridge and then flying into the air. 

The mix of running by some houses, woods, and under a bridge all helped keep the landscape from being monotonous. And even the tiny shifts in elevation helped keep me focused on what I was doing and not drifting off too much. I cannot believe how strong I felt almost the entire run. There was no point where I began to doubt the existence of God like I do at almost every marathon. My pace was solid and I was following the pacer well. There was a tiny bit of chit-chat with some other runners, but most of us ran in cheerful, mostly quiet camaraderie. People wore earphones but alot of people elected to keep one out. Since the course was on a trail and they couldn’t completely close the course, we had to keep our wits about us to watch and listen for cyclists, walkers, and other runners. As we got further along in mileage, we also started getting passed by some of the speedsters.

Patty actually joined me for part of the loop, but it was still early enough that our group was a bit crowded. She could also tell that I was doing ok and didn’t need anyone encouraging or scolding me. A cyclist almost clipped her with a side mirror, though!

The aid stations were helpful for grabbing water in between the sips from our “elite” bottles, particularly as it was placed about halfway through the loop. I grabbed Gu from the table a couple of times, although I couldn’t manage the chocolate one. I kept grabbing the fruity ones, which was annoying.

My GI was pretty happy most of the race as well. There was a moment where I thought it was going to try and give me trouble, but it settled down. I really feel like the diet from the week before helped alot. I always eat without abandon, and I’m beginning to think that strategy wasn’t working for me…

One point that made me cuss up a storm was losing a hair band. I had decided to wear braided pig tails. It had briefly crossed my mind that it was possible I would lose a hairband, but I thought that sounded paranoid and ridiculous. Well, exactly halfway through the race, I felt a sudden loosening of one braid and the wind rippling through my long hair. I quickly snagged it before the braid completely came out and got it tied up with the other hair band and prayed that one wouldn’t go. I did decide that I could use my headband to tie it all together in the worst case scenario. Thankfully, I didn’t have to do it.  21379597021_6551465ebe_oJen and Jenny ran in the last loop with me (psst, I love those ding-dongs). At first I thought I was going to have to chase them off, but they ended up being really helpful. By the last loop, the pace group had broken up mostly. What had been a tight pack before was a loose glob of people. I could feel myself starting to lose the gravitational pull of the group to keep up. Having those two along kept me moving. They cracked jokes, scoped out the half-naked speedsters, and kept my mind off how tired I was. As we crossed the last bridge, about a quarter mile out, the pacer told us to kick it in if we had a kick. I did. And in retrospect, it makes me wonder if I could have pushed a little harder earlier on or overall because it was a big kick…but you can never tell. Even when Jen and Jenny kept telling me that I totally had it, I wasn’t ready to believe them until I actually saw the finish line. Anything can happen those last 3 miles of a marathon.

But I kicked it in and gave it everything I got. I almost wept in joy and exhaustion. Then I slapped myself and got myself together…just kidding.

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Julianne, who is from Massachusetts, said the flags along the route had the names of the towns the Boston Marathon ran through. I’m glad someone knew because I kept thinking that “Framingham” was a framing store sponsoring the race.

The post-race was a blur of hugs, congratulations, and sheer joy. They did have Mylar heat sheets for us, although I was rather warm by then. I was so moved by the friends that came out, and even my husband bringing the cranky ankle-biters. Thankfully the cheer crew brought food, because there wasn’t much in the way of post-race food. They had m&m’s, generic cookies, and chocolate milk. I drank the chocolate milk and the kids fought for the m&m’s.
There were QR codes on our bibs so we could scan them ourselves to get the unofficial times. 3:36:16. Of course, I berated myself for not pushing 16 second harder and getting under 3:36. Ha.

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When I got home, I treated myself to an awesome (NOT!) ice-bath. I debated skipping it, but I had a work event that night. YUP. After a marathon. Yes, a work event that required formal wear and heels. I chose to wear my medal as appropriate formal wear accoutrement.   Finally, because the girls hadn’t tortured me enough, Swati took it upon herself to TP my house that night. As someone who didn’t grow up in the US, she missed out on the great joys of trashing someone else’s house as a way to “celebrate” something they’ve done. I know, I don’t get it either. She was actually quite considerate in the way she TP’ed. It was draped for easy removal. Mr. UnRunner may have scoffed at how “inadequate” he thought it was.
All in all, it was a great race and a great experience. Multiple people said they were planning on running this race next fall if they wanted to qualify. Between the pacing, cheering, and general well-run aspects of it, it was a fantastic experience (although better post-race food please!).

Now, my dear friends, is the great wait. For those unawares, QUALIFYING for Boston is one thing. Getting IN is another. Boston registration deadlines are contingent on how much “buffer time” you have from your qualifying time. First couple days are for those with more than 20 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 5, and then everyone else–although the “everyone else” is sorted again by those with more or less time. The last couple of years, the “cutoff time” has been 90 seconds. Meaning, if you had a time that wasn’t more than 90 second faster than the qualifying time for your age group, you didn’t get into the race. Hence the BQ versus getting in.

Last week they made the announcement that only 5000 spots were left after the 5+ minutes registered. Which leaves the rest of us biting our nails. Supposedly we find out tonight…Wish me luck!


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When you’re feeling burnt out, crispy, and wondering what this whole “running” thing is about after all

I know…it’s been ages. I’m still alive. Perhaps barely, at least in the running sense.

Before I did Ragnar Great Rivers, I had gone in to see my doctor about my constant fatigue and growing depression. I wanted to check my iron, ferritin, vitamin D, and thyroid. They ended up turning out all ok, but an article about “overtraining” had come across my Facebook feed that same day. After seeing it a couple of times, I decided to click on it. Bingo.

I had avoided clicking on it previously because it had seemed frivolous and silly to think it could possibly apply to me. Yes, I was marathon training, but I was hardly an elite, and I was doing the LOWEST Advanced Marathoning training plan. It seemed pompous of me to think I could possibly qualify for that term. However, this training fatigue/depression seemed different than before. You are almost always granted at least a short point in a training cycle where you hate it, wonder if it’s worth it, and get bitter/angry/etc. At one point, I posted this sign in my office:

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It’s part of training, especially when you’re peaking, that you’re tired, hungry, and stressed (trying to get everything done and all your mileage in).

This was different. Almost every run was vaguely dreaded. I had trouble hitting any of my time goals in my speedwork. I was chronically exhausted. Not just tired, but bone-deep, soul-crushingly exhausted. I felt like I had no emotional reserves to deal with anything. I was on edge. My legs felt heavy and not quite recovered in between runs. Not every run was horrible, but I wasn’t walking away from very many runs feeling fantastic. Maybe not ANY runs. And my husband, who is incredibly supportive of my running, uttered the words, “Maybe you shouldn’t run so much” because I was complaining constantly. He immediately backpedaled when I turned my death stare on him, but he did encourage me to think about whether I NEEDED to continue in the manner I was.

Reading that random article and some further Googling, I found a few things that confirmed I indeed might be over-training, some that said only elites could over-train, and a host of various remedies. Mostly involving rest–but again, ranging from a few days to a few MONTH. Others involved massive changes in diet, sleep, and activity. In short, the jury is out. In fact, that is part of the reason I took so long to write this article. I wanted to read as much as I could and provide a pithy Reader’s Digest version of all I found.

It became too much, though. There’s not enough known, and not alot of this is really familiar to traditional general doctors. And while some articles recommended testing for things like cortisol levels, others provided a short mood/attitude check-in.

My own primary care doctor seemed to think it a possibility, but also indicated little familiarity with it. She did point out that the last couple of years, I had started coming in around the same time (June/July) complaining of fatigue. In one case, my ferritin levels were on the low end of normal, and I’ve been taking iron supplements since then. Talking it over, I think it is a matter of 1) crashing from the frantic pace of the school year and 2) ramping up of marathon training. THIS school year was particularly difficult, and my training has definitely been much more intense, so it would make sense that this cycle would be harder. Talking to Bill, my running coach from last fall, he pointed out that I basically haven’t stopped since last fall. I ran 3 marathons last fall, 1 this spring, 2 Ragnar’s, and have 2 marathons slated for this fall. I think if I were not chasing a time on those, I would actually be ok. However, I think my near-constant speed training since last summer and the intensity of the training this cycle in particularly has really pushed me to the edge.

I’ve done enough self-care work and know enough about mental and physical burn-out that I did a few things immediately.

  1. I talked about how I was feeling and reached out to friends about what was going on.
  2. I took two back-to-back days off from running and have cut down my mileage a bit.
  3. I’m trying to be much more protective of my sleep time. My Fitibit is actually really helpful for point out how much ACTUAL sleep time I am getting versus time in bed. In other words, I need to be in the bed for LONGER than the amount of time for which I need sleep.
  4. I re-evaluated my running goals and how I felt about running. I did a self-check if I’m addicted (I don’t think I am. I’ve cut down runs and don’t feel compelled to run everyday, etc. And I LONG for this training cycle to be done). And I’m trying to make peace with whatever happens at Geneva. Whatever the outcome, I’m going to take some time from “chasing the unicorn.” The pressure of running for time and training so hard has taken all the fun out of running for me. I enjoy training, but this is a different beast. It feels way more individual and I miss the camaraderie of running with whoever shows up and not who can keep pace.
  5. I’ve been good about keeping up with the massage therapy sessions, not so good on keeping up with the yoga, cross-training, and stretching. I am TIGHT, and Bill told me that will contribute alot to a sense of fatigue.

So, my friends, Got 14 tempo-ish miles for the long run. Wish me luck. T minus 14 days…or 13, depending on how you’re counting.


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Running with heart and my girl-crush on Desi

Like a true running nerd, I streamed the Boston marathon on my phone in between various appointments. I missed the start and jumped in about mile 17 of the women’s marathon. Seeing two Americans as the front-runners, Dathan Ritzenheim for the men and Desire Avila Linden for the women, blew my mind that far into the race (well, it was early for the men’s race, but still).

I love Desi for reasons that don’t really make sense–like she doesn’t get enough publicity (compared to other runners that don’t perform as well but seem to be considered more marketable), she’s not blonde, and she wears darker, more modest racing get-ups. See? I told you it doesn’t make sense. Maybe all those things make her seem more humble or under-doggy (yeah, that’s right, I’m making that a word). Either way, I was thrilled to see her perform as well/strongly as she did. I wish she had won, but considering she held the lead past the 20 mile mark, she did amazing. You could see her running with all of her heart and pushing as hard as she could. I’ve seen running coaches talk about racing as leaving everything out there on the road/track and holding nothing back. She did exactly that. Even when you don’t win, if you do everything you can to throw down and do your best, you need to be proud of yourself.

I thought the same thing about Shalane Flanagan. I heard the commentators say she was having some physical problems earlier in the race, but she caught back up close enough to be in the camera frame by Heartbreak Hill. For a moment I thought she might have a chance to get back with the lead group, but she faded back as the leaders pushed the tempo further.

I can’t imagine running 20 miles at a 5:30 pace and then cranking it down to a 5 min mile. It is mind-blowing. One thing I’m always amazed by with elite runners is how the blistering pace they run looks so easy. They often look like they’re just out for a jog while they’re running a 5 minute mile. I know one part of it is form, as I’ve seen folks analyze Meb’s form. The man literally spends more time in the air than he does on the ground. In other words, he’s a human gazelle. It truly is a joy to watch him run.

I know some people must think just watching people run for hours is boring, but the ending to the marathon was amazing. To see the lengths to which people can push themselves and give every ounce they can is inspiring. Caroline Rotich and Mare Dibaba were neck and neck up to the end. I think neither of them had placed first before so I was rooting for both of them, although Dibaba had placed second several times so I rooted for her a little more 🙂

The marathon truly is a test of the human spirit, the ability to push yourself to your limits and even beyond. It’s why I run it. There’s so much in life that’s about making things easier, from remote controls to cars that drive themselves, running is about seeing what you can do when things get hard. It connects us back to our bodies, but also sets up a battle between mind and body. You train and physically prepare yourself for a race, but it’s your spirit and mental ability to push yourself that will get you across that finish line. I plan on channeling the spirit of all those elite runners on Saturday to scrape off the 5-7 minutes I need from my last time time to qualify. So get out there today and push yourself a little harder today (unless you’re tapering–then just think about pushing yourself harder on race day, ha).


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Countdown to Champaign, and Patriot’s Day (aka Boston Marathon) is here

The last few days have been intense. I’ve had 5 academic presentations in 4 days in 2 locations (at a conference and on campus), 2 kids’ birthday parties, a graduate school open house, last long run before marathon, and the usual overload of work. I was essentially turned away from the second kids’ birthday party and ordered to get more coffee. The words “frumpy face” may have been used to describe my look. Or it could be my regular resting b*tch face. Still, I savored the opportunity to have some silence and seek solace in the bottom of an iced coffee before entering the madness of cupcakes and bouncy house.

It’s finally here, the week of the marathon. I’m working on getting a mental game plan for the race. While I’ve not stood in front of the mirror and chanted positive mantras to myself, I’m beginning to think about visualization of the race and strategy. Do you like all of my qualifiers and refusal to commit? Beginning to think about. Geez.

I did print out a map of the course, and I’m planning on comparing my pace band estimated times, locations, and using the Google fly-through. it’s harder to visualize crossing the finishing line holding Jen’s hand (as threatened/promised) without wanting to collapse in giggles, or wondering what it will feel like to curse and cry in front of another person at mile 22, but we’ll see. I’m holding off on race day outfit planning as of yet, as the weather is being unpredictable.

I saw a friend at the conference I hadn’t seen in awhile. Sadly, she told me she felt like she was coming down with something. I still hugged her good-bye, but I did double-think it for a moment. I should probably go buy the vitamin C and Airborne she was talking about getting for herself, ha. We are never promised tomorrow, though, and I would feel horrible if my last contact with her was an air high-five. I’m morbid, I know.

Random things, I realized during the conference: I’m awkward, and feel even more nerdy/awkward when I’m around other academics, which seems paradoxical; I drink way too much coffee and felt unable to stop talking a couple times; There are some people who live within a few miles of me I still only see at conferences, whether in town or out of town; Sometimes i wish I could find a way to close my eyes and sleep in public acceptably; Eating birthday cake twice in one day is too much cake; While I can’t describe it, I feel like academics have a certain look that makes them easily identifiable. I haven’t determined yet if I have this look.

i’m going to keep this post brief as I need to work on playing sleep catch up for the week. Boston is finally here. It’s been fun following some of my favorite run bloggers doing their bib pick up and getting excited about running. It makes me want it even more. While I know I have to prepare myself with the possibility of not qualifying (or not making the registration cut off with a speedy-enough time buffer), I can’t help but think I’ll be crushed if I don’t.

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The upside of the spring marathon (which, I feel has few upsides) is that you can recover and train well for another marathon in the fall. And since Jenny is missing out on Boston this year, I’ll run another to get her qualified in the fall for Boston 2016. I guess one thing about pursuing a bucket goal is that you can keep reaching for it till you kick the bucket–hm, I’m not sure if that sounds more hopeful or morbid. Again, morbid.

One final thing. On my drive earlier, I almost hit a guy running. At night. In the rain. In all black. With no reflective gear/lights. People, don’t be stupid. If you’re going to run outside at night in the rain, make sure people can see you. At the minimum, wear clothing with some reflective strips. But preferably, wear a reflective vest, blinking lights, and/or a headlamp.

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Me at Ragnar last year with vest, light-colored clothing, and headlight.

Thanks to running Ragnar (6-12 person relay covering ~200 miles nonstop) two years in a row, I now own all these things (you are required to have several of these items for the team and everyone has to have a reflective vest).

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Part of my team from Ragnar 2013. Those are some sexy outfits, huh?

P.S. I’m beginning to realize that I’m not much of a “photo person,” meaning I’m not the person that’s always taking pictures of my life. This blog seems to reinforce my general lack of awareness in doing this. I have huge swathes of my life that have gone undocumented because no one in my family was a big photo taker. I realized in getting ready to write this blog entry that I did not take a single picture of my friends this weekend. Oh, I did take one conference-related photo. My friend Susan and I have started a tradition of purchasing make-up at a conference together. I’m not sure why, it just happened. Anyhow, the timing was so hard this trip, that I had to purchase some after she left–in homage. Ha.

Does anyone else have any weird rituals/traditions they do with friends?