Purely Epic

Nothing like an epic Boston Marathon to bring me out of my blogging hiatus. (Sorry, life has been a bit busy lately!) While I would have loved to have been in Boston cheering in person on Monday, the flight prices were just a bit too much. Still, I had so much fun watching the live-stream online and following along on twitter – while getting lots of work done of course!

I was really pulling for Shalene, and while it’s a shame she couldn’t get the win, she had one heck of a race. You can’t ask for anything better than a personal best. The guts and determination she showed were just awesome. I hope she wins it someday. Jeptoo is just unstoppable right now though! That was an unreal display of endurance and speed.

When Meb, one of my favorites, first started pulling ahead I tried not to get too excited. I thought, “could this really happen?!” His lead kept getting bigger though. I sat there praying he could hold on and was so unbelievably excited when he crossed the line – the first American male to win the Boston Marathon in my lifetime!

What an awesome day for Boston and for America! It was so awesome to see so much joy and happiness after last year’s tragedy. This gif sums it all up for me…

 

It was also so much fun to see all the Oiselle birds flying to the finish and running Boston – so many PRs and great races!

Hope everyone that ran and cheered had a great day!

My plan is to get the blog back on track. I have a couple race recaps I still need to get to and some trail running fun. Posts will probably still be sporadic though as I navigate a busy summer filled with lots of travel plans, prep for my work’s big annual conference, multiple weddings and wedding planning of my own! And, of course, lots of running!

 

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NYC Marathon Fun – Volunteering at Mile 22

I headed up to NYC this past weekend to give a little back to the sport that gives me so much. I signed up to volunteer at the 22 mile water stop for the NYC Marathon with a bunch of my Oiselle teammates. After a fun Saturday in Hoboken visiting my brother and his fiancée, I was up bright and early Sunday morning to make my way into the city.

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As usual, I had a bit of trouble figuring out the Subway system, but was able to take a fairly quick cab ride to my volunteer spot. I checked in, got a poncho and plastic gloves and met up with the other Oiselle ladies volunteering there. Most of them I only knew through twitter, so it was very fun to meet them in person, and not surprisingly they were all awesome.

We got a quick orientation from the volunteer leader. It’s amazing the things you don’t realize that go into race day. He went over set up and what to expect once things got rolling. Safety was the emphasis. He pointed out the closest medical tent, then talked about how to form a safety circle around a runner if someone were to drop, and asked anyone who was CPR certified to raise their hands. After thanking us all, we were off to work.

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I helped fill up water cups and stack them three rows high across the table to get ready for the onslaught of runners. After that, I enjoyed my front row seat to one incredibly cool marathon experience. The Marine Corps Marathon, which boasts finishers in the low 20,000s each year has always seemed HUGE to me. On Sunday, more than 50,000 runners set out to take on the five boroughs of NYC. Wow.

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The wheelchair and handcycle divisions came through first. I don’t usually see most of these racers after they take off, but wow they are impressive. Soon the elite women were making their way through mile 22. It was so cool to see the pace trucks coming and know the first runners were right behind them.

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These women were amazingly fierce and fast. It was so cool to see. I still can’t believe Priscah Jeptoo came away with the win – what a finish!

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Also, I want her abs!

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Not long after, another pace truck was coming through and we saw the elite men. Getting to see Geoffrey Mutai fly by up close on his way to his second straight NYCM victory was awesome. I couldn’t wait to see Meb come by, but of course had just put my camera away when he did, so I don’t have a shot of him. I know he didn’t have the race he wanted, but it was still so cool to see him and he is such an inspiration!

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Soon the everyday runners started pouring through and just kept coming and coming. There were so many volunteers and I was near the back, so I didn’t actually hand out that many cups of water.

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Still getting to cheer these runners on and see the determination and pain in their faces (or limps) as they passed us with four miles to go made for a great day. I yelled out for the runners who had names written on their shirts, cheered like crazy for random strangers and tried to pick people I knew running out of the crowd. So. Much. Fun. 

Congrats to everyone who raced NYCM Sunday! You are all amazing!

Moving Forward

In my Marine Corps Marathon recap I mentioned I’d be doing a post on what I thought went wrong. After playing it over in my head a million times since Sunday though, I have decided against it. Thinking of every little possible thing I could have done differently or done better, and continuing to beat myself up for it, won’t change my finish time from Sunday.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to just forget about it and not learn anything from it. There is always something to be learned from every race – good or bad. It just means that I don’t see the need to dissect every factor that could have impacted my race.

Instead I’m choosing to focus on things I can do moving forward to help me hit my goals in future races.

  • Stick to a strength training plan all the way through my training cycle.
  • Do my best to get enough sleep on a daily basis to help keep my immune system strong and fighting off colds.
  • Don’t change too many things up too close to race day.
  • Get more training runs in at or faster than goal pace.
  • Conversely, make sure I have enough easy runs that really are easy runs.
  • Find new shoes and make sure they work for me.

It all seems pretty simple. Now, time to put it into action!

Hopefully, this will be my smile at the end of my next race – not just at mile 1.5!

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What big lessons have you learned from racing that have helped you get better?

 

MCM Race Recap: BQ or Bust…Well, Not Exactly

I set out this year with a BQ or bust racing mentality that all centered around one race – the Marine Corps Marathon. After coming just more than two minutes shy in my last attempt, I wanted to get there more than ever. The bombings at this year’s Boston Marathon only intensified that desire.

I didn’t get that goal on Sunday though. I wasn’t even close, instead running one of my slowest marathons in years. Was it a bust though?

I battled through one of the toughest training cycles I’ve had to date where I was sick multiple times and dealt with constant tight and sore calf muscles that landed me in physical therapy for the last two weeks of training. Still, I made it to the starting line on race day. Despite running through pain from very early on in the race, I crossed the finish line of my 10th marathon.

No, I definitely can’t call that a bust. I’m really proud of that accomplishment.

I’d be lying though if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed and sad that I didn’t reach my goal. I’ll have more to come on what I think went wrong and where I’ll go from here, but for today’s post, I’ll stick to the race day recap.

After a good night’s sleep I popped up when my 5 a.m. alarm went off and started getting ready. I had my usual pre-race meal, body-glided up and packed all my fuel into my Oiselle distance shorts. After adding some throwaway layers on top, we were out the door and Ian dropped me off as close as possible to the Rosslyn metro.

IMG_3688I hopped right on a train and was quickly at the Pentagon stop. It was really crowded on the platform so I waited what seemed like forever (actually not that bad) to get up the escalator and exit the station. I was stuck right behind some guy throwing up into a bag though, which was a bit gross, but I kept reminding myself he had it much worse than I did. On my way out I ran into one of my Oiselle teammates. It was so awesome to meet Prianka and have someone to chat with and keep the nerves calm on our walk to the start area.

My parents stayed at the Hyatt just around the corner from the finish, so I’d left a bag with them and skipped past the bag check area to grab a spot in the bathroom line. Soon after I was warming up while watching a group of paratroopers make their way down to the ground with a giant American flag…love this race. Then I made my way to the start. It was already very crowded, but I got a spot about 10 feet behind the 3:35 pacer. I ditched my extra layers and soon was on the move at the sound of the starting gun.

The first mile was a lot of weaving until I finally just settled in as we turned up Lee Highway and made sure to keep the 3:35 pacer in my sights to stay on track. This was my first glimpse of my support crew – Mom, Dad and Ian – who were waiting with a sign to cheer me on and take pics. I ran by for a high five and headed up the hills. My pace felt easy and my calves which I’d had so much trouble with weren’t bothering me, however I could already feel my hamstrings tightening up at mile 2. I figured they would loosen up on the downhill and I’d be fine.

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The early hills passed pretty quickly and we turned onto Spout Run to make our way back down. I love how you can hear the roar of the crowd as you near the end of this small stretch and get ready to turn and cross the Key Bridge. Another high five from my support crew and I was smiling my way over the bridge. The crowds on M Street were fantastic, but I could feel the tightness in my hammies was still there and was spreading to my quads.

IMG_3739By the time we turned down Wisconsin to make our way toward Rock Creek Parkway the 3: 35 pacer was already slipping away. How could this be happening so early I thought? I didn’t feel out of breath or at all winded, but I just couldn’t get my legs to go faster.

Despite not having a great day, I still standby my earlier statements that getting rid of the Canal Road portion of the race and bringing Rock Creek Parkway back was a great addition. This part of the course is beautiful and way less hilly than the old route.

By mile 7 the 3:45 pace group went gliding by me as if I were moving in slow motion. Ugh. Shortly after the turnaround on Rock Creek, I heard someone yell, “Go Oiselle!” This happened a handful of times throughout the day and really made a rough day so much better! Around mile 9 my right IT band and left ankle added themselves to the list of body parts that hurt. What is going on I kept thinking and it really hit me that today was going to be a much longer day than I had planned.

Soon I was on my way into Hains Point. This part of the course gets a bad rap, but really wasn’t all that bad this year I thought. Thanks to the picture perfect race weather, the wind that can be beyond brutal here was barely there. Also, passing the line of signs here with pictures of marines and the date they were killed in action was a humbling and inspiring experience. The strategically placed cheer squads along this section of the course provided a great boost as well.

It was also at this point that I met another Oiselle teammate. Brennan came running up to me and gave me a hug and some words of encouragement before passing by and continuing on to her first marathon finish!! This was enough to keep me going through the rest of Hains Point as the pain slowly started to get worse.

Around mile 15 my hips started aching too and I started to wonder how I was going to make it to the finish line like this. Thankfully the crowd support was great here as I made my way back up toward the Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial. Have I mentioned I love this race and all it’s amazing sights? I also knew my support crew was waiting for me just past mile 17 and I couldn’t wait to see them again.

As I ran up the Mall toward the Capitol Building I kept my eye out for the orange sign they were holding and let a big smile cross my face once I spotted them. A quick handoff with my Dad and I had a new water bottle to replace my empty one. At this part of the course, I’m always so thankful when we hit the Capitol and turn in front of it rather than going up and around like many of my training runs. That hill is brutal!

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I quickly realized it was a bad idea to carry my smaller water bottle first, as having my 16-ouncer now felt like it weighed a TON. Luckily the fam had hurried across the Mall and saw me again at mile 19. I waved and dropped the bottle as I ran by. Thankfully without even saying anything they realized what was wrong and had the smaller one refilled for the next time I would see them.

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There was no doubt I was hurting, but I’d come to grips with the fact that my goal was not going to happen today and coming up on mile 20 the end started to feel within reach. I passed the mile marker and came up on the infamous 14th Street Bridge.

In an instant everything nearly fell apart. The bottoms of my feet like most of my body hadn’t been feeling great today, but all of a sudden I felt a shot of pain up my left heel. Every time it hit the ground was excruciating. I hopped along trying not to curse too loudly as I grabbed the road divider for support and tried not to let my left heel touch the ground.

This is why I love runners. I can’t even tell you how many people asked if I was OK, patted me on the back, told me I could do it and offered me waters, Gu and assistance. You all are remarkable as I’m sure no one was feeling super good at this point of the race, so thank you. Thankfully though, the pain started to dull after a quarter to a half mile of this that felt more like 20, and I was able to put weight on my foot again and resume my run to the finish. It was more of a shuffle by this point though as I could barely even lift my feet over cups strewn on the ground as I passed through water stops for the rest of the race.

Finally, I would “Beat the Bridge” and make my way into Crystal City. This is another area with great crowd support pushing you closer to the finish. It was around this point that my ego would take a bit of a hit. I was passed and eventually beaten by a a Dunkin Donuts cup, the Chick Fil A cows and a dragon. Awesome.

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As Crystal City was coming to an end I kept my hopes up that I would see my support crew one more time. Depending on how the metro worked out, they were going to try to catch me at about 23.5. Again I spotted that orange sign my Mom was holding high and couldn’t be happier. Ian was still snapping away with the camera and my Dad held up my smaller water bottle. I ran over to grab it, yelled that I loved them and continued on my way so incredibly thankful for such amazingly supportive people in my life.

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I worked my way back by the Pentagon where crowd support waned, but Marines loudly cheered us on and told myself to just keep putting one foot in front of the other for the last two miles. I have never wanted a marathon to be over so badly in my life. I ran back through the start line and heard people yelling less than a mile and a half to go. Oh. Thank. God.

I could hear the crowd before I could see them as I made my way toward the final stretch. Despite the cruel, cruel hill up to the finish line, I have always loved the finish experience of this race. With Arlington Cemetery just to your left and thousands of people cheering wildly, you feel like a rock star as you climb the last hill and turn towards the finish line just before the Iwo Jima Memorial.

I put my head down and summoned every last bit of energy I had to push up that hill and run to that finish line. I crossed the line and felt relieved. My finish time was 4:12:41.

If I’m being honest I didn’t smile when it was over or get my picture taken in front of Iwo Jima like after my last two MCM’s. I just took my medal, thanked the Marines and was happy it was over – but I wasn’t really happy at all. I fought back tears and plodded my way through the finisher’s area trying to thank as many of the Marines as possible.

It seemed like an endless walk to the entrance of my old apartment where I knew my support crew was waiting. Once I saw them I finally smiled and gladly accepted their hugs despite how gross I must have been at that point. Now I was done.

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A disappointment to walk hobble away missing my goal by so much for sure, but I’m so very glad I didn’t give up. Ten marathons is certainly something to smile about.

If you made it all the way to the end of this ridiculously long post, thanks for reading through all of my rambling thoughts. How did your weekend racing go? How do you bounce back after falling short on a goal race?

Footprints Weekly Recap

Well, last week was the big week…the Marine Corps Marathon.

Here’s the day-by-day breakdown of my week leading up to yesterday’s race…

Monday: Physical Therapy. 45-minute pool run with about 35 minutes at tempo effort.

Tuesday: 30-minute pool run with 25 at tempo effort. Core workout.

Aqua Jog Belt

Aqua Jog Belt

Wednesday: Physical Therapy.

Thursday: Rest. I also visited the Expo Thursday night to get my packet.

Friday: Last physical therapy appointment – very light massage and dynamic stretching.

Saturday: One mile shake out run followed by a dynamic stretch routine. I felt awesome and was feeling so positive about Sunday.

Sunday: The wheels fell off a bit and everything (but my calves which I spent the last two weeks working on in PT) felt awful. I missed my time goal by a whole heck of a lot, but was really proud I was able to pull myself together and keep going through the pain to cross the line in 4:12:41. Full recap and pictures coming soon.

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Marine Corps Marathon: The Expo

Things are getting real! I made it over to the D.C. Armory for the Marine Corps Marathon Expo last night. Other than a few wrong turns on the way to the expo that made it a much longer trip than it should have been, things went very smoothly.

The Marines have this one down to a science, so I was in and out of the tent to pick up my bib in just a few minutes. After going through another round of security (first one was to get into the tent to grab my bib) I made my way into the armory and it was time to explore!

I made Ian take some silly pictures of me when we first walked in.

expo2 expo1I cannot wait till I have The Iwo in my sights on Sunday and am getting my picture snapped in front of it with my finisher’s medal. Does anyone know how I could just fast forward to that part of things?!?

After that I picked up my shirt and for the first time of my three MCM’s I will actually wear this one and not just keep it as a souvenir. Don’t get me wrong, the bright red and mustard yellow cotton unisex mock turtle necks in the bin under my bed do hold a special place in my heart…they just don’t get worn very often (read ever). This year they unveiled newer technical long sleeve shirts that look a whole lot better and might actually get me to “rock the mock” as they like to say! Kudos to MCM on making this change!

expo4After grabbing my shirt, there were a handful of free samples you could grab before heading into the Brooks official merchandise area.

expo3The lines were really long so I didn’t end up getting anything, but I may try to find my way back there before it closes. My only complaint about the gear was the sheer amount of pink women’s MCM gear. I like pink as much as the next girl, but it doesn’t seem to fit with this race in my mind, and I also get frustrated when people think all you have to do to sell gear to women is slap some pink on it. Regardless there was still a lot of good stuff!

I also wanted to get a new pint glass for this year to go with the one I have from 2011, but didn’t see any. I very easily could have just missed them though. If you were there and saw them, let me know!

I wish I had more time to explore the booths, but we were there pretty close to closing time and hadn’t eaten dinner yet, so I moved through pretty quickly checking out all the different running gear and goodies. I did stop by the Clif Bar booth to pick up my 3:35 pace band!

All in all, it was a pretty great expo and I left feeling motivated and excited for race day!

Are you racing MCM? How was your expo experience? Are you a fan of large race expos?

 

Marine Corps Marathon Course Preview and Race Strategy

Three more days! Yikes! The Marine Corps Marathon is almost here. Having run this marathon twice before and being lucky enough to do many of my training runs along the course, I feel like I know every inch of it.

Sometimes knowing what’s ahead is good. Think the rush from the crowd as you run the final stretch down 110. Other times I wish I didn’t know what was just around the bend. Think that final hill up to the finish line.

Here’s my advice and a preview of the course for first timers.

As the race starts adrenaline kicks in and emotions run high. Remember to keep your breathing in check and don’t go out too hard as you head up Lee Highway. The good news is you get to come back down along Spout Run before heading over the Key Bridge and onto M street in Georgetown. M Street should be loud and lined with fans so feed off of their energy as you get ready to turn down Wisconsin and loop onto Rock Creek Parkway.

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Rock Creek is back after several years absent from the course and I for one am very excited about this. I wrote about the course change in an earlier post if you want to check that out. This stretch has a slight incline, but it’s really beautiful and a great addition in my mind.

The next big challenge is Hains Point. I’ve written often about my love-hate relationship with this stretch that has been a part of so many of my races this past year including the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, Nike D.C. Women’s Half and the Navy Air Force Half Marathon. The crowds can be sparse and the winds can be brutal, but as of now anyways, the forecast looks to be in our favor. If it is windy, try to tuck in behind another runner or a group. If you start to feel the lack of crowd support, let yourself enjoy the views of the water. It’ll be over in just a couple miles and you’ll be on your way to miles 15 and 16.

Soon you’ll be gliding (or hobbling – whatever it takes) past the monuments. Take it all in as you approach the Capitol Building – it really is a special view and so much history. You’ll see a big hill ahead by the Capitol, but don’t worry, the course turns just before sending you up and brings you along the Reflecting Pool before heading back down the other side of the Mall. Also, photographers are usually ready and waiting to take your picture here with the Capitol in the background, so get your race face ready.

Screenshot of the course map from the MCM website

Course map screenshot from the MCM website

Next the course turns cruel again as you try to “Beat the Bridge” crossing 14th Street Bridge back into Arlington. Crowd support wanes again. The bridge seems to go on forever. There’s no getting around this, but don’t let it get you down. Fight it. Summon up all the mental energy you can and keep yourself going through mile 20 and 21 along the bridge.

Once you cross the bridge and enter Crystal City the crowds will be back and you’ll start to feel like the end is finally near. Dunkin Donuts is usually stationed around here handing out munchkins. I remember thinking this sounded awesome before the race, but then wanting to throw up just at the sight of them during the actual race, so I passed by without enjoying one.

The Crystal City portion is slightly different than the last time I ran when it was an out and back on Crystal Drive. Instead you do more of a rectangular loop heading down Crystal Drive, turning right on 23rd and taking another right back on S. Clark St. toward the final stretch.

You’ll pass the Pentagon including the 9-11 Memorial and make your way back to 110 along Arlington National Cemetery. No matter how bad you’re hurting, seeing this here and knowing what kind of sacrifice so many people made for this country will help propel you to the finish.

The energy and excitement boils over as the cheers from the crowd get louder and louder as you run the last half mile. The final point two takes you up a cruel hill toward the Iwo Jima Memorial and the finish line. This is your last test until you become a marathon finisher and receive your medal.

Iwo Jima Memorial just beyond the trees

Iwo Jima Memorial just beyond the trees

My biggest advice if this is your first marathon or first time running MCM can really apply to any race…smile at the crowds, thank the volunteers, make friends with other runners and enjoy the heck out of it!