Seminar: Running Your Best Race

On Saturday, the DC Capital Striders hosted a seminar  at Lululemon in Georgetown called Successful Race Execution – Preparation, Fueling, and Pacing Strategy to Run your Best Race featuring RRCA certified running coaches Lisa Reichmann and Julie Sapper. Lisa and Julie are both experienced runners themselves and are also co-founders of local running company, Run Farther & Faster, coaching everyone from those doing their first 5k to runners looking to PR in a marathon.

They covered the right way to taper, nutrition both while your training and racing and pacing strategies. Some of it was new and some was info I’ve heard before, but it’s always great to be reminded. They highlighted the importance of the taper, which is good for me to keep hearing because like most runners I go a little stir crazy during that time and have trouble trusting that I won’t lose all my fitness in the week and a half or so before the race.

Their info on fueling was great. They talked about avoiding sugary foods so you don’t crash, embracing carbs and making sure to eat a protein/carb snack or meal within 20 minutes of finishing a run. They also gave some good advice on in-race nutrition including the invaluable – don’t ever mix Gu with Gatorade!

Gatorade and Gu - Do not mix!!

Gatorade and Gu – Do not mix!!

The top takeaway for me came when I asked Julie about her long runs. I have a tough time doing them one to two minutes slower than race pace as most training plans recommend. I always worry that there is no way I’ll be able to run the pace I want to come race day if I do that despite what a lot of the science says on the subject.

She said she used to have similar concerns at a point where she was about a 3:45 or so marathoner before hooking up with a coach and a running group and following the long-slow distance method. (You can run the last few miles of some of these slower runs at race pace as a confidence booster too.) That helped bring her down into the 3:20s. Since I’m just under the 3:40 mark now and the 3:20s is where I want to be, this was exactly what I needed to hear. Granted the same things don’t work for everyone, but hearing it form someone that it worked for as opposed to reading it in a book makes a big difference for me.

I’d love to hear about your training – what plans do you follow? How do you fuel along the way? Does the taper drive you crazy? Let me know in the comments!

 

Crazy Running

I know some people think all running is crazy, but I love it anyways. Still, I’ve had some pretty crazy running experiences at races over the years and thought I’d share a couple with you.

In 2010, my friend Lindsay and I flew out to Nashville for the Country Music Marathon. On race morning we took the earliest shuttle our hotel offered to the start line because we were worried about overcrowding on the later ones. Other than the volunteers we might have been the first ones there as they set things up in the darkness. As the race start drew nearer, the sun shined brightly and it looked like a perfect day for a marathon. It was cool, but not too chilly and looked to be a very calm day, although the forecasts were telling an entirely different story.

In light of oncoming severe thunder storms and a possible tornado, race directors decided to start things early. While this was probably a good decision, unfortunately they did a terrible job of communicating this to the runners. While I waited in the bathroom line half an hour before the race was supposed to start I had no idea the starting gun was already going off. When I finally worked my way over to the starting line and hopped into the ninth corral I looked around and realized by the bib numbers that I was standing with the 35th corral.

They were starting each group about a minute apart so that’s when I caught onto the fact that they’d started things early. I was able to push my way forward a few corrals, but I was still so far back that I was in line with many people planning to run/walk the half marathon distance. I spent the first 13 miles bobbing and weaving before I was able to get into any sort of rhythm and find some space on the course. The craziness didn’t stop there though.

Calm Before the Storm - pre-race pic

Calm Before the Storm – pre-race pic

Turns out the forecasters were right as the sun soon disappeared behind the clouds, the sky turned very gray and eventually it opened up. Thunder and lightning rocked the course as I was pelted by rain and even hail. At mile 20, a cop with a bullhorn was announcing that the course was closing. It felt pretty surreal and I couldn’t believe this was happening. I was on pace for a nearly 30-minute PR and had no intention of stopping. I said some regrettably not so nice words as I dodged the cop and kept going. I wouldn’t get much further though. Volunteers formed a human wall at mile 21 forcing runners still on the course to divert directly to the finish line.

I ran the last mile in a state of disbelief and felt so wrong crossing the finish line and taking a medal after “only” running 22 miles. Lindsay and I somehow found each other after the race and braved the weather to snag a cab back to the hotel once we learned there was a couple hour wait for the shuttles. It was a mess. In retrospect, it does make for a pretty funny story though and I do laugh every time I see my 22.2 mile marathon certificate that they sent finishers who were forced to divert early. Now I guess I can’t get frustrated when people ask me after each marathon how long this one was!

I don’t think I’ll ever have a race top that one on the craziness scale (or at least I hope not), but running a small marathon in Canada last summer definitely had some quirks too. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved my first small race experience – there were just more than 100 marathoners – but after all the mega marathons I’d done I was a bit taken aback when the race director called us all in for a pre-race meeting and reminded us to be on our best pedestrian behavior since the roads were still open.

Cruising along all alone during the Niagara Marathon

Cruising along all alone during the Niagara Marathon

The fact that the race director could call all participants in and make pre-race announcements without using a megaphone or loudspeaker system was pretty amusing to me. This was nothing like the past races I’d done with 20-30,000 other runners alongside me. There was no dodging or weaving at the start line. In fact I was the first woman through five miles – how’s that for crazy?! What really threw me for a loop though was that I actually did have to stop twice at different road crossings to wait for a break in the traffic. I don’t know if that’s ever even happened to me in a 5k before. I still nailed a PR though and had a blast seeing my parents and boyfriend throughout the whole course, so it was totally worth it.

OK, enough about my crazy race experiences, tell me about the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you while running whether it was on the race course or just during an everyday run.

2013 Race Calendar

I love racing. I like big races and small races. I feed off the crowd’s at the big-time ones and the challenge of pushing yourself at the smaller ones. It’s one of my favorite things about running, and keeps me pushing towards getting fitter and faster and reaching tougher goals.

In 2013, I want to race smart though. Seven races in seven weeks at one point last year where I ran my hardest in most of them might not have been the smartest idea. Adding a marathon to my schedule a month and a half out from race day was another one of my not so bright moves. My break from running as I recovered from an overuse injury in 2012 has left me hungry for all the races I can sign up for, but to make sure I don’t overdo it, I’m only planning two goal races for this year. I know I’d go crazy only having two races on the schedule so I have a handful of others I’m planning to run for fun as training runs.

2013 Race Calendar

February 10 – Love the Run You’re With 5k

March 9 – Four Courts Four Miler

April 7 – Cherry Blossom 10 Miler

*April 28 – Nike Women’s D.C. Half Marathon*

July 27 – Crystal City Twilighter 5k

*October 27 – Marine Corps Marathon*

December 8 – Jingle All the Way 8k

*Goal Races*

Now it’s time to get running to get ready for all these races! Let me know what your race plans are this year, and if you have any big race goals!

Time to Get Healthy

After an injury consult from Fast Track physical therapy at the Run for the Parks 10k, I set an appointment with their office so I could figure out what was going on. I’d been ignoring pain for much too long (I’m sure this comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me), and it turns out I’d done quite a number on my legs, especially my hip flexors.

My mobility is limited and my hamstrings, IT band, quads and calves are all extremely tight. I also had an appointment with Dr. Ochiai, an orthopedist, for X-Rays that showed a small build-up of excess bone on my left hip, which could cause torn cartilage in the hip joint. We agreed that surgery would be a last resort so we decided to hold off on an MRI at this point and see how I’m feeling after a few weeks of physical therapy.

I’ve gotten several physical therapy sessions under my belt now and it seems like things are going in the right direction. Liz, my physical therapist at Fast Track, is excellent. She’s given me a series of exercises and lots of stretches to do everyday to help get my flexibility back to where it should be. It apparently takes about 10 weeks to really have an effect, so I’m going to have to have some patience, which isn’t exactly one of my stronger qualities. I’m also foam rolling and icing everyday to help with the pain and hopefully loosen things up. After using my rolling pin as a roller for the past year, I finally broke down and got a real one from Amazon!

Watching the Marine Corps Marathon instead of running it was a bit of a bummer last week, but it’s also hard not to get excited seeing so many people out there running such an awesome race. I was able to defer my entry, so I’ll have an automatic entry into next year’s race. I’m going to really work these next couple months to get myself healthy again and then be smart enough to stay that way this time – mostly because I want to get back to my goal of qualifying for Boston, but also because I’m going a bit insane not being able to run!

Book Review: Hansons Marathon Method

Since I currently can’t get my usual running fix (more to come on that in tomorrow’s post), I’ve started reading about running. Yes, I’m addicted. I’ve been familiar with the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project and the great professional athletes they’ve produced including Desiree Davila, so I was excited to hear that they had a new book out detailing how everyday runners can use their method for marathon success.

Thanks to my impulse buying and Amazon Prime membership, I had a copy of Hansons Marathon Method: A Renegade Path To Your Fastest Marathon in my hands just two days after learning about it. Written by Luke Humphrey, an elite Hansons runner who also has a master’s degree in exercise science, with Kevin and Keith Hanson, the book outlines their philosophy and program for a successful marathon covering every aspect from training to strategy to recovery. In just a couple of days I’d read the book from cover to cover and I was sold. I’m going to give their program a shot for my next marathon.

Most marathon training programs are fairly similar. For beginners you usually run three shorter runs during the week and a long run on the weekend peaking around 20 or 22 miles. As you get more advanced, speed workouts and higher mileage are added to the training schedule, but the long run – still peaking at 20 or 22 miles – remains a staple of most programs. The Hansons method takes a different approach. It “teaches a strategic and scientifically grounded approach to everything from the long run to speed workouts to pacing,” writes Kevin Hanson in the book’s foreword. The Hansons method has evolved over the years helping runners of all levels to marathon success since the 1990s.

The biggest difference in the Hansons program is the long run. Rather that the typical 20-miler, the longest training run in the standard Hansons program is 16 miles. The reason this works, Humphrey writes, is that the long run should simulate the last 16 miles of the marathon, not the first 16. It’s all based on experiencing the cumulative fatigue you experience in a marathon without completely zapping your energy for the next week of training. The book cites a guideline that your long run should not exceed 25-30 percent of your weekly mileage. For beginners who have completed just three short runs during the week,  a 20-miler on Sunday can sometimes be 50 percent or more of their weekly mileage. This can be demoralizing and lead to injury – both of which can turn people off from running.

The book covers the philosophy behind the program and delves into the physiology of running covering issues like glycogen depletion and VO2 max. From there Humphrey’s discusses the training program components including easy mileage, which is made up of warm-ups and cool downs, easy days and recovery days, and something of substance (SOS) workouts, which include speed, strength, tempo runs and long runs. The book goes over proper pacing for each of type of run before outlining it’s training programs including both a beginner program and an advanced program. It also talks about program  modifications for when life and injuries get in the way.

After covering the program, the book moves into the strategy side of things. It talks about setting race goals; how to incorporate supplemental training such as cross-training, strength-training and flexibility; and marathon nutrition and hydration during workouts, on race day and for recovery. It moves on to marathon gear, race tactics and post-race recovery – leaving no stone unturned. Finally, the book includes an appendix showcasing the elite Hansons program and describing how its principles are very similar to the ones in their beginner and advanced programs for everyday runners. It even shows Humphrey’s training program for the 2011 San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon (this course was my first marathon back in 2005!) where he placed fifth in a personal best time of 2:14:27.

If you’re a runner, you’ll want to give this book a read. Even if you decide to stick with your current training program, you’ll most certainly learn something from it. I’d love to hear about the programs you’ve used in the past, and if you’ve had experience with the Hansons method in the comments section.

Revenge of the Penguins 20 Miler Recap

I’ve been neglecting my blog for far too long and have some catching up to do now. When I initially signed up for this race, I was going to use it as one of my 20-miler training runs along the way to MCM. However, with the continuing hip issues I hadn’t run further than seven miles for my long runs, so I wanted to use this as a test to see if it still made sense to run the Marine Corps Marathon this October. The results weren’t all bad, but they certainly weren’t good either.

The Revenge of the Penguins 20 Miler ran along the C&O Canal path starting near the Key Bridge in Georgetown on a beautiful, sunny and cool mid-September morning. The race start was only about a mile from my apartment so I walked over that morning with just what I needed to race and my keys and cell phone stuffed in my water pack. I was worried there wouldn’t be a bag drop being such a small race, but it turned out there was, so I really wish I’d brought a hoodie along to keep warm before the race started.

A few hundred people gathered near the start ready to run either the 20-mile or 10-mile options. Race organizers and volunteers were energetic and enthusiastic from start to finish making this a great low-key race. For those that know the C&O, it’s a pretty narrow path, so the 20-milers took off a few minutes before the 10-milers to cut-down on early crowding.

For the first-time ever in a race I wore headphones. It was a last minute decision so I didn’t even have my iPod, I just used my phone. I’m normally very against this because I think that you miss out on the race experience and it can also be dangerous. Seeing as this was along a canal path, there wasn’t going to be crowds of spectators cheering along the way and there wouldn’t be any traffic to worry about. Still, I kept the volume low so I could hear other runners approaching and hear any directions from volunteers at water stops. As I ran almost the entire race on my own at a much slower pace than I’m used to, I’m pretty glad I had the music taking my mind off things.

My plan was a slow, steady race pace so as not to aggravate my hip flexors. One of the positives I took away from the race is that I actually maintained a steady pace with a small negative split (negative split is runner-speak for running the second half of a race quicker than the first half). I have a tendency to start off too strong and slow up, so I was pleased that I kept it steady for all 20 miles. I enjoyed the out-and-back along the canal. I frequently run on the Capital Crescent trail very close to the C&O path, so this was a nice change of scenery, and we could not have had better weather.

I crossed the finish line in 2:59:11, sixth in my age group and 46th out of 184 overall. Everyone’s GPS watches had the course at about 20.3-20.4, so I averaged just over an 8:45 pace. I was pleased with how it turned out, especially given the lack of training, and I certainly didn’t mind the post-race pizza and snacks before my walk home! My only issue was receiving Powerade Zero at the finish. Now I appreciate anything that’s free, but come on, I just ran 20 miles – give me some calories!

After the race I made the tough decision to defer my entry in Marine Corps to next year’s race. I only had a few days left to defer, and I knew that there was no way between then and race day that I could get the mileage in at the paces I needed to to reach my Boston Qualifying goal time. I could go out there and run the race at a slow pace just to finish as I have done with marathons before, but I know I wouldn’t enjoy that this time. I’m bummed about missing the race as it’s one of my favorites, but I’m excited about getting healthy and competing in it next year. I’m already starting to plan out my race schedule for the rest of next year as well. I can’t wait to get more details on the newly announced Nike Women’s half in D.C.

 

 

MCM Training Check-In

With Labor Day weekend over and the fall fast approaching that means the Marine Corps Marathon will be here in less than two months. Less humidity will be nice, but less daylight hours usually means more runs on the treadmill for me.

The first five weeks of training went according to plan. I was getting in six runs a week even while traveling all over the place. It was fun to run some of my old routes in my hometown and to get to take in some nice views on runs up in Alex Bay.

I have a tendency to always go my hardest even on days that are supposed to be even days, and it seems that that has finally come back to bite me. My training once August hit has not been going the way I planned at all. I started noticing tightness in my hips that was really slowing me down as I tried to run, especially when I got up over five or six miles. It’s very frustrating when conditioning-wise you feel like you can keep going, but your legs don’t agree.

For the rest of August I cut down on my number of runs drastically and also haven’t done a long run of more than 10 miles. I’ve done lots of cross training in hopes of keeping up my fitness including aqua jogging, the elliptical and the stepper. This week I’m adding in spinning and body pump classes.

Unfortunately the pain seems to be increasing instead of getting better, so I might have to (gasp) have a doctor check things out. For those that know me, you know that going to a doctor is not something I readily do – but I suppose it is likely the smart thing to do so I can get back to running! In the meantime I plan to keep cross training, so as I’ll be in best shape I can when I’m able to start adding miles again.

I’m still shooting for a sub-3:35 at Marine Corps this October so I can qualify for Boston in 2014, and will do what I can to make that happen! I have 5k, 10k and 20 miler races between then and now as well that I’ve worked into my training plan. Next up is the September 11 Memorial 5k that loops by the Pentagon and is one of my favorite races – incredibly moving! Check out some pics below from last year’s race.

My Best Forest Gump Impression

Last Saturday I started running, and kept on running for a lot of my day. It was my last big, long run before my upcoming marathon so I had a 20-miler on tap for the day. I was up bright and early so I could get 6 miles in before meeting up with the DC Road Runners for a 14 miler at 7.

I started out with a loop that took me over the Key Bridge, through Georgetown, down Rock Creek Parkway and back to the Iwo Jima Memorial via Memorial Bridge. The Road Runners route took me on a course I hadn’t run before, and if I’d know how hilly it was ahead of time, I might have just chosen to finish my 20 on my own! The first five miles felt like a seemingly endless uphill battle, but hills are always easier when you’ve got other runners to help push you up them. The run took me up the Custis Trail, through Zach Taylor Park and by Marymount College before a very steep downhill sent me over Chain Bridge onto the C&O path, by the Kennedy Center, back over the Memorial Bridge and up the Mount Vernon trail back through Rosslyn.

Getting ready for the Pacers Mini Relay with Blair and Lindsay

I’ve had some tough, bad-day runs over the last couple weeks, which can be pretty discouraging leading up  to a race, so I really wanted to do well on my last big test before my next marathon. My pace was a bit slower than I’ll need to qualify at 8:29 per mile, but I felt strong throughout and given the terrain we followed, I wasn’t disappointed with the time. I ran some pretty fast late miles too finishing miles 17 and 18 in close to 8 minutes each. I crashed a little at the end and slowed way down for miles 19 and 20, but instead of letting this freak me out, I’m going to hope it just had to do with the extreme ups and downs over the course and will look forward to the mostly flat marathon course I have coming up at the Niagara marathon.

One of my favorite Saturday post-long run treats is waffles, so I had my waffle iron, mixing bowl and ingredients out and ready to make things as easy as possible when I got home from the run. After a quick shower and some delicious waffles, I had a few hours to sit on the couch and ice my legs. I wasn’t done yet though.

I met up with my friend Lindsay and fellow Pacers Ambassador Blair for the Pacers Mini Relay. Pacers teamed up with Ragnar and Saucony to put this race on and it was a lot of fun. It was more of a fun run since it wasn’t a timed event and there were no winners or awards, but it was a blast and ended with a great party at the Clarendon store. The starting point was the Pacers location in Alexandria and the run went from store to store with the last leg ending at Clarendon. Blair started us off running the longest leg from the Old Town Alexandria store to the Pentagon Row location. I took off from there on a 5-mile route to their Logan Circle store, where Lindsay finished things off with the shortest, but by far the steepest leg of the race ending at the party in Clarendon.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to move very well, but was surprised how good I felt. After running my first mile in 7:25, I looked at the Garmin shocked and decided to slow it down a little, but still managed to average a 7:40 pace over the 5 miles, which left me feeling pretty good. My only issue was the lack of signage at a few spots along the course. There was no set route as you were allowed to get from point to point taking any route you wanted, but there were suggested routes and at least along my section a turn off of Rock Creek Parkway onto P street was completely unmarked. Not being familiar with that section of the trail, I would have had no idea it was where I was supposed to turn had I not seen another runner sporting an orange snap bracelet out of the corner of my eye. A small sign posted in the ground would have been really helpful, but I guess figuring out your way was also part of the fun of this event.

All participants got a commemorative pint glass at the finish filled with complimentary beer – more races should end this way! To make the day even better, a grilled cheese food truck pulled up outside of the party so Lindsay and I enjoyed delicious Vermont Cheddar Cheese sandwiches on sourdough. The event was a lot of fun and a great way to meet and mingle with other runners in the area. I can’t wait to do it again next year, but maybe next time I’ll plan better and won’t run 20 miles earlier in the day!

On The Move

I’ve been neglecting my blog for far too long, which usually means I’ve been travelling a lot. And, that I have been. Since the beginning of May I’ve been in Orlando, Chicago and Minneapolis, and I also hosted my parents for one of the weekends I was staying in town. My whirlwind of travel looks like it will continue throughout the summer and into the fall with trips already planned to Hoboken/NYC, St. Louis, Boston, Canada, Syracuse, Annapolis, Providence, the Outer Banks, NYC (again), Connecticut and Lake Placid. It’s going to be a busy few months!

The Canada trip is a recent addition. I decided a few weeks ago to try and take advantage of the speed gains I’d seen throughout the April 5ks and take a shot at qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I still plan to go for this at the Marine Corps Marathon in October, but that race is too late to qualify for Boston in 2013. I signed up for a small race called the Niagara Marathon that starts in Niagara on the Lakes and runs along a path by the Niagara River towards the Falls on the Canadian side. It’s a bit quicker than I would have liked, but was the only one I could fit into my busy schedule. I ramped up my mileage pretty quickly and have seen this hurt my pace a little, but am hoping all the miles I put in will be enough to carry me to the finish line in under 3:35 at the end of June!

The Orlando trip that kicked things off was for a work conference. It was my first work trip with the new job and it went pretty well. It was a small conference, so it was good to get some experience at this before our big convention in Boston this June. I did things like work in the media room, attend sessions and write blog posts. If you have any interest in biotech, you can check them out on my company’s blog.

One of my favorite things about work trips is getting to stay in nice hotels. One of the coolest I’ve been to is the W in NYC. For the Orlando conference, I stayed in a Gaylord Resort. I’ve been to the restaurants and conference areas at Gaylord hotels in D.C. and Nashville, but this was my first time staying at one. Unfortunately all of our meals were already set for us so I didn’t get to try out any of the restaurants, but most of their catering was pretty good. Their cheesecake was particularly great, and I think I ate more desserts in a week than I usually do in a year! Good thing for me, their fitness center was also superb. It was by far one of the nicest hotel fitness centers I’ve seen.

They had a great pool area with a section for adults who wanted some peace and quiet with their sun and a more fun-filled area with water slides. I unfortunately didn’t fit in a visit to the pool, but it was nice to look at when I’d sneak outside to warm up during the day. The conference, also held in the convention center of the Gaylord, was absolutely freezing! The rooms on the hotel side, fortunately, were much more comfortable. I had a spacious room with comfy beds and a nice, clean and big bathroom. Check out some pics below!

MCM – Marathon #8

This year’s Marine Corps Marathon has to be one of my favorite marathon experiences, and I’ve had some pretty good ones. It probably has a little to do with the fact that it was by far my best performance. I took another 8 minutes off my PR set just a month ago in the Twin Cities to finish in 3:40:36. That put me in the top 2,000 out of about 21,000 finishers and the top 100 in my age group!

Before - Getting Ready for Race Day

Saturday’s extremely rare snow, sleet and cold in D.C. in October had me a bit nervous, but Sunday morning turned out to be perfect race weather. The start line was a bit chilly with temps in the 30s, but a few extra layers and some hand warmers kept me warm until we were ready to start. I lined up at the start line with the 3:35 pace group with a goal of staying with them for at least 18 miles.

The first few miles of the race go by Arlington Cemetery, then past my apartment and up Lee Highway before circling back to cross over the Key Bridge into D.C. My parents made the drive down from Syracuse to cheer me on throughout the race and ran all over town to see me at different spots! They caught me right past mile 1 and then headed over the Key Bridge to catch me as I looped back onto M Street toward Wisconsin Ave. I wasn’t able to spot them there, but would catch them again in Crystal City.

I was moving pretty good through the first half of the marathon. We lost our pacer for mile 12 though (I think he needed a bathroom break!) and all got nervous and sped up, which took a lot out of me. When he caught back up to us at the halfway point we were battling a headwind through Hains Point near the Jefferson Memorial. From there we hit the National Mall near the Washington Monument and headed towards the Capitol Building.

Around mile 16 I started to struggle and slowly see the pace group slip away. I tried to hang on, but finally lost sight of them at the mile 18 marker. After looping in front of the Capitol, I took a moment to thank god they didn’t make us run up the hill to go around the building, which was where I thought the course went! That along with a couple Power Bar gummy candies that I brought in my water pack picked me up a bit, and I started to feel better about mile 20 as I worked my way over the 14th Street Bridge. That is a brutal stretch of the race, especially since there is very little crowd support over the long bridge.

Running through Crystal City

Entering the home stretch in Crystal City I realized I had a chance to still finish in 3:40, which would be huge. I saw my parents at mile 22 and got high fives when I looped back around by them again at mile 23 giving me a huge boost. Another friend was just about a mile down the road and cheered me on as I passed by leaving Crystal City with just two miles to go. It’s amazing how big of an effect cheers from people you know along the course can have on you.

I pushed hard passing Arlington Cemetery again and up that cruel hill right before the finish line in front of Iwo Jima, and was so excited to see I had kept it under 3:41! I’ve done a lot of races to travel and experience a new city. While nothing will ever top my finish experience in the old Olympic Stadium in Athens, seeing my own apartment just beyond the finish line and stumbling home in just a couple minutes was one of the best feelings ever.

After - wrapped in my space blanket, happy to be done!

I spent the next few hours being lazy, covered in ice and eating taco dip while watching the Bills game. My parents and I also had a celebration dinner up at Fireworks in Courthouse that night with some beer and pizza – a great way to cap off the day!

Now the big question is: what’s next? I’d like to take about a year off before doing another marathon and do some shorter races while I work on my speed so I can go for that Boston Qualifier – just 5 more minutes to go and I’m there. I’m not sure which marathon I want to do next, but Chicago and New York are on my short list.