Wednesday, April 30, 2014

In which I accidentaly get serious.....

I had a fun fluffy post all written (in my head) and then this happened. Whoops.

 I've had some time to think about my marathon results.
(I took a few days to think about how to make this less wordy, haha.)

I come from an interesting place, of being a moderately successful semi-elite level athlete in a completely different sport. I'm also a coach. Basically, I have years of competitive experiences under my belt as well as seeing it from the side of helping someone to meet their goals.

I measure competitive success in this way:
-did you put in the time and training? the effort? were your goals reasonable to begin with?
(if yes, continue. if not stop and rethink!)
-did you show up on game day ready? on time? prepared?
(again, if yes, continue)
-Did you get in there and do your best? stay focused? bring your top effort?
You did? OK, good!

In equine sports (and running) you might be prepared to "win" but so is everyone else. Just like in racing, you can only control the outcome of your day so you might as well set goals for yourself that involve personal improvement, or personal best score.
And just like in racing, there are things that we can not control. The weather, the lay of the land, the actions of others- we have no control. We can only control how we react to them. 

I remember back to a few years ago, I had a nice horse who I had qualified for Regional Championships and who happened to be a top contender that year. We arrived at the show well trained, prepared, relaxed and ready to do the very best that we could (well, I was. I can't really speak for the horse... but he's cool so I imagine he was on board)
We had a class to ride in on the day before the Championship class, just to practice and shake out any nerves that he might have. Things went great and he won handily, with a top score that would have easily won any class at that level, at any show. However, as the day went on the weather got warmer and warmer which we weren't really expecting. The horse, being a sensitive sort did not respond all that well to the heavy, humid conditions and clearly was not feeling on top form the next day, despite our efforts to keep him cool, comfortable any hydrated. (seriously- want to meet a diva? get to know a sensitive horse.) Despite his good health the next day it was still HOT- much warmer than he liked. He performed much below  his ability that day, scoring 15 points lower than his test the day before and placing very poorly in the class. It was less than ideal.
He came off this show healthy which was good, but this definitely was a day when he could not perform his best due to situations outside of my control.
(and he went on to win a nice handful of blues at a Fall show... Not to mention have a really solid career as an upper level horse, which is a story for another day.)

So. The moral of the story is. As miffed as I am about the Boston outcome I know I put in the work. I'm still healthy, in no pain and ready to challenge myself. I did have a crap day, I did not meet my goal, I make no excuses but I do believe that it was a situation outside of my control. No, I'm not back-patting myself and congratulating my winning effort (ugh) but I have moved on from giving myself shit about it.
I think that given the weather and the polar vortex training that I had my "a" goal was much too lofty for the day. Oh well! Live and learn.
(I was not raised with the "everyone is a winner just because they showed up" mentality, nor do I prescribe to that as an adult. I was raised to have the attitude and work ethic of a winner, and top prizes are a bonus. and when you don't earn one you just don't. end of story.) (and.... nothing makes me more motivated that failing to meet my goals. just ask my equestrian coach- she has seen my determination for 15 years...)

I've had a few well meaning people express genuine shock that I would ever do another marathon again but the thought of quitting never occurred to me. Except at mile 22 when I legit wrote my resignation letter to all things running- haha! I was dehydrated and get a free pass!
(but seriously, I need to write a whole damn blog about my "I quit everything" letter before I forget it. maybe tomorrow. it will be incredible.)
And yet here I am, jumping RIGHT back into the madness!!!!

And there lies the difference between endurance athletes (or Equestrians) and the rest of the world.

We do crazy things all the time.

We devote months- or shit- YEARS, of our lives to one race, one test, 6 minutes or 3 plus hours of our lives when we try to see payoff for our hard work.
Sometimes it happens. Sometimes it doesn't.

And again, that is where it become apparent that we are different sorts of people.
Because no matter what we are still hungry for the feeling of achieving a win, a personal best, the feeling of having the hard work pay off.
And we just keep working hard, harder than most, until it happens.
So. Watch out.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Boston Marathon: "There's an endless road to re-discover" Part TWO.

I woke up on Monday morning feeling ready to run a damn race. The sun was shining, the hooligans that had kept us up almost all night were finally quiet, and all was well in the world.

Kate put my race braids in, I liberally applied sunscreen, I put on my finest throwaway attire and prepared to run some miles. IT WAS TIME!!!!!!!!

Beast Mode! BWAAAAA!

 From our hotel it was an easy walk, maybe a half mile, to the buses. It was a bit cool but warmer than the previous morning. I was relieved since freezing to death for 3 hours in athletes village is a wicked bummer. I basically hopped on a bus and was on my way to Hopkington!

Since I was not freezing in a horrible way I enjoyed my few hours in the village. Hanging out with 36,000 crazy runners can't be a bad time! I did all my usual things, eating, drinking, applying Body Glide to my whole body, standing in line for an hour to use a porta-pottie, all the fun stuff! (non running friends- applying Body Glide is whole body business if you know what I mean. and we do this in public and do not care.)

Mostly though, I went over a mental rehearsal of my plan.
"Let the excited people go, do not run a 6:47 pace and blow your load, maintain thru the half, try to hit 13.1 around 1:40-1:42, hydrate at every 2nd water stop after mile 4, ease up over the hills, motor to the finish in a 3:25" I had it DOWN.

Even before I headed to my corral I was warm enough to shed all my layers, including gloves which is very rare for me. It was beautiful though, very sunny (I reapplied sunscreen because it was rather intense) with a few tiny puffs of wind but pretty quiet. I also saw Crystal who basically picked me up and shook me all around. I love her!

As usual there was no waiting around at the start, we lined up and off we went! Big, excited crowds of spectators, crowded running conditions, the usual.

And yeah, you can tell it was getting pretty darn hot.
 Unlike last year I really enjoyed the first part of the course. I was running at the exact pace that I intended and it felt easy and maintainable. I was hydrating and eating on schedule and other than noticing that I was sweating- and sweating a LOT things felt really good. YAY! I loved running, I loved the marathon, I loved all the people and the spectators handing out beers! (I passed)
It was, however, a lot warmer than I am used to and my body was working overtime, sweating like a beast trying to cool me down. Calm down body, seriously. Taking this into consideration I started alternating between a little water and a little Gatorade at each stop. I'm careful not to overdo it because I don't want to get sloshy and barf- but a few inches of fluid usualy works like a charm.

I ran thru the half in 1:40:00. Right around this time one of the Oiselle girls caught me and we ran together for a mile or two. She was shooting for a 3:20 so we were both right on pace. We talked about how intense the heat was getting and how it was starting to be a struggle to keep cool or even remotely comfortable. She grabbed a water bottle from a spectators hydration station and we shared that, feeling that it was getting to be a challenge to get enough fluid in at that point. We were maintaining though, so I think at that point we were feeling good about the outcome.

Lots of people. EVERYWHRE. It was great!

I knew my Dad was going to be at mile 18.5 so my focus was to get there, I ran a slightly slower mile 17 because I felt funky, very hot and very very dry... As I ran thru mile 18 I realized why I was bone dry- I had stopped sweating. Crapola.
I stopped for a good couple minutes to talk to my Dad, letting him know that I was getting worried about how hot it was (it was 70- so no, not warm for you southerners, but brutal for me and my damn polar vortex!) He told me to drink, he gave me a chapstik and I was off again.
And continued to feel off..
......and on a side note......
To make things even worse at this point my brain started to sing "Heyyyyyy Brother" and wouldn't let it go. Constant repeat. That song is just awful! What is it trying to be?

This is what Kate thinks. Quality evaluation.
Back in reality, I got fairly close to pace but at mile 22 got really hot and dizzy so I stopped for some salt and gatorade. Heading back out I picked up my pace and my legs completely cramped up, all the way from my calves to my lower back. FULL. ON. CRAMP-AGE.
I was in horrifying pain and couldn't so much as hobble. It would have brought me to tears except I was so damn dry that I was like the Sahara dessert and there were zero tears in there.
I kind of hippity-hopped my way to mile 22.5 when I stopped, borrowed a strangers phone and texted my Mom, asking her to tell Kate and Eric that I was struggling. At this point I was noticing that runners were going down quite frequently and that the EMT's had their hands full, and I did not want them to think I was racked out somewhere too.

But I basically was. I really wanted to get that feeling of "it's ok, you are tough! push thru this, here is your second wind, your legs will work again, you are fine and can still finish strong!"
Unfortunately that never happened.
I was in horrible, horrible pain. And still singing Hey Brother.
Every time I tried to run faster than a feeble jog I got all weird feeling which was scary.
I REALLY wanted to FINISH. Like, really badly.

So I did. I picked up a shuffle as we turned on to Hereford, and was able to continue past my cheering family all the way to the finish.

See how I look close to death? Yeah that was a problem.

And the clock read 3:54:50.... It wasn't my day to win the race.

Bailey drew this for me on Saturday while singing "Hey Brother"

30 minutes over my goal pace. Not even remotely what I trained for. But I finished, thank heavens.
Seeing the masses of people being helped to the med tent passing out and projectile vomiting I continued past, feeling funky but not near death and mostly rather sad. 
Eric found me and I was sad. My family came to celebrate with me and I was sad! And really pale and deathly looking so they pumped me full of gatorade and pretzles after first sending me to the med tent to see if I needed an IV (I wasn't puking, so I did not)

After I felt better I cheered up well and was really happy that we got to have a proper family after-party this year!! It was great fun and made my horrific performance much more tolerable.
My family is fun and they always make me feel better, usually by Mom-ing me to death (which I love) tending to my medical needs and magically procuring gatorade and snacks out of thin air!

Eric is holding me up.

The bottom line is that I was at the damn Boston Marathon and that's a big deal, and something that I'm very lucky to be able to participate in. It was an incredible year to be there which counts for much more than an individual performance. I almost feel guilty posting this very honest commentary on my experience as many other bloggers seem to be going the "everything is perfect even if it sucks" route (haha) But this is reality, it sucks to have a lousy day at the most awesome race ever and I believe an heartfelt recap is just fine.

And this individual looks like S-H-I-T

Being that I am a goal oriented person I am certainly not satisfied with my run but know that this was simply out of my control. It is almost impossible to have a 30 degree temp change and to not be affected by it. I don't see this as an excuse, simply as a fact. I would be lying if I said I wasn't quite disappointed, I am human after all.... The tough thing about a marathon is that you can't head out and seek redemption the following weekend (well, I can't!) so this is going to bug me for a while.
But until then... I'll keep training smart and will keep my chin up. The way I ran the first 13- and maintained to the 22-ish mile mark even though I felt off tells me that I have a sub 3:25 in me, if not a 3:20. I'm ready to have that happen and plan to meet that goal (at least the first one!) by the end of the year.
If marathons were easy everyone would do them.
I will be back at Boston next year and redemption will be mine!!!!!

And until then I'll just ease the pain with some ice cream!


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Boston Marathon or "there's an endless road to re-discover!"

 (the title of my blog is inspired by my cousin Bailey... We have a mutual dislike for that "heyyyyyy brother" song and she gave me the idea that it would be on repeat in my brain for 26.2 miles. I refused to believe that horror... Read on to see if she was correct.) It makes for a catchy title if nothing else....

Moving on....
At the end of my final long run a couple weeks ago, as I sweat thru my "spring" running attire I said to Eric (and basically to anyone who would listen) "I think the only thing that might mess up my race is out of my control- and it would be a day over 50 degrees...
Any of you who has been reading my blog over the course of the winter knows I am ridiculously acclimated to 30 degree temps and that the warmest day I managed to run in this spring was about 60 and that was a "very easy" recovery run. *sigh*
In ominous tones: "Uh OHHHHHHHHH..."

This recap is going to have to be two parts- which I apologize for but to cover so many days in 1 installment will just be too much!

Just a quick part one sidenote on my feelings about yesterday's events.
I was so happy to be there this year, the crowds were amazing, the overall mood was uplifting and Boston is by FAR my favorite marathon because of the spectators. And because my amazing family can be there! What happened to me mid race really has to take a back seat to all of this- it was "our" year to reclaim this race and it was absolutely incredible! (more on my actual race later...)

Anyways.... Eric and I headed to Boston on Friday afternoon, planning to hit the expo early and then proceed to my Aunt & Uncle's house on the South shore.
My mom gave us lucky charms a while back and we love them! My dumb dog does too, that's why mine is missing an ear and has a broken leg... Which my Mom used her nurse skills to repair!

The expo was buzzing with activity but much less crowded than over the weekend.
I was able to walk in and get my number in less than 10 minutes despite the fact that I forgot my runners passport (oops). So easy! And everyone is so nice and helpful.


 Unfortunately we did not have a ton of time but scoped out the official gear (not really my favorite this year), I RAN to the Oiselle booth to get one of the brand new "Boston" shirts (and I literally jumped up and down when I found one in my size!) We were lucky to be there early as they sold out.
Actually, everything sold out. I was waffling on one of the navy track jackets and by Saturday, POOF, they had vanished! Lesson learned.
I took a minute to write on "The wall" while there was still a tiny space that was at my height level.

I had to steal space in an "O" but it worked!
 Saturday was a very early day because Eric was running the BAA 5K.

Pre race cuteness
The weather was brisk (40) and beautiful. PERFECT racing weather!
It was an absolutely huge 5k, 10,000 starters meant that the final person went thru the start as the winners were running in- it was crazy. I had quite a good time spectating and made lots of new friends from all over.
Eric ran strong despite the crowds and walked away with a shiny new PR (I hoped it was the start of a PR kind of weekend!!)

After the race we had some celebratory food and beers, and headed to Fenway for a game.
The beer size difference between "I'm racing" and "I am done racing!"
We had a bit of bad luck with standing room "seats" (another case of waffling, and missing out of decent seats!) so didn't stay for the whole game. The Sox had a solid win- again, making me think that it was certainly destined to be an all around winning kind of weekend. 

Sunday we headed back into the city for a Oiselle meet up and shakeout run.

Lots of birds!!! In our Easter colors!
 A big thanks to the ladies who took the time to organize the run, and the post run coffee party. What a great way to meet the team and to shake off some of the pre race jitters!
The great news from a purely personal standpoint is that my legs felt absolutely fabulous during our shakeout (done in beautiful, but decidedly cool weather by the way) and I felt 100% ready to take on the marathon the next morning. I had a great time getting to know Mary and was SO damn excited to see her late on the course and to see her CRUSH her goal time. She is amazing!

My sister came into the city shortly after our Oiselle bird party and the two of us wandered off to go expo-ing. Kate hasn't ever been to a big race expo so with the plan to limit the walking, off we went! This meant we had to take the T which can be confusing for us but we are wordly, educated woman and we had zero problems.

Teeny tiny beers!
Basically we found that the expo was low on stuff, but we looked at shoes (seriously, Hoka's are just funny looking), drank a 2 ounce beer and headed down the road to eat soft pretzels. Mmmmmm.

The rest of Sunday I spent wisely, resting, putting my legs up the wall, carb loading and drinking lots of water. I felt really good about the race and didn't want to over do it or leave anything to chance.
When we went to bed on Sunday I felt confident and ready for the big day...
(more later!) 


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Five days. FIVE. And race predictions.

Oh shit. Five Days. Which actually means YAY FIVE DAYS (it does, I'm pumped.)

We have things to talk about. Important, critical things.
Last week I finished up all of my hard workouts, 800's, mile repeats, everything went according to plan. I felt awesome, things were going swimmingly.
Of course, I was careful to monitor my recovery. Snowbank ice baths included.

Sitting in a snowbank is cold and stupid.

On Saturday I began to experience my normal phase of 'OMG. I'm broken" phantom taper pains, which I have grown to love over the years and more or less ignore.
Here are a list of my favorites:
-sharp stabby ankle pain
-a funny feeling in my foot that is tendontis *for sure*
-sore back
-sick. gettin' some kinda sick.
-bad feelings in general

I have learned to ignore all of that nonsence and move along with my damn day, ain't nobody got time for that.
And then.... I went out to run on Sunday and discovered that I had a FOR REAL pain.

OK, ignore those panicky caps.
I did have a pulled muscle in my thigh. I knew how I got it (horses, curse you!) and I was smart enough to call it a day and not act like some kind of ninja hero.

Monday I was 80% better.
Tuesday I was fine.

Crisis averted. Until the stabby pain comes back, that is.
I plan to continue my snowbank recovery methods and excellent foam rolling techniques to avoid as much real life pain as possible.

Quality time on the roller. Silly pets. UGH!
In relevant news...
So, in a truly shocking internet moment I am ready to declare my finishing time prediction.

-According to the McMillan calculator my 800's indicate that I shall run this race in 4:41:00 which is just absurd. Hahaha! I got slow!
-According to the McMillan calculator my 13.1 time indicates that I shall run in 3:23:00 which I see as optimistic. Boston is crowded. Has hilllllllzzzzzzz. Is 26.2 miles long. CRAP.
But honestly, the takeaway story from this is that I suck big time at 800's.

On a sidenote it has honestly occurred to be to leave Hopkington at a BLAZING pace and see how long I can maintain it, just for shits and gigs (but I won't do that. that would lead to certain death at mile 16 or, best case scenario, projectile vomiting and the worrying feeling that I might crap my pants which I would prefer to avoid. who knows why..) If doom was not a 100% guarantee, or is a marathon was only a mile long I'd definitely be down for this time of tomfoolery. However, in real life no thanks.

I will close out my blog of profound thoughts today with a preview of my future...
A future event that I am delight to be experiencing with a few of my favorite Maine runners!
(Chicago isn't ready...)



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

One year ago....

Today was one of those funny days where there was a lot of "one year ago at this exact time I was doing thus and such marathon related activity...." Weird.
Thankfully, what I still remember as a highlight of the day, pre swat team time was that Eric and I got engaged. My part in fighting the terrorists is to make sure that my joy in that moment doesn't get lost.
I just said to Eric "We don't really have a "story" from that day as many others do, (since thankfully our friends, family and the two of us had left the finish about an hour prior to the first bombing) But, if you hurt a runner, or their family I take personal offense to it because we are a close knit community. You mess with them, I get pissed"

Good things happened on 4/15/13 too....

Bottom line, we will all be back there. Stronger. More badass. Ready to prove that you don't mess with any of us (New England-ers, runners, humans.....) 

We have 6 days and counting.

More on these final few days tomorrow :-)


Thursday, April 10, 2014

11 days and counting!

It seems we are really in the final countdown phase around here!
The really REALLY nice thing is that the weather is improving exponentially, every day seems to be a bit nicer and the snowbanks have melted to a much less ominous 10 foot or so level.  Yikes!
Honestly... I can't ever remember a Spring when I was more excited to see the temps hitting the low 50's, it feels amazing and I am so excited for better weather!

I typically am not a huge fan of taper time but thus far, I feel fine. Kelsey and I have figured out that I operate best with a 2 week taper, and that as long as she keeps me pretty occupied with amusing workouts up to the (almost) end that I don't freak the hell out. So while half my brain thought it might be time to get fat and lazy the other half is just as happy to still have mile repeats and such on the docket.

I had my final long run on Sunday. Not only did this mark the longest run of 2014 but it also marked the first time in several training cycles that I have run over a 20 miler. I managed 21, over hill and dale, in gorgeous weather, with no problems at all.
I don't trust good long runs- I typically hate a significant part of each one so I'm not sure what to think. (other than I deserved it!)

Wheeeeeeeee!!!!! Long run OVER!!!

Upon arriving back home Eric, my family and I had a tiny taper party, where we drank beer, ate all of my Mom's brie, olives and almonds and I sported some spiffy compression gear and sat on an ice pack.

Beer and compression for the win!!
I'm a little nervous that we are going to have an 80 degree marathon day and considering the conditions here, I'm not sure how well I would handle that.
The other side of my brain is scared that it is going to be 40 and pouring down rain.
Apparently, my biggest concerns are weather related. I can handle THAT- so much better than being worried about a broken ass!

I was quite delighted to be a featured runner on Oiselle's blog yesterday. You can read all about it here! My super fun Q & A....
They are a bit confused about my equine profession but it is sweet that they pay attention to the fact that I am, indeed, an equestrian.
I liken this to speaking to my riding friends about running. "You are running a marathon?" they say. "That is like, 5 miles right?"
Close enough. :-)

So with 11 days to go I'm feeling physically and mentally well, quite hungry, thankful to be uninjured, and really looking forward to the big event.
Speaking of hungry... I don't know what is happening but I have been having rude cravings for BEEF!!! I typically enjoy an occasional steak and what not, but ALL thru the past few weeks I have been having a real need for cheeseburgers. It's serious.
This is what happens when you send your vegetarian fiancee to the store for beef and cheap wine:

Hahahah! Wow close call!

So, I have my grass fed beef beef in hand, an extended forecast to fret over (it doesn't extend quiiiiite far enough!) and I'm excited,
Bring it on!!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

What I think about while running.....

My training is coming along nicely and with just over 2 weeks to go I feel relatively comfortable with my current state of fitness.

This has been such a completely wackadoo winter that I am still hesitant to throw down an estimate of my Boston finishing time. Per the norm, in the past week alone I have firmly concluded that I am a PR worthy top finisher, and also have decided that I will be lucky to cross the finish line in less than 24 hours. My emotions really are all over the place...

In reality with the glaring exception of a fairly horrid 13 mile long run/speed work expedition last weekend (in which I still hit my goal paces but wanted to throw myself into traffic the whole way) things have finally (and I DO mean FINALLY) been falling into place.

Going into Boston last year I felt great. I am feeling like despite the shat winter we had, and the struggle I had with my butt/hamstring/piriformis/whateverthefuck I'm about at the same point that I was a year ago. I feel better than before Smuttynose last October because I have thusfar managed not to have any long runs that have finished on one leg.
I feel that this is probably a good improvement.

Anyway! I actually don't intend for this post to contain endless paragraphs of me waxing poetic. We shall save that for next week when I am tapering, begining to feel especially emotional, and getting excessively verbose.

For now I want to reminise about all the amazing things that I have had the opportunity to mull over while running hundreds of miles by myself over the past few months.
You know how down in the Boston area there are thousands of runners out and about, congregating in the midst of their final long runs? So many people that extra traffic police are called in to allow the runners to seamlessly glide thru traffic?
Well. Here in my neck of the woods I am the ONLY runner. Needless to say, traffic control is easy. In the absence of other humans I need to entertain myself with my thoughts, and here they are.

Yeah, now they think that they might have heard its black box pinging. BUT. I had it stuck in an alternate reality- a super exciting scifi hybrid of Lost an Dr. Who.
Too bad that didn't work out. Since the plane isn't stuck on an island of hotties in a parallel universe I'm just sad about the whole thing...

Not these planes. But I love them... I'm 6 :-)

2: Thigh Gap
I am not sure if I am ashamed or proud to admit that I did not think "thigh gap" was a real thing. I was honestly sure that #mindthegap was a reference to being fearful of falling on the tracks and being struck by a train (logical)
Who the ever loving fuck has a thigh gap.....? (not me) People actually CARE about this- for real?
I am upset on a lot of levels. I refuse to stand in a knock-kneed-duck-toed-ass-popping way to improve my faulty thigh gap.
Actually.... I refuse to think of it as faulty. Thigh gap is the biggest bullshit I have ever heard of.
I have spent quite a few miles mulling this over and feeling frustrated about how society/fashion/photoshop make people feel than an unattainable body is desirable.
Can your body do awesome things? That should be the main objective.
(and more disturbingly, this trend is not just in the 13 year old demographic. Grown ass women are perpetuating it. Barf.) Rant over. (almost!)
There is a lot of *helpful* info on the internet about how to get a thigh gap like this ....Awesome..... which I would like to rename "how to be disordered."
Rant really over.

3: Cookies, Beer and Steak.
Because, running.
Want to have me over for dinner????

Beer is good for ya.
 4: How hard it is to run 30 minutes at Marathon Pace
 ......and yet somehow I run 3.5 hours at MP day on Marathon day. HOW. HOWWWWWWW??

5: I think about how 45 degrees is my perfect running weather. Not to mention that after the winter we had 45 is perfect for shorts and tank tops!
Then I think about how bad it would be to get an 80 degree marathon day and I get a bit scared.
At that point I typically start thinking about thigh gap again, as it is better to be slightly disgusted than horribly, horribly terrified!

6: The HILLS. OMG.
Woof (pic not current- our snowbanks are still 10' or more...)  

 That's it for now. My internet silence has been astonishing lately, mostly due to very long work hours and silly things like marathon training which seems to take hours a day...
Taper is here as of Monday! so....... Maybe more time for internetting?