First race of the season for me, first race in the series, first race in the USATF circuit…lots of firsts and I was anxious to get back at it. I had been back to training for a month and it had been going really well. So well that I had set high expectations for myself. It had been a year and a half since my last 5k PR (18:25) and I felt I could make a pretty big jump.
My “A” goal was 17:05, “B” goal was anything with 17 in front of it, and “C” was just a new PR. Because this was part of the USATF circuit, I knew the competition could be pretty tough but you never know who will show up and who won’t. Or at least I don’t – they pretty much know I’m going to be there because I advertise it. Haha! But I decided that the time goals were more important to me than the leaderboard. I would race whoever I could, but if I came in 5th or 6th and still got my time, I’d be okay with it.
The day before the race I got a massage, which is pretty typical for me, but it was with a therapist I hadn’t had for sports massage before. My legs felt really good after, but I had one nagging concern I couldn’t get out of my head. She did some assisted static stretching on my hamstrings and even though it felt good, I knew that kind of stretching before a race could reduce power output (depending on who you ask). There wasn’t much I could do about it at that point though, so I just had to wait and see come race time. At least it would be another opportunity to feel the science.
After arriving I got super nervous, way more than I should have been. It wasn’t really about the race against fellow competitors, but the race against myself. And for a 5k or 10k, if you screw up one mile, you don’t have time to recover. My legs felt good, but my hamstrings felt too limber.
We lined up at the starting line and I only saw two runners that I knew were fast enough to beat me. One of them I already knew was way faster than me and would probably easily take the win. The other had beat me at all three races last year to take the series, but based on more current race results I knew we were about the same fitness level.
Now counting on making top 3, I took off at the start taking the lead. The fastest female would overtake me before the halfway point, but she fell back a bit to, I assume, just see what kind of pace she needed to win. After the first mile she sailed past me. I didn’t look at my watch to see what my first split was, but I didn’t feel good. Like I had feared, I felt like I had to power in my hamstrings. My gut just didn’t feel good either. Not from food, but from a nervous, uneasiness. I wasn’t controlled and relaxed (this is why I think it’s important for me to race all these races). I knew I slowed, but I tried to stay steady the rest of the way. By the the turnaround point, I slid into 3rd. I tried to keep her close, but I started to feel worse. I gave up on trying to be close enough to put up a fight at the end. My splits were 5:43, 5:59, 6:03, and 37 seconds for the last .12. I PR-ed by 3 seconds.
I was bummed, but I reminded myself that my last 18:25 5k was on a crazy good how-did-I-even-pull-that-off kind of day. And this recent 18:22 was on a bad day. Most of the time, that’s how I shake off a bad race, or a rough training run. I think about where I was and how far I’ve come. I remember how excited I was when I broke 20 minutes for the first time. It doesn’t make the bad performance “okay,” but it makes me be grateful that I’ve progressed enough that I get to be bummed about this time that I would have killed for in the past.
Akron crushed my spirits like no other marathon had before. I felt physically ready to go well under three hours, and I was dying to prove my current capabilities. Realistically at that point, I didn’t even need every little thing to go right to get under three – to at least be done with the “Breaking the 3-Hour Barrier” thing. But I didn’t. I wasn’t even close. Though I knew I was capable, WOULD I ever?! All of my future goals seemed hopeless. Kyle pulled up my face and said “I believe in you.” I broke down with the realization that I wasn’t sure if I believed in me anymore.
I took a week off with low, easy mileage then tried my best to stay focused and not give up. I tried to tell myself that big disappointments like that were bound to happen because part of truly understanding and conquering the marathon is getting crushed over and over again and learning how to overcome the mistakes.
Though the hip pain I had during the race was due to changing shoe brands and quickly went away, it was still unilateral, which means that side needed a little extra TLC. I decided to try out a sports doctor who did dry needling and developed knee pain shortly after that. I couldn’t pinpoint the real cause of it, but knew it was probably due to unraveling muscle tension. We thought it was the IT band, but it was sticking around and not getting better. I was told to run through the pain, but I couldn’t get all my mileage in. I had gotten two solid weeks of training done, but now a month out from race day, I was struggling to put in the work before taper time. Then I got hit HARD with a cold and that took me out for a week. I know it doesn’t sound that long, but for me that’s a long time to be sick. I can usually kick something like that in about 12 hours. Maybe the extra down time would help my knee? Nope. It made it worse (with muscle tension stuff a lot of times not moving makes things worse). Now I was desperate. I didn’t know if I could even finish a marathon, let alone run a personal best.
Kyle and I were heading to San Diego to spend Thanksgiving with his family. At this point, I couldn’t run a mile without pain. My last ditch effort to fix this thing was my old acupuncturist. He has crazy good knowledge of the human body and in the past I responded well to his trigger point acupuncture. I made a last minute appointment and he informed me it was actually the vastus lateralis that had a few spots of scar tissue built up in it. So after the needles, he scraped that out (yes, it hurt a lot). I was so sore after, but knew instantly that it was going to be okay. The next day I ran 13 miles pain free, along with the rest of the taper.
With renewed hope, race weekend was here. I didn’t get in the training I wanted, but I had experience on my side, and I was so relieved to get to the starting line pain free. So what was I going to do now? I could stick with the 3:00 pacer and just focus on getting under 3:00, even if it would just be 2:59. Maybe I could go for my goal time at Akron, which was supposed to be a 6:25/mile pace. OR, I could just chase the 2:45 pace group and do my best to hang on to the pack. It’d be risky because I didn’t think my fitness was there to hold on for the whole race and it’d probably mean hitting a wall hard and maybe not even finishing under 3:00. But WHAT IF…
Race morning was one of the smoothest ever for me, having everything planned, getting where I needed to be, having the right nutrition, and wearing enough throw off layers. I really only had to wait around at the start for an hour, which isn’t bad compared to the big races like Boston and New York. The weather looked like it was going to remain perfect as we all crammed into the starting chute. I looked down to see a sea of nothing but Nike 4% Vaporflys. I had to chuckle. The elites and seeded runners were off and we followed right behind. I went out at what felt like tempo pace, but ignored the buzzes on my watch. The 5k clock put me at 19:32, which was well under 3:00 pace. I didn’t care, I was still going for it. Then just after mile 4, my knee started to hurt. WHAT?! It had been totally fine, but I guess with the low mileage week of taper, there was still some tension in the surrounding muscles that needed work. The pain wasn’t bad, but I knew that since it started this early it was going to get pretty ugly. Now I definitely had to keep pushing to try and bank as much time as I could. At the 10k I was at 38:58, and the 15k 58:55. The 2:45 group was still in my sights, but it was time to let them go. The pain reached another level. I told myself to just get to the half and then reassess. I reached that point at 1:23:23. That was enough right? I thought it was. Now I just needed to focus on 6:50s. Anything less than that I could bank. Mile 14 was when I first looked at my watch for the split – 6:33. I felt like I was running so much slower than that. Alright, just get through mile 16. The pain kept getting worse. Should I drop out? No, I wasn’t giving this one up without a fight. After mile 17, my knee started to buckle and I told myself to pull it together and get through 20. Miles 18-20 were 6:51, 6:45, 6:54. Was that enough? What did I need? I figured I could still pull it off with 7:15s for the last 10k. So I focused on that, one mile marker at a time. I got through mile 23 and looked at my watch time. I was going to make it! Even if I did 9 minute miles the rest of the way, I was going to break 3:00. Focus! Mile 26 was my slowest at 7:30. I made the final turn to the finish and saw 2:55 on the clock. That was so worth it. I was so happy that I didn’t quit. Even though it wasn’t my goal time, I FINALLY broke 3 hours, qualified for some free entries next year, and am able to move into Chicago’s ADP for 2019. Oh man, my knee hurt so bad.
Yes, I AM happy with my performance. It was a big positive split, but I don’t regret running it that way. It’s what I needed to do in those circumstances. I’m glad I could experience the course, with all it’s rolling hills. I was a little bummed that I didn’t get to run with a pack (there wasn’t much with 2:45 group ahead and 3:00 group behind), but I guess I’ll look forward to that at Chicago. I was also sad that I didn’t really get to race it either. The last 10k in the marathon is where you usually get to see some race magic happen, but as the runners kept passing me I just had to keep focusing on not stopping.
On to the next segment of “My Story!” It’s called 2020 Vision (you have NO idea how long I’ve been waiting to use that one…because I also have horrible eyesight).
New York, new training plan – less scheduled long runs, more strength training, more speed work, more cross-training. I incorporated three different strength routines (2-3 times each per week) and swam one mile sessions three times per week. Another big change was alternating my long runs with long tempos (10 miles) and by doing so, worked up to a 28-mile peak run. It was the longest run I had ever done.
Throughout this cycle, I had gotten leaner, lighter, and stronger. I didn’t have any injuries worrying me, but I always try to stay extra sensitive. Two weeks from race day and two days after my peak long run I did a 15k prep race, and ended up with a nine second PR. This was the best I had ever felt before a marathon. Prepared and excited, I went into taper time knowing this was going to be a good race as long as I didn’t screw up food or hydration and over think things.
On Friday, two days before the race, I landed at JFK anxious to get to the hotel. My husband was flying in from Paris to meet me there and I hadn’t seen him in seven months (talk about a fool-proof plan to eliminate pre-race nerves!). We both went to the expo on Saturday to get my bib, but I made sure to keep it quick and not even go into the actual vendor section. It’s easy to spend too much energy at a race expo the day before. Chipotle was next, that being my day-before-a-long-run meal in training, then back to the hotel to rest and relax the rest of the day.
4 a.m. race morning my alarm went off and I felt fueled, rested, and fired up. It was a little less than a mile walk to the bus and I was assigned to board at 5:30. The streets were already buzzing with race day jitters, and I had plenty of time. I was told the bus would take 90 minutes – it only took 40. With four hours to kill before go time, I found my way through security, gear check, and four more bib checkpoints. It was a little chilly, but I had throw-off layers and thankfully it wasn’t raining. The forecast said it would, but I hoped it wouldn’t start before the gun.
The wait time is annoying, but one of the things I love about these big races are the people. You get to see many different countries represented, but also the diversity of the running community as a whole. I simply like watching. I sat down on the cold concrete with fluid and food. Lots of people were running with friends, some were nervous loners, some were wearing costumes, and some were clearly out for blood. I listened to conversations of marathon veterans and first-timers, saw a few instagrammers, and enjoyed looking at footwear choices. However, the most interesting thing I observed was a runner chomping on whole carrots, celery stalks, and broccoli. It looked like he had just dropped by the grocery store on the way. Interesting choice for pre- endurance event fuel, but hey – whatever floats your boat…or…fuels your run?
Finally moving into my starting corral, I didn’t have to wait too much longer before moving onto the bridge where the start line was. During the national anthem it started to sprinkle, but that’s all it ended up doing. I was starting with a 3:05 pacer, but had no intention of sticking with him.
It was time! Though I was cold just standing there, before I hit the second mile I regretted wearing a shirt. I should have known better. My arm warmers were already tossed to the side. My first mile was relaxed at 7:47, but I didn’t want to “waste” another mile at that pace. My second was 6:16, which was not a pace I felt I would be able to sustain. “Find the grind,” I told myself. By mile 4, I decided that the grind should be in the 6:30-6:40 range. Strong and relaxed, I enjoyed the next dozen miles. My fueling strategy felt really good, and I was making most water stops.
All body systems felt fine at mile 20, but my hip flexors killed. Did I start too fast? Why isn’t anything else falling apart? I tried to adjust and focus on just getting 6:50s in, but the pain became worse and spread to my lower back as I began to lose form. This was awful. I didn’t want to, but around 23 I started to take walk breaks. I knew with the circumstances it would make me finish faster. Breaking three hours was no longer in reach, but I needed to at least PR. I was disappointed, but really all I could think about at the time was the pain.
Hobbling across the finish line at 3:06, I shaved off five minutes from my previous personal best, but I couldn’t say I felt proud of the race I had just run. I also couldn’t walk – 6.5 on the pain scale and my hamstrings were starting to seize. A medic came over to me, but I knew everything was fine – heart rate, breathing, no lightheaded or dizziness, nausea, no body temperature issues, etc. so I refused the medical tent. It really was just muscular.
Unfortunately, I had a long ways to walk to get to my bag. So at a 40-minute per mile pace (not exaggerating), I was handed from one volunteer to another to help me get to the UPS truck that had my stuff. One runner came along side me and told me he’d done this marathon for the past 29 years, and that I shouldn’t be discouraged about my time. He walked and talked with me all the way to my bag. Once I pulled my phone out and told my husband I was sort of on my way, the volunteer currently holding me up wanted me to sit down and put on my pants and jacket. The fellow runner was my advocate in assuring the volunteer that that was a bad idea. We both knew I wouldn’t have been able to get back up. I was passed off to one more volunteer who walked me past the exit barricades to my husband, though I don’t think he was actually supposed to leave the park. My husband had me drink my Vega recovery accelerator and put on my clothes for me. I was helpless.
Getting back to the hotel was a trip, but at a snail’s pace we got there. I sat in a hot bath that at least made me be able to stand and move forward on my own, but the rest of the evening and next day were rough. Never have I ever been in so much pain after a race. At first I thought I had simply gone out too fast, but I’m not so sure that’s all that it was. I’ve hit the wall before, with total body exhaustion, and that wasn’t it. My “gut,” heart, and lungs weren’t tired. And why did it start with just my hip flexors? My fueling felt great, but I think my hydration and electrolyte balance wasn’t. I was shy on my pre-game water intake due to my last marathon disaster.
I’ve experienced severe dehydration and severe over hydration in endurance activity, but there’s still a lot of space in between the two that affect performance. With travel and the weather being cool and humid, I don’t think I drank enough. It’s easy to under estimate how much you need based on feel in that type of weather. So I’m not going to say I simply went out too fast. I think if I was smarter with fluids, I could have sustained the pace to hit my goal time.
I didn’t break 3 hours and I didn’t finish strong, but I am happy that I got a new PR, executed a good fueling strategy (which hasn’t been easy for me in the past), had a productive training cycle, and experienced the largest marathon in the world.
New York, I can’t say I love your vibe, but you do have a pretty cool marathon. They say you’re tough, but I disagree. You’re just not easy. It’s what makes you real. I don’t want any crazy advantages in a marathon course. I won’t be back for awhile, but I’ll see you again.
I was getting tired of these short races. This was my last ditch effort to get my 5k PR down, and not a race I had planned on doing at the beginning of the season. The night before, as I was heading to bed, I realized that I was going to nail it – I just was. For once, my legs actually felt prepared for a 5k. So I rolled out of bed the next morning, got my crap together, mixed my Vega drinks, and left to find a parking spot at Balboa Park (which was about a mile from the start).
My warm up felt pretty good, jogging/walking to the starting area. I did some dynamic stretching, and was surprised at my level of flexibility. I hadn’t been able to kick that high for a few weeks. That made me get a little excited.
From past results, I knew this wasn’t going to be a competitive race, but that wasn’t really the point. In downtown San Diego along the waterfront, this course was flat, and more importantly, on the road. The starting corral wasn’t too bad and I was able to line up right in front. My first mile may have been a bit fast, but I was still feeling good throughout the second, so I didn’t care. Heavy breathing, long strides, strong kick-backs, I made those three, short miles count. Just before crossing the finish line, I started dry heaving. It’s one of my most satisfying feelings in training – working so hard that you exceed your lactate threshold. After catching my breath, I looked at the data and maxed my HR at 206. Hashtag, thumpthump.
Surprisingly, I started as leading female and ended as leading female. Competitive field or not, that usually doesn’t even come close to happening in 5ks for me. It was the sprinkles on my icing of my cake. My cake being the hard effort, and the icing my new PR of 18:25.
This was the first 5k race I’ve done that wasn’t on Thanksgiving. I was hoping to go a little faster on “the world’s fastest 5k,” but I ended up with a five second personal best. The weather was sunny, but not too warm yet – it was a beautiful day. The race is actually divided into six different smaller races with different start times – Masters Men, Masters Women, Men & Women 29 and under, Men & Women 30-39, Elite Women, and finally Elite Men.
I was thankful my race didn’t start until 9:10 because I had a 45 minute drive to get there. After arriving, finding my bib, and checking out where the start line was, I enjoyed the usual sitting and people watching. I didn’t have to wait in line for a porter potty (which never happens at a race), so I had plenty of time.
A train made our start time 15 minutes later, but other than that I was off without a hitch. My goal, besides PR-ing, was to pay attention to my breathing and lung capacity. I told myself not to go out too fast, as I felt like I’d done in the last few races. At this point in my training, I knew my legs could go faster than my lungs. Staying calm in the beginning, I was able to pass a few females after the halfway point. My mile splits were 6:17, 6:13, 6:13 and I was content with that.
My legs felt great, like they could go further at that pace, but again my lungs couldn’t handle the cadence much longer. Afterwards, I could feel that my lungs had just had a productive workout. I counted that as a win. I tried waiting around for results (you know how that is), but I got impatient and headed home.
Going into this race, I didn’t feel quite ready. My four week break from running was good, but I didn’t feel like I was back into a groove yet. I had had a few solid runs in training, but no noticeable progress in times, so I was anxious about whether or not I’d be able to snag a new personal best. My goal was something in the 38 minute mark.
Race morning was beautiful – sunny and a crisp 50 degrees. The chill in the air would disappear by the time the race got started at 8 am, but it still stayed relatively cool. When the race began, I was as prepared as I could have been. Hydrated, fueled, and warmed up, I took off at a pace a little faster than I could sustain to try and get some space. I settled into what I could tell was 4th female and began my hunt. I made it a point to focus on posture and breathing to steady my pace. The course was flat, but it was an out and back so the last mile and a half you had to weave through the 5k-ers who at that point were mostly walkers and strollers. Weaving through, I tried to pick up the pace, but was unable to close the gap. Giving a hard push for the finish, I crossed as fourth female in 38:04. I was happy with that (personal best), and despite my prerace anxiousness, felt like it was a good effort for my first race back. My official placings were: