Saturday, July 5, 2014

Raleigh Downhill Mile

I signed up for this race primarily because I had some festive red, white, and blue arm warmers that I picked up on sale at the end of the winter season and needed a 4th of July race to put them to use.  I was planning on running the Four on the Fourth again, but when I saw the announcement for this new race, I thought one mile downhill sounded far more funny than four with some hills, so the decision was made.

The women's race started at 8:30, so we left the house just after 7 and got there with almost an hour to spare.  It was a relatively small race, so packet pickup only took a minute, and then Monte and I just hung out while I waited for Kim to arrive to warm up.  After about 15 minutes of jogging, we a harder effort of about 200m and a few strides.  It was the first time I've really done anything beyond a 10-15 minute jog as a warm up, and I found it really helpful to have someone with experience to tag along with (thanks, Kim!).

I wasn't entirely sure what my goal should be.  On one hand, it was mostly downhill, so I thought I should at least try to beat my PR of 5:48.  On the other hand, I've been training for endurance events and have done very little speed work.  So I decided to not worry about pace too much and just run hard. 

The first quarter mile is a slight incline to flat, and I just focused on trying to run hard to the crest of the hill, knowing that once I got there I would have gravity on my side. My Garmin beeped at the quarter split and flashed 1:19.  I'm not even sure when I last ran a 79 in a workout on the track, yet I was feeling pretty good and was running in 6th place.

Once we hit the downhill section (loss of 114 feet over the last 3/4 mile), I tried to run strong and keep my effort steady.  I tucked in behind a couple of women who I recognized from other races.  I always see their names above mine in local race results, so I was happy to pace off of them and was a bit surprised that that I'd managed to keep up with them.  The second split popped up at 1:22 and I decided to make a move on the ladies ahead of me, knowing that I have no kick and a sprint to the finish was probably not going to work out in my favor. Just after I moved up to third, the watch beeped (1:20), the finish line was in sight, and I knew I had a new PR in the bag.


As we approached the finish line I saw Monte, but in contrast to my normal smile and wave, I was actually focused on racing.  I heard him cheering and knew that the 3 ladies I'd just passed were hot on my heels, and I was no longer concerned about pace or being comfortable... I just really wanted to keep them from passing me.  Thankfully I was able to hold my position, and after seeing Kim beat out the other woman in front of me to take the win, my Garmin flashed another 1:19 and I crossed the line in 3rd place for the second race in a row. 

Even though I'd seen each quarter mile split pop up on my watch, I was shocked to see a final time of 5:21!  Apparently I am not very good at in-race math, but I was smiling like a kid in a candy store, having thoroughly surprised myself!  Officially my time was 5:19, and I probably wouldn't believe it, thinking either the timing was off or the course was short, if not for both my watch and the results showing the same thing.

After the race I joined Kim for part of her cool down (better than nothing, which is a bad habit of mine), cheered on Robert and the other guys in the men's race, and waited around for awards.  It took a while to get the results printed, so we had plenty of time for photos...






I am still a bit shocked by my time, even with the nice loss of elevation, and will either have to retire from the mile or work really hard before the next one!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

June

Not racing every weekend = finally getting in a solid training block!  I'm feeling surprisingly good given the steadily increasing volume, my diet is going pretty well (6 lbs down, 6 to do), and I'm looking forward to seeing what July will bring!


Total: Over 45 hours (Run, Bike, Swim, ElliptiGo, Hot Yoga)
Run: 118 miles, 16:02:06
Bike: 336 miles, 23:22:33

I'm also now officially registered for the ITU Long Course Du! I'm both excited and terrified about this... 


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Esprit de She

I'm not sure what I was thinking signing up for an evening race in June in North Carolina (I think I was swayed by the offering of nice swag and post-race bubbly), but as one would expect, it was ridiculously hot and humid.


Temp in my car on the way to the race.
Fortunately by race time, it was "only" 92
I met up with Sara, Donna, and Kelley to carpool out to Cary, and we arrived with over an hour to spare, despite my concerns about RTP rush hour traffic.  After picking up our packets and race bibs, we checked out the vendor offerings, dropped the rest of the stuff in the car, and hit the bathroom one last time.  One nice thing about this race was there were actual restrooms (rather than porta potties) and the line moved really quickly.  This was helpful since I'd been so conscientious about hydrating all day because of the heat (it's funny how much you come to appreciate toilets plumbing after racing for a while), and could probably be added to the list of race perks ;)

Over the last month, I've been steadily increasing my training volume, with about 14 hours of training in the week leading up to the race, including a workout on the bike that morning, so I wasn't sure how my legs would fare.  That, combined with the heat and humidity, had me questioning my ability to run even remotely fast, but I decided I'd just shoot for something around 7-minute mile pace and see what happened.

Sara and I ran a 10 minute warm up (not sure about the accuracy of that phrase since we were sweating just walking around) out and back on the first part of the course.  After about 5 minutes, my Garmin said we were running just under 10 minute/mile pace and even that felt challenging.  Probably not a good sign, but the weather was the same for everyone and I can imagine 90+ is pleasant even for the really fast runners.

Based on the results from the last 2 years, we figured we'd finish fairly high in the standings, so we found a spot a couple of rows behind the line.  While we were waiting, I chatted with Kim (who recognized my BCTC singlet) and Pauline (who must race at least as much as I do, because I see her everywhere!) and tried to stay as cool as possible by hiding in the shady spot behind the starting arch.  After the National Anthem and a few announcements, we were off.

I settled into what felt like a decent effort and counted about 10 women in front of me.  There was a bit of a hill approaching the one mile mark and another shortly after, but nothing crazy.  After about a mile, the 5k turns left while the 10k continues straight, and about half of the leaders continued on.  By that point, Sara was a good 10 seconds ahead of me, and I could see her running straight rather than turning left.  I yelled for her about 8 times to let her know she was going the wrong way, but unfortunately she was running so fast that she didn't hear me and by then there was nothing I could do, so I made the turn and headed onto a greenway that runs along Symphony Lake.  As I passed the woman in front of me, I asked if we were in fact on the 5k course, just to be sure that I hadn't been mistaken in not following Sara.  After confirmation (thank goodness), made my way by a few more runners, most of whom said "Good job!" or something similar as I went by, and I noted how friendly everyone was. The trail was scenic and offered some shade, but the humidity by the water was awful and I suddenly found myself completely alone, which seemed really strange in a 5k with almost 1,000 runners.

When I made the turn back onto the road that led to the finish, I could see Kim way up ahead of me.  I knew I had no chance of making up that kind of ground and didn't hear anyone behind me, so I struggled to find motivation but finally was able to summon a little sprint and heard the announcer say I was third as I crossed the line in 21:48.  I was happy to have finished in the top 3, but felt bad because I probably would have been 4th had Sara not taken the longer route.

I ran pretty consistent splits (7:08-7:05-7:09) and kept my effort well below red-line, though not at all a walk in the park.  I felt pretty solid and overall was pleased with the run.  And when I plugged the time into a running calculator, the 65-degree equivalent is 20:56, which is currently my 5k PR, so I feel pretty good about that!

I waited for Sara to finish her 6k and then we headed over to the car to change and then went back to the post-race party for some bubbly and snacks.  The lines were pretty long and I think a different layout could have made things more efficient, but overall it was a really nice finisher celebration, and you really can't go wrong with free wine :)




Of course my vote would be to move this to April, but the folks at Esprit de She have been great and I will be back again next year one way or another!



Saturday, June 7, 2014

Covered Bridges Half Marathon

Since I was spending the week following Ottawa in upstate NY with my family, it made sense to me to check out races for the second weekend of my vacation.  Originally this was part of a half-marathon-a-month plan, and running in Vermont or New York in June seemed far preferable to running in North Carolina in June.  As luck would have it, the Covered Bridges Half Marathon, which has been on my running bucket list for a while, fell on June 1.  The 2013 race sold out in 8 minutes, so I made sure to be at my computer when registration opened in December.

It's a point to point race, so runners are shuttled from the finish to the start.  My dad and I left our hotel around 6:20 and he dropped me off about 10 minutes later.  As I got out of the car, the first people I saw were the Hackers, and it was a nice surprise to find the 2 people I knew in a crowd of 2,500 without even trying!  We hopped on a shuttle and arrived at the starting area with well over an hour to go until the start.  Bib pickup was available only at the starting line, but it took virtually no time at all, so even with a stop at the porta-potty and bagel tent, we had quite a bit of time to kill.  It was actually pretty chilly until the sun came out, so I used my heat sheet from Ottawa to keep warm and wished I'd packed some throwaway gloves.  I was not about to complain though, since race temps were supposed to climb only into the 60s, and too cold is infinitely better than too hot for racing.  Around 7:50 I headed out for a quick warm up and then made my way to the start line with about 10 minutes to spare.

The course description says "The course has a very gentle downgrade, dropping 200 feet in elevation over the 13.1 miles. There is a moderate hill at mile 5 and a short, steep hill at mile 8," so I assumed it would be pretty much all downhill/flat with the exception of the two hills mentioned.  And based on previous years' results, I thought I should have a shot at an age group award if I ran reasonably well.  Combined with the nice weather, I thought things were aligned for a good run, so I decided on a goal pace of 7:15 and thought if all went well, I could finish under 1:35.  After running 1:33:01 in October of 2012, I'd hoped to be running closer to 1:30 by now, but it is what it is.  Hopefully that will come next year...

Anyway, the pace plan was set and I felt surprisingly good even though I'd had races on each of the two previous weekends.  The start was actually more crowded and harder to maneuver than Ottawa even though the field size was only 2,500 rather than 13,000, primarily because there were no corrals or even suggested pace signs leading up to the start.  So the three guys in front of me were running about 9-10 minute/mile pace, side by side, and I was boxed in right from the get go.  After a quarter mile or so, I found a little space, and it thinned out pretty quickly.

First 5 miles: Mostly flat with a few gentle hills.  At the first water station, I noticed they had plastic cups (similar to a small solo cup) rather than paper.  I usually squeeze the top of the cup closed, making it easier to drink on the move, but attempting to do so with the plastic cups resulted in the cup cracking in half and the water spilling all over my foot.  Lesson learned.  After that, I just slowed down through the water stops and tried to drink normally without choking.  Average pace: 7:08


Miles 6-7: Started with a quarter mile hill, then rolling. I think this was around the time we ran over Middle Covered Bridge, which turned out to the the only covered bridge we would cross.  We then turned onto a gravel/dirt road, and I prefer pavement, but it ran along the river and was very scenic, so I tried to just enjoy the view and not think about the surface. Around mile 7 I stepped on a rock, right on the ball of my foot where the bruise that had bothered me for months had been and I was reminded of yet another reason I usually stick to paved roads.  But at least the view was nice! Average pace: 7:15


Mile 8: Mostly flat, ending with a short, steep, pace-killing hill. 7:38

Mile 9: Crested the hill and then had a half mile downhill to recover. I probably should have pushed the downhill a bit harder.  7:17

Miles 10-11: Rolling hills to flat.  Debated an emergency porta potty stop, but decided stopping would ruin any shot at 1:35, so I kept on going and prayed I could make it through the last three miles without incident. 7:28

Mile 12 to finish (13.2): More downhill than uphill, with some flats. 6:54  The last quarter mile was awesome because I was able to see my dad and Mary, the finish line, and then (with no time to spare) the porta potties.  

I just missed my goal of sub-1:35 (officially 1:35:34), but according to my Garmin, I hit my goal pace of 7:15 on the nose, and other than the GI issues for the last few miles, I felt pretty good and overall was happy with the run.  Most importantly, I think I'm in a good place going into summer training and am looking forward to the fall racing season!


Race summary
Good: Scenic course, relaxed atmosphere, only a few hours from my hometown. 
Bad: Plastic water cups, only one covered bridge, so Covered Bridges is not really accurate.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

May Training Log

Lots of racing, some solid training, and hopefully a good base for a full training cycle leading up to the Duathlon World Championship and Berlin Marathon in September! #319orBust

Ottawa Half Marathon

We flew up to Ottawa on Saturday morning and met up with my brother, dad, and stepmom at our hotel, which was conveniently located in the heart of the city and only a half mile from the start/finish area.  I had never been to Ottawa, even though I'd grown up only about two and a half hours away, so I was excited to see a new city and spend some time with my family.

Ottawa is a beautiful city and it was a lovely day, so we walked around a bit before heading over to the convention center for packet pickup.


Doing some sightseeing

Packet pickup was pretty quick and easy, and I got my packet and Adam picked up his very first marathon race bib.  I am not sure who was more excited about him running a marathon - me or him!

Saturday evening was the 10K, which featured a fantastic race field.  Normally I'm in races, which means I never get to see the elites, so it was cool to spectate!  The elite women got a 4 minute head start, and Mary Keitany ran 31:22 to easily hold of Wilson Kiprop, who won the men's race in 28 flat.  It amazes me that people can run that fast!

After the 10k, we went to the Mill St Brewery for dinner, and despite a strong desire to try the beer, I stuck to water.  The things I do in the name of racing... ;)  Then we walked back to the hotel and I got a relatively good night's sleep (by my standards anyway) before getting up at 6 to go down to the start of the marathon with Adam.

The marathon started at 7 and the half marathon at 9, but I got up early to go down to the start with my dad and brother, and shortly after 7, Adam was off.  I went back to the hotel, had some coffee, got put on my race gear, and jogged down to the start around 8:30.  I ran up and down the closed street a few times, and called it good after about a mile and a half, then went over to my corral (the first behind the elites) and found a spot toward the back.  Though I was in the back of the blue corral, I wasn't very far from the start line, and couldn't see the end of the waves of people behind me (based on results, there were about 500 ahead of me and 12,500 behind me).


Me and Dad before the race
I felt pretty good at the start, so I decided to aim for the low end of the 7:20-7:30 range that my coach had suggested.  I spent the first mile dodging other runners a little, but for such a large race, I felt like I had quite a bit of space.


Had a surprising amount of space when I saw my family at mile 0.7
Miles 2 and 3 were quiet and scenic as we headed out of the city along a paved path by canal and Dows Lake.  After that there were several miles through residential areas, which offered some nice views of the city and had great crowd support all along the way. Somewhere around mile 8, we crossed the bridge into Quebec.  By then the sun had come out and the temperature seemed to be rising pretty quickly, so I made sure to drink a bit of water at each aid station and started to also dump a cup on my head.  Around that time, I started to come up on marathoners and it got a lot more congested.  With the skyline in the distance and growing crowds through which I had to maneuver, it almost seemed like a completely different race from the one I'd been running for the first hour.  I hit the 10 mile mark right around 1:13 and was pretty pleased with how consistently I'd run to that point (7:20-7:16-7:15-7:17-7:15-7:13-7:19-7:19-7:18) while sticking very close to my 7:20 goal pace.

The full and half marathons shared the first bit of the course, separated, joined again in Quebec, and then redivided after crossing back into Ontario on the Alexandra Bridge, around mile 1.5 of the marathon and mile 10.5 of the half.  I'd wanted to find a location where they could see both of us go by and the bridge was less than a mile from our hotel, so I figured that would be a good spot for my family to be.  Plus, by my estimate, Adam would only be 10-20 minutes in front of me at that point, so they wouldn't have to be out there for hours.  Shortly after the 10 mile marker, I started onto the bridge.  I was passing more and more full marathoners, and just up ahead, there was my brother!  I sped up a bit to catch him, and then slowed down to his marathon pace.  I couldn't believe that I'd caught up to him, and done so less than a half mile from where everyone was waiting to see us!  He said the heat was getting to him and that it would be slower than he'd planned, but that he felt confident that he'd finish.  I gave him a bit of encouragement and advice, and was just thrilled to be able to share part of the race with him.  I knew that meant the 1:35 I'd been shooting for was off the table, but at that point I really could not have cared less.  As we came off of the bridge I saw Dad, Monte, and Mary there cheering, and it was so awesome that Adam and I were running together.  We were running 11+/minute mile pace, but it was undoubtedly a top 10 race moment for me.


I couldn't help but smile seeing my little brother running his first marathon
Shortly after passing our cheering squad, the marathon turned left and the half headed straight, running back along east side of canal, past the finish line (on the other side of the canal), over a bridge, back up the west side of the canal to the finish.  As I left Adam, I hit the lap button on my watch and tried to pick up the pace for a strong finish. Getting it going again was not as easy as I would have liked and by that point I was lacking motivation.  Though I wasn't able to run faster than I had been, I was able to get back to about goal pace, and averaged 7:19 for the last 2.7 to finish in 1:37:18.  Despite the little break to run with Adam and having raced the duathlon a week before, I was only 1:20 slower than my fastest half of the year, and I felt great, so I'm encouraged that things are headed in the right direction.


Spinner medals
1:37:18
10/1023 Age Group
64/7417 Gender
561/13180 Overall

After crossing the line, I quickly made my way through the finisher's area and headed over to our family meeting spot.  I drank some chocolate milk, changed into a dry shirt, and then we went over to to mile 26.1 to watch Adam finish his race.  Less than two hours later, we were happy and proud to see him coming and cheered him on as he picked up the pace and finished his first marathon in impressive fashion!



This race weekend was fantastic.  Mainly because I got to spend time with my family and see my brother run his first marathon, but I really enjoyed both the city and the race.  Ottawa is beautiful, clean, friendly, and they have excellent poutine and beer, so it's worth the trip for sure.  As for the race, the course was mostly scenic and had great crowd support; the entire event was really well organized, had really nice medals and shirts, and got rave reviews from my family as being very spectator friendly.  

Sunday, June 1, 2014

USAT Long Course Duathlon National Championship

This year, the Cary Du Classic was selected to host the USAT Long Course Duathlon National Championship.  I was planning on racing anyway, since it's basically in my back yard, and was really excited to learn that it would be a qualifier for the World Championship race in Switzerland.  It was really my main goal race of the spring, and I really wanted to finish the 5 mile run-32 mile bike-5 mile run course in under 3 hours.  Specifically, I was giving myself 40 minutes for each run and transition and 1:40 on the bike.  I felt pretty comfortable about the run-transition times, thinking I should be able to finish the run in about 37 minutes and would have a fair amount of time to run through transition.  The 1:40 on the bike was less certain, as I'd have to average over 19 mph and I haven't ridden at that level of effort for any sustained duration since September at Augusta.


I got to packet pickup around 6:00, checked in, set up transition, and found Jennifer for a short warmup.  It was actually pretty cool at the start of the race, and I was grateful for that considering the North Carolina weather in May can be quite unpleasant.  We picked a spot somewhere around the middle of the crowd lining up at the start and were off.  The one thing I found disappointing was that there was no start mat, so it was based on gun time rather than chip time.  It took us less than a minute to get across the starting line, but I felt like I needed every possible minute to meet my goal of sub-3 and would have liked those extra seconds!

I'd done a test run of the course a few weeks prior when it was in the 80s and humid, so the run felt much easier thanks to the cool temps.  The goal was to stay in the 7:20s for the first run leg, keeping it fairly conservative to be sure I didn't ruin my chances of a decent bike time.  The first mile is flat to rolling, and included about a quarter mile off road.  Normally this would just be grass and dirt, but after several days of rain, it was all mud and puddles.  I rarely run on anything unpaved and am not a fan of wet feet or dirty shoes, so I followed the group running a bit extra to go around the worst of it.  Then we were back on roads and I settled back into a rhythm, hitting the first mile in 7:18.  At mile 1.5, the course turns onto a greenway, and the mile to the turnaround is all downhill before doing a 180 at mile 2.5 and coming all the way back up (7:10, 7:25, 7:22).  The uphill section on the way back had felt terrible on my test run and I was really happy to have made it back to the road without losing much time.  Mentally that gave me a bit of a boost, and I ran the 5th mile, including a return trip through/around the mud, in 7:09.  

Run 1: 36:41 


Transition 1: 1:08.  Somehow I always end up at the far side of bike out, so I have to run the full length of transition in cycling shoes with my bike.  I doubt this adds much time, but I would love to be near bike out/bike in at least once in a while! 

The bike course is rolling hills for the first 23 miles or so, and then mostly uphill for the last 9 miles or so.  Nothing crazy though, and several of the roads are part of my normal route across Jordan Lake, so I  knew what to expect.  

I tried to ride by effort and not worry about speed, but for the most part, each Garmin beep flashed a mile split pretty close to my target pace.  But it felt like most of the field was flying by me, and it really gave me some extra motivation to work more on my cycling.  Though being passed by so many people was a bit disheartening, I was really just competing against myself and the clock, so I stuck to the plan.  Other than a brief stint of being stuck behind a truck (who was in turn stuck behind other cyclists), the ride went well... I saw Monte around mile 25, the weather was perfect, and my Garmin showed 1:39:41 when I got back to the transition area.  Official race time: 1:40:18 - pretty close to my goal of 1:40!


Transition 2:  1:03.  I worked more on hydrating while on my bike, and I guess I did a little too well at that... I am not so serious about this that I've learned to be ok with just peeing on myself, so after leaving T2 I stopped by the porta potty.  I wish it had been inside the timing mat and added to my T2 time rather than my second run time.

Run 2: 38:32 (37:51 without the pit stop)
The goal for the second run was to shoot for 7:10s-7:20s.  I started out feeling pretty good and hit the first two mile splits right on target (7:19, 7:18).  I hoped to just maintain through the uphill section and then pick it up for the final mile, but that hill really took the wind out of my sails.  Despite my best efforts, I was dropping speed in a hurry (7:40, 7:51) and started the mental battle to keep pushing even though it seemed futile.  I was able to get it together a bit for the final mile and even managed to pass a few people (7:24).   A little over a minute off of my goal for the last run, but thankfully still fast enough to get in under 3 hours, and I was really pleased to cross the line in 2:57:44, especially after struggling at the end.  


In addition to finishing below my time goal, I qualified for the Long Course Duathlon World Championship at Powerman Zofingen in Switzerland!  I am not sure how wise it is for a person who hates running up hills to sign up for a race that has a TON of climbing, but I am really excited to represent the USA and take on the challenge of what is said to be one of the toughest races in the world! 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Not the sausage sandwiches!

I did a little research into the proliferation of Bibgate, and reading the translated versions of international articles has been both confusing and hilarious. 

As told by an article in Barcelona, per Google translate:

A curious and despicable phenomenon is exploding as popular careers increase their popularity, redundant: running with dorsal photocopying. This seems harmless when it is not so much the damage to those runners who religiously pay the increasingly predatory pricing to participate in a race, either an urban mile or undergo succeed marathon .

Although daily kilometer costs more than the organizers of the most popular careers cut on services offered, becoming so righteous as participants get the last drink you supposed to run out and even without medal for which you have previously paid to whether you will be finisher or not. In most cases, your drink or your medal has not saved the organization but surely has taken a savvy that has crept into your career without checking out. Many times free, but so many thanks to the complicity of a friend who has lent his dorsal to photocopy.


And in some cases, even someone takes advantage of your naivety to upload a photo of your precious dorsal marathon you're going to play to Instagram , Facebook or Twitter . That happened to Kara Bonneau , a young woman from North Carolina, who managed to earn the right to play one of the toughest marathons in participation: the Boston Marathon.


Bonneau, who had registered to contest the rugged edition last year, managed to overcome their fears of another possible attack and traveled to the capital of Massachusetts to win the race. He ran his marathon without any problems and finished in 3 hours and 31 minutes. Up to here all right.


The four runners who stole the identity of Bonneau consumed refreshment during the race and surely, if they were strong enough, also made ​​collection of the same at the end and even on the wall of his house hung the medal finisher will surely kick in the wall four corridors that are themselves deserved, since the right to run your marathon won.  And tell me, is so difficult to snag a chip behind a ridge? Thus, when a hacker runner reaches goal with a photocopy, it would read the back and could be expelled by avoiding to consume what you have not paid. And so would avoid, too, that whoever runs legally drink run out without his reward, either a medal, tee or sausage sandwich.


Articles from France, SwitzerlandLuxembourgPolandKorea, and Chile neither offered as much comedic translation, mentioned that I won the race, nor confirmed the theft of sausage sandwiches.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

2014 Boston Marathon

Though Boston was not my "A" race of spring and I hadn't been training specifically for a marathon, I'd been excited about it for weeks... First, it's the Boston Marathon!  Second, I had really strong feelings about running after being there and seeing the tragedy unfold last year.  And third, I would be running with an amazing group of friends, with my dad and my husband there to cheer me on.


Packed my lucky shoes and headed up to Boston on Saturday morning
Checked into our hotel and headed to the expo.
After picking up my bib and race packet,
I met up with my family at the Convention Center
Then walked around Boston for a bit
Walked down Bolyston with my family to check out the finish line


On Sunday, I had a lovely brunch with my family and then headed out to Hopkinton to check out the start line before checking into our hotel in Milford.



After dinner, my family dropped me and Brittany off at our hotel, where we met up with Caren and Jennifer.  I stayed at the same hotel last year; it's really convenient to getting to the start but less so for spectators trying to get to the finish, so we had a room for runners while our families stayed in Boston. The only problem was, with the elimination of bag check and no plans to return to Milford following the race, we had to take only things we needed for the race or were willing to part with.  It was a little more work logistically, as we had to sleep in the throwaway clothes that we were planning to leave at the start, pack an extra set of travel size toiletries, etc, but it was worth the hassle to eliminate any unnecessary race day stress.


All decked out in our fancy pajamas aka pre-race throwaway clothes
The great part about staying near the start is that there's no need to get up early to go downtown for bus loading.  Instead, we walked out of the hotel and right onto a shuttle bus at 8:30.  This has multiple advantages, most notably the availability of working plumbing throughout the majority of the morning.  Last year, the hotel bus was able to drop us off right near Athlete's Village, but because of additional security measures, we had to be dropped off at a designated parking area, go through a security checkpoint (wands and people checking bags, similar to most sporting events or concerts), and then take another bus the rest of the way to Hopkinton.  I figured we would still have plenty of time, but an accident on the highway had caused a big traffic jam, and the security checkpoint line went around a block.  The delays caused a slight amount of stress, but not bad.

At that point, my only pre-race concerns were (1) peeing and (2) finding Ellen.  Since we were late to our designated meeting spot and only Jennifer had her phone, I figured the latter wasn't going to happen, but as we made a beeline for the porta-pottys, one of the first people we ran into was Ellen.  Hurray!  We were all together.  My happiness was short-lived, because when I saw the porta-potty lines I was pretty sure either my bladder was going to rupture or I was going to get a ticket for public urination (clearly I had done a good job of hydrating).  Thankfully Caren went to the front and 'encouraged' everyone to be more aggressive in moving our particular line forward, so I have her to thank for the fact that I didn't pee on myself or end up in the hospital.  Yes, I just wrote an entire paragraph about peeing.

As we finally left the bathroom area, they were calling for wave 2 corrals 7-9 to depart Athlete's Village.  My listed corral was 6, but Caren and Britt were in 8 and we wanted to start together, so since you can move back but not up, we all headed over to the big corral 8 sign.


In the corrals and ready for the start
As we walked toward the start line, I realized it had suddenly gotten pretty warm, and wondered if that would be a factor as the day went on.  The thousands of runners around us continued to shuffle along, until we finally crossed the start line and were off. 

Much of the first half of the race is downhill, so we tried to be cautious and start slowly.  The first couple miles clocked of in the 7:50s and then we settled into a pace in the high 7:30s-low 7:40s.  It was a little faster than I'd planned, but I made the decision that I wanted to stick with my friends through Wellesley and would back off the pace after that.  In hindsight, the faster pace most likely played a role in my later struggles, but sharing that experience with my friends was 100% worth it and if I had it to do over, I wouldn't have changed that at all.  


The first few miles went by pretty quickly, filled with chatting, dancing, high-fiving spectators, and reading some of the great signs along the course.  Caren, Jenn, and I were all wearing our Bull City Track Club singlets, so countless people shouted, "Go Bull City!" and we thanked every one of them with a woot, fist pump, or wave.  There were so many people!  Despite having a great experience, around mile 10 I was starting to feel warm and thought it definitely felt harder than it should for such an early point in the race.  Mile 10: 7:34. No wonder it felt hard, I was running too fast.  10-15 seconds might not seem like much, but it can make a big difference in a long, difficult race.  I told myself to not to worry and just enjoy the moment, and that was made easier as we ran through Wellesley and I read all of the "Kiss me" signs.  When we crossed the 25k mat, I wished by friends luck and Ellen and Jenn took off, while Caren opted to stick with me at a more relaxed pace through the infamous Newton hills.  

I'd been eating a chocolate cherry shot block every mile starting at mile 3, and all systems seemed fine until about 16.  Suddenly I just couldn't stand the thought of eating anything else, but I didn't feel I was bonking so I wasn't really worried about it.  What did worry me, though, was the heat.  By mile 16, I was taking three cups of water at each aid station: dump one on my head, drink one, dump another one on my head.    

I told myself to not worry about pace through the hills, and though I'd slowed to about 8:05 pace for mile 17, I was passing quite a few people who looked like they felt worse than I did.  And then I hit heartbreak hill.  Last year, I lost track of which hill I was on and thought I had one to go, so when I saw the broken hearts drawn in chalk on the street, I thought, "This is heartbreak? That's it? That wasn't bad at all!" Well, suffice it to say I did not think that this year!  I don't know how they did it, but the hills were bigger this time around ;)  


Happy to have made it to the top of Heartbreak Hill
At 35K, I knew it was definitely not going to be a PR day.  I turned off the lap pace on my watch, deciding to accept a slower pace and just enjoy the last 10K as much as possible.  I high-fived everyone with a hand out, smiled for the photographers, and tried to not look at my watch at all.  


Somewhere around mile 22
I knew my dad, Monte, and Mary were near the 40K sign, and I was able to spot them, which was great.  Since by that point I was pretty much jogging, I'd decided to stop to hug them.  I normally wouldn't want to add extra seconds to my time, but I really wanted them to know how much it meant to me that they were there to support me.  I think they were surprised by that, and Monte yelled, "Go! Go!"  Definitely 15 seconds well spent. 


Mile 24.5
With some energy from seeing my family, the knowledge that I only had a mile and a half to go, and the amazing crowd support, the last mile, though one of my slowest, was also one of my favorites.


The Citgo sign: The end is near!!
Somewhere in the 25th mile, I passed Larry Chloupek.  It is absolutely amazing to see what people can accomplish if they put their minds to something.

Homestretch!
As I made the final turn onto Boylston St, I caught a glimpse of bright orange to my left and looked over to see Jenn.  I yelled over to her, but the crowd noise on Boylston was crazy.  She took off with a sprint to the finish and I thought it would be nice to finish together, so I sped up too.  That lasted about 10 seconds, and I gave up the chase, and finished just behind her in 3:31:41.  Last year I had what felt like a Jimmy V moment... running around looking for someone to hug after they put that medal around my neck, so it was great to have a friend there.  



We collected our medals, ponchos, food bags, and water, and waddled over to the Arlington St Church, where we'd planned to meet up with our families and fast teammates who'd started in wave 1 and long since finished.  

I cannot say enough good things about my 2014 Boston Marathon experience.  I loved almost every second of it (though my quads might beg to differ), and am so glad that I decided to make a return trip.




Bull City Track Club representing in Boston


Two Boston Marathon finishers in the family!
I have the best dad and husband a girl could ask for
It's amazing what a difference a shower can make!
BCTC Reunion at Porter's