Rock CF Rivers Half Marathon Race Recap

Wow, it’s been a month since I updated you guys on anything, basically right before I hopped on a plane to Detroit to run the Rock CF Rivers half marathon.  This is my second time running this race, the first time being in 2014. I absolutely LOVE this race. It’s not only for a cause near and dear to me, but overall, it’s just really well run and a total family affair, which I love.  So, here is my Rock CF Rivers Half Marathon Race Recap.

On Saturday, a team of 13 of us boarded a plane from Boston to Detroit, landed, grabbed a few rental cars, dropped our stuff at the hotel and headed to pick up our bibs before the expo closed.  It was super quick to check in, get our bib numbers, our race shirts (below in blue) and we met up with Emily, who created the event and runs the foundation Rock CF (in gray). She is this tiny, ridiculously amazing force of nature who sheds light and humor to everyone around her.  We talked with her for a while and then took a team picture with her and her nieces and nephew–aren’t they adorable?

team vertex

After buying Ashton and myself new Rock CF shirts, we went out for a quick, but yummy team dinner and got back to the hotel early so we could rest.  Here is my flat runner the night before.

rock cf outfit

I went to bed early and ended up getting up really early on race day and had plenty of time to have breakfast, get dressed and meet the Vertex team to head over to the race around 6:30 am.  I was a bit nervous because of the flight the day before and that fact that I spent most of that day not drinking any water, so I spent much of the morning hydrating.

We arrived at the race start and thankfully, was able to keep warm in the high school gym since it was FREEZING outside. We were able to mingle and get a team picture with Emily right before the race started and before everyone broke off.  This was the first year that there was not only a 5k and half marathon, but a half marathon relay, which was a really cool option for a few of our team members.

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I had resigned myself before even getting on the plane to the fact that I was likely not going to PR this race.  While I completed my training plan exactly as prescribed, I was just not feeling as strong as I had hoped I would.  Going into training my goal was to run in the 1:40’s, but I just knew I wasn’t able to do that for this race.  I was mostly okay with that and reminded myself that not every race can be a PR and that this is much more about supporting the cause than getting a PR.

My friend Lindsay and I decided we would run together and stay with the 1:55 pace group.  This felt really doable for me, with not such a hard effort on my part.  This was Lindsay’s first half, so I was excited to run and experience it with her.  This was also the first year of offering pacers, which I personally love!  Before the race started, we ran to the bathrooms and then we started to line up with the rest of the half marathoners.  It was COLD out, like 20 degrees cold and SO windy. I am glad I brought my gloves and hat because I could barely feel my fingers!

The gun went off and we crossed the starting line.  We were right next to our pacer for the first mile and a half and then I felt it….I had to pee.  Not like, oh, I can hold it until the race is over, a….holy shit, I need to find the quickest port a potty.  I definitely over-hydrated, something I have never done before while running. I have never once had to stop during any kind of run or race before to pee.

Thankfully there was a port a potty at mile 2, so I told my friend Lindsay to keep going and I would catch up with her.  I thought this would be a minute process.  There was one person in the stall and one in front of me waiting.  I was stopped for almost 6 minute…yes, you read that right SIX FREAKING MINUTES…DURING A RACE?!?  My anxiety level escalated at each second ticking by.  I was so frustrated but knew there was no way I could run and make it to the next port a potty, so I was stuck waiting.  When it was my turn, I peed in record time and was off and running.

To say I was annoyed is an understatement but I raced as fast as I could ahead, trying to catch up to the 1:55 pace group and my friend Lindsay again.  I knocked off a few miles in the low to mid 7’s and knew I needed to slow down.  At this point, I knew I wasn’t going to catch up to my friend, 6 minutes was just too long of a time to catch up.  I was also kicking myself for such a rookie mistake of trying to speed up really fast, because I definitely felt it in the latter half of the race. I end up having to walk through all of the water stops and walked for about 20 seconds five or six additional times because my calves were cramping so badly.  There were many times during the last part of the race where I wondered if  I was even going to make it in under two hours and I was devastated.  I know that 2 hours is a respectable time and that I wasn’t going to PR this race, but for some reason, the thought of running a 2+ hour half made me want to cry. Thankfully, I finished with a time that was respectable (to me.)

post race

final rock cf time

I don’t know if the almost 6 minutes I waited at the porta potty or the 2+minutes that I spent taking walking breaks would have equated to an end time 8 minutes faster, getting me that PR in the 1:40’s, but I definitely know that I would’ve done better than what I did if it wasn’t for the bathroom stop but I suppose, it doesn’t really matter because that isn’t what actually happened.  After the race, we waited for everyone to finish and took some team pics at the finish line with our medals.

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Quickly after this, we all piled into cars and ran back to the hotel to shower and get to the airport for our flights back home. It was a whirlwind trip that lasted less than 24 hours!

All in all, the Rock CF Rivers Half Marathon is a GREAT race for an even better cause.  I had a really fun time with some of my co-workers and I am happy that I had the opportunity to run it again and look forward to doing it in the future!

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Question of the day

Have you traveled by plane to a race before? If so, what race?

Did you watch the Boston Marathon on Monday? Thoughts?

 

 

Ashton’s first race

Hey friends, I hope you had a great weekend!   I am really excited to tell you all about Ashton’s first race yesterday. There is a local race near us called the Worcester Firefighers 6k that started back in 2000 after 6 firefighters lost their lives battling a fire at the Worcester Cold Storage.  Since it’s inception, this race has been a huge local draw.  They also offer a Youth 1k race (0.62 miles) and I thought this was the perfect first race for Ashton.  Not only would he get to race, but the money goes to a great cause, a win/win for me!

Yesterday morning we left the house at 10 am to drive to Institute Park in Worcester where we picked up his bib and shirt.  It was a super quick process and everyone was really sweet.  His first bib number was #792

2015-06-14 10.23.59He fueled for the race with a tootsie pop! Just kidding, he has chocolate chip pancakes that he and Robyn made earlier in the morning! 🙂  This race has a lot of fun features like a DJ, clowns, face painting, a moon bounce, a silent sports auction and a free BBQ in the park for everyone after the race.  

Since we had about a half hour to kill before the race, Ashton requested some time in the moon bounce so he got nice and sweaty before we even started the race! It was getting HOT (in was about 90 degrees when we started the race) so I was pumping him full of water to make sure he was hydrated and I got him all sun-screened up as well.

We spent some time watching the firetrucks raise the flag over the finish line, which was really amazing to see!

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Then, the MC called all the youth runners to the starting line and we made our way over there. I had to snap a few pics of him on the starting line.

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The MC for the race was awesome, she was getting the kids to sing and dance while we waited for the horn to go off.  Once it did, we were off!

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I love that the race has free pics, I love that it captured Ashton’s excitement as we started the race.  He wanted to hold my hand the whole time…who am I to argue with that??

He started off really strong but towards the turn around area, he was losing steam and saying how hot he was.  We stopped and I was carrying water for him just in case which I was glad I did.  He took quite a bit of water and then said he wanted to walk.  We walked for a little bit and then he asked me to carry him.  I didn’t want his first race experience to be a bad one, and it was SUPER hot out, so I grabbed him and started walking.   Then of course he said, “Mama, run with me!”  So, that is what I did…up a hill, with a  32 lb toddler on my hip. And…this is the picture of us crossing the finish line.

unnamedThe whole race was over in a matter of 4:35, but it’s a memory I will never forget.  We just ran our first of what I hope is many races together!

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Ashton said he had a lot of fun and asked if we would do it again….music to my ears!  I think we will wait until the Fall though, since running in this heat is not ideal.  After the race, none of us we up to sit out in the blazing sun to have a BBQ, so I grabbed Ashton a little ice cream cup and we headed back to the car to cool off and head home.

All in all, this was a really special race and I am just so happy to be able to share something I love so much with my boy.

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Question of the day

For the parents–have you raced with your kids?

For non-parents–do you remember your first race?

8th Annual Devin Kravitz Memorial 5K {Race Recap}

Good morning and happy Wednesday!!  I hope you are all having a great week. I don’t know about you, but shorter work weeks are nice, but you still have to cram the same amount of work into less days, so it can get chaotic!!   Anyways…today I another race recap for you.  A couple of weeks back I was at my local running store and they told me about a great 5k that happened to be in my town for a young man who passed away from myocarditis.  All the net proceeds would go directly to the  American Heart Association and Myocarditis Foundation, specifically for research to reduce death caused by Myocarditis.  I’m always in to support a great cause and when it’s mixed with running, it was a no brainer.  I immediately texted my BFF and asked her if she wanted to run it with me since she has now been consistently running for almost a year.  She recently did her first 5k and she said she was in. We registered for the race and it happened this past Saturday.

I arrived around 8:30 a.m., parked and walked a few mins down to where the registration was located, signed in and found out they were not giving out bib numbers or tracking devices. I figured since this was a charity race, they were trying to save money as much as they could.  They told me that after I crossed the finish line, I was going to get a ticket that I would bring back to the registration desk and that is how they would record my time.  I thought it was an interesting way to keep track of so many runners, but I guess there is a first time for everything right?

I walked back to the Middle School to drop my bag off and that is when Erica and one of her teacher friends, Jill arrived.  I walked them over to the registration area, they got their bags and we walked back to the Middle School again for them to drop off their stuff.  I told them I would meet them at the registration area after I got in a short warm up.  My super speedy friend Hailey posted a week ago about how she warms up before a race.  I never warm up before a race, so I took some of her advice.  I did a short run to warm my legs up, did some leg swings, high knees and some dynamic stretches.  I also asked another runner to take a quick before race picture.  I’m on the left, Erica is in the middle and her friend Jill on the right.

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It was soon time to line up for the race and Erica, Jill and I had a plan to meet up post race at the Naked Juice truck.  We parted ways and I seeded myself towards the middle of the pack and before I knew it, we were off. There was no horn, I just saw everyone in front of me starting to run so I followed suit.

The course was an out and back.  I didn’t really have a goal for this race, I just wanted to go out there and have fun and run at a comfortable pace.  This quickly turned into the “How not to run a smart 5k” so please, learn from my mistakes so you don’t make the same ones, okay?   The first 1/2 mile was downhill, which felt fun and free at the beginning, not so much at the end.  I heard the first beep of my Garmin and looked down and saw 6:48 and immediately had two rapid fire thoughts, “HOLY SHIT, I NEED TO SLOW DOWN” and “WOW, THAT IS THE FASTEST MILE I HAVE EVER RUN!”  I felt like I was pushing it but not totally out of control but I knew I went out WAY too fast and pulled back.  We hit the first water stop and I quickly grabbed a cup of water from Sue, one of the volunteers who is actually the receptionist at my PT office, so we said hello and I was off again.

Since it was an out and back course, I could see those in the front of the pack who had already reached the halfway point and were heading back and suddenly Mike, my PT flew by me looking strong.  While I have never run an out and back race, I kind of like it because I felt more motivated when I saw the front-runners speeding by me.  I hit the half way point, we had to go around a guy and a cone and we were on our way back.  I settled into a comfortable pace and heard the second beep of my Garmin but I missed the time.  I came back up to the water station again, took another quick drink of water and told myself I had less than a mile left. I was looking for Erica and Jill and suddenly heard my name being yelled and it was them waving and smiling.  I told them they were doing great and I continued on my way.

At this point, my legs were feeling fatigued and it was hot and humid, but I took a right turn and put my head down as there was a long slight incline in front of me.  I felt like I slowed down a bit but I kept telling myself to not worry about pace but focus on an equal effort.  I crested the hill and took another right turn and hit the “BIG” hill.  It was a half mile of hell.  I felt my legs slowing down and my breathing was really labored. I stopped once to walk and catch my breath, I allowed myself 10 seconds and started back up, feet shuffling as I was REALLY tired at this point.  I made it about half way up and had to stop again to catch my breath. I walked another 10 seconds and told myself I had to finish without walking again.  I was soaking wet with sweat and my sun glasses were fogging up so I flipped them up and let them rest of my head and told myself I was almost done and to push through.

Up ahead I saw a group of people standing and I knew I had to take another right hand turn but didn’t know how much further I had to go, apparently analyzing the distance on my Garmin wasn’t a thought in my head. I slowed down trying to muster up the energy to continue on and once I turned that corner the finish line was right there.  I saw the clock hit 24:00 and I booked it.

I crossed the line, stopped my Garmin and finished in 24:02, averaging a 7:47 pace—and good for a PR!  While I was really happy that I PR’d, I was totally pissed at myself for starting off so fast, which lead me to crash and burn towards the end (check out those splits below, I’m a little embarrassed I made that mistake!), and then for having to stop and walk twice because if I would have played this race smarter, I would have run a sub 24, but I guess that will be my goal for the next race!  A PR still feels pretty freaking awesome! I am still shocked that I have had a handful of runs lately in the 7’s, something I never dreamed I was capable of.

swirl collage

 

5k splits

I got my ticket, brought it inside to the registration desk and came back out to grab a bottle of water.  They had a massage therapist on site who was doing massages so I had her work on my right IT band while I waited for Erica and Jill to finish.  At the 30 minute mark, I walked over towards the finish line and was able to capture Erica right as she was running through the finish line.

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I LOVE this picture of her. This was her second 5k and while she didn’t PR, I am SO FREAKING proud of her.  She went from not being able to run one lap around the track to running a 5k without stopping.  I am really glad I got to do this race with her and capture this moment.

After they dropped off their tickets to the registration desk, they grabbed some post race food and I grabbed another water and started walking back to the middle school so we could head home. All in all, sweating and supporting a good cause at the same time was a great way to kick off the holiday weekend!

Post race we got the official results: 2nd in my age group!  31st out of 238 total runners.  The girl who placed first in my age group finished 30 seconds before me, grrrr!

31  24:04  Sara Zwicker  2/38  F19-39    

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Question of the day

Anyone else have a hard time going out at a conservative pace during races? If not, give me your tips on how to get better at this!

What’s your favorite race distance?

 

XTERRA Trail Series MA #3 Hodges Hoedown 10k

Hey friends!! Happy Friday and cheers to a long weekend!!  So, I forgot that I owed you guys a race recap from my vacation, sorry!  As you know, I have been doing some trail racing recently.  I have my first two recaps from this XTERRA Trail race series of there here and here if you haven’t read them yet.  This was the final race in this series and was held on Saturday, August 16th.  So let’s get started!

I didn’t really prep my stuff too much the night before, I had an idea of what I wanted to wear and decided to be more relaxed about it.  My goals for this race were a bit different from the first two races, now that I knew how tough and technical these trails were.  My primary goal was to not stop or walk any portion of the course, something that was clearly not achieved in my first two races.  My second goal was not to “race” this race.  I realized after my last race that I really enjoy running trails, but I don’t necessarily love racing them if that makes sense.  I put a lot of pressure on myself when I race (which is why I don’t like to race much) and I wanted to rather treat this like a training run and be able to relax and enjoy it.  I think tempering my expectations and accepting I wouldn’t be running in the 7’s or 8’s on the trails is what I mentally needed to do heading into this race.

I was really glad this race was back to a normal time (8 a.m.) and not 11 a.m. like the last race.  I woke up at 6:30 a.m., relaxed and read a little bit of a book I’ve been engrossed in, ate a piece of homemade banana bread Robyn made the night before, got dressed and at 7:15 a.m. I headed to the race.  It was only a 10 minute drive which was nice.  I quickly found parking and as I was walking over to the registration booth, I noticed there was a Rock Tape booth, among others, that wasn’t present at any of the other races.  As many of you guys know, since the last trail race, my ankle has been on and off sore.  Nothing that prevents me from running, but nothing that is totally normal either.  Of course, when I woke up that morning, my ankle was pretty tender.  I walked over to the Rock Tape group and told them the problems I was having and they had a PT on hand to tape people up.  I have never used Rock Tape before but I figured, why not give it a try, plus they had tape in my favorite color 🙂  They taught me how to tape myself up given my issues and I walked away feeling a bit more confident that my ankle wouldn’t cause me too many issues at this race.

KT tape

After I got taped up, I got in line for my bib.  The line moved pretty quickly and once I got my bib, I ran back to my car to finish getting ready (applying sunscreen and bug spray and dropping off my phone, etc.)

my number

I made my way back to the starting line and waited.  This race had two distances, a half marathon and the 10k.  I was running the 10k so I waited off to the side while the race director made announcements, we sang the star spangled banner and then the half marathoners lined up.  The 10k racers were to start about 10 mins after the half runners, so we saw the half racers off and chatted and I got my Garmin triangulated and ready to go.  Once the air horn blew, we were off.  Immediately, one girl took off like a bat out of hell and left the rest of us in her dust.  She was flying and soon after she was totally out of sight.  I kept reminding myself that I was not to race this but rather set into a comfortable pace for the terrain and enjoy it.  The first mile felt good and I settled into a good rhythm.  I knew I was towards the front of the pack but I didn’t feel like I was pushing it hard.  This course overlapped with the last course so I won’t reiterate how technical the terrain was at times.

I focused on my breathing and made sure to watch my footfall.  Thankfully my ankle felt better than it had in a month and I stopped worrying so much about possibly twisting it or landing wrong.  There were a few hills early on and I kept repeating to myself, “Do not slow down or stop, what goes up must come down.”  I got through the hills and felt really great.  I passed the two mile marker and up ahead was the first aid station.  I stopped for about 20 seconds, grabbed a quick drink of Gatorade and was off again.  There was one guy I was pacing myself off of the entire time.  I always kept him in my sight and fell in step with him a few feet behind.  Fast forward to more hills and jumping over rocks and tree roots and the race was already half over.

I was still feeling really good and comfortable, something I did NOT feel at this point in either of the last two races.  I kept telling myself to relax into a comfortable pace and breath.  We went along until we hit the 4 mile mark and the last aid station for the 10k runners (and a photographer).

me

Again, I stopped for about 20 seconds, took a quick gulp of water, grabbed 5 Swedish fish to keep my mouth moist.  They had a great assortment of goodies for the runners, I didn’t see the gummy bears until I had already grabbed the Swedish fish, a total bummer since that is my most favorite candy on the planet…oh well.

I told myself I had about 2 miles left to go and to run this smart.  While tailing my new friend, we continued on our journey to the finish line.  We encountered more hills and I kept repeating my hill mantra and I made it up all the hills with no issues.  Before I knew it, mile 6 beeped on my Garmin and the end was nearing.  We had one final big hill to climb before coming out of the woods to head towards the finish line.  I came running out of the woods and headed towards the finish line (and another photographer that I didn’t see until I passed him!)

 

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I looked up and focused on the finish line.  I crossed and stopped my Garmin and a young boy handed me my medal.

my time

I looked down and was initially really disappointed with my time, but I quickly changed my perspective.  I was able to accomplish both of the goals that I set for myself for this race. The only time I stopped was for fuel and I did not have to stop or walk at any part on the race. I conquered all the hills and I felt really good the whole way through.  I had nothing to be disappointed about.

I walked over, grabbed some more to drink and thanked the guy that ran in front of me for pacing me.  He laughed and said he is the one who should be thanking me since I was the only thing that kept him going.  He said he could hear me on his heels the whole race and I kept him pushing through.  I love when runners inspire and motivate each other during races!  After we talked for a bit, we walked over the finish line to get an idea of placing.  At that point, I knew I came in 5th overall and was the 2nd female.  The girl who took off in the beginning of the race…well, she won the entire thing.  I wasn’t sure if she was in my age group, but my bet was that she was.

I had to get going because Robyn and Ashton were waiting for me at home to take off to NH.  I saw the race director to get the “big” medal for completing the series of races and I wrapped it up and headed home so I could shower and get on the road.

medal

This medal is really big (bigger than my palm), the picture doesn’t do it justice.  At the end of each race, we got smaller medals that fit in their respective places in the top portion of this big medal.  The bottom is a bottle opener. I thought it was a really cool idea to have all the small medals locking into a bigger one.

Overall, this race experience was MUCH better than the last one in terms of directional signs, start times, etc.  The trails were very clearly labeled, there were volunteers all over the course to make sure we were going in the right direction and it went flawlessly.

Later that day we got the email with the final times and placements. I took SECOND place in the women’s open division (ages 20-39) and 5th place overall like the last race.

 

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I had a feeling the girl who won the whole thing was in my age group.  I am in awe that she maintained a 7:16 pace for this race, but seriously, kudos to her!  I was just really happy that for the 3rd race in a row, I placed.  I think trail running is growing on me and there are a few events they hold in the late Fall I’d like to participate in if the timing works but I think I need to continue to temper my expectations when it comes to paces in trail races.

Well, that’s it folks.  I hope you have a wonderful Labor Day weekend–spend time with family and friends, laugh, work out and eat good food!  I’ll see you all next week!

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Question of the day

Do you ever treat races as regular runs?

Anyone racing this weekend?

XTERRA Trail Run Series (#2)-French River Race Recap

Hi Friends, Happy Hump Day!  Today is my last day in the office this week, so I am rushing to get all my stuff done so I can enjoy an extra long weekend with my boys!!  So, I have a little race recap for you.  As many of you know, in May I did a recap of my very first trail race (and run), the XTERRA Trail Run Series at Wallum Lake, which also happened to be the very first race I have ever placed in!!  Well, the second in this race series, the French River Trail Race was this past weekend.

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So, today we are going to recap this race, okay?  Sit back and relax, it’s kind of long!!  So, my race prep started off on Friday evening with me running around like a lunatic realizing the shorts I wanted to wear were dirty, so I was up late washing clothes.  Did I have other suitable shorts to wear? Of course, but they weren’t my “LUCKY” shorts.  I know I am a bit weird, just go with it.  So after doing a few loads of laundry and having all my clothes clean,  I laid out my racing outfit out the floor to make sure I was satisfied with all my choices.

French river race outfit

I made the mistake at the last trail race wearing a long sleeve shirt…I learned my lesson, that and well, it was expected to be in the high 80’s so a tank was the only reasonable option I could think of.  I recently bought this purple tank and have worn it for a few sweaty gym sessions and loved it so I thought, let’s give it a whirl for the race.  I had my trusty compression sleeves, my Brooks Cascadia trail running shoes , my “lucky” Nike tempo shorts and sports bra and my Wrightline socks.   My new to me item for this race was a brand new Bondi Band head band I just received in the mail.  It matched my shirt so I figured it was a minor new thing, so if I hated it, I could just toss it.

So, with my clothes all laid out, I relaxed for the rest of the night, watched a movie with Robyn and went to bed.  I didn’t realize when I initially signed up for this race that it was an 11 a.m. start time…WHAT??  Seriously, anything later than an 8 am race, especially in the summer months is just NUTS!  Am I right?  Anyways, I got up around 7:30 a.m. and coincidentally, Robyn was up making us all pancakes for breakfast (he did the same thing before my last trail race and I placed) so I figured this may be a good sign and of course that he was going to be locked into a new breakfast tradition before races whether he liked it or not! 🙂  Since the race wasn’t until 11, I wasn’t worried about having a heavier than normal (for me) breakfast, I had two wonderfully delicious raspberry pancakes and played with Ashton until 10 a.m.  Since the race was only about 6 miles away from our house, I didn’t have to leave super early to get there and get my bib, check in, etc.

I got to the race location in about 15 minutes and I was surprised to see the place was PACKED. At first I was confused, but quickly realized from all the signage that there was a triathlon going on before the race, which is why the parking lots were almost full.  Of course I started to panic but realized I still had 45 mins so it would be okay. It took me a bit to find a parking spot and ended up having to park quite a bit away from the action but it worked out well.  I jogged over to registration, got in line to get my bib, which took less than 5 minutes and then jogged back to my car to finish getting my stuff ready.

french river bib number
So, after I got my number attached, I grabbed my handheld water bottle (another lesson learned from the last race,) applied some more sunscreen and bug spray and attached my tracking device to my right ankle.  This was the first time I have used this method of tracking.  At first it felt weird but after a few minutes I didn’t even notice it.

french river tracking

 I made my way back to the starting line and quickly jumped into the portapotty line which moved quickly and then stood against the EMT van where I was shaded from the sun.  Now this is where everything starts to go downhill.

As we are waiting to line up for our race, the race director came over the intercom and said that we are going to be delayed by 30 mins because triathletes were still on the course and they had to make some adjustments to the course.  What?  At this point it was already in the low 80s and HUMID. I’m the first to admit that I don’t do well in really hot weather.  We joke, but it’s more truth than anything that when I think about the sun, I burn.  The heat just wipes me out in general so I wasn’t expecting to have a great race given that it felt like it was getting hotter by the minute and now we were delayed which means being outside for that much longer.  I wasn’t thrilled but at that point, there wasn’t really anything I could do.  I went and got a cup of Gatorade to stay hydrated and stayed in the shade as best I could.  

At around 11:35 a.m. they called the runner’s over the loud-speaker to make their way to the finish line (which was also the start line.)  We cheered on the last few triathletes as they crossed the finish line and then listened to all the announcements for the race by the race director and then the 18k runners were off.  They did a staggered start so we waited about 10 minutes and then the 8k runners lined up. I got my Garmin powered up and triangulated and then we were off. 

We took off running towards the woods and I heard my watch beeping a lot, I was confused and looked down to find that it was on a run/walk program so every 30 seconds it would beep to tell me to run or walk.  Now, should this have been a huge deal?  No, not really, but it ANNOYED ME TO NO END!!  I was afraid to stop it and try to fool with it for fear of messing with the mileage I already logged so I just dealt with it the entire run.  I felt pretty good for the first mile and while the trail was technical, it was nothing too crazy.  Famous last words….

After the first mile, I felt myself slowing down due to the heat and was thankful I had my handheld water bottle.  I was still at the front of the pack, even though I felt like I was crawling.  But, oh no, the crawling was coming.  I thought the last trail race had tough hills.  I laugh at my ridiculousness now.  The hills we encountered in this race were so steep I didn’t see one person run up any of them.  Everyone, even the pack leader stopped to walk. There were even a few hills that we had to get low into our legs and grab for rocks in front of us to help us up the hills.  It was much more hiking than running and my legs were burning and every time we got up one hill, there was another one waiting for us.

About 2 miles into the race, we had to cross the French River.  Now, when I think of crossing a river, I usually think of a long jump over a moving stream or hopping rock to rock over the water.  There were no rocks and no hop to get over this river.  We literally had to run through almost knee-deep water to the other side.  At first I was like, “Are you kidding me?”  I was freaking hot and tired and having a hard time regulating my breath and I knew I still had a long ways to go before I was done with this race, but after I was in the water, it felt so refreshing I wanted to lay in it for a bit to cool over, but I kept moving (very slowly.)

We hit one long downhill that was sort of a reprieve from all the climbing we had been doing, but it was so rocky and steep that I slipped a few times and had to concentrate hard on my footing.  Thankfully I didn’t fall but there were a few close encounters and my right ankle felt really beat up from all the weird landing on the rocks.  We hit another 3 or 4 steep hills and at this point I felt defeated. I was really struggling with my breathing which probably had little to do with the heat but more the terrain since I struggled with this in the first race too.

I had to walk, A LOT.  I never stopped which I am happy about but walking, especially walking up every single hill was is really messing with me mentally.  I know I am in good shape, I work out hard and I should be able to handle a 5 mile run (hell, I killed my last few runs at paces MUCH faster than what I was doing.)  I KNOW logically that trail running is a different beast and the fact that these are very technical trails that are more like hiking in the woods than trails just packed with dirt and some rocks here and there, but still…mentally I felt totally defeated.  I kept trying to tell myself that I just needed to keep moving, one foot in front of the other.  I know I was not the only one struggling, as I could see a few people in front of me and behind me going through what I can only guess were the same emotions.

The trails were labeled with red arrows for us, but there were times where it wasn’t clear which direction we were supposed to be going.  There were a few times where I was grateful there were a few other runners around me as we were all confused on which way to go and at one point during a stretch where I was alone, I made a wrong turn, but thankfully I second guessed myself and turned back around fairly quickly.  Come to find out, this was a very common issue with all the other runners (I’ll get to that in a bit.)  Anyways, I hit the 3.5 mile marker or there abouts and came across another obstacle…about 50-75 feet across of pure mud.  I tried to stay up on the side banks where it looked like the mud was packed in tighter but I still ended up trudging through mud up to my knees and almost lost my shoes on a few occasions, thankfully I was able to grab them before they were lost.  I was glad I had on my calf sleeves because the mud was so high and I knew I would want to get that off of me as soon as the race ended. There is something so gross to me about dried mud, I don’t mind wet mud, but dried mud, no thank you.  I just hate it…don’t judge.

After getting through the mud pit I was faced with another hill.  At this point, I just laughed…with tears in my eyes.  I pushed through and passed a few guys who I had been trailing for the past mile or so.  I crested the hill and had to take a left hand turn.  I heard my Garmin beep and knew I hit the 4 mile marker and I had a pep talk with myself.  I was almost there, I just had to keep moving.  We hit a relatively flat section for about 1/4 a mile and I kept my head down and focused on my erratic breathing, just trying to get things under control.  I took a right turn up another hill and realized I could see the finish line through the trees.  I stopped to walk for a few seconds to catch my breath so I could push it through to the end.

I took a few deep breaths and fixated on the finish line that was a little over 1/4 mile away.  I hit a straightaway and tried to relax.  There were volunteers who were directing runners towards the right path to get to the finish line and I took a sharp left and gave what little I had left in the tank to push myself through the finish line.  I have never been so happy to be done running before.  I stopped my Garmin and it said the time was 55:22, I did the last 8k in 43:42.   I didn’t get a picture of my Garmin after I stopped it, mainly because I was just beyond disappointed in myself and I was trying to catch my breath.  I was just DONE.  A volunteer, a young boy, gave me my medal with a huge smile.  I thanked him and walked over to get a cup of Gatorade and a girl I met at the last race came up to me and started to commiserate about how hard that course was.  I couldn’t really formulate my thoughts other than just to agree with her while I was drinking.  I stayed for about 5 minutes and wanted to start walking back to the car so I could get out of my shoes and stuff and get home to shower before heading to a birthday party with the boys.

I walked over to my car and snapped a photo of my shoes. It’s not super clear but I had to dump mud out of the soles of them.  I tried to clean them off as best I could before throwing them in the plastic bag I had in my car. Thankfully I had that in there because there was no way I was putting those dirty shoes, socks and sleeves in my new car with its cream-colored interior! HA!

french river dirty shoes

Here is my post race photo! Smiling because I am done and get to go home and shower! 🙂

french river post race

And my final picture with my medal.

French River post race and medal

I got home and Robyn asked me how it was and I just grunted and said “Fine.”  He didn’t push since he clearly knew I wasn’t happy with my performance.  I quickly took a shower and it took me a while to scrub the mud lines from my ankles.  I  got out and got ready for the party we were going to.  I had some quiet time to reflect on the race and while I was really glad I didn’t have to completely stop like I did in the last trail race, I was seriously pissed at how much I walked.  Seriously, every single hill had to be walked.  I know I was not alone on this,  the course was really tough and technical, but I was and still am just pissed at myself.  I am really competitive with myself so this was a huge blow to my confidence.  I had a really hard time getting my breathing under control.  I tried to work on more rhythmic breathing but it just wasn’t working on this course.  I know every race is going to be different and it helps us grow and learn more about ourselves, but it’s really hard when you know you are in good shape and get your butt kicked in a 5 mile race, you know?  Especially when I did SO MUCH better in the last 8k I did.

Anyways, I kept checking my email to see what the final race stats were since I didn’t wait around after I finished.  We finally got an email at around 10 p.m. that night from the race director but the stats were not in that email. It was a well thought out and much appreciated email apologizing for the less than stellar race.  He stated (among other things):

“The confusing markings on the course easily take the top spot for “needs significant improvement”, which was also a contributing factor to the start time delay (early race had similar issues). Our plan to reuse markings for multiple races completely backfired. If you would like to send me your gamin (or other) gps data for today, I’d greatly appreciate the opportunity to review it in an attempt to isolate bad turns on the course as well. If there was anything else on the top of you mind, please share it with me (good or bad); it’s how we grow into a better event management organization. Again, I’m very sorry about today.  I’ll mail out any awards to the top finishers. Unrelated to the poor course marking and varying distances covered, I heard the timing was in question for a number of runners. I’ll work with the timing company to find out more info.”
I appreciated him taking ownership of the fact that there were a lot of issues with the event and his apology was heartfelt.  I have a lot of respect for him sending out that email, which is why I will run the last race in this series and continue to support the XTERRA organization.  I know that no race is perfect and sometimes things just don’t work out the way we want them to.  I know my race personally sucked for a lot of reasons, but you know what they say…”On any given Sunday…”  Maybe my next race will be my best one (and Xterra’s best one), or maybe it won’t, but you won’t know if you don’t get out there and try!
 
I woke up on Sunday and it wasn’t a big surprise that I was REALLY sore.  I haven’t been sore after a race since Boston.  I knew given the difficulty of the course that I may be sore but I felt like I fell down a few rocky hills, everything from my shoulders to my ankles were tight and achy.  Even today, 4 days later, my right ankle is still a bit tender.  I hope in another day or so I can get back out there and run. I tried yesterday morning but no dice. I made it a little over a mile and had to stop. 
Anyways, on Tuesday afternoon the final race results were finally posted.

 

Place No.   Name                 G Ag Div      Div   City           St Final   Pace

===== ===== ==================== = == ======== ===== ================= ======= =====

    1   151 Dominic Mastromatteo M 13   1      JUNIOR Worcester MA       49:07  9:53

    2   150 Gianna Mastromatteo  F 15   2      JUNIOR Worcester MA       51:48 10:26

    3   131 Brian Mulcahy        M 40   1      MMAS  Northbridge MA      52:04 10:29

    4   146 Rebecca Luneau       F 42   1      FMAS  North Grafton MA    52:51 10:38

    5   136 Sara Zwicker         F 33   1      FOPEN Leicester MA        55:22 11:09

I took FIRST place in the women’s open division (ages 20-39) and 5th place overall.  I literally cannot believe it.  How did I manage that with such a slow (for me) pace?  I walked what I am going to estimate was close to a mile of hills and still placed? I was and still am in shock considering how much slower I ran this race vs. my last one and how crappy I felt about it and myself.  Don’t get me wrong, I am happy I placed, even if it was a small field of runners, but still, I really never thought that was a possibility with this race.

Well,  that’s my recap of my second trail race and my second time placing 1st in the women’s open division.  I am not counting on that happening again, but you never know…maybe running smaller races has its advantages 😉

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Question of the day

What was your best and/or worst race experience?

 

XTERRA Trail Run Series-Wallum Lake Race Recap

I mentioned a few weeks ago on the blog that I signed up for the XTERRA Trail Run Series Wallum Lake 8k race, which I ran this past Saturday.  So let’s do a little race recap, shall we? So,  like the planner that I am, I had laid out my racing outfit the night before so I  was able to relax a bit before getting ready Saturday morning.

race outfit

I had one of my favorite Swirlgear long sleeve shirts, my compression sleeves, my beautiful new trail running shoes, the Brooks Cascadia’s , my Nike tempo shorts and Injinji run socks.   I was a little nervous to try my new shoes out for the first time in a race, but it is what it is and if I was going to try them out normally, I’d be going out for a 4-5 miler anyways, so I had my fingers crossed that everything would be okay.  So, with my clothes all laid out, I was ready to rock and roll.  Then, on Saturday morning I was awoken (WAY too early) by the sound of a monsoon outside my window.  We have a skylight in the master bedroom and the rain was coming down so hard and fast that the noise level was just too much for me to ignore.  So, I got up and looked outside and prayed to the weather gods to make it stop for my race. The ground was soaked and I will be honest, my biggest concern was getting my pretty new shoes dirty. I know, I know, it’s called trail running, they ARE going to get dirty and I KNOW this, but their first trip out of the gate, I wanted them to stay clean for as long as possible.  Don’t question my rationale, I know it doesn’t make logical sense, but let’s just go with it, okay? 🙂

So, my loving husband got up and made us all pancakes for breakfast. I don’t normally eat a heavy breakfast before going to run, but I had a few hours to digest before the race (it started at 9am) so I had 2 pancakes and then got ready to leave. I left my house at 7:30 a.m. as the directions said the location of the race was about 22 miles away and would take me 40ish minutes.   I assumed it was all back roads and since I have NO sense of direction and rely on my trust GPS, I wanted to give myself plenty of time to get there, get my number and shirt and stretch before the race started.  Well, luckily the rain stopped and I arrived at Wallum Lake at 8:05 a.m. and followed the signs down into the woods towards the beach to get my bib and t-shirt. I got to walk through the start line and take a picture when it was still very quiet and no one was wandering around.

start line

Bib pick up was the quickest and easiest I have ever encountered.  There were two wonderful women whom I gave my name to, they crossed me off the list, gave me my number and my t-shirt.  111 has to be a lucky number right?

number

I went back up to my car to put my t-shirt away, get my bib attached and relax for a bit before I headed back down towards the start of the race.  At around 8:35 a.m. I went back down to the start, used the bathroom (score for real bathrooms, not port-a-potties) and then mingled with some of the other runners, they were all really nice, and of course, I took a selfie near the start flags! 🙂

before the start

As I was looking around, I noticed a lot of people spraying bug spray.  That is the ONE thing I didn’t think to bring with me, rookie move!  Thankfully, they had a communal bug spray for those of us who didn’t bring our own, and for that, I am eternally grateful because even with using their bug spray, I have about 20 mosquito bites all over my body, including right on my ankle, which is the worst of them all!

Anyways, I digress.  So about 5 minutes before the start we all headed over to the starting line and people began to line up.  You could automatically pick out the die hard trail runners, those who literally lined up toeing the starting line and just looked hard core about the race.  I seeded myself towards the back right while I got my Garmin powered up, found my satellites and waited patiently.  The race director gave us some directions as there were two courses, one for the 8k and one for the 10k, we listened to all the directions, then the national anthem started and before I knew it, I heard the sound of the air horn and we were off.

We all took off running towards the finish line, going up a fire road near the parking lot.  At this point, the crowds were thick as people were settling into their paces.  I wanted to start off at a comfortable pace since I had no idea what to expect.  We quickly were going up the first of WAY too many hills and took a sharp left halfway up.  We continued down to what is called Coffeehouse Loop.  I heard the first mile of my Garmin beep but I missed my split time because I was too busy looking down at the ground.  The course so far was very rocky, there were a lot of tree roots and everything was slick with the rain that barreled down earlier in the morning.  However, while the weather cleared up thankfully, I quickly realized I made two mistakes.  The first of which was since we had rain, even though it was fairly cool out at the start, it was really humid and I got hot FAST.  I pulled up my sleeves as best I could and reminded myself that the race wasn’t THAT long.  Famous last words, right?

So, moving on….we took a right to stay on Coffeehouse Loop/Midstate trail.  We came across a single track in the woods that had some rock gardens and thin wooden bridges.  I was enjoying the scenery as much as I could while trying to stay on my feet.  I slipped a few times, but luckily didn’t fall.  The course thinned out a bit and I noticed I was pretty far up front which was a nice little confidence booster.   I knew a few of the people who were running the 8k because our bibs were red instead of black, and up until this point, I hadn’t seen any of them on the course once we started.  At this point,  we had hit quite a few hills and my breathing began to suffer.  While I have had sports induced asthma for as long as I can remember, I have had it under control throughout  my adulthood.  However, I think given the humid conditions and running on a terrain I wasn’t accustomed too, I couldn’t get my breathing under control.  I stopped to catch my breath for a few seconds and then continued on.  I crossed over  the Trunkline Trail and continued up ANOTHER hill on Midstate.  Now I typically don’t mind hills, but seriously, these were TOUGH, probably because they were not only steep but I had to make sure I didn’t fall over slippery rocks and had to side step more piles than I’d like to count of horse s**t!  Seriously, it was EVERYWHERE!

I heard my second mile beep and again missed the pace, but I assumed it was in the very low 9’s or high 8’s given my horrible incredible math skills!  At this point I realized my second mistake…I should have brought my handheld water bottle because I was seriously thirsty.  I don’t usually take any fluids when I run less than an hour, but my mouth felt like a bag of cotton balls, likely from all the heavy panting I was doing.  Thankfully, I took a sharp left (up another freaking hill) and saw the only aid course on the station.  I may have had a small tear in my eye when I saw that.  I stopped to catch my breath and grabbed a small cup of Gatorade and savored every last drop. I wanted to take another one, but people were passing me and my competitiveness got the better of me.  At this water station, the 11k runners went left and the 8k runners went right.  So I veered to the right and enjoyed a small decline before taking a left onto another trail.  At this point, I was really hurting in the breathing department.  We hit a fairly flat straight away of dirt for what I’d estimate was 1/2 mile which was great but I felt like my legs were really heavy.  I had to stop a few times to catch my breath and walked for a few seconds.  Once I started up again, I took a left onto Trunkline and took the Coffeehouse Loop back along the edge of the parking lot back to the fire road.  At some point around here my Garmin beeped for the 4th mile and I was thankful it was almost over so I could finally stop and really catch my breath.  A few male runners passed me and we both told each other good job and they flew by.  I stopped one final time once we passed the parking lot and hit the fire road that would lead us to the finish line.  I saw a big hill in front of me and cursed under my breath.

At this point, a super speedy guy (who I later found out got 2nd in the 11k) was passing me by and patted me on the shoulder, looked me in the eye and told me to push through and I was almost there.  That was what I needed to hear in that moment, as I questioned my sanity for thinking I could do this race, on this terrain.  I dug deep and pushed up that hill as fast as I could in that moment and crested the hill and saw the finish line.  I flew down the hill and crossed the finish line, so thankful I was done.

I stopped my Garmin, 4.81 miles in 43:42, an average pace of 9:05.

garmin time

I really don’t know how that  pace was even possible since I felt like after mile 1 I was struggling for every breath and step.  A nice volunteer gave me my medal and told me I looked strong as I finished.

medal

I thanked her and  I quickly made my way down towards the pavilion that was set up and grabbed a mini-bottle of Gatorade and talked with a few other runners who had finished.  They were all super, super nice and it was fun to listen to their thoughts on the course as well (they all thought it was really hill and tough too!) After about 15 minutes, I made my way back to my car because I had to get home and shower so Robyn and I could take Ashton to his swim lessons.

Here is my post race photo! Still smiling which is always a good sign 🙂
post race

Overall, the race, while small was really well-organized.  The packet pick up was super easy and fast, the course was really well-marked with flags, tree markings and volunteers out on the course to ensure you were heading in the correct direction and the course was really beautiful, albeit hilly.

On the way home, I kept replaying the race back in my head.  I did a few things I wouldn’t make the mistake of doing again, like wearing a long sleeve shirt, not bringing bug spray and not having my handheld bottle with me.  Also, I really need to work more on my rhythmic breathing, I haven’t felt winded running like that in years (with the exception of speed work on the track), and at times it felt a little scary, especially being out in the woods, when most of the time, I was running alone with no one else in sight.  I also went through mentally just how different running on that terrain is than on the road.  For example, I totally zone out when I run on pavement or the treadmill, you absolutely CANNOT do that on the trails, you have to watch every single step you take while watching out ahead of you to see what is coming.  For me, that was probably one of the most difficult things.   They also didn’t allow headphones for this race, another first for me. I have never raced without my music, did that make a difference, maybe?  I don’t really know but I did find myself singing certain songs to myself while I was running to keep me distracted.  I know the point for many to trail running is being out in nature and enjoying the scenery, and of course, I love that too, but I don’t think having a little bit of music would have hurt either.

Anyways, after I got home, I quickly hopped in the shower and got dressed so we could get Ashton to his swim lessons and in the car I was checking my email (don’t worry, I wasn’t driving!) and I got an email from the race saying all the times were posted and they had a screen shot of the winners in each division and overall.  I quickly looked as I was curious as to how fast the winners were able to make it through the course and I was SHOCKED into silence (a rare occasion over here!)

wallum lake final times Not only did I just finish my first trail race (and run), but I placed in my first race and not just placed but got FIRST place in the Women’s open division.  HOLY CRAP!!  To say I was stunned is an understatement.  I didn’t think my time, especially given how much I had to walk would have given me an opportunity to place anywhere in the race.  While it was a small race (I think about 70 or so people) I was still really shocked.  I live in an area where the runners are fast, like SERIOUSLY fast, so the thought of ever placing in a race was non-existent.  Well, after seeing the results, I start thinking, well, the overall winner was only a little over 2 minutes faster, maybe if I hadn’t stopped to catch my breath and walk so much I could have beaten her.  Crazy thinking I know, but that competitive part gets the better of me sometimes! HA!

Well folks, that’s my recap of my very first trail race.  This race was #1 in a series of 3 races in my area and if my schedule allows, I would really like to do the other 2 races, but I really need to get running on the trails for practice, since clearly, I am not conditioned to run on the trails right now.  Overall, I am really happy I did something that has been on my running bucket list for a while, and even though it was SUPER hard, I am really glad I did it, pushed through and finished strong.

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Question of the day

Have you ever done any trail running?  Have you ever placed in a race?  Tell me about it!

Boston Marathon Recap Part 2

So, I left off in Wellesley.  This was probably my favorite part of the course.  When they talk about the screaming girls of Wellesley, they weren’t joking.  They were so loud and energetic. I continued my high fiving and was offered more kisses than ever before in my life. I  saw a lot of people stopping to give the girls kisses, I just watched and laughed as I passed by!

wellesley girls

There was a pretty steep decline and then an incline that comes quickly after.  I remember eating another GU at the 15 mile mark and I was still stopping and walked through every water station to drink, I was really starting to feel the heat around mile 15.

From mile 15-16ish are the Wellesley hills, they weren’t too awful, but after you cross Route 9, you hit a half-mile long descent that is the longest in the course.   Then you get to Route 128 and you get to climb for 3/4 of a mile until you reach Beacon St in Newton.  It was right around this point that my IT bands were tightening up (thanks hills) and I felt like I was starting to lose steam but I told myself to just keep moving.  I was now in the single digits for miles left to complete.  I was letting the crowd carry me and reminding myself that I COULD do this, that I TRAINED to do this and it was SUPPOSED to be hard.

I knew one of my friends Hung would be hanging around the mile 17 marker at the Newton-Wellesley Hospital area.  I remember passing the Power Bar stand at mile 17 and kept trying to find my friend, but unfortunately, I didn’t get to see him.  Before I knew it, I was running downhill for the next mile to the Newton Fire Station.  By mile 18, my left inner quad was spasming and seizing up.  I stopped quickly to try and massage it and had to keep moving. I was afraid if I had stopped for too long, I wouldn’t be able to start back up.  I didn’t feel tired, that was the worst part, my legs were just angry.  Again, I tried to turn my attention to the crowd, they were many deep and just amazing.  They were handing out water, banana pieces, and freeze pops.  Some were even spraying us with water as we ran by because it was getting so hot and some young kids were passing out Twizzlers and pretzel rods.

At this point, I looked up and noticed a fairly steep hill in front of me, I knew we were near Boston College as kids were all decked out in the BC gear and I was offered more than 1 beer.  Gotta love those college kids!! I was still really hurting and after I finished that hill, there was another that was about 1/4 mile long.  I was slowing down a lot and had to dig deep.  There was a fairly flat mile or so where I just kept telling myself that I had to make it to mile 20 to see my next set of friends on the course.  It was mentally really hard not to see people you know on the course, especially when you are struggling.  I knew my family was all at the end of the course so I was really looking forward to seeing some friendly faces earlier on in the course.

I remember passing the Newton City Hall and then was slapped with a third hill.  I made it almost to the top and had to walk the last few steps, I just couldn’t do it.  I had to collect myself.  I felt like I wasn’t even inside my own body.  I knew I wasn’t hitting the dreaded wall though.  I had fueled perfectly, I had done everything I was supposed to, but I think the combination of the heat and the course was getting the best of me.  I had lost track of the hills at this point, I thought I had two more.  I took a deep breath, gave myself a pep talk and told myself to just get this done.  I passed through a little town center of shops and saw another hill.  I put my head down and put one foot in front of the other.  I wouldn’t call what I was doing running, rather shuffling but I made it to the top of that hill without stopping.  When I finally crested that hill, I saw this huge banner that said:

heartbreak

The Heartbreak is over.  I was so confused…I thought I had one more hill.  Not that I was complaining at all!!  At this point we were at mile 20 so I took another round of ENERGYbits and a GU.  There was only a 10k left.  At this point I was taking the course fuel station by fuel station and kept chanting “You can do this” and “one foot in front of the other, DO NOT STOP!” over and over again.  After being relieved that HBH was over, there was a 1/2 mile downhill that just killed my IT bands.  I was cramping so much but had to keep moving.  I was looking for my friends after mile 20 but again, didn’t see them.  There were just too many people in the crowds to make out anyone.  I was thankful the crowds were still going strong though and they were great about looking right at you and saying motivational things like “You’ve got this” or “Do not give up, you just have a 10k left.”  I thanked them and tried to give them a smile, I wish they knew how much this helped.

We hit Brookline at mile 23 and after I drank some Gatorade, I continued to walk through the fueling stations and for another minute or so.  I had 2 more miles until I hit the Hotel Commonwealth where my family was going to be.  I HAD to get there.  I felt like my legs were not part of my body.  How could my IT bands and quad be hurting like this?  I knew the hills were going to be bad, but I think the heat and loss of salt played a large part in how I was feeling too.  Dead legs was the best way to describe how I was feeling.  I remember not feeling angry though, at one point, I looked over and saw one of the many blind runners tethered to their guide and said “Great job, keep going.”  I tried to say this to everyone who was running with a guide or walking/struggling to keep moving throughout the course.  I think it helped them as much as it helped me.

I kept moving forward, hitting a bunch of little hills and feeling like the end was so close but still SO freaking far away.  Almost delirious, I hit the mile 25 fuel station, took another GU, drank some more and put on my game face.  I was about to enter Kenmore Square and I knew I was going to finally see my family.  I was exhausted, playing games mentally in my head, calculating how much time I had left to run, trying to gauge the terrain in front of me.  I saw a sea of Orange and knew I found the MMRF cheer group.  I moved closer to the right side of the street so I would be up close.  They saw me coming and started screaming so loud.  I don’t know how I managed, but I smiled as big as I could and I saw my Mom and sister in the group cheering and smiling.  I was just SO happy to see a friendly face.  They took these pics as I was running by.

mile 25 marathon waving

How I managed a smile I don’t know, I remember thinking, finally, I saw them, I am ALMOST there.  I was in a lot of pain, I was exhausted and I just wanted to be done.  I ran for a couple more minutes, went under the underpass that was filled was spectators screaming at the top of their lungs and took a right onto Hereford Street. That was one of the most crowded areas of the whole course as we start inching towards the finish line.  I had to stop and walk again for about 20 seconds and give myself another pep talk.  I had one more turn to make, a left onto Boylston Street.  I took that left and saw the finish line, but it still felt miles away.  I quickly tried to regain my composure.  I focused on the finish line and didn’t let it leave my line of sight.  I  kept telling myself that I couldn’t stop until I crossed that line.  It felt like it took 20 minutes, you know in the movies when everything feels like it’s playing in slow motion, well, that is how I felt.  Every step felt slow, every movement felt heavy, but I gave that road everything I had left and I crossed that finish line and everything around me went quiet.

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Did I really just finish the Boston Marathon?

0027tYup, looks like I did.  I got my medal and had this picture snapped.  For the first time in my life, I took a decent race pic. I’ve never purchased a race pic before because I always look awful in every race pic, but I am REALLY happy there were a couple of great (for me) pics to buy!

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After stopping my Garmin and taking off my headphones I heard my name being yelled loudly, I looked to the left and saw Robyn and my nephew Tommy with huge smiles on their faces.  It was SO good to see them.  I stood and just looked at them for a minute when I let the fact that I had just finished the Boston Marathon, the race that has sat in the #1 place on my running bucket list for as long as I can remember sink in.  I may have been in a world of pain, I may have wanted to collapse on the ground and stay there for the rest of the day, but I did it!!  I walked over to Robyn and told him that I would meet him at the family finish area and he said okay.  I got my warmth jacket and a water.  I bypassed the food (I can’t eat after I run) and headed to the family meeting area.  Of course, it was by alphabetical order so I had a long walk ahead of me.  Finding my family could take up an entire post as it was pretty messy and ended with me having a bit of a meltdown, but I ended up having to walk an additional two miles AFTER the marathon to get to them because they weren’t allowed to cross over to the family meeting areas?!? But when I finally got to them,  it was so great to see everyone.

marathon Collage

After we snapped some pics, we made the trek to Back Bay and got on the 5:05 train to Framingham.  Robyn dropped Erica and I off at my car in Hopkinton and he went to pick up Ashton at daycare with the kids.  By the time everyone got home, I jumped into a hot Epsom salt bath at 7:45 p.m…and it was over.  All the months of training in the cold, countless sessions with my PT, hundreds of miles logged,  and early morning wake ups led me to this:

finish time

I didn’t hit my 4 hour time goal but I did PR the course and given how hard it was…I will take it and call it a win all around! I truly believe this is the best marathon in the world and I hope that everyone who wants to run it can by either qualifying or doing it through a charity, it was just THAT incredible!  I have been on the cheering side for years, but there is NOTHING that can compare to running this race. I feel so incredibly fortunate that I was able to run Boston.  This will be my last full marathon and there was no better race to end this distance at!

If you made it this far, you are amazing!  I want to thank each and every one of you for all the support you have given me over the past few months.  I love you guys!! Stay tuned for what’s next…but until then, have an awesome weekend!!

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Question of the day

How was your week?  What are your plans for the weekend?

Boston Marathon Recap Part 1

Howdy friends….I started to write out my recap and realized it would be insanely long, so I thought I’d break it out into two posts.  Even then, it is probably going to be a bit long, so sit back, grab a cup of coffee and read along!!

Let’s start on Sunday, the day before the race. It was a super busy day, not only did we have Easter (we hosted and did our annual Easter egg hunt) but I also went into the city to pick up my bib number.

bib pickup

The expo could warrant it’s own post, it was so amazing, but for the sake of time, I’m just going to say, I could have stayed there all day, it was like a runner’s heaven.  The only part that made me sad was that they sold out of Women’s small marathon jackets so I am going to have to order mine online.  After I got my bib number and race packet (along with a nice long sleeve tech shirt,) I headed to the Hilton where I got to meet all the awesome people on the MMRF team for a small get together and dinner.

MMRF team
We finished up around 5:30 p.m. and by the time I got home, it was close to 7:00 p.m. and I knew I wanted to make it an early night so I put EVERYTHING I would possibly want or need in my car the night before, leaving nothing to chance.  I laid out my clothes and I went to bed at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday evening to ensure I got enough sleep. I was up at 4:12 a.m., even though my alarm was set for 4:50 a.m.  I followed my PTs guidance for hydration the day before and consumed 120 ounces of water and electrolytes, which is A LOT of liquid for me.  I’m lucky if I get half of that on a normal, good day.  So, I was up early bc I had to pee. Thankfully, I’m up around this time everyday anyways so I wasn’t tired when I got out of bed.

I had laid my clothes out in the second bathroom so I wouldn’t be making noise for Robyn when I got up. I fed Morgan and let him out, grabbed my pre-made drink in the fridge and hopped in the car.  Because I wasn’t driving into Boston to take the BAA buses, I had to get to Hopkinton before they closed the roads at 7 a.m. Hopkinton is only 27 miles from my house, but they said in every email communication that parking was EXTREMELY limited and once the lot was full, there was no other parking option, so I wanted to make sure I got a spot. Throughout the entire prep for the race in the last week, this was the only thing that was stressing me out.

Well, I flew into Hopkinton, there was no traffic on the Mass Pike and got a spot in the parking lot at 5:40 a.m.  Since I was not scheduled to start running until 11:25 am I had plenty of time to spare. I texted my husband so he knew I was there safe and started getting my gear together (putting on my Garmin, calf sleeves, socks, etc.) I listened to the radio, played on FB and Twitter and ate a Clif Bar. Around 6:15 a.m. the traffic picked up substantially and the lot started to fill up. At this point it was about 30 degrees out.  I checked the weather and when I was scheduled to start running it would be in the low 60’s. I stayed in my car where it was warm and talked to my sister in law Erica, read on my tablet and just relaxed until 9:20 a.m. then I hopped in the line for the shuttle. It took 30 mins to get through the line and security for the shuttle from the South St. parking lot to the Athlete’s Village. The bus ride was only 10 mins long and was so well organized and I sat next to a super nice woman from Salem, MA who was running her 4th Boston Marathon.  Once I got to the village, we wished each other well and that’s when things started getting real.

athletes village

I wasn’t nervous though, just excited. Once I walked through the entrance, it was like a sea of people.  I knew there was a lot of people running, 36,000, but I was instantly overwhelmed with the number of bodies spread out in front of me.   I immediately got into line for the bathroom and glad I did as I was in line for over 30 mins and by time I got through, I had about 5 mins until my corral was called to head out to the start!

When my corral was called out, we made the trek, about 1/2 mile,  to where we would wait for the gun to go off.  I talked to quite a few super nice runners, heard a bit about their stories and goals and one nice guy offered to snap a picture of me before we started.

right before start

I took my first round of ENERGYbits and decided to carry a bottle of water with me just in case I needed it.  The gun went off, I started my music and Garmin and we were on our way.  It was VERY packed.  The first mile people were walking.  Before we started I kept telling myself to go out slow and just enjoy this experience. I tend to get so caught up in trying to run that I don’t take in the scenery, I didn’t want that experience this race. I wanted to soak it all in, remember all the small and big moments.  I felt really good as we started out, my calves were great and I stuck in the right hand lane and decided to just stay there and not try and weave in and out as there were just too many people.  

The course starts with a decline immediately, so I knew I had to be conservative with my pace.  There was so much excitement and from the starting line, there were crowds on both sides of the street cheering like we were the elite athletes.  It was pretty awesome. Miles 1-3 went by and I was laughing, high fiving little kids and enjoying all the great signs.  I don’t think I heard one song playing through my headphones, it was just like white noise.  The crowd was loud and so amazing that they were the only thing I was focused on.  After mile 2, there were aid stations every mile.  It was much hotter than initially anticipated, so I immediately made the decision to hydrate at every single station.  I have never walked or stopped in a race before, so this was a first for me, but again, I wanted to play this race smart.  I really felt the heat kick in around mile 5 right before the Framingham train station, but I was still feeling great.  I took my first Roctane with some water and it was around this time as well when I got stung on the shoulder by something.  I didn’t see anything but something big and black flying fast into me, and then the burning sensation as I was swatting frantically.  I tried to stay calm and look down at my shoulder, but it was at a weird angle so all I was was a puncture area a bit bigger than a pin hole and the whole area around it was red.  It was stinging a lot at first, then it would come and go so I just tried to ignore it.  Luckily, I didn’t have any sort of reaction other than the stinging and redness (which is still red 3 days later.) 

 Even after the bite, I still hadn’t looked at my Garmin and was truly living in the moment.  I can’t lie though, I had to keep telling myself when the urge came to look at my watch that I needed to stay present.  I told myself I could look down at the half way mark or if I felt I was really starting to go too fast or lag behind, but I was feeling comfortable with my pace.  The crowds were still insane on both sides of the road and when we got into Framingham, the music was blasting and people were dancing and having a blast cheering us on.  By this point, I had to have high fived at least a hundred people and had a huge smile plastered on my face. I have never had so much fun during a race before.  The energy and love emanating from the crowd was just something that couldn’t be ignored. Just thinking back on this gives me the chills.

Before I knew it, we hit the half-way mark and I had made it though Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick and was entering Wellesley.  My half marathon time was 2:00:27 and I was still feeling amazing.  Here are my first 1/2 splits.

1st half

At this point, I realized that if I continued like this, I actually had a shot at hitting my 4 hour time goal.  

 

To be continued….

 

 

First post race run

Following my half marathon on Sunday, I cross trained by biking for the past 3 days.  Today, I decided I was going to give running a try.  In my head, I was expecting my legs to revolt, so my expectations were low.  I knew I was going to run on the treadmill because it was just too cold for me this morning and I haven’t been able to swallow without discomfort for a few days.  I was hoping to get 2 miles in and then I would bike, but something magical happened….one mile passed with no pain, then two, then three…I ended up deciding not to push my luck and stopped at 4.33 miles.  I finished in 35:48, which included a warm up and cool down, not too shabby!  And this is exactly how I felt…nail a workout

I had NO tightness or pain while running!!  I don’t know if it is because I allowed my body to recover over the past 3 days, if it was all the foam rolling, icing and stretching I have done, a combo of all of the above, or just luck, but I will take it!  I needed a run like this this morning.  My work has been insane, I worked until 10 p.m. last night and that is a long day considering I leave my house by 5:30 a.m. everyday.  Right now, I am smack in the middle of my busiest time of the year and I have been very stressed, so to be able to get all my stress and anxiety out before I walk into the office just makes me able to do my job with a smile.  I cannot begin to tell you the high I am still on right now as I sit here writing this post!  I hope you have a wonderful Thursday, only one more day until the weekend!

 

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Question of the day

Have you felt like the little boy in that picture above recently?