Boston Marathon 2018 Recap

Grit is a word I’ve heard repeatedly when it comes to marathons. You’ve got to have it to train for them, to line up for them, and definitely to finish them. The nature of the marathon is you train for many weeks doing your best to stay healthy and uninjured and hope for a flawless day. A day where everything clicks into place and you get to demonstrate your training. Boston 2018 was not flawless, far from it. It was a day that everyone who showed up demonstrated what type of people marathoners are, gritty AF.

Every single person out on that course ran in the rain that beat down from the sky in sheets and wind that blew so hard that you had to push your body against it to move half as far as you’d expect that stride on a normal day. If you could tuck behind someone maybe you’d be spared a bit, I tried a couple of times but still felt like it didn’t help much. Lake-like puddles lined the sides of the streets; if you pulled off to toss a layer that became heavy and useless you might find yourself ankle deep in water.

A week before this race, during our last 12-mile long run I turned to my training partner Eileen and joked that the terrible conditions of cold rain we were running through could be what we’d see in Boston. We finished that run with a 6:57 last mile partially because we were cold, partially because we were having fun on our fresh legs. I said, “no matter what, we’ll be prepared!” At the time the forecast was calling for clouds and 50 degrees. I was completely joking in thinking that we’d have monsoon weather but also know that Boston can be unpredictable. As the week revealed 100% chance of rain and then strong winds that would make the temperature feel like 25 degrees, I got a little nervous that I had asked for what we were about to run through.

This was our last rainy run, it hadn’t gotten really bad yet.

Day of Race

The morning of the race I woke up with a headache on the left side of my head, slight period cramps and a bit of nausea. This is actually when I got worried. My friend Karen and I had been discussing the weather the night before and had come to the overall “it affects everyone, at least it’s not a personal struggle” idea… then I got handed a personal struggle. I had a hard time eating my oatmeal without throwing up but managed to get it down and was hopeful that Advil I had taken would help the headache and cramps.

By the time I reached the village my personal issues had pretty much dissipated, and now I was descending upon what to many is a field of dreams but on Monday was a field of sloppy, squishy, shivering cold mud. Thankful for the wise advice from my running group, I had my racing shoes and socks bagged up. My feet felt frozen but hand warmers gave some relief. Thanks to Bruce, I used a type of chafing oil to ward off blisters and huddled in close to my friends to stay warm. Once we were called to our corrals we slopped through the mud, made it to the sidewalk and changed into our fresh shoes and socks if we had them. At this point, I was wearing a long sleeve shirt as my base layer, my Seattle singlet, compression socks, long tights, a pullover, a waterproof jacket and a poncho. I had one pair of gloves stuck in my bra and one on my hands. I had four Huma gels stuck in various pockets in my tights and three hand warmers also in those pockets.

Eileen and I had planned on running this together, we made our last bathroom stop and then started jogging to our corral. The excitement really hit at that point. I was so happy for her to be tackling her first Boston. Weather be damned, we were doing this! We entered our corral, threw off our ponchos and I took off the heavy jacket but kept the pullover for warmth. Suddenly we were moving faster and the timing mats were at our feet and wow, we were at the start! It took me by surprise when we started running.

Miles 1-3

I wanted to go out slow and steady and I wasn’t sure how controlled we could be together. We actually did a pretty great job. I accepted going 10 to 15 seconds faster because it felt restrained and pretty easy. I was hoping we wouldn’t pay for it later. I feel like I was still shocked by the intensity of the weather and while excited a little bit scared which got my heart rate up. While I was working on calming down some more Eileen was reassuring me that we were racing and it’s not supposed to feel like a walk in the park and that we had this in us. I resolved and relaxed. My feet were still frozen and I couldn’t feel footfall which was a very odd sensation. We didn’t weave too much and kept an eye on moving steadily up the early hills.

Miles 4-10

This is a big chunk that went by quickly. Eileen had written out splits on her arm and we were ahead of our projected time just a bit at 5 miles and by over a minute at 10. I was still feeling pretty good so I was happy about that. I know you’re not supposed to bank time at Boston and this wasn’t intentional, it just was. It was also in this stretch of miles that we ran into Kat who joined our party. She was able to talk much more than I was, so while I really wanted to be friendly, I didn’t quite have it in me and this got me worried. I threw off my heavy pull-over somewhere within these miles, thinking that it was hurting more than it was helping. While I searched for my college friend Liz in mile 10 I lost close contact with Eileen and Kat, but was able to keep them in sight. I had taken a gel at mile 6 and was feeling the effects in a positive way.

Miles 11-15

Once I gave up looking for Liz in mile 11, I refocused and got close to Eileen and Kat again. Mile 12 saw a huge onslaught of driving rain that I wasn’t sure would ever stop pounding us. We made our way up to the Scream Tunnel. It really is an amazing boost of energy, especially in the conditions we were in. Soon after I lost Eileen. She was up on the left in front of me and I had started to lose steam. I wanted to back off to save something for the Newton hills. It was just before mile 15 that my hamstring started to cramp up. I had grabbed the Hylands cramp dissolving pills that were included in our race packet as a last-minute precaution because of what had happened last year with cramping. I was so happy I had that forethought. I had lost Kat at this time and figured it was best for her because I now didn’t know how my race would go on. It was near impossible to open the package and run at the same time so I stopped to take them. While trying to get the package open in a rush, I dropped two of the pills on the ground but managed to slide one under my tongue. I started running again slowly. I was telling myself that I needed to start thinking in survival mode and potentially give up a time goal. When I started to feel my hamstring loosening up I got focused on what else I would need to make this a better experience. This led to a series of dumb decisions.

Miles 16-20

I decided that it was time for music. On a normal day running fast and trying to put in headphones and turn on music via my watch may have been hard. On a day where my hands were frozen and soaking wet and I couldn’t grip anything, this was absurd. I turned the headphones on with my teeth after struggling with my fingers. I attempted to pair them to my watch, time after time I was getting an error message. I slowed to a walk to try to accomplish this. I wanted music to get me from miles 18-20. I finally gave up and tucked the headphones back into my pocket. Overall I probably lost about a minute and a half from futzing with it, but I know I should have given up sooner. I resolved to my reality, no musical support and started making my way closer to pace again. I knew I’d need to make up for whatever I might lose on the hills again.

I told myself I wasn’t allowed to walk. I was more afraid of walking and cramping up than anything. So I kept steady up the hills and tried to get myself to fly on the downhills. I was moderately successful.

When heartbreak finally came around, my legs definitely felt the strain but it wasn’t as bad as I remember from last year. At the top, a woman yelled “yeah Seattle! You made it up Heartbreak hill now get going!” and so I did.

Miles 21-23

6 miles to go and I was motivated but I wasn’t ready to do the math yet. I wanted to see how I continued to feel and just keep moving. Anytime I spotted a photographer and thought they might get a photo, I smiled. But I also smiled anytime anyone shouted, “Go Seattle!” I actually believe that’s what saved this race for me. Some of these cheers were so incredibly heartfelt and these people who were standing in the rain as it pounded down on all of us, it was just unbelievable. I saw kids out there my son’s age and saw them having fun! I thought, “wow, this is amazing. My son would be miserable but these kids are living this up, this city loves this marathon. Who am I not to give my best?” I found however that my best was harder than I would have liked. I started getting hungry. I had taken three of my Huma Gels already (mile 6, 12, 18) and didn’t expect to need my fourth. I should have taken it right at mile 21 but waited until after mile 23 to take it because I felt like I needed it so badly. So this was poor decision number 2. I think had I gotten the burst of energy that I needed sooner I wouldn’t have slowed down so much.

Mile 24-26

The last three miles were very tough. I remember trying really hard and smiling a lot but my legs were not moving the way they should have been. When I finished mile 24 at 3:01 (according to my watch), I said even if I run 10 min miles right now, I’ll still be in good shape at the end. I didn’t plan on doing that, but it was a buffer I gave myself. I never saw sub 8 again, I made my way to the finish line really struggling up Hereford to get to Bolyston. I heard Quynh on the left shout for me and I picked my head up and waved then made my way down the rest of Bolyston kind of laughing to myself that these long straightaway finish lines are always so much longer than you think they’re going to be.

I was so happy to be done, I was laugh-crying to myself and as I walked through the line to get my medal, poncho and snack bag when one of the announcers let us know that Desi Linden had won. I screamed out in joy, startling people around me. Of course, she won in this. Of course. To me, Desi is the definition of grit. Put in the work, ignore the distractions, enjoy the journey and give your all. Or as she said:

What a marathon.

I finished with an official time of 3:21:57

Boston Training Weeks 16-22

The weeks leading up to Boston really flew by and while I kept a pretty good record of all my training in my spreadsheet, I definitely neglected this sweet little blog over here. I’ll try to recap to my best ability, mainly so I have a place to look back on my thoughts on this training cycle.

Week 16- Getting Back on Track

My first full week back after a wonderful Hawaii vacation and a true confidence boosting 8-mile race. The track workout (I like to refer to them as speed workouts since we rarely worked out on the track, but instead on the inner loop of Green Lake) was icy, but I went faster than the prescribed MP -10 pace, which ended up being quite the trend on Mondays.

The tempo this week was inconsistent and my pals dropped off one by one for various reasons, so this was both mentally and physically challenging. I stayed with it and felt accomplished especially after chasing Francis for part of this one.

A strength workout led to my quads being trashed for my 20 miler this week, kind of perfect practice now that I look back on this. The last five miles of this run were really tough, but I think I gave in more mentally then I should have, my body had more to give.

I ran a super fun and easy 10 miles for Sarah Smith’s 40th birthday celebration this week as well which added a decent amount to my weekly mileage, making it the highest week of my entire training cycle at 53.5.

Week 17- Lake Sammamish Half Marathon

I missed a lot of strength training this week and was the start of the end of consistency on that. This is potentially my only worry come race day. That I’m not as muscular as I should be. Regardless this week was very good, I did 3×2 mile at 7:02 pace and I think we dropped into the 6s at some point as well. It was a push but not terribly unreasonable.

The tempo this week was fine, as the woman who swore she WOULD NOT do 10 mile tempos, I lied. I’m actually really happy I did them too. This was a 2×5 with a 1/2 mile easy in between. The second 5 miler was tough and my ankle was bothering me a bit but I made it through faster than marathon GP.

Coming into the weekend with just those miles on my body and having raced sort of recently, I was feeling pretty excited and confident for the 1/2. I wanted to be cautious though and not go all out and peak too early in training. I knew I was going to PR, even if I had stuck to my plan of not going under 7 min/mile pace it would have been a PR. I didn’t feel uncomfortable until mile 8 and breathing got tougher towards the end. I averaged a 6:56 to hit a 3:30:33. It didn’t feel like it a 100% effort which is very encouraging. I felt like I ran smart and tough. It wasn’t totally easy though and I need to remember that, this was still a very good effort to get that time, I had to convince myself to get to mile markers in order to not slow down. It got tough and I got tougher.

I did a little running a little strength the following day.

Week 18- A Semi-Sweet Recovery

I was careful in week 18, taking a beautiful down week to prepare for the upcoming hell week after racing. Ran an easy recovery run with friends around the lake for 9.5 miles at 9:33 pace.

A headache stood in my way on Wednesday and I didn’t run again until Friday. I was able to get some strength and erged a bit. The rest of the week was solo. I ran 6 miles by myself on the old Fleet Feet route which has that killer uphill then on Sunday I went for a 16 miler solo on the Burke. While I do listen to music and podcasts on the solo runs, I think that they’re mental builders for running my own run and pushing myself by myself. My pace on that 16 was pretty good, only a couple miles over 8 and a mountain to climb at the end that I kept in the 9s. This is a run I can look back and be thankful for.

Week 19- Hell Week

This was extra hell-ish because John was traveling for work so I had to do some major adjusting to fit the workouts in and rely on my mother-in-law to help with childcare so I could do the really important work with my training partners. Monday was fast and actually on a track and on the roads in my neighborhood. I didn’t do the prescribed workout due to time constrictions. I did 3×1600 at 6:42, 6:46 and 6:55.  I was disappointed with that last interval and stressed out in general so I’m not surprised this went the way it did.

I was able to shake that off and hit a wonderful 2×5 mile tempo on Wednesday. It took me 3 miles to find the groove but then it clicked! The one mile in between the sets of 5 felt fine and it wasn’t too hard to get started again for the next 5. Eileen and I ran a very solid second half of this workout, I’m so happy that we had each other to stay put in our workout. This was the hardest tempo of this training cycle and we crushed it. I did a little bit extra with 2.6 miles at 10:06 pace with the CLers! The pace of the tempo wasn’t perfect, but with some climbs, a particularly hard one through Ravena that we accomplished in 7:22 in there I think it was another big confidence booster.

I ran a bit, rowed a bit and strength trained on Thursday, skipped Friday’s workout because it was too stressful to try to fit it in and it gave me a little extra rest for the last 20+ run of the cycle. That Log Boom run ended up being incredibly solid. Ran sub 8 for the average and felt really good, even in the last 3 miles where we picked it up a bit. I ran an easy 4 on Sunday to even out the week at 50 miles. As I finished out “hell week” on a very high note and came into week 20 with two recovery days and a mini chest-cold I was just so thankful.

Week 20- The Start of the Wind-Down

I took Monday and Tuesday off because I wanted to and it had always been in my plan to do so. I know how much the long runs can run me down and it wasn’t worth pushing my body harder than necessary.

Totally recovered, I had a very solid tempo on Wednesday. 2 mile warmup 10 miles at MP and 2 cool down. Ravena was slower on this go around, but we worked really hard and we’ll be ready for the Boston hills when they come, these workouts were tough.

The rest of the week was just fun. FLUR at 8 min pace, Long run of 16 at 7:56. And a 30 min erg session at home on Sunday It was all very enjoyable.  As the training cycle winds down I’m just loving the easy runs and the company.

Weeks 21 and 22- The last pieces to the puzzle

The focus was to stay happy, healthy and uninjured. This is some of the boring stuff. No more tempos for me, a little bit of speed work to stay tuned up. 12 miles for a long run and easy, easy, easy for the last week before the race. I’m not feeling any phatom pains or extra restlessness during this taper. A bit of anxiety sure. I’m trying to stay calm, I’m reading mental toughness books and posts to stay in the right mindset and I continue to be both at awe in what I’ve accomplished in training leading up to this week and thankful for the folks who have been supporting me all the way through.

Next post will be on the flipside of the Boston Marathon. I feel like I’m ready. Comparing this training cycle to my 3:25 cycle, I have close to 200 additional miles in the bank, less strength training but more targeted and specific race training. We’ll see how it goes, I’m hoping my brain will stay focused in the last six miles to push through the pain and finish with everything I have in me.