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

Oh hey! I’ve been training! Weeks 10-15

I always start a blog with the best of intentions. I don’t know what made me get really good about the habit of doing it almost daily in the past, but whatever that was, I don’t have that habit anymore, I’m just going to go ahead and blame it on motherhood. Got to live that mom-life and not ignore my child in order to write regularly.

Here I am not ignoring my family!

I do ignore my child in order to run, or rather, I run so early in hopes that he’s still asleep by time I get home and he gets a sweaty-stinky version of me crawling into his bed to come wake him up (actually let’s be honest, he’s usually snuggling my husband after sneaking into my bed after I leave in the morning). And that’s how I balance this whole marathon training thing with momming and being the morning parent. On weekdays I’m out of the house around 5am, usually back around 7:30ish (unless I need that extra coffee time with my runbuds). My husband puts the kiddo to bed and walks the dog most nights while I get into bed by 10ish. Weekends, dad is a long-run widower, especially when I get this deep into training, where 16- 20 mile runs leave me incapable of mothering very much and they have to fend for themselves during and after my run. Thank goodness I met my husband through running and he’s done more marathons than me, he gets it. Also, his mom and dad live less than a mile away and he has back-up support. Life is really really good for me.

Solo long run on a Hawaiian highway.

Regarding actual training from weeks 10-15 (1/15-2/25) I’ve been ON POINT. I don’t think I’ve had such a focused and consistent training cycle since college and it’s showing. I’m stronger, faster and feeling more awesome than ever. Don’t get me wrong, some of the long runs have been strugglefests where I desperately hang on to my training partners for dear life. The long stuff is hard for me, 18ers and 20ers are just not natural for this former 800m runner. But I’ve been doing well on the tempos and the track and hill workouts. This mileage is more than I thought would be possible at this stage in my fitness.

Week 10- 32 miles

Week 11-34 miles

Week 12-40 miles

Week 13-41 miles

Week 14- 47 miles

Week 15- 30 miles

Comparing this to what got me to my 3:25 marathon back in 2016, I was averaging 27 miles a week at much slower paces.

Goes to show that high mileage might not matter as much as a determined spirit. But I feel much more confident with my current mileage…

Add in a stellar race where everything went right and I had a ton of fun, and we have a very good training cycle so-far indeed. (Separate Great Aloha Run race report to come!)

Pulled from a facebook live feed from a Hawaiian news page!

Now to stay on healthy, happy and focused in these last 7 weeks. Post-Hawaii vacation has turned me a bit upside down so hopefully no more travel until the race. Late nights with zero sleep, a toddler with a 24-hour bug, a splitting headache that prevented me from running an 18er with my peeps made for a light week with NO strength training. Everyone has at least one bad week, and I’ll call this last one mine. I’m so excited to get back to my routine and put the final pieces into this training so I can show up in Boston at my strongest.

Week 6- The last “easy” week

Almost done with week 7, so I’ve got to get this post out there! Ack- I forgot how hard it is to stay on top of posting regularly to a blog! Also pictures. Apologies if you follow me on Instagram- you’ll likely see all the same photos because a) I’m usually talking too much during a run to remember to take any while we run and b) it’s too hard to take good pictures while running. I’m super impressed with all the Instagrammers who get good shots of themselves running- I have a pop-socket and everything- this shouldn’t be that hard. Anyway, I digress- onto the recap. (Week 6 was December 18-24)

Monday-Bootcamp!

Oh man- I was really appreciating this kick in the butt workout each Monday, this was my last one before I start heading to the track at 5:30s on Monday. The way boot camp works at Rain City Fit is you show up, they tell you what to do at 4 different stations, and 4 different exercises per station. You pick a station with some partners and then you work for a minute at an exercise. Switch at the timer and go through it twice. Sometimes at the 30 second mark you have to switch arms or legs or whatever, so a timer goes off every 30 seconds. You’ve got to make your movements count! After each round, before moving on to the next station, there’s a short break to grab a sip of water. I enjoy that there’s no counting reps, just getting the work in and moving on.

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This was a deloading week off of a one rep max that I guessed was appropriate. I had a feeling that all my 1 rep maxes were a little light- so I challenged myself in week 7 of training (see that post soon!). I ran a warm-up mile and 2 cool down miles at 8 min pace.

Wednesday- Wake-Up-Wednesday

Just kidding- I slept in and got zero miles. It was not going to happen. Happily, week 6 was my last week of going easy on myself. As I’ve mentioned, I wanted to give myself some relaxed training before heading into the uber-focused, nose to the grindstone type of workouts and weeks leading up to Boston. I gave myself this last out.

Thursday- Strength

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I love a good strength workout. Yeah, this only took eight and a half minutes, but it got my heart rate up and I feel like I’m doing some solid work. I warmed up 1 mile, and cooled down 2 at 8min pace.

Friday-FLUR

I made it to what looks like will be my last FLUR of the season. I had forgotten that I scheduled boot camp in place of FLUR for each week so that I could fit in the track workouts on Monday. I had a delightful 6 miles chatting with Desiree, we moved along at a comfortable 8:12 pace. For some reason I was dreading this run, even on the drive over, but once I got started I felt great and miles smoothly passed by. This is the magic of group running.

Saturday Rise & Shine, plus a little extra for RunChatHunt

This was such an enjoyable run. Loka had set up a snowball run to get us all to the huge tree downtown for a photo by 8:15. I think my group hit the timing perfectly. Overall this morning plan went off without a hitch, 12 miles at 8 min pace. Only the hill up Freemont felt hard, and that’s a mile of running up a steep grade, so like I said when I finished it, when that hill starts to feel easy, I know I’ll be in great shape.

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That evening, I convinced John and Grant to drive and run with me around a community called Olympic Manor so I could get my final RunChatHunt scavenger hunt finds. It was the only place I could find a nativity scene in Seattle!! Not even churches I run past have them! I mean, I know I shouldn’t be shocked by this, it is Seattle. We ended up doing 3 miles at 11:30 pace, John pushed the running stroller while I hunted and stopped to take a bunch of pictures.

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Sunday-Strength

The reason I made my family go for that run with me on Saturday evening was that I had looked into the forecast and saw that it was supposed to snow 3 inches in Seattle on Sunday. Well, the forecast did not lie! I wanted to get my Sunday workout in, so instead of driving to the gym, I threw on my trail running shoes (that have a really great grip!) and ran the .8 to my gym.

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I completed a pretty relaxed workout, (though those chin-ups felt brutal) and ran home the .8 miles.

My total week 6 mileage was 28.6. A solid week of pretty easy going training. Week 7 marks 16 weeks until Boston and the time to start getting serious. Tempos, track workouts, and marathon pace miles are all ahead. I’ll continue to keep my variety in my strength workouts and make some lifting goals to go along with my running ones. Here’s to the last week of 2017!

Week 5- AKA the lazy one

Running well requires consistency and focus. These are arguably the hardest parts of training for a marathon for most people, including me.

There’s also a fine line between being lazy and needing rest. You get to know this as you get to know your mind and your body better through the years. So that’s why I can say with some confidence, that week 5 of my marathon training for Boston fell into the lazy trap.

I scheduled a rest day on Monday following my race. Normally I go to Bootcamp to get a good start to the week, even though it always feels too early to be doing anything other than sleeping at 6am on a Monday. However, the momentum of waking up and getting the work done makes it easier for me to keep it going at least until Wednesday. Week 5, started off with sleeping in.

Tuesday I was able to get up early, run 1 mile on the treadmill (my typical warm-up) stretched a bit and then did this workout:

I slowly made my way through this workout and felt good enough to run my 2 mile cool down miles. I thought that this would get me on track for the week but then holiday parties hit me hard.

Wednesday I was too tired from a movie night to wake up before 5am to get to WuW, I told myself I’d go running during the day, but wasn’t able to make it happen. Thursday I was got up but after a mile and my back squat routine ( 3-3-3+ of 80% (77) 85%(80) 90% (85) 7 reps at 85lbs)  I gave up the rest of my workout to just go home and relax.

After a company holiday party Thursday night, I knew there’d be no way I’d wake up for FLUR.  Then a CrossFit gym holiday party Friday night made me feel like Rise and Shine was just not going to happen Saturday morning. At a runner friend’s party on Saturday night I chatted with one of my running partners and she let me know that she needed to get some Sunday miles in. Phew! This was also a good opportunity for me to go for some #RunChatHunt scavenger finds, so I was very thankful for her pre-planned route and her company.

A #runchathunt item, a flag of any type. We thought this one was unique and funny.

I ran 2.5 miles to her, we ran a little over 8.5 miles together, and I asked her to drop me off at my gym so I could get some of my strength work in to make the best use of my Sunday morning where I was off of parent duty.

I ran one more mile on the treadmill when I was done so that I could get to 12 for the day and push myself to run a sub 8 min mile after all that work. I was pleasantly surprised with this day’s work, though I guess after all that rest, a solid workday should feel good!

While my plan had called for 26 miles total, and I missed out of 10 of those miles, I guess I can’t call this entire week a wash now that I’ve written it all out this way. I was good about getting my strength in all week, even if it wasn’t exactly as I would have liked it. Holiday activities can really throw a wrench into training, but it’s also important to live a regular life, so I don’t regret staying out late and seeing friends. Marathon training is a long process, and each day is a small step towards hitting the next goal. Since I didn’t get too wrapped up in the “shame” of missing workouts, I’m able to move into the next week successfully and knowing what small battles I need to win to get the mileage I want to see.

Training Weeks 1-4 (A quick recap)

Because this training plan is abnormally long, these first three to six weeks seem a bit more insignificant than most will be. Part of my plan was to just get started and the best way for me to do that is to have a sketched out idea of what I should be doing. I don’t put a ton of pressure on myself to do it exactly as planned.

Week 1 seems like such a non-week, but I’ll share it anyway to show that you don’t have to go in with crazy gusto, especially when you plan so far out.

I planned for 10 miles, I ended up with 6. I learned that Sundays are still a little bit hard to get motivated to get running. I’m proud of myself for making it to two strength workouts in that first week.

Week 2 was more motivated and during Thanksgiving! I was feeling good.

The purple highlighted days signify that I was away from home, we were up at Whistler with family. After missing mileage on Saturday, I convinced my husband to stop in Vancouver so I could get a run on the seawall and so that my son could go to the aquarium. I think this was a brilliant plan and I’d probably do it again if we go up to Whistler a second time this season.

unflattering photo, check! It was POURING. Upon returning to the parking lot, a car drove past me and totally drenched me.

Week 3 is still even more motivated, I was actually trying to have a perfect week:

One important workout of note is from Tuesday of this week. I list out strength programming that I started. It’s the weightlifting program called the Wendler 5/3/1.I learned how to do this program during CrossFit, and because I had put my strength training on the way-back backburner I knew that I needed some serious structure to test where I am now and to work towards getting measurable results for this training cycle. My plan is to do Wendler for deadlifts (1st priority), squats (2nd priority) and shoulder presses (3rd priority). I may consider bench pressing later on. As I write this I’m in week 5 of marathon training and I’ve found that my 1 rep max that I’m using for my backsquat and my deadlift are a little light. I’ll make it through to the deload week and may test out my actual 1 rep max now that I’ve started doing these movements regularly again.

The other thing of note in week three was how fast I ran my long run on Saturday. I didn’t intend on running an average of 7:45s but it felt good. I started off in the low to mid 8 min miles and picked it up on the second half of the run. I’m happy I took an unscheduled rest day the next day and though I do plan to work through tired muscles later in the season.

Finally week 4. 

Not too much to say here. I got work in. I knew I was “racing” Deception Pass, but decided that I’d try to have a normal type of training week instead of taking it too easy on myself leading up to the race. 32 miles in a week is a good amount for me. I’ll do a race-recap for my next post. The short story is that it was beautiful and hard, and I did better than last year.

I’m enjoying prioritizing the strength training each week, though I know I need to get better at planning it out in advance. Wendler is easy to follow, so that piece is always done first, I then try to keep a variety of other exercises. I’m inspired by a couple of athletes who post some of their strength training on instagram, Julia Webb, Alysia Montaño, Kate Grace among some regular mortals as well. As I work through this training cycle I want to stay accountable for getting the miles I need in, figure out nutrition a little better and get stronger. So far the miles and the strength are moving, I need to start scheduling massages at least once a month and work on my nutrition. 4 weeks down, 18 more to go!