Let’s go about this in 4-week increments so that the post doesn’t get too long.
This was a fun week. We started off with hill repeats up 50th Ave, a long steep hill that leads up to the zoo in Green Lake. I had a great time practicing some fast downhill strategy even though my marathon doesn’t have that much climb. Wednesday’s tempo (8 miles, averaging around 7:05) was probably one of two that I struggled on during this training cycle. I remember losing distance on Alison and Eileen in Fremont and just not having the next gear to stay with them. It was a good struggle and still felt early enough to not worry too much about. I had a goal of reaching up to 38 miles this week and ended up with 44, not a bad problem to have. I ran an early 16 Rise and Shine with a bunch of sweet friends who were willing to get it done early and we were rewarded with this view. This was one of my favorite long runs on the cycle as well, we were all just chitchatting and having a fun run.
The most notable thing about week 8 was that I raced the Tunnel to Viaduct 8k. Leading up to the race I stayed on schedule so my legs weren’t fresh going into it. I also was on the fence about racing since I had my New Zealand half on the schedule for the following week, so I kept telling myself I’d run this hard but not all out. I struggled with realizing that I was going all out and it wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be place-wise. I ended up as the 27th female, 8th in my age group (I wanted to be in the top 20). Running an average of 6:39s felt rewarding, it would have been interesting to see if I could have held onto that through a 10k, I think I could have. 48 miles total for the week.
Seattle snowpocalypse hit in Week 9 of my training, and I was incredibly lucky to have booked our travel for the end of this week. Since the Coatesville Half Marathon was on Sunday, I made it into town just in time to make it work for our travel schedule. The snow actually ended up being kind of fortuitous in this way since I got a mini taper. I had an incredibly frustrating “track” workout on the treadmill on Monday and because we lost a day to travel there was not much I could do about running this week. The race itself was great. The difference in weather was a bit shocking. The course was hard. I should run Mercer Island again to see how it compares to the hills of this particular race. Things that stood out: overlooking farmland from one of the many hills and seeing Auckland in the distance, getting passed almost immediately at the halfway point where the smart women had saved themselves for the run back up the hill we had just come down, the cicadas were deafening at different times through this race, I didn’t expect that to bother me as much as it did. The overall elevation was 955 ft! Most importantly I made a friend in New Zealand from this race! Naomi was so kind to give me a ride from downtown Auckland to the race. We hung out after to find out if we’d win a “spot prize” (kind of like a raffle) and just enjoyed the sun and being done with the race. The atmosphere was really fantastic surrounding the whole event, I’d 100% recommend this race. Total mileage: 28. Bringing my average down, but whatevs.
While my poor buds at home suffered through the snow, I got to run in the summer of NZ. I did not take that for granted. My biggest issue with running while traveling is how tired some of the runs would make me and how to figure out routes on my own. Most places we were staying had something scenic and easy to find/ not get lost in navigating out and backs, so I took advantage of that. I wish I had more confidence and had run two days in Rotorua, the trails there were really beautiful and I got to run in some redwoods, perfect early preparation for my marathon! The lake in Hamilton was perfect, even if I got a little lost getting there, and my tempo on the very flat beach road near Mount Maunganui was tough mentally but easy on my body, I ended up running sub 7s for most of this tempo. My long run was lonely, but again, I was running next to a beach with a rising sunset, boohoo for me. Total miles 49, back on track and feeling proud of that post half marathon.
Traveling, momming and running can happen only if you have a partner who is willing to sleep in and do the morning routine with the kiddo. I was lucky that I would usually come back and they’d still be asleep. Timing is everything. Another week of New Zealand training and then back home to the cold in the next blog post.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Some days it just flows and I feel like I’m born to do this, other days it feels like I’m trudging through hell. Every day I make the choice to show up and see what I’ve got, and to try and be better.
The feeling of lining up to a trail race (specifically those hosted by Rainshadow Running) versus lining up to a road race is so distinctly different it’s worth mentioning for those who’ve never tried out trails. With a race director (who many know by name, hi James!) making joke apologies about bringing us optimal weather and the friendly pizza guys adjacent to the start “line” getting ready to serve delicious food when we’re done, the mood is so cheery and friendly, it makes the suffering of the climbs and the slippery slopes totally bearable.
This was my third Rainshadow Running race, I’d previously done an Orcas Island 25K, and Deception Pass 25K- 2016. So I know that these races are hard and beautiful, they never disappoint. For my first Deception Pass, I went in a little optimistic, somewhat undertrained, but pretty naive to just how hard it would be. I finished in 3:07, when I was sort of hoping to finish in 2:30, ha! This time, I knew there was a HUGE climb (though didn’t exactly remember where, so every time I went up what I deemed a big hill, I’d become disappointed because I’d think to myself, “was that the big one, naw, couldn’t have been…”) and I went in with the expectation of finishing and having fun.
The weather couldn’t have been better.
I started off with Nicola, but quickly realized her pace was not sustainable for me so I dropped off from her and after the first two miles never saw anything in the 8:00s again. The early climbs were manageable, the first 5 miles went by without my checking my watch at all, I decided to pass up the aid station the first time I passed it. I was working with another woman who was wearing Nikes and a red pack, we kept passing each other through different portions of the trail. It was fun to catch her and then she’d tackle a hill more aggressively than I could and I’d catch her on the downhills. That was until mile 7, I stopped for a quick orange slice, and she barely paused. I was ready to let her go at that point. Miles 8 and 9 ended up being a real sufferfest for me. I think I was a little bit energy depleted and was climbing about 350 ft of elevation. I just remember thinking, wow, I didn’t feel this weak last year! My hamstrings specifically were not having it, they were burning and slightly cramping as were my ever crampy calves. Nothing debilitating luckily. But then a nice downhill appeared and you’re back on your way across the bridge and life feels beautiful again, because what is this nonsense that I get to do? I get to run a race across the beautiful Deception Pass Bridge? There is a lot of gratitude in trail racing. That is until mile 12.
And this is the payoff:
So because I wanted to keep moving and not sightsee, I headed back down the hill quickly, so so happy that the worst of it was over.
At mile 13 I felt like I was finishing a marathon. Those last two miles were in reach, but I was going at what felt like a crawling pace, letting people pass me as soon as they caught up with me. I was still potentially going to PR at this point, so I held out hope and did my best to run when I could. It felt like I walked more this time around, but in the end, I ran a 2:56:17, a 10 min PR!
I went into the race with very little expectation and came out with a PR, I’ll take it! The timing of this race, being in early December, works out pretty well in terms of giving me a good kick in the pants. It shows me what my weaknesses are (hello hamstrings) and how much training I’m going to need if I plan for a spring race. This year I went into this race with very little trail experience under my belt, in 2016 I was running trail races at least once a month, so I broke in a new pair of shoes on this race (much to the chagrin to my poor toes!) and if I’m to run it again, I think I’ll try to get better at getting more time long running on trails. Overall it was a great experience and my husband and son got some time to play in the sand on a nice day while I raced. Good times had by all.