Sunday, October 23, 2016

Steamtown Marathon, Scranton, PA, 10/9/16

I have started and restarted this race report many times. I have replayed this day in my mind, over and over, and it feels really good. 

I needed this. There is a lot of chaos going on around me right now that won't be discussed in any race report. Sometimes just having a good day means a lot more than anyone looking in from the outside could ever realize. It may seem to some that running and racing (for us non-professional athletes) is "not real life". But sometimes these moments, these “not-real-life” moments are so very necessary because they let us escape from those “real-life moments” that are out of our control and a little painful. When a “not-a-real life moment” lifts you up in a healthy way, reminds you that you are strong, and gives you the chance to celebrate something that feels wonderful, then that makes those "not-a-real life moment" very real. I will cherish this day. 

Last month I ran a 2:56:14 at Big Cottonwood. That race was not easy. I walked away from that race in awe of what just happened. It felt like a dream. I got lots of kudos from those who were very proud of me… but (as Kim knows) there was this little voice, this very critical, judgmental little voice in the back of my mind, that questioned how much of those 3 minutes and 46 seconds of sub-3 time was a product of the course and how much was because of how hard I worked

Could I run a sub-3 again? Will I fall right back into running the 3:11- 3:15 best efforts that I have done so many times before? Maybe none of that sub-3 time was because of me and my efforts?  Ok, some of it had to be, I knew that (but self-doubt is irrational). I have worked very VERY hard. I look different. I feel different. All my performance have improved. They project out to a sub-3 marathon. 


I had nine Creating Momentum runners, including Kim and myself running Steamtown. I like to send my runner to Steamtown for fall race goals because the course is one of the best in the country for great running in October. If you want to BQ, consider Steamtown! 

At first, I was not intending to go. But Kim was going to Steamtown to run her butt off and I really wanted to be there to see her shine. In fact, all of my runners were very well-prepared and ready to have great races. I decided to give up the chance to improve my scorecard in our local race series, and go support my friend and my runners!

The night before the race, Kim and I were up until midnight hashing out various race day pacing scenarios. I spent very little time preparing my own plan, but that was ok. I did not really want to think too hard about it. I had trained for months, peaked, and tapered ALL for Big Cottonwood…Steamtown was an after thought. I could still run great, but if I did not, I would not be shocked. 

So I planned to try to run the first half about a minute slower than my half PR (which is 1:27:21) as long as that pace felt sustainable. Most people don't negative split Steamtown. The hills in the second half of Steamtown are more challenging than what I faced in the second half of Big Cottonwood. I tried to be realistic and not set my heart on another sub-3 or a negative split. How could I really expect to run great when the training cycle ended a long time ago? Regardless of reality, I knew I was going to go for it. I will either run a sub-3 or blow up trying. What did I have to lose? This was not my goal race. I already met my goal at Cottonwood.  

Race Day:
I took a gel, lined up towards the front, and off we went. I felt good. Comfortable. I had written 8 pace plans for this race for my runners. I knew the course like the back of my hand. I expected M1 and M2 to be fast, M3 to be slow and the M4, M5, and M6 to be some of the fastest of the race. 

M1 - 6:35
M2 - 6:36
M3 - 7:00
M4 - 6:37
M5 - 6:26
M6 - 6:41

There were no surprises so far. I did have moments where I started to feel my back get tight. And moments where my pace felt harder than I hoped it would feel. But my plan was to pay attention to my breathing, not get ahead of myself, and not allow lactate to build too high too soon. I find myself thinking about lactate recycling a lot now when I run. I don't run based on pace, I run based upon perceived effort. The plan was to run comfortably hard until I give myself permission to race harder (at M18) or until my body lets me know it could not do it today.

I don't look at splits when racing. I let the watch auto lap and I periodically check the watch for "current lap pace" or "average pace" to see what I am doing.  I am really pleased to see how evenly I held the pace despite some inclines in this section.

M7 - 6:43
M8 - 6:44 (I forced myself to take another gel at M8, even though I felt I didn’t need it.)
M9 - 6:43

For much of this race, I ran on autopilot, a little scared of what the outcome could be. I liked having my last race be a sub-3 PR and once I cross that line slower, I knew I would feel a little sad. 

M10 - 6:37
M11 - 6:44
M12 - 6:42
M13 - 6:44

At the halfway point, a guy asked about our split.  Half 1:28:10. (Looking back to Big Cottonwood now, I am surprised to see I came through 1:28:12!). 

We started talking and then I noticed the pace said 6:52 for the first time since the uphill mile 3. I had to politely excuse myself from chatting, conserve my energy and focus on staying on target.  M14 - 6:48

I picked up the pace knowing that if I really wanted a Sub-3 again, I needed a good 15-20M stretch, because the hills were coming after 20 (with the worst at Mile 23-24). If I carefully (comfortably) banked a little time now, I could spend it later and still sneak in around 2:59. 
M15 - 6:30

Ok, that felt fantastic. Really much better than thought. So I keep pushing the pace. I expected to positive split this course and with a1:28:10 I had some time to do it.  
M16 - 6:38, M17 - 6:42.

I wanted to hit 18M in 2:00 to have a good shot at my goal. I make it there in 2:00:54. Close enough!  M18 - 6:31 (I take my second gel here).

I knew mile 19 was slower… but I could not remember why.  I assumed there was a hill, but there was actually a dirt path. The terrain change slowed me down, but I made an extra effort to push myself to not lose much time. I promised myself that once back on the pavement, I could dig deep to keep my momentum going. M19 - 6:47, M20 - 6:39, M21 - 6:38

Starting in mile 22, the hills begin. I know the worst is M24. I am digging with everything I have in me. I am running my heart out! M22 - 6:40, M23 - 6:42

I get to M24. I am determined to not let that hill destroy me!  I lean into it. I drive my arms hard.  Someone yells out “Way to used your upper body to work the hill.” M24 is tough. Really tough.  M24 - 6:56

As soon as I crest M24, I fight my desire to slow and instead work to get back on pace. I try to shift gears and I find that I have another gear in me!  I am racing the clock.
M25 - 6:34

I am overcome with shock that I may do it again. This is driving me. It will be close… 26.2 is one thing, but this course always comes up long.  26.4, 26.5 are common course distances that our imperfect watches tell us we ran. I need to expect this and take nothing for granted. 

I crest the last incline, a man yells out, “You need to hustle.You will be the last woman to break three!”  Oh wow, I have 6+ minutes left and some distance less than a mile on my watch and this guy says it will be really close…So that means I have a chance to do it again!. 

"DIG!... DIG!... DIG!..."  M26 - 6:27  

As ran my heart down and approached the finish line, I noticed the clock and it shocked me. 
Last .35 - 2:07 (6:04 pace)

...2:55:43... 2:55:44... 2:55:45 ... ticked down as I crossed the mat.  

I stop running. Everything around me freezes or maybe everything just seemed to be moving so fast around me it was a blur... In that moment, I am alone in space and time. I look at my watch 2:55:47.  

Oh thank goodness!  I DID IT!!!  Sub-3!  But wait, that time can't be correct?!  

And then it hit me. Oh WOW! I PR’d… I could NOT believe it!!  And a few moments later, I realized that I had to negative split to do it. I still cant believe I negative split the hills. 

For the next hour, I was able to witness a stream of Creating Momentum Runners coming through, almost all running the races they had hoped for and most setting HUGE PR’s and getting their BQ’s.

As I stood at the finish, the RD walked up to me and said “Congratulations! You were one of our sleeper elites! We had no idea who you were!  Why didn't you register as an elite runner?”  
I replied, “I didn’t think I was fast enough to even consider that.”  And he said “Well, next year you need to request an elite bib”…. and walked away leaving my head spinning, in such a good way. 

It was just such a great day. I felt validated as an athlete. I felt validated as a coach. But most importantly, I was able to experience life from a position where happiness outweighed hurt. And I really needed that. 

Time 2:55:45 (6:43)
OA: 37/ 1729
Gender: 4th Place Female OA
And 6th Fastest Time ever run by a Master’s Female at Steamtown. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Guest Blogger: Race Reports by Rene Seigrist

Are you ready to be inspired! :)  

When I was #rebuildingthecar and working on getting stronger, I decided to run Run for the Red as a check in marathon to see how I felt. At mile 5, I met this wonderful person with an amazing attitude. She was running her second marathon. We worked the course together for many miles, talking about running, life, struggles, and goals. At the end of the race, right there on the track, Rene found me, gave me a huge hug and said she wanted to work with me for her next race.  

I am so thrilled that she followed through with her plan. I knew she had tremendous potential. She is a fighter, but most importantly she is open to collaborating as well as accepting guidance about matters I felt were going to be game changers for her. As we worked together, I could see her growing week-after-week. Rene was one of the reasons I wanted to run the Steamtown Marathon.  I wanted to be at the race where I knew Rene was going to shine!

Here is Rene's story!  


Two Races, One Runner, One Coach, One Goal

I did it! I freaking did it! I qualified for Boston! But before I talk about how I did that, let's rewind a bit so you can understand the back story and why this day became so incredibly important. I ran my first marathon in November of 2015, Philly Rock & Roll, after coming off of an injury induced by sub-par coaching. This injury left me feeling bitter and raw towards what was becoming my sport. This marathon was HUGE! A milestone if you will. The beginning of getting back to my sport. All I wanted to do was run and I finally made it to my first marathon. I finished with a time of 3:47. I beat my 4 hour time goal and even had a negative split. Many first time marathon runners say, "I'm never doing that again". Not this woman. No, I wanted to run my next. I found a spring marathon, Run for the Red and this is where the story begins.

I set out simply to beat my first marathon time. That's all I wanted to do. I trained decently for months along with my running partner. The month of May came and I found myself in a high stress situation. I sighed and cried more times that I can count during the month of May. But, I made it to the starting line. I ran without huge expectations as I'm fully aware that stress can do one of two things, make a run go incredibly well or make a run end in disaster. I found myself running next to another female. We engaged in typical runner conversation, our running back stories and our careers. She learned that I'm a personal trainer/nutritionist by trade and I learned she's a badass running coach with a resume that I could only dream of! We ran together for quite some time, even sharing our more personal side. I even found myself being coached by her as she saw me gassing out and offered me a gel. We ended up getting separated in the later part of the race. I crossed the finish line beating my previous time by quite a bit. My new PR was 3:36, so close to a BQ! Qualifying time for my age group is 3:35. I found the woman I was speaking with during the race, learned her name and decided to contact her thinking maybe I have the potential to qualify for Boston (which was not a goal before). Her name is Shannon McGinn Dos Santos. My faith is incredibly strong so I knew God placed her at the right spot at the right time for a specific reason. I needed a coach and a mentor.

Rene at the start of Philly RNR Half
Onto a new outlook and a new start on training. I'm excited and nervous. I work in the fitness industry so I want to do well. I want to do well for me, my coach, my family and my clients. Do I have something to prove, hell yes I do! 

Here we go! My runs began and boy were the runs intimidating. I completed each training run with pride, reporting to my coach. I was her problem child in the beginning. I crave speed so I ran my easy runs too fast...Yes, I paid for that later. 

As my training runs got more and more difficult, I looked forward to my easy runs. I eagerly looked forward to each and every training run. 

Over time, Shannon and I picked my races and strategized. We decided on Philly Rock & Roll Half Marathon, September 2016, as my check in race. How does my speed feel? How is my fueling formula working? Do my kicks feel good? Again, a check in race...however, a new half PR wouldn't hurt. Wink wink. Onto the marathon...Steamtown, October 2016.

PHILLY ROCK & ROLL, September 18th, 2016. I have never been more nervous for a race...EVER. I've been nervous. I always get nervous no matter the distance. But this nervousness took the cake! I spoke with Shannon that morning via email and we spoke over the phone in the week prior. She reassured me that I'm trained. I've done the work. I walked from my hotel to the start line with my manpanion, still nervous. It was friggin hot and humid that morning. What the heck??? This had to be one of the most miserable mornings to run a race. People were sweating at the start line and we hadn't even moved yet. Here I am at the start feeling like a caged race horse. 

This is it...go hard or die trying. I decided to not let the heat get in the way of MY PR, MY RACE, MY CONFIDENCE BUILDER. I lovingly refer to this race as such, my confidence builder, which was why this race made me so nervous. I knew this race would make or break my confidence for Steamtown. 

The gun goes off and I begin running. My pace is to be sub 740. I hung back for the first mile as I have a tendency to crave speed. I wanted to leave some fuel in the tank just in case the heat got to me later. Mile one done and I felt good. I thought, ok, let's speed it up now. My second mile was my fastest, sub 7 with mile 3 being a low 7 and I knew I needed to slow that down so I settled in and found my pace. 

My confidence began to rise as I ran. The confidence kept hold until roughly mile 8. Oh the heat. Mile 8 and 9 were my slowest miles, over 740. What the hell? I stifled this feeling and pushed. I pace got faster, back to the mid 7's. I needed this race, this PR. Mile 10 hits. I look down at my watch and realize that I'm good. If I hold pace or slow a little bit, I will still achieve my PR. 

Finish line...YES! I beat my previous PR!!! My old PR was 1:41 and it's now 1:38:35 with an average pace of 7:27! I did it and I did it on a day when a PR seems unachievable considering the heat and humidity. 

Not only did I build my confidence when it comes to speed, I built my mental and physical strength confidence...meaning my heart and my guts. Believe me, I felt like I wanted to puke, but I didn't care. The heat and humidity rattled many runners that day. I was proud of myself for hanging on!

COACH...I DID IT! I got my new PR!!! To make a long story short, Shannon was extremely proud...but the response that made me feel the best was "how do you feel about shooting for a 325-327 at Steamtown?" Holy marathon goal was 330. Can I pull off a 325-327? Shannon said yes and she would not say yes unless she knows I can do it. My response? Let's go for it! I trained some more over the next 4 weeks, enjoying taper mode and communicating more with Shannon.


Steamtown, October 9th, 2016. I wake up...hmmm I'm going for a run today. I was excited, but not nervous...AT ALL. Is this odd or normal? I don't know, but I'll take it. Lets rewind a bit to packet pickup. I saw Shannon. It was so comedic. Shannon didn't hear what I said to my manpanion moments before seeing her. In my I've spotted a celebrity voice, "THERE'S SHANNON! I NEED TO HUG HER!" I knew her hug would help to subside any left over fears. 

Rene and me - Pre-Steamtown
Apparently, it worked. I enjoyed my evening and my dinner and woke up with nothing...again, no nervous jitters, just excitement. I had my breakfast which included oatmeal with peanut butter, my Powerade and a quick shot of coffee. I dress, write my notes on my left forearm which include the difficult mile points and Isaiah 40:31, which has now become my mantra. I encourage everyone to look this up. 

I head out of the hotel to board a bus to the start line. Once I'm there, I have my apple which has become a pre-race staple and begin warming up my muscles a bit. This includes a few pee stops. While enjoying a warm up, I realize that the race begins 30 minutes later than I thought! Oh jeez. Thank God I packed two extra gels!!! This is good though. It gives me time to call my grandfather, my Peeper, to have him read my favorite bible verse to me. He's such a prayer warrior and his voice is strong yet calming. I call my manpanion to fill him in on my air headedness so he (or my parents who are on phone stand by) doesn't worry when I finish 30 minutes later than anticipated. 

I also find Shannon! I get to catch a hug, a few words of encouragement and a pre race photo with her. Then off I go!!! Another warm up and start line ahoy! I take a gel (thank God for extra)! Kaboom! It's a friggin cannon start. It's good I was pre-warned by the awesome woman I sat with on the bus ride to the start line. My pacing needs to be 7:42 for the 1st half of the race. If I keep this pace and complete the first half around a 1:41, I can settle down into an 8:05 pace for the 2nd half of the race. 

What a kick!!! 
The first mile was slower than I would've liked. The pack of runners had me boxed in a bit. Lesson learned...go to the front. This mile was sub-8 at 7:53." Let's speed it up now," I said to myself. I finished the first half of the race with 1 mile (mile 1) at a 7:50 pace, 3 other miles at a 7:40 and the the 7:30's! Holy crap! I felt good! So good that I'm had a conversation with a young, first time marathoner (who I ended up handing one of my extra gels b/c he didn't have enough fuel, pay it forward). 

Do I cut back a bit now that the first half is done? Coach said 8:05 for the second half of the race and any mile faster than 8:05 is a bonus. I rolled with that discussion and decided to keep my pace as long as I could. I can't believe what I'm seeing! Sub-7:40's! Sub-7:30's! Every time a mile or a hill got difficult, I said the verse that was written on my arm out loud and kept moving. Mile 15, 18 and 20 were in the 7:20's with my fastest mile being 7:22! I couldn't help but feel proud and it showed in my posture as I attacked the hills. I ran one mile, mile 24 which has the longest hill in the race, over 8 minutes (8:04).

Admittedly, the hill within mile 26 is the meanest hill I've ever experienced. It's at the very very end! What the heck?! I kept it together and I RAN once I reached the top of that hill! I sprinted the last .2 like it was my job! My running race photo is during this sprint. I see the finish and run through it with tears in my eyes. 

I click off my watch...3:20:50 with an average pace of 7:38! What?! OMG! I walk through the cattle shoot of volunteer sweaty racer catchers...I didn't fall but one helped to steady me. I see Shannon! She was waiting for me at the end! We celebrate, hug and I cry. This moment was HUGE for me! A BQ! A HUGE BQ! I did it!!! We did it!!! The celebration continued with my manpanion and friends who were at the race. A family celebration was shared later.

I couldn't believe what I had done. A goal that I never knew I could achieve has now been reached. I will get to run Boston in 2018!!! I knew running was my sport, but now I know that I am in fact A RUNNER.

- Rene Seigrist

Monday, October 3, 2016

Little Silver 5k (sub-19!), USATF-NJ Open Women's Team Championship, Little Silver NJ, 10/2/16

So...Anthony bought me a shirt from WWE,
even though I do not watch WWE.
I wore it today, just to make him happy.
Mission Accomplished :)
I promised Anthony I would run the Little Silver 5K since it was a USATF-NJ Open Ladies Team Championship and even though I am 40 I could still drop down and compete as an Open runner.  This race came after my first real rest week after my marathon and two half marathons. 

If I was going to race this 5k, I wanted to try to run my best.  The last 5k I raced was a PR in 19:19, but that was in early August when I was on the track doing a lot of speedwork. I was building up to Peak for my goal marathon. Since that race, I have tapered, run my goal marathon, and took the last few weeks to step back from high volume training to allow for some recovery… BUT, I have run two half marathons since then for good reasons.

My half marathon last week went very well. I just have not gotten any speed work at the paces I feel I should have to prepare a 5K PR. But I also remember running hills repeats the morning of my current 5k PR. And the weather, back in August, was very hot and humid.  One hand, I have not seen a track since early August and that is a long time (but I have done intervals on my treadmill but not as fast as I would have done them on the track). The lack of quality speed sharpening made me question if could maintain a new PR pace. But the cool weather and the fact that I have really peaked in fitness this September, and because my last PR was set after a AM hill training session, all allowed me to believe I did have a real solid chance at a new PR and maybe even a sub-19.  So I decided to go for it.

This was basically a flat course. One lap and a track finish. I love track finishes! All week long I had visualized breaking 19.  I planted the seeds.  I knew I had a shot. This would be 20 second PR. If I paced this flat course properly I had a chance. 

My goal was to maintain control of myself and start off at 6:12 pace (one second faster than my current PR pace).  Each mile after, I wanted to run a few seconds faster, ideally finishing with my first bona fide sub-6 Mile in a race (that did not have a massive descent).  I wanted my Last mile to be my fastest!  If I averaged 6:07 or better by the end of the race, I could break 19.  So there was my plan… 6:12-6:07-5:59 and kick to break 19:00. 

Sub-6!  I was really excited to try to run a sub-6 mile at the end. I remember when I was stuck at 7:00. I had so much trouble getting used to the idea that I could average in the 6:5x range that it seemed more like a mental block than a true limit to my physical ability

So today my mantra became Don’t Fear the Five!” 

Angela, a Clifton Road Runner teammate, and I did a short warm up.. with some speed to it because I thought the start was much closer than it actually was.  With 4 minutes to go and us not being at the starting line, I was getting worried. The fast ending pace to the warm up helped. 
I lined up at the front since I know I plan to start at 6:12. A few people jump in front to me.  I am sure they are not 6 minute milers, but this is how it goes at road races. (And I saw them finish in the 25:00+ range at the end of the race so they were truly not seeded properly).  I expect to get jammed up for the first few steps and just hope I can smoothly get through them.

The gun goes off and the road is wet and slippery. I can feel my feet slip back with each step. I worry that this will slow me down.  Every second counts and losing some energy return from every step is not going to help me PR.  I do get a good start. Once out of traffic, I look at my watch and it says 5:52 pace.  I count at least 10 ladies in front or beside me at this pace.  Wow!

I assessed myself.  I feel great, my breathing was good,  my energy was good, but the pace was too fast.  I remember my mantra “Don't Fear the Five!” but NOT in mile 1

I know too much to run myself into the ground in the first 6 minute of a 5k. I settled down quickly to get on my pace plan (there is no excuse for not following a plan when all we need to do is slow down pay attention to the computer attached to our wrists). I appreciated tremendously how comfortable I felt.  M1 6:11

M1 on target! So now I need to focus on M2.  I am running with a group of fast women.  It is awesome to run like this.  I feel stronger in a group than I do on my own, but I was focusing on My Plan and I wanted to get M2 to a 6:07, if possible. I felt strong. My breathing was good. My body felt good. One woman, Chelsea, broke away with me from our group of 4 during this mile. Together, we worked to pass some ladies who had gone out faster than us.  M2 6:03

Mile 2 was 4 seconds faster than I planned, BUT I felt good and my breathing was good.  I was ready to get to work on my mission to see a sub-6 mile as the last mile of my race.  

Don't Fear the Five!”

As we start mile 3, I remember where I met Chelsea. She was the runner who pushed me to my PR 5k in August.  That day, I sat behind her until M2. Then I pulled ahead of her in the last mile. I tried to get my pace to a 5:59 for that final mile, but my legs got so heavy in the last .1 that I could not hold it.  She blasted past me with a strong kick.  She beat me, but she pulled me to a 15 second PR that day.

Here we are starting Mile 3 and I am once again aiming for sub-6.  My watch is still reading 6:03 pace but my average pace is now 6:05! This means if I can hold a 6:05 pace I can break 19!…

She says “You got this” and I pull slightly ahead. She is letting me pull ahead again. I have a sense that she is really not giving up, but rather planning to do the same thing as last race. To sit back, just behind me, let me set the pace, and then blast past me on the track. This is a good strategy. It works. Knowing I am racing a smart racer, who seems to use strategy as well as speed, makes racing more fun for me. I don't really know how much she or others think about strategy, but imagining she was planning to try to blast past me again lit a fire under me and helped me focus.

Fast Form. 
Drop the arms. 
No wasted motion.  

Photo posted on GSTC Facebook page. 
Don't get out kicked again.

It feels like we just passed the Mile 2 mark when some guy yells out “Half Mile to go!”  I look at my watch and it is still in the 15:xxs!  This is crazy.  I cant believe I am doing this!

I think about Tempo Pace.  I think about Lactate Threshold. I think NOW is the time to really dig deep and push my limits.  Burn out at the finish... but not a step before. 

I dig deep. My breathing is NOW get labored. Good. This is the right time, at 2.75 miles into the race… not .75 miles in.  We turn into the school and make our way to the track.  I try to do math but my mind is fuzzy.  All I think is 22 second per 100 meter is what I used to run on the track. But that means nothing really since the finish is on some random point on the back stretch and am too fussy to figure out how much longer I have to run.  I glance at my watch and see I am in 18:2x.  This is going to be close.

I dig harder. I kick. Some person BLAST past me.  It's a guy. Phew. I can see the finish. I can see clock in the distance … It is ticking down ... 18:48... 18:49… I am running both as fast as I can while feeling like time has slowed down … 18:51… 18:52… OMG... is the finish line moving away from me… Vision gets blurry… I finally I cross! 
M3 - 5:58 (Don’t Fear the Five!
Last .14 (5:26 pace)

18:54 (6:05 pace)
5th Women
19 Overall
1st 40
Thanks to AnneMarie for being such an attentive Captain for us Master’s Aged Runners, she figured out that my time today qualified me to make the Clifton Road Runners “Wall of Honor” for runners who score over 80% as per the the WAVA Age-Graded calculations.     

Friday, September 30, 2016

OCNJ Half Marathon, Ocean City, NJ. 9/25/16

I wanted to run 20M this past weekend with Kim, but I was looking to do something more interesting than just the 20M course we usually run.  As I drove home from work last Monday,  I remembered that last year, Kim and I made a last minute decision to run the OCNJ Half Marathon and we loved it! The race was taking place again this weekend, so we decided again, last minute, to go for it. 

First, I have to say that I just love this race.  The RD does so many things right to take care of the runners. The races is well organized.  The shirts are really wonderful, the material feels great and the ladies long sleeve shirt is cut for women. They give out gloves as well. The course at the beach and is challenging in the beginning, but very fast after passing the 4M mark. They provide lots of aid stations and even hand out Gu on the course. At the end pizza and other food is provided.  Race photos, which I purchased, are so very reasonably priced, especially if you use the 25% discount code before Oct 5.  The cost to register early is only $50 which really is a steal.

I woke at 4:15 am, realized it was 44 degrees out and for the first time in a long time I actually cranked the heat in my car as I made the 1:45 minute drive to Ocean City, NJ.  The weather looked amazing for gun time, with a low-50 degree start. I regret not getting the dew point this morning to calculate the comfort scale. I wonder if I can find that somewhere. We did have some wind, but because this course was essentially a double out-n-back, we would have to fight it for only half the race.  Unfortunately, it seemed to get stronger as the morning grew longer and the last 5K was really a battle into a headwind on tired legs for me.

We picked up our bibs at 6:45 am and ran a 4.5 mile warm up before lining up to race.  I had gotten a cold last week and still felt bad the day before. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I noticed that as we jogged over to the start, I actually felt better than I had felt all weekend.  My legs had some pep in them for the first time since I raced my marathon two weeks ago.

I wore the Brooks Hyperions for the second time. I really like these racing flats.  I had raced in Brooks T7s, or some version of the T-series flats, since I first started racing. The T7s have given me so much trouble that I started looking around for a replacement shoe.  The Adios Adizeros felt good, but not the same, a little too narrow… the NB RC5000s are incredibly light and I love them, but I develop hotspot under my forefoot which is not good at all.  I may use them for 5k's, but for the half they tear up my feet.  The T7s are now just a bit too narrow in the toes (which I could fix by just sizing up) but I have worn the soles cleanly off the last 3 pairs of shoes in races to the point that rubber just dangles and flops off the bottoms.  I had one pair replaced, but since it happened 2xs more I am done with them.  The Hyperions, I believe, are intended to replace the T7s anyway.  I definitely like them a lot… my toes like them… the sole stays attached to the bottom of the shoe solidly, and they feel good on my feet… I wish they were a tad lighter, but really, I have no complaints. 

Yesterday, I completed an article about lactate threshold.  I learned a little more than I had previously knew, just through fact checking my work. One significant piece of information that I learned is that once we surpass our lactate threshold, depending upon by how much be blow past it, our lactate levels will remain in the peak elevated state for 3-8 minutes. During that time, we have no choice but to slow down, to allow our bodies time to clear out the overage of lactate in the blood stream.  3-8 minutes is a long time to suffer from an impaired ability to run our best and by the time the pacing error is remedied, our competition is long gone. However when paced properly, lactate get recycled back into useable energy and we retain the ability to shift into a faster gear when ready and when appropriate. Pace ourselves well and we should really be surpassing our lactate threshold as we finish the race, where it no longer matters what happens in the next 3-8 minutes after we stop.

The Gun goes off. I get a good start. Only one woman is ahead of me. I look at my watch and it is a 6:35.  I realize this is too fast. After submitting my Tempo Run article, yesterday, I can't help but feel like a big dummy if I screw up my own pacing now. I exercise restrain and wait until the second half of the race to run any faster than what I decided would be my Tempo Run pace. Based upon my 5k PR, I assigned myself a Tempo pace for this race environment as 6:45-6:50.  I wanted to hang there until 7M, before I even thought about picking it up and risking pushing too hard.  At M7, I wanted to be able to make a definitive move that could be sustained. If possible I wanted to find a final gear to dig into during the last 5K. And if possible, I would like to kick into the finish.

As I slow down, to my goal pace, one by one ladies start to pass me. At least I can count what place I am.  2nd, 3rd, 4th… pull ahead and I sit there in 5th for most of the first mile.  M1 - 6:47

Then another pulls ahead, 6th... and one more 7th… 

Number 6 is so nice. As she pulls up next to me she said “You are in Great Shape! You are so fit!”  This was such an ego boost for me, that it probably set the tone for the rest.  I thanked her, and return the complement, as she was pretty darn fit, too.  She pulled off ahead. I felt the urge to go with her, but I reminded myself "It is just you and the watch…. Run Your Own Race.  Smart pacing is the best racing and chasing leaders at too fast a pace in M2 may not work out for the best…" M2 - 6:55

I am glad I gave myself permission to relax because in M2, we started to climb up the bridge. It felt like it was a mile long, but it was probably more like .4M.  My pace slowed as we climbed and one more woman began to overtake me.  “Take it easy, Take it easy," I reminded myself.  My right hamstring started to feel tight, which was a surprise to me because my left hamstring was the tired one all week.  

I wanted to really stay comfortable until M7 before I tried to increase the pace. It was so very very hard to let people go.  The only reason I felt ok about not trying to stay with the leaders was because this was not my goal race.  This was just a random half marathon we found to make a 20M day more fun.  I wanted to see how it felt to hold back, so it if did not work out, I had nothing to loose. 

As we crested the bridge and ran down the other side my average pace for the entire race so far was now 7:00… and we had to crest this bridge again after the turn around at mile 3.4.  To try to find any edge I could, I hugged every single tangent as tight as possible. The head wind was not helping matters and I felt I was really working very hard to hold the 7:00 pace I was stuck at.  I could not wait to turn around.  
M3 - 7:18 (running some uphill and into headwind)

It was amazing to see so many fast women racing today, especially since last weekend was the USATF-NJ Half Marathon Championship.  However, this race offered prize money for 1, 2, 3 OA. Money brings in talent, so it made sense that the women here were such excellent athletes.  I did not expect to place. Top 5 would be really nice… especially since as we approached the bridge just a M4, I was in 9th.   M4 - 6:48 (running some uphill with tailwind)

As soon as we crested the bridge I thought about how I do tend to run downhills well. I took advantage of the descent and passed one woman and small pack of men on the way down. Once the bridge was done, we had to run mostly on the boardwalk to the turn around at about 10.5 miles.  
M5- 6:40 (running some downhill with tailwind)

After the bridge, we turned to run the boards. The wind was shifting a bit through most of this section, but I felt it mostly at my back which did help… I knew this meant we would be running into it for the last 5k back.  Once at our back, the wind no longer helped with cooling.  It started to feel like I was overheating a little. I was glad there were so many water stops so I could dump some on my head.  M
6 -  6:39

While on the boards, I started to feel really good.  I had passed a female just before the boards but was caught up with running with a pack of men and we were moving. The woman who told me I looked good was up ahead and I concentrated on reeling her in. I wanted to start to make a move to pick up my pace. I looked at my watch and it read 6:26…. that was too fast.  I had to settle down and be patient.  As I finally caught her, I encouraged her to run with me and she did for a bit. Some spectators called out “Number 1 and Number 2 ladies!”  She said “Yeah, I wish!”  I said “Hey we can pretend ;)… in a lot of other races we would be at this pace.  I think we are 6 and 7 now.” 
M7 - 6:32

As I pulled away, I could see two ladies in the distance.  I could sense I was moving slightly faster then they were, but not by much.  It would take a while to catch them.  I just wanted to makes sure I did not run myself out of a kick by trying to catch them too soon. I knew the wind would be challenging at the end of the race and it was already starting to get a little crazy. The flags were shifting in all directions as the buildings seemed to create some turbulent air.   M8  6:40

I was working hard, but I never felt a sense that I was pushing too hard.  The entire race I felt like I was just waiting for the final turn around so the suffering could begin... but as I waited, I was reeling people in.  People around me were fading. M
9 - 6:47

It took me all the way until mile 10 to catch the first of the two ladies. I heard a man call out to them 4th and 5th females (from his balcony).  I really really love when spectators give useful information that helps runners understand what is going on in the race.  Within a minute I had passed both and I was now in 4th.  This is where I wanted to really make a push with my pacing, but I was getting tired.  M10- 6:32
After a minor collision with a guy at the aid station, thank goodness neither of us fell, I hit the turn around and started the hard work of trying to kick in a headwind. As I headed back to towards the finish, the guy on the balcony yelled out… Lead Lady 3 minutes ahead… 2 and 3 are 90 seconds ahead.  Man, there are less than 3 Miles to go and 90 seconds will be hard to make up.  I saw them all at the turn around and they looked strong.  But I was not going to give up. 

It is just me and the clock… no one else.  Run your own race… M11 - 6:36

The wind was obnoxious and worse on the boards.  It made it tough to get a good solid pace increase, but my effort was definitely harder than the rest of the race.  I was working as hard as could.  I saw Kim on the way back and she said "4th lady, no one behind you.".I was glad to hear that b/c I was not sure if either woman I passed had been able to hang with me.  I didn't look back.  M12  6:48 

The last two miles felt like the longest two miles on the planet. I was fully grunting at this point and really trying to find a faster speed.  "Where is the finish!" I seemed so far away.  I looked at my watch and realized that I was going to be really really close to my PR.  I dug as deep as I could.  But I truly had maxed out. A guy flew past me and I had nothing left to respond with.  I was so happy to see that finish line.  


1:27:27 (6:40 pace)
(6 secs slower than my PR). 

4th Female OA

22nd OA

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Newport Liberty Half, USATF-NJ Championship Half Marathon, Jersey City, NJ, 9/18/16

Photo shared on FB by Jamie Mantari
I only ran because I love being part of a my racing team, Clifton Road Runners, and this was an important team race.

I had hoped that even if I ran at less than 100%, I would still be helpful. My toes were still sore from getting destroyed at the marathon last weekend.  I lost three nails. I have new racing flats to try so I was hoping for the best.  My quads are not recovered fully, but they were good enough to run 13M. I was most worried about my hamstring.  The left still felt like it had some tightness and that really concerned me.  I told Anthony I would run as fast as I could comfortably run without hurting myself and if anything felt badly I may not make it the whole way.

I had 11 runners racing this one race today so I wanted to be there to see how my athletes did.  

I was a little disappointed because the day before was nice and cool, but this morning was oppressively humid. 

When looking at the comfort scale we were at a 138 (Air Temp + Dew Point) and anything over 130 is not good for racing PR’s. The scale was a 122 when Kim and I ran half marathon PRs last month on a cool morning in Calicoon, NY. 

I already knew this day would be much tougher than many expected it would be. Fast forward to the finish line. As I stood there watching the stream of familiar faces race towards the finish, it was clear that most people were coming in about 3+ minutes slower than their ability and looking toasted from the humdity.  Sure there were a few amazing outliners who managed to set new PR’s in the humidity, but most suffered from the weather.

I wasn't sure how the race would go, but I still lined up towards the front.  I figured this would likely be very very hard for me but I did not want to rule out he opportunity for a surprise good day.  Adrenaline can sometimes be magical, so why now go out strong and adjust from there.  This is not my goal race. Last week was my goal race. This week I can play around and do things wrong without too much worry.  I decided to get a good start, and then listen to my body.  M1 6:45

Photo shared on FB by Elaine Acosta
I was surprised to find my legs could move this fast, but I could tell I was not keeping this pace up for any duration. My hamstrings were not as tight as I feared they would be, but I still felt limited range of motion. My back started to hurt, just like last year but not as bad, so I tried to gradually slow down until I felt I was at a pace that would not hurt me but still represent a good effort. 
M2 6:57,  
M3 7:03,
M4 7:05,

By M5, I started to really feel like my legs were made of cement. I felt heavy and sluggish and had no real spring. My back pain was impacting my ability to run comfortably.  I felt that I should have really just stayed home today, but now I was in this.  I slowed down more to try to find a sustainable pace.  I knew if I could get to 9M, to go, I could try to pick the pace back up and finish strong.  5 ladies passed me as I tried to find a place where my back hurt less. 
M5 7:13
M6 7:18
M7 7:24
M8 7:22

Photo shared on FB by Elaine Acosta
Once I settled down, I stopped really caring what the watch said. I really did not have much of a choice.  This was the pace my body could handle today and I was ok with that.  

Every day cannot be a PR and one week post-really-hard-marathon, is not the time to expect great things to happen.  But even as I settled down, I knew I still had another gear. I just needed to decide when to use it.  I wanted to start picking back up at 9M and ideally make a second surge at 11M to the finish.  As soon as I hit the 8M mark I opened up my stride to the best I could, but my back pain was still there  I could feel myself running so tight, but I could not loosen up without triggering back pain… so I just ran the best way I could.   7:00 minute pace for 9M to the finish was not sustainable, but I felt 2 final fast miles could be possible if I could get to Mile 11 feeling ready to work for it.
M9 7:00
M10 7:11
M11 7:09

Just by bumping up my pace by 20 seconds per mile over the lats 3M allowed me to pick off 4 ladies, but one woman did come with me. I was not sure who she is or what team she runs for, but my entire purpose today was to try to place as best as I could, safely, for the team, so I really wanted to try to make sure I finished ahead of her. 

She mentioned something about this not being the pace she normally runs, which seemed to imply this was slower than her usual, but maybe not. Maybe she was having a great day.  I wasn't sure how to respond to that remark so I just commented that "today may not be so much about pace as it is about place…" 

Then Ryan, pulled up next to me and said, “Oh Wow, you recover fast!”  I added “Well, everything hurts! I am really happy to be running this well but I am tired.  The only thing I know to do to make the pain stop is to hurry up and run faster!”  Ryan agreed and we all picked up the pace as soon as we hit M11. 

It felt great to run faster, but I was worried about popping something.  However, since I noticed the woman was still going with me, I had to push on.  A guy in long pants was just ahead of me and we pulled the pace down. We passed as many as possible as our pace dropped to a mid-6.  Just after M12 my watch dropped the signal in the building. I had no idea what the pace was, but we just did not let up. 
M12 6:27
M13.1 8:30 for last 13.1 
(which is really at least 13.3 on this notoriously long course for a 6:23 pace)

Once I stopped running, I felt a wave of dizziness wash over me and my legs almost buckled.  It was hard to keep my balance.  I know this was the humidity kicking my butt.  

I am thrilled to have been able to run so well when my entire body was will still exhausted and recovering.  Had this not been a team championship race, I would not have raced at all this weekend.  But I do feel like my presence did help a little. 

Photo shared on FB by Kerry Monahan Gaughan
Our 40’s women (which includes our top scorer who is over 50) beat the second place 40’s women team by over 28 minutes, so maybe they didn't need me much there.  However, our Open women team placed 3rd OA, which made me feel like I did help the Open ladies place well today, and that makes me feel great to have run hard on tired legs. 

Time: 1:33:30 (This course is always at least .25-.35M long… every single year on almost everyone's watch. Normally I don't complain about a course reading long, and Garmin data is not reliable, but in this case I think people should know).
Gender Place: 11th 
Master’s (All women over r40):  4th 
Age Group:  2nd. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Revel, Big Cottonwood Marathon (sub-3!), Salt Lake City, UT, 9/10/16

There's a hole in my pocket where my dreams fell through,
From a sidewalk in the city to the avenue
There's a leak in my dam 'bout the size of a pin,
And I can't quite remember where the water's getting in.
But when you're wearing on your sleeve, 
All the things you regret, 
You can only remember what you want to forget ... 

It is rarely ever just about running. Especially for us non-professionals runners, who still go out and suffer through the miles, experiencing intense physical and emotional pain just for the chance to feel the intense joy of doing what we set out to do.

For some people, like me, running defines them. Or maybe it saves them from a lot of things that would beat them up inside. It is not about winning a race or getting a medal. It is about feeling complete. 

For some people, like me, running "fast" (this is relative, no matter what that time is), reminds us that if we set our mind to do something, then work hard when times get tough, accept pain as part of the process, expect nothing to be handed to us, cope with obstacles, and never ever give up hope, then we just may find that we can achieve more than we ever dreamed of. 

This important lesson about our personal strength transfers to the other parts of life, where resiliency is needed ... in situations that are more “real” and more serious than any race could ever be.  

For me, running strong when things get hard helps me to see that I can overcome the “impossible” by recognizing my strengths and believing in myself. The race course is one of the best classrooms to teach people, like me, this lesson.  Sometimes I need a refresher course. Today was that day. 

Brief History (for those who may not know): My story starts way back, over 10 years ago, when at 29 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Running and racing saved my soul. Cancer is an insidious physical and emotional trauma that teaches some that our bodies can betray us at any time without warning. Cancer can take everything from us in one fell swoop.

Running is my defense to this fear. Each day I run, I know I am doing everything I can to be the healthiest person I can be. This is the only way I know to minimize my risk of battling cancer again. If cancer comes back, I will be physically strong enough to handle the treatment. Running every day is a constant reminder that I am STRONG. Running is not just something I do for exercise. It means more to me than that. As a coach and student of exercise science, running has become my life’s purpose.

May 2015, my back spasms took away my ability to run. I could run about 15 minutes only, before spasms hurt so bad that I feared I would pass out or throw up. My business was threatened and my income plummeted. I had to cancel all my In-Person training sessions because I could no longer do this work reliably. I began to doubt the decisions I had made  to quit office work to try to build a life doing what I love. I felt I was failing. I had become depressed as my identity was destroyed. I gained weight because I could not move like I used to and I tend to eat more when sad. Everything felt hard. I did not enjoy my life as much. 

Five doctors could not help me. I was diagnosed with Scoliosis and Degenerative Disc Disease that had degraded my spine to the extent that I could no longer run pain-free. I was told there was nothing that could be done to repair the discs that are now destroyed and that if I could not run without pain, then that was a sign that I should not run at all. 

I died inside that day in November 2015 when the doctor told me to give up my dreams.

I worked on acceptance. I was willing to accept that my best running days were over, but not until I tried everything. I looked for exceptions.There were days I was able to run marathons in 4:00-4:15 without any pain, but most other days I could not make it to the 2M mark without suffering. There was something that allowed me to run some days but not other days. I don't know what that was but I would try to figure it out.

In May, I changed my nutrition, stopped training by pace, and worked first to lose weight and build muscle strength back. By June, things started to turn around in a big way. My back still hurts when I train, but in a race I have been able to run with less pain. 

Once I started to believe I could beat this, I then became the leanest, strongest, fittest version of myself. I religiously stuck to my plan. I logged my training, my nutrition, and my sleep patterns. As a result, at 40 years old, I started to blow my life-time PR’s out of the water.

Big Cottonwood started out as a goal race picked for a friend. I wanted to see her BQ. I chose this race because it was the fastest race in the country on the last weekend to BQ before Boston opened registration. She could not make the trip, but I decided to see what I could do. I knew I could PR and this was the place to do it!  

It was not until Friday AM, when things started to feel real. As I drove myself to the airport, Brandi Carlile was in my CD player. The song linked above, played. This CD was something I bought when I was feeling remorseful about many things, my running life being just one of them. The metaphor of how her dreams simply fell out of a hole in her pocket, that she did not know was there, really spoke to me. I regretted not doing more when I could. But as this song played, I thought about how I worked to change my situation. 

As I parked at the remote lot in Newark, I glanced down and noticed my arm, and then snapped this photo. Ok, Grandma … I know this is from you…. :)”

I got on the bus to the terminal and felt compelled to write this note to myself

“For a long time now, I have felt the weight, a struggle, pushing me towards regret. I am fortunate to have been able to cope with this while figuring out my life’s path, even when times felt a little dark. Acceptance of change helped me stay focused on solutions. Patience during adversity helped me to not suffocate from despair. I know that if I want to find my way out of a dark place, I need to keep my eyes open and look for the opportunities around me. This world is full of caring, compassionate people who want to see me succeed. There is opportunity for positive change everywhere. It starts with first believing it exists. It starts with believing I can achieve it. Over 12 months ago, I felt my world crumble and it broke my heart. But today I have found a brighter more hopeful existence. God Bless Second Chances. They are everywhere. They are all around us, if we are patient, solution-focused, remain aware of our opportunities, and believe in ourselves.”   ok… so no pressure, right?

The course!
Race Day: 

I woke up at 3:30 am to board the bus outside my hotel at 4:00 am. I had some coffee, two chocolate honey stinger waffles, a few chocolate-covered espresso bean, and 15 oz of gatorade while riding the bus to the starting line. I knew the course would be really fast when the bus had to pull over from overheating on the climb up to the start. 

As we stepped off the bus, about 1300+ runners huddled for warmth on top of the mountain at 9696 ft elevation

The air was chilly and very thin.  I could feel it impacting my ability to breathe. 

Inspirational music played loudly as the sun slowly rose over the summit.  

As I threw my gear bag into the truck, I thought about a man I have been FB friends with, but never met in person. He had posted yesterday that he was on his flight to Salt Lake City to run a marathon. I wondered if he would be here and at that moment he walked right in front of me. This made me smile. It was like seeing an old friend. 

When you are going to do something hard, it is really nice to have a friend in your corner to keep your focused. Abel became that person for me today.  (Thank you Abel).

We discussed goals. I told him I wanted to target an even spit and if everything goes perfectly today, I should be able to run a sub-3.  We get up front and after the national anthem and then a count down, I cannot believe we were off and running.

20 weeks of focus. 20 weeks of trying my hardest to do everything “right”... so when my back finally does go out in the years to come, I will have No Regrets.   

If everything goes perfectly today, I should be able to run a sub-3, which was a pipe-dream and never something I felt could be a reality.    

There is so much pain... at Mile 1.5... 
Now here we are running in the dark down a mountain so steep that in Mile 1 I can already feel my toe nails banging against my toe-box. I am trying to look at my Garmin, but I cant read it in the dark with my eyes tearing up from the cold air. I am running so fast, too fast. The hill is so steep I can't slow down with out jamming on the breaks… I decide to just go with it.  

At M1 my Garmin beeps: M1- 5:53. Holy Crap! That cannot be correct. My first sub-6 mile in a race… and at the absolute worst time to do it! This is NOT good.

“If everything goes perfectly today, I should be able to run a sub-3.” 

But this is very very bad! This is one full minute under sub-3 pace. I pump the breaks to get myself under control. Abel looks back, to check on me, I waive for him to just go. I need to settle down.  

As I try to slow, the front of right shin spasm hard. Shooting pains are sent up my leg. I cannot step without pain. I never cramp.  I am today. I can feel my big toe is swollen badly and now I can't step without pain. It is not even Mile 2 yet. Then my Garmin loses a signal and I have no information about what my pace is. 

"Will it away!"
If everything goes perfectly today, I should be able to run a sub-3”  

My Garmin timer is working, so I have that for information at each mile. It feels like the entire field is passing me as I giddy-up with a contorted painful gait.

We pass the 3 Mile Mark and start to run uphill. Up hill at 8700 feet is hard on a chick who lives at 100 ft. My Garmin picks up a signal here, just to tell me “Hey do you know you are running a 7:50 pace!” then it dropped again. Thanks! 

My devastating internal dialogue begins: “If everything goes perfectly today, you should be able to run a sub-3…. Well, guess what! Today is NOT your day. It is not yet mile 4 and you are running a 7:50 pace with shin spasms so bad you can’t step and bruised toenails making it harder than it needs to be. It is only going to get worse from here! You can’t even get your turnover fluid. Accept it! You are not a sub-3 marathoner and you never will be! What even made you think this was possible. If you can’t do it here, at one of the fastest courses in the country, today, when you are in then best shape of your life, then it will never ever happen for you. So right now you need to stop dreaming and start figuring out a way to be OK with this because 22 miles is along way to go feeling sorry for yourself... if you  can even make it that far.”

Just Believe!
And then I remembered glancing down at my wrist when I parked the car at the airport. "Believe!" I thought about how hard I worked. I thought about my last race where I had bad foot pain and I focused on “Willing it Away” and how that worked for me.  I thought about my 1:27 negative split half marathon that I won outright (against like 35 runners ;), but so what, I still won). I thought about a story Laura D. shared with me about her dad telling her to always “Have Fun and Never Give Up”… 

I thought about my Grandmother and how I felt she was there with me and I said to her: “Ok Grandma, I am not ready to quit. I don't care if I don't make it. I just need to try… I need to keep trying no matter what happens!”

And then the MUSIC in my head started. When a song gets stuck in my head during a race, good things happen. At the starting area music was being played… and one perfect song wormed its way into my brain and here it was, just as I needed it most.

And with this music, my shin loosed up… My gait became smooth… My toes still hurt, but I know that if I run hard enough a bruised toenail will blow up and actually feel better…  So with this music in head, with my grandmother in my thoughts, I ran my heart out!  

As I ran from Mile to Mile, not really sure how I was doing, I told that negative voice of self-doubt to Shut It. I don't need a “perfect day.” I just need a chance!  Today, I have my chance!

I came through 13M sub-1:28’s… Yes! I had a chance!  

I took off my singlet and got comfortable. I take a lot of unwarranted crap for running in a sports bra from judgy people whose opinions don't really matter. When I run in a sports bra I feel strong and confident. My body cools itself better. I always run faster when cooler. A chick yells out “Nice 8-pack!! You go Girl! You are crushing it!” and that is all I needed to hear! 

Everything comes together. The fast course pulled me at paces I don't often get to see in a 5k!  My Garmin was working again (finally) and I clicked off a series of incredible splits from M13 - M17: 6:08, 6:12, 6:14, 6:22, 6:14.  

This stretch of running, brought me back to life!  Every mile under 6:53 was giving me something to use during the hardest miles of this race that were about to hit from 18M-24M. I just needed to get to mile 24 with a chance. 
Then I think, “OMG! What if this is a dream?! What if my alarm for the bus is about to go off and I am not actually here doing this”… but the pain feels so real.

We entered the harder stretch and I hold a 6:36 for M18. I fade to a 7:00 for M19. I am ok with this because, I banked some time.  

But then my hamstring spasms and I feel like I am about to pull it… “Not now! Will It away!  Will. It. Away!”  

I see Abel on his way back and he looks good, but also like things are getting tough. I know they are for me. I ignore my watch. This stretch is hard. I focus on the people around me and I try to reel people in. M20 - 6:58.
M21 - 7:01. 

I’m having trouble holding on. I feel my shin swelling and my shoe, around my ankle, starts to get tight. I need to be at M22 before 2:30 to have a chance. I glance at my split: 7:24.  I cant bear to look at the total time. I don't want to know… I am afraid it will tell me I am too slow, so I look away and just run.

I get the pace back under 7:00 for M23 (6:52). I tell myself, just get to mile 24 with 16 minutes to go (7 minutes for 2 miles and then 2 minutes for .2).  I hit Mile 24 at 2:41 OMG I think I really can do this!!! 

Then as the course starts to head back downhill my left pinky toe explodes in my shoe… it blows up and my foot pools with blood and fluid… :Not Now!!!! 2 miles to go… Not now!!!"

I see Abel, he is reaching back towards his hamstring. I can see he is working for this but he, too, is in pain.  I catch up and I say to him “Will It Away!” (He tells me later all he heard was me say “Suck it up!”  LOL!  That is not what I said!!!). I tell him “We can do it!  But I secretly I believe in him more than I do myself.”

Starting to Believe!
I need to be at M25 before 2:50. I hoped be there by 2:48. I am taking nothing for granted.  

Everything hurts, but I am so close. I am checking my time and I see it roll over 2:50 and I ask the guy next to me if we passed M25. I never trust mile markers. What if the others were short? What if I did not reach mile 25 yet and now it is 2:50???  

He says, “We are just past 25.3 miles!

OMG, less than a mile to go if he is right!  If he is right, I can run a 2:56!  But what if he is wrong? He could he be wrong?   

But what if he is right?

At 2:54:xx I pass the flag for M26…  "At two fifty four I pass the flag for mile twenty six" This does not feel real to me. It is now and only now that I truly believe. 

I open my stride as much as I can and my heart fills with joy. I cry. I don't care. I run the last .36 miles (on my watch) in a 6:12 pace. 

I am escorted to the med tent because my legs are weak, I am emotional, and my asthma is making it hard to breath. I look at my watch… 

Two Fifty Six … 2. 5. 6…. 2:56!  

I cant believe it. 

I did it. 

And with a 10 second negative split! 

Abel finishes shortly after and gets his first Sub-3, too! 

After I returned home to New Jersey, I get in my car, with the CD still in the player. I was greeted by this song which really sums it all up.

I think it's time we found a way back home
You loose so many things you love as you grow
I missed the days when I was just a kid
My fear became my shadow, I swear it did

Wherever is your heart I call home
Wherever is your heart I call home
Though your feet may take you far from me, I know
Wherever is your heart I call home
(I "Heart" Marathons)

Thank you Grandma. I know you were there to see this, to help give me strength when I was full of self doubt, and to help me believe I could overcome everything thrown in my way, if I just made sure to believed in me. 

Time 2:56:14 (6:43 per mile)
OA place: 29th
Gender: 3rd

Age: First Master Female

We don't need perfect, 
We just need a chance.  

Dream Big.


The Aftermath: Lost toenails and bruised shins.
(Not for the weak-stomached).

You may look at the elevation chart and think "Downhill races" are fast courses. 

Yes, this is true... They are, but for those who can survive the beating. Be prepared to get you butt kicked for 26M straight without a break. Do your downhill training. Expect round after round of jarring impact without relief. This may be fast, but it also painful. 

I lost 3 toe nails already and my shin spasms resulted in a nice bruise from the inside out.  My hamstring is still knotted. 

Recovery from this race is taking me longer than when I ran 110 miles in a day. I am being patient, but I already know this was the hardest race I have ever run even with gravity assisting me most of the way. 

Yet, still, when I look at my feet, I am proud.  

I hear toenails are over-rated, anyway :)