Buffalo

I wasn’t going to write about Buffalo. I was going to pretend it just didn’t happen and move along with life and recovery and training. But I changed my mind a few weeks ago, when I started this post. Now I’ve let more than a month elapse since the marathon (and since starting this post). I’ve let most of my resentment go from that day, but I still want to write about it. Now I have a little more perspective and my mentality going into the run.

This is your one and only warning: buckle down for a long, emotional post, providing myself with some much-needed catharsis…and providing the 2 or 3 of you who read this whole thing: a look into the unraveling of my 7th marathon.

Directly following the race, I was really upset. Someone said to me the week before Buffalo that “you just don’t get a second chance at the playoffs. Why are you running another marathon so close to Boston??” I was pissed at him for saying that, but he was right. I was trying to squeeze something out of my training and my body that just wasn’t there. My fitness might have been…okay…but my head was on a different planet, and I completely underestimated how mentally grueling running a marathon is–so much that I found myself at mile 22 in the middle of Buffalo saying out loud, “wow, I’m actually running this thing, aren’t I?

Yeah. It’s not really a great idea to realize you’re running a marathon AT MILE 22 when traditionally that last 10k is where you’re supposed to grind it out and pour your heart into the run.

I ran a lot of this marathon as though I was carrying a white flag. I gave up. The effort was over…I had nothing left to give. “You expected it to end this way anyway, remember?” the demons said in my head.

The biggest issue I had was that I signed up for all the wrong reasons. I thought I “should have” PRed by more in Boston. I guess you can say I was greedy; but the proof was in my training and the data was there – it was there all winter long. Of COURSE I wanted more. The big PR would’ve happened in Boston if it wasn’t so damn hot.

So my motivation behind Buffalo was simple. I wanted to run another marathon this spring because when the dust settled from Boston, I felt like I had been punched in the stomach with regret. I got back to work and normal life…and couldn’t help but remember all the workouts, runs, and breakthroughs I had going into Boston. A 3:06 was so dissatisfying when I considered all of the training and proof that suggested a completely different outcome.

But the dissatisfaction wasn’t enough to run an entire new marathon. I was missing the deep-rooted drive to run another PR in Buffalo. Sure, I wanted to do well. I was fine with the idea of training for another 5 weeks after Boston. But when you run a marathon…you need to fight for it. And I just wasn’t there this time, not entirely. 

And that’s what made me most upset immediately following Buffalo.  Not because of my finish time. Not because of how I placed. Not because the weather was shitty…again. I was upset because I didn’t fight for it.

I even went into the run with a shitty mentality. I said if I felt tired, I’d DNF. I gave myself an out before even crossing the starting line. That’s the WORST thing you can do going into a race, especially a marathon.

And the worst part is that the option to not run Buffalo didn’t even really cross my mind. I put myself into this damned if I do, damned if I don’t situation. To not run Buffalo meant I’d be settling for the 3:06 at Boston.

I needed to at least TRY. I was too stubborn not to.


The Training
The training between Boston and Buffalo was actually great. I took 2 weeks of easy easy running/XT, then had 6 key maintenance workouts leading up to the marathon.

Workout 1 Workout 2 Long Run WKLY MILEAGE
Week 1 3 x 1.5 mile 7 miles @ marathon 14 48
Week 2 4 x 2 miles 10 miles @ marathon (workout 2 was LR) 61
Week 3 12 x 400 w/ rest at pace 3 x 2 miles @ marathon 10 45
Week 4 5 x 4 minutes @ threshold n/a n/a 32
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4×2 mile, in a park – not on a track. Probably my fastest workout this season, even faster than pre-Boston.

My legs went from feeling incredible…to absolutely terrible…to pretty decent, all in a span of 4 weeks. It was an emotional rollercoaster. I also was dealing with an extremely irritated high hamstring and hip, which made me completely question the even thought of doing the marathon at all, especially when pain started searing into my lower back and SI Joint week 3. Luckily, after consulting an orthopedist and with the mileage reduction of taper, by the time I got to the marathon, I had very little pain going into the race.

The Race
I knew going for sub-3 in Buffalo would be foolish. Not only was the spark not there…but my hamstring issue concerned me. The hamstring was never something that bothered me while running, but I experienced a lot of irritation post-running, so I didn’t know what a marathon might do to it.

And the long runs and workouts after Boston just felt crappy. I was hitting my paces, but nothing felt good or easy, as it did before Boston.

Because of these two factors, I thought 3:01-02 would be an acceptable goal for Buffalo..but THEN when I heard it was going to be 80° and humid, I decided anywhere around 3:04 would be a fine goal. The plan was to be much more conservative than Boston – starting around a 7:00-05 and whittling down once I got to the halfway mark.

It was also necessary to devise a plan for the heat. Thankfully, Gabe came with me to Buffalo, and he agreed to be my own personal support crew around the city. So we rented him a bike and loaded him up with a backpack of ice-soaked washcloths, water bottles, electrolytes and extra nutrition. Because the race has so many out-and-backs around the city, we determined about 6 different places that he’d meet me and offer support if I needed it.

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Rented bike = so clutch

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One of us was excited about driving 6 hours to Buffalo. One of us was not.

In addition to Gabe’s help, the city of Buffalo went above and beyond to keep runners cool, adding extra aid stations and tons of extra ice-soaked washcloths, especially towards the backend of the marathon. I can’t say enough great things about this marathon and the way it was organized. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Miles 1-3: 6:59, 7:03, 7:02
It was humid. Like REALLY humid. A reading of 85% humidity to be exact. I tried to not let it bother me and appreciate that it was only 70° at 6:30 AM…but it was humid. The pace in these beginning miles felt really easy, which was encouraging, but I saw Gabe at mile 2 and he said that I (and everyone around me) was already completely soaked with sweat.

I took my first gel with water pretty early, 30 minutes in, because I knew nutrition was going to be an issue today.

Miles 4-6: 7:07, 7:05, 7:01
These miles just clicked by and this pace felt really great. We passed through downtown Buffalo again and I was hanging with a group of 3-4 guys, most of whom were running the half. It was really great to have company, and my stride matched up really well with one of the guys in particular…didn’t even get his name, but I was REALLY thankful for his company. We ended up distancing ourselves from the other pack we had started with, and clicked through several miles together, chatting the entire time. Turns out he was 19 years old, from Wisconsin, on the track team in college, and running his first half marathon as a training run.

Miles 7-9: 6:59, 6:57, 7:02
These were all run with my new Wisconsin friend. This felt SUPER relaxed and really easy, which made me optimistic. We were also running along Lake Erie, so while it was still really humid, the course was pretty shaded.

I took more nutrition and it went down really well. Everything so far was according to plan.

Unfortunately, my new friend started running 6:50-40s around mile 9, so I let him go. I had no business running that fast that early.

As I let Wisconsin boy go, I started running alongside someone else, whose name I didn’t catch either. He said something about his goal being 3:10 and it freaked me out because I wanted to be well under 3:10. I looked down and saw we were, at that moment, around a 7:10-15, so I picked it up a bit and dropped him. In hindsight, I probably should have just hung with him for a couple of miles, but I had no idea how poorly the rest of the race was going to go.

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Mah new fraaand

Miles 10-11
I saw Gabe just before mile 10 and a few things happened –

1: I peed my pants for the first time in the race and it felt AWESOME.

2: Gabe shouted to me that I looked really great and smooth…and I felt that way too. I remembered that mile 10 was when shit started hitting the fan in Boston. And today, in Buffalo, I was floating along, still REALLY happy with how things were going.

3: He also told me that the humidity had broken a little. Which meant, looking back at the weather archives from that day, means it dropped from 85% to 78%. Awesome. But in the moment, hearing that was mildly exciting. I was SOAKED from sweat and from dumping water over my head, but I still felt okay, so I pushed on.

Miles 10-11 is also the only out-and-back where you see runners passing each other, so I used this as an opportunity to count what place I was running over all women. Half marathoners were wearing a red bib and marathoners were wearing blue bibs…so I counted myself in 7th(ish?) place.

“Ok,” I thought. “There is money for 5th place. You can work your way up there. Just keep your shit together.”

Miles 12-13: 7:02, 7:09
These miles were lonely and through a sketchy part of town. Running suddenly didn’t feel so easy, as this is also where a small but steady incline began. I hit the halfway around 1:33, which was the plan, but out of nowhere, my quads and legs felt heavy and fatigued. Shit. It’s only halfway. This isn’t supposed to happen this way.

Miles 14-15: 7:06, 7:10
This course is pretty forgiving, but these miles were evil. Just after the halfway point, the half marathoners turn left to finish…and the marathoners turn right to climb up a hill…and it was definitely a soul-sucking hill.

I thought to myself, “just get up this hill and settle back down,” but once I got over the hill at 13, I found myself wiped out. Shit.

Then, suddenly, at mile 15, I started feeling a shooting cramp in my calf/ankle. “STRESS FRACTURE.” I dramatically whimpered.

So sometimes I have really tweaky Achilles (plural), and from time to time, they REALLY act up, usually because of increased mileage. The pain goes away within 24-48 hours. But of course, in the 2-3 days leading up to Buffalo, my right Achilles and calf started getting that familiar tweaky, tight feeling for no reason at all. I was tapering, so it seemed really weird that it was happening with the decreased mileage, but in hindsight, I’m pretty sure it was because of that jacked up hamstring, wreaking havoc on the entire right side of my body.

Anywho. Back to the stress fracture/cramp/Achilles issue.

It wasn’t so bad that it was altering my stride – yet – but I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. Luckily, I saw Gabe in these miles, who was armed with some homeopathic runners cramp pills that were in our Boston goody bags. Yeah, yeah…I know you’re not supposed to try anything new on race day, but I was desperate. I popped the cramp pills and over the course of the next mile, the stabbing pain in my ankle started to subside. Whether it was in my head or maybe they really helped…the world will never know.

Crisis diverted. God bless the homeopathic cramp pills!

Mile 16: 6:58
Just after mile 15 and into the 16th mile, I passed the 6th place girl. I had been behind her watching her run for a few miles. And FINALLY, I saw her slow down and I bounced past her.

I hadn’t felt great for about 3 miles, but thought maybe things were starting to turn around. I reminded myself about an interview I had recently read about Shalane’s Olympic Trials marathon, where she admitted that there are a LOT of ups and down in a marathon…it’s inevitable that the whole race won’t feel magical. “You’re fine. You just hit a low point and now you’re back into it,” I convinced myself.

Mile 17: 7:04
Yeah…no. It wasn’t a second wind. Or maybe it was…maybe I just succumbed to the self-doubt inside my head that was screaming at me saying: “you can’t.”

But here is where things started to go downhill.

Instead of fighting that little voice, I started listening to it and started feeling sorry for myself. As a runner who prides herself on mental tenacity and grit…this is where I let myself down, and this is why I was so upset after the race.

I didn’t feel great at mile 17, but I also didn’t feel THAT bad. Yet instead of paying attention to the pace and running a smart marathon, I just ran like a novice marathoner. I started feeling sorry for myself in this particular mile because it was completely unshaded and really freaking hot.

Looking back at the photos, I laugh, because I looked like a wet rat running around in a bikini. There was nothing strong or athletic about the way I felt. I let myself play into the, “OMG IT’S GOING TO BE SO HOT TODAY, HOW ARE YOU RUNNING A MARATHON?!” hype…so here, when things started getting hot, I didn’t exhibit my best self, and I regret that.

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Epitome of wet rat.

Mile 18: 7:16
IT’S SO HOT, LOOK AT ME, SPECTATORS. I’M RUNNING A MARATHON IN THIS HEAT. DON’T YOU FEEL BAD FOR ME?!? I CERTAINLY FEEL TERRIBLE.

But I passed the 5th place girl in here, so hey, let’s just keep going and I’ll win $500 for placing 5th. YAY!

Mile 19-20: 7:10, 7:25
Then, as if things couldn’t get any worse, I had to go to the bathroom at mile 19. Like really bad. I spotted porta-potties at the 19 mile marker and thought to myself, “no. NO. You do NOT have to use them, you only think you have to go because of the novelty of them being there,” so I kept running.

At mile 19.5 it was bad. For the first time EVER in any race…despite the 2-tablespoon serving of Imodium I took before the race…I HAD to go to the bathroom. It wasn’t my imagination.

Usually, I have no shame. If I was on my way to sub-3, I gladly would’ve shit my pants.

But I knew Buffalo wasn’t going to be that magical day. So at mile 19.5, after a 1/2-mile of profusely squeezing my butt cheeks together and trying to convince myself that it was all in my head, I looked around and saw I was alone in the middle of a random street in Buffalo. So I spotted an alley, ran over, and relieved myself. The whole production didn’t take more than 25 seconds, so when my mile marker beeped in for a 7:25 20th mile, I was pretty pleased with myself.

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See that left quad? Yeah, it used to be broken and now it’s not. So at least I’ve got that going for me.

Mile 21: 7:14
But despite my emptied bowels, I continued to feel sorry for myself. It was still pretty humid, in the mid-high 70s; and every aid station was buzzing with medics, ready to help overheated runners. Because I was pretty much running alone, I remember looking at the faces of medics who were passing out ice-soaked cloths and they looked really concerned.

“Yeah, that’s right, self. You poor thing. No one runs a marathon in a heatwave. Just keep on keeping on. Your chance of a good race is done.”

I hit mile 21 in Buffalo almost exactly 1 minute slower than in Boston, and I knew it. The biggest difference between the two runs was that in Boston, I was ready to gut it out. In Buffalo, I was ready to go home, and I subconsciously shut things down knowing this.

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Hot and over it.

Mile 22: 7:16
I looked at the 22nd mile marker and distinctly remember thinking, “wow, I’m actually running this thing. Holy shit.”

This was a defining moment in the race.

While I had mentally given up on any sort of big PR way back at mile 17…mile 22 is when I just gave up entirely. Anything I was hoping for out of this race was over. I was tired. I was hot. I had just taken a shit in an alley.

The fire inside me was already extinguished before I even stepped foot on that marathon course, but the ashes totally blew away at mile 22.

Miles 23-25: 7:30, 7:44, 7:43
Miserable. These miles were completely miserable. I told myself to finish because I thought I was in 5th place…otherwise, I would’ve DNFed. I didn’t care about a good race anymore. I didn’t care about a PR. I just wanted to win my $500 and get the hell out of Buffalo.

I got a little emotional going through the rolling hills on this portion of the course. Being the drama queen that I am, I teared up thinking about how my spring season was a bust, and how every time I tried to run a decent race this spring, the weather thwarted my plans.

Mile 26-26.2: 7:24, last .41 at 6:44
Gabe had been biking alongside of me for the past 3 miles, and we were completely silent. He knew better than to try to encourage me, but I was silently immensely thankful for his support and love.

As I ran the final mile, back into the city of Buffalo, I passed an elite runner who was rubbing her belly from GI discomfort. Passing her, I wasn’t sure if I was in 4th or 5th place…but either way, I was just finishing to get the cash. I had zero concept of what my time was going to be.

Any time I tried to go any faster than a 7:30 in the final few miles, I felt my insides exploding again. My stomach wasn’t happy with me either, and I desperately needed to finish the race and refuel.

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JUST MAKE IT END.

FINAL MARATHON – 3:09:12

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It was the most unexciting marathon finish of my life. It didn’t even seem like I had run an entire marathon. The Buffalo Bills tried to loop the finishers medal around my neck, but I just extended my hand to receive it, head down in shame. At that point, I just felt empty; in shock about how much that experience had sucked. (I was also still relishing in the fact that I had just taken a shit in an alley of downtown Buffalo).

I chugged a bottle of water and started the hobble back to the car with Gabe. I didn’t make it 2 blocks before I HAD to go to the bathroom again (this time in a Dunkin Donuts, not in an alley, thankfully). From there, I was only able to walk 5 more blocks before I had to go to the bathroom again. And then the stomach cramps were completely unbearable. I spent the rest of the morning feeling like I had been hit by a truck, alternating between the toilet and a horizontal sprawl on the floor of our non-air conditioned, 90° Airbnb. I could barely choke down a protein drink, I was so sick. I eventually ended taking another dose of Imodium to calm my stomach down.

Once my GI system was under control (literally hours later), we packed up the car to go to my childhood home just outside of Syracuse. My legs felt fine and Gabe actually marveled at the fact that I had just ran a marathon and was moving around like no big deal. It was bittersweet hearing him say this, as I knew I didn’t nearly push myself as hard as I could have.

It was over. While I never saw the marathon result I wanted this spring, I finally had closure of 10 months of training. In a way, I was relieved to put an end to it all.

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Skaneateles. Home.



The Aftermath
Now I see the silver lining with the whole double marathon thing. The biggest takeaway? I realize how really freaking hard it is to run a marathon, let alone two back to back. Respect the distance, people.

On a personal level, running two marathons back to back is something totally new to me. Before this, I had only run one marathon per year. Doing Boston and then immediately jumping into Buffalo was a huge learning experience.

I also haven’t run any other marathons besides Boston in 3 years and I forgot how fun marathoning is in new places. I had a really great time in Buffalo with Gabe and the race went by pretty quickly because of the new sights.

I found out a few hours after the marathon that I did not, in fact, get 5th place, nor did I get $500. I came in 6th place out of 1,436 women. I missed out of 5th place by 21 seconds – aka, the time spent taking a crap at mile 19.5. Apparently the 5th place woman passed me while I was relieving myself…and I had no idea. Had I realized this, you bet your bottom dollar I would’ve fought for that finishing place.

And this is why it’s important to never settle.

So I’ll move on from this, and from the marathon for now. I have no desire to run another marathon this fall…so I won’t. I’m craving speed again, and my body needs a break from the 20 milers. I’ve decided to focus on the half and 10k.

Running a sub-3 marathon doesn’t scare me, but this wasn’t my year for it…so we’ll see what happens next time. It was the first time I didn’t hit a big running goal on the first try. Guess I’m not invincible. All I know is that I’m happy and so SO thankful to be healthy and uninjured right now. My running career has been nothing but a seemingly endless injury cycle and, until now, I haven’t been able to string together 12 healthy months of running since I first started training in 2013. Buffalo left me feeling upset…but also ridiculously motivated to never put myself in a position like that again. And, after a solid recovery month of June, I’m rested, pissed, and hungry for more.

Hey summer running: get at me. I’ve got PRs to hit in the fall.

Bird Camp

Bird Camp in the numbers:
Hours of driving from CT to NH: 8 (4 each way)
Pairs of sneakers packed: 4 (only 3 were worn)
Miles run between Friday – Sunday: 22.9
Nights spent lying in bed, freezing, with 3 layers on top AND bottom: 3
Number of birds in our cabin: 6
Bird camp attendees: 105
Showers taken at camp: 2
Number of showers that were with hot water: 0

I’ll be honest: I was a little skeptical of this concept of Bird Camp. 105 women in one little space. I figured most people would know each other…and I’d know no one since our CT meetups have been lackluster due to the scattered location of our members. And the itinerary seemed packed; would we be able to relax at all? I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to run since I’ve been taking some much needed time off after double marathoning to rest my irritated hamstring.

But as soon as Charlotte picked me up in the driveway, I knew it was going to be great. We spent the entire drive up to New Hampshire chatting and getting to know each other, and I instantly felt better. We arrived to camp just in time for dinner/orientation and instantly started making new friends as soon as we stepped foot in the dining hall.

The runs were beautiful and my hamstring actually felt fine. Through some fantastic presentations, I learned the importance of putting my phone away long before bed and I may even consider investing in a pair of Sketchers (maybe). Fast forward to Saturday and it was time for my strength presentation!

Being a running AND a strength coach, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to discuss the importance of strength training and varied movement for runners. Strength training is not only used for injury prevention…but there are also numerous studies that indicate strength training help increase aerobic speed in conjunction with running economy. On a personal level: the only time I haven’t been injured is when I’m strength training.

So after a brief intro about why strength training and moving differently are SO important for runners, I jumped right into a quick body-weight workout that incorporated all planes of movement.

INTRO
There are three planes of movement: sagittal, frontal, and transverse.

As runners, we are really really great at moving forward – i.e. – moving on the sagittal plane. But that means we’re leaving two entire plans of motion out of our practice. To put it simply: by continuing to only move on the sagittal plane, runners create a great deal of imbalance, which eventually can turn into injury.

To be better runners, we should not only incorporate resistance training into our workouts…but also other types of movement. And, no, I’m not talking about sitting on the bike or elliptical or stair master for 45 minutes (though, I did think that was the solution for the first 2 years of my running career). I’m talking about MOVING differently, along all planes.

Being limited with space and equipment at camp, I developed a quick series of exercises that incorporated all planes of movement. My objective was to teach something that wasn’t running…get some hearts pumping…and to drive home the concept of thinking outside the box when it comes to being a stronger and better runner. If you have any questions about anything I’ve written below (or would like me to send you a video and/or clarification of the exercise, please contact me at itsamarython@gmail.com).

Warmup
1. CARs, or Controlled Articular Rotations (These are types of movements stemming from the training system called FRC. Read more about FRC here or read more about CARs over at my friend Todd’s blog here. If you attended Bird Camp and want a refresher of what these movements are, shoot me an email).
-cat/camel
-quadruped hip
-ankle

2. Active Movement
-walking high knees
-knee hug to lunge
-leg cradle
-heel to butt
-lunge matrix

3. Locomotion
-duck walk
-bear crawl
-inch worm
-crab walk

4. Wall posture
-wall posture holds
-single switch
-double switch
-load & lift

The workout! (finally!)
Side shuffle (5R/5L x 4)
BW squat (x 10)
Agility ladder: 2 in/2 out (20 sec x 4)
High knees (20 sec)
Lateral bear crawl (10/s x 2)
Jumping jacks (20 sec)
Pushups (x 10)
Agility ladder: Icky Shuffle (20 sec x 4)
Groiners (5/s)
Lateral march (10/s x 2)
Plank (30 sec)
Lateral skip (10/s x 2)
Shuffle hop (30 sec)
Side to side hop (30 sec)
POW reverse lunge (10/s)
Side winder (10/s)
Hand touch (x 10)
Side plank (30 sec/s)

Cooldown
Pigeon
Hamstring stretch
Hip flexors
Downward dog w/ slow rise
Reach and lateral stretch (ITB)
(These are just some of my favorites).

 

Thanks again to Rebecca for organizing such an amazing weekend and to Oiselle for making this entire thing possible. Can’t wait for next year!

 

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Marathon Number 2

So…what if…what if I tried again? I know plenty of people who have tried doing the double marathon thing. What if I went for it again?

The thought of a double marathon started as a “yeah, right…you won’t do that,” joke in my head. I texted my coach, James, the night of Boston, thanking him for his help and support over the past few months, and slipped in this text:

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Spoiler: I didn’t shoot for sub-3, but I’ll talk about that in the recap.🙂

I really didn’t think he’d even entertain the idea. I haven’t had a solid rest period in a really long time, and I went HARD for Boston training, with breakthrough workouts pretty much every other week.

Sure, I run for myself, and I can make my own decisions. But the bottom line is that I’m the type of person who needs to be held back every now and then. I need to be told no. Over the past year, James has been that person who has told me when to go for it…and when to back down in favor of health. So I trust him and I trust his advice.

So in response to my text, James didn’t say yes. But he also didn’t say no. He told me that we’d see how recovery went over the course of the next two weeks.

To be honest, part of me expected to be injured again after the marathon since that’s  been the theme over the past two years. So I agreed to be patient and see how I felt. In hindsight, I probably should’ve just stopped while I was ahead. I didn’t need to run Buffalo. But you live and learn. My aggression got the best of me, and I only have myself to blame.

But. Anyway. Post Boston…

I took 5 days completely OFF.
On the 6th day, I tried an easy 30 minute run with friends…and felt ok.
On the 12th day, I ran a fun and hilly 5k…and felt good. Good enough to come within a couple seconds of my PR.
On the 15th day, I ran my first mini workout…and felt incredible. The workout was 3 x 1.5 mile repeats and I practically skipped through the speed, averaging 6:23, 6:07, 5:59 for each segment.

I was really pumped up. Buffalo was going to happen!! But there was one final piece of the puzzle: I wanted to get my blood tested to see how things were looking from the inside out.

So I got in touch with my friends at Inside Tracker. I’ve been extremely thankful for their partnership over the past year. I never thought blood testing was an important part of training until James suggested it to me, even before I was under his coaching wing. His philosophy? Get a test when you’re feeling great so you can more-easily identify what might be going on when things go wrong.

I decided to give their new High Performance Panel a try because I was most curious in finding out what was going on with the 3 levels that had been concerning me from past tests: iron, Vitamin D, and cortisol. I told myself that if my results were in the red – not just with these 3 levels…but overall – I’d do some serious reevaluating about this second marathon thing.

Initially, I got my blood tested last year by my doctor after I was diagnosed with a stress reaction. It was my second bone injury in a year and my doctor and I wanted to see what was going on.

-That was in May. Fast forward a few months, to August, and I was finally running and doing workouts again. I was feeling great and PRed in my 10k after just 4 weeks of workouts. Feeling great? = Perfect time for a blood test. So I gave Inside Tracker a try.

Could I have gone back to my original doctor for a second blood test? Of course. But I was curious. I wanted to see what Inside Tracker was about. My insurance is also a pain in the ass, so getting another doctor’s appointment and blood tests done would’ve been an absolute nightmare. I also liked the education and support that Inside Tracker offered with its test results, and I was intrigued that the reading would be tailored to me-an athlete-not just a normal woman in her late 20s.

The results of my first two tests – May ’15  -> August ’15 – things looked…fine. They were fine enough that I didn’t make any drastic changes to my diet. I added a couple supplements-most notably an iron supplement-but that’s pretty much it. I figured the iron pill would work its magic in due time. And I had a great fall season! So I thought I was doing all the right things. I PRed in the 5k, 10k, and half marathon.

But then I got another test in February. In between August ’15 -> February ’16, things had changed in my life: I had wrapped up a really strong series of fall races coming off my injury….I was in the thick of marathon training….I was working full-time after previously being unemployed.

But the test results definitely woke me up.

My iron hadn’t budged. My Vitamin D had plummeted again. Cortisol had skyrocketed.

Crap.

It was time to change some things, especially with the most intense weeks of Boston training coming up (helloooo first-ever 80 mile week). So…I took action. And, thankfully, those changes made a difference and I saw the results when I retested in early May.

Note: there are many more biomarkers than just VitD/cortisol/iron…but I’m focusing on these 3 because they stood out to me the most as needing improvement. 

Vitamin D
The only time my VitD has been optimized was last August – after a summer of spending time in the sun. So when I saw my levels plummet, I decided it was time to finally start supplementing. So I found these amazing vitamins at Target and started taking 4000 IUs/day, per my Inside Tracker suggestions.

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Lemon-flavored VitD: the most exciting part of my morning vitamin cocktail.

And it seems to be working! Full disclosure: I didn’t purchase these vitamins until April, so I’m confident that my levels have only continued to increase since my latest May 6th reading.

Another major change that I think affected my VitD levels was my increased consumption of meat and fish, which I’ll talk about later in this post.

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Cortisol
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m an intense person. And I really like control. And when I don’t have control, it stresses me out. So it comes to no surprise that the only time my cortisol levels have been optimized was last August: when I was just starting to run again and I didn’t have a full time job.

Unfortunately, life can’t always be carefree.🙂

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I suspect my cortisol levels skyrocketed in February because:
1. I finally had a job again
2. Some days, my job required me to get to work at 5AM, so I was getting limited sleep
3. Marathon training was intense

So what did I do to get my levels back to a downward trend? Between February -> May, I was able to cut down my early morning shifts, from 2-3/week to only 1/week. I focused on getting 8-9 hours of sleep/night, which not only helped my cortisol levels, but also helped my running performance immensely.

I also downloaded the “Meditation Studio” app on my phone for $2.99 and started applying the relaxation methods not only while I was falling asleep, but also while running. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for meditation recordings and help.

Iron(!!!!!!!!!!!!)
Last spring, right before I got injured, I unintentionally lost a lot of weight very quickly. It was such a quick physical change that my ART specialist actually asked if I was okay, and later told me that he suspected that my weight loss was one of the many factors that contributed to the femur problem. It was true: my training had increased very quickly and I hadn’t kept up with proper fueling. Knowing this combined with the fact that my iron levels were stagnant over the past 3 blood tests made me realize that popping an iron pill every now and then wasn’t going to cut it. So here’s where I made the biggest changes:

1 – I started taking iron supplements…ON A REGULAR BASIS.

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Magic potion

Thankfully, I do not get tummy problems when taking this on an empty stomach. So I focused on taking at least 2 pills/day. I believe that the key with this is my frequency and consistency. This little bottle comes everywhere with me: in my backpack to work…in an overnight bag…in my purse…everywhere.

Note: I’m not a doctor. So don’t necessarily do what I do and think it’ll magically work. I decided to try this iron pill frequency thing after discussing it with a close friend who also happens to be an MD. She is extremely intelligent and right about many things in life-including this-so I’m thankful for her guidance. 

2 – I changed my lunchtime diet. Instead of eating turkey sandwiches and pbjs for lunch, I started eating things like this:

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Green beans, potatoes, and pork…with a side of ketchup

And this:

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Steak salad with feta, roasted red peppers, and garlic crostini

Eating real meals (with MEAT!) for lunch has completely changed my energy and hunger levels. If I’m hungry midday, a few hours after lunch, I drink a protein shake. -not a measly apple. The cliche is true: protein really does fill you up and keeps you satiated longer.

And I’ve never been leaner. Between January and April, my body fat has gone from 19% to 17% and my performance has also obviously improved.

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Jillian Michaels, eat your heart out.

It would be remiss of me to mention that this improved diet has been immensely helped by my friend Luke, who owns The Strong Kitchen here in CT. Basically: Luke is an amazing chef and cooks food and prepares it in single-serve meal portions. I order said food online and choose my portion size (muscle gain, performance, or weight loss…I usually chose performance). Luke delivers my meals to the gym where I work. Bada bing, bada boom…no more pbjs for lunch.

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Credits: The Strong Kitchen

 

SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MY FERRITIN/IRON LEVELS, YOU ASK?!

 

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Boom.

After almost a year of no changes with my iron levels, I finally achieved an upward surge. YES! That was the icing on the cake, seeing that the rest of my nutrient levels from the High Performance test were either optimized or were in a good place.

SO…based on my blood test results, it seemed as though I had the answers to my questions. I wasn’t about to implode. I wasn’t injured. I was feeling really good and my blood test proved that.

After debating between Vermont City and Buffalo as marathon choices, I decided on Buffalo because of its flat course and also because I’m from Central NY, so I’d be able to stop at home on the way back to CT.

Marathon number 2 was a go. The only thing left to do was to maintain fitness, remain uninjured, and run the damn race.

Boston 2016

I really don’t like failing. Who does?  I intentionally don’t talk or post my goals on social media for two reasons.
1 – I like to keep some things to myself
and
2 – I don’t want to put pressure on myself to perform and then fail. Sometimes I talk about failed workouts. But not very often.

And I like to be positive when I post on social media. Failing isn’t positive. -or that’s what I used to think.

But today, in this post, I’m going to be vulnerable and talk about failure. And about how it’s not really a negative thing.

Because I technically failed to meet my goal at this Boston Marathon.
And that’s okay.
Because I still walked away with a marathon finish and a whole lot of pride for a new PR on a day where the elements were not in anyone’s favor.

Boston was the first time in a WHILE that I set out to run a race with a huge, high-in-the-sky goal. I discussed my pre-Boston thoughts, but I never really publicly entertained any sort of goal. I only told a select few friends what my goal was. But based on my training times, it was pretty obvious to many people that I wanted to go sub-3. Based on my training times and workouts, I was right there. Based on everything on paper, everything was in my favor to hit at LEAST a 2:59.

But for the first time in a very long time, I was smart about this race. I pushed when I needed to push, but I also reeled it in when I needed to hold back. When I stood on that starting line in Hopkinton sweating my ass off in the blazing sun at 10AM Monday morning, I knew it wasn’t a good sign; but I remained positive. I stayed positive until around the halfway mark, where I realized I was no longer sweating, and I needed to keep my shit together, so I came up with a new race plan on the fly.

So I didn’t run a 2:59. Nor did I run under 3:05. But I fought as best I could and I came out with a 3:06, which is over a 2 minute PR. -A failure that I’m bittersweet about, but also happy about at the same time.

The marathon distance is extremely humbling, because it’s not just something you can bulldoze through. You have to keep your wits about yourself. And I did that.

The Morning
The morning was great. I had a decent night’s sleep and I surprisingly wasn’t really nervous. I knew I was ready, so there was nothing to be nervous about.

Breakfast was a mini bagel with peanut butter and two scoops of orange Generation UCAN, which I actually ended up bringing with me on the bus to Hopkinton. As with past Bostons, I tried to eat as much as I possibly could before the race. So on the bus, I ate another mini bagel with peanut butter and a banana. In Hopkinton, I also ate a Cliff Bar. I wasn’t hungry for any of it, but I had to eat. I washed everything down with an entire liter of water.

We stayed in our usual AMAZING Airbnb, about 1/2 a mile from the Boston Commons, and I met up with my friend Liz for the bus. I didn’t realize bag check had moved from The Commons to Boyleston St., so I think we technically missed our Wave 1 bus and ended up getting on the first bus of Wave 2. No biggie. Both Liz and I were cool as cucumbers, thank goodness.

We also bumped into Angie and Jess, both of whom I know from Instagram, and Angie and I had been trying to connect all weekend. It was such a great coincidence seeing them, and the four of us chit-chatted the entire way to Hopkinton. It felt as though we were longtime friends (we started having intimate conversations about ImodiumAD and pooping ab0ut 15 minutes after meeting, naturally). This little internet world is crazy, isn’t it??

Once we got to Athlete’s Village, I also coincidently bumped into my running partner, Alyssa, which was PERFECT, because we were planning on meeting up anyway, and I was a little nervous that we might miss each other.

So the five of us laid out on the lawn at Athlete’s Village to get off our feet and just relax. The vibe was very chill. I didn’t do many things wrong leading up to this race, but this was one of them. I wish we would’ve settled ourselves under the shade of one of the tents, because sitting out in the sun started heating us up before we even started running. The flipside was that I was drinking A LOT of water, so I felt confident that I was pretty hydrated.

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Happy and hydrated

We were called for our corral around 9:20, and I had already stripped off everything-so I was down to my booty shorts and Oiselle crop top. After a few more pee stops (in bushes), Alyssa and I positioned ourselves in our corral and waited for the start.

The Race
It was hot in the corral. We didn’t wait TOO too long, but it was hot. There was no breeze and I was already sweating, which honestly didn’t alarm me too much, but if I could’ve changed one more thing about Monday, it would’ve been to readjust my race plan right then and there because of the heat.

Anywho. Alyssa and I planned on running as much of the race together as we could. I’ve been really thankful for her partnership over the past few months, so I felt really comforted that she was lining up alongside of me. The day was going to be magical.

The plan was to be conservative for the first 20 minutes – anywhere from 6:55-7:00 – and to hit 3 miles around 21. From there, we were to settle in the mid-high 6:50s until the half. The goal for the half was 1:30-31.  From there, we needed to consistently sit in the high 6:40s to low 6:50s until the final 10k…and then it was time to throw down.

The plan was scary, but I felt confident in running a 1:30/1:29 or 1:31/1:28. Running sub-3 was certainly daunting, but the thought of running a 6:55 first half (1:30:30) and then negative splitting from there seemed feasible, especially since I negative split this course significantly in 2014. Alyssa and my long workouts have settled in the 6:40s-6:50s, and we had tackled a LOT of hills and elevation together over the course of our training. So…we were ready. I was ready. Mentally and physically, it was time to go.

Miles 1-3: 7:02, 6:59, 6:53
Cake. We, of course, were running downhill. But this felt like cake. My objective was for our slowest mile to be the first mile, so I was very pleased with the 7:02. My HR was nice and low and my legs felt pretty good.

We hit the third mile in 20:54, which was perfect.

I also had to pee like crazy, so fortunately, the bowels let go and I was able to pee. IT WAS SO FREEING!!!!! Yay to hydration.

Miles 4-7: 6:53, 6:51, 6:48, 6:57
This is where things flattened out and we set ourselves on cruise control. The pace felt snappy, but very doable. The course was CROWDED…much more crowded than in past years. We spent a lot of energy weaving and stopping abruptly due to slower runners, and I think this probably took a toll on our nervous systems over the course of the long haul.

I kept tabs on my HR, and it still seemed to be in a good place-a little higher than an easy run, but still lower than where it sits when I’m at threshold. This made sense since we no longer had the benefit of the downhills making the pace easy. I didn’t stress about the HR, though. Today was my day.

I took my first gel about 30-35 minutes into the race. It settled well and it was great to have Alyssa to share water duties with. I knew the crowd support for Boston would be great, and they did not disappoint this year. Because of the heat, I knew very early on it’d be important to take water at every stop. I did my best to drink one cup and dump the second over my head. When I couldn’t snatch a water, I’d grab a bottle from a fan in the crowd, and Alyssa and I would pass it between ourselves.

For a few miles, a guide was helping a blind man cruise down the side of the street, going around the same clip that Alyssa and I were going. He was clearing a pretty generous path by moving people aside for himself and the person he was guiding, so we tucked in behind him and rode the open path for at least two miles. I noticed a HUGE energy difference with the fact that I didn’t have to worry about stopping/cutting in front of and around people. I laugh, because I’ve heard people say that weaving sucks the energy out of you…and I always thought that was BS…until this race. I’m not saying my race fell apart because of the weaving; but it definitely was an added stress to my body that affected me that day.

Mile 8: 6:54
The heat was getting tough, as was the weaving around people once we lost the guide at a water stop. At one point, we found ourselves step for step with another guy for at least a quarter mile. I turned and asked what time he was going for. He responded, “3:05, but I’m a little behind because of the heat. Today isn’t a day for PRs.”

As I trotted away from him, I muttered, “that’s what you think…”

I actually still felt decent. Sure, it was hot. But I was eating and drinking a lot. I was a little shocked that he said he was going for a 3:05 and here I was, still going for under 3…but I wasn’t too worried. I was wearing a 3:00 pace band, and Alyssa and I were right on pace to hit the half between 1:30-31.

I think probably the thing that kept me most positive was that I felt SO MUCH BETTER than last year. Last year, I was already very fatigued at mile 8, which is why it was a death march for the remaining 18 miles. So this year, when I actually felt okay at mile 8, it was a huge confidence booster.

Miles 9 & 10: 6:53, 7:02
A lot of the terrain in here was familiar from when Alyssa, Aimee, and I went to Boston at the end of March to do our 24-milers. I felt comforted that I knew what was coming ahead of me-and it was nothing that I couldn’t handle. Although…the rolling hills at 9 & 10 were definitely a little harder than I remembered-and my bad quad let me know. It was the first time the entire race that my leg felt fatigued. It’s a normal thing-for that leg to feel “off”-but a few weeks ago, I went through a deep relaxation and meditation session with a local specialist. In the visualization, we had talked about the moment when my leg would start bothering me. So I was prepared.

“Shut up, leg,” I said in my head.

And just like that, the fatigue went away.

It seemed to be getting hotter and hotter, but my second gel settled fine, taken around an hour in. Alyssa and I weren’t talking much, but I made a comment to her about the crowd thinning a little bit here; the decreased traffic helped our stride quite a bit. I was “responsible” of the pace between the two of us, per our coach. She looked a little concerned that we were off pace, but I assured her that even if we hit the half at 1:31, we could still make up time on the backend. Our training was there, and we’ve negative split long, hard workouts together SO many times. This marathon would be no different. We were going to do this. Together.

We were doing our best to drink at every mile, but as we approached the mile 10 water station, we got separated by the crowds. I looked back so we could settle back next to each other, but she told me to just go. After a few attempts of trying to fall back in stride together, I reluctantly turned and took off.

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Attempting to remain calm. Alone.

Miles 11-13: 6:57, 6:49, 6:56
“Shit,” I thought. It was weird being alone. I didn’t like it, but I tried to stay positive.

“It’s happening today,” I said to myself. “I am going to chase down this damn time.”

I was hot…but I was still in control of the pace. I firmly believed I was going sub-3. A man running alongside of me reached his hand out and it was full of ice. I took it and thanked him profusely as I threw most of them into my sports bra and chewed on another piece.

We passed the Wellesley girls and I smiled ear-to-ear the entire time. I was having a lot of fun. I kept hitting these checkpoints where I remembered I had felt miserable the year prior. So it was a huge mental booster to hit those same spots this year and feel somewhat decent. But it was pretty clear that everyone around me was really suffering. I stamped on the 20k timing mat and thought of Gabe and the people I knew who were tracking me. I thought, “I’m here! I’m still alive! I’m still doing this thing!!”

Half marathon – 1:31:05

And here’s where things started to get tricky.

Because I was wearing the pace band, I knew I’d be at the half around 1:31, which was fine, but on the upper range of where I was aiming to be. I also knew that if I hit the half at 1:31, I’d need to get my shit together for a strong second half.

A bunch of the Oiselle girls I know were going to be just after the half. I thought to myself, “ok…just get past them and then see where you’re at.”

I passed the girls and they gave me a HUGE surge of energy. I was happy to see them too. But as soon as ran by, I knew I had to reevaluate my race strategy. I was still in control of my pace, but things were starting to go wrong physically. I took my third gel just after the half and was already queasy, which wasn’t a good sign. Usually I don’t get nauseous until the last 10k. I had also completely stopped sweating. Pushing and increasing the pace of the second half wasn’t in the cards today. I didn’t look at my HR at the time, but looking back at it now-it was already starting to get to that range where things could potentially fall apart at any second.

I didn’t panic. I thought, “that’s completely fine if you don’t negative split. You’re strong enough that you can run evenly and still PR around a 3:02-03.” So with a shrug of disappointment, I took my 3:00 pace band off my wrist and tucked it into my bra. I was going to just chuck it on the side of the road, but I reminded myself that there will be another day where the pieces will come together…and sub-3 will be mine. (That and the fact that Gabe had spent $9 on it, so I knew he’d be pissed if I threw it away).

The new plan was to hold steady where I was, in the 6:50s, until at least the hills. At the hills, I’d either push or run by effort…but I wasn’t going to look at my watch. I was going to look at the clock at mile 21 and reevaluate from there.

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Teamwork

Miles 14-16: 6:56, 7:01, 6:51
I felt okay with my new race plan, but these miles were hot and uncomfortable and my stomach hurt. As resentful as I was about putting that 3:00 pace band away, I gained some confidence because everyone around me was dropping like flies and I seemed to pass them like they were standing still.

But I was, admittedly, nervous for the hills.

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Thinking: “this is uncomfortable. But I think I can hold it here.”

Mile 17-21: 7:13, 7:25, 7:09, 7:23, 7:47
I think Heartbreak is bad, but I also think the first hill, at mile 17 is almost just as bad. I didn’t go nuts pushing up this first hill, but I did let myself get uncomfortable with the pace.

Once I crested the top of the hill, I knew I was toast. I still wasn’t sweating and gel/food wasn’t pleasant at all.

At the top of this hill, it was the first time in the entire day where I whispered to myself, “just. finish. this damn. run.” Thinking back to this moment makes me tear up a little, especially when I remember the amount of time and energy I put into the workouts leading up to the marathon. It’s so humbling to spend months and hours of training and track workouts and HILL RUNS for god’s sake for one specific race…only to be in said race…just wanting it to be over.

Could I have bulldozed through the hills and death-marched into Boston for the last 6 miles and PRed by, say, one or two minutes faster? Sure. Did I do that last year? Yep. And I pushed myself so hard, that not only did it take weeks to recover…but I also seriously injured my leg. And it made the last 6 miles of the course last year absolutely, positively miserable.

So this year, I made the conscious decision to run the daunting hills with pride, and to the best of my ability without going overboard. And I did just that. Thanks to Strava, I learned post-race that this year was the slowest I ran these four Newton hills in comparison to the last two Bostons. And that’s okay.

The only saving grace that I had in here was that we started getting blasted by some cool headwind. I never thought I’d be more happy and thankful for headwind. At one point, I stretched my arms out and just let the wind hit me and cool me down.

Mile 22-24: 7:12, 7:18, 7:17,
For my first two Bostons, I remember getting to the top of the hill leading into Boston and barreling down like a bat out of hell. But this year, I remained controlled. Per my new plan, I checked the clock at mile 21, and it was right around 2:30:00. All I had to do was run 7:30s and I was going to PR.

So when I saw low 7s click into my watch, I said to myself, “just keep moving. just DON’T stop.”

A PR was going to happen.

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Head down. Plowing up the hill.

It was SIGNIFICANTLY cooler in the city of Boston, but the headwind didn’t let up. My legs were completely dead. I was running on empty-literally. Mile 23 things got really scary, and I learned what it’s like to cramp. Holy. Shit. It was like little butter knives, stabbing into the inner part of my quads (specifically the vastus medialis for all you anatomy nerds out there). I spent the better part of miles 23 and 24 limping, and legitimately wondering if I was going to be able to finish.

My uncle, who knew I was going for sub-3, had said mile 24-Coolidge Corner-would be the fastest mile of the day…hopefully around 6:30 because of the downhill. I ran past Coolidge and chuckled a little, thinking about how it was so far from the fastest mile of the day. Ugh.

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Mile 26. Lots of pain.

Miles 25-26.2: 7:06, 7:08, last .41 at 6:30
The running traffic was so thin at this point, I could’ve basically done cartwheels across the street and not gotten hit by any runners. Because of the cramps in my quads, I knew I had to get Gatorade at the next water stop, which I did, and it helped immensely. The limping stopped.

“Just. Don’t. Stop. Running.”

I thought of all of our clients at the gym where I work at home. What would it look like if I DNFed and got home and told them, “whelp! Did my best, but I stopped at mile 25.”

Yeah, no.

There are a couple little rolling hills at the end of the course, and I was SO EXCITED for them, because my quads had completely shut off. I SURGED up the hills because they actually felt really great.

I saw the GCR crew at mile 26, followed immediately by Gabe and some others. I was tired, but I was going to PR if it was the last thing I did.

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As we passed under the swoop before Hereford, I started speaking out loud to myself:

“Just don’t stop. Just don’t stop. Just don’t stop. Just don’t stop.”

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Right on Hereford

I rounded the right corner to Hereford with 3:03 on my watch and cruised up the hill (I’m not kidding. My quads were in so much pain that the hill felt AMAZING at this point.) As I turned left, I started to cry. I had made it.

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brb, just crying and running a marathon

All that was left was the final stretch, and that beautiful FINISH LINE was like a mirage in the distance.

I knew how close I was to my old PR, 3:08, which I’ve run two years in a row. And I knew how disappointed I was last year to run the exact same time as the year prior. So I just gunned the shit out of the last straightaway. Another thanks to Strava-my final 2 minutes down the stretch averaged 5:55.

FINAL MARATHON – 3:06:16

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Not the prettiest splits, but splits that I’m proud of.

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PEACE THE EFF OUT, 3:08

No, it wasn’t sub-3. It wasn’t sub-3:05. It wasn’t the time I had trained for in the SLIGHTEST, nor is it indicative of my fitness. But a PR is a PR, and this one was a long time coming, especially coming off last year’s injury.

I saw a friend from my CT team as I crossed the finish line, and she, too, said how hard of a time she had.

A man approached me and said, “I heard you back there, talking to yourself. You had quite an incredible kick,” and I beamed with pride because I didn’t back down and I ran through that finish line with everything I had left in the tank.

I bent down next to a railing and almost fell over because I was so dizzy and dehydrated. A medic approached me, and asked if I was okay – to which I said yes. (Lies.) I felt my face and my neck and realized I was completely doused in salt. I grabbed a couple of water bottles and hosed myself off, and then turned to get my medal.

I don’t think I’ll never not be emotional getting a Boston Marathon medal. Can you imagine being a volunteer, giving them out all afternoon? That’s something I want to do in my life.

I bowed my head down so the nice, friendly volunteer could loop it over my head, and I just sobbed because it was all over. I was in such a daze that, in the moment, I didn’t even really care about missing my goal. The day was so incredibly difficult; I felt as though I had just been to battle. And even though I didn’t make it back with what I was hoping for, I still managed to earn a small reward: a marathon finish and a 2 minute PR.

It wasn’t until I got back to our Airbnb and looked at the day’s results that I really realized what a tough day it was for everyone. I finished 167th overall female and 141 in the 18-39 female age division. I’ve never finished so high. The day was tough for everyone.

So. Failure. If you’ve made it this far in the post, you’ve read a lot about me, learned about my mind in a race, and how I felt during my third Boston Marathon. I’ve also, for the first time in this post, opened up about a goal that I wasn’t able to meet. I like thinking I’m invincible…but I’m not. Runs like this Boston Marathon are hard to process, but also are a reminder of why it’s so important to respect the distance. And when all else fails, it proves why it’s so important to run with heart, and fight for a finish, even when it’s not what you wanted.

That sub-3? It’s there. It was there Monday, but the stars just didn’t align. And, unfortunately, that happens. I’ve been lucky with my running in the sense that in the past, when I’ve wanted something…I go and get it. Not for my coach. Not for my friends. Not for my teammates. But for myself. That intrinsic motivation to succeed is still there, despite this marathon’s failure.

I don’t think this Boston performance was about me not getting the time that I’m trained for. I think it was an experience I needed to have. Because you know what? This 3:06 is going to make sub-3 that much sweeter.

 

 

Pre-Boston Thoughts

My thoughts? Excited. I’m really freaking excited.

Last year, I approached this race very tentatively, unsure about how it would pan out. Coming off a tibial stress reaction made for a very shaky training cycle. The pieces only seemed to come together in the final week leading up to taper-so I definitely went for it on race day-but walked away with a time that was a few seconds off my PR…and another stress reaction.

Last year, the course broke me.
This year, I’m going to break the course.

This year, I’m nervous but confident (in case you couldn’t already tell). But my confidence stems from the miles and hours I’ve put into this sport over the past year because I love it so much. As the doc who does my ART said to me, “Mary, you’re a completely different person this year, and I don’t just mean by the shape you’re in. You’re just in a completely different place and you’re emotionally much more prepared.” And he’s totally right.

Over the past few months, I’ve realized that I don’t necessarily like saying that “I’m back” (meaning-I’m back to the pre-injury Mary, circa 2014). Because a wise friend taught me that the only way to really go is forward.

But I’m excited and proud of where I am today because getting here was a process that was built over the entire past year. Even when I got the diagnosis that my femur was injured. It was so much more different than when I consistently denied my tibia injury. With the femur, it was kinda like, “yep. Of course. I expected this to happen. So might as well be good about it this time,” and I stopped running IMMEDIATELY. I rehabbed through the summer and was smart about coming back. I never expected anything to happen magically and I was certainly discouraged many many times. But with a solid support system and a new training philosophy, I took baby steps to where I am now.

So now. Here we are. Here I am. Confident. In shape. Ready. Nervous. Excited. Wanting redemption.

And when I find myself too nervous, I remind myself that I’m running THE Boston Marathon. The event that terrorists tried to ruin three years ago. The race that shuts down an entire city for a day. The marathon you need to earn to get into. And people line up on the sides of the street for 26 miles SCREAMING and cheering on runners, just for the hell of it. The weather is going to be my absolute favorite running weather. I mean…it’s going to be fun as shit.

Here are the training facts, mostly because I like numbers:

Total Avg MPW Highest Week Lowest Week LR Most Memorable Workout (see more below)
December 117 29 34 24 8 6×400 | 3′ rest | 6×400

Actual: 400s averaged 1:21

January 214 54 53 36 15 8×4′ @ 5:52, followed by 4×45″ @ 5:28

Actual: 4′ averaged 6:00, 45″ averaged 5:09

February 232 58 61 48 20 4×2 miles @ 6:20

Actual: 2 mile segments averaged 6:18

March 264 66 80 46 24 7xmile @ 5:50

Actual: Miles averaged 5:59

April
(pre-Boston)
124 61 35 18 3×3 miles @ 6:43

Actual: 3 mile segments averaged 6:36

  • December – 6×400 | 3′ rest | 6×400 -Probably one of my favorite memories from training. It was 60° (in December!!!) and it was the first time I was doing a workout with Alyssa, someone I met through James, my coach. We were in a park in New Britain and did the first set of 400s and were sweating our butts off. So we looked at each other and simultaneously took our shirts off to just run in our sports bras…and proceeded to kill the second set. In the distance, we could see this crazy illumination of Christmas lights (it turned out to be this Christmas house in New Britain) and we barely knew each other, but it made us so happy! Here we were…running together…in sports bras…right before Christmas…with so much time to go before Boston. It was a really fun night.
  • January – 8×4′ @ 5:52, followed by 4×45″ @ 5:28 – This was a hard month to pick a most memorable workout because there were so many good ones (hellooooo running 10 miles solo in YakTrax in the dark during a legitimate blizzard…which was also the weekend I broke a treadmill because it apparently couldn’t handle 6:20s). BUT. If I had to decide a most memorable one, it’s this 8×4″ workout. I did it with Aimee, and we both were SO NERVOUS. I had just run 5×4″ a few weeks prior and had BARELY made it through. There was no way I thought 8 of them would happen. But, somehow, it did.
  • February – 4×2 miles @ 6:20 – Hands down, my favorite workout this month (and quite possibly the entire training cycle), done with my friend Courtney. It wasn’t that I was nervous going into this one. I just knew it was going to be hard…but doable. We met at my work and headed out just before sunset. It was FREEZING and there had just been a snowstorm, so I was super stressed out about where in hell we were going to do the workout because the roads and sidewalks were super icy. Thank god Courtney is so positive because I was in a piss poor mood, until we stumbled across this apartment complex, tucked behind a major road in the middle of my town. Not only were the roads completely plowed and not icy…but IT WAS A PERFECT LOOP, each lap being about .8 miles. It even had a little rolling hill, so we had some up and some down. As soon as we found the loop, my piss poor mood immediately went away and I relaxed into the workout. The miles were smooth and controlled and consistently under 6:20. By the time we got to the last mile, we were grinding, but as we turned the corner for the last bit, Courtney said, “Mar, this is the workout you need to remember when you’re tired at Boston. This is where puppies become dogs!” hahahahaha. I still give her a hard time for that one. Anywho. Our last mile was a 6:15 and I was PUMPED. This workout was definitely a game changer mentally.
  • March – 7xmile @ 5:50 – This workout was done solo. I didn’t think there was any way in HELL I’d be able to do 7 mile repeats at the prescribed speed (5:50)…and I didn’t, not technically, haha…but I came very close (I averaged 5:59)! The first 4 miles were certainly easier than the last 3, but I kept telling myself to turn my legs over and stay bouncy and the miles somehow churned out. The other memorable workout in the month of March was a 5 mile warmup, then 13 @ marathon effort (we averaged 6:56), followed by a 3 mile cooldown. I did this one with Alyssa, and we did loops and loops around this beautiful reservoir in New Britain that was HILLY as shit. We climbed over 1k feet and it took at least 4 days to recover.
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This is what a 21 mile run with 1k feet of elevation looks like

  • April – 3×3 miles @ 6:43 – MARATHON MONTH! Yahoo! It really crept up on me. There obviously weren’t many workouts this month, but there were a couple, and my favorite was definitely 3×3 miles with Alyssa at the same park where she and I started our journey together doing 400s back in December.🙂 This was the very last workout before taper, done 11 days out from Boston. You see-this is the first marathon I’m training under James, so it’s the first time I’m experiencing a 10 (11) day taper instead of 2 weeks. It was hard to watch all my friends celebrate tapertown over the weekend, while I still had a key workout to do, but it was definitely worth the wait.  Our 3-mile sets went 6:43, 6:35, 6:31, with our last mile cruising in at a 6:18. The thing is: I didn’t love this workout because we nailed our paces. I loved this workout because of how it felt. I had this exact same workout just about one month prior and it was pretty tough. This time around, in April, it felt completely different and effortless. Alyssa and I were chatting for the entire first set…chatted for most of the second set…and pushed it a little for the third set. It was validation that we are ready for this damn marathon.
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Alyssa and I during our long run in Boston. I am tall. She is small.

  • Also – It would be remiss of me not to include the Boston Buildup races in here as key events leading up to Boston. My favorite workouts may be speed and short tempo, but this was the first year I did every single run of the CT Buildup series (10k, 15k, 20k, 25k), and I think the runs are SO so important to training. The races are fully supported, filled with positive people, and HILLY.
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The Boston Buildup 20k course, aka death by hills

SO the hay is in the barn. Or whatever the saying is. I’m stepping on that starting line Monday with zero regrets about my training and an insane amount of excitement to run my 6th marathon. Never, in a million years, did I ever think I’d be running more than 1 marathon, let alone 6.

I’m one of those people who likes to race, but I really love training, so closing this chapter is really bittersweet and even a tad big emotional. But it’s been one that I can look back on and be really really happy about.

Fast facts of this training:
Biggest difference – new coach
Number of ice baths – surprisingly, only 1
Number of workouts completely blown – 2 (one was a DNF and one was a DNS)
Number of sports bra runs (includes indoor track/TM) – 7
Batches of cookies baked – 3
Other locations besides CT where I’ve run this block – NJ, Chicago, VA Beach, Boston
Bottles of Immodium purchased for LRs – 2
Number of times I thought I was injured again – 15
Number of weeks living at my in-laws b/c we were Airbnb’ing our house out – 8

My why – Fairfield University rowing event speech

Hello! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Mary Johnson. I graduated from Fairfield in 2009 and rowed all 4 years of school. It certainly wasn’t easy being an athlete the entire time I was in college, but now that I’ve been out for almost 7 years, I’ve never once looked back and regretted my decision to remain on the team. Being on a team gave me patience, perseverance, taught me leadership, and introduced me to some of my best friends. Being a rower gave me a high pain tolerance, contributed to a 4-year sleep deficit, introduced me to the biggest hand calluses I’ve ever seen, and made my jean collection grow twofold because my quads never stopped getting bigger.

So nowadays? I run. A lot. I train for running like I used to train for rowing in college…but sometimes I train more. I run half marathons at a 6:35 pace and marathons around a 7:00 pace. For all you non-running-enthusiasts out there, that’s 13.1 miles for a half and 26.2 for a full.

So why? People ask me that all the time. I’m not a professional runner, nor will I ever be. I’m good…but in the big world of running, I’m not THAT good. I mean…I’m sure plenty of you have had people ask you why too. Why are you doing a sport in college? Why do you wake up so early for practice? Why don’t you just focus on your grades? Why do you push yourself so hard you puke? Is a race really that important? Who are those little people that scream at you while you’re on that whooshing machine with the moving seat and why are they yelling?? Can’t you just get an internship instead?

I can’t answer your why, but it’s something I encourage you to figure out if you haven’t already. Sure, there are season goals and PRs you want to hit. But your why is different. The WHY that drives you to do this insane, painful, hard, ridiculous, beautiful, soothing, gratifying sport day in and day out.

So I’ll let you in on my little secret behind my why.

The reason why I’m 7 years out of school and still answering that why…even though I don’t make money doing it…I constantly deal with injuries…I’ve almost snapped my femur bone, spent hundreds of dollars on new running shoes, see a chiropractor on the reg, have a torn labrum in my left hip from all the pounding, and have plenty of people telling me, “no…you can’t…”

…is because I know that those people are wrong. I know I can, and I want to prove it–not only to the people telling me no–but to myself.

So my why is very simple. I like to sum it up in 5 little words that I repeat to myself all the time during workouts: I can, and I will.

I ran my first Boston Marathon in April, 2014. The run was special for a lot of reasons, primarily being that it was the year after the bombings. The fact that I was about to be a part of this important part of history was exciting enough…but I also was in the best shape I had ever been in, and I knew I was going to completely demolish my old PR, which was just under a 3:23.

You see…months before, in January–before training even got under way–I told my running coach that I wanted to run a sub-3:10 marathon, which is around a 7:15 pace. He flat out told me no…I wouldn’t be able to improve enough to run sub-3:10. “It’s not gonna happen,” he said.

The night he told me that, I got sad. Like really sad. And mad. I blew off my workout and drank wine instead. But then I woke up with a headache and a new attitude. The madness turned into determination. Because frankly, I was pissed off he told me no, and I knew that I could. My WHY was burning inside. I can and I will. I refused to take no for an answer.

So I made it my personal mission to run my goal of sub-3:10. I never brought it up to my coach again until the night before the race.

The training was intense and the winter was terrible. But I put my head down and put in the work. If I had to wake up at 4AM to get a run in, I did. If I didn’t get home until 9 or 10PM because I had to get to the indoor track for a speed workout after work, I did. If I had to go to gym 1 to get a lifting session in…and then gym 2 to get an hour of crosstraining in…I did.

The night before the marathon, my coach asked me what he thought I’d run it in. He’s got this uncanny ability to guess my race times within 60 seconds almost every single time….so this holy “projection number” is pretty important to me.

Now remember…we haven’t talked about this 3:10 thing since January. I was almost afraid to say it out loud. So when he asked me what I thought I could run the race in, I kinda backpedaled a bit…didn’t really answer his question. But then I said, “honestly? I really think I can go under 3:10. At least a 3:09.”

And just like that. My goal was spoken again. And his response? “OK. So you’ll run a 3:09:30.”

To this day, I honestly don’t know if he thought I was going to do it or not. The only time he adds 30 seconds to the tail-end of a projected time is when he thinks it’ll be reaaaaally really close. And with the sun/heat that was projected for this year’s race, he knew it’d be close.

But, at the time, I honestly didn’t care. Because I knew I could. I can and I will.

So I did.

I crossed that finish line in 3:08:34. I ran the second half of the marathon 4 minutes faster than the first half. My splits got stronger and stronger with every mile because I knew that I would. I had the confidence to prove my why.

Another 14 minute PR in just 1 year. Almost half an hour of my marathon time shaved off in 2 years.

Stuff like that isn’t supposed to happen. The more experienced and efficient you get in a physical activity, the less you improve. It’s just science. Yet…I did it. And I’m trying again this year at Boston. –not for another 14 minute PR…that’d be crazy. But another goal that I know, deep down inside, that I’m 100% capable of if the stars align, my body behaves, and I have another magical day.

So figure out your why and use it. Let it motivate you to be better and don’t take no for an answer. Commit to something, and let passion be your driving force. Be brave. Fight for what you believe in and whatever you do, do NOT let doubt creep in. If your heart is telling you something…go with it, and let it control your entire mindset. Because if you really and truly believe you can, you will.

2015

2015 was good. There was a lot of self-discovery and there was a lot of figuring out what’s really important in life. I also, for the first time, learned from my mistakes–something I hadn’t always done in the immaturity of my early 20s.

January
I’m not a huge fan of winter. Actually…strike that. I fucking hate winter and the cold. Being from outside of Syracuse, everyone always says to me, “wow, you must be used to the winter!” HA…no. Growing up where it’s cold 8 months out of the year made me despise the winter. I guarantee you that I’ll never EVER complain about summer’s heat and humidity because I’m the queen of bitching during the winter.

Anywho. My point here is that the winters are generally a blur because I want them to end as soon as possible. This particular January was spent getting back into shape, so it was even more of a blur because getting into shape sucks and I tried to block it from my memory.

For the past 3 years, I’ve run a spring marathon–which also means that Januarys have been spent getting back into the swing of marathon training and long runs. Thank goodness for teammates who don’t mind getting up at dawn to run miles in sub-freezing temperatures.

Jan

Gotham City Runners at Rockefeller State Park in Pleasantville, NY

February
Ragnar Keys (running from Miami to the Florida Keys) was on my bucket list of must-do races for a couple years. In the fall of 2014, I was able to purchase an entry from a team who pulled out. Transferring the team name over to Team in Puddin was a breeze, so when I asked the rest of our group if they wanted to go to Miami to race/party, the response was a unanimous yes.

We were literally minutes away from finishing first (clearly still not over it), but had to settle for second place in the coed division, finishing 196 miles in 23:33 (7:12 team average pace).

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Second place coed champions!

March
I was laid off from my job in fashion marketing on March 10th. Department restructuring…or something.  To be honest: it was the best worst day of my entire life. (One of the highlights was exiting the office and hopping in a big black SUV where I was driven to my car, parked 50 minutes away at the train station. It was like a scene out of The Bachelor…minus the champagne, sequins, and excessive tears).

Anywho.

My emotional state was another story. I went through quite a few phases over the first month or so of being laid off. Initially, I felt rejected. Why me? What did I do? What didn’t I do? I’m so embarrassed. Why didn’t someone warn me?

That lasted, like…a day.
Then I FREAKED the eff out.

Omg what am I going to do. Where am I going to work? What kind of job am I going to get? How am I going to pay my mortgage? What if I never find another job again?

Panic mode lasted a week.
Lots of wine…chicken fingers…wine…running…chocolate…xanex…wine…etc.

Then I realized that losing my job was an opportunity, not something that I should dwell on and be sad about. The truth was that I wasn’t happy, and I hadn’t been for a long time. Working behind a desk at a strict 9-5 was really frustrating for me. I had also been commuting 3+ hours a day for about 1-1/2 years…and I was totally burned out. (How I managed to commute, work, see Gabe, and shave 14 minutes off my marathon in 2014, is completely beyond me……….but I digress.)

It’s not that I don’t like working…I do. But I realized that I wanted the freedom to have a flexible schedule. I wanted to work with people. I didn’t want to sit on my ass for 8 (or more) hours every single day. I wanted to do something I was passionate about, and something that excited me. I wanted to have time to run and work out and be HEALTHY, and not feel like the office asshole because I took my lunch to go running.

The change was a good thing for me.

I had been thinking about getting into either physical therapy or strength coaching…I just hadn’t pulled the trigger yet. This lay off was the perfect opportunity to just go for it. If not now…when?

So I reached out to a couple strength coaches and fitness professionals that I was acquainted with. I wanted to know how they got into the field…how their lives were structured…if they were happy…what they did on a day-to-day basis. One friend in particular, Todd Bumgardner, met me for coffee one day in late March. At the time, he was working at Ranfone Training Systems, a gym where I had trained at in the past. He suggested I come to RTS and just check it out. See if I liked what I saw and if I could imagine myself being a strength coach. I told him that while running and healthy living were HUGE passions of mine, I was completely intimidated by the strength training world. He responded with the biggest and best piece of advice I’ve carried around with me since that day: “the thing about intimidation is that you have to shrink it. You just have to start doing stuff that scares you…and sooner or later, it won’t be so intimidating anymore.”

So that’s exactly what I did.

I shadowed at RTS for a week or so in April…then, I started interning there in May…now, as of October, I work there. Crazy how a positive attitude, patience, and persistence pays off, right?  I’m really thankful for the opportunities, patience, and knowledge that the guys there–Mike, Scott, Corey, and Todd–have given me.

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One of these things is not like the others

April
In the beginning of April, I traveled to Washington, DC, with a few friends to run the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler…which ended up turning into a 9.5(?) miler because of an accident on the course. Bummer. We used it as a pre-Boston progression run, so we started with cool-as-cucumber 7:30s and quickly progressed to 6:30s, where I pretty much bitched the entire way because I was told we wouldn’t be running faster than 7s.

Then, of course…there was Boston. Somehow I managed to get in shape for another 3:08 marathon. It wasn’t pretty and it hurt like HELL, but I did it.

Finally! My pre-injury self was back…………….

May
……….And then I found out I had a stress reaction in my femur. Ugh. Yeah. That sucked. So turns out that the massive amount of quad pain I was in at the end of Boston was a combination of dead marathon legs and a bone that was about to snap. Hey, at least it didn’t break, right??

I was pretty devastated when I found out about this new injury, especially because my first doctor told me not to do any sort of physical activity-including swimming or yoga-for at least 4 weeks. Luckily, I was able to get a second opinion from an orthopedic doctor within a week, and that doctor gave me the go-ahead to get in the pool and yoga. But, honestly, even coming back with non-impact activities was a very gradual progression. I actually had been rowing again (not doctor-approved) and I had to put the kibosh to it because it was bugging my quad.

SO needless to say, even though I was cleared to do yoga and aqua jog, it was still a few weeks before I was cleared to bike…and eventually elliptical.

When I felt like I couldn’t bear to continue moving my legs on those damn crosstraining machines, I would just start repeating goal PRs in my head, and visualizing the finish line at Boston.

 

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I got really into yoga and crushed my fear of going upside down.

Gabe and I also went to our first wedding of 8 in 2015! We celebrated Vicky and Ezra in Boston in early May.

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Wedding 1

June
When I was laid off in March, I made a full-hearted commitment to ENJOY the summer and make the most of it while also doing what I needed to advance my new career. It had been years since I had enjoyed my summer; not to mention I really wanted to spend time with my family and Gabe, both of whom were neglected with my old job, something I regret.

So that’s exactly what I did. Mission: Live Summer/Life To The Absolute Fullest commenced. I started my internship at Ranfone while also spending as much time as humanly possible outdoors.

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Thank god for bicycles and for this amazing person.

Team In Puddin was also doing Ragnar Trail New England in late June. I had signed up to run, but obviously couldn’t with my injury…so I went anyway to support/camp out/drink wine. It was amazing and both our women’s and mens’ teams walked (ran?) away with first and second place in their divisions respectively.IMG_6775IMG_6761

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July
Mission: Live Summer/Life To The Absolute Fullest was working. I was really really happy and finally had time for the important things in life. I learned that I naturally needed 9 hours of sleep (really, body??) and I was really enjoying my internship at Ranfone.

And after about 9 weeks of no running, I FINALLY started to build my running back up again. Not fun. Miserable, really. But, as with most things in life, in order to improve in something, you just have to do the hard shit that most people don’t want to do. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

So I put my head down, sucked it up, and worked through the out-of-shapeness. I kept telling myself that sooner or later, the hard work would pay off.

There were tears. My femur bone hurt and I was convinced I was hurt again. I had so many runs where I really couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. But I had no other choice but to keep working and keep moving forward. I knew, before my injury, that I could keep getting faster–I could be GREAT!–and run times that were once unimaginable. So I knew, post-injury, that that speed–that greatness–had to still be in there somewhere. I just had to stay positive. Somehow…

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First tempo back. Literally dry heaved through the last mile.

August
I wouldn’t say I felt back in shape in August…but I definitely felt like I was going in the right direction. I ran my first race “back,” a 10k…and I PRed!
IMG_8383.jpgLots of other stuff happened in August too! I spent a week working the girls’ HS cross country camp at Princeton University, which was so great and fun.

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Gabe and I also continued on our wedding tour de 2015. We visited Stillwater, MN, to celebrate Sean and Lara…IMG_7517.jpg

Then I found my first grey hair…………………………

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Wait. Is it weird/normal that I took a photo?

And, of course, I continued Mission: Live Summer/Life To The Absolute Fullest.

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So much beach, so little summer

We also had wedding celebration/dinner thing #3, but I have no photos to document it.😦

September
Labor Day is such a bittersweet holiday for me: I hate that it means summer is over…but I LOVE the New Haven 5k/20k, which happens on Labor Day itself. The race is also the USATF 20k Road Championship race, and it’s just such a fun, hometown event! …not to mention it’s really cool seeing elite runners all over town. I had the pleasure of picking Molly Huddle up from the train station and I was totally star-struck and tried my best to play it cool.

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I gave Molly a Speed Package…something that has turned into a pre-race tradition among my close running friends!

This was also the second year that I hosted a pasta party at my house the night before the 20k. I invited teammates from my CT Running team, SoundRUNNER Racing, as well as teammates from the Oiselle flock.IMG_8435.jpg

So, then…the race itself. Ugh. I went into the 20k race with high expectations. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure I was delusional, especially considering 12.4 miles was the longest I had run since April. The splits went something like this:
6:50, 6:54, 6:40 (I’m doing it! yay running!)
6:54, 6:50, 6:58 (wait…I’m really hot and this is hard.)
6:52, 7:10, 7:25 (nope. nope. nope. nope.)
7:40, 7:24, 7:31 (just don’t walk. juuuuust don’t walk.)
the last .49 in 6:57 (when the eff is this race over????)
So I averaged 7:05. On paper, it doesn’t look awful…but it felt like a legitimate death march after the halfway point. It was a very humbling experience, and a huge slap to the face. I realized I had a LOT (like a lot) of work to do.

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Hanging onto this redhead for dear life. Also, the smile isn’t real, I promise. I was in a world of hurt.

The positives of the month?? A wedding in New Jersey.

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4 of 8

AND, a breakthrough workout at the end of the month: running 10 controlled and calm miles through some rolling hills. YES. the patience and hard work was starting to pay off.
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October
I had signed up for the half at the Hartford Marathon on October 10th as a tester to see where my fitness was. I also just really wanted to run the race since I heard the course was great (rolling hills) and I had been out of town for it the past couple of years. I went into the race just hoping to break 90, but also really nervous because of how crappy I had just run at the 20k, less than a month prior.

Well. The race was great. I started out controlled and kept building momentum, with my last few miles being in the 6:20s. I crossed that finish line with the biggest smile on my face and FINALLY feeling like I was just about back to my pre-injury self.

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Probably my favorite finish line photo ever.

Gabe and I also attended our 5th wedding of the year (actually…this was the night of Hartford! :D)
IMG_9251.jpgI also kissed goodbye to my Garmin 210😦 ……
IMG_9458.jpg…..but replaced it with a new one and continued having breakthrough workouts, running paces that were even faster than the pre-injury days!🙂
IMG_9532.jpgNovember
Probably my favorite month of 2015. During Mission: Live Summer/Life To The Absolute Fullest, I booked a trip to Denver, Colorado, to see my best friend from high school, followed by a trip to San Francisco and Healdsburg/Sacramento for a cousin’s wedding.

Highlights of Colorado included a tour of the Coors Brewery, dressing up as senior citizens for Halloween in downtown Denver, hiking up The Incline in Manitou Springs, seeing the US Air Force Academy, hiking a glacier near Idaho Springs, the Red Rocks Amphitheater, drinking lots of beer, altitude sickness, using a lot of chapstick, and lots and lots of running (including-my fav-Magnolia Road).

When I booked the trip, my coach had said something to me about how difficult training would be while traveling…and I was determined to prove to him that I could do it all–travel, train hard, and prep for a race. I had some REALLY great workouts while I was away (and only 1 bombed workout), so my confidence was pretty high for a strong half later in the month at Philly.

After a week in CO, I flew to San Francisco to spend an afternoon with ROBIN(!!) and then met up with Gabe to continue on our journey to wine country and wedding number 6.

Then, the week after California, Gabe and I scooted to upstate NY (my hometown of Skaneateles) for the 7th wedding of the year!

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Pretty much wedding professionals at this point

THEN, THE NEXT WEEKEND WAS PHILLY! My chance to prove that all my hard work really paid off. To prove that the spring stress reaction was just a small blip in the radar…that I could actually break 1:28 in a half marathon…that I could retake the Philly Half course that KILLED me in 2013, and show it who’s boss…that I was really and truly back to where I was before so many things started crumbling a couple summers ago.

Well. I still really REALLY hate the half course in Philly (quite possibly the worst-placed hills in a half marathon EVER)…but I ran a 1:27 and was so so happy.🙂

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So tired…so cold…but so happy

After the half, I took Monday through Wednesday off from running..then jumped in my local Turkey Trot to see how it’d go. I think the course is just a teeeeeny bit short, but I managed a 13-second PR with a 19:28!

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Corner-rounding skillz

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Who am I kidding? I pretty much only ran it for the turkey trophy

December
After an extremely eventful November, I was happy to CHILL OUT during December. Running took a back seat as I dealt with a little shin splint issue. Fortunately, I’ve learned a LOT since my last shin issue, so I nipped this one in the butt with rest and ART before it could get serious. I was thankful to feel well enough to run outside in a sports bra and shorts on Christmas Eve…:)
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Then, on New Year’s Eve, Gabe and I attended our 8th and final wedding of the year!

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So here’s to even more positivity, good health, career growth, and continued happiness in 2016!!!!!