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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.