Blood, sweat and tears: Boston Marathon 2017 recap

Six days later and my brain is still swimming with thought and emotion.

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Blood, sweat and tears. Literally.

I spent 18 weeks running 908 miles in preparation, hell-bent on a PR, which, admittedly, isn’t the easiest feat. Boston is not a PR course, but I planned to try anyway. My training paces were aimed at a 3:25.

My Boston goals:
•A goal: A PR of 3:25:XX – 7:45 minute miles
•B goal: A BQ with enough cushion to run in 2018, about a 3:30 – 8:00 miles
•C goal: Finish happy, healthy, and uninjured

During the weeks before the marathon, I was voraciously hungry and fatigued. I did what I could to eat nutrient-dense foods and get extra rest, minimizing stress and focusing on pre-race recovery.

We flew into Boston at 10 p.m. Saturday, so it was straight to the hotel and to sleep. This left only one day in Boston pre-race to pick up my bib and explore the expo. I get nerves before races so I wanted to minimize my time in Boston before.

The expo was huge, but for as packed as it was, everything flowed smoothly. You could tell this wasn’t their first rodeo. We didn’t stay long, just long enough for me to snag a few items.

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Fast forward to Monday morning. My alarm went off at 5:30. I woke up and had a protein bar and coffee, then got dressed. Weather was warmer than predicted. I walked outside to wait for our Uber and wasn’t chilled at all, wearing only a tank and shorts. This was a terrible sign.

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About to make our way into the city. Hiding my nerves behind a smile and giant, disposable aviators.

We took the T into the city and arrived at Boston Common. Derek came with me and navigated the route so I didn’t have to think, just move. I didn’t check a bag because my support crew would meet me at the finish. A quick porta potty stop and I boarded the buses to Hopkinton.

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A selfie with my #1 supporter before boarding the bus.

Luckily, I met a nice, chatty lady in line and sat with her. (Hi, Krista from Wyoming!) She ran Boston a number of times and talked about the race. The bus ride was long, about an hour. I kept thinking, “We have to run back?”….

On the ride, I ate a Clif bar and Starburst jelly beans. It was tough fueling for a race late in the morning, trying to strike a balance between enough but not too much fuel.

Once in Hopkinton, we were dropped at the athlete’s village, a holding area with food, water and a ton of porta potties. I got in line right away, which was smart, because it took a long time. After that pit stop, it was time for Wave 3 to make our way to the start, another .9 mile walk. I had about 5,000 steps in before toeing the line.

The people of Hopkinton were out to cheer us on on the walk to the start and even had their own aid stations. I was sweating just walking and kept thinking about my goals and whether I should scale back. This heat would be hard to run in and downright dangerous. After debating, I decided to go for my A goal but was terrified it might be too much and the wheels would come off. If that happened, I would deal with it in the moment.

I decided this is the freaking Boston Marathon and I was going to act like I deserved to be there.

The gun sounded at 10:50 a.m. Off we went. As I was warned, everyone went out like a bat out of hell on the downhill course.

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I stuck to the plan and nailed my 7:45s as close as possible. The first water stop was at mile 2. I drank a cup, then grabbed two more and started drenching myself. Keeping cool would be the key to finishing without a trip to the medical tent.

The only downside to drenching myself was having to carry my phone. It was in my Flipbelt but I was sopping, so in my hand it went. Carrying something for 26.2 miles is a bit of a pain, but when I’m running, I enter robot mode and do what needs to be done.

I wrote a short recap on Instagram, and it sums up the race pretty well:

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I was concerned with the amount of effort I had to exert early in the race. Amazingly, my body was able to maintain it.

I called Derek at mile 6 to ask where they were and on which side of the road. They were near mile 25 on the left side, so beginning at mile 23, I hugged the left side. I still didnt’ manage to see them, but the thought of seeing them kept me going through those final miles. Sidenote: this was also another first, chatting on the phone while running. Ha!

So many people were walking starting at Heartbreak Hill. I gritted my teeth, put my head down, and kept running. It was weird flying by all these talented athletes. To even make it to the starting line of Boston is a great accomplishment…

The crowds along the entire course were absolutely amazing. The shouts of “Boston strong!” gave me chills. The best sign I saw was “4 years later Boston is stronger than ever” on the side of a building. The way the locals came out to cheer on the runners and support their city was inspiring. You can feel their fierce loyalty and determination to let love win.

I now know the meaning and feeling behind Boston Strong. I get tears in my eyes typing this.

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Less than a half mile to go. If I wouldn’t have been running, I’d have cried.

If I could use one word to describe the race and experience, it is humbled.

  • The race humbled me. I’ve never worked so hard in my life and felt like junk doing it.
  • I was humbled to run the same course as the world’s most talented athletes.
  • I was humbled to run among police officers, firefighters, military, disabled, and those who lost limbs serving our great country.
  • I was humbled by strangers who gave me water and orange slices. I was humbled by crowds filled with cheers and support.
  • I was humbled by cards, texts, calls, and messages from friends and family. Some of these people could not care less about running, but still offered love and support.
  • I am humbled by how I feel even today – my quads are so, so sore, and my body is tired.
  • I am humbled to be blessed with a strong body and spirit to allow me to accomplish my dreams.
  • I am humbled to say I accomplished my A goal and then some, finishing in 3:22:05, 7:42 per mile.

This was the race of a lifetime, and I am grateful to have experienced it. Early on, I said never again, but now I cannot wait to come back to the streets of Boston and do it all over.

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The best support crew in the world. Again, humbled.

The hype surrounding Boston? It’s all real, and it’s all worth it. I hope every runner gets to experience it at least once in their lifetime.

Thankful Thanksgiving & 10k PR

Thanksgiving was a blur. I can’t believe it’s almost December.

I had a week of great training, plus I managed to relax, eat delicious food, drink some wine, and escape the holiday without gaining a single pound. I’m unsure of the bigger win – that or my new PR.

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Monday: Fran (21-15-9 thrusters and pull-ups), PiYo upper body, 3 miles at 7:52/mile
Tuesday: 8 miles at 7:26/mile
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Turkey Trot 10k, 6.2 miles at 6:50/mile, 1.8 mile cool down
Friday: 6 miles at 8:29/mile
Saturday: 15 miles at 8:11/mile and strength:
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Sunday: Rest
Totals: 40 miles, 3 strength sessions

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The Turkey Trot had me feeling many emotions, the most striking being gratitude. Running and the running community has changed my life. A very talented runner from a group I run with paced me to my 10k PR. Mark is an accomplished sub-3 marathoner, having just ran New York City in three hours, which isn’t even his PR.

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Mark and I on the course. I love that we’re both airborne here.

He pushed me, checking in to see how I was feeling, and chatting to take my mind off my frozen feet. For me, running 6:50 per mile for six miles is not a walk in the park; I was pushing it. Mark, on the other hand, was floating. This wasn’t a working run for him.

When we approached the final stretch, he said, “It’s just like Boston. We are turning left on Boylston. Imagine the crowds and dig deep. You’ve got this.”

Then, Mark slowed to match my pace so we could cross the finish line strong together. It gives me chills and waves of gratitude thinking of his selfless support.

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The 10k was the final piece to my 2016 racing puzzle, as I worked hard to PR every distance this year from 5k to marathon. I am grateful for each mile and a high note to end the year’s racing season.

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Fargo Mini Marathon Review

Last Saturday, October 22, I ran my 10th half marathon in Fargo. I had high expectations for this race and went into it knowing I wanted to dig deep to set a big PR.

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This was my third half in 2016. The other races ended in failure – in May I ended up collapsing from heat exhaustion because of a bad cold at mile 11, and the other in September, I got lost with a pack of other runners and ran an extra mile because of a stolen course marker.

I ran hard on both of those races and was primed to PR until disaster struck…twice. Needless to say, I was out for redemption in Fargo!

Derek and I left work at 3:30 on Friday to make the 2.5-hour drive to Fargo. Once there, we hit packet pickup and went to Noodles & Company for dinner. I figured out my macros early in the day so I could have the Japanese pan noodles, a giant bowl of carbed-up heaven.

We went to bed early and woke up at 5:15 a.m. The race didn’t start until 8, but I like to have plenty of time to get up and get things moving before a goal race. The morning started with a small cup of black coffee. I ate a Clif bar at 6:30, then a pack of sport beans around 7:30. My target was 65-80 grams of carb pre-race.

After arriving at the Fargo Civic Center, I found the 1:35 pacer and lined up. My mind flashed back to May when I ran a half with a friend. He commented the huge time difference per mile between 1:35 (7:15) and 1:40 (7:38) as we lined up with the 1:40 group. I remember thinking,”I could never run 13.1 miles at that speed!” Of course this popped into my mind as I lined up. Cue my nerves…

I met a girl who also lined up at 1:35 and chatted with pacer Mandy before we started. Talking always helps calm my nerves. The inside start was convenient. No pre-race shivering from the cold!

The weather was picture perfect: a calm 38 degrees. If you know anything about North Dakota, you know it’s windy here nearly every day. The universe was throwing me a bone with the weather. The course ran along the river, mostly on paved paths. It was well-organized and pretty, showcasing the colors of autumn.

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The beautiful course. Photo shamelessly stolen from the Fargo Mini’s Facebook page.

I chatted with pacer Mandy as the miles ticked by. She kept me on pace and all was well. At about mile 10 I sped up just a little, and I could hear Mandy cheering me on through the final miles. I didn’t speed up much, just enough to cross the line at 1:35:03, equating to 7:16 per mile, an eight minute PR from my half a month ago.

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Finally, a sub-1:40 half finish.

My A goal was to break 1:35, but at only four seconds away, I was satisfied. This race ends my busy 2016 racing year and I could not be happier! I am ready to take a physical and mental break before Boston training starts in mid-December.

Derek ran in 10k and also PR’d, coming in at 45:02, which is 7:15 per mile.

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Derek after his 10k.

After the race, we celebrated with brunch at a new all-vegan place downtown called Green House Cafe. It was so, so good. I ordered French toast and followed it up with a peanut butter dream bar.

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Vegan French toast, aka heaven.

All in all, it was a very successful race and I was finally able to snag an official half time I am proud of.