04 May 2017

capturing the unicorn !

some background [or, why this is A Very Big Deal for me]
I don't remember when I started getting Boston on the brain. My first marathon was Baltimore (2005), which I ran in 4:44:29. I was not one of those runners who ran this first marathon and qualified for some race in New England of which they'd never heard.
Baltimore Marathon

I dropped pretty significant time and ran a 4:02:10 at Marine Corps the following year, just missing breaking four hours. Next up was Richmond (2007), where I broke four by a pretty large margin, finishing in 3:53:13.
 Marine Corps Marathon

Richmond Marathon

Boston was now, it seemed, in reach. At the time the qualifying standards were five minutes slower AND had a 59 second cushion AND the idea of a cut off was years away. I turned my attention to triathlon, competing in several sprint, Olympics and half Ironman races, with an eye toward an Ironman in 2009. At the National Marathon (2009) (now Rock n Roll DC) I came very close to breaking 3:50, crossing in 3:50:43. I got pregnant with H shortly after Ironman Cozumel and also who knew that babies don't weigh anywhere near the 50+ pounds I gained during that pregnancy? When H was a toddler, I registered for Rock n Roll DC and tried to run at a pace I was nowhere near ready for and quit at mile 18. I ran a redemption marathon at the Potomac River Run DC, coming in at a disappointing for me 4:24:55 (I also got a little tipsy on champagne at McDonalds - thanks Deb and Erin!) so all wasn't lost. I then lost the baby weight and ran Philadelphia, breaking 3:50 and coming in at 3:49:02. I was getting closer. Right after Philly I got pregnant with Char but kept running through my pregnancy. Coming back was still hard but easier than the time I had with H. I ran B&A and thought that a 3:45 would be possible, but I fell apart and finished in 3:56:49. It was the worst I'd felt during and after a race - I couldn't walk normally for days. I was disappointed and thought that I was in shape to do ten minutes better, but such is the marathon.

National Marathon

B&A Marathon

I got a coach and registered for the Steamtown Marathon, a net downhill course in Scranton, PA. I ran a massive PR, finishing in 3:40:45, missing a BQ by 46 seconds (but really by three to four minutes because of the cut off) (and also accompanied by my fantastic BRF, Colleen. More about Colleen infra)

Steamtown Marathon

which brings us to now (aren't you so glad you know all of that??). I trained my ass off all. winter. I was running 200+ miles/ month. I was running lactate threshold workouts in the dark, 16 x 400 under the stars at the local high school track, double digit runs before work, long runs at marathon pace. I dropped a little more weight and stopped with the candy bowls at work.

I registered for Shamrock (held in March in Virginia Beach), a flat and fast (I've heard.) course. Colleen and I drove down and I was excited and ready. And it turns out that I cannot, despite my intense desire to do so, control the weather. It was in the high 30s with winds reached 25 - 30 mph. It was raining and then it was hailing. HAILING. There was ice pelting me in the face and at mile 18 I was so far off of my goal I said enough, stopped, and burst into tears. A very kind soul gave me a jacket and drove me to the start, where Colleen was waiting for me (I had called her from a stranger's phone). More tears. I was so cold I couldn't stop shivering and could barely hold a cell phone. We went back to the hotel and I took a hot shower and got under the covers. We had lunch at Panera and they forgot about my order (seriously what a horrible fucking day) and we drove home through Northern Virginia traffic, aka hell.

Coach James was proud of my decision to quit -- he said that I had a specific goal and that by not running the last eight miles I saved my legs for another race. I found Coastal Delaware Marathon (five weeks away), a race two friends recommended to me as a flat and fast course (weather permitting). I rested for a few days, then ramped it back up slowly, and then tapered. Again. It was hard, mentally, to get back into a training mindset so quickly after what was supposed to be my BQ race. And then it was hard to get excited about the race. It wasn't until about five days before the race that I started get excited .. and then started checking the weather. OBSESSIVELY. Things I Googled: "most accurate forecast" "most accurate forecast for Delaware" "what does 10 mph wind feel like" "12 mph wind strong" ".1 rainfall what does that mean." I don't *think* the forecast changes every 20 minutes but that didn't stop me from checking that often. Four days out and we were at 100% rain for the entire day. The wind was making me nervous, too, but the temperature was perfection: low 50s.

James and I drove to Dewey Saturday morning, grabbed Wawa subs for lunch, and went to packet pickup. It was small and easy and I didn't even buy anything so yay for me! We got nice gender specific cotton-poly blend tshirts and a pint glass.

We checked into our hotel and watched Say Yes to the Dress ("it's my weekend I get to pick!") and James napped because of course he did. We had sushi for dinner (it's my go to) and then to Rite Aid for sharpies, poster board, Imodium, and Zzzzzquill. And then we watched Bridesmaids and fell asleep.

flat runner ready to go !
the only things I forgot, which I think is pretty impressive

The race started at 7:00 AM (I LOVE an early start time) so I was up at 5:30 to eat my pancakes. It's a fairly small race (615 for the marathon) but I hate hate hate stressing about time, so we left when it was still dark outside. We walked a couple of blocks to the shuttle, which took us to the start at Tower Road (only about a mile).
WWII Lookout Tower on Tower Road

The chance for rain had all but disappeared (HOORAY!) but the wind still looked a little scary (BOOO). It was COLD. I had on sweats and a sweatshirt over my tank top and shorts and I was chilly. The flags at the beach were blowing straight out and I was getting nervous. What if I failed again?

The 26.2 mile Boston Marathon Qualifying Run starting at historic Tower Road in Delaware Seashore State Park, Dewey Beach then through the scenic town of Rehoboth Beach onto its mile long wood boardwalk then though beautiful Delaware Seashore State Parks' Gordons Pond Wild Life Area into Cape Henlopen State Park site of the historic Fort Miles then back via the Junction & Breakwater Trail and thru the quaint seashore residential area of Lewes, Rehoboth and Dewey Beach. Finishing at the resort's famous Hyatt-Lighthouse Cove waterfront complex in Dewey Beach where the Finish Line Celebration will be with Music, Beer, Food and Cheer. 

I went to the bathroom five times (not an exaggeration) then finally took off my sweats (sadface) and gave them to James. It was COLD and after a quick call to Coach James I decided to start with the 3:35 pace group to find some bodies to block the wind. Well. They took off and I wasn't going to sprint at the start of a marathon, so I ran my own race from the start.

The plan was to start running high eight teens to low 8:20s for the first four to five miles, then work down from there to 8:10s - 8:15s. I planned on taking a Huma gel every 4 miles, and I stuck to that pretty well. It's hard to go out too slow in a marathon but really easy to go out too fast, so I watched my pace and ignored tried to ignore all the people passing me. The boardwalk was pretty windy (nothing like Shamrock though!). We went through adorable neighborhoods and I found our summer house (only $5.8 million). The race then went through Cape Henlopen, which was gorgeous.

Gordon's Pond Trail

Junction and Breakwater Trail

I saw James and mile 13. The tracker was messed up and he thought I was really slowing down but he said when he saw me and I smiled and waved and told him to text James my half split (1:48:change) he knew that I was on pace.

awesome signs from my awesome husband

We then went through some residential neighborhoods and around mile 16 the hurt started to set in. It's amazing how much you forget the pain -- even as I sit here and type this I cannot recall the fatigue and pain. Mile 20 was 8:40 and I started to panic a bit -- what if this was the point when the wheels fell off? What if I couldn't get back and stay back to 8:10 - 8:20? Whatifwhatifwhatif. Mile 21 was 8:25 and I knew that I could hang on. It HURT but I realized that it was going to hurt regardless. It was going to hurt if I slowed down, it was going to hurt if I walked, and it was going to hurt if I powered through so I might as well try to keep my BQ pace. I thought about how shitty I'd feel if I just missed it. My math was a little fuzzy at that point and I hadn't tried to figure out what I needed per mile to BQ. My mantras were sink into the pain/ embrace the pain/ I know I can/ and get through this mile. If at mile 21 I started thinking that I have five more miles I start to panic. If I think, get to 22, you can get to 22, just one more mile, just less than a mile, then at 22: get to 23, you can run one more mile and get there. etc.

end of the boardwalk - around mile 22

At mile 24.3 I looked at my watch and knew I had exactly two miles less (unless you run the tangents perfectly you'll run more than the exact distance, and I was about a tenth of a mile ahead of the mile posts). I was about 18 minutes from 3:40 and I knew I could keep two sub nines. I kept thinking about that unicorn:

I saw James around the 26 mile mark and said "I'm going to do this! I'm going to do this!" and picked up the pace (well, best that I could) and sprinted it in (the last .37 was at a 7:35 pace!).

3:38:25 -- BQ minus 1:35 (probably/ maybe not enough to get into Boston 2018 but don't you worry - I'm obsessively checking the message boards and analysis websites for predictions).

I heard someone shouting my name -- our names were printed on our bibs but this person sounded really invested -- it was Liz ! I turned to the finish, hit stop on my Garmin, and promptly burst into tears. I was blubbering and then Liz called James and we met at the finish and he presented me with this awesome shirt that I wanted to wear to work but maybe isn't court appropriate?

excuse my ugly crying face
sadly I look like an asshole in trucker hats

And then we went to Starboard and I had this:

probably a good idea they forgot our loaded tots since I couldn't finish this

We drove back home, where my kids were less than impressed.
H: Did you win?
Me: No, but mommy had a great race
H: Who won?

Me: Char, can I have a hug?
Char: No.

"this is my running hat."

Next up: Erie Marathon in September, where I hope to cut off 60 - 90 seconds and be in a more comfortable place for the BQ cut off -- for those not familiar -- Boston has become very, very popular, and doesn't have enough space for all qualified runners. Registration first opens to those who ran BQ minus 20 minutes, then BQ minus 10, then five minutes to 10 minutes, then the "squeakers." In the past the times were 1:02, 2:28, 2:09. It's hard (impossible) to predict but that doesn't stop runners from obsessively analyzing feeder marathons.

This is a dream 10+ years in the making. For some people running and speed come easy and there have been multiple times that I wished that I was one of those people. But. I think that having to work so hard for this has made me appreciate it so much more.

Before the music totally plays me off, I would like to thank ...

my friends and coworkers for putting up with all the hashtag-running talk.
my parents and in-laws who graciously took the puppy and nugget so I could travel.
James McKirdy, my coach, who put me through hell and I came out stronger.
Colleen, my BRF, who listened to the details of my workouts and encouraged me... who traveled with me north to Scranton and south to Virginia beach, and was unbelievably supportive and excited (who else would cry in a grocery store upon hearing how their friend did at a race?)
my kids, even though they don't really get it, because they are cute and char asks me when I get back, "how was your run?" and harrison says "no hugs until you shower!"
and, of course, James, who has supported me over every literal and figurative step, who encouraged me to get a coach, who never balked at travel or race entry fees, who said, when we got home from a trip, "go to the track, I'll do dinner and bedtime," who used to come to races and cheer (pre kids) and now stays home with the kids because little kids and races do not mix. I could not have done this without him and I'm so grateful that he's my partner.

15 August 2016

Baltimore Freedom 10K

[This is late.]

I was looking for a flat(er, ish) 10K course than my usual Arbutus Firecracker 10K. I found a (new?) race in Baltimore that fit the bill. Baltimore is a hillier city than most people expect but this is a four lap course around Druid Hill lake. I convinced my friend and coworker Jen (with one 'n') to also race, and we decided on the always delicious Miss Shirley's for a post race breakfast.

My goal going into the race was this:

I got to the race really early, parked, got my packet, found Jen, and then warmed up: 15 minutes easy, dynamic drills (found a secluded area so no one could see me sprint bopping and grapevining and skipping backwards). Chatted with Jen for 15 minutes, then a(nother) trip to the bathroom, 4 strides, and finally, time to start.

The 10K racers got lined up and ran a very short out and back before heading up Druid Lake. I used to run there regularly -- when I first started law school and James and I lived in Bolton Hill. It blows my mind that that was TWELVE years ago.

The course was 4 loops around the lake. I'm a fan of looped/ out and back courses.

I saw two women ahead of me at the beginning of the race. I passed one fairly quickly, and then the second about half a mile into the race. Another woman came up and passed me, and I kept her in my sights for the first couple of miles. I was able to catch up with her, then run with her, and then pass her about halfway through the race. HOLY CRAP I AM THE FIRST FEMALE *

(* yes, I know this was a very [very very very very] small race!).

I was so happy to hit mile six and turn off the lake and toward the finish line. I was so excited and was checking that I was the first female, and when I checked the computer... third in my AG. HUH? I didn't see any other women in front of me.

(Turns out the first two women "ahead" of me only did three laps).

I was happy with my time (not my fastest 10K EVER, but my PR is on a downhill course, so let's call this a PR, shall we?) but didn't realize how nicely I paced it until I checked my splits:

Pretty sweet negative splits !

First overall female, fifth overall !

I got my metal and Jen and I went to Miss Shirley's, where we both ate the following (picture does not do it justice. It was amazing. AH-MAY-ZING):

 Awarded Best Breakfast Sandwich in America

And then, look what came in the mail!

[I told you, it was a really small race. And it was the inaugural race].

15 June 2016

don't call it a comeback [I've been here for years] part two

Bloggy friends! "The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

I miss blogging and being a part of the runner community.

Since I last posted, I:

1. Had an uneventful (the best kind) and healthy pregnancy
2. Ran (a little slower than normal, then much slower, then run/ walk, then walk/ run, then walk) during my pregnancy:

3. Had a beautiful baby girl (August 2014):

4. Got my butt into gear and back to where I was, pre pregnancy.


Boston Marathon 2018, I'm coming for you.

I need a sub 3:40 but really closer to a 3:36ish (will have a better idea of the BQ minus x time after registration this fall for Boston 2017) tto BQ and actually get into the race. I'm registered for Steamtown (October 9).

I have a coach and I'm running 6 days/ week, averaging about 45 miles per week (with a "long" run of 10-12 miles)... doing a lot more speedwork than before.

I cleaned up my diet and lost a few pounds.

I've PR'd the 5K and placed overall and in my AG in some local races.

I have tune up/ predictor races on the calendar.

I'm ready for this.

22 December 2013

Celtic Solstice 5 and the last needed PR

I kind of forgot about this race. I signed up mainly because (1) a few coworkers were running it (team Victory Loves Company!), (2) it's hard to turn down this sweet race shirt:

it says STOP AT NEVER on the inside pocket. I mean, how cool?

and (3), I didn't have a chance to PR the 5 mile this year (previous PR: 40:23, set at this same race back in 2007).

I've been streaking (running at least 3 mi every day) since a few days after the marathon, but I haven't really been "training" -- no speedwork, no tempo runs, no hill repeats ... just running. It's been nice.

It met up with two of my friends/ coworkers at our work at 7:00 and we drove into the city. I'm kind of obsessive about getting to a race early, but the good thing about being a lawyer is being around other Type A-ers who understand that getting to a race an hour before the gun goes off it totally normal. We got into the park, parked easily, and headed over to the start. It. was. FREEZING.

L to R: Jen, me, Colleen, Kim.

We hung out in the warming tent until it was time to head over the start. We were treated to a small parade of bagpipes (very cool) and finally took off around 8:34.

The first mile was really crowded. I should have seeded myself closer to the front but I thought I was pretty far up. I needed to keep an 8 mm/ just under that to PR and I figured it wouldn't be too much of a problem, but I was a little concerned when I hit mile 1 at 8:04. It cleared up after that, though. I just felt GOOD during the entire race. I was racing it but I didn't feel that OH-GOD-LET-IT-END feeling until the very end. The course isn't super flat but it's hardly hilly. I'd call it "rolling light."

Runners wore jingle bells and Santa hats and the ground was still covered in snow - made for a very winter-y, very festive race. Everyone just seemed so damn happy.


1  8:04.7


I crossed at 38:31 (7:42 pace) and waited for my friends to come through the chute. After warming up with some Dunkin Donuts hot chocolate, we met at Miss Shirley's for brunch. How much do I love a giant omelet, biscuit, and home fries after a great race? So very, very much.

We wore/ brought our race shirts from our Big Races this year:

Kim (JFK 50), me (Philadelphia Marathon), Colleen (Baltimore Marathon), Jen (Rehoboth Half)

Then home to J and my sweet boy:

great race, great company, great brunch, great day. I heart racing.
overall: 353/ 2953
age group: 22/ 335

19 November 2013

the Philadelphia Marathon, a Perfect Day, and a PR

I declared this The Year of the PR back in February (was that really nine months ago?) and I would be damned if I didn't PR the marathon. I set my marathon PR of 3:50:53 back in 2009 (was that really four years ago??) and although I've run two marathons since then, both were fairly spectacular fails.

I trained my butt off for this race. I followed Hal Higdon's Advanced I plan to a T. I didn't miss a single. workout. I PR'd the 5K, 10K, 10M, and HM.

And I was tapered and the forecast looked good.

I was ready.

(okay, I was super-duper nervous. When everything has gone right and the training is there and the weather is good and the course is [fairly] flat, it's yours [mine] to lose. And unlike the 10 miler, I couldn't easily find, train for, and taper correctly for another marathon. so this was it. So yeah - ready, but READY and NERVOUS and ANXIOUS but EXCITED).


Saturday morning my IronBuddy Deb picked me up (and brought along a new friend, who, I'm sure, thinks that Deb and I are batshit crazy) and headed to Philly. We found the convention center (after asking "where is the convention center?" and realizing we were staring right at it. this is why I'm not generally allowed to play navigator.)

We parked the car near the hotel - which was a couple blocks from the Convention Center and less than a mile from the race village - and headed over to packet pick up. I was in the GREEN corral (for 3:30-3:59 predicted finishes) and I got my bib (chip part of the bib. Remember when you had to turn the chip in at the end of a race? And some poor volunteer had to untie your sweaty shoelaces while you tried not to puke on them?) and the race shit (nice!). It was a nice expo -- huge, lots of booths, buzzing with nervous energy (alas, I didn't buy anything which is as much of a surprise to me as it is to you, dear reader).

After Stacey and I picked up our packets, we headed to get pizza (delicious). Stacey went to her hotel and Deb and I to ours. We checked in at the Hampton Inn City Center and while not exactly swanky - it was AWESOME. They gave the runners a late (1:30PM) checkout and advised breakfast would be ready at 4:30 AND they were giving out to-go breakfast bags with bagels, bananas, and water. Sweet! I put my feet up (literally) and watched Harry Potter and Deb went in search of a cowbell (seriously). Oh, and we watched the beginning of the Kona broadcast which makes me emotional even when it's not the night before a marathon.

My shout out in the race guide!

My friend Hilary drove all the way from South Jersey to meet us for dinner and we had sushi and it was delicious. They did oyster shooters but I figured oysters wouldn't be great on a nervous pre-race stomach. And then back to the hotel to watch How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days which is so bad it's good.

I checked the weather (hourly forecase, natch) for the zillionith time and it looked PERFECT. Low to mid 50s and cloudy. -- the kind of marathon weather you would order from a weather menu if said menu existed. Put out everything I needed for race day: race clothes and socks, shoes, body glide, GUs, hat, bib, pace bands (3:45 and 3:49), Garmin, throwaway arm warmers (thanks Colleen!), throwaway gloves, throwaway clothes.

^^still a shitton less than I brought for Cozumel!
After setting a, um, 'few' alarms -- two on my cell phone, the alarm clock in the hotel room, Deb's watch, and a wake up call (all for around 4:30) -- I went to sleep. And actually slept pretty well.
^^ yup, still predawn
I woke up about 5 minutes before the alarm(s) and started getting ready. Deb made fun of me for following the direction to arrive at security at 5am (7am start time) but I wasn't going to be in a security line or a bathroom line when the gun went off. I ate breakfast - bagel, cream cheese, OJ - and brought a banana and Clif bar with me to the start. Deb walked me over to security (took only a few minutes to get through) and then went back to the hotel to eat and relax before heading out to mile 1. I thought it would suck to have almost 90 minutes to kill, but I spent most of those minutes in line for the port o' potties.
Around 6:45, I headed over to my corral, ditched my sweatpants and Fells Point Figgy Pudding Fun Run 2007 tshirt, turned on Garmie the Garmin, and waited, nervously, for the green coral to go. And at 7:10, we were (finally) off.

I saw Deb at mile 1 ... and then, about 100 feet later:

^^ I didn't take this photo, and I saw her a different location, but you get the idea
So I saw "Harrison" and thought, "well that's cool, someone else named Harrison. Then I saw "Bite" and thought, "hmm.. that Harrison bites too." I then saw the photo and THEN saw the person holding it. OHMYGODCOLLEENWHATAREYOUDOINGHERE?!!? So that was a super duper awesome surprise! I saw Colleen and Deb at miles 1, 6, (should have been 18 but we somehow missed each other), 21 (where they sprinted up 5 flights of stairs to catch the train to the finish), and the finish. It means so, so much to me, especially since James and I decided that bringing H to Philly would be a disaster for all of us. So yeah, you guys are Extra Special Awesome.
The race was pretty crowded for the first several miles (really, until the half split off at mile 12.5) but it helped me keep my pace in check. I felt really good for the first half, and remembered this gem: if you start to feel good during a marathon, don't worry --- that feeling will pass.


1    8:56.2  
2     8:45.1
3     8:40.4
4     8:40.3
5     8:37.3
6     8:28.6
7     8:23.3
8     8:33.1
9     8:33.2
10     8:37.7
11     8:37.1
12     8:34.2
13     8:41.4
14     8:34.7
15     8:36.4
16     8:36.3
17     8:42.5
18     8:51.9
19     8:39.7
20     8:49.0
21     8:41.4
22     9:02.5
23    9:01.1
24     8:34.9
25     9:18.2
26     8:38.3
27     2:49.0
I felt good, physically, emotionally, and mentally for the first half. I was on track (maybe a weee bit too fast?) for my predicted/ goal finish. We split off from the half runners (after listening to a few of them share their glee that they didn't have another 13.1 to go) and headed out of town. It was a lot quieter -- very few spectators, less runners... but I was enjoying it. I needed to settle down into a pace and focus on keeping that pace. Miles 13-20 were all within about 15 seconds of each other. At mile 14 I saw the lead man pass mile 25 and briefly wondered if anyone would notice if I just turned around and joined him (he finished in 2:17, a 5:15 pace. yup. wow.).
Around 18-20, things started getting dark. Mile 18 means 8.2 miles to go... it's a tough place. I had been running for a while but I still had over an hour left on my feet. The pain was kicking in and I kept thinking WHERE THE FUCK IS MILE 20?  I had my Garmin on but I didn't want to look at it every 30 seconds.
I was really glad I had the pace band on. GPS watches are awesome, but they can trick you into a false sense of distance. Most runners run longer than the actual course -- great explanation here - so I could look at my pace band at the actual mile marker to know what my overall time should be at the mile, and then my watch to see the elapsed time. I ended up running 26.36, which really isn't too far off.
I saw Colleen and Deb at mile 21, which gave me an awesome boost, because I was really really hurting. You can see by my splits that I was starting to fade. I kept telling myself, get to 23, get to 23 and then you have a little more than 3 miles left and what's 3 miles? that's a short run. and then, get to 24, get to 24, only 2 miles, that's about 20 minutes to the finish, you can do anything for 20 minutes. then to 25 and you can push hard for the last 1.2. I wanted to take a short walk break around those miles, but: I knew that while I was on track to hit my goal, I was close. I didn't have a lot of wiggle room and slowing down to a walk would eat too much time. And also -- once you start walking, it's a bitch to start running again. It HURTS more than just running. I allowed myself to walk through the aid stations but made myself pick it up again when I was finished my water/ Gatorade. I kept checking my watch. I was still on pace to break 3:50:53.
me at 21 ^^

And then, finally, happily, mile 26. I booked it to the finish. People were going cheering, yelling my name (they printed our first names on our bibs) and I just ran as fast as my short little legs would go. I ran a 7:51 pace for the last .35 miles (more proof that so much of this is mental).
I crossed the finish line, hit stop on my watch, and saw it: 3:49:04. a PR by almost two minutes! happy happy happy happy:
I found Colleen and Deb:
and hobbled back to the hotel. I knew I should take an ice bath but I was really cold and the hot shower just felt so good. Deb and I met back up with Stacey (who rocked her first marathon!) and we went to the market where I inhaled a chocolate milkshake, a cheeseburger, and fries and it was AMAZING.
Stacey and I showing off our medals and shirts ^^
We drove home, where I was greeted by an exuberant H ... who promptly put my medal on and wouldn't take it off:
seriously, it's like the RD contacted Flava Flav for inspiration. This thing is awesome:
I still can't walk up or down stairs. I'm hobbling around my office. And I don't care - it was so, so worth it.