01 October 2017

the day I was accepted to the Boston Marathon

as the BAA (Boston Athletic Association) makes clear on their website:


for those not familiar with the process --- Boston sets qualification standards for age groups (for example, women 35-39 [me] need a 3:40; men 35-39 need a 3:10). if you run a time under that standard, you have the opportunity to submit for registration. registration opened on september 11, and those met the time by more than 20 minutes, followed by those with a 10+ cushion, then a 5+ cushion... and then, the squeakers -- 0 - 5 group (AKA ME). I was sitting fairly comfortably with a minus 4:04 but it was still sooooooooo nerve racking.

after everyone with a BQ registers, the BAA ranks the "cushions" and cuts it off at whatever number they want because they are the BAA. since the race has instituted the the cut off system, the cut off time has been between a minute to two and a half minutes. there are blogs and forums dedicated to predicting the cut off with formulas developed by smarty runners. and I know about these because I frequent them. often. people were predicting high 1s to low 2s as the cut off this year.

 so I, armed with my information and credit card (and Kim's information and credit card, because she was in trial, and "Your Honor, I need to register for Boston" isn't a great reason to be late to court) registered at 10:00 am. did I need to register at 10:00 am? no. did I need to register on Monday? no, registration was open for us squeakers until wednesday. but come on. of course I'm registering as soon as I refreshed the page and the link appeared for the 0-5 BQers.

and then I had to hurry up and wait. and waiting SUCKS. and waiting really sucks when you can't do anything but wait. making it worse was the BAA's announcement that, unfortunately, they could not accept all runners and they would announce the cut off "in the next few days." in the past few years, the BAA has made the announcement on the following Wednesday (OH MY GOD THAT'S TEN DAYS).

so I made it to Wednesday because I didn't have a choice. and I wore this - blue and yellow are the BAA colors - because I am lame and have no chill

and I ran and then I went to work and my poor poor coworkers had to watch me freak out (shout out to the boys on the row!). the (now defunct) Runner's World Boston 2018 Cut Off Prediction thread was going nuts. I was stalking that, the BAA's Facebook page, the BAA's Instagram account, and my own gmail account. and then it was noon and WHERE THE FUCK IS MY EMAIL. I went to the lunch room and was still frantically checking my email when IT CAME: (and I could see the word "Congratulations!" before I opened the email so that was a huge relief!)

I screamed. LOUDLY. and then I cried. and then I declared that a salad was a lame way to celebrate and who wanted champange? and then I remembered that it was wednesday at noon. my BRF colleen suggested ice cream as an alternative and several of my awesome coworkers went out to celebrate. I really do work with an amazing group of people. the cut off this year was 3:23, which shocked the running community. while I was nervous, I was confident that my minus 4:04 was plenty of a cushion. turns out I made it into the race by a mere 41 seconds (!!!!!!!)

my mother in law gave me these beautiful flowers:

and now I am still on cloud nine. on thursday morning, when I was running in the dark, I actually said to myself, "I'm fucking running the Boston Marathon. I did it." I've wanted this for so long and I've worked my ass off.

I started training for marathons during my second semester of my first year of law school -- as a way to relieve stress and focus on something other than grades. I couldn't imagine how much joy and how much heartbreak it would bring me.

2005: Baltimore - 4:44:29
2006: Marine Corps - 4:02:10
2007: Richmond - 3:53:13
2009: National - 3:50:43
(2010: H born)

2012: RnR DC: dnf
2012: Potomac River - 4:24:55
2013: Philadelphia - 3:49:02
(2014: char born)

2016: B&A - 3:56:49
2016: Steamtown - 3:40:45
2017: Shamrock - dnf
2017: Coastal Delaware - 3:38:25
2017: Erie - 3:35:56

I still cannot believe that I'm a 3:35 marathoner and that I AM GOING TO BOSTONI am going to run the most prestigious and oldest marathon in the world!

And now, I'd like the thank:

the Academy, of course
my awesome coach, James McKirdy, for the tough workouts of course, but more for believing in me and telling me that I was strong and ready (and for convincing me to go out slowly and ease down into race pace). I crushed workouts that I didn't think I could handle (40 minutes at tempo ARE YOU KIDDING ME) and it made me stronger but - again more importantly - it gave me SO MUCH self confidence!

my family and friends and coworkers, for putting up with all the running talk
my BRF (best running friend) Colleen, for the runs through the years and for indulging the play by play of my workouts (looking forward to running Richmond with you!)
my kids, because they're cute, and because they say things like "you smell, no kisses until you shower"
and, of course, James, for getting up early with the kids so I could do my long runs, for supporting me --- from my first I'm-just-going-to-run-one-marathon in Baltimore in 2005 (the year I finished my 1L year and the year we got married) to the highs (PRs) and lows (DNFs and tears) to the never ending love and encouragement. cannot wait to celebrate with you in Boston !

24 September 2017

Erie Marathon - a perfect weekend and a perfect race [september 11 2017]

I felt about Erie the way Harry Potter felt about conjuring a patronus -- he could do it because he knew he did it before.

I ran a 3:38:25 at Coastal Delaware, PRing by almost three minutes and finally capturing that unicorn. I rode that high for a while but knew that a BQ minus 1 minute 35 seconds might not be enough for Boston 2018. the good thing about running an early spring race is that I had plenty of time to train for an early fall marathon. kim oldham, deputy state's attorney, future state's attorney, and ultramarathoner extraordinaire suggested Erie Marathon, a flat, fast course in (surprise!) Erie Pennsylvania. we convinced jen ritter to join us, because who doesn't love training for a marathon in Maryland in August?

my training went really, really well. June was 187 miles, July, 223 miles, and August, 241 miles. I hit paces I truly didn't think possible. James McKirdy, my coach, had me doing some some crazy hard workouts ---

- 5 x 1 mile at a 7 mm (7:03/ 7:03/ 7:01/ 6:58/ 6:57)
- 17 miles with periods at threshold pace and slightly slower than mp
- 40 minutes at threshold
- 18 miles (12 at MP) in crazy humid weather
- 6 x 800 (3:28/ 3:28/ 3:26/ 3:27/ 3:27/ 3:27)

Some of the workouts on my calendar ... I didn't think I could do them. I was nervous about quite a few of those, but facing them - and then DOING THEM - gave me so much self confidence !

I was regularly hitting 50+ mile weeks and lifting twice a week. I worked really, really hard. I felt strong and ready to go and the only thing that could hold me back was my brain.

[oh crap]

the weather looked *perfect.* I started checking it 15 days out because of course I did. the forecast said high 40s at the start and warming into the high 50s/ low 60s at the finish. PERFECT. like what you would order if someone gave you a menu of marathon weather.


this will come as a huge surprise to everyone I know but I am A Planner. I'm prettttty sure that kim was making fun of me, but she started pressing me for The Weekend Race Guide. I'm famous infamous for making these for every race, even races I don't actually race (see: pacing kim for the last 30 miles of the C&O 100).

my BRF colleen treated us to chocolates and sweet cards


kim picked me up (TWO MINUTES EARLIER THAN SCHEDULED) (jen met us in erie later than evening) and we started to drive north. REALLY north. erie is just south of canada, aka it's really far away. [okay it was seven hours]. we stopped in pittsburgh for lunch (noodles in the cutest neighborhood -- Squirrel Hill). we arrived at packet pickup (on schedule, woohoo, and yes I am fun at parties). you had to provide your id to get you bib and they took a photo of you with your bib to cut down on cheating, which I really appreciated.

packet pickup was at the race location-- presque isle (we were calling it nolle prosequi isle but that's not right) --- which was absolutely gorgeous.

we checked in at our hotel (which was on the water and beautiful), had an oddly romantic and surprisingly sort of expensive dinner, got chocolates from a local chocolatier, watched Sex and the City movie, and -- after setting five alarm clocks (including a wake-up call.. when I asked for a 4:30 wake up, the clerk said, "ouch") we went to bed. jen got in safely around 9:30.


I had been thinking about a mantra for several months, and it was a podcast interview with Kara Goucher when it finally clicked:


Believe in my training. Believe in my ability. Believe in the race plan. Believe in myself. and I wrote it on my hand so when I looked down at my watch I'd be reminded.

we woke up at 4:30 and planned to leave by 5:15 (race start was 7). the race was a ten minute drive from the hotel, and we had to park at a lot about a half mile away and take a shuttle to the race start. it was chilly but I knew it would be perfect once we got running.

the RD gave us little flashlights at packet pickup and they really came in handy race morning -- it was totally dark at 5:30 am and the park didn't have many lights. after huddling together for warmth --

and using the port o potties, we ditched our cold weather clothes, checked our bags and headed to the race start.


I lined up near the 3:40 group and figured I'd hang with them for a while and then take off. my goal was to better my BQ time by 90 seconds to two minutes. I figured that if I could go under 3:37 I'd be in a good place for Boston.

Coach James told me to go out nice and easy -- at an 8:20 - 8:25 pace --- for the first four or five miles, and then start easing into marathon pace. the 3:40 group (which is an 8:24 pace) took. off. they were running much faster than an 8:24 and it was hard, mentally, to be behind them. I kept thinking, "they're 3:40 -- they're ahead of me -- therefore I am going slower than 8:40." I knew that I was planning to run a smart race but it was still tough. I made some friends (including a woman who recgonized from my IG #flatrunner!) -- it's nice to chat with people (in the early miles!) and the first half flew by:

mile 1 - 8:22
mile 2 - 8:22
mile 3 - 8:19
mile 4 - 8:30
mile 5 - 8:16
mile 6 - 8:13
mile 7 - 8:16
mile 8 - 8:10
mile 9 - 8:12
mile 10 - 8:13
mile 11 - 8:07
mile 12 - 8:13
mile 13 - 8:13

first half: 1:47:26

The course is two loops around Presque Isle --- (you go through the finisher's chute at mile 13)

 and is flat flat flat. I think the entire elevation change was 4 feet. there were aid stations every mile, which was awesome! it wasn't hot, but it was so nice to have the option of water or gu brew that often. plus, I could take my huma gels as scheduled. the race had a contest for the best water station, and this one won

this one had great signs, including my favorite, "you've done smarter things drunk"

the race was small (1500 finishers) but the support was awesome. at one aid station a volunteer actually ran alongside me to give me my water !

I felt really strong at the halfway point, and the pain and fatigue didn't set in until mile 16 or 17. even then, it was manageable. I never felt awful. even though I was getting tired and sore, I wasn't slowing down... I was actually speeding up (!!!!!!)

I did what I always do when I get to mile 18 of a marathon -- I take it mile by mile. "I can get to mile 19, I can run one more mile, I can get to 19" and then, when I get to 19 "I can get to 20...". and repeat. there is a feeling of panic that sets in at mile 18 if I think "I have eight miles to go." eight feels like a lot, especially since I've just run 18. and so: just one at a time.

mile 14 - 8:10
mile 15 - 8:06
mile 16 - 8:08
mile 17 - 8:07
mile 18 - 8:08
mile 19 - 8:02
mile 20 - 8:07
mile 21 - 8:06
mile 22 - 8:12
mile 23 - 8:04
mile 24 - 8:17
mile 25 - 8:08
mile 26 - 8:03

second half: 1:45:38 ---a  TWO MINUTE negative split !

I passed a lot of people, and - not going to lie - it felt good. starting out slowly is the way to go. it's no fluke the world records are set with negative splits. it's the best way to run a race and while it's scary at the beginning -- when you feel like you are going too slowly and will never "make up" the time -- it pays off.

I didn't realize that I could break 3:36 (I'm not awesome at math, and I'm really not awesome at math at mile 24) but I looked down in the finisher's chute and saw 3:35:xx and knew I could do it. It wasn't a pretty sprint but it got it done.

time: 3:35:56
pace: 8:12
AG: 32/ 105

overall: 643/ 1527

and a BQ minus four minutes and four seconds !

kim BQ'd (by almost the same amount!) and jen ran a 13 minute PR! we had an awesome post race brunch at Perkins, showered, and made the long drive back home.

and today is sunday, september 24 and I registered for Boston last Monday. I am feeling good about my BQ cushion but I -- and everyone else who qualified with less than a five minute cushion, aka "the squeakers" -- is still waiting for acceptance. Boston will likely announce the cut off this Wednesday and time is going by so slowly !

it's hard for me to believe that I'm a 3:35 marathoner. my first marathon was a 4:45! I've never been "naturally fast" but I am a hard worker. now COME ON WEDNESDAY !!

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.