The first time I qualified for the Boston Marathon was in November of 2013. My time of 3:05:4x would earn me a spot in the first Wave for the 2015 Boston Marathon. Both injury and pregnancy would keep me out of that race. I was 26 weeks pregnant and 4 weeks post knee surgery (fat pat impingement syndrome) so I just thought "eh, next time". Running Boston never seemed like a big deal to me. For starters, I'm from here so it seems like everyone runs Boston. Logistically it's not as complicated when you don't need to book a flight and a hotel. My ego was sure I could qualify without batting an eye at a later date.... so... why worry so much? Next time I can do it! But things get trickier once you start balancing family planning with the Boston Marathon. I had Raea in August, Rehabbed my knee, got fit, and qualified the following October with another 3:05 (about 30 second PR). I still had 19 months until the 2018 race so I decided to have another baby, and then I'd run the race 8 months postpartum. Well, as you probably now know, that didn't happen. I got injured again and again and again (more times than I can count) and finally got to my first marathon after having Maebel, the Erie Marathon, at 25 months Postpartum (#oncepostpartumalwayspostpartum... Deal with it). It was so far from the high hopes and pie in the sky goals I had for myself, but I've never been so happy and proud to have finished something in my life.
As recapped in my previous blog, I got pretty sick just before the race. I thought it was "taper crazies" at first and went to work feeling pretty lousy for two of the 3 days before the race... I started feeling a little better by Thursday but knew if I didn't take the day to rest I was doomed by Saturday since I can't sleep well in hotels. The girls had daycare Thursday and my husband was gone so stayed home and alternated between sleeping, drinking a ton of water, and eating carbs all day. I felt a little guilty for missing work knowing I would be out Friday and probably also Monday... but....in hindsight... I took my first day off from work on Thursday September 5th, and I legitimately have not had full staff since. An entire two weeks understaffed because we all got sick with whatever I had... my days off were justified. By Friday I felt a little better and spent the whole day in the car trying to chill. My kids were so good for the ride and my husband willing to drive the whole way that I could still keep resting. I got in a quick 4 mile run on our way up to Erie just to break up the drive and shake out the legs, and then another quick run Saturday with McKirdy Trained Shakeout before the packet pick up.
The night before
The night before the race turned out to be eventful. My mom was also running so we went to diner and somehow got completely locked out of her hotel room. You know those swing bar locks in hotels that you use from the inside? well, as it turns out, if you slam them against the wall upon exiting, it can bounce off the wall and lock you out... and the process to open it is unknown to most people that work at the hotel. I weirdly enjoyed trying to unlock the door with a gentleman from across the hall. We eventually figured it out after about an hour. It would have made excellent instagram stories but my phone was behind a locked door. It kept me from thinking about the race, and gave my husband enough time to get the girls settled. I barely slept for the second night in a row. In addition to being a chronic insomniac... especially bad in hotels.... I also still had a lingering cough and so did my daughter Maebel.. The cough only bothered us when we were laying down, but of course that's when you're trying to sleep. Maebel and I seemed to alternate in coughing fits all night until I just decided to rest with my eyes closed sitting up and put headphones in. That was probably around 3am and I had to wake up at 5. I'm very very good at navigating the "night before race jitters"... I just accept that I wont sleep and that I can't let that be a reason to not be successful. I start preparing self talk to counter the "I must feel crappy because I didn't sleep".... I assume I will sleep zero hours so when I sleep 2 my self talk is more positive. Still a horrible night of sleep but I lack sleep so often that it really never becomes an excuse in my race because 90% of the time I run a long run on less than 6 hours of sleep. It's something I really really need a solution for (especially after listening to Joe Rogans podcast episode #1109... scary shit. I'm going to die!)
I'm not a very experienced marathoner... but I am a very experienced racer... so waking up for race morning was business as usual and I feel like I'm my best self before a race. Cool as a Cucumber. The race day never stresses me out as much as the training does... deep breaths, no sudden movements... keep adrenaline in check.. empty intestines.... Got dressed and put on KT tape, blister bandaids, and all the precautionary stuff. A lot of people want to get pumped up for events like this... but not me. A marathon is a slow burn so the adrenaline needs to be a small drip. I went down to the lobby since they had early breakfast. I brought 2 packets of my own oatmeal and heated it up... Met my mom and we drove to the shuttle location together. Both of us chose to walk instead of take the shuttle. I kept my long pants and shirt on even though it was already warming up. My coaches have always been adamant about keeping everything warm even when it's warm out. I waited in line for the bathroom which took longer than I thought. I wanted to get in a 1 mile warm up to get my laces adjusted. Since getting orthotics I haven't found the "sweet spot" for my laces and have typically needed the first mile to get them right. I wasn't wearing any special shoes to race in. I wore the Cloud Ace, 12oz shoes. The bulkiest I've probably ever worn but they've been reliable in keeping injuries at bay which was my biggest concern about the race. I'm not super comfortable in them but I trust them and that was most important. Unfortunately the bathroom line made it impossible to get my laces adjusted. As soon as I finished the bathroom I put on Vaseline in all the areas that might possibly need it and then got to the start in the 3:30 group. I ran in place to try to get the laces right. Too tight, too loose, too tight, too loose. I finally stopped touching them and hoped for the best. Then... The gun went off.
Miles 1-6 8:02, 7:58, 7:55, 7:51, 7:48, 7:56
I started easy with the 3:30 pace group (8:01 pace). My goal was to qualify for Boston but also to give myself a bit of a buffer if necessary. My qualifying standard was 3:35 but I assumed 3:30 to be safe and then had run a few races now that indicated 3:26 was in my fitness range, before getting sick I had a stretch goal of hammering the last 10k to see if I could break 3:20... I didn't let go of that goal but also didn't allow myself to make any decisions around that goal in the earlier stages of the race. I did essentially no workouts leading up to this race so I knew that the very fastest I could run would be right around 7 minute miles and probably for only 3 miles tops... so if I wanted to take pressure off of that pace I'd need to go a little faster a little earlier. I tried to keep that out of my mind and focus on the only goal that mattered: Qualifying for Boston. sub 3:20 was exactly the same as 3:30 in regards to that goal so I was just going to focus on 3:30.
The Erie Marathon is designed to qualify people for Boston. It's not a huge marathon but since everyone had the same goal to BQ, the 3:30 group was packed. I was grateful for my experience running in Falmouth and reminded myself that my Boston experience will be very crowded also. The roads in this beginning section were much more narrow than most of the other sections. I really should have positioned myself just in front of the 3:30 group as to not be mixed in with all the anxious people who were bobbing and weaving trying to get a better position in a group that was running all the same pace. It wasn't logical to be making all those early moves to get nowhere so I just stayed where I was and waited and waited and waited until I naturally found myself towards the front of the pace group. After Mile 4 I moved slightly in front of the pace group and then sort of just stayed there and could feel their presence a handful of strides back. We were running the same pace but I had 5-10 seconds on them and that felt much better and relaxing. I felt really comfortable but was a little discouraged that I got a numbing sensation in my foot from my laces being too tight. This has happened on a lot of my long runs but I would just stop and adjust the laces. During training I told myself if it happened I'd just stop because I had the fitness to do it and still make up the time... but with the pack right behind me I wasn't going to stop, get swallowed up, and have to deal with that again. Fortunately it's not painful but considering I've had so many foot injuries it's a little concerning to have over 20 miles to go and I've got this annoying thing going on. It's definitely because the orthotics and bulky shoes are overkill in terms of feet protection. No space to breathe! but I came to terms with this issue a while ago and decided the devil I knew was better than the devil I didn't.
Miles 7-13 7:53, 7:46, 7:48, 7:49, 7:55, 7:44, 7:53
After the 10k I was naturally finding myself moving more in the low 7:50's to the high 7:40's. I let it happen naturally but held myself back whenever anything went under 7:45. I had my watch set to show me predicted mile. The closer I got to the mile marker the more accurate it was. I checked my watch often but didn't really make many decisions off of it. I just needed to constantly reassure myself I wasn't going too fast. I had run long runs pretty fast but I capped it off at 17 miles and another 9 miles is intimidating. I wasn't super dependent on it. I knew I was running steady. The stretch from 9-13 seemed to never end since I had my watch set to only one mile at a time sometimes I was absolutely shocked to get to the mile marker to find out I wasn't a mile further than that. Not a good thing before the halfway mark! Water stops were every mile so I was getting water every 2 ish miles. Sometimes I'd go 3 or sometimes I wouldn't skip. I took gels every 30 minutes using the Caffeine right around mile 12 for the first time. We were on concrete instead of pavement for a solid amount of this section and with that strange sensation in my foot I just thought about the potential pain this was going to inflict on me in the second loop (Erie is a 2 loop course). Pretty negative self talk going on because every mile marker had a second one not too far away indicating what mile we'd be at in loop 2 and suddenly the reality of how far 26.2 miles is was setting in. I had never run for over 3 hours and 5 minutes and today was going to be that day by a lot. another 20 minutes was going to be a long time to add to what was already a sufferfest.
Miles 14 and 15
This is my least consistent section of the race....When I came through the half in 1:43:02 I started doing some math to figure out my odds of sub 3:20 but I'm not great at Math and was running for a long already so my brain wasn't exactly sharp. I wasn't 100% sure if the math worked out but I would adjust as I got closer. I knew needed to drop at least 6 minutes in the last 13 miles. I was running below 8 minute pace which meant I'd have to run under 7:30 pace for at least 12 miles. Don't forget about the long ass .2... but then I also had to think rationally too. I have no idea how hard I might blow up so I sat on it a bit and decided I'd start with 7:30's at 16 and then see if I can drop faster and faster and see how close I am with a 5k to go and just hammer if I can. At this point it wasn't really much about the time it was more about challenging myself. I didn't care that much about 3:20 but it was dangling just low enough that I could give it a really good try and at least make the second half more fun. The first half was so boring for me. So I spent a mile devising this plan (mile 14) and then when I decided I'd wait until 16 I unconsciously backed off and ended up in a conversation with someone for a half mile. She seemed very concerned about the 3:30 group catching her and missing her BQ. Banking time in the marathon: not the process I'd recommend. I tried to run with her a bit and just tried to tell her to focus forward not behind... but I really don't know if she made it. My split slowed to an 8:00 mile and I didn't run the whole mile with her so I assume she slowed down quite a bit. I warned her I was going to pick it up seemingly drastically at 16 and to not be alarmed or discouraged. when 16 came I was on my way.
Mile 16-20 7:30, 7:35, 7:36, 7:35, 7:35
Mile 16: 7:30 Well, that was easy I thought... Well of course it is, you still have 10 to go! I barked back at myself. Ha! I just love those inner conversations! I had to remind myself that I was 1 mile away from the longest run I've run since February.... by a lot ... and I have no idea what is going to happen next. My foot was completely numb at this point. The good news is if there was any pain I couldn't feel it... The bad news is if there was any pain I couldn't feel it. I'd keep trying to crinkle up my toes to see if I could get some feeling back, but... nothing. Not even tingling anymore. I did check ins with the rest of my body. It was actually quite amazing. No shin pain, no hip pain, ho calf pain, no neck pain. I felt really, really, smooth. This pace seemed to be a bit of a sweet spot for me. It was fast enough to excite me and keep me engaged but not out of my comfort zone. Unfortunately I wanted to be a little closer to 7:30 and even just to push for an extra second or two per mile seemed like a huge stretch and more energy than I should expend that far out from the finish. So I tried to push without pushing and hoped to find something a little faster but unless I switched a gear I wasn't lowering the pace at all. Keep in mine I ran maybe 10 whole miles at this pace since February. Part of me was really impressed with myself because I was running a bit beyond my training but part of me was frustrated that this pace was literally my worst case scenario/bonking so hard for my previous marathons.
Mile 21-24 7:21, 7:33, 7:20, 7:31, 7:33
I was taking things by 10k now. Math was out the window for the time being but I still kept going for the 3:20 even though mathematically it was not very probable. I just am the type of person that likes to squeeze every ounce I can out of a race. I told myself I'd just come and get the job done with a BQ but after waiting so long to race a marathon I wanted to race a marathon. It's all relative to your fitness but unless you're packing it in, 26.2 miles feels the same for everyone. It's hard no matter how fast or slow you are. I wanted to learn in this race to better prepare myself for future marathons and if I didn't empty the tank and challenge my fitness than I'd be missing that opportunity which is few and far between. My body felt good (other than the shoe lace/numb foot thing) I had to just do it! I planned to do the next 3 at 7:20 pace and then see if I could drop even lower for the remaining 3. Obviously I couldn't do that. At this point my lack of miles was playing a toll as was the concrete. I felt like I could go faster. Cardiovascularly I had that ability, and my body could push and propel myself faster... but landing and catching myself was starting to be difficult. I wasn't trusting my strength as much as I would like to and the faster you run the harder the force. I pushed and hit that 7:20ish pace and then fell back into that "sweet spot" and then pushed again and back to that sweet spot...but... I just kept trying because I still had energy to try and that meant something to me.
Mile 26- 7:46
Trying and failing starts to take a toll... I'm not going to lie... I really never felt bad until the second half of mile 25. I was really positive throughout... but once I was unequivocally sure I wouldn't run under 3:20 (which took way longer than it should have to figure out... but that extra .2 is easy to forget and takes a damn long time!) I just hung on to running under 3:23. There's literally no difference between 3:22 high and 3:22 low... I know this because I have two other marathons and they are both 3:05... no one asks me how close I was to being under 3:05. I don't even care. I wanted o squeeze everything out of myself that I could but in that last mile I had my first sign of "pain" in my left calf. So I ran safe in that last mile and ran grateful, and I even put my arms up and might have almost almost shed a tear when I crossed the finish line in a chip time of 3:22:53
When I finished I felt pretty good. Not too beat up but a little bit. I took my shoe off to see if I could get feeling back in it. No luck. Two weeks later and I'm just now getting feeling back but still not 100%... Did not see that coming. I dind't even know that was possible. I emailed my podiatrist and he's not too worried since it's isolated to just two toes now. My other foot took a beating too. I have never lost a toe nail or even had a black toe nail... at least until now. I'm a stickler for trimming my toe nails before every hard effort but because I was sick and then travelling I forgot and now I have a big black and blue toe nail to remind myself why that ritual is important. Thankfully I didn't feel anything in the race but RIP toe nail. I'd probably be running some 30 minute runs if the nerves in my foot were functioning, but I figure it's best to let that work itself out first! Overall I’m really happy and proud. I ran to the absolute best of my ability on that day and just a few days later I signed up for Boston! Now... the tricky part is to actually run it!
Welcome to my blog! I blogged my entire pregnancy in 2017 and I had high hopes for where I could take my running after baby number 2, but my body had other plans. At some point I got too discouraged to write and recently realized that it is essential for my personal growth and development to keep putting feelings into coherent(ish) thoughts. I still hope to run sub 2:45 in the marathon one day, but for now I’m trying to focus on the process and I’m learning to enjoy it. You can come along for the ride, apologies in advance for grammatical incorrectness!