Race Details and Weather.
The Big Bang Mile was the first USATF-NJ race of the abbreviated 2021 Long Distance Race Series. I am so excited to be part of this again!
The race took place at Bell Works in NJ which is "a work, live, play office campus, with tons of hip amenities in addition to the office tenants, a thriving hub of activity, also open to the public."
The conditions were Hot and Humid with some Wind. The race took place in heats and my 40+ Masters Women was at 9:45 am.
The course was an out-and-back with a lovely wide turn at the turnaround. It was fast. No slow 180's around a cone here! At every quarter mile there was a sign and a clock too. This was all very thoughtful.
I arrived around 8 am to meet Rich and his son for some meandering warm-up miles. 3-4 miles before the race seemed like enough. Rich's son was racing at 9 am and Rich at 10 am. This meant a lot of running back and forth to the starting line so we just ran around the campus until it was time for someone to race.
The warm up for me really started in the car. I usually listen to podcasts or audio books when I drive around. But this morning I pulled up the play list I used when I was racing well at the end of 2019. I played it loud. I felt surrounded by rhythm. I realized in that moment how much loud music is a part of my racing, but not a part of anything else for me. I need this.
When running some warm up miles, I could feel the familiar sensation of adrenaline and endorphins and all the feel-good performance-enhancing neuro-chemicals that completely flood me before a race. I forgot that feeling. I missed it. This is a special thing the body can do... to get completely amped up in anticipation of an intention to do something really hard. This feeling is so incredible. It feels like magic.
I return to what I had been doing in the past before longer races. This was just a practice run anyway.
Like I always do before races, I ate more carbs than I generally intend to eat on a daily basis. So the night before I had sushi (I prefer to eat rice or potatoes before racing, not pasta). We ate at Kona Grill, which I feel was not the best choice and I won't do that again. I don't know if chain restaurant food is just more bloating than local sushi, but it felt that way to me. I drank more water the day before that I normally do.
I had coffee in the morning, and then on the drive down I had some Fruit punch flavored BCAAs on the way to the race. I did not eat anything on race day morning because after all this was just 1 mile.
I brought 3 pairs of sneakers with me because clearly I forgot how to race. I ended up wearing all three pairs by the end of the morning, lol. I warmed up in the Endophorin Pros because I thought I would use them. I didn't feel like I could justify putting a "un-trained" mile in my expensive Nike Vaporfly Next%. But after a few strides during the warm up and ONE HUGE quarter mile sprint during the last quarter of Rich's son Mile (so we could cheer him on at both places) I decided I needed all the help I could get today :) Vaporflys it would be. I cooled down in my Pegasus.
I brought a gel... for no reason at all. Out of habit maybe? I was not taking a gel before this mile. I don't know if I would take a gel before any mile? I don't race miles. This was just a Check-In race and just showing up was winning for me today.
Health and Wellness Stuff.
I was worried about my irritated heel bursa. This was my biggest concern. I didn't want to do any damage at the start of Boston Training just to race a mile relatively "slowly" (as I am not even close to being peak shape yet). The bursa has been on-and-off the last two weeks. Today it was fine and I wanted to keep it that way. I would stop if it felt terrible. I knew this.
However, apparently running a fast mile was exactly what my bursa needed (which makes no sense). Ever since I raced that hard mile, my bursa has been the happiest and least problematic it has been lately. I can jump on just my left foot again which I wasn't able to do comfortable before the race.
Had this not been a USATF-NJ LDR Team race, I would not have raced today at all. I know I race most comfortably when I am about 117lb and I was bouncing from 122 to 126 this week. I knew I was little heavier than I prefer to be when I line up to compete. I would have waited if this wasn't a team race. I am glad I didn't wait.
Knowing all this about myself, I was confident I could be sub-7, but my goal-window was 6:20-6:45. I wanted to negative split.
Overall, I was not very confident in my ability to assess what I could really do since I haven't raced since 1/11/2020. I needed to just assess and test. That is what today was for.
What Actually Happened: The Splits
I line up one row back from the line. There is one command and the gun and I take off fast. Faster than I realized I actually could move. My watch says 5:50. This felt surprisingly nice but I know this was a very bad move. I wanted to get out of way of the small group a little before I slowed myself so I would not cause anyone behind me any issues. A few moment later I slowed down to what looked like a 6:12 pace on my watch. That feels fine for the moment, but I want to negative split and I don't feel like I could get faster from there. So I slow a bit more.
My watch seems unreliable by the first 1/4 mark, so I just try to run by feel. It says I am running 6:50 pace but I know by those around me that can't be correct. I hit the 1/2 turn around and split my watch. First 0.5M -3:02 I actually don't feel terrible. I have a little bit of hope in me that I can and will negative split this thing.
And then I complete the turn into that headwind. Excellent (not). Ok, now I know why 3:02 felt so "ok"... but I also knew negative splitting was unlikely.
I wasn't able to pick up and hold my pace. I wanted to salvage the last quarter mile at the least. My watch is still telling me I am moving at 6:50 pace or slower, BUT I felt like that couldn't be correct. I am sure others probably didn't notice the wind as much as me but I felt like I was fighting it.
My torso was getting tired. My arms were tired. Everything was tired. All I could think about was how tired I was instead what I should be doing. This needs to change. I cannot use my energy to achieve a goal if all my energy is being used to assess what is not going well. Feeling like I am working hard is not shocking. This is supposed to be hard. I have done harder things.
6 ladies were ahead of me. I couldn't tell if any more were going to pass me. I see the "1/4M To Go" sign. That clock reads 4:39. Wait, what? 4:39. 4:30 is 6:00 pace. If I kicked hard could I possibly run 6:09? But I had no oomph.... I know I had another gear in me, I know I did, BUT it was just so very hard to shift. The work of shifting gears is always so much harder than how it feels after the shift. I am out of shifting practice. Rather than shift to kick, I became complacent. Complacency is the path of least resistance. That is not ok in racing (or life, really). "This is fine. I am fine. 6:30-6:45 is fine. I don't need to make this any worse. I am almost done. This is a mile. I am not a miler. This is not what I am good at..."
Then I hear Jim O. yell something to me (and snap me out that negative self talk). I can't tell exactly what he said (later he explained and it was funny), but I knew it meant someone was behind me and I needed to move. So I took a moment to muster up all my energy and I did finally shift, but much later than I should have.
I didn't mind cruising in a few seconds slower, but I would mind if someone blew past me with less than a tenth to go. Probably with about .1 to go, I was able to open my stride a bit and feel like a runner again. Second .5M - 3:17
Clock reads 6:19. I fail to stop my watch because I am trying not to die.
I need to travel solo to important races whenever possible. I need my time with music, bad music, loud music, and my thoughts. I want to not worry about what anyone else needs at that time. I won't have the capacity to be there for anyone else when I completely self-absorbed. I just want to be self-absorbed in my car for the ride over.
I need to revisit my pre-race routine. Today was not the day to worry about that and I enjoyed having no structure. But in the future, I need make sure I know what I am doing and when I need to do it. For important races, this routine needs to be non-negotiable. I need to get on the bathroom line when I need to. I need time to change shoes when I need to, I need to make time to do strides when I need to. I need to be lined up when I need to. I know all this, but I do want to get back into the routine. I don't need to be this structured for less than very important races, but I do need to workout the routine and get my timing down.
I need to re-learn how to trust my body and my mind again when in the middle of a race. Trust is quiet and calming. Self-Doubt is noisy.
I need to not use the watch to tell me what I am doing. The watch is a liar. It always is. I never race well when I use the watch to tell me things. I race my best when I use the watch to collect data for me while I use my breathing and the sensations in my legs to set my pace. I am out of practice being in tune with my body. I am out of practice negative splitting. It has been awhile. I just need more race practice. I look forward to it!
Week Three Boston Training: Not sure if I feel good or if I am just too exhausted to know how tired I am :)
Week-to-Week, this blog may seem pretty boring, but I am hopeful this will become meaningful to me (and maybe others) once I work though this training cycle and see what Dave and I can do. I am sharing the workouts we decide to do, showing where we are starting from (the bottom) and anticipating that we will create momentum all the way the leads to Dave and I having some great marathon experiences together. This is my real life training. It is the good, the bad, and the ugly. Maybe someone will be inspired. Maybe not. Maybe I will simply enjoy seeing how far I can go in a few months of training. We shall see. :)
So week three is done. Another week down and I am happy to have completed the three hard workouts on the schedule.
The plan underwent some revisions based upon how Dave and I were feeling. It is so easy to write out an entirely too ambitious plan when you are writing one for yourself. I am alway more conservative and more realistic with my athletes than I am with myself. This is because I know that I will absolutely revise the plan to set me up to succeed without self-judgment, whereas my athletes often experience a revision as an indication of failure... which is never the case.
So this week Dave and I decided:
(1) The long runs I had hoped to do were clearly too ambitious. The heat/humidity was too much for me (Dave probably too) to tolerate without any acclimation under us. And I haven't run long in a long time. So Dave and I decided we would take a few weeks to build up to 20 miles LR without any pressure to run any specific pace. After we reach 20M, we will take a rest week and then start working on Fast Finish long runs from there.
Here is the week mostly in pictures.
Tuesday Speed Alternates: For those following along, I meet Dave on Tuesdays for speed. I developed a new systematic progression for us to torture ourselves with. They won't get truly hard for a while, but right now we are laying the foundation for that hard work.
This week we ran 9M with 6M of them speed work consisting of .3M hard/ .7M Recovery. This was a bump up by .1M of the hard running from last week with a decrease of .1M of the recovery. We will repeat this on week 4 as well. During the hard run, we try to run as fast as possible. I don't have any window to target. I don't even look at the pace, I just run as hard as possible until it is time to stop.
I am happy to see that our speed is getting faster. Last week during .2's we were actually slower. Lap 13 was our last hard burst and I am so happy to see a sub-6 pace there.
I went home and did some Resistance Training. Just body-weight stuff at home.
Wednesday is my Rest Day. I just walk the dogs. I need to get in some flex work but this is always hard to feel motivated to do. I don't know why. I know it is not just me. I know many people who would rather do anything else but stretch or foam roll.
I did make green soup. This is awesome. I have been buying bags of greens faster than I can eat them (clearly I have good intentions but I buying without checking what I need). I blended a few bags of greens into chicken stock with sautéed mirepoix and some quinoa I added some Enzo olive oil and red pepper flakes at the end. This stuff is amazing.
Thursday is Hill Day. The one rule of "The Tour of Morristown" Hill Day is no one is allowed to turn down a hill. If we can go up, we choose up over down. It is like the rules of improv comedy, you are not allowed to say "no"... no matter how ridiculous the idea.
Friday is another day with Kim. We do her LR on Mondays, so Friday will be a little easier. Today was a 6M run/walk day. It was hot/humid and it slowed us down. But we got it done.
Saturday was my 16M Long Run (any way I could do it). It was so freaking hot. It "felt like" 90 degrees on my weather app but in real life it felt like I was running in Hell. At mile 12, I contemplated calling Sidney to come get me. But I decided I could get myself home even if I was slow. I knew pace didn't matter and starting my run at 11:00 am meant I was going to suffer, so I wasn't shocked it felt so bad. I lost 7 lbs on this run from dehydration it was that hot. But it got done and I know I will be better off for having done it.
Sunday is my standing 8-12M run with Alanna. We drive 45-50 minutes each way to meet to run. We don't care really what we do, we just know that if we are getting up early to meet it needs to be between 8-12. Sometimes we do more but not today!
Today I felt like I was run over by a truck. I needed to keep the pace easy. I added a lot of walking. I carried water which I rarely do but no calories. By mile 8 I was so incredibly hungry. I hit the wall hard. This is such a great sign for me. I know it means I am changing.
This is how it starts. I chase after this bonk. I want to look it in the face and tell it that I am not concerned. If I can get used to feeling this way in training, when I show up on race day, well-rested, well-fueled, well-trained, "The Wall" just doesn't exist. Today it existed and I was actually happy to run into it again. I haven't run into that wall in a long long time.
Stats and prediction for the week: Apparently STRYD believes I am getting slower. Thanks! Garmin has me the same.
I did my own calculations, which my athletes can tell you that I am quite good at. Based upon our speed work, I believe we have the speed for a 3:20... but only once our LRs are up over 20. So right now, we aren't in 3:20 shape. I hope to be by August.
Week Two is done.
Three workouts. Speed work, Hills, Long Run. Nothing monumental. Just more work than I have been used to doing. My body is reacting to the load. I expected to feel beat up as I return to training..
Tuesday' Speed with Dave.
We repeated last week's workout (.2M Hard/.8M easy) but the weather was 25 degrees hotter and humid. We didn't meet the goal of running faster than last week but we did "good enough" work. I want to see our bursts in the low 6's, and eventually sub-6 if possible. We shall see.
We also a new route which was not a keeper. Too many intersections and uneven sidewalks slowed us down. We will return to last week's route next week.
After the speed work, I did only about 20 minutes of strength work.
Wednesday, I woke up feeling some ache on the bottom of my left foot by the heel. It felt bruised. Not like PF but more like I steeped on something hard? It wasn't horrible but it did make me not want to stand on my left foot for too long. Thank goodness Wednesday are rest days from running. Dogs got walked and then I went to work.
Last weekend, I noticed the hill repeats were still in my legs by LR day, a bit too much than I wanted to feel them. It was 85 degrees last Saturday, so the sudden heat wave slowed me down anyway.
Regardless, I made a decision to move hard hill repeats (the 16% grade climb) to the Thursday before the easy LR, not the Thursday before the hard LR (which we will do every other week to accommodate our schedules). On alternate Thursdays we will do a longer very hilly run but the grade will be less than 16% for most of the climbs. This will be easy to recover from by LR day.
Fridays are Kim's easier day. Still using Walk/Run. .
This run was 5M. Nothing was swollen so off we go. Easy pace just to be safe.
47M total with 42M of running (maybe 42.5?).
I did two strength sessions only because I wanted to rest my heel. I also failed to do any flex for no good reason.
After Blood Donation on 5/24, my RHR is now back to 49. This is good.
STRYD Predicts my Boston may be a bit faster that last week.
Garmin didn't change, except to tell me that I am "Unproductive" lol
That is all I got for this week!
Let's see what happens in a week from now.
It's time to start blogging again. Rather than focus on races only, this time I want to track my weekly training through Boston... for better or worse. :) Expect a lot of photos. This log will help me have something to reflect back on when race day comes and I need to remember how far I have come from 5/31/21 - 10/11/21. This is all for me. Follow along if you wish.
Pre-Training: To Train Solo or To Build a Team? Finding the right locations. Building the plan. Donating blood.
Last time I trained, I did it all solo. I am happy I did this. Everyone should train through at least one marathon training cycle solo. It will change a person for the better. Last time, I needed to just focus on my recovery from my sepsis surgeries in 2019, I did not commit to meeting anyone so I could make decisions as I went along that were best for me. As a result, I was so happy to run a 3:03 at Charleston 2020 before Covid shut down racing.
I was not so happy to have sustained a significant injury (osteitis pubis, which is basically the tearing away of the muscle from my pubic bone) at the end of that training cycle. This injury took me about 9-10 months to heal well enough that I don't think about it or notice any tightness when I run. During that time, I was very sedentary, lost my endurance, lost my strength, lost my fitness in every way. I have a lot of work to do.
Now is time to get back to work. After a year or more of forced isolation, I decided this time I NEED to train with the others, especially those I care most about most on this planet, who I know will be my biggest cheerleaders, my biggest motivators, my biggest fans when I need their support and encouragement, as I will be all that for them as well as they training for their own personal goals too!
At 45 years old, I have noticed for me training is starting to feel harder. Having a team of best friends to train with feels like a very powerful secret weapon.
So no matter what happens, I want to say right now how grateful I am to Sidney, Kim, Alanna, and Dave for being the best training partners I know. Without you all running by my side, I know that I would never have as great of a chance to achieve my next best races as I do when you all are there early in the morning, in the heat of the summer, in the rain, on the trails, on the hills. Whatever I end up doing in Boston (0r any race before it) it will be in a big part because of all of you and everyone else mentioned in my blog as I go along!).
Dave committed to racing out in the mountains as a last long run before Boston, where hopefully all this work he does will get him a new PR. He also agreed to meet me for the hard workouts (the hills, the speed, the fast finish long runs). But we weren't sure where to train.
We took a month before training started to explore different training destinations. We settled on road-based speed work by me one day a week and hills by him one other day per week. Hard Long Runs will happen on the route we used when we last trained together and both PR'd back then.
Kim is returning to training after her knee surgery and agreed to meet me for my General Maintenance runs were pace doesn't matter but company does!. Alanna agreed as always to help me keep the volume hight by doing my easy LRs with me whenever possible.
Sid, Yazzy, Lapis and Piper will keep me moving when I am home.
WIth this team in place, I felt excited to get to work.
I built our plan to start on May 31. I wrote some new workouts that will be challenging yet exciting! I want to get us off the track. Our speed will take place on the roads. We will use a systematic progression to alternate bursts of speed with recovery running. We will slowly grow the speed duration while shortening the recovery.
I want to spend time running repeats on the steepest hill we can find, because our mountain race will require a LOT of downhill tolerance. I want to alternating those repeats with a medium length run on a very hilly course.
Once we found our optimal locations, both Dave and I were excited to start. But we decided to wait until 2 week after his 6-Day race to give him some time to recovery from running 356 miles in less than a week.
The last thing we did during our Pre-Training phase was donate blood. Blood donation is important and very necessary to save lives. There is not a lot of scientific evidence about the impact of blood duration on endurance athletes. Most of it says "Don't do it when in training because you will lost 2-4 weeks time to train hard."
Available research has identified a 2-4 week period of time when training hard will feel horrible due to low RBC. It takes 2-6 weeks for the body to replace those RBC. But after RBC have been regenerated, they will last 120 days. 1-1.5 months after blood donation performance should feel much easier.
I am not sure if training hard during that 2-4 week low RBC window will do anything to stimulate a super-compensation of RBC in a way. That would be helpful to us as runners but there is nothing in the research that shows this is possible. If it happens then that will be a bonus for us. If it doesn't happen and we get back to our RBC in 4 weeks, training should feel a million time better by then compared to what we are putting ourselves thought during weeks 1-4. I think just that shift will help with motivation to train hard. Regardless of the impact on training, we still each saved 3 lives before we got so deeply immersed into training that we missed any window to donate.
It has been almost 2 weeks since we donated. I noticed that one week after blood donation, my RHR rose from 48 bpm pre-donation all the way to 60 bmp on 5/31. But on 6/5, less than two weeks later, my RHR reverted back to 48 bmp. Running fast and running hills felt terrible when my RHR was 60 bmp. I have no evidence that I felt better when it lowered back to 48 bpm because the weather change during that time was extreme (from 40-50 degree runs to 75-85 degree runs). I have felt horrible running due to the heat after my return to 48 RHR. Give me a cooler morning and then I can make a better assessment. :)
Tuesday I met Dave for "speed" but I wasn't sure how we would do since we both felt sluggish after he blood donation. We decided to run 6M of .2M repeats as fast as we could comfortably hold with a .8M jog recovery. Our speed pace was 6:14-6:30 pace. That is fine for week one.
Thursday, Dave and I ran our hills repeats through a significant storm. The rain was so hard that we got splashed from head to toe by a car driving though a huge puddle and it didn't impact how wet we were at all
My data doesn't reflect the amount of work we did out there. But my butt and quads knew it. :) The work here was 7 x .1M 16% hill repeats. Maybe next time we run this my watch will get me some real elevation gain data? I hope.
My Saturday LR was supposed to be a Alternating Fast Finish LR with Dave but he had to be in PA and the heat was entirely too much for me to tolerate. I was solo for this run and just decided to get the mileage due to the heat crushing my soul. I needed walk breaks to get through it but I am grateful I got the mileage. I drank 50+ ounces of fluid and still came home exactly 4 lbs lighter. It took a lot out of me to get this done.
I tried a new energy drink mix, Roctane Summit Tea. I like Roctane anything because of the added amino acids. This was tolerable. I do think I prefer Optimal Nutrition Fruit Punch ProBCAA better than the last of this, but the BCAA have only 10 calories. I wanted something for energy today and this did the job.
Sunday with Alanna ended the week. The heat was tough. 75-85 degree for this and I felt beat up from the LR yesterday. I have mixed feeling about this. I miss being so fit that I could run 20 in one day not over one weekend. But I am excited to see how my fitness grows over the next few months.
Race Performance Predictions:
Just for fun I am tracking what STRYD and Garmin predicts for my marathon time. This is what I got this week.
Dave and I are also keeping an email chain going entitled Training Topics: There we are discussing any training related.
This week we discussed taking iron to supplement our RBC development since we gave blood.
We discussed Walking as "deliberate practice" for Good Running Form and identified keep elements to efficient form that we want to reinforce when running and walking as much as possible.
We discussed eating more protein during training and what types of protein we prefer.
Add some dogs walks, a short run with Yazzy, lunch time walks and my mileage was 55,1 Miles moving with 48.0 Running.
I did two strength sessions and one flex session as of now for the week. That might change.
I am tracking my body composition during this journey. At the start of the week, I was 126.2 lbs (23.1% body fat, 30.1% muscle, and 57% Water) at the start of the week and 122.8 (22.3% body fat, 30.5% muscle, and 57.6% water) by the end.
That's all for the week. I look forward to documenting how next week goes for my reflection come October.
Almost one year ago, while recovering from my first of 4 surgeries I wrote post hoping that I would be able run just one more marathon. I wasn’t sure if I could ever run again and if I ever had the chance I wanted to aim high and not squander the opportunity to shine.
Charleston was emotional. After Sid and I lost Enzo to cancer, a few days later I got an email from the Charleston Marathon announcing the race date of 1/11. We found Enzo on 1/1/11 and this date close enough to feel like a sign. I sitting was outside working at the time. As I read the email, a red cardinal landed nearby. Some believe this is also a sign that you are being visited by a loved one who has passed.
At that point, I didn’t hesitate. I registered myself and personalized my bib. Then I sent Sid, who was inside, a text to let him know what I did.
And once he saw the date, he texted me back that he just register himself too. This would be his first marathon. He, too, personalized his bib for Enzo. We didn’t even discuss that part. We just both did it.
Let's pause for a moment to remember the little soul who made Sidney and I better people.
After my last surgery on October 4, I had 13 weeks to prepare. I had spent the 12-week interval between my prior surgery and this last one using a Run/Walk training plan to build my base. Once recovered from my last, and fortunately minor, surgery, I picked up my training intensity and got to work. I was quickly on fire and making huge gains in short periods of time.
But starting the Thursday before Christmas, on 12/19, I got very sick, I suppose it was bronchitis? I really don’t know. I had three days with a fever and then an obnoxious cough that lasted for 3 weeks. Once the fever broke, I resumed my training despite having that serious cough. The only time the cough stopped was when I was running, so it was hard to not just go run.
If I had more than three weeks before my "A Race", I would have rested but this was peak week and I was about to taper so I powered through. I am happy with my decision to continue to train the best I could. I cut out the very fast highest intensity work. I cut out the hill repeats. I cut out lifting. I did manage the best 24 mile solo training run of my life on Christmas morning and then I started to pull back from a 115 mile peak week of training. I hoped to be well by race day.
My chest congestion lasted until about 4 days prior to Charleston (about 3 weeks total). I was coughing so often for so long that I strained a muscle in my abdomen and caused inflammation in the cartilage in my rib cage that has been waking me up at night for weeks now.
I actually did not get the abdominal strain and costocondritis (rib cage inflammation) confirmed) until 1/28 (this week when I saw three doctors to help me rule why I have been in pain for this long. I am still in pain from both of these problems and I haven' run very much at all since this race. I was concerned that I gave myself a hernia from the coughing. I was terrified of the rib pain. I am grateful both are not serious.
I raced a 5k on 1/1 despite this pain because it wasn’t excruciating at the time and I really wanted to see a 5k time before I set my final race day goal for Charleston. I had already dropped my weekly mileage from 115M to 60M that week. But I was not feeling any better. After that race, my mind starting drifting to worries about a possible ovarian issue. Or worse, my biggest fear which kept me up at night and led to stress eating too much chocolate, my fear that my abdominal pain was related to my colorectal illness and it was recurring. I am exhausted by this illness. It has been a tremendous struggle to stay mentally at peace through this ordeal.
With a significant and sudden major reduction in my training volume and the appetite of a runner training at 100M+ per week, I ended up 5 lbs heavier than I wanted to be by Charleston and this made me feel a little less confident. I worked so hard only to show up heavier than I was at the start of my last marathon and also now with abdominal and rib pain and whatever else was not 100% fro 3 weeks of bronchitis. This was not how today was supposed to start.
Everything I have done as an athlete since my last two surgeries was in preparation for this race. Even the walking I was doing in July when I couldn’t run non-stop for very long was to help me build my base for this race. Racing for Enzo and with Sidney kept me motivated when I feared I would never be able to run again.
I made a spreadsheet with my weekly goals and the check-in race times I needed if I wanted to run my best in Charleston. I got off to a good start but I fell off my schedule at the NCR Marathon, despite finishing second.. And when I won the Sly Fox Half in 1:28, I happy with my time but I knew it wasn’t nearly as fast I wanted to be by mid-December. And then I got bronchitis 4 days later. Excellent!
Sid had a hard a time too. He made it up to 18M in training without much trouble. Then he ran the Ashenfelter 8K and pulled a hamstring. He wasn’t able to get any more quality training done since that happened on Thanksgiving Day.
Although both of us felt like a mess, nothing was going to stop us from racing for Enzo and giving him our best effort.
As I walked to the start from the school, I pointed to the giant paw prints painted on the ground (the school’s mascot was a bull dog) and I said to Sid, “OMG, Enzo is here with us and by the size of those prints he is a Giant! He is everywhere!” It took all my strength to hold back tears.
I weaved my way up front, feeling just not well. My lower left abdomen was sore and painful whenever I lifted my left leg.
I started at the front of the race anyway. Matt lined up next to me and asked me if I was trying to go low-3 again (like at NCR where I ran a 3:08 on 11/30). I said I was planning to go out hard to find a pace I could possibly hold on to. I would either achieve my goal or blow up trying. Today was the day to take some risks.
It was 64 degrees at the start at 7:10 am. The humidity was already over 90%. By the finish we would be close to 80 degrees with 90% humidity. Runners around me suffered and I was 14th OA.
I got a fast start off the line. I don’t hold this. I do this for a few seconds, so that I can count ladies as I settle into my pace. My first mile was 6:44 and I was comfortable. I also knew this was going to be the coolest temperature of the day
My plan was to sit just at 3:00 pace (6:53 pace) through Mile 16 and if I felt like I had the ability to pick it up from there I would do so. If I needed to hold that pace, that would be find too. As long as I sat at 6:53, I could dip under sub-3 with a kick to the finish.
I was pleased with my work. I felt like I was holding a sustainable pace through M13. At this point I considered picking up the pace but I just didn’t feel like I could hold a faster pace for the last 10 miles. However, I really didn’t feel bad. I just knew the weather, especially the wind was challenging.
I just need to say how much I dislike wind.
This course was primarily north with a wind coming at us from the north, however the first 5.5 miles of this race went south. It was easy to hold a faster than average pace with the wind helping a little. But at 5.5 we turned north and that is when the work really began. There were several sections that had no shielding and long stretches in the wind made my pace drop 30 seconds per mile until I got out of it. It was a constant battle adjusting pace to deal with wind-resistance.
I decided to wait until M20 to make a push for sub-3 but by Mile 16 I started to feel the heat catching up with me. I was feeling overheated. I started to get goose-bumps and chills and I know this is not a good sign. But I was running well and I wasn’t falling apart. I was just not able to shift gears.
From the out and back sections, I could see the first place female was significantly far ahead of me and I was just as far ahead of the 3rd place woman. I couldn’t win and if I just help my pace I would finish second. I decided to set my sights on passing as many men as I could in the last 10 miles which was hard because I was most often running completely alone during that time.
Some of the men (there were no women) around me were struggling. I passed one who was sitting on the ground massaging out a hamstring. I passed another who was throwing up on the side of the course. It was clear the warm weather was a factor. I passed everyone I could pass, even with my own pace fading into the 7’s. I felt that I was running very well for the conditions and for not be heat acclimated.
And then at M22, I buckled. It was bad. I almost went down. It was sudden and it was shocking. I was unstable and getting so fatigued I could not lift my left leg without straining. I didn't know if it was the abdomen pain that buckled me or the heat. The day after the Charleston, I could not walk with about searing abdominal pain so I know I made the strain much worse. But this was the day to leave it all out there.
I didn’t notice the pain during the race. I did notice I could not lift my leg properly. I felt like I was having mechanical problems rather than limitation from pain. Sometimes I am really good at not allowing pain to register. I think today was one of those days.
At 4 miles to go, I just took the race one mile at time, trying to stay upright and finish as strong as I could. Despite not negative splitting this one and not achieving my A-Goal of sub-3, I am so very proud of my work. I knew I wasn’t feeling 100%. I knew the climate was going to stress my system. But every time I felt tired I looked at my bib and knew why I was there. Enzo is my CoPilot and He will not allow me to give up!
After I finished, I waited for Sid. When he came through, finishing his first marathon in 4:45 despite having screws in his knee that prevent him from running painfree and with a strained hamstring that was not healed, I was overwhelmed with joy for him.
We were both flooded with emotion at soon as we saw each other. He said “At mile 9, “I could feel my knee was having trouble and I could feel my hamstring grab if I tried to push myself, but I wasn’t running this for me. I was running for Enzo and I was going to finish it”.
He explained that when it got hard he slowed down, but he must not have looked that good because a cop actually gave him a donut!
For the first 10 miles, he was confused about why so many people were cheering “Go Sidney! Go Sidney!” We don’t know anyone except Veronica and David in Charleston and they weren’t on the course yet. After a while, he figured it out. A female runner nearby was wearing a sign on her chest with her name, "Sydney", printed on it and people were cheering for her… LOL. But then at M22 when Veronica and David were actually cheering for Sidney. He didn’t look up right away because he just thought “Syndey” was back.
And I laughed at first at his stories and then my eyes welled up because I know how much pain Sid had to fight through to finish. And only Sidney truly understands that there is no amount of pain a marathon can cause that could ever equal the pain we carry daily now that Enzo is no longer in our home.
Today we ran in honor of him, for his memory, to express our gratitude to have been given the chance to know and love him. Enzo will forever be alive in our hearts and through the sharing of our memories of him, but the void he left can never be filled and this is as it should be. Thank you, my boy. You gave me #OneMoreMarathon, #ForEnzo, #TheLittleMonster, #TheMonkey, #TheKing
I always offer my athletes the opportunity to complete "Race Performance Journals" after each race as a way to learn from their experience. I encourage them to review their prior journals before their next race to remind them of their impressions and help them to prepare for the upcoming event.
I complete my own journals (and sometimes I share them with my athletes), but I also write and post my race reports which function the same way for me.
Often I ask my athletes if they would like to share their own race reports on my blog too. I This Creating Momentum Athlete Spotlight is just one way I celebrate the success and learning experience of those who work so hard with me chasing their dreams.
Below you will find an amazing race report written by Rene. She had suffered a major life-threatening illness at the end of 2018. It was sudden, shocking, and scary. I was scared for her! But she was able to get back up, recover well, come back strong, and is now setting new lifetime personal bests! I could NOT be more proud of her.
Here is her Steamtown 2019 Race Report sharing her PR experience! Enjoy!
I couldn't have asked for a more perfect race morning. I woke stiff as I've been quite stiff lately. Tight calves and achilles as well as rocks that have built around my trocanters along with annoying glute knots have been rather annoying to say the least. But despite all of that, I'm not in PAIN. Thank God for the massage I got on Friday. I'd be much worse if I hadn't gone for one.
The weather is perfectly perfect. Holy cow is the moon bright! Chris and I hop in the car and head for the bus location. We find a perfect parking space, hop out of the car and walk to the buses just ahead of us. Chris hugs me, reassures me that I'm going to do great and kisses me goodbye. I hop on the bus. Yes! The front seat just behind the driver is open! I get carsick so this is a big deal. I leave space for another passenger to sit with me. A man from Ireland sits down. His name is Manny. We chat a bit and I learn that he is running for his son who has Chrone's disease. I share my story as well. We speak of our partners, children and races we've ran. I hydrate at the 6 o'clock hour and then eat part of my breakfast just after.
We arrive at the high school where we are greeted by a ton of amazing, and very energetic, highschool students. They cheer for us as we walk up the sidewalk and into the school. Manny and I wish each other a great race and part ways for our own preperation. I finish the second part of my breakfast. Fueling done. To the porto lav I go! Ah that's better. Man I had to pee. Good. I'm hydrated. I loosen up with a jog and dynamic stretching. Porto lav again. Again, I'm hydrated. Good. I chat with a fella that Chris and I had seen during dinner last night. I think his name is Ben. I'm terrible with names. This will be his 139th marathon. Holy crap! He's a seasoned chap, older than I. Perhaps in his later 60's. He's super friendly and I love his New York accent. It is now 7:40 and the race begins at 8 so I bid my new friend good luck and farewell and head to the start line. Hmmm...more porto lavs. The line is short. In I go for the last time!
Now to the start line area. I'm sad here at the start line. I ran this race in 2016 and spoke to my grandfather right before the race. I asked him to read Isaiah 40:31. He did and he prayed for me. I wasn't able to speak to him this time. He gets tired quickly and isn't always able to keep his breath. I didn't want to make him sad because of my need. God is amazing! A pastor prayed over us runners before the race and he recited Isaiah 40:31! Tears well up in my eyes. Pull it together Ré. You can cry after the race. Ahhhhhh I'm warm but I need to de-layer. My dad gave me an old long sleeve shirt that I could toss before the race. He must've worn this to work. It smells like a machine shop mixed with Snuggle lol. I take it off, give it a kiss, pay thanks to my dad and toss it aside. I head to the front, second row, behind some crazy serious looking runners. BOOM! The cannon sounds and we take off running!
Don't get caught up in the hype of the downhills Ré. Hmmm hill hype. That's funny. Focus. Stay between 7:30 and 7:50 for the first half, then hold for the second half. Folks are passing me but that's ok. I'm focused. I've got it. Mile 1 in 7:23. A little fast so let's slow it down a bit. Mile 2, 3 and 4 within range, low 7:30's. Oh hi! We've been next to each other for a bit. I introduce myself to my new race buddy. Her name is Molly. She's in my age group and making a comeback just like me! She hasn't run a marathon since 2013. She's been busy having children and being an awesome wife and momma. She's doing great! I tell her my comeback story. We chat comfortably for a bit and I realize I'm flying. Crap! Mile 5 at 7:14. SLOW DOWN! I tell my new friend that I need to slow my pace and I'll see her later or after the race. I run miles 6-22 within range, low 7:30's except for 3 miles that were just below 7:30 and 3 miles that were in the 7:40's. Good job Ré! You've got this! You'll definitely get the 3:22. Maybe even a PR today!
Mile 23. Crap...the last leg of this race sucks! I forgot how much it sucks! The uphill miles begin here. Mile 23 in 7:56. Stupid hill. Mile 24 in 8:21. What in the name of all things evil is this?! This is the worst uphill ever! My legs are going to fall off and my soul is going to fly out of the spaces where my legs used to be. Hold it together Ré! You can do anything for 17 more minutes. Mile 25 in 8:01. Ha! Take that you stupid hill! Oh come on! Mile 26. You suck too! 8:19 for mile 26. Once I get to the top of the hill, which is almost at the end of mile 26, I push with all I have. I push with everything I have left in the tank. I see the clock. My PR is 3:20:50. I can beat it! Run! Just run!
I cross the finish line, smile and all! 3:20:43 gun time, 3:20:42 chip time! A new PR! I can't believe it!
Well, I almost didn't go. Most of my morning was spent in contemplation of just staying home. But since I knew I was going to run something anyway, I decided I might as well just show up, try my best, and use this race as a workout at the worst.
I have had a lingering cold for two weeks. I am guessing mild bronchitis? Who knows. I don't feel horrible. I had a fever two weeks ago. But the last week and an half I have had a cough, chest and head congestion, a constant stuffed up nose, and stupid split lip that will not heal (likely from breathing dry air all day through my mouth since my nose is non-functional).
The only time I actually have felt ok over the past two weeks is when I run. But I stopped doing speed work. I cut back the intensity but I did crank up the volume because it felt good. The activity clears my chest and I can breath. Then I stop running and my head fills with congestion again. This is getting so old.
I was looking forward to this 5k race because it is the first 500 points race of the year for the 2020 USATF-NJ Long Distance Running Grand Prix. I wanted to start off well.
My last 5k was frustrating because I thought I could run faster than I did. I felt I had no final gear. I didn’t like that feeling.
I was hoping to run this 5k faster that the last one (19:38) but mostly I wanted to have a kick at the end. If I felt great I wanted to run 6:05 pace or better here today. I would have loved to see at least one 5:59 mile. To be fair, this race has a decline to the finish so there is really no excuse for me to not have a faster last mile than the one before it which has in incline. However, having what is probably some type of bronchitis for two week is not really setting me up to succeed. So I lowered my standards.
I got 2.5 miles of warm up before the start and actually gave myself enough time to use the restrooms and focus on my race without panic. I timed my pre-race routine. I need at least 30 minutes of pre-race time to get my act together. From here forward, that pre-race time needs to be protected time for me, free from chit chat or other people's problems. It is the minumum amount of time I need to focus and that doesn't even count warm-up miles. I can run warm up miles with people and chit chat then. But at 30 minutes to gun time, don't talk to me anymore. It's not you, it's me ;)
I lined up towards the front, two rows back, and wondered if I would be able to hold low-6 minute pace with a chest cold? I would try. I would let myself fall off pace if I felt I needed to based upon my body’s response to the effort. I was comfortable with that plan.
The gun went off and I started off a bit fast. I look at my watch and I see 5:40 for the first tenth of a mile or so. Ok. I can run.
We turn toward the incline and it feels like a mountain to me. Ugh. At least it is short. I didn't want to slow too much until I knew where I was in the race. I got jammed up at the start behind some guys who were not aware I wanted to get through. I had no idea what place I was in for women. I saw some ladies doing strides before the race so I suspected some were there to race fast.
The first lap of the park is clear and the lead runners get to take the inside of the loop. But when we start lap two, one problem with the bigger turnout is now the leaders have to run in the outside lane of the circular road because runners are lapping the walkers. This adds unavoidable distance to the runners race, but not really too much. It just feels "wrong" to have to run so far outside the tangent.
Just before Mile 1 I am passed by a female runner and wondered how many more were ahead of me. One specator then said I was 3rd... the rest said I was 2nd.
I have no idea what happened to me in Mile 2 that cause me to lose 13 seconds. It didn’t feel like I faded that much but I did. I know I slowed up when I merged with the crowd I was lapping but I just moved over and expected to run long. That is fine. The Clock Time didn't matter to me today. I dont need it for any reason. I could see my watch's data for pace even on a long course.
I was getting hot. I had worn an extra layer to the start. I was going to throw it to the side before we started and I should have. But the wind was kicking up and we were standing around long enough for me to feel cooler than I wanted to feel at the start. I thought I need it the whole way. But by mile 1, I realized I did not need it and it would slow me down. I fumbled to try to pull it off.
I was struggling with my breathing at the same time as we were running back up the initial incline part of the loop. I can’t bear to call it a hill. It is not steep, but it was definitely impacting my breathing so I slowed down.
At 1.25M, I was losing contact with the woman who passed me. I knew that I could not hold the pace I started off with and still have a kick so I let her go. It was too soon to chase her down. I need to wait until 2/3 of the race before I felt ready to dig. I told myself that 2nd place is good, if I was in second, as the spectators advised.
At the half way point around the park on loop 2 we hit the streets. It felt good to be out of the crowd. The road has some turns and I can see the lead female runner out some distance in front of me… and then I see her look back for me.
I used to tell myself that looking back really isn’t a big deal. Everyone looks.
Well, I will tell you that I know now that it IS a big deal. I saw her look and then I glanced at my watch and it said 1.72M. Then out loud but softly to myself I said, “I saw you look for me! I saw you look!” I just knew at that moment she was worried about something and wanted to know how far back I was. I felt, whether true or not, that if I could work hard enough to reel her in I was going to have a really good chance at passing her.
Spectators love the underdog. “She is right there… 30 yards… 20 yards… you can catch her!” Their energy was fueling me to push harder.
And then suddenly, all the noise faded.
I was autopilot.
Voices became muffled.
I wasn’t racing HER anymore.
All I could feel was my heart pounding in my ears while I was caught in the middle of a battle between My Ego-Oriented Self and My Self-Doubt. The winner of that fight would determine my placement. This no longer had anything to do with my competition. This was about ME fighting ME.
“The race is almost over. It is big race. If you take 2nd place, you get an almost perfect score. That is great! You are doing so much better than you thought you could do today. You aren’t going to nail your target pace anyway. That pace was the real goal. Who cares if you win a local 5k? You still aren’t running as fast as you wanted to run. Be happy with second. Let her have the win. Why suffer? For what? One or two additional points? A win doesn’t make up for not nailing your goal. You know that. Besides, you may try to pass her and find out that you can’t hold her off anyway. That will just add insult to injury. Good plan. Go out and lose twice in once race. She is probably running jsut as fast as she needs to run to win and she will just pull away from you if you challenge her. Why make things harder than they need to be,” says The Voice of Self-Doubt and Lame Excuses.
“Knock it off! What are you even talking about? She is RIGHT THERE. You could practical reach out and touch her. You just ran an entire mile as hard as you could to chase her down and NOW that you reeled her all the way in you want to back off? Who ARE you? Do you even know why we are here? Sure, you hoped to run a goal pace that you aren’t going to run today. BUT you probably have bronchitis! You are not 100%. And you are still running faster than the last 5k you raced. We are here to compete and that means fighting for the win. You don’t just let people have it. That is crap and you know it. How can you get this close and give up? Who does this? Not you. Don’t you hear the crowd. They believe in you. Believe in yourself, Dammit. The downhill part is coming for Christ’s Sake. Even the course is on your side. When will you listen and understand that you are better than you think you are. You spent a year WISHING you could race again and now you have a chance to win and you wont go after it? Why? Because you might lose? You would rather CHOOSE to lose than TRY to win??? This is illogical. Stop Thinking! You are NOT good at that right now. Just RUN HARD. WHAT HAVE YOU GOT TO LOSE!,”... The Ego fired back
Well, you can’t argue with that…
So at 2.82M miles in I was right there next to her and I had to decide what to do. My decision was a 5:24-paced burst that sent me fast down that same incline that knocked the wind out of me earlier in Mile 2.
… and moments later I was suddenly running alone.
Where is the finish?
I could see a turn into a parking lot. Some tables were set up. Was that the finish? Who knows. My brain was ordered to stop thinking. My legs are burning. My lungs are on fire. I need this to end right now because I am falling apart. My form feels like a distaster. Where is the clock? Where is the mat? Where are the people?
OMG!!! That is NOT the finish. We aren’t done yet.
I hear breathing. Someone is coming for me. It is getting louder.
Self-Doubt to Ego: “See. I told you. I knew you couldn’t do it. That is her coming back to blow past you just before the line. You made your move TOO SOON, Dummy. Well, you tried your best. It was a good effort. This is still a really good run. You can still be proud no matter what happens.”
Ego: “Ignore the Doubt. This is not over. Whatever you do, DO. NOT. LOOK BACK. Trust your self. You negative split everything. It is what you do now. It is your superpower! Just believe in yourself and focus. Run. Fix your form. Your wheels are falling off. You are getting all twisty. Who taught you to run like that! That is not how to run fast. Straighten up and concentrate. Get ready to fight. It is not over until you cross that line. Never Give Up. The harder you push, the sooner it ends. You haven’t lost until you lost and you are winning right now!”
Just before the final turn, the breathing is in my ear and I am passed… by a guy. I try to go with him but he is too fast for me.
And then I finish. First. I did it! I held her off!
I look for my inhaler. I can’t breath once I stop running. This was so awesome. I dreamt about racing like this for the last year of my life. I thought it was over. I was so broken I thought I would never feel this way again. I am so happy.
Five seconds later, I am shaking my competitors hand and thanking her for a great race.
Then 2.5M of cool down and my work is done for the day.
Time: 19:29 (6:16 official pace.)
OA 17th place/975
USATF-NJ Grad Prix Cat I - 500 pt.
For years, I have been sharing race reports on a blog I created on blogspot.
Shannon McGinn, MS, MA, JD, EDS, CWHC.