Friday, June 24, 2016

Sleep Success Story

My favorite part about having published a book is hearing from people who were helped by it. Within just two weeks of launching Boston Bound, a runner named Alison reached out to me on the book's Facebook page and said that she loved the book so much that she lent it out and planned to read it for a second time before her upcoming marathon. Naturally, I was curious to learn more about her. After hearing about her journey, I couldn't resist sharing it on my blog.

Alison, a doctor, began running just over 4 years ago when her neighbor was training for a sprint triathlon. The neighbor wanted someone to keep her accountable so the two of them started to run in the evenings, after she put her children to sleep. Ultimately, the triathlete moved and joined her local running club-- the Hendersonville Running Club. This club has seen her through the majority of her training.

"Within my running group, I have developed a close knit group of girls and we meet every weekend to do our long runs together," she said.

Since she started running, she has completed 9 half marathons, multiple 5K’s, and 5.4 marathons (due to the last one being shut down just before halfway point). Her half marathon PR is 1:56:43, and her full marathon PR is 4:15.

"I would like to continue to build as an athlete. I see myself as more than a runner: I am a mom, a runner, and a doctor, and so much more. I would like to build speed, endurance, strength and continue to succeed in running. Of course, I want to PR my races, but being healthy is a huge part of my training. At some point in the distant future, maybe a BQ would be in my reach… maybe. I’m not setting my sights on it yet. My biggest goal other than the above, is to run a marathon in under 4 hours."

Sleep & Anxiety Woes
Alison: a doctor, runner, and mother
After getting to know her background, Alison told me about some of her struggles with running. They primarily revolved around anxiety and sleep.

"My pre-race anxiety has always been terrible! That goes along with my test anxiety that I have always had. The week before a race, I am normally having nausea, diarrhea, and butterflies in my stomach-- these will come in waves. I have always had an underlying anxiety, but anything that feels like a 'test' will make me nervous. To me, the race would 'test' how fit I have become.  I obsessed about things like the weather, my last two weeks of training runs- I always seemed to fall into a runners depression during my taper weeks-- losing confidence in myself, feeling down, and then the increased anxiety."

She has struggled with getting more than four hours of sleep the night before a race. She would lay awake in bed, feeling exhausted, but with her mind playing out every possible scenario for race day. She would obsess about numbers, paces, the weather, and all sorts of "what-if" scenarios.

"The night before my 2nd Marathon- Rocket City Marathon- I was with two of my friends and I was tossing and turning until 2:00 a.m. They finally heard me and asked what was wrong, so I told them. Thankfully, one of the girls had a Benadryl, and I took half of it. Within half an hour, I was asleep and got a whole 3.5 hours of sleep! I managed to PR that race by 25 minutes, but I think I could have done better had I actually rested my body."

So, from that point forward, before every race, Alison would take half a Benadryl the night before, but it would always leave her feeling dry-mouthed during the race. "I know that this isn’t the answer," she told me, "but it allowed me to get close to six hours of sleep at least before a race."

Overall Mindset and Focus
Alison told me that her mind always raced as she approached race week. "I obsessed about numbers, paces, weather, water stops, and nutrition. I continually focused on the things that I couldn’t control and they controlled me for at least 1-2 weeks before the race. Taper time was always the hardest for me- the lack of confidence that I felt left me feeling down and doubtful of my impending performance. Hyper-focusing on times/paces were huge for me. I was constantly playing out different scenarios in my head of how I could catch up on time if I was short, how to get through water stops without adding too much time, monitoring my pace during the race. I would check the weather where the race location was, several times a day for the week leading up to the race- worrying if it was too hot/cold/windy/rainy, etc. Obsession. There is no better word."

Alison recently wrote a blog post about her latest marathon, which unfortunately was shut down near the halfway mark due to severe weather. She mentioned that Boston Bound helped her immensely with this race, so I was curious to hear how.

"Boston Bound made a huge difference in how I felt in the weeks leading up to my latest marathon, the morning of the race, and the race itself. Hearing that you also suffered from pre-race anxiety, really helped me realize that this wasn’t just me. Also, I realized that I was focusing on all the wrong things! I was obsessing about things that I couldn’t control- such as the weather. A friend of mine had suggested I read this book (he didn’t even realize how much pre-race anxiety I had), and I was attached to the book the moment I read it. I have underlined and starred multiple sections of the book, so that I can refer back to those pages.

"I realized that positivity and confidence were an integral part of my training and tapering. I didn’t check the weather at all except for two days before the race, when I was packing for our trip. My husband was busy checking the weather several times the week before the race. Whether he told me it was a high likelihood of rain, low chance of rain, hot, cold, or thunderstorm, I kept telling myself that I needed to focus on the things that I could control: I could control myself- my mind, my positivity, my confidence."

Sleeping Easy
Alison went on to tell me that she finished Boston Bound for the first time, one week before her marathon, and then I read it halfway through again the week before the race.

"Just by changing my mindset, I didn’t’ suffer runner’s depression during my taper time and I wasn’t anxious the week before the race. If I started thinking about anything that would make me nervous, I remembered positive thoughts: I have trained hard and I am going to run this race to the best of my ability. The night before the race was the best night’s sleep before a race I ever got!! I got a whole seven hours of sleep- and without Benadryl!!

"In the morning, I ate my breakfast without significant nausea and had no butterflies in my stomach like I normally do. I was laughing and cuttin’ up with my sister and husband even as the race started. I have never felt so confident in myself as I approached a race as I did for the Race Around the Lake Marathon. The confidence wasn’t that I would attain my PR, it was that I knew I would race the best race I mentally and physically could. My favorite quote from the book, which is my new mantra is: '…focusing on the things that I can (control) is the key to a healthy mindset and ultimately, success... I now expect myself to run the best of my ability regardless of the circumstances. And the ‘best of my ability’ doesn’t always equate to a PR.' "

Alison's next marathon is the Hartford Marathon in October. Coincidentally, this was my first BQ target race! Her coach has decided that for the next month she will refocus her training on speed, and she can build up endurance again after that. Her main goal at Hartford is running a sub- 4 hour marathon. She's going to swim to help with endurance and work on cross training with core strength as her focus.

"Another thing that I would like to continue to focus on is mental toughness. I think that that is harder to work on, but the summer heat and humidity will give me plenty of opportunity! Onto Marathon #7!"

Best of luck, Alison, and thanks for chatting with me!

You can learn more about Alison on her blog.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Training is heating up!

It's been awhile since I've posted a training update. I blogged regularly about my Boston Marathon training, and it helped me see the bigger picture of my hard work.

After the marathon, I took a few weeks of recovery. I did not run at all during the week following the marathon, and I took it extremely easy the following week, logging just a few very easy treadmill miles while on vacation. I eased my way back into things the third week after Boston, culminating in the Mother's Day 4-Miler. And then, "operation get Elizabeth speedy" kicked into full gear.

The plan is to keep the mileage relatively low (like in the 40's instead of the 60's) and to run two interval sessions a week. No tempo runs, no marathon pace runs-- just really fast stuff.  This means spending a lot of time at a sub-7:00 pace. Ultimately I hope to run the Army 10-miler at a sub-7:00 pace, so that work starts now. And of course, building this fast base will only help me when it comes to training for my fall marathon in November. On top of it, all of this work is happening in the heat and humidity of northern Virginia, which is great for both physical and mental strength.

Here's a snapshot of my training from the past five weeks:

I don't anticipate that my long runs will get above 12 miles for at least another six weeks. Running for an hour and 45 minutes is plenty to keep my endurance up without tiring my legs for the speed work. Let's dive into a few workouts.

I ran this workout about 10 days prior to the Twilight 4-miler. It was three sets of 1600m, 1-minute recovery jog, 400m. In between each set was a 3-minute recovery jog, which equated to just over a lap around the track.

I always start my track workouts conservatively and I find that it's hard to go fast for the first rep of anything. But this was different. I run my track workouts by feel (I don't use the Garmin pace) so imagine my shock when the first 1600m clocked in at 6:38. Oops! The good news is that it felt like a 6:50. The bad news is that the humidity would catch up to me, making the rest of the 1600's slower. My times were:

1600m: 6:38
400m: 1:30
1600m: 6:48
400m: 1:30
1600m: 6:43
400m: 1:29

The fact that I ran a 1:29 (5:56 pace) for the last 400m means that I still had plenty of energy at the end, despite the speedy start.

Onto another workout. On Thursday of this week, I ran a workout that was really challenging to commit to memory! I had to look at it several times and remind myself that the ladder climbed up (not down) for the interval parts.

The photo above just shows one rep. I've recently started using Instagram to share my workouts and I'm never sure how to quickly represent a complex interval workout! This one combined 10K effort with mile-race effort. It was 4 x (1000m at 10K effort, 200m jog) followed by a bunch of really short/fast intervals. I think I may have done this workout once before, but I'm not sure! It was 72 degrees and 99% humidity, threatening thunderstorms. Definitely tough. Here's how it went:

1000m: 4:23 (7:03 pace) -- too slow. I was being overly cautious about going out too fast!
1000m: 4:12 (6:45 pace) -- too fast. I was overcompensating for being too slow on the first one.
1000m: 4:17 (6:53 pace) -- just right!
1000m: 4:15 (6:50 pace) -- just right!

Then I had the three-minute recovery jog. Then I did this:

200m: 0:42 (5:38 pace) followed by a 200m recovery jog
300m: 1:06 (5:54 pace) followed by a 300m recovery jog
400m: 1:28 (5:52 pace) followed by a 400m recovery jog
600m: 2:23 (6:23 pace)

I wish I had given a bit more effort on the 300m and not completely wasted myself on the 400m. It was a challenge to run the 300m hard because I finished around the curve of the track instead of the straightaway, and usually the straight finish is where I pick up most of my speed. That 400m in 1:28 was a PR for me (or at least tied with my PR) so by the time the 600m rolled around, I didn't have much left. I would have loved for that 600m to be about 3-4 seconds faster. But, it was so hot and humid! Overall, I was really pleased with my effort level, and I think that this workout will help me immensely in my upcoming 5K.

When I'm not at the track, I'm taking my easy runs really easy. Those are typically 50-60 minutes in duration, but can be as short as 30 minutes. My pace is typically 8:50-9:10 depending on how my legs feel and how hot/humid it is. This week I have a workout that's so challenging that my coach told me to stand still during the recovery period to catch my breath. I've never done that before (I always jog) so I'm excited to see how it goes!

My next race is the Firecracker 5K on July 4th, which I did last year and the year before. It will be great to see the year-over-year progress.

Special thanks to Greg for taking all of these photos of me! I love being able to share these workouts on Instagram.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Generation UCAN Review

I'll preface this post by saying that I hardly ever review products on my blog. Companies do not send me free products to review and I only write about products that I'm passionate about, like the Mizuno Elixir replacement. My blog is mainly focused on the journey to achieving my running goals, so I only review products that I believe will help me get there. I'm pleased to present this Generation UCAN review!
Generation UCAN prize pack

Last July, the McMillan Running company named me their athlete of the month. Along with this honor came a prize pack full of Generation UCAN products. I had known for awhile that Coach Greg McMillan believed strongly in UCAN for fueling, so I was looking forward to trying it out. However, I was in the midst of half marathon training, and my long runs weren't long enough to require fuel. That said, I continued to use gels during my races.

During the Columbus Half Marathon last fall, I took two Honey Stinger gels, as was custom for me. At the finish line, I ended up vomiting. It was not pretty! I had been a victim of stomach distress during races in the past, but I had never vomited.

Why I tried UCAN: Stomach Distress
Aside from the fact that I had a prize package of UCAN and Greg McMillan endorsed it, I had also heard that the product was easier to digest than gels. I had been faithful to Honey Stinger for years because it was the only gel my stomach could tolerate-- but it couldn't always tolerate it. The Columbus Half Marathon is a good example of that, as is the Columbus full marathon from 2014, when I simply wasn't able to get the gel down at mile 16. As a result, I ran the last ten miles of that race with no fuel. The same thing had happened to me at the B & A Trail marathon back in 2013.

During training runs, stomach distress had also been an issue. There was about a 1-in-3 chance that I would end up in a bathroom during a long run because of an upset stomach. Not fun!

So, once I started training for the Boston Marathon, I thought I would give Generation UCAN a shot. Another benefit of the product is that you don't need to fuel as often with it. One serving of UCAN lasts for up to two hours! For long runs of 16 miles or less, I would simply have one serving of UCAN SuperStarch about 30 minutes before the run, and I would have enough energy to get through the run. I also used it before some of my weekday morning workouts if they were long, and I found that I was energized and able to execute the workouts according to plan. And, as advertised, I never once had stomach distress with the product.

Why I stayed with UCAN: Convenience
One of the hardest parts about running a long race is having to fuel. When it's below 40 degrees, my hands go completely numb so taking a gel becomes extremely challenging. Another part of the challenge is that you have to take gels, like Honey Stinger, with water. So not only do you have to open the gel and get it into your mouth, you also have to have enough water at the exact time. Who needs that when you are running at 100% effort?!

In March of this year, I ran the Shamrock Half Marathon. For breakfast, I had my standard bagel with peanut butter two hours beforehand. 30 minutes before the start, I had a packet of UCAN SuperStarch mixed with water. I consumed zero calories during the race, and not needing to take a gel freed my hands from carrying a water bottle. I ended up setting a PR by over a minute and a half, running a 1:33:36! I loved not having to worry about fueling mid-race or carrying a bottle.

As my long runs for Boston increased to over 16 miles, I started to take UCAN on the go. I would still take a serving 30 minutes beforehand, and then about 80-85 minutes into the run, I would take a UCAN gel. This video shows I made the gel:

Given that the UCAN was far more convenient then gels, and that it didn't cause me stomach distress it was a no-brainer to make the switch. But there was another key benefit that I learned about after I had been training with the product for a few months: UCAN helps train your body to burn more fat.

Major Perk: Burn more fat
I used to wonder if taking so many gels on training runs was a bad thing. After all, isn't the point of a long run to teach your body to burn fat as fuel, not all the sugar you give it? I've heard of some runners doing long runs without any fuel at all, but I know that it can be rough to recover from those, making your future workouts suffer.

With traditional gels, the calories are released into your system all at once, overwhelming your body with an abundance of glucose to use. With Generation UCAN, the energy is released gradually, over time. This is why it lasts longer. With this gradual release, your body uses some glycogen as fuel, and also some fat.

When I ran the Boston Marathon, I consumed a full packet of UCAN beforehand, a full packet gel at mile 10, and then I had some honey stinger chews to get me through the last 4 miles. I could have made another UCAN gel, but I didn't want to carry two of them, and having a few chews at the end didn't require me to carry water, and didn't cause stomach distress. I slowed down significantly during that race, but I attribute that to the heat-- not my fueling strategy. This exact fueling strategy was perfect for a 24-mile training run in cooler weather two weeks before Boston.

Meb and me!
UCAN Ambassador
I received an email from Generation UCAN last March asking for ambassadors in the local area. I did not hesitate to volunteer. Since I'm already pretty active on social media and I love going to running events, I figured I might as well help promote a company I believe in. I already had the opportunity to represent UCAN at an event in Arlington last March, where I met Meb! Yes, Meb uses UCAN too. Once again, UCAN did not pay me to write this blog or even ask me to do it. It just works so well that I wanted to share my success with it.

UCAN also offers recovery drinks, snack bars, and a hydration product. The "UCAN Hydrate" is a powder you simply put in water that turns plain ol' water into electrolyte enhanced water. I use this when it's warm out, and just re-stocked for the summer.

In terms of flavors, my favorite flavor of the SuperStarch is lemonade, followed by blueberry pomegranate. I do not care for the orange or chocolate flavors.

I now drink UCAN SuperStarch 30 minutes prior to every race I run, regardless of the distance. And I've had plenty of energy during my past few races with no stomach distress.

UCAN Discount
If you want a 10% discount code for the UCAN website, contact me on Twitter and I will send you a direct message with the code.

I hope you enjoyed this Generation UCAN review!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

4 Miles in 91 Degrees

Last night I ran the =PR= Twilight Festival 4-miler. This was my 4th time running this race, previous years were 2007, 2008, and 2015. Having run the race just last year, I remembered it pretty well. One of the benefits of keeping a blog is that when I repeat a race, I can look back on my report to remember the course.
Greg and me at the start line

Last year, it was 85 degrees, and I thought that was extraordinarily hot. This year, it was 91 degrees, maybe even a bit hotter at start. I always run in the mornings, so usually it doesn't get above 72. This year, we got a late start to summer, so I only had about two weeks to acclimate. And to top it off, this past week offered morning temperatures in the 50's, so there was no acclimating this week.

I ran the Mother's Day 4-miler about a month ago in 27:51, and I knew I was in much better shape for last night's race. It's amazing how a just month of speed work and interval training can really make a difference. At the Mother's Day race, I was just coming off of the Boston Marathon and I hadn't done any speed work. But, that race was much cooler-- in the upper 50's. It also measured nearly a perfect 4 miles according to my Garmin, whereas this Twilight race measured 4.08 last year and 4.07 this year. So, when comparing apples to apples (Garmin time to Garmin time) I like to take those things into consideration.

Given all of these factors, I decided I would go out at a pace of 7:00-7:05 and try to speed up later in the race if I could. My stretch goal was a PR (beating my 27:51) but my more reasonable goal, given the heat, was to set a course PR from last year's 30:08.

I told my coach that I was worried about passing out or getting heat exhaustion if I pushed too hard. He told me that the race was short enough that I shouldn't worry too much about it, and that I should go out hard, instead of the conservative 7:15 pace I had originally planned on.

Before the Race
Greg and I arrived to the race armed with cooling tools! I wore my cooling wristbands that I had
purchased at the Boston Marathon expo. We also had a cooler full of ice that contained my UCAN drink and some wet towels. I've learned that it's really important to stay as cool as possible before a warm race, so I dumped ice into my sports bra for the warm up and poured water all over my head. My coach advised that I purchase an ice vest to wear before hot races, but it did not arrive in time. I'll try it next time!

Before we started the warmup, I encountered a zebra U-haul! I had seen these zebra U-hauls in the past and it always makes me so happy when they show up. In fact, whenever I am driving and I spot a U-haul, I try and check to see if it's got a zebra on it. With a zebra U-haul at the start line, I took it as a sign that the race would go well.

I love zebras! What a great surprise!
One of the great things about this race was that a bunch of my friends were also running it. It was fun to warmup with them a bit and then hang out afterwards.

Miles 1-2
Last year, my first two miles were 7:30, 7:45. I knew that the second mile was all uphill and that it should feel ridiculously easy at the beginning because the heat would catch up to me pretty quickly. The race began and I situated myself directly behind my friend Lisa. We had chatted that we were going to go out on the easy side of things, so I kind of let her do the pacing. My effort level during mile 1 felt a bit like marathon pace effort, which was not what my coach advised, but the heat was intimidating.

After the first mile, things got noticeably difficult. The hill came and instead of feeling like marathon pace effort, it suddenly felt like 10K effort as we climbed that hill. Lisa and I were running side-by-side at this point and it was nice to have the company. She said that her mouth had no spit in it, and the same was true for me. It was sort of like a cotton-mouth feeling (despite all the water I had drunk that day). Greg later reported that he felt the same thing and we figured it was probably the air quality. After all, we were under an air quality alert.  I clocked the first two miles in 7:00 and 7:13.

Miles 3-4
At the start of mile 3, I began to pull ahead of Lisa and I remembered how last year I really hammered it home during this second half of the race. That said, my 7:00 first mile was not as conservative as last year's 7:30 mile, so I wasn't sure what kind of energy I would have. During this whole time, Greg was about 15-20 seconds ahead of me. He had pulled ahead at the very beginning and I decided not to follow. The sun dropped a bit lower in the sky at this point, which was a huge help. At least now the course was mostly shaded. Once I decided to start really pushing, it started to feel like true 4-mile race effort.

Liz and me at the finish- was hoping for a better shot of us!
I passed a lot of people during these last two miles and not a single person passed me. It felt great to be passing people and feeling strong! The 4th mile seemed to go on forever and ever. At that point, I still felt strong but everything hurt. I seriously needed to rely on every mental toughness skill I had in my arsenal. I kept telling myself that the finish line was not far and I needed to continue to push as hard as possible. I wanted to run my fastest possible race and by this point, it was 99% mental.  These miles clocked in at 7:07, 6:49.

The finish and beyond
After my Garmin buzzed for 4 miles there was still a bit of running to do. 26 seconds at a pace of 6:06, according to my Garmin! During the last mile, I had been closing the gap on my friend Liz, and I really gunned it at the end to finish at almost the exact same time as her. She's extremely fast so the fact that I finished with her means that I must be in excellent shape!

At the end of the race, I kept saying to Greg and to myself, "F*ck the way I feel!" I was so wasted. Everything hurt. I was so hot. Wow. That was definitely a really, really tough race. I'm glad I was able to stay strong!

We dominated the 35-39 age group!
My official time was 28:36, which earned me 2nd place in my age group. Greg and I cooled off and then I got ice cream from the ice cream truck! One of my favorite things about this race is the ice cream at the end. Lisa's friend Tiffany came in 1st in our age group and she came in 3rd, so it was cool that the three of us did a 1-2-3 sweep of the 35-39 age group.

I was really pleased that I ran this race 1 minute and 32 seconds faster than I did last year-- and this year was hotter! This is great news because it means I'm in good shape and the consistent track workouts are still working their magic!

After we got our awards the three of us and our husbands headed to a local brewery for beers and pretzels. My typical bedtime is around 8:30-9:00, so this meant staying up really late. But I had fun, and it was worth it. Part of the fun of racing is the social aspect and it was fun to get to know Tiffany. This morning I cranked out 9.6 miles at a very easy pace of 9:19 and my legs felt decent. I didn't sleep well due to my body being off schedule, so I will probably crash later this afternoon!

My key takeaways from this race are:

  • It's advantageous to stay as cool as possible immediately before the race
  • Heat is deceiving. It doesn't feel hard at first, but then it hits you! What felt like marathon pace at the beginning felt like 5K pace at the end.
  • Shaving 1:32 off of a 4-mile race time in just one year is significant, and points toward a successful fall
  • I'm going to continue to crank out track workouts and be really well prepared for my next two 5Ks in July

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Boston Marathon Course Revisited

About three weeks after running the Boston Marathon, I returned to Boston for a business trip. I was honored to be speaking at a marketing conference on the topic of social media, and my hotel was enticingly close to the Boston Marathon course. So instead of opting for the hotel treadmill, I took a short Uber ride to Newton-Wellesley hospital, which on Marathon Monday is better known as mile marker 17.

My training plan called for a 60-minute run, and my original plan was to run for 30 minutes, turnaround, and end back where I started. I figured I would get to run most of the Newton hills that way. I brought my phone with me, which was a first, mainly so that I would be able to Uber back after I was done. But a nice fringe benefit was being able to take photos and video. And I actually relied pretty heavily on the Boston Marathon app, which offers a map of the course, complete with a "blue dot" that indicates where you are. I would have probably gone off course if I hadn't had that.

Boston Marathon App

I started my run at exactly mile marker 17 according to the app. That way, I could compare my splits to what they were when I ran the actual marathon. It was a gorgeous day in Newton. It was sunny, 50 degrees, and no wind at 6:30 a.m.--  much cooler than on race day. However, I think it got up to 70 degrees by 11:00am, so the day didn't actually tease me with better racing conditions! There were very few cars on the road, and thankfully the entire route had wide sidewalks that were suitable for running.

Miles 18-19
I began running and was loving the fact that I was back on the course. I definitely remembered the way the course twisted and the small-town feel of the surroundings. Mile 18 was the second of the Newton hills and mile 19 was a downhill. My times were 8:54 and 8:35. In the actual marathon, my times for these miles were 8:23 and 8:16. So, I was actually in pretty good shape still at this point in the race. One of the many things that I was pleased about with my Boston performance was that I got through the first two Newton hills without slowing down too much. According to my coach, most people really slow down on the first one, but I stayed strong.

Miles 20-21
Time for Heartbreak Hill! As I expected, this hill was not incredibly steep, it was just kind of long. Her's a video of me running up it. You'll want to turn your speakers on to hear my narration!

It was nice to be running up that hill without hurting! And, I ran it faster than I had done during the marathon, because I didn't have 20 miles of hot running on my legs. My paces for these miles were 8:48, 9:08 and during the marathon they were 9:10 and 10:06. Even though I don't plan on running Boston again for another two years, I think this run helped give me perspective. And now I know which hills I train on are most similar to Heartbreak.

My original plan had been to turn around, but I couldn't resist-- I had to keep going and see what was ahead. I figured I could just take an Uber back from wherever I finished.

Miles 22-23.7
As I started running these miles, I realized that I had zero recollection of this part of the course. I had been in so much pain, that all I could focus on was moving forward and telling myself to keep pushing. So, this seemed like an entirely new experience. Here's the video!

I also got a little bit confused when it came time to transition from Commonwealth onto Chestnut Hill onto Beacon Street. Thank goodness for the app! As I said earlier, I had no recollection of this part of the course, so it wasn't more or less hillier than I had remembered. My paces were 8:41, 8:45, and 8:25 for the last 0.7.  During the marathon they were 10:03, 10:49, and 10:30. The next time I run this route, I hope for them all to be sub-8:00!

I really didn't want to stop-- I wanted to run all the way to the finish line! But my plan only called for 60 minutes and I had the conference to get to. I was able to see the tall buildings of the city off in the distance when I stopped at 23.7, but I wasn't officially in Boston.

Final Reflections
I really love that I was able to re-visit this course so soon after the race itself. It's crazy that 364 days out of the year, the course is a relatively quiet two-lane suburban road. On Marathon Monday it's completely transformed into something almost magical. I had actually expected to see more runners out at 6:30 a.m. but I only encountered 3 or 4 of them.

During my flights to and from Boston, I took the opportunity to do one last review of Boston Bound. I had a prototype copy and it was surreal reading my own book, called Boston Bound on a plane to Boston. Now that the book is published, it's an entirely different feeling. But I'll save that for a separate blog post.

Friday, May 27, 2016

How I Ran the Boston Marathon

I wanted to write this post about a week after the Boston Marathon, but I was on vacation at a resort in Mexico. The Saturday following the race, Greg and I flew to Mexico and spent a week doing nothing but relaxing: eating, drinking, reading, sleeping, and soaking up the sun. It was just what I needed, both mentally and physically. We purposely planned this vacation for right after Boston as somewhat of a celebratory trip, and so that I wouldn't be training for a race while we were there. It was also a great opportunity for me to take a step back from the Boston experience and truly reflect on it.

Rest and relaxation

Still in a Boston state of mind!
As I was running the race, everything felt surreal. It was hard to believe that I was actually running THE Boston Marathon after all these years. And it was hot! And even though I've DNF'ed several marathons due to the heat, I actually embraced the heat and found myself determined to enjoy the race no matter what. What a difference from my former self!

This may sound a bit cheesy, but it almost feels like I was somehow changed by the Boston Marathon-- "initiated" into the world of Boston Marathon runners. Between the time that Greg said goodbye to me at the busses in Boston Common and the time I saw him again in our hotel room, I felt like a different person. Of course, I was the same person, but now I was on the other side. In my book I talk "the haves" and the "have-nots" of marathon running, and I had always seen myself as a "have-not." Of course, that was not a healthy attitude, but now that I was a "have" it kind of felt different.

Another topic I discuss in my book is separating myself as a person from myself as a runner. I, Elizabeth Clor, am not defined by my running or anything I do for that matter. I'm definitely by how I do things. How did I run the Boston Marathon?
  • Boldly. I know that I struggle more in the heat than the average runner, especially when it comes to long distances, but I only adjusted my goal pace by 20 seconds per mile. I had no idea if that would be enough, but I wanted to find out. Turns out, I probably should have adjusted my goal down by 40-45 seconds a mile, but now I know and I don't regret that decision.
  • Passionately. Never once did I take for granted that this was Boston and I had earned it. I soaked up as much of the experience as I possibly could, and kept my eyes wide open to everything that was around me.

  • Neutrally. Even though I ran the race with passion, my emotions were actually fairly neutral the whole time. I've learned to temper my emotions during races so that I don't judge any curve-balls that could get thrown at me. I simply accept what happens without judgement and do my best to adapt if need be. When I started to slow down later in the race, I wasn't upset, scared, or angry at the weather. I just thought to myself "ok" and kept running.
  • Strategically. I had a pacing strategy for this race, and I executed it until I couldn't execute it any more. Once I couldn't execute the original plan, I developed another strategy, which was simply to focus on getting to the finish without stopping or walking. Aside from pacing, my strategy also involved using cooling towels at the start line, pouring water on myself at every possible moment, running with ice in my sports bra as it became available, and taking my UCAN fuel as I had in training. 
  • With Gratitude. As I mentioned in the "passionately" bullet, I was constantly aware of the magnitude of what I was doing. In addition, I was thankful for so many things. Thankful that I had overcome so many obstacles in order to qualify. Thankful for my loving husband and all of my friends and family tracking me. Thankful that I was healthy enough to train and run marathons. Thankful for my coach and how he's helped me get to a level I never thought possible.
I've been asked by several people why I don't try and qualify for Boston 2017 by running another marathon by early September. My response is that I want to spend the summer focusing on getting faster at shorter distances so that I can really crush a marathon in the fall. I'd rather run a really solid fall marathon with a proper training cycle than jump back into marathon training so soon to try and run an early September marathon. I don't want to get injured or burned out, and I find it difficult to do long runs in the heat. 

Plus, I've already achieved my goal of running Boston, now I want to try and run a really fast marathon-- somewhere in the 3:20-3:25 range. I think I can do it if the weather is right, but not in early September temperatures. So, I have registered for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in November. It's been on my list for awhile and some of my friends are doing it, so I figured it would be a great year. Part of what I loved about training for Boston was "meeting" other local runners on Strava and virtually training with them. We encouraged and supported each other and it will be great to have that for Indy in the fall, too.

Having the vacation immediately after the race and then launching my book prevented there from being a "low" after the race, thankfully! I might not run Boston again for two more years, but there are a lot of wonderful things to enjoy and achieve in the meantime.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Soaking Semper Five K

Rain, rain, go away!
The actual name of this race is the Semper Fi 5K, but I took the creative license to change it to Semper Five K in the blog title for the fun of it. I had never run this specific race before, but I had run this course a number of times. It's an out-and-back course that's pancake flat with no other turns aside from the turnaround point.

One of the reasons I chose to run this race was because I wanted to run three locally "ranked" races before the end of June, and prior to the Boston Marathon, I had not run any. Three races in the first half of the year is the minimum requirement to be officially ranked by Washington Running Report. The first of these was the  Mother's Day 4-miler just two weeks ago.

It was a very, very, VERY wet morning in Washington, D.C. Rain was coming down in buckets and at only 55 degrees, it felt more like early April than May 21st. My race weather so far in 2016 has been a bit extreme:

  • A 5K in February that was only 14 degrees and windy (unseasonably cold for Virginia)
  • The Shamrock Half Marathon in March that had 22 mph sustained winds and heavy rains
  • The Boston Marathon which was unseasonably warm at 72 degrees and sunny
  • The Mother's Day 4-Miler was the first race with seasonable, non-extreme weather
By contrast, almost every race I ran last fall had perfect weather, so I can't really complain- I was due for some weather-related challenges!

Before the Race
The parking for this race is about 3/4 a mile from the race start, so Greg and I couldn't just wait in the car for the race to begin. We needed to get our bibs and warm-up, and I made the mistake of leaving the car too early. The race started at 8:30 and we left the car at 7:40, which meant 50 minutes of being out in the pouring race before we even started. Even though Greg and I both had light jackets for the warm-up, they didn't really stand up to the heavy amount of rain that was falling.

We ran to the starting area, got our bibs, and then ran for another 20 minutes. This resulted in a 3.1-mile warm-up, which is longer than I usually do for a 5K. However, it was necessary to keep moving to avoid shivering in the cold. During the warm-up, I decided that my goal was to run the race at a pace of around 6:40. My PR pace is 6:42 from last fall and is on a hillier course. Given that this was a flat course and I was still in excellent shape from my Boston training, I thought I had a shot at shaving a few seconds off of my PR. During my training for Boston, I had done a workout of 4 x 1600, and all of those miles were sub-6:42. So, naturally I thought that in a race, a 6:40 pace was reasonable.

Mile 1-- 6:40
Thankfully, the race started shortly after our warm-up so we didn't have to wait around too long. I noticed at the start line that it looked like a competitive field. Last year, the female winner ran a 22:04, so I assume that some of the faster runners saw that result and showed up in an attempt to win. This year, over 10 females ran faster than last year's winner!

Anyway, I placed myself toward the front of the pack and as a result, shot out at a pace of around 6:10. It didn't feel like I was running that fast so I had visions of crushing my PR right from the beginning. But I backed off the pace after realizing how fast it was. Greg, on the other hand, did not back off the pace and ran his first mile in around 6:27. This first mile felt really good and I was optimistic about how the rest of the race would go.

Mile 2-- 6:50
I maintained the effort, I was pushing really hard, and was therefore surprised to look down at my Garmin halfway through the second mile to see that I was running a 6:55 pace. I run tempos at
Heading for the finish line
around a 7:00 pace, and this felt way harder than that! Once I saw that number, I pushed harder and harder but I realized that my body couldn't go much faster and I started to feel tired. I didn't have the same amount of energy to push as I did in the 4-miler two weeks ago. I realized that I was less peppy and no matter how much I told myself to push and that I knew I was capable of faster, my body just wasn't cooperating. I was able to pick it up to the extent that I ran a 6:50 for the second mile, but I was definitely off of my goal. I was able to close the gap between Greg and me slightly, I had him in my sights the entire time, and he was about 10 seconds ahead of me by the end of mile 2.

Mile 3--6:47
I felt like I was really out of gas during this mile. I was giving everything I had in me, but my Garmin just wasn't showing the paces that I thought would have corresponded to that effort level. I really wanted this last mile to be faster than mile 2 so toward the end, I made myself hurt even more than I thought possible and I think I ran the last quarter of that mile at around my 6:40 target pace.

Last 0.13-- 6:18 pace
I could see the clock at this point and I really wanted to break 21:00. I've only ever broken 21 minutes once before, and that was my PR race. Based on where the clock was and where the finish line seemed to be, I was certain I would do it! But I guess I mis-judged things because the clock turned 21 just seconds before I crossed. I have to admit I was disappointed.

My official time was 21:05, which is 14 seconds slower than my PR. But, it was my second-fastest 5K ever, and I've run many, many 5Ks!

After the Race
I wasn't my typical happy self after this race. It was harder than expected to run the paces that I did, I was wiped out, and I was miserably cold and soaking wet. Because I knew there were quite a few fast
women ahead of me I decided not to wait around for the awards. I wanted to get out of there ASAP and into the warm car and dry clothes. I think I had gotten my hopes up about how fast my time would be, given that it was a flat course and cool weather, and thinking about how fast I had run while training for Boston.

When we got to the car, I looked at the official results on my phone, and it turns out that I had won first place in my age group! Most of the fast women ahead of me were in their 20's. That made me wish I had stayed to get my award, but I definitely didn't want to go all the way back there in the cold rain. 

In terms of the positives, this race was great practice in pushing myself. Looking at the Garmin and seeing slower-than-expected paces made me push myself harder than if I had run without looking because I have a good idea of my fitness level. I did run my second-fastest 5K ever, and won first in my age group. I also checked the box for another "ranked" race. Also, I wasn't really that far off of my goal. I just didn't think it would be so hard to run a 6:44 pace for three miles.

My plan for the next few months is to work on my speed. My coach has prescribed some tough
workouts that involve very short, quick intervals and I don't think it will be long before my speed is back to where it was during Boston training.  My next two races are ones that I ran last summer, so it would be really fantastic to set some course PRs on those.

In other news, my book has done really well during its first week on the market! Believe it or not, my very first sale came from the U.K. without me even having promoted it. If you have no idea what I am talking about, visit the Boston Bound website to learn more, or "like" the book's Facebook page.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Launching My Book: Boston Bound

As many of you blog readers know, I spent seven years of my life tortured by repeated failed attempts to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

At first, my failure to qualify for Boston was simply a matter of bad luck, or so it seemed. But after four years of continued failures, I realized that anxiety and perfectionism were the root of the problem. I spent the next three years facing my demons head-on, with the help of a sports psychologist, and I ultimately qualified for Boston in March of 2015.

I'm pleased to announce that I have captured this entire journey in my new book, launching today:

Boston Bound tells the story of how I discovered that my own brain was the culprit, and explains the steps I took to completely overhaul my mindset about my running and my life. To push oneself to one’s physical limit is only possible when the mind permits it. The marathon itself—a demanding, unforgiving, and intimidating sport—offers an opportunity for its participants to truly test the boundaries of their physical and mental capabilities. Training for and racing a marathon is a tangible way to apply and measure mental fortitude.

Launching Boston Bound!
I realize that there are many books about running, and a few of them are centered around the Boston
Marathon. However, at its core, this book isn’t really “about” running. It’s a case study for overcoming anxiety and depression, told in a narrative format. Throughout the seven years of my struggle to qualify for Boston, I blogged extensively about my journey here on Racing Stripes. A large portion of this book is adapted from my blog, and therefore captures my voice throughout the years. The transformation is remarkable, and I juxtapose my current voice with that of my former self as I tell the story. Even if you've been following along for years, the book adds a new perspective on the journey and highlights the key lessons I learned along the way.

Who should read this book?
  • Runners who want to qualify for the Boston Marathon
  • Runners who have qualified for the Boston Marathon, and are interested in someone else's story
  • Athletes who have hit a plateau, and have become frustrated with their sport 
  • Athletes who struggle with performance anxiety
  • Anyone who has difficulty coping with perceived failures
  • Anyone who reads this blog and has found it interesting and/or helpful

What will you get out of this book?
  • Tips, tools, and strategies for dealing with disappointment
  • Tangible ways to cope with and minimize anxiety and self-doubt
  • A juxtaposition of how NOT to analyze your performance vs. how TO analyze it
  • A relatable story of mental and emotional struggle in the pursuit of a goal
Head on over to to order your copy of Boston Bound!

I'd love it if my blog followers would review the book on after you have read it. If you know of anyone who'd be interested in this book, please let them know about it. I've also created a Facebook page and website to help promote the book. Also, feel free to comment on this post and let me know your thoughts!

Want to learn more? Visit the book's website at

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day 4-Miler Race Report

This morning I ran the Mother's Day 4-Miler in Reston, VA. I had never run this course before, and typically I run the Angel Kisses 5K on Mother's Day, but that race no longer exists. Ideally, I would have had a few more weeks to recover from the Boston Marathon and get some speed workouts in before racing again, but my coach told me it was okay to race this anyway.
2015 Washington Running Report Rankings

In 2015, Washington Running Report ranked me #6 for women ages 30-39. That happened unintentionally, and so I looked into what I needed to do to qualify for rankings this year. There's a list of ranked races and runners need to participate in at least six of them-- with three of them being before June 30, and 3 being after. They're all local races, and the 5K that I ran in February was not on the list, leaving me with zero ranked races. So, I chose three of those races to run in the first half of the year, the first of which was today's 4-miler.

I had not done any speed workouts since Boston, except for 13 x 30-second strides the Tuesday before the race. That workout got my legs moving quickly again, but they still felt a lingering tiredness from the marathon. I wasn't sure what to expect from the 4-miler. On one hand, I was in the best shape of my life on April 18. On the other hand, I hadn't really don't anything since then to preserve it. Also, I wasn't sure if my legs would be ready to race, particularly on a hilly course.

Pacing Strategy and Goal
I think I run my best when I have a ballpark idea of the paces I want to run for each part of the course. Even though I had never run this race before, I had done my homework and I knew that the first mile was the toughest. It was a net gain of 70 feet, with one of the hills being a 100 ft climb. I knew that the first mile would be the slowest of the race, and I determined I would push hard, and rely on my endurance to still have energy for the rest of the race.

As for a pace target, I looked to the last 4 miles of the Shamrock Half Marathon because those are the fastest consecutive four miles I have ever run: 7:01, 6:58. 7:02, 6:56. So I set my sights on sub-28:00, which would be a PR. My "official" 4-miler PR had been 30:08, set in 82-degree weather last
Mile 1
summer. It may sound like a soft goal to run a 4-mile race at faster than half marathon pace, BUT given that it was much cooler and flatter at Sharmcok with a tailwind during those final miles (and I hadn't just taken three weeks off to recover from a marathon), I thought that it was a challenging but realistic goal.

Before the Race
Greg and I arrived about 40 minutes before the start of the race and warmed up with our friend Allison. I ran into a bunch of people that I knew, which made it more exciting. The sky was partly cloudy so I decided against wearing my sunglasses. It was humid, and about 56 degrees at the start. Given that it's May 8, that's pretty good! My previous Mother's Day races have always been warmer, with last year's race being close to 70. Greg, Allison, and I lined up close to the front and before we knew it, we were off!

Mile 1: 7:04
I originally estimated that this would be a 7:10 mile, but Greg was running very close behind me, so I wanted to keep the effort level up. I just told myself I was still really fit and even though I was expending a lot of effort to get up the 100 ft climb at this pace, that once I hit the downhills, it wouldn't be as much of a strain.

Mile 2: 6:54
Greg was still nipping at my heels. I could hear him breathing, and I really wanted to keep ahead of
him! I'm not competitive with him, but I still didn't want him getting ahead of me. Partially because I knew I had the fitness level to run at his pace. This mile had some gentle rollers, but was fairly flat for the most part. I continued to push really hard, and expected my pace to be a bit faster, given the flatness, but it wasn't happening.

Mile 2, photo by Cheryl Young

Mile 3: 7:04
Shortly after the mile two mark, Greg passed me. It was a strong move, and he quickly put about 5 seconds in between us. By that point, I was kind of just hanging on and hoping I could keep him in my sight! This mile was comprised with a large downhill, followed by an equally large uphill. According to my Strava data, it was a net downhill mile, but it certainly did not feel like it! I flew on the downhill, but afterward, my legs just didn't want to run uphill anymore. By the end of the mile, Greg was still about 5 seconds ahead of me, which made me feel like I was still running strong.

Mile 4: 6:44
Boston logo on shorts! Photo by Cheryl Young

Note: All of my mile splits end in "4" which is cute for a 4-mile race! I knew that this mile featured a nice long downhill to make up for the first hill we ran. I was desperately looking forward to it. After a small uphill, it came, and I flew! Up until that point, I was just barely on track for my sub-28:00 goal and I wanted a stronger margin on it. Greg was still ahead of me, but it didn't look like he had widened the gap. I gave it everything I had in me and turned the final corner to finish.

Official time: 27:51

Goal attained! I ended up taking second place in my age group, and it was definitely a competitive field. Greg ended up finishing in 27:43, which was 4th place in his age group. I'm happy to see him running so strong after his ankle break last year. It's great that we can finally train together again.

I was really pleased with how this went, mainly because I felt strong throughout. I ran about the time I expected and executed mainly according to plan, and my post-Boston legs held out through the end. They were screaming at me afterward, however.

Overall, this was a great experience! I saw many of my friends at this race, I checked off the first of my "qualifying" races to be ranked, and I met my goal of sub-28:00 on a hilly course. And it's always nice to get an age group award too!

New Boston Marathon shorts are a perfect match for the racing singlet!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My Boston Marathon Debut

It finally happened. After setting my sights on Boston in March 2008, I finally ran the race, 8 years later, and 10 years after running my first marathon in 2006. The Boston Marathon was my 20th marathon finish.

Ready for my Boston Marathon debut!

The Journey to Hopkinton
Race morning arrived, and after a semi-sleepless but restful night (not sleeping, but laying completely relaxed and still) I got ready for the race. I made my UCAN gel, applied massive amounts of body glide, applied sunscreen, got dressed, pinned my bib to my skirt, and was ready to go. Greg and I met our friend Amber in the hotel lobby and we walked to Boston Common where the buses would bring us to the start line in Hopkinton.

I felt relaxed. It didn't really feel real. As we approached the bus loading area, I heard the announcer
Amber and I before boarding the bus
directing people. Then it started to feel real-- with an official announcer telling people where to go and when. Even though I went to the bathroom immediately before leaving the hotel, I had to go again once we reached the buses, but I decided to wait until we arrived. I said goodbye to Greg, gave him a hug, and he told me to look for him just before mile 20.

Amber and I boarded a bus immediately without having to wait in line, and it departed shortly after. The bus driver said the ride would be about 35 minutes, but in actuality it was 50. I liked the bus ride, but I had to pee pretty badly, so by the end of the trip I was really ready to get off the bus. During the bus ride, Amber and I chatted about our training, our running history, and our jobs. Our husbands know each other from high school, but the two of us had only ever met via Facebook and Strava. So there was a lot to talk about. I felt surprisingly calm. It didn't at all feel like I was about to run the Boston Marathon.

At 8:20, I ate my bagel with peanut butter. I thought I would end up having to eat it as we were getting off the bus, but since the ride was longer than expected, I ate the whole thing on the bus. I was actually only hungry for about 2/3 of it, and I didn't force-feed myself the rest. I had eaten a banana at 6:30, as well as a good-sized dinner the night before, so I wasn't worried about getting enough calories.

The Athlete's Village
We arrived in the village, which was basically a huge field with tents. There were loads of porta potties, but there were loads of people to go along with them! We waited in line for about 20 minutes and then found a spot to sit down and relax. The starting village vibe was really exciting. There were people sleeping (or who appeared to be sleeping) on the ground with pillows and blankets. Many people were on the grassy area outside of the tent, but I knew it was really important to keep cool beforehand, so we stayed in the shade of the tent. I looked around me and realized that these runners were some of the fastest marathoners in the world. I took a moment to appreciate the fact that I was there, in Hopkinton, about to run the Boston Marathon with thousands of others who had also put in the hard work to get there.

With about 20 minutes to go before they called our wave, I waited in the bathroom line again to go to the bathroom. I hadn't had anything to drink since going to the bathroom the first time, but yet I still needed to go again. I guess this was a sign that maybe I had drunk too much water the day before and in the hotel room, but it honestly didn't feel like that much water. And I was also using Salt Stick tabs and UCAN hydrate, which contains electrolytes.

They called our wave and before heading to the start line, I soaked my two "cooling towels" and
"Cooling towels" on my shoulders helped at the start
cooling wrist bands in water and ditched my cover-up jacket. The walk from the village to the start line was about 3/4 of a mile, but it was so exciting and fun. There were volunteers and Hopkinton residents along the way offering us sunscreen, and there were even people who had black markers to write our names on our arms. I had them write "ZEBRA" on my arm! I felt like a total rockstar with so many people there cheering and helping us get ready.

As I stood in my corral I used my two cooling towels to keep myself cool, but they only went so far. I mainly focused on my shoulders and neck, and occasionally my face. I had also poured a ton of water onto my head before departing the village, and by the time I arrived at the start, it was already dry. At the start line, people were remarking how warm it was. Once person checked her phone and reported that it was 71 degrees. With no shade and not a single cloud in the sky, we were all baking before we even got started.

With five minutes to go, things started to feel more real- but part of me still didn't really feel like this was Boston. It was actually more surreal than anything. And I was really relaxed. The former me would have been really upset about how warm it was at the start line, but instead I thought to myself that we were are all in this together, and I was still going to run the best race I possibly could, no matter what the result.

Miles 1-4: Hopkinton and Ashland
The race started and I stayed relaxed. I was happy and confident and I knew exactly what I needed to do. The race was really crowded during these miles, as expected, and I didn’t want to expend energy weaving through people, so I pretty much just went with the flow and kept everything feeling nice and easy. I found myself running slightly slower than an 8:00/mile pace, which seemed appropriate. My training runs and the Shamrock Half Marathon indicated that I had the fitness level to run a pace of 7:40, or perhaps even faster. But all of those runs were in temperatures that were 55 degrees or cooler, so I wasn’t sure how much to adjust for the heat and sunshine. Knowing my history of running in similar conditions, I thought that 20 seconds/mile slower would be phenomenal, and 30 seconds/mile slower would still be pretty good. I decided to go for my “phenomenal” scenario, given that I had several cooling strategies.

I tossed one of my cooling towels at the start, but I kept the other one tucked into my skirt for the first few miles, and every few minutes I would use it to cool my face and neck. I also had cooling wrist bands that were made of the same material, and supposedly if you can keep your inner wrists cool, then your overall body temperature will be cooler. I also decided to dump 3-4 cups of water on myself at each water station. On my chest, over my head, and on the cooling wrist bands.

We reached the first water station at mile two. I carried a water bottle for drinking, and I only used the water station cups for tossing on myself. My plan was to drink water every 15 minutes, and take Salt Stick tabs every 45 minutes, as indicated on the bottle. I was careful not to drink too much. I was surprised that the water stations weren’t marked with signage in advance like at other races, but thankfully Gatorade was offered first, so as soon as I saw that, I knew water would be next. The water stations were really chaotic. Usually I avoid water stations in races by carrying my own bottle, but with this race, I took 3-4 cups at each station and doused myself with them.

My focus during these early miles was staying relaxed, keeping things feeling easy, going with the flow, and staying as cool as possible. I really didn’t know how to best “save” my quads other than to prevent any start/stop motion and not to expend extra energy trying to defy the gravitational pull of the downhill. I tried to be really light on my feet and keep my entire body loose.

Elevation from Strava data 
Mile 1: 8:11 (-111 ft)
Mile 2: 8:03 (-55 ft)
Mile 3: 8:01 (-50 ft)
Mile 4: 7:54 (-63 ft)

Miles 5-8: Framingham 
The crowd was still thick at this point, but I finally felt like I could move about more freely than before. I focused on executing my race plan, which was drinking water every 15 minutes, using the cooling towel that I now had stored in my sports bra, and staying relaxed. I felt really good during these miles and the pace still felt ridiculously easy. It did not feel like marathon pace at all. It felt like I was out for an easy training run. So I wasn’t worried that I was going out too fast.

The spectators were incredible. Usually I don’t like a ton of people screaming and yelling as I run—I prefer peace and quiet so I can be in “zen” mode. But in the case of Boston, it was all about the fanfare and I was taking it all in. Even though I was really focused on executing my race strategy, I didn’t want to forget that I was running the Boston Marathon, so I kept reminding myself to soak it all in and relish in the experience. Usually when I run I am not focused on what goes on around me—I am more focused on execution. But in Boston, I didn’t want to “miss” the experience! I also paid attention to the people running around me. Every single one of these people had qualified for Boston. They all knew what they were doing, at least to some extent!

Somewhere around mile 8, I saw a kid on the side of the course handing out bags of ice. YES! I took a bag from him, and put all of the ice directly into my sports bra, ditching the cooling towel. I knew this would cause major chafing, but I didn’t care. I had heard that ice in the sports bra was a great way to stay cool, and so I did it. The ice jiggled around as I ran, and I hoped it would have the desired effect of cooling my core. It was still quite warm, with not a cloud in the sky. And the course was not shaded.

Mile 5: 8:04 (+8 ft)
Mile 6: 7:49 (-15 ft)
Mile 7: 7:54 (-12 ft)
Mile 8: 8:07 (-1 ft)

Miles 9-12: Natick 
During mile 9, someone handed me an entire bottle of water. This was a lifesaver because I didn’t have enough water in my handheld bottle to take my UCAN gel with as planned. It takes about a full minute to consume the whole gel, and I need to run/drink while doing it. So having a handheld bottle with enough water is essential. Without that extra bottle, I would have had to refill my own bottle at a water station, which would have cost me at least 20 seconds. So I was double-fisting it for about two miles. One water bottle in each hand was not comfortable, but it was better than having to stop to re-fill my own bottle.

85 minutes into the race, I took the gel/water. It went down easily and it was nice to not have to carry the gel in my skirt anymore. I also knew that I could toss my handheld bottle at any point because I no longer needed it for fueling. I planned to take some chews later in the race, but I didn't need water at the exact time I ate those.

Whenever I crossed over a timing mat, I got excited because I knew that Greg and others tracking me would see the split. I was feeling really strong as I crossed the 15K point, and my spirits were high. The spectators continued to line the streets with signs and cold towels and I focused on soaking it all in. I also focused on keeping myself nice and soaked with 3-4 cups of water at each station. It was amazing how fast I would dry off between the water stations, only a mile apart! The sun was still high in the sky without a cloud in sight. I was expecting it to get cooler as we ran toward Boston, but I wasn't feeling that yet. These were the fastest miles of my race:

Mile 9: 7:58 (-12 ft)
Mile 10: 7:59 (+13 ft)
Mile 11: 8:12 (+28 ft)
Mile 12: 7:57 (-51 ft)

Miles 13-16: Wellesley
I could hear the Wellesley College women screaming well before I even arrived. The cheering at this
Somewhere in Wellesley
point was insane! I can't even imagine screaming that loudly for so long. It was exhilarating and I felt amazing! I ditched my handheld water bottle at this point, and would rely on water stations for drinking.

I came through the halfway point in 1:45:39, which is an average pace of 8:03. I was primed to run a 3:31 at that point and I felt confident that I'd be able to do it. I had held my pace steady for the first half, according to plan, and my energy level still felt high. My quads started to feel sore at around mile 13, but I figured that was normal in Boston. They didn't feel "beat up" or "trashed," just noticeably sore, and I figured they would hold out for the rest of the race. Plus, I would use my glutes to power myself uphill and those felt great! Also, there wouldn't be a ton of downhill until the very end to cause my quads to hurt even more, so I thought I was in really great shape. As I approached mile marker 16, I knew that the tough stuff was about to start. I prepared myself mentally and reminded myself that this is what I had trained so hard for. This part.

Mile 13: 8:07 (0 ft)
Mile 14: 8:04 (-4 ft)
Mile 15: 8:11 (+23 ft)
Mile 16: 7:56 (-124 ft)

Miles 17-20: Newton
Greg McMillan had told me and his other athletes the day before that mile 17 was the mile to watch out for, and it's where most runners fall apart. He said that by that point, you've been running downhill for 16 miles, that even running on a flat surface feels like you need to expend more effort. He told us that we'd need to increase the effort level here to maintain the same pace. It should have felt relatively easy up until now, and now is when it would start feeling like a race. I told myself I would be strong during the first Newton hill at mile 17 and I wouldn't be one of those people who fell apart. I had run a smart race up until now. I felt good, and I would continue to execute my race strategy. I was still drinking water every 15 minutes, and I had taken two Salt Stick pills by the time I reached mile 20.

As I ran up the first hill, I reminded myself that this was 1 of 5 and that I would tackle them one a time, like how I tackle intervals on a track. There are actually only 4 Newton hills, but at the time I thought there were 5 for some reason. I slowed my pace slightly to get up the first hill, but I felt good and once I saw mile marker 17, I was so excited that I was still "in the game" and feeling good. It was then time for Newton hill #2. I pushed my way up it, telling myself to increase the effort level, and I made it to the top, no problem! Yes! Almost halfway done with the hills. Mile 19 was a nice treat because it was mainly downhill, and I felt pretty good going down it.

Okay, time for hill #3. This one was definitely harder than the others, but still manageable. I knew I just needed to make it through the hills and the rest of the race would be easier. I ran up the third hill slower than the first two, but still with a good deal of confidence. I could feel my quads, but the amount of pain felt sustainable. I was starting to feel tired and I was slowing down slightly, but I told myself it was just a rough patch and I would get over it.

I looked for Greg as I approached mile marker 20, but I didn't see him. I did, however, hear my friend Lynn screaming my name after I had almost passed her. I looked back and saw her and it was definitely a nice pick-me-up.

Mile 17: 8:26 (+74 ft)
Mile 18: 8:23 (+45 ft)
Mile 19: 8:16 (-32 ft)
Mile 20: 9:11 (+17 ft)

Mile 21: Heartbreak Hill
This mile gets its own section in the blog! Before making my way up the hill, I gave myself a pep
Heartbreak Hill
talk. I was feeling decent, considering it was mile 21, but things had definitely gotten hard. I told myself that I just needed to make it to the top and then the race would be mine.

This hell. This hill. THIS HILL. . . words cannot even describe the struggle. It was sheer torture trying to climb that thing. It felt like Mt. Everest even though I had run longer/steeper hills in training. I didn't look at my pace as I climbed. I focused on my form-- using my glutes, leaning in, pumping my arms. There was a man nearby who looked to be in his 70's who was also trying to get up the hill. He said to me "we'll make it to Boston one way or another!" I started to get ahead of him and I looked back and waved him toward me. "Come on!" I encouraged him. He ran with me for about 15 seconds and then fell behind me. "Come on!" I yelled back to him. It was helping me get up the hill by focusing on getting him up the hill. Ultimately, he couldn't keep up with my speedy 10:00 pace (note the sarcasm).

Major carnage everywhere. About half the field was walking. I told myself I would not walk. I would not walk up Heartbreak Hell Hill, no matter what. When a hill gets hard for me I usually look only about 15-20 feet ahead of me on the ground and I tell myself, "just get to that point on the road." And then when I reach it, I pick another point ahead of me and I tell myself, "just get that that point on the road." I do this until I am safely up the hill. You can see that's what I am doing in the photo, focusing on a single point and propelling myself up the hill. It was truly a painful experience and I am so glad I ran up the hill, and passed a few people on it. Some people passed me, so I was worse off than some people, but better off than others.

I really was hoping that it would have cooled down by this point in the race, and maybe it had dropped a few degrees. If so, I couldn't feel it.

Mile 21: 10:06 (+96 ft)

Miles 22-24: Brighton and Brookline
There was a sign at the top of Heartbreak Hill that said "Top of Heartbreak Hill" and once I saw that sign I was so relieved. But I felt so dead once I reached the top, that I had come to the realization that the rest of the race would not be as rosy as I had originally anticipated.

I ate about three of my chews, and that's all I could really stomach. Everything hurt. I was tired, my
Somewhere in Brookline, I think
quads were worthless. Every step I took send a pain through my quads and it was misery. Running hurt so much. Even though mile 22 was downhill-- I ran it at the same pace as Heartbreak Hill because I was just dead at that point. I couldn't muster any more energy.

There was also a bit of a headwind at this point. I welcomed it because it cooled me off, but it was contributing to the effort level I needed to expend to move forward. It was finally noticeably cooler, it was downhill, and yet- I couldn't take advantage of these circumstances because I had baked during the first 22 miles.

I really didn't want to walk and I knew that walking would only prolong the situation, but there were a few times during mile 23 and 24 where I had to stop for about 10 seconds at a time just to mentally reset. I came to the realization that I would not be re-qualifying for Boston again and I was totally fine with that. I had no desire to revisit this punishing course again anytime soon (although I think I will be ready in 2018) so that was the least of my worries. I felt like death so obviously NOT having an opportunity to come back next year and face this same challenge wasn't a concern!

It was the survival shuffle for these miles and I was motivated by the fact that I wanted to really give 100% of myself to this race. I didn't want to look back on my experience thinking that I could have tried harder. So I tried as hard as I possibly could to make it through those final miles. I knew that there were loads of people tracking me and waiting for me to come through that 40K, and I wanted to get there as quickly as my body would allow me to.

Even though these miles are net downhill, there were still some nasty uphills thrown in there.

Mile 22: 10:04 (-80 ft)
Mile 23: 10:49 (-48 ft)
Mile 24: 10:31 (-50 ft)

Miles 25-26.4: Boston
I really, really wanted the race to be over, and I felt guilty for feeling that way. I was supposed to be
Final turn onto Boylston St.
having the time of my life! I had been dreaming about this for so long, and here I was, wanting it to be over. I told myself to feel joy, excitement, and pride! I told myself to savor the experience. But I hurt so badly. All I could focus on was the pain. I tried smiling. I constantly reminded myself that this was the Boston Marathon and couldn't I just really enjoy it? Nope, not happening. This was a death march all the way to right turn on Hereford during the last mile.

I told myself that I really did not want to walk or stop. But there were some points where I did stop for a few seconds because the pain became unbearable. I was exhausted. My quads were on fire. Every step was torture. In order to prevent stopping and walking, I gave myself a new time goal. Sub-3:50. I told myself that if I walked or stopped, I would be in the 3:50's and I really wouldn't be happy with that. Mainly because it took me five years to break 3:50, so being in the 3:40's is like a whole different world to me. Many runners were walking and doing the same "survival shuffle" that I was. I was only passed by a few runners who seemed to be doing really well. I was passed by other people who were struggling, but not struggling as badly as I was. So, there was a wide range of struggle, but people running strongly were definitely the exception and not the rule.

When I made the right on Hereford, I used my time there to give myself a pep talk for Boylston. I told myself that I would run all the way down Boylston with everything I had in me. I would muster every ounce of energy I had to get there, and I would do it with a smile.

So down Boylston I ran. This was where the bombings happened. This was the most famed marathon finish line in the whole world. My spirits lifted. I truly felt like death but I refused to let myself stop and I refused to focus on how bad I felt. Instead, I set my sights on the finish line arch, and went for it with all the passion I could find.

I glanced down at my watch and I saw that a 3:48:xx was within my grasp and I was determined to get it.

Mile 25: 9:41 (-41 ft)
Mile 26: 10:20 (+2 ft)
Final 0.4 9:29 (-2 ft)

The Finish and Beyond
I crossed the finish line and I was so happy to be done with the race! I wish I could say that this overwhelming sense of pride and achievement came over me, but the primary emotion was just relief.
Smiling through the pain!
I was so glad that I didn't have to run one more step.

I knew that I only had to walk about 1/3 a mile to get to Greg in the family meeting area. I wanted to see him so badly. As I walked through the finish line shoot, I collected my medal and had my photo taken. The more I walked, the worse and worse I started to feel. I thought I would have felt better and better since I was recovering now, but that's not what happened. I almost made it to the family meeting area when I stopped walking and realized that I felt really, really bad. I felt weak. I felt dizzy and nauseous. And I was confused. Someone with a wheelchair approached me and I wanted them to wheel me to Greg, but they said they had to take me to the medical tent. So I had a choice, continue walking to Greg (which is what I really wanted) or take a wheelchair ride to the medical tent. I broke down crying and started hyperventilating (mini panic attack) as I realized that the medical tent was my only option.

That medical tent was a well-oiled machine! They scanned my bib, checked me in and sent me to cot #12. They started asking me questions like what my name was and if I knew where I was, and my speech was far from normal. It was hard to get the words out. I spoke slowly and with slurred speech.

They laid me down on a cot and put my feet up. They asked me about my water consumption and I said I drank more water than I usually do, but I didn't think it was too much. Apparently I had the symptoms of hyponatremia- where your electrolytes become unbalanced due to lack of salt. I guess I sweated out a lot and didn't take enough Salt Stick pills with my water. The fact that I went to the bathroom so much before the race even started was probably an indication that I had perhaps drunk too much. It's really hard to get the right balance because I definitely did not want to become dehydrated. All of my training runs were in 55-degree weather or cooler, so this wasn't something I practiced recently.

They let me use a phone to call Greg and I told him I would meet him at the hotel, which was actually closer to the medical tent than the family meeting area. One of the nice things about the Boston Marathon is that stuff is pretty close together. Hotels are near the expo and finish line so logistics are fairly easy.

The medical tent people gave me a salty broth to drink and I felt much better after having that. But suddenly I became very cold and my temperature dropped to 94.3. My hands turned blue and I started shivering. Well, this was because I was soaking wet from pouring so much water on myself, I had stopped moving, and I was in the shade now, with the Boston temperature only being 58 degrees. Finally I was able to leave the medical tent and make my way to the hotel to meet Greg.

I was so happy to finally be re-united with him! I had so much to tell him and I didn't even know where to start. I was shivering so the first order of business was to take a warm bath. After that, I really wanted to go to the McMillan post-race party, but I felt really sick still, so I decided I just wanted to stay in the hotel room for the rest of the evening. I was bummed that I didn't get to enjoy any of the finish line festivities and celebratory events after all that hard work, but my body didn't want to move. I certainly didn't want to make myself look presentable to go outside, either!

Official Stats and Final Thoughts
My official finish time was 3:48:16. My Garmin clocked 26.4 miles at a pace of 8:38, with my marathon "effort" being a 3:46:36.

I placed 13356 out of 26639 total runners. This puts me right in the middle of the field. However, the average finish time was 3:55:03, which means my time was about 7 minutes faster than average.

I placed 4564 out of 12168 women, which puts me in the top 37.5%, which I am very pleased with. As for my division (18-39), I placed 3011, but I have no idea how many people were in my division. I imagine I was on the slower end because women ages 18-34 need to have a faster BQ time than I did. Not sure why I'm in the same division with them when they have a tougher standard, but I don't really care that much!

To further illustrate how rough these conditions were, only 36% of the field re-qualified for Boston 2017. This is the second-lowest re-qualifying rate in the past decade. The only race to surpass it was 2012, when temperatures rose into the 80's.

My bib number was 19448, which should mean my BQ time was the 19448th fastest, compared to my 13356 overall finish. So that was nice to see. Apparently almost everyone had a really tough day and missed their goals by 15-20 minutes. Some people missed it by even more. In 2015, when there was a sustained 20 mph headwind + rain, the average finish time was 3:46:28-- about nine minutes faster! Plus, the field last year was not as competitive because the BQ cutoff time was smaller. So basically, the conditions this year sucked and most people struggled. That's all part of marathoning. You can't control the weather and you have to do the best you can with what you're given.

I'm extremely proud of myself for running through the end, keeping my mental state positive, and pushing through the pain. I've always struggled more than the average runner in the heat, and I've DNF'ed (did not finish) several marathons due to heat issues-- when the weather wasn't as warm as Boston. This was a major lifetime milestone for me, and the experience seemed a bit surreal at times. I just couldn't believe I was running THE Boston Marathon. After eight long years.

As I said earlier, I will be ready to return to Boston in 2018. This experience was rich enough and painful enough to last a few years! Now that I know I can safely run 65+ miles a week, seven days a week, without getting burned out or injured, the sky's the limit. I do feel like I could have run a 3:25 if it were cooler yesterday, so I will chase that goal this fall and return to Boston in 2018.

Thanks to Greg for supporting me throughout this journey, and to my friends and family for all of your encouragement! My cell phone blew up with texts, emails, Facebook comments and Tweets like it never has before yesterday. And I felt really loved.

I finally made it!