Tuesday, February 13, 2024

My Instagram Followers Wrote This Blog Post

I asked my Instagram followers to name one thing they've learned from me. The answers spanned a wide range of topics but mostly fell into the following themes:

  • Consistency/dedication
  • Running form
  • Mindset
  • Faster with age
  • Fueling
  • Wardrobe/dressing for runs
I've highlighted my favorite ones! 

1. Relax while running 
2. Gained some confidence 
3. Beets and beet juice as a performance enhancer
4. Fueling is important! Have a fueling plan and stick to it. Also not to try new fuels for a race.
5. Enjoy the process of making gradual progress
6. How to run!
7. Zebras are awesome!
8. How to fuel for runs an races
9. To listen to your body when there’s pain
10. No matter your experience level, you’re always learning with running.
11. Only one? Goals and mindset. Thought process. And a lot from post race recaps.
12. I need more than 1 pair of shoes each year (running over 1000km a year)
13. Running is running no matter age, speed, weight, form.
14. The body can recover.
15. So much is yet to come.
16. Tips for running form!
17. You’re a musician
18. Take chews with you just in case gels don’t go down. Genuis!
19. What to wear and how to fuel for marathon
20. Resilience and consistency always prevail in leading to accomplishing goals.
21. Consistency and hard work pays off!
22. Your post about mindset going into Richmond, having a great day, etc.
23. Women can be strong and sensitive at the same time.
24. Discipline. 
25. Dedication.
26. Smile at the finish line, stop your watch after.
27. Marathon nutrition
28. How important it is to FUEL during long runs and races!
29. How vital it is to run easy!
30. Smiling
31. Proper form!
32. Train easy to run fast on marathon day.
33. Have a strong mindset.
34. Slow down and find my pace that works for me.
35. Setting my Garmin watch. Very helpful. 
36. To listen to my body.
37. Socks as sleeves and sweater to donate at the beginning of your race!!!
38. Can still have marathon success if the cycle doesn’t go as planned.
39. You are a medical miracle and that your injuries never see to sideline you (outside of the bike accident)
40. How to dress for the weather!
41. You can be fitter in your 40s- you are amazing!
42. Hard work pays off!!
43. Helpful fueling tips!
44. Your face with happiness
45. Way more than one!! Watch setting, dressing for weather, being smart about injuries.
46. Fuel!
47. You can get fitter and faster in your 40s
48. Running pace
49. That the heel bump has an actual medical diagnosis/name
50. Endless motivation!
51. Smile when you run!
52. Consistency is key
53. Not everything goes as planned and that’s ok.
54. Managing race expectations keeping about the fun.
55. To run slower on my easy runs which I hope will translate to more speed down the road.
56. That I have hope of being fast like you one day.
57. No lazy upper body, I kept that in my mind all through my half on Nov. 5th.
58. Zebras are amazing!
59. How to dress as someone that gets overheated easily as well
60. First Place shorts have pockets in the front (have one since a year and never saw these)
61. To relax when I run!
62. That I can continue to get faster as I age
63. Smile to the camera at finish line before stopping the Garmin
64. Don’t let illness or injury stop you, take the break you need and always come back!
65. To listen to your body
66. Never give up on anything and marathons keep you looking 21
67. You can be very fast in your 40s!
68. That age is just a number
69. Don’t wear thongs while running
70. You gave me motivation for my next marathon: Paris 2024
71. Courage
72. Train at a slower pace to run a faster race
73. To fuel during runs
74. Be patient
75. Don’t get discouraged when injury sidelines you. Adjust the training and trust the process.
76. How to dress in different temperatures
77. Retired dancers can run marathons!
78. How to (hopefully) treat and solve the Achilles tendinitis!!
79. Fueling strategy
80. Patience
81. To listen to my body
82. Fast foot turnover
83. That it is possible! 45 to BQ!
84. Zebra Lover
85. Excellent music taste, and your ladder speed day. It’s a favorite of mine now.
86. A lot.
87. Not to give up on your dreams. Keep working, and you can achieve them!
88. That I’m not the only one that hates running in the heat
89. Speeding up the end of some long runs, game changer.
90. Socks as sleeves. That’s an inspired idea.
91. Wait until after the finish line to hit stop on my Garmin. LOL!
92. Slow down on easy runs
93. Strength training pays off
94. Some people really love zebras!
95. Running form!
96. Good running form can look different on different people
97. Variety 
98. Success is not linear and you can still run crazy fast as a master marathoner! 
99. Sooooo so much. One thing that stands out proper fueling. Bonus: smart training = results.
100. Perseverance
101. I have early signs of Haglunds syndrome
102. Slow runs are just as important as speed work
103. Persistence
104. How to dress for cold runs
105. How to smile and run even when you are suffering lol
106. It’s ok to run slowly in training
107. Taking easy runs easy. I love your videos, the way you listen to your body, your singing.
108. Age is just a number
109. Know your boundaries! I’ve learned to listen to my body and let it lead!
110. Preparation
111. Importance of strength training
112. How to use my arms properly
113. I’m not running out of time to be a runner!
114. It’s okay for you to have a running form that isn’t “perfect” according to sites
115. That I can get better as I get older !!
116. Excellent nutrition tips
117. Strength training exercises
118. Tenacity is sexy
119. How to be good at chess
120. That your 20s can be just the beginning of many years of running PRs!
121. It’s doable
122. Running underwear is the bomb
123. This smile more while running
124. How to stay motivated when you don’t want to run any longer!
125. How to keep my arms actively involved while I run.
126. That my Achilles can be fixed. Maybe.
127. Never give up!!
128. You can keep running even with Haglund’s deformity. I have it too!
129. Hip drop
130. Never quit
131. Age doesn’t matter!!! You become stronger because you work hard for it
132. That running form is not the same for everyone, everyone has their own unique style!
133. It’s okay to not hit your goal right away. And not the only one drastically affected by heat.
134. Consistency is key.
135. You can be a badass runner in your 40’s!
136. How to stay positive and not overthink bad workouts/races.
137. Your zebra passion
138. You’re amazing!
139. You have to relax to run fast
140. It’s ok to take a break
141. You keep going. . . after a injury or illness or vacation. You get back out there! Great job!
142. Consistency
143. Fueling strategy
144. Attitude is everything
145. There many things can get better with after, especially our bodies and their abilities
146. To visualize myself while running
147. Running form- time by time during my runs I just remind myself, are you running like Elizabeth? 148. You are amazing. “Everything”.
149. Running is not always easy but keep going!
150. You don’t have to be in your 20’s to improve your pace
151. That running underwear is a controversial topic
152. So many things!! How about fueling strategies
153. Your posture during running and adding strength training in my running schedule
154. Getting older means you have more time to practice to improve your running!! You get BETTER with time
155. Run relaxed! And thumbs up
156. To listen to my body and rest when it’s ill or hurting
157. To smile a lot more when I run! 
158. Your rabbit shorts! Got some and love them!

If this were a market research project, and I was re-branding myself it would be something along the lines of: "Runner who got faster in her 40s with a positive mindset who listens to her body, fuels and dresses appropriately, loves zebras, and works hard."  I agree with that. 

Feel free to add some more!

Sunday, February 4, 2024

For The Love of Hills 10K

The actual name of the race I ran this morning is "For The Love of It" 10K, but I'm going to assume the "it" refers to "a hilly course".

I knew what I was getting into with this race. This was my third time running this race, and 4th if you count the summertime version on the same course. Even though it's challenging, this course held my PR from 2017 to 2020, so it can be fast if you stay strong on the hills and take advantage on the declines.

In 2017 I ran a time of 41:51. In 2020 I ran a time of 43:43, just coming off an injury. My goal today was to set a course PR and ideally a distance PR (sub 41:17). 

Before the Race
The night before the race I had my traditional salmon with beets and pearled couscous. I slept horribly. I wasn't able to fall asleep until 10:15 and I woke up at 3:15. I was awake from 3:15-4:00, but then slept an additional 30 minutes from 4:00-4:30. That means I only got 5.5 hours of sleep. Lately I have been sleeping really well before races, but for some reason last night was an exception. 

I had a handful of almond butter filled pretzels two hours before race start. We left the house at 6:50 for an 8:00 start time. I already had my bib so I didn't need to worry about getting that. 

When we parked, I spotted my friend Kathy and we warmed up together. I made sure my shoes were tied tightly and that the loops were tucked under the other laces. These are the shoes I wore during the Houston Marathon and the laces had come untied during that race: the adidas Adios Pro 2. I still have not tried version 3 because I have plenty of mileage left on my version 2's. I warmed up for 2.2 miles, which included some strides. I had a caffeinated Maurten gel 10 minutes before race start. 

During the warm up, we noticed that the start line was in a different location than usual. We spoke to a race official at the start line who told us that the track was closed for construction so the race couldn't finish on the track as it usually does. So they moved the start back to correct for this. 

I immediately wondered if that meant the course distance would be wrong. After having run a 7.34 10K in December and a 3.24 5K in January, I was hungry for an accurately measured course! Eyeballing the new start line location, it didn't look far enough away from the original start line location to compensate for not running the track portion at the end. Plus, the track portion is the fastest part and that's definitely NOT the part you want removed from this hilly course. I tried not to think about it too much but at least now I was prepared for an inaccurate distance and not having that super-fast track finish.

After the warm up, I found Greg and handed him my jacket. It was cold but I knew that once I started racing I would be appropriately dressed. It was 30 degrees, sunny, and almost no wind. Thus, it receives a 10 out of 10 on my race weather scale. PERFECT! I wore my favorite CW-X capri tights, a short-sleeved t-shirt, arm sleeves, mittens and sunglasses. 

Miles 1-2
I was familiar with the course profile, but once the race started all I could remember was that mile 3 was fast/downhill and mile 5 was hard/uphill. I had forgotten what the first two miles were. I didn't look at my Garmin all that much, I ran by effort. During these miles I was running behind a pack of 5 men. My goal would be to pick them off one at a time. I quickly established my position as the third female.

Because this course is constantly rolling hills, I didn't remember if miles 1-2 were net uphill or downhill. My splits were 6:44 and 6:43 so I was hoping there were net uphill. These splits were discouraging because I was hoping to average 6:35 or faster and I wasn't sure if I would be able to speed up all that much in future miles. I shifted my mindset from "get a PR" to "just run hard". 

Miles 3-4
Now it was time to start picking off the men and hopefully running faster. I saw my friend Cheryl taking photos which was a pleasant surprise. She hadn't told me she was coming! That was definitely a bright spot in these miles. I wasn't looking at my watch so I wasn't sure how fast I was going, I just tried my best to put forth max effort. 

In doing so, I made my loud grunting/screaming noises. These are somewhat embarrassing, but it's just what happens when I go really hard. As I was passing one of the guys I said "sorry I am so loud!" He replied with "it's really motivating me to push harder, so thank you for that!" Wow- who knew my sighs of pain could be motivating?

I passed about three men during these miles, which helped restore my confidence. My splits were 6:27 and 6:20 for these miles. I was definitely taking advantage of the elevation loss. I think I had expected mile 4 to be uphill, so running a 6:20 was a welcome surprise!

Miles 5-6
I was in the home stretch. I felt like I was slowing down so much. Everything hurt and my energy level had fallen. I definitely didn't look at my watch because I felt like I had slowed WAY down. But I think I always feel this way during mile 5. Mile 5 is the hardest mile of the course and it's soul-sucking for sure! One of the guys was within earshot of me behind me and I was motivated to not let him pass me. I could hear his steps and his breathing. 

I saw Greg and Cheryl during mile 6 but it was hard to muster a smile for them. I was running out of gas. Mile 6 seemed to last forever. Because of the course change, there wasn't as much downhill during this mile as there had been in previous years, so I didn't get the "relief" I had been looking forward to. 

Mile 5 clocked in at 6:46 and mile 6 at 6:38.

The Finish
I gunned it really hard at the end. I guess I had more in me than I realized because I got a sudden burst of energy as I approached the finish line. I could not believe my eyes as I approached the clock: 40:xx! I would be under 41!!!

My official time was 40:31. I was the 3rd female finisher and the 11th overall finisher. In my wildest dreams I could not have imagined a time of 40:31! That's two 5Ks in a row of 20:15 and 20:15! 

But my disbelief was validated when I saw that my Garmin distance was a mere 6.15 miles, not 6.21. Shoot! 

I wasn't sure whether to be happy about my PR or frustrated that it wasn't a real PR. I was 46 seconds faster than my PR, so I have to believe that if the course was extended by 0.05 mile it would still be a PR and still under 41:00. In fact, my goal time was 40:55, which would have lined up perfectly with a slightly longer course.

The man who I had passed during the race came up to me afterwards and thanked me for my motivating painful groans! He said that when I was making those noises, it made him realize he had more effort to give and so he pushed harder. Contrast this to a 5K I ran a few years ago when a man approached me afterwards to tell me that my noises distracted him and made him pull a calf muscle! I always considered my noises annoying, and they probably are to most, but they don't cause calf strains. And at best they do demonstrate an extreme amount of exertion! 

I re-united with Greg, Cheryl and Kathy after the race and we chatted for awhile before the awards started. Overall it was a great morning!

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
With my last three races having slightly-off (or majorly off) distances, it has re-affirmed my belief in the PERSONAL Record. This is not the olympics. I am not a professional runner. My personal records are whatever I know to be my best performances.

I often use the example of the Boston Marathon 2018 in the wind/rain/hills (3:26) vs my PR in perfect weather on a flat course (3:15). Clearly my time should be faster on the flat course in perfect weather. But I see my Boston Marathon performance as superior. The crazy conditions (with many elites dropping out) and the challenging course required much more discipline with pacing, physical fitness, and mental strength.

Even though I would be hard pressed to consider myself a 40:31 10K runner, I definitely see myself as a sub-41:00 10K runner and that is still a PR. 

In 2020, I ran this race in a time of 43:43 coming off an injury. I then proceeded to run a time of 1:31:56 at the Newport News One City Half Marathon (four weeks later). I am running One City again this year, so I believe myself to be on track for my sub 1:30:00 goal, provided the weather conditions are favorable.

Other stats and notes:

  • According to Strava, I ran a 20:07 5K in the middle of this race. Probably miles 2, 3, and 4. 
  • Comparing this race to my 2017 course PR, every mile was faster!
  • I think my recent increase in fitness can be somewhat credited to my Achilles tendinitis/bursitis being mostly cured. It has resulted in more ankle mobility so I can stride longer.
  • My Illiacus muscle (lower abdomen, above groin, near hip) has been painful/spasming lately and it was silent during the race but I felt it tighten up afterwards. I'm going to PT regularly to keep this in check.
  • In January I bought a new grand piano and I spent more hours playing the piano than running last month. You can see me play the piano on my YouTube channel. 
Up next is the One City half marathon in four week. I need my illiacus muscle to stay calm, good weather, and no illness! If all of those things happen I could potentially run a sub 1:30. 

Thanks for the photo, Cheryl

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

New Year's Day 5K: Workout or Race?

Yesterday morning I ran the New Year New Day 5K in Ashburn, VA. This race was a last-minute decision for me. I was pretty sure I was NOT going to run a New Year's race because I had done two 10Ks in December-- one of which I didn't blog about because there wasn't too much to say!

But as I was putting together my training plan I realized that I had speed work on tap for Monday, and that also happened to be New Year's Day. Whenever I can run my speed workout in a race, I do it! I like being in the race environment and seeing my friends. The fact that my friend Cheryl would be the official race photographer sealed the deal. 

I registered for the race on Friday and decided it would be my tempo run for the week. On Saturday, I ran my longest run since the marathon: 11.7 miles. It was supposed to be 12 but I arrived back home at 11.7 and my legs were pretty tired from Thursday's strength training session. 

On Sunday I did a 3-mile recovery run and my legs were still sore! If I had not registered for the race, I would have likely pushed my speed work to Tuesday. The soreness didn't bode well for fast running on Monday. Anyway, I ended up with 1,566 miles for the year in 2023. Much lower than my typical 2000-2500, but that was by design. And the spring "down season" seemed to work in my favor come fall!

Before the Race
Because I was viewing this as a workout, I didn't pay attention to what I ate the day before the race. And on race morning I didn't have my typical urge to go to the bathroom. The whole thing was super casual. The race started at 10:00am which meant I needed to eat more than I typically would before a 5K.

I had a Maurten Solid + a handful of almond butter pretzels at 8:00. 

As soon as Greg and I arrived at the race site, my body got the message that it was "go time" and so I was able to clear out my digestive system. Sorry if this is TMI, but it's an important part of pre-race prep!

Warm up with Greg in background
I had not studied the course in advance. I had run this race in the past - but it had been on a differentcourse. They moved the race to a new location this year. My friend Cheryl had sent me the map in advance and I could tell that the race started downhill, flattened out and then finished uphill.

I was pleasantly surprised to run into my friend Lisa when I was picking up my bib! She also had registered for the race on Friday. 

I warmed up for about two miles and had my Maurten gel. I timed the gel for a 10:00am start and then learned that the 10K start was 10:00, and the 5K start was 10:10. Oh well! This allowed me to get in more of a warm up anyway.

It was 41 degrees with 10-15 mph winds and overcast. The wind and the lack of sunlight made it feel closer to 31 degrees. I give this an 8 out of 10 on my race weather scale. Everything was ideal except for the headwind during the first half of the race. And it was also damp feeling (it started to wet-snow shortly after we finished!) When I took my jacket off after the warm up I was very, very cold! 

Mile 1: We started running and I decided to go with whatever I felt like doing. No target pace, no target effort - just go with the flow and run hard. I think there must have been a high school boy's cross country team at this race because there was a pack of about 15 guys ahead of me. One woman surged way ahead of me but aside from here, there were no other women ahead of me. 

The first mile was downhill so I took it fast, but the headwind was also a factor. I think the headwind negated the advantage of the downhill. But that just meant the final uphill would like have a tailwind - so it was the ideal setup of wind and hills. I didn't look at my Garmin much and it clocked in at 6:32 for mile 1. 

Mile 2: During this mile I started passing other runners - both 5K and 10K runners. The 10K had started 10 minutes prior so I was beginning to catch up with the walkers. As for the other 5K runners, it was fun to pick off the high school boys one by one as I cruised through mile 2. I don't really remember the elevation here but it seemed to be gently rolling hills - nothing too challenging. We still had a headwind and I was dying to turn out of that wind! My split was 6:36.

13-yr old boy vs. 45-yr old woman
Mile 3: This mile was all about passing people. There was a teenage boy (13-year old) in a bright orange/red outfit ahead of me and I followed him through the crowd of 10K runners. The 10K runners were all very encouraging as we ran past them. As I caught up to the boy in red, he surged until I caught up with him again and then he surged. I could tell he did not want me passing him. I was glad I was there to push him! My split was 6:28. This mile was net uphill, but it was the fastest mile because the headwind was gone and I guess I finally warmed up!

The final 0.26: When my watch beeped for 3 miles, the finish line was nowhere in sight. I really hoped the course wouldn't be too much longer than a 5K! I was now ahead of the 13-year old and riding the tails of a 16-year old - but he surged and didn't let me pass him. 

Finally I crossed the finish line in 21:11, second place female. Here is a video of me crossing the finish line.

After the Race
Surprisingly, I was not totally dead after this and immediately was able to start my cool down. Usually I need like 5-10 minutes to recover after a 5K. So I jogged back onto the sidewalk of the course and found Lisa and ran in with her. 

Then I found Greg and we had THE BEST EVER post-race food. In all my years of racing, I have never encountered something so amazing. Hot Belgian waffles on a stick, and you could choose a drizzle flavor and a crunch topping. And there were so many options. 

I chose dark chocolate drizzle with Oreo. Greg chose apple cinnamon drizzle with sea salt. I normally never want food for at least an hour after I race, but I was so excited about this waffle. We later found Lisa and her husband and the four of us hung out for a while until the awards ceremony started. 

My award was a glass, a stainless steel water bottle and $20 off any of the Loudon County races in 2024. It was a wonderful way to spend New Year's Day and I am so glad I did this race!

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
I am really loving this "chill" attitude towards racing. It's making me run so fast without me even trying that hard. 

  • I definitely didn't feel like I was racing this at 5K effort, given how great I felt at the finish line. 
  • Maybe I was racing it at full effort but my carefree mindset masked the effort.
  • Maybe if I did race a 5K all-out right now I would be much faster?
  • The course was not certified, so instead of looking at this as a time of 21:11, I am looking at my average pace of 6:32. 
  • According to Strava, my 5K time during this race was 20:17, which would be tied for my 4th fastest ever 5K. 
  • It was interesting the wind negated the advantage/disadvantage of the uphill/downhill. So the first downhill headwind mile was slower than the last uphill tailwind mile.
  • Considering I ran nearly 12 miles two days prior, this was a strong performance!
  • If they do this race next year, I hope they get the course certified and continue to have the waffles.
As I go into 2024, I'm going to focus on enjoying races and being "present" in them as opposed to in my head with the Garmin and the pace I'm looking at. If I run by feel, I can trust that my body will do what it can!
Finish Line

Lisa and me

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Going the Extra Mile

"Going the extra mile" is one of the most popular running cliches/puns out there. Never has it been so applicable to my running career as it was during yesterday's 10K. 

I registered for the Jingle All The Way 15K a few months ago which was scheduled to occur today, Sunday. But as the race drew closer, the weather started looking miserable. Rain, wind, humidity, and warm temps. That's just not fun for me. So on Wednesday I made the decision to pivot and run the Ringing In Hope 10K which was scheduled for Saturday. The Saturday race was forecast to have perfect weather.

I love racing in December. There are so many festive races to choose from and the cold weather suits me. I didn't do too much to prepare for this race. The Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving served as a good workout and a way to "wake up" my legs after the marathon. Aside from that, I did one track workout which was a down ladder of 2000m, 1600m, 1200m, 800m, 400m - all with 400m recovery jogs. I ran that workout about halfway between the Thanksgiving 5K and yesterday's race.

Before the Race
I decided to try my adidas Adios Pro shoes again. I had abandoned them for the marathon because they felt too big. But with thicker socks for the cooler weather, they worked.

I went back and forth on my outfit a few times, but eventually settled on CW-X capri tights instead of shorts. I feel like compression tights give me a boost of speed so if it's cool enough for them, I wear them.

It was 34 degrees and mostly sunny, rising to about 37 by the end of the race. No wind. Hence we have a 10/10 on my personal race weather scale. I could not have asked for more favorable conditions. 

I arrived at the race 45 minutes before start time, got my bib and went to the bathroom. The race started and finished at a church, and that church was open for the race participants. It was a nice perk to have a warm prep area with real bathrooms!

Before I started my warm up, Greg and I tried to figure out where he would stand to take photos. We quickly looked at a course map and determined a spot that we thought would work. The only reason we had a course map is because my friend Cheryl had run this race last year and shared her Strava data with me. There was no course map on the website. [Edited to add: There are 5K and 10K course maps on the website but the links are not obvious. I am just seeing the maps today and did not see them prior to the race.]

Another thing to note about the map and Greg's position: this race also has a 5K. The finish line is the same for both races. We didn't want him too close to the finish line because I would be weaving through 5K runners at that point. So we also looked at the 5K course to see where they split apart and met up. The 5K course consisted of two out-and-backs in two directions. The 10K course was a large loop. They were only the same at the very beginning and end.

As I said above, I could not find either map on the race website. I had to search for Strava data from last year's runners to locate the 5K map. The 10K started at 9:00am and the 5K started at 9:10. This meant I would be finishing with 5K runners who ran around 30-35 minutes. I wouldn't have to do too much weaving because the courses joined up about 0.2 mile before the finish.

I warmed up for just over 10 minutes and took my Maurten caffeinated gel 5 minutes before race start. I didn't think I was in PR shape but I thought I was in pretty good shape. I decided to target a pace of 6:40 which would be about 30 seconds slower than my PR and I thought that might even be a bit aggressive. But I also decided NOT to look at the Garmin to pace this one. I just like having a neighborhood pace in mind.

Shortly after the start
Miles 1-2
The race started and it wasn't long before I saw Greg snapping photos and videos. He was standing at an intersection where I thought we would be turning left according to the course map. But as I said, I wasn't 100% sure I was aligning the map to reality when looking at it. So when we turned right I was surprised but I didn't think it was wrong. 

It was wrong. We were, in fact, supposed to go left as I originally thought! Nobody realized this until we all found ourselves in a parking lot. There was major confusion. A police officer was there and he didn't know what to tell us - he was not a course marshal. Eventually we realized that we ran the 5K course and had reached the first 5K turn around. We were over half a mile into it at that point. (I later found out that the was actually the second half of the 5K).

The leaders turned around and started running toward the rest of us, so we all turned around. At one point I just stopped and looked around, trying to figure out what was going on. The urge to stop my Garmin was strong, but I did not!

As we were all turning around, we were bunched together tighter than we had been previously, so I found myself running in a pack of 5 women. We were chatting about the situation and realizing that we had run the 5K course. Our attitude was positive and we started making jokes about the situation. I said I was going to stop my Garmin at 6.2 and walk it in! (Just kidding of course). And then we realized we wouldn't really know how long the course would be. 

I saw Greg (again!). I was only supposed to see him twice, but this course mishap meant a bonus sighting of my husband. Silver linings abound!

The amazing thing about this situation was that a pack of 5 women were running together at a relatively small, local 10K. All at a 6:30 pace. I was enjoying the company and not looking at my watch, so when it finally did beep for mile 2, I was shocked to see a 6:24 mile split. I think the pace was probably too fast for all but 1 of us but we kept going with it because it was so fun to be racing in a pack

Miles 3-4
I have run over 200 races of varying sizes and never once have I "raced" in pack of women like this. I should mention that none of us would win the race. The winner would be Perry Shoemaker, an Olympic

Marathon qualifier and holder of all sorts of records at the age of 50+. She was WAY out ahead, but we were all contenders for 2nd, 3rd, and so on. 

It was an entirely different racing experience. The camaraderie and the ability to feed off of each other's energy was amazing. And the fact that we were all sharing this odd experience of a super long 10K made it all the better. We took turns uttering short sentences to keep the vibe strong. 

My Garmin beeped for mile 3 (6:36 pace) and shortly after that the pack begin to spread apart. We went from 5 runners down to 4 down to 3.  We stayed a pack of three for a while longer and then one of the ladies pulled ahead. So then it was me and one other runner. The other runner (Lauren) told me to go with the woman who broke away, but I could not. Shortly after I pulled slightly ahead of Lauren and it seemed like the places might be solidified.

But none of us really knew what we were getting into. What would mile 7 of a 10K feel like? It was anyone's race. Except for Perry - there was no doubt she would win!

Mile 4 clocked in at 6:34. I wasn't keeping track of my pacing and as I type this, I am now realizing that miles 2, 3, and 4 were 6:24, 6:36, and 6:34. That's a FAST 5K right there. As for mile 1 - my data says 6:53 but that includes standing around trying to figure out what was happening.

Miles 5-6
I should note that the course had no mile markers. No course marshals. No directional signage. At one point a car pulled out right in front of me and I had to slow down for it. I have run the Ringing In Hope races many times in the past and the organization has always been excellent. I do not know what happened yesterday but it was certainly well below the standard I expected from them. 

I reasoned that mile 5 was the mile 4 I had studied in the course elevation profile. Which meant it was time for a big long hill. Mile 5 sucked the soul out of me! It had me seriously questioning my life choices. After running a sub 20:30 5K I was now expected to run three more miles, the first of which was a huge hill. Why did I do this to myself!?

The only thing that motivated me was reminding myself that I was not a quitter and the fact that I was in 3rd place. I guess those are pretty strong motivators, as they worked. But at the time it was very hard to stay in it! I still had the 2nd place runner in my sight. The gap between her and me stayed pretty much the same throughout mile 5. My split was 6:55 which was pretty miraculous because I felt like I was slugging by at an 8:00 pace.

Mile 5 or 6, waving to Cheryl.
Mile 6 was a similar story. There was not much respite from the hills, although I knew from the elevation profile that the worst was behind me. It hurt so much. It would have been easy to fall into the thought pattern of resentment. Resenting that this would not be the final mile. That my 10K was derailed by course mis-management. But none of those thoughts popped into my mind. I acknowledged the pain. Embraced the suck. I didn't look at my watch. I stayed focused on the woman ahead of me and reminded myself that the woman behind me could be very close. 

My friend Cheryl was cheering for me and taking photos at some point during this stretch. It was a huge pick-me-up right when I needed it. I was so happy to see her! 

Mile 6 was 6:52. Another surprise because I felt like I had faded to something in the high 7:00's!

Mile 7 and final 0.34:
At this point, I was truly going "the extra mile". Never had that phrase resonated with me so much! Thankfully it was a net downhill and I knew the end HAD to be near. I just wasn't sure how near. In my head I kept wondering when that turn would come. Would this be 7 miles? 7.5 miles? 8 miles? Who knew!? And with no mile markers, the course wasn't giving any hints. 

At this point I did feel like I could have pushed harder. I knew it in the moment, but I had no motivation to go deeper into the pain cave. 

Finally I saw Greg and I knew the finish line was in my reach. Mile 7 was 6:38 and the final 0.34 was a pace of 6:31. I maintained my third place position but the 4th woman was not far behind! Interestingly, the only time I saw a male during this race was during the first mile mix-up. I was either running with the women or running solo for the rest of the race.

After the Race
Our pack of women reunited and instantly started talking about all-things running. Neither of us knew each other but we all lived locally and we were all similarly matched. At least yesterday we were!

I also had the opportunity to talk with Perry, the Olympic trials qualifier and 1st female finisher. Interestingly, she had also been registered for the 15K on Sunday, but switched to this 10K for similar reasons. I had always known about her but had never chatted with her, so it was really amazing to get to know her a bit!

The theme of this race was definitely bonding with other female runners. And honestly that FAR overshadowed the fact that the distance was totally messed up. If anything, the messed up distance was a blessing in disguise because it allowed me throw caution to the wind and run with a fast pack of ladies and embrace the experience. I had been planning on a 15K originally, so I got more bang for my buck with this race! In kilometers, this race was 11.8K.

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
As I said above, the local women's running community was the real focus yesterday. From my conversation with Perry to the pack of 5 women to Cheryl taking photos of me in the middle of the race. We all support each other and have a shared love of sport. I'm so grateful to be a part of this. I've found "my place" so to speak and it's exactly where I belong.

Other takeaways and stats:

  • My official time was 49:08, which is an average pace of 6:41
  • My Garmin logged 7.34 miles or 11.8K
  • According to the Jack Daniels VDOT calculator, the 10K equivalent is 41:12, which would have been a small PR for me, despite not believing myself to be in PR shape
  • Strava says I ran a 20:17 5K during the race, which is over 10 seconds faster than my Turkey Trot
  • My award for 3rd place was a free two-topping Domino's pizza, available for carry-out only
  • I am considering this a PR and having PR cake
  • Not only is it a PR because it's a new distance, but it also does equate to a 10K PR
  • I do not feel robbed of a 10K PR, but I am motivated to go run another one soon
  • The course mishap makes for a much more interesting blog post
  • I'm not sure how the lead runner was expected to know which way to turn. With no lead biker and no course marshal, there was no way for him to know. Everyone else simply followed him.
For the past two months I have been of the mindset that I am not in the best shape of my life. Today's race proves that wrong. I am in the best shape of my life. And I believe I could have run a faster final mile if I had more motivation. I truly did go "the extra mile" yesterday and I love that I encountered a new challenge and made new friends while doing so.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Turkey Trot- I Winged It!

I did not have any goals or this year's Turkey Trot due to its proximity to the Richmond Marathon, just 12 days prior. I knew that I would still have my marathon fitness, but my legs were still recovering.

I took 8 days off after the marathon and resumed the Monday before Thanksgiving, with a very short run of only 15 minutes. In addition to recovering from the marathon, I had caught a cold two days post race. By Monday it had been a full week since I got sick and I had all of my energy back. The congestion lingered, however. I ran short and easy runs on Tuesday and Wednesday and both of those runs confirmed that my legs were still in recovery mode.

My plan for the race was to "wing it" with no goals or pacing strategy. I had run this course 13 times in the past, so I knew what I was getting myself into. This is NOT the course I ran last year that holds my 19:41 PR. It is the course where I ran my first sub-20:00 back in 2018. The elevation profile is gently rolling hills with a larger hill at around the halfway point. 

I had not run this course since 2018 because they did not hold the race in 2019, 202, or 2021. It came back in 2022 but I was not aware of it. Instead I ran a different Turkey Trot.

Before the Race
I had a super casual attitude about this race, which meant I didn't have my normal digestive system clean-out when I woke up. I ate half of a Maurten solid and drank some water, and that got things going a bit!

The weather gets a 9 out of 10 on my personal weather scale. It was 43 degrees, mostly sunny with 8-9 mph winds. It would have been a 10 out of 10 without the wind. I wore fitted shorts, a tank top, arm sleeves, sunglasses and lightweight gloves. I wore the Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 shoes, which makes this my very first time ever racing in Saucony. I had run a few speedy workouts in them during training, and my adidas Adios Pro shoes remained too big, so Saucony it was!

I met up with my friend Meredith at the start line 30 minutes before race start. We warmed up with another friend, Nancy for nearly two miles. I had a caffeinated Maurten gel 15 minutes prior to race start. I didn't have the chance to use the porta potty, but that ended up being ok.

Greg, who is still recovering from his injury, moved to his cheering spot during our warm up. I would see him twice during the race. 

Mile 1
I didn't want to limit myself by looking at my Garmin, so I decided I would only look at it when it beeped for each mile split. After the first few minutes of runners getting out on the course, I settled into a groove. Meredith was in my sights and I figured I would roughly pace off of her. The first mile is gently rolling hills with a net uphill. I saw Greg about 2/3 the way into mile 1. Things felt hard, but I didn't feel like I was running at 5K effort; it felt more like 10K effort during the first mile. The Garmin clocked me in at 6:43. I would have guessed something closer to 7:00, especially since it felt like 10K effort, so I was happy with that.

Mile 2
The first mile has no turns; it's a straight road. The first turn is around mile 1.3. At the turn I found myself closing in on Meredith. This was not intentional, but I was simply "rolling with it" and that's where I found myself. Not that I am usually super-focused on my watch, but the fact that I didn't look at my watch at all allowed me to really be present and focus on my surroundings and effort level. 

The big hill came and it was not as steep as I had remembered it. The hills in the first mile were steeper than I had remembered, but this one seemed more tame. I caught up with Meredith and ran with her for about a minute. Then I started to really open it up on the downhill and told myself it was time to hammer it home at 100% effort with whatever my legs had. Mile 2 clocked in at 6:37.

Mile 3
I was pleasantly surprised with my mile 2 split, given that it contains the big hill. I could tell my legs were really starting to hate me. At that point, I realized I could be drawing power from my arms. I
decided to engage them more and really use them to propel me forward. I focused on my arm swing and forward lean. From an energy standpoint, I had plenty of it - the limiting factor was definitely my legs. If I had 4-5 more days to recover from the marathon I probably would have tried for sub 20:00. But the legs were still cranky. 

I was expecting to see Greg as I ran it in, but he was standing much closer to the finish line than expected. At that point I was too focused on sprinting to see him, but he saw me and snapped some photos. Mile 3 clocked in at 6:23.

The finish and beyond
My final kick was a pace of 6:12 for 0.14 miles, make this a Thanksgiving Pie run at 3.14 miles. 

My official time was 20:34, which earned me second place in my age group (out of 76) and 8th overall female (out of 392).

Meredith finished shortly after looking very strong. I had to sit down because that final kick really knocked the wind out of me! My legs were extremely tired and my body was not happy with me for running so hard!

I ran a half-mile cool down just to get some blood flowing to my muscles. Then I chatted with Meredith and her family before heading out. 

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
Probably the best takeaway is that I run really well when I have a super casual attitude. I know that I am going to focus and push hard once the race starts, so there is no need to overthink things before hand. I also enjoy running so much more when I am not glancing at my Garmin to monitor my pace. That's necessary at the beginning of a long distance race, but not during a 5K. 

I really had no predictions or expectations for this race. At best, I thought I could break 20:00 if my legs were fully recovered. At worst, I thought I could injure myself and end up walking it in. I had no idea what was going to happen. The fact that I ran so well 12 days post marathon and 10 days post getting a cold says a lot about my fitness!

Most of all, I am always thankful for any year I am healthy enough to run a Turkey Trot.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Lessons Learned in Training

Even though I have now run 33 marathons, I learn something new each cycle. Sometimes I learn something I already knew, but yet forgot along the way. And often my training confirms what I already suspected, but wasn't 100% sure about. 

Disclaimer: these lessons are unique to me and might not be applicable to the running population in general.

There's nothing magic about a 20-miler
I only ran one 20-miler this cycle and nothing longer. During winter training it makes sense for me to run multiple 20's and even bump it up to 22. But when I am struggling in the heat, I need to run the shortest possible long run required to check the box.

Finishing my only 20-miler
I ran two 19-milers and one 20 miler. In the grand scheme of things, 19 is just as good as 20. One of those 19-milers was meant to be 22, but I was struggling with dehydration so I stopped early.

High mileage trumps a lot of long runs
You're probably noticing a theme here: I am not a fan of the long run. For this cycle, I kept all my long runs at 2:00 or less until 10 weeks out. (This ended up being 12 weeks because I ran Richmond instead of MCM, but the principle still holds). Instead, my focus was gradually building up the mileage so I would be able to run multiple weeks at 60+ MPW. I see some people running 20-milers when they are 12 weeks out and that might work for them, but I could not sustain that. 

Summer running doesn't have to be the death of me
Because I am so heat sensitive, I usually shy away from doing any kind of speed work in the heat. But now I know how to strike the right balance. I tracked my water intake every day and made sure to get at least 60 ounces daily. After every run, my sports bra and shorts would be dripping wet with sweat so I made sure to rehydrate ASAP. 

All of my workouts were effort based, which meant "marathon pace" was "marathon effort" which equated to 7:45-7:50. I really had to trust that my body was getting the benefit each workout even though my paces were nothing like they were when I was training for Houston. 

I can take two weeks off and not lose fitness
I learned this from my SI Joint debacle prior to Boston 2022. Once I've built up my marathon fitness, taking 1-2 weeks off before the race doesn't cause it go away. What this tells me is that I should be doing more of a taper. I previously believed that I didn't need much of a taper to run well, but now that I know that I won't lose fitness, I am more inclined to go all-in on that taper. Once I returned to running after my time off from my hip, all of my runs felt so much more energized and peppy. I think I needed that extended recovery period.

As I train for Boston 2024, I am going to create a similar plan for myself-- but with more hills. Hills are definitely a weakness of mine so I will likely start my training cycle with 4 weeks of hill work before diving into other types of workouts. Overall, this was a successful training cycle and I am excited to push myself a little bit harder in the next one. But not with more long runs or longer long runs! Likely with slightly more volume. 

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Birthday Marathon: A celebration in Richmond

Yesterday I turned 45. And I ran a marathon. My 33rd marathon, but the only marathon (or race, for that matter) that I've ever done on the day of my birthday.

I was supposed to run the Marine Corps Marathon two weeks ago, but 16 days out I developed hip pain which resulted in two weeks of almost no running. Just some 2-3 mile runs here and there to "test" it out. Two visits to the doctor and cortisone shots eventually cleared things up but it wasn't 100% in the days leading up to the race, so I decided it wasn't smart to run it. Plus, the weather ended up being quite warm (so much so that they shut down the race early) and I would have likely switched to Richmond anyway. So it was going to be Richmond regardless, but the hip pain meant two straight weeks of nearly no running.

I had only run the Richmond one time before, in 2007. It was my 5th marathon and my first sub-4:00 marathon. I remembered it well, though, thanks to my detailed blog post. As my first sub-4:00 marathon, it carried good memories. I had also set PRs at the half marathon there in 2008 and 2015.

During the hip saga, I was headed down a dark path and I turned things around by truly letting go of any time expectation for a fall marathon. My goal became to simply run a marathon healthy and without hip pain, fully accepting that it might be one of my slower races. Letting go and truly embracing the marathon as an experience instead of a goal was mentally refreshing and really lightened my mood.

When I'm training for a marathon, much of the motivation to crank out the hard workouts comes from the desire to run a fast race. Otherwise, why would be I out there running hard tempos or long track workouts? Switching my mindset from "I am highly motivated to run a fast marathon" to "I just want to have fun" was a big shift in attitude, but one that had to happen.

Getting back at it
One of the benefits of taking so much time off was that I was really fresh when it came to do my last long run. Once my hip started to feel better, I was able to crank out 17.4 miles with some marathon pace work and have it feel totally manageable. However, this resulted in some serious DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) for the next 3 days since it was a shock to my system. I was familiar with this after my Boston Marathon fiasco last year. I took 9 days off shortly before Boston for an SI Joint issue and when I finally did a hard long run, my legs were really sore. So I knew this was no cause for concern.

11 days out from the marathon, on Halloween, I decided to run some mile repeats at 10K effort. I coached myself for this marathon, and I know that faster-than-lactate-threshold workouts are a weakness of mine, but extremely effective when I do them. I had just included marathon pace miles in my long run, so I thought this would be a good sharpening workout. I was targeting 6:45 for the repeats but didn't look at my Garmin for pacing. Running by feel, I ran 6:41, 6:34, 6:30 and they all felt like 6:45. This meant that I was in better shape than I had believed myself to be in. Wow. And my legs were still sore from the long run too.

7 days out from the marathon I did my last long run: 11.11 miles. I ran it as a progression run starting at the slow end of my easy zone and ending at the fast end of my easy zone. The entire run felt effortless with the first mile clocking in at 9:05 and the last 4 miles at 7:52, 7:47, 7:44, 7:50. I honestly couldn't believe how easy those paces felt. I was peaking for sure.

Shoe switch!
On Monday, 5 days out from the marathon, I decided to wear my race shoes for my final speed work, which would be 5 x 3:00 at half marathon effort. My plan was to wear the same shoes I wore in Houston (the adidas Adios Pro 2) as they only had 38 miles on them and they worked well there. However, I turned around and came home after running a mile out because my feet were slipping and sliding all around in the shoe. They were too big! How was that possible?

So then I tested another pair of the Adios Pro 2, the ones I wore in Boston 2022, and those also felt too big. I had one pair that was a half size smaller, but those shoes had too many miles on them for me to want to race a marathon in them. I then pulled a brand new pair of the New Balance Fuel Cell Elite 2, which is last year's model of the shoe. I heard many people say that version 3 of this shoe had issues and everyone liked version 2 so much better. So I bought a pair of version 2 and stashed it in my closet so I wouldn't even need to try the 3.

I put them on my feet and they fit perfectly. I ran 3 sets of 3:00 at half marathon pace and I felt zippy. Compared to the Adios Pro, they have a much softer landing and the fit is more locked in. I generally prefer the Adios Pro because they are more responsive and seem to have more pickup. But then I remembered my reason for running: to have fun. So what if these shoes weren't quite as fast? They were still fast and definitely faster than the shoes I wore when I ran my 3:15 PR, which did not have a carbon fiber plate.

The fact that they matched my planned outfit perfectly was a sign that it was meant to be. And having comfortable shoes might trump having faster shoes during those later miles. Usually I like to break shoes in a bit more before using them in a marathon, but I didn't have time for that.

The weirdest expo ever
Greg and I drove down to Richmond the day before the race with my friend Laurena. Laurena and I worked together nearly 20 years ago and hadn't seen each other since. But we stayed in touch and she reached out when she saw I was running Richmond. The drive down 95 was traffic-laden but the time went by so quickly because Laurena and I had 20 years to catch up on.

Laurena and me after the expo
The expo location was new this year (or maybe new to me, I am not sure when they moved it) but it was several miles away from the downtown start/finish at a NASCAR race track. It was cold outside with light drizzle and the expo was partially outside and partially in a garage-like structure. We were freezing cold and the light drizzle was annoying. After getting our bibs and shirts from a concession-stand setup, we went into the garage and walked through the expo. It was one long hallway with vendors on both sides. It was extremely crowded, cold and generally unpleasant. We wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. 

I can't even imagine how uncomfortable the vendors must have been in the cold and if other runners were like us, they didn't want to spend a ton of time there visiting the various booths. They had some featured speakers too and they were in an outdoor, uncovered space. 

I do not understand why the expo wasn't held at the convention center that was literally right next to the start line and race hotels. That would have made so much more sense. A more convenient location, climate controlled, more space for the vendors. But for some reason (I have to imagine there is a reason) they haven't held the expo there in all the years I've been running it (2007, 2008, 2012, 2015, 2018).

Food and Fueling
I am making this its own section because I often get asked about my fueling strategy. So here it is, all in one place. (Feel free to skip if this stuff is boring to you!)

I have a history of not being able to get gels down during the later miles of a marathon so it has taken me years to figure out a fueling strategy that works for me.

In the 3 days leading up to the race I tracked my water intake to ensure at least 60 ounces of water each day. I would have aimed for even high if the race was forecast to be warmer. I have a smart water bottle that tracks my hydration on an app. I used two packs of Uppermost Hydration each day on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I like the ways this hydration mix tastes and it has the added benefit of B and C vitamins. 

I did not carb load per-se, but I was mindful of what I ate and I made sure to eat carbohydrate-rich foods. Some examples are oatmeal, bagels, muffins, rice, pretzels. Pretty basic!

The day before the race I ate the following:

  • 2 hardboiled eggs
  • A medium-sized pumpkin muffin
  • A turkey sandwich on a plain bagel with goat cheese
  • A banana
  • Lots of almond butter filled pretzels (Wegman's brand) - seriously a lot of these!
  • Drank about 8 ounces of beet juice just before noon
  • Had a beet salad with dinner
  • Chicken parm (no cheese) with spaghetti and Pomodoro sauce at local restaurant
  • Bread basket at dinner

2 hours before the race start:

  • About 10 ounces of fluids (water + Skratch Labs Hydration)
  • About 6-8 almond butter filled pretzels
  • Half a banana
All the fuel I brought, actual intake outlined below.
This is not much food. I used to eat a bagel with peanut butter + a banana but I found that to be too much. I normally do not eat before I run in the mornings so my body isn't used to having a ton of food.

25 minutes before the race:
  • Strawberry banana UCAN gel with 5-6 ounces of water. UCAN is a slow release energy so if you take it 25-30 minutes before start time it kicks in when the race starts and slowly releases energy. Maurten gels, on the other hand, deliver a burst of energy right when you take them.

Once I started racing:

I carried a 24 ounce bottle of water + Skratch Labs Hydration mix. This mix has electrolytes + carbs. I used 1.25 scoops which equates to 100 calories. After each mile marker: I took a small (1-2 ounce) sip from my bottle. I drank the entire bottle and was finished with it after 16 miles.

At mile 20, I took water from a water station and drank that while walking for 4-5 seconds. I probably got a good 4 ounces in. I had no other fluids after mile 20, which was fine for a cool day. I used this same strategy in Houston with warm temps and I ended up dehydrated.

I timed my gels as follows:

  • 0:20- 2 Honey Stringer chews
  • 0:40- Maurten gel
  • 1:20- Maurten gel
  • 2:00- Maurten CAF gel (my only caffiene)
  • 2:40 - Maurten gel
  • 3:00 - One honey stinger chew

Everything went down easily. I estimate that I consumed around 600 calories including the UCAN gel, Maurten gels, chews, and Skratch mix.

This could have been its own blog post but I like to write novel-length marathon race reports, so it's here. 

It was 38 degrees at the start and warmed up to around 52 by the finish. Winds were 2-5 mph and there were only a few times I noticed wind, mostly over the big bridge. The sky was mostly cloudy at the start and the sun started peaking though towards the end. It was quite humid in the beginning so 38 degrees felt more like 45 degrees - and Kathy and Greg agreed with this "real feel. On my personal weather scale it gets a 9 out of 10. It would have been a 10 if it stayed under 45 degrees and it was less humid. But 9 out of 10 is pretty darn good weather!

Time Goal:
Based on how great my training runs felt leading up to the race I knew my fitness was still intact. So I did not revise my goal from what I had originally planned for MCM: sub-3:20. This would be a men's BQ for age 45-49. The last time I ran sub 3:20 was in the fall of 2021 so I figured I should try to do that again before going for a PR (3:15:34). My marathon pace runs had averaged 7:25 for marathon pace, but I'm not bold enough to go for the marathon pace I run in training as it has never worked out for me. I thought 7:30-7:35 would be more realistic. I figured if I had a good day, I would run my second fastest marathon ever and it would be 3:17-3:18.

Additionally, I am registered for Boston in 2024. I used my 3:26 from Houston as my qualifying time. I thought that time might put me in wave three, which has a later start time. I wanted to submit a faster time to get back into wave 2 like I usually am. If you run a time faster than the time you registered with, Boston allows you to submit it for a faster wave/corral assignment.

Before the Race
I hadn't slept particularly well all week due to my body clock being "off" from daylight savings. I have a very rigid circadian rhythm and if it gets disrupted my sleep suffers. Thankfully I learned from CIM that you can have epically horrible sleep and still run well, so I was not concerned. The night before the race I got about six hours of mostly peaceful sleep. I went to bed at 8:20, woke up at 9:30 to go to the bathroom, slept from 9:45 to 2:00. And from 2:00-4:00 I was mostly awake but had some brief periods of sleep. I did not have any anxiety dreams about missing the race or any dreams about the race at all, which is rare.

I got out of bed at 5:00 and started eating (see above). I got dressed, which included putting body glide everywhere to avoid chafing. I also used a body marker to write on my arms which miles had the most uphill and which miles had the most downhill. That way I knew not to worry if I was going slower on the uphill portions or seemingly "too fast" when running downhill. I ultimately ran the race based on effort/feel, but it was nice to have a little guide of what to expect.

It was my 45th birthday. So the birthday text messages were already rolling in! I tried to minimize the time I spent on my phone so I could focus on getting ready and ensuring I had everything I needed. All of my fuel fit in my shorts pockets. For the honey stinger chews, I removed them from their package and wrapped them in tiny pieces of plastic wrap. The chews were mostly meant to be a backup plan in case I couldn't get the gels down. But they would also serve as supplemental energy as tolerated. 

I made sure my shoes were tied to a good comfort level, and tucked the loops of the laces under the firm laces to ensure they would not come undone. I learned the hard way in Houston when I had to stop to tie my shoe. I spent a few minutes using a massage ball on my glutes to help with glute activation. This was recommended by my physical therapist.

I left my hotel room at 6:30 and met my friend Kathy in the lobby. We chatted and that's when I had my UCAN gel. Shortly after we left the hotel and headed towards the start line. I tried to run there for a warmup but that was short lived because it became too crowded. Oh well, I would use the first mile as a warmup.

I lined up in the corral between the 3:10 pacers and the 3:25 pacers. There was no pace group for 3:20 or 3:15. I was happy about that because I don't run with pace groups and I find it annoying to be caught up in the big pack of runners. Since I was trying to run a time of around 3:18, I figured I should never see a pace group during this race if things went well.

Miles 1-6
The race seemed to start quite suddenly but I was ready. Mile 1 is always about finding a rhythm, especially since I hadn't warmed up. I go out at what feels like easy run pace and then adjust from there. I was expecting to see Greg at the first mile marker but I ended up seeing him a lot sooner. No worries, I was able to gracefully weave through the runners to greet him on the side of the course. 

Mile 1
I had studied the elevation profile of the course and I knew that these first six miles were slightly net uphill. I like to start conservatively so knowing these miles were net uphill meant I wanted to go even slower to avoid expending too much effort. 

A lot of people have conversations early in the race so eavesdropping is unavoidable. It was a nice distraction for me as I focused on their conversations instead of thinking about all the miles ahead of me. I stayed in the present. 

Somewhere around miles 4-5 the 3:25 pace group came up from behind me and I found myself caught up in them. I definitely did not want to be in the middle of the pack and even though I was confident in my own pacing, it was still somewhat demoralizing to have a pace group catch you. A 3:25 marathon is a pace of 7:48, and they were running notably faster. I dealt with it by speeding up to get out of the pack and once I felt like I was a good bit ahead of them I slowed back down. 

I removed my arm warmers at around mile 5 which was sooner than expected and I ditched my hand warmers not longer after. With temps ranging from 38 to 52, that was my layering strategy.

Mile 1: 7:43
Mile 2: 7:37
Mile 3: 7:32
Mile 4: 7:35
Mile 5: 7:36
Mile 6: 7:36

Miles 7-13
By this point the crowd had thinned out and I knew that my favorite part of the course was coming up. This portion runs down by the James River and it's quite scenic with all the fall colors. It's peaceful and mostly flat. There were a lot of curves during this section and a small part of torn up pavement. I had to watch my footing and pay attention to the tangents. But thankfully the pavement got better after about half a mile. The shoes were still feeling really comfortable and soft. 

As I was running mile 11, I said to the person next to me: it's mile 11 on 11-11 which is also my birthday! Let's make it a good mile! We chatted briefly and he asked me what my time goal was. I said 3:18 and he said 3:20. I lost track of him somewhere around mile 16 an I don't know if that's because I passed him or if he passed me. I wanted to savor every moment of this race. This was my birthday marathon and I almost didn't get to run a marathon due to my hip. I was grateful. I ran the entire race with gratitude. 

My splits below reflect the profile of the course. "Gently rolling hills" is an accurate description. None of the hills here were too crazy, but it made of uneven pacing. 

Mile 7: 7:17
Mile 8: 7:26
Mile 9: 7:30
Mile 10: 7:43
Mile 11: 7:18
Mile 12: 7:37
Mile 13: 7:18

Miles 14-20
My half marathon split was 1:38:58, which is an average pace of 7:33. I knew Greg was tracking me and I had told him to expect me in the high 1:38s or the low 1:39s, so I was executing exactly as planned. He later told me that he got no text message or email alerts. The tracking did not work. Oh well, at least I believed it was working and that helped me mentally!

At this point, I was on track to squeak under 3:18. Perfect. I felt really good but I had no idea how I would feel by mile 20 so it was too early to predict if I would be able to get under 3:18 or not. I stayed present and thankful of the fact that I was feeling good now, so I continued on. 

I did not turn up the gas intentionally but I got faster anyway. There were a few downhill miles which got me into a faster groove so I ran surprisingly fast during the toughest part of the course which are miles 16, 17 and 18. Those three miles are net uphill and include a bridge that is always windy even on non-windy days. I can easily see how those miles could be the beginning of the end for many runners!

In fact, once we were running over the bridge I didn't even realize we were on the bridge until I looked on either side of the course and noted it was mile 16. By this point I had finished all the water in my handheld bottle. Fueling was going according to plan and so far everything was sitting well. 

Mile 18
Once we were over the bridge I knew there would be two more uphill miles. At mile 16 I still I had no noticeable leg fatigue. I still felt fresh. Again, surreal!

I knew that Greg would be somewhere in the 18th mile and I found him at 17.5. I was so excited to see him. Before the race he asked me if I could give him some indication of how it was going at that point. I told him I would give him a thumbs up if it was going well. And he got a huge thumbs up from me! I was absolutely beaming. I had never felt so happy during the 18th mile of a marathon. 

Mile 14: 7:16 
Mile 15: 7:15
Mile 16: 7:39
Mile 17: 7:31
Mile 18: 7:26
Mile 19: 7:20
Mile 20: 7:30

Miles 20-26
I honestly could not believe how fast I was running. Similar to my mile repeat workout from 10 days earlier, I felt like I was running 7:45s when in reality I was running under 7:30. I think I must have been peaking at exactly the right time. And apparently all that time off from my hip did me some good and left me feeling fresh. I coached myself this training cycle so I gave myself a nice pat on the back for a job well done!

My official mile 20 split was 2:30:16, which is an average pace of 7:31. The tracking system was not working but I didn't know that. It perked me up to know that Greg could see how well it was going. 

I hadn't had anything to drink since mile marker 16 so I decided to walk through the next water station. I didn't want to stop again after that so I made sure to drink the entire cup which was probably 4-5 ounces. If it were warmer I would have needed more stops, but thankfully it was a cool day. The sun was starting to come out but it didn't seem to bother me.

I still had no idea what to expect from the rest of the race. Supposedly the last six miles were mostly downhill. But I remembered running the half marathon back in 2018 and it felt like there was still plenty of uphill in the last three miles, which are the same last three miles of the full marathon. 

My energy level was high and my spirits were high. I couldn't believe I was still going strong. Every time I glanced down at my watch my speed would blow my mind. Even though I wasn't on track to PR, I was not running this fast at the end of my PR marathon, which had been a positive split.

Mile 26
I didn't feel like I had faster gear, but the gear I was in was already plenty fast so I told myself to relax and hold it. I knew I had less than an hour to go and I could be mentally strong for less than an hour.

Miles 21-24 were magical. These are always the hardest miles of a marathon and they didn't feel nearly as hard as they usually do. Splits were 7:27, 7:13, 7:17, 7:19. UNREAL. I could not believe it.

The thought of getting a PR did cross my mind but I felt like I was very fragile at this point. Like I was so lucky to be doing what I was doing that any change in effort and it would all come crashing down. I was on a good path. No need to drastically shake things up. 

Mile 25 and 26 were the only truly hard miles of the race. My legs got achy and I was on autopilot. I didn't have much control over my speed, I just went with whatever I was given! I knew I was on track to crush my goal so I focused on taking it all in and remembering that marathons are what I love to do! I spend so much time and effort every day out of the year to prepare for this one day, this one moment. Mile 25 clocked in at 7:37 and mile 26 at 7:20.

I saw Greg just before mile marker 26. He snapped some photos and I knew the end was close!

The Finish
Richmond is known for its screaming downhill finish. Once you get to mile marker 26, the run to the finish line is a very steep downhill. I increased my cadence and let gravity do its thing. According to my Garmin, the last 0.31 miles was a pace of 6:11!

My official time was 3:16:04. This earned my 4th place in my new age group 45-49. 

It wasn't long before I vomited. For the past four years I have thrown up after every long distance race. It's inevitable. It doesn't mater how well the race goes, my digestive system shuts down. There was A LOT of vomit, but it was all liquid. It was a yellow-green liquid and I am not sure where that color came from. Once I got it all out I proceeded to find Greg. 

Before I did, someone stopped me and asked me to sign his copy of Boston Bound. Yes, it was another surreal moment. This person just happened to have his book with him at the finish line. I guess he brought it in hopes of seeing me. He ran a time of 3:10 so I guess he got his checked bag and then saw me. I signed the book for him and it made me so happy that someone brought my book to the finish line!

Greg and I were supposed to meet in the family meeting area, but I did not see that anywhere. I used someone's phone to call him and we eventually found each other. It was there that he told me he had no idea how I did because the tracking wasn't working. But he was able to zoom in on the photos he took of my watch to know it was going well.

We looked on his phone and found my official result. I was so happy with it! I was simply beaming and runner's high was in full swing.  Since tracking wasn't working I wasn't able to tell how Kathy or Laurena were doing. But I later learned that they both crushed their goals; they both qualified for Boston!

It was nearly a mile for us to walk back to the hotel. I was on Cloud 9 the whole time. My legs felt pretty good and nothing was hurting. Truly a rarity post-marathon. Back at the hotel I created my Instagram post and then took a shower. I read my splits to Greg and I was giddy with excitement.  45 was off to a great start. 

Here are some fun stats:

  • This was my 33rd marathon
  • This was my 14th BQ
  • I qualified by 33 minutes and 56 seconds
  • I qualified "like a man" by 3 minutes and 56 seconds
  • This is my biggest BQ cushion ever
  • I was 30 seconds slower than my PR of 3:15:34
  • This is my second fastest marathon ever
  • This is my fastest marathon on a hilly course
  • I placed 4 out of 164 women in my age group (45-49)
  • First half was 1:38:58, Second half was 1:37:08
  • This is a negative split by 1:40 
  • Miles 22, 23, and 24 were all sub-7:20 and they were relatively flat
  • I set a course PR by 40 minutes and 45 seconds; my time from 2007 was 3:56:41
  • I beat my Houston time from January by over 10 minutes
  • I will now be in wave 2 for Boston instead of wave 3
Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
Everything worked out the way it was meant to. My hip injury was a blessing in disguise because the weather for MCM ended up being warm. And being injured on the cruise allowed me more time to enjoy the cruise instead of running on the treadmill. Once I flipped my mindset from a time goal to simply being grateful for the opportunity to run, then I was able to relax.

I missed two whole weeks of training and it didn't impact my fitness one bit! I expected it would, but I think it helped my body recover from all the hard work it did in August-early October.

I'm in excellent shape! This shows that I can coach myself successfully and I will continue to do so. I enjoy the freedom of switching things around to fit my schedule and I think I know what is best for my body at this point. Plus, I am a certified coach so I know how to build a plan. This will also save me money.

I coached myself with a few basic principles that I suspected would work best for me, given my history:
  • A short training cycle. No runs longer than 16 miles until 12 weeks out.
  • Focus more on high volume and less on long runs; no runs longer than 20 miles
  • High mileage doesn't wear me out - long runs do.
  • I get the biggest training benefit from running slightly faster than LT pace 
  • Easy runs should be no faster than 9:00 in the summer
In other words, pack very high volume over 6-8 weeks with 18 milers instead of 20 milers. That will have me peaking at just the right time. I do not think my training contributed to this injury because it was mostly nerve-based. I think running on the tapered brick boardwalk in Miami was the culprit because my hip started hurting about 5 hours later. 

There have been many marathons when I was in physically better shape than I am now, but other obstacles prevented me from running fast. I think I could have PR'ed any of these marathons:
  • Houston: 3:26 - Too hot and humid
  • Two Rivers: 3:19 - Injured during race, slightly overtrained
  • Harrisburg - 3:23- Digestive Issues
  • CIM - 3:22 - To hot and humid
  • Boston: 3:26: Torrential Downpour and 25 mph winds 

So much of it comes down to having a good day. Good weather, good fueling, good mindset, low stress other areas of life. It's admittedly been frustrating having had SO MANY cycles when I felt like I was in shape to PR but then the stars didn't align. Even though I technically didn't PR yesterday, I wasn't trying to do that. I still enjoyed that same magical feeling of exceeding expectations and having that race day magic. A PR is really just a technicality. It's my fastest race on hills and I am 45 years old, not 40. 

I'm encouraged by this race. I've shown that I can run really fast with self-coaching and through having a positive, relaxed mindset. I enjoyed every moment of this and I am glad I savored it.