Saturday, July 25, 2020

Loudon Street Mile Race Report

I ran my first LIVE race this morning since March 1st! All of the races I had been registered for after March 1st were canceled, but the Loudon Street Mile marked my return to real racing. The race had 193 finishers, and was run in six waves that were spaced apart by 10 minutes.

This race typically occurs on Memorial Day, but they moved it July this year. I had heard really good things about it from fellow runners but I had never tried it. The race takes place in Winchester, VA, which is about an hour away from where I live. It was definitely worth spending two hours in the car to run a live event. In fact, one of the participants traveled all the way from North Carolina.

The race attracts a competitive field with top five females all finishing faster than 5:12. The master's winner ran 5:15. There is prize money for the top finishers, so it makes sense that the speedy runners would come out.

Having run 3 mile time trials on the track and the Virtual Indianapolis Monumental Mile also on the track, I was ready to take on a road race. I had never raced a mile on the road so I wasn't sure what I was in for. I knew to expect a hill for most of the first half, and I'd never run mile pace up a hill like that.

The race was originally scheduled to start at 8:00, but about two weeks ago, they pushed it back to 9:00. They wanted to allow more time for packet pickup. Originally, my wave (women under 7:00 pace) was scheduled to start at 8:00, but with the new plan, the fast men started first at 9:00 and then the fast women at 9:10. After that, the next fastest men and women combined, followed by the rest of the field. This meant Greg was in the 3rd wave, which started at 9:20.

Before the Race
I woke up naturally at 4:30, obviously excited about the race. I ate an English Muffin with peanut butter at 6:30 and we were out the door at 7:00. I had a dream last night that I forgot my race shoes. And what do you know, three minutes into the drive I realized. . . I had forgotten my race shoes. Thankfully we weren't too far from home and we didn't lose my time going back for them.

Speaking of race shoes, this is the first race ever that Greg has worn a lighter shoe! He's never raced in anything lighter than his daily trainers (Brooks Adrenaline and Mizuno Wave Inspire), but I convinced him to get a pair of the adidas SL20, which I had recently gotten and determined they were the perfect entry-level speed shoe. I wore the adidas Adios 4, which are lighter than the SL20 but have a nice spring to them. Also I should note that I much prefer the Adios 4 to the newer Adios 5 mile, which I find to be stiffer and less comfortable.

After our hour-long drive, we parked near the packet pickup, which was setup outside of a running store. There was only one other person picking up their packet at the same time as us. I know that packet pickup is a safety concern for many races, and one of the reasons they cancel. But if you allow runners to pick up their packets in advance and keep the field size small, and hold it outdoors, it's not an issue.

Warming up on the course
We then drove one mile to the start line so we'd have access to our cooler of ice beforehand. We parked, used the porta potties, and I took a caffeinated Maurten gel. I find that caffeine really helps in these short, hard efforts. Then we started our warm up. I saw a few friendly faces and it was so nice to be out in the community again! I noted that the course started on a downhill for the first 0.2 mile, and then was uphill to just after the halfway point. Then downhill, and then a flat finish through a brick-surfaced town center. No turns-- just a straight shot!

After the warm up, I put some ice in my sports bra and in the sides of my briefs. I poured water over my head. And then I did some strides before heading into the corral. It was 76 degrees with a "real feel" of 78. Humidity at 86%. Ouch. But thankfully it was only a mile. If this had been a 5K I would have deemed these conditions unsafe for me to go all out. Given my heat sensitive issues, I would have held back a little. But with (hopefully) less than 6 minutes of work, I figured my body could handle a full-out effort regardless of the heat.

My goal was sub-6:00. That doesn't seem very lofty given that my PR on the track is 5:52. But this race had a hill and I wasn't sure if asphalt, followed by brick, would be as fast as the track surface. Plus, when I ran the 5:52 it was only 55 degrees and not humid. My strategy was simply to run as hard as possible and see if I could squeak under 6 minutes.

The Race!
The gun went off. There were about 35-40 runners in my wave, all female. It's very rare that I am running with all women so this was a novel experience. Most of the runners flew out of the gate at lightening speed, but I held back a little bit. According to my Garmin data, I ran the 0.2 downhill at a pace of around 5:40, but as soon as the up hill started, I slowed to around 6:30.

As I was running, I tried not to look at my Garmin too much. But I did notice that whenever I did my average race pace kept slowing down. I think that by 0.4 I had averaged 6:13. Yikes! Sub 6:00 was not at all looking good.

Note: I uploaded my raw Garmin data to Strava to analyze my race, since Garmin is down.

We kept climbing the hill and as we approached the top, I started to pass other runners. Someone called out a time of 3:03 for the first half, which put me on track for 6:06. And then I just started tearing through the field. I sped up dramatically on the downhill and I felt like I was flying. I was passing people left and right. Here are some Garmin data points for "current pace":

0.5: 6:31
0.6: 5:55
0.7: 5:36
0.8: 5:28
0.9: 5:36
1.0: 5:24

I could see the finish line and even though I was totally red lining and making all kinds of noises, I just pushed and pushed and pushed. It was hard, it hurt, and it felt amazing! I love that kind of pain that you only get as you approach a race finish line. This cannot be replicated in a virtual race when there is no finish line or people cheering for you, or other competitors.

I knew that I would be cutting it very close to my goal of sub-6:00, but when I saw the clock as I crossed I was elated. 5:57.6 official!

First half: 3:03
Second half: 2:54

For those of you who doubt Garmin accuracy, I had my auto lap set to one mile. My Garmin auto-lapped at exactly 5:57.6 which is the same as my official time. Without weaving and turning, GPS devices are highly accurate!

After the Race
The Master's Winner is in the middle
It took me about two minutes to feel normal again after the race, but once I did I was so happy. I briefly chatted with some other runners before walking back a little ways to see Greg finish. Greg looked really strong and it was so cool to be able to cheer for him. He clocked in a 5:41.4. This was his second fastest mile.

Once he recovered, we chatted for a little bit and watched other runners come in. And then we jogged back to our car near the start line. There was no awards ceremony to prevent people from gathering together, but they will mail the awards.

I ended up winning first place in my age group, 40-44. I did not win the Master's Race, which was won in 5:15 by a 45-year old woman. For those of you unfamiliar with how age group awards work, if you win the Masters race (age 40+), you are not eligible for an age group award. This is how I was able to win my age group. My award will be mailed to me. We then drove an hour home, both very pleased with how the morning went.

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
I'm really happy with how well I ran. I did not expect to beat my 5:52 track PR, which was on a flat surface in cooler weather. That said, I wish I had gone out faster. I have said this about every one of the mile time trials I have run. I don't think it's a matter of needing time to get the legs going; I think
it's a confidence thing. The "start slow, finish fast" mentality has always served me well, which makes me fearful of gunning it early in the race. Even though the first half was uphill, I still think splits of 3:03, 2:54 indicate that I could have run a faster overall time if I had started quicker.

I wish I could try running this course again next weekend! Unfortunately I will have to wait until Memorial Day 2021. I love the idea of racing a mile in the summer because I don't have to restrain myself for fear of passing out or getting sick. The fact that I had ice in my sports bra and that I poured cold water into my hair beforehand really helped, too. Next year I will target closer to 5:50!

I cannot stress enough how amazing it felt to be out on the race course again. This experience confirmed how much I love racing and how badly I want races to come back. The race director set an excellent example of how a race can be put on safely in the midst of COVID, and hopefully set a precedent for road races occurring in Virginia.

Elevation in Gray, pace in blue

Here is a video. I can be seen starting at 1:00.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Marine Corps Marathon Hopeful

I registered for the Marine Corps Marathon. While the naysayers are convinced that this race will ultimately be canceled, I remain optimistic. Here is the race director's stance:

"Many other large events have cancelled but our Marine instinct is to lean in and fight for the possibility of hosting a live marathon in Arlington, VA on October 25, 2020. This means a major overhaul of how the MCM looks and operates so social distancing considerations may be incorporated. In short, our working solution is to break the 45th MCM up into 24 waves that will start over an expanded window of time on event morning. This plan will necessitate a smaller field of in-person participants."

To reduce the field size, they have offered a virtual option, which is particularly attractive to those who would have to travel by air, and they have stated that you have to run a 12 minute mile or faster. They have not provided an update yet on the actual size of the new field, but they said they might have to reduce the time requirement even further if the field remains too large.

It sounds like they are doing everything in their power to take precautions so that the race can be held as planned. After all, they are the marines, and at some point a large race needs to set the precent for how they can be done safely. A vaccine is not a guarantee in 2020, 2021, or even longer. If race directors and government officials can't find a way to resume racing, then many races will go out of business.

Marine Corps Marathon 2006
I'm not a scientist, but we've had many mass outdoor gatherings over the past two months and none of them have been attributed to causing a spike or hotspot. Hotspots arose early in the pandemic from enclosed spaces, like that medical conference in Boston, nursing homes, and the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Once again, I am not a scientist, but I have done quite a bit of reading on this and I haven't seen any evidence of large outdoor mass gatherings causing a COVID 19 outbreak.

So even though many people think the Marine Corps Marathon will not happen, I choose to be optimistic. I'm also registered for Rehoboth Beach, which is about six weeks later. The race director recently emailed registrants telling us that it was too soon for them to know what would happen. As of now, they are still planning to proceed. I imagine we'll get more information in early fall.

My MCM History
Even though the MCM is my hometown marathon I have only run it once, back in 2006. It was my second marathon ever! I ran 4:24. I had a blast and I loved it so much. I ran the associated 10K in 2007 and 2012. The reason I haven't run the marathon again is because I have wanted to experience other fall races.

Plus, an October marathon requires long runs in August and that's not ideal with my heat sensitivity issues. But now that I have a treadmill, I think I can make it work. Lately I have been doing hybrid treadmill-outdoor runs. I run on the treadmill for 30-50 minutes and then immediately head outdoors for the remainder. Race day weather for MCM is hit-or-miss. It's been crappy the past few years but it had a streak of great weather the years before that. If it turns out to be too warm, I'll simply back off the pace and target Rehoboth Beach for a PR.

I'm also super excited about the charity I am raising money for. My donations website is currently broken, and once they fix it, I will announce what charity it is. It's an organization that I am passionate about supporting.

So, what's the plan?
July is an easy/recovery month and marathon training will officially begin in early August. Now is the perfect time to dial back the mileage and lay off the long workouts so I'm fresh when it's time to start the training cycle.

I have now done quite a few hybrid runs of treadmill/outdoor combo and it really works for me. The hotter it is, the longer I stay on the treadmill. If it's insanely hot then I simply do the whole thing on the treadmill. With the hybrid approach, I stay acclimated and reduce the risk of injury from 100% treadmill running. Having my own treadmill has been such a lifesaver!

If the starting temperature is 72+ combined with a dew point of 68+, then I do a hybrid run.  If the starting temperature is 75+ combined with a dew point of 70+, then I stay indoors for the entire run. I avoid speed work on the treadmill because I think it leads to injury (for me, not necessarily for others), so if it's too warm for speed work, I try to reschedule it for a different day, or ditch it altogether if there are no cooler options in the vicinity. I have to prioritize my health over trying to get all the workouts in.

Also, I should mention that I ended my running streak on Monday. I made it to 181 days. I think six months is a solid achievement and I could tell my body needed some rest days due to how high my heart rate was getting during easy runs. I only logged 31 miles this week, but I feel really good today, so the days off did their job. Now I just need to get through a few more weeks of very slow running in the heat and on the treadmill before I start training for Marine Corps!

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Virtual Race Report: Indianapolis Monumental Mile

Yesterday I ran the Virtual Indianapolis Monumental Mile on the track with Greg. I had been training to run the mile distance for about 4 weeks.

Time Trial #1
On May 25th, I ran my first ever timed mile. I had absolutely no idea what I was in for. I've read many 1-mile race reports over the past few years and I even spectated a 1-mile track race about eight years ago. However, I never had the desire to race this distance. In the spirit of taking on new challenges during the Covid era, I decided now would be the time.

We decided that Greg would go first and I would time him using my phone's timer. I would collect his lap data and cheer him on. Then it would be my turn. He would take photos and videos and cheer me on. You could make the case that we would have been faster if we ran at the same time, but I wanted to "run my own race" and not be distracted by what he was doing.

My biggest fear was totally blowing up and running far slower than my capability. So I decided to start on the slower side and finish with a hard sprint.  My goal for the first time trial was simply to get a baseline for future time trials, but I decided I would shoot for 6:00.  My splits for each 400m lap were:

1:32 (1:32)
1:33 (3:05)
1:30 (4:35)
1:26 (6:01)

My time was 6:01.8. I was good with this time, although given how fast my last lap was, I wished I had gone out faster. Greg ran 5:46.

Time Trial #2
Our second time trial took place one week later on June 1. I should note that the weather for both the first and the second time trials was unseasonably cool. Mid 50s with low humidity.

Now that I had some practice under my belt, I decided I would try to go out more aggressively and run sub 6:00. I also knew that my mental game needed to be stronger. During the first time trial I kept having visions of stopping and not finishing the whole thing. For time trial #2, I vowed that I would stay positive the entire time and remind myself to push as hard as possible while staying relaxed.

1:30 (1:30)
1:32 (3:02)
1:29 (4:31)
1:25 (5:56)

My time was 5:56.0.  Over 5 seconds faster! Once again, I felt like I was flying during that last lap and I wished I had gone out faster. Greg ran 5:40, so we both shaved nearly six seconds off of our first attempt.

Time Trial #3
Once again, we waited one week and ran another time trial. It just so happened that Mondays offered the unseasonably cooler weather. It was in the upper 50s and sunny, but the humidity was low. I promised myself I would go out even faster and I would push, push, push all the way through. With two time trials behind me, I was much more confident in my abilities.

1:30 (1:30)
1:28 (2:58)
1:28 (4:26)
1:26 (5:52)

My time was 5:52.5, a PR by 3.5 seconds! I was so thrilled with this. And for the first time, I felt like I really gave the run everything I had in me. I was totally and completely spent by the end. After the first two time trials, I felt like I still had more to give. Greg had similar gains, running 5:37.

The Race
I wore briefs for the first time. Felt so free!
For the virtual race, we were allowed to run on any date between June 22 and June 30, so the race is still going on. We picked yesterday, which had the coolest weather. It was 62 degrees, compared to all the other days that were around 70. It was a humid 62, though, so it was definitely not as nice as any of the previous 3 attempts. I had no idea how much of a factor the weather would be for a race that lasted less than 6 minutes. I mean, how much can the humidity really get you in such a short time span?

Turns out, both Greg and I felt flat. I didn't feel like I had the power that I had during my previous attempts. My goal was to break 5:50 and run the first lap in 1:28. I think it was partially the weather but also partially that I just didn't feel great. Training in the heat has a cumulative effect so even if the actual race has good weather, if you've been training in crappy weather in the week leading up to the race, you likely won't feel your best.

Ironically, this is what happened at the Indy Monumental Marathon in 2017. I trained really hard during an unseasonably warm autumn. The race weather, however, was ideal. And yet I totally crashed and had a horrible race. My splits were:

1:31 (1:31)
1:31 (3:02)
1:30 (4:32)
1:26 (5:58)

My time was 5:58.0. When I saw my split for lap 3 I knew I needed to book it just to break six minutes! It seems like I am consistently able to run 1:26 in the last lap, but I can't seem to get myself to push harder earlier. I don't know if that's lack of confidence or that my legs need to warm up more. I was really, really hurting by the end and it took me a while to feel recovered after I finished. I felt like I pushed harder in this virtual race than the other time trials, and that is supported by the heart rate data below.

Before these time trials, I do drills and a few 100m strides, so I feel loose and ready to go.

In any event, I was happy that I ran sub-6:00 but disappointed that I didn't reach my goal of sub 5:50. And just like in the time trials, Greg was slower than his PR, too. He ran a 5:42. Both of us were faster than time trial #1, but slower than the other two trials. It was just not the day to PR.

Because I love charts:

 Lap 1 
 Lap 2 
 Lap 3 
 Lap 4 
 Average HR 
 May 25  
June 1
June 8
 June 26

As for my training, my has been relatively low, as it tends to be in the summer. I plan to take the month of July very easy and then start adding more volume in August.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

160 Days of Running

Today I hit day 160 of my run streak! Not having a marathon to recover from makes it possible for me to run every day and I am lucky that I can do so without injury or illness. I have no idea when I will end the streak, but I hope it's by choice when it happens. Here are some highlights of the past 30 days.

Training for the Mile
I'm training for the Indianapolis Monumental Mile. This is a virtual race when I can run at any time between June 22-30. I'm planning to run it on Friday or Saturday and will blog about it once I do. The beauty of training for a virtual mile is that I've never raced the distance non-virtually. So I am only comparing apples to apples where a PR is concerned. My goal is sub 5:50.

My coach has prescribed some high-intensity speed work on the track which has really helped build my confidence and ability to pace. I've done 3 time trials on the track, which I will write about in more detail when I recap the virtual race. I've managed to get faster and faster each time, which I mainly attribute to knowing how to pace it and gaining the confidence to start fast. My biggest fear with this distance is crashing and running far under my capability.

Strength Training
I started working with a running-specific strength coach at the end of April. We have weekly sessions over Zoom and in between those sessions I have a program I do on my own. I really like the accountability of a coach (since I always seem to have an excuse for not strength training) and I like having the feedback on my form. Plus, she has been able to identify my areas of weakness and build a personalized program.

Most of the exercises are compound exercises which require a very stable core while I am lifting a weight or pulling a band. Glutes and hips are a big focus, but also the lats and the shoulders of the upper body. I do feel like I have more power when running and that I can get my knees higher and drive forward more efficiently.

Snake in the Basement
My run streak almost ended on day 150. I woke up feeling abnormally tired. I felt lethargic and like I didn't have my normal energy. That was a "yellow light" for me, meaning that I might be on the verge
This snake was in our basement
of full-blown mono, so I decided not to run that morning. I figured that I could always run later in the day on the treadmill if my energy level improved.

This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I had planned to run on the treadmill, but since I didn't, Greg went down to the basement first and he saw a snake! This prevented me from having to see the snake, or run on the the treadmill with a snake nearby. I was able to find a local snake expert to come by and help, but by the time he arrived, the snake was nowhere to be found.

The adrenaline of the snake situation really perked me up and by the end of the day, I felt completely normal. I decided to run just 2 miles outdoors to keep the streak going. No way was I going into the basement! Thankfully, Greg heard the snake moving around two days later, called the snake expert, and he was able to come over immediately and remove the live snake with his two hands! It was a lot larger than I had imagined. We think we identified how it could have gotten in and sealed up that area.

Poconos Mountains
The Lodge at Woodloch
We dealt with the snake just in time to leave for a mini-vacation to the mountains. We were so worried that we'd be gone for four days and that snake would just be hanging out. Greg and I booked a 4-night stay at the Lodge at Woodloch-- and all-inclusive spa retreat in northeastern Pennsylvania.

We really just wanted to get away, take some time off of work and focus on relaxation. We didn't do much while we were there other than relax, eat, and take in the beautiful scenery. The running situation was challenging. It was the mountains so all of our easy runs had insane elevation gains and losses. One of the runs was only 5.4 miles but had 540 feet of gain! I usually don't even run that much gain during a long run.

Thankfully, two of the four days were prescribed track workouts. We found a high school track that was relatively close to our resort and we were able to run on a flat surface. The weather was amazing. Each morning it was in the low 50s with low humidity. A dream come true! During the day, it would rise to the low 70s, still with low humidity. We were truly blessed, particularly because we had to eat all of our meals outdoors.

Lucky Leprechaun
When the St. Pat's 10K was canceled last spring, I signed up for a smaller race: Lucky Leprechaun. But 24 hours after registering, that race got postponed to June. And then at some point in May it turned into a virtual race.

I had pretty much forgotten about it, which was kind of a shame because we had unseasonably cool and non-humid weather on the morning when the virtual race was to occur (June 13th). Instead, I had a long run on the calendar. So I decided to run 11 miles at my easy long run pace, and then restart my Garmin for 3.1 at the end.

The 11 miles averaged 8:28 and then I ran a 5K in 22:41. Splits were 7:18, 7:19, 7:15 and 6:50 for the last 0.11. This was good for 5th female out of 190. Not to shabby, given my 11-mile warm up! I was encouraged that my endurance was still in a good spot if I could start hammering really hard at the end of a long run.

Fall Races
I am still undecided about my fall race plans. I originally signed up for the Rehoboth Beach Marathon because I wanted to run a late fall race. But now that we are no longer going to be in Africa at the end of August and into early September, I could start training earlier and run an earlier marathon. I am actually looking at running the Marine Corps Marathon for charity because it's local and I have not run it since 2006. As of now, the Marine Corps Marathon is not canceled so I am optimistic.

Another choice would be Philadelphia. That has been on my list for a long time and I've never done it. It would not require a flight and the weather is likely to be cooler than Marine Corps. Pennsylvania, however, is one of the the strictest lockdown states, so I am not as optimistic about that race occurring.

I do have a hotel reserved in Indianapolis. I ran really well there last year for the half marathon and was hoping to return. But it does require hopping on an airplane and it will not be a new experience. Indy Monumental is currently planning to have both a real race and a virtual race. Indiana is not as strict with their lockdown as other areas, so it could actually happen!

Rehoboth is still a possibility, but I might want to save that for 2021 because we are planning to go to Africa in August of 2021 and we will need a later fall marathon. I've heard that Rehoboth Beach is very strict with their lockdown, so that race might not actually occur.

We're coming up on a particularly warm and humid week here in the DC area, so I need to take it easy in preparation to race the virtual mile this weekend.

It's pretty humid here!

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Boston Marathon: Canceled!

Earlier this week, the B.A.A. announced that it would cancel the marathon and instead have a virtual race. This did not come as a surprise to most people, myself included, as no large sporting events have returned yet. The cancelation did not affect me in the sense that I wasn't planning to run in September, but it did upset me.

Boston Marathon Expo 2018
Initially I believed that all of the cancelations and postponements were an over-reaction. We knew very little about the virus, so why would we close all the businesses, the schools, and the entertainment venues for something that might not even be a real threat? But then I started to understand as the "flatten the curve" articles came out. We simply couldn't overwhelm our healthcare system and we needed time to get more ventilators, PPE, tests, and more. Everything was uncertain so it was better to be safe than sorry and I was on board with that.

The lockdown was not supposed to be a long-term solution. The goal was to "flatten the curve" but once it was flattened everything was still closed and canceled. And now we find ourselves in a situation where we don't have an endgame. We might not get a vaccine, and even if we do, it might not be completely effective. We might not find a treatment. Coronavirus could be here forever with no cure or vaccine. So, we need to find a way to live with it, one in which individuals can choose the amount of risk they are comfortable with.

For my age group, the chance of dying from COVID-19 is about the same as dying from a car accident. I'm totally scared of car accidents, but I still drive. I make sure to do so safely. I'm also scared of the flu, but I'm pretty good about not touching things and washing my hands. Higher-risk individuals might choose to stay home and not attend public events or social gatherings. But that needs to be their choice. Source: Coronavirus: How Scared Should We Be.

Studies also show that the virus does not spread as easily outdoors, which is why restaurants in Virginia can now be open for outdoor seating but not indoor seating. Outdoor public spaces are also now open.

While I understand that we needed to flatten the curve initially, the time has now come for individuals to be responsible for their own health. If we don't start changing our thinking on this, we may never have races, sporting events, concerts, or conferences ever again.

Hopefully you made it this far and are still reading. I understand that COVID is a controversial topic and my beliefs may offend or annoy my readers. That's the risk I take with self expression.

April 20, 2020
Back to Boston, specifically. The B.A.A. is offering a virtual race in which you can earn your shirt and medal and submit results online and the race must be run between September 7-14. I probably will register for this so that I get my shirt and medal for the 26.2 miles I ran on April 20. I have reached out to them to ask if they would include virtual times from the weekend of April 20 in the results, as I know quite a few runners opted to run that weekend. I don't think it's safe for me to run 26.2 miles in the summer, no matter how slow. I have a history of getting mono (3 times now) in the summer, triggered by pushing myself too hard in the heat. Hopefully they will expand their timeframe to include the original Boston Marathon weekend in their virtual dates.

This is an example of a race being held that I do not think is safe for me to participate in, so I opt out.

Boston 2020 registrants will not be deferred 2021. They will have to apply again, only now they are competing against a larger pool of athletes, those who qualified between September 2019-March 2020. This means that the cut-off time will likely be steeper, and many runners who were registered for 2020 will not have the opportunity to run in 2021. Do I agree with this decision? Partially. If all runners were deferred then there would be no room for those who qualified in the fall of 2019 or the early spring of 2020.

 If I were running the show (and I'm not) here are the rules I would put in play:

  • Only registered runners from 2020 may apply to the 2021 race with a BQ time from September 2018-September 2019. 
  • If you were registered for the 2020 race, and you submit a BQ time between September 2018-September 2019, your BQ standard is based on your age on April 20, 2020. This would prevent 2020 registrants from gaining a larger buffer by aging up, which would be unfair to the 2021 qualifiers, and the rest of the 2020 qualifiers. You qualified originally based on your 4/20/2020 age, so that should not change.
  • If you were registered for the 2020 race but did not make the 2021 cutoff, you should be offered first dibs on a charity entry. You would still have to raise the money, but you'd be guaranteed this opportunity before non-qualifiers. Charities would still get their funds, and 2020 runners would still get their spots. (This does not take into consideration 2020 charity runners, but we don't yet know how those are being handled).
So those are my thoughts! I am sure everyone has their own opinions and they will vary widely. There is no perfect solution. 

My biggest concern at this point is the future of races in general. We are not guaranteed a 2021 Boston or a 2022 Boston. As I said above, if we are waiting for a vaccine or a cure to start things up, we have to face the reality that it may never happen.

I'd love to see some smaller races (200 people or less) start back up now with staggered starts and outdoor packet pickup, and then progress from there. I had always assumed that our annual July 4th 5K would take place and I was really disappointed when it was canceled.

As for my summer plans, I am currently trying to see how fast I can run a single mile. I will write a blog on that soon, as well as a recap of my spring "racing" season. I have been running every day and I am on day 138 of a run streak, which started on January 14. Not having to commute into work has given me extra time to run in the mornings and it has been the silver lining of the lockdown. More to come soon!

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Mother's Day 4-Mile Virtual Race

On Friday morning, I ran the Mother's Day Virtual 4-Miler, put on by Potomac River Running (=PR=). This was the first race I registered for as a virtual race, as opposed to registering for a real race and then having it turn into a virtual race.

=PR= sent out medals, bib number and race shirts about a week in advance of the race. We were told that we could run the race at any time on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. We could run it anywhere we chose, except for the official race course that had been used in previous years.

Initially, I thought I would run the race on Saturday. That would get it out of the way early and then I could still do a long run on Sunday. But as the forecast solidified it looked like it would be windy on Saturday, with Friday and Sunday being better options. Ultimately I went with Friday so that I could run my long run on Saturday, and not have to wait all weekend to do the race.

I have to admit, I am getting spoiled with virtual races and the option to choose the best weather day on a course I map out! I guess those advantages make up for the disadvantage of not having competition and a real finish line to run through.

In general, my thoughts on virtual racing are that they are the best option we have right now for racing, so we might as well do them. It's a great way to support local race organizers and increase the chances that they will still be in business once races are allowed again. The racing industry is getting hit HARD right now, so I will try to support race organizers as much as possible.

I would never choose a virtual race over a real race, but in the absence of real races, I would rather go virtual than not have any races at all. I enjoy pushing myself, having something to work towards, and the satisfaction of tackling a challenge. I'm honing my mental skills of pushing hard so that when real races come back, I will be in shape both mentally and physically.

Do virtual races count as PRs? Remember, the "P" in "PR" stands for Personal. So yes, if I run the distance faster than I ever have before, I am counting it as a PR. Plus, virtual racing is arguably more challenging than real racing because you don't have the race day adrenaline and the other runners to feed off of.

Before the Race
Greg and I woke up at 5:45 with the goal of leaving our house at 6:30. I wanted to start the race at 7:00 before it got too warm. I had half a serving of Generation UCAN Performance Energy, plus a Maurten gel with caffeine. The purpose of the UCAN was to ensure I had long-lasting energy, and the purpose of the gel was to get the caffeine.

We drove about two miles to the neighborhood where we would run the race. I had mapped out the course earlier in the week. The actual Mother's Day course starts up a big hill. So I designed a course
that started with a hill. From there, we would run down the hill and then it would be mostly flat to the end. The actual course continues to be very hilly until the end, so our course was definitely easier than the real thing.

In 2016, I ran a time of 27:51.
In 2017, I ran a time of 26:57.

Mother's Day 4-Miler 2017
My PR was 26:57, so that was the time to beat. I should also note that there used to be another popular 4-mile race that was held in the summer in the evenings. My PR for that course is 27:32. It's a flatter and much easier course than Mother's Day, but the 80+ degree weather makes it far more challenging overall. The race was discontinued last year and I don't think it will come back.

My goal was a sub-6:44 pace, which would be a PR. However, I really wanted to run an average pace of 6:36, which was the same pace as my 5K time trial a few weeks ago. I really feel like I could have pushed that race harder, so running a 4-mile race at the same pace as a recent 5K would be a nice win.

We warmed up for two miles. The weather was ideal. 48 degrees, mostly cloudy, and no wind. I give this a 10/10 on my weather scale, especially for May! Typically it needs to be in the low 40's to get a perfect weather score but for a short race like this, and with there being no wind, it was absolutely perfect.

Mile 1: 6:52
My plan was to run this mile conservatively because of the big hill and then go all out for the other three. When we started, Greg shot ahead as he tends to do in these races, and I had no expectation of catching him. He took the hill faster than me and was leading by about 15 seconds as we finished the first mile.

Mile 2: 6:36
Okay, now it was time to rally. I kept repeating to myself "It matters. It counts" as a way to push to my max and get the best out of myself. I don't think I gave it my all during the 5K time trial so this was my chance to prove to myself that I could push really hard in a virtual race setting.

Mile 3: 6:28
After hitting the halfway point and realizing that I had less than 15 minutes to go, I had the confidence to crank it up a notch. Often in races, I ease up in the second to last mile because it really hurts and I feel like I need to save some energy for the last mile. This time, I had the confidence to push really hard, knowing that I would still have energy left for the final mile.

I also noticed that Greg wasn't getting any father ahead of me. The gap was staying the same and it seemed like we were running the same pace. This was later confirmed by our splits. And I was thrilled to see that my 3rd mile was faster than his by a few seconds! One of my goals during this race was to push hard in the middle miles and my 6:28 split shows that I did just that.

Mile 4: 6:26
I flew during the last mile. I was hurting from the effort level but feeling so strong at the same time. I wish it always felt like this during the last mile of races. It wasn't that I had "saved" it all for the end either. If there had been a real finish line with a crowd, I probably could have run a little faster but since there was no finish line and I was waiting for my Garmin to beep, I didn't have a huge kick.

Final time: 26:27, a PR by 30 seconds from 2017.

And it counts! Greg ran 26:05, which was a PR for him too.

We cooled down for a little over a mile and then drove back home, where we began our work day. I didn't love having to go to work after a race; I would have rather basked in the satisfaction of my new PR. But it was worth it to race in non-windy weather.

As for the results, runners have until the end of the day today to submit their results, but as of 12:30pm on Sunday, I am in 3rd place out of 149 women. The results don't have age groups; just male and female divisions. I should mention that the 1st place female ran in the Olympic trials, so the competition here is pretty serious! Her time was 20:05 (average pace of 5:01).

Greg is currently the 4th male out of 39. I guess since this is a Mother's Day race, there are far more women participants!

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
I achieved all of my goals in this race:
  • Push really hard in the middle miles, don't ease up on the effort
  • PR by running faster than 26:57
  • Run the same pace as my recent 5K time trial: 6:36
I think that of all my virtual races, this is the one I am most proud of. Except for my "virtual" Boston marathon, which was not race effort, but was still extremely challenging due to the hills and the humidity. 

Looking Ahead
The summer is usually my "off season" for running because I can get really sick if I push hard in the heat and humidity. I need to be extra mindful of that with the coronavirus going around. So far, though, it's been unseasonably cool which has extended my hard training.

My next big challenge will be the mile. I have never raced the mile and I often get asked "what's your fastest mile?" To date, my fastest mile is 6:11. That was a downhill mile at the end of a Turkey Trot 5K with a tailwind. If I tried to run a mile right now I think I would be somewhere around 6:00. I would probably struggle to get under that. I think with some mile-specific training I could push it to 5:50 or 5:45. 

I've also started a strength training program with a strength training coach. This happens virtually over Zoom. We did an assessment about a month ago in which she identified the areas where I could gain running efficiency if I had more strength and stability. Based on the assessment, she wrote a program for me and we have sessions every week. I've had two of these sessions so far and I love them. Having a coach provides accountability because historically I have never been able to keep up with a strength training regime for more than 6-8 weeks before quitting. Also, now that I know I'm doing exercises that will help me be a faster runner, I'm more motivated. 

When do I think races will come back? There is an increasing amount of research and evidence showing that the virus does not spread as easily outdoors as it does indoors. Also, we haven't seen major outbreaks from the LA Marathon and other large races that occurred that same weekend-- when the virus was clearly in the US but we hadn't yet started social distancing. 

We've also flattened the curve to the extent that the healthcare system is not overwhelmed with patients. Does that mean races will come back? No. From everything I am hearing, the overwhelming objective is no longer to flatten the curve but to "prevent the spread" of the virus. And if that's the case, we will need to wait for a cure or a vaccine.

Back when it was "flatten the curve" I was optimistic about races coming back in the summer. Now that it's "stop the spread" I don't see races happening until 2021. At least not races with more than 1000 people. But I love running and racing so I will continue to do whatever I can to keep it in my life. 

Greg's PR and my PR

Sunday, April 26, 2020

I ran 90 miles this week. Here's what I learned.

After running 26.2 miles on Monday to commemorate the Boston Marathon that never happened, I proceeded to run a 90-mile week. The idea to run 90 miles in one week came from my coach. The idea to start it off with a marathon was mine. Together, we make a crazy team!

Why run a 90 mile week? With no races on the calendar, my coach thought it would be a good way to challenge myself and also discover what I was capable of. I wasn't trying to make any fitness gains. In order to do that, I would have to string multiple high mileage weeks together, combined with marathon-specific workouts. Rather, I was trying to see how my body would respond to the 90-mile week and "learn" how to do it safely.

If I do end up running a 90-mile week in future training cycles, I most likely will not kick it off with 26.2 miles on a Monday. But even still, I think my experience will translate to future cycles.

Also, there is no better time to try this than right now:

  • The weather is still cool enough to push myself (I would not attempt this in the summer)
  • I don't have to physically go to work, which means I have extra time in the mornings
  • I don't have to physically go to work, which means I can wear recovery boots while working
  • I'm not training for anything in particular, so my training doesn't have to be targeted
Without having any commitments aside from working from home, I had the luxury of trying something new. I was confident in my ability to achieve this goal, but I wasn't going to injure myself in the process. If something felt strained or "off" I would shut it down and not risk it. I always pay close attention to how I am feeling during heavy training, and this week was no exception.

First, let's see how 90 miles looks in the grand scheme of my training over the past year. While my mileage was relatively low the week before, it did include a 5K time trial on Thursday, in which I pushed very hard.

Weekly mileage for the past year
As you can see from the above graph, that 90 mile week all the way to the right is by far the highest. It's important to note that I have been consistently running in the 60s and 70s for a long time, so it's not like I was able to do this out of the blue. I have been logging this type of mileage for at least the past 3 years. I have been running 7 days a week for the 4 years, so this is something that I have built up to over time. I do not recommend that someone who typically runs 40-50 miles a week try this.

Monday: 26.2 miles at 8:23 average pace
I wrote a detailed blog post about this so I won't go into the details here. I did spend the rest of the day prioritizing recovery. I was dehydrated so I drank plenty of water. I was thirsty for the three hours following run! I also spent 30 minutes in my Rapid Reboot compression boots. I wasn't really hungry for the rest of the day. We ordered a Mellow Mushroom pizza as my post-race lunch but I wasn't hungry for it until about 2-3 hours after the run. And even then I only had one slice. For dinner I had two slices of pizza plus a salad. This was really not much food, but I didn't have a huge appetite. Greg and I took a walk around the neighborhood in the evening. I think this helped in getting blood flowing through my legs.

Unfortunately, I didn't sleep very well that night, probably due to the adrenaline of the experience. Or maybe because I had a soda late in the day. I had a Pepsi shortly after CIM and I realized how satisfying soda is post race. I try to limit my soda (I had gone cold turkey for six months last year!) but I do treat myself occasionally.

Tuesday: 7 miles at 9:31 average pace
Weather: 46 degrees, partly sunny, light breeze
Shoes: Brooks Ghost

Tuesday, April 21
It was definitely a shock to myself to run the day after a marathon. I wore my tall compression socks for calf support and they felt nice. My legs were not "sore" in the traditional sense, but they were stiff and dead feeling. The only "watch out" that I noticed was that my right Achilles tendon was achey. But the more I ran, the better it felt. The first mile was definitely the hardest. I felt pretty good for miles 2-5, but then my legs got tired for the last two miles. My energy level was high and aside from my beat up legs, I felt good.

I took an Epsom salt bath and spent more time in the Rapid Reboot. During the Epsom Salt bath, I noticed that I had a blister on my big toe. I hadn't really felt it before then, but I noted that I should put a blister Band-aid on it for the next day.

My legs felt tired and achey all day, but there was no one particular area that hurt more than it "should". This is where knowing the difference between a normal ache and an injury ache is important. Everything just sort of felt equally tender and abused-- I couldn't pinpoint any real problem areas in particular.

Wednesday: 10 miles at 9:21 average pace
Weather: 38 degrees, partly sunny, light breeze
Shoes: adidas Ultra Boost 20

I tried wearing the same Nikes that I ran the marathon in, but I had to take them off after the first few steps. My toes were still tender from the marathon and I needed a shoe with a roomier toe box. When I put on the adidas Ultra Boost, it was like a massage for my feet. My toes had plenty of room to spread out and the cushion was so plush.  I wore compression capri tights, which felt great on my hips, quads, and hamstrings.

Greg ran most of this run with me and I was happy he stayed with me at my slower pace. Once again, the first mile was the hardest and then my legs loosened up the more I ran. I had a good amount of energy and I was encouraged by how smooth the run felt.

I showered and had a 9:15am conference call for work. After that call was done, a wave of fatigue came over me. I couldn't keep my eyes open. Sleep overtook me and I was out cold for an hour. When I woke up, I felt like I could barely move. I was extremely groggy. But eventually I got going and continued with the workday. I honestly felt like crap for the rest of the day and I realized that my lack of sleep on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights had caught up with me. Allergies were also a factor, as I was sneezing my head off. I drank a ton of water and I ate really healthy foods. I was in bed at 7:30 and asleep by 7:45.

I told myself that if I still felt crappy in the morning, I would end my quest for a 90-mile week.

Thursday: 10 miles, with 6 tempo at 7:36 average pace
Weather:  45 degrees, overcast, no wind
Thursday, April 23
Shoes: adidas adizero Tempo 8

I woke up feeling refreshed after 9+ hours of sleep, so I figured I would continue on with the program. I couldn't believe my coach put a tempo run on the schedule! I told myself that tempo meant "faster than easy" and I would solely go on effort, not pace. I warmed up for 2.6 miles and then started the "tempo" run.

I managed to run splits of 7:48, 7:44, 7:36, 7:31, 7:33, 7:25. I am not sure how I did that just three days post marathon, but I did. It was hard and I felt like I was running a pace of about 6:50-7:00 towards the end. The cool down was pretty rough, but I managed to knock out 1.4 miles to get to 10 for the day.

My legs felt totally dead afterwards, but I was proud at how well they held up. I was tired and lethargic for the rest of the day, but it wasn't nearly as bad as Wednesday. Thank goodness I didn't have to look presentable for work or go anywhere!

Friday: 10 miles at 9:21 average pace
Weather: 50 degrees and light rain + light wind
Shoes: adidas Ultra Boost 20

This run was pretty much an exact replica of Wednesday. Same shoes, same pace. Starting at around 10:00 and gradually getting faster with no sub 9:00 miles. The weather made it unenjoyable, but thankfully Greg joined me for the first half. My energy level was high but my legs had no pep in them.

As for my fatigue during the day, it was much improved by Friday. My energy level returned to normal. I attribute this to drinking loads of water + electrolytes in the previous days, and finally getting caught up on sleep. Plus, the marathon was now 5 days behind me so I was generally starting to be less beat up.

Saturday: 19 miles at 8:38 average pace
Weather: 47-53 degrees, partly cloudy with no wind
Shoes: Nike Odyssey React 2
Saturday, April 25

I had no idea how this run was going to go. My coach had 18 on the schedule, but I decided to run 19 instead for COVID-19. I try to be "cute" whenever I can. I called it "Flatten the Curve of COVID-19 Miler" as a reason to run the flattest possible route. I had already paid my dues with hills on Monday and if this run was going to happen, I needed to minimize hills! My route had 293 feet of total gain, which is very little over 19 miles.

For this run, I prioritized fueling and hydration. I parked my car in a flat neighborhood that had many interweaving roads. I put a bottle of water + a bottle of Generation UCAN in the car, and made sure to drink early and often. Normally for an 18-miler I drink Generation UCAN beforehand but then I don't take any other fuel during the run. But I figured I would be going slower, which would mean more time spent running. I definitely did not want to crash.

I started out conservatively at a 9:11 pace for the first mile. I projected that my average pace for the run would be somewhere between 8:50-8:55. But I just "felt" my way through the run an ended up going faster without trying to. I decided I would hammer the last mile and dropped the pace down to 7:45. I never would have thought I could do that!

I'm not sure if it was the weather, my fueling, the hydration, or a combination of these, but I felt really good the whole time. I tried napping afterwards, but I wasn't tired enough to fall asleep! I felt really good the rest of the day and I even did laundry! That night, Greg and I treated ourselves to curbside takeout from Sweetwater, a delicious local restaurant that brews its own beer.

Sunday: 8 miles at 8:48 average pace
Weather: 50 degrees and raining
Shoes: Brooks Ghost

This run went smoothly and a lot easier than anticipated. I was expecting to run it in the 9:00's but my legs carried me faster. I was feeling so good that I ran the final mile in 8:15, capping off a 90.2 mile week. I could have gone farther with no issues, but I decided to stick with the plan. I'm guessing that the 19-miler didn't take that much out of me, since I ran it at a conservative pace. Typically I run long runs at pace of 7:55-8:10, so going slower helped preserve my legs for Sunday.

I ran 90 miles in one week at an average pace of 8:46.

And I feel good today! I definitely plan to take it easy next week, although I feel like I could handle a "normal" week of training without any problems. Best to quit while I'm ahead and feeling good. Here are some interesting stats:

  • During Saturday's long run, I hit 25,000 miles in my training log, which I have been keeping since January 2008.
  • I am now on day 104 of my run streak, averaging 8.3 miles a day since Jan. 14
  • My longest streak is 122 days, so I have not beaten that yet
  • Half of the mileage was completed in two runs (26.2 + 19) both in the same pair of shoes

What I learned
Primarily, I learned that if I am sensible with my paces, I can handle a 90-mile week without running doubles. However, this would be much more of a challenge if I had to commute to a job every day and get dressed up for that job. I still think I could do it, but I would be more stressed with the
logistics, and any kind of stress wears the body down even more.

Sleep is key! My mid-week bout of fatigue was no joke. I was so tired on Wednesday. Once I caught up on sleep everything was okay, but the sleep deficit was hurting me.

Hydration is key! I started the week dehydrated from my marathon. Of course, that was the warmest and most humid day of the week. Any other day of the week would have provided better conditions. But regardless, I need to stay on top of my water intake.

Warm epsom salt baths are amazing! I took a Dr. Teal's Epsom salt bath every day and they were so soothing. I really think this helped keep things loose. I could even multi-task by drinking water from the faucet.

Keep the easy runs easy. On my easy days, I let my body dictate my pace, not the Garmin. I would naturally speed up as my legs loosened and usually would feel better the more I ran.

In terms of aches and pains, the most achey thing all week was my mid to lower back. I kept asking Greg to massage it and I applied Salonpas patches. I really, really wanted to get a massage. It's better now than it was a few days ago. I think Thursday was the worst of it.

I wasn't noticeably more hungry than I normally am, but I was noticeably more thirsty.

Finally, the fact that I kicked all of this off with a 3:40:02 marathon means that I could run a marathon much faster than that! My endurance is really strong right now and the irony is that there not a single marathon in sight. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this challenge and I am glad I took the opportunity to run a lot before the weather gets too warm for me.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Heartbreak and Hills: The Virginia Boston Marathon

3:09am, April 20, 2020.

I am awake. I am still. Calm.

I am not in the Ritz Carlton Boston. I'm home. "The Ritz Clorlton" I think to myself, as I get up to go to the bathroom. I believe myself to be well hydrated, so having to go to the bathroom at 3:09am is not a surprise. With only one eye half open, I reach for the toilet paper. I realize I have pulled too hard and too much will come off the roll. I roll it back some and then tear it off. Just five weeks ago, I wouldn't have thought twice about using a few extra squares.

Back in the bed, I now have both eyes open. Staring at the darkness around me. Wondering where my Boston Marathon medal is right now. Have they even produced the medals yet? And if so, is mine in a box somewhere at the B.A.A. headquarters? The one that I was supposed to earn today. Where is it right now?

I'm actually pretty lucky. Not only do I have the health to run 26.2 miles today, but I have friends and family supporting me. People who have actually volunteered to spend 30 minutes of their day to be able to see me and cheer for me for about 20 seconds. Lisa. Cheryl. My mother. And of course, Greg.

The Ritz Clorlton is a nice place to be. The bed tops the one in Boston. I'm safe. I'm at peace. I never really grieved the loss of the Boston Marathon. Something that had defined my life for over seven years. From 2008-2015, I ate slept and drank Boston. It was what I lived for. One of my greatest passions. One of the things that got me through those hard years was the certainty that Boston wasn't going away. It would be there for me whenever I qualified. I had my whole life ahead of me to run it; there was no need to rush it. Boston's not going anywhere, I would tell myself.

But today, it went to Virginia. And this is my race report.

Before the Race
I fell back asleep at 4:00 and woke up for good at 5:00 naturally, without an alarm. I had slept soundly until about 3:00, which was decent, considering I went to sleep at 8:45. I went downstairs and had a salted bagel with peanut butter. I drank some water with it. I then proceeded to mix Generation UCAN with a little water to make a gel-like substance, which I put into a disposable baby food pouch. I then mixed another serving of UCAN with water and put that in a bottle to drink in the car on the way to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. Finally, I mixed one serving of UCAN Hydrate into my 24oz water bottle that I would carry with me.

All of this was followed by multiple trips to the bathroom as I continued to get ready. I wore a bright blue tank top and yellow shorts, along with a homemade Boston Marathon bib. I chose number 10262 because I thought that based on my qualifying time, my actual bib number would be in the high 9000's or the low 10,000's. I liked the idea of having 262 in the number, so I went with 10262. I qualified with a 3:15:34 in December 2018. It felt like a lifetime ago.

At the start line
Since I am not running the September race, I'll never get to run Boston with that bib. My qualifying time for 2021 is 3:22:23, so I will have a higher bib than I did in 2018. Unless I manage to PR a fall marathon.

Greg and I left the house at 6:45 for a target start time of 7:30. It took us about 30 minutes to arrive in Leesburg, where I would start at mile 31.4 of the W&OD trail. Once there, Greg took some photos and a video of me. I didn't feel nervous, but I was ready to get going. I knew I would see Greg on the course, plus Cheryl and then my mother at the end. Lisa unfortunately didn't feel well so she was smart to stay home!

It was 52 degrees with 69% humidity. Overcast. A light breeze that would be a sidewind the whole way. On my personal weather scale, I gave it a 7 out of 10 in my mind. But in retrospect, I think I will revise that to a 6 out of 10 because I am not acclimated to weather above 45 degrees with any kind of humidity.

Strategy and Course Profile
I did not taper for this run. In fact, I ran a 5K time trial on Thursday at a pace of 6:36! And last weekend, my long run was 15 miles. I was looking at this as a hard training run which did not require a taper.

As for my goal, I wanted to run a BQ time, which would be 3:40:00 or faster. That's a pace of 8:23, which is within my easy range. But my goal didn't stop there. I wanted to proceed to run a 90-mile week this week, which meant I couldn't trash my legs. I wanted to put out a solid effort without killing myself and needing to recover. I thought that if I was having a good day, I could run 3:30, which is an 8:00 pace, and just slightly faster than my "easy" pace. I thought that if I was having an okay day, I would be around 3:35.

I have run 20-milers at a pace of around 7:45 in the past in training, so I was pretty confident in my ability. Plus, my recent 10-mile time trial predicted a marathon time of 3:15, so a 3:35 should be doable without killing myself.

The plan was to run the first 6 miles in the low 8:20's and speed up from there. Once I got to the halfway point, I hoped to be sub 8:00 for rest of it.

I did not choose an easy course. According to Garmin, it had 789 feet of gain. According to Strava, it had 708 feet of gain. The Boston Marathon has 813 feet of gain, according to Strava. However, the Boston Marathon has a net elevation LOSS of 500 ft. Whereas my course had a net even elevation gain. Therefore, I consider this to be the hardest marathon course I have ever run! My other hilly marathons (CIM, Sugarloaf) all had net elevation losses, whereas my W&OD route was net even, with almost as much gain!

My Marathon Course Elevation: Miles 18-23 are all uphill, with a heartbreak hill to polish it off.
I would spend most of the run regretting my course profile choice. I started at mile 31.4 of the WOD and if I had started 8 miles west (the trail is 40+ miles long), I could have avoided that huge climb and ended on that downhill. But I chose the part of the trail I was most familiar with.

Miles 1-7 (Leesburg & Ashburn)
Greg started a timer so he would know how long I had been running and at 7:30, said "Go!" I had to restrain myself from going too fast in the beginning. I felt great, the pace felt very easy and sustainable. I did not want to go under 8:20 during the first six miles, so I tried to keep it really controlled.

Mile 1, photo by Greg Clor
This part was relatively uneventful. I didn't see many people on the trail, which was good, but also kind of scary because I could be attacked with no one nearby to see. I wore my Apple Watch (in addition to my Garmin), which has a panic button feature, and I could also use it to call Greg. I bought the Apple Watch for this exact reason: potentially needing to make a phone call while running alone in an area that might not be safe. I could have worn my Aftershokz headphones, but I decided I wanted to be alone with my thoughts.

My hydration plan was the same as it always is in marathons and long runs: drink every 15 minutes. If it had been cooler (say, under 45 degrees) I would have probably filled my bottle with plain water. But since it was on the warmer side for me, I added a packet of UCAN Hydrate for extra electrolytes. On 20-milers in the winter, I can get away with running the last 10-12 miles of my long run without any water. At the Rehoboth Beach Marathon, where I ran 3:15, I didn't have any water from mile 15-finish.

The plan was to drink every 15 minutes, figuring that the 24oz bottle would last me until mile 14. And then I would see Greg at mile 20 who would have another bottle. Even though my strategy was to stay in the low 8:20s and not go under, I kept going a little bit under.

All elevation gains and losses are in feet:

Mile 1: 8:25 (13 gain, 57 loss)
Mile 2: 8:20 (59 gain,  0 loss)
Mile 3: 8:18 (23 gain, 25 loss)
Mile 4: 8:18 (26 gain, 34 loss)
Mile 5: 8:16 (0 gain, 25 loss)
Mile 6: 8:20 (40 gain, 38 loss)
Mile 7: 8:10 (0 gain, 40 loss)

Miles 8-13 (Sterling & Herndon)
Greg met me just as I was finishing up mile 7. Once we started running together, the trail became all uphill and I noticed that I was working much harder than I should be for the pace we were running. I
Mile 7, Photo by Greg Clor
chalked it up to being the constant climbing and I wasn't too worried that my easy pace felt like a strain. I should not have been working that hard at mile 8. But I was running on the edge of my easy/moderate range, so I continued to go with it.

Greg handed me my Generation UCAN gel at mile 10 and with it, I took a huge swig of water, I had been drinking every 15 minutes, but I wasn't taking big swigs. It was a 24oz bottle, and I was almost halfway done at 60 minutes, which meant I was only getting 3oz every 15 minutes. In my recent training runs, drinking this amount had worked well for me, but those had been much cooler and less humid days.

After about 3 miles, Greg turned around and ran back to the car. Time for a few downhill miles. I was really ready for them. I felt much better once I started running downhill. I did, however, abandon my hydration schedule because I was thirsty. I started drinking sooner than planned and my water bottle was almost empty when I got to the halfway point. That was not good. I'm normally not thirsty when I'm running. I knew that once you actually felt thirst, it was too late-- you were already dehydrated. Even during CIM when it was much more humid, I wasn't thirsty.

At mile 12.9 I knew to expect Cheryl. And there she was, jumping up and down waving with her fancy camera! She was wearing a mask and as I passed, she made sure to be 6 feet away. It was such a pick-me-up to see her.

Mile 8: 8:07 (65 gain, 0 loss) - no wonder easy pace felt hard!
Mile 9: 8:07 (56 gain, 9 loss)
Mile 10: 8:17 (45 gain, 0 loss)
Mile 11: 8:02 (13 gain, 44 loss)
Mile 12: 8:04 (14 gain, 0 loss)
Mile 13: 8:18 (22 gain, 16 loss)

Miles 14-20 (Reston & Vienna)
Mile 13, Photo by Cheryl Young
Shortly after the halfway point, I walked! Crazy, right? I don't know what came over me, but I was tired and I wanted to walk. I finished off my bottle and tossed it. I also had my first Maurten gel earlier than planned so I would be able to have it with water. I would see Greg in a little over 6 miles and he would have a new bottle. No big deal - I can run a half marathon with no water and be fine. Well, okay, that's when it's in the low 30's.

I refused to believe that walking during the 14th mile meant I was in trouble. I just needed a little break, that's all. It was only a 10-second walk. Maybe shorter.

I knew that I would get a nice long stretch of downhill and when I did that really perked me up. Wow! Everything felt great and I was cruising along faster than expected. This was awesome. I must have just hit a rough patch at the halfway point. That happens, right? And then you recover. I was recovering nicely.

After the downhill stretch, I knew that the next six miles would be one long climb. See the elevation chart above. I felt awesome at the bottom of that big hill, but now it was time to really rally!

Just three miles to Greg. And water. Greg would have water. Ooooh- look at that stream. How nice it would be to drink from that! Soooo thirsty!

Two more miles to Greg and my water. Just rally for two miles! It's uphill. It's going to hurt. But then. . . WATER! I was really, really impressed with how I handled miles 19 and 20. Both were uphill, I was so thirsty, but I kept pushing. Mile 19 was 8:09 with 58 feet of gain and no loss! Yes! Mile 20 doesn't look so good on paper because I stopped for the water at 19.9. but I was running a pace of 8:15 up until that point.

Mile 14: 8:19 (43 gain, 35 loss) - included some walking!
Mile 15: 8:08 (50 gain, 37 loss)
Mile 16: 7:47 (0 gain, 86 loss)
Mile 17: 7:52 (0 gain, 86 loss)
Mile 18: 8:05 (35 gain, 0 loss)
Mile 19: 8:09 (58 gain, 0 loss)
Mile 20: 8:49  (49 gain, 0 loss) - included complete stop for water

Miles 21- Finish (Falls Church & Arlington)
I was so happy to see Greg and get my water. As I said above, I pretty much stopped dead in my tracks and gulped down a third of the bottle. It was hard to get going again, but once we did, that's when the cramps started. When you drink so much water really quickly and you are running,
Mile 20, Photo by Greg Clor
cramping is bound to happen. This is why I always take those small 3oz swigs.

Greg was worried and told me I could stop if I wanted but there was no way I was stopping. I would finish no matter what. Despite my cramping, I drank even more water. I knew the water was causing the cramps but my thirst was so powerful. It wasn't like it was that warm I think it had climbed to 53 or 54 degrees at that point, but still somewhat humid.

Greg stuck with me for about a mile so that he would have time to run back to the car and see me finish. I knew he was worried about me, but I wasn't worried about me. It was really just this uphill battle and as soon as the downhill came, I would be okay again. At mile 22 I took my second Maurten gel with some more water, and then tossed the bottle so my arms would be free to really grind it out. It took me 13 miles to drink 24 oz, and then later in the run it took me 2 miles to drink 12 ounces. Wow.

Mile 21 clocked in at 9:56 and Mile 22 was 9:43. At least the trend was moving in the right direction.

I battled the cramps for a little bit, but as suspected, my world became so much brighter once the downhill came. I started gaining momentum, and then BOOM! My first intersection where cars were not stopping. This had not been an issue at any previous intersection, but of course, once I had momentum going and was running strong, I was forced to stop. I did not stop my Garmin because I wanted a true finish time. So I was losing time, so annoyed because I knew I was within seconds of getting my BQ time. Every second mattered and these f'ing cars were taking it away from me.

It seemed like eternity before I could cross, but in reality it was probably just 10 seconds. That's a lot, though, when you are on the borderline of meeting a time goal. My lap pace for that mile had been 8:30 and now it was 9:30.

Before the real downhill came "Heartbreak Hill". In the elevation chart above you can see it's the highest point on the graph. This involved some more walking. It was steep. I was exhausted. I imagined myself running up the real Heartbreak Hill at mile 21 of Boston. That one has much better crowd support.

With just three miles to go, I tried to bring my average pace down to 8:22. I could see that it was 8:24, which equated to 3:40:xx. And my plan was working out great. I was rallying, I was working hard. I was being mentally strong. No more walking. Just fast running down the hills. Mile 24 was 8:07 and mile 25 was 8:09. Yes! But then, things got dicey.

At 25.6 there was a trail detour that interrupted my rhythm and was unfortunately uphill. And then came an intersection. I waited and waited and waited. Finally I crossed, only to see a "trail closed"
sign. Seriously? My Garmin read 25.9 I was so close. I had to stop the Garmin. I didn't know where to go. I needed to look around and get my bearings. After about 10 seconds, I saw two cyclists and I followed them, restarting the Garmin. All of my momentum was lost. Mile 26 was a disappointing 8:37. I had been running a pace of 8:10 until all the stopping. According to my Garmin data, my moving pace was 8:07 for that mile, so I must have stopped for 30 seconds waiting to cross the intersection. UGH.

Once the detour ended and I was back on the trail, I gunned it. I wanted to run 26.3 miles to be fair but then I encountered a "trail closed" sign right at 26.2 so there I stopped. 3:40:02. Sigh.

Mile 21: 9:56 (63 gain, 0 loss)
Mile 22: 9:43 (31 gain, 35 loss)
Mile 23: 9:38 (74 gain, 26 loss) Heartbreak hill!
Mile 24: 8:07 (0 gain, 93 loss)
Mile 25: 8:09 (0 gain, 38 loss)
Mile 26: 8:37 (8 gain, 37 loss) moving time was 8:07!!
Last 0.2: 7:36 pace

After the Race
So, officially I ran a 3:40:02. But that includes about 40 seconds worth of stopping at intersections. However, I also stopped the Garmin for 10 seconds when I was trying to figure out where to go. So, in all fairness, it was probably 3:39:32. But then again, I didn't run 26.3 miles which is what a typical marathon is due to all the weaving. So, who knows really?!

At the end of the day, I am not going to sweat those 2 seconds. I know I can run a BQ time as a training run while clearly dehydrated, and then not require a week to recover. That's pretty bad ass! (Well, I plan to run tomorrow and my legs are not destroyed. Hopefully that happens.)

My mother was waiting at the finish line. I hadn't seen her since February, so that was really nice. She lives just 2 miles from there, so it worked out well. We kept social distance though, with her being in the "at-risk" population. Not like she wanted to hug salty, smelly me. Definitely the 6 feet thing worked in her favor!

Greg wrapped a towel around me and I asked for another bottle of water. I was still very thirsty. We said goodbye to my mother and drove home. The thirst continued into my Epsom Salt bath where I found myself drinking water directly from the faucet. I wasn't hungry and I didn't eat for almost two hours. But finally I had a slice of pizza, more water (mixed with lime juice) and a Pepsi.

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
Where to start. I have so many mixed emotions. I never once cried about the real Boston Marathon being canceled. But I reserve the right to now that the day has come and gone, and I never had that experience. Today was about grinding it out when I didn't feel great. My body clearly didn't show up for me and I learned a good lesson in hydration. I'm glad that didn't happen in a real race.

The difference between today and CIM was that I knew CIM would be warm and humid so I drank way more the day before and I drank more early in the race. The key is really drinking early, which I didn't do. I think I ditched my water bottle at about the same point in CIM, but the huge difference was I drank more of that bottle early on, instead of having it all right at the end.

I wasn't tapered for this race. I ran a 5K time trial on Thursday in 20:34 (6:36 pace). It's good to know I can run a marathon so soon after a 5K!

My legs held up really well. They were not the limiting factor, and even on the hills they didn't really bother me. I suspect I will be able to run my planned 7 miles tomorrow (slowly) provided that I continue to re-hydrate all day today.

Running a marathon is really all about not giving up on yourself when your body is telling you to. My body told me to stop many times today and I did give in from time to time. But the walking never lasted long and all my miles were sub 10:00. I had such amazing support from Greg, my mother,  Cheryl, and all my friends who sent me messages of encouragement beforehand.

I don't have my medal. But I do have an experience that enriched my life in a different way and has made me stronger.