Thursday, July 4, 2024

I beat the heat - again!

This morning I ran my 11th Firecracker 5K. I started running this race in 2010 when it first launched, and have run it most years since, with a few exceptions for injury and illness. I even ran the virtual race in 2020! The first time I ran this race back in 2010 my time was 23:21. Since then, I have gotten significantly faster.

If I'm in good shape, my goal is usually to set a course PR. My distance PR is 19:41, and it's not realistic to beat that in the summer heat. Turkey Trots are for distance PRs. Firecrackers are for course PRs. 

This year, the time to beat was 20:57 from 2022. Before today's race, I went back and read my race report so I would know what mile splits I needed to beat. 6:40, 6:28, 6:44. It seemed perfectly doable to beat these splits given my recent track workouts. But I run my workouts at around 6:00am in the summer, before it gets too hot. This race started at 8:00am.

Before the Race
I felt really confident going into this race. I slept really well the night before the race and didn't wake up in the middle of the night like I have been doing recently. The last time I ran a 5K, I ran it on several nights in a row of horrible sleep, so at least I had that going for me today. 

I ate a handful of almond butter pretzels two hours before the race and then got dressed. We left the house at 6:45 for a start time of 8:00.

We arrived at 7:05 and my first order of business was to find a bathroom. I had already picked up my bib a few days before, so I didn't have to worry about that. I always try and get my bib before race day if possible because it's one less thing I have to worry about on race morning. I can simply get there and start warming up right away. 

I saw my friend Laura at 7:30, which was right when I wanted to start my warmup. We ran about a mile and half together and then I took my Maurten caffeinated gel 15 minutes before race start. I drank a few sips of water and splashed water all over my back and chest. I ran a few fast strides and then headed for the start line. At the start, I chatted with a few other runners, some of whom I knew from Instagram. 

Race Weather
It was 77 degrees at race start with a dew point of 67 degrees. About 50% cloud cover. I debated not wearing sunglasses but ultimately I decided I wanted them. Even though the relative humidity wasn't nearly as high as it could have been, it still felt quite humid. I would give this a 2 out of 10 on my personal weather scale. 77 is a really high race temperature, but the 67 dew point saves it from being a 1. I was certainly at a disadvantage from the 71 degrees and even lower dew point from the 2022 race. As a tease, it was about 15 degrees LOWER than normal on Monday and Tuesday mornings. 

Mile 1: 6:27
My plan was to run this mile around 6:35, but with 5K races, I usually run purely based on effort so the goal pace is more of just an informational benchmark. It felt like the right amount of effort. Hard - but sustainable for 20 minutes. When my watch beeped and I saw my time, I hoped I hadn't gone out too fast, but my body was telling me it was the right effort. During this mile, I repeated one of my favorite mantras in my head: "Relax and push forward".

Mile 2: 6:23
This is a net downhill mile and it's always super fast. I could have pushed harder here, but I didn't want to go all out knowing that the third mile would be uphill. I wanted to save something for the last mile. Mile 2 is the calm before the storm. It's fast, doesn't hurt THAT bad and has a lot of shade. When I saw that my split was 6:23, I knew that as long as I didn't fall apart, I would get my course PR of sub 20:57. 

Mile 3: 6:40
This mile was so HOT! There wasn't as much shade as there was during the second mile and the uphill is killer. It's not all that steep but it starts at 2.5 and is one steady climb with no reprieve. It always feels super long and never-ending. I really powered through this with all the mental stamina I had in me. I reminded myself that it was less than 7 minutes and I could do anything for that amount of time. 

Last 0.16: 5:58 pace
I was really running out of gas here, and of course this section is a continuation of that hill. I was really surprised when I saw my pace afterwards. I would have guessed much slower based on how I felt. 

My official time was 20:28, which is a course PR by 29 seconds. 

After the race
It took me a looooong time to feel normal again. It felt like my heart rate was not coming down and I was still hurting for like 3 whole minutes after I was done. I ran that race HARD. The temptation was to sit down but I know it's better to keep walking around rather than to stop completely. 

I reunited with Greg, who had been cheering for me at around mile 1.2 and the finish. After I recovered, I had the opportunity to chat with some runners who recognized me from Instagram and that was really awesome. Two of them even told me that they registered for this race because of me! It feels awesome to motivate people to get out and run. 

I placed 1st in my age group and I was the 20th female finisher out of 652. There were 10 women who ran under 19:00. Very fast field today!

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
I really love this 4th of July tradition. 1500 people came out to run this race and everything was so festive. I got to see so many of my friends and talk about my favorite topic- running! I really love being part of the running community.

Surprisingly, I ran this race faster than both of my 5Ks in May: the Greenway 5K  (20:40) and the Lawyers Have Heart 5K (20:37). Both of those races have flatter courses the weather was much cooler. I have been consistently doing speed work and long runs of 10-12 miles so apparently it paid off. I ran 176 miles in June, which is a strong training month for me. 

Just like in Boston, I was able to "beat the heat" and run my fastest Firecracker ever! If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I am heat sensitive and the heat has always impacted me more than most other runners. This is the first summer where I do not feel like I am at a disadvantage against other runners. Sure, it's still hard to run in warm weather, but it doesn't suck the life out of me like it has every previous summer.  

In the spring of 2023, I mentioned getting diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and it's taken a full year for my doctor to get my thyroid levels in the normal range. I finally tested normal in March of this year. Typically with hypothyroidism you are cold (not hot!) and I was worried that treating my thyroid would make me even warmer. But it did just the opposite. Because my thyroid wasn't working properly, and hadn't been for many years, it wasn't able to regulate my temperature.

Last summer, my easy pace was around 9:00-9:15. This summer, my easy pace is 8:20-8:35 and it honestly feels easy. What a difference it makes when your body can regulate temperature! I used to feel completely drained when the dew point rose above 68. And now, I tolerate it pretty well!

Up Next:
I'll be keeping the training on the lighter side in July and then officially starting my marathon build up in early August. I am planning to run Indianapolis Monumental. 

Thanks to Greg for being so supportive!

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

The Fastest Mile of My Life

I raced my second-ever road mile over the weekend at the Loudon Street Mile in Winchester, Virginia.  My first attempt was four years ago at this same race. My time was 5:57.6. 

Why Race A Mile?
Why race a mile? Why drive over an hour to run for six minutes? Why pay money to run a mile? What's so hard about a mile? 

These are all questions I have been asked regarding this race. I decided to race this mile because I love a running challenge and I wanted to try and beat my time from 2020. Plus, I often get asked how fast I can run a mile, so I figured I should have an up to date answer.

As for driving over an hour for a six minute race, think about all the gymnasts who travel across the country or across the world to do a 10-second vault. Or the sprinters who travel worldwide for a 20-second event. My sister takes my nieces all over the USA to compete for 3 minutes in cheer. The duration of the competition is totally irrelevant to the travel time. The two are un-related. 

If that's the case, then why don't I travel farther to run 5Ks and 10Ks? Simple. Because there are plenty 5Ks and 10Ks to choose from that are relatively close to my home. I have so many options locally, that there's no need to travel. But mile races are rare. I honestly don't understand why. They're much easier on race directors. Maybe I do understand why, though. Perhaps it's because the participants don't view it as a challenge. Many people run 5Ks to cover the distance. If the distance were reduced to a mile, they probably wouldn't be as attracted to it.

The next question. Why pay money to run a mile? Easy. You aren't paying to run a mile, you are paying to compete in a running event. 

What's so hard about a mile? If you aren't a runner, this is something you won't understand. It's hard because it's intense. In order to race it at 100% effort, you need to be super uncomfortable for the entire duration. The goal isn't to "complete" the mile, but rather to run it as hard as possible. This goes back to my above point. Many people are attracted to 5K races because there is an obvious achievement in covering 5 kilometers on foot, particularly running the whole time. With a mile, that achievement may not seem as significant. 

My "A" goal was to break 5:50. I was confident I had the physical ability to do it, but I wasn't sure if I could pace it properly or maintain the intense level of discomfort that it required.

My "B" goal was a PR, so sub 5:57.

My "C" goal was under 6:00.

Before the Race
Greg and I left the house at around 6:40 for a race start time of 8:40. I had my pre-run snack in the car: almond butter filled pretzels. I didn't want to eat too much because I wanted a mostly empty stomach. I was sure to have a big dinner the night before.

I decided to wear the New Balance Super Comp Pacer. Not to be confused with the Super Comp Trainer (which has a high stack height and is meant for long runs). The two shoes are basically opposites. The Pacer weighs in at 5.2 ounces for my size 6.5. It's low to the ground and extremely responsive. Not a lot of bounce, but there is a carbon fiber plate. I wear these shoes at the track when I am running anything shorter than mile repeats. I like to get the feedback from the ground so the bouncy/cushy super shoes are not my preference at high speeds.

It took us 70 minutes to get there, and we arrived at 7:50. I got my bib and went to the bathroom. Greg and I then scoped out the course to find a good location for him to be. We found a good spot about a tenth of a mile before the finish, where he could stand on an elevated platform and have a good angle for photos. I then started my warm up. 

I almost missed the start of my most recent 5K so I was keenly aware of the 8:40 start time and what the current time was. I did not want to be scrambling again. I warmed up to the start, which I knew was less than a mile away. I took my gel 18 minutes before the start so that the caffeine would kick in just when I needed it. I drank more water at the start line and used the bathroom again. I then did some strides and dynamic stretching. I was a little worried about my hamstring because it had seized up 5 days prior during a track workout, causing me to stop the workout. But thankfully it felt like it was 100% during my shakeout run the day before the race.

Race Setup
This race was divided into heats based on predicted finish time. The "fast men" started at 8:30 and the "fast women" started at 8:40. And then there were additional mixed-gender heats for the rest of the runners, organized by time. 

My heat had about 25 runners in it and the cutoff was under 6:00. When I registered, I entered a predicted time of 5:50. 

I lined up at the very back of the heat, which was still pretty much on the line because there were so few runners. I chatted with some of the other women and we talked about what our goal times were. I really loved that this was an all-women heat and that it would be a true "race". Part of me felt like an imposter racing against these elite women, but my previous mile time was 5:57, so I legit made that cutoff. 

It was about 68 degrees, completely overcast, and humid. Given that fact that this was only a mile and it takes about 10 minutes for the humidity to zap me, I determined it was very good. On my personal weather scale, I give it an 8 out of 10 (if this were a longer race it would be more like a 4-5). But my weather scale is defined by how much the conditions impact the race. And in this case, the conditions didn't impact the race that much. Rain, however, would have really taken the score down because part of the course is on a brick surface and I can see that getting super slippery. 

The First Half
The race started and everyone bolted out. The women who said they wanted to be around 5:50 must have gone out at a 5:30 pace or faster. But I did not want to get caught up in that. My plan was to run my own race. I went out hard, but I made sure to not make it feel like a sprint. I would save the sprint for the second half. The course had quarter markers which were really nice, and they came up SO FAST. 

When I passed the halfway point I looked at the clock and it read 2:59. I was running so hard that I didn't have the headspace to analyze it too much. I knew that if I just repeated that then I wouldn't set a PR. Thankfully, I knew I would be able to speed up a lot, just like I did back in 2020. 

The Second Half
There's an incline from about 0.3 to 0.6 and then a nice drop. I'm a very strong downhill runner, so I sprinted downhill and by the time I got to the bottom I had caught up with the women who said they wanted to run around 5:50, and started to pass them. They clearly noticed and did not want me to pass them, so they sped up even more. 

I decided not to focus on them and keep my eyes squarely on the finish. The goal was to stay as strong as possible and kick with everything I had. 

I ran the second half in a time of 2:48, which yielded an official time of 5:47.1.

When I crossed the finish line, my legs and arms were on fire. They burned so much and I felt like they were just going to fall off! That was such an intense second half, at a pace of 5:36. The graph shows the course elevation and how my pace changed relative to it.

Looking at the graph above, you can see that my pace decreases at the elevation increases, and then my pace increases and the elevation decreases. I wonder if that 4:56 at the top of the graph means I was running that pace for a few seconds!

When the results came out, I realized that I placed second in the 45-49 age group. One of the women who I caught up with and passed, passed me at the very end and won the age group by 0.6 of a second! 

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
That was really fun! I am so glad I did this and now I want to go back next year and aim for sub 5:45. 

  • I PR'ed by over 10 seconds and celebrated by having PR ice cream cake with Greg.
  • I beat my A goal! I knew I had the physical ability, but the question mark was execution.
  • After having logged 33,772 miles in my training log, my 33,773rd mile was faster than all of them at the age of 45.
  • I missed winning my age group by 0.6 of a second. Even though I was racing/competing, I wasn't focused on the competition. I was running my own race. Usually that is the best approach, but yesterday was the time to actually compete and gain motivation from the runners around me.
  • If I had to do it over again, I would have been slightly more aggressive in the beginning and then more competitive with the women around me at the end. But generally I am very pleased. 
  • I really love running in briefs!
Next up: more 5Ks!

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Another 5K, With Some Mishaps

I ran the Lawyer's Have Heart 5K over the weekend in Washington DC. Even though I have run Lawyer's Have heart many times in the past, this experience was entirely different.

Historically, this race had been a 10K, occurred in the middle of June, and was located in Georgetown. This race was my first 10K back in 2005 and my first large road race ever! I proceeded to run it every year from 2005 to 2012, and then stopped in 2013 because I was on vacation. Around that time, I decided to stop running summertime 10Ks because I would suffer from heat exhaustion and kill my immune system. 5K became my summertime distance limit. In 2017 they introduced the 5K distance in addition to the 10K, so I started doing that. 

Last year, the race moved from Georgetown to Hains Point and the date switched from June to May. I didn't participate last year, so I didn't know what to expect. Even though the Georgetown course was challenging, it was a tradition for me, so I was a little sad about the move. 

Before the Race
I decided to go with my adidas Adios Pro shoes for this race. I have determined that they are more responsive than the ASICS that I wore in Boston and the Greenway 5K two weeks ago. The ASICS shoes are fun and bouncy, but also a bit squishy. For really fast running, I like to feel more connected with the ground. I think the plush cushion is great for longer distances, but I've decided to stick with adidas for shorter ones. Even though they are unisex and not specifically women's running shoes, they have a streamlined, locked-in fit. 

Greg and I tried to park in our normal spot for Hains Point races, but the road was blocked off so we parked at the Kennedy center, as the website had suggested. In the parking garage, I saw my friend Chad, whose law firm always participates in this race. Chad and I ran to the start, which was just over a mile away and Greg walked. 

It was raining steadily, but it wasn't the torrential downpour that my weather app had called for. At 61 degrees and humid, I was thankful for the rain. On my personal race weather scale, this race gets a 6 out of 10. Not great weather, but also not horrible. If the rain had been heavier, I would have downgraded it to a 5 or 4. If there had been no rain at all but still humid, also a downgrade. Any time the temp is above 55, I would rather have rain than not. 

During my warmup with Chad, I told him about my lack of sleep over the past two nights. I had only gotten 5 hours of sleep each night because my mind was quite activated. Even with poor sleep I can usually race well, so I didn't let that get in my head. But the thing that was keeping me up was occupying so much of my mind, that I wasn't really focused on the race at all. I wasn't sure if I was mentally ready to run really hard when my focus was elsewhere. 

I had an A, B, and C goal. "A" goal was to run under 20 minutes. "B" goal was to beat my Easter Classic time of 20:14 from seven weeks prior, and my "C" goal was to beat my 5K from two weeks ago (20:40). 

We arrived at the race start and I retrieved my bib and pinned it on. Then I looked around for Greg and found him. He said he was going to walk up to the bridge where he would be taking a video of me about a quarter mile in. I decided to run a bit past there and turn around to continue my warm up.

When I saw him at the bridge I stopped and said "let's do a video of me warming up here." His response "It's 7:41. Don't you start in 4 minutes?" OH SHIT!!!

The race started at 7:45, and I knew that, but for some reason I had it in my head that it started at 8:00. I hadn't yet had my gel, and the start line was not visible. How could I have messed this up so badly!?

Well, strides are normally part of my warm up, so I did a long stride at a sub 7:00 pace to bolt back to the start line. It was about a quarter of a mile away. At least if they could see me running towards it maybe the would wait a few seconds for me to get behind the line. The minute I got there I gulped down my Maurten caffeinated gel. It wouldn't do me much good. It takes about 15 minutes for the caffeine to kick in. Oh well. This probably goes back to what I said above - I was focused on something else so I didn't remember that the start time was 7:45, and not 8:00.

I lined up towards the front and didn't even have an opportunity to see who else was there, who the competition might be. I was still trying to catch my breath from my sprint to the start.

I think I stood there for maybe 60 seconds tops and then the race started.

Mile 1
Now that the race had started and I knew I wasn't going to miss it, I could relax. So I went out at a more
conservative pace. I needed to calm down and switch gears from "get to the start" to "run a fast 5K". It wasn't long before I saw Greg and yelled out to him "That was very close!" I still wasn't aware of how many women were ahead of me, and I usually try to have an idea of that when I run a local race.

The course wasn't the traditional Hains Point course. And I had only discovered this a few days prior when my physical therapist pointed it out to me (he was running the 10K). This meant that it wouldn't be pancake flat and there would be more turns. I welcomed this, though, because I have run on Hains Point a lot lately and thought a change of scenery would be good.

I ran with Chad for a little bit and then pulled ahead about half a mile in. Because I started a little slower than originally planned, I was now passing runners, which was challenging with the course being narrow. We were all running in the bike lane. We probably didn't have to be crammed in there, but I didn't want to be the only person not in the bike lane. This mile clocked in at 6:33. This put me on track for my C goal and I would need to speed up if I wanted my B goal of sub 20:14.

Mile 2
Lots of uneven pavement here and potholes which meant puddles. I didn't want to focus too much on dodging puddles, but I also didn't want my feet to be soaked. Ultimately there was no avoiding it. My feet got soaked which meant that heavy feet feeling. I was racing really close to one guy for this whole mile. Every time he started to get ahead I would make sure he wouldn't. This mile also had a steeper hill than I was expecting as we got onto the Memorial Bridge. It took the wind out of me so this mile clocked in at 6:38. UGH - not what I wanted, but it was the best I could do. I saw Greg again (he took a shortcut to another spectating point) and he yelled out that I was the 3rd place female.

Mile 3
I was really hoping the magical 5K gods would smile down on me and give me this amazing burst of energy to close the race in a sub 6:20 pace, but that was not happening. There was a hairpin turn and I felt like that stole any momentum I had. My main motivation at this point was to retain my spot at the third female. I didn't want any women passing me. This mile clocked in at 6:33, my fastest mile of the race, but not as fast as I would have liked.

The finish and beyond
According to my Garmin, I ran the final 0.15 mile at a pace of 5:51, so I had a good burst of energy. When I ran the Greenway 5K two weeks ago, I had no final kick whatsoever; my legs had been totally dead. 

My official time was 20:37, which means I got my "C" goal of beating my Greenway time by 3 seconds. Phew. 

I found Greg who told me that I was actually the 4th female finisher-- he had miscounted. On the plus side, that meant I didn't need to stay for the awards and hang out in the rain. We found Chad and we traded race stories, and then he went back to cheer on his law firm colleagues. 

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
There are two ways to look at this race: the positive way and the negative way. Of course I will ultimately view it the positive way, but it's good to articulate some negative thoughts that are only natural when you miss you A and B goals.

Negative way: It was only 7 weeks ago that I ran a 20:14 5K on a hilly course and it didn't feel all that hard. I've done plenty of fast workouts in between, and taking one week off post marathon shouldn't cause me to loose THAT much fitness. I should have at least been able to go under that time. This course was faster than the Greenway from two weeks ago so I should have been able to beat that time by more than 3 seconds. 

Positive way: I started the race recovering from a quarter mile sprint to the start and the anxiety of not getting there in time. I didn't take my gel in time for the caffeine to kick in. It was pouring rain and there were puddles everywhere + uneven pavement. I averaged 5 hours of sleep for the two nights before the race and my focus was elsewhere. These are not conditions for an amazing performance. And even though the Greenway course had more elevation gain, there were no turns, uneven pavement, or puddles to dodge. The March race got a 10/10 on the weather scale, so it's not a fair comparison.

Out of 443 women, I finished in 4th place, which I am pleased with.  The last time I ran this race (2022) I was the 9th female finisher out of 582, so that's a nice improvement too.

It was great to get out there in the rain, to see my friend Chad, and to work hard!

Sunday, May 12, 2024

My Pianopacalypse

This blog is called "Racing Stripes" and usually it's about running/racing. But once in a while, it's about "stripes". In this case, the stripes I am referring to are the black and white stripes of the piano keys. If I had to guess where my zebra love comes from, I think it's because they made me think of pianos when I first saw them at the zoo on a subconscious level. 

Ever since purchasing my new Schimmel grand piano in January, I have been obsessed and addicted to my instrument. On average, I have been spending over an hour a day playing, and sometimes more like two hours a day. Most weeks I spend more time playing my piano than I do running. Running is part of my daily routine and I enjoy it, but this piano has my soul now.

My biggest piano inspiration is Tori Amos. I've been a huge fan since I discovered her at the age of 15. Her music reaches into my soul. I have all of her song books (piano sheet music) but I've only ever attempted about 10 percent of it, with most of it seeming to be too daunting. 

With the new grand piano, I have been playing primarily by ear-- a talent that I naturally have and never learned from anywhere. I've discovered that when I play by ear, the music comes out much better than when I read from a book. Usually the books offer a different version of the song and it's not how I perceive the song. This opens up a new world to me because I can play the actual song, but also make it my own.

I occasionally write my own songs (like the Boston-themed "It's Raining Unicorns") but mostly I enjoy re-making my favorite songs to show how I interpret them. I enjoy putting my own unique spin on something that I already find artistically amazing. 

Running has taught me that I can do anything I put my mind to. When I want to achieve something, I will work tirelessly in pursuit of that goal. This is how I was able to take my marathon time down from 4:46 to 3:15 and my half marathon time down from 2:00 to 1:29. Keeping that in mind, I realized I could apply the same discipline to the piano. 

For most of my life, I have sat down at the piano and played for fun without actually "working" at it. I would occasionally devote an hour here or there to figuring out a song by ear, but I would never perfect it, and then I would move on. But I've come to the realization that I can play almost any song I want if I put enough time and effort into it. I am not a classically trained pianist (I've only had about two years of lessons) but I have enough skills to make almost any song sound like the actual song. (When I upload the video to YouTube and they tell me that I am uploaded Copyrighted material, I am super flattered!)

Of course, to really do justice to a song, singing is required. That's when I came to a similar realization about my voice. Aside from three years in high school choir, I've never had formal vocal training. But I can carry a tune and sometimes sound decent. And anything can be trained! So I have started working on my voice too with vocal exercises and experimenting with various ways to sing certain songs. 

Combine my new-found confidence of knowing I can do anything I put my mind to with a natural ability to play the piano by ear, and BAM - I can actually make some interesting cover songs. I can actually play the songs that I never thought were within my reach. I wish I had discovered this earlier and spent more time really honing my piano skills instead of just tinkering around here and there.

I'll share three of my favorite pieces here. 

Yesterday I recorded, I Can't See New York, by Tori Amos. This is one of my all-time favorite songs and the fact that I can play it is a dream come true. If you would have asked my last year at this time if I could ever really play that song, I would have said no way. I listened to the beginning of this song over and over until I was able to match all the notes. I probably spent about 25-30 hours total on this one, including practicing the vocals. This song carries special meaning to me and it came out at a point in my life when I really needed it.

The next song is Gold Dust, also by Tori Amos. I see these two songs as twins. They are on the same album and I like them equally, but in very different ways. I recorded this one last February, before I had the new microphones. (I had received feedback from the 70+ crowd that my voice was inaudible with the old microphone).

Other Tori songs on my YouTube include Jackie's Strength, Reindeer King, Purple People, and Famous Blue Raincoat.

Just two years ago, I discovered the depth of the band Placebo. I had only ever known one of their songs from the late 90s, but when they released the album Never Let Me Go, it opened up a whole new world of all their songs. I have three of their songs on my YouTube channel, with the latest being Sleeping With Ghosts. Their music is pretty easy/quick to figure out on the piano, the fun part is deciding how to play and sing it. I like to bring a new mood to their songs.

I also have the Placebo songs 20 Years and Song to Say Goodbye on my YouTube channel. I have a long list of songs to learn and put up on YouTube. I need to retire from my full time job so I can spend all my time on this!

Thanks for watching, reading and listening. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Run The Greenway: 2024 Edition

I ran the Run The Greenway 5K last Saturday, 19 days after the Boston Marathon. This race kicked off my "summer of speed" in a fun way.

I ran this race in 2022 and was the first overall female finisher with a time of 20:43. I liked that the course was relatively flat and it was an out-and-back with just one turn. I also enjoyed running on the Dulles Greenway because it felt cool to be on a major highway.

A few days before the race, I realized that the course would be different from what I ran in 2022. The race would start further west on the Greenway and run in the opposite direction. I researched the elevation profile online and it looked hillier than the 2022 course. Mostly downhill for the first half and then uphill for the second half. 

On the plus side, the new start location was just steps away from my sister's house. I asked if she wanted to come watch and she said yes! I thought to myself: "How cool would it be for me to win the race again and have my sister watching!" But spoiler alert, that didn't happen!

My goal was to break 20:00. I had good reason to believe I could do this. First, I had just run a 5K in 20:14 four weeks prior on a more challenging course. Second, I ran a time of 20:43 back in 2022 and I believed myself to be in much better shape now. 

Before the Race
Greg and I arrived at the race and I began my warm up. I warmed up to my sister's house, which was super close, and she and her husband came out. I pointed them in the direction of the race and then continued to run back to the race site while they walked there. 

I warmed up for just over two miles, making sure to include some faster strides. My biggest challenge at my last 5K was a lack of warm up and I didn't want to make the same mistake. I had a Maurten gel about 15 minutes before the start. 

I wore my ASICS Metaspeed Sky Paris shoes. The same model that I wore in Boston but the smaller pair. I ended up bruising my big toe, so it is officially confirmed that the smaller size is in fact, too small for me. 

I was thankful that it wasn't raining. It had rained overnight and for most of the morning but miraculously stopped just in time for my warm up. In 2022 I ended up with hypothermia because it was pouring rain. I wouldn't have minded rain again but I would have felt bad asking my sister and brother-in-law to stand in the rain to watch me cross a start and finish line.

Which of course brings me to my personal race weather scale.  It was 53 degrees, humid and overcast, with light winds. Not too bad for early May which could have been much warmer. I give this a 6 out of 10. Just slightly better than "ok". 

They called us to the start line relatively early. We lined up at 7:45 with a start time of 8:00. And Greg later told me that the race started at 8:05. It felt like I was standing there for eternity. We heard the announce list off all the birthdays. The Star Spangled Banner played. We heard about the sponsors. I made friends with some of the other runners. I already knew one of them and was happily chatting with some others. 

I saw Greg standing with my sister and brother-in-law on the other side of the start line. They were snapping photos and waving at me!

It was clear from this point that I would not be winning the race. I thought I could potentially come in 3rd at best. That was fine with me. I know that winning a race is all about who shows up! After what seemed like forever, the race finally started.

Mile 1
Based on the elevation profile, I knew this needed to be my fastest mile. My hope was to run it around 6:15. I got pulled out very quickly by the ladies ahead of me, backed off after about a quarter of a mile and then settled in. While this mile was mostly downhill, it also had an uphill. My watch beeped at 6:24. Nine seconds slower than planned, but the sub 20:00 was still within reach. I just had to run two more miles at this exact pace.

Mile 2
The belief that I could run sub 20:00 was soon shattered as I ran the second mile. I was already starting to get tired and my legs felt so heavy. I didn't have a lot of energy and I couldn't maintain my 6:24. I knew that there were at least 4 women ahead of me, so the hope of 3rd place also vanished.

The good thing about the turnaround (other than being halfway done) was that so many runners started cheering for me on the other side of the course, on their way out. Some of them called me by name, telling me that they followed my Instagram. All of this cheering helped me stay positive. This mile clocked in at 6:34. 

Mile 3:
I was crashing hard core at this point, particularly with the big hill. My legs were still not fully recovered from Boston and it took everything I had to hold it together. I got passed by a few men, but thankfully no women.

I kept thinking about my family waiting for me at the finish and wanting to look strong for them. It really motivated me to stay strong and not give in to my fatigue. This mile clocked in at 6:54.  Slower than half marathon pace!

The Finish
I tried to muster a final kick, but 6:22 was all I had in me. My official time was 20:40. Moments after I crossed, I found my sister waiting for me, excited to show me the video she captured of me finishing. It made me happy to see how happy she was to have gotten a video.

We didn't hang around long. I was eager to change clothes and get comfortable. I did a cooldown jog to my sister's house and then we all had breakfast together. To finish a race and be at my sister's house about 10 minutes later was really nice.

I told my family that the race didn't go as well as I had hoped and that my legs weren't fully recovered from Boston. I was the 6th female which was a far cry from 1st place like in 2022. But at least I won my age group (45-49). The five women ahead of me all ran under 20:00 so it was a competitive field for a local race. Especially with no prize money or gift cards!

It's hard for me to determine if I like the ASICS Metaspeed Sky for 5K racing. I'm inclined to say I prefer my adidas Adios Pro because my legs didn't have their usual "pep".  But I can't be sure how I would have felt with different shoes. The ASICS definitely feel more fun because they have a good bounce. So that alone is a good reason to wear them.

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
I keep comparing this race to 2022 because in both cases, the race was two weeks after Boston. But it's not really a fair comparison. The course was entirely different, and different people showed up.

Also, in 2022 Boston didn't beat me up as much because it was cooler and I didn't run it at full effort due to lingering Covid symptoms. At the most recent Boston, I raced it at full effort while dealing with the heat and ran a time of 3:24 as opposed to 3:33 in 2022. 

So it makes sense that even though my fitness is in a better spot now than it was two years ago, I wasn't as recovered from Boston and the new course was more challenging. Also, in 2022 I underestimated what I could do whereas last weekend I overestimated it. 

The biggest takeaway here, however, has nothing to do with running or paces or times or legs or hills. It's the joy of sharing the experience with my sister and brother-in-law. It was so awesome for them to see me racing and then to hang out with them for a few hours afterwards.  So even though I didn't win the race, I experienced a different kind of win. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Boston Marathon 2024: I Beat The Heat!

This is going to be long. I debated writing multiple blog posts to cover all the different aspects of this race, but ultimately decided to put it all in one place so that this post will be as epic as the race itself. 

To summarize the next 5,900 words into one sentence: 

TL/DR Version:
I ran well in the heat for the first time in my life and enjoyed meeting so many runners from Instagram, all while wearing a brand new pair of shoes (thus breaking out of my conservative approach to racing) thereby reigniting my previously fading love of the Boston Marathon.  

For my last run before heading to Boston, I decided to test out some shoes, just for the fun of it. My training was complete so whatever I did now was just for fun. Why not have a run where I stop a bunch of times to test shoes?

I had already decided on my race day shoe (the adidas Adios Pro 2) but I had a few different super shoes in the closet that I thought would be fun to test on an easy run.

First came the Saucony Endorphin Pro. I didn’t make it very far in these shoes (maybe half a mile) before I decided they weren’t for me. Too firm for my liking and they didn’t feel as streamlined or as fast as my beloved Adios Pro.

Next came the ASICS Metaspeed Sky Paris. I had received these shoes from Road Runner Sports a few weeks ago, pre-release, for me to share on Instagram. At the time, I ran just a few minutes in them to share my first impressions of them. I had liked them, but with a 5mm drop, I couldn’t imagine running far in them. With my history of Achilles tendinopathy, I need a higher drop (at least 8mm) and even at that I often put heel inserts into my shoes to raise the drop even more.

Despite the 5mm drop, my feet “connected” with these shoes on Thursday's run. It was love at first run. They were fun, bouncy, and had plenty of cushion. I weighed them on a kitchen scale and they were an ounce and a half lighter than my adidas Adios Pro shoes! And then I had the crazy idea of running Boston in them, even though I had never run more than 1 mile in them.

From that point forward, the ASICS Metaspeed Sky shoes came to symbolize the fun, reckless, risk-taking part of me that has started to emerge with my mid-life crisis! “Nothing new on race day” is a motto that I truly believe in and I would advise anyone else to abide by. But for some reason, I have been feeling risky and adventurous lately, so I decided I would go for it. Some people buy new convertible sports cars during a mid-life crisis. I race marathons in shoes I've never run in before.

I was worried about the 5mm drop, but I had some very small inserts that made the shoe more like an 8mm drop and they felt secure as I ran. 

One small problem - the shoes were too small! I had requested my normal ASICS size from Road Runner Sports (size 6.5), but my toes were hitting the edge of the Metaspeed Sky. So I contacted my ASICS rep and asked if I could grab a size 7 at their pop-up store in Boston. He did me one better and had them shipped to my hotel! In exchange, I offered to talk about the shoes and the pop-up store on Instagram.

The smaller size will be great for 5K and 10K races. But for a downhill marathon, I definitely needed the larger size. I had done plenty of long runs in the ASICS Super Blast, so I knew ASICS generally worked with my foot strike. 

I packed my trusty adidas Adios Pro 2 shoes in case I changed my mind about the ASICS, or if the larger size didn’t work for me. Greg and I flew out and everything went smoothly. We checked into the hotel, and my ASCIS package was waiting for me. We had lunch, and then made our way to the expo. I picked up my bib, got another Spike the Unicorn (by far the best expo purchase) and got a 2024 hat. I didn’t buy anything else because I had purchased the jacket ahead of time along with some other official gear on the adidas website.

It was then time for dinner with our friend Jonathan, and I got a Samuel Adams 26.2 Brew! One of the coolest things about the Boston Marathon is that all the local bars and restaurants offer 26.2 brew in a special marathon themed pint glass. I typically wouldn’t have a beer a few nights before a marathon, but my entire attitude for the weekend was to have fun! I was far less concerned about my performance than I was soaking up the whole experience. And 26.2 Brew is part of the experience.

On Saturday morning we went shopping on Newbury Street. Because the Boston Marathon expo doesn’t allow vendors that compete with the sponsors, many running brands set up “pop up" stores to sell their Boston gear. As promised, I visited the ASICS store and chatted with the rep there for awhile. 

Then we headed to the finish line for some photos. I absolutely love the vibe of the city on marathon weekend. All the runners are so excited to be there. The locals really embrace the race. The energy is unlike any other marathon, or really anything else I’ve ever experienced.

For dinner, we met up with two of my friends who I had met in Boston 2022, and who I regularly interact with on Instagram. Both of them talked some sense into me about my shoe choice. They reminded me that testing them out for a few miles is totally different than a marathon and what if something started to hurt and I’m stuck with the shoes? They encouraged me to play it safe and use the shoes that I know work for my feet and my stride. They told me that the ASICS would still be around for future races. They made compelling arguments and they definitely had me leaning towards tried-and-true adidas.

On Sunday morning, I did a shakeout run with many of my Instagram friends. It was so fun meeting some of them in person for the first time. Having everyone all in one place was beyond cool. I spent the entire run chatting with someone who I had known on Instagram for awhile but had never met in person.

We ran around Boston Common and there were loads of runners out. Throughout the entire weekend, I was often recognized as “Elizabeth from Instagram”. I have amassed over 100,000 followers so quite a few runners approached me to get a photo or tell me they appreciated my content. One person said she had read my book and kept it on her nightstand!

When I am home creating content, I often don’t stop and think about how many people I am reaching. So it was surreal to be approached by so many runners. It was wonderful to chat with so many new people and hear a little bit about their journeys. If I ever questioned if it was really worth my while to share so much on Instagram, this weekend taught me that it was definitely worthwhile. I received loads of positive feedback and runners telling me that my posts have helped them in some way or another.

I wore the brand new ASICS Metaspeed Sky size 7 on the shakeout run and they felt great. Really comfortable, no problems, and they felt fast when I did some quicker strides. But I was still not 100% convinced that my “mid life crisis shoes” were the right decision. It would be a risk if my feet hurt or they made my calves hurt or my Achilles started screaming. I tried on my adidas Adios after the shakeout run and determined that I liked them too! Decisions, decisions!

The shoe decision became a representation of two sides of myself, both battling for dominance. On the one hand, there is the sensible, conservative person I have always been who always plays it safe and likes to control as much as possible. On the other hand there is the adventurous, carefree person that is starting to emerge in my mid 40s who wants to let go of control and live life by gut instinct and venture into the unknown. I went back and forth a hundred times between which shoe I would wear.

I spent the rest of the day relaxing in the hotel room. We had walked around so much on Saturday (15,000+ steps, and none of them running!) and I wanted to stay off of my feet the day before the race. I used this time to develop my race plan and write the elevation profile on my arm. On my arm, I put up and down arrows to note which miles had a net gain, and which miles had a net loss. A double up arrow was a large gain (heartbreak hill), a single up arrow was a slight gain. A double arrow down was a large loss (miles 1-4), a single arrow down was a small loss. Keeping in mind that the whole course is rolling hills, it was just about the net elevation for each mile, so I knew what to expect pace-wise.

I decided my goal would be sub-3:20. Based on my half marathon, I was in shape for around 3:08-3:10, but with the more challenging course and the weather, I decided to add 10 minutes onto that. In order to hit it, I would need to average a pace of 7:32 on my Garmin for 26.4 miles. (My Garmin always measures 26.4 on the Boston course, so that is what I pace for). Had the weather been cooler, I would have gone for an overall distance PR of sub 3:15. How amazing would it have been to set a marathon PR on the Boston course! But the weather would not cooperate.

As for the shoes, I went to bed confident in my decision to stick with tried-and-true adidas Adios Pro. It was fun to think about a snazzy new pair, but it wasn’t worth the risk. I knew I liked the adidas, so why mess with a good thing?

Hydration + carb loading
All day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I made sure to prioritize hydration. It would be a warm race and I didn’t want to end up dehydrated like I did in Houston in 2023 or in Boston 2016

I drank about 80 ounces of fluid each day. I combined my water with Uppermost hydration, which is my favorite pre-race hydration. I love the taste and it has added vitamins! In the past, I would only have one packet of electrolytes per day, but this weekend, I had two packets per day. I also supplemented it with Gatorade from the goodie back I got from the expo.

As for carb loading, I loaded up on all different kinds of bread throughout the weekend. I devoured every bread basket that was offered at dinners. The night before the race I had my standard chicken parm without the cheese with pasta and bread.

I slept really well the night before the race. Better than I ever have before at a Boston Marathon. I wasn’t nervous or anxious or worried. I was chill and I was able to sleep soundly. 

Race Weather
When I woke up, my first order of business was to check the forecast. It had risen a few degrees. And I didn’t know it at the time, but it would actually be even warmer than the updated forecast during the race. Previously, the start temps had been forecast at 58 and finishing at 63. The updated forecast had a start temp of 61 and a finish temp of 67. In actuality it was 62 at the start in Hopkinton rising to 70 by the halfway point, and eventually cooling to 67 as we entered Boston for the last 3-4 miles.

There was very little cloud cover, but the humidity was thankfully low. On my personal weather scale, I give this a 4 out of 10. A “4” means that a PR is not possible, I need to adjust my time goal substantially and focus on finishing strong. If it had been humid then I would have rated it a 3 or even a 2. If the temps had been 70 at the start (like Boston 2016) , then the score would also be lowered to a 3 or a 2. But a low 60s start and very low humidity makes this race somewhat salvageable.

I determined that these conditions were just slightly more favorable than those in Houston 2023 due to lack of humidity in Boston.  I ran a 3:26 there, so I figured I could run a few minutes faster here, even with a more challenging course. I had given the Houston weather a 3 out of 10, so 4 out of 10 for this race feels right. My previous goal of sub-3:20 was likely no longer in reach, but I decided I would go out at a pace that would allow for it, and back of it needed. I figured I would realistically be in the 3:21-3:22 range.

As soon as I saw that the forecast had trended warmer (It went from a 5 to a 4) I immediately changed my mind on the shoes. With such crappy weather, the focus would 100% be on having fun, so it was time to throw caution to the wind and wear the fun shoes. In other words "Oh so it's going to be really warm?! Screw it! I'm wearing the fun shoes!"

Before the Race
After checking the weather, I started hydrating. I had a 24 ounce bottle that I would drink before the race and another 24 ounce bottle that I would carry during the race. I filled both with electrolytes. During a race, I like to use Skratch Labs hydration because it also has carbs. So my race bottle ended up having about 100 calories in it, in addition to electrolytes. 

I felt calm and not at all nervous. I had no idea how it would go, and I wasn't worried about it not going well. I knew I was well trained and well hydrated, I just had to go and enjoy myself.

I put four gels in my shorts pockets: 3 regular Maurten gels and 1 caffeinated Maurten gel. I also put 6 honey stinger chews in my pockets. Greg wrote my name on my back so that runners behind me would know it was me and say hi as they passed. It totally worked! I heard "Elizabeth I follow you on Instagram!" so many times during the race!

We left the hotel and met my friend Arynne at 7:00 near the bus loading area. Here's everything I had on me:

  • 4 Maurten gels
  • 1 UCAN gel
  • 2 24-ounce bottles of water + electrolytes
  • 6 Honey Stinger chews
  • A bag of almond butter pretzels
  • A banana
  • Sunscreen
  • Name written on my back, elevation notes written on my arm
  • Sunglasses, Garmin, Bib, shoes, socks, etc.
Greg had my trusty adidas Adios Pro shoes in his backpack. In case the new ASICS were killing me by mile 6.2 when I saw him, I would have the option to change shoes right then and there!

Greg and I chatted for a bit and then it was time for us to board the busses and for Greg to catch a train out to Framingham where he would see me at the 10K point. As soon as we left him, things started to feel real!

I enjoyed chatting with Ayrnne on the bus. We had met at the Harrisburg half marathon a few years back
and had stayed in touch ever since. Our bus stopped at a gas station because someone urgently had to use the bathroom but otherwise it was smooth sailing! I ate my almond butter pretzels on the bus and drank one of my water bottles. 

When we arrived at Athlete's village we headed straight for the porta potty line. It was pretty long. It moved fast and I would guess we waited in it for about 15-20 minutes. We then applied sunscreen. I'm glad we did because there was no shade on the course and very little cloud dover. 

Then they called our white wave (wave 2) and we headed to the start line! I hit up the final set of porta potties right before the start. I also used that time to ensure that my shoes were tied exactly how I wanted them to be tied and to pour some water on myself from the water station near the porta potties. And I took my UCAN gel. I was also approached by some Instagram runners for a few photos. Having done all of that, I made it to the corral with just 3 minutes to spare and the corral was completely full. I was able to tuck in at the very back. Usually I feel like I am waiting in the corral forever, but I think I spent more time waiting in that final porta potty line than expected.

Miles 1-5 (Hopkinton, Ashland)
The race started and everyone flew across the start line and down the first steep hill. My approach to Boston is to have an awareness of the elevation changes but ultimately keep the effort nice and easy in the beginning, which could mean big swings in pace. I had the elevation markings on my arm so I knew what I would be getting into.

My first area of focus was to find a sign at mile 4 that one of my followers made for me. It was a family of
six (three generations) and they made me a sign that said "Boston Bound" in the same font as the cover of my book surrounded by zebra stripes. 

They sent me this photo of the sign beforehand so I knew exactly what to look for. I saw them before they saw me! I was so excited to see the sign! I pointed at it, smiled and waved to them. It was really thrilling. 

These miles were crowded. A lot of people were passing me and I was passing a few people too. I mostly ran by effort/feel (which can be dangerous in a race that's expected to heat up) but I kept myself honest and ran at a pace that truly felt easy-medium for the first five miles. 4 of these 5 are insanely downhill, so that is part of the reason for them being faster than I would have started on a flat course.

Mile 1: 7:35 (-117 ft)
Mile 2: 7:26 (-54 ft)
Mile 3: 7:26 (-54 ft)
Mile 4: 7:30 (-69 ft)
Mile 5: 7:40 (+12 ft)

Miles 6-10 (Framingham)
When I ran the Houston Marathon in 2023 in warm, humid weather, I gradually drank from my handheld and was done with it by 2:00. I knew I needed to drink at a faster rate to avoid dehydration so I drank more frequently from my bottle than I did in Houston. As I ran through the water stations, I poured water all over my head and neck. It felt amazing for a few seconds and then I got hot again.

I saw Greg at mile 6.2. I spotted him before he saw me. I knew exactly where to look for him and it was awesome to see him! He took some amazing photos (better than the official race photographers take) and some great video for me to post on Instagram. I knew this would be my only chance to change shoes if needed, so I asked myself if my feet were okay. The answer: yes they were! I was still not completely sold on them being superior to the adidas, but I knew my feet were happy so far.

By this point I was still running at what felt like an easy pace, so I wasn't able to truly test their responsiveness when it came to surging and going super fast. Running a 5K would be an entirely different experience for the shoes. 

These miles went by pretty quickly. I focused on the crowd support, chatted with some people who recognized me from Instagram, and enjoyed it. 

Mile 6: 7:31 (-14)
Mile 7: 7:26 (-18)
Mile 8: 7:32 (+5)
Mile 9: 7:35 (-9)
Mile 10: 7:37 ( +18)

Miles 11-15 (Natick and Wellesley)
Now it was really hot. The first 10 miles were warm. These miles were downright hot. No cloud cover and I think it was in the 66-70 degree range for this portion of the course. I finished my 24 ounce bottle by 1:45, which meant I drank faster than I did at Houston. I knew I needed to drink water at every station and also pour water over my head wherever possible. 

My legs started to get tired during the 11th mile. This was not a good sign. It was far too early for that. It must be the shoes! Yes, I would blame the shoes! Okay,  no. .  . let's be real. It's not the shoes, it's the heat and the hills. 

I started to think that this race had the potential to go south very quickly. I remembered Boston 2016 when it was 70 at the start line and I was slugging my way over the last six miles. All the way to the medical tent! I tried not to think about that and to focus on the mile I was in. I would deal with any potential issues when they arose. For now, everything was manageable. Everything was fine. I was going to keep on keeping on!

There would be no negativity. I would continue to take everything in, enjoy the moment and be present. 

I crossed the halfway point at 1:39:29, which put me on pace for 3:18:58. So I could afford to run the second half of the race a minute slower and still break 3:20. At that point I was feeling decent enough that it seemed like a real possibility to shoot for my Sunday evening goal. Miles 14-15 were 7:26 and 7:31 so I continued to hold that belief, despite the heat! 

Mile 11: 7:40 (+21)
Mile 12: 7:30 (-47)
Mile 13: 7:36 (+12)
Mile 14: 7:26 (-12) 
Mile 15: 7:31 (+29)

Miles 16-20 (Newton)
At last I came to the Newton Hills. Where the course can break you! I took some deep breaths and prepared myself mentally for some hard times ahead. My legs were starting to feel really tired. Surprisingly, the rest of me felt great. I had plenty of energy. From a cardiovascular standpoint, I wasn't struggling at all. Looking back on my heart rate data I can see I was in the 163-167 range for the entire race! (I don't see my heart rate while I run). What a huge change from Boston 2022 when I was recovering from Covid and my heart rate spiked into the 180s. 

In 2022, my legs had plenty of pep, but my heart rate got too high. This year, my heart rate was nice and moderate, but my legs had no juice. Can I blame the new shoes!?  

My hydration and fueling were going according to plan. I was taking my gels on schedule. The caffeinated Maurten that I took at the 2:00 mark didn't sit well, but I felt fine after about 5 minutes. I was lucky to find a volunteer handing out bottles of water which allowed me to take a nice big gulp of water and poor the rest over my body. I am pretty sure it was around 69-70 degrees for this entire section. Many runners are reporting that the actual temperatures were higher than what was forecast.

The first hill was hard. I slowed down significantly (8:12) but that was somewhat intentional. I could have
pushed it harder but I knew I had three more big ones ahead and I didn't want to use all my juice on the first hill. I definitely knew my sub-3:20 goal was out the window at this point, but the good news was that I could slow down A LOT and still get a course PR! My newly revised goal was a course PR of sub 3:26.

The next two hills were challenging but I stayed strong. I focused on having fun and taking in all the crowd support. There were many runners walking these hills. I was definitely not the fastest runner up the hills but I was also not the slowest. I would say I was somewhere in the middle. I was passing runners and runners were also passing me.

Mile 16: 7:30 (-103)
Mile 17: 8:12 (+70)
Mile 18: 7:55 (+45)
Mile 19: 7:39 (-35)
Mile 20: 8:03 (+16)

Miles 21-Finish (Brookline, Boston)
Heartbreak Hill felt extra long. I felt like I was slogging up it at a pace of 10:00 but according to the official tracking my pace was 8:26.

Now I just had to get to Boston. All my gels were gone. I had digested them all with no problems so I took three honey stinger chews to get me through the final miles. Based on how my legs had felt during mile 11, I was really happy with how well they were holding up. They were definitely tired and hurting, but it could have been much worse. And with the heat - I couldn't believe how good I felt. How much energy I had. Usually I bake in the heat and I feel like it "zaps" me.  Yes, I was running slower than my potential in cooler weather, but I didn't feel "zapped" by the heat. 

At mile 22 I was looking for another sign from an Instagram follower. This one would say "4 More Clor" (for 4 more miles). I found the sign before she spotted me and I was able to get her attention. It was so cool to see another personalized sign! 

I was now at the point in the race where my pace as no longer under my control. I no longer had the option to speed up or push harder. I was an autopilot. I was doing fine and I could keep doing it. I just couldn't do any more. I had my happy pace and no amount of will could make it any faster. In my mind I knew I had a pretty big buffer to get a course PR so I was content to plug away at the course step by step.

I was passing a lot of runners during miles 22-24. It seemed like most runners were having a really hard time in the heat. A lot of them were walking. Thankfully it was a little bit cooler in Boston-- about 67 degrees as opposed to 70+ in Newton. I think that helped me.

Next up: Greg again! I started looking for him at mile marker 25. I looked and looked and I didn't see him. I was afraid I missed him. Finally he was there, and he got a killer video of me with the Citgo sign in the background! I was elated to see him! 

During the last mile of a marathon I usually can muster up some amount of extra strength to go a bit faster. But I didn't have anything left. I felt okay. Not great, not horrible. But my legs were like useless appendages that were on autopilot, totally separate from my mind. They did what they knew how to do from training and I didn't control their speed. Even once I made the final turn onto Boylston, there was no final kick. I even saw that I could get under 3:24:00 with just a little extra effort, but I had nothing more.

I let my legs carry me down Boylston as I took in the sights and sounds of cheering spectators and the announcer, feeling like an absolute rockstar. My final goal was to get an unobstructed finish line photo and that mission was accomplished. 

Mile 21: 8:23 (Heartbreak Hill)
Mile 22: 7:37 (-74)
Mile 23: 7:58 (-47)
Mile 24: 8:00 (-51)
Mile 25: 8:00 (-47)
Mile 26: 8:34 (+5)
Last 0.42: 8:02 pace

After the Race
When I stopped running I felt pretty bad for the next few minutes. I wanted to vomit but I couldn't induce vomiting and I didn't even dry heave like usual. I guess that's a good thing! I felt a bit nauseous, as if vomiting would help, but that feeling passed after about 5-10 minutes. Someone collapsed immediately behind me after I finished, and thankfully a medical person was there to help her. 

I walked slowly through the finish line chute. I couldn't believe how well my body held up in that heat! Amazing! Usually when it gets above 55 I totally melt, even when everyone else seems fine with the weather. I wasn't even acclimated coming off of a winter training cycle.  I continued walking to get my medal and my heat blanket. Yeah, I felt pretty decent for having run 26.2+ miles in the heat!

Before I knew it I had reached the end of the chute and was re-united with Greg. I even beat him to our meeting spot! From there we took a slow stroll through Boston Common up to our hotel. The good thing about the warm weather was that I was really comfortable post race and not too cold!

Back at the hotel, the staff of the Ritz Carlton welcomed me with cheers, a glass of champagne and a huge selection of Gatorades. In my room they left balloons and a plaque with my name and time on it. Finally it was time for my Epsom salt bath and a good look at my Garmin data!

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
I have so much to say about this race. If you thought I've said it all by this point, you're wrong! I'll start at the bottom with my shoes. 

I broke the rules with new shoes!
As I said earlier, the new shoes came to symbolize following my gut, letting go of control, and doing the fun but potentially irresponsible thing. I enjoyed running in them. I think my adidas Adios Pro 2 shoes would have done an equally fine job, they just have a different feel. While the ASICS Metaspeed Sky shoes are lighter and bouncier, I can't say for sure if they are faster because I wasn't exactly going for speed in this race. I plan to wear the smaller pair at my next 5K and see how they do. But I'll probably run at least one workout in them first. 

My Achilles were a little tender after the race and they are still tender today, but they were much worse after Houston in 2023. I think they will be fine again when I take a week off of running. I did use the little heel inserts to raise the drop and they stayed in place throughout the whole run. if you go to the Amazon link you will see they are adjustable and I used the bottom two layers. The top one was too big for the shoe.

I fell in love with Boston all over again!
I wasn't feeling super excited about this year's race. Part of me was ready to move on from Boston, maybe run it once every four years instead of every two years. Well, now I am thinking of running it again next year and doubling down on it instead of moving away from it! I think a lot of it has to do with having such a large Instagram presence and getting to meet so many people in person. I honestly loved being "recognized" and having people take photos with me. 

It also has to do with the hype and the excitement of the city. That's always been there but I think I was more connected to it this year because of what I said above. I got to hear more stories, get a deeper sense from more people of how important this race was to them. 

As a content creator, I loved sharing the experience too. I created so many videos for my Instagram stories and was able to bring the Boston experience to people at home or at work! And I'm having a blast writing this novel-length blog post.

I also think I'm finally learning how to run this course properly. How to pace it. What to expect. I will probably continue to go into it with a carefree attitude given that the weather always throws curveballs, but that is the beauty of it.

Heat running didn't destroy me
I was able to apply what I learned in Houston to this race and it paid off. I ran a strong race in Houston with a negative split and it showed me that if I slow down enough, I can run well in the heat. I also ended up dehydrated at that race, so I learned that I need to focus on that even more. 

For years and years and years, I was always the one crashing in the heat-- FAR more than other runners. I constantly lamented about how the heat impacted me more than other people. I was more heat sensitive. I needed it to be 35. I would run races in 55 degree weather and complain that the heat did me in while other people set PRs. As I matured, I stopped complaining and lamenting, but I still believed it to be true that I was at more of a physical disadvantage in the heat than most runners. 

This race was the first time when I punched above my weight in the heat. Meaning- I finished 7,946 and my bib number was 12577. You can look at your bib number as your "ranking" when you enter the race. It's based on your qualifying time. So I might expect to finish in in 12,577th place. I passed approximately 4,600 runners. I literally "beat my heat" by placing in the 1st wave instead of the 2nd.

Why was this race different? I think it was a combination of a few things:
  • Hydration, Hydration, Hydration. With electrolytes! I think I used to drink plenty of water but perhaps I wasn't getting enough electrolytes during my pre-hydration

  • Respect for the heat = conservative pacing. I was in shape to run a marathon pace of 7:10 but I backed that down to 7:30 for the first half. That's a huge adjustment and I think many runners aren't willing to back off their goals by that much. 
I ran my fastest Boston
This was my 5th Boston Marathon and my fastest. Previous times:
  • 2016: 3:48:16 - Hot! 70 degrees and sunny at the start
  • 2018: 3:26:54 - Heavy downpours with 20-40 mph headwind
  • 2020: 3:40:02 - Virtual 
  • 2022: 3:33:04 - Recovering from Covid 
  • 2024: 3:24:07 - Hot!
This was my 34th marathon and my 15th BQ.  I ran 25 minutes and 53 seconds under my BQ time. I placed in the top 6th percent of my age group (45-49). I'll say it was a very good day. 

Contrast this to 10 years ago when I was struggling to qualify, was completely demoralized by the heat, and took running way too seriously. This transformation is what Boston represents to me, and why I will continue to run it. 

Looking for more Boston Marathon content? Check out my original song, It's Raining Unicorns, on YouTube.