It wouldn't be the New Year if the Cleveland Marathon weekend wasn't on my mind. I do one of the events that 3rd weekend in May every year and usually its the half, except 2016 where I ran the full.
But something was different this year. For some reason last summer I started feeling an urge to do the full again in 2018. Usually I don't repeat full marathons. All five that I've done have been different, mainly because I'm trying to do all 50 states. Plus last time I did the full the weather was absolutely insane: snow, sleet, hail, 30+mph winds, rain, waterspouts on the lake.... And then last year in the half I got heat exhaustion pretty bad.
I knew I'd do some event during that weekend, since I always do, but I decided I needed some big sign to convince me to do the full. Then about a month later, I got an email saying I was selected as a Cleveland Marathon Ambassador this year! I was so pumped!
The Cleveland Marathon is so special to me. When I ran the half in 2013, it was my first ever race and the start of my running career. I've seen 2 half PRs and a full PR on that course. It's my hometown race and I love seeing friends on course and cheering. And it's just an incredibly fun race weekend. Which is why I do it every year despite the fact that the weather can be unpredictable. There is no other race that I have repeated more than twice, but 2018 will be my 6th year at the Cleveland Marathon.
As soon as I got the Ambassador email, my mind was made up. That was my sign. I would be doing the full in 2018! My training kicks off in a couple weeks but let's talk about why you should join me for one of the events on May 19th-May 20th (and not one of them has to do with bling, although there's plenty of that too)!
#1 - You have your choice of distances. You can run the 1 Mile, 5k, 8k, 10k, 13.1 or 26.2. Even if you are new to running, you can do this and it's an awesome way to get your start and you couldn't ask for better scenery for it.
#2 - One race not enough for you? No problem. There's a challenge where you can run the 8k and 13.1, 8k and 26.2 or the 5k and 10k.
#3 - You travel through some pretty cool places. If you live here, you know. Cleveland and the surrounding areas are pretty amazing. In addition through travelling through downtown, you hit Ohio City, Gordon Square, Lakewood, Edgewater, Rocky River. All very fun and trendy places. If you choose one of the Saturday events you run at Edgewater Park which has unbelieveable views of Lake Erie and downtown.
#4 - New Course. Well mostly new. Last year, the race directors re-vamped and re-did the course. Spoiler alert: it's even flatter. Just a couple hills here and there on a mostly flat course. And my personal favorite? They took out a nasty beast called the Detroit-Shoreway, aka a four mile, spectator-free, windfilled stretch of hills that used to make up the end of the course. It's gone! Now you travel down Detroit, past restaurants and bars and a street full of spectators!
#5 - Crowd Support. If you're like me, you need spectators when the going gets tough. This race is great for that. With the Shoreway gone, you're hard-pressed to find a part of the course without people cheering. Even in the crazy weather of 2016 there were tons of people out there cheering for us. Although maybe they were there to see the crazy runners? Either way Cleveland's fans rock!
#6 - Post-race fun. There's always a great party at the end with music, good food, and free local beer! And you can bet rain, or shine, or freezing cold, people will be out there celebrating their finish.
So what are you waiting for? Come RunCLE with me in May! It's gonna be great!
Happy New Year! It's hard to believe 2017 is over already, but I'm actually kind of glad to have a fresh start in running and many other areas of life.
2017 was a big running year for me in terms of numbers. I raced more than I ever have. 16 times to be exact and 8 distances: 2 fulls, 4 halfs, a 25k, 10 miler, 15k, 10k, 5 miler, 3 5ks, and a 2miler. I ran in 5 different states and had two PRs (5 mile and 25k). I had several firsts: I ran a marathon for fun, I ran my first race with Bentley, I completed my first 10k and 15k, and I won my first race. Most importantly, my IT band fully recovered and I trained and raced CIM without any issue.
But I can't help but feel like I fell short of the goals I had for 2017. I didn't PR in the full, the half, or the 5k. And in most of the races, the times I ran were well off of my PRs. Granted, I had some issues outside of my control, but other times I just didn't feel like I was capable of running my previous times and was bonking way earlier in races than I ever had. CIM was the exception to that, but I had my weird side stitch issue show up half way through and derail my race.
The big race on my schedule for 2018 is the Cleveland Marathon (and I get to be an ambassador this year!) so I have plenty of time to train. So with 2018 beginning, I've come up with new goals and new plans for how to acheive those goals.
January of 2017 to December 2017
My 2018 Plan -
There are several elements to my plan for 2018 but they all center around one big change I want to make...keep reading to find out.
Cross-training - I've said this every year for the past 3 years. I'm going to cross train this year, I'm going to cross train. I swear I'm going to cross train. And the same thing happens every year, I cross train for a few weeks at the beginning of each training cycle, and then I drop it for one reason or another. But this time WILL be different. How? Well for starters, I've already been cross training for the last 3 weeks straight for at least 45mins-1hr each day. I figured that by starting while I'm not training for anything, it will become part of my routine. The second thing I'm trying are different types of workouts. I rarely do the same lifting/core work/etc each day. That keeps it interesting and makes it more efficient.
More Mileage - After talking with other runners in my club and seeing the kind of mileage other runners I know log, I've come to the conclusion that I do not log enough miles in my training to run the times I want to run. I know I need to do this carefully to prevent injuries, but I plan to slowly build up and to add more runs per week to safely increase the mileage.
Physical Therapy - I've been going to Healthsource of Avon for 3 weeks now and I haven't had a side stitch since getting adjustments and starting PT with them. Their workouts are also helping me to strengthen my obliques, which I'm working into my cross-training. And I'm learning to breath properly which improves my running and prevents the stitch.
Nutrition - Starting with my CIM training, I completely switched up my diet and while I was being more strict on myself than I previously was, I didn't even notice so its not like I was miserable. But the payoff was incredible! I dropped about 12lbs in my training and I had so much energy. So I plan to continue that diet permanently, but I also intend to work on improving it even further, with better nutrition through more fresh fruits and veggies and good sources of protein. I plan to hit the Cleveland Marathon at my ideal race weight.
Coaching - My biggest change for 2018. This year I am hiring a run coach. I've done all of the above in some shape or form but I've never had a real coach before. My training partner has served as an unofficial coach for the past couple years but what I need out of a coach, I can't ask him to do and he doesn't necessarily know how to form daily and weekly training plans, provide cross-training, diet and nutrition plans, and adjust to my needs/performance. From seeing other runners succeed with coaches and talking to other runners, I think that a coach can provide a big payoff for me in 2018. And since running is such a big part of my life, I'm going to make this investment in it this year.
So those are my plans for 2018 in a nutshell. I don't start my Cleveland Marathon training until late January but my cross-training is in full swing. What are your goals for 2018 and do you have any plans to mix it up this year? Have you used a coach before?
It's been a while since my last post but seeing as I am now a 5 time marathoner and I have a lot to say about marathon number 5 (and state number 7 in my quest for a half or more in all 50), it seems like a great time to post!
On December 3rd I finished the California International Marathon. While I was shy of my goal (sub-3:40), finishing in 3:55 due to issues outside of my control -- which I will discuss later -- I learned a lot about my mental and physical toughness in this race, my current fitness level and how to run a smart race. On top of that I had an amazing trip, meeting runner friends from all over the country, pro-runners, and my Nuun Hydration team and fellow ambassadors, plus taking in all that Sacramento and the surrounding areas had to offer! It was definitely one of my favorite running trips.
The trip started out the Wednesday before the race bright and early with a 5:30am flight to Sacramento. When I arrived in CA, my parents grabbed me from the airport and we took a quick tour of a few wineries before heading to my parents resort at Angel's Camp. My goal on this trip was to stay off of my feet and not sight see too much like I did in Oklahoma which led to dead-legs on race morning. When we arrived in Angel's Camp I went for a quick, easy 3 mile run. Angel's Camp is elevated and hilly so I was careful to find the flatest route possible. The next day we drove back into Sacramento, checked me into my hotel and toured Old Town and then headed to Folsom to see the city where the marathon would start, shop, and have dinner. Then it was back to Sacramento for me until after the race.
On Saturday I tried to stay off of my feet as much as possible. I went back to Pushkins for another breakfast and then headed to the expo for a Nuun Ambassador event. Beforehand I checked out the elite bib reveal and snagged some pics of some of my favorite elite runners! I also spied Neely Gracey at the expo. The Nuun event was great because I was able to actually meet Nuun Ambassadors from all over the country, be featured in a live Nuun webinar, and got some Nuun swag! Afterwards I pretty much lounged in my hotel the rest of the day and got everything ready for the race.
Race morning started very early with a 5am bus ride to Folsom. I noticed it was pretty warm out (about 45) so I knew we were going to have good race weather. The bus ride passed quickly as I made friends with my seat mate. When we arrived in Folsom we headed to the portapotties and were in and out quickly. I got back on the bus to stay comfortable and got every last detail organized. With about 30 minutes left I headed back to the bathrooms, dumped by gear check bag, and then met up for one last photo with Instagram friends. With about 12 minutes left I got into the corral and seeded myself between the 3:37 and 3:42 pacers. The wheelchair athletes took off with 5 minutes to go. Then before I knew it we were off too.
The first mile rolled downhill. I told myself to hold back but stay comfortable. I tried not to get sucked into going to fast with everyone else and let the 3:37 pacer go ahead (a good choice because I never saw her again--not sure what pace she was running). The course rolled pretty seriously in the beginning. There was a lot of down but there was also a lot of up too. But I still felt fantastic. I went through the 5k at about a 7:55/mile so I made myself back off a little and by the time I hit the 10k I was at an 8:02/mile. I could not believe how little effort I was using to run these paces. The uphills started to get more significant but I still felt great. I also felt so free because Nuun was on the course so I didn't have to carry a handheld for once! I was taking in the sights, the great crowd support, and the perfect weather. The only complaint I had was that the water stops were somewhat difficult to get to with all of the runners and the stops being on one side of the street.
The miles were flying by and I couldn't believe it when I saw mile 10. "I'm already in double digits?! I'm going to break 3:40!" Despite some bigger hills in between, I saw mile 13 show up shortly after and then I was crossing the timing mat at 13.1. "Did I really just run across the half marathon in 1:46 at a minimal effort?! Maybe I can negative split and finish in 3:35!" I pushed on feeling great until I hit 13.8.
Then I felt it. The side stitch. The stupid, annoying, nagging, incredibly painful side stitch that had reared its ugly head during my first 18 miler in my training. The one that literally brought me to tears in my training. I tried to breathe deeply and work it out but it wasn't happening. By the time I crossed 14 it was stabbing pain and I couldn't catch my breath. That caused me to hyperventilate and freak out, making breathing more difficult. At that point I called Mike (my running partner/training coach) and talked to him. I needed someone to calm me down. He and Joanna (his wife) talked to me and calmed me down to the point I could get running again.
Around 16 I called my mom because I was still wheezing and hurting. I ran the next three miles (slowly) with her on the phone just listening to me run. Something about that calmed me down enough to keep moving. I hung up with her around 19.5 (after a lot of tears and anger--why does this always happen to me? I was having a great race!) and put on my music and kept moving.
Mile 20-24 were a mix of ok and hurting. I was at the point that I could go a mile before I had to slow and work out the cramp/stitch. At mile 21 I noticed a girl on the left side of the road sort of limping and she took off running again. Something told me to go check on her. I jogged over to her and asked if she was ok. Her name was Sara and she was having a similar race where an injury showed up and messed with what was shaping up to be a great race for her. I shared my experience with her and we ran together for a little while. She had to back off and told me to have a great race. I told her I knew she'd catch me at some point because I was hurting pretty bad. Afterward I kept pushing through and before I knew it we had crested the last hill and we were back in the city at 24 with 2.2 miles to go.
I cramped pretty bad but I could tell from my watch that even with a lot of walking, I was going to break 4 hours. I worked out the cramp and called Mike again. He reassured me that I would break 4 and I was doing just fine. I ran with him on the phone until 24.5 and then hung up and pushed myself to finish strong. One more big cramp at 24.8 and I had to slow again to work it out. I told myself at 25 I would take off and finish the race even if I thought my side was going to tear. Right as I was about to start running I heard "huh-uh, no! Let's go!". It was Sara. I took off with her and we cranked up the pace. We were passing runners right and left. She was directing me, and firmly ordering me to stay with her. I gave it everything I had and just hung on to her. My side was aching but I just focused on staying with Sara. 25.5, 25.7, 26. We were in the home stretch. Sara jestured that we would turn left, make another left shortly after, and then it was a short sprint to the finish.
We made the first left turn at 26 and I could see that we only had about .1 before we turned again. We rounded the second left and I could see the finish. Not even .2 away. Sara kicked it up and I went with her. We sprinted in and I saw the clock as we crossed. 3:55. We were in 5 minutes under 4 hours. Sara and I both turned and hugged each other after we crossed, thanking each other for making the last mile great. There was no way my last mile would have been that great without her there. We were meant to finish that race together from when we met at mile 21.
The official time was 3:55:28. I was a little disappointed given how the first half of the race went, but given how I felt throughout the last 12.2 miles, I'm pretty darn proud of finishing that race and breaking 4 is always a win in my book. The more I started thinking about it, the more I realized how great of a race this was for me even with the issue. This was my 3rd fastest marathon (just 11 seconds off of my Detroit time) and it was a post-IT band injury PR. I went from the DNF in Utah, to a 4:05 in Oklahoma City, to a 3:55 at this race. And speaking of the IT band, it never hurt or bothered me in this race! Even with all of the hills! Finally, I finished this race strong and made a new friend in the process. Last time I ran a 3:55 I turned around for a huge PR in Cleveland. Cleveland is already scheduled, so it looks like I'm ready for a repeat!
Update since the race:
I enjoyed the rest of my trip in Sacramento/the surrrounding area by eating great food, touring the Sequoia Forest, and tasting a lot of wine. Since returning home I've made it to Healthsource of Avon where they checkout out my side/back/hips and determined that I am all out of alignment which causes the side stitch and breathing issue! It likely is due from overcompensating for that bad IT band while it healed. So I have a diagnosis, which they are going to help me fix. They are also going to teach me how to breath better while running and help me strengthen my IT bands in the process!
I had the awesome opportunity to review the super cute, comfy and functional headbands by Maventhread. In the name of transparency, I received 4 headbands from the company for review. I made sure to thoroughly test out the headbands in different kinds of uses, distances, weather, and to wash them, before writing this review.
So first off, if you follow my running and have ever seen my "flat runner" posts, you know that it's rare that I'm ever seen running or doing anything active without a headband! I'm always looking for good headbands that look cute while staying in place when I'm running or working out, because we all know its a huge pain to have to try to fix a headband that slides off while running, especially with headphones in. For the most part, I had only tried the basic headbands you pick up at your local big box retailer so I was excited to try a better quality product.
Maventhread's headbands are very wide, but can be folded, scrunched and adjusted to your preferred fit or look on a given day. I tried a couple different "sizes" and was happy with how it felt in each size. I also love that you can pull them over your ears which works great in colder weather when its still a little too warm for a heavy ear warmer.
The headbands are very comfy. Many times when I was running with them I completely forgot that I was even wearing the headband until I looked in the mirror. Obviously that means that these headbands do not slide. I'm not exaggerating. After each workout, the headband was exactly where I positioned it prior to the workout. I honestly cannot say that I've ever had another type of headband do that. I tested them on a 10 mile long run, a long tempo run, and during speedwork and they stayed put for all of the workouts. While they stay put during workouts, they are not too tight either. I've definitely worn others which have caused headaches due to fitting too tight.
Look and Feel -
Maventhread's headbands are super cute and super soft. When I opened the package, the first thing I noticed was how soft the headbands were. They are also super cute and come in options to fit your style. There are two sets sold on their website (although I believe a third option is coming soon) the slate 2 pack (the grey and geometric) and the bodhi (floral and striped). I liked the design of all 4 headbands and if I had to choose a favorite, although its tough, it would have to be the geometric one. I liked that I could wear them for workouts, lazy days, running errands, and just when hanging out with friends; a big difference from the purely athletic ones I've used in the past.
Of course quality is a big factor for me because I'm always looking for products I can use all the time without needing to replace them after a few uses. Maventhread describes its headbands as high end without the high end price. I definitely agree with that statement. I've washed the headbands a few times and they all still look and feel like they did when I first opened the package.
So what's the verdict? I would definitely recommend these headbands and I'm definitely going to be stalking their website for the next style when it comes out! I was glad to try a new style of headband and these are pretty much the only ones I wear now (unless they are in the wash)! I definitely recommend checking them out!
Just a few short months after I started running with my vizsla pup, Bentley, we ran our first race together! Bentley and I heard about the Wet Nose 5k after we helped a friend who works for the Geauga Humane Society/Rescue Village (who put on the race) write an article about running with your dog. She suggested we might want to come run the race as it would time up well for his first race. I was hesitant because I was racing the Hat Trick the day before (5 miler, 5k, 2 miler, back to back to back) and worried about overdoing it. So I waited until after I finished the Hat Trick to make my decision--and after I completed the Hat Trick (with a shiny new 5 mile PR) feeling good, I decided we would run the Wet Nose 5k as a recovery run.
We arrived at Orchard Hills Park in Geauga County early so that we could register for the race. I could tell from the drive in that it was going to be a hilly race, but knowing we would be taking it easy, I wasn't too worried. We signed up, met some doggy friends, and got into the corral. Bentley was raring to go, since he knows what the running leash means, and on top of that there were probably 30-40 other dogs there all pumped to be running.
When the gun went off, Bentley freaked (as I expected he would), but the other dogs were unphased which helped him take off. We sprinted up the hill and out of the park, with him chasing all of the other dogs. The first mile was downhill and I pretty much just let Bentley go because he was having a blast and I felt good. Bentley ran with the other dogs so well, running next to them, but focusing on what he was doing. We logged the first mile at a 7:25 mile, his fastest mile and way to fast for my tired legs. When we hit the turn around, we got to climb a massive hill, which helped slow him up. Once we crested the hill I was winded but Bentley decided to take a conveniently timed potty break. Other runners were laughing when they passed by, joking that I trained him to do that at the top of the hill.
After he finished his business (and I flung the bags at my mom) he sprinted off at a 5:45 mile as we turned onto the trail portion of the race. I was cracking up because it was as if he knew I'd want to catch the runners who passed us and make up the time we lost (guess I've trained him well). After a few minutes of sprinting, we settled back into a comfortable 8:00-8:10 mile. The trail portion was rather surprising because it was more of a true trail (I had to watch my footing) and it was incredibly hilly and lasted for 1.5 miles. But the time passed quickly with Bentley there to distract me and pull me up and down the hills. We worked well together with me pushing him through the flat portions and him pushing me up the hills. We managed to pass 3 more runners in the last mile and hang on for a 3rd place female, 4th dog, and 6th overall finish!
Running with Bentley is always fun, but racing with Bentley is a whole other experience. I can honestly say that I never really though about my legs feeling tired, or worried about the hills, or was concerned about the trail portion because I was having too much fun with Bentley and paying attention to him. We ran way faster (7:53 avg.) than I was planning but I felt fine after and took a lot of time off afterward to recovery. I can't wait for Bentley to get faster so we can do more races because if our first race (while running on tired legs) was any indication, I have a feeling PRs will fall the more I race with this pup!
Check another state off the list--half marathon number 13 is in the books! On June 16th I ran the Presque Isle Half Marathon in Erie, Pennsylvania, bringing my quest for a half marathon or longer in all 50 states to 6/50. This race was such a mixed bag of good, bad, and ugly between the race itself, the course, my personal experience, and the race organization.
I stayed in Erie the night before so I had about a 25 minute drive to the start, which was necessary since the race started at 6:45 am and there was no way I was driving up in the AM. When I got to Presque Isle, I hit a little traffic since the Isle was still open to the public plus the race traffic was a lot for a small Isle. It was actually pretty organized and the volunteers quickly directed people into parking spots. I was parked in time to witness a beautiful sunrise over Lake Erie, grab my bib, and stretch out/warm-up. I headed into the pack at the start which was tightly bunched up as the trail was somewhat narrow and 1500 runners were trying to crowd in together.
We took off at 6:45 sharp shortly after the sunrise. The first mile was a struggle to break out of the pack as people of all paces were jumbled up because of the lack of pacers and the road was still open to traffic so were were crowded on one side of the roadway. I attempted to settle into a 7:55/mile pace but it seemed like I was working harder than I should have been to hold that pace. I went through mile 1 on my watch at 7:52 avg. It wasn't until I passed the clock at the second mile marker that I realized I was having satellite issues because of being on the Isle (I didn't even have cell service!) and I was through two miles in 15:00--i.e. I was going too fast and had no clue! I backed off the pace a little but it was a pain because my watch couldn't figure out the actual pace I was running and it was playing games with my head. I had to run on feel until I would see another clock and then had to calculate in my head (they were every 2 miles). As we got further in, the sun intensified, due to the lack of shade, and the humidity was setting in. But for once, I felt like I was handling it well due to my acclimation through training, enduralytes, and the new Nuun formula.
I went through the 10K at a 7:55/mile which meant that I was right on pace for a PR. At that point though, I was starting to notice a pain in my left hip. I thought to myself that that was odd, but then it hit me that I was running on a graded surface because we were stuck on one side of the street and that always irks my hip. I tried to stick to the middle as much as I could but with cars coming down the other side, I was limited. I focused on other things but by mile 8 my whole left leg was on fire from the hip down. I was still on PR pace, but I decided to back off to avoid the risk of actually causing an injury (especially that IT band) instead of just an aggravation.
I decided to keep it easy for the rest of the race and aim for a solid training time since I knew based on my first 8 that I was in the shape I needed to be in. The intensifying humidity made me feel better about that choice, which made me so grateful for the cold towels they were handing out at 9.5 miles! I kept it easy until 12 and then I kicked it in for a speedy last mile, finishing in 1:52. While it wasn't my goal time, I was pretty happy with my performance given the conditions of the road and the weather; plus it was a full 20 minutes faster than my Cleveland Half Marathon humidity battle earlier this year in May. I also felt like I finally had my humidity issues under control.
My Review of the Race:
Well it's certainly been a while since my last post, but since I just ran the OKC Memorial Marathon and I have a lot to talk about, it seems like a good time to revive my blog. If you follow my Instagram page, you know that the race did not go the way I was expecting, but that's the beauty of the marathon. It's a long distance and a lot can happen, even when you put in all the training. So here's my recap of my fourth marathon.
I arrived in Oklahoma City on Friday afternoon and headed straight to my hotel to get changed and ready to go for a short and easy shakeout run. I decided that I would run to the Memorial, explore a little, and run back. I took it nice and easy and when I got to the Memorial, I spent a little time walking and exploring and snapping pics. Then I ran back to the hotel and got ready to meet Gaby, an Instagram friend who was flying in that afternoon. I headed off to the expo and eventually met up with Gaby.
After the expo, I lounged around my hotel before checking out a pizza place in Midtown called Hideaway. I had an amazing gluten free pizza and learned that Hideaway is the oldest pizza place in the state (my tastebuds could see why)! I made sure to get a lot of sleep on Friday, knowing I wouldn't get as much the night before the race. On Saturday, I lounged around and then walked to meet Gaby to go to the Memorial and snap some more pics. We decided to check out the Museum which was both sad and interesting. Afterward I went back to the hotel and relaxed my legs and had some lunch. I ate an early dinner (my rice and ground beef made it to OKC!) and then went to dinner with a bunch of Instagram runner friends. It was nice to relax with good company and take my mind off of the upcoming race. It was then time to do my pre-race rituals and go to bed early.
Race morning started at 4am when I woke up and had my bagel, banana, coffee, and water. I relaxed in my hotel room, pumping myself up with music and quotes. I walked over to the startline and made it in time to hear the pre-race prayer and service at the Survivor Tree at the Memorial. It was inspirational and moving. I hopped in the portapotty line and saw Annie (another Instagram friend who arranged the dinner) and we snapped a quick pic and with 15 minutes to spare. I looked around because I knew my friend Bryan, who is from Ohio and now living in Texas, would be running the race and in my corral. I couldn't find him, so I put my headphones in and stretched out. Shortly before the race they paused everything for 168 seconds of silence to remember those lost in the bombing. Next the wheelchairs took off and I heard my name and turned around and there was Bryan. He asked me what my goal was and I told him I was aiming to BQ and he offered to pace me, which I immediately accepted. Next thing I knew, the gun went off and we were running.
The first mile went by quickly. We were talking and taking in the sites and held under an 8 minute mile. At 1.5 we went up a big hill and passed my hotel (luckily I tackled that hill on Friday and knew what to expect) but the pace still felt comfortable, as we came in right around 8 for the second mile. The next few miles were also on pace, but I was noticing that my legs didn't feel quite right. They were heavy and I felt like I was working harder than usual to hold paces that were easier than my training paces. Maybe it was the fact that all the miles we faced were either up or downhill, but I more or less knew that this was not going to be a BQ day. I gave Bryan the heads up that I thought we should back off the pace and just aim for a PR for me (3:40).
The rolling hills continued as we passed the 10k mark. We were still on 3:40 pace, but I was not enjoying myself with the hills and intense headwinds. The one exception was the famous "Gorilla Hill" where a homeowner has installs a giant inflatable gorilla at the top and everyone dresses as bananas and hands them out to runners. Oddly enough, I thought it was the mildest hill on the course despite all the talk about it. At mile 8, we lost the half marathoners and with them, the crowds. We turned onto a long straight stretch of road into a 30+ mph headwind and headed uphill. By mile 12, my IT band was getting really tight due to all of the uphills and I knew I was going to have to be careful to prevent it from actually getting inflamed. We went through the half marathon mark a little over 1:50 and at that point I decided to stretch out the ITB because I saw the massive bridge ahead of us.
After we crossed the bridge, we were dumped into the park along Lake Hefner. It would have been beautiful and scenic if it weren't for the fact that the rain started and the winds along the lake were insane (I would later hear about gusts up to 40 mph!). To make matters worse, we were on a narrow bike path which was flooded at points from the storms the night before. Thanks to Bryan's stories, we pressed on and I looked ahead to the points where there were trees to shade us from the winds.The only good part about the path along the lake was that it was actually the first part of flat although the winds made it just as intense. Once we headed out of the park, it was just a matter of climbing a big bridge and then were were back in civilization with less intense winds.
Bryan helped me break the race into chunks. "Okay we just need to get to 16, then 20, and then 23 and then it's easy from there". I played that over and over in my mind. Luckily the next few miles were throughout neighborhoods so there were lots of people and Bryan hyped up the crowds the whole way, cracking me up and taking my mind off of my ITB and the fact that we had done 19 miles. I knew Gaby would be around 24 which helped me push on, knowing I would see here. Unfortunately my ITB was really getting tight on all of the uphill, which made me have to back off almost every time there was an uphill. Bryan was such a trooper, sticking with me and making me laugh and taking my mind off of how angry I was at my ITB which hadn't given me any trouble since last September. At 23 I felt revived. I knew we could get through it and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel despite the rain, wind, hills and cold. We pushed on and our pace actually started dropping. At 24 I grabbed a bottle of water from the crowd, and I heard my name and there was Gaby cheering. It was the pickup I needed to push on.
We just had to get over a few more hills and then it was flat until the last .4 of downhill to the finish. While my A, B, C, D, and E goals were out the window, my F goal of being under 4:10 was within reach and my G goal of beating my first marathon time (4:13) was easily obtainable at that point. By the time we hit the last mile, we had done an 8 minute mile and I knew we just had to round the corner and run the last .4 to the finish (the course was long by about .3). Bryan told me earlier that I probably shouldn't do a hard kick to avoid hurting the ITB. But once we started down to the finish line, and he began hyping the crowd, telling them it was my first fun run, I was cracking up and felt so good that I bolted, holding a 7:15 for the last stretch. I threw my arms up as we crossed the finish, happy to have completed #4 and battled through a tough day with tougher conditions. Official time: 4:05.18. Not my best, but almost 10 minutes better than my first.
I celebrated with Bryan and his family. It wasn't the race I was hoping for or expecting, but honestly I think it was the race I needed. It showed me how fun running a marathon can be and it was nice to breakaway from the intensity of going for a big goal. Am I disappointed? Absolutely (moreso because of how well my training went compared to how I felt on race day in the early miles). But would I trade the experience I had in Oklahoma? No. I ran a smart race, and I recognized the signs my body was sending me. For once, I actually remember almost everything I saw on the course and I got some pretty good photos out of it. Is fun running a marathon going to become the norm for me? No. Having a goal to reach can be equally fun. But will I make sure to incorporate some just for fun races in in the future? Yes, this is how you keep yourself fresh and in love with the spirit of running. And hey, I'm already not sore anymore! So that's a plus!
So what happened to me in OKC? I honestly don't know. I've trained myself not to overanalyze because you really can't always figure it out, but I do have a few guesses. To start, let me say that my training for this one went perfect. No injuries, all speed, hills and long runs went as they should (if not better) and I had my mind trained, which made the result frustrating.
My first guess is that I overdid it in the days leading up to the race. I didn't have a car in OKC so I walked everywhere and maybe I did too much. I walked around the expo for a very long time and downtown on friday in search of food all after a run. I also walked around downtown to the Memorial and then a little in the museum on saturday. So maybe that was it. Although it should have been more of an issue later in the race, not at mile 5 (my coach agrees with this). My second guess is my nutrition as I could not find any food places open on friday when I got in so I didn't eat from breakfast at 5am to 4 pm (except some snacks) plus all of that walking and the run. This seems more likely. My last guess is that it was the travel that wiped me out, although I have travelled for races before so this doesn't hold up either. Finally, maybe it just wasn't my day.
But regardless of what happened and what caused it, I completed marathon number 4 with a respectable time and had a blast while doing it. I ran 26.2 miles with a friend for the first time and I can check another state off of my list. Finally, I honored the 168 victims of the OKC bombing and the city affected by it by running a marathon for them, which was the real point of this race.
Hard to believe Rock n' Roll Arizona has come and gone already but I now have 11 half marathons under my belt and another sub-1:50 finish for the first time in a year! The race didn't go exactly how I expected it to due to some uncontrollable issues but it was still a solid race and I learned what I was made of when things got tough: a skill that will help me in all races moving forward. So while it wasn't a perfect race performance, that medal sure felt earned when they put it around my neck.
I flew into Phoenix on Thursday night, and after a series of delays, I finally arrived at 3am Phoenix time. After a good night's sleep I headed off to the expo to get my packet and to score some freebies. Oh, and of course I bought a new jacket from the race too. I made sure to get a good night's sleep on Friday in case I didn't sleep much Saturday night.
On Saturday, I had a relatively low-key day between meeting a friend for lunch, taking a little walk, and watching football. After my gluten free pasta with ground meat dinner, I laid out everything I needed for the race and went to bed early after reading all my motivational quotes (a regular part of my pre-race routine).
Race morning started early at 4:45am when I woke up and had some Nuun, with gluten free toast and a banana. I left for the race at 5:50am and my parents dropped me off near the start at 6:45am.
I went to the bathroom and dropped my bag. I got through the line so quickly that I ended up back in the bathroom line because I had 30 minutes to go. The line took longer than expected and I made it to the corral with a little over 5 minutes to spare. Unfortunately the corrals were packed way too tight with only one entrance and so I ended up with the 1:50 half marathoners when I wanted to run a 1:40. I was a little frustrated when I asked people if I could move up and was met with somewhat rude remarks from fellow runners. I calmed myself down and told myself not to stress. I was irked a little more when the wave starts began and the 1:45 and all speeder runners were able to take off and we were held back at the start. I knew my pacing would be up to me as I had no chance of catching them with a minute thirty head start.
We took off and I wove in and out until it opened up enough for me to run comfortably at goal pace. My race strategy was to run the first half a little slower at about 7:45-7:55/mile to hold back before the big hill at 8.5, and then to let loose on the downhill/flat remaining miles. I settled in at a comfortable 7:45 for the first couple miles feeling very strong and knowing my goal was within reach. At mile 2.5 I saw my parents and quickly yelled to let them know that I was actually on pace even though they already saw the 1:45 pacer go by earlier.
Around the 5k mark, the 10k runners split off from us, but I remained in a large pack of runners because of the sheer size (20k+) of the half marathon. At that time I started to notice that my stomach felt kind of off, but it wasn't too bad so I pushed on. I was doing great on pace until about mile 6 when the my stomach felt even worse and I developed a bad side stitch because I needed a bathroom break. I refused to stop because I felt so strong. However, every time I tried to push the pace and drop below an 8:25, I felt like I was being stabbed in the side. I realized at that point, I would have to abandon my A goal of a 1:40 and go for my B goal of a PR.
At mile 7 I saw my parents and gave them a heads up about how I was feeling. The pain was getting worse, so I scaled back a little more, but kept moving and refused to stop.
I knew from my previous year running this race, that a big hill was coming at mile 8.5, so I knew I was going to need all my strength to keep going, given how I was feeling. When the hill arrived, I somehow managed to power up the whole thing (maybe it was Sia's "the Greatest" coming on my playlist) and make it to the top where there were great mountain views and Native American drummers playing and cheering for us. I hit the turn around and cruised down the hill as the side stitch finally subsided a bit. I logged a 7:55 pace down the hill and started feeling a better until mile 10 when the side stitch hit again and seriously slowed me for a bit. I knew I was going to have to go for my C goal of under 1:50.
Once I hit mile 10.25 I decided I didn't care about the pain and I was so determined to be under 1:50. I thought about a million different things to distract myself and tuned into my music. I took in the surroundings and used the spectators and ran smart at an 8:25 pace. Before I knew it, I hit mile 12. One more mile. I looked at my watch and saw 1:39. "Ok, so I could log a 10 minute mile and be in under 1:50. I can do that." Turns out I didn't even need 8.5 minutes as I logged nearly an 8 flat, finishing in 1:48. I don't think I finish line has ever looked so amazing to me.
When I crossed, I didn't feel great (10 miles of stomach pain will do that to you) and apparently I didn't look great either as a medic asked me if I was okay and then advised me to go to the medical tent when I told him I thought I may be slightly overhydrated. Given my history of not going, and then needing the tent when I'm far away, I heeded his advice and went straight there. I was mildly hyponatremic, which could have contributed to the stomach problems, or I could have had multiple issues. The doctors took fantastic care of me, giving me a gatorade and salt solution to battle the hyponatremia and a pill called Zofran to fight the slight nausea I felt. After making sure I was okay, the cleared me to leave and gave me some ice for my ITB (it was fine, but I wanted to ice as a precaution). Definitely need to go back to more closely monitoring my hydration the day prior to a race.
After all the excitement, I enjoyed the post race party, finally looked at my medal, and got a post-race massage that I had won at the expo. I really needed the massage and learned a lot from the man who gave me the massage about getting treatment for my ITB because I'm still lacking 6 inches of flexibility in that leg. Afterwards I got to see Neely Spence Gracey win her first place award and I stayed to watch Toad the Wet Sprocket put on their show.
While I didn't get my 1:40 goal or a PR, I learned so much about how strong I am and how far I can push myself. In retrospect, that is what I wanted to get out of this race. I landed a post-ITB injury PR, ran a time in the 1:40s for the first time since Rock n' Roll Arizona in January of 2016, and I still had a lot left in the tank, feeling like the miles could have been much faster if it weren't for the darn side stitch. Even without a 1:40 half, I'm feeling confident to enter spring marathon training and I know a lot more about what I am capable of.
Well it's been a while since my last post but that's mainly due to rehabbing my ITB and working my speed and mileage back up to be ready to go once marathon training starts in 2017. So I thought I would share my year in review and then talk about my 2017 plans.
This year was a great running year for me but also a year of learning. I went into the year with two main goals: to finally run a 1:45 half that I had been chasing since January of 2015, and to qualify for Boston. I started off with the Rock n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon in mid-January and I ran a 1:44! I crushed one of my goals right off the bat which made me optimistic about the rest of the year and it was a great way to kick off Cleveland Marathon training. In March I teamed up with a friend to run the Green Jewel 50k relay and we finished as the second place co-ed team and I ran an 8:24/mile pace for 16+ miles over an incredibly hilly route! The next month I ran the 20 Mile Drop as a long training run. I finished at an 8:33/mile pace, which was right on pace with marathon training. I ran the whole thing with a couple and made new friends who I still am friends with to this day.
In May I ran the Cleveland Marathon with the goal of qualifying for Boston. The weather was the worst weather I have ever ran in since it was about 25 degrees, snowing, raining, hailing, 30+ mph winds, and sleeting. I held my BQ pace through mile 18 despite cramping quads at mile 16. Around mile 19, stomach issues threw me off pace and I had to stop because of them. But I pushed through and finished in 3:48 with a 7 minute PR and knew I was on pace for a BQ the next time around. A couple weeks after Cleveland, I celebrated Memorial Day with a 4 miler and managed a 7:30 avg despite stiff legs from the marathon.
I made my fall marathon decision a few weeks later and decided on Big Cottonwood in Utah, an all downhill race. Picking that race meant I had only a little over 12 weeks to prepare for the race. I knew I would be fine because I was coming off of another full. I planned to up the training to more miles a week. What I didn't know was how hot and humid the summer would be.
Training was incredibly rough with high temps and full humidity at 5am when I was doing long training runs. I began to have poor quality runs, I was getting sick mid-run, my times were worse than when I trained for my first full, and I was not recovering well. Early on in training, while doing speedwork on a treadmill, I got a back spasm and had to miss my long run. A silver lining was when it healed quickly and I made up the long run with the Hat Trick Race, a 5 mile then 5k then a 2 mile race, and I won 1st in my age, 3rd overall, and 2nd overall respectively. It lifted my spirits about training and got me back on track.
In early August, despite a rough 20 miler training run, I raced the Captain's 5k the next day and managed a 7:30 average on heavy legs. In mid-August I ran the Rock Hall Half Marathon with the goal of trying to PR. That changed a mile in when I was struggling to breathe through the humidity and feeling miserable. My goal turned into just finishing and not stopping. I finished in 1:53, which was far from my best but also far from my worst.
The next week in training, my ITB started hurting. I called my long run a couple miles early and took it easy the next week. The following week I tried to do my 12 miler and my ITB was so painful I called it at 10. I took two weeks off and hoped I was good to go for the marathon.
When I started Big Cottonwood I had high hopes about my knee. There was no pain for 10 days and when I started the race I felt great and was under BQ pace. Even with altitude issues at mile 4, I was under BQ pace until 10. At 10 my ITB was inflamed because of the downhill and I had to make the tough decision to DNF at the half. It was my first DNF ever and probably the hardest decision I ever had to make.
It turned out it was a smart decision because I was able to start running about two weeks later and I was able to race a 5k at 7:30/mile by Halloween, finishing 1st in my age and 4th female. The injury taught me a lot about over training and having to take the time off coupled with rebuilding my base after the injury helped me rekindle my love of running. By the end of November, I was able to run the Fall Classic Half Marathon in 1:54 for first distance run back from the injury. I rounded out the year with the Selfless Elf 5k in 22:53, finishing first in my age and 6th female.
It was a crazy running year full of ups and downs, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. It brought me a new half and full PR, 7 awards, and a 16 minute plank PR. I did 11 races this year and my plank streak will be at 329 days. I can use everything I learned this year to build my training for 2017 and to make sure I play it smart so that my body and my mind stay healthy.
So with all that, what am I thinking for 2017? My goals for 2017 are pretty similar to 2016: drop my half PR again and then get that BQ. I also would like to drop all of my PRs (especially my 5k because it has been too long) and up my plank PR. I will be continuing my plank streak as well.
I also plan to go into serious cross training to prepare for my spring marathon because I want to prevent injuries and make sure I'm fully prepared for that race. I will also be incorporating speed work and hill training now that I know I am fully recovered from the injury.
Race-wise, I haven't selected too many races but I am signed up for two right now. I will be running Rock n' Roll Arizona again on January 15th with the goal of PR-ing. I will also be running the Cleveland Half Marathon in mid-May. Of course I will be doing some of my staple races like the Fall Classic 5k, the 20 or 10 mile drop, and the Hat Trick race. I know I will be doing a fall full, and I know I won't be doing it in September because training for that time does not work for me. I will also run some summer halfs to prep for my fall marathon and other distance races in the winter to prep for my spring marathon.
Speaking of my fall marathon...I have decided that I will be running the Oklahoma City Marathon on April 30th. While I'm not officially signed up yet, I'm pretty confident that that will be my spring full based on my research of the course and weather. I'll also be able to check off another state!!
Training kicks off on January 1st and Rock n' Roll Arizona will be my first big test! 2016 was great, but I'm ready to bring in the new year with new goals!
So it has been over a month since I last posted, and besides the fact that a lot was going on in my life besides running, the main reason was that I was learning how to handle my first real running injury (one I couldn't push through) and my first DNF. If you follow my journey, you know that I was in training for the Big Cottonwood Marathon in Utah and it was going to be my last chance at a BQ for 2017. My training went well and I felt strong, but two weeks out from race day, my IT band came alive turning a 16 miler into a 10 and putting my race in jeopardy. So here is my story and review of (what I finished) of the Big Cottonwood Marathon, and how I have been working back from the injury.
My issues actually started about 3 weeks before the race where I finished a 22 miler at 18 miles because I felt tightness in my left knee and thought it was my form breaking down in the heat and humidity. I took most of the week off, only doing a 4 miler and feeling fine. Then I tried my 16 miler on Saturday and once I was 6.5 miles in and met my run club, my knee was really locked up. I pushed out 3.5 more to get to 10 and I was in pain, so I called it. I was sure it was my IT band which had never given me issues at the knee before (I have had it at the hip, but that is manageable). I talked with my club and running partner/coach and decided to take the next 2 weeks off and then run the race. They all agreed that 10 days is generally enough to reset the IT band. I was most worried about mentally running a marathon with 14 days of rest, but I knew it would give me fresh legs.
After 14 days off, I arrived in Utah a couple days before the race. I was amazed by the stunning views of the mountains and colorful valleys as the trees started to change. On Friday I headed to the expo and got taped up for the race. There I ran into several instagram runner friends (Catey, Kim, Peter, Aaron, and Jessica) and we discussed the race and our goals. Kim, Aaron, and Catey had done the race before and shared their tips with me, reminding me not to fear the uphill at 3 after 3 miles of all downhill. We wished each other luck and headed out. I drove the marathon route up the canyon to get a feel for how high we would be and the locations of any uphills or flat portions. Back at the resort, I cooked my pasta, continued to hydrate (especially because of the altitude), and got my outfit together. It was going to be a chilly 33 at the start up in the mountains and wouldn't warm up until around 18 miles when we came out of the canyon. With everything ready, I went to bed, hoping the knee would hold up for the race.
Around 4 in the morning I got to the bus drop off where we would be shuttled to the top of the mountain, over 9000 ft up. I made sure to grab a front seat on the bus because I didn't want to get sick on the drive up. I chatted with the runners around me as we started the ascent, which was somewhat terrifying on a school bus. On our way up, we passed several runners and learned that they were running the Wasatch 100, a hundred miler which runs up one side of the mountain and down the other! When we finally made it to the top it was a sea of silver as all the runners were sitting on the ground wrapped in their silver blankets. I joined them and put on the gloves that the race provides to all runners. Time passed quickly and before I knew it, I was last minute trying to get to the bathroom, drop my bag, and get into the corrals. I ended up having to jump into a random spot in the corral with 30 seconds to spare.
As we took off, I wished the race directors had enforced paces a little better, because it is one thing to have to dodge slower runners who started too far up on a flat course, but it is a whole other to try to dodge them on a downhill course. I struggled to hold back behind slower runners and was dodging people for the first half mile. Mostly I was happy because my body felt great and I was effortlessly running a 7 minute first mile because of the downhill. I forced myself to back down to 7:40s for the next two miles, which flew by because we were quickly at the 5k mark. I tried to take in the scenery the whole way because the views were unlike anything I had ever seen before.
Shortly after the 5k came my first issue. We headed up a huge hill, which would normally have been fine, except we just did 3 downhill miles and were climbing a hill at 8000+ feet of elevation. My Ohio lungs were not prepared for that and I started gasping for air once I was at the top. I probably would have been okay but I hyperventilated a little because of the unfamiliar feeling, and that made me have to stop and walk to catch my breath. I talked myself through it and warned myself to be careful on any future hills and took off again. I caught back up to the 8:00/mile pacer and knew I was right where I needed to be to BQ. I felt fantastic and the miles were flying by. I took in the scenery and was having an awesome time and I couldn't believe I was at mile 10 that quickly.
Everything went out the window at 10.5 miles. I felt my knee start to seize up at 10.5 and I backed off the pace a little, but it continued to worsen. I dropped into the 9 minute mile range and by 11 miles I was limping. At 11.5 had to walk and at that point I took out my phone and called my running partner/coach. I asked him what to do and explained all the issues I was having. He refused to tell me what to do but he did say "how long do you want to be out for? A few weeks if you stop now, or a few months if you try to finish?" He also told me the story of one of his DNFs where he decided to quit, and another club runner pushed on, and the runner who pushed on never ran another full marathon again. The combination of all of his advice and the 4:00 pacer passing me sealed my decision. I would drop at the half.
I crossed the half marathon mark at 1:54 (still 15 minutes better than my first half) and I found the medic. I joined a group of 4 other runners who were having knee issues (down hill race ;) ) and we waited for our ride down the mountain. The medic was the best I have seen at a race. He did everything he could for us, even giving me his coat to keep me warm, grabbing us water and snacks, and checking on us constantly. When the ATV finally showed up, we piled on and shot down the mountain. The driver lifted our spirits, asking us questions and chatting about the race. The only sad part was where we rolled up to the finish line and knew we wouldn't be finishing today.
At the finish, the driver gave me his shoulder and helped me hobble to the medical tent to be treated. They gave me ice and had me wait for a while. I was violently shaking at that point because of the adrenaline pumping to the injury and due to everything else going on. I was given a half marathon medal at that point because I did finish a half marathon. After finishing up in the medical tent, I met my Instagram runner friends and congratulated all of them on PRs, BQs, and awesome finishes. It helped to celebrate their accomplishments at that point.
I hobbled around the next day and a half enjoying the rest of my vacation. I saw the site of the 2002 Olympics, rode horses through the mountain, and ate awesome food. I felt a little regret, but ultimately handled the DNF better than I expected. I received amazing support from all of my runner friends both in my club and on Instagram, and was told constantly what a smart decision I made. My favorite quote was from a runner in my club who had a similar experience several years ago and told me "We didn't DNF, we just adjusted our goals."
What I have learned from my injury
This injury has taught me a lot, and in a weird way, it has kind of been a blessing. That sounds crazy and unthinkable, but bear with me as I explain.
Post injury, I took two weeks off and after that I was dying to run. I went out and did an easy 3 miler with my only goal being to have no pain, tightness or soreness. I hit that goal and felt awesome to have done the run. Each day that I go out and finish a run without pain is a good run. I usually decide on the distance while I'm out there and I run based on feel (i.e. the Kenyan way). And believe it or not, running that way has actually produced some of the fastest times I have seen in a while. My love for running is back and I don't ever want to lose it like that again.
Do I have a race on my schedule? Yes. Do I have a goal time for that race? Yes. But am I going to let that control my runs? No. That is how I trained for Rock n' Roll Arizona and that is still one of the best races I have every had.
When I run, I analyze my gait. Am I straining? Am I overcompensating? I kicked my ankle one day this week. That means something was tired and I was overcompensating for it. So I took the next day off and I stopped kicking. A day off won't kill you and neither will a week. Honestly, I never felt better running than I did in the first 10 miles of the marathon after having 2 weeks off.
An injury can be a blessing in disguise. Ideally, you would hope to learn these lessons before being sidelined, but sometimes it takes reaching that low point and having to start over to help you learn and grow.
Hi, I'm Heather! I'm a 26 year old attorney, Cleveland lover, former collegiate volleyball player, and runner!