Friday, December 27, 2013

A Nedlo Family Christmas Run


My dad, John Nedlo, henceforth referred to as J-Ned, had but one meager wish this Christmas: to rewrite, make that rerun, history. You see, J-Ned has undertaken the famed Boston Marathon two times with, shall we say, unsatisfactory results. He unwittingly picked two of the hottest years on record, '03 and '05 (not quite as steamy as '12, but close enough), and as a result ended up semi-coherently Gallowalking his way straight into the medical tent both times. To my knowledge, his finish line photos don't include the celebratory hand-holding of two Fuel Belt-clad Team in Training participants like someone's who shall remain nameless (but rhymes with Schmallen Schrickland) and whose epic and almost literal meltdown is chronicled here, but I'm pretty sure in '05 I spent the better part of two hours frantically darting up and down the crowded Back Bay streets calling everyone on my emergency contact list only to discover J-Ned slumped up against the side of a random building awaiting the sweet, sweet embrace of death.

This is not J-Ned. But it is my favorite Boston finish line photo of all time.

So anyhow, back to Christmas present. J-Ned wanted redemption, or at minimum a pleasant, memorable stroll up and down the Newton hills, through Brookline and down Commonwealth before hanging right on Hereford, left on Boylston. I was happy to oblige, and even snapped some pics along the way seeing as he's long since burned the official race photographs from the aforementioned attempts. And though he's allegedly sworn off marathons, I wouldn't be surprised if J-Ned makes one more trek from Hopkinton before hanging up his shoes for good. Maybe next year Santa will bring him a new, shiny BQ!

J-Ned ready to roll at the Newton fire station, mile 17.2-ish

One John posing with another

Taking a quick break before we tackle the final hill

One to go!
Finished! And potential future father/daughter Christmas card photo

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Down in the Valley

I've attempted to write a long-overdue blog update at several different points during the past few weeks. First, I wanted to post about my final days of training and tapering (otherwise known as "running a little, eating a lot and drinking even more wine") leading up to CIM. After comfortably securing my 2016 Trials qualifier, I planned to summarize my experience and emotions as I've done after my other marathons and significant finishes. Lastly, I'd hoped to regale you with how much I've been enjoying my down time in the days since, sampling an extra dessert here and a fumbled smack of the snooze button there. Trust me, it was going to be riveting. But in the handful of times I've had the opportunity to sit down in front of the computer to address my tens of readers, I've allowed myself instead to get distracted by things like the world's most amazing Wal-Mart "portrait studio" Christmas card photos. (Although, in my defense, can you blame me? This is redneck gold!)

Because, truth be told, I don't really feel up to the mental and emotional challenge of writing about any of that. It's something I've always done with a celebratory spirit, as if chronicling the experience is a reward in itself, something pleasurable to savor. I can't tell you how many times I re-read my own Philly entry last year, if for no other reason than to continually remind myself that I had, in fact, actually done it. (And also to double- and triple-check for typos, seeing as I was about two-thirds tucked into a bottle of wine at first writing.) 

But as I'm typing this, I don't have a whole hell of a lot to celebrate as far as running is concerned. Our entire lives, we're fed platitudes like "You can be anything you want to be!" (says the person who's never seen me dribble a basketball) and "If you work hard and persevere, you'll always achieve your goals!" (Also: "don't do drugs" and "stay in school," a directive that half my high school class seems to have disregarded.) Well, I worked pretty damn hard this time around, and at the moment I don't have much to show for it. To get even more depressingly specific, I have very little in the way of quantifiable, tangible results to show for this entire year of running. I haven't recorded a single PR (except for 8k, but that was summarily filed in the "made up distances that no one cares about" folder) nor can I name any specific race about which I feel particularly proud. Had I spent the entire year taking a pastry class or toilet training my cat (yes, despite the fact that she lacks opposable thumbs, SkyMall tells me this is a thing that is possible) or learning a new language, I would've probably emerged with a greater return on my time investment, mais oui?

Riding the high after Philly, there was simply no conceivably logical chain of events other than me running faster the next time around. I would train just as hard, race just as smart, ideally not have to take a very public bathroom break on the side of the road, and continue my solid progression away from sub-sub-elite and toward the coveted A-standard of 2:37. It sounds naive to say out loud, but I truly didn't think there was any way for this not to happen. And yet, for myriad and varied reasons which don't actually matter to the finishing clock, it simply didn't. I made it through halfway relatively on pace while trying to ignore an increasingly persistent tightness and limited range of motion in my (frozen) left hip and glute. Could I have finished? I'm sure. But anyone who reads this blog knows I've never been interested in a participant ribbon.

So at this juncture, instead of turning up the emo music and dwelling on all the things I didn't accomplish at CIM, allow me to present you with a few notable positive memories of the past few weeks via everyone's favorite blogging device, the photo montage. And rest assured, though behind all the flippant self-deprecating banter my frustration is genuine and I've indulged in a few ugly cries, I'm still as determined as ever. My next step is yet to be decided, but I can only move forward.

Jordan celebrating Thanksgiving in Ohio with mom, brother, sisters, aunts, cousins

Jealous of my hairstyle? I have a very exclusive stylist (pictured to my right)

Post-Black Friday Cincinnati shopping nourishment

My CIM roomie, Brett, reliving her epic finish from 2010

Post-race libations at the ready in the elite hospitality suite

Caitlin and Brett deep in concentration while decorating their water bottles

Thanks to Nuun Hydration for the support and the sweet black ops bottles!

Pre-race early bird special dinner with Caitlin, Jeannette and Brett

About as photogenic as it gets at 4:30 on race morning. Note to self: My Craft reflective headband works and doubles as a neck warmer.

Post-race afterpartay: a bunch of speedy marathon finishers, plus me and Jordan
Want to hear more from people who actually finished the race and qualified for the Trials? Then get up in Caitlin's and Drew's blogs. Until next time, we can all live vicariously through them.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Week in Review

101 miles
5 doubles
20-mile long run
3 successful workouts
14 days until CIM

Wow, what a week. Though it wasn't originally intended as such, this was by far my most intense, high-quality block of the training cycle...and I crushed it! Balancing and adapting to the weather proved to be the most challenging hurdle, but I think I did a pretty good job of rolling with it and maintaining my equanimity. From here there is little left to do but rest up, recover, race the 104th Annual Thanksgiving Day Race in Cincinnati and then taper all the way to the starting line!

Personal success aside, by far the most rewarding part of my week was having the opportunity to hang out with the Fit Girls from Village School in Marblehead on Thursday afternoon. The head coach of Fit Girls, an organization similar to Girls on the Run with over 140 participants, invited me to attend one of their practices and spend some time with the girls. There was never a program like this for me to participate in when I was their age (4th-6th grade), and I can only imagine how many more young girls from my hometown would be engaged in the sport of running if there were! I had a blast and will be cheering these girls on virtually as they complete their target 5k on the same weekend I'm racing CIM.

Which is in exactly two weeks. Yikes!


 

 

Winter Weather Workout(s): Part Two

See Part One here
PM: 1/2 mile w/u
Target: 10 miles @6-6:10 pace
Actual: 15k @58:30 (6:15 pace)
My route
1/2 mile c/d
Total: 11 miles
Daily total: 20 miles

When I last left you, I was eating a donut and drinking chocolate milk in bed with my cat whilst wearing compression socks, all in an effort to recover from Part One of today's workout. Part Two, a 10-mile steady tempo, would take place later in the afternoon...but where? It was still sub-freezing with ridiculous gusting winds outside and no improvement on the horizon. Upon returning home from his road trip in the early afternoon, Jordan once again floated the idea of hitting the YMCA treadmill...but I just couldn't do it. I was already convinced I wouldn't be able to maintain the pace, which meant the workout would be doomed before it even began. My next strategy was to gauge the direction of the wind (WSW) and try to devise a point-to-point course which would allow me to run more or less with the wind at my back on easily navigable roads...all before the ridiculous 4:30pm sunset would plunge everything into total darkness. Simple enough, right?

Coach Jordan was skeptical, but agreed to let me give it a try. We settled on a route that would start in Danvers, run past our office complex, through downtown Beverly and into Salem, through downtown Salem and past Salem State, down the long hill to the Marblehead Rail Trail, then finish up with ~3 miles on the soft surface path before being dumped out near my boss's house on Seaview Ave just over the Marblehead/Swampscott line. If all went to plan, I would pass through a total of five towns in an hour's time. There were a few sections where the streets might be busy and a couple questionable intersections where I would almost surely have to stop, but once I made it through Salem the second half would likely be free of interruption. If only the weather would cooperate, this just might work.

The ride into Danvers was a solemn one, as I tried to ignore the wind whipping tree branches and debris across the road. I kept trying to reassure myself with the reminder that the wind would actually be helping me for most of the run, which worked until I almost couldn't force Jordan's car door open due to a particularly strong blast. He instructed me on the use of his Garmin, promised to pop in at a few spots along the course, and then sent me on my way. I jogged a few minutes easy and navigated a tricky intersection before launching into the uptempo portion. I actually couldn't remember where my exact starting location was supposed to be based on our prior Google mapping--as it turns out, I didn't start out far enough, which explains why the end result was closer to 9.5 miles instead of 10--so at some arbitrary point I just clicked the watch and started rolling.

The pace was difficult to gauge, unsurprisingly. I wanted to run by feel instead of looking at the Garmin every five minutes, but I found it increasingly difficult to establish a consistent rhythm. My legs were a little fatigued from the morning's effort but felt fairly decent, so I was confident they wouldn't hinder my completion of the workout. The one true variable was the wind, which seemed to swirl at random. During the course of running several minutes in a straight line, it might be aggressively pushing me forward one second and then slapping me in the face shortly after. Somewhere on Rantoul Street in Beverly, just before I would see Jordan for the first time, I actually had to stop for a moment when a wayward tree branch made a beeline in the direction of my face. The worst of it came on the Beverly Bridge, when the violent crosswinds literally had me scared that I might get blown over into the harbor. In hindsight, crossing the bridge might not have been the safest or smartest move--not to mention my pace (and form!) slowed to a veritable crawl--but I had honestly underestimated how tough and exposed it would be.

Understandably, the pace fluctuated. But overall I knew I should be averaging well under 3:50 per kilometer, and instead I was hovering in the 3:58-4:00 range. I was growing flustered and frustrated, and biding my time until I thought it would be acceptable to drop out. I suspected I would see Jordan again at the bottom of Lafayette Street, just over halfway and just before entering the rail trail, and I made up my mind that I would call it a day there. What was the point?! Sure enough, I spotted him, stopped my watch, slowed to a stop and commenced whining. "I'm not even close to the pace!" I moaned despairingly, hoping he would tell me to stop. "Just keep pushing," he responded. "Settle in on the trail." 

But darkness was falling, and quickly. The trail is exceptionally well groomed, so footing wasn't an issue, but I still wanted to make it through to the other side before the lighting completely waned. Once I rounded the turn by the middle school I found myself running directly into the wind, but inexplicably the average pace was finally inching down into the low 3:50s. Perhaps I wasn't completely screwing this up after all.

Once I popped out on Seaview, I knew the course would be short. I was just under 14k and now running in complete darkness. Jordan was waiting in his car near my boss's house, and he started driving just ahead to light my way. I decided then that finishing out 15k would be respectable enough. It was cold and dark and seemed rather pointless to continue. My breathing was controlled and my legs felt as though they could continue at that pace and effort level indefinitely, but I was just incapable of going any faster. Whatever the ultimate objective was, the conditions simply weren't going to allow for a different outcome. I've never been happier to jump in a warm car at the conclusion of a run!

Overall, I'm disappointed that I wasn't able to execute this workout as well as I did last year, but in spite of that it actually does provide a boost of confidence. More than the result itself, I'm proud of myself for staying mentally tough--did I mention I ran 50 laps indoors this morning?!--and troubleshooting the conditions instead of writing this off before even giving myself a chance. If I can do the same in two weeks' time, I just might have a shot at pulling off a respectable marathon.

Winter Weather Workout(s): Part One

AM: 2 mile w/u + strides
Target: 10k tempo @ 35:45-36:30
Actual: 36:21 (5:51 pace); 18:18/18:03
1 mile c/d
Total: 9 miles

Last year, two and a half weeks out from Philly, I executed arguably my most difficult (and most impressive) workout(s) ever, consisting of a morning 10k tempo followed by an evening 10-miler at MP. Jordan, fresh off an injury, joined me for both efforts--and I dropped him on both. Having never outrun Jordan once in my life, much less twice in one day, this workout served as a huge confidence booster and solidified my fitness for what would be a breakthrough marathon performance a few weeks later.

With only 14 days separating me from my next 26.2 endeavor, it was time to attempt this workout again. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans.
 
Picture perfect conditions on tap for Sunday morning



I saw this abysmal forecast less than 24 hours before the first part of this workout was to begin and promptly started freaking out. I called Jordan, who was on the road, and we started running through our options. Unfortunately, delaying the workout wasn't one of them, as we'd be flying out for Thanksgiving on Monday evening, and anything after that would be much too close to the race. Could we try a treadmill? Certainly more favorable, but I unequivocally suck at treadmills and highly doubted I could run sub-6 pace for more than three consecutive minutes. I floated the scenario by Carly and Terry, who came up with the perfect solution (at least for Part One): the Harvard indoor track! Why didn't I think of that?? Oh wait, maybe because it meant I would be running 50 laps?!? But still, it was by far my best option. The next step was trying to recruit someone crazy enough to do this with me. I put out some feelers to the BAA with no success, and by Saturday night I'd all but tucked myself in on Sarah's futon (she lives so close to Harvard!) and resigned myself to doing this solo. Then, around 9:30pm, I received an email from a GBTC member named Charly Allan who'd heard of my plight and offered to help as part of his long run. Needless to say, I jumped at the offer and prayed he would actually show up the next morning.

Sure enough, just before 8am, my new BFF arrived as I was in the midst of my warmup jog counterclockwise along the perimeter of the eerily quiet facility. The weather prediction had been spot on, and as the gusts of wind howled around the outside of the building I knew I'd made the right decision. Before long, Charly and I were toeing the imaginary start line. The plan was simply to take it out conservatively, tuck in behind him and gradually crank the pace down during the second half--all without losing count of our laps. I was just as intimidated by the mental challenge as I was the physical one, and was beyond relieved that someone else was there to do the heavy lifting for me. I just needed to relax, zone out, fall into a rhythm behind Charly and trust that the pace would come naturally.

The first few laps felt clunky and awkward, both of us adjusting as strangers in a strange land. After the first mile or so I settled in, feeling comfortable and eager and trying not to clip his heels. The pace seemed slow, a little too easy, and I was unsurprised when we came through 5k a touch off the target. "Let's hold this until four, then gradually pick it up for the last two miles," I requested. He was happy to oblige, and before I knew it the invisible lap counter was down to single digits. We dug deeper (or at least I did) for the final mile, and I felt like I was working for the first time in 30 minutes. As we crossed the finish line to the applause of exactly no one, I was ecstatic--not just that the workout had felt relatively easy, but that I hadn't allowed the adverse weather conditions to thwart my carefully laid plans.

Actual weather at go time. Meanwhile, inside was pleasant and wind-free!
 At least, not yet. There was still an afternoon tempo to contend with, and the frigid winds showed no signs of abating. Time to go home, recover, and plot my next move... 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Beverly High School Benchmark, v3.0

3 mile w/u + strides
Target: 10x3 mins. @3:23-3:25/k pace w/2 mins. rest
Actual: Above
2 mile c/d
Total: 11 miles

As all my devoted readers know, this is a core benchmark workout that I'm fond of doing sporadically throughout the course of every training cycle regardless of what specific distance I'm training for. Most recently, I've done this twice during my buildup for CIM. The second session, done almost exactly one month ago, was a breakthrough for me as I ran two more intervals than ever before and with shorter rest. Today, running without the assistance of my favorite pacer, my objective was not necessarily to run faster, but to replicate the workout from last time feeling stronger and more relaxed. Since my workouts have been much improved as of late, I was confident I could achieve this goal even flying solo.

Just as I'd hoped, I'm happy to report that I did feel much stronger and more relaxed than last time--and still ran faster and farther on most of the intervals! I didn't realize until writing this blog that I'd only been given 1:45 rest last time. For some reason I totally forgot that and did this off a 2:00 rest today, which felt unnecessarily long. Now I know why! Even during the second half of the workout, when my legs were more fatigued and my body more taxed, I still found my breathing returning almost completely to normal after 45 seconds or so. I'm confident I could've hit the same paces off 1:45 or even 1:30 rest, which is not something I've been able to say many times before. I was also a teeny bit nervous going into this, knowing in the back of my mind that this was the workout that directly precipitated my mystifying hip mini-injury last time, but fortunately it was a non-issue today. (But I didn't sit down for a while afterward, just in case!) 

This will probably be my last Beverly High benchmark workout of the year, so I'm excited to end it on such a high note! 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Solo 20-Mile Success...Which Is Weird

This long run can best be summarized by the email I sent to my friend Brett shortly after finishing it. Brett is a Boston expat (now living out west) and accomplished marathoner who also has the good fortune of being my upcoming roomie at CIM. We've been keeping each other abreast of our recent training, by which I mean commiserating about how out of shape we feel and how frustrated we are that things aren't going as smoothly as we'd hoped. But recently we both seem to have rounded a metaphorical corner, an unexpected phenomenon no better exemplified than by my strangely awesome solo long run on Monday afternoon.

"So, as I mentioned in our text convo, I've had a surprising recent development: I'm not feeling like total shit. My workout Saturday was solid, for starters. Then I was supposed to do 20 but I pushed it because my legs were tired Sunday, then crazy bad weather here Monday morning, so I finally got out and did it this afternoon/evening (snuck out of work...shhhh...) One of my biggest weaknesses from this training cycle is I haven't done enough long (18+) runs, so I was a little uncertain about how this one would go, especially solo and in the afternoon which is weird timing. But I felt GREAT. I'm not sure about pace because I don't run with a Garmin but it wasn't slow. And literally afterward I stopped, clicked my watch, and said 'Welp, that was easy.'
What's going on????!!!"

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Week in Review

100 miles
5 doubles
3x20 minute workout
2xmedium long run (12 and 13)
4 AFDs

Things are finally starting to come together. The only missing piece this week was a true long run, but I aspire to knock that out tomorrow morning. I could've/should've done it today, but my legs were just too fatigued from yesterday afternoon's lengthy workout. Instead I did an easy 13 with my boss and devoted the rest of the day to recovery (read: eating pizza in my underwear). I'm nervous and excited to tackle 20 tomorrow--SOLO, no less--and I think the way I feel after the two-hour mark will be a reliable harbinger of what's to come in three weeks.
 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

3x20 Minute Success

AM: 5k shakeout
PM: 5k w/u + strides
Target: 3x20 mins. (10 mins. hard, 10 mins. @6:00 pace) w/4 mins. rest
Actual: 20 mins @5:53 pace (3k @10:58, 5k @18:20), 20 mins @5:54 pace (3k @11:00, 5k @18:23), 20 mins @5:53 pace (3k @11:00, 5k @18:22)
2k c/d
Garmin splits
Total: 15 miles
Daily total: 18 miles

There may be hope for me yet.

As a reference, I did this exact workout at the exact same time (three weeks out) in December '11 prior to the January '12 Trials. At the time, I would say I was objectively in 2:40-low shape, but ended up running just slightly off that at 2:41:06. I ran this particular workout quite well, and ended up splitting between 18:35-18:45 through each 5k. (See my recap (in astonishingly small font) here and Jordan's more detailed splits here.)

Today, as you can see above, I was consistently 15-20 seconds (a full 80-90 meters) faster through 5k on each interval, and with shorter rest. Granted, some of my "hard" sections weren't as fast as last time--in '11 I snuck a 3:32 in there, while today's quickest was 3:35--but I was able to consistently maintain a much faster clip on the marathon-paced second halves. I wouldn't exactly say the whole thing was a walk in the park--the third kilometer, which in theory is meant to be one of the fastest, is in reality almost entirely uphill--I ran strong throughout and there were sections where I truly felt like I was jogging.

Too little too late, or finally coming around at just the right time? We'll see in three weeks.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Week in Review

92 miles
4 doubles
4 AFDs

Despite today's disastrous race, I'm actually feeling relatively encouraged about my training. I've felt consistently better on runs and workouts the past few weeks than in the months prior, and other than some hamstring tightness and general body fatigue I'm healthy and strong. With four weeks to go, it's critical that I hit a handful of big workouts and longer runs, but I'm confident I can get it done.

Seacoast Half Marathon: A Lucrative Disaster

3 mile w/u
Target: win, run marathon pace-ish (1:18:30-1:19:30)
Actual: 1st place female; 1:23:11, $300
Results
1 mile c/d
Total: 17 miles

To be honest, I don't want to dwell on this race because I know it's not indicative of my fitness and I refuse to let it get me down. The Seacoast Half Marathon was a great local event, very well-run and with excellent crowd support given the small coastal community, and despite the race being long closed the event director was gracious enough to allow me a spot. Regretfully, I wasn't able to capitalize on any of this with a solid performance. My legs felt tired and lifeless, and with few runners in sight in either direction I had little motivation to push myself beyond mild discomfort. I stopped a handful of times, mainly to stretch an exceptionally tight hamstring (residual from my hip issue?) and once for a bathroom break (because hey, at that point, why the hell not) and as a result managed to run my slowest time in years. I'm going to chalk it up as getting paid 300 bucks for a bad workout and move on.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fast K's

2.5 mile w/u + strides
Target: 5x1k @3:25 (5:30 pace) w/2:30 rest; 5x1 min. faster
Actual: 3:25, 3:25, 3:25, 3:22, 3:23; 5x1 min. @5:07-5:17 pace
1 mile c/d
Total: 9 miles

Yesterday morning I did a light fartlek of 5x(30, 45, 60) to limber up the legs and prepare to run fast today. It must've worked, because I hit the necessary splits just fine despite the cold temps and early hour. Hopefully this workout will benefit me in a few weeks when I try to avenge my second place finish from the 2011 Cincinnati turkey trot!   

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Week in Review

99-100 miles
4 doubles
1 night in NJ
1 night in PA
2 nights in NYC

I can't be certain that I actually cleared triple digits this week--in reality, 99 is probably more accurate--but regardless I'm darn impressed with myself. Despite a majority of the week spent on the road, a hectic work schedule and far more socializing than usual, I still managed to hit two solid workouts and otherwise squeeze in the miles. I doubt every week of my 31st year will be this eventful, but it's certainly a good one to start with.

NYCM Birthday Weekend (Oh, and a Workout)

Sunday AM: 3 mile w/u + strides
Target: 4-5x3k @11:00 or faster (5:52 pace) w/2 min. jog/rest
Actual: 11:18 (into wind), 10:55, 10:57, 10:53
1 mile c/d
Total: 12 miles
Sunday AM #2: ~4 miles to/from/around marathon course
Daily total: 16 miles

Wow, what a weekend! It's hard to summarize it all into one cohesive blog post, but since I'm far too lazy to write a handful of separate entries I'm going to attempt just that.

So, let's go back to the beginning. Except I don't really know where the beginning is. Technically, this trip started on Wednesday morning as Jordan and I loaded up and headed out for the rest of the week on the road. NYC was our ultimate destination for Friday meetings at the Runner's World international editors summit and marathon weekend shenanigans, but we had several stops along the way. Wednesday night found us in Princeton, NJ and an impromptu hosting from newly relocated Esther Erb. Fresh off her recent top three finish at the US Marathon Champs, she led us on a great Thursday morning run in an amazing soft surface park next to her new digs before we continued southbound to Philly. On Thursday night, Karhu sponsored a Halloween-themed Urban Scramble with Philadelphia Runner, which basically meant that I sprinted through the downtown Philly streets with a heavily perspiring Karhu bear (and yes, I did count those two miles). We had great company yet again for my birthday morning run, as former D2 standout and soon-to-be Philadelphia Marathoner Tina Muir showed us around her favorite local training grounds in Wissahickon Park. And then, finally, we set off on the final leg of our journey into Manhattan. Marathon weekend was upon us!

The Karhu Bear and his new Philly Runner buddies

Friday afternoon until Sunday morning was all a blur of reunions with friends, industry colleagues, and elite marathoners and coaches past and present. My workout was originally slated for Saturday morning, but after a little bit too much fun Friday night at the Runner's World party it seemed a bit unrealistic. Instead, Jordan and I decided to see how long we could stretch out a 10-mile run (answer: about five hours) by meandering our way around various marathon-related activities. First we jogged up to Columbus Circle and met Sarah and Jay to cheer on Molly, Esther and other elites in the NYRR Dash to the Finish 5k. In desperate need of coffee and lured by the buttery aroma of freshly baked croissants, we swung by Fika before making our way over to the Hilton on Avenue of the Americas for a quick work meeting. If you've never experienced this hotel during marathon weekend, it's really something else. Besides being the official host hotel for the event and its athletes, it is also the unofficial hub for the elite race and everything it entails. Within its massive lobby and bar area, you're likely to be surrounded at any given time by dozens of elite marathoners, coaches, agents, team--ahem--doctors, media and pretty much anyone else that is associated with the race in any capacity. It's hard to make it through the lobby to the elevators without bumping into a handful of people that you know, which of course is what happened and somehow resulted in us abandoning my workout plans in favor of a pre-race shakeout with Kim, Amy, Katie DiCamillo and Diane Nukuri-Johnson, whom I'd never met before in person but upon first glance quickly confirmed that, as suspected, her legs were twice as long and half as fat as mine.

Posing for the paparazzi on Friday night with Huub, the Karhu CEO. He would go on to run 3:50 on Sunday.

The run was easy, relaxed and fun, but at the same time infused with a distinct undercurrent of nervous energy. As we entered Central Park, I'm sure each of the girls visualized what it would be like the next day when their race-weary feet would pound the same section of pavement on the finishing stretch. The park is always bursting with energy the day before the marathon, as eager runners criss-cross the paths and snatches of conversation in every imaginable language can be heard in passing. The girls stopped for drills and I continued on with Jordan, jogging under the finish line banner to soak in the atmosphere even though we knew it would be an absolute cluster. We continued south on the West Side Highway, our run now approaching a total of eight miles and approximately three hours, before deciding to stop at the Javits Center and poke around the expo for a bit. Finally, just past 1pm, we returned to our hotel to relax before another run and a birthday dinner with friends. Since Heidi was in town and she turned 31 just a few days before me, it was only natural to make this a joint celebration. Naturally, with a group comprising all runners, we were full and happy and buzzed and soundly tucked away in bed before 11pm.

Pre-dinner Sardinia reunion at the Hilton with the incomparable Marcello Magnani. His two elite athletes, Valeria Straneo and Daniele Meucci, would crack the top 10 in the elite race the following mroning.

Race morning! But first, my stupid workout. Delaying it by a day sure sounded like a better idea 24 hours prior, but at this point I was out of options. Time to get it done. The first few steps out the door confirmed that the weather had indeed turned overnight--the first two days of November had found me incredulously running in only a sports bra--and now it was cold, overcast and quite breezy. Actually, "gale force winds" might have been a more appropriate way to describe the gusts that blasted us in the face as we hit the West Side Highway, but I tried not to dwell on it. As unpleasant as it would be for the first part of my workout, the marathoners would face it for the majority of their run. If they could handle it, so could I.

That optimism lasted approximately five minutes into my first 3k interval, which we were unfortunately forced to run northbound into the wind so that the rest of the workout didn't send me south all the way to the Statue of Liberty. Jordan and I consciously decided to relax and not force the pace for this one; there was simply no point. But my struggle would be rewarded with the wind at my back for the remainder, which enabled me to run strong and relaxed and totally comfortable at the target pace. Hell, with as much action packed into this weekend, I consider simply completing a workout to be an accomplishment in itself! There was no time to revel in my self-satisfaction, however, as we started jogging back to the hotel immediately after the final interval so we could rinse off, layer up and then head uptown to meet the crew for some race spectating. We hoofed it over to First Ave to see the elite women at 17, and I was pumped to see Kim holding strong in seventh place. From there we dashed to the park and planted ourselves squarely at the 24-mile marker, eager to see the final stages of the race unfold in front of us. We screamed like crazy for Kim (who finished sixth!) and Amy and Diane (who still managed to look like a model over two hours into a marathon) and then the elite men who followed shortly thereafter. I've never spectated from this particular location before but I'd definitely recommend it--not too crowded and with a fantastic vantage point.

Eagerly waiting at mile 24...

...for Kimberley to come flying by!

By the time I made it back to the hotel, checked out, said goodbye to Jordan as he departed for a friend's house, and met Sarah back at NYAC for some post-race fun, it was time to hit the train station and head home. I boarded the car and settled in alongside Huub and our other coworker ST--both of whom had just crushed the four-hour barrier in the marathon and then hustled down to Penn Station--and was almost immediately struck by the letdown, the carefully measured mix of exhaustion and sadness and almost instantaneous nostalgia that always sets in at the end of this sort of weekend. People ask me all the time if I plan to run NYC, and I always honestly respond that I'm not sure. It's a deceptively tough course with mercurial weather, and I would be lying if I didn't say that I witnessed some carnage out there today. But without question, I know I'll return next year and years to come just to be part of this amazing experience.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Wave Tempo

AM: 3 mile w/u
Target: 13k/8 mile wave tempo alternating 3:35/4:00 per k (~5:45/6:25 per mile); 4 min. rest/jog; 3k @11:00
Actual: 3:41, 4:02, 3:31, 4:01, 3:33, 3:57, 3:35, 4:00, 3:35, 3:59, 3:33, 3:58, 3:32; 3k @10:50
1 mile c/d
Total: 14 miles
PM: 3 miles easy
Daily total: 17 miles

I did this exact same workout at the same relative time (~six weeks out) before Philly last year, to great success. On that occasion I was actually supposed to be alternating half miles, but I was running solo and as a timepiece novice was clearly outsmarted by technology. So I adjusted on the fly, switched to alternating kilometers, and absolutely crushed it.

Today, with my queenmaker (and Garmin expert) leading the charge, I was confident I would at least get the general workout configuration right. In comparing to last year's data, this time around I was able to hit roughly the same pace for the "on" segments (with the exception of an outlying 3:23 last time, holy moly) but struggled more with maintaining a respectable clip on the recovery portion. Though I intentionally tried to push thoughts of last time out of my head during the workout--there's nothing more discouraging than the realization that present day you is getting her ass kicked by younger, faster you--the one split I did remember quite clearly was that I'd run 11:00 on the nose for the final "bonus" 3k, and I was determined to finish faster today. I did just that, clocking a strong 10:50, immediately after which Jordan exclaimed, "That was the best part of the whole workout!" Perhaps that says more about the preceding 13k than the final 3k, but I will choose to take it as a compliment.

Still lots of work to be done, still grinding away. Making progress one day at a time.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Week in Review

80 miles
3 doubles
2 successful workouts
2 chiropractic appointments

After two scheduled down weeks--the days before and after Hartford--I'd planned to ramp back up to triple digits beginning this past Monday. Thanks to my hip injury scare, that didn't exactly happen. In fact, I'm actually surprised I hit 80 considering I felt like I did virtually nothing from Wednesday to Friday, and had no long run to speak of unless you count Saturday's workout. Assuming my body continues its quick mending process, I hope to return to full-blown marathon mileage next week. With CIM a mere six weeks away, there's simply no time to waste.
 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

RepliCAITing the Down Ladder (4-3-2-1)

3 mile w/u + strides
Target: Mimic Caitlin's workout of 4mi-3mi-2mi-1mi
4 mile @6-6:05 pace; 3 mile @5:55-6 pace; 2 mile @5:50-5:55 pace; 1 mile faster all w/4 min. jog rest
Actual: 24:01 (6:00 pace); 18:30 for 5k (5:57 pace); 11:00 for 3k (5:52 pace); 5:35 for 1 mile
2k c/d
Total: 16 miles

See what I did there in the title...I wanted to repliCAIT the workout...because her name is Caitlin...anyway.

So, basically this almost went off the rails before it even happened thanks to the hip situation that abruptly developed in between my workout and cooldown on Tuesday. The next two days were spent limping through "easy" runs and trying not to panic despite seeing an entire summer's worth of work flash before my eyes. On Wednesday morning I sent a text to my boss's girlfriend (and our good friend) Anne, who just happens to be a chiropractor, with the general sentiment of: "HELP!" She took one look at me and basically said my entire left side from the knee down was completely out of alignment. After two treatments from her magic hands, I was cautiously optimistic that I actually might not be throwing my hopes of marathon glory into the Beverly High School dumpster. I took Friday super easy, went to bed early, and crossed my fingers that everything would be operational for Saturday's workout.

After a few tentative steps on the warmup, it seemed as though my hip would cooperate. It was functioning at a steady discomfort level of 2 to 2.5, as compared to the 7.5 to 8 of the previous few days, and actually felt even better after a few long strides. However, my hip wouldn't be the only thing working against me. For some reason I've since forgotten, Jordan decided it would be a great idea to do this workout on the Marblehead Neck--one of my favorite places to run, but also one of the hilliest. Since it's surrounded on all sides by water, it also runs the risk of being quite windy, and unfortunately today was even worse than usual. It was going to take an incredibly focused effort and the help of my favorite queenmaker to execute this anywhere near my goal paces.

For the first kilometer, on the flat causeway with the wind at my back, I felt amazing. Then I hit the Neck's first hill and was jolted back to reality. Unlike Caitlin, who according to her blog post was just chit chatting away throughout her own version of this workout, I felt like I was struggling to hang on the entire time. And this is supposed to be marathon pace?! The 3-mile segment actually felt a little bit better--and apparently the last kilometer was going well enough that Jordan decided on the fly to extend to a full 5k, which isn't actually what someone wants to hear 17 minutes through what they think will only be an 18-minute interval--but unfortunately it put us at a bad spot geographically. "There's no way this isn't going to be hard," Jordan said just before the start of the 2-mile-turned-3k, and he was right. From where we were starting, all of our options would send us on a hilly path and finishing into a stiff headwind. The last two minutes headed back on the causeway were particularly brutal, but I also knew that the farther I went in one direction, the more time I could spend with the wind at my back when I turned around for the final one-mile interval. Despite the cumulative fatigue setting in, I was confident I could crush the mile thanks to a tailwind for the first half. It worked, and I felt pretty darn good for a few minutes, except for the fact that I hadn't been able to jog quite far enough in the opposite direction on my cooldown. In a cruel twist of fate, the final 30 seconds of the mile sent me straight up the steepest hill on the entire course. My dream of breaking 5:30 came to a near-standstill, but I was able to hold it together enough to close in a respectable 5:35.

Overall, I wish that hitting my goal paces had felt easier, but given the wind and undulating terrain I'm pleased with the effort. More importantly, my hip seems to be on the mend and a full-blown crisis has been averted. Whew!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Beverly High School Benchmark, v2.0

3 mile w/u + strides
Target: 10x3 mins. @3:23-3:25/k pace w/1:45 rest
Actual: Above
2k c/d
Total: 10.5 miles

If you read my blog regularly (and who doesn't), you'll know that I frequently do three-minute intervals around the Beverly High School parking lot just a stone's throw away from our office. Working out in a parking lot may sound silly, but it's actually one of my favorite workout venues, as described here. While I've done variations of this workout at least a half dozen times, I've never done 10 intervals and I've always been afforded at least two minutes' rest. The goal this morning was to run the same pace as usual, only for more reps and with less recovery. Given how heavy my legs have been feeling lately (with yesterday morning's "easy" run being particularly lethargic), I was nervous about how this would go. To my overwhelming relief, and with the help of you-know-who, I nailed it. The only potential obstacle in the way of success was the fact that we timed this about 30 minutes too late, which meant the last four intervals were spent dodging school buses and late arriving minivans. To be honest, I didn't really mind, as it distracted me from my increasingly fatigued lower body. 

My legs were so tired, in fact, that as soon as I finished rep #10 I promptly sat down on the adjacent sidewalk to catch my breath. When I got up 90 seconds later to begin jogging the cooldown, I immediately noticed that my left hip/glute area felt distinctly off. My gait was forced and jerky and it felt like something deep inside had been forced out of place. This was quite perplexing, if not too concerning initially, because prior to that instant I had literally zero inklings of anything being amiss, not one twinge or ache at any point during the workout or any run leading up to it. I jogged gingerly back to the office, proactively scrapped my evening double and sent a frantic text to our CEO's girlfriend (and my good friend) who is a local sports chiropractor. I can't afford for anything to go off the rails now, so I've got my fingers crossed that this isn't serious.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Week in Review

77 miles
3 doubles
2 days in MI
1 day in WI
2 days in IL

I generally try to be positive in my blog posts. Nobody wants to read about someone else feeling sorry for herself because she missed a few workout splits or had a less than stellar race when that person is clearly dealing with the epitome of first-world problems. And don't get me wrong; there are plenty of times throughout the course of a given week when I feel pretty darn good about myself. But to be completely honest, Dad (and the other nine people who are reading this), I'm fairly discouraged right now with how my training is going and my prospects for CIM. It's totally unfair, but I can't help comparing each workout and race to how I felt and executed similar workouts and races during my Philly buildup last year. I was running so strong and tough, doing the bulk of my workouts solo (due to an injured queenmaker), and yet I was feeling good and crushing all of them. This time around I don't seem to be making much progress, and even when I do run somewhat fast it's a constant struggle. I know that every training cycle is different, and I realize I have three extra weeks this time around--trust me, I'll need every single one of them--but I'm just being realistic: maybe it's time to reevaluate my goals and expectations for the race. 2:37 is looking like a monumental challenge right now, especially when I'm struggling to run faster than marathon pace during shorter races and workouts. We're still too far out to make any definitive goal changes, but a come to Jesus talk with my coach might be imminent in a few weeks' time if I can't turn things around.

Witch City 5k

AM: 2 mile w/u
Target: win, don't get outkicked by old guy
Actual: 17:46, first female, second overall (to Jordan, not old guy)
Results
1 mile c/d
Total: 6 miles
PM: 5 miles easy
Daily total: 11 miles

The 11th of 12 installments of the YMCA North Shore Race Series took place right here in Salem, starting at the Willows and essentially traversing the Thursday night Wicked 5k course. As per usual, Jordan and I were planning to set up the Karhu tent and also hop in the race. However, this particular event was going to be special because Jordan's dad was in town visiting and would be running his first 5k ever! A few months ago he asked Jordan to structure a run/walk program for him, which he has been following diligently, and when I discovered that this race was taking place the same weekend of his visit, I suggested he sign up. The stars were aligned for his first attempt at the distance.

Setting up our tent near the water, it quickly became apparent that yesterday's calm air had given way to a biting 20mph wind. We would essentially be running the first two-thirds of the course with it directly into our faces, then (theoretically) get a nice little boost for the last mile. On my short warmup with Jordan, my legs felt like bricks. Ever since Thursday they've been heavy and stiff, and I had struggled to maintain 7:30 pace on what should've been an easy 15-miler on the Boston course with Stef the day before. As Jordan took off on a few pickups during our warmup jog, I could only chuckle. At that moment, I honestly felt like running faster than 8-minute pace would be impossible.

We returned to our tent to peel down to our racing costumes and had to laugh as Jordan's dad walked up. Having just arrived from 90-degree Palm Springs 12 hours prior, he was bundled up in not one, but two long-sleeve cotton race shirts plus two other long sleeve tops. Ever the vigilant Craft rep (and embarrassed son), Jordan quickly dug through the inventory in his car and produced a Be Active Extreme baselayer. Gary was sternly advised that he could pick one other piece to put on top of it, not a race shirt (first sign of a noob!), and he was sent toward the starting line much lighter and leaner than he'd originally planned. As we all queued up, it seemed as though Jordan's victory would be all but guaranteed. There were a few younger guys up front who also seemed fit, as well as some familiar faces from previous YMCA races, but I was relieved to realize that I probably wouldn't have to go to the well.

We took off at what felt like a sprint, likely due to a combination of the cold wind, my slight wine hangover and, well, the fact that my legs already felt like crap. Within the first 400 meters it was obvious that Jordan was going to sail away unchallenged, and I found myself eyeing the two younger guys who had started out a few steps ahead. Suddenly, out of nowhere, an older gentleman whom I've seen at other YMCA races popped to the front of the group and easily put a few strides on us. We split the mile in 5:40--not fast, but a near miracle given my dead legs--and I summarily dropped the two younger guys, but my gray-haired nemesis continued to push the pace. For the next 10 minutes I kept expecting him to pull away from me, but instead he seemed content to maintain a five meter gap. With 400 meters to go, I pulled up alongside and then found another gear to put some distance between us. It's embarrassing how relieved I was, but I knew Jordan would never let me live it down if things ended differently.

As soon as I crossed the line, Jordan and I began jogging the course in reverse to find Gary. We spotted him just past the two-mile marker, looking fresh and strong (and not the least bit cold!) while maintaining his run/walk intervals. We trotted along next to him for the final mile until I darted across to the finish to snap this great father-son shot. It was fun for Jordan and I to finish 1-2 overall, but I'm way more proud of Gary for embracing the challenge of his first 5k and then absolutely hitting it out of the park. It's never too late to become a runner!

 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fast Finish Mile Repeats

2 mile w/u + 1 lap of stride the straights, jog the curves
Target: 6-8 xmile w/2 min. rest; first 3 laps at 1/2 marathon/marathon pace, last lap @5k pace
Actual: 5:44 (last lap 80), 5:43 (79), 5:44 (79), 5:43 (80), 5:42 (79), 5:40 (80)
1+ mile c/d
Total: 9.5-10 miles

This workout came about somewhat unexpectedly as I was in the midst of an epic Michigan/Wisconsin/Illinois work trip. (I think I was even in Indiana for a few minutes, although I can't be certain.) On Wednesday morning I did a light fartlek as prescribed by Jordan to wake up the legs in preparation for another yet-to-be-determined workout on Friday morning. Since I would be spending the night in Naperville, Illinois (a Chicago burb), I reached out to my new friend Amber, the apparel buyer at Naperville Running Company, to see if she wanted to meet for some easy miles on Thursday morning. She was game for meeting up, but said she was planning on a mile repeat workout, some crash training after her recent wedding and honeymoon in advance of the upcoming Naperville Half-Marathon. Having not worked out or raced in many moons, she was loosely targeting 5:50-6:00 pace with a relatively brief rest.

I wanted to make it work, but wasn't sure how her plan could be adapted into something that would be optimal for me. I conferred with Jordan, and he suggested that I run her pace for three laps and then kick it up a notch for the final 400 meters. That way we could still start and finish together and utilize each other's presence for the bulk of the intervals. Plus, my legs would be slightly fatigued from the fartlek 24 hours prior, making this a good simulation of the latter stages of a race. Amber was game with this plan as well, so it seemed like a stellar arrangement.

Unfortunately, I awoke on Thursday morning to my absolute least favorite workout (and general life) conditions: 45 degrees, windy and raining. Yuck. If Amber weren't picking me up, I would've probably rolled over for a few more minutes and then hit up the hotel treadmill. Instead, we drove into downtown Naperville to her alma mater, North Central College, and met up with one of her coworkers and male training partners (whose name escapes me--good thing he's not reading this). He had just run a marathon the weekend before and was looking to loosen up the legs and help set the pace with us, which seemed ideal. 

Despite the weather (which only worsened as our workout progressed), this went pretty well. Amber ran great for her first track workout in months, and I was semi-successful in dropping the pace on the last lap of each interval. I'd hoped to be able to close in 76-78, but in soggy trainers on race-weary legs I couldn't overcome the invisible governor that hovered around 80. The faster last lap made the rest period seem shorter than it actually was, which meant I had to use the first few laps of the subsequent interval to recover while running marathon pace or faster. If you think (like I did!) that this workout sounds super easy on paper, try it sometime!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Week in Review

72 miles
3 doubles
3 days in Hartford
13.1 miles of misery

As I said in my race recap, I've still got a long way to go before I'm ready for CIM. Fortunately, I've got plenty of time! Eight weeks is more than enough to round into shape if I keep plugging away. After yesterday's rough race, I plan to take one more slightly down week before ramping things back up for the bulk of the marathon segment. First things first: a relaxing Sunday and a beautiful seaside wedding for one of our coworkers!

Proof that Jordan and I actually shower sometimes!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

ING Hartford Half-Marathon Recap

~2 mile w/u
Target: 13.1 miles @1:17:30 or faster; first place New England's Finest division
Actual: 1:17:37 (chip), 1:17;40 (gun), first place NEF, fifth place overall
Official results; Race day results 
Total: 15 miles

On paper, this race looks like a success for me, and I suppose it was. My time and place were both respectable, and I can tuck away the fitness gains as a step in the right direction toward a successful marathon in two months' time. But reality, as per usual, was much less rosy. Simply put, this was hard. Not just in the final minutes or during the last 5k, but almost the entire time. In fact, I can distinctly remember first wanting to drop out around mile four--and then repeating that same thought/wish/plea about 10 more times before the finish. Thanks to Jordan's encouragement I stuck it out, but it wasn't pretty.

Before all that, however, I had a lovely few days in Hartford--thanks in no small part to the New England's Finest program, which provided the hotel room, travel reimbursement, a hospitality suite and a pre-race dinner. Jordan was working the expo with Marathon Sports, so we actually headed out of town on Wednesday afternoon so he could be in place for the following morning. I was fortunate to be able to work remotely from our hotel on Thursday and Friday, which meant I was able to avoid any last-minute stressful travel or hassle. By Friday afternoon, several of our other friends had arrived from the city, and while Jordan finished up at the expo I was able to enjoy the surprisingly tasty pre-race pasta dinner with BAA friends Stef, Brian, Hilary (defending Hartford Marathon champ) and her boyfriend. For some reason Stef and I were the only ones drinking wine, but I felt good about it. After dinner we met up with Sarah and attended the pre-race technical meeting where we were able to scope out who else would be toeing the line and listen to the standard race morning instructions.

Oh, just a LIFE SIZE poster of me on display at the expo. Can't wait to frame this bad boy and hang it in our living room!

After an early lights out and an uneventful pre-race routine, it was game time--or so we thought. I scrunched my way to the front of the starting line behind Jordan (racing for free courtesy of the "companion's entry" provided by NEF), Sarah and Hilary, preparing for the gun to fire, but instead our ears were treated to what had to be the longest, slowest, most elaborate version of the National Athem ever to precede a race start. Not to be outdone, the race chaplain (that's a thing?!) then graced us with a prayer that rambled through a litany of bodily considerations and woes. He left no stone unturned when asking the Holy Father to protect and guide us as we made our way through the city streets, bringing back to light the worst-case-scenario horrors that most nervous racers had only just managed to successfully suppress from their consciousness. "May their muscles and sinews not fail, may their feet not be ravaged with blisters, may their vital organs not systematically shut down one by one, may their pre-race oatmeal not plunder their bowels like vengeful intestinal pirates..." Okay, so I may have exaggerated on that last bit, but only slightly. Sarah, Hilary and I were trying our hardest to avoid eye contact and suppress giggles, lest we be smote with the very afflictions he was so graphically trying to ward off. Finally, three minutes later, his supplication ceased. (Don't think three minutes is a long time? Start your watch now. Sweet baby Jesus himself would've grown weary.) Surely now it was finally time to--"AND NOW, PLEASE DIRECT YOUR ATTENTION TO THE DANCERS!"

Sometime approximately 38 minutes after I'd squeezed into a spot at the starting line, now most assuredly already needing a quick bathroom break, we were finally off. I tried not to get swept away with the eager frontrunners and instead allowed Jordan to settle us into an easy rhythm. The first 5k threaded its way through downtown Hartford, then began a two-mile climb that was probably gentle but unfortunately found me already laboring. I regained some momentum after passing another woman somewhere in the sixth mile, but by halfway I was seriously hurting. Now, don't get me wrong; I'm no stranger to pain. Heck, in the last few miles I welcome it. But to already feel this bad, this early in the race, running what was not at all a pace I shouldn't be able to maintain? I was on the precipice of disaster. It was so bad that somewhere around mile eight I actually gasped out loud to Jordan, "Something is wrong with me!" I simply shouldn't have been feeling this way.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, this was when Jordan decided to snap me back into the race the only way he knew how--by dropping the hammer. Our next mile split--albeit downhill--was close to 5:40, and somehow I managed to hang on. In the subsequent minutes my energy level and morale ebbed and flowed--if nothing else, I'd finally banished all thoughts of dropping out--and despite there being no women anywhere near me in either direction I began to feel a resurgence of my competitive juices. With a few miles to go, I had visions of really picking up the pace and finally settling into the groove I'd been struggling to find the entire time. This adorable notion came to a screeching (or, more realistically, shuffling) halt right at the 12-mile marker, when I came face to face with a long, gradual, unrelenting uphill for almost the entire final mile. These are the times when I'm glad I don't personally wear a Garmin, because I'm embarrassed to see what that split must've been. Kudos to the full marathoners who finish in the same fashion, because it was soul-crushing enough at the end of the half. I haven't been this relieved or disappointed in myself when crossing a finish line in quite some time, equal parts thrilled to be done and perplexed by why my best effort today was so, well, underwhelming. I've got a long, long way to go before I'm ready to race 26.2; that much is clear.

But who has time to pout when there's so much action going on? I spent the next few hours enjoying the refreshments in the elite tent and waiting for my marathoning friends to finish. Local standout Erica Jesseman crushed her personal best and the NEF record with a blistering 2:38:13, followed closely by Hilary just a few seconds off her Boston PR in 2:39:40. My newest training buddy Sarah Bard destroyed her previous best by a whopping two-and-a-half minutes to finish third overall in 2:43:16, just a quarter of a minute shy of the 2016 Olympic Trials standard. On a faster course I have no doubt she'll hit it, and I'm already sending her some not-so-subliminal messages about joining me at CIM in December. It was also cool to see Karhu devotee Alicia Eno, whom I met the previous day, break the 3:20 mark in her 88th lifetime marathon. I'll be happy to finish my fourth later this year!


Stef, me and Sarah in the elite tent post-race. Why does the one of us who just ran a full marathon look the freshest?!

Speaking of finishing, for the rest of the day my final placing seemed to be a little bit up in the air. The "unofficial" race day results (which were, incidentally, emailed out to each participant in what seemed like a relatively definitive fashion) listed me as fourth (and still do, for some reason), yet I was almost positive there were four women who'd crossed the line in front of me. Did one person somehow drop out without me realizing? Was she disqualified? Registered for the wrong race? Or were the race day results simply incorrect? I wasn't invested in the outcome for reasons of personal pride or satisfaction, but simply because there would be a somewhat significant difference in prize money if I were to be ultimately listed as fourth instead of fifth. After a few emails back and forth with the timing company, it was confirmed the following day that I had indeed finished fifth as I'd originally thought. I guess these winnings will only buy me one Anthropologie dress instead of two!

In all seriousness, I had an amazing experience at the race this weekend and I'm incredibly grateful to the Hartford Marathon Foundation and the New England's Finest program for supporting local and regional elite/sub-elite athletes. This is truer than ever now, on the heels of several large organizations (cough Competitor Group cough) cutting funding and support for runners like us. Thank you, Hartford, for realizing that it matters, and that we matter. For as long as you plan to continue the NEF program, I hope to participate!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Mile Repeat Tuneup

2.5 mile w/u + strides
Target: 5-6 x1 mile @5:40 or faster w/3 mins. rest
Actual: 5:38, 5:39, 5:38, 5:36, 5:31
1.5 mile c/d
Total: 15k

Another early, chilly morning with Jordan on the roads. The objective today was to get in some quicker--but not ridiculous--mile repeats; enough to tax the legs but not so much as to leave them exhausted for Saturday's race. I accomplished this well enough and felt pretty good. I could've probably recovered enough after #5 to bang out one more rep in the 5:35-5:40 range, but instead I opted to leave a little in the tank for Saturday. Hope it pays off!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Week in Review

98 miles
5 doubles
5 attempts for 2 workouts
no long run

This wraps up a five-week streak averaging 100 miles (105, 100, 96, 100, 98). This week's workouts posed particular challenges, albeit for very different reasons, but ultimately I was able to execute the quality work. I'm looking forward to a massage tomorrow night, another solid workout on Wednesday morning, and then a two-week mini-taper before the Hartford half on Saturday. 

Sunday Redemption: It's Not Just For Church

Saturday, 10/5
AM: 3 mile w/u
Target: 10k @MP (37:30, 6 min/mile); 5 mins. jog; 5k @HMP (18:15, 5:50/mile)
Actual: 5k @~6 min. pace
2 mile c/d
Total: 8 miles
PM: 5 miles
Daily total: 13 miles

Sunday, 10/6
2.5 mile w/u
Target: Above + 1k @faster
Actual: 10k @37:25; 5k @18:15; 1k @3:23
1.5 mile c/d
Total: ~14 miles

Saturday morning, I laced 'em up and headed out to do this workout by myself.

And failed miserably.

I'm not really sure what it was; a confluence of factors, probably. One, I was absent my stalwart queenmaker, who was busy at a work event. Secondly, I don't wear a Garmin. Logistically this wasn't really an issue as I know all the distance markers on the 5k loop that we typically use for this type of effort, but mentally it proved quite challenging. I found myself constantly unsure of how fast (or slow) I was running and thus constantly feeling like I needed to push harder, which simultaneously led to this feeling way too hard to be marathon pace, which turned into a vicious cycle of discouragement and self-doubt. When I passed through 5k feeling less than stellar, I simply stopped.

But, the important part is that I wanted to try again. (So long as it was with someone who could drag me along and do all the hard work while I tucked in and tried to relax.) The next afternoon, I did just that. Initially, I was angry with myself for delaying the effort--the weather had deteriorated significantly since the previous day, and by Sunday afternoon it was cold and drizzly and windy and just generally inclement--but Jordan remained confident we could get it done. So confident, in fact, that he promised a "bonus" fast kilometer at the end designed to really kick things up a notch when I was feeling tired.

I would be lying if I said it magically felt easy with Jordan at the helm. It didn't, and the 10k segment still wasn't quite at an effort level I'm currently capable of maintaining for another 20 miles. When I was just about 100% convinced that I couldn't run any faster after the 5k effort, Jordan urged me to give it one final push for a fast 1k. Somehow I managed to finish the workout feeling strong, and exceedingly pleased that I hadn't managed to completely screw everything up the day before. I still have a long way to go, but workouts like this are critical stepping stones in the right direction.