Race Recap: Charles River Marathon

The TL;DR:

I had one of the best races of my life! With very few goals in mind other than to nail my BQ, I walked away from yesterday’s race with a 3 minute PR, a BQ with a 9.5-minute cushion, and a second place trophy. It was a magical day and the result of a sweaty, exhausting summer of hard work. I’d say it was by far the best I’ve ever felt before, during, and after a marathon.

The backstory: 

This whole story starts back in April, after the craziness that led me to drop out of the Boston Marathon at mile 21 (more on that here). I knew I wanted another shot at that finish line in 2019, which meant that I had to find another marathon to run before 9/10/18 (more on the insane Boston process is here if you’re unfamiliar). I started hunting for early fall races and came upon the Charles River Marathon, a super-small local race on a 10 lap course. It sounded perfect, but it was sold out. I emailed the race director to see if I could squeeze in, and he told me if I could raise  $150 for charity within the next couple of days I was in. I sent some frantic emails around and within 24 hours–I was ready to roll!

This was my summer.

I spent the next month working with my PT and getting my knee situation under control. In the meantime, I did some poking around for local coaches. I love the coach I’ve worked with in the past, but I thought I could use a push and a change. And I needed someone to agree to coach me to a BQ in just 12 weeks–most people do at least a 16-week buildup. Luckily right around that time I saw that Anoush, a speedy local runner, was taking on new coaching clients. We emailed back and forth and I jumped into a two-week trial. I was all-in after that–her workouts were challenging but doable and she was 100% behind getting me to my goal.

Just as I dug into training, a couple of things happened that could have thrown me off–first, we bought a house, and second, we had one of the hottest and muggiest summers on record. The easier choice would have been to give up–sleep in, skip workouts, and not push hard in the heat. But I didn’t go that route. I stuck to the plan, I stubbornly sweated it out day after day, and I executed. I wanted to know I had done everything I could to get to my goal.

The race:

As race day approached, I knew the weather was going to be good–and it turned out to be one of the coolest mornings of the summer. It was cloudy and in the low 60s and a little bit humid, but breezy. The race started at 7am and I had already picked up my bib, so J and I drove to the start with about 45 minutes to spare, which was just enough for a couple of bathroom trips and some pre-race photos with my teammates. At the start line, I sidled up to the 3:27 pace group so that I could see who was there–with just 200 people total, I wanted to have a sense of who I might end up running with. At a few minutes after 7, we took off on a little added loop before hitting the first full loop of the course. The 3:27 and 3:32 pace groups immediately shot off ahead of me. It was tempting to hang with them, but I had a solid race plan and I knew one of the cardinal rules is that you can’t bank time in a marathon–going out too fast almost always leads to disaster! So I hung back and promised myself I’d keep the pace above 8:10 for the first two loops/first 5ish miles. Splits came in at 8:11, 8:14, 8:10, 8:09, and 8:10.

I grabbed my handheld water bottle from J along with my first Gu, and revved the pace up a bit faster for the next couple of laps. I got a little bit overexcited but could tell I was moving a tad fast, so I pulled back to keep it right around an 8-minute pace. In my head, I was telling myself to keep it steady and even and easy. I quickly overtook a few folks in front of me and clocked the next few miles at 7:46, 7:36 (oops), 8:08, 8:00, and 8:02. After more Gu and hydration (I carried my water every other loop or so–a huge perk of the looped course) I was ready to amp it up just a little bit more.

Loops 5 and 6 I was aiming for a just sub-8 minute pace. Again, I wanted to keep it feeling fairly comfortable and easy. I was mostly by myself at this point, so I focused on getting from Jeremy on one side of the loop to the Oiselle cowbell crew on the other. It was SO incredibly helpful to be able to see my cheer squads every mile or two! These miles came in at 7:53, 7:46, 7:48, 7:48, and 7:40. I didn’t have my watch give me individual mile splits, but I did know my overall average pace for the whole race, so I was able to run by feel during each mile while I made sure the average was where it needed to be. Loops 7 and 8 I held and kept it nice and steady–thing were starting to feel hard, but I got a big boost from a bunch of new and fun surprise spectators! It was so fun to see my friends Cait and Bry out on their long runs, and my parents had shown up with some fun signs 🙂 My splits for this section were 7:45, 7:53, 7:47, 7:31, and 7:40.

After having spent most of the race myself I found myself in lockstep with another female runner. With just a few words back and forth, we decided to stick together to get through what we could. We ran loop 9 together and it was so nice to have someone next to me (thank you, Shira, and congrats on your BQ!). I think marathons really start during the last 10k, so I kept it at what felt like a doable sub-8 pace. We ended up at 7:47, 7:49, and 7:48. As we crossed the start line into our last loop, I felt a rush of adrenaline and knew I had a little left in the tank. Then I heard someone yell out “you’re the third woman!” and something in me clicked into gear.

I set my watch so that I couldn’t see my pace and poured my heart into my legs–that last lap was for ME. I pushed through at a faster clip and as I turned the corner into the last mile, my brother appeared sprinting next to me. He gave me my time minute by minute, trying to push me to get to a sub 3:25 (next time) and then peeled off before the final sprint to the finish. I gave it everything I had left and blasted through the finish, grinning hard and feeling strong. My paces were 7:20, 7:12, 7:11, and 6:51 for the .2.

The next hour or so was a blur–lots of sweaty hugs and kisses, a flurry of excited texts, tons of water, and accepting my second place plaque–it was just surreal. This race took a village, and I want to thank Jeremy, my rock and #1 fan, for supporting me every day in this crazy endeavor and for being the best race crew out there. A big thank you to Anoush both for pushing me and pulling me back so that I could get across both the start and finish lines strong and healthy (if you need a coach, check her out here!) Lots of love to Alexa, Cait, Dana, Sarah N., Sarah D., Kelly, Amanda, Michelle, Jess, Nora, and the rest of my Oiselle Volee for being such amazing running buddies and the best goddamn cheer squad out there (seriously). And to my parents and brother for always being there.

I have another post coming along about what I did differently this training cycle that I think made it so successful, but I wanted to get these thoughts out there while they’re fresh.

On to BOSTON 2019!

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TNF Endurance Challenge Race Recap (and my week!)

Hello my friends! This was such a fun week of running–I ran a ton with friends and family and had some exciting adventures and experiences. Also! My big life news of the week is that WE BOUGHT A HOUSE!!! Anyone who is local knows the Boston real estate market is bananas right now, so this was a huge deal for us and the result of literally years of research, scrimping, and saving. We’re moving just outside of the city, which is a little scary for me (I’m an urban girl) but I’m excited to explore my new town and of course have already researched the local running club 🙂 We don’t actually move for a week or two, but it’s super duper exciting to make it official.

Back to the week, I took Monday off and easy and then headed out for some solo speedwork Tuesday morning. This was a tough workout for me–I’ve been running with pacers at track, so I had a hard time regulating my paces. But I got it done and I know these are the workouts that make me mentally and physically stronger. Wednesday I went to an event for Global Running Day hosted by our local Lululemon store. It was set up like a silent disco–we all wore headphones and listened to a couple of yoga teachers leading a moving meditation while we ran loops along the Charles River. It was a little cult-like and weird to be in such a big group all in matching tank tops (they were free for the event) but a cool and different experience.

Thursday I set up a run and happy hour for Oiselle Volee teammates–we went on a 5 mile run and then had tacos and margs at a fun spot. We had a great turnout and an awesome night! I love these women, I always learn a lot from them and being a leader has been an honor and a blast. Friday I did some very necessary yoga before we met with our attorney for our official house closing–so, so many papers to sign.

Saturday was the big adventure of the week! My brother had noticed that the North Face Endurance Challenge MA race was offering half off for their marathon relay, so we jumped on it. The hubs, big bro, and a teammate trekked out to Wachusett Mountain, a local ski area, for a day of fun, sun, and dirt. The race was set up on a 6 mile loop pretty much straight up the mountain and back down again.

We had been warned that the course was very challenging and very, very technical–both of which proved to be true. Bib pickup was a breeze–we got bibs for each team member and an ankle tracker (nicknamed the “Martha Stuart” ;)) that we swapped off between legs. J took the first leg up the mountain, and the rest of us hopped onto the ski lift to see him about 45 minutes later at the summit. It was perfectly timed so that you could head up, see a teammate, and then meet them back down at the bottom.

When Jeremy got down we swapped out our tracker, handed off the handheld water bottle, and I took off up the trails! The run started out pretty easy–I held onto a cruising pace as I kept my eyes down for roots and rocks. The trails were super well-marked with colored tape for each race (there was also a trail marathon, a 50k, and a 50 miler–woof). The terrain quickly stopped being run-able and I took it hand over foot up some major rocky climbs, taking off at a jog again to wave to my teammates at the summit. The way down was a fair amount easier but there was a big rock scramble that I took fairly slow to avoid wrenching my ankles. I was mostly by myself, so I happily chatted with a fellow participant as the trail flattened back out and turned up a fire road towards the finish. I wrapped up feeling strong and happy to be done! There were some good snacks (fruit, rice krispie treats) along with free water bottles and medals. After I wrapped up J and I beelined it to the recovery tent to hang out in the Normatec boots–it was his first experience and he was smitten 🙂 There were also ice baths, which we left to the 50k and 50 mile finishers. I also loved that this was a “cupless” race–everyone got a lightweight collapsible cup to carry and fill at aid stations.

While the rest of our team finished, we grabbed some food in the ski lodge and chatted with the folks nearby. I even got to see a couple teammates who had completed the 50k–so impressive! All-in-all, it was a really awesome day. There were barely any all-female teams so hopefully my teammates and I can kick some butt in that category next year.

Sunday I wrapped the week with a 10 mile easy run with another teammate–it was lovely to catch up with her and shake the legs out. A super social, excellent week!

Weekly total: 30.7 miles

  • Monday: off! Did my PT and core exercises.
  • Tuesday: 15 x 1 minute at 6:45 pace, 6 miles total
  • Wednesday: 3.5 meditative miles
  • Thursday: 5 miles + strides with the Oiselle gang
  • Friday: 90 minute yoga class
  • Saturday: 6 trail race miles
  • Sunday: 10 mile long run with Sarah

Linking up with The Weekly Wrap (hosted by Hoho Runs and Taking the Long Way Home).

Pinelands 25k trail race recap (and weekly wrap)

Happy TuesdaythatfeelslikeMonday, friends! I’m back from a chilly but awesome weekend in Maine, and I have another race recap to share. Back in the fall, three of my running besties and I signed up for our first 50k. Then, life happened. Boston happened. One friend got a stress fracture and was out. The rest of us regrouped and decided to swap from the 50k to the 25k. I knew this was still a stretch for me post-injury, but I was determined to run it smart and enjoy the day. My goal was to finish injury-free and with a smile on my face, and (spoiler alert) mission accomplished!

My running buddy Denise (who had flown in from Cali) and I were anxiously watching the weather all week leading up to this race. We definitely both had some PTSD from Boston. We made our way up through Portland on Saturday, stopping off for some lighthouse views and lobster rolls (#basic). Amazingly, it only rained for an hour or so, and we were treated to this stunner of a sunset up at the cabin. All signs were pointing to a successful day on Sunday!

In the morning, we drove the hour or so to the race start in New Gloucester. We parked, grabbed our bibs (which were marked with white tape to indicate we were swapping from the 50k to the 25k–shame!), and met up with our friend Danielle and her friend Rachel for the start. Everything was smooth and easy, and the whole start/finish area felt like a big party. Right on time, we took off across the start line together. My plan was to run the flats and downs and hike the uphills, but the first few miles felt pretty breezy as we chatted and ran. Turns out those first few miles were mostly downhill, so that makes sense 🙂

The course twists and turns through grassy fields and up and down dirt trails–definitely not many rocks and roots, but it was a roller coaster hill-wise (as you can see!). We all stayed together through the first half, when Rachel and Denise drifted ahead. I encouraged them to go on and tuned into my body, letting myself start to hike the uphills to catch my breath.

Once I was on my own, I kept my eyes on some of the runners around me, aiming for a steady effort. The cool but humid weather had me feeling toasty with all that effort! The second half of the race was a LOT of climbing, but it evened back out near the end, and I was able to keep up a steady run through the finish. I crossed the line feeling spent but strong–pretty darn good for my longest run since the marathon by 10 miles!!

After we all finished, we changed and made a beeline for the post-race BBQ–which was probably the best post-race spread I’ve ever seen. Burgers, salads, desserts… YUM! I loved that the race provided the basics and the rest was potluck-style. So many great homemade treats (including lots of gf options). Pro tip–spectators can join for $6 a plate 🙂

We settled in and chatted with some of the other racers (holy moly the people doing the 50k and 50 miler–so impressive) while we listened to a fantastic bluegrass band and chowed down. I had always heard that trail races have the best atmosphere, and I’d say this one was pretty darn fun. The race swag was pretty phenomenal too–mini cowbell keychains (full-size for the 50k), metal water bottles, and Darn Tough socks (the best!)

Overall, I loved this race and hope to incorporate more trails into my routine going forward. I’m so glad we did the 25k, too–I may run a 50k someday, but this wasn’t that day. The 25k was really fun and plenty challenging for now. The rest of my recap for the week is below–the big highlight being my first track workout post-injury. It was hard but good. I’m definitely itching to start building up that mileage again!

Weekly total: 26.2 miles

  • Monday: off (post-race rest day)
  • Tuesday: Track!! 800, 400, 200 x 3, 3.5 total miles
  • Wednesday: AM-4.2 easy miles, PM-75 minute yoga class
  • Thursday: rest day
  • Friday: 3.5 mile shakeout, PT exercises and foam rolling
  • Saturday: pre-race rest day
  • Sunday: 25k trail race!

Linking up with The Weekly Wrap (hosted by Hoho Runs and Taking the Long Way Home).

Great Bear 5k race recap (and my week!)

I’m so happy to be back writing a race recap! This was a particularly fun and meaningful one, and not just because it was my first race and by far my fastest run post-injury. J and my mom and dad and I all ran the Needham Great Bear 5k, which has raised over $100k for prostate cancer research. It’s organized by a friend of my dad’s from college. And, it was my dad’s first organized 5k since the 80s!!

This morning we all piled into the car for a quick and easy ride to the start. The race started and ended at a local middle school, and bib pickup and bathroom stops were a breeze. We took a half mile jog up and down the street, and then easily lined up in the corrals, which were informally marked out by pace. J and I started together between the 7 and 8 minute corrals, figuring we’d see how we were feeling (he ran 10 miles yesterday!)

Once the race started, the first mile was relatively quick, coming in at 6:58. I was feeling good despite the heavy, humid air, so I kept it up for a 7:01 in the second mile. I then turned a corner into a solid uphill climb for the third mile, and I held the effort steady and managed to pass a few folks at a 7:33 pace. Turning into the finishing chute I gave it my all but didn’t have too much in me, so I let the other woman nearby kick it ahead of my across the finish line. I was breathing hard and heavy by the end, but ran the .1 at a 5:44 pace. It felt so amazing to run hard again, and I’m so proud of my 22:20 on basically no speed training!

After I finished J and my dad finished pretty soon after. My dad ran just over 30 minutes, and placed a strong second in his age group! My mom power walked it in and then we stopped by the awards table–I was pretty shocked to have taken home 1st in my age group! Pre-injury I was hoping to crack top 3 women at the race, and I ended up 7th, which I’m more than happy with. After some post-race snacks (lots of fresh fruit and gf options!) and photo ops, of course, we were on our way.

This was such a fun and rewarding morning, and the details were seamless. The course was easy to follow and 3.1 miles on the nose, the volunteers were helpful and friendly, and the trophies were a super nice touch. Plus, there were tons of kids and parents running together, which is the cutest! Does anyone else love small local races??

See below for the recap of the rest of my week! I don’t have a ton to say other than I’m feeling much better and stronger, and trying to ramp up carefully with lots of cross training. Onwards and upwards!

Weekly totals: 15.2 miles

  • Monday: PT (lots of hips)
  • Tuesday: 3 minute run/1 minute walk intervals for 4.2 miles
  • Wednesday:AM-3 minute run/1 minute walk intervals for 3.8 miles, PM-75 minute hot yoga class
  • Thursday: 25 minutes on the elliptical + lifting, core, and PT exercises
  • Friday: Trial 5k with no stops! 3.5 miles total
  • Saturday: 75 minute hot yoga class
  • Sunday: Great Bear 5k! 3.6 miles total

Linking up with The Weekly Wrap (hosted by Hoho Runs and Taking the Long Way Home).

The Boston Marathon that broke my heart

Yesterday, at my first-ever Boston Marathon, I withdrew from the race at mile 22. I was soaked to the bone, shaking from the cold, and dealing with shooting knee pain that left me barely able to walk, let alone run. The wound is fresh and I’m sure it won’t ever fully heal. While I’m disappointed, I don’t have any doubt that I made the right choice. I let my brain win out over my stubborn heart.

I had the typical weekend leading up to Boston–trying hard to rest up while being tempted by all of the running fun to be had around the city. I met up with the Oiselle gang to spectate the 5k, visited all the pop-up shops and spent too much money, and took a million photos at the finish line. As the weather reports got worse and worse, I spent hours going back and forth on outfit choices–not daring to believe that a trash bag would end up being the smartest way to go. Something felt off for me all weekend. It’s hard to say what it was, but it never felt like I was really about to run Boston. As it turns out, my gut was right.

Monday morning my running partner Denise and I woke up to frigid temps and whipping winds. Undeterred, we donned our throwaway layers and heavy-duty trash bags before getting a ride downtown to the busses that would take us to athlete’s village. The start area was chaotic and muddy–the huge tents were strewn with mylar sheets and heaps of discarded shoes and clothing. I had a wristband for my charity team that was supposed to get me into a heated indoor space, but no one knew where to tell us to go. Undeterred, we used the facilities and squatted on an old shower curtain while we pulled on our dry socks and shoes with shaking hands. My best-laid plans of warming up, carefully hydrating, and leisurely eating my last pre-race snacks quickly went by the wayside and we strained to listen for the announcement that it was our turn to join the parade of figures in ponchos trudging to the start.

At the start line in suburban Hopkinton, I had a decision to make–either stick with Denise, who had no time goals and wanted to run for fun, or to push for the 3:25 I had trained for. As the first gust of wind whipped the rain into our eyes, I told Denise I would stick with her and we would get through it together. The first few miles we kept our spirits up, dancing along with the music being blasted from inside homes and under tents along the way. The crowds were thin but enthusiastic, screaming encouragement from the sidelines. We made a few bathroom stops but kept up a fairly steady pace as the rain pounded down, soaking through every layer.

We stopped into a med tent in Wellesley when my mittens had gotten so heavy and cold that I couldn’t move my fingers, and a helpful doctor worked my numb fingers into a pair of rubber surgical gloves. At mile 13 I saw Jeremy and gratefully accepted the poncho he had ready and waiting. Just after that, we got a huge lift in Wellesley when we heard that Desi won! What a gutsy and well-deserved win from one of my favorite runners!

The happiness carried us down into Newton, where I handed my soaked gloves off to my dad and trucked up the first of the Newton hills. Then out of nowhere, I felt a sharp, stabbing pain under both kneecaps. I gritted my teeth and trailed behind Denise before finally admitting to her that I needed to stop and see what was going on. Being the amazing friend she is, she immediately hooked her arm under mine and we hobbled together to the med tent at mile 20. The tent was teeming with runners convulsing from cold, their heads bowed under heat sheets and blankets. After manipulating my legs and seeing my grimace, the doc in the tent quickly concluded that it was likely patellar tendonitis, and handed off what he said was his first ice pack of the day. Denise was insistent that she wanted to stay with me, but I knew in my heart that I wasn’t going to make it and told her she needed to finish the race.

Alone in the tent, I put my head between my knees and sobbed–through the haze of tears, promising the volunteers that I wasn’t sobbing from the pain in my knees. It wasn’t the first round of tears and it won’t be the last. After 15 minutes of ice I was numb enough to give it one last shot, even though my gut was telling me it wasn’t smart. I knew my friend Bry would be volunteering at mile 21, and by the time I hobbled up to her, we both knew my day was over. She walked me to a church nearby that was open as a warming station for volunteers, and with wet and trembling fingers I called my dad to get a ride home.

I am still in the midst of processing everything that happened. I pride myself on being fairly in tune with my body, and as I sit here icing my tender, swollen knees I am 100% certain that I made the right choice to stop. In fact, 23 elite runners made the same choice. I have had a fairly charmed running journey up to this point, and there were always going to be bumps along the road. I’m not sure what exactly caused the knee issue, but I’m sure it has a lot to do with 2+ hours of running hunched over against the rain and wind on slippery and unstable surfaces. That was the single hardest run of my life and I’m proud to have made it as far as I did. I’m not yet a Boston Marathon finisher, but I will be. Congratulations to everyone who gutted it out to the finish yesterday–you all are beyond amazing!

The list of thank you’s is too long to include here, but it’s coming. Huge VIP shout outs to Denise, Bry, Jeremy, my parents, and everyone who reached out yesterday. I have the most fantastic support system.

Because I take my advice from the best, I will keep showing up. I will finish the race. Thanks for being here–the journey is far from over.

Leah

Race recap: Motatapu Miner’s Trail 15k

When J and I officially settled on our honeymoon dates in New Zealand, one of the first things I did was start searching for races happening while we were there. I knew that having a race on the books would be a good way to keep up my Boston training, and racing internationally seemed like a unique experience to add to our action-packed trip. I certainly wasn’t looking for a trail race (after spraining my ankle during my first trail race attempt), but the Macpac Motatapu fit into our schedule and looked like a ton of fun. The event has a pretty amazing number of options: an 8k, a 15k, a trail marathon, an ultra, a tri, and a bike race. We opted for the 15k–it looked tough enough given the elevation gain (see below!)

5 Unique events in beautiful Motatapu, Queenstown New Zealand.The morning of the race we plugged the race address into Google Maps and for the first and only time on our trip, got ourselves completely lost down a dirt road to nowhere. After a few minutes of frustration we turned around and took a much more legitimate road the the race start in Arrowtown, which is outside of Queenstown NZ. The signage around parking was a little bit unclear but there was space on the side streets, so we found a spot and rushed over to the bib pickup.

As with everything in NZ, it was super low-key and organized, so within a couple of minutes we were all set and ready to go. They were really nice about taking our jackets at the bag check–the morning was super chilly but it warmed up fast. The restroom lines were also a breeze–the event starts were staggered and ours was one of the smaller ones, so it felt a bit empty in the start area.

When the start time came around we seeded ourselves into informal corrals, which were then set off in staggered waves. This was really easy and helpful to keep the narrower parts of the course from getting too crowded. The most surprising thing at the start was that almost everyone had a hydration pack on–which seemed a little excessive for a 15k with two water stops–but it was a tough course so I could see why a slower runner would want their own fuel! J and I were more than fine sharing my handheld bottle, though.

The race started up a steep pitch on dirt roads. It was hard to not run the whole way up but I insisted on some fast hiking to conserve energy (which paid off for sure!) Everyone was chatting and encouraging each other, and by the first water stop I was down to a tank and shorts. We stopped to use the “loo” since we knew it was the only option and took off again, continuing the climb as we looped through open pastures and up along golden ridges. The vistas were gorgeous but I definitely had to keep my focus on my feet–trails are tough! We wended our way up to the highest point on mostly single track, which sometimes was so narrow that runners couldn’t pass one another. J and I took turns leading, but at this point were had a good crew around us to keep pace with.

Once the downhill started we really had to keep our eyes down on our feet–the trails were a bit slick and super narrow, with some areas that had rope holds for balance. We locked into a few other runners and one of the Kiwis warned us that the much-anticipated river crossing was coming up. We were feeling good with 2k left and excited to laugh and splash our way across the shallows to the finish.

Well, we were dead wrong–the course looped us back and forth across the same river ELEVEN times! At some points the freezing cold glacial water was almost up to my waist. I do have to say I think this was a little unnecessary–no one loves soaking wet feet and we got the point after one or two times. But we took it in stride and ran it into the finish, ending well under our goal of 2 hours.

Post-race we hightailed it to a local brunch spot and grabbed some well-deserved mimosas–there were lots of vendors at the post race area but everything cost money (including the massage tent!), so we figured we’d rather sit and eat. It felt great to warm up and dry off in the sunshine.

Overall, this was a fantastic experience and I’m definitely looking forward to more trail races in my future–including my first ultra in just a couple of months. I’ll have at least another post or two about our New Zealand trip in the coming weeks–please let me know if there’s anything you’re curious to learn more about!

Do you prefer roads or trails? Have you ever raced internationally?

Race recap: Martha’s Vineyard 20 miler

This past weekend, my running buddy Alexa and I ran the Martha’s Vineyard 20 miler. When I registered for Boston, I knew I wanted to do either this race or Eastern States, and MV won out since it would force me to get up to a 20 mile long run in before leaving for my honeymoon. TL;DR–this was a fantastic, well-run event and just the loveliest way to get a hard training run in!

Alexa and I headed down to Falmouth on Friday night, and stayed with my cousins before heading to the ferry terminal in Wood’s Hole nice and early. We ended up getting on the later of the two recommended ferries, which meant we had time to enjoy coffee at Pie in the Sky, a must-visit! We bought our tickets early and sauntered onto the ferry, which was comfortable and not too crowded. We even made some awesome ferry friends who were running the relay!

After a nice chat we made sure to use the boat’s bathrooms and walked off the gangway directly into the registration area. The bib pickup and bag drop were smooth and easy, and we were able to stay warm indoors at the ferry terminal, chatting with various running friends up until the race start.

After a loud gunshot blast, we were off! The first 10 miles of the race were beyond gorgeous–we were running along the shore on flat roads and paths, with amazing views of the ocean and the seaside homes. The weather was fabulous–in the upper 30s, sunny, and not too windy–and the first 10 miles were easy breezy. We treated this as a long run, not a true race, stopping to take water and fuel when we needed.

After the 10 mile mark we ramped it up for the first of three sets of MGP miles–just as the course got hilly and stayed that way until the end. We cranked it through three miles in the 7:30s and then hung together until mile 15, when I was feeling good enough to speed ahead. The only downside of the small race size was that I was pretty much alone for this last chunk–but the water stop volunteers and cops were awesome and I kicked it into high gear for the last three miles–7:38, 7:57, and 7:10. Overall, I finished at around an 8:10 average (according to my watch), feeling fairly strong and happy. 

Alexa was there soon afterwards and we grabbed a quick bite at the post-race gathering (they had Mexican food and hot chocolate!) We made a quick run to the shuttle though when we realized we could make the early ferry back to the Cape. We had a quick and comfy ride back to the terminal, and then we settled onto the ferry for some well-deserved post-race beers. Back in Falmouth we grabbed some stellar grub at Anejo, and we drove the 90 minutes back to Boston and were home by 6:30.

We had just the best mini racecation, and I would recommend the 20 miler to anyone who is training for a spring marathon. The relay looked super fun for anyone who isn’t (it’s 2 10 mile legs). Next race recap will be coming at you from my first international race in NEW ZEALAND, mate!

Race recap: Super Sunday 5 miler

Throwing it back to a few weeks ago, I had a fun morning at the Super Sunday 5 miler! I ran this race last year and struggled through it, but ended up with a time I was really proud of. I then had an amazing 5 miler over Thanksgiving, so I didn’t set a time goal, but figured as per usual that I would take it hard but keep the pace under control.

I got to the race nice and early with J, since we knew we had a big Oiselle group meeting up with us. The check-in was smooth and we shivered our way to our “VIP” team tent–which was way colder than the big heated tent where check-in was. I did a quick warmup with Kate, Sarah, and Alexa before grabbing the girls we could find for a team picture. Things had gotten a bit chaotic at that point–turns out the computer systems were down so all check-in was being done by hand. This actually ended up delaying the race start by close to 20 minutes, which wasn’t super fun on a windy, cold day. By the time we lined up in the corrals I was ready to run fast and be done.

I started out pushing past some of the slower runners before settling into the pack. I ran by feel as I didn’t have my mile splits on and barely looked at my watch this whole race–which definitely worked for me! The first mile felt fairly strong so I held steady through the second and third miles, trying to be really true to how I felt versus basing my pace on anyone else. I kept my sights on Sarah, one of my speedy teammates (in the shorts), and by mile 4 or so I had her and another Oiselle gal, Katie, in my sights (red capris).

Around then a spectator yelled “you’re almost there–empty the tank!” and I hit it! Unfortunately we still had a mile to go and the finishing chute for the race is super long, so getting through to the finish was a slog, but I managed to hit a 6:31 pace. Overall, my splits were 6:40, 6:37, 6:31, 6:37, and 6:31–nice and steady! And I managed a 20 second PR with a 33:12 finish, which got me 27th woman and 5th in my AG. It was a competitive field out there.

After the race we hit up the after party, which was a bit of a mess–a couple of the beer tents weren’t open, and there wasn’t any cider or any food for a gluten free lady. And only one of the heaters in the tent was working… and my results came out wrong, so I had to get them fixed.

However, there was an AMAZING cover band so we stayed for a bit before scooting off to eat and change into dry clothes. Despite the hiccups before and after, the race itself was spot-on–the course was fast, well-marked and staffed, and 5 miles on the nose. It’s a great way to spend the morning of Superbowl Sunday, and we’ll definitely be back next year!

Cambridge Half Race Recap (a “just for fun” race)

I’m going to start this race with a confession (runfession?): I am really, really susceptible to peer pressure–especially when it comes from other runners. After crushing my goals for my half last weekend, I was feeling a little bit jealous that a ton of my local runner friends were signed up for yesterday’s Cambridge Half Marathon. I ran the inaugural Cambridge Half last year absolutely loved it–and I also loved the Oktoberfest 5k organized by the same company. So when a teammate had a bib for sale for half price, I jumped on it, figuring I would pace a few friends and just run for fun.

The first warning sign came with a very strongly worded warning to pick up our bibs before race morning. Having been warned that the lines were long on Friday, I went on the later end of the Saturday pickup and was stunned to walk into the back of what was apparently a 40 minute line to pick up bibs and jackets. Luckily, I ran into a friend (thanks Chris!!) who grabbed my confirmation and picked my bib up for me, but then it took us more than 30 minutes just to get out of the mall’s parking garage.

Come race morning, I left my house planning to arrive at 6:30 am (according to my GPS), a full hour before race start. It was marginally too early to take public transit, which I would have preferred–especially because I then sat in traffic for an extra 35 minutes trying to get into the garage, missing the Oiselle team picture 😦 Things were hectic and disorganized, and I couldn’t find the bag check or the bathroom before the staff starting yelling with megaphones for everyone to get to their starting corrals. Luckily I stumbled into some teammates in the corral and we took off, keeping things conversational and comfortable. At mile 5 I popped into a porto potty and then managed to find my friend Sarah, who I had promised to pace for her marathon workout. Unfortunately, a couple of factors were working against us–the rain had picked up and the 7,000 runners were herded on and off of a narrow series of dirt paths. The crowding was made even worse as everyone tried to avoid the mud pits and puddles that were rapidly forming. With our shoes soaked and the traction not being ideal, we kept the pace under control to make sure Sarah gets to her goal race uninjured.

Finally we hit a long paved path towards the finish, where we picked it up for the last three miles, hitting splits at 8:33, 8:18, 8:06, and 7:15 for the .1. Appropriately, the race ended with a series of huge puddles mixed the red clay of the path. Dirty and soaked to the bone, I crossed the finish at 1:54:02, feeling pretty good and fresh after last weekend’s hard effort. We headed inside to change into dry clothes, and the attempted to navigate a super confusing after party with lots more long lines. There were mimosas, bloody mary’s, beer, and cider on hand–and apparently lots of food, but everything was so spread out it was hard to find. Luckily we managed to find some treats and grab a few well-deserved drinks before heading out.

While the rain definitely didn’t add anything, this race was one of the least well-organized events I’ve ever run. On top of the long lines, lack of direction, and overcrowded course, they lost a bunch of the jackets so people couldn’t get the sizes they had ordered, and the photos are all dumped into one 700-photo album instead of being searchable by bib number. Overall, this race was pretty frustrating–and would have been even more so if I had been running for time or if I had paid the full ticket price of over $100. That said, it’s always fun hanging with my birds and it was a super motivating way to get a long run in.

Back soon with a recap of the Prospect Park Turkey Trot I’ll be running with my brother on Thanksgiving! Anyone else have fun turkey trots on tap?

 

Seacoast Half Marathon Race Recap (new PR!)

 

Happy Monday, friends! Greetings from the happy end of another training cycle. This past weekend J and I ran the Seacoast Half Marathon in Portsmouth, NH–my 13th and his 1st. This race ticked all the boxes of a goal race for me. It’s on the smaller side, it’s reasonably priced, the scenery is gorgeous, and it’s somewhere new but still within a couple hours of home. We decided to “splurge” and spend credit card points on a hotel the night before–Portsmouth is just over an hour from home, but staying up there made for a much more relaxed race morning. An added bonus was that we got to have dinner with some good friends who live in the area on Saturday night. We ended up at Street, which was awesome. I had my traditional pre-race burger and a side of yucca fries, which were AMAZING. I definitely want to go back to Street some time to try out their cocktails and some of the more interesting dishes 😉

Saturday night I had a fair amount of trouble falling asleep, which is typical for me before races. Luckily I had gotten a great night of sleep on Friday night, so I knew I’d be fine for the race. Saturday morning we had breakfast and coffee in our hotel room before heading just a few miles down the road to Portsmouth High School, where the race starts. We easily parked right by the school and grabbed our race bibs and shirts fairly quickly. There wasn’t a secure bag check for this race, but we were able to leave our coats in the school’s cafeteria and just left our valuables in the car. It was chilly, with temps around 30 degrees at the start of the race, so I opted for tights, a warm base layer, gloves, and a buff. I probably slightly overdressed but I hate being cold at the beginning of races! I ended up taking off my gloves and buff by mile 3 😉

After a couple of rounds waiting in the porto potty lines and a very quick warmup jog, we headed up towards the race start. I wished J good luck and scooted up to the 7:30 pacer. Thanks to my race plan from Coach Laura, I knew race starts downhill and I wanted to make a very concerted effort to hold the pace back. The first two miles were light and easy.

  • Mile 1: 7:20
  • Mile 2: 7:24

By mile 3, I felt good and wanted to pick it up to closer to my goal pace (around 7:10-7:15). My goal was to feel comfortable and steady for the middle miles of the race, while actively conserving energy to be able to pick up the pace near the end.

  • Mile 3: 7:06
  • Mile 4: 7:08
  • Mile 5: 7:18
  • Mile 6: 7:08
  • Mile 7: 7:04
  • Mile 8: 6:56
  • Mile 9: 7:11
  • Mile 10: 7:10

I had accidentally set my watch with the automatic mile split setting off, so I could only see my overall average pace for the race. This turned out to be super helpful–my focus was just on pushing hard enough to inch my average pace slowly down instead of re-calibrating my effort every mile. I had tucked into a fairly steady group and I decided to stick with them through mile 10. The scenery during this section was gorgeous–lots of quaint old houses and sweeping views of the coastline. I made sure to grab a cup at each water stop and slowly sipped a Gu starting around mile 7.5. At mile 10, I could tell I still had some juice left in my legs, so I started picking folks off as I nudged the pace up.

  • Mile 11: 7:00
  • Mile 12: 6:51
  • Mile 13: 6:55
  • .2: 6:15

At mile 13 I was feeling strong, having picked off a couple of other female runners–at that point I knew there weren’t many more ahead of me. I hit the steepest hill of the race at this point, but I gritted my teeth and pushed my way up, knowing the finish line was around the corner. I totally channeled my inner Shalene Flanagan and let loose a “F*$& yeah!” as I crossed the finish line with the pace clock still at 1:34:XX. My official finish time was 1:34:19, which was good for 11th female finisher, 4th in my age group, and 52nd overall. My goals for the race were:

  • A Goal: Sub-1:35
  • B Goal: PR (Sub-1:36:55)
  • C Goal: Sub 1:40

So, I was pretty happy with where I ended up. Jeremy ran an incredible first sub 2 hour half, and is already talking about signing up for his next one. I’ve created a monster!! It was really fun to get to watch him finish for once.

After taking the requisite photos we grabbed some post-race snacks (there was everything from pizza to a Mexican rice dish to squash soup and apple cider!) and then went back to our hotel for a hot tub dip and shower before tucking in at one of our favorite brunch spots, The Friendly Toast. Pro tip–they have an app you can use to skip the wait–our table was ready less than 10 minutes after we arrived! SO necessary.

Overall, this was a fantastic race for me–I felt well-trained, I raced hard and smart, and the course and weather were perfect. I also LOVE the half distance–it’s absolutely where I excel and I think where I still have the most room to grow (looking you, NYC marathon qualifying times!) I have a lot more to say about this training cycle but I’m incredibly happy to have PRed the 5k, 10k, and half this fall! I owe a big debt of gratitude to Coach Laura, who wrote the custom training plan that got me to my goals. More to come on what went well and what’s next–for now, I’m ready for a few sweet weeks of easy running and lots of yoga before Boston training kicks into gear.