The Road to Boston . . . by way of Eugene

Like most Rogues . . . and much of the world, I couldn’t make sense of the news on Apr. 15.  I had taken a long lunch to watch the live stream of the elites and race stalk our friends, cheering them on from my computer and via texts with other race-stalking friends.   As I went back to work, text and phone messages came flooding in, this time about explosions at the Boston Marathon.  Being a bit Pollyanna, I was sure it had to be a mechanical/electrical failure and that the media likely were making more of it than necessary.  It didn’t make any sense that someone would want to harm people at the Boston Marathon. Unfortunately, the news was true. Something truly tragic and life-changing had happened.

Boston Marathon black ribbon

Watching the news stunned, I worried about our friends.  We had 50+ Rogues in Boston and 27 personal friends/teammates that I had been tracking.  Were they safe? What about their families? How could someone intentionally do such a thing? We anxiously awaited news that everyone was okay.  Finally some good news, they (and their family members) were.

For our non-runner friends, the Boston Marathon is the equivalent of the Super Bowl for runners.  It’s the pinnacle of our sport for recreational runners, the oldest marathon in the country, and the most exclusive.  You have to earn your way in –running a qualifying time in order to register for the race.  And if it wasn’t tough enough already, they tightened qualifying standards in 2012 by 5:59.

This year, the Boston Marathon also became one of the saddest, most tragic athletic events.  Runners in disbelief, went out and ran.  Runners united and ran together with 1,000+ people joining Gilbert’s Run for Boston on the Lady Bird Lake Trail on Apr. 18.  We hugged our teammates a little longer when they came home and celebrated their successes in spite of the tragic events.  We contributed to The One Fund Boston, which has raised more than $27M to help the victims.  Nothing rang more true than a quote circulating online, “If you’re trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to target.”

If I hadn’t wanted it enough already, I wanted it even more now.  The Boston Marathon had taken on even more significance.

I guess I should say I’ve been working toward this for years.  The reality is that I didn’t think I had the ability to qualify for Boston . . . until about a year ago.

In April 2012, I lined up in London with a goal to break 4 hours (with a marathon PR of 4:07.) I typically raced 1-2 marathons a year, but had gone through 2 years of ups and downs in training. Finally, I was strong, healthy and ready to run my first sub-4. . . . nowhere in the vicinity of qualifying for Boston with a 3:45.  I had a good day and ran a 3:52 — a big PR (personal record), and as one friend coined it, my “breakthrough race.”  All of sudden new goals were possible.  Self-imposed limits were gone.  The spark that I could potentially qualify for Boston was ignited.

That little spark became a burning flame.  I set my sights on achieving my Boston-qualifying time (BQ) in December 2012 in Sacramento at California International Marathon (CIM) – known as one of the top races for qualifying – a good course with good weather and high % of Boston qualifiers.  I trained consistently with a 7-month training block devoted to one goal — to PR & BQ by running a 3:45:00 at CIM.  That day brought the craziest weather I have ever run in, literally an “atmospheric river,” but I gave it my all.  I was crushed when my time was 37 seconds short of my BQ.  I had PR’d by 7 min. running in 30-40 mph wind gusts, torrential rain and ankle deep water on parts of the course, but still narrowly missed.  I knew I could do it.  I just needed another chance.

Eugene Marathon logo

The flame grew into a big, raging bonfire.  I would go back to the Eugene Marathon in April 2013 — one of our favorite destination races, where I had my biggest marathon PR in 2010 going from 4:37 to 4:07.  I went back to work, hitting a little setback with a calf injury for 4-6 weeks, cutting my training cycle short.  I failed miserably at our first race prep (a hard workout within a long run, where you test your mental and physical readiness for race day – usually 20ish miles with sets of marathon goal pace work or faster). I had had rough workouts and race preps that didn’t go as well as I would have liked, but I had never FAILED at a race prep.  I cut myself off and walked home in tears.  My confidence took a big hit.  I questioned if I could hit my goal in Eugene . . . maybe I needed longer since I’d lost time due to injury.  I planned some back-up options, but really wanted to race Eugene.  I mentally regrouped and focused on my training even more.  I built back up to peak training weeks of 70 miles/week and felt stronger with each workout.

With the majority of my team running Boston, and their race being 2 weeks earlier than mine, I was the only one who needed to run race prep #2.  The thought of doing it alone was scary.  Then my coach said he was going to run the pace work with me.  The thought of running it alongside my coach was even scarier.  What if I couldn’t do it?  What if I mentally cracked again?

That race prep was a turning point and a treat.  Coach Jefe (aka Jeff or El Pollo Grande) designed a route similar to my race course.  Alongside him, even chatting through the first few sets of pace work, the miles passed quickly.  Race prep #2 was a success!  I could get my BQ in Eugene.

Life threw a few more curveballs before Oregon (caught a cold, work travel, etc.) and the last two weeks passed way too quickly.  Then we were in Portland with our good friends, Heidi & Joe, and the reality set in that the clock was running out.  I had to do this.  Jeff & I agreed to a conservative race plan.  I didn’t want to risk too much by going for a big PR.  I just needed to run conservatively and shave off those last 37 seconds.  I was extremely nervous on race day (and the day before). . . maybe even more so than CIM.  This was attempt #2.  The sky was clear, the air was crisp (49 degrees at the start), little to no wind – no atmospheric river in sight.

Rogues @ Hayward_Eugene 2013

Eugene and Hayward Field, where the race starts and finishes, have good running juju.  This is where the running greats have and continue to run.  This is Steve Prefontaine’s old stomping ground, where his and many other running legends live on.  This is where the Olympic Trials for Track & Field and Oregon Relays are held.  I don’t know how else to describe it other than, there is running magic in the air.Joe Heidi Jenn_Power of the run

I felt enormous pressure.  I knew it was self-imposed pressure, but what if I couldn’t do it?  What if I failed?   There were too many people cheering me on.  I didn’t want to disappoint them.  Why did I have to live out loud?  If I were a quieter person, I could have slipped off unnoticed and gone for it.  But, nooooooooo, that’s not my personality.  I would succeed or fail . . . and everyone would know it.

My nerves were getting the best of me.  I was short with my poor hubby and friends.  It was warm in Eugene.  (We actually laid around in our backyard garden Saturday and I got a tan!) This had paralyzed my decision-making ability on what to wear for the race.  (I know it sounds trivial, but it’s a pivotal decision when marathoning.)  It took me at least 15 min. on race morning to get my # pinned on right.  I made silly mistakes like handing off my checked bag with my disposable water bottle in it.  I needed to chill out . . .so I took off for a super easy 2-mi. warm-up to zen out and get my head in the game.  (Huge thanks to Carol Willis for giving me her disposable water bottle at the start line allowing me to skip water stops until mi. 10.)Pre race Rogues

The flame had turned into a raging forest fire.  I had to do this.  I started slow, then settled into my race plan.  My pace was steady and consistent mile by mile.  There were a couple that were a little fast, so I backed off and settled in.  My goal was to run a more even split race, rather than a big negative split.  You never know how your body will react after mile 20 and I didn’t want to rely on having to ratchet down the pace.

I ran alongside teammate, Emily Howell, at the start, then with Maggie Cochran (in the pic in yellow) from about miles 3-10, before she needed to pick up her pace to hit her BQ time.

Eugene Marathon_jenn & maggie

I was tense the first few miles, but then locked in and got into a steady pace. Surprisingly the miles passed pretty quickly. I was relaxed, but focused.  I knew I was a little ahead of pace and just wanted to stay there. Scooby was all over the course.  I saw him at mi. 3, 6, 8, 13, 16, 22 and then at the finish with Heidi and Joe.  I felt pretty good and was ahead of pace.  I allowed myself to stop for a quick pitstop at mile 20 (the first time I have EVER stopped for a potty break during a race.)  It was tough to get going again.  Tired was setting in.  But, I got back on pace, even picked it up a little to make up time from my stop.  I had been watching my mile splits throughout, but I never looked at my total time or at my pace band.  I just ran by feel and kept it steady.

At mi. 22, I hit another rough patch.  I acknowledged it and knew it would pass, but I was tired and there were still 4 miles to go.  At that point, I heard the 3:45 pace group leader behind me chattering to his group.  He mentioned that they were at mi. 22 and were 30 sec. ahead of pace.  That meant I was at least 40 sec. ahead of pace.  I could do this.  I still had it.  I could NOT let him pass me.  I thought about the people who believed in me and were cheering me on.  I thought about the women I train with . . . and chase for many of the workouts.  I needed to just #$@#% get this done.  I kicked it in and chased my teammates (this time imaginary Amy, KB, Brandy, Dana & Julie aka the chickens) one more time.  I thought of Jefe running alongside me and motivating me on that last race prep.  Race prep #2 was a success.  BQ attempt #2 was going to be a success.  Just chase the chickens.  That’s all I had to do.

The miles passed. . . 23, 24, 25. . . what?  25?  Okay.  I only had the equivalent of 5 laps of a track to go (a mental trick that helps me break down the last 1.2 mi. of a race.)  I kicked it in, determined to get to Hayward Field and the finish line in <3:44:59. That would be success.Hayward Field_Eugene 2013_jhb finish

As I ran into Hayward Field, onto that amazing track, I gave everything I possibly could.  I knew I had done it.  3:43:04.

Home stretch_Hayward Field

Eugene will always hold a special place in my heart.  I have PR’d all three times I’ve raced there, but even better . . . I qualified for Boston there.

AND, I got to share it and celebrate with great friends — who ran awesome races themselves.  Of the Rogues in Eugene, there were at least 6 PRs, 2 BQs, 2 first-time marathoners, and 2 friends who surprised themselves with their HM improvements.  It was a good day.

Twelve days later, I still cannot believe I have the opportunity to run the Boston Marathon with my friends in 2014.  Congratulations to all of our friends on their successful races in Boston, Eugene, soon-to-be Ojai, etc.  You all inspire me to push my limits and aim for more.

Post race_Jenn & Heidi

My lessons learned (or reinforced):

1) Don’t underestimate the value of mental training (visualization, positive self talk, mantras, etc.)  It’s at least of equal importance as our physical training, maybe even more important.

2)  Have 1 goal (not 2 or 3 for your race.)  That way you succeed or fail.  With multiple goals, it’s hard to be happy unless you hit them all.  With one goal, you get to be happy when you achieve it.

3) Believe you can do more than you think you can — before, during and after your race. Thanks to the people who’ve pushed me to think bigger, especially Ruth & Schrup, who initially made me think I could BQ; Chris, who forces me to think bigger about my lifetime running goals with insane times I wouldn’t have imagined possible; and Scooby, my biggest fan who believes especially those times when I don’t.

The fire is now under control, but it’s still burning.  Cheers to big goals — your’s and mine!  –jennfire

P.S. (Next stop, the SeaWheeze Half Marathon in Vancouver in August with 150 Austinites!)

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Cry Me An Atmospheric River: CIM 2012

This is a story about the power of positive thinking in a marathon.

Picture a start line with heavy, sideways rain, knock-you-back wind gusts of 30+ mph, shivering runners, and panchos and Target sacks flying around like Dorothy’s house in the tornado.  That is what the start line at the California International Marathon (CIM) on Sun., Dec. 2 in Sacramento was like.

Atmospheric River - the yellow river heading to N. Cal.

Atmospheric River – the yellow river heading to N. Cal.

An atmospheric river (yes, it’s a real thing), also known as the “Pineapple Express,” sat on the West Coast last week dumping up to 15 inches of rain — a “river of rain” on Northern California.  It’s when winds sweep tropical moisture into narrow filaments or atmospheric rivers that lead to intense storms one after another.

Like most marathoners, I started stalking the weather about 5 days out, which also meant stressing about the weather the days leading up to the race.  When you train year-round for 2 marathon races, you stress about the weather on those 2 days.  The weather for CIM wasn’t looking good.

Saturday - day before race

Saturday – day before race

On Saturday, a few of our Team Rogue teammates got together and drove the course.  At that point we were trying to remain positive and stick to our race plans.  Coincidentally, our coach called when we were together and passed the phone as he gave each of us advice and good luck wishes.  He even suggested the option of bagging CIM and saving our legs to race the following weekend in College Station or Dallas.   Some friends offered similar advice.  Others said to ignore the weather and run like a Rogue.

A good friend shared a story.  She had been in the middle of an Ironman triathlon and had injured her hand.  It was actually broken, but she didn’t know that yet. She didn’t want to continue.  But she also didn’t want to wake up the next morning and wonder, “what if?”  Her husband told her, “Then you’ve got to get your head in the game.”

If I postponed til the next weekend, I would always wonder “what if?”  Decision made. I got my head in the game.  I would think positive and race CIM.  I could make a game-time decision on race morning or even shut it down at the half-way point and finish the second half as an easy run if the weather was that bad.  That would save my legs for a future race.  But I set my intention to go for it.  This was my race.

Race morning, it was pouring rain.  We waited in the buses in Folsom as long as possible. Ginger, Ryan and I reluctantly got out of our bus.  Both of their panchos were flying behind them and above their heads.  They looked like Batman and Robin.

Pre-race - hanging out in the bus

Pre-race – hanging out in the bus

We hit the portapotties, something CIM does really, really well.  There were tons of them.  We waited in line 2-3 min. each (that’s all!) and it was 20 min. before the race start.  It was so warm, dry and cozy in the portaloo, I thought maybe I could just stay in there a little while. (Seriously.  Ryan admitted that he had the same thought!)

Weather screenshot

We met up with Stephanie and Tim and all headed toward the start line.  As much as I tried to remain positive, I will admit that I had my doubts.  The weather was intimidating. Could I really hit my goals in THIS??  I’ve run long distances in crazy weather, but to race for a personal record (PR) and a Boston-qualifier (BQ) is an entirely different thing.   I asked Ryan (a 2:56 marathoner who planned to pace Ginger and Stephanie) if this was his race, what would he do?  Without hesitation, he said, “I would stay positive and stick to my plan.”  That’s what I did.

No more doubts. My race plan was to start easy, +10 sec./mi. for the first 10k, MGP through 30k, then picking it up with -10-15 sec./mi. for the last 10k with a strong finish.  This was doable, conservative even.

Pre-race crowd at start, heavy rain

Pre-race crowd at start, heavy rain

Start line with sideways rain

Start line with sideways rain

Race starts are always crazy.  People zigging and zagging, jostling for position.  This was insane.  At one point I laughed out loud.  It was such a spectacle with clothes and bags flying everywhere.  My problem in my race preps recently had been starting out too fast.  I could not make that mistake and hit my goal.  No problem. There was no chance of starting out too fast in these conditions.

There were crazy get-ups – the standard panchos and trash bags, but people had enclosed their entire feet/shoes in plastic CVS bags tied or duct taped around the ankles.  People were wearing shower caps.  One person actually had on ski goggles!

runner w goggles

Race start discards

Race start discards

The first mile or so was an obstacle course trying to avoid getting your feet caught up in the discarded bags on the ground or dodging them from hitting you when a wind gust sent them flying.  We also were heading directly into the wind.

It was also about 60 degrees.  Cold when it’s wet, windy and you’re standing around, but warm after running a mile.  Good thing because we were soaked the entire race.  (For non-marathoners, most of us consider around 40 degrees, clear, cloud-cover and little to no wind to be ideal conditions.]

I pushed ahead and settled into a rhythm at my “start easy” pace once we turned and the wind was at our side. The wind was S T R O N G when it gusted.  Kamran mentioned it almost knocked him into Asia (his wife, not the continent.)  That first 10k was rolling hills, rainy and heavy wind gusts.  Surprisingly I was on pace.  Okay, let’s do this.  I had a shot.

Around mile 6, we turned heading into the wind again, plus some rolling hills.  I knew it would last about 5 miles before we turned out of the wind, so I found people to draft off of.  Poor Mr. Brooks, my name for the big guy in the orange Brooks jacket.  He didn’t know he was being used as a wind block.  I smiled and waved to Scooby at mile 10.  I was feeling pretty good, weather and all.

Jenn Mile 10

Jenn at mile 10

There was a steep climb between 10 and 11.  I was still on pace for the second 10k.  That was the most we would have to run directly into the wind (a total of 8 miles, 6 of them done), while tackling rolling hills.  My plan allowed me to make up time once the course flattened out around 19-20.

Standing waterMiles 12-18 are a bit of a blur.  The mile markers weren’t substantial – feather signs or sandwich boards, some of which had blown over in the wind, so I missed some of the markers.  There were places throughout the course with ankle-deep water (really.)  At the half-way point, I estimated that I was a little more than a minute off my goal, pretty close to where I was supposed to be.  Positive thoughts.  I had a good rhythm going, despite slogging through some deep water. I was kind of enjoying it.

Around 14/15, I hit a brief rough patch, acknowledged it was a rough patch.  It happens.  It was inevitable and I knew it would pass.  Then it was gone.  I was taking in nutrition on a schedule (something I have failed at in the past., but was doing right this time.)  30k done.  I estimated that I gave up about 5-10 seconds during that 10k section.  No problem.  It was still raining, but the winds had died down.  I was having a good day.splashing puddles

I recognized the intersection at mile 19.  Still raining, but I remembered that this is where the course flattens out.  I would need to step it up in a couple more miles.  I felt surprisingly good.  I could do this.

bike

Scoob’s bike on the train

Scoob was waiting for me at mile 21.  I was already at mile 21?!  I had run right through “the wall.”  (Scoob navigated the course via light rail and a single-speed cruiser and had quite a CIM adventure himself.)

I was getting tired of working, but I was in the home stretch.  I was on track.  My goal was within reach.  I couldn’t believe I felt this good this far into the race at this effort level.  Mile 22 – time to kick it in.  Math at this point in the race is usually difficult for me, but I had a pretty good idea where I was.  I had given up a few more seconds than anticipated with the weather.  I now needed to shave 15-20 seconds/mile.  I kicked.

Scoob biked alongside and encouraged me to go for it.  I did.

Around mile 23, the rain stopped.  I wasn’t quite at the pace I needed to be, but I could do this.  By mile 24, it was getting tough.  I knew I had a good PR at that point, but my goal was to PR and BQ.  PR wasn’t enough.  I came to BQ.  I had to keep pushing.  I tried.

I was putting out an incredible effort, but my pace didn’t match it. . . had . . . to . . . push . . . harder.  Mile 25 . . . 8 laps of a track (actually 9, I corrected myself.)  Man, this felt hard.  Kept pushing.  I remember thinking, just keep going as hard as you can, this will be over in about 8 min.  Push. You can do anything for 8 min.  Goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

I was light-headed and told myself to just get across the finish line.  I could pass out after that.  Final kick to the finish.

I clicked my watch, but couldn’t look at it.  I knew.  But I didn’t want to know.

I shuffled through the finish line chaos — medal, photos, food, gear check (where my bag of dry clothes was sitting on the ground in an inch of muddy water, no dry clothes), etc.  I couldn’t find Scooby.  I didn’t want to eat.  My change of dry clothes were wet.  I just wanted to sit and cry.  Needed somewhere to sit and cry.  I needed my Scooby.

I finally looked at my watch and confirmed what I thought.  3:45:37.

I had missed my BQ by 37 seconds.  I cried.

I found shivering Scooby, who was also soaked and freezing.  He knew.

It didn’t register for a while that I had run a 6:37 min. PR . . . in an atmospheric river.

I finished in the top 25% overall, top 15% of women and top 15% in my age group – my highest finishes ever.  I stuck to and executed my plan.  I ran a negative split.  I just didn’t have the close that I needed.  I did not hit the wall.  I was positive throughout the race.  I was mentally and physically tougher than I had ever been.

I have no regrets. I gave it everything I had on that day.  The power of positive thinking prevailed.  I didn’t have to wake up the next day and ask, “what if?”

Congratulations to our friends who toed the line at CIM.  It took guts to start that race. Kudos to Muz (sub-3!), Jim (PR), Kamran, Asia, Ginger, Ryan, Stephanie (40th), Tim (1st) and Amanda (PR) — all super tough Rogues!

Enormous thanks to Coach El Jefe (aka Jeff Knight) and Team Chicken for pushing me to a new level, offering advice, support and a little tough love.  The outpouring of support from friends before and after CIM was unbelievable.  I am fortunate to be surrounded by incredible people.

finisher photo

The “thank goodness that’s over” look. I EARNED that medal.

P.S. (Typical of many marathons, the next morning it was 42 degrees and clear at 7 a.m., race start time and turned into a beautiful day!)

Day after at sunrise

Day after race

Photo credits to:  Scooby, the Sacramento Bee & Sports Photo

Minding the Gap: London 2012

Runner friends will agree that marathon training requires motivation.  Anyone who knows me knows that what I lack in natural athletic ability, I make up for in motivation.  I also have a generally positive disposition, which comes in handy for a mentally-challenging sport.  Marathoning is full of ups and downs.  We train for months to race one single day and hope we can avoid injury & illness and have the stars and planets align perfectly for a few hours just one day.  I train for 2 marathons a year, so ask for a lot . . . a perfect world for 2 days each year.

Chicago 2011 wasn’t my day.  I caught a bad cold/sinus infection 2 days before the race coupled with business travel to Vegas on the way and warm temperatures did not equal a PR.  But I did it, and ran my second fastest marathon.

We arrived in London on Friday morning, met up with world-travelling Rogue & close friend, Super Joe Sesil, for the Expo, a reception that night with Joe & the Tall Bald Brit, Mark Enstone, and a casual pub dinner.  Saturday morning, we did a short shake-out jog through Hyde Park (kind of between Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace) on a beautiful trail that runs alongside a bridle path.

We did the tourist thing with a hop on, hop off bus tour so we could get out of the “closet” (aka European hotel room), but not spend too much time on our feet.  It gave us a tour of the latter half of the course while taking in the sights and we walked around the finish line area in front on Buckingham Palace so we could visualize the British flag-lined mall finish line on race day.

It was go time.

London 2012 was my day.  It was 45 degrees and sunny at the start from Greenwich/Blackheath Parks in East London.  We enjoyed hot tea, flushing portaloo’s and hot air balloons. (They also had female urinals.  Don’t make me talk about it . . . traumatizing.)  Scoob commented on how quiet I was being . . . highly unusual, but I was taking Coach Ruth’s advice and focusing my energy inward.

37,500 runners toed the line, with 3 groups of runners merging within the first 2 miles.  C-R-O-W-D-E-D.  Toward the END of mile 1, the entire field came to a complete stop (you expect this at the start line, but not a mile or more in!)  I’m still not sure why.  We speculated that someone had fallen on one of the speed humps.  Another mile or so in, we heard multiple gunshots . . . as we ran through a riflery test event for the Summer Olympics.

We tried to get in a rhythm, but ran a few, too fast miles around 6-9.  We passed the 1869 Cutty Sark clipper ship and scanned the crowd for Super Joe.  I half-expected to see him actually on the Cutty Sark (closed to the public for a few more days.)  Around mile 10, I remember thinking that I was warm.  Uh oh.  It was early and I was only wearing a short-sleeved shirt and skirt.  Around mile 12.5, we crossed the iconic Tower Bridge, a real highlight to run across in the middle of the road.  We looked for Super, but no luck.  People were E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E.

Once over the bridge, we turned east again, opposite direction of the finish line.  The course loops on itself so at 13-14, you’re also seeing runners at miles 21-22.  Around 13-14, I was supposed to be cutting a few seconds off each mile, a little more after each 3 mile set, but I wasn’t able to drop down and sustain it.  Scoob tried encouraging me by telling me I was “killing it,” and I snapped back because I knew I wasn’t.  I wasn’t on pace.  I had some doubts about whether or not this was going to be my day.

The water stops were handing out 330ml bottles of water and/or Lucozade every mile starting at mile 3, rather than cups of water/sports drink.  It was nice because you could carry the small sports bottle and control how much/when you took in fluids as well as avoid losing time with the slowdown of water stop tables.  But it was also kind of wasteful and created water bottle minefields as many people took 2 sips and tossed their bottles.   (There were 972,000 bottles of water and sport drink between the start/finish/course.)

There was a dashed blue line drawn on the road . . . the official tangent on which the 26.2 mile course was certified.  I zoned on the blue line trying to stay as close to it as possible.  It was a good distraction.  I had a mantra that I unfolded throughout the course.  Focus.  Energy.  Believe.  Power.  I focused on each word for about 6 miles, then moved to the next, chanting it in my head as I tried to follow the blue line while navigating the crowd.

At this point we were on the Isle of Dogs (Canary Wharf and Canada Water areas) with a lot of turns.  Around mile 15-16, I had a brief thought about how hard marathoning is and wondering how I had forgotten that, since this was my 12th marathon.  But I knew that negative thoughts weren’t going to get me to the finish line.  Scoob told me to just run the best I could for the next ½ mile and the ½ mile after that.  That was a turning point.  That became my focus.

I recited my mantra, thought of the support of my friends at home, followed the blue line, and focused on running the best pace I could mile to mile.  Then the miles started ticking away.  F-I-N-A-L-L-Y.  I didn’t realize at first that I had pulled away from Scoob, just thought he was getting water, etc.  (Coming back from injury and only getting in 9 weeks of actual marathon training with a longest run of 18 miles, the lack of time on his feet and some muscle cramps caught up with him and he slowed a little.)  I was grateful for his help getting to that point.  I focused inward, on getting to the next marker and kicked it in about the time most were hitting the wall.

I turned the corner at mile 21 where the course crosses itself and thanked the running gods that I wasn’t on the other side of the course (at mile 13/14.)  I knew I was not running a BQ.  In past races, this would have mentally broken me.  I was running a PR, a signficant one.  I turned that into fuel to see how much of a PR could I run.

At mile 24, there was a long, dark tunnel, some respite from the sun for a few minutes.  My Garmin lost its satellite connection and I wondered if it stopped tracking time (silly thought, clearly oxygen deprived.)  I wasn’t watching my pace, just running by feel.  I made myself smile from time to time to remind my body that we were having fun.  I could visualize the 40k mark (from the day before) and watched for it, running along the Thames River.  I was tired and ready to finish, but knew I could sustain my pace and finish strong.

I focused on landmarks and picking off runners.  I caught Peter easily, then pink shirt, the cave man, etc.  Paul was tricky as he was picking up his pace too, but I finally caught him.   (LOTS of people have their names on their shirts so people can cheer them on, makes it easier to know who you’re targeting. : )

Mile 25 came into view as well as the London Eye and Big Ben up ahead.  Big Ben kept getting bigger.  We turned past Parliament and toward Buckingham Palace.  Hello, 800m sign.  So happy to see you.  It was time to give whatever I had left.

Then 400m . . . and the 385 yards sign (the .2 at the end.)  Buckingham Palace and Buckingham Fountain were on the left, then the final, right turn running down the British flag-lined mall to the finish.  What a relief to stop running.  D-O-N-E

It took a few minutes to sink in.  I ran a 3:52:15 . . . a 15 min. 42 sec. PR.  I officially joined the sub-4 marathon club!

A few minutes later Scoob celebrated the finish of his 9th marathon with a 3:56 despite a limited training season.   We learned later that Mark had run a 3:24 to re-BQ just 6 days after running the hot, hot, hot Boston Marathon.  Brilliant.

All 3 Rogues succeeded in London.  “Well done, you.” (as the Brit’s say)

 

 

Honorable Mention:

On a sad note, I want to pay tribute to an athlete who didn’t get to cross the finish line.  There was a tragedy at the London Marathon.  A 30-year-old woman, Claire Squires, dropped about 500-600m from the finish line.  I saw her go down and people rush to catch her.  Scooby saw her receiving CPR.  It’s a sight that shakes you and you know you have to push on, but a hard image to let go of.  We learned later that she passed away.   She was a charity runner, running her second London Marathon.  She raised approx. £500 (about $800) prior to the race.  As a tribute, many have donated to her cause and her legacy now lives on with more than £916,000 donated to date . . . approx. $1.5M.  Congratulations to Claire for making a difference.

The London Marathon holds the Guinness World Record as the largest fund-raising event in the world.  In 2011, runners raised £51.8M (approx. $83M.)  Since the race started in 1981, runners have raised £550M or $890M for charity.  At that rate, they’ll be close to $1B this year.  Amazing.

 

Highlights:

  • Joined the sub-4 cool kids with a personal best by 15 min. 42 sec. (previous was 4:07 at Eugene 2010)
  • 12th marathon, 3rd world major
  • Being 2 of 376 Americans entered in the race, out of 170,150 applicants and 50,200 accepted
  • Best spectators ever . . . 2 million+ British spectators yelling, “Well done, you” in super cool accents and our personal favorites, Super Joe Sesil & Knut Næsvold with champagne at the finish line
  • First injury-free season in a while; heartrate training was challenging (in a very different way), but paid off
  • Mental toughness; overcame regrets from Eugene
  • Vacation with hubby & Super Joe exploring the grandeur of London and Paris . . . and indulging in obscene amounts of champagne, wine, cupcakes, crepes, macarons, cheese, croissants and quiche
  • Fantastic post-race Indian food with all of my men (TBB, Super, Knut & Scooby)
  • Longest run side by side with Scooby; running tours of London and Paris alongside Scoob & Super
  • Good weather, great course – mostly flat with a few small, rollers.  A must-do marathon.
  • Met a family at our hotel (dad was spitting image of Simon Pegg), with a lovely, young woman, one week away from turning 18 years old, who completed the marathon with her dad.  She now holds the record for youngest female to complete the London Marathon.
  • Huge amount of support back at home from friends, family, Rogues and their kids!  Thank you to Coach Ruth for the personalized attention, calming influence and positive energy and Coach Schruppy for always providing support and considering me one of his athletes no matter which coach I’m training with.  Thanks to my running buddies — Carolyn, Christina, Steph K, Pablo, Brenda, Peter and Amy — for the many, many miles logged together.  And last, but not least, all of our friends who sacrificed sleep and/or chickens, chanted and cheered us on from home.
  • Losing 12 lbs. for race day
  • Getting closer and closer to my BQ
  • Reward of a visit to the flagship Louis Vuitton store on the Champs Elysees in Paris

Lowlights:

  • Full on sunshine for the race (yes, really, in London; it was cloudy, rainy the rest of the time)
  • Crazy crowded until about mile 20 when people started hitting the wall and dropping back
  • Did not negative split; a few too-fast miles around 6-9 trying to break out of the crowd, probably lost 2-3 min. later as a result
  • Scooby’s muscle cramps setting him back a few minutes, separating us
  • Was kicked/stepped on at least 5 times; too many sweaty arm grazes to count . . . ick
  • Water and Lucozade bottles scattered all over the course become obstacles and water canons when stepped on
  • Lots and lots of crazy costumes, which are fun . . . until you get passed by someone with their entire head covered or Elvis chatting away

Team Rogue Race Prep w/ Track Close: Method to Steve’s Madness

After almost 5 months of training with Team Rogue, this rookie finally understands some of the method to the madness of our Coach, Steve Sisson.  He designs certain workouts, like race prep’s, to test you physically and mentally.  Today was a 25-27 mile training run with 2 sets of 4 miles at marathon goal pace (MGP), recovery on the hills of Redbud and Stratford, and miles 20 to 26 were progressively faster on the track — 2 miles at MGP, 2 at half marathon pace (HMGP) and 2 at 10k pace. As my friend Kamran said, “at least that’s the theory of the workout.” 

You might think it sounds cruel to make us run progressively down to faster paces like HMGP and 10k pace at the end of such a long run.  The mileage simulates our actual race and the combination of MGP work, hills and the track close simulate the physical and mental fatigue that you have to deal with on race day, especially at the end as you push to meet your goal (or sometimes just to keep going.)

I’ve been training for an aggressive PR in Eugene (for non-runners, that’s a personal record or personal best), trying to shave off more than 30 min. from my best marathon time and run a sub-4:00 marathon.  But as our other Coach, John Schrup, has told me, I shouldn’t think about that old PR because it isn’t really applicable anymore as I “play a whole new sport now.” 

This will be my 10th and fastest marathon.  I am certain.  I’ve had an awesome training season running alongside some of my favorite people Carolyn, Holly, Joe, Bryan, Brenda, occasionally Paul, and early on with Steph Woodruff and P. (aka Priscilla).  Over the last 6 weeks or so, we’ve been training at 3:55/3:56 paces and usually nailing them in workouts.  So, today was a test to determine what’s realistic in Eugene.

Goal paces for a 3:55 marathon are as follows:

MGP 8:58
HMGP 8:30
10k 8:05

What I actually did:

2×4 miles at MGP:
Set 1 – 8:54 pace
Set 2 –  8:56 pace

Track close:
Track MGP 1 – 8:57
Track MGP 2 – 8:59
Track HMGP 1 – 8:30
Track HMGP 2 – 8:31
Track 10k 1 – 8:35
Track 10k 2 – 8:27

My mental game is usually one of my biggest strengths in marathoning, but today I was tested.  I thought I might cut the hills on RedBud and Stratford (an option our Coach gave us if we needed it), but alongside Carolyn, I could do it.  We ran it easy and knocked out the miles fairly easily.  Then we hit the track and the real test began.   The first 2 miles at MGP were no problem.  Not easy, but not too hard either.  We were right on target.  On to 2 miles of the 30-second faster HMGP.  My legs started complaining that they were tired during these laps, but my mind could still overrule them.  I was right on target until the last lap or 2 of the last HMGP.   I started thinking ahead to how on earth I was going to cut another 25 seconds/mile and get down to 10k pace next.  I was lucky to be hanging on to HMGP for heaven’s sake.

Then it was time.  I uncharacteristically dropped an F-bomb wondering aloud how the #$%! I was going to get to 8:05?!?!  I struggled around that first lap at an 8:16 pace, but was having trouble breathing and getting upset because I couldn’t get to pace.  Steve told me to go back to HMGP for the rest of that mile, then see what I had left for the last mile.  I had a much slower second 400, then had to pull myself together and get back in rhythm for the rest of the mile.  At that point, I was close to HMGP again and stayed there til the last lap, but was counting every lap and mentally reminding myself that I could do anything for 6 laps, 5 laps, 4 laps and so on.  I pushed with everything I had left to end up a little under HMGP with my fastest mile at the end of the workout.  I was grateful it was over, not sure I could have eeked out one more lap.

It was tough, but exhilirating (once it was over!)  This is the type of workout that serious runners do.  Somehow, I crossed over into their world.  I am humbled to run with the best, even though I am at the back of the pack.  They push me to work harder and be better. 

I am confident I can run sub-4 in Eugene.  I’ll figure out an exact goal in the next few weeks but something between 3:55-3:59.  It’s scary aggressive, but Team Rogue inspires me.  Or, maybe I’ve just become a crazy enough to think I’m a badass and anything is possible. 

Special thanks to:
* All of the Team Roguer’s (Coach Steve, Scoob, Paul, Joe, Nedra, Amy, Mark, Dionn, Michael, Cindy, etc.) & support team (Trey, Chris, Ruby, the bootcamp team who cheered me on the last lap) who were at the track motivating us around that #$%! asphalt oval lap after lap.  
* Scooby, my #1 fan
* Kamran, who always makes time to help me talk through things
* Lisa, the best massage therapist around, who keeps me together
* My CrossFit Team Tres Equis (XXX) – Carrie, Steph, Emily and Coach Alex who selflessly let me bow out of our final challenge workout in order to do this race prep with Team Rogue.  I was delusional thinking I could do this on my own.

Team XXX Posts Fastest Time at CrossFit Adventure Challenge

Our kick-ass team: Stephanie Woodruff, Emily Baker, me and Carrie McDonald

I’m sure you’re wondering what this is and how on earth I got myself into it.  Right?

My running buddy and fellow CrossFitter, Steph, and I decided to be part of the 7-week CrossFit Adventure Challenge while running one cold January morning.  It sounded like a good idea — a secret benchmark workout for a team of 3, body composition measurements, nutrition logging and goal setting for changes at the end of 7 weeks.  At the end of the competition, the team with the biggest time improvement on the benchmark workout and biggest change in body composition as a team (most body fat%/inches lost) wins.

Steph recruited another CrossFit friend, Carrie McDonald, to join us and with our trio complete, our team of 3 hottie, CrossFitters — Team Tres Equis (XXX) was born.  Unfortunately by the time of the challenge, Steph couldn’t compete, but it gave us an opportunity to recruit Emily Baker to the team.  Before the challenge even began, I had already gained 2 new friends! 

On Friday night, we finally learned what that challenge was going to be — a combination of 100 thrusters, sprinting with med. balls (twice each), running to Zilker, the rowing dock and Deep Eddy, kayaking (twice!), 50 burpees, 50 in/outs, 50 lunges and 100 swings. 

On Saturday morning, 9 teams showed up for the challenge, including 2 other teams of friends coached by our favorite CrossFit trainer Alex Janss, The Invincibles (Peggy, Susan and Vince) and General’s Triple Threat (Anna, Chris and Dolly.)  It was cold and muddy, but we all cranked out the benchmark workout.  Thanks to my amazing teammates, we finished in 29:18.  (I can admit that on Friday night, we were worried about whether or not we could complete the workout in an hour!)

We couldn’t believe it when we finished and the volunteer coach helping us out told us that we finished first with the fastest time.  We were elated.  Yes, part of the challenge is on how much time you can shave off the workout, but with a team of competitive women, the thought of taking our time or sandbagging a little, just didn’t occur to us.  Like everyone, we were in it to win it.  (Carrie and I decided to reward ourselves with a little Lululemon afterward. : )

So, we’ve decided we’ll have to work even harder on the body composition part of the challenge and have thought of a few ways to cut a little more time out of the workout.  Stay tuned for that when we re-do the challenge on Mar. 27.

I may need your help to keep my diet clean and remain focused on hard training.  I’ve been using My Fit Foods, a healthy meal service, to help me get to a 40/40/20 diet with proper portion sizes and may need to for a while longer.  I figure that by focusing on the body composition part of the challenge, I’ll naturally be getting stronger and better at the challenge workout next time.  I guess that means I’m going to have to remain Diet Coke and alcohol-free for another 7 weeks or so!

New Year, New Goals

I apologize, but I am a lapsed blogger. A lot has happened since my last post:
* Laura and I have been coaching a beginner’s Half-Marathon training group since Sept. 22 of our runners ran 3M and approx. 28 are running the Austin Half Marathon. We are extremely proud of them.
* I rebounded from injury and ran the New York Marathon in November with my sweet friend, Laura (her FIRST marathon!)
* 2 weeks after New York, I set a new half-marathon PR of 2:08 in San Antonio (and so did Scott!)
* I joined the Team Rogue training group right after the San Antonio Half.
* Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s went by in a blur and I hate to admit I let my weight get a little out of control during this time.
* I started fresh Jan. 4 with a renewed commitment to eating clean and sticking to my demanding workout schedule of approx. 60 miles/week of running and at least 2 CrossFit workouts for core/strength-training, with the hopes of sprinkling in a yoga class or two when I can.
* I was part of a major product launch releasing LabVIEW Robotics to the world on Jan. 11.
* I set a goal to lose 8 lbs. by 3M in order to run a better race and achieved it, down 8.4 lbs. and setting a new PR of 1:57, the first time I’ve ever broken 2 hours, and averaging 8:55/mi. (Again, Scott also set a new PR too as did many of our friends, which made for a great day!)

Now, somehow it’s already February and I have new goals to tackle:
* Train consistently with Team Rogue, averaging 60 miles/week. The program is demanding, but a real highlight of my week. I never thought I would enjoy waking up at 4:30/4:45 a.m., running at least 3 double-digit runs/week, doing 2 Quality workouts a week (instead of one), but I love the challenge and feel like I’m getting stronger with each workout.
* I also committed to the CrossFit Adventure Challenge with friends, Stephanie Woodruff, Carrie McDonald, and Emily Baker, which was a real jump for me, especially with my Team Rogue commitment. It’s a 7-week challenge with benchmark workouts, body composition, nutrition logging, etc. (More on this to come.)
* I am still resolved to eat clean and stick to my workout schedules to lose another 12 lbs. by May. I am 5 wks. free of my Diet Coke habit.
* My next race is to run the Eugene Marathon on May 2. I haven’t set my exact time goal yet, but it will somewhere around 4 hours, hopefully a 30+ min. PR.
* Be more consistent with my blog, posting at least twice a month.

Now you know what I’ve been up to . . . my excuse for slacking on my blog.

What are your goals for the New Year? : )

NY Marathon Progress . . . 5 wks to go

Quick update . . . I have built up to two 16-milers and am averaging about 40 miles a week again. My body feels strong, no sign of the hip injury. The tight Achilles and plantar fascia are much better. I feel strong aerobically and am seeing a little increase in speed, but still running slower than I’d like.

My focus is still on rebuilding mileage and running (not racing) the New York Marathon. But, I’m definitely starting to think about what marathon to do to race for time in the near future, especially as my friends prepare for St. George and Portland next weekend and Chicago the weekend after that. : )