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The Day I (Didn’t) DNF

10 May

Hey guys! Sorry I’ve been MIA – Something about Sunday’s race kicked the life out of me. After going to bed at 9 last night and a massage tonight I’m feeling a bit more human.

So, let’s back up, shall we?

Sunday morning I woke with the alarm at 6 a.m. And, I didn’t want to get up, so I snoozed. Luckily I stayed in Providence the night before, so I didn’t have to rush. I got up at 6:10 and meandered my way down to the ever so convenient Starbucks located in the hotel. Damn good thing I did – it was already chock full of runners, being that it was about 2 blocks from the start.

I got myself an iced coffee, a bagel, and a banana. I nervously munched and sipped as I got ready. As I was wrapping up my preparation, I reached into my bag for my Garmin, and *GASP* IT WAS DEAD! It must’ve turned on when I tossed it into my bag!

I was panicking because I had hopeful big plans (big plans that didn’t come to fruition – but really, I only ran twice a week for the past 7 weeks so…’nuf said) and I really wanted my Garmin. I was convinced it was going to be a bad day.

When I met up with Coachy and our friend Don, I told them about my Garmin. Coachy and Don were running together anyway, so (being the wondaful person that he is) Coachy gave me his Garmin to wear (thank you thank you THANK YOU AGAIN!). It’s the same as mine but the boy version.

We then met up with Jess, Scott, and Christine, right by the start line. After a long drive from northern MA to RI the girls had to find a bathroom, so while they did that I saw the marathoners off (aka Coachy and Don).

Me, Jess, Scott, and Christine lined up around the 10 minute pace and chatted a bit, took a few pics, and tried to keep our minds off of what was about to go down. Next thing we knew we were off.

About half a mile in I remarked to Jess that we had already lost Christine – but Christine had decided she was going to start slow (smooth move – you can read all about it in her recap). I’m totally doing that next time.

I really never felt great during this race. I’d talk to Jess for a bit – Scott would gesture for us to catch up to him – we’d go silent and just run.

I slowed around Mile 4 water stop, but caught back up to Jess and Scott. They were moving at a pretty good clip, and my confidence was slipping. It was humid, the clouds burned off and the sun was fully out. Between the humidity and the very high levels of tree pollen in the air, I couldn’t breathe.

I told Jess around Mile 5 that I was dropping back, to go ahead without me.

That’s when the mind games started. I knew I was holding a pace well enough to PR, but not get my ultimate goal (which you guys all know what that is by now so I’m not speaking about it).

I finished Mile 5 and 6 strong, and even Mile 7 considering the biggest hill on the course (100ish foot climb) exists between 6.5 and 7.5 miles.

But during Mile 6 and 7 I hyperventilated. I cried. I convinced myself that I was not going to finish this race.

I said it quite a few times. “What if you just quit?” “You can DNF, save your leg, save your knee, just stop running.”

You see, my knee was wigging out on all the up and down. I didn’t do any real good pre-race stretching and I spent hours walking around on Saturday.

Oops.

I knew there was a medic around Mile 8ish, because we passed the ambulance around Mile 4. I stopped there and got some tape for my knee.

I had started the race with my knee strap on but it just wasn’t cutting it.

I then realized that I was being a complete fool for even thinking I was going to quit this race. There was nothing wrong with me other than a bitchy knee. I knew how to control it, and I did. I powered on and even managed to save my pace after the unplanned knee repair stop.

Then Mile 9 started. Also known as the mile with “that damn downhill”. You guys know I love running downhill, but this is ridiculous. You drop from 93 feet to 10 feet in about half a mile. It’s a steepy.

But I managed to really pick up my pace and have an awesome Mile 10.

Then another UPHILL. I talked about this last year too – some really evil person decided it was a good idea to put a long steady uphill in between Mile 10 and 11. It’s also on the Rock N Roll Providence course, almost at the same mileage, in case you’re planning on running that one.

I walked. I cursed. I cried. I ran (if you can call it that). Relief came in the form of another super but not so steep downhill. I looked at my Garmin though, and I knew if I could just stay strong a little while longer that I’d have a PR that I’ve been working for – FOR A YEAR!

Then suddenly I heard a voice from behind me.

IT WAS CHRISTINE! Oh she could not have come at a better time. I told her about my knee, and she was really rocking it – the slower start and steady pace really kept her strong.

We ran, and chatted. I warned her about the Team in Training signs in the park (all about people who have passed from cancer – so sad, but so inspirational – they make me cry. Last year I hyperventilated from crying).

We pushed each other almost to the end. We cursed out the fact that Mile 12 was DEFINITELY long and we couldn’t find “the damn sign.”

We saw (RI) Jess at the Whiskey Republic, cheering for us! That gave me another bit of energy!

Somewhere right before Mile 13 I dropped back from Christine. She told me if I lost her she’d cry (thank you for that, BTW – I didn’t want to make you cry) – so I made sure I stayed in sight, even if behind her.

The final stretch came and I somehow got the burst of energy I needed to power across the finish line.

Official Time: 2:10:10 – a 3 second PR.

This was, mentally, my hardest race ever.

I truly wanted to quit.

I wanted nothing more than to walk off the course and lay in the grass.

I had myself convinced that I was coming back to this computer to write to you guys about an extremely disappointing race.

Instead I came back with a PR.

I came back with a new respect for the training plan.

I came back PROUD of my friends for their amazing times – Jess and Scott with a 2:03:10 (a 2-ish minute PR) and Christine with a 2:09:44 (also a 2-3ish minute PR!).

I EVEN came back to the course and ran a mile or so with Coachy and Don when they came through on their way to finish the marathon.

As I reflect upon Sunday and write this post I’ve learned a lot. How to trust that my body will get me there – even if I wasn’t as trained as I would have liked to be.

Super props to Jess for removing the words “undertrained” from my race day speak. It was all I had to say for a while post-race. But she corrected me.

I learned that quitting is not the answer (unless, of course, you are actually doing more harm to your body – in that case, please quit. I knew I wasn’t harming myself. I was just pissed off and frustrated by the fact that sub-2 had slipped from my grasp yet again. On my 4th try.)

I learned that I am going to train my ASS off all of June and July and when the times comes in July and August to run my next two 13.1 races – I WILL own them, and I will get that sub-2. No questions asked. It helps that by then I’ll be running longer than 13 miles as I train for Chicago.

There ya have it folks. My extremely long winded, at times sad, at times educational, race report.

I hope you enjoyed it!

Thanks to everyone on Facebook, Twitter, and Daily Mile for all of the congrats for my finish and PR. Your words mean more to me than I can ever describe.

And thank you to Coachy, Don, Jess, Scott, Christine, (RI) Jess, Martha, & Kevin for being there for me. I love you guys!

XOXO

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P.S. The pics in here were totally stolen (with permission) from Jess and Christine. Thanks girls!

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Rock N Roll New Orleans: Race Recap

6 Mar

Some of you may already know how this story ends – some of you may not. Either way, it’s a great tale to tell. Sit tight and enjoy the ride! I’m only recapping the actual race right now, the rest of the weekend in another post!*******************************************************************

Sunday morning I rolled out of bed somewhere around 5:30 a.m. My first thought – why is it so early? I still managed to get up and get dressed – slowly but surely. Super Coachy delivered me a cup of coffee – he’s awesome and knows me well enough to know my caffeine addiction runs deep (so does his for that matter, probably why he was up gathering coffee so early in the morning…). While finishing up getting dressed and strategically applying Body Glide and Vaseline, I drank my coffee and ate my Luna Protein Bar and banana.

I met Coachy and our friend Tim and his girlfriend outside the hotel around 6:15. Again thinking, why so early? I didn’t realize it until race morning – the hotel was 2 blocks from the start!

It was a chilly 43 degrees at the start – since we were so close to the start, I went back to the hotel to use the bathroom one last time, no lines and much cleaner than any port-a-potty I’ve ever been in. Winking smile

We all made our way to our respective corrals around 6:50 a.m. While standing in my corral, I started looking around to see if I knew anyone else. Well, what do you know? I saw Heather, fellow FitFluential Ambassador, Running Skirts sales-rep, and all around super sweet girl.  I hung with her and her hubby while I munched on a package of Honey Stinger chews for extra fuel.  It was great finding them and having someone to chat with, since I was getting a pretty bad-ass case of the pre-race jitters.

What seemed like an eternity later – our corral finally got to start, at 7:20 a.m. It was really crowded and slow going at first but I managed to break free for a 9:52 Mile 1.

I knew that was too fast – my goal for this race was to start around a 10 pace, for 5-6 miles, pick it up in the middle if I was feeling it, for as long as I was feeling it.

I slowed it down but kept around my intended goal pace for the next few miles. I was feeling great and really enjoying the scenery down St. Charles Avenue – HUGE trees lined the road, as well as old homes and scenic buildings.

After turning around on St. Charles we headed back toward the French Quarter and Canal Street. I was starting to feel a little crummy – I was frustrated that we were still with the half marathoners because it was exhausting fighting crowds – crowds for water, crowds on the street, a LOT of people slower than me were in front of me, and walkers were taking up half the road (no offense to walkers, but PLEASE move over to the side and don’t take up the entire road!). I couldn’t wait for the split. I still managed to keep pace through all of this, but it was exhausting.

We hit the Half/Full split at Mile 12 – and all I could think was “Why the hell am I running the full? I really wish I was running the half right now, then I’d be almost done!”

That was also my slowest mile in the first half of the race.

I forced myself to snap out of that nonsense frame of mind immediately. I still felt tired and I was getting sore, but with 14 more miles to go I chugged on. I also popped a couple of Advil to help from getting too sore.

I reached the half in 2:11:41 – perfect for a sub 4:30 marathon, right? At this point 4:30 still felt within my reach – but it is a marathon. I knew I had a good cushion, but wasn’t sure how the rest of the race was going to go.

I slowed way down on Mile 15 – the only part of the race that I really felt a substantial gap in the water stops. I was getting hot and thirsty, and I needed fuel. I always get to a point during a long run or race that I can’t fuel any more without water.

Once I got to the water stop, I fueled up on a few Honey Stinger chews and allowed myself a longer than usual walk break. I literally just bit my chews in half and swallowed them with water like they were pills. I started fueling at almost every stop at this point, smaller portions, of course, but the water made it easier. I still had plenty of cushion for 4:30 at the end of that mile.  I also took the time to plug in my 2nd headphone – up until now I had been running with one headphone out, so I could pause my iPod and listen to the bands along the course as I went. But now I needed to focus.

Miles 17-19 were beautiful – we ran along Lakeshore Drive, overlooking Lake Pontchartrain. Since this was a really long out and back, I could see all the faster than me runners headed in the opposite direction. I occupied my brain by trying to spot Coachy along the course. While running down this out and back I was also bopping along to all of the awesome songs I had on my playlist (I’ll have to share with you – it was AWESOME). People look at you funny when you’re bopping your head and half dance-running while mouthing the words to the songs in your iPod during a marathon. I didn’t care, I was having fun.

FINALLY I spotted Coachy at Mile 19! Exciting because he  was around Mile 22 – and he started in Corral 5 – so I knew I was kicking some Marathon booty!

That gave me a serious surge of energy and I ran a 10:07 Mile 20 – SAY WHAT?! How did THAT happen?! More bopping, word mouthing, and dancing.

I slowed down again after that, and began to really get sore. My lower back and feet were hurting – and my thighs were chafing. I literally stopped at every single person handing out Vaseline on the course. I decided very last minute to wear shorts, which was a good decision for the temperature, bad decision for my thighs.

Mile 21, however, was not so pretty – at 11:52. I started to really slow at this point. I pushed myself as hard as I could – never giving in to walking, except through the water stops. It was hard to keep running, but I would not allow myself to walk. If I gave into walking other than water stops, I would not have been happy with myself, or proud of my race, and I knew this would be my best marathon to date no matter what, so I wanted to finish proud and with a giant smile on my face.

As I started to get close to Mile 23 I realized I wasn’t going to break 4:30. I knew at that point I could either give up and just finish the race comfortably, or I could push myself and finish the best I could.

I chose to push. I gave myself a Plan B race goal at that split moment. And by the way, doing math in your head 23 miles into a marathon is tough. Really tough. I knew that I could still break 4:45 and still have a killer PR if I just ran my butt off the best my legs and feet would carry me for the next 3 miles.

That decision gave me an 11:17 Mile 23 – which, given how my legs and feet felt, was pretty freakin fast.

I got my final big surge of energy when we entered the park area and I saw Mile 25. I ended up running an 11:06 mile 26! I was psyched that I was “this close” to finishing my 3rd Marathon.

Once I entered the finish chute all of those feelings of pain, soreness, tiredness, you name it, faded as though they had never existed and my legs just started flying. I ran a 9:55 pace to finish Marathon #3.

9:55 after 26 miles?

9:55 on sore, tired legs?

YES PLEASE I WILL TAKE IT! Open-mouthed smile

I was beyond thrilled when I crossed the finish line. And Coachy was waiting for me at the end! I was so glad to see him there when I crossed – I knew he’d be so proud of what I had just done!

Sure I didn’t make my original goal of a sub 4:30 race – but I was so close. I know I’ll get there in May.

But May doesn’t matter right now, this is what matters:

OFFICIAL TIME: 4:40:14

A 42 MINUTE PR!

More than 48 hours later I am still riding high. That’s going to take a long time to go away. Winking smile

I leave you with this:

Rock N Roll New Orleans was a beautiful race. I would run that race again in a heartbeat. The entire course was beautiful, the spectators were fantastic, the weather was perfect. After the race we were entertained by a band called Flow Tribe – they were funky and soulful. Perfect post race music that was 100% what you would expect to hear when in New Orleans.

Sorry this post is so long! I’ll fill you in on the rest of the trip, along with pictures, another time!

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Half at the Hamptons: Race Recap

20 Feb

Yesterday I finished my 6th half marathon in 13 months, the Half at the Hamptons in Hampton Beach, NH.

I felt kind of off all morning, but I had myself convinced it was just nerves.

When we got there, we parked (at a lot called Chat, Chew, and Play – I’m still laughing about that) and walked over to the Ashworth by the Sea Hotel – where bib pick up was located.

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I picked up my bib and t-shirt. I’m happy that the shirt is not a long sleeve tech tee – I have WAY too many of those already and I hardly wear them.

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The good part about this is that we were able to wait inside – it was about 27 degrees out and windy. We were also able to use the indoor bathrooms.

While waiting I met up with Halen and Amy – I had never met either of them, just a lot of chatting on Twitter, so it was great to put faces to names!

The starting area was a bit crowded – since there was nothing separating the runners from the spectators – but it was easy to find the 9mm pacer, right where I wanted to be.

As soon as I took off I had a bad feeling about this race. I could not get my head in the game. I felt nauseous from the start, and my breathing was ragged and almost painful. Cold weather is the only time I cannot beat my exercise induced asthma. I fought side stitches from Mile 6 through the end. I had thought race day weather was going to be a bit warmer, not taking into consideration the wind, since we were by the ocean.

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Still smiling – this was around Mile 2ish. Thanks to my bro for taking pics!

I ran the best race I could have run given the conditions – coming in with a 2:11:26 official finish time. That’s VERY close to my PR – and I’m not in the least bit upset with my performance. I had a very sound frame of mind going into the race – thanks to the ever so awesome Coachy. He said, “Remember, no matter what happens during this race, if it doesn’t go as well as you had expected, it’s out of your control. You have done everything right in training, and you are ready for this.” The stars just didn’t align for me yesterday, but I’m okay with that. New Orleans is in two weeks, and this was an ass kicking pre-marathon training run.

At Mile 11 I did see Jolene waiting and cheering for me, that was so AWESOME. It was just what I needed at the time. I did feel bad when the only thing I could say to her was, I think I’m going to throw up! You can see it in my face, these pics are from Mile 13.

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Now, as for the race itself, it sucked (In my opinion).

First off – there were a total of 3 water stops. THREE. I was DYING. I never carry water during a race, I’ve never had to. I also normally look at the course map for location of the water stops, but this race didn’t outline the location of the water on the course map.

Second – I am known for being a hill lover. But for this race I wasn’t prepared for hills because it was touted as being “…the flattest course in New England for a half marathon…” I have friends that have run other half’s that I’m pretty sure are flatter than this was. The website also says no climbs bigger than 60 feet – well not according to my Garmin data (not including that crazy little blip at 4ish miles).

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Does this look flat to you?

Third – The town. I don’t know what I was expecting but this town looked to me like 1960’s Jersey Shore. Or that scene in Dogma, along the boardwalk…

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No one’s playing at Playland today

Anyway, I was less than impressed with what the town looked like. Other than runners I’m pretty sure it was deserted. All the business were boarded up, and it looked ghetto and creepy. Some of the neighborhood areas we ran through were nice…only one stands out in my mind though, it was a straight stretch surrounded on either side by tall pine trees.

Finally – The finish. Every race I’ve ever run has had people either handing you water at the end, or it’s RIGHT there. I found food before I found water. And at that, all I found for food was bananas and yogurt samples. I was about to give up and go drink my own water that I had in the car, when I finally found the water. And the medal is cheesy. It’s a cute idea, but it’s cheap.

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I will never run this race again. There’s nothing about it that stands out in my mind and says “Maybe give it another chance next year.”

Post-race we went to a pub called the Coat of Arms in Portsmouth and met up with even more blogger/Twitter peeps. Unfortunately I had to bail after just 2 hours because my stomach was bothering me. Turns out, I’m pretty sure I ran this race with a stomach bug. I was sick all night last night, and still feel pretty weak, tired, and crappy today. It was so awesome to meet everyone. I can’t wait to do it again! And, I’m not sore today though, so that’s a plus!

Group at Coat of Arms

Halen, Greg, me, Janine, Amy 

Sorry for this post being such a downer. Look forward to my normal perky-ness tomorrow! I hope everyone had a great weekend!

P.S. Less than 2 weeks until Rock N Roll New Orleans. I’M STOKED!

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2011 Races (Year in Review)

2 Jan

2011 was my first full calendar year as a runner.

It was the year I ran my first half-marathon.

It was the year I ran my first marathon.

It was the year I ran 15 total road races (Holy cow!). Today I’m going to recap the highlight races!

Charleston Half Marathon – January 15: My first half marathon. I wasn’t planning on running my first half until May, but Coachy talked me into it. And my friend Don volunteered to be a wicked awesome paysah (that’s pacer for those of you that don’t speak New Englandese). I set a goal to finish under 2:15 – I finished in 2:12:42.

CharlestonJan15-2011-Sam5Guinness Celtic 5k – March 13: I ran this race with my friend Paul, who volunteered to pace me. It was a simple out and back course that was flat as a pancake. This is the race where I destroyed my 2010 5k PR by 2 whole minutes (exactly). I finished in 25:37

Charlottesville Half Marathon – April 9: Coachy ran this with me, and then went on to finish running the full marathon. I wasn’t going for a PR in this race because I knew it was going to be hilly – 797 feet of elevation gain to be exact! It was fun running the whole time with Coachy, and he pushed me along when I started to get whiny.  I finished in 2:18:42 – I have this thing with finishing my races with the exact same seconds as other races, this is 6 minutes slower than the Charleston Half Marathon.

IMG_20110409_083900RI State Police 5k Foot Pursuit – April 17: My friend Jen’s first race ever. We ran a 33:38 – not bad for her first race, but of course she had been running for a while and used to be a sprinter.

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Cox Rhode Races Half Marathon – May 1:  My one year race-iversary. I love this race series and will continue to run it as long as I live close enough! I had a great time running this race, and it is when I ran my current half marathon PR: 2:10:13.

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Mad Marathon – July 10: My first marathon! This was a hard race, but a total blast. Coachy and I ran together and he pushed my butt along when I needed a push. If you want to read all about it you can: Recap Part 1, Race Report in Pictures, Race Report: The Race. We finished in 5:28:58. I finished my first marathon – yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!

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Providence Rock N Roll Half Marathon – August 7: I was intent on PR’ing my half marathon time for this race. Then it rained…and rained…and rained some more. Needless to say it was miserable. I still finished, but ugh, not a fun race.  Finish time: 2:14:45

Air Force Marathon – September 17: My second marathon. I had only planned on running this marathon in 2011. We all know how that went. I finished and PR’ed this race, but I wasn’t happy with it. My hip gave out about Mile 16 and wouldn’t cooperate at all for the rest of the race. 5:22:08

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Amica Half Marathon – October 16: Another hip killer. Perhaps too close to Dayton? I was really thinking I was going to break 2-hours for this one. I was on track for the first 8 miles – then the hip again. Dammit. I took the rest of October off after that, to refresh my legs and my attitude. 2:10:24 – 11 seconds off of my PR ARGH!

Downtown Jingle Bell 5k – December 4: My 3rd 5k PR in 2011 – and my favorite because I broke 25 minutes! Woohoo! 24:25 – Now I have some serious 5k work in 2012 to break that time!

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It was a great race year – with two firsts and plenty of PR’s. 2012 will be even better.

Cheers friends!

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