Jane and Todd’s Ironman Canada 2018 Race Report

Several years after getting into triathlon we had some discussions about the Ironman distance and whether we would ever want to train for that long of a race (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run). We decided that if we ever did we wanted it to be a beautiful place with a great course that we could enjoy while spending the day outside in the elements. That eventually led us to Ironman Canada in Penticton, British Columbia in 2012. We had such an amazing experience for that race – the 9 months of training together, spectacular weather conditions and finishing within 2 minutes of each other over a 12 hour day. Many people finish their first Ironman and either never want to do another one again or want to sign up right away so they can improve upon the things that went wrong the first time. We knew we might do one again someday but we also knew that the day would be very hard to top and weren’t in a hurry to improve upon the experience.

Last year after some great training together and overall good health for both of us we decided that 2018 would be a good year to do another Ironman. After 2012 Ironman Canada was moved to Whistler and we had heard good things about the race and venue. We also had a few friends signing up so we decided that we would once again do Ironman Canada after a 6 year hiatus. We extended the invitation to several friends to join us and with the addition of a 70.3 (half ironman distance) event on the same day, Allison Miller signed up and we had roomies for the week. Stephanie Melkonian Linkus had already signed up with the encouragement of other tri friends so we knew that the entire experience of training, traveling and racing would be challenging, fun and rewarding.

Stephanie, Jane and Allison at the Olympic rings in Whistler Olympic Park

The Whistler bike course was known to be pretty challenging in the past. Shortly after signing up Ironman announced a change to the bike course that made it even MORE challenging! We would be climbing 8500 feet over the 112 mile course – the most of any Ironman race worldwide. And the run wouldn’t be easy with over 1000 ft of elevation gain, though not “hilly” or “hard” by general standards – running 26.2 miles after the bike course would be hard no matter what. We definitely felt like we would be at a great advantage coming from Albuquerque with our higher elevation, plenty of hills for training and hot days to prepare us for the big day.

Similar to the first experience we had a great time preparing for this race. We did a lot of our training together and ended up with plenty of quality time on the bike. We did lots of long hilly days in the saddle and had great friends and training partners to keep things fun and interesting. Our coach was always there to help through challenges, make adjustments where needed and assure us that we were right on track. It really helped also that Todd was not working full time during this training cycle so he was able to absorb some more training stress rather than absorbing lots of work stress!

One really interesting thing that we decided to do this summer was to get our sodium concentration levels tested. We found a place in Boulder, CO and set up an appointment at a time when we were going to be up there anyway. We met with Heidi Strickler of eNRG Performance and had the testing done. This test, in combination with a sweat rate test, will let you know not only how much fluid you need to replace hourly during exercise (modified based upon weather conditions), but also how much sodium you lose in your sweat and how much you need to supplement. This was really key for both of us. We discovered that Todd is a heavy sweater but doesn’t lose a lot of sodium in his sweat, and my sweat level isn’t as high but my overall sodium needs are much higher than I realized. We also worked with Heidi on our overall nutrition plans in coming up with fueling strategies for pre-race and during the race. After some trial and error over the summer we both felt that we had a great plan going forward and felt good about giving our bodies what they needed. If you are interested in finding out more about the sweat sodium concentration testing you can read about it here.

We flew to Seattle and drove to Whistler on Wednesday before the Sunday race. We stayed in a condo in the Upper Village, close enough to be able to walk to most things but also far enough removed that we weren’t among all of the chaos and people. The entire town was bustling with people and families on vacation as well as approximately 2500 athletes there to participate in the Ironman or 70.3 event. We had plenty of time to swim in the lake, drive the bike course, eat lots of good healthy food and relax before the big day. On Saturday we checked our bikes in to the transition area at the lake and dropped off our bike and run bags at the different transition areas. That night we had our typical pre-race meal of steak, sweet potato and veggies and were ready to go.


Alta Lake at sunrise on Friday. If you squint you can see us swimming!

drop odd
Allison, Jane & Todd at bike drop-off on Saturday

The alarm went off at 3am on Sunday morning and we were both surprised that we got a good night’s rest. I definitely slept better this year than the night before our first Ironman! This race had two different transition areas so there were a few more logistics to consider. We drove the car down the road to a parking lot near transition 2 (the bike to run transition), dropped off our special needs bags (in Ironman you are allowed to have a special needs bag for both the bike and run that you can access at one point during each event. You can put anything you might want in the bag – oftentimes it is special food, or maybe something for weather conditions, a light for the run if you are out after dark, etc), and put our nutrition in the run bags we had dropped off the day before.

Whistler is known for its large population of black bears. I personally didn’t see one this trip, but most of the people that we traveled with had at least one story of a bear encounter and Todd and I had a VERY close encounter with a black bear during our last visit here in 2011 (we were hiding in a bathroom for a while for safety!). With the bear population we were not allowed to place any nutritional items in our bags that we dropped off on Saturday – definitely a situation unique to Ironman Canada!


After we dropped off our special needs bag and run nutrition we got on a bus and headed to the lake. Once we arrived at the lake we went into transition and tended to our bikes – pumping up the tires, putting our nutrition on the bikes, going to the bathroom, any last minute preparations, etc. We thought we had given ourselves plenty of time, but we both felt very rushed for time.

The last time we did Ironman Canada it was a mass start. 2000 people starting in the water at the sound of the cannon. Over the last few years Ironman has instituted a rolling start where you line yourself up based upon estimated swim time and they let 4-6 people in the water every few seconds to spread out the crowds. This was to be our first experience with the rolling start and we were looking forward to it.

In our rush for time we did not get over to the start area early enough to get ourselves placed toward the front of the line with the swimmers who would match our pace. Our initial plan was to put ourselves toward the front of the 1:00-1:10 group. There was a huge bottleneck and we found ourselves standing in the 1:41-1:50 group with no place to go! We decided it would be fine and we would just end up passing a lot of people on the swim. We huddled for our pre-race prayer and right after that a staff person allowed those of us who were faster swimmers to jump the barricade to get up towards the front of the line. I was relieved that we were able to move ahead and really relieved to get over the fence without injuring myself before the day even started! We ended up in the 1:11-1:20 group and were thrilled to be there. As we were walking through we heard our coach Jaime yell our names. We were able to give him a huge hug and he took this picture.


Jane’s Swim – 1:04:22
In general Todd starts out faster than I do and then the longer we go the faster I get. We decided that we would try to stay with each other on the swim if we could. I would start out drafting off of Todd and then when I was ready to pass him I would let him know I was coming by so he could try to hold my feet. This can be very challenging when there are hundreds of other people in the lake – all wearing black wetsuits and either a green or pink cap! The water was very clear though which did make it easier to see the feet in front of you.

Our time started when we crossed the official start line at the edge of the lake. We walked into the water and I was right behind Todd. I yelled out to him “let’s do this!” and we started swimming. I managed to stay on his feet for probably 200 meters or so and then I lost him in the sea of other green caps.

It was a 2 loop swim with each loop resembling a rectangle. When we got to the first turn buoy I looked to my right and saw Todd! I recognized his wetsuit and his red goggles. I passed him going through the turn but I didn’t think he saw me and figured we would likely get separated again.

The official water temperature was 72.5. I wasn’t sure if I might get a little warm in my long sleeved wetsuit but that was not a problem. I was very comfortable temperature wise and the water felt amazing. There were times during the swim when there weren’t many people around me at all and other times where there would be little pockets of people. Overall I felt good. I was enjoying myself, felt like I was swimming pretty straight, had no problems seeing the buoys and was excited to be there.

I looked at my watch at the end of the first loop – 31 minutes! I really wanted to come in under 1:06 – my time from the last Ironman and I knew that I was on pace to do that. I kept up a consistent and steady effort. A couple of times I thought I saw Todd, but it was someone in a similar wetsuit but different goggles so I figured he was gone. On the last short stretch into the finish I picked up the pace, wanting to finish strong as I started to kick to get bloodflow into my legs for the bike and starting to picture my transition. I stood up and hit my watch but didn’t look at the time – I knew it was less than 1:06 but didn’t know exactly what it was. I started running over to the volunteers who were stripping the wetsuits and I heard the announcer call out “Todd Pilger is exiting the water!” and I thought wow – he was right behind me!

Todd’s Swim – 1:04:55
I was getting anxious right before the race with long porta john lines and the bottleneck of the swim start corrals. Jane did a great job of calming me down and recognizing that everything would work itself out. When we entered the water I walked a little slower than I normally would and pointed out rocks for my #ironflower’s delicate feet. Little did I know that she was ready to push through the tenderness and actually wanted me to walk faster. When she told me “let’s do this” I knew it was time to go for it.

I started off the swim with a nice smooth pace knowing that I wasn’t going to make a fast race by sprinting in the first 400 yards. The angle of the swim start allowed us to stay off to the side off the crowds a little without having to swim any extra distance. I was feeling really good but then realized Jane must be feeling even better when she came flying by me and straight into the pack at the first turn!

Jane’s wetsuit has some distinctive silver strips on the calves that made it easier to follow her and not get confused with other swimmers. She did a great job of navigating through traffic and I knew I just needed to concentrate on following her because she would find us a good route. Once we cleared the traffic of the first two turns I realized that I was going to have to work a little hard just to stay with her. I could swim smooth if I was right on her feet, but if I lost concentration she would gap me and I would have to put in some extra work to make sure I didn’t get dropped.

It was great to stay with her for the entire swim (even if she didn’t know it!). I had mental pictures of high-fiving her as we came out of the swim but then she surged to the finish and came out of the water about 10 yards in front of me. I looked at my watch as I stood up out of the water but before crossing the timing mat and was ecstatic to see a time under 1:05. I yelled out “great job Jane” but with all the noise around us she didn’t hear me.

Jane’s T1 – 4:50
One of the nice features of Ironman branded races is the volunteer position of “wetsuit stripper”. They do exactly that – help you peel the wetsuit off your body. They were positioned just past the timing mat and exit to the lake. The volunteers got my wetsuit off pretty quickly, helped me stand back up and I ran over to pick up my bike gear bag. In Ironman you do your transition inside a changing tent. This allows for plenty of space and privacy in the event you want to fully change clothes, etc. There are also volunteers who can help you if you want the assistance.

Initially a volunteer asked if I wanted help and I said no. Then as she walked off I thought “why did I say that? I could use the help!”. Fortunately another one came along and I asked for help. She pulled my bike shoes out of the bag and even opened up some chapstick for me so I could make sure my lips had sunscreen for the long bike ride! When I was all decked out in my socks, shoes, helmet and sunglasses she put my wetsuit, cap and goggles in the bag and I dropped the bag off as I left the tent. I decided to go ahead and hit the porta potty that was outside the transition tent before getting on the bike. As I left the porta potty area volunteers were applying sunscreen. I had them lather me up on my shoulders and legs (I was wearing arm coolers that covered most of my arms). Then I ran to my bike, grabbed it and ran the bike out of transition, up a little hill, over the railroad tracks and to the mount line. Overall I felt like I had a great transition with no wasted time.

Todd’s T1 – 6:15
My wetsuit strippers were very helpful but the volunteers in our tent weren’t quite as active in assisting. I was able to get all of my gear on and I knew it was going to be a little muggy to start when my sunglasses fogged up immediately. That made it a little harder to see my bag when I was trying to stuff my wetsuit inside and fortunately I didn’t run into anybody when I was running out of the tent! After a quick trip to the porta potty I went to grab my bike and it took me an extra moment to get my bike out of transition because my bike is so tall I had to get creative with the officials and strap my bike to a rack to keep it in place before the race so I had to undo the strap before I could take off with my bike. Then it was just a matter of running out of transition and hitting the road!

Jane’s Bike – 6:37:16
The bike course was 3+ loops with lots of rolling hills. There weren’t any that were particularly long or incredibly steep, but over the course of the day they all added up. There were a few pitches that were 10% but in general I would guess they were in the 6-8% range. Our coach had given us very specific numbers to follow in terms of heart rate and overall power averages. Admittedly when he first gave us our numbers I thought they seemed very low, but the goal was to get to the run without blowing up the legs.


The white stuff on my leg is sunscreen that hasn’t quite soaked in yet!

I reminded myself several times on the bike course to “stick with the plan, trust the training and trust the plan”. Overall I felt like I did that pretty well. We had driven the bike course so nothing was a surprise and we had ridden lots of hills leading up to the day. I definitely felt well prepared for the ride to come.

On the way back from the first turn around on the first lap I noticed that my legs were pretty tired. That made me a bit nervous as there was still a lot of riding to do. I was wondering if I had gone out too hard, if we didn’t get the taper right, if I didn’t have enough sodium, etc. Then I reminded myself to trust the training and to trust the plan. As we got back to the hilly area around the lake (where we swam that morning) I started trading places back and forth with another woman in my age group. She would pass me going downhill and I would pass her going uphill. She was super nice and we chatted a bit when one of us would pass the other. Her name was Amanda and we spent the next full lap trading places. She loved going downhill and I felt like she really helped me remember to keep the pressure and pace up on the downhills to make up for any time lost on the climbs. This is also something I really worked on in training with Todd.

With two turn around areas on the bike and multiple loops, there were plenty of opportunities to see other athletes on the course. On the first turnaround of the first lap I was interested to see how close Todd would be to me. I figured that we would have come out of transition around the same time and guessed that he would ride faster than I did. By the end of the second lap I could tell that I was gaining some time on him and that he wouldn’t pass me on the bike.

After the first loop on the bike I realized my legs felt much better and the reason for the pain earlier was that it was following a section of some significant climbing and some false flats. Then I realized that it would feel that way each lap but there were other parts of the course for it to recover and come back together. Nothing was ruined or going wrong, despite my mind’s attempting to convince me otherwise!

On the second loop I saw a woman up ahead wearing a Team Wattie Ink kit who was on the side of the road changing a flat tire. I thought it was my good friend and training partner Stephanie. I was SO relieved to get closer and see that it wasn’t her after all. Shortly after that, climbing up one of the hills toward the lake I DID see Stephanie on the side of the road. I stopped to see what was going on and what she needed and was so sad to see her struggling with feeling dizzy. I would later learn that she nearly rode off the side of the road – praise God it happened while she was going uphill and not down. I didn’t want to leave her but there was nothing I could do as medical was already with her so I continued on. When I came back from that out and back section and she told me she had been pulled from the race by medical I was determined to channel my inner chipmunk in her honor as I finished the race. She had trained so hard for this and I was devastated for her.

It was a very hot day. Apparently the high for the day was 97 degrees – exceptionally warm for Whistler. I paid a lot of attention to my hydration and took in more fluids and more sodium than usual to account for the extra heat.

I stopped at the special needs area around mile 72 on the bike. By this time I needed to go to the bathroom but I didn’t want to wait in line. Many people actually pee on their bike so they don’t have to stop, but I haven’t managed to learn this skill yet. I tried at one point but it just wasn’t happening! There was only one porta potty at the special needs area. I had decided that I would go there if there was nobody in it but I wouldn’t wait (you never know how long someone might be in a PP during a race!). A guy stopped right in front of me and was about to go in and I asked him if he was going to be fast. He clearly wasn’t in a hurry and told me to go ahead while he went ahead and stretched. I was very appreciative of that! I did my business, got my extra bottles of nutrition from my bag, applied more chapstick and put my extra salt pills in my bento box (I brought extra just in case my others fell out or I gave them away but I ended up needing almost all of them!).

The half ironman distance event started approximately 1.5 hours after our race and shared a lot of the same bike course. The 2nd loop of the bike was very crowded with 70.3 athletes as well as Ironman athletes on their first lap. By the 3rd loop it was much more open and while it was harder with the cumulative fatigue and extreme heat, it was much more pleasant with fewer bikes on the road.

I knew this would not be a fast bike course. I managed my efforts, kept my numbers right in line with our plan, fueling was right in line with my plan, and was perfectly content with my time. The next big question would be what would the run feel like?

Todd’s Bike – 6:58:22
As I started the bike I knew that it would be a challenging but fun course. The first part had several steep ups and downs with lots of curves where my bike handling would be of benefit. I had to be careful to balance my fun and speed with the amount of other bike traffic. Once I got out onto the main road I knew I could just get into a rhythm.


I felt that on the climbs I was keeping my effort in about the range that my coach had recommended but as I went over the tops of hills and down the other side I may have been too aggressive because I struggled to get my heart rate down and my average power on the first lap was a bit higher than planned.

On the second lap I still felt good and it was interesting to see just how many bikes they could squeeze onto that course! I ended up leap-frogging with a lot of the same people who would go harder than me up the hills but then would stop pedaling as they went over the top.

As I started the third loop I could really feel the fatigue starting to build. I had some technical issues with my aerobar hydration system that made it hard for me to drink as much water as I would have liked, especially on the first lap, so I got behind. On the third lap I was really starting to feel the heat and I knew I was slowing down but I knew that with some work I would still keep it under 7 hours, which was the outside goal I had set for myself.

When I was wrapping up the bike and going to transition I knew the big question was going to be how was it going to feel when I got off the bike?

Jane’s T2 – 4:15
Another unique feature of Ironman races is the volunteer position of “bike catcher”. Their job is to take your bike from you as soon as you get off of it. By that point you are perfectly content for someone to take it away! I handed off my bike and started to run towards the area where our run bags were located and I quickly discovered that movement didn’t feel very good. I decided to take off my bike shoes and see if I could run in my socks, but that only felt marginally better so I opted for a brisk walk in my socks. A volunteer pointed out which row to take to find my gear bag and I headed into the women’s changing tent.

I definitely hit the lottery with my T2 volunteer. When I came into the tent she took my bag, and asked me what I needed. My plan was to take a pouch of concentrated electrolytes in T2 (The Right Stuff) so she got me water so I could get it in. She pulled out my shoes and socks and I told her that I needed the tube of Chafex to put on my feet. She pulled it out and I realized that I hadn’t pulled off the silver tab as it was a fresh bottle. She pulled it off for me and I applied it to my heels and under my toes. Then she put my socks and shoes on my feet! I told her how amazing she was and she told me that she was there volunteering because she had such an incredible T2 volunteer during her own Ironman race. She pulled my running belt out of the bag and noticed that my number was only attached on one side, so she fixed that for me and put the belt around my waist and attached it. She handed me my hat and my handheld water bottle, put all of my bike stuff in the bag and sent me on my way. I gave her a huge hug and told her she was my favorite!

Todd’s T2 – 6:51
When I got off my bike and handed it to the volunteer I knew right away that the run was going to be a challenge because just standing up straight and trying to walk hurt a lot! I waddled my way to the run bags and into the changing tent. There wasn’t a volunteer available to help me out so I had to put on my own shoes and deal with my own number having been torn on one side so I had to adjust how I attached it to my run belt. I didn’t know what I was missing with the volunteer experience, but I was probably too delirious to have appreciated it anyway!

I grabbed a cup of water on the way out of the tent and got some fresh sunscreen on my shoulders and neck from the nice volunteers outside. My legs were still so tight that I decided to walk for a bit so I at least walked to the end of transition before starting the run.

Jane’s Run – 4:55:07
As I started the run I immediately saw our friend Katie Tommila. Her husband Chris raced (and qualified for Kona!) and she is a badass athlete herself. She was super encouraging, ran next to me for a bit and reminded me to put ice in my hat and down my pants at every aid station. As she said that I remember thinking “I’m not doing that” because I worry about my feet getting wet and getting blisters. I have very sensitive skin and chafe and blister easily (hence the term “ironflower”) and I didn’t want to make anything worse.

jane run

The run course was beautiful. We passed by two different lakes along a combination of roads, paved and dirt trails with some rolling hills, some nice shady sections and a few very hot and exposed sections. It was a two loop course with a couple of out and back sections, so there were lots of opportunities to see other athletes and by the end of the first loop you knew exactly what to expect for the second loop.

The aid stations were approximately 1.2-1.3 miles apart. I knew this might feel a bit long for me so I opted to bring an insulated handheld bottle to carry with me on the run. I don’t usually like to carry something when I run (I prefer to wear a vest) but I was SO glad for this decision as I ended up filling it with ice water at every single aid station and it was gone by the time I got to the next one.

My original plan was to run to each aid station and walk for 30-45 seconds at each aid station while I took in fluids, etc. After the second aid station I felt like I was in trouble. It felt SO long between aid stations and I just had to walk. It was hot and my legs hurt and I started feeling pretty bad physically and emotionally. I was thinking that I had blown it on the bike, that I had gone too hard, etc. Shortly after this I saw Jaime on the run course. He was on his mountain bike and talked to me for a bit. He assured me that I had followed the plan, that the swim was excellent, the bike was very steady and that the day was going to be all about who was able to keep it together. He said that nobody would have any speed and encouraged me to just get to the next aid station. He most definitely was there at the right time with the right words of encouragement.

After that, at the next aid station I decided to start using ice. I could keep myself cool and not risk wet feet by putting ice down my sports bra and also putting it under my hat. I would do that at every aid station for the rest of the run and it made a huge difference! I also stopped looking at my watch. It would buzz at me every mile, but after the first 3 miles I didn’t look. I didn’t want to know. I knew I was doing what I could and that was all I could ask of myself and didn’t want to risk feeling upset or discouraged by my pace. Since we were in Canada everything was in km (3.8 km swim, 180 km bike, 42 km run) and that was actually super helpful because I didn’t have the mental capacity to convert km to miles so I really didn’t know how far I had gone or how long I had left. I kept it to smaller more manageable sections and didn’t think about the bigger picture.

Along the paved bike/run trails several friends and family had written messages of support and encouragement to their loved ones with chalk. Kind of like you see in the Tour de France. It was really fun to see the encouraging words as you ran along, and our coach and his family had written our names on a little hill (that didn’t feel little at all at the time!) so it was really fun to see that.

It was hot. Really hot. Not much wind to speak of. There were a lot of people suffering on the run course. Big, strong looking guys walking. I probably saw 10 people puking on the side of the trail and 2 or 3 lying down. Jaime saw several people on golf carts being taken to the medical tent, throwing up off the side. I heard lots of people talking about how much fun they had on the first 2 loops of the bike. I think the hard bike course and the excessive heat really took it out of a lot of people.

My overall energy, fatigue and pain ebbed and flowed. Sometimes I felt pretty terrible and sometimes I felt “okay”. The second turn around was on a path that paralleled the highway and it was beautiful because it was along Green Lake, but it was so hot and exposed. I went to the bathroom at a porta potty out on that segment and it felt like a sauna in there! I immediately could feel the sweat just pouring from my body.

I saw Todd out on the course a few times. Between seeing him and hearing from Jaime I knew that he was walking and would have a bit longer of a day but I also knew he was in good spirits so I was happy about that. Every time I saw him I told him I loved him and he told me that I looked great and how proud he was of me. I’m not sure that I really looked all that great but I do know for sure that he was proud and happy that I was moving faster than he was!

Overall I stuck with my nutrition plan pretty well. I ended up taking in a little extra food, a lot of extra sodium and a ton of extra water for the heat. One product that I discovered while working Heidi is The Right Stuff. It is basically a concentrated electrolyte/sodium shot. It turned out to be a great way for me to get a large amount of sodium in without filling my gut with salt pills. I ended up consuming 1 pouch on the run plus the 1 from T2 and supplemented with some additional salt pills due to the excessive heat. I am now a huge fan of this product!
When things were really hard I would pray for others to keep my attention off of any pain and discomfort. I also took in my surroundings and appreciated the beauty of Whistler and the mountains, lakes and valleys.

At the end of the first lap coming back into the village the crowds started to pick up. That always helps a lot with overall energy and motivation. I saw our whole support crew and it was so encouraging to hear them cheering me on.

I started to feel better on the second lap. The temperature was starting to come down a bit and I knew what to expect of the course and where the aid stations would be located. I reminded myself that this is where I excel. The longer I go, the better I get. I knew my time wouldn’t be what I was hoping for or expected, but I wanted to know that I gave it all I had. I actually passed quite a few people in the last 4-5 miles of the run. People that had been running and looking strong earlier in the day but simply had nothing left. I wanted to make sure I had nothing left at the finish. I started to pick it up toward the end and really pushed it the last 2km. There is a pretty challenging hill in the last kilometer and as I was running up it a spectator called out to me “is that a smile or a grimace?” and I replied “BOTH!”. A friend sent me this photo after so you can see for yourself:


As I got closer to the finish line I welled up with pride. I had done it. I don’t really remember what the announcer said but I remember coming down the finishing chute, holding my arms up in the sky and crying. It was simply amazing.

Another volunteer “catcher” was there to help me get to my support and she escorted me to the back of the chute where the crew was waiting. My coach Jaime, Stephanie and Jeff and Allison and Chris. It was so great to see them all and give them big hugs. Then my next question was “where is Todd”?

Todd’s Run – 6:08:53
I told myself to go ahead and walk through transition to loosen up my legs after the bike, but even after I crossed over the timing mat to start the run, I realized “uh oh, I’m going need to walk a little while longer because I just can’t run yet!”. The good news is I knew that I had lots and lots of time so that even if I had to walk the entire way I could make the 17 hour cut off. I was hopeful that after some walking and maybe taking in some water and nutrition I could start at least some running. That turned out to be true and as I went along over the first 5-6 miles I was able to do a little more running and a little less walking so my mile splits were getting a little faster each time. That only lasted about 6 miles, but at least I knew that I had some running in me and would just need to manage my energy, my fluid intake and my electrolytes to get out what I could.


Even once I started running my legs hurt a whole lot, but in general I was mentally in good spirits and kept my sense of humor so I could thank the volunteers and joke around with spectators. I even photobombed some volunteers who were taking a selfie! I was really happy to see Jane coming back from one of the out and back sections and while I could tell that she was suffering a bit that she was doing so to give it her all and that she was going to have a great race. I did not bring my own handheld water bottle like Jane did, and while I drank a couple of cups of water from each aid station, I don’t think it was enough to make up for starting the run dehydrated and the high temps on the day. One clue that I was dehydrated was that I didn’t have a lot of sweat running down my face when I normally sweat a whole lot, especially when running.

Jane likes to say that I’m cute when I get a little dopey when I’m tired so I think I got extra cute by about half way through the run. At special needs I picked up my spare fuel and electrolytes, but even though my legs were screaming in pain I forgot to take the Tylenol that I had in my bag for just this purpose. I realized it about ¼ mile after I had gone past, but there was nothing I could do at that point but forge on.

I had a rougher patch for a little while after that point where I was doing more walking than running. The good news is that I could continue to listen to my body and was able to figure out when it was ready to try some running again. This helped me to look for some new little goals to help with momentum such as running to a certain point and aiming to finish before a certain time of the day.

After I got beyond 15 or 16 miles I knew that since walking hurt almost as much as running I would be able to just keep on pushing. At that point I was able to mostly limit my walking to aid stations, some of the steeper hills, or when my legs would cramp a little extra. Fortunately they never locked up entirely like I saw with some other people, so some walking with long strides tended to loosen me up enough to run again after a minute or two. When I had less than a mile to finish I remembered a term that we use to help us finish strong in races – I can do anything for 10 minutes! It still wasn’t fast but I gave myself a final hard push to the finish so I knew I gave it everything I had.


The look of pain as I was coming through the finish chute was proof that I did my best. I was very happy to have done it and I was also very happy to have it over with. It was great to have Jane and all of my friends greeting me after the finish line.


Jane’s Summary – 12:45:37 (14th out of 61 AG)

I never thought I wouldn’t finish. I never tried to add up my time or figure out where or when I might finish. I took things one sport at a time and within that sport one segment at a time. I had some vague time goals in mind going in, but as soon as the run started I knew it would be about giving it my absolute best. I wanted to finish the race knowing that I had given it everything, had no regrets, and left it all out on the course and I absolutely did that. This was such an amazing experience – the race day itself and all of the training leading up to the race. My body is definitely in recovery mode now, but I’m already starting to think about what’s next and looking forward to future chapters and what this body is capable of! Huge shout out to our coach Jaime Dispenza of Laughing Dog Tri. We have been working with Jaime for several years now and the way he works with us and tailors our workouts to our individual needs is incredible. He is also a lot of fun and helps us keep the important things in mind. We couldn’t have done this without him and having him out on the run course was incredible!

Todd’s Summary – 14:24:40 (69th out of 130 AG)

I also knew that finishing would happen. Brief thoughts of quitting had popped up at certain points when I was tired and the course took me close to the finish area, but those thoughts never stuck and I continued to forge on. I still looked at the time just to help me reset my goals so I could keep pushing even if my time was slower than if everything had gone perfectly. The challenge was even tougher than I had expected but that just enhances my satisfaction for having completed it.


FYI – ice cream is an excellent recovery fuel. I’m sure we read it online somewhere…
If you look closely, you can just make out the image of the cow behind us…

Jane’s 2018 Deuceman Long Course Tri

Deuceman Long Course Triathlon, June 9, 2018

Deuces Wild has long been one of my favorite race venues. Located in the mountains of Show Low, AZ at Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area, the venue is challenging with 6300 ft of elevation, rolling hills, and plenty of heat of keep things interesting. The race is put on by the former owners of TriSports.com and they do an amazing job.

This was the 15th year of the Deuces Wild Triathlon Festival, with an Olympic and Half Ironman distance triathlon on Saturday and an Xterra offroad triathlon on Sunday. We have done this race many years where I will race on Saturday while Todd cheers me on and supports me and then he does the Xterra on Sunday while I cheer for him. I have done this race probably 8 times in the last 15 years, both the Olympic and Half Iron distances. The last time I did the half at this venue was in 2008!

This year would be different than our traditions in the past as Todd didn’t come with me. He had his own race in Waco, TX where he was aiming to qualify for Team USA at the USAT Offroad National Championships at Xterra Cameron Park. He traveled there with his buddy Jeff and I went to Show Low with my friend Marisa and training partner Laurie and her family. We got a VRBO close to the race venue, which is always preferable over a hotel room.

Marisa and I drove down on Thursday afternoon. We are both part of the Abq Sole Sisters and we are on the “Desert Divas” team. We joke that we are both actual divas because we are very particular about our needs and what we want. For example, a diva wants to drive down on Thursday for a Saturday race. A diva is very calculated and doesn’t “wing” much. We are both divas and proud of it! Fortunately we are very compatible divas so we had a great time together.

Friday we took a quick swim in the lake, it was cool but pleasant. We picked up our packets and overall relaxed for the day. The Abrams showed up and we all went out for our pre-race meal – steak and potato!

Race day – my strategy going in was to go a bit harder and faster, but stay within my limits. I was to race by feel. For the swim – see what I could do. For the bike – coach gave me the analogy of going 73 in a 65 mph zone. You know you are speeding, and you know you could go 75-80 but you would risk getting a ticket so you back off a bit – just enough to be “safe” but to get to your ultimate destination faster than going the speed limit. The run plan was to take it easy the first 7 miles and then pick it up for a faster 10k at the end.

As a diva I typically like to arrive to a transition area as soon as it opens – both to get a good spot and to have plenty of time to get my things situated. For this race, your individual spot in transition was marked by number, so there wasn’t a need to get there super early to claim prime real estate. We decided that we would get there at 5:30 – one hour before the 6:30 start.

Somehow we didn’t calculate our timing for race morning very well. No blame anywhere, we just didn’t plan as well as our usual diva selves. We left the house much later than expected and didn’t arrive to the transition area until 6:00 AM – 15 minutes before it closed! I believe this was a first. I had intended to ride my bike just a few minutes around the area to make sure my shifting was okay as I hadn’t been on the bike since it made the road trip to AZ, but I quickly realized I would not have time to do that. I put my bike in a good gear for the uphill start out of transition, set out all of the rest of my stuff, and was probably one of the last people out of transition.

There are a lot of reasons that it was great that the field for this race was very small. One is that we were able to park pretty close to transition, and no lines at the porta potty! The Olympic race definitely has more participants, but it started 90 minutes after the half so there weren’t many of them around at the start of our race. We got out of transition and I walked up to Marisa and Laurie and said “I am stressing myself out!”. I was definitely feeling a bit rushed with the transition set up, but once I got there I knew I had time before the start so I could breathe and relax. I put on my wetsuit, ate some Clif Bloks, posed for a couple of pictures, and then it was time for the race to start. The race director’s daughter sang the national anthem and did a great job! Once the men went off, we prayed and it was time for us to get in the water.

1“Friends don’t let friends get sharpied” – Marisa hooked us up with Tri Tats!

 Swim – 1.2 miles – 33:00

I wanted to see what I could do on the swim, but with the higher altitude I wanted to be sure not to go out too fast. I have had experience at this race going out too fast and then having a really hard time catching my breath due to the altitude. Our wave was relatively small (less than 25 people total) so I put myself in the front left, near Laurie. Laurie is an amazing swimmer – collegiate athlete. I was hoping to maybe be able to hold her feet for a while, but didn’t want to blow myself up doing it. I started out going fairly strong and felt good. The water was around 67 degrees and I was very comfortable, but never hot. I swam strong but at a pace I could maintain and felt good about my sighting.

I typically gain time and overall endurance the longer I go in an event – especially on the swim and bike. The farther the distance the more I gain time and others slow down. I noticed I passed a few women on the long straight stretch and then rounded the last turn buoy and headed for home. This is a familiar course to me so I know where to cut some corners to create a straight line in to shore.

I stood up and hit my watch and the time was about what I expected. There was a woman just a few seconds ahead of me. What I didn’t expect was for the announcer to say that the woman ahead of me was the first one out of the water! That made me #2! Wow. Later when I looked at my Garmin file and compared it with Marisa and Laurie we all discovered that the swim was a bit long. I had 2200 yards vs 2000. According to my Garmin I swam a 1:30 per 100 pace which for open water for me is amazing.

Transition 1 – 2:23

One other reason that I love this race is that they have wetsuit strippers. Basically this means people who will help “strip” the wetsuit off you while you lie down. It is such a nice perk that is typically only reserved for Ironman races. I pulled the wetsuit down around my waist, lied down on the turf and one person on either side peeled the wetsuit right off and helped me back up. Then I ran up to the transition area where my bike was waiting.

I borrowed an aero helmet from a friend (long story for another day) and this one had a built in visor – like sunglasses built in. This is more aerodynamic, but definitely different than I am used to. I decided that this would be a good opportunity to try something new and see if I would want to do it on race day. So I put on the helmet and visor, my socks and bike shoes and headed out with my bike.

The girl who was first out of the swim was right in front of me headed to the bike exit. As I was running behind her I noticed that she had her bike shoes clipped into her pedals. I knew immediately I did not want to be behind her when she got on her bike, as most people struggle to put their feet into bike shoes that are already clipped in (vs putting them on in the transition area and running in your bike shoes). The bike start for this race is also on a bit of an uphill which would make it even more challenging, so I ran past her and jumped on my bike. At this point I knew I was the first woman on the course.

Bike – 56 miles – 3:18:08

The bike course is a lot of fun. Rolling hills. The last 18 miles or so are net uphill, but the first part is very fast. I focused on pushing myself a bit, but not too much, keeping the cadence high, and taking in my nutrition.

Within the first 10 miles or so one woman passed me and she was FLYING. I was so impressed. I yelled out to her “you go girl!” and she was gone.

I stayed in my zone, and enjoyed myself. A few men passed me and I generally try to do my best to encourage anyone who does so. I remember at one point thinking that I was having fun, and it reminded me of some advice Jon Brown gave me many years ago at my second 70.3. As we were getting ready to start the swim and I was incredibly nervous, I asked the man who was like a triathlon “god” to me at the time – so wise, fast and incredibly experienced – if he had any advice for me. He said yes I do, and as I awaited with anticipation for what would be the key to my triathlon future, he calmly said “have fun”. I won’t deny that I wasn’t a little disappointed in that moment, but it turns out to have been some of the best advice I have ever received and something I still think about almost every race!

As we turned onto Highway 277 for the last long stretch of the bike we would have rolling hills, net uphill and a straight headwind. I stayed in the aero position and continued to have fun, enjoying the benefits of lots of practice on hills, work on my cadence, and work staying in my aero bars. I passed lots of men who seemed to be struggling on the hills and trying to force their way up them, and I thought that I was enjoying myself more than they were!

Then I saw her up ahead. The woman that had flown past me on the bike was standing on the side of the road looking at her bike. As I approached her I slowed down and asked what she needed. She said that her chain was broken. I was so bummed for her because she had clearly been crushing it. As I rode past, I knew I was now in first place in the women’s field and I remember thinking to myself “I don’t want to win like this”.

Well, I think God heard me and made sure that wasn’t going to happen! Probably 5 or 6 miles later I heard a hissing noise and quickly realized that my rear tire was flat. I was probably around mile 42 of the bike. I calmly stopped the bike, and even had enough forethought to hit the lap button on my bike computer so I could know how long I would be off the bike changing my tire.

Fortunately Todd has given me many lessons so I am fairly comfortable changing a tire. The rear tire is harder because it is a little more cumbersome to remove the tire with the gears and the derailleur in the back, but I remembered the details of shifting into the right gears for easier removal. I pulled out my tools – I had one spare tube, one CO2 cartridge, some tire irons to help remove the tire from the rim, and one CO2 inflator. I got the wheel off the bike and the tire off the rim and the tube out pretty easily. As I inspected the tire I realized that I had a small slit in the wall of the tire. This is NOT a good thing as it means that anything sharp from the road surface can easily penetrate that slit and puncture the tube. However I didn’t have a patch or anything to cover the slit in the tire.

Todd has always taught me to put a little air into the tube before you put it inside the tire, however I never knew exactly why. I assumed it made it easier and helped you know that you had it fully seated within the tire before inflating the tire to avoid pinch flats. I tried to blow some air into the tube, but couldn’t get it to inflate, so I decided it would be fine without it. As I placed the tube into the rim, I realized that the tube was twisted. I knew this wouldn’t work once I inflated it, but I couldn’t figure out why it was twisted or how to fix it. So I pulled it out again and looked at it, and sure enough, it was still twisted. Then it dawned on me – THAT is why you blow some air into it! A little air would remove any twists and allow the tube to fit nicely in the tire so I could get it seated in the rim and inflate it. With a little wiggling of the valve I was able to blow in enough air to inflate it enough to remove the twist and put the tube in the tire. I got the tire back on the rim and then went to inflate the tube with my CO2 inflator. I’m not exactly sure what happened – maybe that valve was a little off, but I didn’t get enough air into the tube with the one CO2 cartridge to be firm enough to ride on. Now I was in a bit of trouble as I only had one cartridge.

I stood there on the side of the road hoping that a passing athlete would ask if I needed anything. I personally make it a practice to ask anyone I pass who is off their bike if they need anything. I figure if I can help them I want to, and I know these things come back around in the future as well and today I was going to experience that in spades. After a relatively short period of time a woman (who I would later come to know as Fiona) asked if I needed anything. I asked if she could spare a CO2 cartridge and she happily gave me one. I was SO grateful as that gave me enough air to fill my tire. I shoved the old tube in the back of my shorts, put the rest of the tools back in their place, put the rear wheel back on my bike and hit my lap button as I rode away – 11:42. Not bad for all of that!

Shortly after I passed an aid station and was happy to pull the tube out of the back of my shorts and toss it to them (you are not allowed to litter or toss/leave trash anywhere on the bike course unless at an aid station). I continued to ride and a couple of miles later, at approximately mile 46 I heard the hissing again – another flat!

I stopped, got off my bike, hit the lap button, and started walking. I’m not sure what I was thinking, only that I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t going to quit, but I didn’t have another tube or CO2 cartridge and I still had 10 miles to go. I don’t know how long I walked (I don’t think it was very long) but at some point reason kicked in and I decided that I wasn’t going to walk 10 miles in my bike shoes, so it would be better to stop, remove the rear wheel and the tube, and hope that either someone would offer me some of the materials that I needed, or that the race support vehicle would come by and offer assistance. Either way I needed the rear wheel off and tube removed so I might as well do that part now.

Fortunately shortly after I got the wheel and 2nd tube removed, another woman came by and asked if I needed anything. I asked her if she could spare a tube and a CO2 cartridge and she happily gave me both. I was SO thankful to her! She rode off and as I was getting the tube out Marisa rode up and asked me what I needed. I asked if she happened to have anything with her like a dollar bill, a wrapper from a bar or a gel, or anything like that. She pulled out an empty wrapper from a fruit bar she had eaten earlier on the bike and I told her it was perfect! She handed me the wrapper and I told her to “go”!

Last summer we went on a long ride and I had a similar situation where I had a tear in my rear tire that exposed the tube inside. Todd showed me how to create what is called a “boot” with a wrapper. You fold the wrapper over and use it as a barrier between the tire and the tube. This way if something penetrates the tear in the tire, it has to go through the wrapper before hitting the tube. It is effectively a patch from the inside. You can also use a dollar bill – if you happen to have one with you! I was very proud of myself as I used the wrapper to create the boot and successfully filled up the tube with the CO2 cartridge. Once again I stuffed the old tube into the back of my shorts, put the tools away and got back on the bike as I hit the lap button – 7:24. Not bad at all! 19 minutes “down” for the flat tires, but I was optimistic that I was going to finish the bike at this point.

The rest of the bike was fun as I got back into the groove and passed quite a few people coming into town. I started visualizing the next transition and getting ready for the run. My bike time was 3:18. If I subtract the time for the flats I could have had the fastest bike split, but you can’t just do that, AND if the gal who was smoking fast didn’t break her chain she most definitely would have had the fastest bike split, so we will just let the woman who actually DID have the fastest bike split enjoy her moment of fame!

Transition 2 – 3:01

I have had quite a few blisters this spring – both in the marathon training and also leading up to this race. I actually got two new ones the weekend before testing out new shoes on a 50 minute brick run. I really wanted to protect my feet so I decided to put on a pair of fresh, dry socks for the run, and also to take a little extra time and apply some lubricant to my feet to help avoid blisters. I figured it would make for a slower transition, but if I could avoid blisters it would be hugely helpful, not only for the day, but for future training days as Ironman training is in full swing. So my transition was a bit slow, but it was exactly as I planned it.

Run – 13.1 miles – 2:09:18

The initial plan going into the run was to take it easy for the first lap plus and then run a strong 10k to finish. As I started running, I was acutely aware of pain under the 3rd and 4th toes of my right foot. I would later realize that this was my neuroma flaring up – something that hasn’t bothered me in YEARS. I can only guess that 20 minutes on the side of the road in my cycling shoes, along with walking for a ways in them, caused the issue. It didn’t slow me down, but it was definitely uncomfortable.

I was also acutely aware of just how DIRTY my hands were from changing the flat tires! After a few aid stations and pouring water over them I got them pretty well cleaned up.

Quite simply put, the run was hard. It was HOT. It was windy. Running into the wind was very difficult as it seemed to sap any energy or speed right out of you. Running with a tailwind was nice for speed, but increased the heat factor. My plan was to walk briefly through each aid station to take on plenty of water. I stuck with the plan for the first 8 miles or so and then I just couldn’t wait until the next aid station to walk. I started walking quite a bit more after that. There was a lot of mental chatter and dialogue – some encouraging me to keep going and to keep running and some encouraging me to just WALK! Lots of us were suffering, and plenty of people were walking. The volunteers were amazing and my favorite was a woman at an intersection in the campgrounds around the lake who had her boombox on and she was dancing and singing and encouraging everyone. She brought a smile to my face when not much else did!

I don’t remember much remarkable about the run except that it was a sufferfest. Toward the end Laurie’s husband Carl came up alongside me on his bike and gave me some encouragement which was much appreciated. Oftentimes when I am struggling during a run I will take my attention off of my pain by thinking about and praying for other people. I was only moderately successful with that this time. I did manage to pray for a few people and thought a lot about people who would love to be out there but are unable to for various reasons. I thought about my friend Mara who specifically asked for prayer during my next run and prayed for God’s wisdom, guidance and protection for her and her family as she goes through her own personal and physical battles.

By the end I was in a lot of pain. My stomach wasn’t clearing and hurt quite a bit, and my neuroma was very painful. I was also starting to cramp in the arch of the same foot. As I came around the corner toward the finish line I was in so much pain but I knew I could keep going for a little bit longer. I pushed through and gave a smile for the finish line camera. Little did I know it was actually shooting a VIDEO and not still photos. So watch below and you can see me grimace in pain after I think the cameras have taken their photos!

2Watch for the very end after I cross the line – pure grimace!

 After the race I sat in a chair for a while to relax and attempt to cool off. I had some nice conversations with fellow athletes and when Marisa and Laurie finished we all got a popsicle and headed for the lake to take a dip and cool off and rinse off – this is something I was looking forward to since early in the run!

3.jpgPost race popsicles! We enjoyed them standing in the lake. ½ of mine became fish food!

Overall Summary

The overall goal of this race was to be a test for Ironman Canada and to experiment with a few different items. I learned many lessons that I will take with me into next month and beyond. I still have some things to figure out before Whistler, but I’m so grateful to have had this experience and know that I will be a stronger (and smarter) athlete because of it!

Swim: 33:00
T1: 2:23
Bike: 3:18:08
T2: 3:01
Run: 2:09:18
Total: 6:05:49

5th overall female (only 17 participants!)

1st AG (out of 2!)

My PR for this distance is right around 5:30. This was not a PR kind of day. My big hairy audacious goal was to PR, but I didn’t really expect it given the conditions. Once I got the first flat I knew that wasn’t going to happen and it was probably good to have any time expectation gone. I also knew that I wasn’t likely to gain or lose any overall spots at the pace I was running, so it was just me and the course – perfect prep for Ironman!

This is such a great race and not a lot of participants. If you are looking for a long course triathlon that is challenging, scenic, and you want a good chance to place well overall or in your age group – this is the one to do! There were only 49 total athletes in this race. We all managed to take first in our AG! They also have an Olympic distance tri on the same day with more participants. Both races are amazing – highly recommended!


Charrissa’s CapTex Olympic Triathlon

May 28, 2018


I signed up for this race because Derek had won a free entry from Terry Casey. I figured it would be a way to keep my toe in the water with triathlon and not lose all of the progress I had made last year, even though I’m pretty focused on my marathons for 2018. It ended up being Derek, Jen Snead, and me at the race – and we made a fun weekend of it.

So – not an A race, and I didn’t have any hard-set goals. At one point I had thought that I would like to better my best performance on each segment (I’ve only done 2 Olympics, so this isn’t saying much) – have a faster pace per 100 yds on the swim; hold a higher average or normalized power on the bike; and run faster time per mile. Since every course is somewhat different, those seemed like the best kind of goals to set. So – to-date, my best Olympic was City of Lakes in 2017:

  • Swim was 1:46/100 yd
  • Bike power was 119w avg and 131w normalized (ok, it’s a little embarrassing writing this here as I can only imagine everyone is thinking how little power I can pull…)
  • Run was 56 min so basically 9 min/mile

Having said that, as I got closer to the race – I really started questioning my abilities on the bike and swim. I just wasn’t feeling like I was a triathlete. I wasn’t feeling confident on the bike, and the open water swim practice at Cochiti left me feeling a little (ok more than a little) anxious about the swim. I thought I had gotten so much stronger at swimming and was expecting that open water practice to go well. I still felt out of breath and like I wouldn’t be able to go the distance at that pace, so that left me feeling discouraged.

And then, on my shakeout ride the day before the race, I fell at an intersection. Banged up my knee – but really, banged up my confidence. I was shaken.


I was a bit of a mess. All my mental toughness from Boston had deserted me. Everyone told me to try and apply the same mindset – heck I told myself to apply the same mindset – and I couldn’t find it. I just had this ball of panic or anxiety in the middle of my chest and I couldn’t seem to rationalize it away. Whenever I tried to explain it to anyone, I ended up sounding like a crazy woman – worrying about catastrophic (although not completely out of the picture) things like crashing and dying and all that.

So – yeah – cray cray. In my defense, the day after the race I got my period (possibly TMI for the guys) – so part of the crazy was probably PMS.

I considered not doing the race – but rather than obsess about that option, I told myself that I could drop at any time, so I figured I would just keep going through the motions of getting ready.

Race day

Still pretty anxious. As I was setting up my bike and station, I lost the top to my front aero-water bottle. I couldn’t find it anywhere. I almost felt like that was the last straw, since I clearly couldn’t race on a blazing hot day without sufficient liquids. But I kept going through the motions. My rack neighbors were awesome and helped me look for it (even lending me a light). Then someone gave me some tape to cover the opening and that did the trick. Crisis averted! (as a note – I finally did find the piece after the whole race when we were back at the VRBO – it was in the water bottle itself. Several of us had looked in there and didn’t see it, so I have no idea how we missed it).

As we were getting ready to go in the water – Derek said something that finally seemed to snap my head back into place. He said – you know how to swim – all you have to do right now is jump in the water and swim. And I’m like – ok, I can do that. Then he left to get into his wave.

Jen and I got to hang out together til the start. For the age group athletes, they did a time trial start within your age group. You lined up in your age group and they started athletes every couple of seconds. I think Jen and I both had this image that we would get to start together, maybe wish each other good luck and high five or something. But the reality was, we got to the end of the dock, the starter pointed at me and pointed me to a spot and told me to jump in. It was all very quick – I never got to say a final good luck to Jen.

I focused on finding a groove in my swim. I loved the time trial start – it was so much less chaotic and crowded. I felt like I was having a great swim – felt relaxed and strong. I saw lots of other colored caps (colors other than my own) – so I figured I was doing pretty well. I was a little confused at the third turn -it was further than I expected and I couldn’t exactly figure out where I had to go. But this was my best swim yet by far – not so much time-wise, but just in how it felt.

Into transition and off on the bike! I didn’t dawdle, but I also didn’t rush. I wasn’t aiming for anything in this race, so I really wanted to keep calm. The bike course is four loops – there were some inclines, but no real hills. Having said that, there were some good gradual downhills which allowed you to get some speed. Derek passed me right as I entered the course – he was heading out on his second loop – so that was really cool! He called out – “Go Trail Dogs!” – maybe he didn’t know it was me…LOL? I felt like I was having a decent bike. It was a bit crowded, but the streets were wide. The loops helped the time to pass. I saw both Derek and Jen a couple of times on the ride.

Dismounting – I almost fell over again, but managed to get my bike back upright. Again – I didn’t dawdle, but I didn’t rush in transition. Drank a little more water and then off on the run. I was just happy at this point to be safely on the run. It was a hot day – mid-90s and humid (especially compared to Albuquerque!). I figured I would just see how it felt. I ran what felt comfortable and intentionally started off a little slower, because I know I have a tendency to go out a little strong and then die.

So I just chugged along. I saw Derek on the first out-and-back which was cool. The course had more shade than anticipated – which was a relief. And the heat didn’t bother me that much. I just ran what felt good and when I did glance at my watch, I could tell that I had a reasonable pace going. I didn’t see anyone in my age group for a long time. On the second loop – I noticed a few women in my age group on the backside – but I wasn’t sure if they were on their first or second loop. I passed them pretty easily, so I just figured they were on their first loop.

The last part of the loop is an out-and-back on a bridge. Derek was finished and was cheering for me as I turned the corner to head out onto the bridge. That was cool! I had some energy to pick it up – so I started pressing a little bit. On the way back over the bridge – a woman was going out and she called out my number and said something about me having a strong race. That’s what made me start wondering if I might place in my age group. We had seen this woman racking her bike the day before and she had a fancy jacket and seemed to know everyone – so she definitely gave off that “I’m competitive” vibe. I had no idea why she would single me out – except if she had somehow been tracking her age group and knew who was ahead of her. I have to admit, I was a bad athlete and didn’t have my body marked with my age – I was too grumpy and lazy in the morning to get it done, and frankly I didn’t think I was a contender, and I didn’t figure that it would matter.

I probably had about 0.2 miles left – and Derek was cheering me on – so I “sprinted” to the finish line. Ok – my sprint is not really an impressive thing – but let’s just say that I made an effort to move my legs faster and cover more ground. Perhaps it looked that way, perhaps not. The announcer called out my name which was super cool – and I was done!

I hadn’t really been bothered by the heat until the second I crossed that line and stopped. Then I was overcome with how hot I was, I couldn’t catch my breath, and I felt like I would fall over if I had to stand still. Of course – they wanted me to stand still to get the chip off of my ankle…lol. I ducked into the med tent just to get some shade and get my breath. Then I met up with Derek. Since my curiosity had been piqued – I asked him if we could go to the results tent to see how I did. I came in 2nd in my age group!!! There were only 14 of us, so it wasn’t a huge age group – nonetheless, I was over the moon.



I have had a real lingering sense of pride and accomplishment from this race. Triathloning is still very new and out-of-my-comfort-zone. I’ve only done five triathlons (including this one) vs. 12 marathons, and over 30 half marathons. When you add up the facts that I am a scaredy-cat, I have pretty weak balance, and people really have had serious accidents on their bikes – the cycling thing in particular gets me spooked. Even though my fear probably seemed irrational and silly to most, it was a big deal for me to act in the face of my fear – to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and not let my fear talk me out of the race. I think if I had let it take over, I probably would never do another triathlon.

Taking an age group award was just the icing on the cake. It left me feeling strong and athletic. Looking at the results later – I realized that I ran down the women who finished in 3rd and 4th between miles 3.8 and 5.8 of the run. My bike still needs a lot of work – as I was 7th out of 14 on the bike. And my transitions were also middle of the pack. My swim and ultimately my run really carried me.

Austin was a great city and the race was really fun and convenient. The race hotel was right next to transition and we stayed in a VRBO apartment right next to the race hotel – gorgeous views of the course, kitchen for food prep, nice surroundings. The time trial start made the swim so much more pleasant. The loops on the bike and run course allowed us to see each other a couple of times and also made the course spectator friendly. I would definitely recommend this race to others.


Segment Time Pace/Power Division Gender Overall
Swim 29:36 1:59 / 100m (official)

1:43 / 100y (garmin)

2 of 14 24 of 143 145 of 574
T1 3:28 7 of 14 60 of 143 242 of 571
Bike 1:14:39 19.53 mi/hr (official)

123 W avg

137 W np

7 of 14 54 of 145 310 of 574
T2 2:50 5 of 14 68 of 145 317 of 572
Run 49:28 7:58 min/mi (official)

8:06 min/mi (garmin, I had the course at 6.1mi)

1 of 14 24 of 146 128 of 571
Total 2:39:59 2 of 14 28 of 146 169 of 573

Kacey’s 2018 Colfax Marathon

Pre-Race and Goals:

  I decided to sign up for this race in late March- quite a bit later notice than I would normally give myself for a marathon. I had just come off a BQ of 3:28 at California International Marathon in December and a strong half marathon (1:36) at the Austin half marathon in February. My motivation for doing another marathon was that I knew that a 3:28 was right on the cusp of wave 2 and wave 3 for Boston and from the advice of friends they all recommended I try to get into wave 2 to get an earlier start time. I knew if I could just cut my time down by a minute or two my chances would be much greater. My original plan was to run the new Sandia Crest Marathon in September in hopes that the 5,000 foot elevation drop would help me cut my time down quite a bit. However, after talking with several of my friends I decided that this would not be the best choice for my body and that the training would be pretty difficult to pull off logistically. I also wanted to feel like I truly earned my BQ time and not to put down anyone who has run a BQ on a downhill course but to me personally I feel like it is cheating a little bit. I knew it would not feel good to go to Boston and run 15- 20 minutes slower than my qualifying time. So for all these reasons and the fact that I was running so well these past few months I decided sooner is better and set my mind on Colfax. I had already run the marathon at Colfax two other times before so I also had the added advantage of knowing the course and what to expect.

  I really stepped up my training for this race compared to CIM. Instead of running 40-50 miles/week I decided to run 60-70 miles/week and commit to strength training twice a week. I also really pushed myself to do more speed work and run my easy runs at a little bit faster pace than I had in the past. I was a little nervous about getting injured but knew if I wanted to improve from CIM I had to step up my game a little bit. I was pretty exhausted from the training and often went to bed at 8 or 9 PM in my peak training weeks but I just kept telling myself it would be worth it in May.

My goals going into this race were:
A-goal: low 3:20’s
B-goal: beat my time of 3:28
C-goal: BQ (sub 3:35)

My Running History:

  I started running seriously as a freshman in high school and ran cross country all four years. Honestly, I was never a stellar runner in high school. I was mostly an upper JV-lower varsity runner. I had transitioned from being a gymnast to a runner and it took quite a few years for me to get the hang of the pacing and training. By my senior year I was becoming a pretty solid runner and even ran my first half marathon at the end of my senior year coming in at a 1:41.

  When I went to college is when I became very serious about running and everything clicked for me. I joined the marathon team at UT Austin and my running really took off. By my sophomore year I was running a sub 20 5k, a sub 40 10k, a sub 90 half, and a sub 3:10 marathon. My all- time marathon PR was a 3:08 at Grandma’s marathon in 2011 my junior year of college. I was running 70-85 miles a week and had lots of fast teammates to push me along with some very good coaching and access to athletic trainers and nutritionists. While on the outside it appeared that everything was going amazing for me the truth is that I had some serious health issues going on during this time. The truth is that I was losing weight steadily throughout my sophomore and junior years of college. It was a combo of the stresses of majoring in math and the pressure to perform athletically. I didn’t have anorexia or bulimia, I just became obsessed with exercise and became consumed with exercising any chance I got- often 2-3 times per day. During this time I actually ate quite a bit by an average females standards- after having a nutritionist analyze my diet at the time I was eating about 3,000 calories a day but with the 10 miles minimum I was running every single day plus additional cross training it was just not enough to keep weight on me.  I noticed that as I dropped weight running became easier for me and it took much less effort to run faster. I was constantly praised for how fit I looked and how well I was performing so I never doubted what I was doing. Before I knew it I was the strongest girl on the team by a significant amount.

Kacey Texas Ind Relay
Racing in Texas Independence Relay at my lowest weight

  Ultimately, my constant PR’s and successes lasted for a good two years and then at the end of my junior year everything came crashing down on me. I got two stress fractures in my foot within a few months, lost my period for 2 years, constantly felt cold and dizzy, and became very irritable and cranky. Most notably, running became a job and I lost all the joy I used to get from it. I felt like everyone expected me to be the top girl on our team and I knew if I didn’t keep up what I was doing that would not be possible. Sadly after my junior year under the advisement of doctors and coaches I had to significantly reduce my mileage and focus on gaining weight and getting healthy. I still ran around 30-40 miles a week during this time but I took a couple of years off seriously racing.

  After getting myself to a healthy weight and clearing up my injuries I started getting serious about marathons again in 2015. My first few marathons back I would run in the 3:40’s which was frustrating knowing that I used to run a 3:08. I qualified for Boston 8 times in college but never went because of the cost and not being able to take time off of school. In early 2017 once I was back in the groove with running and feeling healthy again I decided to make going to Boston a goal for myself. Long story short, I had a couple BQ misses due to throwing up in a race (RNR AZ 2017) and running in 80 degrees (Austin 2017) but at CIM 2017 I finally qualified with a 3:28 giving me a 7 minute margin from my 3:35 qualifying time. To date, I have run a total of 14 marathons and BQ’d at 10 of them.

Race Day:

  When my alarm went of at 4 A.M. on Sunday May 20th I was surprisingly not that tired considering how little sleep I had gotten from tossing and turning all night long due to nerves and an uncomfortable bed. I was a little extra nervous about this race because I had put in some serious training and didn’t want to be disappointed. I had just come off of a 1:33 half at the Run for the Zoo compared to a 1:39 half training for CIM so I had much higher expectations for myself this time around. This also the first marathon I did not have a pace group to at least start with so I was nervous about pacing myself the whole 26.2 miles.  My friend Sarah and I drove to the start and sat in the car for about a half hour to stay warm. Once it was getting close to the start time I went to the restroom twice and headed to start and found my place in my corral about 5 minutes before the gun went off. It was in the 40’s so I was shivering at the start but I knew that once I started running the cooler temps would feel great.

  The gun went off and I used the pace setting on my watch to try to keep myself somewhere in the 7:40’s. I would look at my watch and kept finding myself dipping into 6:40’s-6:50’s so I really had to focus on holding myself back in the early miles. Not surprisingly I had to pee again at mile 2 which got me a little stressed but I still managed to run a 7:47/mile with a pit stop in there. My mile 5 I was getting in the groove and holding a pace somewhere between 7:40 and 7:50. Mile 6 was pretty memorable getting to do a stadium run through in the Broncos stadium. I felt pretty amazing at this point but couldn’t help but wonder how I would feel the next time I was in the stadium at mile 20??. After the stadium run through was some of the tougher miles of the course. Mile 6-8 and miles 11-16 were a net uphill so I know I had some pretty serious work ahead of me. Fortunately I managed to stay in the 7:40’s pretty comfortably and even I few miles in the 7:30’s despite all the uphill. I kept wondering if I was going too hard but tried to keep myself in a positive mindset despite my doubts. Thankfully miles 8-10 were nice and flat running around Sloan Lake so I think that helped me recover a bit before running more uphill. I stuck with my plan of taking a Gu every 4 miles and so far everything seemed to be going according to plan. Around mile 12 it started raining for about 20 minutes which I didn’t expect but I tried not to let it get me down. It was a bummer to be soaked and I could feel blisters forming on my feet with my wet socks but again I tried to keep myself in a positive state of mind. I had to pee again at mile 15 and made a pit stop again at a port-a-potty in the middle of a big hill. Mile 15 was my slowest mile at an 8:13 but I was still pretty proud of hitting that time despite a pit stop and a big uphill.

  The rain stopped by mile 16 and mile 16 was also the highest part of the course so I knew things would get easier from here. I couldn’t help but feel a wave of excitement once we turned around and started going downhill. I didn’t want to get too confident because I know anything can happen especially in the last miles of a marathon but I just kept thinking to myself, “10 miles mostly downhill to go, I got this”. I also always save my music for the last 10 miles so I have something to look forward to. Putting in my headphones and listening to some of my favorite songs helped give me an extra boost and from miles 16- 24 I was running in the 7:20’s – 7:30’s without feeling like I was totally killing myself. The net downhill definitely helped and during these miles I kept reflecting on how much hard training I put in this spring. I kept telling myself it’s just another weekly tempo run from here.

Kacey Colfax m 20
​Mile 20 through the Broncos Stadium

  By mile 20, I was still feeling very strong cardio-wise but my legs were definitely starting to feel it. I tried to ignore the pain and kept saying to myself “My legs feel amazing”. Particularly on my right side everything kept getting tighter and tighter especially my hip and by mile 22 I started to feel like stride was shortening significantly. Around mile 24 there is a pretty significant uphill going into downtown Denver. I closed my eyes and pumped my arms as hard as I could but it felt like an eternity getting up that hill. By the time I reached the top my right hip, quad, and hamstring were very tight and I felt a slight limp in my stride.  This is the point where I really had to dig deep mentally. I looked at my watch and I was at about 3:05. After struggling for a few minutes to do the math I figured I could hit my goal of a 3:25 pretty easily even if I had to slow down significantly these last 2 miles. This gave me hope and again I got a wave of excitement knowing I had this in the bag at this point. I was definitely in pain but it was no worse than the pain I felt on my grueling weekly tempo runs so I knew I was tough enough to work through it. I just focused on one foot in front of the other for all of mile 24-mile 25. Mile 25 was my second slowest mile at an 8:02.

Kacey Colfax Digging
Digging Deep-one foot in front of the other

  Once I hit the mile 25 sign I was at around 3:13. I knew my watch was about a quarter mile ahead of the course so I would actually be running about 26.4 miles. Right at the mile 25 sign a woman from the marathon relay passed me and super enthusiastically told me that I looked incredible for running 25 miles and encouraged me to finish hard. This came just at the right time for me and gave me a boost to go all out for my last 1.2 miles. As soon as she passed me I gritted my teeth and pumped my arms as hard as I could while trying to ignore my very tight right side. Effort wise I felt like I was for sure running a sub 7 mile but I was really running 7:40’s. Everything was burning and I started to get that depleted delusional feeling you get at the end of a long endurance race. I closed my eyes several times during that final mile and just kept telling myself, “this will be over in a few minutes, you have sacrificed so much for this race, you have to go all out NOW.” I also knew that my coworker and travel buddy Sarah would be waiting for me at the finish. Sarah had sprained her ankle in the half marathon and ended up in the medical tent at the finish line so this gave me some added inspiration to finish strong for her. I knew she was disappointed and would be looking to me, her first coach- searching for some new motivation. I later found out that in the moment she watched me finish from the medical tent she made a commitment to sign up for her first full marathon. Of course the last .2 miles felt like an eternity but once I saw the finish line I tried to kick it in as much as I could.  I couldn’t help but smile as I finished knowing I had totally crushed my CIM time by 6 minutes!!

Kacey Colfax Finish
Home Stretch

  I think I was in shock for a few minutes but as soon as I hobbled through the finisher zone and went to look for my friend Sarah it hit me that I was totally set for Boston next year and I felt an overwhelming since of relief. For the past two years everything has been about getting to Boston and getting the best placement time I can so it’s an amazing feeling to finally have that weight lifted off my shoulders and know that I should be in wave 2. As an added bonus since I now am 13 minutes under the standard I get to register a day earlier. Additionally, I later found out I had finished 8th overall female and 3rd in my age group for the marathon!!

kacey finishOfficial Results

Race Take Aways:

  I am incredibly grateful for where my training has taken me this spring!! Don’t get me wrong I had to make a TON of sacrifices and the training challenged me more than I could handle mentally and physically some days. There were many days when I felt like maybe all this hard work and sacrifice was not worth it. After exceeding both my half and full marathon goals I can tell you that every tough workout and sacrifice that I had to make was more than worth it!!!  Being able to cut 6 minutes off both my half and full marathon times just two weeks apart is something that I never ever expected to happen.  It will definitely take some time to recover from all this but I am excited to get back out there and see what else I can achieve.

  This training cycle has taught me not to be afraid to take risks and try new things. Myself and others had some doubts about my high mileage weeks but ultimately adding an extra 20 miles a week gave me the extra edge that I needed. Although I am still pretty far off my all-time PR of a 3:08 I have started to realize that I don’t have to be a size zero to be a great runner. I may be 20 pounds heavier and a little slower than I was in college but I can tell you that I feel so much healthier and enjoy running much more. While I still am a little crazy when it comes to exercise I am much less obsessive than I used to be and am getting better at finding other interests outside of running. Additionally, in college I was afraid of weight lifting and strength training thinking it would make me gain a ton of weight and slow me down. I have learned that a little strength training goes a long way. The weight gain is minimal especially if you are running pretty high mileage and I am now much better able to muscle out those last few miles of a marathon and also have SIGNIFICANTLY fewer injuries throughout my training. Even though I don’t particularly enjoy it I am now a true believer in strength training.

  The race itself taught me that I am capable of pacing myself and trusting how I feel. This is the first race that I 100% ran by myself and relied on no pacers. It definitely required me to be more focused and I couldn’t just check out and follow a pacer like I had in the past. The race also taught me the importance of keeping a positive mindset. Although I had few issues overall there were a few points I could have just given up on my goal especially in the last miles when my whole right side tightened up. From experience I knew that especially in the last miles of a marathon you will look for any excuse to give up or slow down. As cheesy as it sounds the positive self-talk I gave to myself made all the difference. Even if my legs felt horrible telling myself my legs feel amazing somehow helped trick me into believing it.

  Last but not least, there are way too many people to list her but I want to thank everyone who has supported me in any way throughout my training in both Sole Sisters and Trail Dog Tri- both of these groups have become an integral part of my life. Special thanks to Heidi Rothenberg who saved me when I had some quad issues before CIM and for helping keep me healthy throughout my training this year with her amazing sports massages. Secondly, thanks to Likhyah of Bosque Running Shop/Sports Systems for his constant encouragement and advice these past few years. As for training buddies I especially want to thank Kellie Nickerson, Noelle Wallace, and Julie Keith who did a significant amount of training with me this spring and really encouraged me along the way. I really look up to all three of you as athletes and just as amazing people in general. I owe a ton of credit to you guys and can’t wait to support you in your future goals!! Additionally, I am fortunate to have several of my coworkers and principal who are athletes themselves as well as super inspirational people. My coworker Maria Ladd is an amazing distance runner and I can only hope that I can run as fast as she does at her age!! My principal is a phenomenal cyclist who has overcome a few injures and competes in very long and challenging mountain biking events. Dr. Sarah Santillanes used to think I was pretty crazy but know that I have helped turn her into a runner she has been such an inspiration and great supporter of my running!! I helped her train for a 5k last summer and since then she has lost 75 pounds, run 3 half marathons, and is now committing to her first full marathon!! So impressive!!

  In closing I want to end with a quote from Desi Linden, the 2018 Boston marathon winner:

“Some days it just flows and I feel like I’m born to do this, other days it feels like I’m trudging through hell. Every day I make the choice to show up and see what I’ve got, and to try and be better. My advice: keep showing up.”

  When this quote came out in April I really took it to heart. At the time I was exhausted from all my hard training and doubting my abilities after some less than perfect workouts. We all have bad workouts and races but as long as you keep showing up and giving it your all you are bound to have a good race someday.  As I learned after a few failed BQ attempts it may take more than one try but you will get there as long as you don’t ever give up!

Some of my biggest supporters and running friends:

Julie and Casey Wine Festival
Julie and I

Kellie Kacey Noelle RTFZ
Kellie, Noelle, and I at the Run for the Zoo

Kacey w coworkers DCM Relay
My coworkers and I running the Duke City marathon relay

Jane’s 2018 Eugene Marathon

Eugene Marathon

Pre Race Report

“I’m not a good runner.” This has been my story for years. I have been known to pass someone in my age group on the bike during a triathlon and tell her “don’t worry, I can’t run”. I always wanted to run the Boston Marathon but didn’t think it was possible for me. I thought I would have to wait until I was much older and had a slower qualifying time.
Over the past year I have worked diligently to change that story. I started to get a bit faster on the run and to achieve some pretty big athletic milestones (Team USA in the Aquabike division in 2017) and got to thinking maybe, just maybe, I COULD qualify for Boston! So I had the conversation with my coach (Jaime Dispenza) who believed I could do it long before I did. He suggested the Eugene Marathon – in the spring so a perfect build up for triathlon season, sea level, and a flat, fast and scenic course. The only potential drawback would be a 50/50 chance of rain. With family and friends in Oregon, we didn’t hesitate to sign up.
We officially started training right after Christmas. Todd didn’t want to sacrifice his other triathlon related goals (or his golf game) this year to dedicate his focus to his own attempt to BQ (his qualifying standard is much faster than mine!), so the intent from the beginning was for him to pace me for as long as possible (hopefully to the finish line!) to my own BQ.
In order for me to qualify to be eligible to register for the Boston Marathon in 2019 I have to complete a marathon in less than 3 hours and 45 minutes (based upon my age and gender). However, that is not a guarantee that I will get in based upon limitations on the number of participants allowed in the race, so it is recommended that I have at least a 3 minute cushion under this time. My goal for this race is 3:40, which would put me safely in Boston without worry. This equates to a 8 minutes and 23 seconds per mile pace for 26.2 miles.
I have run 26.2 miles on two separate occasions. The first was the Big Sur Marathon in 2010. My main goal then was to not walk. It was a beautiful run along the Pacific Coast Highway and I finished in 4:06. In 2012 I ran 26.2 miles at the end of Ironman Canada. My main goal was to get to that finish line, and I did, just 2 minutes behind Todd with a run time of 4:30.
The training for this race has been amazing. Before almost every workout that had a specific time attached to it I thought “I can’t do that”. But it is what I needed to do to hit my goal, and I gave it my all. And most times I hit my paces – surprising myself along the way. My coach knew I could do it, but I certainly didn’t! It still seems unreal that I could run 8:23 pace for 26.2 miles, but I am believing in my coach and believing in my training. I surprise myself often, so why not now?
I am on the plane now on the way to Oregon and am excited to see what the weekend will bring. I have done the workouts. My body feels great. My energy feels great. I am optimistic. I know it will be hard. I know it will take everything coming together to hit my goal, but I know that I have what it takes and I am ready. No matter what the result, I will give it my all on Sunday and that is all I can ask of myself.
The forecast calls for rain. No matter what the conditions are, they will be way better than they were in Boston this year! I will lean on the encouragement and the amazing tenacity and performances of so many friends who crushed Boston despite dismal conditions. I will be surrounded by friends and my biggest fan and there is nowhere I would rather be on that day. I will continue this story on Monday – on my flight home from the race. Let’s do this!

Post Race Report

I am now on the plane on the way home from Oregon. I am tired, hungry, and my legs hurt, but I am completely content. It wasn’t a “perfect day” but I honestly wouldn’t change anything. My two main goals were a BQ time and to do my best, with no regrets, and I accomplished both!
The weather was the big question for the weekend. Would it rain during the race? It rained most of the day Saturday and the hourly forecast called for rain before, during and after the race on Sunday. We planned our outfits and strategies knowing we would get wet. When we woke up on Sunday the first thing I did was check the weather and I was thrilled to see that there was no moisture in sight, just cloudy skies, mild breeze, and no anticipated precipitation until 11am. Praise God! We changed our entire clothing strategy (and were thankful we brought lots of options with us) and were optimistic for the day ahead.
My pre-race routine consists of a hot shower and time in the compression boots as soon as I get out of bed. I used the time in the boots to look up inspirational quotes and do some prayer and visualization. My pre-race “breakfast” consisted of 2 scoops of Ucan chocolate with protein mixed with some water into a pudding consistency and a package of Clif Bloks (Black Cherry!)
My friend Shahnaz drove down from Corvalis to spend the weekend with us. We met the first day of 6th grade at the Albuquerque Academy and became inseparable for the 3 years we lived in the same city. She has lived, worked and traveled all over the world and I have had the fortune of visiting her in some amazing places (Costa Rica and New Zealand most recently). Shahnaz and Todd studied the race map on Saturday and figured out where she could find us on the course and mapped out her split times, her own race and fueling strategy to make sure she could be in optimal locations at the right times. She drove us to the start and we arrived around 6:25am (for a 7am race start).
We stopped at the porta potties and made our way to the entrance of Hayward Field where we connected with two other friends, Seth and Jason, who were running the 1/2 for a hug, photo, and then headed to the starting corral.
I opted for my CWX compression running tights to have the support on my full legs for the run. I also wore a medium weight long sleeve shirt and my hydration vest. I decided wearing my vest was the best way for me to carry my fuel, electrolytes, and be able to drink whenever I wanted it. I wore this vest for the majority of my workouts and all long runs so it felt natural to wear it. I also wore an old pair of pajama bottoms, a disposable jacket, ear warmers and a pair of gloves with hand warmers in them to stay warm right up until the race started. The weather was quite pleasant, but one of my strategies is to stay warm so I don’t waste any energy being cold and so my muscles are ready to go when the race starts. After the National Anthem we prayed, handed our extra layers to Shahnaz and got ready to go.
This race provided pacers – runners who planned to finish at a certain time. We had the opportunity to meet them on Saturday at the expo and to talk to them about their overall pacing strategy. There was a pacer for 3:35 and one for 3:45. This was a tough choice for me as my goal going in was 3:40. If I went with the 3:35 group it might be too fast and I could risk blowing up. If I went with the 3:45 group I would have to negative split (run the 2nd half faster) and there would be no wiggle room. Both pacers were really nice, and the 3:45 guy said he was planning to come in around 3:42 or 3:43. The 3:35 guy was also planning on at least 2-3 minutes. Initially we were going to run with the 3:45 group until the halfway mark and then take off if I was feeling good. We lined up in the corral and noticed the 3:45 pacer was 20 yards behind us or so. We decided to let him be behind us and that if he passed us we would work to keep up, but otherwise we would do our own thing. We did meet a woman on Saturday as we were talking to the 3:45 pacer. She came up to talk to him at the same time and had the same goal and overall strategy I did. I was thinking after we left the expo I should have asked her name. Well, I saw her coming out of a porta potty and introduced myself. Her name was Anne, and she ended up running with us for quite a while.
The race started and we settled in. There was a good amount of people but it wasn’t overwhelming. Overall I felt great. Excited to be there, excited about the weather and excited to see what I would have for the day. The first several miles just clicked away. Our pace was right on target. Todd, Anne and I were running together, chatting a little but not too much. Anne was trying to have a full conversation but I wasn’t going THAT easy! After 7 miles or so she either got tired or got the hint that I wasn’t able to say more than a few words at a time.
In the first several miles we noticed that some of the roads were angled a bit for drainage. We worked to run on the flattest part of the road. Todd noticed around mile 5 or 6 that we were likely adding distance to the run because our Garmins were giving us the mile notification well before the official mile marker flags. We were right on at mile 1, and then got further apart each mile. By the end I had run 26.35 miles (instead of the official marathon distance of 26.2).
There were only a couple of notable hills on the course. The last one that was any length was close to the 8 mile marker. Todd said he was feeling a bit of a rough patch going into the hill so I encouraged him not to burn any matches going up the hill, to moderate his effort and use his turnover and speed to catch back up on the downhill. And that was the last time I saw him until the finish line.
Anne and I stayed together until mile 14 or so. One thing I really noticed was at each aid station how she would have to slow down to take on fluids and then surge a bit to catch back up to me, as I didn’t take any fluids and just kept a consistent pace through the aid station, avoiding any other crowds or people slowing down. I was glad to be able to keep my own consistent pace. The first 10 miles were anywhere from 8:09 to 8:30 pace, with most of them right around 8:20-8:25 – right where I wanted to be.
My fueling strategy was a Huma Gel every 40-45 minutes and a Salt Stick tab every 30. A couple of times I felt a little stomach distress right after taking in a gel, but it generally subsided within 5-10 minutes. Looking back I can see that I didn’t practice taking on gels going at a higher effort/intensity. I would generally have the nutrition on board before the effort or during a rest interval in between hard efforts. I could tell that my body needed more nutrition and more salt than “usual”. More nutrition for the harder effort and more electrolytes because of the humidity. We didn’t have any precipitation during the race but the humidity was 100% at the start. After the half way point I increased the frequency of my intake and it’s very possible that I didn’t take in enough electrolytes overall given the amount of salt on my face and body after the race.
We started at the same time as the 1/2 marathoners and split from them between miles 10 and 11. We hit the halfway mark at 1:50 – right on pace for 3:40. The miles were getting a touch slower, but still well within the anticipated range and I was still feeling good. Around that time I was going to tell Anne that she didn’t need to stay with me, that she should go ahead if she felt good. I had this idea that she was feeling much better and more comfortable than I was. But I never got a chance to tell her that because after the next aid station when she went to get some water I never saw her again!
The person that I did see over and over again was Shahnaz. She was at SEVEN different spots along the course, in addition to the start and finish. I had a good idea when I might see her based on her race day strategy and she was wearing an amazing fuchsia coat that was easy to spot. Seeing her along the course helped me so much. Most often (until the end) when I would see her, I noticed that my mile split was faster.
Around mile 16 I started to feel some hot spots underneath my fourth toe on each foot. I have had some blisters in this spot during my training so I knew that was likely what was happening. I had slathered them up very well, but with the humidity, sweaty feet, and sensitive skin, it was probably inevitable. I did my best not to dwell on it, when I would remember the pain I would think about the movie we watched the night before – Without Limits – chronicling the runner Steve Prefontaine. He ran a race once with way more foot pain than I was experiencing!
Around mile 18 I started to slow a bit. Still in the range, but starting to feel the fatigue. At 19 I knew I was about an hour from the finish. The last 10k was tough. A lot of internal talk. Encouraging myself. Telling myself that this is where I excel, where I am built for distance, that nothing is going wrong, that I am exactly where I want to be, that this is where I embrace my training, that discomfort is the currency of my dreams. I thought about all of the people who would love to be running but aren’t able to for so many reasons. I thought about the strength of my friends – the physical strength of fellow athletes, the emotional strength of those going through really hard times, I thought about all of the loved ones praying for me and sending me strength. And I prayed a lot. Early in the race I turned it over to God. I said “not my will, but yours be done”. Whatever race God had for me – I was open to that. I wanted to race in a way that was honoring to Him and not be totally caught up in my own goals and dreams and not be appreciating the surroundings, the other people, etc.
I think it was at mile 18 that I saw a yellow spectator sign that said “No Regrets”. That one stuck with me. I repeated that to myself so many times in the last hour. A couple of times my mind tried to tell me that I couldn’t do it, that I wouldn’t qualify, but I wouldn’t allow that in. I was not going to give up without giving it everything that I had.
I had a second screen set up on my watch to tell me average pace for the whole run so I would know how I was doing compared to my goal but I never looked at it. I knew I was giving it my all, and whatever the time was going to be, it was going to be. My legs were screaming at me. I didn’t know if it was muscular fatigue, needing more electrolytes, or both. I wanted to cry. I wanted to stop. People were passing me that looked so smooth and strong – some talking to each other – I wondered how they could possibly be chatting! And I passed others who were clearly hurting worse than I was. The wheels weren’t falling off, but I was working HARD to go 9 minute miles in mile 24 and 25.
I dug deep. I sang some songs that I make up when I am going through these tough mental times. I prayed for Todd. I knew I would finish but I didn’t know what the time would be. In the last 1/2 mile or so I passed the 3:35 pacer who was clearly hurting. Good thing I didn’t try to stick with him! As I approached the road and the entrance to Hayward field I looked down at my watch – 3:43. I didn’t think I was going to make it. No regrets. I was going to give it my all and that’s all I could ask for. I dug deep. My legs were screaming at me. I entered Hayward field and gave it all I had. I think between the fatigue and going all out I had tunnel vision as I don’t remember much. Shahnaz was there (of course!) screaming “you did it” and I was thinking, “no I didn’t!” Then I crossed the line and stopped my watch.
I broke out into tears. So much pain. So much work. So many hours training. I did it. I left it all out there. I gave it my all. No regrets.
I could hardly walk, or stand, or sit. Everything was in so much pain. We waited for Todd to finish. He came in with a similar emotional experience. Different emotions for him – but emotional nonetheless. His main goal was to pace me for the first several miles to get me into a rhythm and he totally accomplished that. He also experienced a lot of leg pain (and some foot issues) that made the last 10 miles pretty rough, but it was a solid day of training and fitness in the bank for him that will set him up for an amazing tri season to come.
So I qualified for Boston. I am so proud of the work I did to get here. I won’t likely get in with only a 9 second cushion, but honestly I’m okay with that. It was going to be a tough choice on timing anyway. I have two other big goals this year. One is a solid performance at Ironman Canada on July 29th and the other is to qualify for Team USA in the long course triathlon at Miami Man 70.3 in November this year. We just found out a few weeks ago that the World Championship event will be in late April next year (in Pontevedra, Spain), so it would have been less than 3 weeks between Boston and Worlds. That was going to be a tough choice that now I don’t likely have to make. I still qualified. I still accomplished my goals, and maybe actually running the Boston marathon will have to wait until 2020. The cool thing is that now I know it’s possible! Not easy by any stretch, but possible.

Derek’s 2018 Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon 2018:
A Short Story

I’ve been slow to write this because I don’t think my experience was as “exciting” as some of the other reports you may have heard. Perhaps it was the wisdom of age (wow, when did I become that person?) or perhaps it was the added body insulation (“racing weight” be damned) or my pre-race weekend hydration strategy of beer and wine (how appropriate was Harpoon’s “Lucky Duck” IPA?) or perhaps it was luck (see “Harpoon”) or something else. Whatever it was, I only have happy memories of my first Boston Marathon.


After qualifying for Boston at the Walt Disney World (WDW) Marathon in January 2017, my only ‘A’ goal for the next year-plus was to get to the Boston starting line in good health so that I could enjoy the race. I get a ton of energy from cheering spectators and I remember being so disappointed at my first marathon at WDW 20 years ago when, after slogging through the first 20 miles, we finally entered Hollywood Studios (where I fully expected the streets to be lined with throngs of cheering fans pulling me through to the finish) and the only people there were pushing their way across the course to get to Tower of Terror, completely ignoring us. Boston, I knew, would be different, and I was going to soak it all in. (Little did I know how different it would be!)

My initial plan was to run 3:35:00 to 3:45:00, which should be a comfortable pace for me. The last thing I wanted was to push too hard and not enjoy the last miles in the city where the crowds are the thickest. About six weeks before the race, Charrissa and I met with our coach, Terry Casey, and she was convinced that, despite my concerns about my running mileage to date, I could run under 3:20:00. (My PR was a 3:21+ on the flat WDW course.) I was hesitant and uncommitted, but I talked with Charrissa on the way home and looked up past races that night and decided that I’d give it a shot.

So, going into the race my goals were:
A – Under 3:20:00
B – Re-qualify for Boston (under 3:25:00 but realistically needed under 3:22:00)
C – Have a fun, pain-free race (as best as a marathon can be)
In spite of the weather conditions, I didn’t change my goals.

Pre-Race Training

Although the Boston Marathon had been my goal race for over a year, the majority of my training was triathlon-focused. I have a history of getting injured if I run too many miles and Terry was great in tailoring my workouts to improve fitness through cross-training. The only time I was concerned about my limited running mileage was in early March. I wasn’t worried about my fitness but I was worried about the potential toll the hilly Boston course would take on my quads. I remembered my first BQ attempt at the downhill Tucson marathon and didn’t want to replicate that experience in Boston. I had also slightly injured my hamstring in February when I was working crazy hours during the Olympics at NBC. That’s when we had dinner with Terry and she expressed her confidence in me. I did nurse the injury all the way to Boston, managing it through stretching, massage, and ART/Graston treatments. Lesson learned – trust your coach.

Race Weekend

Others have described how the weather forecast continued to get worse as Monday got closer and how all of us struggled with deciding what to wear. I don’t have much else to add so I’ll focus on all the other activities that surround the Boston Marathon. If you get the chance to go, I recommend that you try to take advantage of as many of the experiences available as you can. The race is a victory lap.

I signed up for a number of different running group / company mailing lists and followed others on Twitter and Facebook so that I could be aware of what they would be doing in Boston. There were so many shakeout runs and meet and greets listed, I couldn’t possibly attend them all. The Boston Marathon Expo is probably the best in the world and we spent multiple hours there, spread across Friday night and Saturday morning. Sure, we spent some money, but we also got to try a lot of different products and came home with many more freebies, so many in fact, that we had to check an extra bag (or two) on the return flight!

We attended a Generation UCAN event with Meb, Greg McMillan, Tyler Pennell (4th), Nicole Dimercurio (6th) and others on Saturday afternoon. There was a free Sam Adams brewery tour that afternoon. Charrissa and I did a bus tour of the course on Sunday morning – we did it before her first Boston in 2015 and she found it very helpful. I figured I should pay attention this time! Before the tour, we stopped at Tracksmith and had Linden and True Coffee, served by Ryan Linden and Ben True! (Needless to say, the coffee sold out in minutes after they officially opened their online store a week after the marathon.) Pre-race dinner was at Ray Bourque’s Tresca with a great group of ABQ friends. One glass of wine and I was ready to run!

Race Prep

I use UCAN as my fuel which requires me to carry it with me, mixed in flasks carried on a fuel belt. UCAN tastes best if mixed the day before and refrigerated, so Sunday afternoon I began to prep my fuel. My plan was to mix 3 packets of Cran-Raz in 20 oz of water to put in the flasks, but when I began to mix the first packet in our shaker bottle, the bottle broke and spilled UCAN all over hotel room floor. Wet hotel carpet definitely doesn’t smell good.

Given that I lost at least half a packet of UCAN, I had to adjust my fueling plan for the next day. I’d still have my normal morning Chocolate UCAN, peanut butter, and banana shake 3 hours before the race, but since I didn’t have as much UCAN in my fuel belt, I would have 2 packets in my pre-race drink 30 minutes before the start. Then, I’d take ¼ of my carried fuel at miles 6, 11, 16, and 21. (In hindsight, I could have mixed flavors and used my normal strategy – Chocolate Orange or Chocolate Cran-Raz probably would have tasted fine.)

For electrolytes, I typically carry Base Salt in a small tube and take a few licks every 2-3 miles. However, the weather forecast of cold and rain made me question my ability to lick salt off my thumb mid-race. I still carried the tube of salt but I also added one scoop to each packet of UCAN.

Race Day

I woke up and looked out the hotel window to see what the weather was like. Sure, the ground was wet, but it didn’t appear to be windy or rainy. Maybe it wouldn’t be too bad after all! But those hopes were dashed as soon as we walked out of our hotel into a steady rain and gusty winds. (It turns out that our room faced an internal courtyard that was protected by tall buildings on all sides.)

Dressing for weather was a bit like Goldilocks making a decision – too little clothing and we’d be cold and miserable, too much clothing would get heavy in the rain and we’d also be cold and miserable. I also thought that skin-tight clothing would be better in the wind and rain than clothes that hang, so I opted for compression shorts and calf sleeves on my legs, and my Trail Dog tri shirt (actually the aero cycle jersey) and UCAN arm sleeves on top.

In addition to the practical reasons for selecting the gear, I was hoping that the words “Trail Dog” on the front would get cheers along the way. (Recall that it was all about the cheering for me.) Fortunately, intelligence won out over vanity and I put on a Marmot Precip rain jacket. There would be no cheers for me but the temperature forecast was just cold enough (in the mid- to upper-30s) that I feared I would be too cold in the wind and rain. Had there been no rain or had the temperatures been 10 degrees warmer, I may have foregone the jacket.

The jacket itself is more of a hiking jacket than a running jacket so it’s a bit stiffer than I may have liked to run in, but it served its purpose well. I did a test run in it on Thursday before leaving for Boston and decided it would be adequate. However, I will look for a better wet weather running jacket in the future. (There was a nice On jacket at the expo but not quite in the right size – and it was hard to justify spending $240 on what could very well be a one-time use!)

Knowing my feet would get wet, I covered them in Aquaphor to prevent blisters and wore wool running socks to keep my feet warm. I decided to wear my adidas Adizero Boston 6 shoes instead of my Brooks PureCadence because even though the Bostons have less cushioning, the rubber grip is so much better and I didn’t want to worry about slipping on the slick roads.

We figured the key was to stay as warm and dry at the start as possible, so over our running gear we wore throw-away pants, jackets, and rain ponchos. I also had a pair of throw away gloves that I planned to exchange for dry running gloves before the start. We both had a running cap that we put shower caps over to keep our heads dry. I actually wore my shower cap the entire race under my jacket hood. We tied plastic bags over our shoes to keep the rain from getting in the tops before the race and then slipped shower caps over the bags to further protect from the water and mud on the ground. Good thing for those bags! The shower caps worked well on the way to the bus but a few steps onto the “field” (aka mud-pit) at the Athlete’s Village and off they went! The bags were the only thing keeping our feet from being soaked and caked in mud before starting.

Charrissa was very kind to ride the 7:45 bus out to Hopkinton with me since she’d have to endure an extra hour or so in the elements by doing so. Even though we weren’t as chatty as the folks around us, I was very grateful to have her there. It made the trip “easy” and kept my mind off worrying what the race would feel like. I was even more grateful to have her guide me through the Athlete’s Village! I had no idea where I was going – there was just a horde of people slowly moving in one direction on a narrow track of pavement trying to keep off the muddy field. Finally, we braved the field to use the portapots (which took longer than expected given the lines but I guess that was because of all the extra outergear that most people had.) After that, it was time for me to head to the corrals. Charrissa pointed me on my way and off I went, still hoping not to fall into the mud before reaching pavement.

Charrissa had warned me that it was 0.7 miles from the village to the corrals and that even though there were volunteers collecting throw-aways as you exit the village and all along the walk, don’t give in. Keep your clothes until the end. I’d like to think I was a picture of calm excitement as I walked to the corrals, but realistically I was a bit nervous. I left the village later than desired and I was worried how long it would take for my final race prep – remove my outerwear and the bags on my shoes, reapply Aquaphor to the top of my left foot because I had felt some chafing already on the walk, finish my pre-race UCAN, open the hand-warmers, put them inside my running gloves, put on my rain glasses (yellow-tinted sunglasses that I hoped would protect my eyes from the wind and rain), pull up my hood over my hat, get to Corral 5 before Wave 2 started. These were the things stressing me out, not the fact that I was about to run 26.2 miles in the wind and rain.

The Race

As usual, my fears were unfounded and I got into the corral about 5-7 minutes before we started. I had decided to keep my wet throw away gloves as extra protection for a “few” miles (which turned out to be 26.2+.) The hand warmers weren’t warming so there I was in my blue shower cap shaking my hands beside me, in front of me, over my head, while waiting those last few minutes. Must have been quite the sight to the runners near me, but it did provide me with plenty of space when it was time to start moving! I remember hearing the start announcement and a minute or so later someone asked if we had started. My answer was, “Well, they have started up front but we aren’t going anywhere soon.” And then we started to move.

As mentioned earlier, my goal was to run under 3:20:00, which is about a 7:37 pace. I do a run-walk strategy for long distances (yes, I BQ’d using a 5 minute 30 second run / 30-40 seconds walk strategy so run-walk is not only for “slow” runners.) My original plan for Boston was to run to the mile then walk for 30 seconds, repeat, repeat, repeat. A 7:20 pace when running would average to 7:37 overall.

Before the race, I heard many experienced runners warn about starting out too fast at Boston. Shannon and Dorota both said to take it easy early on. Our course tour guide cautioned us about starting too fast. Meb said to be patient. Greg McMillan warned that “Boston is an evil temptress” and broke the course down into 4 phases, with Phase 1 being “Engine Brake”. They all said that Boston could be a fast course, but only if you make it to the top of Mile 21 without shredding your legs. From there, you can let go and fly to the finish. As Meb said, “Make the last mile your fastest and you’ll have a good race.”

Given this consensus, I adjusted my race plan, though not my goal, over the weekend. I would run the first 2 miles at a 7:35 pace, no faster than 7:30, and then take my first walk break. From there, I would implement my original strategy of running 7:20, walking 30 seconds each mile through Mile 16 where the hills start. I would run the 5 miles of hills strong, but not pushing it or worried about pace, still walking every mile. My goal was to get to the top of Mile 21 feeling good enough that I could take my last walk break and run the last 5+ miles to the finish.

I did think about pulling back my pace given the conditions, but, after looking at previous races and my conditioning, I figured I could probably do a 3:15:00 on a flat course so the 3:20:00 may already have some tailing back built in. Plus, I was planning on holding back during those first 4 downhill miles and hopefully that would help. Finally, I knew my priority was to enjoy the race so if I felt pushed too early on, I would just adjust on the fly before things got too bad.

The first half mile started out as planned. I didn’t push hard and there were plenty of people around to keep me from going too fast. I stuck to my plan and didn’t waste energy weaving around all the runners. Fortunately, Boston runners are fast so no one was ever in my way. I felt good.

At the one mile mark, my split was 7:58. Okay, a bit slower than I had planned, but that was alright. I could make that time up after the hills. The goal was to get over the hills in good shape and going slower now wasn’t going to hurt in the long run. Next mile 7:44. That’s better.

During that second mile, I felt my fuel belt bouncing around my waist a lot. I thought it was due to the wet and the rain jacket since I had not practiced wearing the belt with the jacket before (yes, I try new things on race day!) I also thought that I could manage it throughout the race by moving it with my hands. Halfway through mile 3 it became apparent that the belt was too annoying. I tried to tighten it while running but that wasn’t working so I finally stopped to walk and fix it. Third mile 8:06. Oh well.

Since I had already walked to fix my belt, I skipped my break at mile 3 and went right to mile 4. 7:31. Now I was on track and before I knew it, I was at Mile 9. Sure, I was over 1.5 minutes above a 3:20:00 steady pace at that point, but that was okay. If I felt good, I could make up the time later.

Besides, I was having a really good time. Once my fuel belt stopped bouncing, I was able to fully enjoy the cheering and the other runners around me. Charrissa said that spectators were sparse at times early on but I can’t say that I noticed. There always seemed to be some folks around cheering. There were people barbecuing under tents and handing out oranges and who knows what else. I didn’t see anyone hosing down the runners, though!

Which is another thing that I didn’t really notice – the weather. Okay, it was probably hard not to notice the weather but it didn’t really bother me. Yes, I was wet, but I had made the right choice in clothing and it kept me warm and didn’t chafe. My shoes had excellent grip, the Aquaphor was preventing blisters, and the wool socks were keeping my feet warm. I could feel the cold water on my feet when I stepped in a puddle or was splashed by some other runner, but within seconds the cold went away. The wind would whip up and I heard what must have been the same person as Charrissa did yell “Bring it!” Like her, I could only smile and laugh.

I smiled a lot on that run. It really was amazing how many spectators were out there and I did get choked up at times. I had to remind myself that Charrissa said “Save the getting choked up for after the finish line, because you can’t run if you can’t breathe.” I high-fived kids and thanked volunteers, though I didn’t do as much of that as I have in the past at other races. I knew I had to conserve some energy to get up the hills so that I could run to the finish. It was about that time that I noticed my right quad was a bit sore and I began to worry about what that would mean for later in the race. Again, I forced myself to recall Charrissa’s advice and kept telling myself “It doesn’t bother you now so just keep going. If it hurts later, deal with it then.” It never really got worse the rest of the day.

I heard the Wellesley scream tunnel about a quarter to a half mile out. Charrissa did give me permission to kiss a Wellesley girl (I guess all others were off limits? And what about the guy that was there?) but I didn’t want to stop, so I just high-fived them instead. One thought I did have was “They all look so young!” and then I thought “When did I become so old?”

Halfway in 1:42:05 – two minutes over my goal pace. At that point I figured I wasn’t going to run under 3:20 since I wasn’t going to pull 4 minutes off my time, but I thought let’s still try for 3:22-3:23. And that’s the last time I remember thinking about a time goal until Mile 21. I was happy to just run by feel for the next few miles until the hills started and to just power up them. I know that I looked at my watch each mile but I never really internalized what the effect of the times would be on my finishing time. I felt good, I was smiling, I was passing lots and lots of people going up the hills.

Officially, they talk about the three Newton hills, but, as many will say, there are actually four and the first “non-hill” may be the second toughest (after Heartbreak). The two thoughts I had after that first hill were “Well, that wasn’t bad at all – definitely no worse than Tramway from Candelaria to Montgomery” and “There were a lot fewer walkers than Charrissa said there would be.” (In hindsight, we think that perhaps those who would have walked the hills in other years, walked off the course instead.)

I powered through the next hill and then there was a much longer downhill break than I expected before the last two. I checked in on my legs and although they hurt, it was not any more than anticipated. It was at that point that I figured I’d be able to run those last 5 miles in, that it would hurt, and that my legs would be wrecked afterwards, but that would be okay. I made it to the top of Heartbreak, took my walk break at Mile 21, looked at my watch and began to do the math.

During the past 8 miles I must have sub-consciously given up on running a BQ time because I was very surprised when I calculated (as best I could in a fatigued mental state) that if I ran around a 7:30 pace, I’d be close to a BQ. Wouldn’t that be great! Sure, I won’t get in next year with a sub-minute cushion but to BQ at Boston under these conditions would be terrific! Plus, I won’t have the chance to get in and register if I don’t have a qualifying time! Let’s just run, trust McMillan when he says you can let it fly, and see what happens.

So I ran. I remember the spectators lining the course. I remember the winds picking up as we ran down from Heartbreak Hill. I remember the disappointingly small number of spectators at BC. I remember smiling as I ran. I remember being careful not to trip on the trolley tracks. I remember running on the left side of the road so that I wouldn’t be slowed down by the folks high-fiving and stopping for photos on the right. I remember a college guy pointing at me and yelling “That’s my man! Go! Go! Go!” I remember Dixie cups of beer that someone behind me stopped for. I remember looking for the Citgo sign but not being able to see it until close to Kenmore Square. I remember talking with a woman who was also running hard about 3 miles out, telling her that she was running well and looked strong, pointing to another woman ahead of us and saying that she looked strong too, so let’s keep up with her. I remember following one runner after another who was moving well until I finally went around them.

I remember coming up to the I-95 overpass with the wind whipping and everyone moving slowly. I remember “racing” up the hill and realizing afterwards that “racing” is all relative. But that was Mile 25. I looked at my watch  – 3:15:00. Thankfully, it made the math really easy. I had 10 minutes to run the 1.2+ miles to the finish, depending on how well my Garmin was tracking the mileage. It would be close and could come down to how large the “plus” was. I knew it was more than a tenth of a mile because I had seen an extra tenth at an earlier mile marker. Had I lost another tenth since then? More than a tenth? Just run.

I remember Kenmore Square – not as many people as in the past because there was no baseball game but still lots of people. I remember running over the 1-mile to go logo on the road. I remember looking at my watch and thinking I had about 7 minutes left. I remember where we joined the BAA 5k route and thinking, “I know the rest of this course.” I remember running under Mass Ave, running the tangents through the underpass and then right onto Hereford. Up the hill that’s not really a hill except in the last mile of a marathon. Left onto Boylston. I remember taking the outside path on the turn because there was a wheelchair to my left and other folks moving slower than I was over there. I remember saying that I just had to keep moving. I remember looking the 600m down Boylston to the finish. I remember wanting to tear up but forcing myself to keep running. I remember hearing the cheers. I remember remembering how long 600m really is. I remember looking down at my watch for some reason and seeing 3:24:00. I remember looking up and thinking I have 1 minute to go “that far” without really knowing how far “that far” was. I remember thinking “I got this”, and then thinking that it is probably further than I think so I have to keep running. I remember crossing the finish line, crossing the timing mats, and then stopping my watch. 3:25:02. I remember saying “F***” and the guy at my side looking at me funny.

And then I remember smiling. I ran the Boston marathon and enjoyed it. I had a good race and was proud of how it went, of the strategy, of how strong I felt at Mile 21, of how I pushed through to the finish. I also knew that there was a chance my official time would be under 3:25:00, because I try to start my watch early and stop it late. It didn’t really matter – I was just happy.

And I wanted to do it again.


I just couldn’t stop smiling. I take my time walking down the chute after every long race and Boston was no different. Even though it was still raining and windier there on Boylston Street. I took my time taking photos with every photographer on my way to getting my medal, bottle of water, and heatsheet blanket (they even put it on you!) I thanked the volunteers and got all choked up each time one of them congratulated me. CLIF bars were next. I took one and then noticed a volunteer handing out opened bars! How awesome was that! There was no need to take off my two pairs of sopping wet gloves and dispose of the wet charcoal sacks that never did get warm. (For the record, that’s the fourth time that my throw away gloves have avoided being thrown away.) I picked up a post-race food packet, took some more pictures with the BAA background and made the slow walk over to our hotel, the Boston Park Plaza, which fortunately was not far away.

Unfortunately, however, I decided to be “smaht” and walked in the nearest side entrance to the hotel by the Starbucks, thus missing out on the hero’s welcome that Charrissa experienced. That would have been awesome, though there’s a good chance I would have started balling right then. Ugly crying avoided.

I got up to the room, took off my wet clothes and dried off, turned on my phone, and watched it start to light up with all the backlogged notifications of all the runners that I was tracking. “Ryan has started.” “Kellie has started.” “Ryan has crossed 5k.” “Rachael has started.” Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Turns out there was a lot of tracking out there.

I saw a message from Steph congratulating me and saying that Charrissa was crushing it out there. Based on that, I figured Charrissa must have been done by then so I looked up her results in the app – 3:43 and change! I was so happy for her! What a great race!

Then I decided I might as well see my “unofficial” finishing time (since that’s all the app was claiming at that point.) Derek Surka. Bib 12158. Time: 3:24:59! WOOHOO! A BQ!

Looking at my Garmin splits, I ran the last mile in 7:05, which was my fastest mile by 15 seconds. Just as Meb said, I made my last mile the fastest and had a good race. My Garmin also said I ran 26.36 miles, which I was extremely happy with, and I ran those last 0.36 miles at an avg 6:39 pace – so I was “sprinting” down Boylston. Finally, it turns out that from the top of Heartbreak Hill after my last walk break, I averaged a 7:24 pace to the finish. My in-the-moment estimate of needing to run 7:30 would not have gotten me there.

That night we celebrated at the Chart House, which has become a tradition for us post-Marathon. We skipped the Fenway party because it was still raining. The next day we picked up our last free swag of the weekend – a customized poster from Tracksmith with our time on it and our medals engraved for free at the Oofos store. And some more Linden & True coffee for good measure.

Lessons Learned

  • The clothing strategy worked, though I’ll look for an actual running jacket next time.
  • The pacing strategy worked.
  • The fueling strategy also worked, though it was modified a bit and I honestly don’t remember exactly when I fueled. I took my first fuel around mile 8 or 9, later than usual because I had taken more UCAN before the race. I took my last UCAN at Mile 19 before the last 2 hills. Between then, I took UCAN twice more – pretty sure once was before Wellesley at Mile 12 and the other was at Mile 16 before the hills. More often than usual but I felt like I didn’t take as much at mile 8/9 as usual so I took more at 12, a little before the hills, and then my last normal serving at 19. I also grabbed a CLIF gel at the top of Heartbreak and took it before Mile 22.
  • Try mixing UCAN flavors ahead of time, just in case.
  • The hydration strategy worked. The salt in the UCAN didn’t really affect the taste at all. I also took licks from the tube every 3-4 miles. The first time I tried licking it off my gloves but that was a disaster so I resorted to just putting my tongue directly on the tube the rest of the race.
  • Smiling worked. I had a really fun time even though the weather was not ideal and there weren’t as many spectators as I would have wished had conditions been better.
  • I was ready to run a good marathon on only 100 running miles a month. With more pre-hab and a few more workouts, I know I can BQ again in the future with sufficient margin to get in. So I’ll put it out there:
    • Next Marathon Goal: Tokyo 2019, sub-3:15:00

Official Results

Distance Time 5k Split Half Split
5k 0:24:45 0:24:45  
10k 0:48:43 0:23:58  
15k 1:12:36 0:23:53  
20k 1:36:40 0:24:04  
Half 1:42:05   1:42:05
25k 2:01:11 0:24:31  
30k 2:26:33 0:25:22  
35k 2:51:38 0:25:05  
40k 3:14:52 0:23:14  
Finish 3:24:59   1:42:54


Division Place Finishers % Finish Starters % Start
Overall 6558 25746 25.47% 26948 24.34%
Men 5289 14142 37.40% 14885 35.53%
M 45-49 896 2526 35.47% 2610 34.33%