Charrissa’s CapTex Olympic Triathlon

May 28, 2018

Goals:

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.

Pre-race

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.

IMG_1527504122290

Aftermath

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.

Results:

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.
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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.
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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.
3:44:51.
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.
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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.

Goals

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.

Post-Race

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%

 

Charrissa’s 2018 Boston Marathon

Goals
All I said to my coach Terry Casey was that I wanted to run a strong Boston. My big A race for this year is the Berlin marathon. Boston is a tough course and I wasn’t sure how fully trained I would be since I was coming off of a fun marathon at Disney and a month of working crazy hours for NBC Olympics so I wasn’t expecting to PR (3:37:30) or beat Chicago (3:39). So what does a “strong” Boston mean? Well – better than my previous two Bostons which both came in about 3:52 (both times I was injured and took weeks off of training before the race). And one where I felt pretty strong the whole way (in 2016 I went out trying to hit a goal and kept readjusting that down as the miles ticked on and the last several miles were a slog). I didn’t define strict A, B, and C goals – but I probably was thinking of them like:

A – between 3:40 and 3:45 – closer to 3:40 if it was a good day
B – between 3:45 and 3:50
C – PR Boston (sub 3:52)

Getting Ready
Leading up the day, it became apparent that the weather was going to be ugly. I ran in 2015 when it was cold and windy and rainy and I’ve run a half marathon in a downpour – so I have some experience with this (not that I wanted more). The weather in Boston is mercurial – and the forecast can change each day as you get closer, but mostly the forecast got worse. Cold, windy, rainy weather is some of the hardest to dress for – you want more clothing for warmth, something to break the wind, but less clothing to get wet and hold cold water against your skin. Thankfully – Kathleen Stabler had suggested that I wear a light running rain jacket and actually loaned me one – total lifesaver. So I had a plan. After some debate with myself about shorts vs. capris – I settled on my race attire: singlet, light running raincoat, shorts, hat with a brim, gloves. I also slathered Aquaphor on my feet – this was a rainy weather tip I picked up a few years back and it has kept me from blistering during rainy races.

Almost more important than that was what to wear before the race. You have to stand around for awhile in the athlete’s village and, I had made the decision that I wanted to go to the busses and village with Derek, which meant I would be out there an extra 45 minutes or so since he was wave 2 and I was wave 3. It’s his first Boston and I wanted to see him off. Plus – having been at the athlete’s village – I knew it would be a muddy field (although I had no idea the extent of the mudpit we would find). Our whole goal was to stay as dry and warm as possible before race start. Looking back on it – I think we did about as well as we could have and this might have made a big difference in our races compared to others.

So what did I wear? On top of my running rain jacket, I wore a throwaway jacket and then a rain poncho on top of that (as a note – whenever I have a jacket or sweatshirt or anything like that that I am thinking of giving to charity, I don’t give it away – I stack it in my closet as a future pre-race throwaway, this really helped for Boston). I had on fuzzy pajama pants to keep my legs warm. I tied plastic grocery bags over my shoes and then put shower caps over those. Since I had an extra shower cap – I put that over my baseball cap to keep it dry. We had hand warmers also (which I put in my gloves as I headed to the start line, but frankly – I don’t think they worked at all, so I ditched them several miles in). It was a serious fashion statement and I did hesitate a moment before we headed out – almost letting my self-consciousness looking completely ridiculous get the best of me. I am glad I didn’t.

Race Day
Our outfits really did help – I was still warm and dry on the bus. At the athlete’s village, we waded through the mud – and I instantly lost both of the shower caps off of my feet, but was so incredibly grateful that the plastic bags hung on (and I walked so carefully to try not to lose them). We waited an incredibly long time in the line for the portapots – where I got to contemplate how challenging it would be to go pee with all this crap on. And I had a moment of sheer terror while in line – at one point the wind picked up (had to be close to 30 mph at that moment) and the rain picked up and turned to sleet. I think my face turned white (and not because of the cold) – I really wasn’t sure I could do this.

Derek left for the corrals right after that and I was left to meander the sodden fields alone. I contemplated going under a tent – but the closest tent was a mudbath – practically no one was in it. So I huddled behind an information tent. Despite the extra time in the cold, I was glad I went to the start with him because we got this awesome picture together:

18BM DnC

 

When my wave was finally called, I made the 0.7 mile trek towards the corrals. I waited by the final Big Brothers Big Sisters truck until we were released into the corrals and at that point, I took my pajama pants off, the plastic bags off of my feet, and I think I took off my rain poncho and the shower cap on my head too. I just thought all of these would be hard to take off in the corral and I didn’t want to run in them. I still had my throwaway jacket on which I left on until the last few minutes. Despite doing such a good job at keeping my feet dry – my shoes were soaked by the time I got to the corral, it was raining that hard.

I had put on a 3:45 pace bracelet in the morning thinking that, who knows, if things aren’t that bad, maybe I could still try for that. But by the time I started, I was just thinking about finishing. Mostly I used it to make sure I didn’t go out too fast. We had heard several people (Greg McMillan, Meb, etc) talk about how to run this course and how you really need to be patient and try to run an even race. The pace bracelet was tailored to Boston (it adjusts mile splits based on the course) – and it still only had the first two miles at 5 seconds a mile faster than an even pace and I think the third mile at 10 seconds a mile faster – so a little faster than even, but not a screamer. I figured today was as good a day as any to try this conservative approach, since I wasn’t really sure I could run a great time anyway.

Once we got running – things were better. Not even a mile or so in – I was just struck by how much I love this race – because there were people lining the streets in front of their homes cheering their brains out for us. Yes, the crowds were thinner than usual – but they really made up for it in their enthusiasm and loudness! I had made up my mind earlier that week that I needed to embrace it, conditions and all, and seek to enjoy it – I figured if I focused on how miserable things were, that I would certainly have a miserable day. And truly – if I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t have to.

I remember the electrical supply company at mile 7.3 where you can “check out your style and form” in their windows as you run by. I remember running through one town where the rain and winds picked up (I called this the “deluge” – the “deluge” would happen periodically during the race) and a spectator yelled “Bring it!!” So every time the “deluge” happened later, I laughed to myself and said “Bring it!” What else was there to do but laugh?

Around mile 10 – I was just about exactly on my pace according to the bracelet, and I felt that my legs were more tired than I thought that they should at that point. So I wondered if this was going to be a hard day. I wondered – am I not as fit as I thought? Are the conditions making it harder? Is the cold making me feel this way? I didn’t know – but I used my old Grandma’s Marathon trick and just told myself, well, you aren’t hurting now – so just keep going.

I high-fived a bunch of girls at Wellesley, didn’t stop for a kiss though. Took it easy down mile 15 and got ready for the hills. I felt really strong on the hills and powered up them (ok, “powered” for me looks a bit like “slow” for some other Trail Dogs). There were surprisingly fewer people walking the hills than I remembered from previous Bostons. I gained time in the hills and started thinking that I might be in good shape. I’ll admit, I mistakenly thought that maybe hill 3 was actually Heartbreak (and then I actually got onto Heartbreak and realized that sadly I was wrong and I had to get up the hill).

Somewhere in the hills – there was a guy under a tent on the left side who had a microphone and speakers and he was telling all of us that Desi Linden had won! I was overcome with happiness and it gave wings to my feet. So excited to hear that!

Once I crested Heartbreak, I tested my legs on the downhill and found that they were ok – so I figured I could take it in harder. I sped up a bit and knew that I was gaining some time. Interestingly – at this point, I was flying by people. I was so excited to see the Citgo sign, the one mile to go line – I always get verklempt at this point. Kenmore Square is always incredible – so many people screaming for you. Then under Mass Ave, right on Hereford, left on Boylston – the crowds were incredible – you really do feel like you are something amazing. Why would all these crazy people stand out in the freezing, blustery rain to cheer you on? I could not be more grateful to all the volunteers, security people, and spectators. And just at the finish line – the announcer called out my name! Charrissa Lin from Albuquerque!!! Yeessssss!!! Victory.

The Results
I am really happy with my results.
Finish time 3:43:40
I ran the second half only 32 seconds slower than the first!
Overall 11685/25746 (45.4%)
In Gender 3759/11604 (Female) (32.4%)
In Division 281/1664 (F45-49 Age Group) (16.9%)

I am blown away by my placement. My bib was 20228 – and I had kinda been feeling self-conscious on the weekend knowing that the vast majority of people there were all faster than me. Top half of the field, at Boston? Top third of my gender? Crazy.

The Aftermath
Given the conditions I had told Derek he should just head straight back to the hotel and not worry about waiting for me. So I got my medal, my heat blanket, food, stopped for a few pics and then headed back myself. I am so grateful that our hotel was really close to the exit from the chute. Even so, I got so cold that I thought I might not make it (where is Prince Charming to carry me off when I need him?) When I walked into the hotel they had staff and others lined up on both sides of the entryway and they cheered for every runner who came in – that was awesome! The second I entered my hotel room I stripped off every single piece of clothing I had on – I had no idea how much water my shorts could carry – but they weren’t just wet, they were like a sponge – probably could have wrung a glass of water out of them. A hot shower, some sitting on the bed catching up on runner tracking, social media, and texts. Then off to dinner at the Chart House – it’s become our Boston marathon tradition. I feel fairly certain that I ate enough that night to last a person a week… Afterwards we waddled our way back to the hotel (thankfully it had finally stopped raining) and watched a replay of the marathon coverage to see the elite race.

If I had to race in these conditions again (please God, please don’t let me have to race in these conditions again) – I think we did most things right. I would definitely put Aquaphor on my legs where my shorts hit – as I got some pretty bad chafe marks there (didn’t notice them until the shower – ouch!)

Rachael’s 2018 Boston Marathon

Race information

What? The 122nd Boston Marathon
When? April 16th 2018
How far? 26.2 miles
Where? Boston, MA
Website: http://www.baa.org/
Strava activity: https://www.strava.com/activities/1512792950

Goals

Goal If Good Weather If Bad Weather Completed?
A 3:15 PR (3:17) LOL nah
B 3:18 (few second PR) 3:20 Nope
C 3:25 Survive I lived!

Official Splits

5k:          22:31                     25k:        1:57:51
10k:        45:53                     30k:        2:23:47
15k:        1:10:34                  35k:        N/A
20k:        1:34:09                  40k:        3:22:19
Half:       1:39:16                  Finish:   3:35:41

Training

The start of training was slow. On December 3rd, 2017 I raced the California International Marathon (CIM) and had a ten-minute PR for a 3:18. I was thrilled, but also feeling pretty wiped. I followed a Jack Daniel’s Training Plan for CIM and it was pretty intense. It was more weekly mileage than I had ran in a long time, and definitely more intensity. In retrospect, it was a pretty big jump in training, maybe too big. A month before CIM I was struggling with some minor IT Band issues. Nothing a few off days couldn’t fix, but enough to prevent me from completing a 20 miler before race day, which gave me some anxiety. Anyways, all of the hard work and tempo effort long runs paid off and lead to a huge PR. However, when I crossed the finish line, I couldn’t help but think, “I need a BREAK.” So the rest of the December was either taken completely off training through the holidays or incredibly low intensity. Once we got back into town after Christmas, I eased into mileage again very gently, not doing any speed work or even anything specific at all. I just ran. While I did start adding in some biking and swimming again, I don’t think I started to feel run motivated until late February. I got back with my amazing triathlon coach, Terry Casey, and started to add some more structure to my training. Turns out my “lazy weeks” really weren’t as lazy as I thought they were, because I was still averaging about 45 miles a week. I actually think the month of low intensity and steady mileage was really good for me both mentally and physically. Once I started with Terry again, we added some speed work back in and I was surprised to see that I was actually still in great running shape. Maybe even better shape than before CIM. I was strong and healthy, still averaging between 40-50 miles a week with the added speed work, and approximately 2 swims and 2 rides a week. I also was lifting every Monday morning with Kathleen Stabler at TrueNorth. I was feeling strong and consistent, and even in PR shape come the week leading up to Boston.

Pre-race

We knew the weather was going to bad. Even if I didn’t want to know the details, I did, because Ryan was checking the weather constantly. It was for the better though, or else I would have been even more underprepared for really dreadful conditions. On Sunday (the day before the race) the wind started to pick up, the temperature dropped, and the rain began to sprinkle from dark clouds over the city. After considering just doing a pre-race shake out on the treadmill, we decided to brave the elements. “Hey, this isn’t so bad! We can do this!” I said to Ryan between strides, stoked to see how low my heartrate was now that we were at sea level. We jogged back to our hotel, talking ourselves into believing the conditions really weren’t that bad. “If it just stays like this, it’ll be totally fine.” The weather did not just stay like it was that Sunday.

Sunday night was pretty restless, but thanks to a later race start, I still felt well rested by the time the alarm went off. I planned on heading to Athlete’s Village with Ryan that morning, since it was his first Boston Marathon and I wanted to see him off before what was bound to be a challenging day. His start time was at 10:00a and mine was scheduled for 10:25, since he was in wave one and I was in wave two. I was a little nervous about the extra time in the cold, but I was promised Ryan’s drop layers once he left for the start line and companionship (aka body heat) on the bus and in Athlete’s Village. We left the Hotel and it was already raining out. We walked the mile to bus pick-up in pretty vicious wind, and I tried to ignore the fact that I was already pretty cold and my feet were already wet. Once we got to the bus loading area, we realized that bag drop was on the other side of the park. We headed through the grassy park, which had already turned to mud. The shower caps over my shoes were not sufficing, and my feet were freezing. Regretting not bringing dry socks (or shoes, for that matter) I focused on avoiding the worst of the mud as we walked to bag drop. Long story short, I lost Ryan in a sea of other skinny runner dudes all wearing ponchos. I internally freaked out a little bit. I was upset that I lost Ryan, felt so bad that I couldn’t see him off to the start line, and was really worrying about the extra time in the cold. I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that I could still be in bed and getting up early was unfortunately a waste. After searching for him briefly, I decided it was a lost cause in such a huge crowd and boarded a bus. Trying to mentally reset, I took off my shoes to dry my feet, ring out my soaking socks, and set my focus back on the race.

Athlete’s Village was muddy, wet, snowy, and freezing. I got under a tent and buried myself as deep into my poncho as I could. My feet hurt from being so cold. “Well, numbness could be a good thing, right?” I tried to rationalize with myself, not ready to give up on my goal, as I sat and shivered for the next hour and a half.

Race

Ah, race time. It’s worth noting that I have so much unfished business at the Boston Marathon. The one time I previously ran it (or walked, really) was in 2015, coincidentally also a rainy year. I am sorry to everyone else that I am apparently a Boston Marathon curse. 2015 was my first time qualifying for Boston, and though I had a pretty serious piriformis injury heading into the race, I was determined to at least try. I mean, it’s the Boston freaking Marathon. I ended up limp walking the race that year in 5 and a half hours. It was really miserable and I was determined to have a better experience this time around. If nothing else, I was at the start line healthy, and that in itself was a victory.

I had already spent hours shivering and was so excited to finally start running, so I could hopefully warm up. As I began running, I was surprised by how quickly I started to come back to life. Hey, this isn’t so bad! I was thinking about a PR and how the possibility still existed. Running in the rain has always felt so liberating to me, and it was bringing me back to the many miles spent training back home in Ohio. Turns out it’s pretty hard to set pace when your body is already mostly numb. I hopped back and fourth between too fast and too slow, just trying to settle in and find a group to run with. I came through the 5k at a 7:15 pace and was pleased. The start of the race is downhill, so now was the time to get in some faster miles. My heartrate was low and the effort was easy. I high-fived spectators, danced and sang when passing crowds playing music, and was feeling incredibly rejuvenated. My feet were still undeniably wet and cold, but it was bearable.

The next several miles became mostly about navigating through the crowd on the course. While I wanted to keep my head down to avoid the rain and the wind, I had to keep my head up searching for openings so I could maintain my goal pace. My shoe came untied at mile 4, so I jumped off the side of the course to tie it. Turns out that’s a really challenging task with numb fingers and soaking wet gloves. The next several miles were spent weaving through runners and trying to ignore the fact that there was definitely going to have to be a bathroom break in my future. I weighed my options. Stopping at mile 9 when my legs were still fresh enough that I could resume running at goal pace seemed like a better option than having to stop at mile 20 and attempt to pick up momentum again during such a challenging part of the race. I hopped in a portapotty, did my business, and came running out of it like a bat out of hell, determined to make up time for my stop. I went back to weaving through the crowd and trying to find a group of tall people to hang behind. Every time I thought I found a good group I would settle in behind them and realize it wasn’t quite the pace I wanted. Back to weaving.

It was around the half mark that things took a turn for the worse. I heard the Wellesley girls ahead and got excited. The loud cheering and energy was definitely contagious. I searched for a girl to kiss (it’s tradition, don’t judge me) but didn’t see any with a sign that said “I kiss girls.” That was my cue in 2015. I didn’t want to put anyone in an uncomfortable position. You know, consent and all. It is worth noting that I saw a Wellesley girl holding a sign that said “I’m wet, kiss me” and that made me laugh really hard. So, I continued through Wellesley, slowing down a bit to high five the girls and just enjoy the moment. I felt like that was just what I needed, and then I would be good to go. Mile 14 was still on pace but felt harder than it should have. I looked at my watch to check in on my heartrate (Only 161. To put it in perspective, I averaged 168 at CIM and thought 170 was feasible for Boston) and saw it was still low so didn’t fully understand the fatigue I was feeling. I went through my mental check list to see where I was at and try to get a grasp on what was going on. “Okay, feet are wet and painfully cold… it’s fine. IT bands strangely already throbbing, but that’s fine, just pain management…. Hands are numb, okay, don’t need those to run anyways…. Huh, my teeth are chattering.” I don’t think I fully realized how cold I was until that moment. How long had I been shivering for anyways? We left the hotel at 7am, at this point it was roughly 12:30p. Okay, Rachael, you are fine. It’s just cold. You can handle that. Despite all of my positive self-talk, mile 16 is then where my pace dropped off pretty bad. I didn’t understand what was happening. My heartrate was low, I had done plenty of long runs so I should not be hurting this early in, why aren’t my legs listening to me? MOVE! I think my body just froze up on me. That’s the only thing I really have to say about the last ten miles. It was a really strange sensation to have my head in it, the fitness there, my heartrate low, but my legs just telling me no.

That’s when I started peeing. Yup, while I was running. I wasn’t trying to pee. I think it was my body just giving me an additional “fuck you.” It was raining and I was so drenched anyways that I guess it didn’t really matter. But what freaked me out was that this continued to happen several more times during the last ten miles. What the hell?! The most disgusting part of it is that when it happened my first thought was, “ahhhh, warmth.” Yeah, I’m a disgusting human being, this isn’t news to me. Feeling so out of control of my body made me very nervous. This was my seventh marathon and that has never happened to me before.

The last 10k was ugly. As we got closer and closer to Boston, the rain turned into a downpour, the occasional 20 mile-per-hour gusts turned into a steady 30 mile-per-hour headwind, and it was cold. So cold. I basically jogged it in because my body would not allow any more than that. Every med station along the course was so, so temping, but I couldn’t do it. I walked this race in 2015 and still finished. I have family, friends, and teammates back home tracking me, I would be so ashamed if I DNF’d. I have never DNF’d a marathon and today will not be that day. So, I dragged my defeated ass to the finish line, even though my legs did not want to take me there. So many spectators yelled “you got this, Trail Dog!” (I was wearing my Trail Dog hat) and it gave me a rush every single time, but regardless, my legs would not listen. I crossed the finish line in 3:35:41 and got my hypothermic ass dragged to a med tent.

Post-race

I’m not the type of chick that cries at the finish line. In pretty much every aspect of my life I am so determined to not be a cliché. That Monday, I sobbed at the finish line as a volunteer dragged me towards a med tent. The sweet older gentleman clearly had no idea what the hell to say to me. “What is your name? You’re done now, you should be so proud.” I cried, my teeth chattering, “R-R-R-Rach-ael. I’m c-c-cold.” I don’t think he could really tell what I was saying between my sobs, shivering, and the finish line cheering. He passed me off to a young female volunteer, “Here, you should talk to her. She’s emotional and needs some help.” Oh, God. Poor, sweet man. I’m so sorry for my estrogen. I have never been inside a med tent before, and it was incredibly impressive to see all of the volunteers, beds, and level of preparation that went into it. I was taken to a bed, stripped, warmed up, had my vitals checked. Volunteer: Your blood pressure is 90 over 60. Me: Is that bad? and fed warm broth through a straw. As the volunteers asked about an emergency contact, I begged them not to call my mom (Sorry, mom) and to call Ryan instead. I didn’t want to panic my family while they were in Ohio and couldn’t do anything about it anyways. Ryan could grab me warm clothes and we could get back to the Hotel together. And that’s exactly what Ryan did. God bless him. I waited for my dry clothes to come in the med tent, insisting I give up my bed to someone who needed it more (I saw a lot of runners in really bad shape, and there was a line to get in) and the very attentive volunteers continued to check on me the whole time. Once Ryan passed on my clothes to a volunteer who went out in the rain to hunt him down, she helped me dress and walked me out to Ryan, making sure I had a Gatorade, a race medal, and some sort of snack.

Getting back to our Hotel turned out to be a nightmare. We figured walking the mile and a half would be quicker with the closed roads and traffic, but maybe made it a quarter of a mile when we realized we just didn’t have it in us to walk back in the weather that still just continued to escalate. After several attempts, we finally got an Uber. Once we got back to the Hotel, we turned up the heat to 78 degrees, ordered two pizzas, found the remaining dry clothing items in our suitcases, and remained in bed the rest of the night, feeling emotionally and physically defeated, but just laughing our asses off at the dreadfulness of it all. Well… It was faster than my first Boston.

At the end of the day, while it really was a rough day, and I was pretty miserable for the majority of the race, I don’t regret the experience. Being part of the Boston Marathon on the five-year anniversary of the bombing was a touching experience that reminded me of the grit, determination, and spirit that Marathoner’s have. While I was so stoked to hear about Desi winning (the first American woman to win since 1985) I was even more moved to hear about her selflessness in achieving that victory, waiting for fellow American Shalane Flanagan as she ran into a portopotty and pulling her back up to the front of the pack. A lot of people ask me why I do this, and Desi answered that question for me in her comradery. The spirit of the marathon, of racing, is something that cannot be matched. Going out there on a shitty day and giving it everything you have makes us better. Better runners, better people, who can say for sure, but I’d like to think so.