Jane’s 2018 Deuceman Long Course Tri

Deuceman Long Course Triathlon, June 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Swim – 1.2 miles – 33:00

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

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

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

Transition 1 – 2:23

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

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

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

Bike – 56 miles – 3:18:08

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transition 2 – 3:01

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

Run – 13.1 miles – 2:09:18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall Summary

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

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

5th overall female (only 17 participants!)

1st AG (out of 2!)

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

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

4

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

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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%

 

Ryan’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/1512489429

Goals

Goal If Good Weather If Bad Weather Completed?
A 2:36 2:39 Nope
B 2:37 PR (2:41:27) Not even close
C PR Have a good time Far From it

Official Splits

5k:          18:27                     25k:        1:33:11
10k:        37:21                     30k:        NR
15k:        NR                          35k:        2:15:14
20k:        1:13:46                  40k:        2:38:33
Half:       1:17:46                  Finish:   2:49:06

Training

My training leading up to Boston was probably the best block of training I’ve completed. I followed a plan from Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathoning.  I basically executed the plan 100% with a few extra easy miles here and there. I attempted the same plan for my last marathon (California International Marathon) which yielded great results despite not following the plan very strictly. This round, excluding my taper, I ran an average of a little under 80 miles per week with a peak week of 90 miles. In addition to running I spent my Monday mornings weight training at True North Fitness with the wonderful Kathleen Stabler. I would occasionally bike and swim but I wouldn’t consider that much of a contributing factor to my fitness. I had many workouts that indicated my run fitness was the best it had ever been. I was regularly completing workouts 10-20 seconds per mile faster than when I ran them in training for CIM. I was geared up to execute a great race in the case of great weather. However, even two weeks out the weather forecast was grim.

Pre-race

Here’s a video FloTrack posted just before the start time, please watch it before reading the following to help set the tone: https://www.facebook.com/FloTrack/videos/10156399177094445/

I comfortably woke up forty-five minutes before my alarm, I laid in bed and stared out the hotel window. I could see a flag blowing hard in the wind and rain sweeping down. So much for my hopes for unexpected good or mild weather. Rachael also raced Boston so we made plans to head to the bus loading area together. She was in the second wave (wave two starts 25 minutes after wave one) so she was sacrificing extra sleep and comfort to be by my side on the journey to the start line. We had all sorts of warm clothing layered and a couple of disposable ponchos to protect ourselves from the weather. We even had shower caps to keep our shoes dry and clear of mud. Our hotel was “only” a little over a mile away from the bus loading area so we decided to be brave (stupid) and walk there instead of getting a cab or uber. The rain was already coming down steadily and the wind was gusting pretty impressively. Thankfully most of the walk was shielded by Boston’s skyscrapers. We were already a bit cold by the time we marched into the loading area.

The bag drop for post-race clothes was about a mile past the bus loading area so we started hiking over. The layout of the barricades for the athlete busses forced us onto what would normally be a nice grassy part of Boston Common. We were trudging through mud instead. Turning onto Boylston Street was a relief from mud to asphalt and brick. I turned back to grab Rachael’s hand – she was gone. Panic, then sadness fell over me. Neither of us had our phones with us. No way to reconnect. I stood there for three or four minutes scanning the sea of ponchos hoping to spot her. No luck. I dropped my bag of clothes and slowly walked to the bus loading area with my head up hoping to spot her. No luck. Shit. I feel guilt realizing she basically lost an hour of sleep to be by my side.

I boarded a bus to the start line and tried to enjoy the hour-long journey to Hopkinton. I’ve picked a seat in the front row and the guy next to me is a triathlete from Sarasota, Florida. We chat a lot about triathlon and how these conditions are out of our wheelhouse. He runs in the heat year-round and I run in dry conditions. We laugh and wish each other the best as the bus makes the last few turns. Towards the end of the bus ride it dawned on me that my gloves were soaking wet. I wring them out on my poncho and about an ounce of water escapes. A sign of things to come.

At the start area there are two medium sized tents and one large tent. I popped into the first tent you approach and poke around for Rachael. No luck. I note there is snow mixed into the mud at the starting area grounds. I consider how much nicer snow would be right now. I’d be dry (relatively) which would diminish the cold significantly. I approach the largest tent then walk a lap through it slowly. I didn’t spot Rachael. Crap. They have hot coffee at the end of the tent. I grabbed a cup thankful for the only source of warmth that morning. Before I know it, wave one is being called to the corrals. Here we go.

It’s still raining. It’s still windy. I’m still cold. Hype is building as I start the mile walk to the starting line. I ditch my shower caps (shoe protectors) as I realize they are just holding water in, not keeping it out. My feet are soaked. I can feel water oozing out with each step. Since I’m wave one, corral one, I’m positioned right behind the professional men in the starting area. The hype is building. I’m about to run a marathon. The national anthem starts and a surge of emotion hits me. There would normally be an F16 flyby but the visibility is too low for them to take off. Guys are ditching their prerace warm clothes but all I can think is, “I am very cold” – I ditch my Walmart special sweat pants with five minutes to start, they’re soaking wet anyway. I’m still wearing a winter coat over my tank top thinking I may hang onto it for a while. Rachael and I bought ‘scrunchie’ style headbands the night before to use as ear warmers. I’m grateful I have that on. Guys are already stripped to shorts and singlets and I can’t fathom how they’re comfortable. Guys with less body fat than me (read: less insulation) look comfortable.  The gun goes off and my brain says, “Wait, it’s still cold though!”

Race

I knew the wind was going to be bad on race day. The forecast was pretty much a direct headwind for 26.2 miles. My strategy was to find a big pack of guys and work together to hold a good pace. In cycling this is race strategy 101. In cycling the aerodynamic benefit of riding behind another cyclist can be as much as a 40% energy savings. Normally, in a run race it’s at most an 8% benefit. With the 15-30 MPH headwinds I expect to see a more of a “cycling benefit” if I work with other runners. My idea was take a turn at the front of a pack every few minutes and conserve energy behind them while someone else leads.

For the first few miles of the race, I’m weaving through a lot of folks to try to get to ‘my pace’ that I think I can race at. Before I know it, I hit the 5k timing mat. 18:27. This is pretty spot-on with what I planned on hitting in my “Good Weather A Goal” calculations. My heart rate monitor is not giving me good data. It’s reading right around 200 (my max heart rate is 193), I manually check my pulse to verify it’s not sky-high. Normally I would use the heart rate value to validate or modify pace. Effort feels easy. I’m still wearing my jacket, it’s probably creating static that is interfering with the monitor. However, the jacket is becoming heavy with water. When do I drop this thing?

Around mile four I found a good group to run with. I’m starting to feel warm in my upper body, everything below my waist was 100% saturated and chilled. That’s the way it’s going to be. Mile five is going to be my dump for the jacket. I take it off and wait for the aide station around the five-mile marker. There’s a spectator yelling something about my jacket and I can’t really make it out. Oh well. Maybe it was, “Hey don’t drop your jacket you will regret it you idiot.” I bet that was it. I did regret it eventually. My mile splits are all right on for my A goal still. Cool. Mile six clocks in on my watch at 5:42 which I happened to not see, which is unfortunate because that is considerably faster than what I had planned for any of my fastest miles and that particular mile is fairly flat. 10k split is 37:21, Good Weather A goal still on track.

I have a handful of good guys to run with and we’re staying in a pretty tight bunch. My nutrition and hydration are perfect. The weather seems gentler at this point and I feel pretty comfortable. I noticed that my cheap cotton gloves are great at absorbing water. On my arm upswing I see droplets scatter from each hand every stride. Do I bother keeping the gloves on? Are they helping or hurting? They’re so soaked that I figure keeping them on will be easier. Heart rate monitor is finally reading properly and my pace is not reflected by my heart rate – in a good way. Cool. Race is on. Mile nine ticks by right on track with that most ambitious goal and I’m feeling good, though it’s starting to feel like work – as it should over a third of the way into a marathon. Cool. Shit, my shoe is untied. I stop just shy of the 15k timing mat to tie it. This is really difficult. My hands aren’t really working and the gloves are so wet and saturated it’s tough to grab the laces. After a lifetime (probably 30 seconds) it’s tied and I crossed the 15k mat. No official time but I estimate 56:30, I remember thinking still on track for the A goal. This pack running is working!

Due to the shoelace fiasco (dramatic?) I’ve been passed by a lot of folks and I feel like I NEED to get back up to my homies from earlier. I start working a little harder to jump up the pack. It’s spread a little thinner here and I’m hopping from one guy to the next to hide from the wind. I remember hoping that these guys were getting on my shoulder to help hide from the wind and jump up to one of the bigger packs. The wind is pretty strong at this point in the race which I’m starting to notice more and more. Miles are still clicking off at reasonable effort and A-Goal pace. Cool. I’m starting to feel a bit colder outside of my power pack. 20k timing: 1:13:46

It’s right about this point you start to hear “the Wellesley girls.” The Wellesley College is home to the infamous group of young women cheering their heads off and offering a kiss to runners that stop. This is a huge adrenaline rush. I wanted to find a girl for a kiss (Rachael gave explicit permission) but I just can’t fathom slowing down or stopping with the high from the tunnel of screams. I opt to high five the girls, maybe next time you’ll get a kiss, ladies. The adrenaline dips and I start to realize I’m pretty effing cold. I’m kind of shivering and my teeth are chattering a little. Halfway point of the race: 1:17:46 – this is also a new PR for the half marathon distance!

I knew I would positive split the race. Fastest case – I figured around 1:17-1:18 then 1:19-1:20 for the second half would be how I would execute. The first half has more descent and the second half has more rolling hills and climbs. I feel confident I’m in good shape but I am cold. I keep thinking my shoe is untied but in reality, it’s just water spraying on my leg from every step I take. There is standing water covering the road so it’s basically unavoidable. Turning through the town of Wellesley the wind starts to really hit me. I am very cold. I am shivering and my teeth are chattering. No more kind of/sort of. Hmmm… 25k mark at 1:33:11, a little slower than A goal but that’s okay, maybe a little recovery is okay. Or just soften up to secondary goal. There aren’t many folks to run with any more. Where did everyone go? It’s sparse.

The second half of the course was packed with spectators to my surprise. I am in a mental fog with the cold. I can’t focus on pace. At an aide station I grabbed a cup of Gatorade and roughly 75% of the drink ended up in my eye. If you’re wondering, that feels pretty bad. I don’t recommend it as a saline solution substitute. I kind of have to use a bathroom but fear a pit stop means a race stop. I soldier on. 30k mark at (estimated) 1:53:15 – slowing down a lot.

My body is not happy about running. It’s not, “oh I went out hard and died,” but cold weather physical shutdown. I’ve felt this before at the St. George 70.3 in 2016. I’ve felt this before when I decided to ride to the Sandia Crest in a snowstorm while severely underdressed. Decision time: back off effort or battle through the conditions. If I run slower I can shorten race recovery period from a month to a couple weeks. I will risk injury by running hard while I am mentally debilitated – I could slip, trip, or fall. I knew I COULD run hard but if I did it would be debilitating pain for days and inability to run/train much at all for weeks. There’s a phrase “going to the well” in running that describes digging very deep and putting in a maximal effort. I did not want to go the well in this race. I do not need to sacrifice myself for a bad weather race day. Just finish. 35k: 2:15:14, all goals are out the window. Too slow.

I am trying very hard to shut myself off from the pain and cold but it’s ineffective. I keep thinking that even after I finish I need to wait for Rachael so we can leave together. That means thirty minutes to an hour after the race in the cold. I have to pee still and consider stopping to use a portipotty but know that’s a DNF waiting to happen. I considered peeing while running but couldn’t bring myself to do it. Even though nobody would ever notice since I was so wet. Other pain becomes more apparent. Bad chaffing between my thighs and I’m pretty sure I no longer have skin on either of my achilles. I rarely get chaffing in either spot. I also eye every medical tent and sign advertising one greedily. No… too close to the finish. You can’t run 21 miles then quit, idiot. 40k split: 2:38:33, not as bad as I thought it was going to be. Getting passed by droves of people. This crushes the soul.

The final mind game: “Okay I have 2.2k to go. That’s about 1.3-1.4 miles. “That’s really easy.” Ten-twelve minutes or so. At the worst. And I was mentally at my worst. I knew I was physically in a magical place. There is so much crowd support, so much history, and the countless unmistakable Boston landmarks at this point in the race. It’s like you’re the biggest rock star in the world taking the stage to start the show. It is epic. I want to feel this high but I can’t. I know the last few turns and I know exactly where I am – I want to enjoy it. All I can do is look at my feet with my hat tucked low because I am so miserably cold. It is simultaneously the worst and best feeling in the world. Finish: 2:49:06. I try to smile for the camera but after reviewing the photos it is a very forced grimace.

Post-race

I hobbled through the finish and see the countless volunteers offering everything a runner would want at the end of any normal race. I receive my finisher’s medal and move on. I don’t want water. No Gatorade. I don’t want food. All I want is a blanket. The blankets seem like they’re a mile away. I try to jog a little to get there sooner. It doesn’t happen. Seeing volunteers with wheelchairs lining the finishing chute, I strongly consider jumping in one but it just seems pointless since they don’t have blankets. After an eternity, a blanket! I’m still cold but my mindset has changed from “freezing” to “thawing.”

I continue my ugly hobble to the dry gear that I dropped off in the morning. Since I had a lower bib number it is as far away from the finish line as possible. Cool. I grab my bag and turn around back toward the finishing tent which seems so far away (it was near the blanketing area). The men’s changing tent is 100% packed. Fortunately, the volunteer at the women’s tent was letting men in since it was so early that very few women had finished. I move toward the back of the tent and just stare at my gear. I can’t untie the knot to open it. I waited a few minutes just staring at man-ass until my hands sort of worked (those two things are unrelated). I was really smart and double bagged my gear in the morning so that it would stay dry even, in this muck. The second knot was easier to untie.

It took a solid fifteen minutes to change clothes, I had packed a towel so I was even dry now. I had a full change of dry clothes, life was kind of good for the first time in six hours. I stopped shivering for the first time in hours too! I grabbed my wet race gear as women started to confusedly yet nonchalantly enter the tent and change. Rachael and I had a designated meeting spot and I was headed that way. She had NOT checked a dry clothes bag so I knew she would be ready to leave ASAP.

I stood at our meeting spot for a few minutes trying to eat what little food I had grabbed along the way. It was difficult. A couple women that were waiting for their runner held an umbrella over me. I asked them to look Rachael up since I didn’t have my phone. In her perfect race she would have been finishing shortly – on this day she was still five miles from the finish line. Okay, I guess I can walk to the hotel. Good-she’ll want clothes and I can be a little bit of a hero for the first time that day.

I got lost on my way back to the hotel. I’m such an idiot. I took one wrong turn and it ended up taking about an hour to walk fifteen or twenty minutes. I was soaked to the bone again. Back at the hotel I stripped my wet gear and put on dirty clothes. That’s all I had to wear at this point, I had packed without accounting for multiple changes of clothes in any one day. I was dry at least. I have a missed call and text messages. Rachael is in the med tent and requesting clothes. Shit. I grabbed an umbrella and Rachael’s clothes. I got in a cab and hustled down to the med tent.

Physically Rachael was okay but she was hypothermic – like many of the participants. I read that over 2300 people received medical treatment. I was very thankful that she was able to wait in a warm dry area. We exit the med area and debate uber/cab versus walking it. We posit that the traffic and demand for transportation will outweigh the time it takes to walk. We start walking. The rain is coming down hard and the wind is brutal. Rachael does not have the energy to walk very fast at all, and I don’t either. We call an uber. Eight minutes out, okay. Ten minutes after the eight minutes, he cancels. We start walking again. Can’t do it. The weather is too bad. We hide under a hotel awning and call another uber. The hotel very graciously lets us wait under the awning while turning away random folks that are trying to go into the hotel for shelter. We keep our eyes peeled for the driver in his White Dodge Caravan. After twenty minutes our uber finally makes it.

We hop in what I assume is the only White Dodge Caravan in Boston and get on our way. Relieved to be in real shelter we relax. Turn the heat up to eleven and start chatting with the driver. Rachael looks at me and says “we’re in the wrong uber” … the driver is Caucasian and the app showed our driver as a large black dude – FUCK ME WHAT ELSE CAN GO WRONG. We apologize and our real driver calls. We hustle the half block back to the meeting point and get the right White Dodge Caravan. Forty-five minutes later we arrive at the hotel (two miles away). The day is finally over.

In hindsight it was kind of a funny calamity – painful but I can laugh now. I scoured results. I did end up ‘beating my bib’ – entrants are seeded based on qualifying time, so finishing in an overall rank higher than your bib number means you finished faster than predicted, more or less. I also looked at some of the pro women’s time and saw how much they were slowed. I ran about as fast or faster than women that have run ten minutes faster than I have in other marathons. Okay. Enough self-pity. I saw that nearly the entire pro field of men did not finish. Half of the women didn’t either. Okay, I did it. They didn’t. That’s a point of positivity.

Thanks for reading! Here’s hoping my next one won’t be such a shit show. And thank you to everyone that sent me support and congratulations along the way. I really appreciate.

Ryan’s 2017 Boulder 70.3

What? Boulder Half Ironman
When? August 5, 2017
How far? 70.3 (ish)

Goals

| A | Top 5 Age Group |
| B | Top 50 Amateur |
| C | Sub 4:20 |

Training

My training leading up to Boulder was a mostly consistent execution of a 16 week plan I’ve devised myself. At the beginning (about 15 and 14 weeks out) I had to travel to Anchorage to take care of some family business so I didn’t get much training done – which was OK since this was basically right after Oceanside 70.3 so the extra recovery time wasn’t all bad. The training plan is something of a DIY with big chunks of Friel’s “Your Best Triathlon” and Pfitzinger’s “Faster Road Racing” – my swim plan was basically unchanged from the book. My bike training was modified – generally, I would bike to and from work 5 days a week (about 16 miles for an hour total, per day) at a mostly easy pace. Tuesdays I would do hill repeat work (in aero!), and Saturday or Sunday I would do a long ride with 4-5 15-20 minute intervals at race effort with 5 minutes recovery. A pretty simple plan. My run plan was only slightly modified version of a half marathon training plan for higher mileage runners. The crux of this plan is you run have two longish runs per week (generally, I would run 13+ miles twice a week), in addition to doing speed work the day preceding one of the long runs. Here’s how that breaks down for the final twelve weeks of training:

7,779 yards in 2:17 per week
149 miles rode in 8:52 per week
54 miles ran in 6:56 per week

Looks like I went pretty far on an average week! My biggest regret is that I skipped a lot of swims and my volume was about half of what I would like it to be. I need to be more diligent and stop making excuses to not swim.

Pre-race

I stayed at an AirBNB about two miles from transition with a few Trail Dogs. This relieved a lot of the stress that race morning commuting usually brings. However, of course, there was deadlocked traffic heading to the reservoir. We saw folks in the distance (probably 3-4 miles away) get out of their cars and start running toward the race start. We’re all in this together, just be patient. We get to the race start considerably later than anticipated, but I know the race director is a reasonable person and will push the start back. We got in ahead of a lot of people so there’s no way they’re going to start the race on time. I setup transition and find Jeff, who is the club’s race bitch for the day (he did great and I’m incredibly appreciative!), dumped my clothes/etc with him. Trying to find my mom who has come up from Albuquerque is not fruitful – until about five minutes before my start. She wishes me luck and off I go. I am so grateful she could come.

Race

Swim – felt comfortable, reasonably on track swimming straight. I’m wishing for a 32:xx swim but hopefully for a 34:xx considering how flaky I’ve been in the pool. I catch a lot of feet and stay on target pretty well so I am fairly confident I’m on track. The last quarter of the swim is a graveyard of the earlier waves. Folks are hardly making forward progress and I think back to my first race and hope they’re feeling better than I did. I feel guilty colliding with them but they seem to come out of nowhere. Headed up the dock I click lap on my watch. 35:xx. Shit. Bad. At least I’m not wiped, I have plenty of juice for the bike. I transition fast despite stumbling on my wetsuit in transition at my bike. Swim official time 35:51. T1 official time 2:02.

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Bike – I mount up smoothly. Lot’s of traffic ahead of me but the lanes are wide. This is good. I can hold below race power target and go faster thanks to slipstreaming ahead. I’m passing someone every five seconds, it feels like. Pounding gatorade and gels, feeling full, but tolerable. Good. I’m planned aggressive fluid/gel intake to make sure I don’t implode on the run. I’ve planned the ride – I know what my total time needs to be at 15, 30, and 45 miles to have a top 10 bike split. at 15 and 30, i’m a minute ahead of those targets. Must be a tailwind. Around 35-40 my lower back starts to really hurt. I need a bike fit. I’ve always just kind of DIY tweaked it. I know I’m super aero but I can’t maintain it. 45 mile mark, i’m two minutes behind. Yup, favorable winds early. Back hurts. Run is soon. Just suck it up. Man this headwind sucks. Wait, I’m out of gear at 95 cadence. It’s not a headwind, i’m doing 30+ mph. Okay. Just get out there. last mile or so of the bike stuck behind two guys. That’s okay, go slow into transition, better than wiped. Huh, 54 miles. Oh well, a little short isn’t bad. T2 is fast, smooth, steady. Bike official time 2:10:57. T2 official time 1:22.

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Run – Okay, time to light some people up. I had the 10th fastest AG run split at Oceanside and my running has improved since then. I start out maybe 100 yards behind the only guy that passed me on the bike. Slowly reeling him in and someone is reeling me in. They have a fan club getting good gopro footage/etc. They’re cheering him on. Fuck you Alex. Alex passes me, I hang onto his shoulder. We catch the guy that passed me on the bike. He starts to fall back, I get on Alex’s shoulder. We pass a male pro (on his second loop of course). This pace is hard. Alex doesn’t seem to be hurting at all. Fuck you Alex. We get to the second aide station and Alex slows down. I blast past him and the adrenaline makes the same pace feel easy. Fuck you Alex! Start feeling real strong. About mile 3.5 my left quad shuts down and cramps hard. The kind of cramp that made me say “I guess I’m walking 9 miles today.” Crap. Slow down for a minute, it opens up. Pain is gone. What? Build pace back up, cautiously. Okay. Back in business. The course is much busier on the second loop. I’m passing packs of people just like at Oceanside. I have to surge ahead of packs at aide stations to make sure I get fluids. Around mile eight or nine an older guy hears me coming, he yells in a snarky tone “Somebody can’t bike!”, I laugh to myself and let him have his moment. I’ll be done soon. Mile 10. 5k to go. Let er rip. Just kidding, pace has got hard, more effort just means maintenance. Picturing my mom at the finish line lightens the load. Okay. Mile twelve. Everything is about to cramp. Shoulders. Arms. Core. Steady. 500 yards to go. I see Terry Casey (local pro, my girlfriend’s coach). “COME ON TERRY, DON’T LET ME CATCH YOU” … adrenaline, time to blaze it. 5:30 pace through the chute. Run official time 1:25:46.

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Finish time: 4:15:58. 3rd in my age group. 7th age grouper. (Alex beat me, guy crushed me on the swim and bike).

Post-race

Meet up with mom – everyone – grateful for everyone that came to spectate and real proud of all of my friends that had great races. I need to learn to swim. I had the 18th (i think) fastest AG bike split, 4th fastest AG run split. My bike is making steady progress and I’m happy with where that’s at. With a bike fit and more steady training I will continue improving. I’ve started working with a swim coach recently so that will help immeasurably. Until now I basically learned to swim on youtube.

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What’s next?

My next “A Race” is going to be California International Marathon, December 3rd! I hope to have a significant PR – my run fitness has exploded this year and I feel like I can continue to improve. My current PR is 2:57:32.