My marathon history…

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(I haven’t finished my recap from this past weekend’s race yet but if you want to skip below I wrote a little blurb about it…)

One of the questions I was asked in the med tent in Boston was “how many marathons have you run?” and I had to think about it for a moment before I gave my answer. I was so dehydrated and exhausted that I couldn’t recall exactly, so I just said “six”, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how abnormal it was that I didn’t know. So today I parked myself in front of my laptop to look up my past race results.

Part of me wishes this fit into a perfect little progression that makes sense. Instead, there’s a story behind each of these races.

#1 Charlottesville Marathon (Charlottesville, VA) 2006 3:52:29

… I was in grad school at JMU and had recently “retired” from running when one of my friends asked if I would train with her for this race. We followed a Hal Higdon plan (her idea) and did our weekly long runs together. I was hung over the day before the race, and ate veggie pizza for dinner that night- both were terrible choices. I felt good early on but spent portions of the last 8-10 miles walking and swore I would never run a marathon again. Because I hadn’t fueled properly, this was my first experience with “hitting the wall”.

#2 Vermont City Marathon (Burlington, VT) 2008 4:33:09

… My sister and her boyfriend (now husband) decided to run this race so I ran it with them. They followed a Hal Higdon plan and I followed a no running plan. All I remember from this race was that it was hot and very hilly, but I thought it was a nice course.

#3 Shamrock Marathon (Virginia Beach, VA) 2009 3:43:45

… Pete and I had moved back to Virginia and I started coaching cross country in the fall of 2008, which is when I started getting interested in running again. After cross country season I didn’t run at all and I was in school to get my teaching license. Between that and planning my wedding, I didn’t have time to train, so I’m not sure why I signed up for this race. I did one random 3 hour run at the end of February and otherwise made it through this race on the fitness I had leftover from the fall. I was on pace to run 3:40 and qualify for Boston (the old qualifying time) but ended up slowing way down in the last few miles.

#4 Mohawk Hudson River Marathon (Albany, NY) 2011 3:05:22

… The death of one of my college teammates prompted me to get off my ass and actually train for a marathon, so I started a blog on blogspot and chronicled my training (actually “our” training because Pete and I trained together and he wrote some of the posts). We used a plan from the Pete Pfitzinger book “Advanced Marathoning”. I had run a 1:30 half that spring without training, so I figured I might be able to run close to 3 hrs with a solid training block. I ran into a few issues training through the intense summer heat, so I was pleasantly surprised to run this fast and feel good doing it (and I learned how to carbo load properly which was why I was able to hold my pace in those later miles).

Shamrock Marathon  2012 DNF (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

… Had some great training for this race but also a lot of personal health issues which affected my training, and dropped out around 14 miles. Boo.

#5 Three Bridges Marathon (Charlottesville, VA) 2012 3:12:42

… Took some time off from marathons for most of 2012, but after spectating at the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon I decided to give it a go and find a winter marathon nearby. I had 8 weeks to train for this, mostly done on the treadmill at 4 am before work. I also got really sick about 3 weeks beforehand with a virus and didn’t know if I’d make it to the start line, but my doctor cleared me to run that week and I somehow pulled it off.

Boston Marathon 2013 DNS

… Preggers with Emmaline. This was the year of the bombing. I had initially planned to run this race or at least part of it, but changed my mind a few weeks beforehand.

#6 Boston Marathon 2014 3:46:44

… An injury forced me into cross training for about 6 weeks. I ran alongside my sister for about 21 miles of this until we hit the top of Heartbreak. This was the year after the bombing. I’ll never forget running up Heartbreak and finding out that Meb had won. It still gives me chills.

#7 Mohawk Hudson River Marathon (Albany, NY) 2015 3:05:25

… I surprised myself with this race, almost running a PR with a pretty pathetic training cycle. I ran about 5 days per week pushing Emma in the running stroller for almost every run. My mileage averaged about 45 mpw. I lost motivation at the end of August and took 10 days completely off from running. We were also in the process of selling our house… and a few days after this race I found out I was pregnant with Natalie!

#8 Boston Marathon 2016 3:24:57

… I trained with a new coach and although it wasn’t the time I was hoping for, I was happy to make it through the post-baby comeback without a major injury. It was very warm for Boston this year, not hot, but enough to affect many of us who train in cooler climates. I wrote a recap of the race, and my splits are up on Strava. In general, it’s best to run evenly or negative split a marathon, although that’s difficult to do in Boston the way the course is laid out (with the significant hills in miles 16-21). I was attempting to run this race at an even pace, around 6:50s, but around mile 10 or so it became obvious that wasn’t going to happen. I was really sore (even four days later when I originally wrote this post) particularly in my right quad.

#9 Rhinebeck Hudson Valley Marathon (Rhinebeck, NY) 2016 3:10:39

… This was such a fun race, and I felt great for this one even though it was another very warm day (probably similar to Boston weather but we had a lot of shade too). I signed up for this one a few days before the race and went into it without a goal time, just planning to run how I felt and maybe try to get my marathon mojo back after a disappointing result in Boston.  I ended up having a good group of guys to run with for the first half and finished feeling pretty strong. I loved this course- it was two loops, with lots of hills and gorgeous scenery. My splits are here.

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So… maybe I’ll get it right by marathon number 10? I’m not planning to run one this fall, so I think number 10 might have to wait until Boston next year. Or maybe I’ll sign up for another one on a whim, who knows!

What are some of your favorite marathon courses? Big or small, flat or hilly, doesn’t matter, just looking for a good excuse to travel and run 26.2 miles (although a fast course wouldn’t hurt)!

 

Mother’s Day 5k bRUNch 18:47

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Hey, it’s been awhile! I won a race this weekend! I’m still in lazy mode after Boston, so I wasn’t sure how this would go. We left our house around 8 am on Sunday and got to Schenectady Central Park around 8:30. No alarm necessary since the girls have been getting up at 5:30 am lately. I warmed up 1.5 miles with my sister, very easy, then nursed Natalie before walking over to the start. Reluctantly did one stride and waited a few minutes for the race to start. I don’t know if there was a gun (I think the starter just said GO!!) but once the race was off I went straight to the front. Usually I don’t care if I start off easy, but since there were a lot of young kids in this race (which was awesome, go Girls on the Run) I thought it would be better to just get out. The race made a small loop back through the starting line and then looped around a lake in the park. There was one woman ahead of me in the beginning but I passed her in the first mile, and after that I ran alone.

I came through the first mile in 6:03 (side note: why does Garmin show different splits than Strava and sometimes different distances?) I felt pretty good so I decided to maintain the same effort. The course went up and over a medium-sized hill and then turned left into the woods where we ran along a trail with some uneven footing (although it was well marked). I came through two miles just as we ran back out of the woods and saw my split was 6:13, so I had slowed a little with the hill and uneven footing, but I still felt pretty good.

The third mile looped back around the lake in the opposite direction, and I tried to quicken my pace a little on the back half of the loop. I completely zoned out after that and before I knew it I was at the third mile marker (5:58). Then I looked up and saw my family cheering for me and the finish clock- I didn’t have a big time goal for the race, but it’s always nice to get in under 19 minutes. My official finish time was 18:47 (results here).

After the race I ran an easy mile with my sister as a cool down. I was planning on running another half mile with Emmaline during the kids race, but she decided not to run (it was pretty cold and windy). I’ve been reeeeally enjoying NOT marathon training- probably a little too much.

I won flowers and a year membership to a local gym. Totally didn’t get a photo of the awards because I had the post-race shivers and just wanted to peace out and get some food. We had brunch after the race at Perecca’s Italian Kitchen (they make the BEST bread) which was awesome because we were starving.

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They put sprinkles on Emmaline’s pancakes at our request. Yum!

Boston Marathon recap

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Well, friends, I was hoping for a better result on Patriot’s Day this year. I didn’t even come close to reaching my goal, but I finished.

I had to be transported to the med tent in a wheelchair, which was not something I ever imagined happening.

But let me go back to earlier in the day.

My sister Steph (19 weeks pregnant) and I (breast pump in tow) were laughing at the  hashtag she created #breastpumpsandbabybumps and attempted to figure out a vague timeline for the morning on the bus ride out to Hopkinton. When you look at the schedule for race morning, it seems like you’ll have so much time but in reality the time goes by really fast. All we really did was wait in line for the porta potties and then it was time to go to the start. I didn’t have any trouble finding the operations tent where I turned in my pump. It didn’t bother me, but I did think it was comical that they put a bunch of guys in charge of that area.

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Did you catch the selfie of a selfie? Also, Steph finished Boston in 4:50 at 19 weeks pregnant (thanks for making the rest of us feel lazy, sister)

It was a lot warmer than I had expected in Hopkinton. Apparently it was 70 degrees at the start, clear and sunny. I started coming down with a cold on Friday night so I already had a sore throat but I noticed that despite how much water I had been drinking my mouth felt dry. That was my first sign that I might have to adjust my goal.

After you leave the Athlete’s Village, it’s about a mile jog/ walk to the start line. Before you go into the corrals, there is an area with a bunch of porta potties where everyone makes their last pit stop. The lines were long and I knew I wouldn’t have enough time to get through before 10 am. A bunch of guys were lined up along the embankment next to that area and I though “well, that’s not fair” so I marched myself along the row, kept my eyes down, and peed. Only got a little on my shoe.

I made my way to my corral and looked around to see if I recognized anyone. Nope. The sun felt really hot at this point and I was glad I had decided to wear a hat. A few minutes went by and I sort of spaced out until I heard someone call my name. It was Meg, another runner that I know from social media. We figured out that we both had similar goals so we decided to run together. The race started a few minutes later, and I was so damn excited to get going.

The first mile is a really steep downhill. We were towards the back of our corral and one of the last corrals in Wave 1, so it was tough to hit pace (although somewhat expected). The first mile was around 7:15, and then it started to spread out enough to weave through the crowds. The next three miles were all in the 6:50’s, which was encouraging except for 2 things- 1) my Garmin was already way off the mile markers on the course, and 2) I wasn’t feeling “good”. I tried to ignore those issues though because I know it’s normal to go through rough patches in the marathon (although not usually this early on). We chatted briefly about how we were feeling and decided to settle into the low 7’s for awhile.

At this point I knew I wasn’t going to hit my A goal, so you can only imagine what was going on in my mind. Of course I was disappointed, but I also knew going into this training cycle that Boston weather is totally unpredictable. I really had three main goals for this cycle- 1) to get through it without a major injury like I had 2 years ago coming back from my first pregnancy, 2) to run a PR in the half, and 3) to run a PR in the marathon and hopefully closer to 2:55- 2:59. So, knowing I already had met 2 of 3 made it a little easier to let go and back off the pace.

Although there were a few slower miles, we stayed in the low 7’s for the most part through Ashland, Framingham and Natick. Wellesley was a nice boost- my Oiselle teammates came out in full force at Cowbell Corner (there were almost 100 of us running Boston) and I got to see my family there and hug my girls. According to my watch I came through the half around 1:35 but was getting further and further off the mile markers. I had separated from Meg by then, so getting to see some familiar faces was awesome.

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Don’t remember which mile this was, but I was still feeling good here.

 I still felt pretty good through the first of the Newton hills and had a smile on my face even when I was hurting. I noticed somewhere in Newton that my right quad and the front of my hip had tightened up, so I tried to relax a little bit and just focus on getting up and over each hill as delicately as possible. I was tempted to join the walking party since it seemed like so many others around me were doing it, but I knew if I started walking now it would be hard to fight it for the next 6 miles… so I smiled up Heartbreak at 9:00 pace.

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Nearing the top of Heartbreak  Hill.

From the top of Heartbreak to the finish the streets are lined with people cheering. It’s such a strange experience because you’re exhausted, your legs feel like jello, and every ounce of you wants to stop running (or at least somehow skip forward to the finish line). But you’ve got friends and strangers cheering for you and telling you to keep going… and somehow you will your legs to keep going. I felt myself starting to get emotional, which led me to start hyperventilating so I had to try to disassociate in those last few miles. I counted from 1- 100 focusing on taking deep breaths. Then I’d start over again. I did this for 6 miles, with a few breaks in between. I looked up and saw the Citgo sign, then looked down and started counting again. I looked up when I heard someone cheer for me by name, then I’d get back to counting. It felt like I was barely picking my feet up but in reality I was still running around 8:30 pace for the last 10k through Brookline and Boston.

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Running through Chestnut Hill area and Boston College.

Before I knew it, we were turning right on Hereford! Both times I’ve made that turn it has caught me by surprise…. like, this can’t be the finish already?! But, there’s only one right turn into Hereford, so it has to be the end. Then we turn left on Boylston and you can see the finish line. Without thinking, my turnover got quicker- I just wanted to get to the finish.

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I see you, finish line.

I remembered to stop my watch this time. My official finish time was 3:24:57 for 26.2 miles.

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Yassss.

…and I actually ran 26.9 miles, which is probably the worst tangent running of my life. But for this race it was more important to get water every mile than to try and run the shortest distance possible

I had another hyperventilating episode at the finish but I was able to calm myself down, then slowly walk through the finish area along Boylston and pick up my gear bag. This is when things got a little ugly…. I was dehydrated and not thinking straight. I had to find the operations tent to pick up my pump, but I couldn’t remember any details about where it was (they transported the pump from Hopkinton for us to the finish, unlike our gear which was dropped off at the same tent where we picked it up in Boston). The volunteer who I spoke with wasn’t helpful- maybe I wasn’t being clear, maybe I just picked the wrong person to talk to, but I felt myself start to hyperventilate again and then I started seeing stars and things got black for a moment. A kind volunteer brought me a wheelchair, and since I wasn’t confident I could walk on my own at this point they wheeled me to the med tent.

They used a scanner on my bib number as I went in the tent and then took me to an area for the less serious ailments. There were signs over each section, and I noticed one that said “Leg Cramps” which made one of my legs instantly cramp up. I laid down on a cot with a blanket, tried to eat and drink water.  A nurse came to take my blood pressure, and a doctor came over to ask me questions and make sure I was okay (like how many marathons have you run, was this your first Boston, and a few others pertaining to how I was feeling). My breathing was still labored at this point but much better than it had been. The staff and volunteers were all incredibly helpful and talked to me until I felt better. It took about 30 minutes before I sat up and realized I was fine. They brought over someone with a cell phone and I was able to call my family and let them know I was okay. Once I was cleared to leave, they scanned me out and I met up with my family.

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I wanted to get a photo with my two girls after the race, but Natalie had me pinned down and Emma wanted to play hide and seek with her cousins. So, you get the idea. I was pretty sore yesterday, I think partly because of the hills and also from sitting in this position for an hour and a half after the race. Poor girl was hungry.

I plan on taking two weeks completely off from running and then will go from there. I was lucky I felt good enough to finish and get a qualifier for next year. Maybe the third time I’ll get it right. I’m extremely excited to run shorter distances this summer and then go for a fast half marathon in October, and as of now I’m not planning to run a fall marathon.

A huge hug, high five, and thank you to everyone who offered support these last few months and on Monday. My mom, dad, sisters, and Pete all helped watch the girls on weekends and sometimes on weekdays so I could train. Thanks to my Willow Street teammates for your words of encouragement and support on the course yesterday, my Oiselle teammates who had such a freaking awesome cowbell corner in Wellesley and along the course, and the Averill Park alumni cheer section (Mindel, you really are everywhere). Over and out for now, friends. Boston, I love you!

The longest three weeks…

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Three weeks from today, if everything goes to plan, I will be hobbling around town doing the marathon shuffle. A few weeks ago I was really doubting myself, but after a good half marathon race and a few decent long runs and workouts I’m feeling much more capable. There have been some highs and lows recently, but I keep referring back to my theme for 2016 and that whole “hay is in the barn” saying that every coach in the history of running uses when their athlete starts to panic.

I felt good after my half marathon, almost too good, but I had strict instructions to take the next four days really easy. I had a short workout on Friday evening leading into a 24 mile long run on Saturday morning. I’ve done a few of these pre-fatigued long runs and they are NOT fun. Looking back at long runs I’ve done on fresh legs versus fatigued I can see such a difference in my pace and how I felt overall, so I just need to remember that and not dwell on how awful that 24 felt. Both kids were having sleep issues the week leading up to Shamrock, and for the week afterwards it was even worse. So, I was going on two weeks without a full night of sleep until yesterday. Getting almost 8 solid hours of sleep was magical.

drunk sleep tired bridesmaids jet lag

We’ve been lucky to have unseasonably mild weather recently, so the girls and I have been strolling around in the double BOB most days. Now that Natalie is getting bigger she doesn’t just fall asleep immediately, so I’ve caught Emmaline playing peek-a-boo with her and trying to get her to laugh. The two of them giggling together is the cutest thing and makes stroller running fun. As much as I’m looking forward to Boston, I’m also looking forward to some lazy days with the girls once marathon training is done where I don’t have to stress about fitting in a 12 mile workout.

I have a 5 mile race this weekend that I’ll do as part of my long run. After this weekend comes a two week taper, and then it’s game time!

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Although I looked like a drowned rat., I love that Shamrock offered free photos this year. And evidence that I didn’t make up that story about my watch falling off and not being able to put it back on.

 

Shamrock Half Marathon 2016 recap

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Hard to know where to start with this one. I read this article in the VA pilot on my way home Monday night and I think it really sums up the overall conditions for the races on Sunday. The article describes the start of the race where we really had no idea what lay ahead of us. That part was so true. I left my hotel room in shorts and my singlet with an old throwaway fleece (carrying my dry bag) and as soon as I got outside I had to return to put on more clothes. I realized that I wasn’t prepared for the conditions, but I just laughed and shook my head. There wasn’t anything I could do about it.

The warm up was probably worse than the race itself: dark, pouring rain, alone, and straight into the wind. I heard the national anthem playing when I knew I still had about a half mile left, so I was a little worried about getting to dry bag trucks, taking my extra clothes off, etc and getting to the start before 7 am, but I made it. The energy before the race was more relaxed than usual, almost like everyone was just at the IDGAF stage. When the race started, I was literally weaving around people wearing trash bags. I’ve seen that kind of thing before races (never worn one myself… I usually opt for throwaway clothes) but never during.

My plan for the race from my coach was to run 6:40s through 8-9 miles and then try to pick it up for the last few miles if I felt good. The more detailed version was that the first 8-9 miles should feel more like a tempo effort, and the last 4-5 should feel more like a race. With the forecasted winds, I decided my best bet would be to not worry about my exact pace and just focus on keeping a tempo effort. I was hoping for a pack to run with to help break the wind, and after the first mile I found myself running with a pack of about 10 other runners. First 3 miles were into the wind and mostly in the 6:40s (splits for the race are here).

Just before the 3 mile split we turned onto Shore Dr. and the change of direction (and being a little inland with some tree protection) made the wind a non-issue for the next three miles. Most of our pack took off and I found myself running with Mary at what felt like a comfortable pace. We hadn’t planned to run together but we ended up running the remainder of the race pretty much stride for stride which was a stroke of really good luck (and a lot of fun). As we turned right into the gates of Fort Story, I prepared myself for what I knew would be the strongest wind gusts of the day.

I’ve been thinking about how to describe the conditions at this point. Somehow the winds were coming straight at us AND sideways. Some of the gusts were so bad that they felt like they’d blow us over. There were volunteers standing out in the worst rain and wind handing out cups of water and gatorade, and I almost couldn’t believe it. There was a runner pushing a stroller for Team Hoyt as part of the race running under 7 minute pace into the wind just ahead of us, and I was in awe knowing that even 9 minute miles with a stroller are hard. My legs were numb, my hands were numb. I kept looking down at my legs to make sure they were there. I didn’t look at splits in Fort Story because I was afraid they would be way off pace. When I saw the gates leading us out onto Shore Dr./Pacific I almost cried knowing that the wind would soon be at our backs.

Somewhere in the last 3 miles I knew I was going to have a good race. I started to gain some feeling back in my arms and legs and decided to try to take my soaking wet arm warmers off. I took one off and felt like I dropped a pound. The other was under my watch, and I took a minute to figure out how the hell I was going to maneuver this feat with numb fingers. I decided to just carefully take my watch off, remove the arm warmer, and then put the watch back on my wrist. Except I couldn’t feel what I was doing at all. So my watch slipped out of my useless fingers onto the pavement and I saw it happening in slow motion thinking “noooooooo”. It took me a second to stop and pick it up, but that kind of jolted me back into the race and I got back on pace immediately. My watch stopped when it fell, so my splits were off after that… but this ended up being a good thing because I didn’t bother to look at the splits and instead just focused racing.

Mary and I were still running together and passed a few other runners along the way, but neither of us were worried about place. I was starting to get tired, but knowing that I only had a few miles left I just let myself race and go to the pain cave. My last two miles were 6:24, and 6:10 (I didn’t know that during the race but noticed it later when I plugged in my Garmin). I saw the finish line clock as I was approaching and was almost confused when I saw 1:26, and then I kicked in the last .1 and crossed the finish line. My official chip time was 1:26:21 and I was 10th female. I reeeally didn’t want to do my full cool down but ended getting it done and finishing with 20 miles for the day.

I’ve been feeling pretty good since Sunday, with 4 easy days on the training schedule but a 24 miler looming ahead this weekend. I’ll have some more thoughts about Shamrock and my marathon training coming up soon.

shamrock 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t stop believing.

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Time for a quick training update. Yeah!

I ran a leg on a marathon relay in mid-February and I finished my (almost) 10 mile leg feeling exhausted. On the cool down, my mind started wandering to “um.. why the hell did I think this marathon would be a good idea” kinds of thoughts, which I pushed away quickly. But if I’m being honest, I have those thoughts almost daily.

Last weekend was my first 20 miler, which was preceded by a very hard 13-mile workout the day before. That wasn’t the initial plan, but it’s how things worked out that week. And I stupidly picked a very hilly course for this run, so the 33 miles in one weekend + hills didn’t turn out as I hoped. Finishing a 20 miler is always good for confidence though, so even though the run wasn’t GREAT, I at least left feeling slightly more positive about my fitness.

Then yesterday, I surprised myself and ran 22 (which I think ties for my longest training run) feeling strong the whole way and running 45 seconds faster per mile for the whole run. So, now that goal I’ve had to run 2:59 doesn’t seem as far off as it did a week ago.

With exactly six weeks until Boston, mentally I’m breaking it down into 4 more solid weeks and then 2 weeks of taper. I have a 4 mile race this Saturday, and then my tune up half the following weekend at Shamrock in VB.

And just because Journey is awesome, this is the kind of cheesy stuff I do to get myself motivated on a Monday…

Halfway point.

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Sometimes I can’t even think of where to start. Like this a running blog, but I just don’t ever feel like writing about running the way I used to. Maybe because my job is to write workouts for other runners and answer emails about running. And I love coaching and helping other runners meet their goals. I like getting to know the athletes that I coach- every person is so different! It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle- a big old confusing mess until the pieces start to take shape.

I rarely read running blogs- just a few friends that I know personally. I’m finding myself more drawn to sarcastic mommy blogs. That shit is hilarious. I appreciate anyone who has a sense of humor about parenting because it can be pretty ridiculous at times.

The other night I told my husband that I wanted to start a blog with cooking tips for convenience foods. Don’t get me wrong- I like to cook when I can listen to music, sip a glass of wine, and really enjoy it. But when I cook now there is absolute chaos around me and it’s the opposite of relaxing. Frozen pizza may not be the ideal recovery food but it’s a hell of a lot easier. Plus I have some great tips for how to cook THE PERFECT FROZEN PIZZA. No?

So, anyway, we’re halfway to Boston. Training is getting done but it’s not easy. There have been lots of evening treadmill runs lately. I had a killer long run last weekend that was a huge confidence booster, mainly because I talked myself out of it halfway through and then refocused and was able to finish and hit my paces. I had come up with some good excuses- it was icy, the trail was covered in snow, it was too cold, too windy, etc. and then I started writing the email to my coach (in my head while I was running) and I realized I was being an idiot. Luckily it was pretty cold (for real) and windy so there weren’t many people around to hear me say “F*ck you wind!” every time I had to run into a headwind. By the way, that tactic worked quite well- I highly recommend it and might have to use it for my half marathon next month at Shamrock (which is notoriously windy in certain areas of the course).

I can’t believe I’m racing a half marathon in a few weeks. Besides the one I did this fall, I haven’t run a half marathon since 2011!