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)!

 

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 one where I ran the Boston Marathon…

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Right on Hereford. Oh my God…

“This is it!” Did I just say that out loud? Yup.

I took off in a dead sprint. Didn’t make the decision, it just happened.

Left on Boylston. I see the finish line! I was mowing people down, right and left.

I crossed the finish line with my arms up, like I won the whole freaking race. I remembered to stop my watch and saw 3:46. Ok, I’m fine with that. I just ran the entire 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston! I’m sure I looked like an idiot covered in salt, grinning from ear to ear.

Ok, let’s rewind.

Pete, mini Turner and I arrived in NY Friday night. We woke up early Saturday and drove over to Boston with the goal of getting to Hynes by 11 am (because Kara and Lauren were going to be at the CitySports booth from 11-1 signing autographs). We probably arrived around noon and the line was longer than I expected. Em was dressed in her WeeBird outfit, ready to look adorable as usual. Then, it happened.

“I smell something.” Butt sniff. Yup.

It was not pretty. I usually refrain from sharing details about the contents of my kid’s diaper, so use your imagination. Let’s just say that the WeeBird onesie was not in good condition. Pete went off on two unsuccessful attempts to find a replacement. We found ourselves at the front of the line with a half-naked baby… until my sister literally took the shirt off of her kid’s back. Luckily we all recovered in time for a photo.

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Afterwards we talked to Sally (you can see her on the right in the photo above) and then headed to pick up our numbers. Eventually we made it to my cousin’s house in Watertown, went out to dinner, and then crashed.

The next morning, after checking out what the Easter bunny had left for the kids, Steph and I went back to Boylston St. for a team shakeout run and coffee. Although we couldn’t stay for long, I did manage to have a complete freak out moment mid-conversation with Meghan (one of my Oiselle teammates). We were discussing the late start and how it poses a challenge to your normal pre-race nutrition, when I suddenly remembered that, uh, I had a milk situation to address. Somehow I had managed to forget that I would be gone from 6:30 am to about 2:30 pm. So… I either had to bring a hand pump or chance it. More on that later.

Sunday Shakeout (photo credit: Lindsey Hein)

Sunday Shakeout (photo credit: Lindsey Hein)

The rest of the day looked like this: carbs, outfit decisions, Easter egg hunt, more carbs, Easter dinner carbs, packing gear bag, more carbs, sleep.

Steph and I had originally planned to take the T to Boston Common, but my cousin insisted that it would be way faster for him to just drop us off. This paid off big time. We got extra sleep and got to ride in the comfort of a spacious car rather than the alternative. He dropped us off near the gear check, and we dropped off our bags and boarded the big yellow limousine around 7:15 am. I know it’s a long ride, but I felt like it went by quickly. When we stepped off in Hopkinton, the first person I noticed was a woman with a clear bag labeled “medical device” trying to explain or ask a volunteer a question about her breast pump. I was so glad I decided not to mess with that. (I promise that is the end of my side story about breast milk.)

I don’t know what time it was when we got to the Athlete’s Village, but it was already packed. Steph and I grabbed bagels and bananas, but we didn’t stay for long. We had been invited to the Skechers house (along with the rest of our team), so as long as we could find it we had access to private portable toilets and a more chill pre-race experience. Maybe we missed out on some of the Boston experience by not staying in the Athlete’s Village, but it was worth it to not have to stand in a long line for the bathroom. Commence half mile walk to the house… we passed lots of people already staking out spots on their lawns (an hour before the race even began), and one notable residence offering beer, donuts, and cigarettes (and, evidently, pot but not coffee).

The next hour was filled with talking to members of the Skechers team and Oiselle team, mostly about the race itself and the status of our toilet paper stash. I tried to force down a Powerbar and drink a bunch of water. Soon the first wavers left and it was mostly us girls. At about 10:15, Steph, Emily, and I excitedly walked down the street to our start corrals. We gave last minute hugs before parting ways with Emily and soon we were off!

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The first few miles were exciting and decidedly downhill, so I reminded Steph to hold back a little. I had my first pee break around 5 miles. I had a hard time finding a spot where there weren’t any spectators, and I know I ran too fast trying to catch up to Steph again, but I was worried either I wouldn’t find her or we would be separated when we saw our family around the 10k mark. I felt fine other than a side stitch I had for the first few miles and really just tried to soak in the experience.

Some time before Wellesly I noticed Steph had gotten quiet. We were a little off our pace, but not enough to be worried yet. Then I heard the screams that everyone talks about. Wellesly did not disappoint. I side-fived more people than I have ever side-fived in my life. That mile was our slowest so far, I think an 8:24 or something around there. Soon after that we saw my family again.

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Unfortunately we didn’t get to see them again until after the race (although they tried to get to a few different spots, they ran into road closures). It was around this point, a little before the half, that I saw my friend Lauren walking on the side of the road. I found out she had only stopped temporarily to send a text message, so we got to talk and run together a little. None of us were feeling great and we didn’t exactly run side-by-side for the rest of the race, but we stayed near each other until the finish.

We passed the half marathon mark around 1:46 or 1:47. I think this was where Steph started to talk about not feeling great, so I still took splits and only read them to her if she asked for them. We were both feeling hot and dehydrated (although I took another pee break somewhere in Newton). We chugged up and over the hills, bypassing some amazingly creative signs. At some point I looked over and saw a woman holding a sign that read “MEB WON (yes really)”.

“Really?!” I asked, as I ran past.

“Yes, really!” she shouted.

I think that gave us both enough adrenaline to get through Newton and finally up Heartbreak Hill. I couldn’t believe I was still running and that I had stayed with Steph so long, but it was finally time for her to start pushing. I knew she wouldn’t be satisfied unless she tried her best, even if she wasn’t feeling great. Our average pace had slowed to around 8:30 and I knew she wanted to at least get under 3:45 so I let her go. I didn’t know what would happen in the last few miles so I just ran my pace and kept going.

I heard a lot of “Go Oiselle” cheers. I heard Danielle around mile 23 on Beacon St. It all went by so quickly, and before I knew it there was the “1k to go” sign and we were making the right on Hereford.

I have never cared about a finishing medal before, but this medal was different. I forgot to mention earlier that I started crying once we turned onto Hereford and I heard the crowd cheering. I started to think about what had happened here last year, and I was overwhelmed by the emotion of it. Then I started hyperventilating and had to pull it together so I could keep running. Well, the same thing happened when I got that medal around my neck. I’m such a sap.

“Mollie!” It was my sister. Good, because I couldn’t figure out how to operate my phone at that moment, which I had carried with me the whole way in case I had an emergency (given the wonky sacrum and lack of training).

We walked together for a few minutes and covered about ten meters. I felt ok, but was not looking forward to the walk to the gear tent. We ran into our friend and former high school teammate Diane. Then we ran into Corey, a Nuun ambassador we knew through Twitter. It felt good to stand and talk about the race a little. But once we started walking again I felt light headed. I was happy, but also was hoping there was one of those moving walkways like they have at the airport.

So, of course, we found our family. We also ran into Lauren again along with my friend Claire. Claire and I have a habit of running into one another as if we had planned it (and we didn’t) so I guess I should stop acting surprised when I see her anywhere on Earth.

There are so many things I could write about Boston, but I have to stop after this one last thing. If anyone ever asks me why I run, I will have a good response from now on. Here it is:

When in your lifetime will you have millions of people cheering for you, offering kisses, Twizzlers, full bottles of Corona, orange slices, and tissues to wipe the sweat from your brow? Wouldn’t you want to experience little kids holding out Dixie cups full of water for you, or just sticking their hands out waiting for a side-five from a passing runner? I think that’s a pretty good reason to run.