The BAA 10K

imagesCACP3XQV

I have come to really love the BAA races. The Distance Medley, which is a combination of all three races (5K, 10K & Half marathon), has become a symbol of triumph in my running history. in 2013, it was the “thing” that kept me training throughout the year, as the races are pretty well spread apart. It also was a trio of lessons learned. In the 2013 5K I learned that one should never house beer with a side of blue cheese fries the night before because what you’re going to end up with is the extreme urge to vomit all over yourself. (and a time of 29:00, which was a freagin’ miracle in and of itself) In the 2013 10K I learned that if you slack off in your training, you get back exactly the amount of effort you put in, which amounts to almost keeling over into a Gatorade cup. (and a time of 1:00, I think maybe there was 6 seconds in there) In the 2013 Half Marathon, I learned that race rituals should not be messed with. If you need a good bed, you sleep on a good bed, if you need to eat at a certain time, you better do that and if you need to pee 27 times, you best get in that damn port-a-potty line. Otherwise, you end up with a stomach that feels like it is eating itself for 13.1 miles and you waste 2 minutes waiting in line for the bathroom so your bladder doesn’t explode. (and a time of 2:08, which would have been 2:06 minus the damn bathroom). Why did I sign up again this year? Because I knew there was so much good there and I knew lessons learned and embraced would take me a very long way. My goal for this year was to trim major time off of last years cumulative total. Also, I wanted all four metals in my hand from the BAA (the three distance medley races & the Boston Marathon). To me, the Boston Athletic Association is symbolic of all great athletes. All runners who aim to be, better. The races all have standards but embrace everyone. The atmosphere is always tantalizing. And although the races are difficult (with the exception of the 5K, pretty easy), they make you feel, great, at the end.

Since I was running the Boston Marathon this year, I knew I had to take it easy at the 2014 5K, it was two days before Boston and I wasn’t trying to race. Just shake things out. Keep it lose. I was lucky enough to run with my friend Stephanie (who also ran Boston) who kept me on target for a 28:03 minute race. So I shaved one minute off of last year’s time and it felt extremely easy. I was really happy with that. For the 10K on Sunday, I was aiming for 52-53 minutes and I showed up thinking I could probably nab it. I had a power playlist, I had my lucky shorts on and I had my watch charged and ready to go. I laughed off the hill as you come to Boston University, I think I called it a “blip” and scoffed at how hot people thought that strip was going to be. And I vastly underestimated the cluster fuck that seems to happen as you are charging up that hill. So, I will say this, as I lined up, I had slightly high expectations. They seeded people this year according to your bib and pace, which was so amazing. I was technically placed in the 8:00″-8:59″ group but I lined up with the 9:00″-9:59″ group as those seemed like more of my people. As the gun went off, there was plenty of space to spread out and I didn’t need to pass anyone because we all started out pretty nicely. I knew I was going a little fast so I tried to slow myself down, my watch read 8’20” for the first mile. So I tried to slow my roll. But this part of the race was shaded and cool so I felt pretty darn good. Mile 2, my watch read 8’35”, I was on target which made me feel even better. But then we turned the next corner which takes you to the hill. The first “blip” was no big deal, so I thought, AWESOME, I’m from Maine and I’m so cool, hills aren’t even hills but then I looked up and saw the real hill and I almost had a stroke. Everyone started clustering, people stopped short and started walking, this is where people fall apart. Right here. On this hill. It’s where dreams come to die. I tried to weave but I had some problems with that. It was hot, you’re on the concrete here with nothing to protect you and the sun is just beating on your face. It zaps energy like nothing I have ever experienced, so I went slower. My watch read 9’07” for mile 3. As I came to the top, where the turnaround is, I got really excited about the downhill, but the downhill just takes you into another hill, and this is where the strip of heat continues to kill your spirit, so at mile 4, I wasn’t really speeding up too much, 9’05”. I tried to convince myself to go faster, you’re almost done I thought. (sort of) But I was hot. So hot. It felt oppressive, mile 5 was a 9’09” and the last mile, I just couldn’t believe it, was 9’29”. I knew I was moving slow. I could feel it in my legs. My will to push was there, I think, but my body just wouldn’t listen. I was thirsty, so I stopped at water stops which were even larger cluster fucks and I know that affected my time. Once I passed the 6 mile mark, I just tried as hard as I could to book it, but I don’t think I was going very fast. The finish line just seemed so far.

My total time was 56:07, 4 minutes faster than last year but not quite where I wanted to be for this year. At the end of the race, I felt like I had given it all I had, but looking back, especially at that last mile, I’m not so sure. Maybe the lesson is that I just struggle with heat. Which I do. Or, maybe it’s that I keep making excuses for not ending with a great kick. Who knows. Either way, I’m not going to beat myself up over it. I had a good race where nothing catastrophic happened. I hung out with a friend after who I never get the chance to see. I got my metal, I got my T-shirt and I only have one race left in the Medley to go. So who cares. Running is running is running. Just glad to be doing it.

Stephanie has big goals for the half, she’s talking 1:55 and with a best of 2:00, I’m not really sure how to get there. Since the 2:00 half, I haven’t really been able to match that time, the closest I have come was 2:04. The only variable I can think of, is nutrition. I had adopted much better nutrition practices at that point where as these days, I seem to be adopting the “What, I’m a runner, I can eat whatever I want” philosophy. And no, I haven’t gained any weight but my insides don’t feel as good. My gut definitely doesn’t feel so hot. The months before that race, I just made better choices. I didn’t eat chips with lunch, I watched my portion sizes, I wasn’t eating sugar. It makes a difference, especially for me. I need to control what is in my power and line up, ready to do the best I can. Train hard. Give it all I’ve got. Then see what that produces. If I did finally nab that sub 2 hour time, it would mean shaving 8 minutes off last years half, which would be huge.

I’m going to use the same high mileage training plan and see where it takes me.

I would say that I am getting back to my running happy place which is completely due to the people who haven’t allowed me to fail. I send a VERY special thanks to Meg, who has kept me running long distances with her marathon training, I need that, I really do. A BIG thanks to Allison who makes me do things like speed work, which is a must to improve and who keeps me focused and tells me when I am being stupid. A HUGE thanks to Jan, who has been getting up early to run with me during the week, I value those miles, I really do and I wouldn’t do it without you. And of course, to Kristin, a BIG thanks for taking me out of my pace comfort zone and pushing me to be better, always. You guys are special people. My running life wouldn’t be nearly as full without you.

 

My training partner said: Don’t puss out.

untitled (3)

I am a terrible test taker. I have always been that way. The first time I took my SAT’s, I was in the 7th grade. And, I pretty much bombed them. Some people may say, well, you were in the 7th grade, of course you did, but it wasn’t lack of knowledge that was the problem, it was the pressure. I felt so much pressure that after a couple of hours, I crashed and just started filling in random answers. I just wanted it to be over. As I made my way into high school, I improved in this department greatly, but it took massive amounts of preparation and focus. Nothing came easy for me. I think it’s my lot in life to not be naturally “great” at anything. The amount of post-it’s alone I used, probably took out an entire forest of trees.

Anyways, I have always felt as though this translated into racing. After a bad race, I usually have a large array of excuses as to why things went awry. Most of them were preventable. In the case of the Boston Marathon, the pressure sank me so things like the heat, the exhaustion, the hunger, were magnified. My last half marathon, I ran in a time of 2:04 and by declaring that I didn’t want to try that hard, I removed the pressure off myself and just gave my body permission to slack off. During every race, there is a point where I allow the discomfort to sink me and I eventually say: “I just want to finish.” And so I slow down to whatever feels comfortable, ruin all the work I did in the first half and coast to the end.

The BAA 10K is on Sunday and I have always had lofty goals for this years race. My 10K best last year was 55:54 and I could have done even better except the last 2 miles I sank into a pit of self despair and did exactly what I described above, coasting to the finish. My training partner had wanted to hit 54 minutes and we were on target for that but somewhere along the way I got distracted, my spirit got broken and I just gave up. My goal for the BAA 10K is somewhere around 52-53 minutes and if I don’t get that time, it’s because I didn’t work hard enough. I am in remarkably better shape than I was last September (when I ran my 10K best). I mean, I have run two marathons since then and I have tremendous training under my belt. If I don’t hit this number it’s because I didn’t want to, not because I couldn’t.

Knowing this information, I decided last night I was going to run an 11 mile, hard loop this morning with my running group. Why? Well, it would give me the excuse I needed to bitch out. I could say my legs were tired. I could say there were forces working against me. I could say: “Race times just aren’t that important to me anymore.” Even though I know damn well I would obsess over this for months and months and months if it didn’t go well. So my training partner, Allison, called me yesterday and yelled at me. Told me I was absolutely not running those 11 miles. Told me: “what are you crazy, are you trying to sabotage yourself?” And she was right, because she knows me too well. After thinking about it, I realized, it’s time to put my balls on the table and just get it done. I never want to be one of those runners who does all the shit talking but never measures up, because trust me, I know plenty of those and they’re irritating as shit. I want to prove that I am just as good. I want to prove that I can, indeed, leave it all on the pavement.

I haven’t left it all on the pavement since Nov 2013 and I would say it’s high time, I did that again.

So tomorrow, I will put aside my fear, because yes, I am afraid of the pain. I will line up with the 9’00” pace folks (I need at least a mile to get cranking) and then I will push for the 8’30″s I need to make this happen. I will run that last mile like it’s everything and I will gut it out till the end. I will warm up correctly, get enough sleep, eat properly and recite all my mantras. I need to visualize that moment when I cross that finish line and I know, I’ve done my best, and that I’m happy with my performance. I may not be in it to win it, but I am out to prove something to myself.

I’m extremely lucky to have people in my life who won’t let me just coast. It’s tough being on the other side of that sometimes, as I am usually the one with the big ideas, saying lets do it harder, but we all fall into comfortable regimens, so thank god for the Allison’s who will say things like: “Bitch please.”

I have a few friends racing the BAA 10K tomorrow and I wish them all the luck in the world.

I’ll let you all know how I do. Cross your legs, I mean your fingers, for me. 😉

Lovelies.

2a5766f301edd17b7a26a679c61d9c2a

I said I was walking away from this project for now but on my ride to work this morning, I had the sudden urge to write. I just felt compelled to come back to this keyboard and divulge in a space that is “easy.” A format that is usual and familiar. Getting the new project going has been a tad more difficult than I anticipated. Fictional writing is like any other task in this world: you don’t use it, you lose it. And so, every moment I try to begin, it ends just as suddenly, with me staring blankly at the computer screen. Which is just like, this vast, white space. All I can think is: “Why do I care if I do this so bad?” But I already know the answer. It’s a way to stave off the feeling that I have, in some way, failed in my 20’s, to do all the grand things I swore I would do as a child. So, in my very early 30’s, I am making a point to get to it. I mean, life is short. We have limited time to be meaningful. I might as well light that fire, before it burns out.

Anyways, this week has been emotional for me. I don’t have any idea as to why. Everything seems to be sending me into some sort of meltdown mode and I crave the days when it seemed as though I could do everything. Remember that? Remember when people once asked me: how do you do it? Now people are asking me things like: “You forgot we made those plans? Yea, the ones you set, months ago and I reminded you of twenty-seven times.” I have tried to find a way to manage. I even bought myself a day planner because God forbid I use my very expensive iphone with a fancy ass calendar. Who needs that? It’s my illusion that using pen and paper will do me right. So far, it’s just an empty book sitting on my desk at work.

As for running, after this last marathon, I have felt, well, abandoned and unmotivated. I say abandoned because I feel like some part of my old self went off and left. My legs are sore. My inclination is to give up far more easily than I use to. Hills crush my soul. The miles feel so long. I have to convince myself to even step out the door. I know this is a gift and I am certainly grateful but right now, it feels tedious. The joy has been a little removed. It’s all about time and pace and diet. I’m getting tired of it.

One year ago, May 26th, I came, and conquered Boston’s Run to Remember. It was my first half marathon since my doctors told me I would never run that distance again. I remember just being proud and elated. I was happy just to be out there and I genuinely enjoyed EVERY moment of it. Every. Moment. I laughed. I cried. I relished in it all. The joy and the misery. But mostly the joy. And I didn’t care about pace. I finished in 2:14 and I was just thrilled to have that medal. That medal meant that I could and I would, come back to this sport. In one year, man, I have grabbed life by the balls. 2 marathons, half a dozen half marathons, a few races of various distances. Some have been good. Others have been great. One or two have been epic. One or two, almost broke me completely. But in the midst of all these miles have been places and faces and I have learned so much about the road and of course, myself.

Returning to this race Sunday won’t be anything more than a casual stroll. I’m just not, going, to do it, to myself. If I do, I swear, I may just quit this all together. The pressure is killing me for some reason. I need a race where I smile after, rather than wanting to crawl on the floor and have someone hit me with their moving vehicle. And since this race means so much to me, there is no better venue to just let it all go.

I remember mile 12.5 last year, after it had rained most of the morning, cresting this tiny hill and seeing the clouds open to sunshine. I remember thinking to myself: “That’s where you are. I sure may miss you, but these things keep me present. I know you’re still alive.” With that in mind, knowing that I have working legs and those that are no longer here do not, I bolted for that finish, missing my family completely but feeling 100% alive. I have no doubt that this year he will give me some sort of sign again. I just have to be patient enough to look for it. I have to be paying attention. Wrenching in agony, won’t allow that to happen.

There are so many lovely things right now. I just have to focus on that.

Cherry blossoms.

Fresh honey.

Wonderful friends.

My husband and children.

And of course, every breath we take, as people living lives, that are sometimes quietly difficult.

Hey morning glory.

unnamed

MAN! This mornings run was good. When my dog went off at 5:00 AM (yes, I said dog, because, why would he let me sleep for 15 additional amazing minutes????), I’ll admit, I didn’t want to roll out of bed. As I removed myself from my comfortable spot, nestled next to Josh, I thought, there are so many perfectly fantastic excuses I could throw at Allison, get out of this and go back to sleep. But the better part of me, the part that needs to learn discipline, said: no, you are doing this now, that way you have no excuse not to wear real pants today. FINE! I’ll run and wear real pants. FINE! The last month, I have just not been able to get out of bed early enough to get my run done. I’ve been very lazy. I really want to get back on a cycle where I get up three-four days during the week and just get it done. No dickin’ around. The ride over to Allison’s house is always nice, it’s about 20 minutes and it gives me time to process that I’m awake and that my body is going to actually have to do something. I put on my favorite music, usually some Talking Heads and I wake myself up via blasting music into my face. It’s wonderful.

On today’s ride all I could think of was: how fast are we going to go today? My legs are still a little blown out from Boston, but we’re only doing 4 so I should be fine. But Allison’s been talking about all of her really fast runs, I hope I can keep up. I wish I had a donut. I’m pretty hungry.

You get the point.

By the time I arrived at her house and saw her smiling face, which greets me every morning when we run together, no matter how early, the sun was shining and the weather was damn near perfect. And, once we started running, I was just feeling it. I put my shoulders down, I let my arms glide and I tried to relax. These are all things I do when I’m ready to kick it into gear. Now, I realize that my “high gear” is a slow gear for most but I’ll take what I can get. Last year, around this time, I was running in the 10’20” range. I had just emerged from a winter of so-so running and was moving at a glacial pace. It took me all spring and summer to get my pace down to the 9’30” range, until finally, in November, I pulled the Colt State half marathon out of my bum in exactly 2 hours, I think that might be 9’15” average. So this morning, when I glanced at my watch upon completion, I wasn’t disappointed at all. I was quite happy actually: 9’18” average over 4 miles, with multiple shoe lace stops included (without stopping the watch!) and one horrid mile long up hill climb back to Allison’s house.

To me, starting Spring training with this pace already just opens up the possibility that I could actually accomplish my speed goals for the summer/fall races I have planned. I know that there is a capping out point with my heart, I can’t go trying to race at 7 minute miles but I would really like to get back into the 8’s. That would be my perfect spot. I just want to get and stay there. This won’t come free, I know that. I have to do the work. But I’m actually SO excited for it. Looking at my training plan I designed for my first summer race, I just became so elated at the shorter distances. It’s refreshing to not see that many double digit numbers inside the little excel sheet blocks. My plan is to keep the long runs between 8-10 miles all summer long, so that if I want to just hop into a half marathon at any point, I can and do shorter races in between as I feel like it. My real goal race is the BAA 10K in June.

After the marathon, I had a bla week of running. I just was not feeling it. So this was just what I needed. I was sweaty. I was hot. I felt like I really laid it out there. And, I was with a great friend. You can’t ask for more than that. Happy Monday everyone!

Next on the books.

823502_778949108782837_3771296392032512808_o*Couldn’t be prouder to add to my collection, another BAA 5K medal, first in the Distance Medley series and of course, my Boston Marathon medal, it’s been a great year of running.

Now that the Boston Marathon is behind me, I have to admit, I feel a huge sense of relief.

Ready: breathe and exhale. It’s over. The week prior to Boston, in what should have been the easiest week, my taper week, I felt like marathon training just collapsed on top of me. So I’m looking forward to less mileage for a little while at least. Sitting here in my brightest of bright orange & blue, Boston Marathon jacket, I still can’t believe it’s over. What am I going to talk about now to my dentist, doctors, the UPS guy, my husband, my kids, my friends, that homeless guy I gave a sandwich to??? It’s going to be hard to top the ever lasting phrase: “I’m training for Boston.” I’m a little regretful that I didn’t marvel in the day a little bit more but you know, when you think you are going to throw up on yourself for 26.2 miles, it’s hard to be cheery. But I will say this, I have never felt so honored, so powerful, so blessed, to run down Boylston St. MAN! What a feeling. Looking back today, feeling better, it was just as monumental as everyone said it was going to be. I can’t BELIEVE I have, in my possession a 118th Boston Marathon medal. I am so grateful.

So what’s next?

I will say this: I need to find the pleasure in running again because currently I feel like I am melting under the pressure I place on myself. Every finish line lately comes with some sort of self imposed guilt trip and I need to learn to be happy in all capacities, even if my time was wretched, at least I was running, at least I am running. So ultimately, that’s the goal: find my happy place in running once again.

My next half marathon is on Memorial Day weekend and although my goal was to make this my big break out race, I think I am going to just go with the flow and see what happens. My long term goal is to get faster but I don’t think that is going to come 4 weeks after running the Boston Marathon, even if I did slow to a halt the last 6.2 miles. Last year I ran Boston’s Run to Remember and just enjoyed myself. I just marveled in the process. The police officers, the spectators, the beautiful city before me, I want to do that again. I want to just cherish the moment. It can’t always be about beating yourself up, sometimes it just has to be about the process. I’ve lost some of the joy in the journey, trying to just sprint right to the destination. I will run long once a week for the next four weeks but I won’t hold myself to any time. I won’t restrict myself by setting goals. I’m just going to relax. Maybe throw in some spinning. Get back to yoga. Let my body take a moment to recover. I don’t have much on the books for summer, which I think is good. But I do have a very packed fall. Summer will be all about getting my nutrition in check, spending time with friends and family, core work and strength training with running being a smidge secondary.

The marathon training changed me, yes, it did. I’m not sure in all capacities for the good. Running became something I obsessed constantly over. It might have thrown a small wrench into my marriage, might have caused a few meltdowns by my kids. The next few weeks will be a search for balance and peace. It’s hard to request the support of your family when you may or may not be supporting them in the fashion they so desire. My training for the Boston Marathon became, in my household, all encompassing, it went way beyond the running even. Dinners weren’t the same. I was tired all the time. I wasn’t the best wife I could be. I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain. And maybe some women can indeed do it all, but the biggest take-a-way from this training is that I CAN’T do it all and that’s fine. It’s ok to admit that out loud, in fact, I am relieved to say it. I dropped a few of my balls. Now it’s time to pick them back up and do better. Next training cycle will be a practice in humility, making sure not only do I have what I need but those around me as well. That’s how you stay, a happy runner.