Friday, November 22, 2013

Richmond Marathon - BQ, Baby!

This past weekend, I finally did something that I never thought was possible: I qualified for the Boston Marathon! I always joked that it would never happen until I was 80 and my qualifying time was slower, but through some key changes, I was able to do it! But let's hear about the race, shall we?

Friday afternoon, my friend Annie and I drove down to Richmond. She offered to come down and pace me, which meant I had a co-pilot in the car and a friend during the race. Perfect! We drove down and hit crazy traffic, which got me all nervous. I was worried that sitting in a car and driving for that long was going to tax my legs, but I couldn't change a thing. We stayed at my mom's college roommate, who lives outside Richmond. My mom came down and we all had a lovely dinner before the race, filled with carbs, before heading to bed.

Before I even knew it, it was time to get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, and hit the road to the start. It was pouring when we got ready, but the weather forecast predicted it would stop raining about an hour into the race, which made me happy. I did a 12 hour race in the rain, so I knew I could handle it, but it's just not fun for chafing and blisters to run in wet clothes and shoes.

Suz and me before the start
Annie, my mom, and I got to the start, then met up with a friend from the Runner's World Forums, Suz, before the start. We used the facilities (important before a race!), then quickly got to the start to find the 3:35 pacers. Since the race is small, we crossed the start line exactly 1 minute after the gun went off.

The rain started to pick up the first hour, but Annie and I tried to make the most of it and we chatted through the first few miles. At mile 4, I knew to expect my mom's college roommate and her kids. Boy, what a boost it was to see them! Running with the pacers was great, too, because you instantly had a crew of people to run and talk with.

Around mile 8, Annie and I made some new friends and were chatting along. I told Annie that if she felt good, she should take off and not worry about me. She told me she wouldn't be doing this, but around now is when she took off with one of our new friends. I was happy for her because I really didn't want to hold her back! Is it weird that I felt proud when she took off? She looked so strong, so I was happy for her!

Annie and me before the start
The course ran through some pretty neighborhoods and near the James River, which made for pretty scenery. I got the halfway point knowing that the pace was a wee bit fast (1 minute faster overall than goal pace at that point), but I felt good. I decided to just break down the next half by mile, knowing that 16-18 had some slight hills.

Those miles past and I felt fine, especially since the hills weren't bad at all. It's when I got to the 20 mile mark that I really struggled. I really thought I had lost it and wouldn't be able to hold on. I didn't bring any music device with me due to the rain and I was starting to really hurt once we had 10k left. My legs felt like jelly and keeping pace with the 3:35 pacers was growing tougher and tougher. I kept telling myself that it would be so awful to finish just shy of a BQ (Boston Qualifying time), but negative thoughts kept creeping up on me. I started to prepare mentally for not qualifying, but I had to stop myself from thinking that way and focus all of my energy on sticking with the pacers and BQing.

Annie and me at mile 4
I decided to just break down the last 6.2 miles into mile increments and that helped a bit. The crowds were okay during Richmond, but they were really helpful that last 10k, especially with my costume. Running as Wonder Woman was such a great decision! I loved the costume and everyone around me seemed to as well. I was worried the pace group would get sick of hearing people call me out specifically, but the pacers kept cheering for me and talking about my costume, too. Anytime we'd come up to a runner hurting, the pacers would say, "Alright, we're the 3:35 pacers. You should stick with us; we've got our own Wonder Woman."

6.2 miles became 5.2, which became 4.2, 3.2, 3.2, then 1.2. The crowds were growing and become more exciting. It felt like such a struggle, but I kept pushing. I lost the pacers, but knew that if I kept my pace up, I'd still go sub-3:35. As I turned the last corner, coming to the dreaded downhill finish, I relaxed and let gravity take me to the finish. It hurt like hell, but I saw the time on the clock and knew I'd qualify for Boston, a feat I never imagined I'd achieve this young. I crossed and immediately started tearing up, just in awe of what happened. I got my medal, quickly found my mom and Annie (who ran a 3:30:25...badass!), layered up in compression, and called my best friend, Caitlin. She's always given me crap for not coming to Boston (not realizing at first that one had to qualify) and I finally got to call her and tell her to save room for me in April 2015. :D

It hurt to stand, but I was beyond happy!
Looking back, my training was solid and I did a lot of good miles and speedwork, but the biggest difference this time was mentality. I always thought a BQ wasn't possible and out of reach. Last year, when I PRed by 6+ minutes, it opened my eyes to the possibilities ahead for me. Instead of telling myself it wasn't possible, I let go of those mental constraints and allowed myself to really push myself, without letting limits stop me. I truly think this was the biggest aid for me getting my BQ and I couldn't be happier.

After we showered, ate a bit, and filled up the car with gas, we quickly headed back to Philly. Why so quickly? Well, I had to pace my boyfriend in the Philadelphia Marathon the next day. But that story is for another day. :D

Final time: 3:34:00

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Runner's World Half Marathon Race Report

This is delayed, but it's finally here: my Runner's World Half Marathon race report! In the last post, I left off after our awesome 10k race together! Janna and I then met up with Janna's parents, who were awesome and cheered us on during the race. We didn't want to leave the race area as we had seminars to attend, so her folks took us to the casino right in the race area and had lunch. I didn't think we'd find great food, but oh my word, the buffet there was incredible. We stuffed ourselves on some really awesome food (the mac & cheese being my favorite) and actually missed our "Fueling" seminar. Hey, we were properly fueling ourselves post-race! :P

Janna's parents kindly dropped us back off at the race area and we hung around the expo before we had our seminar on the race course. We saw a line to meet someone and we found out it was for Summer Sanders! I grew up watching her game show on Nickelodeon "Figure It Out" and she's just an awesome female athlete role model. Janna and I waited in line to meet her (and ended up bringing Amy along with us after we bumped into her. So happy to have met her and her husband, Emir, again!). Meeting Summer was incredible. Before we could say anything, she introduced herself and placed one of her Olympic Gold Medals on us. I honestly teared up. I've been obsessed with the Olympics my entire life, so to be meeting an Olympian and to be wearing one of her medals was just so surreal.

She could not have been nicer or cooler. 
We hung around the expo and attended our seminar on the course, which was great because they let us know where to expect hills. This was super helpful race day! We then went back to Janna's mom's house, showered, and then I proceeded to eat like a crazy person. We had awesome chips and dip, Janna's mom made a killer spread of food, and then we went to town on some vegan mini-cakes that Janna picked up for us. I went to bed with such a stomach ache that I worried if I had done something bad for my race day. 

Shortly after making my playlist and falling asleep, it felt like I had to be up again for the race. I had a wonky feeling stomach and was worried how the day would go. Janna and I parked at the race, found the restroom in the casino, and got ready to race. We both were going to run our own races and in the back of my head, I thought a PR might be feasible. The course wasn't nearly as hilly as I thought it would be, so I thought if I ran a smart race, I could maybe PR!
Before the race!
Soon enough, we were off! My game plan was to stick with the 1:45 pace group and if I felt good, I'd ditch them and go ahead. Within 2 miles, the group was far behind me and I felt good. Part of me worried that I was going too fast to start, but I knew the first half would be slower with the bigger hills then, so I just pushed at the pace that felt good. I made sure to run the tangents and race smart.

The two biggest miles were at miles 4 and 5.5 and man, they were big. The course had rolling hills for a lot of it, but those two were hard to get up. When I was finally done with the winding and long hill at mile 5.5, I started to see signs for RunningSkirts. In the course seminar, they warned us that they would be handing out free RunningSkirts around mile 6. You read that right: giving away FREE skirts. You just had to run to them, step into the skirt, then you were off! When I saw them, I thought, "Who am I to pass up a free skirt? This is going to make the rest of the race so fun!" So I ran over, stepped into the cutest skirt that I saw, and boom, I was off! It took all of 10 seconds and was so worth it!

After the finish!
I hit a sort of a mental low at about mile 7. I was more than halfway done, but I was worried that I had pushed too hard. I then heard the one song that I needed to hear, "Go The Distance" from the Disney Hercules movie. It's so empowering and right at that moment, the sun was shining beautiful and I honestly got choked up. I remembered how damn lucky that I am to be a runner, to get to run for fun, and for the amazing people and experiences that I've had because of running. From then on, I had a smile on my face for the rest of the race. 

All three of our races medals plus a sweet shot of my new running skirt!
With just a few miles to go, I looked like I could continue to speed up and push for a PR. I started picking off people in front of me and kept pushing as hard as I could. Soon enough, I was pushing to the finish and was able to secure a PR with a time of 1:41:07, almost a 2.5 minute PR! I honestly didn't think it was possible, but smart racing, beautiful weather, and a great course let it happen! 

I went back to Janna's car to layer back up and get into compression gear and by the time I was back, Janna had finished and had also PRed. We were two happy racing ladies! I had an absolute blast at this race weekend with Janna and I'm already so excited to participate in the races again next year!