Tag: Running

Surftown Half Marathon Recap – “You Have No Chill”

Surftown Half Marathon

Although I did not blog about it – the last “race” I ran was the UCONN Health Half Marathon back in June. A combination of dealing with my father’s health (and subsequent passing) as well as this damn Ulcerative Colitis Flare has made me wary of signing up for any races. To be honest I was scared of being out of my comfort zone (i.e. racing on a route where the port a potty situation might be less than ideal).

BUT that doesn’t mean that running has taken a back seat. On the contrary – I am still training for the 2019 Marine Corps Marathon and averaging between 50-55 miles per week.

Last week I had a 17 miler with some marathon miles thrown in. My pace was pretty spot on considering the terrain BUT the best part…no GI issues!!!

With that boost of confidence (I might have cried a bit in the parking lot afterwards), I set out to see if I could use this weeks Long Run/Quality session to “jump” into the race. My thoughts behind this were 1) I miss participating in organized running events (i.e . running with other people) and 2) I need to start mimicking race day to figure out what what works for me in terms of fueling before, during and after the run.

I got the OK from coach and proceeded to do something that I rarely do – pay a lot of money to get up at 4:30am and drive to Rhode Island .

The Warm Up

The night before the race went pretty smoothly – I had my standard pre-long run meal (Steamed Triple Delight – no broccoli, non spicy garlic sauce on the side, white rice, & Wonton Soup (with some crispy noodles). Bed time was 9am and before I knew it the alarm went off.

Safety First!

Heading out for my drive to Rhode Island I had a plain toasted bagel with spray butter and a banana. Of note – this is completely different from my standard pre-race oatmeal, and I never thought I would be that “pre-race bagel gal” but it’s been working thus far and I don’t want to jinx it.

Once I arrived and picked up my bib, I headed out for a 2 mile warm up, quickly headed back to the car for a shoe change, stood in line for the port a potties, chomped on some Honey Stinger gummies, said a prayer to the pooping gods, and headed to the start.

The Workout

A slightly cool breeze, temps in the mid-50s, and just enough sun – I could not have asked for better weather this morning.

Sooooo – the workout (as written) was a 2 mile warm up (done); 7 miles at marathon pace (8:10); 1.5 mile jog; 4 miles at marathon pace; 2 mile cool down.

I started between the 1:40 and 1:50 pace group and once we were “off” I started getting concerned that people started passing me. I felt like I was going at a good clip and a quick look at my watch after mile 1 revealed a pace of 7:45 – ooops but to be honest I felt good. I figured that I would slow down but after mile 2 and 3 the paces were pretty similar to mile 1.

It was not what Coach had written but I felt good and made the decision to see if I could hold the pace. The weather was cooperating and my body was cooperating (something that has been rare this training cycle) so I plowed ahead.

I came upon mile 7 and thought I slowed down – the two times I checked my watch it said 8:20 so I held on to the pace – what I did not account for was the down hills where I sped up. This lead to an average pace of 8:10 – my marathon pace! I also checked out during my “jog” and before I knew it the 9 mile marker was upon me. CRAP!

Course Map

So – I ran the remaining 5 miles as another marathon block and although I AGAIN did not run the pace at marathon pace – it was pretty close to my first 7 mile block.

Fueling also went well – it’s still a work in progress to get the adequate number Honey Stinger gels necessary down – but I still have time to work on that.

Another bonus – 4th in my AG – not bad for running the race as a “workout”.

The Cool Down

Needless to say – I was pretty stoked about not only my time but how I felt. Although my right IT band was not very happy at the end, I still felt that I had gas in the tank – a feeling that I have only recently been able to experience.

However – no sooner had I saved my workout and started to head out for my cooldown then I was reminded by Coach that although I had a solid workout – it was not the one that was written 😉 BUSTED.

As he said – “You have no chill” – which might be true 🙂 but I was happy with my effort, the fact that my pace was consistent, AND as opposed to the other 2 halves I have run this year – today I felt well fueled from start to finish.

And for me, at this moment about 1 month and 15 days or so from the 2019 Marine Corps Marathon – it’s all about these little victories which I hope will compound come October 27th!

Onward we go!

State of Running – Different Year…Same Situation…

State of Runnning

Guys -last week was as some would say “a week” – a week where posting something on Instagram would probably not give the full picture, so I  figured it was time to dust off the ol’ Blog update everyone (including myself) as to where I am in life & the pursuit of running the 2019 Marine Corps Marathon on October 27th – which I just realized is almost 60 days away.  EEK!

So as many of you know – I gained automatic entry into the 2019 Marine Corps Marathon by running the MCM 17.75km race back in March (post).  Although I did not have the marathon I was hoping for in 2018 at Marine Corps – I really loved the race and wanted that to be my focus for the rest of the year.

Things were going great – I ran a great Spring Half at Cheshire (recap) and a pretty good race at the Amica Iron Horse Half (recap).  However, what not many people knew was that also during that time I was dealing with some life stresses with my dad’s health that probably took more of a toll on my mental well being then I realized at the time.

In June I was out for a morning run  when all of a sudden (out of nowhere really) I got a familiar feeling in my stomach and gut area.  Luckily, I was by a school with a port a potty and made it there in the nick of time.

At the time I did not think anything of it – I mean what runner hasn’t  had a similar situation. BUT it was not an isolated incident and the signs, symptoms and problems that I dealt with last year started rearing their ugly head again.

Yup – my Ulcerative Colitis (UC) is back, and back with a vengence.

So it was back to Connecticut GI where, after several attempts to calm my UC with the medication that worked last year failed, I was put on a “short Prednisone” regimen.  I had heard the horror stories about being on this medication but if it meant that the inflammation and all the other “good” things that come along with a UC flare could be calmed I was willing to try it.

Well it did not work  – but I was still running and doing the workouts (to the best of my ability) all throughout it.  Luckily this was happening during the summer and luckily I live near some schools and parks – so my running routes could be adjusted easily. 

Quality session were relegated to the local track because I knew that it was a sure bet that I would always have to stop at some point due to cramps, nausea or something else.

I also changed my diet – a trial and error effort that I am still working on, and added a ton of vitamins.  People marvel at my “self-control” but little do they know it’s not really a choice per se. I really hate it when people tell me what to “not” eat or drink – little do they know how much I have cut out.

This summer has had it’s challenges to be sure – any where I went I always had to be cognizant of what I ate, when I ate it and where the closest bathroom was.  Definitely not ideal when you are visiting friends, camping, or sharing a house with 20 other people, but somehow I dealt with it.

Before I left for vacation in July I had a follow-up with my GI doctor, who after I explained that the short Prednisone dosage did not really do anything, told me to up the dose (right now I am on 40mg per day) to see if that would help my symptoms.

Well I am hear to tell you that it has not – so after expressing my frustration (yes I have their office on speed dial) – I was finally cleared for a colonoscopy (almost a year to the day I had it last).

I will spare you the details on the prep – luckily it was Sunday when I did mine but I at least got some answers.  My UC is “mild to moderate”, worse then it was this time last year, BUT the biopsies came back benign. The only hiccup my doctor said was that the polyps that he saw were further up the colon then last time “opening the door” to the possibility that I might have Chrone’s – FML.

Post-Colonsoscopy Food is the BEST!

So – with all this information (and the fact that all this Prednisone I am consuming daily is not working) I will be hopefully (with Health Insurance approval) be starting a biologic within the next couple of weeks.  Although until then I have to remain on my current medication regimen.

It’s definitely not where I thought I would be in my marathon training.

I have definitely been frustrated a lot this week. Mainly just mad at my body for fighting me, as I try my hardest to fight back.

I know there is a mind-body connection and I definitely think the stress of my dad’s illness and ultimate passing in July might have lead to the recurrence of my UC but ENOUGH ALREADY.


I am tired of having to prepare for my run and be cognizant of where I am running and when I get that “feeling” in my gut because I know what is coming.

I have been pretty positive throughout this but this week I might have cried a bit during one of my workouts – keep showing up is great and all but I would rather just not have to show up with bathroom supplies – It’s just embarrassing.

So that’s where I am – I refuse to give up and will make it to the 2019 MCM.  My body just needs to start cooperating and hopefully once the infusions start I can start feeling more like myself again.  

Johnson Brunetti Twilight 5K – Friday Night Happy Hour

Camp Courant 5k

As many of you know I am a total morning running.

I like to get up and out the door before my body realizes what I am about to put it through. That is the god’s honest truth. There are times when my snooze alarm gets the best of me and I end up on a lunchtime or after work run – but they never feel as good to me as getting it done before (or during) a good sunrise.

BUT that being said – when I recently had the opportunity for a complimentary entry to the Johnson Brunetti Twilight 5K to benefit Camp Courant on a recent Friday evening I could not pass it up. A good cause and a “quick 5k” to shock my legs (coach’s words not mine) are enough to get my competitive juices flowing.

However – life stress took center stage in the days leading up to the race, so Coach said that I should just “run by feel” and not by pace. No sense in trying to put more stress on my body and possibly injuring myself.

The Warm Up

After work on Friday – I headed home for a quick change, grabbed a snack and headed to the Camp Courant for packet pick up. I googled “Camp Courant” and took me on a very nice scenic drive from my house to the camp. I am slightly ashamed to say that I had never been to the Camp and until the race did not know all the good work that Camp Courant does in the community.

Did you know that Camp Courant is a free summer day camp for Hartford children located in Farmington, CT? I had heard rumblings here and there on social media but until I showed up on Friday evening I had no idea the extent that the camp goes to in order to give underprivileged children a chance to just be kids for a week, which I can imagine is no small feat.

Having picked up my bid and a very cool race t-shirt – I headed back to my car to drop off my swag, do some warm-up minutes, chat with a good friend who I had not seen in ages and head to the start line.


Now before the actual race part of this post begins – let me preface it and say that the temperature on this Friday evening was in the 70s which might not mean much BUT consider the fact that I was running in gloves, a jacket (and maybe a hat) on Monday – so I knew that the heat was probably going to be a factor in this 5k.

The Workout

After a very cute (and inspiring) Kids Fun Run – I mean don’t we all wish we could just run with no regard for pace and distance – the 5k participants lined up.

I cranked my music and headed out – not being sure what to expect on the course except to have overheard it was “pretty flat”. Now being from Connecticut, I should know that “pretty flat” means “not that flat” or “rolling hills” and that is pretty much what that course was.

I pulled an “Anne” and lined up in the back but quickly made my way up to the front – making sure my pace felt “uncomfortable” but not unbearable. What made it unbearable – running directly into the sun BUT I had on my stylish Goodr sunglasses and a visor so I was able to see in front of me.

There was a water stop but at that point I was in the “why did I sign up for a 5k headspace” and knew that a water stop would be more time on the course so I by passed it (However, thanks to the volunteers for the cheers and hi-fives).

The course looped around and then we headed back to the start – which was completely fine with me. They through in one more small loop (up a hill which I did not appreciate) and then back to the start (which was now the finish) and much appreciated water.

And then it was time for reality – what did my trusty Garmin say?


HAZAAH!!! It was not a PR BUT I have not seen that time (or pace for a 5k) in well over 5 years. It was a testament that my hard work is working and that I might possibly be getting faster.

The Cool Down

I have to say that this race – even for it being on the smaller side – had one of the best post race spreads. Pizza from Savoy Pizzeria & Craft Bar, pretzels from Hartford Baking Company (which I sadly did not get before I left), beer from Thomas Hooker Brewing Co, AND Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ Food Truck.


Suffice to say that I think everyone was able to re-carb and re-energize after their race.

And then – the wait…

I love races and running fast but it seems that I am always one of the first to arrive (I love a good parking spot) and also one of the last to leave. However, I was able to use that time to catch up with some friends that I had not seen in a while.

Finally, the awards ceremony where I was presented with a very gorgeous engraved tulip glass for being 1st in my AG (40-49). Not bad for a bit of “work” after work.

So that’s that – my 2nd 5k of 2019 and a better showing than the last one I ran in March (see my recap here).

Special thanks to Bird Social Media for the complimentary race and introducing me to not only this 5k that I will be putting on my calendar for next year but Camp Courant and its mission.


Great Hartford Quarter Marathon – Faster as a Master

The Greater Hartford Quarter Marathon is arguably one of my favorite Spring Races that is put on by The Hartford Track Club but it is arguably one of those races that has been held on days with notoriously memorable weather.

Hartford Quarter Marthon
2016 – SO MUCH RAIN!

It’s the kind of race where those who have run it always have war stories to recount. From the years of torrential downpours to the year the wind almost blew you sideways to the year that runner’s faced almost every type of precipitation in the span of 6.6 miles – this race has had its share of challenging race conditions.

BUT – I Love this race so it’s always a no brainer to sign up for it.


The Warm Up

Of course I had a plan for this race :).

As this is a two loop course (with a twisty hill on the 2nd and 4th mile) – I was challenged to run this race by threshold EFFORT not threshold PACE.

One of the keys for me pre-race (at least for me) is parking at the MDC and not using the shuttle bus that is available for those runner’s who decide to sleep in a bit. The race is at 10am so that means I am in the parking lot and eating my oatmeal at 8am.

I was lucky that this year the weather was downright glorious. Some clouds hung overhead when I arrived but as soon as I warmed up and headed to the port-a-potty the sun came out. I ended up having to head back to my car to drop off my jacket, gloves and arm warmers and grab my sunglasses.

And then – WE WERE OFF.

The Workout

I headed up and around the first “mini” hill and settled into my pace. It took me a while to find my groove but unlike the Hartford 5k I ran several weeks ago – I did not let my “slow” uphill pace be a detriment to my mental state.

Up, around two reservoirs, down a hill for the first 5k, through the finish line and back out to the course again.

Heading Through The Finish – And Back Out Onto The Course.

It’s the second loop that gets me every year and this year was no exception. As soon as I headed through the “finish” and back out on the course again my breathing became labored and I could not catch my breath. Dark thoughts (“you can stop”, “just walk up the hill and then you can start again”) entered my mind BUT I pushed them out and focused on calming my breath.

I also started to feel nauseous so that Honey Stinger Gel that I had with me went uneaten but I held it in my hand to try and draw my attention to how I was feeling.

Pushing through the final mile I headed through the finish – definitely ready for some water and an orange slice.

The Cool Down

I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch, grabbed an orange, did a quick check of the results AND THEN finished the workout which included some short, but quick, 45 second reps.

I circled back and did a more detailed look at the results AND GUESS WHAT – I came in 5th Female OA and 1st in my AG! The race director was nice enough to give me my AG swag so that I could do my cool down and head out. BOGO makes a great hat (I have won several at this event) so I was tickled to add another one to my collection!

I have run this race at least 5 times over the past 5 years so I did more of a deep dive of my times over that period. Here is how it shook out –


My times over the years have been anything but linear – a variety of factors have been at play during that time – fitness, injury, and weather but each year I show up.

As Coach said – Faster as a Mater.

I definitely don’t look like that in my pictures (honestly I rarely take an “un-ugly” race picture) but I DEFINITELY look like I am working hard.

My Version Of A Peace Sign

Also – what am I doing in this picture – I really have to work on my peace sign pose.

I could not have asked for anything more last week during The Greater Hartford Quarter Marathon. The Hartford Track Club sure knows how to put on a first-rate event from beginning to end. (and some other *cough* race directors in the area could learn a thing or two).

And if I can be honest – the weather although a welcome and pleasant surprise might have spoiled me for next year – not that I am complaining in the least because regardless the hills I will be back next year!

Medal Madness

Onward we go!

O’Hartford 5k – Running a Race as a Workout

Another Friday – Another Finish Line Friday Recap!

Last Sunday, I ran the O Hartford 5k in Hartford, which was actually the FIRST 5k I ever ran 10 years ago (thanks Facebook for the reminder).

Coach had finally noticed that I had put a lot of races on my calendar (whoops), which apparently did after running the Colchester Half Marathon in February SO I ran Sunday’s race as a workout.  I knew this was bound to happen since I know racing EVERY weekend is not healthy. I do love the atmosphere that surrounds a race, especially since I am getting back into it this Spring, so I had no problem until I saw the workout.  

Warm Up

The O Hartford 5k is put on by the Hartford Marathon Foundation.  They put on first-class events (even if their prices are a bit steep) and this race was the culmination of their 4 race St. Patrick’s Day Series.

I had not run this race in several years and knew that the course had recently changed.  No longer running through the streets of Downtown Hartford, the race course now started and finished at the Colt Building – the perfect location for those wishing to grab a beer after at the Thomas Hooker Brewery at Colt.

Sunday was sunny and bright, but windy so I prepared to layer up (only to take off layers once I started running).

I loved the swag (as did Harley) and after a warm-up of 2 miles (and a quarter mile with Harley), I headed to the start line.

The Workout

So the workout was supposed to be 2 x 3.1 (5k) at 7:34 with the second “loop” slightly faster.

From the start I just felt off – my head and heart were just not in the workout and it felt “tough”.  As Coach said afterwards – emotions play a role in how you approach not just a race but a workout as well.  Even though my pace was pretty good I hated each person that passed me.

Since I had never run the course I also did not know the “lay of the land” so each turn and step was a new experience for me.  

The course was pretty flat although the hill about half way through was a b*itch to climb.  I came through the finish at a 7:35 pace and got a 4-5 minute break before I had to run the course again.  I fueled up with some Honey Stinger Gummies that I had with me and before I knew it I was off again.

Now I love running races but there is something to be said about running the course when everyone has finished, you are passing the sweep car, and the Hartford PD are starting to open up the streets again.  (Side note – Thanks to the Hartford PD for radioing each other while I was still out there – I think that was one of the reasons why the streets remained closed until I passed)

I won’t lie, it was lonley.  What felt hard during the first loop took all my energy and concentration to plug along for the second.

Giving Mark the Peace Sign (except he thought it was the middle finger.)

Finally pulled through the 2nd loop at around 7:40 – definately not faster as the workout was written.

The Cool Down

Cheering SEction
My Cheering Section

I found Mark and Harley and headed to grab some water.  I also checked my time and was pleasantly surprised to find out that I placed 3rd in my age group.  Yeah!

Yea for AG wins and Pint Glasses!

After picking up my “prize” I was supposed to do a 2 mile cool down but honestly, I was done with running for the day, so we headed home where I had the most delicious sandwich for dinner.

Perfect St. Patrick’s Day Dinner

A few days later I had a conversation with Coach after my Quality session earlier that day also did not go as planned.  He decided that the paces I have been trying to “hit” are a bit too fast for me right now and changed my Vdot.

I was a little disappointed but as Coach likes to remind me I am running better than I was in the Fall BUT you can’t outrun the fitness you’re currently at.  So my paces were adjusted and to be honest – they are more doable at this stage in my training.

I just have to keep working and showing up so that someday in the future – that workout that I ran on Sunday will be a challenge but not so tough.

Onward we go!

Keep moving forward!

Watertown Shamrock Shuffle – When the “Hill” is not the real “Hill”

Join me for another Finish Line Friday. This week it's a race recap of the Watertown Shamrock Shuffle that took place on March 9, 2018. Spoiler Alert - there was a giant hill in the middle of the course!

The Warm Up

Saturday morning and another breakfast of Old Fashioned Oatmeal (not a fan of the Instant variety) and a cup of tea.

Oatmeal – It works for me!

I had a slight freak out before I left for Watertown as I could not find my race registration confirmation, so not knowing if I already had a bib or would have to pay “race day” prices.

It took me about 40 minutes to reach Watertown, and after several circles around the neighborhood, I headed inside the Polk Elementary School to pick up my bib.

Luckily – I found my name on the list of pre-registered runners! Score!

Watertown Shamrock Shuffle Course Map

Back out to the car to drop off my swag (a cool coffee mug), pop in my headphones and scoot around for my 2 mile warm up – which actually got me sweating a bit. Back to the car to make a game-time “glove or no glove” decision (I decided on wearing them) and then back to the school to wait for the start of the race.

I had not run this race before but apparently, it’s pretty popular (although maybe it was because of the post-race party at the local watering hole).

After a bit of confusion – the start actually had to be pushed back – we were off!

Setting pre-race jitters with a photo op!

The Work Out

Coach had told me that there was a downhill to start and end and a hill in the middle of the race.

Sure enough – we started downhill which was great and really opened up my legs. The course continued and we made our way up over what I thought was the hill just prior to Echo Lake Park.

The day was gorgeous and as I made my way through Echo Lake Park I thought I had it made in the shade (so to speak).

As I exited the park and took a left onto Echo Lake Road – I think an “Oh Shit” might have escaped my lips as what lay ahead was a BIG ASS WINDING HILL. I had two options – 1. Run up and stop no matter what or 2. Run as much as I could and when my legs started to scream take a little “walk break”. However, at that moment two things happened 1 – Don’t Stop Me Now (Queen) started playing and 2 – I knew that it was tough and I was going to slow down but I would be damned if I was going to stop!

So- I trudged (and possibly almost puked) my way up the hill until I finally, breathlessly reached the top, and at that point I made a right and was greeted by one of the best downhills I have ever had the chance of running. I stepped on the gas and headed to the finish!

The Cooldown

After that it was time to get some water, take a photo (or 2), and check to see how I did as compared the other participants

I placed 3rd!

AG Win (3rd – 40-49 F)

As I waited for the awards ceremony – I completed my cooldown and headed back to pick up a cute medal AND a water bottle (since runners cannot have too many of these!

So what did I take away from this race

  • Hills are hard work! I ran the Colchester Half Marathon a couple of weeks ago – but for some reason, my legs really took a beating in the Watertown Shamrock Shuffle. Maybe it was the sharp uphill and downhill that took it toll. I see more hill work in my future!
  • Watertown was a new Connecticut town for me – 20 down only 149 to go!
  • My weekly yoga sessions and “post run” workout routine I have been incorporating has been helping. I felt I had better leg turn over during the race – even up that hill

SO what’s next – well the O’Hartford 5k this weekend BUT I am running it as a workout so it should be interesting.

I have to learn to make sure the time is right prior to taking a selfie.

Stay tuned!

Colchester Half Marathon Recap – Oh ‘Dem Hills

Happy 2019 everyone!

I know – it’s been a bit since my last post (almost 4 months) but don’t worry I have been doing lots of things since October.

Coach has build back my mileage slowly, and with the exception of a 10k I ran “for fun” while I was traveling in London this past December, my race calendar has been silent.

That is not to say I have not been working toward my next goal – The Cheshire Half Marathon in April – and with the exception of 1 day I have completed all my runs OUTSIDE.

I had the Colchester Half Marathon on my radar for a couple of years, but whether it was the weather or injuries – I had yet to check this race (and town) off my list.

I am happy to say that I finally ran this race whose slogan is “Where No One is Really Over the Hill”.

I am going to try something different this year for my race recap posts – laying them out in Three Parts – The Warm Up, The Workout, and The Cooldown.  Not sure I will keep this going forward, but let’s see how it goes.

The Warm-Up

The Colchester Half Marathon is one of the first halves AND one of the most “bang for your buck” races in Connecticut.  I paid less than $15 (although I paid extra for this sweet shirt) and in return, I got one of the most well-organized races(large or small) I have ever attended.

Where else can you spend less than $20 and be offered pre & post race massages, showers, chip timing, a USTAF certified course, AND lunch in Bacon Academy’s cafeteria offering some of the most delicious post-race food.

Leading up to the race I had been upping my mileage and getting my quality workouts in – regardless of the weather.  I had done some hill workouts but since I had never run this race I really only could go by other “tales of woe” I had heard from friends and the running community.

BUT  I figured it would be a good test for me in a couple of ways – 

  • My Endurance- Up until Saturday, my longest easy run had been 90 minutes (10 miles).
  • My Nutrition – To be honest this is something I have struggled with for years, always waiting until it was too late to take a gel.  “Saving” calories has been a motto of mine for a while and I have come to realize that some of the races where I had nothing left in the tank was because I actually didn’t. In addition – dealing with IBD last year I was not sure how my stomach would react – but after MCM last fall I knew that my fuel of choice (Honey Stinger) wouldn’t fail me
  • My Mental Toughness – In addition to fueling issues, I also fell into a “this is hard, I can just walk a bit and regain my energy and plow on” mentality last year.  I trace it back to the Amica Ironhorse Half Marathon last June and after that, I just could not shake it.  So I knew that this race would be a great test of “pushing through”.

So after a after a hearty bowl of oatmeal, a 30 minute drive, and a 1.5 mile warm up – it was time to fly…up a hill..literally…

The Walk to the start of the Colchester Half Marathon

The Workout

I am not lying – the race started on a hill right by Bacon Academy.  I started in the middle of the pack and luckily they people around were about my pace – meaning not a lot of bobbing and weaving to settle in. 

This is not a race that you can run at a consistent pace – hello hills – but coach wanted me to attack the down hills and run by effort up the hills.

The other part of the plan was to fuel 100 calories every 30 minutes – such a difference from my “usual plan in which I would wait until mile 7 to take a gel – way too late!

Regardless of the hills – the course was absolutely beautiful – country roads (paved and unpaved), cows, horses, well-placed volunteers to make sure runners don’t get lost, and a wonderful “Candy Station” at mile 7.

I think one of the problems I had is that I took what people said about running the course and held it close to me – I was fearful after concurring one hill to not go “all out” on the downhill as I was unsure what awaited me around the next corner.

Don’t get me wrong – the 2 major hills were major, especially the last one at mile 12.  Granted my pace slowed down BUT I plowed ahead and DID NOT STOP regardless of how my quads were screaming at me to walk.

As for fueling – another victory.  One Honey Stinger (Chocolate) at the 35ish minute mark and another (Ginsing) at the 65ish minute mark. I was a big fan of the Honey Stinger gummies last year during MCM training but this was my first time trying out the gels.  My stomach handled them well – no stomach cramping or pain – which as someone who has Ulcerative Colitis is HUGE! 

I ended up crossing the finish at 1:49 and change – an 8:24 pace and considering the course and my mis-step with attacking the downhills – I ran about 5 minutes FASTER than I ran Amica last year (my first half of 2018) – so in that regard I will take this race as a WIN!

Solid work for the day!

The Cooldown

After chatting up some friends (and losing an earbud in the bushes – Womp, Womp) I headed inside for some of the best post-race food I have ever had the pleasure to eat.

Such a surprise to see these two at the finish!

There was something – literally for everyone – something that many races do not take into consideration.

Colchester Half Marathon Post-Race FOOD!

I get it race directions have a lot of balls to juggle so the fact that there were vegetarian AND vegan options was great.

I filled my plate with some of the best sweet potato casserole (I think), vegan chili, and possible a slice (or 2 of pizza) and sat down with other runners telling tales of woe, swapping “gear” recommendations and just being in the presence of like minded (abiet tired) people.

Soon though stiffness started to set in so I bid adeiu, headed back to my car and home a hot shower and my compression socks.

SO that’s a wrap – the first race recap of the season.  A great race because I learned a lot about myself and what I need to work on in the weeks and months ahead.

Onward we go!

2018 Marine Corps Marathon – Race Recap

I came.

Race Morning- Let’s Go!

I saw.

At the Expo – Such an Inspiring Wall!

I ate.

Post Marathon Nachos and Beer!

I ran.

I got a medal!

BUT most importantly – I crossed the finish line proud of how far I have come and happy that I remained pretty much injury-free this entire training cycle!

I know this recap of the 2018 Marine Corps Marathon is overdue – but I have been having a hard time putting into words what went down. If you could open up my head – a lot (I mean a lot) of thoughts would come out but to put those into coherent, readable sentences has been tough. So if there is some rambling in these paragraphs I apologize in advance.

Yes – for those of you who don’t know – I did finish the 2018 Marine Corps Marathon with a time of 3:53 – a respectable time but by no means what I was “supposed” to run – that goal of 3:45 passed me by (literally) around the National Mall.

That is not to say the weekend was no amazing – it was.

At the Expo – Picking Up  My Bib

From the time I got to the expo on Friday afternoon until the time we departed on Monday morning, I have to say I had a great race weekend. It’s just that the race did not go as expected – for as much as I planned to control all the variables that might have happened – I could not overcome the 2 things that got me in the end – dehydration and leg cramping.

Up until that point my main goal was to get to the race healthy. After being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in the late Summer I vowed to do whatever was necessary to stop the flare (and pooping on literally every run) while still putting in the miles.  It was also one of the hottest Summers on record and my paces suffered from that as well. 

And yes – I did put in the miles this cycle BUT for a stretch of time I took most of my quality workouts to the track. (Side note – I don’t recommend running 17 miles on the track. The. Worst.).  And much as I love the track – it does not mimic road running in the least.

When I finally was able to get back on the road in mid-September, I had some good and not so good runs. Running the Hartford Half Marathon in October was a great mental boost (especially given the rainy and cool weather conditions) – but at the end, I remember telling myself that I had to run another 13.1 miles and thinking it was a daunting task.

However – heading down to DC I was excited and oddly calm. In talking with my coach the afternoon before the race – I even told him that I was confident in his plan and excited to see what happened the next day.  And I really was – until I wasn’t

I had already been to the expo and purchased enough Brooks gear to try and forget the fact that the race shirts were utterly horrible (if this was a ploy by Brooks to get runners to buy more of their gear – it worked!), had a nice Friday night meal of gluten-free seafood pasta and bread, and figured out logistics for race morning. We stayed in Arlington and after looking at my options decided to take the shuttle bus to the start – it was perfect. I was able to get up at 5am, get on the shuttle by 5:45 and be at the start ( and through security) by 6:15am.  I copped a squat and used the bathroom as much as time would allow.  

I have heard that many runners got stuck and ended up at the start after the race started and I could see why – many of the busses were filled with runners AND spectators BUT it also seemed like many of the runners just did not take into account that there were 30,000 runners all trying to get to the same place for the same start time. 

Walking to the start.

There is a lot of pomp and circumstance before the race – it’s quite a site – but before I knew it we were off. I had the race plan written on my arm, Honey Stinger gummies in my skirt and a water bottle that I was to keep with me for the first 45 minutes. The Marine Corps Marathon is called “The People’s Marathon” and that is a true statement. People lined every single inch of the course (although sometimes getting too close to the runners) a feeling I equate to running the NYC marathon. And if you don’t get a lump in your throat watching runner’s running for others, runner’s carrying flags or The Blue Mile – then there is something wrong with you.

I followed my nutrition plan (Honey Stinger Gummies every 30 minutes) and after 45 minutes decided it would be a good idea to hold on to that water bottle – yup I ran 26.2 miles with a water bottle. It actually was a good idea especially on ‘THE BRIDGE” the only unsupported portion on the course.  My stomach was doing well and the miles ticked away.

Mark provided great course support and I actually saw him after I headed into the National Mall – he had joked that I would never see him as I have my music blaring but as you can tell – I saw him!

I promise I did wave at Mark!

It was after I saw him the second time that I started feeling it – cramping in my quads and hamstrings and a dizzy feeling. I held on until about mile 20 but then it was a struggle to finish the final 6 miles. I cursed and hated everyone that passed me looking strong and confident. Although I did not get to the pit of despair that many runners speak about when they are struggling, I got close.

I just had to remind myself that the end was near and tried to remember all the miles and effort it took to get to the start line. The finish line is what you expect after you run 26.2 miles – an incline – YUCK. BUT I crossed and although I  did not want to take another step – I did it!

Mission Accomplished

Mark collected me in the Family Area and we joined the masses back to the Metro for the rest, recovery and BEER!

When I crossed the finish and saw my time – I will admit I was disappointed in myself but I don’t know anything else I could have done differently given my fitness.  As Coach told me months ago – you can’t outrun your fitness. I also thought I disappointed my coach and my husband (who got up uber early and with herniations in his back to support me on the course), but as runners I know we sometimes put so much pressure on ourselves (thanks to Social Media for that) that we forget about the bigger picture.  Thankfully – they both were proud of me 🙂

This made me smile!

BUT you know what – I exited this training cycle healthy and happy and really that is what it’s all about.

Yes – I would have loved to reach my goals but I will keep chasing them.  The marathon is a tricky beast – I have run 6 marathons and each time I have a new respect for the distance and those that toe the line.

I know what I need to work on in the coming weeks and months but for now it is time to “let my body absorb the training”, get back into the gym, take some Yoga classes and start thinking about what I want to accomplish next year.

Onward we go!

Marine Corps Marathon Training – Looking Forward, Looking Back

Looking forward Looking Back

It’s hard to believe but I am in the home stretch of Marine Corps Marathon training!

As someone famously once sang – THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!

By this time next Sunday – come hell or high water (yes the forecast is predicting rain) I will have completed my 6th Marathon.

I had my last long run of 16 miles 2 weeks ago at the rainy and cool Hartford Half Marathon and my last “big” Quality workout on Tuesday.

Family Photo!
All smiles!

I have one more “Quality” workout scheduled for early this week but  – I have officially entered Tapertown. I definitely have nerves -which hit me full on last night as the magnitude of 26.2 hit me like a ton of bricks – but I have been practicing positive visualization and repeating a couple of phrases (for a couple of weeks) to keep me in a good headspace.

I know all too well the rabbit hole of how negative thoughts can affect not only your outlook but also your race.  I have put the work in so now it is time for my muscles to recover enough to push me through “all the miles” on Sunday.

I have also been consciously hydrating, stretching and foam rolling and getting as much sleep as possible to make sure on the 28th I am ready to go!

So to keep a positive attitude and to sort of reflect on where I have come in the span of a year since I returned to running after my hip surgery – I  wanted to put “pen” to paper on 5 things I have learned over the course of THIS marathon training cycle.

5 Things I Have Learned

1 – There are no two ways about it – Summer running SUCKS!

I did not have the pleasure to truly “train” last Summer as I was running lower mileage until I had the tear in my left hip repaired.  I remember it being hot – but this Summer it seems mother nature decided to kick it up a notch. It was not just days, but weeks where as soon as I would step outside, I would start sweating.

I was working just as hard but my paces definitely slowed.   It seemed like the heat would never break but fortunately, within the last couple of weeks the temperature has finally started to drop- and as such my legs decided to wake up and get with the program.

Apparently, according to Mark, I feel this way every Summer – meaning I feel that my fitness has disappeared as soon as it gets hot.  He got a lot of “Whoa is me” discussions over the Summer (something I know he did not miss last Summer).

2 – Fueling your long runs actually works!

I admit for years I was one of those people that thought that I was a  badass if I could complete a workout consuming a little (or no) fuel as possible.

I don’t know what flipped the switch in my head but this marathon training cycle I was conscious about fueling myself before (Hello oatmeal!) during and after my weekend run.

I “Heart” Honey Stinger!

Pro- tip – Don’t think by “saving” calories you are doing your self any favors.  The purpose of marathon training is to find out what works for you – use these weeks as trial and error session.  Since I developed a sensitive stomach I am really glad I found out what works for me. I might have been in a world of hurt on October 28th I just used whatever was lying around!

3 – Listen to your coach ( There is a reason why he is the coach and you are not!)

You can’t run or train faster than your fitness at any given time – doing so will set you up for pain and possibly injury. (Actual text from my Coach)

I have been with James Mckirdy since he started McKirdy Trained and have never once regretted it.  He is kind, caring, and talked me off the ledge more times than I can count. Sometimes I even think that he and my husband are on the same wavelength 🙂

I was mad (for selfish reasons) when he moved to AZ – fearful that he would forget about me as he started coaching some amazing athletes. BUT you know what – that could not be farther from the truth – he has ALWAYS been there for me – before, during and after my hip surgery – through text, phone or email.

I know I could have trained for this marathon without him BUT I know I would probably have injured myself and not known when to “shut it down”.  

I go into this week not having been to physical therapy once this training cycle (a rarity).  I do have some “niggles”, aches and pains, but none of the “problems” I have had in the past have surfaced.  For that, I am extremely grateful!

4 – I am stubborn!

Hartford Quarter Marathon – So Windy!

If you have followed my journey either on my blog or Instagram – you would have noticed that starting in July I was dealing with some pretty serious stomach issues.  Like having to go to the bathroom in the before during and after EVERY SINGLE RUN. My body was revolting, which is not good when you are trying to fuel your body to get through marathon training.

I will write more about my diagnosis in a separate post but suffice to say I continued to train, even as I was trying to figure out what the heck was going on with me.  I have had a stomach of steel for years and it was troubling that all of a sudden, I could not keep anything down.

After some trial and error (as well as a colonoscopy- best sleep ever!) – I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease – Ulcerative Colitis (UC).  Basically, UC effects innermost lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum and symptoms include rectal bleeding, bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and pain.

Luckily my cousin ( Hi Brian!) recommended a great UC doctor.  He put me on a medication cocktail and advised me to continue with the dietary changes I had made (no dairy and low, low gluten).  It has worked (knock on wood) and I have been able to continue to train.

My coach was really supportive of my decision to train – he asked one time after my diagnosis what I wanted to do.  I told him I had already been training BEFORE I had a diagnosis and I wanted to continue. IF it was too much then we would re-assess.  

As a result – more of my workouts were in places where porta potties were nearby BUT I still put the miles in and did the work.

In August I was afraid I would crap myself on the course – now I am in a much better place and that thought is the farthest thing I think about.

5 – Regular maintenance (chiropractic treatment, massages, and stretching) are the basic keys to recovery and remaining injury free

Apparently running is hard on your body 🙂

Seriously, though, I have been an ardent believer in chiropractic treatment for years  – I just was never consistent about it. I would fall off the wagon and then once something felt “off” go in for a quick fix.  I have learned that regular maintenance has really helped me remain “unjammed’.

Same with stretching and foam rolling – even just a couple of minutes a day has helped my left not feel as knotty and angry with me.  And one “tool” that has helped me (and really was the cheapest to buy) – I lacrosse ball. It gets into all those hard to reach spots – especially my piriformis.  

Marine Corps Marathon Training – Week 12

Snapshot of the week.

This week the word was 55 (.8) – miles to be exact.

Yup – that’s how many miles while marathon training this week.  With October 28th just 34 days away – training during these next couple of weeks will be very important.

This past week I read this great article in my recent issue of Runner’s World.  In it the author talked about how many runner’s have a defeatist attitude even before we head out the door.  We make up excuses as to why we “might” not run as fast or not hit our paces or bag that last rep because of “x,y or z”.

I admit to being guilty of that myself on some occasions – Especially as the weather hit some ungodly temperatures over the Summer.

So – to help get me mentally ready – I started to visualize things like – 

  • How hard I have worked since my first run back in November 2017
  • Taking fuel and taking it at the “right time”
  • Staying on pace (i.e. not going out to fast)
  • The finish line (and Mark)
  • Not pooping on the course (still a real possibility)
Feet lights
Lighting the way during my run

I also got quite a nice surprise in my email this week – apparently, my finishing time at August’s Wethersfield 10k was fast enough to grant me a seeded start for the Hartford Half Marathon in a couple of weeks.  Now I just have to make sure I don’t futz around (as I am known to do) and get to the seeded start line in time.

Seed start confirmation
One of my favorite races of the year.

It’s not been all running – I baked up some of my favorite Sweet Potato Cookies (which I make into bar form) to snack and spent a lot of time with Harley as Mark was away for his yearly golf trip.

Finished Sweet Potato Bars
I have “almost” memorized this recipe

Let me tell you the mornings this week were quite hectic – making sure I got my run in AND take care of Harley required a very organized routine.  I can’t even imagine Marathon Training with kids – I give those runners all the credit in the world!

Harley in the back yard
Harley protecting his “land”

I even had time to get to a concert on Saturday – to see Paul Simon (one of my favorite singers) play his final performance.  It was a long day – and I have the blisters and sore feet to prove it but it was a perfect night to see a concert and a sweet reward after my EPIC run earlier that morning.

So without further ado…..

Marine Corps Training Log – Week 12

Monday – 7.5 Miles  Easy

Weather forecast
Is it possible to request this weather on October 28th?

Tuesday – Quality Session – 2m WU; 2×800 (7/29/mi); 3min recovery; 1x 35 minutes at marathon (8:06); 3 miles CD

The cool weather I was loving yesterday left and in a blink of an eye I was running in drizzily, hot and humid conditions.  I held it together

Wednesday – 7.25 Miles Easy

Thursday – 7 Miles Easy

Friday – 6.75 Miles Easy

Saturday – 2 mile warm up; 7 x 1mile at marathon pace; 1 mile recovery; 2 mile cool down (17 Miles)

Preparing for Saturday’s run

I knew this was a big session when there was a Coach’s note that said “so this is with purpose…no walk breaks to “gather”…only rest should be for an emergency for the bathroom.”

I guess Coach knows me very well as I have been known to “gather” myself when I should be jogging during a recovery portion of a workout.

In the end – 17 miles in the book before 8am and I KILLED IT!

As I wrote after the workout –

“I was really pleased with this workout – 1.  I took fuel and it agreed with me and 2. This is the first time in a long time where my stomach cooperated at these paces – i.e. no poop breaks.

I also did not “gather” myself except for before the 6th rep when I had to add a band aid to my blistered pinkie toe – ouch.

I felt in control in this workout – something I have not felt in a long time and at one point I even forgot to think about “when I might have to go to the bathroom” – a big win after what I have been dealing with for the past couple of months!”

Marathon Training - saturday run done!
Yeah – running!

So that’s a wrap – 12 weeks down and about 4 to go…It’s starting to get real.