Chicago Marathon Recap: Running gains or pains?

@ Abbott Fitness Expo (Chicago Marathon’19)

Let me just start by saying this marathon course remains my favorite in all the cities I’ve run in the United States. From the start on Columbus Drive in the Grant Park area through its popular wide (I’m from New York) city streets and local districts just outside the city loop: Lincoln Park, University Village, Chinatown etc… and back to the finish in Grant Park it really is a beautiful course with all the trimmings of sights, sounds, and support. One couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day outside of the winds that picked up in the last few miles. No surprise there though, they don’t call it the windy city for nothing. Indeed, notwithstanding the wind, the weather was miles better than last year where it rained the entire time. This brought the fans out in their numbers along the route while sunshine littered the course. A good day for a marathon I’d say!

I’m afraid my back and knees wouldn’t agree. I mean, we had some fun out there during the first half. I enjoyed the crowd support, the pace was great, and so were the volunteers and fuel stations as per always. But man, it was hugely disappointing around mile 13 to feel my lower back caving to the pressure of the tempo pace I had been sticking to from miles 5 through 13. Up till then I had been ignoring the twinges in my right knee, hoping the other knee would remain silent. Unfortunately for me, with the start of those lower back pains, I had to yield to a slower pace and a couple bathroom breaks, which were more rest-my-back breaks, and slowly embrace the pains in both knees by this time, made much worse by my having to overcompensate for my lower back. By mile 18 I was in suck-it-up mode and was working on keeping a steady pace with minor interruptions for fuel – always sticking to the outside and picking it up close to the end of the line. I was aiming for no stops for two reasons: so as to minimize the pain and the length of time for which I was experiencing it, and yes, I was still keeping an eye on my pace. I figured finishing under 3:45 wouldn’t be so bad all things considering.

One thing I have learned over the years with racing and running marathons, and I think I’ve become good at, is adapting and adjusting a racing strategy. Experience has taught me that there’s a 50/50 chance on any given race day that I will actually run the race I had been training for. Because there are factors at play beyond my control such as the weather and, yes, God forbid injuries, one is always hoping and praying that all things being equal it will be a typical/ normal running day. However, if you know anything about typical/ normal these days, you’ve already realized that its no longer a thing. One must roll with the punches and play the hand you’re dealt to avoid being left somewhere at the side of the road eating the proverbial dust. Enough with the cliches, I’m sure you get the gist. That being said, I was prepared to let my body and how it felt that day determine the race I was going to run. Since I was well aware of my knee issues going in I figured I at least knew what, if any, my challenge would be. Imagine my surprise when the back issue popped out of seemingly no where. Only, on further thought – not while I was running but later on after the race, I remember the unfortunate instance of doing a round of heavy deadlifts at the gym the week prior, which had left me sore and pained. Days later the soreness and pain were gone and so was the unfortunate memory. But these things, left untreated, have a way of resurecting. And so that is just what happened.

At the end of the day, the why is less important than the how and the fact remains that because of my experience, training, and sheer determination I was able to suck it up and got to the finish line in a time I could live with. I often joke when asked “what if you don’t finish?” that it’s never a question of if, but when. I’ll endeavor to stay true to that philosophy and in the event I ever feel that I don’t have it within me anymore, I will bow out gracefully, 26.2 miles intact. For now, I can only hope these rolling hills of New York City will be gentler on me. I know what you’re thinking and in all probability you may be right – I’m hardly likely to fare much better here in NYC given the wide disparity in gradients of these two courses. Add to that my obvious disadvantage of being three weeks out from my last race with injuries and well it all seems to add up to one possible outcome right? The only thing is I’m sorta in the habit of defying odds 😉. Oh ye of little faith. 😊

Running Feels heading into Chicago #hopeful

on the streets of NYC

Over the last couple months running has not been as easy as it used to be. My body’s telling me something’s up. You know that feeling, the one that nags at you and won’t go away. It sits on your chest and reminds you, hey, I’m still here. Stopping during runs are more frequent, breathing’s a little harder, running’s requiring a bit more effort, and then there are those knee pains. When you hear that nagging voice or see those little flags, you should pay attention. That being said, I know my body’s going through some changes and it’s all part of the growing older bit so I’m not too worried though I’d obviously love to stay in mint condition all the days of my earthly life. Lol. One can dream.

Nagging voices and colored flags aside, I’m so excited for the things that are happening in our sport! Once considered a one-man sport, and some may still agree, running is growing into this diverse, multi-varied, and interpersonal sport with all the coming-of-age, ultra adventure running experiences that are now everywhere you turn. I, for one, am super excited by this new showing up of the sport and want to do it all – go as far as this human body will take me. Hence why it’s even more important to make sure we’re (all the parts lol) working together on this. So we’ve scheduled doctor visits and tests etc and are actively working to get within the 95-100% performance range. Meanwhile, running continues!

I’m presently on my way to Chicago for my race there on Sunday. I’m looking forward to it and hoping this human machine of mine cooperates so we can have an amazing run as per past experiences. But the devil’s in the details really with my main focus being my knees and the weather, of which the weather promises to be fine. Looks a bit windy from where I sit but I’m praying it’s not adverse & cold winds. I’ve been following some really exciting running these past few days and I gotta say I’m really inspired to get out there and do my best in these exciting times.

Elucid Kipchoge ran a 1:59:40 marathon time at the Ineos 159 Challenge earlier today, 2:30AM in fact, and I was up for the entire thing! Probably not the wisest move on my part, with my run hours away now, but I had to see his #NoHumanIsLimited effort. He was, and is, amazing really. I mean, wow! Who the heck runs splits of 14, 28, 42 min… for 5K, 10K, 15K resp. I think he’s superhuman actually – a superb human machine – and we could only watch in awe and be inspired along the way. Now, if only I could get some of that Kenyan magic tomorrow, and I’m thinking just a fraction, I’ll settle for being slightly-less amazing. 😄

I simply couldn’t help taking these snaps live as I watched him bring it home! #amazingrace #makinghistory #ineos159challenge #NoHumanIsLimited #viennaaustria

Loving September Runs

It’s been a tad less crazy around here weather wise this month. Less blistering sun, fewer humid days, cooler mornings and evenings and a lot of overcast skies with little rain. All this means is running is much more fun now even with this slight change. Indeed, the leaves are already turning and falling and the air has a bit of a crisp bite to it at times; and yes, there’s even a whiff of pumpkin spice. Whoa… Halloween, Thanksgiving, Autumn, wait a minute! We’re still dragging out Summer!

There’s no denying it though; Fall is coming, and so are its races. Some of you may know that my two main runs this Fall are the Chicago and New York City Marathons. They’re an average of three weeks apart in October and November respectively. This places me right in the midst of training season and very thankful for September. I’ve been getting in a bit of early morning and evening running, and some long runs on the weekends. There’s much more to be had of course, but, as always, the challenge lies in managing my time around all my other tasks. I often think about the elite runners, for whom running is a job, I imagine it must be nice to just have to run, eat, sleep, repeat. Though I fear I should soon become bored of the monotony. No chance of that now as time tick-tocks away and it’s all I can do to keep up.

More so, it appears it’s open season on competitions in the CrossFit world. The 2019 Open is almost upon us, there’s also the Concept 2 Fall Challenge – this one I opted to participate in as it’s only rowing. Then there are a couple in-house competitions coming up, as well as those at other local gyms. I’ve taken a non-committal stance there and pleading my case citing impending races. But it’s all so crazy busy and bursting with energy that it’s hard to be a bystander. I find that good in so many ways but somewhat unnerving in others. Where is the downtime? Don’t I already live this life with running? But wait, now I’m doing it with running and CrossFit! I guess one always makes time for things that are important. I dare say that finding balance among those important things is even more important. And so my quest continues to be to create that balance in order to maximize joy and fulfillment in my life. For isn’t that the point of all this.

Amidst all these Autumn musings is the reality of the Chicago Marathon. Less than four weeks away now, I have two weeks of training left before tapering begins. Running’s the name of the game as I try to wrap up my long runs and speed work. I haven’t done much hill work since Chicago’s course is flat and fast but I can’t forget that New York’s course rolls. This week I’ll endeavor to incorporate some hills in my speed workouts and stay injury-free, even as I continue to experience some nagging knee pains. In light of this, I’m off to the doctor this week and hoping for some magic portion to give me the knees of an 18 year old. Because eighteen or not, it’s the weekend And a long run is up for the final day of Summer!🏃‍♀️👙🤗

End of Summer Runs are nigh

Happy Labor Day USA! And just like that we are saying goodbye to hot Summer runs, for the most part anyway. In my world that is a good thing. But hang on, this has got to be the fastest Summer I’ve ever experienced! It’s as if it started off in a sprint and never quite slowed down to marathon pace. In fact, Summer appears to still be running full speed ahead, even as I write this.

Yesterday was Labor day, for crying out loud, the unofficial last weekend of hot, raucous, random, and irresponsible runs. The worst part: I didn’t even run! Sadly – not really – I succumbed to “the lazies” and did everything but running. It didn’t help that our part of the world is currently caught up in the deathly grip of hurricane mania, namely Hurricane Dorian, that’s been furiously pounding the islands of the Bahamas for the past 2 days. It’s now ever so slowly moving its way up the south-eastern Atlantic coast and is expected to cause major damage with unprecedented storm surge and flooding. And so it rained the entire day! What a summer send off! I’m still seething with disappointment about not getting to the beach ( severe frown). It’s my guess that the overcast, rainy day we had yesterday may have been related to that extreme weather pattern.

This morning came all too soon. I was up and running at 5:15am as I felt some redemption was in order after that patch of no-running on the long weekend. As it turns out, I’m pretty glad I decided on that random guilt-filled run. I’m using it as motivation to run everyday for the rest of this week.

Despite it being the crack of dawn and post labor day, we still had a 90% humidity that almost lit me on fire – and I’m not talking pace here, though I did try to stick to tempo to wrap it up as fast as possible. I had work after all. Five miles and thirty-nine minutes later I was back, the world was awake, I had just enough time to get ready – breakfast not included, and I was off.

In every attempt to keep up the tempo, I went to the gym after work and managed an hour of insanity. I’m hoping to jump right back in tomorrow morning as I have group run scheduled in the evening. I expect it’ll be a bit cooler than last week and that can only be a good thing. In fact, I’m rubbing my hands together gleefully – though not too much as I fear what’s to follow in a couple of months. And yes, it’s reasonable to look ahead, especially with time being what it is and doing what it does, as I anticipate the cooler weather and what that means for running: cooler runs of course! They are on the way and with a lot else besides, but I’ll just focus on that one amazing fact for now. There’s only so much excitement a girl can take. LOL.

26 2 Miles for a Cause: Chicago Marathon ’19

It’s time once again for 26.2 for a great cause! Truth is I’m always amazed at how fast this time comes around. How well I know, every year it seems I barely get time to shake off my last run before it’s full on training mode again. Such is the life of a runner; one is either running races or training for them. We, my friends, are back in training camp and this year I’m dedicating my miles-for-a-cause charity run to Back on my Feet Chicago, a nonprofit organization that—literally and figuratively—helps individuals experiencing homelessness get back on their feet through self development, empowerment, and running. I’ll be running the Chicago Marathon on October 9 for this amazing and very close-to-my-heart cause.

What they do: (click here) ↩️

https://youtu.be/LBtyydzyu1Q

Why, Back on my Feet? You might ask. Well, I first came across this organization about five years ago when I began volunteering with a local non-profit, Hope for New York. This organization partners with a wide range of affiliates to serve the various needs of marginalized New Yorkers. Suffice to say, Back on my Feet is one of the affiliates with a chapter in our great city. I connected with them because of their unique idea of using running as a tool to connect, mobilize, and empower individuals who were at the time mainly down-on-their-luck, returning veterans who were struggling to reintegrate within society. Running, I thought, well there’s something I can do. We would meet three times per week at 5:30 am in 42nd Street, near Times Square, and spend about an hour running and getting to know the guys, developing a rapport, and sometimes sharing a snack or other niceties. We’ve even had award functions and special runs/events geared at community building where the guys were honored for reaching a mile marker or achieving a goal. My first-hand involvement in the running aspect left me with a truly memorable and inspired running ethic. It’s one thing when you run for yourself – you reap the benefits of calories lost, self development, and/or physical well being – but it’s entirely different when you come to understand that what you take for granted can be life-changing in every way for someone else. Truth is I haven’t looked at running the same since.

I haven’t run with Back on my Feet for a while now, not because I haven’t wanted to, but because my schedule doesn’t allow. So of course when I saw the opportunity to run for the organization, albeit the Chicago chapter, I was thrilled to do so as I greatly admire their work and feel that while I’ve been a part of what they’ve been doing in the past, I’d love to continue to do so and see their impact grow nationwide. Running as a tool for self development is empowering and liberating and has already been proven to be making a difference in our communities. With the support of our leaders, educators, and ordinary people like you and me, who feel we can help make that difference and make our world a better place, there’s no limit to the lives we can help change.

That said, I’m inviting you to join my efforts to support the work of Back on my Feet Chicago through donating to my miles-for-a-cause campaign by giving a tax-deductible gift of any amount to this phenomenal cause. Click the link below to pledge your support and please share the link with anyone or any entity/organization you think would like to support the work of empowering individuals in our society, especially veterans, to get back on their feet. I am blessed to be a blessing and so are you!

Donate here⬇️

https://give.backonmyfeet.org/2019chicagomarathon/lorimilesforacause?tab=MyPage

Running & The Charm of Small Town America

Impromptu, unplanned, random, and direction-less runs is turning out to be the best kind of running these days. Over the past two weeks I’ve had the good fortune to find myself with time, mornings, and some country roads. It’s not hard to guess what’s been going down. In fact, I feel quite stranded this morning in the city. Like, what? Am I really having to deal with all the city smog, noise, and standard mayhem that is New York City life already? I fear I’ve been irrevocably spoiled in only a matter of days.

While Long Island is not that far away from New York City, the two-hour train ride sure does serve to transport one away from the hectic pace of coperate life to the simple charm of small-town America in a click of wheels so-to-speak. In fact, so much so that 40 minutes outside the city has one already believing in fairies as highrises and the ceaseless hustle of pedestrian and vehicular traffic give way to a panorama of greenery amidst the cacophony of rural life. A study in contrast, I thought as I sat staring out the window gleefully contemplating the next few mornings. Then I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt as the thought raced through my mind that there I was all too eager to disassociate myself from the city I claim to love. The truth is it’s not disassociation as much as it’s restlessness and a desire for variation. City life is a bit of a rat race and it’s all too easy to get stuck in the rut. Fortunately, I’m not good at sticking.

For the most part, I cherish morning runs. After the initial pull on the covers and attempt to burrow deeper comes the sudden start and realization that I need to get out before the sun rises. My next thought is a vision of me laboring in 90° weather dodging the sun as I wrap up a run. That’s all I need to jump out the bed and into my sneakers.

Suffolk County, New York is rural and vast and reminds me of southern countryside with a town every few miles and in every direction. I spent a few fun mornings heading out in random directions at different paces with a mind to discover, get some views, pics, and beat the sun.

I succeeded for the most part and cherished the quiet, dewy mornings, the fresh air, the squirrels, rabbits, ducks, geese, the birds, the farms, churches, shops, the Marina with the boats, various ponds, and lakes.

It was all so natrual and untouched and so much more attractive as it all just sat there being, awaiting the world as it slowly awoke.

At some points I meandered a bit, at other times I powered up to do some tempo miles. So fun with the only pressure being the heat from which there really was little escape. Wet, tired, and oh so very hot was my default post- run state and I revelled in it. Yes, I’m telling everyone, countryside runs is the life, at the very least this summer and quite possibly every summer thereafter if I have anything to say about it. My reasoning is simple, life is short, you cover a lot more ground if you get off to a running start 😉.

Bring back the days of easy, fun runs this Summer

If I had to describe Summer in so many words it would have to be: running, sunshine, outdoors, travel, beach, books, and adventure. I could live a thousands Summers and they’d never get old. There are just too many places to run, travel, and explore and one can ever have too many beach trips or read too many books. Since the weather has been so iffy for a while already, I’ve been trying to maximize these sort of cooler days to get some early runs in, nothing crazy, as I’m off the clock – so to speak – I’m on break! And so excited to return to a time when runs were easy and fun and took you anywhere – no strings attached. That, my friends, is the life! My life for the next five weeks anyhow. Let the good times/runs begin!

They say the best things happen when you don’t plan, so I’m making a studied effort to remain plans-less and let the chips fall where they may. Sadly, these five weeks will go by too quickly, but I’ll try to focus on the things within my control, which by the way, is nothing really. Be that as it may, I’m running whenever it’s cool and conducive to do so. That means away with the midday runs and hello early mornings and late evenings! Yesterday and last weekend saw me strapped up and out the door by 6:15am and still the sun was already out, not as high as later on when I was done, but it was surely out and about before I was. This, I’ve decided that if I persist with these weekend runs throughout the summer, it’ll have to be around 5am. I certainly love running as the world is just awakening and the sun is rising so it’ll be well worth the sacrifice to get up earlier.

As I write this, I’m thinking of my not-so-random 10 mile jaunt yesterday. It sure is easy to talk about making no plans, but the routine animal in me is a sucker for a schedule and so I sorta did plan my route. However, I’m hoping that with no training plans breathing down my neck, I can be a bit more spontaneous with very minor, and only when necessary, advance planning. To this end, while some of my friends have been talking about races, I’ve intentionally made no such plans and will leave it open as to whether I want to jump into a 5K, or 10K, or even a fun run in the next few weeks. Spartan or Rugged Maniac anyone? Keep in mind it’s Summer and yours truly is truly oppose to running in the heat, so it’ll take some convincing and a good reason to do so. On the other hand, adventure is totally a good reason. Just saying.

I’d like to encourage you though. Don’t let my reasoning keep you back from getting out there and doing your running thing. In fact, what would summertime be like to a runner without a bit of friendly competition, so bring on the races! There’s a lot of exciting running going on this Summer here in the Big A and in other states across the country. Find yourself something fun, something different, and exciting even if you have to cross state lines to do so; In fact you should make it a point to cross a few of those lines and go have yourself a summer adventure to rival past summers.

Memorial Weekend Running @ Vermont City Marathon

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May has turned into June and Spring into Summer bringing with it lots of sunshine and a lessening of the showers we’ve been getting of late. Before we run on though, I ought to pause for a worthy mention of a pretty 26.2 I recently experienced.

IMG_20190526_074203Two weekends ago, aka Memorial Day Weekend, a couple of friends and I drove up to Vermont to run the marathon in Burlington. The course was scenic and somewhat hilly with many unknowns including the weather. It was my first visit and I found the city and its people quite charming. While we didn’t get to poke around too much so as to save my legs for the race, we did venture into the city to absorb the local scene the evening before the race. Unfortunately, it rained cats and dogs then, which more or less ruined our outdoor dining experience at a popular local restaurant with supposedly good food. On the other hand, the Expo, which was held at the DoubleTree Hilton, made for a fine experience and really showed up the warmth and friendliness of the people of Vermont. We met some fine folks and got some tips on how to take on the course from a couple of veteran Vermont marathoners. I made sure to voice my concern as to the uncertainty of the weather, and the then current downpour, and was told my fears were unwarranted, Marathon Day was going to be great, a little wet early on but the weather would dry out and turn out a beautiful race day. One thing was certain, we were told, the race would be memorable and it was hoped we would enjoy it enough to come back next year.

As it turned out, the course was indeed pretty but it had a few hills that wrecked havoc on my back on both the ascent and the descent. Now I’ve been having back issues since soon after I started CrossFit and I’ve recently started working to adopt correct form, wearing a belt when I lift, and rolling out, and taping up. But that weekend, I was in recovery from a previous week of heavy lifting and was experiencing some pains in my lower back. I was optimistic that I would get taped up at the expo since I am terrible at taping up myself, and even walked with my tape to show the good folks at the KT Tape booth – who I hoped, more than expected, would be there. Turned out they weren’t and there went my hope of running anywhere close to a 3:30 time. I reluctantly engaged my friend to help with the tape but as expected that didn’t turn out so well, and so I adjusted my expectations and went to bed.

Race day dawned with beautiful skies, a bit of clouds here and there but nothing major, and I was pretty glad that we were scheduled to run as early as 7am. Early start translates to early finish so I was ready to run. God may have had other ideas because we were barely in Battery Park, where the start line was located, amidst the rolling out of the stars of the show – the elite guests – when amidst the blue skies, there came an announcement for all runners to exit the Park area due to inclement extreme weather condition that was expected momentarily but should only last for about 20 minutes. We all thought it was a joke, then we thought it was something else, maybe a bomb threat or some such thing, because, how could there be a storm? Well to make a long story short, it stormed alright, while many of us took shelter in a nearby church. There were others scattered about in nearby hotels and other buildings. The priest and others at the church were so gracious and welcoming it was heartening to sit and receive a blessing as he prayed for us and sang accompanied by a pianist. Out of nowhere the skies burst and lightening and thunder put on a display we were able to witness from the inside. Time passed by and 20 minutes turned into an hour and so we didn’t start until about 8:20am. By then the sky was once again blue and the sun was out. One would never have guessed a thunderstorm just happened except there were puddles everywhere and everything was wet. With little fanfare now, except for the singing of the national anthem, the race started and we were off.

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Some things I enjoyed about the course were that they kept the race in the city for the most part, which made it easy for supporters and so I was able to see my friends three different times. I also liked the bits of trails they threw in, it broke up the running on asphalt bit as well as provided shade as it got hotter and miles seemed longer. I also enjoyed that it was scenic, which allowed me to take pictures, and that we ran along Lake Champlain, it was refreshing. I loved the support from the locals who were handing out refreshments as well as providing encouragement and various forms of music like drums and flutes etc at odd points. Too, I appreciated the volunteers – so encouraging, especially the kids, who were so very cute. I thought interesting the aspect of the relay runners which made the run different and a study for me as there were quite a bit of youth runners, which was new to me as far as running with them.

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A few things I was a bit “meh” about were the hills of course, seeing spectators 2-3 times meant that there were a few loops in there – not a few of my favorite things. Then there was the puddle jumping and muddy areas of the trails brought on by the rain and the omniscient sun. All in all though, I lean in favor of the positives as we ended on a grassy, softer finish with a finish line that was right there and medals soon thereafter. Pizza and snacks wrapped up the Vermont City Marathon experience and a photo op with one of my running inspirations, Bart Yasso, was the cherry on top.

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May – Be Running, but definitely Raining

May weather has been may-be a bit disturbing. Used to be April showers, May flowers, only there’s been a lot of May showers and flowers! We’ve had two and a half weeks of vacillating weather jumping from one end of the spectrum to the next and everywhere in between. That is to say, I’ve run in the cold, wet, chilly, windy, hot, humid, mild, and even had the odd perfect day, all in just that space of time. Odd weather much? Mind you, I’m not complaining, not really, for while I dislike cold weather, I’m game to work with anything else, and it hasn’t been that bad really just inconvenient. I’ve slowed down on the running for the past four weeks, which is kinda, sorta, maybe, a bad thing given I spontaneously decided a week ago to run away to Vermont for the memorial day weekend and marathon.

Since my last run, I’ve been careful to keep up with my once-a-week group speed workouts while I do a longish run at least once a week with other arbitrary shorter runs here and there, but my long runs have all but disappeared. Weekend before last, in lieu of a long run, I opted for a 26 mile, 10,000 feet hike that turned into an all-day-into-night affair and left me pretty depleted and struggling all week after. Heavy legs, tight muscles, and laboured breathing were the highlight of my runs for the past 10 days. I’m thinking it’s good I decided on a slightly relaxed, – slightly because I know myself and running just for fun is hard when I’m running a marathon – enjoy the view, and take pictures kinda run this time around. So ideally, I’m under no pressure regarding projected pace or finish time. I hope. This will be a first.

Last weekend it rained so hard, I copped out on running. My body was also just plain ‘ole exhausted and I was in no mood for the rain to add insult to injury if I pushed myself to go out there only to catch a cold. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it (cheeky grin). Turns out I had it coming, the rainy run, not catching a cold thank God, as I got caught in a downpour while running a medium- paced 7 miler on Tuesday. It turned into an all out splash and race to the finish, which actually ended up rather well. Since I happen to love running in thunderstorms, it wasn’t too hard to pretend as the day was overcast and a tad humid. Getting rained on turned out to be a God idea.

With all this “May” weather, it’s CrossFit that’s been getting all the attention. I’ve been at it in the gym consistently working on strength, skill, and conditioning; It’s no wonder I remain fatigued. I sorta owe myself some rest this week: to take it easy and try to get in a yoga session or a massage, whichever is cheaper (lol), in preparation for this weekend. I have a lot of faith in God and in me but only in so far as I listen to my body and take care of its needs. Its been giving cues for a while now: “Rest is very necessary for recovery and remaining injury free.” I am listening.

Recapping the 2019 Boston Marathon: 26.2 miles that just won’t quit

“Wow It’s over!” That was the first thought I had last Monday at just around 2:20pm. Yep, that was about the time I crossed the finish line at Bolyston Street in Boston at the 123rd running of the Boston Marathon – my fourth and best one thus far. Oops! Did I just leave myself open to another one? I just may have at that. I can just hear you thinking now… hmm, it must’ve been a good one for her to come out thinking of going back yet again! Especially after I said this would more than likely be my last Boston providing I had a good race. Well now, let’s see what qualifies as a good race: weather – all over the place, pace – conservative and consistent, course – manageable, BAA event handling – a bit of room for improvement, and volunteer and spectator experience – exceptional. Were I then to rate the 2019 Boston Marathon, it would get a score of 7/10. Quite an improvement from the last three times and a bit of a quandary for me in terms of deciding on whether I should go back next year.

Let me just say that the only reason I would even consider this is because I got within my goal range of 3:30 – 3:35, which has led me to believe that a goal of 3:30 is attainable after all. But what is it about Boston though that has be coming back for more? Am I some sort of maschiost that enjoys the hurt on those Newton hills? Or is it as simple as loving the challenge of a good course, which Boston altogether certainly is. Like every other runner of this race, I resent those hills and maybe I, along with those who’ve done it multiple times, even more so because we know exactly when they’re up and what it takes to get through and over them. They are undoubtedly the most difficult aspect of the race and a common cause of many failures to accomplish goals. Can you ever really be prepared for them? I don’t know. I think you can devise a strategy and with experience and commitment pull it off but whether one can conquer those hills would be a good question for the elite runners. I’d love to watch them run that particular aspect of the course. In any event, I got through them with a slow, steady, and sure strategy. The plan was never to race those hills but to keep a sure and steady pace on the incline and I stuck to it like glue. No stopping, or faltering, or walking, which would kill one’s momentum faster than you could think it. Again, you learn by experience sometimes and while I have stopped a few times while racing, they’ve never been on hills. I plan on keeping it that way.

But let’s go back a bit. In the past I’ve said that the easiest portion of this race is the first sixteen miles and that did not change. It was made a bit more challenging obviously when the sun came out around mile five, but its been hotter before. From there it got pretty hot pretty fast and stayed that way for the duration of my run. To be fair, we were promised a break in the weather, which started off with heavy rains and thunderstorms earlier that morning up to and during the loading of the busses to Hopkington. This window was supposed to have been between 10am and 2pm when the rains would stop. It was spot on, leaving us to start under overcast skies. Everyone seemed pretty happy with that and I was ecstatic. Not so much about the muddy mess that was Athletes Village, and after my harrowing experience to get to a port-a-pottie, I didn’t hang around but got started on the long trek to the start line. I had a late start being in wave 3 and too much time to think but we eventually got going and were toe to toe for the first 3-4 miles after which it spaced out some as we entered Ashland. Not too long after that the sun came out amidst the bluest of skies, the heat soon followed, backed up by the wonderful crowds that were with us from the beginning to the end. It’s easy to see that Bostonians are a patriotic and loyal bunch. It was Patriot’s Day in Boston and they were out in their numbers to celebrate and support the marathon with all of the fervor and leftover zeal from the Red Sox game the evening before. I figure one out of three wasn’t bad given perfect doesn’t exist. Only, the heat just never let up and while I’ve run in hotter conditions, and in Boston too, it does wear on you and will always cost you some time as it generally means more hydration and getting in between other runners and the water/Gatorade stops. A few noteworthy mentions are: the Wall at Wellesley, always fun to see the college girls out cheering us on like their lives depended on it and with the most outrageous signs too. For me, the pleasure is watching the faces of first time runners as they bathe in the experience..priceless! The supporters on the hills at Newton – I do so appreciate that they had to find their way there and were prepared to stay for hours to cheer the runners on. God bless their hearts they were all over those hills screaming and urging us on. They kept at it, wouldn’t let up, and gave tremendous boosts of encouragement at the moments they were direly needed. Then there were the hydration stations – perfectly positioned every 2/3 miles, we didn’t want for fuel at any point, and given the heat, that was super important.

Of course we couldn’t have done it without the thousands of volunteers..they’re a steadfast and amazing lot and at every race I remain dumbfounded by their generosity of spirit in giving their time (sometimes the entire day and/ or weekend) to ensure we have an amazing experience. They’ll always hold a special place in my heart. And after heartbreak hill, I was even more beholden to them and to the crowds of spectators who did more than cheer. Everything under the sun (and many were begging for rain then) that one could think about was out for grabs: Vaseline (came in so handy as my tighs were chaffing badly), candy, water, beer, fruit, wet towels, water hoses., you name it, were all made available by those cherry folks. Little do they know the impact they have on runners at this point. Most of us are either struggling or revelling at miles 21-26 and in either case need this jubilant display of support and generosity to take us to the finish line. For my part, I was in the zone about then and was aware only peripherally of what was happening around me and could only manage a few palm touches for fear of losing my momentum. Mile 25 was surreal in that I kept zoning in and out and can clearly remember some parts of it and nothing of other parts. I recall stopping at the last water station and being grasped by someone and getting pulled along for a few yards particularly, but then I blank until the final 800 meters, which looked like a distant star on the horizon. I mean, I thought that run down Bolyston street would never end, and was probably what prompted the words I started this narrative with, “wow, it’s over,” when I finally crossed the finish line in a time of 3:34:15. Soon after the rains came down in all it’s might and windy fury. And just then was I ever so glad I didn’t get caught in that. It was indeed over for me.

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