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All Training

Need for Speed in Nebraska

It was a perfect, sunny day in Omaha, NE. From my starting point at the Hilton Hotel, I laced up my bright cobalt running shoes and reveled in the fact that I had an entire afternoon to run wherever I wanted for as long as I pleased.

In the past two weeks I had logged 135 miles of running and played in ten rock concerts in ten different states and one Canadian province. Two days before, I completed my longest ever training run of 24 miles on the lake shore path of Chicago. I had been feeling good to a point, but I could feel my body beginning to revolt. My recent easy runs had been slower than usual by 10-20 seconds per mile. In the previously mentioned long run, I felt ready to stop at mile ten. Eight hours of sleep per night was no longer enough.

As I set out to run around the city, I told myself that I wouldn’t look at my watch, I wouldn’t worry about pace, and I wouldn’t even worry about where I went. It would be a run purely for the joy of running. I explored downtown, ran along a river canal, and looped around a pond. The sky was clear, the temperature was right around 50º Fahrenheit, and I had all the time in the world.

While I was enjoying running for the bliss and fun, I couldn’t help but think how perfect the weather would be for a speed workout. I had planned on waiting another day or two to give my legs a break, but it seemed silly to not take advantage of the day and the weather.

The workout was 8 x 1K repeats @ 10K pace with a 400m jog between each. Since the units of measurement on my watch aren’t set to the metric system and I couldn’t find an open track, I decided to do 0.6 miles on; 0.25 mile off. I found a long enough stretch of bike path by the Missouri RIver to run the intervals back and forth on. My goal pace would be 3:44.6.

The first rep flew by in 3:42.9. It felt effortless.

I turned to face the other direction for the second rep and got smacked by a blast of wind. So THAT’S why the first rep felt so easy… I had 12mph wind to my back the whole time! The next rep was head-on into the wind. It did not feel effortless. 3:44.9.

Third rep, 3:42.5. Right on.

Fourth rep, I battled with the wind again, finishing in 3:45.7.  I began to feel sorry for myself for having to face such windy conditions, and told myself it was okay that I missed my goal and that if things kept going that way, I could still easily average out in the end to my goal pace.

Fifth rep, 3:43.5. My slowest wind-aided effort yet. Was I really already slowing down? It was then that I told myself to snap out of it. Wind or no wind, 6:13 for six tenths of a mile should not feel hard. 6:13 is the pace required for a woman to run an entire marathon in order to qualify for the US Olympic Trials. I also thought that if this was the hardest part of my day, I have a really freaking good life. Perspective is everything.

I snapped out of whatever funk I was in, took a deep breath, and ran directly into the wind with my fastest split yet- 3:39.9. Take that, wind! You don’t own me!

7th (wind-aided) rep, 3:39.8. Easy peasy. I thought of how amazing and wonderful it would be to run an entire marathon at that pace. 6:06 per mile. That’s a 2:40 marathon. Some day?

8th and final split, with what I swear were the strongest wind gusts yet and yet nothing for me to lose. I pumped my arms and focused on taking short, choppy strides and light steps. Wind? What wind? 3:37.7.

Running for fun is great and all, but this little impromptu challenge came at a perfect time. I may be a little tired, but I feel confident in my fitness. My taper for the Philly Marathon has started. My legs are awake and ready for what’s to come.

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All Training

Adaptation

There’s something different about my current training regime for the Philadelphia Marathon. I feel like a marathoner. Every marathon I’ve run in the past I either signed up for on a whim, or trained for while working through an injury just to make it to the starting line in one piece. This time, I’m not rushing. I’m not hurt.

I’ve always thought of marathon training to be this long, grueling process. In fact, the past few months have been a natural progression, all thanks to a new coach I started working with. A little more mileage here. A little bit faster there. Recover. One step at a time.

When the mileage crept past 55 miles per week about a month ago, I could feel my body undergoing some kind of change. I had some major hunger attacks and emotional moments. It’s like my system was resisting what I was demanding of it. But somehow, just since last week or so (my peak mileage week), I feel that finally, I am adapting. My appetite has evened out. My clothes fit just a little bit looser. My muscles look a little more defined. Running 22+ miles feels doable. A mid-week 14 miler is a breeze. I know exactly what my goal marathon pace, 6:50 minute miles, feels like.

I feel more prepared than I ever have been for a marathon. It’s evident in the training and it’s evident in how I feel. I have my longest run yet in this training cycle coming up on Sunday, November 1st, then it’s just 22 days of tapering and fine tuning. Philly. I am ready for you.

 

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All Life

Birds of a Feather

The word’s out- I am a member of the Oiselle Volée Team! Oiselle (pronounced wa-zelle) is a women’s running apparel company based in Seattle, WA and their Volée team is comprised of 250 competitive and recreational runners from all over the US.

While I’m new to the team, I’ve been a bird nerd (ha) for quite some time. I first came across Oiselle apparel at Portland Running Company in 2009, just two years after the company launched. I was blown away by their use of color, design, and silhouette to create a look that was both athletic and chic. Oiselle apparel quickly became a staple in my running wardrobe.

I developed a more personal connection to the brand after getting to meet Sally Bergesen, Oiselle’s founder and CEO, along with a few other team members + friends during a visit to Seattle a few years ago. I joined them for an eight mile run at the crack of dawn, followed by a live NYC Marathon viewing party right in Sally’s living room. First of all, it was such a treat to meet Sally. She is an incredibly smart, kind, and down-to-earth person. Second of all, it was so cool to meet other women who found running for an hour, followed by watching OTHER people run for several hours, to be fun. I’ve also had the honor of meeting Kristin Metcalf, the fabulous Oiselle team manager, at several track and xc meets, and most recently the Eugene Marathon. I can tell you she is always the most supportive and enthusiastic cheerer out there.

It’s been really exciting to see how the company has continued to develop in the past several years. Along with bringing 2x National Champion Lauren Fleshman and Olympian Kara Goucher on board in recent years, Oiselle has made a huge effort to bring more attention and fandom to the sport in a way that’s accessible. They’ve been fervent about keeping fans updated on important national and world class events via their blog and social media, and openly show support and give attention to athletes all over the spectrum. They’ve also made waves in the world of American road racing and track & field by being vocal about issues within the sport and the way it is governed. Runner’s World wrote a fantastic article on Oiselle that includes more on this.

What I love most about Oiselle, aside from their amazing clothing, is their passion for the sport of running and the community around it. Their message has always been to lift up and empower all athletes, regardless of brand affiliation or gender; whether they’re elites or weekend warriors. That’s something I can stand behind. I’m so proud to represent Oiselle!

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All Race Reports

The Finish Line: Boston Marathon Recap

On Monday I took part in what some are calling the greatest day in running history. It was a day of healing, celebration, and for me, a day to overcome. I ran the Boston Marathon!

Early that morning, there was an energetic and positive vibe in the athlete’s village in Hopkinton. Everyone, including myself, seemed really excited to be there. The security may have been heightened a little as expected, but it was still easy for my Dad to drop me off right in front of the village, and in order to enter, all I had to do was show my race number and get a quick check by a volunteer with a hand scanner.

I was assigned to Wave 2, Corral 1, which meant I got to start in the very front. The first time I ran Boston in 2011, I was assigned toward the back of the first wave, so by the time I actually crossed over the start line, the only thing I could see ahead of me was a sea of bobbing heads. This time, however, there was nothing blocking the view of the pavement leading steeply downhill. It gave me an idea of what it would have been like to start up front like one of the elite athletes earlier that day. It also allowed me to visualize what the scene would have looked like fifty years ago, when the number of entrants was only 400 and it was probably possible to start up front no matter who you were.

The first ten miles or so of the race had some major downhills, especially toward the very beginning. My plan was to run conservatively, with my goal pace being between 7:40 and 8:00 per mile. Even though I started toward the front, I was immediately swallowed up by hundreds of runners passing me on both sides. Despite my intentions, I was shocked when I looked down at my watch as I passed the first mile mark- it read 7:04. I did my best to slow down, but with the combination of having well rested legs, the swarms of people passing me and carrying me along, and the spectators lining the streets and cheering on the runners, it was difficult to rein in my pace. My next mile was in 7:14 and I felt like I was jogging, when in fact, I was well ahead of my goal pace. Eventually I settled in and hit a rhythm of 7:30-7:40 minute miles.

Leading up to marathon day, my left foot had been giving me quite a bit of trouble. Even as I was walking around the athlete village race morning, I had felt a few pangs. After about ten miles into the marathon, however, any worries I had about my foot began to disappear. It felt completely fine for the first time in weeks. I knew my husband and family and friends were tracking my progress online, and I so badly wanted to communicate with them, “Hey, I feel great! I’m going to be fine!” so they wouldn’t have to worry. I went into cruise control, gliding from town to town, smiling at all of the spectators and giving a wave or fist pump to anyone that saw my Portland Running Company singlet and yelled “Yeah, Portland! Go Oregon!”

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Around mile 15, a fellow Portland runner from Team Red Lizard came up beside me and said, “Hey, I think I just heard that Meb won.” Wait… wha?? I had to make him repeat himself. Because this guy was telling me that Meb Keflezighi, an American runner whose personal best was more than four minutes slower than the top contenders in the field, had won the Boston Marathon. I needed more confirmation. As I ran through the next water station, I asked several volunteers who had won the marathon. They had no clue. I asked several spectators as I ran by, and one said, “An American!” Then finally, another runner out there with me shouted, “MEB!” The news was spreading like wildfire- Meb had won the Boston Marathon! He was the first American to do so in 31 years. I absolutely could not contain my excitement. I was grinning ear to ear. It was all the inspiration I needed. I could no longer hold myself back and I started to take off, passing runners left and right. Over the next few miles, the amount of spectators grew, and at soon enough I was dashing through the main street of Newton, its sidewalks filled to the brim with people. My energetic running was earning a LOT of cheering for Portland! It was an unforgettable moment. I kept telling myself that if Meb could win the marathon, I could stand to pick up the pace a bit. I finished that mile in under seven minutes, and threw in a few more 7:30s.

After that magical little moment, it was back to business. It was time to tackle the Newton Hills, and I was ready. I had held back so much earlier in the race, that once I started to ascend the hills, I felt that I could give myself permission to let it hurt a little more. I was able to maintain my sub-8:00 goal pace, but this time I had to earn it.

Once I made it past Heartbreak Hill and entered Brookline, my goal was to not fall apart. It’s always through those last several miles when it seems that time slows down. Despair starts to set in. You start to wonder when you’ll ever see the next mile mark, and when you do, all you can think of is how very far from the finish you still are. It was through those last few miles that I really drew from the support of the crowd. I tried to keep my chin up and be strong for everyone cheering. I wanted to be strong for Portland and strong for Boston. I thought of the the mantras that two of my running heroines had written for me on my bib number just days earlier. Lauren Fleshman wrote, “Be the lion.” Kara Goucher had written, “Always believe.”

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I thought back to the time Kara had run Boston for the first time in 2009, and I was home watching on TV. At the same point in the course I was at, she was chasing down Salina Kosgei and Dire Tune with all of her might. It looked for a moment like Kara had been broken, but then just near the tunnel with 1K to go, I remember her throwing off her gloves and surging ahead once more, refusing to let the other women break away without a fight. I tried to be strong like Kara and strong like Meb had been on that very same day.

As I turned the final corner toward the finish, I did my absolute best to keep it together physically and emotionally. The sound of the crowds cheering was deafening. I heard my name in what can only be described as a ROAR coming from my Dad somewhere in the throng of spectators. My legs felt pulverized and I was getting passed by what seemed like multitudes of marathoners raising their arms and celebrating their soon-to-be finish. I definitely could not lift my arms. I definitely was not thinking about smiling for the cameras. But I definitely kept my eyes on that finish line and continued pumping my arms forward in seemingly slow motion until finally I had crossed.

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I made it. With a finish time of 3:22:31, which is more than I could have asked for considering this crazy year. I was honestly a little stunned. After months and months of worrying about the outcome of the race (read about my training leading up to Boston), and whether or not I would even make it to the start, let alone the finish, there I was, just past the finish line with a volunteer congratulating me and hanging a medal around my neck.

As I slowly and painfully made my way through the finisher’s area, I was met by the friendly faces of volunteers congratulating me, handing me water, and wrapping a Mylar space blanket around my shoulders. I did my best to thank each and every one of them for being there. I eventually turned a corner to make my way toward the family greeting area, where I was met by another big group of volunteers. There were maybe twenty or thirty of them, and they all began clapping for me. I tried to hold in my emotions, but it was impossible. I felt so humbled. I thanked them for being there while trying to wipe the tears streaming down my face. I learned later that almost all of the volunteers in the finish area were returning volunteers from the previous year, when the bombing had occurred. I can’t imagine the emotions they were going through by returning to that very same place.

I continued hobbling along to the family meeting area, which getting to seemed like a mini-marathon in itself. I desperately scanned the crowds for my family, then finally, I saw my sister Katie who gave me the biggest smile. She, my Mom, and my Dad came rushing over and gave me huge hugs, and of course I lost it again. There’s nothing quite like the comfort of being embraced by your family after being in so much physical pain. There’s nothing quite like the Boston Marathon.

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All Life

Why Boston?

Last year, the evening before the 2013 Boston Marathon, I was home in Portland, going for a quick jaunt around the waterfront loop. While I wasn’t physically in Boston, I specifically remember feeling a sort of magic in the air. I was the only runner out there. The city was quiet and the air was hauntingly still. It was the calm before the storm.

I was feeling positively giddy in anticipation of following the race online the next morning to cheer on friends, colleagues, Portland Running Company teammates, college teammates, coaches, and my all-time running heroes Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan. To me, the Boston Marathon is the biggest sporting event of the year. As I ran around my familiar running loop, I tried to channel the excitement and nerves my fellow runners in Boston were probably feeling just as they were winding down to go to sleep before their big day.

The next morning I had a great set up- a live stream of the elite race on one tab, a website tracking all of the runners I knew personally on another tab, the Runner’s World live updates on another tab, then following @flotrack and various other handles on twitter mobile. It was an emotional morning of witnessing struggles and triumphs. I was so incredibly inspired and proud of everyone. As I was waiting for the last few people I was tracking online to cross the finish line, I refreshed my twitter feed for probably the thousandth time that morning, and my heart dropped. There had been an explosion at the finish line. No, wait, now two explosions. I quickly jumped back on my computer to check the news and there was nothing. It had literally happened within the past minute or two. As I refreshed my twitter feed, photos of the scene emerged and I knew whatever happened was serious. It dawned on me that a pretty enormous amount of people that are part of my community and from all different parts of my life could have been near the explosions, and I had no idea if they were injured, or worse. I texted anyone whose number I had to make sure they were safe. I heard back from some, but not all. I then began to receive texts from concerned friends who thought I might have been there, followed up by a few that read along the lines of, “Good, you scared the shit out of me!” The rest of the day was a waiting game. I had spent the morning glued to my computer and phone waiting to see how my friends and fellow runners would fair in a footrace. For the rest of the day I was glued to the same screens waiting to find out if those same people were alive.

Thankfully, everyone I knew was safe and physically well. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel shaken that an attack of that magnitude would hit so close to home. It directly affected my community. The people that piece together almost every part of my life, and not just runners. I ran Boston in 2011 and both of my parents were cheering for me on the homestretch, just near where the bombs went off. So what happened last year, despite whatever reasoning there was behind it, was extremely personal.

The next evening, Tuesday, April 16th, I went out for a run on that same familiar waterfront loop that I had run on alone the night before the race. It was different that time. There were tons of runners out there, donning yellow and blue, wearing Boston Marathon finisher shirts from years past, and some wearing their finisher shirts from the day before. There were people carrying American flags and many wearing race bibs printed with the number 415. As I ran by them we nodded at each other, and I noticed that even people out walking or driving by in their cars would give the runners a little nod or a wave. It turned out that everyone was congregating on the east side of the waterfront for a group run that had been quickly put together after the events of the day before, to mourn the lives that had been lost and as a sort of show of solidarity among the running community. I was never so happy to see so many familiar faces- those who had returned from Boston, my personal running buds, and even just people I recognized from local races, group runs at Portland Running Company, and track workouts at Duniway Park. It was then that I knew I had to run the 2014 Boston Marathon. Not for myself, but because I’m part of something much, much bigger.