The Eugene Marathon: “Be Fearless”

Saturday, April 28th, 2018

Knowing that I wouldn’t get much rest the night before the marathon, I tried to sleep as much as possible in the week leading up to it.  Saturday morning, I enjoyed a leisurely start to my day.  I slept in, sat on my couch and drank coffee, and around 8:45am I headed out for my final shakeout run.  I did 2 miles at a very easy pace and kept the run as flat as possible.  My mind was filled with thoughts of my training cycle- the highs and the lows, and also about what was soon to come and my goals for the race the next day.  Reflecting on everything and thinking about how I would feel if I actually met my goal had me overwhelmed.  I imagined the time on the clock being the goal time I had trained for and literally had tears in my eyes.  What can I say?  Marathon training is exhausting and I had spent months to get to where I was, so of course, I was a bit emotional.  It was the day before the race and I was simultaneously invigorated and frightened by my goal.

So what was my goal?  This is something I shied away from sharing for several reasons.  First of all, it was a LOFTY goal and I wasn’t sure I could meet it.  I was worried I would be embarrassed if everyone knew my goal and I missed it, but I was even more concerned that people would feel bad for me if it didn’t work out the way I wanted.  Also, I did not meet my goal at my last marathon (Boston) and I was left somewhat disappointed after that.  I didn’t want my outcome of this race to be so black and white to the point where I either succeeded, or failed.  My goal time for Boston was 3:20 (3 hours and 20 minutes)…if you read my blog about that, you know it was HOT and it was just not my day.  I ran a 3:27:15.  It was actually a good time considering the conditions, but nonetheless, I was still a little disappointed by my performance and how the final miles of the marathon went.  My confidence was rocked a bit by that race, and going into this one, I couldn’t help but worry that I would have the same thing happen again.  Regardless, I still had a goal in my mind…and it was even more ambitious than the goal I missed in Boston.  It got to where I would tell people who asked me in person what my goal was, but I never put it in writing here in my blog.  So, here they are:

A goal: Sub-3:17 marathon

B goal: Sub-3:20 marathon

C goal: Any PR (sub-3:27)

In an attempt to give myself some grace, I decided to set “A, B, and C goals.”  But as you can see, my A goal was to run a 10 minute PR.  That was why I was a bit overwhelmed by my goal.

After my 2 mile shakeout run, I showered and finished up some last minute packing.  We stopped at Peet’s before we got on the road and happened to run into Michelle (who was heading to Eugene to race the half marathon) and her husband and son.  I think we arrived in Eugene around 1:30pm and we headed straight to the expo.  We chatted with some of my co-workers who were there (5 of them signed up to run the half!) and also saw Michelle again.  I ate lots of pancake samples (they added fresh ginger and apple to them and they were AMAZING!) and picked up my bib and race t-shirt.

 

After about an hour we left and headed to check in to our hotel.  Phil’s parents, Terry and Nadine, had booked a room in Eugene and came down to watch the race!  We made plans with them to go to their favorite Italian restaurant for dinner.  When my training ramps up and my long runs get more serious, I almost always eat the same dinner the night before, brown rice and chicken.  I wasn’t about to change this now so around 5pm we went to Cafe Yumm and I got their chicken bento for dinner.  After I ate that, we headed to the restaurant to meet up with Terry and Nadine.  The food looked amazing and I decided to eat one of the fresh dinner rolls.  That was definitely a good choice, it was so good!  Dinner was fun and we loved getting to laugh and spend time with Phil’s parents.  I was so touched that they came so far just to watch me run, and was thankful for the extra time with them.  While at dinner, my mom texted and told me that her and my dad had spontaneously booked a hotel and that they were on their way to Eugene.  I stopped by and visited with them for a few minutes after dinner, and then around 8:30pm, I started to wind down for the night.  I knew I was about to have a long, restless night ahead of me, but I still wanted to rest as much as possible.  I laid out all of my race gear for the next day (including lots of throw-away clothes because it was pouring out and the forecast was looking a bit wet!), had my breakfast set out, and set multiple alarms for the morning.

Sunday, April 29th, 2018: RACE DAY

I’m sure I must’ve slept some that night, but it honestly didn’t feel like it.  I probably woke up 4 or 5 times to go to the bathroom (I was definitely hydrated for the race!) and tossed and turned all night long.  At 4:30am my first alarm went off.  I opened my eyes to a pounding headache that left me feeling nauseous.  That wasn’t a great start to the day.  As quietly as possible, I got out of bed and made my oatmeal and added a banana and some honey.  I also took some Tylenol Extra Strength for my headache and drank a small amount of water.  After I ate everything, I laid back down until my second alarm went off at 5:40am.  (The reason I got up and ate earlier was so that my food was more digested before the race.)  I brushed my teeth, splashed some water on my race, fixed my hair into my usual braid (to avoid terrible tangling!), and got dressed.  My head was still killing me.  Phil massaged my neck and upper back and I put a scoop of caffeinated aminos in about 2 ounces of water and it seemed to help some.  At 6:30am, we headed out of our room to meet my parents and Michelle and her family.  I was ecstatic to find that we were greeted by crisp, dry air!  It was seriously perfect marathon conditions out!  Our hotel was in an awesome location and we were able to easily walk to the starting line.  I ran into 3 of my co-workers who were racing the half, and my friend, Brian, at the starting corrals.  We all exchanged hugs and took some pictures together, and before we knew it, it was time to get into our assigned corrals.

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Someone sang the Star Spangled Banner beautifully, and before I knew it, the race had started!

MILES 1-10 (7:31, 7:29, 7:34, 7:35, 7:27, 7:30, 7:27, 7:26, 7:36, 7:24)

Michelle was planning to run the half marathon at the same pace as I was shooting for for my marathon so we planned to run together as long as possible (the half marathon split from the full at mile 10).  We were in a great position from the start and didn’t have to work hard to pass people and get into a smooth rhythm.  My plan was to start out a little slower, but to average 7:30 paces for the entire race.  Our first few miles were faster than I intended, but they felt smooth and I knew I wasn’t running too fast.  There was good crowd support in the first miles of the race.  I remember specifically reading a sign that made me actually laugh out loud.  It read “If you think this is hard, try dating in your FORTIES!”  Michelle and I chatted a bit as we ran together, but mostly just to check in with each other and give words of encouragement.  We didn’t want to expend too much energy by engaging in our usual chatter.  I felt good about our first few miles and was happy that the pace didn’t feel like too much of an effort at this point.  I was careful to take water every couple miles and had a GU about every 30 minutes I ran.  Mile 8 has about a quarter mile hill and this was where Michelle and I ended up separating.  I was so thankful for her company up to this point!  About halfway up the hill, I saw my co-worker, JoAnn, and her husband, Paul.  They drove all the way to Eugene just to cheer for all of us from work who had signed up for the race!  I was so excited to see them!  I crested the hill and was on the backside when I realized I was running next to the same guy for a while.  We chatted for a few minutes and I introduced myself to him.  “My name is Jordan” he said, and then I heard “My name is Jen and I am following you guys!”  I laughed and turned around and said “Get up here and run with us, Jen!”

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Mile 9- happy to see family! Running with my new friends Jordan (#1575) and Jen (#1524)

Around mile 9 I saw Phil, my parents, and Terry and Nadine.  We planned this in advance with the thought that knowing I would see them after the hill would give me a little extra boost to get up it.  It definitely worked!  I was smiling and so happy when I saw them!  At mile 10, the marathon course headed right and the half marathon course headed left.  I saw my co-worker, Kenny, standing right after the split.  He gave me a high-five and told me he’d meet me at mile 16 (where he would join me on the course to help me through the late miles of the race).

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MILES 11-16 (7:25, 7:30, 7:23, 7:27, 7:25, 7:21)

I really don’t remember a ton about these miles.  I know I was happy, having fun, and encouraged that I was staying on pace.  The crowd support was awesome and I had to be careful not to get too excited by it and run too fast.  I kept checking my watch and slowing my pace down anytime I saw it dip below 7:25.  Somewhere in here I lost my friends Jordan and Jen.  I ran music free and interacted with the spectators as much as I could, soaking up their energy,  Around mile 13 one spectator called out “Are you guys having fun yet!?”  No one responded, so I called out “Heck yes!  This is awesome!”  My name was on my bib and he said “You guys should all be following Jessica!”  Maybe I’m a cheese-ball, but I was on cloud nine. 😅 I kept reminding myself that I worked way too hard to get to this race to not enjoy it and to wish it all away.  I made the conscious effort to be happy and live in the moment, one mile at a time.  Before I knew it, I was to mile 16 and I could see Kenny up ahead.  He started jogging along the side of the course, waiting for me to catch up to him, so he could match my stride.

MILES 17-22 (7:18, 7:27, 7:24, 7:25, 7:24, 7:17)

Either running with Kenny gave me a boost, or Kenny was running faster.  Regardless, we picked up the pace just a smidge (I made sure not to run too fast yet, I still had a long ways to go!) and the miles ticked by.  We were running along a beautiful river and through a bunch of parks.

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Around mile 17- running with Kenny (on my left)

I kept making sure to take my GU at every 30 minutes and drank small sips of water at about every other aid station.  We chatted a bit and I was still feeling really strong.  I knew that mile 21 had a bit of a climb as we had to ascend a ramp up and over a bridge, and I was feeling a bit anxious about it.  However, when we got to it, it was no problem at all.  The bridge was short and it did not feel like any extra effort to get up it.  Somewhere between mile 21 and 22 though, things got real.  I started talking less and less (to conserve energy) and was noticing that when I drank water it was going up my nose and causing me to choke some, which was spiking my heart rate.  I was starting to feel ready to be done…but still had 4 more miles to go.  Suck it up, princess.

MILES 23-25 (7:22, 7:13, 7:22)

We were finally on the other side of the river, which meant we were heading back toward the Hayward Field Stadium where the finish line was.  I was thankful to finally be running toward the finish, and not away from it, but man, the fatigue was real.  Kenny was doing everything in his power to keep my mind positive and my legs moving at a solid pace.  Things get a little fuzzy here.  I remember wondering how I was ever going to run 4 more miles at that pace.  I remember Kenny telling me I could run 4 miles in my sleep.  I remember thinking he was going to leave me at mile 24 and that meant I’d have to run 2.2 miles alone.  I remember passing a lot of people.  I remember refusing to take my final GU and shaking my head “no” at the volunteers kindly offering me water.  I was worried that if I ate or drank anything else, my wheels would just fall off.  Mile 24 came and went, and Kenny was still running next to me.  My pain was obvious at this point, and he must have decided to stick with me longer to help me out.  I didn’t say it, I was past the point of talking for fun, but I was thankful.  We passed one guy who told us that he was headed for a PR that day and I responded “me too!”  I think that’s when reality started to set in for me- Oh my goodness!  Was it really going to happen!?  I’d stopped looking at my pace in those final miles.  I knew I was giving everything I could, so looking at my watch wouldn’t have made a difference.  If I was slowing, it would only discourage me.  I just kept running as hard as I could.  Somewhere around mile 25.5 Kenny told me it was time for me to finish strong.  He said some words of encouragement, patted me on my back, and sent me off in the direction of the finish, alone.

MILES 26-26.2 (7:08, final .2: 6:55)

As I neared Hayward Field, the number of spectators grew.  People were lining both sides of the street, cheering us on as we were in the final stretch.  I remember the finish still feeling so far away, but being determined to get there as fast as possible.  I remember thinking to myself, “You’ve come too far to ease up now.”  I pressed on, consciously aware of how ridiculous my face looked.  I knew I was rocking the “pain face” and that I was approaching my family and friends who would inevitably be taking photos of me, but I didn’t even try to look presentable.  All I could think about was getting to that finish line.  I saw my long run training partner, Kassie, wildly screaming and ringing a cowbell.  I tried to smile at her.  I saw Michelle, Rick, and Jared, also screaming and ringing cowbells.  I saw Phil, my parents, and Terry and Nadine.  I remember seeing a huge smile on Phil’s face.

3:16:02

I averaged a 7:29 pace for the race.

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I blame the ridiculous look on my face on the 26.2 mile run 😆

THE POST-FINISH LINE

I stumbled through the finisher’s shoot, got my medal and walked out into the large area to try and find my family and friends.  I saw all my co-workers who had finished their races long ago, and then saw Michelle, Phil, and everyone else.

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Sweaty hugs for everyone! 😅
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Hey, look! A free banana!

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We all hugged and shared quick recaps of our races.  We took pictures and hugged some more.  Kassie came and met me and was ecstatic about my time.  It really hadn’t registered with me yet…I didn’t just meet my A goal, I beat it by almost a minute!  After a while, I started getting cold and could feel my lips tingling- it was probably time to get out of there.  We all hugged some more and said goodbye and Phil and I walked back to our hotel.  Once we got there, I took a long, hot shower, put on the comfiest sweats, and laid on the bed for a while.  Kassie stopped by and brought me the sweetest bag filled with all my favorite goodies.  I seriously can’t express enough how thankful I am for her.  She saved my training and pushed me to dig deeper than I thought I could.  When I was running that race, I felt like I was running it for both of us.  I felt like I owed it to her, just as much as myself, to do our training cycle justice.  My time on that clock may have been individual, but as you can clearly see, I owe it to so many people.  I had the most insane support on and off the course.  I could not have done that without all the people, near and far, supporting me and cheering me on.  We drove back home that afternoon and then met a bunch of my co-workers in Oregon City for dinner and drinks that evening.  It was a truly perfect day and I loved ending it surrounded by friends, laughing and sharing stories of our races.

FINAL WORDS

I know this re-cap was long.  If it you made it to the end, I want to say thank you so much for sharing in my journey.  This journey is about so much more than miles, paces, and running a marathon.  It’s about commitment, dedication, friendship, learning about yourself, and chasing scary dreams.  There is something so insanely powerful about setting BIG goals for yourself.  They do not have to be about running or fitness.  Maybe your goals are other forms of improving your health, changing your financial situation, putting yourself out there more…it doesn’t matter what it is, but set scary BIG goals.  The satisfaction you get from achieving those goals is something everyone should experience.  You are capable of amazing things.  Sometimes you just have to step outside your comfort zone to realize it.

My running mantra has always been “Be Fearless.”  When I misjudge the distance of my runs- and think they are shorter than they actually are, or misjudge the hills and underestimate how massive they will be- as a result, I go out what I would have considered “way too hard.” I have found that my best, most mind-blowing runs have been when I went out way harder than I would have because I thought my run was different than it actually was.  But once I committed to it and pushed on, I surprised myself.  I realized I could sustain paces for distances I didn’t think were possible.  We tend to hold ourselves back out of fear.  This doesn’t just happen in running, it happens in all facets of our lives.

Believe in yourself.

Control your mind.

Run too fast.

Live boldly.

You might just blow your own mind.

BE FEARLESS.

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You guys are the best.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

xo Jessica

 

“You Cannot Fail”

On December 11th, 2017, I signed up to run the Eugene Marathon.  My goal was set a new PR and hopefully claim the time that I wasn’t able to run in Boston last year.  Marathon training teaches us so much about ourselves.  It’s easy to romanticize the idea of running and crossing a finish line with a big smile, a fist pump, and maybe even a few tears.  But that’s not really what it looks like.  It looks like 4:30am runs in the dark by yourself.  It’s miles and miles on the treadmill staring straight ahead at a wall because it’s cold and icy outside.  It’s waking up in the morning and having a hard time walking those first steps because your ankles and feet feel stiff.  It’s setting alarms on the weekend and wondering why you do it when it goes off in the morning and all you want to do is stay inside your warm bed.  But it IS also so rewarding.  The feeling of accomplishing a hard tempo or long run leaves you feeling amazed and proud.  When you pull up into a parking lot and see your friend waiting for you in their car, knowing you aren’t alone in your crazy- it’s a special bond.  Some days you’re quiet as the run feels hard and you are struggling to hold the pace, and some days you laugh and talk non-stop to each other as the miles tick by.

 

Marathoning is much like life- it’s not linear, it has its up and downs, but gosh, the fight is always worth it.  As I am reaching the end of my taper and am only 2 days out from the race, I’m really processing all that I have gained from this training cycle.  Since January 1st, I have logged 849 miles.  It took a lot of consistency and dedication; I am proud of this training cycle.  The other day when I was running and thinking about my upcoming race, a certain phrase came into my head.

“You cannot fail.”

Of course there is a specific time I’m hoping to see on the clock as I run across the finish line.  I have “A, B, and C goals” for Sunday based on the weather and how my body is feeling.  It’s easy to get so set on a certain goal that it’s totally black and white.  This then results in two outcomes- you either fail, or you succeed.  I refuse to let myself have that mentality on Sunday.  I cannot fail.  No matter what, I have learned and grown as a result of training for this race.  I have already gained so much.  I will not let the fear of failure hold me down.  Can I really run 26.2 miles at my goal pace?  I’m honestly not sure.  But I will not let the doubt keep me from finding out the answer.  I’ll never know unless I try.  So on Sunday, I will remind myself to relax and breathe.  This is for fun.  This is for ME.  I am in control of my body and mind.  I have spent 849 miles this year practicing for Sunday.  When the gun goes off and I cross the starting line, it’s not really the beginning.  This 26.2 miles is my victory lap.  It’s the result of all my hard work.  Maybe the time on the clock will show it, maybe it wont.  But no matter what, I will run with heart and see how my body follows.

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Thanks, friends, for following my journey.

Sunday I’ll just wake up for another long run that a couple thousand friends are joining me at.  I’m hoping it’s one of those days where everything flows and I’m smiling almost the entire time.  But maybe it’ll be a day where I have to fight really hard.  No matter what, I cannot fail and I will be proud.

xo Jessica

For A Free Banana

After doing my 20.5 mile run on Sunday, I opted to sleep in a bit and do my recovery run after work.  I set out for an easy 6 mile run with the goal of keeping my pace at least 1 minute per mile slower than my “GMP” (goal marathon pace).  It’s so nice to have runs like this sometimes.  So often I have to focus on the numbers- my pace, the distance, my heart rate…it can be quite refreshing to just chill out and run.  I even catch myself speeding up sometimes when my mind drifts in certain directions and I have to make a conscious effort to back the pace off.  Tuesday was a very welcome rest day!  Wednesday after work I had to do a specific workout: warm-up, 4 X 1.5 mile repeats at 10 seconds per mile faster than GMP, and then a cool down.  Two of my co-workers, Larissa and Tanner, were also headed out for a run after work so they joined me for the first part of my run!  We ran 2 miles together down to a flat path that I have started to really enjoy running on.  Since it’s so hilly out here, I have a hard time hitting specific paces unless I can do it on the treadmill (and I’m soooo sick of the TM!) so finding this path so close to work has been a total gem! After the warm-up with Larissa and Tanner, I set off to do my four repeats.  It was raining pretty hard by the time that I got done, but I was so happy during this run.  Everything seemed to flow easily and I was just mentally really engaged in the workout.  I did notice toward the end of the run that right knee hurt a little/felt a little “off” but it wasn’t enough to really cause me any concern.  After my fourth repeat, I started the 2 mile cool down back to my car at the hospital.  This is basically 2 miles UP hill, so I’m not sure how much of a cool down it really is.  😉 It was raining pretty hard and the sun was about to set, so it gave me the extra nudge to get my booty back to my car.  I didn’t realize how long this workout was- it ended up being a total of 11.5 miles and I honestly loved it.  Thursday was supposed to be 10 easy miles, but by the time I got home from my workout Wednesday night, showered, ate, and made it to bed, it was already pretty late.  I didn’t wale up early enough on Thursday to crank out all 10 miles before work, so I decided to do 6 before work and the final 4 after work.  I was surprised when I started running to find that my right knee was still a bit irritated.  I ignored it and finished my 6 miles, and also still did my 4 miles after work.  After finishing those 4 miles, I acknowledged that my knee was something I probably should not ignore.  It seems I’ve actually gotten a little smarter when it comes to injuries.  😜  Just because I physically can run through something, doesn’t mean I should.  I ended up taking the next two days completely off from running.  I spent a lot of time icing my knee (and possibly also complaining 😬).  While I knew it was the “right” thing to do, I had a really, really hard time taking two days off and missing the workouts I had on my schedule.  Thankfully, by Sunday my knee was feeling pretty good.  I set out for an easy 8 mile run to test it and see how it held up.  All was well.  ☺️

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Week 14: 35.5 miles

Monday was THE MARATHON.  And by that, I mean the Boston Marathon!  I took the morning off work so that I could watch the race live and also track my girl, Kassie, as she tackled the race she trained so hard for!  If you remember, last year the marathon was very HOT; well this year, it was very COLD.  In fact, the weather was downright hideous.  It was pouring down rain with a “feels like” temperature in the 20’s!  They also had 20-30mph winds, and because Boston is a point-to-point, it happened to be a HEADwind basically the entire run.  It was far from ideal racing weather, but I was still excited to watch and cheer for my favorite elite, Shalane Flanagan.  Shalane lives and trains here in Portland, but Boston is her home.  She has wanted to win this race for a very long time.  She was going to retire after the New York City Marathon last fall, but after taking the WIN, she decided maybe there was a little more fire left in her, and she decided to race Boston one last time.  Unfortunately, Shalane did not have a good race.  She ended up placing 7th.  However, American Desi Linden won the marathon and was the first American woman to win in 33 years!  It was an incredible race that I could honestly write an entire blog post about.  The look in her eyes in the final miles of the race were so intense.

 

 

As she was in the final homestretch of the marathon, the commentator repeated a quote she recently said, “If you expect every day to be butterflies and cupcakes you’ll be very disappointed.”  This quote resonated with me.  Running isn’t always fun, sometimes it feels impossibly difficult, but these runs are the ones that really make us stronger.  Watching her make history was touching, inspiring, and heart-warming.  Kassie also did incredible at Boston.  Despite the awful headwinds and grueling conditions, she managed to PR and came in very close to her “A goal.”  In my eyes, it was a complete win.  She finished so strong and passed A LOT of people that had qualifying times faster than her.  I’d say if she raced on a day with good conditions, she would surpass her goal marathon time.  I was so impressed by her bravery and determination.  Cheering for Kassie and supporting her journey left me feeling so inspired, but also doubtful as to how I would do in my own race.

It’s no secret that the past few weeks I have really been in my head.  As I am starting to taper, my body and mind feel tired.  I wonder how the heck I am going to hold my goal pace for 26.2 mies.  I seriously question if it’s even possible.  Honestly, it very well might not happen for me in Eugene.  But what I know to be true is that I’ll never know unless I try.  If I don’t go out there and push myself beyond what I’ve ever done before, how will I know what I am capable of?

Anyway…all that to say that watching the marathon was incredibly inspiring, but also frightening!  It made me realize that my race was right around the corner, and my moment of truth would be here very soon.

After work Monday evening, I did an easy, rolling 8 mile run.  Tuesday I had a scheduled workout– 2.5 mile warm-up, 6 X 1 mile repeats (10 seconds faster than GMP), and a cool down.  As I was walking out of work that night, Kenny was also heading out for a run so we ended up doing the warm-up together and he ran my first 2 mile repeats with me.  I finished up my final 4 repeats and headed back to my car.  This run was a bit of a beast and ended up being 12 miles.  Wednesday I had another easy 9 mile run (Lots of “easy” runs in the taper!).  While I kept the pace slow, I still felt pretty tired.  However, since I ran out in Happy (Hilly) Valley, I did have almost 700 feet of climbing in this run.  Since 6 of my co-workers are running the Eugene half marathon, we planned to go on a group run Thursday after work.  Tanner, Larissa, and Mark ended up being able to join me and we had so much fun!  It was such a beautiful evening and it’s always so refreshing to have company on runs.  We did 7 miles together and I’m pretty sure I was grinning the entire time.

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Friday was a rest day.  It felt so weird to take a rest day, but I have to keep reminding myself that tapering is a critical part of my training and I need to take it seriously.  Saturday morning I set my alarm early so I could get in an 8 mile run before my going to my friend’s baby shower!  Tomorrow will be another 5 mile run and after that I am meeting Kassie for coffee.  She isn’t back to running yet after her marathon, but I’m so excited she can still meet me for coffee!  I can’t wait to hear all about her race.  With only ONE WEEK left until race day, I need all the motivation and inspiration I can get.  I’m going to make sure I really focus on getting my body as rested and ready to run as possible on Sunday.  This means my goals this week are to get lots of rest, rolling my legs out, a couple massages, and making sure I get my head screwed on straight!  I need to have a POSITIVE mind going in to this race!

Week 15: 49 miles

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Learning Lessons

Well, it has been a few weeks (and a couple hundred miles 😝) since I’ve sat down to blog. I definitely need to catch up! Life has been busy- but a good busy. Alright, I don’t have much time so let’s dive in!

Week 11
I started the week with a great post-work run on Monday. I set out to do a 7 mile run with 6 progression miles (where each mile you get progressively faster). This is a little hard to do in Happy Valley because it is so hilly. Nonetheless, I had the goal and it needed to get done. I started out with a fairly conservative first mile (7:53), but then must’ve gotten a little excited because my second mile was a 7:27. That meant the bar was set and I could only get faster from there. My final mile (which included a decent hill) was 7:01. I didn’t mean to push myself quite that hard, but it was sunny out, I was in shorts, and I guess I was feeling good, so why the heck not!? Tuesday was an easy 5 miles after work before going to a Blazer game with Phil. We had so much fun! Wednesday was my day off work so I had more time to dedicate to my run. I had 10 miles to do at goal marathon pace. I headed out to the Springwater Trailhead in Boring and did 5 miles out toward Gresham, then turned around and ran back to Boring. This run was actually a decent challenge, particularly because the direction I ran it, I was running slightly uphill the whole way back. I nailed my race pace miles though so I was pretty pleased with it! I did a 1.5 mile cool down and called it a day. Thursday was another 7 mile “easy run” which also included a lot of hills. I think that after running much of the course in Eugene the week before, I freaked myself out a bit and decided I needed to run more hills. I probably didn’t need to do them every single day for a week in a row…but you know, that’s just my style. Friday was a 6 mile dark, wet, 5am run before work. I kept the pace comfy because Saturday was going to be my long run.

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Safety first! 💡

Kassie was unable to run with me on Saturday. At first, I felt a bit panicked. How was I going to run 20 miles by myself!? To my relief, my co-worker, Kenny, told me he could join me for 90 minutes of my long run! If you remember, he helped me train for Boston last year and ran pretty much every single long run with me. I ran 10 miles by myself, and then Kenny met up with me and we ran 11 more. We didn’t have any pace goals that day so it was kind of nice to just chill out and not obsess about all the numbers. This 21-miler flew by and I honestly felt so good. I was so thankful for the company…and for his friend who met us at the finish with fresh almond croissants! Score! Sunday was supposed to be a rest day, but Phil and I ended up going out for a relaxed 3 mile run. It felt good to loosen up my legs a bit, and I always love when Phil is willing to run with me. ☺️

Week 11:
61.3 miles

Week 12
Monday I chose to sleep in and did my run after work. I did 6 miles with 4 consecutive at 6:58 pace. Tuesday I went to bootcamp. I hadn’t gone in a few weeks and I think I forgot how much I liked it! We did dumbbell push presses, lots of burpees, box jump-overs, and wall balls. It was a workout I am actually semi-decent at because it didn’t have any technical stuff. That night after work I went for a 6.3 mile run with my co-worker, Larissa. About 7 of my co-workers have decided to sign up for the Eugene half marathon! It has been really fun to hear about their training and I can’t wait for them all to cross that finish line! Wednesday was a rest day which was much needed. Taking a few weeks off bootcamp meant I woke up sore on Wednesday! Thursday I did 4 miles before work mostly because I felt like I needed to get in a little sweat and flush my legs out. I am generally just a happier person if I can workout every day, and taking Wednesday off had me itching to let a few endorphins loose. After work on Thursday I ran a few miles to a flat stretch of road near the hospital. I did a total of 9 miles with 5 of them at goal marathon pace. Friday was a super easy and short 4 miler. It was just enough to wake my legs up, but I wanted to try and have them as rested as possible for Saturday.

Saturday I met Kassie for our 20-miler. We did a 1 mile warm-up, 10 consecutive miles at goal marathon pace, and then slowed it down for the final 9 miles. It was Kassie’s final long run before Boston and the girl was on fire. I, on the other hand, felt tired. Race pace felt like a solid effort that day. I was able to hang and finish it out, but I definitely wasn’t complaining when we finished our 10 mile block and backed it off for the rest of the run.

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That evening, Phil and I flew to Hawaii to spend some time in the sunshine with my parents and Jake. We had been in the air for about an hour when the captain came on overhead informing us that the bathrooms and running water had quit working and we were heading back to Portland so a mechanic could fix them. I was less than thrilled to hear this. Once we landed back in Portland, we had to stay on the plane while the mechanic came on and “fixed” the problem. This delay added about 3 hours to our already 5.5 hour flight. After my 20 mile run that morning, my hamstrings and glutes were tight and sitting in a middle seat like that for so long was not comfortable. The even bigger problem was probably that I did not bring enough food for such a long flight and I was ravenous! I understand this is a small price to pay for a week in Hawaii…but this is my blog so I can complain a little. 😉 We landed in Hawaii just before midnight (3am PST time). I was so happy to finally be there and have some down time.

Super smart, cold-weather running, Oregonian that I am, I waited until the heat of the day on Sunday to go for a run. I was planning to take the day off, but by 4pm I was itching to get outside and run. This was probably not my smartest idea. Phil ran the first 2 miles with me and those went fine, but once I went ahead a few miles and then turned around, I realized I didn’t feel very good at all. The combination of the 20 mile run the day before, flying, the heat, and probably being dehydrated, left me feeling pretty awful. I even ended up leaving dinner that night to go home and lay down. My stomach was not happy. ☹️

Week 12:
57.3 miles

Week 13
Monday I waited until optimal heat time to head out for my run again. It was 4pm. and very hot and humid. I ran out 3.5 miles out with the intention of running all the way back to the house, but once again. I felt awful and I ended up texting Phil to come get me. He picked me up 6 miles into my run. I was very thankful for the moped taking me up the final mile back to the house. I think because I was smarter this time and pulled the plug before I pushed my body too hard, I was able to recover and enjoy the rest of the night. It was still frustrating to quit my run (something I really never do), but I was thankful Phil was nice about it and didn’t say “I told you so.” He didn’t think I should go for a run, but didn’t give me a hard time for going regardless, and failing. Wednesday I needed to run 10 miles at race pace. Having learned my lesson that the heat, humidity, and hills were killing me, I had Phil drop me off a local gym so I could hit up the treadmill. I got on the treadmill and did a half mile warm-up before cranking it up to race pace. A mile in I was completely soaked in sweat. It was hot in the gym and they didn’t have any fans. All I could think about was how much I was sweating and I wondered how I was ever going to run 10 miles at that pace in those conditions. I actually texted my mom and Phil while I was running and told them that while I was SO hot, I felt great cardiovascularly- I even told them how my heart rate was actually
pretty low and I even felt like I was running downhill. I checked the incline, it definitely read “0.0%.” This was a bit of a confidence boost to me. While I was practically melting, I was feeling pretty fit! I finished up my run and “cooled down” before Phil came to pick me up. Thursday morning came and I rolled out of bed…I was soooo incredibly sore. My quads and low back were aching so bad and going down stairs was so painful. It did not make any sense to me why I would possibly feel like that after a 12 mile treadmill run. Well that morning I went back to the gym to do a 6 mile progression run, and as I walked up to the treadmill I’d used the day before, I realized it was definitely broken in a downhill position. So much for feeling like I was fit because it “felt” like I was running downhill…I WAS running downhill. 🤦‍♀️ For 12 freaking miles and my body was completely wrecked from it. I picked a different treadmill and suffered through my 6 mile run. Every step I felt my aching quads. This run was not awesome…but it did get done. By my final day in Maui, Friday, I had finally learned all the lessons and I did it right. I set my alarm for 6am and was out the door (still with super sore quads) by 6:15am. It was already warm, but I had a very nice, relaxing 9.1 mile run. I kept the pace comfortable and really soaked up all the beauty (and hills) this route had to offer.

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Even if the heat and humidity kick my butt, I love running in Maui. I have so many amazing memories there and I am always thankful to be able to lace up and run no matter where I am on vacation. A few hours after my run, we packed up and headed to the airport. Thankfully, our flight home was smooth and uneventful.

Saturday I slept in a bit and then leisurely headed out for 6 miles. Sunday would be my FINAL long run of this training cycle, so I kept the pace comfortable and tried to work out all the residual lactic acid in my beat up quads. Since Kassie was already to her taper for the Boston Marathon., she was only going to be joining me for 10 miles of my long run on Sunday. The plan was for me to do 10 miles on my own (at marathon goal pace). and then I would meet up with her for the final 10 miles and we would keep the pace a bit easier. Well, I woke up Sunday morning to a monsoon outside. It was pouring buckets out, and the wind was so strong. It took a lot of self-talk to get myself in my car and to drive to Portland to willingly run 20 miles in the hideous weather. I pulled up to my usual parking lot that is typically packed with cars and early morning exercisers, and realized I was the ONLY car there. This did not help my mood. I put my cell phone in a plastic ziploc baggie and begrudgingly stepped out into the downpour. I spent the first half mile of my run warming up and easing into race pace, and then did 10 miles doing my best to hold the pace while dodging puddles, stepping in puddles, and running through intense headwinds. I kept telling myself “just get to Kassie…just get to Kassie.” I somehow managed to nail the pace for those miles and was extremely relieved when I finally got back to my car and Kassie was there. All dressed in a colorful outfit and a huge smile, I was so happy to see her! I no longer cared that I was completely soaked to the bone- the hardest part of my run was complete and I finally had my friend by my side. We backed the pace off a bit and spent the next 10 miles chatting about our goals, race plans, and every other little detail of our upcoming races. When all was said and done, I ran 20.5 miles and averaged a 7:50 pace. I was happy with how it went, and even more happy to have my final long run done. Peak week (my biggest/highest mileage week of training) was HARD, but I survived. It unknowingly was my highest mileage week I have ever ran in my life: 67.5 miles!

Now, the work is done. Nothing I do in the next three weeks before my race will *improve* my fitness. This means my goal now is to maintain fitness, focus on my mental game, and get my body as rested and fresh as possible between now and the race! What does this mean? It’s taper time, baby!

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Comfortably Uncomfortable

Before I update you on what week 10 looked like in my training, I want to back up to week 9. Last week, Michelle and I drove to Eugene on Friday afternoon. The Eugene Marathon was putting on an organized preview run Saturday that would run approximately 13 miles of the marathon course. Michelle is running the half instead of the full this year, but being the amazing (and crazy!) friend she is, she was game to go on a running adventure with me. We checked into our hotel, threw on some running clothes, and headed out for a run. I figured while we were there, we might as well see as much of the course as we could. I mapped out for us to run about 7 miles on Friday night. We ran miles 17-24 of the marathon course. It was mostly flat and along the water. This time of year the river was pretty brown and everything was dead- I’m hoping it’s a little prettier in the spring! Regardless, other than a short bridge climb, it was fairly flat. After a quick shower, we headed to Cafe Yumm for bowls of carby deliciousness! The next morning, we met everyone at Whole Foods for the preview run. We ran about 13 miles of the course at a comfortable pace. The course is considered “flat and fast” and it is relatively flat, but for some reason, it wasn’t as “flat and fast” as I was expecting. I really let this get in my head over the next week and started to seriously second guess my fitness and if my goal was unattainable.

Week 10:

After running about 58 miles the week before, I opted to “sleep in” (5:45am) and do my run after work on Monday. By the time my work day was over, I was not exactly in the mood to run. I felt tired and just didn’t want to do it. I convinced myself to just head out by telling myself I could take the run easy and not push myself too hard (file this under “lies I frequently tell myself”). It actually ended up being an amazing run! It was beautiful and sunny out- I was even able to wear shorts and a tank top at almost 6pm! After feeling like I needed to get in more hills, I decided to do an 8 mile route and climbed almost 600ft. As promised, I started the run slow, but as the miles progressed, I felt strong and was able to run a pretty solid progression run.

Tuesday morning was an early alarm and 7 miles on the treadmill with 4 hill repeats worked in there. Mixing up my treadmill runs definitely helps keep me mentally engaged and helps the miles go by faster. Wednesday was another beautiful day and I was able to hit the roads after work for another hilly 8 miler (see a theme this week?). I was pleased to see that my heart rate stayed pretty low and the effort didn’t feel that hard considering the paces. Thursday was a much needed rest day! Friday was my day off work and I got to sleep in a little bit which is always such a nice treat! After lounging around for a bit, I headed out for an easy 6 miles. The goal of this run was to keep the effort very easy since I had my long run the next day. I often struggle with my “easy runs” and find that I push myself to work too hard, even when I know I shouldn’t. I listened to an amazing podcast during the run which really helped me slow down and made the miles pass quickly! With all the doubt I was having about the Eugene course, I am really trying to focus on working on my mental strength. If my mind isn’t in the right place, it doesn’t matter how hard I train, my body won’t do what my mind doesn’t believe it can. This podcast was so informative and encouraging for me.

Saturday morning was my long run for the week. I drove to the Waterfront to meet my friend Kassie for our 18-miler. The plan was to do a 2 mile warm-up, 14 miles at about goal marathon pace, and then a 2 mile cool down. The first mile I felt totally comfortable at our 8:30 pace and wondered how I was going to settle into 7:30’s soon. But after about a mile, we slowly started to pick up the pace. By the
time we hit mile 2, we were warm and ready to shoot for 7:30’s for the next 14 miles. Having a running partner like Kassie has been amazing. We have such similar running styles and the conversation always helps the miles fly by. Kassie is training to run Boston for the second year in a row (which is 2 weeks before Eugene), so we have been able to do all of our long runs together. I would describe the next 14 miles as being “comfortably uncomfortable.” I was working, but the effort was far from miserable and definitely sustainable. I am learning that while goal marathon pace seems like it shouldn’t feel hard, it does often feel hard because you are constantly running on fatigued legs. And you know what? It’s okay for it to hurt a little! Heck, it should hurt a little! I’m not going to get better by always running in my comfort zone. By the time we hit mile 16, we were both thankful to have 2 cool down miles! It’s funny though, we were trying so hard to slow down and honestly felt like we were shuffling, but were still running around an 8:15 pace. When all was said and done, we averaged 7:34 minutes/mile for the entire 18 miles. As usual, we both ended with big smiles and plenty of endorphins to last for the rest of the day!

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 🍀

Sunday morning, Phil was gone, so I decided to meet up with Michelle and Brian for their long run. We did a big loop around Gresham/Troutdale and logged 12.5 miles. They are both running the half marathon in Eugene and I can’t wait to see how they do!

Well, there you have it- that’s what week 10 looked like for me! Lots of sweat, lots of opportunities to get better, lots of great time with friends, and 60.1 total miles ran.

Here We Go, Again

Well, hello! It has been almost a year since I’ve written a blog post. I decided last July to take a Facebook break. I deleted the app off my phone and have hardly logged in since. It has been so nice to disconnect a bit and focus a little more on my life and the people in it, and have a few less distractions from so much social media. With all that said, I have recently ran into some individuals who mentioned how much they enjoyed reading my blog about my journey to Boston last year, and it gave me the itch to blog a little more. I am 6 weeks away from my fourth marathon starting line! On April 29th, I will be running the Eugene Marathon. I’ve decided to commit to blogging the final weeks of my journey for those who want to follow along.

In case it wasn’t obvious from my final Boston post, I left Boston not feeling completely satisfied. While I was content in knowing that I gave everything I had to give, and more, on the course that day, I still didn’t meet the time goal I was hoping for. I was trained to run a better time, and it just didn’t happen on that day. That’s the thing about marathons, you can spend months training as hard and smart as you can, but there are some variables that are beyond your control and no matter how bad you want it, some days it just doesn’t go how you want. After finishing Boston, part of me wanted to turn around and race another marathon while my fitness was still there, but I (smartly) opted to not do a “redemption marathon.” I forced myself to accept that I did the best that I could, and that if I am able to meet my goal someday, it will just make it that much sweeter.

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Almost a year later, I am ready to chase down that goal, again.
I’m hoping this time is my turn to cross the finish line with a true smile on my face.
Here’s the thing- it’s scary setting big goals. I definitely set a big goal for myself. I have moments (weeks) where I question myself and if I can even do it, but I have been blessed with a willing and able body. What’s the point in using it to only do things I always know I can succeed at?
Live a little.
Let your hair down.
Challenge yourself.
Run too fast.
You’ll never know what you’re capable of until you try.

This training cycle has been going *exceptionally* well. I don’t want to jinx myself, but I have been injury free. I have barely even had any aches and pains. My biggest complaint is simply that I am so
sleepy all the time. But I’m pretty sure the combination of low iron (I’m still getting infusions), 50-60 mile training weeks, and frequent 4:15am alarms explain that. 😉 I have been trying to focus on less junk miles and more on quality. Most weeks consist of a speed workout, a tempo run, and a long run (with my new, amazing long run buddy!), with a few other runs mixed in. Finding a running partner so close to my own training paces has been HUGE for me. It keeps me honest. With the help of Kassie, I have been running my long runs faster than ever. Not only have I been trying to focus on quality runs, I have also been focusing on recovery. I have been trying to sleep more, listen to my body, and do some cross training to help prevent from injuries. My next post will outline week 10 of my 16 week training plan. Stay tuned!

 

The Boston Marathon

First Days In Boston

Thursday morning my alarm went off bright and early.  This was it, we were finally off to Boston.  We finished some last minute packing and called an Uber.  Phillip and I met up with my parents and Casey and Kristen at our gate.  I was excited to just get to Boston.  My hip had been hurting and I had barely been running.  I hoped that with a few more days off, I would be good to go, but in the back of my mind, I was pretty concerned about how it would hold up.  My biggest fear was that I would start the marathon and run every single step in pain, unable to enjoy it at all.

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We got off our flight and Galen Rupp, Jordan Hasay, and their famous coach (and winner of the 1982 Boston Marathon) Alberto Salazar were all there.  Galen and Jordan are Nike sponsored athletes that train out of Eugene and Portland.  I felt like an embarrassed fan girl as I shook Galen’s hand and took pictures with them both.  Galen ended up taking second at the marathon and Jordan took third, in her first ever marathon!  So while I might have felt silly getting pictures with them, it was definitely worth it and I’m glad I did it!

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Friday morning I tested out my hip and ran 4 miles super easy on the treadmill at our hotel.  It actually felt pretty good so I was encouraged by that.  After cleaning up and getting coffee, we all headed to the expo to pick up our bibs.  The expo was incredible!  It was held in a huge convention center and we spent several hours there.  After we picked up our bibs and race t-shirts (and took our obligatory pictures!), we walked around the expo.

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I got a few more Boston Marathon clothing items and we wandered around all the booths.  My favorite part is always the free samples!  😆  Although, how “free” is it when you pay $185 to enter the race and then fly to the other side of the country?  😜  Being at the expo was definitely a trip highlight for me, but it also increased my nerves as reality of what I was about to do was setting in.  Being around so many other runners, and all the energy, was exciting and overwhelming all in one.

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We spent the rest of Friday walking around and exploring the city.  I’d never been to Boston before and could not get over the amazing architecture, the cleanliness, and how charming the city was!  We went out for an incredible seafood dinner that night where I had lobster and crab for the first time!

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Saturday, Phil and I went for my final run before the race.  We just did two easy miles outside.  It was a beautiful run and I always love any miles I get to run with my husband.  😊  We went to a Red Sox game later that day and I got to see Fenway Park and learn what the “green monster” was all about (no laughing!).  It was an awesome experience.  For a girl who doesn’t generally enjoy watching baseball, I had a great time.  Although, I was beginning to worry again about my hip.  After spending so much time walking and running both days, it was definitely irritated again.  I kept telling myself it was all part of the taper and my mom and Phil were constantly reassuring me, but it was hard not to feel concerned.

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Sunday I attempted to “sleep in.”  I had a hard time adjusting to the time change- staying up too late at night and yet still not being able to sleep in.  It was a very non-traditional Easter for us (we celebrated the weekend prior) but we went to a lovely restaurant, Coppersmith, for brunch.  It was in a large warehouse building that was covered in brick, exposed pipes, and industrial fixtures.  We also did a trolley tour that day to learn more about the history and see more of the city.  It was a great day to do it as I was wanting to rest my hip and legs and keep my step count as low as possible (not to mention, it was 82 degrees out)!  We went to a sports bar for lunch and I ate a PB&J sandwich at the table while the rest of the group ordered from the menu.  With all the runners in town, the waitress didn’t seem too phased by my peculiar request to make my own food at the table.  😜

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I picked up my dinner which is always the same, teriyaki chicken and rice, and we headed back to the hotel.  I read, relaxed, gathered up all my stuff for the race, ate dinner, and tried to go to sleep early.  My phone unexpectedly started blowing up as my family and friends started posting on my Facebook page.  Without me knowing, a bunch of them had gotten shirts designed that said “Wish I Was In Boston – Team Jessica 2017” with my trademark banana. 🍌 I was overwhelmed and so incredibly touched by their thoughtfulness.

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I posted about this on my page, but seeing all these posts flood in reassured me that while I was physically running solo, I was not facing this marathon alone.  I had the most loving, encouraging, fun, and supportive group of people cheering for me- every step of the way!  I can’t tell you enough how much it meant to me, and I made it my goal to work my hardest and make them proud.  As I’m sure you can imagine, it was not a particularly restful night, but I did my best.

Marathon Monday – 04.17.2017

At 6am, my alarm startled me awake from a (finally!) deep sleep.  Before I even opened my eyes, butterflies filled my stomach.  I had a long day ahead of me (Boston doesn’t start until 3+ hours later than most marathons!), for better or worse, it was sure to be one of my most memorable days ever.  I put on my race outfit, packed my breakfast and extra belongings, and headed down to the hotel lobby.  I took a shuttle from the lobby to Boston Commons where I then walked to the buses that would shuttle us about an hour to Athlete’s Village in Hopkinson (the start).  When I arrived there, I found a shaded spot (it was already getting hot) and settled down eating my breakfast.  I waited in the eternally long line for the Honeybucket, and the next thing I knew, they were calling my wave to the starting line.  The elites and fastest runners start at 10am, then the next wave (which I was in) started at 10:30am.  It was a long walk to the start line and everyone was applying sunscreen as the sun was already beating down.

The next thing I knew, I was running.

I spent the first 3+ miles feeling stuck between runners that weren’t running the pace I was aiming for.  I knew I was adding distance and wasting energy by weaving in and out of them, but I felt like I had no choice.  It was more crowded than I was prepared for.  By mile 5 I finally felt like I was in a rhythm.  I was feeling good and enjoying taking in the course.  It starts out in a rural area and you run by beautiful colonial homes and through charming, quaint towns.  I kid you not- every INCH of this course is lined with spectators.  They are cheering, ringing cow bells, handing out orange slices, Gatorade, water, and even offering shots to those willing to take them.  The energy was electric.  This is it!  I’m running BOSTON! kept going through my head.  The first mile had a lot of downhill and I tried to take extra caution to use small strides to avoid extra stress and pounding on my quads.  After that, the majority of the course felt rolling to me.  I ran without music, taking in my surroundings and also overheard a lot of runners already talking about how hot they were very early in the race.  I knew it was warm, but at that point, the heat wasn’t an issue for me.  I hit the half marathon point on pace and was feeling strong.  Shortly after that you run by the famous Wellesley girls.  They are from the college sorority and have a tradition of being so loud you can hear them from almost a mile away.  Running past them was definitely a highlight for me.  The girls were all holding up signs offering “free kisses” to the strangers.  What can I say?  Boston has a lot of traditions, quirky or not!  I think I only saw one guy actually kiss someone, but I’m sure that people who are running less for time are more eager to “greet” these Wellesley girls!  😉 I was focused on mile 16 where the three famous Newton Hills would start and eventually lead me to Heartbreak Hill at mile 21.

It was definitely getting hot.  I tried not to let my mind actually think that thought and to just focus on taking in more water and Gatorade at the aid stations than I normally do.  I ran the first hill and felt great.  It had a long descent before you reached a fire station which marked the start of the second hill.  This hill also went fine.  I honestly can’t tell you when the third hill was…it wasn’t obvious to me when I was climbing it.  I was aware that my hips felt tighter than usual (nothing related to the hip pain I’d previously been feeling…that was nonexistent!) and that my heart rate felt higher than it should’ve been.  I saw the Heartbreak Running Company store on my right around mile 21 and knew I was to the start of Heartbreak Hill.  Honestly, things become kind of fuzzy around here.  The hill didn’t feel that challenging to me.  My fitness was there, but I knew that I was overheating.  At the top of the hill I remember seeing a sign “You just made Heartbreak Hill your b*itch!”  I managed to muster a smile and shake my head like “I’m not so sure about that…” and people laughed.  It gave me a burst of energy.  Shortly later, as I was descending a hill, I realized I was in trouble.  The way I felt was unfamiliar to me.  In my long runs and runs during my training that really challenged me, I would get VERY tired, but this was different.  I never wanted to look, but I knew my heart rate was HIGH and my quads burned as I ran downhill.  I simply didn’t have it in me.  It felt physically impossible to hit the paces I wanted, even when going downhill.  I felt frustrated and negativity started to seep in to my head.  I kept thinking about all the people back home that I knew were cheering for me.  I thought about how badly I wanted this, how hard I had trained.  No matter how badly I wanted to though, I realized that unlike most of my runs, I couldn’t just grit my teeth and push through.

I started running through fire hydrants that the firefighters had converted into sprinklers.  Citizens were graciously handing out 16oz water bottles and I was grabbing them, chugging the water, and then pouring it all over myself.  I’d run through aid stations and grab a cup of Gatorade to drink (I felt that I was on the verge of cramping) and then ALSO grab water and pour it on my head.  At one point the thought crossed my mind to take my tank top off.  Although I felt a bit delusional, I wasn’t THAT delusional- I quickly nixed that idea.  😜  I started noticing that more and more people were walking, or hunched over grabbing on to various cramping body parts.  I passed several people with red bibs on (this indicated they were super fast) that were walking or lying on the ground with medical people tending to them.  It started to seriously look like a battle field out there, and these are people who are not new to marathoning- they have qualified and trained hard to get to this point.  Seeing all the struggle made me increasingly aware of my own suffering and inevitably slowing pace.  I tried not to dwell on my pace anymore, my time goal had been lost around mile 22.  Now I just focused on getting to the finish and hopefully still at least pulling off a PR (personal record).  Miles 23-26 were the hardest miles I have ever run.  There was no relief from the quad fatigue, the heat, my racing heart…I honestly contemplated walking many times.  I would instantly chastise myself for even allowing the thought in my head.  I didn’t train this hard and come this far to walk.  I told myself that even if I wasn’t running the pace I wanted, that didn’t mean I could walk.  I also feared that if I started walking, things would seize up (I would later confirm this thought).

It seemed it would never happen, but I ran past the Citgo sign which signaled I only had one mile remaining.  Usually I would be encouraged by this and regardless of the suffering, I would press on even harder.  It wasn’t possible.  I just started counting to 100 over and over.  I finally came to the last two turns of the marathon, the famous “right on Hereford, left on Boylston,” where you follow three royal blue stripes down the road to the finish line.  I did my best to soak it up, to feel and see the crowd around me.  They must have been 8-10 people deep in some spots, and there were stadium seats filled with fans near the finish.  They were screaming, cheering, and encouraging us all to the finish.  It didn’t matter who you were, they were cheering for YOU.  I crossed the finish in 3:27:15 (7:54 minute/mile pace).

Almost immediately, I noticed commotion to my left and saw Phillip and my parents screaming my name enthusiastically.  There was a gate separating them from the finishers but I walked (stiff-legged-hobbled is probably more accurate) over to them to give them a hug and say “thank you.”  As I stepped up on the curb to hug Phillip, I got the most intense and relentless calf cramp of my life.  I just bent over, clinging to the fence, unable to talk.  A few moments later, it let up enough and I was able to stand up.  I saw medical staff was waiting behind me with a wheel chair and they were ready to escort me to the medical tent.  The medical staff (and ALL the volunteers) were absolutely incredible!  I declined the wheelchair and reached my arms up and Phil pulled me into a hug.

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So many emotions overcame me.  Relief, frustration, confusion, joy…it was a lot to take in.  Honestly, it has taken me several days to absorb everything that happened on Monday.  The best way I can describe it is that it is like a dream that you had and slowly, over time, bits and pieces come back to you and you remember what it was about.

I walked to the area where they were taking pictures of the athletes with their finisher medals.  After a quick picture, I gathered all my goodies (more FREE stuff!) and headed out to meet up with my family.  I chugged 32 ounces of water, Gatorade, and chocolate milk.  We took pictures, hugged, and chatted a little…and I was ready to go.  I wanted out of the heat.  We called a cab and went back to the hotel.

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I took a shower and cleaned up, then we all headed out for a celebratory dinner (Phillip, my parents, Casey and Kristen).  We had an amazing seafood dinner, laughing and sharing stories.  Kristen and I both agreed it was a brutal day.  I had another sleepless night (I never sleep good after a marathon- too many endorphins, thoughts, and aching body parts!) and we packed up, headed out for breakfast, and then were off to the airport.  The 6 hour flight home was long.  While I don’t appear to have any real injuries from the race, I am more beat up feeling than I’ve ever been after a marathon.  Pretty much everything is sore, but my quads feel like they are being torn in a million places when I try to go up/down stairs or stand/sit.  I’m a starving, bottomless pit and drinking a ton of water.  I try to embrace my silly “walk” and all these aches and pains because I know I EARNED THEM ALL.

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Post-Marathon Reflections

It is now two days since the marathon and I am sitting on an airplane headed to Maui.  It has taken me some time to really process my entire experience Monday, and I’m sure that it isn’t even over.  If I’m being honest, I was initially frustrated with my race time.  It was not the time I had trained for and never have I trained so diligently with a goal in mind, and not reached it.  However, after hearing more and more about other runner’s races that day, and following news updates, I began to recognize what I overcame.  It was 74 degrees that day (30-40 degrees warmer than what I’d been training in all winter).  Almost 10% of the field required medical treatment and the highest recorded body temperature of a runner was 108.8 degrees!  I read race recaps of elite athletes who missed their goals by far more than I missed mine.  I do not say any of this to make excuses, there are no excuses, simply facts.  However, it helped me give myself some grace and put a little less value on the time on the clock, and a little more value in what my body overcame.

For my numbers people… My average heart rate was 168 (my resting HR is around 36).  In my past marathons, it was 150-152.  My max heart rate reached 190…a number I have never seen in my entire life.  I spent over TWO HOURS in zone 5.  Seeing all these numbers made me realize that my body proved to me that day how strong and trained it was.  It pushed, fought, and endured through more stress than I would’ve thought possible.  Looking back now, I *know* my body is capable of running the time I was shooting for.  But Monday wasn’t the day for that.  I am still so proud of how hard I was able to push, because it was the most physically and mentally exhausting thing I have ever done.  I will evaluate how I feel as I recover from this race, and hopefully I can go back out and get that time I wanted at another race.  (Hi.  My name is Jessica and I’m addicted to running.  😉)

Regardless, I am extremely thankful for having been able to experience this iconic marathon.  It truly is a piece of history.  It was challenging, motivating, inspiring, and humbling.  As I’ve heard it described, it’s a “chew you up and spit you out course,” but the support and encouragement from the spectators make it possible.  This race reminded me once again what a gift running is.  Every mile I am able to run is a gift.  I wrote a blog a few posts back (“I Will Be Proud”) and talked about regardless of the time, as long as I gave my all, I would be proud.  Well let me tell you, I gave my all.  I gave absolutely everything I had, and more…and I AM PROUD.  Our bodies are strong.  They are fierce and resilient.  They can endure and overcome so much suffering.  And the more I suffer and the harder I fight, the sweeter the victory.  This road to Boston was a long one.  It was full of ups and downs, laughter and tears.  It was a journey I will always remember, one that has changed me for the better.  “What’s next?” a lot of people ask.  I’m not certain yet, but I know it will be good!

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for supporting and following this journey!  If you’d like me to keep blogging or have ideas for what you’d like to see next, please let me know!

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The Last 26.2

I wrote up a recap of the first week of my “taper” but I wasn’t very inspired by it or therefore motivated to post it. Basically, the first week of my taper I probably ran a little more, and harder, than necessary. I ran 38 miles, had a training appointment with Theresa, and did one hot yoga class.

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I also noticed a pain on the very outside of my right hip during this week. At first, I thought it was just a bone bruise and figured I smacked it on something and wasn’t very concerned. But after a day or two I actually evaluated it and realized that it was muscular, and definitely not a bruise. Looking back, I probably should have eased up as soon as I noticed it, but of course I kept on running. Now I am in the second, and final, week of my taper and this “injury” has forced me to take it easy. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise? I had plans for certain runs I wanted to get in this week, but I’ve just had to let them go. No run that I do right now will make me more fit for my marathon on Monday, BUT they do have the possibility of hindering my performance. So while it is mentally so hard, I am taking two days of complete rest. If everything feels good, I will do a few miles on Friday and Saturday, rest on Sunday, and run 26.2 on Monday! 😊

My last post included a lot of pre-marathon reflections and a little insight into where my head is at. With even less running this week, and dealing with my achy hip, I will admit that I am extra emotional. This race has been a long time coming, and it’s hard not too have extremely high expectations for it. My journey to this race started almost three years ago when I first qualified for Boston. As you know, I had a hiccup and had to wait another year. So here we are…a year and a half since I last raced a marathon and Boston is finally only FIVE days away. It would be easy to just want the race to be here, but I am going to do my best to absorb everything the next few days holds. Phillip, my parents, and myself fly out tomorrow morning and will arrive in Boston in the late afternoon/early evening. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday will be spent going to the race expo, a Red Sox game, adventuring, and eating our way around Boston. I want to do my best to enjoy each moment and soak it all up, because before I know it, it will all be done! We fly home on Tuesday, spend one night at home where we will wash clothes and change bags, and then we head off to Maui on Wednesday! There are so many great things ahead.

“A marathon is hundreds of miles. The finish is the last 26.2.”

As I reflect back on my training, I am reminded of how many hundreds of miles I have ran. There have been many ups and the downs, figurately and literally.
Runs that were fun; runs that were painful.
Runs in the sun (maybe one? 😉); runs in the pouring down rain.
Runs alone; runs with friends.
Runs that felt like they would never end; runs that felt effortless.
Runs where I suffered so much; runs where I felt unstoppable.

It has been a wild and perfect ride. I have given this training everything I could, and now it is time to see what it does! I can only hope and pray that my race on Monday is executed in a way that reflects my training. I hope that I reach the start line without any aches and pains. I hope that I reach that start line with a full heart, fresh legs, and a mind that’s ready to fight. Monday will be hard. But I chose this, I’m ready for this. It is inevitable that I will have moments of doubt. I will do my best to stay positive, to trust in the training, and think of YOU ALL who I know are cheering me on. The amount of support and encouragement I have received has been truly overwhelming. It’s hard not to put too much pressure on myself, and fear failure, but no matter the outcome, I promise to give my all on 04.17.2017. Thank YOU so much for your endless support!

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It’s time to toughen up and do what I trained to do!!! LET’S DO THIS!

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If you want to receive live updates of my race on Monday, text “RUNNER” to 234567. After you receive a text back, respond with my bib number “15272”.

I Will Be Proud

We leave for Boston next Thursday morning. Of course everyone is asking me about the race. Just thinking about it, let alone talking to people about it, makes my stomach flip. The nerves are real and I can’t help but wonder how I will feel on race day. Typically, I consider myself a private person, but writing this blog has made my journey very public. I usually prefer to stick to my grind without making a big deal about it, mostly because I don’t like to be the center of attention, but also because I often feel my training will be misunderstood. I started this blog without a true vision of what it would turn into, but I’d say I have shared the majority of the details (the highs and the lows) of what my training has looked like for this race.

The thoughts in my head go to all extremes: excitement, anticipation, fear of pain/failure, thankfulness for running. I hope this blog has shown you a piece of my passion for this sport, but I don’t think it fully does it justice. It is so hard for me to verbalize what running means to me and how much it affects my life. During my run this morning I was thinking about Boston and how hard I know it will be. I am trying to mentally prepare for the suffering that I will inevitably face. I want to anticipate it and expect it and train my mind to accept it and push through it. I have been doing this on my training runs, and some of them I know I will think back on when the going gets tough. But the more I can prepare my mind, the stronger I hope it will be. I have found it helpful to have short, inspirational quotes in my head to think about when I need the extra push to keep enduring. Here are a few of them:
– You trained for this
I know this sounds simple. But it’s so easy to let your mind go negative and think “I can’t do this.” Actually, yes you can! This isn’t some random miracle run you’re trying to pull off – you trained for THIS.
– Make yourself proud
I honestly can say that running is for ME. I don’t run to compare myself to others or prove to anyone that I can run certain times. I run because I love to challenge and push MYSELF. The feeling of pushing myself harder than I thought I could, and running times I didn’t think I was capable of, it is indescribable.
– Soon this will be a memory
In the moment, when it’s painful and all you want to do is slow down and give in to the cry to stop, you have to make the decision to either listen to that, or to shut it up and press on. It often helps me to remind myself “soon this will be a memory.” Do I want to look back on this race and know that I could have pushed harder? Or do I want to run with everything I have and know I gave 100%?
– Your body is so much stronger than your mind
My mind wants to quit, NOT my body. My body is trained for this. My body can do this. My mind is my weakest link. Acknowledge that and ignore it.

I imagined the title of this post being “I’m telling you my goal.” But today I have questioned whether that was a good idea. Part of me wanted to lay my goal out there- to be raw, to not be afraid, and to tell you exactly what I wanted to do. But another part of me has been cautioning against that. “Don’t put so much pressure on yourself…what if you don’t meet it?…you never know the variables you might face on race day…” The list could go on forever. I have decided not to share my specific time goal for Boston. There are so many things that could happen on race day that would cause me to not meet my goal (GI distress, injury, weather, challenging course, simply not being fit enough, etc). I absolutely have a time in my head that I want to get, but I know that no matter what the clock says, I will be proud. I can’t imagine not being proud, regardless of the outcome. I know myself, I will give 110% on race day. If it isn’t enough to meet that goal, I will be okay.
I am blessed to be able to lace up my running shoes and hit the pavement (or treadmill!) every day.
I am blessed that my husband and parents support and love me enough to come join me in this journey.
I am blessed to have family and friends (that’s you!) cheering me on.
I am blessed to have found this passion.

I’ve always loved the quote “if your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.” I have big dreams for 04.17.2017 and they definitely scare me. Can I do it? Can I pull it off? I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

If you want to track me and get live updates on race day here is how to do it:
Text “RUNNER” to 234567. You will then receive a text response with instructions on how to submit a runner’s bib number. My bib is 15272. You will receive up to 8 texts per bib number. Message and data rates may apply. Text STOP to cancel.

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The Most Challenging Training Week Yet

Taper (verb): to diminish or reduce or cause to diminish or reduce in thickness toward one end. Finishing my 22-miler last Sunday marked the beginning of my taper.

In context to running, tapering refers to “the reduction of exercise before a competition or race. Tapering is believed to be essential for best performance and can take from as little as one week and up to three weeks.” Tapering allows your body a chance to recover before your final, and hardest, push on race day. Tapering does not mean I am suddenly stopping my exercise. I will continue to run with nearly the same amount of intensity, but with a reduction in mileage. This reduction in mileage results in extra spare time which can make a lot of runners antsy. I like to refer to this as the “taper tantrum.” 😜 The decrease in running and knowing my race is right around the corner makes me feel hyper-aware of my body. I notice every little ache and pain, the stress to perform well on race day begins to mount, I hyper-analyze all the details…suddenly you’re experiencing all this added stress and my usual outlet- RUNNING- is decreased. It can make it hard to stick to the taper, and can definitely make me more emotional and irritable. (Shout-out to all my co-workers and friends and family for putting up with me!) But as a runner, you have to trust the process. You have to remind yourself that the hard work is done. The “hay is in the barn.” Nothing you do in the final 2-3 weeks before a race will improve your physical capabilities, but you definitely can HINDER it.

I think I briefly mentioned in my last post that after last weekend’s longest and final run, 22 miles, I had an unfamiliar pain in my left ankle.

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Peace signs or 22 miles? Awkward 🙋

It started around mile 8 of my run, but really only felt like a tight tendon and wasn’t something I was too concerned with. However, in the final 3 miles this slight annoyance became painful with each step that I took. I was able to push through and finish the run, but afterward my ankle was quite swollen and walking was extremely uncomfortable. Yes, I had made it to my taper, but this didn’t mean I wanted to quit running altogether. I still had a few key workouts I wanted to get in that week. I optimistically hoped that after a lot of icing and Ibuprofen on Sunday and Monday that I could get back to running by Tuesday. I was wrong. I did an easy cross training session Tuesday morning before work- elliptical and the stair stepper and attempted to incline walk on the treadmill before calling it quits. It was obvious my ankle was still bothering me, so after about 45 minutes, I left. Tuesday evening I got a massage again and it was really nice to just relax. I had Leslie spend the majority of the time working on my glutes, legs, and feet. I swear that getting these weekly massages has helped me tremendously. She works so hard on loosening up my glutes and upper back- areas that tend to hurt me during long runs. That night, she paid particular attention to my calves and feet and alternated between icing and heating them.

By Wednesday evening my ankle was feeling a lot better so I decided to do another easy 45 minutes on the elliptical. As hard as it was not to run or push myself harder, I knew deep down that running would be a bad idea. After the end of the work day Thursday, I would say my ankle felt about 90% better. I decided to test it out. I spent 30 minutes on the elliptical and then did a painfully slow 2 mile jog. I felt super anxious the whole run as I worried that the pain would flare up and I would be right back at square one, but thankfully it did not! As much as I wanted to run longer, I forced myself to stop at 2 miles and spent the remainder of my time working on core. Friday was my day off and it felt so good to sleep in a little bit! After tormenting myself the majority of the afternoon about whether or not it was a good idea to run, I decided to go out into the sunshine and test it out. I did a rolly pollie 5 mile run in Happy Valley. I didn’t look at my watch at all as I wanted to focus on listening to my body rather than focus on pace. I realized that my mind needed that run much more than my body did. As soon as I finished the run (completely pain free) I was instantly in a great mood. I felt relieved that everything seemed to be going better, but still a bit concerned as I didn’t know if it would flare back up.

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Saturday morning I woke up and everything felt good so I took that as a green light to run again. I kept the run simple and only did 5 miles on the treadmill before heading to a 90 minute hot yoga class. During the class I made sure to really pay attention to my body and what areas felt tight. I also made sure not to put too much stress on my ankle. Sunday morning I opted to go for my “long run.” I felt like if I could run that far without my ankle flaring up, I was probably in the clear. It was a beautiful, sunny and brisk, spring morning. I think that after a rough week of stressing over my ankle and the dramatic cut in mileage, I was particularly thankful to be outside running, pain free. We ran 13 miles Sunday with the final two miles being a “fast finish.” We did an easy mile cool down to bring us to 14 miles.

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Week 14 of training had the most rest days and was the lowest mileage week I have done, yet it was the most challenging training week I’ve had yet this cycle. After my injury last year, I am really gun-shy about getting hurt again. If you’ve been following along, you know I have had an amazing time getting ready for Boston. I have had so much fun training for this race. My body has put up with me, my heart has been into it, and although some weeks have been very hard and tiring, I have felt encouraged and invigorated the entire time. To only be three weeks out from the race and have such a hard week made it extremely difficult to stay positive, but I did my best. I also did my best to make smart decisions with my HEAD and not my HEART (thank you Theresa for those wise words!).

So while week 14 of my cycle was quite underwhelming, I will still call it a success. I am healing, I am running, and I am pressing on!

Week 14 recap
Running: 26 miles
Cross-training: 6.5 miles elliptical; 30 minutes stairs; Hot yoga

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