Friday, April 27, 2018

Rainstorms and Unicorns - Boston Marathon 2018

Make Way for Ducklings - Boston Common

When I ran my first marathon in 2009, I was in awe of runners who ran the Boston Marathon and never in a million years believed that I would someday run those hallowed roads.  But as my fitness improved over the course of training for triathlons with Coach Muddy, the allure of Boston caught me, and I set my sights on making it to Boylston Street.  On Monday, April 16, 2018, I experienced the joy of crossing the finish line in some of the worst weather in race history…and I wouldn’t change one bit of that experience.
The city has these #BostonStrong daffodils all over the city for Marathon Weekend.
Boston.  In running circles, that’s all you need to say and everyone knows you are talking about the Boston Marathon.  Some people are fast enough that they can achieve the super-fast qualifying standard in their sleep.  But for most others, running fast enough to achieve the qualifying time (let alone being enough under the standard to actually get in) takes constant dedication, focus and planning.  But the great thing is, the qualification race takes the hard work, worry, and stress.  Once you get to Boston, it is a celebration!  That’s not to say that you don’t train hard for Boston or set goals for the race, but the Boston Marathon is so much more than just a race for a time or a place.   It is a celebration of the history, the joy, and community of running.  And I noticed that from the moment I stepped foot in the city – Boston is PROUD of this race and so welcoming to its runners!
Not excited AT ALL!!
Shakeout 5k with mom - race weekend tradition!
The husband and I arrived on Friday to a great Air B&B in Beacon Hill.  The weather was chilly, but nothing to write home about.  The rest of the Sherpa squad (Mom, Dad, step-dad) arrived on Friday as well.  On Saturday we packed in lots of Boston: mom and I ran the B.A.A 5k, hit up the expo to get my bib, toured the city on Caty the Duck, and feasted at Legal Seafood with old family friends.  The weather was perfect running weather.  
Sunday, the temperature dropped and the wind picked up.  I did my shake-out run along the Charles River and across the bridge to MIT – I was running sideways to counteract the wind, and I knew that would be the headwind we would be running into on Monday.  We trekked to Fenway and caught a Red Sox game in the SNOW!! (so fun and totally worth it), then finished off the night with my traditional per race dinner of Thai food (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!)
Bundled in so many layers and still so cold!
I had been checking my weather app non-stop in the week leading up to race day.  Family and friends kept trying to tell me how the New England forecast of rain, wind, and cold would change by Monday.  And, while the weather prediction for EVERY OTHER day of our trip changed a million times, Monday remained etched in stone.  By Sunday, I fully accepted that we would be running in the rain…but kept telling myself it would be warmer, so it wouldn’t be a big deal… But no matter what, I was toeing that starting line!
I bought this jacket for $20 at Marshalls intending to toss it at the start - turned out to be my lifesaver!
Monday morning arrived with a civilized wake up call of 6am.  My start time wasn’t until 10:50am, but the busses to the start took off from Boston Common (5ish minute walk from our rental) at 8am.  I picked up my mom from her Air B&B on my way to the Common, and it was already raining.  By the time I dropped my gear bag off with dry clothes and shoes for post-race, my shoes were soaked all the way through.  Lots of runners had tied garbage bags around their feet to keep them dry – I thought they looked ridiculous, but definitely wished I had realized just how much rain there was going to be… The rain was unrelenting, even before the race started.  Just after 8, my mom said goodbye and I boarded the bus to the start.  During the hour drive, I kept looking out the windshield of the bus to see if the driver had stopped using his wipers – nope, definitely not.  And there was definitely snow on the ground along the highway…yikes!  But I shared a seat with a lovely man from Pennsylvania which distracted me from the weather (at least a little bit).
Bundled up, heading to the busses!
Arriving at the athletes village was just nuts.  The start is at the high school in Hopkinton, and the gathering areas for the runners were under tents on the athletic fields…on the grass-turned-mud pits!  The pre-race updates had suggested bringing a second pair of shoes to change into before the start so that you would start in dry shoes… I totally regretted that I didn’t have a second pair (or done the silly garbage bag look).  My shoes were covered in mud from my second step onto the field, and they squished like full sponges as we trudged our way to the start line.  But in the end it didn’t really matter because they would have been soaked the minute I switched shoes or took off the garbage bags.
Not joking - Athlete's Village was a mud pit!
Finally it was time! The gun went off to a rousing cheer, and Wave 3 was off.  My feet felt like ice blocks but by mile 3 they warmed up enough that everything just seemed to settle in for the long haul.  The hardest part of the start was figuring out how fast to run!  I had an original goal of 3:25 (and I am certain I had the fitness for it), but with the reality of the cold, wind, and rain, I had no idea how my body would cope.  So I just took it mile by mile.  Right from the start, the course was lined with spectators.  I actually can’t picture any portion of the course that had more than a 25 yard gap between spectators!  I have already come to the conclusion that runners and endurance athletes are a special (crazy) breed, but I was in awe of the support out on the course.  Even with the torrential downpours, there were lots of sections where I couldn’t even hear my music over the cheering!
In the zone - not a clue that I was running past my family!
The miles ticked off one by one, and soon enough, I hit the girls at Wellesley and was halfway done!  Then I was counting down miles until I thought I would see my mom around mile 16.  I didn’t see her where I thought I would, and after looking for another mile, I just got in the zone and tried to click off mile by mile.  Apparently I was so focused that I completely missed her and my step-dad at mile 17!!! And I ran RIGHT next to them!!!  So bummed.  But I just focused on getting to the top of Heartbreak Hill, then it would be all downhill from there.  Well, it was around that time that the winds really started to get to me.  I thought I would be able to ride the downhill into mile 25, then pick up my pace for the last mile to the finish.  But miles 24-26 were my slowest of the day.  I was so cold that I couldn’t even open up my hand to stretch them out, and it felt like I was barely making any progress! 
So happy and relieved to see my family just before the turn onto Boylston!
Luckily, I spotted my husband right after Fenway Park which gave me a huge boost until the right on Hereford.  Then I saw my mom, dad, step-dad, and long time family friend, right where they said they would be.  And all the emotions were captured in my smile.  I turned onto Boylston and finally got choked up for everything that the day brought.  I ran straight down the street and could not be more proud to cross that finish line!  

Crazy stats for the day!! Cannot believe we ran in that nonsense!
But as soon as I stopped running, the cold sunk to my bones.  My teeth would not stop chattering as I made my way through the finish area.  It felt like I was walking forever before I got to the water…then my medal…then a heat sheet…then my food…then, FINALLY to the dry clothes that I had dropped off in my gear bag earlier that morning.  The line to get into the change tent was way too long so I headed straight to the Starbucks to meet up with the fam.  What a relief to be out of the rain!!!! I finally changed out of my soaking wet clothes and was able to absorb the race I had just run!  It felt like the race took forever and at the same time was over in the blink of eye! 
Celebration time!!! After fully defrosting, we feasted on Italian food in the North End at La Famiglia Georgio, then followed it up with delicious cannolis at Modern Pastry.  Of course by then the rain cleared, and the night was beautiful to stroll around the North End, in my finisher’s jacket, and enjoy the city.   
The horrible weather
And the day after the race Mother Nature blessed the city of Boston with perfect running weather – seriously?!?  We finished the trip off with a visit to the Sam Adams Brewery tasting delicious brews, then had a farewell dinner with longtime family friends. 
Morning after - Seriously, Mother Nature?!?
Over a week has passed and it still feels like a dream trip.  But, I know that I have some unfinished business out on the road to Boston.  I had a goal of running sub 3:30, aiming for 3:25.  I KNOW that I was trained for that time and my body was ready, so it’s tough not to think about the what ifs.  Could I have pushed a little bit harder, did I let go of my goal too easily?  Maybe I could have at least guaranteed a BQ time (my official time to qualify is 3:40, but this year you had to run 3 minutes and 23 seconds faster (so 3:36.37) faster).  But then I think about the conditions, about how many people didn’t finish, how many elites dropped out, how many people didn’t even start, and I am super proud of my day.  I powered through awful conditions, where it became a complete game of mind over matter, and I earned every bit of my unicorn!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Kona 2017 ~ A Celebration of Life

KONA.  This one word sums up the pinnacle of the sport of triathlon.  It’s where the best of the best age group athletes get to compete on the same stage as the pro’s, in the crystal clear waters of Kailua Bay, in the storied tradewinds on the ride back from Hawi, and in the quiet lava fields along the Queen K Highway.  Back when I picked up the sport back in 2013, Kona was a pipe dream.  I never imagined that I would get to race on this hallowed course.  After I did my first full Ironman in Arizona in 2015, and got totally hooked by Ironman, I became more intrigued by Kona.  I thought it would be an amazing accomplishment to qualify for the World Championship, but never had any desire to actually do the race!  I thought the conditions sounded awful…crosswinds so strong that people have been blown off their bike, humidity that would make you melt, heat radiating back off the black lava fields.  None of that appealed to me.  But as my fitness started showing in my training, I knew I wanted to prove to myself that I could get to Kona…and that was my goal for my 2018 race – to qualify for Kona in 2019.
It's ME!!
Well, as you know, my timeline jumped a bit ahead and I was Kona bound in 2017!  The circumstances surrounding my qualification weren’t ideal for a great race in Kona – my training was designed for me to reach peak fitness in August (not October), the 6 week turnaround between IMCDA and Kona was a lot of strain to put on my body, and Kona wasn’t my “A” race.  But since there was no way I was turning down my chance to race in the World Championships, I knew that my experience at the race was going to be all about perspective.  So I went into the race as a Celebration of Life.  I was going to do my very best, but I was going to enjoy every aspect of the day.  And I really truly enjoyed every minute I was out there.  I was the girl out there who was smiling a big cheesy grin all day long.  I truly wouldn’t change a thing about my day, and I am so fired up to get back there with Kona as my “A” race, to really test myself against the island.  And with that, here’s how the day went down!

**If you want to see what Kona is really like, I made the recap video!!! 
My 3 seconds of fame are around the 8:15 mark!**  

Race Week
Race week started off a bit crazy with my bike not arriving at Kona Airport, and after way too many phone calls came to learn that it never made it on the original plane back in San Jose – Seriously??  So I was a bit stressed until it arrived.  But the husband and I lucked out with the most gorgeous of AirB&B’s with the most wonderful hosts, so that made the bike fiasco a bit easier to deal with!  I swam in Kailua Bay every morning, bought all the things at the merchandise tent and expo, rode a good 2/3 of the bike course over the course of the week, got sweat tested by Levelen (game changer!!), did the underpants run!  Soon it was Thursday and the rest of my amazing fam bam cheer squad arrived – Mom, Dad, Brother Geoff, and #tripletsforlyfe training buddy Jenesse made the trip all the way from Australia!  Race week had been pretty low key, but the enormity of the fact that I was racing in the World Championships finally hit me at the Athletes Welcome Banquet on Thursday night.  When all of the first timers were asked to stand, I could hardly contain my tears and was so choked up with pride! 
Clif bar coffee boat swim.  If I could swim in the Ocean in Kona, I would NEVER complain about swim workouts!
Levelen sweat testing...GAME CHANGER!!

Pre race spin out on the Queen K!
Coeur Sports ladies with Beats!

Friday was a last spin and run, then it was time to check everything in!  Bike/gear check in was nice and smooth, and you really do feel like a rock star.  You walk down a red carpet lined chute where all the big triathlon brands count the gear, and you even have your own escort to your bike rack and a personal tour of the transition area.  If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, so dinner was the usual Thai food…followed by a massive rainstorm!! I was kind of nervous that we would get showers again on race day, but our waiter predicted that the storm would clear out the humidity and we would have great conditions – he was right :)
Penny the P3 is racked and ready!
Love them! Pre-race Thai feast
Cannot believe my #tripletforlyfe made the trip from Down Under <3
Race Morning
Race morning went like every other…up dark and early, brekkie of egg whites, banana, bagel with PB and honey, then my mom and I made our way to an excellent parking spot due to my mom’s check in time for body marking.  I hung in the car, put in my race day braids, and rocked out to my Eugene Marathon playlist until body marking opened.  Once I got there at 4:45, I made my way to my mom and Jenesse and the waterworks started!  Seriously, I couldn’t stop choking up in excitement and disbelief that I was actually going to be racing in Kona!!  I topped off my tires and the nutrition on my bike, then found the Coeur ladies for the very best Race Day Hugs!  Joined back up with my mom and Jenesse, ran into some of Coach Muddy’s other athletes, and then it was finally time to make my way to the water.
All tatted up...cue the waterworks!
Swim 1:11:06 - The swim was awesome.  The water was perfect, warm and clear.  I got in the water a few minutes before the cannon went off, felt strong and confident as I swam to the start line, and took in my surroundings as I bobbed with the 700 or so other ladies.  I had never done a mass start, or a non-wetsuit swim, so I didn’t really know where to position myself.  I think I ended up basically in the middle, which seemed to work out just fine!  I found some great feet for the majority of the swim, which meant that I didn’t need to sight too often! Each time I did sight, I was pleasantly surprised at how much closer the Body Glove boat (the turnaround) was!  The way back was a bit more chaotic because the ladies had caught up to the slower men, but I was still able to stick with the good feet and before I knew it, the stairs appeared!  I ended up with a 1 minute swim PR, even in the non-wetsuit, ocean swim, so I was stoked when I exited the water!  Thanks Coach Tom!
Seriously - who is this happy coming out of the water??
T1: 5:23 - Since my plan was to enjoy myself, I consciously took my time in transition.  I made sure that I completely rinsed off the salt water, and was completely dry when I put on my sunblock.  That was one of the most important goals of the day – DO NOT BURN!  I know how much a sunburn can screw me up, and I just didn’t want to be miserable.  Those extra few minutes were definitely worth it…I survived the day burn free!
Wheee!!! Photo courtesy of the Hubs!
Bike 5:54:07 - Oh my happy place!  I simply loved riding my bike out there!  It was hilly, it was windy, it was hot.  But every time I started to feel how hard it was, I looked over to the ocean, and just smiled.  I made sure that I stuck to my nutrition plan, and kept super freaking hydrated.  I think I ended up going through about 14 bottles!!!  And the sweat testing from Levelen was huge – In my past races, I thought I took in a lot of salt, but I was hugely underestimating my level of sodium loss.  Basically I had learned that I lose a day’s worth of sodium in an hour…this caused me to start cramping in my quads about ¾ of the way through the bike at IMCDA, and my achiles would start cramping at the beginning of the run.  So in Kona, I knew that I needed to up my game.  I took in 1 thermotab every 10 minutes like clockwork on the bike…as mile 70 approached, I took stock of my body – no cramping, mile 80 – still no cramping.  I got through the entire bike without even the HINT of a cramp!!! Science man – it’s amazing!
I mean...come on!!! #paradise
It was also amazing to see so many beautiful Coeur kits out on the course.  It made spotting and cheering for teammates so easy!  I even saw both of my IMCDA podium-mates out on the bike which was another fun boost!
Go Go Gomez!!! Brother and Dad on the lookout!
T2: 8:22 - Again, I took my sweet a$$ time in transition…I went to the bathroom, I put on sunblock, I got water.  I knew that the marathon was going to be a beast, and I wanted to leave as comfortable as possible.  Mission accomplished. Seriously though, I took forever.
My mom kept volunteering in T2 after her shift just to surprise me!!
Run 4:31:20 - My secret goal was to finish the course in under 12 hours.  I figured that would be a respectable time for my first race on the Big Island, with a 6 week turnaround, peaking scheduled for IMCDA, and accounting for the elements that Madame Pele would throw at the racers.  Once I started out on the course, I broke the marathon down into 4 main sections – 1) 10 mile out and back on Ali’i drive, 2) 6ish miles along the Queen K to the energy lab, 3) the 4 mile out and back in the energy lab, 4) 6ish miles back along the Queen K to the finish.  The goal was to take each aid station slow to make sure I grabbed all the ice, sponges, and water possible to keep my core cool – thank goodness for the extra pockets in the Coeur Sports sports bra to hold everything!  Seriously, the only times that I have boobs is during an Ironman with all the things that go into my bra!
Custom Nike Pegasus colorway ;) Always #matchymatchy
Ali’i drive is a giant party.  Spectators line the road with music, water hoses, and cheers so loud that it’s easy to get swept along those first 10 miles.  I made a deal with myself that I would run the first 10 miles, once I got to Palani Rd., then I could walk up the hill.  Before I knew it, that first section was done!  I saw my whole support crew at the turn onto Palani, including hugs from Coach Muddy, which was a huge boost before the complete opposite experience once I turned onto the Queen K.  Right after the aid station at the top of the hill, the cheers die away, and it’s nothing but your thoughts and your footsteps for the next 16 miles.  I did a lot of negotiating with myself along this part of the course…I would want to walk, then I would check in and ask myself if anything was hurting – nothing was, so I kept running.  Luckily I came upon a girl I had been leapfrogging with along Ali’I at the top of Palani, and we proceeded to run the next 13ish miles side by side.  I know that I would have walked so many times had it not been for her…sometimes we chatted, but mostly we just ran in silent camaraderie.  (Thanks Jen!)  We split up around the mile 23 aid station, and it was a surreal experience to run along the Queen K in near total darkness.  It was almost easier, since I couldn’t see the hills that were looming up ahead.
Bra is STUFFED...keeping me cool in the energy lab (Hi Jen :)
Once I returned to the top of Palani, my emotions took over for the last mile of the race.  I was choked up as I descended the hill, just in utter disbelief that the day was almost over!  I knew I was SO CLOSE…but the final turn onto Ali’I seemed to take forever – I kept thinking, it must be the next street…no, the next one?  When I finally did turn onto Ali’I, I was greeted with the screams and tears from my mom and Jenesse, who were facetiming with my #mulletduo Eileen who was cheering from California.  And just like that, I was on the red carpet, with the bright lights of the finish line and cheering spectators going crazy.  I crossed the line with tears in my eyes and just full of gratitude for everything that I had accomplished.  After crossing the finish line, there are tons of volunteers on hand to catch the racers, walk them through the finish area, and make sure they don’t need to visit the medical tent.  I was so lucky to have the BEST Coeur teammates catch me at the finish…perfect end to the perfect day!
So much emotion and gratitude
Total Time: 11:50:18

Post Race
After the race, my amazing mom picked up my bike and gear bags, and I finally found my fam bam after getting my medal, finisher’s kukui nut necklace, and taking my finisher photo.   
Since my nutrition was on point all day, I was actually hungry soon after the race, so it was back to the house for so much pizza and sharing war stories from the day with the fam.   
Friendship goals!! I didn't have a wall to put my feet up her!
Luckily we stuck around until Tuesday, so Monday was a day to relax and feast ;)  Coeur hosted a brunch with our amazing team at Daylight Mind…it was incredible meeting teammates from across the country and rehashing race day with the ladies I shared the course with.  The rest of the day consisted of this:
Pizza, IMWC medal, pool floatie, Mai Tai = GOALS
We capped off the trip with a sunset dinner at Huggos.  I couldn’t be more grateful for this incredible group of humans who shared Kona 2017 with me.  I cannot wait to be back in (fingers crossed) 2019!