Coming back from defeat

BQ. Boston Qualifier. It doesn’t matter if it is abbreviated or not, when runners speak these words or initials something happens. A longing, desire, drive, whatever you want to call it, we get hungry. People have it in their ‘about me’ sections on social media. You know: runner, #STWM digital champion, Boston Qualifier. To get that qualifying time puts you in a different running class and to get in to the marathon and run it? Well don’t even get me started on the prestige! The jackets, the hype! And in Boston….a city that I LOVE!

When I ran my first marathon back in 2008, I knew of the hard to get BQ, but I just wanted to run a marathon and didn’t think anything of it. In the back of my mind I thought maybe one day, but focusing on finishing my first marathon was a priority.  Fast forward to my second marathon (STWM) in 2013 and let’s just say my view changed slightly……ok a lot, I wanted it bad! I did my training, I did my yoga, and I was feeling good. October 20th 2013 I woke up and was anxious to get going. I felt amazing until about 32k when I felt pain so intense it slowed me down to a pace that I knew would not get me that BQ.

I didn’t get it that day. I crossed the finish line and I was in tears, and not the happy emotional kind, the I am devastated and absolutely crushed kind. Never mind that I had just crossed the finish line of a marathon, an amazing accomplishment on its own (and in 4:11, no less about an hour faster than my first), there was no amount of support to make me feel better. I swore I would never again run a full marathon.

I saw my chiropractor, I got massages. Even today, my piriformis on the left side is still painful and has limited my flexibility, which as a yoga teacher is a real pain in the butt (no pun intended). In addition to the piriformis pain, I found out I have weak glutes and hips which was shocking to say the least. At least I had found out why I was slowed to a halt and why my TFL (tensor fascia latae) felt like it was going to explode for the last 10k of my marathon.

More than the physical pain, I spent a long time feeling completely defeated and broken emotionally. I wanted that BQ so bad I could taste it. I was being told from some people that maybe I just shouldn’t be running the full, that maybe my “body just can’t handle it”, which just upset me more. Soooo, you’re saying I’m weak? There are people older than me running Boston every year, so I didn’t want to hear the “You know you are closer to 40” excuse anymore either, I wanted everyone to just. Stop. Talking.

In November, I joined a gym where I started doing strength training 2- 3 days a week, and with the nasty winter we had I did a lot of running on the treadmill. I ran outside as much as I could despite the cold, slush, snow, ice….I don’t think I need to go on, you were there and lived through it. The spring came and I was happy to be back as a digital champion ambassador for the TYS10K.  I ran it and shaved a minute off from the previous year and I started to feel like a runner again (slightly), not at all how I felt in the fall after STWM 2013.

With talk of STWM 2014 buzzing on social media, I was being asked by many of my running friends if I was going to run it again. I honestly didn’t know, I would sigh and say “I think so”. The truth is I was constantly going back and forth in my mind. I knew I could finish a marathon, but finishing is no longer good enough.  I started training with a coach (who is perfect for me!) in May, and I have started to really see what I am capable of as a runner.

Despite all these very positive changes, I was still doubting myself. It got to the point where one day I had my mind made up that I was no longer running marathons, I was going to specialize in half marathons and just keep getting faster and stronger. Then I would wake up the next morning and I would see someone had posted the “There’s a hero in all of us” STWM video from last year, and I would cry and know in my gut I wasn’t finished with it yet. This literally went on for weeks. Day to day I would be changing my mind, sometimes I would change my mind multiple times throughout the day. I finally spoke with my coach (isn’t that what coaches are for?). He said that this year was going to be different, he was going to be there helping every step of the way. To be honest I was hoping he was going to tell me flat out, “yes you should stick to half marathons”. I was still so confused. Could I really go back to run it? After what happened last year, do I have the guts and the strength to get me through it and do it with a faster time? I decided to leave it to fate. I said if CRS wants me back as a digital champion ambassador for STWM, then it is a sign that I need to run it again this year. The next day I received an email from them. It was just what I needed and just the right time. When I told my coach I was going for the full he said “I was hoping you were going to say that”.

So here we are, four months from another full marathon. Am I anxious? Yes, of course. But here’s the thing – I love running, I really do and I am proud that I am now a full-fledged #runnerd. I am getting stronger every day and I am even cross training in the pool (which I love as I used to swim 50 laps a day and I missed it). I am taking it one day at a time, one workout at a time. Want to know what my goal is this year? I’m sure you do, but this year I am keeping it under wraps 😉 I promise I will let you all know what happens on October 20th 2014.

I am going to enjoy my training, enjoy the entire process and have fun. I will run STWM with thousands of other runners and when I cross the finish line this year, if there are tears they will be tears of happiness. No matter what. I’m back!

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Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon Recap

On Sunday, June 1st I ran the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon. To give you a better idea of how I ended up registering for this race, I need to back up to October 2013. That was when I had more than one person tell me that I should consider running this particular race. As a new race on the scene, it was smaller, therefore the odds of placing well were on my side. So, of course, I signed up right away.

Now here we are on race day. I was with my husband, our little man had a sleepover with Grandma & Grandpa while Mommy & Daddy had a “getaway” in Niagara Falls. My husband drove me close to the start and then I was on my own. This would be the first time since 2008 that I was on my own at a start line. I started to get a little emotional and shed a few tears. I felt alone even though there were a couple thousand people around me. Everyone else had a friend or a group of friends they were with. I recognized a twitter and instagram friend (@lacesandlattes) at the start, so I introduced myself and we chatted until the start of the race. This actually calmed my usual pre race nerves and was very thankful for it!

This was the first time I felt like an elite runner. I was actually one of the women toeing the start line, with one hand on my Garmin ready to hit the button. Then the race started and boy did it start with a bang! I quickly realized that I was not the only one who decided to run this race to place well, the women this year came to win. For the first km or so I was up there pushing my legs at a 3:15/km pace. I very soon realized that I would not be able to keep that up for longer than 5km, let alone 21km, so I pulled back and settled into a comfortable, yet speedy pace. Since I am not familiar with the Niagara Falls area –other than the Falls themselves– studying the map the night before didn’t really help me during the race. Since I got out to a speedy start, I only had a few women around me and we were well spaced out. It was an experience I have never had in a race and I started to feel like I was just out for a training run. That is, until we started the out and back part of the route when I would see all the other women cheering for those of us up front, and I am not going to lie – that felt amazing!

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It was a hot morning and with little shade I used the water stations to take micro sips and then poured the rest on my head to cool down.  I have always had an issue with fueling during longer races, mostly because I can’t handle the taste of gels, in fact I gag when I try to use them. I am not a big fan of things like gummies or jelly beans either. My usual pre race food is bread with almond butter & a banana and while enroute to the race, I enjoy half a power bar. This routine has served me well…until this race. I don’t know if it’s because I stepped up my game and was pushing my body faster for longer than it usually goes, but when I got to about 15 or 16km my body literally started to shake because I was more than hungry, I was starving! In non-race situations, when I get hungry like this I get real hangry (hungry + angry = hangry) and everything gets put on hold until I get something to eat (my husband can attest to this). Obviously while racing this is not an option, so I had to dig deep, but I felt myself slowing down even as I fought to keep my speed up. I felt my form go to hell and I knew that if my coach could see me, he would not be impressed! I don’t know if any of you have ever tried to race while shaking with hunger, but I can tell you that I was not in a good place. I didn’t stop though. No way was I going to stop! I thought of my little guy and how I needed to set an example of never giving up.  Then, around 19km I saw another runner friend who was there to support his wife, (Thanks Andrew Chak for the cheering!) and it was the boost I needed for the last 2 km’s. I crossed the finish line a little slower than my 1:40 PB, I crossed just drained and exhausted. The first person I saw was Kathrine Switzer who was there with a hug and congratulations, then a fireman who gave me my medal. Side note, the whole fireman thing doesn’t get me excited (I’m more into accountants…for those that don’t know, my husband is one), so this was certainly not the highlight for me! I enjoyed the cold wet washcloth they handed out, downed a bottle of water and a carton of chocolate milk. I saw my husband and fell into his arms. He was smiling and was so proud of me, but I was too upset at the time to be proud of myself. We found a place for me to inhale a couple of cookies, and checked out my stats. I came 27/1998 overall and 7/372 in my age category. With a few days behind me, I can now appreciate that these were great results, but I wanted that top 10 so bad. The competition was stiff this year and I tip my hat to those women and I thank them at the same time for making me put all my training with my coach to the test. My  husband and I checked out of the hotel and headed straight to the closest Five Guys Burger! A greasy cheeseburger has never tasted so good!

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Chugging water at the end

Now for the Pros and Cons breakdown:

Pros:
-Gorgeous route going past the falls twice, pretty cool and that mist felt amazing…even if it fogged up my Sunskis
-Swag bag: wine, make up, lip balm and more?! Awesome
-All women: while there were some men, it was nice to not worry about all that testosterone
Cons:
-8am start, already it was too hot at the start with that blazing hot sun, a 7:30 or a 7:00am start would be amazing!
-Packet pick up was too long of a wait. I have never waited longer than 5 mins to pick up my kit, but it took me 60 min! A huge part of that was having Kathrine Switzer at the end of the line for pictures and autographs, which while amazing I think should have been separate from the actual pick up.

Will I be back next year? Quite possibly, and I will be back even stronger and faster!

Have you ever run an all women race? What was it like?

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By the falls on the walk back to the hotel