Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Boston 2015-Wet, cold, and wonderful

Lovely view from the hotel

After a nightmare run in Houston, I felt this cycle of training and race expectations in Boston needed to be different.  Staying healthy was the top priority. Next was structuring training in a way that wouldn't necessarily get me into tip-top shape, but get me back to enjoying my running again.

So, training was solid, but not super intense, and a lot of fun.  I got back to loving the long 20 mile runs again and stayed healthy doing it.  Win-win in my book!

Anyway, a 10-mile race three weeks prior to Boston told me my fitness was probably in 3:10ish range, so a PR was possible, but would not be easy.  I set a few different goals depending on how the day played out:
  • PR (under a 3:09) if possible
  • Meet NYC Marathon qualifying standard to bypass the lottery (3:13 for women in my age group)
  • Beat my bib number (seeded 7196, wanted to finish higher overall than that number)
  • Enjoy and remember more of the Boston experience (I did not do a very good job in 2014)
With that being said, onto the weekend and race day...

A little stroll Friday evening landed us at Cheers

Brian and Derek being Brian and Derek

Boston Common on a lovely morning
 First up was the BAA 5k Saturday morning. My dear training partner Skye had a fantastic sub 20 min race:
Skye gettin' it done...

Team Hoyt on Commonwealth during the 5k

A few of the elite 5k runners including winner Ben True
 After the 5k, the topic turned to the all-important quandary of where to get some grub, which led to this not-so-little gem of a find at a bakery called Tatte:

Best. Cinnamon. Roll. EVAH!!!
After breakfast we hit the Expo, walked down Bolyston a bit, and then headed back to the hotel before dinner on Saturday.
The motley crew

Fantastic pasta dinner at Al Dente.  We just happened to be there at the same time as the Quarter Century Club (runners who have run more than 25 Boston marathons).  They included us in the festivities.
We all watched the weather forecast getting windier and wetter through the weekend and hoped the rain would hold off as long as possible!
High likelihood at least one (or three) of us was checking the weather...
 Mother Nature of course had a mind of her own by Monday morning.  Athlete's village was cold and wet as we sat waiting to walk to the starting corrals.  The BAA had planned for this and offered mylar blankets to everyone, which was fantastic.  So we sat...and ate...and ate some more.  Thought about the race gameplan a few times.
Randy, Derek, Brian and I...cold and wet in Athlete's Village!

Finally, we were able to walk to the corrals.  This is such a cool part of Boston: you have this world-class race filled with the best-of-the-best marathoners and lots of prestige and history, and it all begins not with a glitzy startline in a fancy, urban area, but in the quaint, quiet town of Hopkinton.  I love the small, older homes lining the street with people spilled outside their front doors with tents and signs setup offering everything from chapstick to sunscreen to beer.

Perhaps the best way to describe it would be like playing the Super Bowl in a small town, Friday-Night-Lights setting.   

My race plan was this:
  • Don't blow it the first 4 downhill miles
  • Get on to 7:05-7:10ish pace by mile 5
  • Hold that pace through Wellesley (about mile 13) and regroup before the hills
  • Keep breathing under control in the Newton Hills and save enough gas to pick up the pace again after Heartbreak Hill around mile 20
  • Last 5.5 miles as fast as possible in the downhill stretch back into Boston. Hoped to get back down to about a 7:10-7:15 pace or so
So the gun fired and we were off.  

It was cold, but the rain had stopped at the start.  Mile 1 was actually a little slow, I had a 7:28, but that ended up being a good thing. Mile 2 was too fast at a 6:50, but by miles 3-4 I figured out the right level of effort and got on pace. You're either going downhill or some short uphills in the early miles so my splits were back and forth.

I remember tossing my gloves around mile 5 because I had warmed up a good bit and thinking "I'm probably going to regret that..." :)

Mile 8 it began to rain pretty steadily, but honestly felt pretty nice. 

The first 10 miles were really, really good and just seemed to fly by.

Just before I hit Wellesley about mile 12, the rain stopped.  I also remember thinking, "Crap, I can feel my quads now" and wondered how that would play out in the last miles.  I quickly forgot about them though because I could hear the Wellesley girls WAY before we saw them. Their energy just sucks you through the midway point. I ran along and high-fived as many ladies as I could and had an absolute blast.

After the halfway point,  I regrouped and took inventory of how the first 13 miles went. I came through in 1:33, which was on track to run about a 3:10, but that was the easy half of the race!  I was starting to feel some of the mileage, but all-in-all felt reasonably good, so I put it on cruise and just waited to start picking off the hills in Newton.

Soon enough, it was time to switch into climbing mode.  Here's the GOOD thing about the Newton Hills: they forced me to mentally break up the remainder of the race. Each hill was a short goal: get to the top with an even effort and without getting out of breath.

Right about the time I started the first hill between 16-17, the rain picked up pretty steadily, as did the wind.   For a moment, it was a bit demoralizing, but those crowds along the way were so cheerful it was hard to stay down.

It was rainy and windy all through the hills.  I remember getting to the top of Heartbreak at mile 20 and asked someone if we had crested Heartbreak. My brain was getting just a little foggy at that point.  The Newton Hills are not easy, but relatively speaking, I felt that stretch was "easier" than last year.  It's tough to gauge how much to push here or not because you know you need to save some for the last stretch.

As soon as I crested Heartbreak, I knew I had to try to pick up the pace again to recoup some of the time lost in the hills.  Downhill sounds great at the end of a race, but it was pretty painful on my quads by then.  I was happy though and knew the crowds would be steady and thick into Boston from that point. We were getting closer!

My pace did improve, which I was thrilled about, but the combination of shredded quads from the early miles and tired, numb hip flexors from the wind/rain/cold made it tough to get back down to the pace I wanted to.  I just could not lift my legs very high in the last 4 miles.  I was worried about slipping on the discarded cups in the aid stations because I couldn't step over them very well.

All that to say, in my depleted state, I knew a 3:10 was probably out of reach at that point, so I set my goal to a sub 3:13 (NYC marathon qualifying time).

And the Boston crowds...they just boost your spirits coming down through those last few tough miles!

I had my eyes peeled too for my friends Carrie and Skye, who were going to be around mile 24, and it was a huge boost to see them on the sidelines!

Couple of shots at mile 24, care of Carrie and Skye

Opted for the Adidas Ultra Boost over my usual choice of Saucony Kinvaras

In the last few miles, I remember trying to enjoy the experience and take in the sights as much as possible.  Gave out as many high-fives to folks as possible. Loved every painful minute!

And then I remember seeing this sign...(only 4 laps on the track!!!)

Yay!! (Photo credit to Carrie :) )

Then we turned right onto Hereford, and left onto Bolyston....

The last stretch was super fun...a celebration of all the tough miles beforehand and the accomplishment of finishing a tough course (plus the effort that goes into qualifying).  Able to muster back a short stretch at 6:50 pace in the last mile...if only I could have held it longer :) Someday I hope....

That course does not go down without a fight, and it's what makes the finish so satisfying. You earn every step of it, fast or slow.
That wonderful finish line...
Rolled in with a 3:12:10.  

The volunteers at the finish were simply amazing. I think most of us were probably almost hypothermic by that point, especially after we stopped running and walked down the finish chute on Bolyston. It was so wet and windy and just nasty, but those kind folks were standing out opening bottles of water, literally dressing us in the mylar blankets, peeling bananas for us, etc.

My hands were so cold, swelled, and white, I couldn't open anything. Can't say enough good things about the cheerful volunteers.  Simply wonderful!

So, while I didn't quite meet my PR goal, I'm super happy about the outcome.  Stayed healthy through training, made it under the NYC qual time, overall finish was higher than where I was seeded (5102 vs. 7196), and most of all, I have such good memories of my entire experience.

Happy to be friends again with 26.2.
A special thank you to Carrie and Skye who supported our crew the entire weekend with smiles on their faces the entire way...you ladies are wonderful to say the least.  Michelle, I enjoyed being roommates again with you this year-you are a stud to run a strong Boston after a torn hamstring.  And to my training partners Randy, Derek, and Brian-had a blast putting in the miles beforehand with you guys!
My stud training partner Sir Skye

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Racing to train

"You only grow as a human being if you're outside your comfort zone."
                                               --Percy Cerutty

Too funny...and often too true.
Found myself with some unexpected free time this morning and decided to update the ol' blog! It's been a while!

I had coffee with my buddy Adrienne yesterday and as usual, the topic turned to training and race goals (some of my favorite nerdy topics besides running shoes).

This has been an unusual training cycle for me in many ways, but also a really, really good one.

I'm typically a runner who likes long training blocks and infrequent racing.  I think it sets up well for marathon training, and since I'm pretty much always in marathon training to some degree or another, that's sorta been my modus operandi over the last 4 years.

My typical training week goes like: speed on Tuesday, some kind of "tempo" on Thursday, and a long run on Saturday, plus easy runs in between those workouts. It's worked really well for me as it does for many other runners, with an occasional race thrown in besides my goal marathon race.

When you throw a race into the mix on Saturday or Sunday,  assuming you're giving pretty near all-out efforts in those races, you have to consider the week before and after the race and what you may be giving up to be able to put down a hard-effort run on race day and what it will take to recover.  To varying degrees, it requires some sacrifice of other workouts depending on the intensity of your race effort.

Racing makes things tricky for me not to go overboard and do too much hard-effort running during the week.

So, for those reasons, I don't race a lot. Usually.

The downside of course is that I forgo the practice of race day rituals and dealing with nerves and  nutrition, which means that for the few times I do race, all of those things become tougher to deal with because I'm a little rusty!

And while I certainly suffer to a degree in training, I think most would agree it's tough to manufacture the suffering level in a workout that you can achieve in a race when it really counts.

Racing teaches you to persevere in suffering the way a tough workout can't quite replicate.

After Houston, the perfect storm of trainng burnout and a desire to enjoy running again led me to sign-up for more races than usual.  I've also been told by a few key folks I trust that I needed to do more racing (short-distance) to work on speed to keep making gains at the marathon distance, since that is my weak spot.

So see, this all still goes back to the marathon :)

Anyhow, since mid February, I've been off the track and on the roads for speed work, and signed up for a race every other weekend including a couple of 5ks, a 10k, and then a 10-miler last weekend.

I'm not advocating it's the right way to train for everyone all the time, but it's been a good change of pace for me personally (hah).

The biggest thing more frequent racing has done for me is that it's taught me to be flexible in training.  I've shortened, eliminated (gasp!!!), or moved some speed workouts around to accomodate for the harder race efforts and gone a lot more by how-am-I-feeling today instead of forcing myself to run what's on the sched simply because it's there.

The other positive is that frequent racing has helped take some of my all-or-nothing attitude towards the outcome of the race and softened it a bit.  In other words, every race can't be a PR (ahem Kate), especially as you improve in your fitness. It gets harder to make those big gains in time, but there's a positive in every race if you look hard enough.

And as tough a pill as it is for me to swallow, when I have a "bad" race, it's not the end of the world if I don't let it be the end of the world.

Still working on that last one!

I love my running and racing, but life is full of many good gifts outside of running too that I sometimes forget in my tunnel-vision desire to improve. Less-than-stellar races are a good reminder of what really matters: faith, family, friends, health.  Lord-willing, there is always another race to try again.

So, I sit here feeling pretty darn good all things considered. These races, while not necessarily super improvements in time, have been solid and really good practice in racing some harder paces.  This will be the last high mileage week (about 70, yay!) before a taper heading into Boston, and I'm hoping that all the practice running faster than marathon pace will make marathon pace seem "easy" in about three weeks.

Ready to go after a hard marathon effort again. Haven't felt that way in about 6 months, perhaps in part too because my memory of the difficulty of miles 18-26 has faded :)

Change is good sometimes.

Monday, March 2, 2015

A little love for the 5k

"I don't avoid the 5k because I think it's a wimpy distance.  I avoid the 5k because *I* am a wimp at that distance." -me
Short rant for today:

It doesn't matter what distance run you're training for: if you're running that distance as hard as you possibly can, it's going to hurt.  Training will hurt and racing will definitely hurt.

I ran a 5k this past weekend and I can't tell you how much grief, however good-natured it was intended to be, came from my marathoning buddies.

Wimp...slacker...."only a 5k"....things of that sort.

Now, I know all of that was meant in jest.  And in the past, I've been guilty of it to some degree too, especially as I was building in distance and had moved beyond the 5k to longer distance.  The 5k didn't seem like a challenge anymore....when I wasn't running it for speed.

But the 5k takes on a whole new challenge when you race it. And if there is no difference between your 5k time and your 10k or 1/2 time, then YOU AREN'T RUNNING IT HARD ENOUGH.  I had a good race but I still don't think I ran it as hard as I possibly could. 

It is tough to make yourself suffer that much that quickly, even for a short time.

Go run 3 miles as hard as you can.  If you're lucky and pace right, the first mile is moderately comfortable.  Somewhere between 1.5-2 miles you want to poke your eyeballs out.

And if you don't pace right, well, sucks to be you.

As someone who prefers the slow burn of the marathon distance as my form of suffering instead of being lit up like a match at a shorter distance, I don't avoid the 5k because I think it's a wimpy distance.  I avoid the 5k because *I* am a wimp at that distance.

I have a ton of respect for all runners going out and running as hard as they can at any distance. This is not a post to argue which distance is harder or better or any of that.

Just a reminder to respect ALL of your friends in their training and goals and to watch the words you use....my heart and soul are in longer distance running at this point, but I have the utmost respect for folks who excel at short distance.

Throwing in some speed work is not a bad idea for us marathoners, either.

End rant.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Thank you, DNF

Well, that's a first...I've never quoted Bruce Lee before.

I had my first DNF in the Houston Marathon a few weeks ago.  Without belaboring the point, it was demoralizing and frustrating and initially felt like months of hard training after Chicago went down the toilet.

I had battled heel pain from what I think is plantar faciitis that came up after the BCS 1/2 marathon.  I'm not sure what set it off, but it was probably a combination of wearing worn-out flats for that race and high mileage over and over again for months. 

It did get a lot better during my taper though, so I was optimistic about Houston.

I knew within a few miles of the start it was not going to be my day to make a run at a 3 hour marathon, so I adjusted my pace goal back a bit, but not long after that I felt my heel start to get a little sore. Not good so early in the race.

It warmed up and settled down, but then flared up again by mile 5-6, so I made the frustrating decision to run the 1/2 course back in instead and hopefully avoid inflicting too much damage to that foot.  I just was not certain I could make the full 26.2 miles and had visions of having to stop out at mile 16.

That was a a tough pill to swallow.  I did get some funny looks and confused cheers as I passed the mile 25 aid station after the courses joined back up: I was probably the first female marathon bib to come through, albeit about 50 minutes too early and NOT on an east-African :)

I cleaned up and went back out to cheer and watch the marathoners come in at mile 26.  It was bittersweet because I wanted so badly to be out there with them in the struggle of those last miles, and yet it was also incredibly inspiring to watch everyone power through the fatigue and pain as they closed in on that finish.

That's what makes the marathon so empowering on one hand and terribly frustrating on the other hand.  When it goes right, it is an amazing feeling.  When it doesn't, well, you can't just run another one the following weekend.

That DNF muddied the waters a lot for me at first in terms of what it meant about me as a runner, me as a marathoner, me as a person (am I not tough enough to do this anymore type thing).

And then after chatting with some of my running buddies who have also gone through DNF's, I got over it and realized all it meant was that I had a bad day and that my body was done with long distance for a while.  Simple as that. 

Heck, the Kenyans DNF all the time in their quest for marathon greatness.

I had found my limit, at least I hope my limit for now, in what I could handle both mentally and physically in training.

In other words, 6 months of grinding out the same types of workouts is probably not the best solution. I also need to watch my shoe choices and build in more recovery to maintain mileage near 70 a week.  Duh.

The other big lesson in all of this has been that gaining running fitness is not guaranteed to be a linear progression.  Over time, and having been free from major injury the last few years, I had gotten lulled into thinking I could just keep notching up my training which would translate to better running fitness and race times, and simply do it over and over again.

Darn you real world.

But now on the other side of it, I see life moves on, the PRs gained during that cycle mean all of that hard work did not go down the toilet, and there are new goals to go after in 2015.

Most importantly though, I've found that joy in running again after some time off, I'm excited about Spring races, and it's forced me to think about what goals I really want to go after long-term.

More on that later!

So thank you, DNF, and thank you to my fellow DNF'ers who set me straight. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Race mojo returning: are you ready Zoltan??

 "I'll never catch the front of the pack, but I'll never stop trying. Committing to a level you'll never attain may sound ridiculous, and it is.  It's a form of insanity-something also known as life.  Everything moves forward or dies. Whether or not you actually move forward is irrelevant. What matters is that you never stop trying."
- Marc Parent in Faster is Better, Jan/Feb 2015 issue of Runner's World

My race and running mojo were lost for a while, which is pretty typical in peak marathon training, but this time those feelings have lingered more than usual.  I've had a ton of the why-am-I-doing-this type thoughts and much appreciated reading the quote above.

Between Chicago and Houston, I "rested" a few weeks with low mileage, but then ramped back up fairly quickly with the goal of making another serious dig at my marathon time in Houston in a few weeks. Anytime you marathon train, you're always on a fine line of too much vs. maxing out gains in strength, but I have never felt this close to blowing up before. After some discussions with coach Bill and Dave at the outset of the training cycle, all of this has been by design, but that certainly has not made it any easier.

I didn't expect it to be, and they never promised it would be.  The struggle is what makes the outcome so rewarding of course, but it's probably good I did not fully know what I was signing myself up for. I knew the format of the Hansons plan, which I have followed again, but the intensity level has been quite challenging.

Running had become one of the last things I wanted to do, and many mornings I've had to will myself out the door to keep getting in the miles. 

That is highly unusual for me.

Anyway, I think things have finally turned a corner after taking a day off last Sunday that was much needed and grabbing a massage (thank you to my buddy Ray at Superior Performance Massage!). 

I also needed a perspective change-I'll never run super fast professional-caliber times, but I do find joy in the challenge of running and bettering myself to the extent that I possibly can. So yes, running is not my job, but it's ok to strive for your best.

And right now, that is still enough to keep going.

And finally, I felt just a smidge of life come back into the ol' legs tonight at track, giving me some hope that all of this will not be for nothing on race day.  It's easy to forget how good you can feel with even a little rest when your legs are flat from high mileage.

One more tough week this week, then bring on the taper.

So....all that to say, the training end is in sight, and I'm more positive and feeling that competitive drive come back for another hard marathon effort.

At the end of my Houston 2014 recap, I mentioned several things I wanted to improve on for 2015. One of them was to beat Zoltan (jokingly...ok, sort-of), a random runner that happened to show up in one of my race photos.  I thought he had a super cool name and serious look that perfectly matched the persona I have in my head for someone by the name of Zoltan.

He beat me by 14 seconds.

I might have run a little harder if I'd have known I was chasing a guy named Zoltan!!!

I know you've registered for the race in 2015, Zoltan, and I hope your training has gone well.  After a lengthy absence, I feel the race mojo returning, and I know I've trained as hard as I could this year.

Kate vs. Zoltan....Who will win in 2015?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

On stiff legs and training partners

Too much cuteness (minus the poor grammar...)

Promise, those two things DO go together!

Today is Thursday.  As usual, I'm walking around stiff-legged, tired, and with a couple cups of coffee already under my belt. 

It's only 8AM.

Tuesday begins this descent into stiff-leggedness (is that a word?) with a morning easy run and then track workout in the evening.  Wednesday is an easy run "recovery" day, but of course it's not a full recovery, and then Thursday morning is the marathon pace workout, which gets progressively longer into the training cycle.

I'm usually falling sleep by 7:30-8PM come Thursday evening.

Every single week, Tuesday to Thursday is my toughest stretch...thank you Hansons.  I absolutely dread the marathon pace workouts Thursday mornings.  It's an early start and my legs are still shot from track.  

I'm often questioning the sanity of leaving my warm bed when the ol' alarm goes off Thursday morning.  

And yet, I still get up and go suffer a little bit more.


Answer: pancakes.  Ok, not even the lure of pancakes could coax me into some of these workouts lately.

Try two. 

Answer: good training partners.  Darn that group accountability.
Post-BCS 1/2 2013

A good running mentor makes a big difference!
Baytown 5 miler...so much fun with these folks!

My running group is full of folks who both challenge me to run faster and also encourage me in the process of attempting to do just that.  Many of those guys could drop me in two seconds flat, and yet they've often graciously slowed down a bit and run with me, or at least sorta near me.  

I know that just trying to hang on with them has helped me become a better athlete.

They're competitive runners, but more importantly, good folks without big egos.

 There's a group of them at track on Tuesday nights and another group on Thursday mornings.  And I know I'll get some friendly harassment, as I should, if I decide to skip out without a good reason.

After a beastly ladder workout Tuesday night. Got in 4 miles of long repeats in the 5:45-5:55 range, which was a huge stretch.  Encouragement is powerful.

And when you find someone who is closely matched to your fitness level, willing to jump into tough workouts with you, mentally fierce in the middle miles when you want to ease off your pace, and yet kind and encouraging in the rough parts of a workout, it is AMAZING to see the kinds of workouts you can do together...ahem Skye...

So, even knowing that I will look and feel of a geriatric age from Tuesday to Thursday week in, week out until Houston, I know I've got a bunch of awesome friends who will briefly commiserate with my aches and pains and stiffness and then spur me on to keep going to the next hard workout. 

To my Volte group...you all are the best.

Summer tri training and racing...a lot more fun with friends~!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

This Present Mile: Chicago Marathon Recap

"For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. " 2 Timothy 1:7
 I just really enjoyed a marathon.
Start line of the Chicago Marathon. Tremendous race.
The weather was glorious!
The Chicago marathon in a nutshell is a fantastic race. It doesn't have the history of Boston, but it absolutely has the international flair of a world marathon major. The course itself is flat, fast, and a lovely tour through the streets of downtown Chicago. It was lined with people the entire way.

I hope to run it again someday.  If you're considering it, I highly recommend it!

I've had a lot of people ask about the physical training following the Hansons Marathon Method and whether I felt prepared to run a marathon  without having run a 20 miler in training.

I'll save details for another post, but yes, I will absolutely follow that training plan again.  The lack of 20 mile runs in no way harmed my marathon performance.

With that out of the way...

Wanted to touch on the mental side of the marathon in this post, because it's generally my weakness.

I love this verse from One Republic's "Love Runs Out":
"There's a maniac out in front of me
Got an angel on my shoulder, and Mephistopheles"
It reminds me of the runner's dueling inner voice: you can do this...no you can't...you can do this...no you can't....

My biggest concern for this race was not the physical suffering, it was breaking mentally during those middle miles, either by allowing myself to get overwhelmed with the mileage left to run OR berating myself for falling off pace. 

A negative spiral is a tough spot to pull yourself out of.  I allowed it to happen in Houston and almost gave up around mile 14.

But, it doesn't have to be that way.

We DO have choices in how we frame our thoughts and which voice we listen to.

One of my running mentors, Dave, shared this fantastic article about how to think like an elite runner. 

The best piece of advice I took from it was this: be present in each mile.  Don't compare yourself to others based off how well you are or aren't running and what you think your finish time will be.  Focus on what you're doing NOW and what you can control NOW, not an hour from now, not two hours from now.

Think about performance, leave out the emotion.

So my mantra, and I'm not really a mantra kind of gal, became "this present mile".  Focus on the mile I'm currently running.  Relax.  Is my breathing still under control?  How can I improve my form? Is this the mile for gu, gatorade, or water?

It worked surprisingly well.

Every time I was tempted to think about the fact we were only on mile 8, etc, I just went back to those words. Over and over again.  Sounds a little cheesy, but to focus on things that were actually in my control at that moment really allowed me to be fully in the moment and not get overwhelmed thinking about what was left to run.

The miles clipped by.

I did not use a GPS watch this time, because I had been warned about the signal loss running through some short tunnels, so my trusty lap watch sufficed.  In a way, it was freeing not to check the ol' Garmin every 30 secs and just run what my legs wanted to do, though I did occasionally check my splits at the mile markers.  

The other great thing about my race experience was the Nike 3:10 pace team, led by a couple of super fun and really encouraging pacers.  I went out ahead of them, but sorta jockeyed for position with them on and off.  Sometimes I would pull ahead a bit, and a few times fell behind.  I used them as my pacing barometer outside of my watch and that worked well.

Had a blast running in a pack. Here's proof I remembered to smile this race.
Somewhere around mile 11-12 I felt those familiar mid-race feelings: the pace was starting to make it's presence known just a bit, but I still had so many miles to go.  I had fallen off a little, my left glute and hamstring were tightening, and I briefly had the thoughts of backing off.

No.  All those summer miles in the miserable humidity at 5AM will NOT be for nothing.

I told myself: pick up this next mile.  Just one. See how it goes.

So somewhere in there, I stretched out the stride a bit, felt better, and managed to get back to the 3:10 guys.

At mile 14 I took a gu (my third, blech), picked up a couple more from Bob at mile 17, and by mile 18, I couldn't believe how good I felt again, relatively speaking of course. It's been a long time since I felt that good at mile 18.

I really started to believe at that point I was going to make a sub 3:10, maybe even a 3:08 if my energy stayed that even.

Chinatown just past mile 22
And it did, until somewhere in mile 22-23.  It's amazing how fast you can go from feeling great to not so great.  My thoughts were  clear enough though that I knew a bonk was not imminent and just needed to focus on keeping that turnover as quick as possible. 

By mile 24, the muscle burn was pretty stout, and the 3:10 guys were back up by me. I knew they were running closer to a 3:09, so I just told myself to hang on with them. 
Homestretch heading back up Michigan Ave.

They were yelling and cheering at what was left of our motley crew as we ran down that last long stretch of Michigan Avenue.

And then we hit the only incline on the entire course at 26 miles.  It wasn't really a hill, but after 26 miles of pancake flat running, any elevation change is noticeable.

After you hit the top of the "hill", you make a left turn and there is that glorious marathon finish line!

3:09:22. Boom.

I almost couldn't believe it was over.

A lot of things came together for a great race, and anyone who has run a marathon knows to be grateful when the stars align so to speak: good training, good weather, a nutrition plan that worked, and a silly little catch phrase: this present mile.

At the finish, with a goofy grin and my mylar blanket the wrong way....oops.

3:10 Pacer Danny...he and the other guys did a fantastic job!
Thank you dear Bob, who has functioned as chef, sherpa, psychologist, cheerleader, massage therapist, coach, and many, many other hats for the last 4 years of running.  I absolutely could not do this without you.

Thank you Skye, Ken, and Derek, who have braved some tough workouts in absolutely miserable weather this summer to run with me.

Thank you Dave, Bill, and Adrienne for your belief in me.

And certainly never least, to my great God, giver of all good gifts, thank you for the precious gift of health and joy in running.

Post-race pancakes!!

Time for rest. More pancakes.  And then more running...