Now What?

 

 

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Photo by Scott Goldstein!

I sat down with the intention of writing a race recap for the Hyannis Marathon, and I just can’t bring myself to do it. To sum it up, it went better than I had ever imagined it could. I was shooting for sub-4, and surpassed that goal by running a 3:50:24. I felt strong the entire time, I stayed hydrated and took in calories as I needed them, and I finished strong with my last 5 miles being around 8:30 pace. Hands down it was my best performance out of any race I’ve ever run. Maybe someday I’ll have the energy to write a more detailed race report, but for now, I’ll tell you about my post-marathon week.

Let’s start with Monday. I expected to be sore, maybe have some stiff knees or sore shins, but I was nowhere near as bad as I thought I would be. I even biked to work, no problem! After biking in to work, I started to feel some pain in my lower right abdomen. Pain very similar, but less intense, to my pain I had a few weeks ago before I ended up in the hospital with a ruptured cyst. I told myself I was probably just sore from the race, and it would go away.

Cut to Tuesday. I feel amazing, like I barely even ran a marathon, so after work I go for a quick 3 mile run. My legs are tired, but in great shape. I start getting excited for my long run on Saturday of 23 miles. Cut to Wednesday, the pain in my abdomen is still lingering, intensifying just enough to make me worried after my bike ride home. I listened to my body and skipped my run. I worked from home on Thursday and called my gynecologist to see if they could get me an appointment. By some miracle from the heavens, she has an open appointment at 2pm. By a whole other miracle, the company I work for is amazing, and let me take the rest of the day off of work to see my doctor.

I explain the situation and tell her I’m nervous I might have another cyst. I tell her I went to the ER not a month ago for a ruptured ovarian cyst, and she asks me some questions. When was the last time you had a cyst that caused pain? Are you still on birth control? Are you skipping any pills? Are you pregnant? Does it hurt during intercourse? You know, the fun questions we all love our gynecologist asking. She says she can get me an ultrasound at 4pm in Chelsea if I’m willing to drive out there.

Cut to 3:00, I’m in Chelsea (way too early) waiting anxiously for my appointment, exhausted from the lack of sleep thanks to stress about my health. I get two ultrasounds and they say I’ll hear back the next morning. Cut to Friday during my lunch break. It was past noon and I hadn’t heard anything so of course I call in a panic, asking for my doctor to call me back. She calls me a few minutes later and tells me I have yet another ovarian cyst. She mentions they’re not normal cysts, they’re hemorrhagic ovarian cysts (aka filled with blood) which is why they’re so painful. They have absolutely no idea why I’m getting cysts due to the fact that birth control is supposed to prevent cysts from forming at all.

It’s also over 5cm in diameter, so she recommends I don’t exercise for at least 6 weeks, which is when I will need a follow-up ultrasound to see if the cyst has gotten any smaller. If it has gotten smaller, I will need to be monitored for future cysts while they try to figure out why I keep getting cysts. If it hasn’t gotten smaller, I will need to meet with a surgeon to go over my options for removing the cysts. There’s a chance if they remove the cysts but haven’t figured out why I am getting them, they will come back, and they would go over my other options, which are far less appealing and end with me not being able to have children.

I have 5 short weeks to go until the Gorge Waterfalls 100k, but was advised not to run for the next 6 weeks. I’m still unsure about what I’ll do on race day, but for now I’m taking it day by day. If my pain subsides soon, I might try easing back into a running routine, but skip the biking, since it seems to aggravate it much more than running. My doctor did say if my cyst ended up rupturing, it would decrease in size sooner than it would if it didn’t rupture, but it seems pretty morbid to hope for a rupture since it basically made any movement excruciatingly painful for 4-5 days.

Normally I would hear what my doctor said, politely agree to disagree as young people tend to do, and go about my way, silently suffering. But this time, there is a chance that if it doesn’t rupture or decrease in size, strenuous exercise could cause ovarian torsion, and I’d likely end up losing my ovary. While I’m happy to be an idiot and maybe cause some extra shin pain or push through some knee pain, losing an ovary at 26 isn’t something I’m willing to risk.

I am absolutely heartbroken that this is happening to me after 3 months of intense, dedicated training for this 100k. I’m in the best shape of my life, and I’ve never been more prepared or excited for a race. But for once, this seems like something I shouldn’t brush off and try to push through. I will keep you all posted on my recovery and my game-day decision, but as of now it’s looking like we will just be enjoying a week of vacation in Oregon in April instead of racing. Word on the street is their food and beer game is strong out in the Pacific Northwest. Maybe instead of running a 100k, we’ll drive a 100k and where each aid station would be, we’ll stop for food and beer! Sounds fun, but let’s be real, we were probably planning on doing that after my race anyways.

 

Not Perfect, but Close Enough – Hyannis Marathon Race Report (2/26/2017)

B and Q. Two letters that I really never thought I would put next to a race result. But after Sunday, my 3:01:21 marathon PR is a certified, authentic BQ. It wasn’t the sub-3 that I was hoping for, and pretty far off from the 2:55 I was dreaming of, but it should be good enough to get me to Hopkinton in 2018. After 2 years dedicated to ultras, a few speedy shorter distance races in 2016 got this goal stuck in my head. Honestly, it seemed unreachable. Maybe I just got lucky in 2016, was it really worth it to get my eyes set on an unreachable target? Back in 2013 when I started running seriously, I never thought I’d  hit this goal. Thankfully, I’m stubborn and once the idea of it got into my head, it was going to happen. I made it loud and clear.

As my mom apparently tells everybody (thanks Harry), I was never a runner. I didn’t run in high school. I picked up running in college because I was getting chubby. I picked up distance running because I’m pretty sure Colleen has her Masters in peer pressure. And finally I picked up ultras because I wanted to show myself how far I’ve come. But something about the BQ is the perfect mix all of these drivers. I haven’t stopped thinking about crossing that finish line since Sunday.

As for the race, like all longer events, the race really started the day before. I have a trend of avoiding the sensible thing to do of taking it easy the day before a big race. Without much forethought, I signed up for a company recruiting event that had me up early and on my feet all day. So much for relaxing. Thankfully I got out of a dinner afterwards and was able to get home at a reasonable hour. Colleen and I got to bed early and did our best to sleep.

Race morning was uneventful, thankfully! We got all set up with our bibs, got situated, and waited for the gun to go off. My buddy Seth offered to come down and act as a pacer / windshield so we chatted about goals and race strategy. After our warm up we parted ways before he’d hop in at mile 10 or so. I hopped into the start corral and apologized roughly 3801 times squeezing through people to the line. I ran into Lynton and once more set my goal in stone for a BQ. Then, promptly at 10 the gun went off.

Like most distance races, mile 1-15 or so were really nothing special. Of course, I went out a little fast – but how can you not! It’s all so exciting. I did my best to settle down quickly after the first mile clicked by in 6:30 or so. I exchanged some words with other marathoners on the course who had similar goals, but pretty quickly I was to myself. The difficult thing about a race like Hyannis is that it’s a loop course with hundreds of runners all running different events at the exact same time. Marathoners run 2 loops, the half run 1, and the relay is broken up into nonsensical portions. I had relay runners wheezing and pounding the pavement yo-yoing past me. There were half runners running comfortable races. And then there was me and what seemed like 2 other marathoners. My usual race tactics of holding onto a runner just out of reach were gone. I’d have to rely on my own smart racing to get me to the finish.

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Early miles came really easily! Everything felt great.

Since mental anxiety was creeping in quickly, I was really happy to see Scott and Kate out on the course at mile 3 or so. Nothing like having a cheering squad! A little burst of adrenaline got me going as we made our way towards the shore. While the weather said it was going to be windy, I didn’t really anticipate a steady stream of air head-on along the coast. Miles 4-8 were completely in a headwind. I don’t know how powerful it was or how much extra effort it really caused, but mentally it was excruciating. At one point, I blurted to my pack of runners “ugh this wind!” to no response. Come on, is it not okay to complain a bit? When we finally turned away from the wind, I physically felt fine, but another mental hurdle was added to my race. Miles 9-10 were effortless and picking up Seth was another amazing boost!

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Seth joined me around mile 10. Legs started to feel a bit fatigued, but miles 9-13 of the course were definitely my favorite

Seth and I rolled along chatting about the day and making small talk. I complained about the race’s plastic cups and how they forced me to either splash myself with water or slow down to drink. I chatted a bit about how I was anticipating the rest of the race to go. Looking back though, this was another area I could have executed better. I know that Seth got me to the finish line with the BQ, but I should have communicated that towards the end, he should have just pulled my ass along. I was going to be in no shape to pace myself in the last few miles. But that was ages away, and I felt great so far, so why spoil it?

The halfway point came and went, and Seth and I were pretty much on our own. There were two runners about 100 yards ahead of us and no one behind us as far as I could tell. The course was open to traffic the entire day, and now without a swarm of runners clogging the streets, cars seemed a little more impatient with me choosing the optimal line. At mile 17 we reentered the wind tunnel. I’d dip behind Seth occasionally for a reprieve from the wind, but since it was just the two of us the wind was still exhausting. Just before mile 20, someone exclaimed how just around the corner the wind would end. It didn’t. In all honestly it was probably only a quarter mile more of intense wind, but that additional mental battle took a piece out of me.

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1 mile left. This is when running isn’t fun anymore, but it’s worth enduring every second for that PR.

My legs started to feel heavy, a bonk was setting in. Another area of improvement: nutrition. In every other race, 45 minutes between gels was always perfect. But I think at this effort I should have bumped it up to every 30. I let my goal pace drift a bit away from me. Still, I had time in the bank, so I was too worried about the BQ at this point. As the minutes ticked by, and my pace continued to slow I grew concerned. I started to focus on how poorly I was feeling and how much running still remained. Of course I knew the race starts at mile 20, but I wanted to at least give the final 10K a strong effort! It wasn’t happening though, and now it was just a battle to hold on. I took one or two walk breaks through water stops (to level out my heart rate and drink from the stupid plastic cups) and kept my pace as high as I could. Seth was good with setting realistic expectations in my head, but like I said I probably should have just had him pull me. Oh well.

By two miles left, I had 15 or so minutes left to hit just above 3 hours. That’s when I gained a bit more faith. Two 7:30 miles left. I could do that. Around mile 25, there was a final water stop I was certain I needed. Given how I was feeling and the stupid plastic cups, I grabbed a cup and walked for a few feet to drink everything. It wasn’t necessary at all, but in the moment I needed it.

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The bonk was real. At mile 25 ( I know, I didn’t need this gatorade) I was forced to walk to get all I could from a cup. Stupid plastic cups.

In the final mile, before the reality set in that I was going to BQ, I struggled significantly. I was really disappointed on how I executed the final few miles, and slowly realizing a bit of smarter pacing and nutrition could have saved me later on. But as I rounded the last bend before the finish, that melted away. I looked at my watch: 3:01:00. The BQ was real. I awkwardly surged to the finish and crossed the line. Pain quickly transformed into satisfaction. And amazingly, it was caught on tape: Hyannis highlights.

After some congratulations and excitement, I got changed, hobbled back to the finish, and anxiously waited for Colleen. Of course, she made smashing her PR by more than 30 minutes look effortless, stopping a tenth of a mile before the end to ask me “did you do it?!” to which I shouted back “I did!”

Strava:
Hyannis Marathon

Gear:
Nike Zoom Streak 6
Gu
Ciele Go Cap
Clothes

T-minus 7 Weeks!

After a week and half of resting post ruptured-ovarian cyst, I had a nice, full week of training last week. I ended up being slightly shy of my goal for the week, but made the decision that going from 9 miles in a week to 50 the next might be a bit much. I started out with a long run on Sunday of 18 with Matt. We did an out and back on the marathon route and I expected it to hurt a lot more than it did, considering I had taken a while off of running, but it wasn’t too bad. We averaged 9:00/mile, and it helped build my confidence tremendously for the Hyannis Marathon. I’m really hoping to break 4 hours, and if I can hold a 9:00/mile for 18, I’m really hoping I can hold it for 26.2, especially with race endorphins and adrenaline.

I rested Monday and got back into my routine on Tuesday with a solid 7 miler. Wednesday I decided to do Summit repeats to start getting some more elevation in. I started my run with a quick mile warmup, 5 miles of Summit, and a cool down on my run back home. I thought it would be more miserable than it was, but it was ALMOST enjoyable. I was just impressed with my hill-stamina compared to my stamina even just 6 months ago. It’s funny that training properly really can make a difference. WHO’D HAVE THOUGHT? CERTAINLY NOBODY HAS TOLD ME THIS BEFORE. THIS IS BRAND NEW INFORMATION.

Thursday was the dreaded Snowpocolypse of 2017. I started it out by oversleeping for The Breakfast Club and woke up around 6 with that horrible guilt you get when you promised Kate you’d be at the run and somehow you’re still in bed. I was too guilty to sleep it off, and didn’t want to run during the storm, so I shot out of bed and got a quick 4 miler in so I could meet everyone at Cafe Fixe after their run. The rest of the day was spent working from home, cuddling with Goose, and playing in the snow!

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This was the first week I was supposed to run 6 days instead of 5, and due to taking some time off I decided to keep it at 5 days. I ran on Friday instead of Saturday, and got a solid 7 miles in on the dreadmill, since the sidewalks were still not clear (update: still aren’t clear… get your shit together and clear your sidewalks, people). I skipped my Saturday run, and went for a long run on Sunday. Biggest. Mistake. Ever.

When we left for our run on Sunday it was snowing, and during our run it turned to rain, then snow, then rain, then sleet, then snow again, and finally just ice pellets punching me in the face. I wore a waterproof jacket but by mile 16 I was soaked through to my inner layer, freezing, and fucking miserable. Luckily the run itself was pretty good, and I felt like I got a good workout for my stabilizers by running in the snow and slush. I ended up only running 17.4 instead of my goal of 19 due to just being frozen inside. I thawed out by taking a painfully hot shower and Matt delivered me Dunkin Donuts hot chocolate like an angel put on this earth just to bring me joy.

Unfortunately, I think the run on Sunday irritated my ovarian cyst. Monday I woke up with more pain. I worked Monday and tried to shake it off, but by Monday night it wasn’t subsiding at all, so I worked from home Tuesday, took the day off of running, and popped Motrin on the couch all day. Today I’m feeling better, but still unsure about whether or not I should run or take another rest day. I’m torn since it technically won’t make anything worse by running, it’ll just intensify the pain. We’ll see how I’m feeling tonight, but hopefully I’m back to normal by Thursday so I can get back into it and get some solid miles in.

This weekend will be my last long run before Hyannis, and I am super excited/nervous. I’ve never not tapered before a marathon, and of course want to be extra careful since this isn’t even my goal race, but I so badly want to break 4 hours that it’s all I can think about. On my runs I’m either thinking “I could totally break 4” or “I can’t believe I’m going to run 62 miles soon.” Can’t wait until after Hyannis when it’s just the latter repeating over and over in my head.

Oh by the way, literally only 7 weeks until my 100k. 7 WEEKS. 😨

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The Abominable SnowGoose

 

 

A (few) Bump(s) in the Road

The past 3 weeks have been a whirlwind of change and chaos in the GrandElam household. On January 17th, I started a new job with Zagster, a bike sharing company based out of Cambridge. It’s been absolutely amazing, and I’m so glad I took the leap and changed careers. My whole first two weeks were filled with cramming as much information into my head that I could possibly handle. I’d come home after work and just sit there silently playing with Gustav. No TV, no music, just catching up with Matt and playing with the pupper while my brain rested.

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Picked up a new hobby recently – taking requests for birthdays/anniversaries/babies/weddings now 😉

After my first week at Zagster, Matt and I went to New Hampshire for the weekend to go cross country skiing on Saturday and get in some downhill skiing on Sunday. The weekend was amazing, but as it turns out, we are great at running and not so great at cross country skiing. There were many falls involved, a few bruises, and a slight pain in my left abdomen that I ignored at the time. I ended up not getting a real long run in that weekend since we spent about 5 hours cross country skiing and my legs were already so sore. We went downhill skiing on Sunday, and I called it early since it was rainy and my abdomen was bothering me still. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I figured I should try to rest.

The following week, I was biking home from work when my abdomen started to really hurt. I went home and told Matt who, as a robot, told me to “go for a run and see how it felt.” Of course I did, and I made it about 1/4 of a mile before I wanted to die, so I turned around and went home to rest. I was frantically Googling my pain, so of course thought I had cancer and was dying, but listened to Matt who told me to “rest up” and said I’d “probably be fine by Saturday for our long run.” I have a history of inguinal hernias (I’ve had one on each side) and also ovarian cysts, so I was hyper aware of my pain and very worried.

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From our cross country skiing adventure! The perfect weather for it.

I went to work the next day and had trouble just walking from my car to the building. I tried calling my doctor to make an appointment, but since I hadn’t seen my doctor since switching insurance, I had to wait a week to get be seen because it was an initial appointment. I made the appointment for the following week, and got back to work. When I got home I was still in a lot of pain, so I decided to ask my friend in med school what he recommended – should I wait a week or go to Urgent Care that night? He recommended Urgent Care, so off I went at 7:30pm on a Thursday.

 

The Urgent Care I went to ended up not having any imaging, so they recommended I go to the ER. After sitting in the waiting room for like 2.5 hours while a woman was alternating between violently vomiting and weeping (and trying not to vomit myself from the sound of her vomiting… good god I hate hospitals) I finally got into a room. After many more hours of waiting, a ghetto pelvic exam where I was propped up on a bedpan because they didn’t have a proper Ob-Gyn table for me, and 2 different ultrasounds, they found out I had a ruptured ovarian cyst. If you’ve never had a ruptured ovarian cyst, well, they’re really fucking painful. I was having a hard time walking upright, and every bump I hit while driving sent shooting pains through my lower abdomen. The worst part? There’s nothing they can really do at that point other than give you Motrin and tell you to rest.

Matt and I went home at just about 3am and were super exhausted from such a long, stressful night. We both went into work the next day (though I left work early to work from the couch all afternoon) and when Matt got home at 6pm, he locked his bike up on our bike rack in our garage and headed back for a run since he was too tired to wake up early to run, since we were at the ER all night. At 7pm, he got back and our bikes were gone. Someone had cut the U-locks on both our bikes and stolen them.

You can imagine we had a pretty shitty 24 hours, but luckily we have decent renters insurance, so we should be able to get most of the cost of our replacement bikes reimbursed. Plus, I do work for a bike sharing company, so I have the option of using a Zagster bike for a while until my new bike comes in. While I’m really upset our bikes were taken and we had to deal with filing a police report/talking to our building manager/etc, we are able to replace our bikes and are adult enough to have insurance for them.

I spent the following 8 days resting. Like RESTING resting. I literally spent all weekend on the couch, unless I was driving to a friend’s house to sit on their couch. I spent a lot of time embroidering, watching Arrested Development, and cuddling with Goose. It was a long week and a half off of running, and I’ve never been so thankful to be back to running. I went snowboarding this past Saturday and everything felt great, so I went for an 18 miler on Sunday – totally pain free! I mean painful in my legs, but not painful in my abdomen.

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First (and last) time snowboarding glades. WAS NOT FOR ME. But hey, I tried.

For a while I was feeling pretty down about missing a key part of my training, but I’m honestly glad it was a random injury and not a running-related injury. Matt assured me that it was probably for the best – a week off of running with TRULY resting (no cross training, no bike commuting, etc) will most likely help prevent overuse injuries throughout the next few weeks, and it really didn’t take away anything from my overall fitness level. My 18 miler didn’t feel any harder than it would have had I run 50 miles the week before. I’m ready to get back into it and crush some 50-60 mile weeks for the next few weeks!

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My first goal for these next few weeks is to start upping my hill game. My 100k has about 12,000 feet of elevation gain, so I’ve gotta work my way up to getting at least 7,000 feet in each week so my legs are ready for that kind of workout. So if you see me cruising along the Charles these next few weeks, slap me and tell me to go run Summit repeats or I’m gonna regret it by mile 5 of this race. My second goal is to crush my marathon PR at the Hyannis Marathon on February 26th. My 18 miler yesterday went really well – I averaged 9:00/miles. If I can hold onto a 9 minute mile for a marathon, I would not only PR by a full 30 minutes, I could break 4 hours. This is a lofty goal, but based on my past few weeks, I don’t think it’s out of reach. Fingers crossed!

 

Race Schedule and Goal Setting

I know I already wrote a year in review and set some goals, but my friend over at yogawordnerd put together an awesome race schedule post that got me thinking about my schedule and what I am looking to get out of 2017. As I enter my third year of ultra running, my focus is quickly shifting from simply finishing certain distances and races to wanting to improve my performance. Frankly, it is pretty intimidating. Until the past 3 months or so, I’ve never felt like a “fast kid”. But as I cross more finishes lines and finish more training runs I guess I am just getting faster. It’s weird, because I never set out to improve any sub-ultra PRs, but now I can’t get the notion of beating my past self out of my head. With that, comes the fear of missing goals and putting myself in painful situations. But I think  setting these goals in stone will go a long way in helping me achieve them.

Registered Races:

I’ve made it pretty clear to just about everybody, but my goal for Hyannis is to run a Boston Qualifier. It is going to hurt like hell. Honestly, I never thought it would be something I could do until I ran the Cambridge Half this November, but with my finish being just under 1:24 at that race, I think it is within reach. I wish my training had been going a bit more consistently up until now, but training in the middle of winter is tough. Let’s hope I can put the pieces together before the end of February because I really don’t want to have to try again.

At Seven Sisters, I just want to run sub 2:30. Last year it was pretty damn slick, so I think if it is dry this year it is definitely happening. This race is really like nothing else I have run in the northeast and cannot recommend it enough!

At the Endurance Challenge, I really want to just give a solid 50-mile performance. They haven’t released detailed course information yet, so I don’t know what exactly I will be shooting for. Really, I just want it to go better than Bear Mountain did. I thought that race was going to be my personal breakout performance where I put all the pieces of the ultra puzzle together, but it just didn’t happen. Let’s hope I can represent NP (and maybe some of the tribe will wander out on the course to give some much needed support).

Millinocket is happening because who doesn’t want to run a free race in Northern Maine?

The Big Question

As for races that I haven’t registered for that I plan on running, I still need to drop a 100 miler on my schedule. It is really coming down to Run Rabbit Run or The Bear. Both races are pretty similar in terms of terrain to Grindstone, so I would really like to take what I learned there and put together a sub-24 hour performance on a gnarly course. My main reason for holding out on registering for one or the other is I am hoping The North Face announces that their ECS Utah race will be on the same weekend as The Bear. It would be much easier to get a crew out to Utah if I had a race they could run to bribe them with. Last year, the races fell on the same weekend so fingers-crossed.

 

Marine Corps Marathon Race Report (October 25, 2015)

I ran the 40th Marine Corps Marathon last weekend, and boy was it an amazing experience! I’m glad that I not only had a successful race in terms of time, but I felt pretty good almost the entire race. It was an incredible race, all the way from the (painfully long) security line to the celebration at the finish.

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Mile 4ish. Don’t mind Matt’s finger in the corner.

On race day, I woke up way too early, because I’m overly paranoid about oversleeping ever since Matt overslept for his first half and had to run to the start to make it on time! I fiddled nervously with the coffee maker in our hotel (why the hell are the individual-sized coffee bags so giant at Westin hotels?! I had to read the instructions like 5 times before I was confident I was doing it right) and went down to the Starbucks to grab a banana and croissant. When I was heading to Starbucks, I saw a ton of runners heading to the race already and thus commenced my mini-panick attack. Matt was still asleep and I hadn’t eaten and I WAS GONNA BE LATE AND MISS THE WHOLE RACE OMG THIS IS MY WORST NIGHTMARE!

Then Matt woke up and I felt better. He would know when I should leave – he’s done enough marathons to know the drill. Turns out, there was a HUGE line for security so I’m lucky we left when we did and that I didn’t bring a bag to the race – a lot of runners actually missed the start! I know races ALWAYS say to get there like 2 hours early, but come on man. That’s my one complaint about the race – I wish they had made it extremely clear that security was going to take a long time so getting there early was actually important. There’s nothing worse than getting to a race 2 hours early to stand around freezing in the rain for no reason, but I don’t mind standing around freezing if it’s for a good reason!

I met a few amazing people while being herded in to the security area. It always amazes me how many genuinely kind people are into running marathons. I met a woman who had just had surgery on her wrist not 4 days before (totally insane – hope she finished and her hand didn’t fall off…) and a man who hadn’t run a marathon for 12 years giving it another go. His advice to a young runner? Don’t stop running, or you’ll regret it. I didn’t have the heart to tell him how my body was practically falling apart so I should probably take some time off after this race!

Once the race started, I was pumped up and ready to go. I was in the zone – my mind was  empty and I was just enjoying the rain on my face and focusing only on looking for Matt in the crowd. The beginning was the hillier part of the race, but I was thankful for that. I was excited, adrenaline was pumping, and I was focusing on keeping my pace steady despite the hills. With my knee injury, I knew that if I eased up in the beginning I would regret it later if it started acting up. Of course it’s not the smartest idea to go into a race pushing a bit more than I wanted to, but after my knee hurt during the B.A.A Half, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy by the end of this marathon. I’ve never been more grateful I made that decision, and I was 100% right in my prediction of the end of the race being painful.

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Blowing kisses to my amazing crew/spectator!

Matt was the world’s best spectator and crew. He probably ran a half marathon trying to run around DC to snap pictures of me and cheer me on. The look on his face every time we finally saw each other was pure joy. I’ve never been so proud of myself or happy to have such an amazing guy as my support system and best friend. Yeah, that was mushy gushy – don’t care, get over it! The first half went extremely well, given that it was rainy and I was terribly worried I was underprepared.

Around mile 14, I started having a hard time breathing. Not so much that my breathing was laborer like when you run too fast, but like my chest was just restricting and my lungs just couldn’t fill up. This wasn’t a new sensation for me, but usually it happens at the end of a race when I’m overwhelmed with emotions. Maybe I was just overwhelmed – it was a huge crowd and there were so many runners, maybe it was just overwhelming how excited I was to be there. Nevertheless, I was having a hard time breathing, so I popped my headphones in and tried to focus on Tame Impala’s badass new album, Currents (yes, the same album that got me through the last few miles of my 50k. Damn you Kevin Parker for making the world’s best album) and took deep breaths.

I had some twinges in my knee right around then, so I took some Advil to stay on top of it. I pushed through it and tried to focus on the good – I was only a few miles away from where I hit the wall at Vermont so I had to focus on getting enough food and water in to avoid nutritional problems. At mile 19, I was so looking forward to seeing the November Project group and getting a much needed pick-me-up. I was not disappointed! Those NPers sure do know how to cheer! I was feeling good and ready to push through those last 6 miles.

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So much happiness.

By the time I got to the bridge (around mile 23,) I was tired and my knee was really starting to hurt. I knew I only had 5k to go, but that might as well have been another marathon. This was definitely the wall, but to be honest it was less “hitting” the wall and more like “gently bumping into” the wall. I wasn’t nearly as defeated as I had been at Vermont (which made sense since I had been in a boot for the month leading up to Vermont) and I focused on that positive thought to get me through the rest of the race. I walked for a minute or two, and searched desperately for some water to take some more Advil. I found a little spot handing out some cups and was so excited. Turns out, it was beer! So I chugged that Dixie cup full of beer, along with my Advil, and I’ll be damned if that wasn’t exactly what I needed.

The last mile of the marathon felt like the longest mile of my life. My knee was really hurting and it took all my energy to focus on just running – the quicker I ran, the quicker I would be done torturing myself. Matt saw me right before the end and was not impressed with my face – all the other times I saw him I was smiling and positive, but I saw a giant hill leading up to the finish and thought I was going to need someone to roll me up it. I ended up walking up that last hill, because hills were especially painful for my knee. I saw the end and pushed myself to run it in and was so proud of myself. My watch had been a little wonky for a few miles in the middle, so I had no idea how my splits were, but I focused on simply being proud of myself for finishing and for setting a new PR of 4:24:16 despite my injuries during my training!

The day after, I checked my splits on the website and I was absolutely blown away. I kept it extremely consistent despite my watch and knee problems, and only slowed down at the end (which was obviously going to happen, since it was only my second marathon and I was injured).

I can’t wait to give it another go someday, when my body has recovered. My left knee is still very, very sore (and it doesn’t help I’m losing a toenail on my right foot!) so for now my focus is going to be recovery, strengthening, and possibly working with a running coach to figure out what is going on with my form/training plans to cause so many issues. It’s amazing that since May I have now run 2 marathons, 1 ultra marathon, and an ultra Ragnar relay as well. I’ve got a lot to be proud of from this running season, and I’m excited to see what happens in the summer when I can hopefully be comfortable enough with my training and recovery to race again! The goal? 4:15:00 marathon.

In the meantime, I promise to write more blog posts despite the lack of races. We also apologize for falling off the blogosphere for a while – things have been quite busy in the GrandElam household! Lots of traveling, lots of late nights at work for Matt, and I’ve been transitioning to a new job. We are also on the hunt for a furry running buddy to join our family, so be ready for our blog to have a disgusting amount of puppy pictures in the next few months once we meet the perfect pup!

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That time I made Matt ask the bartender for a baggie of ice.

Strava:
https://www.strava.com/activities/420748277

Gear:
Garmin Forerunner 620
Ciele GoCap
Balega Socks
New Balance Vazee Pace

Vermont City Marathon – May 24, 2015

Vermont City Marathon
View from Mt. Mansfield

I finally ran my first marathon in May of 2015. I’d love to say this was a great first marathon experience and that I totally rocked it, but I won’t lie to you. Like a lot of firsts, it was sloppy, painful, and I probably wasn’t ready.

My training for the Vermont City Marathon began in winter, Vermont City Marathonwhich I didn’t think would be too challenging since I’m from Syracuse, one of the snowiest cities in America. But Mother Nature decided that Boston was going to pay for all its sins, like Boston’s love affair with Dunkin Donuts and their horrible driving skills. This winter dropped storm after storm on Boston, and I don’t think a single runner I know got in all their training runs. I had a difficult time getting the mileage in even with a treadmill in the building because, well, have you ever tried to run 10 miles on a treadmill? Physically it feels like 10 miles, but mentally it felt worse than the actual marathon

After a rough winter, spring made everyone extra twitterpated. Everyone and their brother was out running again, and I definitely ramped up too quickly to try to make up the miles I missed all winter. I ended up injuring myself – it became difficult to lift my foot/toes, and walking became extremely painful. After a physical therapy visit, doctor visit, and a CT scan, I was diagnosed with a high grade shin splint as well as tendinitis in the tendon running from the front of my ankle up my leg. I was put in a boot at the end of April, and wore it until the week before the marathon.
The injury first presented at the beginning of April, so I ended up taking it easy for 3 weeks in April, was stuck in the boot for 4 weeks, and ended up having a week of running before the marathon. Needless to say, I didn’t expect it to go well. While I was in the boot, I continued with cardio training by biking and using the elliptical as much as possible. I was advised by my physical therapist it wouldn’t be the best idea to run the race, but I’m stubborn and had worked so extremely hard after undergoing knee surgery the year before. I wasn’t about to give up this dream I had worked towards for so long, so I decided if I had any pain in my tendon I would drop during the race. At least then I could say I tried!

Yoga
Cross training while in the boot

The few days leading up to the marathon I kept doubting my decision, but I’m glad I ended up sticking with it. The course was so beautiful and the weather ended up being nearly perfect (for my standards) most of the morning. The day started out with clear skies, got a little
sprinkly around mile 8, then was very sunny and very hot for the last part of the course.

The first few miles of the race were wonderful, besides an annoying side stitch that lasted through mile 9. I was keeping pace, feeling good, and getting plenty of water and Gu. Matt was my pacer, and he helped keep my spirits up and let me know where all the hills were since he had done the race the previous year. I had pretty solid 9:30-9:45 minute miles for the first 18 miles, and then had some nausea hit me. I had never had tummy troubles on a run, and hadn’t changed anything about my running routine that day, so I was extremely disheartened by my tummy problems. I’m sure taking a month off of running didn’t do my body any favors, but I powered through it.

Vermont City Marathon
At the finish – so happy to be done.

Around mile 20, I not only hit the wall, but my leg started hurting again from my tendinitis. I was devastated and so conflicted about what to do. I was already 20 miles in – what was another 6, really? I alternated between walking and running, and changed my mind about continuing about a billion times. I had told myself if my leg hurt, I wouldn’t run through it, but I was already so far that I couldn’t stand the idea of not finishing. I powered through, unhappily, to the end of the race. The last few miles I was limping and barely making it through, but a magical woman offered me some fresh watermelon and it helped lift my spirits. The last mile, there was a young woman also struggling to run, so she introduced herself and asked if she could run with us to the end. As they say, misery loves company, and we were both pretty miserable.
I finished the race as strong as I could, barely breathing towards the end since I was completely overcome with so many emotions about finally finishing my first marathon. I went up to my dad and dog who were waiting for us to finish, gave them a big hug, and laid down on the ground ready to never move again. I ended up feeling absolutely horrible about 10 minutes later, with some more nausea and obviously exhaustion. I hadn’t been able to eat much for the last third of the marathon, so I was running on E and my body needed nourishment to recover. Once I got some Gatorade, water, and a banana in me, I felt like a million bucks. I got right back into the boot to prevent any more stress on my tendon, and took plenty of time off to recover and let my leg rest.

Overall, the marathon was a wonderful experience. My mom, who has rheumatoid arthritis, even ran it! It was her second marathon. So, she’s cooler than your mom. We had lots of ice cream and beer to help recover, and it was a lovely long weekend with all my favorite people. Despite what I said during the entire last 6 miles, I can’t wait to do my next marathon!

Vermont City Marathon
Me and mom celebrating our race!

Strava:
https://www.strava.com/activities/312166907

Gear:
New Balance 890v4
Garmin Forerunner 620
Ciele GoCap
Balega Socks