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Miles in Mizuno WAVEKNIT R2s

Post marathon time for me means less mileage and time to reset. I take a look at what worked and what new things I want to try. Usually, trying new shoes is something I’m most excited about.

What I’m running in right now: the new Mizuno WAVEKNIT R2.

Mizunos are new to me. It’s my first time running in the brand, but I’m excited to share what I think of this pair.

Here’s what they look like:

Cute, right? I was really happy when I opened the box. I haven’t had a black pair of running shoes in a long time and I love how easily they match with everything. They’re knit, so they’re breathable. I slipped them on and noticed how comfortable they were immediately.

I’ve been walking in these guys a lot lately too, in addition to running. I wear running clothes a lot of the time, so I’m happy these shoes go well with my outfits and offer my feet the support they need. No shame in my walk to work running shoe game. I always told my Dad I’d never become that woman, but here I am. Comfort over everything most days. And then if I want to run home? I’m ready! I’ve been doing that more and more lately and I like being ready to go at any time.

So let’s talk motion. Mizuno is focusing on “Fit In Motion” with these. Meaning they know your foot changes shape when pounding the pavement and they want these shoes to be comfortable at all times. The shoes almost feel like socks because of how easily they slide on and how snug they are on my feet. There’s plenty of support, but they’re also light and responsive. When my feet swell a bit after some miles, the shoe responds. They don’t feel too tight or restrictive.

I like trying new things, but they don’t always work out. This new pair of shoes was a nice surprise. I’ve got a lot of miles to put in on these and I’m excited for where they’ll take me.

Race Recaps

Chicago Marathon 2018 Recap

It’s no secret I love the Chicago Marathon. This race day always ends up being a good race day for me. The city lights up, crowd support is incredible, and I get to see so many of my supportive friends and family members. It feels like a holiday. It’s one of my most favorite days to be a runner and a Chicago resident. And this year did not disappoint.

October, 7 2018 – my fourth Chicago Marathon and my ninth marathon. Regardless of how I was going to perform that day, I was excited to get to run the streets again. I went into this knowing it would be my last Chicago for awhile and I wanted to make the most of it. But that does not mean I was not nervous. I’m always nervous. Marathons are hard!! No matter how many you have run or how fast you run them, they are always hard. That’s kind of the point, isn’t it? We don’t run marathons because they’re easy. I love that even though I am getting faster, stronger and smarter when it comes to marathon training, I still feel those start line nerves. I know there will be miles that hurt. I know I will have to be mentally tough. But I get excited to push myself and see how it will go. But let’s talk about this start line.

I “woke up” at 4:50 a.m. on Sunday morning after tossing and turning all night. I never sleep well the night before a big race. I expect it, which is why I try to get really good sleep the few nights leading up to the night before.  I got dressed, drank some water and ate my peanut butter banana toast. I had been a nervous wreck the day before, but race morning I am usually okay. I was ready. I got on the Brown Line with Kyle and headed downtown.

Getting into the start corral was a little crazy. It seemed much more crowded to me in my corral than previous years. I was trying to find Megan and Steph, but it was pretty difficult. After searching for a bit I just put my phone on airplane mode and accepted the fact that this race was going to be entirely on my own. No one I knew directly next to me, no headphones or music in my ears. I was going to just let the support of the strangers running next to me and the spectators on the sidelines carry me through. Someone sang the national anthem. I shed my usual few pre-race tears. And I was ready. I told myself my time did not matter today, but it mattered that I had fun. My goal was to start out at a sustainable, fast pace and see if I could hold it. If I couldn’t, I couldn’t. And with having been sick for the past week and a half and still having difficulty taking a full deep breath, I wasn’t expecting myself to be able to hold it.

But I started.

The first few miles of Chicago are always chaotic. Your GPS will go crazy, it’s crowded, and you have to bob around people. I had to do a lot of weaving this year, which was a little frustrating, but I tried not to waste too much energy on it early on. I went out at 7:55 pace and felt pretty good. My watch beeped to tell me I had run a 5:22 first mile, which was obviously incorrect, but this is why it is SO important to practice your race pace in training. You have to know how it feels. Being too reliant on watches and pace numbers is not a good thing. You have them in training to help teach your body how to feel the pace – and luckily I had this down.

At mile 2.50 I saw my parents. They’re my biggest fans and have not missed a Chicago Marathon of mine. I really can’t say how much their support means to me. Seeing them on the course lights me up. And it helped that they were easy to spot since my Mom always makes cute signs for me.

Around mile 5 I saw Cait, Jenny, Arielle and Kyle. They were going nuts and it made me so happy to see them. I had a little bit of negative self talk happening mile 4-5 about being able to hold my pace for 26.2 miles, but when I saw them I knew I had to try. These women (and Kyle) have helped shape me into the runner I am. We’ve all crushed marathon courses together and even though they weren’t running next to me today, seeing them reminded me how strong we all are and I knew I was going to try to make them proud.

I was feeling pretty good by mile 10. It takes me awhile to find my groove, but 10 was groovy. I loved the course change this year and getting to run farther north early on so that by the time I hit Old Town I was already around mile 11. I saw my crew again even though I wasn’t expecting them there and this started my favorite part of the course. Running down Wells brings tears to my eyes. I think about the hundreds of times I’d run down it to go to a speed workout. All the late night and early morning runs that had gotten me to this point. I think it’s really important to reflect while you’re running a marathon. It is no one day or one week that gets you here. It is months, even years of hard work. Celebrate it.

I saw my parents again after the half marathon mark. I shouted to my Dad, “It’s okay – I feel really good!” And he laughed. He was really worried about me running today after having trouble breathing all week, so I wanted him to know I was okay. I would not have pushed it if my breathing was truly labored while I was running. Thankfully, it wasn’t. And I had run the first 13.1 miles in 1:41:12, right on pace for a PR.

I told myself now was the time to relax. I was running around 7:45 pace comfortably and I didn’t want to get ahead of myself. I was gaining energy from the crowd and having fun. Truly. Running marathons are fun for me. I smile so big from the signs, the cheers, the bands, everything. Miles 14-18 are when I really try to enjoy the experience.

When I get to 18 I tell myself the real work starts. So, I pushed the pace. I dropped down to 7:35 and felt pretty good. I was kind of worried I wouldn’t be able to keep it up until 26 though, so around 20 I pulled back a bit. I was still feeling good and was confident I was going to have a strong finish, but I also wanted to conserve as much energy as I could so I would have a final surge.

At mile 21, my legs started feeling tired. That’s totally normal, but I told myself I had to just “hangout” where I was. Just “jog” at 7:45-7:50 pace and I’d get to the finish. As if that’s a jog, but I was trying to convince myself in the moment that it was. Then, I ran into Amanda.

Amanda, (@blackbeanqueen), was running next to me and said, “hey you look familiar.” We follow each other on Instagram, but had never met in real life. Funny how things work out. She was hurting too and we weren’t talking much, but we said we’d stick together for the next few miles. I so appreciated the company. We knew we were hurting, but we were still cruising and it was nice to have the extra little bit of support. We stuck together for about 3 miles and I’m really grateful for that. I started picking it up a bit and she was all about me going ahead, so I went with it. The last 2.50 miles were going to be on my own.

I tried to push my legs a little bit faster and the turnover just didn’t feel like it was there. I wasn’t slowing my pace, but I wasn’t really picking it up either. For a minute at 24 I had the thought, “do I really care if I PR? I could slow down to 9 minute pace and feel way better.” I went back forth for about a minute. The temptation to relax and slow down was there. But I don’t give up easily. It was a silly thought. I literally said to myself out loud, “Dale, you can do this. You’re going to PR.” And that was that. I was going for it. I wasn’t really looking at my watch, but I knew I had to just hold my pace and I would do it.

I had a few other strangers shout “Go Marathoner Dale!” as I ran by, which I loved. The support from you all means so much to me, especially out on a race course. And as I got to mile 25 I saw Jenny and crew again and waved. I yelled, “I’ve got this!” and was 100% confident I did.

That last mile is LONG. It feels like the longest part of the course. You’re tired. You’re ready to be done. But the energy is unreal. I kept telling myself to just put one foot in front of the other. One step at at time.

800 meter mark. This sign always gives me chills. It’s just an 800. One 800 meter rep from a speed workout. I reminded myself I had run my 800s this training cycle at a 3:11 average and one was a piece of cake. (Not ever a piece of cake, but I told myself that anyways and forced a smile).

400 meter mark. SO CLOSE. And this is where you have the little baby hill that worries people. Chicago is as flat as a pancake, so at this point of the race this hill does feel like a hill. But I love hills and I was ready for it. I surged ahead, passed people, and knew that finish line was mine when I turned the corner.

The final sprint. I have no idea how fast I was moving, but it felt FAST. I was giving it all I had until I crossed.

I stepped across that finish line at 3:22:58. A 3+ minute PR and I was elated.

It’s hard for me to even describe the feeling of a marathon finish line, especially when you PR, but it beats most things. I LOVE it. I’m exhausted, but proud of myself. And I love to just take a minute to stand there and take it in before reuniting with my people. Ran into my coach just past the finish line too and he said, “How’d that feel?” Good. Damn good.

The slow walk over to Grant Park feels like miles, but I always enjoy it. Everyone is shuffling along and smiling so big. When I get to the family meet up area I always get hugs, some tears, and high fives. I have such supportive people in my life and I don’t take that for granted. They make this day even better for me.

The Chicago Marathon is a world class marathon. It is well run, well spectated, and FUN. It’s a holiday to me. I gave it all I had this year and it was a better day than I imagined. A little faith in yourself and a lot of hard work goes a long way.

But no matter the outcome, I am grateful for the marathon. It’s an accomplishment that makes you work for it every time and I just keep coming back.

Here’s to the next.

Training Recap

A good training cycle?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a “good training cycle” lately. I am one week out from the Chicago Marathon. It will be my 4th Chicago Marathon and my 9th full marathon. I have done the training thing a little differently each time and I have learned a lot along the way. Do I feel like this time around was a good one? Yes. I think so.

(Photo: Aaron Ross Stories)

I got a late start to marathon training this time. I usually like to train for 17-18 weeks, but I needed an extra long recovery period after the Boston Marathon, so I didn’t actually start training for Chicago until the second weekend of July. To be honest, feeling behind wasn’t great for me mentally. My first few weeks of training felt awkward, difficult and not very fun. I even thought about withdrawing from the marathon. I don’t like to do things unless I give them my all. That is true for just about everything in my life, but especially marathons. I know it isn’t smart to go into a marathon under trained or feeling unhealthy, so I sat with this decision for a bit. But after a few weeks of slogging it out I started to feel like myself again. Runs started feeling easier and I had some speed back in my legs. So, I decided I was going to run this marathon after all and I was going to give it my all for the next 10 weeks.

The heat was pretty brutal this summer. And I won’t sit here and say that every single run I had from August on was amazing – it wasn’t. But I committed. I got out there when I didn’t want to, I struggled through some tough runs, and I got stronger. My peak week this time was lower mileage than my Boston training cycle. I cut a few tempo runs short. And my monthly mileage totals were a little lower than what I usually do, but I felt good. I felt like I was putting in solid work. I was running injury free and I was happy with my return to the grind.

So, this all got me thinking. What makes a good training cycle? Is it hitting 50+ miles a week? Is it running injury free? Is it not skipping any runs? Is it feeling consistently mentally strong? This answer depends on the person. I’d love to hear what you think. But I wanted to decide if for me, this training cycle was a “good one.”

Despite the late start and the first few weeks of struggle, here was my “good”:

  • I logged a long run every weekend.
  • I shuffled around my schedule to make my training work with my life.
  • I had two of the strongest speed workouts I’ve ever had.
  • I avoided over training.
  • I made it to yoga once a week.
  • I strength trained 1-2x a week.
  • I used running time as friend time when I could.
  • I reminded myself why I love marathon training.

So to me, this was a good training cycle. It wasn’t perfect by any means and I think on paper my Boston training cycle was a little stronger. But I felt good throughout these past couple of months and I am proud of myself for getting back into this sport I love. I juggled some life changes, I kept up my social life, I had a fun summer and I still logged important, happy, fast, slow and therapeutic miles.

I actually think the way I treated my training this time around was the healthiest yet. I worked hard, but I didn’t let it stress me out. I ran because I wanted to run. And I wasn’t taking my ability to train for granted. I logged my easy runs easier than ever and I ran my fast reps faster than ever. I recovered well. I took my nutrition seriously. And I can say tonight that I am truly looking forward to toeing the start line of my 9th marathon next Sunday.

I love the marathon distance. I love that you can’t cheat it. It’s always hard, you’ll have to believe in yourself to get to the finish, but you’ll also see your true strength. Am I going to PR again on Sunday? I don’t know. Am I going to enjoy every step? Yes. I love the Chicago Marathon so much and I am feeling grateful for the chance to run again. I’ll do what I always do – I’ll run the first half with my head and the second half with my heart. No matter what the time on the clock says, I will be proud of another marathon training cycle conquered and another marathon finish line crossed.

Race Recaps

The Boston Marathon Recap: 4.16.18

On April 16th, 2018 I ran my first Boston Marathon.

I knew the day would be epic, but I didn’t anticipate just how historic it would be. When you work to get somewhere for years, you can’t let anything stop you from living out the dream and crossing the finish line. Standing in the start corral with my poncho and pink dish gloves in the pouring rain I felt fearless and unstoppable. That’s the energy I knew I needed to get me through 26.2 brutal miles and I was ready. But let’s back up.

Flying into Boston on Friday I felt like a celebrity. I saved my Boston jacket for that morning before heading to the airport. It hung in my closet for months, but I didn’t so much as try it on. I wanted that moment of feeling done with training and rewarding myself for all my hard work when I got to the airport to head to Boston. Putting it on at 3:15 AM before heading to Ohare made the ridiculously early wake up a little easier. It felt good. I was proud. It was something I had worked toward for years. I couldn’t get the smile off my face. People were probably like “why is this girl so happy at 4am??” But I was. Getting to my gate and seeing multiple other people in their jackets made me feel like we were all in some really cool club. Boarding the plane came with congrats from the flight attendants and a few other passengers. It’s like people knew how much this meant to me. I could barely sit still the whole flight as my body buzzed with excitement.

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Saturday was the day I picked up my bib. Jenny and I met up once she landed and headed straight to the Expo. It was overwhelming sure, as most expos are, but I felt like everyone was in the best mood. I smiled at everyone. I didn’t mind the crowd. We paused for photo opps and made the most of it. 15350 was the number – it was mine. This was happening. I kept feeling like I had to pinch myself.

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Sunday was fun day (I mean the whole trip was), but this day was all about trying to remain calm. We went on one last shakeout run and it was almost as great of a run as the marathon itself because we ran right into MEB! We were right next to the finish line and he was walking past to take a picture at the memorial from the 2013 bombings. We stopped running and he waved us over to join him for the picture. After we took the picture he pulled us all in with his arms around us and gave us some advice I’ll never forget. He said we were running for those who can’t, the people we lost at the 2013 Boston Marathon, and for ourselves to celebrate our ability to move. We just had to focus on being grateful to be out there and we’d have an amazing race. He said the marathon is always hard, but be grateful for the hard. It was one of those moments where I felt myself hanging on every word trying to imprint it in my brain forever. I couldn’t believe this happened on a little 2.50 mile shakeout run, but it felt like fate. Thanks Meb.  I carried your words with me that next day and always will.

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Sunday night after the Red Sox game and dinner with my Boston 365 team I was feeling pretty calm. Kyle went to stay with my family, but I stayed with Steph and Melissa. Jenny hung out with us for awhile – we talked game plan, wake up time, logistics, etc. We knew the weather was going to be horrendous. It was a high of 40 degrees, 40 mph winds, and constant rain. We were ready. We had our ponchos laid out and Jenny had a brilliant idea to go out and buy us dish gloves. She came back with 4 pairs of hot pink rubber gloves that went up to our elbows. I’m not kidding. And these gloves would end of being my life saver. After Jenny left and we were trying to relax/get tired I did get pretty anxious. As excited as I was, I was nervous. It was the Boston freakin’ Marathon after all. I wasn’t all that worried about the weather, but I was afraid the course itself was going to be brutal. I got in my head a little bit, but Melissa and Steph decided to sing musical soundtracks and all was right with the world. I can’t even say how glad I am that I had them to share my first Boston experience with. We talked for awhile and had trouble falling asleep, but it was almost time.

5.15am: alarm goes off.

Despite my panic over not waking up for my alarm, I was wide awake. I didn’t even feel like I slept, but I knew that would be the case. I got up, brushed my teeth, got dressed, grabbed my peanut butter toast and went downstairs to meet Jenny. We were lucky enough to have a meeting place in our hotel for our team and a bus was coming to pick us up right outside the front door.

6:30am: we boarded the buses.

We were able to walk right from the hotel covered circle drive onto our bus. Have I mentioned how amazing the Boston 365 program is? They spoiled us. I was surprisingly calm knowing I was still dry and would be for awhile. It took about an hour to get out to Hopkinton. We parked in a lot just a short walk from the athletes village where we’d stay for the next hour and a half or so. Once we stopped moving, my nerves heightened, but I was thankful to have so many calm, experienced runners around me. We all knew this was going to be rough, but everyone was in good spirits. And maybe the best thing about the bus? The bathroom on board. I could nervous pee as many times as I wanted without having to wait in a line in the rain – game changer. Jenny and I waited as long as we thought we should and then made our way to the outside world. We were excited, but there’s only so long you can sit still and watch people walk past outside the window in the pouring rain and crazy wind. We were ready to just get out there.

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~9:45am: getting to the start line.

This part is a blur. The rain was coming down and even though we didn’t have to go far, we weren’t confident in what was happening. We got to the athlete village and found a van to stand behind with our feet under the bumper for another 15-20 minutes before they called our corral. Once they called us, we went over to the influx of people and stood and waited looking for Steph and Melissa. We probably stood there for another 10 minutes, but didn’t see them and felt like we were running out of time. So, we went to the start. Turns out we were at a dead stop for too long because people weren’t walking through the bathroom lines. There was no real way to know what was happening, so we waited as patiently as we could. But once we got up to a volunteer and said, “we’re wave 2 corral 8” and she said, “oh they all already left” – we panicked. So, we started running. We didn’t want to miss the start time of our first Boston Marathon. You know those stress dreams where you wake up late and find yourself sprinting a few miles to the start line (no just me??), well that’s what this felt like. We were RUNNING. We honestly probably ran close to a mile before we got to the start. And we didn’t even stop when the start line was in sight. Jenny helped me rip off my poncho as we crossed over the timing mat and all of a sudden we were running the Boston Marathon.

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~10:30am: mile one.

I tried to take some deep breaths and realize what was happening. The start line was a cluster with this weather and it really didn’t feel real. I had to tell myself “this is really happening, I am running the Boston Marathon.” Jenny and I told each other again that we were calm and ready and we’d just stick together as long as we did: no plan. We were going to take this one mile at a time.

10:56am: 5K cross. (7:56 pace)

We were just cruising. We found a groove and we weren’t going to let this crazy weather stop us. To be honest, it was crowded. We found ourselves weaving a lot, but we were trying not to worry about it since there was nothing we could do. My biggest fear for this race was going out too fast. I DID NOT want to crash and burn. And I knew my energy would be up with this late in the day start time and all my anxiety around it. I’m proud of holding a 7:56 pace for the first 5K. It was fast, but not too fast or too slow. It was a perfect start.

12:14pm: half marathon cross. 1:42:52. (7:48 pace)

I’m skipping to the half way mark because the first half was pretty much a blur. The hardest part? Getting out fuel with soaking wet everything. At each water stop Jenny and I grabbed water and figured out where we’d attempt to take fuel. The first time – around mile 6-7 was the most difficult. We held each other’s rubber dish gloves while we were moving and got those little plastic packages open. It was tough.  But that doesn’t mean we weren’t having fun. At around mile 5 Jenny looked over at me and said, “Dale, we’re running the Boston Marathon.” At mile 7, I said, “this is 7 already?!” And each time we stepped over a time mat in lock step we said, “another text!” – thinking of our friends and family getting texts that we were still running together. It was great. I was so thankful for the company. We weren’t focusing on the toughness of it, but rather the epic-ness and I’m proud of us for that. We crossed the half way mark at 1:42:52 and Jenny looked at me and said, “Dale, I think you’re going to PR.” I laughed and said, “we will see” but we did pick up our pace a little and the idea was in my head. Could I? In these conditions??

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1:09pm: 20 miles. 2:38:00. (8:00 pace)

To our amazement, Jenny and I were still together at 20 miles. We weren’t looking at our watches or worrying about time, but just trying to take it all in. We’d look out for our spectators, grab water, repeat. The miles FLEW BY. My Garmin never read an 8+ minute mile, but I guess we did slow down a bit before mile 20. The hills started kicking in around mile 17. I didn’t even know where Heartbreak Hill was exactly, but I was bracing myself. We had practiced on the hills out in Barrington for so many Saturdays, we knew we were prepared for this. The first big hill seemed intimidating, but we got to the top after passing a lot of people and I thought to myself “wow that wasn’t bad at all.” I saw my family right after the first one and I couldn’t get the smile off my face after that. I felt worse for them standing out in this weather just to watch me than I did about running in it. They were troopers and I was SO happy to see them on the course.

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At some point in this set of miles a volunteer told me Des won. I’m not even sure which mile it was, but I was like “Really?! You’re serious?” I yelled. I was SO happy for her. I’d had that thought for a couple miles of the race picturing her breaking the tape knowing that in this brutal type of day she’d be a top contender. Hearing she had won while being out there was incredible. A huge thank you to that volunteer who told me. She must have known I would want to hear.

But back the to hills. We kept clicking them off one by one. And we kept weaving and passing people. It was such a confidence boost. Yes, the course was hard. And yes, the rain was coming down and the wind was wailing, but we were strong. We didn’t lose steam – we gained it. And that’s where Steph came in.

1:23pm: 35K. 2:51:37. (7:18 pace)

Peep that speed boost. I’ll call it the Steph/Des boost. So, right between mile 20 and 21 I heard someone calling my name. I shook it off at first feeling like I was hearing things (you know mile 20 brain), but I had the urge to turn around and check. Sure enough, it was Steph. She was yelling “Des won! Des won!” And she zoomed by. She was cruising. Jenny looked at me and said, “Should we go? I think I’m gonna go.” And I said go. I wasn’t ready to put it into high speed yet, but wanted her to go catch Steph. I held steady and kept them in sight. They were really only together for a minute and then Jenny kept going. I caught Steph and she said go catch Jenny. She was tuning with her headphones in and looked good, but I listened. I wanted to keep Jenny in my sights, so I picked it up. The pace really felt good. I was almost kicking myself for not picking it up sooner, but I had no idea what to expect with the hills. I didn’t want to lose all my energy by mile 21 after getting beaten down by hill after hill. The good news was I felt better than I had all race. And I told myself I was going to PR. I knew it.

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1:49pm: 25.2 miles. 3:18:19. (7:40 pace)

The rain came down harder. I laughed. I really was smiling ear to ear. I tucked in behind tall guys when I could to try and block some wind. I kept an eye out for my family again since they said they would be near mile 25. I saw them from far enough away and was able to run up to them for high fives. I felt good. Their smiles and cheers brought me to tears. I glanced down at my watch for the first time in a while and saw a 3:18 on the clock. The tears came harder. I knew I had a new personal best in me. I was on track and I was running the FREAKIN’ BOSTON MARATHON. It’s hard for me to even put this into words. I didn’t want to waste any energy on crying, but I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t believe how good I still felt and how close I was. I kept my head up, eyes up, feet moving. I wiped my tears (not that it mattered in this rain). And I tossed my rubber gloves to the side. I had less than a mile to go. I had to focus.

1:57pm: finish line. 3:26:08. (7:52 pace)

Right on Hereford. Left on Boylston. I was repeating these words to myself for the last half mile. I knew what was coming even though I had never run this course before. The crowd was huge. The people were screaming and smiling in their ponchos. I was smiling big. And I was cruising. One of my biggest goals for every race I run is to have enough energy left to haul it in once the finish line is in sight. And Boston was no exception. I used the energy from the crowd. I thought about my years of hard work to get here. I thought about the history that had come before me. I used it all to propel me forward and I ran my heart out. That final stretch was my favorite moment and a moment I will never forget. It was just me. At least that’s what it felt like. I was becoming a Boston Marathoner. I stepped across that finish line, smiling, feeling tired and teary eyed, but happy. I was a Boston Marathoner. And I had a run a personal best of 2+ minutes.

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6848 overall. 1378 gender. 1177 division.

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The tears really came now. I am sure I ugly sobbed. An Instagram friend caught up to me and said she saw my doughnut shoes zoom by her at the end and tried to catch me, but couldn’t. She was so sweet. We congratulated each other and split up. I kept walking and crying. A volunteer put my medal around me and another gave me a hug and said, “You freakin’ did it!!” I ran into Maddie from Instagram too. We took a finisher photo and walked out together. It was so nice to have a friend at that moment. It was like an out of body experience. We parted ways to head back and find our families. I almost made it back myself. My body felt pretty good, tired of course, but I wasn’t limping or anything. I just felt a little lost, so I called Kyle and he found me. We took an escalator down to my family and I cried again. I was so grateful they were all there to celebrate with me. I’d be nothing without my support system and it really meant the world to me to share this experience with them.

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I was proud. It was a blur, but an amazing blur. I took in as much as I could and I can honestly say I enjoyed every mile. I kept all negative thoughts out of my head. I never once told myself, “Wow this is miserable.” or “Ugh I don’t know how I will do this for 26.2 miles.” I stayed positive and that made me strong. I was grateful for all my tough training in harsh weather and my ability to focus on the good. Nothing could have stopped me from getting to that finish line. The PR was just icing. I learned just how tough I am that day. And the true power of positive thinking. When things get tough you can push through or bail out, those are your options. I pushed through. I had fun. I became a Boston Marathoner.

Boston, I love you. This race stole my heart, and I will be back to run it year after year for every year I am able. There’s nothing like it.

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Uncategorized

The Boston Dream

The Boston Dream: To Conquer the Original.

I decided I would one day run the Boston Marathon before I had ever run a marathon. I had run some half marathons and I knew I really enjoyed running, but the marathon was a distant dream for me. 26.2 miles? At a sub 8 minute pace? Crazy.

In August of 2014 I went to Boston for the first time as an anniversary trip and one morning I decided to lace up and run to the finish line. I stopped when I got there and kind of just stared at it. It’s weird to feel like paint on concrete is emotional, but I was overcome with emotion standing there. I stood for a few minutes, decided I was going to cross it for real one day, and jogged home. I bought a Boston Strong shirt and I wrote down in a notebook: “I am going to be a Boston Marathoner.”

I wrote it down, so I had to make it happen, right?

I ran my first full marathon in October of 2014. I didn’t train with a group, I didn’t do a lot of speed workouts, and I didn’t think a BQ would be attainable any time soon. When I said I would cross the Boston Marathon finish line some day, I meant it – but I didn’t say how long it would take. Who knew. I figured I might have to wait until I was in my 40s or 50s. I finished that first marathon with a 4:13:20. I was so proud. And I thought, I’m faster than that.

Fall of 2015: the trail marathon. I had what I would call my worst marathon in terms of how I felt. I was under fueling pretty consistently, I bonked, I cried, I in all honesty did not enjoy it. But I crossed the finish line in a 3:53:33. A 20 minute PR when I was feeling horrible. Part of me doubted that I could ever run faster than that, but the little Boston dream in my head made me want to try again.

Fall of 2016: I joined a running group. I started taking speed work and eating well seriously. I started eating to fuel my runs rather than eating for what I thought would make me look a certain way. I gave into my appetite. Because marathon training makes me HUNGRY. It should. And you should eat to fuel your goals. I still had a similar attitude throughout this training cycle as I had in the past. I didn’t know that I would have a stronger race, but I knew I wanted to enjoy it. I wanted to smile. I needed a new marathon experience where I felt good. And that’s what Chicago 2016 was for me. I ran strong. I had energy left for the last 6 miles. Arielle ran up to me at mile 24 and said, “Dale are you going to Boston?” I screamed in her face (and had to apologize profusely later), but it was kind of an out of body experience. Her words stuck with me for those last few miles and I thought, this is it. Yes. I am getting my BQ. I kicked it into high gear. I tapped into that dreamer in me who knew I was capable. I had a negative split. I flew for the last few miles. And I crossed that finish line with a 3:33:53 (yes flipped those exact numbers for another 20 minute PR)! The best part? I felt amazing and I was smiling. I had my first Boston qualifying time (sub 3:35 for my age group).

Now, the timing with Chicago Marathon means you can’t apply for Boston until the following fall. I was proud of my time, but I knew it would be hard to wait a year to apply and risk not actually getting in. I toyed with this decision for a long time, but I knew I had earned my spot at Boston 2018. I wanted it. So, I didn’t want to risk not getting in with my 3:33 since Boston takes the fastest people first if they have too many applicants.

After a shorter training cycle in the summer of 2017 I decided to race a last chance to BQ in Grand Rapids in September – the weekend before applications for Boston 2018 opened. This marathon is a flat loop course designed specifically for people trying to BQ. I think it’s mentally more difficult than a major marathon, but at least you can kind of zone out and just go round and round. I had an incredible support system there that day that helped me get to that finish line. I hurt at the end. I kept frantically checking my watch thinking I had lost my goal time. But I had Steph next to me for the entire race and she said, “Dale if you look at your damn watch one more time I’m taking it and throwing it.” So I stopped looking. Sometimes you have to ignore your brain and all your control freak tendencies and just have a little faith. We turned the corner and saw Arielle and Jenny jumping up and down screaming at me to run faster. They hopped in with about a tenth of a mile to go and we all crossed that finish line together in 3:30:54. I can’t even say how grateful I was for them that day. I needed the extra support. And I knew I had it. I was going to Boston 2018.

Sure, I still had to wait to apply and get confirmation of acceptance. And those days waiting for that email were filled with anxiety and doubt. What if everyone was even faster that year? What if I didn’t do enough? But I had to wait. I had done all I could. Years and years of work for a dream I carried with me every day came down to an email.

I was sitting in a meeting with my phone in my lap, when I saw the notification. I discreetly opened it under the table and saw it: “Congratulations! This is to notify you that your entry into the 122nd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 16, 2018 has been accepted.”

I had chills.

I teared up immediately and had to remain calm hoping no one noticed. I waited until the meeting was over, went back to my desk and did a happy dance. It was the best email I have ever received. I was going.

With the pressure off, I was still planning to run the Chicago Marathon a few weeks later for fun. I had no time goal since I’d already locked in my spot. But the beautiful thing? Running without pressure is amazing. I stuck with Cait the whole time and crossed that finish line with a 3:28:30. Another 2+ minute PR and a BQ for 2019. It was unreal.

For me, this training cycle has been all about staying healthy. I know not putting pressure on myself works for me. It’s easier said than done, but that is what I have been focusing on this winter. After all this work I didn’t want to do anything stupid and hurt myself before I got to the start line. I have an incredible team behind me who have helped me stay healthy and become a stronger version of myself. I have so many people supporting me and rooting for me who have made this journey all the more worth it.

I get to run the Boston Marathon one week from today. I could type that over and over and it still won’t feel real. I’m having “pinch me” moments every day. I know I earned this spot. I worked so hard to earn it. It wasn’t luck and it wasn’t a fluke. I consistently worked hard and dedicated myself to this dream for the past three and a half years because I knew I was capable. You have to believe in yourself because if you don’t, who else will? It starts with you. In 2014, little inexperienced half marathoner me had no real reason to believe she would qualify for Boston, but it was a dream I wanted to work toward.

So I did.

And at this time next week I will be a Boston Marathoner and that is pretty freaking cool.

Training Recap

Boston Marathon Training: Week Five to Week Twelve

I had every intention of blogging weekly for my Boston Marathon training cycle, but clearly it kind of fell to the bottom of my to-do list. There’s a lot to juggle with training and life. I kept my Believe Training Journal updated each week and shared some photos of it on Instagram, but I do want to play a bit of catch up with this blog post.

So, week five to week twelve. WOAH. I have to start by saying how quickly this training cycle has gone by. I really feel like I just started, but I think that’s a good thing. I had a freak out. I thought I was injured. I took a few days off. I shed a few tears. I got over myself. I chose to trust the process. Marathon training is SUCH a journey. One day you’ll feel like you’re doing everything right and the next you’ll feel like you can’t even run 10 miles – how the hell will you run 26.2 at your goal pace? It’s a struggle. Always is. But it’s a struggle I love and I just have to keep reminding myself of that.

I have been working with a coach for the first time this training cycle, so I never knew what my week would be like. I couldn’t look ahead from February to April and know what mileage I was running on April 2nd. To be honest, that scared me. I am a planner and I do not like not knowing what is coming in the upcoming weeks. I had to adjust and I’ll tell you – it was tough. But I’ve come to like the week by week thing. It’s refreshing and I haven’t been bored or felt like I was logging the same routes and same workouts week after week. The biggest change though? No 20 miler.

Yes, you read that right. I am three weeks away from the Boston Marathon and I have not run a 20 miler. Or an 18 miler. The farthest I have run at one time is 16.35 miles. This still freaks me out. I was always the girl running 2-3 20 milers in a training cycle and still not feeling like it was enough. I loved hitting 20 and mentally knowing I’d only have 6.2 more to go. And I’m still pretty freaked out. My weekly mileage has matched about what I was doing last year, but the long runs have been shorter or split into two days. My coach is a smart guy and I have chosen to trust him. My ‘A goal’ of this training cycle was really just to make it to the start line healthy and injury-free. Straining my Achilles last year devastated me and I knew I had to do whatever I could to prevent that from happening again, so here we are. I’m still not sure how I feel about it, but I know I have run a marathon before and I will be able to cover the 26.2 miles either way.

Here’s a look at what my weeks have looked like:

WEEK FIVE – 31.31 miles

A race week. I was excited to race a half marathon on Saturday even if it was only on five weeks of training. Mileage wasn’t high during the week in hopes my legs would be fresh. And it worked. I had a new half marathon personal record by over a minute and I felt so strong. It was such a great confidence boost.

  • Monday – 5.10 miles easy
  • Tuesday – 5.0 miles with 10 minute tempos + strength
  • Wednesday – 5.05 miles of speed work
  • Thursday – Hot yoga class
  • Friday – 3.10 miles easy
  • Saturday – 13.10 miles NEW PR 1:35:22 (7:17 pace)
  • Sunday – Rest day

WEEK SIX – 30.80 miles

Recovery week. I was on vacation for the first half of the week, so I was on my feet a lot, but I loved it. Hiking is one of my favorite ways to spend the day and I got in my runs too.

  • Monday – 4.60 miles easy + hiking
  • Tuesday – 5.70 mountain miles + hiking
  • Wednesday – 4.0 miles easy
  • Thursday – 45 minute cycling class
  • Friday – 6.25 miles easy
  • Saturday – 10.25 miles easy
  • Sunday – 75 minute yoga class

WEEK SEVEN – 29.93 miles

Another recovery week. I was pretty consistently building from the start of training, so these two weeks were a reset. I needed the extra recovery coming off my half marathon PR. I had a speed workout back this week and my first hilly long run out in Barrington!

  • Monday – 5.60 miles easy
  • Tuesday – Hot yoga class AM + strength
  • Wednesday – 6.48 miles of speedwork
  • Thursday – Hot yoga class AM + 45 minute cycling class PM
  • Friday – 6.85 miles easy
  • Saturday – 11.0 miles easy – first Barrington run (hills!)
  • Sunday – 75 minute yoga class

WEEK EIGHT – 49.82 miles

Woof. This week kicked my butt. It was a big jump and a tough week personally. I lost a family member this Tuesday after saying goodbye on Sunday. I didn’t realize how hard it was going to hit me. I moved my long run to Sunday since the services were on Saturday and I wanted the time with my family. I did get up and hit all my paces during my 14 miles on Sunday morning, but it was complete with a sobbing break down on one of the recoveries. I am proud of getting all this work in despite what I was dealing with. I thought I was tough and that I should be fine. In hindsight, I wish I had taken Friday-Sunday off. You learn as you go though. I’ve been fortunate not to have dealt with a lot of grief in my life, but when I do – it hits. I think I’ll have to be more upfront with myself in the future because my freak out in Week Ten was really due to me not dealing with things.

  • Monday – 10.06 miles of tempo
  • Tuesday – 4.71 miles easy + strength
  • Wednesday – 10.55 miles of speed work
  • Thursday – Hot yoga class AM + 45 minute cycling class PM
  • Friday – 10.50 miles easy
  • Saturday – Rest day
  • Sunday – 14 miles of tempo AM + 75 minute yoga class

WEEK NINE – 45.55 miles

I still followed my schedule as planned this week. I hit all my paces/mileage. I felt okay. Tuesday was a lot for me with the long run and strength double. I was just really tired. My long run felt good though. I love being out on those hills!

  • Monday – 6.10 miles easy
  • Tuesday – 10.68 miles easy AM + strength
  • Wednesday – 8.51 miles of speed work
  • Thursday – Hot yoga class AM + 45 minute cycling class PM
  • Friday –  5.01 miles easy
  • Saturday – 15.25 miles in Barrington (tempo)
  • Sunday – 75 minute yoga class

WEEK TEN – 21.03 miles

Whoops. This week was the freak out. It had been building and I was ignoring it. I was feeling a lot of pressure about not making it to the Boston Marathon start line. I was coming up on the anniversary of my Achilles strain. I was stressed. I was sad. And I broke. Monday night I struggled to run 1 mile and I ended my night crying in my chiropractor’s office. He told me my pains/feelings of injury were 90% mental. I didn’t really believe him at the time since I literally limped into his office fearing I did something to my Achilles again, but he told me to take a few days off anyways. And to go home and drink some wine and take deep breaths. So, I did. I ran on Thursday and felt perfectly fine. Friday my head won and I took another rest day, but I got it together for Saturday and ran 15 miles without pain. I knew I needed to just stop telling myself I wouldn’t make it to the start line. I wasn’t doing it intentionally, but that is what I was thinking. I needed Week Eleven and a fresh start.

  • Monday – 1.03 miles
  • Tuesday – Rest day
  • Wednesday – Rest day
  • Thursday – 5 miles + hot yoga class AM + 45 minute cycling class PM
  • Friday –  Rest day
  • Saturday – 15 miles easy in Barrington
  • Sunday – [solidcore] pilates reformer class

WEEK ELEVEN – 47.85 miles

A new week with a better mindset. I was ready. And I crushed all the miles I was supposed to run including my Yassos 800s test on Wednesday night. My predicted time after 10 800s was 3:18 (my fastest ever) so we will see. I finally felt like myself again and it was so refreshing. It was a good week.

  • Monday – Strength
  • Tuesday – 8 miles easy
  • Wednesday – 4 miles easy AM + 11 miles of speed work PM
  • Thursday – 45 minute cycling class AM + 4.50 miles easy PM
  • Friday – 4.01 miles easy
  • Saturday – 16.35 miles easy
  • Sunday – 75 minute yoga class

WEEK TWELVE – 36.36 miles

This past week was a recovery week and a check in. I felt solid. I took things one day at a time. And I was prepping for a little racing on Sunday at the Shamrock Shuffle. I didn’t think my coach would want me to race on Sunday coming off the long run, but he told me to go for it – so I did. And I wanted to beat Kyle. I finished with a 7:06 average pace and was really happy with it. I’m in the mood to try racing shorter distances not in the midst of marathon training and the day after a long run, but I’m going to save that for later this year. Still felt good to get some speed in my legs!

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – Hot yoga class AM + 5 miles easy PM
  • Wednesday – 8.57 miles of speed work
  • Thursday – Hot yoga class AM + 45 minute cycling class + strength
  • Friday – 6.75 miles easy
  • Saturday – 11.04 miles easy in Barrington
  • Sunday – Shamrock Shuffle 8K 35:19 (7:06 pace) + 75 minute yoga class

Phew. Eight weeks of work filled with lots of emotions. I am an emotional person and I often find myself trying to suppress or ignore that part of me, but it always comes back to bite me. I have teared up on probably a quarter of my runs. I visualize that finish line and I feel this ‘swell’ that is hard to describe. I’m embracing it because it makes me who I am. I can bet you I will be crying across that finish line, but I’m okay with it. I’ll smile too, promise. Boston is emotional for me. It’s cool to see something you’ve worked at for years finally start seeming within reach, but it’s also scary. It comes down to one day. But no matter how I perform on April 16th, I am SO proud of the work I have put in up to this point. From marathon number one to number seven – I learned a lot along the way and I never lost my determined attitude. I knew I would make it to Boston. And I did. I’m going. I get on my plane in 18 days. AND I CANNOT WAIT.

Training Recap

Boston Marathon Training: Week Four

And just like that we’re one month in. Already?! These weeks flew by which is pretty rare for January. I think I was much smarter this January than I was in January 2017. I ran easy more often, didn’t add in too much extra cross training, was intentional about my workouts, and will actually end up having higher mileage even though it doesn’t feel like it.

One of the reasons I love marathon training so much is because it is always a learning process. No training cycle is the same and I take what I learned the last time into the new months ahead. Plus, I’m really liking working with a coach for the first time. It helps me mentally to take the guess work out.

Here’s what week four looked like!

January 22nd-28th: 37.55 miles

Monday is the easy shakeout day. I used to have tempo runs on Monday and liked it, but it felt like a lot for the first run back from a long run. I’m really enjoying just having a relaxed run instead. I usually keep it slower than 8:45 pace and just shakeout my legs. This particular Monday it was five miles on the treadmill.

Tuesday was a double day. I was honestly not looking forward to it, just because it intimidates me. Once I get moving I’m fine, but I have to get there. An hour incline treadmill workout (6.45 miles) followed by an hour of strength training is a lot. Especially when my incline pushes were at 7:36 pace. But I took the treadmill one minute at a time while watching an episode of Gossip Girl and felt like it went by pretty quickly. The strength hour is fun even when I’m tired just because I’m out of my comfort zone. I’m not doing this because I love it, I’m doing it so my body gets stronger and I can stay injury free. But it is a good feeling to hit a new dead lift personal best.

Wednesday = speed. The dark, cold Zoo Lot speed workouts are the best. I wouldn’t want to get out there alone, but once I’m there I love it. This week I had mile repeats – 4 of them. This seemed like a big jump from the previous speed workout, so I was a little anxious, but in a good way. And once I finished the first one I knew I was going to have a great workout. Splits were 7:20, 7:15, 7:10, 7:05. With warm up and cool down I covered 7.50 miles. Plus, I went to a yoga class at lunch so it technically was a double day, but I can do as much yoga as I want. It really helps stretch out my legs! Oh and I got my Boston Marathon jacket in the mail. It was a really good day.

Thursday was cross training and a lot of it. I got a little ambitious since I was working from home which meant I had the chance to take more classes. I ended up taking a cycling class in the morning, a 40 minute strength class at lunch, and an hour long hot yoga class in the evening. My legs were tight but by the end of the yoga class I felt good as new. I love my non-running days almost as much as my running days.

Friday is another easy run for time and I got my butt out of bed before work. 5.40 miles at 8:34 pace in the sunniest weekday morning I’d seen in awhile. The only reason I can’t definitively say winter marathon training is my favorite is because of the lack of daylight, so when I get some I’m extra grateful.

Saturday solo long run of 13.20 miles at 8:17 average pace. I had tempo miles in my long run!! I was really excited. I kept my first hour easy at around 8:45 pace, had a 30 minute tempo around 7:25 pace (4.10 miles), and then a cool down. I really felt strong. The first hour flew by since I was looking forward to the tempo. And once I picked up the speed I was surprised by how much better my legs felt. I like going fast, I really do. I was lucky with a 40 degree sunny day in January and I love the effortless feeling long runs like this.

Sunday I took a Performance Stretch class to treat my body well, but I actually wasn’t feeling very sore at all. I felt worse after Tuesday, but Saturday didn’t beat me up. That’s a good thing. I love to end the week feeling as good as I did when it started.

Week five will bring me a new challenge. Why? I get to race a half marathon for the first time since July. I’m a little nervous, but I am SO excited to getaway for a runcation and spend time someplace warmer. I don’t know if I’m really ready to race after only 5 weeks of training, but it will be a good test of where I’m at. I’m trying not to put any pressure on myself. Either way, I’ll run another 13.1 miles and I’ll have fun doing it.