Naperville Half Marathon Recap

I signed up for the Naperville Half Marathon back in July to be a goal race in my build-up for the NYC Marathon. It was 3 weeks before NYC and normally I prefer to do one about 4-5 weeks out from the goal marathon but I was limited in the weekends that I could pick for my goal race since I was hosting the Chicago Marathon meetup and had my best friend’s wedding that I stood up in a couple weekends prior to that. I had run the course before in 2019 as a workout and had a good experience at it and since it was local it was easy to get to!

The buildup to NYC Marathon has been going well but because of the hot, humid, seemingly never-ending summer in Chicagoland this year, I hadn’t really had a long run I felt great about in awhile. My paces have had to be adjusted in every long run that had speedwork in it and this left me feeling unsure of where my fitness was at going into Naperville. I talked with my coach, Jessica, the Wednesday before the race and we both thought realistically I was in shape to run about a 1:25-1:26 half marathon on a good day but recognized that these last 18 months have taken their toll in the form of stress and in just being rusty with racing, not used to being in that type of pain for awhile. My biggest goal was to go run a smart race and to compete and if the splits came, that would be icing on the cake.

Flat Runner

I set my alarm for 5 a.m. for a 7 a.m. start time. I had a quick bite to eat and brought my UCan in the car since it was a 45 minute drive down to Naperville. I drank that around 6:15, 45 minutes before the scheduled start time. I had to pick up my bib that morning since I didn’t want to drive 90 minutes roundtrip the day before to pick it up so I was a little crunched for time when I arrived since I had a hard time getting to a parking garage with the roads shut down. I found a spot, got out of my car, and the cold air hit me. It was 39 degrees with a real feel of 36 when just the weekend before it had been a low of 73 – it was a drastic change! I started running my warm-up to pick up my bib, and realized I hadn’t grabbed my mask to go into the gymnasium to pick it up! I ran back to the car, grabbed one, and got to the gym to pick up the bib. I had prepaid for race-day packet pickup but there was a glitch in the system and they hadn’t marked me down so this process took a little longer than I had budgeted for. I had time to run a little more and do my 4 strides and got into my corral with about 3 minutes to spare which had me stressed out and adrenaline pumping a bit before I started. I kept telling myself to relax and tried taking several deep breaths knowing that it wasn’t good to be stressed on the start line.

The gun went off and I was flying forward, looked down at my watch and saw it was in the 5’s and pulled it back real fast. I tried to settle into a good rhythm – hoping to start off closer to a 6:40 pace and take it down to a 6:30 after a couple miles. I found some guys that I started working with and we ended up going through mile 1 in a 6:28 and my watch was right on with the mile marker on the course which is always a nice feeling. A little fast so tried to rein it back in for the next mile, and at this point I was nearly by myself with some people ahead and some behind. I realized it was going to be a no-man’s land kind of race – the men ahead of me were way faster than me and there wasn’t really anyone in that 6:30 pace range where I was. There was a water stop at mile 2 and I skipped it since it was so cold and early on in the race that I didn’t think I needed it. The water stop was just before a big hill that I saw would also be the same hill I’d hit mile 8 on – it felt ok now but I knew by mile 8 it was going to feel like a mountain. Mile 2 was a 6:34 and this was a good spot for me to hang out at. I felt slightly uncomfortable. I considered backing off the pace a bit but convinced myself to hang with it and maybe it would pass – sometimes the early miles running fast just don’t feel as natural and I settle into a rhythm after 2-3. We went under and underpass for mile 3 and there were a lot of spectators cheering here. Mile 3 was 6:37 and I used the energy of the crowds to keep moving forward. There was a timing mat around 3.3ish (online it says it was at mile 4 but it also says I ran 4 miles at 5:28 pace so that’s obviously not correct). This part of the course was lonely running around a high school parking lot with no fans around so I tried to trick myself and imagined running around my own high school parking lot back in the day when we’d do workouts in the winter when the track was snow-covered. It sort of worked but mile 4 clicked for me before the sign on the road which was the first mile marker this had happened at; they changed the course this year and because of how off the mile markers were after this I think maybe they were placed in their old locations. I’m not sure but GPS was fine in Naperville since it’s just a suburban town with no skyscrapers like downtown Chicago so I don’t think that was the problem.

I got to the first aid station at mile 4, clocking in a 6:31 mile. At this point the volunteers were cheering for me yelling things like “you’re the first female” which was really exciting to hear. I grabbed a cup of water and tried to down my gel quickly because unfortunately, it was a plastic cup which meant I couldn’t drink much of the water at all. It mostly ended up all over my face instead. (Side note: I don’t know why races are using plastic cups lately. They’re not good for the environment, first of all, and second of all, they’re terrible for runners because we can’t crease the top to control the liquid coming into our mouths while continuing to run!) At this point I was only 26 minutes into my race but I knew running at a faster pace would mean I was burning through my fuel faster – ideally I could’ve taken a gel at mile 5 and mile 10 but I knew ahead of time that there were aid stations at 2, 4, 6, 8, and 12 so 4 and 8 made the most sense.

Mile 5 was consistent with a 6:33 and I used some energy from fans that were in downtown Naperville to propel me along. There was also a DJ playing music along this mile and he yelled out my name as I ran by which was pretty neat! When we got out of downtown, it was pretty lonely again and there was another uphill climb to get to mile 6. This slowed me down a bit and I hit the mile in 6:40. I tried to maintain my effort here since things started feeling much harder and headed for a short out-and-back section where I had the opportunity to see who was behind me for the first time. I was still in first female at this point but could see there was a woman maybe 10 seconds back on me and gaining. I also saw another female who was maybe 30 seconds back at this point and another one shortly behind her. I focused on keeping it together. I could tell the woman 10 seconds back looked a lot fresher than me but tried to focus on my race. She ended up catching me in the next half mile or so and I tried to match the move but just couldn’t go with her; she ended up talking to someone on the sidelines who yelled out to her so I could tell she wasn’t exerting herself as much as I was and was probably pretty comfortable! Sure enough I had maintained the effort hitting mile 7 in 6:43. I knew the next mile would have the big hill in it again from mile 2 since they had changed the course to be just 2 loops of the same thing so I tried to mentally prepare for that. I took my second gel at the aid station near mile 8 and grimaced my way up the hill. 6:46. I think this hill took the life out of my legs because I was never able to fully recover after that. I kept moving, knowing I had definitely slowed down and this is when it hit me that this was the moment that would be the difference between a PR day and a non-PR day.

It’s hard to feel your goal slipping away and not being able to battle for it. At this point I was fighting a lot of mental demons wanting to be done with the race but I reminded myself that it was only 5 miles and I could finish it. I tried to give myself a mile to regroup, hitting mile 9 in 6:58, but my legs just didn’t want to go anymore. At this point I was still in the second-place female position and I figured the women behind me must have slowed down as well since they hadn’t passed me yet. I ran through the empty high school parking lot again, hitting mile 10 at a 7:00 pace and tried to do some mental math. My PR of 1:27:48 was probably out of the question at this point unless I could pick it back up to the 6:30s again but I was really proud of how I was battling and staying in it till the end. It was between mile 10 and 11 that another woman passed me running alongside a man and I tried to latch on to the back of them and go with but it wasn’t happening. They looked strong and I focused on the fact that I had less than 3 miles to go! Mile 11 clicked in at 7:12 – oof, my slowest mile of the day. We came through downtown with the cheers again and then hit a hill right at the most convenient time at mile 12! Ouch. That burned. 7:11 for mile 12. At least I’m consistent? I had to do the out and back section again where I could see if others were behind me. I didn’t see any other females and figured they must have faded so it looked like I was going to be locked in for third which was still exciting! Hitting 13 in a 7:09 but not being at the mile 13 marker was a bit rough so I focused on just sprinting it in from here. The faster I ran, the faster I was going to be done. I ended up averaging a 6:23 pace for the last .28 miles – I thought I had done a pretty good job of hugging the curves and running the tangents since I was by myself so I do think the course was a bit long, but more on that a little later. I came through the shoot sprinting seeing the clock and threw my hands up as I crossed the line. It wasn’t the race I was dreaming of but it still felt like a really big accomplishment to finish third female on tired, marathon-trained legs only 3 weeks out from the goal race before any tapering. My official time was a 1:30 but if the course was long, which I believe it to be (I’m very honest about this kind of thing – I’m not one of those people who will try to tell you that I ran over 27 miles at the Chicago Marathon – I know it’s skyscrapers messing with that!) it was a 1:29.


When I went to the results tent, however, I found out that I was in fourth place. I found the woman who I thought was in second and she also thought she was second and I was third but we accepted that maybe someone started later and finished with an overall faster elapsed time. We parted ways but later that morning she contacted me and had found the other woman’s data on Strava and saw that at the second out-and-back section she had turned into the finish shoot instead of doing the out-and-back which cut off about a half mile from her total distance. Her watch read 12.8 at the end. We submitted this to the race directors to try to verify the results since there were prizes for second and third overall female and it was a bit disappointing to not be awarded our correct prizes. They responded on Monday saying they’d look into it and as of posting this we have still not heard back which is a little frustrating.

Finisher medal is hiding underneath the giant one that was for completing both a 20-mile race and 13.1 mile race in this series.

Post-Race Thoughts

I think it makes sense to break down the post-race thoughts into two categories, things I could have controlled and things I couldn’t have controlled. We’ll start with the uncontrollable since those are easier to list.


  1. The plastic cup situation. I think I drank less than 6 oz. total on the course because of these plastic cups that were filled only a third of the way and that I couldn’t crease to get water down. This really isn’t ideal for running hard and it made it really tough to get the gels down since they are so sticky on their own.
  2. Running by myself. There wasn’t a good pack to run with around a 6:30/6:40 pace. The men ahead of me were either way faster (sub 1:20 shape), the people behind weren’t coming up, and the few people around me didn’t really work together and played cat and mouse with each other. When I ran my PR half at Indy and in CIM I ran with a pack for half of the race and then raced on my own the second half and this is definitely how I race best – I like to sit with a group and then pick it up like a workout. In the past this race has had faster pace groups which is why I picked it but with covid I think they had less pacers sign up.
  3. The course. The course map changed after I had signed up and became two loops of the same thing instead of the usual course I was anticipating which was one bigger loop. I liked the big loop and I knew it well from racing previously so I was a bit thrown off a few days before the race when I realized it wasn’t going to be the same. It made for a little boring experience and mentally challenging to start the second loop. The course also seemed long – most people’s data I saw on Strava showed about 13.3 miles as well. When I mapped it out online, it actually showed it being 13.48 miles long so this doesn’t seem unrealistic!
  4. The weather. I hesitated to mention this because it seems so picky after the Chicago marathoners got a 73-degree day for their race the weekend before but after being told by several people after the race that my lips were blue in photos or in person, it probably played a role. 39 with a real feel of 36 felt really cold to me that morning but I did feel like I heated up a bit. Fortunately there wasn’t much wind to deal with!


  1. I probably should’ve gotten up at 4:30 instead of 5:00. Lesson learned to account for things outside of your control taking up extra time in the morning to leave room to not stress out about timing.
  2. My mental game. I’ve been struggling with this a lot more this cycle than in previous ones. Some of it has to do with the fact that I haven’t had a long-run workout go exactly to plan this cycle and have had to adjust all of them for hot and humid conditions. When I trained for CIM in 2019 I was hitting peak weeks in October and November because the race was in December and I had forgotten how much nicer that made the workouts and long runs! Another piece of the mental side of things has to do with not racing much during the pandemic and getting a little rusty on mental toughness. It’s like a muscle – if you don’t exercise mental toughness, it becomes weaker and weaker over time. Last year I focused mostly on running for endurance and maintaining a good base. This spring I tried racing a half and the course marshals turned us the wrong way around mile 4, I regrouped and tried to race a week later into 40 mph wind gusts which obviously didn’t go great, so I never got to really race. I try to remember that I ran a 3:14 solo marathon self-supported last Halloween as a workout (3 miles off, 2 miles on) and that helps remind me how tough I can be, but I’m still getting back into this whole racing for real thing again and it’s hard. As I’ve told several of my athletes lately, the life stress also adds up and certainly plays a role in our mental toughness, too. It’s been a hard 18 months for all of us and we shouldn’t forget that it can have an effect on our running.

Future Thoughts

Overall I’m really proud of this effort. While it wasn’t the dream “return-to-racing” day that we’ve all been envisioning after a long pandemic, it was the first time in a long time I’ve seen a glimmer of my old self who was more confident in her racing and herself. I am the strongest athlete I’ve ever been – all the work in the gym has paid off for sure – and now I just need to get my mind on board with the rest of my body for New York. I recovered the fastest I ever have from this half; the race was Sunday and I was a little sore and stiff Monday but by Tuesday all soreness was gone and by Wednesday it was like I hadn’t just run a half marathon and I attribute most of this to smart training and all the lifting but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that these carbon-plated shoes really help save the legs from as much pounding as a daily trainer. (More on that in a future post.) I am excited to race a major marathon again for the first time since Boston in April 2019 and ready to take chance on myself and see what I’m capable of! I know I haven’t peaked yet in the marathon and that there’s lots of runway ahead, but I’m truly enjoying the journey and the process along the way.

Spring 2021 Training Recap

When we started 2021, the fate of races was still very much up in the air but many of us chose to continue training anyway, knowing that regardless of what came or didn’t come at the end of the cycle, it would still be beneficial for future training. Knowing an April Boston wasn’t going to happen and having just completed two virtual marathons in Fall 2020, training for another possibly virtual marathon just wasn’t very exciting to me and so I decided to turn my focus to the half marathon. It was a distance I felt comfortable potentially time-trialing on my own if it came to that and also one that I was interested in training for. I like the half marathon – it’s an event that you can still run decent weekly mileage with but I didn’t have to run beyond 15 miles for a long run. Training began in January and I didn’t sign up for a race to wait and see what might be available depending on what things looked like with vaccines, but I was targeting a “race” at the end of April or beginning of May.

Beginning Training

The first few weeks of training were really challenging. I felt out of shape and being January, there was a lot of snow on the ground and frosty temperatures. The first month or so of a training cycle I usually feel a little rusty coming off of a break but I know the break is always necessary to give my body time to recover and be ready to work hard again. I remember having to stop in a couple speed workouts early on in the training cycle, hunched over with my hands on my knees, and wondering if I’d ever feel back “in shape” again. In January and February I would often take my speed workouts indoors between icy roads and super cold temperatures that makes breathing hard in (my asthma really flares in the super dry, cold winter), but with covid, masks were required at the gym and so it was the same issue indoors – bad breathing conditions either way. I’m not complaining, I was fully in support of it, it’s just the facts of what I was choosing between. I have a basement treadmill and I utilized it a lot more this winter than I had in the past; my treadmill isn’t particularly fancy (Costco purchase a couple years after undergrad when I was on a tight budget) and I do think the speeds feel faster on it than at the same speeds on a nicer treadmill at the gym, but I was able to run on my own treadmill without a mask and so it was often a better option than trying to run hard in negative windchills.

By the end of January, things still felt pretty hard, but I was continuing to show up and try my best. When February rolled around, speed workouts started clicking again just in time for a polar vortex. This meant more time inside, including a couple long runs on the treadmill where I’d watch old marathons on YouTube to pass the time. There was a lot of snow in February, too; I swear we were shoveling the driveway every day! I was a little nervous that all of the treadmill time was going to affect my fitness, but when I ran a 5K PR (19:36) in the middle of a workout towards the end of February, these doubts quickly faded. I wasn’t gunning for a 5K PR, it was a 20 minute tempo run, but things came together and it just happened – my first negative split 5K, too! This was the reassurance I needed that my fitness was there and that training was working. Later that week, though, I set off for a 13-mile long run that became 8 miles as I felt super fatigued and like I was sprinting when I tried to hit tempo paces. I stopped so many times and remember making my way to my parents’ house because it was closer to where I was than my own home and having to get a ride home. It was frustrating but at the time I chalked it up to my body must have still been been recovering from running a 5K PR earlier in the week – looking back now I don’t think that’s what it was, but more on that later.

March started off with several strong workouts prior to leaving on a backpacking trip to Arkansas. We went overnight backpacking for 3 days hiking 40 miles in that time with 25-pound packs on our backs. Suffice to say there was no running for those days as I was getting plenty of exercise! Backpacking was easily the toughest thing I’ve ever done. When you’re in the middle of the woods with no cell phone reception or other people close by for miles, you truly feel all alone and vulnerable. There was no option but to keep moving and there were several times I fought back tears just wanting to be done and being in so much physical pain. Being in running shape really meant nothing out there – my heart rate stayed lower and I did recover quickly each day after a good night’s sleep but that’s about the only benefit I got from running! When we got back from the trip, I got back into training and felt pretty good that first week, but the week after I received my first covid vaccine which left me with some fatigue and a higher heart rate for a few days. I definitely noticed its effect on me athletically, but within a week I felt back to myself.

Committing to the Glass City Half Marathon

At the beginning of April, I finally committed to a race, the Glass City Half Marathon in Toledo, OH. I was excited to run and in-person race and one that I felt really comfortable with – they were requiring proof of vaccination or a negative covid test within 72 hours of the event. Having a race on the calendar encouraged me to keep training hard the next few weeks. Unfortunately, we got hit with a heat wave in early April (80-degrees after it had been a full winter of 10s-30s) and it really rattled my confidence when I couldn’t hit any of my splits in a speed workout. Fortunately, the weather cooled off the following week, but it only gave me about a week to feel good before I received my second covid vaccine. My second vaccine fell on the Monday before race weekend. I had considered waiting a week until after the race to get it, but came to the conclusion that it would be really irresponsible to put off my vaccine for a race when there was a global pandemic. My second vaccine knocked me out pretty hard for a couple days – I had the chills, a fever, a headache, bodyaches, and a lot of fatigue. Later on I would read that pro runners were reporting decreased performance for up to 3 weeks after receiving their second doses and I definitely felt this way. Running was hard and it wasn’t until the Saturday shakeout run the day before race day that my heart rate finally came back down again and I felt a little more confident that I might be able to run hard in Toledo.

Ross and I made the 4.5 hour drive out to Toledo on Saturday afternoon to pick up my race packet. I provided a negative covid test since my second vaccine was earlier in the week (they asked for it to be completed at least 2 weeks prior to race day or to come with a negative covid test taken within 72 hours prior), we got my packet, and headed over to the hotel. It felt so weird to be back at a race weekend again but I was excited. The weather was looking perfect for racing – low 40s with mild wind and overcast skies. On race morning I woke up early to do my ritualistic shakeout mile that I do 2.5 hours before every half marathon. It’s just an easy 10-minute mile that gets the blood flowing prior to eating breakfast. I ate my breakfast, put on my race outfit, and headed out the door to drive over to the starting area. I remember having a hard time getting there with so many closed off roads and I was so stressed that I was going to miss the start of the race. When I finally got to a parking garage, I started running to the start, but then realized I had forgotten my mask in the car which was required to be in the starting corrals! I sprinted back to the car, grabbed the mask, and then sprinted some more over to the start. I’m honestly glad I had this experience in April and not the Fall because now I’ll remember to check for the mask if it’s needed in the starting area! I lined up in Corral 1, just behind the elite corral where I could see Noah Droddy, a professional runner for Saucony, who was there to pace his fiance in the half marathon. It was so cool to be that close to the pros! My goal for the day was to run a 1:25 which was right around 6:30 pace. Fortunately, there was a pacer and I lined up behind him to hopefully tuck in and let him do some of the “work”.

The gun went off and the pacer went flying. I tried to keep my eye on him from a distance but he was pushing 6:10/6:15 pace and I knew it was a horrible idea to try to keep up at that pace not even a mile into the race. I was in no-mans land as a result with a couple people here and there but it was tough to not have a group to work with like I was hoping. Mile 1 clicked in at 6:31 which was perfect and I was proud of myself for running my own race and not getting too overzealous like the pacer. I felt smooth and settled into this rhythm, mile 2 was 6:30 and mile 3 was 6:31. Mile 4 had more incline and this split was a little slower at 6:38 but I wasn’t concerned – I was hoping to stay between 6:30-6:40 early on in the race and so this is right where I wanted to be. And then, disaster struck. At mile 4.5, a volunteer mistakenly turned around the elite corral and corral 1 and sent us running back the way we came. The elites were yelling “turn around, they sent us the wrong way!” at us, but I kept running until I saw an official volunteer who was turning people around. And so I turned…and by the time I had course-corrected I had gone an extra half mile and my goal of running a 1:25 let alone a PR was out the window in that moment. I was crushed. I tried to get my body back into things but my mind was just so thrown off by the chaos. I stepped off the course shortly before 7 miles and called Ross telling him what had happened and we both agreed that the best thing for me to do was to drop out and try to race again soon. I feel extremely fortunate that I dropped out when I did because I learned that the elites were turned around yet again later on and ended up running 15 miles which is just so disappointing. After having made the long journey out to the race, training so hard, and being excited to run my first race back since 2019, this was the most 2021ish thing that could’ve happened.

Plotting a revenge half marathon

After we returned from Toledo, I took the rest of the night to wallow and then the next day went to work figuring out if there would be another opportunity to race. Jessica (my coach) and I agreed that I should avoid traveling too far if possible since racing is hard enough on the body and throwing off your routine doesn’t help. We contemplated running a small, flat race in Wisconsin just a week later or waiting 4 more weeks and running a more local-to-me race in Busse Woods. After thinking about it for a couple days, I decided the thought of extending my cycle for another month just sounded terrible as I had built it up in my mind that I would be done and on a break so I signed up for the Wisconsin race in Oconomowoc where 3 of my friends were running the full marathon. It would be less than a week after the other half marathon but I essentially ran a 6-mile tempo run so we were hoping it wouldn’t affect me too much. I didn’t feel too great the week of the race but was eager to give myself an honest shot since I didn’t get that in Toledo.

I headed up to Oconomowoc after work on Friday to pick up my bib and meet my friends for a pre-race pasta dinner. It was our first group dinner since the pandemic began since all of us were fully vaccinated and it was so nice to eat a pasta dinner with good company again and really felt like a real race weekend! The weather was not looking so great for race day, with a wind advisory out for gusts up to 50 mph and sustained winds of 20 mph, but that’s not something I could control so I tried to just relax in the hotel that night and appreciate that I was getting another shot to run a race in 2021. Sure enough I woke up on race morning and the wind was intense, but what was more concerning to me was that my legs just felt so crampy. I have no idea why this was the case since I was fully hydrated and hadn’t spent much time on my feet the day before and I’m still not really sure what the deal was. I had to put it beside though and focus on getting to the starting line, this time leaving even more time to not be stressed like I was in Toledo.

The course was set up as and out and back and you had to provide your own hydration due to covid protocols. We set up 3 tables along the course with our water and fuel and hoped that it wouldn’t blow over in all the wind! Doing my warm-up I felt like the wind was coming from every direction and knew we’d be in for a fight. We were released in small waves with our masks on which could be removed after crossing the starting line – mine got stuck in my headphones and I probably looked ridiculous trying to get it off in my first few strides! Because it was such a small field, you were running by yourself for the most part and I went out again at goal pace, clocking a 6:24 first mile which was a little too fast for that 6:30 goal. We were headed directly into a headwind, however, and I could feel that this effort was not going to be sustainable in the weather so I tried to pull it back closer to 6:40/6:45. Miles 2-4 were between 6:40-6:47 but I developed some strong stomach cramping and pulled back on my pace further, running mile 5 in 6:56 and mile 6 in 6:59. Between the crazy wind and the cramping, I watched my A & B goals go by and it became more about finishing the race than the time on the clock. I was in such a world of hurt when I went by our friends’ families cheering before mile 6 and they told me after that I looked so mean. I tried to smile but I guess I wasn’t faking it well enough! My paces kept getting slower and slower and everything in me wanted to stop – and I probably would have had I not dropped out of Toledo and felt like I owed it to myself to finish the darn thing. Mile 10 was my slowest at 7:56, a pace slower than many of my aerobic long runs. I just had nothing left to give and my body had gone into survival mode; I let it dictate the pace and ignored my watch. I crossed the line in 1:34, a far cry from the 1:25 I had been hoping for (not realistic with this weather) or even sub-1:30 given the windy conditions. I wasn’t upset at my body because I knew it had done all it could do, but I was disappointed that this was how my spring 2021 racing season was going to end. I am, however, grateful that I did not continue my training cycle for 4 more weeks as the Busse Woods race ended up being nearly 80-degrees with 100% humidity – it would’ve been really sad to have extended my cycle just for that when my brain and body were ready for a break back in April!


This was not the smoothest training cycle for me but I’m glad it helped shake off a lot of the rust that had accumulated during the last year of the pandemic. There were a couple things I didn’t write in detail on that I believe contributed to the rocky cycle beyond the typical winter weather or cumulative fatigue that I’d like to share more about because I wish more people would be honest about some of these things to normalize them/provide more information!

The first has to do with birth control. I made the decision in January 2021 to come off of my birth control after talking with my doctor. I had been on the pill for the last 6 years and for the last few had suspected that something was not quite right with my body being on it. I had crazy mood swings, I felt depressed often for no reason, and my face had developed melasma which is a side effect of hormonal birth control. I was sick of feeling like a stranger in my own body and I wanted to test the hypothesis that I had that it was my birth control causing my hormones to be out of balance. Like any good experiment, I needed a control factor, in this case, the pill, and did not want to just jump to a different kind without ensuring that this was truly the root cause of how I was feeling. Since I was working from home for the foreseeable future, I thought it would be a good time to make the change in case I didn’t feel well or my strong period cramps/flow that I had pre-birth control came back. Fortunately, my period returned right away (I had never lost it while on birth control but had read that some women experience period loss for a few months after coming off of it), but unfortunately so did a lot of the nasty side effects like bloating in the days leading up to my period, strong cramps, and a heavy flow.

However, after a few months, my body felt like my own again. The mood swings stopped, the melasma has slowly been improving, and I feel happier overall. The reason I bring up birth control, however, is because of the effects that now having a “real” period has on athletic training and my performance. Being on birth control, you have a period, but it’s not quite the same as having one without all of the hormones regulating it in the pill. I had read the book, “ROAR” by Dr. Stacy Sims last year, and a whole section of the book is dedicated to talking about the menstrual cycle and learning how to train properly during each phase of the cycle. When I looked back on the bad workouts that I would have where I felt extra fatigued and like I was sprinting at tempo paces, I realized they were often falling in the week before my period which is during the luteal phase, or the phase where you don’t recover as easily or have as much endurance. I also get pretty bad bloating during this time now; I sent a photo to my sister who thought I looked pregnant by how bloated I got.

I have had to learn how to train to work with my menstrual cycle and not against it which is something I will take moving forward into my marathon training cycle. The luteal phase is good for a cutback week whereas during menstruation I’ll be able to push harder because it’s when estrogen and progesterone drop and women are actually most like men funny enough since it seems like the least masculine thing possible! I have also been trying to eat better to avoid the bloat that I get that is extremely uncomfortable. I get cravings for salty and sweet things and instead of reaching for the chips or the ice cream to satisfy those cravings, I’ve been trying to make choices that aren’t going to leave me extra bloated and uncomfortable. I’ve been doing a lot of research on this because going off the pill has helped me in so many ways that I don’t think I want to go back on something that could mess with my hormones again. I am going in for an annual physical this week to get some bloodwork done to make sure everything is looking good prior to starting a marathon training cycle in July; my birth control had iron in it and this is one thing I want to make sure doesn’t get affected as I have dealt with low iron in the past. I take a daily multi-vitamin so hopefully that is doing the trick but bloodwork will reveal any deficiencies that I should work on. (Note: I share this all as a personal anecdote, not as a recommendation. Consult your doctor before making any changes to medication you are taking just as I did!)

The other thing I didn’t realize would have as much as an effect on my training as it did was the second covid vaccine. Because it is so new, there wasn’t a whole lot of research done on the effects of the vaccine and athletic performance, but we are learning more now about how long things like fatigue linger in the body after receiving it. Many athletes are reporting decreased performance for up to 3 weeks after the second dose and that felt pretty accurate to me. I felt fine after a week in aerobic efforts but speedwork was definitely affected and as much as I’d like to believe I could’ve hung onto my goal pace at Toledo, I’m not sure I could’ve done it with how I felt that week after getting the vaccine. I don’t regret my decision to get it – I feel totally back to normal now and it has been such a blessing to feel safe again and get to live more normally again. I’ll be interested to read up on more studies as they come out but if we end up needing boosters in the Fall (it seems hopeful that we won’t), it’ll be something I take into consideration for the timing with running the marathon.

So, What’s next?

I’ll be running the NYC Marathon November 7th and I cannot wait to start training for it! I’ll share goals and more about the process in future posts but I think this post had enough info in it for now!

Setting 2021 Goals

Every year I get excited to set new goals and to set intentions for the year ahead. Last year, my running goals were geared more towards growth and setting the foundation for 2021, which was extremely fortunate as 2020 would shape up to be a great year for that. As I look towards 2021, I’m not exactly sure what this year holds for us, but goals motivate me and give me something to work towards so I’ve felt the pull to put them out there.

Spring Plans

This spring, I’m training for a half marathon. I truly think the half marathon might be my best event and that I haven’t given it my whole focus very often. Most of my previous (and current) half marathon PRs have come during peak marathon training when I’m running on tired legs and so I’m curious what I could do when I actually turned my focus to the event. The last time I did a training cycle specifically focusing on the half was in winter/spring 2018 where I broke 1:40 in the half for the first time. I loved the training – I was able to run good mileage while also having balance on the weekends since long runs never exceeded 15 miles. After focusing the last couple of years primarily on the marathon, I’m excited to take this first half of the year to focus on something else so that I can hopefully “miss” the marathon training again. 26.2 is always a daunting distance to me and so is the training – I go all in whenever I commit to a cycle and right now my heart just doesn’t want the marathon!

I haven’t signed up for a half marathon goal race but I’m hoping to run something at the end of April or beginning of May. I’ve considered the Illinois Half Marathon or the Eugene Half Marathon, but I’m not convinced either will take place in-person so I’m waiting to sign up for anything until I know what the world looks like in April and what I feel comfortable with at that time. After running the NYC Virtual Marathon completely solo and self-supported with fuel, I’m confident I could do the same with racing a half marathon if it came to that – and I’m also lucky enough to have some friends I run with who are faster than me and would likely be willing to help pace a bit if needed. I’m not trying to set any limits, but have my eyes on a 1:25 half this spring if training goes well and if the stars align on race day, which would improve upon my current PR of 1:27:48 set at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon in 2019.

This half-marathon time goal excites me, but it also serves a larger purpose with the ultimate goal of breaking 3-hours in the marathon. I’ve recognized that in order to go after that, I need to bring that half time down more since when I finished at Indy, there was no more gas left in the tank, which was excellent for giving it all I had on race day, but means I definitely wasn’t in shape to run a sub-3 marathon at that time (which wasn’t the goal at that time – 3:10 was and I ended up running 3:07 at CIM a month later!). One of my goals for 2020 was to start getting more comfortable running sub-1:30 halves, which changed after the pandemic hit in March, but it was with this sub-3 goal in mind. I respect the amount of work that goes into marathon training and running that time and know that my body isn’t there yet physically, but I will also need to start learning what a 6:50 pace feels like on repeat if I want to go after that goal.

During my half marathon build-up, I plan to run a 5K time trial in February and hopefully a 10K in March. In the Chicago area, it was hard enough to find races in January/February before covid anyway because of the winter conditions, but add covid to the mix and there really are no options right now that I’m seeing in February for that 5K so it’ll likely be a solo time-trial (p.s. Chicagoans if you know of any small, local road races happening, please let me know! I’ve seen trail races pop up but I’m not interested in that right now). My coach and I have discussed being flexible with hopping into a race last minute if an opportunity presents itself, but I don’t personally feel comfortable being in a corral with a lot of people right now so for me it would need to be a race where the organizers were taking the pandemic seriously and had taken extra steps to ensure the safety of all involved on race day. After having run several virtual events last year, I’m no longer scared of the idea of doing this and am ok if this is what I end up having to do to keep myself and others in my community safe.

I plan to continue with my strength training – 3 days a week of heavier lifts, 2 days of plyometrics/mobility, and 1-2 days of core or yoga – assuming that my body continues to respond well to the training. On my heavier lift days, I do 3 sets of 10 reps for 6 total exercises. It’s heavy weight, but manageable, stressing only one muscle group at a time. For example, on my chest/back day, I’ll do 3 exercises focused on chest and 3 exercises focused on back and alternate between each. My heavy lift days are always around 45 minutes of which only 50% or less is actual work time with the remaining time being rest time between sets. As my mileage increases with training, it’s likely that I’ll no longer be working on increasing weight in my lifts but rather just maintaining where I built up to this Fall/Winter while my mileage was lower.

Summer/Fall Plans

Assuming I run the half marathon at the end of April/beginning of May, I plan to take the rest of May as an easy recovery month dropping my mileage and spending more time in the gym again. I have gotten into a good rhythm of building strength in the off-season and then maintaining while I’m in my endurance training season; it’s tough to build both the miles and the strength at once without overdoing it so I respect that as my running training changes, so does my strength training.

As of right now, I have my eye on the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in the Fall. Again, I’m waiting to sign up for anything until I know what the world looks like later this year because I don’t want to have a bunch of deferred entries for future years to a lot of races (right now I have NYC and Chicago). I may decide that I want to do another half marathon cycle and train for Indy as well, but I like the idea that it’s close to home (3-hour drive) and is a really well-done event that draws a talented field. I’m not setting a time goal right now for this one because I want to see how the spring shapes up, but if I do commit to the 26.2 distance, I know I’ll be going after a PR of some sort! I got a lot of confidence from running a 3:14 marathon this past Fall in the Virtual NYC Marathon while doing a workout (alternating 3 miles aerobic, 2 miles @ marathon pace), which was my second fastest ever, and I finished knowing there was more gas in the tank which was really exciting.

Other Life Goals

On top of my own running goals, I’ve set some goals in other areas of my life. Last year for coaching one of my big goals was to grow my roster and invest time and energy into my athletes. While the pandemic made growing a small business tough in 2020, I worked really hard to still create fun opportunities for my athletes to compete against themselves and stay engaged with their running and many came away with new personal bests at the end of the season, or they may have built up to their highest mileage ever or hit a goal of staying injury-free when they had been injury-prone in the past. It was a tough year to be a running coach where races were canceled and people were impacted financially, but I hope that in 2021 I can continue working on this goal of growing my roster and helping my athletes reach their big goals and to dream even bigger. I know there are also a lot of new runners who have emerged as a result of the pandemic and I’m excited to work with some of these people as they navigate this sport and are looking for guidance for how to grow and improve safely!

In my full-time job, I am a market strategy analyst in aviation distribution. I can’t believe that I’ve been working from home for the last 9 months and haven’t seen my co-workers, and admittedly, I’ve had times of low motivation not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for our industry. Many of us dealt with “survivor’s guilt” after seeing fellow colleagues laid off for reasons outside of their control and it made things tough for awhile emotionally. I know that motivation wanes in every aspect of our lives, but my goal here is to set intentional goals each week for what I want to aim to accomplish to feel like I am making progress in my career and not stagnating while at home. I’m sure many of us have said at work “when I have time, I’d love to take the time to make “x” happen”; right now is that time for me and I think writing out those goals every week on a sticky note and putting them on my computer monitor where I’ll see them daily will be helpful.

With my nutrition, I am admittedly very bad at eating enough fruit during the week. Vegetables I’m good with and I love most vegetables out there – but fruit – I’m pretty picky. I want to get better about getting in my daily fruit servings and need to find creative ways to sneak them into my diet. I’m thinking I need to start making a morning smoothie so that I start the day off right and have no excuses for running out of time to make one later in the day when work picks up. Hopefully this will also get me on a routine for when we do go back to the office, too.

I have a goal to continue reading more and like the idea of a book a month that I’ve seen others set. I’ll let myself count audiobooks here since I often listen to something like a podcast or audiobook when on an easy run, but I have enjoyed turning my phone off at night and reading a physical copy of a book before bed. One of my goals for 2020 was to read more and scroll less and while I did read more, I probably scrolled more at the beginning of the pandemic being bored at home. It’s gotten a lot better lately since instead of scrolling I’ll often just take a yoga class to calm my mind and feel like I’m being productive with my time.

Another goal that I’m carrying forward into 2021 from 2020 was learning to say no. I often over-commit myself, wanting to people-please, and while there are some things I can’t say “no” to like projects at work, for example, there are a lot of extra-curricular things that I have needed to. Being involved with things is great but our mental-health is much more important and I am learning to prioritize that better. In the past I would’ve viewed this as being selfish with my time or being lazy, but I noticed I was starting to be really stressed or forgetful when I was overcommitted and that isn’t good for anyone involved.

Finally, I have made it a goal to be more active on this blog! I did a much better job in 2019 when there were races to talk about and training for said races to talk about, but when that was limited in 2020, I stopped writing. I’ve realized there is a lot more I can share on here like talking about training, and I will start prioritizing it more both because I enjoy sharing the journey and because people have expressed interested in hearing more about it (thank you!).

I am excited for this new year full of opportunity and while I know quarantine restrictions won’t be lifted for awhile, I feel like I’ve been given the gift of time to become who I want to be and do what I want to do and I’m grateful for that. To many happy miles and smiles ahead this year – cheers, friends!

Virtual NYC Marathon Race Recap

Fall Recap

I was not planning on running a virtual marathon this Fall; quite frankly, the idea of running 26.2 miles on my own without an official chip time just didn’t sound appealing or exciting to me. Little did I know back in the spring, I would end up running two.

I waited by my computer in late July to try to be one of the first 1,000 people to get guaranteed entry to a future NYC Marathon by registering for the virtual race. I had qualified for the race twice in 2019 with both a half marathon and marathon time, but when I tried to register in early 2020, they had severely limited the number of time qualifiers allowed in this year and I was shut out. I was frustrated and sad that I had worked so hard to get the time qualification for the race just to be turned away, and just settled for trying again in 2021. When this guaranteed entry via virtual marathon was announced and with it becoming harder and harder to get into NYC year after year, I decided to bite the bullet and pay the price for entry if I was able to get through the queue. Sure enough, after a half hour or so of anxiety trying to register, I was in, and then the real work began.

I emailed my coach, Jessica, July 29th letting her know that I had gotten in and asking how we could make this work since I had already signed up for Virtual Boston. I was very clear that I was not expecting to run a personal best and would rather just be doing it to qualify, and with her help, had a plan to complete two marathons within 6 weeks of each other. This marathon training would be different from the last several races in that I wouldn’t be doing any pace work during my long runs and would stick to one speed workout a week to stay sharp, but not doing anything too crazy.

Training Log

Here is what my weekly mileage and long runs looked like from when I started the training after training for the mile all summer:

July 13-19: 44.8 miles, 10 mile long run

July 20-26: 48.8 miles, 12 mile long run

July 27-August 2: 49 miles, 14 mile long run

August 3-9: 52.1 miles, 16 mile long run

August 10-16: 45.9 miles, 14.5 mile long run (this should have been 18 but I had run a 5K race the day before in Montana and was having a rough time at higher altitude so I called it early)

August 17-23: 55.1 miles, 20 mile long run

August 24-30: 57.4 miles, 18 mile long run

August 31-September 6: 50.3 miles, 14 mile long run

September 7-13: 49.9 miles, Virtual Boston Marathon 26.2

September 14-20: 27.1 miles, 8 mile long run

September 21-27: 48.9 miles, 12 mile long run

September 28-October 4: 52.1 miles, 15 mile long run

October 5-October 11: 58.5 miles, 18 mile long run

October 12-18: 60.8 miles, 20.5 mile long run (12.5 miles outside in some nasty rain and wind, then came inside and did 8 more on the treadmill)

October 19-25: 47.4 miles, 13.2 mile long run

October 26-31: 47.5 miles, Virtual NYC Marathon 26.2

Virtual Boston

Virtual Boston was tough – it poured the entire time we were running, was very windy, and the elevation gain and loss at 1100 feet a piece was tougher than the actual Boston course itself. I set off to run about 9 min pace for it and that’s what I did but even though it was nearly an hour slower than my PR, it was a hard run. A big part of this was just not having enough miles on my legs up to this point and so it really hurt after 18 miles; that’s not a fault of the plan – it’s just the reality of having done a whole summer of speedwork hovering around 35 miles a week and then only giving myself about 8 weeks to really build up to the marathon distance. After this experience, I wasn’t really in the mood to run another marathon but knew that the guaranteed entry to NYC would be worth the grind. I had a recovery week after the virtual to recuperate and was pleasantly surprised with how quickly my body bounced back from the marathon – yes, I hadn’t raced it so my body wasn’t completely spent, but I think a big piece of this had to do with my strength training which I’ll touch on a little later.

Virtual Boston Marathon in the pouring rain

NYC Marathon Build

After the recovery week, my first speed workout back outside did not go well at all and I dealt with a big asthma flare-up in the middle of it and ended up calling it early and walking home. I felt a little defeated, but had a feeling it was asthma, and not overtraining, that was causing my breathing troubles. For those who don’t know, I have exercise-induced asthma which means my airway often starts to close when I run. I have a non-steroid inhaler that I take before every run and it usually does the trick, but some days are worse than others and it’s unfortunately just something I must deal with when those days do happen. Wanting to test my theory to make sure I wasn’t sending my body into a state of overtraining (shortness of breath can be a sign of this, too), I decided to repeat the intervals on the treadmill to see if it induced the same problems. Sure enough, running inside in a little less dry, cold air helped and I hit every split which meant it was safe to continue with my training. My weeks went well from here on out until I hit the 20-mile run. It started off with high winds, then transitioned to high winds and rain, and I called my husband from a sidewalk at 12.5 and asked him to come pick me up because I was having 0 fun and was starting to feel a little hypothermic. I ended up finishing 8 more miles inside on the treadmill where I felt much more comfortable.

Mentally these long runs were so hard preparing for a virtual race because I would often tell myself that it was ok to give into the pain because “it was just a virtual and I wasn’t going for time.” This part was tough because I’ve worked so hard on reframing and blocking out negative thoughts when pain creeps in but that’s usually because I have a goal at the end of it all that motivates me to keep working hard. However, I really got to see the fruits of my labor from mile and 5K training come out during my speedwork sessions the last couple of months and was so proud of a tempo run I did in my last big workout running 4 miles @ 6:30 pace with no breaks or pauses and feeling like I could’ve held that for longer. I like to visualize my training like little building blocks building up a strong foundation and walls of a house and workouts like these remind me that having the long game in mind this season is going to really pay off next year when we’re hopefully racing for real again.

Receiving my medal from Virtual Boston, closing out that chapter of training

Picking a Course, Self-Supporting a Marathon, and Race Strategy

With the bulk of training behind me, I turned to mapping out my race course. I would be running this effort completely solo and would also need to self-support with fuel and liquids. I had done a couple of my long runs out on the Fox River Trail and loved how flat it was with minimal street crossings so I thought this would be a good spot to pick for my virtual marathon. I mapped out my route as an out-and-back and picked a couple spots that I wanted to drop off a water bottle at since I could realistically only carry about 16 ounces at a time without weighing myself down. I went with plastic, disposable water bottles that I could throw out in trash cans along the way, and that I also wouldn’t be too sad about if they were taken (well it would’ve been awful for fueling but at least I could only be out a few cents).

I talked to Jessica about a plan for the race during race week and we both agreed that mixing up the pacing would be both fun for me as my last big run of the season and also a way to distract myself from running the marathon distance solo. She suggested 3 miles at a comfortable, aerobic effort (7:50ish) and 2 miles at my CIM marathon pace (7:00-7:10). This sounded fun to me and I was on board, programming it into my watch to make it feel more like a workout.

The night before my run, I made some vegetable pasta and marinara sauce with chicken and finished it off with a slice of cake! I eat dessert often in my dinners before long runs, not before a race, but I had baked a yellow cake with cheese cream frosting that week and there are no rules in 2020!

Flat runner outfit

Race Morning & Logistics

Race day was projected to be windy with strong winds out of the south and cold. It was about 34 degrees when I started and I think around 42 when I finished. It was in full sunshine so this made it tricky to pick an outfit; in 34 and cloudy I probably would’ve worn a long-sleeve top, but the sun threw a wrinkle into things and not wanting to overheat I went with a tank top, arm-sleeves, gloves, a headband, and shorts.

I had aimed to start my run around 8 a.m. so I woke up at 5:30 to get up, make some coffee and oatmeal, and to eat. This is my standard pre-race breakfast and sometimes I’ll add half a bagel with some peanut butter for protein but lately I’ve been using UCan before my long runs, so I skipped the bagel this time to not have too much on my stomach. I drank my UCan around 7:30 before leaving the house to go drop off the water bottles along the course.

I underestimated the time it would take to drop off the water bottles, planning to place them at mile 5 and mile 10 which would be about mile 16 and 21 once I turned around at the halfway mark, so I ended up starting my marathon around 8:30 instead of the 8:00 a.m. start time I had planned on. Not a big deal, though, since there was no official starting time! I took a gel on the drive to my starting point at about 8:15 to start with some extra fuel in my system.

The Race

I decided to track the race both on my Garmin and on the NYC Marathon app to make it feel more like a race effort with people following along with my progress. I don’t feel pressure to perform from others, so I made my tracking public and appreciated all the support I got from people following along! I also turned on my favorite playlist, “Running Radio” off Pandora and set off on my way! The NYC Marathon App was awesome to have in the background as it would call out my mile splits and have encouraging messages along the way from past participants talking about their experience in NYC. It was cold out – my toes got numb in the first few miles, but I hoped they would warm up as I kept going (they did). Within the first mile, I had to cross a bridge that was covered with a thin layer of ice and I had to really slow down to make sure I wouldn’t eat it. Fortunately, the pavement wasn’t slippery and this wooden bridge was the only real footing issue I had. I had printed out a race bib to wear on the course too to simulate a real experience and within my first mile, a group of women out for a run stopped and cheered me on and I smiled and gave them a big, “thank you!” Another reason I picked this route was because I knew there would be other people out running and cycling and that always gives me energy. I felt great heading into the first 2-mile pickup and ended up coming in faster than planned (6:56 and 6:49 splits). I knew that this was only the first 5 miles of the run, though and that I needed to stay smart. I had started off with a water bottle and did not need to pick the one up at 5 miles since I still had more than half of it left, so I continued and took in my first gel on the run.

The second 3-mile portion ended, and I was off again, settling into a nice rhythm. My splits were 6:42 and 6:48 here and I was happy with how good these paces were feeling. I found a trash can to throw my empty water bottle into before picking up the one I had hidden in the bushes just past mile 10. I took in another gel here, and then things got a little interesting. There was some construction on the path so I had to follow a detour that wasn’t super clearly marked and required crossing a 4-lane highway. I lost some time waiting for cars but left my watch running the whole time to get an accurate race result. When I crossed over, I saw that they hadn’t actually started the construction yet and there were just signs out, so I made note of this for my way back to hopefully avoid more waiting for cars. There were lots of trash cans along this portion of the river trail so I was able to throw out my gel packet and find a place to stash my water bottle around mile 11 to come back for it. It got a little heavy carrying around 16 ounces of water the whole time so I figured I could go 4 miles without it since it was pretty cold out.

When I was approaching 13 miles, I knew I’d be starting my faster miles again and have to turn around shortly into them since I was turning at about 13.15, but it felt good to hit that turnaround point and know that I just had to run back to my car now and that I’d finally get a tailwind since I’d been running into the headwind for the first half marathon. The tailwind felt great and I logged a 6:39 and 6:40 for miles 14 and 15. I ran back to get the water bottle around mile 16 and took in my third gel here. I couldn’t believe I only had 10 miles to go because I felt great! I lost some time chasing down my water bottle cap after it fell in mile 16 but fortunately it was in my easier miles so it wasn’t too big of a deal. Soon, the easier miles were up and I headed into my fourth set of faster miles, with mile 19 being 6:44 and mile 20 being 6:53. I was still running these faster than the planned 7:00-7:10 but the effort felt controlled with a slight push. After 20 miles of feeling great, I started feeling the wall creeping in, but told myself that I could run a 10K to finish at this point and that I was still feeling much better than I had when I hit 20 miles in the virtual Boston. At 21, I picked up the other water bottle I had left for myself and took another gel. 2 more miles to go till I would pick it up again. When the time came for that pickup, I started driving my knees and arms but they weren’t turning over as easily as they had been before. For the first time during these speed portions, my watch was beeping and flashing “slow” instead of “fast”. That darn screen, right?! Because my legs weren’t turning over, I tried to do shorter pickups instead like running hard for a minute, then easing up, etc. It helped a little and I ran mile 24 in 7:35 but I knew I couldn’t continue like this if I wanted to finish without having to stop so I backed off and settled into a more comfortable pace, hitting mile 25 in a 7:57. I was able to pick it back up again for the final mile in a 7:41 and then tried to push it for the last little bit, running that sub-7. I ran 26.26 miles to ensure that my distance would be counted since Strava has the tendency to cut off the last .01 of a run and I couldn’t imagine being shut out from the guaranteed entry because of a technicality! Finishing was very anticlimactic as I clicked off my watch and started walking back to my car. No fans, no finish line, just me, my watch, and I. Lucky for me, though, one of my former athletes, Paola, was so kind and surprised me back in the parking lot! I am so lucky to have coached people who are not only dedicated athletes but who are also amazing, kind-hearted human beings. This meant so much to me that she came out to cheer for me and was such a special way to end my training season.

The NYC Marathon app had me finishing at 3:14:50 while Garmin had it at 3:16:00. I started both at the same time so it’s a question of which distance is more accurate. I made sure to run 26.26 (a little extra) miles on my Garmin just to be sure. I did have to run past my car where I had started which shouldn’t have been the case since I went out 13.15 miles and it should’ve been at 26.3 by the time I got back to my car since I did an out-and-back, but it wasn’t! It was a little annoying to have the phone app telling me splits a little faster than my Garmin was and since both are GPS enabled devices, I’m unsure which is the most correct, but either way, it would have been my second fastest marathon ever and it was in a workout which is pretty darn cool. I think that was telling of the fitness that was maintained over the course of the last 10 months coming off CIM and of new fitness built through speed and strength.

NYRR App GPS results

Strava splits because data is fun!

Finishing photo thanks to Paola!

After Thoughts

It’s been a wild year! At the beginning of the year, I had written a post about how 2020 would be a building year for me and would likely not be a big PR year like 2019 had. That has held true and I laugh looking back on that knowing what I know now. I was lucky that I didn’t have any big Fall plans that got canceled on me. I wasn’t signed up for anything beyond Boston (I had an entry to Chicago but was planning on deferring it to 2021) so I didn’t have any real plans for how I was going to spend this training season other than thinking I would be focusing on the half marathon distance and taking a little break from the marathon. That part makes me laugh the most since I ended up running not one but two marathons after saying I needed time off from them. The marathon is funny that way and always seems to draw us back.

Looking back on this race, I think the reason I started hitting the wall at mile 20 was likely because I needed another gel a little earlier to keep my glycogen stores from dipping too low which is hard to course-correct once it happens. I had planned to take 4 total over the course of the marathon at 5, 10, 16, and 21, but I think I should’ve taken them closer to 4.5, 9, 13.5, 18, and 22.5. Note that this is all based on time on your feet, not distance. It’s recommended to take a gel every 40 minutes in a marathon but from what I’ve learned, the more I can take in without upsetting my stomach the better off I’m going to be because our bodies need the calories when they’re working that hard. In CIM I held off the wall until about mile 23 but I would love to get the fueling down to a point where I never feel that (marathons are hard so it’s going to hurt either way in these final miles but being able to pick up the pace with turnover in those miles would be awesome).

Being able to run my second fastest marathon ever while not racing was pretty special. I think this tells me that my fitness was likely right around where I left off in December had I tried to race and while sure, that means I hadn’t gained marathon fitness, being able to maintain that for a year while remaining healthy and injury-free means there’s going to be a huge base to build off of in 2021. I was also able to maintain it off one speedwork session a week with all my long runs being at an aerobic effort, so add back in the speed to the long runs next year and I’m excited for the possibilities. A big part of why I’ve felt so strong lately is because of the strength training I’ve been doing. I worked with a strength coach (big shoutout to Natalie Sanger!) for 7 months to learn how to properly combine running and heavy lifting and then for the last 11 months have taken what I’ve learned and built off that. I’ve felt stronger, recovered faster than ever before, and I’ve grown to love lifting as not just a supplement to running but as an activity in itself.

Squats – I can squat my bodyweight now and am excited to keep working at it!

Future Plans

It’s tempting to want to keep training after coming off a race that goes well thinking you’ll build fitness off of it, or after a race that doesn’t go to plan wanting to get revenge. With the marathon, both are typically bad ideas if you’ve been training for months and months because your body needs time to recover. I took 6 full days off of running after the virtual NYC, then ran less than 5 miles total over the weekend split among both days. It’s not that I couldn’t have run more, it’s that it wasn’t going to really do anything for me besides delay the recovery process. I plan on taking the rest of 2020 easier after a long training season. I’ll still be running, but my mileage will stay lower and efforts will be easier. During this time I’m going to continue with my lifting and trying out new things like Pilates or yoga classes, maybe even a spin class! Overall, I love being active and while running will always be my first love (in sport), I’ve discovered that I love being new at something too and being able to build my way from the ground up. It’s uncomfortable, but that’s often where the most growth occurs.

My big, scary goal coming off of CIM last year running a 3:07 was to go after a sub-3 marathon. While this season was anything but traditional, playing the long game has set me up to go chase after that goal next year. I’m ready to put in the work to do that next year and see how far my body can take me. But I’m not jumping back into the marathon just yet. My initial plan for Fall 2020 was to focus on half marathon training, which obviously changed when I signed up for two full marathons. The half is a distance that I believe I have untapped potential in because it’s an endurance race that has you running just slightly slower than threshold pace which is typically where my sweet spot is – I love that zone. Now that I’ve brought my threshold pace down a bit in speed training, I’m excited to focus on the half distance specifically. Nearly all my half marathon PRs have come in the middle of marathon training when I’m running on very un-tapered, tired legs. I’m curious to see what I could do when this is the goal race that I taper for and focus on. My current PR is from the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon last Fall where I ran 1:27:48 in the peak weeks of CIM training. I’d love to improve upon that and bring that time down as much as I can. I don’t have a goal race lined up for the spring, I think I’m really just going to have to wait and see what’s available next year, but right now the plan is to start training in 2021 for a spring race and to be flexible with whatever lines up and is available, or to just run it as a solo time trial. After having practiced that this season, I feel confident that I’d be ready to do it again and grateful that I spent the time conditioning my mind this season to be strong enough to take that on!

Enjoying time off of structured training and just loving the run!

2020 – Laying Bricks

Let’s start with the ugly. As I put the finishing touches on my endurance training cycle this week, it’s been tough to mentally want to line up for another 26.2 that I’m not racing. Truth be told, if I wasn’t running for guaranteed entry to NYC, I’m not sure I’d want to close things out with the distance this time. Running Boston put good closure to a cycle that seemingly never ended, but truthfully I don’t enjoy running that far of a distance if I’m not racing. Maybe one day I’ll feel differently, but it’s a long way to go “just for fun”.

That being said, I’ve learned a lot these last 7 months with regards to running and the role it has in my life. I think they can be summarized into a few themes: passion, patience and playing the long game, leaning into what your heart is calling you to do, finding a sense of purpose, and having a hunger for more.

Passion. For as long as I’ve been running, I’ve been chasing times in races. I love setting a goal and doing the work to get there, whether that be in a single training cycle or over a multiple-year span. This was the first time in 12 years of running competitively that I didn’t have something to truly chase after. It’s been hard at times, but I’ve realized that if I never raced again, I’d still be lacing up almost every day because I love it. I love to push myself and I’ve been able to do that in workouts and I can get that same excited feeling after nailing a hard workout as I can crossing the finish line in a new PR.

Patience and Playing the Long Game. After Boston postponed in March, I shifted to a speed focused cycle from May-August. The mile and 5K are uncomfortable for me as I definitely don’t have a lot of fast twitch muscle fiber, but I knew that this type of training could really pay off getting stronger physically and mentally and it would be a mix-up to what I had been doing in the past. I needed something exciting to keep me engaged those first few months of the stay-at-home order but something manageable as I didn’t know what the next few months would look like professionally and personally. I didn’t run as fast as I had hoped during this cycle, but the first lesson in patience was that it’s also hard to expect a huge jump in just a few months when I hadn’t been focusing on speed for many years and I had to remind myself of that (not to mention trying to peak in peak summer conditions isn’t the easiest, either). After speed, I was craving endurance again, and so I entered into an endurance cycle that ran through October. I knew going into this that it wouldn’t be a traditional marathon build as I wasn’t trying to go for time in virtual marathons, but I also knew that the cumulative logging of miles would pay off in a future training cycle since stacking healthy cycles one by one is the best way to make progress. Admittedly it has been tough to be at about 80-85% fitness throughout these last few months where you feel like you’re just starting to get “fit” but not cross over into PR territory, but it allowed me to continue training for months upon months and to stay healthy through it all. When I started my Boston training cycle in January after having run CIM in December, I knew I was already playing the long game with training as it would be really tough to come back in 5 months after a big marathon PR to run another one on the tough Boston course, but it turns out these last 10 months of 2020 have followed a similar theme.

Lean Into What Your Heart Is Calling You to Do. After Boston was postponed in March, I decided to forego the final 6 weeks of marathon training and shifted focus to the mile. My training cycle up to Boston was ok, but I knew nothing special was going to come out of it compared to what had just happened in CIM so I wasn’t excited about continuing it; I think I was a little burned out on the marathon at that point in hindsight. Mile and 5K training was hard but it was what I had wanted to do and so the drive was there. In June I ended up running a small 5-second 5K PR finishing in 19:48 in a solo time trial. I had hoped to improve upon this in August and felt fit and ready to do it, but leaned into what Ross and I were needing at that time, which was some time away from our work in the mountains and my lungs couldn’t hang at higher altitude when trying to race a small local 5K. I still managed 3rd overall female and was simply just excited to have run a real race, even if I was running solo for 99% of it. At this point in August I was also starting to ramp up my mileage for running virtual Boston in mid-September, something I decided I wanted to do to bring some closure to the 2020 Boston cycle. My training has looked a little non-traditional this year, but it was what I wanted and it brought me joy which is most important.

A Sense of Purpose. It’s been hard to get up in the morning feeling like every day is Groundhog Day. My training schedule provided structure and something to look forward to that would change throughout the week. It was also something that I could check off and feel like I was accomplishing something when many of my projects changed scope or priority at work. The training schedule was something that I was choosing to do and not something that was being forced on me, either. In a time when we are getting so much messaging on what to do and what not to do, it was nice to have something that I picked solely for me.

Hunger for More. I am ready to start training hard again once I’ve recovered mentally and physically from the virtual marathon. I am willing to do the work even if it means ultimately running a solo time trial at the end of a training cycle. My heart is pulling me towards a certain distance and I’m excited to lean into that this winter and see where it takes me. More on that in future weeks as I try to remained focused on the 26.2 I’m about to run this weekend, but after many months of no true “goal”, the fire is burning again to chase after one and I can’t wait.

I will be running my virtual NYC Marathon on Halloween in a solo effort. I am so grateful for my friends that I got to run virtual Boston with but for this race I’m feeling more like “suffering in solitude”, as Ryan Hall once said, and jamming out to some great tunes on my Pandora radio station. I’m still firming up my route and keeping an eye on the weather, but I know one thing is for certain – there better be some Reese’s pumpkins waiting for me at the finish line of a Halloween marathon!

Catching Up on Running & Life

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted on here – turns out, it’s a lot more fun to talk about a goal race or a training cycle that’s geared towards a specific race. Lately I’ve felt like I’ve had a lot to say, and then I go to put pen to paper and nothing flows; it’s as if the last few months have been like having writer’s block. When the stay at home order was announced in our state in late March, I was eager and ambitious to use my extra time at home to put together new content, but I think I was naively thinking the stay at home order would be a one month thing, we’d go back to work, and we’d be back to “normal” by the summer and I quickly burned out on trying to be creative with coming up from at-home workouts or chalking the neighborhood with positive messages, etc. I was expending a lot of energy trying to give my positive energy away to others but not reserving enough for myself and it caught up to me a couple months ago.

Chalk drawings I did around the neighborhood

It was around that time that I started running on Tuesdays with a new group of friends (thanks to my friend, Marie, for getting us together!) and Tuesdays quickly became my favorite day of the week where I got to see people in a safe setting on the roads at 5:45 a.m. when the rest of the world was asleep. Without races, it’s been fun to time trial with these friends, many of whom are much speedier than I am, and try to keep them within eyeshot. This is the same crew I’m going to run virtual Boston and NYC with for fun and seeing other people finding joy and solace in running has been just what I needed during this time.

The Tuesday crew running on our open road closed to traffic for maximum social-distancing

I ran a few mile time trials this summer, never really getting an ideal weather day for any of them, and was a little disappointed to have not made much progress from when I ran the first one without any speedwork under my legs. I ran the first in April in 5:48, another in May in 5:44, and then the final one in July in another 5:44. I really had to do a lot of self-reflecting after that final mile trial and think about why I was so bummed out about this. I wrote about it a little on Instagram, that I had always wondered “what-if” had I continued running in college on a team after high school if I’d improve my PR of 5:33 and after focusing on the mile this summer, had thought it would make me happy if I could surpass that 10 years later. I also think that my joy was being wrapped up in trying to obtain a PR in something, since real races were no longer an option in 2020. In all honesty, I would like to try to race this event again in the Fall when it’s cooler weather, however, I have also accepted that unless I want to spend a year or so focusing on the mile, it would be silly to think I could beat an old PR where 1-3 mile races were my only focus for the year. Maybe my best mile days are behind me, but I believe my best half and full marathon days are still ahead and that’s where I want to focus my energy.

Working on speed for the mile time trials

After mile training, I continued training for our Team Sugar Runs Virtual 5K in August. Workouts were going very well and I felt ready to run a PR in the 5K. Ross and I ended up putting a 2-week road trip together very last minute at the end of July and it happened to overlap with when I was going to run the team 5K. I was fortunate to find a small, local race in Montana that was still happening that coincided with my virtual race date and signed up. Getting to be back in the racing environment again was amazing and I wouldn’t trade that for the world, but I knew after a week of hiking and the race being at higher altitude that it likely wouldn’t draw out my fastest time. I still finished in 20:02, which is only 14 seconds off of my PR at much lower elevation, and I’m really proud of that, but something inside me is wondering in ideal conditions on a course near home what could I run? I’d like to try it out and just see what happens later this Fall even though I won’t be specifically training for the 5K anymore.

Real live 5K in Lakeside, Montana

I’m spending the rest of this Fall training for the virtual Boston Marathon which I’ll be running on September 12th with my friends for fun, then continuing on my endurance build to the virtual NYC Marathon where I’m running for future guaranteed entry simply by completing the event. My big goal for the Fall is to work up to my highest mileage week ever and to see how my body responds to it as a risk-free experiment for future cycles. If my body isn’t happy, I can always drop down in mileage, but now is a good time to try something new while I don’t have a goal race on the books. My highest mileage week ever sits at 62 miles and I’m hoping to crack 70 or 75 this Fall if all goes to plan.

As a life update, Ross and I are really fortunate to still be employed and living comfortably at home. There have been small pay cuts but we are grateful for every day that we continue to be employed and have stability knowing that others are not as fortunate right now. It is a difficult time to be a running coach with all events canceled, but I’m lucky to have a team of athletes who continue to show up for themselves throughout this all to be ready for when races return. One of my goals coming into 2020 was to continue to grow my coaching business and through March that was going really well, but understandably some of my athletes have needed to take a break due to economic or personal reasons and while it’s tough as a coach, I support their decisions 100% because right now, we each need to do what’s best for ourselves and our families. Lola, our dog, is thriving in quarantine because she loves having us home. Her favorite activity is suntanning in the backyard throughout the day and she will sit at the sliding glass door waiting for us to let her out. We often have to call her in so she doesn’t overheat!

On our family road trip to Montana – even Lola came with and hiked!

It’s crazy to think we’re about to enter September. Last September Ross and I spent a spontaneous weekend in London extending his business trip and it seems like eons ago. I’ve started to think about my spring running plans, which would include running Boston 2021, but I do not think it’s going to be possible for Boston to happen in April of next year sadly just based off of where we’re at at both a country and worldwide level heading into September 2020. I’m optimistic we may see bigger events in the Fall next year after a vaccine has been released, but I think they will look a lot different than what we’ve seen in the past. I do think, however, that we’ll see smaller races occur in the spring since we’ve already started to see some successfully be put on this summer. I do know that I plan to do a full cycle gearing up towards either a half or full marathon in the spring because I want the excitement of doing that again, but only time will tell what I ultimately decide to do! I am chasing joy in everything that I do this year and following my heart, because now more than ever, if the things we’re doing aren’t bringing us happiness, then they’re just not worth doing.

I’ll try to be more regular on my blog documenting training and life updates. I honestly feel lucky that I haven’t had more to update on and grateful for the mundane because that means we’re healthy and stable. I hope all of you are staying healthy as well and finding joy in the little things. We’re all in this together.


Processing Boston 2020 and Moving Forward

May 28th came the news many of us were anticipating but were hoping would never come – the Boston Marathon had been canceled for the first time in its 124 year history. I was really disappointed when Boston was postponed in March being only 6 weeks out from race day at the time. It was because of this that I wanted to guard myself from these feelings again and so I approached the last couple of months thinking that I would train and if the race happened in September, it would just be an added bonus to gaining the fitness. My heart was also in a different place this time around as I had been itching to do a speed block after April’s Boston anyway, and so I decided in April that I would spend the rest of the year working on my speed in shorter distances like the 5K and potentially train for a half marathon in the Fall. When the news that the September Boston was canceled was announced, I was sad, but not devastated because I had prepared myself for this likely being the case.

My heart is broken for first-timers who will not get the opportunity to line up in Hopkinton in 2020. I ran my first Boston last spring and I know I would be reacting much differently today had this been my first one and because it was so recent for me, I feel that pain and emotion for these runners. I am sad for the charity runners who don’t know if they’ll get to run again next year but had likely worked hard to race the funds for this year’s race. I am sad for the Boston community that rallies around this event year after year and loves welcoming the world to their city for the weekend. The B.A.A. announced that the qualifying window for the 2021 Boston would extend the first qualifying date back to September 15, 2018 which was the first day a runner could qualify for the 2020 Boston Marathon. However, they do not guarantee that there will be enough places for everyone to run in 2021. In my opinion, they should give priority to the runners who would have been first timers in 2020 and have these runners be automatically entered into 2021’s race and then fill the rest of the field size accordingly. In an ideal world, they’d roll over all of the 2020 entrants to 2021 (if they want to run) and add an additional wave to account for people who qualified for 2021; it would be the largest Boston ever and they’d likely have to start earlier in the day but it also wouldn’t be fair to 2021 qualifiers not to have an equal shot of running. It took me 6 years of hard work and determination to qualify for Boston so I understand the pain a first-timer might be going through right now. When I finally ran a BQ in Berlin in 2018, I was so, so happy and I’ll never forget that day crossing the line in Berlin knowing I had finally caught my unicorn. Many people work for years to have the opportunity to line up in Boston and these 2020 runners earned their place in the race; they shouldn’t be left out because of a virus that was out of their control and it disappoints me that so far the B.A.A.’s stance is to leave it up to chance next year for these runners.

However, I have to believe that the B.A.A. is making the best decisions with the limited information that they can right now and that maybe the decisions to be made are ongoing. The email and Q&A seemed to leave a lot of room for changes and in today’s world, nothing appears to be set in stone. No one wins in this situation; the B.A.A. doesn’t win, the city of Boston doesn’t win, and the athletes do not win. I truly am curious to know how many runners have qualified for 2021 so far (Berlin, Chicago, and New York were all run pre-COVID so it would be interesting to get the stats on how many qualifiers came out of the majors) and if that guided the B.A.A.’s decision at all. As someone who was supposed to run the 2020 race, I can say I appreciate all of the communication the B.A.A. has provided throughout this process and that they made this decision before marathon training was in full swing to allow people to make other plans before getting in too deep. I hope that in the months to come, they reevaluate their qualifying process for 2021.

A virtual option is being offered for the 2020 Boston with limited information so far on the price since it will include a shirt and a medal. As for me, I am unsure if I will participate since I don’t have much interest in training for the next 3.5 months to run a marathon by myself in the September heat but have not ruled out running it for fun with other friends who were supposed to run Boston 2020 if it is safe to run with others at that time. Prior to this, my plan had been to work up to about an 18 mile long run just to be able to run the marathon distance safely, but I wasn’t going for any PRs in September wanting to focus on short speedwork instead for my summer. I may end up still working up to those 18 miles, or I may not. I do know that this season of speed feels right to me though and I am following gut instinct this year to keep enjoying running and having fun trying something more outside of my comfort zone. I’ve had some people ask me how I continue to have motivation without races on the calendar and I feel lucky that my motivation in this sport has always come from just a pure love of running and pushing myself to reach my potential. It does make it tougher not having a date in mind at the end of this all to work towards, but it’s also been freeing in a sense to be able to give into how I’m feeling and let my heart dictate what the focus is this year. I can’t really explain it but if I never got to race again I think I’d still be waking up 6 or 7 days a week to get out the door just loving the sport.

Moving past Boston 2020, I do have thoughts for bigger races once they’re offered again. I haven’t shared this with many people but I do technically have an entry into this year’s Chicago Marathon. I entered with a time qualifier hoping that my siblings or my dad would get in through the lottery and that we’d get to run their first marathons together, but unfortunately, none of them got through. As a result, I had been planning on deferring that entry to 2021 but am waiting to see what happens on that; it doesn’t look promising living in the Chicago area, but there’s no harm in waiting to defer at this point since it may mean a refund or free deferral to next year. Looking beyond the Fall, I have a BQ from 2019’s CIM and will likely enter the 2021 Boston with that time. I am hopeful that it will be safe to gather in larger groups by April 2021 but I don’t think we’ll have a good idea until later this year what things will look like; I pray for much more than just racing’s sake that things are under control by the end of this year. I want to go back to Boston and to feel that magic again, but I want it to be in an environment where we can have fun and not have to worry about getting sick or getting others sick.

Please feel free to reach out if you want to talk through your disappointment on Boston being canceled; I understand what you’re going through and I’m so sorry that we didn’t get our chance to chase the unicorn this year. I hope that you know that you earned every right to wear that jacket if you were registered for 2020’s race and you should wear it proudly. Runners have the uncanny ability to rise up when disappointment strikes and I have no doubt this will light the fire for the next race we run.

2020 Goals

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately from friends, family, co-workers, etc. on what I’m training for and what my goals are for Boston. It’s weird for me to be almost a month into 2020 and to not have clear-cut goals defined but my timeline has been a little different this year coming off of CIM in December. Prior to 2019, I had never raced seriously beyond October (Midwest is super dicey past that) and always had November and December as “down” months where I had decreased my mileage and just ran for fun while maintaining a base. That timeframe shifted a bit as a result of racing and I feel like I’m just now getting into more structured marathon training which has made it hard for me to be able to set new goals. This season is a little different trying to race 2 marathons in a 4-month time-span; it seems like a lot of time but it’s really not when you consider that a marathon training cycle itself is typically about 4 months long. Because of this, my goals also look a little different because I want to give my body grace trying to do a quicker turnaround and shorter training cycle. Goals give me something to chase, so here are the goals I have laid out for myself for the Spring:

Boston – The Goal Race

For anyone who has run the Boston Marathon before, you know it’s a grueling course between the hills and the unpredictable weather conditions in April. After talking with my coach and internalizing things a little over the last month, my biggest goal here is to replicate a similar effort from CIM on a tougher course (aka run a course PR). I would love to squeeze out even a small PR but if I can run a similar race on the Boston course as I did in CIM (similar time, negative-splitting), I will consider it a success for my future training goals. We’ll see how training goes over the next 13 weeks to be able to hone in on where my fitness is at and what seems realistic but right now I’m just really grateful for a body that has seemed to bounce back well from CIM and excited to get to run my favorite race in the world in April.

The Half Marathons Along the Way

I am currently signed up to run the Publix Atlanta Half Marathon on March 1st and the Cary March Madness Half Marathon on March 15th. Both courses are hilly and will be a good tune-up for Boston. However, they are two weeks apart so I will not be racing both. Between my coach and I, we will decide which race makes more sense to run race pace and which should be more of a workout effort (or simply a supported long run). I signed up knowing I wouldn’t be racing both but the thought of going to the Trials really excited me and the Cary course is only 25 minutes away from home and on a bunch of hills that were great training for Boston last year (I ran a 1:32 here last year in favorable weather conditions, which at the time was a PR). Right now I don’t have specific goals for the race, but I would love to run a sub-1:30 on one of these courses. My PR was set back in November at Indy Monumental (1:27:48) which was a very flat, fast course, so being able to run a 1:29 or better on a more challenging course would indicate that I’m in shape for a faster marathon. One of my goals for 2020 in general is to get more comfortable running sub-1:30 halves since I’ve only done it once before!

Beyond the Spring

I plan to take time off from structured training after Boston through May to just enjoy running and life! I qualified for the NYC Marathon through both the Indy Monumental Half and CIM so I will be signing up for guaranteed entry to the race (and hopefully getting in since they seem to limit the number of qualifiers from non-NYRR races!). Assuming I get into NYC, it will be my goal race for the Fall. I am really excited to put a big, scary goal out there for the future – I want to chase down a sub-3 hour marathon in the near future. Like Boston, NYC is a tough course with lots of hills so I don’t have specific goals just yet, but I want to chip away at that sub-3 goal and run another strong marathon on a tough course. I don’t have a set timeline on achieving this goal and respect the heck out of it, but I feel so privileged to have it be within the realm of possibility and excited to work towards it in the future! If for some reason my guaranteed entry to NYC doesn’t go through, I’ll be readjusting my plans, but I have a backup if need be – just not sharing that yet because the Fall is so far away and I’m not ready to make firm goals!

Overarching 2020 Goals

Apart from my own personal running goals this year, one of my biggest goals is to grow my coaching roster under Team Sugar Runs and pour a lot of my time and energy into my athletes. I have found my passion and this is something I want to eventually take full-time; it’s going to require a lot of work to get to that place! Chasing my own running goals gives me the energy and excitement to pour into chasing goals in other areas of my life, but I see 2020 as being more of a building-block year for myself to be able to run down big goals in the future. I would love to squeeze some PRs out of this year but I know I’ve chosen 2 races with challenging courses so I know things will look a little different! But I’m not writing that story just yet…there are still over 11 months left in the year and anything could happen!

Some Other Thoughts on My Mind

I fell in love with the marathon again in 2019 but my original goal was to spend spring 2020 working on half marathon speed again. That changed when the urge to run Boston again consumed me but I think the half marathon is a distance I have more untapped potential in as I’ve only ever focused on it for one cycle. It’s possible I may change things up in the Fall and decide to focus more on the half with the added component of running NYC and getting my 4th World Marathon Major Star, but thankfully I don’t have to decide that just yet. I love the half marathon distance because my body has less fast-twitch muscle and likes more longer distance, but it’s a race I can run faster in and take more risks because you can always run another one in a month or so, unlike a marathon where you really only get one quality shot in a 4-6 month time span (note: there are exceptions to this rule, but generally when you’ve run race pace for a marathon, your body isn’t going to be able to replicate that effort shortly after; typically you’ll see people jump into a second marathon after a race hasn’t gone to plan and they didn’t actually get to run their race pace so their body wasn’t trashed). I want to chase sub-3, but the half marathon is tugging at my heart strings and so it’s something I’m considering. I think the marathon gets a lot of attention and other races seem to not be as glamorized or held with the same amount of respect, but I think training for any other distance at a high level requires just as much dedication and commitment (maybe just a little less on the time end of not having to run those 20+ mile runs) and these are the race distances that often make a stronger marathoner in the end.

If nothing else from this post, I think you’re probably getting the message that my mind is conflicted! My body seems to be cooperating, but my mind isn’t quite sure what it wants with this 2020 season, and that’s ok. For now, I’m going to keep following the plan and doing my workouts to be able to set myself up for whatever I decide to go after but I’ll be staying in touch with what my heart wants and communicating with my coach who will help guide the training. Ultimately the decision is up to me, but I truly appreciate having someone who is able to separate my emotions from what is truly the best decision for me with my future goals in mind!

California International Marathon Race Recap

Notes on the Build-Up

After Boston, I felt very lost and confused for a while as to what goals I should set for my CIM cycle. I was trying to find joy in running again after having achieved a goal I had set for myself 7 years prior and had been working at constantly. Throughout the summer, I shifted gears and focused on 5Ks to really get some speed back into my legs because I realized that if I wanted to move to the next level in my running, I was going to need to do something different. 5Ks were very outside of my comfort zone – the 5K hurts only about a half mile in when truly racing it but feels like it goes on forever. I’ve always preferred threshold work where I’m right on the edge of pain but not too deep into a pain cave. However, growth often happens when we are uncomfortable so I spent 3 months working on heavy lifting and speedwork to build a stronger body going into my next marathon training cycle. I set my goal for CIM to run a 3:10 marathon which would be an hour off the first marathon I ever ran in 4:10. A secondary goal was to run a sub 1:30 half marathon during the cycle.

The build-up to CIM was anything but smooth. Early on in the cycle I had to take time off for a really bad cold, mid-way through I was dealing with some health issues that were yet to be diagnosed and less than 3 weeks out, I had an excruciating pain in my foot that would be linked to tendinitis. There were high highs during the cycle but there were also some really low lows. There were many times I considered deferring my entry for CIM, thinking that maybe my body just wasn’t able to complete 26.2 miles this time around, and I strangely became ok with that. I was bummed, disappointed, heck I even cried on the floor about it once or twice, but eventually I came to peace that sometimes things just don’t work out the way we planned and that that’s life.

Then a glimmer of hope came in the form of a 1:27 half marathon at the Indy Monumental Half Marathon. It was the first week in months that I wasn’t dealing with bad heartburn and acid reflux and the timing could not have been more perfect; I was really lucky that week and I realized that although I had not always been having smooth workouts or long runs up to that point, because my body was often working overtime to account for the health issues, when they were not present, I was able to cruise because that weight had been lifted off my shoulders both physically and mentally. I had an endoscopy the week following the half that revealed that no, this reflux/heartburn was not just something minor that could’ve resolved itself as I had a sliding hiatal hernia that was pushing my stomach up into my esophagus and causing the reflux. I went on a prescription medication shortly after and have not had my symptoms since.

Unfortunately, later that weekend on a 23-mile long run, I had some really bad arch pain that I had assumed was just from running the half marathon since I had a little lingering pain throughout that week. By the end of a recovery run Sunday, putting pressure on that foot was unbearable and as someone who has had a stress fracture in their foot before, I began to fear the worst. Fortunately, I was able to get in to see an orthopedic on Tuesday and a stress fracture was ruled out after some x-rays and I was diagnosed with a form of tendinitis. I took a couple days off that week from running, missing about 15 miles of training mileage, and went on an anti-inflammatory to see if that would help resolve the issue. Sure enough, I was running pain free again by Wednesday and had one of my strongest long runs of the cycle in a 16-miler that Saturday. I would gain confidence in my final two weeks and realized that I had a real shot of not just running CIM but racing it for what I had trained for.

Race Day

At the starting line. It was still pretty dark out as we started the race!

My alarm went off at 4 a.m. to get up, change, and eat breakfast before catching the 5 a.m. bus to the start line. I had coordinated to ride the bus up to Folsom with Corinne, one of my athletes, and it made the bus ride so much more enjoyable to just chat with one another. It was dark out when we got off the bus and into the lines for the porta-potties. After going to gear check, we parted ways to go to our corrals and I lined up with the 3:10 pace group. At this point, it was still dusk but it wasn’t raining like the forecast had called for earlier in the week which was a plus. There was a countdown to the start and soon we were off, charging downhill which gave me flashbacks to Boston. I had been told by my coach the day before that the pacers were planning to run the course off of effort with all of the hills but the pace seemed really fast and not exactly effortless that first mile. Sure enough, it was. My watch beeped at 6:58 as we passed the first mile marker; for reference, a 3:10 pace group is right around a 7:15 pace so this was quite fast. And then we began our first steep uphill climb. I had trained for hills but I had built it up in my mind that these would be more gentle rollers than steep climbs. I tried to push the thought out of my mind and just focused on working with the pace group. The roads were slick from the rain the night before and I quickly learned to avoid the painted lines on the road as they were extra slippery as well as the reflective plastic pieces on the road since they hurt to land on. Miles 2 and 3 were still fast at a 7:04 and 7:07 and I started to have a hard time to breathe in the humidity. It was going to be a long run ahead and shortly after, I noticed a slight discomfort in my arch, the same type of dull pain I had a few weeks prior. I told myself that I was ok and that it was possible it was just phantom pains popping up and pressed on.

Around mile 5 I noticed my Team Sugar Runs teammate, Natalie, was running right up by the pacers. I was afraid if I got too close I might trip her so I tried to wave but she didn’t notice me. At mile 6, I felt a gentle tap on the shoulder and we exchanged some greetings before getting back in the zone, not wanting to waste energy talking too much. I remember asking the pacer around this same time when the next water station would be as I had wanted to take my gel and wash it down. One mistake I made was not looking at the map ahead of time to know when/where there would be aid stations; in the larger marathons, it isn’t as much of an issue because the tables are long and not as spread out but when I missed a couple aid stations, it added up since I’d have to wait about 2.5 miles to the next one. However, at the time, my breathing didn’t seem too labored while I was talking to the pacer and I used that as positive affirmation that I could do what I set out to do. I zoned out for awhile, knowing that my plan was to stick with the pace group until halfway and then I could go run my own race, then came out of the zone when I saw a rogue chicken running in the middle of the street (not even kidding!) and tried really hard not to bust out laughing.

Seeing Elyse just before Mile 12

I saw Elyse (@milestomedals on Instagram) on the course just before mile 12 and it gave me a boost to see and hear her cheering. At this point, the sun was bright and shining and I was thankful I had brought my visor with me. Around mile 12.5, I was ready to take my second gel and grabbed what should’ve been a cup of water (the white cups were water, the blue Nuun cups were Nuun), squeezed some gel, then some of the liquid, and quickly realized the cups had been messed up and there was Nuun in the water cups. It was sugar overload trying to take the gel with Nuun and I began to worry that my stomach would have issues later on since sugar overload was my issue in 2018’s Chicago Marathon where I spent a half hour in porta-potties. I tried to push the thought out of my head, focusing on the fact that I’d get to see my family at the halfway point as planned, and kept moving. I crossed the halfway point in 1:34:40, just slightly ahead of the pace group at this point and pretty darn close to where I should’ve been with the 3:10 group. It was time to race now and up to me to determine how far under 3:10 I could go. I didn’t see my family until a little after halfway but after I saw them, my next mile was a 6:46. It was a little too soon to be dropping paces like that but I was just so excited to get to see them. I quickly refocused and ended up running with Natalie for a little bit in the next mile. Around mile 15, I had another tap on my shoulder and looked back to see Katie (@2fabfitchicks) waving at me. This gave me another boost to keep on moving and it was so great to see her on the course. Shortly after, I decided to take my arm sleeves off as I was getting quite warm with the sun and I put them in my pocket just in case I’d need them again. I don’t exactly remember when it started but I think it was around mile 18 that it started to rain. It had sprinkled a couple times up to this point but the rain later in the race was stronger and I was so thankful to have my visor on to keep the rain out of my eyes; I had debated not wearing it that morning since it looked like the rain was going to hold off but between the sunshine and random bouts of rain, I am really thankful that I did. I did some mental math and realized that I was on track for a big PR even if I ran 8-minute pace the rest of the race; I think every runner is guilty of doing mental math while on the course and for some reason 8-min pace is my default for calculating paces. I tried to convince myself that I was just going out for an 8-mile run, something I do all the time, and somehow it tricked me into keeping my pace consistently right around a 7-min mile.

Seeing my family past the halfway mark and being so excited to see them!

I knew that my family would be at mile 20 and I focused on getting to them. In the live photos, you can really see the rain coming down when I saw them at mile 20; spectators are troopers for standing out in that weather. I tossed my arm sleeves to my parents, then saw Ross further up the road and waved to him before continuing on.

Seeing my family at mile 20 in the rain

I think miles 14-21 were probably my strongest on the course – both strongest feeling and strongest splits (other than mile 1…lol) but we got hit with a bridge around 21.5 and although the hill was not much, it felt so much bigger this late in the marathon. I had remembered reading something about a final bridge at this point though and focused on the fact that it should be mostly downhill or flat for the rest of the miles which was pretty accurate. Around mile 22, Natalie came up on me and ran past looking strong. I tried to go with her, but my legs just didn’t want to move any faster, so I tried to keep her in my sights and just keep pushing. My body locked into a pretty good rhythm and miles 22-26 were all between 7:11-7:17. I had wanted to throw down in these final miles but my legs were toast after the hills. I knew, however, that I could hold a consistent effort over those final miles and just focused on getting to each mile marker. I hit the 400 meters to go sign and knew it was time to push. I started sprinting and when I got to 200 to go, I grabbed Natalie’s hand and told her it was time for us to go. We both turned the corner to run into the finish, and finished very nearly together. Coming across the line my legs completely locked up and I had a hard time standing up, but she was there to hold me up (after running her own marathon nonetheless) and I was so grateful that we had each other out there on the course as teammates. I looked at my watch and saw 3:07 and was so happy and at the same time just so tired and ready to be done running. We grabbed our medals and finisher ponchos, then I saw my family and Jessica’s family near the finish and she gave me the biggest hug. She had also run a big PR that day and we were just so excited. After lots of pictures, hugs, and some tears, we all ended up going our separate ways, and I got to celebrate with my family over a big brunch!

After Thoughts

My race strategy for CIM was to run the first half with the 3:10 pace group and then to go run ahead of them trying to pick up speed as I went. I don’t think I could have executed the plan any better, other than knowing some of the aid stations wouldn’t be on both sides of the course as it caused me to miss a couple opportunities to get water. Talking with Jessica before the race on a race strategy phone call, based on my cycle, it looked like I could run in the ballpark of 3:06:00-3:08:59, and I finished right in the middle at 3:07:40. I ran my first ever negative-split in a marathon, running the first half in 1:34:40 and the second half in 1:33:00. In August 2018, I set a half PR of 1:35 and was elated; just over a year later, I ran a marathon with each half faster than that PR which is really cool to see. My slowest split ended up being a 7:19 and fastest at 6:46; it still boggles my mind how my slowest mile split was once a pace I craved to run in a half marathon. Although the splits don’t reflect it (the HR readings per mile definitely do!), this race was hard and there were a few distinct rough patches throughout it. Because of experience, I was able to recognize each of these and I am so proud of the way I responded to them and worked through them knowing that it was likely temporary if I could just hang on and keep pushing. The weather was tough for me but I know it was tough for many people. I hadn’t run outside in shorts since October living in Chicago and for the last month and a half of training was running in 20-40 degree weather. The start temperature was 55 degrees and from what I saw on other people’s Instagram stories, 95% humidity. I’m glad I didn’t look at that part before my race or it may have psyched me out since my asthma can get the best of me in humid conditions. When I finished, it was 63 degrees out, which is pretty warm for running a marathon. I ended up taking more Nuun on the course than I had planned (my plan was water only) and I think it helped me get in the extra electrolytes to combat the humidity and water loss as a result. I also think that mentally I was ready to fight after having been through so much that training cycle and knowing that I came out stronger as a result. I drew many parallels between this course and Boston – the weather conditions were similar to when I ran it, the hills and elevation was similar, it’s point to point…I think the thing that makes CIM more “runner friendly” than Boston is that the hills are all in the first 18 miles or so of the marathon and in Boston, the biggest uphill climbs begin around mile 16 when your legs have already taken a beating on the downhill. I was thankful to have done so much strength training to prepare my legs for the hills and for being able to run on rolling hills for every long run and workout to really simulate race day.

Marathon Mile Splits

Moving Forward

I want to celebrate this PR for as long as possible. I think too often we accomplish something and want to jump to the next goal but if we never take time to celebrate the achievement, it means nothing. There’s a difference between being hungry for more and not ever being satisfied. I’m excited to set new goals, but I want to relish in this victory and am just so proud of what my body has been able to do this cycle. It was certainly a breakthrough cycle in terms of times run and because I know that likely not every cycle will end in a PR, we really need to celebrate the ones that do.

That being said, I will be running the Boston Marathon in 2020. I have an idea of a potential goal, but honestly I want to take these next couple of weeks to just be excited and happy before jumping into training and goals again. I’ve never tried to do back to back cycles like this so I’m taking it one day at a time, but we never know unless we try and now is as good a time as any to see what works for me!

The Weight Off My Back

I am one of the lucky ones. One of the ones who found running as an adolescent but still have a healthy relationship with it. One of the ones who had a healthy coach-athlete relationship where my coaches saw beyond the present and wanted us to have longevity in the sport.

Yet the adolescent mind could not help but wonder…if I hadn’t gotten my period at age 11, would I be faster? The fastest girls on my team were thin, pre-pubescent, and nearly all identical builds. I had hips, a butt, and had been menstruating for 4 years by the time I joined the track team. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was a different “build” than the traditional high school distance runner. But there was a time that I didn’t realize I was any different than anyone else.

I began running on the middle school track team, competing in the 400 meter dash most often. No one in my family was a runner and I had rarely run more than a mile at a time in soccer practice or in the high school mile. Our middle school coaches were not intense and let us pick our events; the 400 seemed like a good fit for me since I didn’t have overly quick startup speed and at the time didn’t possess much interest in running long distance. At this point in my life, running was a fun activity to enjoy with friends also on the team. I’ve always been competitive, but I knew nothing about fast times or runners’ bodies and I was primarily competitive with myself, or with others I knew from school but not much beyond that. For that reason, I was not a top runner in middle school, and at this point in my life, I was mostly focused on soccer anyway. This would continue through my freshman year of high school until I decided to make a change with my sports focus.

During my freshman year, I was playing travel soccer in the fall and it was expected that I would play high school soccer in the spring. In the time between travel soccer and high school soccer, I decided to join the track team and compete in indoor track. It was a good way to stay in shape between seasons and our girls’ track team was one of the best in the state. The culture I found in the team was unlike any other culture I had been a part of in a sports team. The coaches were serious, they were committed to bring out the best in the athletes and setting each of us up for success, but also a little goofy, forming strong relationships with many of the runners who had been on the team for multiple years. The girls were welcoming, kind, and dedicated. Because the track team was open to everyone, there was a wide range of individuals. I would argue it was one of the most diverse clubs let alone teams at the school and it felt like a safe place to be yourself, which in high school, could be hard to do. It’s a place where cliques vanished, stereotypes disappeared, and girls who would probably never talk to one another in the hall were suddenly old friends. Having been bullied online by a few of the girls on my travel soccer team (a story for another day), I finally felt like this was where I was supposed to be and felt like an integral part of the team from Day 1.

Unfortunately, once the winter season was up, I had a choice to make. Would I remain a part of the track team I had grown to love so much, or would I pick spring soccer, making good on the investment my parents had made into travel soccer to help me be able to make the high school team? I remember approaching the head girls’ track coach before practice one day, and letting her know that I had made my decision. I would be playing soccer that spring. I didn’t hold it together very well and distinctly remember crying as she gave me a hug and told me, “You’re always welcome back on the team. Many girls have gone the route you are choosing and have come back the year after.” I turned in my uniform and proceeded to have an awful spring, relying on only two peers on the team for support and knowing that chatter was always going on behind my back. I would come home from soccer practice and often go out for a run, logging a lap or two around the lake we lived on (just over a mile around) because I felt like I hadn’t gotten a good workout in; little did I know it was also a big stress-reliever at the time.

I quit travel soccer after that spring season and started running on my own, only a couple miles at a time without timing myself. I was committed to rejoining the track team that winter and when it rolled around, I decided I wanted to run with the distance crew. I had recognized that I didn’t have natural speed for sprints and had grown to enjoy running further distances. I started off running with some of the JV girls, but quickly realized that I had good endurance and was able to keep going when many of them would want to stop and catch their breath. I gathered my courage and one day asked the varsity girls if I could run with them. I had no business being there – I hadn’t proven myself yet and had only been racing in the shorter distance events at meets but I wanted to improve and I knew that running with people who were faster than me was probably the best way to do that. The girls were gracious and invited me to come with them. There was one varsity team but two groups that normally went out to run, one faster and one slightly slower. I started with the second group and was able to keep up, but was often a lot more gassed than they were, remaining quiet in the back as I was breathing heavily and letting the other girls carry the conversation. Gradually, though, I became more comfortable, joining in on the conversations when my breathing was no longer labored, and eventually being noticed by the head distance coach who encouraged me to go out for cross-country in the fall and to continue running with the girls over the summer to stay in shape.

It was a no-brainer. I was committed to the team and to the girls I was running with and felt like I had found the sport I truly belonged in. I was continuing to improve because I was doing something I hadn’t done before; there was a lot of room for growth and progression. I quickly became one of the top 5 runners on the cross-country team my junior year, happy that I was scoring points for the team (there are 7 runners who run in a Varsity race and only the top 5 actually score points for the overall team score). My body was changing as I was running more and more, becoming very lean and toned, and people were recognizing it. I remember my junior homecoming all of the moms commenting on how thin I was, as if it was a very positive thing, and liking the attention I was getting for the way I looked. I didn’t change my eating habits, and if anything I probably ate more carbs than I had before at carbo-loading parties we’d have before big invitational meets, but it was the first time I really started associating body type with running and recognizing that a certain look was considered “normal” for distance runners.

I went on to have a strong junior year in both cross-country and track, breaking 12 minutes in the 2-mile with 11:53 and running my fastest mile in 5:33. I claim no natural ability in running; truly this was the result of hard work and determination and it would has been the backbone of all of my training for years to come. I was also selected as one of captains for both the cross-country teams and track teams respectively for my senior year. I felt on top of the world, loving every minute of running and school, so I wasn’t ready for the changes that would happen on our team that next year, or in my mind.

During my senior year of high school, there were a few new faces on the Varsity team, girls who had either come out of middle school as strong runners or had made a lot of progress during the track season in the spring. I found myself just vying to stay in the top 7 that year and to be able to compete for Varsity. We had a very competitive, strong team; in nearly every other team in our area apart from a couple schools, a 19:23 3-mile athlete could run Varsity and be in the top 5 runners consistently. It was hard for me to take in mentally, but it definitely pushed everyone to be their best and continue to work hard. It also unintentionally bred a cutthroat environment. Instead of the supportive, caring group we once had, it seemed like it was everyone out for themselves. We were working together in practice, but we knew that every workout and every dual meet mattered for which of the “Top 12” (12 individuals can be listed on a Varsity roster but only 7 get to race in the Varsity race), would get to compete for the Varsity team on the weekend invitationals and which would run from the front of the pack in JV. I found myself often winning JV races that season as I was typically number 8 when it came to speed that year. It was heartbreaking to always be just one spot away from running the varsity race, but I tried to let it fuel me, crossing the line in the top 3 consistently in the JV race and trying to prove to my coach that I belonged on the varsity starting line. I had waged mental warfare on myself, and I saw other teammates crumble under the pressure to stay at the top as well. I remember protein powder infiltrating its way into our practices and having to take it immediately after we finished a hard workout or after a big meet. I also remember it being the first season we had a session with a sports psychologist and our coaches encouraging us to begin seeing him regularly. I felt weird asking my parents to pay for such a thing in high school so I refrained from going, but I started to question if part of the reason some of my teammates were improving was because they had someone to talk through the mental challenges of running with.

I think the darkest thing I saw, however, was a new obsession with weight. It wasn’t just by the girls on the team, it was by parents who subtly made comments when they thought no one else was listening, or other high schoolers who didn’t realize how far their words went. “Oh well she’s so tiny, of course she’s fast.” “She hasn’t hit puberty yet, as soon as she does, she’s going to slow way down.” I had already gone through puberty so I couldn’t change that fact, but I could control my weight from getting any higher. It was during this season that I became obsessed with weighing myself daily, thinking that if I could stay under 120 pounds that I would stay fast. At 5’5’’, the normal weight for a female is 113 pounds-138 pounds according to online research. I would hover around 118 pounds that season, within normal limits which is probably why no one had reason to question anything, but at this weight I sustained injury after injury that would plague the rest of my senior year. It obviously wasn’t a healthy weight for me to be at, but I didn’t realize this until very recently when reflecting on how I’m at my heaviest today have been running my fastest times because I am healthy and have let my body dictate where its weight should fall.

I’d like to make it clear, I’ve never had an eating disorder, I think back in high school I just wasn’t eating enough calories to fuel my body for long distance running. I remember in health class, we once went to the computer lab to do research on caloric intake. If we were to go back to the lab today, I could tell you exactly where I was sitting and at what computer I was sitting at, that’s how etched into my brain this is. We put in our height and weight into a website and it spit out an average number of how many calories someone with our body type should be consuming per day. It had an option to put whether or not you were active, but it didn’t quite specify how active. I selected the “active” option. 1800-2100 calories. So naturally, the 17 year old brain fixated on the lowest number only. In my mind, 1800 calories was the recommended consumption for a 5’5’’ female with an active lifestyle (to give you an idea, according to the registered dietician I recently worked with, I should be consuming 1800-2300 calories per day; 1800 is on the low end and is essentially for when my activity level is low, not when I am in peak training). Back in high school, I didn’t know any better, so I began following that guideline; if we learned it in health class, it had to be accurate, right?

The computer research should have been a harmless exercise, but looking back I think, shame on those teachers for having high school students researching this at a vulnerable time in their lives. I understand their intent was to help students make healthy choices later down the road when they were living on their own but high school girls, especially, are already so self-conscious about themselves during high school, and this was just one more reason for us to be. I began counting calories on wrappers, always opting for the non-fat or low-fat option when there was one, and at 17 years old I was choosing salads over cheeseburgers at fast food restaurants. While cheeseburgers are not necessarily the answer to a balanced diet, helping athletes understand that food is fuel is critical. I was trying to eat like the media was promoting in commercials (low fat or non-fat everything because all fat was bad for you – very, very false) or what others around me were eating, not like an endurance athlete should be. Without the right balance, bad things can happen.

And bad things did happen. Shortly before the cross-country state meet, I sustained a stress fracture in my foot and was in a boot for a month. I remember swimming to try to stay in cardio shape but falling into a deep sadness over muscle tone that disappeared and pounds that were added to the scale. It was around this same time that I had decided to become a pescatarian, a person who is a vegetarian but also consumes fish. The funny part is, I only like salmon and tilapia so really I just severely cut down my protein intake and increased carbs because I was hungry all of the time. I continued to eat like this for 4 years, eventually growing frustrated with feeling exhausted from not fueling properly and also gaining weight from eating carbs constantly, and added back in chicken and turkey to my diet. My energy levels returned and my weight started to normalize because I was eating a more balanced diet again. I think there is a right way to eliminate meat and still be an endurance athlete but as a 17-year old whose family did not eat this way, I had no idea what I was doing and how to eat properly to fuel myself (note this is not on them at all; I take full responsibility for irresponsibly cutting an entire food group out).

I struggled through my senior year of track after coming back from my stress fracture, but found myself in physical therapy later on for IT Band Syndrome which had gotten so bad that I once collapsed on the field while doing a stride during track practice because my knee just gave out. The signs were clear long before this incident that I should have taken a break, but I was stubborn and more than anything I wanted to get to the state meet and run around the infamous blue track. Instead, it was a season riddled by injury and frustration, and as a result I never had an opportunity to actually run in a state meet, which when I look back on my time in high school is the one thing I feel like I never accomplished (I would later feel the satisfaction I was searching for from this by qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon). I would continue running in college because I enjoyed it for both exercise and stress relief and later in my sophomore year, my weight started to increase, more towards where it probably should have been to be healthy for me. It took me a very long time to accept the changes my body went through, often looking back at old pictures from my high school running days and idolizing the way my body used to look.

I wish I could go back in time and throw out the scale in my bathroom at home. I wish someone could’ve told me that 1800 calories a day was not enough to fuel my body running and lifting 6 days a week. I wish it wasn’t assumed that anyone who had gone through puberty early would never make it at the top in high school. I wish that I loved my body then as much as I do now and could show my younger self all that it could accomplish when all of the pieces are aligned.

I shouldn’t have to be considered “lucky” that I made it out of the sport at a young age and still love running and competing today. I have quite a few teammates who were at the top and have either stopped running altogether or only do so on occasion and it makes me sad that something that used to bring them so much joy became a monster. I want the new normal of adolescent running to be all body types represented at the highest levels, letting girls’ bodies come into their own and not forcing them to fit a mold they weren’t meant to. I want to set that example for younger girls who might be following my running journey, and if I ever have the opportunity to coach high school athletes, to put a focus on helping them be comfortable with the body they’re in and celebrating what it can do for them. I would love for my own future children to be runners, and if they choose to be, I want them to be in environments that support them as people first and runners second. My life is better because running is in it, and that’s how it always should be.