2022 Closing Thoughts

This time last year, I was in the middle of making one of the biggest decisions of my life so far, the decision to leave my comfortable, safe corporate job and to take my coaching business full-time. I had recently been promoted to management and truly loved the people I worked with and the opportunities that I had been given, but had known since leaving college that I never truly studied or went after what I was passionate about. I went after what was safe. In 2018 I became a certified running coach and began coaching runners shortly after in 2019. After 3 years, I had built up my roster of athletes with Team Sugar Runs to the point that I really needed to make a decision – did I continue growing the business and make it my full-time job or did I cap my athlete roster and focus more on my full-time job, because doing both with the number of athletes I had and the amount of responsibility I had in corporate just wasn’t sustainable anymore. I went back and forth on the decision, talking with Ross daily about where my head was at, shedding a lot of tears, and ultimately deciding to be brave and take the leap. I put in my two-weeks notice at my job and as of the beginning of 2022 was a full-time running coach. Telling our families was the scariest part because it wasn’t a traditional “path” or “job” and I was so scared that they wouldn’t be proud of me or think I was making the right choice (I think this says a lot more about me and how much I care about what others think and less about them), but I was pleasantly surprised by the support I received.

Shortly after having made the announcement to my family, Christmas-time came around and I was able to talk to extended family more about the path I was taking. One conversation had more impact on me than I would realize at the time. We always get together with my uncle and his family shortly before or after Christmas just the small group of us and this year we all got together at my parents’ house the day after Christmas to play games and have a meal together. I remember sitting around my parents’ dining room table talking with my uncle and aunt before everyone had been seated about the big job change and telling him, “I won’t make as much money as I did in my corporate job so that’s a little scary,” and him almost immediately responding with something along the lines of, “so what? You’ll be much happier and that’s worth a lot more.” It meant a lot coming from him because I knew he had lived this; moving up well within the corporate world but it not necessarily being his “passion”. It’s what most people do in this world and most of us never are able to make our passions our careers. I had been inspired by him, however, when he published his first children’s book, doing something a lot of people would be afraid to do out of fear of failing/trying something new, but he did it proudly and excited to try something completely new. It’s from this that I knew just how much he meant when he told me how important it was to be happy vs. chasing the money.

Exactly one week later on January 2nd, he passed away very unexpectedly and suddenly leaving our hearts broken. It felt surreal having just been sitting across the table from him the week before, or playing games together in the family room. My uncle always had a smile on his face and could make anyone laugh. He was so young and it didn’t seem fair to me that this could be happening to his family or to my mom, losing her last relative after losing both of her parents so young. I was so sad, but I was also so angry. Death is hard no matter when or how it happens but this just seemed so unfair. I struggled for a couple months, being old enough to understand that bad things happen to good people but seeing it first hand happen to someone I love made it so much more confusing.

The anger passed quicker than the grief, and I was thankful to have my running during this time for consistency it provided during a tough time and additionally the endorphin boost that I was severely lacking. The day of my uncle’s death I went on an afternoon run on a day I would’ve normally opted for the treadmill as the roads were still full of snow not having been cleared yet by the plows. I put sunglasses on to hide the tears streaming down my face and just ran, not planning any sort of route and just taking random streets as they came. I ran down the street my childhood friend lived on, not realizing that he was home at the time, and at the exact moment that I ran by his parents’ house he and his wife were in the driveway loading up their car to head back to Minnesota. They didn’t know what had happened and I didn’t tell them in that moment, but getting to hug both of them brought a lot of peace to me that they were there at the exact time that I needed a sign that things were going to be ok. What’s still crazy to me looking back is that had I left any earlier/later or picked a different street to run down that day that I would’ve never known they were home and passed them. This was an early, but important part of my healing process knowing that I was being watched over.

I had just started to train for the marathon at this time and while this would have been a good reason to consider dropping down in distance or taking some time off, something inside of me wanted to keep trying. The winter in Chicago was brutally cold and windy earlier this year and seemed to go on forever, so when I learned in late February that my goal marathon had been canceled, I really wondered if it was yet another sign telling me that I wasn’t meant to run a marathon this spring/it would’ve been another good reason to stop training. But again, something inside me wanted to keep trying and to not give up so easily just because the cycle wasn’t going as smoothly as I had hoped. The biggest thing driving me during these months was the gift of life and the ability to be able to run; it’s something I know I have taken for granted in the past and in losing someone I loved, I started looking at things a lot differently than I had before.

I had set a lot of goals for myself and my coaching business for 2022 but what I didn’t realize at the time was just how burnt out I was. I promptly got sick the week after I left my corporate job, sicker than I had been in years, and could barely get out of bed for about a week feeling so awful. When everyone went back to work in early 2022, I was at home a lot more feeling sad and a little lonely, which didn’t lead to being as productive as I thought I would be with less responsibilities on my plate. I felt guilty for awhile with how I felt and how I wasn’t being super productive, able to rely on the stability of a husband who has a great job, but he was the one who helped me realize that it was ok to take a little break from being overly-ambitious for a little while and to just live and enjoy the newfound extra time I had. It took me until the summer to start feeling re-energized and excited to start advancing on some of the goals I had set for myself, like passing the NASM Certified Personal Trainer exam. I passed my test in July and as of writing this blog, was offered a job as a personal trainer at my local gym which I’ll hopefully begin soon. I continued working with many of my athletes from 2021 in 2022 and have enjoyed bringing new athletes on board working with them towards their running goals. Although also a little embarrassing to admit, I finally found a routine and schedule in October that has been working well for me to structure my days at home to be more productive.

As someone who is very goal-oriented and driven, it was tough for me to be struggling so much this year with feeling “aimless” and unmotivated. It became very clear that I needed a break after burning the candle from both ends for so long trying to balance a corporate career, my coaching business, my own training, and my personal relationships, but when I took the break I felt “lazy” and undeserving of the time off, thinking every minute needed to be filled with something to justify my decision to work full-time from home in coaching. I would tell someone else going through this type of transition to have more grace with themselves and that it’s ok to take time for yourself. I think I probably would’ve been more productive earlier in the year had I stopped fighting with myself so much about taking the break and just taken it. We can only be the best, most productive version of ourselves when we are happy and healthy and I wish I would’ve accepted that truth earlier and extended myself more grace.

After the marathon and a positive covid diagnosis, I struggled with running for about 10 weeks, never feeling very good on runs and barely being able to run my half marathon pace for even 1000 meters at a time. I felt so down during this time because here I was having all this extra time I never had before when working both jobs and I felt like it was being wasted on not being able to train. Looking back now, I’m sad for that version of me who was measuring success in life only by the ability to run and run fast. I think it’s reasonable to be upset when your running isn’t going well but I had inadvertently made running my entire life between my career and my personal running, and had forgotten how many other good parts of my life there were that were worth pursuing and spending time on. Ironically by seeking more balance in my life I had become very unbalanced.

I took a break from structured training for awhile and decided to give myself a season off from any big racing goals. I said yes to long weekends visiting friends, going to events, staying up late, traveling, etc., something I’d usually say no to for fear of not getting enough sleep/getting sick during training. I feel like I fully lived this summer and fall and during that time, my workouts and local 5K races ended up feeling pretty good and I ran some of my fastest times without being so laser-focused on it. I ran better because I was happy. I’ve been working harder because I’m happy. Happy in my career, happy in my relationships, happy in my life. It truly is the secret sauce behind success.

We were listening to the sermon at church last week and I felt like the year came full-circle for me. The sermon was about learning to give thanks in all situations, even the ones that don’t seem like there would be much reason to be thankful for. A few weeks ago I was involved in a hit and run while I was working at the running store and my car was parked in the parking lot. In that moment I was upset, but one of the first things that came out of my mouth was, “it’s just a thing and things can be replaced.” I wasn’t in the car, I had no bodily damage, it was just a metal frame of a car that was damaged. It was un unexpected cost for us and of course I wasn’t excited about it, but 2022 has reminded me of what a gift it is to live, to be loved, and to be happy. To have all of these things means everything else is just extra. The extras, like running, weren’t great this year, but the core – to be healthy and alive, to be loved by a wonderful family, and to be happy with who I am and the life I am building – that is such a beautiful gift.

Failing Forward: Lessons Learned Through 2022 Racing

After the Eugene Marathon in May, I knew I needed a break. Physically my body felt burned out, and mentally I was struggling with wanting to continue to train, even during the marathon cycle itself. I had just run another sub-par marathon and felt like I wasted another 4 months of my life in pursuit of a goal just to epically fail in front of so many people who had watched my journey and knew the goals I had for myself. I found out later that week that I likely had covid when I ran the marathon which would explain the result, and although that gave me some peace of mind, the road to recovery after that was a lot more challenging than I was expecting and it took me about 4 months to feel more like myself running again. Getting covid was just the tip of the iceberg, however. Looking back I know I was on a track to burning out much earlier than that but kept forging ahead knowing that I could take a break once the marathon was over.

Taking a break from structure and paces on the trails in summer 2022.

Initially I hadn’t been planning on running a spring 2022 marathon, but after the NYC Marathon didn’t go so well, I wanted redemption. I initially picked the Illinois Marathon to go after a sub-3 goal which was special to me because it was where I ran my first marathon and where I went to college. Because of its smaller size, I also time-qualified to have table service which meant I’d be able to put bottles out on the course and be able to time my nutrition needs. I was excited about this race and all of the amenities that came along with it. I had also just quit my corporate job and taken coaching full-time so I had full control of my schedule and was looking forward to seeing what I could do with ample time to recover, get enough sleep every night, and have time for training more.

I had such mixed emotions after NYC and remember being sad taking these photos the day after the race but knew I’d regret not taking any later on.

This winter was pretty frigid and it made training less enjoyable when every day it would be windy, gloomy, and downright bone-chilling. In mid-February, the Illinois Marathon emailed us to let us know that they would not be able to support a marathon at the end of April and it left me questioning if I should proceed with my cycle or not. I wasn’t particularly enjoying training through the winter and with a death in the family in January, was dealing with my own grief and the grief of my family around me. Emotionally I was pretty drained, but I had invested a lot into this training cycle so I found another race that was on the same weekend as Illinois and had a similar elevation profile and continued to chip away at my goals.

I did a lot of runs on the treadmill in winter 2022 because of how cold it was outside. I set a new treadmill “PR” running a 20-miler in February indoors and it was a PR I never hoped to make!

I won’t rehash the whole cycle, I talk about it in past posts, but what I haven’t talked about much is that I think ironically by having more time to train and recover that I put even more pressure on myself than I had before to succeed because there was seemingly no excuse anymore. I also felt pressure to perform to attract more athletes who would want to work with me since coaching was my full-time job now, because as much as we don’t want to admit it, results do boost business (after some of my bigger PRs I’ll get an influx of interest forms for coaching so the proof is in the numbers; can you tell I used to work in data analytics?). It became a recipe for disaster – overthinking every workout or result and it quickly stole my joy for racing and training.

After Eugene, I took a couple months away from structured training, running when I wanted and what I wanted, struggling quite a bit in the post-covid recovery. My heart rate was pretty high even at easier efforts and I felt like I was trudging through cement on every run. I put a lot of focus on strength training during this time because I didn’t have the same issues in the gym that I was having on the roads since my heart rate wouldn’t get as high not doing cardio. I kept running, however, not because I had to, but because instinctually it’s what I felt called to do. It didn’t feel great for a long time and I was concerned that I’d never get back to the level I was at pre-covid, but something inside me kept wanting to lace up anyway, and I honestly think it was just out of consistency having run for the last 15 years of my life and not knowing a world without running.

I remember this track workout well. I tried to run 1000 meters at tempo pace and felt like I was sprinting at a pace I had once run 3 miles at a time at. The post-COVID recovery was very long and challenging for me.

In August I ran a 5K at 6:23 pace as a rust-buster while visiting friends. We hadn’t been planning on racing initially when we were going to visit but an opportunity to run for free came up and I jumped on it. It was a low pressure, low expectations race, and ended up being one of the best paced 5Ks I’ve ever done. Most of all, it was so fun, and I wanted to do it again! I kept training throughout August and September and somewhere along the way my body started feeling a lot stronger and better on my runs, which enabled a lot more confidence. Every week was not perfect and sometimes I’d feel like I’d make good progress one week just to take a couple steps back the next, but I put a big emphasis on listening to my body, shifting workouts when I knew I wasn’t feeling quite right to give myself a shot when I’d feel better (and also to keep my confidence going in the right direction). I ended up closing out my season of speed this past weekend running a 6:18 paced 5K, a PR pace for me in the distance, and the week prior a 5:38 road mile. It would be tempting to keep going now that I feel like I’m on an upward trajectory, but this cycle served its purpose in restoring my fitness and my confidence and I want to hang onto that going into training for Boston later this year, and also recognize that it’s important to take scheduled breaks between training blocks even if the race is much shorter than a marathon!

5K in August that kicked off a season of speed. I had so much joy crossing the line that day!

Over the past week, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on my year of running, and though I initially described my spring marathon as a failure, what I didn’t recognize at the time was that I failed forward. In Eugene I ran a time that only 3 years ago I would’ve dreamed of running, but my perception had shifted as I got faster and the bar had been raised. Today, my “bad race” is a time that previous me would’ve been thrilled with, and that’s a sign of progress even if in a roundabout way. We don’t wish for failure and we prepare to succeed, but if there’s anything I’ve learned in 15 years of running it’s that failure is part of the process and success is often just around the corner if we are patient and consistent in showing up. Riding the lows in running can be hard, especially when they last for a couple years at a time, but if I gave up when it got hard, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. Fit and ready to push my limits again training for the Boston Marathon, this time keeping fun at the forefront and doing it for me.

First-place female in a local 5K this past weekend, closing out my training cycle.

Summer Training Update

It’s been awhile since I had the mental capacity to write more about my training, but I feel like I’m finally in a place where I can talk about it without getting sad or frustrated. It’s no secret that the last couple of years have been really challenging racing-wise for me. I’m not going to rehash it all here (if you’re interested, starting with the Glass City Half, NYC Marathon, Carmel Half Marathon, and Eugene Marathon are the recaps I’d go back to) but to sum it all up, I haven’t had a race that I’ve felt really good about since CIM in 2019; it’s not just because it’s my PR, I just really feel like things haven’t clicked and felt as smooth since that day in Sacramento. After getting covid in Eugene, I felt like the nail was in the coffin for my running for awhile, and in many ways, it was. I dealt with what we’re now calling “long-covid” in my running, even if it wasn’t showing up in my daily life. For 10 weeks after getting sick my heart rate was sky high on runs and I could barely run my easier paces without having to stop. Fortunately things started to turn around about 10-12 weeks after being sick and I’ve been able to start training at the level I want to again, but on my own terms.

Prior to getting covid in Eugene, I knew I needed a break from marathon training. I had actually told my coach before I ran the marathon that I was likely going to take a break from all structure for a little bit to find the love for training again, which isn’t exactly the kind of mindset you should be in before going after a big goal. I’m not sure why but somewhere between December 2019 when I was at my peak at CIM having just smashed my marathon PR and the end of 2020, my mental game became so weak. I started off the beginning of the pandemic eager to hop into a summer of virtual time trials and speedwork but I think the weight of everything going on around me really caught up and the outside stress bled into my training. I went through a lot of changes personally during the pandemic – how I viewed the world, career changes, etc. – and all of this added up. I lost the ability to push myself to my limits because I didn’t have the mental capacity to take on more discomfort.

I had been struggling with the question of who I am apart from my training. I realized just how integral running had become to my life and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, I had unintentionally made it nearly my whole identity instead of just a piece of me, so when things began to go wrong in races, it meant my whole world seemed to come crashing down instead of just this piece of my life. I was frustrated after leaving the corporate world to take coaching full-time and therefore setting my own schedule that things weren’t clicking in my training since I had more time to devote to training and recovery. When my own running wasn’t going well, it was equally challenging to then have my whole career now be focused on running and never have much time away from the sport. It was an unexpected “consequence” of making my passion my career and while I do not have any regrets now 9 months removed from making it my full-time job, it’s something I wish I would’ve known ahead of time so I could mentally prepare myself for it and learn how to separate my own running from the business side of running. It’ll be a piece of advice I pass along to other coaches in the future who ask about taking their coaching businesses full-time!

This summer has been one of my favorite yet because I am still enjoying running but am not gone for 2-3 hours at a time on the weekend with long runs or being too exhausted on the weekend to want to make plans with friends. I started with no goals, which I quickly realized is not how I’m wired, and have transitioned to a periodized training block for quicker speed in the mile/5K but without the pressure of a race on the calendar and the time commitment needed for something like a marathon. I can still run a nice volume (40-50 miles a week) but my long runs are 10-12 miles now instead of 18-22. I hopped into a local 5K in August to test my speed and was pleasantly surprised with just how much fun I had; it didn’t matter that it wasn’t a PR, but to me, it felt just as special as one to finally have that excitement about racing again. I think I really needed this season to reset and refocus on why I love this sport and be ok with it evolving to meet me where I’m at. I’ve stopped comparing myself to former running selves and instead just want to focus on feeling strong in my workouts, knowing that the times will come when I’m happy and have taken the pressure off.

I get tempted to sign up for a race now knowing I have the base to do it, but I think I’m sticking to the plan of continuing to train for the shorter distances this fall prior to beginning to train for Boston in December. Boston actually falls on the date of my 30th birthday so I haven’t decided yet if I’ll run that more for fun or if I want to make it the goal race of the season, but the fact that it’s now a question is a big change from where I was just a few months ago when I was convinced it would just be a fun-run effort. I do think I’ll hop into a local 5K again pretty soon and have plans to run another mile time trial in a few weeks, but I am not lying when I say I have nothing currently on my calendar. I’ve been writing a training plan weekly for myself but giving grace to be flexible with needing to move things around based on how the week progresses, how I’m feeling, and what opportunities pop up (i.e. we went to Orlando last week for my grandma’s 80th birthday and I ended up clearing my calendar of workouts while we were there and just did what felt right while we were gone). This isn’t what I’d do with a real goal on the calendar but I’ve realized I am just as much of a runner in this more flexible season of life as I am when I’m more structured in my marathon training. This season has allowed me to find the joy in running again and also bring my confidence in myself as a runner back. PRs are great but I’d argue that feeling strong and powerful in your body is worth way more to your overall happiness.

Eugene Marathon Recap

Race Strategy Going In

I had my race prep call with Coach J the weekend prior to Eugene and during it we talked about the cycle and a plan for the marathon. At the beginning of the cycle, I had been chasing a sub-3 hour marathon, but nothing really clicked this cycle and I wasn’t feeling very confident. The plan was to start with the 3:05 pace group instead and then if I felt good around mile 16 to start picking it up. It wouldn’t be a sub-3, but I should be running within myself for that first part of the race and hopefully have enough energy to close strong or at least hang onto the group. I felt comfortable with this plan and on Tuesday of race week, had a confidence boosting workout that made me think maybe I was fitter than I thought I was and gave me hope going into the weekend.

Friday

We took a morning flight to Portland from Chicago since there weren’t any direct flights to Eugene. After a very turbulent 4-hour flight, we landed and rented a car at the airport to drive 2 hours south to Eugene. We got to the Airbnb shortly after 2 p.m., got a little organized, and proceeded to take a nap; I wanted some extra rest for the race and Ross had been traveling for work on the East coast through Thursday so he was pretty tired as well. Around 5:30 we headed to downtown Eugene to get my race packet and try to grab a snack before The Rambling Runner live show with Peter Bromka at 6:30 (aka 8:30 Central Time where we came from). I got to meet one of my teammates, Kristin, and the live show was cozy and intimate in a small local running store; we even got to stick around after and talk to Peter and Matt! After the show ended around 8, Ross and I swung by the grocery store to pick up food for the weekend. Part of the reason I wanted to rent the Airbnb was so I could cook my own food to stay in my routine through the race. We had a late dinner of some pizza and salad and then went to bed.

Kristin Johnson and I with Peter Bromka at the Rambling Runner live show

Saturday

I was co-hosting a Team Sugar Runs Shakeout Run Saturday morning at 9 a.m. which meant plenty of time to sleep in and eat some breakfast. We met everyone outside of a local coffee shop, went for a 20-min shakeout, and enjoyed some tasty coffee afterwards! The weather was cool but humid, something I haven’t experienced in a long time, but my body felt ok. After coffee, Ross and I went to drive a couple of the hills on the course so that I knew what to expect for race day; the mile 4.5 hill was gradual but not too bad, the mile 9 hill was steep and .3 miles long so I knew I’d just have to focus on powering up it and then be rewarded with a downhill on the other end. I was feeling ok about these hills since they were the only ones that showed real elevation gain on the course map so we didn’t drive more of the course; I’d see it tomorrow.

Team Sugar Runs Shakeout Run

I had wanted to do more of the Rambling Runner live shows Saturday but made the call to just relax at the Airbnb to save my energy for the race; it’s fun to do all the things but I was afraid of zapping all my energy too early, especially since I’m more introverted by nature so social outings can zap a little more energy for me! Ross and I hung out and watched TV back at the house and around 4 p.m. went to my athlete Megan’s hotel room to get some race braids done! She lives an hour away from Eugene and her hair stylist is local to the area so she offered to get my hair done; I usually do a french braid myself the morning of the race but after this experience I think I might get someone to braid my hair professionally before a big marathon from now on! It stayed in so well and was so fun to feel fierce and confident on the starting line with pretty hair! I made my typical pre-race dinner of spaghetti and marinara with some meatballs, we watched some Disney+ before bed, and then I tried to get some sleep before an early alarm the next morning (4:15 a.m.).

Sunday

Race morning! I woke up with some nerves as is normal for race morning but had a hard time getting my food down as a result. I ended up eating 1/4 of my bagel, nibbled on some oatmeal, and got down some sips of UCan. Fortunately I had been carb-loading for 3 days at this point so I had plenty of carbs to go around but I was hoping to have topped things off a bit more in the morning; I just couldn’t get the food down without feeling like I was going to puke.

We picked up a couple teammates of mine (the two Katie’s!) on the way over to the start line and were able to find street parking easily. Race weather was pretty ideal with 45-degrees at the start and almost no wind, the only downside was 95% humidity but I was hoping with a lower air temperature that it wouldn’t matter. We hung out in the car for a bit to stay warm and one of my athletes, Maggie, joined us. I had a gel around 6:30 and was fortunately able to get that down for some extra fuel before a 7 a.m. start. Maggie and I headed over to the porta-potties for one last bathroom stop, said good luck, and parted ways. I had my throwaway clothes on and realized I was so close to the car that it would be a waste to get rid of the clothes for this race so I was able to hand them to Ross before getting into my corral. Kristin was in my corral as well and we had similar goals for the day so we were able to start together; it’s always nice to have a friendly race at the start of a race! The gun went off and not far behind we crossed the start line to go!

Happy to see Ross in the first mile!

I had lined up behind the 3:05 pacer (7:03 pace) and was focusing on just running with this group to begin. I knew the race started on an uphill so I wasn’t surprised when we started climbing and fortunately it didn’t last very long. My breathing was in control but I did feel like we were moving a little fast; with most of my runs, it takes me a good 2-3 miles to really get into things so I assumed that’s all this was and carried on. We hit the first mile in 6:58 which was a little fast but really anything under 5 seconds I’d consider excellent pacing. The first part of the course goes through some industrial and residential areas so there weren’t as many fans and I focused on just running, staying within myself and staying with the group. Mile 2 was a 6:57 which was consistent with the last mile. I still didn’t feel amazing but continued to relax and run with the group, hoping the feeling would pass. By mile 3 we had settled into the low 7’s, running a 7:02. I knew that the next couple miles would bring some uphill climbing after having driven the course the day before so I didn’t freak out on these when things suddenly felt harder. We made it through with a 7:01 fourth mile, I took my gel around 30 mins, then hit a 7:02 fifth mile and things flattened out again. We were headed back towards campus town and the pacer was doing an excellent job of holding a steady and accurate pace. Mile 6-8 were 7:00, 6:59, 7:02 respectively. Between 8 to 9 was where the big hill was and we surged up it, or so it felt like we were even though our pace was slowing down; it’s a steep grade for .3 miles (gained 68 feet in that .3) but the other side of the hill is a steep downhill that you can make up some speed on. I’m not great at running fast downhill so I felt like the pace group took off but I told myself to stay within myself and controlled knowing I’d catch them on the flat. Sure enough, I reeled them back in. At 60 minutes I took another gel and shortly after saw the elite men half marathoners coming in to the finish. I don’t love seeing a half split from the full and at this point we still had about 17 miles to go! Mile 9 with all its elevation changes was a 7:04, but still pretty consistent with the rest of the miles.

Feeling comfortable with the pace group

I knew Ross would be close to mile 10 and I was planning on tossing my handheld to him there. This was the first marathon I’ve carried a handheld to start with carried with Skratch in it for extra electrolytes since I’m a heavy sweater. I felt like it was so heavy in my right arm and my shoulder actually hurt from carrying it again so I’m not sure if I’ll do this again, but it was nice to control how much liquid I was getting in when with the cups everything just kind of splashes all over your face. This is where it would be nice to be an elite and have your bottles ready for you and be able to toss them off when you were done! I saw Ross shortly before mile 10, tossed the handheld to him, and we hit mile 10 in 7:06. Somewhere between mile 10 and mile 11 on an open road with no fans, I began losing contact with the pace group.

I hit mile 11 in 7:10 so not far off from what the pacing had been but the group was pulling away from me. I tried putting in a surge, then another one, but it felt like my legs just wouldn’t turn over anymore and my breathing was off. This was so early on in the race to be hitting a wall and it wasn’t for lack of nutrition or for going out too hard so it was incredibly frustrating. I still had 15 miles to go which is a longer long run. I started having some people pass me on the open road and had a headwind here; it wasn’t much but it felt like a lot between the getting passed and the slowing pace. I tried to stick with the few people passing but my body was not letting me. I hit mile 12 in 7:43; to be honest, I was surprised I was still hitting sub-8 at this point because it felt like I was barely moving. Somewhere around this section Kristin came up on me from behind and we exchanged a few words; “I hit the wall at mile 10,” I said, “I don’t know what’s happening.” She tried to encourage me and I tried to stick with her but it only lasted for maybe 30 seconds before she pulled ahead and I cheered for her to keep going because she looked strong. I held steady for another 7:43 mile 13 and crossed the half marathon in a 1:34. At this point, A goal of sub-3:05 was certainly out the window and B goal of hitting a new PR running under 3:07 meant I’d have to run a faster second half than first half which didn’t seem possible with how awful I felt.

Fortunately I had a C goal to keep me going – to hit the BQ for 2023; Boston 2023 falls on my 30th birthday and it’s been a dream for several years since I found that out to ring in my 30s by running the marathon. This is what kept me in this race when everything in my body was telling me to stop and drop out. I considered it for sure, but I thought about how I’d have to run another marathon to qualify when I had already run half of one so far and could hold it together enough to finish, and I thought about Ross and how he came out here to support me all the way from Chicago and what a waste it would be to drop out and have made the trip out here for nothing. With more people coming up on me, my pace picked up a bit and I hit mile 14 in 7:31 and mile 15 in 7:33. I was counting down every single mile to go at this point. I had planned on taking a gel every 30 minutes and only carried 5 which would’ve been enough for this so when I slowed down, this threw my fueling plan off a bit. I was downing extra Nuun and water at every aid station, feeling like I could never get enough liquid in. It was 95% humidity at the start and I wonder if this got to me even with a cooler air temperature since we hadn’t had any consecutive warm, humid days during my training cycle. I had to readjust when I took my gels so that I’d have enough fuel for the rest of the race and made sure to take in the extra electrolytes from Nuun for the extra time I was spending on my feet. Mile 16 was my last sub-8 min mile of the day in 7:42 and then the last 10 miles were some of the most grueling I’ve ever run.

I’m not sure where this photographer was but it had to be in those later, painful, lonely miles by the look on my face

The back half of the race course was incredibly boring. There were barely any fans on the river trail, there weren’t many people around to run with, and I felt like I was on a bad long run. I saw Kristin close to mile 16 again on an out and back section and cheered for her as she passed by going the opposite direction. My pace hovered in the low 8’s for the next several miles, 17-19 were 8:02, 8:08, 8:05, about the pace I’d run a comfortable long run at in training only this did not feel comfortable at all. When I got to mile 20, this is where things started to get a little dicey and I was a little afraid I might not finish. I felt like I was going to black out at mile 20, getting a little dizzy and things going a little dark temporarily. Being only a 10K away from the finish and having about 63 minutes to still BQ (I remember doing the math on my watch at this point), I knew I could do it if I kept putting one foot in front of the other even as I got slower. Around mile 21, we came off of the bike path temporarily and there was a man handing out whiskey shots in his front yard; it made me want to vomit, but I didn’t fortunately. “5 more miles, Katherine, you can do this.” Miles 21-24 felt like eons (20-24 split: 8:15, 8:23, 8:13, 8:39, 8:24). The sun came out briefly around mile 24 and it felt warm; I was grateful when the cloud coverage came over again. At this point, I knew I’d finish, and when I hit mile 25 in 8:26 I tried to run a little faster but the turnover just would not come back. I focused on just shuffling to the finish line because I needed to cross it for the BQ. I hit 26 in 8:18 and then tried to pick it up to finish strong into the stadium.

Coming into Hayward and rounding the back curve for the finish

Coming into Hayward Field was amazing and an experience I’ll never forget. I remember looking up into the stands, then hitting the track and feeling the softer surface and powering myself to move faster and faster trying to channel the energy from the crowd and thinking of all the fast athletes who have raced on this track over the years. I threw my fist up as I crossed the line, grabbed a medal, then hunched over on my knees so happy to be done. I had someone take my photo down in the finish area and then made my way to the refreshments through the stadium. I was so thirsty and downed the whole bottle of water they gave us in no time; I couldn’t find any electrolyte drinks anywhere and instead chugged some chocolate milk to get my protein in for muscle recovery. We walked up a bunch of stadium stairs (cruel after a marathon!) and all I could find was beer which is not what I wanted in that moment. I felt out of it and a little sick, so I sat by myself for awhile in the stands until I had the energy to call Ross to meet up. Once I found him we watched the finish line for a bit waiting for my athletes to come through. I was able to see Maggie afterwards and we talked about how we both felt out there – the course had about 500 feet of gain and loss which was a little more than I was expecting so I wouldn’t consider it totally “flat” as advertised, but what struck me more is even she commented on the humidity and she’s from Miami, so that tells me it was definitely in the air that day. (She still ran a PR, taking 7-mins off going from 3:52 to 3:45!)

Crossing the finish line in 3:21

Reflections

I’m still going over and over in my head what could possibly have gone wrong on Sunday and it’s confusing and disappointing. It’s been over 2.5 years since my last marathon or half marathon PR and that’s been hard to stay motivated through this rough patch; I was optimistic that Eugene would be the day I finally broke out of the rut but my body had other plans. A few thoughts I have upon reflection:

  1. Maybe I was overtrained. I wanted to try higher mileage this cycle and did so successfully staying healthy and injury-free, but I never felt like I had that pep in my step and didn’t feel good on any of my long-run workouts this cycle. It’s possible between all the miles and the lifting that I did too much. Usually over-training is also accompanied by inadequate nutrition, lack of sleep, and signs like a missed period, none of which I had. Working with a RD this cycle meant I was on top of all of my nutrition, eating to fuel my training, and my menstrual cycle actually normalized after it had been getting longer and longer last year. Overtraining signs also include feeling tired all the time and potentially even being depressed which are both things I did not experience this cycle but after talking with Jessica, we both agreed maybe we caught it early enough to avoid going over that ledge but it still left me a little overbaked by the time I made it to the starting line.
  2. I’ve come so far in just the last 3.5 years. September 2018 was my first BQ (3:28) and since then I’ve run 5 total BQ times. Sunday’s race of a 3:21 would’ve been a time I could only have dreamed of back in 2018 and that helps me keep things into perspective a bit. I can still be disappointed that my fitness didn’t show this weekend but how far I’ve come that a “bad day” can now still be a BQ time; that’s something I won’t take for granted.
Maggie & I after finishing

Moving Forward

I’m taking time to think about what’s next for me. Before this cycle was up, I had told my coach that I wanted to take a break from structured training for a bit hoping to find that spark again after a couple years of not feeling like I’ve progressed (which is false, all this work is base building but it’s tough to keep at it when you don’t see the fruits of your labor), and while I do think I’ll take a little break since clearly my body needs it, we have an idea for what’s next (but not sharing that yet because I reserve the right to change my mind lol).

I think what I’m most disappointed with is that even after making a better schedule for myself having taken coaching full-time and no longer trying to balance a full-time job, a full roster of athletes, and my own training, my times didn’t improve. I’ve been able to sleep more, stress less, and train more and in my mind that would mean improving in sport. But it could have also meant doing too much and maybe my schedule before prevented me from being able to do all of the things which in turn may have been a good thing! What’s important is that this was a learning opportunity (thanks, Coach J for the reframing) and we knew going in this could be an experiment that could go really well, or not as well as hoped, and unfortunately, I landed on the wrong end of that. I accept responsibility for that and now I know what the limit is and what works best for my body!

Running humbles us and I’ve been reminded once again that this journey will never be linear. I’m proud of running my fifth BQ-time, but I’m really itching to be the athlete I was back in 2019 again. And maybe that’s the problem. I’m not that same athlete anymore after the pandemic so I need to start becoming the athlete I want to be in 2022. It’s good to look back, but the rest of our story takes place in the future and that’s where the focus needs to be right now.

Race Week – Eugene Marathon

Race week is here and the excitement is building. So far the weather looks really nice in Eugene and my body is feeling equally as good with the taper. This cycle was one of the more turbulent ones I’ve had and it’s left me with mixed emotions heading into race week on where my fitness is at. I’m in shape to PR (sub-3:07), the question is just how in shape is that and how in shape is my mental game to let me get there.

This cycle and year began tragically, suddenly losing my uncle after having seen him for Christmas just a week before. My mom’s side of the family is small, it was just us and his family, and this grief hit harder than any grief I’ve experienced before, and continues to from time to time. This training cycle became dedicated to him and when things got really hard, it’s the reason I kept showing up because I reminded myself just how lucky I am to have a healthy body and a mind that chooses to do this when so many don’t have that privilege.

In late February, my goal marathon, The Illinois Marathon, announced that it would no longer be hosting its signature event, the 26.2 distance. I was in the middle of a 20-mile run on the treadmill (winter snow and ice) that was going horribly when I got the email and called it quits at 12 miles. I’ve been open about the fact that I considered stopping training at this point, but something inside me became more and more infatuated with the idea of running the Eugene Marathon which was on the same weekend and had been on my bucket list for awhile. Because the course topography was similar, my training wouldn’t need to change and could continue as planned.

Winter was relentless this year. As someone who does not like winter running, it was challenging to continue to train in big jackets, fleece-lined tights, wool socks, and ski mittens through most of March and even half of April. What was lucky was getting the opportunity to race The Shamrock Shuffle in March on a beautiful day in Chicago; this experience gave me a lot of confidence that I was fit and would show it on a good weather day and the spark I needed to keep moving and working hard.

At my goal half marathon in Carmel the second week of April, we were greeted with snow, sleet, and strong 15 mph winds that did not make for PR conditions. I was hoping going into this tune-up to get a good read on where my fitness was at for Eugene, but it just left me with a lot of doubts after my high hamstring tendonitis (a recurring issue that has pretty much gone away but resurfaced in the cold at a high intensity effort) flared up and I basically jogged the back half of the course in finishing in 1:32 (a time in the past I would have been happy with but not reflective of the kind of shape I was in this year). I walked away knowing I did everything I could in that race given the conditions, but it didn’t make it any easier not knowing if the goals I set out for myself at the beginning of the cycle were realistic anymore since we didn’t get good feedback from this race.

It’s safe to say I wasn’t having as much fun with training as I usually do, but the marathon is like that sometimes. It’s a long distance and training can eat you up and spit you out sometimes. In 2019 I had what I consider a breakthrough year, taking a total of 21-mins off my marathon time from the beginning of the year to the end (3:28 to 3:07) and was feeling so strong. Prior to 2018 I had gone through a plateau so I had a feeling this big breakthrough would also be met with a bit of a plateau to make the next big leap, but that doesn’t mean it was any easier on me to go through it even though I knew what I might expect. That’s part of training – it takes the body time to absorb training and so big leaps don’t happen every training cycle and are the result of stacking healthy cycles back to back which is what has kept me coming back for more every time.

The last week has been fun with the weather changing and seeing a glimpse of fitness I haven’t seen for a long time. It makes me confident that a PR is in the cards with the right conditions and right mental headspace this weekend, although it might not be the sub-3 performance I was hoping for when I first started this cycle. You have to do the work to get to your goals and while there were many good excuses for why things didn’t always go perfectly in workouts, at the end of the day good excuses and bad excuses are the same in that they don’t move the needle on our goals. Is it possible I’m in sub-3 shape and I’m just not fully believing it? Yes, it definitely is. But that belief in ourselves is essential in our ability to go after our goals, as my coach has continued to remind me. The quote I’ve been keeping at the forefront of my mind this last week is, “doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”

I find myself with mixed emotions this week. Excited because I know I’m in shape for a strong marathon and that I’ll get to be in a racing environment again with lots of friendly faces around. Optimistic for what this means for future cycles. Proud that I continued to fight these last few months and that I’m showing up healthy and fit. A little conflicted on how I want to race on Sunday. For now the focus is on closing these last few days out strong and showing up to the starting line Sunday ready to work hard and do something that scares me.

A few overall thoughts on the cycle…

Things That Went Really Well This Cycle

  • Nailing my nutrition: I worked with Meghann Featherstun of Featherstone Nutrition and learned so much about how to fuel my body especially pre and post-run. I eat before all of my runs now, no matter how short or easy, and make sure to eat within 30 minutes of finishing a run and my recovery times have greatly improved.
  • Strength training: I am in the process of obtaining my NASM CPT certification so it was neat to write my own strength program this training cycle. I was consistent doing 3 days/week of heavy strength training in the first half of marathon training when mileage wasn’t as high and 2 days/week once my mileage was much higher.
  • Staying healthy: I never had to take any days off due to injury or illness. There was the occasional shuffling of workouts for one-off things like feeling nauseous but I stayed healthy this entire training cycle. The only flare-up I had came in my half marathon where my hamstring got really tight in the cold and snow; it resolved after a few days and I didn’t have to take time off (I’ve dealt with this before and knew what it was so a week of easy running did the trick). Staying healthy had a lot to do with good nutrition, good sleep, strength training, and a smart periodized training plan.
  • Hitting my highest mileage weeks/months: I set a goal at the beginning of the cycle with my coach to hit a 70-mile week during training. We hit 70 and 71 during this cycle and I ran my highest mileage month in March of 266 miles! Expanding my aerobic base was something I thought I was an area of improvement for my training and it was neat to see that my body could handle it and responded well to it, too.

Things That Didn’t Go as Well This Cycle

  • Mental game: Ever since the pandemic, I’ve had a really tough time getting back into the groove of being comfortable with things hurting again with marathon training. Taking almost 2 years off from racing a marathon left me out of practice with being in the pain cave and I’ve been working on getting my mental game back ever since. I psyched myself out of a lot of paces in this sub-3 attempt because they seemed so scary on paper; my coach reminded me that when you get to these paces the majority of the difficulty actually comes from your mind allowing you to believe you’re capable. I believe that more than ever after this cycle.
  • Long run workouts: In the past, long run workouts have given me a lot of confidence going into race day being able to hit goal paces in the middle of being on tired legs. This cycle I had no long runs or long run workouts that ever fell on good weather days; it’s no secret this winter was never-ending and as someone who does not fare well in the cold (I’ve gotten the early stages of hypothermia in 2 marathons I’ve run so far – my body just doesn’t handle cold well), it was really challenging to keep showing up knowing I’d likely have a problem breathing (thanks, asthma) and to never feel strong in these workouts. I had several long run pace workouts where I bailed out on the pace work itself and just ran mileage.

I look forward to sharing more after the race this Sunday! It has been one of the most challenging training cycles I’ve tackled to date, but I am so happy I stuck with it because I’m fit and ready to run my heart out this weekend in what looks to be a beautiful day to race.

Carmel Half Marathon Recap

The Carmel Half Marathon was intended to be a tune-up race for me 3 weeks out from my goal marathon. I’d be racing on tired legs still in the peak of marathon training but hoping to get a little confidence booster going into the Eugene Marathon on May 1st. As race week rolled around, the forecast loomed over us with things not looking good for race day. It was forecast to be in the low 30s with strong wind, overnight rain and snow, and snow showers on race morning. I hoped throughout the week that things would change but they unfortunately held steady. The biggest concern for me was that the roads might be icy with overnight wetness and freezing temperatures in the morning; it’s one thing to race in the cold and wind, it’s another to race on black ice.

Half of Ross’ extended family lives in the suburbs of Indianapolis and when I picked this race, we made plans to see everyone as it had been many years since we had gotten together due to the pandemic. Seeing what the weather was going to be like Saturday, I would likely have skipped making the 3.5 hour drive one way from my home in the Chicago suburbs to Carmel since it’s extra stress on the body to travel and for a race that wasn’t the “goal”, it might not have been worth it. Since we had plans, however, I was going to run the race regardless so I went in with a few different plans after talking things through with my coach.

Plan A: 6:30 pace for the half if the conditions were right. It was unlikely we’d be able to go after Plan A but good to talk about nonetheless based on workouts in the cycle.

Plan B: 6:50-6:55 pace, aka marathon pace. If conditions weren’t great but it wasn’t icy, the plan was to go out at marathon pace and try to hit that for the half.

Plan C: Just run the mileage and don’t get hurt. If the roads were icy, it wasn’t worth risking an injury so the plan was going to be just to run the 16 miles I had planned for the day and then hit some harder workouts the week after.

Friday

We left home around 1:45 p.m. on Friday and arrived in Carmel around 6:30 p.m. with the hour time change and only 1 rest stop along the way. The drive took a little longer than we anticipated with traffic but for the most part it was smooth sailing. When we got to Carmel High School where the expo was, the plan was to get in and get out to get to the hotel to eat dinner. The expo was smaller and well-organized so it was easy to be in and out within 10 minutes. We stayed at the Renaissance which was only 1.5 miles from the start/finish line and one of the official race hotels. The hotel was also hosting a pasta dinner which we were able to get reservations for the day of which was very convenient (in fact we got to the hotel around 7 p.m. and got seated at 7:15 p.m., 6:15 Chicago time). After a big meal, Ross and I relaxed in the hotel room watching some scenes from The Hangover before going to sleep (there was nothing on TV!). The nice part about being in an official race hotel is that most people are there to run the race so it was super quiet on our floor at night.

Packet pickup on Friday

Race Day

I woke up at 5:30 a.m. for an 8:10 a.m. race start. Before every half I’ve gotten into the routine of waking up and doing an easy 9-10 min paced mile on the hotel treadmill to get my body moving early in the morning. I ate breakfast around 6:30 (half a bagel and oatmeal with my coffee), then got changed into all my winter gear. Looking out my hotel window I could tell the roads were wet but people were walking in the parking lot and not slipping so it was a good sign that they probably weren’t icy! I left my hotel at 7:30 and did my warm-up over to the start line, getting there by 7:45. I found my friends who were running the marathon just in time for it to start snowing like crazy on us; we got a photo in the elements then hid under a tent until about 10 minutes till start time to try to stay dry. I headed over to the start line at 8 a.m. and got into the corral between the 6 and 7 minute pace signs. I could see a pacer for a 3:05 marathon (this race was both a half and full) so I positioned myself just ahead of this group to start. Fortunately the snow let up for the start and standing in the corral I was quite warm with all the other people around me. It was funny to see how everyone had dressed. There were a lot of us in tights and long sleeves, but others were in shorts and tank tops; I know I always run cold so I made sure to layer up for the elements.

With friends from Chicago who were running the full marathon in the snow before the start.

The gun went off and shortly after I crossed the starting line. I knew I’d have a tailwind or cross-wind for the first half of the race and more decline with the headwind coming in the second half and more incline when we started running west. The roads were wet but not slippery, but I stuck with the 3-hour group for the first couple miles to ease in; they were actually running a bit quicker than 3-hour pace (my first 2 miles with them were 6:40 and 6:43) but it’s possible the pacer knew the course well and how to run it. After we hit 6:43, I decided to make a move and try to see if I could push closer to 6:30 pace. It was a risk since the elements weren’t favorable, but no risk, no reward so I went for it. I saw Ross and his family cheering for me around 2.3 and this gave me a little extra burst of energy. Mile 3 was a 6:25 and my watch was actually very dead on with the mile markers at this point which was a nice change from some of the big city races I’ve done where sky-scrapers throw things off. Miles 4 and 5 were both at 6:32 and I had settled into a good rhythm, but could definitely feel my body getting a little tired. I tried to remind myself that I had under an hour left of hard running at this point. I took my first gel around 5.5 miles at a water station and that slowed mile 6 down a bit trying to get the gel down and drink at the same time; a lot of the water ended up on my hand which was freezing in the weather and I wish the aid station was a little longer so I could’ve grabbed a second cup to wash the gel down with. Mile 6 split 6:45 which I was expecting since I knew the aid station slowed me down a bit. I saw the family again shortly before the halfway point of the race and this helped propel me up the hill but I could tell I was getting tired and I could feel my hamstring starting to hurt. I started climbing up the hill that the 7-mile marker was on (there’s a really steep hill in a neighborhood at mile 7 and I knew about this from the last time I ran the race) and got passed by a woman who I had passed earlier. I hit mile 7 at 7:00 and was bummed to see my first 7 in front of a mile split for the race.

Very big difference in clothing choices!

The pain in my hamstring started getting worse and worse and I felt like I was running with a straight leg on one side that wouldn’t bend. “Ugh. This sucks,” I said to myself, fully knowing at this point the PR was out the window (I was about 30 seconds ahead of a PR at the halfway point so not a huge buffer) and it became more about clawing my way to the finish. Mile 8 was mostly uphill and the sleet started to pelt us in the face with the headwind in this mile. It was adding insult to injury at this point and there were barely any crowds out. Because I was still ahead of the pace groups but had slowed down from the people I was running with, I was in no-man’s land for awhile, until I got passed by people left and right for the next couple of miles. That was not a good feeling and I felt embarrassed. “They probably think I went out too hard and am just bonking,” I thought. I really slowed down and just tried to manage the pain at this point, getting pushed back by the strong wind and not being able to see with the sleet in my eyes. I considered stopping around mile 9 and just having someone come get me but kept moving because I didn’t want to quit since my family had come out to support me and also because it would be faster to finish than to wait for them in the cold to come find me in the middle of a neighborhood with closed roads.

Miles 8-11 were definitely the roughest into these conditions (7:26, 7:30, 7:55, 7:31) but once I hit 11 I knew I’d make it back. I took a gel at mile 10 and the same scenario with the water from the cup freezing my hand occurred; I think if I run a freezing race in the future that I will bring a handheld since this was not pleasant at all, especially with Raynaud’s where my fingers already go numb in the cold (I had handwarmers that helped a lot, fortunately). Mile 11 enters a trail and I was by myself for awhile here, just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. Somewhere between mile 11 and mile 12 there was a pedestrian bridge on the trail and I started slipping and sliding and nearly ate it; I probably looked pretty comical to the people who were walking in the other direction towards me. Fortunately I stayed on my feet and the bridge was short but bridges hold ice more since they don’t have the warmth of the ground beneath them. This was the only slippery part on the course so in that sense we were quite lucky. By mile 12, I started passing people who were walking either the 5K or 10K to the finish. Mile 12 split was 7:33 and we got off of the trail around mile 12.5 and ran through downtown. I started picking it up at this point, starting to pass some people who had slowed down, and tried to focus on maintaining a harder effort to the finish. I hit mile 13 in 7:14 and then ran the last bit in a 6:10 pace, crossing the finish line in 1:32:51 officially, a 7:05 overall pace.

Heading into the finish shoot ready to be done.

I was so happy to be done and was lucky that my family was at the finish with a car parked close by so I didn’t have to walk very far and could warm up. This was over a 4-min course PR for me in much worse conditions than the first time I ran it in 2018 (1:37:10) so that was a positive to take away from it, but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed by the way everything transpired. By all accounts the weather was not favorable for racing but I think I could’ve held it together a little more had my hamstring not acted up; this is the same hamstring that has given me issues in the past and often rears its nasty head when I run hard in the cold (it seems to make it tight) so it wasn’t surprising, just more frustrating since I’ve done so much work to try to fix it including countless hours in the gym and PT exercises. I haven’t dealt with the pain this cycle other than the occasional flare-up but it just stinks it had to be on a race day.

Reflections and Moving Forward

I ended up running between the A and B goals for the first half of the race (officially 6:39 pace for the first 6.55 miles), and between the B and C goal for the overall race (7:05 pace vs goal marathon pace of 6:50-6:55). I know I did the best I could on the day that I was given (snowy, sleeting, 33 with a real feel of 25 and 10-15 mph sustained winds), but it was quite frustrating to wake up Sunday morning in Indy to 0 mph wind, sunny skies, and 35 degrees. The race ended up having over 300 feet of elevation gain and some true rolling hills which I must have blocked out of my memory from the first time I ran it but I’ve made note of it for the future this time. The marathon I’m running in Eugene has just over 400 feet of total elevation gain so that should feel really nice in comparison!

As I write this, Eugene is 20 days from today, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous. I know I’m in shape to run a strong marathon, but right now a little less confident with how I’m tracking to the sub-3 goal. Sub-3 has never been my “dream”, but it became a goal after running 3:07 in 2019 and realizing it could be possible in the future. I’ve been working hard towards it, pushing myself to see how far I can go, but trying not to put the pressure on for hitting a certain time to determine my worth as a runner since I learned the hard way on that during my Boston qualifying journey.

It’s a lot more fun to share recaps when races go well but only sharing those stories paints an unrealistic picture of what it’s like to be a runner. This cycle has been hard. I’ve been healthy for it which is a huge positive but I haven’t had any one long run workout that I’ve thought, “yep, I nailed that one.” This is largely due to the fact that I haven’t actually had any ideal running conditions on a long-run in general this whole cycle! It’s been nuts! It’s been super cold, wet, and windy for nearly every long run and on most of my speed workout days as well. It’s made it difficult to gauge fitness, so I’m hoping to get a better read on that in the next couple of weeks with it warming up now. I’m hoping sub-3 is still in the cards, but I’ll also be happy if I feel strong from start to finish on marathon day even if it’s not quite there yet. This isn’t me throwing in the towel on the goal, I still really want it, but I also want to run a smart race for where I’m at.

My hamstring is improving but we’re keeping this week easy until a bigger long-run workout this weekend to let it loosen up and feel better. I still have a bigger mileage week ahead and am looking forward to one more opportunity to test the fitness this weekend before tapering hard for marathon day. Truthfully, the taper can’t come soon enough after this wild weather we’ve had all winter long and into a fake spring!

Chasing sub-3 dreams

Prior to the NYC Marathon, a spring marathon was not part of my plan. I don’t love winter training and doing long runs in January/February through the midwest winter when windchills are often in the negatives is not enjoyable for me (or very easy for someone with exercise-induced asthma). But my build-up to NYC indicated I was in shape for a 3:03-3:05 marathon on a very hilly course and since I didn’t get the opportunity to show that fitness, the idea of a spring marathon began to creep into my mind. Training this past summer in Chicagoland was pretty brutal; June-mid September can often be pretty muggy (we get the both ends of the spectrum here – winters with negative windchills and summers with dew points in the 70s) but the heat and humidity never let up this cycle and I did every long run in hot, humid conditions and often had to adjust my paces to account for the weather. It wasn’t the biggest confidence-building cycle and after a long 2 years of waiting to race a marathon again, it was disappointing how everything transpired. A spring marathon became a little more appealing knowing that at least I wouldn’t have to deal with heat.

Way back at the Atlanta Trials in February 2020, my friend Marissa told me about the elite athlete qualifications at the Illinois Marathon. After what transpired in NYC, running a smaller race seemed more appealing and I remembered what she had said almost 2 years ago. I don’t consider myself “elite” by any means but I have run times that were under their standards (sub 3:12 marathon, sub 1:32 half marathon for women under 40) to be considered. The perk to this is that I’d get to put out my own hydration bottles on the course and could control exactly what was in them, something I’ve never been able to do at a marathon before. I love the marathon majors for how much fun they can be but my PRs most recently have come from mid-sized races that have competition but much less “frills”, aka having to arrive 4 hours early like I did for NYC. Illinois would provide that – there will be men and women faster than me, pace groups around to help, but I can show up to the starting line maybe 20-30 minutes ahead of time instead of hours which can make a big difference, especially if conditions are cooler to start. I started thinking about how neat it would be to try to go after a big goal at the place I ran my first ever marathon in 4:10. Sub-3 on a flatter course (gains about 400 feet over the course of the marathon) could be in the cards with the right conditions and training but more importantly, this was a goal that excited me. I signed up to run Illinois and am in the first few weeks of training currently.

This winter has been cold and windy so far with a decent amount of ice and so I’ve been alternating between treadmill runs and outdoor runs with lots of layers. It’s tough to run fast when you’re concerned about slipping on ice and most recently this weekend I was reminded that my asthma can flare up pretty badly with the cold, dry conditions. I really don’t enjoy logging long miles on the treadmill but it’s going to have to be something I utilize more if I want to hit my paces – I seem to be ok outside if I keep things comfortable and easy but when I pick up the pace when the real feel is under 10, my asthma often flares up and it takes a long time to be able to breathe normally again. It’s frustrating but it’s just something I have to live with; my inhaler helps but it isn’t foolproof. I know January and February are the hardest months to train here – it’s cold, dreary, and with the sun setting around 4:30 there isn’t as much daylight. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t counting down the days until spring!

In my personal life, 2022 has not really been off to the best start. I was really excited at the end of 2021 to be taking my business full-time and while that is going well, we’ve been dealt a lot of bad cards lately. A day into the new year, my uncle passed away very unexpectedly. We had just seen him for Christmas and so it was a total shock, and to be honest, we’re still a little bit in shock. I am lucky to be 28 and to not have experienced much loss in my life before but this grief has been hard on myself and my family. A week after the funeral, we attended a celebration of life for Ross’ grandpa who passed away just days before the NYC Marathon in November which was also another surprise death for our family. It hasn’t been the happiest start to the new year and we seem to get bad news weekly. Unfortunately, Ross tested positive for covid this week and we’ve been living in separate rooms of the house since I remain healthy so far. We both have received 3 doses of the Moderna vaccine and his symptoms remain mild likely because of that, like a bad cold (sore throat and congestion), but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating. It’s been hard not being able to spend time with my husband and feeling lonely cooped up in the house since it’s been pretty gross outside. I am thankful that so far I am covid-free but man, it’s been really hard this year so far to keep a positive attitude when just when you build yourself back up a little you get knocked a couple steps back.

Part of the reason my long run workout didn’t go great yesterday was because of the weather, but I also know a big part of it was because of the anxiety weighing on my mind right now with everything going on. Over the years I’ve realized I definitely run best when my mind is happy, I’m not the type of person who is fueled by rage or can perform well when I’m under negative pressure. I am grateful that through all of this I’ve been able to continue to run for my own peace of mind, even if workouts haven’t been perfect.

The goal remains to work towards that sub-3 marathon in April. If at any point my mind is no longer in it or my body isn’t responding well, I’ll readjust, but right now the drive is there to keep pushing towards it despite the messy year it’s been so far and I’ll keep working hard to get there. Training-wise, I’m experimenting a bit with mileage and runs this cycle which I’ll talk about a little more in a future post, but I’m hoping to run some higher mileage weeks since I think this is a piece of training I can improve on after 13 years of consistently and healthily running 6 days/week. I’ve been strength training 2-3 times/week lifting heavy weights in the gym and feeling strong; I’ve really taken to lifting and while I’m not working towards any lifting goals, the idea does intrigue me for the future and I’m glad to have another outlet that can be done inside when it’s so cold out! Additionally for the last month I’ve been working with sports dietitian Meghann Featherstun to really hone in on my nutritional needs as we increase mileage and intensity. Already I’ve noticed positive changes in my body by being intentional with what I’m eating and how I’m fueling before my runs especially. I knew that if I was going to try to do something I’ve never done before with a really big goal in mind that I’d need to be firing on all cylinders and nutrition was definitely a piece that could use some work so I’m grateful to get to work with her this cycle to help me with this crucial piece of training.

Just an update on where things are at and where I hope to go! Month one of 2022 has not been great, but life is not linear and I know that there are brighter, happier days ahead. I hope that for all of you you are enjoying your start to the new year but if it has been different than how you were hoping, know that I empathize with you. I’ve been trying to take things one day at a time, not getting too ahead of myself, and learning to appreciate living in the current moment, and that has helped ❤

Making moves off the roads

In October 2018, I became a certified running coach with the RRCA. I had been running for 10 years at the time and was ready to take the next step by applying the knowledge I had learned from my years running everything from the 400 meter run to the marathon to coaching applications for coaching adults of all running abilities. I registered my own LLC, Chasing Unicorns LLC, and was hired as a coach for Team Sugar Runs; Jessica had been my coach for a year and was so supportive of me taking this step in my career and I am so thankful that she invested in me not only as my coach but as a business mentor. I took on my first coaching clients in the winter of 2019 and over the last nearly 3 years, have had the opportunity to work with almost 100 clients, with an amazing core group of athletes who have been around for a lot of the journey. My dream when I started my business was to be able to turn it into a full-time role in the future; I would’ve never imagined that it would be in 3 years but thanks to an amazing team behind me, I am so excited to share that I have decided to make coaching and the running industry my full-time career moving into 2022!

Making this decision was not easy and not something I took lightly. I was incredibly nervous to make the leap, leaving behind the comfort and security of a corporate job, relying on myself to be the sole determinant of my success, but knew that something had to give. I was working about 50 hours/week in my full-time job and anywhere from 15-20 hours per week in my coaching job on top of a rigorous training schedule myself and using whatever time I had left to spend time with Ross and others. I was burning the candle from both ends and it became increasingly clear to me that I was at a crossroads. I either needed to go all-in on my corporate career or on coaching. I deliberated endlessly, with one day the clear answer being coaching, and the next convincing myself that I was being irresponsible throwing away a good job in the corporate world and swinging in the opposite direction. Ross made it very clear to me that this was my decision and my decision alone; he would give me advice but he would not be making the decision for me. He would support my decision either way and so it truly on me to make up my mind.

To back up a little bit, I’m not sure I would have made the same decision in 2021 had the pandemic not happened. It truly made me slow down and take stock of what was important when the world shut down. It was during this time that I realized just how busy I was – and quite honestly – just how unfulfilled I was. Prior to the pandemic I was convinced that I was living up to my definition (or what I thought the definition was) of success. I was on an upward trajectory in my career, managing a business, I had seen a lot of success in my own running recently, and I was happily married to my best friend. This was the life I had dreamed for myself in college – climbing the corporate ladder, aka that money=success. It’s also the reason I ended up foregoing my aspiration in high school to become a teacher and instead applied to business school; I was chasing a different definition of success. Life has a funny way of working itself out though and while I didn’t end up choosing a career in teaching, I get to teach others daily through coaching while relying on my business degree to help run my coaching business effectively.

I have had jobs in the past that would have been much easier to leave if at these crossroads than the one I was in today. What I struggled with recently was that I really liked my co-workers and my company culture and wasn’t sure how I could walk away from that. My feedback in performance reviews often included that I was great at mentoring and supporting others and that’s just it – it was the people, not the daily tasks that I would be missing, and that’s what made me realize my passion and strengths lie in coaching. What did bring me a lot of joy and fulfillment was helping my athletes reach new heights in their running and watching them start to believe in themselves as much as I believed in them. Ross told me recently that he always knew when I was on a coaching call vs a work call because my energy was high and my voice excited.

Money is a taboo topic in our culture but it would be a disservice to not talk about it here when talking about leaving a full-time job. I don’t believe in the whole “money can’t buy you happiness” sentiment because I think it means a lot to be able to be comfortable and able to pay your bills, but there is some validity to the phrase in that it doesn’t mean a whole lot more beyond that if you aren’t happy. We are fortunate to be in a position where I can take this leap and follow my dreams while taking a (calculated) bet on myself; I do not take that for granted. I think the scariest part for me in this decision was the financial piece as a very risk-averse person, even if on paper it makes sense after the growth over several years. What I realized, however, is that corporate life will always be there if I need/want to go back to it, but that the opportunity to realize your dream doesn’t always come around every day. Some people go their whole lives without knowing what their passion is or how to turn it into a career and I am so lucky to have found that early on and to be able to take this step.

I am excited for what this means for my current athletes today and new athletes in the future. One of my big goals in doing this is to be able to grow my business but a lot of my goals surround doing things to enhance my current athletes’ experience and it’s been so fun to share those goals with Jessica as we continue to work together dreaming up big things for the team! One thing that I am excited to share is that I signed up for a 3-month course starting in early 2022 to become a NASM CPT to be able to coach strength for runners. In addition to coaching, I’ll be working part-time at a local running store and am looking forward to expanding my knowledge in all things gait-analysis, footwear, and running apparel while helping others along their running journeys.

I am feeling all sorts of emotions during my last week in my corporate job and I know it’ll take some time to adjust to a new schedule and routine but I also know it’ll be so worth it. To everyone who has supported and believed in me over the last few years in business, thank you so much. I can’t wait to continue to share more in this journey in 2022 and to be living a life far beyond my wildest dreams.

2021 Racing Reflections

There’s still one more month left of 2021 but in terms of racing, the books have been closed on this racing year for me. It’s been hard to find the words for how I’ve been feeling since a disappointing day in NYC earlier this month. I know in my heart of hearts that there is nothing I could’ve done differently that day and that it was simply just an off-day and a product of all the logistics leading into the race that did me in but it was really tough after having poured my time and energy into a training cycle to have it end so lackluster.

Part of me is kicking myself for choosing to do NYC instead of Indy Monumental as I had initially planned for 2021, but I can’t change that now. I’ve learned a valuable lesson that there is a huge perk to a lower frills racing environment where you can sleep in and roll up to a starting line maybe 30 minutes before a race instead of 5 hours already logging 5,000 steps before even starting and sitting in the cold for 3 hours. I love big marathon majors but I think I’ve learned that if I want to run my fastest times now that I’m working to shave off a few minutes instead of 10s of minutes, logistics matter.

Moving past the race itself though, 2021 was not a fun year of racing for me. I was hopeful that after staying consistent through 2020 with my training and building a lot of strength that it would all pay off in a smashing comeback to racing after races were canceled in 2020 but that wasn’t how things materialized. For my first race back, I was signed up for the Glass City Half Marathon in Toledo. Unfortunately, volunteers turned the front pack of runners off the course that day and I dropped out of the race after we were corrected since adding a mile to a half marathon is not a way to PR. As a redemption run, I quickly pivoted and signed up for a half marathon the following weekend in Wisconsin, a short drive from home. With 40 mph wind gusts on race day, a PR was out of question again and it was another disappointing day. Putting spring behind me, I turned towards the Fall season. I raced the Naperville Half Marathon during my build-up to NYC and while this race time-wise was more indicative of fitness (1:30), I struggled hard in the back half of the race and watched a PR slip away. What was even more frustrating about this race was that another female runner had cut the course and in the results bumped myself and another runner off of the podium. We contacted the race organization who has still yet to do anything about it even though the data was all clearly there on Strava showing the course being cut. Finally, my 2021 racing season culminated with NYC, a race that broke my heart and spirit after months of being so patient and continuing to show up through a more difficult training cycle.

After NYC my first thought was to sign up for a redemption race. I recovered extremely quickly, likely because my training cycle had been really solid and I ran almost 40 minutes slower that day than what I was in shape for, and I was tempted to use the fitness in another race. But we had plans on the calendar for a week-long trip to Antigua to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary and I knew marathon training would not be feasible while there/not something I wanted to do since the focus was supposed to be on spending time with Ross, not running a ton of miles. After talking with my coach, we agreed that the best course of action would be to turn towards a spring marathon if it’s what I wanted to do, so I leaned into my time off, ending November with 100 miles total run after my highest mileage month in October where I ran 246 miles.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve grappled with this training season and my emotions surrounding it. I’ve realized I put so much weight into running being the thing giving me joy during the pandemic and other life stressors and that when that went wrong, I felt like I lacked purpose. The funny part is, I think a big reason why this cycle didn’t go as well is because my mind was so many other places. Part of the reason my mental game felt weak this year was because I was rusty and out of practice from racing after 2020 canceled all races, but I think now that a big part of it was because my mental energy was being consumed in other areas of my life; I think that the well was dry when it came to pushing hard in workouts or races. It feels weird to talk about because by all accounts, I was handling things well but I think that’s one of my weaknesses that is disguised as a strength – being able to juggle a lot of things at the same time because as my husband pointed out to me, I will always put others’ needs first even if it means sacrificing my own well-being in the process.

I don’t believe that life will always be “balanced”, but I do think that there is only so much that each of us can handle on our plates at one time without starting to sacrifice quality of those things. We have to determine our priorities – and some of those will be pre-decided for us – but I’ve realized that with some of the goals I have in running and elsewhere that I can’t “do it all” and expect success in every area. Running is still really integral to my daily life and I’m so grateful to have it, but I can’t let my success in running dictate my overall happiness because this isn’t the last time I’ll have a bad “season”. 2021 was not the year I was hoping it would be with my running, but I’m working on making some changes to do what I can to make 2022 even better. Running is cyclical and I may have been in the “valley” this year, but that means there are only brighter days ahead as I make my way back up to a peak.

NYC Marathon Race Recap

So what happened and where do we go from here?

It’s hard to want to “re-live” a race gone wrong but I’ve had to in the last 48 hours to try to figure out what went wrong while it’s still a fresh (albeit, raw) memory. My training cycle was solid – I was able to do every single run and every single workout with 0 interruptions from pain flare-ups or illness which is super rare if you’ve ever trained for a marathon before. I didn’t hit every workout and had to adjust a lot this cycle with hot and humid conditions but felt like things were starting to click when I ran a 16-miler 2 weeks out in cooler weather with 10 consecutive miles at a 6:47 average. Part of me wonders if things were clicking just a little too late and maybe I could’ve benefited from another week or two of training, but the way my body shut down on me in the race leads me to believe something else had to have been going on because that would’ve just left me a little less sharp by a minute or two, not full on implosion running over 30 minutes slower than my PR.

On the bus to Staten Island

I’m pretty confident that the root of my problems Sunday stemmed from logistics of racing a major point-to-point big marathon. I was up at 3:30 a.m. to eat breakfast before heading to the subway to get to the library for my 5:15 a.m. bus. I was on a bus by 5:05 and we were on our way to Staten Island, but this meant getting off the bus prior to 6 a.m. and sitting around outside in 39-degree weather for over 3 hours before my start time at 9:10. I had brought layers of throwaway clothes expecting to be outside for awhile, but one thing I didn’t bring was extra warmth for my feet. My feet were so cold – lucky for me, a teammate of mine (hi, Lindsay!) gave me one of her extra hand warmers and I stuck it in my shoe and rotated it between shoes to try to warm my feet up. This helped a lot but only lasted so long.

Sitting out in the dark waiting for the start for 3 hours in tossaway clothes and the free Dunkin hat that wouldn’t fit over my bun but was

By the time I got up to go use the porta potty one last time before entering the corral, I was shivering uncontrollably. I thought maybe it was nerves, but I was so cold. We were asked to shed our layers about 15 minutes before heading up to the start line since there wouldn’t be places to leave clothes on the bridge. The start line was surreal – we heard and felt the cannons go off to signify the start of our wave and music playing on the bridge. Being in a pack of runners at the start helped me feel warmer, but as soon as I started running, I realized my feet were still numb and I could barely feel them. It took about 3 miles for me to feel them again but within the first mile I was also dealing with a side cramp as I climbed the Verrazano. I told myself to relax and to pay attention to my breathing because this is often the cause for side cramps. It never really went away.

I settled into my goal pace after coming off of the bridge but didn’t feel as fresh as you should in the first few miles of a marathon at goal pace. If you’ve trained properly, the first 10 miles of a marathon should be relatively comfortable – you should feel in control and exerting maybe 75-80% effort. I knew by mile 6 that this felt more like half marathon effort and that I’d likely have to back off, but I was expecting my crew at mile 8 so I used that as motivation to keep up my clip and maybe if I was lucky seeing them would spark me to keep going at this pace. Sure enough I saw them at 8 but shortly after that I started stepping off the gas because I was having a hard time breathing. I have exercise induced asthma so I carry my inhaler with me just in case but this was the first time I’ve ever had to take it at mile 9 of a marathon that had good conditions. It was really early on to be having breathing problems. I started slowing, seeing 7’s on my watch instead of the 6:57’s I’d been holding consistently. If I tried to pick up my pace, my breathing would just get more out of control and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to finish at all.

Seeing my crew at mile 8! I still looked alive at this point.

My legs felt so heavy from mile 10 onward and they completely stopped turning over. I’d try to run with pace groups that ran by, matching their pace for a minute only to let them go because I couldn’t hold on. I remember hitting the halfway point in 1:35 and knowing this was going to be the hard way to run a marathon – progressively getting slower as I went on – but I was hopeful maybe I could still hang onto an 8ish min pace and clinch a BQ for 2023. That goal slipped further and further from reality as stomach cramping took over and I started feeling really nauseous if I picked up my pace anymore than a recovery effort. The Queensboro bridge really did a number on me and I was pretty sad when instead of getting to run down the bridge on the other side after cresting it that we just ran down a short exit ramp instead. I had so many people passing me on the uphill climb here and it was disheartening – usually I’m the one doing the passing on an uphill, a strength of mine, but my body would not move any faster.

I was counting down miles to the finish. I knew my crew would be at mile 17 and that they had to know something was wrong based on my tracking time. I clutched my stomach as I ran past them to make them aware that I was dealing with stuff but kept on running. When I hit 18, I remember thinking 8 miles to go seemed like a lot but it was manageable even if I had to walk the whole darn thing. I was finishing this race and at least going home with my 4th Abbott World Marathon Major star. Please note that sometimes it doesn’t make sense to finish a race – had I been experiencing any pains reminiscent of injury pain, I would’ve called it because it wouldn’t be worth risking a long-term injury for. This was different – I knew I could finish if I kept moving slowly and that it was just an off-day. I remembered that Shalane Flanagan had to walk in London and that she had recommended walking through the aid stations if you were struggling to get you back going again. I tried this method starting around mile 19 and it helped but it was the first time I had to walk in a marathon in many years and I was a bit defeated and embarrassed by that as people were cheering me on to keep going but my body just was rebelling in every way.

Mile 17 – you can see me clutching my stomach here.

Between mile 20 and 21 a woman ran out in the street after seeing me walking and cramping and handed me a 16 oz bottle of Gatorade. I don’t normally mix Gatorade and my gels on course because I’ve had GI issues in the past from this but figured this was already a train wreck and it couldn’t get any worse. I think sipping on this helped me get through the next 3 miles. There is one final bridge around mile 21, the Willis Bridge, and someone was out with a sign that said “Last Damn Bridge”. I pointed and laughed at that and thought, “thank goodness”. Convinced my crew was going to be at 23 (they had said 24 but I had a mind lapse), I kept moving not wanting them to see me walking. This pretty much kept me going except for aid stations – I was able to take all 5 of my gels, forcing the last one down at 23 knowing I’d feel better if I got calories in I even if I didn’t want it at the time. I eventually saw the group at 24 and yelled out, “2 more to go” as I entered Central Park. The Central Park hills were the first true “rolling” hills on this course. The bridges are straight up and straight down and the same with the roads. If I ever do this race again, I need to practice on more gradual mile-long slopes vs rolling hills like Boston I think because it was very different. The fans in the park really helped push me along, though. This course is completely lined with spectators and it was amazing to have so much love and support on the course from total strangers. This is one reason I love the marathon majors – the locals are always so proud of their marathon and come out in force to support it.

Only 2 miles to go and deep in a pain cave ready to be done.

People aren’t kidding when they say the finish is uphill. Usually I can kick in hard at the finish of a marathon, closer to 6 min pace, but again my body just would not let me. I’m pretty sure this was the slowest 400 meter finish I’ve ever had in a marathon even though I was so ready to be done! I crossed the line in 3:41; with a first half in 1:35, that means my second half took 2:06. I felt every minute of that second half. Crossing the line we were encouraged to keep walking and I had several volunteers keep coming up to me asking if I needed help and if I was ok. I appreciated it but waved them off. I got my poncho on and again was asked by more volunteers if I was ok or if I needed a wheelchair. A wheelchair? Did I really look that bad? I eventually got to the “hill” to get out on 72nd and my body stopped wanting to move. I sat down on the side of the path and a volunteer came over to make sure I was ok. I chugged the protein shake in the bag they had given us at the finish, knowing that if I didn’t get calories in soon I’d likely end up with GI issues (I’ve found if I can get some protein in within 30 minutes of finishing a marathon that I can avoid the GI issues typically.

After drinking the shake, I continued out of the park until someone from the med tent suggested I come inside. I was freezing and they wrapped me in blankets to warm me up, stretched out some muscles, and had me eat some saltine crackers. I guess I looked as bad as I felt. When I came out of the med tent, I dropped my phone and my SIM card got loose in the phone so I no longer had service. Fortunately we had planned a meet up spot in case phones weren’t working (battery life was the primary concern, lol) so I found Ross and Lindsey and got to give them big hugs before we headed down to the subway to go back to the hotel.

Recovery so far as been pretty easy. My energy levels were normal the day after and while my body is sore from running 26.2 hilly miles, it doesn’t feel as beat up as after a typical marathon, likely because I slowed things way down. We were tourists in the city on Monday and I enjoyed walking around to shake the legs out a bit. I’m still respecting the fact that I ran the distance regardless of the time on the clock and giving my body time to recover, but trying to figure out what my next steps will be. Coming into NYC admittedly I was ready for a break from the marathon and excited to be going on vacation later this month where running was not on the schedule, but now I have a little bit of an itch to settle some unfinished business after so many months of hard work and fitness built. Fortunately I have Jessica to talk through options with and see what makes the most sense both physically and mentally for me. I don’t like to make decisions right after a race so I have just been thinking about options at this point, not acting on any impulses.

With Ross & Lindsey after the race!

I think what I’ve taken away most from this experience is that while I love these big major marathons so much, they aren’t always the best places to run faster times at with all the logistics involved on race day. There’s something to be said for the medium-sized races that still have good competition but where you can show up to the start line less than 30 minutes before and be ready to go. I’m not sure what’s next for me but I’m figuring that out one day at a time. This experience was disappointing, but if there’s anything the pandemic taught us about running it’s that all of the work when races aren’t in season doesn’t go to waste and will be able to be tapped into in the future.