Training Log 1/12/20

Back on track this week after a rough start to the New Year. Three tougher runs this week plus over 50 miles total, but it felt like I was starting to hit a groove after holiday excess.

Week of January 12

Monday 1/6/20 – Swim

2300 yards with Snarky Girl. “Be A Shark” workout.

Tuesday 1/7/20 – Speed Intervals

2 miles easy, stretch stop then 1k@ 4:35, 5 minutes walking rest, 8x300m @ 70-75 with 2.5 minutes of walking rest after each, 800m@ 3:33 or faster, 1 mile easy cool down

Teacher Runner and Squirrel ran with me. We usually run track workouts early so it was dark and my headlamp broke. The actual times we ran were 4:36 for the first kilometer, 77-78 for the 300s (last one in 79, ouch!), 3:39 for the 800. That’s consistently a few seconds slow, but given how crappy last week went, this was a huge win. Coach Mick had said it was more important that the 300s *felt* really fast and they certainly did. Ended each one gasping “FUCK!” This running fast business is truly not for sissies. Even though this was hard, I was incredibly happy to feel more like myself again and happy with how it went too.

Wednesday 1/8/20 – Easy 10 miles

Ran with Snarky Girl for the first time in ages. A good chat and lots of neighborhood hills.

Thursday 1/9/20 – 8 miles easy then strides, plus weights

I lifted first and then ran. Sometimes that sequence makes the run feel like dogshit, but today the weights helped with mobility and the run was good.

Friday 1/10/20 – 5 miles at 9:10-10:10, 2 miles at 8:00-8:15-8:00, 2 miles at 7:30-7:45, 1 mile at 10:10-9:10

I had this same run last Friday and it was a disaster so I really wanted to nail it today. I’m back on course with eating and sleeping right. Coach Mick says, when you’re struggling a bit, set yourself up for success. So I wore my Nike 4%s, normally reserved for races, and I ran the faster portions on Long Lane, a straight, relatively flat mile stretch of road near campus. I really really wanted this to go well and it did! Faster miles came in at 8:13, 7:57, 7:52, 7:29. BOOM! I was super happy with that!

Saturday 1/11/20 – 6 miles easy, plus weights

Ran with Speedy Stork again for another real estate tour of houses we might like to buy someday. Jauntiest recovery run I’ve had in ages.

Ridiculously windy today!

Sunday 1/12/20 – Long run, 10.5 miles, 5 miles @ 9:10-10:10, 2 miles @ 8:-8:15, 2 miles @ 7:30-7:45, 1 mile 9:10-10:10, 4×20″ strides

This again. This is the third time I’ve done this run in the last nine days. It is still freaking me out a little, but it went well again! Crazy how a couple of “bad runs” can sit in your head for awhile. I wanted to stop many times, but I had texted Allegro Fuerte right before starting and promised to report back, if I survived. I really did not want to report back “It went fine until mile 8 and then I stopped for 30 seconds to catch my breath” – ugh. I didn’t stop and I ran 8:08, 8:03, 7:55, 7:35 for the faster miles even without the “fast shoes.” Yes! Coach Mick told me later that the elites also want to stop, but they don’t. Like me. This run was a great end to a solid week. Bring on tomorrow’s swim!

Weekly total: 52 miles

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Training Log 1/5/20

This week’s training log features a New Year’s Day race, the return of the visiting relative, and a lot of sloggy running. When HPRM#1 advised me to train for the 10K distance, he also said it was going to be difficult. He may even have said “unpleasant” or “hellacious” – something along those lines. This week may have been a bit of a taste of that.

Week of January 5

Monday 12/30/19 – Swim

2450 yards with Snarky Girl. Gross weather, good day for a swim.

Tuesday 12/31/19 – Day before race

4 miles plus 4×20 sec strides

Finally a run that felt really perky! Great last run of the year. Total yearly mileage came to 2272, an absolutely unimaginable number even a year ago. Two successful marathon cycles and no injuries!

Wednesday 1/1/20 – Resolution 5K Race, Colchester, CT, 24:07, First in age group, 4th female

I really wanted to negative split this race and I would have liked to PR, if possible. I sort of negative split (7:42, 7:16, 7:34), but not close to my 5K PR (23:20). Still, I’m happy with how I ran the race. I stayed mentally positive through the whole thing. The course was hillier than I remembered and Aunt Flo showed up 10 minutes before the start. Lovely. On the other hand, last year my foot hurt a ton after this race – this year I didn’t even think about it. Huge win.

Thursday – 8 miles easy, plus weights

This felt like a lot of miles the day after a race, but we’ve got to fit them in somewhere, so here they are. Sloggy.

Friday – 5 miles at 9:10-10:10, 2 miles at 8:00-8:15-8:00, 2 miles at 7:30-7:45, 1 mile at 10:10-9:10

Not even close. Five miles easy with friends were no problem. Then for the next five, I managed one “fast” mile at 8:23 and the others around 9:00 or even slower. My legs felt trashed from the race on Wednesday. Aunt Flo is kicking my ass. Not enough sleep. Too much champagne. Etc. I had a fabulous wine and cheese party in the evening and then closed the door on holiday revelry.

Saturday – 7 miles easy, plus weights

Wine and cheese turn out to be terrible running fuel. Who knew? Speedy Stork joined me for what turned into a drizzly hilly real estate tour.

Sunday – Long run, 12 miles, 4 easy, then 8 at 8:10-8:20 pace, 4×20 sec strides

This run also didn’t go at all to plan. Wind was ridiculous and I was just plain tired. Teacher Runner was with me the whole time so at least I had good company. As she told me several times, “It’s just a run.” Let’s hope things are better next week!

Weekly total: 47 miles

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Training Log 12/28/19

I thought I would do another little catch-up with training logs and see if I can be a bit more regular with them in the coming weeks. When we left off, I was getting ready to race the Philadelphia half marathon, which I did, running it in 1:45:14. I ran the Manchester Road Race on Thanksgiving five days later with a good friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. Then it was time to shift gears and start the 10K Project, which I am only somewhat facetiously subtitling: Dangerous at Any Distance!

I’ve never explicitly trained for anything shorter than a half marathon and I’m coming off of two years racing a marathon about every six months. I love the marathon, really, really love it. But I want to run a fast marathon and High Power Running Mentor #1 kept insisting that training for shorter distances would help. The folks at the Rogue Running podcast say the same thing. Coach Mick is not one to dictate goals to other people but when I asked his opinion, he said: “HPRM#1 and RR are not wrong about that idea.” So, as I wrote way back in September, I opted out of Boston 2020 in favor of a spring spent working on the 10K distance. In December, it was finally time to put that plan into action!

In the last month, I’ve run a lot of fast (for me) 200s, quite a few tempo miles, and more strides than I care to count. My weekly schedule has been fairly similar to what it’s been for a long time:
Monday: swim
Tuesday: track
Wednesday: easy run plus weights
Thursday: easy run or tempo
Friday: easy run or tempo
Saturday: easy run plus weights
Sunday: long run

The main differences have been that long runs have not been more than 12 miles, track work is faster and shorter, and the near perpetual presence of strides. Coach Mick also cranked my tempo pace down a notch, post-Chicago.

Week of December 16

Monday – Swim

2100 yards

Tuesday – Speed Intervals

2 miles easy, 4x400m at 1:40, 400 jog recovery, 8x200m in 50 seconds for the first 6, 48 seconds for the last 2, easy 200m jog recovery, 1 mile cool down.

I had to do this workout on the treadmill because we were having a lovely little ice storm. It took me forever to get up the nerve to go start this sucker and it was really hard. I walked a lot of the recovery portions. But: BOOM! I also did it! The treadmill is a fucking uncompromising monster, but I did not fly off the back! At least not today.

Wednesday – 8 miles easy, plus 8×20 sec strides

Miscalculated and ended up running 10 miles instead of 8. Absolutely gorgeous out with lots of sun on the ice. Running felt like dog shit after yesterday but I once again finished the run without calling an Uber.

Thursday – 4 miles easy, plus weights

Ran on the treadmill at the gym because it’s so freaking cold and I couldn’t deal with changing clothes an extra time. New weights routine, which I love!

Friday – Easy run with hill work

10 miles total, 5 easy and then 7×2 minutes running uphill at 5K effort, jog back down, finish to complete 10 miles.

This was crazy hard. Work and kid schedules meant I had to do this at lunch, which I hate. Also, running hills alone is so much worse than running them with a friend. But, got it done.

Saturday – 6 miles plus 6×20 sec strides, then weights

Ran outside but felt super sloggy. Strides helped bust off the rust. I love to lift and I’m enjoying the nice warm gym!

Sunday – Long run, 10 miles, 5 easy, then 4 at 8:00-8:15 pace, 1 easy

I was grouchy this week. It’s so early, so dark, so cold. Why am I doing this? Thank goodness for Pokey, who ran with me. We laughed at the utter absurdity of the undertaking. Then we also managed those fast four miles! That was awesome.

Weekly total: 47 miles

Week of December 23

Monday – Swim

2400 yards, most of Ice Day Workout

Tuesday – 10 miles easy, plus strides

Ran some early miles with Squirrel and then joined Early Bird for her traditional Christmas Eve run and brunch. This was great. Wonderful time with friends before the holiday insanity.

Wednesday – 8 miles easy, plus strides

Beautiful weather, decent run, realized near the end I had eaten nothing but coffee cake and champagne. Oops.

Thursday – 4 miles easy, 2 miles at 7:30-7:40, then 8×20 sec strides

Ran with Teacher Runner and Squirrel. I am getting offered “the deal” a lot during tempo miles right now. Coach Mick says this is Howie Mandel from the old show, “Let’s Make A Deal.” I used to try to drive Howie away. He’s perching on my shoulder a lot these days so I’m telling him he can show up, but he has to run with me. Tempo miles at 7:47, 7:34. Happy with that.

Friday – Tempo Run

2 mile warm up, 2 miles at 7:30-7:45, 1 mile easy, 5×2 min at 7:00-7:10 w/2 min jog recovery, finish with one mile of 20 sec strides, 40 sec jog recovery.

Not gonna lie, this workout freaked me out and prompted me to text Coach Mick. You want me to run how fast? Really? I thought I might get some pace concessions here, but instead he said something like “It’s only 2 minutes. But it’s going to feel like an hour.” Um, thanks? Pokey and I tackled this together. My brain went totally dark at the end of the first tempo mile and I stopped. I just felt mentally overwhelmed, feeling like crap with so much of the workout still to go. But I pulled my shit together and started running again. I ended up with 7:56, 7:34 for the tempo miles, but that doesn’t include the stop. Then the 2 minute segments went much better than expected! Since 7:00-7:10 felt so completely out of reach, I just ran like hell and we ended up at: 7:22, 7:31, 6:57 (!), 7:09, 7:07. We were on a slight incline and it’s easy enough to see which segments were uphill and which were downhill. Still, I was pretty shocked and pretty psyched to be even in the vicinity of 7:00-7:10. We did not chat a lot during the last mile. This is one of the toughest workouts I’ve done to date and I’m mostly happy with how it went! Dang, was that hard though.

Saturday – 6 miles easy

Got this done quickly before heading to NYC for the day. I expected to feel horrible after the tempo run, but actually felt great! You just never know.

Sunday – Long run, 12 miles easy, plus 4×20 sec strides

Pokey and I are exploring different routes for easy long runs where hills don’t matter. We ran along the river, then over the bridge to Portland, a couple loops on a trail there and back. Beautiful day.

Weekly total: 52 miles. First time cracking 50 since Chicago marathon!

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Controlling the Fade

Cross-posted from

“Don’t go out too fast!”

It’s some of the most common running advice around. But is it ever alright to ignore it? Maybe. What if you’ve got perfect weather and a pie-in-the-sky goal? What if you’ve got a friend or a pace group at the ready that might be just a little too quick for you? What if you need a certain time by a certain date (ahem, last chance to BQ or OTQ….)? Most of the time, negative- or even-splitting a race is going to be the way to go. But every now and then, I think it’s okay to go for broke.

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Training Log: 10/28/19 to 11/10/19

It’s been awhile since I wrote a training log. Like, since March? I’ve been doing plenty of running and I’ve published quite a few race reports, but maybe it’s time to fill in a few details, at least about what I’ve been up to since the Chicago Marathon on October 13th.

Before switching over to 10K training, I wanted to run one last longer race, the Philadelphia half marathon. I love Philadelphia and a bunch of friends are going to race either the half or the full so I thought I’d tag along. The first two weeks post-Chicago were chilled out with some swimming and biking and very easy running, starting five days post-marathon. As recovery progressed, I ran a little more and started with some light workouts, until last week started to look more normal, as we transitioned to half marathon-specific work.

Coach Mick and I thought about two things going into this shortened training block. First, I asked him about the idea of translating marathon fitness to solid PRs at other distances. He said that can sometimes work, especially for people coming off their first marathon. Marathon training usually implies a significant mileage bump and that is likely to pay off across the board. On the other hand, if you’re already running pretty high mileage, (like me? how did that happen?), then it might be more important to train for specific distances, if you want the best result possible. What did that mean for Philadelphia? A good chance of a good race, without maximizing my potential at the half marathon distance. I decided I was fine with that outcome.

The second training question we talked about was how to structure the long runs between Chicago and Philadelphia, post-recovery. We initially considered keeping them shorter (10-12 miles) because I already have a good aerobic base. Looking back at my training log, though, we discovered that my long run was 15 miles the week before a half marathon PR in June 2018 and 22 miles (!) the week before my most recent half marathon PR in September. We decided to go with long runs of 14, 16, and 14 miles with some pace work included each week.

Here’s the details on the past two weeks.

Week of October 28

Chicago Marathon Celebration Cake: Yes, we made this!

Monday – 4 easy (9:52). This was coming off a combined post-marathon / birthday / Halloween party and felt like a run fueled by champagne and cake. Which it was.

Tuesday – 2 miles easy, 8×200 at 55-60 seconds, 200m jog recovery, 1 mile cool down. Pretty much my standard post-race track session. Usually I lead at the track. Post-marathon, I was chasing down my girlfriends.

Wednesday – Easy swim (1500 yards)

Thursday – 7 miles including strides (8:57 average, middle 5 miles around 8:35), plus a quickie strength workout. Happy Halloween!

Friday – 5 miles (9:10). I was supposed to have a couple of tempo miles in there, but we’d had a big wind storm the night before. I run early on Fridays and there was debris everywhere, including a large tree down, completely blocking the road. I ran a couple of “tempo-ish” miles and called it good.

Saturday – 14 miles, first 10 @9:00, last 4 @8:45. Last weekend, I barely managed 7 slower miles and wondered if I’d have to walk back to my car. Today 14 more upbeat miles felt fantastic. As Coach Mick says, “Recovery is a wonderful thing!”

Cheering at a marathon – maybe even more fun than running one?

Sunday – 4 easy (9:12). Ran in New York before watching friends run the marathon. So fun!

Weekly total: 39 miles

Week of November 4

Monday – Easy swim (1850 yards)

Tuesday – Tempo intervals at goal pace: 2 miles warm up, 4 x 1600 @7:45 w/400 jog recovery, 1 mile cool down. I ran 7:43, 7:44, 7:45, 7:41 for the 1600s. Somewhere along the line I started totally loving the track. This was super fun and even though it was also work, it was good work.

Wednesday – 4 easy (9:08)

Thursday – 8 miles, 1 mile easy, 6 @8-8:15, 1 mile easy. Coach Mick calls this “steady state pace.” I call it “annoying.” It’s more work than easy running and less fun than tempo. Somehow running 8-8:15 is just irritating. My new goal is to learn to love this pace.

Friday – 6 miles, including strides (8:58). Fridays are Girlfriend Run days, but today I missed some of the chatter because I was a little quicker than standard girlfriend pace. Gorgeous frosty fall morning regardless.

Saturday – 4 easy (8:47). Ran from the gym, then weights.

Sunday – 16 miles, first 10 @8:45, 3 @8:30, 2 @8:15, 1 easy. In theory, I love the idea of longer long runs. At about mile 12 today I was wondering what the hell I was doing? Happy to have done it, though!

Weekly total: 46 miles

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Chicago Marathon 2019 – Race Report

The plan to run the 2019 Chicago marathon was hatched back in November 2018. A group of running friends all had marathon times fast enough that we could get guaranteed entry. Chicago is a great city and a fast course. High Power Running Mentor #1 (HPRM#1) lives in Chicago and committed to pacing me. Just like that, a fall trip was planned almost a year in advance.

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Leveling Up in Chicago

Cross-posted from

This coming weekend, Eliud Kipchoge will attempt to break two hours for the marathon. He’s put together a list of five reasons he thinks he will succeed. I’m certainly not Kipchoge, but I am also running a marathon this weekend, and I’ve also got five reasons I believe I can meet my goal.

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Rewrite the Stars

You know I want you
It’s not a secret I try to hide
I know you want me
So don’t keep saying our hands are tied
You claim it’s not in the cards
And fate is pulling you miles away
And out of reach from me
But you’re here in my heart
So who can stop me if I decide
That you’re my destiny?

What if we rewrite the stars?

That’s the love song for the young couple in The Greatest Showman. Surely people besides me sometimes use song lyrics to mean something very different from their original intention. To me, this is a love song to life, the life I want, the life I am building.

In the weeks leading up to the Boston marathon, I experienced a case of what I’m calling “identity whiplash.” Within a 24-hour period, I started reading Steve Magness and Brad Stulberg’s book, The Passion Paradox, and then High Power Running Mentor #1 (HPRM#1) told me that I still think of myself as a non-athletic academic bookworm and that I haven’t embraced my identity as a fast(er?) runner. Less slow runner?

One premise of The Passion Paradox is that the wrong kind of passion for an activity can lead to your identity getting wrapped up in it. You might have a hard time remembering that you have value apart from the activity. This is well-worn territory for lots of runners, I suspect. Serious runners who identify primarily or exclusively as runners and then struggle when they slow down or get hurt or just have a bad race. This sentiment is all over the running podcast universe. We might call this “over-identification” with running.

Yet there is another massive tribe of people out there, including at least sometimes me, who struggle simply to claim the identity of runner, or maybe once we are willing to do that, the identity of “faster runner” or “more serious runner.” After all, many people are faster than I am. I’ve been first in my age group a grand total of one time. I’ve never won a race and I don’t expect to. But I have also run 8 marathons now and two of my times are Boston qualifiers. That wasn’t a fluke – it’s something I’ve worked very hard on. HPRM#1 isn’t wrong though – a part of me still sometimes thinks, eh, I am basically a nerd who works quite hard at an activity I am not very good at and perhaps I got lucky. We might call this “under-identification” with running.

Salty, of Salty Running, suggested that “under-identification” sounded like imposter syndrome. I agree with her, though I hate that term. To me, “imposter syndrome” sounds like the “fault” of the “imposter” when the reality of identity change can be quite difficult and complicated. Wikipedia says “A syndrome is a set of medical signs and symptoms that are correlated with each other and, often, with a particular disease or disorder.” But it’s not a disease if your identity has not caught up with your capability. We decided to re-name this “imposter phenomenon.” It describes the state of affairs when there’s an identity lag between what you are able to do and what you think you are able to do. Whereas a “syndrome” might require a “cure,” perhaps an “identity lag” will simply self-correct with time.

The conversation with Salty helped me figure out why I find “over-identification” with running discombobulating. It’s been so much work for me to claim the identity of runner at all, let alone fast(er) runner, that it’s hard for me to understand the phenomenon of over-identification. There have been times in the past year when I can almost hear the metal scraping on metal as the gears in my brain try to catch up with what my body has already done.

Last spring, the one-two punch of HPRM#1’s comment arriving simultaneously with The Passion Paradox facilitated a significant jump forward. It’s like someone oiled the gears in my brain that were scraping on each other as identity tried to catch up with capability. When I first started thinking about this issue, I felt like I wanted “permission” to be something I wasn’t before. But permission from whom? The people who love me see how much I love to run and how running improves my entire life. Who can stop me if I decide that this bold runner-life is my destiny? No one. It’s a choice, my choice, to leave fear behind and rewrite the stars.


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Opting Out of Boston

Unbelievably, the Boston Athletic Association posted the cutoff time for the 2020 Boston Marathon just a few hours after this post was originally published: 1:39. That’s my exact cushion. As I understand it, I would have been accepted to run Boston with zero seconds to spare. I’m happy I would have got in and I’m still really happy with my 10K plan. Read on to learn all about it!

Cross-posted from Salty Running.

This past week, I did not do a thing. Well, I did many things, but I did not do one thing in particular: register for the 2020 Boston Marathon.

I have a qualifying time, though it might not be enough to get me in. I fought for every second of that cushion last April as I ran from Hopkinton through Ashland, Framingham and the rest of the towns into downtown Boston. I knew that every second counted and I ran to maximize those seconds. So why am I not even signing up? Continue reading

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Surftown Half Marathon Race Report September 2019

One of the things I do to try to get faster is just copy what faster runners do. Faster runners often run a half marathon as a “prep race” about four to six weeks before their goal marathon so I’m trying to do that. Last spring, I ran the Hampton Court Half five weeks before Boston. That turned out to be quite an adventure, but I am not sure what role it served as a prep race. For the Chicago marathon, though, I noticed that one of my favorite races, the Surftown Half, was exactly five weeks before Chicago. Perfect.

How much more of this do we get? Every day is precious.

I really love this race. It’s in Westerly, Rhode Island, usually the weekend after Labor Day. I love the course with its double lollypop structure. I love the beach-themed medals and t-shirts. I love the feel of beach towns at the tail end of the season in general. That last gasp of summer before fall kicks into high gear. We’ve often made Surftown a family overnight, as we did this year. We went down Saturday afternoon, visited Mystic Seaport, had a nice dinner at the Engine Room (get the hush puppies!) and swam in the hotel pool. It feels so precious to grab this time together while we still can. Aidan is a junior in high school. Last days of summer, indeed, sniff sniff… Enough said. The family time was wonderful. I’ve rarely had a bad race at Surftown and this year was no exception. I ran 1:44:48, a shiny new PR by 57 seconds.

Work has been so busy that I didn’t have a lot of time or mental energy leftover to spend getting nervous about the race. Training has been going pretty well. I tried to take the viewpoint that the race wasn’t a test of fitness but more an experiment to try to discover what I might be able to pull off. I have definitely been running a lot more miles than I did before my previous half PR in June 2018, but I haven’t been doing half-marathon specific training and I only did a mini-taper.

A message from Coach Mick?

In pre-race discussions with Coach Mick, we settled on a strategy of an evenly-split race, aiming for about 7:50-7:55 pace throughout. I know the course well – it’s almost entirely flat with just a couple of short hills where I might slow down a bit. There’s also a fairly long downhill at the end. Coach Mick definitely did not want me to overthink this one. We’ve talked so much about the mental side of running in the past few months, but I woke up race morning to a text of only one word: #Fearless.

I also talked about the race with HPRM#1. He and I can both produce lots of words, but one thing he said really stuck with me: If the race starts to go badly, keep your nose in it. If you just collapse and jog it in, we don’t get any good data for Chicago. That was a good fit with my approach to the race – it’s an experiment so try to get clean data.

The weather race morning was just as predicted: high 50s at the start rising to high 60s, fairly high humidity, moderate cloud cover that would clear. I woke up around 5am, got dressed and made oatmeal in the hotel microwave. For the first time ever, I remembered to bring my own bowl so I didn’t melt any hotel dishes! I made coffee and woke up Mervus and the kids. Aidan and Rose were pretty sleepy but they were good sports. They got up and dressed without a lot of fuss. We arrived at the race around 6:30am and there was already a lot of traffic! Somehow I was only moderately nervous. Partly I had been busy with work. Partly I know training has been going well and that has given me some confidence. Mostly having my family along provided a huge dose of calm. I felt surrounded by their love and very supported.

I picked up my bib and my shirt and took three Jet Alert pills – part of my new caffeine strategy. Then I found my friends. We had grown to a big group with friends from various online and in person running groups. I ended up warming up with Badass Boomer and Allegro Fuerte. After some strides and pre-race drills, I found North Shore Strider and Pokey. It was already time to line up!

Standing in the corral, I realized I was already pretty warm. Urg. When the announcer said 7 minutes to start time, I decided that was enough for a last minute wardrobe change. I re-pinned my bib, moving it from my singlet to my shorts, and handed off my singlet to Mervus. Yup, second race in a sports bra. I guess it’s a thing now. I also wore my new Next%’s for the first time at a race. Someone in the corral asked if I planned to win in those shoes. I said I would give it my best shot! Very quickly the national anthem was over and we were starting.

For the first couple of miles, I felt fairly ok. I wasn’t too nervous. The pace felt manageable. Pokey ran some next to me and I could see North Shore Strider just ahead. I kept thinking to myself, why is she so close? She should be further away – is she having a bad day? Then I would check and we were running 7:45 pace and I would tell myself to slow down. Repeat that. Again. All down the causeway. At the start of mile 4, I started to have to work. That seems so early in a half marathon, but I had re-read my report from the Iron Horse half and I know that’s how that race felt too. I used to think a half marathon was 9 easy miles followed by 4 hard ones, but it seems it might be the other way around. Now I was already thinking, ok, just get to the mile 5 timing mat. That will get you 5 solid miles on pace. It sends everyone a solid message. Perhaps that is how the experiment goes today.

By mile 5, I could feel myself slowing down. I kept looking at my watch and seeing 8:00 instead of 7:50 or 7:55. I told my legs, c’mon, let’s get moving. To no avail. Maybe we picked up a headwind on the way back down the causeway because it just felt hard. I had been expecting Mervus and the kids around the halfway mark, but they popped up earlier. It turns out they had gone to the playground and had a look at the beach. I was so happy to see them but also sad for me because I thought, oof, I have so much running left to do before I see them again. This is going to take forever.

Mile 6 was definitely the darkest section of the race for me. I saw an 8:20 pace on my watch and thought, well, that’s the pace of a 1:50 marathon. If I run 8:20s the rest of the race, I’ll still be sub 1:50 because I’ve got a couple of 7:50 miles down already. But that is SO far away from what I had been hoping for. I tried focusing on one-more-mile, but it felt sort of like I was drowning.

That’s when Pokey showed up and saved my race. It’s quite possible I’ve run more training miles with Pokey than anyone else in 2019. We will never know that because not only is she not on Strava, she barely ever wears a watch. But, she shows up at 5:45am for track workouts that are so long they make us both dizzy. She runs 10 miles with me on a random Thursday. When I say, today we are running 8 miles with 6 of them at 8-8:15 pace, she says, ok let’s go. And here she was on the Surftown course just when I needed her most. We didn’t exchange a single word – we both like to race with music – but she started running by my side and I felt instantly better. Right, I know how to do this. This is just running next to Pokey. It’s just like running uncomfortably fast around the track. It’s running the out-and-back route with the big hill. It’s the Daniels loop for the millionth time. I felt SO much better that I suddenly remembered – Pokey might be here to save my race, but she really doesn’t wear a watch so she is pacing off me. If I am getting frisky, she’s just along for the ride. I looked at watch and my previous doldrums pace of 8:20 had dropped to 7:30! Running uphill! Whoops! We chilled out a bit and kept on trucking. After that, I barely checked my pace. That information was not helping me and I needed to just run.

For the rest of the race, I found a solid groove. I rotated through a few thoughts. Inspired by Coach Mick, I kept telling myself: Don’t be afraid of it, #Fearless. Just stay after it, one more mile. From HPRM#1: Keep your nose in it. You need this data. Don’t back off. From me: I’m asking you, legs, I’m asking. Because over and over again in workouts I’ve thought – this is not possible. This pace at this distance is not possible. All I can do is ask my legs to do what I want them to do and see what happens. In workouts, they almost always show up. During the race, they were a little more recalcitrant, but I kept asking and my legs kept running. I thought about other things too, mental images I had prepared to race with: About triangle breathing, and Dougal McKenzie, and strong mama tigers. But mostly I thought: #Fearless. Keep your nose in it. I’m asking you, legs, I’m asking.

Even though I know this course really well, I had forgotten a couple of things about it. I know there’s a kind of stealth hill around mile 7, but I forgot that there are some rolling hills after that and some nice downhill stretches. On the second loop, the runners are only divided from traffic by a series of cones so you have to run single file for much of miles 8-13. Normally I am not very good at picking people off. I find it hard to focus on a particular person. I always choose someone to pick off who is either much too fast for me to catch or slow enough that I overtake them really quickly. But put me in a long single file line of runners, and I’m ready to “go fishing” as the Rogue Running people call it. I passed a lot of people during this stretch. One guy said “Great job, set ‘em up, knock ‘em down” – which struck me as hilarious though I’ve no idea how he managed so many words so I just said “Thanks!” Pokey was right behind me and I figured at any time she was going to blow by me. Unless she had decided to really stick with me until the end? In which case I was very grateful!

The scariest hill at Surftown is around mile 10. I don’t think this hill actually eats much of your time, but it gobbles your soul with its location. As you round a corner, you see the hill and it looks absolutely huge because it’s so steep. Then as you start climbing, you realize that so far, you have only seen half of it. After a little plateau, it rises again, almost appearing to head into the sky. Mile 10 is about the worst place for a hill one can imagine in a half marathon. But this year, I was not only expecting the hill – I was looking forward to it. I was SO ready to be done running and I know what goes up, must come down. It’s mostly downhill after you reach the summit.

I hadn’t looked at my watch since I saw that 7:30 pace way back at mile 7 or so. I had a sense that I was probably doing ok in terms of time and there must be a clock around mile 9 which said 1:11:xx. With four miles to go, and a 10:00 pace, that gave me a finish time of about 1:51. That didn’t seem right. Then I realized, I use a 10:00 pace to calculate how long training runs will take because my easy pace is about 9:45, so that’s close enough. But I was running faster here so I started trying to figure it out. A 9:00 minute pace for four miles is 36 minutes. However, I could not add 1:11 to 36 at all. To be honest, I could barely multiply 9×4. Why do I bother trying to do math while racing? Then I realized – I was not running 9:00 minute pace either, but hopefully something much closer to 8 minute pace. That math somehow felt more do-able and even though I couldn’t quite figure it out, I realized that I wasn’t doing that badly and maybe a PR was even still within reach.

Once we got past the hill and to mile 10, I started counting. Up to 100, back down, do it again. I counted so much that I forgot where we were on the course and we when got to mile 11, I was totally surprised because I had forgotten mile 10 entirely. Running is really bad for one’s numerical sense. At mile 12, there’s a right turn, then eventually a left turn, and then a run for the finish. It’s a lot like right on Hereford, left on Boylston actually, and just like in the Boston marathon, when you make the last turn, the finish line looks so incredibly far away. I couldn’t see the clock and I didn’t want to look at my watch so I just ran like hell. I tried to imagine saving Rose from a tiger, an idea that worked at Erie. Strava says I sped up in the last .2 miles so maybe it helped. I vaguely heard a voice I knew in the crowd – I found out later it was Aidan! Then I saw the clock. It read 1:44:xx and I was DAMNED if I was going to let it click over to 1:45 before crossing the line! I shot through the finish! Mervus and Rose were there and quickly Aidan was too and I just hugged them right over the fence, so happy to see them, so happy to be done, so happy about the new PR!

Post-race is a bit of a blur. I found my friends and we took some pictures. I shared some clam chowder with Rose. North Shore Strider and I did a cool down jog. I talked to Coach Mick. A bunch of us went to the Cooked Goose for brunch. Lots to celebrate! In addition to some new PRs, Badass Boomer and Allegro Fuerte had both placed in their age groups and they won VW bus trophies!

This is the sixth time I’ve run Surftown and I’ve PR’d every time except 2016 when I ran it as a workout instead of a race. It’s the first race I ever seriously trained for (as in, used a training plan – 2011) and I think the second race where I ran sub-2 (2014). Now it’s my first sub-1:45 half, a result I never dreamed was possible when I started running. Maybe one day I will come back and win one of those buses!

Rose totally photo-bombed my mimosa picture!

Surftown Results:

2011    2:10:57            age: 42
2012    2:07:00            age: 43
2014    1:59:06            age: 45
2015    1:57:07            age: 46
2016    2:00:00            age: 47
2019    1:44:48            age: 50


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