The One and Only Boston Marathon

I haven’t been the best blogger lately. I have had things to post about (a new half PR at the Carlsbad Half Marathon in January, two new PRs in the 10k – first in February at the Super Bowl 10k and then at She.Is.Beautiful in March – maybe I’ll post about those some day). But my focus has been with other things – namely trying get work done on the dissertation. But I HAVE to post about Boston. Yesterday felt like a dream and I can’t stop thinking about it. (PS lots of photos and long post today… I think that’s ok!)

My parents were nice enough to come up Wednesday evening and stay through Monday to watch our pups for us (our friend and SCE teammate, Selena, is helping out the rest of the trip) – thanks!!! Thursday we got to spend a little time with them and then finish up packing. That evening I was participating in a Civil War forum, which was awesome! But made for little sleep because Friday morning, Kevin and I left the house at 3:30am(!) to catch our 6:50am flight out of SFO. One of the nice things about getting to the airport that early is that there are no lines – not to check baggage, not security, not at the one place open at 5:30am in Jet Blue’s terminal. The flights were easy, we had a short lay over at JFK (hi for a hot second New York!). But my stomach was all twisted from gross airport food and I think the air pressure of the planes just gets to me.

IMG_7310

After a bit of confusion trying to get an Uber at the Logan Airport – you can’t – we were on our way to our Air B&B, just steps away from the Bunker Hill Monument – so cool! It was nice to stay in Charlestown rather than downtown because I tend to get caught up with all the stuff, and that can have a negative impact on my race. So instead we were in our little world and it didn’t feel like the most amazing race was happening in just a few days. Our host gave us some tips for dinner, we got some delicious food at Figs, and then were fast asleep after a long day.

Bunker Hill Monument

Bunker Hill Monument

Our home street while in Boston

Our home street while in Boston

Saturday I had planned to hit up the expo but we just didn’t get moving early enough. I did a quick run-seeing tour of the neighborhood we’re staying in and then Kevin and I met up with Chris at Cask n Flagon for a beer, a few steps from Fenway. We had to see a Red Sox game while we were in town! It was beautiful weather (I couldn’t believe the forecast was calling for showers just two days later) and the game was fun, even though the Sox lost. After the game, we met back up with Chris, as well Susan, and a couple other friends. We walked to Cambridge, across the Charles River, for some local beer and dinner at Meadhall. Then we headed back to our little place.

Fenway!

Fenway!

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!

Charles River

Charles River

Sunday morning I did my shakeout run and felt really good. I couldn’t believe how good my legs were still feeling after training and traveling. Many times before a marathon I can feel myself starting to get tired, so this was good news! After the run, Kevin and I headed out to the expo. The are so efficient at getting out the bibs, kudos! We quickly went through the expo (Kevin wanted some new Nike Frees… I forgot that Niketown was across the street and after realizing when we got back, said we could go after the race… yeah that didn’t happen). Then we walked down Boylston for some coffee and to see the finish line. We didn’t stay too long as we both wanted to get some work done and I wanted to lay low before the race. One of the nice things about staying at a place with a kitchen is that I could make dinner instead of eating out and not knowing if I would find what I wanted.

It's official - I got my bib!

It’s official – I got my bib!

The Continental Army wanted to wish me luck at my marathon! ;)

The Continental Army wanted to wish me luck at my marathon!😉

Monday! Race Day! I woke up a little after 6am to make breakfast and get all my stuff situated. It wasn’t raining but was a little chilly. No problem. After eating my oatmeal, I got an Uber to take me to Boston Common. He was a funny guy and when the traffic got real bad and he knew that he couldn’t get me any closer, he asked “you’re running the marathon, you can walk 4 blocks, right?” Yep. So I followed the crowd to the Common where I didn’t wait to long before boarding a school bus on the long drive to Hopkinton. I dozed off here and there on the ride, ate a Picky bar, and watched the scenery. It rained a little on our way but didn’t seem too bad. And it wasn’t raining when we stopped. We got to Athlete’s Village and it was cold, wet, muddy, and amazing. So many runners! I had layered well, so didn’t mind the cold too much. I grabbed half a bagel, some water, and a coffee and just wondered around a bit to keep warm. I jogged a little warm up, about a mile, around in Athlete’s Village. Then I packed up my pockets with my gels, phone, and inhaler. I brought more gels with me than I usually do in a marathon, so it looked pretty silly. But I’m glad I did because I used all but one during the race. Finally, they called Wave 3 to start moving toward the corrals.

It was a bit rainy - thanks Bob & Jaime for the radar screenshot :)

It was a bit rainy – thanks Bob & Jaime for the radar screenshot🙂

Many of my friends had told me about Athlete’s Village and the walk to the start. That’s how I knew to bring clothes that I was ok with tossing but would keep me warm while I waited, which wasn’t super long. But I didn’t realize how cool the walk from Athlete’s Village to the start would be. Families cheer for you like you’re a celebrity. You feel like you’re in a parade. It was rad. Before going to my corral, I made a final stop at the Port-o-potty. I kept my warm clothes for as long as possible. I ditched the pants on the way to the start because as I thought it might be a pain to take them off there – I think I was right. But I kept my two extra long sleeves on until minutes before we started. I chatted with some other runners, a couple first timers like me. It started to sprinkle but who cares at that point! And then we were off!

Hopkinton from Runner's World

Hopkinton from Runner’s World

I had a goal in mind for my race. I had a great training cycle and knew I could pull off a PR at Boston. But I also knew it was a hard course and I wanted to enjoy the marathon as much as possible. So I balanced those two things, mostly for the first 16 miles or so. After that it was less of a choice. I knew that the first mile was downhill and it is easy to go too fast and that can destroy a race. But I didn’t have to worry, it was so crowded that I couldn’t have gone faster than my 8:19 first mile if I had wanted to. After that I got into a grove, hanging around a 7:45 pace for the first 13 miles – just what I wanted to do.

What are you looking at?

What are you looking at?

It was a little cold and rainy, but not terrible. Once you’re in the rain, it’s not bad and I was just happy it wasn’t hot! Apparently there were not quite as many spectators because of the weather but they were still awesome! Great signs – too many to remember. But I love that Boston accent – with crowds telling me to “Run Fastah!” and “Go hahd!” The guy singing the old lounge music was awesome and the group playing some New Kids of the Block made me smile. The course was good for me, as it rolls through its negative downhill first 16 miles. I loved seeing the mile markers with the town names and the miles painted onto the road. I didn’t know what the 6 Mile Moment was but I loved the signs anyway. I loved seeing the kids on the porches cheering for us, the Boston Strong signs and flags, the genuine excitement from the runners and spectators. So cool! We got to Wellesley and I knew we were near half way. Those college girls do not disappoint they were the best part so far! Everything was going so perfect.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 5.45.26 PM

The next three miles flew by and then we were entering the Newton Hills. But I had this. I was good. I kept reminding myself of all the Wilder runs, the hill we pounded up in Los Gatos, that I had this. I passed some people heading up the first hill. Still I slowed down here more than I had planned. The winds had kicked in at this point. I tried to tuck behind people to get out of the wind but it was hard. Either I was too far from someone and I wasn’t going to sprint to save energy… that seems counter productive or I tucked behind someone but it didn’t make much of a difference. It was also the coldest to me during miles 16-21. My hands were cold and it took a lot of work to get the gel out of my pocket, zip the pocket back up, and open the packet. They just weren’t cooperating in the cold. I had an idea where Heartbreak Hill was but didn’t realize I was finally on it until some guy yelled “You conquered Heartbreak Hill!” I had? Then why was I still running up it? A few minutes later I saw the official end of the hill. I knew I could do this! 5 miles left! I thought of my 5am 5 mile runs with Kim and told myself that’s all this was. Miles 16-21 were my slowest, all in the 8 minute range with Heartbreak Hill at 8:34.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 7.51.23 AM

Once we were in the 20s, there were huge crowds. Brookline crowds kept me moving and helped me get to the 7:50ish pace that I maintained for the rest of the race. I heard several spectators yell and cheer. They would pick a runner, myself included, and point to someone ahead of you “You can get him! You’re fastah than him! Go get him!” It made me laugh and I’m sure it also made me run faster.

Kevin's view before I came into the finish

Kevin’s view before I came into the finish

Then I saw the Citgo sign… away in the distance but I knew once I got to it, I only had a mile left. Some miles flew by, others dragged on. Mile 22-23, slow – I felt like I was there forever. But 25 and 26, whizzed by.

1 mile to go!

1 mile to go!

As I got close to the finish I worried I wouldn’t see Kevin in the crowds. We had talked about where he might be and we knew I might not see him because of all the people. But just as I turned on to Boylston I heard him yell for me. I was so happy to see him! I was so happy to be on Boylston. I picked it up and fought hard to run the last .2 at a 7 minute pace. I was happy but also almost felt like I would cry .. coming across that finish line that I had dreamed about, that I had seen in smoke on tv just two years ago, it was emotional and amazing. And I knew I had a PR and another BQ. I thought it was 3:28:XX but was stoked to find out it was a little quicker – 3:27:45! A 6 minute PR! At Boston!

Looking for Kevin

Looking for Kevin

Kevin got a couple photos as I passed him!

Kevin got a couple photos as I passed him!

IMG_3374

Grimace/smile coming up to the finish

Grimace/smile coming up to the finish

I went into the shoot and very quickly realized how cold I was. I took off the arm warmers, which were now wet and cold and doing me no favors. I texted my mom and dad to let them know I finished. And glanced at the text messages from friends – thanks! I wanted my medal and my space blanket. The volunteers were amazing. They knew we were all cold. They opened our water bottles and our protein shakes, I downed mine immediately, they helped up put on the blankets. As I got toward the end of the finisher’s area, there was a med tent with heating buses. I was really cold, shaking, and my right hand was so cold it felt hot – weird I know. I clearly looked as cold as I felt as one of the volunteers asked how I was. I told her my hand was cold and she directed me toward a heating bus. But it was full. So one of the other medical volunteers took me and a few others to a restaurant on the corner to get warm. He asked the people waiting for a table if we could have their seats, which they graciously gave us. Seriously, the Boston Marathon volunteers are the BEST! I texted Kevin to let him know I had to warm up a bit first before finding him. Finally I ventured back out and it took us a little while to connect. We were basically at opposite ends of the spectator/runners area. But yay we found each other! Kevin gave me his jacket and we headed back to our place.

All bundled up!

All bundled up!

IMG_7370We’re here for a few more days and will be doing some historical sight seeing. But I have to end with this: Boston was a dream… it almost feels like it didn’t happen! It was the most amazing, magical, unicorn-filled race of my life. Thanks to all who supported me and cheered me on!😀

Thanks Boston!

Thanks Boston!

Highlights of 2014

Well, it’s nearly the end of the year and it’s been three months since I have posted on the blog. Life got crazy busy … teaching, TAing, researching, writing (sort of), and running means no time for blogging. And as I realize this, I am contemplating ending this blog… still undecided on that. But before I do that, I thought I’d touch on some highlights of the year.

Trails & Hills
When 2014 started, I opted not to focus on speed and PRing and race goals…but instead I wanted to log more miles on trails and learn to be stronger on hills. And while I did train for races, whenever I could I made a concerted effort to get out on the trails and climb (remember my Fit Friday posts?). Climb and run trails – I did! With amazing friends (Jenn B., Hillary, Leslie, and the Bobs) I learned new trail routes and got more comfortable off the road. And as of today (Dec. 29) I have climbed 91,250 feet during my 2,175 miles this year. Success! And as the rest of this post will show, those hills and trails paid off with PRs in every distance (in fact I PRed twice in the half and 10k if you count relays…)

Relays
Speaking of relays, I ran several relays with both SFM Ambassadors and SCE teammates. From Ragnar to the Capitola Half to a duathlon and triathlon and finally the recent Christmas Relay in San Francisco, I have run more relays than ever before! And it has been so much fun. My last relay, the Christmas Relay was a great way to cap off a relay year – with 3 teammates and a goal to race at a sub 7 minute pace. (I succeeded, 4.5 miles at 6:55, woohoo!) Running in a relay takes the focus off the solo sport that running often is and brings in a team element that often can push you to meet goals you previously thought impossible. Plus, how much fun is it to start and finish as a team!

SCE at the Christmas Relays

SCE at the Christmas Relays

PRs
As I mentioned before, I PRed in the 5k, 10k, half, and marathon distances. This was an incredible feeling, especially after 2013 not really catching any PRs. I’ve written about my most of my PRs (Super Bowl 10k, Santa Cruz Half, Run in the Name of Love 5k, and SFM, link below) but I never got around to posting on my most recent at the Big Sur Half Marathon on the Monterey Bay, so I guess I’ll post a little about this now.

Best views at Big Sur

Best views at Big Sur

As readers of my blog know, the Big Sur Half is my favorite half marathon and I’ve had great races there in the past (2011, 2012). Last year, I aimed for it to be my first sub 1:40 half but it just wasn’t my day. I decided to take this year off and run the inaugural Disney Avengers Half Marathon instead. Well, sometimes life works in funny ways. Due to an unforeseen and unexpected issue (not necessary for the blog post) we couldn’t make the drive to Southern California. We transferred our hotel reservation for 2015 and RunDisney was awesome, letting me defer my entry. I felt really fit and wanted to still race 13.1 and thought I’d check to see if the usually immensely popular Big Sur half still had any entries… they did! After going back and forth, I decided to drive down to the expo and register at almost literally the last minute. Race morning, I left early for the 6:55am start, giving me little time to get caught up in typical race nerves. I felt like I ran a nearly perfect race. I started out a tad fast, but nothing too crazy and made my way through the first couple miles, which weave through Monterey’s downtown to the coast through Cannery Row and to the Coast (miles 1-3: 7:13, 7:36, 7:24). This part of the course stays by the coast for a bit and then heads up the most steep hill (67 feet) into Pacific Grove and then back to the coast. Then the race stays on the coast until its turnaround, a little past mile 8. Coming out of Pacific Grove, Kevin (Paulette’s husband) came up beside me and we ran together for a bit. Then fellow SCE team member Jeff passed me and just before the turnaround I saw another SCE member, Benoit (using the race as a final long run before CIM), heading back toward the finish. These guys really helped me stay motivated during the middle miles! (Miles 3-8:  7:32, 7:13, 7:30, 7:24, 7:15) After the turnaround (BTW I love that the turnaround is so late so you only have about 5ish miles  left!), we turned to a massive headwind, boo! But with the views of the Monterey Bay, who can really complain? I also saw Paulette as she made her way to the turnaround. I had been looking for one other SCE member, Jose, but I didn’t see him until the finish (because he was just a few steps behind me the entire race!). I definitely felt tired but knew I should be able to catch my previous PR time. I  had a bit of mind game coming back into Cannery Row, as that was where I really fell apart last year. But I powered through and before I knew it, I was at the finish (Miles 9-13.1: 7:28, 7:23, 7:29, 7:15, 6:56, last .10 37 seconds). This meant I finished at 1:37:51! That was a 2 minute PR for the half… only 7 months after I set my previous PR! I was elated. I texted Leslie first because she had been my rock for the half last year and I knew she would be stoked for me. Then I texted the hubs and family. The only bummer was I was pretty much by myself… then I saw Jose, Sean, and Benoit! And that made me pretty happy.

PR = Happy Meg

PR = Happy Meg

Catching that Unicorn
Like many runners, one of my ultimate goals was qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I tried 3 times from December 2012 through August 2013 and still remained 7+ minutes away. After trying so hard, I decided not to make that my goal in 2014. I purposely registered for SFM knowing that it would not be a good BQ course (hoping to remove that pressure). But take the pressure off, combined with great coaching (thanks Aaron!) and lots of hills meant that my 2014 marathon was my strongest and fastest yet and allowed me to finally catch that unicorn. (Read that post HERE.) In September I registered for Boston and got my confirmation about a week later. This definitely tops my running highlights for 2014!

BQ Smile!

BQ Smile!

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 5.46.09 PM

Everything Else
There were lots of other awesome non-running moments from 2014. Some of my closest friends got married; so the hubs and I had bachelor/bachelorette parties and beautiful weddings to attend. I was able to come home to visit my family more times than I usually do. And Elise came to visit twice this year! Sadly, both Hillary and Jenn moved away, but I was able to visit them both – so that’s not too terrible, I guess. And while Leslie had her share of injuries, she has been such an inspiration in her recovery. Speaking of inspirations, Ashley’s Barre Studio opened in October and is amazing!! I love going to the classes (runners, this is a great asset to your running, I promise!). And the hubs and I have been hosts to friends and family to our still-new-to-us house. It’s been a great year!

2015
I’m looking forward to 2015. I’m a new ambassador for Team Run the Bay (Represent Running). Our first big race is the popular 408k… looking to register? save 10% with the code: RUNTHEBAY-MG

B5ZzLCLCMAA1T4_

As far as races go, I’ve only got my eye on a couple. Of course, I’m running the 508k. I’ll also be running the Super Bowl 10k for the 6th year in a row. And I’m excited to run She is Beautiful in March. I haven’t run this race since its first year in 2011. And I was lucky to be a part of their new video:

Every day is a choice… from She.is.beautiful on Vimeo.

And of course, I’ll be focusing on Boston. The hubs and I are both excited! We’ve never been to Boston so even without the race this is going to be a fun trip… but to run the famous Boston Marathon makes it that much more special!

So, what have been your favorite 2014 moments? And what are you looking forward to in 2015?

The Barre Studio Hosts Graced by Grit

So are you as excited as I am about The Barre Studio opening in Capitola?! If so, come by Saturday to check it out, as well as one of my favorite workout brands – Graced by Grit. There will be a BBQ and a chance to check out the Barre space… can’t wait!

unnamed

Dashing the Dip and Dash

Last Sunday, I participated in my first Dip and Dash put on by Finish Line Productions. The Dip and Dash series includes three aquathons, swim then run of varying distances. Since I’m not a swimmer, it’s not a surprise that I hadn’t participated in one before. But my friend and teammate, Sam, wanted to use the swim as a practice and asked if I wanted to be part of a relay team with her. She’s swim around the wharf and I’d run the five miles on West Cliff. I jumped at the chance to be on a team with her and thought it would be a fun chance to see where my speed is at 6 weeks post marathon.

My plan leading up to the race was to run a pace similar to the 10k portion of the Capitola Half relay back in May. This meant about a 7:05 pace. I also hoped it would be fastest enough for us to win too. The two weeks before the race I added in some speed workouts for the first time in a month. I started with a reverse ladder workout: 2×800, 2×400, 2x200s and was not too far off from the times I was hitting earlier in the summer. The Thursday before the race I ran some 400s and a couple 200s around the harbor – couldn’t seem to find a time to make it to the track. They were not my fastest attempts and I thought about scaling back my goal to a 7:15 pace. This seemed the best idea when I woke up Sunday morning feeling a little sick to my stomach (I’m assuming this was thanks to Chinese food and ice cream the night before!).

I jogged down to the start and met up with Sam, where I learned that we were the only relay team. Sweet, we already won! Ha! She had a great idea that I run the Wharf as my warm up and then I could cheer on the swimmers as the same time (as well as get some good photos). I did a few strides at the end of my warm up and headed toward the transition area. Even though the pressure of winning was off, I still wanted to have a strong run. Sam came out of the water (which had some strong swells Sunday morning) and I grabbed the chip and made my way out to West Cliff.

Swimmers ready to start!

Swimmers ready to start!

Sam rounding the wharf

Sam rounding the wharf

Since I was the only runner, I made sure to encourage all of the race participants who were running on much more tired legs than mine. I felt pretty good by the time I started the race, stomach issues were gone. I started out too fast and did a terrible job of pacing (oh well): 7:03, 6:59, 6:56, 7:09, 7:15. I finished at 36:15 with an average pace of 7:03 – easily making it to my original goal. Despite uneven pacing, I was pretty happy with that. Since it was only my second 5 mile race, it also meant a distant PR😉

I met up with Sam and another teammate, Dan, after the race. After some coffee and yogurt from nearby Picnic Basket, Sam and I collected our prize – a gift certificate for free Rudy Project sunglasses! Sweet!

Have you ever won a race because there was no competition??

Food Friday: Greek Festival

This week’s Food Friday post is a bit different. Instead of chatting about one of my favorite local restaurants, I’m posting about the an annual food festival!

Last weekend, the hubs and I made our way to the Santa Cruz Greek Festival (it was a long trek – about a 5 minute walk from our house, ha!) We had been a year and a half ago, but it was in May and that is apparently a much smaller event.

All photos in this post from Greek Festival's FB page

All photos in this post from Greek Festival’s FB page

The festival is held on Church street and has many Greek food vendors to choose from: gyros, vegetarian, pastries, BBQ, etc. The hubs picked up a gyro, I had stuffed eggplant, and we shared a salad. There is live music and beer and wine – we each had a nice cold beer on a warm afternoon. The food is really good and has options that are not usually at your typical Greek restaurant. They also don’t have what we might consider the traditional fare of falafels and pita bread.

10668892_839336262767090_5855560552219777279_o

After hanging out with the music, we passed some of the vendors and the rock climbing wall  (so much to offer here) and tried some loukoumades. Yum! Loukoumades are basically like a donut (but not shaped like one) but with honey and walnuts. We brought these home to eat while watching the Niners beat the Cowboys.

10620105_839002402800476_4494990356537282761_o