Being part of history in Boston

Last weekend my love for running and traveling to new places came together with a trip to Boston to cheer on my badass, speedy friend who ran the marathon. It was an experience I’ll never forget!

The 5k
I never realized how much else goes on during the Boston Marathon weekend, including a 5k run that close to 9,000 people participated in. Luckily the weather was great that morning, the spectators were out in full, and I got to experience running across the marathon finish line. There really is something special about running in Boston and I’m so glad I got a chance to do it (and make Massachusetts state #23 I’ve ran in!).

 

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The marathon
I was so excited to witness this historic race in person. Much has been written about the conditions so I won’t waste space here, but I can tell you it didn’t stop spectators from showing up. I can’t imagine what it would look like on a nice day based on how packed the course was in the shittiest of conditions. This city truly embraces this race!

I did a ton of spectator research before the trip. The logistics are a little insane for this point-to-point course, but we had a solid plan and it ended up working out well. I referenced the 2018 spectator guide and MBTA course viewing map a lot and could probably write a whole separate post on spectating tips. Feel free to reach out if you want more details.

My crew took the Green Line B branch to Chestnut Hill around mile 22. Our home base was Mary Ann’s, a cash-only bar we could easily dip in and out of. On a better weather day, I would have stayed outside the whole time. But with the crazy conditions, I popped out to watch the elites, my friends in Wave 1, and the main runner we traveled with who was in Wave 3. The app came in handy here since I could go out right before they hit our section of the course.

 

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We were inside Mary Ann’s when Des crossed the finish line and everyone went wild. Again, this city is all in on the marathon and it was so awesome to be part of it.

 

 

Everything else
I didn’t fit in as much sightseeing as I normally would have, but I had a great time eating and bar hopping my way through Boston. Some of the highlights:

We did have a brief cultural respite at the Museum of Fine Art. Unfortunately the lines were crazy long for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum next door so we skipped it. I also have to give a shout out to the totally clutch, locally owned store Trend on Newbury. I bought rain boots that were so necessary on marathon day and the owner was super nice and helpful.

 

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Return to being monumental

The Monumental is my favorite race for a few reasons. In 2012, it was the first half I ever did. In 2015, it was my first (only?) full. And I know the course intimately since it loops through downtown Indy, including Mass Ave. I had to miss it last year due to travel so I was really excited to return this year. I also had a super shitty spring race after battling bronchitis for over six weeks leading up to the Derby half. Redemption was on my mind!

Going into this race, I felt much healthier and more prepared. As early as October, I started thinking I might even be able to PR. My last long-ish run solidified my confidence to push the pace. I knew I would have to go out strong and hold on for dear life but I was ready for it.

I tend to go through the same mental cycle in the days before the race: I get super hyped and then doubt everything, only to wake up dancing and smiling on race day. The forecast was a little toasty for me but it promised to be a great morning.

My first mile felt fast but ended up being a 10:30 pace. I panicked a little but reminded myself to chill out since there was a lot of race left. During miles 2 and 3, I got my pace down but my left step was feeling off and I had some serious doubts that I would be able to hit my goal.

A funny thing happens the longer you run though. Your body calms down and you settle in to a groove. With each mile, I got faster and was feeling really good. It’s always a gamble to know how early to really starting pushing so I tried to stay somewhat conservative until the infamous Meridian stretch, which is where the race truly begins for me.

Once I turned at the Children’s Museum and stared down those final miles, I knew I had it. In mile 11, I saw two of my friends and shouted at them with a big grin that I thought I was going to PR.

And I just barely did with a 2:09:07 finish (9:52 average pace), 8 seconds faster than my previous PR!

In my post-race Instagram, I wrote about embracing the badassness of what I had just done, which sounds simple but is tough for me. This is the heaviest I’ve been in a long time and the shadow of fat!Melanie haunts me every time I look in the mirror. But my “heavy” body carried me through 13.1 miles faster than it ever has before. And just a month before that, I hit one rep max PRs on back squat at 200#, front squat at 175# and deadlift at 285#. So today, I’m choosing to love me and be proud of this body.

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Indy Half race recap

Since I started running five years ago, my big fall race has always been the Monumental, which is my favorite race. This year I will be out of town though so I took the chance to check out the Indy Half.

My training season, if you can even call it that, was the shittiest I’ve ever had. My schedule has been insane. I didn’t run nearly as much as I should have. And when I did, it definitely wasn’t fast. This is also the heaviest I’ve been in a long time so that’s literally been weighing me down. Oh and did I mention this course is super hilly (relative to Indiana) and everywhere I normally run is super flat?!

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Heading into race day, I was mentally preparing for the worst but also trying to relax and enjoy it. The weather was perfect and the course was beautiful, winding through Fort Ben on a mix of roads and trails. I started out a little faster than planned with my first mile at 10:18. I decided to go with it but faced my first challenge in mile three. Some people walked up the giant hill but I knew I had to keep moving, even if it was super slow. There’s something mentally for me about walking in those situations. It feels like it would be too easy to never start running again.

I was so glad when the road started evening out. I made it! Now I just had to calm my breathing and pick up my pace. I was really happy with how quickly I recovered and got back in a groove. I panicked a little after mile 6 when my watch told me I was under a 10:00 pace. There was no way I could maintain that until the end, I thought. But I felt really good and my competitive drive wanted to see how long I could hold on to it.

There were some smaller hills sprinkled throughout the course but I grew more confident with each one. I kept my pace under 10:00 and knew I was going to finish strong. Then mile 11 almost crushed my soul. That damn mile was entirely uphill (or at least felt like it) but I kept fighting and only slowed down to a 10:18 split.

In the final push, I felt like I was moving so slow but posted a 9:31 split on the last mile and crossed the finish line almost in disbelief. I conquered the toughest course I’ve ever raced and finished in 2:12:09, my third fastest half (of seven).

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I expected the worst and instead left with a complete runner’s high and huge sense of pride. I worked hard for my 2:09:15 PR in April, but this race was a different accomplishment and yet another reminder that I need to believe in myself more.

2016 Derby half recap: Fastest filly on the track

In my last post, I mentioned the marathon burnout was so real and I was enjoying focusing on crossfit for awhile. That continued through the 2016 Crossfit Open, during which I pushed myself really hard and hit multiple PRs.

That theme would carry over into my running as I ramped up training for the Derby half. This is by far the least amount of training I’ve ever done for a race. I don’t necessarily recommend it but luckily everything else I was doing kept me in decent enough shape that I was able to work up to 10 miles with relative ease. Based on the times I was posting, I thought I might have a PR performance in me, which was crazy to think about.

For the second year in a row, the Derby forecast called for rain. I was much more mentally prepared for it since I survived 13.1 miles of rain last year. And once you’re wet, you’re wet. There’s not much you can do but keep moving.

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I didn’t necessarily have a game plan for this race but I knew I would have to work really hard to maintain the pace needed to PR. My first mile was a lot slower than I intended, mainly due to dodging traffic and finding my lane as the field settled. I told myself I had 12 more miles to make up that time and not to freak out too early.

I was quickly reminded how awesome the crowd is in Louisville. They came out in huge numbers all throughout the course, despite the rain. It was amazing! Until it wasn’t… In mile 11, there was a huge group of guys cheering. As I passed them, one guy threw a football and it hit me in the head and knocked my hat off. He apparently thought it would be fun to play catch. With runners. In the middle of a race. In the pouring rain.

After screaming “what the fuck?!?” I grabbed my hat and took off. I was worried about how much time it would cost me since I was on track to PR. Once again I was telling myself to stay calm and just get refocused. I wasn’t about to let a dumbass ruin the hard work I had put in so far – and still had left to do.

Derby half 2016

This was the first race where I felt like I was actually racing. I pushed myself harder for longer than ever before. It was work. It hurt. There was no smiling during these race photos. And I wanted to stop so many times in those last few miles. But I pushed through and it paid off in a big way.

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My time was 4:00 faster than last year on this course and about 2:00 faster than my previous best half. In some ways, I’m more proud of this race than the full marathon. Or at least proud in a different way given everything I faced that morning.

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What’s next?
I’m hoping to ride the runner’s high that came with this PR and maintain a better base than I did after the full. And I’ll continue crossfit, of course.

As far as races go, I need to figure out a new fall half to try. For the first time since I started running, I’m missing the Monumental. That race will always have a special meaning for me since it was the first half and full I did. It also feels like my home court race since I know the streets so well and I love the course.

What fall race should I sign up for? What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you during a race? Drop a note in the comments below!

 

**Also want to note I emailed the race director about the football incident and they were very responsive and are contacting the group. This is a great race overall and I’d hate for that one instance to deter anyone from signing up.

Rowing is the new running

Confession: I’ve only ran a couple time since that one thing happened in November. A bit of burnout is to be expected after four months of dedicated training. But it’s also been nice to shift my focus back to crossfit. So, here’s an update on what’s been going on since the marathon.

Row’d Royalty
Last year Crossfit Naptown participated in Row’d Royalty and placed first worldwide. They encouraged everyone to sign up this year to test their fitness and help defend our title (top four male and female scores count for the team). We did the first workout in class, a 2k row for time, and I finished in 7:51:10. I didn’t think much of it but later in the day they posted that I was one of the top four females (up to that point).

I’ve been going to crossfit for three years and while I’ve made a lot of #gainz, there’s still so much I can’t do. Placing that high on a workout felt pretty badass, especially since the top females in our gym include an Olympic rower and an Olympian-in-training (pictured with me below). I signed up that day and pushed myself hard through five more workouts.

Rowing with olympians

I don’t think any of my scores ended up being good enough to count for our team, but I had a ton of fun going after it. Overall, I placed 34th out of over 200 females in the tall division (5’6” and up). And our team placed first again!

Rowd Royalty final

Naptown Triple Crown
Last year’s Naptown Smackdown expanded into this year’s Naptown Triple Crown, with each day at a different location. Members could sign up for one day or multiple days and I chose all three.

Day 1 – Monon location
I started my day knocking out the final Row’d Royalty workout in the morning to give myself some recovery time before the evening’s events.

Event 1-2

I was first off the bike in my heat but struggled hardcore (again…) on the backward jumps. For the second event, I made a strategic decision to go for the row since it was scored separately from the shuttle runs. It paid off and I ended up winning the rowing portion of the event with 1321 meters! My score was actually good enough to place fifth among the guys. Such an awesome feeling!! On the flip side, my shuttle run score was super low. Overall, I placed 11th out of 18 for day one.

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Day 2 – Delaware location

Event 3-5

The one rep max event was set up so only three people lifted at once, making it an “all eyes on you” atmosphere. I hit a 10# PR at 155#! If the second event looks brutal, that’s because it was. But it was a great example of how I’m capable of more than I think and how the competition atmosphere can push you harder. I did so much better than I thought I would, finishing in 12:09 (8th out of 22)!

The final event was one of my favorite styles: Barbell complex. We did the same rep scheme each round but went up in weight. My goal was to get as far in the 105# round as I could and I ended at 7 hang power cleans before the time cap. All in all a very successful day two with an overall placing of 7th out of 22!

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Day 3 – Capitol location

Event 6 - 8

The balance test was kind of hilarious to watch. Several people impressively made it all 3:00 on each leg but I stumbled at 1:31 (right) and 1:03 (left) – crushing my dream to be on Survivor. The second event was a shot at redemption for me. We did this WOD in class a week ago and I finished a minute over the time cap. This time I snuck in just under at 9:56! The final event was interesting since we had to see how far we could get through the workout in 2:00, then 5:00. I finished the day 15th out of 23.

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This weekend was the epitome of why I love my gym so much. It was awesome meeting members of the other locations and watching everyone kick ass and push themselves. Our community is the most supportive, encouraging group of people I’ve ever been around. And personally, I was super proud of surviving nine workouts over three days, and even winning one! It was equally exhausting and energizing. I’m so grateful for this place that challenges me to believe in myself, try harder, and be kind to others.

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So, what’s next?
I will have to start running again soon since I signed up for a couple shorter races and have the Derby half in April. Luckily half training isn’t as intense so I can hopefully keep up my consistent crossfit schedule of late. Also around the corner is the Crossfit Open which kicks off the 2016 Crossfit Games season!

My first full: Twenty six point two

There was a time just a few years ago when running for one minute without stopping was a big deal for me. On Saturday, Nov. 7, I ran for 4 hours, 51 minutes and 45 seconds (mostly) without stopping.

I was pretty calm heading into race day. I had a game plan to set out around an 11:30 pace and chip my way down from there. I thought if everything went amazingly perfect, I might be able to run close to an 11:00 average. I hit that for my 20 miler but those last 6.2 miles were such an unknown. I had no idea what to expect or how I would feel when I got there.

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It’s a little painful to start out so slow, especially when you have people flying by you in those first few miles. But it’s so important to run your own race, particularly when you are in it for the extreme long haul. I ended up going out a little faster than planned but stayed calm and didn’t push my pace too hard too early.

My first emotional moment of the day came in mile 7 when the half marathon splits and the full continues up Fall Creek Parkway. In the past, I always felt like it thinned out once I was alone with the half marathoners but that was nothing compared to how small the crowd was once it was just the full crazies.

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After the halfway point, I let myself pick up the pace but kept in mind how much farther I still had to go. I used the same mental strategy I have during my previous races. Rather than getting to 20 miles and then thinking about the distance I have left that I’ve never ran before, I got through the first 6.2 miles and then focused on the fact that I had already ran the distance that was left. During each remaining distance, I would think about my training run that was the same distance – how I felt, how I paced it, how I got through it. I don’t know if that makes sense or resonates with anyone reading this but for some reason it helps me so much more than thinking about it the other way around.

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I was really surprised how solid I felt when I finally did reach mile 21 and beyond. I continued to chug along. At that point, my goal was just to get to Meridian Street and hang on until the end. I did end up walking a little bit in the last mile – something I somewhat regret now but also realize it’s pretty awesome to not have walked until that point so I shouldn’t be that mad.

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There are no words to describe the feeling of coming down the final turn from Capitol onto Washington. They changed up the finish line chute this year and it ended up being a little longer with more people cheering on each side. It was absolutely incredible and the second emotional moment of the day. I surprisingly had a lot of energy and gave a strong final kick to cross the finish line with the biggest smile plastered across my face.

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Final stats:

  • Weeks completed: 18 of 18
  • Number of runs / total miles: 68 / 444.2 (only missed 4 runs total)
  • Number of crossfit workouts: 30
  • Most interesting run: Race day, obvi
  • Race day stats: OH HEY NEGATIVE SPLITS!!!
    • 10k – 1:09:55.2 (11:15 average)
    • Half – 2:26:34.3 (11:11 average)
    • Finish – 4:51:45.5 (11:07 average)

The #runMelrun crew
I could write an equally long post just about the amazing people in my life who have supported me through this journey. I was inundated with messages wishing me luck the week of the race. I didn’t expect or ask anyone to be out there and was so overwhelmed by how many times I had friends and family on the course cheering me on. I wasn’t sure if I would want to see anyone – if things were going bad or I was too in my head – but every time it gave me a boost of energy. These people gave up time on a Saturday to hang out on random sidewalks around town to see me for a total of 30 seconds while chasing after this really dumb goal of running 26.2 miles. I am forever indebted to them.

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What’s next?
As with winters past, maintaining my base will be a big goal. I’m signed up for the Derby half again in April and may get some shorter races on the books between now and then (the inaugural Winter Warmup was fun earlier this year!). But I’m also excited to get back to crossfit and lifting heavy shit again.

The obvious question is whether I’ll ever do another full. I can’t say I’m itching to do one right away but now that I’ve done it, I know I can do it again. It’s no longer this big, scary, holy shit, impossible thing. And as much as I don’t want to say something like this is easy… overall everything went really well for me during training, on race day and in recovery.

And if I can run a marathon, anyone can! Seriously. I do have a freakishly self-driven personality but besides that, here’s a few things it’ll take to get there:

  1. Time. You can’t go from zero to 26.2. So you train for 18 weeks. You give up your Friday nights because you have to get up early to run Saturday morning. You run when you would rather sleep. You run when you would rather drink. You run for several hours and then you sleep and then you drink. Your time is dominated by your training.
  2. Mental toughness. You have to be able to push through the wall when your body wants to do nothing more than not run and it’s incredibly easy to just stop. You have to will yourself through those last miles and focus on how proud you will feel when you finish. You can and will finish but you only if you’re willing to go to a place that completely ignores logic and every instinct your body has to shut down and quit doing this crazy thing (running a ridiculous amount of miles).
  3. Patience. The saying “it’s a marathon not a sprint” is of course very literal in this case. You are never more in tune with your body than you are training for a marathon. You know exactly how your body feels at different paces. You go out extremely controlled and conserve your energy because you have a long way to go. It’s not easy but it will help you finish strong. And you have to be patient about trusting your training plan. Four months is a long time to work for one day of racing but again, you can’t go from zero to 26.2.

Follow my journey to my first full! Previous updates: Week oneWeek fiveWeek nine, Week thirteen, Week seventeen.

My first full: Week seventeen

Hello sweet, sweet taper time! There were some days I never thought I would make it here but I survived the highest volume weeks and have a slight reprieve leading up to race day.

Since my last update, I’ve tackled two major distances and overcome a hamstring injury that I was trying to downplay while freaking out that it might end my training.

My 18 miler fell on the day of the Back on My Feet Marathon Relay, which I did as a two-person team with a friend also training for the Monumental. Rather than take turns trading off 2.2 mile loops, we got 5 out of the way together before the race started and then ran our 6 respective laps consecutively. She’s speedier than me and I was a little worried that I had gone out too fast.

Once the race started, I let her take off and settled into my pace. With each lap, I ended up maintaining close to what we set out at and I felt really solid through the end. My final average pace ended up being 10:28 which was unreal. I was on a total runner’s high the rest of the day!

A couple days later, we were doing cartwheels in the gym (something I suck at and never do). I felt a pull in my right hamstring during one but it wasn’t immediately painful so I did the workout after that. The next day I knew something was wrong but I was afraid to miss my nine miler. It was horrible, naturally, so I skipped my run the day after that and went to see Sara at Myo-Fit to assess the damage and perform her torture techniques.

I took my 14 miler that Saturday slow and everything was fine. But on my next run, I went out a little faster, felt really good and, like a dumbass, pushed my pace super hard in the last mile. With one tenth of a mile left, I felt the hamstring pull again. This time it was immediately painful and I seriously worried I might have ended my season.

That was the start of my highest volume week. The week leading up to the big 20 miler. The week I didn’t think I could afford to miss any miles. I decided to run the 10 miler (also horrible) but skip the 5 miler to give myself two days of rest before the big 2-0.

Luckily my gamble paid off and my 20 mile run went amazingly well. I was in a really positive place mentally. My leg was cooperating with no major issues. My pacing was smart (11:00 average!). It was a huge confidence boost that I might actually do this thing on November 7. I know those last 6.2 miles can be killer but I’m going to get through them and cross that finish line.

Some stats to date:

  • Weeks completed: 16 of 18
  • Number of runs / total miles: 60 / 388
  • Number of crossfit workouts: 27
  • Most interesting run: I randomly busted out a 9:47 average pace on one of my nine milers. I think that’s the fastest pace I’ve maintained for a longer distance and would have been on track for a half marathon PR (had it been during a race and had I been able to maintain it for four more miles of course).

Seen on my runs

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Follow my journey to my first full! Previous updates: Week oneWeek five, Week nine, Week thirteen