This year I ran my 10th consecutive (11th overall) Boston Marathon! How did I get to 10? Seems like it was just yesterday when I ran my first Boston in 2005.
As a senior in college at Boston University, I ran on the Boston Marathon course because my apartment was at the 40K point of the marathon. During one of my runs, I thought of applying to run the Boston Marathon for the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge (DFMC)! I did not know that DFMC was the largest charity team and a lot of people applied for the team. I was waitlisted. I did not have another plan, but kept running through the winter in case I got off the waitlist. Good thing I kept running because I got an email at the end of January saying that I got a spot on the team! I was so excited, but also very nervous because I did not have a lot of time to fundraise. I reached the fundraising minimum the week before the race (whew!)! I remember race day being sunny and I made the rookie mistake of not wearing sunglasses or a hat. I finished in 4:07 and was the happiest marathon finisher ever!
I made it a goal to qualify for my next Boston Marathon run because fundraising was too stressful as a student. It took me 2 years to qualify and I have to thank my Garmin for my time. Literally. In the 2007 NYC Marathon, there was a period of a few minutes where the finish line timing mats did not work. They asked runners who were affected to send in proof of their times. I was one of those runners!! I sent in my Garmin time of 3:40:40 and hoped that they would make it official so that the BAA could verify my time after I applied. Back then, the qualifying time was 3:40:59 so I just made the cut!
New York Road Runners accepted my time and I was officially a Boston Qualifier for 2008’s race! I won’t bore you with race recaps of each year, but I will share with you my top 10 favorite things/memories of the Boston Marathon! In no particular order:
*The Dana Farber Marathon Challenge: I ran with the team again in 2012, 2013, & 2014. I owe a lot to this team and have made so many friends from being part of this team. I also met my husband on this team, so DFMC holds a very special place in my heart. I ran in memory of my dad who passed away from cancer in 1998 and Andrew was running in honor of his dad who was fighting lung cancer when we met. My dad never got to see me run, but Andrew’s dad was able to see us both run Boston in 2013. Andrew’s dad passed away later that summer. Though no longer with us in person, our dads will always be with us in spirit.
*Boston College: Everyone raves about the “Wellesley Scream Tunnel”, but to be honest, the Scream Tunnel has not been as loud in the past few years. In 2005, I could really hear them a mile away. The girls are still there with lots of signs, but there are not as many as in the past. The Boston College kids at mile 20 are my favorite. They are loud, drunk, and sooooo happy to see you! Wellesley girls: step it up!
*The Expo: I love the expo. Enough said.
*My family cheer station at Mile 18: My sister has a friend who lives by Mile 18, so she parks at her friend’s house and waits for me to run by to cheer me on. My mom usually comes up from NYC to watch me run and in the past 3 years, Andrew has watched with them too.
*Seeing my friends along the way: My friends are the best! I have to give a special shout out to my City Sports Run Club friend, Jan, for sharing miles with me and helping me when I was having a tough time in the Newton Hills.
* Kenmore Square: Running by my old apartments and through Kenmore Square always brings back fun memories of college & post college. DFMC also has their cheer station at mile 25 so that gives me a big boost before the final mile. The Red Sox game is usually done by the time I run by, so the crowds are amazing there.
*Boylston Street: The stretch to the finish line is always special. Here you can get the crowds to scream louder if you gesture to them and you can soak in all the energy and realize that you will soon be a Boston Marathon finisher!
*I cannot write about Boston and not mention 2013. The weather was perfect that day and I had the race of my life. I was having the best time until I found out what happened at the finish line. I am thankful that my friends and I were safe, but am sad every time I think about everyone who was affected that day. How we came together after that day made me realize how strong runners can be to overcome anything. We will always be Boston Strong.
*Meb: I first met Meb after the 2013 BAA 5K at the Fairmont Copley Hotel. Back on my Feet had a team run the 5K and our meeting room was in the same hotel where the elite athletes were staying. As I was leaving with my friend Seann, Meb was walking to get breakfast. He seemed to be in a rush, but when we showed him that we actually knew who he was and asked him about his injury and his plan for coming back, he slowed down and talked to us! We took a photo, shook hands, and let him go eat breakfast! Meb watched the race from the grandstands that year because he was injured. He came back in 2014 and won for the city of Boston. I was at mile 10 when someone told me that Meb won the race and it totally made my day!
*Andrew: We met on the day of the 2012 Boston Marathon at the church where DFMC runners gathered before the race. We did not start dating until after the 2013 Boston Marathon and got married last year! Andrew was stopped on Boylston Street in 2013 and he returned in 2014 to finish what he started. He decided to take a break from fundraising and watch the race in 2015. Unfortunately, it was cold and rainy in 2015. Terrible conditions for runners and spectators, but he was there again in 2016 and 2017. Thanks love! I will not talk about getting to the Quarter Century Club for a while. Getting to 10 in a row is a huge accomplishment for me. I will take it one year at a time from now! =)
I want to congratulate my marathon sister, Bethany, for also running her 10th consecutive Boston this year! Here’s to many more! =)
On Sunday, I completed the Tokyo Marathon! It was quite the experience so I have a lot to say about it. I hope this helps other runners in the future who plan to run the race because it is a trek to get to Tokyo and there are quite a few differences compared to American races. The distance, of course, is the same. =) I applied for the international sub-elite lottery, but did not get in. Andrew and I signed up with Marathon Tours to get a bib and hotel room. I invited my mom to come with us from NYC and two of my aunts from Hong Kong also met us in Tokyo on Thursday. We booked them a separate room at the same hotel to make meeting up easier. It was Andrew’s sixth marathon major so it was nice to have a cheer squad for him. =)
The package also included a day tour on Friday, which was great because we would have never gone to all of those places on our own in one day! At the end of our tour, they dropped us off at the expo, my favorite part of marathon weekend! I wish we had more time and knew that there were 2 floors to the expo. We wasted a lot of time on the top floor and only realized as we were leaving, that there was merchandise to buy on the lower floor. I thought all of it was sold out and was prepared to leave, but got excited when I saw the lower level! After a very rushed shopping experience, we hopped on the Marathon Tours shuttle bus back to the hotel. The trip should have taken an hour, but because of an accident on the highway, it took us two hours to get back to the hotel. We were exhausted!
Saturday, Andrew and I went for a shake out run in the park by the hotel and to Meiji Jingu Gyoen. You are not allowed to run on the grounds at Meiji Jingu Gyoen so we shortened our run and turned around. After showering and having breakfast, we walked and shopped in Shibuya and Harajuku. We managed to get back to the hotel by 4pm to relax, but when I looked at my Garmin later, we had walked over 28,000 steps! Oops. Marathon Tours hosted a pre-race dinner at our hotel so we did not eat sushi or ramen the night before the race. At the dinner, they briefed us about some of the race details and answered questions. The finish line was new this year so Marathon Tours did not have all the answers because they also had to learn about the new location. I read the runner’s guidebook and online blogs, but you do not really fully understand everything until you experience it first hand. Here is my experience of that day broken up into sections. Enjoy!
The Start Area: Friends warned me that security would take a long time and that there would be limited bathrooms at the start. Security gates opened at 7AM and were only a few blocks from our hotel so we left at 7:20AM. I had the map from my race packet, but expected to see signs to direct us to our assigned security gates. There were no signs. Just volunteers who were not directing traffic. They only provided info if you asked a question. Once I got to my security gate, I waited for about 10 min to get my ID band scanned and then got my bag checked. I cannot imagine how long the wait would have been if we got there later. They definitely needed more people to scan ID bands.
Prior to the race, I read the race manual, which had a lot of rules. They did not allow you to bring any plastic bottles into the starting area. We were told that the race organizers did not want a lot of trash in the starting area so they limited the amount of items we were allowed to bring in. See pictures below.
What I do not understand is how some people got through security with backpacks and duffel bags! I wondered how much contraband was in their bags and how security was going to check their bags when the rule book said that they were only allowed to use the clear plastic bag given to us at the expo.
There was water, bananas, tomatoes, and Pocari Sweat in pouches for runners at the start, but I was too rushed to take anything. I needed to use the bathroom!
A friend told me that they labeled the porto potties “Western Style” so that foreigners did not have to use a squat style porto potty. When I saw how long the lines were, I did not care what style I got. I waited about 15 min to use a porto potty, which I thought was not too bad. The bad part was that I could not figure out how to open the door once I finished my business. I panicked for a few seconds and fumbled with the lock and door handle until I was able to free myself from the squat toilet porto potty. Whew! Crisis averted!
Afterwards, I headed to bag check and was impressed by how organized it was considering how crazy everything else was in the start area. I got back in a different bathroom line to try to go one more time before getting in the corrals, but the line was wicked long so I left and headed to the corrals.
There were some signs directing you where to go, but it was not very clear. I ended up on this foot bridge and had to ask a volunteer for directions. Andrew entered through a different security gate and I could not contact him because I do not have international data on my phone. We did not set a meeting point beforehand because we had no idea what the situation was like in the starting area. I waited a few minutes by his corral and was so happy to see him. He told me that he was also in a very long bathroom line and just got out of the bathroom.
We were in the corrals by 8:20AM as they closed at 8:45AM and we did not want to risk being sent to the back of the corrals if we missed the cut off time. We stood in the shade shivering because we only had a poncho to cover us. It was stated in the manual that throwaway clothes were not allowed in the start area. I still wore my Marathon Tours poncho, but did not bring my throw away blanket. I was told to gently put my poncho down on the barricade and to not throw it over the side like we usually do back home. I kept my poncho on until two minutes before the start. Even though the runner’s manual said that they would not be collecting throw away clothes, there were volunteers with trash bags taking all of our clothes and trash bags. One poor volunteer got pelted in the face by someone’s shirt. That runner did not get the memo to “gently” put their clothes to the side.
The Race: The wheelchair athletes started at 9:05AM and runners started at 9:10AM. The start line was right by our hotel so my mom and two aunts were able to watch us at the very beginning of the race. After I saw them, I ran straight to the first porto potty stop, which added a little bit of distance to my race. All of the porto potties were positioned away from the race course so we had to run off course to get to it. (I felt that there were more porto potties along the course than at the start!) I thought for a few seconds whether or not I should close the door completely because I did not want to get locked inside again, but I probably would have fallen into the squat toilet if someone barged in on me, so I locked the door. Thirty seconds later, I freed myself from the toilet and got back on the course!
The road was wide, but there were a lot of runners so I was always surrounded by people. I do not know if it was the bathroom break, the jet lag, or the anxiety of running a new race, but I could not get into a good breathing rhythm. Something felt off so I had to focus a lot on my breathing. I was also very distracted by all the runners and spectators in costume.
Some people thought the crowds were not that great, but I thought they were amazing. In NYC, there are some spots (eg. Verrazano Bridge & Queensboro Bridge) that have no spectators. There were no quiet sections and the course was lined with spectators from start to finish.
The course is advertised as flat and fast, but it was not entirely flat. I think the Chicago Marathon has a flatter profile than the Tokyo Marathon. There were a few out and backs, which were good and bad. The good: I was able to spot my faster friends a few times and exchange cheers. The bad: I wanted to be on the other side of the road! My neck also started to cramp because I ran with my head turned to the right looking for friends and Andrew for many miles. I almost missed water stations because I was not paying attention to the left side of the road!
Weather: It was a cool day, but very sunny and there was very little coverage from the sun despite all the tall buildings in Tokyo. I took off my gloves within the first mile and decided to take in nutrition earlier to prevent cramps. My other concern was that fluid stations were not as frequent as I preferred. The first water stop was at 5KM. Subsequent water stops were every 2-3KM. I did not think that was enough because my lips were so chapped during the race and I felt dehydrated. I took two cups of water at each station and took eight salt pills during the race. I was still pretty salty at the end of the race. The electrolyte drink was called Pocari Sweat, which I knew I did not like so I only took water. Fluid stations also altered having water and Pocari Sweat first. The inconsistency threw off my timing of when I would run in to grab a cup. The order should be consistent at every station to make it easier for runners.
Since I started taking in my fuel (Honey Stinger Fruit Smoothie Chews) at mile 4, I finished them by mile 16 so I needed to eat something else. Also, after 40 chews, I really wanted something salty or plain. I knew they had “bread” at the later aide stations so my plan was to eat some bread to fuel the last few miles. I was really excited to grab a roll at the aide station, but was disappointed after taking my first bite that it was very sweet. I looked down at the roll and saw that it had a red bean paste filling inside! I ate around the filing and then threw the rest out. They also had tomatoes, oranges, and chocolate, which I could not eat because of my acid reflux, so I stuck to drinking more water at each aide station.
At the Marathon Tours briefing the night before the race, they told us that the marathon organizers clean up very quickly after the race so that it would not seem like there was even a race in the morning. There were hundreds of volunteers on the course holding clear plastic trash bags to take our trash. One of the rules in the book was “Take your garbage home to keep the city clean”. They take their sanitation very seriously in Tokyo. I did not see a single trash can when I walked through the city streets and the streets were spotless. It was amazing and eye opening.
Volunteers: I felt like there were more volunteers than runners. They were amazing, friendly, and full of marathon cheer! Volunteers who did not have anything to hand out, stood there and clapped for us. Best volunteers ever!
The Finish: I was hoping for a big finish line banner to help me gauge how far down the road it was, but they only had two pillars on each side. After the finish line, we walked for about 2 miles to get nutrition, towel, mylar blanket, and baggage. I will NEVER complain about walking to get my bag after the NYC Marathon again. We walked forever to get a bottle of Pocari Sweat, which I did not drink. I needed water and really felt like I was about to pass out if I did not get water soon. Once I got to the water table, I saw that it was small bottle of water. I chugged the water and asked for another one even though the sign said “One bottle per person”. The volunteer was nice enough to give me another bottle. The bottle of water came in a plastic bag and we used that plastic bag to collect a banana, bread, and a box of something. It would have been more efficient to have the bag already packed with all of those items!
After getting my bag, which was the quickest baggage retrieval ever, I found my friend Paul and Andrew. I walked with Andrew to get his 6 star medal and took some photos. There were a lot of tents for runners in the park, but we were so exhausted that we did not look around and went to catch the shuttle bus back to the hotel. The shuttle bus was only for runners who came through a tour group. Runners who came on their own had to take the subway back to their homes/hotels. The race packet included a free 24 hour subway card, but it did not work on all the subway lines so it was not that helpful. I was very glad to be part of Marathon Tours and have the benefit of the shuttle bus take us back to the start line area.
Overall, I was very entertained and wish I had been in better shape to feel better in the later miles. I was so happy to see my mom and aunts three times on the course. It was a pretty amazing feat that they were able to get to three spots on the course and see me and Andrew each time. One of my aunts is fluent in Japanese so it made navigating the metro and city a little easier. I am so thankful that they came and so happy that they were able to see us run. It is always special to me when I am able to share my passion of marathon adventuring with my family. My mom and aunts had a great time, but they were also pretty exhausted from spectating. It was a different type of “marathon” for them, but they have so many stories to tell others now.
As 2016 comes to an end, I want to reflect back on the amazing things that happened this year. It was a busy year that included getting married, a lot of running, and a lot of travel to fun places. Andrew and I ran 2 new marathons (London & Wineglass). Andrew completed his first full Ironman. I joined the New York Flyers and participated in their Marathon Training Program in hopes to finally run a 3:30. While I fell short of the goal, I managed to run a 7 second PR! Here are some of the highlights from the year. Enjoy!
Watching Andrew compete in Ironman Mont Tremblant.
RTB Ultra (This was amazing because we finished, but very painful!)
2017 will bring new adventures. Andrew and I will celebrate 1 year of being married! Andrew will complete the World Marathon Majors in Tokyo in February! After Tokyo, we will be going to Hong Kong so Andrew can meet the rest of my family! I will complete 2 streaks in 2017! In April, I will run my 10th consecutive Boston Marathon and in November, I will run my 15th NYC Marathon! Then I can retire! Ha! Besides running adventures, we will also be traveling to 3 weddings. The race schedule is not entirely set so we may throw in a few other races if our schedule permits after all of that!
I wish everyone has a happy and healthy 2017 with lots of laughter, love, and running!
This past weekend, I ran my 40th marathon! I did not know until a few months ago that the NYC Marathon would be my 40th. I usually lose track of my count and have to go look in my book.
Since it was my 40th, I wanted to really enjoy the 26.2 miles and not race. Race hard=have lots of pain. Take it easy=have lots of fun. My goal was to run a 3:37-3:40. Running a negative split to earn free shoes from Strava also would have been nice, but I positive split by about 2 minutes, so no free shoes for me. Weather was perfect and the crowds were amazing! I felt great until Mile 23 going up 5th Avenue. The quads cramped like always, but I kept running because that was the fastest way to the finish line. I do not usually walk during a race because I know I will have a very hard time running again if I stop to walk. I have learned to run through the cramps over the years and they eventually go away or my pain tolerance goes up as I continue running. It was great to finish strong all the way to the finish line and I was all smiles as I raised my arms up in victory. I told Peter Ciaccia that I just ran my 14th NYC Marathon and he said “Next year, you’ll be part of the streaker club!”
I ran my first marathon in 2002. In 14 years, I have run in 8 different states (CA, FL, IL, MA, NY, OH, PA, SC) and 3 different countries (Canada, Hong Kong, and UK). The majority of my marathons have been NYC and Boston, so I did not travel to many states.
People often ask “Why do you do it?” “Is it worth it?” The answer is always “Because I love it and yes, it’s worth it!” I have met so many great friends through running, traveled to fun places, and I met my husband through running! I love the challenge and each race experience is so different.
The NYC Marathon has been on my schedule every year since 2002. How do I manage to run NYC every year? I have gotten into the NYC Marathon through the lottery, time qualifier (when the 1/2 qualifying time was 1:37), and I have done the 9+1. Since 2002, running 15 NYC Marathons to get guaranteed (non complimentary) entry for life was a goal. At that time, 15 did not seem like a huge number, but having just run #14, I am amazed that I have stuck with it for so many years! Just for comparison, to get guaranteed entry at the Chicago Marathon, you have to run 5 in the last 10 years. That sounds so much easier than 15!
The NYC Marathon is my favorite marathon and I have so many good memories from the race. There were also painful memories of legs cramping and falling down 2 times in the past 14 years, but I have loved each race every year. I am not one to look at data and statistics, but from experience, many things have changed since my first tun in 2002. Here are just a few fun facts from 2002 off the top of my head:
The 2002 marathon shirt was a cotton t-shirt.
Champion chip was the timing chip and we had to secure it to our sneakers to get an official time.
The 2002 marathon did not have a title sponsor. The race was simply “The New York City Marathon”. (ING became the title sponsor in 2003)
Meb also ran his 1st NYC Marathon in 2002 with me. =)
The Staten Island Ferry was not an option as transportation to the start.
The marathon expo started on Wednesday. =)
The day before the marathon, NYRR had a run only for international runners.
I finished in 4:38:56! (I ran this year’s race in exactly an hour faster! 3:38:56!)
Technology and social media has changed the marathon culture tremendously over the years. I am usually resistant to change, but I think the changes have been positive despite race registration being more difficult for popular races. I do not know the numbers, but I know that the number of people running marathons has increased since 2002 and I always love welcoming people to the club. More people are trying to lead active and healthier lifestyles, which is great!
Marathoning has become a lifestyle for me. I am always “in training” and running never feels like “work” (unless it’s speed work!). I have a closet that is only for running clothes (I might have more running clothes than regular clothes.). I love going on race-cations! I love that my husband also runs and supports my crazy obsession. He is the best because I always get a little crazy (from excitement!) during marathon weekend. The NYC Marathon and Boston Marathon has been part of my schedule for so long that it would seem weird if I spectated instead of ran (that will never happen!) My friends know that I run long on weekends and they know where I will be the first weekend of November and Patriot’s Day in April.
What’s next? A new country next year! Entry into 2 streaking clubs next year (Not that type of streaking! Get your mind out of the gutter!) My 10th consecutive Boston Marathon and my 15th NYC Marathon!!
Men’s Winner: Ghirmay Ghebreslassie 2:07:51
Women’s Winner: Mary Keitany 2:24:26
Total Finishers: 51,388 (Female: 21,457; Male: 29,931) : Unofficial numbers from NYRR
I decided to do something new with training this summer to prepare for the Wineglass Marathon. I was actually going to train properly! Ha! I became a member of the NY Flyers and signed up for their Marathon Training Program. The program was 18 weeks with weekly coached speed workouts and 3 coached weekend long runs. I was ready for something new and to finally hit my goal of running a 3:30!
Unfortunately, my stomach had other plans. I had very bad heartburn this summer, which caused esophagitis. It was painful to eat as my esophagus was swollen and food had trouble passing. People who know me know that I love to eat and can eat a lot. Esophagitis really tested my mental state because I had to cut out caffeine, acidic foods (tomato sauce, orange juice, PIZZA!!!), chocolate, fried foods, big meals, and alcohol.
I had some pretty good long runs despite the pain, but I also did not finish some long runs because my stomach cramped or I crashed because I could not eat my GU. My gastroenterologist actually told me to stop eating GU because something so concentrated was not going to go down well. I tried Generation UCan, but I could only take it if I made a smoothie and I put too much liquid in my smoothie so I had to go pee mid-run. I figured out that my stomach could handle Honey Stinger chews so I planned to use that for fuel, but it meant that I would have to eat a lot of chews to equal the amount of GU that I would normally eat. A cavity was sure to develop after the race.
I loved the speed workouts on Wednesdays with my new training group because it was something that I never did on my own and it was encouraging that I could run at the speeds that my coach told me to run. It was also great to train with a big group of people and everyone was so nice and supportive throughout the training.
So I felt ready for race weekend despite my stomach issues and the weather not looking too great. It was either going to be muggy or it was going to rain. My coach wanted me to start out running 8:10min/mile for 8 miles, then speed up to 8min/mile for the next 8, and then run 7:50min/mile for the next 8. Whatever I had left would be for the last 2.2 miles.
I usually run even splits and have never been great at negative splits because it is always so hard to hold back in the beginning of a race. So on Sunday, I stood way behind the 3:25 pace group and in front of the 3:35 pace group (there was no 3:30 pacer). My plan was to stay in front of the 3:35 pace group and slowly distance myself from them. Sounded pretty good until I got engulfed by the 3:35 group within the first mile and looked at my watch to see them clock a 7:58 first mile! So much for a pacer!
I quickly got out of the group because I didn’t want to get tripped or elbowed in the large group. I settled in with a small group of women and I felt like I was going as slow as possible to try to stick to my plan.
Another problem I had was my bladder. I needed to pee and I did not go in the corn fields next to the start line like other runners because I did not think it was very nice to pee in someone’s corn field. As I approached the mile 6 flag, I saw someone get out of the only portopotty by the the flag. I raced to the portopotty to make sure no one else got there before me, peed quickly, and jumped back out onto the course. Even though the course was downhill after the portopotty, I could not catch up to the group of girls so I let them go. I was quickly joined by a runner named Mark. We became fast friends and chatted away. It was Mark’s first marathon and he was hoping to run around 3:30, which would also be a BQ. As Mark and I clicked away the miles, others joined and we had a little group to share the miles. Runners were very spread out on the course so it was great to have some company.
Some runners eventually sped up and some dropped back, but Mark and I stuck together. We saw his family 3x along the course, which was a great boost for Mark. Mark wore a yellow shirt with a picture of a boy on his back and I asked him about it. The boy was Mark’s son who passed away unexpectedly, which was the catalyst to Mark’s running career. Mark started with a 5K run in memory of his son and he worked his way up to running a marathon.
Mark asked me why I run marathons and I told him that I love the challenge and that it has introduced me to so many friends along the way, including my husband. I shared with Mark how Andrew and I met while running for the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge for our dads and that we just got married. When you’re running a marathon, there’s a lot of time to share your life stories!
By mile 18, our legs were both feeling the fast pace, but I told Mark to focus and that we would get through it together. Suddenly, we heard this girl coming from behind us yell “I’m going to Boston!!!” As she passed us, she said “My legs are shot, I’m running with heart from here!” I wish I had her energy at that time. Mark was able to stay with her and he took off. I kept them in my sights and just tried to keep a steady rhythm.
The next few miles were a bit lonely and I could not eat another chew, but I noticed that I was catching up to a few runners. By mile 25, I caught up to Mark and he told me that his legs were done. I told him to keep moving and stay with me.
I knew that I was not going to hit my goal, but I still wanted to finish strong. As I made the last turn onto Market Street, the finish line was in sight and I ran as fast as I could. The result? A new PR! By 7 seconds.
Mark finished right behind me and I gave him a huge hug afterwards. I told his family that he was going to run a few more marathons after this one and that I would see them in Boston 2018! So I ended the day with a new PR and a new friend. 🙂
I was disappointed that I lost focus in those later miles because I was so close to 3:30! But I have to accept that the race was over and I did the best that I could that day. Overall, it was a great weekend. I had fun at the Corning Museum of Glass and walking downtown. I even got a few souvenirs from the museum. =)
How do you handle disappointment from not reaching your goal? You sign up for another race! Good thing I’m already signed up for four more marathons. =) When I hit my 3:30, I will have PIZZA again. PIZZA PIZZA PIZZA!!!
Men’s winning time: 2:24:49
Women’s winning time: 2:47:35
My time: 3:31:09
Mark’s time: 3:32:03
Andrew’s time: 3:53:15
Total Participants: 1922 (784 Men, 1138 Women)
Race Swag for $105 registration Fee: reusable bag, half zip long sleeve running top, stemless wineglass, a small bottle of champagne, glass medallion medal, amazing post race spread (soda-Coke & Diet Coke!, chocolate milk, cookies-chocolate chip, sugar, & gingersnap!, bananas, apples, chicken noodle soup, pizza-sigh)
Thursday, August 13, 2015: Stage 3 of Transrockies Run: Leadville to Camp Hale
Mileage: 24.5 Miles
Elevation Gain: 2,700 Feet
Food eaten: 3 GU’s, Lay’s potato chips, Fritos, PGJ, 1/2 banana, pieces of watermelon, Shot Blocks, and Honey Stinger Chocolate Waffle. Lots of water and some Pepsi.
Night #2 of sleeping in a tent was a little better. I woke up at 2:50AM instead of 2:15AM! I was hoping to get more sleep since today was the longest stage out of the six days. After a quick breakfast, we headed over to the start, which was on the main street in Leadville (Harrison Avenue). Andrew and I were excited to run on the road for a few miles before heading into the trails! We missed the asphalt!
After 2.5 miles on the road, we headed into the trails on a steep climb. As we climbed, I got a headache and my heart was racing. It was the same headache that I had during the last few miles of Stage 2. Gah! I had to slow down and take the climbs very slowly. Andrew stayed with me the whole time to make sure I was okay. I am glad he stayed with me because there were times that we were the only ones on the trail. There was even a point where we thought we were off course because we did not see anyone in front of us and we did not see a pink pin flag. Luckily, we were on the correct trail and we were so happy to see every pink pin flag in the ground there after!
The downhills really hurt today. I looked like Quasidmodo running down the trail. I also needed to poop for most of the run so running too fast would have caused me to poop my pants. The volunteer at CP3 told me to go in the woods, but I could not do it. I was not comfortable pooping in the woods so I held it until we got to camp. It was quite comical and laughing about it is what got me to the finish.
At the finish, Andrew and I were handed new Nathan hydration packs. Houda announced during the previous briefing that the last fifty finishers would receive Nathan packs. I was not aiming to be one of the last fifty, but the combination of headache and poop caused me to slow down so much that we ended up being one of the last fifty! I threw my Nathan pack to Bill & Tim, who were waiting for us at the finish line, and I ran straight to the porto potty!
Another perk of being one of the last 50 runners was that Houda set aside tents for us so we did not have to walk around looking for an empty tent. Thanks Houda! The “back of the pack” tents were set up on a peninsula so we joked that we had a lake side view. The downside was that there was geese poop on the peninsula and mosquitoes were everywhere.
After a hot shower and snack, we witnessed history as the first ever Beer Mile (not organized by TRR) was held at Transrockies. It was quite entertaining and we all thought that clothing was mandatory for the mile! =)
Camp was set up at Nova Guides in Camp Hale. The best news was that we were going to camp here for 2 nights so we did not have to pack our bags tomorrow morning! Camp Hale was a US Army training facility created in 1942. Soldiers were trained in mountain climbing, skiing, cold weather survival, and other weapons. Yes, we learned some history on this trip as well!
We ended the tough day on trails with taco dinner! We love tacos! Later, we learned that a few years ago, people got sick from eating bad beef at taco night and ran the last 3 stages with diarrhea. I was glad I packed Imodium just in case that happened.
That night we went to bed exhausted, but feeling good for having survived the first half of Transrockies!
Wednesday, August 12, 2015: Stage 2 of Transrockies Run: Vicksburg to Twin Lakes
Mileage: 13.3 Miles
Elevation Gain: 3,200 Feet
Food eaten: 3 GU’s, Lay’s potato chips, 1/2 banana, pieces of watermelon, and Honey Stinger Honey Waffle. Lots of water and some Pepsi.
We set our alarms to wake up at 5AM, but I did not need an alarm because I woke up at 2:15AM and never went back to sleep. Sleeping in a sleeping bag on top of a sleeping pad was not as comfortable as expected. So I laid there, trying to be quiet and not wake Andrew up. At 5AM, I heard other alarms going off so I started to get ready! We quickly packed all of our stuff back into the black duffel bags and Andrew carried them over to the pick up area. Then we went to breakfast before taking a shuttle to the start.
Usually, I eat a banana, a cinnamon raisin bagel, and some gatorade for breakfast before a marathon. At TRR, they served a full breakfast buffet (scrambled eggs, sausage, potatoes, silver dollar pancakes, oatmeal, cereal, fruit, yogurt, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, OJ, bread, and bagels). I LOVE breakfast so it was very difficult for me to decide what to eat before the run. I know scrambled eggs do not agree with some of my friends, but I had never eaten scrambled eggs before a run so I decided to try it! What’s the worst that could happen? I ate scrambled eggs, potatoes, 2 sausage links, and 1 pancake. I drank water instead of my usual tea with breakfast. Andrew stayed away from the scrambled eggs, but had 5 sausage links and potatoes!
Today, we were running part of the Leadville 100 course. We started on a gravel forest service road and hit CP1 1.7 miles in at the trailhead. The checkpoint was so early because there was no good spot in the next few miles for a checkpoint. After CP1, we entered a steep singletrack trail and climbed for 2.5 miles to the summit of Hope Pass, which is over 12,500 feet!! It was so steep that one mile took us about 40 minutes to hike (rest breaks included). Runners in the Leadville 100 run over Hope Pass twice!
Throughout the climb, I paid a lot of attention to my breathing pattern and to my heart rate. I did not need a heart rate monitor to let me know that my heart was beating too fast. I could feel it. We took a lot of rest breaks to let our heart rates go down and to take in the views.
Going down the other side of Hope Pass was easier on the heart, but it was scary because you could easily slip and fall down the side of the mountain. That probably would have been faster, but more painful!
Once we got down from the top of the mountain, we hit a singletrack trail alongside the Twin Lakes Reservoir. This relatively flat section should have been much easier than the mountain, but I started to have a headache. Damn altitude! Bill and Tim had gone ahead because Tim was hungry and needed to get to the finish! Andrew and I ran with Jeff all the way to the finish. We ran as much as we could and walked a lot, but that lake seemed to go on forever! At one point, I looked at my watch and could not believe that we had been out there for almost as long as Day 1! We were so happy to see the finish line and crossed hand in hand with Jeff!
We grabbed snacks at the finish line and then took a shuttle to our camp in Leadville. After settling in and showering, we got 30 minute massages before dinner. There were massage therapists daily and you could sign up for 30 minute slots (for a fee) whenever you wanted. I had my massage therapist work on my shoulders, back, glutes, and quads since those were most sore after 2 days. It was nice to have this service, but we did not think it was necessary every day. We used the Stick or Roll Recovery on the days that we did not have massages.
Dinner was at the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum so we did not have to eat in a tent tonight! Dinner buffet consisted of penne pasta, grilled chicken, choice of marinara sauce and pesto sauce, vegetable lasagna, salad, and ice cream! It was delicious! We were the first ones at dinner because I wanted to walk around Leadville before the stores closed at 5pm. Most of the stores were closed before 5 though!
After a short shopping trip, we headed back for round #2 of dinner as TRR staff gave the medical and course briefing for Stage 3. Stage 3 was going to be a long day so we went to bed early after prepping our Nathan packs. I hoped that I would sleep more than 4 hours in night #2 of camping.
Tuesday, August 11, 2015: Stage 1 of Transrockies Run: Buena Vista
Mileage: 20.8 Miles in the course manual, but it was really 21.1 Miles
Elevation Gain: 2,500 Feet
Food eaten: 4 GU’s, Lay’s potato chips, Fritos, watermelon, and part of a PBJ. Lots of water and some Pepsi.
We started the morning with an early breakfast at the Super 8. When I went downstairs with my hair half braided, I was so excited to see that two of my new friends were also wearing the same colored shirts as me and Andrew! Bill and Tim (Team name: B & T’s Great Adventure) wore Hoka shirts to match their Hoka sneakers!
Prior to the race, I read a blog about how to decrease the weight of your black duffel bag. I did not follow the blogger’s advice on packing less race outfits and just re-wearing outfits because that is gross. Even if I could rinse out the outfits, there was no guarantee that they would be dry for me to re-wear the next day or the day after. So I brought 6 days of running clothes and extra! The black duffel bag was HEAVY. Good thing, I have a very strong fiance who carried my duffel bag whenever it needed to be carried. That morning, he carried the bag down a flight a stairs and out the front door of the Super 8. Transrockies staff came by to pick up all the bags and they had a separate shuttle to take runners to the start. We took some pre-race photos with the banner and used the porto potties about 100x before the start of the race.
I was excited to start running, but also very nervous. I had not run a trail race since 2012 and I sprained my ankle in that last trail race (2012 North Face Endurance Challenge Bear Mountain 50M). I had no idea how my legs would feel after each day or how I would feel in the altitude. I had never been camping before, I do not like to poop in porto potties, and I do not like bugs. How was I going to survive camping for 5 days?? I was nervous for Andrew who had just started running again after being injured. I was also nervous because Andrew had NEVER run a trail race. What did I sign us up for?!?!
We checked into the starting chute and while we waited for the other runners to line up, TRR staff blasted music to help us stay loose. At 8:30AM, we were off on the greatest adventure!! A short run on the road led us to the bridge that Andrew and I had run over on Monday and there was a huge bottleneck to get onto the trail.
After a short section of single track trail, we ended up on a nice wide road. I made sure to take in all the sights and not miss anything! Sights like these do not exist in NYC!
There were three checkpoints on the course. CP1 was around Mile 7, CP2 was around mile 14, and CP3 was around mile 17. Each checkpoint had Gatorade, Pepsi, water, and a variety of snacks! Andrew and I stayed with our Super 8 friends Bill, Tim, and Jeff for most of the run. We pushed each other towards the end when we were all feeling tired. Tim (aka “Captain Tim”) would call out “We’re running to that next big rock/tree!” and we would all start running until we hit that point. I took turns with Captain Tim calling out our next run-to points and Tim named me “Captain Hunny”. Bill, Tim, and Jeff are all married so they gave Andrew lots of marriage advice. Naming me “Captain Hunny” summarized their advice. hehe=)
The course had a mix of everything: gravel, rock, and sandy roads; single track and four wheel drive roads. There were some good steep climbs along the way and at one point, I could feel my heart beating in my head. After a short break to lower my heart rate, we kept climbing. We learned that breaks were very important in order to get to the finish line in one piece so we made sure to always check in on each other and rest when needed.
We finished just in time as it started to rain at the finish! We got into a school bus that would shuttle us to Arrowhead Point Campground. Once at camp, we finally got to see the Mobile Shower Truck! It had individual shower stalls inside with hot and cold water! This kept us clean and smelling good for 6 days!
The worst part of Arrowhead Point Campground was that our tents were set up on top of a hill. TRR staff shuttled our big black duffel bags up the hill, but then we had to carry the black bags to our tents. Tents were not assigned so we had to find empty tents on our own. I was excited to “camp” since it was a new experience! We got some rope from another runner and set up a clothing line inside the tent to hang dry our clothes from the day.
After dinner, TRR staff had a medical briefing and course briefing for Stage 2. Houda also gave out “Mountain Hero of the Day” awards. It is given to a male and female runner who did something special that day. I told Houda by the baggage truck when we picked up our bags that we had met at the NYRC information session and that it was Andrew’s first trail race. I never expected Houda to award Mountain Hero of the Day to Andrew that night! Houda asked Andrew why he signed up and Andrew responded with “My fiance made me do it.” Andrew even made it in the TRR email newsletter that night! Andrew was a hero in everyone’s eyes. I was the “crazy fiance” who made this poor guy sign up for a 6 day, 120 mile, trail race as his first trail race. Best Fiance Ever. =)
In January, I attended an information session at New York Running Company for the Transrockies Run. Rob Krar (2-time Western States Champion) and Kevin “Houda” McDonald (I think his formal title is “Operations Director”, but he does everything!) talked to us about the 6 day stage race through the Rockies. There is also a 3 day race option as well. They showed us video clips of a few of the stages and Rob Krar talked about his experience at the Transrockies Run. It is a special race for Rob because he met his wife during the race one year. When I got home, I was so excited to tell Andrew about this amazing race and tried to convince him to sign up that night. I was a maniac. Andrew, who does not make decisions without doing some research, told me to calm down.
The following week, Andrew went to the Transrockies information session at Finish Line Physical Therapy. He came home a little more convinced about signing up for the race. Then we got a $200 coupon code from Adam Goucher & Tim Catalano because we are part of their group “Run/Walk 2015 miles in 2015”. That was all I needed to convince Andrew to sign us up! Thanks Adam and Tim!
Fast forward to May, Andrew started to feel some shin pain, but still continued training for his triathlons. We also did an unofficial ultramarathon (34 miles) for my birthday. Andrew completed an Olympic distance and 1/2 Ironman in June. You would not know that he was injured because he PR’ed in both races. His shin still hurt after the 1/2 Ironman so he went to see the doctor who told him to take 2 weeks off. I sent him to my massage therapist as well. He took over a month off from running and we did not run together again until July 23rd! I was ready to defer our entry to Transrockies to next year, but Andrew did not want to defer. A few test runs later, he booked our flights and hotels! We were going! Ahhhhhh!!!!!
Despite having a huge closet full of running clothes, we still had a few things to buy (eg. sleeping pads, sleeping bag for Andrew, more trail running socks, GU, trail sneakers). The race provided a packing list to make things easier. I decided that I would pack our running outfits “Reach the Beach” style in ziploc bags so that I could contain the stench over 6 days. One of the craziest things was how much GU we had to pack. We had to be self sufficient because anything can happen out on trails. We did not want to bonk on the mountain so we made sure to pack lots of GU and Shot Blocks.
We flew into Denver on Sunday August 9, 2015 and took a shuttle from Denver to Buena Vista.
Since we booked everything 2 weeks before the race, our hotel selection in Buena Vista was limited, but Andrew managed to get us a room at the Super 8. We became fast friends with the other runners also staying at the Super 8!
The next morning, Andrew and I went out for a shakeout run before race check in. We found a nice trail by the Arkansas River and then ended up running part of the course for Stage 1!
After a quick breakfast and shower, we headed over to check in for the race! Besides picking up our numbers and race shirts, we also got large duffel bags. We had to put all of our running gear & personal necessities for 6 days into the duffel bag and the race would transport our other luggage to the finish. After check in, we attended the Opening Ceremonies for a pre-race briefing and instructions for Stage 1.
After the Opening Ceremonies, we experienced the first of many Colorado thunderstorms. We snuck into a restaurant for dinner while it was storming. After dinner and the storm, we headed back to the Super 8 to pack our bags! It was no small feat! We laid out all of our gear and then packed each day’s race outfit into ziploc bags. After everything was packed, we set our alarms for 4:30AM and went to bed! Our greatest/craziest adventure was about to start!!
Despite feeling horrible after Boston to Big Sur last year, I signed up for it again this year because the views are just too amazing to pass up. Last year, my quads took a beating in Boston and they were not fully recovered before Big Sur. My massage therapist even kinesiotaped my quads to help with recovery. I told Andrew that I would pace him to a 4 hour marathon at Big Sur, but by mile 3, my quads were screaming. We were both in trouble by mile 21 and fell off pace. We ended up running 4:07 last year, but we were pretty happy with our times considering it was the first time we ran 2 marathons in 6 days! This year was quite the opposite experience for me. It was AWESOME!
I was surprised that I was walking pretty well by Wednesday after Boston this year and when I went to see my massage therapist on Thursday, I told her that I did not need to get kinesiotaped! Feeling optimistic about running another 26.2 without leg pain, Andrew and I flew to San Francisco early Friday morning. After our usual stop at In-N-Out, we drove 2 hours south to Monterey, went to the expo, checked into our hotel, and then went to have engagement photos done. Yes, jam packed itinerary!! If you knew me, that would not surprise you. =) I managed to secure a photographer after we got engaged to take photos along the coastline. Andrew had only slept 2.5 hours the night before so I was not sure how the photos would turn out, but there was no other time to do the photo shoot. Our photographer was awesome and he sent us the photos Saturday night. We had to wake up at 4AM for the marathon so we wanted to get to bed early, but I could not resist looking at the photos!
We managed to wake up on time and get to the start a little earlier than last year. We even had time to use the porto potties twice before having to get to the start line! That did not matter because Andrew and I both had to go pee within the first 2 miles of the race. Luckily, there were plenty of porto potties along the course and I did not have to wait for one (or have to pee myself during the race!)!
I had no doubt that Andrew could run sub-4 at Big Sur so after running the first 2 miles together, I told him to take off and that I would see him at the finish line. My goal this year was to not feel nauseous and be able to enjoy the strawberries at mile 23! Finishing sub-4 was a distant goal considering the hilly course and the heavy winds. Running faster than last year was a realistic goal so I ran as fast as my legs felt comfortable going.
Even though I had run Big Sur last year, the views still took my breath away. You really are running along the edge of the western world. Instead of spectators lining the course, you had the sound of ocean waves carrying you through the 26.2 miles. You do not get this in New York City!
Without Andrew by my side, I had to entertain myself. Besides the amazing views, I stopped to take a few photos with the Big Sur Marathon staples. My legs needed the break anyway.
After the photo with the ponies, I looked at my watch and realized that if I wanted to break 4 hours, I would have to stop horsing (hehe) around and get to work! I passed the halfway mark at 2:02 so I had some time to make up in the second half. My legs have never run the last seven miles of a marathon so hard before. The last few miles were a blur. I remember slowing down to grab a strawberry from the table at mile 23, a runner asking if that was the last hill, and remembering that there was a big hill at mile 25. I did not have the heart or energy to tell the runner about that hill. I had to save my energy to get to the finish line!
For the second race in row, my name was announced as I approached the finish line, which got me even more excited to cross the finish line. After playing a little too much in the beginning of the race and then having to drop the hammer later in the race, I made it under 4 hours (just barely)! 3:59:28! I have never had so much fun and had to run so hard in a marathon! It will definitely be a race that I will remember for a long time.
See, it was AWESOME!!
Some Race Statistics:
Men’s Champion: Adam Roach 2:30:48
Women’s Champion: Malia Crouse 2:57:02
Number of Male Marathoners: 1715
Number of Female Marathoners: 1717
Number of Boston 2 Big Sur Challengers: 372 (# of males: 167. # of females: 205!)