Last week, I was honoured and privileged to race the Boston Marathon. It was my 2nd marathon “post IRONMAN career” and any “race” at this stage is simply icing on the cake for me. When I stepped away from professional competitions, I vowed that all training would be “exercise” as opposed to structured “goal related” training and my health – both lung health and biomechanical health – would be my first priority. So my runs were with Fenway and I would only run every other day to maintain good achilles “health” after 10 years of racing through a grumbly achilles. Over the past 4 years, with the help of St. Mike’s CF Clinic, I have regained some of my lung function from 59% in 2010 to 85% in 2013. That is a huge improvement which leaves me about 750 ml short of oxygen per breath but I have “acclimatized” to that so I honestly feel amazing! And after taking 8 months off of running in 2012, my achilles is feeling pretty snazzy too!
And so, in January 2013, I was getting a little bit bored of running easy every other day so I decided to make Monday’s my treadmill day to try to regain some speed, Wednesday was my hill running day to work on form, power, speed and strength and Saturday would be my long run day. I had so much fun increasing the “mph” on the treadmill week after week and it was such an efficient way to train. I would swim Masters from 6 to 7:15 am and then run the treadmill or hills from 7:40 to 8:30 and then be all set to work for the rest of the day. I supplemented my minimal running with biking on the CompuTrainer on Tuesday and Thursday and outdoors on the weekend and water running whenever I had some spare time.
Well all of this fun led me to sign up for a 5 km in January with my sister – a fun women’s only race – and I managed to win – nothing record breaking but exhilarating and fun and stress free. Then I ran a half marathon. It was about 8 miles of fun and 5 miles of work but it was a huge surprise to come in 2nd – can’t remember my time – somewhere around 1:21 but not really sure. So now Boston was becoming more about “racing” and a little bit less about “participating” which had been my mantra since 2010! I know what it takes to run a great marathon but 100 mile weeks and double run days were not going to be possible – I would either get sick or injured – and so I maximized my running by biking and swimming and water running and plyometrics and stuck to my 3 runs per week. My longest run was 2.5 hrs which I did twice and I did do a very solid 10 x 1 km with 1 min easy on the treadmill at “wish” pace/effort. And cross-training wise, the best prep workout I did was a 2 hour CompuTrainer ride – steady – not to max – but then I got off and ran 30 minutes of hard hill intervals – 2 min hard up and the fastest recovery downhill that I could while still recovering – then a 20-30 warm down jog with Fenway. My max volume week was likely around 35-40 miles but the key was that I was healthy. After my first 2.5 hr run, I didn’t run for 4 days – my heel was so sore. But the second 2.5 hr went much better and even a 10 day antibiotic stint didn’t hurt my achilles (Cipro is known to cause tendonitis and tendon rupture which is why my achilles is so damaged now after decades of taking multiple Cipro prescriptions).
The very, very exciting part of this Boston journey was thatI was invited to start with the elite women – the Kenyans and Ethiopians – not because I was going to be “racing” them but as a master runner (over 40!!) – so I would be an elite master. I did not have to accept the invitation since it is a bit easier to run in the pack of 20,000 athletes (breaking the wind and setting the pace) but I just had to accept the honour to get to run with these amazing women. And after doing the Olympic commentary last year, I thought it would be pretty darn cool to get to be in the same race as them. Dave thought I should race with the Go Pro but let’s face it, after a few miles, even the Go Pro wouldn’t be able to see the top women!!
Dave and I love Boston – which is why our cherished puppy is named “Fenway”. So this was a holiday for us and we just loved every single minute! I re-connected with my Saucony family and with my PowerBar family and I even got to do a PowerBar Pro Panel with Josh Cox and Desiree Davila at the expo. What an honour! And on Sunday morning, Dave raced a 5 km while I did my activation run. We had brunch, watched the Masters, visited friends and before we knew it, it was Monday morning and I got to race the most incredible race – the Boston Marathon.
So off I went on the bus to Hopkinton – the start of the marathon. The elite runners were brought to a church basement to wait until go time. I made friends with some other gals from Canada – Sheila and Jutta – so I had no need for my New York Times waiting for the start! With about 40 min to go, we all went out to warm up but we were only allowed to warm up on a 100 m long street .. so we just ran back and forth .. so like a good little LBTer, I did my proper warm up, strides and then got into my race kit and we were escorted to the start line. then it was time for a few more strides and then fun time.
The elite women went out at a leisurely 6:05 pace which for them is “easy” and for me felt “easy” but was WAY TOO HARD to be running at mile 1! So I pulled in the reins and slowed down – it was so hard to do that since there is so much great energy running with other women but I had to be patient.
I spent the next 5-8 miles trying to run relatively easy and then I started to run with a few other master gals from mile 8 onward – I figured it was time to “race” a bit now that we were 1/3 into the race. That was very fun for sure – but it was a lonely race – i was either running on my own or with 1 or 2 gals – and it was a bit windy – so i focused on my form – long hip flexors – elastic legs – quick feet – slight lean. That is where being internal and staying focused on process is so important.
Then I thought about the people I knew I would see on the course – the Saucony gang at around mile 15, the PowerBar gang at mile 17, Kim Loeffler at Heartbreak Hill (mile 20-21), Dave closer to the finish line … those would be “treats” along the way .. I also reminded myself of my good health and my gratefulness to get to be part of this event. Running has always been my passion and I am just so lucky to be blessed with this opportunity.
By mile 15 or 16, my quads were starting to go – I expected that but man oh man, it hurt a lot. I was so happy to see the uphills in Newton which would be gentler on my quads!! The elite men who started 28 min later at 10 am caught and passed me at mile 20-21 at Heartbreak Hill. i grabbed some of their energy and tried to run like them but the elastic bounce was all used up. From the top of Heartbreak Hill onward, I just absorbed the pain of my quads and kept positive thinking about how lucky I was to be running in the Boston Marathon – how lucky I was for my improved lung health – how lucky I was to not be injured – how lucky I was for this amazing gift of sport.
I think I heard Kim Loeffler at mile 24 – by then, my legs were screaming “slow down” but as I tell all of our LBT athletes – I would rather have another 15 min of pain then 72 hours of regret. My energy was good – my fitness was good – my tummy was good – my legs were failing – but heck, who needs legs to run a marathon. I pounded as hard as I could through to the finish line. That is what I would want our athletes to do, so I did it. I finished in around 2:49 and 6th masters woman and I think 34th woman overall. But more importantly, my achilles was good and my energy was good (unlike in 2011 when I think I sat down 4 times on the 1 km walk back to my hotel!). Race day fuel summary – 2 PowerBars in the morning as breakfast, 1 banana, 1 x 500 ml of electrolyte about 40 minutes before the start. Then 4 PowerGels during the marathon – at 45 -55 minutes, 1:15-1:25, 2-2:05 and then 2:20 to 2:35. I think I could have used another one – I would likely start around 30 minutes the next time around. I consumed 1 PowerGel through 2 aid stations which is why I have given a time frame for consumption.
From there we showered and ate and then made our way back to the finish line to meet some friends. Luckily we were late getting there and so we were still about 100-200 m away from the explosion just on the other side of the medical tent. Thankfully Dave and I were together – there is comfort in that. We had a lot of blessings on Monday – others did not! Situations like this make me reflect on that fact that we can only control what we can control – we can control our attitude and so we choose to be thankful and hopeful.
Time to take what I learned and practised on April 15th and share that with our LBT athletes and get them prepared for their IRONMAN races and Boston qualifying marathons this summer. And huge thanks to my sweet Dave who helped me prepare the best I could for Boston, to my Cervelo for providing non-running but leg specific Boston training, to CompuTrainer for welcoming me every Tuesday and Thursday at 5 am, to the NTC Masters for the great swim cross training, to PowerBar for continuing to fuel me before, during and after, to Saucony for my favourite training shoe – the Guide 6 – and racing shoe – Fastwitch and fun shoe – Kinvara and to Fenway for coming with me on my warm down runs!!