Dec 31

My Year in Running: 2018

In general, this was a much more difficult year than 2017. It started with a struggle and saw me scratch quite a few races that I had hoped to run. It also involved a cortisone shot to the knee. Not the first, but hopefully the last–this one really hurt. Overall, I ran 1255 miles (or 2020 KM) over 217 runs. I ran in only two countries: the United States & Canada but added a few new states to the mix: South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kentucky.

Races: I didn’t get to race as often I had hoped this year. Mostly, this was because after Richmond, I dealt with a series of small injuries that just kept getting in the way of consistency. I did manage to run two half-marathons (Run Hard Columbia & Tryon, winning my age group in both); the Chattanooga Yeti Nightmare 10 mile trail run, the Spartanburg Turkey Day 8K (snagging a pair of the coveted socks!); two 4 milers: the Tread Nightly/Tread Brightly races two 5Ks (Greenville’s St. Paddy’s Day Dash and Bash & a cross-country course, also in Greenville), and the BMW two-miler.

Best run: The 10 miler I ran at Big Bird Camp. This was my first double-digit run in a while, and I got to share the course with some of my favorite Oiselle teammates as well as a few Olympians (!). There was a brutal hill in there, but mostly dirt road through the central PA countryside and some of the most cheerful aid stations on the planet more than made up for it.

Worst run: This distinction will go to the 1200m x 4 in Hilton Head that brought the knee issue to a head. I made it through the workout and hit my paces, but halfway through my cool-down, my knee got angry enough to make me stop and walk the rest of the way home. OOF. That also resulted in my scratching the Bridge Run and the Ville to Ville relay that I’d signed up for already.

Best new piece of running gear: Koala Clip. The Koala Clip is a small pouch that clips on to the back of a sports bra. It fits right between the shoulder blades and holds a phone (and possibly a key or ID). Since drowning my iPhone SE in August, I struggle with pockets that are big enough for my phone (the iPhone X). Enter Koala Clip. I put the phone in, tuck it under the back of my bra, and I’m good to go. The pouch is not something that is easy to get in and out of while running, so it has cut down on the pictures that I’ve taken on various runs, but it allows me to have my phone on me so that I can listen to my audiobooks or in case of emergency. Game changer. Also, it’s creator, Kristina Powell, is also Volée.

Best running advice you’ve received this year:  DO YOUR CORE.

Most inspirational runner: DESI.

7 women piled on a couch, tired and happy
Bourbon Chase Van 1. #RunLove #FasterAsAMAster

Favorite picture from a run or race this year: See left. I could have chosen any number of pictures from the Bourbon Chase or Big Bird camp, but I opted for this one of the women in van 1, whom I got to hang out with for my birthday weekend. I love them all.

Race experience you would repeat in a heartbeat: The Bourbon Chase. No question. I didn’t run this race. Instead, I drove one of the vans for the Oiselle Masters Women team as they chased a random assortment of other runners over the course of 24 hours, many of which were dark and rainy. I was a late addition to the team, but I’d do it again in the heartbeat. I had such a good time cheering for these women and getting them from point to point, and I came away with several new friends, who also happen to be badass #FasterAsAMaster Oiselle runners.

If you could sum up the year in one phrase: Teamwork makes the dream work. Totally cheesy, but also totally true for 2018. My best times were the times that I shared with my team. Even the Bridge Run, which I didn’t do, was a fun weekend because I got to hang out with a couple teammates in Mount Pleasant. The Bourbon Chase and Big Bird Camp were two of the most inspirational weekends I’ve gotten to enjoy in a really long time. I can’t wait to see what 2019 will hold!

Dec 31

Boston: Week 1

And just like that, we’re off. This first week was a good week, I think. It began on Christmas Eve and finished yesterday: As I mentioned in my previous post, this marks an ending of sorts (to 2018) and also a beginning.

This first week’s workouts were a good entry back into the structure of marathon training. Mostly, I ran 6 milers. As it turns out, running 6 milers is just as much of a pain in Pittsburgh as it is in South Carolina. I have a really great 5 mile route in both places. Adding a mile gums up the works, so to speak, or at least it feels that way.

M: 6 miles in North Park. My legs felt tired and the run, which was just easy miles, felt like more of a challenge than I’d have liked.

T: Switched it up and went to Millvale to run along the Allegheny River. It was windy, but since it was Christmas, there weren’t many people around.

W: Usually my day off, but one of my Oiselle Volée friends was also in Pittsburgh to visit her family, so we decided to meet up and run together. The plan was an easy 6. As it turns out, her easy pace was not so easy for me, so this run turned into my tempo run for the week. That worked out really well since I was having such a good time catching up with my friend, that I couldn’t worry about hitting my paces.

T: Easy 6. I went back to the river and had a really nice run.

F: OFF (Finally!!)

Sat: Easy 6 back in Spartanburg.

Sun: Long run = 13. This was something of a struggle. It was drizzly and 50 when I left my house, so I was dressed in a lightweight long sleeve top and shorts. After 3 miles or so, I was very warm and sweating quite a lot, so when I got stopped at a traffic light pretty close to my house, I decided to detour back to my house and change into short sleeves. That was the right call–I was much more comfortable for the second part of the run. But around the halfway mark, my stomach decided it was unhappy. This was not long after taking a gel. I hope it was just a fluke thing and not a harbinger of future issues with Gu, but we’ll see. The remaining miles were okay, but my shins talked to me a bit in the middle there, and I was very glad to be done at 13. My armpits started to chafe around the 10 mile mark, and they’re still pretty unhappy a day later. I’m counting this as a deposit in the GRIT account.

All in all, a solid week. I’m back to box-steps and core/hip strengthening in hopes of warding off further shin issues. It’s work I should be doing anyway.

Dec 26

And so it begins. Again.

brick path with pavement o either side. blurry building far aheadWhile I’ve been keeping up my CV and my reading list here, I haven’t posted much in 2018. But today felt like a good day to crank things up again since it’s a beginning or a re-beginning of another kind: I began another marathon training cycle this morning. In exactly seventeen weeks, I’ll run marathon #5: BOSTON.

I’ve wanted to run Boston from the time that I began to train for my first marathon in 2014. Qualifying for Boston is a common goal among the distance running community. It’s a kind of status symbol. As much as I try not to care about external signs of merit, I care about a few of them, and I’m proud of my BQ. I qualified last November and dealt with a smattering of minor injuries from then through the spring, culminating in another bout of bursitis in my knee (hello, Cortisone my old friend . . . I’ve come to deal with you again . . . with apologies to Paul Simon). In any case, I finally was able to start building back up consistently this summer. In case you’re wondering, building back mileage in the South Carolina summer SUCKS like a proverbial vacuum, but I managed, and I’ve been running an average of 40 miles a week this fall. No workouts. Just miles.

Today was the first day of my 16 week training plan. If I’m honest, I’m kind of freaked out about this. I only have one workout this week, and I think that it’s going to be completely manageable. But I’m still really nervous about the miles and weeks to come. I’m not entirely sure why I’m feeling anxious–were I to guess, I’d guess that it has something to do with my investment in the race, the fact that it’s not just any race I’m training for, it’s BOSTON. I think I’m letting that fact put on more pressure than it should. Marathons often make me feel like I have something to prove. I hate that, not least because running with something to prove is a surefire way to end up injured, but also because it brings out ugliness: a kind of competitive drive that feels toxic.

The semester will, I hope, be less hectic than this previous one, which saw me with way more things on my plate than usual: not one but two time-consuming committees (both of which did important work and gave me the chance to work with some of my favorite colleagues but still consumed a lot of time and energy); not one but two conferences (and conference papers) and an extra essay to boot; plus the usual teaching responsibilities and study abroad work. There’s been a lot of noise in my mind about what comes next for me professionally. A couple of doors have closed, and I’m not sure yet which one(s) I want to open. There are a few different possibilities, but I’m still trying to sort out how I feel about them. Also, no matter what, I find transitions and change, even the good kinds, incredibly stressful.

The plan is to get back into the weekly posting throughout this training cycle in an effort to be more reflective. We’ll see how that goes.

[Creative Commons licensed image titled “Freedom Trail” by Flickr user Tim Sackton]

Sep 21

Boundaries: Reading The Waste Land With the #MeToo Generation

[This is a text version of a paper given at the T. S. Eliot Society Annual Meeting, held at Emory University on 22 September 2018. I was part of a roundtable titled “Reading The Waste Land With the #MeToo Generation.” My fellow panelists and I were each asked to choose a section of the poem and a keyword. I chose lines 111-138 or so, the middle section of “A Game of Chess,” and the keyword I selected is “Boundaries.”]


The keyword I have chosen is “Boundaries.” I’m thinking about boundaries as they relate to “A Game of Chess,” specifically the middle portion of the poem, which begins with “My nerves are bad tonight.” This is the section on which Ezra Pound comments “photography?” and also the section which features annotations not only by Pound, but also by Eliot’s first wife, Vivien. I selected this episode because it demonstrates to me one of the most important and most difficult elements of #MeToo: the messiness of boundaries: emotional, intellectual, physical, and (in this case) textual.

Cover of the paperback edition of the facsimile edition of T. S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land

Cover of the paperback edition of the facsimile edition of T. S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land

Essential to my reading of the poem is the facsimile edition of the manuscript, which was first published in 1971 and edited by Eliot’s second wife Valerie. This edition sent shock waves through the world of modernist poetics by forcing scholars to acknowledge, in Eliot’s own words, “the extent of my debt to Ezra (Pound).” But as I’ve already suggested, the manuscript reveals another debt as well, the debt to Eliot’s wife. To be clear, I am not suggesting that Vivien Eliot’s contributions to The Waste Land should overshadow Pound’s.  Her marks on the facsimile manuscript are confined to a few pages, and Pound’s marginalia is far more extensive. But, while my colleagues have focused their remarks on representations of women in the poem, I want to complicate things by adding a real woman into the mix. “A Game of Chess” not only features several different female voices (Cleopatra, Viv and her “friend” and the woman with the bad nerves), it also features material traces left by an actual female hand, marks that offer comments and suggest emendations. In other words, while it’s important to thing about the ways that representations of women circulate within the poem, it’s also crucial to attend to the real human beings for whom these representations are more than mere abstractions.

“A Game of Chess” as I have argued elsewhere (at this conference, actually, back in 2009!) is a poem that is deeply concerned with heterosexual intimacy, both physical and emotional. The section that I’m focusing on, “My nerves are bad tonight” has been read by both critics and those who knew the Eliots personally, as a portrait of the couple’s marriage. “Photography?” Pound inquires in his crayon scrawl. In her notes to the facsimile, Valerie Eliot interprets this comment as “Implying too realistic a reproduction of an actual conversation (126). If it is a photograph of a marriage, whether the Eliots’ or someone elses’, what does that photo show us? What, in other words, is the poem’s vision of marital intercourse? (Spoiler alert: It’s not good).

Facsimile reproduction of "A Game of Chess"

Facsimile reproduction of “A Game of Chess” from The Waste Land Facsimile Edition (Houghton Mifflin, 1974) Edited by Valerie Eliot

‘My nerves are bad tonight. Yes bad. Stay with me.
‘Speak to me.  Why do you never speak.  Speak.
‘What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
‘I never know what you are thinking.  Think.’


Anxiety. Desperation. Isolation. Neurosis. . .  And that’s just the first few lines. The poem continues:

I think we are in rats’ alley
Where the dead men lost their bones.

This portrait is not a vision of marital bliss–not even close. The female speaker desperately longs for companionship and sympathy from her partner, and he quite obviously wants to have nothing to do with her but is unable to escape the sound of her voice.  Despite the fact that he never speaks (there are no quotation marks around his side of the discourse), she seems to be intuiting his thoughts and repeating key words and phrases back to him. The couple thus present us with a nightmarish version of intimacy: all boundaries between the man and woman have disintegrated.  Even the unspoken thoughts of one find their way into the consciousness of the other.  There is no such thing as privacy—even inside one’s own head.

Facsimile Reproduction of The Waste Land manuscript "Game of Chess" page 2

Facsimile reproduction of “A Game of Chess” from The Waste Land Facsimile Edition (Houghton Mifflin, 1974) Edited by Valerie Eliot

This section of the poem highlights the dark side of intimacy. Marriage in the world of the poem seems to be ill-advised for all sorts of reasons. It is exploitation, invasion, suffocation—even harmful to one’s health if we keep reading a few lines further when we get to Lil . . . and yet, at the most elemental level of textual production, the facsimile edition points to a successful and positive marital collaboration. That is, the poem’s depiction of marriage in its thematic sense is fundamentally incompatible with its status as a material artifact.

On a textual level, at the exact moment that Eliot’s speaker (who may be a poetic version of Eliot himself) is desperately trying to shut out the female voice of his companion (who may represent his real-life wife), the poet is gladly letting her in by incorporating her suggestions written in the margins of the manuscript into the body of the text.  And she, for her part, is applauding Eliot’s depiction of what seems to be a truly wretched relationship, which may well be a vision of their own marriage, by proclaiming WONDERFUL! Not once or twice but THREE times alongside these lines of the poem. Put another way, the poem says one thing and does another. And in both cases, at heart is the line which divides one individual from another (or it’s lack).


In one sense, this section of The Waste Land is all about the problems that come from a lack of boundaries: what happens when we don’t see them, don’t observe them, don’t respect them (don’t have them?). We have a terrifying vision of post-war mind-meld where anxiety and neurosis travel freely from one psyche to the other.

But on a textual level, the poem is also enacting the productive possibilities of border crossings: collaboration.  Tending to these material particulars brings me, I hope, back around #MeToo. I’m not advocating for the dismissal of boundaries. Not at all. If anything, I think that this part of “A Game of Chess” highlights the need for clear and legible lines. When we have them (and can read them), they can facilitate powerful collaborative exchanges, such as the ones that we see in the manuscript of this part of the poem. But the passage should also serve as a reminder of the dark side of such boundaries: the consequences of their violation.






Mar 14


enough written in lights

September 17, 1996.

It’s not a date that stands out in our collective cultural memory. At least it didn’t stand out in mine. I had to look it up this afternoon.

September 17, 1996.

I was about 3 weeks into my Masters degree at Penn State. I was a month shy of my 24th birthday. I had gotten up early that day and walked to campus, taking a bit of a detour to the student union for a coffee and a cranberry muffin before going in to work. I loved cranberry muffins in those days. I made it to the English department building probably around 9:15 am. Shortly after my arrival, we got word to “shelter in place.”

In 1996, we didn’t know what that meant. It wasn’t the kind of refrain that is has become in recent years. We were told–over the telephone, I think–to stay in our office, away from the windows, until we received word that it was safe to leave. We weren’t given any details.

I wouldn’t learn until later that day that a 19 year old woman who lived in the area but was not a student at the university had brought a hunting knife and a rifle on to the campus, set up a tarp on the lawn behind the student union and had started shooting. She did not have an automatic weapon or a semi-automatic weapon. In fact, according to reports, she only had 9 rounds of ammunition with her. Nine. She took 5 shots, killing one student and wounding another, before another student disarmed her. The Collegian, our college paper, reported later that two other students found bullets lodged in their backpacks.

This incident was more than 2 years before Columbine. It was more than a decade before Virginia Tech. It was fifteen before Sandy Hook. It was more than 20 years ago.

September 17, 1996  was the first time I had to stand in front of a group of students and try to explain to them that this place that we all loved, where we all had felt safe, had been breached. It was a horrible day. I remember my mentor telling our class of graduate students that as teachers we had a responsibility to try to help our students make sense of what had happened, to give them a place to try to reclaim agency. I remember feeling bewildered by this position. I was barely older than my students–I had no idea how to make sense of things myself. How was I supposed to help anyone else? On that day in September, I was forced to assume the role of adult, of authority, and yet, I had been at the student union that morning. I had walked past the very location less than an hour before it happened. I had lived in the dormitory just across the lawn just a few years earlier . . .

In 1996, this kind of thing was unheard-of. It was an outlier. An aberration.

We were all completely unprepared. And when I say “all,” I include not only my fellow graduate student instructors and the more seasoned professors; I also include the campus police force. It was a senseless act of violence, unprecedented in the university’s long history. It made national news. There were counseling services and candlelight vigils. There were flowers left on the lawn, and the senior class that year bequeathed to the university a Peace Garden, which is still there today. The shooter, her name was Jillian Robbins,  was sentenced to a term of at least 30 years in prison. It’s been 21 and change. She will be eligible for parole in 2028. Suddenly, that doesn’t seem so far away.

Twenty-one years later, campus shootings are so common that they don’t even always make the news. Students of all ages have active shooter drills. My college had a faculty-wide presentation last week in which we were taught RUN/HIDE/FIGHT. We watched an instructional video from YouTube. It felt absurd. It felt ridiculous. But it also felt wholly insufficient.

If you had told my 23 year old self that mass shootings in public places like movie theaters and concert venues, in churches, and in schools from elementary grades through college campuses would become a national norm, I would not have believed you. And yet, here we are.

This morning at 10:00, students on my campus and many others across the country walked out in solidarity with high school students from Parkland, FL and Pikeville, KY, whose lives have been affected by school shootings. I stood in solidarity with our students and several of my colleagues. I listened as our students talked about their fears, their anger, their indignation. I listened as they read a poem written by a 4th grader eloquently titled, “Guns Are Stupid.” I listened as they said, “This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue: it’s a humanity issue.” I listened as they read the names of the 17 people, students and teachers, killed last month in Florida and Kentucky. I listened, and I was impressed by our students. I was impressed by their courage, their energy, and their heart. I was impressed by the way that they not only supported each other in words but also in action. I watched as they put into practice our Founder’s Ideal to “see clearly, decide wisely, and act justly.”

I still don’t have any answers to the questions that I was first forced to confront on that long ago September morning and in the days that followed, but as I stood in the cold wind outside of a different student union on a different morning, this morning , I found that I had something else that might be just as important. Today, I found that I have hope.

Thank you students. You aren’t alone.



[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Edlynne]




Dec 29

My Year in Running: 2017 Edition

Runner with arms open wide

Richmond Marathon photo by Caitlyn Kovalkoski

There’s about a week left in 2017, and I’m taking a bit of a break from running to give myself a chance to rest and recover from what has been a fantabulous year of running. I’ve hit all of my goals and then some. I’m between training cycles right now, and I’m feeling both a little worn down and a couple niggles in various places. I’ve decided that now is a good time not to press my luck.

As for this evening, I have run 2249 miles since January 1, 2017. I’m really proud of this, less because of the number of miles, and more because of what it represents: a year of more or less healthy training. In 2017, I have run 4 countries: the US, Cuba, Canada, and the Netherlands. I ran in several cities: Spartanburg, Santa Clara, Trinidad, Havana, Phoenix, Columbia (SC), Hilton Head, Charleston, Asheville, Victoria, Ocean City, Pittsburgh, Charlotte, Amsterdam, Williamsport, and Myrtle Beach, and Richmond, and Chattanooga. Only 10 of these miles were treadmill miles. Some of them were run in the rain. A few in the snow. Many, many of them were run in ridiculous humidity and very warm temperatures.

I have run ten races (the Phoenix Women’s Half-Marathon, Run-Hard Columbia Half-Marathon, the Cooper River Bridge Run 10K, The Biltmore 15K, Grayson Highland’s Half-Marathon, Tread Nightly Half-Marathon, Tread Brightly  4-Miler; The Myrtle Beach Mini-Marathon, the Richmond Marathon, and the Spartanburg GHS Turkey Trot 8K). I only DNS’ed one of them (The Run for the Grasshopper 5K, but this was because I was stuck in Miami on a layover). I PR’ed at 5 of them (Phoenix, Columbia, Cooper River, Biltmore, and Richmond), and I earned a 12 minute BQ, which means that if I can stay healthy, I will run Boston in 2019.

Even better than running fast times, I’ve made some good friends and gotten to reconnect with others.

Best race experience: I had several. I think I might choose Phoenix because that race was everything. It was my first race back from the running hiatus that was Fall 2016. I wasn’t sure what I was capable of. I had been through an emotional roller coaster of a fall, and then I traveled to Cuba where I ran a lot but also was felled by a nasty stomach virus that tied my GI tract into knots for a good two weeks. But that weekend, which was a huge Oiselle meet-up, reunited me with some of my favorite Volée teammates, women who have become close friends over the last few years, some in person, and others online. I also got to meet new teammates. And the race itself was a combination of 5K, 10K, and 13.1, and it was an out-and-back, which means that I got to see tons of my teammates on the course, no matter which distance they chose. Not only that, but I ran the first of two PR’s in the half-marathon this year. The last two miles were really tough, but I was able to get ugly, in part thanks to wing-woman, Feather Stephens, who paced me to the finish! After I had finished, I had to honor of repaying the favor with my friend and teammate Dawn, who had also run the half-marathon, but who had been battling an injury that flared up at mile 10. Hearing that we still had a teammate on the course, I realized that it was Dawn and ran the course back about a mile to find her and keep her company as she finished her journey. Dawn and I have known each other online for a decade, but we had not met in person until that morning. It was great to finally hang out in real life, if briefly. 

Best run: In a year of mostly terrific running, my best run was Richmond. I finally ran the marathon that I knew I could, and not only that, but I ran a 9 minute PR, even with a pit stop at mile 20. Given that my previous personal best was on the notoriously difficult Big Sur course and was also my very first marathon, I knew that I should be able to run a faster time. I knew that I should be able to qualify for Boston. But knowing that you should be able to do something and actually doing that thing are not the same. I had a really solid training cycle, and I knew that there would be a lot of my Oiselle teammates there (though I didn’t see any of them on the course until I got to the amazing Cowbell Corner). It was really cold that day, but it was sunny and beautiful, and Richmond is a really pretty city, especially in the fall with all the autumn leaves.

Worst runWilliamsport. I was supposed to run 16 miles with 8 at marathon pace, but by the end of mile two–not even through my warm up, I was a wreck. I’m not entirely sure what the problem was, but I was almost in tears. After taking a moment (and a gel), I decided to try to run some more but to scrap the tempo. I got the miles in, but it was a really hard day, and by the end, my hip hurt. I’m proud to have gotten through the run and took a few days off to collect myself before moving forward.

Best new piece of running gear: Garmin Fenix 5S. There’s nothing that it can’t do, and it’s a beauty to boot. Finally, I can wear a RoadID badge on the band, so even though the watch is big (and my wrist is small), my arm feels a lot less cluttered. Love. Love. Love.

Best running advice you’ve received this year:  “The scientific term for ‘choking,’ is ‘choking.'” From Matt Fitzgerald’s How Bad Do You Want ItMaybe that’s not advice exactly, but it makes me laugh a little on the inside every time. But seriously, Fitzgerald’s book is full of great advice for endurance athletes, and I listened to it multiple times this year. I listened to it first this summer, and then again in the car on the way to Richmond.

Most inspirational runner: Shalane. No Question.

Running with arms outstretched

Myrtle Beach Mini Photo by MyEPEvents

Favorite picture from a run or race this year: See left. This is from the Myrtle Beach Mini in October around mile 11. I was pretty much alone on the course at this point, and I was having a great morning.

Race experience you would repeat in a heartbeat: Pacing my friend Jenny for the last 10 miles of the Chattanooga 100 miler. We didn’t run very fast, but I was so honored to share part of this journey with her, and the course, what I cold see of it before it got dark, was beautiful!

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be? F*ck Yes!

Here’s to 2018! If it is half the year that 2017 has turned out to be, I can’t wait.






Nov 13

Richmond Week 20: The Big Dance


Runner with arms open wideRace week.

Tapering brings out all the feels. So does finding out that someone hit your car over the weekend and neglected to leave a note. So some, okay a lot, of my energy during the week was taken up by dealing with getting my car fixed (the damage turned out to be cosmetic, but it still took time and energy to figure that out and get it repaired).

I had one speed session during my taper–basically this is to remind the legs of what it feels like to run fast. It went really well (8x 400), and the rest of the week consisted of short easy runs of 4 miles or less. I did my shakeout 3 on Friday morning early, and returned to my house to hear the telltale chirp of a smoke detector whose battery was dead. Awesome. Especially because it always takes a good 10 minutes to figure out which smoke detector is making the sound. I ended up changing all of the batteries and trying to be grateful that one had died at a reasonable hour this time rather than 3:00 in the morning before I was to leave for Richmond, or after I was already gone leaving my wonderful petsitter to figure out how to deal or worse, to be stuck listening to the ear-splitting chirp all weekend. Smoke alarms sorted, I packed the car and hit the road.

Side note: no matter how many lists I make before a trip, I always forget something. This time, I forgot the two full bottles of electrolytes, I planned to drink in the car. When I realized this, about 60 miles down the road, I had to change my hydration plan. I had brought a 12 pack of La Croix with me thinking I would have it for after the race. Plot twist! New hydration plan: Kill the 12 pack. I did pretty well–9 of 12 over maybe 6 hours–so I consider that a win. Also, that’s a lot of La Croix.

Due to several (intended) stops and a few delays thanks to construction and accidents on I-85, I got to Richmond about 4:15 (I should have been there by 3:00), and my friend and roommate for the weekend, Liz, got there around 5:00. We got settled into our room and debated dinner. We both had brought lots of snacks, because carb loading, so we decided to stay in and conserve our energy rather wander around downtown Richmond to find food. Instead we turned our attention to the next morning’s weather forecast, which seemed to get colder every time we looked (and we were looking pretty much every 30 seconds  there for while!). After adjusting to the likelihood that the temperature would be too cold for my original race kit earlier in the week (I had originally planned for a warm weather race because it seemed like everyone else I knew running marathons this fall had been dealt that card), I thought I knew what I wanted to wear on race day. And then Liz read the “25 degrees that feels like 17 with wind chill” . . . I was hoping for a chilly day. By that I mean, I was hoping for low-40s with no rain and low humidity. I came up with an alternative for my kit in the event that when we woke up, it was still going to feel like the mid-teens, and decided to stop fretting.

The next morning, it was COLD. Not as cold as the prediction called for, but SO MUCH COLDER than anything I had trained in since February. Or maybe even January. In any case, a LONG time. 25 degrees at race time with 6-8 mph wind, which made it feel colder. As my brother would say, “Hoo-wee.”

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I went to bed early. I woke up a bunch of times, a bunch of times, that is, until the time I was supposed to wake up (which almost never happens). I had fallen asleep with headphones on because I had been listening to a Netflix show while I tossed and turned, but I guess I had taken the headphones out at some point. So while I had planned to get up at 5:30 or 5:40 with my alarm, I didn’t actually get up until a little after 6, no alarm. Oops. That threw me off a little bit, but it could have been worse. I got dressed, ate breakfast, had coffee, etc. I wasn’t very hungry–nerves, I guess, but I ate as much as I could, and we got on our way.

The cold was bracing when we stepped outside of the hotel. I was wearing an extra long sleeve shirt and a sweatshirt. I also had a throwaway hat and gloves, and I had Hot Hand packets in my gloves, and I gave another set to Liz. She and I basically followed the herd of runners who we assumed were all heading towards the start, and then since we had different corral assignments, we split up at the bag drop. After handing over my gear bag (filled with warm, dry clothes for after), I found a spot in the parking lot and did some warm up stretches. Then it was time to get into the corral. Put my phone into airplane mode, and I made a wish. My wish was this: I wished that when I was given the choice to quit or press on, that I would be brave. And then we were off.

The marathon started at 7:45. I crossed the starting line a couple minutes later. I had taken off the sweatshirt and the long sleeve shirt just before the start (and boy was I cold!). I was carrying a bottle with Gu Roctane drink. I had two goals for the first few miles: goal 1 was to finish the bottle by mile 3–that would put me up 220 calories or so and allow me to bypass the first water stop where it would be the most congested. Goal 2 was to let all of the people pass me and run no faster than 9 minute miles for mile 1 & 2. It’s really hard to let people pass, sen when it is a fixed intention. It goes against every fiber in my being during a race, but my best races have been ones where I have started slowly, let people get ahead of me, and then slowly worked my way up the pack. It worked for me in Myrtle Beach just weeks before. So that was again my plan in Richmond. I was a little bit fast (8:53 and 8:44), but just a little, and I did a good job of letting people pass me by. Including the 3:45 pace group–that was especially hard since I was aiming for a faster time, but I just tried to remind myself that the same thing happened at Big Sur. And at Myrtle Beach. And both times, it worked out well for me. I eventually caught and passed the pace group later. I also remembered the time that I tried to keep up with a pace group–in Los Angeles. No way did I want a repeat of that experience.

After mile 2, I sped up a little bit. I was wearing a pace band tailored to the Richmond course, my goal time, and my preferred strategy (slow start, negative split, fairly even effort, medium fade at the end). I tried to just run the pace per mile that it prescribed, all the while being very mindful of how I felt. My mantras at this point: “All day long” (meaning: I was trying to run a pace that I could sustain all day long). Also,  “Nice and smooth and technically pretty.” (“Technically pretty” is a phrase that I took away from Coach Matt at BirdCamp). The first couple miles of the course were not pretty. There was construction on the roads, so I was basically looking at the street and the bright orange barrels and cones  along the way, trying not to trip over myself or anything else.

Once we got into mile 3, we started running through neighborhoods. And they were lovely. There were lots of people out cheering for the runners. (Did I mention it was cold? It was really cold). I had adapted a play list for the race and set it up so that the first 5 or 6 songs were mellow, with the idea that these would help me not to get ahead of myself. The first song, Radiohead’s “Everything in It’s Right Place” was on point, and then the playlist shuffled. I didn’t want it to shuffle, and it was way too early to hear the song that came next, Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice,” so I paused the music for a while. A very long while.

I skipped the first aid station because I had my own bottle to drink. I was also a little worried because aid stations pass out cups of water and sports drink (in this case, Powerade). It was 25 degrees outside. You don’t have to be a scientist to know that water plus 25 degrees can equal ice. Luckily the pavement wasn’t cold enough for the roads to get slippery, but it was a factor I was thinking about early on in the race.

Once I sped up to my marathon pace, I was very consistent (yay me!) until mile 7 or so. We ran over the first splits mat at the 10K mark, and I thought about my friends and family who would be getting an automatic text message from the race telling them that I had made it to the 10K mark. I sent them “Hi!,” “I’m doing this!,” and an “It’s going well,” thoughts, which made me smile. Mile 7 was a lovely downhill mile that turned into the first of two bridge crossings. It was beautiful. And it was windy, and so cold (Did I mention it was cold?), but really beautiful. Sunlight. The James River. Golden autumn leaves. I tried to relax my shoulders and my neck, and I made sure to look at the surroundings as much as I could.

As we came off the bridge, we turned on to a road that ran alongside the river and was also amazingly beautiful with sunshine and river views and lovely autumn leaves. This was the one part of the race that didn’t have many spectators (though there were a few), but it was so scenic that it really didn’t matter. During the river mile, I thought a lot about my friends who are dealing with injuries, some of who had planned to run this race. I thought about how lucky I was to be there, doing the thing that I had been training for all year, particularly since I had to DNS a marathon the year before. I was almost overwhelmed with gratitude to be healthy and to have such support from my friends and my team, some of whom had made the trip to Richmond even though they couldn’t run. Then I had to pull myself back from that line of thought because mile 8-9 is way too early to be running from the heart. I needed to keep that card in my pocket for later on.

The course wound away from the river and back into residential Richmond. There were certain areas of spectators called “party zones” that were really crowded. I made a point of high-fiving any kids I saw, especially the girls, because Oiselle and Converse. I’m a strong believer in Girl Power. I can’t say enough about how impressed I was by all the people who were out there cheering. It was great!

I hit the half way mark really close to target, and I still felt good. My fueling strategy, which was to Gu every 3-4 miles (that’s a lot compared to most runners, I guess, but it worked for me in Paris, and it’s not like I couldn’t use the calories, especially given the cold–Did I mention it was cold?). I was determined not to bonk because I hadn’t taken in enough calories. Marathons are not diet plans! I knew that the second half was going to be harder, so I kept telling myself to keep doing what I was doing, to hold back and keep drinking fluids and eating my gels. I had started to listen to music somewhere after the halfway mark mostly because I was no longer worried about it carrying me away to the land of “Too Fast.”

Mile 15 brought The Bridge. I had been warned about The Bridge. It’s uphill (though not terribly so), and long, and very exposed so if there’s any wind, it will be especially noticeable. My plan was to keep my gloves and throwaway hat through at least the end of The Bridge. The Bridge was really long. And it was windy. But it was also really beautiful, and after I had crossed it, it was still cold enough for me to keep the hat and gloves on. Around mile 17, I noticed Bart Yasso (a really famous marathoner who usually comes to town for race weekend to cheer for runners), so I ran over to him, and we high-fived–little kids and Bart Yasso high-fives–this was fun!

I just kept humming along. I was starting to get a little tired, but I still felt pretty good. And then at one point, it occurred to me that if I had signed up for the half-marathon instead of the full, that I’d be finished. I really like half-marathons. Why am I doing this? This is so much harder. And then I told myself to STFU, that I’m doing this. That I have ten miles left. But I also started to realize that I had to go to the bathroom. And I remembered a conversation from camp: Bathroom or BQ? Was I going to be faced with a bathroom or BQ situation? I spent mile 18 pondering. I didn’t think it would come to that, but if it did, I was going for the BQ*. Yes, I actually thought that.

I crossed the 20 mile mark, and I saw that I had a very comfortable margin (I needed to finish in 3:55 to BQ) to hit my goal, so I decided to make a pitstop. This was going to be either a very good decision or a very bad one because my legs would appreciate the break or they would cramp like crazy. Happily, they appreciated it. It too me a little less than 2 minutes, and I felt a million times better when I hit the road again. Onward.

From mile 20, I was running to get to my team at the Oiselle Cowbell Corner. I wasn’t exactly sure where it was, but I knew that I would find it somewhere around mile 24. At this point, I was getting really tired, mentally and physically. My legs, what I could feel of them, were getting sore. I wanted to back off. I wanted to slow down. I thought about walking. I kept telling myself, “Just keep going.” “What will you say if your friends ask you whether you eased up?–You will say NO. HELL NO, so KEEP GOING.” “How will you feel if you don’t give it your all? How did you feel in Los Angeles when you walked the aid stations? What is worse? Tired legs now? Or knowing that you let yourself quit? BE BRAVE. GET UGLY.” I started to look for landmarks to run to–I’m going to keep going at this pace until I hit the stop light, and then the next one, and the next one. I thought about how I’m supposed to be tired–I’ve run 23 miles! I thought, just hold on. Just keep going (There is no secret. Keep going). Just get to your team. I didn’t know who would be there, but I knew that they would be wonderful. I kept going.

I came down a block somewhere after mile 24, and there it was. A Yeti! My tribe! My people! I heard them recognize me and start yelling my name and going crazy with the cowbells, and I started gesturing frantically at them waving, blowing kisses, making that stupid Taylor Swift heart sign. I don’t even know what else–I think there may have been some ugly crying because I was so, so happy to see them and to still be running pretty well and to know that I was almost to the finish, and that my dream was right there in front of me. I finally let myself feel it all and though my pace had slowed a bit, I was running as strong as I could run. As I was leaving them behind, I saw two more friends, who got right in my face and yelled ERIN!! And on I went, flying from such energy and joy!

Just a little farther down the road, I passed the 25 mile mark, and then the “One Mile Left” sign, and this part of the course was flat or slightly downhill. And then the drop: the last .2 or maybe .3 of the course is a screaming downhill, which I had also been warned about. My friend described it as an “Ass Over Teakettle kind of downhill,” and that about summed it up. My legs were trashed by then, but you couldn’t help but run fast(er) because the grade was so steep that speeding up was just inevitable. And yet, where was the finish??It had to be right there somewhere, but it wasn’t yet in view because the road curved around and was lined with crowds of spectators cheering and cowbelling and generally going nuts. I finally saw the finish and the clock: 3:42:50–and I charged the line as best I could to try to make it under 3:43. My official time is 3:42:54–with a pit stop. I did it. I beat my marathon PR by a little over 9 minutes, and I qualified for Boston with a 12 minute cushion.

As all of these things were flooding my brain, I stopped my watch. I kept moving through the finishers’ chute in a daze of fatigue and tunnel vision and emotion. I think I was kind of crying. I collected my medal and my blanket and my finishers’ cup. I was given a bottle of water, but my hands were frozen so I couldn’t open it. I kept walking and got in line to claim my gear bag with my dry clothes. Once my bag was acquired, I found a place to sit. I took my phone out of airplane mode, and it immediately began to chirp and vibrate with messages from my parents and my brother and my friends who had been getting text alerts over the course of the race. I tried to text them back, but my fingers were still very cold, so I couldn’t type very well. And my brain still wasn’t working. I became aware that I was starting to get very cold, and I knew that I needed to eat something, so I collected myself, and I went into a port-let to change out of my wet clothing.

In dry clothes, I then went to the finish area to get food (cold pizza ftw!) and to check out the “free gift for Boston Qualifiers.” There was a line because before they gave away BQ swag, they looked up your finish time to verify that you had indeed qualified. The gift was a royal blue a Koozy (coozi?) with Anthem Richmond Marathon BOSTON QUALIFIER in gold. Boston colors. Pretty sweet. I was especially glad that it was small because between the medal, which felt like it weighed a ton, the cup, the blanket, and my gear bag, which held wet clothes, a bagel, the bottle of water I still couldn’t open, a bottle of Powerade that I also couldn’t open, and my phone, I was kind of a mess.

I shoved as much stuff as I could into my spike bag, and I made my way back to the finish against the crowds, which had grown significantly in the time since I finished myself,  and I then walked back up the course to find the Oiselle Cheer Squad, cheering for those who were still running as I went. It felt good to get moving again. Still in a fog, I almost walked right past my teammates, and totally would have had I not happened to look up and recognize one of my friends standing there on the sidewalk. It was so great to share the day with them and to also cheer for other runners as they passed us.

The rest of the weekend is kind of a blur, but it involved a Oiselle Happy Hour with old and new friends, legs up the wall, Kara Goucher fangirling and more. I think back to July 2014, when I was trying to decide whether or not to sign up for the Flock, as the Volée was known as the time. I was really unsure. It felt expensive and I’ve never been much of a joiner, but my partner-at-the-time knew how much I loved the brand and everything that they stand for, and he encouraged me to try it, so I did. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. This weekend is just one of the many occasions that has reaffirmed that truth over the last 3+ years. In the beginning, I figured that if nothing else, I’d at least get some discounts on my favorite brand of running clothing. In hindsight, the discounts are cool, but they’re by far the LEAST important element of this team for me. I’m so proud to wear my singlet and represent our team at races and to the running community. To me, it represents friendship and support and so many strong and amazing women of all paces and ages and professions lifting each other up and cheering each other on. I’m so glad that I could share this weekend with them both those who were there and those who sent me good luck and congratulations from afar.

Head up, wings out!

[Photo by my awesome teammate Caitlin Kovakowski]


*BQ = Boston Qualifier.

From the Boston Athletic Association website: To qualify for the Boston Marathon, athletes must meet time standards which correspond to age and gender. For the 2019 Boston Marathon, qualifying times must be run on or after Saturday, September 16, 2017. The qualifying times below are based upon each athlete’s age on the date of the 2019 Boston Marathon (April 15, 2019). Achieving one’s qualifying standard does not guarantee entry into the event, but simply the opportunity to submit for registration. In recent years, not all qualifiers who submit an entry have been accepted due to field size restrictions. If total amount of submissions surpass the allotted field size for qualified athletes, then those who are the fastest among the pool of applicants in their age and gender group will be accepted.

For the 2018 Boston Marathon, runners had to run a little over 3 minutes faster than the qualifier time, so I would have had to run 3:51:45 or so.

TMI ALERT: The Bathroom or BQ conundrum is this: if you had to choose between not qualifying for Boston because you stopped to use the bathroom and shitting yourself because you wouldn’t stop, which would you choose?






Nov 06

Richmond Week 19: Taper Madness

19 in white against green

Tapering. Yes.

34.8 miles this week. After the last several weeks of 50+ miles, this week was a piece of cake, at least when it came to the legs.

As for the rest, it was in like a lamb and out like a lion (Yes, I know it’s usually the other way around). Sometimes, I’m fine. Sometimes, I feel like a walking nerve ending. My emotional state has started to vacillate wildly from “I LOVE YOU MAN” to wanting to light things on fire–both literally and figuratively. I don’t trust my reactions to even the most basic of things–the calibration is off and I’m over-reacting to things sometimes in major ways. But these responses don’t always register as overreactions at the time. I know that I don’t usually get moved almost to tears while listening to Sibelius 2. Or the Marriage of Figaro. I don’t even like Mozart. I don’t usually ugly-cry while watching sports on TV, even marathons.

I’m also not sleeping well. I wake after a couple hours and can’t fall back asleep for a long time, and when I finally do, it’s not restful sleep. I’m tossing and turning a lot. On the upside, my sleep patterns have been erratic for the better part of the last year, so I know I function. But it doesn’t help with my emotional fugue-state this week.

But my runs, if short, were solid. The easy runs were 4 or 5 miles. I had one strength workout that consisted of two miles to warm-up, then 2 at MP-10, 1 recovery, 2 more at MP-10, and 2 to cool down. Felt really good. And then the last down digit run: 2 warm up, 8 at MP (8:23), and 2 to cool down. Again, it went well. Two days off this week, and a mere 4 today. I felt good. Even with more days of 90%+ humidity, I felt good.

So mostly now it’s a matter of not falling too behind in my classes and the grading. Also, I need to be careful not to trip over myself and sprain an ankle or cause myself other kinds of random injuries.





[Creative Commons licensed made by Flickr user Eva the Weaver]



Oct 29

Richmond Week 18: Or, Taper Week 1

The number 17 painted in yellow against a blue and white background

Here I was thinking that this was week 17, and I’ve thought that all week long. But it’s actually been week 18. Counting has never been my strong suit . . .

We’ll start off the recap with something that I’m excited about: as of today, 28 October 2017, I’ve run the year (In layman’s terms, that means I’ve run 2017 miles in 2017). Technically, I have run OVER the year, having hit 2025 this morning! I’ve been trying to run the year for the last three years, but I’ve always come up short due to injuries, sometimes it’s been a little bit short, sometimes not so little. It hasn’t been my primary goal, just something that I thought would be cool (or what passes for cool when you’re a big nerd like I am), but to have hit the mark in late October feels pretty good, particularly because it snuck up on me this time around. I hadn’t been looking at that part of my Strava profile. I will be cutting way back over the next month or two, first to taper and then to recover from the marathon. My coach assigns me a full two weeks of rest after running a marathon, and then I will make my way back slowly. I had promised myself that I wouldn’t rush things after Richmond simply to hit a specific number–injury just isn’t worth it–and now it’s all house money!

This week was a slightly lighter week in training, and thanks to the magical taper, the next two weeks will be even lighter still. I had TWO days off instead of the usual Wednesday only, and most of my runs were a little shorter to boot.

Monday morning was (supposed to be) booked solid with a work commitment from 8:30-11, and then a bunch of other things, so I was up early and running in the dark, which I haven’t done very often this year. I don’t mind running in the dark, actually, especially since I have some sweet reflective gear to wear, but I could have used a bit more sleep. Especially since the work commitment ended up being a lot less hectic than I had anticipated (thank you, rainy day).

Instead of 12x 400, this week, I only had 8x 400. That felt weird; it felt weird in a good way, but weird nevertheless.

The only “normal” workout I had this week was Thursday’s tempo run. I felt good, so I threw in some hills by looping around Duncan Park instead of staying on the Mary Black Rail Trail. It was a bit more challenging, but a little spicy is just how I like it.

After Friday off, my teammate Jenny and I went to Greenville really early on Saturday morning (where “really early” means leaving at 7am) to run an easy 5 miles before cheering for our teammates who were running the Spinx RunFest 10K and 13.1. Our easy 5 mile loop got a bit less easy because we got a little bit lost and because we were trying to make sure that we got to our cheer spot in time so we didn’t miss anyone! We made it and cowbelled up a storm for about an hour until our final teammate came cruising through on her way to a shiny new Personal Best! Then we went to our favorite Biscuit Head for brunch. The weather was a bit dreary and it even drizzled a bit, but that’s actually great race weather–so much better than last year when it was hot and sunny!

Today was my last long run until Richmond. I have one more 12 mile workout this week (the same tempo run as this past Thursday), but this week was 44 total miles, next week will be 34, and then it’s 19 leading up to race day. What that means is that I’ll probably have the proverbial ants in the pants next week as the big day approaches. I’m trying to stay on an even keel, but I’ve been working towards this goal for a very long time and taper madness is real thing.

Now I’m trying to get my house in order, mentally speaking. I know that the biggest challenge I will face on race day is a psychological one. I’ve started to make my packing lists and started to set aside things I want to pack. I’ve been breaking in my dancing shoes. I just bought my Maclin pacing spreadsheet. If you are a marathon runner and you don’t know Greg Maclin’s spreadsheets, check them out. I can’t remember who turned me on to him back in the Big Sur days, but they’re fantastic. You can specify even pace or even effort, positive, neutral, or negative split, and more. It takes the guess work out of pacing and planning, and you can print out wrist bands or pace cards to carry with you during the race.

So yeah, I’m starting to get a little antsy. But hey–2025! Accumulated over 10 months in 4 countries (the US, Cuba, Canada, and the Netherlands), in several cities: Spartanburg, Santa Clara, Trinidad, Havana, Phoenix, Columbia, Hilton Head, Charleston, Asheville, Victoria, Ocean City, Pittsburgh, Charlotte, Amsterdam, Williamsport, and Myrtle Beach. Only 10 of these miles were treadmill miles. Some of them were run in the rain. A few in the snow. Many, many of them were run in ridiculous humidity and very warm temperatures. And just today (Sunday), it was cold enough that I wore gloves (with shorts and a tee-shirt, but still–gloves!)


[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Leo Reynolds]







Oct 23

Richmond Week 17: Take it to the Limit, One More Time

Bird with wings spread on post in lakeWeek 16. This was the last of the heavy-lifting weeks of this training cycle. I ran 63 miles, some of them fast. I’m not sure why this image came up when I searched for “16,” but it spoke to me. I’m not sure whether this bird is about to take off or just settling in upon landing. I kind of like both versions, and I’m kind of in both places: settling in for a landing after 16 weeks of increasingly intensive training, and about to take off for flight. Not right away–I’ve got some time still–but soon: 19 days.

The week started with 8 recovery miles after 18 on the Sunday before. I felt okay. Then a return to the 400. I hadn’t done 400s since that day at the beach, the “Death By 400 Workout.” I thought that this time would be easier. I was right, not only because I wasn’t running in the 80 degree mornings of July this time (I still had a full dose of humidity, but it was much cooler), but also because since then, I’ve completed a solid block of training. I did the two mile warm-up and went to my usual 400s spot. I thought about my BirdCamp friends Uli, Allison, Stephanie, Cecelia, and Jaqueline (we did a few 400s together as part of the interval workout), and I imagined running with them the way that we ran in Boone a few weeks ago. The workout was really good. It was just hard enough to be a challenge, but I had no trouble completing the circuit.

On Wednesday, I enjoyed my day off–I’m really enjoying my days off right now!

Thursday threw me for a bit of a loop, but that’s because when I looked at Thursday’s plan earlier in the week, I somehow looked at the wrong Thursday. Instead of 12 miles with 8 at marathon pace, which I have on the docket for THIS Thursday, I had 6 mile repeats at marathon pace minus 10 seconds. And that was fine. It was just a surprise on Thursday morning because I had been anticipating something else.

Friday was another 8 in the morning, a quick shower, and then I drove to Myrtle Beach for the weekend, where I would be running the Myrtle Beach Mini on Sunday.

Saturday’s 8 were on the beach. As I commented on Strava, beach miles are hard miles. It was lovely. I got up early so that I could watch the sunrise, and it didn’t disappoint. But the sand was very soft; even at the tide line, it was very soft. I saw a number of monarch butterflies washed up on the beach–never more than one or two at a time, but I probably saw 7 or 8 in total. They were beautiful and sad. I also found a couple of conch shells, mostly in tact. So when I found the first one around mile 2, I picked it up and carried it with me. It fit in my hand surprisingly well, so it kinda looked like I was wearing a knuckle guard of some kind. I found another one around mile 5, and it was also really cool, and it fit surprisingly well in my other hand (and these wouldn’t have fit the opposite hands–I tried), so I carried it too. For 3 miles, I ran on the beach with conch shells, one in each hand. They got a little bit awkward at the very end, but I brought them back to my room, rinsed them out and ended up bringing them home with me. They’re pretty great. Even if I’m the only one who thinks so.

I went to the outlets later on and then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening taking it easy. I walked on the beach during the dusk time, which was beautiful and melancholy.

And then I went to bed early, because I had a 4AM wake-up for the race the next day.

It was still stupidly humid–like 93% at the start and a bit warmer than would have been ideal (63 degrees, which would have been okay if it were more dry . . .) My warm up was uneventful; I jogged around the parking lot. I felt a bit self-conscious in my crop top (my Oiselle team sports bra) and spandex since I didn’t see anyone else was wearing racing kits (and I wasn’t racing this half; it was a training run), but with the humidity, it was going to be too warm for anything else. My plan was to run the first 3 easy, to practice letting the crowd around me pass me by, to stay calm and steady and concentrate on my breathing amidst the chaos. Nice and smooth. I saw one of my Volée friends at the start (I didn’t know she would be there). She was running with her partner, so we said a quick hi before the start, and then the race began.

I had lined up just behind the 9 minute pacer. I figured that my easy pace would probably be a little slower than that, and then I’d go on ahead once it was time for the marathon pace miles. I was surprised to fall a good bit behind the pacer almost immediately, but I keep my effort easy and was surprised to see that I was a little under 9 minute pace myself. So I let the pace group go.

Soon enough, it was time to pick up the pace. Even when I went from a 9 minute pace to 8:23, it took me a couple of miles to get around that pace group (which means that they were still going too fast). The course was mostly flat, and the sunrise, was lovely. The aid stations were spaced out well, and the volunteers were great–special shout out to the kids around mile 7 who had the “WATER!” “GATORADE!” rally cry going on! There was a lovely section of beachfront with a totally lovely view. And then we hit the hotel strand, which meant that we were going close to the finish. I was running mostly by myself for the last few miles–I mean, I was running by myself the whole time, but there were more people around earlier. By mile 10, there were fewer people near me, and for a while around mile 11, I was alone. So there’s potential for a great race photo, since there was nobody else around. But then, I’m in my kit, which might look okay, and might not by mile 11. Who knows. Guess we’ll find out. Or at least I’ll find out.

The last mile of the race is a bit nasty. It’s still flat, but we run past the finish line for about a half mile before looping back around. The final half mile is a winding bike path on the beach. I could have done with out the twists and turns, and I did my best to split the difference. I was still mostly alone by then. I had sped up a bit for the final three miles, and I still felt pretty good–good enough to talk to the photographer and various spectators who were cheering me on. I passed a couple of guys in the final stretch and just about caught the last one at the finish line. I would have taken him too had I another 10 or 12 feet. Update: according to the photos at the finish, I did catch him just before crossing the finish line!

I finished in 1:49:36. I wasn’t trying to PR, and this wouldn’t have been the day for it with the humidity, but it was good enough for 5th in my age group. I ran my cool down, which was less fun since I was running a mile out and back into the course, and I saw some struggles. I also felt a bit like a heel running in the “wrong” direction, and then turning around and running back but not with the racers. I picked up my medal, which is huge and kinda heavy. I got a banana and a bagel half. I got my drop bag, and put on a long sleeve shirt since I was soaking wet and starting to get a chill. I decided to check out the beer garden, but in order to gain entry, I had to flash the female volunteer since by bib was pinned to my crop still. I’m glad that I went in though–Sam Adams! I only had one (we could have 2) since I had to drive home and I was pretty dehydrated. Plus, by the time I was finished with the one, the line was really long, and it was 10 AM. I was supposed to check out of the hotel by 11. I decided to walk back to the hotel on the beach, which was lovely. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and the surf was cool but not cold. I got back to the hotel, stood in the surf for a few minutes as a sort of not-so-icy ice bath, and then I went up to my room. I took a quick shower and checked out of the hotel. Suddenly, I was starving, so I stopped and got food before beginning the drive back.

All in all, it was a good week. It was an intense week. And now the taper begins.

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Juarez Espindola]