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Archive for the ‘Marathon’ Category

Continuing from Part I….

I slept really well and got up at 6:30 a.m. Our host John had so kindly made me some steel cut oats and coffee for my pre-race breakfast, and I packed a banana for the bus ride up to Hopkinton. Christine drove me in to Boston and dropped me right off at Boston Common at 7:45 a.m. so I could board the bus at 8 a.m. I had to laugh because it looked like a zombie apocalypse with all the people walking across the Common toward the buses! There were plenty of porta-potties for use before boarding the school buses. The volunteers were chipper and helpful and I got on a bus right away — no waiting at all!

I chatted on the bus with a very nice woman who was running Boston for a third time. She echoed the advice I kept hearing: don’t go out too fast in the first five downhill miles or you will regret it on the hills of Newton!

I arrived in Hopkinton around 9 a.m. with plenty of time before my wave #3 was scheduled to depart the Athletes’ Village at 10:50 a.m. I hit up the porta-potty line and this time there really was a line — it took 40 minutes of waiting. By that time I pretty much needed to hop back in line to make sure I could go one last time before the race. So I didn’t even sit down once in the village!

I was happy to sip on some of the Gatorade provided for free in the Village. I unsuccessfully tried to eat the Clif Organic Energy Food sample that was included in the race goodie bag. It was nothing I hadn’t eaten before — oatmeal, bananas, maple syrup. I’m sorry for the bad review Clif, but it tasted like warm, mushy baby food and it was so unpalatable I had to throw it away. Luckily though Clif redeemed itself with a booth in the Village where I gratefully grabbed two free samples of White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Bars, something I already knew I liked and could tolerate before my run. You really could find anything you needed in the Village — in a great spirit of camaraderie people were passing around bottles of sunscreen and leaving things that you could use to sit on the grass.

Before I knew it my wave was being called and it was time to walk a few blocks to the starting corrals. It was sunny and quite warm by 10:50 a.m., in the high 60s in Hopkinton. I was glad I’d worn compression shorts and a short-sleeved tee.

I was in corral 5 and on the way I saw someone wearing her race tank top from the 2015 Phoenix Marathon, so we chatted about how we both qualified at that race. After the starting gun went off it took a while to walk to the starting line from corral 5. On the way I got high-fives from five race volunteers and passed up many more! I should have taken that as a sign of what was to come. Click the link to the next post for Part III of my Boston Marathon 2016 Race Recap!

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I’m still catching my breath after an amazing weekend in Boston. Some crazy person scheduled me to run a marathon on Monday, fly 6.25 hours home on Tuesday, and start my first day on my new job at 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Oh wait, that crazy person is me! And I have a lot to say about the whole Boston Marathon experience!

So, first I must confess the fact that I missed my flight to Boston on Friday and added six hours to an already very long travel day. Add on top of that the cough and chest congestion that I managed to catch during taper, and it was a pretty rough start to the weekend. Thank goodness I had already planned to run to enjoy the experience and not to race for time, because I wasn’t doing myself any favors in the days before the race.

I got happily settled at the house of some long-time friends John and Christine and enjoyed catching up with them. My brother- and sister-in-law and nephew also came up from Connecticut and it was great to see them and have their support at the race!

On Saturday my family went to the expo with me at the Hynes Convention Center. What an amazing sea of people! I’m not a fan of expos but I have to give credit to the organizers. Any time I had a question a volunteer seemed to step forward and give the answer before I could even ask the question! In no time I had my bib and an exceptionally nice blue and yellow long-sleeved technical tee. I couldn’t leave yet though without finding my name on the wall of marathon participants.

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So happy to be listed on that wall among all of the 2016 Boston Marathon participants!

Once outside the expo we walked down the street to see the marathon finish line on Boylston Street.

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Tourists crowded around to see the Boston Marathon Finish line on Boylston Street.

We had to go across the finish line to get to our lunch restaurant but I refused to walk across it and made my husband carry me. I wasn’t going to cross that finish line on my own two feet until I raced across it on Monday!

On Sunday, the day before the race, I pretty much laid low and drank as much herbal tea as I could to try to get as healthy as possible! For the pre-race dinner my husband Mike cooked us all an amazing pesto pasta dish with portobello mushrooms and asparagus, and made a caprese salad and garlic bread. Carbo-loading like a boss!

After dinner I took a hot bath to relax and help ease the cough and congestion. Then it was early to bed at 9:30 p.m.! Click the link to the next post for my Boston Marathon 2016 Recap Part II!

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I can’t believe tomorrow is race day! I picked up my bib yesterday at the expo and had this surreal experience as I waited and waited while the volunteer searched for my bib number. She started to get a worried look on her face and I actually had an irrational moment of panic where I thought she was going to say there was a problem and I wasn’t going to get to run the race (this is leftover anxiety from when I qualified for Boston 2015 but found out a few weeks later that my time did not meet the registration cutoff). But then she smiled with relief and handed me bib number 20130 and wished me luck! I confess I got teary when I finally held the bib in my hands (you all know it doesn’t take much for me to get emotional about these things).

Speaking of emotional, I got pretty excited when I rode in a car on part of the marathon course (not on purpose, we just happened to be going that way) and I saw this:

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I’ve gone through waves of nervousness and excitement and now I’m just looking forward to tomorrow and ready to start taking in the whole experience. I trained hard but do not have a goal time in mind. The goal is to enjoy the race while running strong (I have a lot of respect for the history of the Boston Marathon and the course itself, so I want to run strong and well without pushing myself so hard that I miss soaking up the whole atmosphere). I hope that makes sense. I anticipate coming in around four hours or less but who knows how I will feel on race day. I am recovering from a cough and congestion that plugged my ears up on the plane. I’m just grateful I can hear again and am well enough to toe the line for the 2016 Boston Marathon!

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Twenty-five days until Boston! I say that with a combination of excitement and nervousness. I’m at that point in the 20-week training cycle where all the hard work of training has started to wear on my body and spirit, so the doubts creep in. “If I’m struggling this hard to maintain race pace for eight miles, how will I ever do it for 26.2 miles?” and “That 20-miler was tough — I can’t imagine adding 6.2 miles on to that!” But then I remind myself about about the concept of periodization (dividing training into phases that build toward peak performance on race day) and the magic of taper (those last two to three weeks of reduced training that result in fresh legs for the race), and I trust that I am doing what I need to do to have the best race possible.

To keep myself motivated in this last month before Boston, I’ve taken advantage of some travel to run new routes in interesting places. When my husband and oldest daughter wanted to watch the tennis matches at Indian Wells, I made sure to get in a 10 mile run in Palm Springs.

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I could see a dusting of snow on top of the mountain as I headed out on my run from Ruth Hardy Park in Palm Springs.

I started my run at 11:00 a.m., which was very good practice for Boston. I’m in the third wave, which starts at 10:50 a.m. EDT. I prefer an early morning run or race, but I didn’t have any trouble on the 10 miles at that later time of day.

My next opportunity to “vacarun” (“traveljog”? “runtour”?) came when I transported 5th graders on a field trip to Rancho Soñado in Silverado, California. Parents didn’t need to stick around during the science lessons, so I drove to nearby Irvine Regional Park and headed out on the trails for eight miles.

First I picked the aptly named “Road Runner Loop.”

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Irvine Regional Park is home to a grove of heritage Oak and Sycamore Trees.

What a treat to find views like this in the middle of a densely populated suburban city.

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There is a zoo in the park, but I didn’t have to pay admission to see some wildlife! On the Horseshoe Loop Trail, I saw a bobcat!

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Not the bobcat I saw, but it looked much like this. Photo credit: dbarronoss.

Apparently my survival instincts need a little honing, because my first thought was, “What is a cat doing on the trail?” Once realization dawned on me that this wasn’t an overgrown house cat (doh!), my second thought was, “I need to get a picture of it!” Thank goodness that bobcat wanted nothing to do with me and didn’t stick around for its photo opportunity. I finally had the good sense to Google “What should I do if I see a bobcat?” Answer: Back away slowly. Don’t run or it might chase you! Make lots of noise. Spray it with water if necessary.

I walked very slowly around the next bend in the trail and there it was again! This time I stood still and watched it go right back through the brush to its original position on the trail. Once it was out of sight, I slowly walked along the trail until I thought it was safe to start running again. Whew! Thank goodness the last few miles were uneventful and the only creatures I saw were horses and people.

What’s the “wildest” creature you’ve seen in the wild?

I’ve seen bears (from a safe distance) in the national parks.

Where’s your favorite place to run or hike?

I’ve got to stick with the national parks here — I’ve had some fun adventures in Zion and Joshua Tree National Parks.

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Six more weeks exactly until Boston! Yesterday I got in my second 20-miler of this training cycle. It rained in the early morning but I knew it was going to be a good run when the rain stopped the second I stepped out my door at 7:15 a.m. Perfect running weather — dry, overcast, and 61 degrees for the entire run.

Distance: 20 miles plus a quarter-mile cool down walk

Time: 3 hours, 20 minutes plus 6 minutes of cool down walk

Pace: average 10:00 minutes per mile (6 miles per hour) not counting water stops and stoplights

Water stops: three (one at a park, one at a high school, and one at an elementary school)

Ounces of sports drink consumed: approximately 75 ounces (about half a gallon plus 1.25 cups)

Other runners I saw: 3 total, but not any until about mile 18.5! And then two of them passed me and I was a little bummed and kind of wanted to say, “But I’ve already done 18.5 miles!” Silly I know, a training run isn’t a race. Actually I hoped they’d stop and tell me what they were training for because I often see this woman running in the morning and I know she’s got to be training for a marathon. But she had her earbuds in and I didn’t want to shout after her.

Animals I saw: 4 — 2 very healthy coyotes who were more scared of me than I was of them, one rabbit, and one tiny snake.

Calories burned: approximately 2,434 according to MapMyRun.

Calories consumed in the form of powdered Gatorade: approximately 360.

Memorials I saw to cyclists and motorists killed on the route: 3 😦

Elevation gain: 1,266 feet

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Putting in some serious hill work in preparation for Heartbreak Hill at the Boston Marathon!

Times I thought about Boston while running: eleventy billion

Number of podcasts I listened to: 3 (Another Mother Runner, Runners Connect, Run Buzz Radio)

Number of cities I ran through: 5

Number of donut shops I passed and had to resist stopping in for a maple bar: 2. I’m not kidding. I had $5 in emergency money in my running pack.

Mile at which it started to get pretty difficult to keep running: 16

Mile at which I really wanted to be done: 18.5. That’s when my husband and 13-year-old passed me in their car on the way to a tennis match, and I wished they could have scooped me up and driven me home. My husband reports that I looked hunchbacked at that point (a sure sign of my being tired). But of course I’m really happy I kept going and finished strong.

What’s your favorite donut? What’s your favorite podcast or other choice to listen to? 

 

 

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My eyes are welling with tears as I write this post. You see, today marks five years to the day since I started running and tracking my progress on MapMyRun. You can see my first entry here:

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Does a three-mile-per-hour pace count as a run? You bet it does when you’re pushing a 2.5-year-old in a jogging stroller over 180 feet in elevation gain for your first run in five years! I’m just as proud of that first mile in 20:23 as the mile I raced in 6:34 a few years later! I had made a decision that I wanted to be “fit at 40” after having the last of my three children. I was on the higher end of a healthy weight and I felt I could stand to lose about 10 pounds. So I got out there for nine runs that first March and logged a total of 24.9 miles.

I quickly got hooked on running and the sense of accomplishment that comes with every workout. My confidence grew over the summer and I added biking and swimming into the mix. Eight months after that first run, I took on my first sprint triathlon at SheROX San Diego in November 2011. And heck, that went so well, I took on an Olympic distance triathlon at HITS Palm Springs the next month! Fast forward through my first half marathon at the OC Half Marathon in May 2012 to my first full marathon at the Santa Barbara International Marathon in November 2012. Somehow in just 18 months I’d gone from 1.67 miles at a 20:23 pace to 26.2 miles at a 9:16 pace (4:02:39.5 for those trying to do the math). And that was at age 41 no less. Proof that you’re never too old to start running or challenging yourself with big goals. Five marathons later if you ask me which is my favorite marathon, I’ll say Santa Barbara, not because it was the easiest course (it wasn’t — my goodness I still remember that hill at mile 23) but because I ran that whole race with such joy and appreciation for what my body could do.

The next several races I chased a Boston Qualifying time, a sub-3:45 for Women 40-44.

Mountains2Beach Marathon, May 2013, age 41, 3:58:29 (race recap)

Long Beach Marathon, October 2013 age 42, 3:52:42 (race recap)

and finally my first BQ at Santa Rosa, August 2014, age 42, 3:44:26 (race recap). Then came the crushing news that a BQ minus 34 seconds was actually not fast enough to meet the registration cutoff for Boston 2015. So I set my sights on the Phoenix Marathon in February 2015 and came in at my current PR time of 3:36:58 (race recap), a BQ minus 8:02 at age 43 for Boston 2016. I tried to top that time at REVEL Canyon City in November 2015 and came in a little slower at 3:39:08 at age 44 on what I now consider a difficult downhill course (race recap). Fortunately there’s a benefit to the Boston Marathon qualifying math, and at age 44 I had bumped up to the 45-49 age group for Boston 2017 with a 3:55 qualifying standard, so that time was a BQ minus 15:52.

Now with just six weeks to go until my first Boston Marathon race on April 18, 2016, I’m savoring the opportunity to race on such hallowed ground. I’m training hard so that I have a good race, but I’m in this one for the experience, not the time on the clock. So I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about this historic race. On my bookshelf right now:

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I’m loving Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run Boston with an official bib and a major player in the push to get the women’s marathon into the Olympics in 1984. (Such a #runnerd, I’m tearing up again thinking about it!) Let’s all just take a moment, man or woman, to thank those before us who have helped advance the sport of running. And of course, one of those people is Boston Marathon director Dave McGillivray, author of The Last Pick. I’ve listened to him speak on a few podcasts and found his stories to be very inspiring, so I can hardly wait to read his book.

The next two on the list are The Boston Marathon: A Century of Blood, Sweat, and Cheers and 26.2 Miles to Boston: A Journey Into The Heart Of The Boston Marathon.

Any other books you suggest as recommended reading about the Boston Marathon? Have you run the race before? Tell me about it! And feel free to link to any blog posts or race recaps of yours or anyone else’s that you think we all might enjoy reading.

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I find it a little funny that my first long run of ’16 was 16 miles! I didn’t plan it that way; in fact I thought I was supposed to run 14 and I was dismayed to see that 16 when I double-checked my Boston training schedule. It’s week five of training, 15 weeks to go. The run went well. I took it easy at a 10:00 pace and listened to podcasts by Another Mother Runner and Runners Connect. I just finished listening to a great audiobook for runners: My Year of Running Dangerously: A Dad, a Daughter, and a Ridiculous Plan. CNN correspondent Tom Foreman narrates his own book and makes it entertaining and informative about coming back to running at an older age, running with your children, and dipping your feet in the ultra marathon waters. I have contemplated running my first ultra as the next big goal but it doesn’t sound like it’s for me, especially after I just burned out on a plan that called for running four to five times per week. I’ll stick to three times a week, thank you very much. I would like to get into trail running, however.

Looking Back at 2015

Here are the highlights for me for 2015 — a wide range of things that made me feel proud. I’ve put links to posts I wrote if you’d like to read more about any particular item.

  • Qualified for Boston 2016 in a PR time of 3:36:58 at the Phoenix Marathon in February
  • Used my own compost to grow a great summer harvest of tomatoes, basil, and hot peppers
  • Helped create a team of 53 members for the iCureMelanoma 5K to raise $5,418 for melanoma research
  • Volunteered each week at my girls’ school, working both in the classrooms and in the school library
  • Crossed off a bucket list item when my girls and I volunteered at the Girls on the Go Los Angeles Half Marathon in Bonelli Park
  • Proofread a friend’s memoir of her experience growing up under the oppression of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia
  • Set a PR in the 5K of 22:19 at the Downtown Anaheim 5K in June
  • Harvested over 200 pounds of lemons with my teenager and donated them to a local food bank
  • Qualified for Boston 2017 by a 15 minute, 52 second margin at the REVEL Canyon City Marathon in November
  • Performed with my middle daughter in six shows of The Nutcracker in December
  • Reached out to ElliptiGO and overcame my nervousness about trying something new, and was handsomely rewarded with finding a new workout I absolutely love!
  • Got a job for the first time in 13 years (aside from writing/blogging), working in the school district as a substitute assistant in the special education classrooms
  • Wrote up a training plan for my husband and teenager to train for their first half marathons next June, the Fontana Days Run Half Marathon

Looking Forward to 2016

I am eager to see what 2016 has in store for me! My first day on the new job is tomorrow, working 12-3 in the special education classroom at my girls’ school! The next race on my calendar is the Boston Marathon in April — my first time running that race and my 7th marathon overall.

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My sweet friends insisted that I take a photo in my prized new Boston jacket that Mike gave me for Christmas!

The only other race on my calendar is the Fontana Days Run Half Marathon in June. If the budget allows (i.e., I get enough work substituting in the district and my husband gets a new job), I hope to try my first big trail race (a half marathon, a full, or maybe even a 50K in spite of what I said about ultras not being for me — the Chino Hills Trail Run Series 50K is so close by and the timing would be perfect in November).

What are you proud of from 2015? What are you looking forward to in 2016?

 

 

 

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I first saw the ElliptiGO elliptical bicycle when world champion runner Mary Decker Slaney was riding one before the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon in 2014. I was too tired and shy to go up to her at the finish line expo after the race (note to self: “Hi! It’s so nice to meet you! What do you have here?” would have done very nicely). Anyway, I had been dying to try an ElliptiGO ever since. Recently my curiosity boiled over when I listened to this Runners Connect podcast with Darren Brown, a 3-time All-American, sub-4:00 miler, and marketing manager for ElliptiGO.

So I reached out to the nice people at ElliptiGO and they hooked me up with Hermosa Cyclery in Hermosa Beach, California. Located just steps from a spectacular beachside bike path, Hermosa Cyclery offers ElliptiGOs for sale or rental.

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Gorgeous day to ride an ElliptiGO 8S along Hermosa Beach!

I rode the ElliptiGO 8S (similar to the new model 11R, which retails for $3,499) and you can rent one from Hermosa Cyclery starting at just $20 an hour. My husband Mike tried out the ElliptiGO 3C (retail price $1,999). The verdict? We absolutely loved them! I cannot remember the last time I’ve had so much fun working out.

After a one-minute demonstration of how to ride the elliptical bike, my husband and I hopped on ours and went! It took no time at all for us to master riding the ElliptiGO. Getting started is easy — just step on one pedal and you’re off!

Shifting gears is exceptionally smooth (more smooth than a road bike, which my mechanical engineer husband says is due to the internal geared hub) and braking is the same as a road bike. I had no trouble balancing; in fact the ride felt very stable.

The first day we headed south on the beach path and rode for over 45 minutes total down to the end of the path and back. I could have sworn we were only out for 30 minutes at the most. It felt like we were sightseeing from an 8-foot tall vantage point. I could easily bike and enjoy the view along the way. The funny thing is, we were the main attraction along the path! Pedestrians, runners and road cyclists all stared at us, smiled, and even cheered! I got thumbs-up and clapping as we rode.

The next morning Mike and I headed north on the path. The Strand is also known as the Martin Braude Bike Path and it runs 22 miles and connects with other bike paths. We rode from 14th Street in Hermosa Beach up to Marina del Rey. There is a small section of stairs, and I impressed the guys behind me by lifting the lightweight bike and carrying it up the stairs on my own. There are also some slight hills on this section, and we powered right up them (and enjoyed coasting down them)!

With stops for water along the way, we ended up riding for two hours at about a 10 mph pace (cruising and enjoying the sights — we could have gone significantly faster if we pushed it). The ElliptiGO offers an excellent aerobic and strength training workout. By the end of two hours, I felt it in my outer quads, glutes, and a little in my lower back. On Sunday my marathon training plan for Boston called for a 10-mile long run, and the ElliptiGO ride more than satisfied the equivalent of that run.

The ElliptiGO makes for the ideal cross-training for runners because it offers a low-impact workout that closely mimics the motion of running. Standing upright eliminates the strain on your neck and back that you might feel tucking in for a long road bicycle ride, and saves your rear end from saddle soreness! Plus you get the joy of exercising outside rather than being stuck inside the gym.

I want to thank Hermosa Cyclery for the opportunity to test the ElliptiGO bikes. I’m telling Santa I want an ElliptiGO for Christmas, and if I don’t get one, I will definitely rent one for another fabulous workout on the beach path!

(I was not compensated for my honest review of the ElliptiGO and Hermosa Cyclery.)

Have you ever ridden an ElliptiGO? Are you interested in trying one out?

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Before the REVEL Canyon City Marathon last Saturday, I had a major case of marathon brain. I’ve talked before about how marathon brain is a lot like pregnancy brain — your mind is so full of the big event on the horizon that it blocks out most other rational thinking. I have two good (read: humorous at my expense) examples of how marathon brain made me positively ditzy before the race.

Friday night after I got home from the expo, I set out all my clothes and race gear for the next morning. I also took my driver’s license and one credit card out of my wallet and packed them in my gear bag. No sense in taking my entire wallet with me to the race, but I at least needed my driver’s license to get there. Packing went well and I had no trouble at 3:30 in the morning throwing on my clothes and getting out the door by 3:50. The problem came when I got home from the race on Saturday afternoon and could not find my wallet for the life of me. I searched high and low all over the house. I retraced my steps everywhere. It wasn’t in my purse. It wasn’t where I’d taken my cards out of my wallet in the living room. It wasn’t anywhere I would ever normally put my wallet, emphasis on “normally.” With my marathon brain, I’d taken the cards out of my wallet and then wandered off to get something else, wallet in hand. Then when I found that something, I put down the wallet. Two whole days later I found my wallet on the dining room table, on top of the sewing basket and underneath one of the kids’ pieces of artwork. What the heck?! I think I’d set my Saucony Bullet Shorts on the table to air dry, and when I went to grab those for the race, I traded them for my wallet.

But the worst evidence of marathon brain came at 3:40 in the morning when I went to put on some Glide to prevent chafing in my, shall we say, “nether regions.” I slathered it on and put the cap back on the container, only to realize it wasn’t Glide I’d just applied, it was deodorant! I was extra fresh for the race. 🙂 You’re welcome, fellow runners.

The "extra fresh" me at the REVEL Canyon City Marathon

The “extra fresh” me at the REVEL Canyon City Marathon

It’s been four days since the race and I feel pretty good. I haven’t been sleeping well though. I thought I’d sleep like a log after the race on Saturday, but I tossed and turned all night. I read somewhere that not sleeping well is a sign of over-training, and I’m sure for me it was a sign of over-exertion at the race.

I forgot to mention that my ankle (that pesky taper injury) didn’t bother me at all during the race. Darn — I can’t blame my lack of PR on that. I feel really lucky though. No lasting problems from the race. I left alone the big blister I got on the bottom of my foot from the downhill running, and it toughened right up after a hot bath. No need to drain it or remove the skin.

Did you ever get marathon brain? What do you do for blisters?

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I have mixed feelings when it comes to my recap and review of the 2015 REVEL Canyon City Marathon, so I’m going to break it down by the race elements.

Race Expo

I love a relatively small marathon (1,199 finishers) and a small marathon expo is just fine with me. I want to be in and out and not on my feet for a long time. This expo was held at a company warehouse in Azusa with ample parking. I had no trouble picking up my bib, gear bag, and t-shirt. This race offers a lot of runner-friendly features, one of them being a t-shirt exchange at the expo — if the size you ordered doesn’t fit you can trade yours for another size, or you can pay to upgrade to a long-sleeved shirt or tank top!

Flattering gray and blue shirt shown with my marathon finisher's medal

Flattering gray and blue shirt shown with my marathon finisher’s medal

It was nice to be able to check that my timing bib was working and that my name, age and gender information were correct in the database.

The timing mat at the expo confirmed that my bib timing chip was working and my information was correct in the database.

The timing mat at the expo confirmed that my bib timing chip was working and my information was correct in the database.

Race Day Parking and Buses

The race did a good job communicating the with runners about the location of the parking lots and bus pickups for this point-to-point course. Unfortunately, while the parking map said we could just plug “701 E. Foothill Blvd” in Azusa into our navigation system to get to the full marathon parking, when I did that on my iPhone it directed me to a dead end in a new subdivision of homes! And I know I wasn’t the only one, because there were at least four cars driving around that subdivision at 4:30 a.m. and a lot of runners panicking about making it to the buses before the last one left at 5:00 a.m.! I plugged the address into my car navigation system and that took me to a road that was blocked off for the finisher’s chute! I drove around in a big circle and in a stroke of luck eventually made it to the right entrance. The irony of the whole thing is that I’d written down directions on paper before I left and I had them in the car with me, but I couldn’t see them in the dark and just blindly relied on the iPhone. Never again! I boarded the bus at 5 a.m. (there were still several other buses so I know people were able to board after that time) for the 1-hour bus ride up to the race start in the San Gabriel Mountains. Tip: Make sure to board a bus with a bathroom! It’s a long ride to the start and the race nerves can get the best of you. Plus, it’s nice to use the warm facilities on the bus before you step out into the cold at the top of the mountain.

The Marathon Starting Line

It wasn’t as cold at the top as I’d expected, maybe 45 degrees? The race goodie bag included gloves and a mylar blanket. I brought hand warmers (a brilliant suggestion by Hungry Runner Girl) and those kept me toasty and happy.

It looks colder than it was. Plenty of people were shivering but I think that was more out of nerves than cold. A hat, sweatshirt, sweatpants, gloves and hand warmers kept me plenty warm before the race.

It looks colder than it was. Plenty of people were shivering but I think that was more out of nerves than cold. A hat, sweatshirt, sweatpants, gloves and hand warmers kept me plenty warm before the race.

As you can see it was a gorgeous day for a race. There were plenty of porta-potties and I never waited in line more than five minutes, even as it got close to the race start. I ditched my sweatclothes in my gear bag and had that in the truck by 6:45 for the 7 a.m. start. At the very last minute I tossed my hat and mylar blanket but kept my gloves and hand warmers (tossing those at mile 3). It was so warm I decided not to wear my arm warmers and just went with shorts and a t-shirt.

The course starts at the Crystal Lake Cafe at the top of the 39 in the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. It’s just a spectacular location for a race.

Out of respect for those in the campground next door to the start (I assume) there was no music at the start and not even a bullhorn for announcements, a national anthem, or starting horn. We started at exactly 7:00 a.m. with a countdown by the race director and the crowd.

The First Half (Average Pace 7:25)

I love running downhill and the speed that comes with it, and the first half of the marathon course is a downhill lover’s delight with over 4,000 feet in elevation drop. While I practiced on the course in training (see my 20-miler REVEL Canyon City course preview for more photos of the course), in retrospect I should have practiced the downhill running at race pace. As it turns out, running those 20 miles at a 9:00 easy pace did not prepare me at all for running the first 13.1 miles at a 7:25 pace! While people warn you that downhill running will trash your quads, I didn’t find that to be true at all. What hurt were my calves! Perhaps my form changed as I ran faster, or perhaps I just wasn’t well-trained enough to hit that pace during the race. I took a calculated gamble on letting my legs fly on the downhill, and I paid for it. Every race is a learning opportunity and now I know what I would do differently for a downhill race: in addition to doing wall sits to strengthen my quads, I would do lots of calf raises, and I would log several downhill miles at race pace. This course could offer a huge PR if you train properly for it.

I wasn’t the only one who got chewed up on the first half and spit out on the second. I bet if you looked at the race results you’d see a lot of positive splits by a huge margin. Many people were walking up the hills around miles 14-16 and 19 and even on the slight downhill in the last 5K of the race.

I should mention here that every single runner in the full marathon cut the course. You’re supposed to stay to the left of the cones (the right lane was open to occasional traffic guided by police cars), but I did not see a single runner adhere to that. I tried but gave up.

Miles 13.1 to 23.1 (Average Pace 9:10 for those 10 miles)

The aid stations in general were well-stocked and manned by enthusiastic volunteers, which is especially important on this course since spectators are not allowed on course until about mile 23. However, the aid station at the half marathon point (which you’d expect to be very well supplied since it was the start for the half marathon race) was lacking. A few volunteers held out cups of water and one cup of sports drink. I reached for the sports drink just as a guy behind me was calling for sports drink. When I took that last available glass, the guy yelled, “F***ER!” That took some of the wind out of my sails for sure, but I shook it off as best I could. I’m hoping karma took care of that guy.

The course hits some rolling hills over the next six miles, nothing too troublesome as long as you run by effort and not by pace. As I said though, several people chose to walk those hills, including me at some points.

The 3:25 pacer passed me at mile 16.4. I wasn’t surprised and didn’t even try to keep up. I did hope to keep ahead of the 3:35 pacer.

Miles 23.1 to the Finish (Average Pace 9:43 for that last 5K)

The 3:35 pacer passed me around mile 23. It was very motivating to me to see him holding up that 3:35 flag and I hung on behind him for dear life. I wanted to come in under 3:36:58 — my PR from the Phoenix Marathon last February — and I thought if I could just keep him in my sights I would be okay. WRONG! The 3:35 pacer completely fell off the rails and started walking in the last 5K. He finished behind me, and I finished in 3:39:08. I sure could have used his help in those last difficult miles. The last mile or two of the course was different than last year’s and I’m sorry to say it wasn’t an improvement. I ran the 25th mile okay but the 26th felt uphill until the last two turns into the finisher’s chute.

Overall I’m happy with my time, especially given that I qualified for Boston 2017 with 15:52 to spare (I’ll be in the 45-49 age group for that race and the women’s standard is 3:55). I really had high hopes for this race though and I wish I had done a few things differently. It just wasn’t the joyous experience I’d had at the 2014 REVEL Canyon City Half last year, or on my 20-mile training run. I can finally admit to myself that if I want to run a BQ effort, it’s going to take a level of mental and physical output that takes everything I have, to the exclusion of a joyous race. Which leads me to the conclusion that I’m going to run Boston 2016 for fun and for the experience! Thank goodness I have that on the horizon. I can enjoy a month of recovery workouts on the bike and in the pool and on the roads, and then training for Boston begins in December.

The Verdict

Would I discourage someone from running the REVEL Canyon City Marathon? Absolutely not! It’s a gorgeous course and a well-run (no pun intended) event. But if you’re going to go for the full, take my advice and strengthen your calves and quads. Practice downhill running like I did, but take it a step further and practice downhill running at race pace. And then go out and get that PR!

Would I encourage someone to run the REVEL Canyon City Half Marathon? Absolutely. It remains my favorite race ever to date. All the fun of the downhill and the views without the punishing of the extreme elevation loss.

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