RECAP: 2022 Super Marathon

Cool temps at the start.

Today, I ran my 23rd marathon, and while it wasn’t as hot as last year’s, it was steamy enough to thwart many a running goal, but if you can’t get a PR, why not a PW? 😉

Really though, I have to say, I am just so proud of Lisa.

We were out there to attempt a sub-5 / PR for her, but alas, the heat caught up a little over halfway through and so we dialed it in to make it to the finish line safely. I am sure she was tired of my endless silly recaps of my favorite podcast episodes, my limited vocabulary learnt from Duolingo Spanish, German, and French, and really bad explanations of the premises of the current TV shows I am watching, but she was a captive audience for several hours, so she really had no choice in the matter.

The course was beautiful, as always, and logistics fairly smooth. We picked up our packets, lined up for portapotties, and were hitting our paces really well for the first few hours. We both had printed out pace bands, and I had marked a bold “11:26” as the average pace we needed to maintain to complete the race in the desired amount of time.

Our splits:

First 15 – 10:29 (getting through the mass start), 11:22, 11:37, 11:25, 11:25, 11:31, 11:37, 11:37, 11:05, 11:05, 10:39, 11:02, 11:05, 11:16, 11:04

Back 11 – 12:36, 16:04, 14:39, 15:20, 16:15, 14:12, 16:27, 16:46, 16:21, 16:04, 14:21, last .07 (overrun as usual): 9:06 pace

The race was well-supported, though I ran with my hydration vest and body bottles and so didn’t need to take any hydration or nutrition from the aid stations. I took my HUMA gels, lemonade and mango, and did not experience any cramping or discomfort at any point in the race, which was great.

I know Lisa was disappointed at not seeing a 4:xx on the clock today, but sometimes, you gotta just respect nature, and take it all in. There will be more races!

2nd Quarter 2022 Running Goals (and beyond)

Helllllllo! It’s been too long since the last update, but truthfully, post-Boston, I’ve not been up to anything too exciting on the running front – just been doing some base mileage building, getting back into Peloton as cross-training, and brainstorming the next big goals, and how I want my training plans to look for the next year-ish.

My next goal marathon is, of course, Berlin, where I will be completing my Six Star Journey in September, a goal I have been working toward since 2014, when I ran my first major (Chicago). Somewhere along the way, I realized that my major progress had a variety of finish times, but I am SO CLOSE to being able to accomplish a sub-4 average time over all six majors, so I am motivated to train for a fast-ish race this fall.

One more star to go!

So, what kind of training am I going to focus on over the summer? Well, as much as I feel excited to smash PRs, I also realized that I need to approach this goal with a realistic lens – whereas last summer I had the advantage of uninterrupted training time (both kids were in summer day camp), this year, it’s not a thing. So, as much as I know I’d love to give Hansons another goal (because it DOES work for me), I know that I’ll be frustrated not being able to execute those longer workouts through the season.

This led me to scour the Internet for worthy mid-mileage, intermediate level marathon training plans…and while I have found a few, I haven’t quite committed to one…yet. But, I have about a week to get that sorted.

Of course, one major modification to any plan I find is the mileage I plan on hitting at the end of June – a return to the Super Marathon (there is no way it can be hotter than last year, right?) but this year, IT’S NOT PERSONAL. Haha, sounds like a bad movie, right? For real though, I’ll be hitting that sweet downhill course with my friend Lisa, who has been working toward her big sub-5 goal, which I am happy to help with as much as I can! I am thinking about all the helpful things I can do to make this goal happen (I’ll definitely bring my vest and act as a hydration/fuel sherpa as much as possible), and I look forward to crossing that finish line with her! It will be Marathon #23 for me, which I just cannot wrap my head around!

Each late spring, I feel pretty reflective about running in general, as I look back to my very first serious running endeavor: Couch to 5K, in 2010. In 12 years, I’ve run a lot of races, met a lot of amazing people, and more than that – learned so much about myself – but my only wish is that this is but the first decade of many more incredible miles ahead.

if you just wait and wait and see

Half an hour before I lined up to board my bus to Hopkinton, I decided to just pause and relax in the Public Garden. I could have returned to my hotel room, watched TV, or something else, but the stillness in the air, just steps from the high energy of the race – it called to me.

I was wearing my Mission Breakout! hat, as in the moments before I walked out the door (at home back in Washington), I felt this sudden need to reach out and attach it to my backpack. I had packed a different hat in my suitcase, but something in the universe told me to bring this one.

So, I sat down, there, facing the water, and I could faintly hear the announcements on Charles Street. I decided to listen to a bit of my AWESOME MIX (compilation of music from GoTG I & II), and “O-o-h Child” by the Five Stairsteps came on.

Now, as I’ve discovered through the years – I question whether things “happen for a reason” or, if it’s more of some intervention (personal or divine), but in that moment – it all was clear.

I was where I was supposed to be.

2022 BOSTON MARATHON, BABY!

Where do I even begin?

Last night, I returned from a five-day trip that (not to sound overly dramatic, but yes, it is that dramatic) definitely changed my life. Just *being* in the city of Boston was electric, but layer on the expo, the running pop-up shops, the friends (and family!!) from so many eras in my life, the 5K, the food, the drink, and the FREAKING BOSTON MARATHON, gosh darn it, I still feel like it was this incredible dream that I have not woken from.

I reallllly want to do this recap justice, but wow wow wow there are just so many things running through my mind so you’ll have to excuse the manic pacing as I attempt to capture just a small piece of what this race meant to me.

So…are you ready? Let’s go!

ARRIVAL/DAY 1: FRIDAY

I departed Seattle on a redeye flight on Thursday, April 14. I knew I wanted to take in the whole weekend, so I kickstarted the adventure with an early arrival into Boston on Friday morning. From the moment we landed, I was off! I had just my backpack and a carry-on suitcase, and rolled my way down to the public transit exit and jumped on the silver line bus into the city, to my hotel, the Hyatt (which I had booked with Marathon Tours).

Despite my very early arrival, my room was ready at 8 AM! I was thankful for that, as I headed up, dropped my baggage, then headed to the Boyleston station to purchase a Charlie card, and I was off!

My first stop was Tracksmith to pick up a free runner bag, and that mission was accomplished (it included a really nice tote bag and hat!) then breakfast at Pavement Coffee. While enjoying my rosemary salt bagel breakfast sandwich, someone called my name, and I was happy to see it was my friend Mindy I had met years before with runDisney events, and the Chicago Marathon! She introduced me to her friends Jacey and Matt, and we all went to rope drop the expo together.

After picking up our bibs/seeing the booths at the expo, we had some pizza lunch, and did some shopping/window shopping before parting ways. I headed back to the hotel, took a little nap, then showered before heading out to meet my friend Kevin and his husband Shawn in Cambridge, where we enjoyed tiki drinks and great conversation.

DAY 2: SATURDAY

This was the 5K day! Since I was staying just about 1.5 blocks from the common, I was able to mosey on over about half an hour before everything kicked off. The crowds were big, as I had been warned, but that just amped up my energy. The “corrals” were self-seeded, and not regulated at all. I hung out with Mindy and Jacey until we set off. The race itself was very fun – a scenic course through the Back Bay neighborhood area, and we got to see that famous CITGO sign. I had a lot of fun.

After that, I headed back to the room, changed, and made my way to the Adidas Fan Fest to get my jacket personalized, then pick up snacks at the Trader Joe’s across the street from the convention center. Later, I made my way to the Sam Adams Tap Room to pick up my free pint glass, walked around the North End, then made my way back, picked up a sandwich at Earl, rested in my room, then met my friend Katie for dinner (delicious lobster roll!) at a great place near Fenway.

[REST] DAY 3: SUNDAY

This was another fun day! I met my friend Charlie for donuts/coffee, and he gave me the best Boston walking tour. We traversed a lot of ground, and had great conversation. This was another amazing highlight of my trip!! Midday, I met my friend Trish for brunch, and that night, met my cousin Josh (and his wife Amanda, and son Grayson) for dinner. It was great meeting Amanda and Grayson, and we had a nice time celebrating Amanda’s birthday!

DAY 4: MARATHON MONDAY

Pre-bus views

My bus wasn’t due to leave the common until 8:15 AM, but I woke up at my usual 6 AM, and leisurely had breakfast and coffee before leaving the hotel around 7 to drop my bag on Berkley. I then proceeded to relax on a bench in the public garden, and listened to my AWESOME MIX playlist.

Our bus ride was – in a word – eventful! The bus was involved in a bit of a traffic altercation (attempting to pass a truck, nearly being run off the road, etc) but we fortunately made it to the Athlete’s Village in one piece. There, the sun was shining, and I stood in a line for the Hopkinton sign, then the port-o-potties, then another photo opp. Before I knew it, it was time to head to the corrals, where I visited the portos once more (pro tip: proceed to the back, no lines), and then we were lining up (where I saw my friend Trish again, yay!), and headed onto the course!

The Race

So, this is going to sound silly, as I usually am pretty good about race details, but a lot was a blur. I was just so the overcome with emotion! I was crying at the start, in joy and disbelief of actually being there – then when we began to run, it was just beautiful. I saw Spencer, the official dog of the Boston marathon at Mile 2, and cried because of his amazing story.

I looked around, and thought about how everyone around me had their own unique stories, and I cried again. I cried because I was proud of all of us. I cried thinking about the different goals people might have that day, and of the triumph and heartbreak that would all play out, in so many lives, that we only would hear a small bit of. I couldn’t help but smile thinking about it all.

Now, this marathon was my 22nd, and I can unequivocally state that this was the first one I had ever run in that never cleared! You were among throngs of runners from start to finish. This came with some slightly annoying things (like poor etiquette at water stops – it is NEVER cool to hurl a FULL gatorade cup people!!!!), but fortunately mostly was just fun. It was like a current of runners, flowing toward Boston. Each new town (and its sign) marked another chapter in the journey, and each held enthusiastic crowds and supporters.

At around the halfway mark, I knew it was not going to be my day for a fast race (the sun was wearing me down a little – what can I say – it’s not a frequent sight here in WA LOL), and my Garmin was beeping at me that it was low on battery. I knew that it could die at any moment, so I just continued my observations, and my big dumb smiling.

I walked each water stop, and took my gels every 5 miles. Around 30K, I also took Gatorade at each water stop (aid was on both sides of the street). I ran all the downhills, jogged the flats, and found myself walking what I’d find out to be Heartbreak Hill (it really is deceptive! Not too steep, but very long!) and believed I was still on pace for a sub-4.

However, it wasn’t to be that day, as soon after I passed Mile 24, my watch finally shut off. My legs were cramping, and my temperature regulation was a bit off, as I had sweated early on, but now it was windy. I didn’t want to repeat a situation of what had happened in my Space Coast race (2013), so I continued to fuel at water stops, and even took a few sips of the Maurten gel I had picked up along the race.

At Mile 25, the backs of my legs seized, and I temporarily could not run. I had to perform a bit of a crab walk, but it was also at that time that some spectators yelled and pointed at the ground, where I discovered a wad of cash, which looked to be a $20 bill. I somehow bent down and retrieved it. They cheered, and I motioned to them, to ask if it was theirs, and they told me to take it! So, without closer inspection, I tucked it into my back zipped pocket, and felt the strength to run again.

Right on Hereford, Left on Boyleston

I knew that no matter what, I’d run that last stretch, and boy, did I. I had walked that length several times in the days leading to the race, and I knew I could do it. I picked up speed there at the end, and was so grateful and emotional crossing that finish. I was so happy to not only see (and shout out to!) Ali Feller (Ali on the Run show!!), but receive my finisher medal from my friend Barbara.

The tears were flowing pretty well by then, so I skipped the finisher pics, and proceeded to grab my dropped bag (I had packed crocs in it, which felt soo good!!) and made my way to the hotel, which (SO CUTE) had staff applaud runner’s arrivals into the lobby, and we were offered warm towels to wipe off which was amazing.

When I got back to my room, I called home and talked to my family, then ate some chips from the snack bag before showering then just laying down for 2-3 hours. When I was finally ready to head out, I donned my Celebration jacket, headed to Fenway where I walked around, snapped some pics, then came back to my neighborhood for dinner (local ramen) before hitting the hay.

DEPARTURE/DAY 5: TUESDAY

I had planned to sleep in that morning, but torrential rain and wind (results of the outer from a nor’easter!!) woke me at 4 AM. I stayed in bed, but flipped on the TV, and saw a story about Henry Richard (brother of slain Martin Richard, from the 2013 Boston Marathon) and watched in disbelief as I saw myself on the screen (we finished within seconds of each other). Wow! That was surreal.

I meandered for a while before getting up and packing my bags, which I carefully rearranged, then dropped at the concierge desk. I had a mission to pick up Mike’s Pastry!

To save my legs a bit, I took the subway and made my way there right around the shop’s opening. There, I was delighted to find a nearly empty place (I had waited in line for a few minutes days earlier, before realizing that it was a cash only establishment). Much to my surprise, when I went to pay for my cannoli, I discovered the cash from the race was actually $40 in total! Wow!

From there, I stopped in the Public Market for a cold brew and somewhere to sit, enjoyed my breakfast, then made my way back to Tracksmith to collect my free hand-stamped finish poster, then to Harpoon Brewery for a tour and free pint, then to the airport for my flight home!

It was truly an action-packed, and what felt like, once-in-a-lifetime experience…which of course, I was then reminded today, by my friend Audrey – that it doesn’t have to be. That’s right. I forgot that my BQ, from October 2021 – is what those “in the know” call a BQ double dip – eligible for submission for two Boston Marathons.

Now, you should NEVER trust your feelings right after a marathon, but at the time, I was thinking, that was nice, one and done…but now, realizing this…I have to wonder.

No matter what…this is a race and trip I will not soon forget.

Thank you, Boston, for everything.

Captain’s Log: WDW in 2022, my experience and observations

Between Sunday, March 27 and Thursday, March 31, I stayed in two Orlando area resorts and visited four theme parks, a handful of resort hotels and Disney Springs (shopping, dining, and entertainment district). I relied on both public and private transportation (resort provided busses, Skyliner, watercraft, and monorail) friends’ vehicles, and ride-share services). I utilized both new and old methods of daily itinerary planning (Genie, Genie+, and older timing tactics), and was able to average 11 attractions per day. As this was a solo trip, I had the advantage of shorter mealtimes and the occasional somewhat quicker access to attraction “front of line.”

In this report, I will share some key highlights of my trip, along with some areas of improvement – of course, with several personal observations from the perspective of a current travel advisor, former passholder (WDW and UOR), former DVC member, and former castmember (CM). Also for context: my last trip to the area was in January 2019.

Resort Info: 

  • One night at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort in a standard room, booked at TA rate. Room was located in the Americana tower (attached to main building).
  • Three nights at Disney’s Pop Century Resort in a standard room, booked at a TA rate. Note: my category was upgraded to standard pool view, and my request for a close guest room and king size bed was honored. Room was located in the 1950’s section, quick access to main building amenities, bus and Skyliner transportation.
Gorgeous morning to sit out and enjoy the amenities.

UOR Highlights:

  • Resort text alert system – I was able to check in to my hotel the day before through the website, and upon arrival, there was a separate line for online check-in. I waited about 5 minutes to talk to a team member (TM), and she was able to confirm my reservation. My room was not yet ready (I had arrived via a red-eye flight, and thanks to a fast Lyft ride), I was at UOR at approximately 6:30 AM – much earlier than their standard 4 PM check-in. The TM explained their text alert system, and that I would be able to check my status, ask questions, or otherwise communicate with them via app. I was given a key card that allowed me to access resort facilities (pool, gym etc) and then dropped my bags at luggage services. My room was ready around 11 AM.
  • Starbucks in resort – I was thankful this was open for my early arrival! All barista staff were friendly and efficient.
  • Clear and fun signage – I never felt lost or turned around at the hotel, or the resort grounds. Although I did not make it to CityWalk as planned (jet lag caught up to me!), I enjoyed the well-manicured walkways on my morning run. Very easy to navigate!
  • TM interactions – all were cordial, and most took the extra step at being very friendly and warm. 

UOR Areas for Improvement:

  • Check in-process – although my check-in went smoothly, the TM didn’t explain to me that while I waited, I could drop my bags. I assumed I could, as most hotels offer this service, but as I walked to the luggage desk, no one was there, and the sign said to go back to front desk. I got back in the (short) line and asked if I could please drop my bags, which the TM cheerfully assisted me with, but why not realize this on my first trip to the front desk?
  • TM information – as I waited in line, I was listening to guests’ questions to note in my mind what to share with my own clients and noticed, time after time, that the front desk where friendly and efficient, but didn’t know answer to things like: what park was open early, what that day’s hours were, etc. These seem like simple things that their management could provide them for easy assistance.
Enjoying the afternoon at Epcot

Disney Highlights:

  • Resort alerts – I checked in online a few weeks before arrival, and promptly received an alert on my check-in date that confirmed my 7 AM arrival. The alert system kept me updated when my room would become ready (~4:30 PM), and as stated above, my requests were honored, as I indicated the requests were preferred over early room assignment.
  • Resort/ room quality – my last stay at Disney’s Pop Century was in 2005 – long before I even worked as a CM, and the resort felt just as fun and comfortable. My room was recently refurbished, and was clean and inviting. 
  • Park and Resort Security screening – this was a welcome surprise. I had read that the system was more efficient, but this impressive. The quick nature of passing through, coupled with a friendly security cast member explaining processes as you approached made all check points.
  • Luggage services – A+! I dropped my bags midday at the luggage desk, and the staff let me know that it’d be delivered to my room as soon as I had a room assignment. Since I was in the parks all day that day, this was truly magical. I really appreciated this!
  • Skyliner – riding midday (park hop between Pop/Riviera/Epcot), this was so smooth and wonderful. No wait, quick and comfortable ride. 
  • Mickey and Minnie Runaway Railway – it was my first time experiencing this relatively new attraction and it was wonderful! No spoilers, but I found it to be a great fit in the new direction of the park.
  • Baseline Tap House – so cool! Loved the drink selection, the snack options, and the fun little Disney nods throughout. Highly recommend.
  • Flower and Garden festival – as always, lovely topiaries, and the Spike the Bee Pollination Exploration was fun and a great way to travel the World Showcase. “Earning” the gift was a little anti-climactic as the CM at the shop bundled it with my initial purchase (instead of asking us to return to claim the gift) but I was thankful that she had done this as the end of the day was a bit hectic! I did not eat any items from the food kiosks, but the selections looked plentiful and I appreciated the ability to buy smaller pours of drinks (we tried cider near Canada and it was great)!
  • Space 220 – the reservation was hard-fought (finally was able to secure one with the help of a fellow TA friend (S/O to David!!)) and it was wonderful! We had a lounge reservation and had great drinks, food, and service. The “elevator” to space was amazing and the cast were all so fun!!
  • Trader Sam’s text alerts – I arrived at TS’s around 3:15 PM (they open at 3 PM) and was allowed to join a text alert queue. I was told the wait would be about 1.5 hours to enter, and that was spot on. As always, TS was a delight.
  • Watercraft transportation – from Disney Springs to Port Orleans, where I had dinner one night 🙂 The boat captain was friendly and the boat ride was relaxing and lovely.
  • Disney Springs – I had not been to DS since Summer 2018 and it was so vibrant and lively – tons of dining options, and the shops were bustling. I enjoyed the atmosphere, and was able to easily locate transportation.
  • Magic Band/MDE – this was the happy surprise of the trip! In trips past, I have had countless issues with Magic Bands, either not working, not doing what they should (like not opening my room door, or having issues scanning in for admission, etc), but was told many times it was because I had too many tickets and bands assigned. So, for this trip, I deactivated all my associated bands but one, and although it was an old one (pre-puck MB! I am talking like 2014-era), it worked great for tapstiles, room admission, and Genie+.

Disney Areas for Improvement:

  • Skyliner – hah! See what I did there? Seriously though, the daytime ride was so fantastic, it was almost comical how it was juxtaposed against the evening experience – or lack thereof, really. As we left the park at closing, there was a big crowd forming around the station, and we noticed the gondolas were stationary. The weather was clear and crisp, so it didn’t appear to be an environmental delay. Still, we confirmed into the masses, and moved slowly forward. We were held up for about 15-20 minutes before some other guests started leaving the line, and so we could move up. It wasn’t until about 10 minutes later that we finally reached a CM to ask (this entire time, all guests were confused – no announcement, no CMs coming out to let us know what was happening) and the solo CM told us that there was a communication issue and that recovery busses would be sent to Boardwalk and Beach Club. So, we gathered a few of the people around us (they had no idea what Boardwalk or Beach Club was!!) and we headed there….only to find no CMs there, and no busses. We waited another 20 minutes or so before calling a Lyft. This was not a great way to end the evening.
  • Genie+ – I had planned to use this everyday, but after the first day’s frustrations, and quickly scanning wait times, I decided against it for day 2 and 3. With early entry, and staying late, I felt that I was able to optimize the time well. Posted standby waits trended toward accuracy, or under the posted estimate. The AR photo filter things were fun, but I forget to do the best one, the 25th Castle Cake, womp womp.
  • Communication – on my second day, I was in the Magic Kingdom in the evening, and the regular operating hours ended at 11 PM, with special extended hours for Deluxe Resort guests from 11 PM to 1 AM. I knew this because I was in the app constantly…but apparently, many guests did NOT know this and were turned away at attraction entrances looking sad, angry and/or disappointed. I felt bad for the attraction CMs – many guests honestly had no idea what was happening.

If you made it though this veritable wall of word vomit, congratulations! I started jotting this all down on the plane ride home so all of the memories would still be fresh. Now, somehow, as I re-read the above, I realized I did not share any opinions on new entertainment – so, the tl:dr is this: loved Kitetails, liked Enchantment, and did not care for Harmonious.

Any questions?

Christmas Weekend Races (and a car alarm)

Christmas Eve Ugly Sweater 2021

This weekend, I doubled up the fun with two local races: a fun 5K on Friday and what turned out to be a super snowy half marathon today (Sunday).

It was a great way to bookend holiday celebrations, and I was very happy to participate in both low key and fun local events.

Ugly Sweater Run 5K

Unofficial time 24:38

This race, organized by All Things Fun Sports, was held at Nathan Chapman Memorial Park in Puyallup, and featured lots of fun decorations and photo ops (you could meet Santa and Mrs. Claus) and was a little out and back through a wooded, paved trail. It was untimed, but there were cute bibs, as well as small giveaways, and even a kids 1K event.

The beginning of the race was a bit congested, as all participants had to make their way under/around the arch in my finisher picture above, but within just a few minutes, the course was clearer and it was a nice run. The temperature was low, but not windy or rainy, so that was nice.

I didn’t have a goal time for this event – so that was nice to just enjoy the run. I had to readjust my socks a few times (and pull up my leggings! I am NOT used to running in pants hahahaha) but I was happy with my slightly faster than easy pace results, plus I finished with a smile on my face, which is always a win.

I am glad that my pals convinced me to try this one out, and thanks to Lisa and her hubs, Dale, for the ride over that morning. We celebrated our race with a stop through Dutch Bros.

Boxing Day Half Marathon

Unofficial time 1:58

The snow made this local race (Pop Up Races) a much different experience than any other time I’ve run on the Foothills Trail! For reference, it’s the trail that I ran my marathon on, as well as countless training runs over the summer, plus other Pop Up Races, as well as the B&O Half (all events I either ran or volunteered at).

Though intermittent snow started Friday night, there hadn’t been significant accumulation, so the race was still on! Again, I carpooled with Lisa (who has way more snow driving experience than me) and we rolled up to start around 9. The trail had a light dusting, and since Pop Up events feature small rolling starts, Lisa and I kicked off the run together.

After the first mile, I was feeling a little warm in my leggings, layers of tank and long sleeve and insulated vest, so I thought I’d pull to the side and remove the long sleeve and tie it around my waist. That worked for about 1.5 miles, as the snow started up and I realized that I’d probably regret exposed skin (spoiler: this was worth the time to stop and adjust wardrobe, as it’d soon really start to dump snow!)

This course goes right past the trailhead where my marathon finished, so it was nice (and interesting) to see that same bridge I’d run over the summer covered in snow. I stopped at that aid station (4-ish miles in) and chatted with Rob (half of Pop Up, and dressed as the Grinch today!), and grabbed a water. I bid him adieu and set off toward Orting, where the Middle School served as the turn around point.

The miles clicked off smoothly, as I greeted several walkers on the path and laughed through listening to the latest episode of the Thirty28 podcast. Then, things started going a little sideways!

Around the turnaround, the wind and snow picked up. My legs felt fine – the snow was so fine and powdery that the trail surface never became slick or slippery – but the frozen mix was assaulting my face and eyes. I had brought along a pair of sunglasses, and had tried wearing them on and off earlier (they kept fogging) but it was around that point that I decided foggy glasses were better than not being able to see 😛

Snow course fun; 12/26

I was proud of myself for not veering off the course (thankfully I have enough experience on the trail that I didn’t have to second guess turns and crossings at all) and before long, I had completed the 13.1, had my cute medal and goody box (it was Boxing Day, after all!) and headed to Lisa’s car (she had given me a spare key).

And that’s where the morning turned to (now) hilarity.

See, I went to unlock the car with the key fob, and it didn’t respond. I walked around the driver side, and it still didn’t work. So, I thought I should open the car with the enclosed key…which turned out to be the wrong move!

The second I pulled open the door, the PANIC CAR ALARM sound started to blast, along with the lights flashing — the whole nine! The sound was deafening in that otherwise serene trailhead parking lot, and I desperately clicked the PANIC button repeatedly, but the car screen flashed, “NO KEY FOB DETECTED.” I jumped back in the front seat and tried to start the car to see if that would work, but no dice.

Just then, the super amazing Gretchen (a local runner pal) rushed over to try and help me. She jammed the PANIC button too, and then sat in the driver seat and pumped the break a few times and successfully started the car, and the alarm finally stopped.

Whew!

I was so grateful for her! It took me about 10-15 minutes to get the ringing out of my ears, but then I relaxed and reclined in the passenger seat and changed into the dry socks and sweats I had packed.

A little while later, Lisa finished up and I filled her in on the zany capers I had gotten myself into. On the way back home, we grabbed some Starbucks (even ran some coffee to her sister at work) and made it back to our neighborhood safely as the snow started to pick up.

It was a run-filled weekend, and kicked up my 2021 mileage to 1,412.

What’s next?

Over the next few days, I’ll be finalizing my ideas and plans for beginning to train for Boston. 2021 was a weird year in many ways, but I am glad that I had running to help get through!

Krissy’s Inaugural Podcast Awards – 2021

This May, my life changed.

I am not sure exactly how it happened, but I stumbled upon The 3028 podcast, which, at the time, had just published an episode about ‘The Golf Resort’ in their series detailing “50 Years of WDW Resorts.” Since I was up late a few nights painting, hosts Kevin Quigley and Matt Parrish quickly became stand-in friends as I worked.

Within a few weeks, I had started to listen back to recent episodes, and came to understand small, humorous references (“hey, did you know that Kevin has been to Japan?”), but simultaneously appreciated that each episode wasn’t too in-joke ridden (a criticism I sometimes have of other shows). I also loved that I could pick out any show in the library and enjoy it without external context. Soon, I was listening while cleaning, running, or taking the kids to school and realized that I should just start from the beginning so I could ensure that I would not miss a single episode.

Over hundreds of miles ran, through the end of spring, all through summer, and most of fall, I had a “fresh” episode to look forward to. With more than 209 (at blog post writing) episodes, it took me a while, but right before I ran my October marathon, I had accomplished the challenge I didn’t even realize I had set for myself: I had listened to the entire catalog of episodes.

Over the many, many hours of spending time with this podcast, I’ve had the unique delight of delving into topics, worlds, and places – a welcome reprieve in an unsure world. The comfort of re-visiting theme parks – not in physical life, but through memories and recollections – has been a true joy. I joke that referencing episodes and topics from this podcast has become a personality facet of mine, but it’s true: these stories have imprinted my heart, and for that, I am incredibly thankful.

So, in the spirit of this love, I thought I’d share my “BEST OF” podcasts (and one “most recommended” episode) for not only this, my favorite podcast, but the top 10 that have shaped my year.

MY TOP 10 PODCASTS AND EPISODES of 2021

Note: In curating this list, I quickly realized my preferred genre of podcasts can be grouped into these categories: History/Pop Culture, Disney/Theme Park, and the non descript “other.” If you enjoy any of these topics, you will likely enjoy these recommendations 🙂

10

PODCAST: No-Guilt Disney Podcast

EPISODE: Resort Preserve, Refurb, Demolish (5/26)

If you’re searching for a Disney-centered podcast that shares a healthy dose of news, opinion-based discussion, and general lighthearted humor, you’ll find it all here. Patty, Jane and Theresa are your hostesses with the mostest(ess?) and share their unique perspectives on the domestic Disney theme parks. This particular episode showcases a fun twist on a familiar game and will likely hook you into their fun world.

9

PODCAST: Films to Be Buried With with Brett Goldstein

EPISODE: The Resurrection: Yvette Nicole Brown (9/22)

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/yvette-nicole-brown-the-resurrection-films-to-be/id1408585620?i=1000536332429

My gal Jillain recommended I check out this podcast to fill the void in my heart left by Ted Lasso, and I am so thankful she did. If you love Roy Kent (or movies, or humor) you will love this – the premise is that the host, Brett, explains to his guest that they have died, and then asks questions about their favorite movies as a way to explain their time on Earth. I was hooked after listening to the Brene Brown episode (def recommend) but I could NOT stop laughing after back-to-back listening to Yvette Nicole Brown’s original episode, then her return (in the episode I selected) as a “resurrection” style, which asks additional questions after the guest is miraculously brought back to life.

8

PODCAST: Hi-Phi Nation (11/19)

EPISODE: The Selfless Kidney Donor

I discovered this podcast after it participated in a sort of crossover with another fav of mine (Decoder Ring). In it, host and producer Barry Lam discusses various philosophical concepts, presented through the lens of topics palatable to those not quite “in” the intellectual world (me). In this selected episode, we meet Penny Lane, who details her experience with altruistic kidney donation. I really enjoyed hearing her thought process, and the way concepts are discussed, it makes you consider a perspective in a gentle way.

7

PODCAST: Very Amusing with Carlye Wisel 

EPISODE: Hidden Mickeys: Robin Lopez (10/27)

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/hidden-mickeys-robin-lopez/id1525096665?i=1000539870139

Wisel’s “popcorn-fueled” podcast features a treasure trove of fun topics that bounce right out of her theme park reporter life, but one of the best series has to be the “Hidden Mickeys” series she has curated, which profiles a variety of celebrities who have a deep affection for the Disney brand. In this particular episode, we hear from Robin Lopez, of the Orlando Magic, about his adventures, funny twin brother stories, and more. A major bonus of Very Amusing is that no matter the topic, it’s always family-friendly – this is one of my kids’ favorites to listen to, as they love Carlye’s excited voice.

6

PODCAST: Podcast: The Ride!

EPISODE: Nickelodeon Guts with “Mo” – Moira Quirk (5/7)

https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/nickelodeon-guts-with-mo-moira-quirk/id1296636702?i=1000520592362

Podcast: The Ride is a powerhouse of theme park podcasts, and features countless episodes about so many different park properties, popular culture, and more. I definitely have listened to only a small percentage of them, though I particularly enjoyed their recent “Country Bear Jamborweek” as well as the episodes that feature the Tokyo Disney Resort. The episode I chose as favorite of the year, however, was an interview with Moira Quirk, who served as “referee” in the popular “Guts” show in the 90’s. Her anecdotes about Universal Studios in its heyday are truly entertaining, and her attitude is just delightful.

5

PODCAST: Maintenance Phase

EPISODE: Snake Oil (2/2)

https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/snake-oil/id1535408667?i=1000507558767

Michael Hobbs and Aubrey Gordon host this weekly podcast that discusses a wide range of topics regarding health and “wellness.” While the episodes are excellently researched, narration is clear and entertaining, the true gem is the chemistry between the hosts, with a particular emphasis on Gordon’s incredible laugh. I have listened to this series since its launch last fall, and would recommend any episode, but the one that stays in my memory is about the idea of “Snake Oil” and its unlikely origin story.

4

PODCAST: Decoder Ring

EPISODE: That Seattle Muzak sound (6/28)

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/that-seattle-muzak-sound/id1376577202?i=1000527209519

Decoder Ring explores a wide range of cultural phenomenon, including, but not limited to: Segways, Soap Operas, the Invention of Hydration, tattoo flash and more. Host Willa Paskin crafts each episode as a delightful romp, and answers questions you may have never even knew you had. It was hard to choose a favorite, but the ‘Seattle Muzak’ episode from this summer was definitely a memorable one, as I never realized the actual definition of the genre.

3

PODCAST: You are Good 

EPISODE: Grosse Pointe Blank with Chris Gethard (6/16)

https://podcasts.apple.com/jm/podcast/grosse-pointe-blank-w-chris-gethard/id1527948382?i=1000525766489

Hosts Sarah Marshall and Alex Steed (“Hellllloooo!” #IYKYK) discuss a variety of film, sometimes with guests, as jumping off points to emotional connections, personal narrative, and much more. This is another podcast that is fueled by the perfect matching of conversation style, along with a truly wonderful range of movies – I love that I have seen about half of the movies they discuss, and listening has broadened my interests, as in the case of my favorite episode in which they discuss Grosse Pointe Blank, which became one of my favorite movies this year! Along with wonderfully produced episodes, the team, with producer and musical director Carolyn Kendrick, also curate Spotify playlists to accompany the conversations.

2

PODCAST: You’re Wrong About

EPISODE: Cancel Culture (6/7)

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/cancel-culture/id1380008439?i=1000524480233

Sarah Marshall (also of You are Good) is at the helm of this popular culture podcast, which explains all the things we didn’t get out of stories, past and present. I became hooked to this one last year after Marshall (with former Co-Host Michael Hobbs – Maintenance Phase) detailed what we were not understanding about the Wayfair/Trafficking drama. This year, the great episodes continue, and their analysis of ‘Cancel Culture’ is what I want to send to every person on Earth who misuses the term. Enjoy.

1

PODCAST: The 3028

EPISODE: MGM Grand Adventures Theme Park (4/8)

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/3028-oneseventytwo-mgm-grand-adventures-theme-park/id1203577635?i=1000516256815

If you follow me on social media at all, you know that the 3028 has definitely taken the crown in my podcast-loving heart this year. It has it all (cue: SNL Stefon voice) terrific hosts with entertaining banter, a wide range of topics, and beautiful editing. While the focus is primarily on Disney (though you might not guess from its name, but the real ones know!), both hosts Matt Parrish and Kevin Quigley showcase their own interests and expertise to weave well-written episodes appropriate for fans of all ages. It was most difficult to choose just one episode that was my favorite of the year, but their April Fools’ episode was definitely memorable, as it detailed an extinct theme park that I had never even heard of. If you have not yet started listening to these “two woke dopes,” what are you waiting for? Warning: you just may binge their entire library of episodes – there are 209+.

…so, there you have it! Please let me know if you check out any of these, and, of course, if you have recommendations for me, based on these!

Happy end of the year, and I hope to make this an annual tradition!

RECAP: New York City Marathon

This race was a long time in the making; from the first thought of registering for it and completing it as a race in the World Marathon Majors, to executing the plan (which was delayed due to COVID), and then arranging the trip and travel, in all, it was a great experience that I am so thankful I had the chance to take part in.

First, I have to thank Molly and Phil from New Balance, who were instrumental in securing my bib for this event. Entrance into this storied marathon can be just as difficult as training and running the race itself, and through their help, I was offered a non-complimentary New Balance sponsor bib. For this, I paid the same entry fee as the general registration, but did not have to enter the notoriously stringent lottery (which became even more restrictive after 2020’s race cancellation), or enter through a charity. I was so grateful for this opportunity, and was surprised on race day that it also included entrance to a VIP tent, with plush amenities like tables, chairs, our own supply of breakfast items and, perhaps most helpful, an exclusive bank of port-a-potties just for us!

But, more on that later.

You see, the road leading to the New York City Marathon started with a series of decisions this summer, of which included: who would go with me? What would my goal be? What was the plan? And surprisingly, things clicked into place! Within a few weeks, I determined that I would attempt my most challenging training cycle for a fall marathon – then New York would be the “victory lap” or celebration of the racing season. Thankfully for me, that’s just how it worked out! In October, I nabbed my Boston Qualifying time, spent two weeks recovering, then sprinkled in a few easy runs before wheels up to JFK in November.

With COVID concerns still rampant, I was thankful to have my parents come to our house to watch the kids, as Eric and I traveled to New York from Thursday to Monday. I chose a Thursday night bib pick up, in attempt to limit expo crowds (worked like a charm, this was so easy!), which allowed for two full days of playing tourist, a great race day, and a laid-back half day before heading home.

Now, I will likely detail other points of this trip at another time, but seeing as this is a “race recap,” I should probably get back to that now!

PRE RACE

On Saturday Night, Eric found a great thin pizza place for us to grab some slices as a top-up on carbs. It was a nice early evening, as we were able to sit down and enjoy our meal before the dinner crowds showed up. We even had ala mode deserts, yum! After our meal, we swung by a bakery for a pastry for my race morning breakfast, then it was back to the hotel, where I set out my race outfit and items,  flipped on the TV for a bit before drifting off to sleep around 9:30 PM, as my alarm was set early!

RACE DAY

I woke up 10 minutes before my 4:15 AM alarm, and downed some water. I put on my race outfit and outer layers, placed a water bottle in my throwaway bag, as well as my pastry (I wasn’t hungry yet), and set out to the Subway. Of course, I entered the wrong entrance (d’oh) and had to walk back up and out, but that was a minor issue. At the subway platform, I chatted with a fellow marathoner from Detroit to pass some time, and then made the trip to the Whitehall Terminal.

At the Ferry Terminal, runners silently shuffled through to the main loading area. We didn’t wait long before the large doors opened, and we continued on to to boat. I smiled to myself as I recalled the articles I had recently read about the inspiration of the Walt Disney World ferries, and noted their slight similarities. True, our destination was different, but really, no less magical!

The ride didn’t feel long. To be honest, I didn’t even keep track of the duration, as I just marveled at the people around me, and the view out the window (PRO TIP: sit on the right of the ferry to get a great view of the Statue of Liberty). Once we docked at Staten Island, it was another march out to the line of busses waiting to whisk us off to Fort Wadsworth, where the start line was staged.

Now, this bus ride felt longer than I thought it should, but again, no complaints as it was warm and comfortable. I met a nice runner whom I chatted with during the bus ride, and he told me about a bike ride he had done through all the NYC Burroughs, as well as his Ironman training, and previous Boston marathons. I excitedly told him that I’d be registering for my first Boston, and we shared in the excitement of both of us taking on our first NYCM. After departing the bus, we bid farewell and good luck!

Walking into the start area was like entering a military operation, as it basically is! Event security staff, as well as NYPD Counter Terrorism Officers wanded us through security checkpoints, and then we entered the villages. I made a beeline to the Dunkin’ tents for coffee and a famous pink and orange beanie, which this year were embroidered with beautiful gold 50th anniversary patches.

As I looked around for a place to sit (many runners were staking out curbs and soft grassy areas with their BYO pieces of cardboard, I spied a New Balance tent, and runners entering by showing their bibs with “NB” credentials. I looked down at mine and realized that I must’ve also had that access, and so approached the tent and was granted access.

Inside the tent was a dream! Many tables and chairs, our own supply of bagels, coffee, extra DD beanies, handwarmer packets, and as mentioned earlier – a bank of our own port-a-potties! I walked to the back of the tent area where I could grab a seat, and enjoyed my pastry I had brought, along with some coffee.

Before long, a group of runners arrived and asked if the seats around me were taken, to which I replied that they were not, and I’d be happy to have company. Now, this is already funny now, but these runners who arrived were just so warm and welcoming, quickly introducing themselves and just felt…like I knew them already? I couldn’t put my finger on it.

We chatted about the race, and some were new marathoners, some experienced, and like I said – just all so genuinely warm. We remarked on marathon tips, delighted in seeing the race take off on the bridge directly above our tent area, and laughed about bathroom rituals and race mistakes. Talking to them passed the time as each of our groups were called to the corrals, and we bid each other good luck and great races!! One of the gals asked me my Instagram name and said she’d look me up (more on that later).

Once in the corrals, the air was still cold, but the sun felt warm and comfortable, so I was able to comfortably toss my throwaway layers into the large blue donation bins in the corral. As we were called up (I was in Orange, Corral B, Wave 2), we inched closer to the Verrazano Bridge and become swept into the excitement – this was really happening! I turned my phone to airplane mode, switched on my Spotify playlist, and turned on my Aftershokz – it was nearly GO time!

After the anthem played, and a cannon set off and we were RUNNING! I barely noticed the uphill as “Start Spreading the NEEEWSSSS…” permeated the crisp air. It was a bluebird sky, and maybe it was my imagination, but all the surfaces had a golden sheen as we ascended the bridge. At the crest of the bridge, I could just hear light footfalls of the runners around me, then…just as we peaked over for our downhill, the familiar intro of “Dreams” by the Cranberries played and the moment was just perfect.

Now, I really wish I could tell you, in detail, the highlights of each Burrough and neighborhood of the race, but to be honest, it was one big happy blur. I don’t know if the signs didn’t appear until later (I recall seeing “Queens” and “The Bronx”) but NEW YORK CAME OUT for this race, and every street felt like a party. Spectators of all ages, with signs, whistles, pots, pans, drums…the energy was just so high octane!  I knew I was going too fast, but I couldn’t slow down, even if I tried. I reminded myself that I’d just go with how I felt, and that made it easier to just run for the fun of it, and although that was the complete opposite of my last marathon, that was not only okay, but the goal I was after.

It would be a lie to say that I loved EVERY minute, because CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE QUEENSBORO BRIDGE FOR A HOT MINUTE?! Ugh, ugh, ugh, there’s no way around that, it was awful. I felt boxed in, and I was starting to feel tired, and it felt like a relentless climb…yeah, I definitely walked a bit in there! It drained me for a while, but the joy that rushed over me as we finally left that chapter fueled me again.

Further on, I knew that I wanted to see my friends Danielle and Amelia on a street with a “100-something” in it, so I started scanning the left side of the roadway after 101. Much to my surprise, I actually saw them! I ran up and yelled hi and waved like a maniac!

My garmin screen was set with a “race” watch face with a current and average pace, and by then, it had settled in a little over 8:10’s and I figured I could coast in way under than my tentative plan of a sub-4, but for a few minutes, I wondered if I wanted to push for a sub 3:40. Throughout the race, I had employed the strategy of running to the last volunteer handing out water at the aid stations and downing my salt tabs and/or GUs, and on the run, decided that I should just keep that up, and shoot for 3:45.

So, I kept on, and much to my surprise, despite starting to sweat a bit by that point (around mile 22ish?), my calves had not cramped, but my quads were beginning to really tighten, no doubt from the hills. I walked out some discomfort, alternating walking and running with landmarks on the course, and managed to at least jog through most of Central Park, as I was happy to be off what seemed to be an eternity on 5th Avenue. 

That last bit that took us out, then back in to Central Park was another doozy; I was overcome with emotion as I was looking forward to being done with the whole running thing, but also kind of in disbelief that it was soon going to be all over. We had walked the finish area a few days earlier, and so it was very familiar…with the 800 M left sign, then the band, and the 400 M left…then I could see the finisher chute, and hone it all in for a strong finish!

I looked down and when I saw 3:42, I was delighted! Just 18 minutes slower than my PR and BQ a month ago, my fastest World Marathon Major finish, and third all-time best marathon time.

The walk out of the park was low-key and easy…received medal, recovery bag, and the famous bright blue poncho – what a lovely garment! Fleece lined and hooded, it felt like a dream as the breeze started to cool my sweaty skin.

I was a NYCM finisher!

POST RACE

The first order of business after exiting the park? LEVAIN BAKERY.

I had plotted out this plan, but wasn’t sure if I’d execute it until I pulled out my phone and realized just how close it was. So, I marched on over, ordered two delightful, large cookies and upon seeing my medal and unmistakable poncho, the friendly male clerk smiled and handed me my cookies in a paper bag and said, “they’re on the house, congratulations to you!” it warmed my heart so much I thanked him and was on my way to the Subway and back to the hotel.

At that point, I was so grateful that I had run a good race, and hadn’t pushed past my limit so the steps (down and up) weren’t frightening prospects!

Back in the room, I downed my recovery beverages and cleaned up, changing into Pajamas and planting myself on the hotel bed, where I watched Bridesmaids before a 7 PM dinner at Serendipity where we met up with Alan, one of my best friends from high school (he and his wife live in the city). It was such a great feeling to enjoy a night out after a wonderful day.

Now, if you read this far, you might wonder…so, why did those New Balance buddies seem so familiar? Well, it seems that their awesome run crew is not only inviting and friendly, but incredibly good looking and y’know, THE MODELS IN THE NB NYCM collection! OH MY GOSH. I was among celebrities!! Can you believe it? Big shout out to Goldfinger Track Club!

Check it all out here.

It’s funny, before I was bit by the NYCM bug, I wondered – what could be so special about this race? Sure, it’s a cool city and all, but…just like running, it’s about the PEOPLE. And boy, did New York show up. I get it.

“Secrets” of Marathon Success

Since publishing my recap of my Boston-qualifying race on Sunday, I’ve received so many wonderful notes of congratulations, as well as messages with questions about my preparation, race day, gear recommendations, and event information. Seeing as I am still hobbling around the house, I thought I’d write a follow-up post…so here goes:

What Marathon Training Plan did you use?

Hanson’s Marathon Method, Advanced Program. (amazon link)

This was the third time I used Hanson’s (I used Beginner’s twice in the past) and I believe it was a great match for me. I will note that I ran an abbreviated and slightly modified version (I switched the rest day, plus had 13 weeks lead in rather than the written 18), but I still logged 644 miles since July 5. I ran 6 days a week, and for the first few weeks, I was able to supplement training with core strength workouts and some Peloton rides, but as the mileage ramped up (peak week was 61 miles), I was mostly just running and stretching.

What shoes did you wear in training, and on race day?

I had a pretty good rotation of shoes this training cycle!

Easy runs: Hoka Clifton 7 or Hoka Rincon 2 /3 (I have two pair of Rincon)

Track runs: Reebok Floatride RunFast

Tempo/speedwork: Atreyu Base Model v1

Race Day: Saucony Endorphin Pro*

My precious! Endorphin Pro + Sparkle Athletic Race Wings!

*Now, I would not necessarily recommend this to anyone, but I had been planning to race in Atreyu’s race shoe (The Artist) but due to shipping delays (I had ordered in a pre-order period), I realized it would not be arriving in time. About 10 days out from race day, I decided to do some quick searching as to what shoe might be a good alternative, and happened to discover that the Endorphin Pro had just been updated, which meant the older model was heavily discounted, so I took my first risk of this marathon, and ordered. I received the shoe within two days, and was able to test them just once on an easy run, but I just had a feeling they were for me.

How did you choose your race day outfit?

I trained all summer in a similar “uniform” – Oiselle Roga Shorts, Oiselle Runner Trucker hat, and Handful Y-Back sports bras. I run very hot, and have found that I feel the most comfortable when no extra “things” are bothering me (for chafing, adjusting, etc).

For this race, I continued that theme, opting for the “toolbelt” version of the roga shorts to carry all five GU packets and my car key, adding an Oiselle crop top (the mettle crop top! It’s on sale now), my Koala Clip to carry my phone (use Kristina10 for 10% off your Koala Clip purchase!), and my favorite Balega Hidden Running Socks.

Pre-race, I bundled up with an XL track jacket I bought at Walmart, old sweatpants, dollar store gloves, and socks with the toe cut off for makeshift armwarmers (I ditched the armwarmers at the Mile 15 aid station).

How did you feel during the race?

I felt pretty dialed in, despite being a little nervous at the aggressive start! When I pulled away from the pacer, I knew I was taking a risk, but I accepted it. I had this bopping around my head from the Struts:

“I wanna taste love and pain
Wanna feel pride and shame
I don’t wanna take my time
Don’t wanna waste one line
I wanna live better days
Never look back and say
Could have been me

Truth be told, I knew that I could crash and burn when I made my move, but I committed to getting gutsy. I questioned this confidence with about 5K left, but by that point, it was time to go all or nothing!

This was also the very first marathon I ever felt completely gassed out at the end – truly left it all out on the course.

When will you try to PR the marathon again?

It’ll be a while! I really love the marathon distance, but I also greatly respect it. I have at least three more big races on my mind that I hope to just soak in, and removing a time goal sounds very appealing for me. While shorter distances truly terrify me, I am thinking that will be my interim challenge – maybe 5K?

So, there you have it! If you have any other questions, please let me know! I am still basking in wonderment over the whole thing!

RECAP: BQ at Inaugural Mud Mountain Dam Marathon

PREFACE

This summer, I fully committed to a goal that was years in the making: qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

I had first dreamed of this back in 2012, a few months after running my very first marathon, Richmond. To say I severely misjudged the challenge that this might be would probably be the understatement of the century! Over the years, I set out to reach the elusive BQ time (which, through the years, and my age changes, and the qualification standards fluctuating) has been to beat the 3:35 time.

While I *thought* I was prepared a few times through the years, my first real stab at the time came in 2013, when I ran the Space Coast Marathon and bonked severely at Mile 25, yielding a 3:43, which matched my Baltimore time from a year before. In 2014, I attempted at 26.2 with DONNA (though looking back, I definitely didn’t recover fully from Space Coast so this probably wasn’t the wisest idea) then that fall, Chicago, which was also a wash as I ran sick and the wheels fell off way too early. My 3:43 PR held for a while, as I took some time from the distance, had Abby, then trained for a 3:40 at the 2017 Celebration Marathon, and hit that right on the mark. It was the third time that I had used Hanson’s Marathon Method, and I knew that, given PROPER dedication to the plan, more focus on nutrition, fueling and REST (this might be the hardest part!), I could one day push the envelope a little more.

Of course, time has a way of…shall we say…changing your plans. In 2018, obviously, Ellie was born, so no marathons, then in 2019: Walt Disney World, and London, which were both “fun” and not serious race attempts. So naturally, I was itching to hit some goals in 2020, but – we all know how that went.

So…fast forward to 2021. I had the determination, the time, and the race picked out. Showtime.

MUD MOUNTAIN DAM MARATHON – at a glance

This race was appealing to me in several ways: local, gentle downhill, and early fall date. Starting at a higher elevation at Mud Mountain Dam Park, the course meandered down a (paved) mountain road, across the highway bridge (a lane was closed for us), then onto the Foothills Trail.

The only thing that scared me was that the USATF Certification was pending, which is required for the race to be accepted as a qualifier. I got into contact with Tony, the race director, and he assured me it would be done. Spoiler alert: it was!

Being an inaugural event, I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised at the organization, nice swag (the pullover top and medal are great!) and communication was always smooth. My only suggestion would be more course marking, which may have been better than I perceived as the first 1/4 of the race was misty/rainy and it was hard to really see anything, anyway 😉

RACE DAY

The race start was 7:30 AM, and as a point to point course, a shuttle was provided from the Orting Middle School, about 22 miles from the start. The shuttles departed at 6 and 6:15 AM, and that went off without a hitch.

I had worked backward for my own personal race prep with those times in mind, setting a 4:30 AM alarm (I woke up on my own at 4:15, yipee haha), with ample time for water, coffee and breakfast (the same thing I eat every morning – multigrain english muffin with egg and cheese). Hit the bathroom, filled a water bottle, and headed out at 5:20 AM.

The bus ride was a little over half an hour, and once we arrived at the staging area (I was hanging out with my friend Mande), we scoped out the *real* bathrooms, and sat in a covered picnic area. I was very happy that I had my full throwaways as it was pretty breezy up there.

At around 7:20, we decided to gather up our bag drop items to the low-key drop area (a nice volunteer was placing bags in a large box in front of a van), and got in formation near the start. The race director made some opening announcements (and called me out for my 3:30 goal! Haha!) and introduced me to the ONE pacer that would be running.

The pacer, Scott, I had met before. He’s a fun, really cool guy that, after hearing the announcement, told me that he had a non-traditional pacing plan that focused on even effort, not even splits. That made me nervous! Then, he dropped the bomb that he’d be starting in the 7’s! AHhh! Alarm bells! I told him I could keep him in my sights, but wasn’t sure about that pace! He reassured me that I would hit the time if I stuck with him.

Spoiler alert: I did stick with him. For a while, anyway…

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

Scott did have a great point – there was a massive downhill those first two miles, but oh mama, was I nervous seeing those paces come in! From the start gun, we (Scott, myself, and a nice woman named Wendy I had been chatting with earlier) were a solid little trifecta, striding down the mountain. Around Mile 4/5, the mist arrived, then a cold rain.

Pushing through each mile, Scott had us repeat that the last mile was behind us, the next mile was ahead of us, and the party was, of course “RIGHT HERE!” he was super positive and constantly re-stated the plan that even effort would get us to our goal.

Now, this was all well and good – down the mountain, onto Highway 410, and down the gravel pathway to the beginning of the Foothills Trail. At Mile 8, we were in Buckley, and there, something clicked in me.

Scott and Wendy has slowed down for a stop at the aid station, but I just felt a groove that I couldn’t stop. I figured I’d just jog up a little, and we’d reform into our little pack. But I didn’t see them over my shoulder after we crossed the road onto the second stretch of trail, and took my first chance, not knowing if it was the right thing.

You can see Scott and Wendy right behind me here
pic credit: Jess

It was Mile 9, and I just was surprised on course to see my running pals, Sam, Jess and Camille! They had signs and cheered! We had done so many miles together since I began running with the group when we first moved here, but even more so since last year, and it was such a re-charge for me! I felt lighter on my feet, thinking about all the laughs and chats, and running down that stretch, I briefly closed my eyes and recollected the countless summer tempo runs I had taken down that very path. The temperature was still comfortable, albeit humid from the rain that had slowed, and I remembered the last long run I had just done a little over a week before, when I sailed through that portion, and let those thoughts fuel me.

A little after 13.1, pic credit: Camille

Until this point, I had been taking my GU packets every 5 miles – 5, 10 – and sipping from my handheld bottle. As I passed the halfway point (at 1:40, an unofficial PR!) I was happy to see Camille again, and I kept moving along to a brief out and back section (around Mile 15) that threw me off a bit as I had never trained there (a country road with some twists and turns), but then I stopped for the first time in the race to refill my water bottle and take that third GU before continuing on. It was my slowest mile of the race.

The next few miles clicked off pretty well, but I realized I was either still soaked from the earlier rain, or super sweaty – and likely a combination of both. I recollected the time I had gotten too cold at the end of Space Coast, and vowed not to let that happen! I drank liberally, and stopped again at the Mile 19.2 aid station for another bottle fill up, where I saw Camille once again! Yay!

Eric had made plans to cheer with the girls around Mile 22 in the Orting park, but I wondered if they’d be there since I was ahead of pace. I scanned the parking lot as I ran down the path, but didn’t see our truck. I did see Camille again! Dang! She was like a cheering ninja! I stopped to walk a few paces as my right calf was beginning to develop those dreaded cramps, but I could feel that finish line, and kept it going (fun part: a cop stopped traffic at the intersection for me to run across!)

Headed out of Orting, I did my best to keep pushing, though I now had a bit of a side cramp. I took my fist and just jammed it in to my side, which seemed to help a bit. Around Mile 23, I could see neon posterboards ahead, and knew immediately it was Eric, Abby and Ellie! I did my best to adjust my posture and power by with a smile! Eric told me to keep pushing it.

In the Golf Club area, pic credit: Kriss

Ahead, I knew the last bit of the race was a second out and back, but this one through the Highland Golf Club neighborhood. There was an aid station placed strategically that you could hit it twice if need be, so I hit it at the start, re-filling my handheld one more time, took and extra GU (if we’re keeping score: Miles 5, 10, 15, 20 and now 25ish) and made my way around the beautiful homes and fairways.

It was nice at this point as we were really blended in with half marathoners (they had started at the South Prarie Trailhead area), and so I got to see a handful of friends that I often run with. Kriss even snapped some fun pics and cheered as I powered through.

Making the last turns out of that club, I realized that this was it. I hadn’t been checking my running time on the watch; only my current pace, and when I saw where I was, I was in temporary disbelief! Not only would I be surpassing all three of my race goals (including the one I felt was a notch above my ability) I’d be going under!

That last stretch to the finish was one to remember.

My Spotify playlist had been spot-on all race, but it really shined those last two songs: “Locust Laced” by Sleigh Bells – which had been my rally/power song in my track and speed intervals, and then, like magic, “Burn the White Flag” by Joseph, which I had adopted as one of my race mantras! Perfection!

I mustered up all I had left, and probably started the surge a little too early (haha, those finish arches always deceive me!) but I could see Eric and the kids on the left, and a beautiful 3:26:xx on the digital clock. I probably gritted my teeth and looked delirious at that point, but I crossed that timing mat, and had the most incredible sensation sweep over me.

I did it.

Eric revealed the backside of the sign he was carrying that had said, “GO KRISSY” had “BOSTON QUALIFIER” printed on the back. I was more than happy to have my picture snapped with that!

Y’all. I did it. I really finally did it!

I am a little under 9 minutes from my qualifying time of 3:35, and am hopeful that I have what it takes for 2022 Boston. Registration opens next month, so that will be another experience in itself!

If you made it this far – wow, you also deserve a medal. How about this one:

Congratulations, DAM IT!

So, until next month, in NYCM…I’ll be basking in this accomplishment. Thank you to all the wonderful people who believed in me. It was worth the wait.