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.

RECAP: Ragnar Sunset Seattle

The medals form a SUPER MEDAL!

Just last month, some fun gals from my running group asked me if I was free on September 11, as there was an opening on their Ragnar Team for the Sunset Seattle event. Having never done a Ragnar event, I was intrigued, so agreed, and I am so glad that I did!

WHAT IS A RAGNAR RELAY?

The origin story of Ragnar is interesting! It all began with one relay (188 miles), but within a decade, the format became more solidified, with 200 mile road courses being the most common, with teams of 4-12 runners shuttling, running and inching from start to finish over the course of around two days. As Ragnar popularity grew, more event types and locations were offered, and today, there are opportunities to join countless relay, trail relay, sprint, and even “Sunset” versions of the event, which we did today.

Our little basecamp!

The format of the Sunset event is simple: a loop course of approximately 31 miles is split over eight legs (which can be tackled by regular (4 person) or ultra (2 person) teams that alternate to complete the distance “before sunset.” With COVID regulations, this was definitely achievable with a variety of staggered start times, and plenty of outside social distancing as each team sets up their own base camp, complete with canopy tents, chairs, and whatever BYO snacks you want!

Bonus for us? We arrived early enough to pick out a great spot to set up right near our other fun running group friends, so we had a row of fantastic tent space and lots of pals to chat with.

This was definitely a great way to initiate myself into the Ragnar lifestyle, and I had a blast running it!

MY LEGS

Before the start

In your team, you decide amongst yourselves how you’d like to start your runners. All my teammates, as experienced Ragnarians, had some strategy and preferences, so we went with Mande as our starter, for a speedy kick off, followed by Camille, Tammi, then me to bring it in.

Last section of last leg!

The loop turned out to be about 3.4 miles of mixed terrain – grassy field, some rooty trail, some sidewalk, and some park paved path. The course was never too crowded, which was nice, and it featured some nice up and down smooth rolling hills.

To ensure smooth transitions, we made a plan of texting the group when we had about 1 mile left to run, therein the group would move to the transition tent, and have the next runner ready to go. Between runs, we hung out at our tent, browsed the festival area (there were a few vendors and a big merch shop) and snacked.

My first loop felt a bit tough! In effort to keep up my marathon training schedule, I rescheduled my long run to Friday (yesterday) so I wasn’t sure how I might run today.

Starting out, it felt very warm, and I had to get my footing – the first quarter mile was a grassy field, with some worn down packed dirt areas. I passed a few runners, and felt more at ease once I completed the first mile. From there, it clicked a bit better, I got my breathing more evened out, and I completed my first loop in 27:25 (8:02 pace).

After more hang time, it was my turn again before I knew it!

As the last runner, I’d meet my team at an orange arch right before running in, so we could finish together. So, I did my best to hit an even pace once again, and though I felt a bit tired from the earlier leg, I was running on excitement for completing our relay, so I was able to get through that second loop on some happy fumes, and as I turned the last major corner, running past the Lake Sammamish Beach on one side, and the event area on the other, I sped down to path to greet my teammates, who handed me my matching red shirt, and we all proceeded to the finish chute together! My second loop was 28:41 (8:22 pace) which included my outfit change and our minor hold up as we allowed some space for a team adjacent to us to finish before us, but we definitely beat the sunset, so MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

FINISHERS!

It was such a fun feeling to cross together, and as soon as we finished up, we proceeded to the medal table (my teammates are all rockstars who were earning the DOUBLE DARE!!) and then to the finish photo area. (P.S. the photographer was SO funny and he made us laugh despite how tired we were, so kudos to him).

After that, we headed to our basecamp to change, then break down, pack up, and head home.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed my first stint into the Ragnar world, and am so lucky to have been initiated so kindly by Veteran Ragnarians. I don’t know when I might try even more of these (my race schedule depending), but today was a great day to jump right in!

SPECIAL THANKS

Special thanks to my whole awesome team! Extra shout outs to Mande for carpooling with me to Tammi’s, Tammi for driving us all to the site (along with incredible truck loading and unloading expertise!!), Camille for heading up the team, and Leslie and Lisa, our extended teammates ❤

Recap: The End is Near – Zombie Dash!

Heyooooo!

It’s been a slice, but I am excited to share that I am updating for a super exciting reason – I just hit an official/unofficial Half Marathon PR – and even cooler, it’s just about two years after I had bested the distance at Iron Horse Half, and I used today as the basis to earn my *virtual* Imaginary Horse Half (the at-home version of this very awesome Orca Running Race).

Awesome Kandi (of Pop Up Races) and more of my run pals!

I am not even sure if I remember how to write a race recap, but I will give it the old college try, as I probably should commemorate this awesome morning.

ABOUT THE RACE

The race itself, was great! As mentioned above, it was called The End is Near: Zombie Dash! as it’s the first of a series over the Labor Day Weekend, hosted by Pop Up Races on the nearby Foothills Trail. The races are no-frills, but unique; well-organized and supported, always feature cool finisher medals, and boast a friendly host of staff and volunteers.

In accordance with COVID protocols, the races feature wave starts of just a handful of runners, so there’s no unnecessary milling around, or needless huddling and waiting. Additionally, since the races take place on a local rail trail, there’s no confusion on the course, as the out-and-backs avoid navigational drama with well-marked turn around markers for each distance (there were a 5K, 10K and 13.1 offered today).

After the race, there was a great spread of cold beverages, packaged snacks, and great conversation.

This was my second Pop Up Race, and it was such a smoothly run and enjoyable experience!

MY RACE RECAP

With the rolling start, I had the flexibility of arriving anytime between 6:30 and 7:15 AM. The starting area, near the Orting Skatepark, is about 15 minutes away, so I was able to leisurely wake up at my weekday alarm time of 6 AM, grab a snack to nibble on the way over, park, chat then start just after 7.

I started the race with Stephanie, someone I recognized from the very first time I ran a race on the Foothills Trail, in August 2019, when she pushed a triple stroller and I tailed her for miles in awe.

But back to today!

Once Kandi (race director) set us off, I hit the trail, and fell into my tempo pace comfortably. Unfortunately, it was 1.5 miles in until I realized I had set my Spotify playlist on some tracks I was not familiar with and I *really* wanted to hear my specific running mix. Since I was out there for fun and a strong run, I decided to sacrifice that mile and stop, remove my phone, pull up my list, and get back at it. I lost about 30 seconds, but it was worth it.

The following miles clicked off – 3,4,5, and I started to visualize the turn around point. As I crested a small incline, I saw my friend Dan coming back, smiled and waved, and estimated I was around 10 minutes behind him.

Running the straightway toward the turnaround, I saw a runner ahead of me, and spotted the race’s signature neon flags to signal the spot on the trail. As soon as I crossed the threshold to the second half of the race, I felt a lightness in my feet, and trotted on to the comforting gentle downhill that led back to the finish.

Right around mile 9, I encountered the most lovely sight when I spotted my friend Keyle pedaling her way up the trail in her adorable adult tricycle, rear basket filled to the brim with refreshments and snacks! I graciously accepted a bottle of water, and took my GU that I had stashed in my shorts pocket (Pineapple Roctane!) and continued on my way.

Mile 10 – I dumped the remaining contents of my water, and tossed the bottle into the bin at the (stationary) aid station, thanked the volunteers, and once again hit the trail.

Mile 11 – a quick glance at my watch, and I saw a 1:2x:xx – I didn’t even notice what those other numbers were, but I was totally shocked! I knew that I was hitting some good splits, but I am never good at estimating my finish time, so it didn’t occur to me that I could actually PR – I thought I’d just coast in at my regular finish “zone” (1:45-1:50ish). But, realizing that if I could hit two low 7’s for the remaining miles, I’d likely go under my previous PR (1:44:xx), I decided to push it a bit, and take it home with the best effort I could give.

Mile 12 felt long, as I hit the stretch alongside the river, but I was cheered up by seeing my friends Leslie and Rosemary, so that gave me a good boost, before heading into the final mile, doing a little dodging as I made my way through groups of fishermen on their way to their favorite spots.

As I closed in to the finish, I gave a final kick and hit that last segment, finishing at 1:42:31 on my watch, and 1:43 flat for official results, either way, 1-2 minutes PR for me in the half distance!

I need to go back and count backward to see how many halves I have completed at this point, but based on the low-stress, high-reward vibe of today, I have to say that this experience definitely marks one of the best 13.1’s I can recall in recent history. Oh, and did I mention I won?

Sure, there were only 24 runners, but dang, that’s always a confidence booster, isn’t it?

Today was just what I needed, after two weeks of looser training plan following and the subsequent worrying if I was losing fitness (on account of my schedule being different with the kids out of camp/school), but after this week, I should be back to my scheduled workouts, and closing the gap to the BIG event of the fall – my October Marathon!

Training Updates

Why, hello there!

It’s been several weeks since my last update, which blows my mind, but ever since Spring of 2021, it seems that I have lost all sense of space and time, so that kind of makes sense. So, let me set the scene for anyone catching up here: in my last blog entry, I revealed the exciting news that I had just registered for my fourth World Major Marathon – The New York City Marathon – the 50th running of the storied race, and I was just over the moon in excitement, scurrying about, securing reservations, working on training plans, and just freaking out with excitement at the idea of it all.

Well, since then, it’s gotten even more real, as I made the decision to add another event to my fall; not only another marathon, but an earnest attempt – the first, really, since 2014 – to give a go at qualifying for Boston.

So, I shifted my mindset, copied down my training plan, and got to work that day – July 5, 2021 – as my first week in a brand new training cycle. I decided on a modified Advanced Hansons Marathon Method plan, and got going. With 13 weeks to race day, I knew I had to train smart, yet still stay realistic about my goal, so I told myself to get 1/3 of the way in before officially registering, and thus fully committing, to the race.

Those first few weeks weren’t easy, but I showed up for each workout: easy runs, track sessions, tempo, and long runs – running six days a week, with mileage topping 40-50 miles a week. The structure of my weeks with the girls in summer camp worked well to my advantage, as I’d hit the trails or track after dropping them off, which has meant better sleep than my cycles in the past (where I had to wake up to run before getting them ready in the morning), and I know that’s made a world of difference.

On July 28, I had reached 4 weeks on the plan, with only one missed workout, and was feeling both consistent and confident enough to seal the deal, and I registered that evening for the Mud Mountain Dam Marathon, while relaxing on the couch, watching Sleepless in Seattle.

Since then, I’ve kept at it – I am now at week 7 of 13, and hit my highest mileage week yet (60.5). I’m still working on locking in paces (my tempo runs are consistently faster than my targets, as I get this strange anxiety over numbers sometimes) and working on keeping easy runs as easy as possible (my Wednesday Group runs help a lot), but in general, I’ve been pleased with the physical side of the training.

Monday Runs are my hands-down favorite!!

Now, the thing I am really focusing on – at six weeks to go – is the mental game. I have self-sabotaged in the past, and I know that it’s the thing I need to really work on the most. I’ve proven to myself that I can do the hard work, and that the results do show – but the brain part – that’s been a big challenge, as always.

To combat this, I’ve worked on, at varying levels of success:

  • Reminding myself that the most I can do is to keep showing up
  • Repeating the idea that running is something that is ADDING to my life (in confidence-building, endorphin-creating, and FUN), and thus, should not cause stress, or take away anything from me
  • Adopting a mantra/theme to the training cycle

(source)

I was inspired by a song on my running playlist called “Burn the White Flag” by Joseph. If you have never heard it, here you go:

It is so good.

My fave lines:

They say “you’d better give up, you’d better give up

I’ll be an army, no you’re
Not gonna stop me gettin’ through, ooh
I’ll sing a marching song and
Stomp through the halls louder than you, ooh

I could surrender but I’d
Just be pretending, no I’d
Rather be dead than live a lie
Burn the white flag

And let me tell you, over the past few weeks, I have found myself whispering this mantra to myself- even today, as I struggled to get into the rhythm in the first few tempo miles. I’d calm my breathing, ask myself how I felt, scan my body for any physical impediments, sip some water, repeat that mantra, “burn the white flag” then remind myself about how accomplished I’d feel to complete this, but also gently confirm the WHY behind it, and each time, I found my legs back at it before my brain could catch up.

Looking ahead for the next few weeks, I know that there will be days that it will feel hard, and moments that I’ll question myself – but as long as my heart still guides this goal, I will do my best to follow it.

2021 State of Running (and another World Marathon Major!)

It’s officially 8 days out from my last marathon, so today, I am revisiting a post from last year, about running goals, and looking ahead to what my 2021 will ideally look like, running-wise.

Hiking Dug!

First off, the boring news.

I’ve been recovering well! The two days after the marathon, I kept up my June run streak and eeked out a few robotic-like miles, and did some easy Peloton rides. Then, we embarked on a two-night family retreat to a cabin in Skykomish on the Tye River last week, and I took two days off of running. We took an easy hike, walked around Leavenworth, relaxed in the hot tub, and just chilled out.

Upon our arrival home, I’ve returned to my regularly scheduled easy running, and feel good! My Garmin status says, “Peaking” which makes me laugh a bit, and I re-took my Peloton FTP test over the weekend. Fitness feels good, and I am excited to think about what’s next.

Next, the EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT!

Now, I have already shared this on twitter, but it’s taken a few days for it to sink in for me before I could get coherent thoughts out, but oh my goodness, it really is real:

WMM #4!

Yes! This November, I will be toeing the line at my FOURTH World Marathon Major, the 2021 TCS New York City Marathon!

For a brief refresher, the Abbott World Marathon Majors are comprised of six (at the time of this post being written – it’s been rumored that another may be added) large-scale marathon races across the globe. I first posted about this series in 2013, and since then, I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of completing Chicago, Tokyo and London. In fact, the day I wrote my belated London Marathon recap post was what to become the last running of the New York City Marathon (2019), and motivated me to find a way to get myself to New York City.

So, in the fall of 2019, I reached out to my contact at New Balance (from my past job)* to inquire about bibs. The response was positive, but seeing as it was so far out to the next race, was asked to inquire again in June 2020, when registration opens. Of course…2020 happened, and this whole plan went onto the back burner.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, as I saw social media buzz about the race again, and I realized it was time to register for the 2021 event! So, I thought, “why not?” and reached out again, and graciously, my request was granted, and within days, I had an invitation from NYRR to register!

The bib I received is a non-complimentary bib, which means the regular price ($295), but given the difficulty to obtain entry (via lottery, time qualification, or charity entrance), it was worth more than its weight in gold to me, and I am so grateful. With COVID restrictions, the field is down to 33,000, which is down its usual range near 50K.

On top of it being the first NYC Marathon back since the pandemic, it’s also the 50th running, and I am looking forward to all of the excitement built around that!

This weekend, I did some research on our travel – hotel, entertainment, etc – but of course, am open to any and all suggestions as I create a bucket list of experiences for the trip!

After a rough year of managing race disappointment, it is so exciting to be anticipating something MAJOR again! So, not like I am counting but, let the 125 day countdown begin! 😉

*For obvious reasons, I am leaving out my contact’s info 🙂

RECAP: Super Marathon 2021

Post-race sign selfie!

Yesterday, I crossed the finish line of the 2021 Run Super Series Super Marathon, my 19th full marathon. My official result was 4:01:59, not my fastest or slowest, but definitely the hottest I have run, which is an interesting observation, given it was my first in Washington state, not known for scorching temperatures, but I suppose I was just lucky 😉

Running this marathon was significant in a few ways – it was my first race back since the pandemic (I ran a half in March 2020 – probably the last weekend that any races went off in the U.S. in a “normal” capacity) and my first marathon back since London. When I initially registered for it, it was supposed to be last June, and I had gone all in on training – I had personalized coaching, was running targeted workouts, and had developed my VO2 max (via Garmin) the highest that I had ever seen – then of course, there was no race.

Since then, I’ve been staying active with running and Peloton, maintaining a fitness level, but unsure of where I was. I decided, for this marathon, I’d use it as a gauge of where I was. Of course, historic high temperatures somewhat thwarted my observation, but one day later, analyzing my splits, I am pretty pleased.

So, here’s a brief recap of how it all went down!

PRE RACE

The morning started early – 3 AM for a 3:45 AM pickup from my running girlfriends Lisa and Jess. They were both volunteering on the course, and generously offered to transport me to the start, which was wonderful! The drive up was quick (not much traffic at O’dark thirty!) and we arrived at the start staging area at around 5:15 – this race has only same-day packet pickup, and that went smoothly, as I picked up my bib and drop bag. Since the start area is a parking lot for various hiking trails, there are real restrooms, which I was able to pop into, then meander to the start area, where I briefly met up with some friends from the PNW Ladies Running Group I am in on Facebook.

PNW Ladies

RACE START

The start was a mass start, which was a little congested initially, but it cleared up in about 1/3 of a mile. The first 5 miles of the race are an out and back with very slight elevation change.

Splits –> 8:24, 8:05, 8:05, 8:05, 8:08.

Those miles felt easy and comfortable, and before I knew it, the course crossed the parking lot, and headed down to the trail that leads to the infamous tunnel.

Running through the tunnel was a trip, as always! It’s kind of dream-like, as it’s so dark, and of course, the running through was not without (minor) incident – my darn headlamp decided to stop working, so I had to tuck behind someone else with a bright light. Also! Here’s a giggle – I was thinking the tunnel was very foggy and sauna-like, but I figured it out around halfway that it was because I had simply forgotten to remove my sunglasses! All of a sudden, I could see clearly again. I guess that says a lot about how comfortable goodr sunglasses are 😉

Tunnel Miles –> 8:24, 8:14

After the tunnel, the trail began its gentle descent, and it was smooth sailing for a few miles. The temperature was getting warmer, but there was a decent amount of shade, so those miles clicked off without incident. I took my first fuel packet (Untapped Maple) at 8 miles.

Splits –> 7:56, 7:52, 7:55, 7:58

I was only casually noticing the beeps of my Garmin, as I realized I was already overrunning the course a bit, as my splits were popping up before the mile markers. I was also realizing the major difference between the sunny and shaded portions of the course.

HALFWAY POINT

Interesting fact: I think this is the first race (other than Tokyo, as I didn’t wear a watch then) that I didn’t note my half-marathon time. I still felt fine, but knew I was slowing down a bit.

Splits –> 8:58, 9:09, 8:23, 8:56

At mile 16, I took my second packet of fuel, and was starting to feel the strain of the heat. I sent a text to Eric and told him not to worry that I was slowing down. My legs still felt good, but a slight side stitch was developing on my right side. I ran the shaded parts, and walked all the areas with direct sunlight, as those areas really seemed to zap my energy. I distracted my annoyance at the sun by taking some pictures along the way.

Somewhat struggling splits –> 10:12, 9:37, 9:58, 11:25, 12:29, 11:43

At mile 23, I took my final fuel packet and I think the water and electrolytes were finally kicking back in, and I was able to pull it together and run more. Knowing that I had a little more than 5K to go (I was about .7 ahead of mile markers at that point), I ran as much as I could.

By this point, there were a few other runners who seemed to be in the same boat as me, taking brief walk breaks. I chatted up a few, and we encouraged each other! It was nice to feel that race connection again, it was definitely something I missed and appreciated.

Last few miles –> 9:27, 8:56, 9:02, 8:36 and last .9, 7:59

Finishing up the marathon!

Right before mile 26, I was happy to see Jess and Lisa, as they were course marshals for a significant race turn, and they snapped some pics and cheered!

THE FINISH LINE

As I approached the finish line, I had an *almost* harrowing experience as I slipped on loose gravel and almost fell! Thankfully, I was able to regain my footing, and made it safely to the finish line, completing 26.96 miles (I am such an overachiever, haha) right at 4:01:59.

POST RACE

After finishing the run and collecting my medal, I made it down the chute (and congratulated one of the runners I had seen during struggle bus time, hah!), picked up my drop bag, then collected some refreshments (water, coke, chips). I sat down at a shaded picnic table and chatted with a few other runners – we had some lively conversation, and it was great just relaxing.

After most of my sweat was dried, I changed into dry, clean clothes and headed back up toward the course, cheered in some runners, then made my way to Jess and Lisa until the course was cleared.

Post-race, I felt pretty good – no significant soreness, and after a stop at Starbucks (yay big reward drink!!) we were on the road back home.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Apart from the weather, which obviously was out of anyone’s control, I have no complaints about this race. The organization and communication were clear, the course was well-supported, and all staff and volunteers were very friendly and helpful. The natural beauty of the event was wonderful, and looking back at my splits, I feel confident about my fitness level, and I am excited about what’s next…

500!

A year of Peloton Milestones!

Hello there! It’s been a hot minute since I posted, and a few months since I posted about Peloton, so I was a bit overdue for any update 🙂

This morning, I hopped on at 6 AM for a live ride with one of my favorite new instructors, Bradley Rose, of the London studio. I have to say, as I approached this 500th ride milestone, I was very adamant about finding a class that would fit in my schedule (since I usually ride at night, but with the time zones, morning are usually a better bet for me to ride uninterrupted v. afternoon live classes), but when I found out that this class would feature a Pop Punk playlist, it was a no-brainer!

Now, I must admit – I do take these milestone rides quite seriously, and therefore, am sure to prepare with my little photo setup, freshly inflated balloons (fun fact – I didn’t have to buy any new number balloons this time – I save the extras in a drawer, and put the “current’ milestone number up on the wall). Since this was a pop-punk theme, I even changed up the makeup and accessories a bit, and added black nail polish for effect 😉 All details that probably only I care about, but it is fun and helps me prepare for a momentous ride!

I logged in a few minutes early, and was delighted to see a group of friends joining me (hi Jen, Michelle, Ali and Sarah!) and from the jump, it was a high-energy ride. I didn’t know the playlist beforehand, but I checked it afterward and it was definitely a nostalgic listen/experience:

  • Feeling This – Blink-182
  • Basket Case – Green Day
  • I Write Sins Not Tragedies – Panic! At the Disco
  • Irresistible – Fall Out Boy
  • The Kids Aren’t Alright – The Offspring
  • Swing, Swing – The All-American Rejects
  • Hear You Me – Jimmy Eat World

I of course had *planned* to not go all-out in this ride as I had just taken a stack the night before and foolishly believed if I took it easy this morning I wouldn’t have to take another shower within 12-hours of the last one, but that thought was quickly discarded when I went for every push Bradley prescribed, and did the best to chase Michelle up the leaderboard (she is a BEAST!!!) As we edged closer to the end of 20-minutes, I resigned to the fact that I would need another shower and hightailed that output into a 6-point PR!

Other fun highlights? I got another SHOUTOUT! My second one ever (first was from Leanne in my birthday/400th ride this past April), and it was just a few minutes in (during Green Day), so that was pretty great.

So, what’s next with Peloton goal-setting?

I recently re-tested my FTP, and have started on the “Build Your Power Zones” program, so that’s 3-classes a week focusing on zones, plus any other fun rides, and of course, running as my first marathon back (!!!) will take place at the end of the month. I have decided that marathon will be a placemaker to see where I am, fitness-wise, and to decide on the next round of goals.

Thanks again to all who gave high-5’s on the ride, all who have sent congratulations, and everyone who has supported me on this fun little obsession.

Until next time, see you on the Leaderboard!!!

Love,

#MinnieVanMom

Lately.

Selfie, 4/22

It’s been a while since I updated this blog, and I really miss it! I could spend a few minutes sharing all the excuses and reasons that I haven’t posted since February (oops), but you wouldn’t read it anyway, so let’s move on.

I have a few backlogs of thought explosions, and so, I thought it best to focus on one at a time. So, here we go for today: An Opinion on Opinions.

Recently, I’ve come to realize that many people like sharing their opinions (okay, that’s a lie, that’s something that I have always noticed). However, what I really have noticed is that many individuals, often cloaked under the guise of over-exaggerated analogies (I am looking at you, “Abusive Partner” story that’d going around) are becoming more insistent that somehow, their extreme, emotion-based rants will somehow change the minds of the opposing view.

For them, and for everyone – that’s not how it works. At all.

Society thrives with a diversity of thought. We move ahead, together, when we stop and LISTEN. But LISTENING requires conversations, not one-sided rants and an unwillingness to understand where someone is coming from.

Often, the problem that many find ourselves in – especially on the Internet – is that we frequent spaces that quickly become echo chambers. We bounce our ideas off of people we are confident will agree with us, and that can be dangerous. I am definitely guilty of this! The first step in moving past these pockets, however, is to go beyond expressing thought beyond gut-feelings, and share real-life examples, and even better, fact-based evidence to support the topics we express.

It’s easy to attack an idea, but when we share our humanity, I believe we can reach a point where we can step back and think: wait, maybe this person has a point, and maybe, we can do something about it to make it better.

For me, this was proven to me in my recent reading of Aubrey Gordon’s “What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat.” I am an avid listener of Gordon’s “Maintenance Phase” podcast, and was eager to hear more from her on a topic I admittedly knew very little about. Listening (I read via the audiobook, checked out from my local library) to her stories, presented with scientific studies, real-life anecdotes, and an objective voice that was both confident and compelling, I was often uncomfortable, outside of my knowledge base, and, as the chapters unfolded, open to receiving that message.

In this life, there will be things we do not understand, but it’s our responsibility to educate and better ourselves. We will be wrong sometimes, but that willingness to listen will make the difference.

Side note: I’ve also learned, and have been actively practicing this lesson: it’s not our job to debate every bold statement we see or hear. Emotional health is important. Choose your battles.

Until next time (and a lighter topic),

Krissy