Miami Half Marathon Recap

Big hello on this Monday! Hope your week is off to a great start! Only 125 days until Memorial Day, my official start to summer. I don’t go by the summer solstice! :)

Today’s post will be a quick recap of the Miami half marathon and our weekend down in the sunshine state.

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Welcome to December and 2016 races!

I can’t believe another year has almost passed! 2015 has been a good one- I got a new job that I enjoy, moved into a new place, moved in with a new “roommate” :), traveled around the world and within the USA, and ran some fun marathons. I saw several close family members and friends get married and engaged, have babies, get new and exciting jobs, hike new mountains, start new relationships, and run PRs!

2016 is just around the corner, and I am even more excited to dive in to the next year!

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New Orleans Marathon Review

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When I started working with my coaches a couple of weeks ago, I decided to train for a marathon and re-qualify for Boston with a finish time that would allow me to register for the race. This was a change from my initial goal of just “running for fun” in my next race, without a time goal. But seeing that motivations and aspirations can change depending on one’s mood, I decided to attempt a time goal one more time.

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Throwback to First Marathon @Disney!

Most Americans visit Disney World for the first time as a kid. I was 26 years old for my first Disney experience – my first marathon. Some may say that I was a deprived child, but I disagree. Needless to say, I loved Disney Marathon! Yes, both the physical running of 26.2 miles as well as being at Disney.

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My Journey to BQ at Big Cottonwood Canyon Marathon 

Warning: this is a long post! I have been meaning to write about my BQ at Big Cottonwood Canyon UT for a while and wanted to include info on the training leading up to the race as well as an overview of the race itself. If you don’t want to read about the blood, sweat, and tears I faced in this race, I won’t be offended if you click away :)

After my annual viewing of the Boston Marathon this past April, I found myself more determined than ever to attempt to re-qualify for the marathon (even despite the horrifically rainy and cold conditions of the 2015 race!). I decided that day in April to find a race in a unique location, which had a favorable course for a PR. I perused through my marathon go-to source (www.marathonguide.com), and quickly found my race of choice: Big Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake City, Utah. The race is put on by REVEL, and had great ratings. I watched some footage on a previous year’s race and promptly signed up.

IMG_0886Marathon training in Boston is fun!

My training:

My Big Cottonwood marathon training cycle started in mid-May. I had already built up a solid base after running Philly marathon the previous November, and had also run a couple of half marathons in the spring. But in general, I was starting this training cycle with fresh legs, and was determined to train hard and with consistency.

As a part of this plan, I hired my first running coach because I needed to make some changes to my training, and needed someone to push me. I also work best (like many others) when I am held accountable to someone other than myself- and this ended up being the missing link for me.

My coach set up my training schedule on google calendar a month ahead of time. I would log each run, and she would comment on occasion. Throughout summer 2015, I built my long runs up to 22 miles, and also added in speed work and tempo runs (400 meter, 800 meter, or mile repeats, with cool downs in between). I incorporated 4 half marathon races into my training, and at times added on more miles post-race if the day called for more miles.

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Providence half & Gloucester half this summer. Love incorporating half marathons with marathon training!

Some of my long runs were “fast finishes”, ie- the last several miles were at marathon pace. One long run included a couple mile warm-up, 10 miles at marathon pace, and a couple mile cool down.

IMG_09494th of July road race!

In general, I think I was prepared for Big Cottonwood Canyon on marathon day (September 12th, 2015). Some of my long runs during the training cycle did not go as well as I had wanted, particularly because of the time of year (summer), but I usually hit my speed work splits, so hoped that those runs would help me run strong in those last few precious miles.

IMG_0951Another training run along the Charles River

The race:

Big Cottonwood is known as a fast race, amenable to PRs. The first 19 miles of the course are mostly downhill, but miles 19-23 have some rolling hills. The last 2 miles are mostly back to being downhill, a change which is subsequently very tough on the legs (well, more tough than usual for the last two miles of a marathon). My sig Mark (who was running the half) and I decided to drive the course the day before the race, which helped me mentally prepare for the downhill and course logistics. I highly recommend driving a race course to prepare if you can, especially if the course is completely unfamiliar!

IMG_0947View in Moab during my last training run before the marathon!

Race expo was easy, on the small side. Plenty of parking, but you’ll need a car. Note that Utah is a very car-friendly, car-necessary state.

Our hotel was not one of the official hotels for the race, as those had sold out, but we were fine with the Courtyard Marriott in Sandy, UT. On race morning, we had to drive a few miles to the shuttle pickup. The lines for the shuttles were VERY long, but moved surprisingly quickly. They took us to the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon, roughly 9700 feet high in the sky, to where the marathon starts. Half marathon started a couple of hundred feet south of us at 7300 feet. Coming from Boston, I felt a little hard core being so high in the mountains.

REVEL runs an organized race- the top/start had plenty of porta potties, and our bags at bib pickup included mylar blankets and gloves, which were perfect for early mornings on the top of a mountain. Coming from sea-level, I could feel the effects of being almost 10k feet high, but the downhill nature of the course outweighed some of the effects.

True to the course description, the first 19 miles of the race were basically a steady downhill (with an exception of a steep hill at mile 4, which was at an elevation of roughly 8500 feet high- this was tough on the lungs to say the least). I maintained a 3:25-3:30 pace for this portion, and was determined to stay well ahead of the 3:35 pacer. A 3 hour 35 minute (or less) marathon finish was the time I needed to qualify for Boston.

After the half-way point, I desperately wished that I had trained on downhill courses more frequently to prepare for this terrain. But despite the deep fatigue my legs were feeling from all of the pounding, I felt great and ran consistent 7:30-7:45 minute miles. At mile 19, my pace slowed up as the course became hilly. Hills at 5500 feet elevation were no joke. At one point I had to stop and stretch, and also just catch my breath. It was a very interesting feeling, being out of breath at this point even in the flat sections. I knew that I was far from home.

At mile 23, I noticed the 3:35 pacer slowly creeping up to me and at that moment felt very emotional and overwhelmed. The pacer caught up to me at 24, and asked me how I was doing. I was honest and told her that I was very disappointed to see her. She said that she was running a minute or so ahead of a 3:35, that the rest of the race was downhill, and that she knew I had it in me to push myself. I know she had no idea, but her motivational lines helped me push through.

At that point, I was determined to reach my goal and pushed as.hard.as.I.possibly.could. I crossed the line @3:33.06 and saw Mark, who promptly yelled “you friggin qualified!!!”.

The rest of the day was a blur, but I remember bits of the following: devouring pizza and Gatorade at the finish, crawling to the car, showering off the massive amounts of salt that caked my body (maybe the dry air evaporated the sweat?), passing out for a long time, then crawling to the movie theatre and lastly eating amazing Mexican food at a restaurant in SLC where I devoured so many chips and guacamole, that I got my fill for the year…almost :)

End of story: run this race if you can. Loved everything about it, and it’s a great one if you’re serious about qualifying for Boston (aren’t we all?).

661About to cross the finish line- won’t ever forget that day!

What is your favorite running memory? 

Anyone else on the road to a BQ?

Let’s get through Monday and heading to Philly soon!

Good morning and Happy Monday! Hope your week gets off to a great start.

Two weeks from now, I will be heading down to Philadelphia with some family and friends. My sister and cousin are running the Philly marathon, and I am going to cheer them on!

IMG_0919City Hall along race course

I’ve run the Philly marathon three times- in 2011, 2012, and 2014– and just thinking about the race brings back many happy memories. Philly marathon was my second fastest marathon finish (2011 race), as well as one of my slowest finishes (2014 race).  Yet in the three times I have run the race, I learned so much and enjoyed it every time.

IMG_0747 update2014 race with my sibs and Mark

Some thoughts:

  1. This marathon is great for a PR. The course is relatively flat (with the exception of some moderate hills between miles 7-10 (University Park areas and West Philly zoo/memorial) and 19-22 (Manayunk area), but the race falls in the time of year for ideal race temperatures. In the three years I ran the race, temps ranged from the 40’s to low 50’s—ideal for a great time.
  2. Given the timing of the race, training starts in the summer but the majority of the long runs will be in the cooler September/October months.
  3. The race has great spectator support. There are sections of the race where spectators are more sporadic – through the park prior to the halfway mark and along the schuylkill river miles 15 to 26.2 (with the exception of lively Manayunk). However, the out and back course layout enables you to see the elite runners pass by, which is especially motivating for me.
  4. Race day is held the weekend prior to Thanksgiving holiday, allowing you some nice rest (and food!) for the week following the race (week zero).
  5. The city of Philadelphia has a lot of great food options- we have always eaten very well pre- and post- race!
  6. Spending a weekend in Philadelphia before the holidays is special time. The city is decorated and festive.
  7. There are plenty of hotel or airbnb options close to the race course. We’ve always stayed downtown and have been able to walk to the start of the race (and crawled back post-race). Super convenient!
  8. Race logistics are organized, with pacers as well as adequate hydration stations throughout the course.

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I am disappointed to not be running Philly this year, but am really looking forward to being a spectator this time around! I might jump in towards the end of the race to help pace her, but TBD. She is going for a BQ and I think she will meet that goal in this race!

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Stay tuned for a recap in a couple of weeks!

Has anyone run Philly marathon? Any tips or tricks that you’ve learned from the race?