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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

The Build-up to the Olympic Trials

November 18th, 2019
The start of Olympic Trials marathon training week #2 I woke up in the middle of the night with stomach pain and again in the morning with it.  I ate my breakfast hoping it would alleviate the pain that circulated my epigastric area and radiated up into my left breast.  I made it to work clenching my upper stomach area.  Oh god, what is wrong?  I had been dealing with GI issues since August and 2 weeks prior to this day had a colonoscopy.  I might puke.  My coworkers saw the agony in my face and cancelled my patients.  I left the hospital trying to decide which urgent care to go to, I had never been to urgent care in my entire life... As I got in my car the wave came on strong as I managed to open my car door quickly enough to vomit on the pavement instead of inside my vehicle.  I started my 10 minute drive to urgent care.  A few moments later, another wave, I searched frantically in my car and grabbed a collapsible garbage container and puked inside.  I checked in, but not without stopping mid paperwork to run for the bathroom.  The doctor wanted an ultrasound and bloodwork.  The ultrasound technician decided to leave without telling anyone.  “I think you need to go to the ER”.  It seemed a little extreme, I’ll just come back later?  No, they couldn’t let me drive.  Again, another wave came and this time I vasovagaled.  Okay, I’ll go.  As soon as the paramedics got me on the stretcher I had  another episode where I became diaphoretic and vomited.  Well, hopefully they’ll finally figure out what’s wrong.

I had multiple lab draws, ultrasounds and a CT.  The PA came in to tell me they were afraid my fallopian tube had twisted or something of that sort.  Technically, it was a procedure GYN could do as an outpatient but they wanted to admit me.  That makes no sense I thought.  I believed there was an incidental finding and I just had a stomach bug, I mean the other girl in the hall was puking way more than me.  However, he convinced my family that I should not go home who ultimately made me stay. He told me the plan was for a MRI in the morning.

The Hospitalist came into admit me and asked if I knew why.  I gave her my explanation and she seemed shocked.  Well no, hmmm... let me get you your CT report.  The report read a 9 cm mass unclear of what structure was involved.  Apparently being thin is not good for clear images.  I was made nothing by mouth and admitted.  The next morning I went for my MRI and was seen by colorectal surgery, general surgery, GYN surgical services and GI.  There was no definite answer what it was after the MRI..still too thin.  Finally, it was decided the next day they would go in for surgery, with all surgical services available depending on what they found.  I consented for multiple procedures; open vs. laparoscopic, hemicolectomy vs. removal of ovary, fallopian tube, appendocel mucocele and appendix.  Yikes.

Surgery went the best it possibly could have gone.  There was a contained, yet angry, 8.5 cm appendiceal mucocele unattached to the colon and solely on the appendix which they were able to remove via the scope without spilling any of the contents.  The cells within the mucoceles are known to be benign (most of the time but pending pathology) but have a high rate of transformation.  Inside a mucocele they are fine, but if it bursts or spills into the abdominal cavity you now have potential cancer cells seeding throughout your insides. A reason many surgeons have a low threshold for excising the mass via scope.  In fact, the first general surgeon, who I requested said she would just do the procedure open, which would mean a much longer recovery.

I went home the next afternoon and couldn’t lift anything or go back to work for 2 weeks.  At three weeks I was told I could run. I ran into my surgeon just about 2 weeks post op and he figured I would have tried to run by then.  Are you kidding me?!  I didn’t want to set myself back farther.  He said I could try the alterG over the next week and then get on pavement.  He assured me my hernia rate was extremely low.  I was so excited.  I booked a run on the AlterG with the thought I’d just get on and run for an hour... except that is not quite how it went.

My first run on the AlterG was miserable.  My incisions hurt, things were cramping, pulling and I felt awful.  I ran/walked for 3 miles.  Fuck, how am I going to do a marathon at the US Olympic Trials in just over 2 months?  Thankfully, each day got slightly better, however I was still having major GI issues.  Wasn’t this tumor suppose to be the culprit?  Did we do this surgery for nothing?  I know that’s not the case.  The thing was on the fence of a rupture, which would have been an absolute nightmare.  I continued to increase my mileage as I continued to be worked up and seen about my GI problems.

My first 4 weeks back looked like such:
1.  weekly mileage:  22.  longest run: 6 miles
2.  weekly mileage:  48.  longest run: 7.3 miles
3.  weekly mileage 60.  longest run: 14 miles
4.  weekly mileage 66.  longest run:  15.2 miles
We are now at the end of December.  Shit.

January 7th I left for Flagstaff.  I had a decent workout pre-flight, but the mileage wasn’t there yet.  The workout was only 5 miles total of hard work.

Week 1:
Josh and Michelle joined me the first 5 days which was awesome.  We did our first run on Woody Mountain Rd, which despite being mostly covered in snow was still fun.  That afternoon was a Brooks photo shoot for their “hometown hero” program.   The next day was a workout at Camp Verde, where Josh was in star struck heaven mode (there was a lot of fast company out there that day).  That Sunday, I ran 18 miles on Lake Mary Rd (over 7,000 feet), which was my longest run in months.

Week 2:
I continued to build up my mileage.  Josh and Michelle left, but Mike came into town.  I picked him up in Phoenix which allowed me to get in 10+ miles back down in elevation.  I got in some good mileage while exploring Arizona with him.  When it was time for him to fly out the timing matched up with the Phoenix Rock n Roll half.  I had 20 on my schedule that day so I did 5+ before the race, tempo’ed the race and cooled down 2 miles.  I topped off my morning with breakfast at Snooze before driving back up to the mountains.

Week 3:
My third week in Flagstaff (followed by Tucson later in the week) was my peak week of OT training and I hit 87 miles.  I did a final mid week workout at camp verde before driving down to my brother’s in Tucson where I got some warmer weather and more trails (not covered in snow or ice).  I got in a good 20+ mile run/workout and felt like I had a good week overall.

Back in Albany:
I came home, went back to work that week.  Grinded it out for the week.  Friday night, I was packing again.

Off to Florida:
Saturday, February 1st I caught a morning flight to Tallahassee.  There were no direct flights from Albany, which made for a long day of travel.  I finally got to my hotel and went out for a 5 mile shake out run.  I came back to shower and uber to an Italian restaurant called Mi Mi’s (which is what I call my dog, so I figured it was an easy pick).  Mi Mi’s was pretty upscale, one of those places where it’s about quality, not quantity.  So my pasta dish was gone in several minutes and I left hungry....

Tallahassee Half Marathon:
I got in about 3.5 miles pre-race.  When the gun went off I went out comfortably and sat on some guys.  After a couple miles it was clear this was their warmup before doing a workout.  I’m glad I didn’t realize who they were until after the race... (ZAP fitness group from NC that included some wicked fast guys).  The first several miles felt easy despite a couple hills, the 4th mile hill didn’t feel as easy. But, I bounced back after and continued to click off the miles.  We weaved our way around a park making many turns and then had a few more decent climbs.  At mile 9 I worried I never broke away from the marathon course and was on the wrong route, but soon the split came.  I continued to run well although I had no idea what my projected finish time would be since I didn’t reset my watch after my warmup.  We had a couple 180 turns around a cone towards the end and I comfortably made my way into the finish while reminding myself “no need to sprint and do anything stupid”.  I finished 1:18:33 with no taper on a relatively rolling course (~550 ft gain/~700 loss).  I was satisfied.  I left that afternoon, enjoyed a 4+ hour layover that allowed me to catch some of the Super bowl and got home and into bed by 1:00 am, which made it hard when my alarm went off at 6:15 am for work.

Final Workouts:
The final workouts when I returned home from Florida were amazing.  I felt I was peaking at just the right time and I was fitter than ever.  I had a 22 miler that week with the first 10 @ 7:00-7:15 then 10 @ 6:15-20 pace with a 2 mile cool down.  Despite chatting and trying to slow down, our first 10 miles averaged 6:50 and the next 9.2 @ 6:16.  I opted for a slightly longer cool down since all parts of the workout were on the faster end.
The next key workout was 2 x 4 miles @ 6:00-6:05 pace with a 7:00 mile float.  I ended up running 4 miles (5:56), 1 mile 6:59, 3.5 (5:56) before calling it quits when I reached a bathroom.  This theme continued (as it had all cycle)... my final 6 mile tempo at 5:55-6:00 pace ended up being 2 x 3 miles after needing to stop for the bathroom 1/2 way in.  Regardless, my first 3 miles were 5:50 pace and the next 3 averaged and were consistently 5:43.  I was fit.  I was ready.  I just needed my stomach to hold up for 26.2 miles...

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Eugene Marathon Recap

Race Planning
The feeling of grabbing my OTQ at Hartford was amazing.  I was content...but not for long.  After the mass production of fast times at CIM I became eager.  I can definitely run a couple minutes faster!  The trials wouldn’t be for well over a year and waiting until then to do another marathon seemed too far.  I wanted to avoid back to back marathon cycles so the fall was out, which left spring.
I decided I really wanted to run London.  Mike has never been, timing was ideal, I knew the course and my sister and brother in law live there.  It was flawless entering the 2015 London Marathon as a championship runner.  However, this was not the case for 2019.  After several attempts it was clear London wasn’t happening.  I was bummed.
After some research and the suggestion of my coach, we decided on Eugene.  The destination excited me as did the training cycle and goal of running higher mileage than before.  I was in.

In January I got engaged and started to plan a wedding 10 months away.  I took a new job which wouldn’t start until mid-May, but had to go through a ton of paperwork.  I had high stress at my current job which secretly I was feeling guilty for leaving when things were so crazy and we were short staffed.  I left for a conference in February in Arizona.  I was excited for a week away from work to just absorb lectures and run.  However, it became a struggle.  I couldn’t hit my workouts, I had just gotten my iron done in December and my ferritin was 85. I was confused and convinced I had too much stress.
I returned home to eventually discover my ferritin was now in the 20’s.  How does one drop so much so quickly, I was frustrated.
After a few weeks things started to turn around and I finally hit a high week and ran a half marathon in Virginia (faster than I expected for everything going on).  I came home and strung together another solid week and a half of training... then after a nailing a long workout, my knee started to hurt.  It was classic runner’s knee, I knew exactly what it was but what I needed to know was why.  I had been doing my glute exercises and when I went to get a PT evaluation there was no obvious weakness.  2 of the PTs I saw told me I had arthritis of my kneecap.  I left the office and cried in the moment.  Then the logical side of me kicked in.   Umm you can’t diagnose arthritis by touching my knee.  I’ve never had a serious knee injury, there is no deformity, and I’ve never had surgery.  I became angry someone would tell me that so casually when 1- I do joint replacements all day long and see the intensity and brutalness of it and 2- running is a huge part of my life.  After venting at work, I was able to laugh at such a silly statement.  I also got a beautiful sunrise view of my perfect patella.

I sent a video out to Craig, the PT and friend I used in Colorado.  He gave me some exercises and I went to work.  Thankfully I was able to run through most of the runner’s knee this time.  After 2-3 weeks I was back in business.  At this point however I was considering dropping down to the half marathon at Eugene.

2 weeks out from Eugene was the first annual Helderberg to Hudson Half Marathon, which I really wanted to run.  Normally I wouldn’t race a half so close, but I had nothing to lose.  The race itself was deemed to be fast.  I knew the dramatic downhills could mean different.  The warm and humid weather was the first of the season and everyone went out hard.  I seemed rather controlled and wary of the 100 ft drop over 0.7 of mile 1.  By the 10k I was starting to gain on several guys and by mile 8 I caught many.  The next couple miles I caught guys I normally shouldn’t and it was obvious their legs were hurting.  I finished 1:18:28, slower than I wanted, but the course took its toll.  The next 3 days I was pretty sore and I'm certain there was DOMS going on, but that is what no Boston Marathon training does for you (not practicing the downhills)!

And now it was time to taper.  My knee finally felt normal and just when I was confident I’d make it to the starting line healthy my back threw in an issue.  My SI joint was locked up and was causing pain that went into my glute.  I took a day off from running, got into the chiropractor twice that final week and begged my coworkers for 1 day managing the floor vs. standing in the operating room wearing heavy lead.  It was now time to leave for Oregon.

Travel to Eugene
Mike and me arrived in Portland at midnight after traveling all Thursday and by the time we reached the hotel it was 1 a.m. or 4 am EST.  I made myself get up the next morning to do a shakeout run before heading to Eugene.

Thankfully Mike drove while I napped.  The expo was easy, not overwhelming but not boring either. Afterwards, we went to Pre's rock, had a nice pasta dinner and went to bed early.

Saturday morning I did a short shakeout and grabbed breakfast before walking around a farmers market a bit.  Aside from the elite meeting and dinner the day was my typical pre marathon routine of laying in bed!  Another early night before waking up at 4:15 the next morning for race day!

Eugene Marathon
I woke up just in time to watch the end of the men’s race at the London Marathon.  It’s always motivating to run after watching Kipchoge!  We took the shuttle from the hotel to the start and went up to the elite suite once we got there.  There were plenty of bathrooms, space and warmth!  After a quick warm, some stretching and drills it was go time!

I started the first mile wearing a t-shirt over my crop top.  I’ve learned I’d rather overdress with throw away clothes than to be cold from the start.  We started as a large group with the first several miles.  
some half marathoners in our pack
My first bottle was at mile 5, which I missed since I was wearing cotton gloves with no grip.  One of the men then came along side of me with my bottle!  For real, how nice?!  The next several miles myself and 2 other women separated ourselves from the larger pack as we were consistently running 6:10.  After the uphill at mile 10 we were still together, but Jen started to pull away.  Several times I looked down at my watch and the pace was significantly faster so I’d back off.  By mile 12 Jen had separated herself from Meaghan and myself.  Around this time we came onto the bike path (the first 12 are on the road) and I wasn’t feeling it.  The path had a lot of little turns and bumps and I was having trouble getting into a rhythm.  Also, I started having some reflux and thought for sure I was either going to puke or have GI issues soon.  The next several miles felt like I had just given up and slowed significantly.  I contemplated dropping out, but told myself I really wanted to finish in the stadium and get that stupid medal! Around mile 16 Meaghan pulled away and I told myself just to get to 20.  At 20 Claire and Perry caught me and told me to go with them.  I laughed and said they looked good, but I was ok just taking it in easy.  From there I felt okay, nothing really hurt, my stomach seemed to ease, but I just stayed consistent.  I crossed the finish in 2:45:34, which was my second fastest marathon.  At first I was happy, happy that it felt relatively comfortable to run a 2:45 without being fully mentally or even physically invested in the race.  Then of course, it was why couldn’t I have cared a little more during those last 6 miles, I could have easily run 2:44-something.  Did it matter, does it matter?  Probably not.  What did I want to get out of doing another marathon before trials?  A solid training cycle.  Heck, I would have done a cycle without the race, but that motivation is a little harder in my opinion.  So ultimately I added some good muscle memory in my legs and completed some great workouts while running consistent mileage which will all help me next time!  
Pacers and ladies who got their OTQ

Just after mile 21 on the course

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Hartford Marathon 2018

Marathon buildup summary:
Overall the buildup went pretty well.  After a medical mission trip to Nepal in June which served as my running break/downtime, I was eager to start training again.  Jen started my training program in the beginning of July and I raced on the 4th.  Despite no workouts, I was pleased how the race went in hot and humid conditions at the start of a training cycle.  In August I raced Bridge of Flowers and was again pleasantly surprised with how the race went.  There's a massive hill (along with a gradual mile uphill) during this 8k race so time was out the window.  Instead, I used splits from previous years to gauge my results--mile up the hill, mile down the hill, etc. and ran my fastest splits at that race.  The end of August I ran the 18.12 Challenge as a workout and was successful enough that day to hit my splits and get the win.  In September, I tuned up with 2 half marathons--the first came during my highest mileage week and was part of a 22 mile long run in which I ran close to 8 miles prior to the start and pulled out a 1:21:24 half before a 1 mile cool down.  Then the next week I ran another half with a tad less mileage for the week and less miles prior to the start.  I ran 1:19:50 on the hilly Adirondack course for a new course record and win. 

Willow Street Sweep at the Adirondack Half Marathon
Overall the summer was hot and thankfully race day was not.  I peaked at 85 miles and hung around 70-80 for the majority of the training block.  I incorporated the strength program I had been following since last fall about 3-4 days a week.  The program isn't very time consuming and focuses on different things throughout the week, so 3-4 times a week wasn't too bad!

The week leading up to the race:
The weather looked perfect.  My environment, not so much.  Mike got sick, another friend who had stayed at my house also got sick.  People were coughing all over left and right at work.  The last thing I needed was to get sick.  I had already been taking vitamins prophylactically and started to add everything in sight--emergen-C, airborne, Zicam.  I kept bleach wipes and sanitizer with me at all times and put poor Mike in the guest room.  Somehow despite feeling on the cusp of being sick several days, I avoided the crisis.  Mission one accomplished.
Thursday I left work after a half day to get some pre-race rituals done.  My eyebrows, hair, you know--to do your best you should look your best?   I made my water bottles, did laundry and packed everything.  I decided to take the day off from running (first day since June) since it was raining all day and I didn’t want to get sick.
Friday morning I did a very short shake out run and strides, showered and left.  I drove while Mike slept in attempts to feel a bit better.  We got to the expo shortly after lunch for a quick walk around before heading to the hotel.

I spent most of the remaining afternoon in bed watching TV (and checking the weather) before heading to dinner.  The weather was now calling for rain and suddenly Boston Marathon flashbacks appeared in my head.  My cotton gloves weren’t going to cut it.  I called Fleet Feet and found out they had gloves with a waterproof shield.  Perfect, I thought it’s only 4 miles away we can go prior to dinner.  We left 45 minutes prior to our reservation only to realize 4 miles in downtown Hartford at rush hour had my GPS putting us there in 30 minutes.  Well, so much for that thought... We had to walk by the expo to get to dinner so we made another stop there and I settled for slightly better gloves than my cotton ones.
Dinner was uneventful, my normal pre-race pasta and shrimp.  From there I went to the technical meeting, chatted with some people and headed back to my room to get ready for bed.
I slept pretty well considering and got out of bed at 5:45 a.m.   I made coffee and ate my bagel with peanut butter and half of a banana.  After some foam rolling and light stretching I was ready to leave.  We started our walk over around 7:05 and ran into Hannah, Matt and the kids on the way.  Yay!  It had started to drizzle as I went out for a light jog, which became a shorter warm up than normal.  After some quick drills and bathroom, I left for the start with the group. 

Breakfast of champions- Honey Stinger gel
The Race:
I stood on the line with my winter hat as long as possible and kept my long sleeve shirt on until after mile 1 when I saw Erin, and double Mikes.  I ran with Rachel through mile 9 as we weaved through the parks and felt the rain pick up.
Around mile 6
Somewhere around mile 4.5, I think

She pulled away however when I looked down at my splits my pace hadn’t changed.  No worries, run your own race I thought to myself.  I watched Rachel grab her first bottle and then I completely missed mine.  Damn it, it’s only 1 bottle.  Thankfully I had stuffed enough gel in my shorts to account for a missed bottle. At mile 11 I took my second gel, but had to remove a glove to do so.  And then, I dropped my glove.  Ugg!  Knowing how nonfunctional my hands got at Boston, the fact I have Rynaud’s and it was still raining, I worried.  I went to push up a hill before the half and felt my hamstring.  Oh boy, relax, you don’t need to push it yet.  Thankfully the hamstring pain went away.  I went through the half in 1:21:20.  A little fast, but not suicidal.  I was eager to hit the turn around at mile 17 and use the gradual downhill for a couple miles.  The next few miles passed, I saw some familiar faces on the course and despite being an "uphill" mile, mile 17 was 6:17.  I had analyzed the course, other runner’s past splits and was accounting for that mile to be slow.  Not so bad.  I hit the turn around excited to push the next 3 miles.  I then hit mile 18 in 6:06.  Woooo, slow it down I told myself, there’s still a lot of running left.  When I hit mile 20 I was at 2 hours and 4 minutes flat.  A minute and 35 seconds faster than 2:45:45 marathon.  Okay, I got this I thought and took my next bottle and gel.  I had also taped a run gum to my bottle which was a joke.  There was no way that piece of gum was getting out of the package even though it was already pre opened. I dropped the other glove at this point and started to focus.  The next 2 miles went well and then 24 got slow.  I started to feel my quads a bit and get cold.  Oh no.  I went to take what I thought was a gel but really it was a tray of candy.  Uggg!  I took an electrolyte drink from an aide station and pushed to 25, 6:16 back on track.  Now for the "hill".  The actual ramp up the overpass wasn’t as bad as I remembered it to be, however cresting the bridge was painful.  As I came down around 25.5 someone was screaming at me telling me I had to push and go!  That someone was Hannah and it took me a couple minutes to realize it despite her yelling and sprinting next to me.  Nooo I thought, don’t I have time?  But where is the finish, I don’t see it. Oh no, the tangents... the course is going to be way longer than I thought.  And there it was mile 26 and then the final turn.  

I could see the clock and realized I was well under 2:44.  Hmmm I could walk the final steps... but I ran across the finish and into the elite coordinator’s arms.  I did it!

My medal, I want my medal!  In 2014 when I finished, they were quick to pull me into the tent to get dry clothes on so I could go to the stage for awards and I never got my medal!  I had to have it mailed a couple weeks later.  They assured me I’d get it and directed me out of the finish shoot where I saw my Mike, Hannah, my parents, sister, Erin & Mike.  I hugged everyone, people were crying, it was pretty memorable to say the least.  Mike then had the job of getting me into dry clothes before the awards ceremony.

Best support crew!!!

During the race when I could feel myself tensing up I reminded myself- Relax, drop your arms, let your jaw loose, you have wings, think of James.  I did this throughout the race and it most certainly helped.  Around 24-25 I was confident this OTQ was happening and started to get a bit emotional.
After awards Mike and I walked back to the hotel where I showered and met my family.  We stopped in Springfield on the way home for food (and a drink) and then Mike and I got a bit distracted (I was responding to messages while Mike drove).  Despite him working in Hartford every Monday, we ended up in Vermont!  We essentially drove through the entire state of Massachusetts without noticing!  After seeing the fall foliage we finally made it home.  We grabbed Mia and went to my parent’s house to celebrate with the family.

Media links:
Hartford Newspaper article 
NE Runner article

The Schenectady Gazette

After thoughts:
I'm pretty pumped to say the least to have made the trials.  I do want to train as hard as ever in preparation for the trials, prove I deserve to be on the line and run a great race.  I haven't ever run more than 93 miles a week (4 years ago in preparation for Hartford) and wonder if consistently running 10-15 miles more a week for a cycle would benefit me.  I do feel its a thin line to walk, the risk of injury, balancing life and getting enough sleep is critical.  I'm extremely happy I have successfully stayed around 80 miles for marathon training the past 4 years and was able to OTQ in this range, you can only keep increasing your mileage for so long.  So maybe now 1-2 cycles of higher mileage will have a huge benefit, but maybe it won't, too soon to worry about that yet!  I'll probably focus on speed this winter and possible try to tackle a half marathon PR in the spring.
And once again, I can’t thank everyone who has supported me along the way enough!