Not a Boston race report

Before the sore legs and sufferfest memories fade, I need to get this down on paper: the Boston Marathon is the hardest marathon I’ve ever run. Heartbreak is an Everest-sized mountain. No matter how slow you start down those plummeting first hills, you will feel it in your quads diving from Newton down into Boston. The weather is uncontrollable and usually will not give you what you want. Those college kids screaming at you to run as you struggle to put one foot in front of the other have no idea what you’re going through. I’ve run it five times now and have had just one good race.

Before the runner’s high and memories of glory fade, I need to get this down on paper: the Boston Marathon is the best marathon I’ve ever run. No matter how jaded you are in racing, it’s impossible not to feel the excitement and energy in the air. The crowds are second to none. Kids want nothing more than to give you a high five or an orange slice. And whether you ran a 3 hour race or a 6 hour one, you will feel the love from every single person in the salty city of Boston as you hobble back to your hotel.

The tough thing about racing is you don’t know how it will turn out until you try. The best laid plans and training blocks can be shattered very quickly by elements completely out of your control. But we still try anyway. It takes a certain amount of bravery to step up to the starting line, uncertain of what will happen over the next 26 miles. I chose to sign up for this race because I knew it would be a challenge. I often forget that I have the luxury of choosing how I suffer. So when that suffering is different than the expectation, the suffering you prepared for, the real test begins. Things will inevitably go south if you race often enough. And just like running fast, surviving a bad race is an art that gets refined over time. I’ve felt shitty during races often enough that I knew early on this would not be my glorious comeback race, proving that my NYC sub-3 wasn’t just a fluke.

pre-race prep. thx lululemon!

My monkey brain was full of chatter and demoralizing thoughts early on. Do I keep pushing the pace even though my heart rate is near max? Do I stick with my pack even though I know this feels too hard? Do I let go of the ego and accept that I’ll run a slower time? Do I completely give up and walk it in? Do I stop at the next medical tent and pretend that my bum leg hurts too much to continue?

When Boston stopped being a physical challenge of holding a pace, it became a mental exercise in gratitude. I forced myself to flip my thinking, get out of the pity party I was wallowing in, and stay present. Could I be grateful and appreciative while my brain bombarded me with thoughts of quitting and giving up marathons forever? It was hard. Maybe one of the harder things I’ve done. I thought of the people in Boston who gave up their weekend to support me: Pon, my family, my teammates. I had to finish for them. I thought of all the work I had put in, all the time in the pool and the strength training and the physical therapy and massages. I couldn’t let that go to waste. I thought of my grandfather, who passed away last month. Whose last words to me were “run for me, Angie.” I had to make good on that promise. I thought of all the people who try their entire lives to qualify for this one race and never make it, sometimes missing their BQ by seconds. Some of those people would give anything to trade spots with me in that moment. And I thought of how disappointed I would be if I gave up. I did not want to waste this opportunity.

The race didn’t go as I had dreamed, but as always seems to be the case, I learn more from the crap races than I do from the ones that go well. The bad races toughen you up. I finished a marathon in 75+ degree heat, fighting back vomit half the time, with a stress reaction in my tibia, without running for two weeks leading up to the race. If I can do THAT, imagine what I can do next time when just one of those factors isn’t in play? It’s all about that mental game.

I may or may not come back to Boston next year, but I will be back eventually in search of my magic unicorn, that perfect race with good weather where everything comes together. Boston can be a dirty place filled with rude people who don’t make eye contact, but on this one day out of the year everyone comes together to celebrate an epic journey we take together. And that’s something you just don’t find anywhere else.

post-race was way more fun than actual race

Boston 2016 race report


462198_226497303_XLargeIf there’s one thing I’ve learned from ultrarunning, it’s that the tough times don’t last. You may feel like you need to curl up on the side of the trail and die a slow and painful death, but usually when you crest the hill or take in some calories, your brain realizes everything is cool and you continue on like nothing ever happened. I’ve never had to deal with that feeling during a road marathon until now.

It was warm, but not excessively so like 2012. There was a slight breeze, but not the hurricane headwinds like 2015. I had a sound plan for my pacing and nutrition. My training went well and all signs pointed to a sub-3:00 marathon. I had gotten a note of encouragement the day before from a friend that read “This is your day” and I really, truly believed it was: my comeback Boston; the year my race time matched up with my training and potential. I was prepared to race, and just needed all the little things to fall into place.

Well, as you can guess those things did not fall into place and were in fact scattered all over the road like my dog got ahold of them when I wasn’t looking. I felt off from the beginning, through the first few crowded miles, never able to settle into the zone. I hit the half in 1:29, right on pace for my sub-3:00 goal. But I knew my effort level was too high. The miles weren’t clicking like they should have been, but I kept pressing. By mile 10 I had stopped sweating, my face was crusted with salt, and I was getting occasional chills (uh oh). The heat was getting to me, and I was just. So. Thirsty. I began taking in a lot more water and gatorade than I would on a normal day. And naturally, my stomach got crampy and sloshy. Perfect. The small hills started to feel tougher, and it took longer and longer for my legs to recover on the downhills.

Then a tough time hit. I mean REALLY tough. So tough that I found myself actually hoping I would pass out so I could have an excuse to stop moving. And that tough time lasted from mile 16 to mile 26.2. It was just like the worst anxiety dream I routinely have about my races: I am trying so desperately hard to run but it’s like my legs are in quicksand and all I can do is watch people fly by. I walked a lot those last 10 miles, sometimes on the verge of sitting down on the side of the road to cry. But I kept forcing myself to look at the crowds. Those drunk college kids (god bless ‘em) would look me right in the eyes and scream “COME ON! YOU GOT THIS! RUN!” and I couldn’t let them down so I would force a few sloppy strides before the pain in my quads took over and slowed me to a crawl again. And speaking of my quads, I have run two 50 mile races, both with over 9,000 feet of descent, and my quads felt infinitely better after those runs than they did in the latter miles of Boston. What the hell?

Those last few miles were some of the hardest I’ve ever run. At some point I realized my time goals were completely out of reach, so to salvage my race I tried my best to enjoy the experience. I ran along the edge of the road, high fiving kids, cheering back, trying to smile. I took a freeze pop (best thing ever) and an orange slice (not so great, it turns out) from some young kids. At mile 25 I saw my sister in the crowd, made a bee-line over to her, and gave her a big hug. “I feel so awful!” “Noooo, you look great!” “You’re lying, but okay!”

Right on Hereford, left on Boylston. My teammate, Pam, flew by me on Hereford and I tried to give chase. My quads just laughed at me. Pam waited for me at the finish line (thank you!) and gave me a big hug. My legs almost gave out at that moment so we walked together through the finish chute. Water, space blanket, gatorade. That’s when I got tingly all over and started seeing black spots. Oh shit, here we go. I saw a wheelchair and asked if I could sit down before I passed out. The amazing medical crew wheeled me over to the tent where I had to lay down with elevated legs for about 20 minutes. My pulse was erratic, blood pressure way too low. The med crew was threatening to give me an IV if I couldn’t suck down gatorade. After focusing on my breathing for a while I slowly returned to normal. I sat up, got dizzy again, and had to wait a few more minutes. I eventually made my way back to the hotel to find my mom and Pon waiting for me. And there you have it.


I’m now 1 for 4 at Boston. But I’m not beating myself up about the result this year. I did everything I possibly could to prepare and I felt ready. The mistake I made, along with many others, was underestimating the weather. It was hotter than predicted. Nobody had a good race. Nobody. But I never thought about going out conservatively despite sweating before the race even started. I was there for one thing only and I knew it would involve some time in the pain cave. Marathoning is tough business. You train for months and beat up your body and make sacrifices (I gave up sugar for a whole month!!) on the off chance that the stars will align one day out of the year to give you a perfect race. To have your race blow up is a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s the risk we take. If I wanted things to be easy I’d run 5Ks (just kidding 5K-ers, that shit HURTS).   

I finally understand why people return to Boston year after year. It is a different race every single time. Sure, the course is the same, but I’ve been there four times and had four wildly different experiences, ranging from the best marathon I’ve ever run to the worst. The constant throughout it all is the energy and excitement and the best crowds of any marathon ever. You will feel like a superstar walking around that city. But Boston is a tricky bitch, and even when your training and preparation is perfect, she will throw a wrench in your plans and laugh as you get heat stroke or hypothermia. Typical New England. To control freaks like me, it is insanely frustrating. But I’ve experienced the pure elation of a perfect race there, and I will keep going back until I find it again. See you in 2017, Boston.

I want to end this by sending out the hugest thank you to every person who called, texted, emailed, and wished me luck. To all the people out there on Patriots Day cheering. To my team for sharing the miles. To my coach for giving me confidence. To my dad for handing me that bottle. To my mom for being at the finish. To my sister and brother for their insulting signs. And the biggest, most heartfelt thanks to Pon for listening to me complain and giving up sugar with me and understanding what it takes. I love you all.

2015 in 5 lessons



2015 STATS:
2,850 miles run
420h 20m spent running
264,573 feet climbed
409 runs
PRs in the 10k, half marathon, marathon, and 50k

2015 was a year of learning experiences for me. I didn’t have as many of those magic “easy” races, the ones where everything just clicks, as I did last year. And while everyone loves those good times, it’s the tough ones that are more valuable: they teach me things and keep me motivated to fight on. So instead of doing a “highlights reel” (of which there were many!) I’m going to give you the top five lessons I learned this year. Continue reading

Fifty Miles: a post-mortem.


One year ago I started this blog to document one of the greatest running events I’ve ever been a part of. I was venturing into the unknown, pushing my limits another 24 miles past what I knew I could achieve. It was magic. On Saturday I competed in the same event for a second time, and it was… anticlimactic. Don’t get me wrong. This was an amazing experience and I was smiling ear to ear for almost all of the nine hours I was moving. Everything went off without a hitch. No nutrition drama. No major falls or injury. I didn’t even get stung by wasps like many others did. The women’s field was so competitive that I had no shot at even placing top 20. And that’s okay. Not every race has to be an epic fight to the finish or record breaker. My body and mind allowed me to cover 50 of the most beautiful miles in all of the world. I got to share my backyard with some of the best ultra runners in the country. I experienced one of the most vibrant sunrises I’ve ever seen. All while doing something I love passionately.

So this won’t be the typical mile-by-mile race report. Think of it more like a post mortem. What worked. What didn’t. What I’d do differently. Why I can’t wait to try this distance again. Continue reading

Anatomy of a PR


The Personal Record. That elusive, arbitrary time goal runners chase. It haunts us, often missed by seconds. But sometimes it is crushed, setting a new benchmark to attain. Most of us will never win a race, so we race ourselves instead. That number is a motivator, helping us dig just a little deeper when the wheels are about to come off late in a race.

What makes a PR? Well, the training, obviously. Stress, recover, repeat. The basic formula is simple, yet so easy to screw up. There are no magic workouts that will guarantee a faster time, but the most important thing you gain from proper training is confidence. You need to believe that running a PR is possible, because if you don’t, who will?

Let’s analyze two PRs I fought for this year. The first came at the Boston Marathon, where I dropped from a 3:07 to a 3:04, and the second is from the Humboldt Redwoods half marathon, where I knocked 6 minutes off my best to run a 1:24. Continue reading

Headlands 50k training update

Pirates Cove comes just a few miles into the 50k

Pirates Cove comes just a few miles into the 50k

On August 29th I’ll be running my first 50k race. You know what that means? Automatic PR. Yessss! I’ve changed my training fairly significantly for this race, so here’s a little rundown.

After Boston I was burned out big time- mentally and physically. Training for a road marathon with a very specific, aggressive goal is all-consuming for four months. And then when the race doesn’t go exactly like you hoped, there is major disappointment. Looking back now I know I ran the best race I could under really shitty conditions, but I was in a big funk for a while. The remedy for the post-marathon blues took me to the trails. I was so relieved to be back under the redwoods. No concern for hitting 6:50 pace, or taking an extra long water break, or any of the other pressures I put on myself. I was having fun again.

In the months leading up to my next race, the Tamalpa Headlands 50k, I’ve been focusing on three of my weakest areas: strength, hill climbing, and “easy” runs. Continue reading

Boston: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Excited as a kid on Christmas morning

Excited as a kid on Christmas morning

THE Boston Marathon. My third attempt at this storied race. The whole weekend leading up to the main event is so jam-packed with events and expos that you have no time to even think about the 26.2 miles. But finally, what I’ve been waiting for: the moment when there’s nothing left to do but run. I live for this. Loaded in the corral, waiting for the gun. Months of training all leading up to this moment.

Mile one was crowded and off pace, but this was okay and part of the plan. I knew I could make up time later and had to save something for the hills, not trash my quads in the first few miles. The crowd never thinned so it took about 4 miles to work up to goal pace. I took my first gel at mile 5, and it did not go down well. Usually I can suck them down with no problems, but it tasted too sweet and syrupy, hard to swallow. I chased with a few sips of water trying to wash the taste away. About 5 minutes later my stomach started cramping. I thought it was a side stitch (unusual for me), tried to breath through it, and eventually it went away. The same thing happened after choking down half a gel at mile 10. And then again at mile 14. This was not good.

Continue reading