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

Making Sub-3 Happen



Boston 2015

Running a marathon is an intensely personal journey. 99% of us are not running to win. So why do it? Why put yourself through months of hard work for a few hours of your time on a Sunday morning? Well, for me, the motivation is bettering myself. It’s that deep internal drive to do something, not because I’ll earn money or lose weight or get some other reward. But because my brain has picked a number and assigned a level of importance to it. That number, for the past two years, has been “2:59:59.”

I had gotten a little cocky in my goal-setting. I was PRing at almost every race and felt like I could go after an aggressive goal. So when I put it out there that I was going to run a sub-3 at Boston 2015, I was pretty confident I could do it even though that meant knocking 7 minutes off my current best time. I put in the miles and the hard work, but come race day the weather did not cooperate, as is usually the case in Boston. I ran a 3:04 and was a complete basket case. I PRed and I ran a hard race in pouring rain with a headwind the entire way. What was I so upset about then? In my mind I had failed. I didn’t hit my A goal and I had let everyone down. Because in my arrogance, I thought people actually cared what time I ran. Continue reading

A humbling distance: Headlands 50K race report

Photo by Richard Bolt

Photo by Richard Bolt

I feel like I’ve got marathoning down. I know how to train for it, pace myself, and fuel properly. And barring any weather disasters, I can usually come pretty close to the goal I set for myself. Ultras, as I’m quickly learning, are a whole other beast. The 50K is a humbling distance. Just five miles longer than a marathon, but with that five miles comes the unexpected. So many things can go wrong out on those trails that it’s hard to prepare for all worst case scenarios.

I chose the Tamalpa Headlands 50K as my first attempt at that distance. It’s in my backyard, making travel logistics a non-issue. And more importantly, I could train on the course. Looking at past year’s winning times, I felt I had a pretty good shot at placing in this one. And then I realized it was the USATF 50K National Championships and there was some big prize money on the line. Okay so the field would probably be stacked and top 10 would be cool, but I tried to set my expectations low so I wouldn’t be disappointed come race day. Continue reading

SF Marathon race report

Photo via Ultra Sports Live

Photo via Ultra Sports Live

Let me start by saying that I did not want to run this race. I’ve been training almost exclusively on the trails for my upcoming 50k so the thought of pounding out 26 miles on the road was not that exciting. But with that being said, it was a well-timed long run, a great venue to test my hill climbing strength, and a place to really nail down my fueling strategy for the 50k. I wasn’t planning to race it. But really, who am I kidding? It’s ALWAYS a race. My public goal was to not wreck my legs, but my secret goal was to place in the top 10. Even top 5 maybe. Last year I also ran the marathon as an “eh, it’s there I might as well” race. I negative split it in a big way and ran a 3:11, which was good for 7th female and 2nd in my age group. This year I was stronger, faster, and more prepared so I figured I could do at least that well without blowing myself up for the 50k. But I still told everyone I was keeping it casual in case things didn’t go well.

Cut to race morning, 5:30am. I’m in Wave 1, surrounded by all these tall, wiry elite-looking people, feeling just a bit out of my league. The guy on the mic started counting down. “3… 2…. 1………” We all stood there, finger on Garmin, waiting for a “GO!” or a bell or something. A few seconds pass before someone in the crowd yells “GO.” A few runners jump, and then eventually someone takes off so we all follow. Continue reading