October 30, 2015

Analyzing my Marine Corps Marathon

The week following a marathon is usually a time for reflection and celebration. This week has been no different. Danielle and I have talked about our races, dissecting various elements of them. My diet has been 90% junk food following the race. (In full disclosure, my tummy has been hurting so I think I'm going to fast track back to healthy food.) I have always tried to take lessons from each race, but definitely marathon races. Given the fact that the training cycle is significantly more intense and longer in duration, marathon races feel as though there is more on the line.

Goal Review
Before I jump into the specific analysis and lessons learned from my race, I figured it would be helpful to review the goals I established for myself.
Outcome (time) Goals: Final time of 4:36.36 which beats my first Marine Corps Marathon time of 4:38.52, so my C Goal was achieved. I knew early on, probably around mile 12 or so that a PR would be very tough that day.

Goals for the journey
1. Have fun: Done! I high-fived spectators, thanked the Marines, and enjoyed the race weekend with a fantastic friend and my family.  Despite the moments of pain and tears shed during the race, I still had fun!

2. Enjoy the camaraderie of Team Fisher House: I made a few friends throughout the weekend, including one during the race. I loved the Team Fisher House cheer stations on the race course.

3. Regain my marathon confidence: Yes! While it wasn't necessarily in the fashion that I had hoped, i.e., obtaining a new PR to eclipse the Richmond Marathon from that spot, I really feel like I turned a corner with the way I approach marathon races. I ran with an open heart, soaking in the journey more so than I ever have.

4. Soak in the race: I probably didn't do this quite as well as I had hoped and that is largely due to the fact that I hurt a lot. Simply for that reason, I forced myself to focus on specific things rather than just taking in the course. But regardless, my focus wasn't narrowly on a time-based performance so I think this was a success.

Lessons Learned
Like I mentioned in my race recap, I feel good about this race but there are a few things that I need to take note of for future races. I realize that this content is largely about me but hopefully it might trigger something that you learned yourself and how you addressed it at a future race. I'm always eager to learn how others addressed challenges.

- I was generally somewhat under-trained for this race. When I was dealing with my challenges at work and ensuing stress over the summer, my weekday runs were pretty lackluster. They were generally very short (3-4 miles) and I was simply running just to log the miles. Even though I hit the long runs, I know this had to have impacted the overall training efficacy.

- My training cycle was pretty short at just 18 weeks. My baseline mileage was very low so I was forced to ramp-up my longer runs rather quickly. I knew this going in and was highly conscious of doing this in an intelligent manner so as not to get injured. Reflecting on this again, it's somewhat of a miracle that I was able to do two 20 mile training runs despite the time constraints.

- My hill training was much stronger this training cycle. I was diligent about completing one hill workout each week on the treadmill at the gym. And while they were generally my least favorite workout, I made sure they got done. My body was definitely prepared on race day when the hills did not wreck my legs.

- I was really thirsty at several points during the race. My Mom commented that this also happened at Richmond Marathon. For future marathons, I may consider wearing a hydration belt or vest to supplement the course water stops. I've always been a heavy sweater and during races, this clearly impacts me.

- If I run another marathon, I think I would like to work with a coach for a more detailed training approach and for some help with speed work.

What's the biggest lesson you have learned from a marathon? Do you have recommendations for a good hydration vest?

October 28, 2015

Goals for NYC Marathon

Ahh, race day goals.  It is still hard for me to believe that this is race week. While the date has been on my calendar since early this year, somehow it always seemed so far away.  Now it is time to put all the training behind me and focus on my race and what should be my goals, This is a subject I have thought alot about over the last few weeks. After surviving a calf injury this summer, with basically no running for a month, my goals are all over the place.  One day, I talk myself into going for another Boston qualifying time and the next moment, it is just going to be a race for fun and to enjoy running through all the boroughs of NYC.

With this is mind, I have some things to keep me focused when the miles get rough.  Let's be realistic here, there are always some really tough miles in every single marathon that is run.  Even the elite runners talk about pushing through when it hurts!

If I were to put time goals out there for my race, here is what seems achievable based on my training and fitness level.  Of course every race day is different and as runners, we know that some days are your day and others not so much.  So far, the weather is looking quite nice for Sunday and hopefully there will be little if any wind as we traverse several bridges while completing the race.

A Goal:  4:30 or below: This would be possible if I feel strong and can manage the hills without trouble.  Since I live in a place that is flat as a pancake, the lack of hill training made me put an A goal well below my marathon PR that was achieved on my home course here in NC. Course crowding with 49,999 other runners will make it difficult to run the tangents too.

B Goal:  4:30 -4:45  Unless I have a really rough day, this should be manageable given my long run training for the race.  All my long runs were between 10:00 and 10:15 minute mile pace.

C Goal:  Finish the race and not die.  Kidding, but not really.  Coach Sami told me this course was more difficult that Boston so finishing strong and feeling good is also a goal.

I'm excited and nervous at the same time but know race day jitters go away quickly once the gun is sounded.  Most of all, I want to soak in all this race has to offer.  Anyone else get crazy when coming up with race day goals?

October 27, 2015

40th Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap

This race can be summarized by one simple fact - I have never given so much in one race. I have never hurt so badly. I have never enjoyed the journey so much. And so begins my story of the 40th Marine Corps Marathon on October 25, 2015.

On Saturday morning, Adam and I planned to head to the expo early to pick up my bib. We arrived at the convention center just as the expo was opening and found the crowds pretty manageable, with the exception of the official race merchandise area. Collecting my bib was simple and I was relieved that there was no issue with my name change (I had my correspondence and marriage certificate just in case...). Most of the official merchandise that interested me was gone by the time we arrived at the expo so I picked out a pint glass and miraculously found a magnet still available.

Our next stop was the Team Fisher House booth to collect my jacket and bag. I was delighted to chat with Cathy, one of the two race coordinators, with whom I had corresponded in advance of the race. I also received one of the official race jackets, arm sleeves, a neat authentic cowbell, and the Fisher House 25th anniversary book as fundraising prizes. I got wonderful info and support for meeting up with the team on race morning before and after the race. We also grabbed a cowbell and cow hat for Adam as part of our spectating quad. Sadly, the cow hat didn't get much wear.

Saturday evening, my family headed to the Team Fisher House pasta dinner for some carbs and inspirational words. A Fisher House family was invited to speak and share their story. The young wife told us about her experience at the San Antonio Fisher House and the incredible support they were provided. She closed by telling all the runners to think of her and her family when we got tired during the race. I made a mental commitment to do so.

Before I headed to bed, I did some light stretching and yoga, checked the weather for the one millionth time, and organized my race gear,one last time. I had a special addition to my race outfit. Earlier that afternoon, Adam gave me his name tape from his Army uniform that he wore while he was in Iraq. When he asked me to wear it, I promptly started crying, a pre-marathon emotional mess, and told him I would be honored. He told me it would keep me safe and I told him I hoped to make him proud. We decided it would best be pinned to the shoulder of my race jersey.

Race morning started like most...I didn't sleep great and woke up well before my alarm (3 AM on Sunday - woof!). I got ready and headed to the metro around 5:35 with a fellow runner who was also staying at our hotel. Hi Gabby! Instead of getting off the metro at Pentagon, I headed to Rosslyn to meet up with Danielle and go to our respective charity tents.
Two looks: Race day chic and Hobo chic
It was simple to meet Danielle and as we walked over to charity hill, we both commented that the air was warmer and more humid than we would like. At the Team Fisher House tent, there was an excitement shared among the runners. I found a seat and chatted with some other runners while I ate my bagel with peanut butter and sipped on some water and Gatorade. It was definitely nice to have a dry place to sit and the port-a-potties with no lines at charity hill were fantastic! And given that the rain started around 6:30 or so, I was glad to have a dry place to hang out. Danielle and I headed to the start line around 7:00. Being a bit overcautious, we both elected to walk around the start line rather than cross over the timing mats.

We walked back to the 4 hour marker in the start area and hung out before deciding to hit the port-a-potties one last time. I received a text message from a friend wishing me well and reminding me to think of the Fisher House families when the going got tough. I filed that away for later. Next, the starting festivities happened fast - the National Anthem, parachuters, and Osprey flyover. Neither of us ever heard the Howitzer or starting pistol. All of a sudden we were walking up and realized that this was it, we're about to cross the start. Lots of people started running well before the starting line but we opted to save our energy and walk until just before we crossed the timing mats. We joked with a guy standing next to us about "staying strong" and not running too early.
Parachuters with huge American flags
Osprey flyover
Miles 0-4, Rosslyn: The crowds and hills are equally intense for the first few miles.  I had reviewed the course map so I knew to expect the hills but they suck a lot more when you're running up them! They definitely help keep your pace in check in the beginning. We saw our families just before the first mile, which was a nice boost and a good chance for Danielle to pass off her jacket. There wasn't anything terribly eventful during these miles.

Miles 4-10, Georgetown, Rock Creek Parkway, Kennedy Center: I expected more course crowding but never really felt too much, unlike our first year. I enjoyed the bridge into Georgetown where the views are great and there were some funny spectators. There's one very steep downhill coming off M Street that really bugged my knees but I tried to put that out of mind quickly. As we turned to head out to Rock Creek, our families were there again to give us a boost.

Seeing my family at mile 5-ish
I actually really enjoyed Rock Creek this year. The leaves are changing and the out and back offers a good chance to see more runners. I kept my eyes out but didn't see many friends. As we headed to the Kennedy Center, I knew we would be seeing our families again and they were there cheering again!

Miles 10-14, Jefferson Memorial, Hains Point: My legs really started to tighten up in here. I kept telling myself to relax and hang on. There were tons of spectators but I found the course to feel surprisingly quiet. This was definitely a big disappointment since Hains Point is known to be a quiet, lonely spot on the course and I was eager for crowd support as we headed that way. Danielle and I actually were yelling to them and throwing our arms in the air to get them to make noise! I knew to expect the emotional blue mile at mile 12. I stayed to the left side of the road and read every photo that I passed...well I usually read one piece of info because I couldn't take it all in. When I noticed a photo of a man in his West Point dress uniform, I got a little choked up. Adam is a West Point alum and showed me photos and told me stories of his classmates who died during their service. It hit close to home and reminded me that Sunday's race was bigger than me. It was truly a chance to honor our service members.

We crossed the half mats at 2:08 and change. I felt pretty good about this split, but could sense that I was in a bit more pain than I probably should have been at the halfway point. I kept telling myself that marathons aren't easy and I should be running at a comfortably hard pace to PR. From the halfway point to mile 14 or so, Danielle continued to pull away from me. I kept trying to catch up and simply couldn't. After a walk break, she was so far ahead that she was out of sight. She stepped off the road and onto the grass to look back for me. I motioned for her to go ahead and smiled as if to say, "it's ok, I'm ok." A few minutes later, she was completely gone from my sights. I was sad to have to say goodbye so early in the race but I started feeling relieved that I wasn't going to be chasing her anymore and could run my own race. I think at some point in these miles, the rain stopped.

Miles 14-17, Hains Point, Jefferson Memorial, DC War Memorial: These miles felt very, very long for me. I noticed that I was extremely thirsty and constantly anticipating the next water stop. I contemplated sending a text message to my family telling them I needed water but didn't want to mess with my phone. which was safely tucked inside a ziplock bag in the back pocket of my skirt. As we came off Hains Point, I looked off towards the mall and could see some of the notable DC tourist sites. I told myself to have an open heart, to be open to whatever came of this race. Don't get me wrong, I didn't throw in the towel with respect to time, but I made the conscious decision to shift my focus during the race. This stretch has huge crowds and I tried to feed off their energy. I knew I would see my family soon and just tried to focus on getting to them. My pace climbed in this section but I wasn't overly concerned.

Miles 17-20, National Mall: I saw my family just past mile 17. I happened to be at a walk break but the minute I saw them, I started running again and was so excited to see 5 friendly faces in the crowd. Adam handed me a banana and then ran with me for a moment. I think I told him I was hurting and was having trouble. He gave me some encouraging words. The spectators on the mall are so incredible so I focused on enjoying the various museums on the route and enjoying the crowds. I started hurting really badly in this stretch and kept thinking about how many miles were left...too many to be hurting so much already. I think it was during this time, that I started telling myself "don't quit" out loud when I was really having a tough time. As we turned past the Capitol, I noticed a woman with an Old English Sheepdog and I yelled that I loved her dog and have one too. After we turned to head back down the mall, I noticed a woman with a Team Fisher House jersey. I had been running close to her for a while and decided to ask her if she wanted to run with me. Her name was Leah and we chatted for a moment. It was nice to have a buddy and we ended up running together for about a mile and a half.

I saw my family again just before we headed over the 14th Street Bridge. At this point, I was struggling and when I saw Adam, I ran over and threw my arms around him for a hug, saying "10k to go, I can do this." I thanked my brother- and sister-in-law for being there, then hugged my Mom and high-fived my Dad. Apparently Adam said I looked really happy at this point...I was genuinely happy to see them but feeling pretty rough. I took off to conquer the bridge feeling joy in my heart.

Miles 20-22, 14th Street Bridge, Crystal City: Oh, the bridge. That bridge chewed me up and spit me out. I was hurting. It's lonely. I lost Leah at some point. About three quarters of the way over it, I contemplated walking the rest of the race. I took an unscheduled walk break to try to collect myself and get rid of the negative thoughts. In that moment, I thought of Lilly Scott who spoke to us at the Team Fisher House dinner. She and her husband Blaine didn't "walk it home" when Blaine was recovering from third degree burns and countless other injuries. Adam didn't "walk it home" when he was serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And countless other service members didn't "walk it home." I wasn't going to quit. My body hurt and I was feeling totally wrecked, but damnit I wasn't going to quit. It didn't matter how slow I ran, but I was running. As I came off the bridge, with tears running down my face, I saw a huge cheer squad and heard someone yelling my name. My friend Becca was there with the Oiselle team cheering. She gave me a huge hug and yelled "you got this" over and over to me. It was so huge for me. I fed off that hug and encouragement for at least a mile. In some respects, I feel like she might have helped me save my race. I was in a dark place coming off the bridge and that was just the encouragement I needed to make a push the final 5 miles.

Miles 22-24, Crystal City: I don't remember reading about a course change from 2013, but the Crystal City route was different from when I ran MCM previously. The crowds were on point in here and I really enjoyed the many Team Fisher House cheer stations. It one point a spectator yelled "Go Suter," clearly noticing my arm band. I touched it, and once again told myself to keep going and "do it for them" (words I told myself throughout the last half of this race). I gave many high fives and tried to spot friends. I noticed Danielle in this section and yelled her name. For some reason, I didn't think she saw me even though she yelled back to me. Chalk that up to mushy marathon brain in full effect! I could sense that the end was nearing and while I felt so exhausted, I tried to pick up the pace. My legs simply felt like they were churning in cement, but I kept working. I clicked through my shuffle to find my pump up songs and listened to them on repeat. I was desperate for another water station and was relieved to see one shortly after the munchkin stop, which once again, I skipped.

Miles 24-Finish, Pentagon, Marine Corps War Memorial: The mile from Crystal City to the Pentagon was long and boring. I think there were more Team Fisher House cheer squads but I can't remember for certain. Each time I saw someone wearing a Team Fisher House jersey, I cheered for them or gave them a thumbs up. After we passed the Pentagon, I started doing some mental math. I hadn't really contemplated my finish time for a while, knowing that a PR was way out of reach. I realized that I had a chance to beat my first MCM time (my C goal), but I had work to do. Remembering the advice of Jeff Galloway and the commentary about Deena Kastor in the Spirit of the Marathon movie, I started pumping my arms. My legs were dead but I worked my arms. And on the stretch to mile 26, I slowly picked people off. I desperately needed a distraction from my aching legs, so I started focusing on someone ahead of me and slowly attempted to pass them. It worked. I think I passed 3 people using this strategy.  The beloved mile 26 marker was in view and I could see the turn for the finish. I figured my family would be in here somewhere so I kept my head up. I saw them on the left side of the hill yelling wildly, flashed them a smile and then moved as fast as my tired body could carry me across the finish line. I was so happy to raise my arms in triumph, click my watch, and stop running!

Official time: 4:36.36, about 80 seconds faster than 2013. C goal achieved!

After missing a photo with the Marine Corps War
Memorial in 2013, I made sure to get one this time!
After I took a few photos and picked up my post-race food, I headed to meet my family and over to the Team Fisher House tent. Adam immediately signed me up for a massage and we found a spot to hang out and enjoy some post-race refreshments. I had a bag of animal crackers and the fruit bowl from the race box. Per usual, my stomach was a little off and I wasn't really feeling most of the food. Luckily my Dad, Adam and brother-in-law took care of my serving of wings in the Team Fisher House tent!
Marine Corps Marathon finisher and my #1 fan
The best MCM race buddy!
I finally caught up with Danielle to celebrate our races and decided it was time to head back to the hotel. I was feeling a bit cold and didn't want to wait around any longer to get a massage. While we didn't get to recreate our "Mission Accomplished" photo from 2 years prior, we did get one on the overpass into Rosslyn.

I'll be sharing more thoughts in another post, but I am so pleased with this race. It wasn't my best time, but I'm totally at peace with that. I have never given so much of myself in preparation for and during a race. I left my heart and my guts on the course on Sunday.

October 23, 2015

Five things I love - running version

This week, the lovely ladies of DC, Courtney, Mar and Cynthia  have a great topic for the Friday linkup.  Please be sure to check out their posts and many others when you click on the links.

When I think of the topic five things I love, immediately my family comes to mind. But running, travel and visiting friends come close behind and are more interesting to talk about on the blog. My race registrations completed for 2016 include some really cool racecations and they have me super pumped to train and race in new places.

 After spending 5 years living in England and not being a runner at the time, the London Marathon has been on my bucket list ever since I started running marathons.  So imagine my delight when I was accepted as a charity fundraiser for the 2016 race.  More on that in a future post, but let's just say there were some squeals at my house when I received my email confirmation.  Best of all, we will get to see quite a few friends when visiting London next April.  Hopefully some of them will even come out to cheer.

Ever since 2012, Christine and I have had a Disneyland Paris race on our list.  Mind you, runDisney had no races planned in Paris at that time, but these two girls were hoping and dreaming that our wish would come true. When the announcement was made at the Princess Half Marathon start earlier this year, we were both shocked and delighted.  About ten days ago, I spent a long time on the phone with a lovely girl who got us registered for both the 5k and half marathon at Disneyland Paris in September 2016.

Sunday, November 1st is the date of the NYC Marathon and this will be my first race in New York and my second marathon major.  Heading to the city with several runners from my Without Limits group will make the weekend fun and exciting.  We have post race plans to celebrate with a drink at the Plaza Hotel so that should be a great way to finish off our race weekend.

Spectating races is always a wonderful way to get motivated for your next race or training run.  Last weekend I cheered and celebrated three triathletes from my group who finished their first half iron distance triathlon and not only did they finish, but they had fantastic finish times as well.  These fabulous results make me more eager to do my best at my next race.  This weekend will be another opportunity to be inspired by runners as we travel to DC to spectate at the Marine Corps Marathon. We can't wait to cheer for Christine and many others we know who are racing. There are six runners I have set to track on race day and the new iPhone app should make it easy.

My turn to return the favor and cheer for Christine.

In September, I celebrated two years of being part of Without Limits, my coached training group.  This has brought so much joy to me as I train for races, including some that we travel to and race together.  While this group has a wide variety of runners from young to old, slow to super speedy, everyone is very encouraging and supportive.  You should try a group if you haven't already!

What is on your list?

October 22, 2015

Marine Corps Marathon Goals

On March 25th, my summer changed. I received that email telling me that I had obtained a spot in the coveted 40th anniversary Marine Corps Marathon. I still can't believe I entered the lottery. But I am glad that I did. After spending months of training, weekends of long runs, and weeks quietly considering my time goals, I am thrilled to be approaching race day! If you recall, this race I decided not to run with an aggressive time goal in mind and simply focus on having fun and successfully fundraise for the race.

Goals for the journey
1. Have fun! Without question, Danielle and I had a great time running together during the race 2 years ago. I told her last night that I was thrilled she convinced me to enter the lottery and I was really excited to experience this race again with her.
We basically smiled the whole way!
2. Enjoy the camaraderie of Team Fisher House. I have been really humbled at the outpouring of support (and $$) for my Fisher House fundraiser. In fact, I was really surprised to learn that I was one of the team's top fundraisers (9th) and also obtained one of the largest groups of individual donors (I was 3rd with 44 donors). I am really excited to meet my team members and the staff who have been helping us along the way. I look forward to lots of cowbell from our crew on the course!

3. Regain my marathon confidence. Yesterday, I did something really dumb. I reviewed, no wait, I actually compared my training data from Richmond Marathon to this cycle. And then I got kind of down. I trained really fast for Richmond and simply fell apart on race day. It left me angry, sad, and apathetic about running. This training cycle for Marine Corps has been about fun and finding my groove again. It simply wasn't about speed. I look forward to race day to prove to myself that Richmond didn't define me as a marathoner and there will be better race days.

4. Soak in the race. I did this really well in 2013. I want to do it again. High five spectators, enjoy the Fisher House cheering stations, thank the Marines. I want to do it all.

Outcome goals
So now let's talk time goals, shall we?
A Goal: This is the everything goes right on race day goal. It's the one with perfect weather (although I don't think we'll have that but I still want to keep this goal alive) and conditions. 4:10 or better. This would be an 8 min PR but I think this is realistic. It's 9:30 pace for 26.2 miles.

B Goal: This would still be a good race but not the ideal day. My PR dreams are still alive but not as aggressive.  If the weather turns sour, this is probably my A goal range. 4:10-4:18.00. This is in the 9:40-9:50 pace range. My long 20 milers were around 10:00 pace so this should be very doable.

C Goal: This is my "eh, nothing went right, but I still beat my first Marine Corps Marathon" time goal. 4:38.52 or better.

How do you establish race goals?

October 21, 2015

What's after Marine Corps Marathon?

I'm sitting here drinking coffee from my Tinker Bell Half Marathon mug reminiscing on the last half marathon that I ran. It's hard to believe it was 5 months ago. What's even more surprising is that it has been 18 months since I ran a half marathon for time. This year has been a void of racing for me. It was a year of recovering from a marathon that left me bruised and battered (mostly mentally and emotionally). I also was focusing on some other fun things in my life (see also: getting engaged and married!!). This year, quite simply, wasn't about running for me. Sure running was still a big part of my life (we did run on my wedding day!) but it wasn't a focal point. I doubt it will be in 2016 either but I enjoy thinking about the possibilities.

Christmas Town Dash 8k: I saw the medal revealed on the Flat Out Events Instagram account last night and went nuts! I love gingerbread men and think this is simply adorable! Upon looking at the date, I'm not sure it really makes sense. Adam and I return from our honeymoon the week before and I have no clue if I'll be in any condition to run nearly 5 miles or be jet lagged and miserable.
Photo from Flat Out Events

Shamrock Half Marathon: I've run this race twice and have PR'ed it both times. I love the J&A race series and Shamrock lives up to the hype. If I were to attempt another half marathon PR (and I'm kind of itching to do so), this race would be high on my list. It's a flat course, is local, and I know the course well. The advantage to signing up for this race even if I defer is that it's local so there aren't extra costs for travel.

Run for the Dream Half Marathon: I ran this race back in 2013. It's a really tough course! Adam has expressed some light interest in running a half marathon. Given that we were engaged in Williamsburg and enjoy spending time there, I figure this would be a fun place to run.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon (and 5k): Mom and I have been talking about the potential for a Disneyland Paris race for years (since August 2012 to be exact) . I have to admit that I wasn't as excited as I anticipated for this race announcement. It's a huge commitment about a year in advance. To be totally transparent, I'm not 100% certain I'll run it even though we signed up (yea, I know that sounds insane).

As much as I would like to work on some of my times for shorter races, I'm simply not sure I want to commit right now. I am eagerly looking forward to having some free time to rebuild my social life (that always seems to dissolve during marathon training!) and plan some weekend adventures with Adam.

Decisions, decisions...how to do you handle race planning after a marathon?

October 19, 2015

25 jams for your marathon playlist

I rarely run without music. I know that it's probably not my best habit but I feed off the energy of the songs and it can really help my pace at the end of the race. I've been carefully working through my playlist for my upcoming race at the Marine Corps Marathon. The last few races I've run, I've thrown something together quickly and given that a marathon is such a time consuming endeavor, I want my tunes to be on point!

My starting line song (yes, for every single race):
* Naked and Famous - Punching in a Dream

10 jams from my Team Fisher House contributors: As part of my fundraising efforts for Team Fisher House, I offered an incentive to select a song for my playlist for donations of $26.20 and up. I got some great ideas and these are my top 10 favorites!
* Eminem - Till I collapse
* Talking Heads - Once in a Lifetime
* U.S. Marines - Listen to the Rhythm (perfect for this race!)
* Britney Spears - Work B**ch
* Redlight King - Born to Rise
* Walk the Moon - Shut Up and Dance
* Queen - We are the Champions
* EMF - Unbelievable
* Young the Giant - My Body
* Shepperd - Geronimo

The songs for the mile 20 bridge: Yea, I don't need all of these songs for the bridge, but you get the idea. Another name for this group of songs, is the "get shit done" group. You get the picture...
* Fort Minor - Remember the Name
* Jeremiah featuring Flo Rida - Tonight Belongs to U
* Trick Daddy - Let's Go
* Kevin Rudolf and Little Wayne - Let it Rock

5 songs that make me smile:
* Katy Perry - Roar (Mom's favorite song)
* Alesso featuring Tove Lo - Heroes (it reminds me of the heroes I'm running for)
* Maroon 5 - Sugar (this song played at our wedding reception)
* Van Halen - Panama (I vividly remember hearing this song on Rock Creek Parkway during my first marathon and it always makes me happy for that moment)
* A clip from the Simpsons called "Suckiest Bunch of Sucks" (a friend added this to a playlist he made me for my first marathon and it makes me laugh)

5 off-the-beaten path picks:
* Silversun Pickups - Substitution
* Rihanna - We Found Love from Cahill Club
* Kid Cudi - Pursuit of Happiness
* Elton John - Saturday Night's Alright
* Mumford and Sons - The Wolf

What are you favorite songs for your racing playlist?

October 16, 2015

Friday 5: Foods to enjoy in Hawaii!

In just a few weeks, Adam and I will be headed off on our Hawaiian honeymoon. We are both so excited and have spent many hours poring over guidebooks, websites, and seeking input from friends and family who have traveled there. We'll be visiting the big island, Kauai, and Oahu. Sometimes when one of us isn't having a great day, we'll start talking about our trip which is a great incentive for us both. Recently, we started talking about foods and drinks that we're excited to try and I figured this was a good take on today's Friday Five post with the DC Trifecta (Mar, Cynthia, Courtney)...I mean we'll be eating Hawaiian foods in the fall so why not?!

October 15, 2015

Why I love tapering

There seem to be mixed feelings on the taper for most runners. Some love it and some hate it. I happen to be in the former group. And since I'm halfway through my Marine Corps Marathon taper, I figured I would share the reasons that I LOVE TAPERING!

Finishing up my last double-digit run last weekend
1. Lower mileage: I've never been a high mileage girl. My body struggles with it and I always had a hard time making the time with my demanding job. Lower mileage just suits me.

2. Everything starts feeling easier: Earlier this week, I planned a progression run and found myself running my last mile at 8:20 pace. For my current paces and training level, I might as well be breaking the sound barrier. When I cut back on mileage at the end of a training cycle, I find my speed and love the fresh feeling that my legs seem to have.

3. More time: While being in a funemployed status makes this somewhat of a moot point, I enjoy having more time on the weekends for chores, activities, and time with my husband and friends.

4. Focusing on me: The taper is a great time to really focus intently on nutrition, sleep, and hydration. I've been bringing a tumbler filled with ice water for whenever I head out to do errands. And despite not having a good reason (like a day job) for waking up early, I'm maintaining my same bedtime and wake up routine. And actually, I've been going to bed a bit earlier which is helpful for getting in the habit of an earlier bedtime for race week.

5. Race day is nearing: Duh! Nothing signals race day more clearly than taper time. I've been enjoying rereading many of my past Marine Corps Marathon posts and reviewing all of the race prep news from Marine Corps Marathon and Team Fisher House.

So how do you feel about tapering? Love it or hate it?

If you are interested in supporting my Team Fisher House fundraiser, you can access my fundraising page here

October 14, 2015

Race medals - do you run for bling?

While doing a short run this morning, my medal and running display came to the forefront of my thoughts. We had house guests over the weekend and when they saw my "shrine" of medals and plaques, I honestly became embarrassed despite it being in our bedroom.  Before we moved last December, my closet was a perfect spot for lots of my race memorabilia and photos.  My desk area was also in a secluded spot where I enjoyed my running stuff, but it was not in a main part of our home.  Now, my medal rack and photos, Boston poster and other items are hung across one wall in the bedroom.  And yes, it is obnoxious.  So, this weekend, my plans are to rearrange my closet and put the medal rack and plaques on the wall so they are viewed by my eyes only.

My family calls me a collector. Hadley Pottery, Pandora charms, Hummel figurines, you name it and I probably collected it at some point in time.  Over the last few years, my singular collection is running medals and prizes.  While race medals are fun to collect, many runners put their medals in drawers and under beds in a box,including lots of places other than on display.  My sister is the perfect example of someone who never puts anything on display.  Actually, I have not been to her house since we ran Boston together in April, but my guess is that medal is in a drawer.  I kinda hope it is on display, since she worked so hard with me to complete the race, But my gut tells me her modest self has the medal hidden away.

Over the past decade, participation medals and trophies for many sports are now the norm.  In the past, you had to be either an age group winner or overall winner to earn medals at running races. As a child, a participation trophy was given to Christine for tee ball, I thought it was quite strange. The teams did not keep score (although every kid knew if they had won or lost) and a dinky trophy was certainly not going to make the kid who struck out every time feel better about his baseball skills.

While medals are not my motivation to race, there is an amount of enjoyment when I look at my medal display and realize how much I have done over the past 5 years.  That being said, I would prefer a cheaper price tag for 5k and 10k races instead of a participation medal.  In my opinion, the longer races seem to merit a medal, but those smaller races should only give age group awards.

Tell me your thoughts on medals. Do you run for the bling, or the race experience?  Have you ever won an age group award?

October 9, 2015

Friday Five: My marathon motivators!

This summer has been a strange one for me. I wasn't terribly engaged in much of anything other than work. And while I was dealing with high stress and anxiety, I had several people who were standing by my side to encourage and gently remind me to take care of myself. And in the best way possible, they reminded me to keep pushing to train for Marine Corps Marathon. On some level, they were the sole reason I arrived at the taper with a semi-decent training cycle under my belt.

1. My Husband: Adam has been more patient and more kind than any one person should have to be with their new spouse. He nudged me during training, encouraged me when I was feeling down, and encouraged me to walk away from my job when I needed to.  He's logged almost as many miles as me, often riding his bike beside me when I'm out for long runs. I have no doubt that he would have rather slept or done anything other than slowly biking by my side. I am incredibly grateful for his support and tough love, when I needed it!
Ice cream break after a beach hike on the Eastern Shore! 

Enjoying the vineyards in Charlottesville on our first weekend away as a
married couple
2. My Folks: When I was thinking about leaving my job, I was really nervous to tell my parents. I was raised to never give up (famous words from my grandfather) and to work hard. I was nervous that they might not readily accept my decision or that they might be disappointed in me for taking a step back. That couldn't have been further from the truth. They checked on me regularly and provided unwavering support. And on the running front, my Mom offered a little bit of tough love which, at times I needed. She encouraged me to finish up my long runs to hit the mileage and keep focusing on stretching and foam rolling to stay healthy.

3. My friends, CyanneDanielle, and Megan: Thank goodness for wonderful girlfriends who stand by you!

Cyanne is running the Chicago Marathon this Sunday and has been incredibly dedicated to her training plan. She also manages to maintain a pretty intense job with significant responsibilities. Her dedication to her training has been incredible. Each week, I would see Cyanne's workouts posted on social media and it was a subtle reminder to me that my marathon wasn't waiting on me. I had to get out and run even if my paces or mileage weren't what I was hoping for. I don't think she ever knew this...but thanks, Cyanne! Your smiley-faced run photos always motivated me.

I am forever grateful that I have Danielle as my buddy for Marine Corps Marathon. If it hadn't been for Danielle registering for the lottery, I probably wouldn't have thrown my name in. And while there were days that I wished I hadn't entered, I'm excited to race with her again. We trade text messages during long runs, celebrate great runs, and lament crappy ones. When my training was a little askew, she never pressured me or made me feel bad.

While Megan lives hundreds of miles away, she's been a devoted friend. When I was really run down, she gently told me it was ok that I skipped my 16 mile training run in favor of rest.  She routinely checked on me and sent me cute photos of her pup when I was having a rough day. When I was deeply struggling at work, she was kind and empathetic.

4. Team Fisher House: On every single run, I thought about Team Fisher House. I pondered why I was running. I have mentioned that I often talk out loud to myself during runs (yes, I know that sounds nutty). In many cases, I would simply say to myself "do it for them" when I was tired, hurting, or simply wanted to quit. I said it enough and kept going. Being a part of a charity team is a really amazing experience. I deeply believe in this cause. It's a responsible charity. Adam knows people who have stayed there. I have friends of friends who have stayed there. Real people need this. It's a hugely impactful organization and I am so proud to wear the yellow Fisher House singlet to run the Marine Corps Marathon.

5. Fellow runners and blog readers: On a few occasions, I noticed comments on the blog or social media wondering where I was or inquiring if I would be back. At times, it made me feel guilty. It seemed like another ball that I dropped during my summer of haze and fatigue. But in reality, I love the dialogue that I have with other runners through this blog, other's blogs and social media. I have always been incredibly appreciative of the support from fellow runners. As I once wrote several years ago, "We care about each other through good runs and bad, PRs and disappointments, chafing and carbo loading.  It's a fraternity of black toenails, hydration and mind-numbing long runs.' It was true then and it's true now. 

We're linking up with the DC Trifecta of Mar, Courtney, and Cynthia. Check out who motivates them and other Friday Five bloggers!

If you're interested in supporting my Team Fisher House fundraiser for Marine Corps Marathon, you can check out my fundraising page here

October 8, 2015

Evolution of my Marathon Races

I find that during many of my marathon training runs I reflect on past races. It seems natural. I find that I often feed off the energy and positive emotions from past races. While I was out for my 20 mile training run last Sunday, I had a very long time to reflect. Several hours to consider past races. And as I start to put together a race day strategy for the upcoming Marine Corps Marathon in a few weeks. I thought a lot about how each race was different, what I learned, how I approached them, etc. So let's ponder the last three 26.2's that I've run over the last 2 years...

Marine Corps Marathon, 2013
This was my first marathon and was, in some ways, a long time coming. I ran my first marathon 10 months after Mom ran her first. I was really thoughtful about my first race. I wanted to know that I was ready for the distance and really want to do it.
The race registration was a nightmare and I nearly didn't get in. But other than that, it was pretty smooth sailing. I had a few bumps along the way during training but I nailed my mileage and had a good taper. I vividly remember my last run before I headed to DC and literally feeling like I was flying. My legs were fresh and I was ready!
Feeling highly nervous about race day, I made my own dinner to eat the night before the race. Yes, you read that right. I was staying with a friend who is an incredible cook but was so nervous that I elected to bring a tupperware with baked chicken and pasta with tomato sauce. It was a silly thing but it calmed my nerves. Race day morning, I had some anxiety about successfully meeting up with Danielle and Lisa. Luckily that concern was unfounded and we easily found each other.
Having an experienced marathoner by my side really helped. When I started to hurt around mile 16, Danielle put my mind at ease and stayed with me. I ugly cried as I approached the finish line and a Marine put a medal around my neck and saluted me. Oh, and I beat my very loose goal time by 22 minutes. You can't ask for a better first marathon experience.

Walt Disney World Marathon, 2014
This race was unlike any other. Mom and I were running this marathon after running 22.4 miles on the previous 3 days...it was the culminating race for the inaugural Dopey Challenge. I had no idea what to expect for this race. I was quite nervous the day before, knowing that Mom had BQ on her brain. I was relieved when she let that goal go.
What I remember from this race was having a lot of fun with Mom. We enjoyed seeing the parks and characters, observing other runners's costumes, and chatting with other runners. I remember reaching halfway and thinking we were really doing well. In true Keenan runner fashion, we negative split the race in a big way. I had a fair bit of energy left so I tried to pump up the crowds as we exited Hollywood Studios toward the end of the race. Mom wasn't too pleased that I was getting ahead of her until she figured out why.
I'm probably most proud of this race. We trained incredibly hard and ran a really strong marathon with great pacing. Even though I had one marathon under by belt going into this race, I still felt like a novice and wasn't sure what to expect. I am so glad that I look back on this weekend with fond memories. And getting 3 medals at the finish line didn't hurt either!

Richmond Marathon, 2014
As you all know, it took me a long time to move past the disappointment that I felt from the Richmond Marathon last fall. It was the first time that I went into a marathon with an aggressive time goal. I trained hard and felt ready to tackle that goal but it just wasn't my day. 28 degree starting line temperatures and several major hills on the front end of the course did me in quickly. I had a lot of moments when I thought I might DNF.
I am forever grateful that Mom was waiting on the side of the course and jumped in to run "a few miles" with me. Little did I know that she would get me across the finish line with a tear-streaked face and a knee that I thought might spontaneously combust. Sidebar - can a joint do that? Because I'm pretty sure that could have happened that day.
With this race almost a year behind me, I've started looking at it a little differently. My mantra that day was "fight for it." And while I didn't achieve the goal time I had set for myself, I fought very hard for the finish. I fought to control my emotions and the thoughts in my head. I take this lesson with me into my next marathon...they won't always be fun or feel great, but I can fight through 26.2 miles even if it sucks.

With my fourth marathon ahead of me, I'm not exactly sure what to expect. You better believe I'm hoping for a day more like the first two than the day I had at Richmond. But the good news is that I'm prepared for a hellish race. I know I can get across the finish line if it sucks. I did it once and I can do it again. I'm approaching Marine Corps with a little more caution and not the reckless abandon of a first timer. I am still working through my goals and know that I will be walking into this race a smarter runner with three very different marathon experiences under my belt.

What is the one thing marathons have taught you?

October 7, 2015

Long runs on the treadmill, tantalizing or torturous

On Sunday, when a long run of 18 miles was on my training plan, my first attempt was an outdoor run.  But with the winds howling and rain imminent (thanks Hurricane Joaquin), after less than one mile my car transported me to the gym where I would log 17.4 miles to complete the distance.  This was definitely the longest run I have ever done on a treadmill. It was not without dread that I signed in at the gym and proceeded to get ready for the run.  Our gym has a cardio equipment limit of 30 minutes if the gym is busy and someone is waiting for a piece of equipment. With this in mind, I was prepared to make several trips to the gym to complete the mileage.  However, luck was on my side because there were always at least two free treadmills during the time I was there from 7:15am to 10:30 am.  How did I get through the distance?  I have a few things that made it easier.

1. Stopping after each 6 mile increment:  This gave me a chance to take a good break for water, a gel and a bathroom break.  The treadmills automatically go to cool down mode after 55 minutes so I got in my 6 miles by increasing my speed during the cool down and that got me to the nice even number!

2.  Trash TV:  Being mindlessly occupied during a very long run can help ease the boredom when you are stuck indoors. My preference is always to run outside, in fact I frequently use the word dreadmill when I refer to running indoors. Watching TV can really help pass the time quickly if you choose your shows wisely!  I love to watch HGTV, the ESPN sports channels, Bravo and sometimes an old movie.  Any show that captures my attention is a winner!

3. A visit from Tom:  Having a great support system can make marathon training much easier. When I spotted Tom approaching my treadmill with a Gatorade in one hand and a couple protein bars in the other, I broke out in a huge smile.  He knew what a tough day it would be and the Gatorade came at exactly the right time.

4.  Accountability:  Having a coach and reporting back about my workouts makes me try harder.  There is no reason I should feel this way, but I don't want to disappoiint someone who works hard to come up with my workouts and encourages me every step of the way.

And some thoughts on additional ways to make the treadmill something you can enjoy and not dread:

5. Grab a friend:  Our weather has not been kind to us this fall and one Friday after driving to the track, my friend Pam and I decided to hit the gym since practice outdoors was cancelled due to heavy rain. We had a pretty tough speed workout, but being on a treadmill knowing someone else felt your pain made it so much easier.  We also treated ourselves to a coffee date afterwards.

6. Bargain with yourself:  I like to play "Let's Make A Deal", and come up with some really fun treat to have once a difficult and very long treadmill workout is done. While on the mill for my 18 miles, I had lots of great ideas, but the best one came after I returned home and a friend wanted to meet at Starbucks.  Now that was a great way to relax and bask in the post run glow. I have also been known to do a little internet shopping too, usually for new running gear!

7. Be prepared for the worst: Some days, these runs will not go your way and it will be very painful getting in your mileage no matter how strong you are mentally. My best runs are the ones where I have to work the hardest.  The easy ones are a no brainer, but the hard ones prepare you for race day. You won't quit on race day, so keep it up during the training runs.

Do you have ways to get through long runs on the treadmill?  I would some ideas! 

October 5, 2015

Marathon Training Update

It's been a while since I talked about my Marine Corps Marathon training plans and progress. This training cycle has been a little different than most. With everything going on at work, it was a bit of a refuge for me and was some quiet time alone in my head. I treated my training runs simply as another thing on my to do list. I haven't been focused on time goals or paces this time around. Quite frankly, I've been more interested in working towards my Team Fisher House fundraising goals. While this isn't my normal attitude towards racing, I'm ok with it.

Testing out my Team Fisher House jersey a few weeks ago
Over the last 3 weeks, I've conquered my highest mileage, logging two-20 mile runs on the weekend.  It's felt really great to hit the higher mileage. With my intense fatigue from work, I really struggled in July and August to hit my weekday mileage goals, so the long runs have been pretty important for me.

Yesterday, I braved the elements and logged my last long run prior to race day. I felt really strong for the first 12 miles or so and then the wind finally got to me. After that, my pace suffered a lot. While it was raining sideways for a few miles, my only goals were to avoid big puddles and not to lose my hat. And the good news was that my hat made it home with me!  With 3 miles to go, I was feeling pretty trashed. Everything hurt and I was really, really tired. And I was nowhere close to home. I stopped my Garmin and pulled over to a big telephone pole to stretch for a minute. And full disclosure, I cried for a minute as I felt pretty sorry for myself. And then I told myself (out loud, mind you) to keep going and just get it done. Slowly but surely, those last 3 miles ticked off and then I heard my watch beep for that glorious 20 mile indicator. Free at last!

While I knew that this run was significant since its completion ushered in that glorious taper that many marathon runners live for (*raises hand*), this thought was far from my mind during those last few painful miles. When I got home, Adam asked me what else was left on my training plan and I told him that this run was the end of the big mileage. He gave me an enthusiastic high five and told me I was ready. And he's right. I may not be going after an aggressive time goal at Marine Corps, I've set a lofty fundraising goal, which I'm approaching woohoo!

As race day approaches, I promised myself that I would spend some time more thoroughly analyzing my training paces to come up with a race day strategy. I also really need to focus on nutrition. With my Birthday and work departure, I've had my fair share of sweets and I am feeling a bit sluggish. Throughout this training cycle, my knee and hips have been a bit aggravated so I also promised myself that I would continue doing yoga a few times each week, foam roll each evening and remember that bag of frozen peas to ice my knee.

I hope to see some running buddies during the race weekend and I've started thinking through some outfit options depending on the weather. Fall marathon season is definitely here!

If you are interested in supporting my Team Fisher House fundraiser, I would greatly appreciate your support! You can donate here.

October 2, 2015

Bonnet Creek Boo-tacular Family Fun Run

Disclosure:  We were contacted by a representative of the Bonnet Creek properties to ask to promote this upcoming race. No compensation is received for this post and we are happy to support a race that helps children.

On October 31st, the Bonnet Creek property in Orlando Florida will be having a family fun run to benefit Give Kids the World.  If you don't know about this organization, you can read more about it here.

This special event will include many exciting things including the 2.75 fun run and the following:

* Trick or treating
* A haunted house
* Food and fun
* Raffles and prizes

Race day starts with registration from 7-8 am in case you forget to preregister and the race will be at 8:00 am.  Following the race will be 100 yard dash for the tiny kids and then a costume contest at 10 am. With a registration fee of $30 for adults and $15 for children 12 and under, this is quite a bargain for a race and some family fun to kick off your Halloween.

For more information and to connect with other participants here is a link to the Facebook page
And if you plan to register, click here for all the information!  Let us know if you plan to participate.  Unfortunately, we are unable to go but it sure sounds like a fun morning.

October 1, 2015

Crying a little for my "squeaked out" runner friends.

Yesterday was such a big day for so many Boston Marathon registration hopefuls. All serious runners know that reaching a BQ (Boston qualifying standard) only gives you the opportunity to register for the race.  It does not guarantee you a spot for several reasons, but most of all because many spots are held back for charity runners, the corporate sponsors and local organizations that support the race in so many ways.  Unfortunately, that means many runners have a very sad day when they get their  rejection email from the Boston Athletic Association.

Several of our running friends and in fact several of the runners in my Without Limits coached group did not gain an entry.  A first time qualifier, one of our coaches missed by seconds.  As devastating as these disappointments can be, there is alot to be said to have reached a BQ time as a marathon runner.  I have no idea what the statistics are as to how many marathon runners never achieve a BQ time, but it is probably pretty high.  Having good running genes, a great training plan, a support crew and of course the perfect race day conditions usually are necessary to reach such a goal. One girl in a Boston Marathon Facebook group that I belong to finally got her spot after qualifying 4 times previously and not making the cutoff.  Tears of joy would certainly be appropriate for this hardworking, dedicated runner who never gave up.  There are many more stories to share, but the sad ones are those of runners who thought they would have a spot based on the prior year cutoff times.

Moving on, I hope the "squeakers" missing out this year have a great marathon to give them an entry into the 2017 race.  The B.A.A. has not changed the standards for qualifying times for 2017, so hopefully with an additional push, many of those who did not get a spot this year will gain entry in the future.

If you want to read more about "squeakers, here is more info.

* A great post about being "squeaked out" by Jesica at Runladylike

* From the B.A.A. website, here are all the statistics for the 2016 race.

* Great perspective from a blogging runner, Suzlife who gained entry

Congrats to everyone who earned that coveted spot and for those that did not, good luck as you attempt to qualify again.