I think we’ve finally reached the turning point and are headed into spring. After a frigid weekend, we enjoyed 70 degree weather yesterday and the 10 day forecast doesn’t show us dipping back 30s again. Thank heavens.
At this time last year, we were on our way to Paris for the Marathon de Paris. I didn’t run, but I couldn’t resist a trip to Paris in the spring. There really is nothing like it. Leading up to this year’s race, I thought I’d share a few photos if you’d like to see.
Sometimes you just get lucky. That could basically serve at my New York City Marathon race recap.
Leading up to the race I had a few things going in my favor. Namely:
- A late race start and rolling the clocks back an hour meant that I actually slept eight hours the night before the race. I’m fairly certain this is the first time I’ve ever done this.
- I hydrated well the week before.
- I watched my nutrition the week before.
- I stayed off my feet on Sunday.
- I stayed warm at the race start by wearing an embarrassing amount of layers. Shivering = wasted energy.
- I started out really conservatively and didn’t pick up the pace until after mile 20.
- There were water stations every mile and I took advantage of every one of them.
- And most importantly, I (am not ashamed to admit that I) downloaded the new Taylor Swift album the night before the race and told myself that I could listen to it once I got to mile 18. Pre-determined head game.
There were, however, two very significant factors that I thought would all but guarantee a terrible race:
- I went in to a marathon completely undertrained. One should never, ever do this.
- The weather. Twenty mile an hour headwind for the majority of the course; gusts that topped 50 mph.
I lined up at Fort Wadsworth nearly certain of what the day would hold: a few fun miles at the beginning and then an irreversible, very painful downward spiral on the second half of the course. The only question was exactly when things would get miserable. Being underprepared, I feared that things might get bad by mile 13. So, I went out really conservatively. I incorporated walking from the beginning and watched my hydration and nutrition very closely. At mile 20 I was still feeling good, so I picked up the pace and ran it in. I have never felt good at mile 20; I was absolutely shocked.
That’s part of what keeps us coming back to the marathon, isn’t it? The unpredictability, the unknown, the uncertainty. It’s the convergence of what my body brings on a race day and what those 26.2 miles demand. It’s an intersection that requires an offering up of our whole selves; it tests our resolve and our ability to endure. It allows us to push ourselves to the edge and see what remains. It affords us the rare opportunity of running right through our own doubts. Every now and then, the stars align and that intersection is magic revealing reserves of strength that we didn’t even know we had.
We are back from an amazing weekend in New York City. The purpose of the visit was to run the New York City Marathon, but we also managed to squeeze in some of our favorite NYC activities. We visited MoMA (for free) on Friday night, enjoyed a great Thai dinner, sipped lots of coffee, saw a show (with James Earl Jones!) and had a delicious pre-race (gluten free) pasta dinner. We stayed at Gild Hotel which was a total treat and made for an easy walk to catch the ferry to Staten Island for the marathon start. Sunday night we traded marathon war stories over pints of pumpkin cider and craft beers. All around, it was a really, really good weekend.
As a rule, I never listen to music while I run. I prefer to hear my breath, the sound of my feet turning over, to be aware of my surroundings. But, at a (not so) recent half marathon I broke my own rule. Listening to music was a mind game really – a last ditch effort to inject a little something extra into my race plan to make up for un-run training miles.
My training dropped off almost entirely the six weeks before the race. There are reasons, always reasons – travel and then jet lag, a rolled ankle, this and that. None of the excuses were particularly compelling and so I spent the first mile of the half marathon feeling little other than sheer frustration with myself. I knew I could put together 13.1 miles, but I had hoped to PR. I had begun the training season with such consistency.
Running with music was an entirely new experience. Running felt slightly more insular, as if I were a degree removed from the other runners. The experience was more introspective; I couldn’t hear the heavy breathers or the loud talkers. I listened to music and I ran and I watched: two young girls running together in matching neon green tank tops, one girl more experienced than the other coaching her friend through water stops; a fellow in his mid-sixties plodding serenely along sporting a well-worn Paris Marathon t-shirt; volunteers picking up discarded water cups; the back of a woman’s shirt that read “I run in honor of: Dad!”; my family cheering like crazy at mile 12.
And slowly my grip on my own frustration started to loosen and my perspective shifted as I watched the people around me. Really, in the end, running is such a gift. The gift of being outside and watching the sunrise, the gift of choosing to race, the gift of having the ability to run, the gift of being alongside other runners as you share a few miles together, the gift of being cheered for and rallied around.
As the miles ticked by, I waited for things to fall apart, but they never did. I still felt great at mile nine, so I picked up the pace and really started to run. I ended with a negative split, a strong finish and a race I was proud of. The PR I wanted? No, just the gift of a really, really great run.
We’ve spent the past few days in California wine country and just arrived in San Francisco for the Nike Women’s Marathon. I couldn’t be more excited to cheer on the nearly 3,000 Team In Training runners that will be taking to the streets of this city on Sunday.
On Sunday, I had the privilege of lacing up and heading out onto the Chicago Marathon course as a coach of a charity running team. One of my favorite things about Team In Training is the course support that runners receive. There are coaches at every mile cheering on runners, hopping in to run with those that are struggling and offering words of encouragement to anyone that needs them.
As I left the hotel Sunday morning and escorted participants to Grant Park, I found myself thinking about what a sacred, vulnerable space marathon miles are. Individuals find themselves at the starting line for so many reasons — running in remembrance of a loved one, on behalf of a cause that is near and dear, in honor of a personal transformation or in pursuit of a goal that once seemed impossible – and this quest for a marathon finish demands nothing less than a commitment and offering up of our whole selves. Regardless of pace or finish time, this resolve is something I find to be incredibly beautiful.
On Sunday I hopped in with a first time marathoner near the end of the race. She was moving forward, but was quite clearly in a lot of pain. Well into mile 25, I knew she would finish, but as she started talking to me I could tell that she was on the verge of tears. I reminded her that she was making progress by walking and that in a matter of a few minutes she would complete the race. She started to cry and told me she didn’t think she could run anymore. I reassured her that this was her race and she got to finish it on her terms, but regardless of how she got there she would most certainly make it to the finish line. I was mid-sentence when she took off – she just started running. She turned over her shoulder to look at me, then pointed and shouted, “My family!” Sure enough her whole pack was just at the side of the road and she ran over to be greeted by hugs, shouts, tearful cheers and all manner of hoopla. Then, off she went with a huge grin on her face, running along to complete her first marathon.
We commit, we run, we push, we feel as if we are on the verge of breaking but we are not broken. We are sustained by the endurance we’ve built, we hold tight to the reasons that led us to the starting line in the first place, we are tucked in by spectators, and we are held up by our pack. What sacred moments, indeed.
Last Friday evening I popped into my local tri shop to pick up a new pair of goggles. The store was busy and I noticed that a packet pick up table was set up near the front door. A gentleman asked if I had come in to pick up my number and when I let him know that I hadn’t, he immediately launched into a lighthearted sales pitch about why I should sign up for a run/swim/run race that would take place the next morning. He didn’t give up easily, but eventually he gave me a way out of the conversation by letting me know that I could think about it and sign up race morning. Relieved to have an exit strategy, I said thank you then took a race flyer and left.
I am a good swimmer, but I was scared about the 1k ocean swim. I’ve only done one real swim so far this summer and it was in the bay without waves…or a current. I had a serious internal struggle about whether I was feeling the good kind of fear that motivates us to do things outside our comfort zone or whether this was the “come on, Kristin, don’t be an idiot” kind of fear.
In the end, I showed up at the race on Saturday morning and I am so glad that I did. The Allen Stone Braveheart race began at Neptune’s Park at 31st street in Virginia Beach. The event benefited the Navy Seal Foundation and the morning started with a ceremony honoring Seals who have been killed since September 11th, 2001. Participants ran south from 31st street on the beach for one kilometer then we hopped in the water and swam back up to 32nd street. We laced up and then ran a 5k on boardwalk.
While I haven’t been swimming much this summer, I’ve been running consistently. Deep down I knew that my body was ready for this race.
There are a lot of reasons to train – to race, to build endurance and strength, to find breath and movement. But in the end, the reason that I train is to find readiness and the ability to say “yes” — yes to a spontaneous race day, yes to holding steady in the heat, yes to climbing whatever hill life delivers next.
We run in preparation and we train clinging to the hope of finding strength and endurance when we need it. Sometimes we draw on that strength in response to loss or defeat or hurt. But every now and then, we draw on that strength and find the ability to say yes to a new challenge and so we hop in the water and we start swimming.
Post race with family and puppy kisses followed by Mellow Mushroom pizza and ice cold Coca Cola. The best.
I have never been one to get to a race early. My preference is to arrive with just enough time to hit the port-o-potties and tuck into my corral before the starting gun goes off. The morning of the Nike Women Half Marathon was no different, but unfortunately by the time I went to get in my corral it was packed to capacity and overflowing onto the sidewalk. There must have been 200 people trying to their way into the corral. None of us were able to fold in with our corral as they inched forward to the starting line. Instead, we had to wait until nearly all the other participants moved forward before we could hop in and get going. My last minute arrival plan had backfired and I spent the first 4.5 miles of the race weaving through walkers and runners. The course was packed until that point and really didn’t thin out until mile five. Luckily, things got better from there.
Somewhere in mile 4 I saw my very favorite Team In Training coach. He gave me a hug and asked how I was feeling. I instinctively started complaining about the overflowing corral and the crowded course. He basically told me to chill out, look around and enjoy. And that happened to be exactly what I needed to hear. This race was never going to be a PR and allowing myself to be frustrated was counterproductive. I took a few deep breaths, toned down the weaving around and started to settle in. The course was fantastic. The monuments were in view for much of the race and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. The last miles were an out and back to the Capital building. The course support was fantastic and the finish line came into view about a quarter mile out.
I saw my family in the last stretch. I had been looking for them since about mile 7 and in seeing them I felt relieved, glad, grateful. With the finish line in sight, this was one of the rare races in which I felt the slightest tinge of sadness as it was coming to an end. At this point there were people everywhere — spectators, runners, race volunteers. I thought about what it meant to be surrounded by these individuals, sharing for a moment this mile of a DC street — to be flanked by other women going after the same goal, to be running a course hemmed in by early risers holding signs of encouragement and offering up cups of water. The road may have been crowded, but it sure was a good road to be on.
I am really excited to be running the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in DC on Sunday. Great friends are converging on DC, the high is 71 degrees and spring is in full bloom in DC. It’s going to be a great weekend.
My first full marathon was at Nike Women’s San Francisco in the fall of 2009. It was a laughably painful 26.2 miles. These images from that day are fuzzy and out of focus, but I love them. The one with my mom is my favorite. Post-race I was really dehydrated and my head felt so fuzzy. My face looks ashy and I know that my mom was really worried about me. Despite feeling so miserable, I remember sitting there sipping Coca Cola, slowly coming back to life, and being so pleased that I had earned that mylar blanket. Is there really any better feeling than being wrapped up in a mylar blanket after a marathon?