Friday, November 14, 2014

Countdown to Philly

16 weeks of training are done.
More than 750 miles run.
My first ever 200+ mile month is complete. And my second and my third.
Personal records have fallen in grand fashion as I've gotten stronger and faster.

I have trained in Florida, Maryland, New York, Idaho, Virginia, Illinois, and, of course, New Jersey. I have trained in the summer heat and once or twice already in the freezing cold. I have jumped over snakes, turtles, and frogs and have dodged spiders in their webs. I have eaten more than my share of bugs.

Covered in bugs from an evening towpath run.
I have grown to love track workouts as I got reacquainted with my days as a high school athlete. I bought my first ever headlamp so I can run at night and early in the morning. I have explored the depths of some really crappy hotel gyms and I have run with some of the most beautiful scenery I could imagine.

Towpath between Kingston and Princeton on late summer evening run.

I have just over 1 week of training left until I take to the streets of Philly in my quest for a Boston qualifying time. One more tempo run and then it's nothing but easy mileage between me and my biggest start line yet.

As the kids say, sh*t is getting real. The worst case scenarios are starting to play out in my head. There are creaks and tweaks making their way through my body as only the marathon taper can yield. My friend Malinda who is also chasing a BQ in Philly has been checking the weather forecast for almost a week already.

But I'm ready and my final confidence boost was a kick ass performance in the Trenton Half Marathon this past Saturday. I was careful not to race full out, but even my measured effort brought me in with a 7 minute personal record and a 3rd place finish for my age group.

Crossing back into NJ during the Trenton Half Marathon
on my way to a 7 minute half marathon personal record
This was a final test for me leading up to the Philly Marathon. I wanted to hit a 1:43:00 (7:51/mile) half marathon time because if I did that I would know my training had me on pace to achieve my BQ goal in Philly. But what I achieved in Trenton was a big deal for me for reasons way beyond the implications it has for Philly. It all goes something like this...

I was the "bigger" girl on our high school track distance contingent. My BEST 2-mile time then was pretty much dead on pace per mile for what I just held over 13.1 miles on Saturday.

When I first started running again 2 1/2 years ago, it was a struggle to get through 3 miles and I was doing it at a pace somewhere between 10-11 minutes. I have the Nike Plus app to prove it.

My first half marathon which I ran in March 2013 took me 2 hours 11 minutes and 39 seconds (10:02/mile) and that, to me, was AWESOME.

I started running after my husband Joe died from colon cancer and at that time I looked roughly like this (I'm the one on the left):
With my sister Naomi on Thanksgiving 2011. Joe took the photo.
I have since lost 45 pounds and traded in all my size 14 clothes for size 4s.

This journey has been one of body, mind, and soul.

So when I ran the Trenton Half Marathon on Saturday to test my speed for Philly and I completed it in 1:39:19 (7:35/mile) I felt all of the accomplishment well up inside of me. When I found out from my friend several hours later that I had placed 3rd in my age group and 12th overall, I was on top of the world. And completely shocked. The finish line in Trenton was sweet, but the best part was the energy I still had left. It made me realize that a BQ is truly within my grasp and has me counting the days until I toe my most important starting line to date.

Finishing the Trenton Half Marathon
I first knew I was on to something during this training cycle when I was finally able to break through on my 5k time in August. The 5k had been my nemesis going back to September 2013 when I ran my best time of 23:29 in Philly on a perfect fall morning. I had been training on this cycle using the Hansons Marathon Method for 3 weeks when I finally ran a fabulous 5k on a warm, sunny day at the beach in Asbury Park. I beat my previous best 5k time by 8 seconds and swore that no matter what this was the training plan for me. I broke that time once again by almost a minute just one month later in Long Branch and I knew that big things were happening.

Asbury Park 5k - Finally beating my nemesis...the 5k!
This training cycle has taken me way beyond what I thought was physically possible which means there have been plenty of times when I would have rather curled up in a ball on my couch than go for a run. But I haven't missed a single one with the exception of those that changed to properly recover from the 3 races I ran (2 5ks and the half marathon). On occasion I have shuffled the days and a few times I have scaled back mileage, but I have kept the integrity of my training program fully intact and I owe that entirely to 1) the amazing people who every day help take care of my son while I run and 2) the fire inside that won't let me step away from this journey to BQ.

Just when I think I can't possibly get through another run there always seems to be something to push me on. Someone who tells me she started running because of me. A friend to join me for a track workout. The adoring eyes of my 4 year old asking me if I am going to "run fast" today. A text or a call or a friendly "get your ass in gear". They have all kept me moving and when I cross the finish line in Philly I will think of all the people who have driven me there and the places that have inspired me.

I have been tracking my runs in a running journal given to me by Joe's dad and it has been fun to look back over all the places I have run since I began training at the end of July: my trusty neighborhood route that includes Thompson Park, my parents' neighborhood, the Towpath (everywhere from Lawrenceville to New Brunswick), many hotel treadmills including in Syracuse, Atlantic City, Disney World, and Ithaca, all along the Jersey Shore, Kendall Park, Franklin Memorial Park Cemetery, Chicago, Utica NY, Disney World, Mercer County Park, Veterans Park, Johnson Park, Monroe HS Track, Sandbridge VA, Highland Park HS Track, Buffalo, Maritime Institute (BWI Bike Trail), and Pocatello, Idaho.

It's been 750 amazing miles and looking back I know that I have done all that I needed to do to be able to shout from the rooftops "I'M SHIPPING UP TO BOSTON" once I cross that finish line in Philly. Nine days and it can all be mine.

Sandbridge, Virginia
More Sandbridge, Virginia

September 21, Sunset in Thompson Park

October 8th, Thompson Park sunrise

My Halloween Half - hilly and beautiful in Pocatello, Idaho

Final speed workout - 11/11/14

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