Sunday, June 14, 2015

Chicago Bound

This entire blog started as a way for me to detail how and why I was never going to repeat my 2010 Chicago Marathon performance. That day, 10/10/10, was the day I feel like I really became a runner. Not because it was my best race, but because it was my absolute worst. And it was my fault.

After that day, I took my training, my nutrition and my strategy to a "more-serious-than-not" level. I've PRed since then, but not without injury and a ton of sacrifice. And while I really want to run all of the "Big Five" (Boston, Chicago, New York, London, Berlin), something doesn't seem right about checking Chicago off on that list just yet.

Chicago has become my white whale. And I'm coming back to take it out. 

I am extremely happy to announce that I'll be toeing the start line in the 2015 Chicago Marathon, as a runner for the Best Buddies of Illinois. The funds I raise will be to help BBIL "create opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development" for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

If you're a longtime reader, friend, family member, or just accidentally landed here because you were really trying to find some boots to run in, it would be rad if you could take minute and donate (any amount, seriously):

You guys have always been super supportive after some "meh" races, or some great ones, and for that I am eternally grateful. This race and this cause is a pretty big deal in the Bootinelli house, and I could tell you how much it means to me...but I think I have been for the past 3 years. 

My 16 weeks to Chicago starts in 7 days. Let's do this thing. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

To Marielena Carbonell, the Girl Who Stole My Bib Number

Listen, I don't know what you have going on in your life situation to compel you to run a race bandit. I don't know why you intentionally tried to duck out of the entry fee, which benefits Boston community programs and the BPD running club by pinning on your 2014 bib to blend in with the crowd.

I'm guessing you didn't think by using your old bib, that anyone would notice or care. That it was no big deal. Because it's only some half marathon.

You didn't know that I wrote my 2015 fitness goals of "13.1 and 26.6 PR" on the wall at my gym with this race in mind. You had no idea how many classes I did, how many body weight squats, how many dead lifts, how many miles I logged thinking about this race. You probably never even considered that I'd pre-run the course, so that I'd know all the hills and twists and turns downtown, so that I could map out my race strategy. Or all the times I wanted to stay in bed with my husband on the weekends. Or every time I wanted to stay out with my biddies but called it an early night because I didn't want to throw off a workout by being wretchedly hungover.

It probably never occurred to you, since you're 29, that trying to beat a PR from your 20s gets exponentially harder in your 30s, so that every gain I made was just to get back ground I've lost.

When I received the finishers email with your time, 1:44-something, I was pretty bummed that the race didn't get my time right. I knew I left everything I had out on that course; I ran the race I wanted to run, and felt strong and proud about cashing in on over 6 months of work. I decided that could be enough for me.

My watch says I PR'ed by 8 seconds. The race director came back to me and told me I hadn't. I was still a little disappointed, but I knew that I had run my heart out, and if that meant a 2:11:00 and no PR, so be it.

And then I saw your face, Marielena Carbonell, of Malden, MA, in my race pictures. And suddenly, I had a face associated with all that disappointment. And it's yours.

I could lecture you on what a strain bandit runners put on race resources. I could scold you for essentially stealing $100 from the race. But Runner's World does a good enough job of that for me. What I will say is: way to violate the running community. You took something away from every runner there - not just the cups of water or a medal or a post race banana.

Running is about earning your shit.

Running is about challenging yourself to be the best version of yourself, but not at the expense of others. It's about putting in the work and running your hardest on race day to earn that spot. It's the camaraderie of meeting someone new, finding out they're a runner, and instantly understanding something about their personality. But you are not like us. By sneaking in using an old bib, you're telling all of us in the running community who do the work for our spots to go fuck ourselves & our work ethic.

Because a person who runs bandit in some half marathon in the middle of May is definitely a person who would run a much bigger race, like Boston, bandit. Because to you, it's no big deal that you didn't do the necessary things to get into a race.

I doubt you see it as cheating. But that's what you are, Marielena Carbonell. You're a cheater. Go ahead and have your 1:44-something finish time. You robbed me of my PR as an official race time, but at least I can hold my head high knowing I fucking earned my "2:11:00". While you stole my moment in the sun, that pales in comparison with all the shade you're getting as a race-fee-dodger.

And lastly, to Boston's Run to Remember: get your race organizers to spring for an extra tracker code in the chrono strip, so that prior year's bibs don't ping the mats, would ya? That's some serious JV shit right there.

*Update: the race organizer has reached out to me to let me know that generally, races do filter out old bib numbers from the results, but I just have a buggy one. Race on, Run to Remember! Thanks! 

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Accidental Half Marathon

Christ in a canoe, this has been a brutal winter. For some reason, I was completely delusional when plotting out my races, thinking that winter would buck up mid-February, and hang out in the 30s and maybe a couple days of 40s or 50s. Probably another storm or two, but just snow.

But no. As I write this, it's 19-feels-like-fucking-11. In fucking March.

I have run more this winter than I have...probably in my whole life. I strapped on my Yak Trax and trudged through inches of snow. I've had ice-cream headaches from fucking breathing, because the air is so cold. I trekked over ice patches in the sketchiest parts of Pittsburg while on a business trip. I've worn my ski sweater virtually non-stop since...I got back from Florida?

As a runner, you're attune pushing on, especially during times of mental exhaustion and despair. Hitting the wall in a race requires you to focus on your goal and the race at hand, and layering the determination on to power through. I have been at some of my darkest moments during mile 23 of a marathon, knowing that I only had 3.2 miles to go, but wondering how in the everliving fuck I was going to get through those 3.2 miles.

That is how I feel about this winter. As I glance at a 10-day forecast with temps almost never breaking 40, I feel like I'm at the bottom of a hill, mile 23 of a marathon. Where's the winter bitch-out-bus?

To try and keep myself motivated, I signed up for the New Bedford half marathon. When I signed up for it, it was January, and I was fresh off of crushing four races in a weekend. March 16th seemed like light years away. I mean, I ran the Quincy Half on March 17, 2012, and it was like 63 degrees. March 16th was SOooOOoOOoo far away when I signed up in January. I could focus on PR'ing in this race.

Welp, here we sit, with 11 days until the NB half. My peak run was on Sunday - 12 miles at a pace that was about 10 seconds faster than the 12 I ran before Florida. I felt...fine. I felt strong. I felt...really confused. I'm starting to taper again? I barely started training again. Where's the mental anguish about the miles? Where is the feeling of unpreparedness? Is this how other (fast/good) runners feel? Just perennially ready for a half marathon?

The weird thing is...I really could PR in this half. I ran 10 as a tempo run a couple weeks ago, and my pace was 8 seconds faster than my PR pace. Like I said, I ran my peak run faster than I did back in January. I literally have no idea how this has happened, but I am faster. Without actually trying to get faster. It's kind of like that time where I stopped obsessing about losing weight, and dropped 20ish pounds. (Oh, how I wish I could do that again, BTW.)

Can you haphazardly PR? I mean, I'm sure it happens to people. I'm just generally not one of those people. I usually have to set my sights on something, and pursue it with the tenacity of a pit bull. I'm so distracted by everything else going on (wedding planning, work, complaining about the weather - which, at this point, is a full time job) that I've been blindly following my (truncated) training plan without a

With 10 days to go, I guess all I can

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Super Sunday Funday: 5 Mile Race Recap

To top off my recovery from the St. Pete's Marathon Challenge, I took on the Super Sunday 5 Miler in Cambridge. I've run this race twice before, and it's always a ton of fun. The host, RaceMenu, always puts a lot of their effort into the post-race party, which are usually on par with a big-city-marathon (lots of beers and food vendors), but for small time distances. They also have my favorite cover band (and my wedding band), Bearfight perform. So I usually a good distance in, and a beer to boot.

This year started off a little ominously, with an email from the organizers telling the 5-miler field that it was recommended if you couldn't keep a sub-9:00 pace, you should switch into the 5K field, for time's sake. 

Now, I've run a lot of races. A handful of those races have had a pace minimum, with either a bus picking up stragglers, or the barriers being broken down & roads reopening while the way-back-of-the-pack finished up. These races are usually big fields, and big races (marathons, halves, and going through a bigger city). Even those time cutoffs live in the double digits - 15:00 min/mi pace, maybe. So to email 1500 people and ask them to run a sub 9 was a little...surprising. I guess I wasn't the only one thought this stipulation was a little...interesting...because my final race email included an apology from the owner, saying they welcome runners of all speeds and abilities. Mmmhmm. 

Gun time was 10 AM, and it was in the mid-40s, which was a big difference from last year, when it was snowing and miserable. It was also exciting, because a cycling friend was running his first race (with this runner girlfriend, too), so it was nice to have a little running posse. 

The course has been the same for the past 3 years - from Kendall Square out to Harvard and back, cutting through Inman on the way back, where there used to be the "bitch out" bus for the 5K-ers. This year there was a different 5K course from the 5 mile course, which I appreciated, mostly because I didn't have to run by people who were already done. 

My first mile was 10 flat, which was surprising, because my 7 miles on Saturday were garbage. My legs hurt, my lungs hurt, and everything was terrible. Sunday, though, had flushed all that. My second mile was a 9:04, which confused me. I mean, I was definitely chugging along, but mile 2 was almost all uphill, which isn't really my strong suit. I figured that it was just short changed, and that I would pay for it on the 3rd mile. I hit that in a 9:35ish, which made a little more sense to me, but was still surprising. 

Then the feeling that I was going to puke came on. This is a relatively new feeling for me - the first time I ever experienced this was this past April when I ran the BAA 5K (and subsequently PR'd). I felt the same thing during the St. Pete 5K - so it really only happens when I'm running hard. I can usually deal with it in the 5K setting, since I can tell myself it's only 3 miles, and by the time it comes on, I'm already half-ish way done with the race. So when it happen at mile 3, I thought two things: 1) Wow, I must be running really hard and 2) Might as well keep it up. 

The 4th mile was 9:12, which again, was weird, since it was primarily hills. The course ends by weaving through the Leachmere section of Cambridge, back into Kendall. Allegedly, I ran this last mile  sub-9. My official time was 46:01, which is 2 full minutes faster than last year, and a 1:41 5M-PR, with a 9:13 min/mi pace. I was stoked, but confused. 

Here's the thing: I know I've been running a lot. I know I've been working harder than I have in a long time. But, coming off of a recovery cycle, with a 9:28-pace 5K, it's kind of hard to believe that I came back and absolutely crushed past times (to put this is perspective, I beat my 2008 5 mile time by almost 10 minutes. Seriously?). Mr. Running Boots pointed out that since it's been the same course for 3 years, that I did PR on for the race, which is nice - but still. I'm having a tough time believing the course was actually USATF certified 5-miles. 

All that skepticism aside, it was a fun race. It was nice to come down the finish with pals cheering (and probably heckling) me! 

My next race on the docket is the New Bedford Half Marathon, St. Patrick's Day weekend! 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

How You Like Me Now: St. Pete's Beach Recap

It's so funny how races are just...over. I spent weeks training for the St. Pete Beach Marathon Challenge, worried about double sessions, long runs, and getting enough miles on my legs. And now, it's in my rearview mirror.

I think the most remarkable thing about the Marathon Challenge is how unlike a marathon it actually was. Since the milage was broken up across events, I didn't have to allocate an entire weekend to a long run. I didn't have to wake up early just to eat, to make sure I was fueled for an 18 or 20 miler. No ice baths. I was able to walk immediately following a long run. These are all things that aren't really true when I run an actual marathon.

I was also fresh, mentally. I wasn't running the race "just to get training over with".  Now I'm in my recovery period, and I actually want to run again, rather than being so burnt out that two miles sounds like torture.

The itinerary of events were as follows: Saturday - 10K @ 7:15 AM, 5K @ 9 AM, 3.8 miles @ 5PM, Sunday - Half Marathon @ 7 AM.

So this trip down to Florida was cold. That might sound backwards, since right now it's a balmy 4 degrees in Boston. But 43 with a 12 mph headwind is 43 with a 12 mph wherever you go. It probably didn't help that the expected gun time was in the dark. I had to remind myself that I had run in "feels like 14" and through snow, so 43 would be fine (the natives, however, politely disagreed).

This was my 3rd time running the 10K, and the course was the same as it's always been: out and back, and then you run past the finish line, for about 3/4 of a mile, to a turn around, and come back. Into the wind. That last 3/4 of a mile into the wind is soul-crushing and unforgiving. Knowing all this, and the fact that I an additional 20 miles of racing after that, I decided to dog it a bit.

I spent the first mile, like I do in all personally anticipated races, letting it sink in that it was happening, that my quest had started. And then I took it easy-ish, with 9:45 miles, almost on the dot, every mile. It was the same twists and turns, the same headwind. The most notable difference for me was how strong my legs felt; normally when I run the 10K, I feel the wall at 4 miles. I don't know if it's because of how many more miles I had on my legs, or the fact that I was running about 30 seconds slower than I normally run that race (probably a little of column A, a little of column B), but this was the most unremarkable race of the series for me, with a 1:00:15 finish.

Since it had warmed up to 50-something, I changed into my two power shirts: my 2009 Boston Marathon shirt (easily one of my most prized possessions), and my Next 26 t-shirt.

When the gun went off at 9:30, I felt GOOD. Like...really, really GOOD. This wasn't too weird, since usually the second run of my doubles was always stronger and faster. So as I coasted along miles 1 and 2 around 9:45s (on the dot, again), I knew this was the race I could lay it all out. The beach run was a non-factor to me while I was training, and I knew the half was going to be on trashed legs one way or another, so I might as well.

So I upped my turnover, and I raced. I mean, I RACED. I picked off person after person, closing the gap, passing them, an never looking back. It was the stretch of road I had visualized in my training: the flat, final straightaway that is lined with palm trees and kitchy beach shops. I had literally DREAMED this moment while I prepared for this race. I took over 40 seconds off of my 3rd mile, and then turned the corner to the finish, and "dropped the hammer" for the last tenth. My legs felt a little like jell-o. I kind of felt like I was going to puke a little bit. I felt ALIVE. It was one of my highest runner's highs yet. I forgot what it was like to finish something that strong. Even writing about it right now is bringing the high back...that's how epic that was. I finished in 29:21, which is 44 seconds off of my PR.

3.8 mi Beach Run
Ugh. Oh, this run. The seven hours between the 5K and the 3.8 miles were (as expected) stiffening, achy, and sleepy. Even though I wore my compression pants between the races, and tried to eat and hydrate, my legs were going through some WTF as I laced up for my last race.

Since it was on the beach, the views were better than my morning races:

But that wind from the morning? Yeah, it was still hanging around. With nothing (trees, buildings, anything) to slow its roll, we were looking at a tailwind for 1.9 down the beach, and an in-your-face, holding-you-back, make-your-eyes-water 1.9 back. Sand, also, can be very forgiving on your joints, but murder on your muscles. Luckily at that point, everything hurt pretty much equally, so I couldn't distinguish between my joints or my muscles. 

I got down the beach at my pace of the day, 9:45s. There was a family running together, who were excellent pacers. I stayed in their draft and chugged along until the turnaround. Once I headed back, the wind was too much for my headphones, so I took them out, and tried to listen to the waves on the Gulf. At one point, I felt like I was going to boot, but I knew my family (Ma Boots, Pa Boots, my aunt, my uncle, and my 12 year old cousin) were lurking somewhere on the beach to cheer for me, so I had to talk myself out of booting (lest I look like a wimp). With about 100 feet to go, the packed sand turned into loose sand, and everything in the world sucked. My legs were sore, my lungs were sore, I was so OVER running. But I finished in 37:57, without booting (small victories). 

Half Marathon 
I woke up Sunday in my compression pants. My right knee and hip were pretty pissed at me. Mr. Running Boots decided the Friday before the half that he wanted to run the half, and later on decided he'd run with me, rather than just taking off at the start. As they say: misery loves company.

The wind that demoralized on Saturday was no where to be found on Sunday, which was a blessing, since miles 6-11 would have been into the wind. Gun time was 7 AM, so we started in the dark. I actually had to carry my sunglasses with me, because it was legitimately dark. Like..."I wear my sunglasses at night" dark. 

The first 2 miles were in the soft light right before sunrise. At one point, the moon was over the ocean on our left, and the sun was rising on the inter-coastal waterway on our right. Seriously. At the 5K mark, we were running right into the sunrise, and it was epic. 

Around mile 5, we saw these wild parrots sitting on the power lines. It was so cool! How many times in your life can you say that a half dozen parrots were cheering you on? I was running in the 10:20 neighborhood at this point, my legs were tired, of course, and I was just...kind of done running. But around mile 8, with my no-training-on-his-legs Mr, and my caffeinated gummies, I caught a second wind. One of the volunteers at the start line (that we passed again at mile 8) was wearing a 2009 Boston jacket, and it just felt like a sign. From the depths of my mind, one of my biggest accomplishments was on the sideline, watching me power through another tough race. 

That second wind didn't last too long, though, After mile 8, we started on the 10K course again (which I had run twice the day before. Borrrriiinnng.) and around the 10th mile, my brain decided to join my legs and go on strike. I was hurting. I didn't want to run anymore. I had never straight-up run over 21 miles, and here I was at 23+. I knew this feeling would come, and I had run in fear of it while I was training. The fact that it came with only 5K to go, rather that at the 5K mark was victory enough for me.

I didn't walk. I whimpered a little bit. I never went over 11s in my pace. I finished the half, right next to Mr Running Boots, in 2:18:03. Right in the middle of my cluster of half finishes. 

Overall, I ran the marathon challenge in 4:27:14 (which is about 53 minutes better than my actual marathon PR).  And I got 2 medals at the end of the half. 

Lesson learned: take a nap between the first half and the second half of 26.2, and you'll have a pretty OK time.  Check out that hardware!

I'm glad I did this; it felt good to get back into some high volume running, without the mental anguish. I could probably be coaxed into doing a hat-trick race (5K, 10K, half), but I think I'll stick to running one event at a time for a bit. 

Friday, December 20, 2013


Eighteen runs. That's all that stands between me and the individual marathon weekend. Eighteen.

As I push closer and closer to 30+ miles a week, it's been one of those weeks (or two) where it seems like the world is telling me to say "Fuck it" and sit on the couch. Waking up to temps in the single digits. Snow followed by ice followed by more snow. Holiday frenzy of gift buying, parties and an exponentially growing to-do list.

With four weeks before the race, this is pretty typical. I'm tired of running. I'm tired of getting dressed for running. I'm tried of being tired. This training cycle has been different, since I'm running double sessions once a week. I ran 5 miles at noon yesterday, and then suited up and ran 4 miles right after While I know that mimicking the race structure (particularly the run-rest-run component) is super important...UGH I HAVE TO RUN AGAIN was the only thing on my mind while I rolled out my quads at my desk between runs.

This is where training is its darkest for me. Little voices coax me with "you've done enough". These are the same voices that taunt me in a race with "you didn't train like you were supposed to", while I suffer with undercooked legs. It starts with me missing a run, with "it's no big deal - I'll still run XX miles this week" to missing 3 runs in a row, to me staring down at an abysmal training log with big 0 or 5 or 3s looking back at me. Those 0s and 5s and 3s should be 25s and 27s and 31s.

I am trying to rage against the exhaustion, both mental and physical, by reminding myself how much better this race series will be for me because I ran outside through the snow and the slush and because I forced myself onto the treadmill rather than backing out of my workout. But like all long-term goals, sometimes the payoff seems so far out of reach, the groundwork to it seems bleak, and I start gearing up for a nice existential downward spiral (also see: college 2004-2005).

But 18 runs. That's not that much. That's less than all my fingers and toes! I can cross those bitches off in a nice countdown. But next week is Christmas, and I'll be in Albany. Running any distance over 2 miles is really hard in Albany, since it's all busy suburban road and no sidewalks anywhere. The last time I ran in the winter in Upstate New York, the sweat in my hair froze to my head. Really.

My total mileage this week is already 15 miles - which is usually pretty high for me (but I need to end this week at 27), and how I end up lulling myself into a false sense of preparedness. And then I think about how sore I am this morning after my doubles (but I did run my fastest doubles ever yesterday - pulling a min/mile off my pace for each set), and then I think about how despite this soreness, I'll have to run a half marathon on these screaming-bebe legs. Then the fear I originally had for this race comes back, and lacing up my shoes is suddenly effortless.

This feeling, of fatigue and monotony, is normal for any runner. Just like sometimes you own the workout, and sometimes the workout owns you. Sometimes you're stoked to get out for a run, and other days or weeks, you'd rather shave a cat than get out there. The trick is to learn when it's just the inner demons, versus your body begging for additional time to heal and recoup. Most of running is this type of detailed self-study and self-awareness of when you can drop the hammer and crank it, and when you should take it easy. With only 18 runs to go, it makes it a lot easier to ignore the self-sabotaging impulses, and log these miles, baby!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Don't Bring Around a Cloud to Rain on My Parade

Like any normal runner (or person, for that matter), I check the weather before I head out. During the spring and summer, I tack on 10 degrees to the temperature and then dress for that weather. During the fall and winter, once it drops below 55 degrees, I know I need my gloves (since I already have meh circulation in my hands).

After years of careful calibration, I know which layer combination (or lack thereof) of clothing for every temperature range and weather condition.

It's also how I know when to puss out and run inside on a treadmill.

This past Sunday, it was 22 degrees outside. said that felt like 6. With a 23 mph wind coming from the WNW.

Now, I have run races with an 18 mph wind coming off the ocean. I have run them in 90 degrees with crushing humidity, and I have run them in 42 degrees with sheets of rain falling from the sky. I have run when it's so cold that my sweat freezes in my hair.

That's how I know that when it's 22 with a 23 mph wind, my ass is running on a treadmill. But please understand: I hate the treadmill. I can usually top out at 3 miles (4 if I really distract myself). Part of the reason I run is to connect with my surroundings and appreciate the (quiet) sound of my feet hitting whatever ground I'm on. Treadmills are proof that God is vengeful and wants us to suffer. But Mother Nature is worse. Much, much worse. She is malicious and ruthless and takes extreme joy in blowing an arctic blast headwind off of icy water when all you really want to do is stop running and eat a cheeseburger. It's not suffering. It's degradation.

So, I was surprised to see that one of my friends, a newbie-ish runner, actually braved the hellish weather on Sunday and actually ran outside. Didn't she see my posts about avoiding it via the treadmill?! I mean, if someone's like, "Wooo! Seven miles on a treadmill!" aren't you a little suspicious?

Then I remembered that every runner needs to run the gamut of terrible weather (no pun intended). You need to run on the most awful of days, and brave the harshest conditions (within reason - for safety) for a couple reasons:
1. When you're running the race you trained for, and you start to revert back into that dark, internal hole of "Fuck this shit", you can remember that you got up early, got dressed, and ran. Maybe it was raining. Maybe it felt so hot you thought you were running on the goddamned sun. Doesn't matter. You got up and did it. And if you can run on the goddamned sun, you can finish this goddamned race.

2. Until modern science proves otherwise, you can't control the weather on race day. And chances are, the weather conditions you decline to sack-up for will be the exact conditions you have to run in. Period. The summer of 2010 was like, 90 fucking degrees every day. Training was brutal. So I didn't do it. Because my logic was: my marathon is in the midwest, in October. Not a chance in hell it'll be over like, 65 degrees. It's more likely to be 40. And then the weather report in Chicago rolled out, and every day around the marathon was gorgeous, temperate 65, but marathon day was fucking NINETY. NINETY DEGREES. So now, regardless of what season my race is v. what season I'm training in, I run. Because NINETY DEGREES.

3. You need to learn what gear you own that sucks in what conditions, and what gear you better own, or you're going to be one overheated/hypothermic mofo. Lululemon pants make my butt look good, but NEVER run in the rain with them...they weigh about 91039893849 pounds all wet. Learned that at the half marathon in Central Park in a steady, soaking rain. I have 3 different weights of long sleeved shirts.  I know which sports bras I can wear for different distances before they start to chafe.

This morning I woke up to get my run in, and the weather said, "35, feels like 26, 10% chance of precipitation, wind is 14 mph SW". So I put on 2 pairs of tights, 2 heavy long sleeves, gloves, the works. And about 1/2 a mile in, it started snowing. Snowing.

So I trudged on, knowing that during whatever mile of whatever race I'm doing in Florida in 6ish weeks (!!!), when I want to stop and just have a beer instead, I can think back and say, "I fucking ran in snow. I fucking ran 7 miles - IN A ROW - on a treadmill. I can finish this race." And when my newbie friend is in the crushing, evil cold of her February half, she can think back to Sunday, when she wanted to punch the wind in it's face, but she finished nonetheless. And she'll keep on going and finish her race, too. Because let's face it: the miles aren't always that sunny, but they always do make us stronger.