2018 Half Moon Bay Triathlon

2018 Half Moon Bay Triathlon
5
Shares
Share on Pinterest

April 23, 2018. Half Moon Bay. Water temp: 54 degrees.

Fahrenheit… Fifty-four freaking degrees Fahrenheit.

We’ll have to swim in that, and my brain is stuck on one word:

Why?

Why did I sign up for the Half Moon Bay Triathlon? Why did all these people?

Because it’s the race we love to hate, and hate to love. And, apparently, being a triathlete often equals being a glutton for punishment.

Don’t get me wrong, though, this is a great race. Half Moon Bay is beautiful. The swim is in the enclosed harbor area with very little, if any chop at all. The bike leg coasts along Hwy 1, with amazing ocean vistas, even if it’s quite windy and chilly early in the morning. And the run is all along the beach, as well, which makes it a breezy, if not exactly easy, experience. Most importantly, it is just the right amount of challenging, and a great way to gauge fitness early in the race season. Which, in my case, was the main goal this time around.

(I also came to seek redemption for the terrible swim I had there in 2017 — all completely due to my own personal bad race-day decisions; read all about them here. Spoiler: I did have a slightly better swim this time, but I still made some mistakes – I guess I’m doing the race again next year?)

Pre-race Spa

Alarm went off at 4 a.m. and, yup, I should have woken up a bit earlier and gotten ready faster. Arrived and parked at 6:15 am, with just around 30 minutes to set up my transition and put on my wetsuit. No time for a warmup run, even though I had coach advice to do a little test run and see if I’m good to even do that run at all.

****Rewind a week for short back-story**** The previous weekend, I’d gone to a concert in 4.5-inch heels, stood for 3+ hours, ran some hills the next day, and the day after that, during an easy run with some strides, my right calf started cramping. A couple of days later, it still felt tender/ sore, and we thought I probably had a mild muscle strain. So, up until the day before Half Moon Bay, we had discussed me a) not racing at all, b) switching to the aqua bike, or c) switching to the sprint distance. I had promised coach that, worst case, I will start the run and if my calf begins to cramp, I will just pull out of the race.

The calf had been OK during the brisk mile I ran the night before, so I was hoping I’d be good for the race. Worst case, I’d DNF – there is always a “next year” and opportunities for redemption.

With that in mind, I headed to the beach, making it a point to stop at the “warming station” — an inflatable pool with a hose spewing hot water set up right by the sand. Or, as I think of it now, the pre-race Spa. Literally, there was a guy lying down in the pool and splashing his feet, others were sitting in it, and we took turns pouring hot water from the hose directly into our wetsuits. I didn’t want to leave!

I had to, of course, and headed to the beach only to find out that the race start is delayed by about 10 minutes… so back to the Spa I went and sat in the warm water some more. Bliss!

When I finally walked back to the ocean, I realized my wave is already swimming over to the start buoys (this is a deep-water start race), so I ran into the water. Some not-so-nice words might have come out once the 54-degree chill enveloped me, but I wasn’t the only one using foul language, so no big deal. I saw friends and stopped to chat for a bit, and – oops! – the start gun for my wave went off and I was still at least 100 yards away from the start buoys. (Cue in more bad words…)

All photos courtesy of USAP Events.

Swim

So, my official swim started with a mad sprint to the start buoys, while my wave was already making its way along the course. I was in such a rush, I barely noticed the ice cream headache I got after first dunking my face into the water. Gah. Why, again, do we do this race? Masochists.

On the bright side, being late + cold water made me swim well. I’m actually pretty pleased with how this swim went, other than me being somewhere between 1:30 to 2 minutes late to the start. (Or, to put it another way, I swam an extra 100 or so yards.)

In what would have been three minutes, I heard the signal go off for the next wave — and realized that I never started my watch. Facepalm! Bad words! Of course, this meant I had to navigate my way to the Triathlon function on my Garmin, then start it, all while swimming. More bad words!!

After all this fidgeting, mental facepalming, and bad-word thinking, I settled into pace and carried on. This time, I was swimming in a pretty straight line and keeping close to the buoys on my left – in fact, I was taking the turns narrowly and efficiently. Go me.

All swims come to and end, even long cold ones, so finally I was back at the beach. The timing mat for the swim is a ways up the beach after you exit the water (and, guess what, I forgot to hit Lap on my Garmin to mark my actual swim end time), so I don’t really know how long the swim alone took, but my estimation is around 28-30 minutes. A good time for me, all things considered.

Official swim time: 32:47
(I shouldn’t compare times with last year, since the swim was long then, but still: a nine-minute improvement this time around. But, I’m not even going to tell you how much better the women who finished the race before me swam… OK, they finished the swim between two and 10 minutes faster than me! Sigh…)

T1

Barefoot – well, in swim booties – 0.3-mile run to transition. If you plan on doing this race and your feet aren’t overly sensitive, I definitely recommend not wasting time with shoes. Your hands will be so frozen, you’ll waste more time putting them on than you’ll gain with a faster run over to your bike.

T1 time: 4:26
I’d say at least a minute and a half of that was spent fumbling with socks, bike shoes, and helmet buckle, since I had no dexterity in my hands. But, I have no idea why my T1 time is more than two minutes *longer* this year than last, when I think I was a bit more efficient. My best guess is that the timing mat was at a different place… or I really was that frozen.

Bike

I put Magic Bike into high gear from the get go and started pushing. Must make up time! Unlike last year, this time we had a mild headwind on the way out, which made for some slower speeds. I don’t ride with power, so no actual numbers on how hard I was working, but I did work hard and yet was going only 19-20 mph.

The course is more or less an out-and-back, and the ride out was uneventful and not even that crowded. I passed some guys, and some women with 30s and 20s on their calves (the 20-29 and 30-39 waves left before mine), but I didn’t see any women in their 40s and was convinced that they are so far ahead that I will never even see them until the finish line. (Spoiler – I was correct.)

After the turnaround, the wind was at my back and I started seeing some good stuff on my watch, in the 25-28 mph range in places. Whoosh!

That is, until we hit the area where the sprint distance bike course merges with the olympic. And here’s the thing. From then on this bike course is not safe enough!

Imagine this: you are pushing hard along a flat, straight road for miles and miles, and have picked up speed well into the 20s (and surely, 30+ mph for the guys at the front!) when all of a sudden, groups of riders begin merging from your left, doing a wide turn and, in all cases I’ve witnessed so far – looking ahead and not to their right, where a bike might be zooming by! This is on roads that are not closed to traffic. The police are stopping cars so the cyclists can pass uninterrupted, but no one is watching what is happening on the right-most side of the road where the olympic distance bikes are riding already. And then, of course, given the merging of two different distances, plus cars on the road and the bikes barely with a shoulder to ride on, it all becomes one big clusterf*cked-up peloton.

This was my second year experiencing this and I really hope someone brings the issue to the organizers and they figure out a way to solve the problem – whether by having the sprint distance start the race before olympic, or modifying the bike course altogether. Beautiful is one thing, and fast is another, but safety is always a priority.

OK, rant over. Back to the fun!

Bike time: 1:12:45
Only a minute and change faster than last year, and sadly, still north of 1:10, but I’ll get where I want to be some day!

T2

Weirdly, my hands were even more frozen after riding than they were after swimming, and I ended up fumbling with my bike shoes and then running shoes and shoelaces for far too long.

T2 time: 2:24

Run

And now, the big test of the day: running. What was going to happen? Would my calf cramp? Would I be able to run through it, or with it, and would I be fine, or end up getting myself into “twice a week chiropractor/ physical therapy” territory?

I started running – left leg, then right (previously crampy) leg – so far, so good. Left and right again, still good. I picked up the pace and settled in a low 7 and it felt totally fine. Then again, my feet and legs were still frozen, so largely I felt… nothing. I wondered for a bit how much worse it would get if I defrosted and whatever pains and cramps were lurking attacked me, but I quickly decided that as long as it’s feeling good, I’m going with the flow.

(And by feeling good, I mean it was still hurting, but in the way it’s supposed to hurt when you run hard.)

Definitely no smiles for the cameras. I don’t know how people manage to look their Hollywood best, flashing smiles and waving at the friendly photographer, when all I can think of is, “2.5 miles down. 3.5 to go. No, wait. 3.7 to go. Oh, it’s 2.6 now, so 3.6 to go.” And so on.

I think I passed a couple of women in their 40s, but don’t remember seeing anyone in my age group, still. I wondered whether I was the only one in my age group (which was not far from the truth, either: it turned out only 11 of us raced this year).

By the time Mile 3 rolled around, my feet started to warm up and I got the needles all over them as they began defrosting. That was not fun, but no calf cramps yet, so moving on.

I slowed down, too, as 7:15-7:20 pace was becoming hard aerobically. But, once we turned back shortly after three miles, I was happy to find out there was no headwind to exacerbate my misery. The remaining three miles sucked, obviously, but mostly a result of me running out of juice in my legs and lungs. I thought of all the Boston Marathon runners who just a week earlier had kicked ass in much, much, MUCH harder, more grueling conditions, though, and figured: if they could do what they all did, who was I to not finish that little 10K and give it the best I can?

Seeing a few familiar faces on the way back gave a little boost, too, and before I knew it, I was running into the finish.

Now, the good part about mixing the sprint and olympic distance at this race is, by the time we’re done, we’ve got friends who raced sprint hanging out in the finish area, drink in hand, ready for “cheers to another awesome morning at the races” 😉

After a few bites and a celebratory beer, I checked the results and – deja vu all over again – I had placed 3rd in the age group. My overall time was much faster, but so is my new age group, 40-44, with the first and second women also the first and second females overall.

It felt good to get on the podium again, especially on a day when I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to finish the race. (But, considering only 11 women raced in the 40-44 age group, getting 3rd wasn’t a big deal.)

I think many triathletes tend to be self-critical and constantly searching for improvement, and I’m no exception: I know I’m going to try better the next time I race at Half Moon Bay. Better swim, hopefully a sub-1:10 bike, a sub-45 min run, and more than anything, efficient transitions!

Until then, however, the memories of the beautiful views and post-race celebration remain. Oh, and the organizers had run out of age group awards by the time they got to my age group, so that’s something to look forward to receiving in the mail. A memory of a wonderful day in Half Moon Bay, in the form of a pint glass. Cheers to that!

Overall result

Swim: 32:47
T1: 4:26
Bike: 1:12:45
T2: 2:42
Run: 45:14

Total: 2:37:55

California International Marathon

California International Marathon
91
Shares
Share on Pinterest

On December 3, I ran the 35th California International Marathon. As luck would have it, my original time goals got thrown out when I sprained my ankle a week before the race. But, CIM ended up giving me so much more than I expected.

Three days before CIM, I started a fundraiser for Girls on the Run and “sold” each mile in exchange for donations. I always run the last race miles for family and friends, but this time, thanks to the generosity of my amazing friends, I had a mile dedicated to a person the entire way — from the start line in Folsom to my last steps across the finish.

So, be warned: this race recap is long and not quite the mile-by-mile breakdown you might expect of a typical course review.

Goals and training

My stretch goal for CIM had been to finish in 3:30 or less. Goal “B” was to break 3:35, which would still be at least a two-minute PR. And I wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon again, which meant running 3:40 or less to get a five-minute or longer cushion.

This marathon training cycle was only 10 weeks long, but I felt physically and mentally ready to get after my goals. I was coming off a solid triathlon season, with a 1:43 half marathon at Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz in early September, and a 45-minute 10K at Santa Cruz Triathlon two weeks later. I was feeling fit and excited to run my first marathon since Ironman Vineman on July 30, 2016.

Training was going great, I did all my tempo workouts and long runs as instructed. My coach had me run three 19+ milers this time, on three consecutive weeks: 19.2, 20, and 19.5 miles, all with a 45-minute easy warmup and the rest at 7:55-8:20 pace. I thought he was nuts for making me do these, but they actually felt really good – almost *easy* – and I had an opportunity to practice nutrition and get my gut used to taking in gels a little bit more frequently (my nutrition goal for CIM was to be able to take in at least five gels this time, to meet the demands of higher energy burn).

Side note: You might be thinking, aren’t long runs supposed to be easy? The answer is yes, and no. When the purpose of a long run is to develop endurance, which is the case with those who start a marathon training cycle from a fairly low base, then yes – long and slow. But if you are coming off of many 15-hour training weeks and the ability to race a half marathon hard at the back end of a five-hour race, the endurance is already there. So my long runs were meant to push my body and get it used to holding marathon pace, and with each of them I felt more confident that I would be able to do it.

On Thanksgiving Day, I ran my last hard workout, 6.2 miles at tempo pace. I didn’t race a Turkey Trot on purpose; I didn’t want the temptation to go too hard, given how fatigued my body felt at that point. In fact, even that 46-minute 10K on rolling hills left me pretty wiped out; in retrospect, I should probably have toned it down a bit.

A few easy short recovery runs followed, and the Saturday a week before CIM, I headed out on my last sort-of long run: an hour and 40 minutes of running, the first 6 miles at super easy pace, 5 miles at 8:00 min/mile, and whatever was left, very easy again. Except a minute and 21 seconds into it exactly (it is all conveniently on Strava now!), I slipped on some foliage, my left ankle bent at a weird angle, and off I skidded on the sidewalk. It hurt so much that I had to sit there for a couple of minutes before I limped back home.

Obviously, the timing of the sprain was terrible. But on the bright side, all the work was done: I now had a week until CIM to rest it and see if it would recover enough for me to still run. The ankle was swollen and bruised by the next morning, but I was able to put weight on it and even hop up and down a little, with not much pain. The week that followed was mostly rest, trainer rides, and some short and very easy runs. Each day, the swelling went down a bit more and the blue turned yellow (a good sign). With three days go go, I ran for one hour and the next day, just two days pre-race, was a 70-minute run at an easy pace with some pickups.

My ankle felt strong enough and I knew I would finish the marathon, but I needed to revise my time goal. I was still hoping to run under 3:40 for a BQ, and even 3:35-ish for a PR. Most importantly, I now had 26.2 miles to run for my generous friends and for Girls on the Run.

Race start

CIM starts in the middle of a road in the middle of nowhere. OK, that’s not really true. It starts in Folsom, California. That’s a very pretty area! Except at 6 a.m. on December 3, it was all dark, so I could make very little of my surroundings, other than the start line on my left and a long, long line of porta potties on the right. It was cold, but not freezing. (Bring warm clothes to throw away if you’re running this race, though.) I spent the next hour waiting in line for a porta potty, then waiting in line for coffee and water, and then waiting in line for a porta potty again. With just 10 minutes to go, I headed toward the start.

CIM-start

CIM is a fairly large marathon, but does not feel crowded. I crossed the mats only a minute or so after the start gun and was able to settle into my pace without any need to zig-zag around others.

Mile 1 was for my friend Tiffany and her aunt Eileen, who was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. Tiffany loves running downhill, and that mile – all of it going down – was just perfect. I took long, deep breaths of fresh air and thought about her aunt and the long road she has ahead of her. Compared to that, the 26.2 miles I had to run? Nothing. A blessing to me and my legs to be able to do this.

At Mile 2, we hit a few climbs and I thought of Sheri. This was her mile. Sheri has three little kids and works full time as a kindergarten teacher. So what was I going to do, complain about having to run uphill for bits at a time? Can you imagine how hard it is to run a family of five and a full-time job that requires the daily care of 20+ kids? Perspective is what it’s all about!

Mile 3 started on a delicious downhill and my lovely friend Patti would have loved it. Patti picked mile 3 for her three kids. They’re all grown up, though, and Patti will soon turn the big 6-0, a faster and stronger runner than ever. I thought how I want to be Patti when I “grow up” and I also thought that Patti should really try and go for a BQ. Well, I thought it, so it’s got to happen, right?

Mile 4 was Kathy’s mile. Kathy is a breast cancer survivor and I thought how I hate the word “survivor” — more like conqueror is what she is, and anyone and everyone who has beaten this nasty disease. As I hit the mile marker, I took my first Honey Stinger gel.

Screen Shot 2017-12-08 at 12.14.00 PM

By now, it was obvious the 3:30 goal was really, definitely and for sure out the window, but I was on pace to hit a BQ time, so on I went.

Mile 5 actually ended up my fastest split in the entire marathon, a 7:58. There was a lot of downhill in that mile, and I thought of Maria and her three kids. They’re all so young (one of them still in diapers) and Maria is now training for a marathon and a 50K in early 2018. I thought of how all the training must feel like an uphill battle with kids that little, but Maria is so strong and making it feel like a nice and smooth downhill run.

Then Mile 6 came and the biggest smile appeared on my face because this was Liz’s mile, and anyone who’s ever met Liz knows she is the most positive person in the world. Liz is always smiling and always loving the run. Earlier this year, she ran a 100K and one of the people I met at the aid station where I volunteered for a few hours told me he’d been going from aid station to aid station all day and whenever Liz would come in, she’d have the most positive attitude and biggest smile on her face. Yup. That’s Liz! Mile 6 had some solid downhills, too, and I ran 7:59.

Mile 7 started with a little climb (gah!), but I quickly distracted myself thinking of Thuy and the story she told me once about her son, a high school swimmer, and how he and his friends carboload with pasta before each swim meet. So I asked her, “Oh, what distance does he swim?” (Thinking, if he’s carboloading, he’s probably a distance swimmer, like 800 or 1,500 meters?) Nope. He swims the 100 and it takes him 50-something seconds. I laughed out loud at the memory and what do you know, hill over.

Mile 8 has some good uphills, too. Geez, for “the fastest marathon of the West” this race sure has a lot of hills?! I had to nail them, though, because this was Marjorie’s mile – and so I thought of unicorns and nail polish (this makes absolutely no sense to anyone but three to five people in the world, I know). At the end of the mile, I took my second Honey Stinger gel.

Screen Shot 2017-12-08 at 12.33.17 PM

Mile 9, more uphill! But I thought of Judy, and how tough she is – earlier this year she smashed her half-marathon PR and ran a sub-2 hour race, just because I told her she could. I actually thought she’d run something like 2:02 – 2:04, but told her it is well within her ability to go sub-2, and there you go. So, I put mind over matter and carried on.

Mile 10 was for Cindie and even though it started with another climb, there was a good downhill there too and I thought Cindie would appreciate it. She ran a half marathon this year on exactly three weeks of training. If she can do that, I can handle a few little hills, right? An 8:09 mile for Cindie.

Mile 11 was for my 9-year-old son — he asked for it and how could I say no? The hills eased up somewhat in this mile and I thought of the big sweaty hug I would give him at the finish, and how lucky he is to have me as a mom. Ha. (Just kidding. The kid gets on my nerves sometimes – ahem… – but I’m lucky to be his mom!)

Mile 12. Kathy’s mile again, but this time for her dad because December is one of his three birthday months (don’t ask). I thought of Kathy’s dad, and some thoughts snuck in of my dad, too, but I know she wouldn’t mind. At the end of that mile, I had another gel (geez, Kathy, nearly half of my “eating” miles were yours?)

Mile 13 – almost the half-way point! – was Marie’s mile. Marie recently ran an hour-plus marathon PR in New York and I thought of how strong she is, a mom of two little kids, working full time and training hard and consistently for so many months. If anyone deserves a marathon PR, it’s Marie. (I was hoping I’d get one too, of course… Pace was still solid.)

Mile 14 was my husband’s mile, and I thought of the two marathons he’s run with me, even though he hates running, just so we can spend more time together, doing what I love to do. I’m so grateful for having his support all these years. I know it isn’t easy, especially when you have young kids, and I thought of all the spouses out there on the course, cheering for their husbands or wives, and I thought how they’re so amazing to do this for us.

Then came Mile 15 – another one of Maria’s miles – and the hills seemed to ease up so I picked up the pace. And I thought, see? Whatever bumps we hit on our road, easier times always await us ahead. Just got to be patient and make the best of them.

Somewhere here, mind you, the 3:37 pace group caught up with me and I did a bit of a double-take because, I’m no math genius, but I can do basic pace calculations and knew that I should have been at least two, if not three minutes ahead of a 3:37 finish at that point. I asked two women running with the group if they were going a bit fast and they confirmed. So I picked up the pace a little bit, to try and get ahead to more empty space. (It was a big group! If you don’t like feeling crowded when you run, these pace groups are probably not for you…)

For Mile 16, Liz had requested “a fleeting thought” – but how can that happen? No way. I believe this is around where we get the last climb of this hilly course, too, but there’s a lot of downhill in the mile, so I knocked out an 8:04 for Liz, and I ate my fourth gel for the day. I spent the whole mile picturing Liz running the Boston Marathon next year, and if I’m right (which I almost always am!), she will be knocking out 8:04-ish miles all along this course, and Mile 16 is where her favorite part will start because it’s the hardest. (Boy, can daydreaming about the Boston Marathon make the time go by quickly?)

Screen Shot 2017-12-10 at 8.14.02 AM

Mile 17 was Darlene’s mile. Darlene was out there on the course running her first marathon, in honor of a friend who is battling breast cancer. I hoped she was running with strong legs and a full heart. She had been nervous before the race, but I knew she’d knock it out the park. And I was right, as I later found out she not only finished, but beat her goal as well. That was a fast mile for me, too, at 8:05 and I was still feeling strong.

Mile 18 was Marjorie’s mile again, and for some time, I thought how weird it is that it doesn’t really feel much harder than mile 8 (her “first” mile). I was feeling good, my left leg (ankle) was doing fine, and I also had that persistent thought in my head that Marjorie’s running has been so consistent lately, she really should give it a go at the marathon distance. Just saying…

Mile 19 was a big one, Lisa and Joey’s mile. Joey is currently kicking leukemia’s ass and 2019 will be the last year of his treatments. So I see it as no coincidence at all that on this mile, a spectator shouted at us, “That’s it guys, no more hills from now on.” An 8:09 mile for Joey.

For Mile 20, I had a plan. This was Nadine’s mile, and she’s from Germany, so when things got rough as they often tend to at around this time in a marathon, I was just going to picture her telling me in German to stop joking around and keep running. (Except it wasn’t going to be the word “joking.”)

sub-buzz-19371-1485865428-1

What do you know, though, there was no need for the German language. I was feeling strong and smooth and even wondered if I had been too conservative until now? Nadine is just about to start another marathon training cycle in her quest to BQ again, and I thought this was all a sign of how things will go for her this time around: smooth and wunderbar!

Mile 21 was Sheri’s mile and I thought about her running schedule for the next few weeks. We were done with the hills in the race, but I was thinking of all these hills and hill repeats I’ll have Sheri do all winter. She’ll love them… eventually! Ha.

Miles 22 through 24 are always my family miles, so my thoughts went back to my husband and my son and I wondered what they had for breakfast. We stayed at the Embassy Suites Sacramento, which has free breakfast, including made-to-order omelettes that are sooo good. You have to try them. And then I thought my daydreaming was turning into full on hallucinating, because I swear I heard my husband’s voice call out my son’s name. I looked around, just in case they really were there and what do you know – I see my husband and he’s yelling, our kid is right behind. So I did what no marathoner in pursuit of a BQ time should ever do: I stopped, turned and jogged back a couple of yards. I found him, and gave him a big sweaty hug and a kiss; and he gave me a coke and said, “Go now, go!” All that made Mile 22 the slowest yet, 8:22, but who cares? It was the best!

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 9.43.25 AM

I managed to pick up the pace a bit for an 8:11 Mile 23, but somewhere between that and Mile 24 my legs said, We’ve had it, can we slow down now? My mom’s mile… figures, she’s always telling me to slow down! My left calf and hamstring got so tight, I realized I was running with a bit of a limp. I was also hungry, and wished that I had brought six gels, not five (I’d taken my last one at mile 20). Luckily, they had Clif Shot gels somewhere between Miles 23 and 24, and I grabbed one. Boy, does that thing feel thick and uber-sweet. I’m not a fan, but beggars can’t be choosers, so I squeezed whatever I could in my mouth and downed it with a cup of water.

Mile 25 was coming, and I’d need the energy. This mile was for Dave, my friend Jen’s dad: a lifelong runner and multiple-time marathoner, with a PR of 3:28:17 at the Oakland Marathon back in 1981. Dave passed away in November and his memorial service was on December 3 — the day of the marathon. So you will understand how he was on my mind the entire race, not just during his mile. In fact, he literally was on my back, as I had printed his photo and pinned it to the back of my shirt:

DaveOaklandPR

By Mile 7, though, my sweat tore through the paper and I felt the photo flapping around, so I took it and put it in my skirt pocket. A couple of miles later, I ran by two guys and one of them said, “All you need is wings on those pins on your back, and you’ll fly.” Yes, I thought, they would be angel wings!

Back in Mile 25, I gritted my teeth and hung on to an 8:20-ish pace. I wanted so, so badly to walk and my brain was just about to convince my legs that some walking would be OK – I knew now that I’d make my BQ time with a good margin. Just then, though, I woman caught up to me and said, “Let’s do this girl, we’re almost there. You and me. Let’s work together to get to the finish.” She told me her name, which I promptly forgot, but it started with an A. The angel that Dave sent to get me through, I knew it. Mile 25 was 8:17. We talked briefly, she was going to BQ by a lot, and so was I. She asked me if I was going to PR and I said, I think so – but who knows?

Mile 26, the last mile, is always for my dad. He only lived to see one of my marathon medals (my first, in 2003), and he was so proud. I gave into the fatigue and my cramping left leg and slowed down a bit. Then I came around the last turn of the race, saw the finish and, this was a first for me, two different sides for men and women. Women took the left side of the road and men, the right. I veered left and willed my legs to do one final push towards the mats. I saw my family again and wondered how they made it so quickly from mile 22 to 26.2? Doh, they drove.

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 9.44.22 AM

Just as I crossed, I saw the “Lady with an A” again, she had finished maybe 20-30 seconds ahead of me and was still bent over catching her breath. I stopped to congratulate her and thank her for her support, and she asked, “So who is Dave?” So I told her about Jen’s dad, and then I told her about everyone else who “came” with me on this marathon and showed her my “tattooed” left forearm. This was probably my favorite part of the marathon, and not just because I was already done!

Here is my extremely tired attempt of a smile at the finish:

CIM_Finish

Then I reunited with my family, downed two bottles of water and we headed to post-race destination one: the BQ bell. Well, that was a good 40-minute wait, actually – they don’t joke when they say CIM has the largest portion of runners who qualify for the Boston Marathon! The line for the bell went all around a mostly shady area and I kind of froze my ass off while waiting, but all worth it.

rsz_cim-bqbell

I got a special Boston Creme “Boston Bound” cupcake, too (except I didn’t get to eat it because I put it down at some point and forgot to pick it back up. Marathon brain is no joke…):

Boston-Bound Cupcake

This was marathon #8 for me and, with a nine-minute margin, I hope a shoe-in for the Boston Marathon. I have no intention on running a marathon in 2018, so Boston 2019 will be lucky number 9. Can’t wait!

Official time: 3:36:05
Pace: 8:15

(First half 1:47:32 — Second half 1:48:33. My coach predicted exactly a one-minute positive split for me. Either he is that good at anticipating how I perform, or I’m that good at doing exactly as I’m told… or both!)

Holiday Gift Guide for Athletes — 2017 Edition

Holiday Gift Guide for Athletes — 2017 Edition
76
Shares
Share on Pinterest

Every year, I put together a list of my favorite holiday gift ideas for runners and triathletes. To be honest, it’s terribly time-consuming and around the holidays, time is precious. But, I tell myself, if it helps at least one person come up with the perfect gift for the runner in their life, my time was worth it.

(Also, maybe my husband will see it, too. Hint hint wink wink.)

I also make it a point to highlight products from small businesses that I can personally vouch for and use or have used myself. You will see just a few Amazon links here as a result. You also will not see any Garmin watches or GoPro cameras. While both those are fabulous, generous gifts, my goal is to bring you ideas that you may not have thought of yourself. So let’s get to it.

High-quality gear from good folks:

1. Skirt Sports

Skirt Sports founder Nicole DeBoom has made it her life’s mission to empower women. But that is not the only reason why I will always remain true to the company’s products. I have been running in Skirt for more than 10 years and every piece I have used is high quality, fun, functional, and lasts for years. Your runner will appreciate you introducing them to the brand.

This season’s fave is the Reflective Safety Running Bolero. You can throw it on top of any shirt or tank, and if you find yourself running in the dark, you’ll shine bright like a diamond; like so:

A post shared by Aleks (@aleksruns) on

Bonus: through December 31, 2017, use code Fall20win for 20% off. (Code may not work when there is a Flash sale, or any large-scale site wide sale.)
 

2. Stomp the Pedal

This is a brand new company out of London (yes, the UK), founded after many years of research and with heaps of passion. Stomp the Pedal focuses on cycling kits and accessories (check out these cute KeepCups!), but founder Natarsha Tremayne has shared her plan to launch a Stomp the Trails line soon. Can’t wait!

Bonus: have you seen the exchange rate for the British Pound lately? Those cycling kits are a steal!

Check out a teaser for the fabulous Great Gatsby collection (coming in 2018), and make sure to follow the brand on Instagram for more updates.

.

3.California Running Lab and BOCO Gear

collage (1)

Shameless plug: I designed these hats with BOCO Gear and have a few left in my store. Grab yours before they’re gone, and you’ll get some GOOD vibes direct-shipped from California, by yours truly.

BOCO Gear makes the best trucker hats out there, and this one is a technical trucker, which means it’s lightweight, quick-dry and the back is all mesh (also, it looks totally as fun as the front… and just wait till you see the visor bottom, it’s the best part!).

Bonus: Use code EPIC2018 and you’ll get a high-quality print of CRL’s exclusive 2018 Race Planning sheet (read more about planning your best 2018 year yet here).

 
For planners and creative runners:

4. Passion Planner

I am such a sucker for the success stories from young female entrepreneurs that I couldn’t resist ordering a Passion Planner — just so I could support the company’s founder. Read her story here, and you’ll want to own one, too!

And let me tell you, the product did not disappoint. This is not your typical daily planner or journal. It gently guides you through thinking about your goals, going after them, and not least, reflecting about whether you’ve achieved them, how, and why. Take a peek at their Instagram account and you’ll be tempted order a few copies. (If you are my friend or family member… you might want to wait until after the holidays, in case there’s one for you under my tree!)

Our Staff Sunday this week is Bianca! Check out her top tips for practicing gratitude: – “I have been practicing a few gratitude habits that I would like to continue beyond the holiday season and into the new year. Here are some that I try to practice daily! – 1️⃣ Take 5 minutes each morning to mind map in your Passion Planner everything you appreciated about the day before. It can be something as simple as waking up before your alarm clock or savoring your favorite candy bar. Starting your day this way helps you to be receptive and grateful for everything your day will bring. – 2️⃣ Make a conscious effort to appreciate at least 3 people every day. By letting people know how much you appreciate them, you increase their own sense of self-appreciation and self-worth, and encourage them to pay this positive energy forward to other people. – 3️⃣ Express your gratitude. Be sure to let others know how grateful you are to have them in your life by remembering the big and small things they have done for you. Your gratitude can be small in your eyes, but it can have a huge impact on someone's day or week. – 3️⃣ Appreciate YOURSELF! ❤️ It may not feel natural at first to practice gratitude with yourself but don’t forget to appreciate your OWN positive qualities and accomplishments. – ‘Learn to be thankful for what you already have, while you pursue all that you want.’ -Jim Rohn – I’d love to hear what you think about these tips and share your favorite gratitude habits with me! Let’s keep the inspiration flowing! ” – #staffsunday #gratitude #motivation

A post shared by Passion Planner (@passionplanner) on


 

5. Freestyle Journaling with Scribbles That Matter

Bullet journaling is all the rage these days and, thanks to a few Runner’s World articles, runners can get ideas and inspiration on adding a personal touch – or a full-blown creative streak – to their training, too.

The Scribbles that Matter journals are made by a company that doesn’t have a website. I found them on Instagram and with that, discovered they only sell on Amazon. Their journals have a much funner selection of cover colors than the now-mainstream Bullet Journal grid notebook, which for some reason never “spoke” to me. Weird, I know. But let nerds be nerds and take a peek at how I like to start planning my months:

A post shared by Aleks (@aleksruns) on


 

6. You Can’t Go Wrong with the COMPETE Training Journal

It’s a classic. I included it in last year’s Holiday Gift Guide too, and I feel I can’t not include it now. (Next year I’ll be using my fourth one!)

Shalane Flanagan uses one, too. Enough said!


 

7. A “Strong Is the New Pretty” 2018 Wall Calendar

This is the most inspiring wall calendar you will ever own. I promise.

There is also a book. You will not regret buying and gifting that, either!

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 8.45.06 PM
 

Gifts that will keep on giving:

8. Coaching

Imagine giving your favorite runner the gift of a marathon PR, or simply the joy of becoming a stronger runner. Hiring a running coach for someone would be quite the investment, but that is what you would be giving them.

As a running coach, I’ll admit I’m biased — but then again, because I have actually gotten to work with runners who received my coaching as a holiday gift, I can honestly tell you, it is has been a gift to me, as well.
 

9. A bike fit

If your athlete rides a bike and you know they have not been professionally fitted, go ahead and with some research, pay for them to get fitted by a reputable bike fitter in your area. A fit will cost anywhere between $150 and $450, but believe me, it will pay dividends for as long as your athlete rides their bike.
 

10. Fab Fit Fun box subscription

I went back and forth a lot on including this — or any kind of subscription box, really. In the end, I decided to give it a shout-out, because:

a) Last year, I included Stitch Fix (which is still my life saver, wardrobe-wise…), and I want to continue the tradition of throwing in here something that seemingly has no connection to running or endurance sports.

b) The subscription box model is quite popular now, and if you’re a non-runner shopping for a runner friend or spouse, you may find yourself considering one of the now many subscription boxes targeting runners. And frankly, I’m not at all a fan of those, as they seem to all primarily include product samples and/ or single-count little items like gels, bars, or snacks. Honestly, if I’m going to go and try a bunch of different new gels, I’d rather pick out the ones I like at my local running store, after carefully inspecting flavors and nutrition labels.

c) The Fab Fit Fun box actually includes full-size products that an active person, or runner, is likely to use. Or, at least, I am. In the Winter 2017 box, for example, is an exercise ball. I’ve been meaning to get one for years! And not least,

d) Members get access to a library of videos, including yoga, cardio, meditation, hula hooping (!?), dance, and many more. If you need something fun to do in the offseason, those might come in handy?

To become a member, you subscribe to receive one box every three months, or four boxes a year. The cost is $49.99 per box, but don’t order your first one before they’ve emailed you a coupon for at least $10 off. The items are chosen for you based on a detailed profile of your likes and preferences in several categories, including fitness, beauty, and general questions about your lifestyle. You can personally pick at least two of the items in each box, too (you’re given a choice of two items each).

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 8.23.18 PM

So I’ll leave it at that for this year. An informal poll among my friends showed that the majority of runners and triathletes want things you can get easily: a new Garmin watch, wireless earbuds (those things are pricey, eh?), a trainer for their bike, a wetsuit. T-shirts with funny or ironic sayings are all the rage, and race registration fees are on everyone’s list (just make sure you ask which race first, or just hand over the cash for it so they can fill all the paperwork themselves). But in case you wanted to surprise them with something a bit off the beaten path, I hope my suggestions help.

Enjoy the Holiday Season!