My daughter started JK this year, which left me with 6 hours in the day that I can fill with anything I like. Mostly, I enjoy being able to take clients during the day now, and not having to work every night. I could also forgo the 4:30am-5am wake ups that have been normal for so long, and run after I dropped the kids off at school.
Every runner I know who I idolize for their speed runs a lot. There is no way around that. More miles in your legs seems to correspond with faster times. So I decided that I was going to try what I once thought was impossible; to run 100 km a week.
Between December 12, 2016 and April 16, 2017 I hit 100km 8 times. I averaged 86km a week for the 18 weeks. In total I ran 1472km in the build up to the Boston Marathon. During those 18 weeks, I ran the Boxing Day 10 miler, and the Chilly Half Marathon; both with disappointing results.
In February, I decided to join the Longboat Road Runners. I am happy I was taken on by the head coach Timo! I had been training myself since late 2015, so taking the guess work out of training was nice.
In the weeks leading up to the race, I was becoming more annoyed with training than I was excited for the actual race. After I fell way short of what I thought I was capable of at the Chilly Half, I questioned whether running more is actually helping me or hurting me. My coach said he didn't think running less would leave me strong enough to run a good marathon. So I tried to plow onwards.
Here is my experience on training too much. What is most important to me is being able to feel good mentally and emotionally. When I am doing too much I know the signs from my body. Taking forever to fall asleep. Waking up repeatedly in the night. Short temper and easily annoyed during the day. Running at all is like pulling teeth. Weight gain of 5-6 lbs despite eating properly and high amounts of mileage. A swollen "puffy" look all over as if I am retaining water. Feeling terrible all day and night is not worth any race to me. Sorry folks, but not even Boston. By the time I displayed all these signs it was too late. Boston was a mere 20-ish days away. The taper couldn't come fast enough.
The race itself definitely delivered. The crowds at Boston cheer you like you are their family. They line the entire route from start to finish. I brought an iPod as I am accustomed to running alone sometimes in a long race, and it is a nice distraction. I couldn't even hear the thing; the crowds were so loud. It was wild!
Right before the race begins, two fighter jets fly over the start line. Already a race like no other! That gave me crazy goose bumps as my corral 1/8 began walking towards the starting mat. I found the first 8km very difficult to get around the crowds and get into a fluid pace. Around 10km they fanned out a bit and I didn't have to weave through anyone anymore.
As promised, my husband was at the 12km mark, in front of the Natick train station. It was great to see him, and at that point the race was flying by and I felt fantastic. Even when I hit the 21.1km mark in 1:32 I still felt really good. I made sure to drink at every water station, as well as grab a cup of water to dump on my head to try and stay cool.
The first hill hit around 27km I think? That seems to be where my pace goes out the window. This is also where I stopped sweating entirely and remember thinking "this may end badly". I wasn't acclimatized to the heat, and don't run well even in the middle of summer in Ontario. The heat combined with the Newton hills almost took me down. I pushed through as best as I could. From 30km onwards I refused to look at my watch or check my splits. I don't really remember any thoughts I had during the last 12km either.
My Wild Bruce Chase teammate/friend Kristin's husband spotted me at 35km and called out. It was so nice to hear my name and see someone I knew. That helped me push on. I saw my husband (who is the master supporter and spectator!) again at the 40km mark, and even though it was amazing to see him again, I was really just wanting to be finished. It gave me a final mental push, although I don't think it accounted to anything physically. I have read so many accounts of the final turn towards the finish line. The crowds are insane. You're almost there. You can see the finish. I'm such a finish line crier, and normally an epic event such as crossing the Boston Marathon finish line would solicit tears from me, but that day there were none. I was too dehydrated.
I crossed the line in 3:10:38. About 1 minute over my only other marathon time. That wasn't what I was thinking about though, as I slowly walked through the finishers chute. WATER was the only thing I was thinking about or looking for. I probably would have passed up my medal to get to water faster. Ha! The finish area was carnage! People laying on the ground, falling on the ground, medics rushing to them, people just sitting on the side of the road before making the 1km trek to the family waiting area, and runners being pushed in wheel chairs towards the medical tent. Crazy what a hot marathon can do to a person in comparison to a cool one. I'm not going to lie, the medics waiting on the sides every 10 feet or so with wheel chairs looked so tempting! I am thankful that I finished and didn't need medical services.
One question a lot of people have asked me is "would you do it again?".
After a month to reflect on this, right now my answer would have to be no.
But WHY?! Boston is the "holy grail" of running events! And for someone who is chasing the unicorn, my view point may seem outrageous or even offensive.
I am grateful to have been able to do something that many people can only dream about. I am also grateful for being able to share the experience with others. I am still in awe of what the human body can do and tolerate. I have only run 2 marathons, and in each of them my limits were tested in totally different ways. My hard "no" has nothing to do with Boston as a race, and everything to do with the preparation, time and effort that goes into marathon training. As well as a large need in my life for those efforts to be allocated elsewhere.
To train "properly" for a marathon, I really only get 1 chance a year. Spring. That way I can train while my kids are in school without disrupting their life, and still being able to have a life myself. A fall marathon would mean 4am wakeups all week. Truthfully, I am not prepared to do that. I want to enjoy summer with my kids and not be exhausted and wiped out all the time. Paying for day care to run just seems ridiculous to me. For me, running should enhance life. Not be life.
So my priorities have changed again. And that's ok. For a long time I wanted to run a "fast" marathon. So I put in a TON of work, all to have the weather foil it. In running, nothing is guaranteed and what you put in may not necessarily be what you get back. And for now, I need a break from that. Shorter faster races will be the only thing on my running related horizon. My three year old 10km PB of 38:01 seems physically impossible to run now. That was off of 40km of running a week and no real speed work. That's also when I loved running the most. I need to get back to that place.
My plans to get back there involve the open communication with my coach, that I have been really appreciating. Scaling back the mileage, and forgoing the standard two workouts a week. If going down to one workout a week means I'm not as fast, but I feel well enough energy wise to enjoy the rest of my life, then I'm ok with that. Every cycle I have attempted two workouts a week, it isn't long before my nervous system is taxed and all those overtraining symptoms pop up.
One major thing I took away from Boston was how much love and support is around me! I was truly blown away by the amount of call, texts, well wishes and messages I received from my friends and family all over. At some low points in my life where I had made many wrong choices, I felt very alone. I am happy to say that that feeling is long gone. And many years of soul searching and realizing that I can choose what types of people and energies I allow around me has paid off! Thank you to everyone who took the time to reach out to me and support me. It means more than you all know. ♥♥♥
To my husband and kids who tolerated me through the thick of this - THANK YOU!
To my coach and Longboat team and previous team Grand River Endurance members- THANK YOU!
Thank you to Saucony Canada, as their shoes have gotten me through 2 marathons, a 50km and a plethora of shorter races without so much as a blister. How could I possibly have carried 5 gels if the shorts I wore on race day didn't have pockets!?
Special thank you to my friend Stephanie who pushed me to try running my first race in 2011 and hasn't stopped cheering for me since.
Next up is the Toronto Waterfront 10km! Since I really don't like running the 10km distance, I thought this was a perfect place to start. :)