COVID-19, Boston Marathon, and Quarantine Life

The other day I went on a walk with Jane and a woman from across the street shouted “Are you journaling? You’re going to want to remember all these moments after this is all over.” It got me thinking. I haven’t blogged in months! So here I am, on the Saturday before I was supposed to be running my sixth consecutive Boston Marathon, for a bit of a running/life update.

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BC (before corona)

Oh 2020, what a weird year you’ve been. One thing I love about Boston is that the training starts in early January. It’s a great time to get back into a routine. After a summer of speed and a bit of a break, I was ready to get back into distance training. Training got off to an amazing start.

Side note: I’m realizing the 1 marathon a year thing works well for me. I love being hungry and excited for distance, rather than dreading the start to another marathon block.

I was motivated. I was hopeful to run my sixth consecutive sub-3 but made the choice not to train for a PR. Time with Jane is too precious, and the work and discipline need to train for a 2:50 is significantly more than a 2:59. I ran some solid long runs with Ellen and Rachel. On February 1st I ran a hilly long run to mimic the Boston course and imbedded 6 fast miles at a 6:35 pace. I felt GOOD!

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Boston 2019

Then, I raced Screenland 5K, and made it a goal to place top 3. I’d placed 4th two years in a row. The race was amazing. It was windy, which excited me as I tend to race better in worse conditions. I sat in 4th for the first half of the race, then ran side-by-side with my teammate Gwen. We encouraged each other throughout and mentally I was proud of how I handled discomfort and dug deep. With a half a mile to go I pushed hard to move into 2nd place, and my final .1 was run at a 4:26 pace.Screen Shot 2020-04-18 at 10.24.36 AM.png

Screen Shot 2020-04-18 at 10.24.49 AM.pngThe moment I finished and tried to walk with my normal cadence something felt off. I walked with a limp. I tried to shake it off with a jog, but nothing. It took a bit of the joy away from meeting my goal, but I got into action mode with massages, icing, time-off, etc. 1 week turned into 2 weeks. When I was feeling a little better I went for a short run while visiting family in DC and tripped on a root, and that then turned into 3 more weeks of no running. I tried to maintain fitness with the awful elliptical and completely adjusted my Boston goal to JUST finishing. Keeping the streak alive. Disappointing, but it was my 6th Boston. I felt oddly OK with everything. A few tears here and there, but mostly at the frustration of being in a boot and not being able to move comfortably. I did have a bit of FOMO when I saw Ellen on her 20 mile long run while stuck in the gym on the elliptical, but luckily it was confirmed I had no injury to the bone, and it was all inflammation. So I tried to get my cardio in and keep hope alive. Oh, I almost forgot about Brent, Jane, and I all getting the stomach bug in February. Along with the rest of the Johnson family after our trip to DC. Not being able to walk, and then getting a stomach bug. That was awful. Funny how that seemed like it would be something that stood out from 2020.
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DC Visit, flying back to LA, and a fake half-smile with my boot

Late February I stopped elliptical “long runs” all together. I’d been following coronavirus, and there was just no way Boston was going to host an event with thousands of people smooshed together, sweating, throwing water cups, crammed into corrals. I wasn’t surprised when it was cancelled, and we’re supposedly running it in September, but now I’m not so sure about that. Around the same time Boston was postponed, school turned remote and my work from home life began. I am LOVING the extra time with Jane, but the work part is rough. Jane after my grade-level lead meeting ↓Screen Shot 2020-04-18 at 10.33.35 AM.pngScreen Shot 2020-04-16 at 9.32.26 AM.png
↑But my teachers are amazing. They’re creating incredible content for our kids and are hosting social zoom calls so that they can see their peers, tutoring, reading groups, and creating virtual community meetings. It’s so inspiring.Screen Shot 2020-04-18 at 11.05.04 AM.png

So what is running life like now? Oddly enough I started running the DAY we went on quarantine. I didn’t want to run until it was 1000% pain free because it just wasn’t fun to run with even the slightest bit of discomfort, and I didn’t want another set back from starting up too soon. Running has made this quarantine bearable, but we’ve had to avoid the beach and find new routes.Screen Shot 2020-04-18 at 10.40.26 AM.png

March was all about the easy running. 4 milers at an 8:30 pace felt hard, but by April I was eager to add in a few strides to my weekly routine. I’ve done a few fartlek workouts the past few weeks. They’re the perfect way to re-introduce speed in a less intense way. I’m now hovering around 40-50 miles a week, and doing daily yoga to hopefully prevent injuries. As far as work/life balance, this is what a typical day looks like.

5:45: Naturally wake-up
6:30: Morning run
7:30: Breakfast with Jane
8:00: Mini-Walk with Jane
9:00-3:30: Juggling working/parenting
3:30-4:00: Patio Yoga while Jane naps
4:00-5:00: Play outside with Jane
5:00-6:00: Prep Dinner
6:00-7:00: Eat, Play, Read
7:15: Bedtime
7:30: Respond to all the work emails
9:00: Go to bed

Corona life definitely has its challenges. I miss my team and I miss my family. I miss going out to eat, running on the beach, walking the pier, and easy trips to the store. I’m disappointed I won’t properly say goodbye to our founding Kindergarten class as they finish their EQ3 experience and move to middle school and I’m disappointed at all the events I was scheduled to attend that got cancelled. But I feel guilty for loving this extra time with family. Spending so much time with Jane is a gift, and she is growing into an incredible person who I love more and more everyday. I love my new co-worker Brent, and am so grateful for all his support as I “try” to lead my school. I also have learned that I love the simple things. I love to run. I enjoy walking in nature. An outdoor picnic or yoga on my patio cures my cabin fever. As much as I want life to go back to normal, I’ll miss this part of my current life. It’ll definitely be a transition to go back to “reality” when that happens.

I’ll end with a few photos from Jane walks..

A few photos of all the bread I’ve made…

And some pics of what Covid life looks like in LA…yup, it all started with Love is Blind

And this Boston video that definitely made me tear up…Screen Shot 2020-04-18 at 11.17.52 AM.png

Until next time…

 

 

Summer of Speed

This sounds crazy, but maternity leave was the perfect time for me to train for Boston. No, I wasn’t getting great sleep, but I wasn’t working so my day consisted of running and spending the rest of the day cuddling with Jane on the couch. When I went back to work I knew there was no way I’d be able to balance marathon training, being the Mama I wanted to be, and being a Principal. I’ve been focusing my attention on something that doesn’t come as naturally to me. Short distances.

Instead of 1K repeats on the track and 8 mile tempo runs I’ve been busting out 200s and 400s, chasing these speedy ladies. It’s really put me out of my comfort zone, but I’m loving the challenge. I do think in the long run this will help my marathoning. Screen Shot 2019-08-10 at 8.44.04 AM.png

 

My first race post Boston was the Leslie Cohen 5K. The best thing about this race is that I won and got $100. The course was long though, and it would have been a PR at like a 18:10 but I ran more than a 5K. It was a fun morning and the race was in my neighborhood, so it was a nice speed workout. 5kleslie.jpgLeslie.jpg

In May I raced the Armed Forces 5K in Torrance with Tania and Cambria. I came away with the win again, in 18:05. It made me think sub-18 was possible!

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Torrance Local News. I’m a celebrity!

The Brentwood Run in June was going to be my next shot at a PR. I wanted sub-18 but wasn’t feeling great during the warm-up and wasn’t too optimistic. That negative energy caused a positive split. But the beauty of a 5K, just get out there any try again in a few weeks.

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We then switched gears and got into 1 mile training. I have CRAZY respect for short distance runners. I was legit nervous for that race. 5+ minutes of PAIN. I wasn’t sure I was tough enough. Those track workouts, though short, were ROUGH. 3×300 sounds easy to a marathoner, but when your training buddies are running them at a 4 minute mile pace it’s humbling. That’s me chilling in the back.

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The mile race started at noon, which was different for me. I spent all morning thinking about the race. To be honest, I don’t remember much about it besides about 3/4 of the way in I thought to myself “What if I just stop?” which means I probably pushed myself pretty hard. I ran a 5:21 which was meh. I’d be curious to run a mile on a track rather than on the road with a hairpin turn.

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Pre-race candid

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What the heck am I doing here?

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100 Meters to go

Last weekend a bunch of Janes ran the Pride of the Valley 5K. I was hoping my 1 mile training would help me out and I was FAR more relaxed for this race. The gun went off and I just felt good. I ran a beautiful negative split (which I rarely do in a 5K) and it served me well. 17:58 official time with a 5:47 overall pace. It felt good to break 18!

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Breaking 18

So what’s training looking like these days? 3-5 mile easy runs, track Tuesday (12 x 200 or 4 x 400 and 4 x 200), maybe some hills or a 20 minute tempo on Thursday, and easy longer (Emphasis on longer. Not long.) runs on the weekend. I feel like I’m getting my running (and competing) fix without taking a bunch of time away from Brent and Jane. It’s less the training and more the marathon maintenance of massages, yoga, stretching, foam rolling, meal prepping for 3000+ calorie days that I’m enjoying taking a break from. Will I run another marathon, absolutely yes. I’m not done with 2:54 😝 

Boston Marathon Race Recap 2019

Boston Marathon, you have a special place in my heart. For so many years you were the ultimate dream. I failed on multiple occasions in my quest to run this iconic course. Monday I finished the course for the fifth time. What keeps me coming back? Yes, the tradition and the history, but also because the Boston Marathon = GRIT. PRs aren’t given, they are earned. Don’t be fooled by the net downhill course. The Boston Marathon course is designed to put the odds against you.

The gun goes off and you run 100+ meters downhill in the first mile. Sounds nice huh? That downhill pounding on the quads and pushing of the toes against your shoes comes back to haunt you in the teens. You go up and down the first few miles before evening out until the 15ish. Mile 16 is a major downhill, again trashing your quads as you easily run your fastest mile right before tackling Newton Hills. For 16 miles you’ve been running scared, knowing Newton is approaching. You see the “Welcome to Newton” sign and you get a little nauseous.

Everyone talks about Heartbreak Hill, but what really makes it a heartbreak is that you’ve run 3 hills prior and you’re convinced it’s over and then boom, heartbreak. It’s just a punch in the face. So you conquer the hills. You’re rewarded with another downhill. Sounds nice, but at this point your quads are trashed from the early downhill miles and your hamstrings feel like they’re about to pull from climbing so you’re pumping your arms like crazy and using the crowds of Boston to send you home.

You see the Citgo sign and the Prudential Center and you choke up. You just ran from Hopkinton to Boston. With less than a mile to go you escape the crowds in an underpass, then make the infamous right on Hereford and left on Boylston. That final 800-meter stretch is surreal. For those few minutes you escape reality. You try to soak it all in. For those few minutes you’re not “Principal Lowry” or whatever your day job might be. If I had the writing talent of my Papa or Carmen maybe I’d be able to describe it!

This year I ran a 2:54. A 4 minute course PR and finished 98th woman. I was hoping for top 100 😜 I’m determined to master this course, but I’m not there yet. This year the strategy was a planned positive split. Run hard for the first half, ignore the watch from 17-21, and then give whatever I’ve got for the final 5. The plan served me well as I got the tiniest of PRs. A PR is a PR though and considering I’m a new Mama and ran fewer miles than in past training blocks I’m super excited! Plus it’s BOSTON! It’s no Revel course!

So how did I feel? I ran a little scared. Scared I’d hit the wall. Scared my hamstrings would lock up, scared I wouldn’t be smiling at the top of heartbreak, and the early miles just felt so aggressive. I had a pit stop around mile 16/17 because I didn’t get to use the porta potty before the race (the line was crazy long) and I was really thirsty from the humidity. I remember around mile 17 fantasizing about how easy my life would be if I just gave up marathoning and slept in and went to brunch on Saturday mornings instead of training. I forced myself to ignore those negative thoughts and did my positive self talk. I looked down at my JANES tattoo and thought about my daughter, I told myself I was tough, I thought about Brent and how much he believes in me, and I thought about Mama and Papa and all the cross country meets they took me too and how much I love them. I did a bit of math around mile 24 and knew I’d have to hustle for a PR. Alaina sent me a text that popped up on my watch and it said “Fire up those buns and GO GO GO!” and I just went for it. I busted out a fast final mile and finished in 2:54. I cannot believe I ran 26.2 miles at a 6:37 pace. I feel so grateful and lucky.

I’m getting closer to that ultimate goal of 2:48, 2 hours faster than my first marathon in 2008. But will I ever reach an ultimate goal and feel 100% satisfied?

For now I’m gonna take a bit of a break from high mileage running, but I’ll see you in 2020, Boston.

A few pics…

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Jane did such an amazing job on both flights! She’s the best baby!

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Obligatory bib pic.

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Ellen my running BFF!

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It decided to pour the morning of the race. Thank goodness it stopped by 10am!

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Min my Salt & Straw and wave 1 buddy!

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Walked to the start with Hungry Runner Girl and Tina Muir!

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Yup, that’s Blue randomly in my parent’s photo of Jane and Brent!

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Less than a mile.

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I can see the Citgo sign!

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Always fun to see Lucy in Boston!