Boston Marathon 2018 Race Review

The Restless Runner is back! Why haven’t I been around? This school-year has been so tough. Maybe at some point I’ll elaborate on why. Not even having time to respond to all the emails in my inbox made it feel wrong to spend my spare time blogging. I also took most of August-October off of running more than the occasional weekend run or 3 mile de-stressor after work. I was in work survival mode.

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High-School BFF Jackie and I!

At the end of September during the Boston registration window I was in a low being especially overwhelmed. I asked Brent whether I should go for Boston #4 and he didn’t hesitate and said “Yes! You love that race. We’re going any year we can.” I signed up because I really wanted something to look forward to. I love Boston. Not just the run, but the whole experience. It’s such a special race, and the training doesn’t stress me out. It brings me so much joy. But this past week when the weather report projected headwinds, rain, and cold I cried to Brent, “I signed up for this because I wanted to have fun! And now conditions are just awful!” Brent is amazing. He reassured me this was meant to be. He said that I was meant to run in the most challenging conditions because this year has been so tough and I was to take all my strength and all my grit that I had built over the year and put it into this race. He was right. I wouldn’t change a thing about this past weekend. It was perfect.

The night before the race Ellen and I were talking race strategy. It would have been really easy for us to forgo racing on Monday. It wasn’t a PR day, so why not just run a long run pace and save our legs another race? I’ll put it out there, I trained for a 2:55. Yes, I was disappointed that race conditions weren’t going to give me the opportunity to show my fitness, but that’s the beauty of Boston. The late start, the point-to-point course requiring to travel to the start hours before you start, the no pacers rule, the hills, and April in New England makes for real racing. Marathoning requires grit, tactics, and strategy. Marathoning is symbolic of life, and you cannot control all the elements. There are many races out there designed to give the perfect conditions so that you can have an ideal race and a PR to brag about. I haven’t run a PR since October 2016, but I know I’m a stronger runner today than I was back in 2016. Yesterday’s 2:59 means so much more to me than a 2:55 would on a 55 degree day with a tailwind pushing me towards the finish line. Ellen also embraced the suck and went for it. She earned a PR despite the tough conditions.

Monday morning when we arrived to the mud pit that is athletes village we all questioned why we run stupid marathons. All of our shoes were soaked and muddy before we even started. We couldn’t feel our fingers and toes. We were crowded under a tent, shivering from the cold, joking that it was an “honor and a privilege” to be at Boston and that we paid to do this. I tried to remind myself that so many runners would gladly take my place for a chance to run this iconic course. I reminded myself I had the opportunity to literally run in the footsteps of my heroes.

Around 9:15 we heard the announcers ask wave 1 to make their way towards the corrals. We began the mile “death march” towards the start, laughing at the fact that we were avoiding puddles like it was going to make a difference. Boston places you in corrals based on pace, so everyone in my corral qualified within 1-2 minutes of my qualifying time. I asked others their race plan, and it was pretty split. Some saying they were going to go for it, and others opting out of a hard effort. I decided to go out slightly more conservative but still ambitious, a 3 hour pace. I hoped it wouldn’t be a suicide mission.

I couldn’t feel my feet for the first few miles. It’s a strange feeling that I can’t even describe. My fingers were frozen before the race started and didn’t come back to life until my 20 minute post-race shower. It made fueling really hard, but I kept telling myself “Find a way to get your calories in. You’re going to bonk if you don’t!”

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Mid-race glove swap

I got in a grove and didn’t check my watch much. My arm was frozen so I didn’t feel it buzz at every mile. I looked down at the halfway point and saw I was in pace to finish under three, and prayed the second half, the more challenging half, would be good to me.

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Running with the boys.

I then got in a trance. I visualized being on the beach in Playa del Rey. I repeated over and over again “You are warm. You are at the beach. You are comfortable.” With every gust of wind I welcomed it and said “You are stronger than this wind.” I thought of my training BFF Ellen, and found comfort knowing she was running in the same conditions. I knew she wasn’t giving up, so I couldn’t.

Seeing Brent and Jackie at mile 6, 13, and 21 gave me something to look forward too. I am so grateful to spectators. I know how stressful it is! I switched out my gloves at 13 thanks to Lucy who gave me an extra pair. I only managed to grab one, so Brent sprinted to catch up to me to give me the other. My hands were so cold it took me a full mile or two to get them on correctly.

When I hit the hills from 17-21 I did what I always do at Boston, force myself not to look at my watch and run by effort. When I hit the top of heartbreak hill I got a rush. 5 measly miles. That was it!

When I saw the Citco sign I got emotional. It was almost over. My legs felt like they could run another five miles, but my body was so cold and ready for a hot shower. I took the iconic turn right on Hereford and left on Boylston. There is something so emotional about running down Boylston. I always think about the bombing, think about what the marathon symbolizes, think about how grateful I am to be happy and healthy as I charge towards that finish line. It was my fourth time, but it never loses its magic. I try to soak it all in. This year that was quite literal!

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2:59:11

This race had great flow. I didn’t run nervous. I wasn’t a slave to my watch like I have been in the past. I just ran what felt like 3 hours, and knew everything would be OK.

Fellow runners, you amaze me. I didn’t even consider quitting because all of you were out there proving that together we are so strong. You inspired me and encouraged me. Thank you! Volunteers, you deserve the biggest thank you. Standing out there for hours being splashed by water as we ran through water stands. Thank you for helping us earn our medals.

What next? Who knows. Will I run Boston again? Yes. Next year? Maybe. Just don’t be surprised and expect me to get it out of my system because just like Papa said, in the sport of running, Boston is the cultural mecca.

A few photos:

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The article Papa wrote back in the 70s when he was just starting as a reporter in Michigan. Little did he know his daughters would be self-torture clique members.

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Meeting our heroes at the Expo!

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Well worth the $$$

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Only $800 and I can have this at home!

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That time Desi’s husband made me coffee

 

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Athletes Village in Hopkinton. Waited here for a over an hour before walking to the start.

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Ellen spotted this celeb on Saturday afternoon!

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Celebratory beers sent to our hotel room from Andrea and Alaina. Thank you!

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I love Mama!

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This is GRIT.

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Post-race celebration with Lindsey, Jackie, and Brent at Alden + Harlow!

I feel like there is so much more to share. Boston really is so much more than one race, but for now I leave you with this quote from Desi. I just LOVE DESI! I was a fan before she was cool. She is so damn gritty and humble. And she trains in Michigan. SO SO SO happy she won.

IMG_0511.PNGUntil next time. Hopefully it won’t be another 10 months 🙂

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Boston Marathon 2017 Race Review

Boston, you’ve been so good to me. I love the Boston Marathon tradition. I love the city support. I appreciate the challenging course and the late start. Boston finish times are hard earned. I don’t care to run other marathons. The Boston Marathon is the marathon for me, and my third time was a charm. I feel so blessed. This was my 12th marathon. I don’t expect a cheer team, so it was a nice treat to have support from Brent, Mama, and Papa. I was also so happy to experience the race with my best running buddy, Ellen. Races are always more fun with her! I trained for a 6:40 pace, hoping for 55 degrees, a tailwind, and race day luck. Race day wasn’t ideal, although it could have been worse. Easter Sunday in Boston was 83 degrees. I started the race at 10:00 am and it was already 70 degrees in Hopkinton. The course provides little shade and isn’t known to be a fast course. It’s crowded and waters stations are war zones, again another reason I love Boston. I love the idea of killing it on a tough course.

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1st and 3rd Boston

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Ellen, Kristine, and I on the bus ride to Hopkinton

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Not a woman in sight in Wave 1 Corral 4

What I started the race I got into a 6:45 flow. It just felt right. I knew 6:45 translated to more like a 6:50 official pace because of tangents and water stations. I knew with the heat running any faster could become a suicide mission. I knew I’d be happy if I held back in the early miles. I spent the extra time dumping water on my head at water stations and drinking 1-2 cups every mile. My 6:40 pace goal got officially readjusted in my mind at mile 5. I wondered if I was giving up, but reminded myself to respect the distance and go with my gut feeling. My legs were trained for 2:55, but today wasn’t the right day.

It paid off. I ran nervous until 15. I really don’t understand how people go out too fast. I’m always soooo scared. I hold back during miles 1-15. During these miles on Monday I questioned why I run marathons, fantasized about giving up on my running lifestyle, and thought about taking it easy and being compliant with a sub-par performance. I talked myself out of that funk, told myself I’d be so upset if I ran complacent, and made a sub-3 race plan on the spot. This race was all about proving I was a sub-3 marathoner.

At mile 16 I enjoyed a downhill, and when I hit 17 I felt PUMPED. The men around me were dropping like flies. I was passing them left and right, and I thought to myself “Just a Sunday morning Beverly Hills 9 miler left.” I maintained my pace throughout the Newton Hills even though my quads were starting to tighten up. When I saw Mama, Papa, and Brent and the top of Heartbreak Hill I gave them thumbs up so that they knew I was OK (a Mama always wants to know her baby isn’t hurting). Brent yelled “I love you so much” and I cranked it up a notch and started running 6:35s. I hit mile 23 and reminded myself I just had a lazy 3 miler left and started talking to myself like a crazy person. I used my sister Carmen’s mantra saying “Come on! Come on!” over and over again. A runner stayed with me for a full mile while I talked to myself, so I guess he appreciated the free pump up talk.

At 24 I calculated that as long as I ran a 7 minute miles I’d hit sub-3, and it was at that moment that I realized I’d hit my second sub-3. Long Beach wasn’t a fluke. I did it on a hot day, on a hard course, with more pressure. I’m proud of myself for adjusting my goal mid-race. I averaged a 6:47 pace for 2 hours 58 minutes and 54 seconds, and I couldn’t be happier. 83rd woman out of 11973. The marathon is a distance to be respected, and I know I made the right call. I felt the benefit of my training, I felt the strength in my legs, and I’ve never been happier running 26.2.

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So what’s next? A break. No marathons until MAYBE Boston next year. I’d love to concentrate on speed. I think I have this whole endurance thing down, but my legs need to learn to move faster. They just don’t know how to move faster than a 6:30 pace, so maybe so a half marathon or a 10K? I have my whole life to run, and women peak well into their 40s. There’s no pressure. No need to set another lofty goal now. I’m gonna take it easy, do more yoga, fatten up, and spend more time with friends and family. It’s been a crazy 2 years of marathoning. Time for a BREAK from high mileage.

PHOTOS FROM THE WEEKEND

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At the Runner’s World Pop Up Shop with Bart Yasso!

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Saturday Shakeout with Bart Yasso!

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Scott Jurek at the Cliff Station on Boylston

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Picking up Ellen’s bib for her first Boston!

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Free cryotherapy at the expo

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Blessing of the Athletes at Old South Church

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Pre-Race Dinner at Antico Forno in North End 

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Ellen and Anna at Dinner

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Tatoo Station at Athlete’s Village

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All smiles with a mile to go

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Post-Race Dinner at Adlen & Harlow in Cambridge

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Visiting Lindsey and Baby Carter Tuesday morning

Race Nutrition

  • Salt Tablets
  • Pretzels I saved from the airplane ride to Boston
  • Salted Caramel Gus (I think I’ll pass on ANYTHING salted caramel for a while)
  • Water at every station and dumping water on my head too

Boston Tips 3.0

  • I said this last year…DON’T TRIP ON THE RAILROAD TRACKS IN FRAMINGHAM. I did it again this year.
  • Train on rolling hills. It’ll prep your quads.
  • Plan for a war zone at water stations. Possibly consider carrying a small water bottle for the first few miles.
  • Use the corner porta-poties at Athletes’ Village. The line is shorter.
  • Have FUN and think about what an honor it is on the run on such a historic course
  • Pack light. You’ll get a ton of freebies at the expo! This year was especially good. Thank you Clif and Kind for all the bars!
  • Go to Alden & Harlow in Cambridge after the race for dinner. It is so so so good. Like top 10 restaurant worthy!
  • Go to the Blessing of the Athletes service at Old South Church. Even if you’re not particularly religious, you’ll enjoy it. It is such a cool service with a blessing, prayer, and bagpipe procession!

I had such an incredible time in Boston, and I can’t wait until I’m back there again. But I also just love being a principal and was so excited to see the kiddos and staff today. It was fun being Marathon Cristina, but Principal Lowry is back and ready to end the year strong 🙂

LA Marathon Volunteer Review 2017

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Mile 24 Water Station Volunteers

I’ve run in the LA Marathon 5 times since 2008 either as a full finisher or as a charity relay participant. I finished my first marathon at LA before the course went from the Stadium to Sea, the following year I crossed the finish line with Brent the Monday after we got engaged (it was on Memorial Day that year), in 2014 I qualified for Boston at LA in crazy heat, and I’ve raised money for two great causes with my running BFF at LA. I also watched my baby sister Marta cross her first marathon finish line back in 2013. I screamed like a crazy person watching her run down Ocean Avenue to finish in 3:50, about an hour faster than my first marathon time. As much as I wanted to participate this year, I knew I didn’t want to run the full marathon less than a month before Boston. I also didn’t want to bother friends and family with more fundraising. Instead I signed up to work the water station at one of the toughest miles. Mile 24.

Mile 24 can be brutal even if you were smart about not going out too fast. 24 is WELL into the marathon, but far enough to not be almost there. Before my 7:00 am shift began I ran down the empty course, thinking about the 24,000 runners that would soon take over. I ran past the finish line and thought about who would get the privilege of crossing it first.

Santa Monica police clearing the course

From 7:00 am-8:45 am our big group of volunteers filled hundreds of cups of water and gatorade. Gatorade is not my friend. You can read about why here.


We also set out the elite bottles.

We were ready by 8:45 am and then waited. It was the calm before the storm. Marta ran over to bring me a latte (thank you) and shortly after 9:00 am the elites started passing. It’s unreal watching runners at mile 24 running a sub-5 minute mile pace. Their faces had such focus. 

At first I was super excited when people took water from me. I felt disappointed with myself if they dropped it. Then it NON-STOP for 5 hours straight. I made it a point to look every single person in the eye and tell them they were doing a great job. I know the power of course support. I made sure not tell them they were almost there 🙂 That’s possibly the worst thing you can tell a hurting runner at 24. 

They always say if you’ve lost faith in humanity, go and watch a marathon. So many runners said thank you when they got their water. I was surprised by how many people ran past us and shouted “Thank you to the volunteers” or “We couldn’t do this without you.” I was also so impressed with how many volunteers aren’t runners, have never run a marathon, and have no interest in running a marathon. They’re just good people willing to hold their arm out for 5 hours straight (and seriously there was NO BREAK) and give words of encouragement.

There was one moment that made me tear up. A runner at around the 3:30 pace stopped in front of me grabbed his calves and clearly was cramping. I asked him if he wanted water and him, being the epitome of a nice runner, said “Yes please. Thank you.” Even when in obvious pain. He looked up at me with the saddest eyes and I teared up and didn’t know what to say so I just responded with “You are so strong.” He took off hobbling, reaffirming that you can do anything you set your mind to.

The day before I had the pleasure of meeting Kara Goucher at the expo. Being Cristina I was SO awkward. I don’t really remember what I said. Something about being from Michigan. Being inspired by her. Living in Los Angeles. I’m glad Brent forced me to talk to her.

I also ran into Ed from Minnesota who I crossed the finish line with 2 years ago. The running world is so small. He ran as an elite this year and finished 4th American at 46 years old. Crazy to think we still recognize each other from 2 years ago!

And the Hall family was at the expo as well. Ryan’s definitely bulked up since retirement. No more tiny runner arms. 

I can’t let this be a one time deal. Yesterday was so incredible. I worried I’d be jealous or felt like I missed out, but I got my LA Marathon fix and really really enjoyed being out there more than I imagined I would. My arm is sore today, but I can’t complain. I didn’t race a marathon 🙂

And now back to the work week. School is craziness in the best possible way, hence the lack of blogging. It’s also peak mileage week so it’s work, run, eat, stretch, sleep, repeat. I’ve got 800 Yassos on Wednesday and a 10 tempo on Saturday morning with lots of easy mileage on deck. 1 week until taper time!