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.

FullSizeRender-14.jpg

1st and 3rd Boston

FullSizeRender-10

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

FullSizeRender-8

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.

FullSizeRender-2

FullSizeRender-13

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

FullSizeRender-17

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

FullSizeRender-15

Saturday Shakeout with Bart Yasso!

FullSizeRender-20

Scott Jurek at the Cliff Station on Boylston

FullSizeRender-16

Picking up Ellen’s bib for her first Boston!

FullSizeRender-18

Free cryotherapy at the expo

FullSizeRender-22.jpg

Blessing of the Athletes at Old South Church

FullSizeRender-3

Pre-Race Dinner at Antico Forno in North End 

FullSizeRender-9

Ellen and Anna at Dinner

IMG_7300

Tatoo Station at Athlete’s Village

FullSizeRender-5

All smiles with a mile to go

FullSizeRender-4

IMG_7340

Post-Race Dinner at Adlen & Harlow in Cambridge

FullSizeRender-7

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

17358894_838111096342778_7791139817507468782_o.jpg

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!

Surf City Half Marathon Race Review 2017

Yesterday Ellen, Peter, and I drove down to Huntington Beach to run the Surf City Half Marathon. Ellen and I ran Surf City three years ago while training for the LA Marathon. It was fun to be back! My goal was to chip away at my half marathon PR, and creep into the 1:23 range. I knew I’d have to maintain a 6:20 average, and I had been doing a bunch of speed work at that pace so I knew it was possible. I didn’t feel nervous leading up to the race, but when the announcer gave us the five minute warning I got those pre-race butterflies in my stomach in anticipation of discomfort. Ellen is coming off an injury scare (SO GLAD SHE’S OK!) so she was going to run the race easy. Easy ended up being 1:40, which is still really fast! Peter was just out for a good time, finishing in the 1:45 range.

Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 1.16.07 PM.png

Lately I’ve been working on my mental game. I always wonder if I can dig a little deeper. People ALWAYS tell me I don’t look like I’m working hard. Yesterday I wanted to work on noticing discomfort, accepting it, and digging deeper. I ran the first few miles at about a 6:15 pace. I wanted to go out hard and see if I could hang. Right away I made a friend on the course. We chatted a bit and ran side-by-side for the first 4ish miles. She ended up pulling ahead around the 5 mile mark and finishing 3rd overall female in 1:22. She ran a strong race, and I’m grateful she was there to motivate me.

I stayed in the 6:15-6:20 range until about mile 9 when the miles caught up with my legs. This may sound really weird,but I got a little excited and thought “This is my opportunity to prove to myself that I am gritty!” I tend to run conservative and don’t usually have to dig myself out of a hole. I reminded myself that runners frequently talk themselves out of a funk and told myself that this was my opportunity to fly. I thought about how great it would feel to finish knowing I’d given it my all. I didn’t allow myself to panic when my pace slowed to 6:24, 6:27 and 6:34. I share this because I don’t think runners often share their mental strategies, and we know running is a very mental sport.

raf,750x1000,075,t,322e3f-696a94a5d4.u1.jpg

With two miles left I did some calculating and knew if I maintained roughly a 6:30 pace for the remainder of the race I’d PR. I convinced myself I’d be so annoyed if I crossed the line in 1:24, and although my legs were starting to feel like jello I managed to bust out a 6:18 and 6:16 with the final .19 in 5:37. My final time was 1:23:24. 4th overall female out of 5999 women. There’s nothing like the feeling of a PR!

After the race I met up with Peter, Ellen, and ran into Kristy at the post-race tent. Woah the post race tent was AMAZING! Clif Bars for days (love those new nut filled ones), Clif set up a coffee food truck with free lattes. I had the Chocolate Peanut Butter Latte and the Chocolate Hazelnut Latte. Perfect post race recovery 🙂 Ellen and I also didn’t have to wait long for an very thorough post-race massages from Massage Green. Ellen needs to keep those calves stretched out. No more injury scares allowed. I don’t think I can handle training for Boston without her!

We had such a fun time! I think I might need to make this an annual Super Bowl Sunday race. You should too!

Pros:

  • Flat course
  • Start and finish near the Huntington Beach Pier
  • Post race expo was awesome! So many samples, free massages, great energy, delicious lattes!
  • Magnet on the back of the medal
  • Option to get your bib mailed to you for an extra fee
  • Lots of post race food (bananas, protein bars, oranges, lots of water)
  • Love the purple long sleeve shirt

Cons:

  • The course is kinda boring. Pretty much an out and back on PCH. Made it mentally challenging.
  • Long drive from LA (although it wasn’t too bad on a Sunday morning)

From racing back to reality the next day. Here is one of my favorite photos from my scholars from the past week. Nathan passed his Lexia level and his classmates were there to celebrate with him. Love the teamwork.

Have a great week!