2018 Boston Marathon Recap: Part 2

The worries about race day weather started many days before we left for Boston. We could see the temps would be in the 40s-50s with rain and wind. I never let the forecast lessen my spirit because after all, it’s the Boston Marathon. I was going to run this race no matter what. As I posted the day before the race on social media, my mantra was “Magic in the misery” and I wrote this on my arm with a Sharpie before falling asleep Sunday night. 

After my head hit the pillow, I slept for a few hours then I kept waking up imagining I had missed my alarm: 12:06 am, 2:20 am, 3:15 am. My alarm was not set until 5:30 am, but around 5:15 am, I finally surrendered and started my day. I tried to be as quiet as I could as I made my first breakfast of the day (peanut butter bread and applesauce) and began to put on my layers. At the last minute, I added leggings over my shorts/compression socks and under my throw-away sweats to

The radar when I woke up Monday

try to keep myself as warm as possible before the race. Around 6 a.m., I headed out to make the trip to the T. As soon as I stepped outside, I received a taste of what was to come – cold, blustery winds nearly took off my hat and poncho. I quickly fixed my gear and continued on to the T station. Only 2 other runners got on the train with me and we all had a look of concern on our faces. As we traveled to the Arlington stop, more and more runners boarded the T all with waterproof outerwear to try to stay as dry as possible.

Once I arrived at the final stop, I headed to gear check to at least leave a dry sweatshirt and pants to put on after the race and then started towards the buses. Going through security wasn’t too bad but many runners were stopped due to trying to bring unapproved bags on the bus, including me. The email sent the night before mentioned we could bring dry shoes in a clear, plastic bag, but they did not specify a size. I had to discard the bag I brought along and shove my shoes into another gallon-sized bag. No big deal and an easy fix. I heard one woman arguing with the inspectors about not being able to bring more due to the awful weather.

Jeremy and Mario had informed me the bus ride was about 40-50 minutes long so I hit the port-a-pots before boarding the bus. The ride was long and I kept drifting off in little cat naps while I listened to the conversation between runners from Alaska, Colorado, Washington and Minnesota. We finally pulled up near Athlete’s Village and I watched runners trudging up a slight incline through rain and gusty winds. We tried our best to avoid puddles as long as we could and once we entered Athlete’s Village, yikes. Mud everywhere. Jeremy said to look for him and Mario near Tents 1 & 2 and I was determined to find them among the sea of runners. I passed Tent 3 and continued to the back side of the school in search of the other tents. Walking from the blacktop to the tent was so mucky and I was so glad I brought old shoes to wear

The mud in Athlete’s Village

before the race. I tiptoed through the mud towards Tent 2 and went inside. Wow, runners nearly covered every square inch of real estate under the tent, huddled on the ground on trash bags and blankets. I circled the tent looking for the guys with no luck and headed towards Tent 1. Tent 1 literally had a moat around the outside and I thought, “no way Jeremy and Mario are in there” and headed back towards Tent 2 for another loop. No luck. Still I was determined and headed back to Tent 1. I grimaced as I trudged through the mud and looked just inside the tent to see Jeremy sitting there. Bingo! So good to see a familiar face.

Trying to stay clean and dry!

I spread out my trash bag and huddled down with my heat sheet while Jeremy told me he couldn’t find Mario at the bus area and still hadn’t seen him. Although we sat there for over an hour, we didn’t chat much. I think we were just focused on the challenge we were about to endure. We looked up at one point and saw Tom Thomas who Jeremy met at 2017 Shamrock. Tom had a great pre-race outfit – disposable galoshes and a full rainsuit – smart guy! We said a few words about how most time goals were probably out the window. Jeremy offered a fellow runner who came in looking a bit overwhelmed an extra trash bag to sit on. We both ate a little more food – I had more peanut butter bread and a banana. At times, the winds would gust through the tent and we’d have to hunker down. This weather was no joke – the rain falling off the tent had turned into slushy snow/ice on the ground. Soon, announcements were being made for Jeremy’s wave to start lining up. I looked outside the tent and saw Mario standing at a trash can and we yelled to him. He was so excited to see us! Jeremy joked he looked like a baked potato because he had a silver heat sheet tied around this waist. Jeremy wished me luck and went to join Mario for the walk to the starting line. Mario and I waved or maybe threw a thumb up; I can’t remember. I watched the two of them start their trek to the starting line while I tried to stay as warm and dry as possible. At one point, a huge gust of wind came through and the gentleman making announcements said, “You are all dedicated. There is no way I’d run in this.”

I made my 3rd trip of the morning to the port-a-pots and then came back to change into my racing shoes. Using the extra trash bags I brought, I tied one around each of my legs to ward off the mud and rain until I was closer to the starting line. Throughout the morning, I kept making gear adjustments – I put my ear warmer over my hat to help keep the hat on with the winds, I decided to run with Goodrs on to protect my eyes and I decided to just keep my leggings on to have less skin exposure to the elements. Sometimes you just need to go with the flow and make game-time decisions on what you feel will work best for you. As my bib color was called, I confidently walked through the mud moat and out to the next stop. I wasn’t sure how long I could keep my extra clothes on for and I definitely took them off too soon; now I have a better idea of distance and how much time I have until the starting line for a future Boston. We walked down the street towards the starting corral area and I entered into #6. I kept looking around for other runners who were slated to be in my corral, Jill and Anna, but did not see them. I took off the last bit of my gear just as we were released to begin our 26.2 mile trek. My heart pounded as I crossed the starting mat and clicked my watch. Here we go!

Knowing the dangers of the first miles being downhill, I tried to go out as easy as possible and just get into my rhythm. I looked ahead to see thousands of runners ahead of me filling the street – it is a sight to see. The first mile went by so quickly and felt so easy: 7:47. I reminded myself to not push and try to stay as even as I could. I remember Shane said he was going to be around mile 1 and I was bummed I forgot to look for him, but excited to know he would be running with Renee.
(Side note: I keep clicking back to my Garmin stats as I write this because I lost track of exactly when certain things happened.) Right away, I was so excited and appreciative to see spectators braving the conditions to cheer us on. A few miles in, I passed someone blasting Rocky music (how can that not pump you up?) and then Jump Around by House of Pain. This song reminded me of my college days with my teammates Keri and Andy and I started singing the lyrics out loud as we passed by.

Every now and then, I’d have a sense of panic. I’d get a cold chill and I did think to myself, “Am I going to finish today?” I promised myself to just keep moving forward and not worry about my time. Reminded myself of two things over and over – one was something my son had said to me over the weekend: “Mom, no matter what, you are going to have a course PR!” Keeping this in mind and also the fact I had already qualified for Boston 2019 kept me in check. As the freezing rain fell all around me and the winds gusted, I realized it was going to be a long race. Just keep moving forward.

Around mile 11, I realized I had to pee. I have never stopped in a race to pee, but I think the cold, wet conditions caused me to have to go. I actually contemplated not stopping and again thought, “Just go. Make yourself as comfortable as possible.” I veered off course to the next port-a-pot. I was not as speedy as Shalane’s pit stop; trying to pull two layers of wet clothing back up was very difficult. I tied my left shoe and jumped back in the race. I had been averaging pretty decent miles and this stop caused me to clock a 9:36. “Oh well” I thought. Next stop, Wellesley!

The Wellesley girls did not let the weather keep them inside. I ran right up the fence and high fived every girl I came across. The noise from their screams was deafening but so motivating. Soon, we were at the halfway mark and I think this is where I had to tie my other shoe. Trying to tie your shoe with wet, freezing cold fingers is not easy. Somewhere around here I was once again reminded how brutal this race was – I heard the announcer say there was a warming center set up for anyone who needed to stop. By this point, I had seen several runners being walked off course by medical personnel with heat sheets and the medical emergency carts going up and down the course picking up runners who could not continue. I can remember running past a gentleman who was on his cell phone calling a family member and I heard him say, “My race is over. I’m done.” It was heartbreaking.

Somewhere near this point, my feet hurt with each step. I felt like I was running with ice cold bricks for feet and it certainly was uncomfortable for most of the latter part of the race. Here are a few things I thought of or things that happened every time I would get start to feel very uncomfortable:

– I thought, “Becky, think of those people who missed getting accepted by a few seconds. Even with this weather, they’d wish they were running Boston. Just run for them.”
– Another time, I ran past a double blade runner and thought “you have no reason to whine – look at him go!”
– Up a fairly good incline, I ran by a wheelchair athlete who was inching their way up and again, realized I am blessed.

– One runner I passed was running with an AFO which made me think of my friend Kris and how she would love to run Boston one day. Run for Kris.

Running past the enthusiastic spectators and athletes of all kinds of abilities kept me going. At times, the rain absolutely dumped on us which for a second I’m sure we all thought “Really??? Could it be much worse??” However, when the deluge happened, the crowd went absolutely wild and made you feel like a beast. So I trudged on. At some point, we passed an area that was blasting the Cupid Shuffle and when they said “to the right, to the right” you better believe I shuffled right to the fence line, high fived a few people (who roared) and then shuffled back “to the left, to the left” then kicked now! I did what I had to stay sane. Also at points, I remembered listening to Deena Kastor speak at the RRCA convention the weekend prior about smiling when you were hurting which will help your body relax. I probably looked like a deranged goofball, but I smiled through the insanity several times. Even around so many runners, the race felt lonely at times and I was glad Jeremy and Mario were together. Some of my (crazy) family was around 17-18 and were able to capture a photo/video of me.

Right around Heartbreak, I wanted to fuel again and could not get my food out of my bag. I decided to stop, take my time getting my fuel out, eat and then get moving again. And I did. I’m unsure what sparked my reboot, but after Heartbreak Hill, I felt like I was on fire. I just felt like I was flying and I knew I had about an hour to go until I would cross that finish line. Heading into the these last miles, I have never seen so many people walking in a race ahead of me, standing on the side against the fences trying to stretch or limping along the route. I felt grateful to be still moving at what I thought was a decent pace (I had stopped looking at my watch after the potty stop). Mile 22, 23, 24…getting so close. I see the Citgo sign – keep pushing! Soon, I recognized the area where I had run the 5K with Dylan just 2 days prior. I looked ahead and saw the arrows pointing us right – Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston. I was almost there. I glanced around hoping for a glimpse of my family; if I saw them I was going to go over and hug them but the noise was deafening so I wasn’t able to hear anyone calling my name. I looked ahead and saw the finish area ahead. I was about to be a Boston Marathon finisher. I raised my hands in a double thumbs up and crossed that line with a smile and continued through the chute.

As that medal was placed over my head, I choked up and tears came to my eyes. The final 26.2 miles to this medal was most likely one of the most brutal, difficult runs I have ever experienced. I won’t lie, I felt like a complete badass (or completely insane; deranged; call it what you will). I ran directly into that storm and I prevailed.

After I was given my medal, heat poncho, food, water and continued through the chute. I will never forget looking ahead and seeing hundreds of runners in their ponchos slowly moving forward away from the finish line. I started

A volunteer handed me this bar unwrapped at the finish line and I downed it!

shivering badly. When I arrived at the gear check area, it was a zoo. I almost considered leaving my gear because trying to find your bag was a nightmare but I really needed more layers. Thankfully, it didn’t take me too long to find my bag and I headed towards the family meeting area. My heart dropped as I didn’t recognize any familiar faces and then realized my phone battery had died. At this point, I feel I went into survival mode and was a little panicked. All I could think about was, find a warm area. I boarded a warming bus they had for the runners and pleaded to use anyone’s cell phone. I dialed John’s phone; no answer – I left a message with somewhat garbled information of where I was. Several minutes later, I borrowed a 2nd phone. Called again, no luck. Called my mother-in-law and tried my best to relay my location. I heard someone at the front of the bus call, “Becky McGraw?” I quickly grabbed my bags and went outside to find no one. Maybe I had imagined my name? Shivering, I headed back onto the bus to wait. A few minutes later, I saw John outside the window. I yelled up front, “Someone please yell John!!” Several people realized I was freaking out a bit and thankfully yelled until John heard and headed onto our bus. I was so glad to see him.

Someone gave me a 2nd heat poncho and we quickly headed toward the nearest T stop which was jam packed with people. Thankfully, the return trip to our hotel was short since I desperately needed a hot shower and warm, dry clothes.

Next up: Part 3 for my final thoughts on the 2018 Boston Marathon!

Workout Wednesday: Hips Don’t Lie

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Runners, and many other athletes, can benefit from adding this short routine into their workout routine. Most runners suffer from weak, tight and under-developed hip muscles and believe me, your hips will not lie – they will let you know when they are struggling. Weak hips can attribute to a myriad of injuries including sciatica, IT band syndrome, runner’s knee, piriformis issues and more.

Think of the hips as the fulcrums of leg levers driving our bodies forward. If your hips are tight, your legs are not going to be able to provide optimal power and speed. Concentrate on your form as you perform each exercise; not only strengthening but being mindful of the movement pattern.

“It’s all in the hips. It’s all in the hips.” – Chubbs, Happy Gilmore

Hip strengthening and mobility exercises should be a part of your weekly plan, whether you are injured or not. You can easily perform these exercises before your next run (or during your next Netflix binge watching sesh). Make the time, so you won’t lose time due to injury.

All exercises will be performed 10 times on each leg.

  • Clamshells
  • Reverse Clamshells
  • Leg Raises
  • Fire Hydrants
  • Donkey Kicks
  • Side Hurdles (front & back)
  • Bent Leg Swings
  • Leg Swings (front/back)
  • Leg Swings (side/side)

 

You will see we need to work on Jeremy’s hip mobility a little (I’m not immune either, need to do this routine more often!).

Get to it!

Better. Faster. Stronger.

workoutwednesday

Better. Faster. Stronger. No, not lyrics by Kanye, but the benefits you can gain through plyometrics.

Bouncing off Jeremy’s post last week about a jump rope workout (see what I did there?), I thought I would delve more into the world of why distance runners should add jump training into their routine.

When we put one foot in front of the other, our leg muscles engage in what is referred to as a Stretch-Shortening Cycle – an eccentric contraction (lengthening of the muscle) immediately followed by a concentric contraction (shortening of the same muscle). A muscle which is stretched right before an explosive movement will contract more forcefully and more rapidly.

Think about a rubber band. If I wanted to shoot the rubber band at someone, what do I do first?

For maximum performance, I’d pull back (stretch) on the band to build up energy. When I release, the stored energy will take action and (hopefully) hit the target. Our muscles are the same. During the stretch phase, our muscles store energy and then release – hopefully quickly and forcefully – to propel us forward.

Simply put, running is a form of jumping – a series of single leg hops, over and over again. In a marathon, men average about 57,640 strides whereas women average about 63,000 strides – those hops sure add up! Isolating the jumping element through plyometrics is a great way to boost running performance without needing to increase your mileage as well as make each of those strides count.

Proper form is key – not only for injury prevention but for maximum benefit.  You should have a solid base foundation of cardio and strength before adding plyos to your routine. If you are working through one of the Runner In Training Enhanced Run+Strength plans, explosive training is added to your program after we’ve built up your overall endurance and strength and can be strategically prescribed leading up to prepare you for your big race.

Plyometric Exercises for Runners:

Bounding: this exercise is also great for stretching the hamstrings. Bounding is performed by exaggerating your running form and jumping with each step for about 25 meters. Repeat 2-3 times.

Squat Jumps: Powerhouse. Explosive and effective exercise to power up those glutes!

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Toes should be pointed straight ahead. Bend down into squat position and explode upward with your arms stretched above your head. When you land, land softly with your knees bent as you lower back into the squat position. Do 2 sets of 10-15 reps.

Switch Lunge Jump: You can’t get much more running-specific than a jump lunge. Switch jumps target all those running muscles in an explosive fashion.

Begin in a lunge position, weight equally distributed on both legs. Jump and reverse the position of your legs, lowering back down into a lunge position. Drive your arms just as you would while running. Do 2 sets of 12-15 reps (each leg).

Single Leg Lateral Jumps: C’mon coach – running is forward! Why do I need to jump side to side? Moving laterally, we are engaging different muscles which can help us not only with our athleticism but with injury prevention. Strength, stability, balance, control – simple and effective.

Find a line or use tape to create a line on the floor. Jump over the line back and forth. Minimize ground contact time – land softly and take off quickly. Do 2 sets of 12-15 hops (each side).

Burpees: Brilliant move – full body exercise and also boosts your cardio.

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Squat down and place your hands on the floor, jump feet back into a plank position. Do a push-up. Jump feet back to hands, stand up and jump as high as you can. Repeat. 2 sets of 10-15 reps.

Bench Taps: Quick turnover!

Stand in front of a step with both feet on the ground. Rapidly alternate tapping the top of the step with each foot, springing off the ground each time. Drive your arms in your running motion. Do 2 sets of 20 taps (each foot).

 

Plyometric training can be a powerful tool for improving your running economy. So, if you are ready, go on now – jump up, jump up and get down!

Workout Wednesday: Core

workoutwednesday

Alright runners, let’s do a new core workout today. I apologize if I make you do more reps than I promised….ok, maybe not. #sorrynotsorry #youllthankmelater

Core v.2: 5 Cubed

Today, we will do 5 exercises – about 25 repetitions. On each 5th rep, do 5 pulses.

  • Basic Crunch
  • Side Hip Raises
  • Flutter Kicks
  • Toe Touch Crunches
  • Side Crunches

I even did a quick video this morning so you can workout right along with me! No excuses!

My neighbors were walking by smiling; probably think I’m crazy. Annnnd, they’d be right! 🙂

Happy Wednesday all!!

Oh my gosh Becky, look at her….quads?!?

workoutwednesday

Although my marathon training plan includes a mixed bag of runs – long, easy, speed training, hills – there is one that generates maximum force. Hills!

When you think of a hill workout, I’m sure you think of a workout like this one.

Run up hill, jog down, repeat.

Uphill-road

And, I’ve done those….but….

Coach’s prescribed workout for me yesterday consisted of 10 x 1 minute downhill repeats. Jog up and barrel back down.

Sounds easy – just let gravity do its job right? Not.

Hellloooo quads!

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My upcoming marathon is pancake flat. So, why do I even bother with hills?

Currently, I am in the strength period of my training plan which includes a variety of hill-based runs. Running hills help build strength, increase VO2Max and of course, tackle hills more easily.

What happens when you run downhill? The muscles in your legs elongate and actually generate more force than when running uphill or on level ground. Running hard downhill also produces more impact on our bodies – joints, bones and muscles. Training on hills helps the body to adapt to the force, repair itself and in turn, become stronger.

Strengthening the muscles used on downhills easily translates into faster paces on any type of terrain.

As you descend down the hill, it is important to work on quickening your cadence and shortening your stride to have better control over form. Stay off your heels and don’t brake!

Planning on running Boston 2018? Add this workout into your regimen to ready your legs to tackle the 4-mile downhill in the beginning of the race.

Tips:

  • Add in the downhill workout early in your training plan.
  • Choose a hill that’s less than a 10% grade. 
  • If you can get on a softer surface, do it. Otherwise, it’s okay to hit the pavement.
  • Start with 5 downhill repeats and work your way up to 10.
  • Use rocks or chalk to help you count your reps!

Result? A great workout, fun stats and killer quads!

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Thanks Coach!

Sign up today for more information and upcoming events!RIT_TRIANGLE_woWeb

 

 

 

Workout Wednesday: Barefoot Strides & Partner Core

workoutwednesday

Bouncing off last week’s post about adding strides into your running regimen by RunningDad.com, today I want you to strengthen your feet by going barefoot.

For thousands of years, our ancestors walked and ran sans shoes all the time without injury. Somewhere along the way, shoes became an extension of our body. As years went by, soles became thicker and our feet became weaker.

There are twenty-six bones in each foot on average, plus the tibia and fibula of the lower leg. There are around a hundred muscles, tendons, and ligaments around the foot and ankle. When your feet are in shoes for the majority of your waking day, there is a compression of these bones and muscles that limits blood flow and weakens the supportive nature of your feet.

At the very least, I encourage you to kick off your shoes once you get home from work. Even better, go au naturel, free your feet and add in barefoot strides at the end of your next run. Running barefoot not only feels good on the tootsies, but can help strengthen the muscles in the foot.

Spring is finally here – the grass is green, so go out on your yard (or scope out the best lawn in your neighborhood) or if all else fails, head to a turf field. Be sure your surface is free from small rocks, sticks, glass and….poop (from animals, not people…hopefully).

Try doing 4-6 100-yd strides with rest in between after your next slow run!

And…a double feature for your Workout Wednesday – A Partner Core Workout

1st: Find a spouse, significant other, running partner, friend or random victim to help challenge your core. Do each exercise for 30-45 seconds; take 15 seconds to rest and transition. Do circuit two times.

Double Leg Circles: Lie on mats feet-to-feet. Each of you will extend your legs out and rotate your legs/feet in a circular motion around your partner’s legs. Don’t forget to go both directions!

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Plank Shoulder Pushes: Go into a plank position face-to-face. Take turns firmly pushing on each other’s shoulders. Stay strong and don’t let you partner push you back!

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Crunch w/Dumbbell (or Medicine Ball) Pass: Lie on mats feet-to-feet – knee bent. Both people come up to a crunch/sit up position at the same time – one passes a dumbbell or medicine ball to the other. Both return to starting position; come up into crunch/situp and pass weight again. Repeat.

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Oblique Sit-Ups: Lay next to your partner on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Hands should be placed on either side of your head. Your back should be flat against the floor. Engage your core and lift your shoulders off the floor to an upright position, rotating your torso towards your partner as you reach the top. Take the outside arm (the one that is farthest from your partner) and reach across your body, firing your oblique muscles, to give your partner a high five. Carefully lower your upper body back to the floor. Repeat, then switch sides.

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WWPhotoContest

Make sure you take a photo of yourself doing one of the Workout Wednesday exercises then post on the Facebook or Twitter pages of RunningDad.com or RunaissanceMom to be entered to win a prize!

Challenge yourself! Need some incentive? RunningDad.com and I are challenging you during the month of May.
Take a #WW selfie of you doing one of our workouts and post on either of our Facebook or Twitter pages to try to win!

(1) Prize: (1) Nuun tube, (1) pair of Lock Laces, (2) Honey Stinger waffles and a $20 gift card to Dick’s Sporting Goods!

 

Rules:
1. Post your selfie on the Workout Wednesday post and use the #WorkoutWednesday tag. Photo can be submitted on either RunningDad.com or RunaissanceMom Facebook or Twitter accounts.
2. Each photo equals one entry. Only one entry per Workout Wednesday will be counted. 5 Wednesdays in May = 5 chances to win.
3. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook, Twitter, Nuun, Honey Stinger, Lock Laces or Dick’s Sporting Goods.
4. Contest will close at midnight EST on June 1, 2017. One winner will be selected and contacted on June 2, 2017.

Workout Wednesday: Strides

workoutwednesday

Your workout of the day includes strides….what are they? And why I am doing them?

Coach Jeremy chats today about the benefits of strides, how to incorporate them into your running plan and how they can make you feel badass.

Workout Wednesday: Strides

Don’t forget your #WW selfie!

WWPhotoContest

Make sure you take a photo of yourself doing one of the Workout Wednesday exercises then post on the Facebook or Twitter pages of RunningDad.com or RunaissanceMom to be entered to win a prize!

Challenge yourself! Need some incentive? RUNaissance Mom and I are challenging you during the month of May.

Take a #WW selfie of you doing one of our workouts and post on either of our Facebook or Twitter pages to try to win!

(1) Prize: (1) Nuun tube, (1) pair of Lock Laces, (2) Honey Stinger waffles and a $20 gift card to Dick’s Sporting Goods!

Rules:
1. Post your selfie on the Workout Wednesday post and use the #WorkoutWednesday tag. Photo can be submitted on either RunningDad.com or RunaissanceMom Facebook or Twitter accounts.
2. Each photo equals one entry. Only one entry per Workout Wednesday will be counted. 5 Wednesdays in May = 5 chances to win.
3. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook, Twitter, Nuun, Honey Stinger, Lock Laces or Dick’s Sporting Goods.
4. Contest will close at midnight EST on June 1, 2017. One winner will be selected and contacted on June 2, 2017.