Frölicking trails since 2010

Frölicking trails since 2010
Frölicking trails since 2010

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Boston Marathon - April 18th, 2011

I'm shipping up to Boston...

April Race #2, Boston Marathon

Since qualifying for Boston at the Yakima River Canyon marathon, I planned to run it 2011. Also, my best friend from home Brian Bensch also qualified at the San Francisco marathon. So we began planning our trip to Boston together, which was already sounding to be an awesome weekend. When it came time to register for the marathon, I signed up the morning registration opened. The next day Brian tried to register, but Boston was already full. Huh? Seriously? Boston has NEVER filled up this quick, usually it takes months! As I sat there, I wondered what Brian was going to do. Eventually he decided to fly to Boston anyways and run the marathon as a bandit (an unregistered runner).

Friday, April 15th

Me and Brian, College years, In-N-Out
So, the night before I landed in Boston, one of my good friends sent me a link to Scott Jurek's Facebook profile (Scott Jurek is a legendary ultra marathon champion). When I read that he was going to be giving a talk in Boston at 2 pm on Saturday, I nearly jumped out of my seat! Given that I had to change all 3 of my connecting flights to Boston due to delays and cancellations, I prayed that my new flights wouldn't get delayed or cancelled so that I could land in Boston in time to meet one of my ultra heroes!

Saturday, April 16th

I arrived in Boston at 11:00 am Saturday (1 day before Brian). My plan was to stay with my friend Rachel for a night and meet up with Brian later. Who's Rachel? Well, Brian and I met her in Tijuana in 2003 and we've been friends ever since. She's currently residing in Boston, and she acted as my guide (thank you!). I dropped off my luggage at her pad, then we headed downtown towards the Marathon Expo to see my hero, Scott Jurek. After navigating our way through the public library, Rachel and I arrived at the 'Born to Run' book signing and barefoot running presentation. The presentation hadn't started yet, so we got in line to talk to Christopher McDougall. As we were in line, Scott walked by to fill up his water bottle. On his way back, I shyly and humbly started a conversation with the man. He is by far the nicest 7-time Western States 100 mile Champion I've ever met! We chatted for a good 5 minutes before he left to get ready for the presentation. I then got a book signed by Christopher McDougall and headed towards the Expo. That made my day!

Scott Jurek

At the Expo, my mission was simple. Get my bib/shirt, buy a hat, and buy 2 mugs. That's it. No fancy jacket or fancy running sunglasses (I hate running with sunglasses, but I was still tempted because they had some cool colors). After visiting every booth and grabbing every energy bar and recovery drink sample we could possibly find, we jetted. That night we met up with Rachel's friends Tom and Alison for some delicious Italian food in North Boston, followed by the Boston Bruins Hockey Playoff Match #2 against the Montreal French Canadians. Go Bruins! USA!

Sunday, April 17th

After breakfast, I met up with Brian at his friend's place near Boston Common. Apparently, he tweaked his knee the weekend prior while skiing. Noooo! He was still planning on running as far as he could, but given that he couldn't bend/straighten his leg all the way, that was a real question mark.

Marathon Monday, April 18th

The race itself started at 10:00 AM for my Wave, but I had to wake up at 5:30 am to head to Boston Common to catch a bus to the start. When we arrived at the 'Athletes Village' near the start at about 6:30 am, I had 3.5 hours to get ready for the marathon. It was windy, cold, and I couldn't have a pants party if I tried (i.e. wasn't wearing pants). I eventually found a bunch of runners huddled in a little garage/shed that was at least 10 degrees warmer than outside! But like most cool hangouts, the authorities kicked us out into the windy cold.

Athlete's Village, near the Start
At 9:15, my wave was ordered to head towards the starting line, which was .7 miles away. Anybody who prepares for a marathon knows to be properly hydrated. And for any anxious well-hydrated runner, 45 minutes is a long time to wait in line for a race. I did the math the night before, and planned accordingly. 10 minutes before the start, I hydrated adequately and bypassed the unfortunate feeling of bathroom urgency...for the time being. A few minutes before the start, someone tapped my shoulder. It was Paul, a runner I met at one of the Foot Traffic running groups in downtown Portland! Of all the 27,000 people at the race, I was not expecting to recognize ANYBODY. Oh, know how to surprise me...


When the race started, my first mile felt like a 4:00 min/mile pace. I kept pace with the elite runners for a while. Around the 20 mile mark, I pulled ahead on Heartbreak Hill (thanks to all my hill training). At that point, I was nose to nose with the Kenyans and running on the edge of exhaustion. All of a sudden, a tail wind kicked in and pushed me ahead of the Kenyans, and I won the Boston Marathon with a new World Record! But because of the tail wind, my time was so unbelievably fast, they thought if anyone saw my time, their heads would explode. So they ignored my time and gave the trophy to Geoffery Mutai, who had a much more believable finish time. Apparently a sub 2-hour marathon is impossible. What a rip.


Despite being shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of runners, I was grouped with hundreds of runners who run the same pace. When we crossed the starting line, we were all running 6:30 minute miles which was kind of a trip. The first mile of the marathon had some spectator support, but I mostly just noticed all the well-hydrated guys take a detour into the woods to relieve themselves. That 45 minute wait was killer. Water/Gatorade stations were every mile, so hydration during the race was never an issue. The first station I tried to drink WHILE running in order to save time, but I swear I almost drowned by Gatorade.

At the 1-mile mark, my good friend Brian saw me and jumped in. We ran and chatted for the next mile or so, which was kind of nice. We used to do a lot of summer running together, and it's funny how conversations during a run seem so different than conversations standing still. Too bad we couldn't have spent the marathon together. After a mile, he backed off (because of his knee) to run with another friend who was going a slower pace.

Agh! Sun!
The first few miles felt great, especially with the downhill start. The spectator support was awesome, but I hadn't seen anything yet. When I arrived in downtown Ashland, the support was overwhelming! Crowds of people lined the entire course shouting, encouraging, and giving high fives. I mostly ran on the outside, and it's really hard for me to leave someone hanging...So I gave high fives wherever I saw a hand, especially the wee ones. It was so cool! Arguably, the force of the high five may have slowed me down, but it felt like I accelerated and ran through every high five I was was unbelievable.

And then there were the Wellesley College girls, the sirens of the Boston Marathon. You could hear them cheering from half a mile away. The marathon goes right by this prestigious women's liberal arts college, and seemingly every other girl held up a sign saying something to the affect of "Kiss me, I'm _______". Some of the weaker men went in for a kiss, but it would take much more than that to stop me and my argonauts. Although, I might have stopped for a "Kiss me, I'm Polish".

Getting near the halfway point, I felt a disturbance in the Force. After a couple unfortunate porto breaks, I found myself around 1 hour 30 minutes for the half marathon. My overall goal was to run under 3 hours, so at this point I planned to run hard and try to negative split the second half of the race. I was feeling amazing so far, so maybe it was possible? I don't know. Ah! Don't think! Thinking wastes energy! RUN!

There were SOOO MANY SPECTATORS. Some were handing out food, water, and sometimes beer. By chance I ended up grabbing Jelly Beans, a York Peppermint Patty, and some GU along the way. So good! The Gatorade was beginning to give me side aches at this point, they put too much damn sugar in that stuff.

By the time heartbreak hill was over, I wanted to ask someone "uh, was that heartbreak hill?" The hill itself was not terribly epic, it's simply located at a critical location...mile 21. Maybe it's because most marathoners don't train beyond the 21 mile mark, but that's probably where most people at least begin to hit the wall (or at least slow down). Any hill at that point can put someone over the edge. In the Seattle Marathon, there's a hill at mile 21 that's much much worse than heartbreak, and it nearly destroyed me when I ran it in 2008 and 2009. This time, my training prepared me well for this silly obstacle. (For Bloomsday runners, Doomsday hill is harder than heartbreak hill).

Rachel and me, Boston Bruins Game
From Heartbreak hill, it was all downhill to the finish. My legs were feeling great, and I found my favorite fans of the course. Boston College gave me the best high fives I've ever had, and they were the most amped spectators I'd seen all day. Cheers! Soon after, I saw my friend Rachel. By the time she saw me, we were perpendicular to each other. She began chasing after me down the sidewalk with her camera, dodging spectators, trying to get close enough for a good shot. I kept turning around, hoping she would just take a picture from where she was. She eventually did. Thanks Rachel, you're awesome!

The final stretch of the marathon is about half a mile long, and it was a glorious finish. I had enough energy to sprint the final 50 meters, and I crossed the legendary finish line. I had no idea what my time was because I didn't run with a watch and forgot what time I crossed the starting line. Some of my friends who were following me probably knew my finish time before I did. Eventually one of my friends texted my time to me, and I got a new Personal Record!

Results:     3:02:16 - 1,791st out of 23,879 Finishers

Pace:     6:57 min/mile

The Boston Marathon was an amazing experience that I'll never forget. I felt like a hero the entire time running the race, and for that I thank the spectators. They truly make Boston what it is. I didn't even get a chance to get a song stuck in my head, there was so much going on that my mind was almost overloaded the entire time thinking about the fans, my pace, other runners, what should I drink, what should I eat, oh look crazy college girls, how're me legs feeling, hey that runner is wearing an elmo shirt, man it's sunny out, my bandana is bugging me, high five, hey that guy's from spain, high five, there's a camera gotta look tough, crap another girl is outrunning me, high five, I can't wait to eat afterwards, high five, high five, high five, dear gatorade please cutback on the sugar there is such a thing as too many electrolytes per fluid ounce, how can that man be wearing tights in this weather, I should have written my name on my shirt so people could yell my name, I wonder if Scott Jurek will remember me if I see him again, I hope there's free massage therapy, EPIC HIGH FIVE, I wonder if Poland Spring Water comes from Poland or if it was founded by someone Polish, I miss Portland, I think I'm seriously getting sunburned for the first time since August, I hate how medium sized t-shirts vary in size depending on the manufacturer, did I get enough James Bronder photos this trip, maybe I should get a puppy, I should become vegan so I can have ultra vegan powers, what should I name my puppy, high five, who's getting texts on my progress, I hope Mom's watching, why doesn't the West Coast have Patriot's Day off, will I ever run this race again, marathons suck trail is better, will I ever be considered 'elite', what kind of dog should I get, high five....

For now, I'm retiring from road marathons and sticking with trail. The size of the Boston Marathon was overwhelming at times before and after the race. During the race, I didn't care. But it's getting TO the race that's half the battle. I'll forever remember this race, and I'm grateful for having the chance to run it. Go Boston!

SPECIAL THANKS: Rachel, Alison, Tom, Lindsay, Zach, Brian, Lindsay's parents, Team Dolphin, James Bronder (You're the Best, Around!), and all my Friends & Family who followed me at home. Thank you for everything!

Shout out to John Lotts and Gary Daubenspeck who also ran the race!

Peterson Ridge Rumble 20 Mile - Sisters, Oregon - April 10th, 2011

At last, the month of April has arrived. I've been anticipated its forthcoming for a long time...

April Race #1, the Peterson Ridge Rumble...

Sisters is a small little town of about 2,000 people that sits just East of the Cascades, 20 miles northwest of Bend. The perfect location for a relaxing getaway weekend! The race was scheduled for Sunday, so my plan was to catch a ride down Friday and hang out with some ultra friends of mine, Chris and Liz, and to explore the Sisters and Bend area.

Friday night I caught a ride with my running friend Amy Sproston. We passed the time with wonderful conversation, and luckily that was enough. Even though she had a cd player in her car, all she had with her was 1 album...The Chipmunks Christmas Carols. Did we listen to the cd? Yes, only for 2.5 minutes. It was promptly turned off when we decided it was a little unnecessary. I told her that if I had the chipmunks stuck in my head during my race, that I would hate her forever.

Amy dropped me off at the Best Western in Sisters where I would stay with Chris, Liz, and their dog Ladybird for the next 2 nights. I hadn't seen Chris or Liz for months, so we spent the rest of the night chatting about life, running, and the pursuit of further distances. The next morning (Liz's birthday) we got up for a mid-morning fun run and explored the first couple miles of the race course. We then drove to Bend for lunch, our race bibs, and a couple running store visits (Foot Zone and Fleet Feet). By the time we left Bend, I somehow ordered and paid for a Veggie Blend beverage…Never again.

Race Day Morning

The Peterson Ridge Rumble has both a 40 mile and 20 mile race. Chris and I were signed up for the 20, but we woke up early to see some of our friends start of the 40 mile race. Some of those friends included Nathan Blair (Hagg Lake, Trailfactor), Todd Janssen (Hagg Lake, Trailfactor), Larry Buchanan (Bunker to Bonneville), Larry’s wife Susan, and Bryan Mullaney. Bryan is a buddy from college who got into ultra running last year, and we only found out 2 weeks prior that we both run ultras. I wonder if any other friends are running ultras these days…

The 20 Mile Race

The 20 mile is dog friendly, and there were a number of owners with their highly energetic dogs. As soon as the race started, some of the dogs (off leash) were doing ‘fly by’s at full speed up and down the trail. One dog came bounding from the bushes and crashed into one of the runners, almost knocking his legs out from under him. It was a bit crazy, but eventually the trail opened up to a long and wide road, where the runners and their mutts had a chance to spread out.

The road seemed endless because it was long, wide, flat, and you could see forever because of how straight it was. I went out as fast as I could sustain, given the 3,000’ ground elevation (much higher than Portland). I was breathing deep, but my legs were feeling fairly fresh. When we finally turned off the long dirt road onto single track trail, things got much better. I was in 10th place at this point, but caught a few runners on the climb (hooray for training in the Gorge). The single track twisted and turned through the sparse trees with only a slight elevation climb, making for some extremely enjoyable running.

The overall 1,000' climb for the first half of the course was fairly gradual, and it eventually opened up to some gorgeous views of the surrounding snow-covered buttes and mountains. A picture wouldn’t do the view justice (at least, that’s what I say when I’m too lazy to carry a camera). At the halfway point the course looped back downhill towards the start, and there’s nothing more fun than gradual downhill on soft, dry single track. All I had to do was lean a little forward and let my legs roll with my momentum.

I was able to pass a couple more runners on the downhill, despite nearly face planting somewhere along the trail. When I eventually reached the long, wide, flat, and seemingly endless road, I looked behind me and saw nobody for at least half a mile. With only 2 miles to go until the finish, that was a huge relief. There's nothing worse than running in fear of being caught. I had no idea what place I was in, but I was running strong and hoping for a top 5 finish. I could see Gary Robbins half a mile in front of me, but there was no way I was going to catch him. I kept a good pace and somehow got Rick Astley stuck in my head for the last mile.

The finish was on the high school track, but the runners had to complete a full lap first. Someone put hurdles out on the track, for those who still had the energy or the audacity to humor the situation. When I entered the track, I threw down my water bottle on the grass and took off for the finish. Halfway around the track, I remembered why I quit track in high school...because tracks suck. After totally jumping the hurdle with 100 meters to go, I finished with a sprint and a great time.

Results:     2:28:04 - 4th out of 193 finishers

Pace:     7:24 min/mile

At the finish line there was a magnificent burrito buffet, along with all the common post race amenities. Oh, how I Love trail races. Chris finished a mere 10 minutes after me, and we sat and ate all afternoon while watching the 20 mile and 40 mile finishers. Life is good! After a time, the race director announced the awards for the top 3 finishers in the 20 mile race. The 2nd place finisher was actually the 1st place finisher in the masters division (40+), and he got his own specific award. Since that was the case, the 3rd and 4th place overall finishers received the 2nd and 3rd place prizes! When he announced my name for 3rd place, I felt a little out of place and slightly proud. I walked up, received some mountain hardware arm sleeves and a box of GU Roctane, and shook the race director's hand. Holy crap, I just got a prize for running a race!

As if I wasn't hooked on trail running already, now I'm starting to see my running improve more and more with each race. Seeing the 40 milers finish, I can only dream of the day when I can compete with their 6:40 min/mile pace. Maybe someday I'll get there. Is it only a matter of time? There's only one way to find out...

Afterthought: I never got the chipmunks stuck in my head during the race. Chris oddly had Taylor Swift stuck in his head.