Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Joyful June

June 2020 in review!

Total running mileage for the month:  241.5
  • June 1-7: 47 - this was my first real week of running back!
  • June 8-14:  55.4
  • June 15-21:  60.1
  • June 22-28: 60
  • June 29-July 4: 62.2
Rebecca & Jack gapping the group on a
beautiful farm road morning (Missy also
gapped us, then stopped to take photos!)

Total bike mileage for the month:  95.8 
- just posting this because it's quite clear I dropped biking real quick once I started running, plus I had some issues from my bike seat after a huge Memorial Day riding weekend and am not sure I could ever go back to riding 300+ mpw now. #thingsnoonetellsyouaboutbiking  Starting on June 23 I was able to start bike commuting to some of our group runs, which was a great way to keep using my bike some and to add onto runs without adding any impact.
See, I biked some! This was after the
June 30 fartlek workout

Post-15 miler

Post mini-workout on June 25
  • June 23:  5 miles moderate at 7:09 average (1 warm up, 2 cool down) with my friend Christian who had this workout.  It seemed like a very non-intimidating way to do something that wasn't very easy running, and my hip felt great so it was a success! I miss the GAP feature on the free Strava, because we ran a rolling route (259 ft gain) and I thought my effort was more even than my pace showed (range of 7:02-7:19).
  • June 25:  6 x 1:00 pick ups to tempo effort (5:58-6:32) at the beginning of miles 2-6 of an 8 mile run.  Like June 23, this was also Christian's workout and it seemed like another great "intro workout" for me.  It's pretty easy to run only easy runs when everyone else is running easy, but it's harder than I realized when others are doing workouts at the group run!
  • June 30:  4 x 2', 1', 30" fartlek at tempo effort (6:02-6:43 on a rolling route) with equal recoveries and 2ish warm up, 1.5ish cool down.  I am loving these effort-based workouts - thanks, Christian's coach!  Related note: I plan to start back with my awesome coach in August so she can save me from myself.  I'm not really training for anything so I've just been doing what sounds fun, which will equate to me making poor decisions if I don't go back to being coached (I think it makes me a great training buddy though, I say yes to about everything!).
  • I did strides, hill strides, or unstructured pick-ups 1-2 times a week every week, because I do plan to race again some day.
  • Doubles:  June 30 - I said I was going to wait until July to do any doubles, but I don't think one day made a difference!
  • Strength Training:  2:00, 1:42, 2:00, 2:43
  • Yoga:  0:40, 1:20, 1:00, 1:00 (2-4 x 0:20 practices each week)
Global Running Day!

I felt so old when these two mentioned
they graduated high school in 2014, haha!

Long Runs:
  • June 6:  12.2 miles (8:31)!  I have never been so proud of a slower-than-usual-easy-pace 12 miles (this was my sixth real run back).  It was 73 degrees, with a dew point of 72, which is pretty much death, so the friends I ran with (Christian and Claudio) didn't mind taking it slow - I could not have run this far very fast, although I do think I could have done better without the dew point of death.  I was planning to go for 10 but Christian was running 12 and I felt good so I went with it.
  • June 13:  13.1 miles (8:26).  A good-sized group run, with Abby, Claudio, and Sean.
  • June 20:  15.1 miles (8:15).  This was another nice group run with Paul, Sean, Claudio, Daniel, Christian, and Rebecca.  Coming back from time off is the only time I can drop around 10 second/week from my zone 1 pace while also adding 1-2 miles/week!
  • June 27: 14 miles (8:15).  Yet another nice group run with Christian, Abby, Claudio, Sean, Rachel, Sierra, and Amy.  It was an unintentional progression (8:40ish down to 7:20ish), but we ran an almost mile out-and-back section that we usually avoid due to the long hills on it  and those miles were a bit slower (there are currently 2 porta-potties on that road due to construction and several group members needed them along the way).
    • I also did medium long runs on Wednesdays starting the second week of the month with 10.2, 11, and 12.2.
      Post 13.1
Running Highlights:
  • Clearly, returning to "real" running was the huge highlight of this month!  During the final week of May I did five run/walks and one straight run, and the first week of June I switched to all running.  Words cannot express how good it felt!  I thought I loved biking until I started running again and felt a hundred times better.  My endurance came back quickly (perhaps the biking wasn't totally worthless), and I have no idea if/when my speed will come back but I don't care that much at this point!  I'm thankful for what I have instead of wanting more.  I had to hold myself back to not run more mileage, but I stuck with 6 runs a week this month - one day off each week and no doubles.
  • I ordered an Ellipigo!  I've wanted one for years but I think I always felt that buying one was admitting I'd be cross-training (which normally means I am not running).  It is ironic that I bought this now and not 5 months ago, but I am going to try a little lower mileage supplemented with the Elliptigo training and see what happens. Now is a great time to experiment in training, and staying healthy is very important to me.  My Elliptigo is scheduled to ship on July 13.
  • My resting heart rate was running around 50 when I started back to running after 15 weeks off, but by the end of June it was down to 33-34, which I thought was crazy!  I've seen it hit 28-30 when I'm at top fitness, but I have never seen it change so quickly (I've only had a Garmin that monitors it since early 2019 though).  I also learned that it is much easier to get your HR high when you are out of shape!  My first week back I couldn't keep my HR in my easy range no matter how slow I ran, and I still have long way to go but it's getting better every week.
We are better at running than at 
centering for photos

Strava sent me some goodies!

This buff from the Run Farther & Faster podcast
is great for keeping sweat out of my eyes on the
spin bike (can also be used as a COVID mask!)

Albani told me that "llamas are trending"

My sedentary cross-stitching hobby lives on!

With cat & cousin

Albani's summer job at the farmer's market

Yet they wouldn't do yoga with me

I should have taken a photo when my RHR
was 50 not long ago! Also I apparently got
my HR up to 170 in the "light" fartlek on 6/30
Life Highlights:
  • We did a lot of gardening this month...  I learned that I highly dislike gardening when I'm in "single parent mode", and told Jon that if he was gone much longer the garden was going to die.  Fortunately it all lived, and I got really good at mowing our yard!
  • Jon was traveling for work from May 8 through June 19, and I developed a huge admiration for single parents.  We did this once before and I remember feeling the same way then!  Albani is now old enough to stay at home by herself while I run (she is also sleeping), but last time she was (I think) 8, so I only ran loops around my neighborhood in case she woke up while I was out.  One week back then I ran over 60 miles, including a 20 mile long run, on that 0.8 loop!
  • I have been cutting my own hair and Albani's hair during COVID-19, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to keep doing it!  We also did highlights this month.
  • We celebrated Father's Day with take-out ribs and working in the garden.
  • Jon and Albani are selling produce (mostly blackberries) at a local farmer's market 3 days a week; I help on Saturdays (after my long run, of course).
  • We had visitors for the last week of the month, my brother-in-law and his two children who are a little older than Albani.  Albani is dying for a phone like them, but we aren't letting her get one until she starts driving.  She often tells me that all of her friends have phones (which I believe, based on what I saw at middle school orientation), and I always respond, "Good, you can borrow one of theirs if you need to make a call."
Summer evenings

I'd missed this church sign!

Orange Leaf Friday

Albani got an Andy's gift card along
with her Timothy award for Awana

Big beets
Father's Day
She likes to do this and ask us if we'd buy her

I found this gem when looking for
old pics of my dad & I for Father's
Day - a little road race in 1987
  • The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
  • House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
  • Running with Sherman by Christopher McDougall
  • Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes
  • The Dance by Richard Paul Evans
  • The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
  • The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
  • An Unwanted Guest by Sherri Lapena
  • I am about 30% through I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb (it's 1444 pages)
My reading suffered this month, because every weekday was non-stop from when I woke up between 4:30-5:00 a.m. and went to bed between 9:00-9:30 p.m. (i.e., I only read to fall asleep in bed and on weekends). I read ebooks during easy rides on my spin bike, and I only did one of those this month (vs. about 5 times a week when I wasn't running)!

Theme for the month:
Endorphins. I have never been so thrilled with 6 mile slow runs as I was on June 1 and 2, or for really any running I did this month! Does time off reset your endorphin levels?

Beyond Boston: Sherry Lee

A mutual friend introduced Sherry and I, and I related to her in many ways!  I remember running in 2003 when there was very little information online about how to train for anything, which is quite hard to imagine now.  She started running then in order to cheer for P. Diddy running the New York City marathon, and like most of us, was soon hooked for good.  She has been Boston streaking since 2015, after also running it in 2009 and 2010, and she plans to be part of history by running the first virtual Boston!  She checked breaking 3:00 off her list at CIM 2018 and plans to try to OTQ someday, but her biggest achievement may be her outlook, "I never want to be ungrateful for my health and ability to run." 

Introduce yourself (who you are, where you're from, what you do, etc.)
Hi, I'm Sherry Lee, a Christ-follower who loves running, surfing and traveling responsibly. I teach middle school PE and live in Cupertino, California, birthplace of your Apple products ;). My husband and I love adventures in our California backyard and around the world; running in the mountains and snorkeling and surfing in the ocean.

What are your thoughts on Boston 2020 being cancelled? How did you handle the initial postponement and eventual cancellation, mentally and physically?
Although running the Boston Marathon is usually a tradition I cherish, I think it was the best and safest decision for Boston 2020 to be cancelled. My husband and I still ran our own marathon in April so our training wouldn't go to waste, but it was just a leisurely run. I had a strong feeling that the initially postponed race would be cancelled, so I didn't get my hopes up. I honestly didn't mind because training in the hot, dry summer is rough. I just took the time to enjoy running our gorgeous San Francisco Bay Area trails and still continued my speed work, although the mileage was shortened.

Do you plan to run Boston 2020 virtually? Why or why not?
Yes, I plan on running Boston 2020 virtually although not at race pace. I want to keep up my Boston streak tradition. My first Boston Marathon was in 2009 and then 2010. An injury took me out of running for a while and I had to work my way back, but haven't missed Boston since 2015. The race reminds me to be grateful for each day that I am healthy enough to run. Also, I want to be a part of history by running the first ever virtual Boston Marathon!

Do you plan to run Boston 2021? Why or why not?
Yes, I plan to if I feel it's safe and to continue my Boston run streak tradition.

How did you get started in running? Tell us a little about your early running career through present.
I swam in high school and only ran a little bit as part of training. I didn't start running until I was in graduate school in New York City and I wanted to cheer on P. Diddy in the New York City Marathon in 2003. I thought if a "non-runner" like him could run a marathon, so could I. At that time, there was very little research I could do online to find any kind of training plan. In the words of Forrest Gump, "I just started running." 

I signed up for the half in the 2004 San Francisco Marathon. My goal was to run the half and be done with running. I finished in 1:56 and had so much fun, I signed up for my first full marathon. After running one marathon (more on that later), I was pretty content with just running the distance and never thought I could run any faster. It wasn't until I almost qualified for Boston when I realized a BQ could be a realistic goal for me. 

After qualifying in 2008, I went on to run 2 Bostons in 2009 and 2010, where I broke 3:30 but got injured and was unable to run the next 2.5 years. That was when I started dating my then boyfriend, now husband. Once I could start running again, I had to start from square one. My husband started coaching me and introduced me to speed work, fartleks, lactic threshold, and hilly tempo runs. Before I knew it, my personal bests in every distance started dropping and I started winning local races. I also joined my husband's Pacific Association USATF run club, Excelsior. 

My goal each year has always been dropping my marathon times, but I always thought breaking 3 hours would be a very lofty goal. In 2018, I finally broke 3 hours at CIM (another annual race on my racing schedule), finishing in 2:59:30. In the last few years, I also started a running club at the middle school where I teach. The club schedules weekly fun runs in between cross country and track season. I'm shocked and so encouraged at how many pre-teens want to run! It's a joy to share my passion with them.
Why did you decide to run your first marathon?
After I ran my first half marathon in 2004, I decided to add “running a marathon” to my bucket list. I thought that after that, I would be done with running and be satisfied. After crossing the finish line at the 2005 LA Marathon in 4:15, I was instantly hooked on the marathon distance. I dedicated each mile to something or someone in prayer while running. It was very meditative for me, so the goal wasn’t about time. I loved running the long distance, the spectators cheering for random strangers, and runners sharing in the suffering. I truly embraced the pain afterward. I loved being sore and knowing that my body could be pushed to its limit.

When did you set the goal of qualifying for Boston and what inspired you to try?
When I lived in New York City, I visited my cousin a few times who was attending Wellesley College. She was the one who actually told me about Boston and the Wellesley scream tunnel. After I ran my first marathon, she told me that I should try to qualify, but I told her that there was no way that I could even get close to the qualifying time! It wasn't until December 2007 when I accidentally broke 4 hours for the first time and ran 3:48 at CIM, that I realized I could probably qualify for Boston in my next marathon. Back then, the qualifying time for 18-34 year olds was a bit easier, 3:40 for women and a guaranteed entry if you ran under that time.
What was your journey to BQ like?
Before 2007, my goal in each marathon was just to finish and enjoy each step. After CIM 2007 where I shaved 25 minutes off my prior PR, I thought I was really close to a BQ. I decided to set the goal and train to BQ in early 2008. GPS watches weren't that common yet, so a lot of my training was around a 2-mile lake where I would just estimate what my pace was using my classic digital watch. The biggest part of my journey was the support of my friends, who really encouraged me in my training and celebrated with me when I finally qualified at the 2008 San Diego Marathon in 3:38.

Why did you decide to run Boston 2020?
For the same reasons why I would run Boston 2021, but also, of the 37 marathons I've run, Boston is by far my favorite and most memorable. The city transforms into a running mecca and the spectators make you feel so special. Since I'm probably more likely to be struck by lightning than to ever make it to the Olympics, Boston will probably be the closest I'll ever get to feeling like an Olympian (although if my aging body lets me, I will attempt to OTQ one day!).  Being surrounded by other runners, who also had to train so hard to qualify, gives me a sense of camaraderie and understanding for one another.
How did it feel to be accepted into Boston 2020?
It felt great to be running my 8th Boston, albeit virtually! Each year I feel it’s such a privilege to be accepted and I don’t take it for granted. I still get goosebumps on the day I receive the official Boston letter of acceptance in the mail. I never want to be ungrateful for my health and ability to run.

What did you learn from this journey - from BQ to postponement to cancellation?
I used to burn out by the end of every Boston training cycle and just couldn't wait for the race so that I didn't have to push my body so hard once it was over! After Boston was postponed, I could have taken a rest but found myself continuing to train at a high level with hard quality workouts. I usually take the time in between training cycles to just run leisurely, but now without knowing when the next race will be, I'm realizing I want to keep my speed so my body doesn't forget what it feels like!

You can learn more about Sherry's running on her awesome YouTube channel!

Monday, June 29, 2020

Beyond Boston: Devra Leach

Richard White, another runner featured in this series, connected me to Devra (they ran a virtual Boston on Patriot's Day together!), and she mentioned she recognized my name from when we went 1-2 in the 2015 Bass Pro Marathon.  Small world!  Devra has run 5 Bostons and expresses that the experience is like no other!  She plans to run 2020 virtually (again!) but also hopes to go back in 2021.
Introduce yourself (who you are, where you're from, what you do, etc.)

My name is Devra (Gower) Leach and I’ve lived in the Branson/Hollister, Missouri area most of my life. I am the Group Benefits Department Manager at Connell Insurance as well as a Group Benefits Consultant. I also “serve” as the wellness “inspirerer” (not sure that’s a word) within our organization and for some of my groups. I have been married for 3 years to a husband who is very supportive of my (running) habit and we have dog, Jaxson who is like our child. In my spare time, I am a Group Cycling Instructor at the Cox Fitness Center in Branson. I love running but also do a lot of biking and will hopefully be participating in my 11th Bike MS this year. I participate in 2-3 marathons and several charity biking events each year.

What are you thoughts on Boston 2020 being cancelled? How did you handle the initial postponement and eventual cancellation, mentally and physically?
Now, I “get it” but when the announcement came 5 weeks prior to the Boston Marathon, I was angry. I honestly thought people were blowing all of this COVID stuff out of proportion. I and a couple others that I train with had been training for months and working towards a PR. I had been pushing myself with speed work to try and achieve a 3:17. 

When the news came, besides being angry, I felt lost. What do I do now?? Not only had I been preparing and training so hard to reach a goal, I was looking forward to a long weekend away in one of my favorite cities with my husband as we don’t get a lot of time to travel or really spend together. 

But I decided I was not going to let all that training be for naught. I had a goal, I had put way too much blood, sweat, tears (literally) and time in to just quit. So I continued training and ran the "Boston Marathon" in Branson on April 20th with Richard White. Well, we started at the same time and same place but had our own course we felt comfortable with. I did not run a 3:17 but a 3:23. There was nothing pushing me other than my determination and knowing that I worked for this. There were no crowds to cheer me on to push me faster to that finish line. And there were hills! More hills than in Boston! (editor's note: the Branson area is extremely hilly!)

Do you plan to run Boston 2020 virtually? Why or why not?
I do plan to run the Virtual Boston even though I feel like I kinda did that back in April. 😜 But I will be joined by thousands of runners across the country or even the planet for this accomplishment. I honestly never got the appeal of running a virtual race but It’s BOSTON! You still get your medal, a shirt, your bib AND counted as completing the 124th Boston. I am hoping I’ll get my 2020 sticker too. I have all 5 of my Boston stickers on my car. I actually totaled my car when I hit a deer back in November and I was so upset I would lose all my stickers. I reached out on FB through the Boston Buddies page and so many people responded willing to give up their stickers from past years that I was able to replace all of them and even ended up with a few extras. How cool is that?! Boston runners unite!

Do you plan to run Boston 2021? Why or why not?
I sure hope so! My qualifying time from the NYC Marathon was good enough to get in this past year (even though it was a disappointing time for me) and as long as they don’t “tweak” any of the timing qualification for this year (which I can’t imagine with this situation, why they would), I should be able to get in. 

There is something so exciting about filling out your entry right at the second it opens and hitting that send button and the anticipation of actually getting in. I’ve had my husband and a friend two different years ready with my info and card number at the exact second registration opened as maybe I was in meetings or on the road for work. Haha! 

There is something so special about Boston! It’s the marathon of all marathons! It was a goal of mine to qualify for years but that just isn’t enough. And people don’t even realize that just because you qualify, you might or might not get in. You’ve got to be better than the best and better than you were the year before (until you hit the next age bracket). 

If you’ve never been there or never experienced the Boston Marathon, there is just no explaining it. I tear up anytime I’m there or watch a documentary on it. My first year there was the year after the bombing and the city was so welcoming and so happy people came back. I was surprised at how friendly the people were and was not expecting that the next year I returned thinking it was because it was that first year back. But no, they love the marathon and the runners. The excitement and the energy of the weekend is unexplainable.

How did you get started in running? Tell us a little about your early running career through present. Why did you decide to run your first marathon?
I had a couple of friends I met at the gym who were casual runners. When they tried to get me to sign up for my first marathon I thought, why would anyone pay money to do something you can do for free?? Then the day came that they went to run the marathon and I felt so left out and regretful. That was maybe early 2000’s. I ran my first half marathon, yes my first race ever was a half in STL in 2007 (I think) and that was it, I was hooked. Crossing that finish line was like crack! I have since run close to 30 marathons, 24ish half marathons, one ultra (50K) and several other smaller races in between. I ran Chicago once and was supposed to last year again but had to defer to this year due to an injury. I am sure Chicago will be canceled as well this year, unfortunately. I ran NYC in 2018 which was also a bucket list marathon but honestly I was so disappointed compared to Boston.

When did you set the goal of qualifying for Boston and what inspired you to try?
I’m not really sure when I decided but it had to have been after I ran the Disney Marathon in 2009 with a few weeks left to train after I had suffered a stress fracture and I still beat all my friends by a long shot. I qualified in 2012 at the Kansas City Marathon with a 3:28. I was ending a long term relationship and I guess I just had the determination and drive to set new goals and push towards something huge – Boston!

Why did you decide to run Boston 2020? How did it feel to be accepted into Boston 2020? 
Now that I’m older, it’s a bit easier to qualify but I don’t just want to BQ each year now, I want to shatter that qualifying time so I have the cushion I need to guarantee my entry. It is so exciting and still shocking each time I’ve gotten the news that I’ve been accepted. It’s like I’m going to the Olympics – it’s kind of a big deal. 

What did you learn from this journey - from BQ to postponement to cancellation? ?
This journey has taught me to not sweat the small stuff. I’m not the only one that got their Boston Marathon canceled. There are those that this was to be their first time after taking years to qualify. Now that would be disappointing. I’ve been very pleased with how BAA is handling it and offering refunds and the opportunity to still earn our spot next year as well as earn our medals and recognition for completing the 124th Boston. There are far worse things to deal with right now. I just wish I could get my airfare back!

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Beyond Boston: Jenni Sherman

A friend directed me to Jenni, another fellow Missourian!  COVID-19 affected her in more ways than the Boston cancellation; her husband is currently deployed and was unable to return home in April as scheduled.  She got her start in running in high school, when a friend's recommendation resulted in her signing up for cross-country thinking that she was going to literally cross into Mexico from Texas (this is the best misinterpretation of cross-country I have ever heard!). She ran her first marathon to BQ at the encouragement of friends and achieved that goal! You'll find her running Boston virtually in September to celebrate running.
Introduce yourself (who you are, where you're from, what you do, etc.) 
I am Jenni Sherman, 31 years old, and currently live in St. Robert, Missouri. I am a expanded functions dental assistant and I love my job.  I have an 11-year-old boy named Brandon, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 4, and he and my husband Justin are my life. I have a 14-year-old dog named Godzilla.We are a military family, as my husband serves in the Army. I was raised and born in El Paso, Texas, and I've been in Missouri since 2012. 
What are you thoughts on Boston 2020 being cancelled? How did you handle the initial postponement and eventual cancellation, mentally and physically? 
My husband is currently deployed in Saudi Arabia. He left last September, and April was the month that he would of been able to come home for R&R; however, when COVID-19 happened we first found out that he was not allowed to travel. Then the announcement of the postponement happened, so that was a big bummer because we were supposed to go together, and since it was my first time qualifying I was very excited to get to share that with him. I can’t lie, it is scary times and I am very understanding, safety first. I felt discouraged for a few weeks because of all the training I put in during the months before April, but luckily I have a very supportive group of people in my life that just don’t let me quit and kept me motivated to run. 

Do you plan to run Boston 2020 virtually? Why or why not? 
I do! It's my first BQ, and I planned to go run it and celebrate that I was able to accomplish a BQ on my first attempt. I know it won’t be the same as actually running Boston but I still love running very much so I am very happy to be able to do it virtually. 

Do you plan to run Boston 2021? Why or why not? 
I would love to.
How did you get started in running? Tell us a little about your early running career through present. 
I started running in high school. A friend told me about cross country and I had no idea what that was. It was in El Paso, Texas, which is a border town and I was so clueless that I thought we were actually going to cross the bridge and go to Mexico, but it turned out to be long distance running. I remembered the first time I went to practice we did a 2 mile run and I was dying but kept showing up because I wanted to do something amazing, We went to State and came in 2nd place my sophomore year and kept going to state my junior and senior year. Senior year I was offer scholarship to continue running but I decided to stop. I took a long break and in 2013 I started running again. 

Why did you decide to run your first marathon? 
To qualify for Boston, A good friend who ran with me in El Paso Texas invited me to go to Washington state to qualify. I honestly didn’t believe I would ever be able to BQ, but when he showed me a video of the race I said yes right away. It is a beautiful and super fast marathon course in Snoqualmie Pass, WA. 

When did you set the goal of qualifying for Boston and what inspired you to try? 
I set the goal last year, there is this running quote that I just love which is “ the real purpose of running isn’t to win a race, it's to test the limits of the human heart”. My inspiration is my dad, son and husband. I just want my son to know that he can do anything he sets his mind into 
What was your journey to BQ like? 
A little overwhelming because I am very competitive so that what kept me going, but also it was bittersweet because I hate taking time away from my family to train. I am very blessed to have my husband who would follow me in bike or car and just support me in any way he could for me to be able to train.
Why did you decide to run Boston 2020? 
I honestly never thought I would be even close to qualifying, and if it wasn’t for my friend encouraging me to do it I would of never gone to a qualifying race. I don’t race very often because I work weekends, but I took a chance and I am very blessed that I was able to do it. 

How did it feel to be accepted into Boston 2020? 
It was a beautiful feeling, I felt like all that hard work and time I took away from my family paid off. I felt very proud.

What did you learn from this journey - from BQ to postponement to cancellation? 
Running isn’t canceled. We will get through this and there will be light at the end of the tunnel. We have to stay positive and keep running.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Beyond Boston: Tabatha Dickey

My friend and occasional training partner Elise directed me to Tabatha, who is also a Missourian.  Tabatha started training for Boston 2020 (the April edition) at 6 weeks postpartum, which as you can imagine was extremely challenging.  She loves taking her kids running and they love it too!  She makes a very good point with, "Embrace every race and every run, you don’t know when it will be taken from you, even if temporarily."
Introduce yourself (who you are, where you're from, what you do, etc.)
My name is Tabatha Dickey, I’m 29 years old, wife, mother of 2 (6 months old and 3 years old), and a physical therapist and athletic trainer. I’m from Fayette, MO.

What are you thoughts on Boston 2020 being cancelled? How did you handle the initial postponement and eventual cancellation, mentally and physically?
My situation is pretty unique, I was actually relieved that Boston was postponed then eventually cancelled. I had a baby in December, so my original training plan was set to start 6 weeks postpartum. I started my training plan on time, trying to build up my mileage without getting injured. I wasn’t too concerned about my speed at that point. About a month into training I sprained my SI joint, causing me to miss a few days of running. In those few days Boston was postponed, therefore I was grateful for another 6 months of training. Between that time and the cancellation, I struggled to train due to returning to work full time and caring for my kids. The most difficult part was not ever getting a good nights rest. I usually get my running done in the mornings while my husband is home and the kids are sleeping (hopefully), so I was pushing my body to the limit to get up early and run on empty day after day. Once Boston was cancelled my training came to a screeching halt, and I was mentally and physically relieved that I didn’t have to train in order to finish the marathon this year.

Do you plan to run Boston 2020 virtually? Why or why not?
I am still undecided. As of now I run 3-5 times a week depending on how much sleep I’m able to get, as my now 6 month old still is not a great sleeper. If I’m able to increase my mileage soon then I would like to do the virtual race.

Do you plan to run Boston 2021? Why or why not?
I am still undecided on this as well. Especially not knowing what the world will look like next year as far as the pandemic, plus my kids still being so young. I may wait and try to qualify again in the fall next year. Third times a charm, right? (See my story below)
How did you get started in running? Tell us a little about your early running career through present, and how it led to your BQ and plans to run Boston 2020.
I started running in middle school, mostly to be with my friends. The coach suggested I try distance running, and I thought she was crazy. I gave it a shot and turns out I was decent, and I enjoyed it. I ran competitively through out high school and college for cross country and track. I was All-State all 4 years in high school cross country, qualified and raced at the NAIA national championship cross country meet my junior and senior year of college (2011 and 2012). 

My senior year during track season I ran my first half marathon which qualified me to run the marathon at the national meet (editors note: I love that NAIA nationals has the marathon option!). That was my first marathon (2013). I just ran the race my coach laid out for me and ended up with a Boston qualifying time, which wasn’t the goal. My goal was set based on time. I trained to run a 3:15, but I ran it in 3:24. 

After that marathon I fell in love with the marathon. That fall I started PT school and that September decided to register for the Boston marathon. I got accepted, but when it came time to tell my professors I would be missing 2 days of classes, I was guilt tripped in to cancelling my plans because to a couple of the professors that would be detrimental to my school work and career, so I cancelled. 

After PT school, my husband and I were ready to have a baby so I didn’t train for any races during that time. We had our beautiful daughter in 2017. I then set my sights on Boston again. When my daughter turned 1, I started training. I ran the Kansas City marathon in October 2018 in 3:24 (somehow the same time as my first road marathon 5 years earlier). My plan was then to try for another baby and ideally have the baby before Boston 2020. We did just that. 

I got accepted for Boston 2020 (was so excited to experience that marathon as it is on my bucket list of marathons to run), had my son December 2019, and was excited to get back to running just in time for April, but we know how that turned out now.
What did you learn from this journey - from BQ to postponement to cancellation?
Be flexible with your training.

Listen to your body.

Don’t skip out on strength training (that what I contribute to being fairly injury free throughout my running career so far).

Embrace every race and every run, you don’t know when it will be taken from you, even if temporarily.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Beyond Boston: Rachel Shuck

Rachel is someone I have the privilege of running with from time to time - we don't live very far apart from one another.  The marathon has taught her a great deal over the years, and Boston being postponed and then cancelled was more experience to learn from!  She is planning on Boston 2021, and whether or not that works out you'll find her enjoying the process!  Her attitude is admirable and I know she will see longevity in the sport because of it (her knowledge in nutrition certainly won't hurt either!).
Introduce yourself (who you are, where you're from, what you do, etc.).
I'm a teacher of my two greatest passions, which ironically aren't what one would consider connected subject matter. I teach high school Spanish and at the college level, nutrition. I also work with athletes to help improve their performance through better nutrition. I wear the hat of mom and wife, although now that our kids are grown and gone (editor's note: but she still looks like she is in her 20s herself!), I've mostly switched over to taking care of farm animals instead of kids. 😂

What are your thoughts on Boston 2020 being cancelled?  How did you handle the initial postponement and eventual cancellation, mentally and physically?
While I'm disappointed that Boston was eventually cancelled, I'm also at at peace with it. Initially I was oddly excited about the postponement, the thought of running Boston in the fall was much more appealing to me than the thought of running it in the spring. While summer training can certainly be grueling, I feel like it makes people much tougher for fall races so I was excited about what kind of results that would bring (editor's note: I agree with this 100%).

Do you plan to run Boston 2020 virtually?  Why or why not?
No, I do not plan to run Boston 2020 virtually. For me, the Boston experience was getting to be with 30,000 other runners that had all worked towards this same goal. I thrive off of crowds and the general energy and enthusiasm that come with them. Running 26.2 miles solo around town just seems sad.

Do you plan to run Boston 2021?  Why or why not?
I do plan on registering for Boston 2021 and hope I have a big enough window to be able to get in. Even though I have qualified for Boston more than once, I have yet to run it, and would love to have the experience at least once in my lifetime.

How did you get started in running?  Tell us a little about your early running career through present.
I got started truly running in my 30's. Although I did a brief stint of cross country and track my freshmen year in high school, I was literally the worst runner on the team. It was beyond pathetic but I'm proof it's never too late! I got back into running as an adult to help my sister get out and meet people since she was working from home at the time. She eventually moved away and I kept running, mostly with the Nixa Running Group. That was where I would say I became a truly consistent runner. Through consistency and practice, I really started to see improvements.

Why did you decide to run your first marathon?
I honestly don't remember why I decided to run my first marathon. Probably just ignorance lol. I had some really great training runs with my running group and thought a BQ was probably in my near future. I couldn't have been more wrong. Like so many, my first marathon was a painful learning experience, but I survived it and signed up for the next one thinking I could do better. Fast forward through several marathons and many more learning experiences (as my good friend Jen says, "no teacher like experience, it gives you the test first and the lessons later") I eventually figured out what worked for me, and what didn't. Having a great training partner, a good coach (I actually had a total of 3 coaches over the course of several marathons and learned something valuable from each of them), and perfecting my nutrition were all part of the formula that helped me finally find success.

How did it feel to be accepted into Boston 2020?
I was pretty thrilled to be accepted into Boston 2020, but it didn't feel real. Now with it being cancelled guess that feeling wasn't too far off! Who knew?!

What did you learn from this journey - from BQ to postponement to cancellation?
What I have learned from all of this, from finally qualifying, to being accepted, to having it canceled is that absolutely anything is possible, from what the body and mind are capable of doing, to never being too sure of anything because there really are no guarantees, and to just enjoy the moment, but most importantly, enjoy the process because that is where you will spend the bulk of your time (editor's note: completely agree here too!).

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Beyond Boston: Ken Mason

I met Ken through The Loop, a community that was originally on Runners World that he mentions several times below.  His story really illustrates how helpful community is in achieving goals.  Ken puts in very impressive consistent mileage, and it's really paid off for him: he ran a 3:14 PR in his mid-50s and doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
Introduce yourself (who you are, where you're from, what you do, etc.)
I’m Ken Mason, 57 years old from Maryland outside of Washington DC. I’m a systems engineer having worked on designing and building software systems for Federal, foreign, and local governments.

What are your thoughts on Boston 2020 being cancelled?
I was both relieved and sad about the race being first postponed and then cancelled. Sad because Boston has been such a great experience – being able to hang out and run with so many great runners, being cheered on by awesome fans/spectators, and having a whole city being completely caught up in the whole race weekend is fantastic. A big part of my relief on the initial postponement in the spring was due to having gotten sick back in February with a chest cold. While I had recovered from it, I was not feeling as fit as I would have wanted to so not having to push myself through March was a welcome relief. I had also run a PR marathon at the beginning of December at Rehoboth Beach and pushing into Boston training after a short recovery had also probably tired me out more than I had realized at time. The relief felt for the fall was around the continuing risks associated with COVID-19. While there are a lot of places in the country that have not been hit particularly hard, Maryland, especially the DC suburbs, have been hit extremely hard.

How did you handle the initial postponement and eventual cancellation, mentally and physically?
It was nice and, probably, necessary to be able to back off of training last spring and really recover for a while. Also being able to relax a little made it a little bit easier to deal with everything else that was going on. I know that, eventually, there will be races and that serves as some motivation, but I have also been able to focus on running for the sake of running.
Do you plan to run Boston 2020 virtually? Why or why not?
Yes, I do. For me, running Boston is more than just the race, it is about celebrating the journey to get there. That journey includes not just training for the race but training and racing to qualify for Boston. The fact that it will be “virtual” will be a little bittersweet, but I’ve already seen some messages from the local race team about coordinating (safely of course) our virtual Boston races. I’ve already done a couple of virtual races (Cherry Blossom 10 Miler and Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon) so I’m thinking I may need a special place to display the medals from these virtual races just to commemorate this time period.

Do you plan to run Boston 2021? Why or why not?

Yes, I’m really hoping that I can. As a said earlier, Boston is a very special experience – not just the actual running but also everything else going on during that extended weekend. I’m also looking to run Boston well; my previous two attempts at Boston (2018, 2019) were less than stellar. I ran okay times but well off my PR and each attempt included some walking after bonking on the infamous hills. This year’s goal was to just run a solid, smart race and I’d still like to check that box.

How did you get started in running? Tell us a little about your early running career through present.
I ran a couple of years of track in high school. I wasn’t very good but did enjoy the experience. I ran sprints (100m to 600m) because I couldn’t imagine racing over anything longer. To be honest, my motivation was to be able to add a line to my college applications (I don’t think it made any difference for college itself but it may have played a role in getting awarded an Army ROTC scholarship). I ran occasionally in college just to stay fit enough for Army ROTC. After college, I was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant in the Army and for three years on active duty I ran a few miles every day. After getting out of the Army I ended up taking a 20 plus year break from running. I was in my mid-40s and would walk occasionally to get some fitness and on one walk decided to try running a little. That little bit of running eventually led to a little more running and things kind of started to snowball from there. Looking for information about running I quickly found Runners World and eventually the Loop. Finding the Loop was important because I started learning about racing and that racing was for everyone. After finding the Loop I ran my first 5k and then the next weekend my second; guess I was hooked.

Today I’m still friends with a number of people from the Loop. I’m also a member of the Montgomery County Road Runners Club (one of the largest clubs in the nation but with a great feel of being a local community). Being in the club has gotten me involved in a number of regular group runs and being able to socialize with club members at different races (including Boston where we have some great representation). This last year I was able join the club’s competitive racing team which means being able to represent the club at races.
Why did you decide to run your first marathon?
I stepped up to the marathon in pretty much the conventional way of racing 5k to 10k and then some half marathons before I was able to convince myself that a marathon might be a possibility. A big reason for starting to think that I could do it was seeing some of the news coverage of the Marine Corps Marathon and realizing that a lot of the runners weren’t that different from me. Another big reason was reading people’s race reports on the Loop and again realizing that it was achievable. My first marathon was the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon. I really enjoyed the whole experience and the MCM is still one of my favorite races to do – there is something incredibly special about getting handed a cup of water or Powerade by a US Marine every couple of miles.
When did you set the goal of qualifying for Boston and what inspired you to try?
One of the inspirations to try was certainly reading about people’s BQ’s and Boston races on the Loop. The other was the bombing. At the time I didn’t feel like I was ever going to be fast enough but in the spring of 2014 I was able to set a huge PR that started to get me where I could think about it.

What was your journey to BQ like?
The journey was rocky and filled with a fair amount of frustration. This was pretty much due to getting in a bunch a solid training having some good shorter races and then getting injured right before a marathon. Prior to finally getting my BQ, there were at least 3 marathons that I was signed up for that I did not make it to starting line for. I was able to BQ in January of 2017 at the Louisiana Marathon. At the time I needed 3:40:00 to BQ (that’s been since changed to 3:35:00 for my age group) and I ran a 3:31:25. Since that first BQ, I’ve run 6 more marathons all under my BQ time and have lowered my PR to 3:14:24.
Why did you decide to run Boston 2020?
Despite not running the race very well, I have really enjoyed the experience each time. I also really wanted to run the course well. The course is historic, remarkably interesting and can be pretty tricky – about 16 miles of downhill (mostly) that can really beat you up, the infamous Newton hills, and the final stretch into Boston.

How did it feel to be accepted into Boston 2020?
I knew that I was highly likely to be accepted, I had about a 15-minute buffer on my BQ time, but it still a thrill to be able to enter and then get the acceptance.
What did you learn from this journey - from BQ to postponement to cancellation?
I’ve really been able to reinforce the idea of running for the sake of running and training not just for the one big race day but for what you can get out of the process each week and month.

Not being able to race (or even run with a group of people) other people are missing out on some really special moments – my oldest niece graduated High School this spring and the graduation consisted of the family driving through the parking lot of the school to get her diploma (the school is hoping to do another ceremony in July).

Anything else you'd like to share?
I’ve been actually starting to wonder about what the qualification for Boston 2022 will look like. That qualification window should open this fall, but you must wonder how many races will take place, especially the large races like New York, Chicago, or the Marine Corps Marathon. The lack of fall races could mean that executing in the spring will be even more critical.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Beyond Boston: John Efthimiou

John's journey from a person with severe obesity to BQ is a great reminder that by consistent work over time, we can accomplish big goals.  John chipped away at fitness for 4 years, and while he lost weight he gained more and more passion for running.  He has run over 350 races in the past 7 years - yes, that's an average of 50 per year!  His two children have run over 150 races each!  He started running as a teen to increase his fitness for motocross - in the 1980's he won the Greece national title and ranked as high as 10th in the world in motocross.  Prepare to be inspired!
Introduce yourself (who you are, where you're from, what you do, etc.)
The Boston 2020 Marathon was the furthest goal imaginable, as my starting point was almost zero fitness and morbidly obese at 270 pounds when I started my current passion of running in December 2012.  I couldn’t run 100m without stopping with dagger-like pain in my calves, and cramps and joint pains persisted. By July 2013 I entered, embarrassingly my first NYRR race after 25 years, finishing not so bad in 1:13 for the 10k. I had a weight problem, which yo-yo’ed and that I couldn’t shake off, and it took 4 years of persistence and increased volumes and race frequency to make a significant dent on my weight and fitness. At the time I was 49 1/2 years old and facing two lose-lose scenarios, weight and age, as the 50’s are a decade of rapid decline and high mortality rates, I took the high road.

I’ve run over 350 races over the the last 7 years, and between 2013 and 2020, I ran 35 marathons, 50 half marathons, with frequent PRs in all distances, superseding my 1987 results (NYRR race overview can be seen here). However, for a couple of years I could barely get under 6 hours in the marathon and I was virtually last in my age group at every race.  A gradually increased volume, fewer injuries, persistence and tenacity helped me improve dramatically, culminating in my Boston qualifying time of 3:33:05 in Duluth’s Grandma’s Marathon (results here) last June 2019 at 190 pounds, an 80 pound decrease and lots of miles as you can see on Strava and on Athlinks race results.

Athletics has been a big part of my life. I was born and raised in NYC, and as a child lived a half year in San Diego and often visited Greece where I became more sports oriented. I moved to Greece in the 80’s and won the Greek motocross championship, and ranked as high as 10th in the world at a world motocross championship event. To be successful in motocross requires extraordinary cardiovascular fitness, hence I ran very often, usually in the 10k range. I entered my first running race in 1984, a NYRR Midnight Run with my family and grandfather, then raced again after retiring from motocross in 1987 when I resumed my college studies in NYC. I entered the corporate world after receiving a BA from Columbia in the 90’s and gradually lost fitness and gained a substantial amount of weight. I maintained a weekend warrior fitness status, occasionally riding my motocross bike and a jog or two, here and there, but weight crept up and up. In 2012 I stepped on a scale, and realized I was 100 pounds heavier than when I was in my early 20’s and was horrified when my doctor in 2012 stated I was morbidly obese at 270 pounds.

I met Harbert Okuti of the Westchester TC at one of my first races back in 2013.  He brought me into the Westchester TC, and I learned a lot about high mileage, the need for recovery, and other common running practices through him and his coach Mike Barnow.  Harbert is from Uganda, has a PR of 2:13:01 (at Grandma's Marathon), and he is a good friend of my family for over 7 years now.

I worked for over 20 years in the banking industry and for the last 13 years worked for a French Bank BNP Paribas, with many peers who love running. I am married to Ina with 2 children, Michelle, a 21 year old girl and Peter, a 13 year old boy, and we all go and race together as a family.  The kids have over 150 races each.

How did you handle the initial postponement and eventual cancellation, mentally and physically?
I opted into the September 14 option, and when that became cancelled, acquiesced for the virtual, more as a very long training run, but was utterly devastated mentally for a day or two. I regrouped, and just keep plugging away at higher goals and hope to qualify with an even better time at the next opportunity.

Do you plan to run Boston 2020 virtually? Why or why not?

I initially thought this was a poor option, but I will run it and treat the Boston virtual event as a very long training run, with no time goals other than a good training pace.

Do you plan to run Boston 2021? Why or why not?
I plan to race it, however, I think the odds are against me, as I need to dramatically improve my times to be more than the 2’ off the cutoff time. I think the cutoff times will be further reduced for the allowable quota, given the expectation is that the Boston post-COVID running field will be further limited in size.
How did you get started in running? Tell us a little about your early running career through present.
I started running as a teen to be in better shape for motocross, now I run because I love the euphoria, the inclusive nature of the community of runners, the exhilaration associated with running races, and the health benefits.

Why did you decide to run your first marathon?
I decided to run it the same year I began racing in 2013, but because of persistent injuries, dagger-like jolts of pain in the calves, I opted to wait till the 2014 NYC marathon.

When did you set the goal of qualifying for Boston and what inspired you to try?
I rapidly began to improve as a combination of increased mileage and improved diet management using a caloric intake app, and times started improving and from 6 hours, the 3:35 goal got closer and closer, still seemed impossible at over 4 hours, but then I had 6 consecutive sub-4 hour marathons in the time span of a few months, and I knew it was possible, but unlikely at Duluth, Grandma’s.

In the hotel room shortly after the race, with my roommate who finished 3rd overall, Harbert Okuti, after realizing I BQ’d in 3:33:05 at Grandma’s I cried for what seemed eternity. You see, my grandmother supported me in all my motocross and academic pursuits and was a key inspiration for much of the extra effort I put into the last half of Grandma’s that arguably enabled me to BQ and a 13 minute PR over my previous marathon in Paris 2 months earlier.

What was your journey to BQ like?
BQ journey has been the odyssey of a lifetime, highly recommended, and I feel like I’m 20 and have a lifetime ahead of me to BQ again.

Why did you decide to run Boston 2020?
I decided to run Boston 2020 because it is the epitome of marathon racing short of the Authentic Marathon in Athens Greece, where I hope to race one day. Running Boston means you’ve made it in the marathon world and it is a significant Marathon Majors event.

How did it feel to be accepted into Boston 2020?
Euphoria, it felt like I graduated with a PhD, and embraced by the running community for success.

What did you learn from this journey - from BQ to postponement to cancellation?
Life’s setbacks should never deter us from pursuing goals, even if deferred, persistence pays off.