Portland Marathon Recap, 3 Minutes from Boston

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I approached the start line of the Portland Marathon Sunday morning feeling rested, fueled, and very uncertain of what the race had in store for me. I have been training steady since the 50 miler but haven’t incorporated any speed work and have backed off about 15 miles a week. I had no idea what my body would be ready to do. Trails are certainly different than the road.

I began in Corral B with the 3:40 pace group but started dreaming big and moved up to the 3:35’s (my Boston Qualifying time) early on in the race. Pace leaders in the Portland Marathon pace you by effort. Some miles are a little faster than others so that when you reach the big hill at St. Johns bridge (mile 17ish) you can slow it down some, even out your effort and pick up speed on the downhills. The group carried me at a solid 8:07 pace until just after the bridge, but I felt myself slowing little by little as they maintained and picked up speed.

You finish… what you start,” some homeless man yelled at me from the sideline.

Even though I was getting further away from the group I was determined to keep them in sight. At mile 22 I still had time to finish in 3:35. It was going to take everything I had left but it was certainly doable. That hope lasted about a mile. Just after I hit 23 I realized I was slowing even more. I kept doing the math and while my pace needed to increase for me to make it, my legs were slowing. I wanted it so badly.

So, I tried. I pushed myself extremely hard the last 2 miles. Up over the Broadway Bridge and through downtown. I made the turn onto Nato Parkway and 800 yards from the finish line my Garmin hit 3:35. Just like that my goal of qualifying slipped right through my fingers. I was fast, faster than I have ever been in a marathon, but simply not fast enough for a BQ.

3 minutes. 180 seconds. 800 yards from accomplishing one of my biggest goals.

While I am extremely proud of my 11 minute PR and I am overjoyed with breaking 3:40, there’s a tiny bit of sadness and disappointment I can’t seem to shake. My efforts on Sunday were so big. My discipline has been so finite. I have worked so unbelievably hard. I know what it takes for an “everyday, average runner” like me to get there. I started this journey to Boston years ago and this is the closest I have gotten.

I guess it’s circumstances like this one that make you want something even more. It’s going to take another race or two or three but I am even more determined to get there now. 3 minutes. 180 seconds. Those last 800 yards…

You finish… what you start. I intend to do just that.

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Lately…

Oh my stars, I am so sorry I haven’t updated you in weeks. We have been trucking along, enjoying Portland in its thriving months of summer!

We had our last Hulu Lulu run on Tuesday night. Scott is taking off to Germany and Katy is passing the torch so we did one final lap around the waterfront and then headed to Rouge Brewery in our Hawaiian shirts for one last hurrah. I don’t think we have ever stayed that late on a Tuesday night. I am so thankful for such a strong running community and even better friendships through that run. Just because it won’t be organized doesn’t mean you won’t find us circling the waterfront on a random Tuesday night anyways.

Lulu Run

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Great group of ladies!

On Saturday I had the best treat I could have ever asked for! Anna, my college roommate and very good friend, had been on an Alaskan cruise that docked in and out of Seattle. I found a spot on the Bolt Bus and made a day trip up to have lunch with her and Ben. I love that I haven’t seen her since December of 2011 but we can still pick right back up as if we were in the same city all along. I am beyond excited that she will be standing up there with me on my big day. I couldn’t ask for a better friend!

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Engagement toast and shopping at Pike Place Market for the day.

Just because I haven’t been running 70 miles a week doesn’t mean I have lost my appetite. I currently cannot get enough fruit, especially peaches right now. So, I made my first peach cake last night!

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Ina Garten’s Peach Cake – I added a touch of cinnamon to my batter, the house smelled delicious!

I am currently in “goal mode.” In September I am going down to Ashland to pace a friend from Alabama that is running Pine to Palm, a 100 mile endurance run. I’ll hop in around mile 74 and run him in. Running from 11pm to 6am will give me a better feel for what a 100 miler might be like. My wheels are turning.

Today I decided that I cannot let my friends run the Portland Marathon without me, so with the help of a very generous sponsor (ahem, dad) I bit the bullet and signed up! Another marathon on October 6th, this time with a few of my favorites pictured above.

In other exciting news, we have a new runner among us… JOHN! I’d like to think I might have had something to do with his recent enthusiasm (that or he has just been really anxious to finish his current audiobook). I asked very nicely one evening if he wanted to try and run a half marathon with me in November and he said yes. So, at 8am sharp I signed us up for the Silver Falls Half Marathon -which sold out 600 spots in 10 minutes! He likes to tell me everyday just how many days we have left. I think we’re around 86, he’s adorable. November 2nd, send up some prayers that I don’t get upset when he beats me.

All of these goals are helping me stay on track, right up until May 24, 2014… oh yeah, we have officially set a date! My mom is coming to visit this week and wedding dress shopping commences on Friday, I am so excited!

Life is so good,

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the taper

So here we are. Race week.

Unfortunately, this is my least favorite part of this whole thing… I hate the taper. I am the type of person that enjoys training for a race far over race day itself, so when the taper shows up between the part I like and the part I don’t, I am not myself. I am hungry, achy, lazy, grumpy, restless and impatient. My mind wanders. I can’t focus long. I can’t sleep. I definitely prefer training over this any day. I enjoy long runs with my friends. I like big meals and hot showers. I revel in getting dirty and then clean. Eating whatever I want. Logging the miles and feeling tired but stronger by the week.

Race day doesn’t even come close to being as fun either. There’s the early alarm. I barely sleep. Mad rush to eat, pack the car and get to the start. Race bibs. Pins. Watches. Drop bags. Other, super fit, runners running around looking ‘ready’ and fast. A lot of hurry up and wait. Gu and gear and gun… boom, it starts.

Honestly, it isn’t fun for me (not entirely) until I finish. I like it better in the rear view mirror. The memories that come flooding back of the countless training runs, how difficult it was to climb that last hill and how exciting it was to see people you love cheer you on through something so challenging. BUT since this isn’t really a ‘race’ for me, it’s a test of endurance, I have decided to embrace the taper. To eat when I am hungry. To rest when I can. To enjoy being showered and fresh for a few days. I am going to rely on my training, plan early so I am not rushed, stretch it out and enjoy staying off of these tired feet. I’m going to focus on building up the efforts ahead instead of tearing myself down with fear.

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And then, with every last thing I have in me, I am going to run 50 miles around Mt Hood.

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thirty (days)

30 days to go and training is going really well. My legs and feet have been more achy than ever before (so much so that I am actually dreaming about it) but I don’t feel miserable on runs, in fact I feel very strong. Don’t get met wrong, Saturday’s 4 hour was tough–to the point I needed to get my head straight a few times, but Sunday’s 5 hour run on the Wildwood Trail was where I really felt confident in my ability. My legs had no problem continuing to move, my mind was in a good place and my appetite was satisfied. My outlook does ebb and flow but when I think back on the 70 miles I took on last week strong is the only word that stands out. Turns out that I have it in me precisely when I think I don’t. I need to remember that on race day. Or maybe even everyday.

I have  logged my usual weekly miles but I will be taking it easy this weekend because John has pulled a rabbit out of his hat and surprised the heck out of me… we are hopping on a plane tomorrow afternoon (I have no clue where to) for an early Casey’s Big 30th Birthday Bash Weekend Getaway!home

All I have gotten out of him is what I need to pack and, luckily for me, my running shoes are making the cut.

Grinning from ear to ear,

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Timberline Marathon

Just when you think you can’t take another step, you are completely out of breath, gas, fuel, anything and everything has been depleted, you get the pick me up that you have been waiting for all along.

We loaded up the truck around 6am Saturday morning and hit the road for 2 laps around Timothy Lake. I had been anxious all week. About a month ago I signed up for the Timberline Marathon (just as a training run for the 50 miler) and talked my best girlfriends into signing up for the half. My runs the past couple of weeks have been less than stellar so I wasn’t sure what Saturday had in store for me.

Timberline Marathon

The marathon started at 8:30am in a swarm of mosquitos. Runners headed into the woods one at a time in order to accommodate for the narrow trail. I was nervous. I have no idea why, there were only 400 people running. My pace was sporadic the first six or seven miles until I finally got “comfortable” in my speed. I spotted John at mile 10 and was feeling great. I made the first loop and started passing the half marathoners — jumping over fallen trees and dodging puddles I already knew were coming. My legs felt good, no…. they felt strong.

At mile 17 I stopped to refill my water bottle and was still feeling good, however, miles 18-21 were, as usual, rough. I was hoping John was going to be back at the same stop and sure enough, he was! And so was Katy! It was just what I needed to push me the last 3 miles.

Timberline Marathon

For the first time all day I really noticed what my time was and how fast I had been moving. John left his bike by the water to run it in with me. I could barely talk. I wasn’t in the mood to talk or even think about anything. Just ready to be finished. I turned the corner and sprinted in the last 400 yards – embracing my friends at the finish line.

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Next thing I knew they were calling my name for 3rd female overall and 2nd in my age group! Quite possibly the first and last time I will EVER place anything in a marathon.

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We piled in our cars and drove back to Hoodview Campground where John had been cheering me on and parked it for victory beers and snacks at a picnic table by the lake- Mt. Hood towering overhead.

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I woke up Sunday morning energized and confident for 3 hours of hills. Piece of cake.

I just might be able to pull this off after all. Six weeks and counting…

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It’s raining

It’s raining in Portland. And not just the typical light drizzle or ‘looks like it’s going to storm any minute but it never does’ skyline, it’s really pouring some serious rain. My morning and evening runs have been soggy all week long. One thing is certain, it didn’t stop me. So what if the bottom is falling out of the sky, I needed to run 9 miles after work on Tuesday and my amazing running partners still met me in the downpour promptly at 5pm. I think that’s what I love about this place. No one makes excuses here.

Last weekend was tough, Sunday’s 3 hour run was by far the worst one yet. I finally made it back to the porch and as I busted through the door the tears came pouring just like the Portland rain. I was so frustrated and disappointed and convinced I will never be able to run 50 miles at once. It lasted for a good solid 10 minutes (I know, I typically wouldn’t post about this but I wanted you to really understand how frustrating it can be for me sometimes). After my sobfest I made some lunch, showered and headed out the door to meet Jen and Courtney for a hike up Dog Mountain (3.8 miles and 3,000 feet up); good quality girl time at its finest! Stunning views of the Gorge, dancing in the wildflowers, and just like that… I was ok.

Dog Mountain Casey, Jen, CourtGorge and FlowersBackwood BrewingWalking ManBreak out the bubbly because this week also reigned in some good news, I got a promotion! I am now the Communications Manager for 39 school districts in southwest Washington. It feels good to work hard for something and achieve it, even if I haven’t been quite sure what ‘it’ was over the past two years. Hoping that is how crossing the 50 mile finish line will be. Difficult but totally worth it.

I am optimistic for better back to backs this weekend. I have stockpiled new food to try. Say your prayers for a behaved belly and strong legs.

John and I have plans to resurrect the smoker for some Memorial Day festivities with good friends!

Have a lovely 3 day weekend. Hope you are staying drier than us!

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happy birthday, dad!

Happy Birthday, Dad!

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This man is the reason I started to run. Why I asked for a road bike for my 21st birthday and began training for triathlons. We have passed many “mile-markers” together. He is incredibly kind, fun, selfless, easy-going, generous, loving, supportive and my number one fan.

He stuck around for 4 hours with 8 of my best girlfriends and watched me finish my first marathon, drove through the night to cheer me on in the Augusta Half-Ironman. He listens to me complain when I struggle, pats me on the back when I succeed, and always pushes me to dream big–in running and in life.

Every time I cross a finish line he’s the first person I can’t wait to tell.
Happiest of birthdays, Dad! Hope this year is your best one yet.

love,

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mind over matter

Hi friends!

I am still on cloud nine from this past weekend. Friday night John and I had a nice evening on our front porch. The weather has been unbelievable. I keep waiting for the clouds to roll in but they have managed to stay away for over a week; very uncharacteristic for this time of the year.

Saturday morning I left my house just after 5am to get in 2 hours of running then met the girls for 2 more hours of trails. It wasn’t too bad. My legs began to fatigue during the last hour so I was thankful to have some company. I cannot sing their praises enough, they are so supportive and accommodating to help me get my training done. I am still struggling with my nutrition, learning how much of ‘what’ to eat and drink ‘when’ is actually harder than I thought it would be to figure out.

That afternoon I picked up Tom and Nicki from the airport. They are two of my favorite people and I am so glad they made it out here to enjoy this nice spring weather in Portland.

On Sunday I knew I had to do 3 hours and I really wanted to keep it all on trails so I tried a new area of Forest Park that I hadn’t been to yet –a flat portion of the Wildwood trail. I pulled up to the trailhead around 6:30am, it was a little eerie. Not sure if it was because it was so early and deserted (other than a few parked cars) or just a new, unfamiliar area for me. Whatever, I am a big girl so I got my things together and hit the trail. It took me about 45 minutes to become comfortable with my surroundings. My legs felt OK. Not great but OK. It seemed like an entire day had passed before I hit the halfway point. I pressed on and finished 14 miles in 3 hours.

We spent the rest of the day taking Tom and Nicki wine tasting in the Willamette Valley then came home and cooked a delicious meal and sat on our porch until the sun went down. I love, love, love the company of good friends.

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Wine tasting at Four Graces with Tom and Nicki.

When I crawled in bed last night I started thinking about my run that morning. Analyzing every decision I made leading up to it, through it’s duration and my recovery process. I must have suppressed it because I started to remember how much I struggled to get between miles 9 and 13- I kept having to repeat to myself out loud: this WILL get easier, back to back long runs WILL GET EASIER. And I remembered how my stomach was growling at two and half hours and I should have brought more fuel with me, and how difficult it was to eat on the way home because I was all out of fluids to wash it down. I still have so much to learn.

One year ago yesterday I ran my 5th marathon. One month ago I ran my first 50K. Last week I ran a total of 60 miles -37 of those within 24 hours. On Sunday I realized that my body actually can do this. It will get easier. Mind over matter, I will run 50 miles.

I will probably go ahead and start packing tonight… we leave for Tulum in FIVE DAYS!!! More updates later this week before we leave the country. Love to you all.

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the road ahead

It has taken me a few days to muster up a post after the tragedy in Boston.

I’ve been running for years. I have gotten up at 4:30am to be on a dark track for speedwork, negative split 800 repeats until the sun came up–and one time until my breakfast came up (sorry). I’ve logged every mile for months. What I had to eat, if I was fast or slow, if I had company or ran alone, which route I took, and how I felt. The closest I have come to qualifying for the Boston Marathon is 7 minutes and 42 seconds, and now I can add on an additional five minutes since they have increased the difficulty to qualify.

It takes a lot of work to make it to Beantown, to run up Heartbreak Hill and down Boylston Street. I had many friends run this year. Several of my girlfriend’s husbands finished over an hour prior to the first bomb but the fact that they were already back in their hotel rooms didn’t make any of us feel better. We just wanted them home.

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Aoife, Kelly, me and Katy carbo loading before the Eugene Marathon (April 2012).

The camaraderie you find in the sport of running is what keeps me coming back. The solidarity. The commitment. No BS allowed. I love that I don’t know what half of them look like in regular, everyday wear or with their hair down, not dripping with sweat and covered in mud from the trails. We could talk nonstop for hours or be completely silent– it’s simply our presence that matters. We are better friends, wives, girlfriends, and mothers because of the company we keep.

Here’s an excerpt from something I read on Monday. I can’t help but think about it any other way now…

“We cannot undo the evil that was done. But we can inhibit the goal of division. Let’s do that. Let’s not give them the pleasure of our division, the foothold of our futility.

Let’s instead do what runners do best. Let’s be strong. Let’s be patient as information comes in. Let’s pace ourselves. Let’s endure. Let’s close the gap and tighten up the pack. Let’s recover together.

The road ahead is long. But little do they know, we’re good with that.”

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