Roller Coaster

This entry  below was written per request of my good friend Hanna Koenig and she posted it on her blog:

Mary is driven in quiet ways. She has a mental and physical toughness that shows up in triathlons and in coaching triathletes, but when it comes to relationships that toughness shows up as kindness and love. She’s patient and thoughtful…. and also has a soft spot for puppies and babies :).  A few months ago I asked some smart women to respond to a question to post on my blog. Mary wrote about her journey with injury forcing her to take time off from racing in triathlons. (Oh! And if you happen to be an athlete, at any level, and need a good coach: I STRONGLY recommend Mary. She’s good.) Enjoy reading about Mary’s journey below.

They say life is a roller coaster and it’s no different with me. I was an avid triathlete for a number of years. Representing the USA for a few World Championship races (in Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, and Florida) in Olympic and ½ Ironman distances was the icing on the cake. I love this sport, from the training, to the races, the culture, and most of all, the people. So last year when I was told to stop running due to multiple injuries in my back and knee, I thought ok, it’ll be short-term and I can still race later in the year. A long story short, it’s been almost a year and a half and I still can’t run.

It’s been a tough year dealing with this loss, even though I was never a huge fan of running. My relationship with running was always a tumultuous one, but when someone says I can’t do something, I often want to do it even more. So yes, I can still swim, and I’ve been biking some, but what most don’t understand is that not competing in triathlons has created a bit of an identity crisis for me. If I’m not a triathlete, what am I? It sounds silly, I know. I realize I’m blessed with a wonderful family and friends, but unfortunately, I’ve often felt lost without my athletic endeavors. To shed a little light on this, I competed in my first swim meet when I was just 4. I loved it so much, and worked so hard, that it ended up paying for my 4 years at the University of Illinois. So, this is not my first identity crisis. It took a couple years for me to get over not being ‘Mary the swimmer’, or as some called me, ‘Fish’ after college. I thought coaching a swim team soon upon graduation would help. It did, a little. I swam some laps on occasion, but that experience was nowhere near that of swimming with a high school or collegiate team. Luckily I found my way through this…via triathlon. It was a new challenge and I still was able to stick with my passion of swimming.

So here I am, trying to find my way again. Logically, yes, I am more than a competitor. I am a mom, wife, friend, and coach, but this is a lifestyle change and that is HUGE. Flipping that along with my mindset and body changes is not something which can dealt with in a short period time. It’s a loooong process full of ups and downs. In the end, it’s just life. It’s not supposed to run smoothly or as expected/planned all the time, but at 43, I never thought my body would not allow me to function/not function like this. I am too young right? Ha!

Training smart was always a theme with me too. I took more time off every season than most triathletes (usually 2-3 months, completely off all disciplines)! I was very good to my body and never over-trained. Also, being a triathlete was great cross training so where did I go wrong? Well, suspicion is that possibly my pregnancy with my twins may have been the impetus as that puts much pressure on the spine. (I was on bed rest my last 8 weeks and keep in mind, S&C were a week late)! Certainly my bike accident a few years ago was the main culprit, but the newsflash is I found my body is awesome at compensating for injuries as my initial pain was in my back, the next year it was in my hip, and last year in my knee. Logically, my doctors just figured I was injuring different things from year to year so we’d try to treat those things. Last spring though, my running biomechanics coach, Janet Smith-Leet, made the suggestion that perhaps my back injury from a few years ago may be the culprit for the hip and knee pain experienced. Shortly after, a doctor confirmed her theory. (And no, I didn’t tell this guy her theory). So although the pains I had were very real, it’s because my body was compensating for the issues in my back. Wow. Bad luck, just bad luck. Nothing can be done about that so it’s just onward and upward. And although I have my occasional self-pity party, I am not unhappy with my life at all. I’m super healthy, my life is wonderful in most ways and I have, and always will, take time for the little things in life as I appreciate them greatly. I’m just a little lost with my identity, but I will continue to fight my way through lifes unending roller coasters and mazes. Thankfully I enjoy change, I just wish my body and it’s ailments weren’t the things changing as they prohibit me from enjoying some of what I love. Fortunately, family comes first so they, and my friends & jobs, keep me happy. Oddly, I have no idea how I used to train 10-14/hours per week anyway! Off to make more lemonade and set some new goals!!!

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It’s like this and like that and like this and uh…

Sorry, I just wanted a fun title. (Mom, it’s lyrics to a song).  ;)

As you can tell, a huge hiatus was taken from my blogging scene. Several blogs were actually written since I posted my last one in August.  I just didn’t like any so they were pitched. I apologize if you missed hearing me babble. ;)

Hmmm, what to write about; more complaining about not having been able to run in nearly a year now?  Na.  About Scott not having been able to run since last fall due to surgery for plantar fasciitis?  Na.  About our wonderful daughters?  Always, but you see and hear about them often on FB.  (We are quite the proud parents though…in case you didn’t know).  About how cold it’s been?  Na.  It’s winter. It’s supposed to be cold!  About our dog?  Na. We had to put him down a few months ago and we remain heartbroken. About my trip to the ER a few weeks ago with chest pain?  Na. My ticker turned out to be just fine.  (Whew)! About our incredible cruise to the Caribbean last week?  Na. No one in this cold weather wants to hear us boast about that.  But I do need to say a HUGE thank you to Sandy for watching the girls all week! Ok, so I’m running out of ideas, not!  However, I am done writing for today, but I will write more soon.

Until then, stay warm and seek the positive things in your life. There are more than you think.

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As most of you know, it’s been quite the tumultuous summer for Scott and me with injuries here and there, emotions here and there, no racing, etc.  Regardless, I’ve had a wonderful summer. We didn’t have the girls in camp the last couple months and their only commitments this summer were a music lesson (Court plays violin and Sarah piano) once a week and Jiu Jitsu 1-2x per week, so I’ve happily had oodles and oodles of quality time with them.

We even took them up to the USAT National Championships up in Milwaukee a couple weeks ago.  I was really excited to see and cheer on my clients and friends, especially since I had long ago swallowed the pill that I would not be able to participate.

After a fun dinner with clients Friday night, we got to bed fairly early in anticipation for the early wake-up call (not as early as the athletes were getting up though).  The Bradbury crew arrived at the race start with cameras in hand, a printed out chart of who was racing at what times, and loud cheering voices. After seeing a few clients swim, we were standing on a pedestrian bridge over the swim course which is a few hundred yards from the race start.  For some reason, time seemed to suddenly stop. All was quiet and then a gun went off.  It was for the start of my age group wave, the one I was signed up to be in, the one where I was to win the swim and have a great race in order to qualify for the World Championships next year.  Tears flowed. Sarah noticed then her tears flowed as well.  Wow, I had no idea it would be so tough to watch my age group swim on by.  I wallowed for a few minutes then let it go. I was there to see and cheer on my clients this time.

And lots of cheering we did!  Our clients did some great racing via times, strategies, and placing.  Woo hoo!  But it wasn’t over, more clients, and some of the same, were racing Sunday too, this time in the sprint distance.

Up early again, but it’s an entirely different experience as spectator.  Time goes so quickly! It’s because we were so busy trying to locate different clients and friends at certain parts in their races.  Although the transition area is easy to get around, it’s huge so it’s not easy to see anyone on the bike or run other than coming into and out of transition. And even that was difficult with the various timing of the athletes starting times. It didn’t help that I couldn’t run and I had two precious girls in tow. Regardless, we managed to see everyone at least once so that was good. I was hoping for more, but there was only so much time. Anyway, another great day of racing!  Special shout outs to Tim Glinski and Bruce Noxon who qualified for the World Championships and to Rob Garren who dropped 3.5 min from last years time, a PR!  All in all, it was a great weekend of racing, spectating, coaching, cheering, bonding, and loving this sport. Yes, it was bittersweet, but much more sweet than bitter, I’ll take it!

IMG_1249 IMG_1242 IMG_1236 IMG_1227 IMG_1226 IMG_1219 IMG_1217  IMG_1212   IMG_1167 IMG_1156 IMG_1151 IMG_1142 IMG_1136  IMG_1112 IMG_1095 IMG_1266 TimNats.14

sprint nats14

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Couch Potatoes

It’s been about 4 months since the onset of my knee pain .   Three runs have been attempted since, 2 of which were in April and felt fine, the last of which in May lasted 8 minutes. I was in oodles of pain for 3 days afterwards. I biked easily and sporadically through May, but since things weren’t improving, I stopped that too. So swimming is the only thing I’ve done consistently since. Unfortunately, the last several times in the water, my back has not felt so good. (It’s been sporadic with some major aching and a little pain for a couple months). Grrr! Thankfully swimming is not doing any damage, per my doctor, so as long as I listen to my body, I can continue. Whew!

The knee has felt much better the last several weeks, but my back has not. An MRI a couple weeks ago revealed why. The results didn’t show anything major per se, but I have a plethora of issues. Some of you may recall I was in a bike accident a few years ago and herniated a disc. Thankfully, that hasn’t gotten worse, but now I also have lots of tears in the ligaments surrounding my back, as well as bone spurs, some degeneration, and a major lack of mobility in my lower spine. As a result, the nerve canal has greatly diminished which is causing pain to present in my knee and in my back too.

A nerve test was endured today as well just so we can pinpoint a more precise diagnosis. (This entailed lots of needle prodding in my lower back, legs, and the bottom of my foot). As suspected, some nerves aren’t firing well and/or incorrectly and some are damaged. What does this mean? Well, I just need more time to heal. Nothing can fix the issues other than time so no training for at least 4-8 months. I can swim some, do the elliptical up to 30 minutes a couple times per week, and walk for now. I’ll also be getting various types of therapy from my doctor including stretching, core exercises, neurological exercises, and maybe a couple of adjustments here and there as we need to deter all the scar tissue and muscles from getting tight.

There are a few other options to consider along the way, surgery is the last one, which I’m hoping to, and probably will, avoid. So I just need to continue on this path of inactivity in order to heal, something with which I am completely unfamiliar and uncomfortable. It’s not like I’ve only been told to not to run, not to bike, or not to do most activities. I’ve been told to totally change my lifestyle; no training, little working out, both of which mean a lot less eating too, all of which is very difficult for me. It messes with my head, my body, and my hormones. Feeling & being lethargic is foreign and no fun at all. Although I’ve pretty much swallowed this pill, it’s not always easy to be patient and optimistic. In the end, I know what I have to do and I will do it. There is no pushing through this. Tick tock tick tock…

Ironically, Scott is in a similar boat as he’s been struggling with plantar fasciitis for, well, years. He pushed through this year though, with the help of a cortisone shot, in order to run the Boston marathon. Luckily, he did awesome there, but now he’s paying the expected price.   He was put in a boot for a couple weeks and will see his doctor for a check-up in a couple days. It’s not feeling much better yet, but we’ll find out his options soon.

So there you have it, we’re both couch potatoes this summer! At least we’re making the most of it with more travel, more summer nights on the patio, and more time with family and friends.

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Plan E: Part II

Back to the ‘knee’ thing and why I’m not competing. The knee is not really the issue, it’s just where the pain is presenting due to a former back injury,  a foot issue, and lack of balance. The latter stems from issues with an ear canal.  All of theses can be rectified and I’m working with a doctor who does all of his own treatments which include a multitude of things from stem, massage, functional exercises, stretching, balance work, etc.  I’m also working with Janet Smith-Leet, a bio-mechanics coach, who has helped me tremendously in the past with other issues too.

I think what’s hard about all this too as I’ve always listened to my body and I’ve always taken time off between seasons as a big picture goal is longevity in this sport.  Last year I took 2 months off, the year before I took 4 months completely off. And, my running history really isn’t that long in the scheme of things.  I’ve only done so consistently for about 12 years.  Although I started competing in ’97, I was a summer-only athlete for my first several years. I  only swam year round, I biked and ran maybe 4-5 months of the year.

I’m swimming in thoughts as to what I can do this summer.  Hmmm, speaking of swimming, perhaps I’ll pimp myself out for doing the swimming leg on triathlon relays.  Let me know if you’re interested!


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Plan E

Life is full of twists and turns, it rarely goes as planned.  Being able to adjust accordingly can make all the difference and I’m struggling with that a little right now as it certainly hasn’t gone according to plan lately:

Plan A (as of October ’13): Use the off season to work on running, again.  The major goals for the ’14 tri season are A)  to place in top 16 at Nationals so I can qualify for the World Triathlon Championships, which will be held in Chicago the summer of ’15   B) To place in the top 10 at the World Triathlon Championships in Edmonton on Sept 1st.

Plan B (as of January 1st): So I throw out my back shoveling just a couple inches of snow on New Years Eve. The prior goals remain the same, but I take a month off cycling as sitting on the saddle is painful.  Of course it doesn’t hurt to swim or run so I continue on with those. Onward and upward.

Plan C (as of mid March):  I’ve been cycling since Feb 1st as of Plan B and my running and swimming are going splendidly! I’m laser focused, am nearly at race weight already, and am feeling better than ever!  So I take off on a run mid-March and within the first few steps, I feel some major pain in my right knee.  I figure it’s a weird twinge and try to walk it off.  That lasts a whole 2 minutes as that’s painful too.  I still feel it the next day so I take a trip to the doc and he diagnoses me with tendinitis on a few spots around my knee.  Ok, no Shamrock Shuffle.  :(  Time to take a few weeks off of running, get weekly massage, ice often, and take some Prednisone.  I keep riding and swimming as usual, I’ll be just fine.

Plan D (as mid April): Knee pain continues.  A few short runs and all feels good,  but the pain afterwards isn’t fun.  Ok, time for an x-ray to just ensure nothing was missed.  My quads, psosas, hips, and hammies are so tight that they cause my patellas to track incorrectly, which contributes to my knee pain.  (At this point, I feel it in my left knee sporadically too).  Unfortunately, massage hasn’t been loosening my muscles much up to this point, at least not for more than a day at a time, even when I take a few days off of cycling and swimming.  Now I’m not biking much at all, usually 1-2x week and at low intensities.  No kicking and no flips turns in the pool for a while to ensure that isn’t irritating anything either. I’m still hopeful I have a shot at my big season goals, but in the back of my mind I begin to worry about my making it through the Ragnar Madison to Chicago relay run and the Chicago ITU race.  So I get an MRI and it’s not pretty.  It’s nothing major, just inflammation, signs of damage from a former ACL sprain, (I have no idea when I did that), and other minor wear and tear.  Whew!  Mid season races are a no-go at this time, but Nats and Worlds look feasible.

Plan E (as of May 30th):  A few more weeks go by with no improvement so I have a comprehensive check up from a new doctor.  He  checks everything; knees, hamstrings quads, psosas, hips, glutes, back, neck, and balance. (I failed the back and balance tests)!  After 60 minutes of talking about my history and another 60 doing tests, he confirms my worst fears; I can’t race at all this summer. Nope, not even Nationals and Worlds.  There are just too many things going on in my body which can’t get rectified and get me training soon enough.  (And no, it’s not due to age so please don’t even insinuate that).  With this news,  I had a MASSIVE pity party this weekend.  I was an emotional wreck as this not only affects this season, but next (that is if I had qualified for Worlds for ’15 as Nationals is the only qualifying race for that event).  I would have loved nothing more than to represent my country while racing in my backyard, but I guess it’s just not meant to be. I know, I know, it’s just one season, but to me, it’s way more than that.  I’ve been an athlete my entire life and have been racing most of it.  It’s not just a hobby to me, it’s a huge passion and a way of life. I love training and racing. And, even with my highly tumultuous relationship with running, I miss it and the feelings I had after finishing each run.

So what does this all mean for now?  Well, shopping was on the docket yesterday as I’m at my highest weight in a few years. I know I’m not fat, but even Sarah and Court have noticed the extra pounds as Court patted my tummy last week and asked if I was pregnant.  Lovely!  ;)  Much more importantly, I’m going to try to take the girls on a trip to Naples to visit my parents, spend more time with friends and family, and I have a feeling my rehab will take up a decent amount of time too. With that, I plan on being razor sharp and ready for next season!

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Boston Marathon 2014

IMG_2696On April 21, 2014 I ran in the Boston Marathon. A lot of you probably know the story of my journey to get to the starting line. I ran under the necessary qualifying time for my age (3:14:59) at the Chicago Marathon in 2012 (3:13:53). Then after the bombing at Boston in 2013, the demand to attend the race shot through the roof, and my qualifying time ended up being 31 seconds short. It was only the second time in history that not every qualifier was allowed into the race. It was a bummer. I tried to find a way to get in, but had pretty much given up hope and started training for the Illinois Marathon instead, which was to be run 4/26/14. Then two things happened. The first was a contest on Facebook sponsored by PowerBar, where they asked runners to tell them why running Boston meant so much to them. Facebook users then voted for the 10 best stories, and then PowerBar selected the top 4 to get race entries. My story, which was about how I took up running after my Chilean mountaineering trip/injury, and how I wanted to use running Boston to teach my twin girls perseverance, got me into the final 10 but not the final 4…so no entry. But then the second thing happened. A friend of a friend heard about my story on Facebook, and they in turn relayed that story to the Brassard family, who had been injured in the 2013 bombings, and had free race entries to give away. They reached out to me in January to offer a race spot to me, no strings attached…and voila…dreams really do come true! All things considered, as in, Chicago’s record setting crappy winter weather considered, my training went very well. I’ll run outside in the cold and snow and darkness no matter what, and I managed to get in about 95% of my training volume although there were a few I had to slow down my tempo, speed, or race pace intervals due to safety and average. Regardless, I still managed about 45 miles a week or so January straight through to April.

Miles run per week since December

Miles run per week since December

In spite of that, come March, I was not that sure where my fitness stood. I raced the Chicago Shamrock Shuffle 8k and soon found the answer: my fitness was excellent. I PR’ed that distance by over 2 minutes and ran a pace just a few seconds off my 5k personal best. All systems go! We headed out to Boston on Friday night before the race. It was a family affair…Mary and the twins were all tagging along to cheer me on. The girls got a big thrill on the flight on out as the pilots invited them into the cockpit when we were boarding. They got to sit in the seats and push some buttons…you’d think they had died and gone to heaven.

Pilots in Training!

Pilots in Training!

We ended up staying on the first floor of an old Victorian home 3-flat in Jamaica Plain just outside the city. It was another friend of a friend setup and it turned out to be a phenomenal situation. The occupants upstairs invited us for waffles Saturday morning, and even gifted the girls with surprise Easter baskets on Sunday morning – placed discretely outside our door. Awesome! PizzaSaturday Mary and I went to a Red Sox game at Fenway while the twins did the duck boat tour (they loved it!!!) with my mom. Saturday night my aunt and her friend hosted a pizza party for us out in Newton. My aunt Sudi lived in Boston for over 30 years, although she now lives in Santa Barbara, so she was back to see me race and re-connect with old friends so she had quite the soiree put together. Sunday I did short run around Jamaica Pond with Mary, and then we did packet pickup and cruised the expo – although it was crazy/stupid crowded, and involved way more standing around and waiting than I would have liked. I did pickup a pair of Saucony Kinvara 5 running shoes, hot off the presses, and a new race singlet. We walked to the finish line area and took some pictures, and got to see first-hand the bombing spots along Boylston. Image We met my friend Mark and his wife for a late lunch – I was in marching band in high school and U of I with Mark – he now lives in Arizona but was also there running. Sunday night we did quiet pasta dinner at home with just Mary and the kids, and then I drove over to Wellesley to stay with my friend Bruce Noxon at his brother’s house. Bruce and his brother Stephen were both running in the race – Stephen has been instrumental in the MR8 charity campaign to commemorate Boston bombing victim Michael Richard. I slept good…felt good – onto race day! One of the nicest parts of this race is that the first wave does not go off until 10am – so no scrambling around at 5am to get to the race start. We downed some banans, bagels, and peanut butter for breakfast and slapped on some sunscreen. Bruce’s father, Woody, drove Bruce and I to the start area in Hopkinton – about a 20 minute drive or so from Wellseley. You can’t drive right to the start line…you either take a bus from Boston, or take a bus from a staging area just outside Hopkinton. We did the latter obviously, and arrived in Hopkinton about an hour or so before the start. Security was tight…we got searched a couple of times and there was a law enforcement agent every 10 feet in Hopkinton. At the start you spend most of your time in a huge staging area at the local school called the Athlete’s Village. They have huge tents setup outside, food, drinks, and a million porta-potties. They stage the waves and corrals from there and it is about a 10 minute walk back into town to the start line area. I mostly just sat around…Bruce was in the first wave, so he took off pretty quickly. I was in the first corral of the second wave…so my start time was 10:25am. With 45 minutes to go I downed my 16ounces of Generation UCAN – it’s a supplement I can’t recommend enough…for either long distance running or triathlons. Meb Keflezighi uses it, and used it that day for a victory in the race, and it has been rock solid for me throughout my training. No GI issues, and lots of fuel in the tank. With 30 minutes to go they started releasing the 2nd wave to get to the start. I did a last porta potty stop on the way, and then strolled up to Corral #1. It was nice to be in the first corral of this wave – you get a clear road ahead of you, and get to actually see the start line area up close and personal like you see it on TV. It’s a really small town, and a small 2-lane road, and in-person it all looks even smaller. There were 9000 people in my wave spread out in 8 corrals – but it did not feel cramped. I stripped off my extra clothing, fired up the Garmin, and waited for the gun. I remember feeling very calm. A lot of my pre-race nerves come from just the unknowns of getting there, being healthy, trying not to forget anything…standing there counting down to the gun I felt clear and focused in mind and body. I was done at my race weight, fit, and ready to go! The gun goes off, and it’s go time. The first miles are mostly downhill – the first mile in particular feels straight down – it has an average negative grade of 2.1%. Here is a look at the overall course elevation profile.

Elevation Profile

Elevation Profile

There are lots of crowds right around Hopkinton, but once you get out of there you spend most of the first half of the race just hopping from town to town. The towns all have great crowds but in between there are sections of strange quietness. I chose not to wear headphones, so it was a bit surreal to be out in those quiet sections with few spectators and only the sound of the runners around you. Heavy breathing. Footfalls on the pavement. My pacing strategy was to go even effort, with a moderate fade at the end. My pace per mile would vary a lot based on the terrain. Sections predominantly downhill would be a little quicker, sections predominantly uphill would be slower. I used Greg Maclin’s MyMarathonPace.Com website to build a pace band that I could wear during the race. Most of the big uphills come with four hills between miles 16-21 so I wanted to get to that point with a few minutes in the tank, which would mean running the first half in 1:36 or so and the second half in 1:39. My goal was to run under 3:15 (that is a 7:25 pace)…that would get me qualified for the race the following year. I figured I was in shape to run 3:12/3:13 on a flat course, and that Boston, because of its difficulty, would add 5 minutes or so to that. But all I could do was go out, give it a shot, and see what happens. Here is a copy of my pacing plan, with all those variables and parameters factored in:

Pacing Plan

Pacing Plan

The first few miles were fast, but with all the downhill, I was supposed to take them fast – controlled and easy fast. Mission accomplished. I felt good. I was hydrating with both the on-course Gatorade and water, holding my pace back in a manageable zone, and feeling good. I wasn’t sure where I would see Mary and the girls, so I kept to the right-hand side of the road as planned and kept an eye out. It turns out I missed them at mile 7 or so. I was carrying 3 gels with me and dropped one at mile 8 but just kept going. I only planned to actually take 1 or 2 during the race so I was okay there and if I managed to lose my remaining stash there was a gel station later in the race I could use to replenish. Weather-wise it was beautiful for spectating, but a little warm for running. Start-time temp was in the low 60’s and it hung in the mid-60’s the whole race, and mostly sunny. This would come into play later when I started to get worn down and a little de-hydrated. The highlight of the first half, and maybe the whole race for me, is the stretch at mile 12 to 13 going by Wellesley College. The road is packed with screaming girls. Lots of ‘Kiss Me’ signs. It is LOUD. It is the first time in the race that the crowd is that much of a factor – and it carries on that way from there almost all the way to the finish. This video gives you some idea. Through halfway and I was right on track, and in fact about 15 seconds ahead of my target pace.

1 0:07:09 0:07:20
2 0:07:15 0:07:09
3 0:07:14 0:07:12
4 0:07:13 0:07:18
5 0:07:25 0:07:15
6 0:07:21 0:07:19
7 0:07:18 0:07:20
8 0:07:24 0:07:22
9 0:07:18 0:07:20
10 0:07:38 0:07:27
11 0:07:32 0:07:25
12 0:07:13 0:07:19
13 0:07:21 0:07:21

I ran by the Noxon family and finally saw Mary and the girls at mile 14 or 15 near the Noxon house. That was a great pick-me-up as I approached the hills in Newton. Waiting for Dad People will often say that the course is downhill until mile 16, then there are 4 hills, then downhill to the finish. What it really is, to me, is relentlessly rolling throughout, with lots of bigger downhill stretches in the beginning, and of course the 4 bigger hills at 16-21. That constant rolling and downhilling does take a huge toll on your quads, and I started to feel that as I hit the first hill at mile 16. 761561-1335-0039s Of the 4 hills, I think that one is the worst. It’s about 80 feet of elevation gain, but it comes after a steep 150 foot downhill section, and it’s straight up an open and exposed part of road that goes over the expressway. It’s also more gradual at the bottom, and steeper at the top. The next hill comes in the next mile. It’s about 73 feet of climb, and at this point I was starting to wear down. My legs were really fatiguing, my quads in particular. I made it up that one a bit more slowly than I wanted, but basically still on pace, and then on the downhill stretch after that in mile 18-19, I started to really lose it and could feel cramping coming on. I stopped to walk. Just 10 seconds or so. Just enough to gather and keep it together. I didn’t want to blow up and lose it completely but I knew I could not keep going at this same pace and knew that I especially could not accelerate on the downhills like I wanted. My legs would have none of it. Here are my paces for that stretch:

14 0:07:23 0:07:25
15 0:07:28 0:07:26
16 0:07:09 0:07:15
17 0:07:42 0:07:43
18 0:07:40 0:07:56
19 0:07:20 0:07:34

At this point I was still only 20 seconds off my goal…but I could tell it was over…at least in terms of getting a 3:15. My energy level was dropping, the sun and heat were zapping me a little, and my legs were fried. I forced down a gel to keep the calories coming in, and moved on to the last 2 hills at miles 20 and 21. The last hill is the famous Heartbreak Hill I had promised Mary that I would not walk up the hills – and I kept that promise, but I did have to walk for a few seconds twice more on the downhills. At this point I’m just trying to hold it together. The last 10k was mostly a blur. I heard some “Scottie Dog” cheers at Kenmore Square, I remember seeing the Citgo sign, and praying for it to be closer (you actually see it from pretty far away and then it disappears for a while before you see it again when you are right up on it – talk about frustrating…it’s like a mirage in the desert!), and I remember the little underpass on Commonwealth before the turn onto Hereford where it seemed like people were walking everywhere. I had this vision in my head that had stuck there for months of making that final left-hand turn onto Boylston and seeing the mile 26 sign and the finish line and running past the bombing spots and being overcome with emotion at the depth and significance of that moment to me and to everyone else running the race in honor and tribute of all that happened last year. There was none of that. 761587-1062-0019sI was simply exhausted and dying for it all to be over. My legs were screaming, my feet hurt, and all I wanted to do was lie down somewhere and drink a 2-liter of Coke. Ohh but wait…first grab a medal, and get a picture.   But that is racing for you. I went there to race the Boston Marathon, and not just do a victory lap, and I gave it my best.

20 0:07:41 0:08:13
21 0:07:55 0:08:35
22 0:07:20 0:08:01
23 0:07:25 0:08:02
24 0:07:23 0:07:42
25 0:07:28 0:08:02
26 0:07:37 0:08:05

It was my fourth marathon, my second fastest at 3:18:49, but the one were I buried myself deeper than I ever had before. There is nothing unusual about my race from the standpoint that I blew up where almost everyone does – right at the Newton Hills. I’m actually pretty proud of the fact I hung in there and held it together somewhat all the way to the end. The last 4 miles felt like an eternity. I did also improve my seed time by almost 3000 spots…from 9374  to 6141…meaning I finished 3000 people ahead of my qualifying time. Not bad! The crowds were amazing – you almost become numb to it after a while with all the screaming and all the support you get from the throngs lining the course 5 deep. After the finish, I wandered over to an apartment nearby on Pembroke, where a friend of Sudi’s lived, and where racers and spectator alike slowly filtered in. I was the first to arrive and must have looked like death warmed over. I went right to the fridge and got that 2-liter of Coke out. Sweet Jesus it tasted good. IMG_0032Bruce arrived soon thereafter, and my mom and Mary and the kids, too. We walked through our war stories from the race and ate and drink and mostly sat and hobbled around for a bit before heading back out to drop Bruce off at his brother’s place in Wellesley, where we met up with all of this family and told our stories all over again.

Steve Noxon, Bruce Noxon, Scott Bradbury

Steve Noxon, Bruce Noxon, Scott Bradbury

Bruce is a client of ours and ran a very brave race – finishing in 3:04 – a marathon PR for him by over 5 minutes. He was aiming to go under 3 hours which was a bit ambitious for him but he hit the wall just where I did at the 35k mark. Overall he has dropped over 30 minutes from his marathon in just about 2 years time and I know on his next one we will get him under 3 hours. That’s Bradbury Fitness for ya!

Finally get to wear the jacket!

Finally get to wear the jacket!

On the flight home I put on my finishers jacket for the first time – superstitiously I don’t like wearing it before the race ( and I don’t understand people who do). It was great to see the airport swarming with those orange jackets (Adidas does a different color/design each year). What an experience, and what an honor to be there and race this year. It was wonderful to be there racing with friends, in front of lots of other friends and family. It’s the Super Bowl of marathon running – and I hope to make it back some day to do it all over again!!


When I got back to work after the race my staff had made me another mini finish line to cross. It was hilarious! They got a kick out of following me and supporting me virtually during the race.

Back at AAP...another finish line to cross to get to my desk!

Back at AAP…another finish line to cross to get to my desk!

Here is a link to my Garmin file from the race:

And here are a few more charts where you can see pacing throughout the race. This one shows deviation from the plan…you can clearly see it all start to slip away at mile 18:

Deviation from Targeted Pace

Deviation from Targeted Pace, in Seconds

This final one compares goal pace to actual per mile:

Actual vs. Target Per Mile

Actual vs. Goal Pace Per Mile

And finally, here is a link to some more pictures on my flickr account.

Thanks for reading!

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