Through Cold, Sleet and Gale Winds I go…

– coming out on the other side of the Shamrock Marathon with an unexpected personal best (PB) and Boston Qualifier (BQ) of 3:18, finally breaking the 3:21 barrier of my last few marathons.  I found myself even more surprised because I really only signed up for the Marathon as a long-distance training run in preparation for the Boston Marathon and my ultra racing schedule (at this point only the UROC 100k). However, I am getting ahead of myself as this terribly inclement weather race is by no means the beginning of this story. 

And they call it puppy love…”

For years my husband and I talked about getting a dog, and I know I’ve wanted one since I moves out of the house post University to live in Washington, DC. We both grew up with dogs and felt our lives would be enriched by bringing a puppy, or rescue, into our household. We struggled, however, with the “when” due to our unpredictable jobs and our race goals and schedules (Kona twice for him, and my 50 milers and 100 miler).  When we left D.C. last summer, our dinner conversations often came around to how much we really wanted a dog, and wasn’t now the best possible time? “If not now, then when?” was the main question. Yes, AJ was in a very demanding job and about to hit an extended period of work travel, but he would be home frequently and my work schedule was fairly stable with minimal travel and a flexible boss. 

After months of research and hours of discussion, we found and met our breeder, and on February 17 we took our Nico home. Needless to say, we were ( and are) overjoyed with Nico, but oh boy did we forget how crazy life is with a puppy. It was so long since either of us had a dog, much less a puppy, that we may have been a bit naive in how easy it would be to flex our lifestyles for a puppy. I joke and say “it must be puppy love” because I sure feel like a frazzled, idiot puppy parent. Yes, life is way more fun with Nico than without; however, I did not take into account my early season race schedule, how often AJ’s travel would take him away, and the demands of our high-drive puppy (German, Belgian and Dutch shepherd). We picked up Nico and a week later AJ was on a two week trip. This meant I became a single puppy parent with a full-time job and two big races in the spring. 

I learned quickly the need to adapt from my previously controlled training environment to letting some of my expectations and objectives go in order to be more flexible. As I worked (& still work) to train Nico and maximize workouts with less time and a disrupted sleep schedule, I cannot say it is going perfectly, but I’m working through it.  (On a separate note, I now know first hand why sleep deprivation is an acknowledged torture method. Disrupted and minimal sleep wreaked havoc on my mental state for the first few weeks of this puppy adventure.)

This brings me full circle to my adventure last month (I know! I’m so behind!) racing in abhorrent weather and coming out on the other side with one of my best ever races. My training through mid-February was really strong with multiple 35-45 mile weekends, and a few 75-80 mile training weeks. I was ahead of schedule for Boston and UROC 100k.  Enter Nico…

(So cute!)

As previously stated, I struggled with good and consistent training upon Nico’s arrival. To maximize my weekend training, I signed up for our local Virginia Beach “Whale Challenge”, which consists of an 8k followed by a full marathon the next day in mid-March. These races would net me at least one good, solid long run weekend before Boston to test my base and see how my prior training was holding up. 

The 8k was fun and a great warmup. I pushed myself for some additional speed without going overboard. As a result, I scored 3rd place in my age group. It also helped loosen up my legs for what was going to be some pretty heinous weather. The weather forecast was showing us freezing temperatures, gale winds of 25 mph + gusts, rain and sleet. This one was going to hurt, or so I thought. 

Yes, the weather was miserable but something amazing happened. I had no expectations for this race. It was a simple “training” run for me, and with the wind resistance I fully expected a solid finish between 3:30-3:40.  In reality, what occurred was remarkable.  I let go…of race times and paces and simply ran. I smartly used the wind when I could, and tag-teamed with other racers to work together to create drafts when headed into the wind.  I felt fabulous despite the wet and cold. As I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch, I was shocked and awed to see a 3:18 final time. For the last 18 months I’ve tried to break my 3:21 PB and get below the 3:20 line, and on this crazy, terrible weather day (& without my normal training & sleep routine), I DID IT!

Holy moly, I did it! To celebrate, I wen home, showered to warm up and cuddled with AJ and Nico. 

Now on the eve of Boston, I cannot help but think back and hope I can have half as much fun during this race, and look forward to getting home for some cuddles!

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