My Boston Build-up: as told on instagram

Photo Cred: Michael Scott

I started using instagram more often in 2015 and liked it right away. It seems to encourage superfandom more than other social media outlets. Likes seem to fly freely and without reservation.

I also enjoy getting feedback on what people like and what people don’t. For instance, people don’t like pictures of Grace as much as I do. (But that certainly won’t stop me from posting them.) And one thing that people seem to really like is when I share my ups and downs of training. And actually, while these posts might not get the most “likes” I hear a lot more positive feedback about me posting my downs.

So that’s why I have been sharing my workouts on Instagram a lot in the past year or so, and it seemed to make sense to me to put together a little Boston Buildup instagram mix tape for myself and for everyone else who doesn’t really follow that outlet. (Read: my parents.)


Here is one of my first runs back, where I was quick enough to keep up with these speedy Greenville Track Club Elite ladies – Kate Dodds and Kim Ruck.

One of my first hard efforts back – 16:53 with 22 right angle turns was pretty good for me!

Those goals stayed on my full length mirror the whole time and are still there. I think I only skipped maybe 4 or 5 days of meditation the entire 17 weeks.

Yeah, this was humbling…

When it’s not really your thing to meet up for drinks, you end up missing out on a lot of holiday catching up. Thanks so much for being willing to do something different, Pete! One of the most memorable long runs of the build-up! And his girlfriend ran Boston 2017, too!

Gotta start somewhere…

It's mind-boggling how out-of-shape you can feel after 7 weeks of base building from 55-97 miles per week. 8k of 4x(1600 in 6:23-6:15, 400 in 82-80), 800 jog, 4×200 in 35 with 200j rec. Not feeling sharp at all, and very curious as to how the Charleston Marathon will feel this weekend as a hard, aided long run. One thing I do know is I'll be glad to get back to feeling fast on my quest to #BeBoston this spring! Good luck to everyone running the @chevronhoustonmarathon this weekend! .. .. .. .. .. #basebuilding #marathontraining #runnergirl #practicemakesprogress #wintertraining #haveafastday #skechersperformance #bqchat #charlestonmarathon #bostonmarathon #houstonhalf #houstonmarathon @skechersperformance @newyorkac

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Charleston was a blast, and it was great to spend time with my in-laws and put my *first* in-state resident record in the books!

After 6 weeks less recovery than Tallahassee 2014 (2:46:27) and a rough spell of feeling flat in base training for the last month, I pulled off a win, course record, and SC resident state record at the #charlestonmarathon My time of 2:46:41 was right on target for what Coach Terry and I discussed before I was feeling so unfit in training this last month. • Lessons learned/reinforced: have faith in myself and my training, my latest mantra of "firm kindness" is awesome, I love racing, a race setting is totally different from training, I love being an ambassador for the sport and for the people of our sport and for humans in general, and oh my gosh when running alone music totally helps make the miles fly by! • Grateful to all my support today, but especially my mother-in-law Beth, who served as my ride to the start, my personal bag check, my dogsitter, my course-side cheerleader, my finish area entourage, and my ride home, all in one day. • And I'm also very thankful to the great people of Charleston and the @charlestonmarathon for putting on an excellent race-day experience!! Now it's time to #BeBoston ! • #feelingloved #relieved #inspired #marathon #marathontraining #backtobasics #bqchat #hadafastday #runwithheart #runwith #joyfulrunning #firmkindness #wholehearted #wholeheartedliving #bostonmarathon #bostonmarathontraining

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First baby workout with Brian Graves! If only they had all been this much fun…

And those first miles were downhill and flat. This wasn’t my first run of the build-up that was that slow, and it certainly wasn’t my last.

One step up from 400s is 800s. And it felt a lot harder, too. Definitely more like half marathon effort than marathon effort.

My first of several runs up Paris Mountain this segment. I love that place. There’s something so primal about the pleasure gained from an excellent overlook.

"We lose sight of the beauty, the most beautiful things I look back on in my life are coming out from underneath things I didn’t know I could get out from underneath. You know, the moments I look back in my life, and think, those were the moments that made me — were moments of struggle." – @brenebrown .. In moments of struggle throughout my life, I have found myself drawn upwards. As a child, peace was found on swing sets and in treetops. In high school it was hotel rooftops and abandoned water towers. Since then it's become overlooks like Leopoldsberg, Flat Top Fire Tower and Paris mountain – only accessible on foot and a tough trek at that. .. The world is a crazy place right now. Uncertainty is bountiful. And for those of us who like plans and figures, that can be a struggle in itself. But more than anything, my peace on Paris mountain is found in the sharp sting in my legs and lungs on the way up, and at the top, the the gratitude for all those other moments of struggle, for my path through them, and for the strength that I have gained and learned to trust along the way. .. #parismountain #momentsofstruggle #brenebrown #mountainrunning #runnergirl #runnershigh #yeahthatgreenville

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And the next step up from 800s was 1000s, but these were a little quicker and felt just as hard, so that was a step in the right direction.

Another Paris Mountain long run. Something so satisfying about a good long climb.

Data is fun. #marathotraining #bostonmarathon #20miles #heartrate #elevation

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Things still moving in the right direction – up from 8×1000 to 8×1600 and just a little slower.

And another post about slow… er, I mean easy days.

Snuck under 5:00 for my 1600 leg of the DMR after having run 4:53 and 4:49 the last 2 times I was picked to run this race. A little disappointed that my legs felt like jello and it was overall just a weird day, but ever grateful that I could help my team and stay to watch an awesome meet with my favorite person.

Third climb up Paris Mountain – steady state up that kind of hill can definitely suck.

One of my best workouts of the build-up. Felt so strong.

I’m very proud of how I ran this race. Taylor Ward literally gave me a run for my money right up to the finish, so I know I did everything I could.

This one was a little slower and felt a little harder than I wanted to, but that could be attributed to tired legs, and it was still pretty good.

Looking back, I am really happy with this 52:31 (3 minutes better than my previous finish in 2012). We didn’t really taper, I put myself in it, and I hung on for dear life even when it was super freaking hard. Very grateful to Bethany Sachtleben (far right) for being so strong and pulling me along with her.

This 23 miles was a workout with 5mi-4mi-3mi-2mi-1mi and they were supposed to have a 1mi recovery between all at sub-7:00 pace. It ended up being the first workout I couldn’t execute as prescribed. I ran 5:58, 5:51, 5:46, 5:45, 5:33 pace and only ran a full mile recovery after the first interval, and gave myself extra standing recovery between some of the others. Perfect weather left me no one to blame but myself. Terry never gives me workouts I can’t handle, so this was the beginning of the indication that I wasn’t ready to run 5:43 pace for a marathon.

That stage in a race or a workout where you start to ask yourself "what the heck am I doing with my life?" I reached it yesterday about half way through 23mi. Seriously pondering if I ever want to run another step… including finishing the run. . . It's not that we are actually dying or that it physically hurts that bad. At least not for me. The scariest part about reaching that point is that in those brief moments the limitations of my abilities become as clear to me as daylight, and I am not satisfied. That's what hurts. . . But the thing that keeps us going is the faith that our current limitations will not be our future limitations – that we can continue to grow and develop, even when we feel like we have made it to the top of the mountain and there is nowhere left to climb. That's when we are forced to use our minds to teach our bodies how to fly. . . . 1st Place Sports . . . . . #onemonthtoboston #beboston #marathontraining #mindfulness #themindistheathlete #headspace #running #racing #training #trainingforlife #runnergirl #runlikeagirl

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Last workout on Paris Mountain – although I never made it to the top because I used a lower mile to go up and down instead. This was a fun one, and especially after the previous workout, it felt easy in comparison. Hills can be fun because up is simply slow and down is simply fast and it’s all based on effort anyway. The best part was that my legs weren’t sore at all after this one, which gave me a lot of confidence to ride the downhills in Boston. I honestly think it had a lot to do with my iron levels being in a good spot and also the fact that I was taking Body Health Perfect Amino amino acid supplements very regularly throughout this entire build-up.

This morning I learned how to not go downhill like this! I used a marked 1mi hill with 340ft of elevation change and alternated between up and down miles for 6 miles total. The uphill miles were a STRUGGLE to get under 7:00 and my last downhill mile was 4:51 – fastest mile I've ever run, and I could have gone faster if I weren't still a little hesitant on the steepest parts of the downhill. . . Today I learned that when I'm going downhill, it helps to make sure to keep your knee bent just a split second longer than you would while running on flat ground. This is so that when your foot meets the ground ahead/below you, you are landing on a bent knee instead of a straight one. . . This provides way more stability and keeps you from losing balance and falling out of rhythm. It also keeps you from braking nearly as much while going downhill and prevents stuttering. . . Maybe this has been obvious to everybody else all along and I'm just slow on the uptake, but it was an epiphany to me! . . Once my quads recover from this workout, I will be as ready as ever to take on ALL the elevation change of Boston and more!! . . . . . #gasparillarun #sunrise #nofilter #downhillrunning #marathontraining #bostonmarathon #beboston #mckirdytrained #runningtips #tryit #runnergirl #skechersperformance #hadafastday #godownhilllikeneverbefore

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I was pretty bummed about this one. The original plan was for me to run the first heat of the 10k hard and then come back an hour later and pace the 2nd heat of the 10k at 5:45 pace. Terry felt that I was ready to run almost a minute faster than this all out, but I’m not convinced I could have broken 34:00, even if I hadn’t been holding out some energy for the 2nd race (which never ended up happing thanks to NCAA regulations that don’t really make sense to me, especially for a non-collegiate runner). The track always seems to have a humbling effect on me…

And this was more unraveling but also my fault for going when it was already hot and also refusing to adjust after starting out so hard. The only silver lining in retrospect is that the temperature certainly gave me a good sense of approximately what marathon pace would end up being in the conditions we got at Boston this year.

Biting off more than I can chew, and then suffering the consequences. This is why we practice. Today I did what I'd never want to do in a race. I listened to the insecure gremlins in my head telling me I needed to prove my fitness – despite 70deg and direct sunlight plus a constant wind that picked up throughout the workout. • What was supposed to be 4x 3mi at MP with 1mi moderate recovery became • 3mi in 5:40avg, 1300m jog, • 3mi at 5:55ish avg (thinking about dropping out the whole time and losing track of laps), 900m jog, • 3mi at 5:48ish (thinking of dropping out the whole last mile), 200m walk and lots of internal negotiations as to how I would "finish" this. • Decided to go with not letting my HR get back over 190 for the rest of the workout, so that turned into 2k at 6:00 pace, 90sec rest, 1600 in 6:00, 90sec rest, 1200m at 6:00 pace. • Why am I sharing this? Because it's important to realize that we all have days when things don't come together the way we want them to, that we all have those gremlins, and that we all make mistakes. It's important to learn from them, and equally important not to judge your entire build-up on one day. • I will not race Boston in this way. I will not listen to the gremlins. I will listen to my gut. I will run what I know I am capable of, even if it isn't what I have trained for. I will be open to whatever that may be because all we can ever ask of ourselves is that we give it our best. And I know how to do that. @gravesbp3 • #iamenough #beboston #marathontraining #pacing #practicemakesprogress #bostonmarathon #nevergiveup #golikeneverbefore #skechersperformance #mckirdytrained @skechers @newyorkac @cocoaelite @previnex @bodyhealthoptimized

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This workout was actually redeeming and my confidence started to bounce back a little, even though I had set myself up for success with the tailwind and downhill conditions. It was fun again, too.

Today's objective was to bring the focus back to me, my story, my progress, my buildup, my Boston. . • I tortured myself by pulling up the results for the Prague half and as I prepared for my own steady state long run, and quickly felt the return of the good old Comparison gremlin. . • This morning, Jordan Hasay ran 13.1mi averaging under 5:11 pace. I, on the other hand, averaged 6:08 for 13mi within a 20mi LR. And we will both be starting at the same time and running the same Boston Marathon course in 16 days. . • But bringing the focus back to me and my own journey, today was a great day! I'm healthy, I got perfect weather for my long run, I didn't have to stop once for traffic during my steady state, and I even finished my last 3mi of continuous 13mi faster than my cobbled-together final 3mi repeat on Wednesday. . • It has never been my style to set the world on fire with my workouts. I may not be the fastest, but I am consistent. No one is expecting me to run Desi's or Jordan's race. That would be insane. I just have to do me. All I ask is that I can nudge that consistency up one more notch #beyou #beyourself #beboston #bostonmarathon #boston2017 #skechersperformance

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This wasn’t the fastest I’ve done 1.5mi repeats, but previously I had done 4x2400m with 800m recovery instead of 5x2400m with 400m recovery. Perfect execution with Brian gave my confidence another boost in the right direction.

At this point, weather was still looking pretty close to ideal for race day, and with a generally great build-up behind me, I had no excuses. Despite all the positives that holds, historically that has been terrifying for me and has led to self-sabotage (but that’s another story), so instead I vowed to enjoy it for what it is and not be afraid to find out just how good I could be on race day.

On my first run in Boston, I did what I've come to do when I get nervous – I listened to one of the Brené Brown audiobooks I keep on my iPod, just in case. Today Brené was teaching me again about the virtues of play. As she states, "the opposite of play is not work. It's depression." . . Brené defines "play" by 7 properties: Play is purposeless, voluntary, inherently attractive, causes one to lose track of time, diminishes self-consciousness, has the potential for improvisation, and creates the desire to continue. . . Of course then I had to ask myself – Is running play to me? And if not, how can I make it more playful? . . It turns out that this is exactly what I have been doing for years – finding ways to make running more playful because after all, if it is only work to me, then it is no better than any other job. . . I have learned to run easy. I have worked to build community around running. I have had amazing conversations that have made 3 hour runs feel like 30 minutes. I have learned to improvise new ways of connecting with the world around me – smiling, talking to strangers, stoping to take a photo for someone staging a tricky selfie. I run with dogs and love watching them romp and frolic, even if it's in the "wrong" direction. . . Running has gained so many more dimensions for me than just going forward and fast. And there is no better place to feel the breadth of those dimensions than here in Boston. I truly cannot wait to #BeBoston

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Oh my gosh… as someone who historically would have been thrown into full on imposter mode by being the slowest in the field, it was incredibly telling to watch myself simply enjoy every benefit of being in the John Hancock Elite field. I was grateful to be there and knew that I was capable of out-placing my seed. Maybe it’s because I love being the underdog almost more than I love winning. Regardless of the reason, I made the most of my stay, loved every minute, and hope I’ll never forget any of it.

I love how this picture perfectly captured how overwhelmed I was by the crowd support, even through the humility and sheer exhaustion I was experiencing by that point in the race.

I woke up at 6:30 on Tuesday morning and this is what poured out of my heart. I have missed out on so much in my life, but this weekend was not one of those times, and I hope to continue that approach as far as it will take me. A lot of athletes seem to think that they need to look tough in order to race tough. I think that one of the toughest and most joyful ways to live is in gratitude of others. When I throw hearts and thumbs up, I am not show boating. I am feeding off the energy of the crowd. Because that’s why they are there. Not just to see you, but to fuel you.

When all is said and done, it's the experience that matters, and the people who shared it with you – much more than the time or place, or the salary or perfect appearance. And if you can't enjoy the experience through the other stuff, you might be missing out on some of the best moments in life, without even knowing it. I know I've missed out on my fair share over the years, and that knowledge is what kept me in the moment yesterday – enjoying every roar from the crowd, even through my pain. The warm weather meant slower times, but also bigger and more excited crowds. In a way, this experience was far more meaningful and beautiful than when I ran 3 minutes faster 3 years ago. When we're flying high, the cheers are just the icing on top, but when we struggle, it's the people around us who lift us up and get us through. #runwithheart #beboston #teamlove #loveandconnection #wholeheartedliving

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And it’s back to the drawing board. For some people, knowing what’s next makes them anxious to get back to training, but for me, planning what’s next gives more intention to my rest. When I know the plan, I can rest with conviction, just like I do with the rest of my training.

Honestly, this build-up has probably been one of the smoothest that I’ve had. Largely due to all of the help I got from my pacer, Brian Graves, the vast majority of my workouts were dead on the prescribed paces. Of course I had a few bad workouts and some very slow easy runs, but all in all this build-up was probably one of my best.

Terry (my coach) and I had decided that this would be the build-up where I’d get myself used to 2:30 pace (5:43) and see how far I could take it. It went fine until I started doing intervals over 3 miles, and then it was a bit too much to handle. Despite the fact that I was running on tired legs, we both knew that that wasn’t a good sign for being able to string together 26.2 at that pace, even on tapered legs.

So by the end of the segment, Terry decided that I was probably in about 5:48 pace shape – or right around 2:32:00. And I was ready to PR. After almost 3 years of 3 hot marathons and a windy NYC, I was finally ready to pop a big one, even if it wasn’t a sub-2:30.

I know Terry was right about my fitness, but by mile 3, I knew that 5:58 was going to be my average pace for the day. Part of me questioned whether or not I have just settled into that 6:00 range because of all of the “slower” marathons I’ve run in recent years, but judging by how hard those last 3 miles were, I know I was genuinely doing the best I could and there was no better way for me to finish the race on that day.

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