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In this episode Angie recaps the Hartford Marathon in Connecticut -her 60th marathon and fastest to date. Plus Trevor recaps the Kaisermarathon in Austria. And in the quick tip segment you will hear how to set yourself up for a marathon PR.
The 26th edition of the Hartford Marathon and Half Marathon was held on Saturday, October 12, 2019. This is a non-profit race and $7.5 million was raised for charity.
This was my 47th state in my 50 State quest and my 60th marathon. My A goal going into this race was to break 3:30, my B goals was to PR (faster than the 3:35:41 set back at my 9th marathon in 2012), my C goal was to BQ (less than 3:40) and my D goal was to run my very best. I’ve been visualizing breaking 3:30 for the past several months and at the expo there was this board where you could write your goal. I wrote “break 3:30”. Based on how well my training had gone I knew I had it in me if all the necessary factors would come together for the marathon.
The expo was held at the XL Center in downtown Hartford and it was a nice mid-sized expo. I got my bib, my corral seeding sticker, race shirt and bag, and then walked around. Of course I had to stop by and say hi to Katie at the UCAN booth.
The race started at 8am so that allowed me to get up at my normal time of 6am (I actually woke up before my alarm). I got in a good meditation session, had some breakfast (2 packs plain instant oatmeal with a UCAN bar melted in), and got dressed and gathered my stuff.
I was staying at a hotel very close to the starting line so it made it very convenient to walk over there, find gear check, and use a port a pot for a final time (the lines weren’t long). The starting line area is right by Bushnell Park, close to the State Capitol, the Bushnell Building and the State Library & Supreme Court. I then got in my corral which was for runners who’d posted a sub-4:00 marathon and went to the very front where the 3:30 pace group was. I kind of felt like a fraud being up there but I knew if I wanted to attempt breaking 3:30 that I had to give myself every advantage. Even though I had a lot of nerves I kept telling myself that I was just excited and was prepared to give it my best. There was a few minute wait in the corral and they had race announcements, the National Anthem, and then we watched the wheelchair start 5 minute before the regular start. The weather was absolutely perfect for a marathon. It started out in the low 50’s and got up to low 60’s by the time I finished. It was mostly overcast with some wind.
The marathon and HM courses split pretty quickly (before mile 2) which definitely reduced congestion. They also had a marathon relay with several relay exchange points along the course and there was a 5k that had a different course. I’ve heard that the HM course is more scenic but the marathon was quite nice too. We ran along the Connecticut River and near Riverside Park and Great River Park for a stretch.
The HM had a time limit of 3 hours and the marathon time limit was 6 hours. There seemed to be quite a few turns in the first few miles but the course was very well marked. There was an out and back from mile 13 to the turn around just after mile 17. The course advertizes as having some rolling hills. The hills at mile 17 and mile 25 felt the most challenging.
There were frequent aid stations along the course stocked with water, Nuun energy drink, and some with gels. The race estimates that they serve 11,232 gel packs. There was even an aid station stocked with candy near the end. 9,400 gallons of water served at aid stations. The marathon works hard to make the event as environmentally friendly as possible. The 142,000 paper cups they use are fully compostable and 13,785 pounds of trash is diverted from landfills. 29,350 volunteer hours are donated to make the races possible. The volunteers that I interacted with were all helpful and encouraging.
For my fueling I had a UCAN bar with my breakfast about an hour before the race. Then I carried 2 UCAN bars and too them at intervals washed down with water from the aid stations. I also had some caffeinated chews that I used to boost my energy in the last few miles.
The course had quite a few bands or DJ’s (including a bag piper) and several places with a good amount of spectators. The crowds were particularly good near the marathon relay exchange points and closer to the finish line.
I remember running by an auto shop with a rough looking truck parked nearby with the words “The Kraken” painted on it. It made me laugh a bit because I thought, “well, there’s the Kraken.”
They seemed to have reliable pace groups out on the course. I started just in front of the 3:30 pace group and my goal was to stay in front of them for as long as possible and then hang on when they passed me. They caught up to me at mile 25 and after that I stayed right on the 3:30 pacer’s shoulder before passing them in the final stretch.
The finish line is absolutely beautiful and very exciting. The finish goes under the Veteran’s Memorial Arch and the street is lined with 500 autumn mum plants to decorate the finish line. There are tons of cheering spectators. They have a rotating cast of six announcers calling finisher’s names for six continuous hours.
The winners for the marathon were Ryan Smith with a time of 2:18:25 and Marci Klimek in 2:35:20. The winners for the HM were Jonathan Phillips in 1:04:51 and Nuhamin Ashame in 1:13:08. They also had a 5k and kid’s race. There were 1493 marathon finishers and 3,710 HM finishers. The Hartford Marathon gives out $53,380 in prize money and they had 67 elite athletes from New England states participating (many going for an Olympic Qualifying time).
They had a reusable celebration buzzer for runners to push if they’re a first timer or got a personal best. It sounded like a firehouse bell and has flashing lights and seemed to be getting a lot of use. They also had a 40 foot long drinking fountain designed by UTC engineers which has saved 220,000 plastic water bottles from landfill.
The post-race area is in Bushnell Park which has lovely walkways and an antique carousel. There was a ton going on post-race and a party atmosphere with a live band, beer garden, and great food area (choices included fruit cups, chips, granola, donuts, bananas, chocolate milk, bagels, rice jambalaya). They also gave out a reusable water bottle, heat sheet (they estimate seven thousand are given out), and awesome medal which has the capitol and Veteran’s Arch with a stained glass look behind it. The race shirt was a long-sleeve in soft cotton and another perk was free race photos and finish line video. Approximately 38,000 photos are taken by photographers on race day.
I knew my training indicated that I could have a good marathon in Hartford if everything came together. Of course 10 days before the race I started feeling really fatigued and having symptoms that indicated I was coming down with a cold (taper troubles). I did everything I could think of to feel better and finally decided that it was fall allergies bothering me. I also knew that my period was scheduled to start on marathon day which is a wild card that many of us ladies have to deal with. There are some things you can control and others you just have to roll with.
Two core values that I’ve been thinking about lately are “gratitude and courage.” Each person will apply gratitude in different ways and each person will have different ways that they can be courageous. But I wanted to bring these two elements into the marathon with me.
I felt good on race morning and was cautiously optimistic about a PR. The weather was looking perfect and I knew all I could do was to go out there and give it my best. The night before the marathon I saw a post by David Goggins on IG that said something to the effect that you have to recertify as a badass (I’m modifying the language). In most professions you have to recertify periodically to keep up with the current knowledge and he was saying that we can’t rest on past achievements and need to keep proving to ourselves that we can do hard things.
Then after waking up on race morning I saw that Eliud Kipchoge ran 1:59:40 in Vienna to go sub-2:00 in the marathon and that was so inspiring. To see his smile and wise words about pursuing your dreams gave me more motivation to go out and do my best.
On my Race Ready ID (which I wear on my watch) I put the mantra “keep pushing” and that’s exactly what I did. I decided not to settle back and get comfortable on any mile but instead stay relaxed, stay grateful, and be courageous. I focused hard on keeping my self talk positive. If I was going up a hill I’d say something like “good thing you trained on hills” or “this hill is smaller than the one’s back home.” I specifically looked for beauty around me (which wasn’t hard considering the fall foliage in New England). If I felt my focus drifting I brought my attention back to the present and told myself to have courage.
Obviously it looks slightly different to keep pushing depending on what mile you’re in because you don’t want to push your effort too hard in the early miles. And it gets significantly harder to keep pushing as the miles increase. I knew I’d have to keep my pace at 8:00 minute miles to break 3:30 so in the earlier miles I allowed myself to run a bit faster to make up for any later miles that might end up being a bit slower. But I didn’t obsess about my pace or splits and only looked at my watch to see my mile split when it buzzed. At mile 23 I knew that if I held the pace and nothing went wrong I’d be able to break 3:30. The 3:30 pacer caught up with me just before mile 25 and I knew that I’d hang on with everything I had. The last mile felt tough with the final hill but I passed the pacer and was able to accelerate in the final stretch. I knew that I could finish strong and I couldn’t wait to see the 3:29 on the clock. I also felt so grateful to be running my 60th marathon and be strong and healthy.
When I crossed the finish line I felt emotional with gratitude. It was awesome to meet my goal of breaking 3:30 and set a PR. My last PR of 3:35:41 was set at my 9th marathon back in 2012. So this new PR of 6:09 was over 7 years in coming. As far as results go I was 256/1,111 overall, 59/384 females, and 6/74 in my age group. I got to see Shira and her husband Chris along with Jo just after crossing the finish line. It was rather amusing that I was able to run strong the final stretch but when I started walking through the finisher’s area my body started seizing up, I got a foot cramp, and it was hard to walk. Still, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
MTA Meet Up:
Later that afternoon we had a small MTA meet up at the Hog River Brewery. This was where the Manchester Running Club was meeting as well. It was wonderful to meet Kaitlyn who was there with her family (she did the marathon relay), Jo from WI who did the HM, and Shira (and husband Chris) who did the HM. I also got to meet David who heads up the running club.
1. Build a solid foundation.
Don’t rush the process. If you’re looking to PR make sure that you build a solid running base first and are injury free before ramping up your training. We hear from a lot of runners and a few of them write something to this effect: “I just started running again, have a marathon in 12 weeks, and want to meet this aggressive time goal…”
While I applaud having big audacious goals it rarely works out well for people when they try to rush the process. There may be a few runners out there who have natural talent and seem to be injury proof but unfortunately this is not the norm. Most of us have to be smart about training and put in a lot of hard work. It’s important to focus on building a solid foundation first before demanding more out of your body. My recent marathon PR was built on the top of two solid marathon training cycles (London in April and Charlevoix, MI in June).
2. Love the process.
Which really is key for “don’t forget the “boring” stuff”. Success in long distance running often comes down to what you do behind the scenes. This has been one huge key to how I’ve been able to run 60 marathons and make progress toward my time goals. This will include things like strength training. I started strength training regularly during a period of injury and strengthening my glutes (among other areas) has been key to keeping my hamstrings strong and healthy. Another important area is recovery. Things like quality sleep, massage/foam rolling, meditation, not racing too frequently, doing easy runs truly easy can all play a big role in helping you run healthy and strong.
Another behind the scenes area is your nutrition. Fueling your body well is key to getting a lot out of yourself. Think of yourself as an athlete and feed yourself for performance. Yes, food is also meant to be enjoyed but there’s definitely a balance. This will also help you build muscle and lose fat if those are your goals. We all have our particular areas within the realm of fueling that need to be worked on. For some people it means cutting back on sugar and processed foods, cutting back on alcohol, eating more vegetables, or increasing their protein intake. For some it may mean letting go of restrictive eating patterns and truly getting the calories you need to get stronger and reduce the chance of injury.
3. Work on mindset.
Your attitude and thought process can either make or break your PR goals. If we spend time thinking about why we can’t do something then it probably won’t happen. But if we think of all the ways we can make our goals happen they’re more likely to be achieved. Just like we spend time on physical training I’d encourage you to spend time on mental training. In some way spend time every day focusing on strengthening your mindset, finding good mantras, and meditating on and visualizing the results you want. If you don’t practice mindset it won’t magically come through for you when you need it most.
For example, I meditate for 20 minutes every morning and at the end of my session I have a series of positive affirmations that I go through. Each person’s affirmations will be unique but three of mine are, “I am healthy, I am strong, I am a sub-3:30 marathoner.” It feels a bit weird at first to speak of your goals as if they’ve already happened but we must remember that goals start with belief, then become thoughts, and then are put into action.
On race day work hard to stay focused and keep your mindset positive. Control the catastrophic thinking that can happen during the race and try to stay in the present. For example, after crossing a timing mat I didn’t hear a beep and I started worrying that my bib didn’t have the tracking chip and that my race wouldn’t count. I had to deliberately throw that thought out of my head. Another time I felt a slight cramping twinge in my left hamstring and had to stop worrying that it would go into a full blown cramp. I reminded myself not to borrow trouble, to relax, and that I was feeling strong. Throughout the race I found myself worrying that the 3:30 pace group would leave me in the dust and I had to deliberately push that thought away and focus on pushing and running strong in the present. In the last 5k I was worrying that I’d trip and not be able to recover and miss my time goal. Maybe you can’t relate to my examples but if you examine your thought process during a long run or race you’ll find other things that you worry and fixate on.
4. Enlist help and support.
If you find yourself running into the proverbial wall over and over again with your goals it’s important to seek help. We often learn and grow best in a community and we all need support at times. This is going to vary from runner to runner. It may involve following through with a training plan (if you haven’t in the past), joining a local running group, finding a running partner who will challenge you, joining an online community, and getting a running coach. There’s no shame in needing help. Almost a year ago I started getting help from a nutrition coach at Metpro to deal with a stubborn weight gain. This was a turning point in my health and fitness and is one of the keys to where I am today with my running.
To be successful in reaching challenging goals like a BQ or PR in the marathon you have to fall in love with the process. If you’re only running to get faster there will be lots of discouraging runs and races where you’ll question everything. I went 7.5 years (and 51 marathons) before getting a new PR. And of course there will come a point in every person’s running that you won’t get any faster. That’s just a result of aging.
But if you fall in love with the process and start to enjoy the challenge of doing hard things then you’ll find joy in the journey and not just focus on the destination. That may mean you need to find ways to enjoy things like going to bed early, regular strength training, reducing alcohol or other foods that hinder your performance, dialing in your nutrition for better performance, getting up early to run, or foam rolling. You probably know where your weak areas are and what needs to be addressed for you to get better. And if you’re struggling with knowing what to do or how to do it consider hiring a coach. They can help you pinpoint problem areas and map a successful way forward.
Also Mentioned in This Episode
Live Podcast with Generation Ucan
Angie will be speaking at a live podcast event with Generation Ucan on Friday, November 1st from 6:30-8:00 at the New York Marriott Marquis. She will be on a panel with fellow podcasters Tina Muir, Carrie Tollefson, and Emily Abbate. This is event is free but space is limited! Here is the link to register now.
Morning Shake Out Run with MTA
We are also hosting a short 2-mile shakeout jog / chat the day before the Saturday the 2nd at 8:00 am. See this Google doc for more info: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1iy3_jlaHyFbzR4cJx5tGHQA84omJZ_n9wDMULaZH89w/edit?usp=sharing
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