Category Archives: Uncategorized

Colt State Park Half Marathon Race Report- Finally Got My Half PR!

As you are aware, after months of training, I did not start the BAA Half Marathon last month due to Achilles issues. My doctor basically gave me the following options: 1) Run the BAA Half without PRing because you’ll be in pain and needing a lot of recovery time 2) Take care of this injury, cross-train, and run a PR in late October/early November. As disappointed as I was to not get to do BAA for a second time, I am so glad I chose the latter option. I was also excited to debut this new outfit my mom bought for me for my birthday back in June.

pre-race

 

My fiancé was a real trooper. He drove 1 hr 15 minutes to Bristol, RI so I could do this race. I wanted to PR so badly that I tried to do everything perfectly. I tapered. I carbo-loaded for two days prior, and I forced myself to eat a little before the race (I often have trouble eating before races and its hurt me in the past). While I was stretching, someone came up to me and said “Are you Kate Mroz?” It was one of my online running buddies. We were thrilled to finally meet in person, and took a picture to send to our running group.

me and stephanie

My strategy was to stick with the 1:40 pacer and just see how it felt. Thankfully, it felt perfect. The first two miles felt easy and I was shocked at the splits, but I decided to control myself as I’ve started out too fast in the past and paid for it later. Sure enough, mile 3 had a few slight inclines and was slower, so I got worried but by mile 5, I knew I was at the right speed. I was also in awe of the breathtaking view of the water. This race was absolutely gorgeous.

As those of you who know me are aware, I LOVE TO TALK (and that’s an understatement). Thankfully, I spent miles 1-11 talking to Matt, the 1:40 pacer, and Chris, another runner from Massachusetts. Chris and I were determined to break 1:40 together. Around mile 4, I learned that she lost her sister to a heart attack this year, and not long after that, had to put her dog to sleep. She said she was doing this race for her sister, and I decided I would too. (Of course, I still kept my planned mile intentions at each mile- so don’t worry, friends and family) We sent up a prayer to Darlene and we thanked her at the end of the race. This was very fitting considering that right now in Exploring Catholicism, I am covering saints. The communion of saints is something I love about Catholicism, that we not only have a who list of official saints whom we can read about and look up to, but we believe that all persons who have gone before us are people to whom we can pray for guidance.

During the race, Matt, who has done numerous triathlons, gave us the following advice. “I’d love nothing more than to see you pass me during the last few miles if you feel you can do it. Just don’t speed up too quick and have me catch you!” This made me cautious, so Chris and I decided together to stick with him until mile 11. At mile 11, we speed up by about 10 seconds, knowing that mile 12 had some inclines. At mile 12, I just took off, thought of all those months of training, and gave it my all. I somehow ended up doing my last mile in 6:48. It was the only part of the race that was truly painful, and I wonder if I should have sped up earlier.

I saw Bryan after passing the mile 13 marker. There was an abrupt, awkward turn at that point, so he wasn’t able to get a picture. I knew I must have been doing well because Bryan did not, as he usually does, tell me to “hurry up!” He was just like “Go Kate!” Sure enough, when I got to the finish line, I saw 1:37something and was elated. All I wanted was sub 1:40, so it surpassed my expectations!

Chris finished shortly after me and we hugged each other. Matt finished right on target at 1:39 and we both thanked him for pacing us. Poor Bryan was wondering why I wasn’t trying to find him and was talking to all these strangers. Thankfully, he walked over to the finish line and met everybody.

with matt and chris

Shortly after that, my online running buddy Stephanie crossed the finish. We later found out that we both placed 2nd in our respective age groups, and we starting jumping up and down. My official time was 1:37:32.

age group

 

This race taught me a very important lesson. Running, contrary to popular belief, is not an individual sport. Sure, my time is my own and I run independently of a team, but my fellow runners bring out the best in me. Running reminds me that God comes to us through other people and places.

 

 

Right now, I am focused on doing easy runs, strength training, and cross-training in preparation to start training for Boston.

Overall, I highly recommend this race and really want to do it again (am actually torn between putting my name in the NYC Marathon lottery or doing this race next year since they are the same weekend). The directors and volunteers were amazing. When we arrived, there was a problem with the tide and there was tons of water on the course. We were warned that we would get wet. With only a 10 minute delay from the original start time (which I welcomed since it gave me more warm-up time), they managed to get all of the water off of the course. I was pleasantly surprised and did not get wet. There was plenty of water every mile and a half, and volunteers to cheer us on. The course was gorgeous. Flat with a few very very small inclines that mostly just helped to stave off boredom. I’m lactose intolerant, but my fiance enjoyed the post-race pizza party. This is a great race if you want a fall half-marathon PR.

Advertisements

Stop Fretting: Your Sweaty Grimacing Race Photos Are Beautiful

“Why can’t I look good in race photos?”

Fall racing season is in full gear and I think I have come across this question a billion times over the past few weeks. It breaks my heart. A woman completes a 5k, half-marathon, or marathon and feels tremendously proud of herself, but instead of celebrating, she agonizes over the race pictures.

“I look sweaty and gross.”

“My mouth is hanging open.”

“I’m not smiling.”

“ My legs look weird.”

“ Why can’t I look like the lady next to me? She’s smiling.”

“Why can’t I look good in race photos?”
I’m here to tell you that you can “look good” in race photos. In fact, you already do “look good’ in race photos. It’s just that so many of us women have been socialized to have a very limited of what “looks good.” We associate beauty with happy faces, hair and make-up in place, and an elimination of any pain or struggle in our expression or body language. “Smile.” “Look at the camera.” “Cheer up.” “Don’t slouch.” “Comb your hair.” “Take off your glasses.”  No wonder cameras are sometimes a source of anxiety. Sure, it’s OK to spend extra effort before taking a professional headshot or a formal photo, but sadly, so many of us cringe whenever a camera comes out at a party or race because we are not “picture ready.” But shouldn’t pictures capture “real life” and “real time expressions?”

Bangers 5k finish line 2016

Determination. 

 

As a Catholic theologian, I subscribe to a Catholic anthropology that sees the extraordinary in the ordinary, that finds God in the everyday, including the messy and chaotic. Beauty, my friends, is not just smiles and fancy hair dos. Beauty can be sweating, bleeding, crying, and screaming. Beauty is life as it is lived, and that is not always smiling and posing.

baa half mile 12

It’s raining and its mile 12 and I’m almost finished! 

One of the best words of wisdom came to me from my mom, who reminded me that the most miraculous things in life often happen when we are struggling, not smiling. Think of childbirth- a woman giving birth is sweaty and bloody and in pain AND SO BEAUTIFUL.

So when you see that race photo of yourself with sweat dripping off your face, your hair all mussed up, and your mouth in a grimace, BE PROUD. It shows a strong woman who is working hard and giving it her all.

So, everybody, here are my race photos. I used to be embarrassed of them, but now I cherish them. They represent some of my greatest memories and accomplishments, and remind me how strong and tough I am.

kate fools dual finish

Yeah, I totally saw my fiance with the camera, but I was not going to stop to smile. “I’m going to PR and win third place in my age group and I’m going to keep my beautiful mouth open!” 

 

The Spinathon- When Cross-Training Becomes More Than Cross-Training

I love racing. I guess that is obvious.

 

I love the training, the nerves and anticipation of the course, the use of my sport for the benefit of local charities, the bonding with other runners, the sense of accomplishment after a tough finish and the first taste of that protein shake and bagel with peanut butter (my post-long run breakfast of choice).

 

So, when I got an injury 5 weeks before the BAA Half (at which I was hoping and planning to PR), I was quite disappointed. The doctor diagnosed it as Achilles bursitis, which, thankfully, it’s not as bad as Achilles tendonitis. The bursa are thin, lubricated cushions that serve as the points of friction between bone and soft tissue. It’s painful, but not nearly as painful as some other common running injuries.

 

The injury also happened two weeks before the Brighton Bangers 5k- super super important event to me given that it is put on by my running club! My doctor allowed me to do the race provided the pain stayed under a 5. I finished in 21:40, which was slower than my time for that course last year but better than I expected with an injury. This was the first race where I approached the finish line and my fiancé did not cheer for to “hurry up,” since he begged me to take it easy. In retrospect, I should not have raced. Mile one was a great split- 6:47- and I got confident that I could repeat last year’s performance, but then the injury kicked in and I had to slow down – 7:20 for mile 2 and 7:09 for mile 3. The foot hurt so bad afterwards that I could not do a cool down and instead of socializing, I went home to ice it. That being said, I still had fun and the pain subsided on the walk home. But overall, I probably should have just volunteered and stayed out of the race (but NOT RACING when others are running is so so hard :/)

 

So, when the Oak Square YMCA announced a Spinathon to raise money to help local families, I was super excited. For the past two years, spin has been a fun cross-training activity but it’s taken on an even bigger role during this injury. Spin classes have kept up my cardiovascular fitness while I am unable to run much, and in fact, I think they are quite more challenging than a lot of my runs! The sprints and hills mimic running workouts.

 

The Spinathon had an option of doing 1, 2, or all 3 hours. Eager for a new challenge given that I am not running a fall marathon and my half may be out of the picture (still deciding), I decided to try for the 3. My fiancé joined me for the first hour and we had so much fun looking over at each other. Prior to this, an hour had been my maximum for a spin session. After that hour, I took a quick break to say goodbye to Bryan and hopped back on. We switched instructors mid-way and just like a long race, hunger suddenly came on and I grabbed some Powerade and a banana. After the burst of Powerade, I knew I could finish the thing. I seriously need to have more sports drinks during my long runs and races, they help! The instructors were super enthusiastic, and one made us put our hands up and shout “woo!” during various points in the last hour. While my sprints were slower and my resistance lower during the third hour, they were much higher than I expected they would be. I kind of thought I would be barely pedaling toward the end, but that was not the case. As the instructors reminded everyone, our legs are stronger than we think! I also kept thinking of Iron Tony upstairs, attempting to break the world record for an indoor triathlon. If someone can run 26.2 miles on a treadmill, surely I can spin for 3 hours!

 

When I got off the bike, I felt a bit dizzy at first but not nearly as bad as I expected to feel. There were only a few of us who stayed for the whole thing, so we took a picture together. Even though we barely talked (I mean, it’s hard to hold a conversation while spinning), we felt a special bond after our three-hour ordeal.

 

While the soreness and dehydration were not as bad as a marathon (namely because I had constant access to water), the hunger was just as intense. I drank a muscle milk on my walk home, and called my fiancé to make sure he had bagels, peanut butter, and fruit waiting for me. On my walk home, I passed by people running a 5k and instead of feeling upset and angry about not being in it, I shouted “go runners!” It did not even occur to me until the next day that it should have been my last long run before the half-marathon. I had so much fun and felt so accomplished, I barely thought about my injury!

 

Moral of the story- there can be a silver lining in injuries. While I have always cross-trained, I never took the time to really develop a love for one of my cross-training activities or used one of my cross-training activities to benefit a local charity and meet other athletes. Cross-training need not be viewed as “cross-training.” It can become another hobby, another love. Indeed, that’s how I’ve come to see strength training/weight-lifting and spinning. Running is not the only thing I can do to challenge myself, to support a good cause, to stay in shape, and to meet other amazing athletes. While I expect to recover from this injury soon and resume normal training, this was not my last Spinathon!

Big thanks to Emily & Alyson for leading us, and to Bryan, as always, for doing the first hour with me and for feeding me afterwards! 🙂

Holy Envy: A Reflection on the Sacred Texts and Human Contexts Conference at Nazareth College

In high school, I remember being delighted when a close friend invited me to her graduation from Hebrew School, which she called confirmation. Each teenager had to get up in front of the congregation and give a small talk about why Judaism meant something to them, and why they wanted to continue practicing their Jewish faith. It was so inspiring to hear about the ways Judaism influenced their lives, encouraging them to go on service trips, to help those struggling in their communities, to pray regularly, and to have hope in the midst of difficult times. As a Catholic who had made her Confirmation two years earlier, I felt a pang of sadness in my heart, not for the fact that I was Catholic – I still love my faith- but namely because I was so in awe at the way these Jewish teenagers had an opportunity to reflect on what this rite of passage meant to them, something I never had a chance to do when I received Confirmation. For many Catholics, Confirmation has come to have little meaning, since it is often forced upon thirteen and fourteen year olds who have almost no knowledge of the teachings of the Catholic Church by their parents or grandparents.  It was not until I went to a Catholic university as an eighteen year old, that I finally found a group of people my age with whom I could share my faith journey.

At a conference entitled “Sacred Texts and Human Contexts: Women and Gender in Religions,” held at Nazareth College at the beginning of the month, I finally found a name for that experience I had over a decade ago. Rabbi Rachel Sabath- Halachmi, in her keynote speech, spoke of “holy envy.” Coined by Krister Stendahl, “holy envy,” is the recognition of elements in another religious tradition that you admire so much that you wish they were reflected, or emphasized more, in your own.

I think most of us approach the word “envy” with some fear and trepidation. Many of us probably have memories of envy breaking up, or getting in the way of, a relationship. Yet, envy need not be a destructive force. Feeling holy envy does not mean the other tradition is better than your own, or that you want to adopt every aspect of the other tradition. It is simply a reminder that we live in a religiously pluralist world, and naturally, those who worship and believe differently than we do have something important to share with us.

In a religiously pluralist world in which certain religious doctrines are in conflict with one another (i.e- is Jesus God incarnate or a prophet? is there a personal God who reveals Herself to us or is there not?), people often fear that we may not be able to find any common ground or relate to one another easily. When you are in a group of scholars and add academic interests to the mix, the topics we study are so diverse that we may wonder if we have anything worthwhile to say to one another.

On the second day of the conference, I had the honor and privilege of presenting in a session with Amy Milligan, a professor of Judaic Studies and Women’s Studies Old Dominion University. My presentation dealt a comparison of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests and female prayer leaders in Islam breaking the “rules” of their traditions.  We both admitted to each other before we gave our presentations that we thought our topics would have little in common. Yet, we could have not been more wrong. During Amy’s presentation, I once again found myself with the feeling of “holy envy,” especially viewing the pictures of Jewish women and their communities involved in Women’s Marches across the United States shortly after the inauguration of Donald Trump. These women found amazing ways to bring their faith to the struggle for gender equality. When it came time for questions, the audience directed most of their inquiries to both of us, and we had a very fruitful discussion.

Certainly, I think it is dangerous to reduce all religions to being the same. They are not nor should they be. Our differences enable us to approach one another with a sense of curiosity that provokes awe and develops friendships. Differences are only a cause of strife if we force others to adopt our own doctrinal beliefs. I am Catholic and believe in a triune God of which Jesus is God incarnate, the Second Person of the Trinity, but I know that many of my friends and colleagues from other religions do not share this belief. Nevertheless, all those who were present at the conference share a fundamental conviction that has the ability to transform this world. Namely, we all believe that God loves women, that God desires their flourishing and the flourishing of all human beings, and that God motivates us to change the status quo. We all can look at the injustices and violence committed against women in this world and say, “no, that’s not the way things should be!”

In today’s political climate, faith can be a taboo word in the political realm, especially when it comes to non-Christian religions. In the United States, some politicians hold the position that Islam is incompatible with a genuine concern for women’s rights, or the well-being of one’s country.  Yet, Muslims too believe in a God that desires the flourishing of women and all human beings, and use the Quran and the example of the Prophet Muhammad to say no to violence and discrimination. I am always filled with holy envy when I encounter the Quran’s depiction of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Quran not only explicitly names Mary as an example of faith for both men and women, it also depicts her as having experienced the pangs of childbirth that all women go through. As a Catholic, these verses brought me to tears, since the Catholic tradition (except for recent works by contemporary theologians like Elizabeth Johnson) has not affirmed that a birth can be miraculous and holy, as well as bloody and painful.

Another one of the most poignant experiences at this conference was visiting the Susan B. Anthony House with other attendees. It was beautiful to watch men and women of all different faiths, veiled and unveiled, admiring the amazing accomplishments of women suffragists, all deeply convinced that God does not see men and women as unequal.

I am a Catholic. I believe that Jesus is the cause of my salvation and I could never imagine letting go of that belief. It comes from my experience of Jesus as the source of light and guidance in my life. I also cannot imagine leaving the Catholic Church, which, imperfect earthly institution that it is, is my home. But I also cannot imagine being a Catholic without my Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Protestant, and non-affiliated friends. Jesus lived in a particular time and culture. He did not leave us a blueprint for how to handle every possible problem or situation. Catholics do not have all the answers.  It is God’s will that we learn from one another.

IMG_2336.jpg

I will end this post with a Quranic verse mentioned by Professor Asma Afsaruddin in her keynote talk.

If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute.

 

A major thanks to Dr. Muhammad Shafiq and the Hickey Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue at Nazareth College for organizing this incredible conference, to the presenters and speakers who taught me so much and gave me so many new ideas, and to all the attendees of whom I had the pleasure of meeting. May our paths cross again in the near future.

 

Running Theologian’s Tips for Running in the Heat

Here in Boston- ITS HOT! Many days, even if you get up at 6 or 7am, it is still already in the 70s with high humidity (therefore, I will not include “run early in the mornings” as a tip here- that’s already obvious- you can thank me later :P). This is difficult for runners both mentally and physically. Its important to remember that it is necessary to adjust your expectations. We are human.

smiling sun

  1. Carry water with you. I recommend the Amphipod Jett-Lite Thermal. The pouch is big enough to hold keys and gels. However, if you like to run with more stuff, you can buy a bigger one. Remember to drink at regular intervals- every mile or even every half-mile. Don’t wait until you are thirsty- THIRSTY IS ALREADY DEHYDRATED.
  2. Carry salt tablets. You LOSE A LOT OF SALT. These come in handy if you start feeling lightheaded. I really thought they were ridiculous but they have helped me to not crash and burn on more than one occasion. These are the kind I used for my last marathon. Just make sure you take them with water.
  3. Plan water stops if you are going longer than a couple of miles. Even with a handheld, if you are doing a 17 mile marathon training run, you are going to need to fill up. If you cannot find water fountains, local businesses are often accommodating. So are fire departments, libraries, or gyms. I often plan my summer long runs to stop halfway around the Boston College campus so I can stop in the cafeteria to fill my water bottle.
  4. Wear sun screen. Even if the temperature is not the high, if the sun is out, you are likely to get burned. Believe me, I have learned this the hard way.
  5. Stay close by. If it’s hot, I try to do routes that are close to home so that I am never super far away if I start to feel sick.
  6. Wear a Band ID on your wristwatch. My fiance bought me this for Christmas last year. While I thankfully have never needed it yet, I am comforted by the fact it is there.
  7. Adjust your expectations. Your long runs may not be as long, your tempo runs may not be as fast, etc.- THAT IS OK. Run by effort instead of pace. For example, my tempo run last week was more like a marathon pace run, but it sure felt like a tempo run due to the heat. You will still reap the benefits.
  8. Be flexible in your schedule if you can. I try to look at the weekly weather forecast at the start of each week. Tuesday might be speed work day but if the weather forecast says Wednesday or Thursday is going to be the coldest day of the week, you might want to try to switch things up. Saturdays are typically long run days, but I’ll switch to Friday or Sunday if it looks like it will be easier.
  9. Wear as light of clothing as you can. Now is not the time to be self-conscious. You are a human being running. Therefore, YOU LOOK LIKE A RUNNER AND YOU DESERVE TO WEAR WHATEVER MAKES YOU COMFORTABLE. You will feel much better in a sports bra and shorts than a tank top and long leggings. Nobody in the whole entire universe is perfectly happy with their legs or their butt or their stomach, etc.
  10. If you are feeling famished upon returning, try a protein shake before hoping in the shower. I recommend Muscle Milk- I love it because its sugar free (at least the version I buy, you can get ones with sugar), it has 20 grams of  protein in one container, its lactose and dairy free and it tastes great. Trying to eat something big immediately after a long run can cause an upset stomach (of course, Muscle Milk is not a meal, so do eat something more substantial after you’ve showered, etc.)
  11. Continue to hydrate throughout the day after you return. I love Propel Fitness Water. 
  12. Be careful of both coffee and alcohol. On really hot days, I try to have tea instead of coffee in the afternoon since tea hydrates and coffee dehydrates. Starbucks Iced Passion Tango tea is a great caffeine- free option.  Obviously, I am not one to tell people who are over 21 they can’t have a celebratory drink after a hard work out (those who know me know I like my vodka and my whiskey), but I recommend waiting several hours after you have finished exercise and only imbibing if you are feeling OK.
  13. I know this is gross, but keep track of the color of your urine throughout the day. If its dark, you are dehydrated. If it is clear, you are over hydrated. It should be pale yellow.
  14. Listen to your body. You may be hungrier and thirstier than usual. That’s normal in this weather. Keep drinks and snacks near you all day.
  15. Don’t be afraid to take an extra recovery day in your training, you are working extra hard.
  16. Stop exercising and seek medical attention immediately if you are experiencing the signs and symptoms of heat related illness listed below.

Heat Exhaustion: ashen skin, goose bumps, headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, irritability, decreased muscle coordination.

Heat Stroke: disorientation, confusion, dizziness, unusual behavior, headache, inability to walk, loss of balance, profound fatigue, hyperventilation, vomiting, diarrhea, delirium

Stay safe and happy running! 🙂

Team Mroz Weinstein- Established August 4, 2018

My fiancé, Bryan, and I have officially announced our wedding date. Shortly before the announcement, our friend Sam took engagement photos of us.  We wanted some of our pictures to have a running theme. Our love for working out has shown us that we are better together than we are alone.

DSCF0742

 

We both enjoy running and weight lifting, but our commitment to each differs. I am an avid runner and like racing distances like the half-marathon and marathon. Bryan is an avid weight lifter, and prefers shorter distance races like the 5k and half-marathon. His main focus is being stronger and lifting heavier, my main focus is running faster and longer. While some would say that I should be focusing on trying to convince Bryan he needs to run a marathon, or that he should convince me to cut back on the races and focus on being a stronger lifter, neither one of us really wants the other to change.

DSCF0511

Bryan’s passion for strength training helps me. Shortly after we started dating, he got me started on a lifting program, something I was never interested in before we met. Because of him, I can now, as a 28 year-old woman, do more pull-ups than I could as a fourteen year old kid! I go to him for advice whenever I need to work on strengthening certain muscles or when I am concerned about a potential injury.

DSCF0411

DSCF0827

My love of running has also, I believe, benefitted Bryan. Shortly after we started dating and I started following a weight-lifting program, he completed his first 5k (which was way better than my first 5k- kind of jealous!) and later on, a half-marathon. He won an age group award at his second 5k. He goes to me for advice on racing strategies and good running workouts.

DSCF0879

We are truly a team. I never thought I would ever be strong enough to complete a marathon, but Bryan believed in me. I love to tell the story of when I reached mile 26 of my first marathon. Bryan was running toward me frantically. I expected to hear words like “you’re doing great honey!” but instead I got “Hurry up! Hurry up!” I was kind of angry at first, but when I saw the clock and realized I could qualify for Boston, I understood.

DSCF0628

Team Mroz-Weinstein extends beyond the gym. We are both doctoral students in (hopefully) our last year of studies. I have sat through many physics presentation and proofread many lab reports. Bryan has attended theology conferences and proofread many papers on feminist theology or interreligious dialogue.

DSCF0858

Being graduate students and runners together has given us a greater understanding of what love should be. Love is when your dream becomes his dream, and his dream becomes your dream.

DSCF0800

DSCF0584

If you like these photos, check out more of Sam’s work here   or send him an e-mail at photography@hermeneuticlens.com.

Marathon #2- Dehydration, Praying the Rosary, and Achieving my Goal in Martha’s Vineyard

snapshot3

On May 21, 2017, I ran the Martha’s Vineyard Marathon. As many of you know, my first marathon was back in October. I BQed with a 3:33:27 (the qualifying time for my age group is 3:35 or under). However, the cutoff for getting into the 2017 Boston Marathon was -2.09 and even worse in 2016. Running Boston has been a dream of mine, so I wanted to try again to get a faster time so my acceptance would be guaranteed.

My fiancé, who has been very supportive of my Boston 2018 dream, was kind enough to purchase my registration and book a hotel room in Cape Cod the night before the race. He kept saying he believed in me, but also kept reassuring me that he would be happy with his investment even if something went wrong. Nevertheless, I was extremely nervous the week leading up to the race, probably even more nervous than my first marathon, since I now had a goal besides finishing.

Training: I had to start my training plan later than I wanted due to a rib and foot injury that occurred during a tempo run in early February. Thankfully, the sports medicine physicians at Boston College had me healed in time to do a solid 12 weeks training plan. Seriously, big shout out to them- BC Eagles are in good hands! Each week, I made sure to do 1-2 speed sessions, 1-2 strength training sessions, and 1 long run. I decided to peak at 22 miles instead of 20 to give myself a confidence booster in the final miles of the race. I also decided to see a nutritionist so I’d be fueling better.

Pre-Race: Woke up at 3am (which wasn’t really waking up, I was up the whole night anyway) to drink hot tea to ensure I’d go to the bathroom (sorry to be blunt- but its important in a race!) Bryan and I got on a 6:30am ferry to Martha’s Vineyard where a race bus picked us up to bring us to the starting line at Vineyard Haven. I forced a banana and some protein bar bites down my throat on the ferry (yes, literally forced since I tend to work out before breakfast and I am never hungry in the mornings and YOU CANNOT ALWAYS RELY ON YOUR HUNGER ON MARATHON MORNING- past Kate mistake #1). Due to my paranoia, we were at the starting line very early- 7:25 for an 8:30 race.

When the time finally came, I lined up with the 3:30 pace group with my 4 GU gels and salt tablets around my waist. I was convinced the salt was excess but my nutritionist said they were important, and my fiancé made me shove them in my Fit Belt before the race. I debated going for 3:25, but decided it would be best to start conservatively and speed up at the end. My goal was 3:32 or under to be safe for Boston Marathon registration. I instantly made friends with two fellow graduate students from Boston, one from BC and one from BU. For the first 10 miles, we were having a blast talking to each other. There was a huge group of us. The course was scenic and mostly flat, though the few hills located between miles 8-12 had were short but super steep. I did my first GU gel at mile 7- BECAUSE YOU NEED TO DO YOUR GU BEFORE YOU FEEL HUNGRY AND NOT WAIT UNTIL MILE 13- TRUST ME (past Kate mistake #2). I did my next GU at the halfway point. From miles 1-13, I do not notice that the water stations are every 2 miles instead of every mile. I just take one cup at each station and don’t even worry about drinking the whole thing. At mile 14, I actually drank one half and poured the other over my head. Bad move.

At mile 17, everyone stops talking completely. It is now very hot and I am looking forward to every water station like it is my long lost best friend I have not seen in 20 years. Then, I drop a GU. I see it fall and go to pick it up but there are so many feet behind me, it’s not possible. Not wanting to go back and mess up my time, I keep running but I am panicked. I want a gel now, but since I am down to only one, I need to save it for later. No one around me has any extra nutrition to offer.

At mile 19, I suddenly realize I might be in trouble. I feel really dehydrated and weak, yet somehow do a 7:58 split. At the mile 20 water station, I decide to forgo the normal “Don’t try anything new on race day” advice and drink whatever I can get my hands on, as I realize my body needs all the nourishment it can get! I take a cup of Tri-fuel (which I have never even heard of or drank before) and two cups of water and drink them while running, hoping they will get me to mile 22. I also chew two salt tablets. Damn. I have to admit I was wrong about those things!

Feeling a bit better, I then come to a startling realization- it is just me and my BC buddy- no one is visible either ahead of us or behind us. It’s her first marathon, she is flipping out, and she looks to me to help pace her the rest of the way. I tell her, “its going to be OK, you and me are going to BQ, we got this,” but inside my head I am saying, “Its not OK. We’re in trouble. I don’t want to die before I reach the finish line.”

At mile 21, I already need more water, but there is none. My friend and I yell to random spectators that we are dehydrated (yes, its amazing what marathons make you do) and a nice young man comes out with his water bottle and lets us sip from it. “God Bless you young man! May God Bless you!”

I take my last GU but it does nothing. I am trying to continue with my mile dedications, but its getting hard to remember whom each mile is for- sometimes I do not start praying for whomever I am supposed to pray for until the middle of the mile (though I really did manage to get all 26 intentions in- I promise- just some were waayyy shorter than others!)

My friend and I separate. At mile 22, I am all alone and I do not feel like I have 4 more miles in me. It is here that I decide I am going to pray the Rosary for the rest of the race (while stopping quickly mention the names of the people who had the last 4 miles). “Mother Mary, run with me!”

At mile 23, I am still saying my Hail Mary’s, though I am losing count. I look over and see a beautiful view of the beach. “God is with me. I am not alone.”

At mile 24, I pass a young man and he yells, “You go girl! You got this!” He is so passionate and it really cheers me up- how I wish I could hug that stranger now. “God is still with me. I’m so dehydrated and its so hot, but I’m going to do this.” I look at my watch. My pace has dropped to 8:30, I realize I can finish with a 3:32 even if I do 10 minute miles. “I can do 10 minute miles. Well, maybe…” I know I need to take it easy now so I back off for a bit since I know there will now be no more water until I finish.

Still saying the Rosary, I see mile 25 and speed up. Volunteers are being so helpful with their cheering. They can tell by the look on my face that I am uncomfortable and dehydrated. Mile 25 is Bryan’s mile, which is perfect. I want to stop, but I remember the money and time he has sacrificed to get me to the Boston Marathon (not to mention putting up with my nerves the week before the race). There is no way I am leaving this island without a sub 3:32. “Do it for Bryan.” 8:06 split.

Mile 26 marker. Its sooner than I expect to see him but there is Bryan. He looks worried. There is no “I love you honey” or “looking great sweetie,” just “you gotta start sprinting, you gotta sprint, you still have a shot but you gotta sprint.” Exactly what a severely dehydrated girl wants to hear at mile 26, right? 😉

I keep sprinting, thinking that the finish line will appear any minute- but it is not there. “Did I run past it, where is it?” I start cussing. I realize now that it is a circle. The finish line is not right in front of me like I thought. I have to turn and then sprint another 400 meters to the finish. That might not sound far but at this point I feel so sick that I actually wonder if I will make there without collapsing.

I turn and turn again, and there is Bryan at the beginning of the straightaway. He is filming me, here is where I get to hear, “Here comes Kate- she’s gonna do it! Run, Kate, run! Go Kate!” That’s all I need. I’m so afraid to look at the clock, but I know I need to in order to convince myself to keep running. The clock is only at 3:30 or at least that what’s it looks like! I sprint until right before I get to the clock and I walk over the finish line. Oh God, I want Bryan, I want my mom. A woman around my mom’s age is handing out medals and she can tell something is not right. “Are you OK sweetie?” I want to cry. “I don’t feel good!”

The medic grabs me. I see Bryan running toward me with Muscle Milk, so I tell the medic I am fine. Seriously, I know it is hot and I want him to spend his time elsewhere, since I am now confident I am OK. The medic still insists on bringing me to the tent and making me sit in a chair.

As he was instructed to do before the race, Bryan opens the Muscle Milk and brings it to my lips. “No, no! Don’t give me that! Water! Water, I need water first!” Startled, he takes out regular water and Propel Water. Poor guy. I really did tell him to give me a Muscle Milk as soon as I crossed the finish line, but I did not expect to be so dehydrated. The thought of anything but water sickens me.

Bryan is also concerned because I am not saying anything about beating my time goal. I am feeling so sick that I am not really sure what happened. For the next minute , we exchange a hilarious dialogue of

“Did I do it?”

“Yes, Kate?”

“Am I going to Boston?”

“Yes, Kate, I told you that 2 seconds ago.”

“Did I do it?”
“Keep drinking, Kate, keep drinking”

“OK, but slow down, I need time to drink what’s in my hand before you shove more fluids in my face.”

Believe me, it sounds worse than it was. Within 2-3 minutes, I am feeling a lot better and know I am going to be totally fine. The medic brings my BC buddy over, who also got a BQ. We might have gone through hell from mile 20-26, but we did it! The medic has long since forgotten about me. There are lots of people feeling worse. Someone screams for salt tablets for her daughter and I pull out of my belt what I argued four hours earlier that I did not have room for or need. So glad I bought them! Nutritionist and Bryan=1, Me=0.

Back to my normal self (or usual self, I should say, I have never been normal), I feel like the biggest asshole. Bryan is wearing a medal. He ran too. “Oh my God, sweetie, how was your half?”

1:48:34. He crushed it! I am so proud! A 2 minute PR, even though he experienced dehydration at the end too but didn’t have anyone to take care of him like I did.

Bryan then informs me that I have won an age group award. Totally unexpected! I pick up my award and then eat a bagel with peanut butter.

Wearing our medals, I ask someone to take a picture of us. I am too tired to write anything long, so for Facebook, I just post, “I’m running Boston in 2018, I love you Bryan!”

We walk to the ferry very comfortably. Thankfully, after this race, I am not that sore. It’s a great improvement given that after my last marathon, my knees were in agony and I could barely get up the two steps to my apartment. YOU SHOULD WALK FOR A BIT AFTER YOUR FINISH A MARATHON EVEN IF YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT- TRUST ME (past Kate mistake #3).

We get on the ferry. Medals around my neck, Bryan’s arm around me, I eat BFresh Homemade Peanut Butter right out of the container with a spoon and take in the beauty of the ocean. I’m so glad to be alive and that I have proven to myself that I am stronger than I could ever have imagined. This time, I make a resolution to take two weeks off from working out (as is recommended by most physicians and running experts) to let my body recover. I know I need to take care of my body, and that I am better off when I do so.

“Thank you Mother Mary.”

Overall Race Review (if you are interested):

Taking into consideration that this was its first year, I give lots of kudos to the Martha’s Vineyard Marathon. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. The course was relatively flat, with a few short, steep hills and the views were beautiful. The DJ was a lot of fun, and listening to him calmed me down at the starting line. He was very positive and motivational. The volunteers and spectators were wonderful. Even when I was running alone, I was never afraid of getting lost and always knew what direction to take. There were tons of people cheering for me at the parts of the race where I needed it most. The medals, both for finishing and for the age group award, were very nice. They provided a truck to take our bags safely from the starting line to the finish line. The swag bag was also pretty nice, it included a gym bag, a visor, and a short sleeve athletic shirt.

However, the water stops every two miles was not enough when it got to the later parts of the race. Also, gels were only offered at mile 12 and I really wish they were available at other stations. I believe my time would have been a few minutes faster had there been more water and nutrition on the course. The finish line food was also disappointing, especially considering how many great vendors are in Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod! There were only bars, chips, and water. Thankfully, it was OK for me since I always bring my own bagel. Another complaint was that the Athlete Alerts did not work. My parents and Bryan signed up for them to see when I crossed miles 6, 13, 18, and 22, but never got any messages. However, I could view my splits online and they were e-mailed to me soon after I finished, which was very helpful.

Overall, I would do this marathon again and I would highly recommend it to friends (I am 99% sure they are going to fix the water thing next year!). A lot of people were steered away from this marathon because of the expense of staying in Martha’s Vineyard. Yes, the hotels on the Vineyard are expensive and required a two-night minimum stay. However, Bryan and I saved money by staying in Wood’s Hole. We cannot stop signing the praises of the Sands of Time Motel, which allowed us to stay for just one night. It was clean, comfortable, and a 5 minute walk from the Ferry and Pie in the Sky Bakery (good post-race treats!). The beach was right near by and it was great for walking around the day before the race. The staff could not have been more accommodating. I called ahead the night before and requested a refrigerator for our room so we could store our pre-race food, and they were happy to give us one. They normally start brewing hot water every morning at 6am, but happily started brewing at 5am the morning of the race so we could have coffee and tea before getting on the ferry. They were stocked with maps and tourist booklets, and had ferry tickets available for purchase. We definitely plan on staying there again!