State 22: B.A.A. Half Marathon

When I was looking for a race to choose for Massachusetts, I knew I wanted it to be in Boston.  I stumbled across the B.A.A. Half Marathon in 2015 but had missed registration for it.  As I read about the race, I learned that it’s part of a distance challenge and the best way to guarantee entry is to sign up for the medley of a 5k, 10k and half spread across the year.   In 2016 I paid special attention to registration deadlines, set an alarm on my phone and registered for the medley right on time.  I never had any intention of doing the first two races, just wanted a guaranteed entry to the half.

When I learned the 5k race shared weekends with THE Boston Marathon, I decided to run that as well.  Chap and I used my companion pass to both get out there, and made a weekend of the 5k race, my first trip to Boston and spectating the marathon.  (Side note: Before we left for this trip, I had just signed up for the Jack and Jill Marathon with Michelle.  This is the trip that inspired me to train to qualify. )  This post isn’t about that weekend so I’m not going to write much about it here, but enjoy the pictures!

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State 22: Massachusetts

I loved Boston so much in April and was thrilled to revisit it this fall.  I was looking forward to colored leaves and crisp temperatures.  Unfortunately we didn’t get either of those.  Chap has been a reliable and wonderful travel and race companion but he didn’t get invited on this trip.   I wanted to share my companion pass with a long time soul sister and so invited one of my very oldest and best friends Katie (also the one who got me to Tulsa!) to come run with me.

We had a mediocre training cycle.  Honestly the summer and early fall just kind of disappeared in front of our eyes.  We’re both small business owners, Katie has a two year old and while we managed to stay very committed to working out, we just didn’t get the weekend long runs in.  We made it up to 8 miles in training and I knew that would be enough to get us across the line so we called it good.

It also helped us to enjoy our trip – alleviating the pressure of going for a particular time on an unfamiliar course.  I try to plan two or three runs a year where I’ll really go for it and the others are just meant to be enjoyable.  Because of this we were able to eat and drink and walk all over Boston without worrying about it affecting our performance on Sunday.

You can read a play by play of our tour of Boston on the Studio blog here.

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Carb loading.  Not totally justified but still delicious.

I want to recap three pros and three cons of the race on this blog today, more of a review of the event than the trip.

Pros

  1. Boston.  Boston is a historic city on its own.  But there is so much running history too.  One morning Katie and I went to the river to do a few shakeout miles and on our way back to the train stop, I saw a group of girls running through Boston Common who I recognized but couldn’t quite pinpoint.  I later recognized them as the women behind my favorite planner – Believe Training Journal.
  2. Race organization.  Our bibs were mailed to us.  We picked up our shirts at the finish line.  There was no waiting around or messing with an expo and it was awesome.
  3. Race course.  The course was scenic and beautiful.  We ran through the Emerald Necklace park system.  It was pretty full of rolling hills which I wasn’t really prepared for but we handled them (thanks, Tulsa).

Cons

  1. The Weather.  This was out of anyone’s control of course but our plans to just run and then dry shampoo our hair when we got back to the Air BnB (when we thought it would be in the 50s) went out the window in the first mile.  No one’s fault but still.
  2. Race organization.  There were over 6,000 runners and a single start!  On narrow park trails.  That is crazy to me.  Maybe because they’re Boston and they can get away with it.
  3. Race course. Though scenic, it was crowded because of the single start.  Parts of it had us running against later miles of the course and it was especially tight then.  And smelly.  Lots of humid, sweaty runners.

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    Crowded

This was definitely just a checkmark state and more of an excuse to go back to Boston with a best girlfriend.  It’s always better with some company, and not always about setting PRs, breaking 2 hours or running the whole way.

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Pre Race (we’re as tired as we look)

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If you want to be coached to your first or fastest race, email me!  coachsprenkel@gmail.com.  Customized plans, including run workouts, strength workouts and stretching.

 

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Rudolph Run Week 11 Update

This week was pretty exciting for me.  We officially started our running club at StudiOne and I checked off another state (#22) on my half marathon quest.  My typical running days fall on the same days we host the club at the Studio so I took a little detour from my specific plan this week to make sure our group was all set to go.  We had a lot of fun, everyone worked really hard and I’m thrilled to get this program going for Tulsa!

  • Track:  I was supposed to get in 5×800 but the girls in the group weren’t ready for that distance yet so we dropped down to 400s.  I took some time running with each participant so wasn’t at my pace.  But I figured since it’s race week and all, any miles out there are good miles.  2.29 total.
  • Tempo:  Similar story here.  Usually I’ll tack on some additional miles after our group run, but today I did not.  I had a lot of work to get done before trying to pack for the Boston trip, and considered any miles logged good miles.  I went 2.66 with the group at a comfortable pace.
  • Shake-out:  This was a bonus run for the week.  Katie and I got to Boston on Friday for our Sunday race.  I knew the race was going to be in a park system and not around the downtown area so I asked if she would go with me for an easy run around the Charles.  She said yes and we got 2.48 done on Saturday.
  • Long: RACE!  This week my long run got to be the B.A.A. Half Marathon.  Katie and I ran it together and because of the surprisingly warm weather, rolling hills and lack of proper endurance training, we walked a little bit.  Our goal was to finish and have some fun doing it, and also get to explore Boston a little.  We walked probably a half marathon distance on Saturday (not ideal race prep!) but didn’t want this run to slow down our sightseeing.  The race ran through the park system in the southwest part of town.  I wasn’t crazy about the course, mostly because I think I’d rather run through some parts of the city, but it was scenic and lovely.  A few leaves starting to turn on the trees. (I’ll post more details about our Boston Trip later this week).

Total Miles: 20.9

Overall, even though this week didn’t go exactly to plan (only 2 Fit Camps, no yoga and not prescribed runs), I am pleased with the consistency of the days and my flexibility around our trip.

The Greatest Adventure

I wrote this post for our StudiOne blog right after the race but I never shared it here.  I’m not sure how much crossover there is between my two worlds but I wanted to re-share it here because I think there’s an important message about believing in yourself in my story.   Mine is specifically running, but yours could be anything else.  Job, school, relationships.  Put in the work and see what happens before you sell yourself short.  You just might believe you can do it (I’ll be trying again next year!).

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Whose idea was this anyway?

Last weekend, StudiOne instructor Michelle and I traveled to the west coast to run in our Jack and Jill Marathon.  We’d been training for 16 weeks in hopes of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  I, Sprenkel, was originally planning to accompany Michelle on her BQ attempt and check off the half marathon distance of my 21st state.  But, on the day we registered back in February, the half was already sold out.  So I committed to the full, but only reluctantly.  I, Sprenkel, who after my last marathon in 2013 called my dad to make him promise to never let me sign up for another one, was game to run 26.2 miles again (never say never, eh?) but was not interested in the work or idea of qualifying for Boston.  Well, ok the idea of it because what runner isn’t?  But I am a half marathoner, a recent 5k racer and never in my 10 years of running would I have considered myself strong enough to qualify for Boston.  Never.  (This is important, are you getting it?)

Somewhere between the time of signing up and starting our official training, I’d been convinced by two women that I could at least train like I wanted to qualify.  One of them was Michelle, who was begging for a training partner, and also believed in me before I did.  The other was Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to register and run in the infamous 1967 Boston Marathon.  I listened to her speak in April and this line brought me to tears, “We are very good at underestimating what we’re capable of.”  That settled it.  I flew home to Michelle and we started training the very next week.  Who am I to stand in my own way?

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Lots of miles on Brookside

The first half of training went really, exceptionally well.  Our schedules matched so we were able to run most of our training days together.  The weather was great, we were hitting our paces and the grudge of weeks and miles of training hadn’t set in yet.  Then more than halfway through, our schedules changed, the weather turned nasty and the long miles dragged on.  I was making bets left and right to help me eat right and get the last of my miles in.  But we dug in and got the training done.

Going into the race, we were both unsure of what to actually expect.  Michelle scoped out the course that was most likely to get us a fast time, which is why we hauled ass across the US to run.  The 40 degree temperature difference would certainly work in our favor and so would the downhill.  But still, that doubt lingered that we could hit the low 8:00 paces because we hadn’t been in the Tulsa heat and humidity.  I almost tossed in the BQ towel before the race even started.

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Shakeout run on the sound

We had a beautiful first full day in Seattle that we spent carefully eating and touring around.  We went for a shakeout run on the river at noon time and barely broke a sweat.  It was heaven.  There was a lot of chatter about our race strategy to keep us from going out too fast.  I definitely couldn’t pull one of my 5k race starts where I bolt out of the gate – too many miles for that.  We made sure to stock up on fuel for during the race (my Aunt Annie’s fruit snacks) and a blanket for the start line since we would be waiting around for an hour.  We tried to go to bed early but our nerves kept us up later than we would have liked.  Luckily we were running on more than 12 hours of sleep from the previous night.

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Marathon morning

Race day came at 3am on Sunday.  We got dressed in our layers and put our glide on all the proper seams.  There are so many sequential things important in this time period.  We had to leave by 3:45 am to make it to our 4:30 bus on time.  After we were dressed and made sure we had all the watches, headphones, playlists, snacks and pills (salt and Aleve) we would need, we made our breakfast of steel cut oats and ran out the door.

I stayed surprisingly calm throughout the whole morning.  I get more nervous for 5ks than I did for this.  I was calm on the bus, although I did get a little annoyed at all the race chatter going on on the bus.  At that point, you’ve done everything you can to get ready for the race and I didn’t want to hear any more what if this happens or what if that happens?  I stayed calm as we huddled under our blanket waiting for the start.  Even stayed calm on the walk to the start line and the quick hop into the bushes for one last bathroom break (hey it happens, and you don’t want to have to stop on the course if you’re going for time).  Before I knew it, we were off, and I was still calm.

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Headlamps for the tunnel

It felt so good to be running.  The mountains were incredible, the temperature was perfect and I had my best running pal by my side.  Without a definite plan still, I just wanted to run by feel and keep a mindful approach to my breath and effort levels.  About half a mile in we hit the famous Snoqualmie tunnel.  For about 2.5 miles of disorienting darkness, we paced behind the 3:35 pace man.  It was quiet except for the steps of runners, and occasional drip drip of water in puddles and the steady breathing of a dozen people around me.  I didn’t have any signal in the tunnel so had no music in my ears.

At mile 3 we popped out the other side and I was so happy to be able to see the whole ground beneath me.  I shed my top long sleeve layer and tossed the headlamps into the bucket.  Soon after, a flood of my Motigo messages for miles 1-3 came all at once.  Michelle and I laughed out loud in excitement of the familiar voices.

For a good amount of miles after the tunnel, we ran together, comfortably and steadily.  The scenery was indescribable and I wished often that I wasn’t racing so I could have stopped to take pictures.  We were surrounded by beautiful green trees, an expansive blue sky above us and the green landscape was dotted with bright, colorful flowers beside the trail.  Somewhere in those middle miles, I looked at Michelle and said, “I think we can make it.”

When we got to the mile 15 water stop, I knew some of the toughest miles were ahead of us.  I was still feeling strong so I kept a pretty good pace.  I have to walk through the water stops or I’ll swallow too much air, but I tried to move as quickly as I could.  Working for the next mile marker and Motigo message with every step.  The water tables were about two miles apart and by 17 I didn’t have Michelle in my sights anymore when I looked back over my shoulder.  We’d made an agreement that we would stay together as long as we could, but then if one of us needed to push on, to leave the other.

There’s a famous quote in the running world: “The first half of the marathon is 20 miles, the second half is the last 6.2”.  And y’all is there truth to that.  When I hit mile 20, I was still moving along at goal pace but then it’s like all at once all your systems start to shut down.  Knees, feet and ankles were aching.  Soon the shoulders joined in the party.  I felt like I was going as fast as I could but I also knew I had slowed down.  But I kept moving.  Keep moving for the cheers!  I was always excited to see who would be there to greet me at the next mile.   And I even got a little miffed on a few miles when I knew there were certain people aware of the difficulty of those miles (18 and 20).

Those final six miles passed so slowly and at this point, after the 3:35 pacer passed me, I had no expectation of hitting a qualifying time.  But I was still so so amazed at my own run.  The last mile was the hardest: Motigo had no option for cheers at mile 26 (something I plan to speak to them about), a man on the sidelines cheering shouted out, “Just under 500 yards to go” and I spent at least 500 yards trying to figure out how far that is in meters, and still had no finish line in sight, and my shoulders were aching so much.  I’d developed a calf cramp that had modified my gait a little bit and was pretty much shuffling along the trail.  Then I saw it.  And perked up a bit.  Despite all the pain, I still felt surprisingly strong so I put on my best sprint and crossed the finish line.

I took my medal and two bottles of water before trotting back to find Michelle.  She finished strong, not far behind me.  We both hobbled around gathering up snacks and our start line bags.  We called or texted our biggest fans with our times and limped over to the shuttle bus.  Michelle couldn’t feel her legs and I had such a bad cramp in my shoulder that I couldn’t move my left arm.

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We did it!

Looking back, a week later, I don’t remember any sadness or disappointment from either of us.  During the race I was reminded so powerfully of the magic of running, and especially the magic of a well-trained for marathon.  They’re not always enjoyable, and not every step of Jack and Jill was bliss.  But, for most of those 26.2 miles, I felt fearless, strong and capable.  I thought back on training struggles, days I wanted to give up, and doubts I had in myself.  I remembered years ago when running used to be a punishment to myself for overeating or indulging in delicious food.  And I celebrated that now running is a tool I use to feel strong and able.  I listened with so much love in my heart to my messages from friends and family, near and far.  I was overwhelmed with gratitude and humility that so many people would take time out of their days to cheer for me (Motigo founder reached out to me to tell me I set the record for cheers in a single race <3).

Before the race, I thought of one of my favorite quotes, “Maybe it won’t work out, but maybe seeing if it will is the greatest adventure ever.”  I was at peace at that starting line that even if we missed it, I grew as a runner in that training cycle.  My perception of myself and my capabilities completely shifted.  I never missed a track workout. I completed long runs in the 80+ degrees of the Tulsa summer, while friends were in town and before vacations.  I ran on treadmills on cruise ships.  I said no to brunch and dinner plans, donuts and ice cream for 16 weeks.  And oh man, did Michelle and I adventure through the city streets and weather of Oklahoma.  But I grew.  I stretched.  I pushed.  Michelle gave me the nudge I needed to at least think about it, and then the support I needed to get through it.  Kathrine gave me the push to commit to trying.  And I gave myself permission to fly.  I can’t wait to go back and get that BQ!

Don’t stand in your own way y’all.  We are our biggest critics, doubters and obstacles.  If you need a nudge, or a support team like I had, myself, Teresa and the students and teachers at StudiOne can help you.  It’s fall racing season in Tulsa – pick an October or November race and see what you can do!

 

Jack + Jill 26.2: Week 14 Recap

I’m going to (try to) start doing a weekly review of the training for the week before.  This will likely be pretty dry for most of you out there (unless Michelle and I continue to have long run adventures like the one this weekend!).  But, I want to highlight the ups and downs of a training cycle this long and intense mostly for myself but also so that those of you who want to go for it can see what it’s like and maybe, hopefully be inspired.

So.  14 weeks to go.  3.5 months.  Seems far away still.

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Monday: Mondays are a circuit day for me.  I also want to make them a yoga day, but I’m not waking up early enough to go to the 6am class at StudiOne.  It’s a weekly struggle.  I did get in 3 rounds of full body circuits, and a little bit of yoga simply from teaching to my class.

Tuesday: Track day!  I ran a descending ladder today with the StudiOne track group.  My target track pace for Boston is really fast (to me).  I aim for under 7 min average on every track interval.  I hit it today and felt really strong!  Tried the Run Fast Eat Slow Beet Smoothie after and almost loved it.

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Track day

Wednesday: More circuits.  And I went to Rachel’s 5:30pm flow class at StudiOne.  I want to make Wednesday a yoga and circuit day too.  Nailed it this week!    I had my first appointment with Dr. Brandon Washatka DC that Michelle recommended to me.  My shoulder has been hurting, feeling a little bit like tendonitis, my low back feels compressed and my left hip is very tight.  I always have to very carefully open up into Warrior 2 from Warrior 1.  I told him all of this and went over other health history things.  He cracked me a few times, and I felt like a completely new person when I left.  My neck and shoulder muscles relaxed, which released some of the pressure on my shoulder, my low back felt like it had space again and my hip is bothering me less.  I’m going to keep going to him on his recommendation throughout the training.

Thursday: This is a buddy run day.  Michelle and I get together around 8:30 after my first two classes to crank through a tempo run.  Sometimes we follow the template and sometimes we just run hard.  Today we went for 1 mile easy, 5 miles hard and 1 mile easy.  We made it but both almost puked at the end of that 5 mile interval.  I could feel a difference from the adjustment and think I ran stronger because of it.

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Tempo

Friday: Rest day for me.

Saturday: Taught yoga class so got a little bit of a stretch.  Ideally we’ll run long on Saturdays but an actual monsoon descended on Tulsa today so we didn’t run.  I did my third circuit in the afternoon at the Studio so that I can practice running long on tired legs.

Sunday: Long run.  Went 17 miles!  This is the farthest I’ve run in over 4 years.  I was surprised how easy it felt not only to go that far but to maintain our pace.  We strategically drove to southwest Tulsa so we could have the northeast wind at our back most of the way.  It was a beautiful morning and we enjoyed adventuring along the river and on the backroads of Jenks.  We encountered flooded roads to wade through, 20+mph winds and a little sleet storm on our cooldown.  All kinds of crazy weather.  And then, we brunched.

Overall, this was a great week for me.  I feel healthy and strong in my bones and muscles and we hit all our target pace times.  Maybe I can do this after all…..

Boston Distance Medley

Back when I was researching specific races to check some more states off, I came across the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) half marathon, hosted in October.  I stumbled across this race last summer and it was already too late to register for it, but I made a point to pay attention to registration this year.

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Boston bound!

As I was double checking the registration date, I stumbled across a series of events called the Boston Distance Medley.  This race series includes a 5k, 10k and the half marathon.  Registration for the series opened up before all of the others and it guarantees your entry into each race.  I figured the little bit of extra money for all three was worth it to make sure I got into both the 5k and half, my two target races.

As excited as I am to cross the state off in October for the half marathon, I’m actually more excited for the 5k in April (I’ll probably skip the 10k.  Three trips to Boston is a little much for me in one year, when there are other states to cross off!)  The race is Saturday, April 15 which is 13 weeks away. That gives me the Sweetheart Race and the St. Patricks Day Run to practice breaking that 22 mark, and then I can really go for it on a historic course!  And the best part?  Marathon Monday is the Monday right after the 5k so of course I’ll stick around to see one of the (if not THE) most historic runs in the world.  Not sure if I’m more excited for my race, or that race.

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Nothing motivates like a race deadline

I’m hoping to find someone to go with me, either to run the race or just to go watch the marathon but this is one trip I’m so excited about I’d do it solo if I had to!

Any suggestions for things to do in Boston?!

Recent Inspiration

I’m back! It’s been a while since I put my fingers to work over these black keys for the purpose of a blog post…they’ve been doing plenty of typing of masters reports and grade updates for students though!  Now that graduate school is officially over I am beyond thrilled to have more time to write, build, run and interact with y’all.  Miley, too.

I must say, I’m quite impressed with my efforts to maintain a running schedule through the end of the school year.  I had no specific races on the calendar (not since the epic mess of Arkansas in February!) and was mostly just trying to remember to run in between teaching anatomy and writing that report.  I managed to maintain a running streak and just today surpassed 100 miles since April 14.

I did sneak off to Tulsa last weekend and ran an impromptu 5k on Friday night.  It was the Cinco de Mayo 5k hosted by Fleet Feet Tulsa.  My running friend Ryan (we met at the Route 66 Half last November, and ran NOLA together in February) was there and convinced me to jump in at the last minute.  I had no expectations, especially since I had just hopped out of a seven hour car ride, but wanted to keep up with him.  I stayed close and managed to finish in 23:40 which for me, is pretty darn fast!  I was surprised and pleased with my time and when he texted me later to tell me I won a first place age group medal I thought he was kidding!  I’ve run faster times than that and not placed at all!

My Surprise Hardware

My Surprise Hardware

This recent success has me thinking (always dangerous).  First, I need some goals.  Second, how fast could I be if I really trained?  Third, maybe it’s time to consider Boston.  I’d like to address each of those thoughts here.

1.  Goals – My goal is to spend the summer training under the tutelage of Gilbert of Gilbert’s Gazelles here in Austin.  By the start of August I will try to complete a half in 1:42:20 (PR) and a 5k in 22:05.  To reach these times I will attend Gilbert’s workouts at least twice per week and supplement the other days with my own design.

2. Trained – Really training to me means several things.  Running fast.  In order to be fast, you gotta train fast.  Hydration, rest, nutrition.  I’m all in.

3. Boston – I have never had a desire to run Boston.  Mostly because it would entail TWO more marathons – the qualifier and Boston itself.  But now I do.  I have that desire.  It crept up on me this year watching the live stream of the race and seeing a few friends complete it.  I want those stripes.  I want the blue and yellow.  I want Boston.

Here’s the thing about #3 though.  I have to be fast.  So fast.  My qualifying time is 3:35 (<8:12 per mile) and my fastest marathon time is about 45 minutes slower than that.  I have big doubts.  And big fears of failure.  So my approach is thoughtful.  I will spend the summer training session to target the half distance (1:42:20 or 7:47 per mile) and if I can hit that time come August, I’ll start ramping up for marathon training.

I should go back to school, all this free time is making me have crazy ideas!

What are you training for?  Do you have summer goals?  I’d love to hear about them!