Written by Dena Evans March 30, 2011
Having run 2:51 at the October 2010 St. George Marathon in Utah, Christine Kennedy has rested and re-cycled her training to prepare for a 50+ age group course record at April’s Boston Marathon. Having run 2:57 last year, Christine is hoping to break the mark of 2:54.21, set in 2000.
We caught up with Christine as she battled a bit of a cold, almost three weeks prior to race day.
Coach: So, the big day is almost here. Are you looking forward to it?
CK: Yesterday I wasn’t because I was sick! But, I feel the winter training has gone well, although [Emerald 12K] Across the Bay didn’t show that. My ten-miler [10 mile road race on March 6] was good, even while keeping up over 70 miles in the week. Having someone in the background doing all the work to plan the training really helps a lot!
Coach: Tell us a bit about the time you are shooting for.
CK: The course record for 50+ is 2:54.21, back in 2000 by Anne Roden. So I will try and run 2:52 and see what happens. I was invited to run with the elite women, but I decided to run with the sub-elites where I have plenty of people to run with. I feel much more confident with several 2:50 and 2:51 runners all around me.
I enjoy running the PA races [local Bay Area race series]. It is the same guys every week. Doug, one of the Aggies, said at the start line of Emerald Across the Bay, “ Hey Kennedy, you sticking with me today?” He caught me at 7k and was like “Where have you been?” I enjoy competing with the familiar faces.
Coach: What are the specifics in training that are making you confident heading into Boston?
CK: Well, taking a break after St. George – something I would never do before. Taking the month of November at 35-40 miles, but still doing a bit of track work. That has made me still feel fresh. Had I not had a coach, I would have just gone back to training harder and harder. Now, I am able to do two track workouts a week, and I feel strong. Mondays and Thursdays I get ART. If anything is tight, I get extra treatment. Once you feel something, the big thing is to take care of it right away .
Coach: What do you look forward to be thinking when you start to see the banners and the finish line around the last corner in Boston?
CK: I would love to see that clock saying 2:51 and knowing I’m going to make it. After all the miles you put in, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the Citgo sign and then the clock. I just want to see the clock at 2:51 this time instead of 2:57 like last time. It is also great to see the others who have been running alongside you around mile 20, being able to come across together and know they all are making it as well.
Houston, We have a problem....
I believed the third time would be the charm. My time to make a huge breakthrough, that big PR, my time to get after it. My legs and lungs had a completely different plan.
Approaching the race, I was confident in my race plan and hard work. I landed on Thursday, excited to meet some friends racing Saturday's USA Half Marathon Championships, loaded up with some good carbs and got a restful night of sleep. Friday, I rose for a quick run with some friends, then back to the hotel for a good long nap and off for run #2. I felt stale and sluggish, but knew that dinner with the other runners would give me some pep. I never feel great during taper, but something just felt off. Saturday morning, Tom and I ran a pre-race workout, cheering on Ryan Hall and Jen Rhines as they passed us at mile 12 of the Championship. I rested while my excitement grew, knowing all I had to do was follow the pacer and enjoy the journey to mile 20 and then let the race begin. Unbeknownst to be, I would have never seen mile 20 or for that matter really even enjoy the run.
I woke Sunday morning feeling relaxed, rested and ready to go for it. I was ready to show what all those months of training had done. The weather was a bit warm, but the forecasted storms held off and the race would start on time. After a pre-race prayer and national anthem with the other 22,000 runners, we were off.
I tucked in behind my pacers and joined the three other woman dreaming of a sub 2:40 marathon. I was thankful for the tall guys to block the wind and do all the hard work, but by mile 2 I knew there was something wrong. I didn't get nervous, as many of my training runs started sluggish but would settle into my rhythm. I continued on, but my breathing was labored and the pace feeling fast. I would fall off the pacers and then sprint back up to them, but by mile 11, my sprint wasn't strong enough to catch back on to them and off they went.
I told myself to stay on this pace and I would run a 2:41 marathon, still a huge PR. The road was slippery and every step I took felt like I was going backwards. Each mile got progressively slower but I still didn't give up. At mile 16, I saw Tom and continued on, but at mile 17 we made the decision to shut it down. DNF. Those three letters are the most painful thing to see together, especially next to my name.
I was numb... embarrassed... disappointed... in shock. I wasn't injured, didn't have stomach issues or muscle cramps. What was happening to me? I was stale. Mentally, I was ready, physically my body wanted a break. Deep down in my heart, I believe if I ran a marathon a week or two prior to Houston, I would have achieved my goal.
I am still extremely disappointed, but am trying to keep perspective. Marathons, whether good or bad, are a learning experience. I learned that with a strong running base I need a shorter training cycle. I learned that no matter how hard you train or focus on all the little stuff, it all depends on that day. I will be thankful for the learning experience in Houston this year when I return to toe the line at the Olympic Trials in 2012.
A final thanks all of my training partners, family, friends, Coach Tom and Dena, and a big thank you to my number one supporter, Paul. He biked with me during my long runs and paced on his bike during my hard long workouts. He cooked for me, cleaned the house, did laundry, and was there when I wanted to hide after the race.
Thanks for taking this trip with me. I hope you learned something too.
Patience, Trust, Confidence
The final three weeks before the big day. Reflecting on my short and sweet training cycle, three words continually surface in my mind from my training runs and races: patience, trust and confidence. These three words will keep me focused for the 26.2 mile endeavor I will embark on.
The key ingredient to racing success and the most difficult to achieve. My best workouts have all begun with patience, going out slower than I think I should and finishing strong. It is amazing the enjoyment and confidence a workout can provide when you have the mental and physical energy left in the tank to bring 'er home. A recent 10 mile race during my peak training showed what happens when you forget this and try and push when you shouldn't and struggle home. That is a memory that I will draw on early in the marathon and hold back even if I feel good.
Trust my coach... Trust your plan... Trust my training... I have relentlessly followed the plan to the last mile and workout for months on end, so why question it now. I have surrounded myself with people to instruct me in what will make me most successful on race day. Early on in working with Tom I ran a half marathon a month before the Napa Valley Marathon and he had me rest for three days after, something I never would have done and somewhat questioned at the time. “How am I suppose to run well at Napa if I am resting and not running hard???” I went on to run a huge PR in Napa and never questioned again. Trust the plan. I just finished my mini break after my 10 mile preparation race leading into my final marathon pace workout and I nailed it. Maybe there is something to this believing in your plan?!?
The one common quality all the runners I idolize possess. I hear it in their post race interviews, the ones believe they have the most heart to push when their legs are screaming ends up on the podium. They believe in themselves and all the work leading up to it. I know that going into Houston injury free and healthy will deliver the race I am dreaming of. Everything that I will encounter in the race I have experiences to draw from and push me through. I will toe the line more confident than I ever have, fearing nothing.
As the old saying goes, “ Third Time is a Charm.” It's my third marathon in the last twelve months, Chicago being three months ago. Will Houston be my Charm I have been wanting for some time now?
My legs are ready, my head is ready, lets go!
Leaving The Windy City for the Golden State in Hopes That Dreams DO Come True.....
I'll never forget driving to Chicago's Midway Airport on that early November morning, saying goodbye to my family and friends, and leaving all that I have known as home for 34 years. Since meeting Tom at the Men's Olympic Trials in 2007 and becoming a member of Focus-N-Fly, I have dreamt of being able to live and train in the Golden State.
As each November would approach, inevitably I would start to wonder, “how am I going to reach my goals training in this horrible cold weather.” I am sure that Tom was starting to wonder if I just did a copy and paste in my log, as every entry read the same, “XX mile run into 25 mph wind gusts, 20 below zero. Not a fun run.”
Every elite athlete would espouse how running in these harsh weather conditions would make me tough when race day would arrive, a la Rocky IV. Of course I didn't see any of them logging miles on Chicago's lakefront in February. So,every day, my husband would hear the grunts as I proceeded to don my three to four layers and head out to the path for another long run. I needed a change.
...to run without four layers of clothes on and icicles on my eyelashes.
...to do less laundry (four layers for two runs/day equals way too much laundry for one person).
...more hills, and overpasses don't count!
...more trails and beautiful spots to train.
...to see my coach 2-3x week vs 2-3x year.
What I really needed was to fall in love with running again. So, with the boxes packed, the good-byes said and the winter clothes hidden away, the journey to start my new life in Cali was set to begin.
Two months in, I am feeling stronger, healthier and have found my love of running that was lost under a two foot Chicago snowbank. I am looking forward to testing the California me at the Houston Marathon on January 30. Stay tuned...
ed note: Christine ran the October 2nd St. George Marathon in 2:51:36, a time that would have earned her the US best for 50+ female athletes if the course in Utah did not have quite so much elevation loss. Buoyed by her fantastic performance, Christine plans to run the Boston Marathon in April in the quest for the official recognition of that 50+ record. Now recovering and making plans for her future fall races, Christine took some time to recount her experience on race day.
I arrived in St George on Thursday, two days before the marathon. On Friday day before the race, I went for a 4 mile run; "4x1 mi @7:30 pace" is what my training schedule said. I had a horrific run, and could hardly breathe after 2 miles, so I decided to walk the last two miles back to the hotel.
With the race coming the next day, I had to use my psychological strengths. Going back into my memory, I pictured myself doing my absolute best training run: 3x1 mile @5:58 pace followed with 45 mins @ 7:20 pace followed by 3x 1 mile @ 6 mins just 4 weeks before the marathon. I had not done a session like this in years! I pictured myself how I would feel coming in to the finish line and seeing the finish line 2 hrs 52 mins. I just kept thinking of the finish line and knowing if I was not ready to race, Coach would have advised me not run. This reinforced my confidence. The work was done and Tom believed I was ready. That was all that mattered. I was ready.
On the morning of the race, I got the first bus to the start so that I could get to the bathroom and find a spot to stay warm. It was dark- only the heat of the fire pits kept us warm. I kept reminding myself how I was going to feel at the finish.
The gun goes off, and it is still dark. I have to run my pace slower than I have ever run a marathon. "Negative split," Tom had repeated over and over again. This race was for him - he believed I could do it. The 1st mile 7:50 pace , 2nd mile 7:45, and I gradually took it down so at the half way point I could just bring it home to a sub 2:52. I kept telling myself, "Just wait until you get to the halfway point, then you can race."
The sun came up at 8 miles, at the start of the 4 mile climb. I caught 2 girls and was now running 6:35 pace. I pulled away and it brought me back my strengths years ago. I felt really good. I passed another girl. Then I ran oblivious of others runners, only half hearing a bike rider shouting "Stay with her!" I was still looking of course for water and gels. I remember seeing the children outstretching their hands, but in my world I was only occupied with my thoughts of the finish.
When I reached mile 20 I thought, "This is phenomenal! This is the greatest day of my life!" I loved the downhill- the views were spectacular. At mile 25, I re-caught my friend from Ohio and passed him (he ran 2:52 at Boston). The last mile I felt I was full of running. Three blocks to go, the crowds were building up to several hundred with towels waving. I could not stop! I turned the corner, crossing the finish line 2 hrs 51:36 mins 5th overall 1st master and winning a trip to Ibigawa, Japan [the first over 40 athlete won a trip to Japan to compete in a half marathon in November].
Thanks Tom! You made it happen! It has taken me 10 years to run this time.
Written by Dena Evans September 29, 2010
As she prepares for her attempt at a sub 2:50 marathon and a future attempt at a 50+ Boston Marathon age group record, FNF caught up with this month’s In the Hunt contributor, Christine Kennedy, as she departed work to repack for this weekend’s race – turns out the forecast is for 103 degrees!
Christine is a newer member of Focus-N-Fly’s longtime morning training group in Palo Alto, California.
FNF: How have the last few weeks gone for you as you prepped for this weekend?
CK: Actually really good. I’ve been really happy with the training. It is so different from what I’m used to doing. It is always good to be open for change in anything and if be willing to change and learn something from someone who has already done it. It certainly is a totally new training for me. For instance, we did a track workout the week of leading to a marathon.
FNF: What would have been your pattern in the past?
CK: Sunday I’d do 10 mile run, then 4-5 mile easy runs the rest of the whole week. But nothing specific, nothing 6 minute pace. He’s [Coach Tom] is keeping me sharp all the time. It is exciting. I feel I am much better than I have been in a long time.
FNF: What are some details you have found out so far about the race?
CK: Well, it will be hot, but if it is hot it will be the same for everyone. I won’t worry about that until the morning of though. The race says there are 36 women under 3:00 listed, which seems like a lot.
FNF: The St. George Marathon is known for being a very fast, slightly net downhill course. Since it is no longer eligible to be an Olympic Trials Marathon qualifier, do you still want to set some records out there?
CK: This race is for me, to give me the confidence to go to Boston and break the Boston [age group] record. But, I’m trying out a whole new training program. Three months [since she joined FNF] is very short to have any major expectations, but Boston is the perfect training time. So after this, Coach can see where I am at and where I need to get to.
FNF: What are you looking forward to doing, in terms of race execution?
CK: The great thing is I feel very fit and feel more confident. Coach has given me back the confidence I need. The biggest thing is that first mile in 6:50 and next mile 6:40. Tom says if I go any faster, he’ll be watching!!! I’ll definitely do it his way. I'm excited to see what happens.
FNF: What have been some challenging workouts in this final lead-up to the race?
CK: Although there is a group of us out in the mornings [FNF’s longtime morning training group in Palo Alto, California], most of the workouts have been by myself. One really hard one was 3 mile repeats at 5:58 pace, then 45 min at 7:20 pace, then back to 3 miles at 5:58 pace. Coach ran the last two miles with me because there was nobody left on the track by the time I got back! That was great that he was willing to jump in and help me through it.
FNF: Anything else about your training cycle that has been different than most?
CK: Coach tells me I race too much. I’m very loyal to my team [Tamalpa], and it is very important to me to be able to help out the team in the cross country season. If there are four of us or five us scoring, I want to be a part of the team and help them out.
I’ve been going to the chiropractor twice a week and therapist once a week, so I’m living in both places basically! I feel like when I got there and get a massage; I can get back out there on the track. As soon as I finish the track I go get a workout on my body so next time I am ready again.
FNF: So, what’s next on the schedule following St. George?
CK: Well, Coach wants me to take a month off, but I’ll definitely take two weeks (laughter in voice) and learn to swim. We have clubs [Pacific Association Cross Country Championships on November 21], and the national cross country in December, so that will be what I am hoping to do.
FNF: Any final comments as you head out to the race?
CK: I think because I have heard so many people talk about how fast this race is, I’m look forward to seeing if this race is really downhill! I’m hoping to run 2:50. I think just knowing you have a faster turnover is good. You still have to run the 26 miles even if it is a bit downhill!
Best wishes to Christine from all of us at FNF!