Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I Ran Through History

Photo courtesy of Brightroom Photography.
March 26, 2011 - National Marathon, Washington, DC

This was my first marathon. I had no idea what to expect. I had trained. I had worked. I had focused for four months. I hadn't had any injuries, but with being diagnosed with walking pneumonia one month before the race, I wasn't sure what to expect. I didn't really have time goals, although I did have an idea of what I wanted. I did have a few goals:

1. Finish under 5 hours (under 4:45 would be a bonus).
2. Don't stop and don't walk.
3. Don't lose anytime in the porta potties.
4. Enjoy it as much as possible.

Here's a glimpse of how the day went....

We woke up at 4:30. We had stayed with friends in Fairfax the night before and wanted to make sure we gave ourselves plenty of time to get to the starting line. We left the house at 5:30. Should be plenty of time for a 7 am start right? Well, we were cruising along and doing well on time, until about three miles from RFK (the start) stadium. And then it was traffic. At 6:10, we could practically see the stadium, but we were stuck in traffic. It took us about 30 minutes to go two and half miles. I really, really need to use the bathroom (nerves) and knew I needed a few minutes to calm down before starting. At 6:45 I got out of the car, said goodbye to Matt and walked the rest of the way. Although I got there as the race was starting, I decided to use the facilities before I crossed the starting line - no time lost there, right? I waited in line for about 10 minutes. In that time, Matt got to the parking lot, parked the car and met me back at the porta potties. I could have stayed in the car.

Waiting to start. You'll notice that I look like I was running in the winter. I really wanted to wear capris and a t-shirt, but I am much more likely to be cold than hot. And although I ditched the pink shirt at mile 14, I was never hot on the race. Next marathon, though, I am wearing shorts and a tank!!!! I'm done with bundling up for runs.

Anyway, after my potty break I was ready to roll. I never made it to my coral because it was 7:15 at this point and I just jumped in with everyone else. I crossed the start at 7:16 am. I started off slow (it felt REALLY slow), to counteract my natural tendency to start off too fast. I didn't have music on - just listening to the thousands of feet pounding the pavement. By about a half mile in, my nerves were gone - I was doing it. No need to be nervous anymore. And then it hit me how cool it was that I was FINALLY running a marathon. So cool! And then running up to the Capitol was awesome. Probably my favorite section of the whole race. It was right about here that Tonia and her running crew passed me. I introduce myself, accepted her encouragement (thanks Tonia!) and raced on. Kind of fun to meet a "celebrity" on the way!

Right around Mile 6, Dupont Circle, we met our first beast of a hill. It was an impressive hill, but I was ready thanks to all my months of running Heartbreak Hill. I didn't feel like the hill beat me and felt great coming back down. A few more rolling hills to get through in the next couple of miles. I was still running without music and talked to a few runners along the way. At one point, two young girls running the half noticed I was running the full, cheered me on, told me I looked strong, and I continued on. It helped to have a little bit of encouragement along the way.

Speaking of which, I had my earphones in the whole time and throughout the race various family members and my hubby would call and if I felt like I could answer and talk, I would. It was great! It was really a boost when I needed it. It seemed that someone called every time I really needed some encouragement.

As I reached mile 10, I was still feeling strong. I had run through a little bit of knee pain, and some tiredness in my chest, but really was feeling great. I knew that the split off at mile 13.1 could be difficult (having heard from runners who'd done this race) so I was prepping myself mentally. I passed my friends (and training partners) Justin and Kristin as the course wrapped around and looped. I wasn't sure how far ahead of me they were - and I'm kind of glad, because I think it might have bummed me out. We split off from the 1/2-ers and things got quiet. Not completely, but it was definitely quieter. Running around the back of RFK seemed to take FOREVER. Maybe because I knew Matt would be at mile 14 and was looking forward to that, or because it was ugly.

Right before mile 14. See? I'm the only one bundled up. Oh well, I was comfortable.

I saw Matt at mile 14. I ditched my top layer, which took a little longer than I expected because my watch fell apart in the process and Matt had to fix it. I kept running and he caught up with me, gave me some Swedish Fish and I was on my way. I finally turned music on at mile 15. Couple of really good songs came on my Pandora running station. Then at mile 16, we went through a big ol' long tunnel. The song for that tunnel and for another 1/2 mile was Send Me On My Way by Rusted Root. I'd heard the song before, but it took on all new meaning and is, for the time being, my favorite running song.

At Mile 17 I got totally emotional because I had single digits to go. I was still feeling strong. I was tired and a bit sore, but didn't have any real pain. Nothing I hadn't run through before. I knew I was going to see Matt at mile 20 and I was looking forward to that. After Lady Gaga's Just Dance, I turned the music off. I wanted to focus on how on my breathing, my feet, how I was feeling and what I had ahead of me. For months I've heard that the last six are the toughest, so I was going to take the next 2 miles to prep for that. Mile 18 felt long. I remember wondering if I was going to hit a wall...but I didn't. Then mile 19. And then I saw Matt at mile 20. He gave me a couple Starbursts, encouraged me on and said he'd see me at the finish. I ditched my hat and was on my way.

Running across the bridge right after mile 20.

Those last six miles were tough. I was tired and I knew that there were hills at mile 24. Physically my legs felt heavy and my feet hurt. But mentally, I felt really strong. I was able to keep thoughts of doubt from creeping it. I really just kept focusing on each mile...and the miles kept ticking off. I had lots of encouragement in those last six miles. I think from mile 22 on, I had someone talking in my ear the whole time. Of course I wasn't responding much, but it was nice to hear Matt pushing me forward and cheering me on. The hills from mile 24 to 25 were just plain mean. Seriously, who puts hills in the last two miles?! Especially those kinds of hills. But I was able to run them without stopping to walk.

And then it was the last 1.2 miles of the race. If I hit a wall, it might have been during this last little bit, as crazy as it sounds. I knew I had to cross a bridge and that the finish line was somewhere after the bridge....but I didn't know where. And as I crossed the bridge, I saw a red sign with white lettering. I don't have great eye sight, so I thought that was the finish line. I could hear the crowd but couldn't tell if there were people at the "finish line" so I thought that's what I was approaching. About .2 miles away from the sign I realized it wasn't the finish line (it was a car ad) and that I had farther to go, uphill, than I thought. That was the first time I thought, "Wow, I really don't want to run anymore. I just kind of want to be done." Luckily my husband was in my ear telling me how close I was while I was kind of running blindly for a finish that I wasn't sure was going to come. So I kept on, keeping on. It really wasn't that long, but it felt like an eternity. As I was approaching Matt said, "I know you're tired and I know you're hurting, but when you cross the finish line, smile so I can get a good picture."

So I did. I smiled. And not just because he told me to. Because I was truly happy. I had run a marathon. I had done better than I could have hoped. I felt (relatively) good. I had accomplished my goals. My time was 4:38:35. I only walked through aid stations. I stopped to stretch once. And I never stopped at the porta potties. All in all, it was a success. And yes, I totally want to do another marathon. I've told Matt I'll take a break for the time being, but I definitely want to do one again. And now that I know what to expect and I can set real time goals, all I can say is "bring it on".

I wanted to share my splits. I don't have a GPS and there weren't mile markers (WHAT?!?!) so I don't know each mile split, but the official splits are:

1 Mile - 9:59
10K - 1:02:00
Half - 2:13:17
20 Miles - 3:27:33
Full - 4:38:35

These number help me know where I can push next time.

A few post-race pictures...

Me and Kristin, my training buddy. She ran with her husband and finished under 4 hours. Awesome!

With the man. Couldn't have done it without him. Any of it.

Matt, Rachel, Kristin and Justin.

Anyway, I have a few more thoughts on the marathon itself, the thoughts I've had since and what's next, but this post is long enough so I'll save all that for another day.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

National Marathon - FINISHED!

I finished the National Marathon...on my feet. I met all my goals and it was AWESOME! More to come....
{And because I feel I need to point chip time was faster than the clock time.}

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

T minus 2 days.

My marathon is almost here. Just two full days. I can't believe it. I have been thinking about this marathon for 6 months. I've been training for it for four months. I have so many thoughts running through my head, but can't get them down. I'm hoping to revisit the blog before the big race, but not sure I will.

I am currently planning the next couple of days - getting everything packed, making sure I have everything, a few last minute errands, getting my mom situated with the kiddos, etc. I have decided to take quite a few running clothes because the weather has changed so much in the last few days. Right now it's supposed to be partly cloudy in the low 40s. I'll take it all and then decide. We leave Friday morning. Agh!

I am nervous and excited and scared and ready and terrified and tired and pumped and....well, you get the point. It's almost here! Stay tuned...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Three Things Thursday

1. Holy crap! My marathon is so close. Close enough that I was able to check the weather (54 degrees and sunny) for the day. Close enough that I have my bib number (968) and coral number (9 - I'm pretty far back there). Close enough that I have butterflies all. day. long. Close enough that I have my "outfit" all picked out - pictures to come.

2. I went on a quick three mile run this morning. My legs were so tired and sluggish and kind of in pain and for a minute, it scared me. I kept thinking, "What if my legs feel like this on my first three miles of the marathon?" Of course I was running faster than I plan to come marathon, but still. Luckily they loosened up and it was all good. Scared me for a minute.

3. It's no longer winter here...time for an update. I need a new blog topper picture. I'm hoping my husband will take a good one during the marathon.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"My new shoes make me run faster"

I said this to my husband this last night and he laughed at me...rightly so. I got Nike Vomero+ 5 on Monday (after going to Marathon Sports and trying a bunch of different kinds) and I was so excited to wear them. Maybe it's not my new shoes, but considering that I set a 10K PR last night - knocking nearly 5 minutes off my last official 10K time (Tufts, October '10) - it felt like it might be the shoes.

I actually headed out with a full intention to set a PR. I needed speed. After being held back because of sickness, I needed to unleash it. And I did. My splits....

Mile 1 - 8:10
Mile 2 - 8:20
Mile 3 - 8:46
Mile 4 - 9:26 (this was tough mile - lots of hills)
Mile 5 - 8:53
Mile 6 - 8:17
Mile 6.2 - 2:11
Average - 8:43

It was not easy - especially after those first two miles. My legs felt like they were going to give up on me, but we kept pushing on. Mile 4 I really slowed back because I knew I needed to in order to come back strong for the last two. For the second half of my run I was listening to Ultramarathon Man, the chapters where he covers his first Western States 100 Mile run. At one point, he quoted his first coach who said, "If it doesn't hurt like hell, you're not doing it right." I must have been doing it right because my legs hurt like hell on that last mile. They gave it everything they had...and then some. I love my legs for that.

And with just 10 days away from the marathon, I am feeling good. No, I will not be running the marathon at this pace. Never has been my plan. Not sure if I'll even run one mile at a 8:43 pace. But it felt good to do this. It felt good to know that my body can and will still work. Bring it on.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

13 Miles and No Sweets

I ran 13 miles this morning. The longest distance since my 20-miler three weeks ago and since the pneumonia hit. It felt good. I never got completely exhausted, which was a relief. I was still super sore from P90X the day before, but the running actually helped loosen up all those muscles...until I stopped! It was good to know that I haven't lost it in these weeks of recovery.

Also, with the marathon two weeks ago, I have decided to give up sweets completely until after the race. I have been off and on with the sugar for the last couple of months. I want to get it all out of my system before the big day. I am announcing this here to make myself accountable. There you have it hold me to it!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

3 Things Thursday: Apparel

1. I am buying new shoes today. I'm taking Hal Higdon's advice not to run my race in the shoes I've been training in. I have been running in Nikes for the last year and 3 months. Although I've never really thought of Nike as being great for running shoes, I have loved these shoes. So I wasn't surprised when I went into Marathon Sports and he recommended the Nike Vomero+ 5. I also learned that I am neutral runner - I don't supinate or over-pronate. That was cool to learn.

2. I want a running hat with a visor. I'm done with my winter running cap. Any suggestions for running hats? Any particular brand that has worked for you?

3. With my marathon just over two weeks away, I decided I need new running shorts/capris/pants and maybe a new shirt. Trying to decide what colors I want to run in. Obviously I am a big fan of pink and black, but I've done that a lot. Maybe it's time for a change. My shoes have blue accents, but I don't really look good in blue. Maybe purple? What are your favorite colors to run in?

Monday, March 7, 2011

I did it.

I went on my first post-walking pneumonia run. Just 4 miles (75% of what I was scheduled to do). And it was a fairly slow 4 miles. But I did it and it felt good. My body appreciated it. I could tell. My legs were happy. My heart was happy. I was happy. And the cloud has lifted. I'm not sure I'm 100% better so I'm still taking it easy. I'm not doing as many miles and what I do do will be slow. But it felt SO GOOD to get out. Really amazing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I have been MIA for the last two weeks. Less than 48 hours after my race I came down with a horrific cold/flu. I had it all - throwing up (although not much), diarrhea, chills, fever, body ache, cough, sore throat, etc. Monday and Tuesday I was completely wiped out and good for nothing. Wednesday I felt a little bit better but still laid low. On Thursday I woke up, for the first time, not feeling like death. The Nyquil did it's job and I slept so well. So I went about my day running errands and getting my house in order. That night I went on a 4-mile run with a friend. I came home feeling TERRIBLE. I almost never feel worse after a run, but it was bad. I didn't sleep as well that night and woke up on Friday feeling really sick and weak. My stomach hurt and was unsettled. I could not, no matter how hard I tried, warm up. It didn't matter what I was wearing or how many blankets I was using, I was just cold. The day did get a bit better, although I went to bed still not feeling great.

I got up for my run (13 miles) and headed out the door. I was feeling a little bit better, but determined to take it easy. Luckily my running partner had the same goal in mind (she was recovering as well). It was not an easy run. My stomach was giving me fits for the first 5 miles and mentally I felt completely beat. Around mile 7 I started to feel a heaviness in my chest. It hurt to breath. I called my husband at mile 8 and asked him to come get me (first time I've ever done that). I knew he was going to be awhile since my daughter was still asleep so I kept running until about mile 9 and then I couldn't run anymore. But it was too cold to just stop, so I walked. I finally convinced my running partner to go ahead and run home (took a LOT of convincing - she's a good friend like that) and I kept walking. I walked until about mile 10 when my husband pulled up and drove me home.

He'd had enough and while I was showering he called the doctor and set up an appointment (like he'd been trying to get me to do all week). I went in early that afternoon and was diagnosed with walking pneumonia. Seriously. I was totally freaked out because my marathon is FOUR WEEKS AWAY! I asked her if it would take that long to recover and she said it was up to me and how willing I am to rest.

So, since Saturday afternoon, that's about all I've done. I've slept and read and watched movies and done minimal cleaning. I've had friends watching my kids, bringing in dinner and checking in on me. My husband's been super helpful when he's been home. I've cried a few times to my husband and sister because this kind of set back just doesn't feel like a good thing at this point in the game. And I've been super nervous about what this is going to do to me and my marathon.

I still haven't gone running and I'm really trying to decide when to go again. I don't want to push it and end up regretting it. I've talked to a few running friends and even emailed Tonia (thank you for the immediate response!) to get opinions on where to take my training from here. So far everyone agrees that since I've already run 20 miles, I will be able to run my marathon. It may not be fast, but I should be able to do it. I'm going to cut back on my running and will just listen to my body for my next three weeks. I didn't have a time goal, since it's my first marathon, so I'm just trying to focus on gaining strength and getting better. And when race day comes, I'll do my best. And it will be great.