When I was amidst of finding out whether or not I had a sacral stress fracture a few weeks ago, I felt pretty down with the possibility of not being able to run the Mt. Summit Challenge. I was already signed up for this race way before the term ‘stress fracture’ even entered my mind. And once I was cleared to run again by my orthopedic, Dr. Aaron Mares, I was ecstatic that I was still going to be able to participate in this race. You see, the Mt. Summit Challenge is the very first race that I ever ran - my very first finish line, a life changing moment for all runners and walkers alike. The date was April 10, 2011. This race landed on my plate after being convinced by a friend to sign up. Not even thinking in terms of a race that is ‘one of the toughest races in Southwestern Pennsylvania’ (3.5 miles that climb over 1200 feet), I mailed in my application. Yes, mailed. I like the traditional standpoint of the race. I was finally going to have the chance to re-run the race that started it all.
I may be sporting propeller hair, but what I love most about this picture is that I’m smiling. Fear didn’t stand a chance that morning. When we received our cue to start, it’s the first time that I truly felt like a runner both inside and out. I was no longer the girl who could barely make it through the warmup in gym class. I was a runner. I was no longer hiding. I was completely exposed to the world as I pushed my way through the crisp, cool air.
The race started as a challenge between two friends, who were both talented runners. Rumor has it, that they were challenged by a group of guys to run the summit, from Uniontown. And they took them up on the challenge. Turns out it was in the middle of night and in February!
I know you may be questioning me as to why I didn’t just run this race last year. Last year, I was a week or so away from running the Pittsburgh Marathon, my first full. I, like many other runners, suffered from extreme taper madness. Paranoia struck me fierce, and I was convinced that my legs were going to break in 73 places if I were to breathe wrong. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but you get my point. I didn’t want to take any chances in jeopardizing my performance on May 6, 2012.
It took me a little over an hour to get to Hopwood. I’m not typically one for driving far away for short distance races, but this race holds a special place in my heart. I met up with 2 members from the Steel City Road Runners Club, Kimberly and Clint, both of whom I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting until Sunday. They are both so incredibly nice, which I expected them to be. I felt like I already knew the both of them very well, even before meeting them in person. We all stood around praying not to be blown away by the gusts of wind and chatted until it was time to gather together at the starting line. Within the short amount of time that we were lined up, the wind picked up even more so than before. “Great,” I thought! Wind and a hill - the perfect scenario. It was time for us to show everyone what it truly means to be a Runner of Steel. I managed to run just over 1 mile before I started my run/walk strategy. My goal was to make it to the top without dry heaving.
Here I am running next to Kim - not exactly sure what point of the race this was. We pulled one another all the way to the finish line. I look like I’m either in deep thought or trying not to throw up.
It was definitely the headwind, but this meme is way too funny not to share. The conditions were windy, rainy, and chilly. That morning, we ran against the wind 100% of the time. Runners of Steel indeed.
When we finished, Kim and I congratulated one another with a cheerful high-five. We “MOUNTED THE SUMMIT!” I really wanted to beat my time from 2011 (45:57), but I ended up taking a smidgen longer to finish this year (46:38). I heard a lot of people talking about how it took them longer because of the weather conditions. There’s always next year! Kim and I already made a pact, “same time, same place!” :)
We stood around and spectated the finish line for a little bit as we waited for some of Kim’s friends to finish. As the goosebumps on my chicken arms began to multiply, I noted the same constipated look on everyone’s face as they ran up the final steep incline into the finisher’s chute. To give you all an idea of what we accomplished that morning, here is the course:
The elevation is comparable to a 7.5% incline on the treadmill.
It’s definitely a challenge, and I still can’t believe that this is what I chose as my first race back in 2011 and more so what my friend ‘chose’ for me. Apparently, this person had faith and believed in me. I’m just grateful that I found faith and belief within myself. And it left me wanting more. Here I am in 2013, 31 races later. Time sure flies.
Most people run or walk back down the Summit, and I would have, but I didn’t want to risk re-injuring my IT band after finally beginning to make some progress. One of Kim’s friends drove us back down, and we all said our goodbyes. I drove home and took a much needed nap! There’s nothing quite like running up a 3.5 mile hill with a headwind in the cold rain for fun! Call me crazy, but I can’t wait for 2014!5 notes
This was my first race since completing the Marshall Mangler 50K back in November. And most of you know that I’ve been battling back and forth with IT band issues since that time. I finally felt ready to race, so I chose to run in the March Mad Dash - the 10 mile option after kindly being offered a complimentary race registration from the race director upon reading about my story (thank you so much!). As race day approached, I became ultra paranoid about every little twinge and paid super close attention to everything from the tippy-top of my head all the way down to my toes. I stretched, foam rolled, and iced more than usual, and my usual is already pretty frequent. I was also anxious because heck, I haven’t raced for nearly 4 months. I started thinking in terms of what I should wear, what I should take with me, and so forth. “Ahhhhh,” said my inner thoughts!
Last Friday evening, I assumed that I’d be an emotional basket-case, but instead of encompassing myself with negative energy, I decided to reflect on all that I’ve accomplished within the last couple of years. Negative energy produces negative thoughts, and that’s the very last thing I needed the night before my comeback race. I mean, I already spent enough time throughout the week being on edge as I thought about the race. I felt the very same way that I did the week before my first full marathon - mind spinning with meandering thoughts.
Lo and behold, race day was knocking on my door. After waking up, I stretched and rolled for a good 30 minutes, and then I got myself together…
composure sanity and all.
When I finally left my house, my stomach began to sink and pre-race jitters set full sail as I got closer to North Park. It takes me nearly an hour to get all the way to North Park, so I left pretty early in the morning to not only pick up my race packet, but to get a good parking space as well. When I arrived, I waited a few moments to regain my composure before heading into the Rose Barn to grab my “race swag…”
How fitting that everything was handed to me in a Brooks Running bag. A.) My main goal for this race was to RUN HAPPY. & B.) I’m currently sponsored by Brooks Running for the year of 2013. After receiving my bib, I walked back to my car, climbed inside, and took a few deep, methodic breaths. For some reason, I was hesitant about pinning my bib. And until the night before the race, I was hesitant in regards to publicly announcing my race. I was terrified of the possibility of an “I did not finish” slipping off of my tongue after people asked me how I did. I eventually came to my senses and decided to once again, CHASE FEAR. And so, my bib was pinned, and my chip was tied tight.
I ran in my Brooks PureDrift shoes.
I utilized my extra time by rolling out my muscles with my Roll Recovery massager! I love this handy-dandy piece of equipment.
I tried putting off standing in the cold for as long as possible, but my bladder decided it was time to party. After taking a trip to Porcelain City, I bounced around within the starting area in a pathetic attempt to stay warm. Did not work. But before I knew it, we received our cue to take that first stride towards greatness.
There I am in the middle, kind of…to the left of the girl in the green pants.
My initial plan was to start at a very diligent 10 minute pace, but I glanced down at my watch after a few minutes and noted my stats. You can see below that my plan clearly fell through. I surprised myself immensely.
Mile 1: 9:02
Mile 2: 9:05
Mile 3: 9:07 <—-Saw a disgusting opossum kidney along the course. I kid you not.
Mile 4: 9:04
Mile 5: 9:05 <—-I did a complete body check before making the choice to run through the additional loop banner as opposed to the finish line banner. I felt good enough to continue on, and so I did.
Mile 6: 9:01
Mile 7: 9:05 <—-Saw the disgusting opossum kidney once more. Gag.
Mile 8: 8:54
Mile 9: 8:50 <—- Hello!
Mile 10: 9:01
Avg HR: 172 bpm
Max HR: 189 bpm
Resting HR: 61 bpm
This is quite possibly the derpiest finish line picture ever. I always think that my finish line photos will look awesome-sauce, but then I’m left to stare at something like this tragedy. But at the same time, I also love this picture because it once again reminds me that I chose to chase fear and stomp it to the ground.
My pace was pretty consistent until I decided to pick up the pace towards the end of the race. The last mile ended up being slower than anticipated because my calf muscles started feeling extremely stiff, so much in fact, that I legitimately thought that I was going to biff it and land face flat on the pavement. Therefore, I stopped to walk for about 15 seconds and once I started back up, I felt good again! It was really strange. Aside from that predicament, I can’t recall any true discomfort during the race. And I still feel pretty fan-freaking-tastic! Good sign! Very good sign!
On a side note, I didn’t take in anything during the race, no water, nothing. I was afraid of losing my focus, but I also didn’t really feel like I needed much of anything to begin with. Naturally, I would’ve given my body what it needed if I felt compelled to do so.
Overall place: 100 out of 125
Age group place (20-29): 18 out of 41
5 mile split: 45:57
Clock time: 1:31:41
My official finishing time for 10 miles on the nose was 1:31:30, which is 38 seconds faster than my time of 1:32:08 last year (same race, same course). While 38 seconds may not sound like much, I’m absolutely thrilled to accomplish this as I’m continuing to bounce back from an injury, sans speedwork! I didn’t think that I still had this pace in me given my most recent training runs, but there’s obviously something magical about a race and something more magical about a finish line. The finish line feels like home for me. I found my way home again. I’m back.
Post-race bliss! The 2 girls on the right are fellow members of the Steel City Road Runners! The girl in the pink jacket is actually one of the runners that I’m currently coaching to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. This was her comeback race too, and I’m super proud of her!
After I got home from the race, I took my mom out to lunch since we don’t get to spend as much time together as I’d like to. We both agreed on keeping it simple, so we went to Eat ‘N Park for breakfast. It was lunch time, but we were both craving breakfast. I’m the type of person who can eat breakfast foods for every single meal and never ever get sick of it. Pancakes hold a special place in my heart. Flat circles of carbohydrated goodness. Lo and behold, I ordered the whole grain pancakes and a side order of fruit.
And to further celebrate my success from the morning, I couldn’t help but treat myself to my favorite cookie ever…Eat ‘N Park’s famous smiley cookies. Sean hates them, and that absolutely breaks my heart. :( But I feel like he should at least learn to love this little guy since he is full-blown Irish and all.
Even with your droopy eye, you were still quite scrumptious.
I rarely eat them, but when I do, they taste glorious! Well, most not-so-good-for-you treats taste extra amazing when you choose not to have them often…to me anyway. After the Pittsburgh Marathon last Spring (May 6, 2012), I had a smiley cookie in each hand, and I unshamelessly ate both.
This was literally a few minutes after I finished. I had cookies in my cheeks, haha. After running 26.2 miles that morning, I think it was well-deserved, no? Oh, how I truly miss full marathon training and the marathon distance itself. I’ll get back there again. Patience, Adrian, patience. All in all, I had a fantastic morning, and my happiness/pride carried with me for the rest of the weekend.8 notes
Don’t be a race bandit. In other words, always pay for your spot. Think about the hard word that is put forth by the race officials to create a good experience for all of the participants. Think about the volunteers who will dedicate their time for free to help the runners. Last, but certainly not least, think about the runners who actually paid to participate and trained to participate for said race. Races are also planned around the number of participants, which may lead to unsafe conditions if the numbers are exceeded by too much. Being a race bandit is completely disrespectful.
Line up according to pace. The starting line isn’t a first come, first serve deal. If you’re a walker or new runner, don’t line up in the very front of the pack. Typically, the front is “reserved” for elite runners and super speedy folks. Faster runners don’t want to spend the beginning of the race weaving in and out of their counterparts, especially if they’re aiming for a new PR. It’s not only frustrating, but it causes the runner to use unnecessary energy as well. Slower runners and walkers should line up towards the back. Bigger races often have starting line corrals based on predicted pace and/or time goal. If you’re still unsure, you can ask around until you find others who plan on running at a similar pace. Nobody is going to bite you. In fact, you may get lucky and find a running buddy in the process.
Don’t jingle-jangle. Unless you’re running a holiday themed race, leave the noise makers at home. No, I don’t mean jingle bells. Keys and loose change should be kept out of your pockets. It may not bother you, but it’s very easy for little things to annoy the other runners. It could lead to loss of focus, or even worse, loss of the runner’s high. A good rule of thumb? In general, don’t be obnoxious. It’s important to have fun and enjoy the experience, but there’s a fine line between having a good time and acting like you just rolled out of a clown car.
Don’t be a road hog. You’re not the only one running the race, so don’t act like you are. Be mindful of your surroundings at all times. If you’re running with a group, there should still be room on both sides of you so others may still have the opportunity to pass if need be.
Huh? What? Repeat that? If you plan on wearing headphones, please leave one ear entirely free OR turn the volume down low enough that you’ll still be able to hear what’s going on. Just because you can’t hear anything, it doesn’t mean that life around you has come to a screeching halt. When the music is alarmingly loud, you are not only being disrespectful, but you may also miss important race details or warnings from other runners. Nowadays, some races are even against the use of headphones to begin with.
Learn how to navigate the water stations. It sounds uber silly because the idea of a water station sounds like such a simple, common sensed concept. You take a cup. You drink. You’re on your way. But things can quickly get ugly - take it from me. If you can take anything from this section, DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT come to a dead stop. You can compare it to a car slamming the breaks in a heavily trafficked lane, and the car behind them crashing into their rear bumper. If you need to stop or slow down, that’s fine. Just go over to the side before doing so and without blocking other runners. When you’re done with the cup, drop it near your waist. Nobody wants an unannounced rain storm from a cup that you just tossed over your shoulder.
Always, always, always be thankful. If it weren’t for the help of others, the races that you participate in simply wouldn’t exist. Well…they could I suppose, but it wouldn’t be much fun nor safe for that matter. I love race volunteers, and I thank each one who helps me in any way, shape, or form. Thank the person who hands you water. Thank the person who points you in the right direction. Thank the kids who hold their hand out, eager to clap yours. Thank the people who smile, cheer, and motivate you. Thank the people who believe in you. And well, you can thank yourself too. You’re your hero, after all. It doesn’t matter if you’re too exhausted to utter a “thank you”. It’s always possible to smile.
Smiling at mile 20 of my first marathon.11 notes
Holy cannoli. It’s been well over 1 month since the Wineglass Marathon, and I have yet to post the most important part - the finish line/aftermath. I’ve been so preoccupied with work, coach preparation, and mentally wrapping my head around the fact that I’d be tackling a 50 kilometer trail race (That’s an entirely different story!). I sincerely apologize to those who have been waiting ever so patiently. I know that I take a couple of weeks for recaps, but never this long! Jeez!
Let’s see…where did I leave off? Oh, right…my 2nd potty break. After using the bathroom at mile 13.3, my nausea temporarily went away. There was a water station at mile 14, so I drank some water, and started tackling the 2nd steepest incline of the marathon. Of course, it’s nothing compared to Pittsburgh, so I shouldn’t complain. I noticed that walking through the water stations started becoming a huge problem. While it helped me consume water without dribbling all over myself, it started hindering my performance. I was dealing with mild-severe cramping in my calf muscles, and getting my legs going again took much more time than I would’ve liked. I would compare it to how the first mile or two usually feels when starting a run.
I winced as I ran, but nothing was going to stop me from crossing the finish line unless I dropped to the ground. I found it dang near impossible to get into my groove again, but I had to be bigger than the pain. I had to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I still had 12 miles to run. 12 freaking miles. On stiff and crampy legs. Miles 14-18 are a bit of a blur for me, so I’m drawing a blank. I think this was the point of the marathon where I was lost within myself. Perhaps I subconsciously zoned out as a way to forget about how much pain I was in. I do recall a few long and boring stretches of road, so there’s not much to remember anyway. I did take my 4th gel somewhere within those miles, and my body also scheduled a THIRD potty break. My nausea was on and off, completely striking me at random. It made me absolutely miserable. I could barely enjoy the experience; it was heart wrenching. And each time I had to stop, I could feel my hope for a personal best crumbling beneath me.
Miles 19-22 were horrific. My pace got slower, and I hit the dreaded wall. I stopped to walk a couple of times to regain my composure. I was having a huge battle inside of my mind. PAINTED POST. It sounds like a happy town, but this is where I struggled the most. My quads were trashed. My calves were trashed. My digestive system was seething with rage. There was a teeny tiny steep downgrade that led into a park near a school. Although the hill was miniscule, I thought that I was going to biff it big time. I remember seeing the word “BELIEVE” written on the pavement with sidewalk chalk. Believe. All I had to do was believe. Mile 22.5 was where the next comfort station was located. I used the bathroom for the FOURTH time, took my final gel, and drank some water. *I think that I could’ve shaved off 10 minutes at the very least without all of the potty breaks, with using the bathroom itself and trying to get moving adequately again. I was depleted and delirious.
I trucked along as best as I could, completely appreciating the upcoming small portion of trail that was along the course. It was a nice change of scenery, and plenty of spectators gave me their well wishes. Things like that keep me going. I can’t thank them enough. I mean to stand outside in the cold cheering on runners, most of whom they don’t even personally know, is truly awesome. Always thank your volunteers and supporters. And if you can’t speak, smile.
As I was gimping along through miles 23-24, I overheard someone shout “FEAR CHASER!” I deliriously looked behind me, completely awestruck, and saw a girl sporting blonde hair and a pink shirt. She smiled at me and asked how I was feeling. I pressed pause on my mp3 player, huffed in exhaustion, and told her that I was experiencing some leg cramping, but otherwise felt okay. It was Connie from Calorie Counting Girl. She previously asked me if we could talk with one another following the marathon. I never would’ve thought that we’d cross paths during the marathon itself. We talked back and forth for a bit. She asked me for my first name because she had forgotten it, but I can’t really remember what else we talked about. I was pretty out of it - heck, I was a mess. Although, I do recall her saying something along the lines of, “maybe we can get one another through these last couple of miles.” I nodded in agreement, but within a quarter of a mile, her figure became smaller and smaller. She took off like a speeding bullet, or at least that’s how it felt to me. It was clear that she was still feeling good. Either that, or she’s a good actress. I was crumbling both inside and out. I just couldn’t let my heart give out before my legs. Not this time. Not ever.
Stride by stride. Step by step. Breath by breath. I cursed like a sailor on the inside with a cringe-worthy expression painted all over my face. I just wanted to be done. Spectators were few and far in between, and traffic was being monitored by a few supportive volunteers. One mile felt like ten, and when I finally made it to Corning, I knew that I was in the final stretch. The number of spectators grew, and I passed quite a few runners on the sidelines walking towards me sporting their medals. A handful of them shouted, “Keep going, the finish line is about 5 minutes away!” I saw the bridge in the very near distance. I knew that I was close because I could see my hotel room, and the bridge was basically the final haul just before the magic that is the finish line. At the end of the bridge, there were a couple of photographers. Being the cheese ball that I am, I threw my arms in the air and smiled. One of the photographers said, “I love that one!” The picture below must have been what she was referring to. My other pictures are tragic, so I will spare you the embarrassment. This picture will always remind me that even in my moments of weakness, I can still find my strong.
Okay, I lied. Here’s one of my more model-esque shots…
Why am I so attractive?
Corning, New York is beautiful.
When I finally saw this number, emotions flooded over me once again. I couldn’t believe that I was moments away from completing my 2nd marathon within the time frame of several months. Suddenly, the pain was worth it. I remembered once again why I was doing this. The magic of the marathon.
You can tell below by my attractive running pictures just how out of it I was. But, reminiscing upon that final stretch leaves me feeling emotional. As I was approaching the finish line, I saw Michael and Jen on the other side ready to bring me in, a moment that I will never ever forget. In the picture on the far right, I was looking straight at them. I finished in 4:14:02, over 10 minutes faster than Pittsburgh (4:24:42). Some things weren’t in my favor, my gas tank was empty, but I still reached Goal B. I have no doubt in my mind in regards to conquering Goal A in the future - a sub-4 hour marathon.
The moment that I crossed the finish line, they grabbed me and asked me what I needed. I could barely utter any words. Jen asked me if I wanted chocolate milk, and I nodded “yes.” I got my medal and obligatory finisher photo taken. Michael wrapped a space blanket around me to keep my body temperature from dropping too low. I proceeded to hobble towards the food with a confused, overwhelmed look on my face. I was obviously in a depleted state, my body worn down and beat up. I ate an apple, a cookie, and a half of a bagel. Then, I grabbed a plate of pizza and more cookies. I remember being saddened that my pizza grease had dripped all over the cookies. That was a crisis at the time. Lo and behold, the cookies went into the trash. :( I chugged water, and I remember squeezing the living crap out of the bottle to get my mind off of the pain. We walked around for a little while, and every single time we stopped for more than a few seconds, my legs started screaming in pain. I even found myself hunched over, leaning against a brick wall, nearly in tears. The cramping was awful. I felt MUCH worse, physically speaking, than I did after Pittsburgh.
We eventually walked into the parking garage, which would normally be a pointless thing to talk about, but something funny happened. Two people from the Steel City Road Runners Club backed right into one another as they were trying to leave. What are the odds?! No harm was done. I couldn’t help but giggle.
We walked back to the finisher’s area and took random finisher photos with our phones.
The medal in all it’s glory! I was super paranoid that the glass medal was going to fall off of the strap and shatter into a million pieces.
After leaving the garage, we walked around some more until Lora, my roomie, was finished with the marathon. Before Lora and I hobbled back into our hotel rooms, we took a trip to the gas station to purchase bags of ice. Each of us, no lie, bought 3 small bags of ice. From a bystander’s perspective, we probably looked ridiculous trying to find the strength to be able to carry ice to her car. It felt like I was trying to climb Mount Everest, but I would’ve bent over backwards and performed magic tricks if it meant I could dip my sore leggies into a tub of ice.
Michael and Jen came over just before it was Lora’s turn to take the plunge. We could hear her making crazy noises and when we asked if she was okay, she said and I quote, “That’s the sound of my soul dying!” HAHA! I love that girl. The 4 of us walked (of all things) to a local bar to eat. I had my usual post marathon meal, a burger with fries. It tasted like I had never eaten food before. Mmm! After our feast and a celebratory drink, Lora and I decided it was a brilliant idea to purchase snacks at Wegmans - a grocery store. Note to self: DO NOT go into a grocery store after running a marathon. You will spend far too much time drooling over the pumpkin loaves, bagels, cookies, and pretty much anything else in the store except for Brussels sprouts.
After being hypnotized by food, we went to bed pretty early, knowing that we had a long drive home. We, of course, took 6,923 pee breaks. And, I will end the recap on that note.
All of my medals! :)25 notes
I sincerely apologize for how long it’s taking me to get these recaps up. I mean jeesh, the marathon was nearly 1 month ago! My job has been keeping me super busy, and I don’t want to put up a crumb bum recap. You know me and my recaps. Detail city - that’s obviously not always a good thing! Well, here’s part two. Okay, so where did I leave off? Oh, right. The start. I kept saying to myself, “I can’t believe that I’m running my 2nd marathon - and in a single year’s time!” It felt a little different this time around because now, I had a time goal in mind. Sub-4 hours. I would’ve been happy with a 3:59:59, and to get that time, I knew that I had to run at an average 9:10 pace at the very slowest. It seemed doable. The odds were in my favor. My long training runs were faster than they have ever been. I incorporated speedwork during this cycle, which was something that I was lazy with during my 1st cycle. The weather was much, much cooler than it was for the Pittsburgh Marathon, like 30-40 degrees cooler. And, my left knee was NOT angry before the race began like it had been before Pittsburgh. I felt ready. Heck, I was pretty much guaranteed a new personal best from the course alone. See.
Pittsburgh Marathon elevation profile.
Wineglass Marathon elevation profile.
On the right, you’ll see the Wineglass Marathon elevation profile. Overall, you can visualize that the downgrade was very gradual, so it wasn’t something that I noticed much for a majority of the marathon.
I apologize in advance because I’ll probably be doing a lot of random comparisons with the Pittsburgh Marathon.
Once the marathon officially started, it took a few minutes for me to be able to find my “place,” allowing me to run without tripping on people and weaving in and out like Frogger trying to cross the street. This time, I didn’t run with a beloved friend. I ran alone, well as alone as I could possibly be with a couple thousand other runners. And unlike Pittsburgh, I chose to run with music. I knew not to expect as much crowd support like Pittsburgh, so music was going to be necessary for my sanity. Although the volume was turned down very low, it helped. I felt like I was cruising through the first 5 miles (took my 1st gel at mile 4 - better early than late). My legs felt fresh, and I was completely warmed up by this time.
I went into this race with a good attitude, but I didn’t know what was going to happen as I chipped away at the miles. Distance running, marathons especially, leave so much room for prosperity, disaster, and everything in between. Like I had already mentioned, the beginning of the marathon felt easy, almost too easy. I glanced at my watch (Garmin 10 at the time) a few times and was startled when I realized that I was running a sub-9 minute pace for a couple of miles. I was significantly ahead of the 3:55 pace group for quite some time, and I knew that I had to cut back on my speed if I wanted to avoid hitting the wall later on in the marathon.
I decided that from the get go, I was going to speed-walk through the water stops to be sure that I was hydrating properly. I’m very clumsy with water cups at races, and I either spill it all over the place or choke on it, despite pinching the top of the cup. I learned a hard lesson: The faster I run, the easier that I cramp up upon walking/slowing down. Lo and behold, I set myself up for a few setbacks. It took me, at the very least, a quarter of a mile or longer to find my groove again, which began to add to my overall time.
After the first 10K of the marathon, my GI distress issues started sneaking up on me. I did as much as I possibly could’ve done to prevent this from happening, like avoiding fiber intake, eating easily digestible carbs, and during the marathon itself, I made a point to NEVER drink Gatorade and eat a GU energy gel simultaneously. I think that I’m beginning to realize my tummy problems arise from caffeine intake, but I’ll have to begin logging what I eat before and during my training runs within my upcoming training cycle. I’m also going to begin taking the more natural approach to long run fueling, like consuming honey or raisins. This is an entirely different story, so I’ll discuss this in a later post. My stomach was doing flip flops, and I had no other choice but to scurry to the next porta-potty available, which came to my rescue at mile 8 (took my 2nd gel). This stop took away about 2 minutes from my time. I already felt crummy, and I was only at mile 8. My legs still felt good, but my tummy was having an all-out rage fest. I had no other choice, but to put on my game face and fight through the nausea.
Going to the bathroom gave me some relief, but then I found myself struggling to run at an even pace. My speed went up and down a lot, likely due to the stopping and brief sitting motion. It was getting kind of ugly. Mile 9 ended up being a 10+ minute pace, which is now very rare for me. It was clear that I wasn’t feeling my best. I didn’t think that I was ever going to make it over the half-way hump in the marathon. You may as well have asked me to climb Mount Everest because it would’ve felt pretty dang similar.
13.1. I just had to get to 13.1. Better yet, I knew that if I made it to the halfway mark, I’d get a bit more crowd support since that’s where the half marathoners started their race - motivation was definitely needed. There were people cheering here and there, but they were so few and far in between. I started picking up the pace until I made it to mile 12 where I had a sip or two of Gatorade. I started regaining my initial confidence, and I managed to run to mile 13.1 without any issues. I crossed the half way mark around 2 hours on the nose and some change. While I wasn’t exactly on target with my time (goal was 1:55), there was still a slight glimmer of hope if I could miraculously run negative splits. With how things were going, who was I kidding?!
The next comfort station was set at mile 13.3, so I decided that was where I was going to take my 3rd gel. Literally in between mile 13.1 and 13.3, nausea was once again in full swing. I think my stomach, bladder, and some other unmentionables were playing jump rope with my intestines. Thank goodness that I was close to approaching a comfort station. Although, during my stop, it felt like all I accomplished was consuming a gel and refunding it within minutes. It was terrible. It was worse than any bout of nausea during training sessions or what I experienced briefly in the Pittsburgh Marathon. Forget Corning, NY…it felt like I was heading towards the road of despair. Everything else felt fine - legs, breathing, tootsies, body temperature, you name it. My stomach issues were causing my goal to crumble beneath my feet. There was no way that I was going to run a sub-4 in this condition, so I had to reach into my pocket and pull out plan B. Plan B was to beat Pittsburgh’s time of 4:24:42, and at the time, this seemed much more attainable. There are going to be plenty of marathons in my lifespan. Sub-4 will come, and September 30, 2012 was simply not that day. But, running a new personal best? Yes. Mindset changed. Game back on. Mode: BEAST.
All that stood in the way was 12.9 miles. It was time to kick asphalt before it kicked me.12 notes
The carb loading: Thursday (the 27th), 3 days prior to the marathon, I started the carb loading process. I did so mainly via whole grain pancakes…my carb loading staple.
I love carb loading, but at the same time, I loath it. The food is delicious, but increased carbohydrate consumption leaves me feeling extremely bloated. The 2-3 lb weight gain doesn’t bother me because it means that I’ve done carb loading the correct way (mostly water weight). It just feels like I have a balloon in my belly. Not fun.
Friday, I had a pumpkin spice cupcake (thanks for tempting me Sean) and spinach feta pizza. I also had a couple of things here and there while I was at work. I already had everything packed for the weekend,
so as soon as I got home from Sean’s house, I went straight to bed. I know it looks like A LOT for a 3 day, 2 night trip, but the Reebok bag was solely used for all of my marathon stuff, including clothes, shoes, accessories, food, etc. And naturally, I had to pack toiletries, hair stuff, and all of that. The plan for Saturday morning was to meet my roomie, Lora (follow this ultramarathoner/marathoner x3 lady - you won’t regret it), at her house and car pool to Corning, New York. It was approximately a 4.5 hour drive, but Lora and I turned this trip into a much longer adventure with our 3 potty breaks. We were both hydrating for Sunday, so our bladders decided that it was party time every 30-40 minutes. Each time we stopped, the towns that we ended up in kept getting weirder and weirder and harder to escape - no joke. The trip was a bunch of fun! I just love Lora, seriously, the things that come out of this girl’s mouth are enough to make you laugh until you can’t breathe. And two sarcastic people crammed into one car makes for some interesting conversation.
Saturday, I turned to Chinese food, at Wegmans, for lunch (salty carbs). After lunch, Lora and I headed on over to the expo to pick up our race packets. Smallest expo. EVER. But, they know how to do it right. Bib/bag pickup was very organized, and the specialty Wineglass merchandise was top notch. Not to mention, this is the best race shirt that I’ve ever received.
They had 4 different colors, differentiating from the full or half and male or female. This shirt, obviously, is for the female full marathoners. The post of the wineglass is also coordinated to the sex of the runner. Cool!
They also gave us a small bottle of wine and a souvenir wineglass, very unique.
Saturday evening, their was a pasta party for us SCRRC members. The pasta party was pretty fantastical. It was wonderful being able to see everyone the night before the big day. Jon K. was able to snag us a great deal at the Ramada. There was also a wedding going on the same night. As my roomie, Lora, and I walked into the hotel (we stayed elsewhere - Days Inn), we were asked if we were a part of the wedding. Yes, because I always wear a hooded sweatshirt to a wedding. Oh for goodness sakes…
Here’s most of the Wineglass group. I’m basically in the dead center of this photo, cheesing like a dang fool. We were all stuffed with noodles, tomatoes, and meat-shaped balls at this point of the evening. Jon K. spent a lot of time trying to get the “cool” kids to take a trip to Wal-Mart to buy a pair of cheap gloves for race morning since it was supposed to be cold before the start. I already had a pair with me, so I opted out. I wish that I wouldn’t have because I ended up losing my good running gloves during the marathon. Oh well. I guess that just means that I’ll have to go shopping. ;) I’ll probably go into a store for some gloves and come out with an entire outfit. Runner problems. I get so distracted by bright…”OH MY GOD…A NEON PINK TOP!” Yep. That sums it up. I made sure to get hugs from most of my running family - Michael, Jen, & Alicia. I didn’t have to worry about Lora since we were roomies! They are all special people, and I’m thankful every single day that you guys are a part of my world. The SCRRC has been life changing. These hugs left me feeling pretty emotional, causing me to nearly shed a tear. We all share the same intense passion for the sport of running, so I think I was able to catch a glimpse of that from everyone’s eyes. We may have different goals/abilities, but we still share the same love, and that is truly remarkable.
Mentally, I felt much different than I did the night before the Pittsburgh Marathon. In fact, the whole week leading up to the marathon was different. I trusted my training and enjoyed the taper. I didn’t really suffer from taper madness aside from wanting to eat every carbohydrate in the Tri-state area. Hunger strikes something fierce during taper season. I didn’t feel nervous. I’m sure my new job is to blame for taking my mind off of things, but I was calm, cool, and collected. I even had a time goal, but I refused to let myself switch to freak-out mode.
I laid out all of my gear in preparation for race morning, food included. (My pre-race fuel included 2 pieces of toast with peanut butter, a banana, and 1 Honey Stinger Waffle. I also hydrated with Powerade Zero to top off my electrolyte tank.) Ignore the hat. Didn’t wear it. Ignore the hotel key. No, I didn’t purposely match my socks and shorts and no, I don’t know or want to know what that stain on the chair is.
I managed to sleep for a decent amount of time the night before the marathon, approximately 6 hours. This is by far wayyyyyyyy more sleep than I got before Pittsburgh. Lora and I woke up at 4:30 am, and we both got ready in a reasonable amount of time. We ended up realizing that we woke up too early, and now we were left with a ton of time before we needed to head out. This. Was. Bad. The longer we waited around, the antsier I became. The antsier I became, the more panic stricken I was. I kept standing up, sitting down, fumbling with things that didn’t need to be fumbled with. Long story short, I didn’t know what to do with myself,
and I started getting jittery. Lora was also dealing with nerves because she too was calm until race morning came knocking on our doors. Pent up nerves are not fun. “What if I hit the wall?” “What if I don’t make my time goal?” So many questions flip-flopped in my mind. But, the answers were simple. Mark Shipley, a coach, runner, and wonderful human being, gave us a small piece of advice. “BE STRONGER THAN THE PAIN.” Yes, running a marathon will hurt. But, I can’t let my heart give out before my legs. The last 6 miles of the marathon are a glimpse of reality in contrast to the 20 miles of hope. And those last 6 miles should be run with your heart. The heart, of course, is the strongest muscle of the body. It was time for me to put it to good use. As for goal finishing time, I had my ultimate goal and plan B. I dream of the day that I will run a sub-4 marathon, but I knew that I’d be equally as happy with a marathon PR, which at the time, needed to be faster than 4:24:42 - my Pittsburgh Marathon time.
The minutes passed by very slowly, but we eventually decided that it was time to walk over to the finish line to catch a shuttle to the start of the race. This marathon was point-to-point, so we expected a bit of a drive. The bus was super crowded, and we were told to try and fit 3 to a seat ON A YELLOW SCHOOL BUS. On what universe will 3 people fit in a seat of one of these buses? 3 children, maybe. Certainly not 3 adults. There was no magic happening here. But, there was some personal space invasion. I’m just grateful that this was pre-marathon when us runners still smelled relatively fresh.
We arrived to the start of the race about 20 minutes before the gun was scheduled to go off. That left me with just enough time to empty my bladder one last time and drop off my stuff at bag check. I did something different for this race. I wore an old, crummy sweatshirt to toss aside before the start. It was freezing at the start, but the temps were supposed to reach the low-mid 60s around 10 or so. So, there I was once again anticipating the sound of the gun that would lead me into my 26.2 mile adventure. *BANG* My feet shuffled awkwardly as I was trying to avoid stepping on anyone until we all sort of fell into our own spots along the course. This was it. I felt good. The weather was perfect. The course was flat. I only knew one thing for certain, no matter what the morning threw at me, I was going to get myself across that finish line.
**I’m way too detail-oriented for my own good. Part two to come!18 notes