Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
WARNING: NOVEL AHEAD
I easily popped awake with my alarm(s) and started getting ready. When I peeked outside, I could see a few runners already headed to the start and it made me nervous, thinking I was “running behind” but really I am not the type of person that wants to be 2 hours early and I knew I had plenty of time.
I finished packing my gym bag for Matt to take to the finish line so I could shower at Autozone Park (site of the finish and what a nice post-race amenity!) and left him with instructions on how to get there and where to be so that we could see each other at mile 4. With seemingly nothing else to do at that point, I grabbed my gear and joined the crowds of people walking to the start (might have taken 10 minutes?). Right as I was leaving my aunt Paula called to wish me good luck and I ended up talking to her for 30 minutes. It was so nice to take my mind off of my emotions and to have her “there” with me.
At the start line, there were tons of portapotties and almost NO LINES (how nice!) and I jumped in line a just a few minutes before the gun went off.
I had talked to the 5:15 pacer at the expo and he told me that he would be running dead even 12 minute splits, so I positioned myself just a little in front of that group, still hoping that maybe I could pull off a 5 hour marathon at that point. Half marathoners and marathoners all started together (Half—green bibs, Full—blue bibs) and I noticed there were A LOT of green bibs around me. There were about 8,000 signed up for the half and 3,500 for the full so this was to be expected, but a little unnerving. I found myself looking for blue bibs during the race almost as a sanity-check, if that makes any sense? Anyway, made a little small talk with some women who were thinking about coming down to Birmingham for the Mercedes Half and then it was time to GO!
(I would like to break this into miles here, but some of the details are so blurry, so I will do the best I can) Also, surprisingly enough I haven’t even ONCE gone back and looked at the Garmin stats. (Still haven’t and I started writing this post DAYS ago) I kept it on current pace screen almost the entire time and ran very much by feel, only looking at pace a few times towards the beginning and checking total time after the halfway point. I also did NOT carry my camera; with a phone, iPod and handheld, I didn't want anything else to worry about. (Side note: I saw the course photogs and posed many times during the later miles, but none of these showed up on the ASI site. Haven't had time to peruse "lost and found" yet but now that the computer is back, hope to find time this weekend)
Mile 1-2: Feeling really great and setting into a mid- 11-something pace. Skipped the congested aid station at 1.5 and kept going. When we came down by the Mississippi River, the view was just awesome and peaceful. There were beautiful houses to our right and a fun cheering squad of people high on a hill blowing on vuvuzelas! Such a contrast in the environment but fun.
One REALLY nice thing about this race was the on-course support. There were clocks, water, powerade and portapotties at EVERY MILE. (Except for the 1st 2 b/c of runner feedback…they moved it to 1.5 and started every mile from 3-25) It provided a HUGE mental boost knowing that you would be seeing people and essentially having a cheering squad every.single.mile. And this is no out and back course (it’s a double loop but only a short stretch is the same on the 2nd loop), so these were unique aid stations and they were all extremely well staffed and stocked. (There were also 2 or 3 gu stations but since I don’t use gu, I didn’t commit this to memory. There might have also been oranges at one point after the split b/c I saw the evidence—peels—but the people/goods were not there when I got there!)
Mile 3: I saw the 5:15 guy come up beside me and based on what I had been running so far, and the fact that he started in the corral behind me, I thought it was weird that I was seeing him so soon. But, I decided to try and stay with him for as long as possible, so I tucked in just to his right and settled in. I checked my watch and saw that we were running 11:30s and got concerned but hung around.
Mile 4: Still right with the pacer and desperately searching for Matt around the area (and a little before). I never did see him. He later told me he saw the “5 minute guy” and the “5:15 guy” (ummm, that is hours…haha!) and that he stayed in that area for more than an hour. Explains the text I got about 90 minutes in asking where I was. The pacer was still running fast and even kept saying it out loud!! “We are running about 30-40 seconds fast” Ummm…OK…if you are saying this mile after mile after mile then MAYBE AS THE PACER YOU SHOULD MAKE AN ADJUSTMENT. He had a co-pacer with him that was hanging back SIGNIFICANTLY and I later asked him if he was running a 5:15 and he said yes and gave me a look that let me know that he knew the other guy was way off pace. *I don't mean to sound angry or bitter about this if I do; I ran my own race and had a great time. But if you're there to do a job and say you're going to employ a strategy then please do so*
Mile 5: Running through the St Jude campus was exhilarating…so many signs, people and energy. It was hard not to get caught up in it all but I tried to remain on an even keel b/c it was so early and I knew I would want that energy later.
Mile 6-7: I lost the original 5:15 guy somewhere in here. He was still running 11:30s and I knew that I could not hold this group for 26 miles, so I slowly let them go. The co-pacer had dropped WAY back at this point too and actually did not pass me again until mile 11, which made me feel better J The elite men passed by around mile 7-8 for us (22-23? For them) It was neat to see and cheer for them
Mile 8-10: I really enjoyed running in Overton park…the shaded paths were nice and relatively flat. Although coming up one hill there was a van of people blaring “YMCA” with dancers dressed up as the Village People and additional back up dancers/cheerleaders. Lots of fun J
Mile 11-13: I made my 1st phone call around the 11 mile mark and skipped the aid station. I had promised myself that I would be allowed one short (1-2min) phone call (on speaker phone while still running)every hour starting with the 2 hour mark for sanity since I was running alone and I knew that if anything, it was going to be tough to be “alone” for such a long time. I called Lauren and she got energized by hearing the crowd noise/bands, told me I sounded great and wished me luck. It really put an extra spring in my step and I WAS feeling great and I needed to channel that energy b/c I was surrounded by half marathoners who were currently hitting their own wall (and loudly complaining about it) and I could not allow myself to get sucked in to negative/exhausting energy.
I hope that doesn’t sound pompous or snide b/c I understand and remember feeling like I had hit a wall THE ENTIRE TIME I was running the Country Music Half but knowing I had such a long way to go, it was tough to listen to it. There was also a kid in a hot dog costume jumping into the crowd around this point who was OBNOXIOUS (where were his parents?) and blocking runners and saying “only 2 miles!” (I’m thinking, more like 15 and actually a marathoner somewhere around me yelled out “not for all of us!” haha!) My yoga instructor and her husband zoomed past me at mile marker 12 and I kept them in my sights for a LONG time but I never did catch up to them.
Mile 14-16: Also known as the point where I hit my wall. (And where the race course photog got a pic of me that makes me look like an oompa loompa--the only on course photo tagged to me) I was mentally prepared for the thinning of the crowd (both runners and spectators) and actually looking forward to getting to work. I got a buzz of energy as we split from the half and managed to fake a smile for the photog as I headed up Beale Street (again). However, by this point, the sun was out in full force and the course was kind of ugly and the rolling hills were beginning to take their toll. There was really no one running at my pace (no one passing me but it took me a while to catch up with people too) and the people I could see ahead of me were also beginning to struggle. Up until that point I had only been walking through the aid stations (if at all) but at this point I was struggling to make it from point to point and began bargaining with myself. I called Paula (quite possibly my biggest supporter) at mile 16 for a status update and let her know I was tired and looking forward to seeing mile 20. Somehow I knew that if I could get there I would be OK. I noticed I wasn’t sweating as much and started to feel a little nauseous and tried to take care of myself as best I could.
Mile 17-19: I was physically starting to feel better but starting to feel a little “delirious”. It was hard for me to do math at this point (paces, miles left, etc) and I found myself getting annoyed by the littlest (and not so littlest) things. Around 17 or so, I heard this “zooming” on the pavement behind me only to then nearly get decked by a skateboarder! Grrrrrrr ….I guess he figured that he was going to take advantage of the closed roads and skate the course which was SO WRONG. He was skating recklessly and at one point almost knocked down some runners ahead of me after he almost wiped out. He was on the course for at LEAST 2 miles and took fluid from one of the aid stations (where I passed him again)!! I was so angry and desperately wanted to find a course marshall to get him kicked off the course but I suspect he was at some point b/c I never saw him again. I reminded myself not to give him my precious energy but seeing him almost knock people down and not apologize really fired up my Italian temper! Around 18 I finally ditched the long sleeve tee that had been wrapped around my waist since mile 2.5. I thought it might make it home with me, but again, the littlest things were annoying me and I felt like I lost 10 pounds when I tossed it aside at the aid station. I started to notice that there were a lot of people laid out/stretching at aid stations. Not anyone getting medical help, thankfully, but people were hurting. Also around this stretch I encountered a woman who looked to be my mom’s age and a woman in a wheelchair who reminded me of my sweet grandmother…they were alone on a corner cheering for everyone and it brought tears to my eyes. They must have been cheering someone near me or behind me b/c I saw them 3 MORE times by the end. Brought so many emotions thinking about my grandmother and how proud of me she would be if she could see me. (Tearing up now…I miss her SO MUCH)
Mile 19-21: I actually started passing a lot of people during this stretch and caught up to a crowd, quite possibly because I was still running (shuffling?) for a good portion of each mile. The walking breaks were liberal, I’m not going to lie, but there was still some structure to what I was doing. I called Matt after the 20 mile mark and he said I sounded good (I was starting to feel human again) though he said…”only 10 miles left” and I was like “NO! Only 6.2” Definitely unnecessarily annoyed but I was starting to feel hungry and hot and the thought of 10 miles left was unreal! There was one girl this stretch who was running with her sister or friend and she was MUCH stronger than her counterpart. She kept trying to motivate the other girl (not effectively) who was REALLY struggling and the girl who was struggling kept trying to get the strong girl to go ahead. Strong would say “no, I’m not going to leave you” but would then “sprint” ahead and impatiently stop ahead and “stretch” or look back and yell “come on” and sigh. Strong girl was stressing ME out and I could only imagine how her friend felt. I leapfrogged with strong girl through mile 24 (never again saw her friend) and which point I passed her and didn’t see her again. If you are going to stick with someone then do so but don’t get several hundred yards ahead, stop and act impatient. I also saw a woman with a baby on board sign on her back around this time!!! WOW. She was with her (Ironman) husband and he was taking such great care of her. (We also leapfrogged for the next few miles) She didn’t have a visible bump and I wanted to ask her when she was due/acknowledge her strength but she and her husband seemed very focused on each other and I didn’t want to butt in on what felt like a very “private” time for them.
Mile 21-26.2: Around mile 21 is when I met up with Diana and Amy—my mental lifesavers! Some guy in green (half marathon) numbers came sprinting up a hill in the opposite direction asking if anyone wanted his extra gu just as I was passing Diana and Amy. They were floored by his energy and I pointed out his green numbers and we had a laugh. I struck up conversation with them and we found that we were employing pretty similar race strategies (They had just met and decided to run together at mile 20) and asked if I wanted to stick with them. Absolutely!! This is what I had been wanting for the past 10+ miles! (Side: It was Amy’s first marathon as well and Diana’s second) Neither of them had a Garmin so we agreed to walk the aid stations and run until my Garmin was at .75 of the mile, walk until the .0 and then run to the next aid station. (Sounds more complicated then it was. I was only .15 off from the mile markers which I am pretty proud of in terms of running the tangents. There were a LOT of turns on this course and .15 extra is almost NOTHING after 26.2 miles) We agreed to stick together and although at times, I think I could have done with less walking, the 5(?) minutes I might have saved doing my own thing was NOTHING compared to the mental support and positive energy these girls provided. They were such positive and like minded people (thanking volunteers and spectators, encouraging other runners) and they made the end enjoyable and fun. Approaching mile 25 Diana didn’t think she would be able to run anymore, but Amy and I encouraged her to do it and she did! I called Paula one last time at 25.5 and she cheered the 3 of us on. Amy called her parents from my phone as well, but unfortunately they didn’t answer. Amy and I almost started crying as we realized we were going to FINISH!! HUGE SMILES, a love-fest of thank yous and emotions and FINALLY the 26 mile marker on a downhill into the stadium! We hit the warning track and Diana and I found a sprint, I saw Matt—camera in hand, I turned around wanting Amy to finish by our side…she was giving everything she had and crossed a few seconds later. Sweaty hugs, tears…WE DID IT! I AM A MARATHONER!!!
Next up: The aftermath
Thursday, December 16, 2010
In the meantime, recovery is going well. I took full advantage of "Zero Week" to fit in some social gatherings and volunteer work and catch up on some (apparently) much needed sleep. Got in my 1st run last Friday with only some weird pain behind my left knee which is now gone. Have run once this week and did yoga last night. Hoping the weather will hold out tonight so I can run outdoors and check out some of the neighborhood Christmas lights. (It has gone from 15 degrees on Tuesday to 60 degrees today, so I need to take advantage while I can!)
I don't know what I thought recovery would be like, but I didn't expect the soreness to subside so quickly! (I took the stairs at work last Monday and was wearing heels by last Tuesday!) Right now it's harder to mentally get "up" for a run than it is physicially. I am definitely looking forward to running another marathon (soon?) if I can mentally gear myself up for the extreme long runs. For now, focusing on getting back out there and hopefully scoring a half marathon PR on Valentines weekend!
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
St Jude/Memphis Marathon 12/4/10: Race Report
Before the Race
After being in denial pretty much all week, I finally buckled down Thursday night (the night before we left) and did a final, easy run, went and got a light/relaxing massage and spent about a million $$ on iTunes/making modifications to my play list(s).
I was originally supposed to be “off” Friday but with the workload we are under, along with expectations of my boss and knowing that we had a huge meeting/presentation at 7am on Monday, I thought it best to work half a day before heading out of town. Matt had to work in the morning anyway, so it was no big deal. I ended up having a “networking breakfast” at a local coffee shop with one of my dear friends from grad school who was visiting from out of town (we had made these plans weeks earlier when she had emailed letting me know she was going to be in town for work and I thought I was going to be off) and it really helped keep me calm and keep my mind off of the things I still needed to do before we left.
I left work around lunch, stopping at a local cycle shop to pick up a couple packages of Sports Beans on the way home since I was almost out and didn’t want to rely on hoping these would be available at the expo. (Side note for any local peeps: Cahaba Cycles has THE best selection of beans, gu, nunn, etc…blows the track stores and the big chains out of the water! Plus they are a local business and I do my best to support local enterprises when possible)
I got home to find Matt’s car gone (he works from home, so this was weird) only to find out that he was trying to get a new tire put on his car b/c it turns out one of his had a nail in it!! I finished packing and had everything 100% ready to go by the time he got home, so we finally headed out around 2:00, making a slight detour to the vet to drop the babies off for the weekend. Memphis is a +/- 4 hour drive from Birmingham and packet pick up was open until 9:00 so I wasn’t getting too stressed (yet) but Matt seemed to be taking his time as we stopped to fill up with gas and he went into the convenience store to get a drink for the road (I already had my “mobile hydration and fuel station” LOL) and I was starting to get anxious. Birmingham traffic had been abnormally thick on Friday (all roads/all directions) and I just wanted to get out of town b/c I knew once we did, it would be low traffic/smooth sailing. (Internal dialogue: We have ½ tank of gas…can’t we wait until we are on the road and stop in some small, redneck town to refuel???)
Beautiful sunset on the drive to Memphis
We finally rolled into Memphis around 7:00 and since we were staying at the hotel attached to the convention center (where the expo was taking place), I went in to pick up my packet while Matt parked the car. Packet pick up was a BREEZE and I easily got my bib, t-shirt and goodie bag before checking out the expo (or what was left of it by that point). The freebies were essentially gone as I expected and the $9.99 guy that Laura from Running in the Delta raved about was picked over. I wanted to find some event merchandise but I never did see a booth with anything. Maybe I missed it? (I saw some people wearing apparel the next day) Matt had found me by that point, so I picked up a 26.2 magnet for my car and a 26.2 ornament and we were off to get checked into the hotel and to find dinner.
We ate at Neely’s BBQ since we enjoy watching their show on the Food Network (Gina is a bit annoying at times, but their food usually looks tasty) and was conveniently less than 1 mile from the hotel. I ordered the BBQ spaghetti (supplemented by 2 rolls and tons of water) while Matt proceeded to polish off pork, fries and all of my coleslaw. I really enjoyed it and barely dented my plate (it felt like the spaghetti was multiplying before my eyes) but Matt said that he didn’t care for the sauce (and therefore, the meal) (Side: never would have guessed by the amount of food he finished!)
We headed back to the hotel and I began laying everything out for the morning. I had decided to go with a throwaway long sleeve and run in the short sleeves since it was predicted to be in the low 40s at the start, warming up to the mid 50s. I piddled around, looked through the goodie bag (not much to note there…it was actually pretty sad) and clipped my toenails (HAHA) before finally settling in around 10:00. The race had an 8:00am wave start (I was placing myself in wave 12, so I knew I would cross sometime between 8:15 and 8:30) and it was only a few block walk to the start (and I was not checking anything) so my goal was to be out of bed by 6 and out the door by 7.
I am surprised but I actually slept really well (despite getting up 3x during the night to pee). At this point I was more emotional than nervous and just wanted to focus on getting to work. (I didn’t mention earlier but when my coworkers Lauren and Jan gave me a card and hugged me goodbye and told me how proud they were of me, I started bawling right then and there in the office. Thank God for being able to close the door to compose myself before walking out to my car!)
Next Up: Race Day
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Hotel booked: 4:45pm
Massage Appt: 5:30pm :)
The hotel was a tad more than I wanted to spend BUT it's downtown, attached to the convention center/expo, has free trolley service to the start and the course passes at mile 4, so if nothing else I will get to see Matt at least once before the finish! The peace of mind I have MORE than makes up for the $50 I went over "budget". (Not to mention we have a comped room in Tunica Saturday night so that should count for something!)
This is getting real!!
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
I think I am seriously in denial that I am going to be running a marathon in...at this point...less than 72 hours.
I have not really been nervous until this point. But it's hit me like a ton of bricks this week. Last night was a scheduled rest day and what I do with my extra time? JACK SQUAT. You think I could have used the time to begin gathering my things, work on my mile by mile dedication list, work on my play list, or hell, BOOK A HOTEL ROOM (since, no, I have not done that yet), but no, I sat on my rear watching bad TV and finishing my Christmas cards instead. Priorities, people!
This is really unlike me as avoidance is not one of my standard coping mechanisms. But here I sit at work, almost 12 hours after I arrived this morning, finally wrapping up (extremely busy day)and actually printing some information about the race and stressing about what to wear, where to eat the night before, etc. Maybe if I write the specific things I'm stressed about, it can serve as a release? (Can you tell I worked in the mental health field before moving over to the big bad world of administration?)
#1. My achilles and I guess, my body in general. I haven't talked much about it though it has been feeling better. BUT running no doubt aggravates it, even on shorter distances and therapy has not been totally pleasant. Also, to say my 20 miler was not a confidence builder would be an understatement (I also got VERY dehyrdated/moderately disoriented) and I worry about something happening to my tendon/leg and worry about bonking out. I am planning on continuing with my prescribed stretches, using the last of my anti-inflamm patches over the next couple of days and listening to my body...and possibly getting a massage tomorrow evening. I am also making it my goal to get in 100 ounces of water every day this week (will begin adding electrolytes tomorrow)...so far haven't made it...72--Monday, 60 yesterday, at 80 so far today...but I am moving in the right direction.
#2. What (NOT) to wear. I am actually surprised to be stressed about this because I generally feel like I have had this figured out pretty well for my long runs this training cycle. However, I have had the luxury of looping back by my house and being able to trade long sleeves for short when needed. (This was always planned as I knew I would be warming up after 7 miles or so). Temps are predicted 40 for the low, high in the upper 50s. Race starts at 8 and I will be running for 5 hours. So I need to plan for the warm and I don't want to double layer b/c I SWEAT. Logic would say arm sleeves but I don't own these and "nothing new on race day" I may just wear a cheapy l/s tee at the start and ditch it within the first couple of miles (or immediately). The rest of the outfit is figured out: capri length tights, IronMan socks, Mizuno Wave Nirvanas, Nike sports bra, bondi band. Carrying the handheld, wearing a shadow pack and rocking the iPod. That being said, I know myself: I will pack multiple options!
#3: Where to eat? Luckily I have a pretty strong stomach and am not worried about "what" so much as "where" What if the food sucks or is sketchy?
#4: Race day morning eats. I know part of feeling like crap on the 20 was not being fueled properly beforehand. I barely choked down a Cliff mojo trail mix bar b/c A. I am sick of them (but they work, usually) B. I have a hard time eating super early. It's not a super early start (for better or worse) but makes me wonder if I should try taking in a little something extra beforehand that will "stick" a bit better. On the 20, I felt really hungry by mile 10 and that is just not a good sign. (For the record, I also fuel during with sports beans and gatorade/water alternating or mixed...gu makes me gag)
#5: Getting to the start on time. I guess I should be more worried about finding a place to stay! But seriously, I am not at all familiar with Memphis and Matt is SO NOT a good navigator. I do not want to be stressed about that on race morning and I am already anticipating the bickering (road closures, parking issues, etc) I am hoping he agrees to take his car. It has GPS built in which would make life MUCH easier, but no guarantees. But since we burned up the roads over Thanksgiving in his vehicle, I don't know whose car is up for the road trip. I know he'll be driving but the rest is unknown.
OK, I actually feel somewhat better now, so it's time to head home and eat dinner before running tonight. Any advice on the stressors is always welcome, though!