Tuesday, December 14, 2010
The final segment of my virtual mountainous journey concluded on Sunday 21 November. All the months of training; several worn out pairs of running shoes; the near 500 miles of training through rain, wind, hail, sunshine; the morning runs, late afternoon runs, long runs, speed runs, and marathon paced runs were about to be finally tested.
Thursday was a travel day, bringing my husband and me the over 3,000 miles from England to the City of Brotherly Love. Training was not quite over, there were still 2 days remaining in my maintaining race fitness. The final 4-5 miles were all that I needed to check off my 16 week program in the ascent up my mountain named Philadelphia.
Early Friday morning, prior to going to the Expo, in the early dawn hours, my husband and I made an easy paced run up to the marathon start area at the Art Museum and the “Rocky Steps”. The air was crisp, the sky clear and the lights of the city slowly giving way to the waking morning light.
Picking up our race packets later that afternoon presented its own joy when I had the pleasure of meeting up with my CAMO co-captain Lynn who would be doing Saturday’s 8K. She is a wonderful woman and fantastic example of perseverance and consistency.
Saturday morning meant one last run, two and a half final miles, to complete the training to take me to the start line. This time my husband and I took our camera and video camera along to document our route. We stopped along the flag lined Ben Franklin Parkway for various photo ops. It was a celebration of all we had done to prepare for what lie ahead the following sunrise. Another bounding run up the “Rocky Steps” and smile filled photos with the city sky line awaking behind us. The preparations were in place for the soon to start 8K race. Once finished, we made our way back to our hotel observing the approaching race participants. We would spend a few hours visiting with my older brother who drove down from North Jersey, and then shift into final marathon preparation mode!
In the hotel room our kit bags, racing clothes, watches, gadgets, fuel and other assorted necessary items were arranged along the couch. I worked off a check list to ensure I would not have any last minute surprises on race morning by having forgotten something.
Dinner was a tried and tested meal of baked jacket potatoes, cheese and salad. Then it was an early night as with a race start time of 0700 a calculated wake up of 0330 was agreed upon.
Morning came all too soon and the pre-marathon ritual began; natural peanut butter and all fruit whole grain sandwiches were prepared for after race fuel, my camelback was filled with SIS sport fuel, a breakfast of oats, milk, banana consumed and once showered and dressed we were out into the cold pre-dawn city for a 0500 walk to the start area.
Having walked about half a mile we received a surprise phone call from my youngest son who was just 2 blocks ahead of us walking our way. He had driven in from New Jersey and wanted to accompany us up into the start areas. It was special to spend this preparation time with him, as he had never seen me or my husband in full race mode. With time slipping quickly away, it came nearer to when our kit bags needed to be turned it and we said goodbye to my son as he left to escape the road closures throughout the city and make his way back home.
As my husband is a sub 3:20marathon finisher, his start pen was nearer to the beginning than mine and after hugging each other and exchanging wishes for a safe race, strong finish and good luck kiss, we parted and walked in opposite directions.
The morning light was brightening the scene of thousands of runners waiting in their corresponding corrals as I made my way back to the blue corral and positioned myself halfway. I readjusted my running shoe laces, removed my give away sweatshirt placing it over my shoulders until the opportune time to toss it, straightened my Union Jack Bandana and looked at the race pace band I had printed and encased in cellophane tape and pinned around my wrist. I had put a goal time of 5:40:00, a time that I felt would be a wonderful achievement and bring a new personal best of over 6 minutes. I would need to keep my pace on average under 13min/mile. Doubts of my capabilities started to surface and I found strength to quiet them. I had trained well, I had worked hard, and I had achieved great times in the 10k and half marathon races in preparation to this morning. Trust my training I kept telling myself.
I could hear the National Anthem being sung and minutes later cheering as the first wave of elite runners must have started. This race began different than any I have run; each colour corral was walked down to the start line in turn, and at a given signal their time would start. I was in the final corral and it was just over 30 minutes from the elite runners start that my blue corral crossed over the timing mats. My race had begun and my heart was racing as well as like a wave we final thousands made our way down the Ben Franklin Parkway.
Prior to starting I had noticed the 5:30:00 pace group near me. That was a quicker time than I had been training for, but I thought perhaps I could keep just ahead of that group and surprise myself in an even quicker time. The miles ahead would tell.
The first couple of miles melted so quickly and as usual I was off with a bit of a fast start. I shot a glance at my watch just before our hotel, at the first mile marker, and I was under 11 minutes! The course headed straight to the Delaware River and then along Penn’s Landing and after turning back toward the city I clocked at 4 miles my time was about 46 minutes , putting me 5 minutes under my pace band. The 5:30 pace group was no where to be seen and my breathing was regulating and my legs felt strong.
Pushing on through the city the cheering was centred at specific “cheer zones” with music blasting. I kept only one earpiece from my iPod in place so I could enjoy the atmosphere and the shout outs along the route. The race organizers had arranged for everyone’s names to be on their race number and it brought a more personal chant to the cheers.
It was approaching time to hit the double digit miles as we crossed the Schuylkill River and passed the Frat houses of the local University. There were offers of cups of beer and refreshments, but all that was paramount in my mind was keeping my pace time in check.
The course next wound through Fairmount Park and the downhill sections flashed memories of the final half mile to my door from many a run into my village. The inclines didn’t seem to bother me because of all the preparation from my miles upon miles of NW English countryside hills.
Often my mind would calculate where my husband might be along the course. There was a possibility that once I passed the halfway mark we might pass each other as the course turned back on itself. I wanted to keep my pace but around 11 miles I slowed a bit to take my first walk break through a water stop, dodging previous runners discarded cups. I checked my time and a short quick paced walk would bring a bit of relief and not cost me too much time.
Then it was no time before the 12 mile mark was upon me and knew the split for those nearing the finish of their half marathon was approaching. My pace was good, my breathing great and ahead were marshals guiding those doing the half to keep right and those pressing on to full 26.2 miles to stay left. I positioned myself to the left and kept moving through the slight incline and made the left bend and crossed the halfway timing mat.
It was now that I could see the quicker earlier wave racers in their final mile of their marathon. These elite were in the low 3 hour time span and moving quicker than I could ever dream. Their strained faces, aching bodies, illustrated how they were pushing themselves through whatever mental and physical pain they were experiencing. Some even had the energy and thoughtfulness to glance to my side of the road and wish me a “well done”. I reciprocated with a “well done YOU” all the while glancing to catch sight of my husband. In an instant I caught a glimpse of him as he sped passed and even though I shouted his name; his focus was on finishing his last half mile in full concentration.
It was now the long run up through the scenic Kelly Drive through the park towards Manayunk a distance of 6 miles. I kept focused on the music softly in my ears, the river to my left, the stream of earlier runners on their final stretch. My body was tiring but I still was pacing faster than I have in any previous marathon. There was a turn to the left over the smaller steel Falls Bridge and down a tree lined road. I had stayed ahead of the 5hr 30 min pace group for 17 miles. As they came up, engulfed, and then passed me, I toyed with the idea of trying to keep up with them and even did for a short while. But, as that was not even the pace I had trained for, I was just happy that I had managed to keep ahead of them for as long as I had.
The town of Manayunk was approaching and I was so happy to finally reach the turn around point and the 20 mile mark. Now I knew it was a “straight” line down river to the finish line. Just a 10K left and this is where the real distance of the marathon is felt. This is where I have unravelled before, where I lost time, where the aches and discomforts of my body screamed their loudest. Even though I was trying to keep the voices of my aches to a whisper the strain on my calves was beginning to get louder. Focus and walk when I need to was my mantra. Don’t loose too much time, keep your goal in your mind, you WILL reach your goal, it will happen; were thoughts that filled my mind to keep me going.
It was about the 21 mile mark when I came up on a young woman name Leigh. She was struggling a bit and I asked if she was all right. She explained how her Left Quad muscle was hurting and she hadn’t trained full for this, her second marathon. She was from Long Island and we exchanged friendly conversation as we ran. When she found out this was my 8th marathon and I had started 10 minutes after her and was on for a personal best time, she asked if I wanted to run the remaining 5 miles with her to the finish. Knowing that she could help me keep to my pace, I agreed. It was what helped to keep me focused as we walked, then ran to designated race points; a sign, a tree, a mile marker.
Our pace was good, our moral was high and we encouraged each other at what a great job we were doing. I was startled when she said we were almost at the 25 mile mark. That was so exciting as I knew I was going to run my best ever time. With just a half mile left, we took our last walk break and then approaching Boathouse Row and the crest of the final incline she said we were where the start corrals were and lets run our way in! I was elated!
Side by side, Leigh and I owned that road! As we appeared over the crest of the hill we could see the sides of the road lined with spectators. It was then I saw my younger brother waving his arms wearing a “Blackburn Harrier” shirt! I couldn’t believe it!!! There he, his family and my already finished marathon running husband were waiting for me. I took a couple seconds to hug my brother and announced to them all that I had to go get my medal and continued running with my brother next to me cheering me on.
I noticed that Leigh was joined by her sister and good friend who had both run the half marathon. With new enthusiasm and motivation and energy, I ran toward the awaiting finish line and smashed my previous marathon finishes. This was a personal best time of 5hr 37min and 30 seconds; 9 minutes better than my previous best in London two years ago and 38 minutes than my first marathon in Edinburgh in 2006.
Through all the tears, excitement, and family embraces, Leigh came over to me and with tears in her eyes and a space blanket wrapped around her, she hugged and thanked me for being there with her. I once again repeated the thanks that I had expressed to her at mile 24 and told her how grateful I was to her for keeping me going. For you see, there is something that happens to you out there on the marathon road, all those you meet are on the same journey with you. Leigh and I were both mountain climbers on this expedition and when it got tough out there, we pulled together and helped each other finish, and finish strong! May you each have someone to help you as Leigh helped me.
PS. Hubs finished an amazing 3:20:47 and placed second out of 91 in his age group!
WOW...Thanks so much for taking the time to read this very long blog. If you haven't watched the video blog (my movie to this novel) then sit back and enjoy! It's on the list before this. Thanks again!
Monday, November 15, 2010
That is all that awaits; one week, 7 days, a handful and change...till another marathon! The Philadelphia start line is that close now. I got the full 40 miles done this past week and I finally now feel like I am tapering!!
The last of the 3 mile speed run, the last marathon paced 10 mile run, the last semi-long run of 8 miles and the last full week of training! My stomach churns with anticpation and realization as I wrtie this.
What is left now? What do I fill my days with prior to our departure on Thursday? It' s just a mere 3 days of easy paced 5 mile runs; a total of 15 more miles on English soil. I've decided that I'll do 3 different routes ending with my favourite 5 mile on Wednesday. This is also a week of packing, organizing work, completing paperwork, taking the animals to their respective kennels/cattery, countless additional things, plus contacting family members and friends that are going to be our cheering section while in the US. Perhaps all this is to shift the focus and my nerves away from Sunday 21 November.
It is so fitting that we will spend some additional days in the Philadelphia area for Thanksgiving and my birthday!! We will enjoy the holiday with family and enjoy this rare opportunity of being together.
Our race numbers and instructions came via email. Come 07:00 US East Coast Time, on 21 November the Philadelpia Marathon begins. My speedy hubby is in the second pen! I'm much further back in pen 7 (last pen) My number is 12210
Your kind thoughts and cheers of encouragement are greatly appreciated. I'll carry you in my mind as I run on Sunday. When it gets tough out there, as I know it will, I'll draw strength from how each of you has been a part of this journey of mine and left messages of support. Thank you in advance as I truly appreciate each one of you.
Monday, November 08, 2010
In Uk terms, I'm only a fortnight away from running Philly! It's the wind down now, preparation is complete. I completed 34.31 miles last week, a bit of a dip from the previous weeks 52 miles! However, the work has been done, the legs are in taper mode.
I got out and did my last long run of double figures, I completed the next to last speedy 3 miles in excellent form and fought the dipping temperatures and windy autumn days. I'm pleased with my progress and trying to not let myself get too anxious. For this is when the doubts have a way of slipping in...will I be able to keep to my last bit of training, will I do the time I am aiming for, will my legs/feet hold out.. and on and on the questions go on.
This is when I MUST trust the training, trust my abilities, trust that I have done what I can do to get to stand on the start line. My marathon shoes are here, I am mentally putting my packing list together and working on our itinerary. The days will fly by now and in just over a week we will be packed and ready to jet across the pond. I'm excited just thinking about it!!! YEAhhhh this is what I have trained for and will do my best!
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
It has taken 13 weeks and 442.76 miles to get to where I am today; on the summit of my training program for the Philadelphia Marathon. The view ahead has been worth all the miles I have travelled to get here on my virtual trek up my mountain named Philadelphia. To reach this place from base camp 2 it has taken 4 weeks and 177.51 more miles.
This portion tested my physical endurance, mental strength, and speed as I undertook the most difficult half marathon I have ever run! Talk about hills!! Even taking that into consideration I ran my best half marathon time of the three I did this year. Then I looked onward to the steepest part of my ascent; weeks that totalled 41 miles, 46 miles and the final summit week of 52 miles!
I take in the view of what I have achieved, but I can't linger and rest, I have a marathon to race in less than 3 weeks! My goal now is to keep this fitness I have worked so hard to attain. I will do this by holding my miles to about 40 per week, by just 2 more speed sessions, 2 more 10 mile marathon paced runs and one more 10 mile long run and additonal "keep fit" miles.
Finally then, on marathon week, I bring the miles down, as if softly alighting on the start line from wires, to take my place. Ready, both mentally and physically, to undertake the real journey....the 26.2 miles of the Philadelphia Marathon.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
I cannot believe it! I'm only 3 weeks from running another marathon, number 8! My training for the most part is over, I've done my longest week I've reached my virtual summit and I'm standing on the precipice of stepping into a waiting achievement.
All the miles I 've done thus far, all the hours upon hours I've spent on the road and strength training. This week was 52 miles and hundreds of minutes! I did the 10 mile marathon paced run and the Saturday 20 miler. I feel such a sense of satisfaction already.
I see a drop of 11 miles less this coming week vs this past week. I still have 40 miles to cover this week but the hardest work is completed. I'm still waiting for my shoes which are due to arrive Tuesday! Then my mind will focus on maintaining the strength and endurance these past 13 weeks have provided. I inwardly can't help but smile, I've actually worked my plan...soon I will test it!
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