Friday, October 19, 2012
Congratulations. You've made it. This is the last blog in my Weekly Mile Series!
I remember ON2VICTORY's blog at this point in the game, so I can't say that I wasn't prepared to be a little...depressed about the whole thing. It's like post-partum, or post-wedding, or post- any other huge life event - I just trained 9 MONTHS for this one day in my life, and now it's over. Sure, I have other things to move on to, but my first marathon has come and gone, and in 6 short hours, the thing that I had been building up to for an entire year of my life was done.
The Monday following the race was a bit of a haze. On the day of the race, the things that hurt are obvious, but you are so jacked up on adrenaline and sports beverages that you don't really feel much. When you wake up the morning of the day following a marathon, EVERYTHING hurts. My abs, my shoulders, my arms, and of course my legs - everything had stiffened up overnight despite going to bed in my compression socks, and it took a long, hot bath and a lot of easy stretching just to get my muscles to want to cooperate. But once I did get moving, I seemed to keep moving pretty well. Judging by all the rest of the people that I saw hobbling in to Fleet Feet to get their medals engraved, I was one of the ones in GOOD shape.
By Tuesday, I noticed almost a revolving muscle soreness. My quads were still the big issue, but my shins (which hadn't bothered me at all Sunday or Monday) were now adding to the hurt. Walking was ok, going up stairs was ok, going down stairs was comical. One step at a time, wincing all the way.
I got my hour-long post-marathon massage on Wednesday and that was a world of good. This is the day that my body forgot that it had run 26.2 miles. By the end of the day I was back to my old self - up and down stairs with no issue, no more little niggles of pain here or there, it felt like it never happened.
Oddly enough, my brain seemed to work in reverse of my body. On Sunday, the physical pain told me I had done it, but my brain couldn't begin to comprehend just what "it" was. I was actually ANGRY at myself because in whatever world I was living in, I didn't think that it was hard enough. I felt like it should have been so much harder than it was - never mind the fact that I ran the last 10 miles in agony - my brain didn't care about that. Apparently I thought that if I was not dragging myself crawling across the finish line, that I didn't try hard enough. I know, I know - I'm really hard on myself. But there was an overwhelming feeling of "this is NOT ENOUGH" that followed me around for days after the run.
On Tuesday night I talked to a colleague who is also a fellow runner and Triathlete about my feelings. He assured me that what I was feeling was totally normal and a small weight was lifted. I started to feel a bit better about my accomplishment and see it as that. Tuesday was also when I wrote my Race Report blog, so reliving it mile by mile helped a lot in getting my brain to adjust to the reality of the situation.
Wednesday was the real day of change. For 5 days I had really been secluded from my normal world. I was around only my parents and my boyfriend, who love me and support me, but were really very one-note about the whole experience and I was ready to be done with their opinions about it and share my feelings and experiences with other people in my life. So while I was having my limbs joyfully massaged on Wednesday I chatted about it with my massage therapist, received accolades from my friends and colleagues all day at my first day back to work, and even got to show off my medal to my girls at Starbucks. It felt so good. And it finally sunk in that I had just done something BIG.
I still struggle with feelings of my accomplishment not being good enough, but I suppose that's what is going to propel me forward to do another one. I already know that I'm signed up to do the Chicago Triathlon next summer, but I know in my heart that I'm not done with the marathon. Some day I will train and run again. It's who I am now. I am a runner - and I am a runner who runs FAR.
There are different accomplishments in running. For each of us, the weight of those accomplishments is different. For me, the marathon was a big deal - but so was my first 5K, and my first 8K and 10K and 15K and Half Marathon. So I guess part of my thought process and a good part of my disappointment was actually in that the marathon was simply the next distance to reach. And OF COURSE I was going to reach it. Duh. But I suppose it's always fun to work it up into this impossible feat in your mind, to think that the more unattainable it is, the better it's going to feel when you DO attain it.
But an equally proud moment for me happened this week. All by myself. No crowd, no cheering, no back-up support, and no glorified finish line. On Monday I ran again. It was only 3 miles. An ease back into the sport and the discipline that I have spent so many hours over the past year doing. But I did it. I went out for a run after the marathon. I am running again. And to me, that's as much of an accomplishment as running that penultimate race is. I am a runner - and that short run on Monday only served to prove that to me again.
So in the spirit of getting back to it, this week has been all about GETTING BACK TO IT. The Marathon was a wonderful challenge, and 9 months of something else other than weight loss on which to concentrate. But I learned a lot of things while out there on the trail about myself and about my methods of discipline and about what I need to keep doing it day after day after day. So unless I can now apply those methods to the next goal, what good was learning them in the first place?
So as I venture back into my next challenge - losing another 50 pounds - I'm doing it as a marathoner. A runner who knows what hard work is, how tough it is to be disciplined and focused on one particular area of life, and how to apply the same tools and knowledge to other hard tasks. And so far, so good. I have been re-Sparked this week and have had an insane drive to stay on target with my eating and calorie counting. I started a new Team that I am thrilled to be a part of. And I am anticipating a successful first weekend, despite a trip to visit friends out of state. I'm feeling inspired and empowered right now and I want to ride that wave as long as possible. Spark even rewarded me today by making me Motivator of the Day. Sweet! But for those of you who are just learning about me and my journey today because of that status, I urge you to head back in my blogs a few months. Things have NOT been all unicorns and rainbows for me this year, and it's taken me a LONG time to get back to this point where I am ready and able to lose more weight.
Our journeys here all ebb and flow. That's life. The brain is the heaviest part of the body when we start a weight loss journey, and regardless of how much and how fast the body can lose pounds, the brain moves at a totally different speed - completely independent of anything else you do or plan or want. My brain moved QUICKLY over my first year here. I was ready for a change. But my plateau has been as much mental as it has been physical, and I have been unwilling and unable to make my brain move any faster up to this point. I can only hope that this marathon journey and the mental work that I have done to master my body in that challenge has prepared me to move forward with my next goal. So far this week I have managed to lose EIGHT pounds of water weight that I put on while eating like a fiend to train for the race. So I'm officially back to my lowest weight and ready to rock on getting even more gone.
There is life after running the Marathon. When you're training for it, this is the part that doesn't make it into your imagination. Put I have done it, and lived to tell the tale, and now that I'm on the other side of it, there is only more road ahead of me. But what I make of that new road is up to me.
One foot in front of the other. I did it for 26.2 miles. I can do it for a million more (literally and figuratively)!
Tuesday, October 09, 2012
Well... I managed to write the title and now I have writer's block. I've been staring at the blinky cursor thingy for about 10 minutes now...
Where does one start when trying to describe running their first Marathon?
The day before? The night before? The Expo? The beginning?
How about at the end?
Yeah - the end sounds good. Because it's at the end that I finally get to say:
I AM A MARATHONER!!!
And this is the story of the one weekend in my life that took me from being "just a runner" to "a runner who has officially completed a marathon". This is the culmination of the last 9 months of training, 26 weeks of blogging about it, and the who, what, where, when and how that got me over that finish line and earned me this:
My parents arrived in town on Friday night with a boatload of mac and cheese from Costco, fresh bread and beer. It was a carb-loader's paradise! I was happy to see them after a little bit of an earlier-in-the-day scheduling snafu with my massage appointment. Long story short, I was scheduled for 3pm, when they called to confirm they confirmed me for 3:30pm, and then I was late and missed half of my (most important) massage before race day. Thankfully, my massage therapist felt so bad about it, he stayed overtime to get me back on the table after all his other appointments and gave me a full 35 minutes in addition to the previous 15, so I was good and worked out!
Friday night was a fairly regular night for me - I had to do tech for my show, which was actually really great at keeping my mind occupied. By the time I went home I fell into bed for a really good night's sleep, and was told to wake up the next morning only when I felt I'd had enough sleep to go fetch my parents for lunch and a trip to the Expo.
So on Saturday afternoon around noon, I meandered downtown to the condo that I had booked for mom & dad to a spread of bacon and eggs and English muffins that they had prepared for me in their little kitchen. We worked out some of the game plan for the day and then headed over to the shuttle buses taking runners to and from the Convention Center. It took quite a while to get there, but once in the hall the excitement was pretty fierce. We were greeting by the huge branding signage:
Once up the escalators, I went straight to the pick-up area to get my bib and race packet. Number 50121!!!
We spent some time browsing the Expo, checking out all the fun gear and cool t-shirts. I couldn't really decide on anything specific that I wanted even though I went in with getting a pair of compression socks and a new sports bra in mind. I think my brain was just on overload at that point and I wasn't really capable of making a decision about anything. We dropped off 2 pairs of my used shoes to send to Haiti (something that I really wanted to do since I didn't end up running for a charity this time around), and I had to stand in line for a little while to change the size of my race shirt. I had ordered a medium, which is the size I wear in all my running gear, but the Nike tops were REALLY small in the women's sizes, so since everyone was changing their mediums to larges, I had to wait in a line of women who were all waiting for someone to come turn one in since they were all out of large and extra-large. But I finally got one! After which we went to visit the NikeTown store to peruse their official race wear.
The theme this year was "Own Chicago"
If you scanned your race bib, your name came up on a screen for a pretty cool photo op!
And guess who I found?
The "Grandfather" of the Marathon himself, Hal Higdon. It was more than my hand that was shaking when I reached out to shake his. I think my whole body was in tremors I was so nervous! Although, I do have to say, he wasn't exactly "nice". He took the picture, and I know it was the end of Day 2 of standing in the Expo hall, but he didn't exactly have a lot of "bedside manner" at that point in the day. Maybe it's because I didn't have my copy of "Marathon" to sign - although I wish that I had thought to bring it.
The one thing I DO regret, is not buying the Marathonfoto Exhibition deal of $100 worth of photos for $65. I know I am going to want stuff from them, and I should have bought it, but by the time we came across their booth, I was tired, my feet were starting to hurt from walking around on the concrete floors, and I just wanted to get out of there and go home to rest. Hal warns about the danger of the Expo in his book, and after meeting him, it's hard not to take him seriously - "WHY are you on your feet walking around when you should be at home resting your legs?"
All in - we spent more time at the Expo than I should have, but it's hard to leave when it's your first invitation to the dance. But since it took us more time to get home after that than expected as well, all of sudden my nerves came crashing down on me and I started to panic a little bit about how much I had left to do that night. Once we got home, my parents thankfully took over the dinner-making duties while I threw my running clothes in the wash and started laying out and packing my bags for the next day. I had made lists of everything I didn't want to forget in advance, but running around my house that late in the game was not exactly "getting off my feet" so you could say that I was more than just a little stressed. I also got it in my mind that I HAD to watch "Spirit of the Marathon" before the next morning. A number of my friends who have run before recommended it to me highly and said it was definitely the thing to watch to get me in the mood. WRONG. We eventually DID sit down to watch it after dinner and it did nothing but give me nightmares. As any good movie should, the first half sets up all the challenges of training and the situations that all the profiled runners have to overcome to get to race day - but unfortunately, it spends a lot of time on detailing the horrible injuries associated with running and the possible things that can go wrong on race day (including death), and that was just not the thing that I wanted to be thinking about right before bed. I have been nursing a bad hip and knee for a couple of weeks, and I was already worried enough that they were going to slow me up, or possibly prevent me from finishing, so seeing a movie that detailed all the things that could go wrong only made me more nervous. I ended up stopping it mid-way through after a section about the power of female runners. At least we ended it on a good-enough note. But I should have followed my own advice from last week about not reading anything, which also should include WATCHING anything, right before the race. Information shut-down. It's all about YOU and nothing but YOU before the race.
My choice of pre-race fuel for dinner was a traditional one for me - steak and a baked potato. Most runners will choose to eat the pasta dinner the night before, but I like to super-carb up 2 nights before with the heavy pasta, and then make sure I have AMPLE amounts of protein in my system the night before to sustain that. The baked potato provides a ton of potassium (more than a banana) and lots of dense carbs as well. And I always pair the above with a dark green of some sort - broccoli, steamed spinach, or in this case, an arugula salad with tomatoes and mozzarella did the trick nicely. My parents picked up these gorgeous 12oz steaks from Costco, cooked medium rare (YUM), and I topped off the whole thing with some buttered bread and a nice, dark beer. Some people are against the consumption of alcohol the day before, but I find that one beer with my dinner relaxes me in addition to providing an extra carb boost, and I can usually sleep for at least a couple hours after a dinner like that.
So then it was to bed for a fitful night's "sleep" - can't say I wasn't prepared for that though. Here's my gear set-up all laid out for the next morning:
I have another pre-race tradition of doing an extended version of my daily stretching routine with my foam roller right before bed. Most of it involves standard stretches and yoga poses that I can cycle through in about 8 minutes every morning, but the extended version allows a full 5 deep breaths (or more) in each pose and a full-body roll-out of all my major muscle groups, also while deep breathing. It takes about 30 minutes to do, relaxes me as much as possible, and gets the oxygen flowing so that I can have a restful sleep and optimal muscles the next day.
I woke up every hour on the hour to check my alarm clock...
5am. The alarm finally goes off. And I practically BOLTED out of bed. I padded into the bathroom for a warm-up shower to get my muscles moving (something that I don't usually do on race mornings, but because the temperature had dipped outside so much overnight, I wanted to make sure this time that I left time for to give myself every opportunity not to seize from the cold). Since I was staying with Nikhil, I left him to another hour of sleep while I choked down the "super breakfast" that I had packed for myself the night before - loaded oatmeal (which I could only get through half of), a banana, black tea, a caffeinated coconut water latte drink (new on the market and TOTALLY effective, I really like them), a cheese string, and a large glass of water.
6am. Already on my 3rd trip to the bathroom to attempt to "vacate myself" before heading to the start line. Every runner that I know fears tummy issues during the race, and so I wanted to make sure that I was good and empty. No issues there - my nervous bladder determined that for me. And finally into my running gear, trying to take big, calming breaths through the whole thing, while honestly feeling like I might vomit. By this point, Nikhil was awake and getting ready as well, and trying to keep me as calm as possible. He is very good at talking me through my game plan and alleviated some of the nerves.
6:45am. Out the door and on our way to the first checkpoint on my plan to meet up with my parents and other folks who were there to cheer me on. At this point, seeing all the other runners actually helped a lot. Having been through many race starts at this point in my running career, it was like an old, familiar feeling, and there was a sense of calm that came over me knowing that I was in the company of so many other people from all different walks of life.
At the meet-up point with Nikhil - wearing THREE layers of clothing cause it was SO cold outside! 42 degrees when we started running.
7:30am. One last chance to get rid of anything you don't want to take with you :)
7:45am. In the Start Corrals! I was all the way back in M, but there were still hundreds of people behind me!
8:20am. Almost like clockwork, we were off and running. My parent's first checkpoint was the Randolph Street Bridge that overlooks the start line. They just made it in time to see me cross under and wave at them. I was only about 300 meters in at that point, but it was the perfect set-up for the rest of the race. They were so excited and I was so excited and I just KNEW that THIS was going to be a great day.
Mile 1-3 - The standard Chicago Race start-point, heading north on Columbus Drive to Grand Ave and then west to make a turn south on State Street to run by the famous Chicago Theater, continuing south to Jackson and the rounding north again on LaSalle to start the longer trek to the Lincoln Park Zoo. After seeing my parents at the first stop, I wasn't expecting anyone for the next couple of miles, so I set my sights on determining my pace, making sure I wasn't going out too fast, and just getting my race legs under me. I have to be honest that after a 2-week taper, you kind of feel a bit like Bambi out there. But once the legs remember how to work and warm up a bit, things felt pretty darn good all round. My hip was behaving and I was able to keep a decent 12 to 12:30 pace which is exactly where I wanted to be. My parents surprised me by making the second checkpoint along the way and called out to me around Mile 2. At that point I decided that this was going to be pretty darn fun finding them in the crowds, and I immediately started dividing up my race by where people were going to be located, which worked great for inspiration. Right on schedule, a group of my running friends were at Mile 3 right before crossing the bridge at Wacker, and I don't know who was more excited to see who! I got a high five from my friend Maureen that on a cold hand literally stayed with me for the next mile! Yowza!
Mile 3.5-7.5 - The first rest stop after the 5K mark, the long run up LaSalle Drive, through Lincoln Park Zoo and to the furthest north point on the route at Addison and Broadway - right next to Wrigley Field where the Cubs play. I did opt to walk halfway through this stop just to get a cup of COLD water in me and to conserve some of my energy even though I wasn't feeling like I needed a break at all. I was FREEZING, having shed my hoodie and gloves at this point for just my race tank. This was one of the windiest sections of the route and we were definitely fighting cold head-winds at some points which was slightly unpleasant, but far better than the alternative, so it was here that I adopted my mantra that took me through the rest of the race - "Relax & Focus" became the phrase that reminded me to breath, make sure my shoulders were down, my head was up, and my gaze was focused at least 3 stoplights in the distance to keep running towards that end point. Since I was scheduled to see Kathy (LOTUSFLOWER) and her family at the Zoo, I started looking for them around Mile 5, but unfortunately missed them at this point. Thankfully it was early enough in the race, and the excitement of the start was still with me enough to fuel me forward. I had already canned one hour of running and didn't feel at all like it! This is also the point in the race that "Bacon" became my running-mate (a guy dressed as a slice of bacon), so it was entertaining to say the least to be running in a pack of people that was greeted by all the spectators with a "GO BACON!" - hahaha! Both my parents and my running friends made it to the furthest north point and I saw them both within 200 meters of each other. Another huge boost of energy from that siting made for a very speedy couple of miles.
Mile 8-12.5 - Probably one of my favorite chunks of the race. At this point I was still feeling really good, I was right on schedule, and we were running down Broadway through Boystown, Park West and Old Town (some of my favorite Chicago neighbourhoods). The crowd support and entertainment here were amazing! In Boystown (one of our LGBT neighbourhoods), there was a stage performance of Drag Queens and the rainbow flags were flying. It was colourful and exciting and definitely took your mind off what you were doing and how far you had left to go, if only momentarily. Park West is a gorgeous section of town with beautiful tree-lined streets all changing colours this time of year, and the Native Indian Drum Circle came out to play for us with almost a full city block of drummers - so cool! My friend Chris was standing at the corner of Webster & Sedgwick and he spotted me coming from about a block away. He announced my arrival with a booming "JENN KINCAID! YOU ARE KILLING THIS KINCAID! I'LL SEE YOU FURTHER DOWN THE LINE!" And not a block later, a surprise siting by my custodian from work who had come out to see if he could spot me and just happened to get lucky! He called to me and waved and took a picture of me as I ran by. Into Old Town and straight down Wells Street - I know I recall being there, but my focus on getting to the next rest stop and the Half was SO strong at this point that I honestly don't remember much of it. We even had breakfast on Wells this morning and I said to my parents, "I know I ran here, but it's all a blur right now." But I did make it to the 12.5 mile aid station and my second GU of the day. My stomach was actually growling at this point, so I knew I was going to need something solid later on in the race. The GU would have to do for now.
Mile 13 - Round the corner on Adams and over the bridge for the 5th of 6 Chicago River crossings and I had made it to 13.1! This was supposed to be a big rendezvous point for all of my teams, but the only ones who made it were the girls (my running buddies) since I was SO close to my projected schedule that mom, dad and Nikhil just could make it with the train schedule. My projected Half time was 2:45 and I made it in 2:49 (with a running clock, so that accounts for Aid Station breaks as well at this point). But the girls gave me another boost of energy, more cheers and high-fives, and sent me on my way for the second half of the marathon!
Mile 14-19 - Not gonna lie, this part of the race is where it started to suck just a little. This is the west leg of the route that goes all the way out to Damen Ave just south of the United Center. While the neighbourhoods are pretty, and the view running back towards the Sears Tower (it will never be Willis in my book!) is pretty awesome, the end seems FAR away at this point and the miles don't tick my nearly as fast as you want them to. My body was genuinely starting to slow down at this point and when I slowed to walk at the Aid Station just past mile 16, my left knee gave in and I succumbed to a limp that I held for the rest of the race. I knew to look for another set of friends just past mile 14.5 and thankfully they found me which was awesome because I was absolutely needing the boost at that point. They were holding a big sign with "GO JENN!" on it. I have such GREAT people in my life! I hobbled through Greektown and Little Italy, testing out my knee to see how far I could push it. I knew it was nothing super serious and just due to my IT band and upper calf muscles tightening too much, but the pain was pretty real and every time I would start running after that point I would have to drag my left leg for a few steps until my muscles remembered how to bend and flex properly. I stopped a couple of times to stretch out my leg, do a couple of lateral squats, and massage my IT band and hamstring which seemed to help enough to keep me going. My friend Chris appeared again right before mile 19 (BLESS HIM to trek all the way out to that furthest southwest point on the route) and managed to spur me on again calling after me: "I'LL SEE YOU AT THE FINISH LINE KINCAID!!!" This was also the point in the race that I saw the "Super Team" - a group of runners in Avengers costumes - and I thought, well, if they can do this, so can I!
Mile 20-22 - Mile 19-20 took us through Pilsen - my second favorite part of the race. It is known that Pilsen always puts on a GREAT show for the marathoners and they definitely didn't disappoint this year. Huge Spanish puppet costumes, a man and a woman, that almost looked like giant pinatas were dancing through the streets and the crowd support yelling and dancing to the oompa oompa tuba music was sensational! It looked like the entire neighbourhood was out on the streets, handing out orange slices and candy to the runners. The energy came right where I needed it and I managed to run pretty much the entire next 2 miles to the banana stop! Thank god. I absolutely needed some solid food. Though my stomach was starting to lurch a little through the last couple of miles at this point, the banana sat very well with me and gave me the fuel my body was looking for. The tummy grumbles and discomfort went away almost immediately. I followed that up with a couple of pretzels from a supporter who was handing them out, although I needed another water stop so badly at that point, it took me almost a full city block to chew and swallow ONE pretzel! Although they looked amazing, I opted not to go for the orange slices in Pilsen because I didn't know what my stomach would do with citrus and it wasn't in my plan, so I was determined to stick to my pre-determined race plan. Unfortunately, this leg of the race was also the scariest for me. This was a record low year because of the cooler temperatures for casualties, but there was one man who had a heart attack and 10 others who were taken to the hospital. Between Mile 20-21, I saw a paramedic running a full-tilt up the street to a man who had collapsed right in front of me. I had to run around him as the paramedics attended to him, checking for his pulse and administering CPR. He was unconscious for sure, but was young, probably my age or just a little older. I knew I was still feeling fine at this point, but the sight is enough to scare you and remind you of what CAN happen, so I made sure to be doubly careful of checking my "internal threshold" for the rest of the race to make sure that I was in tune with how my body was feeling. One I cleared that scene, however, I was on my way to Chinatown and FINALLY saw Kathy and her family near the 21 mile marker. I was ELATED to see them - she had her husband and kids with her and I knew how much effort she had put into coming out to support me, so I was all smiles when I finally saw her. And then I saw my parents again about half a mile later, so that was another stockpile of good energy to keep pushing me forward. Dad even got a good picture from the Cermak Red Line stop coming into Chinatown of the runners en route!
Mile 22-25 - This physically and mentally felt like the LONGEST 3 miles ever. I walked a good portion of this, my estimate is that I walked about half of each mile and ran the rest on and off. I was still using my mantra and focusing into the distance, but I was using it now more for "run to the bridge, or the next stoplight, or that sign post, and then walk" than I was for straight running with the pull to the finish. This was the furthest south leg of the route down Wentworth Ave through Chinatown and south towards US Cellular Field where the Sox play. There's almost an evil trick at the end where you run east for a jaunt over the highway and you THINK you're at the ending point, only to find out that you turn right after the bridge instead of left to continue your jaunt south another full city block. I was on my own for this 3 miles, no energy boosts from friends or family and since we were nearing 6 hours in since the start of the first wave of Elite racers, were getting pretty thin in the crowd support department as well. It got very quiet. And running got VERY painful for me at this point. My knee was threatening to give out all the way, so I had to take it very slow when I was running, and stretch and walk as much as possible. It was during this 3 miles that I added about 30 minutes to my "dream" finish time of 5:15, even though my goal time was really about 5:36. But I could see the 40K sign looming in the distance and I knew what that meant, so I pushed myself to go for it and I wasn't disappointed. Standing between the 40K sign and the 25 mile marker were my girls! Still cheering, still showing strong support to get me into that final mile. I teared up a little at that point, said "I love you guys, thank you SO much for being here, I needed to see you so badly!" and then started a slow jog again with one finger in the air - ONE MORE! ONE MORE MILE.
Mile 26 - Since this is right where Nikhil lives, I was all of a sudden thrust back into home turf territory. I started to recognize the buildings around me and was humbled to run past the Firehouse where a HUGE American flag was hanging from an extended fire truck ladder right out into the middle of the street. I wanted to run the whole final mile, but my knee was just too sore, so I managed a run/walk until I hit the sign that said 800m. From there I could see Roosevelt Drive, I could see the massive crowds waiting to push us up that final hill, and I kicked so hard with everything I had left in me that to my surprise it almost felt easy. There was NO way that I wasn't going to run that final hill. All of it. No more walking, I was running this race home. Michigan Ave, past Nikhil's building, rounding the corner at Roosevelt road and weaving in and out of the other runners and I took the hill in perfect stride. My lungs were almost bursting from the cold air intake at the top, but I knew the final stretch was all downhill from here!
The Final .2! - My legs were flying and my eyes were scanning the crowd. I had reached the spectator bleachers and I could SEE the Finish Line. My eyes welled up and I had to choke back my emotions as my family screamed my name. They had made it! I had made it! And I threw my arms in the air as my feet hit the timing boards. My Chicago Marathon Finish Time: 5:41:42. I DID IT. I broke immediately into dry sobs as my legs tried to remember how to walk and a volunteer caped me with a heat blanket. I continued my walk down the Finisher's Chute to collect water and snacks and a recovery drink, but not before I was officially medalled and congratulated by a volunteer. I thanked her through tears that had finally found their way to my face after trying to calm myself down enough to breath (I was still trying to catch my breath from running and the emotion of all of it was almost preventing me from doing that). My dad caught this pic of me coming down the chute:
At this point I just wanted to get to the meet-up point to see my family so I bypassed the lines for the official finisher's photo, thinking I could come back later. Unfortunately, I was wrong, and once out of that area, I wasn't allowed back in, so I will not have an "Official" photo on the Marathon backdrop. Oh well. There will be plenty of other photos that surface from the race photogs that I can choose from. I would not have given up seeing my family to stand in line for 10 minutes for the world. I spotted my dad first who took me in his arms, emotion overcoming him as well, and I managed to choke out "I'm a Marathoner!" to which he replied, "You most certainly are, and SO much more than that!" Nikhil was next - pride all over his face, I was just so happy to see him. Mom had gone to invest in some beautiful roses and a Congratulations balloon that she came running back with to more tears and big hugs all around. My legs were killing me but I was just so pumped that it didn't matter. We hugged and posed for some silly pictures before opting to walk a little in search of food.
Who just ran A MARATHON???
THIS GIRL DID!!!
Since getting back over to the post-marathon party would have required walking FURTHER away from home only to have to walk back, I opted not to go. Because I don't know what was there, I honestly don't know what I was or wasn't missing, but I rather enjoyed walking into one of my favorite restaurants on Michigan Ave (Pita Heaven) to a large party of spectators who were also dining. Since I was the only one in the place with a medal, everyone was looking at me and smiling and giving their congrats. I ordered a HUGE plate of chicken gyro and potatoes and pita bread and salad and the four of us enjoyed a much deserved lunch together over phone and text accolades from friends and family members who had been tracking me from all other parts of North America.
After lunch, my mom & dad retired to their condo and Nikhil and I went back to his place for a LONG soak in the tub and a rest. I was too pumped to sleep much, but I was able to lie down and ice my knee and get my compression socks on to start the healing process. Later in the evening, I cabbed it over to mom and dad's place where we reminisced about the day, I heard the tales from their perspective, and we enjoyed some egg rolls from Chinatown that they ended up having to buy so they could use the bathroom! Haha. I relaxed with a couple of rum and cokes that hit the spot and finally knocked me out, and returned home with a smile on my face for a DEEP sleep.
Yesterday was Canadian Thanksgiving and my parents cooked me a full turkey dinner at my place while I dropped off my medal at Fleet Feet to have it engraved. So much to be thankful for this year. And surely a Thanksgiving to remember for years and years to come.
Today I saw off my family and have been slowly trying to return to a normal schedule - catching up on emails and making sure that anything urgent is taken care of before heading back to work tomorrow. For a brief moment in time, I was Super Woman. And although I have to return to mortal life now, I bring with me something really incredible that no one can ever take away from me. From this point on, I am a Marathoner. Something that only a very small fraction of the world can say that they have accomplished. Will I do it again? I don't know yet. But what I do know is that I did it once. And that is an indescribable feeling that changes you forever.
WHO JUST RAN A MARATHON???
THIS GIRL DID!!!
Tuesday, October 02, 2012
So in case you haven't figured it out by this point, I'm running a marathon this week.
No seriously. I'm running a marathon. (Sometimes I have to repeat things to myself to make sure they're sinking in.) I'm running a marathon.
P.S. Taper Madness is a real thing. It exists. And it's a TOTAL mind f#$%. There, I said it.
If I can give you ANY advice at all for a successful taper it is this:
DON'T READ ANYTHING!
(Except maybe this blog.)
Cause here's the thing: everything you read is going to make you think you're unprepared, a total failure, not going to finish, not this, not that, etc. etc. etc. And at this point in my life - that's the LAST feeling I need to be having. According to Hal Higdon, I'm exhibiting 6 of the 7 signs of being "overtrained". According to some article that popped up in one of those sidebar search things (you think I've written the word "Marathon" enough to alert the cyberbots to start pegging me for running stuff?), the only way to avoid hitting The Wall and making it through those final 6.2 miles is by doing stuff that I should have started WEEKS ago. Every little discomfort, or niggle or twinge in your body makes you think you're incapable of running 2 miles let alone 26.2 miles. And when you're "exhausted" at the end of 8 miles, it's easy to think that tripling that distance is going to be next to impossible. So is it really too late for me?
Never. I'm planning for success and nothing but success. LOTUSFLOWER can attest to that. She's one of the lucky people on the receiving end of "Jenn's Marathon Route Plan", complete with maps, and Public Transit directions, and fun runner's slang. (I blame the taper madness for that).
But here's the thing you really need to know - you've made it this far. You are as prepared as you can be. So - like Nike says - Just. Do. It.
Well...just do it, on Sunday. Getting there is about 95% of the battle right now. My brain is on overdrive and it really is having an affect on my eating, my rest, and my tiny training runs - all of which are still very important. So what am I doing? Planning...and more planning, and planning still....for success.
My parents have received a schedule for the weekend. My mom has already commenting that she doesn't believe I have scheduled time for her to pee in there, but it's fairly concise. It's what I do when I'm nervous. I plan, and I organize, and I attempt to control every last inch of what I CAN control. But we all know that you can't control everything, and that is the hardest part about letting go and just, doing it.
But for the things that I CAN control and for those of you who are interested, here's a mile by mile breakdown of my plan for Sunday.
The Gear: Weather reports are in and it looks like the Gods are being kind to us this year (a big thanks to any of you who have been praying for this - I couldn't be happier). 54 degrees and sunny. The event warning system is a big GREEN for "Go!" - which means ideal conditions for running a marathon. I will be wearing an identical tank to the one I wore for my half marathon, only it's a turquoise green, 3/4 running pants, and a white cap. I'm forgoing the sweat band under the cap this time cause it should be cool enough that the cap can function to pick up forehead sweat. It took me forever to choose my pants, honestly because my legs are so short and chunky that I need a pant that is tight enough to support, long enough to cover, and loose enough to be comfortable. Plus I was finding that all the synthetic tech gear pants were causing my shirts to ride up and be totally annoying. But after my 4 miler tonight in my full race wear, I'm confident I have chosen the right pair.
The Fuel: I tried the Clif Shot Blocks on my last 14 miler and I really like them, but my fuel for choice this weekend will still be GU. It's what I've been training with, and I finally found a flavour combo that I dig: vanilla first, followed by berry, followed by mint chocolate. Since the flavour stays with you a LONG time, you gotta like it. When running my 20 miler, I opted to switch out one GU fueling for a Gatorade instead and it worked nicely, so my plan is to do that again if I'm feeling it. I will also be heading for a banana at Mile 21 if I think I can handle solid food since I just feel like that's a good plan and I might possibly benefit from the potassium boost at that point. I always take a Salt Stick before my long runs, so I will do that again here, but had terrible luck with taking another one mid-run. I will carry one on me in case I feel like I need it, but I find they make me WAY too thirsty and I get cramps if I take in too much water. My water plan is 2 cups at a time. One cup is for rinsing only - if I take a GU I use one cup of water to rinse the residue from it out of my mouth and spit it out. Then one cup to drink about 3 swallows max. It keeps me hydrated, but not feeling too "waterlogged".
The Aid Stations: There are 20 Aid Stations on the course, and my plan right now is to take a short walk break through all of them. They are about 2 city blocks in length, so I won't need to or want to walk that much at the beginning of the race, but by the end I'll be using them as my "oasis" points for a short reprieve. I will be fueling at Mile 5.8 (GU), Mile 12.5 (GU), Mile 17.8 (Gatorade), Mile 20.9 (Banana) and then deciding if I need anything else through any of the following 4 stops (1 per mile) between there and the finish.
The Crew: I am lucky to have a support team of about 15 people who will be divided into smaller groups and hopscotching the entire city to see me. I am so utterly grateful for this support, I can't even tell you. I am prepared for an emotional day - just how emotional I have no idea until I get there, but I have heard that when the weather is good, the crowds can be deafening. This is one of those things that I can't control, but a wise word of advice from a fellow runner and marathoner tonight was: "Just control your adrenaline - breathe and save it up for when you need it." So that, I will try to do. No easy feat, I assure you.
The Pace: Still aiming for a 12 min per mile pace although I know I'm going to be faster at the beginning and WAY slower at the end. I'll do what I can, but I am aiming to finish in 5:30 or less. We'll see. This by far is the least of my worries. Just finishing the race is all I'm really there for.
So there you have it. The Marathon Plan. And the Official, official end to my training. Between now and Sunday I have one 2 mile run, just to keep the muscles limber and ready to rock. I'll spend tomorrow night in the pool and the hot tub, just easy swimming, and then I have one final appointment with my chiropractor and massage therapist on Friday.
And now...the excitement builds!
Week 25 Schedule (Completed):
Mon - 4 miles
Tue - Rest
Wed - Massage Therapy & 6 Miles
Thu - Rest
Fri - 3 miles
Sat - 8 miles
Sun - Rest
Total Weekly Miles: 21
Total Weekly Calories Burned: 3227
Weekly Friday Weigh-In: 185
Week 26 Schedule:
Mon - 3 miles
Tue - 4 miles
Wed - Swim
Thu - 2 miles
Fri - Chiro/Massage
Sat - Rest
Sun - MARATHON!!!
Monday, September 24, 2012
The first week of the taper has already passed and I have officially completed SEVEN half marathons in 7 weeks (and then some). On Saturday I finished my last "long run" of 14 miles before the marathon, the longest distance left to run before 26.2 is 8 miles this weekend. I've got this in the bag!
It's amazing that I can look at 8 miles now and think - "Eh, no big deal". What a change has come over me - the person who saw exercise as equivalent to having teeth pulled only a couple of years ago when I weighed over 300 pounds.
I will admit, even though I'm supposed to be tapering right now, this week's runs weren't easy. This week felt more like a step back than a serious cut in mileage - 14 miles is still over a half marathon distance and I've been TIRED lately. I think my body is just beaten down as far as I can beat it and I'm actually really grateful for this taper - I need it for my spirit as much as to repair my aching muscles. I haven't officially settled into any kind of taper madness yet. Running less actually feels more like a reward at this point than a stress and I'm looking very forward to a more relaxed week of shorter runs.
What I have developed though is a mad case of the butterflies every time I actually think about what is going to go down in only two short weeks. I have started my pre-race prep having received my official "runner's ticket" in the mail via the marathon brochure. I've been assembling my team of supporters, making maps, deciding where I'm going to need to see people, planning out my break/fuel stations, and determining just what I'm going to wear on race day. This last piece is the most stressful at this point. I don't know what the weather is going to bring, so I have both hot and cold wear picked out. But I want to be visible in the crowd, and a recent shopping trip only managed to yield me a number of pieces that are annoying the crap out of me on runs - shirts that ride up, pants that bunch at the knees - and the combinations that I like the most seem to maim me every time I wear them (I have more scars from this weekend). Plus, I'm a girl, and while I should not be giving two hoots about looking cute while running 26.2 miles, there are going to be 50,000 runners there and double that in spectators. I WANNA LOOK CUTE!
I've also been trying to estimate my times through certain mileage check-points for my family so they can keep track of me during the run, and am finding that this too is a difficult task given my most recent actual running times. I can no longer run a 12 min mile. Anything slower than 11:30 feels like I'm walking when I first start running, and I'm finding that most of my mileage is being run between a 10:45-11:45 mile. Even when I'm nearing the end of a long run and am exhausted, my times are closer to 11:45, even though my marathon goal is a solid 12 min mile throughout. I'm nervous about starting too fast. And I know there is NO way that I'm not going to slow WAY down at the end. My goal is simply to finish, and any chance at a negative split, or a steady mile pace through the whole event is pretty much a pipe dream for me. So trying to figure out when I'm going to cross certain mileage markers is really tough! My estimate for the 15K marker was confirmed this weekend on my long run at a solid 1h48min. But then my Half Marathon guess of 2h36min I beat by an entire 3 minutes this weekend - finishing 13.1 miles in 2:33! Add nerves and crowd energy to that and I might just shave another 3 minutes off. Who knows? I know that it will all shake out differently on the day, regardless of my plan, so my cheer team are just going to have to be at their check points early to make sure they don't miss me!
I'm going to try to keep to my calorie limits this week so as not to bulk up too much before the big day. My weight has come down again, and I'd like to keep it that way. It does make running so much easier (even though it's only about 3-4 pounds). And I've really only got 2 more weeks of eating at this level anyway before I'm going to try to cut back totally again and lose some more pounds.
But for now I am still focusing on my incredible achievements to this point. Running SEVEN Half Marathons in 7 weeks is unbelievable to me. I've done it. And even though I'm tired and need some good rest before the big day, I'm still feeling confident and excited and ready to do this thing that I've been training so hard for. Only one more blog until the official race report. My how 25 weeks has FLOWN by!
Next week I'll outline my full race plan in prep for October 7th. And if you're so inclined, I do believe that you can follow me in the race online at the Bank of America Marathon website. More details to follow. Until then...the taper continues!
Week 24 Schedule (Completed):
Mon - Rest
Tue - Rest
Wed - 8 miles
Thu - 5 miles
Fri - Rest
Sat - 14 miles
Sun - Rest
Total Weekly Miles: 27
Total Weekly Calories Burned: 3654
Weekly Friday Weigh-In: 184
Week 25 Schedule:
Mon - 4 miles
Tue - 6 miles
Wed - Massage Therapy & Swim
Thu - Rest
Fri - 3 miles
Sat - 8 miles
Sun - Rest
Monday, September 17, 2012
You guys. I ran 20 miles. In a row. And I only took about 3/4 of a mile in accumulative walk breaks...
I feel like a Super Hero.
Except I also feel like I've been hit by a Mini Cooper. Preparedness, I'm sure, for the fact that after I run this Marathon, I'm going to feel like I've been hit by a Mac Truck. So for now, I'm good with the Mini Cooper.
This was my last official week of Marathon Training. Welcome to the Taper! The next 3 weeks are going to be about cutting back, and hopefully not freaking out about what's to come, but for now, here's the recap of this last week of long miles.
I have definitely managed to increase my speed with all of this running. It's nice to know that when I hit the pavement now, I actually have to make a concerted effort NOT to run faster than an 11:30 mile. The goal right now is not speed, but I've managed to ace a couple of my shorter runs and come up with amazing PRs which I did AGAIN this Friday, bringing my new 8K (5 mile) time to under 55 minutes. I'm chalking this up to have a lot to do with my massage therapy and the time he is spending on my hamstrings and calves - which before he got to me were increasingly tight and wound up. My bi-weekly therapy treatments are NOT pleasant (I'm like a fish jumping around on the massage table every time he hits a soft spot), but they are well worth the "good pain" to have stretched out major muscle groups that are responding by rebuilding faster and stronger and better than they were before. That's the name of the game here, and although I feel like my body physically looks the same as it did before I started training, I know that under the marshmallow, the walnuts are pretty firm. Aww yeah.
I ran 7 miles without socks. I don't recommend that. It results in small blisters on your baby toes. But the issue was this - I hate running anything longer than 5 miles around my house because a) I'm bored of it, and b) I usually run after dark and the neighbourhood roads making tripping all too real of an issue because they're badly lit - so I had brought (what I thought was) all of my running stuff with me to work so I could run on the trail, but half way through dressing discovered my lack of socks. Thinking my shoes were loose and comfy enough anyway, I laced 'em on and just went for it. Eww. I was fine until my feet really started to sweat at about mile 4.5. Then it just got gross. And sticky. And not that my shoes smelled like roses before this incident, but... you get the picture. I should have gone to CVS and bought a pair of socks. It was an afterthought. Gah.
I made up for it with my record breaking 5 miler on Thursday morning. Take THAT stinky shoes! (Maybe stinky shoes run faster? They're trying to outrun their own stench).
After 2 days of rest and more than long enough to build up any muscle weaknesses and a good case of nerves, the day of my official 20 Miler rolled around. I fueled the days before like it was the big race - after all, when else are you going to get to test out all the proper set-up procedures for race day if not now? So this is it - the last day to make sure that your marathon plans are in check and work the way you want them to.
I awoke at 5am and padded to the kitchen to prep my race-day breakfast of champions:
- Loaded Oatmeal (1/4 cup steal cut oats, 1/4 cup rolled oats, 1 tbsp flax seed, 1 cup vanilla or chocolate almond milk & cinnamon sugar put in the fridge overnight to soak)
- Add to the oatmeal 1 package of trail mix (whatever kind you like, right now I'm partial to the Emerald Breakfast to Go packs, but it should have nuts, chocolate and some other fun goodies in there)
- cut up a banana over top
- 1 light string cheese
- coconut water
- coffee or tea
I had purchased this new coconut water/espresso drink on Saturday that I was going to try, but I decided against it. Even though I always drink both coconut water and a caffeinated beverage for my race breakfast I didn't want to take the risk of something not agreeing with my stomach, so I'm going to try it for one of my shorter runs this week before using it before the marathon. I also picked up a new pair of underwear on Saturday (the MOST wedgie-proof according to the sales clerk), but again, you don't want to risk that on a 20 miler, so I'll try them out on my 8 mile this week.
I had my clothes laid out and my race bag packed the night before and had pre-ordered my cab to get me to the start line. Nikhil messaged me from France where he is currently on vacation to tell me to have a good race :) Sweet boy. I did my stretching routine and was half way through getting into my gear when the cab called. He was early! So thankfully since I had everything already packed, I threw on the rest of my stuff and was out the door. Best to not have to think too much the morning of. This kind of stuff will always happen!
It was a COLD morning, so I wore a running jacket over my tank to keep warm. As soon as I got to the start line location, I found the line for the porta potties and got in it - waiting to pee is always a great place to meet people :) I had a really nice conversation with 2 other girls - one also running her first marathon, and the other had just completed her sixth! So much fun to hear all the different perspectives. By the time I was out of that line, it was time to go get in line for gear check. I didn't want to shed my jacket too early, but I thought we were getting ready to queue up for our Wave # so I decided to hand it over. Oops. The chills set in and I felt like my body was expending additional energy just to keep warm, so I walked back over to the now shorter potty lines and went again. Just to make sure! Haha. Back over to the queue line to find out that our Wave didn't have a leader, so since we were the last wave to go anyway, we were grouped in with the wave before us. All was good except that the wave ended up being SO big, there was no way to keep with the pace leader. Looks like it was going to be my OWN run from the start, so that's exactly what it was.
I thought that this race was going to fairly closely mimic the feeling of the marathon which is a big reason I signed up. In terms of the distance and the aid stations, it absolutely did - but it was a really quiet run. Though people were running together, there was a very hushed seriousness over the pack, and conversations were short at best if they were even there at all. I struck up a brief conversation about Glee with a couple of runners, but they quickly passed me at the first aid station and that was that. I spent some time around mile 4 listening to a couple of older runners (he had just turned 65, she 55) talk about their previous marathon experiences. Wow - now that's inspiring. They didn't know each other, but were running the same pace and had struck up a conversation and I enjoyed eavesdropping on their talk, listening to why each one chose the marathon in the first place and why they continue to come back to the sport. I found a good pace buddy, and for about the first 6 miles we leap-frogged each other, running side by side for a lot of the time. But I lost him as well around mile 7 when we crossed through the narrows at Navy Pier and I was absolutely on my own for the rest of the race, running long stretches of the course where there was literally no one around me. So much for the moral support! I think I was also feeling lonely. This is the first race in which I knew no one else running, and no one was scheduled to meet me at the finish line. With Nikhil away in Europe, I even had to find my own way home. So I am very much looking forward to the marathon where there will be people there to cheer and support me, because though I am doing this race for myself, and am more than capable of getting myself through the mental tough spots completely on my own, it doesn't seem worth it without SOMEONE to celebrate with.
I managed to find a good rhythm, walking through all the aid stops which were about every 3 miles. I started to really tire at mile 15, but made a bargain with myself not to take an official walk break until mile 16 (my distance from last week's long run). At that point I agreed to walk up to a quarter of each mile left and run the remaining distance. This method seemed to work well, but by mile 17.5 I needed something more. Cue the music! Just in case, I had been traveling with my little stick of gum Shuffle in my pocket the entire race, loaded with inspirational songs for when I needed them. So for the last 2.5 miles, I broke out the tunes and low and behold, running got easier. I continued my walk/run mileage until just after I crossed the 19 mile mark and then just decided to go for it. All the way to 20. The finish line looked SO GOOD. I pumped my fist in the air and gave high fives to a bunch of people cheering on the finishers, completing my run in 4 hours, 8 minutes. Pretty much right on schedule factoring in about 1.5 minutes for each rest stop.
I grabbed water, apple slices and found my way to the Muscle Milk tent to get a quick recovery drink into me with a bunch of protein. I then found my gear - which they had bused "Boston Style" to the finish line for us since we started on the North Shore and ended on the South Shore. Yep - Lakefront Trail - finally - start to finish! I queued up for my souvenir t-shirt - a beautiful blue Merrill top, which I peeled off my sweaty tank and replaced with immediately for some dry comfort and a picture.
And then I spent some time relaxing on the grass and refueling a bit with more water. I finally remembered that I had pre-purchased a turkey burger, and there was a beer tent calling my name, so I headed over to check out the fixins. Biggest disappointment of the day - they were OUT of beer! NOOOO!!! Oh well, I got a card for a free Goose Island brew if I go into the brewpub - which I will. I picked up my chicken burger, took one bite and decided it was far too disgusting to ingest (not something I usually EVER say - so you know how bad it was), and ended up tossing it in the nearest garbage. Bummer. Word to the wise - don't pre-order post-race food. #1 - it's usually been sitting out far too long by the time you get there for it to be decent. #2 - there is so much FREE stuff at the race finish that your entry already helped pay for, why spend big bucks on anything else when you can eat for free and then go out to a nice restaurant and get quality food later? I would have been better off to just fuel up on the bananas, bagels, apples, cookies, coconut water, Muscle Milk, Clif Bars and other freebies. No shortage. Not to mention, I always pack emergency snacks in my race bag, just in case I need them. Lesson learned.
Since we were down by the Museum of Science and Industry on the south side of Chicago, one very cool feature was that they had buses waiting for us to be either dropped downtown or taken back to the start line. I chose to get off the bus downtown and walk to the nearest subway station to get home. I hobbled up Columbus Drive at Monroe where they already have the Marathon banners flying and felt my heart start to quicken. In 3 weeks, I'm going to running up that same drive, with those banners in full view, and the finish line in sight. Pitter pat, pitter pat.
Nothing to snap you back to reality though like 3 flights of stairs down to the subway. Burning. Quads. OMG.
Finally home, I soaked in an epsom salt bath for about an hour and spent the rest of the afternoon catching up on Breaking Bad from a horizontal position on my couch, and ordering in enough amazing Thai food to sink a small ship, which I proceeded to eat...all of. Oh yeah. It was damn good.
I'm fairing pretty well today all things considered. Like I said - Mini Cooper. The Mac Truck has yet to come. I feel like I have been through an incredible journey, and yet in some cases, I am only at the beginning. With all that said - Welcome to the Taper!
Week 23 Schedule (Completed):
Mon - 3 miles
Tue - 7 miles
Wed - Rest
Thu - 5 miles
Fri - Rest
Sat - Rest
Sun - 20 Miles!
Total Weekly Miles: 35
Total Weekly Calories Burned: 5164
Weekly Friday Weigh-In: 187
Week 24 Schedule:
Mon - Rest
Tue - Rest
Wed - 8 miles
Thu - 5 miles
Fri - Rest
Sat - 14 miles
Sun - Rest
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