Monday, December 29, 2014

It's that time of year...

My resolutions... nah, you didn't think it'd be that simple LOL!

I've always loved writing resolutions.  I can remember when I was 8 years old, getting a diary for Christmas and writing my New Year's resolutions in it. Back then, my resolutions were things like "Be nice to my little sister" and "Get all A's this year" (I'll let you guess which of those I actually accomplished!).  I loved going back to the first page of my diary each year and rereading the resolutions I'd made, to see how I had done.  I figured I should start this blog with revisiting last year's goals.

I had three running resolutions in 2014: to run 1000 miles total, to PR at every race distance, and to run in my first marathon.  I am happy to say that I met all three of these goals... basically.  My final mileage total for the year was 1427.68 miles.  Pretty freaking awesome!   I actually almost exactly doubled last year's miles of 714.42... not sure I'll ever be able to say that I doubled my yearly mileage again.  Wow!  I obviously ran in my first marathon... and second LOL.  The PR thing... so I initially said PR in EVERY distance... 5K, 4 miler, 10K (or quarter marathon), and half.  I PR'ed my half in August, and my 5K in July.  I PR'ed my full in October.  I actually didn't race in any 4-milers or quarter marathons this year, so I suppose I can still say I met my PR goals.  

Out with the old, in with the new... time for this year's running goals!  

1. Be injury-free.  I kind of don't like this goal.  I mean, freak injuries happen.  But I am going to do all in my power to keep from getting injured by running smarter, and adding in more strength exercises.  So I guess my resolution is actually just to be smarter in order to attempt to stay injury-free!

2. Run at least 1500 miles.  This is only a bit more than I ran this year, and I have no doubt that I had no been injured prior to my marathon (and after it) that I'd have ran 1500 miles this year.  I'm going to be smarter about it this year, though (see resolution #!).

3. Achieve a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon (for my age group, a sub-3:40).  Yep, I said it.  I know my loyal readers were expecting this one, and I aim to please ;)  Seriously, though, this is something that I truly want to accomplish. It was my pie-in-the-sky goal for my October race, and it's my "I'm gonna do it" goal for my April race. I just had to grow into it...

I know I can meet this goal, with the right training and mindset. I was all set to start marathon training this week, and just encountered a bit of a hiccup (calf strain) that now has me sidelined for a week or two.  I just keep telling myself that I'll be stronger when I do start.  

4. Continue to run with friends and with joy.  This year has been amazing.  I have met some of the best friends of my life.  I am so very lucky to have so many different friends who run at many different paces.  I have my "Wednesday group" who I run with at 4:30 AM (yes, we are a bit crazy).  I have my adopted MIT coaches who I met at my first marathon and who I now run weekly as well as attend core class with on Sundays.  I have my "fast friends", like Amanda, Paige and Andrea, who I can rely on for quicker-paced runs.  I of course still have Jen, my first true running friend.  And there are so many more!  Running has truly transformed who I am... the joy I get from running with these ladies is amazing.  Honestly, this goal is the most important one to me.  I want running to always be full of friendship and joy.

And there you have it... my resolutions for 2015.  I'm ready to get this party started!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Swimming Keeps Me Sane

Say what?   The title of this blog even makes me pause and look again.  Did I really just say that swimming keeps me sane?  Am I truly no longer a "swammer"?  (I love that word--it's a person who used to be a swimmer in high school or college, but no longer is a chlorine addict!) 

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I decided to undertake a most unusual challenge--one in the pool.  I heard about this swimming distance challenge from someone in a local triathlon group. It was being put on by a local triathlon coach, Tracy Hendershot of Swim With Tracy.  Swim for 4 hours... okay, a bit crazy.  Set a goal of 5K, 8K, or 10K yards... oh, now you've got me.  A goal. I do love goals!  And only one person did 10,000 yards last year?  Hmmm... now you've got my interest piqued!  It didn't take much for me to push the "register" button and sign up for the challenge. 

Honestly, I didn't know what to expect from myself.  I hadn't swam for more than an hour since I was 20 years old.  I hadn't swam any further than 4,000 yards since then, either.  I wasn't sure how my body would respond once I got past the 2,000 yards or so that it was used to doing.  But I was willing to give it a shot.  I recruited one of my favorite people, Steph, as a counter/support person.  Two of her other friends were also doing the challenge, so it was a perfect chance for her to sit and watch people swim lap after lap after lap. Sounds entertaining, right?  Only a true friend will do that for you.  Steph showed up with her A-game, toting coffee for everyone and wearing a super-awesome supportive t-shirt!

The challenge started promptly at 8 AM on December 14; swimmers started arriving at around 7:40 to get ready to get in.  I had brought various types of fuel, as I was unsure of what I would need.  Back in high school, we did 10,000 yards in practice at least once every week or two, and fueling was never spoken of.  Now, though, I wasn't sure.  I would never dream of running for 4 hours without fuel... so I packed GU gels, bananas, Clif bars, water and GU Brew (electrolyte drink).  I figured I'd try whatever sounded best as I swam.

I had pre-planned how I was going to do the swim. I wanted to take it 1000 yards at a time, so I brainstormed several 1000-yard sets that I could do (e.g. 10x100 alternate freestyle and backstroke). I knew this would make the time go by much more quickly than just doing lap after lap after lap of freestyle.  I wasn't married to my plan, though, as I wasn't sure how many people would be in my lane and what their plans would be.

As it turned out, I shared my lane with a female triathlete who was around my age and an older male who was a former collegiate water polo player.  Both were a bit slower than me, but not much, and both knew proper lane etiquette, so we all did our own thing. They were done much earlier than I was, as they did 5,500-6,000 yards each, so I actually had my own lane for a good deal of the time that I was swimming.  Every so often Tracy would put someone else in my lane for a bit.  I just kept circle-swimming and trucking along.  My favorite set (which I did twice) was 10x100 on :10 rest, odds free/back, evens free/breast.  I also did 5x200, 400-300-200-100 ladder, 2x500.  Fuel-wise, I ended up using a GU about an hour in.  I sipped on GU Brew throughout.  I had a half of a Clif Bar about halfway through, and a banana about 3/4 of the way through.  I never felt like I needed energy... mostly I just felt bored!  Yep, swimming for that long was B-O-R-I-N-G.  I lived for the breaks I would take every 1000 yards, short as they were, just so I could chat with Steph for a couple of minutes.  

With 1000 yards to go, I decided to go ahead and try a challenge set of 5x100 free on 1:30, a set I can barely do during a one-hour workout, let alone after swimming for almost 3 hours already. Not sure what I was thinking, but after two repeats I scrapped that idea and just swam whatever for the final 800 yards.  I think the chlorine was having a weird effect on my brain or something!

The full swim of 10,000 yards ended up taking me 3 hours and 10 minutes.  I was pretty pleased with that time, and if I do this again, I'll definitely have a time goal of sub-three hours. (What, are you surprised?  I gotta have goals LOL!)  My "prize" for this swim: a certificate and a swim cap.  At least I'm not a huge bling person!  For me, this was more about doing something that I just wasn't sure if I could do. I knew when I ran my first 5K, my first half, my first full, that I would be able to finish. This swim, I just wasn't sure about it, especially given the time limit.  I love proving things to myself :)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Gearing up...

It's been a great 6 weeks... some time off, some running with new friends and friends who I hadn't ran with in awhile.  I love the weeks following a big race.  Running is relaxing.  There is no true plan or schedule.  I took a week off after my marathon, did a group run, realized I wasn't totally healed/recovered, and took another two weeks off.  So, actually, I've only been running again for about three weeks.  During my time off, I swam a few times a week, did BodyPump, and missed running.  I truly do love this sport.  More than anything, I missed my friends who I run with.  The bonds that I've forged with these women are extremely close, despite the short period of time I've known them.  Hours together on the road will do that!  So I was super-happy when I could start up running again, and I'm now back to where I was pre-injury, running four times a week with zero pain (knock on wood!). 

As soon as I finished my first marathon in Toledo last April, I just knew I'd return again in 2015.  I loved the race so much.  From the amazing women I met on the course, to the course itself (mostly flat), to the pretty route, to the super bling (finisher medal + first time marathoner medallion + glass mug), I knew I couldn't ask for more in a race.  Plus, I found out a few months later that Glass City is one of the top courses in USA for BQing, meaning a greater percentage of runners BQ at this race as opposed to other races.   That pretty much sealed the deal for me!  Oh, and did I mention it's CHEAP?!  Only $65 if you register before New Year's Day.  That rate is more typical of half-marathons, so this is a true deal.  I hype up this marathon to anyone who will listen... I kind of feel like I deserve a free entry, for all the people I've "recruited" to go in 2015 LOL!

Thus, I am "gearing up" (hence the title of this blog) for a huge spring marathon.  I could hardly wait to write up my training plan.  Things aren't really changing a ton.  I will still be running four times a week.  One run will be dedicated speedwork on the track or treadmill, or a tempo run (likely alternating weeks).  One run will be nice and easy, a full 2.5-3 minutes slower than my marathon race pace (something missing from my last training cycle, I know).  One run will be at my "happy comfy pace" (around 30-45 seconds slower than my marathon race pace).  And of course, one run will be long and easy (the "easy" part was missing from my long runs this past cycle).  I won't be going much more than 40 miles during my peak week of training, just like always.  I do plan on two 20-milers this cycle, as opposed to just one, which is what I did the last two cycles.  I will be adding in one swim per week with the local Master's team.  I've loved getting back into the water (more on that in a bit), and I know that cross training is extremely important for running.  I'm lucky that I have the talent in swimming and can use it to my advantage as a runner.  I will continue to do BodyPump once a week, because I love it AND because I can tell how much stronger I've gotten (especially my arms/upper body!) since I started it in June.  And lastly, I will continue to do the weekly core workout at my local running store, also because I love it and I know it's helping out a ton (a strong core is extremely important to runners as well).

So my training plan is laid out for the next 20 or so weeks.  I also have my racing plan all set.  I have two races that I plan on doing between now and April 26 (marathon day).  One is the Granville Winter Run.  This is the 15-miler that I did last year. It's on February 15th.  In Ohio, February is never a wonderful month, weather-wise. It's cold. It's usually snowy/slushy/icy.  And this race, if you recall, takes place in the beautiful, picturesque city of Granville, which is about 25-30 minutes east of Columbus... and which is known for its hills.  Not just nice little rolling hills,either   Big, crazy hills.  Very unlike where I train!  So why on earth am I running in it?  Really, it's the sheer badassery involved. I love pushing my body to its limits, knowing that few can really do a race this crazy.   Two 7.5-mile loops of insanity.  I will definitely need to get in some hill training before this one. My goal will of course be weather-dependent, but as long as the ground is clear and the wind chill is in the teens or higher, I'm hoping for a decent PR from last year. 

The second race is MUCH different.  It is actually going to be my very first out-of-state race!  I'm going to be traveling to Virginia Beach to race in the Shamrock Half Marathon on March 22nd.  This one took some planning.  My friend Andrea and I wanted to find a fast marathon in the middle of March to set me up for my full.  We looked into several, including one in New York and the Rock & Roll Half in Washington DC, but this one was the winner.  It's flat and fast, exactly what I like in a race.  The weather should be perfect.  The big thing is the distance... we'll be driving, of course, and obviously I'll be gone all weekend, so that will mean my hubby has to hold down the fort.  I'm happy he said okay, as I know this is going to be an epic weekend.  Andrea is one of my biggest mentors when it comes to running, and I cannot wait to spend three days with her and running what I hope to be a big PR.  That's the goal... to give me a big confidence boost so that I'm ready to rock my marathon five weeks later.  

Andrea and me, after a long run this past summer

I do have one more "race"... it's not really a race, but an event.  Next Sunday, I'll be participating in a distance swimming challenge.  Four hours, maximum distance is 10,000 yards.  I haven't swam that kind of yardage in a workout in about 17 years.  I haven't swam for more than an hour at a time in about 16 years!  So yes, this is truly going to be a challenge, especially since I'm going for the full 10,000 yards.  Crazy, I know... but I really want to push myself on this one.  It's all about the pacing, and staying relaxed.  Kind of like distance running!

Well, there you have it!  I'm super excited to begin this training plan.  I'm just starting it, of course, so the excitement level is high.  I hope I can stick with it, as I'm pretty sure that if I can, the results will make me a very happy runner.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Columbus Marathon Race Recap (part 2)

Where did I leave off? Oh yes... the race was starting!  I didn't mean for the pre-race stuff to take an entire blog entry, but it's a big part of the race itself, and probably more interesting to you non-runners out there anyway.

So... amidst the fireworks and the (horrible) band playing, the gun went off.  It took us a good three minutes from the time the gun went off for my friends and I to actually go over the start line.  With thousands of people racing, though, that's to be expected.  Amy, Jess and I had planned to start out together, and even with all of other runners, we were able to stick together for the first two miles.  My only goal during those first few miles was to take it easy, keep at around an 8:30 pace, and get loose.  Most marathoners treat the first few miles as a warm-up.  At around 2.5 miles into the race, Jess looked back at me (she was about 5 feet in front of me at that point) and I urged her to go on. I was glad when she and Amy took off... I didn't want them to hold back, as they were doing the half and I knew they both had awesome races in them!  (And they did, both finishing in 1:48, and both going sub-1:50 for the first time ever!  Yay, awesome mamas!!!)

Pace-wise, the first several miles went about as perfect as I could have hoped for me.   Goal pace was 8:30 for three miles, 8:25 for three miles, and then dip to 8:20 and hold on for eight miles.  Here were my splits for miles 1-6:

Honestly, I couldn't believe how perfectly things were going. I felt amazing.  Alone, but amazing.  It was weird racing totally by myself. I mean, I was surrounded by people--runners, spectators, race crew members. But I wasn't "with" anyone.  At around mile 4 as we ran through Bexley, shortly before I took my first GU gel, I felt a light tap on my shoulder.  It was my MIT friend Carolyn's hubby, Steve.  We've been neck-and-neck on my last couple of races.  I knew his goal was the same as mine, and I was happy to see a familiar face. He urged me to slow down a bit, but I was on track with my pace and felt like I knew what I was doing, so I pushed on.  I was super-excited at around mile 5 or 6 when my good friend Tamara K. found me!   Tamara and I trained together for the past few months, but she is now 12 weeks pregnant with her third baby, and wasn't planning on a super-fast half marathon today.  She'd been looking for me, and it was so great to run for a bit with her.  After a few minutes, though, she told me that it was time for me to start hitting my 8:20 pace (she knew my goal!), so I left her behind and began to work towards some speedier miles.

I think this shot was taken somewhere in the first half of the race, based on how happy I look!
The first half of the race seriously flew by.   I had my music, and the crowd was great. I loved high-fiving the patient champions every mile.  There were some small inclines and declines, but mostly just flat Columbus roads.  I loved running through the city of Bexley, and then after that, right by where I work on Broad Street.  Running by Children's Hospital at around mile 9 was also really neat!  I was actually so distracted at that point that I forgot to take my second GU before the water stop.  I took it anyway, but ended up having yucky GU-mouth for almost two miles, until I got water about 1.5 miles later.   Other than this mishap, though, things were going swimmingly runningly, and before I knew it, the half-marathoners were turning off for their finish at around mile 12.6.  I looked at my watch at mile 13.1 and was ecstatic to see a 1:49:34.  Just a few seconds from my half PR!  I felt strong, but I knew things would be getting harder soon.  My official half split was 1:50:31.  Here were my splits for miles 7-13:

After mile 14, I had planned to start getting a bit faster, dipping into the 8:15's.   As I began to push my pace a bit, I started to get a few twinges in my calves.  This terrified me.  Calf cramps are no joke.  I never get them while training, but I almost had one at mile 25 in my first full in April. Thankfully it went away.  I also felt the same twinges during mile 12 of the Emerald City half marathon in August... again, thankfully, they didn't turn into an actual, full-on charley-horse.  This time, unfortunately, I wasn't nearly so lucky.

Definitely working harder here...
And this is where the story turns sour for me.  We ran through Ohio Stadium at mile 16.6.  Down the ramp, into the stadium, and back up the ramp.  It was exciting... but I think the steep decline/incline is what might have did me in.  According to the graph created by my Garmin (GPS watch), I first had to slow down due to calf cramps right after that, at mile marker 17.  It was only about 15-20 seconds of walking, but I was so upset. I couldn't believe that I'd had to walk.  But I was grateful that I hadn't needed to actually stop, and continued to attack the pace. And the 17th mile ended up being my fastest mile of the race, with an 8:09.  But just a mile later, the cramps came back.  I had to walk again.  And again.  And then, at mile 19.2 (again, all according to my trusty Garmin watch, as I really don't remember anything other than the fatigue and pain), I had to stop. Yes, I stopped.  I needed to stretch out my calves, as I knew the only way I could continue would be to get my tense legs to relax.  I'm sad to report that this was the first of 3 times during the final nine miles that I literally stopped in my tracks so that I could stretch out my calves.. Add that to the 7 total times that I didn't actually stop, but slowed to an easy walk for 20-30 seconds to work out the cramps that moved from my left calf to the arch of my foot, and you can see why this part of the race leaves me less than satisfied.  I tried drinking some Gatorade from water stops.  I even started walking each water stop, making sure that I was getting enough hydration.  Nothing helped.  I'd get rid of the cramps, and then within a half-mile or so they were back.   There wasn't anything I could do. Splits for miles 14-20:

I got a little pick-me-up when I had a strong split at mile 21, mostly due to a gradual decline in the course and no cramping.  At mile 20, I was still only a couple of minutes off of my goal pace, and I thought, wow, if I can just finish the last 6 strong, I could still go sub-3:40!  My hopes were dashed when again I had to stop at mile 21.6, and mile 24, with two walk breaks in that span as well.   By that point, I could feel myself running more gingerly.  I was worried with every step that my calf or foot would seize up again.  I wasn't able to push my pace like I normally do towards the end of a race, as I knew that would likely cause more cramping. I could only hope at that point that I'd be able to finish the race.  I will be honest, I was not in a good place. The tenths of a mile passed by every so slowly.  I would check my Garmin, praying the numbers had moved more.  I heard my little nephew Charlie yell "Go Aunt Marcie" at around mile 20 as we ran through Grandview, but I wasn't able to even look for him in the crowd... I just wanted to walk off of the course and quit. I've never felt like that before.  Those final few miles felt like they took hours. I'd walk a bit, stop if needed, then try to run some more... repeating this over and over again when the cramps would return. If this sounds miserable, well, it was.  Towards the end, any downhill part of the course would send my leg into spasms. I prayed for flat roads, cursing to myself each time that I'd have to walk a bit.  Of course, the final 10K of the race is basically downhill.  Not so wonderful for me... splits for miles 21-26.5:

My Garmin, of course, wasn't exactly on target with the mile markers.  Typically in a marathon, a Garmin will register between 26.3-26.5 miles, even if a runner is really good at running the tangents.  Mine ended up staying 26.50 as I crossed over the finish line.  

Only word to describe my face: relief.  I was SO done.
I did glance at it when it said 26.2 miles, and it said 3:41:51.  My final, official time in the race was a 3:44:29.  Just like always, I started to cry almost immediately after finishing.  These tears were tears of relief, though.  I thought that the race would never end.  Clink on this link to watch my race finish video (can't figure out how to embed it in the blog)... even a non-runner will be able to recognize the pain I was in at the finish, and also you can see me start to cry at the very end.  I was able to do some great fake smiles for the post-race photographers, though.  All of these proofs are from the marathon website, but I don't feel bad sharing them since I'll be buying them anyway :)

Jen taught me well... faking it :)
After I made my way through the finishers' chute, I didn't really know what to do.  I wasn't sure where any of my friends were.  I had heard a few friends cheering me on at the finish (ones who had ran in the half marathon), but I had no clue how to find anyone.  I didn't know how far behind me my other friends (Erin, Steph, Nicole, Becky) who had ran the full were.  Side note: they had great marathons!  Erin ran her first full in a 4:08, and the other three weren't far behind her!  I got my bag from gear check, as it had my phone in it.  I decided to go ahead and line up to hit the "PR Gong", and it was then that Andrea messaged me.  I'd completely forgotten that she would be at the race.  She and her partner Mary found me within a few minutes, and I don't think I've ever been happier to see people! 

Andrea and me... my joy upon seeing her is apparent in this picture.
After so many long, lonely miles without anyone around to talk to, and finishing such a difficult race, I only wanted to see a friendly face.  Andrea and Mary were like my angels, complete with fierce hugs and lots of congratulations.  Andrea, who is as competitive as I am, knew exactly how I was feeling, and of course knew exactly what to say to me to make it all feel better.  

Yay for a big PR!!!
After we got my picture hitting the gong, Andrea tracked our friend Jen and figured out where we could see her at mile 26, just before she finished.  It was so much fun cheering on the runners and waiting to see Jen.  Once she passed us and we took a few photos, we headed back to the post-race area and waited to meet up with Jen there. It was great to meet up and finally get that selfie with someone who's been there for me for almost a year of training for marathons.  I was excited to celebrate her 4-minute PR as well!

Two awesome PR's!  Love her!

Jen, Andrea and Mary left after that, but I was able to find Christine and Ashley in the finish area right around that time.  So proud of them for finishing their first marathons!!!

Christine wore my "Virgin Marathoner" BondiBand!
Then, I got a text from my favorite MITer, Stephanie. I had completely forgotten that she was there to cheer!  I quickly found her by the Fleet Feet tent and rehashed the race with her and a couple of my other awesome runner friends (Kim and Chris) who I've been doing core work with for the past couple of months.

Some of the most supportive runner pals ever!!!

Well, I was in no hurry to get home, but I knew my kids and hubby would be waiting for me, and Christine was in the same boat.  We actually made two (slow) trips back to the parking garage, as we were in her van pulling out when I remembered I'd prepaid to have my medal engraved with my name and time and had forgotten to have it done after the race!  So, we had to head back for that... but eventually, we were on the road back to Westerville.  

My take-aways from this race...

  • I CAN go out strong in a race and not (totally) die.
  • I CAN run a race and not negative-split, and still be successful.
  • I can race 26 miles alone! Shocker!
  • I have gotten faster in the past 6 months... a lot faster! 12 minutes is a PR to celebrate.
  • I need to be more consistent with my tempo runs and speed work if I want to get even faster.
  • I'm stronger--physically and mentally--than I realized.

As always... what is next?  Well, I'll tell you what's NOT next, at least not anytime in the near future: another race!  I am not planning on racing again till February.  November, December and January will be blissfully-race-free.  I'll be working back up to my normal four-days-a-week runs, and also doing BodyPump and swimming each once a week, plus core work on Sundays at Fleet Feet.  I'm super excited about fall/winter running.  I have amazing running friends at all paces, and I'm so excited to run just to run for a month or two!   

Of course, I do have races on my radar.   Definitely the Granville 15 miler in Feb, and perhaps a half marathon in March.  I feel like I need a fast half marathon to mentally get me ready for my next full.   When will that be, you ask?  Well, April 26, 2015, at no place other than the Glass City Marathon in Toledo!  I love this race and the course is about as perfect as one can ask for.   I've convinced my cousin Katie and a few other running friends to join me for at least the half marathon there this year--it's gonna be a party!  And that's exactly how I like it.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Columbus Marathon Race Recap: Part 1 (pre-race stuff)

Preface: Big reveal here: sometimes, I get a tad... wordy.  I know, I know, you're all shocked.   As I started to type this blog post, I quickly realized that it was going to be a long one.  Like, a REALLY long one.  So, I'm going to go ahead and try something new: a two-part series.  I hate cliffhangers, but most of you reading this likely already know how the story ends, so it's not really a cliffhanger!  And I promise I'll finish it in the next day or two.

I love quotes, and they often come to mind when I first start penning (typing) a new blog post.  So here's the one on my mind right now:  "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." (A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens).   I have to admit, I have not read this book, but this quote is such an apt description of my latest race, I just have to use it. 

Just 10 days before the Columbus Marathon, I didn't even know if I was going to be able to run in it at all.  I was cleared to run on October 9th by my sports med doctor, Dr. Bright, after an MRI showed no sign of a stress fracture.  This was after 12 days of very little running at all, as Dr. Bright was fairly sure that's what was wrong with me. Thank goodness he was wrong.  I promised myself that I would practice gratitude during my marathon. Just to be able to run in it would be enough.   Of course, little old Ms. Competitive always gets in the way.  And then her twin sister, Ms. Big Mouth, made her appearance as well.  I just had to announce to the world in my most recent blog post that I was going to attempt to qualify for Boston on October 19th.  I've never been one to keep my goals private, not even as a competitive swimmer growing up.  I made it no secret when I was attempting to make my Junior National cut... year after year... after year, after year.  Yeah, that was fruitless.  But I digress.  Suffice to say, I've never been good about personal goals.  I'm not sure exactly why I like to tell others what I hope to do.  I think part of it is knowing that they will support me, help keep me on track.  I love to hear them say, "Oh, you can do that!"  Deep down, I'm not the most confident person in the world (shocking, I know!).  Hearing others build me up helps breed confidence in myself.

I spent the three days before the marathon with my family in Hocking Hills, at our annual family reunion.  

Obligatory picture of my adorable children on a hike

When I registered for Columbus back in April (the day after I finished my first marathon), I didn't realize that the race coincided with the family trip.  Fortunately, the festivities basically conclude every year on Saturday night with our final family dinner together, so I knew I wouldn't be missing much if I left to head back to Columbus that evening.  And that is exactly what I did, driving home by myself, stopping by my friend Christine's house to get my bib (which she had so generously picked up for me at the race expo, since it took place while I was in Hocking Hills), and getting to bed at a decent hour.  It actually was a pretty perfect scenario... my kids were all with my husband at the lodge still, so I didn't have to worry about anything other than me, myself and I.

No "Flat Marcie"... but here is my mantra band (courtesy of Jen), my grace band, and my Children's Champions tattoo.

I woke up at the now-common-for-me hour of 4:25 AM.  Actually, I was up at 3:45 AM, but snuggled under my blankets until 4:25 when I decided to start the day.   Breakfast was a bagel with peanut butter.  I chased down three ibuprofen as well, in preparation for the workout my body was about to get.  I had waffled about what to wear for the race.  With a starting temperature of sub-40 degrees, and a finishing temperature of only 43 degrees, I just wasn't sure if capris or shorts would be best.  I finally settled on capris with a tank and arm sleeves, and throw-away gloves, and this ended up being the perfect decision. 

My friend Christine picked me up at 5:15, just as we'd planned, and we headed downtown.  Parking was a total breeze, and by 5:45 we were sitting in the nearly-empty parking garage, chilling and chatting.  

Crickets... :)

I love Christine, she's so cool and laid-back.  She keeps me in check!  Plus, it helps that we lead parallel lives (five kids each, plus both middle school teachers!).  I ate a banana while Christine decided which hydration belt she'd be wearing.  After about 15 minutes, we decided to head over to the steps of the Nationwide building, where Christine's Sunday long run group was meeting.  Christine is one of Jen's training buddies, so of course I was thrilled to see Jen, as well as Stacey and Lyndsey.  Katie and Gretchen were there as well, so lots of hugs were shared (and a few pictures taken) before I headed off to meet my own training partners at the Hyatt nearby.

Christine and Gretchen sharing the space blanket I gave Christine from the Akron half 
Not-so-great selfie with Grechen, Lyndsey and Christine (none with Jen yet--she's superstitious about that!)

I was quickly able to find Amy, Jess and Crissy, all members of my awesome Wednesday training group.  After a bathroom pit-stop, we headed to the meeting area where MIT was stationed. I was hoping to see some of my Glass City marathon buddies, and Crissy is in MIT so of course she wanted to see her coaches and training buddies.  I was so happy to catch sight of Carolyn and get a super-awesome pre-race hug.  I also got a great hug from my friend Erica, who was running in her first half-marathon.

Me and Erica!

Then I caught sight of Lori, another one of the crazies who meets at 4:30 (or earlier!) on Wednesday mornings to run with us. Lori is hilarious... so candid and always making the runs fun.  The five of us posed for a few pictures before we headed out to join the parade of runners journeying to the starting corrals.  

Love these mamas!

I gotta admit, this was one of the most annoying parts of the morning for me.  People were walking soooooo slowly!  I needed to check my gear bag, and I needed to pee.  Those two things before I got in my corral.  Seeing as I'd never before checked a bag at a race, I was a bit concerned.  Okay, that's putting it mildly... Lori will vouch for that.  I weaved my way around the slowly-walking racers and my friends had no choice but to chase after me.  I was on a mission LOL! 

It was all good when we finally found the gear check (ended up being such a simple process to check my bag!) and then entered our corral, B.  The portapotty line by corral B was long, but moving quickly, so Lori and I hopped in line while Amy, Jess and Crissy waited back in the corral.  All of a sudden, as we were standing in line, Lori spotted Erin, Nicole and Becky--also all members of our awesome Wednesday early-run group!  I have to admit, I almost peed my pants when I saw them.   I really thought we just weren't going to see each other before the race.  I mean, 18,000 runners... how would we ever find each other???  It was just pure luck.  Lots of squealing, and then of course portapotty-using, before we headed back to the corral to join our other friends. 

So happy to be starting the race with my friends!

Only about 10-15 minutes more of waiting before it was time to get the party started!  Lots of fireworks and then we were finally running!!!  

To be continued...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The time is now

The past couple of weeks have been absolutely crazy.  A very long story summed up in a couple of brief sentences: My doctor thought I might have a stress fracture in my left tibia.  Waited over a week (stupid insurance!) to get an MRI, which showed I do NOT have a stress fracture.  

Obviously a ton went on in that time span,including of course tons of tears from yours truly when it seemed I might not be able to race in the Columbus Marathon on October 19th, but the most important thing is that I have been cleared to run.  Not that I ever stopped... oops, that was supposed to be a secret.  I did take five days off from running, and I do think that period of rest helped a great deal.  I got back into the pool a couple of times, which was a lot of fun.  I tried to keep the miles that I did run short and easy, and promised myself that if I had any pain at all, I'd stop.  Fortunately for me, I didn't have any pain while running after that five-day rest.  That being said, running AMA (against medical advice) is NOT something I'd recommend to anyone.  I'm really good at giving advice, and not so great at taking it.  

Moving on, though... something's happening in just six days.  Oh yeah, I'm running a little race.  *insert scream* I can't believe it... the time has come.  The time is now... well in less than a week.  Soon enough.  I will be joining 18,000 other runners who are running in either the half-marathon or the full like me, and marathon #2 will become a reality.  I first started thinking about marathon #2 before my first marathon was even finished.  In my darkest moments of that race, right around miles 22-23, I said to myself, "Yes, this is awful.  Yes, I hurt worse than I imagine.  But yes, I will do this again."  I knew I had more in me than I had given on that day.  Now, when I crossed the finish line, there was no more left to give.  But I realized during that race that I indeed could train harder, run faster, and give more of myself to this beast that we call a marathon.

Me smiling (FAKE!) just a minute or so after finishing my first full

After my first marathon, my husband texted Jen (my coach/cheerleader/training partner) and told her that I was only 16 minutes from a BQ (Boston Qualifying time).  When Jen relayed this to me, I was surprised in two respects:  one, that my husband even knew what the BQ time was for my age group, and two, that I was only 16 minutes away from it.  I really didn't even know what the Boston Marathon was all about until the race was ran in 2013, and the horrific events that took place put the race at the forefront of everyone's minds.  I instantly decided that I would someday qualify for and run the Boston Marathon, even though at that point I still hadn't even raced in my first half-marathon.  After I raced in the Cap City half marathon less than a month later, the idea of racing in a full marathon was tucked deep into the recesses of my brain until I was finally prepared to face it again about 7 months later.  Following the Glass City Marathon, many of my running friends told me that Boston was definitely within my reach.  Jen's husband (a seasoned runner and triathlete) laughed when he heard I spent the first 20 miles of my marathon chatting it up with my new MIT runner-pals. "That's a good 5-10 minutes right there!" he chided.  

My chat-buddies during my first full--they made those first 20 miles fly by!

All of the people who I felt knew more than I did about these things were saying I could BQ... that's when I let the thought actually seep into my head.  Me... BQ.  Wow.  For my age group (35-39), the time standard is a 3:40:00.  What that means: I have to actually go a 3:39:59 or faster to achieve BQ status.  And that's just to qualify... once a person gets the time standard, they can attempt to register, but typically it takes a time that is a good two minutes or so faster than the actual standard to actually get accepted to run in the Boston Marathon.  Putting it another way, I'd have to shave off about 40 seconds per mile to earn my BQ.  For you non-runners out there, that is a LOT.  Like, a LOT LOT.  However, training hard all summer has given me the confidence that I need to believe that maybe, just maybe... I might have it in me.  Despite a PR in the half marathon that, when doubled, is only a 3:39... despite my lingering sore calf that Dr. Bright said is "something" (but nothing to stop me from racing--his words, I promise!)... despite my own fear that taking out a marathon in the kind of pace that I'll need to do in order to BQ will lead me to crashing and burning by mile 20... despite all of these things, there is this little fire in my heart that says, "But Marcie... the time is now."  

And, indeed, the time is now.  It is time for me to put my money where my mouth is. I haven't been all that vocal about trying to BQ.  It's been a dream that my close running friends know about, yes, but I haven't made it known to many others.  Well, here I am, putting it out there.  I know I usually start with my C goals and work my way up... not today.  My A goal is to qualify for the 2016 Boston Marathon (registration has already ended for the 2015 race) by running a sub-3:40 marathon.  There, I said it.  Seeing it in print makes it all the more real.

My B goal is to PR.  A PR is nothing to sneeze at, and especially given the fact that just a few days ago I wasn't even sure if I'd be able to race, I will be very happy with a shiny new PR.  

I have this shirt :)  Love it!

And my C goal?  Yep, to finish.  Again, my almost-race-ending-injury has caused to really reevaluate things, and I realize that finishing a marathon is no small feat. I will be grateful for the chance to do so.  My heart is filled with gratitude--that is, in fact, what mile 1 says on my mantra band from Races2Remember.  On Sunday, I will run with gratitude, thankful that I am able to run.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Akron Half Marathon Race Recap

2014 has definitely been a year of firsts for me when it comes to running.  First time running over 1000 miles in a year.  First marathon.  First winter of snow-running.  And last weekend, it was the first time I've ran a race for someone else.  I did the "Run for the Health of It" 5K last month, and while I certainly didn't race it, I ran it for fun.  The Akron Half Marathon was totally different.  

Back in the spring, my running pal Jen mentioned that a friend was running in the Akron Marathon for ALS awareness.  She thought it'd be a fun race to do together. I of course agreed--after all, half marathons ARE fun!  At that time, we both knew we'd be racing in the Columbus Marathon just three weeks later, but I had done the Xenia half marathon 3 weeks prior to Glass City, so I knew I could treat it as a training run just as I had with Xenia.

As the race day approached, Jen and I both went back and forth with how we wanted to run this race.  Should I run it like the first half of my marathon, getting in some race-pace miles?  Should Jen push herself to a PR?   Should we just take it easy?  Our decision was made about two weeks before the race.  We got an e-mail from the Trample ALS team leader, Adam Bracken.  He mentioned that if anyone wanted to run with him and his wife as they pushed Adam's father Steve (who has ALS), that we'd be welcome to.  Immediately, Jen and I knew exactly what we were going to do.  This race wasn't going to be for us, it would be for Steve and for ALS awareness.   

Just like she did about 5 months ago, Jen picked me up at my house shortly after lunch for our trek up north. Such a different ride, though... last time, I was a ball of nerves, hydrating enough to have to make two pit stops on the way to our hotel.  This time, we laughed and munched on the delicious Dove chocolates and Cool Ranch Doritos that Jen had surprised me with.  (She knows me way too well LOL!)  Of course, the trip was over before we knew it, and we arrived at the awesome Hilton Fairlawn.  It was just a teeny step up from the "outside door" Days Inn that I had booked for Glass City ;)  We stowed our things in our room and headed over to the race expo.  It was a decent-sized expo, with lots to look at and buy (but no awesome deals).  I did get some Hippie Sweat bands (just like my Bondi Bands), but that was it. The best part of the expo was at the end.  There was a chiropractor selling his pain-relief cream.  Jen mentioned to him that I'd been suffering from tendinitis in my right calf, and consequently had a sore left ankle.  He offered to do an adjustment.  I was wary, but he seemed to know what he was talking about, so I went ahead and let him work on me.  I was elated when he was done and I had zero ankle pain!  I couldn't believe that two little pops would make it that much better.  My calf was still a little sore, but I knew that would warm up once the race started the next day.  After we picked up our race t-shirts, we headed to the Charity Village area and found the Trample ALS table, where we got the shirts we'd be wearing the next morning.  This made us even more excited for what we would be doing during the race!


By then we were both ready for dinner. We had noticed a Bravo (Italian restaurant) right by our hotel, and decided it would be the perfect pre-race dinner locale.  And it was.  YUM!!!  Jen had her wine and I had my Peach Bellini, and we both gorged ourselves on delicious bread and yummy pasta dishes.  

Malbec for Jen, Bellini for me :)

I so enjoyed the time that we spent just chatting and laughing... I don't get to do that too often, just hang out with a friend and eat and enjoy myself without the interruption of kids!  


Once we were finished, we headed back to the hotel to chill for a bit before bed.  I ran into Jen's' friend Jennifer at the ice machine (unbeknownst to me, that is... we chatted but didn't realize who the other was LOL), and she came over to our room and we all talked and watched Dirty Dancing.  Such a great movie!  Lights out at 10:00, and I was able to easily fall asleep and get a great night's rest. 

Deliciously soft bed and tons of pillows!

We were up bright and early at around 4:30 AM so that we could get ready, eat our bagels and peanut butter (what else? LOL), and catch the shuttle bus at 5:25 AM.  We'd decided to take advantage of the free shuttle service, and we were so glad we did, as it made everything much less stressful as far as parking goes. At 6:00 AM we met up with the Trample ALS team and took some group pictures. We finally got to meet Steve, Adam, Kim, and the rest of the runners who were dedicating miles to this amazing cause.  Jennifer, Jen and I camped out in the nearby College of Business building, taking numerous bathroom breaks and just chilling.  Jen found a woman running in memory of her sister, who recently died of ovarian cancer.  This is another cause near and dear to Jen's heart (note the blue streak in her hair from her recent 5K for ovarian cancer!)--and look at the awesome bracelets she gave Jen to wear! 

Fellow Flower that I gave Jen ("Fierce. Beauty. Strength.")
Teal blue for ovarian cancer awareness

At around 6:45 we headed out to the starting line. We weren't able to actually start with Steve's team, as they were starting at the front of the A corral with the wheelchair racers, one minute before the actual start.  We figured we'd quickly catch up, as they were planning on a 10:30/mile pace.  

Ready in the corral!

The race started, and the first mile was almost entirely downhill.  I was upset that almost immediately my ankle (which up until that point had felt great) started to hurt.  As we sped through the course, holding a pace somewhere in the low 9's, I tried to stay focused on running and not what was going on with my body.   Truth be told, I was scared. I was supposed to run 26.2 miles in 3 weeks, and I could barely handle the pain just a few miles into this half marathon.  Luckily I had Jen by my side and a mission: to find the Trample ALS team!  

After 3 very hilly miles of running at a pretty strong pace (we were in the high 8's/low 9's for the entire first 5K), Jen and I were ready to throw in the towel. We asked a spectator if they'd seen the Trample ALS pushchair team, and they told us the team was about 5 minutes ahead of us.  We were so confused... we should've caught them by then, unless they were really going fast!  Finally, right around mile 4, we at last caught sight of the maroon shirts.  They'd just taken a restroom break, which is why we were able to catch them.  It was such a fun reunion, even though we'd just met everyone only an hour earlier!  Jen and I were relieved to slow down a bit.  Adam explained to us that their goal of 10:30/mile included rest stops for bathroom and stretch breaks for his father.... ahhh, it finally made sense to us why we hadn't caught them for the first 4 miles!

Jen and the team!

The next 5 miles absolutely sped by.  We talked, I complained, it was wonderful :)  After a short break at around mile 9, Jen and I were asked if we wanted to take a turn pushing Steve's chair. We were elated... what a special gift!   We were so proud to be taking part in this amazing race with these amazing people.  

Truly, the best race moment ever...

At mile 11, the course split for the half and full, so we sadly had to leave our teammates (who were running the full).  Jen and I turned off and headed towards the finish.  I tried to soak in every last minute of this race... I was in pain, but I didn't want it to end.  

Mid-race selfie!

We ran into the Akron football stadium to finish the race, claim our medals, and get our post-race food.  The charity runners got to chill in a special area after the race.  

Post-race happiness

After some photo-taking and chatting with other Trample ALS members, we found the shuttle pick-up and headed back to our hotel.  We had lunch at an awesome hamburger joint before heading back home to Columbus.

Nom nom nom...

My takeaway from this race: it's not always about racing, or PRs, or feeling great while you are running.  It's about doing something for someone else... Jen and I both agreed that the mile or so that we pushed Steve was the easiest mile of the race. It was like once our hands were on the chair handles, we were flying.  It made me think about Hunter, and how very much I would love to get him a chair like this, to fly with my own son.  I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.  This race... it was so much more than a race.  It was a moment that I will never, ever forget.  I'm so grateful that I had the chance to participate with the Trample ALS team. 

Right now, I'm going through my own personal health issues.  I have *something* wrong with my ankle.  I've been resting and icing, and my doctor is worried I have a stress fracture.  I am still hopeful that I will be able to run in the marathon in two weeks.  If I can, I will be dedicating a mile on my "grace band" to Steve and the amazing Trample ALS runners.  If I end up not being able to race, you'd better believe that the next marathon I do will have that dedication mile in there!  Meanwhile, I'm taking this advice from my Dove Chocolate wrapper to heart... 

#taper #rest #horseisinthestable