October 24, 2011

The end is near, but so is the beginning.

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." -Wise words from Semisonic

Well folks...we are finally in the LAST days before I embark on my first 26.2. I originally anticipated October to be the least fun of all of the training months, even with my training schedule dubbing September 'MONSTER MONTH'. September can be renamed 'The Month of Tears', since I mostly just remember crying a lot in attempts to cope with the ankle. I thought I would hate the taper (I kinda do...I don't feel like myself), I dreaded the 20 mile run I would have in the beginning of the month, and I knew all that traveling would catch up with my immune system. But...I was wrong about October.

October began with inspiration in the Poconos watching my friend complete her first half ironman. The next weekend was fun volunteering at Army 10 Miler and extracurricular activities. Then came an awesome time in Baltimore for the half marathon. This past weekend was filled with good football, good friends, and a great day out at Cox Farms. There's just one weekend left in October, and it better not ruin the fun streak!

I keep teetering between being in denial and being unbelievably anxious for the race. Somewhere deep down inside I think I know that I will be completely fine and finish the race without getting kicked off the course. Then there's that smaaaalll little devil on my shoulder screaming doubts. In the words of Jessie Spano, "I'm so excited! I'm so....so.....SCARED." Haha.

My coworker hit it right on the head when she sent me this email after asking about the Baltimore half: "I think you should be proud of yourself and be happy because that is a REALLY long way to run and finishing should not be taken for granted. Perhaps your perspective gets blown away when you participate in events and see all of those other folks finishing and passing and going fast... But if you back away from it and consider how many folks do NOT do this or even try AND where you were a year ago...well, you know what I'm saying!" Sometimes a helpful little reminder like that slams things into perspective.

I've never been very good at just sitting in the present (Erin and Helen yell at me all the time for this). I constantly try to see what will be ten steps ahead. I like to know where things are going and what's coming next....which explains why I have so many races lined up and already have my running spreadsheet filled out for all of next year :)

So the rest of the remaining time between now and Sunday I will be loading up on vitamins to stay healthy, going to bed super early (not like I don't do that normally though), and cleaning in preparation of my mom coming to stay with me. And a few runs. And packet pick-up Thursday night. One mild panic attack on Friday at the first timer's pep rally, and a medium panic attack Saturday, and BAM all of a sudden before I know it, I will be on the metro heading to the race! Cool as a cucumber (I think that's the saying?!).

**Shout out to all of the many friends and supporters I have racked up to come out and cheer me on! I'm lucky to have such a big group. If you care to come out and watch me as well, look for bright orange arm warmers, and zebra pants :) It's going to be awesome.**


5 Days and a wake up!


October 17, 2011

Baltimore Half Marathon 2011

Charm City, what can I say about you? Baltimore won me over this weekend, when I previously thought I disliked the entire city (other than that wing place Jake and Helen showed me, yum yum).

We arrived in Baltimore Friday afternoon, with my ankle already a slight bit pissy at me for who knows what this time. We headed to the hotel to check in, picked up our packets and bibs and AWESOME race shirt (thanks Under Armour!), and then decided to tour the city on foot to kill some time. We headed to Federal Hill and took in some great views, and eventually found ourselves at a cute little italian restaurant for some carbs and relaxation...and a 32 oz beer :)

After a not so restful night in the hotel, we woke up and started preparing for the late 9:45am start of the half marathon. The guys headed to their corral at the front of the pack and I headed to mine, alone, in the back of the pack. The cool part of the Baltimore Running Festival is that while you wait for the half marathon to start, you get the privilege of watching the full marathoners run past, including the elites. I love watching the elites....they make it all seem so effortless.

The race finally started, and almost immediately you are confronted with a hill. About a mile into the race, my newfound friends, the shin splints, came back in a roaring fury. I pulled over to stretch it out, tried to walk it off, and had a small little teary moment where I thought my race was over only 1.5 miles in. I decided to suck it up, as usual, and eventually the pain eased enough for me to resume running.

This is the elevation chart that was provided. I would like the record to show that this elevation chart was a complete lie. The baby hills seemed bigger in person, and the large hills seemed to never end. Along the route, the people of Baltimore were great at providing their own music for us to hear and cheering out of their houses (Shoutout to the sketchies that kept cat calling). These people also lied. Almost every other person would say, LAST HILL and then it's ALL down from here! BS, people of Baltimore, BS. The chart does tell the truth about miles 4-7 being completely uphill, without much of a downhill to enjoy after the climb. As if the hills weren't enough of a challenge, it was stupid windy on Saturday. At first the wind was helpful, pushing at our backs...til about halfway when you turn around a little lake/pond and begin running into the wind. Running into the wind AND on large hills does not make for a good time for me. A few cuss words escaped my mouth when I would gratefully hit a downhill...just to have the wind SLAM in your face and make it feel like work.

Eventually I did cross the finish line, unhappy with my time but glad to be finished. I think that course was hard on everyone and I vow to never run the Baltimore full marathon unless I truly want a challenging uphill course. The medal we received is awesome, the best one I've gotten thus far.

Celebrating after the race made everything worth the effort as well. Ohio State and LSU both won their football games, so everyone was in a good mood when we hit the town for some partying, making for a really great weekend.

The best part of this race had to be later that day and also on Sunday...my legs felt/feel fine. This is the first time running over 10 miles and not feeling sore after. Hopefully a good sign for 13 days from now :) I feel better prepared now having to deal with more than one long run that didn't start out the way I had hoped. I know I can rely on myself mentally to get through whatever happens during the 26.2, and that's a really great feeling.

Bonus: A few weeks ago I consulted with a coworker about my desire to run the JFK 50. He told me I was crazy. I got an email from him today stating that at the Baltimore Marathon Expo, a friend of his actually talked him into doing the JFK 50. He said, 'I have no idea how that happened, but I look forward to seeing you out there with us.'

My dear coworker, I know exactly how that happened...it's always the same reason for why I join a race. All you have to do is ask me and there's a rare chance I'll say no.

I keep getting asked why I started running, continue to run, continue to desire higher mileage when I frequently mention my ailments, how difficult 20 miles felt, etc. It's extremely difficult to explain the draw of an ultra marathon to someone who doesn't run at all, and even to those who have done 26.2. It's especially hard when I haven't quite completed 26.2 yet myself! Last week a different coworker heard my story of the 20m and then prompted me why I continue to do it when it doesn't always feel good. I always have a hard time answering this because I think it's something only fellow runners understand. You go through the pain, but once it's over, you only remember the accomplishment.

As Dean Karnazes said in his book Ultramarathon Man: "To those who asked me 'Why?' I would frequently offer up some shallow explanation like 'I enjoy running.' What I guess I should have said is 'Go out and run fifty miles, then you'll have your answer.'"

Because only until you experience it can you really know what it's all about.

Next stop, Marine Corps Marathon. Oorah!

October 11, 2011

Made it to the taper!

WOO! Hellooooo Taper, I never thought you'd come!

So much to cover in this post. Yesterday was a huge, HUGE day for me, hitting my first ever 20 miler. And I did not cry. I wanted to cry...but I didn't.

All of September had been a very trying month. I had my first ever trail half marathon (which was also only my second ever half marathon), my first running injury...which led to my first real running and training plan setbacks for the Marine Corps Marathon. The month was very exhausting physically, mentally, emotionally, and filled with moments of helping friends through their races and embracing that sometimes recovery is smarter than forging ahead and stubbornly showing your strength. It takes a different kind of strength to recognize that your body needs the rest and actually give it to yourself. It takes a different kind of strength to know that although you are resting, you can still be capable of accomplishing what you originally set out for. I rested for weeks after that trail half marathon, weeks which included many, many tears.

I said in a previous post that I will never regret running that trail half, and I stand by it...injury and all. These past weeks since that race have definitely been difficult, but worth it. I know where my determination comes from, and I now know that I have a love for trail running.

Last Tuesday I ran a long run of 16 miles after work, in a little over 3 hours. I wobbled around the days immediately after, my body shocked at the intensity after being sedentary for so long. I failed to run after that until yesterday. Hell or high water, I was getting in my very last long run before tapering and yesterday was my last chance to squeeze it in.

This past weekend was extremely eventful, filled with tons of time with friends. I (late) volunteered at the Army Ten Miler, getting to know a fellow runner while there monitoring the food tent at the end of the race. This person is inspiring with his accomplishments, and we had a really great night out in Georgetown that evening. Hadn't considered the fact that walking around that much the night before my first 20 miler could have such an impact.

I had a restless night of tossing and turning with nerves for the next day. I woke up with already tired feet and tired mind, ate not nearly enough breakfast (one thing of oatmeal is NOT enough for 20 miles when you didn't eat a ton the night before), and in general had a bad attitude about the run. But I left the house anyway. About two miles into the run I started to feel that intense hunger. First warning that I did not eat enough. Never mind the stomach growling, but it was a clear indication of a possible burnout down the road. I started doubting how I could possibly finish the other 18 miles. I made it down to Independence and texted friends searching for someone to snap at me and tell me to suck it up. It wasn't until Hains Point that I realized I only needed myself to say suck it up. By this point I was already mostly just walking, and it continued to be that way for mostly the rest of the run. I got yelled at by a man on a bike that I should be running, not walking, and I got high-fived for my Semper Fi Fund shirt. I'm not ashamed. I think it's hard enough to run 20 miles, but knowing that walking will tack on time also requires you to find a level of mental toughness I wasn't sure I had. I wanted to sit down every bench I saw. I can't be too angry at the turn of events because I learned so many lessons that day. I was nauseous, sore, overheated, covered in sweat. I had no music, no running buddy. And I made it. And that's all that matters to me.

So now I go into these last 19 days confident that I can and will give everything I have on that course. I find myself getting a little emotional writing this because I know all the work I've put in, and I'm so close to accomplishing something very important to me. I know I'll cry on race day...hopefully they will only be happy tears :) I apologize in advance for how much of a nervous wreck I will be for those next 19 days.

This weekend will be 13.1 miles at the Baltimore Half Marathon. The men I'm going with (at least one of them) will be pushing a 1:40, so they're just going to have to suck it up and wait an hour for me to finish. I'm in taper, and I plan on enjoying it! Next week I will post how that race goes, as well as helpful info for any wonderful people who want to come out on Oct 30 to cheer me on!


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