November 16, 2011

Rosaryville Veteran's Day 50K

***SPOILER ALERT***

Course Description: Rosaryville State Park, Upper Marlboro, MD. Cut off time of 8 hours, three loops on a trail through the woods at a little under 10 miles a loop. Little over 100 participants. 92 Finishers. Fastest time: 3:35, Slowest time: 7:52.

For those (few) of you that read this but have been hiding under a rock and somehow do not know my outcome of this race...I choose not to build the suspense and describe the race and THEN tell you the outcome. Rather, I will just spit it out now and get it out of the way.

DNF.

(if I knew how to make that MAJORLY HUGE FONT, believe you me...I would.)

And I guess for the smaller subset of those already few of you that read this who are not runners, DNF stands for a lovely DID. NOT. FINISH.

My heart dies a little with the recognition of those words as they now apply to me.

So now that I have been so melodramatic, I will recap. Lucky for you, this will be MUCH shorter of a recap than it could have been, so you're welcome for only completing 10 of the 31 miles :)

Friday: I had the day off thanks to Veterans. The bf (that's boyfriend in this situation. Just clarifying. Or bragging? Not really sure.) and I hit the road for an hour drive to Upper Marlboro to stay at a hotel for the night before the BIG DAY (that's the race in this situation, let's not get all crazy). I was already anxious and not feeling confident about the race, though I kept thinking about a blog where the writer talks about perception and how if you think something is going to suck, it probably will. "Beginning a run with a negativity bias will make the run actually feel more difficult. Or if you think a 20-miler is long, the distance will be more pronounced in the way you experience it. If we think something is harder, we’re going to be biased in the way we see it. We have the power to alter our vision."


As true as I know that to be, I still couldn't quite 100% convince myself that this race would go well....and boy was I right. We relaxed a little the rest of Friday, ate a lovely dinner...date night in Temple Hills, what whaaat?! And hit the hay.

In the morning, I argued over which pants I wanted to wear, we packed up, loaded the car, and brought ourselves to Rosaryville State Park for a little 31 mile jog in the woods.

Did I mention how cold it was that morning? I was freezing. I had on slightly longer capri running pants, my blue St. Jude Nike singlet my sister bought me, my bright orange arm warmers, and my purple long sleeve shirt my mom just bought me. And my ear warmer from MCM, and gloves. And my Brooks Cascadias. And not warm enough socks because my feet were numb.

We picked up our bibs, glanced at the map, and traded hellos with a few people. I freaked out a little more (what's new...). Then we 'lined up' by the race clock, the anthem was sung, and with a simple GO we were off down the paved road for about a mile before heading into the woods. I told the bf to go ahead and we decided he would just wait for me at the end of the first loop, he would relax for the second loop, and then rejoin me for the third to get me to the finish (yes, SUCH a great man!). I lost sight of him before we hit the actual trail, but kept sight of my two coworkers for a little bit until they too were out of my sight. No biggie. I had already coped with the fact that I could very well be the last person to finish this race. I made friends with the people in front and behind me, let people pass me, then I was the only one in the back O:) hey...it happens.

The course has little baby rolling hills through beautiful woods. You can see people ahead of you on some sections with the way the trail snakes around, I found this cool. There's a bridge that you cross, some open meadow type areas, streams and other water, good change of scenery.

At around mile 5 things started to really get ugly. I managed to trip just a few times, though I must say this trail is amazing. It's pretty clearly marked and other than the leaves everywhere covering a few roots, the actual trail wasn't too dangerous. I was already feeling wonky in my legs but I tried to put it out of my head, that whole perception is reality stuff. I had the usual shin splint on my bad ankle leg, my toes already hurt, my legs already hurt, I was starting to have a difficult time breathing (did I mention I was sick for a few weeks before this and still sick on race day?). Usually I can suck up two problems during a race, but when they start to pile up it's harder to shake off and keep trudging along. The issues just kept getting worse. I think I cried around mile 7 because that is when I finally had to make a decision and tell myself that this race is not where I would become an ultra marathoner. An incredibly hard pill to swallow for me. I hadn't even been able to convince myself to do the second loop.

During my loop, I was playing rabbit with a very inspiring gentleman. He lifted my spirits...at least for a little while. During our conversations I learned that he just started running last April, like me last June. This was his first 50K also. And he had lost a large amount of weight as a result of his efforts with running. He seemed to be putting everything he had into this race and I really admire that about anyone.

I got LAPPED by the top three males, which is motivating as well. I always love watching the fast people do what they do best, but I have to admit that it was slightly disheartening, and they caught me at a bad mile where I was having my little cry fest. Which now that I think about it, it may have happened around mile 5 (the cry fest. the lapping happened at mile 9) :/ Sooo soon.

Anyway, I finished out the loop walking a LARGE amount of the second half, simply because it hurt too much to run. I had high hopes that my little cry-fest in the middle of the loop would equate to me holding it together after exiting the loop. Not the case.

The volunteers could see me before I was off the trail and started clapping and cheering for me, which I think only made things harder to cope with. Everyone was so supportive the entire way. They gave me the thumbs up when I finally was exiting the loop and all I could do was give them the thumbs down and mutter that I was quitting. With tears welling up in my eyes, I faced them and told them that today just was not my day, and that I could not continue on. They made sure I was physically okay, offered me a ride back to the start (a .75 mile walk away), and I motioned to them that I needed to go talk to my bf first. They informed me who to tell that I was dropping out so that they didn't think we were still out on the trail. I walked across the parking lot to the bf, trying to suck up the crying that had just ensued, but once he asked me how I was it just let loose. Having to admit out loud that you need to quit is a very difficult thing. Having to quit 10 miles sooner than you had thought, also difficult. I envisioned that if I had to bail out before the finish, it would be 20 miles, 2 loops.

I don't know if I've ever felt more disappointed in myself in this aspect of life. I felt completely betrayed by my body, and I was having a really hard time coming to grips with the fact that it hurt so badly only 10 miles in. I felt defeated.

I stubbornly told the bf that we could walk the .75 mile back to the car (not my best idea. hi pride, could you step aside for a moment and make room for logic?) I half cried the walk back, the type of crying where you're crying but trying to look like you aren't crying...even though everyone knows you're crying. You aren't fooling anyone. When we got to the car, I called my mom. She was surpised to hear from me so soon, and I love her for first asking 'You already finished?' Instead of saying 'it's only 11, why are you calling so early?' So then that pretty much opened the flood gates (luckily the bf was not near me for this). I told her why I was so upset and she comforted me with saying how proud she is that I even went out there, two weeks after my first full marathon, and attempted this while sick. She told me to be proud of myself.

The rest of the weekend my legs felt as if I had been running nonstop for days. Those ten miles left me battered, but confident that I made the right decision not to continue in the race.

Surprisingly, this DNF did not squash my goals for future 50ks or the JFK 50. It only helps propel me forward. I haven't run since Saturday, and I miss it and feel like a big lazy nothing...but I know my body needs to time off from running. I'm learning a ton from this experience, and I think it's hard for people to understand what it feels like to DNF unless they've gone through it as well.

Rosaryville 50K, we'll rematch in 2013.

November 02, 2011

I'm a Marathoner!

“I run because long after my footprints fade away, maybe I will have inspired a few to reject the easy path, hit the trails, put one foot in front of the other, and come to the same conclusion I did: I run because it always takes me where I want to go.” - Dean Karnazes




Official results: I finished my FIRST MARATHON in 5:30:29!!!!!

I'll take it!


That's me and Kate, crossing the finish line together after she selflessly joined me at Mile 18 to keep me company and motivate me for the last 8.2 miles. Thank God for her, otherwise I'm not entirely sure I would have made 5:30 on my own!

Race/Weekend Recap (you can skip this if you've already heard my story and/or have no interest in hearing it):

Thursday: My mom flew in late Thursday evening and we visited a little before hitting the sack. Uneventful.

Friday: My mom and I went out to Alexandria to visit a friend and her ADORABLE little baby boy. Before we got there, my car started making noise and I had a liiiittle freak out moment in the car thinking that something was wrong and we would have to take it in to get looked at. Not exactly the weekend you want to add stress to. Anyway...it ended up going away (so far....).

Now, for those who know me well, you know I'm a weeee bit phobic of babies. They are fragile and cry and I just don't know what to do with them. I've met this little guy before, seriously he is SO freaking cute at 20 months old, but I kept my distance anyway. He stole my heart. At some point I really warmed up to him and we started playing...little toddlers' laughter is SOO contagious. I was sad to leave him when we left her house to head to lunch with another friend. I guess I like kids after all?

Saturday: It sleeted. It snowed. I got worried. My mom and I dressed warmly and made our way to the carb dinner for Semper Fi Fund. How incredible! At our table, we made friends with a man who was here to run the race from CA. He told us a moving story of his first time running MCM and had me teary eyed. Then we made friends with a man who had served four tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan, got severely injured and thanks to Semper Fi Fund, was able to make an amazing recovery. His story also had me teary and inspired and helped me remember why I picked this charity in the first place.

Sunday: Race Day. I woke up at 5am, got dressed, ate my breakfast, threatened to throw up a few times...and then went to the metro. Freezing. I left my mom at the Pentagon metro so I could head to the corrals, about a 20 min walk, when a Marine came up to me and asked if I was heading to the start of the race and if I preferred to ride this charter bus to the start instead of walk. Hell. Yes. The bus was heated, and had a bathroom...VICTORY. I defrosted a little, only to head back out into the cold to stand around for a little under an hour before my corral finally made it's way up to the start line. At my corral, you could see the stragglers bus and final car just waiting. Not cool to see before you start a race. But...before I knew it, the race was underway. I had begun my first marathon.

The music was awesome in the beginning, didn't need an iPod at all (not that I even had been training with one anyway). We made our way over to Rosslyn and through a pretty large crowd and up and down some hills. Hi shin splints. Walked those bad boys out, and off I went again, actually making pretty decent time! I was a little worried when I didn't see my cheering section in Rosslyn... but hoped it wasn't an indication of the rest of the race.

After Rosslyn and Lee Hwy, the runners make their way down a beautiful hill (men peeing on the side of the road everywhere. Hello...it's only 3 miles into the race!). It's a nice wooded area on both sides of the road, but it. was. COLD. Then you hit a water stop (YAY I finally saw my cheering section). I saw them before they spotted me and I did a double back hoping to give them a better shot of me running :)


After the Key Bridge to Georgetown, you head to the left towards the university. Isolated. Gradual hill. Then you turn a corner and BAM. Not so gradual hill. But halfway up, I made friends with an older lady. It was her first marathon as well, and we passed some cute lacrosse girls singing Journey's Don't Stop Believin. Good motivation :) Then I caught up to the 5:30 Pace Group. Then I PASSED the 5:30 Pace Group. That's when I realized I did not need to worry about finishing this race, I would make it across that finish line. Then you get an AWESOME downhill. Then, usually one of my favorite parts of my training runs, we ran down M St. Nice amount of people out there, people yelling for my zebra pants, etc :) I still felt great!

I was my cheering section again shortly after M St, and cruised right on down past the Watergate, and Kennedy Center, and made my way to Hains Point. I also caught a glimpse of the 5:15 Pace Group but didn't push it to catch them, knowing it was probably unrealistic to think I could keep up. Great cheering sections on the way to Hains Point, had a few oranges as well...


I made it halfway! On my way around Hains Point I saw a sign stuck in the grass that read, "I don't know you, but I am SO proud of you." TEAR. Then I kept running and a random man just offered me wonderful encouragement (a fellow runner). TEAR. Then you pass through the tip of HP and Lululemon had tooons of cheerers out there with music blaring...made me a little emotional :) Then towards the end of the run around HP, you pass this giant stage with a good group of folks dressed up and dancing and the music is blaring and they really get you going. It was awesome.

I made my way out of Hains Point, mile 15 ish, and my feet began to hurt. Not good. A little after HP, I bumped into my cheerers again, told them my feet hurt and I needed water, and Helen sprinted with a water bottle to give me a few sips. I love her for that. I kept on going, past the MLK memorial, and then turned to make my way over towards the Mall, happy that I was getting close to the mile where I would pick up Kate and no longer run alone.

At about Mile 16, my calf cramped severely. I moved to the side and tried to stretch it out, but realized nothing was going to make it better...so I just kept going. I knew I was starting to slow down. I passed my group again :) they are awesome! About a mile and a half ish later, I saw Kate and just grabbed her and told her how happy I was to see her. I told her how I was feeling, the calf, my feet, etc...and she told me how great my time splits looked. We continued on run-walking around the Capitol and finally made the turn to head to the 14th St Bridge. There's this giant band of drummers/really cool music going on, and a man dancing at the base of the bridge with a sign that says "BEAT THE BRIDGE". We start up it, and Kate turned to me and told em I killed that bridge, that I was so far away fromt he cut off time, and it sank in that I had been soo worried for nothing. I knew from there on out I didn't really need to worry about being kicked off the course...and I cried a little from joy.

The bridge felt like it laster for miles...no shade, minimal cheerers...and already in pain. I was hitting mileage that my body had never done before. After the bridge runners head into Crystal City for a few miles. I think this was the roughest part for me out of the whole 26 miles. EVERYTHING hurt, and Kate was starting to push me a little harder so I still made a good time. I got some tylenol, small victory for me, and we somehow made it through CC with me moaning and shuffling. EVERYTHING HURT BAD. But I never, EVER said I need to quit. Never hit a wall, never thought I wouldn't finish. I stayed positive, knowing that no matter what, it was going to hurt, it's supposed to hurt, and that if we just kept moving, it would be over soon.

After CC, you get on another ramp and bridge and pass the Pentagon. I had been using tunnel vision since before Crystal City, and was mostly just focused on listening to Kate tell me, run to this sign then you can walk...etc. From the Pentagon bridge, you can kind of see down to where you get close to the finish, and I teared up again. I think this time partially out of pain, but mostly because it was my first glimpse of almost being done. We ran down the ramp and started the last mile. People were starting to line the edges of the course, we alternated between shuffling and walking...and eventually we got close enough to where you can see the turn off to go up the hill to Iwo Jima. At this point, I turned around and noticed that somehow, the 5:30 pacer had caught up to me. That lit a mini fire under me and Kate and I took off a little faster to stay in front of him. We ran up the hill, cheering on both sides but I will admit the entire time up the hill I did not really hear anything other than me sayig I CAN'T. I CAN'T (run). I NEED TO WALK. And Kate telling me, YOU CAN. YOU ARE DOING THIS. YOU CAN DO THIS. We made it to the top of the hill, I was spent. I don't think I've ever felt so drained in my entire life, emotionally, mentally and physically. Then I heard my name from my cheerers. They had found a spot on the hill, exactly where I needed them to be. It's amazing how things liek that work out. You can't see the finish line until you are up the hill and turn the corner, so when I did, and the pacer finally passed me, I saw how close I was to finally accomplishing months and months of training and setbacks and persevering. I broke out into the fastest shuffle I could manage, Kate by my side, and crossed that finish line...still hitting that 5:30 time goal.




Marines line the section after the finish line, and as I looked up at them all congratulating me, I got extremely emotional. I finished.

A year and a half ago, I never thought I could run more than 5 minutes at a time. I just finished a marathon. Next weekend I have hopes of finishing a 50K. A year from that, I hope to finish a 50 Mile.

I really do believe running has made me a better person. I'm definitely in better shape, I expect more out of myself, and I'm pretty sure it's made me more sentimental and emotional.

Now that this is under my belt, I don't think I will ask advice from my running friends on whether or not I should do other races. I should trust in my own judgement, and they should trust in that too.

This was seriously the best experience I have ever had, and I think after a year like this I will never be the same. I encourage anyone wanting to try a marathon to do MCM.