And we were OFF!! It was finally happening!!
We crossed the start line and the whole stretch of road was packed with people. I took a minute to cheer with the crowds and wave and give some thumbs up to the spectators. One of my favorite things about this race are the crowds – I love high fiving the little kids (and big kids) and reading the signs that people made. Before I knew it, my watched chirped for the first mile. Except the mile marker was still waaaay up ahead. I may have done a little weaving but I was on Jen’s shoulder the whole time and her watch was right on. Then it occurred to me: if my mileage was off that also meant my pace was off. Shit. In the past I’ve usually gone with the idea to run on feel but that’s a risky move in a marathon. Starting out too fast would spell trouble in the later miles so I needed to make sure that I was sticking to as close to an 11:00 min pace as possible. If my watch said the first mile was 10:16, hers said 10:53! That’s a huge difference!! She assured me that we were right on track; I tried to settle down but it was driving me nuts not knowing. I would check in periodically to see how we were doing, but I tried to keep it to a minimum because I didn’t want to annoy the shit out of Jen, have her get pissed and push me off of a bridge. We passed her husband Dave and greyhound Django after the 16th St. bridge where Dave got this awesome picture of us.
This is my favorite race picture ever! We continued on through East Ohio Street, over the bridges and through the North Side. I started to calm down a bit and enjoy the ride – still high fiving and cheering along with people. BUT while I had settled in, I still couldn’t help but feel like I was working really hard for the pace. I took my first gel around mile 4.5 ish and my stomach cramped a bit but went away after a few minutes. the miles were ticking by, but while the two of us normally never shut up and at North Park you can probably hear us coming before you see us, we were not really talking. I felt bad, but was pretty sure it was a mutual feeling. Talking required a whole extra level of effort that I just couldn’t give.
We crossed the West End Bridge and it wasn’t just a little warm…it was very warm. We trucked up a little hill and cruised into the West End and there was a huge dance party going on. I can’t remember what song was playing but they were rocking and I loved it!! I apologized to Jen that I wasn’t talking – I felt terrible but it just wasn’t happening. She said it was OK, but I couldn’t help but feel like I wasn’t keeping up my part of the race. What I mean by that was – she was doing all of the work pacing us and I couldn’t even come up with a decent conversation. As we made our way through Station Square and got close to the South Side, she told me to go on ahead. I didn’t want to, and felt like a total jerk for doing it but I knew that I had a long way to go and I just had to put my head down and hang on for as long as possible. We said our good byes and I teared up a little bit knowing that I was on my own. Of course, I knew it would happen eventually and even the day before we had both agreed that at any point if the other person was feeling it to go on ahead. But, I still felt shitty about it. I made it into the Southside and it was another huge party. Even though I knew I was struggling, I was still having a good time cheering with the crowds, high fiving everyone that I could because even if the day wasn’t going the way I planned, I still wanted to have a good time. I took another gel somewhere in here – I think right after Station Square, and right before the South Side (Couldn’t tell you exactly because…Garmin was waaay off). Before we crossed into West End I had been looking for one of my coworkers and I assumed that I either missed them or they weren’t able to make it; then as I was turning onto the Birmingham Bridge I heard someone screaming my name and it was them – I was SO EXCITED!!
Once again, I almost started to cry. This was just the boost I needed before I hit the climb into Oakland. As we were crossing the bridge though, someone was announcing that a runner was down and we needed to move over for the ambulance. I saw the person surrounded by EMTs…and they weren’t moving. It was really scary to see and all I could do was hope that they were alright. The sun was out in full force by this point, there was NO cloud cover and it.was.HOT. Just in time to start the beast of a climb into Oakland. I started The Hill and just tried to use the strategy that I had been practicing – pick a landmark, run to it. Pick another one, run to it. It worked, but it was sloooooooooooow going like I knew it would be. A few weeks ago, I heard about a team of people that spend all day running up and down the hill to encourage the runners and I did see them but…there weren’t really encouraging. They were just running up and down the hill not looking at us, not saying a word. It was strange. The amount of effort it took to get up the hill made the heat feel even worse. Then. somewhere on Forbes they were passing out ice cold towels which was amazing. I wrapped it around my neck and kept it there for as long as I could. What’s interesting is that my splits for miles 6-8 are faster than Jen’s, even though we were still next to each other. This still has me all kinds of confused and irritated that the ONE TIME I need this watch to be accurate it was shitting it’s pants.
To be honest, these miles are kind of a blur. They all faded together as a lump of hot, miserable scorching miles. I knew it would be warm, but the sun was relentless and there was very little shade. My new goal became to make it each fluid station. I’d given up on mile markers, since my watch was so far off. It was disheartening to hear my watch beep for mile 14, 15, etc and have to actual sign not even in sight yet. Around 14.5 or so, I started to really feel it and even though it killed me to do it…I started walking. Earlier it had just been walking through aid stations, but now it was a necessity. I was starting to feel tired, lightheaded, fuzzy and a little nauseous; this would be the theme for the rest of the race. Run as best you can until you think bad things are going to happen and then walk until it goes away. Sometimes that feeling went away quickly….sometimes it didn’t. Somewhere in these miles, I grabbed another icy towel that had actual ice cubes in it and, even though this is beyond gross because who knows where that ice came from and how many grubby paws touched it…I ate it. The ice not the towel. It was SO good. I finally felt like I was cooling off a little!! THEN at an aid station (maybe around 17? Not sure) they were handing out FULL CUPS OF ICE!!! It was like manna from heaven! I munched on that for over a mile and it was glorious!! Eventually though, the towels warmed up…the ice went away and I was back to square 1. Then the aid stations stopped passing out towels – they must have run out because the street was full of them but there were no new ones to be found. I also decided at some point, that I NEEDED an ice cold pop after the race. Diet Pepsi, Diet Coke…didn’t matter as long as it was fizzy and cold. I had my phone with me so I texted the tall one to
demand ask that he grab one for me.
Despite all of this though…I was still enjoying myself. I knew that if I let all of it get to me, I would completely unravel.
I took another gel somewhere along here…mile 15? The crowds were still cheering and encouraging us – passing out orange slices, water bottles, spraying us with garden hoses – the support along the course was amazing. Fire hydrants were opened so we could run through and get cooled off as well. I have to say, I know that these miles are through some of the “rougher” sections of Pittsburgh, but the way we were treated was like members of their family. Residents set up their own water stations with Styrofoam cups and little kids handing them out, people passing out FULL SIZE water bottles out of coolers, candy, oranges and cheering their hearts out. I’d heard this section was had great crowd support and I was NOT disappointed. Anytime I started to get overwhelmed, I remembered that my stepdad was with me and that he would help me get through this.
Despite my run/walk strategy that I had to implement, I was still on track for a PR! I missed the 4:50 pacer pass me, but I knew really early on that today wasn’t a 4:50 day. That time would have been tough in ideal conditions, and it was getting hotter, and sunnier, and did I mention HOTTER?! As we got close to mile 20, I looked behind me and saw a stick with some balloons and my heart sank a little. I knew it was the 5 hour pacer; I tried to pick up the pace and start running again but I couldn’t. He was gaining on me and after mile 20 he finally caught me. I was disappointed, but kind of knew that it was inevitable. As he was passing me, he offered me a chocolate chip cookie!? I looked and he had a huge bag of them – it was so bizarre! I politely declined because the thought of eating a cookie right then made me want to hurl, and he looked a little offended. Sorry I’m not sorry – who eats cookies at mile 20? Around mile 21 or 22, we ran past an Aldi’s and they were passing out FREEZER POPS!!! Whoever had this idea should get a VIP wristband into heaven because it was brilliant. I knew that some more of my coworkers would be at the Church Brew Works which was coming up soon so I tried to get my shit together so I could look strong when I ran past. Then I started worrying that I was so far behind my goal, that they might have left thinking that they missed me. I made my way into Bloomfield and it was the biggest party I’d ever seen. It lifted my spirits a bit and I started looking for familiar faces. I FINALLY got to the Brew Works and saw my coworkers who went NUTS as I went past!!
I was so excited, even though my face doesn’t really show it. I thought this would be just the push I needed for the last 5K. HAHAHAHA. Right.
At this point, I was STILL on track for a PR. It wouldn’t be anywhere near my 4:50 goal, but a 5:22 would still be a PR and I’d still be happy with that. From my obsessive readings of Kim’s course description, I knew this would be tough despite the boost I got from my cheering squad. There is NO shade and very few spectators. I thought that I could keep pushing and run it in but that wasn’t happening. I saw a girl down just past the 25 mile marker and my heart absolutely broke for her. To be THAT close and have to stop is brutal; I’m not sure, but I doubt they let you back onto the course after they have to treat you, but I could be wrong. I didn’t want to end up like her, so I knew that I still had to be smart about this. Most people probably think It’s just a mile. Run it, you pansy. But that just wasn’t the case, and I wish it would have been that easy. I finally made it back to downtown and I started to look for Jen. I knew she would be by the Kaufman’s Clock but again, downtown stupid over here, so I wasn’t exactly sure where that was. No worries though, because I could hear her cheering people on WELL before I saw her. Girlfriend was working the crowd hard and people were going nuts! We saw each other and it was the biggest boost ever!! Even though it was Mile 26….I still didn’t know if I would make it. It was that hard. Once I saw her and her husband and got that last boost I needed, I knew I that I could keep going. Tall One had texted me a few minutes earlier and let me know that he got a spot near the finish line at Wood Street. Of course, I had no idea where that was so once I made the turn toward the finish I started looking for him.
I was scanning the crowds, and this is one of the many times that being tall really comes in handy because I spotted him almost right away, along with my Mother in Law who was really getting into the cheering and going crazy!! It was FINALLY time to start the big sprint to the finish and I gave it absolutely everything I had left, including NOT letting a girl finishing the relay pass me at the end. Doesn’t matter the situation – when it comes to the finish line I do NOT want to get passed. I’m just a tad competitive.
I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch, got my medal and nearly lost it. I couldn’t catch my breath, and walking was a challenge. Everyone knows the finish line rules – if you stop walking, you go to the Medical Tent. That’s the last place anyone wants to be, and an incredibly nice gentleman started walking with me to make sure that I didn’t collapse. He kept telling me “Keep walking. Breathe through your nose out your mouth. keep walking, if you stop I have to take you to the tent. I don’t want to have to do that. Keep breathing” he was wonderful and stayed with me until he was satisfied that I was OK. I hobbled my way out of the finishers area to meet Tall One and his mom and it was brutal. I was so hot, it felt like my body was on fire! All I wanted was something cold and I was so looking forward to my cold pop! BUT by the time I got it from Tall One it was warm 😦 Still delicious and fizzy though. We looked up my official finish time: 5:25:35….a new Personal Worst.
To be honest, I’m not even a little bit upset about it. It was a TOUGH day with really challenging conditions that we were not able to prepare for. Disappointed? Yes. We all know how frustrating it is to spend so.much. time training and preparing for a specific goal only to have something completely beyond our control dictate the outcome. This is why they say the marathon is the perfect metaphor for life – you are always going to face obstacles and adversity and this shows you that you can overcome whatever life throws your way. Regardless of the time on the clock: I finished a marathon.
I think this post is long enough, so I’ll do a Pt.3 to talk about my post race thoughts, next steps, etc.
I KNOW I have a much better time in these legs, and I just need a way to find it.
I’m breaking this recap into several parts – I’m already pretty wordy and this doesn’t need to end up rivaling Ulysses.
The day before was pretty uneventful – quick shake out run, and a trip to the expo to get my bib, race shirt and VIP package that I won from the Pittsburgh Marathon back in January, then back home to nap, watch Miracle (one of my FAVORITE movies ever) and get my things for the race together.
I decided a while ago that I wanted to wear purple to honor (for lack of better word) my step-dad – it was one of his favorite colors and it’s the color for (among other things) pancreatic cancer awareness – the disease we lost him to last August. He also would have turned 65 this month, and I still just miss him terribly. The original plan was also to cut out one of his pictures and put it my shoe as another sort of silent tribute to him. After I got the picture I set it down on my bib without realizing it, went to get the tape and when I looked the picture fit so perfectly on the front that I had to leave it there.
Once my bib and tank were ready to go, I loaded up the kangaroo pouch, charged the iPod and Garmin and ate my pre-race dinner of ravioli and garlic bread. Desert was a slice of strawberry bar from Giant Eagle – delicious. I’d been hydrating like a champ all day, but had a small cup of decaffeinated green tea and one more glass of water before bed.
I woke up early (3AM) to start getting ready. I wanted to make sure I had ample time to get the system…moving, eat breakfast and get myself to the parking garage. Breakfast was my standard cinnamon raisin bagel with peanut butter and coffee. I started checking the weather report and it was already 50 degrees. If you remember, I’d been freaking out over the damn weather report and even though I said I felt confident about the race, deep down, I knew that this was going to pose a problem. I don’t mean to say that I had a bad attitude going into the day – totally opposite, in fact. I was still excited to run! I was looking forward to seeing my co-workers that would be out on the course cheering, looking forward to running the first half with Jen, and while I knew that a 4:50 finish time would be rough I was still very hopeful that I would get a PR. Didn’t matter if it was a 5:22 finish time…a PR’s a PR. I also wanted to get down to the race as early as possible; I was driving myself, and Tall One was going to come down later to see my finish. The last thing I needed was to get stuck in traffic or not be able to find a spot! I parked and started my walk over to the VIP area at the Westin. I will NEVER get tired of just how gorgeous this city is no matter what time of day.
I got to the hotel, got in line for the bathrooms right away (I can’t tell you how clutch real, flushing toilets and running water were) and then headed to upstairs to the VIP area – there were sections for the SCRR group and for people that purchased (or won!) a package through the race. There was a great spread of food set out, but I just wanted a glass of water to sip while I stretched and snacked on a Clif Bar that I brought from home. I found a quiet little corner to sit in to stretch, eat, and wait for Jen. We grabbed a pre-race picture and decided to head to our corral around 6:30 before they were closed at 6:45 and stopped for a quick picture from the race photographers.
We got to our corral, and decided to get in the port-o-potty line…just in case. Our line was the slooooooooooowest, and while we were waiting the National Anthem was sung, the wheelchair division was off and so were the elites! And we were still in line…6+ people back. I made friends with the guys in line behind us and forced one of them to get our picture taken to humor another race photographer. She asked another guy in line if she could take his picture and he was kind of rude and shitty to her. Then my new best friend in line behind me also declined (politely, though) and she looked like she might cry. I felt really bad so I guilt tripped him into taking a picture.
Our corral started moving forward and we realized we wouldn’t make the start. No biggie – there was no point in letting that get us worked up. So we start a corral back…big woop. Jen and I were both worried about starting out too fast, so maybe it was good to start further back so we didn’t get caught up in the crowds. However, when I read her recap I realized that starting 10+ minutes later meant that it was warmer when we started. That kind of ended up being a big woop. Our turn for the pottys FINALLY came and we made it in and out in record time, wished our new buddies good luck and made our way to the start. we took a few selfies and sent them to my friends…photobombed a few people in front of me taking selfies, took a deep breath and was ready to tackle 26.2 miles of the city.
Pt 2 will be posted in another day or so. Depending on how wordy I get, this may get stretched out to 3 parts. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I don’t even know where to begin this post…I’ve started and restarted writing it at least a half a dozen times over the last few days. Race Day is
just around the corner scratch that. It took me so long to get this out that Race Day is TOMORROW!!!!!!! So that means it’s time to look back on my training aaaaaaaaaand lay some goals out there. I have SO many thoughts that I want to say, but just can’t seem to make them flow. So…you get what you get. Would you expect anything less from me? Didn’t think so.
I’m just going to jump right in and say: This training cycle wasn’t entirely what I hoped it would be. Things were going REALLY well. I was hitting my workouts, strength training twice a week (I know, right?! Who am I??) , doing speed work in the middle of my long runs. I ran two-a-days, for god’s sake (Ok, once)!! I had a massive PR practically on a golden platter for me. THEN. Right as I was gearing up for Peak Week, I was forced to back off my training just when I should have been ramping up. THAT was a huge blow to my confidence. I was hit with an almost crippling fatigue that I, at first, thought it was just because training was picking up, but then realized it was more serious than that.
Speed days were gone, my weights are collecting dust in the basement, and there was a point in time where I seriously considered either dropping down to the half or bailing completely. I’m glad I didn’t, but the thought was there. I pushed through, and my first 20 mile training run was pretty good; the second, I wanted to try as a progression run but instead had to fight for every step due to my fatigue, and the last was a disaster during the course preview. I found out that I had some wicked low iron/B12 levels; luckily that was easily corrected by supplements. There were a few more issues that were kind of scary and required a lot more testing but it all seems to be worked out now. Instead of heading into the taper KNOWING that I’ve got this, I spent a good bit of it wondering if I was ready. I feel really bad for Jen, but at the same time am hugely grateful because she has been listening to me spaz about my worries all.week.long. and constantly reassuring me that I’m going to be fine. She’s talked me off the ledge at least twice a day, every day this week and 3 or 4 times yesterday. My biggest concern is that it’s going to be warmer tomorrow than it’s been in ages, but her response was absolutely right: weather is always something you will have to contend with.
2 years ago I said that I would NEVER run the Pittsburgh Marathon. It was “too hard” for me; too many hills. If that isn’t enough, being one of the lunatics running around North Park in the single digit temps, with snow, and ice was not an attractive prospect.
There would probably be a lot of mornings and evenings that I would have to run on the treadmill (barf), because my roads/cemetery wouldn’t be clear and the list went on. At some point, I realized those were B.S. excuses and that I AM more than capable of training for and running this course. So, I signed up and yes, I was one of those lunatics running around North Park in sub zero weather, and yes, I logged a good bit of my weekday miles on the treadmill during much of January and February.
And, you know what? It wasn’t so bad! I looked at the treadmill runs as “mental” training, and all of those Rocky Balboa style outdoor runs as “resistance” training. I’ve been using Kim’s description of the course for this entire 16 weeks to help me prepare for and visualize the course, but especially this week. It’s practically been like my nighttime story book, as I go over each and every mile; as I’m falling asleep I try to visualize the race course and picture myself cruising along, owning the climb into Oakland and sailing down Liberty towards the finish. I’ve even watched the high speed video of the course to help me become a little more familiar with the 2nd half of the race. To top it all of, I’ll also be watching Spirit of the Marathon just for a little extra boost of inspiration.
I have to say though, despite all of my worries and concerns (*cough* weather *cough*), regardless of the time on the clock when I cross that finish line, I am already incredibly happy with what I’ve done so far. As Jen put it yesterday – THIS is my victory lap.
SO. Now. Goals. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh boy. Putting these numbers now there scare me. I always have a few “levels” of goals, just to give me different something to focus on in case things don’t go as planned.
(A) Finish in 4:50 or better.
(B) Break 5:00 Hours
(C ) Beat my previous time of 5:23
“When you cross that finish line, no matter how slow, no matter how fast…it will change your life forever” – Dick Beardsley
Good luck to EVERYONE running the 5K, the half, and of course, the full!! And THANK YOU to all of my blog buddies and friends for the constant encouragement, support and motivation!! I ❤ you guys and am so grateful to have found such an awesome group of people!!!