The Dream Star's Corner

Dare to Dream...and DO!
walk. run. fly.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

37th Marine Corps Marathon

I'm a MARATHONER! Another goal crossed off the list and another great race year in the books.

I earned 14 medals this year (awaiting RnR Double Encore medal)

The race took place on Sunday, October 28th at 7:55 a.m. in Washington, DC. The travel distance from Baltimore to DC isn't significant enough to require hotel accommodations so I chose to stay at my house. Saturday was a busy day but I knew it was important to scale back my "to-do" list and only focus on the important things. After all, my goal was to be in bed by 8 p.m. and no later than 9 p.m. Everything went as planned... I woke up and went out for an easy 2 mile shake out run. The weather was beeeautiful! Sunny, low 60s, slight breeze... perfect. And with the threat of Hurricane Sandy, I definitely wished that the marathon was taking place that Saturday instead of "storm chaser" Sunday.

I met with my family and handed each person their "Mission" sheets and went over all of the directions for the Washington Metro, the spectator points, and meeting me for fuel and hydration needs. After that, I had one last thing to of the most important things... I had to go buy The Stick. I know..."how do you make it all the way to marathon day without owning one?!" I have no idea... I just managed. But every marathoner told me that having The Stick to push out the lactic acid right after the race was key so I went to the running store to buy one.

Boyfriend and I arrived around 6:05 p.m.... the running store closed at 6. DOH! But there were still people in the store. I whimpered, whined, and panicked and felt hopeless. I told my boyfriend that we should just go home...there's no way I'm gonna get in for The Stick... let's just give up. He insisted that we at least ask when the associate came to the door to let out the customer he was helping at the register. I stayed... and when I saw the associate approaching the door, I told him to let me do the talking.

When the door opened, I went into FULL GROVEL MODE... hands clasped, pleading inaudibly with pain and desperation spread across my face. It came out something like this "RUNNING-MARINE-CORPS-TOMORROW-FIRST-TIME-PLEASE-I'M-A-VIP-MEMBER-PLEASE-OH-PLEASE-LET-ME-IN-TO-BUY-THE-STICK-I-KNOW-WHERE-IT-IS-I'LL-BE-QUICK-I-PROMISE-PLEEEEEEEEASE"

That last "please" must've worked because dude let us in. lol I bought The Stick in literally 2 minutes and I was out of the store all before 6:10 p.m. haha! Thanks Road Runner Sports for your first class customer service! I sincerely appreciate EVERYTHING you guys have done to help me out :)

So with that done, I went home, ate my pasta, packed my bag and stopped myself from "nervous cleaning" so I could lay out my things and settle into bed. I tend to clean random parts of my house at odd hours of the night when I'm nervous about something - annoying. Well 4 a.m. came quickly! But not quickly enough. I felt like I never really fell into a deep sleep and my eyes popped open at 3 a.m. I guess that's why they say to make sure you get in most of your rest two days before the race because clearly you don't sleep very well the night before. I forced myself to stay in bed for the extra hour and proceeded to go through the morning ritual. I gave myself EXTRA time to have breakfast and do the thing we runners do before getting showered and dressed. So I waited...and waited...and nothin...

Some time ago, I went out for a 16 mile run without "going" and totally regretted it. So I was determined not to do that again - not on marathon day! So even if your nerves get the best of you, please make sure you go. I'll leave that there. I rushed to get dressed and reached for my Garmin only to realize it still said 9:27PM Saturday October 27... uhhhh what?!

I pushed ALL the buttons and nothing happened. NO TIME! I rushed and was dressed and out the door around 5:40... a little later than originally planned but whatever. I told my boyfriend about my Garmin. I couldn't believe that it crapped out on me on the morning of the most important race EVER!! He did something to it and reset it. It came back on like new and said it had 99% battery life. SCORE!

I made it to the Largo Metro Station around 6:15 but unfortunately, our train didn't leave the station for almost 20 minutes :( While riding all the way out to Arlington, my nerves got the best of me. I was jittery, couldn't focus on the conversation my boyfriend tried to distract me with, and I just felt so overwhelmed. It was nervous energy, anxiety, excitement, and everything in between all wrapped into one. It was terrible...not fun but scary.

We finally made it out to the Pentagon stop around 7:30 and I started freaking. I kept murmuring things to myself like "should've left earlier...should've left from New Carrollton...I'm gonna miss my pace group...I have to pee!...I don't have time to pee" I was so in my head and I regret that. I wish I took the time to enjoy the entire experience but I was really anxious and freaking out. We saw a bunch of people running off to the side of the road and going in the trees and hey, I'm not too proud for that. Off I went, I found a tree, popped a squat and felt like a brand new person. :)

All of the anxiety was gone. I was having fun and stripping down. I laughed as other runners opted to do the same thing and actually heard what my boyfriend was saying to me. The "voices" were gone. I noticed the weather was great! Low to mid 50s, cloudy, no rain, and slightly breezy. I stripped off my last layer, kissed him goodbye, and took off looking for the 5 hr pace group. This is as close as I got.

The balloons signify where the pacer is located among the sea of people

There was a massive sea of people around me and I knew I had no chance of getting to the pacer so I had to remember the times that I read from the Clif Bar Pacers bracelet. I knew that if I maintained an 11:27-11:30ish pace I should make my lofty goal of a 5 hour marathon. Now mind you, I chose this goal 2 days before the race. I knew I could run around a 5:15 marathon but wanted to push myself a little to see what I could do. However, I also had to respect the distance and the was a learning experience after all.

Finally happy and excited before the race!

The race started and the excitement was immeasurable. I was so pumped that I had to pull myself back a few times by telling myself to slow down. I was itching for a run but now was not the time to break out a 9 min/mi pace when I still had 26 miles to go. I started getting anxious about pacing myself so I found a Marathon Maniac to kind of pace off of. I figured they were more experienced with this distance than me so why not follow a pro? I remember the pacer telling me at the expo that he planned to walk some of the hills. So around mile 2 when we ran into a massive hill, a lot of people stopped to walk - including the Maniac. I followed suit. Eventually, around mile 3, I found my pace. I kept with it and stayed pretty consistent for the first 16 miles. It's at that point where I met up with my mom, my dad, and my boyfriend as they cheered loudly with signs and cowbells. I was handed a new Camelbak bottle with gatorade in it and some gummy bears. I took off running and saw them again on the course as I turned at the end of the road.

Then around the Smithsonian, things started to go south. My left quad began to twitch...yes, the entire muscle began twitching and feeling tight. I stopped on the side of the road, in front of the Washington Monument to stretch it out and massage it a little bit. That seemed to stop the twitching but the soreness was still there. I figured it was part of the experience so I kept running. Around mile 21, both quads were twitching. I stopped to stretch the right one but again the tightness persisted.

I ran in the MCM 10k last year and at this point, we were on the 10k course so I knew what the course looked like from here. I knew the last 6 miles wouldn't be easy but I tried my best. I ran a consistent 11:30 min/mi pace up to this point but now I was finishing each mile in the 13s and 12s if I was lucky. Around mile 22, my Garmin died. Like gray screen of death - died. I still don't know why that happened.

By mile 23, I hit the wall. I was running and all of a sudden both quads started jumping and twitching so I stopped running and decided to walk. I began walking slower and slower then the soreness and annoying aches turned into cramps in both quads. As soon as it happened, I knew what I needed and I had NO WAY of getting it - SALT!

I started to cry. Not like a little teeny lonely tear out of the side of my eye kind of cry but a I've just been robbed and I don't know where I am and I'm scared kind of cry... it was a cry of hopelessness. I just felt empty and hopeless. The first thought was "my legs stopped working! I'm not going to finish! I need new legs!"

Yep... I didn't know it was possible until now but yes, you tend to think some really crazy things during a marathon. It breaks you down to this emotionally raw state of solely having the desire to fulfill basic needs. I think God was there with me (well I did pray before the race) because as soon as I looked up, I saw some spectators on the corner giving out PRETZELS!! I perked up and hobbled over and took two big handfuls of pretzels and in an ugly slobbery cry, I said "THANK YOU!! I NEEDED THIS!"

Before I could swallow the first pretzel, I felt better immediately. I wasn't sure how long it was going to last so I started running a little to make up for lost time. At about mile 24.5, my boyfriend called me to ask me how it was going (I had in my earphones for my iPhone and I could take calls really easily) and at that point, the Marines gave us Dunkin Donut munchkins as promised so I was chomping on my munchkins and talking to him and telling him "This is hard!" He proceeded to give me a pep talk at the same time that a spectator heard me say that. She told me "You're doing great! Less than 5k to go! Keep going!" My boyfriend said some positive stuff too but her words stood out a little more. With a mouthful of munchkins I said "MMKAY!" and got back to running. I didn't stop from that point on. Everything hurt but I didn't stop. My ankles, my knees, my quads, my arms all hurt but I kept running. As we got closer, I took in the crowd, the signs and the sign that I was waiting for: MILE 26!

I blew a kiss to that sign and kept on plugging along. I had no idea what time I was going to finish and at that point, I really didn't care. I just wanted to finish! As I turned to go up the final hill to the finish line, I saw my dad and my boyfriend on the left smiling and waving. I smiled back and kept my head down. I had to climb that hill with every ounce of what I had left in me. I did it and finished in 5:18:25 (chip time).

I received my beautiful medal from a brave Marine who saluted me and thanked me for running. It was an awesome experience and truly made me feel like I can do anything. Period. No "ifs", "ands" or "buts"...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hoping for a DNS for Hurricane Sandy

The Marine Corps Marathon is this upcoming Sunday and instead of anticipating a great race, being on pace, timing my fueling correctly, etc, most of us are worried about THIS! 

As someone on Facebook wrote, "Ok! Who transferred their bib to Hurricane Sandy?" Even though a lot of us are tough endurance runners who ain't afraid of getting a little wet, it's still kind of a blower knowing there's a chance that you may not run your best race after training for months. 

But for someone like me who isn't fast and really just wants to finish, this is really a matter of not wanting to be outside running in crappy weather for hours on end. Times like this, I wish I ran a little faster. But I will have the greatest support system out there with me: My Mom (Food & Recovery Officer), My Dad (Official Photographer), and My Loving Boyfriend (Clothing Officer). I've given each person a mission to help me get through this day and to involve them so they don't feel like they're just waiting around to chauffeur a cranky runner in a few hours. 

But back to the weather. As any dedicated runner should, I've painstakingly analyzed and obsessed over glanced at a few weather sources online to get a better idea of what to expect on Sunday. Accuweather and Weather Underground are both providing hourly predictions that show a 0% chance of rain during the marathon and some slightly windy conditions with lots of cloud cover. It's the Weather Channel that's giving us the blues with their 90% chance of rain and 26 mph winds. They are the more commercial of all of the sources so perhaps they're attempting to excite people and get us all worked up over nothin... either way, I can take the rain, but I'd much rather not run for 5 hours in crappy weather.

So here's hoping Hurricane Sandy DOES NOT START for the Marine Corps Marathon.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Baltimore Half Marathon Race Review

I ran in the Baltimore Half Marathon on Saturday (October 13, 2012) and had an awesome time!

Packet pick-up was moved to M&T Bank Stadium but last year it was at the Convention Center. Another group beat the organizers to booking it, so the packet pick up had to be moved. Getting in and out was easy and for once, I actually bought some stuff! I wanted to buy a few things to commemorate my last time running in the Baltimore Running Festival (for now) so I picked up the RUN BMORE Under Armour tank top and the Run Baltimore tech tee at the expo. The  race tee was purple this year (looks blue in the photo).

That night I had to decide on what to wear so I laid out my latest tech shirts and went to twitter to get some help. I settled on the blue TEAM FIGHT shirt. Speaking of TEAM FIGHT, if you haven't made a tax-deductible donation yet, please head over to my site and do it now, pleeeeease!

The morning of the race, I slept in until abou 7:30ish and took my time at home. One thing that I LOVE about this race is the late start time. The half marathon starts at 9:45 a.m. while the full marathon starts at 8:00 a.m. Unheard of, right? Gotta love the nice cool autumn temps. I left home around 8:45 to get to the BWI Airport light rail. I was the only runner on the platform and couldn't figure out why. It was around 9:00 a.m. but I thought I still had plenty of time to drop off my things at bag check before getting to the start line. I started to SWEAT at 9:10 a.m. as I then realized that the light rail must have been running on some sort of delayed weekend schedule. :(

After many silent prayers, the light rail FINALLY arrived. I boarded and the bout of panic soon left me. I prepped my music, fueling, etc and packed away my things in my running bag so when we arrived at the Hamburg Street stop, I just sat there... looking over at Runner's Village...first noticing the various colors of balloons... then thinking "I think the Runner's Handbook said something about different color balloons... something about baggage check having a green bal--- OMG! I GOTTA GET OFF THE TRAIN!" lol

I jetted off of the light rail before the doors closed. Last year, I got off on the Camden Yards stop and went to bag check from there. I don't know if bag check moved or what, but it was RIGHT...THERE! Right in front of the Ravens Stadium - I don't remember it being that close last year. Anyways... So, there I was, racing over to bag check with one other lady behind me who then told me that she was following me. We laughed at how we're half crazy for doing all of this so close to the start time. Bag check was easy... then I jogged behind some other "purple bib" people to the start line.

I made a point to stop at one of the hotels to use the facilities. I had the entire bathroom to myself because at this point, it was around 9:50 a.m. - yep the race already started! But I was in the third wave so I still had a little time. I sprinted to the start line and made it just in time to hear "Wave 3, please approach the start line. You will be starting the race in a few minutes." Wooo! I made it!

I ran a smart race. I KNOW how hilly Baltimore is. I ran in this half marathon last year and I ran the organized 20-mile run which includes part of the BRF marathon course.  This was a taper run for me so I had nothing to prove. I hung back and tried to keep an easy pace around the 10:30 min/mi mark while trudging up hills doing an 11 - 11:30 min/mi pace.

Baltimore's Hills!!!
I knew that the course didn't cut you any slack until AFTER the 11.5 mi mark - a lesson I learned the hard way last year. It's at this point where most people start to walk, stretch, massage out cramps, etc. I chose to walk for a few minutes around mile 6 (on St. Lo Drive) and around my favorite spot on the course, around mile 10.5 when I stopped to take a photo of the singing "tigers"!

These wonderful folks dress up in tiger costumes and cheer on runners while playing Eye of the Tiger in the background. Their dedication to cheering us on while wearing those awesome costumes is so amazing.

I let 'er rip around mile 12 and ran the last mile at an 8:55 min/mi pace! IMPRESSIVE! A lot of people ran out of steam at this point and honestly, I think I could've given a little more for the other miles. I had a lot left in the tank by the end, but I was pleased to beat my time from last year by 3 minutes.

I earned the Baltimore Half Marathon medal that reads "What Hills Don't Kill You Make You Stronger" and no truer words have been spoken. :) I also earned the Maryland Double medal for running in both the Frederick Half Marathon back in May and the Baltimore Half Marathon.

I wanted to pick up one last momento to commemorate my semi-retirement from the BRF. I look forward to enjoying some hot coffee and hot chocolate all winter long out of this nice mug. :) 

I had a great day and actually talked to a few folks who asked me about the MD DOUBLE medal.  Several of them said they will consider the challenge next year! I will be out there... cheering them on with all three of my medals hanging around my neck while holding a sign that reads "I got mine, now go get yours!!!" 

Next up, Marine Corps Marathon!!!  

...but whose counting?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Thanks But No Thanks

I might come off as a jerk for saying this... and some of you may not like it, but I'm gonna say it anyway.

Some parts of the race planning process should not be left in the hands of volunteers.

There. I said it. And before you get all angry with me, let me explain. 

First of all, I want to say that I appreciate the efforts of volunteers. I really do! You have to be one kind and generous human being to wake up that early and stand on your feet to serve a bunch of sweaty people for hours on end. And on top of that, they always have a smile on their face. That takes a special kind of compassion, generosity of time, and willfulness that some of us runners could probably learn from.

Now on the other side of this exchange is the runner. I sat down recently and actually counted the number of races I've participated in this year. I honestly had no clue that I registered for and ran in TEN races this year, not including the upcoming Marine Corps Marathon. Holy cow! And as I sit here now, I'm counting my race bibs dating back to my very first 5k, and the grand total is...24. Since October 2010, I've run in 24 races. So I think that length of experience gives me the reference material needed to write on this topic. 

I've reached a point in my racing life where I operate on autopilot when it comes to showing up to run in a race. And as I go through this process, I will notate some of the pet peeves that I've encountered. I'm a pretty easy going person and I don't let a lot of things get to me, but these things do. 

On a typical race day, I arrive at the race site and check in my bag at baggage claim. Never really had any bad incidents there. Many races do it differently. I personally think Marine Corps Marathon and 10k do it the best! Nice to know your belongings will be kept safe,and dry inside of a UPS truck.  I rarely ever have to stand in the mile long potty line but when I do, I really love the inclusion of volunteers here to direct traffic when a porta-potty becomes available. I believe the Baltimore Women's Classic 5k employs this method to make sure there's fair and steady movement of all of the lines. 

Next, I usually move to the corral area and that's never been a problem. I've never ran into a corral marm hell bent on keeping people in one corral and out of the others. I hear that they typically do that at the NYC Marathon but I've never experienced it. So to me, it's just a rumor. 

POW! The race starts and we're off! Around mile 3 or 4, there's a water stop that's well stocked... no problem. But around mile 6 or 7 or for the full marathoners in last week's Baltimore Marathon, mile 19, the quality of the water stops began to deteriorate. When I looked to see what was causing the issue, it seemed that the volunteers were falling behind on filling cups. In a mad dash to provide water, they were rushing, sometimes knocking down cups, picking them back up and refilling them... mmmm hygienic. There was a point where the uncapped water jugs that were being used to refill the cups were being picked up by runners and yes, I witnessed every single one of them drink behind the other. When the volunteer COULD get in to grab the jug, they proceeded with filling the cups with that SAME jug of water! 

You have thousands of people from all over the country and in some cases, from different countries coming together to run. There are so many infections and illnesses that can be transmitted in this kind of environment. Let's not aggravate the situation by having volunteers handle food and beverage services during a race that people pay money for. Do you really want a random person walking off of the street, going into the kitchen of your favorite restaurant and cooking your meal? No? Ok. Well I suggest race directors think of the handling of beverages with the same level of seriousness as food service in any other venue.

Knowing how important it is to provide fresh and clean food and water to a runner, I'd have a SERIOUS problem with this practice that typically takes place in panicked situations if I was volunteering. I don't knock the volunteers for the ingenuity but I don't agree with the logic of a "non-athlete" serving an athlete. 

Look at what happened in Vegas

Moving on... 

Crossing the finish line! What a wonderful race! Time to celebrate! But first, let's calm our breathing.. and get some water! But how easy is that when people are being sandwiched together, told they must move forward and away from the finish line when we really have no place to go? Just a block of sweaty people clustered together....waiting....waiting...waiting...WAITING ON WHAT?! Now, you can call me impatient, but I seriously hate standing and waiting and feeling claustrophobic after running 13.1 miles (+ or -).  And the stuffiness caused by being surrounded by intense body heat from others doesn't help one to calm their breathing at all. I know it sends me into a coughing fit. Not fun for me or anyone surrounding me. At one race, I finally got to the area that was holding up the process. I saw boxes and boxes of medals in our 10 ft wide finisher's chute area and also found 3 little people, about 6 or 7, handing out medals... medals to a CLUSTER of marathoners, half marathoners, and relay teams, each denoted by the color of their bib. This task of quickly handing out medals to the corresponding runner was left in the hands of 2nd graders. I'm sorry, but what if someone in the crowd needed medical attention due to the conditions of standing in such a closed in space after crossing the finish line? How easy would it be for medical personnel to get to that person? Not so easy with this dense block of people in the area. And some of us really wanted to start the recovery process but couldn't because we were waiting to receive our medals. 

When I finally got my medal (that I had to point out to the bearer), I said "So they have kids giving out the medals?" to a lady reaching for hers. She responded by saying "But they're doing their best." I guess that's the comment that made me think and made me feel compelled to write this post. I've received my medal from several volunteers from all ages but I think that 7 is just a little too young for such a daunting task....even if they are doing their best. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Endurance Athlete Relationship Guide

I'm in a beautiful relationship with an amazing who supports what I do and brags to others about my accomplishments. He plays soccer and loves cricket but his involvement doesn't seem to require as much time and preparation as running 26.2 miles. He is just as accomplished and he's secure in himself to support my need to make goals and meet them... with one caveat...

...that I still make time for him. And that's fair, right? I mean after all, the end goal for us both is to have a lasting relationship for the rest of our lives together. So, with that being said, there comes a point in every relationship between an endurance athlete and their mate to have a good conversation about what it means to be with someone who has a need to do some exciting and sometimes questionable things when it comes to their sport.

 So recently, we had to sit down and have such a conversation.

Baby, I have time for you and anything you want to do! long as you give me a few days notice...

I'm all for spontaneity and surprises but please understand that they may not be well received during triathlon training or marathon training season. It's not because of anything you did, but please understand that we have training schedules with certain goals that must be met before the end of the week. For triathlon training, it may be a certain number of workouts or a certain number of hours. For marathon training, we usually have mileage goals set in place. So even though I'd love to sit behind homeplate at the O's game, I'm just not sure how that 1:05 p.m. start time will fit into my 16-mile long run and recovery period. So give us a few days notice and perhaps we can move some things around.

Yes, I know that box of Gu Gel costs $25 but I NEED it...and other things.

Don't question our purchases. Unless you know your mate has a tendency to overdo it, typically we need the things that we buy. Either our shoes are about to wear out or we believe you can never have too many pairs of Injiniji socks to ward off blisters, just let us spend our money the way we need to. Trust me, I'd rather spend $25 on a decent bottle of wine, but alas, I don't think a bottle of Oberto Barolo would make for a good fueling strategy on race day.

The running routine starts with the bathroom.

It's race day. Start time is at 7:30 a.m. But your runner is up around 5 a.m. What gives?! If they're anything like me, they probably have a routine. Get up. Get breakfast. Drink coffee, or tea (my preference). And wait....and wait. Then it happens. Bathroom time! "Going" is so important to us. It's a must to help us perform at our best without dealing with gastronomy issues later on in the run. If you are married or in a long term relationship with an endurance athlete then you've crossed this bridge and you're probably used to it. If you're in the early stages of your relationship with one, then this is one of the lovely things you can expect.

After a long run or hard hard workout, don't talk to me...unless it's about swimming, biking, or running.

I call this the "Brain Dead and Still" phase. After a long run or hard workout, we typically just want a hot shower and food and comfort. We may not be in the mood to entertain you, hold thought provoking conversations, or shower, get dressed and go out for a rich and hearty meal. I normally want to shower, (cold then hot), find my compression sleeves and my favorite compression socks, something warm, dry, and comfy, and a soft place to sit for a few hours while refueling on something simple like fruit and a sandwich or vegetables. In a couple of hours, I'm normally good to go and can at least form sentences and attempt to care about things. We will be achy and moving slowly. No need to show us sympathy...we're used to it. Just keep moving as usual.

So, those are the key points that I've had to make to my significant other. He understands me a lot more now and it has helped to strengthen our relationship. Communication is key! 

Do you have anything to add to the list? What issues have you encountered?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Size Matters.

Or does it?

I'm thinking about running in the Little Rock Marathon...

for this sucker!

Property of Arkansas Runner :)

I mean, c'mon! Look at the size of that MEDAL! What a nice addition to my medal rack... I can see it now...the massiveness of all that bling just hanging there looking all wonderful. But what will it cost me? Not monetarily but time.

My boyfriend went to college in Arkansas so we're actually looking to make this destination race a mini getaway to see friends. I will get to meet his best friend and some other people who really mean a lot to him so running the race will be a very small part of the visit.

The race is in March which means that training would have to staaart...RIGHT AFTER Christmas.

Yeah. No thanks. So now I'm looking into running the Little Rock Half Marathon instead and relinquishing the desire for this massive medal. I mean, but I'm still on the fence with this decision. Even if I don't train really hard, I can finish the full marathon in the very GENEROUS window of time of 8 friggin hours. But seriously? Who wants to be outside for that long run/walk/slogging it out? So why not run the half in 2 hours and leave with a normal sized medal?

Besides, I'm running out of space on my rack anyway.

What to do??

Half Full Triathlon Race Recap

Yesterday, I participated in the Rev 3 Half Full Triathlon in Columbia, MD. I signed up to participate as part of a relay team a few weeks ago on a whim. I was finishing up my last open water swim before the AC Triathlon and the workout director mentioned that she was doing this race with a swimmer but really didn't want to do the run.  She's a BEAST on the bike but like most triathletes, she HATES running. So I said "Sure... why not?" She was participating as part of Team FIGHT! so I signed up and I'm now raising money for this awesome cause so PLEASE go visit that link and donate. :)

I parked at the Sheraton Hotel and boarded the shuttle that took the athletes to the park for the race. This was an awesome option for those of us who needed to leave the park before 2 p.m. and everything operated seamlessly. I met up with my team and gathered together with the rest of TEAM FIGHT! including other athletes and some race volunteers for the prayer circle. It was my first time doing anything like this but we stood there shouting out the names of those we were competing for. I shouted out the name of one of my twitter friends who is actually undergoing her very first surgery for her brain tumor TODAY! She's an amazing girl who has run countless marathons and who inspired me to become a Half Fanatic. It was a moving and emotional event that I wouldn't trade for anything. It definitely put a fire inside of me to give my all, no matter what.

The race started around 7:30 and so did the rain. Our swimmer did an amazing job and loved every minute of it. It was the perfect set up. He loved swimming, so he kicked butt and had a great job doing the one thing he loved most in triathlon. I was fortunate enough to be on a team with an amazingly strong cyclist who didn't care about the rain. She went out there and gave her all and came back freezing and wet but feeling fearless! Then it was my turn. I went out and OMG! Holy frozen feet, Batman... After standing around and sitting around for 4 hours trying to stay warm in the rainy 50 degree weather, running on stone cold feet took some getting used to. Once my feet warmed up, the rest of my body warmed up so then it was time to strip. I went out with running gloves and  rain jacket but found that none of these things were needed. Unfortunately, at the time that I wanted to strip, I encountered some hills. I can do a lot of things while running, but it's no fun running a hill while fidgeting with other things so I walked for a bit during mile 2. Once I got it all together, I took off and never stopped.

While running, I was enjoying the course! It's challenging but not obnoxious. There were hills everywhere because, well, what do you expect? It's Columbia! But nothing too hard for me to handle. I thought about LOTS of things while out on that course. I was running with so many wonderful and strong athletes who did all three sports on this wet and cold day - something that would've given me pause. I was also tracing the footsteps of one of the greatest athletes that ever existed, Lance Armstrong.  Regardless of what you believe he did or did not do, one can not deny that this man is an elite athlete and inspiring!! I also thought about Monika. During those times when doubt creeped into my mind and I thought that maybe I shouldn't push too hard. After all, I DID just run 16 miles the day before. But I knew that Monika ran marathons at a mind blowing pace and now she's doing her part and FIGHTING for her health. The least I could do is FIGHT with the same heart and determination that she had so I picked it up!

Miles 4 Mokie!!

I ended up running a negative split, and one of my best races ever!! I felt amazing and strong at the end and still had a great time while out on the course. I received cheers of "GO TEAM FIGHT!" from the volunteers while thanking the officers for their time today and even joked around with some. :) I complain a lot...A LOT about prepping for races and waking up early but while I'm out there running and of course, at the end when I receive that medal, it feels like it's all worth it.

I'm glad I did it and more importantly I'm glad I did it for Monika.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Going the Distance: My First 20-Miler

A few weeks ago, I ran my FIRST EVER 20-miler. The course was through Baltimore City and it  wasn't easy! Talk about hills! I'm pretty sure all of Baltimore is on some sort of incline. I ran "with" about a few hundred people as part of a supported course run organized by one of the local running stores.

The weather was awesome and my performance was surprisingly great! The run didn't get interesting until mile 19. The wheels almost fell off when I felt some strange sensations in parts of my legs that I never felt before. I also found myself having to focus on throwing one foot in front of the other. Breathing was normal, fueling went great! I'm really grateful for the Power Bar chews provided by the running store. After mile 14, I feel like I need to consume "real" food and not Gu gel. So anything in the gummy bear family is sufficient.

Given that just7 months ago, I was dealing with injury that kept me from getting to this point, I felt proud and accomplished for making it this far in my training. I'm healthy and I feel prepared for the marathon. No, I may not finish with a sub-5 hour time but I'll finish AND I know that I will be able to get myself to a vehicle to go home all on my own. If I can do that, then I will feel like a winner. Now the day after...