Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The self driven marathon

Three days post marathon and I am able to walk a little easier and the stairs can be taken one step at a time.  Sunday was a day I will truly remember forever for so many reasons and yes the Boston Qualifying time is one of them but not the only thing that made that day special.

weather forecast
Ben and I decided it was going to be a solo trip to Delaware for this race, leaving the kids at home with his mom so they can continue in their weekend activities of all things sports and birthday parties and we could focus on race logistics and traffic as we drove the long drive in the rain.  The weather was something I was checking constantly and when we finally realized it would rain all day Saturday but race day would be cloudy and perfect temperatures I was beyond stoked.  We changed our hotel to be right next to the finish line the day before, figuring this would help with the painful walk back after the race was over.  We arrived late afternoon Saturday and although it was a very small race there was still excitement in the air.  We parked and walked over to the expo and took all required pre race pictures!  

expo pic
heading to start
After a great shake out run a few slices of Grotto's pizza on Saturday night we headed back to the hotel and stretched and talked over race day logistics again.  Ben was going to drive me the one mile plus to the start and then head back to the hotel to park and have his breakfast to then be at the 1.5 mile mark for some cheering.  Sure enough he was there and I ditched my throw away at his feet.  The first few miles always feel good as the adrenaline is in full effect and you are ready to tackle this crazy task ahead of you.   

mile 1.5
I knew this race was small and after a very rainy NJ full last year which  left the streets of spectators fairly empty I was prepared.  For that reason I do like to run a lot of my training runs solo...the only person that will get me to the finish line is me.  I can run with whomever that has had all this great success at amazing paces, but at the end of the day it is up to me and my legs and head to find that coveted arch that reads FINISH.  Well this course was A LOT more quiet than NJ on a rainy day.  There were big sections that were through large parks were the only people for six plus miles were the people at the aid stations.  That solitude is hard but not impossible.  I knew I would see Ben after this long stretch in the park and that is what was keeping me going.  

Again-as this is a smaller race they only have a set number of pacers for the marathon.  In the NJ full they had two pacers for every 5 minute increment.  For DE they had one for every 10 minute increment.  I knew I would not make my goal if I went with the 3:45:00 pacer so my other option was 3:35:00 or try to go it alone.  For my two previous marathons I ran with the 3:35:00 and managed to run 3:40:13 and 3:42:40.  I felt strong for this race and wanted the help from the pacer so I started with the 3:35:00.  By mile 9 I knew I could not hang with him.  Two other women around me said he was going to fast and also were going to drop off.  He had mentioned early on that this course was a bit longer, as they always tend to be...but we were already .17 at the mile 9 mark.  He said he was going to be picking up the pace to make up the difference.  With that I had that moment, and was so proud of myself to realize it, that I needed to run my race.  I decided to pull out of the pace group and just run...trying to say sub 8:20s for as long as I could, it didn't last that.  I knew that 8:23 was a 3:40 and that was my goal for the day.

mile 13-14
We came out of the park and there was Ben by the car with his music blasting, "I am Titanium." It was a very "Say Anything" moment.  He was telling me to stay strong and to keep going.  It was so lonely after the park and here we were again on a very quiet strip.  I was holding well, 1:47:31 for the half, 8:13 pace.  When you are running and trying to do math at the same time things get a little tricky.  I knew I was well under the 3:45:00 time goal but also knew that my legs were already getting very tired.  There was no down hill to hope for on the back half, it was still all me, pushing, tired, and just having thoughts in my head.  There was a little bridge up around mile 17 and the girl next to me started to walk, I said "no you don't" to her, and sure enough she started to run again, and thanked me as she got up next to me.  I was still feeling good and knew again Ben was waiting for me around mile 20 and I had to keep on going to see him.

mile 23
mile 20.5

My nutrition and hydration were good for the race.  I carried two 9oz water bottles on my waist for as needed and planned to drink and dump as I ran from the aid stations.  I would have a gel 45 minutes, 1:45, 2:30, and 3:15 in...give or take.  I had an issue opening up my third gel, pulled it too short.  So I ate my 4th one in that time slot and would hope I could open up the last one when I needed it at mile 22.  We came off the board walk at mile 22 and I went to try to open up my gel.  I remember feeling very light headed and a bit swirly.  I knew I had to eat and I knew I still had four miles left.  Ben had seen me coming towards him and was chanting for me to beat the bus.  In my mind all I had to do was run to school and run home however I knew my legs were not going to get me to the pace of those easy morning runs.  They were tired and I was feeling very off.  I tried to open up that last gel and sure enough, it would not open.  I was squeezing and trying to just pop it and deal with the explosion all over me...I knew I needed food ASAP or something bad was going to happen.  I asked a spectator if she had a gel on her and she did and gave to me.  I ate it as fast as I could and got water and just kept on running.  Ben took a video at that aid station and I look like I am floating and not really there.  I have never had that happen before...I was giving this race everything I had.  With the gel in me and water on my head and in my mouth, I was feeling better.  I don't really remember miles 22-24 but I knew that Ben again would be towards the finish and that is all I had to do...just keep moving.

final stretch
With that final stretch you have some moments of, what are you here for, in your head.  You have moments of, this is not going to happen, you can just stop now, and then there is the moment of you are so close and you are doing this...there is no longer a doubt.  I didn't start to run effortlessly, it didn't start to become easy, but I no longer had a doubt that I was not going to make it. I knew that the months of training leading up to this were for something, something great.  I knew that there were so many people believing in me, tracking me, cheering me on, and for as quiet as that course may have been, it was so loud in my head.  This is only my fourth marathon, I am not a professional, an elite, a girl that knows much about anything real as far as training goes.  But I am a girl that knew I was not going to give up on myself in that moment.  I knew where that 26 mile marker was and I was going to be able to stop soon, I just had to push through a little bit more of the pain.

last turn
Coming into that final turn and knowing it was straight for just a bit then turn and finish at the bay.  I had two girls in front of me that I was really trying to catch and hope to have them help me get to that finish.  I just wanted my legs to stop moving and I pushed and pushed until the curve with Ben yelling the whole time.  At last the finish line was there and sure enough, I made it in under my goal of 3:45:00.  My watch read 3:43:13 and 8:27 pace.  Their official time had me at 3:43:05 and 8:31 pace.  I had made my first qualifying Boston time.  I didn't start crying or that moment I was just so happy to have stopped running.  Ben came over and met me and I don't really even remember what he said.  I didn't feel well and I just wanted water and to sit.  We walked so very slowly to a lounge chair on the beach area and I took my shoes off and just sat.  The pushing and was done and my legs were finally at rest.  I was still in a bit of shock that I had made the time...but if you know me at all by know that I wanted it still to be a little faster than that.  And three days later I can say that on that day there was nothing more I could have given and I am so very proud of my time.  Each race is a different animal and I did my best on Sunday to tackle this one.  I would have loved to have been 25 seconds faster to get me a little closer to last year's time...but my gosh...I raced my heart out and nothing more can be said than that.

me and JB
We walked into the after party, I had some chicken and pasta and the driest chocolate chip cookie ever.  I kept drinking water like crazy and the thought of a cold beer was nothing I wanted a part of.  Ben later told me I had no color in my face and he just wanted to get some salt in me to get me whole again.  We chatted with fellow racers and everyone seemed pretty happy with the day.  I had put on a big sweatshirt after the finish and didn't go into my typical hypothermia conditions.  I was so happy to avoid the teeth chattering freeziness I typically encounter post race.  We headed back to the hotel and I took a nice long hot shower.  There was minimal chaffing so there was not screaming when the water hit my body.  I put on my compression socks for recovery and more warm clothes.  Ben headed back to mile 20 to pick up the car and then we quickly packed up and headed to the boardwalk for some good food.  Not every day do you qualify for the Boston Marathon and meet the former Vice President Joe Biden!  I was in such an emotional place I went right up to him and talked his ear off.  I am sure he thought I was crazy but not crazy enough to say his code word to bring on his secret service agent.  

Our trip home was a quick one with minimal leg cramping in the car.  I was anxious to see my kiddos and give them all a big hug.  I spent the drive replying back to the endless texts and messages from friends who were tracking me along the course.  My heart was so full and I was so happy the day was over, everything happened as it was meant to, and my body was at rest.  When I first tackled my first marathon in 2009 it was just to have the experience.  In 2015 it was to see what the changes to my body and mind would have on my overall fitness level.  2016 was redemption for something I didn't even know I wanted.  Well 2017, although self driven on the course, was a community marathon.  I have never felt so much support going into a race as I did on Sunday and the weeks leading up to it.  To come home and find all of my supporters there ready to congratulate me and share in my joy and excitement for the day...was beyond amazing.  This race was felt by more than just my tired legs on the streets of Delaware...and my finish was celebrated by more than my immediate family.

What's next...well I get to celebrate my love of running throughout Canada next month with my Ragnar team of amazing women, there will be no time to keep on pace with or the quest for the perfect will just be my feet and the endless miles of road ahead and lots of smiles and laughter.  I will wait to see what will happen in September with my qualifying time and if it was enough to be on the streets of Boston next April.  I know it was enough for me on was all I had...all I had hoped for...all I was capable of giving on that day.   

This afternoon I am heading to talk to an elementary school's running club.  My friend asked me to come as a guest speaker.  I have been thinking about what a few of my talking points will be. Pretty sure I will lead with these:

Embrace the suck...choose you...hard is possible...remember the journey.

One happy girl

Splits Delaware Full 2017

Monday, April 24, 2017

Support and thanks

Support: a thing that bears the weight of something or keeps it upright

my village

Today is the day after race day...I will write a separate post for my race recap...this post is more about the people that went into my race day...and every little part leading up to it.

Many of you know I am originally from NJ and have been living in VA for some time now.  I do not have immediate family around me to help at a drop of a hat.  Don't get me wrong, grandparents definitely are a huge part of our lives and they help with our monkeys when they can but there is so much of our lives that is apart of the village we have created.  Ben and I knew that we wanted to plant our roots here and for the past 16 years or so Virginia has been home and for the past 14 years of that our little quiet town of Leesburg has been where we rest our head at night.

When being among the villagers it is hard at first to find your people.  You want to find people that you can trust, that make you laugh, that share common goals, that are just all around good people and make you smile.  If spouses and kids get along as well it is an added bonus.  As the years pass you get to know a little bit more about your fellow villagers and start to let down your walls and your hair and let them see who you really are.  You start to share your personal hopes and dreams and sometimes these villagers start to join you in whatever journey you are on.  If you are like me, you at times may start oversharing.  You may start rambling about your hopes and dreams thinking maybe they might inspire someone to try something different and push themselves out of their comfort zones.  Before you know it you have found villagers in other areas and your village goes beyond the invisible lines of your neighborhood.  Your safe zone is expanding and your village is larger than you ever thought it would be.  This is a wonderful thing.

My race yesterday was hard, scary, and exhilarating all at the same time.  It made me push myself hard knowing that I might not make the goal I had set for myself.  That race was all consuming for 18 long weeks.  I shared so much of my race preparations with friends that agreed to running at 5:30 in the morning, on days with extremely high wind gusts, and temperatures that required two pairs of socks, hats, gloves and maybe some hand warmers.  Friends genuinely asked how I was feeling, if they could be of help in anyway with logistical needs of my kiddos as we tried our best to be in multiple places at the same time.  

my daughter and her friend running mile 11 & 19
the bridge next to my house that my friend ran across race morning
In all of my oversharing for my race preparations, I asked 26 friends to each run 1 mile on the day of my marathon.  I asked them to pick a mile and share a picture of themselves after their run.  I promised to think of them during that mile on marathon day.  Well each one of them brought me to tears.  Another friend ran her first half marathon on Sunday as well.  My village goes so beyond my little town and it makes my heart so very full.

my friend ran with her Orange Visor for Mile 21...Blackjack

So the race start time came...and went.  Ben went live on fb as best as he could to catch me throughout the course and share with family, friends and fellow villagers.  People were cheering and texting and calling, asking my dear sherpa how the day was going and if I looked like I was going to pull this off.  I had many moments on the course where I felt like I was done...and in those moments I pulled from all the advice I was given in the days leading up to it.  I repeated many mantras that friends shared, I tried my best to be bored in those first ten miles and just enjoy the course and the people I was with, I tried to control my face and stay loose.  I thanked the race officials and volunteers that were out there, I did everything that was suggested to just enjoy the run and not focus so much on the goal.  My goal was sub 3:45:00 and I managed 3:43:05.  Goal was attained.

I had a great race and had my husband by my side for as many miles as he could be.  I had the vision of my six year old daughter in my head when I said goodbye to her on Saturday, telling her I would see her Sunday night, she gave me a hug and did not say bye mommy I will miss you...but she said Run Hard Mommy!  I had so many positive voices in my head wishing me well and congrats before and after the race.  I ran as hard as I could on that given day, I ran my race, I never stopped, and I ran really really hard.

my ugly cry
We then drove our three hour return trip back to our village and I was thinking some of my friends and family to be outside with chalk drawn in the driveway to then find practically my ENTIRE village, an amazing cake, and a certificate for a massage post race...I was beyond OVERWHELMED.  Kids were running in every direction and people were gathered, people that I care about, trust and are just really good good people...and I am lucky enough to call them my friends.  This whole thing was done for me...I don't think I have ever had a surprise party of sorts and this was just the best day ever.  

orange cake with my mantras around the sides
The thing about support is this.  It is there no matter what, for the good or the bad.  Support is there if you need it and when you don't.  I asked Ben if he was going to go ahead with this party even if I did not BQ that day...and he said yes.  He said that I had worked so hard this year it was to be celebrated and it was a win no matter what.  I felt like I was on a episode of "this is your life."  Not everyone was right there when we got home so more cars kept pulling up and more people joining in the celebration.  These people choose to support me.  They choose to lift me up and encourage me with their honks, waves while I run through town and our neighborhood and on going encouraging words.  They were going to be there if my goal wasn't met just like they were last year.  They don't think twice when I show up in my trucker hat and sweats and sneakers and understand that some days that is me...who am I kidding, most days.  Running is my passion what makes me feel stronger than I ever knew I would.  Running may not even a part of their world but because I am in their world, so is running.  This village had a million other places to be and things to do but they took time to be there with me, to give me that hug, to ask how I am feeling, to give me a full and honest congratulations.  Life is too short to not set goals and give it our all to try to reach them.  Life is to short to not encourage a friend along the way of their journey.  

26 beautiful gerber daises
The words thank you are not enough.  Just because I do not see you every day does not mean you are not a part of my village.  Your positive thoughts and vibes were felt on Sunday, you were just as much of this celebration as me getting to the finish line.  Thank you so much for listening to me go on and on about my goals and still choosing to be my friend.  Thank you for carting my kids around while I may be away at a race, thank you for caring more than you have to.  Thank you for taking time to be a part of my world and village.  This whole running thing is so much more than just running.  Yes I encourage you to try has changed my life in a way I never dreamed of.  Running isn't your calling...find your passion and don't let anyone stop you.  This journey is about what ever you want it to be.  I will keep going down my path that is paved in all things orange and surrounded with so many amazing people.

Embrace the suck...choose your village...lift up those around you.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Remember the journey

Six days and counting.  I wake up each morning thinking about race day and how it is approaching and how I am so concerned about weather, digestion, hydration, and overall well being both mental and physical.  This training plan was 18 weeks long and had me running close to 650 miles which includes race day.  I continue to remind myself that this is not just about the numbers.  This is about me seeing something through and no matter what the outcome I am proud of myself.  I am proud that I am giving myself another chance at a dream that I never knew I wanted to dream.  But as I sit at my house today and watch the Boston Marathon unfold and my heart races for just the thought of that epic event, I remind me that at the end of the is just a race, just a run, it will not define me, it is a day where I get to celebrate the journey I put myself on again.

Mid training hoodie half
With everything we are so focused on the outcome, we forget to stop and enjoy the moment, stop and listen to the music playing in the background, stop and read the book to our kiddos even though it is past their bedtime.  We have become a place that is just wanting to get to the next big thing.  I would be lying if I did not say that Boston is my dream next big thing.  However, this journey has been a true transformation.  I am not talking the physical one, that one has been tested over this training cycle, I am heavier by close to 15 pounds then when I ran two years ago.  As I sat and watched myself not make those changes and lose those pounds and just be upset over it, my husband reminded me of something.  This whole thing is not about my inability to do something the way I believe it has to be done.  This whole thing is about following your dream with what I have and that is a strong and healthy body, and any number on a scale will not change that.  Run with what I have, not with thoughts of what I think I should be.

So the transformation that is not the physical side of this...for me this is about believing in myself, having others believe in me, and having my family be a part of this process.  There have been training weekends where the only energy I could muster up was the energy for my long run and then going to work for the day.  I trained as hard as I could for this race and can only hope that it is enough.  But again, in the end, Boston is a dream and the reality is the people that surround me every day.  My kids who are not embarrassed that I am the running coach at school, or give me the high five when I beat the bus to school, or have a conversation about me "as a runner" with one of their friends or teachers, and use me and my hobby as an example in an assignment.  This is a crew that paces me on a run on their bike or doesn't laugh while I plank in the driveway but rather get down with me.  That is a reality I never thought would be.

End of my freshman year 1997
My husband...I just can't even believe that we are today the people that we have become.  We were young kids in love at the age of 18 and 20 that just wanted to be together.  There were no big lofty goals, no huge aspirations.  We wanted to just love each other and continue to do so no matter what.  Safe to say after 15 years of marriage, I love him even more that I hope I would be able to.  We have this unspoken way of supporting each other through this big dream thing, for both of us.  We just do it.  We know that the other person will be making sacrifices for themselves and we will have to do more with the kids, but we do it, we don't point fingers, or keep score, we are a team that in the end is wanting the same common goal.

An old co-worker of mine ran Boston today for the **fourth** time (I had this earlier as first...FOURTH).  He is an amazing guy on many levels but having a wonderful wife and three cute kiddos makes him even more awesome.  His wife was posting on social media today and she was on Bolyston ready to spot him as he came in.  Well she found him just as he was passing in front of her, as she screamed uncontrollably with her daughter right next to her and his head turned, found them, and he ran over mid finish and hugged his wife and daughter and then ran back towards the race course, waving and smiling and continuing on with a full heart.  That video made my day.

my support crew
This journey is so much more than the race at the end of it, the big dream that we all hold close to our heart and sometimes are brave enough to whisper out loud.  This journey is about discovering something within you that is greater than you ever thought, and having that courage to let it come out so that you can share it and be encouraged by those around you to keep on dreaming.  This journey of 18 weeks of long training runs, dark and cold early mornings and too many logistics to every try to figure out even if it was just one person alone let alone a family of six.  This journey brings me to tears and I haven't even made it to packet pick up.  I know Sunday will be hard, exhausting, and at times make me want to just stop.  In that moment I will remember everyone who is sharing in this dream and helped me get this close.

Embrace the suck...choose you...hard is possible...remember the journey.