Thursday, October 23, 2014

Kansas City Marathon Recap

Well guys, I did it! I am a two time marathoner, everyone!

Can you believe it?  Because I hardly can.  The fact that I have two marathons to my name in one year, literally boggles my mind.  And I am so excited to share the details of my second race with you.  I can't say that it was quite an epic of an experience as running the streets of Paris, but it was certainly a huge accomplishment and incredible weekend that was many, many months in the making.

Last Thursday afternoon I hopped on a to Kansas City from Atlanta, ducking out early and super pumped that marathon weekend was about to begin!

I arrived in KC and waited for my friend Kristen to arrive, who was going to be running her first Half Marathon that Saturday.  Kristen is a friend from high school who lives in NYC.  You've seen her around here before as she was my cheering buddy for Dani's half marathon back before I had ever even run my own and was with me for some of the weddings over the summer.  I was so excited for her to be able to have the experience of running her first distance race, because that weekend in Nashville last year for me was one I will never forget.  She has been training so hard as well, and it was a big weekend for the both of us!

After leaving the airport, we checked into our hotel, which was awesome because it was RIGHT at the start and finish of where the marathon would be, and the race expo was taking place at the hotel as well!  We decided not to check it out until Friday and immediately after checking in to our room, we changed into running clothes as we each had 2 miles to run to finish off our training plans.

It was a pretty uneventful run, and I was happy that my Garmin stayed alive for the 2 miles of the run, because it gave me hope for the marathon.  However, I was still really unsure of whether or not it would survive.

We opted to go the "we're here to run" route and didn't shower or change after our run, but then headed out in our running clothes to find a place to eat dinner and explore the city a bit.  It was an incredible sunset as we walked the ~1 mile into the Power & Light district where there were a bunch of restaurants.  The city had some cute features too it and we were tourists as we walked snapping photos of the sunset, buildings, and fountains that were running blue for the Kansas City Royals who had clinched a spot in the World Series the night before.

I was glad that we had worn our running clothes out, because it was a conversation piece and you could kind of tell other people who were runners and there for the marathon weekend.  We met 3 people in their 50s who had run marathons in every state.  One of them was finishing the states with this race this weekend!  When we told them that we were from Rhode Island, they immediately complained that they hated Rhode Island because the race that they had run there was through a terrible storm and conditions.  Normally, I would have been quick to jump and defend my baby home state that I am so proud of, however, it was the marathon that my college buddies Sarah and Ang did that helped inspire me to even run at all!  We used to go to the gym together at times in college, and when the two of them trained for and ran a marathon shortly after we graduated (with a hilarious blog documenting the process), it gave me inspiration.

Anyways, we ended up eating at a pizza place called Pizza Bar and had some delicious pizza and beer, and chatted with the bartender, who was also running the half marathon!

It was a little bizarre because Kansas City was COMPLETELY dead on that Thursday night.  Apparently the night before had been a completely crazy and late night with the baseball games so they supposed everyone was still sleeping or nursing a hangover to be out on regular Thursday.  However, that was fine with us because we needed an early night and headed back to the hotel after dinner.

Friday was a pretty lazy/casual day that started with carb-loading with bagel sandwiches for breakfast.

After relaxing for a bit in the hotel room, we decided to hit up the race expo.  I am someone who personally LOVES race expos.  I like checking out the vendors, taking advantage of the photo ops, shopping, and getting hyped for the race.  At this particular expo I had a few things on my agenda.  I needed to buy a headband, because I had forgotten one.  I wanted to check with the Garmin people about my watch.  I wanted to grab a pacing band.  And I wanted to take lots of pictures with Kristen to document her first race.

I was able to get everything done on my list except for a major lacking point in the expo was opportunity for photos.  There was nowhere to take a picture, so I made Kristen and I create our own photo opps.

After the expo we went shopping for a bit, exploring another part of town that was part of the race course, walked around a bit, and bought some groceries that we wanted for race morning (that was shockingly harder to find than we thought)  In the early afternoon, I all of a sudden got an incredible wave of panic and anxiety for the race rush over me.

I got grumpy and short, as I tend to do when I am nervous, and really just wanted to be back at the hotel laying down and trying to clear my mind, so we took a cab back to the hotel.  I watched a little TV, relaxed, and tried to take deep breathes.  I also made an urgent phone call to my running bestie, Jess, who was really helpful in helping talk me through some of the decisions I was trying to make.  I wasn't sure if I should wear a long sleeved shirt or a tank top.  Should I buy a new Garmin or risk it with my faulty one?  Should I try to run with a pacing group?  Should I run with a water bottle or rely on the water stops?  I had so many nerves and decisions to make about the next day that I was having trouble deciding upon.  I ended up going back to the expo for a little bit pacing back and forth trying to make choices, and once I decided what to do about everything (long sleeved shirt, old Garmin, no water bottle) I just stuck with it.

We head out from the hotel to the same area we had been the night before to have dinner at Gordon Biersch.  We met up with a friend of mine from work, one of her friends, and then midway through dinner, another very special person to me arrived who had flown in to cheer for me during the race.  I was pretty excited for his arrival, and we all had a great meal -- pasta for Kristen and I-- and a beer before heading back to the hotels.

I had a little surprise planned for Kristen, which I hope helped get her hyped for her race in the morning, but besides that, we had a quiet and early night, which was what we needed.

We woke up early, and had breakfast in our room that we'd planned the night before.  For me it was Special K with chocolate bits and dried strawberries, with skim milk, raspberries, and later, some banana.  The only problem with breakfast was that I hadn't gotten any spoons to eat with, so I had to get creative and ate my cereal and milk the most disgusting way possible with my fingers and dumping it into my mouth from a cup.

I showered in the morning to help wake myself up, and because the race was starting right outside of our hotel, we didn't even really have to leave right away, but we went downstairs to the hotel lobby to feed off of some of the energy of the people there.  We stretched and had a mini dance party, which is one of my favorite pre-race rituals.

We eventually went outside and got in our race corral, around the 10:30/mile pace sign.  I actually found the 4:40 pace group and last minute decided to run with them.  I thought it might be a little ambitious since I finished in 4:37 for my first marathon and I hadn't been running at nearly the same pace.  However, after chatting with some of the people around the pacer, I decided to just give it a whirl.  It was still dark out when the race started at 7:05 a.m. and before we knew it, we were off.

The first few miles of the marathon were pretty uneventful.  I got choked up, with feelings of wanting to cry right away.  It's an incredible thing to actually do something that you have been working for, training for, preparing for, and thinking about every day for months.  And to be surrounded by hundreds of other people who all have been as well.  Everyone around you has the same goal for the day and it's a pretty cool experience and thing to be a part of.

I chatted with the pace group and stayed with them pretty easily.  The pacing for this race is pretty interesting in that instead of just dividing 4:40 by 26.2 and running that pace the whole thing, they break up the miles into specific target times based on hills or challenging portions of it.  So we were between a 10:30-11:00 minute pace for the first miles, and I had fun chatting or running on my own.  I did have one point in talking to someone about our training plans where I got a bit nervous for the race.  It was at about mile 3 and I heard myself say out loud, "I just want this race to be done!" and I knew once those words came out -- uh oh, that doesn't seem like a very good sign.  Regardless, I felt good at the beginning. The pace group walked through the water stops, but I would keep at a jog, and get a little ahead, then let them catch up.

Even from the very beginning, I hydrated at every water stop along the course.

At around mile 6 I saw Kristen and cheered her on before losing her again in the runners.  At around mile 8 the race split, with all of the half marathons going to the left and those doing the full went to the right.  I also had been expecting to see my cheer leader at around mile 7 so was looking at the crowds for him.  We apparently missed each other at the first part, but it was such a boost of energy and happiness to see him at mile 9.  I stopped for a quick hug and then kept going, where I heard him say that he would see me at mile 21.  To which I thought, omg, that is SO many miles to go!

It was at this point in the race, that it got significantly harder for me as the race course thinned out a TON and we entered into a hilly few miles.  At mile 11, I started to struggle, and I wasn't listening to music at this point, so I told myself to just stick with the pace group until mile 13 and then I could put music on as a reward for making it half way through.  The pace group had some interesting people in it.  Someone very chipper to be running her first marathon with a T-shirt she had made on saying "Marathon Virgin."  There was another first-timer who was checking a box on her "Before Age 30" bucket list.  There was a married couple who sang show tunes while they ran.  And a few guys who were quiet but steady with the pace group.

At 13.1, I threw on my headphones, which was more difficult than you would have thought because the chilly air had my fingers NUMB, which they had been since the start.  I could barely get the earbuds shoved into my ears, and they fell out on my first attempt, but I eventually got into the swing of it and was happy to have music keeping me going.

When I got to mile 14, I decided to try and motivate myself for 2-mile increments.  I said, "Get to 16.  Then you'll be in single digits left to go.  Just get to 16.  You ran 16 through the freezing cold last winter, you can run 16 today." and just talked myself from 14-16, not thinking about running the exact mile that I was in.

At this point in the race, I also started to have to go to the bathroom, and I debated in my head back and forth whether or not I should do it and decided to just go for it.  I remembered in The Oatmeal cartoon about running long distances, the author makes a joke about how during marathons he thinks, "WALK through the 3-4 seconds through a water break?!  That will significantly impact my race time of 5 hours!" and that thought made me smile and also helped me convince myself I should just go to the bathroom if I saw an empty porta potty. At this point, I had lost the 4:40 pace group and the idea of beating my time from Paris was out the window, so I figured at a race time of near 5 hours, what was a 30 second bathroom break really impact?  I would be so much more comfortable if I did that.

So at mile 16, I jumped into the bathroom, while keeping my legs moving a bit, even as I pulled up my pants, because I was nervous about my legs tightening up.  And in case you guys haven't tried it recently, take my word, it is difficult to pull up tight running tights while running in place and with totally freezing numb fingers.

I was really nervous that I would accidentally leave the porta potty with my pants not pulled up or something, however, it wouldn't be the first time that I flashed people at a marathon, so who really cares, right?  Well, I didn't have any problems, and got back on the course pretty quick.

I was also hungry at this point, so I grabbed a banana at the fruit stop we ran through, and also pulled out a Luna bar that I had packed in my bag.  I'd wanted it in case I felt like I needed more to eat than just my Gu Chomps, which I was fueling with every 5-6 miles.  I had needed food during my 19 mile training run, so I had a feeling it might happen again.

I took like nibbles of my Luna bar as I again promised to just get myself from mile 16 to 18.  I told myself, "Just get to 18.  Then you'll just have to get to 20, and then you'll be pretty much done."  And once I hit 18, I mentally told myself to get to 20, and then it would just be two 5Ks and then I was done.

When I got to mile 20, I broke the race into two 5Ks.  I had really like counting kilometers while we were running Paris, so I tried to think of how many kilometers I had to go instead of miles.  Miles just seem so much longer, whereas a kilometer goes by quickly.

Mile 20 ran through a part of the course we had run at the beginning so it looked a little familiar and I knew that I was going to be seeing my cheerleader soon, which made me happy and kept me positive for the most part.  However, I did get choked up a bit at mile 20 because I was hurting, and when I got to mile 21 and saw my cheering crew, I was pretty much in tears and fighting to keep going.

I knew I was going to make it if I could just make it past mile 23. I had heard from someone in the pace group I had been with for the first half that there were some hills until around mile 23.  And sure enough from 21-23.5 was ALL uphill with no break.  It was hard.  It was really hard.

I talked myself through every mile.  At mile 23 the 4:50 pace group passed me and I checked my Garmin (which was still kicking!) to see what I needed to do in order to finish under 5 hours.  That was my B goal in the race, and I wanted to still try and get there.  However, when I also tried to pick up the pace at all, I couldn't.  I just had nothing left, so I just kept telling myself to keep going, and you'll finish when you finish.  It doesn't matter if it is 4:59 or 5:01 or anything.  You are running a marathon and finishing is what counts.

When I got to 23.5 I had been choking up on and off, and was so happy to see the hill break.  I knew once I got to mile 24, I would be able to mentally get myself through the last 2 miles.  I knew I could do it.

There were a few people around me that were going back and forth between passing me and me passing them because they were walk/running.  I realllllllly wanted to walk, but I also know my legs well enough and told myself DO NOT WALK because you won't be able to start again.  Towards the end of the marathon, it will probably hurt more to walk than to keep running, so I just told myself to keep on going.  My mind was still in the race saying, "Finish before these people!  Don't let them pass you at the last stretch!" but my body was like, "STFU mind, do you realize how hard each and every step is?!"

With 1.5 miles to go, a random man read my name off my race bib and cheered for me by name.  When I got to mile 25, I watched my watch until I was at 25.2 and celebrated -- THIS IS IT.  FINAL MILE.

Whether it is a 2 mile, 3 mile, 15 mile, or 26 mile race, I LOVE the last mile.  I can always get through the last mile.  I was expecting myself to tear up a bit for the last mile but it was pretty empty along the course, a pretty nonscenic route, and my body was drained.  It was a pretty anticlimactic finish, and even when I was at the 26 mile marker, there weren't that many fans around and I couldn't see the finish line.  Oh, and the finish was uphill, because why the heck not?

I saw my cheerleader right before the finish, and when I crossed the finish line, and met up with him, the tears started.  I was so relieved to just be done with this race.  It was an incredibly challenging course for me and although I had told myself during the run that the time didn't matter, there was a sight bit of relief to see that I finished in the 4s with a time of 4:57.

I grabbed some chocolate milk, a banana, and some water then went with my main cheerleader (whose name is Scott, by the way) and my work friend to check out some of the post-race festivities.  There had been a massage tent advertised and that was going to be my first stop.  We walked our way over and I went to get in line and was told by a lady that they weren't taking anyone else in line.  That they'd been massaging since 6am and there hands were tired.

I'm sorry, what?!?  Your hands are tired?!  I've been running since 7am, my whole body is tired!  And who were you massaging all morning while the race was going on?!?  I was pretty disappointed because a post-race massage is always amazing, and these stupid runs are expensive.  The vendors and post-race festivities are part of what I feel like I pay for.

You can imagine how disappointed I was when I went to go turn in my beer ticket from my bib and found out that they were also out of beer.  WHAT?!  How can you be out of beer??  Everyone gets a free beer with their bib and you KNOW how many runners there are!

I was pretty bummed, but also out of energy. So I grabbed the one thing that they did have left, BBQ sandwiches, which were totally unappealing to me at the time, and just went back to the hotel room.  Where a little bit of this happened.

Legs up.  Banana and peanut butter (with two bent straws as a fork.) Water.  Medal On.

Yup, I just ran a marathon!!!!!!!!

After laying like that for a bit, I showered, dressed, and rested until I wanted food.  We went back to a restaurant near the Power & Light district, where we feasted on nachos, pretzels, a burger, and beer.  However, about half way through, I just crashed.  We were sitting on high top tables and my legs were dangling.  I was full.  I was tired.  And for the second time in the trip, I just wanted to be in my hotel room in bed.  Which is exactly what we did and I spent a few hours spazzed out and relaxing.

I learned that there is such a thing as "marathon brain" and after you run 26.2, sometimes your mind just forgets to work a little.

After spending a few hours horizontal, calling family, and drinking water, I decided I was ready for a little more celebrating.   I had a pretty one track mind with what I wanted -- frozen custard and champagne.  And because I have awesome people in my life who support and take care of me and helped make this day incredible, that's exactly what I had.

Oh, and by the way, remember Kristen?  Yah, she killed her first half marathon and I was so proud of her!  When I finished I asked if anyone had heard from her, which they hadn't, and I got really panicky.  However, she had been cold and tired and was sleeping in bed post-race.  I introduced her to my rule of wearing your race medal non-stop the day of the race, which I think she was a fan of.   Except for the fact that this race actually had HUGE medals and I was a bit concerned it would make our necks hurts.

But regardless, we both achieved major goals that day and I was so proud of myself for making it through this training cycle, completing a random marathon in Missouri, and of Kristen for her first jump into distance running.

The weekend was made incredibly sweet and wonderful by the fact that I had an incredible cheerleader and supporter by my side.  His presence made the race all the more special and meant so much to me.

Sunday was a pretty low key day, I felt tired and sore but nothing hurt, which was great.  I walked around a bit before flying back to Atlanta.  And since being back I have done a yoga class and a short 2-mile run -- in my race finisher's tee, of course!

This is the first time in literally, years, that I don't have any races on my agenda right now.  I am not signed up for ANY races.

Now, I know that won't be for long as I need to fill my calendar back up and set some goals.  However, right now I am taking it a little bit easy. I am trying refocus on other areas of health and have been tracking Weight Watchers points this whole week to help ease back into a normal eating routine.  I have some travel coming up and I want my mind and body to heal a bit from this training cycle.

I've got a number of things I want to write about marathon #2 vs. #1 which I think I will have time to do in the next weeks so this won't be the last you hear of Kansas City Marathon.  But for now, I will sign off with a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has asked me to blog about the race, offered words of encouragement, or even just "Liked" a picture on Facebook or Instagram.  Your support means so much to me and thank you for reading and following along my journeys here!!

I'm a two time marathoner, people!!!!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It's the final countdown!

Alright guys, this is it.  Tomorrow I head out to Kansas City to get ready for marathon #2!  I'm doing laundry, packing up everything I need, trying to remember all the details, making my playlist, and starting to self-talk pump myself up for this weekend.  It's been a good day all around in non-running life too, and for the majority of today just felt happy (can't wait to share it all with you in the future too!)

But in regard to the race and this coming weekend?  Let's say this...I'm excited for it to be done.  I'm excited to finish.  I'm excited to eat all the food in Kansas City and see my running buddy and chief supporter that will be there with me.  But,  I'm really nervous to run.

I decided to do the Kansas City marathon back right after the Paris Marathon.  In fact, I think I signed up for the NIGHT of the Paris Marathon!  One of my goals is to run a race in every state in the U.S.  And I also have told all my friends, in an effort to get them into running, that if they were to decide to do a new distance, I would do it with them.  My friend Kristen decided to take me up on the offer and after figuring out which fall weekends we both had free, I told Kristen the states I had already run, and she did some research and we landed on the Kansas City Marathon!  Kristen is running her first Half Marathon and I am so excited for this weekend for her too.  I want her to have the same incredible first half marathon experience that I did.

For those of you who have been around here for a little bit, you may recall my first Half Marathon in Nashville in April 2013.  After the months of training, and blogging about training, the race climaxed with a 3-part blog entry about the weekend (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) and about what an incredible experience it was.  The running high from achieving that distance literally lasted about a month.  And the Paris Marathon was the same.  What could ever top those feelings?

As the race gets closer, I am having pre-race anxiety and getting scared and nervous.  It feels like forever ago that I did a long run.  Do I still have the mental and physical stamina to be able to do this?  Is this weird scratchy feeling in my throat going to cause a problem?  Is my Garmin going to die half way through?  Are the hills going to kill me?

So, with that.  That's what I am thinking.  I did 3 miles on Monday and 2 miles today.  Tomorrow when I get to Kansas City I will do my final 2 mile shake out run with Kristen and then rest these bad boys until Saturday.

I will do my best to check in, and until I check in next, let me leave you with this photo that will blow your mind.  You all like candy corn, right?  Right.  Well, ever wonder why candy corn is shaped and colored the way it is?  No?  Me either.  It's candy, I just eat it and go about my day.  But, when this picture was sent to me, OMG, I could not, not share it.  Look what candy corn looks like when you stack it up?  Corn on the cob!  So cool!

(via Imgur)

Monday, October 13, 2014

The 1000 club.

Check me out, people. I'm blogging on a semi-regular basis!  Who is excited?!?

Well, race nerves have set in for sure!  This morning I got up for 3 miles and although it was just a random short run at the end of my taper, it was pretty monumental because I hit a big milestone today. I hit my target of running 1000 miles in 2014!!!

It's pretty cool to see that number on my RunKeeper app, and it's a little crazy because when I plugged that in at  the beginning of the year it was really just an estimate or "Hm, I wonder if I will ever reach this?" type of a thing.

This is the first year I have ever tracked my mileage and the only thing that I have to go off of in terms of what a yearly number would be is Jess's goal from last year.  Last October/November (I forget when it was exactly...) we all celebrated Jess's milestone of hitting her goal of running 750 miles for the year.  At the beginning of the year when she said she was going to have a goal of 1000 for this year, I figured I would plug that in to RunKeeper and see if I got anywhere near that myself.  I really had NO idea if it was realistic or not.  And here I am, on October 13, a week shy of my 2nd marathon and I have reached 1000!  Craziness!

So aside from that monumental moment, the run this morning was pretty eh.  When I looked at my pace after I finished, I immediately started trying to calculate numbers in my head trying to figure out what I might actually finish this marathon with.  However, the thing about running 26.2 miles is that there are SO MANY MILES and it's hard to figure out exactly when you will finish when your paces have been so all over the place like mine.

In the past few weeks I have run 6 miles in 8:47 pace; 13 miles at a 10:15 pace, or 3 miles at 11:15 pace like I did today.  I have no clue how I will do in this race and it's freaking me out a bit.  BUT, as I mentioned yesterday, the nerves are good nerves.  They help me be prepared.

Today I had a good day of eating healthy, real foods (except for some candy corn) and hydrating and being an overall healthy person (except for some candy corn) with both a run and an evening yoga class in.

After yoga, I went to dinner at a Thai restaurant with a couple friends so the day was filled with nourishment for the body and mind.  I mean, how cute is this restaurant?!

Yoga was really what I needed today as the class I've been going to on Monday nights in Atlanta is really great at long, deep stretches and not something that I normally feel sore from, but feel just really balanced and good all around after.  Not a bad way to spend the Monday before race day.  5 days til race day, everyone!!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The race butterflies have arrived!

Hey everyone! Today, I spent much of the morning thinking and sending positivity and cheers-from-afar to all my friends running both the Chicago and Hudson/Mohawk Marathons today!  It was so exciting to see Facebook statuses, get text message updates, and follow along with the Chicago Marathon app to see how my friends were all doing.  Everyone killed it with many personal bests across the board and some incredible finishes.  I got butterflies all day and am inspired by what my friends have accomplished today. Congratulations Jess, Megan, Katie, Jeremy, David, Ryan, and all other marathon finishers!! 

And with that-- it is only 6 more days until my own race day.  Ahhhh!!!!!!  Craziness, right? I think so.

As I mentioned briefly, last week I was in West Palm Beach for work for a few days.  It was a greata trip and I was able to put my toes in the water for a little bit and enjoy some gorgeous scenery.

It was great for some sand-in-my-toes time, but I struggled to gather the motivation to run in the hot and humid weather there, so I pushed my Friday run.  Instead of doing 4 miles on Friday, I decided to do the run on Saturday at a 5K that I had signed up for called the "Neon Dash" -- but more on that in a minute.

I flew back on Friday night, and the gorgeous scenery from Florida lasted through the final moments as the sky was filled with the perfect rainbow of colors as I flew back.

This weekend was my first weekend in Atlanta since I have moved here and I wish that I had something exciting to report, but unfortunately it was a pretty tame weekend.  Friday I stayed in, and on Saturday morning my biggest goal for the day was to hang curtains and get settled a bit more in my apartment -- which I happily accomplished!  Woohoo!

I was supposed to run a 5K in the evening which looked like a total blast according to their website.  It was one of those night runs with black lights and loud music and apparently neon paint.  I was pretty excited for this girl to be me, because she looks like she is having a blast.  It seemed like it would be a combination of the Color Me Rad and Electric Runs I have done!

However, after driving out to where the race was supposed to be in Atlanta (which is an hour from my apartment, mind you!) I got there to find a completely empty venue with 4 other people dressed in running clothes trying to also figure out where the event was.  After some confusion and a few helpful employees, we learned that the race had been cancelled 3 weeks prior!  Three weeks!  I hadn't even signed up for the race three weeks prior!!

I was pretty disappointed as the only activity I had planned for my first weekend in Atlanta and what was supposed to be my kick off to the Atlanta race scene was a bust.  I ended up just turning around and driving back home and at that point it was dark, so it was a lonely head lamp run in my hilly neighborhood on a Saturday night for me.  Ya jealous?!

I proceeded my evening 3 miles with getting up early to do my final weekend run of 8 miles.  I drove a bit from my apartment to a running trail I had looked up online.  Like the other ones I have found in Atlanta, they are all pretty short, only officially being about 2 miles.  I ran on the streets a bit as well and did some back and forth to stretch it out to 8 miles, but I got it done.  And in the rain nonetheless!

It was just spitting out when I started the run and it got heavier as it went on.  As I come up on marathon #2, running in the rain this morning had me feeling nostalgic of the first half marathon I did last year in Nashville and how it was the first time ever in my life that I ran outside through the rain.  And not just through the rain, but through downpours.  It was one of the rainiest days I've ever experienced, yet, also one of the greatest feelings of my life.  I'm looking forward to challenging myself yet again with the Kansas City race on Saturday!

The butterflies I got this morning (virtually) watching my friends accomplish their marathon running goals, I got motivated to kick my butt into gear getting ready for the weekend in the non-running aspects.  I need to start hydrating, eating clean, getting sleep, and getting together outfits and clothes and running fuel and all of that jazz.

One of the things I am worried about is the fact that just in the past couple of weeks my Garmin has decided to totally start messing up and being a total jerk.  It works sometimes but other times it just randomly shuts off while I am running saying that the battery drained, even if it is freshly charged.  At first, I thought that there was some sort of nuclear reactor or weird magnetic forcefield causing it to mess up because it happened twice in the exact same spot during a run.  However, I think it is actually the watch -- as much as I love a good conspiracy theory!  I've got to try and figure out what I want to do about that this week.  Obviously I don't NEED a Garmin to run, but it is really helpful in gauging how to maintain pace, how much I've run, etc.  It's a mental crutch but I am scared to have my Garmin stop working the week before marathon.

Today for dinner I made a quinoa salad with edamame and dried cranberries.  I saw something similar in the grocery store and decided to just wing it and make up my own recipe and it was quite delicious.  I think some sort of nut would be good in here too but I didn't have any on hand.  Pine nuts? Pistachios?  Hm, maybe next time!

I also hard boiled a bunch of eggs just to be sure that I've got all the protein and goodness that I need in this week leading up to the race.

I've been waiting for the nerves to set in and I think it is safe to say that they have officially arrived.  I like the nerves though.  That feeling of being scared/excited/anxious/nervous is one of the best in the world.  It makes me feel alive and it makes me feel like what I am doing is worth doing.  When you challenge yourself and take on new things that excite you but also scare you a little -- you grow as a person.  I can't say enough how much I have learned and grown as I have begun running and I continue to acquire new lessons all the time.

I apparently like to throw some last minute wrenches in my marathon training plans to keep things even more challenging than just running 26.2 miles.  For the race in April, that consisted of traveling for 5 weeks straight leading up to the race -- spending 4 of those weeks hopping throughout Europe.  And for this race, it has been moving.  I'm still running in heat and humidity in Atlanta, where in Upstate NY, this is the best time of year to run with cool temperatures.  I'm tackling new terrain with a "home" route that consists of way more hills than I am used to.  I also have eaten few meals that I've cooked myself and haven't done laundry in weeks, which is another obstacle in my running game right now.

However, the past few weeks have also been incredibly happy with some positive changes in my day-to-day life these past few weeks.  And in just 6 days it will all come together!  Can't wait to share it all with you!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

8 Days Until Marathon #2 in Kansas City!

Hey everyone! Time for a marathon update.

Post Ragnar Relay, I have been on taper. I was back in Atlanta for a week and did 3 runs throughout my neighborhood in the mornings Monday, Wednesday, and Friday last week.

The runs were all “Eh” and hard to find the motivation for because when I run from my apartment in Atlanta, there are hills EVERYWHERE! I am going to either get really good at running hills or will need to discover some places to head that are a short drive away.

Friday evening I flew to Dallas, Texas, where I was lucky enough to be shown an incredible route to run around White Rock Lake for 12 miles.  The weather was cool, the trail was flat and wide.  The scenery was beautiful.  And I had a wonderful run there that left me feeling positive about the rest of my taper.  It was the last of my double digit runs until 26.2!  I am serious when I say I can barely believe how fast this marathon is approaching.

This week's runs took place in Dallas on Monday and then Juno Beach, Florida for the second half of the week.  It's hot and humid here (Florida) and I'm hoping that it is a bit nicer when I get back to Atlanta tomorrow.

So, with all of that technical stuff aside.  How am I feeling about the marathon?


Right now, I'm not as crazy nervous as I was right before the race last time-- but that could change.  However, I am a bit more scared as to how I will do.  I know that the adrenaline is going to be totally different between running my FIRST marathon in PARIS with 40,000 other people and running in Kansas City, Missouri with just a few thousand.  That whole, "Can I even do this?!?" excitement and fear won't be fueling me.

And I know I said this before, about how I gained weight right before the first marathon... well, this time it is true again but I had never lost that weight from the first marathon, so now it's even more.  Which, makes me nervous.

However, I am excited.  I am feeling good about how my training runs have been.  I am excited to be experiencing this marathon with different people and new adventures.  I am excited for it to be over and to celebrate and hopefully have a great runner's high.  I am looking forward to the weekend that I've been thinking about for months to finally be here.  And I am also excited for what comes after the marathon.  Trying new types of exercise, finding a new race goal, and new running groups, and new adventures.

But for the 8 days week -- all sights are set on Kansas City and running 26.2!  I'll try to check back in but wish me luck!!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Ragnar Relay Adirondacks Recap

I am posting to you from Juno Beach, Florida, where I currently am for work.  However, this entry I wrote entirely while on two plane flights so I actually started it more than a week ago when I returned to Atlanta from Albany after running the Ragnar Relay.  I wanted to do a thorough recap and boy, is this one!  I hope you enjoy.

Written on September 28, 2014 - Hey everyone! I’m writing from somewhere over the Northeast as I head from Albany to Atlanta as the final official leg of my move between these two places. Somewhere aboard the plane I’ve got two giant suitcases stuffed with whatever clothes and belongings I’d brought with me on this trip and also that I’d left at my friends’ house the last time I was in town. It’s hard to believe, but this is it! Next stop Atlanta!

Well, technically, next stop is Charlotte, where I am connecting through, and then Atlanta. Because, you know, there is no direct flights out of Albany, so this is what you have to do.

Anyways, it’s been an awesome final week in New York filled with lots of friends and fun and food (all my favorite things) and I finished off the last of the two race commitments I had made before finding out about my move. One of which was the Saratoga Palio Half Marathon that I told you about, and the other is the Adirondacks Ragnar Relay that I am excited to recap for you!

The Adirondacks relay is one that is a part of the Ragnar series that they have throughout the U.S. I know many running friends and bloggers who have participated in the races, and heard wonderful things about them from everyone who has participated. It has long been on my “bucket list” and last year I got a glimpse of what the races are like when I volunteered with Jess and Aubrey at one of the race exchanges near Lake George. After we volunteered last September, we promised ourselves that we would do one this year, and throughout the spring/summer, we pulled a team together (well, mostly Jess pulled the team together) and after much preparation (on Jess’s part) this weekend we completed the 197 mile run from Saratoga to Lake Placid, New York!

For those of you who are not familiar with Ragnar series, they are runs that are completed as part of a relay team of 12 people and you run throughout two days and one night from one destination to another. They are all about 200 miles long, and throughout the race there are 36 “exchanges” or check points along the route where the team members pass the figurative baton from one person to the next. Each of the 12 runners on the team runs at 3 different times, and the segments vary in distance from about 2 miles to about 10 miles. Each runner’s individual distance over the race averages 16 miles, with some being a bit longer and some being a bit shorter.

Each team is divided into two vans (or SUVs, etc.), with 6 people in each one. Every runner on a team is assigned a number and you run in the same order throughout the whole race. So runners 1-6 are in the first van and 7-12 are in the second van. I was runner 8, which means I was in the 2nd van of people for my team and within my van I was the 2nd runner to go through every leg of the course. The start is in waves with everyone assigned a start time, so everyone is spread out throughout the whole course. Since it is such a long race, none of the roads are closed and you are running solo on open roads throughout the majority of the route. The checkpoints were anywhere with a large parking lots for all the vans to park, so it was a variety of farms, schools, parks, baseball fields, etc. on this route. Every 6th checkpoint was called a “major exchange” as that was where the last runner in the first van (runner 6) would pass off to the first runner from van 2 (runner 7) or when the last runner in the second van (runner 12) passed off to runner 1.

If this sounds confusing, it is because it was. It wasn’t until the race actually got started that this all began to make sense to me. And you also realize that although there are 12 people on your team, you are really spending the majority of your time with the 6 runners that are in your van.

Our team’s assigned start time was 6:15 a.m. on Friday morning, but since I was in Van 2, our group wasn’t expected to start until about 10:30 a.m. further north on the course after all 6 runners in the first group finished their first run. The entire race is an incredible feat in logistics, both on the part of the team captains and on the part of the race organizing committee. We had the most incredible team captain in Jess, who did so much to organize the two vans, keep us informed of what we needed, and connecting everyone with a Facebook group that we used for most of the planning. And before we began, Ragnar provided a spreadsheet with estimated times that our runners would start and finish each of their race segments along the route. We used the spreadsheet as our guide and relied on text messaging back and forth between our two vans to let one another know when the different runners were starting.

So, van 2 met up at 9:15 in the morning at the 4th race exchange to pack our car, leave cars, and for some of us, meet for the first time! The only name you’ll know from my van is Aubrey, and there was one other girl who I have been friendly with for a few years (who is a reader! Hey Whitney!) and 3 people who I was meeting for the first time.

Let me tell you, if you want to bond with people, a Ragnar Relay is a good place to do it, as you get to know one another pretty quick when you do one of these things!

At our meet up, we decorated our car with washable window paint, packed up the food we’d brought, changes of clothes, and sleeping items. We also set some “ground rules” for the group, such as the fact that after each runner took off at the exchange, we would just drive to the next one. If the runner wanted “support” somewhere throughout the leg (for us to stop and cheer at different mile markers) they should ask, otherwise we’d just drive straight to the check point. We also decided that we wanted to be a team that cheered for EVERYONE, no matter what team they were on.

At that first meet up, it also happened to be a checkpoint for the race, and we were able to connect with the first Van on our team, who were stopped there to change runners. We cheered Terry on as he finished his leg, and Nick started off. It was great to see that group, and we had our first “eerie” moment of the race, when we realized that the other team had decorated their SUV in the EXACT same way that we had decorated ours with the washable markers. I’m talking we had the same things, written on the same sides of the cars and everything. It was a little weird and we took it to mean that we were a great team!

After the exchange, both teams headed out, but we drove right to exchange 6 where the race organizers had everything set up for all of the Van 2s to get their race bibs, t-shirts, and go through a safety briefing. Since you run through the night, on major roads, and through residential communities, the organizers take the rules very seriously (as they should) and before they give you the race bibs you have to show all of your teams’ reflective gear, head lamps, blinking lights, etc. and they also give you flags to use while crossing any roads.

At each of the exchanges, teams hang out waiting for their runner to arrive. The race has one volunteer who stands a little bit ahead of the actual exchange and checks out what the runners team number is, calls it over to the exchange volunteer on a walkie-talkie, who announces to the teams waiting, “Team 93! Your runner is coming in!”

We met up with Van 1 at exchange 6 as their final runner Julie, was passing it off to our first runner, Whitney. They then had a number of hours off, where they were planning to head somewhere to take showers and eat lunch. We just got started at about 10:30 in the morning with our first runner!

Whitney’s first leg was a long one at about 10 miles. We cheered her off and then drove to exchange 7 where we waited for her to arrive. When you drive from exchange to exchange, you would drive along the race route, and pass all of the runners, so we had a blast driving with our windows down, cow bell out the window, yelling and cheering everyone on that we drove by. It was so fun to see the runners get excited, wave, smile, or pump their fist in the air as we drove by bringing the energy. As a runner who ALWAYS appreciates and feeds off of the energy of the crowd at races, I wanted to give as much as I could to the runners out on the roads we passed.

At the exchanges themselves, there were always a bunch of other teams and a fun atmosphere with at least one van blasting music, people hanging around, often dancing and having a good time.

Some of the teams got SO creative in their team names, van decorations, runner costumers, and even things prepared to “tag” the other vans. Many teams created magnets with their team names on them that they would casually try to stick on the other vans. This first exchange we realized how intense some of these teams were with their creativity and while I would love to be that organized and go all out with the decorations, costumes, tagging, etc. – the race alone is so much organization and time figuring out the logistics – not to mention the costs – that I was totally happy with our team’s level of engagement and lack of over-the-topness (is that a word?) However, it was really fun to see what other people came up with.

Whitney was passing off her leg of the run to me, so I spent that exchange also preparing for mine. The sun was out and it was a GORGEOUS day. We totally lucked out with weather, as I have some friends who ran this race a couple years ago and it was freezing cold and rainy, so a totally different experience for them. For us, it was pretty hot and barely a cloud in the sky.

My first run was supposed to be 6.1 miles and in the paperwork that the race gave us, I saw that this run, although including a few uphill portions, actually had a negative net elevation, meaning that I would be running downhill. I was feeling the adrenaline and energy from the race, so I told my team that I was going to try and run it faster than the 10:20 pace that I had submitted beforehand and that my estimated finish times were based off of. I was thinking I might be able to do a sub-10 minute mile and wanted to shoot for 9:15-9:30 pace.

As soon as I started running, I knew I felt good and just kept going with it. The run was gorgeous, through farm land, which actually made for a bit of a smelly run, but also very scenic, later with a river on one side. There wasn’t a lot of traffic on the road coming in my direction, but a lot of traffic also heading where I was heading with other Ragnar vans driving by. I went with one of my old running techniques and tried to not look at my Garmin watch at all, and instead counted the number of songs that played on my iPod as a way to track how far along I was in the race. The routes were all supposed to be marked with a “one mile to go” sign, but for whatever reason, this exact exchange was not marked (which they told us in advance.) When I am running, I often try to trick myself into not looking at my watch and seeing how far I can go without doing so. I kept telling myself, “You can look at your watch after 5 songs.” But then when I would get there, I was feeling good, so I would say, “Okay after another 5 songs!” and I actually ended up never looking at my watch the whole race!

I finally saw the exchange ahead and kicked it into high gear, coming in fast and passing off the baton – which was actually an orange slap bracelet – to my next teammate, Warren. My whole team was out of the car cheering for me as I finished, which was awesome, and as soon as I finished they started telling me that I did awesome and finished so fast. I looked down at my Garmin watch and was dumbfounded when I saw that I had finished the leg – which had totaled 6.15 miles in 53:48, at a pace of 8:47/mile, which is actually the fasted I have ever run that distance!!!

I was so excited and surprised with myself for how I did, and it was such a great way to start off my Ragnar experience. I was on a major adrenaline high as we jumped into the car and drove to the next exchange, where we would meet the runner who had just started, when he finished his leg. My adrenaline high started to show as I yelled out the window to every runner that we passed, so happy and excited with how my first run had gone and enjoying that amazing “runner’s high” that makes running so worth it. The rest of our team’s first runs all went really well, with nothing going out of planned, everyone feeling good during their runs, and with all of us having a lot of fun.

Our final runner, Aubrey, was finishing right at Million Dollar Beach at Lake George, which is also where my friend Jenna ran in her first Half Ironman a few weeks prior! The exchange at Lake George was amazing because after Aubrey finished, we had a few hours break while Van 1 ran all of their second legs. So we were able to take advantage of the lake, all swimming or wading for a while, sitting on the beach, and using the restrooms there. The race had port-a-potties at every one of the exchanges, which was great, but definitely had us wanting to use a public restroom when possible!

When we arrived at Million Dollar Beach, it was also the second time in the race that I realized how unprepared I was for the non-running aspects of the race. The first was the night before the race, when I stayed at Aubrey’s with Jess and I realized that I hadn’t brought big Ziploc bags for my clothes, I didn’t have a blinky light that I needed, I didn’t have a reflective vest, etc. Luckily, Jess helped me out with those things, otherwise I would have been really struggling. But then at Million Dollar Beach, I realized that there was an opportunity to take showers there in the public beach showers, but I had brought absolutely nothing that would be needed for a shower – no shampoo, no towels, etc. I was so lucky throughout the whole race where my team members came so prepared and able to help out the slackers such as myself.

So how did we shower/clean/bathe after running through the hot sun? Baby wipes. Yup, this took cleansing on the go to a whole new level.

Lake George was a beautiful exchange as the sun was about to set and it was our team’s first rest. We took our time relaxing in the lake, cooling off from the hot day, and cleaning up a bit in the real bathrooms and rest area. Then, we head off to Bolton Landing to find a place to have dinner for the evening.

We ended up at a restaurant where the runners went right by (including Jess!) and enjoyed cheering on the different Ragnarians while we enjoyed giant meals. Probably too big. But more on that later…

After having dinner we drove to the next major exchange, which was in Ticonderoga. We made our way there as it got dark outside, and continued to cheer for all the runners out our windows as much as we could. This portion of our drive, and of Van 1s runs included some of the toughest inclines of the race and we knew the runners would need some cheering as the sky grew dark.

We reached Ti Middle School where they were open to runners using the bathrooms, showers, were serving a pasta dinner, and had a gymnasium set up as a designated sleeping area. My team all decided to try and sleep for an hour (we arrive at about 9pm) and headed to the gym, but being woefully unprepared, I had no sleeping bag, pillows, or blankets, and just lay right on the gym floor and tried to nap. Needless to say, I didn’t get any sleep during that hour. I instead listened to music, relaxed, and pondered what a weird sight it was to have a whole bunch of strangers sleeping in sleeping bags in a middle school gym while outside a football game was going on and people were running in the dark.

Our team started up again and my next run began at about 11:00 p.m. and was my longest run at 7.4 miles. I was REALLY nervous for the run – as I was running at night, had some hills, was experiencing some pain in my foot and knee, and just had been eating as if I was at a middle school sleepover, not as if I was running. When I started going, I did not feel well immediately and decided to not try and do anything at all amazing with pace. I had my race of the day earlier, and this was just going to be a training run and a run for the experience.

Running in the middle of the night in the middle of the Adirondacks with nobody around was a cool, surreal experience. The stars above were incredible and at times there was literally no light to be seen besides my headlight in front of me and the stars above. A number of runners passed me on this route, which I started to tell myself that since this was the 2nd largest mileage of the race, other teams must have given it to their more seasoned runners. However, then an old lady passed me and my first reaction was “What?!?!” but then it was, “Hey, good for you, old lady. Good for you.”

When I got scared or tired or thought I was going to throw up (which happened a lot) I looked up at the stars and reminded myself that this experience of running at night was why I was here and to just enjoy it. That is a little easier said than done when you have to continually take deep breaths to curb your nausea and will yourself to keep going to the end of the run in order to get to a bathroom.

My stomach was a MESS during this section of the race. The chocolate milk, BBQ chicken, French fries, sour path kids, salad, chocolate covered pretzels, apples, etc. that I had eaten since my last run were all wanting to make a reappearance and it was everything I could do to keep my dinner and snacks in my stomach. This made for an uncomfortable few miles up hill.

At one point in the run, I thought that someone was coming up from behind to pass me and swore that I saw the light from a head lamp trailing at my feet and heard the sound of footsteps. I sort of hugged the edge of the road and waited for the runner to pass me, but when nobody came up from behind, I turned back to see if they were trailing me and NOBODY WAS THERE. I was so freaked out because I could have sworn that I both heard footsteps and saw a head lamp behind me. There was nothing to do but run so I just continued going on my way, with thoughts flashing through my mind that this would be the perfect opportunity to abduct someone – especially with so many white creeper vans around – it would be so easy to just snag someone (me!) up.

When I reached the finish of my 7.4 mile run, my team was there cheering for me and it was after midnight. As soon as I finished, I went right to the porta potty before taking another baby wipe bath, and crawling into the back of the SUV, where my teammates had so nicely cleared out to allow someone to sleep back there. I was feeling terrible, and I knew it was part of my bad eating throughout the day, running late at night, and lack of sleep. I had changed my clothes but I was still somewhat sweaty, my hair was wet, and I was cold. I put all the layers of clothes on I had, and Whitney loaned me her sleeping bag that I gladly wrapped myself up in. The next few runners legs on our teams were a blur for me as I dozed in and out of sleep.

I got out of the car for the next major exchange where we watched Aubrey run in and pass off the baton to runner #1 from the first van. It was about 4 in the morning and our team had a break at this point and we tried to get to the next major exchange as fast as we could so that we could get some sleep. Since the first van was through with their “sleeping” hours, Jess kindly loaned me her sleeping bag, so I could give Whitney back hers to use.

I mentioned earlier that our teams had found it totally eerie that we had somehow ended up writing the exact same things on our two vehicles with the window markers. At this major exchange, another weird thing happened. It was a massive parking lot, and at the major exchanges, every team has both their vehicles there – which, with say even 300 teams, could mean upwards to 600 cars (although probably less since not everyone is there at the same exact time… but still… a lot of cars…) And when our two teams walked back to the cars after watching the exchange from Runner 12 to Runner 1, we realized that we were parked immediately next to each other. So weird!

The ride to our sleeping spot was about an hour and we were all deliriously tired and a bit punchy at this point. I had woken from my mini nap, and we were still cheering out the window at the runners we drove past. This leg of the race was a windy dirt road, it was about 4:30 in the morning, pitch black, and we are driving along the road and doing what we did earlier yelling out the windows commenting on the runners’ clothing. “Nice job, green shirt!” “Looking good – love the pink socks!” You know, things along that line.

Well, at this point in time, the one guy who was in our car, and was driving, decided to chime in and as we passed one of the runners, he said out the window in his deep, overtired voice to a random female runner, “Hey… Nice pants!”

As soon as he said it, we were all silent for a minute until someone said, “Yeah… kinda sounds creepy when you do it, Warren.” Man, maybe we were all overtired, but we were laughing SO hard at this.

We finally got to sleep at about 5 a.m., with a few of us sleeping in the car (me laying down in the back seat) and a few taking sleeping bags and just laying out in a designated field that was for sleeping at one of the exchanges. We got about 3 hours of sleep before getting up at 8am to get ready for the next leg of the race. We were looking mighty beautiful after having had the dried sweat of 2 runs and an awkward night’s sleep on us.

However, adrenaline was running high I think because we were all in good spirits.

At about 9:30ish a.m. it was time for my next leg – which was 6.7 miles. The route was hilly, but really pretty and the sun was shining bright. It got HOT during the middle of my run. I had brought a bottle of water with me and definitely used it to both drink, and dump on top of myself. The route was beautiful at this point.

Finishing that leg was such a relief knowing that I had finished all of my legs of the race and now it was just cheering on the rest of the team until the finish! I had been really worried about my third leg of the run after having such a crummy feeling run the night before. I didn’t really eat anything, and the little sleep I got did give me some energy and adrenaline, so I felt okay on the run, but my pace was definitely the worst of the 3 and way off from my killer pace in the first leg of the race!

I checked my last box on the window of the SUV, and offered to drive the rest of the way for our team, as I was on a major adrenaline high from finishing the runs and wanted access to the horn.

I had so much fun driving and cheering and honking out the window to every runner we passed for the last 4 legs of the race. It also didn’t hurt that we hit an incredibly beautiful and scenic portion of the route as we arrived at Lake Placid. It was BEAUTIFUL and a gorgeous view of Whiteface Mountain and the incredible fall foliage.

We met up with the other half of the team at the finish, to welcome in Aubrey as she ran the last leg of the race and we all joined her to cross the finish line. It was really fun to finally have everyone together, get our medals, and our finisher beers and explore the expo for a bit. We were Rangarians!!!

I wish we’d had more time with our entire team but many members had to head back home, with families and children and other commitments, one night away was all they were able to squeeze out.  But not before getting our post race beers, of course!

A few of my good friends decided to do something similar to what we did when we went away to Vermont for the Tough Mudder and we rented a house for the night in Lake Placid. It was an INSANELY gorgeous home that I am trying really hard to come up with an excuse as to why I need to return.

Jess and her husband pulled together a delicious meal, we had a couple of drinks, and an AMAZING shower. After THREE sweaty runs and sleeping in the back of an SUV, I felt like I needed at least 5 showers to get cleaned up, but that one in Lake Placid was really great as I washed off layer after layer after layer of gross salty sweat. Sounds attractive, right?

It was great hanging out and relaxing and spending time with friends, and the next day after an equally as delicious breakfast, we went for a walk and then headed back towards Saratoga to shower more, return the cars, and for me – head to the airport for a one way flight to Atlanta.

There were many, many tears in the process of saying goodbye to Jess and her family, Aubrey, and the rest of my friends throughout these past few weeks. However, it is safe to say that these people are not out of my life for very long. I have made incredible wonderful friends in this area that I have shared some incredible memories with – many of which have been through running.

It’s pretty crazy how much my life has changed over the past year and the fun adventures I have had as I have gotten more into running, marathons, Tough Mudders, Ragnar Relays, and the other health and fitness activities that have become a part of my life as of late. I’m so thankful for my friends and everyone who supports, encourages, and signs up for these ridiculous things with me. Ragnar was a great experience and although TOUGH on the body, definitely had me saying, “Okay, when are we doing it again?!”

And with this Ragnar, I officially am now in taper mode for my marathon and the countdown is on to Kansas City!  I'm also officially out of Albany, and permanently in Atlanta (minus the times I traveling and globe-trotting that is!)  What a wild, crazy trip it's been guys!!  XOXO.