Monday, October 16, 2017

The days before the marathon

On the Friday afternoon before the marathon, after touring around Berlin with Marathon Tours, we were dropped off at the race expo to get checked in. As soon as we walked up, the race expo felt very chaotic to me. My friends and I got our bibs as a group, but then went our separate ways because it was way too crowded to stay together and everyone has different ways they like to handle an expo. One thing I do at every expo? Take photos.

The "official" photo spot had the largest line to take a photo, so we just scooted off to the side and snuck in some snapshots. The long lines for photos was the first thing we saw walking into the actual expo area after checking in and from then on, it was just chaos everywhere.

As soon as I started walking around, I started to feel hot and overwhelmed and a bit dizzy. It was just too much. However, I wanted to get race gear so I first went into the clothing area to check out the merchandise from the official race sponsor, Adidas.

The clothing area was completely insane. It looked like movie scenes of Black Friday where people are just tearing through clothes and grabbing whatever they could. There was nothing hanging on hangers and just piles of gear and jackets and shirts everywhere that people were snatching up when they could, trying on, and then tossing what they didn't want. I snagged what I could hoard and found a mirror and tried things on and chose a few items that I liked and were in my size. I ended up really happy with the gear I chose but the selection was not great and the environment was stressful.

Some of my friends had gone the day before to the race expo and I highly recommend that you go as early as you can. I can't imagine what it would be like on Saturday. The Berlin Marathon gave you the option to choose whether or not you wanted an official race shirt. I had declined, knowing that I would likely be buying my own gear, so I would have been really disappointed if there was nothing in my size or colors left I liked.

Following the clothing, I walked around a bit, but didn't find the expo all that exciting. I didn't know the brands or anything that they were promoting and there were no free samples. There was no logical way to walk around the expo as there were all sorts of random wings to the building and areas to check out. I couldn't figure out what to do so I did a quick loop around, signed my name on the wall and then attempted to ask a question before heading out.

I was looking throughout the expo for information about the availability of different pace groups in the race corrals, which was one of my reasons for sticking around after getting clothing. I walked around though and could not seem to find it anywhere. Eventually I realized that it might be back in the room where I got my bib and attempted to go back in there. However, the security guards would not let me go back that way and told me that I would have to exit and walk alllll the way around and go through entry again. I tried to ask a few other people and sneak my way back in, but nobody was really having that and I was not about to exit the whole expo and enter again. Especially when I didn't even have confirmation that doing so would get me the answers I needed.

My last attempt was to ask a random "Info" agent about the pace groups but he seemed to be just telling me what he thought I wanted to hear vs. giving me actual information. Frustrated and tired, I eventually just gave up and left.

As soon as I walked out of there, I felt much better and I wanted nothing more than to get away from the swarms of people and the crowd. I stopped for ONE MORE photo in front of a map of the course, and then slowly and by myself, walked back towards my hotel. I didn't check in with my friends and put my phone away and just took some moments to regroup after the race expo. I was really working to try and keep myself focused and my nerves low, since I was feeling them pretty strongly. Another thing that I did before this race was to really avoid social media in the days leading up to the race. I posted a photo then logged off social media for the most part until after the race.

From the race expo, I stopped and grabbed a snack of a turkey sandwich, which I ate alone, continuing my quiet time, before dropping things at my hotel and heading out to connect with friends. The expo really did overwhelm me a lot and I needed something to just take my mind off the race itself and luckily I had the perfect plans. First, I stopped at a local restaurant for a Radler beer (half beer / half lemonade) with some friends, Lindsay and Krystle, who had just finished lunch. The restaurant was in the weird in between hours from lunch and dinner so it was quiet and mostly empty, which gave my mind the downtime from stimulation that it needed. The conversation with friends and the beer did not hurt either! It was perfect and time flew by before I jumped in a car to head across town for a totally non-race related activity next.

Two of my good friends from mu Upstate NY days, who are married but I each worked with separately at different GE businesses, have since relocated to Berlin. It was actually right around the first time that I visited Berlin that they had JUST moved there. They had a baby a year and a half ago, so I was able to go see them and meet their adorable little girl, then catch up while eat mass amounts of different kinds of mozzarella cheese at a place called Mozzarella Bar. It was so fun to just not talk about run stuff (although yes, of course, we did talk about some run stuff) but to just catch up on life and work and old friends and have a couple of glasses of wine and eat good food. Cheese might be an odd choice two days before a marathon but I actually went out for fondue the Friday night before Chicago Marathon so I felt pretty confident that my stomach could handle it. Which it did.

And I ate bread without abandon! It was a really fun night.

I was looking through old pictures to see if there was a good throwback image of the 3 of us circa the early years of 2009, but nothing was appropriate enough to pull out of the archives. Rest assured, we've all done a lot of growing up since we all first were sharing drinks together! I did find this picture from my last trip to Berlin in May 2013 though.

Friday evening was really great and I went to bed feeling happy. However, I struggled sleeping that night, which had me feeling a little bit stressed and anxious again because the night before the night before the marathon is really when you should try and get a solid night sleep in case you end up with race nerves.

On Saturday morning I slept in a bit, then peeled out of bed to go do a short 2 mile run. I really didn't have much planned at all for the day so I was a bit lazy in the morning, which was great. I wanted to get the run over with and knew it was short so I forced myself to go. However, I had a hard time getting started because I woke up in the morning feeling groggy, a bit stuffed up, and like I was getting a sore throat. It totally had me in panic mode. Plus, it was chillier and a bit drizzly in the morning and I went out to do my run, feeling less than confident.

I ran in the same area I had run the couple days before and it was filled with other runners doing the same thing. I chatted with a woman while running who had done it the year before, tried to find marathon pace, and also did a few pickups to make sure my legs were nice and loose. Returning to the hotel, I actually took a hot shower and then got immediately back into bed!

The run outside had given me a chill, I wasn't feeling well, and I was still tired from the poor night's sleep. I had snagged some tea so I sat in bed in the warmest clothes I had and under the covers and started my race prep. I read through old blogs, listened to music, pulled together quotes that inspired me, and started to organize my thoughts and mental plan for the next day. The way I was feeling when I woke up on Saturday gave me a lot of nerves and I was feeling very anxious. As I centered myself, I started my race plan by writing down at the top that my main goal was to just go out and have fun and run my best with whatever the day gave me.

Although my body was scaring me, it turned out that my watch had some confidence in me and was telling me that I was ready. The Garmin Fenix 5S has a feature that tells you, based on your workouts, what the status of your training is. Whether it is productive, unproductive, detraining, etc. and the day before my watch status had turned to "Peaking" which meant that I was race ready. I hadn't been paying too much attention to it while training, but that was pretty cool to see.

After I finally got myself up and ready, I had a big carby breakfast, consuming a number of the yummy breads and toasts in the hotel buffet and thoroughly enjoyed every bite! I meandered my way over to the Nike store at the Mall of Berlin, to check out the shopping there, before meeting up with Krystle and Lindsay. We return to Brandenburg Gate for one final look at the finish line area before the race the next day.

I was thankful we had gone on Friday to actually see the Gate, because the area was way more crowded and set up on Saturday. It was cool to see where we would be running and made me feel like no matter how I the race went performance wise, it would end up being a good day to run through this historic city and a feeling that it would just be fun.

While walking around Berlin the day before the marathon, we stumbled upon some of the other events taking place marathon weekend in addition to the 26.2 mile run.  These activities included a kids fun run and also inline skating races. What is inline skating you may ask? Oh well, it's a fancy way of saying rollerblading. And they were ALL. ABOUT. IT. It was so cool to see people competing in a different sport and this weekend featured both an inline skating sprint race as well as an inline skating marathon. We were able to watch bit of each of them and the marathon actually took place on the same marathon course. This is a sport I know nothing about and it was so cool to watch and cheer.

The rest of the afternoon was very chill. We had purchased tickets in advance to go see a documentary called Skid Row Marathon, about a Supreme Court Justice in Los Angeles who began a running program for those living in one of the homeless shelters off of Skid Row. He helps people get back on their feet, develop self worth, accomplish goals, and rediscover themselves and their lives through running. And as part of that, he trains people to run marathons and takes a group each year to run an international marathon. He chooses international races to expose people that at one point had nothing, to new parts of the world and new experiences. To give them dignity. To make them want to reach for things that they may never thought were within their grasp. It was a really incredible movie and I may have shed a few tears! We had been able to meet a few of the people who were a part of the Skid Row marathon club, as well as the Justice, throughout the weekend, and that experience made me feel so grateful for what I have in my own life.

The movie was put on by our tour group, Marathon Tours, who also as part of our whole package, had a pasta dinner that night. Our group chose to take part in the dinner so went right from the movie to there, where I had some pasta with different sauces and a small bit of salad. My pre-race meal wasn't exactly delicious or amazing, but it got the job done and was pasta so it was good nonetheless! There was no bread to go with the meal that didn't have olives in it, and I hate olives. And the chicken that they had for the pasta was rubbery and not something that I wanted to eat. Between those things and the weird sandwich I had bought earlier in the day that ended up having gobs of a strange mayo with crushed pickles hidden it (more things I hate), my food in the afternoon was a bit boring, but that was probably for the best. I had a Quest bar and rice cakes and peanut butter as snacks, which are my normal foods. My body didn't NEED anything else, but delicious carbs are part of the fun of marathon-ing. I was thankful I had my yummy breakfast in the morning!

While we're talking about food, I should also mention that Berlin was the first race where I did not have a beer the day before! I have always had one beer the afternoon or evening before my marathons/races, but this year I went without. I like to have traditions, so part of me was a little nervous about no beer and wished I had one. However, I figured I didn't think I had ever heard anyone ever saying that they did poorly in a marathon for LACK of beer the night before, so just put it out of my mind!

On our way out of the dinner, it started to drizzle a little bit and the Marathon Tours group distributed ponchos. I can't say enough good things about this organization and how well they prepared the little details for us! With a quick stop on the way back to the room to use their foam roller/stick for a little, we called it a night.

Back in my hotel room after dinner, my roommate Olga, went to sit in the lobby and read, and I enjoyed more much needed alone time with my race plan and music. I was putting together my pace charts and texting my friends and my coach. I meditated. I got myself race ready.

When Olga came back, we got into bed and I immediately felt concerned about not being able to sleep. The night before when I went to bed, the main challenge to my sleep was that I could hear loud music playing and bass thumping from somewhere outside that was keeping me awake. I felt really frustrated with the hotel for playing music so loud (I assumed it was their lobby bar) in a hotel where they knew a lot of marathoners were staying. I had thought about complaining, but my roommate had said that it really didn't bother her. I didn't want to make a fuss about it if it was just me being overly sensitive so I never said anything about it to the hotel. However, when I went to go to bed on Saturday night and still heard it - early! at 9pm-ish -  I was immediately wishing that I had!

As we tried to go to sleep this night though, my roommate, Olga said to me, "Okay I can actually really hear it tonight as well and it is very annoying!!" Her acknowledgement caused me to get out of bed and go look out in the hallway and then out our window to try and figure out exactly what the noise was. When I checked the windows, I realized that one of the windows in our hotel room was actually open! I hadn't realized we had any windows open, so I shut it and IMMEDIATELY after I shut it, the heavy seal stopped any bit of sound or music or bass. OMG I WAS SO HAPPY.

I could not believe that a window was open and it was something I had been cursing all day long and the night before. It was a silly little window open. Ugh! I was SO thankful that we figured out the issue and with that solved and a quiet, dark room - all went to sleep on marathon eve!

More to come. But you know what happened next :)

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