Best Time Of My Life! Philadelphia Marathon Race Report!

Back when the marathon was only a wee dream I had, I always said that if I ever did one, it would be Philly.  Having grown up in South Jersey, just over the bridge, I have always felt as though I related with Philly.  I grew up taking my class trips there, spent my high school years walking around different parts of the city and yes, even spent a few years in the “club” scene.  When I turned 21, I spent many a nights partying it up on the streets of Philly.  It was only natural that when I started running, I would race in Philly.  First Broad Street, then the Philly 8K, followed by the half-marathon two years in a row…and then…the marathon!

I started planning to do the Philly Marathon back in 2009- but the truth is, I just wasn’t ready.  For a number of reasons, I just didn’t think it was the right time for me.  Round two, I planned for 2010.  Then I got hurt.  The injury took away my entire spring racing season and as a result I packed in racing all summer and was burnt out by fall.  I completed the Philly Half last year and consider it to date my best half- marathon.  When I finished that race, I knew 2011 was my year for the marathon.  And when it came time to register on April 1, I clicked marathon.  And,I knew the third time would be the charm!

So fast forward a few months from signing up and the training began…and it was not easy.  As always, I was fighting through injuries.  There were many moments where I questioned what the hell I was doing and if it would all be worth it.  But I kept training.  In the rain, on the treadmill, without music and always alone.  I knew from the start that it would be vital to me to be mentally prepared for hours of running.  To be mentally prepared for anything and everything.  I knew from my first long run…really long run…that none of this would be easy.  But I was determined to make it fun.

And then it was November.  And before I knew it, it was race weekend.  One of the best decisions I made in this process was getting a hotel room.  We had a room for my parents and R2 and I had a room.  This could not have worked out better.  I was .5 miles from the expo and .8 from the race site.  Perfect!  The expo was good but fast for me.  I was disappointed that the K-Tape people weren’t there as I hoped to get my calves taped, but they weren’t and I got over it quick.  We were at the expo for about an hour and then for me it was back to the hotel for rest, rest and more rest! After getting all my things laid out, some dinner and a bath it was time for sleep.  I was stunned to have slept as well as I did.  I woke up feeling calm and ready to go.

We left about 30 minutes before the race start and headed down for some photos.  The nerves were kicked in and I was feeling stressed out- but before I had too much time to think about it, the race was starting.  My mom and R2 headed down to mile 1 where I would see them first and I got in my corral.  The plan was for my mom and R2 to see me at Mile 1, Mile 6 and Mile 14.  My dad and teammates would meet up with them at the finish.  Knowing when I would see people made getting from point to point a lot easier.  I think the best way to break it down is to go a few miles at a time.

Miles 1-5:  I totally missed my mom, R2 and my friend Brian at Mile 1.  I wasn’t too concerned though as it was the beginning and I was feeling great.  I had started with the 5 hour pacer but realized quickly that (probably due to my training) I wanted to run alone.  Around Mile 2, I saw a few teammates and I was so happy.  I wasn’t even listening to my IPOD at this point because the energy from the crowds was so awesome.  I skipped the first water stop and headed into Mile 3.  I took my first walk break at the second water stop.  My plan all along, like my training, was to walk the water stops.  At least for the first half I was hoping to do no other walking than through stops.  At the same time, I also told myself that if I had the urge to slow down or walk, that was okay too.  Mile 4 was uneventful except that I had to pee.  I tried to ignore it but I knew I had to stop and go.  I saw my chance at the next porta-potty and felt thankful that there were only three other people in line.  I was glad I stopped because I felt a million times better having gone.  As I headed into Mile 5, the magnitude of what I was doing was starting to hit me.  I could feel that I was going to fast and I started to feel overwhelmed.  The 5 hour pacer passed me and I had a moment of feeling like I needed to catch up but then quickly determined that if I did that, I would not be running my own race.  So I stuck to my guns and kept moving at my solid, comfortable, slow pace.

Miles 6-10: I received a text from my mom letting me know where to look at Mile 6 and before I knew it, I was there.  I spotted her sign like four blocks away!!!  I threw them my jacket, flashed a smile, got a pic and kept on moving.  I was feeling AWESOME!  The awesome feeling stuck around until just into Mile 7 when I started to feel a blister.  It would have been too easy to focus on the pain so I stuck my IPOD in and put it out of my head.  Miles 9 & 10 were the toughest for me in the first half…I was running slow and I had to stop again to use the bathroom…but I was feeling good and running happy.  By the time I reached Mile 10, I could hardly believe I only had 16.2 to go.  I was trying to take it all in, but the time was ticking fast!

Miles 11-15: The person who designed the split at mile 13 should know that there is a special seat in hell waiting for them.  Not only do we have to head the guy on the megaphone tell us “You are almost there!” as he yells out to the half’ers but the split is on an UPHILL and I had to watch as not only the half’ers finish but as the marathon leaders come into finish as well.  This was mentally the most difficult part for me.  I was so thankful that I had decided to have my mom and R2 at Mile 14.  I went through the half point at 2:38 and was thrilled.  My goal was to get through the half by 2:45 so this was a huge boost for me.  (My half PR is 2:23.)  Just before the Mile 14 marker I saw my mom…and to my surprise my Uncle Mark was there and my best friend Jessica.  What a great surprise!!!!  The other surprise was that R2 was not there- I felt crushed…I immediately started to get upset.  He went to get food and I could not believe he was missing me.  Knowing I wouldn’t see him again until the finish made me so sad.  Luckily, my mom had texted him and he was able to get back in time.  I took this opportunity to take some advil, eat a banana and take a few photos.  I was so glad I did this- not only did I need the real food but it was such a lift to see everyone.  As they sent me into Mile 14, I felt so strong.  It was getting hot out (high of 64!!!), my feet were tired, I was tired, I was sick of GU already but still, I felt strong.  Mile 15 was a run/walk mile and it was here I met Kristy.  It was also her first marathon- and her plan was much the same as mine.  We chatted for a few minutes and then went on running.  Meeting people along the course would prove to be one of the most helpful things for me getting to the finish.  Especially as the time progressed.

Miles 16-20:  As I headed into Mile 16, I became emotional for the first time.  It dawned on me all I had left was a Broad Street Run.  It was also when the 5:30 pacer passed me.  I had held them off for 16 miles- that was the bright side.  And in this race, there was nothing other than bright sides.  Into Mile 17, I met Donna.  Donna was running Philly for the 19th time.  She was older, and had come into the race wanting to BQ as she had a few times in her past.  At Mile 12, she got a cramp and watched as her pace group passed.  She was still so happy to be running, so energetic and still loving the run.  She was, without knowing it, reassuring me that I was running the right race for me.  I ran with Donna for a little over a mile, mostly quietly but chit-chatting at times.  Eventually, we came upon her husband- she stopped and I went on.  Miles 18-20 were tough.  As I headed downhill into Manayunk, all I could think about was the uphill back out of Manayunk.  I was slowing down even more, and for the first time starting to feel down.  That changed real fast when I realized that at Mile 20 I was entering uncharted territory.  I had no idea what to expect beyond Mile 20 but I knew I needed to snap back into my strong mental game.  The timing was perfect because the energy in Manayunk was great and I was really feeling it.  I texted my mom, “I think I’ll for for a 10K today :)” and put my positive mental game into overdrive!

Miles 21-26.2:  Just before Mile 21, I saw my friends Greg and Dee.  They had planned to run with me and I couldn’t have been happier to see them.  It gave me such a boost and we all started running together.  Then came Mile 22 and the unexpected- a foot cramp.  I had been prepared for hip pain, knee pain, ITB pain, PF pain and shin pain.  But this was the top of my left foot.  Hello marathon curve ball!!!  The pain was so bad, I couldn’t run.  At all.  I was relegated to walking until I could get it out.  Greg gave me some advil and we kept going one foot in front of the other.  Greg and Dee were amazing- kept telling me how awesome I was doing and kept my spirits up by asking me about the race to that point.  Eventually though, I had to stop.  My foot was screaming.  It happens that Greg is also my podiatrist (lucky me!) and he was able to assess quickly after I took off my shoe that it needed to be re-laced.  I was swelling so bad that my show was cutting off the circulation in my foot.  From this point I did almost all walking.  It was a tough pill to swallow but having come that far already there was no stopping me.  I was going to finish!  At Mile 25, I decided come hell or highwater, I was running.  And run I did…for the last 1.2 miles.

The finish line: It is hard to describe how I felt at those moments.  The experience was bigger than myself.  I could see my friends, parents and R2 all at the finish, screaming with excitement for me.  It was a long journey but I had done it.  There really is no feeling like it.

The best thing I did for myself was mentally prepare.  I relied on that many times throughout the race.  The other best thing I did, was go in without a real time goal.  I mean, of course I did have goals, but I truly did not care.  I wanted to finish happy.  That was most important to me- to cross the line with a smile.  Because of my mental preparation and my desire to have a fun race, I took all the pressure off myself and was really able to enjoy the journey.

All my goals were met.  I did have fun.  I finished running and with a smile.  It was truly the best time of my life. I have zero regrets.

Oh and also, I have no itentions of every doing another marathon!

 

PS- for some reason, WordPress is not letting me upload photos; hopefully soon!!!

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Marathon- Almost There!

Two more sleeps.  Or should I say, one more sleep and one try to sleep!

Honestly, I am having a hard time putting my thoughts together.  I cannot believe this weekend is finally here.  I know I have prepared- it hasn’t been the most ideal training cycle, but it was my training cycle.  The long runs are done, taper is in full force…now, all I have to do is get to Sunday.  In 48 hours from now I will have already started my marathon. 

A lot of people have asked me what my goals are…what my plan is…how my race looks when I visualize it.  I do have goals, but they are simple.  I definitely have a plan but it’s mostly logistics so that I can see my family and friends.   And I have been visualizing this run for weeks now every night before I go to bed, and sometimes randomly throughout the day.   Yet, I still find it tough to verbalize how I am feeling when it comes to all of this.

But, I’ll do my best.

The pre-race plan: My routine every night this week has been to eat a good dinner, take an Epsom salt bath, elevate/ice legs while drinking tea and try to sleep as well as possible.  I still haven’t managed enough hours a night, but I have gotten in more than usual and have slept great all week.  Tonight, I am hoping for 10 hours.   Tomorrow morning my parents will meet up with R2 and I at my house and after a good breakfast we will head into Philly.  After we park at the hotel, we will all head on down to the expo.  It’ll be kind of fun to see my dad and R2 at the expo since neither have ever been to one.  After what is likely to be an obscene amount of photos, I’ll pick up my bib and make it officially official!  We will head back to the hotel to relax (and watch Notre Dame for R2) and then have some dinner.  There is a pizza/pasta place around the corner from the hotel which is great- my parents and R2 can have whatever they want and I can be content with my pre-race pasta!  My hope is to be in bed early- which I don’t anticipate sleeping much, I at least want to be resting.

Race-Day Plan– The more I think about having gotten this hotel room, the better I feel about it.  I am less than a mile from the start.  I can stay in the comfort of my room, stay warm (high of 62 [!!!] but it’ll still be a chilly morning) and best of all, I will have my own toilet.  This makes me happy in way only athletes can understand!!!!  Before I know it, it’s going to be start time.  My plan is very simple: start out slow…stay on pace as best as possible, make sure to look for family/friends at planned check points and finish.  One foot in front of the other for 26.2 miles.

Goals– I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a time goal.  Of course I do.  I have a pace group I plan to stay with for as long as possible and I definitely know when I want to cross the line.  However- and I am dead serious- time goals come last to everything else.  The first goal is to finish.  Second to that is the finish happy and knowing that I did the best I could, no matter how long it takes me to do so.  Therefore, if in the end, I don’t make my time goals…that will be okay.  It doesn’t take away from the fact that I will have become a marathoner.  And at the end of the day, it is an automatic PR 🙂

When it comes to visualizing the race, I always picture myself happy and running.  If the stars align and I can just feel good at the start, and throughout the race, I will be happy.   I am not worried about the first half- I have done seven of those.  I know to take it slower and pace myself and I a ready for that- it’s the whole pass-the-finish-line-at-the-half-mark that makes me most nervous.  I have never had to go left to Mile 14!  I have my mom and R2 stationed to see me about half way through mile 14- it will give me incentive to breeze through the half mark like I own it!  I visualize the second half being a lot slower, with walking…but I still picture myself as happy.  I know there will be pain- pain like I have never felt- I know I am in for some hurting.  But I am committed to being focused on the positive.  I am committed to saying “I can” when I want to say “I can’t” and I am committed to saying “Keep going” when my body says “stop” because I know it is temporary.  I am know I am stronger than I ever imagined.  I just want to take the whole race in- take note of the spectators, thank the police staff and volunteers and smile a lot!  And finish.  And when I picture the finish line, I always see myself crossing it- happy.  And crying.  I have a feeling there will be tears!  And photos.  Tears and photos galore!

Let’s do this!!!!!

 

Thoughts On The Marathon- One Week Till Go Time

Here I am, one week away from marathon day.  This time next week, I will be recovering with the biggest margarita ever and a lot of ice cream! Maybe at the same time, who knows 🙂

And now for my favorite kind of post- list post!  Here are some of my thoughts with one week to go:

  • Taper sucks! I never felt this way with half-marathon or triathlon training, but I feel it now.  I am going out of my mind!  For one, everything hurts.  Bones and muscles I didnt even know I had are hurting.  I am having nightmares of the most ridiculous nature; showing up naked being the most popular, I constantly think I am sick if I so much as sneeze and all I want to do is eat and sleep!!!  I am totally over taper!
  • My 20 mile run was easier than my last long run yesterday.  I was completely beat before I even started the run and I struggled through the whole thing.  I was downright exhilarated when the run was over!
  • I am so excited for this week- I know it is going to crawl by but I don’t even care.  I am just happy to only be working two nights.  I have plenty of time to rest, elevate my legs and sleep, sleep and sleep!
  • I have officially become obsessed with the weather.  I check it one or two or ten times a day.  Yesterday it said 57 and raining and I was angry.  Today, it says cloudy and 54 and I am all about it.  I know God is busy with things like the Superbowl, NBA lockout and the Oscars, but if he is listening, I would like it to be in the low 40’s at the start with it getting no higher than mid-50’s by the finish.  And if I can be really picky, partly sunny.  Whatever the weather, please please please NO RAIN, please!
  • I have three outfits picked out.  I will probably pack a weeks worth of stuff for one night.  Possibly more.  And I bet you, I will still forget something.
  • I am staying overnight in a hotel.  I live less than 20 minutes from the start line. I don’t care.  I know I will feel so much better if I am there when I wake up.  Not only will I not have to leave until 15 minutes before the start but I will have my own toilet to poop in; there really is no better reason!
  • I am starting to get very emotional when I think about the race.  Anxious, nervous and emotional. I’ll probably cry like a baby when I cross that line.
  • When I start to feel worried about race day, I go back and read past race reports.  Especially, Philly half from last year.  It helps immensely.
  • I am looking insanely forward to my massage this week. Ridiculously. Like, I cannot describe.  I am looking even more forward to my post marathon massage.
  • I have worn Brooks Adrenalines since 2007.  I hated the new ones that came out and needed new shoes.  I have officially been running in Saucony’s for the last 5 weeks.  Still, there is a part of me that wants to run in my Brooks on race day.  I am sure they have 26.2 miles left in them 🙂   Let’s face it, I’ll probably pack both!
  • So many people are so excited for me, that I am getting so excited.  I know that no matter when I cross that line, my family and friends will make me feel like a winner.  And I am, because I have them in my life.
  • I have taken more Airborne and more vitamins in the last 8 weeks than ever before.  Next to getting injured, getting sick has been fear #2…I have 6 days to go, so lets hope my body stays with me on this one!!!
  • I have gained weight and quite a bit of it.  Gaining weight while marathon training…of could I would! 
  • This is hands down the hardest thing I have ever done.  I can honestly say, without a doubt, this has never been fun.  I have been thrown so many curve balls- having first planned for run a marathon two years ago.  When I am training for half-marathons and tris, I actually have fun.  But these last 15 weeks have tested in me in many ways.  I have sacrificed a lot to get here- and I have worked so hard.  I didn’t always get my work outs in, and I went three weeks in a boot hardly working out at all…a lot of people told me I should bag the race…but I kept at it.  I decided as long as I had my doctors blessing, I was only going to listen to myself.  I worked hard to get healed and picked back up my training.  I trained in rain, I trained on boring courses without music, I did long runs on the treadmill (seriously, there is nothing fun about 16 miles on a treadmill!!!) and I trained alone most of the time.  I did all of this while working a full time job and a part time job.  I did this while changing full time jobs.  I did this with some personal stuff happening.  I did this with still maintaining a social life as much as possible.  But it should be noted, I could not have done this without the unending support I have received from my parents, R2, my friends and my amazing support group here.  My parents and R2 have definitely felt the hit of my training personally- my time with them is much more limited, they deal with my nerves, self-doubt and anxiety and they have changed their schedules to work around my long runs when needed.  No, marathon training has not been fun for me…but it has taught me so much and I know that all the hard work will pay off when I cross that finish line.  And I cannot wait!!!
  • And last but not least…the most important thing I must always remember…my mantra for race day…

What has been your greatest lesson while training for an important event?  What is your favorite mantra during tough parts of the race?

Marathon: Freaking Out Edition!

It’s official.  With 17 days to go, I have officially begun to freak out!!!  What if I get hurt?  What if I get sick? What if my hotel loses my reservation?  What if I oversleep?  What if I get major cramps during the race?  What if there is a snowstorm? What if I can’t stop using the bathroom?  What if all my training still isn’t enough? What if….what if…what if….

Here’s the thing.  Pretty much throughout this whole thing, I haven’t asked for much advice.  Hardly any, actually.  Mostly because everyone has something different to say.  But just because I didn’t ask…doesn’t mean people aren’t offering.  And I am starting to feel like I am on information overload.  Should I get the flu shot now or after the marathon?  How much sleep should I be getting?  What should I be eating each meal?  How often should I eat?  How long should my longest run be?  How much taper time do I need?  What should I wear?  And on and on and on and on….

The truth is, I have all of those answers within me.  I know what is best for me personally.  I know my body.  Every single person is different.  With that said, all the things people say…it’s still in my head.  Swimming around causing me anxiety.  I don’t honestly know why I am freaking out so much.  I have prepared for this- I am ready for this!

I guess what all that freak out is, is the taper madness everyone always talks about?  It is crazy hard to keep all my emotions at bay!  I have been thinking about a marathon for two years and now it is almost just two weeks away!  I have my music ready, I have my clothes ready (three different options weather depending) and I feel good!  I have some aches but I expect that- I am on my feet four nights a week in addition to all my running.  My legs and feet are crying for a break.  And thankfully, I am giving that to them just in time!  R2 and I are heading to Vermont on Tuesday and staying through Sunday.  Six whole days off from both jobs!!!!  The whole trip is planned around rest and relaxation.  We will be visiting his parents and luckily his mom has a treadmill.   I’ll be able to get in all my runs and rest up for the big day- when I get back it’ll only be a week away!  I also took off the two nights before my race so I can rest as much as possible and get a few good nights sleep in before race day.  I have a feeling I won’t be sleeping much the night before!

It’ll be here before I know it!!!   

I know quite a few bloggers are racing Philly- let me know if you’ll be there and I’ll keep an eye out!  I am hoping to meet up with a few people at the expo 🙂