Thursday, November 18, 2010

Runner's World Challenge in Richmond

I had not planned on running 4 marathons in 2010; however, when I discovered earlier this year that Runner’s World magazine was holding a Runner’s World Challenge marathon in Richmond in November, and that it involved Bart Yasso, I just had to jump on board. I first met Bart at the NYC Marathon in 2009, and I have seen him several times since then. Bart is one of the most inspirational and encouraging people in the running world; he is known as the “Mayor of Running” in the USA. He also works for Runner’s World and has written a book called “Life on the Run.” The chance to participate in a marathon weekend with Bart was far too good to pass up. And I am sure glad I did it!

The Runner’s World Challenge in Richmond turned into something above and beyond anything I could have anticipated. I met teammates from around the country online via Facebook and Twitter. And then when my October marathon was over, I started getting involved with the Challenge team message boards. Many of the team members had been developing their friendships online for over a year, so I “joined the party” extremely late. However, everyone welcomed me with open arms and I felt totally included. By the time I made it to Richmond, I felt like a solid member of the team.

Meeting everyone at the shakeout run the day before the race was amazing. It was cool to recognize people from their online photos! There were so many hugs and smiles. It was really heartwarming how everyone came together. Friday was busy from 7:30am until 9:00pm: shakeout run, course tour, lunch, team meeting, and dinner. Then all of a sudden it was time to run a marathon. Being on the Challenge team provided us with a lot of perks. One of the greatest perks was having a warm and dry indoor space to wait in before the marathon. We had our own bathrooms, food, and drinks. We were able to walk right out to the start 5 minutes before the race started. Awesome!

I had been experiencing some really bad stomach problems for the two days prior to the marathon, and they did not go away on marathon morning. And besides that, Richmond was my fourth marathon of the year. And I had just run a PR marathon 5 weeks before. Given all of this, I was just hoping to finish before they closed the course at 7 hours. I ended up running with my teammate Amy for most of the first 6 miles or so. At the very beginning we were with teammate Colleen and then when she left us we caught up with teammate Chris. It was really cool to run with teammates. Amy was dealing with back pain and had hoped to break a total time of 5:30, so I thought it would be good to stick with her. But eventually she and Chris became too fast for me so I dropped back. I was sorry to see them go but I didn’t want to run too fast in the early miles. For most of the rest of the marathon, I didn’t run with anyone in particular, but I was surrounded by plenty of people.

My motivation, stomach issues, and fatigue all seemed the worst in the first 9 or so miles. But as the race progressed, I felt a little better. The course was lined with tons of spectators, bands, DJs, cheerleaders, etc. I thought I preferred smaller quiet marathons but Richmond showed me that it can be really fun to see so many people on the sidelines. I stopped to dance at some of the music stops, and I high-fived so many spectators (mostly children). Interacting with the crowd kept me going. It was much warmer and sunnier than I would have preferred, but I actually felt okay. There were a few stretches with no shade that were tough, but overall I was okay.

At the halfway mark I noticed that my time was around 2:24 or so. I figured that even if I walked a bit in the second half I might still get under 5 hours. But to be honest, I really didn’t care what my time was. I was just so grateful to be out there and to be a part of the Challenge team. It felt so good not to worry about pace! I just relaxed and enjoyed the experience. This strategy paid off, as I was feeling pretty good all the way to the finish line. I didn’t end up walking very much in the last 5 miles. The finish line is at the bottom of a hill, so I was able to fly down that finish. For the first time, I raised my hands in the air at the finish of a marathon, and jubilantly crossed that finish line with a big smile. The best part was seeing Bart straight ahead and getting a hug from him. Then I turned around and noticed teammates Cintia and David Bock finishing just behind me. That made it even better! I also got to see Bart cheering for us at mile 4.5 and mile 16. That was awesome!

The Challenge Team had its own special area in the hotel at the finish, and we got our own masseuse, food, drinks, etc. And when each one of us walked in after finishing, we received a huge applause from those already in the room. That was awesome! Lots of hugs were exchanged, and lots of pictures were taken. It was a huge celebration of an amazing accomplishment and a wonderful team experience. I made friends for life, and I know that we will see each other again soon. And in fact we are talking about finding a race to do together again next year, maybe even a relay race. All I know is that I will definitely keep in touch with my teammates and I have made some new friends. My finish time (4:50:41) ended up being my second fastest ever but to be honest the experience of the marathon with the team was so much more memorable.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A New Personal Record in New York!

On 10/10/10 I ran my 12th marathon (10th state): the Mohawk-Hudson River Marathon in the Albany area of New York. I usually travel to marathons alone, but this time my friend Jen was running the marathon as well and was accompanied by her husband Chris. They were kind enough to allow me to travel with them, and it was a great experience.

It was significant that it was my 10th state, as that earned me membership in the 50 States Marathon Club. A couple of months before the marathon I emailed the race director to ask if my race number could have the number “10” somewhere in it. She said she would do her best. When we arrived at the Expo the day before the race, I was flabbergasted to discover that not only did they give me a race bib # with “10” in it, but they gave me number 1010!!! To run in my 10th state on 10/10/10 with bib # 1010 was so exciting. To top it all off, they wrote a nice note on my race packet thanking me for including their small marathon in my journey to pursue the 50 states. It was so touching.

Jen was kind enough to find us a great restaurant for our carbo loading dinner, so we headed to the restaurant soon after the Expo. Luckily we both preferred an early dinner so our reservation was at 4:30. It’s nice when marathoners’ schedules/routines match up when traveling!

I was in bed by around 8:30 the night before the marathon. I couldn’t fall asleep right away, but as Hal Higdon says, as long as you are horizontal you are getting the rest you need! I had to be up by 6:30 the next morning to meet Jen and Chris at 7:00 to depart for the starting line.

We arrived at the starting area with plenty of time to spare. It was COLD! I had bought throw-away clothes and was wearing fleece pants, a long sleeved shirt, a fleece sweatshirt, a hat, and gloves. Our one mistake was waiting to go to the bathroom until after the buses arrived with the majority of runners. We stood in line to use the port-a-potty for 35 minutes, and barely made it to the start on time. I also needed to drop of my bag at the baggage bus, and had to run to the start.

It was a beautiful day, and I shed all of my extra clothes (except for the gloves) within the first half a mile. The sun was shining and it got up to the mid 50s. I would have preferred some clouds, but was just grateful that it wasn’t too hot out. It was a small marathon, with about 800 runners. I was never running alone, but it was never crowded. There weren’t that many spectators along the route, but the ones who were there were very enthusiastic. The majority of the route is on a paved path that runs along the river, and that made for a very scenic route. The only not-so-scenic part was in downtown Albany around the 18 to 21 mile mark.

I talked to several runners along the way. I met a woman from Texas who said that 31 Texans traveled together for the race! Fun! I asked her what was the best marathon to run in Texas and she said “hands down” it was Houston. I met a man who told me he was from Amsterdam. I thought that was so cool! Then about 10 minutes later I discovered that he meant Amsterdam, New York which was only about 20 minutes away! LOL. I also met some women who were running their first marathon. They asked me about my tattoos. I usually wear several temporary tattoos on marathon day, most of them saying “26.2.” I get them from I also have a permanent tattoo that says “26.2” on my upper back but you usually can’t see it even with a tank top.

I was feeling good the whole race but wasn’t so worried or concerned about my pace. I was just trying to enjoy the scenery and the whole race experience. I always hope to finish in less than 5 hours, but otherwise I was unconcerned with my time. I kept telling myself to just run as fast as I could but still be comfortable. I noticed at the half way mark that my time was 2:21-something. Since I normally run pretty even splits (same time for each half of the marathon) I realized that I might be able to run a PR (personal record; fastest marathon time). At the time my PR was 4:53:41, which I had run in Tampa at the Gasparilla Marathon in February of 2010.

Knowing I had a PR in my sights, I decided to keep running as fast as I could without pushing myself too hard. I knew that if I kept my pace under 11 minutes per mile that I would definitely get a PR. I wear a Garmin watch that tells me my pace at every moment, and in the second half of the race I looked at it quite often. This is not a practice I normally engage in, and it’s not something I would recommend to most marathoners. But for some reason this strategy worked well for me at the time. I think perhaps knowing that I was trying to reach a certain goal, and having the data to help me get to that goal, really pushed me forward. It was not until mile 23-ish that I stopped to walk for a short while. I normally take short walk breaks throughout my marathons, but not this time. Knowing I had a PR on the horizon kept me running. But at mile 23-ish I knew that even if I walked for a bit I would still have a PR. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t taken that walk break. I don’t think I really needed it; however, since I knew a walk break wouldn’t affect my PR I guess I just decided to take it.

In the last couple of miles, I knew I was going to run a PR. At that point it was just a matter of by how many minutes. I told myself I was going to take one more electrolyte capsule at the final water stop as one last boost to the finish. Unfortunately that stop was only about .6 mile from the finish. But I stopped anyway as I was mentally counting on it. I probably didn’t need it, and it took about 30 seconds off my time, but I didn’t really care. As I approached the finish line I gave it all I had and ran as fast as I could. I heard my friend Jen cheering for me and I also heard the announcer call my name. I was absolutely jubilant as I looked at my watch and saw that I ran a 4:44:37 (a 9:04 PR). I was also thrilled that I had completed my 10th state and that I was now a member of the 50 States Marathon Club. I was smiling excitedly for such a long time.

After a few pictures and consuming some food and beverages, we headed to the hotel so I could take a shower. Then we were on the road for our journey home. We stopped at Applebee’s for a post-race meal and I had my favorite post-marathon meal: a burger and fries! YUM! There was not much time to rest when I got home, though. I had 5 weeks until my next marathon and training began again on Monday!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fall Marathons

Has it really been over 2 months since I posted on this blog?! Wow, time sure does fly by. It was a VERY hot summer and that made marathon training more difficult, but I was able to keep on track. That often meant getting up at 6am to do my long runs, which was REALLY hard as I am not a morning person in the least. But getting up early was the "lesser of two evils." I don't run well in the heat, humidity, and/or sun so I forced myself to get up. There were definitely times I couldn't get up, which resulted in switching around my training schedule, but I have not yet missed a long run. And this weekend is my final 20 mile run so I am in good shape.

Yes, believe it or not, I have another marathon in 3 weeks and 2 days. I'm running the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon in the Albany area of NY. That will be my 12th marathon in the 10th state, so I'll be eligible to join the 50 States Marathon Club!! Woo hoo! I will have my application all ready to mail in when I return from NY. You see, you need to complete marathon in at least 10 states to join the club. I can't wait to be an official member. I've been lurking for a while. :)

The NY marathon will be extra special as a friend of mine is also running it (we independently decide to run it and were excited to find out the other person's plans). We are going to travel together; thankfully her husband is coming and can drive us. I am usually traveling to marathons by myself so not only is it a luxury to have other people accompany me, but I don't even have to drive. Yay! It is certainly a tough task to drive a few hours after running a marathon, so I am thankful I won't have to do it. The marathon course is mostly flat and downhill, with only one significant hill about halfway through. Most of the course is on a bike path next to the river, so that will be nice and scenic. They close the course after 5 1/2 hours, so I just hope I finish in time. I've run 11 marathons so far, all in under 5 1/2 hours. But my PW (personal worst) time was 5:20 so it's not that far off!

Once that marathon ends I will immediately begin training for my next marathon, which is 5 weeks after NY. I am following a special training program for that. More on that marathon after I finish the NY race! :)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I'm having a hard time keeping my eyes open. And I'm supposed to run 6 miles in an hour. am I going to muster up the energy? For the past two days I've run 3 miles in the terrible heat/humidity and then gone straight to boot camp at the gym where I participated in hard-core exercises for an hour. I think 2 days in a row of that has put me over the edge of exhaustion. I was thinking maybe I could put the run off until tomorrow but I don't have any time to run tomorrow at all. And my last day of boot camp is tomorrow and I don't want to do both in one day again. Usually when I feel this way I just tell myself to take it slowly on the run and do a run/walk if I have to. But I have dinner plans immediately following the run and have no extra time to spare. I guess what I will do is take it slowly and if I don't feel the energy pick up at all, I will run 5 miles instead of 6. It's early enough in the training (3.5 weeks into it) that reducing one run by one mile is not going to make a difference. I just need to make sure I don't consistently do this during the training or I won't feel ready on marathon day.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

bruised calf

Seven days ago I woke up with a large and dark bruise on my calf. I had participated in Boot Camp the night before, so I figured maybe I did something to my muscle. The bruise hasn't changed at all since then, so I had it checked out by a nurse practitioner yesterday. She is fairly certain something happened to my calf muscle. I need to ice it, take ibuprofen, and pray. :) It actually doesn't hurt when I run or exercise, so I haven't slowed down a bit. In fact, since I got the bruise I've gone on a serious hike in the White Mountains and continued to do marathon training and boot camp.

I have noticed that my calves have been really tight lately. I need to stretch them more! I know that stretching is good for you, but I rarely do it. Perhaps this will be the motivation I need. I've never really had a problem with tight calf muscles before, other than when they cramped up during two different marathons. But Succeed S!Caps seemed to solve that problem. I don't think those caplets are going to help *this* problem.

I just hope the bruise goes away soon! It's kind of scary looking.

Friday, June 18, 2010

weight loss

I am in my second week of boot camp at my gym. It began on June 7th and it's a month-long blast of boot camp sessions. There are awesome prizes at the end for the top three people who lose the most percentage of weight. I went into the contest with a great attitude and a determination to win. First prize includes a night at a bed and breakfast on the coast of Maine, a full course dinner, and spa services. Great incentive, right?! Well, despite going to boot camp 3 times per week, training for a marathon, and eating healthy (for the most part), I am not losing any weight. I am working my butt off in all areas (especially at that darn boot camp!) and it's not showing on the scale. My clothes do fit better so what I am thinking is that I am gaining muscle.

As a long distance runner I have lots of endurance and my leg muscles are fairly toned. However, my upper body and core have no strength or tone. AT ALL. It's embarrassing how poorly I do at boot camp at anything involving the core or upper body. But I figure I have got to start somewhere, and I can only improve from here. I do try really hard and give it my all, but some of the exercises are really kicking me in the rear.

Back to weight loss (or lack thereof). I have certainly gotten really frustrated each day I have stepped on the scale. Heck, I've even thought about going back to eating lots of desserts and quitting boot camp. But I won't do either of these things. That's because I have a will and a determination that is stronger than these things. I will be disappointed if I don't win the contest or even if I don't lose weight, but I know deep down that what I am doing is good for me. Perhaps the results will eventually make their way to the scale. For now I just have to remind myself that all of the exercise and healthy eating I am doing is certainly doing my body good.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

marathon training begins

I have blogged in June already, but somehow the post did not get published. Oh well! Marathon training started last Monday, June 7th. It's only been a week, but so far so good. This part of marathon training seems easy, with a long run of only 8 miles the first week. Before I know it, those long runs will be in the double digits. In some ways I prefer running longer as then I can go even more slowly than my usual slow pace.

One big change this time around for marathon training is that my cross training has been boosted quite a bit. You see, I signed up for a month-long Boot Camp at my gym and it started the same day as marathon training. So not only am I cross training one day a week like Hal Higdon says, but I'm going to boot camp three times a week. (For those of you who don't know, Hal Higdon is a runner/trainer/author whose training program I follow). Anyway, boot camp is kicking me in the butt but people tell me it's going to help my running. We'll see! The hard part is schedule both my training runs as well as boot camp. My already busy life has gotten that much busier.

I am training for 2 marathons this fall: the Mohwak Hudson River in NY state in October and the Richmond Marathon in Virginia in November. For the NY marathon I am following Hal's regular 18 week marathon training program (Intermediate I) and then after the NY marathon I will follow his program for if you have 5 weeks between marathons. I ran 2 marathons 8 weeks apart in spring, so this will be that much more challenging. But I know I can do it if I just trust Hal's program.

Gotta run...literally. Heading off on a 3 mile lunchtime training run.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

summer running

It's baaaaack! Heat and humidity. Ugh! My least favorite running weather has emerged. Right now I'm not following a marathon training program so I'm only doing 3 miles runs, which are bearable in this horrible heat and humidity. But going any farther is going to be tough. When I hit those 18-20+ milers, I'll be doing what I hate to do: getting up early to run. It's the only way I can tolerate running in the heat and humidity. I want to try and find one of those things you can wrap around your neck to keep you cool. I remember years ago seeing them for tennis. I assume they sell them for runners, too? I'll be on a quest to find something like that. In the meantime, plenty of hydration, both before and during running. And I'll be popping electrolyte tablets like crazy during runs.

Friday, May 21, 2010

cross training

I bought a new bike! It's a hybrid, a Specialized Globe Vienna 2, and it's brand spanking new. Yeah! Time for some cross training. I owned a road bike many years ago but it passed away and I never replaced it. I used to enjoy rides along Route 1A in New Hampshire. Now I can get back out there again! I think I will take it out this weekend for its maiden voyage, maybe along the Minuteman Bike Trail in the Lexington, MA area. I'm a little nervous because I don't know much about how to take care of a bike, and I wouldn't know what to do if it broke down. But that's what cell phones are for, right? :)

Biking is excellent cross-training for running. Hal Higdon, whose marathon raining schedules I follow, says that tennis is not so great for cross-training due to the lateral movement. I am an avid tennis player, but I have definitely held back a little bit on tennis now that I have gotten into marathons. I took a tennis clinic at lunch today and I realized that I have gotten very tentative when I play. I think it's because I am so afraid of injuring myself for running. Right now I'm trying to figure out if I should just "go for it" in tennis and not worry about getting injured? It's a tough call. But I guess I shouldn't live my life in fear. Perhaps next time on the court I'll just give it my all and think positively!

Monday, May 17, 2010

a new outlook

Yesterday I completed a 5K race. Due to some digestive issues (I'll spare you the details), I decided to walk the race. Once I started though, I turned it into a slow jog. I felt comfortable the whole way and never felt I really pushed myself. And I did not look at my watch once! Somehow I managed to run faster than my last 5K race. Keep in my mind that in my world "faster" is relative, as I am normally in the back of the pack due to my slower pace. But it was a sub-10 minute pace and that is always good for me!

The lesson of the story for me is this: don't worry about your finish time, or about always pushing yourself. Sometimes it's just about the journey. I have said this many times before but yesterday I really *felt* it. It was quite wonderful to approach the finish line, see the time on the clock..and know that I had enjoyed the race, hadn't pushed myself too hard, and felt good.

It's a lesson I need to carry forward from here on out. As Ben & Jerry have said: "If it's not fun, why do it?" I will now make running more fun. And maybe somehow I'll be able to squeeze in a decent pace, too!

Friday, May 14, 2010


My motivation for running always varies, but I find that when I am not training for anything in particular, my motivation bottoms out. Training for my next set of marathons does not begin until June, and on April 25th I ran my 2nd of 2 marathons of 2 months. I have only run 4 times since then, and I'm finding it hard to get motivated. For the first two weeks after the April marathon, I purposely didn't run. I felt that my body needed a rest. In addition, I wanted to enjoy some free time! No more squeezing in a run before a night out with friends, or lugging my running clothes around every day, or having to take 2 or 3 showers in a day due to running. It was a nice break!

But I figured I should keep my muscles active and start running again a few times a week, perhaps just 3 miles at a time. This might sound easy to a marathon runner, but for me right now it's not. It's not that I dread running. It's that I just feel tired and unenergized. So far I have run each of the days I committed myself to, so I guess I am not totally defeated. But it has taken me a lot to get myself out there. I guess I shouldn't worry about it. In June I won't really have a choice (okay, yes, I have a choice. But if I want to do 2 marathons in 1 month in the fall I really need to do the training!). Maybe I should just take the month of May for what it is: a time to enjoy life (both with and WITHOUT running) and just do the best I can!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Gasparilla Marathon, Tampa FL (2/28/10)

My brother and his family moved from Boston to Florida in 2009, so I thought that the 2010 Gasparilla Marathon in Tampa, FL was a perfect excuse for a visit. Soon after I registered for the marathon I learned that 2010 would be their last marathon (they are keeping the 5K, 15K, and half marathon). I am very glad it all worked out, as this was an amazing marathon and I am glad I didn’t miss it. It really is a shame that they are retiring the marathon! I talked to some of the folks representing the Gasparilla Marathon at the Boston Marathon Expo, and they said to “stay tuned” so maybe the marathon is not gone after all!!!

This was my first flight alone in 20 years, and I had only taken 2 trips between 1990 and 2008, so the flight itself was my biggest worry. I had completed my marathon training program so I knew I would finish the marathon somehow. Getting through the flight was another thing. Much to my surprise, I did really well on the flight. I didn’t even need to utilize all of my tricks and rituals. I must say, though, that the medication I takes makes all the difference!!

I arrived early Friday afternoon, and my sister-in-law picked me up and took me to the expo. It was quite a large expo for a smaller marathon, and I was very impressed. What I had learned earlier that week was that Bart Yasso was going to be at the expo! Bart works for Runner’s World magazine and has been called the “mayor of running in the USA.” He has run over 1,000 races, hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro, run the Death Valley race, and so many other crazy things. Needless to say, he’s one of my heroes! I first met Bart in November of 2009 at the NYC Marathon Expo, where I bought his book “Life on the Run” and he signed it. The same day I met him, I “friended” him on Facebook, and we are now Facebook buddies. So this would be my second time seeing Bart in person. We couldn’t stay long at the expo on Friday as we had to get back to pick up my nephew from school, but I knew I’d see Bart the next day.

On Saturday, my brother drove me to Tampa. I checked in at the hotel and then headed over to the expo. I knew Bart was giving a seminar at a particular time. I got a chance to talk to him briefly before his seminar, and got another picture taken with him (first one was in NYC). And I had him add “Gasparilla 2010” underneath his signature on his book. I figure that every time I see him at a marathon I will have him add the location of the marathon. I can’t wait to see how many times I get to see him! (the 3rd time ended up being in Boston in April).

My biggest concern for my Florida marathon was the weather; I had been afraid that after training in the cold New England winter I would face a hot and sunny day. In fact, I took 8 weeks’ worth of hot yoga classes just to acclimate to exercising in the heat! Turns out my worst fear did not come true. We started at 6:00am (yes, in the morning!!) and it was in the upper 40s. I don’t think it even got into the 60s by the time I finished. It did get a bit sunny, but there were a few clouds, too. I lucked out big time!!!

I was also a little concerned (though not really worried) about starting at 6:00 in the morning, as I am NOT a morning person. However, the interesting thing about starting in the dark was that we got to see an awesome view of the moon. And we got to see the sun rise! However, I still wouldn’t choose such an early start. But I tried to make the most of it.

I ran relatively conservatively for the first half, which is usually my strategy. The first half was somewhat crowded as we had about 8,000 half marathoners running along with us. Once they split off, it was much more manageable. I met up with a bunch of runners from the Bradenton Running Club (which is where my brother now lives) and ran with them for several miles. One of them included a 70+ year old man and I was having trouble keeping up with him.  I eventually let them go when I slowed down at a water stop and they plowed ahead. Soon after this I noticed that I was not far behind the 5 hour pacing group. I usually finish my marathons in just under 5 hours, so I figured if I could stick with them I was doing okay. Eventually, somewhere in a park around mile 18-ish, I was able to pass them. I wasn’t intentionally trying to pass them but I felt good so it just kind of happened.

There were a fair number of spectators along the course, especially the last 4 miles or so, as we were on a fairly major road along the ocean. I could see and hear a huge group of people in white shirts at mile 24. Turns out that they were an organized group from a local school or community center. THEY ROCKED! They were so loud and so energetic, and they really kept me going.

I noticed on my watch that I would have no problem getting in under 5 hours. In fact, around mile 24 or 25 I realized that it was remotely possible that I’d get a personal record (PR). My PR was 4:52-something in 2008 at the Clarence DeMar Marathon in Keene, NH. I pushed as hard as I could in Tampa and finished in 4:53-something. Just a minute off my PR! Surely I could have made up that time somewhere, but no worries. I was really happy with my effort and very surprised that I did so well in Florida.

My brother, sister-in-law and nephew were there for me along the course. We had pre-arranged where they would be, and the “first stop” was around mile 14. I saw my brother and sister-in-law as I approached, and they she disappeared. She went to get my nephew in the car. When I got to that spot I saw her trying to get my nephew out of the car. He wouldn’t budge! I kept calling his name and she finally told me he wasn’t getting out (I later told my nephew that if I had not wasted so much time waiting for him to get out of the car I would have had a PR!). At the next stop, he was visible, and was wearing his pajama bottoms and a sweatshirt. Clearly he had gotten up extra early to make it to Tampa. I was glad he was there, even if he was a little grumpy. 

I got to see them as I entered a park around mile 18 and then when I exited the park around mile 20. That was really cool! They were kind enough to carry some of the supplies I needed, like salt pills and GU packets. When I run a marathon alone I have to carry all of this stuff with me so it’s definitely nice to have someone there to hand me my supplies. I saw my family one more time towards the end, but that part is a bit of a blur as my brain always turns to mush at the end of a marathon.

When I finished I saw that they had run out of the REALLY cool medals with a wildly colorful ribbon. One high-school aged volunteer kindly took me to a secret stash after I expressed my disappointment and I was extremely grateful. Then the official photographer asked me to pose with my medal. Believe it or not, this was the first marathon I’d run where they did that. It turned out to by one of my best pictures of the bunch; my smile was a mile long!

The post-race food was excellent (salad, rice, fruit, bread, etc.). While I was waiting in the food line, two women in front of me asked me to take their picture with their phone. My brain was so mushy that I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Many long distance runners can probably relate to me. When I finish a marathon, my brain is completely drained as I used all of my mental energy on the marathon. I often can’t answer simple questions or even process what people are saying.

I walked to get my bag and then asked a stranger to take a couple of pictures of me. I walked back to the hotel, where I had arranged a late check-out. There I put my legs in the cool pool water and then took a shower. My brother and his family then arrived to pick me up. We took a family photo in front of the hotel, and then when we got back to their house in Bradenton I put my legs in the pool again.

Marathon #10 and state #8 down! I loved this race!!!!! I am so lucky that almost all of my marathons have been awesome races! It would be so hard for me to rank them, as there were so many pros and cons to each of them. If absolutely forced, I would say:

Boston (in a class by itself; can’t rank it)
1. Steamtown (Scranton, PA)
2. Gasparilla (Tampa, FL)
3. Vermont City (Burlington, VT)
4. Clarence DeMar (Keene, NH)
5. Amica Breakers (Newport, RI)
6. Mystic (Mystic, CT)
7. New Jersey Marathon (Long Branch, NJ)
8. Hartford (Hartford, CT)

Since the Gasparilla I have run the Earth Day Challenge and I’d probably put it in between Gasparilla and Vermont City.

P.S. I forgot to mention the AWESOME swag we got at the Gasparilla Marathon: turquoise long-sleeved coolmax shirt with embroidery on upper back (skull/cross bones), towel, hat, tote bag, another bag from Publix, and tattoos. Woo hoo!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Earth Day Challenge Marathon, 4/25/10

As I pursue a marathon in each of the 50 states, I knew that there could be no other marathon to run in Ohio but the Earth Day Challenge. This is because it takes place at Kenyon College and its surrounding area, and I am a Kenyon alum (class of ’91). I also worked in student life there from 1994 to 1996. This meant that I’d have to do 2 marathons in 2 months, as I had already signed up for the Gasparilla Marathon in Tampa, FL on 2/28/10. No matter, though: Hal Higdon had an “8 weeks between marathons” training program for me to follow! And I always trust Hal.

I ended up traveling to Ohio on Thursday night even though the marathon was not until Sunday. That way I could visit with old friends, including former professors and colleagues. It also gave me lots of time to explore the campus since I had not been back in 4 years. It was a wonderful weekend of reminiscing and visiting.

But on to the marathon, as this blog is really about running. The weather all week had predicted thunderstorms on race day, and this was my biggest worry. I have always said that I’d run in any kind of weather condition but lightning. I like to reminder marathoners that “you can’t worry about what you can’t control” and certainly I have no control over the weather; however, I must admit that I was a little worried. I hadn’t done all of the training for nothing, and I wanted to finish the race. The pre-race instructions told us that it might be possible for race cancellation if the thunderstorms emerged.

The race had a marathon and a half marathon. As usual, the majority of participants were running the half: there were about 120 marathoners and 400 half-marathoners. We started together on the track at the athletic center on campus, and the sun literally came out as we were starting. For me, this was not a good thing. I don’t run well in the sun, heat, and humidity. And we were expecting all three. However, at that point I let go of any worries and just rolled with it. I figured I’d do the best I could given the conditions and that was all I could ask for.

The first four miles were in the village of Gambier, with many of those miles being on campus. At the .5 mile mark, we faced our biggest uphill. I had known about it beforehand, and my strategy was to walk up it. No sense wasting my energy before the first mile marker! That is pretty much what I did, though I did run up about the first 1/3 of it. Anyway, at the top of that early hill we wound up on “Middle Path,” which is a gravel path that runs the length of the main campus, for about a mile. This is sacred ground for Kenyon folks, as it’s kind of the epicenter of campus life. Everyone has to walk on Middle Path every day. I must admit that I got tears in my eyes as I took my first few steps on to Middle Path. It was finally coming true: I was running a marathon at Kenyon, my beloved alma mater.

Soon after that, we ran around the village of Gambier. Coincidentally, just as I ran by my friend Robert’s house (former professor with whom I had visited twice before the marathon), Robert emerged from his house to get the newspaper. What a wonderful unplanned surprise! And then right around the corner I saw Liz in front of her house (Liz was my supervisor when I worked at Kenyon). I saw many familiar faces throughout the race.

After the first four miles, the hills were totally over. We headed out to a paved bike path called the Kokosing Gap Trail that ran along the Kokosing River. We did an out and back on the western part of the trail, and then when we got close to the track where we started, the race was just about half-way over for me and the half-marathoners turned to finish on the track. I continued on to an out and back section on the eastern part of the trail. I remember when we turned around on the trail at the 8 mile mark some guy said “only 5 miles to go.” And I said “yeah right. I am running the full marathon.” I was nice about it. In fact I was in a good mood!

At the halfway point, I was running strong and feeling good despite the heat and humidity. Perhaps this was in part due to the fact that the western portion of the trail was very shaded. I looked at my watch halfway and saw something like 2:20 on my watch. Since I usually run marathons in even splits (same time for the first half as the second) I could see that I was on track to run a PR by quite a few minutes (as many as 12 since my PR is a 4:52). However, what I hadn’t realized at that point was that the heat and humidity would worsen, and the sun would become a factor. That’s because the eastern portion of the trail (which only the marathoners ran) had very little shade. The trail was surrounded by occasional trees, but much more so by farms. While the scenery was spectacular, the conditions left us out baking in the sun. I figured out pretty quickly that it was not safe to continue at my same strong pace. It was much more important to finish safely than it was to get a PR. At the time this didn’t bother me at all as I knew it was the right thing to do. Now that the race is over and I’m home, I am of course second guessing myself and wondered if I could have pushed myself harder. Oh well. I have 41 more states to run and plenty of time to get a new PR.

I decided to utilize a run/walk strategy, and walk in the sections that were totally unshaded. This worked out quite well, and I walked with a woman for a little bit. She has done the 50 states 3 times and it seems like she runs a marathon every weekend. It was nice to have some company for a while; however, she was struggling more than me so I moved forward without her. At other times I implemented a “walk .25 mile/run .75 mile” strategy. My strategy throughout the second half varied, but it all revolved around run/walk.

I knew that the turnaround point for the eastern section was somewhere around mile 19, and I was so glad to see that turnaround. The interesting thing about an out and back in a marathon is that you can see the faster runners coming at you; since we were on a narrow bike path you couldn’t miss anyone! The faster runners seemed to struggle in the weather conditions as well, which gave me some sort of solace. All aid stations had water and Heed (electrolyte replacement drink). One station had small cups of ice. I stuffed a cup of ice down my sports bra both times I passed that station. That helped A LOT!

Around mile 20 I saw that the dark clouds were rolling in and I thought I could hear thunder far away. By mile 22 it was clear that thunderstorms were rolling in. One of the race directors rode by on her bike to warn us of the weather. I asked her if I could still finish and she said “yes, but be careful.” It started to downpour, thunder, and lightning. The good news was that it made it about 5 degrees cooler, which was quite a welcome relief. It seemed like I was running away from the storm, so that gave me incentive to run faster. Eventually the storm subsided and the rain stopped. I had survived thunderstorm number one. The second one came about a mile from the finish. This one had heavier rain, but the thunder and lightning were not as bad. Again, it motivated to move faster and finish.

I knew my friend Deb from Kenyon (senior year roommate) and her daughter would be there to cheer me on somewhere towards the end of the race, but I wasn’t sure where. Knowing that I would see them soon helped me to go faster and to run more than I walked. I didn’t end up seeing them until mile 25.6 or so, which was just fine as it gave me that much more time to try to move quickly to see them.

I knew at around mile 25 that if I totally booked it as fast as I could that I could get in at a sub-5 hour time. However, I decided not to book it. My brain was really mushy at that point so I can’t accurately remember why I made that decision, especially because when faced with a similar situation at 2 of my previous marathons, I made the decision to completely book it and come in under 5. I guess I decided that I had many marathons ahead of me and this wasn’t my day to worry about the time. I was just grateful I had survived the thunderstorms and that I was able to run a marathon at Kenyon.

The finish line was three quarters of the way around the track where we had started. That seemed like the longest lap around the track I have ever taken. I did sprint in at the finish, even though I knew I would not get under 5 hours. But I got under 5:01! My official time was 5:00:46. Looking back, I am sure I could have made up those 47 seconds somewhere to get under 5, but I can’t worry about it now. I can only look forward. And I’ve got 2 marathons scheduled in the fall. Anything can happen!

I soon met up with Deb and her daughter, and we went to lunch after I took a shower. It was so great to have them there to share the finish with me! To have my Kenyon friend at the Kenyon marathon was just amazing. Later that day when I said goodbye to them I became emotional, as the enormity of the day finally struck me.

When I checked the results online that night, I discovered that I won an award for the top Athena time (this is a division for female runners over a certain weight range, I think it is 140 or 150 pounds). I was thrilled! I never thought I would get an award at a marathon, as I am a slower runner. I picked up my “loot” the next day, which consisted of a plaque, hat, and gift certificate. Later that day I found out that I was the only woman to enter that special weight division; however, I didn’t care!! I was happy with the award nonetheless.

The race was very well-organized and I *highly* recommend it to anyone looking for a small, eco-friendly, flat and scenic marathon. I’d go back to run the half but as for marathons, it’s on to other states for my 50 state marathon quest! Now I will take a week or two off from running so that I can have a social life before training begins again for my next marathon on 10/10/10 (10th state!)

My next blog will be about my February 28th marathon in Tampa, since I never wrote a blog about it!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

tough cold day

Well, "only" two weeks have passed since my last post...much better than the 7 or so months between the previous posts. :) Last weekend I was scheduled for a 5 miler on Saturday and a 20 miler on Sunday. However, I was in Bethel, Maine with a group of 12 people renting a house for the weekend. I was a bit stressed out about this; I mean, in January in Maine you want to ski, snowshoe, etc. but running is not usually on the agenda. I brought my running clothes and shoes just in case, and thought maybe I'd do 10+ on Saturday and x-c ski on Sunday. It was not to be. I spent 2 hours x-c skiing on Saturday and another hour snowshoeing. Sunday I spent 3 hours x-c skiing. No running. Not a step. I felt somewhat badly about it until one of my running friends told me that the x-c skiing "did my body good" and it was "enough" to replace the running (or at least enough to not have a major overall impact on my training). Besides, I have another 20 miler scheduled for 3 weeks before the marathon. And the novice training schedule only calls for the one 20-miler. And I have successfully completed 3 marathons using the novice schedule. So I should be fine. At least that it what I have told myself and now I need to move on.

Today I was scheduled for 12 miles, but that was when I was originally supposed to do 20 last weekend and 20 this weekend. My wise running friend suggested I bump it up a few miles but not to do two 20 milers in a row. So today I did 15. It was a tough 15! It was cold and I had diarrhea right before I left. (TMI? Stop reading!) This was not a good way to start, but I took some Immodium and headed out. I was not feeling motivated so my strategy was just to go really slowly. In fact, Hal Higdon says these long runs should be one minute slower per mile than marathon pace. Given that my marathon pace is always over 11 minutes/mile, these runs should be 12+ min/miles. Which never happens. So I decided it would be okay to do one long run closer to what Hal says to do. I definitely kept a consistent slow pace throughout the run. And I chose a new route, since I was sick of doing the same old out-and-back on the Boston Marathon course. Unfortunately the new route was much hillier than my regular route. But I figured since I was going extra-slow, I'd just do the best I could on the hills. This strategy worked, as I ran most of the hills (most, but not all!). Luckily the sun was out and I was well-dressed so though the cold was tough I was able to handle it. As always, the only thing that got cold was my gluteal area. Despite wearing "bun toasters" by Sugoi (yes, a real product), thick long underwear, and winter running tights, my butt got cold. But I decided that the best way to handle it was to keep moving! So move I did. Slow pace, but still I was moving.

After the run I felt really sick. Might have been the fact that I chugged a can of Coke Zero, plus a ton of cherry juice. Not a good combo?! :) I laid on the couch and whined (not out loud, I'm too tough for that). About an hour or so later the diarrhea returned. Guess I was lucky I didn't have any episodes during the run. I think I was dehydrated.

Next weekend I need to do those 20 miles. Long term forecast says snow the day of the 20 miler. Just my luck!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I'm back!!

Many times over the past 6 months I've thought "I should put that in my blog." But I never did. It's quite shameful that I haven't written in this blog for that long. Tonight I had dinner with a friend who also runs and who also has a blog. In talking to her, I realized I need to stop making excuses and start writing. So here I am. I am going to blog again. And I am hopeful to keep it going.

Since I last wrote, I completed another marathon, the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, PA in October. It was the best-organized marathon I have ever run! I could write paragraph after paragraph about how awesome that marathon was. In fact, I was so impressed that I wrote a letter to the editor of the Scranton newspaper and they published it!! Mostly I wanted the local residents to know how much their support was appreciated. So many of them were out there to cheer us on. The most memorable one, by far, was an elderly man in some sort of military uniform in a wheelchair. He was in the middle of the road on the yellow line. He could barely keep his head up but he was cheering. I went up to him and gave him a high five and he said something really positive to me. I can't remember the exact words, but I was so grateful to him! It was truly humbling to have the many residents of the Scranton area (a relatively depressed are) show us so much support. I will rave about Steamtown for years.

I took a short break but was back at it again in November. Unfortunately, training for my next marathon got off to a bad start when I experienced a neck/upper back injury in late October. I had to take a week off from running. And 18 week marathon training program turned into a 16 week program (I had already taken the first week off to continue recovery from Steamtown). Oh well! I was getting regular treatment on the injury (still am) and was back out there after a week of rest.

Now that "next marathon" is 6 weeks away! Today I completed an 18 mile run and felt great. This was good news, as I had struggled a bit with my long runs up to this point. The weather certainly helped; it was near-perfect conditions for me (40 and cloudy). Tomorrow I have the day off from work and will certainly spend the day resting.

I have decided to attempt 4 marathons this year. If it goes well then I will go for more than that next year. We'll see. 9 marathons down. 7 states. 43 states to go. As of right now, my 2010 marathon calendar includes FL, OH, NY, and VA. We'll see what happens!