My New York City Marathon

I’m not going to give a big “oh, hello world!” introduction explaining where I’ve been in the last year and a half while this blog has collected dust. I’m not going to pretend that after this post I’ll ever contribute another word to this site. But after this past weekend, and after wasting an entire work day NOT catching up from leaving early Friday and not returning until this lovely Tuesday morning due to reading recaps from the 2013 ING New York City Marathon, I just want to make sure I have MY race documented SOMEWHERE. And that where is here.

Unfortunately, because I want to document EVERYTHING, I need to back track a little. And because I stopped blogging so long ago, that backtrack requires rehashing a little bit of the feelings I never verbalized with the cancellation of the NYCM last year. So here we go.

I more or less am the runner I am today because of my overwhelming desire to run the New York City marathon.

After finishing my first half in November of 2010 (?) I swore I would never want to go further than 13.1. And I would never want to run a full marathon. But then The Bug set in. I was “coerced” into running my first Ragnar a few weeks later–a few too many hours into happy hour–and the more I ran and learned about running, the more intrigued I became with the ultimate run in a runner’s world: The New York City Marathon. I applied for the lottery for the first time after finishing 16.8 miles in Key West during my first Ragnar, and was (as expected) rejected. When I moved to NYC shortly afterwards and fell in love with Central Park, there was no stopping my getting into the marathon. I joined NYRR knowing I had a long road ahead of me before I ran the 5 boroughs and started training for my first marathon in Richmond.

Fear of a tough and crowded course in NY in 2012 led me to sign up for my second marathon in Buffalo that Spring. Somehow, I thought if I ran a relaxed, easy race after going sub-4 for the first time in Richmond, it would take all pressure off of me to perform well in New York: a course I was terrified of due to its history and celebrity appeal. Instead I ran a PR in Buffalo, and segued into what was the most in-shape, high-performing running summer of my life. I had high hopes for NYC in the fall. I felt like a “true” runner. And for the first time since catching the running bug, I thought I could kill it on the streets of New York.

Then everything hit the fan. A wide range of personal problems sprung up in early August. And while I spent many miles hitting the pavement to sort through my thoughts and carry myself away from the drama, I spent just as much time eating and drinking away my problems (they don’t call me marathonwiner for nothing!). As the marathon drew closer, my confidence fell. To the point where a few weeks out I confided to Leticia that I was seriously considering not running. I didn’t want to go through all of the trouble of making my way out to Staten Island at an ungodly hour when my heart and my training just didn’t seem up for it. I said if I made it through one last long run without quitting, I’d suck it up and run the marathon. Maybe not with the gusto I had felt a few weeks prior, but I’d finish it.

I made it through that run. And I inevitably started to get excited for race day.

Then, as we all know, more shit hit the fan.

Only for me…it was bad on top of bad. When talks about an “intense” hurricane really stared to circulate, I was in Richmond…dropping off my beloved cat before a major move: my departure from NYC. That, is an entirely different story that I’m not sure I can ever properly explain or vocalize, but the personal problems I was dealing with in August played a large role in the JD’s and I (oh lord, I can’t even talk in this blog language anymore. You all know his name is Pete. And you all probably know he also proposed that September. And even amongst a tumultuous time in my life, it was one of the happiest days of my life) life and we had made the ridiculously hard decision to leave NY and move to Virginia. So there I was, 6 days out of the biggest race of my running career, as Sandy swept the East Coast. Pete was still in Manhattan when it went dark and I was in Richmond, feeling useless.

I, like every other runner, battled back and forth about what running or not running meant. I didn’t ever know if I thought having the race or not having the race was the better option, I only knew it was out of my control. And as the days wore on and the race was still “a go” my trains continued to be delayed and delayed and delayed.

I made it back to Manhattan the Thursday night before Marathon Sunday. On Friday morning I went to the expo with Leticia, and while things felt a bit off, I prepared myself for the worst [read: I was honestly terrified that irate people would do malicious things come race day, but it was my one and only 9+1 and if the show was going to go on, I was going to be there]. We all know what came after that.

The race was canceled. Us runners drank a lot. Probably partially in grief, partially in relief. And before I knew it I was signed up to run Richmond a second year in a row, bringing a crowd of ten or so girls to my parents home with me.

Richmond last year was not what it was my first year (but really, can anything compare to a first marathon?) and it was certainly no New York (again, can anything compare to that?). I ran with the friends that I had trained hard with, been let down in New York with and made the trek to Virginia with, and thought that maybe it would be a sort of redemption race. But my stomach retaliated at mile 20 and I bonked…coming in at 4:13, 21 minutes slower than my Buffalo PR.

Fast forward through a year of drama: for NYRR, for me, for Boston and the running community worldwide.

I reluctantly clicked on the “2013” option from NYRR to run. Part of me thought I was too far gone to run a good race. Part of me was bitter about what had happened in all of 2012. But the rest of me wanted to be with the amazing runners I had met in my time in New York when they toed the start line in 2013.

Fast forward many months, many miles (not nearly as strong or as fast as they had been in the past) and many changes (hello again, Virginia and HELLO married life) and I found myself, just a week ago, prepping to run NY for the second time.

Somehow, after Sandy, after Boston, after everything…a week ago, I felt good.

I didn’t know what would happen in New York. Honestly, NYRR had left me off of so many emails I wasn’t even sure I knew where I was going to wind up on the morning of November 3rd, but somehow, after so much trouble and so many twisted winding roads, I felt physically and mentally ready to tackle New York this year. It most likely was due to the fact that after everything that had happened over the past couple of years, my only goal for the race was to 100% enjoy it, and bask in the glory of The Marathon; but I was ready for it.

HOLY BOOK OF AN IN INTRO

On Friday afternoon, Pete and I headed to the Big Apple. We landed in LGA and (by another turn of events) grabbed a Brooklyn-bound cab to Leticia’s. After a few hugs and catching up, we called it a night, so Pete and I could wake up for a short run around Prospect Park (a place I hadn’t visited since my days with the summer speed series). Afterwards, we grabbed a carb-heavy breakfast at the best little diner in Brooklyn before heading to the expo.

Maybe it was because I had spent the previous two years visiting at the NYCM expo and NOT running, but this year, the expo seemed quasi disappointing. I think maybe part of me thought that everything NYCM-related was going to have a couple extra UMPHs to it this year, but the expo did not seem to share that feeling. We picked up my bib, some Boston ribbons and some yummy treats (no orange wristbands representing last year’s race-that-wasn’t because NYRR failed to email me that I was privy to one) and spent the rest of the afternoon catching up with friends and walking through Central Park.

Later, I had another delicious carb-heavy meal at Bella Via in LIC to celebrate my Uncle’s birthday…NEVER realizing that the restaurant was set RIGHT on the race course!

We got back to Leticia’s apartment in Brooklyn a little later than I had planned for, but thanks to the time change, had just enough time to prep the next morning’s outfit, get ready for bed, and watch a vimeo of the race course/day to get us pumped.

Surprisingly, I slept well that night.

Leticia and I woke up at 5:45 and silently went through our individual “get-ready” routines, before leaving the apartment at 6:35 to catch the subway. The express that we planned on taking was running local, and we realized early on that we were not going to make our 7:15 ferry out of Staten Island.

Not that being there at 7:15 would have helped!

When we finally got to Staten Island it was PACKED with runners, and the nerves finally started to set in. I didn’t feel awake enough. I didn’t feel ready enough. I was dreading the fact that I had let myself do a 3 week taper (vs 2) and I was seriously questioning my last-minute decision to run in an older pair of shoes (because the newer ones had bothered my foot on the short run through Prospect Park the morning before). Leticia IMMEDIATELY was able to spot a few friendly faces, and before we knew it, our group of two had grown into a pack of six. It definitely helped to have a group of smiling and excited faces nearby while shuffling our way toward the start line!

And shuffle, we did!

I had heard about the crowds at the start for ages, but I could never fully explain to someone what it was like waiting to get on a ferry–ANY ferry–out of Manhattan on Sunday morning. We had already missed the 7:15 and due to the massive crowds of runners at the terminal, we missed the 7:30 as well. We finally we able to squeeze our way on to the 7:45, hobbling our way aboard like a bunch of herded penguins (no really, you couldn’t take a “normal” step, you had to waddle).

Once on the ferry though, the crowd thinned out and the six of us had our own little nook of seats where we spent the ride chatting about nerves, excitement, food, pace–all things running. Before we knew it, we were at the other end of the line, unloading on to Staten Island and getting in yet another line…this time to board the buses that would take us to Fort Wadsworth.

The lines were long but moved quickly, and despite the fact that it was SO early in the morning still and tiny drops of rain were starting to fall, we all kept our spirits up talking about how the sun would come out and it really wasn’t THAT cold (never mind the fact that we were DESPERATE for a portapotty).

Even though we had been up and on the move since 5:45 a.m. and my start wave was not until 10:05, the longer we sat on he bus, the more worried I got about missing my wave.

When we finally got to Fort Wadsworth we were again slowed by metal detectors and police dogs, checking every bag and sniffing every runner. Many people complained that this was an added inconvenience after previous years, but I hardly noticed it as an “inconvenience” (this day in age it seems status quo) and appreciated it in light of Boston.

Once through security, and after a quick bathroom stop, flags paved the way for different start times and our group of six was forced to split. I gave Leticia a big hug and a “good luck!” and moved into the orange wave with Brittany and Beth. As soon as we arrived there though, I started hearing announcements that wave two was about to close, and runners needed to make their way to their respective corrals. I gave Brittany and Beth more hugs and cheers of good luck, and finally ventured off on my own*.

*Had it not been for Leticia and the other girls I traveled to the start with, I would have been a lost little puppy and probably never started, less finished, the NYCM.

The corrals were CROWDED! While there were plenty of portapottys for those that needed them, there was little else to be desired. I knew I had a good half hour before our start, yet there was NO room to stretch, or do much else.  Cell phone service was a wreck from the massive amount of people, and I just idled the time listening to all the different languages around me and tried to soak everything in.

We slowly started moving toward the base of the Verrazano and I spent the last few minutes before gun time figuring out my clothing options–what to discard and what to hold on to in light of the low temperatures and the wind on the bridge. I wound up gearing up at the start line having shed my sweatshirt and makeshift scarf, but keeping the gloves and beanie to keep me warm for the bridge wind (all this, while holding my trusty visor and a packet of honey stingers in hand).

The cannon shot (and scared the CRAP out of me) and before I knew it, I was listening to the sound of Frank singing New York New York as I shuffled my way toward the Verrazano Bridge. This was it.

The bridge was AMAZING.

The sights of Lady Liberty and the New York Skyline were out of this world! I kept a moderate pace the entire time, reminding myself to just enjoy the views, enjoy the run and remember that this was the ONLY time pedestrians were EVER allowed to cross this particular bridge (in my time in NY i had run nearly every other bridge around the island).

I was shocked, even though alumni and legend had prepared me, at the number of people who needed to stop and pee in the first 1-2 miles over that bridge, but I tried not to dwell on it too long– the views were too showstopping to allow that.

As we got off the bridge and headed into Brooklyn I got the first taste of what the NYCM is all about–the crowds. From that first moment in Brooklyn, and for most of the next 10 miles, the support almost never faded.

We could have traveled the world as we traversed those neighborhoods in Brooklyn! Everyone, EVERYONE, was out with a cowbell, a horn, a poster, or just a wave and a smile from their window or balcony, welcoming all of the runners to their neck of the woods.

After a morning of cold clouds and spitting rain, the sun started to come out in full force around the 5k mark, but I knew the forecast was calling for colder temps and heavy winds, so decided to hold on to my beanie and gloves for as long as possible. But the longer the sun stayed out, the more I needed a shade. I tossed my hat and donned my visor around mile 4, holding on to the gloves.

I had worried that the long stretch up fourth would become grueling, and it almost did, but every time I thought I was “over Brooklyn”, I would turn a corner and a new crowd would greet us with so much enthusiasm and so much vibrancy that it was just contagious. For the first time in my [very short] running career, I found myself high-fiving EVERY kid that crossed my path with their palm out. If they were going to spend their day pushing us through this course, I was sure going to give them the gratification of a high-five for it!

My friend Gabby said she’d be hanging out somewhere after mile 8, and after the 5k, I focused solely on finding her. I knew she’d be on the left side of the street, so hugged it as best I could,even to a detrimental point where the course took an unexpected sharp turn at mile 8 and I made a major fail at running the tangents. But it was worth it when I saw her at Lafayette. She had her eyes peeled on the course and I screamed and waved my hands, ran up to give her a high-five and kept on going.

The crowd of runners had grown tight due to the immense hoards of cheerers, and I told myself it was a blessing in disguise. Rather than grow angry with a slowdown, I tried to appreciate and welcome a little reprieve in pace, and reset my mind for the next lookout: my family waiting in Queens.

I had not studied the course well, and when my aunt said they’d be across the street from the restaurant we had eaten at just the night before, around mile 12, I again planned my course around those plans. I hung to the right side this time, knowing Bella Via had been on the left hand side of Vernon Ave.

What I didn’t know, was the course shot across 48th from 11th, before turning on to Vernon. But as luck would have it, my uncle was standing on the right side of 48th, acting as the “spotter” for the rest of the fam. I had spent my short time in Queens desperately searching for my family, and when I hadn’t seen them for what seemed like forever, I decided I was just going to go tell the guy holding the “GO KATIE” sign that my name was Katie and hope he gave me an enthusiastic response. As I headed towards him, I realized he was my uncle mark and I inflated with joy! He sent me across the street to see the rest of my family and I basically kissed and hugged them all to pieces–I was so grateful to have happy faces waiting on the other end of the “tiny” Pulaski Bridge, and I held on to that high to carry me over the Queensboro.

As luck would have it, my FAVORITE song (of the last few months), Katie Perry’s ROAR was roaring out of some spectators speakers just as I started the climb on to the Queensboro Bridge. I considered it a very happy sign, and said at the very least, I’d have that song stuck in my head as I made my way over to Manhattan.

The Queensboro bridge has never frightened me. I ran it many times while I lived in New York, and every time I ran it I said “you can do this at mile 15…sure, it’s an incline, but it’s also a LOVELY decline!”

I told myself the same thing on Sunday, only it wasn’t SO easy.

As a pedestrian, on the pedestrian pathway, you can see the curve of the bridge as you cross it.

As a marathon, running across the car lanes on the bridge, you can’t see anything.

The Queensboro was almost as eerily silent as people report it to be (minus the fact that I was apparently running near the notorious “Dr. Dribble” as I crossed it and multiple runners started conversations with him about his basketballs and his skills), but it really didn’t bother me. I knew I was running up a grade, but I also knew–even though I couldn’t see it–that there was a downhill waiting for me. So I pushed through.

Coming off the bridge was everything it’s reported to be AND MORE. As we rounded the corner on to 59th there was so much relief in the downhill, met with the roar of the crowd waiting around the next bend.

First Ave was a wall of cheers, tears and everything a marathon is made of.

We crossed on to 59th, and I was finally starting to feel tired, but I knew more family and friends were waiting here and didn’t want to give them a bad show, so I sucked it up and smiled as I approached 66th st–the first chance there was at seeing my parents and Pete.

Right around mile 17 I saw, out of 89043 people, my mom’s beautiful smile popping through the crowd and I could have cried with delight! I approached her and my aunt Doreen (the first two faces I saw at my first marathon in Richmond, also close, at mile 16) and covered them with hugs and kisses. They said Pete and my dad were nearby, but not sure where, but they assured my I was looking good and gave me squeals of delight as I moved on.

A few blocks north I also found Tara and Meredith (long time spectator and runner, respectively) near 79th street, and again stopped for hugs and a quick chat about how I was doing and how Meredith’s husband was doing (in hindsight, I’d like to think all of the “family and friend stops” can shave some time off my overall finish time?). They too, lied, and said I looked great, and so I kept on trucking!

When I got to 85th street the course turned into an extremely noticeable downhill, and though I had heard it so many times before, I only just realized I had been running up an incline for all of first ave, and likely way too fast due to wanting to look decent for my spectators!

By the time I hit the Willis Ave bridge going into the Bronx I very seriously wanted to quit. Things had been amazing up to that point, but my feet HURT, my chest was being difficult, I didn’t’ know if i was eating or drinking too much or too little and I just did NOT want to run up another hill.

I contemplated walking for the first half, and by that point, I told myself I was already half way up and walking would be stupid.

Once I made it across the bridge and into the Bronx I got a second wind–I was so proud of myself for not giving up earlier, even though I had repeatedly told myself there were no time goals associated with this race.

I battled with myself in the Bronx, but overall, and in the end, I consider it the strongest portion of the race, and the part I am most thankful for. I wanted to quit a few times, but having powered through that little Willis Bridge, I gave myself confidence, and with each crowd I met in the Bronx, that confidence was renewed. I loved each and every person and instrument i met in my small trek there, because they gave me a second wind I didn’t know i had.

As we crossed the final bridge into Manhattan I was at the point where I was willing to give up every water station to a walk. But the energy I picked up in the Bronx and moving into Harlem said otherwise. There were SO many times where I told myself “ok, next mile marker” or “ok, next water station, you can walk” and I’d approach that mile marker or water station and keep on going, thanks to the amazing energy that was in Harlem and paving the way toward fifth avenue,

But fifth avenue.

Oh, how I hated it.

I didn’t realize until later, after reading the NY Times and other accounts how hard it was, how HILLY it was, I just knew, that I as I was running it, i DESPISED it. I so badly wanted to just stop and saunter off into Central Park and lay down and enjoy the foliage.

At that point, everything hurt and I was having terrible indigestion that I didn’t know if it was caused by too much fuel and water, not enough, I had no idea, and therefore had no way of fixing it. But somehow, i didn’t quit. I told myself if I could just make it to the reservoir, if I could just make it to my happy place (central park), I’d be fine.

I made it to the reservoir in Central Park. And I’m sad to report I was not fine.

I wanted to LOVE coasting down Cat Hill and being in “my happy place”, but I was spent. I wanted water. I wanted to walk. I wanted to be done. In hindsight, I wish I could have felt stronger in the park, but as it is, I did what I could. I did notice the crowds there, that I was not expecting. I didn’t realize that they could creep up and around the finish and come cheer for us on east drive, and while they were few compared to the crowds on first ave or fifth ave, I was grateful for everyone there.

I walked one of the last water stops before mile 25 and told myself that was it–no more water til the finish, and no more cringing about pain. I was planning on seeing my family at Central Park South and I wanted to look and feel strong when I saw them.

As I exited the park I did not look or feel strong. I felt defeated. I felt like mile 26 was so far away. But then I heard Pete screaming his brains out–just at the south-east corner of the park where I did not expect to see anyone–and saw him, and our two friends with their signs screaming and waving. I smiled and waved and none of it was fake–I was so happy to have seen them. I did not see my parents, and kept a sharp eye out for them the entire time I chugged down CPS, willing myself to look strong while they watched. I never saw them (they were actually just a few feet away from Pete when I saw him, but not knowing that had kept me pushing).

As I approached the mini hill that is the finish line of the ING NYC marathon I actually thought, “it’s really happening?” So many parts went by in such a blur and so many parts dragged on for what seems like forever. But i put both hands up, stretched a smile across my face, and crossed the finish line. And i can honestly say that i felt the smile that i put on. After feeling like i was in pain for those last few miles, i was in pure joy as i crossed that finish line.

From there, I wanted nothing more than water and warmth and pushed my way through the hobbling crowd of marathoners until I could finally escape the park–“recovery bag” and poncho in tote–and make my way toward where my family and friends were waiting in midtown.

I know, without a doubt, that had it not been for my friend in Brooklyn, my family in Queens, and my family and friends waiting in Manhattan, that I could not have performed as well as I did this past Sunday. They, on top of the other thousands of spectators, are what powered me through this race.

And the thousands of volunteers.

I have never felt more humbled to cross a finish line, or more honored.

The New York City Marathon is truly The Marathon. In light of all of the wrong the people in this world are capable of, this single event, in a single part of New York, shows what happens when athletes, volunteers, citizens and so many others come together to support a single thing. It is breathtaking. It is beautiful. And it was hands-down one of the best days of my life.

Unmistakes and the Lesson Learned.

So much has happened in marathonwiner world over the last month or so.

I ran my 2nd marathon and shocked myself and the rest of the world with a completely unexpected PR.

I finally learned why racing a 10k is so difficult and so hated in the running world.

I met lots of new runner friends, and thanks to running with them, I do believe I am actually getting faster. You can call it stupid, but I’m sticking with it.

I have grown to appreciate, and even LOOK FORWARD to, speedwork–the dinner dates after the summer 5k series certainly contribute to that, but doing Yasso800’s outside for the first time (ever?) turned out to be 4832904 more enjoyable than trying them out on the treadmill. Then again…what running isn’t better outside vs. on that mean black belt?

I took the RRCA run coach certification course (where I again met lots of awesome people and had a real-life Shining experience–details later?) and PASSED MY TEST (yes, please go start telling your friends).

I ran a 50 mile week during my “off” month. Was this stupid? Maybe. But it feels good to be able to put down some heavier mileage with a little more ease than in the past.

Speaking of stupid…that leads me to this long overdue story I’ve been wanting to share about my success at the Buffalo Marathon and how I did absolutely everything wrong to get me there. Every training plan, running book, professional or even recreational athlete–even the run coach class–supported the fact that I should have crashed and burned about 6 miles into the Buffalo Marathon. As someone who recently received coaching certification, I should be touting the benefits of dedicated training and not straying from a plan. But there’s also something to be said about doing everything wrong leading up to race day, then digging deep and seeing what your capable of. So here’s what I did wrong.

1. Tweak the training plan at the last minute.

I haven’t run a whole lot of races. But for those that I have, and for those that I had a designated training plan for, I followed that plan to a tee. Especially, the taper period. I had heard so many stories about how rest was just as important as the building period come race day, and too short of a taper could lead to fatigue and race day disaster. So when a plan called for a solid 3-week taper, I reluctantly followed it. My plan for Buffalo was not followed well from the get-go, but it was alright because I knew when I signed up for the race that wedding season (read: a million weekends away from home) was going to interfere with when I did my long runs and when I got that rest day (or 3) in. I did not, however, plan for insomnia and having to push my last run of 22 miles to about 2 weeks out from the race, thus giving myself a 2 week taper instead of 3 week. But again, I went into this training period knowing I’d have to adjust, and I was fine with the 2 week taper.

But then I failed to follow my usual taper plan.

2. Ignore the taper at the last minute.

Usually I try to spend taper time eating well, sleeping well, avoiding all alcohol and running easy. Well, my taper period before Buffalo was shortened to two weeks, which I spent hitting high miles and hitting the bar at my uncle’s wedding a week out from the race. Oops.

3. Wear brand new clothes that you’ve never run in before.

Ok this is just flat-out stupidity. Two days before heading upstate, I went shopping in hopes of finding cute summer sundresses to wear AFTER the race. Instead, I came home with cute summer running clothes, made of 100% cotton. And for some reason, thought it’d be a good idea to sport them on race day. My thought process at the time was “I’ve never had an issue with chaffing before, and this 100% cotton tank is loose-fitting. It won’t bother me at all”. The thought I should have had in response to that was, “Well genius, when have you ever attempted to run more than 6 miles in a straight-up cotton, much less 26.2 miles, much less on a hot summer day?”

My race photos were super matchy and cute. My underarms are still showing the battle wounds.

4. Experiment with new fuel. On the course.

I’ve heard horror stories of people trying out new fuel sources during training runs that end in projectile vomiting all over the side of Central Park. And yet, I thought it was a good idea to do something similar at mile 7 of my first-ever spring marathon. I deserve a trophy for smartest racer of the year.

In my short running history, I basically have always stuck to the same plan of small, simple breakfast prior to run (these days, its a Honey Stinger waffle) and a GU or two during the run, depending on the distance and how I’m feeling. Sometimes less, never more.

Well, just before I left for Buffalo a good friend of mine gave me a little “good luck” goodie back stocked with waffles, GUs and some Honey Stinger chews. I brought them along thinking at the very least, maybe I’d snack on some chews after the race, as me, the JD and my friend made our way to our post-race boat trip.

But when my friend dropped me at the starting line, I found myself still clutching my little bag of Honey Stingers. Never one to waste, I just held on to them, at this point thinking “well maybe I’ll want one along the course” or “maybe I’ll see a fellow runner in need and I’ll come to their rescue!” (no really, this thought crossed my mind. I’ve had a lot of running heroes in my day, and I wanted to reverse the roles for once I guess). Well just after I crossed the 10k mark I got really tired of carrying the little pouch. And for that reason alone, I opened it. And similar to how I can never have “just one” cookie or “just one” piece of candy. I ate the whole bag.

Afterwards I had that very girly moment of “why did I just eat all that? I wasn’t even hungry. That was stupid.” Turns out. It wasn’t so stupid. Because (and I credit this to those chews) I wound up having enough energy to bang out sub-8:50 all the way to mile 17 or so. Honey Stingers FTW.

5. Go out too fast.

This does not fit the rest of my unmistakes because no obvious good came from it at the end, but I still did something that most seasoned runners would “tsk tsk” at, so it makes the list. I told myself even as I was warming up before the gun that I could take this race as slow as I wanted. Afterall, my entire reason for signing up for it was to give myself a slower marathon than in Richmond, and create a mental buffer for New York.

And yet for some reason, I lined up with the 8:50 pace group. I told myself (are you noticing a trend here? I lie to myself. A LOT) that I could start out with them, see how I felt, but would likely drop back a few miles in. But of course a few miles in, I started to find my groove and pick up a little bit of a competitive edge. When I was still running just ahead of the 8:50 flag carrier at mile 6, it became my goal to avoid the lovely man holding it at all costs. A few times, around mile 8 and again at 11 or so, he and his posse got dangerously close. At the halfway point, he even got ahead of me, and I watched him hand off his pacer wand to the next runner. I surged ahead as fast as I could and from mile 13-17 played a game of rabbit, bouncing in front of and behind the 8:50 group. Eventually, I realized that there was no way I could keep surging on and off for another 9 miles, and started to see the group as an ally. They had pushed me through the first 17 miles, so I might as well make friends and let them carry me through the rest.

Some of us may know how the rest of the story goes. I made it to mile 20 in under 3 hours, and took that as a cue to calm down and take my time to a sub-4 finish. Could I have stayed with the 8:50 pace group? Maybe. But maybe I would have also wound up depositing those chews all over the course as well. I didn’t negative split. I didn’t even come close. But I tried something new, pushed myself hard, and shaved 5 minutes off my time. Lesson: while it’s not smart racing and it will never come recommended (and I can’t prove my finish would have been better or worse otherwise), I went out fast and it worked out pretty well.

Now that I’m (one CPR class away from being) a certified running coach, I know more than ever that not following my plan well, not taking the taper seriously, wearing new clothes, experimenting with new fuel and going out to fast are all poor tactics to recommend to anyone. And I likely never will.

I also know this sounds like I’m tooting my own horn in many ways. And that’s also not the case (count how many times I called myself stupid, I meant every one of them).

The point is again, that you are ALWAYS capable of surprising yourself.

You want to run a marathon? You don’t need to give up your life. You certainly don’t need to give up your wine. You don’t need to skip your best friends wedding to get in a long run. You don’t need to own the latest Lululemon tank or top of line sneaks to be able to run (but if you have a favorite brand I suggest sticking to it come race day…another unmistake I failed to mention). You don’t need to know what negative splitting means. You certainly don’t need to own a garmin. If you want to run a marathon, you just have to want to run a marathon. And then you can.

Oh, hi!

Remember the days when I actually used to write on my blog?? Yeah, they were good days. When I started back in July 2011 I was right in the beginning days of training for my first-ever marathon. I was jazzed about the idea of tackling 26.2 miles, and equally excited to gush about my training tales to you fine people. And I think I did a pretty good job of gushing and other talking via this ol’ wordpress account for a pretty long time. Up through, and even beyond The Marathon itself.

I wrote my race recap and then spent the next 14 days or so filling up my screen and (unfortunately for anyone who clicked on this link) the screens of my [2?] readers. The marathon/blogging high carried on, and even when I went out of the country for a week in December, I made sure that any [crazy] person wanting to get an update from marathonwinerworld has something to read for each day I was gone.

I’m not sure when I lost that mojo, but I’m sad I did.

Nearly two weeks ago (seriously, how does time fly SO fast?!) I ran my SECOND marathon, and shaved over FIVE minutes of my finishing time.

I had big plans to talk about that single event, for days and days and days. The PR was completely unexpected, and I wanted to bask in its glory for days and days afterwards. But its been days and days. And I have yet to tell you about the rest of my weekend in Buffalo (because I know you’re DYING to know about it), all of the Unmistakes that led to that lovely PR, my detailed breakdown of the course and plans for whats next.

Why have I failed to do so?

I guess I’ve been busy.

Work is a little hectic at the moment. And when I haven’t been working lately I’ve been lounging on the beaches of LBI, having lots of dates with runner friends, attending speed series in Brooklyn (and actually getting faster!), planning my trip to CT for Running Coach Certification next weekend and getting seriously pumped up about the Mini 10k and post-race brunch on Saturday.

So that’s that.

Basically a very long-winded way of letting you know that marathonwiner.wordpress.com is NOT going to turn into one of those blogs that you so sadly click on month after month hoping that there’s been some update in the last year, but really you know there’s not going to be. I’m going to get better. I’m going to explain my wacky talk about the “Unmistakes”. I’m going to get my gush on about Buffalo. And I’m going to get jazzed come July and training for marathon numero tres.

In the meantime, tell me what you’ve been up to! In the comments! Write ONE thing running related or work related or brunch related you’ve done in the last week. Do it. DO IT.

See you soon. I hope.

Pulling a PR Out of Left Field

Hello and happy Tuesday kids! I hope you all had an awesome Memorial Day Weekend…I know I sure did! The JD and I spent the last few days up in Buffalo, visiting a good friend, taking in the sights at Niagara Falls, attempting boating (and failing due to some rain), eating wings at the very establishment that created the Buffalo Chicken Wing, touring a winery and…oh yeah, completely unexpectedly PR-ing at the Buffalo Marathon. So let’s go ahead and jump to that very important portion of the weekend :)

I randomly made the decision to sign up for a spring marathon on a chilly day in late March, after I powered through my first 20-mile run in months. Armed with the confidence of finishing that distance, I convinced myself that I had more than enough of a base, and more than enough time to continue, to train for the Buffalo Marathon. It was between Buffalo and Vermont (which also took place this weekend), and Buffalo won out because it came with the benefit of being able to hang with and stay with a good friend of mine :)

While that 20-mile run gave me the confidence I needed to sign up, I still knew the chances of Buffalo being my A race were slim-to-none; the JD and I had four weekends of traveling around to various weddings, tied in with lots of visitors to our new apartment and other little weekend trips. Training would take second to social commitments this training cycle, and I was okay with that. In fact, I sort of preferred it that way. You see, I ran an amazing first marathon in Richmond in November 2011 and have a very intimidating 26.2 miles through NYC coming up on the calendar for November 2012. Buffalo was made to be a buffer between these two races. My thought was, if I ran a nice, easy race in Buffalo (thus finishing in a slower time than Richmond) than I wouldn’t be so crushed when my NY time was slower (which in my head, it inevitably WILL be).

But then I screwed up all that irrational thinking and planning and ran a freaking awesome race in Buffalo this weekend.

And PR’d by 5 minutes and 17 seconds.

EVERYTHING in Buffalo has a buffalo on it. No joke. But of everything from Buffalo that is stamped with a buffalo, this is my favorite.

So you’re probably wondering how I turned a B race that was supported by a lackluster training plan and a taper period filled with little rest and mucho vino into what is now one of the greatest races of my life (one of, because Richmond, as my first marathon will always hold a special place in my heart). So I’m going to tell you. In extreme detail. Better sit down, cause this is going to be a long one.

Saturday night, after a pretty exhausting day (in which I exerted myself WAY more than an intelligent person would/should on Race Day Eve…details on that later), the JD, my friend and hostess for the weekend and a few others headed to an Italian restaurant just outside of Buffalo, because shockingly enough, all of the Italian places IN the city were booked. But the lovely little place we ended up at turned out to be a real winner. I had the best bread and olive oil/herb/parm dipping sauce of my life, and followed with a safe yet delicious chicken parmesan entrée.

Full to the point of near-pain, I managed to get to bed around 10:30 or so on Saturday night, and to my surprise, slept pretty decently. This was a noticeable change from the Richmond marathon, where I’m pretty sure my nerves kept me up ALL NIGHT LONG.

I woke up on Sunday at around 5:45 and started getting into my race gear that I had laid out the night before. We’ll call this moment Unmistake #1.

On Friday afternoon I had ventured out in the city determined to pick up something fun and colorful to wear around Buffalo after the marathon. But because I’m a runnerd, I came home with a bag full of discounted workout gear from Old Navy, and not a single piece of real-person street clothing. And since I was still undecided as to what to wear on race day while packing Friday night, my bright and shiny new “Run to Live/Live to Run” tank and matching sports bra and shorts somehow ended up in my bag. I’ve been reading Runner’s World for long enough to know that wearing new anything on race day is a rookie mistake, but I figured I’ve run in enough Old Navy clothes over the years to know that I’d have no problem [spoiler: yes, I’d run in ON gear plenty of times…for about 3 miles at a time. Not 26.2. This would, in fact, become a problem].

Anywho, I got in my super matchy new outfit, covered a Honey Stinger waffle in PB, and eventually made my way toward downtown Buffalo. My friend is literally a 5 minute drive from the start line, and she was nice enough to drop me off with plenty of time to warm-up (read: do some half-assed stretching while standing in line for a last-minute portapotty stop) and get to my corral on time.

At this point, I was still telling myself (over and over to the point of annoying) that I could and WOULD run a nice easy race, but part of me still really wanted to attempt a sub-4. So I lined up in between the 3:40 and 3:50 pace group; my logic at the time was that I ALWAYS start out fast, so might as well start out with other fast people, and when I inevitably dropped back, I could still have a shot at running with the 4:00 pace group…

The first 6 miles of the course were awesome. I felt strong and we skirted the city and did a lot of running right along Lake Eerie. The temperature was perfect: cloudy but cool, and the lake provided a great breeze. I was proud of myself for taking in the sights, but even more proud of myself for staying ahead of the 3:50 pace group for so long.

As we veered off the scenic route to do a considerably ugly out and back for miles 6-12, the first elite runner was on his return. He was hitting mile 12 just as I passed mile 6–something that I always find a bittersweet combo of encouraging and depressing, haha. In this case though, I guess I found it slightly more encouraging, because I kept up my pace even as we ran past deserted old steel buildings, grated bridges (seriously, there was an ENTIRE bridge that was covered only in the annoying grates that you see above subway lines, and that I HATE stepping on, much less marathoning over) and a pretty desolate landscape overall. The motivation may have been aided by the fact that I also took fuel at this time–which was Unmistake #2. The veterans will ALWAYS warn not to try any new fuel or fueling methods come race day, but for some reason, during this training cycle I wasn’t wanting or using any fuel mid-run, other than a few sips at a water fountain when it popped up.  And in the past, I’d never popped a GU or otherwise prior to mile 9 (at the VERY earliest, but 14 was a much stronger go-to). So chomping on some Honey Stinger chews (a super sweet pre-marathon gift from Leticia) as early as mile 6 was brand new for me, but I knew if I wanted to keep splits under the 9-minute mark I was going to have to have stores of energy to pull from.

I knew the halfway point was coming closer, and I knew I was way ahead of myself with the pace I had been laying out–a thought that was quickly solidified as the 3:50 pace flag that had been light years behind me (slight exaggeration?) for the first 12 miles was suddenly RIGHT on my heels. A game of tag ensued in which I would surge for a little while to try to lose the lovely man, his stick and posse of speedy runner only to be caught by them moments later. Finally, just as we hit the split between the half marathon and full marathon routes, and the point at which a new pace leader jumped in to take over (umm hey Laura, is this the norm? because I thought all leaders were badass and led the whole run), I gave up and decided there was no way I could stay ahead of that particular crowd for another 13.1 miles.

I thought about completely dropping back, and doing the “nice, easy” race I had promised myself so many times. But then I thought, I busted out a half marathon with the 1:55 group and I’m still feeling strong…why stop now? So as they say…if you can’t beat em, join em! I jumped in alongside the small pack of people aiming for a 3:50 marathon.

*It should be noted that around this time, while overall I was feeling pretty strong, I was starting to curse my decision to wear a new tank (cotton nonetheless) on a day that was heavy with humidity, and my UA shoes (they carried me through a 22 mile training run, yes. But by mile 8 my feet were BEGGING for my Asics)

The next 7 miles actually went by pretty quickly. I split the time chatting with the pace leader and the few others that were left in the pack (though more and more were dropping out each mile that went by), silently cursing Buffalo for not having more/better water and aid stations (seriously, who gives out GU and waits 2 miles to dispense some water?) and attempting that trick that so many marathoners swear by–dedicating each mile to a different person in their life. I would pick a person, and try really hard to strum up some of my favorite memories with them, but could never focus for an entire mile–the stabbing pain in my sneaks and the nasty chafe marks under my arms were stealing the spotlight.

Just before the 20-mile mark (or what I assumed was the 20-mile mark–Buffalo was a bit lacking both in H20 and roadside signage) I started to slip away from the 3:50 pace group. It was a pretty sad and dramatic sight, at least in my head, watching the gap between me and that flag on a stick get larger and larger. I reminded myself that just before the 20-mile mark in Richmond I found myself going uphill and wanting to stop running altogether, but I didn’t. In Richmond, my friend was waiting for me at the top of that hill and I wanted her to see coming up it looking strong and happy. I didn’t have a hill or awaiting friend in Buffalo, but I still wanted to be strong and happy, so I dug deep and forced another surge. I caught up to the pack of paced runners and found out that we had hit the 20 mile mark in 2:56 (maybe even less give the lag at guntime). The 4-hour trick that my Central Park friend Paul had taught me was that if you can power through the first 20 in less than 3 hours, you can calm down and run a relaxed 10k to finish things out.

Around mile 21, I again started to drift away from the 3:50 pace group, but I didn’t mind. I thought back to Richmond and how, even while running with my best friend by my side, I was a hot mess. My stomach hurt and my legs were tired and I just wanted to walk and cry. I had hit the wall that I had heard so much about, but I had my friend to carry me through.

In Buffalo, I didn’t hit the wall. Sure I was tired, and my feet had been in agony for 13 miles, but because of Richmond, I knew I could and would get through all of it. And I could and would finish this second marathon strong, if not stronger.

Every time I found myself tempted to slow down to a snail’s pace or walk altogether, I told myself my feet were going to hurt whether I was walking or running, but if I ran I could lose the shoes faster and finish far more proud of myself, and I’d get a little pep in my step. This happened on and off from miles 21-24–I’d start to slowdown, give myself a little pep talk, and out of nowhere I’d be sprinting (well, chances are I wasn’t sprinting, but that’s what it felt like) again.

Buffalo is a much smaller race, and once the half marathoners (aka, most of the raceday crowd) split off, the road was pretty quiet, so I tried to channel my inner-Larry, and every time we came upon a group of sideline screamers or other random cheerers I made sure to say thank you to them. At mile 24, one of those “thank-you’s” sparked a conversation with a fellow runner. It took about 17 more miles, but I had found my Larry/Tracey of Buffalo. Fellow runner was on his 13th marathon–8th on the streets of Buffalo–and we decided to play rabbit for each other to finish things out.

Just before we saw the sign that read “25”, I told my new friend not to really feel obligated to stick things out with me, as I was pretty beat, and he told me I was crazy–I had it and he was sticking by me. We both agreed all we needed was a little crowd support and we’d be good to go. Just a few minutes later we rounded a corner and could hear the craze of the finish line. Our pace definitely picked up a good clip and we started making our way towards the roundabout that launch us to the end. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where I saw my hostess friend and the JD, who screamed my name and cheered me on (the JD wasn’t able to make it to Richmond, so this was an especially exciting moment for me). And while I was annoyed that you had to do a silly little circle to run that last .2 miles, it worked out well because the JD was able to snag a photo of me on the course (not posted because its pretty vomit worthy) and still jump over to get me as I crossed the finish line.

finish line fist pump: go

Me and my nameless new best friend, seconds after crossing the finish line. He thanked me for keeping him company. I thanked him for my new PR.

gross, covered in salt and in underarm pain from that adorable new outfit, but so, so happy.

A shiny new medal and a beautiful new PR of 3:52:37.

Much more to come on the rest of the weekend, further thoughts on the course and the marathon itself, what worked and didn’t work (or, the Unmistakes), the new day-after tradition, lamenting about how this PR totally killed all hopes of creating a “buffer” for NYC and plans to now PR that race, riding my marathon high for the next couple of days and much, much more marathon talk…don’t say I didn’t warn you :)

Marathon #2 in 2

The Buffalo Marathon is SO close.

As in, day after tomorrow.

I signed up for this race randomly, on a wintery March day, thinking “a late spring marathon would be fun” and “end of May is SO far away”

At least one of those thoughts was a flat out lie. The other, well…I’ll let you know how truthful it was come Sunday afternoon.

In the meantime, I’m floating back and forth between major freakout mode and “meh, it’s just another long run, like the THREE I did this training cycle”.

On the one hand, I know I can (and maybe should) take this race lightly, run slow and comfortable and just have a good time getting into the distance and preparing myself for NY. On the other hand, I know for a fact I’m going to be angry with myself if I don’t PR. And given the facts that I did not speed train AT ALL this cycle, my taper time involved more wine and less water than any other taper I’ve experienced, my legs mayyy still be a little tired/mad at me from that 60-mile week I pulled out of nowhere and the weather forecast is looking a little intimidating for Sunday…

Yes. I've run in rain before. And snow and lots of other uncomfortable condiitions. But not for 26.2 miles.I get that upstate NY considers anything higher than 60 degrees summertime weather. And I get that this is no Boston situation. But still. "Advisories" of any sort make me itch a little...

…it looks that Sunday’s experience could be the latter.

I want to stay positive and be happy with my time–no matter WHAT happens. And I’m going to try really, really hard to focus on doing that over the next 2 days.

But just in case…

Cross your fingers for ideal running conditions and a miracle of speed :)

Enjoy the long weekend kids! And good luck to everyone else running this weekend!!!

And the Countdown Begins

Before my 22 mile run a few weeks ago (has it really been that long?), I ate a peanut butter slathered Honey Stinger while reading my recap of my longest training run before The Richmond Marathon. I guess I found it inspirational and uplifting, because I made it through those 22 miles at a decent pace, all before the work day even began.

Today, after spending a little too much time fully acknowledging the fact that I’m running a marathon in 4 days and nearly peeing my pants due to nerves, I decided to see how I felt 4 days before running Richmond. That was a wee bit of a mistake.

Turns out, this time 6ish months ago, I had just come off a weekend of healthy eating and NYC marathon spectating. I said no to every offer of spectating beer (but don’t worry, I still agree cheering on the sidelines is exhausting and worthy of many brewskis), and said yes to giant cups of water. And I did not leave my apartment to go cheer on friends as they made their way up first avenue until I knew for sure which elites were first to cross the finish line. I was feeling good. I was feeling great! And I was so ready to take on my own 26.2.

On top of heading into marathon week on a high note, I was also starting a new job. Some may think that’s a lot to juggle at once, but as it turns out, I welcomed the distraction. Apparently I’ll take new job nerves over race day anxiety any day.

Unfortunately, my unhappiness at said job is now causing an unpleasant interruption in this race week. Remember all that whining over my poor eating habits (in the last 2 months I’ve officially went one–ONE–day without chocolate and/or sweets) and weight gain (see ya sub4, I certainly cannot carry this extra poundage for 26.2 miles and still cross the finish line with a 3 in front of my face) and whatnot? I’m 99% sure a chunk of that yes, comes from the ravenous hunger that always comes with marathon training, but the majority of it is anxiety/stress/depression fueled eating. And that, I can credit to my current work situation. Not cool. Not cool at all.

To that note, I did not cruise into this race week motivated and inspired by spectating. I rolled into it, in a food and wine-induced coma after a fantastic wedding weekend with my family in Arkansas (note: I have no regrets about this as it was an epic two days and I had a great time, but it certainly does not help the sluggishness I’m feeling four days out from toeing the start line).

So clearly, I’m still whiny. Sorry I didn’t offer you another disclaimer, but I guess you figured it out pretty early on anyway.

The good news is, Buffalo was never my A race. Buffalo was always meant to be a buffer before The Marathon (as Richmond will always be referred to) and the very intimidating, “A” race that is ING NYC. So I’m going to try my best to be happy with whatever my time is come Sunday.

And while it’s a little too late to be trying to improve on speed for this weekend, I know I want to really, strongly focus on speed for November. So I’m super excited that I signed up for a summer speed series with some awesome runner friends, and I’ll be venturing out to Brooklyn for my first 5k with them tonight!

Hope everyone’s having an awesome week!

Feel free to leave links to inspiring stories about running miracles where people hit their highest weight and had their slowest training cycle but ran their fastest race–maybe even came in first place, come marathon day. Much thanks in advance :)

*Note: after writing this super whiny/girly/downer of a post, I read this one of Meggie’s: http://thethinksicanthink.wordpress.com/

It made me feel better. So go read it too!

Whine whine whine

Warning: I’m a hot whiny mess people.

I told you yesterday all about my taper time slump.

It hasn’t gotten much better, except for the fact that I’ve managed to cover the mileage required by my coach, ol’ Hal.

I accidentally turned a 5-mile running tour into a 12 mile run this morning. Don’t worry-client didn’t sue, as their run was only accidentally extended by about .6 miles. Whereas mine (you know, the 4 miles suggested by Mr. Higdon and anyone else with a brain who knows anything at all about tapering), was accidentally extended by about 8 miles. Sidenote: while I know (as per usual) this was a stupid, silly accident, it did feel good to be out running on a beautiful morning. And I enjoyed it, unlike the other few miles I’ve covered this week. I really enjoyed being outside and moving…definitely a good sign a week out from a marathon…

Yesterday I managed to squeeze in a 4-mile run before an evening work event, and this after finally letting my legs get the therapy they deserve via spin class yesterday morning. Look at me! I’m working out. Excellent!

Only not.

I still cannot get a grip on my eating habits.

No people, don’t reach for your phones and start recommending me to doctors and rehab groups. I’m normally 100% happy with my eating habits, weight and overall lifestyle. But for whatever reason, during this stupid taper, I am the OPPOSITE of normal marathonwiner. And normal marathonwiner usually gets the taper crazies, but more in the “I want to run all the time but let me have a healthy snack before and after and it’s all good” sort of way. Current marathonwiner has ZERO desire to run and MUST follow EVERY meal, snack, sip of water with dessert. I’m not kidding. If you look for chocolate in my apartment right now you won’t find it, because I ate it all.

It’s making my non-running, whiny self feel even more sluggish and sad. And it’s not cool.

I’ve got a wedding this weekend that I’m really looking forward to. I want to have a great time. And I want to FEEL great.

I also want to feel confident going into next week.

Why’s that you ask?

Oh, because next week is Race Week.

I need to get my act together. And fast.

I want whole foods, healthy foods. And only in the amount that I need to fuel and quench my hunger. Not an entire bag of processed Pirates Booty because its “only XX calories” per serving and there’s “only XX servings per bag” and well, Boy Meets World does have double headers on right when I go home for my lunch break so I need something to do while I watch…that is not the right way to prepare for 26.2 miles. Not the right way at all.

Okay. Whinefest over.

Can’t wait to get through a long day of traveling tomorrow to be with my fam for what is sure to be an amazing wedding weekend :)

Have a good Thursday, kiddos!



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