Eight Days, Two Races – 39.3 miles

Miscellaneous

There was once a time when I thought two miles was a far distance to run. There was also once a time when I thought five miles was even longer and harder to run. The past week has been insane. I can’t even wrap my head around how far I’ve come as a runner. In eight days I ran my very first full marathon and then a half marathon. In those eight days, two races have changed everything for me as an athlete. psalm26.2

I feel like the marathon was a dream. Did it actually happen? I kept telling myself to live in the moment as I ran. I couldn’t believe this dream was actually happening. I’ve wanted to run a marathon since high school, but I was never a dedicated enough runner. In December of last year, I sat staring at the computer screen of a half marathon registration. At that time the longest I had ever ran was five miles. It took everything I had to press submit on that computer screen and then to stick to a grueling 12-week training schedule. Who knew that less than a year later I would have been standing on the starting line of the 2013 Akron Marathon. I wouldn’t have believed you back in December. It’s absolutely insane how far I’ve come as an athlete and grown as a person on this incredible running journey.

I read something online the other day that said “The person who starts the marathon is not the same person who finishes.” I couldn’t agree more to this statement. Everything changes for you as a runner after a marathon.

akron alarm clock

My alarm.

I woke up the day of the marathon at 3:35 a.m. I was scared and excited beyond belief. Would I survive? Would I cross the finish line? What was it going to be like? With my stomach doing back flips, I drove to meet the group of people I was going with. I started the beginning of the race with one of my childhood best friends, Nicole. She was running the first leg of the relay of the marathon to 3.9 miles. If you know anything about me you’ll know that I despise the first four or five miles of every long run, so it was awesome to have a friend there to get me through those terrible first miles. The beginning of the race actually flew by as Nicole and I chatted and cracked jokes. Even as she split off at her relay end I was surprised by how easy it was to continue. Somewhere in between trying to live in the moment and taking in the giant crowd around me, I forgot what mile I was on. I estimated I was probably around six. I looked up to see mile eight a few minutes later and greeted it with a giant grin. I felt great. The crowd was awesome. The signs were hilarious and inspiring. I even took a marshmallow from a local church passing out water and other treats to runners.

flex race

Just flexing by myself around mile 11.

I continued on the route knowing two things. We were going to run four miles on wooded trails at some point and there were hills at mile 18.5 and 22. The trails started off OK, but by the end I was itching to get out because I was beginning to feel claustrophobic. Nicole had called me on the trails and I heard spectators laughing as I ran by as I picked up the phone “Oh hey.” I said casually into the phone at mile 13.1. Nicole told me that was going to meet me at mile 21 and run me into the finish line. I continued on. At mile 17 I began to slow down. There was a huge lack of crowd support and I was becoming increasingly bored. I spotted an open port-a-potty at mile 18 and took advantage. The only thing that began to keep me going was the thought of gaining a companion again at mile 21. When I reached 18.5, I encountered the toughest hill I had ever witnessed as a runner. Even mentally preparing myself didn’t help. I don’t think I saw a single person running it. I got about half way up and realized I was burning a mass amount of energy and power walked (full arm swing and everything) the second half.

At mile 20 I found myself running behind one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever seen. The image will be burned into my memory forever. A man was pushing a running stroller carrying a handicapped man. (Find the full story here.) It was incredible to see how happy the handicapped man was and how hard the man pushing the stroller was working. I followed the stroller duo into the neighborhood part of the route and the crowd’s cheers and reactions to the two men was an amazing thing to witness. People were shouting and clapping and standing up from their seats as the man and the stroller pasted by. I don’t know if it was just my emotions or my exhaustion or what, but I began to cry every time people started clapping and cheering for the stroller in front of me. It got to the point where I practically started hyperventilating because I was crying and running and couldn’t breathe. I made the decision to hurry up and pass the stroller team just so I wouldn’t pass out. As I ran passed I peaked inside the stroller and caught a glimpse of the man inside. He was grinning from ear to ear and waving to the crowd as he passed.

singmarathonAt mile 21 words cannot describe how happy I was to see Nicole standing below the mile marker waiting for me. At that point I didn’t feel good, but I still had some juice left in me. We saw my mom and the boyfriend at 21.5. Tears began to swell up in my eyes. I was just so happy to see them and I was so tired. I smiled, waved and continued running. When we reached mile marker 22, the race took a different turn for me at that point. I joke that mile 22 was when I started screaming. This is true and funny now, however at the time during the race I had hit pure exhaustion and pain. I have never had knee issues. Even after 12 years of playing sports (and being a catcher in softball) my knees never bothered me. But by mile 22 at the marathon I had full on shooting knee pains like I’ve never experienced. My back also hurt. My glutes hurt. My toes were aching and rubbing themselves raw against my shoes. Music wasn’t even helping to motivate me anymore and every few minutes I would just scream at the top of my lungs. Suddenly all around me the majority of runners were starting to limp, groan and drastically slow down. I knew that this was probably the make-you-or-break-you part of the race. I don’t even know what I told myself to keep going. I don’t even know how I continued.

running

Not even sure if I had a pulse here.

We passed a sign at mile 23 that said “It’s just a 5K now.” I screamed at the sight of the sign. Suddenly I felt a runner next to me. “Keep your head up. Run smooth. Move your arms. Let your legs carry you. You got this.” said a man with gray hair as he passed Nicole and I. I nodded and began repeating out loud the exact same thing the man had just said. I don’t know how long I said it or how loud I was even talking. I was vaguely aware of Nicole saying “You got this girl” over and over next to me. Somehow I found myself at mile 25. As we ran I knew there was a crowd around us, but unlike before I didn’t even look at them. I heard people shouting encouragements, but I wasn’t aware of what they meant anymore. I saw other runners limping all around me. We twisted and turned down roads and around the buildings of downtown Akron. It felt like I was running through a dizzy maze. Every corner we turned I was praying to see mile 26. The crowd was getting louder…

akronstadium

What the finish line looked like.

finishline2

Nicole encouraging me, but I probably wasn’t running very fast!

Suddenly I spotted mile marker 26 and below it was the straight away leading into the Akron Aeros Stadium where the finish line waited. Nicole kept shouting “Just sprint the .2 miles come on! Come on!” I knew I had picked it up considerably those .2 miles, but in reality it probably wasn’t very fast. We turned a corner, ran down a tiny hill and into the stadium to the sound of a giant crowd and the actual straight away to the giant finish line. The big screen showed a close-up of the runners as they entered the stadium. It was like being a rock star for 10 seconds. I was dying as I attempted to sprint. I crossed the finish line and for the first time in 4 hours and 44 minutes I came to a complete stop. I stared at the ground with my hands on my knees, suddenly becoming aware of my limbs aching in pain. I heard my mom and boyfriend yelling from near by and looked up and saw them in the stadium waving wildly and taking pictures.

I limped over to the recovery area and as I looked around, seeing thousands of runners flopping onto the ground, hugging, high-fiving, I couldn’t even believe I had done it. In fact, I still can’t believe I did it. It may have taken me 4 hours and 44 minutes, but looking back it seemed like one bright, shinning moment. It didn’t last very long, but it was simply incredible. It was amazing, yet the hardest, toughest thing I had ever done.

finish line

The finish line!

Afterwards, I could barely walk and my toes were raw. It took a couple days for me to even be able to wear shoes again. Grossly, my toe nails turned purple from bruising. (Needless to say I need to invest in a better pair of running shoes.)

rnrnicoleandi

We look happy, but secretly we are in pain in this picture!

Three days after the race I was up at 6 a.m. running my normal four miles and by day 5 I felt great. On the 8th day after the marathon, I set out at 4:30 a.m. for downtown to run the Rock and Roll Cleveland Half Marathon. A few people called me crazy since I wasn’t fully healed from the marathon, but I felt good. This time I was running the race with both Nicole and the boyfriend. Nicole joked that once you run a full marathon your body is never the same. I didn’t really believe her until mile 6 of the half, when my sharp knee pains from the marathon were suddenly back. The course was incredibly hilly, so that didn’t help either. It hurt just as bad going down hill as it did going up. By the end of the race, all three of us were screaming and groaning from our injuries.

The boyfriend and I sprinted in the last .5 miles even though we were hurting pretty bad. It didn’t make much of a difference though because we finished in 2:25. Our PR from May’s half marathon was 2:20, so we weren’t particularity happy with our time, but we WERE overjoyed that it was the end of the race!

At that point my body was aching and screaming. I could barely walk. Even as I sit and write this three days later, I’m still limping from my knee. I have Plantar Fasciitis in my right foot, which causes me a lot of pain to walk and wear shoes. My toe nails are still gross with blisters and bruises. I don’t regret a thing though. I wear my injuries proudly as a matter-of-fact. I haven’t worked out one day this week. I’ve also allowed myself to not diet or worry about calories either. It’s been a nice mental break, however typical superwoman me is already itching to get back into the gym and go for a run. I’m trying to rest and recover this entire week, maybe, MAYBE I’ll go for a short run on Saturday…

rnrhandfinishline

The boyfriend and I painfully crossing the 13.1 finish line together.

Those eight days felt like a complete dream to me. A dream that was torture at times, yet so sweet and amazing that it makes you want to go back for more. It’s bittersweet really. It’s incredible and life changing, yet crushing and scary and painful. It breaks your heart, yet you’ve never felt so alive when it’s done.

I’ve already looked at other marathons and longer races, but I think it’s probably best to take it easy for a little now. This year (and especially this summer) has been such a journey for me. I’m beyond proud of myself and beyond proud of others who run these marathons. It’s truly an experience. It’s a test of character, dedication and mental willpower.

Like that saying says about not being the same person who finishes the race. You really can’t be the same person after finishing a marathon. It changes everything.

Chasing the Dog Days of Summer.

Miscellaneous

What a fabulous weekend! I have had four glorious days off work — including tomorrow, too! Woo-hooooo. I have been quite the little outdoorsy girl on my mini vacay. I have been obsessed with squeezing the last remaining summer out of the next couple weeks, so I took my little break very seriously.

This past week I was on the cabbage soup cleanse, except not so much cabbage soup, however. I nixed the soup after day three, (it’s so terrible) and was still able to lose seven pounds — also while cutting the cleanse shorts two days! I have a goal weight in mind and to motivate myself, I bought a very expensive (but very pretty) Michael Kors bag. My reward and deal to myself is that I get the bag when I reach my goal weight. Stay tuned for that because this old girl still has six more pounds to shed. Until then, the pretty little bag stays hidden in the boyfriend’s closet at his place. (Cue the sad music.)

On Saturday, the rents and I made an adventure out of driving to Huntington Beach in Bay Village. The beach is award winning, clean, beautiful and offers a stunning view of downtown Cleveland in the distance. We stopped in Downtown Willoughby for dinner afterwards (hence, cutting my week-long cleanse off.) I opted for a burger and a beer, which was not to go unnoticeably awesome after eating straight fruits and veggies all week.

Dad and I just being clowns like usual.

Dad and I just being clowns like usual.

On Sunday, I was determined to go for a long bike ride to switch up my work out. After failing to get a companion to join me in the light rain that day, I set out on my own. I ended up being super happy about not having anyone with me because I decided to ride 27 miles and didn’t have anyone else to worry about. I cranked up my iPod and enjoyed myself. Note to self: Do that more often.

About half way through my ride I stopped for a photo opt.

About half way through my ride I  stopped for a photo opt.

Sunday also called for a BBQ at the boyfriend’s house, which was a great time filled with Dance Revolution Two and a lot of trampoline bouncing. I felt like a little kid and loved every minute of it.

Today, Labor Day, I joined a group of 15 people on a canoeing trip. Half the group opted for a 7 mile kayak ride while the other a 10 mile canoe ride. Feeling like my normal superwoman self, I chose the 10 mile canoe.

And wow, did I underestimate that! Canoeing 10 miles is HARD. We looked up online how many calories each of us burned (my group had 9) and the calculator said I burned around 2,500 calories. I believe it too because my shoulders, back and arms are killing me! Great workout though, but really tough, especially with the hot sun beating down on you.

Some of the fearless canoers

Some of the fearless canoers.

The boyfriend and I let the canoe coast while we ate fruit salad. We coasted into these lily pads, which our guide kindly let us know was probably infested with leeches.

The boyfriend and I let the canoe coast while we ate fruit salad. We coasted into these lily pads, which our guide kindly let us know was probably infested with leeches.

Of course I also had to get up early and run this morning before the canoeing adventure. So on the ride home I convinced everyone how many calories we had all burned and tempted everyone into stopping for pizza and beer. The calories were well spent.

Tomorrow I start back on my healthy eating though. After walking to get ice cream with my mom after we got home from canoeing, I stopped up at the grocery store and bought fruits and veggies with a heavy heart. Except I am kinda excited to try and get to my goal weight this week because I want my Michael Kors bag so, so, so bad! It was a good cheat couple of days, but back to the grind tomorrow. I’m getting up early to run seven miles up on the all-purpose trail and then stopping up to see my grandma, since I am of course the favorite grandchild…

Now I am sitting here in my pajamas drinking wine after a great couple of days. We are feeling the aftermath of hurricane Isaac tonight up here in Northeast, Ohio. I know I’ll sleep well tonight even with the storm.

Hope your weekend and Labor Day was as well spent as mine — on both time spent doing fun things with friends and family and calories spent on great food!

Keep running!

You Just Gotta Keep Going.

Miscellaneous

I’ve been good about getting to the gym.

Last week I racked up 23 miles. The week before that I put 26.6 miles on my Nike’s.

I get on the treadmill around 6:15 a.m. and force myself to stay on until about five after seven. It’s terrible waking up at 5:50 a.m. but it makes a great start to my day, plus after a long day at the office and class there’s no way I’m going to the gym at night. (Please, I’d have to wait 45 minutes for a treadmill, then get kicked off 30 minutes later by some girl wearing a matching sweatsuit — who will then proceed to text on her phone the entire time she has the treadmill while walking on a .5 incline at 2.5 miles per hour.)

I’m convinced that the real athletes hit the gym in the early morning.

Everyone’s super serious and focused at 6 a.m. and I can run for 50 minutes and not be bothered or annoyed once. Plus there’s something tranquil about starting a run looking out at the dark world and slowly seeing the sun come up, casting orange and yellow rays of light through the giant gym windows. (This picturesque scene is happening as I’m dying and gasping for breathe on the treadmill while trying not to blow chunks in the garbage can.)

Regardless, today was a break-through day of running. (Don’t you love when that happens?) I found it easy to run 4.6 miles and was pleasantly surprised as I looked down at the treadmill screen and saw my PR time down by nearly six minutes. I have been aiming for anywhere in the four mile mark lately. Some days it has been really discouraging though. I’d like to be able to run six or seven miles comfortably everyday, so I get frustrated that I have to force myself to run just four some days. But today was a good run because A. It wasn’t painful and I wasn’t counting down every second and B. My time was down  — a small victory in my books.

Oh and it didn’t hurt that I burned 526 calories either. (You better believe I’m eating ice cream later, or cracking open that Corona that’s in my fridge…kidding. Well, kinda.)

I just want to keep getting faster and stronger. It can be really discouraging not being able to run as much and you want to, but when you have little break-through moments like today, it really makes the hard work worth it.

But I’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of me.

I’ve been throwing around the idea in my head about running the Cleveland half marathon on May 20. More on that race can be found here.

On days I want to die after my workout I think the 10K is more realistic. I want to run the half so bad, but when it’s a challenge to run 4 miles some days, that’s when I get frustrated. I tell myself I’ll get faster and stronger if I keep at the training schedule, but I just want to hurry up and be ready and able to run 13.1 miles right now!

Who knows what I’ll end up doing. I’m supposed to go to a wedding the same day of the race, but we’ll see how everything plans out.

For now, I just need to keep running.

P.S. I love this …