Eye of the Tiger

Slowly but surely, I ran a marathon. 26.2 miles criss crossing Washington D.C. and Arlington, VA with 23,529 other crazy people. I finished in 5:05 which is good – hey I finished my first marathon! – but slower than I was secretly hoping. (The winner? Finished in 2:20. Whoa.)

The Marathon
I held a steady 10:30 pace until mile 18. I was stoked that I was going to finish around 4:30. But that joy wasn’t compensating for the increasing pain in my hip. By mile 20, I couldn’t even run a full mile without taking a walk/stretch break. Lifting my leg was excruciating. I did manage to run the final 1.2 miles non-stop, high fives from a group of Navy men helped, so did the long line of high fives from Marines right at the finish line. There were some military men and women running with their rucksacks – I can only imagine how difficult that must have been. I ran among people with amputated limbs, and again, I willed myself to keep going.

Thankfully, R was there on the sidelines cheering me on throughout the course – miles 2, 11, 16, 22, 24. By the end, getting to him was all that was keeping me moving.

So much else that I can hardly keep it all straight. Meeting another runner who had won 2 marathons and run 22 of them. People just going pee on the side of the road. All the cheering and funny signs (“If it were easy, it’d be the Army 10.” “Make this marathon your bitch” which I like to assume is a Breaking Bad reference.) Running past the Washington Monument and Arlington Cemetery. Knowing that I beat Katie Holmes’ marathon time but not Oprah’s. A giant tele-tubby on the sidelines. Drum lines and rock bands. Kids sticking out their hands for high-fives. The shirts that said “My Dad is a Marine” and “Once a Marine, Always a Marine.” All the incorrect Hoo-rah-ing by civs (it’s Oo-rah!)

Hurricane Sandy
Oh yeah, luckily the hurricane didn’t hit until Sunday evening. The race was cool and a little windy, but thankfully, there was no rain and no gusts. Worrying about the weather definitely toyed with me mentally. Riding on the bus on Saturday, our return bus was cancelled and so we had to scramble to find lodging and transit options. I considered whether we should just turn back to get home. Not exactly how I wanted to spend the night before a big race. But it all turned out fine. (Although we didn’t get back to Brooklyn until Wednesday afternoon.)

The Recovery
I was hurting later in the day, but was still mobile. I had been so excited to be done with it, that I forgot to stretch afterwards, that came back to bite me in the ass on Monday (the day after the race.) Turns out running uses a lot of back muscle, because whoa, my back was hurting. I also spent a half day thinking I had lost all the cartilage in my left knee (an exaggeration, but it did really hurt.) A few days later, I’m good as new – sort of, a few cracks and unexpected surprises, but more or less back to normal.

And a Mighty Hearty Thank You
Thanks to everyone who’s run with me over the past two years. I couldn’t have done it without you. Seriously. From my brother dragging me way too far all over Santa Barbara to running with D in San Francisco through the rain like bad asses. Running with J on the South Beach boardwalk and running Portland’s bridges with M. I’ve gotten to run in so many great places – Brooklyn, Central Park, Ithaca, Scituate, Santa Monica, Austin, Denver, the Bahamas, and more. I’m really lucky, and I love running. After the marathon, I said never again. But two days later and I’m ready for my next one.

The race finishes at the US Marine Corps War Memorial and runners can have their photos taken with the Iwo Jima memorial statue. Rather than trying to beat the crowds on race day, I opted to do my photo the day before.

At packet pick-up with the Marine Corps bus.

R’s super awesome sign for me!

4:45am wake-up call. I am ready!

R’s awesome photo of the Lincoln Memorial. I only got to see the back of the building.

The Washington Monument and reflecting pool.

With my marathon medal!

Eye of the Tiger

Run Report: Baltimore 10-Miler

I was nervous going into the Baltimore 10-Miler. Even though I was coming off a great 10K race the week before, I knew my training wasn’t right for a 10 miler, nor such a hilly course. But I tried to go into it with the best attitude possible.

The night before, I had laid my outfit out, pinned my bib to my shirt, had gone through my training logs to get myself pumped, and settled in for an early night. Too bad the room next door hadn’t gotten the memo. They were having a party cramming too many people and too much alcohol in a single room.

I considered asking to change rooms, but I didn’t want to have to go through my pre-race, pre-sleep ritual all over. I sucked it up and threw a pillow over my head. A girl left the room shouting, “I’ll be back bitches!” and I knew I was in for a long night.

My alarm went off at 5:30am, and I contemplated staying in bed. I was still sore from my double dose of P90X two days previous. Alas, I got up, scarfed down half a bagel with peanut butter and sipped on two cups of coffee — probably one too many.

I hopped the bus to Druid Hill Park. I chatted some with an off-duty police woman. Her and the bus driver wished me luck. Thankfully, I rode the route the day before and knew exactly where to get off, that helped calm my nerves.

The lake was beautiful as the sun was rising and the dew glistening. I grabbed a bench overlooking the lake and meditated in the sunshine, absorbing and reflecting the energy and nerves of the 6,000 other runners around me.

It was getting close to time, so I made my way through all the scantily clad people towards my corral. They played the Star Spangle Banner and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a crowd be so quiet — maybe because Baltimore is still heavily Catholic, maybe because Francis Scott Key wrote the anthem only a few miles away from where we were standing, who knows, but it was the calm before the storm.

The Race
The race started and I immediately had stomach pains. Oh shit, I thought. My big worry was that because I hadn’t trained properly, I wasn’t ready for anything longer than 60 minutes, nutrition and drinking-wise. My plan was just to wing it, and that clearly wasn’t a good idea.

I stuck with the 1:35 finish pace group, but was having a hard time pulling it together. After 2 miles, I decided to run my own race and moved away from them. By mile 3, I was utterly surprised to be ahead of them. But I figure if this pace is what feels natural and good, I’ll just keep doing that. The race is fairly boring until about mile 4-6, when you go around Lake Montebello. I love running by the water. I also love the moment of being half-way done.

Nothing too exciting, I followed behind a young Rasta man (presumably from his shirt and dreads) and an older woman for awhile. I passed a man who was juggling the race, that seems to be a thing now. An older short gentleman who was carrying the U.S. flag with him as he ran. Overall, just a lot of single people trying to keep their heads up as they charged into the hills.

The hills weren’t so bad actually. The start of the race is all downhill, which can mentally defeat you knowing that the last two miles are basically all hill and no relief. Around mile 8, the pace group caught up and passed me. I was bummed, but was determined to finish no matter the time. At this point my stomach was a roller coaster, and I couldn’t decide if I should stop and grab a bathroom or try drinking something. Thanks to my lack of practice, I didn’t have a solution, so I did nothing.

It was getting hot and my legs were starting to falter. I started to notice that with each pounding foot, my knees were getting a jolt of hard pavement. Every now and then a breeze would come through and I’d end up covered in goosebumps (a bad sign of dehydration). Once we got back into the park the size of the crowd started to pick up, so I was grateful for that.

I only had a mile left and I wasn’t sure I was going to make it! But running through the park brought back a lot of positive memories – playing tennis and riding my bike – so I found that ‘thing’ deep inside and chugged on. Sadly, there was no strong, triumphant finish. Only me shuffling my feet across the finish line as the emcee announced my crossing (that was actually pretty exciting and lifted my spirits.)

Across the finish line there were snacks (chips and peanuts), but more important ice cold towels and watermelon! These two things are the best things ever, and every race should end with them. I stood around and stretched and then got my race premium, which is this badass white Under Armor track jacket. It is well worth the price of the race and the hilly course.

I had to book it after the race was over, since I wanted to get back to my hotel with enough time to shower before checkout. Unfortunately, the bus was taking too long to show up, so I opted to just run the 2 miles back to the hotel. It wasn’t too bad actually, given that it was all downhill!

My official time: 1:36:29.86, 9:39 per mile.
Kind of funny, my pace for the first half? 9:26, not bad. My pace for the last half? 9:52. Yikes!

Before and after photos. That thing around my neck is the ice towel.

Run Report: Baltimore 10-Miler

30×30 Update: #18 Down

On Sunday, I flew down to Miami Beach to visit J and also to run the Miami Half-Marathon. Yayyy.

It wasn’t my best run — I finished in 2:33:31 — but considering my knee injury back in October, I’m just glad I got to run and finish. Part of me wanted to blow this 30×30 out of the water and go straight for the marathon, but nevertheless, life tripped me up and rather than exceed, I only met my goal. Such is life. I have plans to run more half-marathons over the spring and summer and then the DC Marine Corps Marathon in October. Cross your fingers for me.

That’s me post run with my medal above. Oh and the medal is AWESOME, it’s heavy and it spins. Super cool.

It was hard training for this considering that Brooklyn is cold right now. I still managed to put in a few runs a couple of times a week, but it’s hard to go for a long run when your legs are going numb. In my training log, one run reads, “Cold as FUCKKKK!!!!” Before the half, my longest run was about 5.5 miles in an hour. So, to then run 2.5 times that long, well, it’s not easy. But I made it through. I also managed to get the worst blisters I’ve ever had in my whole life. I’ll spare you the photo.

Miami’s Half is actually pretty nice. It takes you from downtown Miami across the Causeway to Maimi Beach (where J and some friends were there to cheer me on) across the Venetian bridges back to downtown Miami. So like 10 miles of it are along the water and it’s really nice. I was hoping for a beautiful sunrise but it was overcast, which is probably for the best given that the temps were in the 60s and rising at 7:00 am. Not a lot of cheering sections either which was a bit of a bummer.

Also for future notice, always check a race’s start time. This one started at 6:00 am. Say what? Yeah, which means waking up at 4:00, to leave at 4:30, get to the race, eat, in the corral by 5:30. That was something I was unprepared for. I am not an early bird. I wonder if there are night races.

Anyway, overall, it was totally fantastic and cannot wait to do another race, and to get out there and run this weekend. Yay.

30×30 Update: #18 Down