Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Returning Warrior ..... And Michele!

On Saturday, Jay and I ran The Returning Warrior 10-Miler Race. After the Halloween 13K last weekend, we almost immediately decided to sign up for another race. I thought that I was ready to sign up for another race, but I was honestly not too excited about running 10 miles. Since the Buffalo Marathon, which was at the end of May, I have only run 8 miles a total of three times and I have only had a few 6 mile runs. I have been running a lot still, but I have not been doing a lot of distance running. I did not feel well-prepared for a distance race so I was not sure how well this race was going to go.

If you have followed my blog, then you know that I was having trouble bouncing back from the marathon. I did not write too much about why I was having so much trouble because I am not one to share too much of my personal life on my blog. This is a blog about my running adventures and not about my personal life. However, some health issues have been affecting my running and that is why it was so hard for me to really get back into running. As the new school year and cross country season began, the stomach issues progressively got worse and my body was telling me that it was time to cut back on the running. I chose to ignore what my body was telling me and continued running quite a bit. I got to the point where it just did not feel good to run and I knew that it was time to listen to my body.

Last week, I decided that it was time for my body to take a break from all of the running. I knew that it could not be a good thing to have your stomach hurt so much during a run and after a run all of the time. Since I had taken the entire week off from running, I was a little nervous about this race on Saturday. I decided that I was not going to set a goal for myself for this race because I am pretty sure that running too hard and too fast all of the time has contributed to the problem. I told Jay that I wanted to maintain a pace of around 10:00 min/mi and I was expecting to finish the race between 1:40 and 1:45. I knew that this race would be a lot easier on my body if I did not push it too hard.

Saturday was nice and cool and it certainly was a beautiful day for a race. There were about 350 runners in the race, but about half of the runners were in the 5 mile race and the other half of the runners were in the 10 mile race. I was majorly impressed with how well this entire race was organized. The course was very well marked and there were even clocks at most of the mile splits, which was nice to be able to track your progress. The race followed a 5 mile loop in Otsiningo Park so the 10 milers had to run 2 of the 5 mile loops. The other thing that I loved about this course was the fact that you ran back up some of the same paths that you ran down. It was awesome to be able to see the people running in front of you and behind you. I even got to see Jay and high five him a couple of times.

I decided to start the race in the back of the pack because I knew that I would be slower. When the race began, I turned on MapMyRun so that I could get voice feedback at every mile. I wanted to have the feedback so that I could be sure that I was running a pretty decent pace. As I ran the first couple of miles, I slowly began to pass people and that is my favorite thing about starting in the back of the pack. I did not even feel like I was running that fast, but I was maintaining a pace well below 10:00 min/mi. When we reached the 5 mile mark, the 5 milers crossed the finish and the 10 milers continued running. I hit the 5 mile mark at 47:46 and I could not believe that I was running so fast. I was not sure that I was going to be able to maintain that pace for another 5 miles, but I was feeling pretty good. I ended up finishing the race in 1:35:47 and was extremely happy with how well I did.

The Returning Warrior 10-Miler was the first race since the Buffalo Marathon that I did not feel awful during or after the race. I have run a couple of times since then and I finally feel pretty well again when I am running. I think that cutting back and taking a break from running was exactly what my body needed. I am going to run a little bit more conservatively for the next couple of months to give my body time to fully bounce back. I plan to have no running plan over the next couple of months. I might still do a race or two, but I am not going to do way too much running like I have been. I am finally feeling good again, but I am going to listen to my body from now on when it comes to running. It might take some time, but Michele the runner is making her comeback!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Tale of Jason & Michele: The Running Couple

About 5 months ago, Jason's sister Amy decided that she wanted to play matchmaker for her brother and I. I work with Amy and we quickly became friends last year when she began running. Amy and I would talk about running or she would ask for running tips. Amy and Jason both ran their first 5K at the Bridge Run this past spring so Amy knew that Jason and I both had running in common. I ran the half marathon at the Bridge Run again this spring and then I ran my first marathon just 3 weeks later. Jason and I first began talking the day after I ran the Buffalo Marathon.

When we began talking, I did not want Jason to think that I was some elite runner because I had just ran my first marathon. The truth is that I am quite the opposite of an elite runner. I have run several 5K's and 10K's, a few half marathons and even a full marathon. I am just your average runner who worked really hard and overcame a lot of running obstacles to train for and run a full marathon. I am no special runner and I will admit that I am not even that fast of a runner. I am just a regular runner who enjoys running and setting running goals to accomplish. I would definitely say that running the Buffalo Marathon might just be the biggest running goal that I'll ever accomplish and that is good enough for me.

If you followed my marathon training, then you would know that I had some major runner burnout after the Buffalo Marathon. I had no desire to run for quite awhile and half of the time going out and running did not even feel that great. I knew that all I needed was some time to bounce back from the marathon both physically and mentally. Since Jason and I began talking right after the marathon, I used my evenings after work to talk to Jason non-stop instead of going out running. We went on our first date about a week and a half after we first started talking and we really hit it off. Jason and I went on a few more dates and we have been happily dating ever since.

There are many things that I love about Jason and our relationship. One of the things that I love the most about our relationship is the fact that we grew to know each other so well through hiking and running. One of our very first dates was going hiking on the trails at the nature preserve at Binghamton University. Over the summer, hiking became our regular weekly or bi-weekly thing to do. We went to many different state parks around the area and we would spend 3 or 4 hours at a time hiking. We were able to spend time getting to know each other so well over these hikes. I loved that hiking gave us a break from the busy, technologically-dependent society that we live in. It was so nice to be able to spend an extended period time with each other instead of our cell phones. I loved just talking with Jason for hours and exploring the trails and waterfalls at these beautiful state parks.

I love the fact that Jason and I were able to spend the summer staying fit and active together. As the summer continued, I slowly got back into running and even started biking too. I was beginning to run pretty consistently again and at the same time Jason began to start running pretty consistently too. If you know Jason or I, you know that we are both competitive people and the competitive side came out of both of us in running this summer. If I went out for a 6 mile run one day, then Jason would go out for a 7 mile run that day or the next day. If Jason went out for an 8 mile run one day, then I would go out for a 9 mile run that day or the next day. We spent the entire summer always trying to outdo one another when it came to running, but it was definitely not a bad thing for either of us. Jason runs at a much quicker pace than I do so the competitiveness always came out in the distance of the run. If Jason and I had not been trying to keep up with one another in running all summer, then I think that neither of us would have done much running all summer.  By the end of the summer, Jason and I were both in the best shape that we had ever been in and we had running and hiking to thank for that.

Coaching cross country helped me stay in such great shape all fall and I continued to see improvements in my running pace. Since I had fallen in love with running again and was ready to start racing again, entering road races was a perfect fit for our relationship. Jason and I ran two 5K's together this fall and we both saw significant improvements in our running. So the tale of Jason and Michele leads me to our 3rd race that we ran together today. Jason and I debated between running a 5K or a 13K today. We considered running a 5K because both of us wanted to get another 5K PR. Two nights ago we ended up deciding that we would run the 13K because neither of us had ever run a 13K before. It was also a Halloween race so I knew that this could be a really fun and competitive race.

Last night, Jason and I talked about our running goals for today. We both always set goals for ourselves when we run a race and try to beat a certain time. I decided that my goal for this race would be to win the costume contest. I had never run a race in a costume before and thought that it would be a really fun thing to do. When I was in college, I was a Rubik's cube for Halloween one year and decided that this race would be the perfect race to wear it for. I told Jason that I planned on running this race instead of racing it. He told me that he was confused because I had just talked about wanting to race again in my last blog post. I have been running a lot lately, but I did not think that I was prepared enough to race a distance race. I had run a lot during cross country season, but I had focused more on speed than distance. I have not even run more than 6 miles at once since the summer so I knew that racing for 8.1 miles was a stupid idea.

I decided that I was still going to run this race as fast as I could, but I was not going to be upset if I did not break a certain time. I was still aiming for finishing in 1:20, but it was not going to be a big deal if I did not. Jason planned to race and wanted to finish in under an hour. The difference between running and racing for me is that racing is finishing under a certain time and running is just doing the best that you can during a race. When we arrived at the Halloween 13K today, I received a lot of compliments on my Rubik's cube costume. I had a few people tell me that they did not know how I was going to run in that costume and one guy said that he would not be surprised if I ditched the costume somewhere in the middle of the race. My goal was to keep the Rubik's cube on for the entire race, prove those people wrong and win the costume contest.

When the race began, I headed out at a pretty decent pace. I was well on my way to finishing under 1:20 and was hoping that I could keep a steady pace. However, running in a giant box is kind of difficult. I could not really move my arms too much during running and that definitely slowed me down during the race. However, I was determined to run the entire 8.1 miles with that Rubik's cube on. There were parts of the race that running in a Rubik's cube made a lot tougher. This was not the easiest race for me to run with that extra weight on and limited arm movement, but this was definitely one of the most fun races that I had ever run in. I got so many compliments and cheers from other runners and spectators throughout the entire race.

My giant Rubik's cube costume and I crossed the finish line in 1:23:13. I was a little disappointed that I did not break 1:20, but I reminded myself that I was not trying to break a certain time today. I also reminded myself that I had just run 8.1 miles wearing a giant box. When I crossed the finish line, there were a lot of people cheering for me and I knew that we had chosen the right race to run in. Jason ended up finishing the race in 58:13 and he was waiting for me at the finish line like he always does. I ended up winning the costume contest so I succeeded in my running goal for today. Jason ended up coming in 2nd place in his age group so we both went home with medals today. I love that running has become such an integral part of our relationship and Jason and I definitely plan to run more races together soon.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The One Year Difference

It's been exactly one year since I began my running blog, which means that it has been exactly one year since I began my 30 week marathon training plan. The big difference between this time last year and this time this year is that I have finally considered myself to be a runner. I really began running in 2006, which is when I was a freshman in college, because my college roommate was really into running. I had run occasionally before that, but never on a regular basis. I ran my first road race in 2008 and since then I have run in 46 road races. At this time last year, I had already ran several 5K's and 10K's and I had even ran 4 half marathons already. I decided that it was time for me to attempt the big 26.2, but I still did not really consider myself that much of a runner. I figured that running a marathon was the next logical step down my running path. There were many people who told me that I would not be able to run a marathon and I wanted to prove them wrong. After 30 weeks of long, hard training, I successfully completed my first marathon on May 26th, 2013.

When I reflect back on my marathon training and race, I realize that this was the moment that I truly considered myself a runner. After the Buffalo Marathon, a friend told me that only 1% of the population ever completes a marathon. As a math teacher, I can truly understand the significance of that statistic. Even though my marathon time was way slower than the average time for someone my age, I still felt like I was part of an elite group. That feeling was recently squashed when I read an article that Hal Higdon posted. I have used, and really enjoyed, Hal Higdon's half marathon and marathon training plans so I follow his status updates. The Slow Lane was an article about whether or not there is any pride in running a marathon anymore. Everyone runs for different reasons and not everyone runs races solely for the competition. I think that we should be commending the fact that so many people have taken up running as a sport or a hobby.

I did like that the article talks a little bit about how "fun runs" such as the Color Run and Tough Mudder are not even real races. If you had followed my running blog or knew how my running was going after the marathon, then you will recall that I had some major runner burnout this summer. I was really mentally and physically struggling through many of my runs this summer and had no desire to even be running at all. I ended up running in the Color Run and the Dirty Girl Mud Run and they were exactly the kinds of runs that I needed to kick my runner burnout. By the end of the summer, I was running for fun again and had no specific goal in mind. I usually sign up for races all of the time so that I will always have a goal to reach, but it was great to be able to run however much I wanted to run whenever I wanted to run.

By the end of the summer, I was more than ready to enter my 2nd year of coaching cross country. I was ready to focus on my athletes' running instead of my own for once. I workout and run with my team pretty much everyday so I knew that I would definitely be in great shape by the end of the season, if not the best shape I had ever been in. After the first 2 weeks of cross country, I was itching to begin running road races again. It had been quite awhile since I had the desire to enter a road race and I was ready to make my return to the race scene. I ran a 5K the day after my 25th birthday and I finished the race in 27:27, which was 49 seconds faster than my previous PR. I had been trying to break 28 minutes during a 5K race for a long time and finally being able to do it was such an incredible feeling for me.

After my new 5K PR, I realized that up until this point there were not many races that I had run that I had really raced. I did run fast during 5K's, but I never really pushed myself as hard as I could. I enjoyed running 5K's, but I never really had the desire to see how far I could push myself. I knew that I was getting into better shape every week of cross country and that I was ready to really test my limits during races. I realized that being a good coach meant that I should also practice what I preach. I am not really teaching my athletes anything if I enter races just to run in them. I wanted to show them that if you set a goal and worked hard, then you could achieve your goal. I made myself a 5K goal of getting below 28 minutes and I realized that running a 5K is much more of an accomplishment when you have a goal to achieve.

I ran a few races during the cross country season, but my best race was the Chris Bond 5K that I ran last weekend. I had run this race a few times before in college with my college roommate so Jason and I decided to sign up for it. When you are practicing or coaching meets 6 days a week, entering a race on a Sunday morning does not seem as exciting as when you signed up. I decided on the way to the race that my only goal for the day would be to just break 28 minutes again. Once I got to the start line, I began to feel like this was not a good enough goal. The minute that I took my first step of the race I knew that I was going to be able to get a PR. I felt so good during the entire race and I knew that I was keeping a quick, steady pace. With every step that I took, I began to feel more confident and determined to not just break 28 minutes, but to break 27 minutes. I felt so incredible when I crossed the finish line at 26:49, shattering my old PR by 38 seconds. I am definitely attributing my recent success to the cross country season.

The cross country season came to an end over the weekend, but I am very grateful for the fact that this season has put me into the best shape that I have ever been in throughout my entire life. I am thankful that I was able to run with my athletes everyday and hopefully be a positive role model for them too. This cross country season made me fall in love with running all over again and gave me back that spark that I needed to enjoy running again. I was frequently reminded of how compassionate and encouraging runners are to one another, whether they are on the same team or not. I was reminded of how unique the bond of runners really is. I was reminded of why I love running so much in the first place, even on days that running is the last thing that I want to do. I was reminded that success is a result of hard work and determination. I was reminded that I really can be considered a runner, even on my slowest days. I was reminded that running is fun and that you do not always need to have a goal. I was reminded that running is the sport that you will love to hate and hate to love.

When I look back on the past year since I began marathon training, I am really proud of how far I have come as a runner. I ran 13 races this past year, including 2 half marathons and my first full marathon. I shattered my 5K and 10K PR's more than once and I proved to myself that I can accomplish my goals if I work hard enough. The million dollar question is what comes next? I have been toying around with many different ideas for my next big running goal and have not settled on one yet. I have decided that I am going to let the next couple of months just be running for fun. I plan to enter a couple more road races before 2013 ends, but I do not have any major goals set for myself. During cross country season, there were weeks where I was running 5 or 6 days in a row. I am definitely going to cut back a bit now so that I will be ready to tackle my next running goal once the new year starts. I built a really solid running base during cross country so I will be ready for whatever I decide to do next. In the meantime, I am going to enjoy running and get myself ready for whatever comes next. It's amazing what a difference a year can make.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Life After 26.2: The Inability to PR

It has been exactly 10 weeks since the Buffalo Marathon and I am finally getting the desire to run back. I did not do a whole lot of running in the first few weeks following the marathon and there were many different reasons for that. With the end of the school year, my brother’s wedding and giving my body a break after the marathon, running quickly moved to the bottom of my priority list. The marathon definitely took its toll on my body and running was a bit challenging physically after that. Running was a struggle for me from the end of May until the end of June so I decided to take a few weeks off from running. After my brother’s wedding and a couple weeks of traveling, I was finally over my runner burnout and ready to begin running again. When I began running again, it was still a bit of a struggle physically and that was very frustrating. After a couple of weeks of running regularly again, my body finally began to bounce back from the marathon and running began to feel good again.

One thing that helped me bounce back from the marathon was beginning to do some more cross training. From November to May, my entire focus was on training for the marathon and running was the only exercise that I was doing. My pace for running is still pretty inconsistent right now, but the cross training has definitely helped my running. Jason and I have made hiking a weekly thing this summer and 3 hour hikes are definitely a great workout. I have also started biking a couple days a week too and that is also a great workout. I really wanted to get into biking because I am considering completing a duathlon next year. I am not a very good swimmer so a duathlon would be perfect for me. I know that I will definitely do at least a couple of half marathons again next year, but I am not so sure about another marathon. If I do not do another marathon, then I will definitely have the time to devote to training for a duathlon. That is definitely on my bucket list and I am already thinking about my big workout goal for 2014.

For the remainder of 2013, I plan to take it easy on the running. I will still enter shorter road races and continue running regularly. I have no intention of doing any longer races again until late next winter or next spring. I want to spend some time just running for fun again and enjoying running some shorter races. I have run two 5K’s in the past month and I was a little disappointed after I finished each of them. My speed for shorter distances definitely improved quite a bit after training for the Buffalo Marathon so I expected to PR in both of these races. I technically did PR at the Corporate Challenge, but the course was not exactly 3.1 miles. The Corporate Challenge was a huge struggle for me and I just could not push myself to go any faster. I was the last one to finish from our team even though I tried to keep up with everyone. I was pretty disappointed after that, but you cannot expect to PR every time that you race. I also started running again the week of the Corporate Challenge so it was no surprise that the race was difficult for me. 

I spent the weeks following the Corporate Challenge just trying to get back into a regular running routine. Running has definitely gotten easier again over the past few weeks, but I have still been pretty inconsistent. Some days running is really easy and I have a pretty good pace. Some days running is a struggle and I am pretty slow. Despite my inconsistency, I have gotten the desire to begin racing again. Since I am ready to do some shorter races, I have been making sure that I run 3.1 miles at least once a week. I ran 3.1 miles 1 ½ minutes quicker than my 5K PR this past week. I was so happy that I had such a good run that I decided to enter a 5K this past weekend. I thought for sure that I would get a PR at the Taste of Lancaster 5K, but that did not happen. I had a really great first mile and I had set into a pretty comfortable pace. It was pretty hot out that morning and I definitely slowed down during the other 2 miles. I was disappointed when I saw that I was not going to get a PR, but I was less than a minute away from my best time. I should have been able to get a PR because I had just proved that I could do it a few days before. I am not sure why the last two races were so difficult for me and why I now have the inability to PR during a race. I think that I need to get a couple more races under my belt and a few more weeks of running before I am satisfied with where I am as a runner again. I am definitely on the right track now and I am very happy to finally be bouncing back from this marathon.

For those who were wondering, here are my running statistics since the marathon:

May 2013
5/30/13 – 2 miles in 20:11 (10:06 min/mi pace)

June 2013
6/3/13 – 4.25 miles in 39:20 (9:15 min/mi pace)

6/9/13 – 2 miles in 18:56 (9:28 min/mi pace)
6/11/13 – 4.5 miles in 39:44 (8:49 min/mi pace)

6/19/13 – 7 miles in 1:12:14 (10:19 min/mi pace)
6/20/13 – 1 mile in 7:56 (7:56 min/mi pace)
6/20/13 – 1 mile in 7:34 (7:34 min/mi pace)
6/20/13 – 1 mile in 7:40 (7:40 min/mi pace)

July 2013
7/8/13 -5K in 28:29 (9:11 min/mi pace)
7/10/13 – 5K in 31:29 (10:09 min/mi pace)
7/11/13 – Corporate Challenge 5K in 28:17 (9:06 min/mi pace)

7/14/13 – 4 miles in 43:43 (10:56 min/mi pace)
7/16/13 – 1 mile in 8:16 (8:16 min/mi pace)
7/16/13 – 2 miles in 17:40 (8:50 min/mi pace)
7/17/13 – 5K in 29:27 (9:30 min/mi pace)

7/21/13 – 5 miles in 52:44 (10:32 min/mi pace)
7/23/13 – 6 miles in 1:00:42 (10:07 min/mi pace)
7/26/13 – 5K in 29:52 (9:38 min/mi pace)

7/30/13 – 8 miles in 1:21:19 (10:09 min/mi pace)
7/31/13 – 5K in 26:56 (8:42 min/mi pace)

August 2013
8/3/13 – Taste of Lancaster 5K in 29:08 (9:23 min/mi pace)
8/4/13 – 1 mile in 7:40 (7:40 min/mi pace)
8/4/13 – 1 mile in 7:43 (7:43 min/mi pace)
8/4/13 – 1 mile in 8:34 (8:34 min/mi pace)
8/4/13 – 1 mile in 8:31 (8:31 min/mi pace)

522.05 miles run in 83:51:39 during 2013!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Life After 26.2: Runner Burnout

It’s been exactly 2 weeks since the Buffalo Marathon and I am currently experiencing a severe case of runner burnout. When I say a severe case of runner burnout, I mean bad enough to want to drop out of all of the races that I have already registered for this summer. At this point, my lack of motivation is mostly mental. I was surprised at how quickly my body actually bounced back from the marathon and all soreness was gone by the end of the first week. Since the marathon, I have lost the spark to run that I have had all spring. I just do not want to run at all anymore, but I am hoping that I can get back that motivation to run again soon. I feel like I have lost everything that I have worked so hard for over the past few months. I have run 3 times since the marathon and all 3 of those runs have been a struggle. I ran a very slow 2 miles a few days after the marathon and then took a few more days off. I was able to get a 4 mile run and a 2 mile run in this past week. When I went out for the 2 miler, I was actually hoping to do 3 or 4, but my body just felt like it could not do more than 2. I was easily able to run 10 miles just a month ago and now it is a struggle to just run 2 miles.

When you train for a marathon, no one ever tells you how much of a struggle the days following the marathon will be. I knew that there would be a lot of soreness following the marathon, but that is expected with any big race. I was happy that I was only sore for a few days and that I finished this marathon without any injury. While my body was extremely sore for a few days after the marathon, I actually had trouble sleeping the first few days after the marathon. The runner’s high lasted for several days and I think that is why my body was not willing to go to bed before 1am for several days. The insomnia did not last very long and by the middle of that week I was just exhausted. When you’re exhausted, running is the last thing that you want to do so I listened to my body and took some time off. I was glad to have another excuse not to run. I have had no desire to run since the marathon and had to force myself to go running the 3 times that I did run. I never thought that running a marathon would give me such a mental runner burnout. I just do not have the same passion for running right now that I used to. I have had a few people tell me that my journey to 26.2 was what inspired them to begin running. I almost feel a little bit guilty writing this post because this is the furthest thing from inspiring people to run. Now is the time that I could use a little bit of motivation myself to begin running again.

I think that there are several factors contributing to my lack of motivation to run now. It is the end of the school year so work is extremely busy. In fact, life is just extremely busy right now. My body is just tired from the marathon and all of the traveling and has not really had a chance to catch up on sleep yet. I have been doing quite a bit of traveling recently between long weekends, different races and my brother’s upcoming wedding. I have spent a lot of time in my car over the past couple months. My running sneakers do not really feel the need to spend time on the pavement since my car tires have done so much of that. Luckily, things are beginning to slow down and summer is quickly approaching. Running experts say that it takes about a month to recover from a marathon so I am hoping to really get back into it once school ends and summer vacation begins. I have a few races that I am already registered for this summer so hopefully my body will be back in top shape by then. My next race is the Corporate Challenge this Thursday and hopefully the rest of my coworkers will not embarrass me too badly when I come in last place!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Buffalo Marathon Recap

I AM OFFICIALLY A MEMBER OF THE 26.2 MILE CLUB!!!!! I completed the Buffalo Marathon today in 5:05:30, which is an 11:39 min/mi pace. I have already had several people asking about how the race went today so here's a recap of my marathon experience.

The Night Before the Race
I was feeling pretty good about this race because I worked really hard and I was definitely physically prepared to run a marathon. Over the past few weeks, I really had to mentally prepare myself for such a huge task. I was surprisingly only a little nervous last night because I knew that there was nothing else that I could do at this point. I did everything that I needed to do to prepare for the race today. I made sure that I had plenty of water and gatorade all day and loaded up on carbs. I also had all of my running "gear" ready last night. I tried to go to bed early last night, but I was too excited and nervous to fall asleep early. After much tossing and turning all night, I eventually fell asleep last night.

The Morning of the Race
I woke up at 3:30am this morning and was extremely happy when I realized that I could get 2 more hours of sleep. I woke up at 5:30am and got ready for the big race. I had my bowl of oatmeal and banana, put my running clothes on, got my hydration belt ready, put my timing chip on my shoe and put my race bib on my shirt. We left around 6:10am and my dad dropped me off near the start line.

The Moments Before the Race
The race did not start until 7am, but I arrived at the start line around 6:30am. I had debated wearing short spandex or capri's and was extremely happy that I chose capri's. It was only around 45 degrees outside when we were waiting for the race to start and it was COLD! I knew that once the race started that these cool temperatures would make for a great race. I got a ton of compliments on my wonderful pink race tank that Brian made for me. People either asked me if I was a math teacher or told me that they did not understand the front of my shirt until they saw the 26.2 on the back.

I entered the race corral when there was about 10 minutes left to the start. I lined up with the 4:40 marathon pacer and was hoping to stay with the pacer for most of the race. I can comfortably run a half marathon in about 2:15 so I figured that I would do okay starting with the 4:40 pacer. I knew that I would slow down eventually, but I was worried that if I started with a slower pacer I would slow down way too much. I met a lady who came from Syracuse and was also running her first marathon. We decided to run together since neither of us had anyone else to run with and would be able to help each other push through. Neither one of us had a set goal, but we were both hoping to finish in under 5 hours. My real goal was just to be able to finish the race, but a time goal really helped me to pace myself and stick with the crowd.

Miles 1-6.2 (The 10K)
I decided not to wear a watch for this race because I did not want to be disappointed in my time if I ended up being slower than expected. There were clocks at the relay points so it was good to see my time every 6.2 miles instead of every mile. When the race started off, we were maintaining a pretty good pace. We did not set out too quickly because we knew that it would be a long 26.2 miles. The first 10K of the race felt great. I was happy and comfortable with the pace that we were maintaining. The course was also relatively flat, which is a nice change from what I am used to running. The first 3 miles were through downtown Buffalo and there was just so much excitement and energy all around. We were stuck in a pretty big crowd for the beginning of the race because there were way more people in the half marathon and the relay than the actual marathon. Miles 3-6 were so beautiful to run through because we were running right along Lake Erie and the Erie Basin Marina. I also love that when you loop around the Marina you get to see people running in the other direction. The Marina loop is from miles 5-6 so I was able to see a few people that I know running by, including Molly who was also running her first full marathon. Once we were out of the Marina, we were at the 10K mark and we were holding a steady 10:40 min/mi pace.

Miles 6.2-12.4 (The 20K)
The 10K mark was the first exchange of the marathon relay so naturally tons of runners began to pass us since they were just beginning their leg of the race. I have run the half marathon twice before, but I forgot how long it feels to run from the 10K mark to the 20K mark. We ran all the way down Ohio St. for more than 2 miles before we reached the Harbor. The 10K to the 20K is a giant loop so you run past the 12 mile mark and then realize that you are actually only approaching mile 7. I had my first Gu packet around mile 7 and was only drinking water every 2 miles at this point. When you pass the 11 mile mark and go over the open gate bridge that I hate, you are really only at mile 8. We ran almost a mile down the Harbor and had another beautiful view of Lake Erie before turning around and running back the same way that we had just come. I also like this part of the course because you get to pass by all of the people that are ahead of you on the other side of the street or behind you on the way back. After mile 10, we began looking at all of the people still making their way down to the Harbor. It was incredible to see all different kinds of people out attempting a half marathon or marathon and you could tell that some people had worked really hard to get there. We noticed that there were many red bibs behind us still, but not too many blue bibs. The red bibs were for the half marathon, the green bibs were for the relay and the blue bibs were for the marathon. This was to be expected because there were way more people running the half marathon and first time marathoners are slow anyways.

Miles 12.4-18.6 (The 30K)
I lost my new running friend around the 20K mark because this was where I was beginning to struggle. We parted ways and I decided that it was time to slow down my pace, while she kept up the 10:40 min/mi pace. I knew that if I kept running so fast that I was never going to make it to the finish line. You could see the finish line around 13 miles, but this was the point where the half marathoners ran straight to the finish and the marathoners turned off to the right to continue the second half of their journey. The minute that I turned the corner it was like a ghost town compared to what we had just run in for the first half of the course. There were a lot less people running the marathon and the people running the marathon were at all different ability levels. The nice thing about this was that you had plenty of room to run with very few people around you. I was extremely happy to see bananas at the 13 mile mark because I have recently discovered that bananas are great to eat before or during a run if you have stomach problems. I was still drinking water and/or gatorade every 2 miles at this point. I had my hydration belt on in case I needed it, but luckily it was cool enough out that drinking at every 2 miles worked pretty well for me. I learned my lesson during my 22 miler about drinking too much during a run.

Miles 13 to 16 felt extremely long because it was a straight stretch down Franklin St/Linwood Avenue. I was beginning to lose motivation and energy at this point, but luckily there were a lot of motivating people along the way that helped. I talked to many people along the way and most had run a marathon before and gave me some good tips to keep moving along. We entered Forest Lawn Cemetery around Mile 16 and this was the point when the 4:40 marathon pacer passed me. I walked through every water station, but this was the point when I had to start alternating in some more walking. I really did not want to do any walking during the race, but it was necessary to help me keep running the majority of the race. We entered Delaware Park around mile 17 and miles 17-18 were where I just wanted to quit the race. I did not think that I was going to make it another 9 miles and I was getting really discouraged. It was right around mile 18 that I realized that I had not had a Gu packet since mile 18 and probably just needed a burst of energy. The fuel certainly made a difference and I quickly got rid of my negative attitude. As physically tough as this race was, it was actually way more mentally tough. When you are running for so long, it is easy to lose focus and forget about keeping your mind on the finish line. I knew that my time was getting slower, but I was going to get to that finish line no matter what.

Miles 18.6-24.8 (The 40K)
The last leg of the relay was right outside of Delaware Park and it was a bit frustrating to see the relay runners just breezing by. Luckily, the relay runners were very encouraging and kept telling us how they could never do what we were doing. Running from the 30K to the 40K was certainly not easy at all, but I was feeling much more confident than I had been before I reached the 30K point. It was beginning to warm up a bit so I began drinking water and/or gatorade at every mile, but the temperature was still comfortable for such a long run. We ran through the neighborhood around Delaware Park and there were still a ton of spectators out cheering us on. The people volunteering at the aid stations were the best and I was extremely grateful for everything that they had at the aid stations. I really enjoyed the oranges at one of the aid stations, which just fell right around the time that I needed a little kick of energy. The Buffalo Marathon does not mess around when it comes to aid stations. They did not have everything at every aid station, but they had everything ranging from water and gatorade to oranges and bananas to Gu and candy to vaseline and tylenol.

There were also water/aid stations at every mile after mile 21, which was perfect at this point in the race. This forced me to stop to walk at every mile and rehydrate. I would walk for about 1 minute and then run to the next aid station at the next mile. There were a couple of times that I had to stop to walk for a minute in the middle of a mile, but I was able to run most of the stretch from the 30K to the 40K. I am sure that I looked pretty funny every time that I started running again after a stretch of walking. It was hard to lift my legs too far off of the ground at this point so I sort of waddled a little bit until my legs began running again. We ran out of Delaware Park around mile 21, but passed through it again at mile 22. This was the point in the race that I was the most nervous for because I had never run more than 22 miles before. After the awful time that I had at mile 17, I knew that this would not be too bad. I only had 4.2 miles left to run at this point and I would have walked all 4.2 miles if I had to. Luckily, my body was willing to run most of the rest of the race very slowly. Miles 22-24 were a straight stretch down Bidwell Parkway and Richmond Avenue. The straight stretches are always the worst because they look short, but actually take forever to get through.

Miles 24.8-26.2 (The Marathon)
We turned back onto Delaware Avenue right around the 40K mark and I was happy to be so close to the finish. I got the worst cramp right below my ribs right around mile 25. I am not going to lie about the fact that I had to walk a good chunk of mile 25. I would run about 1/4 mile and then stop to walk for a minute or two. I had been doing so well around the 40K mark, even if it was slow so I was a bit annoyed. I was also a bit annoyed because I could see the fountain in Niagara Square for about 1 mile and it felt like it took forever to get there. During one of my walking stretches, I was fixing my headband and some girl ran past me and asked me if I was trying to look good for the finish instead of keeping running. I told her yes I am going to look good when I RUN past the finish line. The 26 mile mark was right in Niagara Square and that is when I got the biggest adrenaline rush of the entire race. I was going to run right across that finish line and I was going to look good doing it. I came around the corner running as fast as my body would allow at that point and I saw my parents, my brothers, my sister-in-laws and my best friends all waiting for me near the finish. I was so happy to see all of them and have such a big crowd to cheer me on at the finish. I crossed the finish around 5:08, but my chip time ended up being 5:05:30. I was expecting a 5 hour finish so I am still pretty happy with my finish, especially since running 26.2 miles is such a huge accomplishment in the first place.

After the Race
I was so incredibly proud of myself when I crossed the finish line. When I had turned the corner and saw the finish line, I just wanted to cry because I was so excited that I had made it so far. It was tough, but I made it to 26.2 miles with very few problems. It was an incredible feeling to have that marathon medal placed around my neck and realize that I have just accomplished something that I have worked so hard for the better part of 30 weeks. If you set a goal, work hard and believe in yourself, then you can achieve anything that you set your mind to! If you had told me 5 years ago that I would successfully complete a marathon, then I probably would have laughed in your face. Running a marathon was physically the most difficult thing that I have ever done, but hard work really does pay off. Thank you to all of you who joined me on this journey to 26.2 miles. Today I am especially thankful for all of the people who cheered me on and helped me get to the finish line. I am glad that my family and friends were there to see me finish, but I am also grateful for all of the other runners and the complete strangers who helped push me along today. I was definitely sore and tired when I was done, but I felt so much better than I did after I completed 22 miles. Stairs were no easy task, but I was actually able to walk/waddle and eat when I was done! I am now officially a member of the 26.2 mile club and I could not be more proud of myself for such a huge accomplishment.

What's Next
I am going to take about a week off from running now that the marathon is over to give my body some time to recover. I would like to do more cross training this summer, but I still plan to continue running. I am going to cut back on my mileage for awhile. I plan to run shorter distances and spend more time focusing on speed over the summer. I have several races planned over the next few months including the Corporate Challenge, the Boilermaker, the Color Run, the Tops/Roswell 10K and the Dirty Girl Mud Run just to name a few. I like to do longer races during the spring when the training and race weather is much cooler. At this point, I am not sure if I would ever run another marathon. It's way to soon to even think about that, but it could be a possibility one day. 

The first thing that I said to my family after the race was I am never running a marathon ever again. I am not going to say that it is going to be out of the question, but I am already beginning to think about my 2014 workout/race goal. 2008 was my first road race ever. 2009 was my first half marathon. From 2009-2011, I entered a ton of local road races and worked on improving my race speed. In 2012, I entered 3 half marathons and worked on improving my half marathon time. 2013 was the year that I ran 2 half marathons before I ran my first full marathon. I do not know what is in store for 2014 yet, but I am potentially thinking of something involving biking. I would really love to enter a duathlon, but I need to begin biking first. I think that this summer will be the perfect time to work on cross training and other workouts in addition to running. I am going to take a break from blogging for a little while. I will probably continue blogging after running races, but since I am not training for anything there will be no need for me to blog on a regular basis. So thank you for joining me on my running journey and stay tuned for whatever comes next!


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Final Countdown

Over the past 30 weeks, I have run a total of 527.1 miles over the course of 85 hours, 9 minutes and 44 seconds. I cannot believe that I have run for a total of 3 days, 13 hours, 9 minutes and 44 seconds. I have run enough miles since the end of October to be able to run from my apartment to my parent’s house and back almost 3 times! I am now proud to say that ….. MARATHON TRAINING IS OFFICIALLY OVER!!!!! My body was extremely grateful for the tapering over the past couple of weeks, especially since “travel” season has started back up. I have reached the point in the year where I spend a lot more time making trips home or elsewhere. It can be tricky to get all of your runs in when you’re traveling, work is busy and the weather is nicer. I have had to be pretty flexible with my running these past couple of weeks, especially when it has been so hot out.  However, I completed my last training run today and now the only thing left on my training schedule is REST! I never miss a rest day in my training schedule so thank you Hal Higdon for giving me two rest days before the race. I actually will end up getting three rest days because I ended up being a day ahead on my schedule. I am extremely grateful for the rest days and the fact that the marathon is right in the middle of a 4 day weekend. I am going to drive home right after work tomorrow and spend Friday and Saturday mentally preparing for the big day.

I think that I am physically ready for this race, but I am not completely mentally prepared for this race yet. I have recently discovered a few things about my body that have made me physically prepared for this race. It’s no secret that my 22 mile run was pretty rough, but a huge part of the problem was the heat. I recently read an article that it’s possible to drink too much water while you are running. I guess I should not have drunk water every half mile or chugged half of a bottle of water when my dad came to refill my water bottles that day. I will make sure to be extra conscious of how much I drink on Sunday. I was really happy when I saw that the weather forecast for Sunday was going to be a high of 63 degrees. It won’t be too hot early in the morning and it will be much easier to stay hydrated. I have also recently discovered that eating a banana before a run really helps your stomach during a run, especially if you already have stomach issues. I have also used Gu during several of my long runs so I already have my Gu packets ready for every 5-6 miles on Sunday. I have also tested out the running clothes that I plan to wear on Sunday because nobody enjoys chaffing!

I know that I am physically prepared for this race, especially after 30 weeks of training. However, I have a total mix of emotions and feelings about this race on Sunday. I am very proud of how far I have come as a runner, especially over this past year. I never thought that I would ever run a half marathon and now I am about to run my first marathon. I am excited for this race because I have already run the half marathon course twice, which is the first half of the marathon. I love running through the marina, the harbor and along Lake Erie. I am glad that I am familiar with the first part of the course and I am glad that I am not familiar with the second part of the course. I do not think that running through Delaware Park will be too bad, especially because this part of the race will be a new running atmosphere for me. I think that this will help the time pass and not make the last few miles seem so long. The only goal that I have for Sunday is to be able to finish the race. I do not care how long it takes me to run and I do not even care if I have to alternate running and walking a little bit towards the end. I think that the marathon will probably take me about 5 hours based on how my long runs went. I can usually run a half marathon in about 2 hours and 15 minutes so I think that 5 hours is a pretty good judge of around how long it will take. While I am excited for this challenge, I am still extremely nervous and scared about my ability to be able to run so far. I just need to head into Sunday with a positive attitude and remind myself of how hard I have worked to get here over these past 30 weeks.

I am not sure that I would ever run a marathon ever again because it is such a huge time commitment to train for, but who knows what my running future might hold. I am excited to be able to begin running for fun again and to not have to stick to such a strict running schedule for a while. I am also excited to be able to start varying up my workouts again. My speed has improved greatly over the past year, especially since cross country season, but I would like to spend some more time focusing on speed this summer. I would like to do some more trail running or hiking or biking or swimming. I really want to complete a duathlon one day since I stink at swimming. So I would like to get into biking and maybe that will be my big race and focus for next year. I just need to get through this race on Sunday and take a short break from running before I start something new. I am sure that I will have plenty of time to think about all of these things during the 5 hours that I spend running on Sunday morning. 

Right now, I am thinking about how extremely grateful I am for everyone who has helped get to the start line. I am thankful for my wonderful parents and family who supported me during all of this training. At least one of my parents always shows up for my races and they even stay overnight somewhere with me when I go out of town for a race. They had also put up with my crazy running schedule during all of the weekends that I was at home or they came to visit me. They even came to my rescue when I ran out of water during a long run or needed help doing something as simple as untying my shoes after a long run. I am also grateful for all of my wonderful running buddies who helped me get through these 30 weeks of training. I had many days where I ended up running on my own, but I also had many days where my co-workers or friends joined me. I was extremely happy to have company when I was running whether it was a 3 mile or run or a 19 mile run. I never had anyone run the full distance with me once I got past 13, but I usually had company for the first half of most of my long runs. I had friends run with me in some of the best and worst running conditions and they totally understood how tough some of these runs could get.

I am also thankful for all of the friends who supported me during these past 30 weeks, even if they were not actually running besides me. I had so many people checking in on my training all of the time and they were genuinely interested in how my training was going. Believe me when I say that every little compliment or word of encouragement helped push me through some of my toughest runs. I was glad to be able to share my running statistics and my blog with everyone so that they could keep track of my progress. I even have people who ask me for tips or running advice now. It is so incredible to reflect back on how far I have come as a runner and to think about how I used to be the one asking for running tips. This was not the easiest journey to complete, but you all helped me take on such a big challenge. So thank you to all of you who have helped carry me through my training and to the starting line of the Buffalo Marathon. I will be thinking about all of the people who helped get me to the start line on Sunday and I am as ready as I am ever going to be conquer 26.2 miles. Be sure to check back next week for a detailed report of my marathon experience. 

Week 29
5/14/13 – 6 miles in 54:12 (9:02 min/mi pace)
5/15/13 – 3 miles in 26:55 (8:59 min/mi pace)
5/17/13 – 8 miles in 1:21:20 (10:10 min/mi pace)

Week 30
5/20/13 – 3 miles in 27:38 (9:13 min/mi pace)
5/21/13 – 4 miles in 41:18 (10:20 min/mi pace)
5/22/13 – 2 miles in 18:30 (9:15 min/mi pace)

527.1 miles complete in 85:9:44 and only 4 days until conquering 26.2 miles!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

My Top 10 Funniest or Most Embarrassing Running Moments

Since marathon training is quickly coming to an end and my mileage is decreasing, I have decided that I am going to bring some humor back into my blog posts. Before I get into the details of week 28, I am going to share my top 10 funniest or most embarrassing running moments. These are probably not the only funny or embarrassing moments that I have ever had running, but these ones are the most vivid in my memory. Some of these moments have happened during marathon training and some have been from my past few years as a runner. As I came up with this list, I have realized that many of these stories involve being chased by dogs or getting injured. (Perhaps I need to live in a “bubble” for the last two weeks of training to avoid either of these situations.) Anyways, here are my top 10 funniest or most embarrassing running moments for your viewing pleasure:

1.) The time that I fell off of the treadmill and tried to crawl back up the treadmill to turn it off before I let myself fall off instead. (See my October blog post “The Tale of the Treadmill” for the full story.)

2.) The time that I went snow tubing, landed on my face, got a concussion and missed 3 weeks of marathon training.

3.) The time that I entered an open cross country race in college and came in last place by 2 minutes.

4.) The time that I ran screaming through the hills of my neighborhood because I thought that two wiener dogs were chasing me and they were really in a yard with an electric fence. (See my January blog post “Who Let the Dogs Out” for the full story.)

5.) The time that I ran the Bridge Run half marathon for the first time in Vibram Five Fingers and sprained my ankle at mile 10 and finished the race anyways. (I will never go back to Vibram’s after an excellent year of running in Mizuno’s!)

6.) The time that I ran in the middle of the street during rush hour traffic because two dogs knocked down their fence and chased me across the street. (I avoided getting hit by a car, but I now cross the street whenever I have to run by this house.)

7.) The time in college that Katelyn and I thought that it would be fun to run from campus to the Pittsford end of the canal to the Fairport end of the canal and back to campus on an extremely hot and sunny day. (We did not end up running the entire time, but it took us 3 hours to accomplish this and we came back looking like lobsters.)

8.) The time that Sandy and I went trail running, followed by some hiking where I tripped up a hill and cut my knee open.

9.) The time that I tripped over a pop can during a run and twisted my ankle.

10.) The time that Sandy and I were passed by an elderly gentleman who just breezed by us at the finish line of the Santa Run. (There is a picture of this online and he looks like he’s making very little effort, while we look quite the opposite!)

I will recap week 28 now that you've had a good laugh about my running stories. Week 28 of training was pretty great because it was my second week of tapering. I am now beginning to understand why tapering is so important to running a marathon. My legs and body are beginning to feel well-rested between runs and I haven’t been very sore. The decreased mileage has definitely helped my body and my runs have felt much better this week. I was able to stick to my training plan this week and did not have to skip or shorten any runs. I always feel guilty when I skip out on my training so I am glad that I had a pretty good week. I have been changing up my routes in my neighborhood for my short runs and the change of scenery definitely made a difference too. 

I have a 5 mile loop by my apartment that I usually run, but on Tuesday I decided to change it up for my run. I went out in a different direction and I was still a mile away by the time that I got to mile 5. Since I was only on schedule for 5 miles, I decided to walk the last mile back to my apartment. I was amazed at how much easier it was to walk back up the hill to my apartment after spending a few extra minutes walking. 

On Wednesday, I had the best run that I have had in weeks. I was on schedule for 8 miles and tried to get out before the rain began. I was only 1 mile into my run before it started raining and it was pouring rain for most of my run. I actually felt really good for the entire run and I was maintaining a very comfortable pace. I changed up my route again so I found myself 1 mile away from home when I was supposed to be done. Since it was still pouring rain, I decided to run the extra mile home. Within 1 minute of completing my 9 mile run, the rain stopped and then the sun came out pretty soon after that. However, I will take a run in the rain over a run in the heat any day.

I ran 4 miles on Thursday and tried a new workout for this run. I tried Hal Higdon’s 3/1 workout where you run ¾ of the run at an easy or comfortable pace and the last ¼ of the run fast or at race pace. I ran the first 3 miles between 9:30 min/mi and 10:00 min/mi, which is a pretty comfortable pace for me. I ran the last mile at a 7:30 min/mi pace and hauled it back home. It was a great workout and a nice alternative to a tempo run. I have not really focused on any speed work during training, but I thought that a change in my workout would be nice on an easy day. I definitely want to try different running workouts once the marathon is over and I cut back on my mileage for the summer.

I woke up early this morning to run since I learned my lesson about starting a long run too late in the day during that terrible 22 mile long run. However, Mother Nature had other plans for me. I do not mind running in the rain, but it was pouring rain for a good part of the morning and the weather report said scattered thunderstorms. I spent the morning and the early part of the afternoon debating whether I would go out when the weather cleared up or wait until the morning. I ended up going out to run around 3:30 and I was extremely happy that it was still overcast. It was cloudy until the last few miles, but it was not too hot for most of my run. I ran at a slower pace today since I am trying to get my body ready to run the marathon at a slower pace than my half marathon pace. 

I had a pretty good run today, but my body is extremely happy that there will be no more double digit runs until race day. My long runs are usually not too difficult for me. The hour or two after each long run is usually the tougher part, but a shower, food, water and the couch usually take care of that. I do not foresee having any problems next week because my long run is only 8 miles next week. I cannot believe that there are only 2 weeks left until the big race. I am a total mix of emotions still about this race, but I feel pretty good after this past week of training. I am happy that the mileage is going to be pretty low and I think that this will really help me get ready for the big race. Here’s a quick glance at this past week before I head into the final countdown:

Week 28
5/7/13 – 5 miles in 47:18 (9:27 min/mi pace)
5/8/13 – 9 miles in 1:29:50 (9:58 min/mi pace)
5/9/13 – 4 miles in 38:05 (9:30 min/mi pace)
5/11/13 – 12 miles in 2:08:21 (10:41 min/mi pace)

501.1 miles complete in 80:59:51 and only 15 days until conquering 26.2 miles!

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Bridge Run

After my difficult 22 mile long run last weekend, I was really lacking the motivation to continue my marathon training this past week. I had to remind myself that the toughest part of training was over and then I was ready to lace my kicks back up. I started my taper a week early because I wanted to run the Bridge Run this past weekend. My body was extremely happy to begin cutting back on my mileage. The weekday mileage is still a little high, but I knew that these would be some of the most important runs left in my training. The weekday runs were a bit tricky this week because the beautiful summer weather has finally arrived. It was cloudy and a bit cooler on Tuesday after school so I was able to get a nice quick run in. On Wednesday, Sandy and I headed to the rail trail even though it was incredibly hot and sunny. She wanted to run 4 miles and I needed to run 8 miles. We ran almost 3 miles before we stopped to walk and then got smoothies instead of continuing. I went back out closer to dusk when it was cooler out and finished my other 5 miles. On Thursday, I met Michelle for a quick run in the early evening. She only needed to run 2 miles before the Bridge Run and I had to run 3 more miles after that since I am still in marathon training. After my 5 miler, I was so happy to have a couple of days off and I was glad that I stuck to my training plan all week. Before I get into a recap of the Bridge Run, here's a look at week 27:

Week 27
4/30/13 - 4 miles in 36:53 (9:13 min/mi pace)
5/1/13 - 8 miles in 1:19:36 (9:57 min/mi pace)
5/2/13 - 5 miles in 50:24 (10:05 min/mi pace)
5/5/13 - BRIDGE RUN HALF MARATHON - 13.1 miles in 2:16:27 (10:24 min/mi pace)

I ended week 27 with my last race before I run the Buffalo Marathon. Two years ago I ran the 5K for the first year of the Bridge Run and last year I ran the half marathon for the Bridge Run. I was really excited to be running the half for the second year in a row. The Bridge Run is a great race and a great event for Binghamton to host. It's amazing that over 2,000 runners come together to run a half marathon or 5K race in Binghamton. I headed into the Bridge Run with the attitude that this was just going to be a long run for me. I had no goal time or pace that I wanted to maintain. My goal was just to finish the 13.1 miles since I am still in training for the Buffalo Marathon. I did everything that I needed to do to prepare for the Bridge Run, but I still woke up feeling nervous like I do before every race. The nervous feeling went away once I made my way to the start line and got ready for the race to begin. I was a bit later than I wanted to be, but luckily I found Michelle and Brian a few minutes before the race began. We started the race off towards the back so that we would be able to pass plenty of people during the race. We ran a slow first mile and then began to slowly pick up the pace after that. It was a beautiful morning, but it was getting hot pretty quickly. We were doing great for the first few miles without any problems. I got a really bad cramp in my side around mile 7 and I just wanted to throw up and/or stop running, but luckily neither happened! By the time that we got to mile 10 and had passed over the hilliest part of the course, I was feeling good again. I probably could have ran faster if I was actually trying for a personal best, but I was happy to just be running for fun during a race for once. The whole race seemed to fly by and was like a blur to me. There were moments when I thought that I might have a personal best, but I was not disappointed when I did not. Michelle got quiet around mile 12, but luckily we all made it to mile 13.1 without any problems. We finished the race in 2:16:27, which was 5 minutes faster than last year for me and 15 minutes faster than last year for Brian and Michelle.

I was pretty happy after the Bridge Run that we had all done so well. It was not my best race ever, but I have definitely improved quite a bit as a runner over the past year. I am now only 20 days away from the Buffalo Marathon and I am beginning to feel a mix of emotions. I am excited, anxious and nervous all at the same time. I do not think that I would have been able to run another 13.1 miles yesterday after the race, but then I remember that's why we taper for a few weeks before the race. I am sure that with the lower mileage and time to rest my legs and body a bit that I will be fully prepared for this race. I have my moments where I doubt my ability to be able to run 26.2 miles, especially after struggling so much with 22 miles last week. I know that the race is going to be a struggle, but I have been preparing for 27 weeks. I have ran almost 500 miles since the end of October and I have put a lot of work into training for this marathon. I think that my body is just about as physically prepared as it is ever going to be to run 26.2 miles. I just need to spend the next 3 weeks mentally preparing myself for this race and building my confidence in my ability to do this. I cannot believe that I am going to attempt to conquer 26.2 miles in just under 3 weeks now. This day seemed like it would never get here and now it is so close to arriving. I hope that the last 3 weeks of training get me motivated enough to be fully prepared for this race both physically and mentally. It's not going to be easy, but I am (almost) ready to conquer 26.2 miles!

471.1 miles complete in 75:56:17 and only 20 days until conquering 26.2 miles!

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Real Story Behind the 22 Mile Long Run

I can describe my 22 mile long run in two words: IT SUCKED! I did everything that I was supposed to do to prepare for the long run. I drank a lot of water and gatorade in the days leading up to the long run, carb loaded all week, took 2 days off from running before the long run and even got a good night's sleep. I had everything set out and ready on Friday night including my running clothes, sneakers, Gu, water bottles and hydration belt. I wokeup on Saturday morning and I was feeling a little bit nervous about running 22 miles all by myself, but I was as ready as I was ever going to be. A trip home for the weekend meant that I would not have any running buddies with me for the first part of my run and I was going to have to tackle 22 miles all by myself. I had such a great 19 mile run that I thought that 22 miles would not be too bad, but mother nature had other plans for me on Saturday.

I set out for my run around 9:45am and right away I knew that I should have started at least 2 hours earlier than I had. I was only 1 mile into my run when I realized how difficult this run was going to be. The temperature was already over 60 degrees, or at least it felt like it. I was dripping sweat already so I decided to head back to my parent's house to change into a running tank instead of the t-shirt that I was in. I had my favorite Pandora station on and I continued on my way. The beginning of the run was not too bad and I was doing a pretty good job pacing myself. I was going slower than normal because I wanted to make sure that I had enough energy left at the end of the run. I was feeling really good for the first 8-10 miles, but the temperature was beginning to rise pretty quickly.

Most of my run ended up being in the direct sunlight and it was over 70 degrees by the time that I finished. This meant that I needed to drink more fluids than normal during my run. My hydration belt holds 40 ounces of liquid so I had 30 ounces of water and 10 ounces of gatorade with me. I also carried a large water bottle that holds about 32 ounces. I thought that this would be plenty of water since I usually drink 2-4 ounces of water at every mile. I was only a few miles into the run when I began drinking water every 1/2 mile, which is something that my body is not used to. I was not going to let myself get dehydrated on such a long run on such a hot day. It was so hot out that the Gu at miles 5 and 10 did not make much difference. It was around the half marathon mark that I realized that the rest of my run was going to be a pretty big struggle.

I was hot and tired and losing motivation around mile 14. I also was beginning to run low on water. Luckily, I decided to stay on one side of town so that I would be close to family. My route kept me running the roads between my parent's house and my brother's house. I made a quick phone call to my dad and he drove out to meet me and bring me some water. I filled up my water bottles and got ready to continue on my run. At this point, my body had too much water and not enough water at the same time. I was so full from all of the water that I skipped my Gu packet at mile 15. I was still 7 miles away from my goal and was really doubting my ability to be able to finish this run.

The next 7 miles were far from pretty. My legs were just automatically moving without me even needing to think anymore. I will admit that I had to briefly walk a couple of times during my last few miles. There was no way that my body was going to be able to run all the way to 22 miles on such a hot day without slowing down. I did manage to have some more Gu around mile 17 or mile 18 and I started to get some energy back. When I reached 19 miles, I was really excited because I was about to run further than I have ever run before. The next 3 miles were the longest 3 miles ever. I did enjoy seeing my best friend and her boyfriend during the last stretch of my run. I was so in the zone and focused on finishing that I am pretty sure that I jumped 2 feet in the air from being scared by the car horn. They drove alongside of me for a couple of minutes and that gave me enough motivation to keep moving my legs.

I was back at my parent's house around 21 miles and was disappointed that I was not done yet. I wanted to be near my parent's around the last couple of miles because I had never run that far before and wanted to be on the safe side. After alternating some walking and running during the last few miles, there was no way that I was going to let myself walk any of the last mile. When MapMyRun announced: "Distance: 22 miles, Time: 4:06:42, Average Pace: 11:12 min/mi," I could not believe what I had just done. The run that had been so much of a struggle for me was finally over and I had actually completed my long run. I was so proud of myself for completing 22 miles, but I was also a little disappointed that I had not run the whole thing without walking. As I completed my mile cool down walk, I reminded myself that it did not matter because 22 miles was a huge accomplishment for me.

The hours following the long run were a little bit more difficult than the last few miles of the run. However, I learned some valuable lessons on Saturday about long runs. I will never complain ever again about getting up early to do a long run. If I had gotten up earlier, then I would have avoided the hottest part of the day and would not have struggled as much. I do not think that the actual marathon will be too bad because it starts pretty early in the morning. The other mistake that I made was not wearing sunscreen on such a hot day. When you are preparing to run 22 miles, you do not even think about needing to wear sunscreen. Needless to say, four hours of running will result in sunburn.

I really think that the heat and the sunburn were what caused me to have such a difficult time. I was not too sore after the run and am not even really sore today. I did have some difficulty walking up and down the stairs Saturday and yesterday, but my legs feel great today. When I was done running, I had to have my brother take off my sneakers for me. I knew that once I sat down that I would be done for the day. After a shower, I ate half a banana, kept drinking water and took a nap. I finally had a meal about 3 hours after the run and began to replenish all of those calories that I burned off. It was a little difficult getting out of bed on Sunday, but my body is in much better shape today.

I cannot believe that I ran 22 miles this weekend. I never would have imagined that I would be training for a marathon one day and here I am at the peak of my training now. It was much more difficult than I thought that it was going to be. Based on how my training has been going, I really expected to be able to complete 22 miles in about 3:45. I do not think that 4:06:42 is too bad for a 22 mile run because this was my first time ever running that far. My only goal for the Buffalo Marathon is to be able to finish the race. I do not care how long it takes me. I have spent many weeks preparing for this and I did not exactly have the most ideal conditions for 22 miles. Even though I struggled a lot this weekend, I am more than ready to conquer 26.2 miles. I know that race day is not going to be easy, but I've worked so hard to get this far. It will also help that my mileage is beginning to cut back now so that my body has some time to recover and rest before the big day. IT IS OFFICIALLY TAPER TIME!!!!

441 miles complete in 70:52:57 and only 26 days until conquering 26.2 miles!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How Running Can Make the World a Better Place

I haven't updated my running blog in over 2 weeks and there's a few reasons for that. As I suspected, things were pretty busy once we returned from spring break. There's not much time for blogging when you have a state exam to prepare for and you enter some of the most grueling weeks of marathon training. My marathon training has been going pretty well still, but I just haven't been able to find the words to write lately. In light of recent events, there were no words that really seemed appropriate to write. I was not sure what to say or how to say it even, but nothing felt quite right. I've thought a lot about what I have wanted to say and I want the focus of today's post to be what motivates me to run and how running can make the world a better place.

Although it may seem hard to believe at times, I truly believe that there is more good in the world than evil. However, I do not think that we always see enough of the good in the world. I know a lot of wonderful people, but no one is perfect and we do not all always show the good in ourselves even. I know that I am far from perfect, but I think that we should all try harder to become more compassionate and caring people. I think that we could and should strive to share more of this good with the world. I think that people who are not runners really need to understand how running is just one way that you can share the good with the world.
Although some people may disagree with me, I truly believe that running is the purest sport of all. I think that road races are a perfect example of that. Over the past few years, I have run in over 50 road races. I have run 5K races, 10K races, half marathons and many other distance races. I cannot think of a single race that I have entered that has not put at least part of the entry money towards a good cause. One of my favorite races that I participate in every year is a 5K/10K family walk/run for Roswell Park Cancer Institute. One of the main reasons why I run this race is because my family has a personal connection to this amazing place. It's incredible to see people of all ages and abilities, including cancer patients, walking or running to support such an amazing place.

When you see people who have suffered so much in their own lives, it makes you grateful for everything that you have in your own life. It also makes you extremely grateful to be able to have the ability to be able to run and be in such great health. I run for all of those who cannot run, especially those people who would love to run. When people ask me what motivates me to run, I can think of people in my life who inspire me to run. Some of these people are unable to run and that makes me extremely thankful to be a runner. I'm sure that all of my runner friends could think of a person or people or a cause that motivates them to run. I honestly cannot think of just one person or cause that motivates me to run because there are so many inspiring people in my own life. 

I am thankful for all of the people in my life who motivate me to run and I am thankful for having the physical ability to run. The physical aspect of running is extremely important, but I think that the mental part of running is so much more important. Your attitude can easily make or break a run. It's amazing what a good run can do for your own attitude no matter what is going on in your own life or how stressed out you are. If you have never run a road race before, then you probably don't quite understand the runner's high. When you cross the finish line of a race, there is just as much excitement and energy for the winner as there is for the last place finisher. This is one of the best feelings in the world and it makes all of the blood, sweat and tears all worth it in the end.

When your feet hit the pavement for the first step of a run, you are often focused on the finish line. I think that so many of us spend too much time focusing on the finish line and not enough time focusing on the journey there. I think that the same can be said about our own lives. We do not take enough time to appreciate the little things in life or to reach out to one another. A small act of kindness can go a long way and runners display acts of kindness all of the time. You always hear of very heroic acts from runners, but even the little things are what make runners so unique. I cannot think of any other sport where all of the other competitors will wave to you, smile at you or cheer you on. These may seem like very little things to you, but to someone they may mean the world. It only takes one person to change the world, but we could all work together to make this world a better place.

There's so much more that I could say about running and what motivates me to run, but I think that this sums up my thoughts about running pretty well. I challenge each of you now to help me share more of the good in the world. There is an incredible bond between runners, but I think that all people could also use an incredible bond to make this world a better place. There's no reason why you cannot do one small random act of kindness everyday to help us get to where we should be. As I continue my last month of marathon training, I am going to make it my mission to show more of the good in myself. Marathon training has been tough at times, but this experience has given me the opportunity to really remember what motivated me to begin running in the first place. As I finish up this post, here is a recap of what the past 2 1/2 weeks of marathon training have looked like:

Week 24
4/9/13 - 4 miles in 38:39 (9:40 min/mi pace)
4/10/13 - 9 miles in 1:27:17 (9:42 min/mi pace)
4/11/13 - 5 miles in 49:20 (9:52 min/mi pace)
4/14/13 - 19 miles in 3:11:11 (10:03 min/mi pace)

Week 25
4/16/13 - 4 miles in 38:58 (9:44 min/mi pace)
4/17/13 - 9 miles in 1:29:27 (9:56 min/pace)
4/20/13 - 16 miles in 2:42:48 (10:10 min/mi pace)

Week 26
4/23/13 - 10 miles in 1:32:29 (9:15 min/mi pace)
4/24/13 - 5 miles in 48:20 (9:40 min/mi pace)

419 miles complete in 66:46:15 and only 31 days until conquering 26.2 miles!