Charleston Marathon 2014 Race Recap

Wow. Where to begin?! How do I fit 26.2 miles and almost 5 hours into one post? Here's a hint: not very briefly. I don't even know if I can find the words to describe what an amazing, phenomenal day I had. I actually wrote this post shortly after the race, but it took a couple days for the life-changing, "Holy shit, I ran a MARATHON" feelings to sink in. I am being 100% honest when I say that until the race actually ended, I had not considered that there would be life after 1pm on January 18, 2014. I just could not see or comprehend what that would be like, and so the thought of writing a race recap never even crossed my mind. But, here I am! I did it!

There were no corrals for this race, and the half marathoners + marathoners ran together, so everyone (~5000 runners) started in a big group. Since I didn't line up before the start (because I was busy peeing in some bushes), my dad and I stood off to the side for a couple minutes before jumping in and heading off. I don't think the magnitude of what I was about to do had really hit me yet.

For the first few miles we ran south toward and then alongside the Ashley River. The sun was shining right in our faces so I mostly kept my head down, but I did look around every now and then. My first couple miles were around a 10:40 average pace which was a little faster than I was comfortable with. When mile 2 came up as 10:37 I knew I needed to back it down. I wanted to be more around 11:00 min/mi pace, especially at the beginning. 

After mile 3 we turned onto the main street downtown, King Street. The first mile of that street was the last mile of a 5k Turkey Trot I ran 2 years ago, and I had fun thinking about that race. I had never run so hard (I finished the 5k at 31:30something), and by the end I thought I was going to throw up and pass out at the same time. How times have changed!

We stayed on King Street for six miles. I was anticipating this being the worst part, since I normally never run straight on one road for more than a mile. I like turns and variety. It actually wasn't too bad. Once we got out of downtown we ran parallel to some railroad tracks, and other than that there was really nothing else alongside the road. It was very windy, and the wind was hitting us the whole time. I put my head down and unintentionally ended up watching my shadow pretty much the whole time. My pace was still around 10:40, and I felt good. I was hoping to end with a 10:52 pace for a 4:45 finish time, so I knew I had about a 10 second threshold to play with.

I do this thing on long runs where I break it up into fractions and use those as milestones, instead of counting every mile. I do it like this: 1/10 done, 1/9, 1/8, 1/7, 1/6, and so on, until I get to 1/2 and then I go the other way (1/3 left, 1/4, 1/5, etc.). It works for me and it requires a lot of mental math, so it keeps my brain occupied instead of focused on the running. During this stretch on King I got up to 1/3 done and I felt great! I remember thinking that my legs really weren't feeling fatigued at all like I expected.

Finally we turned off King Street, which was bittersweet because shortly after was where my dad and the other half marathoners split from us. My dad almost started crying, and then almost made me cry, as we split. I know he wished he could have kept going with me. 

Almost immediately after the split I started feeling very lonely. Miles 10-14 were an out and back through some industrial area. There were no spectators and nothing to look at. There were some people ahead of me and some behind, but I was in a little pocket by myself. I remember mile 11 taking forever to go by. I also misremembered this part from the course map, because I thought it was going to be about a mile and a half to the turnaround, but it was actually over 2 miles. The turnaround actually was cool, because we had to run out onto a pier with a really great view of the water and the Cooper River Bridge. But any good feelings I had quickly left when I actually turned around and realized that going back was directly into a headwind. I had been running a pretty consistent 10:40-10:45 pace but the wind slowed me down to a couple 11 minute miles during this part. And a guy I had been playing back and forth with for a few miles was definitely drafting off me. I remember passing him later and don't remember seeing him again so I hope I beat him! 

I got to the halfway point, and then mile 14, and then finally out of this lonely industrial area. The next part of the course took us through the old shipyard where my dad used to work. There were more spectators along the side of the street, which was nice. I had a little cramp and it was at this point that I first started thinking about walking. I told myself I could walk for a minute at mile 15, but once I got there I kept going. 

I finally let myself walk, just for a minute, at 16.5 miles I think. I didn't have a specific plan on how much to run before walking, but at that point I decided I wanted to start taking walk breaks before I REALLY needed them. Walking for a minute here and there didn't affect my pace very much and actually I think it helped my running pace. I was trying to take some preemptive breaks to avoid hitting the wall and/or feeling like death at any point. Running a marathon really changed my view on walking during a run. Normally it's something I never, ever do, not even on training runs, just to prove to myself that I don't have to. But during the marathon I realized that I really didn't need to prove anything. I'd already proven I can run 22.2 miles/4 hours in training without stopping and that is a long time! And besides, I didn't need to prove to myself or anyone that I can run 26.2 without stopping - getting to the finish line, walking or not, is proof enough. I also knew I wasn't I danger of completely blowing my time goals. So from 16.5 to the end, I gave myself a ~1 minute walk break roughly every mile.

Miles 15-18 took us up to a big circle that we'd run around and shoot off a few times through some neighborhoods. This is another part of the course I wish I'd remembered better at the time. I don't know how long I thought it would be, but it ended up being about 3 miles just to get to the circle and it was kind of boring. 

Once I got to the circle, I saw my family for the first time!!! My dad had finished the half and was there with my mom, husband, grandma, and cousin (who ran the 5k earlier that day). They had signs for me and cheered for me! It was awesome! Even though there were some miles that had felt like they'd never end, overall I was surprised at how quickly the race was going by. I couldn't believe I was already 18 miles into the marathon by the time I saw them. Something about it just felt so surreal. 

My cute mom
Oh hey guys, just 2/3 of the way through a marathon, nbd.
I looped around the circle and down a street into a neighborhood, and pretty soon I was at mile 20, 10k to go! My pace was slowing and my miles were closer to 11 minutes per mile, especially after I started taking walking breaks. I kept a close eye on my time and knew as long as I could stay around that pace, I'd be somewhere in the 4:4x's. Somewhere along the way I became pretty sure that 4:45 wasn't quite going to happen, but I thought I could still get under 4:50 which I was perfectly happy with.

Honestly miles 20-24ish were kind of a blur. At 21 I saw my family again and my husband ran with me for a few minutes. I told him how tired I was and about my time goals. I made one up mid-race: I wanted my pace to be 11:00 or better, because one time in my early C25k days my husband made me run ONE 11 minute mile and I started crying because I couldn't keep up with him. My pace was around 10:52 by that point and that's where I wanted it to stay.

At mile 22 I saw my family one last time before the finish. I handed off my gloves and the water bottle I had been carrying to my husband. Right after that I walked through a water stop, and there were race photographers like 100ft after the stop. I was like, "Seriously? You gotta be kidding me! You are not taking a picture of me walking right now!" I drank my water quickly then walked back a few feet to throw my cup away before I started running again, just so I didn't have to have a race photo of me walking. Bad positioning, seriously!

What's that, race photographers? Trying to catch me walking? I don't think so!
The next part of the course was that same stretch we already ran for miles 15-18. It at least felt good to be going and not coming like the runners on the opposite side of the road! I heard a girl on the other side ask a volunteer what mile she was at. The volunteer replied that mile 18 was just up ahead and I thought to myself, "Wow, I am so thankful to be 5 miles past that!" Running that far feels so surreal that I don't even think my brain registered that I was in new distance territory past 22 miles. I was so focused on getting to the finish. I got to mile 23 and was happy to only have 5k left. Then mile 24, only 2 miles! At that point I calculated that, unless I somehow pulled out a couple 9:30 miles (lol so not happening), my 4:45 goal was out the window, but I was still sure I'd only miss it by a few minutes and I was totally fine with that.

I had some cramps here and there for most of the race and just breathed through them, but for the last few miles I had one that just kept intensifying. It wasn't excruciating pain, thankfully, but it was just enough that I couldn't really speed up at the end like I had hoped to. I think I was just hungry. We ran through a waterfront park (more headwind yay!) before winding through the park back to the main road. 

I had driven some of the course the day before, so I knew exactly where mile 25 would be. I had been walking for about a minute before I got to 25. I told myself once I got there, I could walk for one more minute before running again and finishing this thing. I got to the mile marker and texted my husband to let him know I was almost there! My watch said my minute was up and it was go time! I had like 12 minutes left. I can do anything for 12 minutes!

I kept running and I could hear the announcer at the post-race party. I knew I was getting really close. I trudged on. Less than a mile to go. At 25.5 an older gentleman standing on the side of the road looked me in the eye and gave me the most sincere, "Well done" I've ever received. 

I turned a corner, and up ahead was the last big turn before winding through to the finish line. I was really hoping for a great kick at the end, and I tried, but my stomach just wasn't allowing me to.

I turned the next corner and up ahead was the mile 26 marker, and the post race party was going on just beyond it. Someone on the side of the road yelled, ".3 left! You got this!" I waited until I passed 26 and turned on my power song. Another turn. The finish was sooo close! As I approached another corner there were more and more people. I picked up the pace. I made the last turn and saw the finish. I was taken off guard a little, because it wasn't as grand of a spectacle as I was expecting. I don't even remember seeing a "Finish" banner. For a second I was afraid that what I was looking at wasn't even the finish line! 

I wish the quality were better (my husband's iPhone 5 died and he had to take this with my cousin's iPhone 4...), but it is so cool to have video of that moment!

Play-by-play of the above 15 seconds: I picked it up a little more. I looked for my family. I saw my husband. My music was on full volume. I let the guy in front of me go ahead a little so I wouldn't be in his photos and he wouldn't be in mine. I looked up at the cameras and put my hands straight in the air. I crossed the finish line!

I got my medal and a water and got my picture taken. I saw my husband first and jumped into his arms. I didn't cry. I was surprised. I would have bet money that I would have cried at the end. I was just happy to be done. I don't think it had really hit me yet. My dad had been on the other side of the street so it took him a minute to get over to me. We hugged and he picked me up and started crying, so I started crying. I saw the rest of my family and it was overwhelming and a little disorienting going from being alone for almost 5 hours to suddenly having a bunch of people all focused on me.

Obligatory Garmin splits:

Pretty obvious where the headwind was really bad, and where I started taking walk breaks. But heyyyy 10:07 pace at the end!

Afterward my posse followed me while I walked around like a chicken with its head cut off for a few minutes trying to decide between getting food, getting beer, and changing clothes. I decided to change and headed inside to do that. It probably took 15 or 20 minutes just because it took me forever to make any slight movement whatsoever. My legs were so stiff so after I changed I laid down on the floor with my feet up the wall, which felt amazing in case you were wondering.

When I finally finished changing clothes I got my free beer and grits and sat down to eat. We were sitting right across from where the official race vendor was set up. My husband walked over to see if they had any 26.2 stickers (I have a strict policy of waiting until after the race to purchase them). They didn't, but he saved the day by finding me a hoodie! (Remember my hoodie meltdown at the expo?) It wasn't the exact one that I wanted, but it was this year's, and in the correct size, and I was very happy.

One thing I wasn't happy with was the free beer selections. I had been abstaining from alcohol for a couple weeks and was so looking forward to that post-race beer and the Bud Light was just not cutting it. I'm not an alcoholic, just a beer snob. We went into a restaurant across the street and I got a real beer and some deviled eggs umm yum. And with that...the race was over! We could see the Mile 26 marker from the restaurant, and actually watched the last finishers come in, and then race organizers pick up the sign. Like really, it was totally over.

I really don't think I could have had a much better experience for my first marathon. The course was (mostly) great, the weather was great in my opinion (could have done without the wind but I like a cold but sunny day!), and I think I did a really good job of pacing myself. I wanted to have a good time more than I wanted to meet a time goal, and I really feel like I accomplished that. There were times were I didn't really feel like running anymore, but they passed pretty quickly. I never hit the wall or felt like I seriously couldn't go on. Maybe that means I ran it a little too conservatively, but honestly I never wanted to get to that point, and I'm happy I didn't. I really didn't know what to expect, especially for those last 6.2 miles, but I am happy with how they went. They weren't perfect, but they weren't as awful as I was afraid they'd be. Again, maybe that means I didn't run hard enough, but if what I did is wrong then I don't think I want to be right. Maybe next time, but not for my first one. I didn't feel like I was completely drained at the end. I didn't collapse at the finish line. I was tired, but I was happy, and that's a total victory in my book. 

Charleston Marathon 2014: Before the Race

I started writing a race recap but quickly realized that I had a whole weekend of experience I wanted to remember, not just the race itself. It was just too much to put into one post so I'm splitting it into 2 parts.

Thursday I had class until 11, then came home to run my last 2 miles before the marathon. I had gone back and forth over doing those 2 miles or just skipping them (giving me 2 rest days instead of 1), but run Thursday/rest Friday/long run Saturday has been my schedule for a long time now, I stuck with it. I honestly don't think it helped or hurt me in any way, but it might have helped me mentally just a little bit (I think I would have started to go super crazy with 2 days off from running).

After a quick run we packed up the car and got on the road. I was on an emotional roller coaster all dat. One minute I was fine, the next minute I started to get anxious. I started to think that maybe driving down Thursday was a mistake, since I still had all day Friday to freak out! When we got into Charleston we met my cousin for dinner at an Italian restaurant carb loading FTW. After dinner we headed to my grandparents', where we were staying, and talked to them for a little bit before heading to bed. We were both exhausted!

Friday morning we slept in a little bit before getting ready to head to the expo. I really wanted to pick up my bib ASAP, and I was hoping to purchase some merchandise to commemorate my first marathon. I have had a design from last year's marathon as the background on my phone for the last 3+ months
and I was really hoping to pick up a hoodie of it.

It was surreal seeing the word "FULL" next to my name when I looked up my bib number. And again when I picked up my bib. And again when I verified that my timing chip worked. Not gonna lie, I felt like I was part of the "cool group." On the other hand, I also felt like a total impostor. Like when it flashed up on the computer screen when I checked my chip, I almost wanted to look around and be like, "I hope nobody saw that because full?! Lol, no, not me!"

I knew the expo was going to be smaller than what I am used to, but in the back of my head I think I had held out hope that it would be a bigger event than it was. On the bright side, it being smaller made packet pick-up easy. My next stop was to get my race shirt. I saw a few days before that I had put medium for my shirt size but probably needed a small - no biggie, I was sure I could exchange it. I asked the volunteer who gave me the shirt about exchanging and she told me nope, not gonna happen today, but I could do it after the race. That irritated me a little bit since I have never not been able to exchange my size (most races I've done have a whole shirt exchange table set up!), then I got really irritated when no one could even tell me where I would need to go after the race to exchange it. (For the record, I ended up exchanging it no problem race morning). Also, can we just talk about this shirt for a second?

Crickets...Yeah, that's what I thought. I'm not a huge fan. If it didn't have the significance that it does, I'd probably just toss it in a drawer and never look at it again.

After the race shirt debacle came the hoodie debacle. They didn't have the exact hoodie I was looking for, as pictured above. My only option was a size too big, and with a guy on the back instead of a girl. They had shirts from this year (luckily last year's don't say the specific year, just "3rd Annual") but I didn't like the design. I know it's a silly thing to get worked up about, but I'm extremely sentimental for one (and really wanted that specific hoodie since that picture has been my constant reminder of what this means to me for the last few months), and I was already on edge anyway. I was starting to cry and I didn't know what to do, so I walked out of the gym and just started walking down a hallway. My husband caught up to me and gave me a hug and talked me down. I walked back through the expo again and decided to purchase this shirt from Fleet Feet, just so I had something actually wearable from this event.

I was still sad about the hoodie and must have walked through the expo 2 more times, stopping at their booth each time, looking and sounding like a crazy person. Finally my husband convinced me to just go ahead and get it, that way I have it (Arrested Development anyone?).

With that finally settled, we left the expo. Ready or not, I was all set to run my first marathon!

After the expo, my parents were getting into town, so we went back to my grandparents' to meet up with them. My dad, husband, grandma, and I went out a little bit later to drive around, and we ended up driving a lot of the marathon course. I had already watched a video of the course, but driving it gave me a lot better sense of the course. I hadn't planned to do this, and at the time I wasn't sure I really wanted to (there were parts that looked long and boring and I was thinking maybe it would have been better to not know that ahead of time), but it actually did help me to know where I was a little bit better on race day. 

Later that night I of course made my traditional, pre-long run pasta for dinner. I finalized my playlist. I almost forgot to eat my Cheerios (another ritual). Before I went to bed, I laid out all my gear just to make sure I had everything. I am so glad I remembered gloves. I never even considered that it might be cold enough for them, but for some reason on my last run the thought occurred to me to pack them just in case!

On Saturday, the morning of the race, the first thing I felt when I woke up was relief. Is that weird? I had been anticipating this day for sooo many months now, and for it to finally be here really felt like a weight off my shoulders. Even though I hadn't done anything yet. As I was getting ready I felt some nerves, but I was much calmer than I thought I'd be.

Before we left I found out something I already pretty much figured out, but it was supposed to be a secret: my dad was running the half marathon! I had hoped for us to do the full together (would have been his first also), but then he got injured. The half seemed better than nothing (both races run together for the first ~almost 10 miles), but that didn't look too promising for a while either, so he had me thinking he wasn't running at all. But it turns out he was planning to surprise me all along!

On the way to the race, I made my husband scribble some motivational quotes on my hands. I made him do this before a half marathon I was trying to PR last year, so now it's just kind of....a thing for big races (unfortunately it doesn't work for triathlon...swimming and all, ya know). My life rule is, "You can never have too many motivational quotes on your person."

We got to the race about 30 minutes before the start. It was in the 30's at the start, much colder than I ever expected! I was worried about this race being too hot for me, but that was not a problem today. We mostly hung out in the gym where it was warm! 

With about 10 minutes to go, I REALLY needed to nervous pee one last time but the porta-potty lines were ridiculously long. I was standing in line at 7:55 - 5 minutes to go - when I decided I'd just go along the course if I still had to. As I was walking to the start line, some other people were running into some bushes to pee - so my mom stood in front of me while I did too. No shame. The race announcer was actually counting down the last minute while I was mid-pee. Not exactly how I expected to spend those last seconds before my first marathon!

And...that's how I got to the start line of my first marathon! I keep track of all my running data nerd alert and at the moment I took this photo, I had exactly 1723.03 lifetime running miles under my belt. Only 26.2 more and I would be a marathoner!

Happy Tuesday! Monday? Tuesday? What day is it again?

I am so, SO happy to report that I have proudly joined the ranks of people who plaster 26.2 stickers on their car. Because, you know, I'm a marathoner!

I have a full, in-depth recap coming, but for right now let's just say that, while it wasn't one of those days where the stars seem to align just perfectly, it was close enough for me. For the most part, it went as well as I could have planned or hoped for. To say I am on Cloud 9 is an understatement!

The part of me not on Cloud 9? My legs. Like, OUCH, for real. Stairs suddenly turned against me and became my sworn enemy until last night. Three days post-marathon, my quads are starting to feel only slightly on fire every time I walk. 

But don't let that fool you - this crazy girl already has plans for marathon #2, including a possibility of back-to-back races. Maybe I left my mind somewhere along the course in Charleston? My bad. There's no time like the present, people!

Speaking of my mind, that's another thing not feeling 100% yet. January 18th, 2014 has been starred, highlighted, circled, you name it on my calendar for so long that I really couldn't see past that date. So, imagine my surprise when I realized I still have classes to go to, homework to complete, tests to study for. College life is so glamorous. I'm struggling a little bit to get back into routine. My brain is also having a hard time coping with this "rest" thing, I mean who does this, honestly?! I'm basically in la-la land right now, but I'll get it together soon. If only my life planner were here already!

And just to get it out there...
Sorry I'm not sorry!

Channeling Kara Goucher

I can't believe it's here. The workouts are done. The spreadsheet I've been diligently and dutifully filling out since June only has one more box left to be filled in.

My workouts this week were....solid, I think that's the best way to describe them. I wouldn't call any of them particularly great, and there was no euphoria or anything like that, just solid workouts to keep my legs from forgetting how to do this running thing.

So now it's Friday, and the nerves have really started to set in. I picked up my packet and had a small meltdown at the expo over my race shirt possibly not being the right size, and not being able to purchase a hoodie I really wanted. Stressed runner alert. I was starting to feel extremely overwhelmed and I hadn't even made it to the start line yet. The fears and doubts started piling up and the tears were coming out.

I needed to get my nerves and attitude in check. I thought to myself, "What would [my fave runner/girl crush] Kara Goucher say?"

So, I have made a decision. I will not fail.

I. Will. Not. Fail. 

Simple as that. I did not come this far to accept defeat before I even try.

I know, deep down, I can do this. I am ready. I have trained for this. I did all the running I was supposed to do (and a little bit extra). I have done 2 20+ mile runs. I am fully capable of doing 26.2 miles. 

I can't pretend I'm not afraid. I have a fear of the unknown in all aspects of life, and running is no different. For that, I'm reminded of another favorite quote of mine:

See, I don't think the fear is necessarily a bad thing. I think it's supposed to scary. Overcoming that fear is part of what makes it so great. Replacing the fear with accomplishment allows us to grow and dream even bigger. 

And one more...

1. Because I love Nike. 2. Because isn't that really what it's all about? When it comes down to it, it's just about putting one foot in front of the other. I love this because it makes me think of all the times I have taken that extra, little step. Running that extra minute or extra mile or five miles, until five turned into ten and then twenty and now twenty six point two. It didn't happen overnight, but sometimes I forget that I'm no longer that girl with asthma who had never run a continuous mile in her life, wheezing her way through Week 3 of Couch to 5k. But I'm not. All because I took that extra, little step.

Marathon Goals

I can't believe it's time for me to write my marathon goals. I don't even know how many of these I've read on countless other blogs, and now I am writing my own. Yeah, yeah, it's my first marathon, but it just wouldn't be a race without a goal (or two, or three, or whatever). I like to have a few different goals for big races/new distances, mostly because I don't know what to expect so I don't want to pin down one specific goal and totally blow it.

General goals:
1. Finish the damn thing! I made it up to 22.19 miles in training and honestly, I felt pretty beaten up by the end. I'm not sure what would have happened if I had had 4 more miles to go, but it could have been ugly. But, no matter what happens, I WILL cross that finish line on Saturday even if it takes me 6.5 hours (the course limit) and I have to crawl to get there!

2. Finish strong, and finish happy! I may be feeling a little optimistic, but I truly hope to be able to give a little kick at the very end. I totally expect to be in pain, and I understand that I may not be in the greatest of moods, but I do hope I can revel in my accomplishment. I sincerely hope to not feel like crawling up into a little ball and dying immediately after getting my medal. We'll see how that pans out.

Time goals (you knew they were coming...)
I know, time goals are bad for a first marathon, but luckily I have several so hopefully I make at least one of them.

1. Beat my first half marathon time, doubled - 5:23:49 (12:21 pace). This is the only time goal that I will really be very upset if I don't accomplish. My first half marathon was a rite of passage, but it was a disaster. I know doubling the distance in less than 2 years is an accomplishment on its own, but for some reason I want need to do this to feel like I have proven myself.

2. Finish under 5 hours (11:26 pace). I don't know why, but even before I started training, this seemed like a good time to me (based on my previous half marathon times), and one that I would be proud of accomplishing.

3. Finish in 4:45 or under (10:52 pace or better). This will depend on a lot of things going right on race day. I'm not comfortable banking on it, but I would be lying if I said I didn't want to try for it. I definitely think I am capable of it, based on my training runs. But really, the stars would pretty much have to perfectly align on race day.

I am not as nervous as I expected to be. If I let myself think about it too hard, I start to get really anxious, so I have come to the conclusion that making it out to be a big deal is counterproductive. I mean, it IS a big deal, but I'm trying to downplay it the best I can so I don't psych myself out too much (my biggest mistake during half marathon numero uno).

Today I am doing laundry and packing because tomorrow I have class bright and early and then we hit the road! It's almost time!!!

Weekly Workouts 1/6-1/12 (Marathon Training Week 17)

Good morning!!! I am feeling downright chipper this morning! This is a really nice change of pace from how I've been feeling.

I have to be honest, last week was not great for me. I felt down emotionally, and physically sluggish. It doesn't help that my body has been craving junk, and that's exactly what I've been giving it. I don't know if it's due to my tapering or what the problem is, but I just haven't felt good in any sense of the word for the past week or two. I feel lazy, and like I've already let myself down and ruined my months of training for the marathon. And I haven't even made it to the start line yet!

My Monday run was pretty good, albeit a little all over the place in the splits department. I'm having a really hard time keeping a nice pace these days.

Tuesday was actually my best workout of the week, I think! I took some time to finally get my bike sensor to work while I'm on the trainer. The last couple of weeks I've been about over the spin class video I'm doing, but I decided to give it another shot so that I could see how I've been doing speed-wise, now that I had a working sensor. I was shocked to find out that the 16-16.5mph speed I've been estimating myself at was actually 19.2mph! I think having the numbers in front of me really helped, because that was the best I've ever felt on the trainer. Sometimes I just need that data to push me and keep me motivated! After the bike I finished up with my last weights workout before the marathon.
Couldn't find the zip ties, so I made due with some tape...whatever works, right?
Wednesday was just a short 5k. I felt like I blinked and it was over! I can't even remember the last time I only ran 5k...

Thursday I had 4 miles to do and it felt pretty blah. I got slower and slower as the week went on.

Friday was rest day, which I usually welcome with open arms, but I actually felt pretty antsy. It's probably because I've dropped down in mileage so much and my body is like, "That's all you got?!"

Saturday was my last long run and we all know how that went. It was 60 degrees and rainy (but not actually raining) and muggy (100% humidity, UGH!). I felt so sluggish and awful. It was one of those runs where I felt every. single. step. Not to mention my calves felt like they were on fire for the first few miles, something I haven't experienced in a very long time. I wasn't trying to hold a particular pace, but all my miles were a pretty consistent 10:30 pace. I was trying to take it easy, but every time I tried to slow down, it just felt worse. The second half felt better than the first half, but not by much. I would like to think the weather played a big role, but maybe it was just me. Not a confidence builder at all!

Things finally started to turn around on Sunday. I fell asleep Saturday night watching Spirit of the Marathon and it must have seeped into my brain while I was sleeping, because Sunday I actually felt a lot better, mentally. As usual, I slept in a little bit before getting up to make a big breakfast. Breakfast is hands down my fave meal of the day. I made some decent food choices for lunch/snack, drank a ton of water, and felt like I was back in action! I had energy to take care of some things around the house and go to the grocery store. I did a short core circuit, because I wanted to get in some strength training but didn't want to do anything that my cause my legs to be sore for next weekend. Later in the evening I did yoga and felt fantastic! My hips and hamstrings felt much looser than they have been feeling. I felt strong and confident. After yoga I had a date with these guys, the best!!!

I am so excited for this Monday! For one, I start the spring semester today. My current goal for school is to have the girliest school supplies possible, since I have class with a bunch of boys (I'm in engineering school). I can't even explain how excited I am for my new Erin Condren life planner to arrive and really complete the package. 

And I'm excited's finally marathon week!!!!! This is it!!! Ready or not, it's here!!!! I am so excited for what this week will hold for me. I know I won't be able to focus on anything else this week, but oh well. Anticipation gives me the worst anxiety. Not that I want to rush this, but I've been waiting for it for how many weeks now? I'm kind of ready to just do the damn thing!

How Did I Get Here?

Anybody else unable to utter that phrase without hearing this song on repeat in their head? Just me? Okay.

Seriously, though, this is a question that has been on my mind a lot lately. My history with running is really not that long, but at the same time, I don't know what I did before I started running!

Growing up, I was never a runner. I was involved in basketball and softball and was decently athletic, but I definitely could have skipped the running drills during practice. In the 6th grade I had an asthma attack for the first time while running the mile in gym class. I knew before that that I wasn't a runner, but at that point I definitely knew. I had to use an inhaler before any strenuous activities and had more than a few exercise-induced asthma attacks. Add to that the fact that running just for the sake of running looked insanely boring to me, I resigned myself to a life of being a non-runner.

After high school I stopped playing sports and, since that had really been my only source of exercise, I became a certifiable couch potato. I tried going to the gym a little bit during my freshman year of college, but since I had never stepped foot in one and didn't really know what I was doing, the habit didn't stick. I gained 15+ pounds over my 4 years in college. 

While I was in college, my dad started going to the gym and took up running. The first race he ran was an 8k and by the next year, he was running half marathons. He would tell me briefly about his running, but truthfully, I couldn't have even told you at that point how long a half marathon even was. I was living out of state at the time, and I remember him posting this picture on Facebook:

with the caption, "First time under 2 hours!" My honest-to-goodness response was, "You are happy you just RAN for TWO HOURS...?!" So naive.

For whatever reason, that photo sparked something inside me. Shortly after that, I moved back home, to a new area with a really nice waterfront boardwalk. I was constantly seeing people out jogging, but instead of being confused by why they were torturing themselves in such a way, a little voice in the back of my head kept getting louder and louder, saying, "They are out there doing it...why can't you?"

This went on for two months before I found the Couch to 5k program and convinced my (now) husband to try it with me. We went to a running store and got fitted for shoes, and were on our way. For about a week. We got busy (we had less than a month before our wedding, and not a lot of spare time), and just didn't make it a priority. 

Nine months went by without a thought of trying again. To this day I have no idea what made me decide to lace up and try again, but on April 23, 2011, I decided this was the day. I was going to commit and stick with the program. And I did! For the first time in my life, running made me feel accomplished instead of like I was being punished. It was hard - I struggled to make it through 2-minute runs - but the feeling of pushing through was like nothing I had ever experienced. I remember the first time I almost ran a full mile - something I had never done before, not even in school when we had to. I always walked at least some of it. I was doing C25k and during one of the 7 or 8 minute runs, I decided I wasn't ready to stop and I made it to 10 whole minutes! I called my dad right after. I was beaming, I was so proud of myself. A few weeks later I ran two whole miles. TWO! Without stopping! I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd be able to do that. I had looked at the C25k plan earlier in the week and when I saw that run - 22 minutes, no walk breaks - I was so skeptical and afraid. But somehow, I put one foot in front of the other, and I did it.

My first race was on May 22, 2011. I was only a month into C25k and nowhere near ready to really run the full distance, but it was a charity run for a depression and suicide awareness, a cause that is close to my heart. I ran the first two miles and ran/walked the last mile. That last mile was TOUGH. It was hot, my iPod died with like 3/4 of a mile left. Bad times. I ended up finishing in almost 37 minutes.

For Father's Day that year, I signed my dad, my husband, and myself up for a Halloween 10k. Sure, I had never run a full 5k, but surely I could run a 10k right? Life got busy that summer, and I fell off the wagon a few times, but I eventually completed the Couch to 5k program on August 18, 2011. The last run was a 30-minute run, and since I was running about 12 minute miles, I hadn't even worked up to a full 5k yet!

I ran my first, no-stopping 5k on October 8, 2011. It was actually about a minute slower than my first run/walk 5k! But, in starting Couch to 5k, my goal was to run 3 miles without stopping, and that's exactly what I did in that race. (A year later I ran the same race and took just shy of 10 minutes off my time!)

My first 10k was 3 weeks later, and I didn't train for it like I should have. I got up to 3.9 miles as my farthest training distance. The morning of the 10k, my husband and I decided we would run the first 4 miles, since we knew we were capable of that, and then evaluate. When we started the race, I ran the first mile so slowly that my husband was having trouble slowing down enough for me. His 6' 2" frame could not physically run as slow as I needed to. After that first mile and a half or so, I got some confidence that I could really do this, and I picked it up a little bit. We made it to mile 4 and gave each other a "What the hell? Let's do it!" look and kept on running. And we ran and ran and ran to the finish! Our final time was 1:18. (The next year my time was 1:01:01, and the following year I brought it down to 57 minutes on the dot - more than 21 minutes off my time the first year).

After that 10k I wasn't training for anything specific. One Sunday afternoon in December I managed to run 7 miles, and I started to think about running a half marathon. A half had always been in the back of my mind as my ultimate goal, but I wasn't confident I could get there. I had my eye on one in March that was close to selling out, and one night after my run I pulled the trigger and registered (it sold out the next morning!). I started training at the end of December. I wish I could say I followed the training plan to a T, but I didn't exactly. I did most of the long runs, though, and got such a high reaching a new distance PR every weekend. I even ran 13.1 all by myself on a cold, rainy day 2 weeks before the half.

The day of the half came, and I was nervous. My dad ran the whole way with me, even though I was ridiculously slower than he was. I ran the first half faster than I had really planned to, and had a freak asthma attack midway and ended up having to walk about a mile. I tried to keep running but I was really having trouble breathing and had to stop to catch my breath. I was crushed. I felt defeated, like I had let myself down. I picked up running again around mile 8 and tried to make it the rest of the way. I gave up on myself during that race, and ended up walking for another few minutes here and there. Eventually I made it to the finish line, with my dad at my side. Despite not doing my best, I was so proud and both my dad and I cried happy tears at the end! I was a half-marathoner! I'd have that for the rest of my life. No one could ever take that away from me. 

After the half I took some time off to deal with some shin injuries I sustained during training. I started up again in the summer of 2012 and haven't looked back since! In the fall of 2012 I set new 5k and 10k PR's and ran my first 10-mile race. I started training for my 2nd half marathon at the end of 2012/beginning of 2013.

Things really took off in 2013! I beat and set new PR's left and right. My second half marathon led to my 3rd...and ultimately my 6th. I fell in love with triathlon, which was totally unexpected but now I don't know what I did without it! I crossed 18 finish lines, making 29 total. And, perhaps my biggest accomplishment yet, I completed 15 out of 18 weeks of training for my first marathon, including a distance PR of 22 miles right before the New Year! Did I tell you guys I'm running a marathon this weekend?!

Running has without a doubt changed my life, and it's amazing to me every time I run and see the payoff of the work I've put in over the past (almost) 3 years. Even now, 6 days away, I think about the marathon and wonder, "How will I get there? How will I get through 26.2 miles?" But I know, deep down in my heart, it's exactly the same as when I wondered how I would get through 5-minute jogs. It seems silly now, but at the time it was a hurdle I had never jumped, and it was scary. I hope that one day I will be looking back and laughing at myself for wondering how I'd ever get through a marathon!

Lessons Learned From My Last Long Run

This morning was my last long run before the marathon. It did not go well. I am fighting some serious internal debate over whether or not I am capable of running 26.2 miles in 7 short days, when today running 8 was a struggle. I'm trying to keep the negativity out, and hoping that today's crappy run just means I got all the junk out of my system.

It may be a good thing that this run wasn't rainbows and butterflies and puppies, because it gave me a reality check. Some I'm taking some things away from today to remind myself for next weekend:

Do set yourself up for success. Last night I went to bed at midnight, slept through two alarms and woke up an hour later than I planned to. I was rushed and didn't get through my normal routine. I knew it wasn't the end of the world and I'd be able to stick it out for 8 miles, but I wish I has taken a little more care to make this run more of a confidence-builder. Obviously I will be taking extreme measures to make sure I'm well-prepared when I wake up on marathon morning!

Do eat your normal pre-run dinner. Last night I had pasta out instead of the same pasta I've been eating every Friday night for...I don't know how many months now. Good enough, but sticking to my tried and true dinner is probably going to be better for 26.2.

Don't stress. Easier said than done, but I've been on an emotional roller coaster (for various reasons) this week and know I need to keep my cool this week. All of this stress is not good for my body.

Do use every available restroom and/or porta potty available before the race. Enough said.

Don't overdress. Today I went out in 60 degree, muggy, rainy weather in long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Not the most appropriate choice.

Do take it easy. Don't worry too much about pace. I would be lying if I said I didn't have a time I hope to beat. However, I know I have a much better success of achieving the time I want if I start out slow. Burning out too quickly isn't going to get me anywhere I want to be. I want to run at a pace that feels okay, and not worry too much about what it means for my final time. 

Do respect the distance. 26.2 miles is a longggggg friggin' way, y'all.

Do embrace the suck. It is going to hurt. A lot. I don't know when the pain will come, but I know it will. I don't have to focus on it and wait for it all race, but when it does arrive...I want to be ready for it.

Don't give up on yourself. If I accomplish nothing else on this list, this would be the one thing I want and need to do. My first half marathon was a disastrous experience, and not one that I remember fondly, because ultimately, I gave up on myself when the going got tough. I regret it, and I know I will never forgive myself if I do that to myself during my first marathon.

I'm sure that there will be plenty of other dos and don'ts that I come up with throughout the next 6 days!


Patience is a virtue.

One that I definitely do not possess.

I have always been impatient and a little bit impulsive. I can be fine and then, all of a sudden, I want something to happen. And I want it to happen NOW. And if I want it to happen now, I will usually find a way to make it happen now.

I do it all the time. I don't know to methodically save and instead make impulse purchases. If I'm looking forward to something, I wish away all the days in between the present and that day. I graduated from college a year early because I just couldn't bear the thought of staying any longer. I have created problems in relationships because I don't know how to let things happen naturally.

It doesn't help that I have a go, go, go personality. I always need to be doing something, working on something, thinking about and planning for what's next. In a lot of ways, I really value this quality in myself. It has led me to do some pretty amazing things and push myself out of my comfort zone. I am a true believer that in order to get things done, you actually have to DO something. Part of why I've been so successful in accomplishing the goals I set for myself is because I don't just dream things up. I'm pragmatic in my approach to my aspirations and don't attempt anything without a clear plan of how to get from Point A to Point B. And once I have that plan in place, I'm fully committed to go out and fulfill the plan to my best capability.

The problem is that in a lot of ways, I have taken my philosophy of "Go. Do." to an extreme. I am very emotionally-driven, and that combined with my lack of patience can lead to me saying and doing things before I have really processed my feelings and the consequences of my actions.

The past couple of weeks, I have let my impatience and anxiety snowball and get the best of me. It's exhausting, and I'm ready slow down. The magnitude of this upcoming week is really starting to overwhelm me, and I really just want need to take a step back and focus.

Single digits.

Shit is getting real, y'all.

In just under 9 days from now, I will be running my first marathon.

Let that sink in for a minute.

I will be first...MARATHON.

It's kind of a big deal.

And I'm kind of freaking out.

I have no idea what to wear, but for months I have toyed with the idea of wearing a Wonder Woman shirt (the nickname my sister-in-law gave me somewhere along the way during my training). So I may or may not have just ordered this shirt:
It's not a running shirt, but I'm not sure that I care.

I've been stalking the weather forecast even though it could and probably will change 10 times before next weekend. It's been anywhere from 48*-60*...the lower it stays on that spectrum (or even lower), that happier I will be!

I have found that everything they say about taper blues is true...I'm not running nearly as much as I would like to, and my brain is not. happy.  I'm trying to just ride it out the best I can. 

Easier said than done.

Only a few more days until spring semester starts (which = BUSY). A week from RIGHT NOW I will
be heading out the door and on my way to South Carolina!

Weekly Workouts 12/30 - 1/5 (Marathon Training Week 16)

Another week of training down! I feel like a broken record, but I honestly can't believe how fast the last 16+ weeks have gone by. I never thought I'd say this, but marathon training has truly been fun. I don't know how soon I'll want to do it again, but it has definitely been worth it. I'm so excited that the marathon is getting closer and closer!

This week was my first week of taper. My max mileage weeks were weeks 11 and 15 at ~37 miles, and this week was 26. Not a huge decrease in mileage, but enough that I was like, "This is...easy?" Welcome to the the point of tapering, I guess. I managed to only freak out a little bit on Tuesday/Wednesday. I have to admit that by Thursday I was thankful for the not super crazy mileage.

My week looked like this:

Monday: 5 way-too-fast miles at 8:58 pace.

Tuesday: an (eventual) hour on the trainer after some technical difficulties + weights and working on a pull-up!

Wednesday: 4 moderate miles at 9:49 pace. Not the 10:00 pace I was going for, but close.

Thursday: same story as Wednesday, but 5 miles this time.
Friday: REST!!! :)

Saturday: So strange not going to bed at 9pm the night before, not being awoken by a 4:30am alarm, not leaving the house as the sun comes up. Just strange. Since I only had 12 miles - there I go again with the "only", hahaha - on the schedule, I didn't think it was necessary to get up and do my usual routine. I would have, but not having to gave me the flexibility to go watch/help my husband teach 15 7-12 year olds about computers and circuits:
Photo credit: 757 Makerspace
And going later in the day meant I was able to get these two to join me:

We did 12 miles with no pace goals (and no planned route...hence how we ended up running the tallest bridge in the area). I really didn't fuel or prepare for this run at all. Our pace ended up being 10:47 per mile - factoring in running across and back over the bridge, making a few stops to shed layers and pee, and my lack of preparedness, that's not too shabby!

Sunday: Yoga for Runners + weights

And so begins the big taper week and my last full week of training. This week is really it, as next week will be spent running a little bit here and there and getting ready for race day! 12 days to go!

Taper Madness is a Real Thing

Happy Friday! As of Monday I have officially arrived in Taper Town, and I can't even believe it. All of my hard training and big mileage weeks are behind me. All I have to do for the next few weeks is not ruin the months of hard work that got me here. Easy peasy, right?


I have heard of taper madness, but leading up to it, I was actually naive enough to think that taper time would be a welcome break from all the running I've been doing. "I'm tired!" I thought. "My legs hurt!" I thought. "It will be so nice to not have to run as much!" I thought.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Five days in, and it's not exactly going well. Monday I was feeling fantastic, a little TOO fantastic, and busted out 5 miles at an 8:58 pace (and that was after I realized, about 4 miles in, that I needed to dial it back a little bit or I might not make it to the marathon). This run also included a 1-mile PR (8:24) and 5k PR (27:13). Clearly I must have gotten lost on the way to Taper Town and ended up in Crazy Town instead.

Tuesday was a cross-training day, and as I was making plans for my Wednesday run, I had a full on freakout when I realized I only had 4 miles coming up. Four measly miles! I am no expert, but I was sure there was no way this could be right. The last time my plan called for 4 miles on a Wednesday was...oh wait, NEVER. I thought about upping it to 5, 6, 10k, 8 miles...but ultimately decided to (hesitantly) trust my training plan.

Wednesday I went out for my piddly 4 miles, and my plan after my being possessed by a speed demon on Monday was to take these miles slowwwwly, 10:00min/mi at the fastest. Spoiler alert: didn't happen. I averaged 9:51min/mi even though I felt like I was running as slow as I could. I'm just so freaking excited!!! I wish I could bottle up all this energy and excitement and save it for race day.

Thursday's run was just okay. Tired legs, and I still somehow couldn't get my pace to slow down.

My taper schedule for the rest of January until the race (hold on for a sec while I FREAK OUT that this is all that's left):

3: Rest (yoga?)
4: 12 mile run + foam roll/yoga
5: Strength training + yoga
6: 4 mile run + foam roll/yoga
7: Bike (1 hour) + strength training
8: 3 mile run + foam roll/yoga
9: 4 mile run + foam roll/yoga
10: Rest (yoga?)
11: 8 mile run + foam roll/yoga
12: Core workout + yoga
13: 3 mile run + foam roll/yoga
14: Walk and/or yoga OR 2 mile run, haven't decided yet
15: 2 mile run + foam roll/yoga
16: 2 mile run before I get on the road to Charleston OR rest (will depend on what I decide for Tuesday)
17: Rest

2014 Plans and Goals

2014, when the clock struck midnight last night and I realized you were officially here, I panicked a little. I've got big plans for you! I was nervous at first, but I woke up this morning ready to make this a killer year.

2013 was really a turning point for me in a lot of ways. One of the biggest things that happened is that I learned that I really can dream big - and make my dreams come true. I started last year with a couple of things I really wanted to accomplish (conquer the half marathon, and quit my job to go back to school), but I was scared to death of actually doing them. Somewhere along the way, I picked up some confidence, grew in leaps and bounds, and accomplished both of those goals and more than I could have ever dreamed of. At the beginning of 2013, I thought that all that mattered was getting to the finish line. But the more I got into endurance sports, the more I realized...there is no finish line. There is always something next, always something bigger to shoot for. That's not just a sports lesson, but a life lesson. I have a very different point of view going into 2014 and thinking about the things I want to accomplish this year.

  • Goal #1: Run a marathon! I feel like this is cheating since it will occur only 18 days into the year and the bulk of my training happened in 2013, but I'm still counting it! Can't wait to have this hanging around my next in 17 days!

  • Goal #2: Get more comfortable on my bike (by spending more than an hour on it per week). This is my biggest weakness in triathlon and the big thing holding me back from pushing for longer tri distances.

  • Goal #3: Complete Tour de Cure (100 mile bike ride). I really want to push myself out of my comfort zone on the bike, and what better what to do it than with a century ride? I have also never done an event to raise for charity.

  • Goal #4: Complete a half Ironman distance triathlon. Did you see this coming? I have thought about this pretty much nonstop since my first triathlon. The bike is the biggest thing holding me back, but I hope that Goals #2 & #3 will help me gain the strength and confidence I need. I could say that I haven't already tentatively chosen a race and started working on a training plan, but I'd so be lying...

  • Goal #5: Maintain half marathon base mileage. I want to be ready and able to run a half marathon any time I choose.

  • Goal #6: Train hard, but train smart (i.e. don't get injured). So hard to do! I got a little overzealous last year and paid the price. One thing that is going to help me with this is that speed is not the goal here. Slow and steady wins the race!

Those are the things I really plan to accomplish this year. Obviously #5 applies to the whole year, but the rest will only get me through June. That's because I have no idea what other goals will be feasible to accomplish. The ones listed above are my priorities. I do have a few others, with some specific races in mind, but will have to see how the year goes to see if they make it onto the list, or if I get to save them for 2015!

  • Participate in an obstacle run
  • Run a Rock n Roll brand race
  • Run a second marathon
  • Run a half marathon PR
  • Run a sub-2 hour half marathon
  • Complete a back-to-back race challenge

Cheers, 2014! I am ready to rock you!