Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Marathon

Wow...I don't know where to begin to try and capture the experience of my first marathon. The week before went fast. I kept getting concerned because I wasn't nervous. I didn't really get nervous either, until the night before when I watched the virtual tour of the marathon on Pittsburghlive.com. The fact that the guy said something to the effect of-if you want to know what it feels like to run at mile 25 of the marathon, just step in front of a bus, because it feels the same-was enough to make my heart flutter a bit! I also think I mostly just felt really ready. I felt secure that I did everything I could do to prepare myself. I started eating carbs a few days before. I tried to get good sleep. I did start to experience cold symptoms-sore throat, dizzy, swollen glands, achy, and really tired. But, with prayer, rest, and a lot of water I began to feel better Saturday. Sunday I felt 100%.
Josh and I traveled to Pittsburgh Friday evening. Saturday, I had pancakes for breakfast and then we (and his mom) went to the expo to pick up my registration packet. I got a bag full of goodies-socks, chafing cream, Nugo bar, etc. I also picked up Morgan's for her since she decided to run it two days before! It was at the expo that I began to feel the excitement of the city. There was just this buzz of energy and anticipation. That night I made chicken stuffed shells, salad, and bread. We had strawberry Boston cream pie for dessert. We made a game plan of where everyone would be throughout the course, so I would know where to expect to see people. It kind of felt like we were soldiers planning strategy for a war. After dinner we watched Spirit of the Marathon...my friend Tasha gave it to me to watch. It was inspiring. As we watched I prepared my stuff-put my timing chip on my shoe, pinned my bib number on my shirt, etc. Before going to bed around 11:45, I talked to my family to make sure they were set to go. Lights out right before midnight.
I barely slept, but I expected this, so it was no big deal. The most important night for sleep before a race is two nights before. My alarm went off at 4:15am. I showered, got dressed and ate a whole bagel with peanut butter, a banana, and a glass of milk. Out the door by 5:10 and on our way. We parked at 5:30. Joey, and Josh, and me sat in the car until almost 6:00am, at which point I was elated that I had to go "number two". Any runner will understand this! We then stood around the starting area, waiting for Morgan to arrive, watching the crowd grow and grow. I found Morgan shortly after 6:00. At 7:00 we went and stood with the 4 hour pacer group. When the gun went off at the start, I didn't even know it, because we were so far back. I only knew we had started walking toward the starting line. All the sudden we were running, and then I realized-this is it...this is the marathon!
The first 7 miles flew by because it was insane. It was so packed. We barely saw Josh and Joey at mile 3ish. Morgan and I fought to stay next to each other, and tried our best to keep Pacer Jeff in our sights, though it was difficult because we kept getting cutoff. Everyone literally was stepping on each other, elbowing each other, and eventually we all stopped apologizing for it! It was crazy. But, after mile 7 it spread out a little. We saw Josh and Joey again at mile 10 where we threw our sweatshirts to them. I ate my first gel pack at about 1 hour and 15 minutes because I was feeling hungry.
My knee started bothering me early on, and by mile 10ish it began to randomly give out. I could care less though...I worked too hard to quit now. Right after mile 10 Morgan and I had to stop at the porta-potty to pee. It took two minutes just to get into one. When we got out I knew we would have to book it to catch up to Pacer Jeff. This just happened to be the point in the race that really climbed up hill. It took two miles for me to catch the group, and I lost Morgan along the way. I got nervous, using all that energy up a hill, worrying that I might get too tired for the rest of the race. But, at the same time I knew I needed Pacer Jeff to push me beyond my comfort zone. It was harder than I thought to maintain 9:10 minute miles. Finally, I caught up, and just hoped that Morgan would eventually too. I didn't see her again 'til the end.
At mile 13 I saw my mom, dad, and two sisters. I was so excited to find them (though I couldn't miss them with my mom's pink boa, and giant pink heart-shaped sunglasses!). After passing, them I began to cry. It was between mile 14 and 20 that the pain really set in. I didn't see anyone I knew between those miles and I began to feel alone. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, and pushed away the thoughts that I might not be able to do it. At mile 20 I saw Josh's mom, dad, and Aunt Martha. I cried after seeing them too. And then Josh's sister Rae a few miles later...more tears. But, after passing mile 20 I knew I could do it. Pacer Jeff encouraged anyone who felt "good" to step it up a little. That wasn't me! At mile 23 after the fluid station I found myself a little bit in front of Pacer Jeff. I begin to feel myself get into "the zone". I was picking up speed and kept thinking-'Am I really doing this? Am I going faster?!' I saw my friend Kristin and her dad just after mile 25 and she told me to "go!go!go!", so I did. Once I saw mile marker 26 I was booking it, and it felt more like my speed workouts. I had no fear at that point and I felt awesome. Everyone was screaming at the finishing line and I heard the announcer call my name...well, he said Heidi "Pie", but close enough! I crossed at 3:57:54...and then it was over.
People were handing me water, sports drinks, bagels, a big foil blanket, and I was trying to walk forward as best I could. I saw no one around me that I knew. The pain and nausea began to set-in and I started to cry. I cried because it hurt, but I also cried because it was sooo awesome. Soon Josh was there and he was crying too, saying he was so proud of me.
It turns out my parents didn't make it to the finish because they couldn't find any parking. But, Josh was there with Joey, and my sister Jaynelle. Kristin and her dad caught up with us, and we waited to see Morgan cross the finish at 4:41:55. Afterwards, Morgs and I hugged goodbye telling each other how proud we were of one another, and the we met the Brumbaugh family back at Josh's parents for a spaghetti dinner. I immediately showered and had a cup of tea, and by then my stomach was settled enough to eat with everyone.
I think the biggest challenge of the race was running through the pain of my knee, and drinking at every fluid station (every two miles or so). At half way I started drinking a cup of sports drink and a cup of water. Sometimes it was all I could do to get it down, but I knew my body needed it. I ate my second gel packet at like 2 hours and 45 minutes. I ate some oranges when they were offered, but I skipped the people handing out small cups of beer....ew! 2 or 3 times I accepted the sticks of Vaseline that were being handed out at aid stations. I slathered them on my armpits to fight chafing that began early on in the race. I breathed in and out, focused on keeping my arms and shoulders relaxed, prayed a lot and sometimes just watched Pacer Jeff's feet in front of me, stepping when he stepped.
It was hard, it was really hard...but it was so rewarding. I can't tell you how awesome it was to be out there a part of what everyone was cheering on. There were bands, and drum teams, and cheer leaders, etc. There complete strangers yelling that they believed in me, in us. And then my family and friends in the crowd...it is impossible to explain how connected I felt to them. I felt like it wasn't my own experience, but it was all of ours together. I was often encouraged by those I knew were at home praying for me and thinking about me. Without the support, I could absolutely not have done it.
I will never forget this experience. I will cherish it for the rest of my life. I will remember that with hard work and dedication, I can do anything I set out to do. I will remember how much I need God and need others. And I just might do it again someday...next time even faster! I feel like a runner now.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

10 days to go

Wow, 10 days to go, I can't believe it. I am starting to get a little excited, but for some reason it still feels like it is far away. I am sure this will change next week.
Last week was my last 20 miler, and just this past Sunday Josh accompanied me on his bike for my very last long run (14 miles). I feel like a huge burden has been lifted off my shoulders. I really dreaded my long runs just because they are so...long! It was awesome to have Josh's company, someone to talk to and pass the time.
I am feeling pretty strong. With my hard workouts over, I feel free to relax and enjoy shorter, easier runs. I still have a couple speed workouts to get through, but nothing too bad. I got new running shoes, which feel really great. They are so white, I don't want to get them dirty! I am planning on running with the 4 hour pacer (I think his name is Jim). He essentially will set the pace for me, and whoever else is in the group, and be our coach through the whole race. Then I can just relax and run along, not having to check my watch every mile to see if I am on pace. This is cooler than I can explain! I have printed off all the important details of the race...feeling like I am about as prepared as I can be.
I guess, I will check in next week before the race. I still can't believe it!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Half

A lot has happened since I last wrote. I finished my 17 miler (in the pouring rain) and my 20 miler. I was able to maintain 10 minute mile pace the entire 20 miles. That gives me confidence that I can run a 9.15 mile pace to equal a 4 hour marathon, which is my goal. I think that being in the race environment, and my adrenaline will encourage me to go. Registration for the full marathon closed...before Morgan registered. However, she got on the waiting list, and just the other day they extended registration for those who were on the list. I thought I was in it alone for awhile. I may still be running alone (for at least some of it), because I think she may be planning on running a little over 4 hours. We'll see. Either way, I feel better knowing she's there.
The Cook Forest Half Marathon was last Saturday. I had (and still have) a bad cold. I wrestled with whether or not I should run it, not wanting to worsen my recovery from this cold. But, I did run. I didn't feel 100%, but I really pushed myself and was able to hit my goal time regardless of how I felt. My goal was to run under 2 hours, and I ran 1.50.51 (that is about 8.28 mile pace). Every time I wanted to quit, some runner would come along and encourage me. I kept thinking maybe they were angels! There was a huge hill at mile 12 that almost killed me (and everyone else for that matter!), but the very finish was down hill, so I booked it through the line. I am confident that I can shave off a few minutes in the future when I am healthy. But, I am happy with my results and excited to have done it.
Now I have about five weeks until the marathon. This week is a recovery week from the half. Then I have one more hard week, and then 3 weeks of tapering down so that I am rested and ready to go on May 3rd. By the way, I believe there are like 10,500 runners registered for the race. It's going to be crazy!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

2 Months To Go!!!

I'm now in week 13. In exactly two months, at this point in the day, I will have completed the marathon. That is crazy!
Last week was a trying a week-I got the flu, and then was unable to run for a couple of days because of pain in my right knee. I recouped from being sick. Instead of running, I went for a bike ride with Josh. It was cold, but sunny and beautiful outside. It was nice to do something other than run. And it was really cool to have Josh a part of my workout. I beat him up the hills, and he'd fly by me on the way down.
The half-marathon is less than a month away. I'm excited to see what that race feels like. I think it will give me some confidence for the full. At this point I have 3 daunting runs left-one 17 mile, and two 20 mile runs. I am planning to get the 17 miler out of the way this Friday. And if I stay on track this week, it will be my highest mileage week with 42.5 miles. We'll see! Pretty soon I'm going to need new shoes. I have over 366 miles on mine now. They say you should replace them every 300-500 miles to reduce your risk of injury. Here is one thing I know, when people pray with me, I feel great out there running. Praise God.

Friday, February 20, 2009

winter health tips

Since it's cold and flu season, I thought I would share some tips I just learned for staying healthy:
~Get lots of sleep. The more you sleep, the more your body produces virus-attacking cells. You produce 50% more after 8 hours of sleep, than after 6 hours.
~Doing 30-75 minutes of moderate activity can boost your body's ability to fight nasty bugs. It is a myth that cold weather causes illness...you won't catch a cold just because it is cold outside.
~However, runs longer than 90 minutes can cause your body to produce immune-inhibiting stress hormones for up to 72 hours. That means, during this time you are more vulnerable to getting sick. Some ways to help this is to consume drinks that are rich in carbs before, during, and after long runs. You should also wash your hands during the 72 hour time period, and get lots of rest.
~If you do get sick, as it is sometimes inevitable, it won't hurt you to run with a head cold (but, stay hydrated). However, if the cold moves to your chest, or you have body aches and/or a fever, you should rest and not run until those symptoms fade. Then, take it easy until you fully recover.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Week #11 Feeling Good

Yesterday Morgan and I ran 4 miles up the Clearfield mountain, and then came 4 miles back down. I have run a lot of hills, but I have never run uphill continuously for 4 miles. It wasn't too hard, but our pace was pretty comfortable. Next time, we want to go longer and faster.

To date I have run 311 miles total. My longest run has lasted for 2 hours and 28 minutes and was at least 15 miles long. I have officially started doing speed work, which is nice because it breaks up the runs. A basic marathon training plan consists of two short runs, two medium runs, and one long run per week. The short and medium runs stay at about the same distance, but change in how the distance is acquired-hills, intervals, AT runs, etc. The long runs increase, and this is predominately how more mileage is added on each week. To increase mileage in any training plan, the rule of thumb is to increase your weekly mileage by 10% for three weeks. On the fourth week you go back down to the beginning. And then you start where you left off and keep increasing. For example: Week one-30 miles, Week two-33 miles, Week three-36 miles, Week four-30 miles. That's one series. Then on week five you would begin to increase again, starting at 36 miles. This is what I try to do. Sometimes things don't work out the way you plan. Some weeks I need an extra rest day, weather may not permit certain workouts to be done, I may have another obligation that prevents me from getting a workout in, etc. I have learned to be flexible, stay focused, and do the best I can to stay on track. Ultimately, I just don't give up. It is better to do a little something, than nothing at all.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

As of November 2008, 700 people were already signed up to run the Pittsburgh Marathon. Pittsburgh first hosted the marathon in 1985. 2,500 runners participated. The last year they hosted was 2003, when 6,000 runners participated from all 50 states, and 20 different countries. The six year hiatus occurred because the city lost UPMC as a sponsor. Now, Dick's Sporting Goods has signed on to sponsor the race for the next three years. Thousands of runners are expected again this year. The city is excited about the marathon coming, and so am I!

These are the quotes that inspire runners...

You pretend the snooze button didn't exist. You dragged your butt out of bed while others slept. While others ate pancakes. You had a feast of protein, glucose and electrolytes. You double-knotted. You left the porch light on and locked the door behind you. You ran. 5ks, 10ks, 26.2 miles. Some days more, some days less. You rewarded a long run with a short run. And a short run with a long run. Rain tried to slow you. Sun tried to microwave you. Snow made you feel like a warrior. You cramped. You bonked. You paid no mind to comfort. On weekends. On holidays. You made excuses to keep going. Questioned yourself. Played mind games. Put your heart before your knees. Listened to your breathing. Sweat sunscreen into your eyes. Worked on your farmer's tan. You hit the wall. You went through it. You decided to be a woman about it. Finished what you started. Proved what you were made of. Just kept putting mile after mile on your interval odometer.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Week 8...96 days to go

Saturday Morgan and I ran 14 miles...my longest run ever! I felt great...tired, of course, but great considering. We braved the rolling hills of Route 36 in Clarion County for 2 hours and 18 minutes. It wasn't too cold during the first half, but on the way back we were running into the wind. We only made it about 3.5 miles before we had to stop and pee in a ditch that was hidden from the road! We sucked on cream savers, drank about every half hour, and stopped to split a granola bar half way. We caught up on each other's lives, played the "what- if" game, and sometimes just ran in silence for a few minutes. This is our friendship...we run together. I am #26 on her speed-dial to represent the 26.2 miles of the marathon. It is an intimacy that I don't really have with anyone else in my life, and one that others don't seem to understand. I cherish it. I look forward to having her by my side on May 3rd.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

So, I'm in week six now...and feeling much more confident, clocking a total of 143 miles so far. The idea of running for long periods of time is not such a foreign idea. I have done my second 12 mile run and it felt a whole lot easier than the first. It helped to run with my Ipod, especially because for 10 of those 12 miles I was literally running around a mile-long circle due to the 10 inches of snow we got the day before making it impossible to run on the roads. Praise God for music. I even get to buy some new music with my Itunes gift card (an early birthday gift from Josh).
I have officially registered for the race. I began to panic while reading an article in Runner's World magazine that began by saying something about "that perfect race you have been training for filling up." Luckily, it wasn't full and I got in. I've heard lots of buzz about the Pittsburgh Marathon and know a few people who are running the marathon relay and the half-marathon that same day. It's all very exciting. Check out the website www.pittsburghmarathon.com. Maybe you'll get inspired to run!
38 days of training down...108 more to go. Oh, and only 73 days to go 'til the Cook Forest 1/2 Marathon.

Monday, January 5, 2009

117 days to go
I got some cool running gear over Christmas-socks to prevent blisters, a running belt, a foam roller, a new sports bra, etc. I wish I could share some pictures, but my camera is unfortunately not working. I was also able to exchange my running shoes via mail to get a smaller pair. The owner of Up-N-Running is awesome. I highly recommend the store.
I got to run in all kinds of places over the holidays. I did 10 miles at Boyce Park in Pittsburgh. I even got to run around the Creation Museum in Kentucky when we were visiting Jess and Cyd. It was very cool to run in some new areas.
Yesterday I put in 12 miles. After my run in Boyce Park I learned that when running over an hour I need to eat something after about 45 minutes. I totally ran out of energy during that run. I didn't run out of energy yesterday, but it was pretty painful. My knees are very sore, even today too, but it feels better to get up and move around. When I stopped at home yesterday after 6 miles to eat a gronola bar, Josh told me to stay focused. It's amazing how much someone's words can encourage you. I repeated that phrase the rest of my six miles when I wanted to quit.
There are definitely times when I doubt whether I can finish this training. But, I am just taking it one run at a time, while remembering this is only 4 months of my life. I am already into my 5th week of training. That's crazy. My goal now is to get some music on my Ipod!