Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Running a Marathon: 26.2 Miles in Bullet Points

I'm still working on a mega recap for my first marathon experience, the Mercedes-Benz Marathon this past Sunday.  For now, here is a list of all the moments that stood out for me, in order from the start to the finish:

  • Climbing over the barricades into the starting chute like a deranged monkey.
  • Seeing an angry/terrified feral dog loose on the course around mile 2.  Normal Me thought, "poor thing!" and then Lawyer Me thought, "I wonder if that's a liability?"
  • Waving to Nate and W at mile 3.
  • Watching several people pretty blatantly cut the course around mile 5.  
  • "Hey this is actual rain and I'm soaked."
  • Seriously loud rap music and droves of people dancing at "Miracle Mile" in Avondale.
  • Realizing I was done with ten miles and still basically euphoric and carefree.
  • Bumping into my co-pacer and Track Club buddy around mile 12...and then running silently next to him until about mile 16.
  • Seeing Nate again at mile 16.5 and trying to smile and wave in a way that would reassure him of my sanity and sound judgment.  
The resulting photo.
  • Getting onto the strugglebus near mile 18, the second repeat of the hilly section.
  • Seeing some seriously weird stuff on the GPS, like an impossible 15:30 average pace.  Artifact?  Problems with the tunnels?  My own sanity slipping away?  THE WORLD WILL NEVER KNOW!
  • Bargaining with myself after that..."I'll run until mile 21, then walk a bit, then see what happens."  "Okay I'll run until mile 20."  "Or maybe just 19 if I run up this hill."  "Maybe I'll just run until my average pace is back under 8:50, then walk for a bit."  Not productive!
  • Walking through the mile 19 water stop, chugging sports drink, and feeling immediately better.
  • "The dog probably isn't a liability, because participants in an event like an urban marathon assume the risk of stray dogs and other obstacles on the course."
  • "OMG shut up, Lawyer Me."
  • Shocking myself by getting to mile 22 without hitting a wall or wanting to give up.
  • Feeling like portions of my legs were being amputated on the second time down Avondale Hill.
  • Being caught by the 4:00 pacers at mile 24 and screaming profanity.  Sorry to everyone within earshot.
  • Running with the 4:00 pacers for almost a mile and finally, actually feeling the wheels come off.
  • "So this is what people mean when they talk about The Marathon Endgame."
  • "I'm actually handling this pretty well."  
  • "Okay maybe not." 
  • "I've been THREE blocks REALLY??!  Am I caught in some sort of space-time glitch?" 
  • Seeing a man puking his guts out around mile 25.  That was...sobering.
  • Turning onto the last .6-mile stretch and being amazed that I still felt like running.
  • Not really noticing anything about the chute or the finish line except the fleeting thought that the timing pad was wet and slippery.  You know, the important things.  
  • Babbling incoherently to the other runners who finished around me, including my frenemies the 4:00 pacers.
  • Trying to come to terms with the fact that I finished in 4:00:45.  It hurts so good. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

First Marathon in the Bag!

I'll have a lengthy race recap up as soon as I can.  I really want to make sure I capture every detail before I publish.  But for now...

Mile 8
I rocked it.  I did my best and smashed my expectations.  The marathon is a BEAST of a race, and I feel like I learned so much.  I can't wait to share it all. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Race Report: Adam's Heart 10 Miler, February 7, 2015, Oak Mountain, Alabama (1:22:05, PR)

First, let's go ahead and get something out of the way.  I won second overall female and stood on the podium.  The race was tough.  It felt damn good.

Done and dusted.
Adam's Heart is the first one of four in the Birmingham Track Club Series, which includes a 10-miler, a 15k, an 8.2-mile trail race, and a 10k.  The club offers one entry price for all four races, and the price is astonishingly low ($65!).  I signed up for this race along with all the others because...hey, might as well.  I'm in "marathon shape" right now, but I'm still paranoid some freak occurrence or injury might ruin my marathon experience.  So, this race is a good opportunity to cash in on some of that marathon training and enjoy some sweet Saturday-morning Track Club camaraderie in the process.  Basically, I went into this race feeling happy and relaxed, telling myself I could kick back and run a fast race without pushing too hard. 

The Course
Another something to get out of the way:  this course is tough.  It probably isn't good for a first race or PR attempt, especially for someone not accustomed to running hills.  Oh, the hills.

Oak Mountain Park.

This course has hills of EVERY variety...long grinds, short cliffs, false summits, blind curves, you name it.  And it's an out and back, so you get to see every hill both ways.  The largest hill happens right before the 10-mile turnaround, so you 1) fly down into a valley, 2) hit a water stop, 3) turn around, and 4) face the exact same hill in reverse.  It's a little...demoralizing.  I definitely felt this one the next day in my shins and calves. 

Look!  It's a Rorschach test of lower leg pain!

The course is also very beautiful, pastoral, and green.  It is a welcome change from my normal urban stomping grounds.  My GPS measured it as 10.1 miles, and a lot of other people got the same thing.  I'm going to go ahead and say the course was long, because I made a real effort to run the transects.  Each mile was marked, and things got wonky around mile 3.  This is just a guess, but it seems like maybe the 3-mile mark was placed at the 10k turnaround?  Maybe?

The Race
Like I said, I went into this race pretty low-key.  My only real goals were to run even splits, finish close to 80 minutes, not get injured, not overdress, not start too far back, and have a good time.  By those standards, I did pretty well. 

The start was a late 9:00am.  I missed packet pickup due to some work travel, so I got to the site around 8:15 to find my paperwork.  Because the Track Club was running things, packet pickup took all of 2 minutes.  Love those guys.  There wasn't any parking left at the pavilion when I arrived, so I parked at a nearby playground and jogged back and forth to warm up and stow my fleece jacket in the car.  By the time the gun went off, it was warm enough to run in shirt sleeves and light compression tights. I also had knit gloves, a ball cap, and sunglasses, and I was comfortable.

I am...behind the beet juice guys.
When I was heading over from the bathrooms to the start, I saw 5-6 dudes decked out in BRIGHT club kit with flashy logos for a "Multisport Racing" club in Florida.  Huh?  They had temporary tattoos on their arms for their ridiculous beet juice sponsor, so I guess that is a thing now?  In the field of about 300, I put myself in the third row back, behind approximately 30 other runners.  I was behind all the beet juice guys, that's for sure.  I'd say I did a good job estimating where to start, and I didn't feel penned in at the start.  An improvement over my Vulcan Run experience, I guess. 

1)   8:19- still probably started too far back
2)   7:47 - nice downhill, hit my stride and made a mental note to prepare for a climb at mile 8
3)   7:59 - ok, sweet
4)   8:26 - whoa real hill, got some water
5)   7:50 - WEEEEE!  downhill!
6)   8:50 - annnnd back up the hill
7)   7:58 - downhill, had to put the brakes on a bit
8)   8:26 - walked some of a steep climb
9)   8:06 - tried to gain back time on short downhill sections
10)  8:29 - through the chute with my legs rekt

The start was smooth, and I only glanced at my watch a few times during the first few miles.  It was cool to see the 5k folks (including a few beet juice guys, haha) making the turnaround.  I saw Pamela, a Track Club buddy, right behind the lead pack and I cheered for her.  I ran through the 5k turnaround and water stop and started an uphill climb.  It kind of shocked me!  Club friends had said, "road race, lots of rollers" but...HA.  Beet juice guys hit the 10k turnaround and started cruising toward me, just crushing the downhill.  I grabbed water at the 10k turnaround station and settled in to do the work required.

The biggest hill was right before my turnaround station, and the road had become very winding, with blind curves.  Morning vehicle traffic had started to pick up, and a lot of cars were pulling boats or horse trailers.  I felt a little vulnerable, but ran the transects.  I am not sure if the cars sped me up or slowed me down.  

I cruised into my turnaround station, scooped another small cup of water and used it to swallow a piece of orange taffy, then tried to act stoked about running back uphill.  I'm pretty sad about how the hills took a toll on my pace for the second half of the race.  There was also a very strong headwind, and I just felt like I rode the strugglebus a bit around mile 8.  I just tried to stay calm and walk for 10-second stretches in the few places I felt like I needed to.  It helped that a friend was taking some photographs at the top of a huge hill at mile 8, where I tried my best to look in control.

Here is the result

From that point on, I just focused on running smoothly to the finish.  There were several men running together about 10-15 feet behind me, and they kept trying to reel me in.  Totally didn't happen for them :)  As I got close to the finish line, there were some slower jogging ladies finishing the 10k, and all of this made the chute a little crowded.  The pictures are comedic gold, because I just kept running to get out the way of the whole dog-and-pony.

I finished in 1:22:05, which was good enough for second overall female.  Like I said, it was a tough little race, and there are fewer female runners in general where I live.  I've never raced this distance before, and I think the marathon training has caused me to think of it as a "short distance."  In retrospect, this is probably the wrong attitude.  I should have adjusted my pace more for the terrain, used more carbs, and pushed it more closer to the end.  Live and learn.  Either way, I stood on the box, got a sweet pint glass and tech shirt, and took pictures, all on a gorgeous sunny day.

The usual suspects.  Why, yes, I am quite tall.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Trip to New Orleans: February 1 - February 6

On Royal Street.

Cell phone?  Check.  Sippy cup?  Check.  Sweat pants?  Check, check, check.

I'm supposed to be eating "high carb, low fat" and this is what my mom makes for dinner???!  Jk, I loved it.

My boys in Jackson Square.

Gray days in New Orleans are the best.

Rooftops and gray skies.

Pinkies out at the sandwich shop!


More Jackson Square in the rain.

St. Louis Cathedral.

Lit up for Carnival.

A close up of Maspero's red beans...I was so excited to eat them, this is the best photo I took ;)

My husband knows the way to my heart...yes, those are Dollar General brand Thin Mints.

Paul's of Picayune king cake...the ONLY king cake.

Exhausted baby in the pack 'n' play at his grandparents' house.