Monday, November 28, 2011

NCR Trail Marathon RR - Maniac Certified!

Can't believe I'm done racing for 2011. Where did the year go? For my last race of the year, I raced the NCR Trail Marathon in Sparks Glencoe, MD. When planning my fall marathon, I knew I'd race Philly. Later, I realized that I wanted to attempt joining the Marathon Maniacs, I found this race and knew I'd have to race it. So glad that I did!

I woke up early the race day and got myself ready. I was too tired to get everything ready the night before and I paid for this later. My mom/my race sherpa and I hopped in the car and started the 1.5 hour trek to the race location. About 45 minutes on the road, I realized I had left my Garmin watch at home. What was I going to do?! I downloaded the Nike+ app on my phone, hoping for the best.

After getting a bit lost, we found the location to be picked up (they had shuttles to the location). I got there, got my bib and chip, then met up with fellow Marine Corps Marathon Runner's World fourmite, Eileen. We chatted and got to know each other. So glad to meet her in person! Right before the race, another fourmite, Billy, joined us and we snapped his great photo:

Yay MCM fourmites!
Soon enough, the race started! To say this course was really different from Philly would be an understatement. The course was along a flat trail course (until the end, which was uphill. Yeesh!), with the surface mostly being crushed packed rocks. The race only had about 500-600 racers, which felt like so small compared to Philly.

Photo I snapped at the beginning of the course
About two miles into the course, my phone died (stupid Nike+ app taking up so much battery life). I honestly didn't know what to do since I had zero clue what pace I was running, but I couldn't stop, right? I ended up finding this redheaded guy ahead of me and stuck with him for as long as I could (I've got quite the love of redheads, so I had zero issues following him :D). 

Around the turn around point (it was a out and back course), I was hoping that I would get an idea of my pace, but the clock wasn't working. Around mile 15 or so, I was running next to a guy and asked him what pace we were running. He said we were running 8 minute mile pace. Um, that's too fast, but I kind of just went with it. I was able to keep up with the redhead and his fast pace until I passed him around mile 17 or 18. 

The last 9ish miles of the race were tough. I could feel racing the first 17 or miles too fast, so I could tell my pace was really slowing down. Normally, I would beat myself up about the pace, but I felt very zen and at peace with it. Instead of getting upset, I just told myself to keep going and finishing was all that mattered. 

The last 1.5ish miles are uphill and man, did they stink. Again, I somehow was just at peace with how slow I was and just cared about finishing. As I was coming up the last hill, I saw my mom/sherpa at the top. I just had to turn and run about 100 meters to the finish. My goal was just to finish the race and I told myself if I could break 4 hours, especially without a watch, I'd be over the moon. As I ran towards her to get to the finish, she yelled, "You're going to break 4 hours!" I literally stopped for two seconds to stop myself from choking up. I've cried when I've finished races, but this was the first one where I found myself on the brink of tears during a race. I pushed to the finish in a final time of 3:58:02, which is my second fastest marathon! So happy to have had a decent race and to have broken 4 hours!

The other great thing about finishing this race? I'm officially a Marathon Maniac (#4630). While I only have the bottom level entry, I'm just proud to be an official member!

I also raced in a dashiki. Why not, right? I raced my last two marathons in some sort of funny costume item, so I knew I had to keep up the streak. I found it in my brother's closet and loved racing in it. Racing in abnormal running items allows me to take myself and the race less seriously. How seriously can you take yourself when you race in a tutu? Not very, which is a good thing! Can't wait to race in more odd things in the future!

My next race won't be until the Surf City USA Marathon on February 5th, so I've got a few down months to train for that race. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Philadelphia Marathon Recap - PR, babayyyy!

Last Sunday, I raced in the Philadelphia Marathon and I achieved things I didn't think were possible: a sub-3:50 marathon and a marathon race I actually enjoyed! That is getting ahead a bit, so let's start from the beginning. **Warning: there is a section about public urination that goes awry, so if you're not good with that, then this might not be your favorite race report.**

The past 18 weeks, I have trained harder and more consistently than I ever have for a marathon. I followed Pftiz's 18/55 plan (18 weeks, peaking with 55 miles in a week). I actually put in nearly every mile I had planned and I put in quality miles. I raced a the Philadelphia RnR Half Marathon and PRed it by 8 minutes, so I felt good going into this race. Even so, I hadn't had any previous marathons go well, so I was still nervous. 

I woke up Sunday, race day, from stress dreams about work. I kept dreaming I was consistently messing up and being scolded, which meant I woke up a bit distraught and frustrated. I tried to get past that while I got ready. I had laid everything out, so I just had to get into my running clothes, eat breakfast, and head out the door with my mom (in town for my race) and boyfriend. I did, like normal, use the restroom at home, hoping that was all I would need. This comes in to play later. 

We got to the race and it was still dark and I was getting really excited and nervous! I felt the need to go to the bathroom yet again (odd, I felt, but I had just drank a lot of water on the car ride there), so I waited in line and went again. I then met up with my lovely Back on My Feet friends. I was so proud to be rocking BOMF gear and to be racing alongside some amazing friends, especially those running either a half or full marathon for the first time. 

My outfit also included a homemade tutu. I loved running in costume for the Marine Corps Marathon last year, so I knew adding something fun to my race gear was needed. I saw some folks in tutus at the Mind the Ducks 12 Hour race, so I knew I wanted to make one to wear. I adored wearing it and cannot wait to wear it in other races! I think it was my good luck charm!

Holy tutu! Is it big enough?!
After meeting up with some BOMF friends, I headed to my corral to find the 3:50 pace group. I was aiming for that time, so I had planned on running with them as much as I could and hopefully passing them toward the end. I am so happy I chose to run with them because it allowed me to not have to constantly check my pace; I just had to stick with the guy with the balloons and I was fine. I realized around now I had to go to the bathroom yet again. What was up with me? I was hoping it was just nerves. 

The race finally started a bit past 7 am and we were off! I will say I was extremely frustrated the first 5ish miles with a lot of the racers ahead of me. If you don't plan on keeping the pace of the corral you stand in, don't be in it. Don't be in the corral with the 3:30-3:59 racers when you plan on walking within the first two miles of the race. It didn't help that the first few miles are though Center City with more narrow streets. 

By the time we got to my alma mater Drexel University, the crowds weren't nearly as bad. Around then, my need to pee was getting pretty bad. Just past the first major hill on the course is wall of trees that many males use to pee in. I decided this was my chance to go to the bathroom without waiting in a line for a porta-potty. Let's just say I didn't do a great job of it and ended up with wet shorts and underwear (super gross, I know!). What I would have paid to be a male for just 30 seconds! I then had to sprint up and catch the pace group, which was not fun. Lucky for me, my shorts dried out within a few miles, but I did not love those few miles with gross shorts!

Soon enough, we were at the half way point and I was truly happy. The first half didn't feel forced and I felt like I had plenty of energy. Before the race, I put on a temporary tattoo I got from (awesome site!) that really helped me focus on being happy throughout the race. Anytime I was starting to not enjoy running, I'd look down at my forearm and remember today was a day to be happy and appreciate what I was doing. 

I still have it on my arm and I love looking at it!
Only around mile 17 was when tiredness set in. I knew I had only single digit miles left, but that didn't mean it was going to be easy. I focused on staying with the pacer, even if that meant having to sprint after him after every water break. Soon enough, we were in Manayunk, where the fans were amazing, and we just had to head back to the Art Museum!!

As the miles slowly ticked away, the miles became harder and harder (duh!), but I knew 3:50 was in my reach and I refused to allow the pace group get ahead of me. With just a few miles left, I felt myself slowly pulling away from the pace group and although my stomach was starting to feel nauseous, I kept pushing. The end felt like it took forever to get to, but finally, I was pushing (albiet, not sprinting, because that was out of the question) one step in front of the other to the finish. I crossed the finish by high-fiving Bart Yasso, famous runner, and Philly's Mayor Nutter. My finish time? 3:48:50. I felt like death by the end, but I was so happy to have that time be mine! I worked hard, raced smart (for once!), and because of it, I cut 12 minutes off my previous PR.

Now it's time to rest up since I've got another marathon in 3 days. Ack!! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pre-Race Jitters - It's almost Philadelphia Marathon time!

It's about that time for taper madness to be hitting! With the Philadelphia Marathon less than 5 days away, I'm getting quite anxious for the race to happen. While other friends of mine got nervous before their races earlier in the season, I told each of them to relax. Now it's my time to start freaking out. I wouldn't say I'm as nervous as I have been in the past, but I am just really excited and wanting to race this very second.
Never enough cat memes. 
What is one way to ease nerves? Plan everything out so I am not so nervous! This week, I plan on getting plenty of sleep, drinking a lot of water, and eating healthfully. I've fulfilled the first two and struggled a bit with the last one, but I've got plenty of time to fill up on veggies, healthy proteins, and good carbs. I also plan on picking up my bib early on Saturday, then laying out my clothes and items needed for the race so I don't have to find them early on race day.

Another exciting part of my running ensemble (hopefully)? A homemade tutu. I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in a Lady GaGa costume and it was so fun. Whenever I felt down or negative, someone would cheer me on and it really got me back to focusing on racing and being happy. I'm the least crafty person ever, but I envy people like my friend Liz who are so crafty and DIY-friendly. I'm going to tackle this extremely easy project and hope that it brings me the happiness during the race.

Mine will hopefully look less like cotton candy. 
Anyone else racing the Philadelphia Marathon? Have any pre-race rituals that make you less nervous?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Great things of the past two weeks

I meant to post last week, but that didn't happen. I plan out posts and even start to write them in my head, then I come home from work and either am too tired to do a post or forget all together. The past two weeks have had a lot of fun in them, so I'll show that through photos.

Five 20 milers done! Ignore my swollen post-run fingers.
I'm officially in taper-mode for my two fall marathons (Philadelphia and NCR Trail Marathon). As much as I love running, I am really happy to be tapering. In preparation for two marathons within a week, I did five 20 milers in 5 weeks. That picture is me right after my last 20 miler, so happy to be heading into the taper. Now I have just 2 weeks until Philly and 3 until NCR.

MCM Fourmites!
Last weekend was the yearly running of the Marine Corps Marathon. I ran it last year and through Runner's World's MCM Fourms, I've met some amazing people. I couldn't pass up an opportunity to see these folks again this year, even if I wasn't racing. 

What a fancy group! I <3 OBP. 
This past week, the Back on My Feet Bash was held! Everyone gets all fancy and rocks running shoes. The picture above is my team, who I run with each week. It was such a blast to see everyone in non-running gear, eat yummy food, and dance the night away. Can't wait until next year's bash!

Aaaand last, but not least: witch fingers.
Is it 1998 again?
Can't wait for the next two weeks until the Philadelphia Marathon. Hope they are as great as the last two weeks have been!