Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Appreciating Lack of Adversity

I hate to get all hippy-dippy and sappy on here, but I've had a great lesson in appreciation for how lucky I am the last few weeks running with Back on My Feet. From running with the group for nearly a year, I've learned to appreciate how lucky I am with my living and working situation, for sure. I learned an even greater lesson with one of our new members, though.

We have a new member who has to face the adversity of being nearly completely blind. Being blind in our society is a really difficult thing since most things are built for those with sight. This hasn't let this person be stopped from doing things they love. Not only is she working hard to get out of the shelter, but she works to lead as normal of a life as possible. This includes running. Running through the city is a difficult thing as it is. I know from personal experience. When she comes to our runs, we have someone paired up with her to run along with her to help her be aware of things like uneven sidewalks, curbs, ramps, etc.

Today, I ran with her and it was a really amazing experience. She has the guts to come do something that most people would tell her not to. She is willing to allow a nearly perfect stranger guide her along through the streets of Philadelphia at 5:30 am. The best part? The whole time, she's chipper, energetic, and thankful.

From meeting this great human being, I've learned to appreciate my serious lack of adversity that I deal with every day. Just running home from running with her, I appreciate that I can look up and see the cityscape without having to constantly worry about my footing. I can get up and lead a fairly normal life with little to no assistance from others on a day-to-day basis. I am even more motivated to come run with the group because if she can come and do it with such a great attitude, I surely can.

Okay, sappy rant over. Shameless plug about to begin. If you want to help the awesome organization that is Back on My Feet and are in the Philly area, please come do the AT&T Back on My Feet Halfway to Broad St 5 miler this March 31st! It supports an awesome group AND I am on the planning committee for it. Win-win!

Hope everyone had a great Fat Tuesday and for those also experiencing the unseasonably warm winter, hope you are taking advantage of it!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Surf City USA Marathon Race Report

I can't believe I just finished my 3rd marathon in less than 3 months. I never thought that I'd do more than one marathon a year, so it's kind of cool to realize I've been racing so much. Also, warning: this is a long race report. I'm still working on being more concise since Shakespeare says "Brevity is the soul of wit;" guess I don't have much wit. :D

My friend Maddie and I met freshman year at Drexel through the track club and stayed friends when we joined the same honors fraternity. She moved to LA for a rotation for her job and asked if I would come out and race the Surf City USA marathon with her. I was planning on coming to CA at some point this year, why not come to do a race with a friend?!

Well, it all sounded like a good idea until I decided to stop running over the holidays. As the race date crept  up on me, I started to freak out. Maddie ended up not having the time to train for the full, so she dropped down to the half. I was really tempted to do the same, especially so we could run it together, but decided if I was paying to fly all the way out to LA, might as well do the full.

I woke up race morning nervous and sick to my stomach. I normally am nervous for races, but I can assure myself I am prepared for it and things will go fine. Without my traditional training under my belt, I was nervous (kind of funny, but writing this is bringing me back to that place and my stomach is in knots!). I was lucky because my mother, who hasn't missed any of my ultras or marathons, was out in LA for work, so she just extended her trip one more day to be there. I feel really lucky to have such a supportive mom, so I knew that even if my race wasn't my best, she'd still be there to cheer me on.

Before I left for the race, I put on my good luck tattoos. I wore the same one I wore for my last two marathons. I also got a new one, figuring it was a great mantra. Not going to lie, the two tattoos didn't do much to help me later in the race like the "Happy" one did in Philly and at the NCR trail marathon, but some other racers asked about it and liked it; one guy seemed to be helped by one of the mantras, so I'm happy I wore them.
New tattoo I wore for this race from
We drove the 45 minutes to the race and with all the crazy traffic, I had to hop out of the car and run to the start line (half started later than the full). The sun was just starting to rise and the sky looked so pretty. As I jogged to the start and found my place in the crowd, I kind of felt like I was in a dream. I couldn't believe I was on the line for another marathon, but I started to get excited.

Soon enough, the race started! Like my half marathon last year, my iPod shuffle started by playing "All of the Lights" by Kanye West (out of 4.5 hours of music, it's pretty crazy this has happened twice!). I got really excited and hoped that this would bode well for the race (can't help it; I'm superstitious, as most runners are).

I decided to stick with the 4 hour pace group, hoping it would be not too hard to keep up with them. The first 4 miles flew by, which felt great. I did notice, however, that the pacers were going a bit too fast. We were only 100 meters from the 3:55 pace group, which was too close, even this early on in the race. I was torn: do I stay with the group so I feel I'm not running alone and risk falling apart at the end of the race OR do I slow down and keep the actual 4 hour marathon pace? I decided to stick with the group, which did not lead to a strong finish, sadly.

The first 10 or so miles were along this highway, then through some neighborhoods and through a really pretty park. The pretty scenery was gone after that. The rest of the race was run out and back along this highway, then out and back along this path that was along the same highway. While the highway was along the ocean, staring out at the ocean and coastline was only pretty for so long. The highway got boring and the sun was starting to get quite hot. I was starting to feel really tired, even as early as mile 11.

After we turned around the on the highway, I started talking with another runner. He asked me what I was listening to on my iPod, then we got to talking about our other previous races. I told him how marathons are actually not what I do best in and that I think I'm better at ultras. He kept saying how tough I must be, which felt nice to hear. If only he had seen how much I fell apart at the end of the race, he wouldn't have thought I was so tough! It was cool, though, to have someone so friendly to talk to during a race, even if just for a mile. Marathoners can be pretty competitive and not as friendly as ultra marathoners (just my experience), so I was happy to meet such a nice guy.

Before I headed down the path for the second out and back part, I got to see Maddie on the other side of the highway. The half marathoners were starting to catch up with us, so it was so great to see a familiar face. When I did get to the path along the ocean, I started to really lose steam. I saw the 4:00 group slowly pull ahead; they were still way faster than 4 hour pace, so I told myself I had time banked that allowed me to not stick with them. The turn around, though, felt like it would never come! Miles ticked away and I kept going further and further from the finish line.
Post-race picture with my mom and me in costume
One thing that kept me feeling happy was my costume. I've raced in some sort of costume/outfit the last three marathons, so I kept it up this race and dressed as Waldo. When I felt most down, spectators would shout, "I found Waldo!" or "Waldo! Looking good!" It helped me to take a deep breath and relax. All of the volunteers at the water stops were kids (kind of an odd thing), but their reactions were the best!

As the miles left dwindled, so did my pace. I started out averaging an 8:53 min/mile, but I was really struggling to maintain a 9:30 min/mile pace by the end. I felt kind of embarrassed because I had told my mom the goal pace I wanted and I felt it slipping away. I knew Maddie and my mom would be at the finish line, see my time, and wouldn't care when I came in, but I felt sad that I wouldn't hit the time I had told them I had planned on running.

As the finish line finally got in my sight, I couldn't really push myself as much as I wanted to. I was frustrated that as much as I tried to be mentally tough and push, I just couldn't; well, I could, but it wasn't as fast as I wanted to push. I was mad at myself for having gone out too fast, which bit me in the bottom at the end.
Maddie and me after the race
As I crossed the finish line, I looked down at my watch and realized I finished exactly one minute slower than I wanted to; I finished in 4:00:59. Felt so bittersweet because I was able to get a decent time considering my lack of training, but I was soooo close to my goal. Maddie, my mom, and I hobbled back to Maddie's car and Maddie and I headed back to relax, eat In and Out, and watch the Super Bowl with her friends.
Our post-race In and Out. Nom nom nom!
Overall, I feel happy the race is over and that I'm minimally sore, but pretty upset that I ran a stupid race. I can almsot be okay with running a bad race because I wasn't in good shape, but it's frustrating that I didn't run a strategically smart race. Luckily, there will be ones in the future that will be run better. Now, I am off to Hawaii to soak up some rays and let the ocean wash away any sore muscles.