Tag Archives: 50 Marathons in 50 States

The Myrtle Beach Marathon: Redemption!

I have never been more excited to write a race recap! The Myrtle Beach Marathon went better than I ever dreamed it would. Every single detail came together and I ran the strongest race of my life, both physically and mentally. I beat all of my goals by a landslide and scored myself a 13 MINUTE PR! Here are all the details.

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Best race photo of my life! At mile 26 too!

This race kind of snuck up on me. I have been super busy with work and home stuff that our trip to Myrtle Beach felt like it came out of nowhere. All of a sudden it was time to pack up and head south, and before I knew it I was at the expo picking up my stuff and then at the starting line the next morning. I think this was a huge blessing in a way, because I didn’t really have time to get myself all worked up and stressed about the huge challenge ahead of me. I also went into it with sort of low expectations, since my #1 goal was just to finish this time after my DNF here two years ago.

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I was very excited about the weather forecast, which looked absolutely perfect. High 30s at the start and low 50s at the finish, with minimal wind for a coastal race. I was so thankful that wind didn’t seem like it was going to be a big issue this year, because it has been really tough the last few years which caused me to expend too much energy. Everything seemed like it was starting to come together.

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Even despite all of these positives, I still woke up on Saturday morning with a very nervous tummy. I focused on doing my pre-race routine – bathroom, coffee, eat, get dressed, bathroom again… but my breakfast made me feel a little nauseous so I couldn’t get much down. I left the house around 5:30 to drive about 20 minutes to the start, and once I got there I pumped (#momlife), used a porta-potty (there were a TON this year with no lines – so much appreciated!), and made my way to the start. I felt like I had a ton of pent-up nervous energy that I needed to get out. I couldn’t wait to start running to release it.

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Luckily, I knew Andrew, who was pacing the 3:45 group, which was my ‘Gold’ goal, and I was able to say hi to him when I lined up in his corral at the start. Seeing a familiar face made me feel a lot more comfortable. I knew he would be running about an 8:30 pace, which I thought was doable based on my training and recent half marathons. However, I still had some fear lingering in the back of my mind from two years ago when I had to suddenly stop at mile 21, so I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to hold that pace the entire time. I decided to go for it and see what happened.

Finally it was 6:30 (super early race start!) and we were off. There was a big wall of people with the 3:45 pace group so I hung a little behind them to give myself some space. Since we started toward the front, the course wasn’t super crowded and it was easy to keep the pace I wanted. As expected, an 8:30 pace felt really easy, and almost too slow. I was SO tempted to pick it up a little bit – but I have made that mistake so many times before. I kept telling myself to be patient and hang out here at this very comfortable pace for a while. We ran out to a shopping area called Market Common, did a loop around there, and then headed back out toward the beach to start running back the other direction.

  • Mile 1 – 8:32
  • Mile 2 – 8:26
  • Mile 3 – 8:34
  • Mile 4 – 8:28
  • Mile 5 – 8:32
  • Mile 6 – 8:29
  • Mile 7 – 8:32

I passed the 10K timing mat at 52:06, but it was a little off from what my watch said. Actually, all the mile markers were about a tenth of a mile short from what mine and the other people around me had on their watches. Not a big deal, and I knew it would eventually even out at the end. I had set my Garmin to show my overall average pace while I was running and it stayed steady at 8:30-8:31/mile the entire time, so I knew I was right on track.

I have run the full (up to mile 21.5) and the half here a couple times, so I know the Myrtle Beach Marathon course very well. I practiced visualizing it on my long runs. I knew every long stretch, every turn, every mile marker, every timing mat. I knew there would be two parts of the course that would be the hardest for me. The first would be the 9 mile stretch along the water from mile 8-17. Not only can this be hard physically because of the wind that comes from off the ocean and between the buildings, but it’s also very tough mentally because you’re running straight for so long without any change in direction. I knew this was my first big test, and if I could get past this part feeling strong I’d be in really good shape.

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  • Mile 8 – 8:28
  • Mile 9 – 8:33
  • Mile 10 – 8:35
  • Mile 11 – 8:24
  • Mile 12 – 8:25
  • Mile 13 – 8:33

I passed the halfway point at 1:51:05, still keeping a very steady 8:30 pace. I have never run a more consistently paced race in my entire life, and I really owe that to our pacer Andrew. I have never run an entire race with a pace group before, but it was very freeing to be able to just run and not expend any extra energy worrying about looking at my watch and crunching numbers. It really helped me enjoy myself and take in my surroundings better. I also loved the pace group for the support and the camaraderie. The miles were just flying by as I spent time talking with the people around me and getting to know them and their stories. It was amazing!

  • Mile 14 – 8:36
  • Mile 15 – 8:34
  • Mile 16 – 8:31
  • Mile 17 – 8:30
  • Mile 18 – 8:33

From miles 15-17 we took a very slight turn bringing us even closer to the water, and the wind really picked up once we did that. I tried to focus on not fighting the wind too much so that I didn’t waste too much energy. I knew it would be over soon and that we would be turning and running inland at mile 17, so I just hung in there. I never let myself feel mentally defeated. Something that really helped me was to think of the saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Yes, I realize that’s kind of funny to say since I am a vegetarian 🙂 But for me, the mental part of running is huge and it’s very easy to get caught up in that and get overwhelmed. I kept reminding myself to eat the elephant one bite at a time. Rather than stress about the 26.2 miles ahead of me, I broke it up into smaller more manageable “bites” – just make it to the 10k timing mat, then the half, then mile 17 when we finally turn away from the beach and the wind, then mile 18.3 where another timing mat is, and so on. This made it seem less scary and more doable!

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I passed the next checkpoint (18.3 miles) at 2:35:32, still right on my 8:30 target. By now my watch and the mile markers were perfectly in sync. I knew my next “bite” was to make it to the spot where I had to stop last time, at mile 21.38. This was the second part of the course that I was nervous about. I was feeling really great at this point, especially since we were now away from pretty much all wind. The pace still felt extremely comfortable and once again I was tempted to pick it up some, but I really didn’t want to push it until I got farther in the race. I think one factor aside from pacing that helped me feel really strong was my hydration and fueling. I actually decided to wear my Camelback just like I did in my last marathon two years ago, and I am so glad I did. I loved having water whenever I needed it, as well as a place to store my Honey Stingers (and my obsession – chapstick) that was out of the way. I never felt thirsty or like I had any sort of dip in energy the entire time. I drank when I felt like it and ate a half pack of Stingers at 1 hour, and then every 35 minutes after that. It was the perfect balance that left me feeling hydrated and fueled.

  • Mile 19 – 8:30
  • Mile 20 – 8:34

I really love hitting mile 20 in a marathon. To me, the two halves of a marathon are not 13.1 and 13.1. I think the first ‘half’ is the first 20 miles, and the other half is the last 6. If you run a smart race, both of those segments should take about the same amount of effort.  The last 6 miles were such an out of body experience. I kept waiting for the wall to come (either mentally or physically) and it never did. I kept telling the pace group that I couldn’t believe how good I still felt, hoping I wasn’t jinxing myself. I got a little worried when the spout to my Camelback fell off at mile 21 and I had to stop to get it, but I was able to pick it up and get right back into it. I also got worried when our pacer Andrew had some IT band pain at mile around the same time and had to slow down. But the best feeling of all was running past the exact point where I had to stop and get medical help two years ago. I remember so clearly how terrible I felt in that moment, and today in this moment I felt so strong and unstoppable.

From miles 22-26.2 I refused to let myself think about how much I had left, and instead just focused on working on the mile I was in at the moment. One bite at a time. It got a little lonely, since our pace team had broken up quite a bit and I was now running alone. We were also in a more isolated part of town that seemed to drag on a bit, and I saw my pace slow a little bit in miles 22 and 23. I gave myself a little pep talk and decided that it was all me now. No pacer to take me the rest of the way, nobody to talk to and distract me. Nothing but me and the road and my own determination. I knew I was going to PR at this point, and it was up to me to decide by how much.

  • Mile 21 – 8:27
  • Mile 22 – 8:39
  • Mile 23 – 8:38
  • Mile 24 – 8:31
  • Mile 25 – 8:35

I kept working on each mile, one at a time, and before I knew it I saw the flag for mile 25. I decided I needed to pick it up and finish strong, just like I had been practicing in my long runs. I gave those last 1.2 miles everything I had. Right after the mile 26 flag we turned right into the finish area, and I looked down at my watch and saw a time of 3:42. I could not believe that I had just run that fast. I started getting teary eyed once I saw all the people watching by the finish line, and when the announcer called out my name. I ran through the finish line and immediately burst into tears. I DID IT!!!!!

  • Mile 26 – 8:21
  • Last . 20 – 8:07 pace
  • Finish Time – 3:43:10 / 8:31 average pace

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I think this is my shocked face 🙂

What went right in this race? Sometimes everything just comes together and conditions are perfect. It happens very rarely, but I think today was one of those days. Everything from the temperature, the wind, how my body felt, the familiarity of the course, my fueling and hydration plan, my mental strategies, my slower than usual pacing, my strong finish. I tried very hard to stick to my power words of patience, discipline, and trust. Patience to not go out to fast. Discipline to stick to the plan and keep going when it starts to hurt. Trust in my training and my body.

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Like I said in my goals post, this was more than just a race to me. This was a chance for me to get my redemption from two years ago and finally cross the finish line of the Myrtle Beach Marathon. This was marathon #10 in state #10 for me, which allows me to officially join the 50 states club and start working toward the other 40 (however long it may take!). And most importantly, this race was an opportunity for me to leave some sad, angry, defeated feelings on the pavement, and remind myself that I am strong and can do hard things. I could not have asked for a better experience for my 10th marathon, and I am so proud and thankful.

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What’s next? Well, first I’m looking forward to a few months off from hard training! I jumped into training pretty soon after baby, and my body and mind are definitely ready to cut back a bit. Then marathon training will resume this summer for an undetermined fall marathon. I plan to keep chipping away at my time in order to hopefully get my BQ sometime in the next couple of years. We’ll see! Running has taught me that anything is possible with time and a lot of hard work!

Marathon #9 – The Lower Potomac River Marathon

Marathon #9 is officially in the books, and will forever be a very special race to me. It is my proof that hard work does pay off, and it showed me how important it is to face your fears and try again after failing. I finally ran the sub-4 marathon I’ve been working toward for years, and it felt AMAZING!

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In order to start telling this story I need to back up a few weeks. The decision to try 26.2 again was not an easy one and there were a lot of factors I had to consider: Is there another race I can do soon that is in a new state (since I’m trying to do all 50)? Do I have it in me mentally to try again? How about physically? Am I healthy enough? I’ll start at the beginning. I will warn you though, this is a long one!

Saturday, February 15th (the evening of my DNF): After a rough and emotional day, the thought of trying again crosses my mind. Kevin catches me browsing Running in the USA, and says he knew it wouldn’t be long before I started looking. He told me he would support any decision I made. I found a couple that would work (the Lower Potomac River Marathon in Maryland on March 9th and Rock & Roll DC on March 15th), but knew I didn’t want to rush into a decision. I also wanted to figure out if anything was going on with my body medically before I jumped back into such a demanding race distance and running in general.

Tuesday, February 18th: I go to the doctor to get some blood work and other testing done, to rule out anything being wrong medically (anemia, thyroid, pregnancy, etc.)

Friday, February 21st: All my test results come back normal/negative. I started to think more about running another marathon. While exploring the race websites, I went into the registration page for the Lower Potomac River Marathon but Active said registration had been closed. My heart sank. I emailed the race director to ask if they were full, just to keep my options open in case I decided to go for it.

Saturday, February 22nd: I run for the first time since my DNF. I gave myself a week off because I still felt pretty beat up, but by this point I was feeling pretty much back to normal. Plus my test results all came back normal so I felt comfortable running again. I went out with both Kevins for a 3 mile family run and felt amazing! I decided to try to do a longer run the next day to see how I felt when running longer distances. I knew this would be a big factor in determining whether or not I would try another marathon. The race director emailed me back and said they closed online registration but I could still mail it in if I wanted to. I decided that I would see how my run went the next day and make a decision after that.

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Sunday, February 23rd: I head out to run and wear my Camelbak, in case I end up feeling good and wanting to run longer. The first 3 miles were terrible. TERRIBLE! I actually stopped to walk at mile 3 and was contemplating calling Kevin to come get me. I told myself this was a sign that it wasn’t meant to be, that I shouldn’t force myself to do something I wasn’t enjoying. But then something changed. This is where it starts to get a little strange… at this moment a little voice in my head told me to give it one more chance. So I started running again, and it felt amazing. I ran 10 more miles and felt like I floated the entire time. I took that as a sign- maybe I should give the marathon another try, just like I gave today’s run a second chance. Maybe it could turn out to be better than I ever imagined.  I decided to go for it.

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I swear this shirt is lucky- I’ve never had a bad run while wearing it, which is why I wore it on race day too!

Monday, February 24th: I mail in my registration and start mentally preparing myself for another marathon. It was actually kind of perfect because this race was 3 weeks after Myrtle Beach, when I would be tapering. I could call my 21.37 miles in Myrtle Beach my final “training run” and cut back from there. I started to get excited.

Friday, February 28th: I noticed that the check I sent to register for the race hadn’t come out of my account yet, so I checked the website to see what was going on. My heart sank again when I saw that they posted that it had reached capacity (200 runners- a small race!) a couple of days before. I figured that since my check hadn’t been cashed I didn’t get it. I was disappointed, and started contemplating running the Rock & Roll DC race the following weekend instead. But it never felt “right” to me, and I haven’t had the best experiences with Rock & Roll races. I wondered if I should take that I didn’t get in as another sign that it wasn’t meant to be, and just accept it.

Saturday, March 1st: I go out for an 8 miler, just in case there’s a slim chance I could still be accepted into the Lower Potomac River Marathon, as my final “long” run. I still haven’t heard from the race director, so I am hopeful.

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Sunday, March 2nd: The race director emails me back and says I am IN! My check has been deposited. We book a hotel room and I start to realize this is really happening!

And that brings me to race weekend. Whew! Told you it was a roller coaster ride! Going into this race I had a lot of anxiety and fear. What if it happens again? What if my body can’t handle it? Because of this I decided to keep my decision quiet, and only told a few people going into it. This did help alleviate some of the stress and pressure, and I spent a lot of time trying to relax and focus on positive visualization. I tried to see it as just another long run.

We arrived in Piney Point, Maryland where the race was taking place around 3:00 on Saturday afternoon. It was only about an hour and a half drive from home, which was really nice. Piney Point is a small, quaint, beachy town along the Chesapeake Bay. As we drove into where we needed to pick up my packet we went through part of the course, and I immediately knew I was going to love it. It was partially along the water, and partially on a rural country “highway.” We decided to drive the whole course before going to packet pick-up and it was absolutely beautiful. Seeing where I would be running the next day made me feel calmer, because I could really visualize myself running the course.

Just an example of some of the beautiful views along the course!

Just an example of some of the beautiful views along the course!

The packet pick-up was super informal and easy. Like I said, this race maxes out at 200 runners, so there was a really intimate and casual feel to everything, which I loved. After we got my bib we spent some time outside in the sun since it was a beautiful, warm day. Kevin loved being able to run around after being in the carseat for a little while.

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After spending some time outside we headed to our hotel to check in and unpack. On the way there I texted a few close family and friends to let them know I was running a marathon the next day and to send me some positive energy and strength.

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We had dinner at a pizza chain restaurant called Ledo Pizza. I chose it because they had a ‘vegan’ pizza and I can’t do dairy the day before a race or long run. I have had my fair share of vegetarian and vegan pizzas and most of them have not been anything special, but I was pretty impressed with this one! It had a lot of flavor from the sauce, jalapeños and lemon olive oil that was drizzled on top. It also was topped with avocado. YUM!

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After dinner we went back to the hotel, gave Kevin a bath and got him to sleep in the Pack & Play that we brought with us. Since that night was Daylight Savings and we were going to lose an hour of sleep, we made sure to get to bed early. It wasn’t hard to do this since we put Kevin to bed around 7:30 and the room was already dark. We hung out for a while and then passed out around 9:00.

The next morning after 7 solid hours of sleep (damn you Daylight Savings- it should’ve been 8!), I woke up at 5:00 a.m. to start my pre-race routine: coffee, peanut butter and honey sandwich, get dressed, bathroom time, prepare camelbak and put shot bloks and chews into baggies. Thankfully little Kevin slept like a rock, unlike in Myrtle Beach when he woke up a lot and I wasn’t able to sleep much before the race. That was just the first of many things that went right on race day 🙂

My boys woke up around 6:00 and had some breakfast. They got dressed and ready to go and we all headed out the door at 6:30. The start area was about 20 minutes away and I wanted to have time to go to the bathroom one more time before it all started. Kevin dropped me off and then went to park. I got emotional when I kissed him goodbye, just like in Myrtle Beach. He told me it was just another long run, and that he knew I was going to have a great day. I went inside the building where all the runners were to keep warm and use the bathroom (it was about 45 degrees at this point.)

Kevin hanging out in the bathtub at 6 a.m.

Kevin hanging out in the bathtub at 6 a.m.

I ended up peeing twice before heading to the start line. I am so paranoid about having to pee during a race, and I knew that since this was a small one porta-potties would be few and far between! I also decided to wear my Camelbak for this race (first time ever!) since I wanted access to water whenever I needed it, rather than at the water stops every 2 miles. I ended up LOVING this decision and I think it made a world of difference for me.

before

At 7:15 on the dot the race started with the sound of a gong.  There is no chip timing for this race, so I went toward the front of the very small pack just to keep as close to the clock time as possible. I didn’t want a repeat of the time I finished a marathon in 4:00:04! Every second counts.

It was go time.

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Miles 1-8 took us across the bridge onto St. George’s Island. We ran out and back along one road and then out and back along another road as the sun was coming up. We were right by the water which was absolutely beautiful, and the miles were passing super fast.

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I tried to start out more conservatively than I did in Myrtle Beach, because I wanted to ensure that I would make it to the finish line this time. I knew my main goal for this race was to finish since I didn’t get to last time, and getting under 4 hours would be icing on the cake. With the pressure off, I naturally started out running between 8:35-8:45 minute miles which felt good and even slow at times. I made it a point to not be obsessed with my watch and just run by effort. I ate my first half pack of margarita shot bloks at 25 minutes into the race and another half pack 25 minutes later.

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  • Mile 1 – 8:37
  • Mile 2 – 8:39
  • Mile 3 – 8:41
  • Mile 4 – 8:44
  • Mile 5 – 8:40
  • Mile 6 – 8:49
  • Mile 7 – 8:41
  • Mile 8 – 8:44
Across the bridge to St. George's Island

Across the bridge to St. George’s Island

We crossed back over the bridge around mile 8 and I was excited because I knew I would see Kevin and the baby soon. They were waiting near the start line since we would be passing that area again. I heard Kevin yell my name from all the way down the road and I couldn’t stop smiling. Between the pretty scenery, the flat course, and seeing my two guys, running felt effortless and it was almost like I was floating through. I felt so happy.

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After leaving him we turned left to go down another little out and back segment of the course. I decided to start eating my shot bloks every 20 minutes rather than 25 because it felt like I was burning through it quickly. I just wanted to ensure that I was giving my body a steady stream of glucose. From then until the end of the race I ate my shot bloks every 20 minutes like clockwork and drank water when I felt like I needed it. I LOVED having access to my Camelbak and I think I found the sweet spot of hydration and fueling- not too much and not too little. I never felt a drop in energy and my blood sugar remained stable the entire time. During the next few miles I took in the scenery around me and enjoyed running by the water for the last time before the remainder of the course, which was out and back along a rural country “highway.”

  • Mile 9 – 8:46
  • Mile 10 – 8:48
  • Mile 11 – 8:56

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I saw Kevin and baby again once I got back onto the main road. I was just before mile 12 and again, seeing them gave me an awesome boost of adrenaline. I started to mentally prepare myself for the second half of the race- 7 miles out and 7 miles back. I also knew that the second half was more hilly than the first. Luckily, I wasn’t very worried because I was still feeling great and I knew I’d get to see Kevin multiple times. Since the race was small the course was not closed to cars, so Kevin was able to drive along, park on side streets, and see me every couple of miles. Knowing this gave me peace of mind and I knew it would help me get through those late-teen miles (17-19) that have always historically been tough for me.

  • Mile 12 – 8:52
  • Mile 13 – 8:55

I passed the halfway point at exactly 1:55:00. I knew that the hills were coming and that I’d most likely positive split, but that was okay because I had built up quite a cushion to still get under 4 hours. I knew a lot could happen in the next 13 miles, but I was still hopeful to come in under my goal. I was actually feeling much better and stronger at this point than I was at Myrtle Beach, so I knew I was in good shape!

The hills are coming!

The hills are coming!

Around mile 15 I started coming up behind a man who was wearing a purple shirt that said “Running for Team Hope- Pancreatic Cancer Organization”. All throughout the race other runners had been super friendly and we had been conversing as we passed and ran next to one another, so I started talking to him. I told him I thought it was awesome that he was running for Pancreatic Cancer because my mom died from it. He told me his fiancee’s father had recently passed away from it (in April- just like my mom), and we talked about how it is very under-funded yet has one of the highest death rates of all the cancers. Seeing him gave me a huge boost and helped me remember that I am so lucky to be able to do things like run, and that there are many people who aren’t able to do the same. He ran ahead and I kept going at my pace, but now with my mom at the forefront of my mind. For the first of many times during this race, I got emotional.

  • Mile 14 – 8:52
  • Mile 15 – 9:01
  • Mile 16 – 9:05
Mile 16

Mile 16

I saw Kevin again right as I passed mile 16. For a couple miles it had felt like we had been running slightly uphill (and against the wind) which is why I had slowed down a bit, but this mile is where the real hills started.  They were actually a lot worse than I thought they would be. I knew I wasn’t alone in thinking this because the people around me agreed. It was not easy, and my pace definitely slowed a bit during these last 3 miles before the turn-around. I wasn’t worried because I had a good time cushion and I knew I’d make some of the time up on the way back. I was more than ready to turn around and go mostly DOWNHILL!

  • Mile 17 – 9:26
  • Mile 18 – 9:23
  • Mile 19 – 9:21

The turn-around point was a little bit past mile 19. With most of the big inclines behind me, I focused on the final stretch. At this point I realized that I didn’t get to that mentally hard place in the late-teen miles, even though I waited for it to come. It never did. I just kept moving forward and kept my mind positive and focused on my goal. It also helped that the wind was at my back now 🙂 I saw Kevin shortly after turning around while running up yet another hill. I told him I was almost at 20 and feeling awesome. Did I mention I LOVED seeing him so many times? Small races are the best!

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I hit mile 20 at 2:58 and realized that I had 1 hour and 2 minutes to run the final 6.2 miles, which was exactly a 10 minute pace. Even though I knew that was totally doable, I also knew a lot can happen over the course of 6 miles, so I just kept moving forward. I didn’t want to exert extra energy and get too anxious by doing too much math, so I tried to relax. The whole race I had been trying to focus on keeping good form and posture, swinging my arms backwards to propel me forward rather than crossing in front of my body (you can see in pictures that I still do cross my body sometimes- I’m working on it!), and taking shorter steps so that my feet land under my body rather than in front of it, minimizing heel striking and too much over-pronation. I really feel this helped me run more efficiently and conserve energy.

I got emotional again when I crossed the 21.37 mile point. This is exactly where I had to stop during the Myrtle Beach Marathon. How I felt in that moment was completely different than how I felt the day of my DNF. I felt on top of the world. I was so thankful that I had gathered the courage to give it another try, and that it was going so well. At this point I also knew that the rest of the race was net downhill and/or flat, so the hardest miles were behind me. I just had to keep moving forward and finish it out strong. I saw Kevin again around this time and he told me he was going to head to the finish line, but I told him I wanted to see him one more time. I wanted a boost for the final couple miles and also thought I might want to give him my Camelbak at that point.

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  • Mile 20 – 9:09
  • Mile 21 – 9:03
  • Mile 22 – 9:04
  • Mile 23 – 9:11

I saw Kevin again at mile 23 and I handed him my Camelbak. He gave me one last pep talk as I ran by and told me he’d see me at the finish line. At this point I started to really feel the effects of running non-stop for almost 4 hours. I couldn’t believe I was in the 23rd mile, and I felt like the race had gone by so fast. I think it did because I really tried to stay focused on the mile I was in and not think ahead to how much I had left to go. But at this point the sun was out, I was feeling tired, and I was ready to cross that finish line.

All of a sudden I saw the guy in the purple Pancreatic Cancer shirt from earlier running a little bit ahead of me. I picked up my pace in order to catch up with him. I knew he was just who I needed to see right now. I wanted to talk to him and draw some strength from the cause he was running for that was so close to my heart.

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Me in the back with him ahead of me

When I caught up to him I told him I was so happy to see him because I needed a boost. He asked me questions about my mom and asked what her name was. He told me that he donated his own money to the Pancreatic Cancer Organization for every mile he ran, and in a race he donated even more per mile. He dedicates his races to people who are suffering from or have passed away from Pancreatic Cancer, and he told me he wanted to run his next one in 3 weeks for my mom. Cue the waterworks.

I ran about 2 miles with him and we went back and forth between talking and silently running next to each other. I found out his name was Kevin, just like my husband and son (REALLY!? What are the odds, seriously), and has been through a lot of struggle in his life. This was his 61st marathon, and he also had a DNF a few weeks before like I did. I could not believe all that I had in common with him, and I truly feel like he was an angel sent to me from my mom as a sign that she’s still with me. Cue the tears, again. A little bit past mile 25 he told me he needed to slow down, and I had already slowed down quite a bit during the 2 miles I ran with him, so he told me to go for it and finish strong. I thanked him and told him I would see him at the finish line.

  • Mile 24 – 9:32
  • Mile 25 – 9:32

It wasn’t until midway through the 25th mile that I realized I was going to do it. I was getting my sub-4 hour marathon, finally. I made the final turn to head into the finish line and saw that the clock said 3:55. I have been waiting to see a finish line clock with a 3 in the front for YEARS!

  • Mile 26 – 9:05

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In the final stretch I heard someone cheering for me from behind and realized that my new friend Kevin had caught up with me and we were going to end up finishing together. That combined with breaking 4 hours made me lose it. I sobbed my way through the finish line.

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  • The last .3 miles – 8:24 pace!
  • Finish Time – 3:56:08 / 9:01 average pace

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I swear I have never heard my husband yell and cheer so loudly (even during a Steelers game, and that’s saying a lot!) He ran over and hugged me and I cried all over him. He told me he knew I was going to do it and that he was so proud of me.

Half of my favorite support crew

Half of my favorite support crew

After getting my medal and some water, I introduced Kevin to my new friend and explained how we met during the race. We talked for a few minutes and then he had to go, but I’ll never ever forget him. Kevin and I have talked about him since then and are still amazed by the coincidences and how he was there in the right places at the right times- I truly believe it was meant to be that way and that somehow it was a message from my mom.

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Eventually I hobbled inside to stretch, sit down, and eat a banana. My legs immediately got stiff but other than that I really felt great. It was so unlike any other marathon I have ever run before.

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Once we were ready to head home I let everyone know that I had made a second attempt at the marathon and had finished under 4 hours, and the support was overwhelming. I am so lucky to be surrounded by friends and family that love me and encourage me no matter what.

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The race itself and the PR weren’t the only things that were awesome either. Afterwards I had no real pain, and was just a little sore- mainly in my calves, no black toenails, no blisters, no chafing, no sunburn, no dehydration and no post-marathon headache. Perfection. I finally had a marathon where everything came together and I ran a smart race. So many lessons learned.

Once the race was over I spent some time reflecting on my two recent marathon experiences. I realized just how great I felt in this race compared to a few weeks earlier in Myrtle Beach. At the time in Myrtle Beach I had thought I felt good during the race up until the point when my body shut down, but in comparing the two races I realized that I really didn’t. I didn’t feel nearly as strong, calm and awesome as I did in this marathon. I had convinced myself that I felt fine, but there definitely were warning signs that something wasn’t right. In Myrtle Beach, fighting the wind for the first 5 miles and the lingering effects of my sickness earlier that week took more out of me than I realized at the time. Thinking back, I started having difficulty stomaching my shot bloks before the halfway point even hit, and they were hard to get down. I drank my water super fast and was still thirsty. My legs felt weaker than they should have and my mind was foggier. Even though I ran a strong pace up until mile 20ish, I NEVER felt as good as I did during the Lower Potomac River Marathon. This time I was in a much better place, physically and mentally, and I felt like I was super in-tune with my body. I fueled and hydrated perfectly and focused on keeping good form. And most importantly, I think the no-pressure attitude I had going into it helped me stay calm and actually enjoy myself and this crazy thing called running that I LOVE.

I finally feel at peace with my running and the marathon distance. My confidence has been restored and I know that not only can I run marathons, but I can run them faster than I ever thought I could. I have closure now that I have completed my “unfinished business,” and I am looking forward to training for some shorter races for a while. I now have a happy ending to my long story, and I couldn’t be more proud! I’ll be back to beat that new PR though, don’t worry 🙂

6.5 post 8

Marathon #8 – The Outer Banks Marathon

I am so, SO excited to write this post. When I wrote about my goals for the OBX Marathon last week, I was worried about my foot and afraid that my next post would be about a big fat DNF. That was SO not the case, in fact I had one of my best (and second fastest!) marathons ever. It was an amazing experience from start to finish and I can’t wait to share it all. I met every single one of my goals and could not be happier.

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Let’s go back to the beginning. Kevin, Kevin III, Amanda (my training buddy) and I began our road trip to the OBX early on Saturday morning. The weekend got off  to a rough start when the baby caught a bad cold from daycare. He was super congested, sneezing, and coughing a lot. This made our 4 hour drive interesting. I had to sit right next to him in the car with the Boogie Wipes and lots of distracting toys handy. Thankfully he napped most of the way and the ride went by quickly!

Sick baby :(

Sick baby 😦

This was me and Kevin’s first time to the Outer Banks (Amanda goes every summer) and the drive in was beautiful. It got me really excited to run in such a pretty, new place. When we arrived we headed straight to the expo to pick up our bibs.

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The expo was small as we expected, since the OBX Marathon is a relatively small race (about 1,100 marathoners and 2,700 half marathoners.) There were still a decent amount of booths there though, and we spent some time visiting them and hanging out.

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After the expo we went to our hotel to check in. We stayed in Kitty Hawk, close to the race start.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and talking about the race the next day. We checked out the course maps, read recaps, and got pumped up. The OBX Marathon has a point-to-point course which starts in Kitty Hawk and ends in Manteo, as you can see in the map below.

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Once Kevin’s parents arrived at the hotel (they came from South Carolina to support us because they are awesome like that) we all went out to get some dinner. Amanda and I have always eaten pizza the night before our long runs, so we stuck to that and found a pizza place called Dare Devils Pizzeria down the road. Even though I had to skip the cheese (dairy before long runs DOES NOT mix for me- I learned that the hard way many times), it was REALLY good and left us feeling sufficiently carb-loaded and sleepy. I was also feeling pretty congested, thanks to the cold Kevin had most likely passed to me with such great timing!

Since we ate early at 5 p.m. it was only 6:30ish when we got back to the hotel. I asked my in-laws to have the baby sleep in their room since he was sick and I knew he would be up all night. They were super excited about it and I felt better knowing he would be well taken care of and we would get a good night sleep (well,  as good as possible the night before a marathon.) Once the baby was asleep with his grandparents Amanda, Kevin and I settled into our room and we watched the movie The Spirit of the Marathon. I watched this movie before my first marathon and it was so inspiring, so I thought it would be good for Amanda to see. Even though I have seen it many times it doesn’t get old to me. We were all in bed and sleeping by 9:00, feeling super motivated and ready.

My alarm went off the next day at 5:00. I slept pretty restlessly so I practically jumped out of bed. I started my morning routine- coffee, get dressed, more coffee, eat Luna Bar, water, pack shot blocks and honey stingers, more coffee, bathroom, etc. I went through the motions thinking how weird it was that I would be running 26.2 miles later. It was a scary yet familiar feeling.

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Around 6:30 my mother-in-law came to the door with the baby. I gave him some hugs and kisses and then we were out the door and headed to the start!

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Kevin dropped us off and we walked a few minutes to the starting line. I was still feeling pretty congested but it was the perfect temperature outside- 40s/50s- and that seemed to open up my sinuses. I knew I wouldn’t need my throw-away long sleeve shirt for very long. It felt weird to not have my Garmin or my phone with me. In fact all I had was my very old handheld water bottle that I planned to throw away once the water was gone (I am way overdue for a new one anyway). Amanda and I ran into the woods for a last minute bathroom stop since we only had a few minutes before the 7:20 start time. Then we went to get into our separate corrals and I gave her a big hug and we wished each other luck.

I stood in my corral listening to the National Anthem and a prayer by someone from a local church and I couldn’t help but get emotional. I didn’t know at that point what was going to happen over the course of 26.2 miles, but I was just so happy to be there at the starting line. When I was pregnant a part of me wondered if I would ever be able to go back to running marathons like I used to. And then after all the setbacks and injuries I experienced while training I had a lot of doubts. But I made it there and I was ready to run. Knowing that I had no goal except to finish with a smile on my face made me feel so free and relaxed. It was so unlike any other marathon I have eve run before.

We started the race right on time and I immediately threw my long sleeved shirt to the side. I felt comfortable in my shorts, tank top, arm warmers and compression sleeves. The temperature felt perfect and there was just a little bit of wind. The first few miles were through a residential foresty area, and I focused on checking in with my body to see how everything felt. Foot? Perfect. Knee? No pain. Congestion? Gone. Stomach? Ugh- cramping. It continued like this for a few miles and I started to get nervous.  I just tried to keep a steady pace and breathe through it. We passed the 5K mark and although there were mile markers at each mile, there weren’t any race clocks so I had no idea what pace I was running. I took my first half pack of margarita shot blocks like planned and hoped the “cramp-buster” sodium in it would help (my strategy was to fuel every 3 miles).

At mile 4 I was still cramping so I decided to start talking to a guy next to me to see if it would take my mind off it. We ran together for about a mile along the water which was beautiful. I found out his name was Andy and this was his second marathon. He was shooting for under 4 hours and running an 8:30 pace. Wait, I thought, that means I’m also running an 8:30 pace right now? It definitely didn’t feel like it with my cramps. I wished him good luck and let him go ahead. My strategy worked though… the cramps were gone!

Once the cramps were gone I checked in with my body again. I was worried the cramps were maybe masking pain in my foot or knee, but nope- they both felt perfect. I was so happy to be running pain-free! I had taken some Tylenol before the race (something I had never done before even though I never recommend trying anything new on race day), and I figured either it was working or all of the rest the week of the race worked. I had slight cramping again around mile 6. I ate some more shot blocks and started talking to another guy who filled me in on the bridge at mile 23 and the section that went through the woods at mile 10. Once again that helped take my mind off it and the cramps went away. I was blown away by the friendliness of the runners, spectators and volunteers. During this time I ran through the 10K split mat and wondered what my time was- still no race clocks to be found on the course. I was actually happy there wasn’t, but a part of me was still curious! (I found out later that I had passed 10K at 54:25, an 8:46 pace).

At mile 7 I ran out of water in my bottle and threw it to the side. I knew I’d be seeing Kevin and his family soon and they would give me more. This part of the course was cool because it went around the Wright Brothers Memorial. At mile 8 I heard Kevin and his family cheering for me, and I was so excited to see them that I forgot to grab my new water bottle. Kevin had to chase me down to give it to me!

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 About 15 minutes later Amanda came by! Kevin said she was smiling and looking great!

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After seeing Kevin and getting that boost I really got into my zone. I felt strong and the miles ticked by quickly. Before I knew it we were at mile 10 and entering the Nags Head Preserve- also known as the woods. I was a little nervous about this section from miles 10-13 because it was on a dirt trail. I knew I would have to be careful not to tweak my knee or foot. I am very clumsy so it took a lot of concentration to avoid rocks and other things. Even though it took a lot of focus, it really was pretty and peaceful in the woods. The path was mostly well packed dirt with rocks here and there and some small and gentle rolling hills. My legs actually felt good on the hills after running on pancake flat roads for the first 10 miles. The last half mile or so was on a narrower, looser trail that fit maybe two runners side by side. It was much hillier and more difficult to run on but luckily it didn’t last long. The trail ended and suddenly I was running through a parking lot and heading toward the main road that goes through the outer banks. I passed the mile marker for mile 13 and mentally prepared myself for the second half. There was no race clock or split mat for the half marathon point and I still had no clue what my pace was. I was just excited to get back on the road where I was in more of my element.

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We ran along one lane of the highway with drivers cheering for us out of their windows and honking on one side and beautiful sand dunes on the other side. It was pretty windy at this point with no trees around us to block it. I ran along thinking mile 14 was taking forever to come, and I finally asked a guy with a watch what distance he had. He told me he had just hit 15! I hadn’t realized that the miles were printed on the ground since there had been flags marking them before. I quickly ate my stingers since it was time, and then we hung a right into a residential area off the highway. I appreciated that the course diverted off the highway, because running in a straight line on one road for a long time is mentally draining to me.

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Mile 16 and 17 passed quickly and then I started to give myself little pep talks. I was still feeling good physically but It was very sunny and getting warmer. I threw away my now empty water bottle and my arm warmers that were rolled down to my wrists. Carrying extra stuff started to bother me. For a brief second I got a little daunted thinking about how I still had 9 miles left to run, but I quickly tried to change that mentality. Instead I just focused on the mile I was in and nothing more than that. At mile 18 I ate more stingers and shortly after that we were back on the highway. I was starting to feel it in my hips and the bottoms of my feet at this point. I told myself that I could walk at mile 20 if I wanted to and that got me through a couple more miles. I passed the second timing mat at the random distance of 19.3 miles. There were still no clocks, but I saw later that I passed this point in 2:56:53, an overall average pace of 9:09.

As I approached mile 20 I felt like I needed more fuel, so I decided to start eating my chews every 2 miles rather than 3. This also helped me break down the remaining distance in my head. I took my chews, mile 20 came and went and I didn’t walk. I kept telling myself I could walk at 21, 22, 23 if I needed to, but I didn’t. At this point we had been running on the highway for a while and I knew the dreaded bridge was coming. I ate more chews at mile 22 to prepare. I tried to keep my mind off of it by thinking about Amanda and how she was doing. I also focused on how relatively good I felt compared to past marathons and how thankful I was that my foot and knee and the rest of my body was cooperating.  Finally, after the 22 mile marker I saw the bridge ahead. I told myself I was strong and I WOULD get up it without walking.

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The bridge was so much worse than it looks in this picture. The bridge is TALL. It is 1.05 mi long with a 650 foot climb to the top at a 4% grade. Running this at mile 23 after many, many flat miles was SO. HARD. It was super windy up there too. I just kept telling myself that I would see Kevin soon and he was waiting for me at the bottom of the bridge.

Finally at the top! Of course they put a photographer there.

Finally at the top! Of course they put a photographer there.

Once I got to the top of the bridge I let gravity take over to bring me back down. Shortly after that I saw Kevin on the side of the road and I was SO happy. We ran together for a few minutes and when the 24 mile marker came into sight I told him I wanted to walk for a minute once I reached it. He told me I was doing awesome and I asked him not to tell me what my overall time was. I didn’t want to know until I saw the finish line. I stopped at mile 24 and walked for the first time, for about a minute. I picked a point ahead and started running again once I got there.

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I was so thankful to have Kevin with me. He talked to me and kept my mind off of the last 2 miles of the race. In the past these miles are where I really struggle mentally but I didn’t feel that on this day. I think it was because I had no expectations and there was no pressure whatsoever on my time. I was just happy to be there and having a good race. Kevin kept hinting to me that I was doing way better than I expected but I couldn’t even guess what my time was at this point. I stopped to walk again about two more times between then and the finish line. I am not sure if I 100% NEEDED to walk, but I really didn’t feel the need to push myself to the limit at this race. I wanted to finish smiling and feeling good, not like I was going to die like in some of my previous marathons.

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Kevin took this picture right at mile 26!

I rounded the final bend that brought me into the town of Manteo and saw the finish line. I found it in myself to pick up the pace a bit and ran down the finishers’ chute with tears in my eyes.

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I felt emotional for a lot of reasons. For running a smart race. For listening to my body instead of a watch on my wrist for once. For my pain-free foot and knee. For my husband running next to me. For my baby and my in-laws waiting at the finish line. For coming back after pregnancy stronger than before after all of my doubts. I was just so proud and happy!

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Once I got close enough to see the clock I was shocked that it said 4:07. After checking my results my official time was 4:06:22, an overall pace of 9:24. How had I just ran a 4:06 marathon, my second fastest ever, without even realizing it? I couldn’t believe it!

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After finishing I was on cloud 9. I have never finished a marathon feeling so good and so proud without any regrets. I loved everything about this race. I got my medal and we went to find the baby and Kevin’s parents who were by the finish line. As I hugged the baby I thought about how this time last year I was just getting back into running after having the baby. Now a year later it feels like I have come full circle.

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Kevin took a quick break and then ran back out on the course to find Amanda. He was going to meet her at mile 24 like he had met me. After stretching, drinking some water and eating a banana, I went over to the finish line to wait for them. I stood next to a woman who was waiting for her son who was about to finish his 100th marathon! WOW!

At 5:01:31 Amanda finished her first marathon with Kevin by her side. When I saw her coming I started crying again. That was the third time that day if you are counting. Such a crybaby! But I was just so happy and proud of her. I ran with Amanda as she ran her first 15K two years ago, then again at her first half last year, and then we trained together for her first full. She has come so far and she is so strong!

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We reunited and recapped each of our races for each other. We had similar races in many ways- we both had a difficult time in the woods, we both ran all the way up the bridge, we both walked for the first time at mile 24, and we both loved the entire race from start to finish. Amanda was even talking about her next one minutes after crossing the finish line.

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We didn’t stick around for too long because we were hot, sunburned and tired (it had warmed up to almost 70 degrees!). We went to where Kevin had parked which was super close (I love small races) and made the drive back to Kitty Hawk. On our way home we passed a lot of other runners who were still out on the course. So much respect for them and their strength!!

When we got back to the hotel we inhaled leftover pizza, took showers, and passed out for a couple hours. My wonderful mother-in-law took the baby and Kevin and his dad went to watch football at a sports bar. It felt amazing to relax after the race and not have to worry about taking care of the baby- I had no energy to whatsoever!

After some rest Amanda, Kevin and I went out to eat dinner at the Outer Banks Brewing Station. I had a delicious black bean burger with fries and a beer. It tasted so amazing, I can’t even explain how good the post-marathon meal is. Kevin had his well-earned meal as well. He ran at least 9 miles that day going back and forth between the finish line and running us both in!

The Outer Banks Brewing Station

The Outer Banks Brewing Station

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After eating we were ready for bed once again. It was the perfect ending to the perfect day.

Next up- marathon #9 in Myrtle Beach… February 2014!

Marathon #7 – The Air Force Marathon

We came. We ran. We conquered 26.2 miles side-by-side and finished together!

It was amazing, fun, and it ended dramatically, but I was able to meet almost every single one of my goals and I could not be happier or more proud!

Let’s back up a little…

We left for Dayton very early on Friday morning. It took about 8 hours to get there from Northern Virginia and we went straight to the expo once we arrived.

We weren’t sure what to expect from it, since the Air Force Marathon is the second smallest marathon I have done (NJ was a little smaller), but we were pleasantly surprised. We were impressed with how many vendors they had and they did a good job of pumping up the runners and getting them excited.

We checked into our hotel after leaving the expo. We stayed at the Hope Hotel, which was practically on base so it was very convenient. There were tons of runners staying there as well which was exciting. I love being around other runners who share the same passion as me! Plus, our room was great for the price we paid and how close it was to everything. We relaxed for a little bit and checked out the swag that was inside our bags.

Once again, very impressed with how much they gave us! We got a nice technical shirt (in ladies fit for me… bonus points!), a hat, wristband, a patch, samples (larabars and tortilla chips- two of my favorite things), and other fun freebies.

We went to dinner around 4:30. We had done some research ahead of time to find a good pizza place in the area, since we had eaten pizza as our pre-long run food throughout this entire training period. We decided to go with The Original Pizza Factory because of its good reviews, and it did not disappoint!

We got our pizzas to go and brought them back to the room. We each got our own large pizzas so that we could eat half that night and save half for after the race when we would be needing food ASAP. We both got the Pesto Pizzazz, which had a pesto base with a bunch of veggies. Kevin decided to go without meat since he had not eaten it before any long run [we always eat vegetarian at home] and he was afraid it might mess with his stomach. He said his pizza was delicious!

I got my pizza without any cheese and I added spinach. Since my stomach is so sensitive to cheese I usually use a cheese substitute (like Daiya) when we make pizza at home. Since they didn’t have that I just went without. I actually didn’t miss it. The pesto gave it so much flavor that it tasted great on its own!

After eating we showered, then decided to go onto base to pick up some things at the BX store because it was still really early… like 6 pm! We got some water bottles for the race and some other supplies. We always carry our own water bottles for the first half of the race to avoid congestion at water stations. Walking around a bit was actually good for our digestion, which is always one of my big worries before a race. I hate going right to bed after eating a big dinner because I feel like my food doesn’t digest as well and I’m not as prepared to run the next morning… if you know what I mean :).

Once we got back to the hotel we were super tired and went to bed at 9 p.m. with a 4:30 a.m. alarm set. We actually both slept very well and woke up excited and ready to run!

I quickly went through race morning routines- thyroid pill, coffee, bathroom, hair up, put on clothes, body glide, sunscreen, and race bib, bathroom again, eat banana, pack Spi-belt with gels/chews and chapstick, bathroom again (I told you this is my biggest worry!)

4 packs worth of energy chews... and I ate them all during the race!

We were going to bring along my old little camera to take pictures during the race but decided not to at the last minute. So I don’t have any pictures from the race except the professional ones, which is a bummer, but we both didn’t want to be bothered with worrying about taking pictures and carrying extra weight. Oh well!

We took a quick picture and then I put on my old long sleeved shirt that I planned to throw away once the race started. After we checked to make sure we had everything two and three times we went downstairs at 5:40 to catch the free shuttle from our hotel to the race start. There was a pretty decent line already and when the 5:45 bus showed up it filled up quickly. We waited in the hotel for the second bus, which was fine with us because it was cold outside (in the 40s)! I would much rather be inside a warm hotel than freezing for an hour and a half waiting for the race to start at 7:30. So we waited in the lobby and made some new friends. While we waited I ate my second part of breakfast- a Honey Stinger Peanut Butter & Honey energy bar.

The second bus came around 6:15 a.m. and dropped us off at the start at 6:30. We had an hour to spare before the start so we used the bathroom (again) and checked out the pre-race festivities. The start was right next to the U.S. Air Force Museum and a lot of old military planes, which was awesome. But it was cold!!!! We found the closest generator that was powering big spotlights and huddled around it with a group of people. We were able to make more friends and stay warm at the same time. Some of our new friends were running their first marathon that morning, and many of them were in the military. It was great to hear about their journey into running and their training.

We left the warmth at 7:15 to use the bathroom one more time (props to the USAF marathon organizers for the huge amount of CLEAN porta-potties!) and then we lined up at the start right beside the 4:00 pacer. We were planning to keep her in our sight the whole time to keep us on pace to meet my gold goal (4 hours). Up until this point, I felt great and not very worried about the race. I was just excited and happy to be there. But I started to get scared with about 5 minutes left to go before the start. It hit me that I was about to run another marathon, and even though I felt ready I was just worried about what happened in Nashville so unexpectedly. Kevin gave me a big hug and told me he would be with me the whole time, then the national anthem was sung by a woman in the Air Force. Right after the anthem there was a special fly-over by the B1 Lancer- an Air Force plane that was supposed to debut in the 2001 race that was canceled because it was only a few days after September 11th happened. This was the first time that the B1 Lancer made its debut, 10 years later. It was an awesome moment!

Before I knew it the gun went off and we were running over the starting mat. The first two miles were very congested and slightly uphill, but we were pumped full of adrenaline so it didn’t affect us too much.

The first hill looked worse than it actually was!

We were trying to keep a pace between 9:00 – 9:09, but it’s so hard to do that in the beginning when you’re feeling great and running fast seems easy! However, I know that going out too fast has been my biggest mistake in so many races, so we tried to hold back and slow down. We still ended up running many miles slightly under 9 minutes, but just tried to keep our effort level consistent and focus on not expending too much unnecessary energy. The 4:00 pacer was only a little bit behind us so we knew we were okay. The first five miles flew by!

  • Mile 1 – 9:18
  • Mile 2 – 8:55
  • Mile 3 – 8:43
  • Mile 4 – 9:00
  • Mile 5 – 9:00

The first part of the race was all on base and had a lot of nice little rolling hills. I like when there is a slight change of terrain because it’s less boring than a totally pancake-flat course, and I think the change is good for my legs too. The miles seemed to be passing so fast and before I knew it we were at mile 9 and heading into downtown Fairborn, which is a residential section that was PACKED with spectators. The energy here made Kevin and I feel even better and in a blink of an eye, we passed the 10 mile mark.

  • Mile 6 – 9:03
  • Mile 7 – 8:55
  • Mile 8 – 9:01
  • Mile 9 – 8:54
  • Mile 10 – 8:58

Just knowing we were already in the double digits made me feel super excited and motivated. It was also motivating to run by so many troops in uniform and volunteers. At one point, a group of runners started doing Jodies, which are military chants that are used to motivate troops when they are running. Kevin loved that. He even started getting a little bit emotional. He told me he was just so happy to be running with me and running for the Air Force. It was a great moment. Then all of a sudden we passed the halfway point just after 1 hour and 57 minutes. We were still right on track to run it in less than 4 hours and feeling great. We started taking Gatorade cups once we passed halfway at every other aid station and it seemed to help us maintain our steady effort.

  • Mile 11 – 8:53
  • Mile 12 – 8:56
  • Mile 13 – 8:59
  • Mile 14 – 8:57
  • Mile 15 – 9:05

Around mile 16 we ran onto the flight line on base, which was a long runway in the bright, bright sun. It had warmed up by this point but it wasn’t too hot. Kevin and I were talking about how we couldn’t believe how good we still felt at this point. We reminisced about how a year ago today Kevin was running his first half marathon, and today he was running his second full marathon. It’s amazing to think about how far he has come since then. Around mile 18 we were finally back out of the sun and into the shade of the woods. This was when we finally threw the water bottles we had been carrying. I remember thinking that I couldn’t believe we were almost at the 20 mile mark. This race was going so much more quickly than my past marathons! We passed mile 20 at 3 hours almost exactly. The 4:00 pacer was still behind us and I knew we would be able to make our goal if we just maintained the pace we were going.

  • Mile 16 – 8:54
  • Mile 17 – 8:58
  • Mile 18 – 9:01
  • Mile 19 – 9:04
  • Mile 20 – 9:01

We knew from the elevation chart and from talking to other runners that there was a hill around mile 22, so we wanted to be sure we had energy left in the tank for it. The hill didn’t seem big compared to the first hill in mile 1, but it felt much, much harder. We had been keeping a very consistent effort until this point and running up the huge overpass nearly killed me, but I held strong on it. After this point our pace started to slow down.

  • Mile 21 – 9:08
  • Mile 22 – 9:14
  • Mile 23 – 9:20
  • Mile 24 – 9:39

I really started to feel the effects of running 24 miles non-stop at this point, but it was nothing I hadn’t felt before in previous marathons. It was hard to keep going at the pace I was but I just kept reminding myself that it would all be over soon. I was on track to running my 4 hour marathon and the pacer was still behind us. I was on cloud nine.

  • Mile 25 – 9:18
  • Mile 26 – 9:45

Mile 26 was pretty rough, and I heard my Garmin beep for that mile at the same moment that I passed the mile marker. I was so surprised that my watch was so accurate this late in the race. Usually it doesn’t line up with the mile markers that well since they have to measure the course by the shortest path that could be taken, and most people aren’t able to run it that accurately due to turns and the volume of people.  For the first time in the entire race, I started feeling really exhausted and nauseous, but at that point my overall time was 3:55:57. I knew that I could run .2 miles in 4 minutes to make my goal, even feeling as bad as I was.

I turned the corner after mile 26 and entered into a large U-shaped finish area. I thought there was no possible way that there could only be .2 miles left. It looked like so much farther than that. I felt like I was running so slow, and I just hoped that I could make it to the finish in under 4 minutes. Toward the end of the first side of the big U I started feeling extremely sick. I couldn’t believe how quickly I went from feeling great to feeling horrible, right at the end of the race with so little time left. I really thought I was going to vomit, so I stopped for a split second before Kevin yelled at me (nicely) and told me that we needed to move it to make it in under 4 hours. I tried so hard to move my body fast but it wouldn’t listen. Mentally I was totally in it, but physically my body would not respond like I needed it to. I shuffled down the second side of the U and finally turned onto the straight-away that would lead me to the finish line.

My head filled with dizziness and I started seeing stars. My legs were tingling as I shuffled along. I felt the energy chews I ate gurgling around in my stomach wanting to come back up. I watched the clock in front of get closer to the 4 hour mark, but I knew I started about a minute after the gun so I still had some time. At this point my Garmin said I was at 26.3 miles which frustrated me a little, since the course was so accurate up until that point. I was also frustrated that my body was failing me with so little left to go.

      

I saw the big clock at the finish line pass 4 hours and at that point I stopped paying attention to it and stopped looking at my Garmin. I just listened to Kevin who was trying his best to motivate me and pull me along with him. I felt so sick and I just couldn’t wait to finish.

Finally, FINALLY – I crossed the finish line hand in hand with Kevin. I had no idea what our time was but I heard him say, “we did it baby, we finished!” He hugged me tight and then I told him I felt sick.

           

I slowly made my way to the ground, squatting with my head in my hands. Everything was spinning and I felt like I was overheating.

Telling myself not to throw up...

I sat on the ground, literally right past the finish line and some race volunteers came around me to see if I was okay. Kevin helped me over to the medical tent but first I stopped to get my medal from an Air Force Colonel (obviously I had my priorities straight). When I got to the medical area I immediately laid down on a bed. They took my temperature and my heart rate and gave me fluids. She asked me how many marathons I have run before and if I had been hydrating and eating. I told her I had been the entire time and that it was my 7th marathon. I said I felt good until the last little bit, and that I had never felt this bad before. She said it was probably because I pushed so hard at the end and my body was on overload and completely tapped out.

They put a mylar blanket on me but I didn’t want it because I was so hot. I laid there for a while and told them I didn’t want an IV when they tried to give me one. I started feeling a little bit better after resting, so I asked Kevin to go to the results test to see what our final time was. He came back with a little slip of paper in his hands and showed it to me:

4:00:04.

I immediately started laughing and said, “Are you kidding me?” I knew it was going to be close but when I fell apart at the end I had a feeling it would be around 4:01. I didn’t think it would be only 4 seconds above my gold goal. Even though it wasn’t technically under 4 hours, I felt nothing but pride and happiness that I was able to do it in that time. I knew that I honestly did the absolute best I could do and I left it all out there on the course. I also knew that the course was slightly long (my final distance said 26.41 miles), so I knew in my heart that I made my goal and that was all that mattered to me. Plus, I beat my previous PR by over 7 minutes, and Kevin beat his by over 10 minutes!

As I was laying there smiling about my goal and showing my results paper to the doctors, I felt a horrible cramp in my left hip flexor joint all of a sudden. The cramp went all the way down my leg and made my shin, calf and foot shake and spasm. It was so painful and I started crying a little bit. A physical therapist came over to help me stretch it out and I ate a banana for some potassium. That was the first time I had ever felt something like that and it was scary.

Once I felt better I walked around the medical tent for a few minutes then we were allowed to leave. We went through the food tent and got some snacks, then got our official finisher picture taken.

We slowly made our way back to our shuttle bus and waited to be taken back to the hotel. Once we got back we took some pictures and celebrated our accomplishment!

Then we took a shower, relaxed, and called family to share the news. I checked out my feet which were extremely beat up. They were actually the only part of me that hurt at that point, and I was left with three black toenails and a few blisters. The worst blister was on my pinky toe. It was so painful and looked like my toe might actually fall off. We ended up going to the BX again to pick up some Neosporin and Bandaids to take care of it.

While we were on base we took a few pictures of some of the things we saw while we were running. It made me kind of wish that I had run with a camera!

We eventually decided it was time to go eat, so we headed to Lucky’s Taproom and Eatery. We had found this place in advance on http://www.happycow.com, and were impressed by the many vegetarian/vegan options they had on their menu. We started with some fried pickles (SO GOOD!)

And for my entree I ordered a homemade chickpea veggie burger with guacamole. It definitely did not disappoint! It was huge and delicious.

After eating our faces off we went to the marathon after party at an area called The Greene. They had live music, vendors, and discounts to stores if you wore your medal.

It was a beautiful night to be outside with fellow runners!

My feet were starting to hurt and I was feeling the effects of being on them all day, so we decided to go back to the hotel after a couple of hours.

But first, Kevin NEEDED some froyo in his life, so we went to Yogurt Mountain which was one of those serve yourself places. He was truly in frozen yogurt and topping heaven.

Unfortunately, I had a pretty bad stomachache and I knew that dairy would only make it worse, so I decided to skip dessert. But Kevin really enjoyed his!

We went to bed early that night and woke up bright and early the day morning to head out of Dayton and go to Pittsburgh for a spontaneous Steelers game. Kevin has been a Steelers fan his whole life so this was really special for him. It was my first game and I really enjoyed it too (except for walking up and down the stairs!)

We made it back to Northern Virginia at 11:30 p.m. on Sunday night. We were exhausted but we could not stop talking about how great the entire weekend was. It was truly the best weekend we have shared together so far.

I can’t say enough about the organization of this race, the volunteers, and the people who were working in the medical tent. Everything ran so smoothly and it was a great event to be a part of. I would recommend this race to anyone. It’s always going to be a special race to me because I was finally able to finish with Kevin, I pushed myself harder than ever before, and I finally made my 4 hour goal, which was something I have wanted to do since my very first marathon.

This race will be hard to beat!

50 States Challenge

After I ran my first marathon and realized that I had to have more, I quickly decided that my goal would be to run a marathon in all 50 states. I knew this would be a huge challenge, but I liked the idea of traveling and seeing the country while running marathons at the same time. Also, marathon entry fees are so expensive that I want to run as many different ones as I can, rather than always run the same race.

I began my journey in November 2008 and as of today I have run 6 marathons in 6 different states. I created this map on Google Maps to show where I have run marathons so far, and what’s up next on my race schedule.

My Marathon Map
(zoom out to view the entire United States)

Blue Pins = Completed
Pink Pins = Upcoming

I also have my own Marathon Map hanging up in our “sports room.” This is our extra bedroom that we’ve converted into a hang-out room with a futon and a TV, where Kevin likes to play his games and watch sports. It’s also where we keep all our race bibs, medals, and football stuff on display (Steelers for Kevin, Penn State & Eagles for me). I saw this canvas map of the United States at Target and I knew it would be perfect in this room. I have been marking the states with numbered stickers. They are kind of hard to see in this picture, but if you look closely you can see little red dots. There’s also one little green dot on there – that’s Kevin’s first marathon in Tennessee!

Recaps of all of these marathons can be found on my Running page or under the 50 Marathons in 50 States tag.

I can’t wait to add more states to my maps!

Marathon #5 – The NYC Marathon!

I don’t even know where to start telling the story of my fifth marathon- The New York City Marathon- because the entire experience was so amazing. It was the best race of my life so far and I have a feeling that it will be hard to beat in the future. I ran this race on November 7th, 2010, but the story of my NYC marathon actually began one year before, at the 2009 NYC marathon!

I was on the spectator side of the 2009 NYC Marathon. I had gone up to New York City with my friend Hani to see her dad and uncle run the marathon. It was a week after I had run the Marine Corps Marathon and I was already feeling the itch to run another one. I had heard that this race was amazing, but I had no idea just how BIG and awesome it was until I was there on the sidelines.

We waited around mile 18 and saw Hani’s uncle first. He is blind and runs with a team of trainers through the Achilles group (He is on the left in the picture below). He is attached to them with a rope for his safety. I can’t imagine running a marathon completely blind- but he has done MANY! He’s an inspiration!

Then we saw Hani’s dad! This was his third NYC marathon and he was looking great!

We raced over to mile 24 in Central Park to see her dad again. We were at the top of a huge hill but the energy was incredible. It was then that I completely fell in love with the New York City Marathon.

I knew that I HAD to run this race! Since it was my fifth marathon I decided it was time to run for a bigger cause. In January 2010 I signed up with Team For Kids, which is a charity organization that raises money to fight childhood obesity and promote physical activity and healthy living for kids. This is the same organization that Hani’s dad ran with in 2009, and it hit close to home since I am a teacher who sees the effects of childhood obesity every day at school.

Partnering with Team for Kids gave me an automatic entry into the marathon if I could raise the required amount of money – $2,620! Since the NYC Marathon uses a lottery system to select from literally hundreds of thousands of applicants, I was happy to know I had a spot. However, I was nervous about raising the money. It took a LOT of work and support over the next 9 months to raise the money. I asked for donations from family and friends and had an ‘activewear’ fundraising day at school where the teachers gave donations in order to wear their favorite active/sports wear. I had a fundraising night at Chili’s restaurant. I held a charity yard sale with a lot of things that were donated to me by family, friends, and co-workers. Finally, Kevin sold Power Balance bracelets and donated his profits to Team for Kids. It came down to the deadline date, but I was finally able to raise the full amount. Fundraising was very stressful at times but I was so glad that I did it. I was proud to support Team for Kids and run for them, and I felt like I was finally running a marathon for a reason bigger than myself.

For my training I tried the Run Less Run Faster approach again which had me running 3x a week and cross-training 2x a week. It was very challenging, but I found myself hitting my goal paces on almost every workout. Kevin even joined me on many of my runs because he was getting ready to run his first half marathon in September. I loved having him by my side.

I felt faster and stronger than ever, but I knew I had to be prepared to probably not PR in New York. I had heard the course is very tough with all the bridges and turns, and the late start time (my wave began at 10:40 am) made me nervous too. I ran 20 miles twice during training, and both times I practiced getting up super early, eating, waiting around for a few hours, eating again, then heading out to run around the same time that the marathon would start. This was very hard to get used to, but when race day came I was really glad I had done a couple practice rounds. It made me feel much more confident and comfortable.

Marathon weekend finally came and I could not be more excited. Kevin and I left for NYC early Saturday morning and began the five hour drive.

We got our first glimpse of the city and we saw the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, where I would start my marathon the next morning!

When we got into the city we immediately went to our hotel in Queens to park and then we hopped on the subway to go downtown. We got off at Times Square and walked to the expo a couple of blocks away.

The whole entire city was buzzing with marathon excitement! We got to the expo and I was really impressed with how smoothly everything went when I picked up my stuff and went through the whole expo experience. For being one of the biggest marathons in the world, everything was very under control and organized! It was definitely crowded though.

The most exciting part for me was meeting some people that I have idolized for a long time. First up was RYAN HALL!

He wasn’t running that year but he was going to be riding in the leading car at the race. He signed my bib and wished me good luck! Then I met one of my biggest running inspirations- Bart Yasso! Love him and his book, “My Life on the Run.”

He was at the Runner’s World Booth with another inspirational runner, Matt Long. Matt is a marathon runner who was hit by a bus in NYC a few years ago. He had to learn to walk all over again and now he runs marathons again. He also has a book, “The Long Run.” He is awesome!

After the expo excitement we went back to our hotel to officially check in. We rested for a bit then went back to Manhattan to go to our pre-marathon dinner in Central Park.

The special dinner was at Tavern on the Green, and it was filled with tons of runners and their families. As a vegetarian, I was very happy to see that I actually had options. I had rolls, salad, vegetarian lasagna, and roasted vegetables. It was delicious! The best part of dinner besides the food was getting to meet some other runners. It was amazing to meet people from all over the world who had come to run this race. 

After dinner we walked around Central Park a little bit. A guy was giving free soft pretzels out to the runners. Soft pretzels are my favorite so I HAD to have one.

We visited some special places, including the finish line, the famous Fred Lebow statue (he founded the NYC marathon), and the “100 yards to go” point.

Then we went back to our hotel. I put on my race pace tattoo and we passed out shortly after. We were exhausted and I had a 4:30 am wake up call ahead of me!

I didn’t sleep very well because I was full of nerves and excitement. I jumped out of bed when my alarm went off and began the process of getting ready. I got dressed in my race outfit, including my special Team for Kids singlet.

   

I wrote my name on the front and MACHINE on the back, because during my training I loved to repeat “I’m a machine” to myself as my mantra when things were tough. I got ready to say goodbye to Kevin and head out to catch my bus. He would be meeting me at mile 18 with Hani and her family.

But before I left I bundled up in old warm clothes. It was cold outside and I knew I would be waiting around for a while!

I left the hotel around 5:30 and got the subway to Times Square. Then I walked a few blocks to catch the Team for Kids bus to Staten Island. While I was walking I had my first breakfast, a cinnamon raisin bagel with almond butter and banana. I got the bus right before it was scheduled to leave at 6 a.m. It was awesome to be on the bus surrounded by other people who had partnered with the same charity and raised money for them.

The ride to Staten Island took longer than I had expected it to. We got there a little after 7:15 a.m. We got off the bus and started walking to the Team for Kids start village, where they had a special tent with food, coffee, and bathrooms for us. I got right into the bathroom line and went through about three times after that. I get bad nerves before a race and it really affects my belly!

Waiting around was really hard. I had about three hours to kill before it was time to line up in my corral. I passed the time by people watching, making friends, going to the bathroom, and eventually eating my second breakfast around 9:30, a clif bar.

FINALLY it was time to line up! I was so excited that I was shaking. I took off my extra clothes and joined the masses. I felt like a bunch of cattle being moved along. I was still so far back from the start line that I didn’t hear the gun go off, and it took a good 7 minutes or so to reach the line. But as soon as I crossed it I was overwhelmed with emotions. I couldn’t believe I was running the NYC MARATHON!

It was very, very crowded and stayed that way almost the whole race. But the energy of the runners and spectators was amazing right from the beginning. We began the race by crossing the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. It was steep but I didn’t notice much because I was on such a high. I was able to snap this quick photo with my cell phone as I climbed the bridge.

I posted the picture on Facebook and one of my friends immediately responded, “Ummm how about you stop taking pictures and RUN!” So I listened.

How amazing are those pictures? They are a few of the photos that were on the CD I bought after the race that contained all my race pictures. There will be many more in this post.

I ran pretty fast at first. I tried to hold myself back but it was so hard because the energy was so amazing. The first miles were a blur, to be honest. I was just so happy to be running and taking in my surroundings. I had read A Race Like No Other: 26.2 Miles Through the Streets of New York before the race, so I had an idea about what the course would be like. We ran through Brooklyn first, and then around mile 8 the blue, orange, and green groups finally met up again which made the roads much more crowded. All along the course there were spectators lining the streets. There was never a time where the road was filled with only runners. People were there were signs, music, noisemakers, and yelling words of encouragement. It was amazing 🙂

We crossed the halfway point and my pace was right on track. I loved having my pace tattoo on my arm. I was running almost exact splits and I was feeling good. But I knew that the course was hard and the toughest parts were yet to come as we entered into Queens.

I was comforted by knowing that my cheerleaders were at mile 18 waiting for me.

Kevin was waiting at mile 18 with Hani and her family, including her dad who we watched last year. Her uncle was running the race again this year, but he had started in an earlier wave.

On the Queensboro Bridge right before mile 16 is where I lost all momentum. My speed and the excitement from the first 16 miles caught up with me and the bridge was KILLER. A lot of people struggled on it. In fact, I later found out that earlier that morning, famous elite runner Haile Gebrselassie decided to drop out of the race on this bridge. I slowed way down and was starting to feel very fatigued. Kevin had 2 of my Gus and I couldn’t wait to see him so I could get one.

Coming off the bridge I had a little burst of energy because we entered into Manhattan on First Avenue. I also knew that my friend from college, Jared, would be waiting to see me there! He lives in NYC and we had planned for him to be on the left right at the beginning of First Avenue. I was SO excited to see a familiar face. It made me forget the terribleness of the bridge.

First avenue was loooong. The runners are on it for almost 4 miles, which felt like forever! I couldn’t wait to see Kevin at mile 18. I stared at my Garmin and watched the miles slowly creep by, and then finally, I saw them!

I stopped for a second to say hi to Hani and her family then Kevin jumped on the course and ran with me for a few minutes. He told me I looked good, and I immediately asked for a Gu. I was almost at mile 19 and I had already taken 3 Gus, but I needed it bad! He gave me a kiss and told me he would see me again at mile 23, only 4 more miles. He left and I was smiling again 🙂

Next I crossed the bridge and headed into the Bronx. I knew from reading the book that this area was different from the rest of the course. It was much quieter with less spectators. This was also when I hit mile 20. This was a big deal to me!

We were only in the Bronx for about a mile and before I knew it we were headed over another bridge and back into Manhattan down Fifth Ave.

Mile 21 came, then Mile 22… I was really starting to feel the effects of the race on my body. My feet were hurting and I regretted not getting new shoes earlier. The shoes I was wearing had too many miles on them but I hadn’t had time to get new ones. A Team for Kids coach saw my bright green TFK shirt and jumped in to run with me. She asked me how I was feeling and I told her I felt good but I had foot pain. She told me to swing my arms forward as I ran to take my mind off the feeling in my feet. It worked and I did that for the rest of the race. I was very thankful for her help!

Right before mile 23 we started running alongside Central Park. I knew that the end was near! I saw Kevin and Hani earlier than I expected to see them and again, I was SO HAPPY. I nearly cried when Kevin jumped in with me. I was in a great mood and feeling better than I ever have at this point in a marathon. Usually mile 22-23 is where I break down and lose it, but I was holding strong even despite the hills of Central Park. The tough course had taken its toll on me, but I was right on schedule to finish the race in about 4 hours and 15 minutes.

Kevin ran with me for a little over 2 miles, from mile 23 to just past 25. I got some cramps in my leg and found it difficult to talk much, but I was still in good spirits (despite what I look like in the picture below!)

He left me when the barriers started coming up along the sides of the course, which meant the end was near! I started seeing the familiar signs that I had seen the night before at our pre-race dinner. I got a little choked up as I saw the finish line ahead. I couldn’t believe how good I felt at the end of a marathon. I gave it everything I had and sprinted (as best as I could) to the end. I checked my watch and I had finished in 4:12:08. My second fastest time. I was ecstatic!

I stopped running and immediately stiffened up. I had not really walked at all during this race so it was a shock to my body to stop all of a sudden. All the blood rushed to my legs and I felt instant pain and a strong urge to sit down, but there was nowhere to sit! The finish chute had us walking like a half mile (!!) to the runner area and the Team for Kids tent where my dry clothes were. I started walking very, very slowly, and I was feeling a little sick and freezing cold. A wonderful volunteer saw I was having trouble and she helped me. She let me lean on her all the way to the TFK finish tent, then she got my things and let me use her cell phone to call Kevin (mine was dead). He hadn’t been able to make it to the finish in time to see me and he was making his way to where I was. The volunteer even helped me change clothes and shoes! She was amazing.

I finally met up with Kevin and gave him a huge hug. By this time it was almost 4 p.m. and I was exhausted! We figured out how to exit the park and tried to get to the subway (very slowly!) but we ended up walking a long time in the WRONG direction! I was annoyed at first because I was so tired and stiff. Eventually we found our way and got on the subway. It was packed and I felt bad because I didn’t smell very good 🙂 Oh well!

We made it back to our hotel in Queens (that I had run by earlier in the day!) and took a shower. It felt soooooooooooo good. Then we ordered veggie pizza that I promptly devoured, and then passed out.

The next morning we checked out of the hotel and went downtown to Times Square. My legs didn’t feel too terrible (probably because of all the extra walking after the race), so we wanted to explore a bit. I also knew it would be good for me to get my legs moving, even if it was a dark and gray morning!

We got on the big screen! (Upper left corner)

We walked around Times Square and picked up a copy of the NY Times because we knew they had a special marathon section with the names and times of the finishers! I’m in there, I promise! Middle column, somewhere in the middle of the list. It says Allen, C – 4:12:08!

Then we went to our true destination: The Today Show! I was SO EXCITED for this! We got there early and got a great spot outside. I knew that Al and Meredith had also run the race the day before so they would be talking about it. There were a lot of other runners there sporting their medals.

Al came around and shook everyone’s hands. Then he stopped right in front of where we were standing to do the weather report, so we were able to get on TV for a few seconds! Luckily, we knew we were planning to go to the Today Show so we had set our DVR at home. When we got back to Virginia we were able to see ourselves and take a picture of the TV.

Do you see us on the right next to Al’s head??? We had so much fun!

The New York City Marathon was the most perfect race experience. Everything from the organization of the race, to the volunteers, the course, the runners from around the country and the world, and the spectators… it was all well done and just amazing.

Kevin also said he loved experiencing the race as a spectator. He was able to see awesome things during the race, including the Chilean miner, the elite runners, and people in crazy costumes.

Chilean Miner

I loved, loved, loved this race. It will be hard to beat. I wish I could run it every year!

Marathon #4 – The Austin Marathon

This is the fourth post in my marathon recap series. I ran The Austin Marathon on February 14th, 2010. I chose this race because my close childhood friend DJ was living in Austin at the time. I signed up for it on a whim when I found out he would be there during the time of the race. He was recently getting into running, so he decided to run the half marathon that day! I was SO excited!

But a few months after registering I ran the Marine Corps Marathon and then had less than 16 weeks to train for Austin. I found myself very tired after that race and it took a little while to get back into regular running. I also had yet to make a training plan. Then I met this guy:

And fell head over heels in love immediately! Needless to say, I was a little distracted. I found myself staying up later and spending my free time with him. I was happy and loving life. Sometimes life included running and sometimes it didn’t. I didn’t even keep track of my training during these months, so I actually have no idea what I did in terms of running. However, I do know that I started doing more of this:

And ate more of this:

Kevin & my sister at Pat's Steaks in Philly

And then winter hit and so did the blizzard of 2009 in December…

We got about 30 inches of snow and a lot of days off school, and northern Virginia became completely paralyzed. I was loving it!

Christmas break was wonderful, and I enjoyed even more yummy food and drinks, and the company of my amazing boyfriend and his family. I was still running but the days were few and far between. Kevin started biking next to me on my runs, which made me very happy. He knew I was more likely to go out if he was there so he was very supportive and willing to join me (just not on foot… yet). Somehow I managed to do a 20 mile run in January and Kevin biked by my side. It was the best 20 miler ever and it actually felt good!

Later in January I moved out of my apartment and into my friend’s apartment and Kevin came with me! Yes, there was more snow on moving day.

Living together was awesome but it did not motivate me to run. However, I knew I had a marathon coming up and I needed to do it. By this point, my training had consisted of random runs, a long run here and there, and I had about 10 extra pounds on my body. I had decided that I was going to go to Austin and run the race for fun and not worry about my time at all, which took a lot of the pressure off.  I started to feel like I might not die in Austin. But then, MORE SNOW came in early February!

We got another 30 or so inches and once again, northern Virginia was paralyzed. I had almost two weeks of snow days and 2 hour delays and running was pretty much impossible. Where I moved to did not have a treadmill like my old apartment and I didn’t belong to a gym. So I just enjoyed the snow and tried not to worry.

The snow finally stopped and before I knew it I was on a plane to Austin. I flew in on Friday, and the race was on Sunday. When I got there DJ picked me up from the airport and we stopped at a scenic area to look over Lake Austin and the 360 Bridge.

It was beautiful! After that we got some dinner at an amazing brewery that I can’t remember the name of, and hit up the grocery store to get food supplies for the next few days. We also got some medicine, because I was feeling sick and super congested. We went back to his house that he was sharing with his 3 roommates and passed out on an air mattress.

The next morning we woke up and went to the expo downtown to pick up our race materials and walk around a little bit. It was awesome getting to take DJ to his first expo. He was loving all the free stuff and all the passionate runners that were there. After the expo we enjoyed the nice weather (so much better than the freezing temperatures and snow in Virginia!) and wandered around. We visited the Capitol Building and stood where the finish line would be the next day!

We didn’t want to walk too much because we knew we would be running the next day and I knew I would get a nice tour during the race. We went back to home to make a pre-race dinner and get our race stuff ready for the morning!

And then because I still wasn’t feeling very well, we passed out early… or at least I tried to. I was on the air mattress in the corner of DJ’s living room and since it was a Saturday night, his roommates came home late and continued the party in there. All I have to say is thank God for earplugs!

The next morning we woke up super early and got ready! DJ was so nervous and I was trying to make him feel better and more confident. This wasn’t just his first half marathon, this was his first race EVER! He has a go big or go home attitude!

I wasn’t nervous this time because I had removed the usual pressure from myself and told myself to enjoy it. I wasn’t even wearing my Garmin because it was broken at the time, but I didn’t care. That was a first for me!

  

DJ and I ate our Clif Bars and bananas and headed out to the start. We parked in a parking garage downtown then walked over. It was freezing outside and we had an hour to wait, so we huddled inside an open Starbucks along with lots of other runners. Finally it was time to head to the start line!

Since we were running different races we were in different corrals, so we wished each other good luck and said good bye. I went a few corrals up and he was behind me.

The race began and I loved it immediately. I felt so free running without knowing my pace or time. I had no worries and I kept the pace pretty slow and steady. I made sure to look around and take in the surroundings, because I have forgotten to do that in past races when I am focused on running.

 

The course was great and there were bands along the way to keep us pumped up. It was hilly at times, though! I threw off my long sleeved shirt not long after starting to run.

    

Right around mile 9 I heard someone call my name. It was DJ! He had caught up with me and was looking great. It was so great to see him and I was so proud of how well he was doing. We talked for a minute then he went ahead.

A little while later I got a text from him that he had finished in 2:10! Amazing time for a first half marathon!

Then he got some food, stretched, and waited for me to finish. The middle of the race for me was pretty uneventful. I was holding a steady pace and feeling fine. I was enjoying the scenery and all the spectators. I actually took the random food that people gave out for the first time during a race. I did decline the shots of whiskey and beer, though 🙂

At mile 22 it started to hurt but I pushed on. I just kept my pace slow and steady and told myself “Just keep running, just keep running”

Mile 25-26 were the hardest for me mentally. I kept pushing through and telling myself it would be over soon. Finally I saw the sign for mile 26!

I put a smile on my face and pushed as hard as I could for the last .2 miles.

 

I crossed the finish line in 4:32:07 and couldn’t be happier about it! I also got to see DJ right at the finish line cheering from the side!

It wasn’t my fastest marathon but it wasn’t my slowest either. It was an awesome, fun race for me! I quickly found DJ and we celebrated our accomplishments.

By this point it was very warm and we were HUNGRY! So we grabbed some Pita Pit and scarfed it down, then went back to DJ’s house for showers and naps. I woke up stiff and hungry again, so we ordered huge pizzas and fries and enjoyed every bite. We went to bed early that night because we knew we had a fun filled day planned the next day.

The next morning (Monday) we woke up bright and early to head downtown. Our plan was to celebrate by hitting up a bunch of bars in Austin. DJ was having a little trouble walking….

His hip flexors were really bothering him after the race. I felt bad, but it was also funny to watch him try to walk around!

I was on a mission to find some TEQUILA and some good Mexican food! And I definitely fulfilled my mission.

We had a great time on our little ‘bar tour’ of Austin. It is an awesome, lively, unique city that I can’t wait to visit again.

DJ has been one of my best friends since we were in second grade. Through the last 16 years we have remained close even though we didn’t always live close. I was so happy to be able to share this experience with him. I will never forget our race weekend together!

When I ran Austin I had already signed up for marathon #5. I knew exactly which race I needed to do next. It was a big one- THE NEW YORK CITY MARATHON! The best race experience of my life! That amazing story will be coming soon!