Lessons learned from marathon #3

Every race is a learning experience for me – usually because I make a lot of ridiculous mistakes.  The best thing I can do is identify where I went wrong and make sure I don’t do the same thing next time.  For the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon, I took into account all of the lessons I learned in Baltimore.  I still made mistakes and I will always have room for improvement.

What did I do wrong at RNR USA?

  • I started too fast.  I KNOW that I should never start a race too fast.  I KNOW I shouldn’t get caught up in the excitement at the starting line and go out to fast.  But I did it anyway.  I knew I was doing it and I didn’t try hard enough to slow down because I felt fine.  I don’t have any tattoos, but I’d considered getting a huge one on my arm that says “slow the eff down” before my next marathon.  Maybe I’ll just have it say “pace yourself”…maybe it should just be a temporary tattoo come to think of it.

I’m going so fast that my feet aren’t even touching the ground!

  • I needed salt.  The heat on race day was unexpected and unfortunately out of my control.  I did my best to stay hydrated, but it wasn’t enough.  I had horrible cramping in my sides.  Per Kara‘s recommendation, I bought some salt stick pills to keep with him if I do long runs in the heat.  I was lucky that the TNT coaches had salt for me when I needed it.

I don’t know why I’m smiling

Seriously, why am I smiling? It’s a fake smile for sure

  • I need to not forget things.  Forgetting my KT Tape for my knee sucked.  My knee was pretty achy for about the first 5 miles then I stopped noticing it.  I survived without it, but it would have been better for me to have it on.

Another fake smile for the camera!

Go love, go! Hubby is too smart to make mistakes like me during races

What I did I do right? Believe it or not, I did a few things right!

  • I wore my hydration belt.  I was so glad to have my own fluids.  Because of how thirsty I was during the race, it was really nice to have my own bottles to drink from whenever I needed them.  It was really easy to refill them at water stations.

Hallelujah! Headed to the finish line!

  • I labeled my gels.  I have never done this, but decided to on a whim while getting all my gear together before the race.  I didn’t want to have to think about which gel to take at what mile (I like to alternate non-caffeinated and caffeinated).  I took my first gel at mile 6, second at 11, third at 16, and fourth at 21.  That method worked well for me.

My shoes match the finish line. I totally planned that.

  • Just like after the Baltimore Marathon, I ran again 2 days after the race.  The first post-marathon run is tough and certainly not pretty, but it makes a world of difference.  After that run on Monday, my soreness was pretty much gone.  I ran 6 miles on Wednesday and 6 miles on Thursday and felt great and back to normal for both of those runs.  Wearing my compression socks the afternoon and the day after the marathon also seems to help in my recovery.

Hubby kicking ass. The girl in front of him is super excited.

  • I PRed! I wanted a PR so badly and I knew I could beat my previous PR of 4:54.  I had high hopes of making it closer to the 4 hour mark, but that just wasn’t realistic this time for so many reasons.  I’ll get there one day.

I’m not the only one who got a PR; hubby PRed the half in 2:09!

I was supposed to run a half marathon this weekend, but unfortunately due to some logistical reasons, we won’t be able to make it to the race.  Lots of other races coming up this Spring though!

What lessons have you learned from races?

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Race Recap: Rock ‘N Roll USA Marathon

Ready to race! Waiting for the metro into DC

Hubby is ready to rock the half marathon (which he PRed with a time of 2:09; I’m so proud of him!!)

Big mistake number 1 happened before the race even started.  Upon arriving in DC on Saturday morning, I realized I forgot something.  I knew I would forget something that I needed to bring with me.  Of course, I had to forget something I really needed: my KT Tape for my knee.  I started to panic that my knee would not make it through 26.2 miles without my tape.  I had no choice but to suck it up.

I may have forgotten my KT Tape, but I remembered my gag-inducing chia gel. Unfortunately, the chia couldn’t even save me from a tough race

After meeting up with TNT briefly and waiting in line for the porta-pots for 45 flippin’ minutes, hubby and I headed to our starting corrals.  He ran the half marathon and was in corral 8 while I was in 9 so we got to hang out together.  The race started in waves so we had a bit of wait before we crossed the starting line.  We had enough time to dash out of the corral and to the porta-pots next to the starting line for one last bathroom break.

Once we crossed the starting line, we ran together for the first half mile then I decided I needed to speed up a little.  Enter mistake number 2.  Because of my knee issues, I had to step back my training a little bit.  Originally, my target pace was 9:09, but because of the knee stuff, I wasn’t sure what pace to aim for so I just went with what was comfortable.  Unfortunately, what was comfortable in the beginning was way too fast for me.  Allow me to break it down for you:

Hmm, what’s wrong with this picture?

The first mile was fine, but dipping under the 9 minute mark by mile 3 was not smart.  Miles 2, 3 and 4 were definitely too fast for me.  After that my pace was okay.  Ignore the appearance of speediness at mile 11, I think that was when I lost my satellite signal for a little while under a tunnel.

I started to not feel well by mile 8.  Mile 8 out of 26.2.  I knew that was a bad sign.  I cursed myself for starting too fast.  Although my quick start wasn’t my only problem.  It was much warmer than I was used to in training.  Even though we had a mild winter, I still grew accustomed to long runs in weather in the mid-30s to mid-40s.  That is the perfect temperature for me.  I had some really awesome long runs in the cooler temps.  On Saturday morning, it was around 50 degrees at the start and warmed up to close to 70 by the end.

I had a side stitch that would not let up.  A sweet TNT coach from another team ran alongside me for a little while to see how I was feeling.  He told me to hang in there and that we had gotten through the worst of the hills.  He was really encouraging, but I should know better than to trust that line about the hills.  There are always more hills!

Around mile 12, my TNT coach pulled up next to me to check on me.  One of the millions of reasons of why I love TNT is their amazing support at races.  She told me if my side stitch didn’t go away by mile 15, I should ask the next coach I saw for some salt.

When the half marathoners split off to head to the finish line, I very seriously considered going to finish with them and calling it a day.  Then I reminded myself that I didn’t do a 21 mile, a 20 mile and a 22 mile run to just do the half.  I forced myself to keep going and took my first walking break.  I was thankful that the crowd had thinned out so much.  I was happy that when I hit the halfway point my time was 2:04.  That’s better than my current half PR.  I hoped that meant I was on track to at least finish around 4:15.

After my brief (30 second) walking break, I forged on and continued to fall apart.  The nicest parts of the course were in the first half.  The second half repeated back over some of the first part of the course then continued on through a lot of really boring parts of the city.  There were some pockets of good crowd support, but they were pretty spaced out.  There were a couple out and back areas and loops.  Those are hard for me mentally because I envy the people passing in the direction that have already completed the loop or out and back.  Note how my pace deteriorates rapidly:

What a mess. Can I get some bonus points for running more than 26.2 miles?

I had to take a lot of walking breaks.  I fought to get through every single mile.  After my walking break at mile 13, I forced myself to get to mile 16 before taking another break.  I walked as soon as I hit 16.  Then I forced myself to make it to mile 18, then 20, then 21, and so on.  My walking breaks got closer together.  The more I walked, the harder it was to run again.  Yet the more I ran, the more I felt discouraged and in pain.

Every spot where the line on the graph shoots down is a walking break

The heat really got to me.  Most of the second half was in the open sun.  I can’t remember any shade except for a tunnel here and there.  It was excruciating.  I had my headphones in the entire time, but I didn’t listen to much music.  I carefully created my playlist for the race so it would only have songs that really pump me up – songs that always make my legs move faster.  This time, my music couldn’t save me.  Every single song annoyed me.  I ended up keeping it off most of the race.  The bands along the course were pretty good, but we’d only hear them for like 30 seconds then we were gone again.

I think it was around mile 18 that another TNT coach caught up with me.  He gave me salt packets and told me to either put them straight in my mouth or mix them with my water.  I went with the salty water.

I drank so much water, nuun and Gatorade during the race.  During my long runs throughout the winter, I always had 10 ounces of water and 10 ounces of nuun with me in my hydration pack and that was enough.  That’s what I had for this race (I didn’t want a repeat of the intense nuun craving that I had at Baltimore), but it wasn’t nearly enough.  I refilled my bottles 3 times along the course and I was still insanely thirsty.  Even though I was so thirsty, I felt like my stomach was overflowing with liquid which made me really nauseous.

Hubby called me when I was at mile 21.  The first thing I told him was “I’m dying. I can’t do it.” Being the awesome and supportive person he is, he told me that I could do it and I just had less than an hour left.  He called me again at mile 23 and said “where are you? I’m waiting at the wrong place, don’t finish yet!” He didn’t realize the marathon finish line was different from the half.  I reassured him that I had a long way to go.  He caught up with me just before mile 26.  He ran with me as long as he could before the finish line.  Mile 26 was my fastest mile since mile 15 at 9:37.  It was also the first mile that I ran without a walking break since probably mile 18.  My legs seriously protested.  I felt like little spasms were running through my quads.

Is it over yet?

I’m a hot mess, literally and my glasses are crooked. I don’t know how I managed to smile.

The last .2 was uphill.  Of course.  After 26 miles, running up a hill, no matter how big, is hell.  I pushed just a tiny bit across the finish line with the last bit of energy I had left in me.

A hill up to the finish line seems to be a race must from my experience

My stats

As I made my way through the finishers’ area, I started hoarding fluids.  Hubby made fun of me when we caught up to me because I had 2 bottles of water, a bottle of Gatorade and I picked up another bottle of water at the TNT tent.  I was one thirsty runner.  If I had seen this that was at the expo, I would have just drank straight from the nozzle:

My heaven

During the race, I missed Zain like crazy.  One thing that kept me going was thinking about how the sooner I finished, the sooner I would be back home with him.  I saw lots of spectators with kids and it made me miss him even more.  At one point, I saw spectators that were blowing bubbles.  It made me think of Zain and his crazy obsession with “buh-buhs!”  When we finally got home in the early afternoon, he was so was excited to play with my medal and even gave it a kiss.  He’s too funny.  He had a fun time playing with his grandparents all morning.

We got him a rock star shirt at the expo so he could cheer us on from afar

My knee ended up being okay during the race.  It was achy and stiff for the first 5 miles then I don’t remember it bothering me.  Maybe that’s because everything else hurt so much that I stopped noticing it.

From mile 16 on, I had one thought that ran continuously through my mind: no more marathons.  I repeated over and over to myself that I would never again run a marathon.  I promised myself this was the last one.  Well, that’s a promise that is made to be broken.  I know I’ll run another marathon.  It probably won’t be this year.  It might not even be next year.  I don’t know when it will be, but I know that the pain is temporary.  I am a marathoner and to me, there is nothing like the experience of running a marathon.  I know one day I will run another.

Even though I had a really, really, really tough race, I am happy that I have a new marathon PR of 4:31:44.  I took 23 minutes off my previous PR from Baltimore.  Maybe next time I can get under that 4:30 mark.

Representing Team in Training during the race was incredible.  Hearing cheers of “Go Team!” made me proud to run for such a great cause.  Thank you again to everyone who donated and supported me while training with them!

If you made it through this 26.2 mile long post, you deserve a medal!

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

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So I’m running a marathon tomorrow!

I cannot believe I am running another marathon tomorrow.  I feel like the Baltimore Marathon was just last week, yet it feels like it was an eternity ago.  On Wednesday, it hit me that I’m running another marathon.  It was like the reality didn’t set in until then.  First, I started hyperventilating mildly freaking out, then I tweeted my panic.  This is why I love my tweeps.  I got so many positive and encouraging tweets.  The number one reminder that I will constantly repeat to myself on race day: trust your training.  I trained for this.  I can do this.

Now that I’m done giving myself a public pep talk, I have to tell you about the great reminder I got on Saturday of why I am running this marathon.  As you know, I’ve been training with Team in Training for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and I raised over $1,000 for them.  I’m really proud of that accomplishment.  It’s not easy to ask for donations, especially after hubby and I collectively raised over $1,000 back in October for Team Fight.  I’m so grateful to all of my wonderful and generous donors.

On Saturday, TNT hosted their all-state training in my town.  It was a frigid morning, but shivering in the cold listening to the reminders of why we run and raise money for the organization was just what I needed.  There were about 50 people there and it was inspiring to see these fantastic folks getting ready to train for new events and raise money for TNT.

The first mile of the run was called the “silent mile.”  We were instructed not to speak for that mile.  Volunteers were spaced out for the first mile holding signs and pictures with names that either said “In honor of” or “In memory of.”  I know distance running can make me cry easily, but it usually takes a few miles for that kind of emotional instability to set in.  I was in tears for the first mile.  At least I had my sunglasses on.  Seeing those pictures, especially as a mother to see the ones of young children, broke my heart, but it also strengthened my resolve.  The pain of running 26.2 miles is nothing compared to what these people have been through.

I’m really excited for the marathon – excited for another marathon experience because there is nothing else like it and excited to represent TNT.  I’m also nervous.  My training went well for the most part, but I had to step it back a little when I was diagnosed with runner’s knee in January.  I wasn’t able to do all of my speedwork because it made my knee hurt more.  I don’t even know what my time goal or my pace will be yet.  I’m going to play it by ear and see how I feel.

Good luck to everyone else racing this weekend! Happy running!

Also, check out my Follow This Mother feature on Another Mother Runner!

And check out my interview on Digital Running!

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A race worth running

On May 6, 2012, I’ll be running 6th half marathon – the Maryland Half Marathon.  The MD half is important to me personally for several reasons.  First, it was my first long distance race since my first marathon in 2006.  Second, the starting line is within walking distance to my house – can’t beat that kind of convenience! And finally and most importantly, it’s for a great cause.

When I run a race, I like to know that my miles count for something more than just sore legs for the next few days.  The unique aspect of the MD Half Marathon is that 100% of the net proceeds go to the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center.  Both of my parents are cancer survivors and too of my many friends and family members have been touched by cancer in some way.  I will run as many miles as it takes to help make a difference in finding a cure.

The MD Half Marathon has it’s sights set on reaching it’s goal of raising $1 million this year.  I know they can do it.  To help them reach that goal, you can sign up for this awesome race today! If you’re in the MD/DC/VA area, please come out for this fantastic race.

To further convince you, here is a video my personal videographer (aka hubby) shot of me and Zain last week:

Don’t mind my near inability to form clear sentences; we stopped mid-run to take this :) .

Happy running!

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15 miles and a stroller

My view for 15 miles

Saturday morning, I was all dressed and set to head out the door for my 15 mile run.  While chatting with hubby, he suggested that maybe I could wait until Sunday for my long run and run with him.  I knew 15 miles with the stroller would be tough, but our training schedules (he’s training for a half) are rarely at close to the same mileage so I couldn’t pass up the chance for a run together.

Our running route: Bethesda to Georgetown and back

I had the brilliant idea to run somewhere else since hubby always just runs in our neighborhood.  We decided to go to the Capital Crescent Trail which runs through Maryland and DC.  When we lived in Bethesda for the last 2 years of college, I frequently ran on the Capital Crescent Trail so I was excited to run there again.  I haven’t been back to run on the trail since I graduated in 2006.  It was fun to see the familiar sights along the part I used to run on.

A gorgeous place to run

We started in Bethesda at mile 4 of the trail (it’s 11 miles total).  We loaded up Zain in the stroller with the weather shield to keep him toasty; it was in the mid-40s.  I thought he’d be more comfortable with the shield on since we were going to be running for so long.

Running through a really long tunnel

Hubby says peace and please slow down

We ran over bridges

The C&O Canal

Port-a-pots! Since we had to drive to trail, we couldn’t use the bathroom before running. Hubby and I both had to pee for the first 4 miles so this was a welcome sight!

As we got started, I was so excited to be running on the trail that hubby had to repeatedly tell me to SLOOOOOW DOWN.  He only had to remind me like 8 times in the first few miles.  Our turn around point was in Georgetown at mile 11 of the trail which was mile 7 for us.  The whole way there was awesome.  We both felt great and really enjoyed the scenery.  I started to wonder if maybe we felt a little too great.  Maybe this nice flat path was actually ever so slightly a decline.

Running under the Key Bridge as we got to Georgetown

Arriving at the waterfront in Georgetown was really cool.  It was beautiful with the sun shining; we had to stop to take some pictures.

Pretty waterfront in Georgetown

Action shot!

I could get used to this

Running buddies

These guys were stalking me as I refilled Zain’s snacks

As we turned around to make the journey back to Bethesda, I knew I was in trouble right away.  The path was definitely a slight incline and the wind was against us.  These factors aren’t terrible when you’re running alone.  However, try pushing a 30lb kid in a 20lb stroller with enough cargo loaded in the stroller for 2 running adults and 1 child who likes a lot of snack options.

Zain was still in a good mood on the way back.  He just needed his snack tray and sippy cup refilled a few times.  I ended up going ahead of hubby because I needed to power through at my pace – not that I was going fast, but I needed to go a little faster.

Snack time

Hubby only planned to run 12 miles, but ended up deciding to run to 13.  I was so proud of him.  The most he has run so far in his training was 10 miles so it was a big jump for him.  He did great.

Back to the tunnel

The picture doesn’t do the hill over this bridge justice

The last 5 miles were really tough for me.  I felt like I had to fight for every mile.  The resistance of the wind and the slight incline with the stroller was killing my legs.  When my watch hit 15 miles and I stopped running, my legs were screaming at me.

So I was right about that downhill on the way there and uphill on the way back thing

I’ve been on many short stroller runs with Zain.  I’ve taken him on a handful of long runs – a few 10 milers, a 12 miler, one 13.1 miler, and the epic 20 mile run.  Fifteen miles is the second longest run he’s been on.  The run felt like 2 separate runs.  The way to Georgetown was amazing and I felt like I could run all day.  The way back was agonizing and I was praying for it to be over.  Long stroller runs make me feel very accomplished when they’re over, but they’re painful while I’m doing them.  It was awesome to have the change of scenery and run along such a pretty trail.  I look forward to doing it again!

I wanted nothing more than to just lay down in the parking lot when we were done, but I settled for sitting in the back of the car. Hubby said I should caption this “my recovery tent.”

Hubby’s request was a recovery meal at Chipotle…Zain approved

Happy running!


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