Tuesday, November 5, 2013

ING NYC Marathon Race Recap

I really wanted this race recap to be about beating one or both of the goals I set for this race. I wanted it to be a positive, happy-go-lucky recap like most of my race experiences are. But Sunday's marathon was one of the hardest things I've ever done. There were times when I wasn't sure whether I would be able to keep going. But I did, and I crossed that finish line. And for that, I'm really proud of myself.

The days leading up to the race were filled with the normal mix of excitement and borderline anxiety/nausea. I went to the expo on Thursday night ready to spend some cash on a new running jacket. After 6 try-ons and sending photos to both Keith and my sister Kelly, I finally decided on the purple one. 

I wanted the white one solely because I thought Olivia Pope would approve.
I spent the weekend carbing up, and thinking about the race. I laid out all of my clothes, painted my nails, hydrated properly, and got to sleep nice and early the night before. 

On marathon morning, I woke up 20 minutes before my alarm, ready to jump out of bed. I took a cab to the ferry terminal, and got there with plenty of time before my ferry. Things seemed to be a little bit behind schedule when I got on the ferry, which took off a few minutes late (making me even more nervous). Then the buses had massive lines to get to the start. By the time I got to the start village, I only had about 15 minutes before I needed to get to my wave (I still somehow managed to hit the porta potties about 10 times). 

While waiting in my wave, I tried to block out the noise and focus on the race. I felt good, I felt really ready to run. 

The moments after the gun went off, and we started running on the Verrazano Bridge, it felt surreal to finally be running this marathon. It was quiet and windy, and I barely felt the elevation under my feet.

My game plan was to run the first few miles at a slower pace, then pick it up to close to marathon pace (9:10 mile).  I started out at about a 10:00 pace, and was right on plan by mile 3. 

Running through Brooklyn was amazing. The crowds were so diverse and happy to be there. From the boisterous crowds in Bay Ridge to the hipsters holding kale and bananas in Park Slope, their energy made the first few miles fly by. I tried to run on feel, but monitored my pace that hovered around 9:10/9:15. I followed behind people that were going about my pace (a pair of Italian guys chatting away, another Kate who must have had her name ironed on the front of her shirt. I kept turning my head every time someone said our name). I was so, so happy.

Then I turned onto a familiar street in Brooklyn at mile 11, and I felt a little pain in my left IT band. I slowed down a moment, and then the pain came back so intensely I said "OUCH!" out loud. I knew, deep down, that this was not good. I decided to slow down my pace, and really walk through the water stops that I had been swiftly jogging through before. I told myself not to allow the pain to affect me, but it kept rising. I knew I was going to see Keith and some friends around mile 13, so I decided to keep going and hoped that seeing them would make the pain go away.

As I approached mile 13, I was starting to feel pain in my right leg as well. But I was determined to have a smile on my face when I saw my friends. I made the turn onto Greenpoint Ave, the most familiar part of the race for me, and got a real jolt of energy from seeing Keith!

I gave him a quick kiss, threw some high fives, and I was on my way. 

I popped the two tylenol I had in my running pack at the next water station, which helped a little bit over the next mile. Last year, the tylenol I took at mile 18 combined with seeing my family helped push me to run the last 6 miles at a good pace. I was hoping I would have the same luck this year, and that the pain would magically disappear.

As I approached the base of the Queensboro Bridge, the pain crept back. I made it my mission not to walk, since I had run the bridge so many times during training. I slowly passed other runners, just telling myself to give everything I had.

The downhill on the bridge was killer on my legs, and once we got to first avenue, the roaring sound of the crowds couldn't dissipate the pain I was feeling. I decided to put my iPod on to get my mind off of it. I knew my family was waiting about 20 blocks up, so I tried to focus on looking at the crowd for them.

I saw my amazing running angels at 93rd street, and when they began to cheer for me, the entire half block around them started cheering for me too. 

Kelly remembered a story I told her about the Cape Cod Marathon, when I had running angels who helped me get through the race. And this time, it was my family who were my angels. I was in so much pain at this point, that when I saw them I just started to cry. Kelly had more Tylenol ready for me, and they told me how great I was doing. 

After I left them, the worst part of the race came. I was still about 7 miles from finishing, and the pain was almost unbearable. I told myself to walk through the water stations and just keep going. I had my music on, but I couldn't even tell you what songs played. 

It was a real low point not only because of the pain, but also because I was so angry that I wasn't enjoying this race I had worked almost 2 years towards. I have talked and thought and dreamed about this race so much, and I couldn't even keep my head up and smile during it. I was wishing so hard I could go back to the start line and just start slower. I would have given anything to go back 3 hours and remind myself that it was a windy day on a really hard marathon course. It wasn't the day to set a PR. But at the same time, I didn't think I really started out that fast. It didn't feel fast, and yet I still was having this intense pain in a part of my body that literally didn't give me any issues during training. I was angry that I wasn't enjoying the race, and angry that I couldn't think any positive thoughts.

Once we went through the Bronx and came back to Manhattan, I counted down the blocks until I would see my family again. When I saw them at about mile 23.5, I started crying (again), and told them how much pain I was in. They encouraged me to keep going, and later told me that I actually looked good compared to a lot of people at this point. I was still running.

When I turned into the park, a moment that I thought would be inspiring, I just rejoiced in the fact that I only had a little over two miles to go. I looked down at my watch for the first time in about an hour, and realized I would finish slower than my time at Philadelphia. 

I put all my strength toward looking at the crowd, because I knew that Keith said he would try to see me again near the finish. I pulled out my headphones when I had about a mile to go, and caught a glimpse of Keith and the crew on 59th street. I heard Keith yell at me to finish strong, which I wanted to do so much. I tried to pick up the pace, but my legs didn't want me to. At this point, I was proud of myself that I was still running instead of walking.

The last few meters flew by, and I smiled up at the camera when I crossed the finish. I thanked the high heavens it was over. 

I finished in 4:16:36.

As I was moving towards the crowd of runners getting their medals, I saw my amazing friend Meggie who was volunteering. I couldn't keep my emotions in any longer! I started bawling, and gave her a hug. I was so happy to see someone I love, and be able to unleash some of the negativity that I held onto during the race. 

I made my way to lunch with my family and friends, and started crying more when I saw them all. I was so disappointed in the race, and I didn't understand why it happened. But once I got some of it off my chest, I was really thankful to have people I love around me, and beers and burgers on the table.

Are you still with me? I know that was uplifting.

I don't mean to be dramatic, but I have had a hard time coming to terms with this race. During the race itself, I kept asking myself why I was in so much pain after so many months of hard training. Should I have run 5 days a week instead of 4? Should I have done more speed work? Am I simply not as fast as I think I am? I've had a few days to ruminate (and mope) about what went wrong, and I still don't have any answers. The simple answer is that I probably did go out too fast, and compared to other people perhaps I didn't train as much. I feel better after talking to a few of my friends who said they also lost steam, and thought it was a really hard race. But then I also look at the race times of other people who did awesome, and I am selfishly jealous of them. Why them and not me?

The hardest part for me was not being able to enjoy the race. At the end of the day, it's just a number, and finishing is the hardest part. I am angry that I wasn't able to enjoy the race I have been looking forward to for so long, and trained so hard for. I just wanted it to be over. As a sentimentalist, I'm sad I won't look back at this race as a happy day. But maybe with some time, I'll have more perspective. I'm hoping I will look back at this as a day I persevered.  Even though I didn't break any records, I'm happy with the time I completed the race in despite the pain. 

What I do know is, I'm going to take some time off from running. I don't know that I want to sign up for another marathon in the near future. I certainly lost some confidence in this race, and I need time to build that back up. I do feel pretty sure I will do another marathon, and the goal for that race will definitely, 100% be for enjoyment. 

My mom said something to me yesterday that I really appreciated. She told me that the marathon isn't the accomplishment. The training is. All of the early mornings and long runs are what I should be most proud of. And I am.

I wish this post wasn't full of so much negativity, but this experience was totally new to me. All of my races have been uplifting experiences, which is why I continue to run. I enjoy the sense of accomplishment I get from training and ultimately reaching a goal. And when that doesn't happen for such a big race, I can't help but feel let down.

To finish on a high note, here are some things I'm thankful for from this race. I'm thankful that I have more inner strength than I did 3 days ago. I'm thankful I have friends and family who gave me words of encouragement when I felt down. I'm thankful they still love me even though I was a super hot mess right after the race. I'm thankful I have a sweet new NYC marathon poncho that I have little use for. I'm thankful I have another medal to hang on my wall. I'm thankful for the little boy who said "congratulations" to me after the race when I was on the verge of tears. And lastly, I'm thankful I didn't give up.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Goals of a Recently Calm Runner

There are 3 days until the marathon I've been waiting almost 2 years to run. To get to this starting line, I have participated in 9 races, run hundreds of miles, and spent more than $500 on membership fees and races. I'm ready.  

Yet, up until this week, I hadn't given the marathon a ton of thought. I was a stressed little thing! While running under normal circumstances is a stress-reliever for me, running 35+ miles per week is not. I realized this year that training for a marathon does, in fact, add stress to my life. I always tried to convince myself it was good for me, no matter how high the mileage. However, I was also crazy busy at work - planning off-site meetings in 3 different cities that I had to travel to while also trying to balance my day-to-day work. The combination of training and work made me feel stressed, unhappy and overwhelmed. 

I was mentally exhausted.

So when taper time came a week and a half ago, I welcomed it with wide open arms. I was ready to buy taper a round of heavily alcoholic drinks.

I'm just not one of those runners who freaks out during taper. While there is always an element of doubt about whether I trained enough, I look forward to weeks with long runs totaling "only" 12 miles. I see taper as a way to regain my confidence. I ran my last two "long" runs at a much faster pace than my previous long runs. My lack of exhaustion at the end of each of them gave me a sense of pride. 

I've even had the time and energy to fit in two yoga sessions in two weeks. On my first day back to yoga after months of running and mental exhaustion from work, I could hear my body and soul say to me "this is what you needed."

So now that I'm starting to regain my calm, and all of my work meetings are over, it's time to evaluate what I want from this marathon. After two years in the making, I've decided I only have two goals for this race - a peaceful one, and a competitive one.

Peaceful Goal - I want to have fun!
(this one is for you mom)
One thing I learned from my first triathlon back in June, is that you should make having fun a priority during a race. I spent a lot of that triathlon pushing myself, and thinking about how slow I felt I was going. I ended up doing well, but I sort of regretted not enjoying the day as much as I could have.

The number one thing I want from this marathon is to have fun. I want to savor every moment, and celebrate the fact that I'm running one of the biggest marathons in the world. After waking up all those early mornings, surviving killer long runs, sacrificing countless Friday nights for this marathon, I sure as heck want it to be a day I remember. The goal is to have a smile on my face from the moment I wake up, to the moment I go to bed that night.

The Queensboro Bridge is deceptively insane to run.
Competitive Goal - I want to beat 4 Hours
(this one is for me)
I would be lying if I didn't admit this was something I wanted. This number, breaking 4 hours, has been a huge motivator for me. On the days I had speedwork, it made me push myself to go faster. During my long runs, it was the reason I finished the last few miles strong, despite the pain I was feeling.

After coming in at 4:09 last year at Philadelphia, I think it's possible. I trained so much harder and longer this year compared to last, and I think it's in my reach. I want to go for it, because I don't know what the next year will bring. I don't know if I want to run another marathon next year. I only want to think about this race, and give it everything I have.

Unrelated photo of the gloves I've been wanting
to buy for two years.
While I will definitely be disappointed if I don't beat it, I want the focus of my race to be something I enjoy. I don't want it to be a pain-fest, like some of the miles were for me last year. I want it to be a celebration of running, and the city I live in. And even if I don't reach that 3:59 number, I think the beers and family time afterwards will taste just as good.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Perfect Attendance

I have a memory from 4th grade that was a really proud moment for me. It wasn’t when I earned a lot of stars on my report card, or when I first learned how to put up a ponytail on my own (because let’s be honest, that was by far the best day of my life before age 10. I started coming home looking like Michelle Tanner instead of a homeless person). But the moment I want to talk about is the time I won an award for having perfect attendance for the first 100 days of school.

Rocking a side 'po like a boss.
(For those of you who did not connect the
Michelle Tanner reference to Full House).

I don’t remember what I received for this mighty accomplishment, but it is somewhat impressive if you think that 100 days of school in central Jersey takes you to about mid-January. I guess I have my parents to thank for this too, because unless I had a fever of 103 and/or a visible case of nausea, I went to school (there were no sick days given in the Wyman household for a “stomach ache”).

I remember standing in front of the classroom, while all of my classmates shouted at the teacher that they also had perfect attendance. She reminded everyone that if you took a day off for being sick or going to Florida to visit Granny, you did not by law earn this prestigious award. Arms folded, my classmates finally quieted down and let me have my moment to shine. It was the beginning of my life as a bonafide go-getter.

I share this story because I realized that before last week, I hadn't missed one run in the first 10 weeks of marathon training.


I’ve been blessed with a great training season. Up until last week, I was really excited for the majority of my runs, and my muscles felt strong. Last week was supposed to be one of the highest mileage weeks on my schedule, and I was ready to take it on.

I did 10 miles on Monday night, and I was completely exhausted by the end. I normally don’t have such long runs during the week, but I decided to front-load my mileage so I didn’t have to do such long runs later on in the week. On Tuesday, I did 7 miles after work. It was one of the best speedwork sessions I’ve had this year. I did a mile warm-up, 5 miles slightly faster than marathon pace (whatever that is), and a mile cool down. I felt fan-freaking-tastic.

I woke up Wednesday morning with pain in my right foot. Damn it.

I sort of hobbled around on Wednesday in my flats at work, wishing that sneakers or orthopedic shoes were acceptable footwear at my cosmetic company. I suffer from plantar fasciitis every day, so I’m used to foot pain, but this was definitely something more. I went home and immediately iced.

I had every intention of doing 7 miles on Thursday morning, but I could feel my foot in pain before I got up, so I went right back to sleep, and skipped the first run of my training cycle. It was glorious, and I felt no guilt at all.

I went through the quick succession of pros and cons all runners go through when we feel an injury coming on. Should I push it? I really need to get the miles in. Only 3 weeks til taper! But your foot and entire body are sore. Maybe just 4 miles instead of 7. Then one voice came over the loud speaker, “what’s the point?” I went right back to sleep, deciding that skipping a run would not make or break me. It would actually probably help my body heal.

I think something happened in that moment that I haven’t quite been able to shake. I think the dormant anti-running subconscious in me woke up, and has been chanting to me since last Thursday, “but really Kate, what is the point of all this?”

I woke up Saturday morning, knowing I had 20 miles to do. I was dreading it so much, and wished that for once, I didn’t have some insane workout to do on a Saturday morning. I wanted to do what normal twenty-somethings do on Saturdays. Sleep in, nurse an imminent hangover, and lay around. It took a lot for me to get out the door, reminding myself I would be happy I did.

Which I was, kind of. The run went really well, much better than most of my long runs. That 20 mile threshold has a way of telling you that YES you can actually run a marathon now.

My legs hurt just looking at that.

But now, I’m just not as amped about training as I was just a week ago. My foot was bothering me during my runs on Monday and Tuesday, and I decided to shorten my run this morning because I knew I just needed a bit of a break. Both my body and mind are completely exhausted.

I try to tell myself that I only have a week and a half until I start my taper. This week is a step-back week (thank the HIGH HEAVENS), and next week is my last week of intense high-mileage. I have one more 20 miler to go, but I'm not sure if I will be up to doing all 20 of those miles. If I do 18 instead of 20, there will be no natural disasters or anyone telling me I'm not doing enough. My family and boyfriend think I'm crazy enough as it is.

So I'm taking the rest of training day by day, reminding myself that I've already put in 11 1/2 weeks of hard work. I don't know how the next few weeks will go, but I know exactly what I'll be doing on my first free Saturday post-marathon training.

Absolutely nothing.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Giving up + Week 10 Marathon Training

I made a big, heavy, life-changing decision two weeks ago. I'm giving up one of my favorite carb-filled treats: cereal. 

Before I tell you why I'm cutting out my delicious Kellogg addiction, let’s start out with the status of things as of fourteen days ago. 

I relied on cereal to take up a fair amount of my calories. Between triathlon and marathon training, I became lazy about making myself breakfast every morning. Instead of one hearty meal, I would have a small bowl of cereal before I left my apartment, and eat either an English muffin with peanut butter or a bowl of oatmeal at work. This did a fine job of balancing my time management issues in the morning, and my tummy’s constant cries. 

One of my favorite morning cereals, no more.
But then on the days I forgot to bring my staple afternoon yogurt snack, I would slink into my office kitchen looking for a fix. The options are small. My first option is to munch on some pretzels that sit in a glass jar, stale and germ-filled due to the constant touching of my coworkers hands that are covered in grime from subways and keyboards. My second option is to open up an individually packaged cardboard bowl of cereal. So on those days, I go for the option that is less likely to give me a head cold or pneumonia.

Let’s not forget about the 10PM grumbling that happens to us all. As I’m laying on my couch, watching House Hunters International, I have a direct view of the cabinet that houses my crunchy delight. It takes very little for me to move the 8 feet between my couch and my cabinet, and the 5 feet between my cabinet and my fridge to pour up a little snack for myself. My late-night cereal is also eaten out of a mug, because that somehow justifies it. If it’s not in a bowl, I’m not really committing.

My favorite late-night cereal.
Yes, I used to have more than one cereal boxes in my pantry.
Keep your judgments to yourself.
I invite you to count with me – on a “bad” day (really a good day though, let's be honest), I would have cereal THREE TIMES. I don’t want to add up how many carbs, grams of sugar, or calories that is. I don’t care. But that seems excessive, even to me.  So I decided enough was enough, and I would stop eating cereal. Cold turkey.

I thought it was going to be really hard, but I made a few choices that I think have helped smooth out the process. I bought fulfilling breakfast food, and built in an extra 10 minutes to my wake-up time so I would have time to make it. Which means I’m actually being thoughtful at the grocery store, for the first time in a long time. I’ve been on a huge turkey sausage kick (thanks Keith!) and eating it with eggs and half an English muffin. That might seem like a lot to you non-breakfast people, but I don’t feel overly full afterwards, and I am full until lunch time. This is a HUGE success for me. I was blessed with a fast metabolism, and food goes through me really quickly (especially in the morning). I am normally hungry all morning long. As it turns out, following those Shape Magazine tips telling you to start off with a hearty breakfast sorta work.

I’ll keep you updated on my Cereal progress, but it’s been two weeks, and I haven’t looked back since.

Some people named Ernie or Elmo as their favorite Sesame Street Characters.
I always identified with "Cereal Girl."
(Youtube it so you know what I'm talking about)
Onto training!

Week 10 Training

Monday: 7 Early Morning Miles
I had a very busy weekend before this week, and was in bed fast asleep at 9:30PM on Sunday night. I normally feel like a functioning zombie on Monday mornings along with the rest of the world, but this morning I was actually able to get a semi-long run in. There was hardly anyone out, and it was awesome.

Tuesday: 7 Early Morning Miles
If we are friends on facebook, you likely saw my status about me running into JOHNNY LEE MILLER OF ELEMENTARY this morning. It was super early and cold, and when I realized it was him, I flipped out. Not externally of course, I played it super cool. And I got a fist bump out of it. I had a really awesome speedwork session, on a Sherlock Holmes-high.

Wednesday: Blissful rest

Thursday: 7 Morning Miles
Perhaps the first week ever where I fit in all of my runs before work. I definitely did not leap out of bed this morning, but I had lots to do after work, so I wanted to get it out of the way. Relatively uneventful compared to Tuesday morning.

Friday: Rest and HOME

Saturday: 18 Miles
This was an interesting run. I was at home, hanging out with my grandma this weekend. I woke up pretty early on my own, and decided to do three 6-mile loops so I could refill on water at the house. I started out pretty slow, but my muscles felt well-rested. Everything went well until the last two miles, when I was really, really tired. This has been a bit of a pattern on my long runs, where I feel good until I’ve the majority of the distance, and then feel exhausted during the last two miles. Once the run was over, I felt fine. My legs were a little beat up, but it wasn’t anything a little retail therapy and couch surfing couldn’t fix.

This was me from about 5PM to 10PM on Saturday.

This week marks what will be one of the highest mileage weeks for me. I have a 20 miler on schedule this weekend, a step-back week next, and then one more high-mileage week before taper. I am definitely being more conscious this year of getting plenty of sleep and good nutrition, and I feel pretty good. I’m going to say the cliché thing that I simply can’t believe I only have three more weeks of hard marathon training before taper. Mostly because it’s all gone pretty well, and my body looks forward to running each day. I’ve had way more good runs than bad ones. I am getting pretty excited and antsy about November 3rd...