Full on Crazy!
It’s a week after the marathon and I think I literally am still on a runner’s high – no lie. Best.Feeling.Ever!! I’ve been telling everybody I come in contact with about the race (okay, that might be part genetics – making friends with random strangers, thanks dad. But here nor there, I’ve been telling everyone!) I’m proud of my accomplishment and do believe it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I wrote a post about contemplating doing the marathon, Half or Full on Crazy, and in that blog I said that I was training for my friend Marcela. The truth is that’s the reason I started training, but in the end this race was for both of us. It definitely started out as me supporting her and running the longer runs with her. And I’m not sure when it shifted, but along the way my co-worker kept telling me that “I should be doing this race for myself too”. 4 months is a long time to commit to training for a race, but it’s that consistency that helps you push through on the actual race day. Here are a few things I learned throughout the training and a re-cap of our race (with a few pics throughout my training runs):
My brother is a meteorologist. I had asked for a weather report for race day a week out (as they can have an overall accurate forecast that far out). “Mid 50s with clouds marathon time,” he said. A couple of days closer and he said, “Light winds. Clouds. No rain at the start but 30% during the race later on.” Not the weather forecast you’d like to hear. I live in SUNNY Miami. I’ve been training since September in record heat weather for this time of year (January had 8-record setting days in the 80s). I run faster in the cool weather as everyone typically does. I had run in the rain during training a few days but only 6-8 miles. 26.2 miles in the rain? Not something I was looking forward to. And more than anything I was worried about blisters. They say you have to “train in the elements”, well these were some elements I wasn’t able to simulate. Marcela and I were in corral I – let me break that down for those that don’t understand that: The race started at 6 am. Corral I didn’t start until 6:43 am!! Talk about lag time. I know I’m not fast, but out of the 30,000 runners only 3,000 were running the marathon. You’d think they would have had us a little closer to the starting line seeing as I’d be running WAY longer than those doing just the 1/2. There was no rain at 6 am. My brother’s forecast was accurate. At 6:40 am, it started pouring rain. I looked over at Marcela and the wave of people running with us to get to the starting line and we were all still in good spirits. We were finally starting. What’s a little rain anyways, right? About a ½ mile into the race, the course takes you over a bridge to the beach – a little incline, nothing too steep, but it was at that moment I looked at Marcela and I said, “I’m not sure I can do this if it keeps raining for 26.2 miles”. Cold, miserable, and with our heads down (rain pelting in your face is not the most pleasant thing in all the world), Marcela as positive as ever said, “we’re doing this”! I guess after a mile or so in the rain started to subside and it was just drizzle at that point. Marcela and I started to pace ourselves and start our intervals that we are used to doing and it felt like any of our normal runs during training, only with thousands of people running with you. There was some music, there were people clapping and cheering here and there, anything to keep us motivated. Running the streets of Miami was truly amazing. Having the streets closed down and you running your city. Marcela and I both said that we were glad we had chosen Miami as the place to do our (one and only) marathon. We grew up here and there’s no better feeling of pride seeing the beautiful city we call home.
Marcela and I knew there were going to be moments in the race that we’d get a little overcome with emotion. We weren’t sure at what point or where but we were ready (or so we thought). The other thing Marcela and I had talked about prior to the run is that we would finish together. I had never thought otherwise, but a couple of people had asked me prior to the race, if something were to happen would I go ahead (like if Marcela was running slower than I) – again, never a thought that had entered. I think that’s where Marcela and I are similar in spirit – we were in this together. We weren’t worried about our time, we just wanted to finish. We were each other’s cheerleaders throughout training, so we needed each other.
We were coasting along.
We were coasting along. Miles 2-13 were easy breezy. When we were training we had so many long distance runs that 13 miles seemed like nothing (yes we know 13 miles is no small feat all you ½ marathon runners out there, but when you’re running 26.2 miles, it pales in comparison or at least that was my mental way to look at it). Approaching mile 13 there was a road division: those running the half marathon and those running the full. I jokingly looked at Marcela and asked her if she wanted to quit now. She knew I was joking. We did the ½ marathon in 2 hours 27 minutes and felt great – with the weather conditions the way they were, we felt we were doing quite well. My brother was there shortly after the curve separating the ½ from the full. Marcela spotted/heard him first. We stopped to take a picture – and I have this look of joy on my face – I think it was plastered on my face the whole race. I’m not sure if it was a literal runner’s high, but every picture I have I was smiling or focused on running. Marcela got a little choked up seeing my brother – I didn’t get emotional for some reason. It just wasn’t my time. That happened about a mile later. We had met a lady prior to the race that was raising money for a charity, Team Lifeline, that raises money for kids with cancer. Talk about an inspiration – giving back to the families to allow kids to have experiences during their cancer treatment that they might not be able to do (with all the costs of treatment). Well, probably around mile 14 I saw a lady run past me with a shirt that had a picture of a child with cancer. It said, “Running for Joshua.” My nephew’s name is Joshua and while I didn’t know this little Joshua she was running for, I knew in that moment I was so blessed to have a healthy 6-year old nephew. I had no idea when one of my moments in the race was going to come, but it was right then. There were other signs that said something to the effect, “you think running is tough, try having cancer”. I’ve seen them before and not a day goes by that I’m not thankful I’m healthy. Running puts things in perspective and makes you all the more grateful each step you take.
I don’t remember exactly what mile it happened, but Marcela and I both started having issues with our IT band. I think it was right around mile 15. Throughout all of our training runs (the 16, 18, and 20 miler) we had had no issues. So we were quite surprised that we were experiencing pain. We kept blaming the rain and the cooler weather – what else could it have been? Marcela did more strength training on her non-run days. I had been doing yoga. We were smart about our training plans this time around (2-years ago we weren’t all encompassing of including both strength and cardio training). We kept going back and forth between each other and making sure each one was okay. I knew that Marcela was in pain but I also wanted to make sure no further injuries would happen by continuing to run (just to say we had finished the race). My foot also felt a little off – my left foot is the one I broke 4-years ago and I’ve always said it’s never been the same. Here it was acting weak when I needed it to be tough and strong. Mile 16 Marcela’s parents were on the course – got a little choked up, how could we not? So uplifting to see the ones you love there cheering you on in the cold and rain – who knows how long they had been there – but to see their smiling, cheering faces was just what we needed in a moment of pain. The miles kept passing us by, some felt slower than others, but next up was mile 18 – Marcela’s husband and children were there (along with close family friends). The look of joy seeing Marcela’s kids hugging her and cheering her on, priceless. Each mile was definitely made easier by seeing loved ones. The course looped and at mile 20 we were able to see Marcela’s parents again. They jumped to the other side of the road and cheered as if it was the first time seeing us again. While we were struggling and in pain, we definitely tried to remain strong in front of them – I’m not sure if they knew at that time how hard we were running and in what pain we were running.
Mile 22 there was beer. I’m not a beer drinker, never have been, never will be. But I asked Marcela if she wanted a little shot of what they were giving. She immediately responded, “yes!” As we were stopping I heard my name being called – at the beer tent, lo and behold was my friend Jillian. Another photo op, and once again, the look of elation on my face. Mile 22, only 4 more miles to go. We knew there was going to be “a wall” and past mile 20 I had always said it’s going to be all heart. I just didn’t know those last 4 miles were going to feel like forever.
I stopped at a porta potty shortly after mile 22. There were a few pit stops along the way. Let’s just say what we all know – I’m thankful that there is a place to go to the bathroom along the way, but let’s face it, they are beyond gross. At this particular spot, it was a little hard to close the door lock, but I wanted to make sure no one walked in on me. I felt the porta potty shift and I won’t lie, I thought that I might turn the whole thing over – all I could keep thinking is, “Who put the toilet on an incline? Is this some kind of sick joke? Please, please, do NOT tip over. I do NOT need poop on me.” I safely made it out. Phew.
Throughout the whole race, Marcela and I had been averaging between 10-11 minute miles. I knew our miles 23, 24, and 25 were our slowest. I just checked my Fitbit and sure enough if we had been running at that pace throughout the race, we would have been doing 15 minute miles. We walked a little more in between intervals, we stopped at the medic tent for some cream – we did what we needed to do in order to finish the race. There was no stopping us. This is what we had trained for and it was all coming down to this last mile and a quarter – because the last .2 of the marathon feels like a full mile. I think I had a hard time processing the actual moment I crossed the finish line – what all the 4 months leading up to this meant – I do have a smile on my face – but more than anything I have this one picture where I’m looking back for a second, because while this was my moment to shine and cross that finish line, I wanted to make sure Marcela was right by my side. We had trained together, laughed together (we had some interesting training runs. When you run that long there’s always a story to tell), cried together, and well, I wanted to cross the finish line with her literally. 5 hours 24 minutes. That was our official time. We had kept pace with the 4 hour 30 minute pacer for the longest and then with the injuries started slowing down. People always ask you how fast you ran the race. I’ve always said that we’re not fast. But that truthfully doesn’t tell the whole story of our race – you can read my excerpt and see all the stories there were along the way (and I didn’t share them all). Running for me has taught me so much more than tagging a time to the race – and yes, believe me I know there are people out there trying to improve their time and win these races. When I walked the full marathon in 2008 the headline in the paper the next day was, “It all came down to hosiery” – the difference in between the 1st and 2nd place winner were a mere 10 seconds. The 2nd place runner had to stop and fix his sock and that made him slow down just enough to come in 2nd. Yeah timing is important, and sure we were frustrated that we hadn’t finished with a better time. But the truth is finishing this marathon is one of my greatest achievements ever. I can’t speak for Marcela, this is only the story from my point of view. But as the saying goes, "I dare you to train for a marathon, and not have it change your life."
A few things running has taught me along the way:
Put your mind to it and you can do ANYTHING.
Training is KEY. Stay consistent with your runs will help more than anything – even as hard as it is to wake up at 5 am to go for runs, stick with it! Even on vacation in Italy I was running. No days off!
Nutrition is a given. Maybe one day I’ll write a blog about what I ate during training. As a dietitian, it just comes natural to me in knowing what to eat. The only change that I did a few weeks in is to add in some seafood. As a vegetarian I found it hard to get all of my protein simply from a plant-based source without going nuts from eating too many nuts! (and I don’t use protein powders).
Be mindful. My runs turned into running meditations. It was just me and the open road. There is no better feeling than having a clear mind. I did the 18-mile run on my own and I never thought I would have been able to run for 3 hours solo. Running helps relieve stress and is ever more important to help you focus on your breath in moments when we sometimes forget to breathe.
Time Management. Training takes a lot of time, let’s face it. There were Friday nights I turned down social events. I had to wake up early for my runs. Call me a party pooper or call me focused. Either way you start making time for things that are important.
Sleep. Just like nutrition you start learning how important sleep is to your overall health. I didn’t do the best in getting to bed early every night. And my runs would be effected the next day (and also my work). I did increase to three cups of coffee/day – I enjoy coffee but I wasn’t drinking it because I enjoyed it. So about a month out from the race I cut back to my normal 2 cups/day and started going to bed earlier. And just a side note, I used the jelly beans during the race that had caffeine. I didn’t want a caffeine withdrawal headache during the run, so I practiced with some caffeine (nor did I want the runner squirts – google that if you aren’t sure what I’m talking about!)
Challenge yourself. Do something that’s out of your comfort zone. Make a goal and commit to yourself to reaching it. Never in a million years did I think I’d run a full marathon. Believe in yourself.