Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Columbus Marathon Done!

I've had a few conversations recently with people online about runner elitism and this tendency that we seem to have as women to kind of cut ourselves down before anyone else can, and couch it in funny self-deprecation.  Lululemon apparently recently did a waterbottle that says "I run because I can" and in tiny print underneath says "but I really jog", which kind of annoys me because if you're out there with two feet off the ground at some point during your stride, you are RUNNING, no matter your speed.  So in the spirit of encouraging other women to not engage in this nasty habit of belittling our own accomplishments, you will see no apologies here for my finish time.  Lots of people finished before me, but lots of people finished after me, and a whole hell of a lot more people didn't run at all that day.  My accomplishment is in no way belittled by the accomplishments of others, and in the spirit of that, I'm damn proud of myself.  I'll give away the ending and say that I missed a PR by a couple of minutes, but there are many things about the way I ran this race that I'm proud of.  I'm sore as hell, but damn it, I did a good job.
A pre-race thumbs up.  Note the "why the hell am I doing this?" look on my face.
That said, I still woke up the morning of the race in a state of some anxiety, though admittedly less than I usually feel before a big race like this.  I think knowing that I had the hubby to share the misery with me helped a great deal.  Our hotel was mere blocks from the starting line so we were able to just walk out the door at 7am for a 7:30 start.
Checking the Garmin and freezing my butt off.
They had a pre-race photographer, which was cool.
Walking to these things is always pretty cool, lots of people out on the streets, lots overheard conversations (according to one that I heard, Gatorade does indeed go bad, so be warned there).  Haakan calmed me down during my mini freak out at the start and we were off and over the start line less than 10 minutes after the gun.  The first maybe 4 miles were a straight shot down a wide street, which, coming from Pittsburgh where it's all hills and curves, was pretty cool.  It was a pretty perfect day for a race, fairly cool, low humidity, but windier than I would have liked.

Having the hubby running with me was full on awesome.  If you ever get the chance to run with someone who is willing to carry your water and refill the bottles at aid stations, then catch up to you, do it.  He says as the race went on it got harder for him to catch up to me as he got more tired, but I think he liked the chance to go a bit faster.  The crowd support through a lot of the residential neighborhoods we ran through was really great.  We went through one very nice neighborhood that's on the register of historic places (Old Town, maybe?) where there was some kind of awesome house party going on.  There were like 20 people on the porch and in front of this house and they set up the most awesome cheer as we went past.  I kind of wished I'd been at that party, the food looked good.  And another neighborhood (German Town?  German Village?) smelled like cinnamon.  Mmmmm...  It was neat to see all these very nice neighborhoods so close to downtown, since the geography makes that largely impossible in Pittsburgh (and a history of bad civic planning, but we won't go into that).

It was around mile 10 that my stomach started to bother me and I just felt inexplicably tired.  I had to stop for a walk break, but I'm super proud that I hadn't stopped at all to that point, even at the water stops.  I'm not sure if it was the gels or the Gatorade, probably a combo of the two, but my doubts started to creep in and I had a hard time getting going again.  We were well ahead of pace at this point and doing well, so I sucked it up and soldiered on.
I look tired, but I don't think this was all that far into the race.
The hubby called my mom when we were about a mile from where they'd be able to see us pass (just a block from the hotel - good thing I didn't know that, I would have been tempted to just stop and go take a nap).  They were going to see us before the half marathoners split from the full marathoners and I was getting nervous we'd missed them somehow when the hubby spotted them.  "I'm going to cry when I see them" I'd warned him, and I had to fight really hard to not start bawling when I saw them.
"I'll see you soon, I've got to keep running!" I told them.
I fought back the tears and we kept on going.  "Wanna just do the half?" I asked the hubby, only half joking.  He ignored me and we passed the point of no return and ran through a very cute neighborhood (Short North?  Short something, at any rate) and saw the girls from the lululemon store, who cheered us on enthusiastically, as well they should since we were both decked out in their product.  There were more walking breaks here, my stomach just didn't feel good and I was tired.  Still, the miles were going ok and we weren't totally off track yet.

Around mile 17 or so we got to the Ohio State campus, which was kind of cool, but totally deserted.  Where were all the students?  I know a bunch of them were probably running, but seriously, it was past 10am when we ran through, at least a few could have mustered it up to come out and cheer.  My dad's an OSU alum so we had to snap a picture.
See me leaning on the sign?  That's because I was exhausted!
I think I heard "Hang on Sloopy" about 20 times during the course of the race, and one of the best parts was all the music.  This race had more music than the RnR marathon I did as my first in Phoenix.  There were DJ's everywhere and live bands, it was really nice.  Once we got through OSU, we were in Upper Arlington and had been told the last 10k would be pretty much down hill.  It was, thank goodness.  I had my slowest mile splits here, but I also had some of my fastest.  It was also at this point that my Achilles tendon started to really bother me, something that I'd never had an issue with before.  My quads started to feel it, too, but it was really the Achilles that was bothersome.  The last 10k seemed extremely long, but parts of it were very nice.  I think the hubby slapped the hand of every child who held it out, and when we heard a musician playing "Dance with Me", I did a little twirl with the hubby as we ran past.  He also mustered up some slow motion running to the Chariots of Fire theme song, and I had enough left in me to do some fake knocking on the door during a live rendition of "Love Shack".  With a mile left to go the hubby told me to go on ahead and run while he filled up the water bottles, and maybe he'd just see me at the finish if he couldn't catch up.  I cursed him a bit because I really didn't want to run anymore, but it was just a mile left so we really had to do it.  He was hurting by this point, too, as this was by far the longest amount of time he'd ever been on his feet running a marathon (he's usually done well before the 4 hour mark).
I think this is the final turn before the finish.
The single best thing about the Columbus Marathon is the downhill finish.  The last .2 or so is fully downhill, so you really can finish strong.  The announcer called out my name as I crossed the finish time, and though I have to get it straightened out because my chip malfunctioned, the final time was 4:54:09.  Not a PR, but still under 5 hours.  And, very cool, the results website tells me that in the last 6.2 miles, I passed 167 runners, and was passed by 15.  Personally, I think that ratio is awesome.  I can't tell you how much I LOVE the fact that we were passing a heck of a lot more people than were passing us during what was easily the hardest part of the race.  I would love for more races to include this statistic.
Gonna airbrush that clock...

I battled some of the same issues I'd had in Pittsburgh, most notably that the race happened on the day my monthly "friend" came to visit.  All my male readers just went "yuck", but I'm a girl, I have girl issues, and this is significant as the time before my period leaves me feeling very sluggish.  It is a far from ideal time to run a race, so I'm just proud of myself that I got it done.  I'm also very proud of the 10 miles of even paced running that I did, with no breaks at all, though I truly felt like I couldn't have pulled out a much faster pace, even for a shorter distance.  Doing this same race under the same conditions at a different time in my cycle might easily mean cutting 10 minutes off my finish time, but I'll never know that for sure. The lack of speedwork during my training probably hurt me, too, since my body didn't know what to do with the lactic acid when it started to build up, and that probably contributed to my upset stomach. I've learned even more about how to train for the next one, but I think I may take a racing break for a while, while I work on some strategy for how to get faster.  I say that now, talk to me in a week when I'm not so sore!
Done!  Looks a lot like the pre-race photo, but sweatier.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Night before the Columbus marathon

**This was supposed to post yesterday, but for some reason it didn't upload from my phone**

I've noticed that I feel really emotional before big races like this.  In some ways the specter of my first marathon in Phoenix in 2009 still haunts me, it was such a horrendous experience.  Pittsburgh went much better, but still was far from perfect and I under performed it, I feel.  So now there's more riding on this.  This is the race I was supposed to do last year, then bailed on after a miserable summer of training and disappointing races.  My training has been beautiful, there's no real reason for me to not meet my goals.  But I find myself putting all this pressure on myself, all this heaps upon heaps of anxiety, and find myself just wanting to crawl under the covers and ignore the clock that's ticking down to start time tomorrow morning.  I get too much into my head with these races and I need to remember that tomorrow morning, I'm going to run the best race I can for the day I'm given.

The day wasn't all spent in an anxiety induced state of hysteria.  The kids had great fun at the kids races, and I bought these beauties at the expo.  The only thing that could make me happier is if they were stability shoes (they're not, so they'll just be for short distances, and looking super cute).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Oliver's first 5k!

My 6 year old, Oliver, has been asking for a while if he could do a race with me and his dad.  He'd done a mile here and a mile there with us, but nothing major.  So when we had a weekend with back to back 5k's right in our neighborhood, I decided that maybe we could give one of them a shot.  He *REALLY* wanted to do the Zoozilla 5k, which runs up the giant hill that cuts the zoo in half, then goes back down through the zoo, but having done that race and knowing that Oliver's kind of a wimp (he gets that from me, unfortunately), we decided to try for the Shadyside 5k instead.  It's a much flatter race and there are usually a lot of kids doing it, so I thought it was a good first race for him, just to see how it goes.

The race started at 8am so I got him up a bit before 7am, we got dressed, and out we went.  Unfortunately, my plan to park in the public lot right behind the start line was foiled by the roads being closed (doh!), which wasn't an issue last year because I got there super early.  So we had to park like half a mile away and I made the poor kid run/walk with me to the start, because we still had to register.  We managed to register and get our chips on our shoes, but I was still pinning my number to my shirt when the gun went off.  At this point Oliver starts to have a full on freak out, thinking we're going to miss the race, but I managed to talk him down and we started off.

We ran down Walnut Street to Aiken, and then down onto Ellsworth, and Oliver was doing great.  About a half a mile in he started to get very annoyed that I hadn't brought water for him, and we managed to *almost* get run over by the leaders because we were on the wrong side of the cones when I had to stop to tie his shoe. At one point he said, "Are we winning?" and I had to point out ALL the people ahead of us, including the super fast guys who had almost run us over.  When he would ask to walk, I would tell him we could walk when we passed some landmark in the distance, and he was a pretty good sport about it (better than I am when Haakan does that to me when he paces me - there's usually cursing involved when I get told "just run to that lamp post up there").  Around the halfway point I reminded him that there were pancakes at the end and his face lit up and he took up for a while.  He loved the crowds and was high five-ing everyone, and the runners who were around us were very encouraging to him.

When we got to the final stretch up Walnut Street, I told Oliver it was time to sprint, and holy cow, I don't think I could have kept up with him if I'd tried.  Given the burst of turbo speed at the end, I definitely don't think we needed all those walk breaks.  Final time was 38:41 and he couldn't have been prouder.  Unfortunately, they didn't get his name recorded for the results, just his number, but he wasn't in medal contention, anyway (some of those kids were really speedy!).

It's really an amazing thing to be able to share something like this with one of my kids.  At his age, there's no way I could have run a 5k, and maybe if I had been more into sport and such, I wouldn't have had to find my healthy habits as an adult.  And really, one of the biggest reasons I started running was so that I could set a good example for my kids.  I always thought it wasn't as big of a deal for boys, since they're just kind of expected to be good at sports and such, but it's really just as important to be a role model.  With Oliver, he gets obsessed with winning and will become frustrated and decide he doesn't want to do something if he can't win.  I think me going out and doing races and not winning is a good thing for him to see, and an even better thing for him to experience.  At the end of the day, we're all competing against our best selves, on so many levels.  It's not about accolades from other people or getting a medal, because really only a small number are going to get that.  It's about putting forth your best and each time, trying to surpass it, because it gives *YOU* joy.  If that's a lesson he can start to learn early, I don't think it will ever serve him ill.