Wednesday, November 4, 2015

TCS New York Marathon

There is so much to tell about this race. I feel like I should break it apart into 2 sections:

What was GREAT about the day
What was BAD LESS THAN IDEAL about the day

There was so much I did right, and so much I wish I could change, but that is the inner dialogue all most runners experience with every race.

New York was unlike any other race I have ever done:  50,000+ runners converging onto a bridge to run through the streets of the 5 boroughs.  These were city streets.  I was awestruck by the sights and sounds.  I loved the cheering of the spectators, runners and volunteers.  I experienced the quietness of the bridges, and then the surge of loudness of the bands, DJ's and noisemakers (insert:  need more cowbell!).  I also was impressed by the efficiency and thorough planning it must have taken to pull this event together.

The expo felt like a kid walking into Disney World for the first time. It is heavenly to see what is out there in our sport. Decades ago when I started running there were not all the gadgets, cute outfits and paraphernalia there is today. I am glad it is now a fashionable sport!

I am one of the lucky ones that got to stay 2 blocks from the South Ferry at my parents' condo on Wall Street.  I had an easy walk to the ferry that took us to the bus which took us to the entrance of all the color coded athlete's villages at 6:00am. It is hard to wait for a race with 50,000+ people walking/milling about, but they sure make it easy with food, 1700 port-a-potties, and a plethora of runners from many countries. I was settled into my assigned village with over 3 hours to go. For those of you who know me, I chatted with people, lots of people.

My starting corral was on top of the bridge.  They started funneling us towards the starting line with about a half hour to go before the start.  Each corral had several Goodwill donation bins that we threw our extra clothing into before the start. The temperatures were warm for a November day in New York. Well...they were too warm for me!

My goal for NYC was to run happy and Boston Qualify.  I wanted to run in the 3:20-3:40 range (which is a rather large time range) so I hid my Garmin from myself.  I wanted to run by feel and feel alone. It was a pretty crowded start so I settled into a pack.  We climbed the first mile up the bridge and I looked around smiling (didn't look down because the thought of 50,000+ runners on 1 bridge was scary to me). My Garmin was set to divulge only mile splits, no paces. The first mile was a 7:48 which was perfectly in the wheelhouse.  I actually felt like I was not moving at all.  The second mile was down. Down is an understatement.  When we reached the 2 mile mark I saw a 6:48 on my Garmin.  Oppss- didn't mean to do that, but I was in a pack and wasn't working very hard.  Besides, it was almost a completely downhill mile.

Mile after mile was comfortable and fun to see all the screaming/cheering spectators.  I was in a great groove because I returned to 7:30 pace miles just like I practiced at the Mini-Myrtle Beach (half) marathon 2 weeks earlier. Actually, when I cruised across the halfway point I was pleasantly surprised I was within 30 seconds of how I finished the Myrtle Mini run.  All was going great....until mile 14 (cue the screeching brakes).  Cups. Lots of cups. Ridiculous amount of cups I was dodging, jumping and sliding across.  Did I mention cups?  Well, there were also sponges, banana peels and assorted carbohydrate/electrolyte replacement gels.  It seemed there were water tables every mile. I slightly jumped over then landed on a cup. I then slid with that cup until I smacked my right foot into a subway/sewer grate.  I practically fell over and probably would have if a volunteer hadn't caught me. Then everything went bad. Very bad. My second toe was throbbing.  I kept running and grimacing and then watching me lose quite a few people I was running alongside. I wished them good luck and proceeded to question my ability to run further, but I was determined to Boston Qualify so I pressed on.

I altered my running gait to accommodate my toes that did not want to touch the ground again. For those of you who don't run, this can be a very bad thing. My body is used to running a certain way. I have been running that way for 40 years. I do NOT recommend doing what I proceeded to do. I then did what I tell myself never to do in a race. I walked. I think I walked a certain portion of every mile and then I would start running again because I felt guilty for walking. Why did I feel guilty for walking? I have no unearthly idea. I remember doing a 3:13 at a marathon at Myrtle Beach and getting beat by a woman who was doing the walk/run racing method. It was hard playing the yo-yo game with her, but she smoked me to a 3:11. I think I am stubborn (I am sure Dan is smacking his head in an 'aha') and wanted to BQ so badly that I didn't care what I did. I needed to get to the church finish line on time.

I saw Dan and Amber at mile 16. I was so in shock that I actually heard/saw them I look a little surprised in this photo, don't I? You can see my black Fellow Flower about to fall out on the side of my head. Amber is my son's girlfriend who is doing an internship in NYC and staying with my parents. Having Amber there was like having a piece of my kids with me on my journey.

I could not tell you what mile 17-23 looked like, sounded like or even felt like. I truly do not remember anything but focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. I took water/gatorade at every opportunity and had plenty of Honey Stinger chomps, so I know I hydrated and fueled during those miles. I started some cramping in my outer calf muscles due to the altered running gait and was trying my best not to touch my right foot to the ground each step. That is hard to do...just sayin'. I saw Dan and Amber again somewhere in between 23-25 and I knew I was going to finish in time to BQ. I remember whining to them that I was cramping and something was wrong with my right foot/leg. I pressed on and could not even enjoy the last mile which I am sure would have normally had me smiling ear to ear. I walked a little in that last mile and lamented on how I have NEVER done that before!

I finished the race and immediately squealed for the medic personnel saying there is something wrong with my calves and my right toe. They were great. They walked me to the medical tent which was right past where I took a finisher photo on the way. I thought I was grinning ear to ear but you can clearly tell I am grimacing. Oh well....(insert smile) I Boston Qualified!

Within 3 minutes of finishing, they took my blood pressure and it had dropped to 76/46 with a pulse of 56. I am going to watch my BP in the next couple of months to make sure there is not something wrong. They gave me ice for my calves and salty chicken broth for my tummy. They kept asking if I was dizzy and I actually felt great sans the calves and right toe! They let me leave once my blood pressure rose to 80/50 and I walked hobbled to get my post race poncho. The arduous journey was worth it. What an awesome plus! After collecting my poncho and walking 8 blocks I found these 2 lovelies. I am so lucky to have a supportive husband and family to do this crazy little thing called running. Running inspires me. Running challenges me.  Running keeps me grounded.

I have so much to be thankful for and so much work to do to stay running healthy. I am taking time to heal my foot and monitor this BP thing.  I did so much right in this marathon, and I did so much wrong. That is why I love running. Be grateful for days where you feel invincible and learn the lessons you need to learn on days things don't go as planned. Runners can be a little bogged down by numbers, past times, and paces. I am choosing to stay in the moment and enjoy every step!

In case you were wondering, I finished in 3:34:17. I was the 808th female and 4858 overall. I am a NYC New York Marathon FINISHER and I am proud!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Taper Crazies: The Road to the TCS NYC Marathon

The taper crazies have hit.  For those of you who do not run, this is the 2 weeks where you drastically cut your weekly mileage to prepare your muscles to run a marathon (26.2 miles; don't underestimate that .2).  This is where you review your training cycle and hope you 'did enough'.

The questions swirling around in your head can be staggering.

Did I run enough long runs?
Did I run enough hills?
Did I run enough tempo runs?
Did I? Did I? Did I?

Even though I have run over 15 marathons, 6 ultra marathons (anything over 26.2 is considered an ultra) and many, many half marathons I still respect the distance.  Yes I know I can run 26.2 miles.
Am I trying to race this marathon?  No.  I just want to run happy and enjoy it.  My focus is going to be shorter distances after this marathon so I truly just want to Boston Qualify (under 4 hours).  I ran a 1:37 half marathon the weekend before last and felt amazing.  Boom. I would be just fine keeping that train moving a little slower but nonetheless chugging along at a comfortable pace (for me). There is nothing better than feeling the miles click off on your Garmin without you realizing you are exerting effort.  Unfortunately, most runners know it is solely about THAT (race) day.  Race day can be anything, a mixed bag of sorts.

Each time I lace up my shoes to run a training run I always wonder if this is going to be a good day, tolerable day or a horrible running day.  Some training runs you question what the heck you are doing with running shoes on.  Some training runs you feel on top of the world.  This is where the taper crazies begin.

The time I would have used for running is now empty.  My energy levels swing higher and lower than a kid on a swing trying to touch the sky.  I find myself not sleeping very well either.  I have been waking up super early almost every day since my taper began.

The taper crazies have hit me so hard, I painted our youngest daughter's bedroom over the weekend. She is in her third year of teaching, so to say I dragged my feet is an understatement.  One of my steady running partners, Jeriann, helped me gather all my painting necessities because she was in taper mode till yesterday.  She rocked the Marine Corps marathon in DC with a 12 minute PR (3:25). I was singing and dancing following her on my phone all morning.  I should note I started texting her at 4:25am and she answered!  I think my husband was ready to have me committed.

Jeriann meeting me for a quick goodbye lunch before leaving for DC

My New York experience starts on Thursday afternoon.  I am lucky my Dad lives on Wall Street in Manhattan so I am walking distance to the South Ferry.  I will take the ferry to the starting line on Sunday at 6:00am. 

I found out that I will be starting at 9:50am on TOP of the bridge (insert yikes) in Wave 1, Corral D so I SHOULD have plenty of time to find where my corral is located.  I will also be taking a whole meal with me (in clear plastic bags) because I will be HUNGRY after just sitting/standing there for hours. One of my biggest racing idiosyncratic behaviors is that I need to see the starting line the day before or I don't sleep well because I will dream about the gun going off and I am scrambling trying to find the starting line.  Yes, that IS a taper crazy I have hung onto since high school.  I will have to deal with this this year because I will not be looking at the starting line the day before.  I will be visiting with family.

At Boston I had my friend, Jen Farrell with me.  Jen is one of my favorite running partners who put up with my crazy work  hours for years.  She was great about meeting me anywhere at anytime.  I still miss her immensely!  I will feel very alone without her with me at New York.

Notice the taper crazies unfolding in the above paragraphs?  I am bouncing all over the place.  I feel like a hamster who had their wheel taken away from them. I just want to run.....right now!

This morning I had a leisurely 6 mile run with some running buddies I do not get to run with very often.  We had a chatty, silly run that felt amazing in our cooler temperatures here in North Carolina. 
Beth and Amy allowed me to process my taper crazies while we chatted and ran farther than we originally scheduled.  This is why I love our Greensboro running community....EVERYONE IS AWESOME!

Amy and Beth were so much fun to run alongside!

I am sure I will have more to say about New York, Much more. I am trying to contain my excitement about seeing my Dad & Stepmom, and my sister and her family. I look forward to running all 5 boroughs by myself (alongside 50,000+other runners).  I think ONE of them will help me find the starting line before the gun goes off.

I leave you with a quote from William Shakespeare, "Things won are done, joy's soul is in the doing". I am fortunate to have supportive family and friends that give me daily encouragement.  Speaking of is a link to the trailer of my son's (Nick Westfall) first full length feature film he wrote and directed, "Finding Home".  I couldn't be more proud. It will premiere in Wilmington, NC on Saturday, November 21st on National Adoption Day.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Preparation for the TCS New York Marathon by way of the Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon

How do you make sure you have some good solid training runs while preparing for a marathon?  Pick a couple of half marathons and sign-up.  Yes.  Just sign up.  Put the ego aside, slap on a cute, fun outfit , lace up your shoes and run for the sheer fun of running with friends.

I happen to have a great community of runners here in Greensboro, NC.  I tend to float from group to group so  I can experience a nice, varied mix of people.  This includes running with everyone from beginners to seasoned veterans (notice I didn't use the word 'old'. I'm taking issue with that word lately).  I am what you call a undisciplined free spirited runner.  I mainly run other people's plans.  Am I a certified running coach?  Yes.  Do I care exactly what my training plan should be when preparing for a marathon?  No.  I have been running my whole life.  I like to think I have a base that has a base.  I do, however, make sure I build distances, then take an off week where I decrease mileage considerably.  There is where that 'old' word comes back into play:  In order for ME to stay healthy, I must listen to my body and give it proper rest when I need it.

2 weeks ago I paced the Cannonball Half Marathon in Greensboro.  My friend, Jeriann and I paced the 1:45 group and had a blast talking, teaching, singing and coaching our group to the finish line in under 1:45.  The skies were gloomy and humid, but it never rained.  We remained upbeat and cheered everyone around us.  THIS is what the love of running does.

Jeriann is getting ready to run in the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C.  So proud of her and her running accomplishments as a new runner!

Yesterday was the Myrtle Beach Mini-Marathon (I love that they say 'mini' instead of 'half' marathon).  I wanted to run happy, consistent and stay within 1:35-1:45 range.  I ran each mile within 5 seconds of one another and  allowed myself to go a little faster the last mile.  I stayed in my sweet spot so that I didn't feel taxed, yet I knew I was working.  I worked myself comfortably to a 1:37:44 finish, which translated to a 7:27 average mile.

  I was so happy to run into these running friends after the race!
Johnny and Suzette Redwine,  We competed in  the Denver  Rock and Roll Marathon together last October.  I just adore these two!

Running happy (for me) involves a couple of things:  great traveling companions and perfect weather.  I had great travelling companions and the weather was PERFECT for running.  It was windy, but the temperature ranged from 45-60 degrees.  Aah, perfect running weather!

Here is the gang trying to stay warm before the start:  Christie, Lori, me, Amy and Erin.  Erin was competing in her first half-marathon ever and cruised her way in to a 2:07 finish.  She was wanting under 2:30.  I say she crushed her goal.  Don't you?  We had a great race mom:  Amanda.  Amanda drove us to the start line, parked the car at the finish line, and cheered for us with her sombrero on throughout the course.  Everything went smoothly and thanks to her super driving skills it was a fun weekend.  Here we are trying to stay warm after the race!

                             Amanda, Erin, me, Suzette below me, Lori, Christie and Amy

Next up:  TCS New York City I have a race plan?  Yes.  Finish. I want to run happy so I can take it all in and enjoy myself.  I need to BQ so that if a certain group of special running friends all qualify we will go together in 2017.  The only time I enjoy being old is the qualifying BQ time for my age is 3:55.  I  need to race under 3:49 to secure my spot.

I know I have been terrible about blogging this past year.  I keep thinking things need to be EPIC.  I am accepting that this is my issue and I will work on it this year.....through the blog.  Thanks for reading!