Saturday, October 16, 2010

The End and the Beginning

This blog began with a tl;rdr post, and I will close this chapter of my blog with one.

I gave it my all today, and I crossed the finish line after approximately five hours of running through the streets of Baltimore with more than 22,000 other crazy people working toward the same goal. Running today was the most unifying thing that I could have done. You hear stories about how friendly and encouraging fellow runners are. You hear stories about how entire neighborhoods come out to cheer on the runners. Then, you’re in it; you’re at mile 18 struggling to run up the millionth hill of the course (seriously, by the time you’re at mile 18 and every hill before that was “your last one,” it feels like the millionth). Someone in the crowd tells you that you can make it, and you feel like nothing in the world can stop you.

So, full recap:

I was a bit in denial about this weekend’s events from Monday to Thursday, and I did my best to pretend like today would be like any normal day – you know, the kind of normal day when I wake up and decide to run 26.2 miles. After work on Tuesday and Wednesday, I completed fantastic three-mile runs faster than I had ever run at any point in my training. On Thursday, restlessness set in because I forbade myself from doing anything: no cycling, no strength training, and definitely no running. So, I did laundry instead – mostly because I needed to clean all of my running gear.

I spent about five hours in my office on Friday before coming home to do one last check that I had everything that I would need for the weekend. The last thing that I would have wanted was to get to Baltimore and realize that I forgot…oh, say…my shoes.

I met Steve at Union Station to catch at 3:25 MARC train to Penn Station. We arrived an hour later and took a cab to M&T Stadium for registration and the Expo. After picking up our bibs, awesome shirts, and bag of swag (which included, among other things, a gift card with a very large balance to a swanky sunglasses shop), we walked around a bit to check out the Expo.

Steve and I split after the Expo, so that I could check into my hotel before meeting a friend for dinner. I managed to snag a room in the Radisson Hotel. My room was incredible, and I had way too much space for just myself.

(This was only one side of the room. I had a second bed, a small entrance area, and an awesome bathroom.)

After checking in and watching a bit of Law and Order, Nirosha took me to Sabatino’s, a great, family-owned restaurant in the city’s Little Italy district. (I don’t think that I’m ready to give up the ability to eat large quantities of carbs with little remorse.)

After dinner, we headed back toward my hotel. My original plan was to meet my parents for a bit before I turned in for the evening, but they once they arrived, they decided to head straight to the hotel, and we planned to meet before the race.

I managed to fall asleep quickly and woke up before my alarm. I got dressed, packed up my things, had coffee, water, power-ade, and two thin bagels with peanut butter. My parents met me in the hotel lobby to drive over the starting area. I arrived at 6:45 and took the first of five pre-race bathroom breaks. Walking over the starting line, I had a great conversation with an older runner who had done the Baltimore Marathon three times. We parted ways so that I could take the second of five bathroom breaks. After, I met up with Steve.

Then, then were three more bathroom breaks. And a lot of waiting.

Finally, the National Anthem. Countdown. Starting pistol. Waiting to move. Moving.

As I promised myself, I started the race slowly. By about mile four (through the very beautiful Druid Hill Park), I was ready to pick up the pace a bit. I felt like I could run forever – or as long as there was an unlimited supply of water, Gatorade, and energy gels. By mile 13, I started to feel the reality of running but it was nothing more than “Oh. I still have to run a lot.” Steve and I separated near the halfway point because I felt that the best thing for me was to slow down just a tick so that I could make it to the finish line. At mile 15, I ran into my mother. (My dad and younger brother had gone back to their hotel room – which was very close to that mile mark – and just missed me.)

At mile 18, things started to suck.

Hills. Hills as far as the eye could see. And, I could only think, “It hurts, and it’s still hurting!” But, thank goodness for strangers and fellow runners reassuring you that you can make it.

I rejoined Steve shortly after I cleared “the last” hill. We ran for a bit, but near Lake Montebello, I went ahead. There were so many times when I wanted to quit, but each time, I decided to walk it off and keep going. I ran into Katie near mile 21 for some much needed words of encouragement. Then, a little voice inside me said, “Fuck it. You’re going to run. You’re going to finish. And you’re going to like it.”

Toward the end, I ran into a huge group of DC friends who had come up to cheer Steve, Nicole, Jason, and me on. Further now, my parents were waiting.

Then, the finish line. Final time: 5:33:38. Total distance: according to my pedometer: 27.122 miles. Average minute-mile: 12.

When I crossed the finish line, I felt like this on the inside:

On the outside, I felt like someone encased my legs in cement.

I made my way to the runner’s area where I received my finisher’s medal and a metallic blanket. So many shiny things! I walked around for a bit in an attempt to get the feeling back in my legs. (To be honest, walking around is still really hard.)

I feel incredibly proud of my accomplishment. (And so proud of Steve, Nicole, and Jason!) I set this crazy goal back in June. I didn’t think that I would go through with it. But, I ran. I ran in (probably) deathly heat. I ran in the rain. I ran when it was absolutely gorgeous. I bruised toenails. I strained muscles. I sacrificed skin. I thought about quitting. I decided to keep going. I crossed the finish line.

So what’s next?

I’m planning on running a second full marathon in 2011, and Philadelphia is looking pretty good. In the meantime, there’s the Disney Princess Half-Marathon in February and a host of other events around the DC area in between.

I’ve completed my first journey to 26 miles. I’m ready for the next challenge. Thanks for reading. Thanks for your words of encouragement. Thanks for believing that I could do this.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Less than 36 hours left

I have a little less than 36 hours to go, and I have so many feelings -- excitement, fear, anxiety. I love all of it. My bag is almost packed. I'm ready for this!

Look for a pre-race post tomorrow. Until then, I'll direct you all to this site, which will allow you to track my on-course progress and see the results of the race:

By the way, if anyone wants to be at the finish line ready to play any version of this theme from the Final Fantasy series at the moment I drag myself across the finish line, I would certainly appreciate it.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

7 Days and Counting....

I booked my hotel reservation. This is it. This is real. (Well, I suppose that this has always been real. It just feels more real now that I'm starting to make concrete plans to travel to Baltimore.)

One week to go. It's the final countdown!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Almost there

Week 15 turned out to be the kind of week I wish I had earlier in my training instead of toward the end.

A full professional schedule, new commitments, a trial Capoeira class, and my attempt at having a social life left me incredibly tired. Mustering the energy to run after work was a challenge. On Thursday, I gave up and decided to bike instead. On Friday (which has been full of pasta and alcohol-free for many months now), I indulged in a work happy hour to celebrate coworkers' promotions and raises (including my own). We went to L'Enfant Cafe, and I had the most delicious crepe and two glasses of wine. (Yeah, not exactly part of the marathoner's diet.)

But, Saturday's run still felt incredible, and I ran 17 beautiful miles without much trouble. And, today's 4 mile recovery run was perfect. (I love the crispness of fall, and I loved the reward of going apple picking this afternoon.)

For the next two weeks, things are going to get serious. That means no beer at pub quiz, eating the proper foods, and sticking to my planned schedule.

Speaking of: holy crap, the race is so soon! This Saturday will be my last long run before the big day. Here's the plan:

Monday: Bike, strength train
Tuesday: 4 miles
Wednesday: 3 miles
Thursday: 4 miles
Friday: Off
Saturday: 8-10 miles