Thursday, November 22, 2012

Go Big to Go Home

I ran a marathon on July 3, 2010; Muffin Madness 2010, to be exact.  The course wasn’t a Boston Qualifier, the tee-shirts weren’t made of technical fabric and there was no chip timing.  With some help from my friends, I organized an unofficial marathon all for myself.  So, check?  Done.  No…that’s not how I roll.  After learning I didn’t get selected in the NY Marathon lottery I reactively signed up for Philly.  I felt the need to make my marathon trek legit.  I convinced three sorority sisters* that Philly would be the place to be, so they signed up and kicked off their ‘get-ready’ plans.  I started training in mid-July with a three mile run in a new pair of Brooks.  Normally, I run in my Vibrams, but I wasn’t sure if my legs or feet would hold out the distance.  I purchased the super light Brooks based on the advice from my neighborhood running store.  Some days, my training felt like it was lasting forever, but, as I sit here, I can’t believe it’s over. 

I FINALLY got to Philly around 7:30 pm Friday night.  The traffic was unusually difficult to navigate which delayed my arrival by an extra hour.  After exiting the highway, I blew past the hotel entrance, not once, but twice.  I carefully navigated my husband’s car through a side street and pulled into the hotel’s valet parking chute.  Within ten minutes, I exited the elevators in a mad rush to enter my Presidential Suite.  That’s right; I got a sweet suite.  I’m not sure how I scored that, but I wasn’t going to question my good luck.  The weekend would be filled with pre-race rituals and superstitions; clearly, this was in my favor.  I cleaned up, picked up my race packet and had a lovely dinner in the hotel restaurant.  I indulged in a semi-sweet glass of wine and an entree of pot roast with vegetables in a deep red gravy and a side of Yukon garlic mashed potatoes.  Woah.  It’s a blessing I wasn’t racing the next morning.  I returned to the room, ahem, Presidential Suite, and went to bed fat. 

Up early Saturday am, without an alarm, to realize that my hotel didn’t have NBC as a channel.  Weird.  I got myself together and headed toward the art museum for a three mile shakeout run with Bart Yasso (read: smitten).  Originally, the thought of running ANY miles seemed ridiculous, but the short jaunt relaxed my mind and gave me an opportunity to socialize with other runners.  I spent the time running along side a displaced NY Marathoner.  Lord help me remember her name…turns out she teaches English Literature at a college in Chicago.  Lord help me remember the name of her school.  Nevertheless, we completed the run, offered best wishes and went on our separate ways.  I’ll save you from the dreamy-eyed recap of my finish line photo with Mr. Yasso followed by a personal Starbucks breakfast.  And, no, I didn’t ask for a job. 

Saturday ended with a low key dinner at Garces Trading Company on Locust Street.  My two sisters, Liz with her boyfriend and Cassie with her parents, met up with me, Marcus and Chris, another close friend, for a deliciously gluttonous, but classy dinner.  Just short of doing shots of the infused oils and balsamic vinegars, we practically licked our plates clean.  The group broke up for the evening and four of us embarked on a brisk walk back to my Presidential quarters (teehehe).  I packed a post-race bag, packed my go-home bag and carefully re-laid out my race gear.  A warm shower calmed my mind again.  I literally crawled into bed and passed out just as my wet head hit the pillow.

(There is a chunk to this story that involves two people entering the Presidential Suite.  They attempted to navigate the room in silence.  But we all know how drunk people really act.)

Rise and Shine - Race day.  Within thirty minutes the occupants of the Presidential Suite pulled themselves and their gear together like a tornado ripping through an unsuspecting neighborhood.  Cassie, Marcus, Chris and I met up with Liz and Sarah, another friend, in front of the Starbucks before making the 1.5 mile walk to the Start Line.  I’m not going to lie – it was COLD.  I’m not sure if the layer of Vaseline on my legs actually kept me a little warmer, or if it was all mental.  I tucked my ears inside my hat, crossed my arms and hugged my hands under my warm armpits.  For a moment, I remembered high school marching band competitions in the middle of November.  Chris left to line up in his corral (ready to conquer the half) while Marcus wished me luck with a strong hug and kiss.  A blanket of uncertainty covered my entire body as we started to line up in our corral – purple, my favorite color.  This race was a big deal; failure is not an option.  I toed an invisible line with thousands of eager runners.  Cassie bounced up and down in front of me before quickly turning around.  She expressed doubt and I, looking her with honest eyes, repeated one of my mantras: “The day will come when I can no longer do this.  Today is NOT that day.  Today is NOT that day.”  I had to repeat this a few times so I would start to believe.  And just like that, we were off…

My Muffin Madness recap took you through almost every mile across three separate blog posts.  I won’t do that to you.  This post is already ridiculous and we didn’t make it to mile one yet.  I’ll do my best to summarize. 

The Philly streets were lined with great people.  This was my largest race to date – both distance and crowd support.  Cheering fans, funny signs, cowbells and those pain-in-the-ass vuvuzela’s echoed against the buildings in each city block.  I carefully navigated the field paying mind to the imperfections in the road.  Before the second mile, I pulled off my 2010 Peeps Fest 5K shirt and tossed it to the curb.  Game on.  I heard, and noted on the race map, that there was a fairly nice incline (potential oxymoron) between miles 8 – 10.  My sources did not disappoint.  As racers pulled to the right side of the road in a near crawl, I split the middle the ate that hill…and ate it…and ate it.  Damn, it was a long incline.  I let out my signature howl about halfway into the hill only to, once again, startle some close runners.  Thankfully, a few people, mainly women, echoed my call.  Signs marking the marathon/half-marathon field split were visible on the roads after we pulled away from the zoo.  Like Moses parted the Red Sea, or so I’m told, the runners split almost immediately.  I hugged the middle of the left lane ready to set the lap on my watch.  Based on the time, I hit the halfway mark at about 2:07; this wasn’t a personal best, but I was on my way to potentially hit four hours.  I felt fresh, ready to continue the rest of the journey.  We split; I set the lap and took off with a smile on my face. 

It seemed like forever until we reached Manayunk – I might have hit a small wall leading into the boisterous neighborhood.  A loud woman, bundled for the weather, handed out delicious orange wedges while shouted, “Welcome to Manayunk!!!!”  What a relief!  I ripped the wedge out of her hand and crammed it into my mouth like Cujo would a fox.  The sweet juice oozed from the corners of my mouth and the citrus scent gave me a fresh outlook.  I heard Manayunk had hills, but the elevation map displayed the terrain like blackheads compared to the blistering pimple at miles 8 – 10.  But, damn it.  Any hill at miles 18 – 21 can suck the life out of a confident runner.  At this stage in the game, I kept glancing at my watch, hoping for the miles to just tick by.  I anxiously looked ahead to see any glimpse of a mile marker; they were larger than life – IN YOUR FACE – surely there was another one come up.  Maybe this was the wall.  I wanted to stop running; I couldn’t stop thinking about the miles, water, shot blocks, hot/cold, wind, blisters and that damn nagging cramp in my left calf.  THAT NAGGING CRAMP I HAD IN MY LEFT CALF SINCE MILE FIVE.  Mile five.  That was a long time ago.  How long have I been running really?  Well, I’m not going to hit four hours, but I’m okay with that.  I’m just going to focus on the finish.  I AM going to finish.  Right??  What mile are we at anyway?  AND WHERE THE HELL IS THE NEXT WATER STOP.  Okay.  I hit a wall. 

By mile 24, I miraculously pulled my head out of my ass and kicked it into high gear.  The excitement of finally closing in on the finish line gave me the extra energy to kick my legs the last two point two miles.  Lest we forget about that point two.  Did I mention the cramp in my left calf?  I got that around mile five.  As we approached the area surrounding the art museum, the crowds grew as well as their screams.  I rounded the corner and sped down the straightaway to the finish line.  Just before finishing the point two of the race, I caught a glimpse of my fan club wildly cheering for me.  I high fived Mr. Yasso and, while crossing the finish mat, I high fived Mayor Nutter.  Sticking with my routine, I stopped the watch and raised my hands in accomplishment. 

Muffin Madness 2010 Report Philly Muffathon 2012 Report

At the end of the day:

  • I actually made it in 5:03:24.
  • I loved seeing everyone along the way.
  • Dan and Dawn ran way more than I ever imagined.
  • I motivated people to get their asses in gear. I have the responsibility to be a role model for my family & friends.
  • We ran through a total of four sprinklers and got hosed down by a large woman in a stretched out tube top.
  • Jeff drank apple juice. :)
  • Dan and I finally held hands.
  • I spouted off approximately 300 expletives just during the last 6 miles.
  • During the race I ate 3 gel packets, 1 packet of electrolyte/carb jelly beans, 1 serving of shot blocks and 1 piece of gum; I drank 32 oz. of Lemon Lime Gatorade and 48 oz. of water.
  • After the race I ate 3 hot dogs, 1 cheese burger, 2 large handfuls of ruffled potato chips, 1 cup of macaroni salad, 1/2 cup of potato salad, 1 piece of cake and a lot of Doritos.
  • My pre-race weight was 125; my post-race weight was 125 (this proves my science of hydration worked).
  • I burned over 2200 calories.
  • I gained 11 blisters on my feet, semi-permanent sport bra marks and a whole lot of respect for myself.
  • It took me three days to get my legs back.
  • I have one hell of a group of friends that support me…no matter how crazy the idea.
  • I will do this again…and I plan to shave an hour off my time.

At the end of the day:

  • I actually made it in 4:16:18.
  • I loved seeing Philly fans represent.
  • Liz and Cassie came along for the ride.
  • I coerced three people to sign up all the while continuing to motivate people. 
  • We ran through some of the most historical areas of Philadelphia.
  • Apple juice would have been a bad idea for anyone.
  • I high-fived the mayor.
  • I spouted off expletives at EVERY water stop.  
  • During the race I ate two sleeves of Shot Blocks and drank about 10 oz. of Lemon Lime Gatorade and about 20 oz. of water.
  • After the race I ate two soft pretzels and one Train Wreck, gluten included.
  • I didn’t care anything about my pre-race weight.
  • I burned over 2400 calories.
  • I birthed 1 additional blister on my feet, rubbed my waist raw with the help of my SPI belt and gained a whole lot of respect for myself.
  • It took me three days to get my legs back after fighting some wicked edema in my right leg. 
  • I have one hell of a group of friends that support me…no matter how crazy the idea.
  • I will do this again…and I plan to shave off the additional sixteen minutes and eighteen seconds to hit an even 4 hours.

And then, after all that, I went home.

Pre-race

Cassie, Me and Liz pre-race

Post-race

Me, Cassie and Liz sporting some heavy metal

*Due to an injury one of my sisters needed to stop training.  Although she wasn’t physically with us, we know her support carried us to the finish.  Next year, baby…