Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Running a Marathon is Never Easy--Philly Marathon 2015

The medals this year were AWESOME.  The bell rings
At some point in the last year or two, I lost sight of the fact that running a marathon is no easy feat.  I got it in my head that I can just go out any given weekend and run 26.2 miles, barely breaking a sweat.  I know it has a lot to do with all the ultra training we have been doing especially training for TARC100.  We were doing two 20+ mile training runs a weekend.  But even though we were doing tons of miles somehow I forgot that in the middle of that training Emir and I often said to each other that we didn't think we could run 20 miles straight without walking for a few minutes here and there.  We were just so immersed in our ultra world, running tons of slow miles on the trail, walking up the inclines and stopping at aid stations for minutes on end that we started to feel like we forgot how to run on the road especially in a race.  During my 22 mile training run a few weeks before Philly, I totally bonked and literally took 11-12 minutes per mile to finish the last mile or two which was one reason I had a feeling a PR would not be in the books come race day as I mentioned last post, I had serious doubts.

beautiful weather leading up to the marathon

Emir had decided he didn't want to do Philly this year instead he went to Maryland to run the JFK 50 miler.  He had a great day!
Getting his sub 10 hour was tough but he did it!
But since he was gone for most of the weekend, I was on my own with the kids. I got up early to do my shakeout on the TM and then we headed into the city.  Niko was finally old enough this year to run the kids race that is part of marathon weekend.  He was SO excited.  We parked near the convention center where the expo was and took a shuttle that was provided to get over to the kids race.  The Rothman 8K was finishing up and the kids enjoyed seeing the runners come through the finish line.  We went to get Niko's bib and they gave him a bag full of goodies in addition to a shirt.  It was SUPER nice.  There were two books in there which were perfect since he's so into reading right now as he's just learned to read on his own.  There were also a bunch of other gadgets and gizmos that the kids enjoyed.  It was perfect as it kept them busy while we waited for the festivities to begin.
Niko loved running in Philly!
 Once they gathered the kids, they had them do warm-ups and watch the mascot race.  Niko ran the 1/2 mile but there was an option to run a full mile as well.  He received a beautiful medal when he finished and a high five from Mayor Nutter.  Afterwards, he kept thanking me for letting him do this race.  It really was a very nice event, well organized and we had a wonderful morning.

Happy Finisher!
After that we picked up my race stuff at the expo.  We didn't stay long since we were going to meet up with my sister Cindy for lunch plus the kids were already pretty tired from the morning and didn't feel like browsing running gear.  I did want to grab the 3:35 pace band as I was planning on trying to run with that group.  I was told I could print it out online which wasn't helpful as I had no where to print something that day.  It doesn't seem like a big deal but during the race I felt bad for my friend Maggie who was our pacer.  Since no one had pace bands it was just non-stop asking her where we were at as far as time.  I've run with pace groups a number of races now and there's always those one or two runners asking about time but nothing like this since we all usually have bands   It's just one of those little things that can make a big difference.

After the expo we headed to South Philly where Cindy now lives and had lunch and ate desert by one of the fountains.  I was feeling exhausted so the kids and I headed home and took naps.  Next thing I knew it was time to go to my cousins bridal shower.  After that I hitched a ride with Cindy back to her house since emir was planning on meeting me at the finish line on Sunday.  In retrospect it was a long, busy day and maybe too much to do the day before a big race but honestly I know that's not what prevented me from having a fast race.  So I'm glad I didn't skip out on any of the events on Saturday.

Cindy and I arrived at the start of the marathon around 6.  Throughout the week there had been talk of the security measures however it was all the same things they had been saying since Boston.  The last two years there were security checkpoints to go through but there was never a line or anything.  It was a one second process.  However I'm assuming in the wake of the Paris attacks that had just happened the week before, they decided to actually step up security.  Which this is all for our safety and I'm glad they did it but this meant LONG lines to get in.  Luckily we didn't do what we did the last couple years and not get there until 6:30-6:40 because we barely made it to our corral in time getting in line at 6.  Granted we did use the potty once inside but that was literally a 5 minute thing probably because so many people were in the security line.

We were able to quickly find Maggie and the 3:35 group.  The race actually started about 12-15 minutes late which they did alert us they were going to be starting late.  I'm not sure if it was to give people a few more minutes to get in but really no big deal.

Since this is my 4th Philly marathon, I really don't feel like outlining the course and all that all over again, sorry!  But you can get an overview from my other posts on the Philly Marathon (2013 2014 ) ;-).  Cindy and I ran together with Maggie and the group the first 5 miles.  Cindy kept telling me to relax.  I didn't realize how tense I was until she pointed it out.  I really didn't feel like the pace was too much of a strain but I was worried about how long I would feel like that.  Cindy was chasing a half marathon PR and took off after 5 miles.  I stayed with the group.  I did notice after the hills during miles 8-9, it was feeling a bit strained to stay with Maggie.  I did another gel, took advantage of the large downhill and then I felt ok again.

If you look at my face, you can tell I'm working hard to stay with the group and this was before 5 miles.  I didn't think I was working so hard until I saw these pics!
Around mile 12, I started feeling kind of weird, sort of tingling and extra hot.  I just knew the end was coming.  I made it though halfway with Maggie in sight just ahead but by mile 14, I was done.  I don't think I've ever truly bonked or at least not bonked hard in a marathon before. Sure I've hit the wall where I slow down a bit and I don't feel good but this was a totally abrupt thing.  One minute I was running 8:10 pace and the next like 10 minute pace.  At the time I kept thinking "this is so strange". But when I think about it, I've never truly went for something so hard when my body wasn't ready for it.  I totally knew that I did not have the speed going into this race to PR. After TARC100, I had about 4 weeks of quality workouts and I did not feel good during any of them.  There were times I hit my goal pace but it was so hard and then I would crash the rest of the workout.  But despite knowing this, I had to just go for it anyway because you never really know what will happen unless you try.  You never know, you might have a freak day and surprise yourself.  So I went for it and I crashed and burned but I don't regret it for a second.

Knowing I could not race anymore, I decided to switch my mindset.  I love running the Philly marathon and if I couldn't do a PR, at least I was going to enjoy it and have fun.  I high fived anyone who offered, talked to fellow runners and drank two beers in Manyunk ( you know runner sized ;-) ).   I saw so many runners I knew because of the out and back nature of the second half.  We all screamed to each other.  My co-worker and her daughter were waiting for me in Manyunk with a sign they made me.  It all was so great, I was happy.
Becky captured me in Manyunk

Grace with a sign for me!

But I did have one problem and that was I was seriously struggling.  Even though I had significantly slowed my pace down, my body wanted no parts of running anymore.

Is it over yet?!?!
It was so hard and I had to keep telling myself "you can do this!  You can finish!"  And eventually I did.  I even got my last ever high five from Mayor Nutter (his term is up).  I finished in 3:57, not my best but not my worst.  Emir found me right away.  I got my medal, water and soft pretzel(love Philly soft pretzels!).  It's not an exaggeration when I say I felt like shit.  I really kind of felt sick for a solid two days after.  I totally ran that first half way too fast.  My body was not in a place for that speed and I paid the price for it.  But I still don't regret trying.  Even though it wasn't a PR race and I didn't feel good after, it was still a positive experience.  Every year that I run Philly, I love it more.  And I realize more now than ever, every marathon finish is an accomplishment.  Philly 2015 was number 11, no small number. 

Emir and I had agreed with coach Caleb well I should say the two of them decided for me that we would take two weeks off from running after the JFK/Philly weekend.  At first I wasn't as keen on the idea as them but after the race I was totally on board.  My body and mind needed it.  I really didn't even miss running last week.  For most of it, I was thinking "thank goodness I don't have to run today!"  This week has been a different story.  My body has recovered from the exhaustion.  I actually had trouble sleeping last night which NEVER happens. But I will abide by the plan and wait for coach to give me my next workouts   Even though I feel good, I know my body could benefit from the extra rest.  

So what am I doing with my extra time and energy?!  Browsing ultra signup of course!   As much as I want a BQ, right now I want a 100 mile finish way more.  Plus I've been in the ultra zone for the last 7-8 months so I need to stay there until I reach my goal.  If anything 2015 has taught me that I can't do both ultras and try to BQ, well at least not 100 milers.  If I want to BQ, I need to focus on speed which I can't really do when training for these super long ultras.  I will get back to my BQ goal, just might be a little while which is O-K.  Last post I said I didn't have 2016 plans.  Well now I do and LOTS of them! So stayed tuned, 2016 is gonna be epic :-)

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