Monday, November 24, 2014

Philadelphia Marathon Race Recap

On September 27, 2013 while out for dinner, Mike said that he wanted to run the Philadelphia Marathon in 2014. I was a bit hesitant because the race date was only 3 months after our Ironman, but we went ahead with the plan. Back in April, before we finished our Ironman, we registered for Philly.

After an 11-week training plan, race weekend arrived. Our friend, Janell, and her friend, Kelli, were also running the race so we made plans to meet up with them at the expo. Our friend, Isaac, drove from Maine to spectate and cheer us on, amazing!

 Me and Janell

The five of us met up on Saturday and made our way through the expo. Packet pick-up was a breeze and I made my way through the corral change line quickly (I had put 4:10 as an expected finishing time and based on training knew I needed to move up a few corrals). After walking around for a bit, we said our goodbyes to Janell and Kelli and got some food with Isaac.

We wrote this for Crystal, so she knew we were thinking of her!

 All of my stuff ready to go for the morning!

We went to our hotel, about fifteen minutes from the start, and hung out for a bit. Then we met up with Isaac for dinner at Bertucci's. We sat at a "high performance" table, good vibes for race day (that was an auto-correct fail by Mike's phone, we were really at a high top table)! After dinner, we went back to our hotel and got ready for race morning.

Our alarm went off at 4:40am and we got ready relatively easily (it's amazing how that hour isn't as bad when it is for a race)! The race instructions advised people to get there around 5:30am in order to get through the security line, go to the bathroom and get into corrals on time. We ended up parking, with relative ease, around 5:30am and then had to walk a bit to the race start. It didn't take any time at all to get through security and after sitting around for a bit, we stood in line for the port-a-potties.

Since I had moved up two corrals, Mike and I were in the same corral. About 10-15 minutes before the official race start we made our way into the corral and said our goodbyes. I shed my throwaway clothes at this time (except my gloves) and then went a little further back in the corral than Mike (I could see him ahead of me).

After the National Anthem, the race officially started! It took a few minutes for our corral to even start walking, but eventually we were moving. I crossed the start line at 7:13:12am, and like that I was running my 4th full marathon!

The first few miles (really the first 10K or so) were really crowded. I tried to not dodge people too much and I just kept in mind that the crowds were helping me keep my pace in check (but I was very thankful that I had moved up corrals!) Isaac had told us to stay to the right of the road, so after going through the left arch at the start, I slowly moved over.

Throughout the race I fueled really, really well! I took energy chews every 2-3 miles, depending on how I was feeling/where the water stops were. The last time I took an energy chew was at mile 22, which is the latest in a race that I have fueled. I also took water often and Gatorade 4-5 times (one time the Gatorade splashed and hit me in the eye, that wasn't really fun).

Since the race was really crowded in the beginning I tried to not worry about my pace. I saw Isaac around mile 2.5 and waved to him. The entire race I broke it up into chunks and would tell myself to get to mile 5, the 10K point, mile 10, the halfway point, mile 15, etc. It was a nice way to break it up and I never had to go too far to hit one of those mile marks.

After seeing Isaac again around mile 5.5, I hit the 10K point in 55:14 at 8:54 pace. At this time, I knew that I had to try to pick it up. I still kept my pace under control but there were a few 8:30ish miles at this point. There was also the biggest hill of the course at mile 7 and another big hill at mile 10 (but then the rest of the course was relatively flat with some up and down).

My favorite part of the race was when we started to loop back toward the half marathon finish and where marathoners would split off to continue on to the second half of the course. It was a pretty road with lots of trees and you could see some people on a small out and back section. I looked for Mike but the out and back was so small that he was already past it at this point.

At the next water stop they were announcing where water and Gatorade would be, and one guy was yelling "hamburgers on the right and cheesesteaks on the left". That made me laugh.

I was still feeling good at this point and I just focused on my nutrition and keeping my pace in check. I saw Isaac right before the halfway point and he told me that Mike and Janell were both doing well. Then we had to follow signs for marathoners to go to the left and half marathoners to go to the right. This is always the cruelest part of a race for me, but with so many marathoners it wasn't that bad this time.

I crossed the half marathon mark in 1:56:20 at 8:53 pace. I still felt good and hoped that I could keep up the pace for the second half. Around mile 14 or 15 I felt someone tap me on the arm and when I looked to my right it was Janell! I asked her how she was doing, and she said not so great and asked how I was doing. I told her I was ok and then kept going on my way.

Right after that, the leaders of the race were making their way by us! They were running so fast, it is amazing to see runners like that.

At mile 17, runners turn down a short out and back section. As soon as I turned on to the bridge I started to not feel that great but then I saw Mike! He didn't see me so I yelled out to him and then he saw me. That gave me the boost I needed to push harder.  On my way out of that section, I saw Janell and cheered her on.

I crossed the 30K point in 2:45:41 at 8:54 pace. I did start to tire at this point, and for a second I worried that I wasn't going to make my goal, but I just kept pushing. There were more crowds near the turn around point and this helped boost my spirits. There was another big-ish hill, but I just told myself that I would be running down it on the way back. I saw Mike, and he still looked great! We high-fived and kept going our separate ways.

After the turn around point, right before mile 20, I knew it was now or never. I had started to do math in my head and I knew I had to keep my pace below 10 minute miles. I was nervous once I hit 20.5 miles, my previous furthest distance run without walking, but I just kept pushing. I told myself I could slow, not too much, but that I couldn't walk. I took my last energy chew at mile 22, which was right around when I saw Janell for the last time.

Isaac appeared at the perfect time, mile 23! I was still running and I knew that I had about a 5K left. I told him Janell was behind me and then kept going.

 The lighthouse from the road while we were driving out of town

Around mile 24, I saw the Turtle Rock Lighthouse (I missed it somehow on the way out) and it made me smile. The last 6.2 miles were broken up in 2 mile chunks in my head and I told myself to keep going. I was hurting at this point but I wouldn't let myself walk! I saw Janell's friend, Kelli, around this point and we cheered each other on and high-fived.

I was still doing math in my head, but I knew that I could do it. As long as I didn't walk, I would hit my goal. I took water at the last water stop and for a brief second contemplated walking with less than a mile to go. Then I told myself that would be really silly to possible miss my goal because I wanted to walk with .8 miles to go, and I just kept pushing. Sure, I had slowed to a 10:00 mile during mile 26, but that didn't matter.

As I made my way toward the finish, I could hear the announcer. He was saying that all of the people finishing at this time were running sub-4 hour marathons, and in a few seconds I knew I was going to be one of those runners! I picked it up (where does that final burst of speed come from?) and as I got to the finish chute, I threw my arms up in the air! I had done it!

I was a sub-4 hour marathoner! I finished in 3:58:03 at 9:04 pace.

 It was a great day!

After making my way through the finishers' area, slowly, I eventually saw Mike waiting for me! I sat down in a chair and asked him how he had done. He did amazing and remained fairly even-paced throughout the entire race. He finished in 3:47:21 at 8:40 pace! We both had scored approximately 20 minute PRs!

After sitting for a few minutes, we slowly made our way out of the finishers' area. We got a photo taken together and then walked back to our car. We texted Isaac to see if he was still in the area, and after changing we walked back to get some food with him before we went our separate ways.

Last October I predicted that 2014 would be the Year of the Ironman and the Year of the Sub-4 Hour Marathon. I didn't know if it was possible, but I put everything I had out on the course and made it happen! The Philadelphia Marathon was the icing on the already well-frosted cake that is 2014!

Monday, November 10, 2014

It's Almost the Off Season

This year is flying by! It seems like yesterday that we were training for our Ironman and now here we are less than two weeks away from the Philadelphia Marathon. I am so excited to put our training to the test and see what we are made of (by the way, I already know what we are made of: awesomeness)!

 How was this day almost 3 months ago?

After the marathon, we will start our "off" season. We don't actually take much time off during the year, but we only have one more race planned and it is a fun 5K that we do every December.

As much as I love marathon training, I am looking forward to a few things in the "off" season. First of all, we really cut back on swimming and cycling (read: we haven't swum or rode at all in the last month or so). As much as we know that swimming and cycling help keep us injury free, as soon as we start to ramp up our running mileage we always drop the other two sports. I think that this time around it has actually benefited us to take a break from them, but that doesn't mean I'm not ready to get back in the water and the saddle!

We are planning on doing a few group trainer rides in the winter. As much as I hate the treadmill (I won't use one), I don't mind the trainer as much. That said, when you can ride in a group it is always better!

That's another thing we will be adding again, group training sessions. We haven't really been running with friends lately since we have such specific goal paces for the Philly Marathon. After the race, we are hoping to swim, bike and run with our friends again.

This Saturday, we did run with an informal running group and it was a lot of fun! They meet on Saturdays and Sundays all year, so we will definitely be running with them more after the race. We also have a bunch of friends who run trails, and since I have my 50K in May we'll be joining them more often!

 The trails are calling! Especially this trail, the Seneca trail is my favorite!

One very important thing that we'll be getting back into during the winter months is strength training. Whether it be at the gym or a group fitness class, strength is a must! And, I'm hoping that we'll make it a habit and continue to do it during our peak training season. 

So as you can see, our "off" season isn't really any different than what we normally do!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Do I Have What it Takes?

I wish I could say that I was the kind of triathlete who is content with just having the ability to swim, bike and run.

I am not that kind of triathlete, however. Granted there are races where I am content with just doing it for fun, or running with someone else to help him/her achieve his/her goals.

 Runner's World Half - fun and hard work

The Philadelphia Marathon (and basically every marathon I have done) is not one of those races. I have made a few statements about my intentions for this race before, while keeping in mind how I felt after our Ironman could be a game-changer.

Well, I have felt GREAT after our Ironman! Yes, there was some soreness in the beginning but our paces have drastically improved since the end of August (I think that the fact we aren't putting close to 200 miles on our legs a week has something to do with that).

Run after run has felt great, there have been a few that haven't felt the best but I was still able to push through and finish. Yesterday, was not really one of those days.

I had my dose of reality yesterday. Attempting to run a sub-4 hour marathon is going to be hard work, hard work that I am willing to put in and that I think I am ready for, but hard work regardless. Yesterday's 22 miler was my worst long run of this training cycle. On the surface it doesn't look that bad, 22 miles at 9:35 pace in the cold and the wind.

 Ah, the MDI Marathon.

However, I felt mentally defeated during this run and nothing pulled me out of it. I even said, "I don't know if I can sub-4 at Philly" to Mike. I said, "I can't", "I don't want to do this anymore", etc. The one reason I even planned a 22 miler, rather than just a second 20 miler like we normally do, was so that I could get past my 20 mile threshold (the furthest I have ever run without walking is 20.5 miles). Unfortunately, yesterday that didn't happen either. I didn't even make it to 20 miles before I "had to" walk.

In the end, no one cares if I run a sub-4 hour marathon except me. And maybe Mike. Even he will be proud of me no matter what I end up doing. Most people will be proud of me no matter what I do (and those who aren't, don't matter), the time on the clock is inconsequential to everyone but me.

I am still going to give it my all, I know that I have a sub-4 hour marathon in me somewhere, and try my best. I am hoping that my best on November 23rd is 3:xx:xx, but if not that's alright too.

I am happy that I am able to run a 4:xx:xx marathon. I am happy that I am able to finish a marathon. I am happy that I am able to run at all.

But, something in me wants more. Hopefully I have what it takes.