2015 Race Reports: Novo Nordisk New Jersey Half Marathon – Long Branch, NJ

Race: Novo Nordisk New Jersey Half Marathon

City: Long Branch, NJ  Date: 4/26/2015

Distance: Half Marathon (13.1 miles)

Weather: Mid-50s at start; upper 60s at finish

Course:  Mostly flat for a New England coastline race.

Summary:  Not fast, but I loved it and had a great time!!

Prologue

My mother was from New Jersey.

Yes… she was a Jersey Girl… from the Jersey Shore even, before that became a part of the national lexicon because of that reality show. Unfortunately for me, she passed away far too young and too early in my life for me to really know all that much about where she was from. I picked up bits and pieces over the years from things she’d say and some of the items I found that she left behind, and I even saw the town once, but just as we were passing through. I never really got to *see* where my mom was from, and I thought it was important for my kids to understand things about the grandmother they’d never meet that were a factor in how they are being raised today. Because, really, when you are raised by a Jersey Shore girl, there are some parts of Jersey that gets transferred to your kid, even if she’s raised in the south – which explains a *lot* about how I fit in here 🙂

For that reason, I saved this state so I could visit her family and see where she was from. I timed it so I could bring my kids to meet that side of the family because none have met my kids – and I’ve not met theirs. I looked for a race as close to the town she grew up in (which, at the time I knew only as Red Bank) and tried to get it as close to where my cousins currently live as possible. What I found was so much better than I even imagined – a re-connection with a family I’d lost touch with a long time ago. Plus, along the way, I got to experience things with my boys for the first time: seeing Washington DC, New York City, and Hershey, PA, in addition to meeting and visiting family they’d not known. The icing on the cake was that they were perfect travelers for this trip – very excited, sweet and flexible and had a great time. That meant more to me than the race.

Pre-Race

As I mentioned in the Prologue, I decided to take my boys on this trip. This is something I’ve been trying to do when I have support and someone to care for them while I race because I’d like them to see me complete races that I work so hard for (they see the time spent on the treadmill – I wan them to understand what it is for). I also have my father’s sense of adventure and curiosity about the world around me, so I want to share that with them, hoping to spark their sense of adventure and curiosity about their world one day. On this trip, I had planned to drive to New Jersey, but stop in Washington DC on the way up (the boys had never been there) and then stop in Hershey PA on the way back.  I chose those spots along the way because my older son had read a biography on Milton Hershey (who sounded like a pretty fascinating guy) and, well, DC is our nation’s capital and if you live this close, why not? I took them out of school for a couple of days for the trip, but had very educational things planned.

On the way up, we stopped the first night in Washington DC. In DC, we crammed in as much as we could in less than 24 hours in the city – we walked the Mall, passed the FBI headquarters, walked through the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art, went to the International Spy Museum, had a (gluten free) pizza at Pi Pizzaria, walked around the Capital (under reconstruction) and finally went to Ford’s Theater just a few days after the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination. We left Washington DC around lunch time and headed to New Jersey where we stopped to get my race packet before heading to my cousin’s house… only to discover her house is literally 1.5 miles away. awwwwweeeeeessssssoooooommmmeeee. No need to drive or have anybody get up early to drive me. We had a great dinner and a good time catching up with everyone that night and, to my surprise, my uncle and aunt bought ferry tickets for the boys and me to go into NYC. The boys are big fans of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so they’ve been excited about the trip and the ferry was just easier.

One of my cousins planned a detailed agenda for us in NYC – and it was awesome (also see where I get that skill now… I always wondered about that). We followed her agenda by getting off the ferry at 34th street, walking a few blocks to get a cab to Central Park – visited the Central Park Zoo, had lunch there, and then walked to Times Square where we went to the M&M and Hershey stores (keeping with the Milton Hershey theme). By then, though, it was about an hour before the 2nd to last ferry went back to NJ and I didn’t want to be out late, so we decided to get a cab to the same Ferry port we arrived. Unfortunately, though, not only was there a big festival keeping us on the west side of the island, we also had a cabbie who must have been new – I had to navigate him to where I wanted to go and even then he had trouble understanding what I wanted. We ended up walking and barely missed the ferry. No worries – we had another port and another ferry – we took another cab to the Pier 11 Ferry port and waited in a Starbucks until it was time for the ferry. We got home and my cousins once again had a dinner ready for us and we had a great time having dinner and catching up on how the day went… but I was beat. I couldn’t believe I had a half marathon the next day.

Race Day 

I guess the NYC trip took it out of me because I slept like a rock that night. I got up earlier than I had planned and had plenty of time to get dressed and stretched and just wake up. Once I all my stretching and dressing done, I was ready to head out.

One of many things I absolutely love about New England in general is that Dunkin Donuts is prevalent there – I mean, more so than Starbucks (at least that I noticed) and the coffee is WAY better (in my opinion), and, as my luck has it, there is a Dunkin Donuts on the walk to the start line. I set out just before the sun was up to make my way to the start line and, honestly, it was even closer than I expected. I stopped and got the coffee I planned to get (a small), repacked my water bottle holder, and headed back out toward the start line.

The rest of the walk was calming and peaceful. I love little beach towns, and, though we were a few miles in from the beach where I was, it was close enough that it still smelled and felt beachy. In addition, the sunrise was stunning – a mixture of golden-silvery-pinkish-purplely and constantly changing the entire trip. The photo I captured of it only stayed that way for a few minutes. The start line was at the Monmouth Race Track – I’d never been to a race track before and it had an older 1950s feel to it. It was a bit chilly, so I walked inside to warm up and, you know, while I’m there, I’ll use the restroom with running water. It was nice to have the option and I didn’t mind the wait because of it. After the pit stop, I decided to walk around the building a bit – snapping a few photos and just taking in the sights. There was a one-man band (Mario) entertaining us with covers of late 1980s pop songs – I strolled past him to the back half and looked out to the track and notice four horses practicing. It was awesome – I’d never seen it before but grew up loving horses, so it felt like something I’d known all my life. It was a very cool experience for me.

As it approached start time, I wandered outside (it was still pretty chilly to me) and stood in line for *one* more potty break (if you’ve read any past posts, you know how this goes for me…) Of course, the official photographer wanted to get a photo while I’m in line, so I hold up my bib and, wouldn’t you know, it is the best shot of me for the entire race. haha. figures.

It was time for the race to start, so the announcers gathered all of us to the start line, so, I headed over to my corral and filed in with the rest. It was a crisp morning, and the start corrals were pretty crowded, so I was able to stay warm. I decided that, since I was still technically recovering from the full that I wanted to run with music and monitor my pace this time, so I tried to connect my bluetooth headphones – only to discover that this is nearly impossible in the start corral… something I also had to deal with in the Run to Remember half marathon a few weeks later.

Because the start was at a horse race track, it seemed only fitting that the bugler that started each of the horse races also started us off. We sang the national anthem and then got the typical horse race bugle call start for each wave. It was actually pretty fun. After the first bugle call they started playing “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen. In my mind, you cannot have a running race in New Jersey – especially one that starts at a race track – that does not have this song pouring out over you in some capacity. I was in the third or fourth corral (I honestly can’t remember now), so the song was still playing as I passed the speakers and it was so loud (to the chagrin of all the locals in Long Branch…) that I could feel each syllable The Boss spoke vibrate through my entire body as I passed by.

The most notable thing for me for this race was the flatness of it – which surprised me because, generally, this area is not really all that flat. While it *is* a beach town, it is a New England beach town, and well, New England just isn’t flat. Later on that day, I will take my boys to Highlands (to see the twin light tower), which is called that for a reason. This portion, though, around the track and through Oceanport, was pretty flat.

We mostly ran through small neighborhoods and I got to see a lot of the little town my aunt and uncle lived in (almost literally passing their house). I also overheard a conversation between two women who were complaining about how the hill on mile 2 was kicking their butt – I had to laugh because I was curious what she was talking about. Between miles 5 and 6, there was a bridge we crossed (which I thought was nice – I like crossing bridges in races and most of the time take note of them) and that was a nice hill, but otherwise, most of it seemed pretty flat to me.

The first five or so miles were pretty good for me – I was averaging around an 8:10 mile until I got to mile 6 where we crossed the bridge and I was starting to feel the effects of the marathon from 4 weeks before this. My legs were starting to feel heavy and, although I had done a double-digit run before this race, most of the runs I had done were much shorter and I was starting to tell that maybe that was having a negative effect.

Plus: as usual – I had to pee.

I managed to keep myself together until I got to mile 9, but I really had to go by then, and, thankfully, there was a port-a-potty right there – this was my slowest mile, though, and put my overall average over 8:30 for the rest of the race. I had some walking around this time, too, because my legs were toast. I really struggled through from that point on to almost mile 11 when I finally turned on to 2nd Avenue and you could see the beach between the buildings and knew we were really close to the finish.

As we turned off 2nd to the side road that then turned onto Ocean Avenue, I started having deja vu from the Virginia Beach Rock and Roll Half Marathon that turned this hobby of mine into a giant goal that led me to this particular race – that turn and seeing the beach really brought back a lot of memories for me. Although, I knew I had just under a mile left, whenever you turn on to a boardwalk like this and you know you’re close, that mile seems to last for about six. Like Virginia Beach, this was a LOOONNNGGGG mile and I was ready to be done. However, unlike Virginia Beach, it was much cooler and the cross-winds from the shore were nice and cool and refreshing, not hot! I was able to pick up the pace a bit as I got closer to the finish, but nothing close to what I was doing the first half of the race. I ended with a 1:53, which was pretty much on the nose of what I told my cousins I’d do (I told them “about 1:53 or so because I’m not feeling it today”) haha.

I finished, collected my finisher items and located my cousins who were waiting with my kids at the finish area. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get in to see the finish, but they tried and I’m thankful I got to see them shortly after. We walked around and snapped a few photos and the headed back to one of their houses so I could clean up and we could do a little bit of touring of the town (Red Bank, Little Silver, Oceanport, Monmouth Beach and Highlands) and visit with the rest of the family who were coming over for a barbecue later that afternoon.

Learnings

This was one of those trips that I took that will be a good memory for me for the rest of my life. I am happy that I took the time to spend with family and it was good for me to have the connection to my mom’s town and where she grew up (as well as the people she grew up with as I’ve been somewhat removed from them for most of my life). It gave me the context I’ve needed to understand some things about myself. I am also glad I waited to do this race when I could take my kids. Although they still didn’t get to see me finish, they were there shortly after and were able to see that all the hard work I put in on the treadmill week after week isn’t for naught. I don’t think they fully understand it yet, but I hope they will soon. Unfortunately, after about 25 half marathons and now three full marathons, 10 or so 10k and about 20 5k races, they have yet to actually see me finish a race. I hope to change that soon.

2015 Race Reports – Tobacco Road Marathon Full Report

Race: Tobacco Road Marathon (full)

City: Cary, NC  Date: 03/15/2015

Distance: Marathon (26.2 miles)

Weather: upper-40s at start; low 60s at finish; Sunny for the first half, mercifully overcast for the second.

Course:  American Tobacco Trail for the vast majority which is a wide, groomed trail. Some hills, but long and lower rise; half paved, 1/4 packed sand, 1/4 gravel and mud

Summary:  Another awesome, well organized and well done race!!

Prologue

I’m on a quest: I want to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I have been offered opportunities to run the marathon to benefit charity – which I may do one day – but the first time, I want to earn the right to be there because it is for me. That may be selfish, but I’m very selfless in many, many other aspects of my life, so want this one thing just for me. It is a daunting task – which I understand – and I have my work cut out for me, but I also think that I’m close enough to get there with the appropriate training.

I can feel it.

The “with appropriate training” part, however, is the difficulty that I have with this process. I am a divorced mom that co-parents with the kids’ dad. I have a full-time job that I love and it is flexible, but I don’t always get 2-1/2 hour chunks of time to knock out a 15-miler in the middle of the week without a lot of planning, finagling, and juggling, sometimes so tightly, a tiny 5-minute variance has a much bigger impact than it should. I have other things going on, too – life in general with housekeeping and friends and family in addition to my kids. It is a lot to manage outside of running an average of 7-10 hours a week. I rearrange and move things around to make it all work, but sometimes, things outside of running and training take priority and I’m not sorry for that.

But… I still think I can do it. I’m a sub-1:50 half marathoner, so I should be able to, at the very least, get a sub-4:00 marathon. I have a treadmill and a gym membership. I have a supportive network that check in on me, encourage me (even though they rightfully call me crazy), and can help me with the kiddos when I really need it, so I’m pretty lucky and very, very grateful.

However… stuff just comes up and you have to manage priority. As much as I would love to have focused on training a lot more this round, I had other things that were a bigger priority and training had to take a bit of a back seat. I did not get the kind of cross-training I know I needed. I didn’t make as many runs as I did last cycle. I had an injury that, well, slowed me down considerably.

So as I approached race day, I became honest about my ability. Some people looked at it as insecurity – it is not. It is an amalgam of intellectual honesty comprised of a dash of clear head, and a pinch of feet firmly planted and a big ole helping of clear understanding of my strengths and where I need help. Because of the mental, emotional and scheduling challenges during this training cycle, my toes on the start line was more of an accomplishment than I care to admit.

…but I not only got there, I finished. I’m proud of that.

Next Marathon, hopefully, I can work on things I couldn’t this time. Even if I can’t, I am contributing to my much, much larger goal of staying active and continuing to run as long as my body lets me which is a way bigger goal than any specific finishing time or qualifications or lottery entries to any other races, and though I may talk about these race times and qualifying for races, my pride is not inextricably linked to it and I am happy and grateful I woke up another day and had the opportunity to run at all.

Yes. I have goals to do well and be faster and better than I am now. Yes. I’d like to finish higher in not only my age group, but overall. Yes. I’d really like to qualify for and experience the Boston Marathon. But, at the end of the day, I really want to run to clear my mind of the cobwebs and expel all the stress and anxiety from my body to reset and make myself ready for the next day.

As the kids say: that’s how I roll.

Pre-Race

As I admitted in the prologue, my training cycle did not go as planned. There were several days where I woke up and thought to myself “why the hell did I sign up for *another* marathon? Was I really ready?” The answer would always be no until I got about half way through the training run and realized it was “ehh.. yeah… it’s ok…. I’ll be ok”. Of course, there were the “damn! that was awesome!” days mixed in with the “Gah… that sucked” days, as there always are in training cycles, but this is the first time of the four training cycles and three marathons I actually questioned whether or not I should have even registered for a marathon.

So, needless to say, when I had to take a realistic look at how I felt and what I was doing with this training cycle, I understood fully that I was not going to qualify. I did not have it in me. A sub-4 hour marathon was now a stretch goal and, beating my PR would have been nice, but ultimately, I thought I should land somewhere between the 4:12 of Portland and the 4:05 of Raleigh. Unlike the City of Oaks half where I was convinced I was doing the full at the expo, I walked into this expo somehow thinking I was doing the half and having to remind myself “no… no… you’re doing the full”. However, unlike Portland, after the race started, I didn’t wish I had registered for the half… I was grateful I had registered for (and completed) the full.

I picked up my race bib the Friday before and, I admit, I got a little more excited about it by picking it up early, so I think that was the right decision for me. I brought my kids because I always want to show them what this experience is like, and then we went home and had gluten-free pasta (my youngest loves pasta) and relaxed. The next day was much of the same until I dropped them off with their dad. Thankfully, I was able to sleep really well the two nights before and I spent most of the days leading up to the marathon focused on hydration and making sure I DO NOT make my previous hydration and fueling mistakes.

I was in bed by 7:30 and likely asleep by 7:58. I did not take long to pass out, probably because I knew I was getting up early and I was kind of tired from the weeks before.

Race Day 

I woke up at 3:45 – about 10 minutes before my alarm went off – because I had to pee. That was, as far as I was concerned, a very good sign. Ironically, I felt really well rested and I wasn’t as nervous as I usually am before a race. I deliberated about what I needed more: a couple of more minutes of rest, or to just get up and get started with things. Getting up and getting started eventually won that battle and I started on my usual race day routine: quick shower, coffee, cereal, mixing UCAN, and checking to make sure I had everything, but not the ‘billion times’ OCD-like check that I usually put into it – I was eerily relaxed.

I decided to be a bit of a cheapskate and not pay for a parking pass, so I left my house at 4:45 to park at Netapp and take the shuttle to the start line. I got there just as the buses were filling up, so I was able to take the 2nd bus almost immediately.

Because the weather was cool in the morning and there didn’t seem to be a line at the bag drop, I decided to walk around with my fleece on for a little while – since I had about 90 minutes to kill before start. I made my way over to the port-a-potties and then just walked around for a while. It was a beautiful morning, though, it was foggy. I wondered into the baseball park and noticed this weird cloud just hanging over the baseball field – it was very cool. I took a few photos and then I noticed that there were bathrooms… and they were unlocked. Holy yay! So, of course, I decided to get in line, although I had already used the port-a-potties just about 30 minutes before. It felt nice to wash my hands in real water! I left the complex and wondered around for a bit and decided to go to the bathroom *one* more time before start so I got back in line, which was much longer this time.

By the time I finished the last bathroom trip, I was ready to drop off my bag. I then shuffled over to the start line to see if I could place myself in a section that made sense. As I wondered down the chute, the pace group leaders – which had congregated together for a while – had started to fan out and take shape. I placed myself squarely between the 4:00 and the 3:55 pace groups. I thought to myself: if I can just keep up with these folks, I’ll be doing alright.

The music got louder and the emcee got more excited as we approached the 7 AM start time. His excitement was infectious because I was even getting excited at this point. He was calling out to people – “who is from Canada?”, “Who is from NY? – nawww… this is an NC race!” a comment that garnered a lot of cheering. Finally, though, it was time for the national anthem, so we all bunched in closer together – shoulder to shoulder – to listen to the anthem together. The anthem was over and we got a “you’re starting!” type of announcement from our bubbly emcee, so we all shuffled toward the starting mat, focused on our measurement devices. I turned on my bluetooth headphones, started my “Stuff You Missed in History Class” podcast, and was on my way.

The marathon route is very simple – you run out of the park, make a couple of turns, and then, after 2.5 miles, you are at the American Tobacco Trail (for a little history on the trail – which is part of the rails to trails project, see my post on the half marathon from last year…). Marathoners turn right, half marathoners turn left. My plan was, for the part before getting to the American Tobacco Trail, I would just go slow.

Thankfully, that was my mentality because I didn’t have much choice in the matter. I was going to go slow whether I wanted to or not. It was a bit crowded at the beginning – as all races are at the start. I found a few folks who appeared to be going a pace I wanted to go and I focused on staying close to them. My first two miles were over a 9 minute/mile average – for me, pretty slow.

Then we turned onto the American Tobacco Trail going north toward Durham. On this part of the trail, it is either half paved or fully paved, depending on where you are on it. I found it easier to run on the paved portions, so I stayed on that side. Looking back, I think that choice might have been a better option for me, as I typically do street running.

Along this part of the route, though, I did not expect to see many supporters. To my delight and surprise, however, there were many! Many along parts of the route where there wasn’t easy access, too. It was so heart warming to see these folks lining the sides of the trail and cheering for us! Along this part of the route, too, I began to take notice of one of the bike route monitors. His job was to ride back and forth along the route to make sure we were all OK. I saw him several times throughout the morning, but this is my first notice of him and I made sure to say hello and to thank him for volunteering. This might be why I saw him several more times later.

The turn around point on the north side was just after 11 miles – I got incrementally faster along this side until I noticed that my average pace for this portion of the race was all the way down to 8:35. Exactly where I wanted to be at the end of the race, but I thought a tad fast (and too quickly) for this point in the race. I made a mental note and tried to slow things down a bit as I went back toward what I referred to as “the middle”.

My fueling strategy for this race was simple, since the complex strategies of the past apparently did not work: I would eat a normal breakfast (cereal, coffee and orange juice) and then a banana before the race starts. During the race, I would use a concentrated version of UCAN – just a couple of squirts – every 45 minutes (instead of 50-60). I would also walk through all of the water stops, taking at least 2 cups each time. By the time I got to the middle, I had refueled once and gone through a few water stops where it had not really affected my time. I was feeling very confident and good about my time, my pace, my strength – everything. Crossing over “the middle” was around mile 14 and I was on target for a sub-9 marathon with some wiggle room.

However, the terrain changed for the south side. First of all, my pavement was gone. It stopped abruptly after I crossed the road and I did not get it back for another 8-9 miles. Secondly, it had rained the day before – a lot. The sandy part was softer now and the gravely part was now muddy. Thirdly, the half marathoners had gone through there and, well, there were way more of them than there were of us. So… the second part was met with some challenges. This is when I really started to listen to my podcast to make sure I was not thinking about how awful I felt. I listened to the history of the Hope Diamond (in two parts) and the suspicious story of the lighthouse keepers in Scotland who disappeared (and one theory at the time is that aliens or a giant bird took them – this is the kind of humor I needed at that moment).

It was all I could do to stay running until I got 3:15, when I could take my next walk break. After 3:15, though, that was all she wrote. I had a tough time up to that point – I managed to make it to 20 without totally losing it, but my GPS was off and I was starting to get a little loopy and I was getting irritated that the mile markers were so damn far apart. I was convinced they’d made a mistake.

Then, around mile 22, I was approached by a couple of men who recommended that I stop at the next aid station and use some of the Vasoline because “that’s going to hurt”, pointing at my lower leg. I looked down, and to my shock, I had some chaffed spots that were bleeding! I never felt it and that has NEVER happened to me in any race. My form must have been reeeeaaaaallllly bad. I thanked them and agreed that I should fix that, and luckily, the next aid station was able to help me out with that. I applied the Vasoline, took THREE cups of water, and continued.

Remember the bike monitor from the first half? I saw him a few times on the way toward the south-side turn around, but he stuck with me for a while on the second half, and I was so happy to see him. We chatted for a while – he asked me if this was my first marathon, and in as much energy as I had, I tried to be eloquent in my descriptions of my endurance races resume, but it likely sounded more like “yeah (pause to breathe) no, (pause to breathe), uh, (pause to breathe), this is my third (pause), my, my, my third full. I’ve done more half marathons (pause to breathe)…” He was very sweet about it, though and was patient with me and tried his best to distract me. Luckily, I got a chance to thank him later.

Throughout the race, all of the water stations were fully staffed with happy and enthusiastic people who were excited to be there. At every stop, I thanked them all for all the entertainment, cheering and, most of all, for just being there. It meant a lot more to me as the race progressed. I spent the last 2 miles of the trail portion splitting my time between walking and running.

I finally got finished with the trail and had to make my way back up to the park – going back those couple of turns in 2.5 miles back UP to the park. I turned off the trail and looked up and I swear that hill looked long and steep. It probably wasn’t, but in my condition, it felt like it. It felt like I had twisted my ankle. My chaffed calves were now covered in sweaty, bloody vasoline that was running into my socks. My lower quads on my right leg were simply on fire. I even said “I’m so effing done with this race right now” out loud. I still had my ear buds in and, at this point, had forgotten which episode of history I was learning about because I was singularly focused on finishing this race and drinking some coffee (which I never did).

I turned the last corner and was now finally *inside* the park. They were starting to open roads back up and the crowd of satisfied half marathoners had really thinned out by now. I did not care. I wanted to be back home and in my shower more than words would allow me, but I could not articulate it to save my life. I huffed and puffed and I pushed and I finally rounded the corner to see the finish line. I my eyes filled with tears – I couldn’t believe I was almost there! I had done it.

Just don’t trip like you did in Portland.

I didn’t trip. I trotted across the finish line and, to my surprise, was greeted by the race director, Kazem Yahyapour, smiling ear to ear, arms extended and with familiarity as though we had been close friends our whole lives and he was welcoming me home. He held out his hand to me, pat me on the back, congratulated and thanked me at the same time. Even though I didn’t get to ring that PR or BQ bell, that gesture went a long way to make my 4:13 still feel pretty special. After I collected my medal, I saw the bike monitor again who also shook my hand and congratulated me. I thanked him for all his help keeping me motivated and we chatted a little. Another gesture that went a long way with making me feel special!

I collected myself, got my bag from bag check, and changed my clothes. I walked around a little, but, ironically did not feel like having a coffee, so I went back to the shuttle and to my car. I picked up my kids, took a shower, and then, for the first time in about a year, took a nap.

Learnings

So, ok – I did not get my goal, but I mostly enjoyed the race – as much as anyone can truly enjoy pain for almost an hour. On the plus side, I think I lasted longer this time than in previous races, so I’m taking that as progress. As I said in the prologue, I will likely try again and likely try to get back on track with my training. Until then, I’m going to work on strength and trying to keep what I have going.

2015 Race Reports – Tobacco Road Preview

Hi Friends!

I wanted to get a short preview of this race out there so I didn’t forget or get sidetracked, so this isn’t going to be the full report quite yet. There are a few things I wanted to note while they were still fresh!

First and most importantly: I absolutely loved this race! You may recall my affinity for the half marathon distance I did last year, but now having done it twice, I have a new affection for it. It is such a well organized and well executed event and ranks very high as a recommended event when my runner friends ask ‘what is a good marathon to do in Raleigh?’. I’ve not heard or seen anyone who has said anything to the contrary so far, 5 days later. They put the same heart and effort into it both years and it shows how much they love doing it. More on that in a moment.

Second: on a personal note, this was my slowest yet. No hot weather or any other factor to point to other than my training, which I expressed concern about in the weeks leading up to the event. Admittedly, I had a lot of distractions that pulled me away from my plan, as usually happens in life. I’m not upset about my performance – rather, I’m proud of myself for finishing a third full marathon, a sentence that a year ago, I never thought I’d write. I plan to try again, hopefully in November. I’ll make that decision in a couple of weeks. I am still planning on trying to BQ. I look at this race as a step in that direction as I am getting incrementally stronger… Just in much smaller increments than I expected and hoped.

Third: there is a sister race to this one that I love equally – The City of Oaks. I’ve done the 10k several times and the half once (currently my half marathon PR). Both races are directed by the same man: Kazem Yahyapour. I had seen him at many events – packet pick ups and running clubs – and he is a warm, affable person that seems to always have a smile on his face and appears to derive immense joy from working packet pick up and greeting runners to wish them luck. For the first time in almost 50 races, I was greeted at the finish line by the race director who congratulated me for finishing and thanked me – and seemed to be as happy and excited as I was that I finished. That was a very happy feeling I won’t ever forget.

I will write more this weekend, I hope, to talk about more of the details of the race – like my bleeding chafing, my bicycle course monitor cheerleader, way more specators than I expected, really awesome volunteers, and my very rapid unraveling at the cusp of mile 20 after a very strong showing for the first three hours. Oh. And Sean Astin was there! I wish I had seen him to get a photo because my younger son is a huge fan of both “Lord of the Rings” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”!

For now, I’m focusing on recovery 🙂

Tobacco Road Marathon Training: Week 15

Oh… yeah. I have been very bad about posting here throughout the last 14 weeks.

I have trained, though, I am not really feeling good about it. This cycle, more than the other three I went through, seems to be plagued with more interruptions from life: an unexpected and frustrating injury that has slowed me down and stolen miles from me; busier work and work travel schedule replete with delays and cancellations that ate in to my training time; busier kids’ schedule which is the only thing I’m happier about this time around; anxious dog contributing messier house that has brought me to a point of triaging messes; and, finally, a recent diagnosis of cancer that hit a little too close to home for me (not me, but close enough that it could be), so few extra helpings of worry on my plate – in addition to the myriad of things that contribute to that.

And, that’s when I remind myself “this is why I run in the first place: to deal with that better”, so I lace up, but admittedly, my heart just wasn’t as into it this time around.

I haven’t worked on abs (like I said I would). I haven’t worked on nutrition (like I said I would). I haven’t worked on cross-training (like I said I would). I spent more time than I would have liked on the treadmill (including a 20 mile run), thanks to alterations in my schedule with the kids/travel and icy NC weather. Most of the longer runs have sucked. My first 20 was awesome (the one outside), but the second was horrible (the one on the treadmill) and I hated every second of it. I seriously considered dropping out of the race several times throughout this training cycle – a thought that never crossed my mind either of the first two times. Don’t think I haven’t still considered it at this late date. My attitude has suffered significantly. I’m finally starting to feel a little more excited as I approach the last week of my training, but I don’t have quite the enthusiasm I had for the last two.

A little more about this injury: I have something that I either pulled or is inflamed in the back of my right leg – this happened early in the training, too, like week 4. It doesn’t hurt as much now, especially when I run. The part that hurts is when I sit for extended periods of time. Walking around actually makes it feel better – it reminds me of my IT band injury (which is why I think ‘inflamed’). I’ve been rolling and stretching it and staying hydrated has helped, but I’m worried about it locking up after the 3:00:00 mark, the farthest it has been tested. At any rate, I’m putting it down here as something that might bring me to a rather disappointing conclusion to this race and a bit farther away from the sub-4:00:00 – and BQ – goals I have.

Or… I could be seeing things through an altered lens today – it could just be effect of one hour less of sleep and accumulated anxiety about not having a record of my thoughts about training at the time they occurred to prove there were some good days in this cycle, too. That’s part of why I strive to write my training in this blog on a weekly basis – to remind myself that there is an equal mix of good and bad days with this training business and that the cycle always comes around and to try not to set myself up for success or failure based too much on one part of it. I think I was overly confident at the end of the training cycle for Portland, and I don’t want to end up under confident for Tobacco Road.

So, for this week, I’m trying to reset my attitude and go with it and have a little trust in the fact that the runs that exceeded 2:00:00 – on balance (other than the treadmill 20) – felt better than last time and I recovered more quickly than I ever had before. That, I’m taking as progress. On my schedule, I have three runs: one more speed interval (Monday), an easy 4 (Tuesday) and a 15-minute jog (Thursday). That’ll give me two days of rest on my legs so I can focus on stretching and rolling out the tight spots.

See you all on the other side of Tobacco Road 🙂