Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Frozen All The Way 10K

The name of the 10K I ran today was actually "Jingle All The Way" 10K, but I wasn't doing much jingling, as I opted not to wear the bells on the shoes that they gave me. The weather was about 36 degrees and misting rain. This race sets the record for the coldest race I have ever run. The windchill at the half marathon last week made that race seem colder at times, but when it wasn't windy, it wasn't that cold. And it's different when it's sunny and you're dry-- like last weekend. Today was a very dreary, cold, wet day. In spite of all this, I toughed it out in my red snowflake skirt.

Carlton and Michael Hayden came up to run the race with me this weekend. We're quite a team! Carlton was hoping to set a new personal record, and Mike wanted to run his fasted 10K of the year. My goal was to break 49 minutes. I definitely thought this was an attainable goal, given my current fitness level and my past races. However, the 10K has always been my worst distance. I am never sure how to pace myself. I can run negative splits at marathons and half marathons, and I can gun a 5K pretty well (usually) but I am still uncertain what the best 10K strategy is.

My PR for the 10K was a 49:55, which would have been a lot faster, if there hadn't been such a huge hill during the last mile. I can't ever seem to catch a break with the 10K distance. It's always too hot, too windy, too hilly, or too cold!

Mile 1
I think I went out too fast. Carlton disagrees, but a 7:35 pace was way too ambitious. I felt good during that first mile, but then slowed down shortly afterwards. I was thankful that I had warmed up because my legs were freezing and so was my face. If it hadn't been for the run from the car to the start, I would have been frozen solid!

Mile 2
There was a very slight hill here, but nothing really noticeable. Otherwise, the course was flat. And I had run most of this course during the Marine Corps Marathon. My nose was freezing. I managed to run a 7:46. Perfect! This was the pace I was hoping to maintain for the rest of the race.

Mile 3
During mile 3, I saw Carlton on his way back toward the finish line. I was really surprised to see him, because I fully expected Michael Hayden to be ahead of him. I was excited for Carlton, but wondering what happened to Mike. I saw Mike shortly after, and he was very focused. I felt like I was maintaing my pace, but I actually slowed down to a 8:00 pace for this mile.

Mile 4
I passed the 5K mat at 24:24. However, when I looked at my watch, I misread it to say 24:12, which was

faster than my Turkey Trot 5K! I was psyched! After that, I think I got over-confident and felt like I didn't have to run as hard to do well. I slowed down again to yield a 8:07.

Mile 5
I was uncomfortably cold and I was struggling to maintain pace. People started to pass me. I was getting sick of the race at this point and I just wanted it to be over. I just wanted to maintain my pace and "survive" here. Pace for this mile was 8:08. I started to get mad at myself for slowing down so much. I really wanted to break an 8:00 average pace. I needed to gun the last mile.

Mile 6
Carlton came back to run with me at about mile 5.7. He told me to run faster and I screamed that I couldn't. Carlton was running ahead of me and I tried hard to catch up with him. He kept telling me to run faster and push harder, so I sped up at the end of the mile to get a 8:03. The first part of the mile must have been really slow!

The last 0.2
I decided to really give it my all at this point and makeup for my slower running earlier in the race. I felt like I was sprinting, but according to my watch, I was only going at a pace of 8:25.

Looking back on this race, I really wish I would have pushed harder. I pushed as hard as I could while Carlton was there, but I think I lost a lot of motivation and enthusiasm once I saw how much time I "banked".

My finish time was 49:23, an average pace of 7:57.

I placed 25 of 357 in my age group.
I placed 124 of 1291 women

I feel lukewarm about this. I was happy to PR, but I thought that my 10K PR was really not reflective of my running abilities at all. According to most running calculators, I should be able to come in well under 49 minutes. Baby steps, right? I don't know when my next 10K will be, but it might not be until June, when I run the Lawyer's Have Heart 10K.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Breaking the 4-Hour Barrier

I am member of the sub-4:00 marathon club.

On Saturday morning, I ran the Suntrust Richmond Marathon. The race was celebrating its 30th anniversary, having started in 1978-- the year I was born. It would have been cool if the first marathon was on my birthday, but they actually used to have it in October.

Before the Race
I had a major snafu happen at work that I was trying to control regarding the web site. It's still not fixed. This left me stressed for the entire day, and I tried not to stress over it. I was still trying to resolve the issue in my
hotel that evening, calling my Web team, my boss, and our IT person. I'm still stressed about this, but there is nothing I can do other than to urge my IT person to work with my Web team to fix it.

I slept surprisingly well that night, woke up early the next morning (as usual) and prepared for the race. I was so gidddy! I excitedly ate a pumpkin-flavored stalker bagel. I had a close eye on the local weather station, praying for no rain.

I knew it was going to be cold, so I bundled up well. On top of this outfit, I had a hoodie, and then a heavy ski vest. I wore two pairs of gloves. I also used hand warmers in between the gloves.

These worked really well. In fact, they were still warm at the end of the race. You simply open the packet, shake them a little, and they provide constant heat. If it weren't for those hand warmers, I know I would have had numb hands the entire time. Additionally, I put heat warming insoles inside my shoes. I knew I couldn't run in them, so I wore them to the start line, and removed them about 5 minutes prior to race start. They were amazing! When I took them out, my feet immediately started to go numb, but I bounced around as much as possible to prevent that. Both the hand warmers and the foot warmers were a lifesaver, so I recommend them to anyone who runs or races in very cold weather.

The Start Line
Brent and I made our way over to the start line. I didn't want to start with him, because he goes out much faster than I do. We were anticipating finishing around the same time, but his strategy was to go out at an 8:00-8:30 pace and then do some walking in the last 6 miles. Whereas I wanted to keep a steady 9:00 pace the entire time. So Brent walked up closer to the start and I stayed behind. I was praying that the race would start on time, because I had already gotten rid of my foot warmers, and every minute without them, just standing there was torture. It was in the upper 30's and cloudy.

Miles 1-5
After only half a mile, I threw off my hoodie. I didn't think I would warm up so quickly! I didn't see a mile marker at mile 1. But, having learned from the MCM 10K, I could not let a missing mile marker phase me. I just kept on going, hoping to see a mile marker 2. Brent and Carlton later said that they saw this mile marker, so I don't know how I missed it. It was unfortunate because I never know quite how fast I am going when I first start. I need to know my starting pace and then speed up or slow down from there to hit my target. I hit the Mile 2 marker at 18:11, so I knew I was good. I figured I should speed it up a little, because I wanted to bank some time in the beginning- before the hills started. Fortunately, I saw every other mile marker on the course. I decided that I would eat 4 packs of sports beans in this race instead of my usual 3. So, I ate my first pack at mile 4.

Mile 1: 9:06
Mile 2: 9:05
Mile 3: 9:08
Mile 4: 8:44
Mile 5: 8:44

Power Songs: Lifehouse-- "First Time, Seether-- "Fake It", Foo Fighters-- "Long Road to Ruin"

Miles 6-10
This was the best part of the course by far. When I reached mile 7, I knew that the entire thing would be
downhill. It was fantastic! I held myself back a little bit so as not to tear up my quads too much. When I got to the bottom of the hill, I was so pumped! There was a "party zone" there with tons of people, music, and I felt like such a rock star. After the party zone, the course went by the James river. It was extremely scenic here. It was woodsy and peaceful. I love looking at water when I run. I ate another pack of sports beans at Mile 10. My hands were still holding up pretty well with the two pairs of gloves and the hand warmers.

The downhill hurt my left foot. This is not the bone spur, or the neuromas. Both of those injuries were fine! But my shoe digs into the muscle of my left foot a bit and it hurts. I was so temped to stop and re-adjust, but I didn't. And the pain passed after a mile or so.
Mile 6: 8:52
Mile 7: 8:38
Mile 8: 8:46
Mile 9: 9:01
Mile 10: 8:57

Power Songs: Jason Mraz-- "Unfold", Jimmy Eat World-- "Here it Goes", Fall Out Boy-- "Bang the Doldrums"

Miles 11-15
I knew I had banked so major time, so I was prepared to get some slower mileage here. One of the course's nastiest hills is Mile 11. I decided that I wouldn't exert any extra effort to get up the hill. I would keep my effort level constant, and just go a little slower. I knew I could afford it. I was really happy that I finished the mile in 9:15. It was slower than my target pace, but not that much slower, considering how big of a hill it was. I took my hat off at the halfway point because I was actually getting a little warm. I tucked it into my pants because I like that hat and didn't want to throw it away.

My halfway goal was 1:57, and I was so excited to cross the halfway mat at 1:56:55. I was excited that I could be so exact about meeting there- only 5 seconds faster than expected! This was extremely motivating for me. I told myself that all I needed to do was to run a 2:00 half marathon and I would be golden! During marathons, I tend to get really pumped right before and after the halfway mark. I'm far enough into the race to be comfortable with pushing the pace, but not so far into it that I am hurting and exhausted.

Mile 11: 9:15
Mile 12: 8:54
Mile 13: 8:43
Mile 14: 8:35 Fastest Mile of the Race
Mile 15: 8:50

Power Songs: Jimmy Eat World-- "Feeling Lucky", Fall Out Boy, "Don't You Know Who I think I am?", Maroon 5-- "Kiwi"

Miles 16-20
I had my third pack of beans at mile 16. This was the hardest part of the course. Miles 16 and 17 were mainly uphill. It wasn't very steep, but it was long. We crossed a bridge where the winds were strong. There was no crowd support. To get through this part of the race, I just looked at the river on my left and the Richmond skyline on my right. Tori Amos' "Bouncing Off Clouds" was playing, so I looked up at the sky to distract myself from the uphill.

There was a party zone at mile 18, and the crowd support was very much appreciated. At mile 19.5, there was a very steep, nasty uphill. This was probably the steepest incline of the entire race. Not really happy to have that at mile 19.5. Carlton had warned me about it, so I was prepared. I wanted to cross the 20-mile timing mat at 3:00. I was very happy to be there at 2:59. This is faster than my 20-mile race! I was also excited because I knew that the major hills were done with.
Mile 16: 9:33
Mile 17: 9:09
Mile 18: 9:04
Mile 19: 8:51
Mile 20: 9:09

Power Songs: Tori Amos-- "Bouncing Off Clouds", Fuel-- "Not This Time", Jimmy Eat World-- "Let It Happen"

Miles 21-25
After passing the 20-mile marker, I told myself that I just had to run a 10K in under an hour to get my sub-
4:00. Easy, right? I had plenty of energy and I wasn't tired. However, my legs really started to hurt me at mile 21, after all those hills. I just kept telling myself that my legs were going to hurt if I ran or walked, so I might as well run. These miles were hard. The hills were gently rolling, but my legs hurt so much. I just thought back to the Miami marathon where these miles were such a breeze. I also thought about New Jersey and what I did to get through those. They say a marathon really begins at mile 20! I told myself that it was okay to slow down a little bit (I had so much time in the bank), but not okay to stop or walk. I was still strong!

At about mile 22, I ran into my former co-worker and that gave me a burst of energy. We chatted for a bit and then I proceeded on. He was actually there just coaching people and not running for himself. Josh "Flash" Gordon had told me that Richmond was like a 25-mile marathon followed by a big downhill. I pushed so hard to get myself to mile marker 25, and then I knew it would get easier.
Mile 21: 9:05
Mile 22: 9:10
Mile 23: 9:00
Mile 24: 9:12
Mile 25: 9:46 Slowest mile of the race

Power Songs: Finger Eleven-- "Paralyzer", Fall Out Boy-- "Fame Infamy"

Mile 26 and 0.2
It wasn't one big downhill, as I expectd. Rather, it was a downhill followed by flatness, then another downhill, followed by flatness, etc. I was so excited by this point, but my legs were killing me. There was no crowd support until about mile 25.5, which surprised me. The last time I looked at my watch was at mile 25.5, and then I decided to just really focus on moving forward and stop looking at my watch. I knew I was on target for a 3:57. When the finish line was in sight, I was so happy! I gunned it across the finish line, and stopped my watch shortly after to discover that I actually got a 3:56!
Mile 26: 9:27
Mile 0.2: 1:47 (8:20 pace)

Power Song: Incubus-- "Light Grenades"

After the Race
Brent greeted me at the finish line. He had finished in 3:53-- a PR for him by 6 minutes! I had this inner chill and my teeth were chattering like crazy. We finally found Michael Hayden (3:01) and Carlton (3:10) and walked back to the car. I was soooooo cold! On the way, we passed a Funnel cake stand. I was ecstatic. I told the funnel cake vendor that he was an angel sent from God above. OMG- this funnel cake was amazing. So warm, so fresh, so tasty. I warmed up almost instantly. We all went back to Carlton's place where we showered and hung out. 4 great races!

First half marathon: 1:56:55
Second half: 1:59:46
Finish time: 3:56:41 - average pace of 9:01

This was completely in line with my race strategy! I finished 86 out of 296 in my age group.I finished 366 out of 1470 women I shaved 9:02 off of my Personal Record, set in April 2007, from 4:05:43.I shaved about 50:00 off of my first marathon in May 2006, from 4:46:28.

Thank you very much to all of you who supported me throughout training and during my race. It means so much to me, and it really motivated me yesterday. Next up: Houston!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Marathoning as a Deadly Sport

On Sunday evening, and all day long on Monday, I had many people call, email or ask me in person if I had heard about what happened at the Chicago marathon on Sunday. Of course I heard! I was tracking 6 runners online (including my friend Randi who I was originally planning on being there with). I was glued to my computer all morning, virtually "watching" my friends cross each 5K split mark.

It was hot. Record-breaking heat, actually, and the temperature was said to have gone up to about 93 degrees. Most of my friends ran about 30 minutes slower than expected, except for Randi, who lives in Texas and is used to running in hot weather. Congrats to Randi for finishing her first marathon and keeping a steady pace throughout!

My cousin Brian even called me on Sunday night to make sure I was okay. (Thanks Brian!!!) He wasn't sure if I ran the race or not, be he also heard about the runner dying at the Army Ten Miler on the same day.

Someone just e-mailed me: "Did you see what happened at the Chicago marathon this weekend -- someone actually died during the race, and I think someone also died at a race in D.C. this weekend, too. Who knew it was such a deadly sport?" It's not a deadly sport! That is, if you train properly and don't have a heart condietion.

I don't like how the media is handling this. The reactions of my non-running friends and family were "OMG- Did you hear someone DIED because of the HEAT!" Well, yes, but this actually is not all that uncommon, unfortunately. Someone died at the Virginia Beach half marathon when I ran it in 2005, and also at the Marine Corps marathon in 2006. These are just races that I ran, so I am sure there are plenty of other marathons, half marathons, and even shorter races where people have died. In each of these instances, the person had a pre-existing heart condition.

What really annoys me about this situation is that people are blaming the marathon for that guy's death, saying that the marathon should have been shut down earlier, or even cancelled altogether. He had a heart condition! You can't blame the Chicago marathon for that. Furthermore, after this weekend's incident, people are now viewing marathons as deadly and dangerous. Even my dentist yesterday was talking about this!

Marathons, in and of themself, are not dangerous. They are only dangerous if you have a pre-existing condition, or aren't properly trained. And if you feel like the marathon is hazardous to your health while running it, STOP! I know that runners are stubborn and they will get to the finish line if it kills them. I understand that mentality. But this is their choice, and the marathon, itself, is not to blame.

The first time I ran a marathon, my father thought that something horrible would happen to me. When he called me a few hours later, he said "ELIZABETH!!!!!! You're okay!!!!!" He was shocked. He was surprised that I was talking normally and was energized and had no injuries. He was almost just as worried after the second marathon, but I think by marathon 3, he realized that I wasn't going to die from doing this.

So this one guy's death is being sensationalized because the entire Chicago Marathon was such a fiasco with the heat. He had a heart condition, and very well might have died even if it weren't hot. During the Marine Corps Marathon, it was in the low 60's and someone died. I passed out after a half marathon in 90-degree, humid weather. But I definitely didn't blame the race organizers for that. That being said, The Chicago Marathon was not well prepared and they ran out of water and gatorade. That certainly was a mistake, but we can't blame this man's death on that.

So now, marathons are getting this reputation of being dangerous and potentially deadly. And it annoys me.

Monday, October 1, 2007

20-Mile Roller Coaster

I ran the National Capital 20-miler yesterday morning, a race coordinated by the DC RoadRunners Club, of which I am a member. I've been a member of this club since February, but I haven't been on any runs with them. My membership got me a $5 discount to this race. Only $35 for a 20-miler with a long-sleeved Brooks dry-weave shirt. Not too shabby! The shirt is nice and simple—navy blue with the name of the race in white lettering on the left chest. The shirt isn't overloaded with race sponsors or anything. They even had X-Small! Okay, enough about the great shirt.

I left my house at 6:15, stopped at Starbucks for a coffee, and I was on my way. I like to drink half a cup of their "tall" coffee on race morning, any more and I feel sick. Thanks to Yahoo! Maps, I got really turned around on the way to the race. It was in Mount Vernon, an area of Northern Virginia that I am completely unfamiliar with. In my 28 years of living in this area, I've never had to go there. After making several wrong turns and using the map I keep in my car for times like these, I made it to the elementary school where the race was starting. I got my lovely shirt, stretched, put my bib number on, and I was ready to go.

The race had 500 entrants and was not chip timed. I'm not sure how many people actually ran it because the official results aren't up yet, but I would guess about close to 500. Everyone I talked to was using the race as a training run for a fall marathon. Most of them were running the Marine Corps Marathon.

Goals & Strategy

I wasn't quite sure of my goal for this race. I thought it would be nice to finish in under 3:00 (a sub-9:00 pace) but I wasn't going to kill myself and sacrifice this week's training to do so. However, I did want to gage my fitness level for my November marathon. Prior to this race, my longest run had been 16 miles, three weeks earlier. Then there was the PDR, and last weekend I had the hike. I did run 17 miles before leaving for Italy, but that was before all my injuries, so I don't know if that training was still "useful" for today. I didn't really taper for this race. I took yesterday off, of course, and only ran 3.5 miles on Friday, but the rest of my week was training as usual. I say all of this because I want to be optimistic about my marathon, which I will have tapered for, and I will have had more training for.


Everyone gathered around the starting area and the race director spoke. I wasn't really listening until I heard "No headphones! If we see you with them on the course, you will be disqualified!" I was devastated. I had my playlist all prepared. I even deprived myself of those songs all week so I would be really pumped for them when I finally heard them (a musical taper, if you will). Someone in a DC RoadRunners shirt who looked like part of the race organizing team told me that I should run with them anyway! I was shocked. I folded my headphones up and put them in the back pocket of my shirt. I figured I would try to follow the rules, but if I really needed the music, I had the headphones with me.

The weather was about 65 at the start and sunny, and it rose to about 73 by the end of the race. Warmer than the Philadelphia distance run, but not by too much.

Miles 1-5: A fast start
I went out too fast in the first mile, but got on pace for the second mile, when I realized I had done a 7:58! This was because I started close to the start line. With no chip timing, every second before you cross the start line adds onto your time, and I wanted to minimize that so my clock time would be accurate. I was with the fast runners. We ran through a neighborhood for two miles, and then went onto a trail in the woods. It was extremely hilly. There were very long uphills followed by long downhills. I felt good. I didn't listen to my iPod for any of these miles.

Mile 1: 7:58 (oops)

Mile 2: 9:00
Mile 3: 8:45
Mile 4: 9:14
Mile 5: 9:08

Mile 6-10: Give me my music!
After passing a water station, I decided to put my headphones on. The course was through the woods on a path, and there were no cars in sight and no race personnel. I actually saw about 5-10 other runners with headphones, so I didn't feel too guilty. And I saw them wearing them at the start of the race too! I had to fumble with my playlist to get to where I thought I should be at mile 6. I ate my sports beans after passing the 7 mile marker. I recognized this course. It's the Mount Vernon trail (asphalt), and I ran a half marathon on it in July 2006. I had bad memories of that half marathon because it was in the 90's and humid. I literally passed out after that race. It was constant rolling hills. Hardly any part of this trail is flat! I train primarily on a treadmill with no incline, so this was very challenging for me. Richmond has some hills miles 15-18, but there is no way it can be as hilly as this trail was. At about mile 9 we came out of the woods and ran through neighborhoods for about a mile. I took off my headphones and ran without music for awhile.

Mile 6: 8:37

Mile 7: 8:48
Mile 8: 9:02
Mile 9: 9:04
Mile 10: 9:25

Miles 11-15: Yay! A Roller Coaster!
I felt like I really got into the "zone" at mile 11. We were back on another part of the trail, my music was back, and I was actually having fun with the hills! Not only was the path hilly, it was also windy. There were lots of twists and turns and ups and downs, and it felt a bit like a roller coaster ride. I really enjoyed this part of the course and it felt like I was driving a car or something with all the steering I had to do. "Boys of Summer" by The Ataris was playing on my iPod, and it was perfectly timed for September 30. I might have run these miles too fast, because I would pay for it later. On the other hand, the pace of these miles probably saved my race from being disastrous. I ate my sports beans at mile 14, and of course they made me feel nauseous.

Mile 11: 8:46

Mile 12: 8:46
Mile 13: 8:44
Mile 14: 9:04
Mile 15: 9:06

Miles 16-20: Okay, these hills are NOT fun.
It started to feel really hot and I was wishing for more water stations. This course had water stations about every 3-4 miles, which isn't really enough. There is only so much water I can drink at a time without cramping or feeling nauseous, so more frequent water stops would have been appreciated. I passed a water fountain and contemplated stopping, but I didn't. There was a turnaround point and I was back doing the same windy part of the course I did during miles 12 and 13. I tried to rally that same energy and enthusiasm of a roller coaster ride, but it wasn't there! What had been enjoyable earlier in the race was now extremely challenging and tiring. The hills were really taking a toll on me. I walked for about a minute through a water station, and that did murder to my time. There was this massive hill during mile 19 and I walked part of it. I just felt so dead. I told myself I would probably be walking most of mile 20. But Mile 20 wasn't quite as hilly and (headphones off now) there was actually some crowd support, encouraging me to keep running and telling me that I looked strong. It helped. I got back to the school and we had to do a lap around the track before finishing. I had a very strong finish, but I felt like I would die when I crossed the finish line.

Mile 16: 9:30

Mile 17: 9:44
Mile 18: 9:27
Mile 19: 9:49
Mile 20: 9:12

Finish time: 3:01:20
Average pace: 9:04

After I crossed the finish line, it took me about 15 minutes to get "back to normal" I was really spacey, and I felt like I was going to pass out. I was also very nauseous and I wanted to vomit, but I can't induce vomiting. I was breathing extremely hard (like heaving) for about 10 minutes and a few people asked me if I was okay. No one else looked like they were having as much trouble as I was recovering. I saw a table with pizza and I couldn't imagine how anyone could be eating hot pizza at a time like this. Ewwww. I tried to have part of a bagel, but I felt too sick. I poured water over my head. I poured another cup of water down my shirt. Finally, after like 15 minutes, I felt "normal" again.

I am not really happy about how I ranked. But this isn't like a 5K or 10K where sometimes-runners come out. This race wasn't publicized very much, and 20 miles is no small feat. So it seemed like almost everyone who ran this race was somewhat of a "hard-core" runner. If I look at it that way, I feel okay about about my ranking:

12 out of 40 in my age group (number 11 passed me when I was about 50 meters from the finish line, and her time was only 2 seconds faster! ARGH!!!!!!)
62 of 180 women.

I typically rank in a much higher percentile in races, but I am trying not to be too discouraged by this. Oftentimes, I will run a race and not be pleased with my time, but my ranking is much higher than expected. This race was the reverse.

All in all, it was a good race, and I am pleased with my time—considering the nonstop hills. This morning I managed a recovery jog of 3.5 miles, so it's nice to know that I wasn't completely taken out by it!

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Philadelphia Distance Run

This morning I ran the Philadelphia Distance Run. When I arrived at my start corral, I saw Abby, Kevin and Brent. We chatted and then realized it was actually getting warm. Abby and I decided to ditch our long sleeve shirts, so I ran them back to my gear check bag. I came back to the corrals and the four of us were chatting. I was wearing my knee brace because me knee starts to hurt after about 6-7 miles. So far, this brace has helped me on every long training run. I was hoping it would work today. In my shoes, I had Superfeet insoles, that I had begun to wear a few weeks prior, to help with my Neuroma pain.

I told the gang that I am not used to running with people, and that I tend to put my music on and just get into my own world. I'm not chatty. But we said we'd all start together, but we could feel free to go off at our own pace. I told Brent that I was targeting a 1:50 because I had done a 13.1-mile training run in 1:51. However, I only needed to get a 1:53 for a race PR.

Miles 1-3
It was very crowded during the first mile, so I knew I would lose some time there. I think we all
stayed together for about a mile, but I definitely picked up the pace after I saw that the first mile was 8:55, and I think that's when I lost Abby and Kevin. Brent, on the other hand, was still near me. These miles were extremely bright, and I remembered it from last year, so I wore sunglasses.

Even with sunglasses, the sun was directly in my face and made it hard to see. I also felt like it was zapping my energy early on, even though the temperatures were in the mid 50's at that point.

Someone yelled out to me. . . "Zebra? I thought you were a tiger!" Later, someone else said, "That's the best looking zebra I've ever seen!"

Mile 1: 8:55
Mile 2: 8:25
Mile 3: 8:35

Miles 4-6
These miles were the hottest of the whole race. I was so glad I wasn't wearing my long-sleeved shirt. It was around 60 degrees, but it honestly felt like 75 and sunny. I typically walk while I drink my water, but I was trying to make up time from the first mile, so I walked for maybe 3 steps with the water and jogged while I drank the rest of it. I need to master this skill because I kept getting water all over myself whenever I drank it. Brent was still nearby for these miles, and I was surprised he stayed with me for this long without going ahead.

I had to stop to tighten my shoelace at mile 5, and he waited for me. I felt guilty, but he told me that he wasn't going for a PR. Instead, he was going to make sure I got one! He had a Garmin on and was tracking the pace. We were trying for an 8:30 pace. He had been slightly behind me for the first 5 miles, but then I started trailing him a bit once we got to mile 6.

Mile 4: 8:38
Mile 5: 8:38
Mile 6: 8:26

Miles 7-10 
These were tough miles, but they seemed to pass pretty quickly. At mile 7, we finally got into the shaded area of the course. Once we hit mile 8, I really wanted to slow down, but Brent wouldn't let that happen! I told him I didn't think I could keep going at this pace, but he really pushed me. The biggest hill during this course is during mile 9. Brent put his hand on my back and gave me a slight push up the hill. WOW! It made such a world of difference. It felt amazing. I hate hills and just having him there to give me that little boost helped so much! I ate my sports beans (or most of them) and they made me feel nauseous. They always do, but I really hate the taste of sports drinks, gels, etc.

Mile 7: 8:40
Mile 8: (not recorded. Maybe I need a new watch.)
Mile 9: 8:37

Miles 10-13.1 
I was happy to pass the 10-mile marker at around 1:26. I knew we were in the home stretch, but I was feeling really tired. My legs felt great, my knee and my foot were behaving, and yet the pace was starting to feel really challenging. Brent told me that I would regret it if I slowed down. Someone overhead this and encouraged me not to slow down. She said it was just a few more minutes of pain for a really great time that would last forever!

We were back in the sun at mile 12, so I just listened to my music and zoned a little while staring into the sun. Mile 12 was actually the fastest mile, coming in at 8:16. Unfortunately, I couldn't maintain that 8:12 during the last mile, and slowed a bit. I knew I had given this race my all when I passed the 13-mile marker and simply couldn't sprint. I almost always sprint to the finish, but yesterday, I was physically not able to run any faster. That last 0.1 was actually the slowest part of my race.

Mile 10: 8:32
Mile 11: 8:40
Mile 12: 8:16
Mile 13: 8:33
0.1: 0:54

My official time was 1:52:43, for a PR of about 1:30. I also shaved 8 minutes off of my time from last year's race.

I was pleased. I felt like I was about to pass out when I crossed the finish line. Brent sprinted the last 0.1 but waited for me to cross. We got our medals, got our bags, and started looking for the food. They typically give you food as soon as you finish, but we ended up looking for the food for over half an hour. We finally found the food and then met up with our Big Cat friends.

What a great reunion!

 Priceless line of the day, when we are looking at our Liberty Bell-shaped metals, Michael says: "Mine has a crack in it. Do you know why?" Sorry Mike, I just have to get in a laugh about that one. I had such a great time at this race. Thanks to all of you who supported me during this, whether you were there or you tracked me live.

I placed 281 out of 1224 women in my age group.
I placed 1131 out of 5651 total women.
I placed 4055 out of 11629 total runners (beating over 60% of the men!)

My playlist wasn't that important this time, because I was mainly focusing on Brent's guidance for the second half of the race. However, the playlist was dominated by Fall Out Boy's latest CD, with only minimal Jason Mraz. The Foo Fighters' new song, "The Pretenders," is one of my favorites at the moment.

Monday, April 30, 2007

The New Jersey Marathon

I ran the New Jersey marathon on Sunday. This was my 4th marathon ever, and my 4th marathon within a one-year time period. Previous marathons were Delaware, Marine Corps, and Miami, with times of 4:46, 4:24, and 4:13, respectively. My goal for New Jersey was to finish at 4:08 or faster. My friend Randi (from Texas) ran the half marathon, and I picked her up from the airport on Friday night. We drove to Philadelphia on Saturday morning to pick up our friend Jenny. Jenny was supposed to run the marathon, but she has two stress fractures and is now on crutches. However, she wanted to come and spend the weekend with us and watch the race. I was really happy she came because Jenny and I have run all of our marathons together, and some other races as well.

Randi, Jenny and I stayed at a bed and breakfast on the Jersey shore-- just seven miles from the race. The Jersey shore is beautiful, and the area where we stayed was midway up the state-- north of Atlantic City, but not in Northern NJ.
Listening to Katherine Switzer speak

Our friend Kimberly, who lives on the Jersey shore, came to meet us at our Bed & Breakfast. She was running the half marathon as well. We went to the Expo and heard Katherine Switzer speak. She was the first woman to ever run the Boston marathon. Her speech was amazing and she was such a motivation to the four of us.

We then went to get our bib numbers and timing chips, and then out to dinner for a nice carb load. We went to an Italian restaurant and it was delicious.

The next morning, we prepared for the race. I had a bagel and half a Zone bar, as usual and we were off. Jenny was on crutches, but she found a spot right near the start/finish line to take photos. She took a photo of me crossing the start line, just before I threw my jacket to her. (I decided I did not need it while I was in the corral).

The New Jersey marathon is a two-loop course. Each loop is 13.1 miles. The half marathon runners do the loop one time, and the full marathoners run it twice. The weather was cloudy and 55-60 degrees.

Miles 1-5
I started out at a pace of about 9:45. My goal was to cross the halfway point at around 2:05, and then do a negative split. Randi's goal was 2:06 for the half marathon, so she used me as a pacer in the beginning of the race. At around mile 4 however, I looked back and noticed she was gone. She later told me that I had sped up and it was hard to stay with me because it was so crowded and she kept having to weave in and out of people.
I decided to pick up my pace at around mile 4. That's when I passed the 4:15 pace group. I knew I would have to pass them during the first half, but I wasn't sure exactly when I would pass them.  During miles 1-5, I was taking 40-second walk breaks through each of the water stations, and running at a pace of about 9:30.

Miles 6-13
Halfway Point
These miles went by extremely quickly. They are sort of a blur and I don't remember much. I remember that at mile 9 there was a river, and as soon as the river came into view, my iPod started to play "This River is Wild" by the Killers. I smiled. After the river, the song "Policeman's Xmas Party" came on, just as I was running by some policemen!  I recognized a man who must have been in his 70's running without a shirt and in red shorts. He had run Delaware. I took my headphones off and told him I recognized him from Delaware. He said he was running it again this year-- just three weeks later! Wow.  I hit the 10-mile marker at 1:34.

Miles 13-20
I crossed the halfway point at 2:03:38. I was feeling really good at around mile 8, so I had decided that I could probably get to the halfway point a little sooner, and maybe beat my goal. I reset my watch, so that I could time the second loop the same way I did the first. After crossing the halfway point, I noticed that the outside of my left ankle was really bugging me. It was my timing chip! This raced use the ankle chip, and I had velcroed it on too tight. Also, my ankles had probably swelled during the first half. I bent down to make my chip looser, but then it was too loose. So, after a few tries with it, I just moved the actual chip portion to the back of my ankle and it was fine. After the race, I had a huge bruise and a lot of pain where the chip had initially been. So my advice to anyone who runs a marathon with a Linmark ankle chip is to not velcro it too tightly.

At mile 15, I needed to have my second pack of Sports Beans. I do not like eating sports beans during races because they make me feel nauseous. However, they are better than gu or gels or gatorade, so I force feed myself them. Ew--- it was like torture having to eat them. They were the orange kind, so I told myself I was eating Ben & Jerry's peach cobbler ice cream. I told myself that this was the best thing I had ever tasted. And it worked! I ate the whole pack of beans over the course of a mile.
I was still feeling really good miles 14-20, so I picked up the pace to about 9:05, and shortened my walks to 25 seconds. Miles 14-20 were my fastest.  I hit the 20 mile marker at 3:07.

Miles 21-26.2
At mile 21, that river came up again, and my iPod played "Pain Lies on the Riverside". Purely by coincidence! It totally motivated me. I started to feel a lot of quad pain at around mile 21 and I really, really wanted the race to be over. Those last five miles were extremely hard, but I only slowed my pace slightly. I used every positive self-talk trick I new to keep myself from walking. Miles 23 and 24 seemed to last forever!

There was a relay going on and there were people running at mile 21 who just started the relay. They looked strong and fast, and I was in pain! But I tried to let those runners motivate me. I was passing a lot of people during the last five miles. Many people were walking. Many people were hitting a wall.  But the crowd support was amazing for such a small race, and my bib number had my name on it, so people were cheering: "Go Elizabeth!"

I really was tempted to walk during the last mile. It took everything I had to keep going. But I did!  The last mile of the loop was on the boardwalk with the ocean, so I just focused on looking at the ocean and tried to ignore the pain I was in. And I even sprinted to the finish line.

First half: 2:03:37 
Second half: 2:02:08

Time: 4:05:44, which is a Personal Record of 8 minutes, and 3 minutes faster than my goal time.

39 of 134 in my age group.
179 of 593 women.
682 of 1612 total finishers

After crossing, I was given a medal and a finisher's hat. I was so focused, that all I could think about was adjusting that hat so that it fit properly on my head. I would not drink my bottle of water or meet my friends until I had that hat secured on my head. It was wierd. I guess I was just so used to being extremely focused on one thing that I became really obsessed with getting my hat on!

Randi met her goal of a 2:06. Kimberly met her goal of finishing, because this was her first half marathon. Three goals met!!!  Our other friend Jenna drove to the race from Philadelphia and had made us all signs. It was so great to see her. She is on the far right.

The post-race food was cornbread and chili. Yuck. They ran out of bagels from the half marathoners, so I didn't eat anything until we went out for a celebratory lunch. I wasn't hungry at that point anyway.

The pizza was amazing. And then we went on the boardwalk for candy and ice cream! Yum!
I was very pleased with my performance and the race was awesome. Having my friends there and a huge cheering section for me (4 of my good friends) was really motivating. The entire weekend was so much fun. The race itself was well organized, except for I did not like the post-race food.

My next marathon is the Chicago marathon in October. I think it's good that I am taking 5 months off from marathons so I can train really well and break the 4-hour mark in Chicago. I have a few 10Ks scheduled for this summer, and I entered the lottery for the NYC half marathon.  I didn't really learn anything new this race, only that what I have been doing for my past few marathons continues to work. I continue to run negative splits, be conservative with my pacing and goals.  I continue to be motivated by my music and positive mentality.  I continue to NOT follow a strict training program, but to listen to my body and train based on what I feel I need each day.

Monday, April 2, 2007

The Perfect Race

I've always said that the 10-miler is my favorite race distance, even though I have only ever run one of them in my life. I feel like a half marathon is just a little too long to go my fastest and a 10K is too short to get the benefit of my endurance.  I ran the GW Parkway Classic 10 miler last April in 1:26, pace of 8:44.

Before the Race
I woke up on Sunday morning, pleasantly surprised that there was no rain for the Cherry Blossom 10-miler. The forecast had called for rain all throughout the race, but it hadn't started yet. I dressed in my new zebra skirt, which I have never raced in, ate some pretzels and half a zone bar, and was ready to go.

My good friend Jenny (who I run most of my races with) had taken the train in from Philadelphia the night before and my good friend Lauren (who I ran the half marathon with last weekend) came over in the morning and we all took the metro it. It was nice not to have to worry about driving, or being stuck in a horrendous three-hour-long traffic jam like at the half marathon last weekend.

We arrived downtown where shuttle buses would take us to the start line. I was not happy to learn that they were school buses, because I have a hang-up with those from a bad childhood experience. Riding that school bus brought back some bad memories, so I tried not to think about it.

When we got off the bus, we walked about half a mile to the start line. I've lived in the Washington DC area my whole life, but I have never seen the cherry blossoms. As we were walking through the park area, I kept asking my friends "Are those the cherry blossoms?" Even my out-of-town friend knew which pink bulbs were cherry blossoms and which ones were not.

The race was very well organized. We were corralled by our bib numbers, and bib numbers were based on previous race times that we had to submit during registration. I think I had submitted my 5K time of 23:32, so I was at the very front of the second wave, bib 2039. I felt like I was surrounded by really fast runners and I didn't deserve to be so close to the front. But I also didn't want to be stuck at the back like in the half marathon from the previous weekend, having to pass a bunch of people in the beginning.

I was freezing at the start line, and I was upset that I had forgotten my running gloves. My fingers were numb and white, and I had to put them in my mouth (98 degrees!) to get feeling back into them. The temperature was announced at 51 degrees. It felt more like 45. It was overcast and there was no sun.

At the start line, I meet a woman who was 49 years old and had just run her first marathon in October-- The Marine Corps Marathon. She qualified for the Boston Marathon during her first marathon, and then shaved 16 minutes off of that time at the Shamrock Marathon two weekends ago. The weekend after the Shamrock Marathon, she ran the National Half Marathon, and now she was doing the 10-miler. . . followed by Boston in mid-April! I was amazed. 49 years old, she had just started running, and she was extremely fast. Her time for this race was 1:15:50.

She was also wearing a running skirt, by the same company who made mine. Hers was all black and she said she always raced in it because it made her feel confident and powerful.  I felt the same way in my zebra skirt and matching top.

Miles 1-3
I recently read a blog from my friend Christopher, who, like me, is usually very strategic about pacing himself. But in his most recent race, he really pushed the pace beyond what he thought was capable of, but he felt good and did it anyway. He told himself "don't think-- just run!"  While I believe that a race in mainly mental, I probably analyze my pace far too much during a race and I don't listen to my body as much as I could. So, I decided that I would try for an average pace of 8:20-8:25, starting at around 8:40 and decreasing to 8:00 by the end. My goal was to finish in 1:23.

My first mile was much faster than I expected. 8:10. After all, I was running with all the fast runners at the start of the second wave. But it felt good, so I just went with it. I planned to walk through the water stations later in the race anyway, so I figured maybe it was good that I started faster than planned.  As I got to the water stations, no one was really walking through them. Once again, this was because I was with the fast runners. I probably walked for about 3-4 seconds with my water, but that was all I felt I could do with everyone running so fast around me.  Mile 3 was my slowest mile (8:30 pace) because of a slight uphill and a water station.

The course was so beautiful. It was the POLAR opposite from the run-down neighborhoods in southeast DC from last weekend. We ran over bridges, near the water, and everything was in bloom. We passed monuments and I was so proud to call this place my home.

Mile 1: 8:10
Mile 2: 8:19
Mile 3: 8:30

Miles 4-6 
After a slow mile 3, I sped up for miles 4 and 5. I wanted to run negative splits, so I knew I needed to pick up the pace a bit, even though I was on track for meeting my goal.

My Personal Record for a 10K (6.2 miles) is a pace of 8:36. I set in it 2005 in the heat. When I came to the 10K marker of this race, I looked at my watch and I noticed that I was setting a 10K PR during a 10-mile race! There was even a timing matt, and I actually sprinted to the timing mat because I thought that the results would include it as a split. I think I hit the mat at excatly 51:00.

At this point, I could see the Elite women and super-fast men on the other side of the course. I was just amazed to look at their legs and see how fast they were going.  I was surprised by the lack of crowd support. There were 15,000 runners, so I expected the crowd support to be almost like that of the Marine Corps Marathon, but it was very minimal. There were no real crowds until the last half mile.

Mile 4: 8:02
Mile 5: 8:07
Mile 6: 8:06

Miles 7-10
These were the hardest miles. We were running the reverse route of the Marine Corps Marathon miles 6-8 on Rock Creek Parkway. During the MCM, we started on one side of the road, and turned around to be on the other side of the road. This was weird because it was reversed. There was a nice downhill at the end of mile 7 that I was thankful for.

I was getting tired and I was worried that I couldn't keep my pace up. I hit somewhat of a wall at mile 8 and I just had to tell myself that I needed to keep going. Slowing down would only prolong the race. I got into this weird zone where I just blocked everything out except for my music and just focused on keeping the pace steady.

At mile marker 9, I started to feel this indigestion pain in my chest and a slight cramp in my side. But I knew I had only one mile to go, so I tried really hard to ignore the pain and just push through. As I approached the finish line, there were tons of people cheering, and I sprinted the last tenth of a mile.

Mile 7: 8:16
Mile 8: 7:57
Mile 9: 8:04
Mile 10: 7:48

My splits were somewhat negative, but not as negative as they usually are. I was happy to pull of a 7:48 at the last mile, despite the pain in my stomach.

I was truly, truly amazed at my time: 1:21:23 and a pace of 8:08. I set a new personal record by over 5 minutes- and this pace is much faster than my 10K pace, ironically!!!  I think it was the zebra skirt. I felt so awesome in that thing.

I placed 190 out of 1621 in my age group.
I placed 650 out of 5520 female runners.

Both of these put me in the 89th percentile, where I usually fall around the 85th percentile. This was one of my best races ever, if not the best. Especially considering I had run a hilly half marathon (+0.24) the weekend before.

What I Learned
I know that having a strategy is important. But if you don't push yourself outside of your comfort zone, then you won't know what you are truly capable of. If I had really tried for a 1:23 exactly, then that's what I would have gotten. But I surprised myself with a 1:21:23, and I couldn't be more pleased.

After the Race
I easily found Lauren and Jenny after the race. I was even more cold after the race than before it, and my lips were turning blue. The only bad thing about this race was the post-race food. I have never run a race where they didn't have bagels at the end. And fresh ones. All they had here at the end in terms of food were bananas (which I hate) and packaged muffins. The muffins were gross, but I had one anyway.  Even that Half Marathon last weekend had like 5 different kinds of fresh bagels.  Whatever. . . I guess I can't be too picky!  It's free! (Well, sort of).

We walked back to school-bus shuttles and stopped for some photos in front of the beautiful trees.

What a wonderful day. I was so happy that it didn't rain and that I got to spend time with my two good friends.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Miami Marathon

It's 9:15 a.m. as the plane takes off for Miami, FL where I am excited to run my third marathon. I am anxiously chewing on a sesame seed bagel that I had purchased from my local bagel bakery. It's my second one of the day. The woman next to me glances down at my shoes and asks me if I am running. When I tell her that I was, she tells me that she is running the half marathon as her first. She has been training for months with the AIDS Marathon training group and has raised over $1,000 for AIDS research, in exchange for them helping her train and paying her race expenses. She is in her mid 40's, with five children (all boys) at home. She is more excited about the vacation alone with her husband than the race, itself. Her goal is simply to finish, and afterwards I checked and confirmed that she did finish!

I give her a few tips when she told me about her chafing (get Body Glide at the Expo!) and how her training team wanted her to take "walk breaks". She is against walking, but I tell her how it is a wise strategy, at least for the first half of the race. She wishes me luck as we step off the plane, and I am thrilled to be in sunny 75-degree weather.

I arrive at the hotel where I meet up with Jenny, who flew in from Philadelphia earlier that morning. As the "official race hotel", all of the Doubletree Surfcomber employees don bright orange shirts with the ING Miami Marathon/Half Marathon logo. The hotel is as close to the beach as you can get, right next door to the famous Delano hotel, which I recall from my previous trip to Miami in 1998. We check in to the hotel room, chat for awhile and then walk a few block to the race expo.

At the expo, we receive our bib numbers (and they have our names on them) as well as some other goods like a "tech-tee" race shirt and running cap. I was thankful for the running cap because I thought I might need it to keep the early morning sun from my eyes. As I retreive the shirt, the expo volunteer asks me my size. "Small" I say. He gives me a weird look and says "A small? Are you sure?" I am flabergasted! Of course I gained some weight for this race, but not enough to change my shirt size! "You probably need an Extra Small". Ah. I am relieved. I gladly accept the extra-small and continue with Jenny throughout the expo. I purchase a pair of running sunglasses and a pair of normal sunglasses, for a grand total of $37!
After the Expo, Jenny and I walk to an area full of restaurants and shops. We settle on a pizza/Italian place that I had seen on the Internet prior to traveling there. Instead of pizza, I order this really interesting grilled veggie sandwich on freshly made bread. Yum! Afterwards, we go to CVS and stock up on cereal, fruit, crackers, cookies, candy. It is overwhelming to actually feel like I can buy whatever food I want without feeling guilty.

Back a the hotel room, I begin the lengthy process of affixing my timing chip to my shoelace. I am very obsessive about this because I don't want the chip to fall off or interfere with the lacing. I am paranoid that if I don't put the chip on correctly, I won't be scored properly. As it turns out, I did an excellent job of attaching the chip to my shoe, but the initial results were way off for most runners. Jenny told the folks at the expo that it often takes me several tries to get my chip "just right" so they gave me extra plastic fasteners:

I debate over wearing my new hat, or my new sunglasses. Both would be overkill. I settle on the hat because I didn't want to wear the sunglasses on my head for the first hour of the race in the dark. Since I had never run with a hat before, I get acquainted with it by wearing it the evening before the race:

Go Zippity Zebra!

I lay out all of my race "gear" the night before so that I don't forget anything when rushing around on Sunday morning. I got the idea to take this photo from Jenna, who took a similar one before her Marathon a few weeks ago:

Jenny and I set two alarms and ask for a wakeup call. Because the race starts so early and we are taking the race shuttle, we need to be awake by 3:30 a.m. We are both wide awake well before that time, anyway. We excitedly dress in our race attire, and I obsess over my bib number being straight.

We head out for the race. I triple check to make sure I have everything I need. On our way, we see two young women, dressed for going "out". They are on their way home after a long night of partying. All of the bars are closing, and I think some of them are even still open. They ask us if we are running the race and we say yes. They say that they trained for the half marathon, but decided not to run it.

When we arrive at the start line, it starts pouring. Torrential downpour. Jenny and I find refuge and toilets in the Arena, along with most other runners. Half marathoners were easily distinguised from full marathoners by their bibs. Many more people are running the half marathon. I feel excited to be running the full and I am so happy I chose it instead of the half. Meanwhile, the wind picks up and it rains harder and harder. We have no choice but to get in the corrals for the start of the race. I feel like I am taking a shower with thousands of other people. I think to myself, "Oh well, there goes my PR. My feet will probably blister from being so soaked. But I am still happy to be here."

We sing the National Anthem in the pouring rain and finally we begin to move. It's pitch dark and pouring rain, but Jenny and I are still very excited. We hug eachother as we approach the start line and then separate, as we run at different paces. Here is a map of the course:

My goal: start with 10:45-minute miles, and then speed up so that I get to the halfway point at 2:10. No faster, no slower. We run over a bridge in the dark and I see all the cruise ships lit up. I was once on a Royal Carribean cruise and I flashback to that moment.

The first few miles are crowded and uneventful. I am happy when the sun rises because I like to see where I am going. The song "Million Miles of Water" plays on my iPod as I try to avoid all the huge puddles on the course. How fitting. I remind myself that a marathon in 90% mental. I tell myself to run the race with my mind, not my body. I don't consider myself particularly athletic, but I do consider myself strategic and smart. So if I do well in this race, it's because of my thinking and attitude. I am near the 4:45 pace group at around mile 3.

I have to go to the bathroom really bad starting at mile 5. Everytime I see a porta potty, there is a line, and I don't want to sacrifice time by waiting in line. I am on the lookout for bushes or places I can pee discretely, but there are none.

As I approach mile 13, the half marathoners are directed one way, and the marathoners the other. I am so excited to continue running. I check my watch as I approach the halfway matt, and I am at 2:10. Perfect! Shortly after, I come upon a porta potty with no line, because most of the runners stopped at the halfway point. I quickly duck in and go to the bathroom and start running again feeling renewed. I see the 4:30 pace group at mile 14, run close to them for about 3-4 minutes and then pass them.

I continue on and begin to notice quad pain at mile 15. I tell myself that it doesn't hurt. It actually feels really good. I tell myself that I am getting a quad massage that feels amazing. It works! I later distract myself by pretening I am playing the piano to the songs on my iPod. I really think about the notes and where they would go on a piano, and I keep my running pace all the while. This distracts me for a few miles.
There are few runners around me. Maybe 3-4 at any given time. I am reminded of the Marine Corps marathon, miles 16-20 where we run around Hanes point and there is no crowd support and everyone is spread out. I remind myself how I got through that part really easily and tell myself I can do the same thing here. I start to feel nauseous and I really don't want to eat my Sports Beans, even though it's time. I force-feed myself the beans and they taste nasty, even though I typically enjoy them. I think the humidity is contributing to my nauseousness. Otherwise, the weather is perfect. It is in the 70's and cloudy, but I feel cool. I don't feel like I need to drink any water, but I have sips at the water stations, because I know I probably should.

I humor myself when I see signs throughout Coconut Grove that say "The Grove says NO to the Home Depot!" Hehehe. They say no to the Home Depot coming to their area. My neighborhood says NO to the homeless center. I guess we aren't the only NIMBYs.

I see people hitting "the wall". I have 6 more miles to go and my legs are hurting. I tell myself that the wall does not exist for me. I tell myself that stopping is not an option. I tell myself that walking will only prolong the race and make my time worse. I tell myself what I did in Delaware: just get to the next mile marker! Each mile is an acheivement.

I start calculating how much money I spent to run each mile based on the race entry fee. I tell myself that there is nothing else I would rather be doing at this moment than running a marathon. I tell myself that this marathon has been the most positive thing in my life for the past few months.

People cheer me on "Go Elizabeth!" It is so cool that our Bib numbers have our names on them. I pass the 4:15 pace group. I think to myself that I could never run with a pace group. I don't like running the same pace for the whole race. I need to speed up to make things exciting!

Just before approaching the mile 26 marker, there is a steep hill-- or bridge rather. I have no prior knowledge of this bridge and I am unpleasantly surprised. "You have got to be kidding me!" I think. It takes all the positive self-talk I have, but I run up the entire thing, and then back down the other side. I sprint 0.2 to the finish line.

I keep looking at my watch, amazed that I could finish in 4:13. I really did not expect that. I was honestly anticipating a 4:19-- 4:18 at the very fastest. In fact, when I registered for this race I had been considering only running the half marathon because I didn't think I could possibly beat my Marine Corps time of 4:24.
I cross the finish line, got a really cool spinning medal and went to retrieve my bag.

I still feel extremely nauseous, so I don't eat anything for about half an hour, at which point I have the mini Oreos that I stashed in my gear check bag. I talk to other runners while I wait for Jenny to cross the finish line. I text my friends and talk to my mother and I am very excited.

Jenny crosses the finish line and pretty much passes out just after the medal is placed around her neck. I take her to the medical tent where they help get her electrolytes back in balance. I am very scared for her, but the medical tent is equipped with the fluids needed to handle this type of thing. After awhile, Jenny is released and we walk back to the race shuttle. We have the entire bus to ourselves!

Back at the hotel, Jenny falls asleep and I check the results on the Internet, I freak out because they are wrong, but I try and calm myself because I am pretty certain that I can submit a correction.
What did I learn in this race? A marathon truly is a mental challenge. In other areas of my life, I have been trying to apply Cognitive therapy to change my thought patterns from negative to positive. Using messages that I believe are true, but that will not depress me or make me anxious. If I can use this strategy to keep positive during a 26.2-mile run, despite the pain in my legs, then I can do it in other areas of my life. I just need to remember as I go through my daily life the mental strength that I exhibited during this marathon and how it really got me through. 

I exceeded my goal and had a great time doing it. I didn't let the rain stop me. Or the nausea. Or having to go to the bathroom really bad. I just told myself to run with my mind, and it worked.