Saturday, March 24, 2012

Virginia Beach Marathon Report

Sunday I ran my third marathon in Virginia Beach.

This was the most casual and friendly race I have ever done. The marathon started at 8:30 in the morning. There were only 4000 runners, the corral was full of runners and supporters, just hanging out.

I started with the 4:30 pacers. That was my goal time. I quickly found out I do not much care for running in a huge pack. People kept cutting me off and I kept thinking the person in front of me was going to hit my shins with their back kick.

So I stayed ahead of the 4:30 pacers for the first 10 miles and felt great the whole time. I was probably running at a 10k pace, but I figured I've tried starting off a marathon real slow and I never sped up later. This time as long as I had the energy I was going to run as fast as my legs would take me. Probably need to work on that pacing thing.

Around mile 10 or 11, we hit the sunny concrete boardwalk, which from now on I will refer to as the torture chamber. I have seen second hand how painful it can be to run on concrete, but I've never tried to maintain a certain pace on that stuff. Every step I took just zapped the energy right out of me. It sure was beautiful running right next to the ocean though!

This is when the 4:30 pace group caught up to me and I fought like hell to stay with them for the next 2-3 miles.

I ran the first 15 miles in 2:40. My half marathon PR is 2:38, so that felt pretty dam good!

Somewhere between mile 15 and 16, I hit the wall. I was in pain and hungry. So far I had just relied on the water stops that came about every 2 miles for water or Gatorade.

Well just then a lady pops up giving out oranges. I said, "Thank you, you are awesome!" and made a mental note to hand out oranges at the next NYC marathon. Next I grabbed a GU from the water stop. Then there was a tent handing out beer, so of course I took one. Yup at mile 15 of my marathon, after training so hard and having this great nutrition plan, I drank a beer at mile 15.

I payed for it mile 16-19, my whole body started cramping up, especially my legs and stomach and I felt light-headed. I worried if there was poison in it, but I think any beer at mile 15 of a marathon is poison. I really didn't think I was going to make it. I stopped in the next two porta-potties without any success, and did some sort of run-walk shuffle in between. Now we were running through some type of military base with these barbed, electrified wires on either side of us.

This is when I started to really get down on myself.

I thought back on my first marathon that took me almost seven hours in San Francisco. My second was the NYC marathon which I ran 8 months after I had E-man. I pushed him in the stroller on all my training runs, stopping to nurse him along the way. I thought I would surely do better than San Francisco, but some time in the NYC marathon, I remember realizing I was not going to get much of a PR. It ended up taking me 6 hrs, 47 minutes, a PR by 2 minutes from SF.

This time I really trained, granted I know how I can train better next time, but I really trained this time, and here I was hardly able to walk at mile 16-19. I was like Anna, you bring your family down here so you can run a marathon and now look at you, you suck!

Around this time we were running on a slow incline on a road somewhere out in the trees. There were a bunch of green signs put up with Shamrock jokes like, "What do you get when you combine a rock and a pillowcase?" I'm pretty sure the same person wrote those jokes that designed the concrete torture chamber.

At the next water stop around mile 19, they were giving out bananas which I took with a glass of water. My stomach started feeling better immediately.

Just then I ran into this lady who asked me if I was OK. "Yeah," I said, "I think I just got dehydrated," and she started running alongside me, and we started talking and helping each other pick up the pace. We ran the next 6 mile together. The last mile we were back on the concrete and I knew I would run nonstop to the finish line, but not at her pace so I let her go ahead and do her Kenyan dash thing.

I ran that marathon in 5 hrs, 27 minutes, a PR of 1 hr and 20 minutes, and that was with doing a 20 minute or slower pace from miles 16-19. I lost a good half hour those 3 miles. I absolutely would have finished in under 5 hrs if I had ummmhhhhhh...did a little better on the nutrition.

But you know what, if I had accomplished my goal without any problem, that would have been awesome and I will do that. But the fact that I thought I wasn't going to make it and I ended up recovering and running the last 7 miles...I just can't believe I came back from that! That lady was my angel, and you know what, that was her second marathon in two days. She had done a trail marathon the day before. She was incredible!

You run into so many incredible people doing a marathon. Oh and you know what else, I did the whole thing without any music. I tried listening to music during those three slow miles to distract me from the green signs, but it just depressed me even more.

It was an awesome day to run a marathon, 57 degrees, beautiful course except that concrete torture chamber and I didn't much care for the second military base. The first one though was awesome. I forgot to mention around miles 7-10, we ran through Camp Pendelton. They were all out there cheering for us, in fact the whole city was pretty supportive throughout the race, especially the kids! It was like a scene from Remember the Titans.

Virginia Beach itself is beautiful and so laid back. There's a pancake house, icecream shop, bar and seafood restaurant on just about every block.
At the finish line, there was a line of volunteers handing out food, medals, hats and a sweater which I love and don't want to take off saying that I ran the 40th annual Virginia Beach marathon. Oh yes I did! By the time I got all my goodies, I was standing right outside my hotel.

Even though at mile 16-19, I was sure I would never do this again, by the time I got upstaris to my room, I was planning what to do different next time.

1) Work on the nutrition plan. Probably need some electrolites or salt and potassium or something. Also maybe a good idea to refrain from the beer next time.

2) Add strength training.

3) Train up to at least 20-22 miles nonstop instead of breaking up all my long runs.

Now it's time to start training for my second annual Lone Ranger 24 hour race in Philly July 14-15. It kicked my butt last year and I plan to take revenge on it this year. I'm ready, today I ran 4 miles and did a cross / strength training workout and felt great!

Friday, December 16, 2011

I Am Not a Criminal, Just an Idiot

This morning I stopped at the grocery store, or "Lunch" as E-man fittingly and straight-to-the-point nic-named the place, on the way to drop him off at school.

At the cash register, I bent down to help him put the lunch in his backpack and realized I'd forgotten to close the zipper of my wallet as my library and museum cards came diving out.

I quickly picked them up, ignored the "shame on you" translated through glares and sighs from the lady behind me in check-out and walked out with all the dignity I could finagle.

After dropping him off, I continued on with a list of errands to run, the first being another, bigger trip to the grocery store.

Once again at checkout, I handed the cashier my credit card and, well, that grocery store must have some problems with frequent bounced transactions or something because this was a first, she asked me for my ID. When I didn't have it, she got the manager.

The manager came and looked at my library card, my museum card, asked my address and made me sign my signature in front of him. It was quite an ordeal and I was pretty glad to be out of there.

On my way home, I started thinking about it and realized hey, why didn't I have my ID? It should have been in my wallet. So I run home, call the grocery store, ask to speak to the manager, get put on hold for too long, hang up and run back to the store. Meanwhile I am imagining that someone stole my ID and there is a fake Anna S already running around. I mean seriously, I live in Jackson Heights, hardly anyone here even speaks English, surely someone here needs an ID to prove their not an illegal immigrant (is that politically correct?). I start thinking of that lady giving me dirty looks in the line behind me and I remember her putting her foot down and now I am sure she saw my ID, covered it up real quick and as soon as I left, she picked it up and became Anna S, a legal citizen of this country.

I run, huffing and sweating back into the grocery store and ask if anyone has found an ID, to which they promptly go and get the same manager that quizzed me on the last trip. He looked at me and said, "Aren't you the one that didn't have ID? Are you Anna?" Boy he was looking at me like I had two heads or was a thieving liar now!

I guess he chose the two heads, because he started to talk me down as he slowly and gently walked me towards the door, no sudden moves. He was looking at me with the most pitiful look when I got down on my hands and knees, looked under the cash register where my wallet had taken a spill two trips earlier and what do you know, there was my ID.

He just looked at me with the most perplexed look on his face, grabbed the thing out of my hand, asked me what my address was, studied the picture, handed it back and stood there with his jaw hanging on the floor while I walked out of there.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Training for the Virginia Beach Marathon

Ahead of schedule, that is what I like to be, because it's one thing to run because you want to, a whole other to run because you have to.

What usually happens is I run for a couple months because I want to, then something or other happens and I stop running, so I sign up for a marathon to get myself running again. But then I look at that training schedule and always, without fail, I want to do anything but what I'm scheduled to do that day.

And one thing after another happens and marathon day is here and I haven't trained for it.

But this time, oh this time is going to be different, I feel it, I know it. I'm scheduled to run the Virginia Beach marathon in March and for one thing I'm doing it in memory of my mother who died of cancer way too young, way before I ever got to realy know her the way a child should know her mother. That alone lit a fire beneath my but from the day I signed up.

But sometimes I get so emotional and serious that I need to take it easy. Those are the days I keep in mind that they will be serving Yuengling beer at the finish line.

Well I am now five weeks into my marathon training and for the first time in my marathon training history, I am not only on schedule, but ahead of schedule.

This morning I decided to combine my speed training run for the week and my long run because at the end of my tempo run I didn't feel like stopping. So instead of doing 3 miles at a 9:40 pace, I did 11 miles at a 9:40 pace.

The emotional side of me says my mother must be with me. The rational side says I better get the training in while it's good.

One of my secrets, I've come to realize I don't need to be on Daily Mile and every other site out there. I'm not competing with anyone but myself. That is why my last run noted on this blog was posted 2 months ago. It's not the last run I did, it's the last run I posted.

I am not saying anything about what one should or should not do, this is just what is currently working for me. Whatever gets you through the run right?

I wish you happiness and health in the upcoming holidays and year to come! Cheers!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sometimes Your Kid Needs a Break Too

For the first three years of E-man's life, I worked from home. It was exhausting. I was always trying to do at least 3 jobs at once and I felt completely unproductive and frustrated.

The first break I had was when I realized I could sign up for a gym with daycare. I learned about that the Christmas before E-man turned 3 and started going there almost every morning. I started getting fit, slowly started getting my sanity back and I started to realize that E-man and I get along much better when we get out of the house every day.

But then I still had work to do and I still felt like I was failing in everything else.

So we signed up for daycare, it started as 3 days a week, then went to 4 days a week, then 5 + gym with daycare on nights and weekends and in our free time, I made it a point to get out of the house as much as possible and go to the museums, the parks, anything that E-man and I could enjoy together.

We went from being home all the time driving each other crazy to getting up in the morning, going out all day and keeping ourselves busy until we came home exhausted and knocked out. Most days we barely even have time or energy for dinner so we just eat a plate of snacks or a salad.

This week I started marathon training and it was the last straw. I was exhausted. The thought of having to get up early on a Saturday to keep my kid busy and happy was just so overwhelming to me I wanted to hide under the covers for the indefinite future.

But hey, when your a mom, your job never stops right? You just suck it up, and get to work. So this morning I got started with the regular routine, putting E-man in his clothes so we could go, "Bye Bye."

Well E-man started crying when I went to put his pants on and said, "Wow Wow Wubzy!?"

I couldn't believe it. My kid didn't want to go out either. He wanted to stay home and have a nice relaxing morning. All this time I've been exhausting myself trying to keep him entertained and he was exhausted too and just wanted a morning off.

He has spent the morning happily posted in front of the TV, watching "Wow Wow Wubzy" and "Thomas the Tank Engine", playing with his new building set, singing, counting, roll playing and acting out his day in school and just having a nice time and I have had a morning to relax.
And now I know...if I am overwhelmed and exhausted, it might be time to stop and take a break, because chances are, my kid needs a break too.

Have I mentioned how humbling and great it is to be this kid's mom!? Now we are off to the gym and the Botanical Gardens Holiday Train Exhibit. :)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Running in the Rain

It is not often that I amaze myself. Most days I feel like it's all I can do to stay above water, figuratively, and on cold, rainy days like this week, literally. That's why moments like the one I experienced yesterday are really something to celebrate.

I was running from E-man's school to the train station to get to work, pushing him in the jogging stroller. It was my fourth run of the day, I was soaked and shivering and it was all just starting to get to me. This is probably the kind of day the school had in mind when they assured me that most parents may start out taking their kids to school, but eventually everyone gives in to the free door-to-door bus service.

But I am determined to set a good example for my son by using the two legs that God gave me to run him to school every day. It's the only way I am forced to consistently get in a minimum of 20 miles a week of running, it keeps me involved at his school and hey, NYC has enough exhaust polluting its air.

Meanwhile, I've been kicking myself for not doing any weight training until I realized today as my coat became heavier and heavier from soaking in the rain, and the wind blew stronger and stronger, this is a great way to get in some resistance training.

And the great thing about all this running is that E-man is really getting into it. Sometime he will jump out of the stroller and start racing me and woah he is fast! I think I need to start taking him to the track.

Here are some more tips for running in the rain:

Friday, August 26, 2011

View from the Roof Deck

E-man has recently figured out that if he asks nicely for something, I am a sucker and am very unlikely to say no. It is a big and mostly pleasant change from screams and fit throwing that we had grown accustomed to in his first three years.

The first time he asked me for a "hot dog" instead of screaming, pointing, kicking his feet, trying to jump out of the stroller and dive into the concrete when I didn't figure out what he wanted by the 2nd or 3rd or 10th try, I screamed with joy, hugged and congratulated him for using his words and walked around the rest of the day with a smile as big as the Grand Canyon.

Apparently this positive response has encouraged him to use his words constantly and I have to remind myself often that there was a time when this was beginning to seem impossible and I wished and hoped with all my heart for this day.

Now every time we get into the elevator of our building, E-man points at the top floor and asks sweetly, "Roof deck?" And how can I say no? Just look at the view!
This is in the evening when the sun is going down and it was pretty windy.

You can see the Triborough (Robert F. Kennedy) Bridge from here which is about 3 miles away from our apartment and connects Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan. I haven't actually run over this bridge yet, but I love running under it to Astoria Park.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Lone Ranger Race Report

Last Friday, my three-year-old, Elijah, my niece, Aliyah, and I arrived in Philly for a much needed vacation. The plan was for the two of them to hang out while I ran the 24 hour Lone Ranger and then we would all spend the next three days sight seeing.

The minute we got into our hotel, we knew we were going to have a good weekend. We all ran out onto the balcony of our 24th floor room and looked down on Philly. Then we headed over to the most serious packet pick up I’ve been to yet. Usually there are vendors selling marathon gear and cheering aids. Instead this race had EMT's taking our vitals as a precautionary measure in case a paramedic had to pick any of us up off the course.

Next we headed to the famous Rocky Steps to gain energy and empowerment for the race ahead. I didn't realize when I put this on my short, must-do-list, that I would get my fill of these steps while running past them over and over again the next day.

The morning of the race, we set up a tent for E-man and Aliyah to hang out in during the day and me to sleep in if I needed to stop and rest at any point during the race.

The first loop, I started out with a big silly grin on my face thinking, “I’m really doing this!”

I ran those first 8.4 miles nonstop, just taking in the scenery, the famous Rocky steps, the dam, covered bridges, Schuylkill River, people fishing, picnicking and having canoe races. It was a beautiful day for running.

The course was clearly marked with directions from the race crew such as, “Water stop ahead,” and with chalk messages that friends of runners had probably come out and written the night before such as, “You got this Heather!”

One sign pointed out a fountain up a flight of steps and I though to myself, “Hey, my muscles will probably get tired of running this mostly flat course, how about a little stair running to mix it up,” and took off up the steps. Such was my exuberance that first loop.

By the end of this loop, I was already a little tired, but ready to take on another loop.

I ran over to the tent where E-man was sitting and playing in the grass (this was his first camping experience) and came running up with a big smile and a hug when he saw me. But as soon as I left, Aliyah called and said he'd gotten so upset when I left, he cried until he threw up all over the inside of the tent, the sleeping bag and himself. (He does this some times when he gets excited.) So she ended up having to take him back to the hotel and I didn't realize 'till after she left that I'd sent her back with all my money and other things I’d so carefully packed. Still, once I knew they were safe at the hotel, I could fully focus on the run.

The second loop, I did a 5:1 run/walk. At the end I was feeling a little tired, but still pretty good. At the end of this loop, I had run 16.8 miles in 4 hours and when the race volunteers recorded my time, I swear they looked just a little impressed. Or maybe they were wondering how long I was going to be able to keep this up.

Whatever they were thinking, just the act of deciding to go on running a third loop made me feel re-energized and ready to conquer the world, or at least the next 24 hours.

When I signed up for this race back in January, I was maintaining a steady and for me, hardcore, training schedule of about 30 miles a week. I had planned to build from there, but instead ended up going back to work and really I can’t blame that, I just lost the thrill and my race schedule lagged down to about 20 miles a week with an occasional long run of no more than 10 miles. It was so bad, I thought of dropping out of the race, but this race supports what I believe is such a great cause and I had friends who believed in me enough to donate to it (thanks Wendy and Michelle!). Besides, even though I hadn’t trained near enough, about a week before, I really started to get into the spirit of the race. Trained or not, I wanted to see what I could do. After all, the name of this charity is, "Back on my Feet."

So I was amazed and awed every time I put one foot in front of the other and landed still in an upright position.

The third loop, I did a mixture of running, walking, listening to music with my big bulky headphones and got to chat with some of the other runners. I tried to find a groove, but just couldn't seem to find it. I was feeling tired and sore, but still surprised by how good I was feeling. There weren’t a lot of people out this time around. It was around 2pm, the hottest part of the day, so I guess most of the other runners were either way ahead of me, way behind me or smartly taking a rest.

Each time I finished a loop I would stop in this big air conditioned room where some people were napping in between loops, you could take showers and they had tables set up with oranges, sandwiches, bananas, drinks, potato chips and all kinds of other snacks. They also had several refuel stands along the course. The volunteers were just amazing! Apparently putting on this race has been a work in progress (and this year was by far their best yet!).

After the third loop, I decided to change into compression pants because my legs were starting to cramp up.

At this point, I was still thinking I would run until midnight, then maybe take a rest until 6 when the pajama race was scheduled to start. How quickly I went from feeling great (even though I was sore and tired) to loosing every bit of will power I had! It all happened because of a thought.

As soon as I started the fourth loop I hit the wall. Every step I took, I didn't know if my legs would carry me or give out and crumple underneath me. I came into this race thinking that I would go until I either fell over or the 24 hours were up. But now I had a thought that if I beat myself up on the course any more, I would be useless to do any of the things I had brought my kid and niece along to do. This little guy just jumped on my shoulder and said, "If your legs give out, you don't have anyone to carry you out of here. You have to carry your kid out of here," and he never got off.

It took every bit of strength and determination I had to finish that last 8.4 miles and smile and say, "Yeah, I'm ok," when the paramedics started making their regular rounds.

When I finished this loop, the person recording the times said to me, "Why does she look so happy, (some lady walking behind me in a ladybug costume) and you look so miserable? I WAS miserable and I just punked out. Maybe next time I will dress up in a costume, or bring my cheerful niece along to be my running buddy.

I got back to the tent which now had no sleeping bag because E-man had thrown up all over it, so I was laying on the ground with my stiff back and barely any power in my phone and I called my niece and told her to get a cab and come get me.

I went back to the hotel and I went to bed after running for only 9 hrs, 38 minutes and 17 seconds. I slept very sporadically. I kept waking up throughout the night thinking should I go back out there? My eyes were swollen and bloodshot, my head was pounding, my feet were hurting, and each time I told myself it was best to save some energy to take care of and have a good time with my kid instead of going back out there and beating myself up any more on the course.

It was a decision between finding out just how far I could push myself and creating a memorable vacation with my kid.

Each day after the race, I spent some time beating myself up for quitting. But each night, I ran around the Swan fountain down the block from our hotel with E-man. Around and round it we would run, he screaming with laughter and me feeling like I was giving my feet an ice bath and letting the water and the fun wash over me and clear my head of all the doubts and self degradation.

Five days later, I have no regrets. My feet are still a little sore, and when I try to run on them, they feel like too stiff logs that will surely turn into a million splinters if I pound them too hard, but mostly I am amazed by how good I feel and I can’t wait to do it again.

My Lone Ranger Statistics:
1st Loop 1:40:04
2nd Loop 2:20:26
3rd Loop 2:24:55
4th Loop 3:12:52
Total: 33.824 miles in 9:38:17