You Spin My Head Right Round…13.

I haven’t decided which is harder, lacing up my shoes and walking out the door or running the actual 11 miles. The mental game is often times more difficult than the physical. I psych myself out, I find all of the excuses, I conjure up tummy aches and knee pain. I fall into the thought pattern that I’m just too tired, I wouldn’t be able to put 100% into it, so why should I do it? The mental struggle is real.

This round of half-marathon training is no different. I am currently in week 5 of my 13th round of training. Holiday Half, here I come! You would think that 3 weeks of zero running while in Central America last month would restart all of my motivation. (More on the trip later.) Not the case. This round of training has had an entirely new focus: speed. I am going to PR this next half-marathon. Track workouts once a week, tempo run once a week and a long run. I’ve gone from lifting heavy 6 days a week with intermittent running to focused running 3 days a week, lifting heavy 3 days a week and one active rest day.

It looks a little like this:

# Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 9/20-27 Track

8×100

 

Leg Day

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

3.5 

Tempo

Chest

Back

Core

7 L Off
2 9/28-10/4 Track

6×200

 

Leg Day

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

4.5 

Tempo

Chest

Back

Core

9 L Off
3 10/5-11 Track

8×100

 

Leg Day

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

5.5 

Tempo

Chest

Back

Core

11L  Off
4 10/12-18 Hill Rpt

5×30sec

LD 1

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

6.5 T Chest

Back

Core

12 L Body

Weight

 

5 10/19-25 1,2,3,4-

321

Ladder

 

LD 2

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

6.5 T Chest

Back

Core

13 L Body

weight

6 10/26-11/1 Hill Rpt

8x30secs

LD 3

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

4.5 T Chest

Back

Core

9 L 3-5 E
7 11/2-8 8×100,

4×400

 

LD 1

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

7.5 T Chest

Back

Core

15 L 3-5E
8 11/9-15 1,2,3,4,5

4,3,2,1

Ladder

 

LD 2

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

6.5 T Chest

Back

Core

13 L  Off
9 11/16-22 8×100

 

LD 3

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

5.5 T Chest

Back

Core

11 L 3-5E
10 11/23-29 4×400

 

LD 1

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

4.5 T Chest

Back

Core

9 L Off
11 11/30-12/6 8×100

 

LD Any

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

3.5 T Chest

Back

Core

7 L  Off
12 12/7-13 Rest or

Stretch

6.5 E Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

3.1 E Chest

Back

Core

REST! 13.1!

 

Track days included a mile warm up and a mile cool down in addition to 4 different dynamic stretches like walking lunges, squats, butt kickers etc.

Each of our gym days are a concentrated power hour in the specified muscle group. It’s heavy lifting and a killer challenge. The tempo run is typically 50% of that week’s long run and it is done at a 10k pace. The long runs on the weekend are generally run naked. That is, without a Garmin or headphones, so I can disconnect and actually remember why I love running.

Like I had mentioned, this round of training is focused on speed. I truly want to get better. But, let me tell you, the track workouts are a reality check! I consider myself an adult most of the time. I hate adulting, but I didn’t think there was much 5 year old left in me. I was wrong. Jess, the small child, comes out during track workouts. I must have thrown 3 temper tantrums during an hour workout. There was so much negative energy, pouting, arm crossing and throwing myself down on the ground. At one point, Eli made the mistake of asking how I was doing. I wailed, “I’m f*&%ing AWFUL!”

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I do give my best effort though. I push myself into asthma attack oblivion. I push beyond my comfort zone. That 5 year old can be quieted if I focus on the track in front of me. I keep my head up. My wings out. Thank you, Oiselle.

It’s all going to make me faster, right?

All of my complaining and failed adulting aside, I actually like track workouts more than I do tempo runs. I have the hardest time motivating myself to push hard for that many miles. Anyone else have such a complicated relationship with running?

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I am looking forward to seeing the improvements in my running. By designing this challenge, I knew it was going to kick my booty. I knew there were parts I was going to hate. What is that adage though, ‘if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.’ I’m ready to change. I want to run faster.

I also want to keep the balance. I love running. I love running for the mental clarity, for the run highs, for the happiness. I love running to discover new trails and to both lose and discover myself. When I push myself to run faster, I lose that joy. It becomes solely about getting through the workout and not the joy of the run itself. I’m working to find joy in the challenge.

Maybe it looks like this:

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Or, perhaps this is just what a break during a long run looks like.

Never Trust A Fart

Trust :noun: Firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

Mile 17 of the Bend Marathon. We’re finally coming downhill from a 4+ mile climb. I’m sweaty, grouchy, tired, and my body wants to coast down this hill. I let myself relax….and it happened before I could even do anything about it. I trusted a fart. As I continued running, every backside muscle clenched, I wondered to myself the definition of trust. I trusted myself to maintain composure, I trusted my bodily functions to contain themselves and act appropriately. I was wrong. 

Thankfully, there was a port-a-potty within a half mile of the accident, so I was able to clean myself up the best I could. I never dreamed that this would happen in real life!

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When I try to think of how to describe the Bend Marathon, the only word that comes to mind is humbling. The course was humbling for even experienced runners; plenty of hills and trails to contend with. It humbled me, mind, body and soul. The 4+ mile long hill, that started around mile 12, humbled my mind into realizing that the mental strength I thought I possessed wasn’t adequate even if I tried to convince myself otherwise. It humbled my body into realizing that the 2-3 days/week (if that) of training was not nearly enough to prepare me for this race. This race humbled my soul in that not every person loves to run long distances. And, even if you love them for a while, you may not always feel that way.

I truly felt I loved to run long distances until I ran this race. Maybe it was the lack of training. Maybe it was the lack of happy vibes. Maybe it was the lack of good sleep the nights preceding the race. But, I finally learned what people refer to as “the dark place” when running long distances; that emotional, negative, pit of despair. It was the Blerch in all of his terrible glory. I had to run away from those feelings like the grim reaper (or the Blerch) was chasing after me.

I cried for the first time during a race. Less than two miles from the finish line, in the middle of a park with people around, I lost it. Big, heaving sobs and alligator tears when I told Eli that I just couldn’t do it. 

I still crossed the finish line. I still ate my cupcakes. But not without a small change of heart. I learn a lot about myself while running 26.2 miles. It was certainly no different in this race.

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A huge thank you to Ida’s Cupcakes for the frosted post-race deliciousness!

 

I learned what it meant to push yourself, even when there’s nothing left. Even when there’s no desire to even put one foot in front of the other. You separate mind and foot; you force the body to keep going. It is amazing how quickly weakened the brain can become in such a long race if you aren’t prepared.

I learned what ill preparation does to your mind and body in a marathon. I learned how important proper hydration is, and how much gummy bears really mean to me.

I learned that sometimes the worst side of you comes out during a race. I had a sailor’s mouth and a spiteful heart. The things coming out of my mouth after the halfway point…I truly don’t know how Eli kept by my side, repeating, “I don’t care what you say. We promised to cross the finish line together.”

In the week leading up to the race, I had to be honest with myself. Yes, we had fabulous shirts made for the race. But. The training was nowhere what it needed to be to run a solid race and potentially PR. I was accepting of that fact, and Eli and I decided to run this race for fun. And perhaps take a few selfies along the way…

 

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The above photo was a little more than halfway through, and about a mile into the 4 mile long hill. I was still feeling pretty decent, and even had the thought of beasting my way up the entire hill…Hence the face.

And, here we are, only a few miles out from the finish line. At this point, I think Eli hated the camera as much as I hated the thought of having to place one foot in front of the other. Where had all of our joy gone?

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I wanted to write an inspiring post. I wanted to put a positive spin on a race that did not at all go to plan. I wanted to write how loving, positive and supportive Eli and I were to each other throughout the race. (We were both buttheads.) But, sometimes, things don’t go as planned.

The Bend marathon was a beautiful course. A mixture of river trail, city streets, a daunting uphill climb, and a glorious downhill to the finish. More aid stations than I ever could have imagined, gummy bears galore, and energetic race volunteers. I ate my weight in bananas offered post-race, and the libations were perfection.

I thought the course did a wonderful job of giving a taste of the city of Bend, the beauty of some of their parks, as well as the Deschutes River. It gave those from out of state an idea of all that the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

Aside from my bad attitude, the only other negative thing I can say about this race was the organization/flow. The 300 and something marathoners started at the same time as the 3,000+ half-marathoners. It made for a very crowded river trail, with passing a near impossibility.

Overall, I would do this course again in a heartbeat. I love Bend. The views were fantastic. The course kicked my ass. The aid stations and volunteers were wonderful. And, did I mention the giant wall-mount bottle opener for a medal?!

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We crossed the finish line holding hands, with smiles on our faces. We learned a lot during this race, both about ourselves and each other. The two most important were these:

Celebrate finish lines, not finish times.

And believe me, never trust a fart.

 

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Feats

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Portland marathon: 26.2 miles

Cupcake flavor: Pumpkin with maple buttercream frosting

Wakeup time: 4:45 am

Start time: 7:11 am

Finish time: 11:50 am

Temperature: 60 degrees

Mood: Giddy, excited, happy…after a successful pre-race bathroom trip.

Pre-race meal: Honeycrisp apple, almond butter, and a pumpkin ALT bar.

Race fuel: Nuun, pink lemonade and GU chomps, watermelon

Longest training run: 22 miles

Length of time training post-injury: 10 weeks…yikes.

Here I am, a month and a half later, finally blogging about the Portland Marathon. Sigh. Dental hygiene school gets in the way at times. But, I promise this post is full of happiness and cupcakes!

My training wasn’t the greatest this time around and, quite frankly, pretty stupid inadequate. I was apprehensive about what the Portland held in store for me. I’d signed up for this race a year in advance, and I wasn’t about to give up running because of a silly little injury and a lame boot. Das Boot came off the end of June and my physical therapist was adamant that one, I wait at least a month to begin even light running, and two, that I purchase shoes with lots of support and cushion in them. I did my best to listen.

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My first run back was in mid-July. See the picture? I listened. I waited a month to run and I’m even wearing supportive running shoes (and mismatched socks.) These are an old pair of running shoes, but I even went so far as to go and try out 8 different pairs of running shoes with varying amounts of support in them. I hated them all.

I made a valiant effort to try supportive shoes for 3 weeks. And then I ditched them. Not. A. Fan. They felt heavy and entirely too rigid. I’m so accustomed to my Brooks PureDrift or New Balance Minimus, that anything more felt cumbersome. I like the minimalist, lightweight, flexible, 0-4 mm heel drop, kind of shoe. So, that’s what I returned to. Sorry, Kyla.

My few weeks of training were slow, as I eluded to in my last post. It was humbling, grueling, and a little disheartening at times. I never once kept track of pace. But I know I was slow. It was enough of a mental struggle to get out the door each time, that pushing pace didn’t seem like the smartest thing to do. Not to mention that my tibia wasn’t fully healed either. I was not concerned about pace. I needed to focus on distance, on crossing that damned finish line.

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Here I am chucking deuces at the 22 miles of Forest Park I’d just  conquered. Longest training run before the marathon.

What a run. I set out that morning to run 16. Eight miles out and eight back on Leif Erickson trail. 7 miles in, I had a very sudden and large need for a bathroom. And not the kind of need that can be satisfied with jumping off the trail for a moment. From that point, it was 4 miles to the nearest outhouse. Which happened to be at the entirely opposite end of the trail, 3 miles beyond my turn-around point. My other option was to turn around and run the 7 miles back to where I started. What do you think I chose? My 16 mile run suddenly became 16+3+3=22. At least I had a happy tummy at the end!

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Race day came way too quickly. The stats of which I eluded to at the beginning of this post. I’ve been mulling over (for 6 weeks now) how exactly I wanted to discuss my Portland marathon experience.

Let’s talk about songs. These tend to define the overall race experience in a number of ways. Driving to the race with one of my best friends from elementary school and our respective boyfriends, the nerves were almost palpable. I woke up that morning with a rather ridiculous song stuck in my head, and had no choice but to play it for the car: DJ Khaled, “All I Do Is Win.” What can I say? I was ready to win the race.

After my first real experience with multiple race corrals, I really did start to feel like cattle being herded. The song going through my head at the start line is one I’m rather ashamed to admit. Standing there waiting, I kept hearing, “Players gonna play, play, play. Haters gonna hate, hate, hate. I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake. Shake it off, shake it off.” Taylor Swift, you do not need to be in my head this early in the morning. However, I could stand to shake off those nervous jitters that always take hold of me in the minutes preceding a race start. 

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Here I am in the first third of the race, still entirely too energized and happy. Except, that’s surprisingly how I was through the majority of the run. In the first 8 miles, I kept looking all around at the other runners, in awe of the energy surrounding me. We all had put forth so much effort, so much time, to make this day a reality. This sounds rather silly, but the REM song, “Shiny Happy People” popped into my head as I ran down Naito Parkway. The song is rather repetitive, but it basically talks about being surrounded by shiny, happy people. And that is exactly how I felt. I even felt like a shiny, happy, people. Yes, a people. Shiny, happy, sunshine and smiles.

Again, the first 6-8 miles seemed to zoom by. Partially because they had so much live music for us. The other part being the aforementioned energy. The music though! So many wonderful artists, guitarists, vocalists, multi-instrument ensembles. One group was playing MGMT, “Electric Feel” on a particularly boring straight stretch. Thanks guys, I had that song stuck in my head for the next 10 miles.

Overall, the race went better than I’d hoped. A random spectator during mile 18 saved my life with the most amazing banana I’d ever eaten. I really should just start carrying a banana with me during long runs, because they always seem like pure, ingestible gold 2/3 through a marathon. Remember this? Mile 19 of my last marathon, and my aunt handed me a banana. I am fairly certain I had tears in my eyes. That was how happy I was at the sight of a banana.

Mile 20, there were belly dancers! What a random form of entertainment for the runners. I, however, loved it. Little known fact about me: I belly danced for 4 years in high school. It’s such an amazing form of self-expression, not to mention pretty great to watch…except when you’re 20 miles into a run. I stopped and demonstrated my best hip shimmy and hip circle with a huge smile on my face, as if to say, ‘see I know how to do this too! Can’t you tell?!’ Sadly, I am more than certain I looked very similar to someone having a seizure. Sigh. I tried.

The last few miles of the race, I was accompanied by an awesome runner from Seattle. I’m pretty sure our random babble was what kept me sane.

 

This was about mile 23 or 24. I made my new found friend stop so I could capture this. I’ve been taking pictures of random “Hello, my name is…” stickers for two years now.  You can see them here on my Instagram. I promise you, I’ve never placed one myself.

As we ran the last 2.2 miles, every other word out of my mouth was profanity. Poor friend. All I could think about was the burger I was going to feast on afterwards. I detailed every last topping I wanted.

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1/3 pound burger with pepperjack cheese, over easy egg, bacon and avocado.  Craving was indeed satisfied.

Head, shoulders, knees, and feats. Head, shoulders, knees, and feats. Eyes and ears and nose and mouth…Head, shoulders, knees, and feats.

What a random song to pop into my head while running a marathon.

Head: Positive mental attitude is everything. Without that, the race could not have been conquered. It is remembering why you’re out there, why you run. It is remembering how far you’ve come to be in this moment. ‘Wherever you are, be all there.’ I could not be where I am today without the support and encouragement of my friends and family.

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With tears streaming down my face, I could not think of a better way to come across the finish line. This guy even made a shirt to show his support:

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“Team Jessica” on the front and “#werunforcupcakes” on the back.

These ladies. Forever friends. And an amazing support and more hugs at the finish line.20141125-131834.jpg

 

Shoulders: I had the most difficult time keeping my shoulders out of my ears during the marathon. I kept having to conscientiously relax them. Surprisingly, they were the only part of my body that was sore the day after the race. Explain that.

Knees: Going into the marathon, I reminded myself to keep the pace slow and steady. About halfway through the race, my knee started to twinge. Immediate thought: “Oh no! Another injury! How in the world am I going to make it through the rest of the race?” It is amazing how quickly my brain jumps to conclusions. I pushed on.

Feats: Simply, I crossed the finish line. I completed another marathon. I ran 26.2 miles two months after Das Boot and an incredibly humbling injury. I pushed through mentally and physically to cross the finish line of my third marathon with tears streaming down my face and a giant grin.

Don’t worry, the cupcakes were devoured.

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There Are No Problems, Only Opportunities.

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No news is good news. But, this is a blog. I need news to write; be it good or bad.

The good news: No stress fracture.

The bad news: No running.

In other news: Meet my new friend, Sexy Boot. We’ve decided to start going on adventures together around the grand city of Portland. He’s not the fastest means of transportation, and we get some strange looks, but overall, it’s looking like it will be a mutually beneficial (and hopefully short-lived) friendship.

Remember my mention of shin pain in my last post? Two weeks prior April’s marathon, I started getting twinges similar to shin splints in my right leg. The pain worsened, but I still ran my marathon on it. Even when the pain kicked in at mile 2. I gave it a couple weeks post-race to see if it would get any better. It started aching all the time. If I tried walking around on it too much, it would turn into a shooting, sharp pain in the lower part of my shin. The thought of running would make me cringe. I’m not a big fan of doctors. I’m not at all against them; it just takes a lot to necessitate going in. The lack of improvement after two weeks and my complete inability to run was reason enough.

A trip to the orthopedist, an x-ray, and an MRI later and I learned what ailed me: torn tendons in the lower portion of my right tibia. Overuse injury. The Remedy = No running + Sexy Boot + Physical Therapy.

Sometimes, it takes being deprived of something to make you truly appreciate it. Running is a gift. A privilege. I felt that I’d always valued this ability. But, to be suddenly told that I’m not allowed to run, not allowed to partake in an activity that brings me happiness, mental clarity, and most of all, sanity? The world better watch out. It gave me an entirely new perspective. I’ve only been a real runner for 20 months, but it has become such a defining feature of myself. “Hello, I’m Jessica. I’m a runner, an amateur photographer and a lover of teeth.” To have to add a caveat to the first on that list was painful (pun intended.)

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Yes, my house has stayed incredibly clean. I’ve found myself getting anxious and irritable when Sunday rolls around and I’m not heading out on the trails for a long run. I see runners on the road and find myself thinking murderous thoughts that would surely get me in trouble if I verbalized them. Those runners didn’t deserve my negative attitude.  I was (am) surely just jealous. Side effects of not running: mood swings, irritability, insomnia, guilt, crying, irrational behavior, excessive caloric intake to expenditure ratio…

A reality check was needed. I’ve found new activities to occupy my time. Sexy Boot and I have gone on some adventures. We hiked Munra Point in the Columbia River Gorge. This is a view at the top of the hike, facing west.

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It was a beautiful and steep climb that was absolutely enjoyed. The day was warm and none too windy. The hike was 7.5 miles round trip. The only downside of the hike was that the first portion of it, you walk pretty much parallel to the freeway. Once you pass Moffet Creek though, you begin steadily climbing and leaving the road noise behind.

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This is facing south, looking down Tanner Valley. I was perched rather precariously to even get this photo.

In addition to hiking (slowly, I might add), I was given the okay to start biking. This is an activity that Sexy Boot and I are not together for. I’ve been cycling over 100 miles a week to help in my pursuit of the mental clarity that running brings me. I’m also trying to take all of this extra time I have and start learning to properly cross train and strength train. My sister’s wedding is less than 3 months away. As her maid of honor, I can’t be the dumpy looking one of the group…right?!

Sexy Boot is not getting me down. My mantra right now is the title of this post, and comes from one of my dental hygiene professors. She said this to us at the beginning of our program, “There are no such thing as problems, only opportunities.” That is how I’m viewing this setback. It is an opportunity for me to discover new things, new ways to stay fit. It is an opportunity for me to focus on improving my overall body strength, work with physical therapists so as to prevent myself from injury like this in the future. I had three half marathons scheduled for the months of May and June. It has taken a lot of willpower and a humbled attitude to have stepped down from them.

I want to be a runner until the day I die. If that means taking time off to heal now so I can be stronger in the future, then I am ready for it. It is surely a test of my mental toughness, as I have a hard time even considering myself a runner right now. Regardless, this setback is going to set me up for an even stronger comeback. Be ready for it.

Whidbey Island Whims.

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“Sweetie, we need to let Jessica get to sleep. She has to get up before the crack of dawn for her race.”

“When it’s still a butt?”

This is how my aunt informed my ten year old cousin that I would be setting the alarm for the ungodly hour of 4:45am to be at the Whidbey Island Marathon on time. Getting up before the (butt)crack of dawn…when it’s still a butt. At the very least, a pain in one.

What a crazy weekend. Saturday was an all day volunteer dental event called Give Kids A Smile. From there, I drove straight up to Burlington (4 1/2 hours) to meet up with my family. We had dinner together and drove the country roads to look at all of the tulip fields. Who knew there was a tulip festival going on? The dinner was what we call a pre-race meal of the gods: sweet potato fries and a bacon cheeseburger. Not to mention the avocado on top and sautéed mushrooms. Did I mention these were bottomless fries? This decision was not regretted for a moment. Besides, this photo was what went through my head during that evening and probably the three weeks prior to my race:

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In further preparation for the race, I had to make a last minute trip to the store. Who loves gummy bears for long runs? This girl! I don’t mind the Gu Chomps, Shot Blocks or other sport gummies, but I am a firm believer that a gummy bear does close to the same thing. It’s a little sugar boost. I like to suck on them, rather than chew them. It gives my body something to process, my mouth some flavor, and my brain something to think about and enjoy. Don’t get me wrong though, I have a weakness for watermelon flavored Gu Chomps. Just no Gu gels, please.

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Don’t worry, I didn’t buy all three pounds of gummy bears. I cannot imagine how absurd that would have looked running with that bag…I bought a sensible amount. Clearly.

Race day brought that pre-5 am wakeup time. Ugh. I hardly slept the night before. Pre-race excitement is real. I drove out to Oak Harbor with enough time to catch the shuttle up to the race start and pick up my race bib. Crossing over the Deception Pass bridge on the bus, I was reminded of one of the many reasons why I run, why I get up at ungodly hours, why I push myself to do what I do:

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This. Nature’s beauty in all of its simplicity. It was a perfect moment leading up to the start of a marathon. The last 25 minutes until the race start was spent waiting in line for a porta potty/blue room/honey bucket (read: every runner’s best friend before a race.) Then began the 5 minute, 4 minute, 3 minute, 2 minute countdown, which was when I dove into the next vacant stall. There’s nothing like the start of a race to make you pee fast! With not a moment to spare, I heard the gun go off as I pushed my way into the tangibly anxious group of runners, relieved in more ways than one.

The energy at the beginning of this run was palpable. So many energetic, smiling people. The views in the first two miles were phenomenal. That same view above on the Deception Pass bridge was revisited by over 600 runners. Many times throughout the run, glimpses were caught of the snowcapped Olympic mountains.

Mile 6 brought the ever so difficult shedding of my long sleeve. Okay, so taking off a layer wasn’t the hard part. The difficulty came from removing my race bib from my sweatshirt and putting it on my tank top; removing and reattaching safety pins while running. Not easy. I managed to both avoid stabbing myself and put the bib on straight. Success.

Mile 9 brought a lovely hill. And, a sign that said, “Run faster. My legs are getting tired waiting for you!” They, of course, had to put a photographer in place when we were a quarter of the way up it. Quick, hide the miserable look on your face!

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Miles 10-15 found me lost in random thoughts, random chats with runners about cupcakes, and the delight in many gummy bears. It was a perfect mixture of shade and bright, bright sun. I spent nearly two miles trying to remember the saying, “Did not win is better than did not finish, is better than did not start.” Just imagine the variations and disorder in trying to put that together. Mile 16-17 was a struggle. Another beast of a hill. One. Mile. Long. I was losing my rhythm. I started to realize how little sense my thoughts were making.

I’d told my aunt, uncle, and cousin the night before to sleep in. I told them that I could hold my own through the first half, but their support in the second half would be invaluable. Indeed, it was. After climbing that beast of a hill, I needed some positive reinforcement. And there they were, shouting at me, “We love you! You’re amazing! Do you want a banana?” A banana?! To my semi-delirious mind, a banana sounded like gold. Outside of delirium, a banana is such a great snack while running. As she handed it to me though, I looked at the banana perplexed…How do I peel these things, again? I gave my aunt a hug and said, “Thank you! You mean so much to me!” To which she replied, “Don’t pants your poop!”

The runner in front of me turned around and gave her such a strange look. I had no choice but to explain where that phrase was from and the amazingness of this Marathon thoughts video:

Now, imagine a mildly delirious runner trying to describe the above video. Complete with wild hand gestures, shouting about Rob Thomas, second winds, and the perils of chafing. After that, my thoughts were making even less sense. So, imagine my surprise when those thoughts turned themselves into continued conversation with this random runner. I’m really curious what this runner thought of me; especially as I started spouting off about how I fancied myself a ballerina. That is, when my feet get tired and my legs feel heavy, I think about light feet. Keeping my steps light and not plodding. The first image conjured up in regards to light feet is a ballerina. I completed this thought with, what I thought, was a beautifully graceful leap in the air. Mind you, this was mile 23ish. Graceful and 23 miles do not go in the same sentence.

I passed a runner around mile 20. She says to me, “this is what I call guts.” I’d never thought of it that way. What is that ever popular adage? ‘No guts, no glory.’ Miles 18-26 are the guts of the run. It will gut you. It will take guts to push through, to make it, to complete the marathon. Without guts, without mile 18-26 gut of the run, there can be no glory. The glory of the finish line, the glory of another feat accomplished, the glory of knowing you pushed yourself to Empty.

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I think of those last few minutes of the run, coming into Windjammer park. All through the race I’d kept a smile on my face. I was happy out there. I was doing something I truly love. But that last half-mile was the biggest mental game. I wish I could perfectly capture that moment, those emotions, the utter and complete desire to stop moving, stop breathing and pumping my arms. All I wanted was to be done. To cross that finish line. To collapse on that lush, green, sun-soaked grass that had come into view. My lungs hated me, my legs felt mechanical, and JT had become too much in my ears. It was exhaustion at its finest.

I gave everything I had left in the tank to sprint the last 0.2 across the grass. With simultaneous feelings of euphoria and the desire to die, I crossed the finish line of my second marathon. 13 minutes and 20 seconds faster than my last. I found my aunt, embraced her, and, as was true with my first 26.2, cried tears for the spectrum of emotions that washed over me.

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When people ask how my marathon was, I tell them it was both agonizing and amazing. These two words could not have explained it more accurately. It was amazing in that I was pushing myself to do something that less than 10% of the population ever accomplishes in a lifetime. It was amazing how much my body could endure. It was amazing the runners I met, the views of the beautiful PNW, and the strength I demonstrated in which I did not know I possessed. It was equally as agonizing. It was agonizing mentally to push through that negative self-talk. The proverbial blerch that tells you that you’re better off walking up that hill, slowing down for a minute, or, hell, stopping to take a nap. It was agonizing physically as I’ve been nursing some pretty intense shin pain for the last month. It started acting up about mile two.

They talk of people being able to push through pain. The ability to push it out of their mind and focus on other things so that it doesn’t affect them. I never believed this was possible until it happened on this run. I pushed aside the pain in my shin. I managed to push through it all the way to the end. I crossed that finish line and collapsed in the grass. It took a week to be able to walk without limping. But, I just remember this:

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I run for me. I run to keep my sanity. I don’t run for you. Or for them. I don’t run to beat other people. I don’t run to be fast. I run for those who can’t. I run to find myself.

Inspiration

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14 weeks of preparation. 500 miles of training. 2 pairs of running shoes. Countless hours spent in anticipation, frustration, and even a mild form of fear. All to run 26.2 miles. That is 1.7 million inches. A race against oneself. Testing limits and mental toughness. The race is the reward…right?

I can honestly say I’ve never found a truer form of happiness than crossing the finish line of a marathon. Every other emotion had been exhausted as I pushed myself those last 385 yards. Purity.

It has already been a month since my marathon. September 14th. And it feels like ages ago. And yet, still surreal. For the sake of reliving it though, let’s revisit.

Marathon Day  (Hagg Lake Hybrid)

5:45 am wakeup time. I got dressed in my already laid out and color coordinated clothes. They say preparation is a key to success. Waking up groggy and before the sun is up, I most assuredly agree. Having everything prepared the night before made my life a lot easier. I ate my pre-race breakfast with a knot in my stomach and a giant grin on my face. A pink lady apple with a few spoonfuls of almond butter and a green goddess smoothie, complete with spinach, protein, banana and mangoes.

7:20 arrival to Hagg Lake. What an unnerving time, waiting for such an event to begin! Observing everyone’s pre-race rituals was quite entertaining. ‘Excuse me, sir, but why are you running before you embark upon a race that will surely help you to meet your mileage requirement for the week? Is 26.2 not enough?’ Or, ‘How can you be stuffing your face with Hostess donut holes right now?’ and ‘Who does push-ups before a marathon?!’ It was all I could do to maintain an upright position.

7:30 — Then came the time to decide: running jacket or tank top? Music or no music? Garmin or no? With many trips back to the car, we settled on Garmin watch, no jacket and no music. I never regretted any of the above.

7:45 — Let’s be honest. A bathroom is a marathon runner’s best friend. Pre-race bathroom trips = 5 times. Glorious. I would venture to say that this is not abnormal. Prior to training for any kind of distance running, I had an irrational fear of port-a-potties and a strong aversion to public restrooms in general. It’s not hard to imagine how quickly those changed. When you gotta go, you go wherever is provided. And you thank the running gods for the invention of hand sanitizer.

8:04 am race start. With less than 100 people running the Hagg Hybrid Marathon, it was a low-key but very energized and positive beginning to a race. I have to say, I love smaller races. There’s something so close-knit, as if you’re running the race with a bunch of family. Regardless, my legs were restless, my heart was pounding out of my chest and my head was positively buzzing. This is really happening! 

Many people have asked me, “If you don’t listen to music, what do you think about while you run?” I think what they mean to ask is simply, ‘how do you make the time pass?’ A very good question that I do not have a straight answer to. If I were to try and think of key moments or actual thoughts I had during my marathon at Hagg Lake, I think the sum of them would amount to maybe 5 minutes. My first thoughts as the race began were, “Don’t start too fast. Am I going too fast? Breathe.” I started composing my blog post in my head, wondering if I would be able to tell all of you lovely readers how splendid the run was, or if I would have to report how miserably grueling it was.

“26.2. Think of how far you’ve come, not how far you have to go.” This phrase hit me about mile four, when I still had a smile on my face, and the rolling hills hadn’t taken a toll on me yet.

The rest of the first half was really a blur. It took place on the road surrounding the lake and proved to be a nice challenge with a number of hills. I could not have made it through the first 13 miles without two amazing ladies, TJ and Heather. Between the two of them, they’d run over 70 marathons in the course of 10 years. Their amiable, determined, yet light-hearted attitude was admirable and quite impressionable upon my newbie marathoner mind. Not to mention, their pace was comparable to mine. And so we ran together. I wish I had obtained their info so I could give a proper shout out! Between forcing me to eat gummy bears and a banana at one of the aid station (which were both amazing, by the way) and telling me to “dig in and use as many profanities as needed” when climbing a particularly large hill, I really don’t know that I would have kept going at the pace I did. Thank you, ladies, for answering my incessant list of questions. It kept my mind distracted.

No sooner had I jumped on the trails in the second half of the marathon, exalting at my pace and still seemingly large amount of energy, than I stumbled upon my support crew. 5 of them all poring over their phones, trying to track my location. I was elated to see them, and their cheers meant the world to me. They were there for me at every aid station for the second half. Yelling my name, cheering me on and giving me more support than I can ever express in words.

Somewhere between miles 18-20, I started to really feel the fatigue. I began calling in my usual mental distractions. I dreamed up the best food I could think of. If I could eat anything after the marathon, I wanted a giant burger. With bacon. Avocado. Two patties. Pepper jack cheese. No bun. Sweet potato fries. And cupcakes. Glorious cupcakes. When that mental distraction no longer worked, I thought of what would bring me the most joy in that very moment, nirvana if you will (aside from crossing the finish line.) The first thing that came to mind was my huge polka-dotted down comforter. The smell of clean linen, the feeling of wrapping myself up in its fluffiness and curling up for a lovely nap. Nothing sounded better to me. And so I focused on burgers and linens.

I went through an aid station somewhere around mile 20, and all I wanted was electrolytes. That lovely yellow liquid was like magic to my mouth. Delightfully artificial and hydrating. I had high hopes that it was going to cure the dizziness that had started setting in. Post-race, my friends in the support crew informed me that I looked deathly pale. They hardly believed my two thumbs up while still managing a smile as I passed through the checkpoint.

Those last 6 miles kicked. My. Ass. Thoroughly. The ground kept trying to come up and meet my face. I wanted to die. I swore never to run a marathon again. Never in my life have I felt like I did in those last miles. Death would have been preferable to the burning in my legs. Those hills became giant monsters. I walked them and ran the rest. Not even the thought of food could get me through this one.

My Garmin watch said 24.2 miles as I rounded a bend and caught sight of Boat Ramp C and the finish line. That couldn’t be right. Were they going to make us run laps around the parking lot to achieve 26.2? Preposterous. But I steeled my nerves and told myself not to get too excited about the finish line, just in case parking lot laps were in my near future. But no, it really was the finish line, and my watch was off (which it tends to do on trails.) Those last 385 yards were the most exalting. A sudden rush of energy propelled me across those finishing mats, to complete my marathon in 4:45. I was met with hugs as soon as I finished, and I started crying. From sheer exhaustion, from happiness, from elation at being done, who knows.  But, I finished!

To anyone who hasn’t completed a marathon, it is incomparable to anything I’ve ever known or felt before. The feeling of simultaneous disbelief and accomplishment. Pushing one’s own limits. “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” TS Eliot’s words have never rang truer.

This is my amazing support crew, cheering me on every step of the way. If nothing else, the thought of them waiting on me at the next aid station kept me going. Hearing their continual quotes of this amazing YouTube video kept a smile on my face:

 

Let me tell you, I did not see Rob Thomas, I did not pants my poop (which is an accomplishment), and those second winds are real! Of all the songs to be stuck in my head on race day though, lines from this kept popping in at the weirdest of moments:

It took less than a day to realize that I would, indeed, sign up for another marathon (Whidbey Island in April!) and the thought of an ultramarathon wasn’t so far-fetched after all (Hagg Lake Mud Run in February!). I’m an addict. Two more half-marathons this year: The Happy Girls Run in Sisters on November 2nd and The Holiday Half on December 15th.

Through these months of training, with my friends and family putting up with my ever-increasing addiction, I would just like to say thank you. I know it’s not easy to understand why I spend hours each week pounding the trail and pavement, but believe me when I say that it makes me the person I am today. It keeps me calm. It keeps me sane. It is my catharsis and my meditation. Join me on a run, cheer me on. Don’t hate me too much when I can’t shut up about running. I truly love it, and am elated if my zeal becomes contagious.

I aspire to inspire before I expire.