Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Detroit Marathon

It's official--I finished my first marathon! This is my recount of the weekend, in all its sweaty glory.

On Saturday we (Brendan, Elliot and I) flew to Detroit. My brother met us at the airport, took us to get settled in at our hotel, then went with us to the race expo. Based on an email I'd received before the race, which said they were expecting 50 vendors, I didn't expect the expo to be as big or nice as it was. It was great! They even had a family area, where Brendan played with Elliot while I walked through the expo with my brother. It was fun to introduce him to the world of running, complete with our full line of tools and products, which were all on display at the expo. It was fun to answer questions about technical fabric and runner food (gels, sport beans, etc). We also got to goof around some, like this picture he took of me. He helped me pick out a Detroit Marathon shirt (which I will proudly be wearing to work in a few days). I also picked up a nice Adidas running hat and a 26.2 sticker. He (and me too, if I'm being honest) got a kick out of the fact that I had to present my passport in order to pick up my race packet, it being an international race and whatnot.

In the afternoon, everyone went to the park while I slept, apparently. I have only photographic evidence of this (see below, bundled up and leaving for the park). I honestly don't remember much of it other than presenting them with my niece's First Year scrapbook. We were up around 4am to catch our flight and had been up late packing, so I was really out of it. That evening, my wonderful sister-in-law made us more pasta than 10 of us could have eaten. It was really sweet of her (not to mention delicious), helping me carb load. My brother couldn't get over Elliot's love of cup holders. I have no idea where Elliot got it from, but he has a strong preference for his sippy cup to be in a cup holder if possible, which became apparent while we were eating dinner. Well, his daddy is "function man." :)

Back at the hotel we got settled into our room, which was amazing. The room itself was nice--well appointed, comfortable, and attractive. But its biggest feature was the view! We had an amazing location--the 38th floor of the RenCen Marriott (the official race hotel) overlooking the Detroit River, right across from Caesar's. I took a picture that night. You can totally see me and the whole room in the reflection but I'm posting it anyway. Brendan took one the next day, which I'm also posting.

Elliot went to bed fairly easily. After he was down, I did one last check to make sure everything was in order for morning, then decided to try to get some sleep. No sooner was I in bed than I came to the sickening realization that I had left my knee sleeve at home. Of course I jumped out of bed and uselessly checked the suitcase anyway. All I could think was, "How could I have done this?" The answer is pretty simple: I had stopped wearing it for short, mid-week runs, and it had gotten left either beneath my desk or in the back of my car, out of sight and out of mind. I panicked. It was true that my IT band had more or less stopped hurting, but I hadn't run without the sleeve in weeks. I told Brendan all of this. Without hesitating, he got back up, got dressed, and went out to find a drug store to buy me a new one. The cab fare turned out to be more expensive than the sleeve, thankfully. What would I do without this man? Set for morning, I finally coaxed myself to sleep.

I had to be to the start line no later than 7am. Not knowing how long it would take to get from the hotel to the start area, especially considering I was planning to take public transit to get there, I left myself 45 minutes. A little after 6am I quietly left my boys sleeping in the hotel room and made my way to the elevator. A few floors down, someone clearly involved in the race boarded the elevator. Scratch that, he bounded onto the elevator, carrying a 3:30 pacer sign. This meant that he was a pace team leader, one of the many runners on the course who help runners match time goals by setting a timed, per-mile pace, in his case, to reach the finish line in three and a half hours. I asked if I could go to the start line with his group. He responded, "I'm going to jog over. We might have some pacers who will walk. You're welcome to join us." And with that, the elevator doors opened and he bounded out, jogging. Too much.

So, I made my way to the People Mover (a catastrophic failure in public transportation--it's actually the "don't do this" box in urban planning textbooks), which carried me the half mile to the start area. Rather than stand around in the dark and cold, I walked up and down the start area for a while, checking in with my Teammate Nick and sipping my apple juice. Slowly I made my way to the start area. I was nervous. And cold. Mostly nervous. I just reviewed my strategy in my mind: 3 mile run, then commence 6:1 timed run/walk, run more toward the end if possible. Eat beans/Gu at miles 6.5, 13, and 19.

The race finally started. Before long, we were running over the Ambassador Bridge as the sun rose. To my left, I saw our hotel perched on the river, and thought with so much happiness of my boys, snug in their beds, or awake and talking about "momma's race," or even looking out the window at all the runners on the bridge. I ran a bit past my three mile mark, until we descended off the bridge into Canada. I was having a blast. A few miles through Canada, then the "international underwater mile" through the tunnel back to the US, and all of a sudden I was at mile 8, the spot Brendan and I had agreed on trying to see each other. As soon as I saw them I started stripping, the hat, gloves, and zip-up jacket all had to go. I was sweating and warm. I was so glad I didn't have to throw any of my articles of clothing to the side of the road like several hundred others had done. I love my gear and wanted to keep it! So I tossed it to them and kept going. I saw them again at the 13 mile mark, just after the half-marathoners split off. My brother and sister-in-law were there too. It was SO much fun to see them and hear them cheer for me.

After that, the course followed Lafayette for about three miles. Somewhere in the middle of it I witnessed a loud and heated argument between a runner and a woman walking to church. I have no idea if they knew each other or what they were arguing about, but it was...entertaining. Around there also, a woman on her cell phone disregarded a police officer and started to drive into the race route, nearly hitting a runner about a quarter mile ahead of me. By the time I got there the officer was absolutely reaming her out. Her response? Embarrassment? Heavens no. She was screaming right back at him. Naturally. The few miles after that were through an amazingly gorgeous neighborhood. Some of the residents were handing out various items to runners, including, beer, jelly beans, and Vaseline. By this point Nick and I had passed each other a handful of times. We ran a mile or so together through part of this neighborhood.

Crossing onto Belle Isle was gorgeous, and the island itself is worth a visit if you're ever there and not running a marathon. By the time I got to mile 21 or so, I was starting to wear pretty thin. My feet hurt and I was getting worn out. At this point, blatant rationalization and self-coaching starts to kick in. I just kept telling myself, run this 6 minutes, then walk 1. Walk 2 if you have to. Ok, 6 minutes, 5 if you absolutely can't do 6. Just do it. Just start running. It was around this point that the 4:45 pace team finally passed me for the last time, which was fine with me. Leaving Belle Isle, there was an "entertainer" who was yelling at people that they had only 4 miles left to go and why were they walking (I made a point of running past him so as not to be yelled at). I really wanted to put him on notice.

Then at mile marker 23 nausea kicked in. I'd had a LOT of Gatorade, beans, Chomps, and adrenalin. I walked almost all of that mile, until finding port-a-potties right before mile marker 24, where I collected myself and set my mind to finishing this thing. I ran most of the rest, not quite a 6:1 interval, but something close. I took a sip of Gatorade at the very last fluid station and rather than throwing the half-full cup at the trash, where two men were tidying up, I walked over, folded the cup, and put it in the bag. One of them said I must be a mom, to do that, to which I smiled and said I was. Soon after, a spectator yelled that it was just half a mile to go. I ran that half mile. Coming around the last corner and seeing the finish line ahead of me, it was honestly everything in me to keep myself from sobbing uncontrollably. Not from physical pain, but from exhaustion, mental and physical, and seeing the end of this long, incredible process and life goal. I was so focused that I almost didn't see Brendan, my brother and SIL and the kids. I did see and hear them finally, and in my mind gave them a huge smile, which Brendan later said was more like an exhausted half-acknowledgment. And then I was there, crossing the finish. I looked up at the clock--5:09. I'd crossed the start line around 15:00, which meant I'd finished the race in under 5 hours.

I more or less wandered through the finishers' area, getting my medal, having my picture taken, finding what there was of post-race food, then leaving and meandering half-coherently to the after party half a block down, where the reunion area had been staged. It took a while for all of us to find each other, and by that time I had pulled myself together most of the way.

After putting on my warm-up wants and a jacket, we left the reunion area. I promptly called Coach Mike, Meg, and my mom to let them know I'd finished. Coach Mike looked up my chip time--4:54:54. I can absolutely live with that.

Checking out of the hotel was quite the process, but I'll save that story for another day. Once back to my brother & SIL's place, we spent the rest of Sunday and Monday morning relaxing, eating, hanging out, and shopping. We had such a good time. And if you're ever in Royal Oak, I highly recommend this place for dinner and this place for sweets.

To wrap it all up, the weekend was great. It was more than great. Brendan and I got to hang out with family, and just as importantly, so did Elliot. As for the race, I'll say that I'm glad I did it, and I'm glad it's over. I don't know if I'll do another full marathon yet. We'll see. And finally, you know I can't post this without the mileage update. Officially over 400 miles for the year!

370.5 + 3.3 + 2.0 + 26.2 = 402

Monday, October 12, 2009

Gearing up! Errr, ramping down I mean

It's the final week. Excitement level is up, mileage is down, hence the title. I went to the running store today and bought a thing to carry an arsenal of Sport Beans in, plus the beans themselves. I'm mentally starting to make a list of everything I need to take to Detroit, and what of those things cannot be trusted in a checked bag. What can't I replace at the expo if my luggage doesn't make it? What can I run without? I am so excited!! My knee seems to be doing much better, so I'm lacking confidence, but feeling very encouraged about race day.

Saturday I was scheduled to run an hour. After the first 2.4 miles, Coach Mike said I was running a little faster than a 5 mph pace, so I should aim at running a little over 5 and should not get carried away and do more than 6. Starting the back half of the run, I was warmed up (it was maybe 40 degrees out, so the start was chilly), excited, and just couldn't help myself. I ran as fast as I wanted. I had a ball. It was great. I did 5.4 and came back at around the 55 minute mark. I got glared at a little bit for going so much faster than my race pace, but I just smiled. It was a great way to end long run training. Into the week now, I ran 3.3 today and will probably do the same tomorrow, since the rain is heading back in by Wednesday.

Here is an update on miles. I would like to point out that I have officially passed what was always my annual goal in college, 365 miles, or a mile a day for a whole year. It always seemed like such an easy goal and yet I never did it. So, big smile for that.

361.8 + 5.4 + 3.3 = 370.5

I have a million other things going on, though at the moment most notably scrapbooking. I went to another crop this past weekend and had a GREAT time. I finally finished my niece's first year album! I'm still working on coating a page that's having some issues with ink drying, but the actual making of pages is finished. I will be giving it to them this weekend, which will be another part of the fun. I'm excited about this weekend--can you tell?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Trip to DC

Mileage has been way down the last week and a half. Last week I was out of town for work. I just plain didn't have time for a 12 mile run, so I did my best, which was 5.3 miles. I also got in a 3 mile run on Monday morning before flying back home. Tuesday I took off to get unpacked, caught up on sleep, and get settled in. Wednesday I (brace yourself) planned ahead and brought running clothes to the office so I could break for a mid-afternoon run. It's starting to get dark early, and I had a hundred other things to do that evening, so I ran when I could. It turned out to be a great decision, because the weather was gorgeous when I ran and turned ugly not long after. It's been raining for the last two days, and hence, I've been inside, being lazy. So, the mileage update.

350.5 + 5.3 + 3.0 + 3.0 = 361.8

I'm definitely not as prepared as I would like to be going into my first marathon. I never got to the 18 or 20 mile long runs. My mileage these last two weeks has been way down. It might rain on race day, which I'm not really prepared for. Regardless, I'm excited for the race and hoping for the best!

In non-running news, I'm closing in on my niece's First Year album. I am so excited to finally be giving it to them when we go to Detroit. I'm headed to a crop tomorrow to wrap up work on it. N is going with me tomorrow too, and we're both pretty excited.

As for little Elliot, his babbling is becoming alarmingly more word-like every day. Yesterday while going upstairs it really sounded like he said, "I'm just climbing." It's amazing to watch him develop. I took him with me to DC so he could have some QT with the grandparents. He hung out with Grandma and Grandaddy Paulson for a few days and with his Nana for a few days. We also got to visit with my friends Jamie and Will. It was Will's first time meeting Elliot, and Jamie hadn't seen him since last Thanksgiving. I was SO happy to have the chance to see them and catch up. Elliot did very well with all the transitioning from place to place, and seems to have had fun with everyone. Grandma Paulson took the picture below. The travel was long though, and so he was overjoyed when we finally got home on Monday night. His face just lit up when he realized that we were walking into the house. He ran around the first floor, rediscovering his toys, opening all the drawers he has access to and waving around his play objects (like a sheet of stamps we let him play with). It was great. And his return to daycare on Tuesday was with even more enthusiasm.