Saturday, May 26, 2012

Perception and Perspective

It's hard not compare yourself to others, or be compared by others.  How we see ourselves in light of others can get a bit distorted as much as the way we are seen by others.  It's an interesting dynamic that plays out in our heads.  It can be good for motivation, but it can be hard to fight the negative too.

I was reminded of this last weekend while talking to my parents about my marathon time.  My mom said "Well, you still finished faster than half the people, right?  I would think you would."  Thanks mom, but I actually finished in the slowest 20%.  To my mom, a non-runner, I seem like I should have kicked that marathon's butt.  To other non-runners, it's an impressive feat that's usually admired.  I know loads of people that have run marathons though, and it's easily to lose sight that, hey, this really isn't a normal accomplishment.  I forget that even if I'm slow, the last person to finish still finished!  Millions of others never will.

Sometimes I like to compare myself to other runners though, and I like to know how much faster they are; it helps to motivate me.  I read a good amount of running blogs.  While I find comfort in similar runners, I get more out of reading about the speedy girls.  I want to know they run 5 miles at pace I can't keep for a fraction of that.  I like knowing this is the 5th marathon or their 10th this year.  I like knowing I  have such a gap to jump and what seems like endless room to improve.

Comparing your achievements can become overwhelming though, when the challenge becomes self-defeat.  Grad school can have a way of making you feel like you know nothing.  You are learning plenty, sure, but the exams are harder and expectations are higher than anything that has come before.  In PT school, I found myself getting caught up in comparisons with classmates.  Who had more right answers, better grades, and on and on.  It became so easy to forget what I was accomplishing.  Um, hi, you can call me Dr. ZestyNerd.  I've had to remind myself often to not lose sight of that.

I think it's the surrounding ourselves with such similar people that really emphasizes this.  A doctorate degree feels like no big deal when the 53 people you see every day are doing the exact same thing.  And then you realize how much you've accomplished to get there.  When you are running a marathon with thousands of other people, it's easy to forget how many millions of people you've lapped on the couch.  When you start comparing what you have with others, you start to forget about all you've got (is that a song lyric?).  This reminds me of the petty girls that compare the size of engagement rings too- pretty sure they've lost sight of where they're at too.

So what can we do to keep, essentially, our heads on straight.  How do you see things without the distortion?  How do you challenge your mind and body without defeating both?  Where can you strike that balance without becoming complacent?

It works different for everyone.  Keep an open mind and run (figuratively) with a diverse group of friends.  (I think this is the point where I am obligated to turn cliche)  We are all unique with interesting quirks, qualities, and hobbies.  Celebrate it, share it, and explore it.  When we surround ourselves with people that are just-like-us it can make us lose sight of who we are meant to be.  And when your family wants to put you on a pedestal because they think you're just that awesome- go ahead and let them.  They might just have a thing or two to teach you.

Friday, May 25, 2012

2012 Pittsburgh Marathon: Part Two

The first mile flew by in what felt like seconds while I took everything in.  I knew that I didn't want to get caught up in the excitement and take off too fast, and I kept the first few miles all within my "happy range".  For every runner taking off and weaving ahead of me, there were two more walking along at snail pace.  This almost made it impossible to go out too fast.

Somewhere near the 2 mile marker I finally settled into a rhythm and took in what I was about to do, and something totally unexpected happened.  I started to tear up a little bit.  I never took this endeavor as an emotional journey, but this was this first of many teary eyes that morning.

I hit the first water station and threw down a cold glass of water in big gulps.  I regretted this before it even hit my stomach and gagged.  I took a disposable bottle with a flip lid with me to the start.  I figured I would sip before the race and carry it with me the first few miles to skip congested water stations.  I ended up holding onto it until the final mile, tossing it somewhere past mile 25.

After the first, I took a Gatorade to drink at every station.  I also grabbed 1-2 waters to drink or had my disposable bottle refilled each time.  I used the bottle to sip and pour over my head and down my neck and sports bra between stations.  Yeah, it really got that hot.  I think I was actually pretty close to perfectly hydrated throughout; really happy with how I did in that respect.

During mile 2 (or was it 3?) I came up behind one of the hub's friends and his fiancee running the half.  We chatted for a few before I took off ahead to keep pace, only to be passed by them minutes later.

After crossing the second bridge around mile 4.5, I passed the hubs for the first time.  Things were still pretty congested, but I stayed to the left to look for him.  He gave me a thumbs up and a face that expected answer; I gave him a thumbs up back.  He caught my favorite pic of the day, and seeing him gave me such a pick me up, even though it was early in the race.
Feeling food at mile 4.5
The first 7 miles went much of the same, with a comfortable and consistent pace before hitting the West End.  I slowed it down to a walk then to take my first gel.  There were no gels provided until mile 12, so I had pinned one inside the front of my shorts and tucked one in the back pocket.  I also pinned a pack of sport beans inside my front waistband as well.  This worked out surprisingly well.  No problems with scratching or chafing; I didn't even notice they were there while running.  Way better than the the Banjee I had tried, and the idea of a belt is just so unappealing.

I walked the entirety of mile 7 in about 14:00 and then picked it back up to my "happy pace" until I reached the Birmingham Bridge and the Forbes Ave climb.  I switched to short walks between bouts of running but maintained "happy pace" through mile 11.  I hit 13.1 pretty much right on 2:30, and I was happy to have kept my reach goal pace for at least the first half.

I was really starting to feel the heat climb at this point, and was starting to seek out shade wherever I could once I hit 5th Ave.  I was happy to be running in familiar territory too; I had run this stretch on every long run while training.  When I reached the turn onto South Aiken around mile 14 I spotted a few port-a-potties with no lines, and deciding now was as good of a time as ever to make a quick stop.  This is when I laughed that while it's good to monitor your urine color while distance running, you can't do this in a port-a-potty.

I followed up the port-a-potty stop with my second gel, one that I had picked up earlier.  Miles 14 to 23ish are pretty much just a blur.  I alternated between running when I could and walking when I had to.  Somewhere along the way, my hips started to really tighten up.  It was like someone put tourniquets around the top of each leg and kept tightening them each mile.  It wasn't painful, but it felt physically restricting.  I took my third gel, the one from my back pocket around mile 20 or 21.

I ran through every sprinkler, hose, and fire hydrant I saw and dumped as much water over my head as I drank after mile 14.  I've never handled the heat well, even when not doing strenuous activity.  I've landed in the ER with dehydration and fainting more than once, and I really just wanted to finish the marathon on my two feet!  If I started to feel overheated or the slightest lightheaded feeling, I slowed it to a walk and cooled with water before picking up the pace again.  Some may consider my approach overcautious, but my main goal was to finish and this was the way to do it for me.  I also picked up some pretzels and oranges from friendly strangers- best-tasting-orange slices-ever!

I'm not a chatty runner, which is why I'm always happy to run solo.  There is a point somewhere in a marathon though, where you need a little extra distraction.  A older gentleman struck up conversation as we passed the Bloomfield Bridge.  This was his 12th marathon, having started running not that many years before.  We discussed how I could run home and he could run back to his son's house faster than we could get to the finish line at this point.  Then I took off ahead a bit.

The long stretch through the Strip District was hot, really hot, and empty.  The running crowd was pretty sparse and aside from the officers guarding closed streets, not much support either.  It was a rough stretch.  I came up on a 20-something girl that looked to really be struggling.  She asked me if I knew our time; she was certain we were going to get swept before making it to the finish, and her knees were hating her.  I tried to encourage her, ensured her she wasn't going to be swept, and shouted once last good luck before picking it up to a jog again.  I saw her pass by a few minutes later with another young girl pushing her with encouragement.  Somewhere in the Strip, I  ate half of my sport beans and threw the rest on ground.
Um, I think that's my pain face...
I finally made my way into downtown, and I was really excited to see hubs at mile 25.  I also swore to myself that I would start running as soon as I saw him in sight.  It hurt, a lot, but I did it.  He shouted some encouraging words as I went by, but I was back to a walk after a few more yards.  Less than 2 miles has never seemed so far.  I walked most of the way down Smithfield Street before my saving grace came up beside me.
Running into 25, and there's even a little shade!
I don't know who she was, or even really what she looked like, but she came up beside me and said something along the lines of, "You have to run no matter how small the steps are.  You're too close to be walking!"  Without even turning around, off I went running with her words replaying over and over in my head.

When I turned onto the Boulevard, I was overcome with emotion.  I wanted to cry.  Cry tears of pride for what I was about to accomplish.  Tears of relief that the end was in sight.  Tears of pain because my body just hurt so very bad.  And tears of anger for those darn race people that put an uphill (I don't care how small it was!) in the stretch to the finish.  If anyone caught a picture of me in the last half mile, I'm sure it was ugly.  My legs felt like they might fall off at the hip, breathing was increasingly difficult, and I thought it not out of the question that I might just trip and fall on my face trying to finish strong.

I crossed the finish line running though, which was another goal of mine, but I was hyperventilating, bad.  Not just short of breath, but legitimate hyperventilation from pushing so hard that last half mile.  I was able to calm myself though and pulled myself together.  I was handed my medal and then a girl with a gallon of water asked "In a cup or over your head?"  I stretched my arms out and tilted my head forward.  She laughed, and the water was so wonderfully cold.  It was amazing.  I downed a glass of Gatorade and headed for the food.

I grabbed 2 bagels, a banana, and 2 smiley cookies before heading out of the chute and down to the corner to meet the hubs.  The banana, a bagel, and a cookie disappeared almost immediately.  I took a seat on a wall while I waited, and shared lots of congratulations as other runners walked by.  When the hubs made it to me, I instantly regretted having sat down.  Getting back on my feet was so hard!  We made the short walk to the car in record-slow time.  There is no other way to describe my post-marathon waddle as anything but walking with a stick up my butt.  That's just a fact.

And on that note- marathon #1 was complete.  Time to recover... and eat!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cliff Notes

I haven't disappeared, and I haven't spent the last two weeks at home thinking about what marathon to run next.  Ok, so I've done that second part a little bit.  Lest anyone forget there's more to talk about than running a single marathon, here's the Cliff Notes (remember those!?) version of the last week or two.

1. Roadtrip!  A few days spent in Baltimore to "warm" a PT friend's new house and celebrate her upcoming fairytale-inspired nuptials.
Princess Bride
2. Bargain Shopping.  I saw this ruffled white trench and knew that I pretty much needed it in my life, especially when I saw the price- under $20!
Running capris make any outfit
3. Purging.  I've cleaned and decluttered almost every last inch of my house in the last few weeks.  We're having a yard sale on Friday/Saturday this week, and it should be pretty much epic in size!
A 'pre' picture of only half of only one of the spare bedrooms full of stuff
4. Breakfast food!  I've been cooking breakfast food constantly, multiple meals a day.  I can't get enough baked oatmeal, eggs, turkey bacon, and pancakes!
Fresh blueberry pancakes are one of life's most wonderful little pleasures...
5. Selling myself and studying my bum off.  Now that graduation is comfortably behind me, I have two huge tasks loom in the near future.  The first is passing the ominous board exam, and the second is landing a job to put that license to use after I pass.  Major stress all around here on this one.

Question: Do you love to purge or are you more of a hoarder?  Somewhere in between?
I love to purge; I find it cathartic, energizing, motivating, and all things wonderful.  The hubs is closer to a hygienic hoarder.  I'm working on him.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

2012 Pittsburgh Marathon: Part 1

I was able to relax all day leading up to marathon Sunday.  I foam rolled and stretched twice, 20-30 minutes each time, on Saturday.  Aside from stretching, I spent every other moment compulsively reorganizing my gear, checking the weather, and lying on the couch.
Day before lunch was leftover linguine in red sauce from Friday night.  Dinner was an early, but massive, serving of protein pancakes smothered in peanut butter.  These are now one of my new favorites!
I was satiated, packed, and relaxing on the couch before 8, but I couldn't stop the racing thoughts of everything that could possibly go wrong.  To get my mind off of things, I painted my nails to match my race day outfit, complete with little running person on my thumb.  Was this totally unnecessary and silly?  Yes!  Did it help me relax and keep my mind off of things I couldn't control? Yes!
I was in bed by 8:30, and I fell asleep within minutes, which was a nice surprise.  The alarm went off at the early hour of 4:00am, and I couldn't help but hit the snooze button just once.  It was still 4.5 hours before start time, and I live a whole 5 minutes from the start.  I was paranoid about running late though, mostly because I'm always late... for everything, including my own wedding.  When I did roll out of bed, I immediately downed two whole grain waffles with peanut butter and an Emergen-C.
The hubs and I were out the door shortly after 5, and we were parked by 5:15 just a few short blocks from my corral.  We spent 20 minutes or so wasting time chatting in the car before heading down to the garage lobby.  With a stroke of good luck, the parking garage lobby had a roomy and relatively clean bathroom.  Compared to the port-a-potties, it was like a toilet from heaven.  We stayed there long enough for me to visit that slice of heaven twice.

Since the hubs would be shooting at the 4.5 and 25 mile posts, we picked out a post-race meeting spot around the corner from the finish line rather than battling to find one another in the family reunion area.  He headed over there after I passed his 25 mile spot and I walked there straight from the finish; it worked out great.

After choosing a meeting spot, the hubs sent me off with one last good luck hug and I headed for my corral. I got to the last corral somewhere around 6:15 or so and there were just a handful of runners hanging around.  I claimed a spot on the curb and got in some gentle stretching.  I ate a Clif bar around 6:30, an hour before race time.  And at 6:45 I made a visit to the port-a-pottie lines just outside the corral.  When I made my way back around 7, the corral was still mostly empty so I grabbed a space on the sidewalk and stretched-those-hips.  With the hip pain I had in the 2 weeks leading up to the race, my primary concern was not being able to walk, let alone run, through the potential pain.

As more runners started filing in, I staked a claim on a curb space inside the corral, across from the 5 hour pace group, and settled my bum on the ground.  Too many strangers' backsides came way too close to my face, but I was happy to be able to sit and made conversation with a few runners near me.  I ditched my throwaway hoodie just as the gun went off, and it was another 20 minutes before I crossed the line.  Absolutely perfect running weather at the start!  I wouldn't have froze without the hoodie, but I was more comfortable with it.  Definitely no pants needed though.

There was a lot of yelling and cheering and fist pumping in my corral as we made the march to the start line.  I'm not one of those people; I'm just not.  To each their own though, and I can't complain about people getting excited to run.  This is probably about the time I realized I should have started further up in the corral though; a lot of the cheerleaders around me were also still walking after we crossed the start line.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

2012 Pittsburgh Marathon Recap: The Prequel

Let me preface this by saying again that this was not only my first marathon, but also my first race.  Unfortunately, thanks to a nagging IT Band problem, I also only trained for 14 weeks.  So I was literally "a runner" for only 14 weeks before running in my first marathon.

I know that this is generally a big "no-no", and a lot of running-smart people recommended I drop out or at least cut back to the half.  I figured I know my body best though, and decided that I would train as best as I could.  If I needed to cutback later, I knew I could and would.  Since I was building miles from scratch and recovering from an injury, I didn't run more than 3 miles at a time until mid-February.
I wouldn't recommend this approach to anyone, but not because it didn't work.  I actually thought it worked great for me.  It's obviously not ideal, but I made it work in the time frame that I had.  I felt I was trained well enough to safely complete the marathon, and I did.  I think there were a few key factors in my favor though.
The first is that I wasn't starting from scratch, completely.  I've been an athlete all my life, and until the IT Band issue popping up in October, was still playing soccer every week.  From October to January, I was still weight training, core strengthening, and swimming.  I had a fitness base, even if not a running base.
The second is that I was able to address concerns as they popped up.  I'm pretty in tune with my body, and my physical therapy background certainly doesn't hurt.  Jumping into running certainly brought on little aches and pains, but I was able to thwart them off fast and effectively.
The last, and perhaps the most important, is that I was prepared to aim low.  Though I did set some modest goals as race day came closer, I was mentally prepared to be content with a finish.  I knew pushing it and being unrealistic was just asking for trouble.  Running a marathon has long been a goal of mine, and I've always found a reason not to.  I was signed up early specifically so that I couldn't bail out with a lame excuse, and I wasn't going to let the opportunity slip by.

So I wouldn't recommend my shotgun marathon approach to anyone else, but only because everybody and every body is different.  It worked for me, well enough.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

2012 Pittsburgh Marathon Race Review

I guess now would be the time to confess that my running of the Pittsburgh Marathon last week was my very first ever race experience.  No 5ks, ever, nothing.  Unless you count running the 800 and 4x800 in high school, which I'm guessing you don't, no?  That's just fair warning that this is a factual(ish) review with absolutely nothing to compare to.  I have spectated the Pittsburgh Marathon a few years though.  Brace yourself, this should be a long one.

Race Expo
The race expo was held at the convention center downtown on Friday and Saturday.  The 5k and kids run were also held on Saturday, so I imagine the expo was crazy that day, which made the 2 day option so nice.  The race organizers Facebook'ed that parking was tight on Friday, but I had zero trouble parking in the Strip District surface lot, for $6, and coming into Downtown through the Strip.  I have the advantage of knowing my way around well though; cars trying to approach from the Downtown side were doing a lot of sitting in traffic.  it should have been a short walk for anyone staying near the start/finish downtown though.
Swag and freebie pickups
Shortly after the expo opened on Friday, the lines were non-existent and things weren't too busy.  Head off to one side to pick up your bib and shirt.  Then to the other side of the exhibit hall to pick up your bag. Zero lines.  I really didn't need or want anything else, so I headed out after picking up those things.  Many complained about the shirt, but I had no issues with the Asic long-sleeve tech tee.  I thought the fit was nice, and true to size; I had gotten a small.
I kind of dig the shirt
Parking Race Morning
On any other Sunday morning, it would take me less than 5 minutes to drive from my house to the starting line.  It wasn't any different on race morning.  No traffic, no problems parking, and we were in the garage on 6th and Fort Duquesne for $5.  Bonus of this garage is that there is a real bathroom in the lobby!  We were very close to the start but traffic was absurdly backed up trying to pull into the garage on Stanwix and Fort Duquesne, and those poor people shelled out $20 to park.  The marathon site provided a nice parking map, but it would have been helpful to include parking prices.  There were hundreds of people paying $15 more, sitting in traffic, and a block closer at most.

Pre-Race and Corrals
There were a total 5 corrals, A-E, with the elite and seeded runners lined up in Corral A.  Marathoners and 1/2 Marathoners were lined up together.  Corrals A-D were completely fenced in, and were supposed to be monitored for entrance based on the Corral printed on your bib.  I was back in Corral E, which had only the front end fenced in.  That's what happens when you're slow.  I wouldn't have minded the open ended corral, except that many took advantage by passing though with baby strollers and bikes or by keeping their entire spectating party with them in the corral.  When the race started, Corral E was spilled out onto the sidewalks in all directions because it just wasn't big enough.

There was a long line of port-a-potties on the cross street between Corrals D and E.  There were more scattered further up as well.  45 minutes before gun time, the wait was less than 10-15 minutes, though it looked much busier over there closer to race start, and there were still many in line when our corral started moving toward the start line.

Race Start
Apparently there was a singing of the National Anthem, and I heard it was wonderfully done.  From where I was, I couldn't even tell it was going on, which is unfortunate.  We did hear the gun though, and it seemed to be right on time for the 7:30 start.  A few minutes later, we started the walk to the start line.  According to gun versus chip time, it was 20 minutes before I crossed the start line, and there were still hundreds (or more?) behind me as well.

I spotted the 1/2 marathon 2:30 pacer and full marathon 5:00 pacer in the middle of the E Corral.  So that leaves a wide range of runners and walkers starting together.  My first mile was a slow 11:58, and I passed a minimum of a few hundred people in that time, far too many of whom were walking.  It would have been nice if at least the walkers were shifted to the back.  I started even with the 5 hour pace group (11:27 even splits), so I don't believe it's that I was lined up too far back either.

Both port-a-potties and a fluid station were available early on, if you needed them.
Elites early on.  Photo Credit: Hodnick Photography
The course was hilly with a big climb from miles 10-12 and a significant downgrade in the last few miles, but you can't expect anything else in Pittsburgh.  Being a Burgher, I think it was a nice tour of the city with strategic turns to wind you through business districts and neighborhoods.  I know the course has changed every year for the past few, but it wouldn't be bad to keep it as is.  Early on, some of the setup also allowed spectators to move from one spot on the course to a few miles ahead by only walking a few blocks, which is nice to catch a certain runner in multiple spots.

The entire course in run on public roads, all of which are entirely shut off to traffic.  Late in the race, I did see officers allowing cars to cross the course, but never at the expense of stopping runners.

Course Support
There were 18 fluid stations on the full course, all offering Gatorade and water.  By the time I passed by, a few stations had run out of water cups, but did encourage you to grab a Gatorade, dump or drink it, and then they would fill it with water.  If you were keeping a fast pace this might be annoying, but let's be honest, no one that far back was shooting for a course record.  There were an abundance of volunteers at each station, and they were helpful in quickly refilling my own bottle for me as well.

GU Gels were first available around Mile 12, and then what seemed like frequently after that.  They were plentiful, and available in at least 4-5 flavors when I passed through.  For me, Mile 12 was too late, and I was forced to carry at least one of my own.  It would have been nice to have them around Mile 7 or 8, but I now suspect this was their way of not having to provide them for the 1/2 marathoners, as the course split during the 10th mile.  There is always far, far more people running the 1/2 than the full.  I don't think I'm the only one that needs fuel before Mile 12.

I thankfully didn't need an aid station, but there were 15 of them along the full course and again at the finish.  Most, or at least all further along, were offering sticks with Vaseline.  Based on later news reports, there were a lot of heat related emergencies, and all seemed to be handled well.

Crowd Support
The crowd support was, in my opinion, phenomenal even for use slow pokes in the back.  I came through many areas  hours after the elites, and people were still cheering enthusiastically!  Many, many bands and other organized groups were set up along the course.  The course also runs through many neighborhoods and business districts where spectators were out in full force, even if I think many were just using the marathon as an excuse for public, morning drinking ;)  Welcome to Pittsburgh.

Did I mention it was hot, because it only got hotter as the miles passed by.  I think I came across the first Super Soakers just before the halfway point, and the squirt guns, garden hoses, sprinklers, and open fire hydrants were plentiful from there on.  I came across friendly people also passing out oranges, cups of ice, pretzel rods, and Swedish fish.  I apparently was too slow for the generous sharing of gummi worms on the South Side and Italian ice on the second pass through the Strip!
Photo Credit: Hodnick Photography, and sorry if you see this photo a million more times because it's my favorite
Finish Line
Finishers were pretty sparse as I came through, which made the chute uncrowded and seamless.  I was immediately given Gatorade and water, my medal, and offered a jug of water to be dumped over my head.  For how late I came through, almost 6 hours gun time, there was still an overwhelming amount of food left.  As I recall, bananas, fruit cups, potato ships, Panera bagels, and Eat'n Park smiley cookies.  I don't suspect there was a shortage even for the slowest stragglers.

There was also a photo-op setup just before the food, but I passed right on by.

There was a festival set up in Point State Park, just steps from the finish, but I didn't even set foot in that either.  I heard it was nice with a family reunion area, food vendors, massages, etc though.
Photo Credit: Hodnick Photography
Getting Out of Town
There was a Pirates game going on the same afternoon, just across the river from the finish line.  This may have caused some congestion if you tried leaving shortly before game time, but we were much later.  No problems getting back to the garage and out of downtown.  Loads of unwanted traffic on Rt 28, but that's PennDot's problem, not the marathon's.

There is really no doubt that I plan to run Pittsburgh again.  It is minutes from my house, I love this city, and even people that have run so many other cities seem to like this race.  I think starting further up in the corral and milder temps would solve any semblance of a complaint I could come up with.  Obviously neither of which are the fault of race organizers.

And while this is pretty insignificant, I've always thought it would be nice if the race was held while the colleges and universities were still in session for the Spring.  The course winds through or very near many campuses, and I think the student crowd support there would be fun.  Instead, the university area was pretty dead, just a person or two on the sidewalks here and there, probably one of the quietest areas on the course I thought.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

48 hours later

Everything below the waist hurt yesterday, everything.  Thank goodness I'm busy being a stay at home lazy bum wife and studying for boards right now.  I give high praise to anyone that goes to work on the day after they run a marathon!

Thankfully these shorts arrived yesterday, and I was rocking it out home alone in full-on leg compression.
CW-X Pro Shorts and my Running Skirts compression socks (picked up a few pairs on a great Schwaggle deal)
They are the CW-X Pro Shorts, which I found for a steal of a deal on Amazon.  I'll try to get around to a full review once I've gotten a little use out of them, but I can honestly say I felt an instant difference after slipping these on yesterday.  I could walk up the stairs without using the bear crawl!
So much fruit has been consumed in the last 48 hours.
Aside from still have an insatiable appetite, I'm feeling worlds better today.  After taking a total rest day yesterday, I actually made it out of the house today- yay!  I warmed up with an hour of shopping at Target. Yes, walking counts as exercise.  I did hit the gym after as well for a nice slow and easy 30 minutes on the bike and a long stretching session.  I also treated my feet to a hot epsom salt soak, and they thanked me.  I was cruel to them this week!

I'll eventually get down all the details from Sunday.  Knowing that this will not be my last race or my last marathon, I do want to get all my thoughts and feelings out before I forget them!  For now, my favorite picture from Sunday.
Around mile 4.5ish, after crossing the 9th Street Bridge
The hubs was out taking pictures at miles 4.5 and 25 throughout the day, from the start until shortly after I passed mile 25; what a trooper!  You can find all of pics on his site,, with digital downloads and all kinds of prints for steal of a deal prices.

Do I have to disclose that I got mine free with the "Married to the Photographer" discount?  Sorry, that's one discount that non-transferable.

Question of the Day: Do you buy your race photos?  Never?  Always?  For momentous occasions like first full or major PR?

Monday, May 7, 2012

I am a Runner of Steel

What an incredible day yesterday was!  It was a hot, sweaty, painful, and emotional 26.2 miles, but it felt so good to cross that finish line and know I am now a marathoner!  

Ok, that's a lie.  Crossing the finish didn't really feel good at; I actually felt pretty terrible.  I started to hyperventilate, and thank you God for the wonderful girl that poured a jug of cold water over my head after I crossed.  All I could tell myself was "Keep moving, go find Nick, it's going to hurt so much worse once you stop moving".

That being said though- I was, and am, so incredibly proud of myself!  No matter how bad it might have hurt, I finished (no sag wagon!) mostly in one piece (I'll miss you toenails!) and I crossed the finish line running (that's going to be one seriously ugly picture!)
Well intentioned, but was almost gone before I even started running.
Lots more details and pictures to come.  The hubs was set up at miles 4.5ish and 25ish, and got some great pics of me... and just about everyone else!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

It's Go Time

Run if you can,
Walk if you have to,
Crawl if you must,
Just never give up.
- Dean Karnazes

I wish I would have found that quote earlier in my training, but I know I will be repeating it over and over again in my head tomorrow morning.

Everything for pre, during, and post is set out and ready to go.
Except for my GPS, which is still plugged in because I have this crazy fear that it will magically lose its charge overnight.  I also had a major dilemma deciding how to carry gels.  I ended up pinning them to my waistband and if I decide I can't stand it, at least I can just toss them without having something to hold onto (I was contemplating a Banjee or armband or belt).

Dinner of banana protein pancakes smothered in Maple Peanut Butter has been, well... the place is clean.
All excess energy has been redirected from being nervous to foam rolling, stretching, and painting my nails to match my outfit.
Oh yes, I really went there.  10x
I have been able to relax all day today, and I've had lots of time to contemplate what will make tomorrow a success, failure, or anything in between.  With a forecast high of 79 degrees and knowing I won't finish until 12:30-1 at least I'm trying to convince myself that crossing the finish line is a success.  If it's in 5 hours or 6 hours doesn't matter.  The slower my time tomorrow, the harder I'll be able to crush it next time!

Oh yes, I said next time.  I may have spent the morning researching races... but for now, let's just get through tomorrow!  Bed time with 7.5 hours to sleep before a super early wake up call.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Ready or Not, here I go

I officially finished Marathon training with an easy 2-miler around the neighborhood this morning.  It was another hot one too- over 70 degrees by 9:30am.  They better be right about the cooler weather moving in!

After washing off the morning run, I was off for the race expo.  I really like that the expo runs 2 days, allowing me to not move off my couch tomorrow if I don't want to.
I don't know how the free swag compares to other races, but I was pretty giddy about the free foam rollers that were being handed out.  I snagged the last one, and I consider it reward for getting there literally minutes after the expo opened.
Participant shirt, check.  Bib number, check.  Nervous, check.
And I'm back to debating this again.  5 hours is still my goal, but I'm also freaking out over the relative "heat" that is possible.  73 degrees felt like running in a sauna this morning, and my body really hates being overheated.  Would it be wrong to write "Dear God, please let me finish" on the bib instead of my pace group time?  No?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Dress Rehearsal

It was a short easy run, but my marathon outfit got its last trial run before Sunday.
Marathon Goal #4: Be super visible so the hubs can find me for pictures and that anyone that even just wants to pretend to know me can yell and cheer for me!  I'm also a little excited about my coordination and details which have nothing to do with training.  I just won't mention how tempted I was to buy the yellow Wave Riders yesterday...
New Bic Band!
Fact: Stripes make you run faster.
It was a hot one too, 85 degrees when I made it back to my car!  Not ideal but I knew it was only going to be a short run.  I also had my eyes, and stomach, on a little treat I had been craving.
Pineapple, Lemon, and Papaya generously topped with fruit, coconut, and white chocolate goodness.
My favorite fro-yo was only a block from my car, not that I did that intentionally or anything.  My frequenter fro-yo habit also got me that mound of goodness for a whopping 65 cents.  I also devoured the entire thing within about 5 minutes.  Couldn't let it go to waste and melt!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


With no job, this former student is really living up life as a stay at home wife.  I clean, I cook, I bake, I shop.  I'm also relentlessly bored; it's pretty clear I would make a miserable stay at home mom/wife.  I don't think I could handle it.  It should be interesting to see how the next few weeks go before I get my temp license and can start working again.

I have been having fun with the baking and home cooking though, and I am knocking things off my Pinterest list.  I claim zero nutritional value on last night's dinner, but it was a super yummy treat.

Homemade Soft Pretzels
Recipe taken from with my minor change and commentary in italics.
Can't go wrong starting with butter and brown sugar!
All ready to heat things up.
Getting the bites ready to boil
Came out kind of dark, but they're not burnt, I promise!
Pretzel pepperoni/meatball and cheese balls- dinner of champions!
Such a gross food when you think about it, but pretzel dogs were a favorite treat as a kid!

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted (which apparently is 6 tablespoons)
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil
3 quarts water
3/4 cup baking soda
1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
Coarse sea salt (skipped the salt)
For the cheese sauce: (Confession- we used some Velveeta we had hanging out in the fridge, and we didn't even die from eating plastic!  This sounds much yummier though!)
½ Tablespoon unsalted butter
½ Tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ cup milk
8 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated


For the Pretzels: Combine the water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with the dough hook until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Add the salt and flour and mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. If the dough appears too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a flat surface and knead into a ball with your hands.
Oil a bowl with vegetable oil, add the dough and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Bring the water to a boil in a small roasting pan over high heat and add the baking soda.
Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, about 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 ounces each. Roll each piece into a long rope measuring 22 inches and shape. Cut the dough into one inch pieces to make the pretzel bites. Boil the pretzel bites in the water solution in batches. We did about 15 bites at a time. Boil for about 30 seconds. Remove with a large slotted spoon. Place pretzel bites on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Make sure they are not touching. Brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with the salt. Place into the oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown.  (I used about half the dough for pretzel bites.  I used a bit more to wrap two hot dogs, and what was left to make pepperoni/meatball and cheese balls.   It's a 3 course meal!  I would have added some cinnamon sugar bites for dessert, but somehow this household is out of sugar.  Insanity!)
Remove to a baking rack and let rest 5 minutes before eating. Serve with cheese sauce.
To make the cheese sauce:
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and cook until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the Cheddar cheese until smooth and all of the cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper, to taste