Monday, November 21, 2011

Philadelphia Marathon Race Report

Philadelphia Marathon Race Report
Official Time: 5:05:50
Starting temperature: 53 degrees
Partly sunny, beautiful running weather
November 20, 2011

I have been planning to run this marathon since June.  I initially had planned to run the half but it sold out before I could sign up, so I signed up for the full.  Well, I spent the whole summer and the beginning of fall preparing for my first half Ironman race.  Full marathon training had taken a back burner.  I started having doubts about running it, and therefore did not want to advertise it to the world that I might drop out.

Since the 70.3 race, I have been L-A-Z-Y.  And when I say LAZY, that is going from 6 days of working out, some days double or triple workout sessions to barely working out 1-2 days a week.  I signed up to see a nutritionist at the Monster Gym, thinking this was the push I needed to get going again.  Only to fall flat.  My heart just was not in it anymore. I started sleeping in, every single day.  I skipped my long runs on Saturdays for 2 weeks in a row.  I ran an 11K with Charlie for our 11/11 wedding anniversary and although my legs went through the motions, I felt tired after 15 minutes. 

The Sunday before the Philly marathon, I ran a Metric Marathon (26.2K) formerly called the Houston Masters 25K.  I do this race because they give out the coolest long sleeve tech shirts.  It is 3 loops on Memorial Drive for a total of 16.5 miles.  I did not do terrible, but again, I dragged butt.  I was sore and I felt the effects of my recent lack of running. I always enjoy this well organized race and the shirt did not disappoint.  But again, I did not run the rest of the week.  And honestly, I was not motivated at all to run this Philadelphia marathon.

I was able to get on a overbooked plane with ease. it looks like my fate is sealed.  As we landed in Philadelphia, I had flashbacks of my summer vacations visiting my grandparents and I started to feel excited.  As we drove downtown and I see all the historic buildings, my heart is starting to beat a little faster.  I feel my mojo slowly coming back.

We stayed at the Crowne Plaza. There are 14 of us total from Kingwood, (most of the ladies are current or former members of Kingwood Fit).  I am sharing a room with 3 other ladies.  The next day, we hit the expo.  It is a crisp 44 degrees and that is enough to get a runner's blood going.  The expo is huge and the deals are plenty.  I have to admit, I had way too much fun looking (and buying) for running gear.  Next door, there is a giant fresh market. All of a sudden, I notice the time, and I have to haul butt back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.  Not a good thing that I was on my feet so much.  My legs were already pooped before I even started the run.  Not a good sign.

Oddly for me, I am calm.  Completely. No nerves. I did not get my usual pre-race anxiety tummy.  Compared to Big Sur, where I tossed and turned all night with anticipation, this time, I acted like I did marathons in my sleep.  I had no funky emotions.  I prepared all my gear the night before, goofed around on the computer and then hit the hay.

The next morning, I got up at 5:30am, made a protein drink and headed out to the starting line.  We were supposed to meet my friend who runs at my pace at the Rocky Steps (or was it the Rocky Statue).  There were 3 freaking statues. Ugh. (And no, I did not run up the "Rocky" steps.  Looked like marathon leg suicide to me.)

We were late and Kavita was long gone.  Looks like I was running this marathon alone...sigh.  At least I remembered to charge my music player the night before.  The port-potty lines were sooo long, and as I wait for the gun to go off...I am aware I have to go.  At the first strip of port-o-potties I run to, I jump in line.  Since I was alone, I did not worry about ruining anyone's time.  I looked at my watch, and noted the time and estimated the stop took around 5 minutes.

At the 4.5 mile mark, I noticed it was the little eclectic street where we had dinner last night.  That little restaurant was the bomb.  It was called CoredeRoma on South Street.  A little family owned Italian dive on South Street.  I then spotted Suzanne, one of the ladies I met for the first time in our group.  There are about 25,000 people running and I find her.  I finally had a friend to run with.  The miles just seem to go by so much faster when you have a buddy by your side.  We walked the water stops and the steep hills.  I enjoyed her company until she started feeling a pain in her knee, she turned off at the half marathon point and I decided to keep going.

Mentally, I told myself I only had a half marathon left.  If I did this a month earlier after swimming an hour and riding 56 miles, then certainly I can do 13.1 miles back-to-back.  This last part of the course was an out and back along the Delaware river.  The trees were changing color and it was gorgeous.  Somehow, I had an extra pep in my step. I could also see the other runners as they were about to finish the full marathon.  All those athletes finishing 26.2 miles under 3 hours is so amazing to watch.  I mentally told my self it was 6.5 miles out, and then run it back.  So easy.  I distract myself by looking for runners in our group, ready to cheer them on.

It all went pretty smoothly even when I ran past mile 18-20 where supposedly some runners hit a wall.  Walking breaks were more difficult to do because it would be harder and harder to start up running again. I finally see Kavita (the one I was supposed to meet at the Rocky Steps) and she is about 7-8 minutes ahead of me.  I wanted to catch her.  I looked down at my Garmin and I am running a 9:40 pace at mile 23.  A 5K at this pace and I will finish under 5 hours. 

Yeah, until mile 24.  

Jenny, is introduced to the wall.  Ugh. My legs rebelled. They just did not want to go anymore.  The "wall" is this feeling of stopping dead in your tracks.  And it takes all of your mental energy not to let this happen.

Ever get those vivid flashbacks as clear as day?  Now when you have not seen someone in over 13 years, and you try to picture their face, are some of the details fuzzy?  I am running, and when I hit the "wall",  I can see my dad smiling at me, clear as day.

Now it could be, that Philly was close to his hometown in South New Jersey and I am surrounded by scents and sounds that remind me of him, and maybe that activated a certain spot in my brain; but nonetheless, at my weakest point of the run, I see him smiling.  As fresh as a memory as seeing someone smile that morning at the breakfast table.  I can see every detail of his face and the twinkle of his gorgeous green eyes.  I took that as a message that he is with me.  Even at my darkest mile.

 Okay, so now on top of fighting the urge to quit, now I want to start bawling hysterically as I am running.  Yeah, can you imagine you are running next to me as a complete stranger and she has a total meltdown?   

Yeah, I played that in my head on how I would explain that one.

So I am just not going there.  I fight back tears and I hear myself whimper as I focus on just taking one more step.  I secretly pray that no one hears the freakish sounds coming out of my body that sound like my dog begging for treats. Thank goodness I make it through that mile without stopping or behaving like a blubbering idiot.

Finally, I am down to my last mile and I am out of my trance.  I try to pick up my pace as hard as I can although my feet feel like lead bricks.  I see now that I am not going to make it under 5 hours anymore, but I would sure be close.  No matter what my time is, it has been a good run and huge time difference from the first one, so I am proud of my finish.  I cross the finish line in a sprint and I am so thrilled that I can even go that fast at the end.  

I pick up my medal and I look for Kavita.  I spot her getting her photo taken so I jump in and join her.  She made her time goal, and her hubby too.  We get our post-race grub and picnic within the finish chute and celebrated our PRs.  Leg cramps set in but thanks to the chicken broth the volunteers handed out, they did not last long.

Afterward, my awesome friend Christina, met me for delicious Crepes at a local French restaurant.  Best post race food ever, as the crepe tradition as a post race celebration meal continues.  As Christina and I are walking to the cafe, I spot a Starbucks and had to buy one to silently toast my friend Jessica who did my first marathon with me and could not make this trip to Philly.

Philly ended in smiles with more good times that dinner.  Although walking isn't a good feeling right now, I know the pain is temporary.  The afterglow is forever.