Monday, October 19, 2009

Detroit Free Press Marathon Race Report

On Sunday, October 18th I completed my first marathon. Woo hoo! It was really hard but a wonderful experience.

My friend Wendy and her husband Ken came in from California to run the race. I met Wendy last year on an online fitness forum and she has been a big running inspiration to me. We met in person in May of this year when we visited another forum friend in Colorado and ran the Title 9K+ race in Boulder. David and I had dinner with Wendy and Ken on Saturday night and then we all went to our hotel rooms to try to get some rest. David and I stayed in the host hotel even though we live in the Detroit area because I didn't want to have to get up super early and then deal with traffic.

I slept better on Saturday night than I thought I would, though I still woke up several times. I ended up getting up half an hour before the alarm went off because I was a bundle of nerves. I had a special item to wear as part of race day apparel, because my friend Megan sent me a bracelet that says "Mind Over Miles." She sent one for my running buddy Vicki, too, which is so sweet of her. Vicki and I trained together and planned to run the marathon together. It was Vicki's first marathon, too.

My breakfast of champions consisted of oatmeal, a chewy granola bar, and two Tylenol tablets. A little pre-medication can't hurt, right?

We headed out of the hotel with Wendy and Ken at 6am, allowing us plenty of time to walk to the start corral which was less than a mile away. Well, we TRIED to head out of the hotel at 6am. The hotel is in the middle of the Renaissance Center, which is a group of interconnected cylindrical towers. And let me tell you, it's a freaking maze in there. It took us a while to find our way out to the street.

When we arrived at the start, we found our corral. Wendy and Ken were supposed to be in a faster corral but they sneaked into mine so they could run with me. Vicki and I had agreed to meet at the corral. I didn't see her so I started calling her cell phone. I called several times and walked through the whole corral searching for her, but I never found her! I did not see her for the entire race. I was very upset because I'm the one who talked her into doing the marathon in the first place. I knew she was riding downtown together with her friend Pam, who was also running the marathon, so she wasn't starting the race alone. But it was still really upsetting.

Standing in the corral in the cold was nerve-wracking. Did I mention that I was a bundle of nerves? At 7:15 the first corral was released and we started moving up. Our corral was sent off just past 7:30. I was really happy that I could still see David on the sidelines because that helped keep me calmer. Once we crossed the start line, my nerves mostly disappeared but I was still wondering about Vicki.

I went out a little faster than I planned but that was ok. One thing I found annoying is that a lot of people dropped their throwaway clothes right in the middle of the street. Come on people, go toss it on the side of the road so your fellow runners don't have to trip over it.

At about mile two we reached the approach to the Ambassador Bridge. I am no fan of hills but I was excited about crossing the bridge. Could have done without the winding around on the approach to the bridge, because it made it really apparent how many people were way in front of me already. :) But the bridge was fantastic. The sun was just coming up so we had a gorgeous view of the sunrise and the many trees that were wearing their fall colors.

Over the bridge, we soon turned onto Riverside Drive in Windsor for a long straightaway along the river. This was also very cool because there's a sculpture park along the way and a fantastic view of downtown Detroit. But I didn't pay as much attention to the scenery as I probably should have because I was thinking about running and the distance in front of me. Wendy and Ken were in front of me for most of this, but not too far and it was easy to keep them in sight.

It seemed like we reached the tunnel pretty quickly. The tunnel was interesting. It was pretty warm in there. Fortunately the crowd was pretty well spread out. Near the end of the tunnel, there were two guys in puffy jackets who didn't have race numbers. They were stopped by the cops and I wonder what happened to them.

Coming out of the tunnel - yay! It's David. We exchanged "I love you's" (awww) and he said "See you at 12." I thought, wow, he has an overly optimistic idea of how long it will take me to do this race. I took my first GU here and also my first dose of Aleve. My feet weren't hurting yet and I wanted to keep it that way!

The next few miles are a blur. I remember I got depressed when we passed the point where the half split off. I contemplated heading for the half finish and taking a DNF but quickly realized that was ridiculous. Plus, there were Wendy and Ken up ahead motioning me on to continue. And then much to my surprise, there was David again on the side of the road. Turns out that when he said "See you at 12" he meant mile 12, not 12pm. :) That was a nice psychological boost to see him.

I continued trudging along, keeping Ken and Wendy in sight up ahead. Wendy needed to make a pit stop somewhere between 12 and 13 so Ken and I waited for her. In retrospect, I should have kept going because 1) they run a lot faster than I do so inevitably they would catch up to me and 2) my legs seize up if I stop moving forward. Took me a bit to get forward motion going again in anything resembling a smooth movement.

Maybe a mile or so after that, Wendy and Ken pulled over to the side. Wendy was taking off her jacket and Ken looked like he was stretching. Having learned from my previous error, I kept going. Wendy caught up with me soon after and said Ken had mentioned his ankle was hurting. She'd suggested he drop out at the half but he didn't want to do that.

I was thinking negative thoughts at this point about how much still remained ahead of me. It was probably my lowest point in the race. Wendy told me that this was the part of the race where she just started focusing on the next mile marker. I started doing that and it's amazing how much it helped me. I would repeat to myself (in my head, not out loud) "just get to 15, just get to 15" or whatever the next mile was. Somehow that made the miles go by faster. I also occasionally muttered a long drawn-out f-bomb (out loud, not in my head) but I kept it fairly quiet so as not to offend my fellow runners who may not be as potty-mouthed as I am.

Somewhere in the miles between 14 and 16 I could no longer manage to keep Wendy in my sights. I'd told her and Ken before the race that they should take off whenever they felt like it and I didn't think they had any obligation to stick with me. Ken was still behind me at this point and I wasn't sure what was going on with him.

The run through Indian Village was another highlight of the race. It's beautiful there - the houses are great, the trees were pretty and the residents were very encouraging. I skipped the beer that was being offered, as well as the jelly beans. Seemed like it would not be in my best interest to partake in them. At mile 16 I took my second GU and another dose of Aleve.

I think the Aleve was a life-saver for me. By mile 15 of my 20-miler, my feet were killing me. But during the whole marathon, my feet felt a little sore but nothing like the anguish I experienced previously.

We did a weird little loop around some traffic cones on Jefferson and then headed in the direction of Belle Isle. It was at this point that I started taking more walk breaks. When I do another marathon some day I'm going to work on eliminating walk breaks as much as possible. Or else I will plan them (e.g. run 10 minutes, walk one minute) so I don't end up stretching the walking out longer and longer.

On the bridge to Belle Isle, Ken came up to me again to see how I was doing. Apparently he had been feeling somewhat barfy though he never actually vomited. He said that it was clear to him he needed to do some more training (did I mention that he's an amazing adventure racer and will be doing a 150 mile race in March?) Yep, a marathon is only a training race for him, because he is unbelievably impressive. I'm in awe of him.

Belle Isle was a little aggravating to me because there was some DJ providing "entertainment" at mile 22 near where people were getting back onto the bridge to exit Belle Isle. The only problem is that those of us entering Belle Isle around mile 19 could also hear him clear as a bell saying "you're at mile 22, only four miles to go." That is depressing to hear when you've got 7 miles to go. Plus this DJ had no idea how to motivate runners. Berating someone for taking a walk break at mile 22 is not the way to go, jackass!

I saw Ken again on Belle Isle but he dropped back again. I found out later that he was probably about 50 yards behind me for the last 7 or 8 miles of the race. Since he wasn't having a good race himself, he made it his mission to make sure I was doing all right. What a sweetheart!

When I exited Belle Isle I managed not to punch the DJ in the face. I didn't have the energy to form a fist anyway. No way would I have been able to put any power behind the punch. Maybe I could have mustered up a bitch slap but he wasn't worth it. It was encouraging to leave Belle Isle and realize that I was kind of in the home stretch.

I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that I walked HUGE portions of the last 6 miles of the race. My legs were so fatigued. My goal at that point was to make sure I finished within 5 1/2 hours. That was partly because it was the time I'd predicted all along, but also because the late checkout at the Marriott was only until 2pm so if I didn't finish in 5 1/2 hours there was no way I would make it back to the hotel in time to take a shower before checking out. I did NOT want to have to drive all the way home to shower before coming back downtown for dinner with Wendy and Ken.

When I walked, I tried to keep up a decent pace. I noticed a lot of people were strolling along slowly on their walk breaks but I figured 5 1/2 hours is long enough to be on my feet and again, I had the shower to motivate me.

The run (walk in my case) along the Riverwalk was cool. That was the first time I'd ever been on the Riverwalk and it was great to see how access to the riverfront has been opened up. Very nice! Around mile 23 or 24 some people said things like "you're almost there." I couldn't help myself and said to one guy "unless I can see the finish line, I'm not almost there." I know people are trying to be encouraging but come on, 2 or 3 miles to go is not "almost there." Those feel like endless miles at that point, at least to me.

As I reached the 25 mile marker, I put on the dorky Bluetooth headset and called David as previously agreed upon to let him know I was getting closer. He didn't hear the phone ring so I left a message letting him know where I was and that I was walking so it was probably going to be another 15 or 16 minutes.

Soon after that Ken approached me and asked how I was doing. I said I was probably going to walk to the finish. But then I saw my brother Rob yelling encouragement. Well, I couldn't embarrass myself by walking it in after that, so I started to run (very slowly). Rob said he would call ahead to his wife Milissa, who was waiting at the finish along with David and my nephew Alex. Rob loped along on the sidewalk not having any trouble keeping up with me.

Coach Sandy from Team in Training saw me somewhere between 25 and 26, can't remember where exactly. She ran with us for a bit, gave me lots of encouragement and told me Team in Training had a water station around the corner about half a mile from the finish. She left us and we finally turned that last corner and could see the finish line. That felt like a really long half mile to me. I managed to keep running but I have to say that it was damn hard for me to do so. If you saw the finish line video in the prior post then you know I was not exhibiting good running form at this point. :)

I saw David and my family and heard them yelling for me. Tried really hard to smile but couldn't quite do it until I crossed the finish line. People told me it would feel amazing to cross the finish line but I didn't really believe it until it happened to me. I took my beautiful medal and put it around my neck. The benefit of finishing as late as I did is that the security around the "runners only" area was non-existent so Rob, Milissa, Alex and David came right over to hug me. I felt like crying. I can't believe I completed a marathon.

And I made it to the hotel with 20 minutes before checkout so I took that shower. Yeah! Then David, Wendy and Ken and I had a drink at the bar and headed to Pizzapapalis in Greektown for a delicious pizza feast. Ken gave me a bracelet that says "Nothing Great is Easy" from

Before David and I left Wendy and Ken at the hotel, Wendy gave me the most wonderful gift. It's a beautiful silver bracelet with a heart charm on it. The charm is engraved with "Detroit Marathon" on one side and the date on the other. Wendy said a friend gave her a similar bracelet after Wendy completed her first marathon. I am so touched and feel honored to have Wendy as my friend. Now I will always have a reminder of the wonderful weekend and this amazing experience.

Detroit Free Press Marathon

I completed the Detroit Free Press Marathon yesterday! Race report to come, but in the meantime here's a video of me crossing the finish line. Pain face is in full effect. I'm the one in the long-sleeved pink shirt and black hat, behind the group of people holding hands. The man next to me in the orange hat and peace symbol shirt is my friend Ken who crossed the finish line with me. His wife Wendy ran the race, too but finished well ahead of us.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Brooksie Way 5K Race Report

Last Sunday, David and I ran the Brooksie Way 5K. I ran the inaugural Brooksie 5K last year as my second race ever and was horribly disappointed when the course turned out to be a third of a mile short. But I want to eventually be one of those old people who says "Well I've run this race 25 times, every time since the first year they did way back in twenty ought eight" so I decided to give it another chance.

The weather was fairly cool on race day so I wore a long-sleeved shirt and shorts. (Naturally I regretted the long sleeves about 1/4 mile into the race. But it was my awesome shirt from the Dick Beardsley half marathon in Minnesota that I ran last month so I wanted to wear it.) Anyway, we left the house a bit later than planned and naturally there was traffic on the road leading to the university where the race started. So we arrived with enough time to get to the start line and not enough time to look for any of my friends who were running the half marathon that started shortly after the 5K.

We lined up about halfway back in the 5K pack but that was a poor choice because when the race started, the people in front of us barely moved. David usually takes off like a jackrabbit at a 5K so I was surprised to see him still beside me after a minute. He finally dodged around the crowd and took off. He ended up with a PR. Yay!

My plan was to take it pretty easy for a couple of reasons. One, hello, I am running a marathon soon and I didn't want to go nuts and get injured. Two, I'd done a 15 mile run the day before so my legs weren't fresh. And three, well, I'm kind of lazy. I had no intention of trying for a PR.

The course was much the same as last year (except the start line was farther back) and I knew there was going to be a rather painful hill about halfway through. I focused on keeping a steady pace and having a good time. Saw lots of people sprinting ahead and then having to take walk breaks. I have been that person before and I don't have any interest in doing that again. Weirdly, there was a water stop around the 0.25 mile mark. Who needs water a quarter mile into a 5K? That was just plain strange. All I can think is that was a water stop near the end of the half marathon course, but I don't know.

As I approached the hill I told myself I was not going to walk it. Last year I started walking about halfway up the hill but I knew I could do better this year. I'm proud to say I conquered that hill. Well okay, I was huffing and puffing but still, I didn't walk it.

As usual, I can't remember a lot of details. But I do remember a few sweet downhills which I totally took advantage of, including a downhill leading to the finish line. Woo hoo, I came flying down that hill and felt like a real runner for once as I crossed the line strong instead of wheezing my way across it.

The course was actually a 5K this time around, so I guess I can stop bitching about last year finally. My total time was about 30 seconds slower than my PR, which was faster than I intended to run this thing. I guess those downhills helped and maybe I'm not quite as lazy as I thought. In any case, I had a lot of fun and I will do this race again next year (God willing and barring any injuries, of course). Good times!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Good news and bad news

First, the bad news. My new shoes aren't the solution to my sore feet on long runs.

Second, the good news. My 15 mile run today was awesome. I felt great. I had sore feet for the last few miles but because I was expecting it, it seemed easier to take. I felt substantially better after 15 miles today than I did at the 15 mile mark last weekend. Also, I took an Aleve about 8 miles in and I think that helped, too. My legs didn't feel as sore so I believe that made the feet easier to handle.

I'm starting to feel like this marathon is going to be okay. Also, I know it helped to find out that my friend Wendy and her husband Ken plan to run the marathon alongside me and my running buddy Vicki. I knew Wendy and Ken were coming to run the marathon but didn't know they were going to stick with us. Wendy said that she wants to cross the finish line with me. They are so awesome! They're veteran marathoners and could finish much faster but they said they don't care about time. What a mental boost that will be to have them by my side! It's going to help me tremendously.

Life is good!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Shoes, pain and mental strength

Ran another five miles in the new Sauconys today. Still feel good. The real test is Saturday's 15 miles. But from what I hear, it is normal to get sore feet during a marathon. I'm pretending I don't know that.

I need to come up with some strategies to stay in a positive frame of mind even when my feet hurt and I don't feel like running anymore. I am going to finish this marathon, damn it. And it would be a bonus if I actually have fun instead of treating it like a death march.