It’s finally Marathon Week, and I’m trying my darnedest not to freak out. It’s been a long time since a race has made me nervous and stressed out. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I was almost afraid of running a race, not knowing what was going to happen (for those of you who have run one, please leave comments! I’d love to hear what you did for your first!).
This is what it feels like to be a newbie again. I’m a half marathon master now – I did 6 halfs in 9 weeks this past spring. I had a lot of pressure on myself to PR at Hospital Hill Half, but I knew I could run the race. And I knew how it would feel. And I knew the course by heart. And I knew how to prepare for running a race in Kansas City on the cusp of summer.
But a Full Marathon in an unknown city in an unfamiliar climate? I can’t even FATHOM what that will feel like. What mental games I’ll have to play to keep going. How physically exhausted I’m going to feel. Or even imagine how great the finish will feel to motivate me at the worst moments.
Reasons Why I’m Freaking Out
- The Weather – ah, this is every runner’s biggest worry (after what kind of beer is going to be at the finish line). I learned from my half marathon in Dallas this spring that even though the weather says it will be nice, it’s probably is lying to you. So I’m prepared by having at least one of everything. But acclimating is going to suck. We’ve trained all summer in hot and humid Kansas. By mile 2, you were soaked. The hardest decision I had to make about what to wear was figuring out which tank top was clean. It’ll be refreshing to run in a cooler climate – but Portland is weird in between weather. It’s chilly but humid but usually rainy but sometimes hot. I haven’t gotten to try out my new water-proof jacket or my cold weather tops because I haven’t run in cold weather in FOREVER, which brings me to
- New Gear – because I live in the land of heat and humidity, I have new running gear I haven’t gotten to wear…at all. They tell you nothing new on race day, but I didn’t need a rain jacket for Kansas, and I didn’t have much for fall weather because in Kansas we have two seasons – really hot weather and really shitty cold weather. In between the 90-degree, 90% humidity summer and the cold as balls lots of snow winter, we get like two days of 70-degree weather.
- New Shoes – I’ve been training in Mizuno Wave Rider 14 and 15s for the past two years now (I love a running shoe clearance!) I finally got the latest model, the 16, which I started breaking in beginning of September – plenty of time to get miles on them but not wear them out. Well, the 16s are different than the 15s. On short runs they seemed the same. But anything over 8 miles and my feet started hurting A LOT. It feels like they sacrificed the cushion to brag it’s a lighter shoe. So I went to the local running store, Gary Gribble’s, which I will shamelessly plug right now because they are AWESOME. I told them my problem, explaining I didn’t have time to find new shoes but my old ones were too worn for a full. They found me some insoles and gave them free of charge (I should note I bought the shoes there, so they understood since the product hadn’t lasted as long as it was supposed to, they should do something about it. But as logical as that sounds, customer service like that is still lost on lots of places. I appreciate how this store maintains quality in products and service and understands that as runners, we need things to work right!) But it’s been taper time the last few weeks, so I have no idea how having the insoles will go after a few hours.
- Our (Lack Of) Training – we definitely have trained for this full marathon, but not as much as most marathon plans say, but definitely more than a lot of people I’ve met who pretty much winged it (one of the racquetball players I know did the Portland Marathon with just 3 20-mile training runs). We ran 2-3 times a week. Our longest run mile-wise was 16 miles. My longest run time-wise was 3 ½ hours – a trail half marathon that is probably the hardest run I’ve ever done. But I’m trying to tell myself that we did a lot of really long runs back to back (we did 2 13-mile runs in less than a week) to make up for our lack of time to do 4-hour runs. I also have been doing Cross-Fit 3-4x a week as well as racquetball 2x a week. So it’s not like I’m out of shape. But anyone who’s ever run knows that running is such a different sport – the only way to really fully train for racing is to run.
And yet, despite all the unknowns and the factors that will probably work against me, I’m excited.
Reasons Why I’m Excited to Run a Marathon
- Bucket List Item – I can finally cross it off my Bucket List and never do another one ever again if I don’t want to
- Time to Level-Up – I’ve been running long distance since 8th grade and have done several races now, from 5Ks to 10Ks to half marathons, and now the next step is the full marathon. It’s time to join the ranks of veteran runners who have the bragging rights to say they went all the way – 26.2 miles.
- I Get Stuff – I get LOTS of race swag for this race. We get TWO finisher shirts, a medal, a pendant of the medal, a rose, a mylar blanket, all the goodies in the packet, and lots of food and beer at the finish. I’m going to be SO DAMN PROUD of that finisher shirt I’m going to wear it ALL week, especially to Cross-Fit, so when I can’t do a pull-up, I can point to my shirt and say, “No, but I can run a MARATHON!”
- The Experience – physically I don’t look forward to feeling like I’m going to die (but then again I go to Cross-Fit every week and am a runner), but I’m excited to experience such a huge race. I get to run with my fiancée Jason and best friend Jen. We’ll meet new people and be motivated and inspired by all the runners, supporters, and entertainment on our journey. And I’ve only been to Portland for a few hours, so it’ll be cool to see a new city instead of the same old Kansas City skyline.
- I found Pocket-Sized Body Glide for the race. Nuff said. Best shit EVER.
- I’ll have new material for my blog
- I can finally quit worrying about the race and start worrying about my upcoming wedding in November; it’s running-themed so I look forward to incorporating the marathon into our slideshow and running decorations; hopefully I will still be able to WALK down the aisle
- I can eat all the food and drink all the beer (and Mountain Dew!) I want that day (although I’ll probably want a huge dose of NAP before that). I’ve read you can lose up to 7 pounds in water weight running a full marathon, and I fully intend to replace those and help my body recover with carbs and protein…lots of carbs.
What was your first marathon? How did you handle it? Any advice for a first-timer?
Besides running, I am very passionate about music. I used to enjoy watching music award shows, but since the early 2000s, there’s been a definite decline in the quality of these endeavors. They’ve slowly become more of a popularity contest, I often disagree with the industry’s definition of “talent,” and there are well-trained elephants with more amusing performances than some of the atrocities that have aired on live TV.
MTV’s 2013 VMAs show was no exception.
But let’s not berate and criticize what we already know was wrong with the show. Instead, let’s focus on the valuable life lessons we can take with us and apply to our looking-more normal-by-the-day average joe lives.
What I Learned from the 2013 MTV VMA Show:
1. You are NOT allowed to have your nipple exposed but wearing a tiny seashell thong and seashell bra is perfectly acceptable because that is how she sells.
2. Apparently only official referees in sports games are allowed to call Personal Fouls and Bench a Player if they are violated with a Foam Finger.
3. I now finally understand SAT analogies. For example, “Oil is to Water as Harry Styles is to Taylor Swift” or “The iceberg is to the Titanic as Miley Cyrus is to the VMAs”
4. Audience reactions are WAAYYY better than award winners’ reactions.
5. If N*SYNC and the Backstreet Boys would get together for one last reunion tour IT WOULD BE AWESOME. The tickets would sell faster than Beanie Babies in the 90s. The fans could then die happy and the boys could make some money, finally retire and be done with it all.
6. If you’re going to prance around wearing practically nothing and self-pleasuring yourself with a foam finger, you should at least warn your audience. That way the audience can either have some dollars on hand to throw or empty their show gift bags in preparation to barf.
7. People are better at lip reading than you think (if you don’t believe me, shut the front door up!)
8. Parents who are into banning books finally have something new and actually worth fighting against. While you were appalled your little Jimmy was reading an acclaimed classic because it used the “N” word, you failed to realize that the dreaded “N” word is in every song on little Jimmy’s Two Chainz album which he bought with the allowance money YOU gave him on the iPod YOU bought him just last Christmas. But when it comes down to it, it isn’t the language used to get the message across but the actual message itself that matters. And a LOT of the messages put out by songs are A LOT worse than just swearing at a slave in story about fighting for freedom.
9. If you can’t sing good, you better look good. Or have backup dancers that look good. I use this tactic frequently in racquetball. I can’t play good but I can at least look good. And that might distract someone just a second long enough to score a point.
10. We now have several images to add to the Kid’s Pictorial Dictionary to better illustrate the meaning of words like “classless,” “crazy,” and “WTF.”
11. I’m well aware of the grammar error in number 9. Also, I’m well aware this is the eleventh item in a top ten list. Clearly the awards show didn’t help me with my fuzzy English major math
For more information, please refer to YouTube or the always amusing yet highly uninformative articles on the Yahoo! homepage. Yahoo! is notorious for having stories that say nothing, are poorly edited, and, in general, are just a waste of your time.
Yet thousands of other readers and I devour these stories everyday! The stories might be incoherent pieces of fluff, but they are incredibly entertaining pieces of fluff. And the comments, oh the comments, are the BEST. The art of the well-written, snarky one-liner will not die because of the astute readers of Yahoo! articles. Live Long and Comment On!
Completed my first 16-mile run today as part of Marathon Training for the Portland Marathon on October 6th. Finished in a little over 3 hours with a final temperature of 90 degrees. Welcome to Kansas: Land of Humidity.
Longest run I’ve done. EVER.
But now that I’ve survived the Sweaty Sixteen, I’m now working on the 10 Breadstick Challenge. By the end of the day, I will have eaten this entire plate of breadsticks, pictured below. (In case you’re wondering, that’s a spinach salad in the bowl. Uh, the spinach is there…somewhere).
The only reason this plate hasn’t been demolished is because we ordered our food. But halfway through the salads we were pretty much ready to fall asleep so we took our food home to go and then took a NAP.
Now that I’m awake, 3 more breadsticks have been demolished with 4 more to go and a cold can of Throwback Mountain Dew somewhere. Because if I’m going to do the Dew, I’m going to Dew it right, with REAL SUGAR
I always wanted my first time to be special. I kept holding out waiting for that special one. I would know it when I saw it. It would be appealing and fun, and I’d have no second thoughts. But after years of putting it off, it was finally peer pressure that made me do it:
I signed up for my very first full marathon.
Until that point, I’d just been a running tease – going halfway but stopping there. Of course, I’d had to work up to that. I used to think my 2-miles races in high school cross country was going far. Two whole miles!
Until my cross country coach convinced a bunch of us to run a half marathon at the end of the season. 13.1 miles was SO FAR. That’s like FOREVER. I ran it, thought I was going to die, and held out another whole year before trying again. It hurt!
But then I got older and learned to run on my own terms in college. The more I got used to long training runs, the less of a big deal it all seemed. But it’s more fun with other people, so I got back into half marathon races by doing Hospital Hill and the Gobbler Grind. My two big races every year.
I’d practice, get all geared and psyched up, then just go for it. It was long and rough, but I enjoyed it. I had endurance to last. And I loved basking in the afterglow of endorphins and free beer. Plus the bragging rights and shirts.
This past spring, I started getting around more by signing up for not two but SIX half marathons. And not spread throughout the year but all within 2 months and 1 week of each other. It was a challenge – balancing all those races. But there were PRs to chase and cool medals to get and free beer to be drunk, so I did it. And I enjoyed exploring new races, meeting new people.
And as I was getting ready to become a half marathon master in February, my best friend Jen announced on Facebook, “Signed up for my first marathon! So nervous!” She had made the long-term commitment to run her first full marathon – The Portland Marathon.
Jen and my fiancee Jason have a friendly running competition going. Jason couldn’t let Jen one up him in running. Since she was taking the plunge, so was he, and since he and I started dating through running, now I was too.
Suddenly, I was no longer holding out for that special race and getting to choose through free will. It was a prearranged marathon marriage, and I was going through with it like it or not.
But, we figured, we were running six half marathons in the spring, the last on June 1st. The full marathon isn’t until Oct 6th. So we’d be starting marathon training already halfway there. We’d take it easy in June to recover then rev up the running right starting in July.
Also the race newsletters started pouring into our mailbox. Suddenly it wasn’t just a shirt and medal and free Bud Light. It was TWO FINISHER shirts plus the RACE SHIRT plus a MEDAL plus a smaller CHARM VERSION OF THAT MEDAL plus a ROSE plus plus plus….and all the cool entertainment on the course like the traditional awesome accordion duo and local rock bands.
And we get to stay a week up in Portland visiting Jen and her husband Jon.
It is going to be AWESOME!!!
And then training started happening which started trying to take over my life, and my life fought back, and next thing I knew it was eat, sleep, run, stress, ahhhh!
Training for this marathon has been getting crazy – balance running with a full-time job, a freelance job, cross training, racquetball, cooking, cleaning, eating, sleeping (??? Sleep? Ha!). Oh wait, we’re also getting married in November! So add planning a wedding on top of that.
When my training runs became half marathon distance and further, I started questioning the whole endeavor. Run 13 miles but without the inspiration of hundreds of other runners around me? Run 14 miles without funny spectator signs to read? Run 16 miles without aid stations – instead carry everything on me making me feel like a pack horse?
And where’s the rewards? The finisher medal? The cool shirt? The free beer? But the real drag is the lack of recovery reward – the coveted Post-Half Marathon Nap .
Normally, a half marathon is early early in the morning. We run it in two hours or so – enough to feel like we’ve worked hard enough to relax the rest of the day and enjoy whatever food or drink we want. So run, finish, go enjoy a big meal, then nap and watch TV the rest of the day. The rest of the week is easy training wise.
Not anymore. Sometimes we have to do the runs at night after work. So we get home, go run, and get back around 9pm. Then eat. Then off to bed. Then up the next day for work. Then back to training. And not an easy 3-miler but today is a 7-miler. Even with a day off before getting back to training, my legs are wondering what in the world is going on.
I want to do this race. I’ve always had run a marathon on my bucket list. As a runner, it’s a huge milestone accomplishment.
But it’s a not something to be taken lightly. It’s one of those things that sounds easy in your head, like “Hey, I’m going to write a book” or “I could have hit that home run.”
But when it comes down to doing all the work leading up to that big event, it’s tough. Even if you decided to walk a marathon, it’s not something you do for shits and giggles. There’s a lot of preparation and dedication – not to mention all the new running gear you end up buying.
Since my marathon training, I’ve added large amounts of Body Glide, new spiffy Brooks running shorts complete with butt pocket, an armband for my iPhone, a 16oz running water bottle with large pouch for carrying more stuff, and energy gummy chews to my arsenal of running tools. I’m also eying compression socks and a running hat or visor. And sweat-proof headphones.
All I used to run with were some Kleenexes (Welcome to the Midwest! Here’s some allergies!!!), my house key, and maybe an energy goo for on a really long run (which was 10 miles back in the half marathon days).
I don’t regret my decision, and I’m trying to stay positive about it. IT WILL BE FUN. WE WILL BE FINE. I WILL FINISH EVEN IF AFTERWARDS I ADD KNEE SURGERY TO MY WEDDING REGISTRY. But I feel like there’s a lot to a full marathon runners need to know before jumping into one.
It’s not just more training – it’s A LOT of training that takes A LOT of time. It makes you really tired and hungry. All you want to do is eat and sleep and sleep some more. And then eat. I actually met a runner who admitted to gaining weight while training for a marathon because she was so hungry ALL THE TIME. So you have take into account that it’s like having another job, and you need to plan to have enough food on hand to sustain fueling your body and aiding in recovery.
And you need to plan out recovery days. And by recovery I don’t just mean don’t run that day. RELAX. Read a book. Don’t plan to do anything that night but chill. Enjoy some time with the foam roller or massage stick (the one with the giant plastic beads is AWESOME!). Maybe even have a beer (carb loading!).
Don’t forget you need stuff to survive. During the race you will have access to water, Gatorade, food, etc. But what if your body glide wears off? Do you want music or can you converse with yourself for four-plus hours? And unless you have a running group who puts aid stations on your long runs, you need to have all that stuff on you when you train.
And what works to run in for less than two hours might start to chafe or not wick sweat away fast enough to be comfortable for marathon runs. And you’re going to need new shoes halfway through training! All of a sudden running hats make a lot of sense to keep the sweat out of your eyes for three hours.
But the race is going to be worth it! Marathons wouldn’t be one of the fastest growing and most popular sporting events if they weren’t! There’s a chance though it’s going to hurt – a lot. But by being prepared and going in with the right mindset, it will hurt a lot less! (See! I’m being positive!)
I’m not trying to scare anyone off – I just want to be honest that there’s a lot more to running a marathon than I initially thought and it’s not always as glamorous as it looks in glossy running magazines.
Like all first times, I am nervous, excited, scared, thrilled, and know there’s no sure way to anticipate or understand how it’s going to feel or what it’s going to be like. But I’ve survived running this long in life and can’t keep hiding in my 13.1-mile long comfort zone.
It’s time to go all the way.
Although the holidays are over, I am still posting special blog posts chronicling 12 of my favorite running races from 2012 and the somewhat funny lessons, or gifts you could say, that came from them (well…they’re funny now; at the time not so much). After all, the new year is ahead ready to take new challenges on.
On the 10th day of running, racing gave to me the darkest, craziest 10K ever.
One of the handball players at the gym is a feisty old man – he’ll hit on everything. He’s half joking but at the same time he’s somewhat serious because, hey, you just never know. He doesn’t let being really old limit his life choices. After another attempt to woo me and join him for dinner, I informed him the waitress would probably think I was his granddaughter, not his date.
“Oh, Jenny. Age doesn’t matter. Every cat looks black in the dark,” he informed me.
Same with nighttime races – every runner and course looks the same in the dark. But they do feel different.
Starting around twilight on a humid August night is the Trail Nerds Psych Night 5K/10K at the Wyandotte County Park near Kansas City. I’d never run a night race OR a trail run, so I was in for an interesting experience. Top that with typical thick KS humidity, and the run was definitely going to be a challenge.
The most important thing for a night run is to bring a strong flashlight. Also, get over the fact that headlamps are dorky. They are NOT when you’re running in the woods, by yourself, you’re not sure you’re still on the course, you really hope raccoons don’t eat people although you suspect otherwise after that incident at Girl Scout Camp, and it’s pitch black all around you.
You suddenly realize you are probably on the set of the Blair Witch Project 2: They Mostly Come Out at Night…Mostly. And Eat Runners.
When I was running with other people, I used their lights and the sound of their voices to help me navigate. But during the last mile, I was a lone runner, and suddenly my flashlight seemed as useful as a tits on a man.
Besides being pitch dark, the course was marked with small orange and pink flags placed on random trees and rocks. Oh yea, there were also rocks and roots and branches and all sorts of things to dodge and duck and dip and dodge some more around. In the daytime, this wouldn’t be a big deal – at night, it’s suddenly the obstacle course from hell.
But I enjoyed it – taking your time and navigating the course kept me from thinking too much about how long the race took. It takes a lot longer to run a trail race than a road race – like going from 8-9min miles to 10-12 min miles, if not more.
One of the miles of this race is called the Bermuda Triangle – it’s a large circle full of all sorts of nasty things to run into and around. There’s currently a cash prize for any one who can run the mile in under 8 minutes (I think). And this is hard. Don’t think that sounds like an easy feat. Especially in the dark.
You also use A LOT of leg muscles running on uneven terrain, and it will tear away at your shoes. I ran in my usual Mizuno Wave Riders, but definitely in the older ones so as not to ruin my new ones. I have strong leg muscles and know my strength is what helped me pace this race so well. But my ankles, the ligaments around them, were sore for a WHOLE WEEK after. You’ll be sore in ways you never imagined from trail running.
And definitely take safety over speed when trail running. Blazing over a rocky bridal trail and pulling or breaking something isn’t worth it.
What is worth it is the cold beer at the end of the race. An hour and seven minutes later, I emerged from the woods to see the somewhat lit path to the finish line. I was never so glad to see other people and lights in my life than I did at the moment. The last mile felt like I was running aimlessly with no end in sight, wondering the whole time if I was still on the course, wondering if I was close to the end, kept thinking every bend around the corner was the last. Time starts to distort – its so surreal running into what looks like nothing. And I admitted that Jason was right – I should have borrowed his dorky headlamp from his Boy Scout days.
It was so hot most of us were taking more ice out of the cooler than beer – but once we’d cooled down a bit, the beer was next to go. I never thought Miller Lite could taste so refreshing (I’ve become a beer snob). The other cool thing about this race, or maybe I should say hot, is instead of t-shirts (although they do sell Trail Nerd apparel – and it’s great gear at a great price!), you get an awesome Trail Nerds mug.
I also like the night runs because I’m a lot more awake at 8pm than 8am. So if you’re not an early riser, or you want a trail adventure, or maybe it’s because you like the idea that every runner looks good in the dark, then definitely try the Psych Night 5K/10K.