Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Philadelphia Marathon: Episode VI - (Return of the Jedi - that's me!!)

It has been long enough. It is time to complete the story.

I made the turn at mile 20 hoping to hit the 2:45:00 I had written on my left arm, but I was at 2:46:xx. As I said before, I was somewhat brain dead and I couldn't remember if that was the 3:40:00, 20 mile split or if I had selected a sub 3:40 time. I had planned so strategically for these latter miles, knowing how important it was to be up on the clock, but not too up. I had sat down and really looked at where I had lost my race at Cleveland and here is what I discovered...

1) I was inexperienced as a marathon runner, only completing one and NOT racing it for time (Akron '06)
2) I had run a 1:50:00 first half thinking I could negative split as a "first time racer"
3) I cramped early in the second half losing almost 2 minutes between miles 13.1 and 20
4) I had NO cushion whatsoever going into mile 20.. my race was over and I picked up 7:38 in 6 miles!!!

I am a creature of habit and here is how I changed my plan for Philly..

1) Still an inexperienced marathoner so start slow, run by effort the first 4-5 miles, but get your ass through the half as close to 2 minutes up on the clock, but no more. I banked 1:39.
2) Train with fast finishes on 20 mile training runs. I was 7:30-7:50 for the last three miles on all my long runs.
3) Stay focused between miles 13-19 as one bad mile could cost me the race.
4) Be at mile 20 by no more than 2:46:00 to allow for a little less than 9:00/mile for the last 10k. I was just a few seconds slow (I think it was 2:46:12)

Anyway, back to the story. I made the turn and a huge wave of confidence washed over me. My quads hurt so f*cking bad at this point, but pain was good. It meant I was still able to dump endorphins. I ran the little rollers back through Manyuck. I had stopped looking ahead and looked only at the pavement about 6 feet in front of me thinking "get there" now "get there" six feet at a time. I saw the BF run over to a spectator out of the corner of my eye and grab something from him. It was 2 brownies! He had only taken a few sips of water and gatorade and he was not feeling well. He had later told me he had become dizzy at that point. He ran back over offering me one of them, but I passed. My stomach was no longer food friendly. He gratefully went to wolf down one of them, but he dropped it!! He was devastated and would have eaten off the ground had he not had a second one. Within seconds the second brownie was gone. I looked at my watch mile 21 - 8:12.

I forged on with 2 miles to go and then I could break out the final part of my master plan. I had prepped myself for those last 3 miles for 4 months. Mile 22 had rollers that were so painful I could have cried like a baby, but I held strong at 8:16.

With one more mile to go until I could press my red button I plodded on, but the course pushed it's red button first and after holding on for so many miles... I FALTERED!!. I couldn't remember when I went from focused runner to nonchalant runner as it creeped in on me so stealthily. I had started thinking about how much I wanted to be at the finish in this mile and I was acknowledging all the pains that were taking over my mind and body. That negative voice was getting a little louder each minute. Mile 23 - 8:29. Not good, but it was another mile completed.

Time for the plan. I took my last gel of the race.

I started mile 24 and began thinking about why I put myself through this f*cking hell people call "the marathon" and my GOAL. I wanted this so badly. I had started running 3 years ago because someone had told me I could never finish a marathon. I hate it when people doubt me. It really pisses me off and only fuels the fire inside me. Then I met all these damn fast chicks, who were training together and were still kind enough to invite me to train with them, but I knew I was too slow, so I declined and ran hundreds of miles alone. Although, my fastest 5k in 2006 was in the low 25's I swore I would join my friends in Boston. My BF, thankfully told me I just didn't have what it took. My running wasn't Boston bound. I was defiant. I knew better and so did my mom. She never onced said I couldn't being a runner herself in high school. Both my parents have watched me defy odds all my life, playing on all-star all boys baseball and basketball leagues and winning MVP awards.

The night before we had been at my cousin's for dinner and my mom and aunt were discussing travel and lodging plans for Boston 2009 when I interrupted stating I hadn't even run a qualifying time yet. They were both aghast at me. Both were scowling and my aunt sternly stated "we did not come all this way to see you fail and not qualify for Boston." My mom seconded her statement.

I remebered that statement in this mile. I could do this. Four months of training and 23 miles of hard work today was not to be for nothing. I had not worked this hard to give up in the last 3 miles. Today was the day I proved myself right to the world. I was going to qualify for Boston. Mile 24 - 8:37.

I was running as best I could, but my right hip flexor that had been bugging me since October tightened up and I felt like a robot trudging through waist deep mud! I was going numb. I was shutting down and slowing. I wanted to stop so bad. I quickly moved onto my next thought. Who is this for? My grandfather. He had beaten cancer! He had not given up and neither are you, "you son-of-a-b(tch - RUN!!" I knew my mom had my cell phone and was getting updates every 5k or so and I couldn't bear the thought of her getting a text after all this stating I was off pace. I could see her gripping my phone, standing at the finish and staring at the clock thinking "Come on Pooh! You can do this!" She had come all this way for me and I couldn't let her or my aunt down. They believed in me and I owed it to them. I bit down on my lip. It HURT!! Blood filled my mouth, but I wasn't numb anymore. O-U-C-H!!. Mile 25 - 8:45.

I had one mile to go. I was less than 10 minutes from mile 26. I remember a CTC member stating you can do anything for 10 minutes of your life and I would indeed. I would make it if I held on. My legs were getting worse. I tried to shuffle, but I had a pain behind my right knee that worsen when I did so I stayed up on the balls of my feet and took the jolts of pain to each quad upon contact with the ground. I could see the museum up ahead and I began to pray.

"Our Father, who art in heaven
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.

It took me about 1 minute to recite it and I did it over and over for 8 minutes of my life. I could see mile 26 hanging from a lightpost at the corner of the art museum and the crowd was out of control, flooding the street. I couldn't even see where to turn right to go to the finish. I could only see the runners ahead turning and disappearing into the crowd. Mile 26 - 8:41.

I had read a race report that this course was 26.5 miles by Garmin and I wasn't ready to celebrate yet. I made my way through the crowd running single file as spectators were so close they could literally touch us. I ran through what felt like a tunnel and then I just popped out into this wide open area.

It was the finish and there it was, THE CLOCK. I knew I had 10 minutes on the clock, so if it said sub 3:50 I was gold. IT SAID 3:49:xx. And just like that the emotions I had bottled up over the months washed over me like a tidal wave. I was dehydrated, so when I started screaming it was very hoarse, but the BF heard me.. "I DID IT!!!!! I DID IT!!!!!" I threw my arms up and crossed the finish mat, trying to hold back my tears. .2 - 1:54.

I almost immediately stumbled and fell once I finished, but the BF had grabbed me almost knowing I would be a fall risk :) He was also crying and wanted to give me a hug. We very, very SLOWLY made our wave over to the "C" meet area to find my mom and aunt. I saw them right away. They knew I was behind the clock, but hadn't gotten the last update yet, so they weren't sure what my time was so when they came rushing over they only had one question "did you make it?"

I managed to tell them "I made it" before I broke down crying and fell into a group hug with them in which they too had broken down and were themselves crying. I had proven myself right. I had done it in 3:39:52, although I should say we because without my grandpa, my mom, my aunt and the BF that day I would not be crying tears of joy. I would be M-Fing something the entire way home :)

Mom & AD if you read this...thanks for believing in me and supporting me!! I love you.

It's funny my dad didn't come as he had to watch "the Bails," but he was the first person I called. When I told him I did it, he was very calm and collected congratulating me like it was something he knew I would do all along too.

Below is the one of the Philadelphia marathon videos on their site and the song I sang and played over and over and over and over throughout my training for Philadelphia :)

Philly Video
My Training Song For Philly :) (I have loved this song since '95 when I saw a cameo on Superstars of Larry Bird, who I love, and this was the song they played for him. Anyway, it ends with him dropping the ball in the middle of the court with thousands of people chanting his name!!)

Victory is won!!!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Philadelphia Marathon: Episode V - (Beth Strikes Back!!)

As I continued back through the start and the masses of people I tried to listen hard for my family yelling my name. It was decidedly, impossible to scan the crowds, there were just too many people. I heard nothing. I mean I heard things like “Go Achilles” and “Whoo Hoo” and ringing cowbells, but not my family. The BF was looking for them too as he had stripped one of his three shirts and wanted to safely drop it off. People had abandoned so much gear throughout the course that a person picking it up could have made a small fortune re-selling it on ebay!! I decided it was time to pop an endurolyte. Mile 14 (.9) was 7:52.

The night before at the expo we had discovered there was some type of construction issue so we were to be diverted here and UP another freakin’ hill!! I could feel my quads tiring and I was getting upset that after my many months of hard training I was again to be thwarted from my goal. Determined not to be stopped today I vocally berated myself “Don’t be a pussy…run motherf#cker!!” The BF looked back just to make sure I wasn’t talking to him, but truthfully he knew better. He had accompanied me on a training runs before and had experienced my "self-help talk." I crested the hill and that’s when my quads really let me know they were tired. The downhill was so steep I had no choice, but to brake a bit as I descended. OUCH! I saw the BF right in front of me doing the same thing. His posture indicated he was no happier than me. I was panicking. My quads were checking out. The endurolyte was not working. The cramps were on the horizon. Here I took my 3rd gel and gingerly made my way through the aid station as the many cups of dumped water and Gatorade had frozen on the blacktop and WOW, it was slick. I had 11 miles to go, checkpoint 3 complete. I had to get to the next one at mile 20. Mile 15 - 8:44.

We hit the parkway which would wind itself in a chicane like manner out to Manyuck, where I had heard there were tons of crazy people to cheer those in need of a second, third or even fourth wind. I also knew the second half of the course was way flatter than the first and I had seen many people’s results showed a negative split in 2007. I dug deep and reasoned if I ran in proper form I wouldn’t need my quads. I only needed my cavs and my hammys. Completely and utterly convinced my legs managed to move forward at a steady pace. Mile 16 – 8:20.

The second half of the course is out and back so it was at this point that we saw the lead marathoners heading in for the finish. I didn’t recognize the leader as he was a little white guy from the Ukraine, but when the BF gave a shout “Go Fred!!” I looked up to see one of the Cleveland local running phenoms heading to a second place victory. The marathon stayed congested as it was a 2 lane out and back and the farther out I got the more of the marathon madness set in with people slowing left and right. I ran as close to the center line as possible focused on a girl in black just in front of me, until she pulled off at the aid station. Darn!! I lost my pacer. Mile 17 – 8:17. I was still running without my quads and the pain was manageable.

The BF was still moving with me at this point. He had not yet dropped and I only saw him sip a little water or Gatorade around mile 10. It was at this point I began to feel more relaxed. I heard music up ahead playing “I like to move it, move it!” I pulled ahead of the BF. I could see the BF’s shadow in front of me and it faltered and seemed to shuffle for a second. I was concerned, but stayed focused thinking here is where he was going to drop, but I was wrong. He re-grouped and pulled up next to me. Mile 18 – 8:16.

We had hit Manyuck with two miles to the turnaround and it was N-U-T-S!! There were people screaming and waving signs everywhere. I saw an aid station up ahead. I was surprised because the last aid station wasn’t even a mile back. I went to reach for a cup and then I heard it “Yingling Beer!” Oh shit. I can’t drink beer now! I retracted my hand, but thought what a "ballsy motherf#cker I would be if I could do it and still pull this shit off." Little rollers popped up everywhere at this point and they were painful. The quads had gone silent on the flats, but I needed them for these and they were not up for the call. I know at this point they had voted me A$$hole of the day for every downhill I made them carry me through. I popped my second and last endurolyte, hoping it would be enough. Mile 19 – 8:32.

It was like some kind of sick torture. I would run up a little hill and the quads would do their job and then on the down hills they felt like they might snap at any second as I punished them more and more. Mile 20 was included another clock you do a 180 degree run around. Time 8:22. I was still holding on as I took my fourth gel. One more checkpoint to go.

I only had a 10k left. I was a tad behind the time written on my arm, but I did the math and I had 54 minutes to get in. More than half brain dead at this point, I knew I had to run somewhere between an 8:30-9:00 minute pace. Then I realized that 9 x 6 = 54, so it had to be 8:30 to less than 9:00 minute pace. Over the months of training I had not only physically prepared myself for the last miles, but mentally too. I was constantly telling myself on many of my runs "it was going to hurt so much worse and but I could do this and push through." I was not going to go down without a fight.