Still in the saddle ...

It's been awhile, hasn't it? I haven't stopped running, not by a long shot. I just stopped updating the blog. Rather than a futile attempt at catching up, just the highlights.
I ran the NYRR Half Marathon Series last year, and managed to get my time down to 1:53 by the end of the year (the Staten Island race). I cried on the sidelines of the marathon, feeling utterly left out, so scrambled to finish up my 9+1 for guaranteed entry this year. Stalking the FB message boards for NYRR got me a last-second volunteer assignment for New Year's Eve, literally making my +1 at the very last minute.
I started this year by switching to Vibram 5-Fingers shoes, and am in love with them. My last shoe-race was the NYRR Half in March, which was a lot of fun! Nothing but toe-shoes since then.
A couple more half marathons, and then the ING NYC marathon on Nov 7th. I'd trained for a 4:00 race and stayed healthy, so figured I could pull it off. Not to be my day, though. Crowding was really bad, I tried to keep up with the 4:00 pace group but the crowding forced too much weaving. I was underweight thx to a lot of stress in other parts of my life, and then didn't eat enough protein thanks to fears of having to make a bathroom stop. I just plain ran out of energy at about mile 16, and dropped behind the pacers at that point. I dragged my sorry butt for the next 10 miles, often whimpering in exhaustion, and managed to pull off a 4:13:02, exactly 60 seconds faster than 2008. I'm ok with it, I did my very best, and can't expect any more of myself than that. I truly gave my all. Recovery was faster though, only one day of hobbling down the steps!
I'm aiming for 7 half marathons next year, the NYC Half, the series of 5, and the More half ... would love to get down to a 1:40 by the end of the year, though that will take a LOT of work. I'm up for it I think :)

My Vibram's after the marathon :).

My First Marathon

Warning: Long. Sorry I just had to get it all down, scintillating or not!

The marathon weekend started with rest ... lots of rest. I slept in Saturday morning, thanks to M, and took the day really easy. We did the Farmer's Market, took the kids to the park, and all napped in the afternoon. Then M/W came over to watch the boys and Michael and I went to our Team World Vision dinner. It was a pizza/pasta place in Manhattan, and we took the subway, ending up at a station with 4 looong flights of stairs to get out, plus 10 blocks to get there. Not a bad commute really, but my legs felt those stairs and it got me a bit worried.

It was one of those awkward affairs where no one knows anyone else, you've got something in common but when that topic is run dry you often wonder where to go next. People were focused on the next day really, and so there wasn't much real conversation. I did get to meet Ryan and Sarah Hall (the 2 on the left above) who were the team captains for Team World Vision. (Ryan is the only person ever to break the one-hour mark for a half marathon, among other accomplishments). They came and chatted a bit to everyone, and it was nice to meet them ... they seemed super down-to-earth as far as celebrity runners go, not that I've met any others. There wasn't a hint of celebrity-itis though. Then home, putting out my things for the next day, getting the boys to bed (M again) and trying to get to sleep. I actually did sleep a lot more than I expected, and got about 6 hours thanks to the time change.

Up early, chip clipped on, all my 'favorite' running gear plus throw-away clothes for the start. It was in the high 30's when I left the house, and gradually warmed up but never above high 40's I don't think.
Herm? Yes, HerM. Short for Her Majesty, and a nickname I adopted aeons ago but haven't used much in recent years. Somehow it seemed appropriate for the race, especially as one of my friends who uses it the most was the first one to get me running after I got out of college. Not that I kept it up, but the memories are all good. Thanks S :).

I shared a car with a friend from the 'hood who was also running, as we had the same transportation assignment: 7am at the Staten Island Ferry. The NYC marathon is the largest in the world, with 38000+ starters this year. That means logistics that verge on the insane. Getting 40000 people to an island, instructing thousands of newbie volunteers, feeding a crowd from many countries, lining them up by corrals, abilities, and start village and start waves. Green, Blue, and Orange start villages, each one starting on a different portion of the Verrazano Bridge. Three waves for each, starting 20 minutes apart. 6 corrals for each wave to further subdivide by expected speed, and you have mayhem. Announcements in multiple languages, acres of port-a-potties, chattering teeth, cold wind, surprisingly calm nerves on my part, and people of all countries and speeds and ages hunting for patches of sun, stretching, eating, and killing time. I had to wait 2.5 hours from the time I arrived on Staten Island to crossing the starting line, and it's a long time to wait in the cold and try to stay limber and calm.

I'd decided a week ago that a 4:15 marathon was a realistic challenge for me. I trained for a 4 hour one until 6 weeks ago, got tendinitis and had to slow down, so didn't feel ready to run 26.2 at a 9 minute pace. They had pace teams for many goal times, and I went the join a 4:15 one but there weren't any starting with my Orange start group. All three groups merge at mile 8 but I figured the chances of finding the group at the merge, marked only by balloons on a stick, were in the 'none' category. I'd given up and was heading to my starting corral when I spotted a 4:15 pace group sign in a woman's hand, along with green balloons. I made a beeline, asked if I could start with her Green pace group despite my Orange bib, and she thought it was fine. I determined to glue myself to her side for the entire race. That meant wandering with her thru the crowds, picking up other bewildered wanna-be-4:15's, going to wrong entrances and being redirected, and walking an extra mile or more just to get to the starting line.

My biggest fear of the whole deal, aside from finishing with my desired time (which everyone says is a bad idea for your first marathon, esp in NY, just aim to finish!) was to finish without stopping to use the bathroom. I'd never done a run over 12 miles without having to stop, and I knew I'd lose the team if I did in the race, let alone shooting holes in my time. I went once in the start village, and never looked back, even bypassing my last shot at it alongside the start corrals. I made it to the end, and an hour past that, without ever needing the bathroom! I was as pleased with that as almost anything.

So, the start ... if you've read this far you're doing well! It really did take forever to get there in real life, so bear with me :). I was bunched up in the starting corrals with about 12,000 other runners, shed my sweats and fleece jacket (adding to the mountains along the side of the lane), and stood there shivering and hopping up and down in my shorts, t-shirt, and a tyvek disposable jacket I'd bought at the expo. I planned to shed it as soon as I warmed up, but never did enough to shed it completely. Thankfully it weighed nothing! So we finally hear the gun for our wave go off (the 2nd group) and the cheering began. Then the shuffle ... the agonizing 5 minutes of shuffling up the lane, around the turn, onto the actual bridge, and then a thinning out and slow trot to cross the starting line 7 minutes after the gun! They play Sinatra's New York New York nice and loudly, and you really have to watch your feet for the first several miles as there's a gradually thinning mess of discarded jackets, hats, gloves, pants, and wraps littering the roadway that you have to weave around. A big, anticlimactic relief to finally be underway. Finally! After 23 months of running, 4 months of intense training, and 6 hours since I'd woken up.

The first few miles were a blur. Finding the pace, feeling my muscles loosen up and settle in, matching my strides to the pace leaders, and relaxing into it all. The joy of actually running! I've found that joy a lot in the last 6 months, the training had become hugely enjoyable in it's own right, apart from the goal. It's like I can finally relax when I run in a way I can't anywhere else. I love it :). We came off the bridge and started through Brooklyn, and the fan-factor kicked in. The crowds gradually grew, until 4th avenue became a solid wall of spectators, bands, enthusiasm, and reaching out of hands for miles. I had 3 people to look for along that chunk, and alas didn't see any of them :(. I was on the opposite side of the street than what I'd told them due to my last minute defection from Orange, and we just didn't connect. Those miles made me realize how much I love Brooklyn. The diversity, exhuberance, reality, and joy coming out to share in the race, cheering on everyone equally, and I enjoyed it more than any other part.

Then came Lafayette Ave, and my home turf. Oh the joy of running up the street, knowing you'll see your kids in a few blocks, knowing the terrain by heart, and just plain feeling at home! M and the boys, and another family we're friends with, were waiting for me at the agreed-upon corner. I'd run a bit ahead of my pace group to give myself an extra 3 seconds (literally) to stop and kiss the boys. That I did, said Hi to M and was gone again in a blur, ending up right next to my group again. The thought of seeing them and the initial euphoria of the race kept me super-energized up till then, even though the effect of the pace (9:45mm) on my legs was registering in a dim part of my brain. It honestly registered in the first 2 miles, but I decided to ignore it and hold out as long as I possibly could.

After passing them, we turned left on Bedford, I missed another 2 groups who had signs out for me :(, and we headed towards Williamsburg. The bands were great, with more sparse crowds but never a lack, and I started to realllly feel the pace. My left ankle started to protest, and I wondered at that point how I could possibly keep it up at that rate for another 16 miles. I prayed, started mind games for distraction, and somewhere in there started comparing the pain of it all to giving birth. It became a great game, as I kept telling myself that running for another 2.5 hours in increasing pain had nothing on the pain I felt giving birth to Douglas. No comparison. After mile 13 we started over the Pulaski bridge, and I picked up a bit with the change of scenery. A few fans were camped out on the struts of the bridge, one complete with radio, chair, and snacks. I also passed a port-a-potty there, perched up on the side supports where you'd have to climb about 2.5 feet up to get to it. I doubted I could hop up that high at that point!

The fans in Queens, all 2 miles of it, were great. The area was a bit more 'gritty' than Williamsburg that we'd just left, and the crowds more sparse but loud and friendly. I was starting to get lost in a fog, and don't remember much else about Queens to be honest. I remember thinking I like the vibe of this place, but don't want to live here.

Then the longer Queensboro bridge, and it's lovely incline. More watching the pounding calves of the pace leaders, looking down and not up, and becoming aware of muscles I didn't know I had.
We rounded the curve at the bottom of the bridge and were in Manhattan. I'd been told about the great cheering hordes, and the energy boost that came with them. There were a few screaming happy fans at the bottom of the bridge, but a most of them were virtually silent. Waiting for "their" runners I suppose? Lots of signs, some cheering, but nothing like what I'd expected. At a few points along First Avenue, UP first Avenue ... the LONG FOUR MILES OF FIRST AVENUE, there was lots of energy, but I didn't think it was there for most of the way. Perhaps part of that was hitting my own personal wall around mile 18, thinking I couldn't possibly run OUT of Manhattan at that point and then back in and down again, and wishing I were back in Brooklyn and feeling a bit more at home. I really felt a bit alien there.

Watching for my cousin at mile 17 was a good distraction, but in the hordes of same-color-ponchoed volunteers I never did find her. Water stations were on both sides of the street, I couldn't watch both at once, and it's a wide enough avenue that it's hard. Not to mention the incredible litter of cups, the 1/4 mile of sticky pavement after every Gatorade station, and trying to grab water without slowing down. Not to mention drinking it :). I went really easy on water, having drunk a lot the day before and a good bit early in the morning. I skipped at least every other water station, sometimes two.

Relief finally came with the sight of the Willis Ave bridge, and another change of scenery. I was honestly glad to leave manhattan at that point, having not felt connected to it at all. My joints were in agony, and my lower body was starting to go numb, but the numbers playing in my head were starting to tip in my favor. 19 down meant 7 to go, and 7 was a tolerable number. Hitting mile 20 in the Bronx, and knowing I had only an hour to go? The balance really started to shift. I can tolerate an hour of anything, right? Some mind game like that. Mentally, the end was in sight.

The big distraction in the Bronx was the green thong. I was coming up the Willis Ave bridge and saw a large expanse of bare white backside to my right, and blinked in shock. I thought I'd seen it all ... bras and undies, costumes, suits, headgear, you name it. Nope, this guy took the award for most disturbing look of the day. Tall, not particularly sculpted, with lanky hair spiked up in the middle ... ALL he was wearing was a lime green thong type thing that barely covered anything, and stretched up over his shoulders. More disturbing that way than even a normal thong. And to be honest he didn't look at all like he was running to a model shoot anywhere either. Shiver. It helped me speed up just to get past him! (Update: did a google search and discovered he was wearing a wig, and dressed as the character Borat. Click here at your own risk!)

Coming off the bridge my pacer (the one of the 3 I'd stayed glued to) was tripped accidentally by another runner, and went down hard. I stopped and turned around, made sure she was up and relatively ok, and went on at her behest. She caught right up with me and kept the pace for another 1.5 miles before disappearing behind me. I felt badly, but nothing you can do really!

The fans in the Bronx were great. Gummy-bear-hander-outers, bananas, orange slices, enthusiasm, more loud bands and a great group of drummers, and a joie-de-marathon day that was like a breath of warm air. I wanted one about then, the cold was still cold, and my body starting to really feel it. Thankfully I'd never ditched the jacket, and shrugged it back on again.

After losing my pacer I spotted the other two not more than 100 yards ahead of me, but it took almost 2 miles for me to catch them. It felt even more like chasing those mechanical rabbits at the greyhound track, at least as I imagine it. Weaving, bobbing, gauging how fast to get there with the least amount of energy ... it distracted me all the way back into Manhattan and almost to Central Park. I caught the next group there, and discovered that all the ones that she'd had with her had dropped back in the last 2 miles. She was glad to have someone join in again, and I was glad of the distraction and her oh-so-easy looking running. It was something like her 20th marathon. The one that fell? It was her 94th! She runs about 12 a year. She did finish btw, just a couple minutes off her pace.

Seeing Central park on my right was a big boost, and it was just a matter of finishing from there. I'd lost almost all feeling in my joints, was running on empty, and getting really really excited. I could taste it :). Counting down the minutes on my watch, knowing in half an hour it would all be over. Coming into the park at mile 24, I heard a "HEY B. R. !!" shouted out from my right and turned to see my cousin S cheering me on from the sidelines. SO nice!

Then just a matter of getting around the corner, vaguely hearing the screaming masses on Central Park South (very different from 1st Ave!) and watching the 400 yards to go, 300 yards to go count down. I left the pace lady for the last half mile just to push it as hard as I could, and couldn't believe the finish was actually there. I managed to see the eternal grin on the face of the woman directing people to split to the right or the left right before the line (what a great job!), crossed the finish with my hands in the air (for the photos of course ;), checked my watch and was thrilled with it's 4:14 time, and then tried to walk. I was a bit emotionally overcome, shaky, and the Gatorade i'd snitched a couple miles back for a wee bit of energy was wreaking havoc on my stomach, I can't stand the stuff when I'm exercising! I had a medal put over my head, a heatsheet taped around me, and I kept shuffling. I found my pace ladies on the sidelines, thanked them effusively and made sure they knew I would NEVER have made 4:14 without them. Then I hyperventilated for almost 10 minutes as you're forced to crawl along this narrow road to get to your UPS baggage truck, and I felt awful, claustrophobic, and wanted to sob. I eventually evened out, nibbled on an apple from my food bag, huddled in my heatsheet, and chatted a bit with my fellow exhausted and salt-crusted finishers.

I retrieved my baggage, put on an extra layer, called M who was across the street at the Natural History Museum, and made my way over to where he was waiting. See the look in my eyes? Douglas too the pic, and it's a pretty fair assessment. A most wonderful day.

I think I'll do it again sometime :). Must be like giving birth, you forget the pain and want to do it all over again. Perhaps not 94 times, but maybe a couple more? We'll see. For now I'm thrilled,
Home again. Stinky, medaled, happy, and so very relieved. All the stats can be found here, just do a search on my name.

My first marathon :)

One day away

I'm excited, not too nervous anymore, and so glad it's almost here! Thanks to many amazing friends and family, my donations to Team World Vision passed the $5000 mark this week!! Thank you all SOOO very much.

I got some real sleep last night, have nap plans today, and have one big carb dinner behind me. One more to go tonight with my Team Dinner. M gets to come with me as family is in town to join the fun. Weather is looking good, I have my number (29473) and chip and all my other stuff laid out.

Now to figure out what to write on my jersey. It's not as easy as it sounds. It already says 26.2 for Africa on the back, and I'll have a back number there also as I'm running with the 4:15 pace team and there are back bibs as part of that. I'm debating whether to use my first name, old nickname, or Mom of D and F. Perhaps all of them? Will see tomorrow :)

Thanks for all the support so far, and the continuing prayers.

This blog will be updated with auto-posts of my time at all the 5k marks, as well as every mile from 16 to the finish. Some of you have already signed up for updates, if you see this and want them, subscribe to this blog and you'll get 'em all!

Until tomorrow night ...

6 days to go

hmmm, there are a few twinges of nerves, but good so far. did 6 miles at MP yesterday, and cemented my decision to go for the 4:15 pace team. reading thru my book/training log from the first 3 months, which had me headed for a 4 hour run, had me thinking that i might still be able to do it. the run and how i felt made me realize that it's pushing it. not to mention the hillier last 6 miles of the actual course, crowding, and all that.

i plan to do 3 miles tomorrow and 2 on thursday. then off to the expo friday to get my number, sign up for my pace team, and drool over gear and shoes.

saturday is the team dinner for World Vision, which I'm looking forward to, and then ... the race sunday morning!

now i'm off to check the forecast, even tho it's a bit early ...

10 days away ...

It's hard to believe. The marathon is 10 days, away, I'm tapering my runs (and glad to, it's gotten cold!!) and trying to get my mind around it all. Training has gone well, though I haven't done all the MP (Marathon Pace) runs I'd hoped to. That, and reading about how this is NOT the easiest course, and feeling what it's like to run 9min miles for awhile, make me think I'll join the 4:15 pace group, not the 4 hour one. I know where my body is at, and how it's reacting, and think I'll really regret it if I push too hard in the first half and then really lose it. I'd rather finish strong than walking, even I end up thinking I could have done better.

My ankle still hurts at times, but i'm doing all kinds of wrapping, creams, herbs, etc and it seems to be holding up. I have my jersey, my registration card, and just have to go to the expo next Thursday to pick up my chip, be tempted by lots of great running gear, and get home in time to rest up, eat well, and keep myself settled. I'm really really looking forward to it, and not nervous at all ... at least not yet :).

I'm shaking ....

... and I'm IN!!!!!
"We are thrilled to welcome you to Team World Vision at the NYC marathon."
This scares me witless, and leaves me standing on faith and faith alone. This requires me to pay a $525 late fee, and then raise $5000 dollars for WorldVision by November 1st! Hence the shaking.

I won't have the donation buttons and so on for a few weeks, but in the meantime, prayers appreciated!

This means I've written to take myself off the Hole in the Wall waiting list, and yes I'd changed my mind and applied to WorldVision instead. I have so much more interest in raising money for humanitarian causes than anything else.

"Who Is World Vision? World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice."

marathon update

I've applied to Team Hole in the Wall to get guaranteed entry through their charity. It's founded by Paul Newman, and they host free camps for kids with medical/health issues. I think it's a great cause, and would be happy to help raise money for them. Even if it means raising $3000, which it does.

My application was responded to with this ...
"You are now #11 on our wait list and we are hoping to get everyone off the wait list by the end of this week or the beginning of next week. We will definitely let you know as soon as we know!"
I so hope it works out! My 2nd choice is World Vision, which would be #1 if it weren't for the $5575 I'd need to raise ... whew.