Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Holy Hills and Heat - Happy Birthday to me!

Well, I had a very busy birthday week.  

Wednesday, I took a vacation day and spent the day at the spa with my running buddies Kim and Shannon.  We did a short easy 4 mile run first, then after quick showers and clean clothes we were off to the spa.  I got a 80 minute massage and manicure/pedicure.  The massage was nice, I could have used a little deeper muscle work, but it was nice to just relax.  I got my special 'marathon' pedicure - light pink on all my toes except for the second toe, that one was painted dark purple.  It's my own funny runner joke pedicure.  I mean I do not have cute feet and have lost my toenails more times than I can count so I don't try to pretend I have nice nails.  I go with what I have and make a little fun of it.

Thursday, I got acupuncture after work and it was amazing.  My acupuncturist, Peri, even gave me a nice little birthday bouquet from her garden.  She put a few press tacks (mini-needles) in various points for lungs and diaphragm to help me in the stair climb.  Then a few crystals and a gold press ball on my ear for muscle recovery.  It's always a pleasure to visit her and I leave feeling amazing, balanced and calm, ready to take on any challenge.

Friday was my birthday and I celebrated by going to my favorite place for lunch - Life Alive.  After work I had a very low key night and just went home and packed and mentally prepared for the weekend events.  I must have packed and unpacked my bag 8-10 times.  I'm always afraid I will forget something.  I end up packing double of everything and taking way more stuff than I need, but I freak out thinking about 'what ifs' like if I wake up and go to get ready run and have no socks.

Saturday, bright and early in the morning, I got up and got ready and hit the road at 6:00am.  I had to drive about 3 hours to a small town in Vermont - Bennington.  The first event of the weekend was a stair climb.  I got my birthday wish and managed to get gifts from various friends and family members that helped me raise $500 for American Lung Association.  I made incredible time and got to Bennington in about 2 and a half hours.  It was a beautiful day.  Sunny and in the 70s.  The views were absolutely breathtaking.  I got to the monument really early and had some time to wander around and take a few pictures and explore.  Here's what I had to climb up:
438 stairs, up to the little windows you can see about 3/4 of the way up.  The stairs were weird.  Long and not tall so it was more like running up a ramp.  The stairs were all around the interior of the monument with an elevator shaft in the middle.  The handrails were lopsided so it was a little tricky.  Then at the very top, there was a spiral staircase.  That slowed me down a bit.  I finished the climb in 2:45!  Oh and got 2nd place in my age group and finished 6th overall out of 40 women.

After the stair climb I had about an hour to kill before I could go pick up my packet for the marathon.  I just drove around and checked out the town a little.  Finally, I went to get my marathon bib# then drove to the hotel to check in.  My hotel was in Manchester, VT where the finish line for the marathon would be.  By the time I got to the hotel it was about 3:00pm.  I got settled and just relaxed for a little bit before I went ot the front desk to ask where I could go to get some dinner and got directions to the finish area so I could scope it out before I got dinner.  Nothing too exciting for dinner, just found a local pizza place and got a small cheese and a side salad.

Went back to the hotel and laid out all my gear for the race in the morning and went over my hydration plan and checked the weather forecast one more time, hoping maybe it had changed, but it was going to be in the 80s and sunny.  Not much I could do about it but slow my pace and stay hydrated and keep my electrolytes in check.  I had clif shots powder and salt stick tablets.  And plenty of sun block too.  I was as ready as I could be.  Nothing left to do but try and get some sleep.

I woke up before my alarm went off.  Made a cup of coffee and got dressed.  Ate a little breakfast and took a few pre-race photos:

Headed out the door at 6:45am to go to the finish and get on a shuttle to the start.  Just as I was leaving I met the guy staying in the room next to mine, he asked if he could follow me to the finish to park.  When we got to the shuttle buses we started chatting and he happened to be from the greater Boston area too.  It was nice to have someone to talk to before the race so I didn't just stand around freaking out about the weather.

At the start, it was clear that it was a small race, less than 300 runners.  And it quickly became clear that it would be a LONG day.  Before we even started it was 70 degrees out.  Oh well, I was about to run my 10th marathon and I'd make the most of it no matter how long it took me.  We lined up at 9:00 and the gun went off and we began the journey from Bennington to Manchester along a point ot point course.

The course was pretty, but it WAS the green mountain state and it did not disappoint.  There was about 500 feet of elevation climbing before the halfway mark.  We ran through a covered bridge and along a lot of dirt roads, over some railroad tracks and through some very nice quiet neigborhoods.  In the first half of the race there were NOT enough water stops.  I was really glad I had my fuel belt.  The water stops were maybe every 3 miles and in heat like we were running in I would expect to see them at least every other mile.  I even refilled my fuel belt at one of the water stops. 

I took gels at 5, 9, 13, 17, and 21 and salt at 7, 11, 15, 19, and 23.  In the second half of the race they must have asked the volunteers from earlier water stops to move towards the end because the water stops were much more frequent and they were really great.  They had cups of water AND ice.  A few of them had hoses or spray bottles to mist you with and one even had a woman that re-applied sunblock for me.  I felt ok until maybe mile 16 then I slowed down significantly.  I still 'ran' as much as I could and kept moving.  I was still sweating and never got chills or got sick.  I was just slow.

Here are my splits:
1- 9:51
2- 8:51 (downhill and lots of people saying happy birthday to me, I got a little excited)
3- 9:41
4- 10:30 (finally settling into a more reasonable pace)
5- 10:22
6- 10:42
7- 10:14
8- 10:19
9- 11:00 (beginning of dirt roads, lots of loose gravel)
10- 10:55
11- 11:29
12- 11:21
13- 10:31
14- 11:42
15- 10:23
16- 14:21 (stopped for a while at the water stop to cool off)
17- 12:18 (definitely overheating)
18- 14:29 (stopped again to cool off, actually put ice in my armpits to bring my core temp down)
19- 12:14
20- 11:59
21- 12:37
22- 13:50
23- 13:25
24- 13:10
25- 13:29
26- 12:35

Overall, finished in 5:08:32, considering the heat and the hills I'm pretty happy with that.  I maintained pretty consistant pacing and never got sick and I FINISHED!  10 marathons!  Holy crap!  Never thought I would run one nevermind 10!  Every single step is a miracle to me because of how far I've come and how much I've accomplished.  I don't care that I'm not the fastest person out there.  To me even starting the race is winning because it wasn't long ago that I couldn't even do that.  I was on my way to an early grave from living an unhealthy life and being an unhealthy weight.  Now I'm an active, happy, healthy person and proud to call myself a RUNNER!

After I finished, I was handed a medal and a volunteer draped my race shirt over my shoulders soaked in ice water.  It felt like heaven.  I found some shade and guzzled a bottle of water.  Got my bag and put on my flip flops.  I noticed when I took my shoes off my ankles and feet were really swollen.  I knew my hands and wrists were swollen because I had to loosen my garmin while I was running.  I made my way to my car and put on some dry clothes and then drove to the nearest grocery store to get some ice for an ice bath.  Picked up a few extra bags for my neighbor and left them outside his hotel room door.  As I filled up the tub for my ice bath, he returned and I went out to ask him how he did.  He saw the ice and said he wanted to cry.  I was glad I could help.  It was a long day.

I took my ice bath, showered and hit the road.  3+ hour drive home was going to be rough.  I called my mom once I was on the road to tell her I finished and I was alive.  She congratulated me on my 2nd place finish in the stair climb and I had to verify that she didn't think I ran the marathon in 2:45 and placed 2nd.  Just had to be sure she wasn't confusing the results from the weekend events.  She understood and was still proud of me.  I was overwhelmed with the idea of what I had accomplished not just for the weekend but in the recent years.  I got a little choked up and started crying.  She asked if I was disappointed in my marathon time and I explained, no not at all, exactly the opposite.  I am AMAZED that I did it.

I called a few more friends on my way home and told them about the race and some of the great people I met on the course.  Still has to be my favorite part of running.  You meet the most amazing people.  I met a guy named 'Clem' at one point and then saw him at a few water stops and various spots along the way.  He was a little old asian man in his 60s who had run 70+ marathons and 140+ ultramarathons and told me he started running when he was 46 so, "I had a ways to go".  Hilarious!  Clem beat me by 4 minutes - Nice work!  I hope I'm still running in my 60s and passing people in their 30s.

I finally made it home around 7:30pm and crashed on my couch.  I couldn't fall alseep right away.  I was too sore to get comfy and a little sun burnt and salty still.  Not really hungry, but all I had to eat during the day was gels and salt.  I stopped and got a slice of pizza on my way home, but still didn't eat much.  I forced myself to eat a little something before I went to bed and chugged and little more water with clif shots powder in it.  I didn't really sleep well, but I had Monday off from work so I could stay in bed as long as I wanted.

I slept in as much as I could then got up and drank some tea and a little more water.  I went to lunch with Kim and Ryann and Cherie to celebrate.  Life Alive, of course.  Then I went grocery shopping and cleaned my house a little before calling it a day.  Oh and I finally rewarded myself for all my hard work and capped off the birthday celebrations with a very well earned and well deserved cupcake and a wish for....... I'm not telling, but if it comes true I'll let you know.

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