Sights and Sounds of a Marathon

I’ve been rehashing the marathon in my mind over and over, remembering things I saw and things I heard.  I’d love to wear a Go-Pro while running a race one day just to document what running a race is like.

I’m constantly awed by spectators.  Spectators have got to be some of the most creative and patient people on the planet.  Creativity shows up in lots of different ways.  One obvious way is the signs they hold.  Some signs during the race on Sunday just made me laugh:

“Go Random Stranger”

“If Trump can run, so can you”

“You’re running better than the government”

“Run like you have to poop”

“Run fast or I’ll flash my boobs” (held by an elderly sagging lady)

“Forrest Gump has nothing on you”

“This is the worst parade ever”

I love the signs.  Reading them just makes the race fun.  Enter patience.  Spectators stand for who knows how long holding those signs, cheering on the thousands of runners, seemingly to never tire of yelling for us.  Even if they tell us, “You’re almost there!” at mile 5 (when there is still 21 to go!), I appreciate their encouragement.  So to all the spectators out there, thank you for taking time to entertain and support us!

Spectators are creative in other ways too, though.  I saw one elderly gentleman in a smoking jacket straight out of the movies, comfortably lounging in his lawn chair drinking martinis from real glass (maybe crystal?) martini glasses as he watched us run by.  One family had a tray of bacon they served to runners.  Another family offered us bites of fried chicken and vodka shots (Ummm, no thanks to both!).  And to all the adults and kids who donned banana suits and handed out bananas on Gorilla Hill, I loved it!  Spectators are awesome.  I love them!

Some spectators showed their creativity in music.  We passed a line of young boys, probably early teen years, in a drum line.  They were stinking awesome.  That beat really got you going.  Then, there was another group providing live music at one of the churches we passed.  I appreciate that they took time out of their day and used their gifts to help us on our 26.2 mile trek.

Then there were the firefighters.  A group of firefighters, in full gear, walked the entire half-marathon in memory of those brave heroes of the bombing.  I can’t imagine how hot and uncomfortable they must have been.  Here I am in a racerback tank top and short shorts, dripping sweat, and they’re in full gear.  Seeing them trudge along as a group was something else.

There was a runner, a girl running the marathon, who carried the American flag the entire way.  I can’t imagine.  My hand cramped up just holding my water bottle.

And just seeing the crowd of runners…As we started, the course took us up a hill, and for as far as I could see, there were people, a colorful crowd of runners blazing the way for us slower runners behind them.  There’s really nothing like seeing that crowd of runners from the middle of the pack.

Probably the best sound of the entire race, though, was the crowd at the finish line.  I could hear the cheering even before I could see the people.  Knowing that they’re cheering for you to finish the race, are rooting for you to accomplish your goal–yes, hands down the best sound of the entire marathon.

 

 

Marathoner!

Yes, you knew today would be a marathon recap.  Of course!  Here’s how the weekend and the running of my inaugural marathon went.

If you’re like me, I was kind of clueless about how big races worked until I started running them.  Most big races begin with an expo a day before the race.  This is where runners pick up their bibs (the race numbers that are pinned to the shirt) and their race packets which usually includes a participation T-shirt and maybe some coupons or other small items–pens, clips, etc.  The rest of the expo consists of various vendors selling running or racing related items.  There are booths selling clothing, shoes, running belts and armbands, and everything in between.  There are booths showcasing healthcare related services for runners, and booths representing upcoming races runners can register for.  I could have filled up my calendar if I registered for all the races represented there!  One of my best finds at the expo was this pace chart tattoo for my arm.

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It showed me how long it should take me to reach the end of each mile so that I could reach my goal finish time of 4 hours 30 minutes.  So if I reach the 13.1, half-marathon, point by 2 hours and 15 minutes, I’m right on pace.

Then, it was a pasta dinner with my training buddies and an early night.

3:00 a.m. April 24, 2016  The alarm clock sounded, and race day had arrived!  I woke up early to go through my normal race routine and catch the hotel shuttle to the starting line downtown.  I’m not a coffee drinker, so a shower is my caffeine.  Whether I’m stinky or not, a shower gets me going in the morning, especially on race days.  After a shower came breakfast of a banana and a mini-whole wheat bagel with peanut butter.  Next, foam rolling.  I like to work all the kinks and sore spots out of my legs before I run.  At 4:15 I headed downstairs to catch the 4:30 shuttle.  We were told the trip could take 45 minutes to an hour, and with a start time of 6:30, I did not want to be late!

We arrived at the start line in plenty of time to attend the sunrise service at the Survivor’s Tree.  Just as a bit of background, this marathon honors the lives lost in the bombing of the federal building on April 19, 1995.  The start line was at the bombing memorial, which, by the way, is VERY well done.  It’s a horrific event in the history of Oklahoma, but the museum tells the story of that fateful day and of the victims so well, and the memorial is just beautiful.  It’s very peaceful.  If you ever find yourself in Oklahoma City, I highly recommend visiting.  There’s a large, gnarled tree next to the museum that is called the Survivor’s Tree, and it was there that runners from around the country and the world gathered to praise our one God.  Perfect way to start the day.

Then, it was off to find corral C, where I would be starting from.  There were close to 25,000 runners in the race so as a way to prevent a stampede of people and to start runners of like abilities at the same time, runners are assigned a corral.  Picture the starting line at an intersection.  This is where the fastest runners will be placed.  A block up the street would be corral B where the next fastest runners will be.  Another block up would be corral C and so on.  Corral A starts and corral B moves down the street to the starting line and begins, in this case, about 4 minutes after corral A, and so on.  Make sense?  So even though the race started at 6:30, because I was in corral C, the race actually started at about 6:38 for me.

Corral C was easy to find, and I met up with some training buddies as we waited for the start.

IMG_0807Shortly before the start, we observed 168 seconds of silence, one second for each life lost in the bombing.  Talk about incredible.  To have scads of people in one place in absolute silence was really moving.

Then, it was go time!  Our corral started to move and the closer we got to the start line, the faster we went, moving into a slow run.  My heart was pounding!  Here it was.  The race I’d been training for and dreaming about for so long was starting.  I crossed the start line, and the marathon was underway!

The day was incredibly humid and windy.  By mile one I was already drenched in sweat, but the wind helped to keep me cool.  The miles ticked by.  We headed up the famed Gorilla Hill where a massive blow-up blue gorilla stood in someone’s yard and people dressed in banana suits handed out bananas to the runners.  Mile 7 came, and the marathoners veered right, away from the half-marathoners and suddenly the crowd of people was much smaller.  Mile 13.1, the half way point.  Things were going well.  We turned into the wind as we ran around Lake Hefner, but so far so good.

Mile 18 came, and I hit the wall.  I was told to expect it, but I did not expect it to happen so early.  Suddenly I was so tired.  My legs were so tight.  I didn’t think I could go anymore.  I slowed to a walk for just 10-15 seconds when a training buddy caught up to me, tapped my elbow, and said, “Come on.  You can do this.”  We ran together for a while, and then mile 21 came.  My legs from quads to calves started cramping.  It got so bad that I would be forced to walk just to loosen things up, but the longer time went on, the worse the cramping got.

Mile 22.  I was so ready to be done.  My legs were killing me.  I was so tired, and I still had 4 miles to go.  I gave up on reaching my time goal; my goal became to just finish.  So I walked until my legs loosened and then ran, walked and ran.  At one point, a volunteer at the water stop saw me moving by at a snail’s pace, my green bib telling her my name and that I was a first time marathoner.  She called my name and shouted encouragement, so I kept going.

Finally, the finish line was in sight.  I was in so much pain and so incredibly tired.  I couldn’t help it.  Tears started rolling down my cheeks.  That finish line was so close but so far away, and I was NOT going to walk across it.  So I gritted my teeth and went for it, forcing my legs to run me to the finish line.

OKC Memorial Maraton finishI crossed the finish line at 4 hours 37 minutes and 22 seconds…and my legs collapsed.  That’s right.  They cramped so tightly I couldn’t stand.  A couple of volunteers picked me up, set me in a wheelchair and whisked me off to the medical tent to get unkinked.  This was not the way I envisioned the finish of my first marathon!

But glamorous or not, I finished a marathon!  Will I do another one?  Of course!  I let this course get to me.  I let it beat me and reduce me to tears.  I’ll reflect on what I could do differently to get the outcome I want and try again.  In the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy the title of marathoner, and the fact that I DID IT!

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Final Marathon Prep

It’s race week, and in 2 days, 16 hours and 16 minutes, the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon’s starting gun will fire and I’ll be off to test myself against 26.2 miles!  It’s hard to believe it’s finally here.  I’ve been thinking about and preparing for this race for almost a year.  I’m waffling between excitement (you know, a stomach full of butterflies) and nervousness.  The demon of doubt and fear of failure is constantly lurking in the background, and the closer I get to race day, the more I feel myself fighting to keep those fears at bay.

Last Saturday was our last “long” training run of 6 miles.  It was a good run, gorgeous weather, but it felt really short.  I already miss my running buddies.

IMG_0793Then, enter taper week.  I’ve been running about 33 miles a week, but to give our legs time to fully rest and recover, marathon training tapers as we get close to the race.  So last week I only ran about 25 miles.  This week, we were told to only run 2 days, 3 SLOW miles each day.  These runs are more about keeping our minds in the game, not about training, but goodness, it’s been a tough week.  No CrossFit and only 6 miles!  It’s like being grounded!

Now that I’m not thinking about getting my miles in, my attention has turned to the logistical preparation of running a marathon.  Throughout the training, I’ve landed on a strategy for running the race.  I know the pace I need to run to get my finish time.  I know what nutrition works best for me and how often to take in nutrition.  So now I just have to make sure I physically have everything on me that I need to run for hours on end.  Here’s a peek at what will be making the 26.2 mile trek with me.

IMG_07991.  Oklahoma weather can be really fickle.  The weather can seriously swing from one extreme to another in a matter of minutes, so it’s hard to know how to dress.  Right now it looks like the starting temp will be around 62 F with a high of around 85 F.  The rule of thumb is to dress for temperatures 20 degrees warmer than it actually is, so even though it’ll be chilly waiting for the start, I’ll be wearing a form fitting racerback tank top and short compression shorts– form fitting because there’s a chance of thundershowers.  Loose clothes in rain just get heavy so in the event it rains, I’m trying to eliminate any loose fabric.  I’m also choosing clothes that are made of moisture wicking fabric to keep me as dry as possible, from my sports bra down to my shorts.  I’m wearing my favorite running socks, Feetures, and my Brooks running shoes.  No new shoes.  It’s best to have a pair of shoes that you’ve broken in and are used to running in.  I’m also taking my Headsweats cap; it’s lightweight, moisture wicking and will protect my face from sun and rain.  I picked up a light zipper jacket at a thrift store to keep me warm pre-race.  When I get hot, I’ll just shed it to the side of the road to be donated once again.

2. Compression calf sleeves.  I ran with these for the first time in my half-marathon last fall and refuse to run anything over 10 miles without them.  The compression on my calves reduces fatigue immensely and helps to prevent soreness and cramping.

3. Fitletic running belt.  I’ve tried so many running belts, trying to find the most comfortable one to carry the amount of nutrition I need.  I cannot stand belts that ride up or bounce.  The most comfortable one I’ve found so far is Fitletic.  I have to cinch it up as tight as it will go, but even loaded up there was minimal bounce and it stayed put.

4.  For nutrition, I’ll be using Gu peanut butter chocolate energy gel and Larabars.  I’m a little scared of trying anything I haven’t eaten on runs in the past because I don’t know how I’ll react to them, so even though nutrition will be available on the race course, I’m planning to bring enough Gu and Larabars for the entire run.  I’ll also be carrying Nuun electrolyte drink in my Nathan water bottle.  Water will be available on the course, but I don’t really like sports drinks so I’m bringing my own electrolyte replacement.

5.  Speedzter arm band.  I love my Speedzter arm band for holding my phone.  There’s absolutely no bounce; I almost forget I have it on.  The only downside is that it’s not waterproof so I have to put my phone in a baggie to protect it from sweat and rain.  Check them out here.

6.  Of course, I’ll have my phone and earbuds to play music.  I’ve found that when I start to get tired, if I listen to the beat of the music and/or sing along, I can distract myself from my discomfort.  I’ll let you know how that works out at about mile 20!

7.  Garmin running watch.  I can’t run without my Garmin!  It helps me keep my  pace.  Plus, I like being able to watch the miles go by.  I like knowing how many miles are left so I can mentally prepare for them.

8.  Chums band for my glasses.  I wear glasses all the time.  They are a bit of a pain when I’m running, but I’d fall flat on my face without them.  The challenge is to keep them in place when I get all sweaty.  Chums bands work great.  They slip onto the temples and have an adjustable strap that keeps my glasses exactly where I need them to be.

9.  Excedrin.  Yes, I’m taking some pain relief tablets.  I discovered on our 21 mile run that my body started to ache around mile 17 or 18.  Our coach passed around some excedrin which helped to finish the run in relative comfort.

10.  Other things I’ll be using as I get ready include Body Glide to prevent chafing.  It comes in a stick like deodorant.  I like to rub it under my sports bra and on my feet to help prevent clothes from rubbing and chafing my skin.  It works beautifully!  I’ll also be putting on some SPF 50 sport sunscreen and lip balm.  I burn super easy, and with the amount of skin I’ll have exposed for an extended amount of time, I don’t want to burn.

So there you go.  Is this what it’s like trying to leave the house with a baby?!  I’ve looked at directions to my hotel and to the expo where I’ll pick up my race packet.  I have my race confirmation showing my bib number of 2564.  Dinner reservations for a pasta dinner the night before the race with my running buddies is set.  My psoas muscle hasn’t bothered me for over a week.  I’ve been drinking tons of water, eating protein and am starting to increase my carb intake.  I think I’m actually ready….I hope.

What are your plans for the weekend?

If you could do anything you’d want this weekend, what would it be?

 

 

The Gifts of Singleness

Recently I had the honor of attending a beautiful friend’s wedding.  Believe it or not, I do own something besides running and workout gear!

001Weddings make me think a lot about my singleness.  Many times weddings are a bittersweet event for me.  Even though I’m entirely happy and content being single, there’s a part of me that is sad that I’ll most likely never have that childhood dream of walking down the aisle in a gorgeous dress come true.  I feel sad that I’ll never be able to add my stories to those of other women of marriage proposals, wedding mishaps, and motherhood.  If I dwell on that, I’ll eventually convince myself that I’m less of a woman because I don’t have those shared experiences.

So I shift my focus, instead, to what singleness brings to my life.

  1.  Amazing friends.  Birds of a feather flock together, right?  I’ve found that to be true, especially as I’ve gotten older and remained single.  Believe it or not, being over 40 and single is easier than being 29 and single.  When I was in my twenties, all my friends were getting married and having babies.  I felt very much like an outsider, and I had very few friends my age who were single.  As I’ve gotten older, we long term singles, or single again peeps, have found one another, and they have become my life line.  Sure, life experiences aren’t the same, but we all get what it’s like to be single at this stage of life and that creates a bond.  And if I wouldn’t be single, I probably wouldn’t have met these people.  They are a gift of my singleness.
  2. Flexibility and spontaneity.  I’m discovering just how much I value flexibility and spontaneity in my life.  On one hand, I get frustrated when people think that just because I’m single I don’t have responsibilities and/or a schedule to keep (duh, who else is there to keep the house going?!), but truthfully, the ability to be flexible and spontaneous in my schedule is wonderful.  I’m not tied to anyone’s schedule but my own.  Maybe some see that as selfish, but I look at it as a gift of singleness.
  3. Solitude.  Yes, I love solitude.  I’m an introvert, so being alone is necessary to recharge my battery.  Solitude gives me an opportunity to quiet my body and my mind, to reflect on the day, and to listen to God.  Yet, when solitude turns into loneliness, I have a group of friends to run with, my CrossFit peers waiting at the gym, friends a text or phone call away.  If I’m alone and lonely, it’s usually my fault.  So yes, solitude is a gift of singleness.
  4. Adventure.  As if navigating life without a life partner isn’t advertuous enough, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Australia, Egypt, Uganda, 156Yosemite, Death Valley, the Sandia mountains of New Mexico, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Hollywood and to train for a marathon.  Sure, I’ll admit all those things could be done married or single, but if I had the hopes, dreams, and desires of someone else to consider, would I be willing to spend the time training to run 26.2 miles?  Would I be willing to travel to countries that have been in the news due to vIMG_0658iolence?  Would I have the money to fly to another hemisphere?  I don’t know, but for now, I thank God for the time, resources, and ability to experience his amazing creation.  They are a gift of singleness.

So while I’m so incredibly happy that my lovely friend has finally met her soul mate and has become a Mrs., I refuse to be sad for what I may never experience when there’s so much out there left to see and do and so many friends to meet.  May I never fail to recognize the gifts that are in my life RIGHT NOW.

 

What’s in My Shopping Cart?

I’ll just be honest with you.  I’m a strange girl, for probably more reasons than one if you ask people who know me well.  But the strangeness I’m confessing to today is that I don’t like shopping.  That’s right.  I don’t like looking through racks and bins of stuff, bumping into people, standing in lines.  In drives me crazy.  I just want to get what I need and go back home.

I don’t even like grocery shopping.  At least in the grocery store, though, things are usually placed neatly on shelves and aisles are labeled to make what I need fairly easy to find.  And it helps that I usually buy the same things so I know where they are.

So I thought today I’d give you a peek inside my grocery cart–or buggy or trolley or whatever you call it in your neck of the woods.  (What do you call it?)

These are some of the staples that I keep on hand all the time:

0081.  Eggs:   They are the most complete source of protein, meaning they provide all the essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) your body needs.  They’re reasonably inexpensive and quite versatile.  I like to hard boil eggs to keep on hand for a quick breakfast, snack, or to top off a salad.  Or I’ll scramble an egg or maybe even fry an egg (with no oil in the pan) for an egg sandwich.  I am careful about not eating more than one or two eggs a day, though, since the yolk has a high fat content.  On the other hand, the yolk also has a lot of vitamin D which is important for bone health.

2.  Frozen fruit:  I like to keep frozen fruit on hand for smoothies.  My smoothies are pretty basic.  I start with almond milk (something else I keep on hand), toss in that banana that’s getting a bit too ripe, add in some frozen fruit–berries, peaches, whatever you like, maybe some cinnamon or a bit of peanut butter for some added flavor.  Blend and enjoy!

3.  Fresh fruit:  I always have fresh fruit on hand as well.  Bananas and apples are a must for me.  I usually have a banana before a run.  They are a great source of carbohydrates before a workout.  And I eat at least an apple every day.  I love Pink Lady apples the most.  They are that perfect blend of sweet and tart.  Yum!  If I can’t find Pink Ladies, though, I’ll go for Golden Delicious apples.  I also like to pick up small amounts of whatever fresh fruit is in season to top of my yogurt.  Right now I’m enjoying fresh blueberries and strawberries.

4.  Frozen vegetables:  I also always keep frozen vegetables in the freezer.  They are the best option next to fresh.  Being single, I can’t buy a lot of fresh produce because I usually can’t use it before it goes bad, so frozen veggies are great.  I love to steam some veggies to eat alongside baked fish or a chicken breast.  I do like to keep some type of lettuce or fresh spinach on hand, and I’ll pick up a few fresh vegetables, like radishes, cucumber, broccoli, or cauliflower, to make into a salad or to enjoy with some hummus.

5.  Yogurt:  I don’t eat a ton of dairy products.  I usually have some grated cheese in the freezer that I use sparingly on things like chicken and spinach quesadillas or maybe a little on top of a salad.  And every now and then, I pick up some cottage cheese.  My main dairy product is Greek yogurt.  I love Chobani non-fat vanilla yogurt.  It has almost equal amounts of carbs and protein and when I top it off with a few sliced almonds, to me it’s the perfect breakfast!

6.  Peanut butter:  I don’t think I could live without peanut butter.  I love it!  I especially love Smucker’s natural peanut butter.  It’s literally ground up peanuts.  The peanuts and oil separate, so it’s kind of a pain in the neck to stir, but I’ve discovered that if I keep the jar stored upside down, there is not as much oil separation.  What I love about this peanut butter is that there is no added sugar.  That’s one thing I really pay attention to in grocery shopping.  I avoid things that have added sugar.  I love peanut butter on a rice cake before a long run, peanut butter on an apple as a lazy dinner, peanut butter on a banana…there aren’t many ways I don’t like peanut butter!

7.  Snack bars:  This is where I’m really particular.  Most snack bars are very high in sugar.  Read the labels.  Usually the second or third ingredient will be some type of sugar, which is why I like apple pie Lara bars.  They have the shape of a snack bar but are simply made of apples, IMG_0181dates, nuts and cinnamon.  No added anything.  They are must haves on my long runs, and yes, I’ll be carrying a couple on my upcoming marathon.  I also really like Nature Valley’s nut bars.  They have a few more added ingredients but are mostly just nuts.  Because they are filling, I love to keep these in my bag for work when I’m hungry but don’t have time to take a break.

8.  Chicken:  I’m not a big meat eater, but when I do eat meat, it’s usually chicken.  I try to buy all natural chicken.  I also keep wild caught cod fillets in the freezer for a quick meal.

9.  Nuts, beans, lentils:  These are other important protein sources for me since I don’t eat a lot of meat.  I typically just used canned beans–black, IMG_0183red, great northern, whatever–and rinse them off to put inside a whole wheat tortilla with some chicken and salsa, on a salad, in soup, etc.  Lentils are amazing!  Don’t be scared to try them.  They have such a good flavor, are easy to cook, very versatile, cheap, and loaded with protein and fiber.  And nuts…I like to keep raw unsalted almonds on hand for  a quick snack.  Just a few almonds takes the edge off.

So there you go.  Those are my staples.  These are the things I buy almost every week at the grocery store and the things my meals are shaped around.

What’s inside your shopping cart?

What do you call the shopping cart?

 

17 Days Until 26.2

In 17 days, I’ll be starting the biggest race of my life, the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.  My feet are starting to turn to clay.  I’m feeling that sneaky demon I Can’t lurking in the background.

This past weekend we ran the longest run of our training, 21 miles. 005It was not nearly as difficult as I thought it might be, and if I had not been dealing with low blood sugar, I think I  could have gone further.  So why the doubt?

I think it’s the fear of the unknown.  I don’t know what it’s like to run 26.2 miles.  I’ve never done it before.  But then, I’d never run 13 miles or 15 miles until I did a half marathon and then the 25K.  The difference between those races and this marathon, though, is that I was always within a mile or two of completing the race distance before I went into the race.  One or two miles is a lot different than the 5 miles between my longest training run and the marathon distance…and I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to go the distance, that I won’t have the mental fortitude to fight through the fatigue.

It’s got me thinking a lot about faith.  Now is the time to trust my training.  I’ve taken what my coaches have taught me to heart.  I’ve done the work, put in the miles, followed the training plan.  Now is the time to just walk in faith that the training has prepared me for what lies ahead.

One thing that I’ve come to appreciate about running is how much the sport, and especially racing, parallels life.  A successful race involves training, planning, preparation, and is so much better when it’s not run in isolation.  The same could be said of life, right?  And just as in life, sometimes runners have to do things that are hard and uncomfortable to reach our goals.  And then, there comes that time when you just have to trust all that you’ve learned and experienced and just go for it.  Make the move.  Apply for the job.  Begin that project.  Run the race.  Take the step of faith…

And when the going gets tough, you just have to press on.

One step in front of the other…that’s my plan.  Press on.  Finish the race.  17 days until 26.2

What’s your 26.2?  What’s a step of faith you’ve taken or think you should take?