“If you want to win something run 100 meters…
if you want to experience something, run a marathon.”
Shortly after the birth of my second baby, I decided I would try to go run around the block. I have been an active person my whole life, starting dance at the age of 3, competitive cheer in the 7th grade and then majoring in Dance at college, I figured…”I got this.” I searched my closet for the few exercise clothes that would fit me at the time, dusted off my running shoes and set out to conquer the block. About a quarter of a mile in, I was toast. I couldn’t catch my breath, my legs were burning and I felt utter defeat. I had just had a baby and thought I could run all the baby weight off. I came home and vowed to never put myself through that again.
A year later, a friend in my neighborhood had invited me out on a run. I instantly thought “Oh man, what if I look like a total idiot again?” I voiced my fears to her and she said to not worry about it and we could go slow. And that we did. Until I got faster. It took me a few months of running every other day to even say I had a 10 minute/mile pace. For me, that was an accomplishment.
The years went by and I had a few opportunities come up. I ran a half marathon, which up until this point was the longest I had ever run. I even joined a Ragnar team and spent two days running and sleeping on gym floors (no thanks!). But my running game became stale. And I wasn’t getting any faster. So I decided to hang up my running shoes and venture into the weight room with sweaty and stinky men.
I love lifting weights. It has changed my body like nothing else has. After a year of working out hard, eating better, and getting my “pre babies” body back, I was in a rut. An exercise rut. Nothing really got me excited and going to the gym became a chore. If you have ever experienced this (many of you probably have) the best way to get out of an workout rut is to change gears, try something new. So in March of this year, I thought I would sign up for another half marathon again. I had enjoyed the first one, training was doable and I felt accomplished when it was over. However, I had not run longer than 25 minutes in a very very long time. I thought it would be just like riding a bike. But the funny thing is, cardiovascular endurance isn’t like that. You have to work for it. Put in the time, sweat and miles and then it is like riding a bike.
I began by running 3 miles. It was hard. I barely made it to the 3 mile mark and I thought to myself “How in the world will I run 13.1 miles?” But every week I increase my long run by a mile and when race day came, I was prepared. I ran a 8:23 pace for 13 miles. I was in disbelief that my body was capable of running that fast. You see, there are just some body types built for running. Tall and lean with long strides are those best built for high cardio vascular endurance. Well, not one of those adjectives describes me, so I was pleasantly surprised that I could run that fast.
A few days after my half marathon, my husband whisked me away to Las Vegas for a few days. During this time I was able to reflect on how I felt after the race and what I still wanted to accomplish. Marathon was definitely on my bucket list. So I decided to bite the bullet and sign up for a race in my area in a few months. I needed those extra months to train, get the miles in, and allow my body to prepare for such a big event.
First thing I did was print out a ‘beginner marathon training schedule.” If you google it, many free programs come up. I chose to go with Hal Higdon’s schedule. This allowed me to run a few smaller runs, one big-ish run (about half of my long run) and then the long run which was usually saved for Saturdays.
I quickly learned that running anything over 13 miles was pretty boring. Even with some good tunes, I got bored. My mind would wander and it was nice to have extra time to think about things. But on my longest training run I knew that I needed a partner. Since none of my friends were raising their hands to run 20 miles with me, I enlisted my brother to ride his bike alongside me. He downloaded an audio book and we ran/rode bike for over 3 1/2 hours. He pretty much deserves a medal for that one. But it was so nice to not feel so alone and also he brought along a backpack to carry my water…what a guy!!
During my long runs is when I would test out food/supplements to see what
- could replace carbs and sugar
- would make me full, but not to full
- wouldn’t make my stomach feel worse
- something quick and portable that didn’t take too much time to eat.
I quickly fell in love with Stinger Goo in vanilla or chocolate (chocolate was my favorite) but I knew these were just for quick jolts of energy, and maybe not super sustaining. After spending hours trying different things and reading lots of labels my race nutrition of choice was Snickers. Yes, just plain ol’ Snickers candy bar. The nutritional stats were very similar if not better than all the more expensive bars and waffles. I could put one in my flip belt, eat it half way through my long runs and was good to go!
Race day was quickly approaching and I knew that I needed to be prepared not only physically but mentally. Although looking back I don’t know how someone can prepare themselves mentally for a marathon. The only way to know what it is like is to experience it.
About 6 days before the race I began to carb load. For the first few days it was around 5g of carbs per kilogram of body weight. Then as the race got closer I did 10g of carbs per kilo of body weight. I’m not going to lie, this was very hard for me, mentally. But I did the best I could. If I could go back and re-do, I would definitely pay more attention to eating the recommended amount of carbs. Around mile 22 of my race, I knew I hadn’t eaten enough. I also tapered my runs starting 6 days out with 10 miles and doing a little less everyday and resting the day before. Water is super important too. About 3 days before hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Also drinks containing electrolytes is important. My two favorites are Smartwater and Vitamin Water Zero (Squeezed flavor). Both have minimal calories and a great way to load up on electrolytes, which will quickly get depleted during a marathon.
The morning of the race, I woke up about 3:15am and made sure to have a breakfast packed with carbs. I had a bowl of steel cut oats, banana, with some honey and almond butter. I took a bottle of water with me, but didn’t eat anything else before the race, which started at 6am. I wanted my body to have time to use and store the carbs but not weight me down.
The race that I ran was down a very steep canyon. The first mile was the steepest and I ran it in under seven minutes. But the second mile was uphill (at 10,000 ft) and less than fun. My lungs were on fire, but I tried to stay with my pace group. I have to say that I love pace groups. For the first 20 miles I stayed with the 3:40 pace group, which would have given me a BQ time. But this was much faster than my normal pace so I just tried to keep up as long as I could. Many people say to not go fast right at the first, but I don’t know that I totally agree with this. In the races I have run, I always go fast and usually hit a point and know when to back off.
I think very rarely can runners go fast at the end, unless they are genetically built that way. For the next 18 miles, I tried to navigate the downhill slopes as much as I could. I had trained a little bit of downhill but not nearly enough. I wish I had run the course (or at least this part) before race day. I think I could have been better prepared in that sense. By the time I arrived at the mouth of the canyon, my calves were on fire. The downhill had shredded my legs. But I knew that 6 more miles I would be done.
The next 4 miles were rolling hills, which sounds nice, but after running straight downhill for the previous 20 miles, rolling hills is not what I wanted to run. It was hard. I actually hated these 4 miles. Many times I asked myself what the heck I was thinking running a marathon. Well, here it was, mile 22 and I wanted to die, or walk , or something other than run. I just tried to make it to the next aid station, drink as much water as I could, dump some down my shirt and on my head, and run to the next one. The last two miles seemed like an eternity.
Everyone I passed was walking. They had had it too. The only difference between me and them is that I’m stubborn. I wanted to be done, and the fastest way to do that was to run. I didn’t run these miles very fast at all, but I ran, until I could see my cute family waiting there for me. As I passed them I made sure to give them each a high five and say hello. When I crossed the finish line, my lungs felt like they had stopped working. I tried to catch my breath but I was overheated. They have volunteers at the finish line who ask if you are okay and then give you a medal. A sweet volunteer came up to me and grabbed my arm to ask if I was ok, and then noticed I was having a hard time breathing and she said I was super hot.
So under the medical tent I went, medal and all. After a few bottles of cold water and some cool towels, I found my husband and immediately began to cry. “Why did I just do that? That was the dumbest thing I have ever done! Never let me do that again!” He just hugged me and laughed, knowing that I had done it to myself.
After some reflection on this experience, I have to say I’m glad I did it. It was something I will never forget. I want to say one day that I lived my life, not standing on the sidelines, but really experiencing all this world has to offer. I will never do it again, that is for sure. But everyone has different goals and dreams. Life is to short to watch other people chase their rainbows. What’s your rainbow?