Race Recap: Columbus Marathon

I had this recap completely finished except for editing when WordPress ate the post. So much for automatic draft saving.

Thinking back, I am not entirely sure when I started to really consider the half at the Columbus Marathon.  I believe it was probably around finishing my first 5k. It seems so alien now that 5k seemed like such a big deal only nine months ago. Of course, finishing the quarter marathon at Cap City also seemed like a big deal. Why not double the distance with the half?

Before registering, I had been having ankle problems for months.  It wasn’t until June that I discovered I had peroneal tendinitis. Luckily, with a little patience and some KT Tape, that seems to be under control.  Not long after that, I started having toe problems. Then, I dropped part of a projection screen on my toe.  I thought it was entirely possible it was broken after that.  Thankfully, it wasn’t broken, just busted up and infected.  It took a few weeks of doctor’s appointments to get it under control and only a week ago did he say that the half wasn’t a bad idea.

Here’s my big training confession: I never ran more than 7.04 miles before the half. I did that a month before the race.  In the final weeks leading up the race, I ran only about eight miles total. I was not at all prepared for the 13.1 miles ahead.  I was unsure about whether I would even be able to finish it.  If I did finish, I didn’t know what shape I’d be in.  I kept picturing the horror stories of people with their legs giving out, dragging themselves across the finish line.  I stood at the race expo on Saturday negotiating with myself that if I bought anything that said “Columbus Marathon” on it, I had to finish.

So I did.

Race morning, I woke up at 3am with a headache (strike 1) and a bitey, demanding cat (strike 2).  Despite getting everything together the night before and knowing that I was going to go out there and give it a shot, it still took a lot to get out of bed.  Luckily, at 5am, a dear friend sent me some great motivational texts. Exactly what I needed.  Actually, the whole day was filled with encouragement right when I needed it most.

Fast forward through traffic and parking… I checked my gear bag, grabbed the gloves they were giving away because I was freezing, and started the long wait.

Welcome to the Half.

Welcome to the half.

Looking at this picture again, I can’t help but think about how much I love Columbus.  I’m so grateful that I have had the chance to run its streets and see it from a perspective I never would have otherwise.  Thanks, awesome city of mine.

Anyway.

I was in the last corral (where I belonged), which ran along High St with a few others.  The first couple of corrals went up Broad.  I heard almost nothing of the pre-race festivities.  I only knew the mayor was there when I went past him on the way to the start. I saw a little bit of the fireworks, got scared to death when the cannon went off, and finally crossed the start at 7:50am, twenty minutes after the gun. Or cannon, in this case.

My toes were numb for awhile in, but I felt great for the first few miles.  I didn’t go out too fast, but paced myself pretty well.  I stuck to my ten minute run/one minute walk ratio for a good portion of the first half.  Something nice about being slower was cheering on the leaders who were coming down Broad St in the opposite direction.  I got to see a friend of mine and cheer her on while she was working for that Boston Marathon qualifier (which she got! Yay!).

Bexley was great to run through.  All along the course, at each mile marker, there was a different “Children’s champion” from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital that the race benefits.  Some of the kids were actually out, which was awesome to see.  I had read through a lot of their stories the night before and champions they are, indeed.

The first half went pretty well.  I hit the 10k mark feeling like I was in reasonably good shape.  Right after that, a friend appeared off in the distance with a sign…

Do it for the Kittens

I gave her a sweaty hug, heard “I’m proud of you” and ran off thinking “She’s right. I am doing it for the kittens!” Ha. I loved it so much.  She was the best thing to see at the halfway point.

After that, things started going downhill.  As predicted, the first 7 or 8 miles were fine. I started to slow down, but they were fine.  Around 8.5-9, I hit the wall. When you come back down Broad St to turn onto 3rd, you can see the runners on High, who are just down the street from Nationwide and the finish. This was really hard mentally because there was so much more of the race left to go for me.  German Village was a blur of knowing I was too far along to quit, but not feeling strong about finishing. Prior to the race, my game plan was to break it down into 5ks.  I’d run 5k plenty of times, so of course I could run a series of 5ks. I ended up walking a lot of the last 3-4 miles and I spent most of that time in my head.  I think that was part of the problem.  I was too consumed with thinking about what was going on, not just running.

Around mile 12 or so, I caught sight of another familiar face.  It was a glorious present from the running gods. I was so defeated with all the walking and the slowness, but there was another friend! I got a big hug, some water, and the motivation to keep going.  I started to mentally make a new plan called “Finish Strong.” I started to run a little bit more than walk, but still save my energy for the finish.

Then there it was.  Actually, not yet. Because the finish goes downhill on Nationwide, you have to first go uphill to get there.  It’s not a big hill, but it does seem looming when you’re in it and thisclose to the end. Finally! I turned the corner onto Nationwide Blvd and was met with a band, lots of people, and that great downhill finish.  I saw the race director on my way and almost stopped to hug him in gratitude. I didn’t, of course, because THE FINISH LINE WAS RIGHT THERE!

Columbus Marathon finish

Sort of in the middle on the way down to the finish line.

My official time was 3:17:35. I wanted it to be under 3 hours, but I finished. I really finished.  13.1 miles completed!  I can still barely believe it.

Post race, I grabbed almost every liquid or food item handed to me in the finish chute. I keep saying it, but it’s true: more races need a food bag.  Seriously: food bag. I started eating and stretching immediately.  The last cruel joke of the race was that the gear check was up a flight of stairs.  Luckily, there was a wonderful little girl who greeted me after that terrible experience and brought me my bag full of post-race goodies: fresh shirt, compression socks, almond butter. All the necessities.

I would tell you about my post-race Ice Bath of Doom or how I ate wonderful things all day after the race, but I’ve already been long-winded enough.  I will say that the race was Sunday, today is Wednesday, and I haven’t stopped thinking about running despite legs so sore that I wasn’t walking right for the first day afterward. Maybe this running thing really does make you crazy.

One last picture…

Do it for the medal.

Inspire.

I’ve gotten a couple of medals this year for the races I’ve done and I love them.  But this one… This one, I’m really proud of.  I somehow blew away all my own expectations of myself and did something I would have never thought in a million years that I’d do.  It feels incredible.

Thank you to all of my friends for their words of encouragement before, during, and after the race. I even thank you for the scary clown pictures. Ha. You’re amazing.  Extra special thanks to the person who helped get me started running in the first place… Life wouldn’t be the same.

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Motivation v1.0

A friend recently asked me about motivation. It’s hard to say one single thing that got me into all of this running and gym time. The gym came partially because of the encouragement from my boyfriend. He has been full of support and knowledge about a lot of things that I had no idea about. For instance, he was the one that finally convinced me that girls don’t bulk out from lifting weights and educated me on why lifting was so important.

I started looking at resources for women’s lifting and came across videos of girls doing 300lb deadlifts. I was so impressed that that became my goal. I wanted to be as awesome and impressive as these girls. The girls were often young, not bulky, but strong. Oh, to be so strong! So I started lifting. I started with basic lifts with the barbell: squat, deadlift, row. I was pretty weak to begin with, so the 45lb bar was enough for me at first. I slowly worked my way up. Three months in, I hit 100lbs and kept adding weight. That was unfortunately when I think I started to get less careful and ended up with my herniated disc.

I had been seriously into my lifting goal. I was working with my trainer once a week and working out besides. I don’t know when I ended up back at the gym after my back injury. It was actually before I was diagnosed with the disc problem. I stopped the gym entirely when I started physical therapy three days a week. I have slowly integrated the gym back in and am regularly back in it, but I will probably never lift heavy like that again.

So my goal of 300lbs was dashed. What next? Somehow running came about. I wish I could remember exactly how it started. I hated cardio. Why do cardio when you can lift things? Lifting was my favorite and the deadlift especially. But then came running. It may have been that I could do much less of the other things at the gym that I just ended up on the treadmill more and more. Someone at my gym suggested the elliptical since it was lower impact all around, but I really hate the elliptical.

I looked up beginning running programs and found Couch-to-5k. The goals associated with that really helped get me going. Every time I got on the treadmill, it was a new challenge and I had a real attainable goal. There are other beginning programs, obviously, and I didn’t stick with c25k the whole time. I really recommend finding something to guide and challenge you like that. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to do a race, so there was another goal!

You may be catching onto something here: goals. I would say that’s the real answer to the motivation question. Lots of people have the goal of losing weight or “toning up,” but those types of goals might not motivate you. While those things are bonuses to what I’m doing (and let me tell you, I totally geek out over how my arms look lifting dumbbells now), I think finding a really attainable goal that you can have measured incremental success at will probably get you on the right track if the general goals don’t work. Lifting weights was something I could see improvement at every time I went in. I could add a little weight or know that I was working toward it. With running, I add new distances and I’m in a competition with myself for other things like speed. Races are a great goal to have since you have something solid to work toward by a deadline. You also have to pay entrance fees and that can motivate you all on its own. No one wants to give away their money.

My other motivation for keeping up with the gym and running is how I feel. Regardless of the extraordinary feeling of doing something you didn’t think you ever would, it feels good. I am 100% more aware of my body and how it works. Something as silly as going up stairs is a strange new experience because now I’m paying attention to the way my knees bend or appreciating how my body can do simple things like that. You might think that after over year in the gym, I’d be seeing crazy results. I’m not. I have maintained almost exactly the same weight since I started working out. I have been told that’s impressive in and of itself. I can tell some differences in my body(arms!) or the way it operates (those stairs!), but it’s not like my motivations are coming from a drastically shrinking waistline.

My advice when you’re searching for motivation: find goals.  Find things you enjoy.  If you don’t like working out or can’t find something you like to do right off, you might have to tough it out like I did with cardio until something just catches right (though you may not all of a sudden love running like I do).  Ultimately, you have to find your own good reasons for doing it and make sure that those reasons will drive you.