Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Marathon One, Part One

To preserve space and my sanity, I'm going to have to break down this recap into separate posts. This one will be more about my experience. In a day or two, I'll type one up about the actual Niagara Falls International Marathon., itself. It was definitely deserving of it's own post.

I registered for this marathon so early (read: cheap-o) that I still had quite a few weeks before I'd actually need to start training for it. However, I was already running 40+ mpw (miles per week), so I just kept it up and lengthened a couple weekend runs. By the time I started my training plan, I already had a couple double-digit long, slow runs under my belt. (foreshadowing: I also had nagging ankle pain)

The giddyhappyparty feeling I had after easily completing my first 20-miler, at an 8:53mm average pace made me SO optimistic about my upcoming marathon.

what could go wrong?
 
All of my recent finishing times in races, and my training runs were pointing to a frightening (but exciting!) prediction of a 3:24xx full marathon. McMillan AND Mr. Daniels AND smartcoach can't all be wrong, right? (hopefully this admission makes some of you who predicted way faster finishing times for me feel vindicated)
 
And then this happened :
The very smart decision would have been to skip the marathon, wait until a better training cycle and tackle my first full, then.
 
I hope, by this point, no one is still thinking of me as smart.
 
With each injured, non-running day that passed, my lofty marathon goals slipped further and further away. Eventually, I had to suck it up and accept that it would be a blessed miracle if I were to be healthy enough to even toe that start line. Beyond that, all other aspirations would have to wait. Building back distance and speed was hard, humbling work. My fitness is still not where it was, before the injury.  I am, however, without a doubt, injury-free. For me, that's all I needed.
 
Fast-Forward to Friday, October 19th. The Husband, all 3 boys and I flew from Florida, to Buffalo, NY and took a shuttle, over the border, to Canada.
In retrospect, I think the stress of travel, hotels, packing and every other non-race detail helped keep the "holy cow. I'm really healed and strong enough to run a stinking marathon!" thoughts at bay.
 
what? You guys don't wear green, plastic fangs on planes?!
 
I'll save most of the the expo and race weekend details for the race post. I will share, however, that I teared up when I picked up my bib AND when The Husband took this picture :
first marathon bib!!
 
Due to both International and spotty wi-fi issues, we had extremely limited phone and internet service, all weekend. My parents would be flying to meet us, the next day, so I found a decent spot, near the US and sent that photo to my sister's phone.
 
Back at the hotel, after the expo, my guys settled into Full Relaxation Mode, so I tried to do the same. Still almost 2 days before the actual race. No reason to freak out, yet!
we can all take tapering lessons from this bunch
 
I opened the gift my sister had sent with me and had a lovely laugh/cry session. She had made her own labels, and affixed them to my favorite GU flavors. Each one had inspirational quotes we both knew and loved. Some were famous only to us (mainly because they'd been said only to each other) some may or may not have been from "Anchorman"...I stashed them with my race day stuff and got just a little bit more excited.
 
Speaking of other undeserved gifts my sis-in-law had also put together a whole gift bag of goodies for me. Luna Bars, Ghiardelli chocolates, calming teas, gummy candies, CDs with happy music...etc.
 
My mother-in-law had secretly had my husband stash her gift in his suitcase. She thought a ridiculously soft, furry, warm, running jacket would be the next best thing to a hug from her. (she was right)
My parents were coming, from Florida, for goodness' sake! It was a complete love-fest and it was making me feel stronger and happier by the second.
 
The next morning I skipped an outdoor run (it was rainy and I didn't want to soak my shoes) and suffered through a four-mile shakeout on the dreadmill. I threw in a few, 30-second strides and felt great. All running systems were still functional.
 
At lunch, the aforementioned sister showed up, in Canada, to surprise me. She'd been planning it since July! I had no idea she was coming, but realized I would've actually been more surprised had she not been there. Have I mentioned how rad it is to try to surprise me?
 
Anyway, once she and my parents were there, I was so, SO relaxed and happy, I really never had any of the nervous moments I'd been dreading.
We did some sightseeing, on foot  (not necessarily the best idea the day before the marathon, turns out) had a mediocre pasta dinner together (the food was blah, not the company) and settled in our hotel rooms.
 
I went back and forth a hundred times about what to wear. The weather was supposed to be sunny and right around 50 degrees for most of the morning. However, the days leading up had been drizzly and very windy. I finally settled on a short-sleeved shirt, light gloves, arm warmers, running skirt (mostly just for the handy pocket), compression socks and my Pure Flows. I'd also be carrying my big, hand-held water bottle (more pockets!).
 
My ipod and Garmin were charged, The Husband and Oldest headed out for their traditional Pre-Race Dessert Fest and the younger two were tucked into bed.
 
crazy Brownie Popcorn Sundae they enjoyed whilst the littlers and I went to bed
 
I laid down with The Littlest to try to get some sleep. This must have been successful, on and off, because I had some crazy dreams. I was awake before my alarm went off, but felt pretty well-rested.
 
(ps : If you can force yourself to get 8+ hours of sleep, per night, the week before a marathon, it's totally worth it!)
 
I had my typical race-day stomach issues (surprise!) so I had some calming tea, along with my coffee. I'd planned to have a small snack, but couldn't stomach anything. I spread PB on a bagel, sprinkled on some Chia, slathered it with honey, laid some banana slices on top and wrapped the whole thing up to take with me.
 
(ps #2: If you can travel with your favorite pre-race food , do it. I stashed the tea, peanut butter, honey packets and chia in my suitcase. The rest I was able to pick up in Niagara Falls)
 
The race didn't start until 10:00 am, but I had to be on a bus between 7:00-7:45. (more on that, later)This made for some tricky scheduling. It also meant that I would be traveling to the starting line, in Buffalo, NY, without my loved ones. They were planning to somehow station themselves along the course, on the Canada side.
 
I smothered everyone awake with hugs and kisses and walked the mile, with The Husband, from our room to the bus. Still no debilitating nerves...mostly just calm excitement. (does that make sense?)
 
Insert Pre-Race Picture, here.
Someday I'll be better at this!
 
Okay. As much as I'd love to have this recap be short and simple, it's just not gonna happen that way, apparently. I hope you don't feel tricked, but the actual race is going to have to be a whole 'nother post. I simply didn't realize how many details and stories I am feeling compelled to include.
 
If you've made it this far, here's a reward/teaser for tomorrow's post :
 
(ps #3 When running a race that crosses an International Border, Always Bring Your Passport)