Pre-JFK Thoughts and Musings…

Forgive me as I ramble through the myriad thoughts consuming me in these final days before JFK, but this week is kind of a big deal for me.  In fact, the last time I felt this way was almost seven years ago.  Instead of tapering for a race, I was on bed rest, awaiting the birth of my first child.  I was a nervous wreck.  I knew at a high-level what to expect:  the pain of labor, sleepless nights, maternal anxiety.  But not having been through it myself, I had no idea how I would handle the pain and exhaustion.  Would I be able to perform?  Would I be a good mother?  What if it was all too much??

The labor was agonizing, but I got through it, and the pain was soon gone.  The sleepless nights were rough (and continue to this day), but I discovered that I didn’t need much sleep after all.  As I emerged from the first six months of motherhood, I had started to form a new identity.  I was Emma’s mom.

With this new identity came many changes.  Some for the good:  new friends, new layers of patience and self-sacrifice, new depths of feeling.  Some for the bad:  more wrinkles, more chaos, more laundry.  Running, my faithful go-to method of sorting out life’s stress and problems just wasn’t an option in those early years.  Sure, I’d put in a half-hearted effort to train and run Monument Avenue each March, but afterwards I’d just throw my running shoes to the back of the closet for another year.

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I found my way back to running in the dark winter months of 2011.  It began as a way to stay fit.  But as I gained strength and set a few 10K PRs I thought that, just maybe, I could recapture a bit of my pre-motherhood self.  I started training for the marathon.  I read ‘Born to Run’ and dusted off a thought that had been pushed aside a decade ago:  JFK.  It was the tiniest little spark – just a wild idea that seemed so fantastic, so out-of -reach – an embryo really.  But it gestated and grew over the ensuing months.  Each time I went for a long run – it became more real to me.  Every race was a stepping stone.  The long runs and speed work, the hills and the trails, they all brought it closer.

Not long ago, it hit me.  I wasn’t recapturing my past.  I was a BETTER runner than I had been before children.  Motherhood has given me an edge.  The grittiness required to endure a toddler’s tantrum, the exhaustion that comes from waking four times a night, the knowledge that hard work yields marvelous benefits all help the runner in me.  I may not be vying for a podium spot, but in this small way, I feel like a winner.

So here I am on the eve of JFK – the race that started it all.  This time next week, I won’t be holding a baby in my arms, but I will have given birth to a new me.  And while I want so badly to cross the finish line – I don’t think the result matters so much.  The changes of this year – the discipline, the knowledge, the experience, and the amazing network of new friends – will endure regardless of whether there are numbers or letters next to my name.

So I will deal with this anxiety head-on, just as I will handle the pain and fatigue on race day.  I acknowledge it, accept it, and calmly put it to the side so I can carry on.

Stay tuned!

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Race Report: Baltimore Marathon (50K++)

Note:  I wrote this post almost a month ago, but due to technical difficulties was unable to upload photos until this week….

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It’s been way too long since I last posted, but I have been busy.

Running….Running….Running….

JFK is less than a month away, and I have been hard at work.  The girls and Jimmy have most of my waking hours but  – when they leave for the morning – I put on my shoes and hit the road or trail.  I’ve had so much fun this summer and fall…from Blue Ridge swimming holes to AT adventures to countless miles all over the River City.

As the weather has cooled and the leaves changed I’ve built up my weekly mileage, logged two-a-day workouts, and cross-trained as much as my schedule allowed.

While I have a few more tough weeks ahead, last weekend I logged the last 30+ mile run before JFK.

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I signed up for the Baltimore Marathon about three weeks before the race, almost as an afterthought.  Logistically, it was simple.  I could stay with my cousin and leave the girls with my parents for the night.  Jimmy offered to ride his Mountain Bike and provide any support I might need.  While I liked the idea of running 26.2, what I really needed was a 50K.  I wanted the time on my feet.  I wanted road miles to simulate the last 35 miles of JFK.  So I did what made sense (to me)…I decided to run the 8 miles to the start of the marathon.

Well, while it was a good idea in theory, we nixed it the night before.  Too many sketchy sections to run in the dark.  No car at the finish line.  In the end, we decided to drive down early and run around the harbor before the 8AM start.  Excellent choice.  This was my daybreak:

I  logged just under 7 miles before getting to Camden Yards right as they were singing the National Anthem.  No time for a potty break, just able to shed my long sleeves, hand them to Jimmy, and we were off…

…I love Maryland, and Baltimore does a great job of showing its state pride.  From the sights and sounds of Camden Yards and Ravens Stadium, the Inner Harbor, Druid Hill Park, Fells Point, the marathon wends throughs the neighborhoods and hills of Charm City.

I felt great at the start, and despite the fact that the first five miles are uphill, I was clocking 7:30 miles.  Too fast, Annie!  By mile 8 or 9 I was settling into a funk. My worn out Saucony’s were pounding my hips and IT band.  I started feeling demoralized – bored and unmotivated.  When I saw Jimmy at Mile 10, I asked him to meet me in a few miles with my other shoes (Brooks Pure Flow).  Just before Mile 11, on an out-and-back section of the course, I passed my friend Brian.  He wasn’t that far ahead of me, but I knew he was planning on running a lot faster than I was.  It was then that I made the decision to SLOW DOWN, and I settled into an 8:15 – 8:30 pace that would carry me the rest of the way.

At mile 13, Jimmy gave me my shoes.  While it wasn’t an instant fix, within a few miles my IT band pain had eased.  I broke the remaining miles into chunks:

  • Just get to mile 16…you’ll only have 10 more to go then, and you know you can run 10.
  • Just get to mile 20…with six left you can start taking walking breaks if you need to (though fortunately I never had to).
  • Mile 22 will be huge…just 4 to run.
  • Mile 24 – anyone can run 2 miles.
  • Mile 25 – just the victory lap left.
  • Holy cow, there’s mile 26…you did it girl…sprint to the end….26.2 and a 3:36 – nice BQ to cap off the day!!

33 miles run.  A free Chic-Fil-A sandwich and cookie.  Natty Boh for the ride home.  Going into the day, my goal was a 9 min/mi pace.  I was happy to see I had the strength to run faster.  Even happier that I could run well this week.  Training continues, after all.

Lessons Learned:

  • ITS ALL MENTAL!  At no time did I feel like my body was about to give out.  I did have a solid hour, however, when I desperately wanted to quit.  I am so glad I kept going, for if I had folded I think it might have derailed my confidence for JFK.
  • BACK UP SHOES ROCK!  I was really, really lucky that a) I had packed a back up pair of shoes and b) we drove to the start.  Those Brooks saved my race, and I will always have an extra set on hand at ultra event (provided that I can get crew support to deliver them when needed!)
  • FUEL YOURSELF WELL – I ate a nice breakfast Friday, and a great pasta dinner Saturday.  A bit of muffin and three gu’s were all that was needed during the run.  I carried my hydration pack with 50 oz of Nuun, which lasted me until mile 23.

Baltimore was a hilly, but fun course.  The weather was absolutely perfect.  While I prefer the trail, of course, it was nice to get another road marathon under my belt.  I did what I set out to do, and will see if that pays off on November 17.