Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I am a marathoner.

Somewhere around 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, Tracey and I completed the Rochester Marathon. We'd been running for almost five and a half hours. Our legs were stiff, our feet were sore, our bodies and minds were exhausted, but our spirits—and our heads—were as high as could be. Here's the story of our race.

The day began when we woke up at 5:30. We put all our running gear on, and Tracey's dad drove us to Frontier Field, where we picked up our timing chips. It was a very chilly morning, low 40s. After picking up our chips, we took a shuttle bus back to the starting line and bounced around to try to keep warm. It was fun to see the street fill with runners, and before we knew it, the national anthem was being sung. Not long after, the starting gun went off. We excitedly jogged out onto the course. I was struck by the sound of hundreds of feet pattering against the pavement.

We struggled to keep our pace slow. All the advice we had gotten, whether in books or from friends who had run marathons, included a warning not to go out too fast. We reminded each other not to speed up a couple times a mile for at least the first ten miles or so. I think this allowed us to finish fairly strong.

The miles just fell away one after the other for the first couple of hours. We couldn't believe how quickly we were getting from one mile marker to the next. It helped that there were lots of spectators for the first third of the race, including a few friends we didn't expect to see. I admit I had been a bit cynical about the idea that spectators help all that much, but I stand corrected. It definitely keeps you going when you hear people cheering you on.

The canal trail is really long. It runs from roughly mile 9 until mile 22. That's a long time to spend running along a canal, but the scenery was quite nice, and we had run along most of that route during our training, so it was familiar to us. If it had been a really hot day, this part of the race would have been pretty rough, because there's not too much shade.

But the weather was not a factor. Well, actually, it was a factor: it was perfect, never hot enough to make us sweat too hard, and this in turn kept our spirits high.

By the time we turned off the canal trail into Genesee Valley Park, I was starting to feel stiff, but I could taste the finish only four miles away. And soon enough, we turned out of the park and crossed the Ford Street Bridge into the downtown area. By this time, we were starting to drag a little bit. But not too badly—I think we were reaping the benefit of starting out slower than was comfortable. Amazingly, my knee never bothered me, not for one second. I did have some new pain in my right ankle and foot, but I ran through it and after a mile or so it went away.

When we made the final turn toward the finish, we both got a little choked up. It was hitting us that the sixteen weeks of hard work was about to be over. The pounding our knees had taken, the Saturdays we had given up, the constant preoccupation and fatigue that overtake your life when you prepare for something like was all about to come to its fruition. When we looked up and saw our family and friends there cheering us across the line, it overwhelmed us both. And then we had crossed the finish line and we were hugging Abel and Tracey's parents and each other. And it was over. Incredible.

It struck me a day or two later that running a marathon is both a tremendous feat of self-reliance and impossible to do on your own. In my case, I owe Tracey my gratitude first and foremost. Without her running next to me, I would never have done those long Saturday runs. I tried this once before and failed. She made it possible to finish the training this time. Our friends Brian and Becca, who finished about a half hour faster than we did, were our running partners during the week and our childcare traders on Saturdays. We watched their kids while they ran, and they watched Abel while we ran. I'm not sure how we could have pulled off the long runs without them. Tracey's sister Lora and our brother-in-law Rich were a big help on the longest days, when Brian and Becca were on vacation. Our neighbors and friends Jason and Lisa took care of Abel for us on short notice more than once, including Lisa coming over to sit when we made our crazy decision to set out on an 18-mile run at 9:15 p.m. Tracey's mom and dad were a huge help too, especially on race day. Our experienced runner friends were a big help, especially my sister Beth, who is an awesome distance runner and had lots of great tips and encouragement. And we will not forget all our friends who came out to the course to cheer us on—sometimes moving from one place to the next and waiting for us to pass. We're so grateful for all the great support we had throughout this whole experience. We have fantastic friends and a great family.

And now I can say it: I am a marathoner. Not many people can say, "I ran a marathon." I can say it. I ran a marathon. Not a fast one, but then, that wasn't ever the point! 26.2 miles is a long-ass way to run, even at 13 minutes per mile. And I did it.

The recovery has been better than most people suggested it would be. For a couple days, my right foot bothered me quite a lot. But other than that, it has just been stiffness in the legs and a bit of a limp when descending stairs. I'm writing this before bed on Wednesday night, and most of the pain is gone now. That said, if we had been running for time, I'm sure our bodies would have been wrecked even more.

Now for some photos, which our friend Scott Cranfill took with his phone:

Here's us just before we crossed the finish line. We were both pretty misty-eyed at this point.

And here we are with our training partners and our #1 fan, Abel!

This will be my last post here, but I'll leave the content up as a reminder for myself and an encouragement to other first-time marathoners. Keep your eyes on my old blog, POSTUS FREQUENTUS, for interesting content from me. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Week 16: The Last Week

The training is over. We ran 2 three-mile runs this week and added a three-mile walk. And tomorrow, we run the marathon.

I don't know what else to say, except that in 24 hours, Tracey and I will be marathoners.

If you'd like to come out and see the event or cheer us on, the course map can be seen here. We're figuring on roughly 12-minute miles, if you're inclined to try and see us running.

Look for a final Running 26 post sometime next week!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Week 16, Day 1

A nice cool three. Felt easy, my leg barely hurt (though it let me know it was there), and it wasn't hot. Here's hoping the weather report for Sunday is accurate:

Now that would be just about perfect. Five days to go! Who's coming out to the course to cheer us on?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Week 15 Wrap-up

After my five mile run detailed in the previous post, I ran another three and then a five. I was supposed to run eight miles on that Saturday, but I got behind on church work and couldn't squeeze it in. I don't feel too bad about that. My five-mile run was very hot and humid, though, and I began to get worried that the marathon weather would also be really hot. I'll be keeping an eye on the 10-day forecast, something I have never done before. (I may have mentioned that I trust meteorology to tell me the weather as it is in the present, with about 50% accuracy—and nothing more. But at least this gives me something to check every day.)

Monday, September 3, 2007

Week 15, Day 1

Distance: 3 miles

Weekly total: 3 miles

Overall total: 332 miles

Notes: Wow, it's really easy to run three miles, even if I eat nothing but crap the day before and run in the heat of the day with none of the usual pre-run preparation.

Tracey and I were noticing last night that our bodies are feeling stronger and less achy since we started tapering. Which of course is the point! But it's great to know it's working. We're getting excited for the big day!

Big Catch-up Post

Okay, here goes. When last we left our intrepid marathoners, they were preparing for their first 18-miler—week 12, day 3.

Week 12, Day 3:

Our first 18-mile run went really well! We dropped Abel at Aunt Lora's house and ran down to Shoen Place, where we picked up the canal. We ran the canal back to Genesee Valley Park, and ran up to Elmwood Ave. Then we ran over to East Ave., and we took that back to our starting point. It was a long, incredible run. Very little pain, and we finished pretty strong, very proud of ourselves. Then I went to the GRADA Ultimate playoffs and played in my team's second game of the day. But only a few points at half-speed. Fun times.

Week 13, 5-8-5-18:

Strangely, I have a lot more knee pain on the shorter runs than on the longer ones. The five and eight mile runs were much more painful than the 18 we did. Anyway, funny story about that 18. It was Friday night at about 8:30, and we were packing up our bottles and gels and things, preparing for the next day. I had been dreading the Saturday run all day Friday, because the forecast was for high 90s and humidity. As we were filling our bottles, Tracey said, "You know, if we could find someone to sit with Abel, we could go tonight." An idea so crazy it just might work, so we did it.

Turns out it was awfully hot and humid even at that hour of the night, and we were pretty miserable for the first few miles. Then we started to see heat lightning...then we heard some thunder...and suddenly, we were running through a good old-fashioned summer downpour. No complaints from us, though, because it cooled us right off and energized us. It stopped after about 20 minutes, but for the rest of the night, we could just smack a hanging tree branch to cool off under a shower of rainwater. All told, it was more difficult than the previous week's 18-miler, but boy, were we glad the next day when we could just sit inside in front of a maxed-out air conditioner instead of running for 3-4 hours.

Week 14, 5-8-5-9:

Ah, the taper begins! It's a pretty awesome feeling to be able to say, "Hey, we 'only' have to run 9 miles today!" Still having some knee pain. Well, I say knee, but it's really the muscle just above and inside the knee. Our physical therapist friend (a marathon veteran) has suggested I stretch more. Okay, if I have to...

Update on total mileage: 329. (I turned one of the eight-mile runs into a four-mile run because my schedule was really tight that day, and I was hurting pretty bad to boot.)

Two more weeks until the race! This week is a glorious 3-5-3-8, and next week is 3-3-3-26.2! We're almost there! Now's the time I start begging anyone reading to come see us on race day, September 16. And even better, if anyone wants to jump on the course to run a few miles with us toward the end, I'm sure we could use the boost!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Still running

In case anyone's wondering, I'm still running. I'll post a catch-up post soon. Our training peaked the last two weeks, and that kept us pretty busy.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Week 12, Day 3

Distance: 5 miles

Total for the week: 18 miles

Overall total so far: 270 miles

Notes: I ran out right after a fat dinner and my knee was killing me, so I had to stop for about a quarter mile a third of the way in. I was pretty down on myself about it, but then it just dawned on me that I was letting little crap bother me, and I decided to start running again. I worked on keeping my head up and smiling so that I would look as if I were having a good time (seriously, it works), and in short order I was cruising along again.

One funny thing is that I saw some people warming up to play what looked like a serious game of volleyball in Cobb's Hill Park, and I chuckled to myself, "I remember when I used to play actual sports that were actually fun." In a few weeks, that will be me again!

The first 18 happens on Saturday. It's the longest run of our training program. We do it twice. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Week 12, Day 2

Distance: 8 miles

Total for the week: 13 miles

Overall total so far: 265 miles

Notes: I was a little worried about my knee, but it didn't hold me back at all; I ran a very decent 9:15 pace for this eight miles, and I felt quite strong. (A little Ibuprofen works wonders.) Now I'm sitting here basking in some endorphins and icing my knee, looking forward to finishing this training program strong.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Week 12, Day 1

Distance: 5 miles

Total for the week: 5 miles

Overall total so far: 257 miles

Notes: Because of a scheduling fluke, Tracey and I got a rare opportunity to run a short course together. I had some annoying pain in my right knee, the kind of minor pain that I often feel at the beginning of a run and that usually works its way out after half a mile or so. This time, it hung with me the whole way. Hope it doesn't get any more serious.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Week 11, Days 2, 3, and 4

I have been pretty bad about recording my training runs for the past few weeks. I think I'm just numb to it at this point. I'm not really using the Nike+ iPod system much; I've found that I'd rather run with nothing strapped to my arm than record my pace and calories burned. It was a great incentive at first, and I still carry it in my pack on Saturdays, but I just can't be bothered on the shorter runs. Anyway, here is what happened at the end of last week.

Day 2 (Wednesday)

Distance: 4 miles

Total for the week: 9 miles

Overall total so far: 231 miles

Notes: This was scheduled to be an eight mile run, but I think I ran my legs out playing Ultimate on Tuesday—the game lasted forever, and I played a lot more points than I should have. I had some pretty significant pain above both knees on the Wednesday run, so I cut it short halfway. (I'm sure I ran the equivalent of four miles the day before.)

Day 3 (Thursday)

Distance: 5 miles

Total for the week: 14 miles

Overall total so far: 236 miles

Notes: A little lingering pain for this run, though not as bad as on the previous day. I was looking forward to a rest day by the end of it, though!

Day 4 (Saturday)

Distance: 16 miles

Total for the week: 30 miles

Overall total so far: 252 miles

Notes: The last sixteen-miler was the best! We spent the night in Buffalo on Friday at Tracey's parents' house. My mother-in-law and her father drove around during the week leading up and found us a great, flat course. Then, since we had built-in babysitting, we got up super early and left for our run at 5:45 a.m. We finished around the time we usually start! This was awesome because heat never became an issue. We are now seriously considering getting a waiver to start the marathon at 6:00 instead of 7:00. And we know that carrying plenty of gels means we are much less likely to hit the wall. That was a good lesson to have learned, even if it wasn't any fun.

Next week: 5-8-5-18. Two weeks of that, then the taper begins! We are almost there.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Week 11, Day 1

Distance: 5 miles

Total for the week: 5 miles

Overall total so far: 227 miles

Notes: Nice and easy.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Week 10, Day 4

Hey, wha-happened? Where's day 3? Well...I skipped it. Let's just say I had better things to do. And it's the only missed run in 10 weeks, so that's not too bad.

Distance: 16 miles

Total for the week: 29 miles

Overall total so far: 222 miles

Notes: This was so encouraging after our disaster last Saturday. We did two out-and-back runs in opposite directions from our campsite in Chautauqua. Four miles to the left, then back to the start, then four miles to the right, and back again. There was much scrambling and improvised bathroom breaks (I'll spare you the details), but we finished nice and strong. A much needed psychological boost for us! PowerBars are a convenient way to fuel up before a run when you don't have much time.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Week 10, Day 2

Distance: 8 miles

Total for the week: 13 miles

Overall total so far: 206 miles

Notes: The big 2-0-0. Eight miles all by myself. I felt strong and good.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Week 10, Day 1

Distance: 5 miles

Total for the week: 5 miles

Overall total so far: 198 miles

Notes: It felt good to be back on the roads after the horrible long run on Saturday. Our "short" runs are now five miles. The weekday runs are 5-8-5 until the taper.