A Runner’s Log: Marathon Edition

Wow oh wow those words still feel strange to say or type- I am a MARATHONER!!! I cannot believe I ran and finished a marathon. But this race report really doesn’t mean anything unless we start at the beginning, and no I don’t mean back to 2009 when I ran my first (untrained for) half marathon. Let’s start with the decision…

It was a rainy May afternoon…JK. It was in May, but I don’t remember the weather,  when I decided that I just needed to bite the bullet and register. Since I joined Seattle Green Lake Running Group, it’s kind of been on the back of my mind, that one day, I would run a marathon. My 2014 didn’t end on a very high note nor did my 2015 start on a very high note and I needed to set a goal for myself to help me get out of a “not-so-good” place. I started striving for a lifestyle known at Oola, which started in February and their concept focuses on setting goals, both short term and long term goals. They teach about balancing our lives to reach OOLA! And let’s face it when you end a year/start a new year on a really shitty note, there is nothing better for your soul then to focus on a goal that strives to keep you healthy and fit.

There had been quite a bit of chatter within the group about the “Fall Marathon Training” group and that many people were training for the Portland Marathon in October. 5 months away was plenty (more than plenty) of time to train for 26.2 miles. And the decision was made. I was alleady in training for the Seattle Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon, which was at the beginning of the training session and I had plenty of runs/races between that race and the actual marathon to keep me on track. So I did it. I registered for the Portland Marathon on October 4th, 2015.

Training was a long and exhausting 18-week program that ran throughout the summer. If you know Seattle, well the Pacific Northwest, then you know that we don’t get a very long summer, but our summers are BEAUTIFUL! The first few weeks were quite simple, nothing grueling…6-13.1 miles (Seattle RnR Half) for our long runs, which we did most every Saturday. Then Ragnar in July…then the true build up began. 15…16….18 milers, and that’s all at once. That wasn’t including the 3-7 miler runs during the week. Due to past knee issues and newly developing issues during training, by body really can only handle 3-4 runs a week so trying to keep on a building milage track was difficulty. Luckily I had an amazing uncle, who provided me with some guidance on maintaining leg strength and endurance without fully damaging my knees. It was hard to follow his long run schedule with additional 15+ mile bike rides but I was able to get 1-2 in along with hikes following the runs. There is nothing better during training then cross training! Plus, for 4-5 weeks, I was being seen by a chiropractor and physical therapist to keep my injuries and knee pain at a bare minimum (which worked). The 18 miler caused me foot pain, which disappeared within a couple weeks!

Before I knew it…the end of September was upon me and my race was a merely 4 days away and my mom was flying into Seattle! My mom, if you don’t know, has run many, many marathons and I knew she would be provide me with a plethora of information on race day to keep me positive and strong (I was right!). There was a little hiccup in our plans due to some unexpected medical concerns that arose with my dad (everything’s okay now), but she was still able to join me!

We headed down to Portland on Friday, where we headed to the expo for packet pick-up. Talk about reality hitting me solid on the forehead. Holding that bib, number 3981, in my hand made everything become more real. We spent a solid hour wandering the expo and getting some new apparel and goodies (including my 26.2 sticker for Misty, my car). What I didn’t realize, was Portland doesn’t give ‘participation’ t-shirts. You ACTUALLY have to finish the race to get your shirt- motivation at it’s finest!

We explored a little bit more of downtown Portland, but as it was nighttime, we didn’t really see too much. We grabbed a bit to eat including a beer and headed back to the hotel, which made us feel like we were in a European hotel/hostel! Once at the hotel, we proceeded to fix my bike with new tubes, as we were hoping my mom would be able to bike over to mile 20 for some support (didn’t work).

Saturday morning came quickly, but I managed to get a decent amount of rem sleep. This was the very important, two nights before the race, sleep that’s needed. I knew Portland had an amazing Saturday Market and it was the one thing I really wanted my mom to see before her time was over. What I didn’t realize was our distance to the Saturday Morning Farmers Market on Portland State’s campus. We were only two blocks away so before heading to the Saturday Market, we headed to the farmers market. It was an hour of wandering and I could tell my mom was fascinated. I don’t think Phoenix has anything in comparison to the farmers markets in the Pacific Northwest, though even I was blown away. It was off to the Saturday Market, which is mostly known for more arts and crafts vs. farmer style. We spent probably 3 hours exploring the market, where we got matching necklaces to mark our Mother-Daughter Adventure and I was able to finish my Christmas shopping!

We laid low for most of the afternoon to keep me off my feet and finalized all my gear/wardrobe. Let’s face it, I’m a female and I like known what I’m going to wear! My best friend Sydney drove down from Olympia to join me for this occasion and I feel so blessed to have a friend, who is so supportive of this milestone event. She comes from two parents, who are both runners, so she knows all the hard work i’ve put into this challenge and has provided me nothing but ongoing love and support. Talk about true friendship!

After she arrived, we jetted off to meet the other 50+ SGLRG racers, who are all in town for the race, at our pre race pasta dinner. It was quite the group of runner gathering in a semi small restaurant, but overall it was a great dinner. Shortly afterwards for some final prep work including day of race outfit set up and some K-Tape situation on both knees and right foot (thank you YouTube for the guidance).

The morning came more quickly than I would have hoped for, but I’ve came this far and there’s really no turning back now. I’m blessed to have been with my two support gals became they helped me with my morning routine including making breakfast and going over my check list. Before I knew it, I was dressed, laced up, backpack on, watch ready and we were out the door.

The race-day SGLRG photo occurred around the start/finish line of the race and then it was off to the corrals. I ended up staying with a friend of mine in her corral as to have a partner to run with for part of the race. Then…all of the sudden the race began. I ran with my friend Emily for the first three miles through downtown and were met by my mother and the SGLRG Support Team at miles 1.5 and 4, which included a slight incline and a massive overload of runners. It was fairly chilly in the morning, but quickly became warm and I was pulling layers off.

The first 6 miles went by without a glitch but coming into the 7th mile, the heat started to wear down on me. It was at this point that I was very happy with my decision to wear my 50mL water backpack because I could run through the water stations. It was also the flat out and back portion of the course so there were runners in ever direction. The coming back was directly into the sunlight and directly in the heat…but I was met at the end of this portion by my friend Sydney and just a little bit further until I saw my mom for the second time, who provided me with more K-Tape for the knees.

I was still feeling strong going into mile 13, but knew the worst was yet to come. I was running at a fairly decent pace but needed to through some walking moments in (possibly due to the heat). By the time mile 16 came, I just remember thinking…”Why am I doing this?” and then I looked up. Ahead of me was the dreaded St. John’s Bridge on-ramp/hill. It might not seem like it, but running UPHILL to get onto a bridge is just plain mean at 17 miles into a marathon. I proudly walk this sucker until the halfway point. It was at 18 miles that I continued to run again but could tell my body was not happy. My knees felt good, but my hips felt tight.

Through the neighborhood on the east side of Portland downhill, uphill for the next couple miles which required some walk/run intervals. The sun wasn’t letting up and just barreled down on me and the other runners this entire time, as there was NO cloud coverage.

I started getting that 20-mile slump and all I could remember was my friend Tom, who told me after my last 6 mile run to “think about how it felt, and keep telling that to your self at mile 20”, and that’s exactly what I tried to do. At this point however, my hips were in full lockdown mode and occasional shooting pain was sent down my left leg. But I kept going.

Between my family texting me to keep going and several friends doing the same, I felt so supported during my time of need. And then my lifesaver came to the rescue, my friend Dallas. Dallas is a friend from high school who resides in Portland and was at the 21 mile marker cheering me on. He happily joined me in my walk/run style (more like gimp) from 21-24 and just by him talking with me and supporting me meant more than these words could say. We came by the SGLRG Support Crew at mile 22, who provided me with a flat coca-cola. And I know what your thinking…sounds gross, but to me this was liquid gold.

We made it through to mile 24 when Dallas and I parted ways and I was on my way back over the river to downtown Portland, up a little hill might I add. Another lifesaver came to my rescue at 24-25 mile, my friend Jonny, who stood on a corner cheering me loudly and capturing the moment. I looked worn down but I was still smiling!

I continued to walk/run through the last mile and that’s when I saw it…the finish line corral. Lined with people screaming loudly and the last burst of energy I had came through and pushed me to run through to the finish line. I never did see my mom or Sydney at the finishline but tunnel vision was in full force. I crossed the line with a clock time of  5:30 something and a chip time at 5:17. I AM A MARATHONER. Crossing that finish, getting that medal placed around my neck, putting on the finisher jacket, getting my finisher coin and pendent and finally receiving that Porland Marathon 2015 Finisher long sleeve shirt was one of the greatest feelings ever. I continued to just proceed through the finish line corral to find my mother and friend. I could hardly stand up so I proceeded to locate a curb and SAT down. I know it probably isn’t the smartest idea to sit after running/walking 26.2 miles but my legs just couldn’t stand up any longer. I loved being at that finish line with my mom and friend and although we didn’t stay long after I finished, it was still a great feeling.

We headed back to the hotel so that I could place these recovery compression pants on that my father gave me to prevent cramping and stiffness. And boy oh boy were those pants the tightest pants I have ever worn. Shocking that my DAD can put them on, though the stories I’ve heard about how he gets them on…well let’s just say I was crying from laughing. Then it was FOOD. All I wanted to do was inhale a beer and burger, which is exactly what we proceeded to do.

We didn’t stay long after we ate and we parted ways with Sydney as we headed back north to Seattle. All and all, I’d say I had an amazing race report and although I’m not totally sure I’ll be running another one, I am happy to say that I am proud of this accomplishment and my finish time of 5:17!

A Runner’s Log: Ragnar NWP Worst Pace Scenarios

When I started running with Seattle Green Lake Running Group back in 2014, I honestly had no idea what my life would become. The amount of great friends and lifetime of memories that have came from this group are limitless, but this particular weekend topped my list- Ragnar Northwest Passage weekend.

Do you know what Ragnar Relay is? Well, let me explain. Ragnar is an overnight 2000ish running relay consisting of 12 team members broken into two separate vans. Each runner runs 3 legs ranging from 2-13 miles per leg totaling approximately 10-24 miles over the course of 24-36 hours (depending on how long it takes your team).

I was honored to be asked to join one of the SGLRG teams, Worst Pace Scenarios, which was voted the “Favorite Ragnar Team” by the group last year, for 2015 Ragnar Northwest Passage (NWP). This particular Ragnar adventure starts in Blaine, WA, which is as close to the Canadian border as you can get without crossing and ends in a town on Whidbey Island. The relay passes iconic sights highlighting the true nature of the Pacific Northwest, including the Cascade and Olympic Mountain ranges, Deception Pass, and the Puget Sounds, and has us running along rolling countrysides and through small towns.

I was a part of van 2, which basically means we started later in the day at the 1st major exchange and ran the last set of 6. Here’s the breakdown:

Van 1 (leg 1-6): Blaine to Bellingham- 33.2 miles

Van 2 (leg 7-12): Bellingham to Burlington- 29.7 miles

Van 1 (leg 13-18): Burlington to La Conner- 32.8 miles

Van 2 (leg 19-24): La Conner to Oak Harbor- 39.2 miles

Van 1 (leg 25-30): Oak Harbor to Coupeville- 24.2 miles

Van 2 (leg 31-36): Coupeville to Langley- 33.1 miles

Total: 192.2 miles

I ran leg 10, which was one of the easier legs only running a total of 10.9 miles total with legs at 3.10 miles, 2.0 miles and 5.8 miles. Now don’t get me wrong when I say “easier leg”. Ragnar is not for the weak hearted. Even though I may not have ran as much as the others in my van, I still had the same barriers. The HEAT for one thing. It was a scorcher during both our first legs and our last legs. Plus the second legs were ran between 11:30 PM and 4 AM. Not the easiest time of the night to run and the heat, oh the heat. I hadn’t ran in heat like that since I ran in high school track in Phoenix.

BUT, I survived as did the rest of my team and our results were quite amazing. Worst Pace Scenarios came in 12th in the Mixed Open division with a finisher time of 26:19:47.0 and finished 38th overall. Did I mention that their were 355 teams in the Mixed Open division and 543 total teams participating in Ragnar Northwest Passage. I’d say we did pretty good.

I knew several of the runners in Van 2 and I couldn’t imagine my first Ragnar experience without them. Although I may have been a little extrovert for them, I think they appreciated my outgoing nature and the 100s of pictures I was capturing during the runs. Plus, they were so supportive getting me through this race and I’m pretty sure 4 of the 5 of them have qualified for Boston. You can imagine how fast they ran but they never made me feel slow. That is true team work!!

I cannot wait until next year or maybe I won’t have to wait that long…Maybe Ragnar Del Sol in Arizona?!?!?!

A Runner’s Log: From Injury to Completing 13.1 Miles

When I came home from Mexico in April, I knew things were going to change. Mostly because over Christmas 2013, I decided it was time to sign up for another half marathon (read about it here), which was planned for June. I was doing some running before Mexico and continued to train through the half marathon but what I wasn’t expecting was to actually enjoy/fall in love with it. I ended up signing up for ANOTHER half marathon that was scheduled for end of October and ran 2 more 5Ks between August and October.

I use to hate running and these races kept me going…until one fateful weekend. It was Saturday morning and time for the Saturday Morning Rise and Shine run with Seattle Green Lake Running Group (SGLRG). I planned on running the 12 miler course that day and felt great along the way. I have 2 other runners keeping me in line and I was making great time. Of course this 12 miler ended up turning in to 14 miles and the last mile or two I started feeling a little soreness/pain in my left knee. For those of you who don’t know me very well then you probably don’t know about my lovely left knee injury. It includes 7 dislocations with 1 surgery at the age of 15.

I’ve been dealing with a little pain in my knee since then but this pain was something different and I knew something bad was going on. In hindsight, I probably should have stopped running when I felt pain but I kept going anyways. I learned a several days later (after 2 doctor visits, a PT consult and a MRI), that I was experiencing SEVERE patellar chrondromalcia a.k.a severe runner’s knee. This put a huge damper in my spirits right when I was getting into a good groove. I started eating WAY healthier, gave up drinking for a month, and was running 4-5 days a week. Now, I felt like I was back at square 1 and wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to run the Rock’n’Roll Vancouver Inaugural Half Marathon (I’ll write a separate post about it).

I stopped caring what I ate, began drinking socially again, and honestly thought all was lost. My doctor  did tell me I should be able to run the half marathon but it’d be painful. The race went from being a race I wanted to PR in to a race I didn’t even care to do. I even considered switching from the half marathon to the 10K. It was one of those things that I knew could have happened with running but still didn’t make it any easier.

I ended up going to Vancouver and it was at the expo that I decided it was time to shape up and run the race I set my heart out for…the HALF MARATHON. The goal however was to finish, no matter the time, no matter how I make it…I was crossing that finish line and getting that Inaugural Metal! Can you guess what happened?

I finished. I crossed that finishing line. I got the metal. AND I even beat my first ever half marathon time (2009) by 3 minutes while being injured and walking the last approximately 3-4 miles. I am stronger and fast than I’ve ever been before and I did it, pain and all. This would become my last race for 2014.

It’s been 8 weeks since that day and I’m happy to announce that I’m finally able to run again and am setting my goals high for 2015. I’m determined to beat my 5-race year (3 5Ks and 2 half marathons) by committing to running ONE race a month regardless of size (5K, 10K, 15K, halts). It doesn’t matter. I even am looking into signing up for my very first TRIATHLON. I don’t know exactly what 2015 will bring but I remain HOPEFUL! This knee injury took a lot out of me in the last 8 weeks and threw my entire life upside down, but I won’t let it defeat me. I need to let it drive me and push me to become something bigger and stronger. THIS IS IT.