Saturday, November 23, 2013

Richmond Marathon: Results & Reflections

Hard to believe it has been an entire week since the big day. For me, it seems like a complete dream and I'm still convinced that it didn't happen at all.

But photos, a worn out race bib, a medal, and results pages don't lie. It happened.

I already reported that I ran the marathon in 3:57:24, but I didn't share how the rest of my teammates fared. Needless to say, the Navy Team posse did great.

Lauren and Mark, my fellow Marathon Virgins, finished together and both scored sub-4's, a 3:58:19 and 3:58:18.

Greg finished in 4:05:50, shattering last year's time of 4:13:11.

Giles also smoked his 2012 performance. He finished in 3:57:52... taking off more than 25 minutes!

Kit, who ran the Marathon Corps Marathon a mere 3 weeks before Richmond, finished in 4:03:44.

Teresa, who also did Marine Corps and then had the bad luck to be sick with the stomach flu in the week leading up to Richmond, powered to a 4:04:21.

Finally, our Iron Woman, Allison, finished in 4:24:41. Considering she swam, biked, and ran 140 miles in October, I'd say she's not just iron, but also a super woman.

I can't express how very proud and happy I am of and for this group of people. And how very thankful I am to have had their company during this journey. I know for a fact without these amazing athletes, I wouldn't have had such a great first marathon.

As for myself, I finally took a closer look at my results and splits a few days after the marathon. More for my own edification than yours, here they are:


10k - 57:55
Half - 2:00:25
20 Mile - 3:02:43
Clock Time - 3:59:52
Chip - 3:57:24

Overall Place: 1,424/4,834 (top 30%... barely)
Gender Place: 436/2,342 (top 18%... whoa)
Division Place: 61 (Women 30-34)

I managed negative splits, which is exactly what I wanted to do. It was a bit scary to run slower at the beginning and then watch my half time be one of the longest halves I've ever done, but as my coaches and teammates promised, starting out slow was the way to go because I managed to have enough gas left in the tank during the last 6.2 to run 5 out of those 6 miles at a sub-9:00 pace.

But more important to me than the final time, splits, or placement is the fact that I can now call myself a marathoner. 

Barely one year ago, on November 12, 2012, I went for my very first post-injury run after being completely benched for two solid months. That outing could hardly be called a run, as per my instruction from BFF Steve, my 25 minutes on the vita course consisted one minute walking/running intervals and I covered just 1.75 miles.

Coming back from basically nothing, I cautiously but doggedly pursued a heavy spring race season and ended up with results better than I could have dreamed.

On June 1, the start of my marathon journey began with my first MTT run, at which I made a first impression I thought I'd never live down.

Luckily, I think I was able to shake my notoriety the pavement-surfing girl and ended up developing some amazing friendships over the next 6 months and hundreds of miles of running that ensued.

In the end, I ran 561.8 miles during the marathon training period using my crazy frankenstein plan that combined the 24-week MTT training schedule with the 16-week Run Less, Run Faster model. 

That's 228 whole miles less than the folks who followed MTT's recommendations to a T ran. My extra miles were picked up in biking - about 145 miles before I called it quits on the bike in September - and swimming (around 25 miles).

All of that got me to November 16, 2013 and fulfilling a dream that started many moons ago. In the end, although I wouldn't ever want to go through the incident-that-shall-not-be-named again, I'm glad that it happened. If it hadn't, I would have run my first marathon without having had the experience of the Marathon Training Team and I know that it would not have been as wonderful as it was. 

Now, I'm looking to the future. After all of this hard work, it seems silly to wait a whole year before running another marathon. So I may have kinda sorta signed up for the spring marathon training team organized by the Richmond Road Runners Club. It is a smaller and more informal group than SportsBackers MTT, but I am looking forward to maintaining my chops, logging more miles with friends old and new, and focusing on another marathon. Right now, it's looking like the Raleigh Rock N Roll is my next big goal.

Until then, I'm still basking in Richmond. Some day I'll try to stop writing about it. I promise.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Magic Marathon Part 2: Miles 17 through 26.2

And now for the hard part.

Miles 17-20
9:21; 8:56; 8:44; 9:07

Main Street is where our little group fell apart. We were reaching the every-man-for-himself stage of the marathon. Lauren, Mark, and myself - the three newbies of our little band of musketeers - were still hanging together through this portion of the race. I knew that Teresa had dropped back at the bridge and had considered stopping at that point... I was still worried about her but knew that there would be a Coach to take care of her. I tried to let my guilt and worry go, but was feeling sad that she wasn't with me anymore.

And then somewhere along Main we lost Greg and then Kit. When I realized this, I had a tiny moment of panic. 

Greg has been with me through this journey from the beginning. He came and did my lame 30-seconds-running, 30-seconds-walking first "run" after the incident-that-shall-not-be-named, and continued to stick with me in endless laps around runners' purgatory (otherwise known at the Byrd Park Vita Course). We ran three amazing PR races in the spring - the Shamrock Half, the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, and the Monument Avenue 10k. I couldn't imagine finishing this marathon with out him.

And then there is Kit, who I had half-jokingly called my Sensei throughout the training cycle.  He is the quiet strength of our group, who finds just the right time to impart wisdom or the perfect "That's what she said!" joke. He never complains and always finds the joy in the run, even when we are miserable. How was I possibly going to finish this race without the steady, reassuring presence of Kit?

Just then, Coach Shawn appeared and jumped in. 

"Kathryn, are you even sweating??" he asked, in disbelief.

"I don't know.. maybe?" I said. "Or maybe it's just rain, I can't tell at this point!"

He asked me how I felt and told me that if I just kept doing what I was doing, I was going to rock this. Somewhere along Main Street, I spotted Bart Yasso again and got a high five from the man himself. And I reminded myself that Lauren, Mark and I were still together. The three Marathon Virgins would get each other through the unknown.

Mental anxiety conquered, I was ready to finish this thing.

Physically, I still felt strong. I knew that the hardest part of the course (terrain-wise) was over and to me, that meant we were home free. A crazy thought at this stage in a marathon, I know. 

Shawn left us as we turned right on to Boulevard and I became the official optimist of what remained of the group. "This is our town, you guys. This our hood. We have done this so many times... if we just keep this up, we will all get that sub 4 today."

To this point, I had not had a single moment of feeling physically bad. Not feeling the greatest, sure. But bad? Not once. That all changed when we hit the dreaded overpass.

On the Boulevard just south of Sports Backers stadium, there is an overpass with a very steep incline. Many many many of our MTT runs incorporate this dreaded overpass, usually at the end of the run. It becomes your worst enemy and your savior - you know that as soon as you go over it, you are home... but getting over it at the end of a long run is not pleasant. 

One of the rules of Team Navy is that you don't ever walk on the overpass. That rule exists because of this precise moment in the Marathon. You come to it during mile 19 and at that point, all you want to do is go home and be finished. 

But on Marathon Day, the Stadium is not home. 

On Marathon Day, there are still 7 miles or so to go. 

Mark, Lauren, and I attacked the overpass and as we reached the summit, my legs suddenly felt incredibly heavy and I was out of breath for the first time. Until then, my cardio had been fine. I had never been so much as breathing heavily. But as I dragged myself past the familiar turn off to "home" at Sports Backers stadium, I had my only miserable moment. I felt tired... and I still had so far to go. 

But then, something very lucky happened. To my right, I saw the back of the head of one of my co-workers. My brain was so dead at this moment that I couldn't summon her name. "Hey! Hey...!" I called, and then suddenly it came to me, "Claire! Hey Claire!" I yelled and she turned and immediately recognized me.

"Kathryn! Hey!!"

We then exchanged small talk. During mile 19 of a marathon. She explained that she wasn't running the race but had just jumped in to help her friend (another MTT runner, actually) for a few miles. Our little chat was a welcome break for my brain, and made me forget all about that sudden overwhelming feeling of exhaustion that I had experienced after the overpass. As I pulled away, she said, "Good luck! You look so strong!"

At mile 20, I had been running for 3:02:43. 

In my addled brain, I thought to myself, "Holy crap, I can run 10 minute miles for the rest of this and still get the sub 4!" 

I was wrong, but my bad math took a load off of my mind. 

I had this.

Miles 20-23
9:07; 8:56; 8:53; 8:47

Claire's words carried me through the Northside of Richmond, along with the promise of seeing Marcey, who I knew was stationed somewhere along the street between mile 20 and 23.

As Lauren, Mark, and I approached the familiar Pope Arch, I was once again the cheerleader. 

"This is OUR arch you guys. OUR neighborhood. We've GOT THIS. 10k to go - that's NOTHING!" I said.

During this entire stretch, all of my concentration was going to finding Marcey. It was the perfect distraction because although I wasn't feeling bad, I wasn't feeling great either. Despite my big talk, this was the part I had been most scared of - the uncharted territory. The last 10k is where people fall apart. Where they throw up, where they poop themselves, where they break. 

Where they hit the wall.

I kept waiting for it. As far I was concerned, it was inevitable that I was going to hit it... I just didn't know when. Us Marathon Virgins had been warned about the wall so many times. We had been told that it was going to hurt and that it was going to suck. Stories of perfectly pleasant people turning into cursing angry runners during the last 10k were shared multiple times. Our coaches told us to just keep the finish in mind as we suffered.

I had no reason to think this wasn't going to happen to me too. After all, this was my first marathon and to be honest, I'm not exactly the poster child for good fueling strategies. Thus far, I had done pretty well with hydration - I took water or Powerade at every aid station (every even mile marker) and despite not stopping or walking, managed to get most of it ingested... well except for at Mile 20 when I accidentally inhaled some Powerade. (NOT advisable, by the way.) 

But for fuel, all I had consumed were some candy corn kernels and maybe 8 mini pretzels. I had tried a Gu during a training run at mile 16 and it felt like it was stuck in my throat for the rest of the run. Not for me. Since then, all I had used during our training were pretzels and Mike & Ikes provided at SAGs. Though it had worked during training, I had my doubts that it would get me through the last 6.2 miles... but I was also too afraid to try something different. 

Adding to my anxiety was my back. Despite taking it easy, stretching, and using heat therapy during the days leading up to the marathon, the pain in the lower left quadrant of my back never went away. Kit asked me back at mile 4 or so about how it felt. I just said that it hurt and I was trying not to think about it. He said he wouldn't ask me again. I had managed to put it out of my mind but as miles 21 and 22 dragged on, my left glute and hamstring had started to make themselves known, along with my back. Ignoring it was becoming more difficult.

So there I was, waiting for the elusive wall to smack me in the face at any moment, but thankfully distracted with the task of finding Marcey among the spectators. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity but was really only 2 miles, I saw her at the intersection of Faquier and Brook Road just past mile 22. As soon as I realized it was her, I started to cry. It was happiness, relief, and also for some reason it dawned on me at that moment that I was really going to do it... I was going to finish this marathon. 

Having done my incorrect math back at mile 20, I felt like I could stop and hug Marcey without risking missing out on my sub-4 goal. And hug her I did... in fact, I had a hard time letting go and she was saying "Go, KBP, Go! You gotta go!" I don't remember what I said; something to the affect of "Marcey, I'm doing this! I'm going to do it! I love you! Thank you! I love you!"

Marcey's awesome sign. My initials along with
a no-pooping message (by request). Perfect!

As I tore myself away from Marcey, still crying, I caught Lauren and Mark again. That moment had given me some pep in my step. Then Lauren said, "Hey, isn't that Giles?"

And I'll be damned... it was. Giles had gotten ahead of us way back during Mile 11 and I had definitely not expected to see him again. But, just as we had planned, after the Lee Bridge we had been able to make up some time with a few sub-9:00 miles and sure enough, there he was.

Energized and starting to feel the rush of the imminent finish of the race, I yelled, "Hey Giles! I'm coming for you, man!"

He looked over his shoulder recognized me, and said, "Come on!" with the usual Giles smile... and I hit the gas. When I pulled up along side him, I could hardly believe it. He looked so strong still, as he always does. How was it possible that I was running alongside Giles, our rabbit, at mile 23?? 

Where in the heck was the wall?

Miles 24 - 26.2
8:43; 8:43; 8:37; 3:04

Giles and I ran together for a tiny bit and then suddenly he was saying to me, "Stay strong, Kathryn. Have a great finish!" and I was ahead of him.

I still have no idea how that happened. First timer's dumb luck is all I can chalk it up to.

So now, it was just me. This was not at all how I had pictured the end of the this marathon. In my mind it had always been the little band of Navy Team musketeers pushing each other til the end. This had all been a pipe dream because the reality of that happening was pretty slim to none. I accepted that I was going to have to run the last bit on my own, knowing that I would see my friends at the finish line soon.

Mile 24 and 25 felt so long. Knowing that our coaches were somewhere along this stretch, I once again was grateful for the distraction of searching for them in the crowd. Suddenly I spotted Coach Val, who jumped in with me for a minute and told me that I looked amazing. I said, "Giles, Mark and Lauren are right here with me!" so she told me to finish strong then dropped back to find them.

Grace Street has never felt longer, I promise you. But victory was in my grasp and I found my second wind. There wasn't going to be any wall today. I was going to finish this marathon. I was going to get a sub-4. And I was going to look strong doing it. I found it within myself to pick up the pace.

Somewhere along Grace Street (I think) ~Mile 24
Don't worry MarathonFoto, I'll be blowing lots
of money on these pictures soon enough.
I spotted another running friend, Theresa, along Grace cheering on runners. I knew she had been part of an elite training team for the half and so I yelled to get her attention and asked how her race went. She rocked it, of course, because she is an amazing athlete. I congratulated her, she told me to run beautiful, and then she went to look for Greg to help him through the last bit.

We crossed Belvidere. This was it. Mile 25! And then there was my Dad and my brother! This time I stopped to hug them. Then there was Aunt Sue! And then finally, my Mom, taking a video and screaming like a nut. Of course I screamed back. This is when the real joy set in for me. Not only was this marathon real, but I was really kicking its butt.


My next landmark was Penny Lane Pub at the corner of Franklin and 5th Street. It's a favorite haunt of mine,  and during the marathon it also happens to be mile 26. I knew my in-laws would be there to give me one last boost of energy as I rounded that corner and began the downhill to the finish. As I approached, at first I couldn't spot them, but then there they were screaming their heads off!

My sister-in-law snapped this photo, which says it all:

I've got this!

To my shock she jumped in with me and started jogging along beside me. "How long do we have to go??" she asked. "A quarter mile down hill!"

"I'm out!" she laughed and peeled off, letting me do the running.

As I continued toward the finish I spotted Husband and Sheila again. Both started running along with me. I couldn't believe it was happening. I was smiling so hard that my face felt like it was breaking. It was all slow motion. Just like a movie.

When the race clock came into focus over the finish line, it read 3:59:20. In my mind, I knew that we had been at least 3 minutes ahead of the clock at every split. This led to the realization that not only was I going to sub-4, it was going to be not by a few seconds, but maybe by a few minutes.

I probably could have done the crazy fast finish down that hill, but I held back. I was still kind of afraid of loosing my legs and tumbling over the finish. I knew I had made my goal... no reason to get nuts. Instead I just coasted toward the line, smiling big and soaking in every second of the end of my first marathon.

I distinctly remember the guy in orange putting his arms up
and thinking to myself,"Oh yeah, I should do victory arms now!"

As I crossed under the clock, it read 3:59:50-something and then the tears started. Immediately after crossing, there was Bart Yasso again on my right. Of course I got another high five from him. After that, I looked at my Garmin.


I had done it. I started crying and smiling all at the same time and over the loud speaker I could hear the announcer say my name wrong, then correct himself, and then he said it a third time. "Kathryn Pullam, wherever you are, your friend really wants me to get your attention. Can you hear me Kathryn?"

I started waving my arms frantically and then spotted Sheila, who was leaning against the barrier and crying too. She was screaming, "I'm so proud of you!"

I tried to hang around the finish line (being a bad girl I know) because I just knew that Giles, Mark, and Lauren could not have been far behind me. Giles crossed first, just 29 seconds after I did. I hobbled over and gave him a big sweaty hug and then the race officials started to yell at us to keep moving, so even though I wanted to wait for my friends I behaved myself and made my way through the chute, collecting my medal and finishers blanket along the way. Sheila and Husband followed alongside on the other side of the barrier snapping photos.

At the end of the chute I got my hugs from Husband and Sheila, then my in-laws who arrived shortly thereafter. I delayed moving across the footbridge to the finisher area because I was still desperately searching for my posse. Just a few days later I can't remember how we all came to be together again, but at some point I know I spotted Kit and gave him a giant sweaty hug, along with Greg. And then there was Teresa! I had no idea that she had stayed in the race and seeing her come through that chute was the most wonderful surprise.

Once again we were getting yelled at by race officials to move on, so we begrudgingly made our way toward the finisher island (for lack of a better word). Along the way a photographer grabbed T and I and asked if we wanted our picture taken. Of course! (Duh!)

Please note that we somehow were
assigned consecutive race numbers.
We were obviously meant to be.
More celebratory photos followed along with obtaining some post-marathon pizza (so what if I got 2 slices...) and my Finisher pullover (so what if I had already purchased the pink pullover at the expo on Thursday?)...

Best. Spectator shirt. EVER.

<3 this girl.

Pizza is yummy.

After milling about on the island for a little bit I started to get very cold, so we headed back to the hotel, where my whole family was waiting. I had wanted to wait to try to see one of the coaches and more of the Navy Team members, but I didn't want to keep my fan club out in the cold any longer.

Back at the hotel, everyone just kept saying that they had been astonished with how great I looked at mile 25. This was the first time any of them had seen me at a race, so they didn't know what to expect. As they waited for me to arrive, they said they had seen many runners who were really struggling and therefore had prepared themselves for seeing me looking pretty bad. Apparently when I came "sailing by" (their words, not mine!) they were all shocked by my appearance. Mom showed me the video she took and I was also floored at how effortless my stride looked at that point. It sure hadn't felt that way.

I spent a while on the floor with the foam roller, concentrating on my back and glutes which were really the only things bothering me. After a shower I tried in vain to take a nap, but I still had so much adrenaline that it just wasn't going to happen. So instead I cleaned up the hotel suite (cause that's what everybody does after running a marathon, right?) and got ready for our dinner reservation at Stella's.

Can we eat now?
I don't have much to say about Stella's other than it was the absolute perfect ending to a perfect day. Our group of 14 was half of the restaurant, which was crammed full of happy diners, and our waiter was my favorite waiter. Greg, Kit, and Teresa joined in on the smorgasbord and my Uncle made a toast to the marathoners. Everything was absolutely delectable and selfishly, I loved being surrounded with the people who mean the most to me - my family and friends.

I love this photo of Greg eying his Stella's Filet.
Don't get between a marathoner and his dinner.

I also got the Filet. It was spectacular.
(Along with a ton of other food.)

The Marathoners.
Why did I call this the Magic Marathon?

Because I loved every minute of it.

There wasn't a second when I thought to myself, "Why am I doing this? This is terrible. What was I thinking? I'm never doing this again!"

I'm not sure why it happened that way. Like I said, I kept waiting for the wall and the misery... but they never arrived. Guess they didn't get an invitation to my marathon party.

Really I just feel lucky that my first experience was so wonderful. The only thing that would have made it perfect was if we had all been together at the Finish, but let's be honest... that's just splitting hairs at this point. I didn't get tired. I didn't poop myself or puke. I could have sung a song at any point. I had my posse with me for almost the whole thing. I had the most amazing support along the way from my friends and family, who I can't thank enough for suffering through the drizzly morning. I got THREE high 5s from Bart Yasso.

I finished in under four hours.

Perhaps most importantly, I smiled through the whole race. In looking through my official photos, I have a huge smile in every single one. It is pretty ridiculous and almost embarassing.

It was truly a magical experience.

So... when is the next one?

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Magic Marathon Part 1: Miles 1 through 16

It is Sunday, November 17. As I sit down to write this, I am officially a marathoner.

And more than anything, it's still completely surreal.

Bear with me as I attempt to get the experience put into words. First, I'm going to try to just recall the nitty gritty part - the race itself, in two parts because you know me... I'm long winded.


After somehow managing to get 8 hours of sleep, I woke up at 6:15 am in our hotel in downtown Richmond. Just 3 blocks from the start, I could hear other runners participating in the earlier races (8k and half marathon) making their way to the starting area. I peeked out the window and was greeted with my worst nightmare: rain.

Instead of freaking out, I put it out of my mind as I got ready. For the first time in my life, I used Body Glide and then put on the outfit I had painstakingly picked out after much waffling and conferring with others.

Toe to Head:
Brooks Ghost 6
ProCompression Marathon Socks
Lululemon Dart and Dash Shorts
Lululemon Track and Train Tank
SPI Belt
This was my mantra and source of inspiration for the day.

Around 6:30, the room phone rang. It was Greg, who came up to stay dry and warm. I ate my traditional 1/2 a PB&J sandwich on whole wheat and insisted the Greg eat a mini-bagel from my stash after he told me he hadn't eaten anything. We turned on the Weather Channel to try to gauge if and when the rain would stop. From what we could tell, it was a small-ish blob of rain that should have been gone by the time our race started.

The MTT teams were supposed to meet at the State Capitol Building steps at 7 am for a group photo. At 6:50 am, Greg and I peeked outside. It was downright POURING rain. I said, "Um, I love MTT and all, but there is no way in hell I'm going out there and getting myself drenched just for a photo." Greg agreed and we stayed inside until just after 7, when the rain let up. But first, we put on our so-very-stylish rain gear, just in case.

I picked the ugliest possible throw away sweat shirt so
I wouldn't feel guilty about getting rid of it.
Pretty darn ugly, isn't it?
We got to the Capitol and found our fellow MTT members milling about. The plan for our Team Navy pace group had been to meet up for the big MTT photo and then stick together until we got to the corral. First we found Kit, then Teresa, and eventually Lauren, Mark, Will, Giles, Marie, and Allison. 

Me, Teresa, Lauren, and Allison (an Iron Woman, by the way!)
Kit took this photo and captioned it, "I fell in with some fast women."
Love it.
By now it was about 7:20 and we needed to get a move on, so as a group we made our way to bag check. Those of us without bags tried to stay centrally located while everyone else went to drop theirs off. Keeping the group together at this point was a bit like herding cats... plus it had started to rain again. Next we wanted to hit up the porties, but Marie shared a super secret bathroom location that we went to instead (not sharing here because then it wouldn't be super secret anymore!). It was a heavenly spot - a real bathroom that was warm, dry, clean, and had running water. We even took the opportunity (or at least I did) to dry our shoes off with the insane Dyson super-velocity hand dryers.

Now it was time to move to our corral. I hadn't looked at my watch at all so had absolutely no concept of the time. We worked out way as close to the 4:00:00 pace group as we could, did a head count, and found Coach Shawn just as the National Anthem started.

After what seemed like the longest, slowest rendition of the National Anthem ever, the announcer said 1 minute to go. "What????" I said. "How can it be time already???" But sure enough, it was go time. 

I was running a marathon, whether I was ready or not. 

Miles 1-8 
9:30; 9:19; 9:14; 9:09; 9:15: 9:06: 8:48; 9:08

This is what I will call the "jolly" part of the marathon. Coach Shawn ran the first two miles with us. He was absolutely determined that we wouldn't start out too fast. The rain had let up just before the start, but as we made our way down Broad Street, it started to absolutely pour again. To be honest, I barely noticed. In fact, until we reached mile 4, it didn't even feel like the marathon. It felt like any other training run - just what I had hoped for. In fact, I had to keep reminding myself that I was running a marathon. 

Teresa was officially designated as the Pace Police, and she kept us on track as we made our way down familiar streets. The crowd of runners was still thick at this point, but we all stuck together easily. The first water stop threw us for a bit of a loop because there were volunteers handing out on both sides, but we regrouped quickly. 

I don't remember much about these miles, except that it all felt surreal. The rain let up at some point - probably around mile 4 but honestly I can't be sure. Keeping Coach Shawn's advice in mind, we all took water or Powerade at every aid station and regrouped afterwards. We thanked the policemen and women who were along the course blocking roads. We laughed at signs (one of personal favorites being "If running a marathon was easy it would be called your mom!"). I got a high 5 from Bart Yasso somewhere around mile 5. 

Our 10k split was 57:55. We were doing well with not pushing it too hard... yet.

Giles and I marveled at the calves of a runner in front of us during the downhill of miles 6/7 - they were so huge and impressive that we just couldn't get over it. I found it kind of disturbing, actually. "That's what she said!" jokes were flowing freely. As we crossed the Huguenot Bridge during mile 7, we picked up a fellow MTT member from Team Cocoa - Heather - who joined in on our dirty jokes and stuck with us for the next part of the course.

Mentally, I don't even know what I was thinking at this point. I think that I wasn't thinking! Others were talking about what was to come and how we needed to save ourselves for Riverside Drive and Scottsview, both hilly parts of the course. I kept telling them to be quiet and just live in the moment. Let's not worry about Riverside, Scottsview, or the Lee Bridge until we get to them. 

Basically, we were all just having a great time.

Miles 8-16
9:08; 8:55; 8:59; 9:16; 9:00; 9:06; 8:52; 8:54; 9:03

Ah, Riverside Drive. This is probably the most gorgeous part of the course, and as we made our way along the James, our spirits were high. The group was still together - me, Giles, Kit, Teresa, Greg, Lauren, Mark, Allison, and Heather. It was slightly misting, but that was ok - it was kind of warm out and the misty rain felt good. I broke open my bag of fuel - pretzels and candy corn - and had a bit of each. Greg took off his shirt (a funny tradition) somewhere along the way and the dirty jokes flew freely.

I was feeling very happy until we ascended Scottsview (the dreaded hill, which didn't bother me much) and came up onto Forest Hill Avenue. Even during training runs, this was not my most favorite street. I'm not sure what it is about Forest Hill Avenue, but I just hate it.

It was during the long slog on Forest Hill (miles 11-15) that I knew that Teresa wasn't feeling good. She was not her normal chatty, bubbly self at all. I was worried about her, mainly because I knew she had a stomach bug earlier in the week and was just over coming it. Oh yeah, and she had also just totally rocked the Marine Corps Marathon a mere 3 weeks before. I pulled up alongside her to ask her how she felt and the news wasn't good. I felt partially responsible for her misery... Teresa has been one of my rocks during the training cycle and I knew that part of the reason she was running the full that day was to help me with my first marathon. To put it plainly, I was worried about her.

At this point, the group started to string out a bit. Giles pulled ahead (as Giles normally does - he is the fastest of our little group and we are the greyhounds to his rabbit), Teresa and Allison dropped back. Allison had done her full Ironman in October and, having already achieved her goal for the season, was running for fun. We lost Heather somewhere along the way.

When we crossed the 13.1 mark, the core group was me, Mark, Greg,Lauren and Kit with Teresa not far behind. We were at 2:02:25. Still on target, but knowing that after we conquered the Lee Bridge, we'd need to pick it up a bit if we were going to sub-4.

Not long after, we passed a some folks handing out Sugar Shack donuts, which I happily grabbed and scarfed down.

Finally, at mile 15, we hit the Lee Bridge. In the minds of many, the Lee Bridge is the true half way point in the Richmond Marathon. It signals the end of the most difficult part of the course, and is itself a mindf*ck all the same. First, it is a long bridge - you officially cross on to it just after mile 15 and you hit mile 16 just as you come off the other side. Second, the finishing area can be seen from the bridge if you look to your right. Third, after you beat the bridge, you have to run uphill until you finally make the left onto Main Street.

As we stepped onto it, I said, "You guys, we are going to make this bridge our bitch." I was determined to not let this portion of the course mess with my mind. I still felt pretty good and I also knew that there were a few carrots waiting for me at the end - one being that Coach Shawn was going to be waiting for us, and two being that I knew that Husband and my great friend Sheila were going to be waiting for me on the other side of it. The final carrot was that I knew once I had conquered Lee Bridge and the incline afterwards, it was pretty much a flat 10 miles to go.

We beat the bridge and I immediately started scanning the crowd, searching for Husband and Sheila. Finally I spotted them just after the Mile 16 water stop. Frantic screaming and yelling, then I just kept going. As I approached Main Street, suddenly there was my Dad! And my Mom and my Brother! And then my Aunt and my Uncle! I had no idea there were going to be there and to see them at the moment was a wonderful surprise. Then Lauren spotted her family as we rounded the corner to Main - and then our faithful MTT photographer Mark was there, taking photos as always.

It felt beautiful.

Shawn wasn't at the bridge after all, but Coach Ed was. He jumped in with and asked me how I was doing. "I feel great!" I said. His response, "Kathryn, you are way too energetic for Mile 16 of your first marathon! You should be miserable! I expect to see some misery when I see you again at Mile 25." My response: "Ok Coach, I'll order some misery for Mile 25, just for you."

Friday, November 15, 2013

Marathon Strategy Part 2: The Race

Here we are.... Marathon Eve.

I am bouncing off the walls. Maybe writing a blog entry will calm me down?

Strategy 1: Get Inspired
This morning, I went to downtown Richmond to participate in Bart Yasso's pre-race Shake Out Run, which was pretty darn awesome and got me super pumped.

Bart is the CRO (Chief Running Officer) of Runner's World Magazine and basically has the best job on the face of the planet: he gets to travel all around the world meeting, inspiring, and running with people everywhere. Pretty darn awesome. Last night he came to the MTT Pasta Dinner and regaled us with some tales of his adventures. I bought his book and got it autographed because I'm geeky like that.

I'm sure he writes this in everyone's book, but this one is
MINE so I think it is fabulous.
Strategy 2: Just another long run.

Basically, I'm just trying to think of tomorrow as another long run with the Team... just with a lot more people running... and a lot of people watching... and 6.2 miles longer than I've ever run before.

This will be made easier by the fact that a group of us has vowed to start together and hang as long as we can. Of course there is the understanding that in the end it is every man for him or herself, but I'm really hoping we all have a great day and at least some of us make it through the entire marathon and cross that line together.

Additionally, I am wearing an outfit that has already been 20-miler tested and I am taking a small bag of pretzels and candy corn along as my fuel (things that we have been consuming at MTT SAGs all season).

Just another long run.

Strategy 3: Do not go out too fast.

This is the #1 thing that I have heard 57542592420 times from the veterans. I know how easy it is to go out too fast. Luckily in most of the races I have done, I've been able to reign myself in and take it easy the first few miles. Tomorrow, there will be about 8-10 of us all starting together and all making sure that we don't take off like bats out of hell. With that many Pace Police, I think we'll be ok.

Strategy 4: Have fun.

I want to cross the line with a smile on my face, no matter what the clock says. This has been one of the greatest journeys of my life and I want to savor ever minute... aches and pains and all.


Those are my four strategies, so now I suppose I should tell you my goal(s).

Being my first marathon, I'm supposed to say that my goal is just to finish. So,

Goal A: Finish... ideally on my feet. 

One of  my biggest fears is that I will have nothing left in me at the very end and I will end up going tumbling across the finish line at the bottom of that hill. So, not only do I want to finish, I want to finish upright.

But me being me, I have a secondary goal.

Goal B: Sub 4:00:00

Yes, I know it's really putting it out there to state this in public, but I'm going to do it. If I don't get the sub 4 I won't be devastated, but if I do manage it, I will be over the moon. Based on my two twenty milers, I think it is within my reach as long as tomorrow goes smoothly.

Goal C: Beat Sarah Palin, who ran a 3:59:36

Because ya know, what runner doesn't  want to say they beat Sarah Palin?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Marathon Strategy Part 1: Getting to the Start

Months of training are behind me and now all that remains is getting myself successfully to the start line by using the next few days to prepare for the crazy thing I'm about to do.

There is an overwhelming amount of advice and strategy out there regarding what to do in the week leading up to a race. I'm trying to just keep it simple and not stray too far from my usual behavior, which is what has gotten me to this point.

1. Don't get sick or hurt.

Airborne is my best friend. I think it's 90% psychological, but I take one chewable a day and have been doing so for a week. I've become one of those crazy hand washing people. Also, if you're sick I'm terribly sorry but I'm not interested in hanging out with you this week.

After hearing all manner of horror stories from my MTT coaches about the calamities that have met past runners, I kind of want to live in a protective bubble this week. These included a girl who thought it would be fun to try to go down an escalator backwards and ended up breaking her ankle and a woman who was cooking and dropped a heavy mixing bowl on her foot, breaking it. Both incidents happened during taper week. Needless to say, I'm trying to be extra cautious... and staying away from escalators.

Finally, I am being a good girl and following the taper plan to the T. No extra miles and no cross training. This isn't proving to be too difficult for me, as I am completely exhausted for no apparent reason. I thought  I was supposed to be bouncing off the walls with excess energy this week, but I'm having the opposite problem and just want to sleep, which is slightly worrying.

2. Hydrate like a boss.

My Camel Bak is my best friend this week and I'm completely refraining from alcohol, though not giving up my coffee.

It's unfortunate that the result of my hydrating is 5485420 trips to the bathroom, which is upstairs at work. I'm probably ruining my legs going up and down the stairs 5485420 times a day!

3. Rest up.

Coach Ed told us all that it's pretty likely that we won't sleep very much the night before the marathon, so it's a good idea to try to get good sleep the rest of the week. Since I've been inexplicably exhausted, this hasn't been much of a problem for me thus far.

4. Beginning 72 hours out, focus on carbs and protein.

I've plotted out my carb loading, which is something that I very strangely have not been looking forward to. Marathon training has had the opposite effect on my diet from most people, I think. Instead of eating more carbs than before, I have been eating less, for the most part. The prospect of making 70% of my food intake simple carbs for 72 hours is daunting.

My plan is pretty simple: pasta, pasta, steak & baked potato, and more pasta. I've also stocked up runner-friendly snacks like hard boiled eggs and almonds.

5. Minimize stress.

I'm picking up my bib number and race packet on Thursday on the first day of the expo.

I took off from work on Friday so I can spend the day resting and fueling properly.

Finally, months ago I booked a hotel room just 3 blocks from the race start. My dirty little secret is that I don't live in Richmond proper, but 45 minutes away. Race day arrival is always one of the most stressful parts of any race, so I wanted to eliminate that stress completely. Hence the hotel room. For me, race day arrival will consist of rolling out of bed, getting dressed, and hanging out in the warmth of my hotel room before meeting up with Team Navy and walking to the start.

6. Don't forget anything.

As a Planny McPlannerston, lists have also been something that I love. Naturally, I am making a packing list of everything that I need for the morning of the race, the race itself, for the bag that Husband will be responsible for having at the finish, and for the first hours post-race (which will be spent in Richmond).

Is it weird that I have an entire bag of food packed for the less-than-24-hours I'll be in the hotel?

7. Don't freak out.

Any advice on how to not do this?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Richmond Marathon Training Take 2 - Week 23

Here it is, my last full week of training.

3 runs for 19.7 miles
1 mile swim

Running miles logged so far: 550.7

Training highlights:

  • Wednesday's run was, without a doubt, the most wonderful outing of the entire training cycle. I still get goosebumps when I think about it.

Training lowlights:
  • Saturday was the last training run with my MTT teammates. Making matters even worse, poor Theresa was feeling under the weather and couldn't make it. The run itself turned out to be a good one, but it was definitely bittersweet. For the record, it DID take me longer to figure out the route than it took us to run it... we did 8 miles in a blazing 1:04 minutes; I worked on figuring out the route for half the day. And I didn't even get all of it right.

  • I've been having on and off back pain for about a month now. It's the lower left quadrant of my back and it has been a kind of nagging thing for a long time (from before I became a crazy runner). It was doing better since we got into November but then flared up big time on Friday. Because I don't have anything else to blame, I'm going to say that it is swimming that is causing it and therefore I am finished with swimming until after the marathon.

Gold star of the week:
  • Greg, for coming up with Wednesday's spectacular route.

So... plans for the upcoming week are pretty simple. 

Don't freak out.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Very Funny, MTT

Our last group training run of the season is tomorrow. I'm trying really hard to not think about it because it makes me really, really sad.

Anyhow, the last run is a "surprise/adventure/costume" run. I just visited the website to print the route.

Here's what I am greeted with:

Final Group Run

At Boulevard, go toward the James River
Turn left at the street with the same name as a famous palace in London
Right on a street named after the related monument on Monument Avenue
Left on a street with the same name as a line of British Monarchs (also a county in VA)
Turn at:  n., A small shrub bearing smooth skinned, fleshy edible fruit with a single hard shelled seed.  Genus Prunus
Left at the only east/west street in the fan with a man’s name
Right at the street with the same name as the tree cut down by George Washington
Enter an area with the same name as an area in Los Angeles
Find the graves of three presidents
Return on the street named for a small red fruit
Right on a street that has the same name as an elementary school near Byrd Park
Left on a street named for what they used to give winners of the Olympics in  Ancient Greece 
Left on the street with the same name as the inventor of bifocals. 
Right on the street named for a grassy pasture
Left at the spiciest corner in town
Turn on the street named for a street name, away from the River


Anybody who knows me (and particularly, anyone who has tried to get directions from me or has made the mistake of allowing me to be the navigator on a running route) knows that street names are not my strong suit. Shoot, I can't even tell you the name of the street that you turn on to access my neighborhood... and I drive on it at least twice every single day. 

There's a good chance that it is going to take me longer to figure this out today than it will take me to complete this run tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Spectacular Spectacular!

Have you ever been on a run that you just didn't want to end?

One that made it feel like everything is right in the world? 

That was this morning for me. I am still on the high. My favorite route, my favorite season, perfect weather, and mind-blowing scenery. 

Enough with the words.

Here comes the sun

We ran past the finish of the marathon.
I'm trying to visualize it.


From the Floodwall. <3

The posse.

So, so grateful.

Never have I wanted so badly to play hooky and just keep running. We all wanted to stay out there forever today, exploring the trails along the James and relishing in the joy of the unstructured run. After all of these months of every workout having a specific goal and plan, I needed today to take a moment; to be reminded that while the marathon is the goal for me right now, it is not the reason I run. 

I do it for days like today, when being out there makes me feel eternally blessed and grateful for everything I have. When I get this overwhelming feeling of happiness and peace that I never want to end. 

When we finished up, Kit said, "No matter what else may happen, this will be a great day." And he was right. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Richmond Marathon Training Take 2 - Week 22

And so the taper begins.

3 runs for 25 miles
1 mile swimming

Running miles logged so far: 531

On the road with the Team during Saturday's training run.
Kit's perfect "raise the roof" pose is killing me.

Had to throw this one in there as proof that
I can laugh at/am not ashamed of my
bad running photos.

Training highlights:

  • ::Crickets:: This week kind of just was.
  • I did just remember that during the team run on Saturday, the normal "group" was running together when we got caught up in some other team traffic (we were really bunched on Saturday and even ended up running into the half marathon training team too). As we were going down Grace Street, another runner behind me said, "Just look at her stride. It looks effortless - like she could run forever."  I turned my head and said, "Uh... you aren't talking about me are you???" He said, "Yeah I am! You look great!" To which I responded, "Yeah right! I promise you I can't run forever." Really, I was pretty flattered but sincerely doubt that I look like I'm floating along when I'm running. It still made my day though.
  • Greg and I also scored two great "That's what she said!" moments from Kit. I wish I could remember what they were, but unfortuantely I forget 95% of what happens during training runs. I can assure you they were hilarious. We also discussed how wonderful the "f" word is  and practiced how we would use it as we ran through the last 4 miles of the marathon route - much to the dismay of some half marathon training team folks that were running near us at the time. We really can be a bunch of idiots sometimes when we are out there, but hey, whatever gets you through, right?

Training lowlights:
  • I was almost taken out one of the seed pods/fruit of a magnolia tree on Wednesday morning, during the last .10 of our 8 mile run. I stepped right on it, causing my left foot to roll to the outside (the broken side). Those things are hard as rocks and so was the sidewalk as my footbones ground against it. Thankfully, it was a bit sore the next day but has resolved itself. Of all the random things to happen in the last weeks of training...

Gold star of the week:

  • Coach Shawn for his excellent showing at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon this past Saturday! This was his 10th marathon - what an incredible achievement! I have really loved getting to know Shawn during this training cycle and admire not only his resilience and running acumen, but also his genuine care for all of us on Team Navy. And he's kinda a fun guy to hang out with, I guess. ;-) Additionally, we share a love of Pop Tarts, McDonald's, and a baked potato and steak as the perfect pre-long-run meal, so that makes him that much  cooler. Congratulations, Shawn!!!

  • My running buddy Katie, who completed the New York City Marathon with a sub-4:00 yesterday. I tracked her the entire time and found myself cheering her along as she kept perfect pacing and ran a great race. Even Husband got into it. You go girl! So proud!

For the next two weeks I am moving to 1 cross training session a week but maintaining by Run Less Run Faster speed work and mid week tempo runs. 

Saturday is the last MTT training run. I am trying not to think about it because when I do, I get really upset. And no, I'm not just saying that. 

In other news, I'm running a marathon in 12 days.