Friday, October 26, 2012

To run or not to run?

Sometime back in early April I made a pros and cons list when I was trying to decide if I should commit to running the marathon.  I wanted so badly to do it, but I was so terrified of making the commitment.  It seemed so much bigger than me, and like something only disciplined people do (not one of my qualities.)  I wish I had dated this paper, but at the time I thought it was just a random list.  I didn't think about the fact that I'd carry it around in my wallet the next seven months:

Reasons to run the marathon:
-you've wanted to for 5+ years
-you'll never be healthier or have more free time, most likely
-you will never regret it, but will regret not running it
-you could raise money for a charity important to you
-you can
-something to add to the resume
-you have a deep desire
-it will give you a summer & fall goal
-it might be much more difficult to gain entry in the future
-you won't torture yourself for years thinking how you should do it, like you have been the last couple years
-you can
-you should wrote "you can" twice without noticing...your subconscious must believe it

Reasons not to run the marathon:
-if running for charity you'll have to raise money
-huge time commitment
-if the weather's bad it could be miserable
-potential for failure/embarrassment

This list shows a pretty clear answer.  I didn't fully decide after making it, but I was definitely leaning in the direction of yes.  It wasn't until the day of the lottery that I decided for sure.  I didn't get selected, so leaving it up to fate to make me run didn't work out.  I can't explain how tortured I was trying to make the decision.  I went for a run that night, I think it was a four miler.  I was training for my half at the time.  It was such a beautiful night, and it was a fantastic run.  I'd had a series of bad runs but this one just felt so good.  I thought a lot about Dina while I ran.  Her funeral had been two days earlier.  The last time I saw Dina I promised her if I ever worked up the nerve to run, I'd raise money for brain cancer research.  I felt like everything came together that night and it just felt right.  So on April 25th I decided I would dedicate the next six months and eight days to marathon prep, and I've never once regretted it.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The end is in sight. Ten miles.

Last Saturday I had my last double digit run before the race and I was lucky enough to do it on the Harlem Valley Rail Trail in the Berkshires.  It goes without saying that it was a gorgeous run.  It was so fun to see this route in the fall, since I've done it in the spring when a million flowers were out.  My knee felt good.  I was slow, not surprisingly, but it was very surprising to not have any knee pain, especially since it had hurt a bit during the week, and it typically only hurts while running.
On Tuesday I went back to the orthopaedic doctor.  He told me my knee didn't feel as sensitive as the last time I was in and after chatting with him about how my training's gone since the last time I saw him, he seemed pretty confident in me.  He didn't think I needed another cortisone shot, but said if I really wanted one he would give it to me.  I figured, if it's not going to hurt me, I'll take it.
I was emailing with my friend Aimee about running.  She's training for a half and we've been trying to coordinate our schedules so we could run together.  I told her I'm not running the rest of the week until the Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff on Sunday, and then started thinking about next week and realized....I only have a couple more runs left and they should be very short!  This is when I felt butterflies for the first time.  Holy smokes, only three more runs until the big day???  So crazy.  I've got physical therapy twice next week, as usual, and want to try to fit in two more runs, so that means running Monday and Wednesday.  I decided Monday I'll jog up to the Reservoir, jog around it, and then walk home.  I want to take it easy since I will have just run in the race the day before.  It will be sentimental to run the Reservoir since that's where my running began.  Wednesday I'll do the simple two mile loop in the park and finish at the marathon finish line.  Then, the next time I run it'll be on Marathon Day.  I am so dang excited!!!
I was emailing with my friend Brenda earlier in the week.  She's going to sew my Dina heart patch on my tank top for the race this weekend.  She ran the Hamptons full in September, her first marathon.  All summer we've been keeping tabs on each other while training and it's really brought our friendship closer.  I asked her if I could put part of her email in my blog because it really touched me:

A marathon is like any opportunity in life, if we do it solely for the right to claim the achievement then it will likely wither quickly.  But if we allow the experience to change us, to cultivate the growth of our soul, then its impact won't diminish.  Prior to training for and completing my own marathon I was unable to comprehend the profound effect it would have on me.  Now I can simply express gratitude that I worked hard for something of which I had no understanding, for the faith to try and conquer, and the love that allowed me to change.

I can't believe how excited I am for this race!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The road to 26.2 - 18 miles...for real this time

After the last race I decided to basically really rest my knee, and only cross train, in addition all the other PT and rehab.  I wanted to wait until my appointment with the orthpaedist so see what my approach should be.  I saw him about two weeks ago and we chatted for a bit.  I told him the story of my injury, why I'm running, and what my training's been like.  He said it's going to be tough but plenty of runners come in with similar stories.  Since I don't care about my time, I'm better off because I will definitely be slow.  He gave me a cortisone shot in my knee and sent me on my way with a prescription for a second anti inflammatory and appointment for another shot before the race.

I'd heard mixed things about the pain associated with cortisone shots.  I decided it definitely depends where you get it.  My dad had one in the front of his knee and said the pain was tremendous.  Mine was on the side and it wasn't bad at all, however it was incredibly sore and a little swollen that night and the next day.  Two days after getting the shot I attempted my first run, the five mile loop.  My knee was not completely devoid of pain, but it was definitely so much better.  The doctor said it could take a week or so for the shot to fully set in.  Every run I've had since then has had some mild discomfort, but overall it's like running with a new knee.  It was so painful before and now it's more like some pressure, with an occasional sharp pain if I run for longer periods of time.  I know, sounds fun right?

Later that week I went for an 8 miler.  I did the 6 mile loop in the park and then tacked on an extra two miles by running the last two miles of the marathon course.  Cardio wise I felt good but my knee was making me nervous.  It was hard to think about the 18 mile run I had planned for the upcoming weekend.  Tacking on 10 more miles??  And then, on marathon day, another 8.2?  When you think about it like that, it just doesn't make any sense.  It doesn't seem real or possible.  I came to the conclusion that when you think about distances like this with your head, it is impossible, which is why you need to think with your heart.

Friday night came and I met up with Val to do an easy(ish) jog across the Queensboro Bridge and back.  This is supposedly one of the most difficult points of the marathon.  There are no spectators, it's a tough incline, and it's just past the halfway point.  Going across wasn't too bad, but coming back, especially into the wind, was tough.  I have to say though, going out was incredible.  I saw what was probably the most beautiful sunset I've ever experienced here.  It was incredible.  People don't think of New York as having particularly pretty sunsets, but we really do.  As we were running over the bridge connecting Manhattan to Queens, I could see all lower Manhattan and midtown east.  The iconic Empire State Building, the UN, but the mos majestic was the Freedom Tower.  It was just starting to light up and I swear it was like a sparkly diamond.  It was twinkling so much, and the sky was all these amazing pink colors.  I've never seen anything like it.  I stopped to take a photo, but being on the under part of the bridge it was dark, and I just couldn't get a good shot.

After my run with Val I headed home to start my marathon dress rehearsal prep.  I got Patsy' pizza, which is what I'll be having to carb load the night before the marathon, watched a little tv, and got to bed.  I wasn't particularly worried about waking up early because even though I'll have to on Marathon Day, my wave doesn't start until 10:55am.  When I woke up it was really cold outside, so I decided to wait a bit and see if it would warm up.  I finally got to the West Side Highway in my marathon outfit and started running around 11am or so.  I ran my first mile in about 9:20.  I couldn't believe it, and forced myself to slow down.  That is closer to my old pace, and I knew it couldn't last because of my knee.  I had to conserve as much energy as possible.  The longest run I'd done up to this point was my 14 miler and that was 8 weeks before.  I took a lot of walking breaks.  A lot.  I was very aware of my knee and the fact that it didn't feel in shape, so I decided to take it easy and save any potential for a real injury for race day.  I'll push through anything on that day and I don't care what happens after, but for now I need to be careful.  I know I'll be taking walk breaks on that day, there's just no way around it.

I had decided I'd run down the west side and then back up the east side.  In all the training I've done, I haven't run up the east side at all.  When I got to the bottom of the island I was about 6 miles in.  I was frustrated because this is the point that I should be in my groove.  After mile four I should be just ticking miles off without much notice.  I never got into the zone.  By about mile 8 or 9 I decided I just wanted to sit on a bench for a few minutes.  I stretched out my legs and massaged them a bit.  I've come to the conclusion that with my shotty training, the only way I'll get through this race is if I allow myself to stop and stretch when I need to.  Okay, I won't be finding a bench to sit on, but I just needed a couple minutes to relax, think, pray (seriously) and get back on track.  I started running again and felt very rejuvinated.  It's amazing what builds you up.  Shortly after this a random man gave me a big thumbs up and it put a big grin on my face for a few seconds.  Earlier in the run I saw another girl wearing her Fred's Team jersey, like me.  We both cheered when we passed each other.  What a HUGE boost.  It is amazing how much a cheerleader can do for you.

I kept going up the east side, it was so beautiful.  It was a gorgeous, crisp, sunny day.  Before I knew it I was in midtown and heading over to 1st Avenue.  I ran up to 60th and the across to the park.  This part of the run was difficult.  I kept having to stop at lights, and dodge crowds.  It was tough for me to stand in one spot and keep my balance.

Up until this point I'd felt pretty good.  I technically should have been running 20 miles if I was on schedule, and I felt good enough to, but knew 18 was long enough for a long training run and I didn't want to push it too hard.  It makes me laugh how mental running is.  If you have to run six miles, by mile six you're done.  If you have to run ten, you still feel good at six.  This theory held true for my 18.  By 16 I was feeling pretty beat.  By 17 I wanted to be done.  I passed another girl in the park wearing a Fred's jersey so that of course was a boost.  When my Runtracker app finally told me I'd hit 18 miles I was so relieved.  I was on Central Park South, getting close to Columbus Circle.  All I could think when I finished was how far my apartment seemed.  I seriously considered getting into a cab for the 1/2 mile trip, but didn't let myself.  It's good to keep walking, and I'll have to walk for a while after I cross the finish line.

Those blocks seriously took forever.  I was waiting for a light to change to cross the street, about three blocks from home when I heard someone saying my name.  Steph!  It was so fun to see a familiar face but I felt so out of it.  We chatted for a few minutes and then I stopped in the grocery store to pick up some chocolate milk.  I have no idea what chocolate milk does for you after running for so long but sometimes they give it out after races and it sounded freaking good.  And, it was.  I guzzled it.

This 18 mile run/walk gave me the confidence I needed.  I know it's another 8.2 miles on marathon day but everyone says if you can do 18, you can do 26.2.  I went from 80% nervous 20% excited to 70% excited 30% nervous.

Seventeen days!!!