Journey to Sub 5 – Marine Corps Marathon

Going into this race, I had really high hopes of finally reaching my goal of a sub 5. My training went great, and I didn’t have any major setbacks other than a bout with ankle pain at the very beginning of this cycle. My ankle issues resolved when I got myself into the correct inserts. Training for a fall marathon is tough because it’s hot and humid for most of the cycle, depending where you live. BUT! That means, faster marathon times as long as the weather is cooperative! Woo hoo!

Thennnnn, 15 weeks later, following my 20 mile training run, it was time to begin the taper. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy the taper, but I do get a little stir crazy with all of my extra down time. I’ve never had a taper quite like this.

I started off with a bang by getting stuck with a needle at work. I’m still dealing with this. Two days later, I fell down a couple of steps while going to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I had a bruised knee as a result. I ripped my shorts in the upcoming weekend while on a training run. I was too close to a building and somehow caught a large screw that was fixated on a meter of some sort. This was the 1st time I wore these shorts after having the zipper repaired, and they were $58. I shed a few tears. The thing that freaked me out the most was getting a head cold just 2 weeks out from race day. This is one of the downfalls of working in pediatrics. I’m constantly getting sick, especially with my compromised immune system. Fortunately, I managed to get better just in the nick of time! I figured at this time, it can only go up from here!

Before I knew it, Saturday the 27th arrived, and it was time to head to Washington D.C. I haven’t been to D.C. since I was 12 for a school field trip, so I was pretty excited. I went with one of my good running friends, Abbie. She drove and helped immensely with our travel plans. We left early, knowing our trip would be roughly 5 hours with rest stops. The drive wasn’t too bad despite my tiny bladder and the consistent rainfall. We decided to head straight to the expo due to time restrictions. The expo was very well organized, and we both quickly got our necessary items (bib, etc.) before shopping for items we don’t need, but want. I didn’t do too much damage at the expo. My most expensive purchase was a $35 Brooks Running MCM shirt to offset the interesting participant shirt we were given.

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Obligatory expo photo.

After we finished up at the expo, it was time to head to the hotel. We stayed in a less-than-ideal place, but it got the job done. I was mostly upset at the fact that there WAS NO ELEVATOR for us to use. Abbie and I struggled a little to carry all of our items to the 2nd floor. But, I’ll take that over the overpowering smell of cigarette smoke a friend of ours had to deal with in his room at the same hotel. I got my race attire/gear prepared for the morning, and then I relaxed until it was time to leave for dinner. I ran the Marine Corps Marathon for the Friends4Michael Foundation – a charity that supports families with children whom have brain tumors. The charity held a pasta party at Sine Irish Pub & Restaurant for charity runners and guests. Abbie and I took an Uber (my 1st ever) to dinner. I wasn’t really sure what to expect for dinner, in terms of paying our own way, etc. Much to our amazement, food and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) were free. It was a lovely night filled with extraordinary people and delicious carbs! After dinner, we made a couple of brief pit-stops and Ubered back to the hotel. Don, the friend stuck with the smoking room, came down to our room, and we all talked for a while until I couldn’t hang anymore.

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Dirty 30 Miler

Since I started running in 2011 and quickly discovered my love for distance, I’ve always wanted to run my age in miles. I, of course, also wanted it to be a special year. When I turned 25, however, I was sick with Lyme disease – not knowing my diagnosis at the time. I could barely brush my hair without muscle fatigue, let alone run. So 30 seemed to be the last doable year as a milestone birthday. Not knowing what the future holds for me, I try to take every opportunity to achieve my running goals. It made my decision to attempt this that much easier. I just had to go for it!

When non-runners asked me how I was going to celebrate my 30th, I told them I planned on running 30 miles. Each time I answered, I got this look…

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The next step was planning.

LOCATION. LOCATION. LOCATION. I had to remain logical in my decision. If I were to get sick or injured, I didn’t want to be stuck in the middle of a long route, regardless if I’d be with someone. Not to mention, since this wasn’t an official race, I needed an easy way to access additional water/Gatorade and fuel.

I chose North Park because it was the easiest option to work with, although we aren’t the best of friends. North Park is known for it’s scenic 5 mile loop around a lake. The ‘course’ is comprised of rolling hills with a slight canter along the bike/pedestrian path. Because of the slant in the road, I felt it would be best to switch directions after each loop to keep my hips from getting too angry. I’ve had hip issues in the past when I’ve participated in races held there, which stays in the same direction for the entirety of the event.

Next, I needed a date and time. I couldn’t do this on my actual birthday because it fell on a Wednesday this year, so I picked July 21st. And since my birthday is in the dead middle of summer, I wanted to start early to try to beat most of the heat. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my sleep, so at the risk of being a zombie, I chose to begin running at 7 in the morning. I live roughly 1 hour away from North Park, and I was already going to be awake at an ungodly hour. “Maybe I could get most of my run done before my body wakes up and realizes what’s happening,” I wishfully thought.

I created a Facebook event and invited my closest running buddies to help pace me. There was absolutely no way I could tackle this distance alone. There is strength in numbers! Unsurprisingly, my friends were all VERY supportive and chose to help – whether they wanted to run, crew or do a little of both. I also needed to make sure I had at least one person for each lap to not only keep me sane, but to keep me from running too fast. You’d think after 7 years of running, I’d have this pacing thing down.

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Running 101: The Acronyms

Hello readers! My old blog was a mash up of training/race recaps, quotes, advice/knowledge and motivation with a heaping side of sarcasm. If you’re new to my journey, read my ‘about me‘ by clicking HERE! In this post, I’m going to talk about common acronyms for those who are fresh into the world of running. Outsiders who listen in on a conversation between runners may assume we’re speaking another language. And, well, we kind of do.

For instance…

Q: “How’d your race go?”

A: “I didn’t get my BQ, but I got a course PR, which always beats a DNF. I sure can’t wait for that DOMS to kick in tomorrow! Did you hear about the participant who was DFL? They are so inspirational!”

Non-runner:

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*stares blankly* Pardon?

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PR: Your “personal record” or best time for a specific distance or race course. Also known as “PB” (personal best), but most people use the acronym PR.

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PW: Personal worst. This one is pretty obvious, as it’s the opposite of a PR. EVERYONE has a personal worst if you’ve done more than one race of the same distance. Celebrate getting it done anyway! A 6 minute mile, and a 16 minute mile is still a mile!

BQ: Boston qualifier. Oh, the coveted Boston Marathon – the Superbowl of marathons. Runners work for months, even years to be able to run a Boston qualifying time. Some blow their time out of the water, and others miss it by mere seconds. It’s an emotional feat, never to be taken lightly no matter what the outcome may be.

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C25K: Couch to 5K. This is an easy-to-follow program for beginners who have the goal to run a 5K. I think a lot of people are afraid to start running because they assume there’s a special mold they need to fit. That simply isn’t the case whatsoever. Having been a runner for 7 years and counting, I’ve learned how beautifully diverse the running community is. This program helps you take that first step because as many seasoned runners know, that is the toughest part of any run. And who knows? You may end up falling in love with the sport.

DNS: Did not start. Sometimes life (emergencies/obligations) and/or injuries get in the way, and you may not make it to the start of a race. Luckily, some races offer transfer options, so your money and spot do not go to waste.

DNF: Did not finish. You may start a race and be unable to finish due to an unforeseen reason. While it’s a tough mental barrier to get over, you may learn a thing or two as a result. Other than a true emergency, maybe it just wasn’t your day. And that’s completely fine! It’s better than not starting at all! Never let a DNF derail your progress, whether it’s mental or physical.

DFL: Dead f*cking last. This term is used for those whom finish last in a race. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH FINISHING LAST! EVER. In fact, many times, there is an extremely inspiring back story. And if not, it’s still okay! Bad runs/races happen. It’s the risk you take in the sport. I think that’s another reason I love running because there aren’t any definitive answers. There’s beauty behind that. It’s an artform; you create a masterpiece comprised of what you put into it. And whether you’re first, last or somewhere in between, nobody can take that away from you. And guess what? You still finished the distance. That’s what truly matters.

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Big Girl Dance Class with Todd & Whit!

Hello readers! I have an exciting story to share! About 3 weeks ago, I came across a shared screenshot on Instagram from one of my running friends, Elana. It was a post in which Whitney Way Thore announced a pop-up Big Girl Dance Class being held in Pittsburgh on 6/19/18! I immediately signed up and waited for the day to come!

I knew I had to leave work early if I wanted to get to Rex Theater (South Side) before the line got crazy long. I arrived and parked around 5:15. I had a mini meltdown because I thought I lost both my license and debit card. I put them in my skirt before I left work and thought they fell out of my pocket. They ended up getting buried deep inside my pocket, not knowing the pocket wrapped around the entirety of my waist until that time. Crisis averted! I placed my purse inside of my trunk and did so with much difficulty. As I pulled my hand out, I scraped the top of my thumb inside of my trunk.

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Only me. I figured, it can only go up from here!

When I finally made my way to the event location, the line had roughly 30 people in it. I quickly got in line to hold my place, while I waited for my friend, Elana, to show up. The show’s crew came around with clip boards, in which we were required to sign a waiver for the show if we were to make an appearance! *Fingers crossed we do!*

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Just before going inside.

Anyway…we stood in line for over 1 hour. There was some sort of delay; I’m still unsure of what happened. I’m glad I had a buddy to keep me company while we waited. We heard people screaming and around the corner came Buddy! It was pretty surreal to see someone in person whom I’ve seen on television dozens and dozens of times. He walked down the entirety of the line and waved to everyone. I’m super proud of how much he has accomplished in his continued sobriety and his openness about it. Way to go Buddy!

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Things I wish I knew Before I Started Running.

With seven years of experience under my belt, it’s safe to say I’ve learned a thing or two about running. I’ll be the first to admit, as a seasoned runner, I sometimes forget that I wasn’t always runner savvy. I’m here to talk about things I wish I would’ve known before I started running in hopes they might be helpful tips for you.

OMG, SHOES!

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I can’t stress enough the importance of a good pair of running shoes. When I first started running, I got a pair of shoes from Marshalls for less than $30. I’m not saying you need to sell your soul for a pair of soles (#dadjoke), but it’s important to find a proper fitting shoe that also works with your biomechanics.

My first pair of running shoes were a size too small because I went with my usual shoe size. A good rule of thumb is to purchase a half size to full size larger than your everyday shoe because your feet will expand as you run. If your shoes are too small, you put yourself at risk for black toenails, blisters and foot pain.

I also recommend heading to a local running store for a free gait analysis. Staring blankly at a big wall of shoes can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming, but don’t worry. The specialists will spend time with you to get you in the correct pair of shoes.

WINTER RUNNING.

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There are questions I get asked by non-runners, especially this time of year. A frequent one is, “Don’t you get cold in the winter?” When I was a novice runner, I didn’t want to go outside if the weather wasn’t in my favor. I hate being cold! When I trained for my first marathon in 2012, however, I didn’t have a choice. I had to get out there and put in the work if I wanted to see results.

My first training run with the Steel City Road Runners was in a snowstorm. Not only did I survive, I also made a friend I now view as a brother. I didn’t need to dress like Randy from A Christmas Story during that run and neither do you. If you’re not sure what to wear, Runner’s World has a great tool! Also, I often tell people to dress for the finish and not the start.

Yes, there are going to be times when the treadmill is necessary due to unsafe conditions (i.e. ice, negative wind chill). However, for me at least, I usually opt outside. That’s why we train. You will become stronger from these character building runs – not only physically, but mentally as well. Plus, you never know what can happen on race day. If you live in Pittsburgh, you know that we can sometimes experience every season in a week’s time.

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