Rehoboth Marathon 2012 – Recap

It’s been 4 days since I ran my 11th marathon in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  I’ve been thinking about how I will tell this story ever since about Mile 20 of the race.

Here’s one thing I know for sure:  ATTITUDE is everything.  PERSPECTIVE is everything.

I was really excited about this race.  Getting to the start line feeling fresh and strong and capable after running my fastest ever marathon 6 weeks before was in itself a huge accomplishment.  I was so jittery, so filled with energy and emotion when I arrived.  So happy to be there.  ELATED, actually.

I love the Delaware beaches.  This place is HOME to me.  On the drive there on Friday I couldn’t take the smile off of my face.  My cheeks literally hurt from all the smiling I did.  We were driving along on a route I have taken more times in my life than I can count.  Memories flooded me and filled me up.

This place is where I grew up in so many ways – I spent every single summer of my life here from the time I was a baby until I was in my early 20s.  When I was a little girl, my mother would drive me and my three sisters there at the beginning of every summer.  She would feel nervous as we crossed over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge – it is a huge bridge – and in order to keep all of us quiet so that she could concentrate on her driving over the bridge she told us that it was a magical bridge.  She called it “The Wishing Bridge” and said that if you are completely silent and do not make a sound or say a word as you cross the bridge you can make a wish and it will come true.  I had no idea this bridge was even called the “Bay Bridge” until I was a teenager.  I thought everyone called it The Wishing Bridge and that everyone made wishes as they crossed it.  I have dreamed a lot of dreams over that bridge in my 36+ years of life … I’ve made a lot of wishes.  Some of them were silly – wishing for a kitten or a brother or a certain boy to like me.  As I got older and I realized my mom had made this whole thing up, I didn’t care.  In fact, it made me love it more.  Especially when I became a mother myself.  Dreaming and wishing is an important and essential part of the way I live my life … it is as necessary to me as the air I breathe.

I NEVER talk on that bridge.  And I ALWAYS make a wish.  I will never stop dreaming.  Ever.

Every marathon teaches you something about yourself.  Every marathon brings you to your knees at some point – it is up to you to pick yourself up.  To keep going.  To fight.  To find the courage and the strength to see the beauty of what is happening within you, even as you hurt.  Rehoboth was no exception to that rule.   In fact, Rehoboth was the most beautiful and the most difficult of any marathon I have ever run.  I loved it so much and I am entirely grateful for the experience.

About a half mile into the race I knew something was wrong.  I knew it was going to be a really tough day for me.  A side stitch on my left side pinched me.  I told myself I would run through it and it would go away.  I have run through side stitches before.  I checked in with my self.  My breathing felt easy and controlled.  My heart was soaring, I was so happy.  My legs felt as strong as ever.  I didn’t understand why I was having a side stitch.  Could I somehow be dehydrated?  I didn’t think so.  Maybe it was reducing my fiber the days leading up to the race?  Could that be backfiring?  I tried to just concentrate on my breathing and on how strong I felt everywhere else.  I tried to just soak in the amazingness of where I was.

Miles 1-6: 7:16, 7:13, 7:03, 7:18, 7:18, 7:19

The stitch was not going away.  I ate one of my gels at Mile 5 and then my stomach started to cramp up.  Awesome.  At Mile 10 I ate another one… this is typical for me I always eat every 5 miles in races.  But by Mile 12.5 I was on the side of the road, hiding behind a bush, dealing with GI issues.   Seriously this was happening to me now?  So early in this race.

Miles 7-12: 7:31, 7:31, 7:26, 7:21, 7:26, 7:21

I was determined to get myself back on track.  But I was frustrated.  I forged ahead and tried my best to focus on all of the GOOD things that were happening:  this course was BEAUTIFUL, I was running in a place I LOVE so so much, my legs felt AMAZING and strong…

And then my side stitch moved over to the right side.  It was a GRIPPING pain.  That is the best way for me to describe it.  My ride side just hurt so very much.  I ran through it until Mile 15.  Somewhere during Mile 15 I stopped dead in my tracks and stretched.  Breathed.  Tried to collect myself and give myself a pep talk.  I ate another gel here, just like usual (by the way in case you are wondering, I understand now that I am need of a complete overhaul of my nutrition/hydration plan).  I tried to keep going, to stand tall and feel good, but by Mile 17 I was really in rough shape.  I stopped at a water stop that had a bathroom and waited in line to use it.  When I was done I gave my water bottle to the volunteers.  I carry my water and had been filling it up but I just didn’t want to hold the bottle any more.  I would drink from cups from this point on.

Miles 13-19: 7:49, 7:47, 7:48, 8:17, 7:57, 9:06

Mile 20 was terrible.  I was running through such awful side stitch pain and I just didn’t know what to do to make it go away.   I ate a gel again (so dumb) and after that I was toast.

My stomach killed.  I tried to engage my core even more, tried to push through it and relax and breathe … and then the next thing I knew, I was walking.  I hung my head low … felt sad and defeated.

And wouldn’t you know, that is where the race photographer was!?!  Of course it was.

For the next few miles I would run a few steps, feel terrible, and then walk.  I stretched my arms up.  I pinched my side, massaged it, breathed through it.  I felt angry and frustrated and sad.  I felt helpless.

Miles 20-23: 8:47, 12:43, 11:55, 10:10

And then, at some point during the 23rd mile as I was walking along on this beautiful trail trying my best to focus on how lucky I was to be there because I’d decided I would just walk the rest of the way, I heard a voice come up from behind me.  “Pace of Me?” she said.  I lifted my head and we made eye contact – it was Kristy from “Run the Long Road.”  We had never met before but we knew through Twitter that we would both be there (hello, one of the best things about social media).  She told me I better start running.  That I was way too strong and fast to be walking right now.  She didn’t care WHY I was walking, but told me it was time to run.  I could hang on to her.  And then I woke up from my pity party and realized this girl was awesome and that she was right.  I was going to hurt whether I walked or ran so I better JUST RUN.  And that’s what I did.

The colors changed for me in that moment.  I went from feeling completely pulled apart and sad to feeling strong and hopeful and vibrant.  No, I was not running fast.  NO my pain did NOT go away, or even dissipate.  But I was running.  And I didn’t stop.  I ran into the finish with a time of 3:41:59.  I finished with a smile on my face.

Miles 24-26.8 (I over ran the course I think because of my stops!): 10:08, 8:35, 8:30, 8:23

Reflecting on Rehoboth has been so good for me.  My stomach hurt for two whole days after that race.  My legs felt amazing though – no lingering soreness AT ALL.  For some reason they didn’t get the message that I ran a marathon?  This shows me that I have the fitness and the strength to run a marathon like none I have ever run.  And I am determined to make that happen.  I really, really am.  Yes, it was frustrating to once again be faced with these problems and this time was worse than any other I have experienced.  But I think that sometimes you have to be taken to the lowest point so that you can reach your full potential.  I have a tendency to learn things the hard way and this is just another example of that.

Marathon #11 was an eye opener for me.  I am going to resolve my nutrition/hydration issues and be a stronger runner because of it.  I will forever be grateful for the experience.

it’s not redemption, it’s celebration

Last week we went to Virginia Beach to celebrate Thanksgiving with my husband’s family.  It was just what all of us needed.  Time with one another and with loved ones we don’t see often enough, relaxing and laughing and catching up.  Time outside – in the fresh cool air, by the sea and on the trails.  Time to just unplug and reconnect with ourselves and with one another.

My family is on the brink of a lot of change right now – my husband started a new job yesterday, for the first time since before we had children.  It is a wonderful change and a needed change, but change can be so hard and it can be scary, even when you believe at your very core that it is for the best.  Making changes requires a lot of courage and so much faith and I also believe it requires teamwork and togetherness.  Just like anything else in life that is worth anything, it is hard.

I was so happy on Wednesday morning when my mother-in-law agreed to watch all three of our kids so that Robert could accompany me for my 10 mile run.  He hopped on his bike and we entered First Landing State Park.  For the first few miles I was running an easy, conversational pace as he biked alongside me and we talked about nothing and everything.  I love when we can do this – it takes us both back to times we spent together before we had children and getting to do this together is such a rare treat now that we have such a busy life!

The park trail was just beautiful – crisp fall leaves all over the packed sand trail, crinkling under my feet.  Clear blue skies above and cypress trees cradling us on both sides of the trail.  I am in heaven when I am in that park.  Running on the trails relaxes me instantly and my worries melt away.

Robert sped up in front of me and I decided to turn the run into a tempo, picking up my pace to about 6:50 for a few miles.  It was FUN.  Hard work – chasing him on his bike and holding my pace steady and fast – but tons of fun.  I was so happy that my legs were feeling so good.  My heart was soaring.

This was my first attempt at any sort of speed work since MCM – I have wanted to be careful about how hard I push myself before Rehobeth in 2 weeks.  Running marathons 6 weeks apart with the intent of racing the second one faster than the first one (when you already PR’d in the first one) is tricky business — it is for me, at least.  I want to be smart and strategic about how I approach this.  I deal with self doubt on a regular basis, especially when I’m pushing myself and testing new limits.   What I’m doing right now is risky, but in my heart I believe I can do it and do it well.  Wednesday’s run was a great reminder that I am on the right track.  10.5 miles with 4 at tempo pace and an overall average pace of 7:42.

I have not lost my fitness.  I have not lost my mental strength.  I have not lost my stamina.  Everything I have worked for is still there, and in many ways I feel stronger now than I did when I started the taper for MCM.  This is hard for me to believe, but it is the truth.

Saturday morning I hit the trail at 7am for 20 solo miles.  I took it one mile at a time and told myself to just be in the moment.  To soak up this beautiful park that I love so much.  To enjoy the gorgeous morning – the cold salt air and the wind and the sound of the leaves.  I imagined myself running Rehobeth in this way, with this grateful and present mindset.  It is going to be a small marathon in one of my favorite beach towns.  I am going to love being there.  It is going to be a wonderful day.  It just can’t not be!

This was a long run that I simply did not want to end.  My pace felt effortless.  I was gliding across the trails, my body naturally adjusting itself over the tree roots and rocks as I ran over them.  I was smiling from deep inside my heart, knowing I was just where I needed to be – feeling just how I needed to feel.

I practiced my race day nutrition and carried my water bottle just like I will in Rehobeth.  When the wind whipped (and it did!), I eased up and didn’t fight it.  I felt in control and aware.  It was pretty much perfect.

I picked my pace up for the second half of the run – the first half most of my miles were in the 7:50s and the second half most of them were in the 7:30s.  I finished STRONG with a fast last mile in 7:07.  I had energy to spare.  I could have kept going.

20 miles two weeks before Rehobeth with an average pace of 7:43.  This is for sure the strongest I have ever felt on a long run.  73 miles completed for the week – I have crested the “peak” of my 6 week training cycle – and now I taper again.

This overall training cycle – the big picture, from when I started training for MCM – has been so much more than wonderful.  I have stood up to my fears, looked my doubts in the face, found a way to keep my love and gratitude for this sport and all that it brings into my life even when everything hurts and feels so hard or it would be so much easier to just NOT do it — front and center.  My body has gained strength, my legs have gained speed, my heart has gained courage.

Rehobeth will not be some sort of “redemption marathon” for me.  It will be a celebration.  It will be 26.2 miles of heart-on-my-sleeve amazingness.

I really can’t wait.

catching up – another marathon soon

When you take a whole week off from blogging, sitting back down at the computer can be kind of overwhelming.  I feel like there are a million and one things I want to spill about here and catch up on.  The most relevant of which is the fact that I am running another marathon in a little over 4 weeks.

#11 – here i come!

I was really happy with the way that I raced MCM – coming across the finish line with a 9 minute PR on a very tough day was something to be extremely proud of and grateful for.  I dealt with the day the best way that I could – taking the hills and the winds carefully and in control and then staying mentally strong and steadfast when my stomach decided to change everything on me with 8 miles to go.  The thing is though, in the days following that race a lot of thoughts began to swirl through my head.  My body did not feel as though it had just run my fastest ever marathon.  My legs were recovering so well and my heart was yearning for another chance.  A chance to run the race I trained so hard for all cycle.  I had conversations with myself and with close friends and my husband (I’m sure I drove everyone nuts!) – wondering would it be silly to try to run another 26.2 before my spring marathon?  Would it be foolish?  Would it be ridiculously impatient?  Would I be sacrificing my *big picture* running goals (to stay injury free, to take care of my body and to remain passionate about running for years and years and YEARS) for another shot at racing a fall marathon?

I evaluated my reasons and I scanned by body – as well as my heart – trying to decide whether or not this was a good idea for me.  And as I did this, things became increasingly clear to me – I owe it to myself to try.  I believe I can do it and that I can do it well.  I would need some time to recover and I would need to handle the time between races intelligently and patiently.  I looked for marathons that were still open and that were within driving distance, and right away I saw the Rehobeth Marathon and knew instantly that this was THE race for me.

SO, why Rehobeth?
* It is 6 weeks after MCM.  I have run marathons 6 weeks apart before and I set a huge PR for the second race (this was last fall, when I ran the Lehigh Valley Marathon and then MCM exactly 6 weeks later).  6 weeks is enough time for my body to recover and restore and be ready to rock another marathon.  If it were much closer I would be worried that I wouldn’t be ready for a PR race, if it were too much farther out I would risk losing my “mojo” and feeling burned out.

* When I was a baby, my parents bought a townhouse in Bethany Beach, which is about 15-20 minutes from Rehobeth.  Every summer between the ages of 2-23, we would pack up the car and drive to the beach and live there – all summer long.  I don’t really know how to explain to you how special this place is to me.  It is HOME in so many ways.  I cannot wait to run a race there.

* We have lifelong friends who live there, which means a few awesome things: we get to spend time with people we love dearly (my husband and kids are all coming with me!), I will have the support of loved ones there, and we also have a free place to stay!
* It is a small race and this has a lot of appeal for me.  I love big races – the excitement and the support they involve – but the idea of running a smaller race entices me so much, too.  The simplicity of an out-and-back course on a pretty trail with no huge crowds just sounds so nice and peaceful.  Plus, it will make it very easy to find my family and friends before, during and after the race.

* The course is supposed to be flat and fast – no monster hills to climb this time.  I think it will be an ideal place to run a strong fast race!

It’s been a little less than 2 weeks since MCM and I am feeling strong and recovered.  I’m using the 2nd edition of the Pfitzinger book Advanced Marathoning to help guide me with my training right now.  It is a great book and I highly recommend it – I have turned to it many times over the course of the last year or so, though I have never followed any one of the plans exactly, there is tons of advice and insight.  In the back of the book there is a section on running multiple marathons with great advice, inspiring and informative stories and sample training plans based on how many weeks you have between marathons.

thank you, Pfitzinger

Last week and this week I have been easing back into running, almost like a reverse taper (24 total miles last week, around 45 this week).  I’m not pushing my pace at all right now – all of the runs feel easy though some are faster than others.  I haven’t attempted any speed work or tempo runs at all, and don’t plan to until some time next week.  This is a really cool plan and something totally different for me.  At times I question it – I worry I am not doing enough miles or that I am running them too slow and will lose all my fitness – but as soon as thoughts like that pop into my head I replace them with the knowledge, the gut feeling and the trust I have that I am doing this RIGHT.  I truly believe that if I discipline myself and honor the plan and the paces, I will be setting myself up for success.  Don’t get me wrong – I know there are NO guarantees with the marathon and that anything can happen no matter how *perfectly* I train or think I train, but I feel that if I do too much and push myself too far I will risk getting injured and not even making it to the start line.  I have run enough marathons to know my body and to know what limits I should push and what limits I should not try to break through.  This whole thing has been an incredible part of my journey as a runner and as a person.  I am taking it one day at a time and am keeping the big picture clear – front and center.

Have you ever run back-to-back marathons before?  Have you ever read Pfitzinger’s book or followed any of his training plans?  I’d love to hear your advice and insights!

what crazy looks like: marathons 2 weeks apart

This is what life is like after you run a marathon and as you get ready to run another marathon 2 weeks later.  I signed up for the Richmond Marathon several months ago.  I haven’t been talking about it much because, to be honest, I know it is all sorts of crazy and I wanted to see how I was feeling after MCM before making any major decisions about what to do.  After assessing how my body feels and also talking with Dorothy who just did marathons two weeks apart, I have decided that crazy as it may be, I am going to go for it.
I’m really excited to go to Richmond on Friday.  My sister Jodi is racing it too and we are going to have so much fun.  I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to hang out with T and G and to meet the rest of their amazing “posse” that I enjoy hearing about so much on their blogs.  I don’t have a race plan just yet.  My main goals for the race right now are to (1) enjoy myself and (2) listen to my body and not push too hard — no injuries allowed!

So, as I get ready to do this crazy thing I want to document what these two weeks are looking like for me:
Recovery Week:

Last week I did a whole lot of nothing.  Recovery was my middle name and I took it very seriously.

What my recovery week looked like:

  • Ice Bath:  After getting home from the race, I hopped in an ice bath and chilled myself out for about 20 minutes.  It was cold, but necessary.  I filled the tub with cool water, put on my fleece jacket, hopped in and then Robert dumped tons of ice into the tub.  Brrrrr.  We set the timer for 20 minutes and I distracted myself by chatting with him and playing on my phone.  After the 20 minutes were over, I got myself into a nice warm shower and then dressed my three kids up for some Halloween fun as we paraded around our neighborhood that afternoon.  It was good to move my legs and I was still on a major high from the morning’s race and my major PR. 
  • Yummy Food: That night we had all of my family over and pigged out on pizza.  I later had my favorite dessert of Soy Creamy Vanilla ice cream (from Trader Joe’s, yummmm) topped with peanutbutter cups.  Deliciously sinful and hard-earned.  I am not kidding when I tell you that during those last miles of the marathon I was seriously dreaming about that meal and my dessert.  Whatever gets you to the finish line, people!
  • Self Massage:  After dinner and getting everyone to bed I had a romantic date with my foam roller and Tiger Tail stick.  It hurt and I could feel some pretty major knots in my quads and hammies but I got through it.  I am a firm believer in the benefits of myofascial release techniques.  My “torture devises” as I fondly call them, all reside permanently in my living room.  In the weeks leading up to MCM and all last week while recovering I dedicated myself to a minimum of 20 minutes massaging out my muscles even if they weren’t feeling particularly tight or sore.  After MCM the main culprits for me were my hamstrings and quads, but I also made sure to roll out my IT Bands, calves, shins and the bottoms of my feet.  By the end of the week I was feeling really good and stretchy.
  • Movement:  I didn’t go for any runs all week until Saturday, but as a mom of three I didn’t sit around on the couch all week either.  Walking my daughter to and from school, chasing after a very active, crawling baby and doing my normal chores around the house kept me plenty busy all week. 
The Weekend:

By Saturday I was feeling good and VERY ready for a run.  Especially mentally – I missed my outlet and craved a run.  Saturday morning I hit the trail for 8 beautiful miles.  I felt strong and was happy that I maintained an average pace of 8:43/mile with ease and comfort.  It was a lovely way to return to running after my marathon.  After my run I stretched and rolled and was feeling very good.  I took the day off on Sunday and spent the morning watching the NYC Marathon on TV, following runners on my computer and tweeting up a storm – it was a blissful way to spend a Sunday morning!  I love this sport called running.

NYC Marathon on the TV, runner tracking on the laptop and my cute baby eating lunch
This Week:

I am treating this week just like any other taper week.  Even though my legs are feeling fresher and I’m itching for a run, I am going to take it very easy.  The week before MCM I ran a total of 9.5 miles all week.  I will not do any more than that this week, possibly even fewer miles.  I am going to hydrate like crazy, sleep as best I can and continue to have those regular dates with my foam roller.  The marathon is on Saturday morning so we will head to Richmond on Friday mid-day. 

As the week progresses, I am going to think more and more about how I plan to actually run the race.  I am really excited about my Spring marathon (March 17 – Rock n Roll USA here in DC) and I’m intending to get my BQ at that race so I want to make sure that I head into that training cycle feeling strong, rested and confident.  Training begins in December so after Richmond I will be easing up A LOT for a solid few weeks before starting a new training cycle. 

I know the decision to run Richmond 2 weeks after MCM is insane.  As a coach I would not advise people to do this – but let’s face it we are runners and the sheer nature of being a runner and running marathons at all is a bit crazy if you ask me.  Sometimes we do things for emotional reasons….and this is one of those times for me.  I am going to do it and do it in the smartest way possible.  But trust me, I do know that I am crazy.

Have you ever run back-to-back marathons before?  Have you ever made a “crazy” decision with regards to your racing schedule?  Tell us about it!