Race report: Max’s O’Hartford 5k

The first 5k of 2014 is in the bag.
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This is my only photo from the race because it was too cold to think about anything else but start to finish.

The temperature was officially 30 degree but a strong windchill making it feel like 19, according to the weather app. Ouch! I wore a t-shirt, fleece jacket, and an old St. Paddy’s Day race shirt on top of the fleece. I just wore normal pants instead of my thermal tights, but it turned out ok. The fleece was a good decision. Instead of a t-shirt, we got these beanies:
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It will come in handy for next year’s St Patrick’s Day theme race, wherever that may be.

My niece (5 years old) was signed up to run the half mile kids race and I was running with her. It was one of those days where she woke up in the wrong side of the bed and was very whiny before we even left the house. Great. Can you parents out there confirm whether this is a normal thing? She was in good spirits as we waited inside for the race to start and even when she was lining up outside. We were off and running and life was good. Then the wind gusts started and she stopped dead in her tracks and began having a meltdown/panic attack. We were dead last and not even at the half waypoint. She started to cry and said she couldn’t breathe, which I was confused about since I have run with her before so I know it wasn’t from running too hard. We paused for 30 seconds while I calmed her down; meanwhile I am praying that no one is watching me and thinking I’m an asshole parent forcing her kid to run, lol. I wanted to yell, “She ran 1 full mile with me yesterday, I swear!” I think maybe it was a combination of the extreme cold plus anxiety about the environment (nervous energy, the crowds, and we saw a lot of kids falling). She got herself halfway together and walked/jogged the rest of the way with tears in her eyes, 1 hand in mine and the other hand covering her mouth because it was too cold. She promptly declared “I never want to race outside again.” Girl, we’ve all been there.

I had about 15 minutes of waiting and then it was time for us to go. By the way, there were people near us at the starting line who were taking shots of Fireball! That’s one way to keep warm I guess. The course itself was boring – a little rough and in-scenic but hey, that’s Hartford. We couldn’t exactly just run laps around Bushnell Park right? It was also hilly. I swear it felt like most of the course was uphill.y strategy was to keep jogging by very slowly up the hills, and I allowed myself to walk once I got to the top if I needed it. This way I would be able to catch my breath but lose less time.

This was my first race using my new Garmin that I got a couple of weeks ago. When it beeped saying that I had hit mile 3, I looked at the watch but runner brain didn’t quite put “1+1” together to realize I only had .2 miles of running left (the Garmin was ahead by .1 mi). The finish line didn’t have a huge overhead banner, just a small yellow flag. So I was caught by surprise when suddenly I could see the finishing chutes ahead of of me. I thought, “dammit I have more gas left in my tank!” I sprinted in but hit a traffic jam in the chute. I could have finished a minute faster if only I had started sprinting before mile 3.

Oh well.

The medal is so cute:

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My official time was 36:44/average pace 11:36. That’s only 1:23 more than my 5k PR so I’ll take it. I’m annoyed that I haven’t improved my 5k time in an entire year but I also ran 7 miles the day before so I knew it wasn’t likely.

They gave out corned beef sandwiches and beer after the race but Brian already told me the sandwich was bad, so I grabbed my free Thomas Hooker beer and ran inside to my waiting family & chug the beer before they kicked us out of the convention hall. I’m not sure what the other post race food there was because I was just focused on getting inside.

This was my coldest race ever. March 16 and still 20 degrees out! definitely will rethink trying to do any New England race before March, such as those crazy ones that pop up in January. No thank you!

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Race Recap: 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon, part 4: Aches and Pains

The physical effects of the marathon:

  • I’m sore but no real injuries (so far)
  • My face got suburned from being in the sun that long
  • My hands and fingers were swollen towards the end of the race
  • Toenails were all intact, no black toenails!
  • Post-race, it felt like I had a groin strain when I walked, which is a pain I have never had before. It only lasted 2 days.
  • I soaked my feet in ice water which I think helped the swelling in my feet go down. After the ice melted a little, I tried putting my legs in. I don’t think this ice water made my pain any better so I don’t think I’d try it again.
  • When I put my legs in the ice bath, I suddenly smelled like PEE. Then I remembered reading something about how your sweat can smell like ammonia and it means… something. Some internet research later suggests that it happens when your body runs out of carbs and breaks down proteins/amino acids. This information was attributed to doctors in advice columns, but I couldn’t find anything more scientific to back it up.
  • Ok, this is random and maybe TMI but I never read about it in any marathon training guidebooks and I think it’s important: My period was supposed to be the week of the marathon but I adjusted my birth control so that it would be the week before. Immediately after the marathon, I noticed I had some spotting. If I noticed anything else odd, I’d get it checked out, but for now I think it might be just due to the trauma of all that running.
  • My ankle started to hurt on the 3rd day (Wednesday). The rest of my pain was gone except for this ankle pain which is causing me to limp around.
  • Weight gain?! I weighed myself on Saturday morning (the day before the marathon) and then at home on Tuesday morning. I had GAINED over 3 lbs. What the hell? I know I did not binge enough to gain 3 lbs on food alone. I’d have to eat Thanksgiving proportions, All You Can Eat buffet proportions, 3 days in a row in order to gain that. It really freaked me out but internet searching suggests that it is common to have weight gain due to water retention because of electrolyte imbalance and as your body is trying to repair. I swear, I think even my face looks bloated. It was hard trying to figure out what to eat to fix this. Do I need more salt to correct the electrolyte imbalance? Doesn’t salt make you retain water? If I drink too much water, will it dilute my salt too much? I tried not to worry, and I tried to eat “normal” this week (no cutting calories, no low carb meals) but it is now Thursday and the scale has not budged.

So that’s it! Thats the end of my full marathon story. If you never thought you could do a marathon, I am proof that it is possible.

Actually I do have one more post about what I ate before/after, which will appear as a guest post on another website.

Hopefully I am all healed up within the next couple of days and I can start running or kickboxing again, moving onto the next “thing”. I’m excited for 5k season starting again. With the marathon out of the way I need to focus on weight loss more seriously though. Perhaps less running, more lifting.

Race Recap: Walt Disney World Marathon, part 3: The Finish!

I can. I will. I am a marathoner. 

As cheezey as that sounds, it was my mantra during training when my I was having trouble. When I needed to zone out and forget my self-doubt, I repeated that over and over. When I saw that I had 3 miles left to go, I couldn’t believe it was going to come true.

We had done a lot of running on empty boring roads, but Disney folks made it so that the final 3 miles were very densely packed with spectators – going through Hollywood Studios, the Boardwalk, and finally Epcot. Also, my favorite part was running through the fake New York City studio backlot of Hollywood Studios. Hearing the continuous lines of spectators during the final miles really helped boost my spirits. I also want to say that I am so grateful for my 6-hour friendship with the people around me. Whereas I could not get any words out of my mouth, these people were very kind to each other, chatting everyone up and offering encouragement to anyone that needed it. They were also looking around or looking back to make sure I was still there. I hope I can one day be relaxed and not so focused on myself that I can do the same for someone else.

According to my data, my final mile was my fastest so I was happy after knowing that. I can’t remember much else about the final miles. I don’t remember anything in Epcot, except quickly seeing Mulan and Jasmine and giving them a quick wave. Oh, and I remember that my hands were very swollen and it felt weird to make a first.

Finally, I was running into the chute and it felt like the shortest chute I had ever been in. My sister and niece were in the bleachers (I was surprised they got in there without buying a “chear” package) but they didn’t see me. I high-fived Donald Duck and and BAM. IT WAS OVER.

I completed the course in 6:01, just past my goal time of 6:00 and way past my “reach” time of 5:45.
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(It took me a minute to stop the clock)

But guess what? All of my zig-zagging and weaving through the intensely thick crowds added an entire mile to my distance:

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So in reality:

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Yeah! I’ll take it!

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After I finished, I was totally disoriented and discombobulated. I wandered a little bit, not knowing what to do with myself except gulp down as much water as I could, while trying to juggle the space blanket, two bottles, my phone, and a bag of ice. At one point I considered asking a med person to take my blood pressure because I have a history of it dropping too low and I didn’t want to pass out. Thinking back on it I truly think my brain was too fuzzy to even have enough common sense to do seek help. My husband and friends who had signed up for live runner tracking were texting me congrats but I couldn’t function enough to respond. It truly took me a good 15-20 minutes before I had half a brain. I’m glad that my sister texted me “Meet me at the info booth” because I didn’t have the capacity to say “I am at X, meet me there.” That’s something I didn’t consider!

The day before, I mentioned that I needed to eat as soon as I finished and I would rather have real food than consuming the entire snack box. She met me with some pizza! It nice to eat something chewy and salty after having only sweet things while running. What a sis.

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After I met up with them, I ate one slice of pizza and that was all I wanted. There seemed to be a fun after party scene with food trucks, music on stage, beer and champagne. Looking back, I wish I had the energy to stay and bask in the glory a little but I think I was really mentally drained. We went back to the hotel and I decided I would attempt an ice bath, which I never did before. I could only manage to get my feet in, and I think it helped the swelling in my feet go down faster. After some of the the ice melted, I finally got my legs in but I don’t think it made me any less sore the next day. After the best shower in the world, I laid by the pool and dozed.

I am incredibly amazed that I completed a marathon even if it was very slow. I never thought my body could do it.

The big question everyone asks me is: Will you do another marathon?

I’m not saying never! I’m not rushing to sign up for another one. I don’t even want to think about it right now. But on the other hand, I feel like I could have done better! I know that I am capable of better! If I go by what the Nike app and Garmin told me, it would say that I completed 26.2 miles in 5:50 ish, which I would be very happy about considering my half marathon PR was 2:49. A part of me wants to prove that I could have done better with fewer people but… the only person I’m proving it to is myself so there’s no rush.

Race Recap: 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon, part 2

This is where I talk about the miles…

When I left off, I was running to the bus for the race, without having any water or coffee. I am a coffee drinker, so I was a little nervous about not having my caffeine! I ate a Luna bar on the bus, which was hard to swallow without any water. There was so much traffic that the bus took 40 minutes to get from Pop Century to the start line. There was a water station in the first parking lot, so I drank two cups of water and ate some Energems, which supposedly has as much caffeine as an energy drink. I had just enough time to find the shortest bathroom line, then I had a long walk to the actual corral. I am not exaggerating when I say that the distance from the bus drop off to the starting line had to be at least one mile. That is just cruel.

I was assigned to Corral L based on my half marathon proof and expected finish time. Only at Disney World is a 6 hour marathon considered the median!

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As I waited in my corral, I ate a packet of almond butter.

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Finally, the real starting guns went off and it was time to go! My corral went about 40 minutes after the first wave. All I can remember about the first few miles were stress and anxiety. There were just way too many people to figure out what was happening. There was a six hour pace group next to me who was doing 2 minute run/2 minute walk intervals. I trained with 1 minute run/walk intervals. Experts tell you that during the race, do what you trained and don’t be tempted to change it just because you see a pace group. Well, I figured everything else had gone wrong so I jumped in with them. It was easier to run/walk when you are in a herd than by yourself.

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And then I dropped all of my Clif blocks within the first two miles. Now I was distracted by freaking out about how I was going to fuel during the race. Luckily if you remember from my long training runs, I did train with very minimal fuel so I knew I didn’t need much. I stopped at the bathrooms around mile 4 (the transportation and ticket center) though that was a mistake because the line was long and I didn’t have to go that bad. I lost more than 5 minutes here. I also stopped for a photo in front of Cinderella’s castle. Between those two stops, my first 5 miles took over an hour. Eww.

Coming into the castle was very cool. There’s my pacer in front with the green sign sticking out of her back:

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This picture is of the only really bad hill. We had to go steeply down under a bridge and then back up before entering a race track.

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I kept plodding along, still feeling good but worrying about my food. One kind woman gave me a peanut butter cracker but other than the calories in the Powerade, that was all I got.  I didn’t see any food stops until about mile 11.5, where there were bananas. I had never eaten a banana during a run before and yet I ate it anyway.  Finally at mile 15 there were packets of Clif shot gels, so I took one and saved two for later. Um, I had never eaten gels before. Again, the experts say to never eat anything that you didn’t train with! I am so lucky nothing bad happened.

A quick stop at the halfway point. I could barely stand still for the photo. Since I started 41 minutes after the gun time, my halfway point was pretty exact!

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I was drinking water and/or Powerade at every water stop, to the point where my stomach felt full and I skipped maybe two stops towards the end. Around mile 17, one station handed out washcloths soaked with ice cold water. As I took it and squeezed it over my head, the water running down my face tasted like saltwater from all the salt on my face. Sorry that’s gross, but it was so weird that I needed to share. I took other peoples’ advice and held onto that washcloth and re-wetted it until the final mile. It really helped to squeeze cold water on my arms, neck, and head to cool off. There were also some spectators who handed out a few pretzels so I ate a couple bites of that to get the salt but it was kind of hard to swallow. My body was getting tired but I was amazed that I didn’t really have any pain.

I had been running the entire time with this same pace group, and they were incredibly nice. I was having trouble getting words to come out of my mouth but I was happy to have them there as “my peeps”. Everyone sorta had nicknames too – ie “Canada”, “Ohio”, “America” (she was dressed patriotically), “Dopey”, and I of course was Pocahontas. Their chatting really helped pull me along, even though I was so tired that I couldn’t get any words out or barely raise my hands to wave to people. I can’t thank those kind strangers enough. Erica from California and the Pacebook Running Club and that group… I may never run into you again but thank you.

By the way, there were not as many costumes as I expected. Lots of tutus, sparkle skirts, and Minnie Mouse’s but not as many princesses. I only saw one other Pocahontas, [not] coincidentally also Asian, and we took a picture together. Being dressed as Pocahontas was awesome because people would cheer for me and just yell GO POCAHONTAS. When I ran through the baseball stadium at ESPN, the announcer said “Hey, here comes a Pocahontas, where you from Pocahontas?” So I yelled “RHODE ISLAND” and he said “Give it up for Pocahontas from Rhode Island!!” But truly, the winning spectator comment was from a woman in the Boardwalk area who yelled “Yeah Pocahontas! You’re almost there, it’s just around the river bend.” I hadn’t even thought of that pun.

At mile 19, I took another gel. By now, I didn’t really feel like swallowing anything, even water. I didn’t eat anything else after mile 19 and just concentrated on making sure I had enough water yet stressing about whether I would get hyponatremia. There was a stop where they handed out chocolates and fruit snacks so I ate the chocolate (a mini Mr. Goodbar) and maybe 3 bites of fruit snacks. Then I realized, holy crap, I’m going to finish.

I was getting so tired and it was hard to concentrate on the end goal. Every time I stopped for my 2 minute walk interval, it was very hard to get walking again. My feet were sore from the pounding. When I hit mile 20, I thought to myself, holy crap I’m going to finish! At mile 23, I said, oh my goodness even if I walk the entire rest of the way, I will finish! I had to stop thinking that though, because I did not even want the phrase “I could walk til the end” to even be in my brain.

Random funny things I witnessed:

  • a guy at the starting line wearing just a speedo and sneakers
  • Doctor Dribble, who did the whole marathon dribbling two basketballs
  • A young lady with one of those scooters that you use when you have a broken leg, scooting along
  • People crying while running
  • People ordering margaritas while running

To be continued with the finish line…