Monday, April 30, 2012

Part 1: Final Preparations

Thursday came before we knew it.

We were on the road by 4:40 that afternoon.  So were half a million other people.  After an hour of taking back roads to avoid sitting on 75, we finally made it to Marietta.  A trip that should have only been 30 minutes.

Once we finally got on the road and past all the Atlanta traffic, our trip was fairly uneventful.  We pulled into my mom's driveway at 2 a.m. Central time, meaning 3 a.m. our time.  Half an hour later we finally made it to bed.

The next morning we were back out the door and on the road up to Champaign.

We met up with Martha to pick up our numbers from the Activities and Recreation Center on the U of I campus.

Since my cousin Lisa wouldn't make it in time to pick up her own number, we were able to pick up hers with ours.  Poor Lisa freaked out when we told her that signing up for a pace team would put her out $50.  Haha, just kidding of course.

After we parted ways with Martha, Phillip and I made a quick stop on Green Street to pick up a new Illinois hat for Phillip.

Then we embarked on another road trip as we drove the course that we were going to be running the next morning.

We parked the car near Mile 25 and ran the last mile up to Memorial Stadium so we could get a quick warm-up run in and get a feel for what the last mile would be like.

I wish I had my camera with me on the run so I could take a picture of the finish line before the stadium was full of people.  It had this amazing feeling knowing that the next time I saw it would be one of the most incredible moments of my life.  At least I got a quick shot of the outside of the stadium as we drove by.

We partook in the traditional pasta dinner that night after Lisa and her family made their way to town for the race.

Recovery shakes were prepared and ready for the next day.

Oh Ultragen, where have you been the last 4 months?

Last minute gear checks were completed.

We were in bed by 10 p.m.  The late night drive had taken it's toll, and we were out.

Stay tuned for Part 2. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Are you ready?

So many people have asked if I'm ready for this Saturday. 

Physically, I'm about as ready as I can be.  Mentally, I'm ready to finally do this.  It's been a long time coming since we first signed up in August.  This marathon has hung over our heads for months.

Yes, I'm ready for this Saturday.

Since we're leaving right after work tomorrow for the drive up to Illinois, tonight is packing night, making sure all the odds and ends are in place so we can leave straight-away tomorrow.

Marathon Weekend Packing To-Do
1.  Make a trip to Dick's Sporting Goods and stock up on energy gels.  Best to get them here in Georgia where there isn't a major race in town that could create a potential gel-shortage. 

 2.  Make granola bars.  Inspired by the recipe found at (never home)maker, these are one of the most delicious, nutritious, and filling things I've ever made, and will be perfect for road trip and marathon day snacks. 

3.  Gather our running gear.  This includes our hats, belts, water bottles, arm bands, and headphones.

4.  Figure out what to wear.  Are we going for comfort or style?  

5.  Gather all the food that we're going to take with us.  Since this trip will be 10+ hours, it's good to bring food with us to minimize as many stops as possible.  I've also decided to bring the same bread, peanut butter, and milk that I typically eat before my runs to keep my diet as consistent as possible.  Saturday is not the time to make changes in my diet that I can easily avoid.

6.  Find reading material and other things to keep us occupied during the car ride.  Poor Phillip has to study on Sunday's ride home for a test that he has on Monday.  Yuck. 

7.  Tidy up the house, just so I don't have to come home to a messy one. 

8.  Charge the camera battery. If only I had known it was dead yesterday, there could've been pictures on here today.  But I digress.  

9.  Prep the things that can't be packed tonight so they're ready to go tomorrow.

10.  Make sure the cats have enough food and water.  It won't do to come home to dead kitties.

11.  Get a good night's sleep.  I'll only regret it tomorrow night if I don't get enough sleep tonight.  Oh, who am I kidding.  I'll fall asleep before we hit Nashville like I always do.  There's no stopping it...

I can't believe that we're driving up tomorrow already.  This week has flown by. 

On Friday we have to pick up our race numbers and other goodies from Health and Fitness Expo at the University of Illinois.  I just found out that we can search for our numbers before we get there!  Awesome.  For those of you who are running the race too, go here to find your number.  

Also for you race runners, in case you haven't read it yet, here's the race guide with all the useful information for the next few days.  Good stuff to know.

The next time I write will be after this Saturday.  Marathon Day.  The day I see if I have what it takes to run 26.2 miles.

I'm ready.

Monday, April 23, 2012

It's almost here.

This is it!

At this time on Thursday, Phillip and I will be on the road on a very important road trip up to Illinois. 

At this time on Friday, Phillip and I, along with my dear cousin and good friend who are also running their big race, will have stuffed our faces with lots of pasta and be making an attempt to go to bed early to get as much sleep as we can.

At this time on Saturday, Phillip and I will more than likely be drinking a beer, stuffing our faces, or both, after having successfully run 26.2 miles.

At this time on Sunday, Phillip and I will driving back home to Georgia, exhausted yet incredibly proud of our new accomplishment.

It's hard to believe that we're less than a week away at this point.

I haven't written as much as I thought I would on this journey.  It ended up that I wrote more about my positive experiences and lessons learned, because I know there have been some people who read this that I think benefits, motivates, or at least relates to what I've been going through.

There haven't been many negative experiences written on here, and I guess that's because whenever I had a bad run I wanted to forget it as quickly as possible.

But believe me, there have been many bad runs.

Like in August when I tried running in 95 degree weather without any water.

And back in January when I was just getting back into running after a two month break and had such a hard time getting back into the routine and finding the motivation.  

Or the time I tried to run 14 miles and could only get in 10 before my knee cramped out on me and I could barely walk, let alone finish the last 4 miles.

Even the time I fell into a manhole.  Oh wait, I did write about that.  Haha.

So now let's talk about the last few weeks.

I cranked out 21 miles at the end of March.  My idea was to get in as many long runs up to and past 20 miles as possible.  My thought was to learn what "The Wall" was and how to get passed it.  Well, I learned what the Wall is, and have an idea how to get passed it, but I never did get any more 20+ miles in.

See, I quit paying attention to my training schedule.  I didn't think it was progressing fast enough in terms of distance per week, and so I took it into my own hands.  Probably not the best idea, but it's what I did.  So my 21 mile run was a week earlier than the training schedule.  My goal was then to run 23 miles the following week before I started to taper.

What seemed like a good idea at the time failed miserably.

I tried, I really did.  But all I could get out of me was 13 miles.  Still good, but no where near what I planned.  Despite this, I didn't allow myself to get too worked up over not finishing the 23 miles, because I felt that quality was better than quantity.  I had just run 21 miles the week before, so I knew it'd be ok to take it easy this week.  I was disappointed, but I had to listen to my body.

The following week was supposed to be a 13 mile run.  I thought I would do 16.  I started off great.  Felt really good.  But around mile 6, I started to get tired going up a really small hill.  I was desperate for water, even though I had Gatorade to drink.  I took a break and walked.  Eventually I found a water fountain and filled my water bottle.  I tried running again, but continued a walk/run pattern for the next 4 miles.  4 miles!  No good.  Finally after I hit around 10 miles (I don't even know, I was so frustrated), I gave up, turned off my stopwatch, and walked the rest of the way home. I walked so slow that it took me over an hour to get home.  I desperately wanted to call Phillip to come get me, but I thought he was out on his own run, only to find out later that he didn't go at all.  As soon as I got home I laid down and promptly fell right to sleep. I refused to find out how far I actually made it for days, and I cleared my stopwatch before getting a good look at my time.  It was that bad of a run.

At this point, I couldn't fathom how I'd be ready for this marathon in two weeks.  If I can barely run 10 miles, how in the world would I be ready for 26?

This isn't good.

I started to freak out.  My body was done.

Two weeks in a row and I couldn't finish what I started out for.

I decided that it's possible my body is rejecting these runs because of the 21 miles I had just cranked out.  Perhaps it took a lot more out of me than I realized.  I tell myself this, not knowing if there is any validity to it, but it makes me feel a little better.

A week away from race day, the training schedule said to run 8 miles.  My goal on Saturday was 10, but I compromised and ran 9.  And surprisingly enough, I felt great.  I kept a good pace and could have kept going, but decided it was more important to be kind to my body a week out.

Perhaps the reason why I had such a hard time really was that I needed a few weeks to recover from that long of a distance.

Maybe it was to teach myself not to give up.  Even if I had to quit early the day of the run, I was right back at it a week later.

Determination to overcome any mental walls in addition to the physical ones has been an incredibly hard yet very satisfying lesson to learn. 

Remind me this when I hit mile 20 this Saturday.

Only five more days. 

Good news!  I finally have a camera again, and will get to post pictures in the upcoming posts!  Yay for visually stimulating reads!