My First Marathon

On Sunday, I completed my first marathon, side-by-side with my dad.

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What was it like?

The first half breezed by, pain-free, doubt-free. I hadn’t felt that good running in a long time. I enjoyed chatting with other marathoners, hearing their story while distracting ourselves from the miles that lay ahead. That was actually one of the best parts of the marathon: the connection with like-minded people, each with their own interesting story to tell.

Our long training runs were completed at around 12 minute/mile pace. During the marathon, the first few miles slipped by at under 10 minute pace, and we completed the first half at just over 10:30 pace. The first hill at mile 12 didn’t come close to living up to it’s internet legend. But my legs took a pounding going down that hill, and coming back up it the whole game changed. It felt like every muscle in my legs were seizing; it was pain like I’ve never experienced. I didn’t let myself walk up the hill, but with the pace I was going I might as well have. Somewhere in the haze of miles 18-20, it got really dark. There were tears. And strange whimpers that I’ve never made. And pain. PAIN. PAIN. PAIN. I can’t describe the pain. So we walked a ways, and our slowest mile crawled by at over 16 minute pace. At that point I had to decide: Is this worth it? With all this pain, do I even care? Weedy, negative thoughts entered my head. I wanted to think them. It almost felt good to think them. But deep down I knew I couldn’t let them spread. I had tried to rehearse this point of the race in my mind. I had quotes on stand-by. I knew what I would tell myself. But it was worse than I had imagined, my self-talk wasn’t working.

Ultimately, it was a combination of wanting to be a marathon runner, wanting to beat five hours, and the reality that walking hurt just as much as running did that gave me the strength to run on.

We didn’t see mile marker 20. And right around this time I was swearing off marathons for the rest of forever.

At around marker 21, we knew we needed to pick up the pace to beat 5 hours. I wanted to. But for 5.2 more miles? It didn’t feel physically possible. At first it was all I could do to keep shuffling at the same pace.

Mile maker 22: 4.2 miles still seemed so far. Five hours was in sight, but slipping away. I shuffled a little faster.

Mile marker 23: 3.2 miles? Seemed easy enough, until I did the math: 36 more minutes of running. Yetwe kept moving, now on pace to reach our goal.

Mile marker 24: The end was finally in sight. That mile we ran for each other. It was the fastest mile of the second half.

Mile marker 25: I remember thinking “that is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” Yet we needed to increase our speed. We ran that last 1.2 miles for ourselves. We stretched from a stumble to a real run.

Mile marker 26: We sprinted to the finish, which I swear was more like 0.35, instead of 0.20 miles later. It was going to be close. I started to feel the high of finishing, and I accepted the idea of running another marathon someday.

The finish line: 4:59:41. And we became marathoners.

I wanted to sit down right there as they handed us our finishers medals and visors, but the photographer gave me an urgent look that said “you’re in the way!” Didn’t he know I couldn’t breath? Or walk? My dad coaxed me to the side. He NEVER lets me sit down right away, always making me walk it off. This time he didn’t say anything when I fell into a chair and stayed there. I think my tears and whimpers on the course softened him.

…At least that’s how I remember that scene of crossing the finish line. But I must have been doing alright, because when I look at my finisher’s photo, I’m smiling and lingering in front of the photographer to give a “thumbs up.”

Today, in line at the grocery store, wearing our shirts and medals, the checker congratulated us and expressed how she “couldn’t run.” It was surreal, because I actually couldn’t relate anymore. I never used to consider myself a runner. In fact, have distant memories of thinking the same thoughts as that checker. Memories of huffing and puffing and feeling “pain.” But after completing a marathon, I can’t fathom feeling that way anymore. Almost anyone can run. Maybe not fast, but that doesn’t have to be the point. Movement. Health. Feelings of achievement. That’s the point.

Over the course of three months of training, and a five hour event, I have transformed, physically stronger, but even more mentally. I now see opportunities where I used to see impossibilities. My confidence in myself to do hard things has grown. I’ve experienced the worst pain of my life and survived. I survived and I want to do it again. It might have taken a marathon for me to really believe it, but I believe it now: I am a runner. To me that means that I can do hard things. Not just once, but as many times as it takes for as long as it takes. And I have faith that I will come out stronger, happier, and more alive.

So, if you’re reading this and have even the slightest hopes of running a marathon one day, I truly believe that you can do it! It will take a lot of training and discipline. It will take hard work.  Maybe even a little suffering! But it can be done and it will be worth it. You’ll see.

Since finishing, I have indulged every food craving. The toll? Half of a Red Robin chili burger and half of a jalapeño cheese burger, one and a half servings of Red Robin fries, two waffle cones piled high with real Tillamook ice cream (one scoop of chocolate peanut butter and one scoop of cookie dough), and one Dick’s cheeseburger with half and order of fries. Riding home in the car feeling sick and unable to digest the second ice cream cone and cheese burger, and sitting here feeling bloated, I am reminded why I like vegetables and grilled chicken.

Feeling sick with indulgence, we started plotting our next marathon. Criteria: Well organized, relatively flat, relatively scenic, nice weather, not conflicting with Cougar football, not too soon or too far, and close enough to drive would be a plus. We have tentatively decided on Portland, whose website boasts “The best organized Marathon in North America!” which sounds delightful after the very poorly coordinated Coeur D’Alene marathon. I want to run in a large, energetic race; there’s something about the idea of suffering with thousands of other runners that just seems right.

Perhaps, after reading about the worst pain of my life, you’re left wondering why I am considering doing it again? To put it simply, and you may have already guessed, it’s the post-marathon high. If you haven’t experienced it, I’m not sure I can explain, but I’ll try. It’s the sweet fatigue of a job well done. It’s the story that you get to tell for the rest of your life. It’s the overwhelming relief that you’ve killed yourself for months and it’s over. And, from my experience with other exercise highs, it’s fleeting. You have to chase it again.

But the one thought, almost a fear even, that lingers in my mind is, will the second marathon high be as good? Or am I on a slippery slope of endurance addiction? Always needing a heightened challenge to feel it? I suppose that’s why everyone is trying to run farther or run faster?

As amazing as completing a marathon was, and at the risk of putting up self-imposed limits, I think a marathon might be far enough for now. So faster it is, then!

Searching for Serenity {12/4&5/12 workouts}

This has been a hard week… like, a pre-finals, crazy-busy with packing, sore throat, $1500+ in unexpected bills kind of hard … so here’s just a quick workout update…

Yesterday:
10 min incline walking
Leg weights for ~ 1 hour
35 minute cybex elliptical

Today:
30 minutes incline walking
30 min cybex elliptical

Even in the midst of my pity party, I can recognize that even though going to the gym (and changing out of my PJs for any reason for that matter) was dead last on my list of things that I wanted to do, exercise has been the one thing keeping me sane these past few days.

I’ve just got to practice those positive thinking skills that I preach, and I’ll be starting a fresh semester before I know it!

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Illness & The Exercise Itch {12/3/12 Workout}

Sometimes I simply cannot sit and look at one more post, pin, blog… I just get the itch to move! For the last week or so, I’ve been fighting a bug and I’m trying to find balance between exercise and rest, between not having an appetite yet still eating enough, between lethargy one minute and restlessness the next. Does this make sense? Illness messes with my head…

I had a workout planned with my cousin today, but it was interrupted by my mom’s arrival into town to help me pack (thanks Mom!). I thought I’d just workout at home when I got a free minute, but then I thought maybe not due to my fatigue. Even though I was tired, I had to help pack because my mom drove all that way; once I put on real clothes and makeup and started packing, I got a little spurt of energy.

I really haven’t had an appetite with this sore throat — so why eat much, right? Wrong! My mom took me out to dinner, and after eating I really felt my energy surge! So here I am right now having a leisurely ride on the spin bike after a kickass arm & shoulder workout. My restless got the best of me and propelled me to the gym… and also the fact that I really didn’t want to write an excuse-for-not-working-out post. Right now I feel the best I have all day! 🙂

Arm & Shoulder Workout:

20 minutes incline walking warm-up

3 x 12-15 of the following:

Dumbbell bicep curls
Dumbbell overhead tricep press

Lateral raise
Front raise

Bent over lateral raise
Military press

Narrow grip barbell curl
Overhead tricep cable press

Dumbbell hammer curl
Tricep pressdown

1 x 25:

Bent-over barbell curl burnout

25 minutes of spinning & counting! {ended up to be 40 minutes}

Caffeine, Friend or Foe? {12/2/12 Workout}

I hear people all the time say “I really should quit drinking coffee. I know it’s bad for me.”

But is it really? For me, sometimes a little lot of caffeine in the form of a skinny mocha or crystal lite energy is the only think that gets me out of bed and to class in the morning and then to the gym in the afternoon. I don’t think going to class and the gym is bad for me; in fact, I think not going would be very bad for me. In my opinion, anything that can help me get to class, get to the gym, and complete anything else on my to-do list is not only good, but awesome!

And hey, coffee even has lots of antioxidants! Just don’t pour on the sugar and cream. And yes, more than 3-4 cups is probably bad, especially if you’re prone to high blood pressure. And yes, its a diuretic, so you have to compensate with even more water. And no, I’m not a doctor — so obviously take their advice first. But for me at least, caffeine (in moderation) is my friend!

On that note, I got up this morning and downed a few crystal lite energy packets in several tall glasses of water in addition to a couple of glasses of plain water. And voila! Presto! My energy is back!

What do you think? Is caffeine your friend or foe?

My workout:

  • 35 minutes on StairMaster (~170 floors)
  • 25 minutes on Cybex elliptical
  • Hot tub relaxation with my cousin and workout partner!

 

Get some sleep! {12/1/12 Workout}

Yesterday, encouraged by the sunshine pouring through the windows, I decided to start my day with a run. I laced up and headed out. When I set out for a run from my apartment, no matter which route I choose, it’s uphill at first. My legs felt tight, the arch of my right foot hurt, and I was all-around tired. Just finish the 1.5 mile loop then see how you feel. As I ran, my aches were unrelenting, and the wind whipped against my face and ears.

The 1.5 mile loop turned out to be all I could take, and I retreated to a warm bath.I played with the idea of going to the gym for some indoor cardio, but I just felt exhausted all day. Instead, I spent the day running errands and packing. I think I’ve been so tired lately (1) due to the grey days, and (2) because I still have my sleep schedule all out of whack since staying up too late over Thanksgiving break.

So, my goal for this week is to go to bed by 10:30 every night! It’s amazing how lack of sleep can affect your energy level, emotions, and cognitive abilities. I just don’t feel like myself when I’m sleep-deprived.

Today, I am going to hit it hard at the gym! But first, caffeine…

My First iPhone {11/29/12 Workout}

I have finally joined the modern world and purchased an iPhone 4s (my first smartphone).

New iPhone! ❤

Merry Christmas, Happy Anniversary, and Happy Birthday to me! It was waiting for me on my doorstep when I got home from school, and all of my winter dreariness was replaced with Holiday joy. I spent 2 hours laying in bed setting it up and updating it. My Otterbox won’t be here for another week, so I took that baby to the gym with me in a wool sock. When I set it down in between sets, I found myself watching it like a hawk… which made me think: if I am this protective of an iPhone, what will I be like when I have my first baby someday?  Scary thought.

I am excited to try out the Track My Run and ifitness apps. Any recommendations for other must-have apps?

My muscles appreciated a day-off from exercise yesterday, and they also appreciated a hard workout today. Yesterday, I did spend a lot of time packing… so maybe I should have today off? I like this idea very much, but my anal-retentive side will probably compusively clean/pack anyways. I’m at least going to pretend for awhile that I’m going to spend the rest of the night relaxing and playing on my new toy. 🙂

Today’s Leg Workout:

  • 10 minute warm-up on Cybex elliptical
  • Side lunge with lift holding 10 lb – 3 x 12
  • Sumo squat with heel raise and jump holding 10 lb – 3 x 12
  • Stationary lunge with lift holding 10 lb – 3 x 12
  • Squats – 3 x 15
  • Leg press followed by calf pulse – 3 x 15
  • Leg extension – 3 x 15
  • Leg curl – 3 x 12
  • Single-leg deadlift – 3 x 15
  • Bulgarian split squat – 3 x 15
  • 30 minutes on StairMaster
  • 20 minutes on Cybex elliptical

Gray Day {11/27/12 Workout}

It is cold and windy outside and the sky is gray. I am already suffering from sunshine withdrawal. As I write this, my eyelids are drooping — what’s that I hear? A nap calling my name? I think so!

I cranked out a great workout last night, but right now I’m feeling the opposite of energized. Today might be a rest day. Besides finishing one homework assignment, I’m just going to let myself do what I want for the rest of the day. If I feel like packing, or cooking, or doing Zumba, great, I’ll do it. If not, I’m giving myself permission to just rest and play. I’ve been exercising hard, packing hard, and not sleeping enough this week.

Yesterday’s chest, back, abs and cardio workout:

  • 30 min incline walking
  • Bench press – 3 x 12
  • Partner-assisted pull-ups – 3 x 8
  • Bent-over barbell row – 3 x 12
  • Cable cross – 3 x 15
  • Incline chest press – 3 x 12
  • Rows – 3 x 15
  • Hyperextensions holding weight plate – 3 x 15
  • Side hyperextensions holding weight plate – 3 x 15 per side
  • Captain’s chair – 4 x 15
  • Reverse crunches on bench – 3 x 20
  • Side crunches – 2 x 30
  • Ab disc oblique crunches – 2 x 12 per side
  • 30 minutes Cybex elliptical

I know I did some work because I am already sore! Tomorrow is leg day, so I better find some energy soon!

Cleansing {11/26/12 Workout}

Today, by brain was not happy with the idea of returning to school after a fun week off. In fact, it pretty much decided to take the day off — you know those days where no matter how hard you think, your brain just can’t seem to catch up with your mouth? This was my reality this morning as I gave a final presentation.

It was not the worst of my life, but it wasn’t good. On my walk home from school my brain finally decided to turn on and obsess over every stutter, everything I could have worded better.

When I got home, I distracted myself with de-cluttering and packing. My number one goal right now is to move into our new apartment with as little clutter as possible. I filled one box (for Goodwill) and two garbage bags (for garbage) today after going through my bathroom alone! I felt so guilty throwing away so many half-used products, but after not touching them for months/years, I figured it was time to let go. Next time I want to buy makeup, or shampoo, or lotion, will someone please stop me?! I could have used that money for some fun adventures! Oh well, you live and learn. I think my new lifestyle should quality minimalism. Note to self: only buy quality stuff that you really love, instead of a whole bunch of really cheap stuff that clutters your life. 🙂

I had to put a hold on the cleaning frenzy when my 3:30 workout date rolled around. After a cortisol-filled morning, it felt so good to let the stress wash away with each rotation of the elliptical, with each heave of the weight.

So today, I cleansed my spirit with some literal throwing away of junk, and with a wonderful workout. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel — the clean new apartment and my uncovered muscles!

My Cardio, Arms, & Shoulder Workout:

  • 15 minutes Cybex elliptical
  • Shoulder warm-up with very light weight
  • Overhead Press – 3 x 12-15
  • Front/Lateral Raise  – 3 x 10
  • Barbell Upright Row  – 3 x 12-15
  • Bent-Over Lateral Raise  – 3 x 12-15
  • Dumbbell curl  – 3 x 12-15
  • Tricep Pressdown (straight bar attachment)  – 3 x 12-15
  • Barbell Curl  – 3 x 12-15
  • Overhead Tricep Press (double rope attachment)  – 3 x 12-15
  • 30 minutes spinning
  • 15 minutes Cybex elliptical

Hope your return to work/school today wasn’t too jarring after the Thanksgiving Holiday. Now it’s time for the final 3-week push before Christmas break (and the big move)! Eyes on the prize!