I had a really hard time making myself run after my marathon. I had hoped to keep up with at least 25-mile weeks to maintain my running capabilities, but I think my body and mind really just needed a rest. I eventually gave in and allowed myself to take some time, only heading out to run once or twice a week.
Alex is running these days, so if not for him inviting me on his runs, I might not even have done that. Hooray for Alex. Plus, he runs faster than I do, so he’s helping me with my “get faster” plan.
I am the type of person who needs an event hanging over my head to induce some panic training, so I wanted to put something threatening on my calendar that would force me into the streets.
Cue the Marine Corps Marathon 17.75K.
This is an 11.03-mile race that, if/when you finish, you are guaranteed entry into the Marine Corps Marathon in October. Registration was last Friday. It opened at 11am, which is when I registered. By the time I got home from work at 3pm and I looked at the site again, it was sold out. Phew! Glad I put reminders on my work calendar to sign up.
Happily, now I have a threatening event on my calendar—a marathon in October. Yikes! Also, however, I have to run this goddamn 11-miler, which, it turns out, looks fucking hard. (Hills, gravel roads, 11 miles, etc.)
Too bad I haven’t been running because that race is in five weeks. Double yikes.
Cue panic training.
I’ve just filled out my training calendar with every run I am taking between now and October 22. Seriously. Give me a date and I can tell you how far and how fast I’ll be running that day. I’m pretty excited about the whole thing.
As long as I’m telling you about my running, I might as well tell you about the race I ran this weekend, which was called the Sykesville Shiver Shuffle even though it was 70-degrees outside and most people were wearing shorts. It made the guy there in the snowman costume look ironic. And it made the people who were running in Hawaiian shirts look less ironic.
This was just a 5k race, but its motto is apparently “Kill the hill!” because there is a big hill they make you run up. I was told that the first mile is uphill and then it is either flat or downhill with a one-mile all-downhill stretch at the end. That is all a bunch of lies though because every time I turned a corner, hey, guess what, another motherfucking hill. When I turned the corner with .75 miles to go and was confronted by another hill, I flat-out told the guy at the turn that this course was BULLSHIT. Because it was.
Regardless, it was a super fun course and at least they weren’t lying about the downhill stretch to the finish. It was one of those downhills where you just have to commit to gravity and have confidence that you aren’t going to fall because if you do, you are going to lose six or seven layers of your face. And probably a kneecap.
I include this photo from the race mostly because my hair is fucking hilarious in it. While *I* was committed to gravity, my ponytail was not.
Regardless of hills, I still ran pretty fast, averaging about 11-minute miles, which is awesome for me. Yay, gravity!
Anyway, get prepared to hear lots of whining from me as I train over the course of the next few months because if marathon training in the winter in DC was obnoxious, imagine what marathon training in DC during the summer is going to be like. Blerg. Stupid Extremely Recent Past Stimey signing me up for this. But at least she’s getting me running again.
You know how at celebrity award shows there is always some doofus who wins an award and then thanks everyone from her makeup artist to her lawyer but forgets to mention her partner, arguably the most important person of all?
Well. When Alex read yesterday’s post where I thanked everyone under the sun including a stranger who handed me a banana, he was all, “Too bad Alex didn’t help at all.” Then he threatened me with bodily harm if I tried to change the post after the fact.
I AM SO SORRY, ALEX. YOU ARE THE WIND BENEATH MY WINGS.
Let’s take this opportunity to pretend that I had planned this post all along and I will tell you all of the wonderful things that Alex did to help me prepare for my marathon because seriously guys, I couldn’t have done it without him.
Look how cute he is!
• Whenever I had a long run and only ran one direction because routes away from my house are downhill and routes back to my house are uphill, he came to pick me up.
• Sometimes he came to pick me up in really unfortunate places, like Georgetown on a Saturday night or next to the zoo during Zoo Lights a week before Christmas.
• When he picked me up, he would suffer through the stinkification of the car when I jacked the heat way up and sat really close to the vent. Trust me, that’s award-worthy right there.
• He let me structure the entire family’s schedule around my training calendar.
• When a family-related activity conflicted with my training calendar, he stepped up to be the parent-on-call.
• He let me go on a long run every Saturday when I would be gone for hours, then he let me come back and take a nap.
• When I had to get in a run, but knew I wouldn’t have time after work, he let me run in the morning and he would get all three kids ready for school and get them on their buses.
• He was my best cheerleader, never doubting that I would be able to run a marathon and making sure he let me know that.
• He put a ton of extra effort into leading the family when I was training. In terms of putting in a lot of work for something that had no direct benefit for him, he really stepped up.
• All actions including but not limited to the above mentioned activities.
• When I called him after I finished last week’s marathon and asked him if it would be okay if I ran another one this fall, without hesitation he said yes.
If any race deserves its own race report, it’s my first marathon. Last Sunday I ran my very first 26.2-mile race, the Chevron Houston Marathon.
Spoiler alert: Marathons are Hard.
I *think* “GRB” is the name of the convention center. It seems like a lot of work to look that up.
Before I get into how the race went, I’ll tell you of my original goals for it. These goals would change later in the race, but that’s okay. Originally I was hoping to run a 12-1/2 minute mile pace and I planned to run the entire race except for walking through water stops.
I ended up with an average pace of 13:23/mile, which is okay. That kept me under the official cutoff pace of the race. I ran until mile 20+ when I changed to some walk/run intervals for the remainder of the race. I really have no idea how much of the last five miles I walked, but I’m guessing it was probably two to three miles. I finished in 5 hours, 56 minutes, and 8 seconds. (That’s a long time to ambulate, by the way.)
But before all of that happened, I was up at 5:15 am and cheerfully waiting in my hotel room for 6 am to roll around so I could head over to my starting corral. I had gotten rooms for me and for my mom and stepdad (henceforth referred to as “Richard”) so we could be near the start line in the morning.
Look how happy and blissfully unaware of the six hours to come I am.
I was set to start in Corral E, which was the last one. My family was nice enough to get up with me and walk over to the corral at 6 in the morning. I spent the next 45 minutes circling, fretting, stretching, and going back and forth from porta potty line to porta potty line.
This is me stretching. My stepdad wouldn’t let my mom take a photo of me in the porta potty line.
The weather is generally very mild for this race, but this year it was warm, with temperatures in the 60s and 70s and high humidity. Thankfully it was overcast so at least there wasn’t much sun for most of the day. A few minutes before 7 I shooed my family away and wormed my way into the throng to wait for the start.
I waited, looking around as usual and then I had a thought. “Jean,” I thought to myself, “This is your first marathon. Take a minute to breathe it in and remember what it was like.” So I stopped and breathed it in and then I wormed a little farther ahead to get away from the porta potty and then I breathed it in again. Then I couldn’t stop smiling.
Start time was 7am, but I didn’t get across the start line until 7:30ish. That’s when I stopped smiling and got down to bizness. Bizness didn’t last long though because I passed my mom and Richard after about a quarter of a mile and my smile came back when I high fived them. Also, my name was on my bib, so bystanders did a lot of yelling of names and every time someone said my name it made me smile even more.
As I mentioned, it was pretty humid (by mile 2.5 I could already smell myself, which is never a good sign), but it was F.L.A.T., so going was good for the first section. There were lots of things to look at and the crowds were fantastic. There were people everywhere and they were all so nice. There was also Gatorade and water every mile and a half or so, so I drank a lot of liquid.
The first 8 or so miles the marathon ran with the half marathon, so there were lots of people. It felt amazing to take the right turn leading to the marathon route when we split off from them. That felt like a big deal. Suddenly there were a lot fewer of us and it felt different and kinda awesome.
There were also suddenly no lines for porta potties, so I took advantage of that, which also made me feel different and kinda awesome.
It was quiet along that stretch without a lot of spectators. I knew that the course would shortly pass my stepsister Sara’s church and I was hopeful that she would be out with her kiddo, Elliot. Sure enough, at mile 9, Elliot’s dad was suddenly there running alongside me, videotaping me as I passed Sara and Elliot on the corner.
It is amazing how much seeing my supporters on the sidelines affected my energy and pace. I was still feeling pretty fresh at that point, but still I perked up and headed off with fresh gusto.
There’s not a lot to report for the next few miles. I ran. That’s about it. I continued to hydrate. I was finally able to put on my sunglasses after a bystander handed me a tissue and I could clean the fog off of them (my clothes were entirely wet with sweat by then). Volunteers passed out wet sponges at mile 11. I encountered my first hill at mile 12 (freeway overpass), which is also where I saw a half marathoner trudging the wrong way along the course. I spent some time thinking about how awful it would be to take a right instead of a left and end up in a 26-mile race instead of a 13-miler.
I also passed my favorite sign right around the halfway mark. There was a man standing quietly by the side of the road, not shouting or cheering, and holding a small white sign on which was written in small black lettering, “You are doing good.” The simplicity of that sign made me smile for a long time.
Then it started to pour rain. Because we wanted ALL the weather that day.
At mile 15 I ate my Snickers bar, which did not melt, thank you very much, just in time to be captured by Richard’s camera as I rounded a corner to find him and my mom cheering.
See me sucking Snickers bar out of my teeth there?
It was here that I decided to take my first break to stretch a little and also to ask my mom if I had chocolate on my face, because it is embarrassing if you are a chubby runner and you have, like, a peanut and a smear of caramel on your chin while you’re running a race.
I look a little bit like I’m ready to barf here, but in fact I was stretching.
Sadly the rain had made my sunglasses unusable again, so I stopped to use a porta potty again and to use toilet paper to clean them off. The sun also came out, which was nice, but hot. This was the hottest part of the marathon, although it’s possible that I just stopped noticing at some point. The race had started under a yellow alert because of heat and humidity, but by the time I finished it was at red.
It was also around this point that I started to notice my mile splits were getting longer. I had been maintaining about a 12-minute mile for the first half marathon, but it was about here that they started getting longer. It looks like for my next marathon I’ll have to run longer more often during training.
I kept chugging along, although mile 16 and 17 were where I started to notice an upset stomach, which I think makes sense. I’d been expecting it. It was nothing too major, but just noticeable enough that I started to be more careful about what I consumed, trying to strike a balance between fueling enough and not, you know, puking on the course.
I’d expected to see my family once on the run, so it was a wonderful surprise to see them two or three more times on the route. They were so fantastic. I hope they know how much their presence meant to me. I loved seeing them and high-fiving them, although the last time I saw them at about mile 24, I did not want to spend the energy to veer away from the middle of the road to slap their hands, so I just mouthed “OH. MY. GOD.” at them and continued on my way.
See? Wouldn’t this cheer you up too?
My longest mile by a lot was mile 20. It took me 16:42 to traverse that section. I had started to feel a little light headed and so I slowed down and took time to stretch. It was also during the last quarter mile of mile 20 that I first took a walk break. I had badly wanted to run the whole marathon, but I was starting to realize that I could finish the whole thing or I could run the whole thing. I didn’t think I could do both. I felt a little demoralized about it, but decided that adjusting goals due to my condition was not the worst thing in the world.
I continued doing walk/run intervals, trying to run as much as I could. I also took a brief sitting break at some point to let my legs enjoy a bent position for a minute. I knew that even with my readjusted goals that I wanted to cross the finish line under six hours though, so I tried to keep hustling as much as possible.
At mile 23 I was trudging along near the side of the road when a stranger looked at me, looked at my bib, and said, “Jean, do you need a banana?” I nodded and she handed one to me. “Take little bites,” she told me.
That woman was my spirit animal. She got me, you know? She really, really GOT me.
I credit that banana with allowing me to smile when this photo was taken very late in the race. I wanted to pick it up and run past the photographer, but then decided a walking photo was an important record of this race for me.
Speaking of people by the side of the road, the bystander support at this marathon was phenomenal. Even when it was raining there were people out there. There were fantastic signs. There were people handing out pretty much anything you needed and often exactly when you needed it (tissue, banana, OMG those pretzels I ate at mile 17). I can’t even tell you how many people cheered specifically for me. That is a little thing, but it means a lot.
And I really needed all of that because by the end, my legs and feet huuuuurt. My earbud and the fact that music continued to play out of it was almost offensive to me. (At some point I realized that since I was only listening in one ear, I could switch ears. Brilliant!) A couple miles before the end, I reached for my waist pack and realized that my forearms were tired. My forearms. They hadn’t done anything. I guess I’ve pinpointed the wussiest part of my body.
Then, just as we were approaching downtown again, probably two or three miles out, a headwind started up. And I was all, “FOR FUCKING REAL?! Now you’re ACTIVELY pushing AGAINST me, Houston?” It was messed up.
Nonetheless, I persevered. I cannot even tell you what it was like to enter the city again. They were letting pedestrians by at one of the cross streets and I swear to God, if the traffic control hadn’t stopped people, I don’t know that I would have been capable of stopping myself from barrelling right through them. Because once I entered the city, I committed to running until the end and nothing was going to stop me.
I know this was taken right near the end because of those barricades and also because I’d finally ripped out all of my earbuds altogether.
I actually look kind of all right in that photo. I look much less like I wanted to die than I felt in the moment. Finally it was there—the finish line, which I triumphantly crossed after 5 hours, 56 minutes, and 8 seconds.
Ignore the clocktime. I didn’t get across the start line until 31 minutes or so.
Here is video of me lurching over the finish line and then immediately slowing to a walk.
My family was right there after I crossed too. I don’t know how they got there, parked, and forced their way to the front of the crowd, but they did and I got to see their smiling faces just after I finished.
I am going to run other marathons and I hope to run them with better time and endurance, but I am so proud of myself for this one and I am so grateful that I got to do it with my wonderful Houston family. Thank you. This marathon was an incredible experience and I am so happy with it.
But even though I had finished, it still wasn’t time to rest. I had to wander through the finish line area and pick up my finisher shirt and beer mug. (Really? Glass? They are lucky I didn’t immediately drop it what with my weak-ass forearms.) Then I had to continue through the long path through the convention center until I could get to the runner reunification area.
There was a woman walking in front of me and she was dragging her gear bag on the floor behind her. I sped up a little bit to tell her “The way you are dragging that gear bag is exactly the way I feel right now.” She looked at me kind of desperately and said, “It’s so heeeeaaavy.” We understood each other.
I had planned to meet my family under the “J” area at runner reunification, but unfortunately they were arranged in ranges and figuring out that “J” was between “H” and “L” took longer than I thought it should have. Then my family wasn’t there yet, and I spent some time turning slowly in circles and reciting the alphabet to make sure I had it right.
Suddenly though, they arrived and they were so congratulatory and my mom even hugged me (I wouldn’t have hugged me) and I felt so happy.
My crew. <3
From there I only had to walk, like, a mile back to my hotel where we had late checkout so I could shower. Fortunately, my mom is brilliant and (along with requesting said late checkout) had brought a space blanket, which saved my life on the walk back. We walked along the race route and cheered on the last few racers.
Not to mention that I think maybe space blankets hold in some of the stink.
I did it, you guys. But I didn’t do it alone. Thank you to everyone who cheered me on via Facebook and here. Thank you to everyone who texted me the day of the race—my waistpack kept buzzing as I was running so I knew you were in touch even if I didn’t see the texts until later. Thank you to my running friends at home who encouraged me through all of my training. Thank you to my mom, Richard, Sara, Elliot, and Ashley for your support on the course—you have no idea how much it meant. Thank you to Houston for hosting such a good marathon. And, perhaps, most of all, thank you to that lady at mile 23 with the banana.
I just got back from Houston today after finishing my marathon. That’s right, friendos, I’m now officially a marathoner.
My stepfather took the following photo of me clapping with joy shortly after I crossed the finish line. I think I look so happy not because I just ran a marathon but because I could finally stop moving.
Actually it was because I was so delighted to see my family cheering for me.
I finished in just under six hours, which is significantly longer than my goal time. I also probably walked at least two of the last five miles when I realized just how damn hard a marathon is. I’m a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to run the whole thing, but I also realize that I did the very best I could do and I am very proud of myself for ambulating 26.2 miles, almost all of them at a run—or at least a rapid shamble.
I’ll be back soon with a race report. I tell you, this race was quite a thing. I’m so happy I did it. I enjoyed the whole thing so much that I am already itching to do another one. 2017 might just be a two-marathon year.
Until I have my race report ready, I just want all of you to know that I’m so grateful for your support and all of the support from my family. I couldn’t have gotten more love on this endeavor and I know just how lucky I am. Thank you!
I think it might have been last June when Past Jean decided it would be a GREAT idea for Future (now Present) Jean to run a marathon. Past Jean is an asshole.
I have run sooooo many miles to train. I downloaded a training plan and I followed it to the mile. I ran my 20-mile training run on Christmas Eve and then I walked two miles home because Alex chose a video game over me and left his phone in the other room and therefore didn’t get my text asking him to pick me up. Then my phone died so I couldn’t call him. It’s like Santa came early.
I have two miles to run tomorrow morning and two more on Saturday morning and then I toe up to the start line on Sunday. The marathon I am running is the Houston Marathon, so I leave for Houston tomorrow after work.
I felt pretty calm and confident about the whole thing right up until I started packing. Then I panicked. A marathon?! Oy. As my friend texted to me the other night, “You know that’s, like, TWO half marathons, right?”
The reason I chose the Houston Marathon is because it is flat. And because my mom lives in Houston. Also, I wanted to run in the winter so it would be cool, but because it was in Houston, it would not be too cool.
You’ll be happy to hear that it’s going to be 75 degrees and humid on Sunday. Oh, and it’ll be raining. This is not ideal for someone who has largely trained in 40-degree weather, also known as The Weather That Is So Cold Your Phone Battery Will Completely Drain Before You Have Time To Call Someone To Pick You the Fuck Up.
I’ve packed my tank top to run in. I’m bringing my Camelbak because it might be hot enough to need it. My shoes are in my backpack. I have my energy blocks for mid-race fueling and I have a grocery list made up of jam, peanut butter, and Snickers bars. I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting something absolutely fucking crucial,* but honestly, at a certain point all I can do is go out and run.
This is actually one of the best things about races. There is a lot of hoopla leading up to it and so much goes into it, but once you cross the starting line, all you can do is put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. That’s what I’m going to do. For 26.2 miles.
I am unstoppable. I am unstoppable. I am unstoppable.
Then I am going to eat so many sopapillas and drink so many margaritas. I am going to be a total embarrassment to my family. It’s going to be great.
Actually it will be later than that because my corral will start substantially later than the 7am start time. I’ll be taking a map of the route with me in case it takes me past the six-hour cut-off time to run the thing. It turns out that I slow down significantly after about 16 or 17 miles.
Here we go, people. Good luck, Five Days Hence Jean.
I came up with that title up there at about mile 16.5 of my 18-mile run today.
I think I’ve told you that I’m running the Houston Marathon in January. In case I haven’t, here you go: I am running the Houston Marathon in January.
That means I am currently in the thick of training for it. Marathon training, as it turns out, is constant. It never stops. You finish a long training run, take a couple of days and start again. I feel like all I ever do is run.
Because of the relentless nature, I do seem to be be approaching readiness. I ran 17 miles last weekend and it was Hard, but not impossible. For the first time, 26.2 miles didn’t seem undoable. I was encouraged and ready to hit this weekend’s 18 miles.
My guiding mission during this time has been to (a) not get injured and (b) not get sick. Knock on wood, so far so good on the injury, but last Wednesday I woke up sick.
I debated skipping my 8-mile run that day to rest up, but after napping for most of the day, I decided to suck it up and head out. I ran pretty slow, but it wasn’t too painful, so I decided to stick with the 10K race I had Thursday in lieu of a 5-mile training run. That went even slower and less well.
The real test though, was this weekend’s long run—scheduled for 18 miles. I was worried about it. I spent a lot of time Thursday and Friday sleeping and willing myself to be NOT sick by Saturday/run day.
I had a Plan B though. I figured if I got into my run and felt bad that I would switch this week’s long run (18 miles) with next week’s (13 miles). I woke up feeling okay, if a little coughy and phlegmy.
I caught a ride with my family to the doughnut shop to start me a little farther away from my final destination. (Do you have any idea how goddamn hard it is to find a mostly downhill route of 18 miles in the DC area?)
Plus, do you know how virtuous you can feel setting out for an 18-mile run when the rest of your family is chugging doughnuts?
I headed out with high hopes and a decision to evaluate how the run was going at about mile 11. Here’s how the run was going:
Mile 1.5: Whine. My legs are tired. I stop in at a 7-11 to buy a Gatorade and impulse buy a Snickers bar to stash in my Camelbak for later if necessary.
Mile: 3: It’s hot. I’m going to take off my gloves and earwrap.
Mile 4: I should put that earwrap back on.
Mile 4.5: Christ, it’s hot. I take off my gloves and earwrap and tie my jacket around my waist.
Mile 6: I’m cold. Jacket back on. Hold off on the gloves and earwrap for now.
Mile 8: I pass the bottom of the road that leads to my house. I look longingly up it.
Mile 8.5: This run is a slog. I sit on a stump for a while to evaluate my life choices. Eventually I stand up and keep going.
Mile 10: Everything warm is back on for good.
Mile 11.25: I sit on a bench and eat my Snickers bar. This is a GOOD life choice.
Mile 12: Should I stop at 13 miles? No. Mostly because I don’t want to run 18 miles next weekend. Also, I only have a 10K left to run. How hard could that be?
Mile 14: Hard.
Mile 16: I sit on a bench to suck the last of my water from my Camelback and watch a really sad looking woman look for her lost keys on the C&O canal trail.
Mile 16.1: She found her keys! It is a miracle! She is so happy she looks like she is going to cry. I congratulate her and continue to shuffle along.
Mile 17: Every step I take carries me a longer distance than I have ever run consecutively. I also start to wonder where exactly I am going to be when I reach 18 miles. Far from any reasonable exit point on the trail? Unable to move? Virginia?
Mile 18: Turns out I am one stinky, sketchy staircase away from Georgetown. I climb it and talk to Alex on the phone who is already on his way to pick me up. I tell him at what intersection I am sitting and shivering. Then my phone, unable to function in the cold anymore, dies from battery loss.
But not before I take this super desperate looking selfie.
I sit and shiver and wait for a surly but heroic Alex to arrive.
Marathon training sucks hard.
I’m doing it though. And if I can run this 18 miles while sick and cold, I can do 26 in Houston—as long as I can keep injury and sickness away for the next 50 days.
Also, my family saved a doughnut for me. I ate it when I got home. It was delicious.