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Pregnant Triathlete, Part II

I just finished my second triathlon of this pregnancy, and man, was it harder than the first.  I did the first at the very beginning of my second trimester, and my second at the very beginning of my third.  I hit 28 weeks on Friday, and the race was Sunday.  

I did this race last year, and it’s a fantastic race.  (Druid Hill Park Sprint Tri) So I knew when I signed up (before the January 1 price increase) that even if I was pregnant, I would probably hopefully maybe be able to handle it, as long as I was having a healthy pregnancy, which I fortunately am.  It’s a 300 yard pool swim, an 8 mile bike course, and a 3.1 mile run.  The run is completely flat, around a lake.  The bike course is challenging and hilly.  The swim is in a pool, which actually presents it’s own challenges but does not feel as endless as an open water swim of the same distance.  

When registering for a pool swim, it’s important to gauge your speed accurately.  I was generous with my time and put 2:30 for my 100m swim time.  Based on what my pace has been at the gym lately, I was spot on.  Last year I put 2:00, which was also fairly accurate.  I was passed by a couple of people but I also passed a few folks.  If you are pregnant, you should probably adjust your swim time down a bit – even though swimming is recommended for pregnant women, the reduced lung capacity and general lumbery-ness slows you down.  

I rode my Canondale Quick 3 for the bike course.  My normal road bike is a Giant Avail, but my sister, who did the race with me, has had custody of that since May.  I stopped riding my Canondale to work about a month ago (more on that later), because it was getting too challenging to swing my leg up over the rack to ride to work.  I was concerned about riding it for the race because when I’ve done long rides recently, the angle I have to sit at presses directly on my bladder.  The seat, which is normally very comfortable, was also uncomfortable on my SBR a few weeks ago.  I asked my husband to swap out the seat for a wider one, which helped considerably.  I would recommend a comfort saddle like this one for anyone who is cycling during pregnancy.  (I don’t actually have that one but it looks a lot like the one I do have and it’s nice.)  If you still have saddle discomfort, consider slightly tilting the nose down.

Like I said, the course was hilly.  I did not train hard enough for the hills.  My lungs were working at their capacity and I was having braxton hicks contractions on the steep uphills.  I coasted as much as I could on the downhills to give myself a break, and I didn’t push myself.  One guy that passed me kept cheering me on, which was lovely and was the extra push I needed to finish the bike course.  

The run course was where I felt the crappiest, at least for the first half.  I wore my camelbak hydration pack but forgot to bodyglide my arms.  So of course I started to experience chafing from my arms pumping against the wet straps.  I knew from my run last weekend that following my 2 min run 1 min walk pattern was going to be hard.  So I switched to a 1 min run, 1 min walk pattern.  Even that was too strenuous for the first mile and change – I was still having Braxton Hicks contractions, I was getting round ligament pain, and the chafing on my arms was really burning.  I stopped and walked for about five minutes.  Everytime I tried to run again, something hurt.  So I had a pack of Stinger gels and walked as fast as I could.  At the end of Mile 1, I saw my husband and brother in law on the course and handed off my Camelbak.  Once I did that, I was able to run again – I’m not sure whether it corrected my posture or just not chafing was such a relief, but at that point I picked up and stuck with the 1 min run / 1 min walk intervals.  Everyone was super encouraging and nice to me, but sometimes it’s hard to know what to say to total strangers when they say, “you are awesome!” So usually I just said “so are you!” or something else like that.  

As I got to the end, I could see where the chute was to the finish, so I took my walk break and gave the baby a quick pep-talk.  We were going to walk until we saw the sign for the chute, and then we were going to sprint.  I did not think this was actually going to work, but it did, and we were able to come flying into the finish line, which I’m pretty proud of – usually I’m so spent from races that I have nothing left at the finish line, but the advantage of being conservative on this one was that I had plenty of legs left, even if I didn’t really have the lung capacity.  Also, the finish was downhill. That helped.  A lot of people congratulated me after the race and asked how I was feeling and commented on how great it was that I was out there.  

I also got to hang out with my tri club for a little bit, which was really nice.  My husband usually crews me for races but I feel like being in the club will make it easier next year when I have to go by myself and leave him at home with the kiddo.  Everyone in the club is really nice and super-supportive.  

My time last year was 1:16:25.  My time this year was closer to 1:35:37. I’m okay with that.  I felt a little uncomfortable with the attention I was getting (I wasn’t even the only pregnant athlete there – I overheard another girl saying she was 16 weeks), because I didn’t sign up for this race because I felt like I wanted to prove anything.  I really just wanted to do it, and I’ll admit that a part of me was curious if I could do it.  But it wasn’t like anyone told me I couldn’t and I needed to prove them wrong.  I will also say that I did not notice any judgmental looks, comments, or implications.  

What I wore: 

- De Soto Carrera Loose Top with Drawstring Waist – I ordered this top before my international tri, and I was so happy with it’s performance, even though it was snugger than I’d thought it would be and I knew I couldn’t wear it for this race, and when I went to review it I realized that De Soto had accidentally shipped me the Sprinter Top and I hadn’t realized it when I received it. I sent them a sheepish email asking if it was at all possible to exchange a used tri top for the one I had wanted and they shipped me the Carrera top right away.  The Medium accommodated the belly really well and also accommodated my increased chest, and although I probably would have been more comfortable in a Large, I will be able to wear the medium post-pregnancy as well.  A+, would highly recommend to any pregnant athlete looking for a good workout top.  

- Under Armour Compression Shorts (5″) – Last weekend, getting pretty desperate for something made of moisture wicking fabric to wear for this race, I hit the Under Armour Outlet. I really wanted these shorts in the longer 7″ version, but they only had the 5″. I bought them in a large, and because the waistband is wide and pretty flexible it was able to fit up and over my belly.  However, when I test rode them yesterday, they rode up quite a bit and so I needed to add gripper elastic to the bottom.  (I ordered 2 yards of Gripper Elastic from Quest Fabrics a month ago to add to my running skirt.)  It was a quick project and made a world of difference – my shorts stayed put and didn’t ride up, bunch, or chafe, and they were long enough to protect my thighs from my bike seat.  

- Ultimate Maternity Belt – I’m a pretty comfortable person doing what I need when I need to, but even I was kind of embarassed to be pulling on my support belt before the bike course. However, I can’t run without it, so I sucked it up and put it on.  It stayed put and helped keep things in place for the run.  I actually have mixed feelings on whether it’s that helpful for the bike.  

Tri

 

And yes, I went home and took a nap.  

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Pregnancy and Triathlon Training (Part I)

Going into triathlon training was harder than going into half marathon training. I was training for a distance I had never done before.  I signed up for the race because I wanted something to distract me from what I anticipated being a roller coaster of TTC.  Well, I signed up for the race because I wanted to do an International Distance Triathlon.  The fact that I knew it was going to be timed with a possible pregnancy was a minor concern, but I did some googling and it turns out that other women have done tris while pregnant, and I really wanted to do a race. So I signed up.

I started training in January because I wanted to build up a base before getting pregnant. So I pushed myself really hard to follow my training schedule up through the end of February, when I first found out.  Also, I knew that the doctor’s advice would be, “as long as you were doing it before you were pregnant, you can continue”.  So I wanted to be able to do all of the distances for my race before I was actually pregnant.  After I found out, I pushed myself really hard to keep training because other than a bit of nausea, I didn’t feel that different.  Then, around 6 weeks, on my way to the pool in the morning, I got off the bus and puked all over the sidewalk.  It was probably the most upsetting thing that happened to me in my early pregnancy, just because it came out of NOWHERE – I had been fine that morning – and because it was so sudden and so embarrassing.  I wondered if I should skip my swim until I felt better, but I decided to go with it – and it made me feel better.

I cut back on spin class because I was concerned about overheating in the tiny, HOT, cycle studio at the gym, and I didn’t want to tell the instructor yet that I was pregnant.  I did spin on my own and fortunately once it warmed up I was able to ride outside.  I also continued to bike commute (more on that in a later post), so it wasn’t like I was spending no time on a bike.

I kept up my running as part of my half marathon training, and after the half, I cut back on my long runs and ran about 4-6 miles on the weekends and 2-3 miles during the week.  I was lucky to mostly avoid the being super-duper-exhausted that a lot of women report, and was able to make it to the gym at least every other day.  I don’t think, after week 7 or 8, I ever had a full 2SBR week.  I tried to just do the best that I could and have faith that the base that I built would carry me through.

Around week 12 my tri shorts no longer fit.  I ordered a new pair of low rise shorts from DeSoto and a tank from them as well, which were great.  The shorts were low rise and I sized up to a Large and they fit me comfortably through the race, which was at 16 weeks.

Like with half training, my long training rides/runs on weekends wiped me out completely. I needed a nap, and once it got hotter out, I found I had a headache from dehydration and being in the sun too long afterwards.  I carried a Camelbak with Nuun and ate sportbeans or stinger honey gummies (which are my new favorite training snack).

My main concern for the actual race was how thirsty I get and how that would affect me during the swim.  I drink a lot of water normally, but I’ve been so thirty all of the time.  And my throat being dry tends to bring on nausea.  I had hoped my nausea would clear up by 12 weeks or at least 14 weeks but I was still nauseated and throwing up the week of and after the race, so that was a little disturbing.  I was also concerned about getting enough water, so I made sure to drink as often as possible from my Camelbak and take water at all of the rest stops on the run course.

Other concerns you might have as a triathlete would include whether your wetsuit will fit. I got lucky – I happen to have a wetsuit that is a size up from my regular size, and I was able to squeeze myself into it pretty comfortably for the race.  Definitely rent or obtain a hyperstretch wetsuit if yours is starting to feel snug.  Don’t google “maternity wetsuit” because it will lead you to about 200 forum posts in which somebody asks about a maternity wetsuit and 20 people tell her that it’s way too dangerous to do any of the activities that require a wetsuit.

Actually, let’s just talk about concern trolling, shall we?  Don’t google “doing a triathlon pregnant” if you don’t have the ability to dismiss a bunch of people who don’t know what they are talking about on the internet.  The responses I read varied from “it’s fine” to “falling off a bike when pregnant is inevitable and will kill your baby.”  (Spoiler: I fell off my bike at 10 weeks and we are just fine, thank you. Not that I recommend it.)  Remember that these people are not doctors. They do not know you. So talk to your doctor, consider your abilities, and then consider how far along you are.  I would not recommend doing a long distance tri beyond 17 or 18 weeks personally, because that was the point when my stamina was really shot and even walking uphill became challenging.  I would not recommend it if you are just trying to PR because the chance that you will PR is pretty slim.  But if you are in good shape, can do all of the distances already, and want to do a race? I say talk to your doctor and then go for it.

There is a part II of this post that will be coming in August, because I have a sprint I’m signed up for.

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Getting Started

I feel badly that the way I’ve dealt with this 30 day blogging challenge of mine is to write about my workouts almost entirely, but my work is too depressing to write about and I know it bums people out.  However, I know that hearing about my exercise plan, etc. is also not terribly interesting.  I’ve gotten a few comments from people who talk about wishing they were as active as I am (which, really, is not that active).  So I thought I’d talk a little bit about getting started with triathlon.  A lot of people find it pretty intimidating, and I didn’t realize how wrong I had been about how “scary” tris were until I crossed the finish line of my first race a full forty minutes before I expected to. (They had accidentally shortened the run and bike courses, which explained some of it.)

I think for most triathletes, the process starts with running.  Running is the hardest part of a tri, because it comes at the end and it is what is between you and a big slice of pizza and a long nap.  And I would guess that for a lot of us, the first kernels of wanting to do a tri start when we inevitably get injured a year or two into running.  For me, a foot injury that meant I could do no weight bearing exercise meant that I turned to swimming and cycling.  Which meant that, just like that, by the time I was recovered, I could actually do all three elements of a sprint tri.

The next summer, I still felt intimidated, so I bought the book Slow Fat Triathlete.  I love this book.  It’s really helpful for anyone who is at any stage of fitness – I was in really good shape when I bought it, but it still made me feel better about things like needing to take swim lessons and feeling insecure on my bicycle.  She also really dumbs it down for you and tells you what to pack and how to set up your stuff.  I felt like I got all my stupid questions answered and understood how to have a good race.

I also signed up to volunteer at a local triathlon.  I helped with a portion of the bike turnaround course, and it was a small local race on a Wednesday night (to this day, my biggest racing regret is not doing this race and instead chickening out and volunteering, because I could have done it.)  Getting to watch what everyone wore and how they set up and how they did all of the racing stuff also helped me feel more comfortable before I started racing.

I’ve had a couple people tell me that they have felt inspired by me to do a triathlon, and I think that’s awesome.  First of all, because I feel like they recognize I am not a superhuman athlete – I’m actually, seriously, just a normal person.  Normal is the wrong word, but I’m slow, I’m on the heavier end of my BMI range, and I’m almost entirely motivated to exercise by my desire to sleep through the night, and maybe like, 20% my desire to eat cookies and still fit in my pants.  Second, because I genuinely enjoy tri training – it’s hugely challenging for me to push myself to do these new things, and I feel like all the cross training that comes with tri training is really good for me overall and keeps me at my fittest.  I feel like I’m in my best shape when I’m tri training.  So getting to encourage other people to find the joy that I find in it is awesome.

If you are thinking about doing a tri this summer, I can’t recommend enough just getting out and trying to run, bike, and swim each week.  If you find you actually enjoy it, then you might just be cut out for tris.

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Training Plan

So, if I’m going to do an International Distance Tri next year, I need a training plan.  Here are my current steps:

1.) Pick race.  I found a good looking one that is “only” $95 if you include the one day USAT fee.  The date is Sunday, May 18th.  

2.) Join a local tri club. I’m waiting until January 1 to do this, because they do their fees on the calendar year, not a year from when you sign up, so signing up now would be a waste of money.  I have two local tri clubs and I’m trying to decide between them.  The biggest factor is that the bigger, more active, and slightly more conveniently located one does their swims at a park that has jellyfish, and I don’t want to.  

3.) Find a training plan or app.  There are some good free ones out there, but some of the the better looking apps and plans charge. I’m also looking for a plan that allows me to also train for a half-marathon and strength train at the same time. I do not believe these goals are mutually exclusive and I do not believe that I am the only person to try this.

4.) Get a base level of fitness where I can make it through a 6 mile run without my legs feeling tired, through an entire spin class without choking on my lungs, and swim…some distance. Swimming distances confuse me. I think being able to swim about 1000 yards is a good base level for this.

5.) Join a masters swim class. There is one on Saturday mornings I might get up the courage to go to.

What else have I forgotten? Obviously, actually start training, but with a 12 week program, intense training won’t happen until the beginning of March.

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Bike Month

May is bike month, so I will be covering a lot of bike related topics and linking you to some awesome biking related products.

I’ve started bike commuting a lot more lately, and that is partly in thanks to a couple things I’ve done to have a smoother ride, and partly to the nicer weather and ability to ride without wearing a heavy winter coat.  I want to share those things with you and possibly crowdsource some ideas for attire for next winter, so we can all stock up while things are on sale.

So the real question is, what would you all be interested in?  If you bike commute now, would you like to write a guest post about your own wardrobing, safety precautions, and other issues?  If you want to bike commute but aren’t sure where to start, please comment with questions!  If you don’t own a bike, but are interested in purchasing one, what are your concerns?  Comment below and I’ll try to write a post that addresses your concerns.

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Race Report: Nike Women’s Half DC

I had the pleasure of running the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in DC yesterday.  

Photo Apr 28, 10 13 50 AM

I had some major reservations coming into this race because: 

1) My training was hampered by a wedding and also by my own laziness, so I was concerned I would have a difficult race.
2) The race seemed pretty disorganized – our acceptance emails went to our spam folders, the website is pretty useless, and we didn’t get an email about packet pickup until the last week; the expo was in Georgetown (nowhere near the race) which is 25 minutes walking from the nearest metro and is impossible to get through on a Saturday evening.  
3) The race was extremely expensive.  Instead of a finisher medal, you get a Tiffany necklace (presented to you by a fireman in a tuxedo), and you also get a pretty nice Nike shirt, and the entrance requires a lottery, and so I convinced myself that the outrageous entrance fee might be worth it just this once.  

We got to the start line on Sunday morning and were extremely pleased that despite the number of runners, there were more than enough bathrooms.  This is a hallmark of women’s races, I have noticed, and also something that makes me not mind a hefty entrance fee.  There was a line for the first set, but if you walked past them, you got to some very clean port-a-pots with no wait.  We checked our bags at the bag check, which was also well organized with no line, and then went to line up.  The corrals were tricky, because they limited the entrance points and it got really, really crowded.  There were waves, but they didn’t stagger the start, which worked really well.  They did require everyone to wear a wristband with their pace on it and told us that we could only go in the corrals we were paced for.  There were 15,000 runners but I didn’t see a single person with a “wrong” colored wristband in our corral, and we were with other “orange” runners the entire time.  

My only other DC race has been The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, which is a similar course, slightly smaller crowd, and similar start line Wave Start – CB has had major issues in the past, particularly with crowds and bathrooms, and I would say the Nike Women’s Half did a better job of managing the crowds.   In Cherry Blossom, runners regularly run with other waves, and also start late because they are in the long line for the bathrooms (much better managed this year though).  

Photo Apr 28, 6 40 06 AM

The course for this race was absolutely beautiful – it started off with the capitol framed in the start line, and we went under the mall in a tunnel (running through the bore in a tunnel has always been a race goal of mine, it was pretty cool), up onto the freeway, and then down around the Washington monument, across the bridge to Arlington and back, and in the direction of Georgetown, then we turned around and came back past the Lincoln memorial and down to Haines Point.  That stretch was pretty long and pretty quiet – this race in general did not have the fantastic crowd that many “hometown” races have – the Mall and sights of DC are not residential areas, so it wasn’t like people just came out to watch the race – they had to make an effort, and the race was awfully early.  There were a few “cheer stations” set up, but the ones towards the end were pretty lackluster.  After Haines point, we started to turn back into the Mall and Capitol, which meant actually getting back on the freeway (which was the WORST – it was straight uphill and it was mile 10) .  We had to go back through the same tunnel, which was a little smelly after 10 miles of sweating, but pretty energizing because the band was still going, and the tunnel was mostly downhill.  We rounded out of the tunnel and started heading towards the finish line – fortunately, you couldn’t see it, so we weren’t upset that we were so close to the finish and still had to run around the capitol.  (We were also emotionally prepared for this, since we studied the course map.)  

Mile 12 was where my body shut down a bit and I lost my pacing.  My running buddy was having knee problems and needed to take longer strides, so I told her to go, and at that point people started passing me and I was struggling.  After we rounded the front of the capitol (we didn’t actually have to run around it, which was great), we started coming down Pennsylvania avenue and you could see the finish line…which I thought would be pretty inspiring and make me run faster, but I was pretty tired and couldn’t breathe enough to pick up the pace any.  The finish line looked so small for so long – you could watch it for about .7 miles, which is a pretty long time to be watching a finish line not get any bigger, especially because the crowd wasn’t really generally supportive, it was a lot of people silently holding signs and cheering only for their own friends or family members when they saw them.  

According to my husband, who was at home, the live runner tracking software actually stopped my marker at the 20k mark until I caught up with it because I was so off my projected pace.  However, I finished in 2:07 so I’m not unhappy with my time – the last mile cost me about 2 minutes, since my friend finished in 2:05.  Still pretty good considering my 11-minute-mile pace in training runs lately.  

The water stops were pretty frequent and well organized – with one huge exception, which is that they were not on a consistent side of the road, and they were not on both sides of the road.  They were serving Nuun instead of gatorade, which made me really excited, but once we were on the course I couldn’t find the Nuun when I wanted it, and then I wound up just wanting water the rest of the time.  Mile 4 had Cliff Shot Blocks, which was awesome – they were cut into 3-block sections of a package, so really easy to grab and get out without getting your fingers sticky, and a manageable amount.  I would have been so happy if they had Shot Blocks later in the race, but instead they served mini-luna-bars, which are okay – we split one, and it was just enough for the rest of the race, and I was happy to get “real food” on the race course but another Shot Blocks station would have been appreciated.  Or a random stranger holding trays of gummy bears, but see above, not a residential race.  

The post race was relatively well organized – we came across the finish line – although this was a big first timer race and the girls in front of me got over the finish line and stopped dead, which meant I actually had to pause right before the final timing mat and then walk around them, which was really annoying.  Anyway, past the annoying girls, across the red carpet (which was a fun touch), I found my running buddy and we made our way to the food line, which was sparse – banana, fruit cup, and bagel, plus a bottle of water, and then we got our finisher T-shirts which were seriously adorable, and our necklaces (I felt so bad for the guys in the tuxes, they must have been pretty warm, although they had not just run 13.1 miles so maybe they were a reasonable temperature.)  We passed out of the official finisher area and then walked around – we got some free samples from Bare Minerals and Paul Mitchell (I could complain about the sexism of a race that caters to women, or I could enjoy my hair product samples and admit that women-friendly stuff was part of why I ran the race).  We then found the Kaiser Permanente Stretching Lounge, which will forever be my Happy Place.  They had strawberry-banana smoothies, water in big infusion jars with lemon, mint, watermelon, and basil cucumber.  We also got stretching bands, stress balls, first aid kits, and washcloths.  The washcloths were the GREATEST THING EVER.  

Photo Apr 28, 9 34 58 AM

We made our way back to the bag check, which was where things were pretty disorganized.  The crowds getting both into and out of the corrals were a mess, and then we still had to fight down the sidewalk on Pennsylvania avenue to bag check, but bag check was again easy, and there was plenty of extra water and Nuun around the bag check, which was great since I was pretty dehydrated, and there were still plenty of fairly clean and available bathrooms.  

On the metro ride back, we debated whether we would run this race again, given the hassle of travel and the extreme cost.  I tend to think that the race was definitely worth it to do once, but I’m not sure that I’ll feel a strong pull towards doing it again.  I definitely am considering the Rock and Roll USA half though -it’s earlier in the year, so less hot, and more residential, so hopefully a better crowd.  I have also loved the GW Parkway Classic in the past, which is a great race and I would also happily do again.  

Have you ever run one of the Nike Women’s Races?  What makes a great half marathon for you?

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Race Report: Shamrock Marathon Virginia Beach

We picked the Shamrock Marathon for a couple of reasons:

1) It was in March.  We wanted to train in the winter and run a springtime race because it wouldn’t be so hot to train for or run.
2) It is a pretty big race. We wanted a good crowd of people to keep us going.
3) It was flat.

I’m really really happy we picked Shamrock.  Mostly because of reason number 3, because reasons 1 and 2 turned out to not be so true.   I’ll start at the beginning.

When we woke up, it was pretty mild out.  We got dressed in shorts and t-shirts for the most part, because it was warmer than even the weather report had called for.  We made our way to the start line, which was pretty well organized and had pacers marking every 30 minute interval.  Two of us lined up with the 3:25 group and three of us lined up with the 4:30 group.  There were four starting corrals, but it was unclear what it meant or how they grouped us into them, but it helped keep stuff relatively organized.

We had agreed to start at a 10 minute pace, and we did.  We chugged along nicely behind the 4:30 group and skipped the first water stop (it was on the left, we were on the right, and we didn’t notice it.)  Somewhere around Mile 2 or 3 was the Bridge.  The bridge was the only real hill we encountered on the run.  We were told in advance to not be the sissies that walked over the Bridge, but after running Uwharrie, that bridge was a piece of cake both times we ran it.  After the bridge, we got to the next water stop, where we stopped and noticed that we were already sweating.  There were water stops every mile and a half, which seemed excessive when we first read through the book, but on race day, they were necessary.  The first ten miles took us south of VA beach, through one of the military bases that was there.  This was one of the coolest parts of the race – we got to run past crazy helicopters and all of the enlisted men came out to cheer us on and give us high-fives.  They were fantastic and totally made my day – I always consider military folk to be absolutely the most hardcore, badass people I’ve ever met, and here they were acting like we were awesome.

Around 9.5 miles, we hit the bridge again.  My friend J. fell down and S. stayed with her while I stayed with our pace group (I was too in the zone to see J. fall and we had agreed we would stay with the 4:30 runners and catch up to it if any of us fell behind at a water stop, etc.).  I was still feeling really good at this point.  We ran through downtown Virginia Beach again, through the boardwalk and then out onto Atlantic Avenue and hit the 13 mile mark.  Shortly after that was the 13.1 mark, and we started looking for S’s parents, who were cheering from the sidelines and waving giddily at us.  S’s mom joined us for a few short moments and checked in on how we were all doing.  Once we left them, we started looking for my sister, who I knew was going to camp out around Mile 14.  At Mile 14, there she was, with my husband and my brother-in-law.  I grabbed a handful of gummi bears from them, because my husband was on the other side of the course with my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I was able to hang-ish with J. and S. for another two miles, but around Mile 16, J. and I went to the bathroom.  I could feel myself falling back, and I knew I was through the toughest part of the race and it was downhill from there, and I could do it on my own, so I told J. to go ahead and that I’d see them at the finish.  As I powered through Mile 16, I thought about my iPod Shuffle which was in my SpiBelt.  I had put together a playlist for the race, since I knew I would be running at least a portion of it on my own.  I decided that I would break out my shuffle at the next water stop if I really needed to, so I ran for the next mile, enjoying the cheesy shamrock and leprechaun jokes that were on the sides of the race course and enjoying the company of the crowd.  At mile 17, I had a bite of my cliff bar, but couldn’t even get it down because my mouth was so dry and I didn’t have enough water yet.  Around here, I passed the Lululemon race station, which was awesome and they were blasting music and waving signs and cheering everybody on, and we all picked up the pace for a bit at that.  At this point, I settled into a groove, but it was hard to ignore how much I was hurting.

Thanks to an utterly fantastic tape job on my knee by E’s husband, my right knee, which would usually be bothering me by now, wasn’t at all, but everything was just starting to hurt.  I was pleased to notice that my toenails weren’t hurting yet, which was good.  At mile 18, I thought with relief, “ah, only 6 more miles” and then realized that I cannot do math.  Around here, we went through Ft. Story, which my friend warned me was really boring.  It was true.  There was virtually no-one here, and we were all low on energy and just trying to get through to the end.  And it was HOT.  It was really hot out.  It was whatever my temperature threshold where I have to run slower because I get sick running fast in the heat.  One rest stop around Mile 20 had a table of food, including bananas, which I snagged, and jelly beans, which I tried to eat but instead got rid of.  I started walking at the water stops plus a bit at this point, because I was just feeling so leaden, but I realized pretty quickly that my body hurt more if I tried to walk than running, but my lungs hurt more if I ran.  So I kept running.  And I ran most of the way until Mile 23, which I knew would put us back on the crowd-heavy part of the course.

Around Mile 22-23 we came out of Ft. Story and back into the residential part, which wasn’t nearly as crowded as earlier – because a lot of people had finished, and even more people had gone to watch their racers cross the finish line, but I knew that my team was still going to be at Mile 25, so I kept going.  I wanted to look strong for them, and I felt like it was very important that I not let them down by walking the last three miles.  I felt my toenails and my feet felt so swollen.  My back had started to hurt, and my calves and hamstrings were incredibly tight.  I was running at the same pace that several people around me were walking at.

At Mile 25, I was relieved to see that my sister was dressed in her running capris and her green t-shirt from our wedding weekend 5k.  She had told me she was bringing running clothes in case I needed a pacer, but I wasn’t sure she’d be ready.  I’ve never been so happy to see her, and as I passed them, I said, “are you coming?” and she jumped out to join me.  She gossiped with me, let me complain about my back, ankles, feet, legs, everything else, and got me through the last mile.  As we tore towards the finish line, she hopped off to the fenced in spectator areas and I crossed at 4:55 clock time (4:48 chip time) and hobbled to pick up my medal, hat, sweatshirt, and then got handed water, gatorade, a banana, and a shamrock shaped cookie.

I expected to feel something huge and powerful after finishing.  I expected it to feel as emotional as finishing Uwharrie.  I expected to let an incredible sense of accomplishment wash over me.  Instead, I just felt tired, and I felt a desperate need to put on the crocs I knew were in my dry bag.  My sister met up with me and got me my crocs and then we walked over to the beer tent and met up with everybody else.  Team in Training was selling cokes and I bought one and downed it, and after that I started to feel better.  We all hung out at the tent for a bit and then hobbled back to our hotel (Holiday Inn Express – can’t recommend it enough – clean, reasonably priced, nice showers, comfortable beds) where three of us made quick work of a bag of potato chips (my favorite post-race food, and especially important for our gluten-free friend.)  We also realized that we were all sunburned and chafed (I will write more about what to pack in your marathon race bag later.)

So that’s that.  I get to check it off my 30×30 list, and make a nifty race-medal/bib shadowbox, and put a sticker on my car, and all of those other annoying marathon-y things that people do.  And I think, much like being married and being a lawyer and being 26, being a marathon runner is something that I have to settle into a bit, because it is kind of huge.

 

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