Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Oops I Did It Again... 26.2 with Donna, The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer

So sometimes in your life you just have to say screw it and do something you maybe shouldn't because you know it's going to be fun and because its for a great cause. Today I did just that. Earlier this week I decided I wanted to run the National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer with the girl. For her it was a race she's been properly training for all winter. For me..... Not so much!! My training plan went like this. I did the Disney Goofy Challenge and then took four weeks off of training. Then I started with a pretty painful 8 mile run on sunday with the girl to see if I felt up to running the marathon a week later. I wasn't sure after that 8 miler so I decided I would wait till later in the week to decide. I took monday off and then ran 3 on Tuesday. That run felt better but not by much. My legs still didn't feel great but it gave me hope that they might loosen up in time. On wednesday I decided to run 6.55 miles. I figured that was a fourth of a marathon and if I could do that I could run 26.2 at the girls pace with her. That run actually felt ok so that afternoon I said scew it and registered for the race.  Perhaps not the wisest idea I've ever had but hey...   you only live once.  And what better way to spend the day before Valentines day with the girl than by trying to cross a finish line with her holding hands.  The question now was...    would I be able to run 26.2 miles?  would I be able to match the girls pace?  Could I run that slow?  could I run that fast?  Oh well...    only one way to find out!

I spent the rest of the week resting, hoping, and went for one more hail mary massage with Nancy to do what I could to loosen my legs up.  Of course I didn't tell Nancy I was going to go and run another marathon as I knew she would try and talk me out of it.  Then on Friday the girl and I flew down to Jacksonville after she got out of work. We landed around midnight.  Not the best way to feel "rested" for a marathon!  We spent saturday continueing our odd style of "resting" by visiting with many of the girls friends down there in Florida and then going out for calzones and beer the night before. Good stuff! It's amazing how much more fun a marathon is when you are not hunting for a PR and you are just going out for a fun run with your girl. No stress and no worrying about it all week.  Well except for the worry I wouldn't be able to run the whole thing and I'd embarass myself in front of her very active friends, dissapoint her, or worse...   hurt myself and put my tri season in jeapordy.  So I guess there was some worry...   but I tried to keep telling myself not to be afraid to bail if need be.  But lets face it...   I know myself too well to think that I'd bail. 

This morning (Sunday) the alarm went off at 4am and I was up and at em and ready to head to the race an hour later. Thanks to the help of a friend of a friend of the girls we scored a great parking spot at a great spot near the start of the race. Around this time it was only 35 degrees. Which after the winter we have had in rhode island didn't actually feel all that cold remarkably. We met up with the girls friends and chatted about pacing and it was decided that myself and the girls friend Daniel would stick together at the girls pace and run the race together. Daniel is an accomplished runner himself with the same marathon PR as I have but had not run much at all this year and hadnt trained at all for the marathon. He was just there to run the race for fun with the girl as they used to run together often when she lived down in fl.  I'm really glad he was there though as he was great company along the way and the three of us had a great time along the course.  Here we are waiting for the gun to go off....

So when the gun finally went off we got our long day started. I was starting to wonder what I was thinking running a marathon a month after the goofy. I did think of the guy in the news lately that ran 365 marathons in a row. Thats just nuts. I don't now how anybody does that. Anyway we got started and the girl turned her iPod on and pretty much stayed in her own zone till mile 16. Which gave Daniel and I time to get to know one another. In the end Daniel made the race for me as having someone to talk to was great and we had a great time chatting away as we ran.  I don't think the day would have gone near as well had he not been there.

The course in Jacksonville is a really nice one but there are some odd bits. The worst of which is right around mile 4 or so you start a 2.5 mile stretch of the race that takes place on the sand of the beach! Fortunately the sand is very hard packed so it wasn't bad. I think it was far scarier in my head than it was in reality. Still... I was pretty happy when that part was over. At this point around mile 10 or so we were all feeling great and the girl was on pace for a PR. Actually she was way ahead of that pace and i was worried we'd gone out too fast.

Miles 10 through 13 were long and tough for me. Those are always the hardest marathon miles for me.  I started to wonder if I could get through the marathon and keep up with the girl. Even though our pace was over a minute per mile behind my PR pace it was still at times hard for me to manage with how tired my legs felt. When we finally rounded the turn at the 13 mile mark I was pretty happy though. Just 13 more miles to go!  Somewhere around here too we ran into some friends of the girl's who really should get medals for greatest race spectators ever.  I think the fact that the girl's friend John has raced himself meant that he was a pro at guiding his family around the course to maximize the amount of places they could see and cheer everyone on.  It was great to see faces we knew along the course.  And speaking of that...   crowd support along the course is fantastic.  There were almost no stretches of empty road without people cheering us on.  There were garage bands playing outside in the neighborhoods, BBQs in people's front yards with music playing, regular old locals handing out orange slices and water along the course and just a fantastic amount of support out there.  Best of any race I've done so far.  Granted the Disney races had great support but so much of that had been arranged for by Disney.  These people were out there because they wanted to be!  Their support was really appreciated...  especially those at mile 20 and beyond who were fantastic at keeping us going!

The back half of the course is where the real challenge began. Miles 13-16 passed ok for all of us although i was quitely really struggling for a while there but once we hit mile 16 the girl started to struggle a bit. That was a particularly hard part of the course when there was no shade to be had, the temps were climbing into the mid fifties and the sun was pretty intense. Our quick first half (2:05) started to catch up to us and Daniel and I did our best to keep the girl happy and motivated. The next couple of miles were a bit rough and dull for all of us. I was feeling really tired at this point and the girl was tired and Daniel was fighting a giant blister and we were all getting ready for it to end. Then we passed the best aid station ever. One with freezer pops!!!! Best idea ever!!! We all grabbed one and the sugar rush and the cold of the popsicle were amazing. I was so happy! That one motivated us pretty much all the way to mile 22 or so and then we started to struggle a bit again. At this point our walking through aid stations was turning into walking a bit beyond them too and I think we all welcomed the walking. The girl at one point apologized for walking for a bit and all I could think was are you kidding me! I was psyched to be walking! I was hurting!

At mile 24 or so you have to climb a big ol hill in the form of a giant bridge that goes over some body of water or other. You can see this giant humped bridge for a good mile as you approach it all the while dreading it. I have to say that climb was the hardest part of the race for me. It's a long climb with no shade and right at the end of the race. We were beat and we ended up having to walk up some of it. But we stuck together and got each other to the top. Fortunately once we hit the top it was pretty much all downhill the whole way to the finish line which felt awesome!!! I was pretty psyched at that point.  There were a ton of what I think were sorrority girls on the bridge with some great signs and great cheers for everyone.  They were a great help too to get you over that last hump.  The signs were pretty funny too...

Daniel and I were checking our watches to see if we could still get the girl a PR. We lost a lot of time in the back half but we still had a shot at it. We both knew it was going to be close.  We did our best to get our girl across as fast as she had left in her legs. I have to say it was pretty amazing to be headed to a marathon finsih line with the girl. Ive never share a race like that with someone and it was pretty awesome to think we had run the entire distance at each others sides. Daniel and I both ran about ten feet in front of the girl as we got closer to the finish line in hopes she might surge ahead to catch us and get a PR.  As we approached the finish line we all joined hands, threw them in the air and crossed together. A fantastic end to a great race!
Pay special note to the pink compression socks!  Gotta love it!  Thats Daniel on the left, the girl in the middle, and me on the right.  Now heres the killer...    I knew the girl's marathon PR was something like 4:28 and change.  We were hoping for a 4:15 today but it just wasn't in the cards.  But we had a shot at setting a new PR.  My watch said 4:27 as we entered the finish chute.  So we did our best to hustle across in the finish line.  In the end we missed a PR for the girl by less than ten seconds!  I'm not sure how she feels about that... but you know what..  I still wouldn't change a thing about that day.  I had such an amazing time running 26.2 miles by her side and sharing that experience together that I wouldn't change anything about it.  Is there anything better than crossing the finish line with someone you love holding their hand and sharing that moment together?  The hug after we entered the chute was amazing.  Watching someone put a medal around her neck was just as great.  I know she's a little bummed about missing her time goal...  and I can certainly understand that perspective.  But I'm still grinning from ear to ear when I think about the weekend.

Here's the girl and I not long after the finish of the race.  I firmly beleive if we can run 26.2 miles together we can do anything together.  But I kind of knew that already before this race ever happened.  I bought my plane ticket to this race after we had only been dating a very short time.  Theres just something about her that I knew when we met that she's the one.  I just knew that several months from that time I'd want to be by her side on this race course.  So I love that five months later we crossed the finish line together.  I think we'll be crossing a lot of finish lines together... and I meant that metaphorically...   So baby...  love of my life...   my iron-babe.  I love you!  and I love that I was able to share that experience with you!  I can't promise you a PR...  but I can promise you a lifetime of being by your side.



I wrote most of this post the night of the race as I sat by the girls side.  She wasn't feeling very well after the race so as she slept I kept my eye on her and wrote this post.  However I'm finishing it from 3000 miles away from where I started it in LA.  We flew to Jacksonville on Friday, ran the marathon on Sunday, flew home on Monday night and got in around midnight.  I turned right around today (tuesday) and flew to LA at 6am on just a few hours sleep.  So now I'm in my hotel room finishing up this post and eating the dark chocolate covered almonds from the minibar that begged me to eat them.  Tomorrow a new day starts and it will be time to stop thinking about running and start focusing on biking and swimming and the start of the tri season.  I love that its only mid february and I've already knocked out a 5k, 1/2 marathon and two full marathons.  Thats kind of nuts.  But now its time to start looking forwards to the real goal of 2011.  Becoming an Ironman.  So many great things to look forward to in 2011.  I truly am blessed.  I'm really bummed to be out here in LA away from the girl right now...   but soon enough we'll be back together again and life will be good.  This is going to be a great year.


  1. So sweet!!!!! So glad she has you now! U make each other so happy! Love y'all!

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