Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Legs, Mind, Heart

November 22, 2015.  Marathon number two. Something I said I would never do again, after I finished the first one.  We should all be careful what we say.

Once I decided to run a second one, I knew, without question, it would be Philadelphia again.  It's a great race. Nice expo, wonderful course and fantastic spectators and support.

This time, I had a goal. A big one.  While out on a couple of runs with BRF#1, we talked about hiring a coach and there was only one clear choice. We called Michelle of For the Love of Running.  She is an amazing athlete, mom who gets it, and a friend.

The training plan scared me.  Is it supposed too? Can't really answer that, but just went with what she thought was best for me. She knew me and took the time to hear me out about what I wanted to get out of this marathon.  My goal was a sub five hour marathon. The time to beat was 5:23:10.  You can do the math. That is a huge PR.

Training for the most part went well.  I struggled the most with the tempos runs. Speed work was something I have never done before. I enjoyed the track workouts better than I thought I would and the longs run, well they were really long and there was a lot of them.  Four eighteen milers and two twenty, not counting the seventeens, sixteens, well you get it.

I had moments where I thought my goal was going to be impossible. When October came around, things really started to fall into place. I was hitting my goal pace for most of my runs and I started to get more excited that I would not only reach my goal, but kill it.

My last eighteen miler, I finished in 3:15. I couldn't let that go. I wanted to repeat that on race day. I had a pace band that would get me to a 4:49 finish.

The week leading up to the race, I couldn't sleep. At all. I was a walking zombie just getting through the day.  I just wanted to get there and start running.  I couldn't wait anymore.

I ran my two mile shake out run the morning before we left.  My legs were heavy.  It wasn't a horrible run, but it wasn't a great one either. TMI coming up for all of you Running While Daddies.  My period was late.  And the week leading up to it, my legs always feel that way. I usually have my worst runs that week.  I knew this couldn't be good.

Getting to Philadelphia was slow, but we arrived at the same time as BRF#1 and Sarah and her crew.  It was so great to see them. We pretty much dropped off our bags and headed to the expo.  We got there later than I would have liked. Not much left but still excited to get our shirts and bibs.

From there we enjoyed a great dinner at the Marathon Grill.  Andy came down to eat with us and that was such a thrill for me.  I was so happy to see him!

I was in bed by 8:30 but found it very hard to fall asleep.  At 2 AM, I woke up with a splitting headache and nausea.  I never fell back to sleep.

I was out of bed at 4:45, made my breakfast which I forced down and had a cup of coffee and some water.  Got dressed and grabbed my stuff. I was down in the lobby earlier then the girls.  I was panicking waiting for them. When they finally arrived, we walked out to find a super long line to get through security.  It was cold too but I knew it would be perfect running weather.

Once through security, I walked as close to my corral as possible and got in line for the potties there.  The race started a few minutes late due to a car accident somewhere on the course. The waiting was killing me.

I got as close to the front of my corral as I could.  I was behind the five hour pacer. I wanted to be in front of him but could not get up there. It was packed! I started to worry about that.

The National Anthem was beautiful and I cried.  This would not be the last time I cried that day.

As each corral moved up, it seemed the five hour pacers were getting further ahead of me.  I was really stressed.

Finally, at 7:39, I crossed the starting line.  I easily made my way to the five hour pace group but was running faster than I should be.  I heard one woman say she wanted a 4:59:59.  The pacer said, "You got it. Stick with me."  I wanted better than that.

I eventually passed him but he was close.  My head and stomach was getting worse with every step.  I was in trouble.

I got rid of my throwaway sweatshirt but the wind made it so I wanted to keep my gloves.  I knew I was going to see my friend Diane at mile 6 or so. I was going over in my head how I would tell her I was stopping and could she help me back to my hotel. Yeah, it was that bad.

However, when I saw her, I just started crying. Crying so hard, I found it hard to form my words. She just hugged me. I said my legs are so heavy and I feel sick. She hugged me some more and said I could do it.  At that point the five hour pace group passed us. I think I said, I have to catch that guy. Thanked her, got one more hug and took off.

Approaching mile seven, I saw my friend Therese running toward me. She had come down to cheer on all the Sub 30 members.  She started to run next to me and asked how I was. I was not good. I was crying again. I remember her saying, "No crying until the finish line."  Yeah, that was not happening!

Before I knew it, she was still with me after a mile. We were talking, not sure what about really. I know at one point I was saying, "All this hard work and I won't even finish."  She just kept running next to me.  She even grabbed water for me at the aide stations!

I remember saying, I can't do this hill and we started to walk but then the five hour pace group passed us. I was determined to catch him again.  At some point, my stomach started to feel better.  My goal for the half was 2:22/24. It was slipping away.

My friend Therese stayed with me until mile thirteen. Mile thirteen! She said she came prepared to run but I am pretty sure she did not expect to run that much.  I did not see Mr. RWM and the kids at mile thirteen and that teared me up again. Turns out they got hung up at security too. Mr. RWM had extra fuel for me, luckily, so did Therese.  We hugged and I said thank you and went on my way.

Therese snapped this in mile twelve. Finally feeling better and I even managed to smile.
A much needed hug from fellow Subber, D-Nation/LAST runner and friend, Linda.

I hit mile thirteen at 2:29:28. Missed my goal.

At this point, I had to reevaluate. What was possible and how did I feel?  I was with the five hour pace group. I decided to run with them for awhile.  It was a pace that I could run and still think and figure things out.  It was a decent group, but I kept to myself. If you know me, you know how strange that is.

Between miles eighteen and nineteen, there was a big water stop. It was a mess. Empty cups and Boom packs all over the place. The ground was gross and sticky. I pulled over too early to get water and got hung up trying to move forward. Once I got my water, the pace group was way ahead of me.  I panicked and started to sprint for them. I could not let them get away.  I caught them and realized how fast I had run. Friends, it was a 9:47 pace.  I knew I had more in me and I could still reach my goal.  I had to reevaluate again. I knew the pace group would probably come in sub five but not by much.  I wanted more than 4:59:59.

I stayed with them for awhile. I didn't want to use too much too soon and my legs were telling me they were done. But my heart wasn't.

The week leading up to the marathon, Michelle sent us motivation each day. I tried to remember each message and picture she sent. I thought about my kids and family and how much it would kill me if I let them down. They never once said I couldn't do it even when they were missing me. I thought about my friends, who were with me every step of the way. They all had a wonderful running year. I trained with them. There was no reason why I shouldn't reach my goal. I thought about Wyatt, my I Run 4 Buddy. I could not let him down. I had to keep moving forward and make him proud. I wanted to be able to send him a medal and say, yes,we did it together.

I can't remember if it was before or after mile twenty one, but the pace leader said we were forty seconds ahead of schedule. For whatever reason, that was my sign.  I made the decision to leave the group and not look back.

I ran.

I ran with my heart.

I tried not to listen to my legs. I ran for Michelle, who trained me to run on tired legs.  I ran for my kids and Mr. RWM, who supported me every single day always saying I could "win" it.  I ran for all my running buddies who encouraged me and never once let me down. I certainly wasn't going to let them down. I ran for Wyatt and thought of the picture of him sitting in his wheelchair at the bottom of the Rocky steps pointing up.  Nothing is impossible, we can do this!

In mile twenty five, Therese was running toward me again! I was so thrilled to see her. She said I was doing great and almost there. She gave me info on some of the other Sub 30 members who were finished or still running. Then she said, "Look how many people you are passing!"  There was no stopping me.

The people at the finish were loud and I loved it! Bon Jovi was blasting through the speakers on the course. I could see the finish and I felt like I was flying. I saw my family and crossed the finish line in 4:57:05.  My friends, that is a PR of 26:05.

My favorite picture of the day. My kids cheering me into the finish. Mr. RWM didn't even realize the kids were in the picture until we looked that night. Makes my heart melt.

My incredible family.

BRF#1 and me at the finish.

I know I cried tears of joy. My family was yelling at me from the fence. I got my medal. Oh man, the medal! It is by far, the best medal I have ever gotten and I am not person who is bling crazy.  This medal beats all medals.  I got my space blanket. I got cold real quick. I got some food and heard my name and saw BRF#1.  She finished within a minute of her PR which she got just four weeks ago in Hartford. Amazing.

Yes, it really rings.

Leaving the finish shoot, Stephanie from Sub 30 grabbed me. She was the one who told me my official time and guess what, I cried again.

Finally, I was reunited with my family. Hugs and tears all around. Well, tears just from me.  The rest of the day was fantastic. I felt better than I ever dreamed. My parents took the kids for an overnight and Mr. RWM and I got to spend some good, quality time with our friends, talking and laughing until I passed out that night at 7:30, watching the Wizard of Oz.

The Sub 30 crew celebrating.

Now that I had some time to think, I am certain that I sabotaged my own race with being so nervous. I was on edge for a week. I didn't sleep for a week. I stressed over every detail and made myself sick. I wish I had better control over that. It has never happened before.  Having said that, all of my training came together at the end. I never dreamed that I could run that fast after twenty miles. The strength and determination is hard to explain. My mind went somewhere else. I forgot about my legs. My heart took over. I finished the last mile with a 9:23 pace.

I am looking forward to getting back to my runs with my friends just because we want to. I know we will all pick a new goal eventually and get back to training but for now, nice and easy we go.  I started out the year thinking I would hit 750 miles. I am at 967.6. I think my last goal of the year will be 1000 miles.  I am sure I can do it.

Marathon number one and two. Both awesome!

Thank you, Kim!

Thanks for being with me on this crazy running journey. I don't know where we are going next, but it is sure to be a good time wherever it is.

Run Strong, Think Big!  And have a wonderful Thanksgiving! ~ Nicole


  1. Congrats on a great race and a fab PR!!!!

  2. Awesome job on your PR and such a huge one too! You left it on the course on a tough day. I was in Philly and the wind was brutal. Congrats!!!!

  3. Your strong heart will carry you through anything, my friend. I am so proud of you!!!