Thursday, November 24, 2011

Marathon Recap (Long Post)

I already posted a brief post about my first marathon. So everyone knows I finished it, but you all don't know the details and how I felt so that's what this post is for.
I really did enjoy how flat the course was. I remember saying the same thing the first year I ran the Great Race and then the years after that I pushed too early and I said it was actually hilly.  I hope that doesn't happen again.

Overall I didn't pay much attention to the scenery so then it is hard to remember the details later.  I've always been bad at that so this is no different.
My Garmin would beep for the mile a few steps prior to the mile marker and with each mile it was happening a few steps earlier and earlier.  The entire time I did math in my head, I accounted for this and figured I'd run between 26.3 and 26.5 on my watch so when I would do the math for what percent done I assumed 26.5 miles instead of the official distance of 26.2.

Getting Ready

I picked out my clothes, packed a duffle bag for the car, and packed a few things for Dave to keep in his backpack the night before the race.  While picking out my clothes, I realized I packed a tank top that I hate and no spare. I remember packing the new one that I hate just in case we went to the gym. I guess I didn't grab a second one. I also thought I packed my Pittsburgh half marathon long sleeve shirt and couldn't find it so I had to wear my (fraud) Pittsburgh Marathon shirt from 2011.  Later I found the Pittsburgh half shirt in the front part of the suitcase when we were packing to go home on Tuesday.

Bright and Early
The day started with my alarm going off at 4:40 AM. That is so incredibly early for me to wake up but it had to be done.  I woke Dave up and he said "Are you sure?" like I would make something up about what time we had to get up to get a move on it.  We left the hotel a little after 5 to drive down and park in a parking garage. How to get to the race was extremely stressful for us. Dave wanted to take a trolley or bus but their lack of service on a Sunday morning made things difficult. My suggestion was what we went with. I said you had to just get there early before any lane closures. We planned to leave at 5 to get there at 5:30 and just kind of wait around and be able to take our time to get to the start.  Traffic was not bad. The first garage we went to seemed full so we went around the block to a different one. It was only $9 instead of $20 and there was room. We parked on the 2nd floor so we were there kind of early.  Within minutes, cars were pouring in. I think our timing is good.  I hate the waking up early part but Pittsburgh has taught me you just need to get there early.

We sat in our car in the parking garage for awhile. I decided what to wear again even though I had already decided. I just didn't know how to read the weather. It was cold in the morning but it would be 60 later. I debated changing from my pants to shorts but couldn't find them in my bag so I just went with the pants.  Then we walked over toward the start. That was easy to do. We just had to follow all the other runners.  We stood around for awhile. Once it was getting within 30 minutes of the start, I headed toward the corral and Dave went on his way to do whatever he was going to do. I got to the corral and just stood around observing. One girl took off her long sleeve throwaway shirt and the back of her running shirt said "first timer" so immediately I wanted to go over and talk to her.

I started off near the 4:30 pacer. I had planned to start near the 10:30 mi pace and 4:30 was as close as I could get to that.  If my calf wasn't either still injured or just getting back from an injury, I would have done 4:30 or better in my mind.The race started on-time, but there was some threat that it might get started late. The announcer said he might tell us later if he could but wouldn't give us details.  I still wonder what it was that almost caused a delay.  How they did the corrals was different than in Pittsburgh and you actually had to wait to start and there were barricades. I know the 2nd group got to go when the clock hit 2:30.   I ended up crossing the start line about 20 minutes after the initial start. I still had my throw away long sleeve shirt. I was too cold to toss it there but had it off and tied around my neck. It was just a little too windy for me. As Dave puts it, I'm a little girl, so I had to keep it with me.

Miles 1-5
About .25 into the race I saw a guy take a pretty bad fall. He tripped over a curb. I think he was probably in his 60s. I didn't stop at the first or third water stops. It was just too crowded and I tend to not drink as much at the beginning even though I should consistently drink.  I figured I'd regret this later.  I was sort of right with that.
The first water stop was at 2.2 miles (and I didn't take water). The 2nd was at 3.5 miles and I took a cup and it had about an inch of water in that. I walked while drinking it, threw the cup in the trash box and continued running.  I took my gloves and headband off around the third mile and just held them while running.  I kept debating trying to leave them on so I didn't have to carry them, but ultimately decided to go with taking them off.  I liked both things so I didn't want to throw them down like so many others were doing with their cheap gloves.

For the first 5 miles, my goal was between 10 and 10:30 pace. My average split was 2:34 for those 5 miles so that is 10:16 pace.  I was right on target even though the 4:30 pace group was way ahead of me already by this point.  There were a few turns and it seemed like for all of them I was on the outside of the turn. I already knew my garmin would be off from the actual mile markers because of this.  So far I was feeling great. I couldn't believe I was almost 1/5 of the way done. The first 5 miles were incredibly flat and they felt flat.
A practice shot. Then the camera was off when I passed him
Miles 5-10
The third water stop was at mile marker 5.25 and I didn't take water here.  I was in the middle of the road and by the time I realized it was water time, I figured I'd just wait until the next one.  I saw Dave on the sideline between miles 6 and 7. He tried to take my picture, but didn't have the camera on. (I could tell the camera wasn't on but I just kept going.)  I was surprised to see him because he told me that he'd only see me at the end.  His plan was to go somewhere and read. That plan didn't work since everywhere was closed so then he cheered me on. (yay)  I was in the middle of the road when he saw me and I was right even with him, so I didn't have the opportunity to give him my gloves and headband.  For the next half mile or so, all I thought about was how I had missed the opportunity to make it so I wouldn't have to carry them.

I got water at mile 7.  I walked when I got water and then there was an uphill so I hit the lowest split so far (3:07) but I still was not discouraged. I had my first energy chews right after the water at 7. I meant to have the energy chews at mile 5 but just forgot. I ate 5.  I also got water at mile 8. At this point I was wondering when all the water stops were and wishing I had paid attention to that on the information they provided to us.  Some people knew when the water stops were. Some people were commenting on the upcoming turns. I didn't really have any idea where we were running. It didn't really matter. Even if I looked at the map, I wouldn't remember.  Miles 7-8 were uphill according to the elevation chart but it only felt like a little hill to me. A little bit after mile 8, I smelled something that I thought smelled like manure then I changed my mind saying it smelled like a zoo. I couldn't figure it out. Then a few hundred yards later, I noticed that a Zoo was to our left. Crazy. Mile 9 was the 2nd big hill. It barely felt like anything to me. I actually pushed it harder wondering if I could get a faster split on the uphill. I was passing people and when my watched beeped, I had (2:12).  I got water at the stop at 9.5 miles in. Right after that they provided energy gels. I did not take any of those.  The quarter mile after that, was very sticky. You could hear everyone's shoes sticking as they ran because of people throwing their gel wrapper on the ground.  I kept telling myself that I had training using run/walk/run a lot so I should start using it when I was running the race. What also made me say this was Dr. Asman telling me to run the race just as I had been training.  At first I said I'd do my first walk break at 8 miles, then 9 miles, then 10 miles.

I knew I wouldn't stick with the 4:30 pace group, but hoped to stay around 10:30 pace for the first 10 miles and my actual was 10:23 pace.

At some point in the second 5 miles, I saw a 2nd lady take a fall. We had just crossed a bridge and if I could analyze the course map, I'd be able to tell you where that was. I remember it was a bridge because her shoe got caught in the expansion thingy and she fell and her shoe flew off.   Also at some point some guy caught up to me and asked if I was from Pittsburgh. He was from the south hills.  A little bit after the zoo a guy caught up to me and said he sees me running at North Park all the time. I never saw him. He couldn't find his corral so he was starting near the back and had time to make up so we ran together for a few hundred yards and then he took off. We ran together while going uphill but I'm not sure which hill it was. If only I looked at his race number so I could figure out who he is.
A sign flew up and hit Dave on this Bridge
Miles 10-15
I did not want to burn myself out. I felt good. I thought I could keep going but I often remember people burning themselves out. Heck I burn myself out at a 5k if I go out too fast, so right at 10 miles, I decided to walk for 1 minute.  I'm not sure I even made it the entire minute. Run 10 miles an then walk is the same as run 4 minutes and walk 1 right?  I got water at 11 and 13, but at mile 11 I also got Gatorade.  I'm not a big fan of Gatorade but knew I needed to take some so I did.

The half split off from the full around mile 13. I saw Dave around this time.  Just 10 feet before seeing him was the first time someone I didn't know cheered for my name.  I got confused and thought there was a Colleen near me. I didn' realize spectators would cheer for people by name if they read their bib. If the person didn't cheer for me, I may have seen Dave earlier.  As soon as I saw him, I got excited and ran over to give him my gloves and head band.  There were a ton of spectators around mile 13, so I was able to run and run at a pretty decent pace. I didn't want to be slow where people could see me!  Also in the 13th mile, the course started having us run on one side of the road and inbound of the course running the opposite way. Seeing the "good" runners was also inspiring. Even though I was nowhere near the 10:30 pace group, I was hoping to stay on track until at least the half and I did with a 10:29.

I was halfway done. I ran the half way slower than when I was only running the Pittsburgh half but I was done then and had to keep going today.  Based on memory, I was a few minutes off from what I thought I was on my last long training run. My long run half split was 2:22 but I was thinking it was 2:13 and I ran the half in 2:17 so I was actually in good shape even though I thought I was in bad shape. I thought about getting out my phone and pulling up my blog to see what some recent times and splits were.  I had my 2nd set of energy chews right after I got a chip time for the half.  I meant to have this at 10 but since I was late on my first set, I figured it was OK.

I started picking people out ahead of me running and trying to catch up to them.  This was a fun game. I kept catching up to everyone that I sought out to.

In the 14th mile I had 2 bad splits in a row.  I had taken a walk break only to have a water station a few minutes later. Boy was I mad I wasted a walk break on my own.

I was enjoying the course. I really liked that there weren't a lot of turns. I didn't actually know for sure that there weren't a lot of turns but I vaguely remembered the course map looking like it went out pretty far and turned around and came back.  There were signs hung up saying "marathon outbound" and some people talked about how that was discouraging. I didn't think so.

Miles 15-20
Mile 15 was uneventful besides the sign I saw that was by far my favorite sign. It said we were 59.16....% percent complete. It went out to about 8 decimal points. I kept looking at all signs from  then on hoping to find more like that. I did not.  In the 16th mile they had water and I heard the workers talking about how people were supposed to bring them more cups. They looked like they had a ton, but I figured they knew better than me. Plus all these water stops now had people taking water on the outbound side and inbound side.  They gave out energy gels again and the ground was sticky again. I laughed to myself about this.
So all during the 15th and 16 miles I thought I was running downhill and kept thinking about how it was going to suck coming inbound and going uphill for so long at the end. (btw it was not downhill)

In the 17th mile, we crossed a bridge, ran down a little, turned around and came back and ran across the bridge. On my way to the turnaround I thought it was downhill. On my way back from the turnaround, I thought it was level. I'm not sure if it was a hill or not, but no matter what it wasn't downhill then level. It either had to be level and level or downhill and uphill.  I was thinking I was going crazy here.

I got Gatorade at mile 18.  I had my 3rd set of energy chews at this time.

At some point in the 18th or 19th mile, some lady was on the side of the road. She looked like she was going to pass out. A few people were there talking to her. Someone in front of me decided to stop and go help. I ran into this person.  A few hundred yards later, we saw a cop and the lady in front of me shouted to him that someone needed help. He started running toward where that lady was. A minute later, a cop car was coming down our route and we had to run on the sidewalk.

Right around mile 19, it seemed like we were getting into a town.  Shortly after mile 19 I got water and Gatorade. Then we got to turn around! Now it was all inbound. How exciting.

At some point there was a table with cups of beer and they were trying to hand out beer. A sign said 2 miles until your next beer. I'm not quite sure who was providing the beer and I was shocked at how many people took the beer.

Miles 20-26.2
At mile marker 21, they were out of cups for the water stop. They would pour the gallon jug over our mouth to get you some water if you wanted and I didn't think I could manage that so I progressed.   The same thing happened at mile 22. Now I was getting more frustrated. I would have worn my water belt if I would have known they would be out of cups. I felt like I definitely needed water. I felt my face and it seemed like you could feel beads of salt.  At the water stops they would refill a cup of your own if you had it. Boy did I wish I had saved a cup.  I had some energy chews around this time too. By this point I was on my 2nd package that I was carrying.

With all the commotion of water and cups and my thought process on being dehydrated I didn't even realize when I hit 5 miles left. Just 1 loop around the lake I thought I'd tell myself but instead I said "just one shortcut loop around the lake" and I smiled at myself. If I wasn't watching my watch enough to notice 5 miles left, my run must have been easy.

I was waiting to hit the wall at 23.  Most people have told me the last 6.2 miles are really hard or the last 5 miles are really hard or the last 3 are hard.  I just kept waiting to hit the wall. I didn't.

With about 2.5 miles to go, I got out my phone and texted a few people back to had texted me good luck and keep it up texts. I had a text from Dave but it was off the screen so I didn't notice. I wish I had.  I also saw that the thing I signed up for to get my stats texted to me was working.

The water station at 24.5 had water cups and I took water. There was only an inch of water in the cup. I almost asked for more but figured it was just a little loop around my neighborhood and I was done so I kept going.

For the 25th mile, I took a walk break right at the end and I took it slower. I wanted my last mile+ to be a good split.  For miles 20-25, my goal was 12 minutes miles. I was always beating that so I got bonus seconds but I was discouraged with a slow mile. My 25th mile was 11:40. I wasn't discouraged.  It was a mind game and I learned from different Great Race times, that my mind got the best of me and I slowed down after a bad split even though I could have ran faster.

During the entire inbound, I thought it was downhill or level except this one little spot. I realized I wasn't running downhill when I went outbound. I continued to think about how I was crazy and my perception of level and hills must be off because of Pittsburgh hills and this definitely took my mind off running.  Granted at this point I was more like bobbing or jogging than running.

There was a water stop near the end and I didn't take water since I was almost done, but everyone else seemed to and they walked and I couldn't even get around them. I was forced to walk. So many people were cheering the last couple miles. I often ran near the side of the road so people could read my bib and cheer for me by name. I definitely stayed near the edge so they would say my name. I didn't know these people but each time my name was heard, I would go a little quicker for a few steps.
According to my Garmin my 26-26.25 split was 2:10, the best of the day.   I saw Dave around when my Garmin said 26.2 but the finish was when my Garmin said 26.37.  I knew the Garmin would think the race was longer so in my head I did percentages the entire race assuming the finish was at 26.5 miles.   The last .12 on my watch were in 53 seconds. That was a 7:22 pace.  I semi kicked it the last 1.2 miles. Then with .7 left, I kicked it even more.  I was afraid I'd kick it too early but then thought I was so close and had such a small percentage of the race left, that I'd be fine.
The Finish
After I finished, I didn't get this huge sense of accomplishment. I didn't feel like I completed something that people think is hard. I thought that I could keep going. I thought I could easily do another 5 miles. I thought that I finished it and didn't finish it too fast so next time I can definitely beat this time. I didn't want to run too fast or I'd never be able to beat it.  I finished and thought how I needed to get water, my medal, and a space blanket.  I missed space blankets at the Pittsburgh half marathon in 2010.  I kept wondering how to get out of the chute to see Dave. I ended up missing the line to get in for a picture in front of the Philadelphia Marathon sign. I missed the line for some other picture.  I missed the line for food. It was all too hidden. I did sneak over and cut in line in a break in the line but I only ended up with pretzels.  Once you passed the pictures and the tent of food, you were kind of screwed.

A few minutes after I finished I saw Dave. While talking to him (over the fence), my muscles were getting tight. I had him hold my stuff while I stretched for maybe a minute. I should have stretched longer.

Then it was time to head to the car. Based on how the finish and everything was, we had to walk a few blocks too far just to double back to get to the garage.  It was a pretty long walk back that at one point, I had Dave sit on a bench so I could eat my pretzels and drink water. I was carrying too much to be able to eat or drink and walk.

Once we got to the parking garage to pay, Dave talked about his backpack being heavy so I carried that. We walked up a few flights up stairs to our car. I was just fine. A little sore. My lower left leg and my right thigh were just a tiny bit sore.
The Drive
Then leaving the parking garage was another story.  There was a lot of traffic. The car 2 behind us, hit the car right behind us.  We weren't even moving so I don't know how that happened.  Then we had to make a turn and stay in the right lane to cross a bridge and then turn right. Well many people stayed in the left lane then put on their turn signal and people let them over. Because of that AND only 2 cars getting through the light at the end of the bridge, it took us 30 minutes to get across the bridge. Dave was not happy about this.  A few minutes after the bridge, it was smooth sailing.

The tank top I hate because it is tight on my arms
After the race
Later on Sunday I was sore but only a little bit. I'd get stiff sitting for awhile. Right below my left calf was hurting so I was walking with a very slight limp.

Monday, I was getting a little stiff and a little sore. My walking speed was slower than normal. I was less sore than I am after going to Body Pump after missing it for 1 week.  I walked around Costco for 50 minutes then we went to King of Prussia Mall.    I sat at dinner for 2 hours and when I got up, I was a little stiff, but by the time I was even out of the restaurant I was fine.

Tuesday morning I went to Bally's.  I used an elliptical for 5 minutes. Then I went over to the treadmill to run.  I ran 1 mile. I was going to do .5 or so. I started running at 6.0 mph. I upped it to 6.2 then 6.4 then 6.6 by the end. The mile took me 9:40 (counting how slow treadmills are to start up).  Not bad for 2 days after a marathon. I'm pretty sure Tuesday should have still been a rest day.

Wednesday, I went to the gym again. I ran on the treadmill. This time for 2 miles. I ran .5 at 6.6 while talking to the trainer. I stretched. Then I ran intervals at 7.2 mph and then 6.2 mph for 1 minute each. I almost stopped at 1.5 but then did another .5 doing 8.2 mph for 30 seconds and then 1 minute at 6.2 mph. I actually ran 2.05 miles total so that the last one ended with the end of an interval.   Not bad for post-marathon again.

Thursday, I went to the gym again. I didn't have much time today because we left my house late. I only ran 1.5 miles. This time I did my intervals at 7.4 and 6.2. Since I was short on time the last 2:47 were all at the fast pace.  It took me 13:21 to do 1.5 miles.

I've talked to other people and they did their first post-marathon run on the Thursday after the race or even later than that.  I guess that's what happens when you run so slow like I did.

I was talking to a distance runner friend last night. I sent him my mileage summary and this was his reaction
Alex: I have to say, this is probably the lowest mileage marathon training I have ever seen. I am pretty impressed you got through the race so easily.
me: Well I did it so slow! I did half the minimum of novice training plans!
Alex: That was like not studying for a final and coming home with a solid B
I did run slow but still can't believe I did it with so little training. I also started following the plan on about week 9 of the training plan. I didn't register for the race until September 19.

OK Sorry this post is so long. I bet I even forgot a lot of things. If you made it to the end, I'm thrilled but you probably didn't. I hope to look back on this next race so I can see how it was and then I'll be less stressed. When I started the race, I wasn't even sure I'd finish based on how my calf felt for almost 3 full weeks (20 days versus 21). I knew so many people wanted to hear about it and they were very encouraging. It helped me along the way. I thought about my support at random spots on the course.


  1. Good recap. It's a nice bit of information that parking is so reasonably priced. Had I known, I might have driven when I ran. Also, you should have definitely not skipped the fist couple of water stops. They are the most important.

  2. The one garage that was full was $20 and the $9 one was just a block or so away. Since I have no sense of direction, I couldn't say where it was. I'll have to ask Dave.

    Yea I know. Somehow I was thinking they had water stops each mile so I was good. I didn't realize at the time it was 2.2 miles in. I also had water at the corral so it wasn't like I just had none.

    I am considering my water belt in future races because those water stops were basically a crawl to get the water and get moving. Maybe it was the pace group that I was at. Some people took water and stopped. It made it difficult.

    Also I think when I wear my water belt, my form is better because the bottles stop me from crossing my arms across my body so much.

    You can drive and do it next year!

  3. Oh and thanks for reading the post. I can't believe it ended up so long. I did write it over 4 different sittings so that probably made me feel like it wasn't so long.

  4. Wow what an accomplishment! Congratulations Colleen!

  5. I thought this was a good post. Really gives you a full picture of what it feels like to run a road marathon for the first time (a thing I have never done - just mountain ones where you have to carry your own water).

    I started picking people out ahead of me running and trying to catch up to them. This was a fun game.

    I am always so impressed by your positive attitude with things that are hard. I am also always baffled by your water/food racing regimen (because you seem to be able to get away with consuming so little, comparatively).

    Man. Doing a marathon of this scale is such a huge undertaking (less so if you live in Philadelphia, but still). Congratulations.

  6. Thanks.

    I don't even think my attitude is positive. But sometimes when my games go bad then I'm not positive. (re: Great Race 2011 mile 4)

    My nutrition is the worst. Sometimes I run 14 miles w/o any food before the run and no nutrition during. Then I'm WEAK when I'm done. oh boy. I always drink too little water. People talk about bathroom breaks or going to the bathroom right before a race. I never do that. I wonder if I ate and drank right if I'd actually be good.

    25,000 is a lot of people. It went really smoothly. The delays between corrals was really nice.

  7. This is a great rundown! That's so great that you ran the whole marathon and felt that it was easy...all your monthly fitness goals have really paid off. I haven't heard of energy chews yet—should I look into those for my half marathon? I think my running group was going to have someone come talk to us about those types of things, but I haven't been in about a month so I may have missed it.

  8. These are the ones Colleen uses.