2018 in review

2018 in review

Every year I start my yearly recap with intentions of making it flowy and descript. As I try to recall everything that has happened this year, it’s quite a blur. However, I can testify that 2018 has offered me travel experiences, running memories, cycling achievements, and new beginnings (GRAD SCHOOL!) that have continuously shaped me into who I will be starting off as in 2019. This year has gifted me new friendships and strengthened existing ones. I’ve become a more grateful, more mindful, more persistent, and stronger person because of my experiences and support systems. Without further ado, let’s review…

Within the first week of January, southern NJ was hit with something they call a “bomb cyclone”. I still don’t know what this weather term defines, but I do know that I went out for a run in it. Classic me.

Being a Philadelphia Eagles fan in January became a very exciting time. Nick Foles became our hero.

I was picked as an Altra Ambassador for the 2nd year in a row. Altras are my favorite!

Josh got a new bike – the Rocky Mountain Element in smoke-on-the-water black. I’ve yet to be able to compete with the affection he shows for this bike.

I was offered an interview to my top choice for grad school which I scheduled immediately and as soon as possible. One step closer to following my dream.

On February 4th (everything good happens on the fourth day of each month & I have a whole list to prove it), the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl for the 1st time in team history. Completely shocked because these championships are few and very far between in Philly, I cried, I screamed, I banged pots & pans outside of Josh’s front door. What a time to be alive!

Four days later, I called out “sick” from work to go to the Super Bowl parade with millions of other Eagles fans. We parked haphazardly in some random grassy area we discovered. We went into a Dunkin Donuts that was sold out of 75% of their stock. We stood along Broad Street and watched people climb trees, drink beer, and wait anxiously for the team caravan to pass by. It was the best morning ever for Eagles fans! Later we went home and watched Jason Kelce’s historical speech on the art museum steps from the comfort of our couch. Still to this day, I believe that his speech was the most relatable speech ever for Philadelphia sports fans.

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Eagles Super Bowl parade!

I attended my interview for grad school and prayed that they would accept me.

Josh & I passed the time by going for trail runs in the cold.

I also took Gwin on a hike with Jess & McGee. Gwin prefers running, not hiking.

I decided not to train for an ultramarathon this year because I felt that my life schedule was too busy and unpredictable to fully dedicate to a long race. Instead, I opted for a nearby trail series in hopes of becoming a Regional champion for my age group.

By the end of February, I received my acceptance letter to my top choice for grad school! This was the best day ever because I was finally on the path of my dreams! I remember calling Josh to tell him first. Then I called my mom, who shared the news with my dad. I called my grandparents. I called Angela. And then I went for a celebratory run. Classic me.

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The day I got accepted to grad school

Josh & I attended more Flyers games together and ate big slices of stadium pizza.

As usual, I celebrated the first day of spring with a free Rita’s Water Ice.

On the second day of spring (my birthday), we had a huge snowstorm so Josh couldn’t come over. I made the most of the snowy birthday inside by playing board games. Once the snow slowed, I convinced my parents & Gwin to come out for a snowy trail run. We made it 1.5 miles from home, posed excitedly for a snow selfie, and 5 seconds later a snow-covered tree branch snapped, hit my back, and slammed me to the ground. Hello, 24th birthday! We spent the 1.5 mile run back towards home in fear of more falling branches/trees. The welt on my shoulder blade stayed for a few days. Nothing out of the ordinary for my life. Perhaps even an exaggerated metaphor.

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Infamous selfie before the branch hit me

I competed in the Xterra Brandywine 12k for the 2nd year in a row and defended my 2nd place finish on the podium.

I missed training for ultras.

I started a new blog section called “OT Chronicles” to document my experiences through grad school and beyond!

I raced a 5k for the first time in 3+ years and shared the #1 podium spot with Josh as the male & female winners of the race.

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Our 5k winnings

I really missed going to Hyner for race weekend.

Desiree Linden won the Boston Marathon in epic weather conditions. Sara Sellers came in 2nd and everyone in the running world was wondering who she was. Now she’s a sponsored Altra athlete!

I raced the Xterra Lums Pond 12k and finished 3rd overall female. I also fell ½ mile into the race and ran the remaining 6+ miles with bloody knees and an achy elbow. The paramedics took care of me at the finish line (infection prevention, people!). Josh & I then hustled to the NICA race the local mountain bike team was hosting and I hobbled around for the rest of the day while cheering the kids on.

I worked a race expo for Sparkly Soul all by myself for the first time ever. I even got interviewed by NBC 10 because they loved the unicorn headbands (which I absolutely hate so it was ironic). My interview was shown on TV and Josh came to the realization that he was dating someone famous.

I started working at wine festivals with a local winery. They were very fun but very exhausting to work. My right arm hurt after my first ever wine festival day from pouring so many tastings repetitively for 5 hours straight.

I attended the wine festival in Josh’s town with his family. Good company and good wine indeed!

Josh and I mountain biked together as much as possible. Trail therapy is the best therapy.

I continued to miss training for and racing ultras.

I ran the Xterra Wetlands 10k. It was muddy and I finished as the 3rd female. This was my least favorite race of the trail series.

Sneakers & Spokes hosted an Altra demo day and we had 15 people attend! It was great and my Altra heart was happy!

I stopped working in retail.

Josh & I flew out west and explored! We visited Angela & Phil in Colorado, explored Moab on mountain bikes, and visited Michael in Utah. I could go on and on about everything that we saw and did because it was truly the greatest six day adventure ever! But I won’t go on and on because I have two separate, lengthy blog posts about it on my blog already. Go check ‘em out!

I am still eternally grateful that Josh & I got to go on our Colorado-Utah adventure together. I am so glad that we got to see so many beautiful mountains with our hosts – the Dunn’s and Michael. We got to run and hike in places that were absolutely breathtaking. We got to mountain bike on trails that were challenging yet had rewarding vistas. I will also remember our trip together and the experiences we shared!

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Running in Colorado
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Mtb in Moab
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hiking in Utah

With altitude training on my side, I snagged some QOMs on my bike.

I started working at the winery’s tasting room once a week for the remainder of the summer. I worked one of the more quiet days of the week but I enjoyed the atmosphere and my responsibilities.

Josh & I planted our garden together for the 2nd year in a row. It was a sad garden this year because the wind destroyed half of our plants during a summer storm and nothing grew too well. I guess we needed to replenish the “special dirt” we got in 2017. Maybe next year.

I continued to coach runners and do personal training sessions with clients.

Lance, Josh’s dog, who was 15 years young passed away. His snuggles, prances, and love of human food will be cherished forever.

I also finished the 4th and final race of the Xterra series. I finished the Big Elk 1/2-marathon as the 4th overall female and 1st in my age group. I had achieved my goal of becoming regional champion and the long-sleeve they sent me a few months later was totally worth it! However, I’m going to give this series a rest for some time because 1) grad school and 2) I want ultras back in my life.

After the race, Josh & I ate brunch with Jess & Steve on Main Street. Those breakfast tater tots were the best!

Within less than two months, I started to miss Colorado and Utah.

I organized a road bike ride to a local Alex’s Lemonade Stand. We enjoyed water ice at 10 AM and got to enjoy a long bike ride on a perfect Saturday morning!

On July 4th, I ran the annual Pitman 4 Miler as a family tradition. My Altra Escalantes helped me run my 3rd fastest course time, finish 3rd in my age group, and finish in the top 7 female finishers. I also didn’t feel overly nauseous after I finished which is always a good thing.

After racing the 4 miler, Josh & I drove to the Woodstown 4th of July parade to ride in the parade with the Salem County Reactors. I felt sort of out of place but it was fun nonetheless!

Less than one week later, I raced my first mountain bike race of the 2018 and finished on the podium for THE FIRST TIME EVER! This was the highlight of my cycling year because I had never been on the podium at a mountain bike race before! Finishing 2nd was an awesome feeling, especially since I started in the back of the pack. I hope that in 2019 I can improve on my 2nd place and step up on the podium again!

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My 1st mtb podium!

I cheered Josh on at many mountain bike races and I took my job as his crew very seriously.

Josh & I attended a local food truck festival. We ate delicious tater tots!

I biked to a winery with the Sneakers & Spokes crew, did yoga in the vineyard, enjoyed a glass of wine, and then biked back to town.

I got really pissed off at township workers for talking down to me when I questioned what they were doing to a local trail. Idiots!

The Altra Superiors became my go-to shoe for trail running. I love them!

My dad hosted a women’s mountain bike clinic and it was so awesome! Fourteen ladies shredding the trail together?! It doesn’t get any better than that!

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Girl power!

I started riding in the faster group for group rides. The first time I attempted I only was able to hang on for half of the ride. The second time I attempted, I was able to hang on for all but the last 3 miles of the ride. I was so happy that I could keep up with “the fast guys”; this was an accomplishment for me!

Josh & I biked to a food truck festival at Fort Mott. Typical us.

I attended grad school orientation where I got to meet some of my classmates and professors. It made me very excited to start the semester!

Josh & I went for an after work trail run and got stuck in a torrential downpour and thunderstorm. No worries, we took shelter at The Loufa Hut.

Sneakers & Spokes celebrated its 3rd anniversary!

I ordered a total of 10 textbooks for my 1st semester of grad school. TEN!

I was offered a position as a graduate assistant to offset tuition costs. Thank goodness for financial aid!

I volunteered Angela to be a guest on a podcast and somehow then got persuaded to be on the podcast myself. It was fun and I really enjoyed talking about running and cycling with Diz Runs Radio!

I raced my 2nd mountain bike race of the year. My bike wasn’t shifting right but I got to crew Josh’s first endurance race which was more fun than racing myself!

Josh & I spent a staycation weekend together. We went mountain biking, had a lovely night out in Chesapeake City, and went trail running/hiking at a state park we had never been to before – Susquehanna State Park! It was a great way to end the summer!

I still think that my dogs are the most adorable dogs in the world.

On September 5th, I started grad school. My parents were in Utah visiting Michael so Josh stayed over the night before and took my 1st day of school picture! We also took a selfie together before he left for work. I was officially “a first year”.

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1st day of grad school!

After a very long Twitter hiatus, I decided to tweet once per day until I graduate from grad school. Some days I forget though but I always make it up by combining two days into one tweet….

I participated in a local 9/11 run for the 2nd year in a row. I wore my purple Altra Escalantes and red, white, and blue socks – a colorful combo.

School took over my life and I spent less and less time running and riding and a lot more time sitting and studying.

The Flyers hired Gritty. I still have mixed feelings about him….

Josh & I attended Oktoberfest in Delaware for the 3rd year in a row. I am always the DD.

I became more and more grateful for the time that I did get to spend running or biking, even if it was only for 30 minutes every other day.

I raced Shred the Edge – my 3rd and final mountain bike race of 2018. I crashed really hard within the first 1.5 miles. I spent the next 11ish miles in pain and I came in last; however, I did have fun! It was a good day for the local mountain bike race!

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Shred the Edge

The next weekend, I raced my first ever cyclocross race. I finished as the 3rd female and had a lot of fun! I hope that I can do one or two cyclocross races in 2019!

I made two new friends while writing a 26-page group paper on obesity with them! We promised each other brunch for a job well done on our paper.

My car surpassed 300,000 miles.

My family celebrated my cousin’s marriage. There was good wine and good dancing!

My car got flooded out on my commute to school after I drove through a very deep puddle in a jug handle. Classic me. That was an extremely stressful morning but luckily my dad was able to fix it. I only got to class an hour and 15 minutes late…

I attended the AOTA Student Conclave conference in Atlantic City in November. I learned a lot about occupational therapy practice in a variety of settings and with a variety of populations. I really really enjoyed learning about travel therapy! I also got to reconnect with a classmate I attended undergrad with who is also in OT school in Delaware! We got to meet Amy Lamb, the AOTA president, and attend sessions together. The Student Conclave was an awesome experience and I am so grateful that I got to attend both days because I learned so much and fell more in love with the profession.

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Student Conclave

Josh & I attended a Flyers game and tailgated beforehand with good drinks and frisbee. The Flyers lost that game but we had a great date day nonetheless!

I analyzed a video of my dad clicking a computer mouse for far too many hours. That project was the worst!

I celebrated my 5th year of vegetarianism.

On Thanksgiving day, I bundled up in 5 layers and ran 6 miles. Then Josh and I went to dinner at Jess’s with his family and then had dessert at my house with my family. I played Bananagrams with my cousin.

Classes got very stressful, but by one project at a time, assignments were being crossed off the list.

I made more OT friends.

I twisted my ankle trail running at night. I was very unhappy and my ankle was very swollen.

My mom and I volunteered at a Flyers charity event for military families. We got to meet a lot of Flyers and we helped military families celebrate Christmas together!

I was given my Level I Fieldwork placement for the spring semester. I will be in a school-based setting.

I survived finals week without becoming too sleep-deprived. Study groups kept me sane and I made more friends in the process!

Part of my class celebrated the end of our first semester by having brunch (the promised brunch from the obesity paper group) at IHOP. It was nice to bond with classmates outside of the classroom and to celebrate surviving our first semester of grad school together!

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IHOP with friends

School ended and I felt free to run and bike whenever I desired! It has been the best feeling ever to run guilt-free!

Josh & I went on a Christmas light run together through his town.

I organized a Santa run through Sneakers & Spokes. It was a success because 58 people went running festively through Woodstown and everyone had a fun time!

I supported local businesses while shopping for Christmas gifts. 85% of my gifts came from local businesses which I am super proud of!

My family cut down our Christmas tree from the front yard.

I got a new bike for Christmas and I love it!

I got to reunite with friends from high school while they were back in NJ for Christmas.

Angela came back to NJ from Colorado so we got to run together!

I initiated a shoe recycling program for retired shoes as a fundraiser for the local mountain bike team. I’m excited about this because I feel guilty throwing my retired running shoes out. I’m glad that my collection of shoes can have a second home now.

I got to ride my new bike at Fair Hill with Josh!

Running Stats of 2018:

  • Total Miles: 1,064 miles
  • Highest monthly mileage: March (136.1 miles)
  • Five trail races – Brandywine 12k, Sasquatch 5k, Lums Pond 12k, Wetlands 10k, Big Elk Half-Marathon
  • One road race – Pitman 4 Miler
  • Shoes worn: Altra Escalantes, Altra Superiors
  • States I ran in (5 total) – New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Colorado, Utah

Biking Stats of 2018:

  • Total Miles: 1,257.9 miles
  • Highest monthly mountain bike mileage: August (76.3 miles)
  • Highest monthly road bike mileage: June (248.4 miles)
  • Highest monthly combined mileage: June (324.1 miles)
  • Highest weekly cycling mileage: 105.2 miles
  • Total Road Bike Miles: 832.7 miles
  • Total Mountain Bike Miles: 425.2 miles
  • Mountain bike races (3) – Fair Hill Classic, Big Elk, Shred the Edge
  • 1 cyclocross race – Salem County Witching Hour

2018 brought fewer running miles but more cycling miles. All these woman-powered miles make me excited for 2019’s miles. Running & cycling were not prioritized once grad school began, but I am determined to integrate running/cycling into my daily & weekly routine once my spring semester begins because these activities are important to me.

These statistics are merely numbers. These numbers were oftentimes accumulated side-by-side or stride-for-stride with others. For that, I am grateful. The running & cycling community I am a part of has grown immensely in 2018 and I hope that it continues to expand in 2019.

I am proud of my race performances this year and I hope that I can compete in both running and mountain bike (and cyclocross?) races in the upcoming new year. With my dependable Altras, my loyal Fuji Finest, and my new Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt I am motivated to put forth solid training and determined racing.

This year has been full of amazing experiences and fresh starts. I am grateful for all the opportunities that have been given to me this year which makes it somewhat difficult to put 2018 to rest.

However, I know that 2019 brings me one year closer to achieving my goal of becoming an OT. I know that 2019 will bring me stronger friendships. I know that 2019 will bring me adventures on my own two feet and while balanced on two wheels. I know that 2019 will be a year of great challenge yet great victories. I am excited to see what 2019 will bring and how I will become a stronger, more determined person.

I am thankful for all of what 2018 has given me. I am excited for what 2019 will become.

In good health….happy new year, everyone!

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You win some… & all others aren’t losses.

You win some… & all others aren’t losses.

Earlier today, I raced the Xterra Brandywine 12k.  I finished 2nd overall female by a mere 40 seconds after leading for approximately 6.5 of the 7.3 mile race.  Should I be upset?  Maybe.  Should I be mad at myself?  Perhaps.  But… I’m not upset.  I’m not mad.  It’s not a loss to me.  I ran 46 seconds faster than last year on the exact same course in similar weather conditions.

I didn’t finish as the 2nd overall female because I ran slower than last year.  My solitary goal going into the race was to improve my 01:06:36 finish from last year.  Any other accomplishments throughout the race would just be an added bonus.  I ran 01:05:50, finishing 16th overall out of a field of 110 (last year I was 44th out of 165).  If that’s not something to be happy about then I don’t know what is.

What I’m trying to say is that not all “losses” are actually a loss.  The woman that finished the last 3/4 of a mile faster than me might think I didn’t pace myself throughout the race or that I’m just “a young girl still learning how to finish a race in its entirety”.  Truth is, that’s not me.

I knew what I was doing throughout that entire race:

I ran the 1st mile in 7:33 because I knew that any time I could gain on the downhill/flat section would be time pocketed for the gruesome climbs to come.

I didn’t power hike the climbs because I knew that the faster I could keep stepping forward, the sooner I would get to the next downhill.

I passed the men in front of me confidently and without hesitation because I was racing against them too.

I didn’t hesitate at the stream crossing because I knew that a moment of hesitation wasn’t going to resolve the issue of crossing the stream without getting my feet wet.

I didn’t flinch bombing down the rockiest downhill of the course because I’ve ran down that hill hundreds of times; I knew the best lines to take.

I didn’t try to navigate carefully around the muddy sections because I knew the quickest line was straight through them.

I ran the fielded, non-technical sections of the course with all the energy I had left because I knew there wasn’t much further to go.

I finished 46 seconds faster than last year because of all of these decisions, all of these moments, all of these intrinsic race instincts.

Races are just like life:  if you try your hardest every single day to accomplish your goals, you will achieve success.  Nobody can take away your successes.  Nobody can diminish your accomplishments because their accomplishments seem “bigger” or “better”.

If you take initiative, if you take your goals into your own hands, if you make decisions to better yourself, than you are on your way to your own personal win – and sometimes that can be the best way to lose.

Race Recap: Philadelphia Marathon

Race Recap: Philadelphia Marathon

Exactly one week ago I was sitting on my couch feeling exhausted, sore, and accomplished.  Just one week ago I finished the Philadelphia Marathon for the 2nd consecutive year with a one minute and 17 second improvement.  Three months of long runs, speed workouts, group runs, solo runs, happy feet, sore muscles, and mindful eating/drinking resulted in a 26.2 mile race that took me 3 hours, 45 minutes and 7 seconds.  But let’s not start at the finish line where this story would end, just like the race did.  Let’s start the two days leading up to the race.

Friday I worked at the marathon expo with Angela and Sparkly Soul.  Our adventures to Philly and during the expo are always exciting but what I liked most about working at the expo is that I was able to focus on the race without getting stressed about it.  I was surrounded by a bunch of other people who were running either the half or the full marathon.  I enjoyed myself at the expo because I enjoy selling Sparkly Souls!

Then, I went to work on Saturday.  The day wasn’t overly horrible, but I had a lot more time on my hands to worry about the race and the race day weather.  I wasn’t surrounded by other runners about to embark on a 26.2 mile race like I was at the expo.  I was left with my own thoughts, doubts, and fears.

When I got home I went for a quick 3 mile shake-out run.  The wind was already picking up speed.  I ate pasta for dinner and went to church to pray for serenity and acceptance of whatever weather I was going to face the next day.  It was hard for me to keep my doubts at bay.  I went to bed more anxious and nervous than I had been for the past 3 months.  I could hear the wind outside my window and I was worried my chances of PR’ing at the race the next day would be literally blown away (no pun intended).  My alarm was set for 3:45 AM so I went to bed early.

I woke up and the wind was still whipping.  My weather app showed temperatures would reach 48 degrees but the wind chill would be in the mid-30s.  For my race outfit, I opted for long leggings, a long sleeve light Under Armour, my Sneakers and Spokes jersey, my gloves that convert to mittens, and my standard Nike ear warmer.  I bundled up in extra layers as I walked out the door with my parents and Josh at 4:45 AM because I knew waiting around the corrals would be brisk.

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Race outfit with my Altra Torins!

I planned to get to the city by 5:30 AM which would leave plenty of time to find parking, get through security, and use the port-a-potties (ew!).  We arrived early so we sat in my dad’s truck for 15-20 minutes to stay warm.  When we arrived at the security gates, they told my dad and Josh bikes were prohibited so they locked them up outside of the secure zone and we continued on our way to the starting area.

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my favorite candid

I was completely disoriented due to the crowds and because the sun still wasn’t up past the horizon yet.  I had no idea where the starting line was or in which direction I would be running.  I eventually found the green corral and waited with my parents and Josh until closer to the start time.  My mom took a few candid pictures and I tried figuring out where the front of the green corral was.

I hesitantly started taking off layers and the chill in the air became evident.  I left my sweatpants, 3/4 zip, and sweatshirt with my parents/Josh which left me with a tshirt and a long sleeve over top of my race outfit.  I just wanted to be warm.

I’m not sure if I started in the correct corral.  All I do know is that I started in the middle of a corral on the right side of the street.  After the national anthem, the wheel chair and elite athletes started the race.  I began taking off my last two layers on top of my race outfit and tried finding a nice spot to start the race so I wasn’t tripping over clothes that had been haphazardly tossed on the sides of the corral.

Before I knew it, the corral I was in was at the starting line. I double and triple checked to make sure my Garmin had signal as we inched closer toward the starting line.   I was happily adorning my Altra Torins and unlike last year, I wasn’t worried about my toes bleeding half way through the race.  The wide toe box of Altras is my favorite!  We inched closer to the 26.2 miles ahead of us and everyone’s watches around me simultaneously beeped as we crossed the starting strip.  The race had begun.

I told myself to start comfortably – don’t go out too hard, pace yourself, don’t do what you did last year.  Easier said than done.  I ran my first mile in 7:24….not exactly what I set out to do but I consciously told myself to settle in to a more reasonable pace for 26.2 miles.  Just like last year I planned to look at my watch every 3 miles so I wouldn’t drive myself crazy looking at my watch 26 times.

For the first 5 miles of the race I was searching through the crowds to find my dad and Josh on their bikes.  They had planned to ride parts of the course to cheer me on.  I kept searching and searching but I just couldn’t seem to find them.  Worst case scenarios started running through my head…maybe someone stole their bikes after they locked them outside the secure zone or maybe they couldn’t get out of the secure zone for some reason.  But my thoughts were soon replaced by the overall sensory overload of the race – the noises, the weather, all the people – I was plenty distracted, but still curious as to where my biggest supporters were.

The run down South Street reminded me somewhat of trail running.  The road was completely uneven with ruts and holes down the entire length we ran.  Not nearly as tough as trail running, but I needed to find humor in something to get me through the next 20 miles.

At mile 6, I distracted myself by searching for a friend who told me she would be at mile 6.5.  I kept searching and when I finally found her I threw my hands up in some silly way and gave her a wave and a “hello”.  I was still very much happy at this point so doing that required little to no energy.

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still happy at mile 6.5!

The race continued toward the zoo and I remember my dad saying he didn’t have any plans on heading toward the zoo so I knew I’d be running the next 5 or so miles without seeing them.  Where could they be?!?!  There were musicians playing huge drums near the zoo which set a nice beat leading up to the biggest hill of the course.  I remember feeling like I was slowing down but I told myself to keep powering through the hill.  There were more musicians after the top of the hill who were playing drums.  The course took some weird turns that I didn’t remember running last year but all I could do was keeping running forward.

After a long down hill which I took advantage of, we began running next to the path for Fairmount Park.  We were approaching the half way point and that’s when I finally got to see my dad and Josh.  It was about time they showed up to cheer me on!   My dad yelled out that I was right on pace and I couldn’t help but think “right on pace for what?”.  I knew I was running fast.  I knew I was running too fast but I needed to just keep going.

13.1 miles in 1:44:55.  Simple calculations made me realize I was running for a sub-3:30 finish…what kind of torture had I set up for myself in the last 13.1? There was no turning back – what was done was done. I had 13.1 miles to go and I needed to hold on.  I was running to PR.  That was my only goal – I needed to PR.

The race rounded the front of the art museum.  The wind picked up significantly once we were headed in the direction of Manayunk.  I tried using the crowd’s energy to augment my adrenaline.  I needed to channel their energy into my legs, my body, my mind, my anything.

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The 30 MPH wind gusts made me feel like I wasn’t moving forward any more.  My feet weren’t landing underneath my body anymore; rather, they were landing slightly to the right of my body. I started cursing in my head.  Then out of frustration, I started cursing out loud.  I tried latching on to so many people in attempt to draft off of them.  I wanted them to block the wind for me.  Yet, every person I tried to draft off of was either running too fast or too slow.  Nobody around me was running my pace and I became frustrated by that.

I didn’t remember how far away Manayunk was until I was running against 30+ MPH winds.  It was so far away.  The wind made my hands cold.  I was using a lot more energy during my run out to Manayunk than I did in the cumulative 14 miles that came before this point.  A guy cheering on the side of the road said “only 10 more miles to go!”…“only”.  I wanted to be done.

I knew that I would also be without cheering from my dad and Josh from mile 15 on out because last year my dad didn’t go out towards Manayunk so he could make it back through security and to the finish area in time to see me finish.  My new goal was to find Angela.  My legs were cramping up, my handheld was empty of water, and I desperately needed a Shot Blok.  Without water, I couldn’t eat a Shot Blok so I reached a very low point in the race.  I was running with my hands on my quads because they weren’t functioning right.  I was getting more and more frustrated at my body for shutting down and I was getting even MORE frustrated at the wind.  I needed to find Angela.

I told myself to stop throwing myself a pity party and get myself together.  I found Angela and told her she looked great and to keep going (something along those lines).  I wished in that moment as she was running back towards the finish line that we were running together so that I could be around someone I knew.  I needed someone to distract me from my soreness.  But, she was ahead of me and she was running her own race so I had to find a way to get through it myself.

Because my handheld was empty, I switched to chugging Gatorade at every water stop.  Gatorade never tasted so good.  I was spilling it all over myself because I can’t run and drink from a paper cup simultaneously and I worried that it would make me colder.  To my knowledge, it didn’t really make me colder.

Finally I reached the turn around point in Manayunk.  My legs were still cramped.  My body was exhausted.  I wanted to cry.  I wanted to scream at the wind for making these miles miserable.  I started calculating how much time I have versus the miles I had left to run to see if I was still within PR zone.  Luckily, I was.  As long as I didn’t slow down to 12-13 minute mile pace, I would make it.  I told myself that’s completely possible.

There were hills in Manayunk.  There were people handing out beer outside of Manayunk.  There were runners cramping up on the side of the course in Manayunk.  There was wind in Manayunk.  I don’t understand how one little town throughout this course could suck so much energy out of me….but it did.

With 4 miles to go, I heard my dad and Josh cheering me on.  I was mentally distraught at this point.  I threw my hands up in the air after hearing them and covered my eyes trying to fight back tears.  I was getting myself all worked up and I wasn’t breathing properly.  I needed to compose myself.  I had about 45 minutes to run these last 4 miles and still PR.  I was racing the clock.  I couldn’t break down and cry right here 4 miles away from being done, from being wrapped in a warm heat blanket, or from finding my family and wonderful boyfriend and going home.  It’s only 4 more miles.

I switched to playing a little game in my head that Josh used to motivate me with during speed workouts at the local park.  He would pick someone anywhere from 200 meters to 1/4 mile away from me and tell me to go catch them.  I started doing that to keep my mind distracted from the pain in my legs but only a few people were getting closer to me – everyone else seemed to be getting farther away.

The finish line seemed close but not close enough with only 1.2 miles to go.  I told myself that’s only like 10-11 minutes more of running (because my pace was pretty slow at this point).  Finally, I could see the starting line.  My ears were attentive in attempt to hear one of my three supporters cheering for me.  I didn’t hear any of them but figured I’d just somehow missed hearing them with the thousands of other people in the crowd cheering too.

 

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I crossed the finish line and every muscle in my body hurt.  My watch read 3:45.  I knew I had PR’d and I was extremely happy on the inside despite probably looking unhappy to all the race volunteers.  My hands were numb.  A running acquaintance of mine wrapped the heat blanket around me.  When she asked me how I was, I said “I think I’m dead”.  Those are the only 4 words I could fathom saying at that point.

After receiving my finisher’s medal, I walked to the end of the finishing chute.  I grabbed a few snacks and a water bottle.  I was done.  I was done running.  My legs didn’t have to run anymore.  I could rest.  But first, I needed to find my family.

Last year I couldn’t find them so this year we had planned to meet up in the family meet-up area at letter “F” for my last name.  There was no family meet-up area this year.  I was delusional and completely out of it so my best reasoning was to stand in one spot until one of them saw me.  So I waited 5 minutes and I couldn’t see them anywhere in the crowd.  I was shivering uncontrollably.  I took it upon myself to ask to borrow a stranger’s cell phone to call my mom.  I told my mom where I was and she eventually found me but the police officer wouldn’t let her through to help me.  I hobbled over to my mom, past the stubborn police officer, and immediately questioned where dad and Josh were.  My mom said they didn’t get through security in time to see the finish so we still needed to find them.

We even20161120_111145tually all found each other and my dad and Josh congratulated me on a great race.  I was tired but still happy I ran faster than last year.  After Josh and my family helped me put on warm layers, my mom took a picture of my with my medal. I tried to look happier than last year because last year’s picture I looked grumpy.

We started the long, slow, cold walk back to my dad’s truck.  I couldn’t stop shivering and stepping off of curbs hurt every muscle in my body.  It seemed like the walk took 30 minutes.  But I got to tell Josh a little bit about my race which I was happy about.

After returning home and refueling with pizza, I was able to reflect some more about my 2nd official marathon.  Despite wanting to improve my time by more than just 1 minute and 17 seconds, considering the windy conditions I am very content with my improvement.  Three stressful months of training for 1 minute and 17 seconds of improvement.  It’s an unbalanced outcome but it’s an outcome I can be happy with nonetheless.

I don’t plan on running the Philadelphia Marathon again anytime soon because next year and beyond I plan on primarily trail racing.  My time with the Philadelphia Marathon has ended and a new chapter of racing for me will begin in April 2017.   I obviously didn’t learn last year not to go out too fast because once again I paid for my own stupidity in the second half of the race.  My 3:45:07 will stand as my Philadelphia Marathon personal record for many years to come.

The wind didn’t blow my attempt at a personal record away from me; instead, it blew me right in the direction to the type of racing I want to do from here on out.

Higher mileage, happier runner

Higher mileage, happier runner

Here is another weekly ultra training recap, as told in as few words as possible:

Monday – birthday run, group run, still sick, slower pace, 6.1 miles

Tuesday – sickness completely gone, 4 miles with my 4-legged running buddy

Wednesday – no watch, warmth, felt great, 6 miles

Thursday – 12 mile bike ride to the group run, SparklySoul, 7:35 mile, great weather, good company, gossiping, Angela, average 7:52 pace, 7 miles, socializing

Friday – 3 mile walk, long run part 1, Angela, more gossip, warm weather, average 8:18 pace, 10 miles, foam rolling

Saturday – early morning, chilly morning, long run part 2, getting lost, talking, good company, hills, slow trail pace, 10 miles, hunger

Sunday – 1st mountain bike ride in 10 years, need improvement, easy run home, 3.5 miles

Week in review:  awesome, higher mileage, happier runner, great company, loving running, 46.6 miles