A Special Sort of Kind – 26.2 Memories

Joe dropped us at the start somewhere around 7 AM and we faded into the crowd of spectators and runners as he drove away. “Good luck, you’ll do great, see you later.”

The day before had been a mess; dirty hotel room, complaint, refund, last minute scrambling for a new room – all worth it, as we ended up with an ocean view in a place built in 1800-something and the feeling that we were spending the night at our grandparents’ place, complete with blueberry muffins and oranges waiting for us in the lobby. Some more scrambling had us eating dinner in an Applebee’s a town away at 8 PM when we should have been stretching and settling in for the night, but after one pre-celebratory beer and a belly full of pasta my nerves had somewhat calmed and all three of us were laughing and making plans for the morning.

The alarms sounded like battle cries in our tiny room at 5 AM and I rolled out of bed, rubbing the spots from my eyes as she flicked on one of the lamps. “Here we go,” I whispered, and wasted no time making my way to my suitcase, rummaging for sports bra, socks, deodorant, toothbrush. I turned on Pandora. We looked at each other and laughed. I spread peanut butter on two wheat bagels and she got out the Gatorade. An hour later we were on our way.

The dog barked at traffic and I left a tiny piece of bagel on the dash, claiming I was too full to finish. One left turn was all we needed to get to the start and in those ten minutes we moved like a DMV line.

Joe gone, inside we joined the other runners scattered around the large room where the expo had been the day before, stretching, chatting, sleeping. I rubbed my bare arms and continued to feel out of place until 7:45, when others began to shed their top layers revealing arms, legs, hands. I breathed out.

“Your first marathon? Awesome.” A third-time marathoner with purple hair and a braid hanging down the middle of his back made conversation as we finished up. “You’ll be fine. The guy who won Boston last year walked EVERY water stop.” I stood a little straighter.

“We’re filling the corrals now,” called a volunteer. “You girls might want to start lining up.”

Ten minutes later music was filling our ears and we were squeezing into position among the others. My friend let out some sort of yelp and I questioned it before realizing it was nervousness, excitement escaping her.

The layers were still being peeled off through mile one, tossed onto the grass or the pavement. The herd was still knit tight and only the pounding of human hooves could be heard against the asphalt. “Here we go,” one of us said again.

Mile 8.

High-fives, cheering crowds, music. Spirits were high and breathing was low, steady. The chill in the air had long faded.

Mile 11.

She had been nursing a knee injury throughout training and it started to growl as we warmed up. The herd was thinning now and with it the distance between us was growing. “If you can go, then go,” we had decided early on. She was pushing through.

Mile 13.1

I found myself in another group then, the thick sounds of panting behind me and in front of me. A woman to my right was starting to lose momentum and an older man appeared beside her. “It’ll change your life,” he said. “When you’re done, go home, get out your dictionary and turn to the page with the word ‘cancer’. Read the definition. Then rip that page out. You won’t be needing it anymore.”

I wasn’t sure if this really applied to her. I didn’t ask.

“The best advice I ever received was during my first marathon,” he went on. “I spoke with a woman on the course who told me, ‘When you reach 13.1 and they tell you you’re halfway there, don’t believe them. When you’ve reached 20 miles, that’s when you’re halfway’.”

A man to my left looked at me and I smiled. “That’s the best thing I’ve ever heard,” I said to the older man. “And I’m going to remember as much of it as I can.”

Things started dragging somewhere in between there and the finish. Uneven pavement and sun blinded my vision and the stops for Gatorade or half a banana were becoming more and more welcome.

At Mile 20 the pain started. It was everywhere: toes, groin, arms. The backs of my calves screamed. I was stretching again and looking down to check for blood seeping through the toes of my shoes. I was praying for ten intact nails. Mile 23 and things got quiet and I hoped for one more drink stop.

“You’re doing great,” a man said over the roar of the crowd, whole and beside us now. “Thanks,” I panted. I saw something up ahead, the ocean to my left, people to my right. “Is that the finish?” I asked. “Yep, that yellow flag,” he panted back. I don’t know if he went on. I was already gone.

It’s interesting, the way the body kicks up again when it knows rest is near. That flag was my heaven and suddenly I was pumping my arms and legs; the pain had melted into the concrete and only wind and sea and salt and the sweet, sweet taste of finish lay in front of me.

Mile 26.2

There was a “congratulations,” a hand shake, a bottle of water and a medal shoved in my direction. I mustered multiple “thanks” and floated through people and cameras looking for Joe or just a place to sit, I wasn’t sure. I remembered my phone and pulled it from my SPIbelt.

“Hello??” His voice was urgent, somehow surprised I could speak. Neither one of us had known what to expect.

“Where are you?” Less panting now.

When we met I was already chomping on a pretzel. The dog looked up at me, as dazed as I was. We hugged and that’s when the tears started; they had nothing to do with the pain, because the pain didn’t matter. Those tears were layers of me leaping to a long awaited fate. The questions of my capability had been stomped out: Can you? Yes. Will you? I already did. Will you do it again? You bet your ass.

The same old routine followed me to the mirror Monday morning – too fat, too thin, one too many freckles. But this time something else followed me, too. Something sparkling new, something profound. Strength. Suddenly the voices in my head didn’t stop at “fix this”. This time another voice rose up. “You are remarkable,” it said. “And don’t you forget it.”

All those weeks, all those aches had been rolled up and tucked neatly into four hours and thirty-four minutes. It was amazing, seeing three thousand smiling faces limping up and down ocean views. Runners are a special sort of kind, and I am proud to be one.

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So…when’s the next one?

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And it all comes to a close…

I began this side blog to keep track of my training, but it seems training (mixed with work) took up so much of my time and energy that I found myself fading from the blogging world a bit. Regardless, I plan on keeping up with runbartendeRUN after my marathon this Sunday, hoping to post more about running, nutrition, and other runs I’ll be participating in this summer!

A huge thank you to all of my blogging friends for your support and words of encouragement. I am pretty confident that my training has built me up to where I need to be, and now all I can do is get out there and kick some 26.2 ass. Please be sure to send positive brain waves in my direction around 8AM this Sunday.

I love you all. Happy running, my friends.

 

xoxo,

Nicole

 

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This one’s for you, Boston.

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What can I say? Another tragedy; every one breaks my heart, but this one tugs at a special string. These past few weeks have marked some high highs and some low lows in my running. But yesterday I didn’t run for me. Yesterday I ran for Boston. I ran for the lost, I ran for the injured, I ran for the courageous. Runners are those of a tightknit community and now, more than ever, we can prove it.

The May 5th marathon has taken on a whole new meaning. It isn’t just about me anymore; it’s about them. And I’ll be carrying every one with me that Sunday morning.

Yesterday’s run: 10 miles

Last week I had a 22 that turned into 8. It was the worst run I’ve ever had. But I quickly stopped feeling sorry for myself and picked up the pieces before it could drag me into the dirt. There is no quitting. There is no impossible. This will happen, and it will be amazing.

I’ve got even more incentive now.

 

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100/100

Can we not even get into last week’s second 16 miler?

All I can say.

All I can say.

A bad run is always disappointing, even when you know there’s countless more to look forward to. For a second I doubted myself, and my ability to run this marathon; but then I remembered even the most seasoned of runners probably have an off day once in a while. My body clock wasn’t quite on, I didn’t hydrate enough, I didn’t get exactly enough sleep….it could be any of these things, which continues to make me nervous as much as I try to write it off. What if that one extra glass of water would have made the difference on marathon day? What if 7.5 hours would have been better than 8? I have to turn off the negative brain waves.

Some new running gear got me a little re-motivated.

Yellow is nice.

Yellow is nice.

The yellow shirt and the comfy black pants were on sale and I couldn’t resist. I can’t wait to be looking for warmer weather running clothing. The wind whipping in your face for 16 miles is no fun.

Back on track with a few small guys in between, the best friend and I headed back into the city for a third time this past Tuesday; this time we banged out 17 miles. 17 miles. And it was awesome. I was so proud of us. We finished strong, too. Running solid for 3 hours allows time for your mind to wander, and when we weren’t crossing streets or deep in conversation I found myself worrying about other everyday life things instead of focusing on the running aspect of our outing. The sights of Philadelphia help every time, too. The perfect running city.

I banged out a 4 miler today (in 32 minutes!!! I think my having to pee was motivation in this one.), and that run brought me to 100 miles for the month of March. I never would have fathomed running so much in just one month.

A bridge shot. We ran from Philadelphia to New Jersey and back again.

A bridge shot. We ran from Philadelphia to New Jersey and back again.

There’s beautiful weather creeping up on us this weekend, and I’m hoping to get in at least one other 2 or 3 miler before this Sunday. Finishing out the month at 100 miles? Awesome. Finishing out the month at just over 100 miles? Double awesome. Keep on pushin’. Keep on amazin’ yourself.

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Runners are crazy.

If “run sixteen miles” was scribbled somewhere on my bucket list, I’d be scratching it out right now.

We did it. It’s only a stepping stone, but we did it. Philadelphia’s Boat House Row was just the change of scenery we needed (I ran summer’s Midnight Madness around this loop); one time around is 8.4 miles, so we started with that before veering off into the city.

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We stashed our Gatorade in this gaping tree trunk. I probably could have fit in here. When we return this Friday, I may climb inside and have the best friend take a picture.

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We were all tye-dye and smiles at the starting line!

The first 9 miles went off without a hitch. We were pumped, the conversation was high, the wind was low. The afternoon running crowd was older; people were stretching, their gear looked expensive. They were serious and it was motivating. We were serious too. It was chilly but the sun was shining on us.

Around the halfway point we stopped for Honey Stingers and that  Gatorade. We chugged it, hit the rest stop, and continued on.

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The city is always colorful, even in shades of gray. Little pockets of street art and tunnels are enough to distract you for a few miles. There was a constant rumble of traffic to the right of us, the river to the left, metal and trees in front and above.

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Somewhere around mile 14 my legs started to resent me, and I had to power walk here and there. My body is getting over those humps now – in a few short weeks I’ll be putting it through a hell of a lot more. We celebrated with drinks and salads. A short run yesterday, a short run tomorrow, and Friday we’re back in the city for another 16. Did I just smile because I’m looking forward to it?

Runners are crazy.

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Empathy

^ This song has become the boost we need when we start to drag.

We certainly needed some empathy on Monday. Fourteen miles was scheduled to be completed last Friday, but the wind and wet snow was just too much. We knew we had some beautiful Spring Preview days coming up, so we shot for Monday instead; 60 degrees and partly sunny? Yes please!

I tried my best to take in some extra protein the night before, and that morning I relaxed at the local Starbucks with a Chai and a breakfast sandwich. I was impatiently awaiting 3:30, when my friend would arrive from her morning shift and we could get things moving. We didn’t get started until about 5 – oops – but things went smoothly for a while. We changed locations and ran at another local lake – ten times the size of the one I normally run around – so the change of scenery was helpful. There were plenty of other runners/walkers out enjoying the beautiful weather. The Honey Stingers were a nice added boost, too (truly a runner’s best friend).

With 2.5 hours of running, and in a heavy traffic area, there were a few stops we couldn’t help but make: a bathroom break, waiting for a light to change, power-walking so I wouldn’t choke on my Honey Stinger. We went through high highs and low lows the whole time, but overall it was extremely rewarding. This marked the longest I have ever ran, and my friend’s first half marathon and then some! It was exciting when Nike+ congratulated us. Whew. We finished in complete darkness, aside from a few dim street lights.

My legs were a little tense yesterday, but today I’m really feeling it. I’m going for a 3 miler shortly to loosen things up a bit. Friday will be 16, in the great city of Philadelphia. I hate to do two long runs so close together – my chances of an injury rise ::knock on wood:: – but our schedules only allow us that day this week to dedicate specifically to running. And eating. (And drinking?) I’ll try to avoid letting that happen again. Wish us luck.

Oh, and if you haven’t tried Spaghetti Squash, please do. Like, now. Get off the computer, get in your car, and drive to the nearest grocery. You won’t regret it. I call it the Tofu of Pasta and it’s my new favorite thing.

Happy running, my friends!

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It’s March!

Running ecards

 

Today’s run: 4 miles

I ran the big 12 on Friday. I spent Thursday night pretty damn nervous, fingers crossed that things would go well, that the weather would hold up. Well guess what…it did. It was sunny, the breeze was at a minimum (at least for the first 8 miles or so), my best friend’s knee held up, and before we knew it we only had 3 miles to go before we could sit on our butts. After last week’s 11 miler we made the mistake of “rewarding” our bodies with french fries and beer. Not the best idea we’ve ever had. We quickly regretted that decision and decided this week we’d opt for something that wouldn’t make us feel good, healthy, not like we wanted to curl up into tiny balls and die. So we “indulged” in some goat cheese, then cooked up some delicious flounder and mixed veggies. Mmm. Wine was still involved. Duh.

Today I planned on a small 3 miler; it turned into 4 when I realized I had gotten lost and needed to throw on my GPS to find my way back home. I’m still not too familiar with my new surroundings.

It’s March, people! That means tomorrow I will be exactly 2 months away from the marathon. Only 2 months. ::gulp::

I’ve been counting calories again with the help of a fitness tracker application on my iPhone. I’m really trying to pay more attention to my food groups and my caloric intake. Just because I’m running doesn’t mean I can abandon any consideration of what I’m putting in my body. Wine is good for the heart, right? Right?

Happy running, everyone. ❤

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