Saturday, April 29, 2017

Blue Ridge Marathon and Half 2017

Last Saturday, we had another his and hers race extravaganza! Mr. Marathon has been tackling the Blue Ridge Marathon- America's Toughest Road Marathon since 2010! Read about years past here and here and here and here and here. Last year, I decided to join him and do the 10K. Last year, we received entries as we were official BRM bloggers. I jokingly said if we got entries again this year I would bump up and do the half. LOL right? Well, SOMEONE entered us in the "Running is for Lovers" contest, with the prize being two free entries to any of the BRM races. He entered our adorable picture from crossing the finish line together at the Ft. Lauderdale Marathon. So obvs we won. And so I had to bump up to the half this year!

#runningis4lovers !
We went to packet pick up the night before on Friday, then ate our pre-race pasta. On race morning, we headed to Roanoke, VA to RUN THOSE MOUNTAINS! All 3 distances (10K, half, and full) took off at 7:35. So now, because this was a his and hers race extravaganza, we will have a his and hers recap.

I went into this race with not a whole lot of expectations. This half is part of America's Toughest Road Races series, and it boasts 1,897 ft total elevation gain and 3,790 ft of total elevation gain/loss. I had told myself a few months ago when I found out we had won entries that I would incorporate hill repeats into my training, but yeah, that never happened.... yikes! So because I hadn't gotten much hill training, I really didn't have high expectations. I just wanted to be able to finish the half before my mister finished the full. Anyway, the first part of the course goes through downtown Roanoke and it only has some rolling hills for the first mile or so. Then, I started the ascent up Mill Mountain. This part of the course is the same as I did last year at the 10K, so (fortunately/unfortunately) I knew what to expect. The climb up Mill Mountain was tough last year, but what made me the most nervous was that people kept telling me the second half of the half marathon (Peakwood) was tougher than Mill Mountain. So I tried to keep some gas in the tank going up and coming back down Mill Mountain.

Half marathon elevation map.... eek
Turns out, everyone was right about Peakwood being worse than the first half. Even though the elevation gain is more drastic up Mill Mountain, Peakwood is a more gradual kind of torture. And it faked me out a couple of times. We climbed, climbed, climbed, and then we would go downhill for a hot second, then climb some more! And to make matters even better, it started raining pretty steadily at around mile 8 for me, which was almost at the top of Peakwood. At the turnaround at the top of Peakwood, I was so relieved to have some more downhill. After enjoying a few miles of downhill, there was more uphill and I was thinking WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THIS MESS. But nevertheless I did the darn thing. The little overpass bridges in downtown Roanoke that seemed like nothing in the beginning seemed steeper than Peakwood coming back in. But I finished in 2:38:19, which was before Mr. Marathon finished his full. GOAL MET!

As mentioned earlier in this post, Mr. Marathon has run this race every year since 2010, which is its inaugural year. He loves it so much (lol?) that he keeps coming back for more. He knows the course like the back of his hand, but each year and each race are drastically different, this year being no exception. Last year, he ran Blue Ridge on a Saturday, then 2 days later on that following Monday, he ran the Boston Marathon. This year, he ran the Boston Marathon on Monday and Blue Ridge was 5 days later on the following Saturday. So this year, he was drained from a tough race at Boston, but was still looking forward to his favorite race.

This year he decided to tackle BRM with one goal in mind: to finish it to continue his streak. This race isn't like any other race for him. And no, it's not because it's America's Toughest Road Marathon (which it is if you recall), but instead it's because this race is the race that started everything for him. This race holds a special spot in his heart. He took off like every other year at the front of the pack, however he knew his limitations. He knew in order to survive it, he was going to have to change his game plan from previous years. In years past it's been his goal to run without stopping. But this year he was planning to fartlek (run to a certain point and then walk for a bit to recover) up any major hills. He started this about 4 miles in. Sometimes we forget that we are our biggest competition and in a race, when someone passes you, we can't help but to chase them down and pass them as they passed us. But not that day. As he walked up the hills, people passed him, and just like any other race, he cheered them on as they passed him, but he refrained from attempting to chase them down. Now with this plan in place, he would take full advantage of all downhills to balance out his walking up the hills. And mile after mile, he did this, evaluating every step of the way. Nevertheless, he was cracking jokes and keeping a great sense of humor throughout the race like he always does!

However, this didn't mean that he wasn't going to push himself.  Closer to mile 22, things began to hit hard. But he stayed with it, continuing his fartleking. He also found some extra motivation in a new friend he met along the way. This individual began his final leg of the relay as Mr. Marathon was side by side with him. This guy said "Don't you worry about me, I'm just doing the relay," and he made him realize that he was putting in effort, and it was nice to have a complete stranger recognize and acknowledge that. They ran together until one of the last major downhills that was very wet from the rain, so the other guy was a little bit more cautious and careful. But Mr. Marathon was not. He just let it rip down the hills to try to carry him the last mile and a half. With one mile to go, he said "Thank you" to a police officer who was at an intersection directing traffic and the officer said, "Not a problem, just focus on the race." And yet again, that made him realize that other people were recognizing his effort. So for the last mile, he carried this feeling with him and was able to finish strong. Another BRM in the books with a time of 3:31:02!


As for what's next on the agenda, we are looking to doing some shorter distances in the near future. What races exactly? We don't know yet. I'm looking into an 8K and a 10 miler (I realize that's not exactly shorter distance but it's shorter than a half right?) and he is looking into working on 5Ks and 8Ks. But don't worry- whatever we decide on doing we'll keep ya posted!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Boston Marathon 2017

This whole past week has been a whirlwind and a blur! But let me start with a week ago today. Last Saturday, April 15, Mrs. Marathon and I traveled back to the north for the Boston Marathon once again (read about last year's Boston Marathon here). We flew out of Raleigh in the afternoon, had a layover in Newark that night, then flew into Boston pretty late on Saturday. We got our rental car, headed to our hotel, and hit the hay!

During our layover/dinner break in Newark
Sunday was a fun adventure day of exploring the expo and the downtown area around the convention center. We didn't really want to wander far so we wouldn't get lost, and so I could save my legs a little. After picking up my stuff, eating lunch, and meeting 2 Olympians (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) we headed back to the hotel and rested, then ordered in dinner (room service!) and went to sleep.

Shalane Flanagan (who is an Olympic Marathoner!)
doing a Runner's World interview!

We met Shalane Flanagan!

We saw Galen Rupp (bronze medalist in the Rio Olympics Marathon)
doing a shakeout run on Sunday down Boylston Street!
He was just walking down the street and I asked if I could get a picture!
Also pictured: the shoulder of ALBERTO SALAZAR
(Galen's coach/world class long distance runner!)
Monday morning, I got to sleep in compared to last year when I had to get on the T (subway) by like 5:00 AM to catch the shuttle from the finish area to Hopkinton. However, since we rented a car, I got to leave the hotel by 7:30 to make it to the start line by 8:30 to be ready to be called to my corral by 9:15 for a 10:00 start.

A friend saw me in the crowd at the start line on TV!

Fast forward, I get lined up with my corral and the gun goes off. The masses of people are released and we were off! The first few miles felt pretty good. I was running a 6:30 min/mile pace, which isn't crazy fast for me, but in my head I knew I had to slow it down to about a 7:00 min/mile pace to save something in the tank for later. I knew I was approaching some hills, and so I managed to slow down to about a 7:15-7:30 pace and kept trucking. I figured that eventually my body would warm up and I would then be able to speed up. However getting to the half marathon mark, I was very tired and my legs had felt every mile. I just did not feel comfortable at all. So at this point, I was happy that I had dialed the pace back, but at the same time, I was feeling a little upset since I was hoping to feel a lot lighter on my feet and a lot faster. I continued to wait for the surge of energy to carry me to the finish or that runner's high that everyone talks about (spoiler alert: didn't get one).

I had kept up with my nutrition really well before the race started and during the race, hydrating with Gatorade, water, and Skratch. But unfortunately, every single mile beat me up. I felt every step that I took. I never caught a break from it. I usually zone out and keep up with my pace no problem, but after about mile 16, I knew that the fastest way to the finish line was just following the people in front of me. And so I did. All I wanted was to cross that finish line and be done. I know it doesn't sound like my normal attitude, but under the circumstances, this was a success that I didn't give up. I only walked at 3 water stops, and even though I was debating stopping at a medical tent, I knew I couldn't. I had to finish, and I had a flight to catch at 5:00 PM, with a return rental car at 3:00 PM. At the rate I was going, I was going to finish after 1:00 so I knew I didn't have much wiggle room. And fortunately, I guess, if it wasn't for this schedule I had to keep, I probably would have lost that last little bit of motivation I had left. I just could not find my groove during this race. As I ran, I just told myself I was proud of myself that I was even there. I don't say that very often, honestly hardly ever. But I was the one suffering and I was the one running, and I couldn't help but to look up at the sky and say "Thank you,"  because of the privilege I knew I had. I was just proud of myself for keeping on keepin' on.

I saw my wife on Hereford St!
Fast forward to the finish. I crossed the finish line in 3:19:12. I grabbed my medal, my food, and my mylar blanket, and I was THANKFUL! However my body came to a halt and then I felt everything: my legs, my stomach, my whole body was rebelling against those 26.2 miles I had just completed. It felt like I walked a mile to the family meeting area (ok so it was maybe half a mile, max) and then the nausea kicked in. I finally made it to the family meeting area, sat down, and waited for my dear wife. The whole time I was waiting (which was almost 45 minutes due to the fact that she had to walk all the way around the finish line area which was several blocks!), I was hunched over resting my head on my arms which were resting on my knees, just waiting for SOMETHING to um, come out of my body. And once the missus made it to the meeting area, we spotted some porta-potties and let's just say I felt better. To quote the girl who came out of the porta-potty beside me, "The guy beside me was like barfing!" And I agree with that. A lot!

Finish line!

My mother-in-law took this of me on TV, crossing the finish line!
So then we embarked on our 2+ mile trek back to the parking garage. Yes, 2 miles. At LEAST! Big city parking is crazy! We made it to the car check in at the airport right around 3:15 and made it to the airport and through security with about 30 minutes to spare. Then we loaded up the plane (after a couple of gate changes and a slight little delay) and took off for HOME! We got to the Raleigh-Durham International Airport at 7:30, which put us getting back to our home sweet home in Bassett by 10:00 PM. It was a great trip, even though it was very quick and I had a tough race. We still enjoyed ourselves with an amazing weekend. It was awesome to be a part of the whole Boston Marathon experience once again!

Fast forward to today. We both did a race up (and down) some mountains! Tune in to our next post! Coming soon(ish)! But for now, more pictures from the Boston Marathon taken by Mrs. Marathon who was spectating along Hereford Street right before Mile 26!

Women's winner!

Jordan Hasay- 3rd place overall, first American woman,
and it was her debut marathon!

Olympic Marathoner Desiree Linden!

Men's winner

My BFF Galen Rupp (2nd place overall)

Olympic Marathoner Meb Keflezighi 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Rock n Roll Raleigh Marathon and Half Marathon

Last weekend we traveled south to Raleigh, NC for the Rock n Roll Raleigh Marathon (for him) and Half Marathon (for me). This has been my goal race for the past several months. I was trained up to go for a personal record (PR) since I haven't PRd a half since the Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon in 2014! I desperately wanted to beat my time of 2:19:55. For Mr. Marathon on the other hand, this was simply a training run. On his personal training plan that he designed to prepare him to run the Boston Marathon and then the Blue Ridge Marathon in the same week, his long run was 22 miles. Because I so desperately wanted to do the half, he figured why not just go ahead and go the extra mile (ok the extra 4.2 miles) and have fun at a marathon? So that's exactly what he did.


We both hit up the expo, got dinner, and settled in fairly early at our hotel that was less than 5 minutes from the start line. We woke up pretty early to make it back downtown for the 7:00 AM start the next morning. It was a chilly morning, but we knew it was going to warm up to mid-50s, possibly even low 60s so we were dressed in tanks and shorts... without any throwaway gear (oops forgot to pack it!). But nevertheless we were ok! We took off, Mr. Marathon at 7:00 AM on the dot with corral 1, and me at 7:12 AM with corral 10 (even though I was supposed to be with corral 9, but apparently I was a little too far back...). We were off and we ran all around downtown Raleigh!

I really enjoyed the course for the half. It definitely had some rolling hills, which I expected, but the course had a good variety of scenery. I got to see downtown, a lovely park, NC State University's campus, and ... other ... neighborhoods (?? I was delirious at this point sorry I don't recall, but it was awesome). During the beginning of my race, I managed to maintain 9:50-10:10 minute miles for the first 6 miles, and I was shocked when I got to the halfway point. I was on target for about a 2 hour 14 minute half marathon! I was feeling good- strong and consistent. I had a couple of "off" miles, at 10:30-10:40 minutes/mile, but overall I was able to keep my pace low 10 min/mile. As I made my way back through downtown Raleigh, I was still feeling good and I was able to finish up strong with a time of 2:13:11!!!! I was so happy to finish with a 6 minute 44 second PR!

Mr. Marathon took off around downtown Raleigh with the goal of getting his last long run before the Boston Marathon. He planned on enjoying this run and having a great time while getting his miles in. He spent most of his time joking around with other runners, talking to the other runners, laughing up the hills, and oh- of course running too. His boss was running the full marathon as well and caught up to him at mile 7, and they ran together until mile 18. Mr. Marathon was planning to slow down his pace, but having someone else running with him just made him stay at a steady pace. There were plenty of rolling hills along the course from beginning to end, which made it a little challenging to maintain a steady pace throughout. After mile 18, he was running solo again, but still in good spirits and joking with everyone around him, except the runners around him that were NOT in the mood for his shenanigans at this point in the race. It takes a very special kind of person to tolerate being around him at this point, believe me! Humor in the last part of a marathon is not always well received. And by no means does this mean that he is not putting in effort, but him cracking jokes and using his sense of humor was just his way of staying motivated and positive. At mile 19, something else happened that helped him stay motivated and positive. At a water stop, there were volunteers giving out Hawaiian leis, and they were in competition with each other to see who could give the most leis out. So Mr. Marathon decided to help them out. They were offering him one, but he decided to take all of the leis... from 2 different people! As they laughed, that was the seal of approval and the little bit of extra gas in the tank to get him to the finish line. People from then on were very confused. How is he running with all of those leis????? Regardless of how many leis he had on, he finished feeling pretty good in a time of 3:10:38! And of course he looked good doing it!

Here's a little game- guess how many leis he's wearing!
If you guess correctly you'll win a chance to run with Mr. Marathon!

We really enjoyed our time in Raleigh, and now we are looking ahead at what is coming up. Boston is in just 9 short days, and the Blue Ridge Marathon (for him) and Half Marathon (for her) is in 14 days. Can't wait! Until then, here's some more pictures of our race weekend!

Fun at the expo!

I'm kind of obsessed with this picture.
I was telling everyone I HIT A 6 MINUTE PR!!!!!!

Finishing strong with all those leis on


With his awesome boss!

Aw aren't we cute?!

They wouldn't let me back into the finisher's area...
so this is how we had to have our picture taken.

Post race posin'!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Martinville Bulletin Half Marathon

Mr. Marathon here! Last Saturday, March 25, was my final race as a 26 year old! I ran the Martinsville Bulletin Half Marathon (formerly just the Martinsville Half Marathon) which I have run every year since its inaugural running in 2011 (read about previous years here: 2013 and 2014 and 2015 and 2016). I love this race because it's local and it always falls right around my birthday! This year, it was the day before my birthday so it was nice to celebrate my last day as a 26 year old doing what I love..... running!

I prepared to run Saturday morning, ate my oatmeal, and headed for the start line. The weather was low 50s and cloudy, so absolutely perfect for a run! I toed the line with 90 of my closest friends and was off and running by 8 AM on the dot. I told myself that the Martinsville Bulletin Half Marathon was going to just be a training run, trying to get a rhythm and push myself a little bit. I wanted to find the limit on my comfort zone with my current level of training. I knew it wasn't going to be as good as last year, but I wanted to figure out my fitness level. I had to do 18 miles that day according to my plan that I had created, so I did 1 mile warm up, 13.1 race, and 4.8 cool down to get me 18.9 total miles.

While running in the beginning, it felt smooth and comfortable, but then I had to alter my stride due to some cramping early on at mile 3 again (just like at the MUM). I was kind of glad that the cramps hit at that time on this course because I knew I had some solid downhill miles coming up. But after about a half a mile they didn't go away. They just got worse and spread to both sides of my abdomen and the right side of my chest. When I hit the downhill, I just tried to remain steady because at that point, I was in 3rd overall. I figured maybe I could try to maintain my place, but the fourth place guy was right on my tail so I knew I couldn't give in to my discomfort at all without sacrificing my place. In the back of my head I knew this was only a training run so I didn't have to push too hard so I could be sure to avoid injury since I have the Boston Marathon and the Blue Ridge Marathon coming up in just a few short weeks. However my competitiveness made me think, "If the guy behind me wants third place that bad he's going to have to work for it."

Fourth place guy remained behind me until we got to mile eight and a half. Then when we got a turnaround, I got to see just how far (I mean how close?) behind me he was (100 meters and closing in) I was able to draw out my stride going downhill to try to increase my lead. I still had 4 and a half miles of uphill left. Normally I like to slow down uphill to catch my breath, and I usually let loose and gain speed on the downhills. A few minutes later at mile 10, I was able to hear his footsteps right behind me. I knew he was planning his strategy to catch up to me and pass me. At this point I felt like I was the little engine that could. I think I can, I think I can... stay ahead of him! 

Actual photo of me at mile 10.... jk of course

Every step I took going uphill took a lot out of me. But like I said before, if the guy behind me wanted third place overall bad enough, he would have to put up a fight for it. I felt as though I was simply prolonging the inevitable-- I felt like he was going to pass me, but I just didn't know when. As we made our way closer and closer to the end, I just knew he was going to pass me. He stayed consistently behind me step after step, mile after mile, and before I knew it I had one mile to go. That last mile came with 2 slight downhills and some major uphill so I knew I had to take advantage of what little downhill I had. With only half a mile left, the lead bike (who is also my brother-in-law) came back  and guided me to the finish line while I was still in third place.

You can see fourth place guy right back behind me!

I had to know how much buffer I had between fourth place guy and myself, so I asked my bro-in-law, very out of breath, "How... far... behind...?" and he proceeded to tell me "6 minutes behind," which is how far behind I was from first place, but I just had to know how far behind me fourth place was. I asked again, and he told me he was only about 100 feet behind me! So my heart sank as we were less than half a mile from the finish line. I was afraid he would be able to catch me in the last little bit. All I could do was stay steady and hope for a burst of energy close to the end. As I was less than a quarter of a mile from the finish, I saw a lot of 5Kers finishing up with the crowd cheering for them and for me, and that gave me the last little bit of energy to spring to the finish... in third place overall! Fourth place finished just 16 seconds behind me!

I was very surprised with my performance! I reflected on the race afterwards and thought to myself about how every race is different. I know that I can't compare my abilities and strengths to other races because they were completed under different circumstances. Every year, even every day, we can change, and we have to adapt to these changes and keep in mind that your worst race is somebody else's best, or even their dream time. So be proud of yourself no matter what! This is something I've learned being a part of such a small, tight-knit running community in our area. We have so many people who are different, and have different abilities, goals, and dreams. But the most important thing to remember is to celebrate accomplishments with those around you. I can't wait to see what next year holds, especially since I'm already signed up for next year's Martinsville Bulletin Half Marathon! But as for right now, I am focusing on what tomorrow holds, as we are traveling today to Raleigh, NC, for the Rock n Roll Raleigh Marathon (for me) and Half Marathon (for the missus)!