In May I had the opportunity to complete the Pittsburgh Marathon. I had planned to to document the experience immediately after my return home. However, my initial plan of a video blog failed miserably so I put it aside, hoping I would find a better way of sharing with you what that weekend was really like for me. Then, just a few days ago I thought, "How does a person actually explain 26.2 miles of sheer craziness to someone else?". At that moment I decided to just wing it and tell you more about what this experience meant to me.
Normally I would break it down mile by mile. I wpuld review the miles I ran, and what those felt like. But even now, months later, it still feels like a blur to me. I have miles of what I can only describe as being "in the zone" where I only remember watching buildings going by, reading street names, waving to spectators, or trying to get my fellow Penguins fans to chant with me (side note: was successful only twice on that front).
You should know that I ran this whole race without the aid of any music since I left my Bluetooth gadget in my car at the airport and my Ipod decided to not charge (which now works perfectly fine). It was almost as if the universe was saying that this race was just going to be me and my surroundings and that it was important for me to just take in the moments as they came. Oddly enough I didn't miss having music and like I mentioned earlier, I just dipped into this space where everything else fell away. It was actually wonderful. Almost zen like, if that make sense.
One of the questions I was asked on Facebook by my sister-in-law Sonja was how I kept my pacing throughout the race. First, I went into the race with a plan and a simple one at that: finish. I had a very slow pace in mind that I hoped would get me there so for once I didn't care that I was the slow poke. In fact, it helped me a great deal to just go with the flow and enjoy everything else, even the occasional periods of light but steady rain.
Second, I ended up running with a pace group after about mile 6 and only lost them after mile 19 when I had a coughing fit when I swallowed my Honeystinger gel wrong. Though unfortunate that little snag did not take away from my ability to finish. Many thanks to the people I got to chat with in that pacing group, it was awesome to hear their stories and experiences they had during training.
I ran into the finish in the midst of a light but constant rain that followed me through the last 3 miles. There was only a few volunteers left at this point and most of he food was gone but that is always what happens when you are a back of the pack runner. That would be my only gripe about the day. If you have a finish time limit make sure that the support and cheering happens throughout that time. Those of us that did finish within the time required needed it as much, if not more so, than the people that finished hours before.
Another question I was asked by my friend Lance was the funniest - "How did you not die?". Seriously though how does one finish a marathon with no injuries, no pain, and none of the awfulness that so many have talked about? I credit all the great advice I received on nutrition and hydration from other marathoners. I even did the dreaded ice bath immediately afterwards and forced myself to walk around until my normal bed time before turning in that evening. I went in with a plan and I stuck to it. Hydrate often, fuel as needed, and stick to the pace you planned despite that competitive devil sitting on your shoulder yelling at you to run faster than they guy/gal next to you.
My new friend Adrienne asked on Facebook was what a bunch of questions that basically asked what the overall experience was like and what I enjoyed most. It was the people I met before and during the race that made this experience so much more than I ever expected. Two in particular, Sarah and Adrienne, were true gems that I met on the morning of the 5K that I bonded with over our mutual love of InkNBurn. We ended up doing touristy things together and that was one of my favorite parts of the weekend. Thanks ladies! This was the first travel excursion I had made for a race by myself and it was for a big race - my first marathon. Meeting people such as them is one reason I will never be nervous about trying that again.
The people of the Pittsburgh Marathon that selected me as an Official Blogger will always have a special place in my heart. They gave me an opportunity to be part of something I never imagined and helped me check off one of my bucket list items. Thanks especially to Erin Carlin for coordinating everything and for taking such great care of us. From the very beginning I knew this was going to be a great event because of her. Thanks also to P3R for sending my running buddy, Cody, a marathon medal. I had tried to get a picture of him with the medal for this blog but was unable to.
Gratitude to those that also donated to my charity: The Mario Lemieux Foundation. I didn't reach the fundraising goal for the autographed helmet but I was fortunate enough to be an official part of that group and to be able to raise funds for a great organization that is dedicated to raising funds for cancer research and patient care, as well as Austin’s Playrooms, an initiative that creates playrooms for children and families in medical facilities. THANK YOU!
I know this post was long overdue and I am sure I missed details that I might have to add in later but it is really is because even now, as I sit here, I still find it hard to believe I did this thing.
Yes, I am a marathoner, officially and for always. I am now part of a special group of people that many see as crazy but others, like myself, are honored to become part of.
Here are some things that I used on race day:
Nutrition: Honeystinger Gels & Waffles
Hydration: Nuun Hydration Tablets
Shoes: Brooks Women's Launch 5 (provided by the Pittsburgh Marathon)
Brief Slideshow from the Weekend: