- Philadelphia Marathon: The Second Half – My marathon post, in case you missed it!
- Healthy Squash Recipes That Celebrate Fall (FitSugar) – I’m hoping to try all of them while squash is still in season!
- Pumpkin Cornbread (NY Times Recipes for Health) – Just another way to use pumpkin
- 2011 Consumer Packaged Goods Trends (Nutrition Unplugged) – Read about the trends to be on the lookout for, and others to be weary of, in 2011.
- Holiday Cookie Roundup (Healthy Eats) – These aren’t necessarily “nutritious” but they sound amazing…and, well, everything in moderation, right??
Ready for the second half of my marathon recap? I’m not sure if I am yet…but here goes (this is a long one!)…
For the first half, click here.
Let me start off by saying what an absolutely gorgeous day I had. It was about 45 degrees and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
After my friends and family said goodbye to me at mile 13, they had a solid two hours to walk around, take some photos and and enjoy the views in Philly. Here are some photos to set the scene…
After I passed my family and friends at mile 13, I watched all the half marathoners sprint off towards the finish line as I made my way to the left towards mile 14. It was then that it hit me – I was running a marathon. This realization made me feel proud, scared, nervous and excited all at once. Basically, every emotion that hadn’t yet hit me that morning, hit me then. But above all else, happiness took over at this point and I took off towards mile 14 with a huge smile on my face.
However, it was mile 14 when I first started to struggle. For some reason, the distance in front of me took me by surprise – 12 more miles. During my training, I successfully ran two 20 milers and one 22 miler (two of which I maintained a 9:30 pace), and so going into the race, I felt 100% prepared for the extra 4.2 miles of uncharted territory. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I did think it would be consistent with my training runs. I now know that it was bold of me to think that I was 100% prepared.I was running a marathon, and there are no guarantees when running 26.2 miles.
With 12 miles left, my lower back started to hurt. It was a dull pain, but it was there and it was constant. My pace quickly started to slow down and I completed mile 14 in 9:59, which was my slowest mile thus far. It only got worse as miles 14-18 crawled by. The pain quickly moved to my hips and I felt my stride shorten and slow with each step. We were running up along Kelly Dr. towards Manayunk, a route I ran many times throughout training, but I couldn’t pay attention to my surroundings at all. I vaguely remember there were people lining the streets and a few people yelled my name (both runners and spectators) from seeing my name on the back of my shirt (which I absolutely loved and I wish I could thank each one of them). I was supposed to see Leslie at mile 17, but I somehow missed her (I did catch her later around mile 22 which was great!). We had planned that she would jump in if I needed her to and run with me for a mile or so. I’m actually glad I didn’t see her then because there is a chance I would have grabbed her and made her run the rest of the race with me! (Leslie – I know you would have done it, too! )
My splits for 14-18 (look at the right column)
After seeing my split for mile 18, I had to admit to myself that I wasn’t going to make my 4:15 goal. I was looking at 8 miles ahead of me and I just knew then that it was no longer within my reach. I felt pretty devastated and there were many thoughts of quitting going through my head. I just couldn’t believe how much my body hurt and how slowly I was moving. This was unlike any training run…ever. And the end seemed so far away.
Then, sometime during mile 18 or 19, I saw one of those emergency golf cart vehicles rushing by with its lights on to get someone. I remember thinking, ‘as long as I can move, I’m finishing this race.’ I know, somewhat dramatic, but every emotion was heightened at this point. See, I realized then that, not only could I move, I could run. Who was I to say that 10 min/miles (or 11 min/miles…just wait, they’re coming…) wasn’t worthy of finishing? No one was judging me, I wasn’t try to beat a PR (I had no PR to beat!)…my friends and family only wanted to see me cross the finish line with a smile on my face. And so I ran…
I wish I could say that after this realization the last 8 miles were a breeze at my 10-11 min/mile pace. They weren’t. Miles 19-22 were absolutely horrible. They were an out and back through Manayunk, an adorable town just outside of Philly that is lined with cute shops and restaurants. The streets were crowded with spectators and I should have been enjoying every cheer. Instead, I was cursing the unexpected hills that seemed to never end. My stomach even started to feel off at this point, but I didn’t think I could eat another Gu packet. Some spectators were handing out oranges, pretzels and brownies, and so I took one of each at various points during this time. I figured I’d either get sick from it, then feel better, or simply feel better. I’m not sure if it was the sugar, or the carbs, but I think they actually helped. My splits continued to get slower and slower as my body refused to move any faster for me, no matter how hard I pushed.
Once I passed the mile marker for 22, every step was a new distance for me. While I’m not sure I ever actually “hit the wall” since I was on a gradual physical decline from mile 14 on, I do remember feeling very different for the last four miles. It felt as though I was on autopilot – I couldn’t speed up, but I couldn’t slow down either. I simply needed to finish the race. I did start to walk at one point, either at 22 or 24 (I can’t remember), but started running 5 seconds later when someone yelled my name and told me to keep running. I remember thinking “What? You want me to run?? Oh right, I’m suppose to finish a marathon right now…”
My back/legs/hips/feet/toes hated me at this point. My wrists and fingers even hurt. I could not focus on anything other than putting one foot in front of the other. And while some people chant quotes like “Tough runs make you stronger” or “Pain is temporary, pride is forever” or “You are stronger than you think,” I just kept saying “FINISH.FINISH.FINISH.”
Mile 26 was my fastest mile since mile 17. Clearly I wanted the race to end. Once my watch beeped at 26, I knew I still had 0.45 miles to go (I had picked up an extra 0.25 during my first half of the race). Out of nowhere, I pulled an 8:30 pace for that last half mile. It may have been the crowds lining the streets or the site of the finish line up ahead, but I’m pretty sure it was the promise of seeing all of these faces at the finish line…
Here is my Mom waiting for the perfect shot at the finish line…
FINALLY I came flying by!
I crossed the finish line in 4:25:03 and immediately tears came pouring out. My brother ran up ahead of everyone to greet me and expected to see me smiling and proud, but instead got a face full of tears.
There were points when I felt so good I felt like I was flying and others when I just wanted to curl up on the side of the road and go to sleep. Seriously, if you want to feel something, just go for a long run and get back to me.
However, the crying didn’t last long. Not with all of these people around
Once my emotions leveled off, I got my official race photo taken…
and we all headed back to my apartment where we feasted on bagels, mimosas, cake and cupcakes.
Once everyone left, and after a long deserved nap and a beer run…
Michael and I made our way to my favorite restaurant, Audrey Claire, where I feasted on this amazing flat bread pizza with truffle oil (and certainly had my fare share of the leftover bagels, cupcakes and cake over the next few days!)
Some final thoughts: Hindsight is 20/20, and looking back on the race, I believe I went out too fast during the first half. I was so focused on keeping on pace, or below pace, that I didn’t consider what the speed and hills would do to me during the second half. I remember feeling flustered in the beginning from being surrounded by so many people and trying to get around everyone to a more open area (which I now realize was silly – there were 20,000+ people in front of me). I should have slowed down and stopped racing. I got so caught up in my number and the crowds and my time goal that I forgot to just enjoy the run.
Before the race, I actually said I have experience in races. With three half marathons and a few smaller races under my belt, I thought I was. I remember when I said this, Mike looked at me with a smile and said something along the lines of “well you’re not inexperienced, but I’m not entirely sure you’re experienced.” I just laughed it off. Now I know what he means. Racing is so different from training and a marathon is so different from any other race. Do all of the long training runs really prepare you for race day? They definitely prepare you physically, and certainly a little mentally. However, they don’t necessarily prepare you with how to race. Races prepare you to race.
After writing all of this, I’m now beaming with the pride I wish I had when I crossed the finish line. I was proud that day, but simply for finishing. Now I’m proud of myself for the four+ months of training, for every long run I conquered, for pushing through the pain and disappointment I felt on race day and for finishing in 4:25:03.
What’s next? Since it’s cold out and I don’t have a gym membership until I start at Drexel in January, I decided to sign up for a month of unlimited yoga at Philly Power Yoga. I am a complete beginner with yoga, so I’m very interested to see what a month will do. I plan on taking 3-4 classes a week depending on my schedule and I’ll keep the blog up to date with my progress (so far I can finally do a few full chaturangas in a row, although I’m pretty sure I don’t do them very gracefully).
What about running? Running will return to a regular basis soon. I’m taking a short hiatus while I focus on yoga, finals and transitioning to grad school. You’ll continue to see healthy recipes, meals out, lessons learned during grad school and my life in Philly on the blog.
And racing? Well, now I have a PR to beat…
THANK YOU to Mom, Dad, Jason, Mike, Perri, Lindsay, Keith, Alana, Julie, Natasha, Marci, Alexis, Joe, Becky, Greg, and Grant for being there. And to every other person who sent me texts/emails/wall posts before and after the race!
Since it’s taking me so long to write the final part of my marathon post, I figured I’d provide you with something to satisfy your sweet tooth while you wait…a recipe for Pumpkin Pecan Crumb Cake. I made two desserts this holiday, and sampled plenty of others, and this was by far my favorite. I used a vegan recipe because I was going to a kosher Thanksgiving dinner (in other words, I had to avoid dairy since meat was being served). While I personally do not keep kosher, I jumped at the opportunity to create a vegan dessert, since they tend to use healthier ingredients anyway. This recipe is no exception. Instead of eggs and butter, this recipe uses canned pumpkin and canola oil to hold it together. I also substituted some whole wheat flour for the white flour to up the nutrients.
So if you’re like me and you stocked up on more cans of pumpkin than you know what to do with, make this today. And then tell me what you think
Pumpkin Pecan Crumb Cake
(adapted from Veganomicon’s Pumpkin Crumb Cake with Pecan Streusel)
- ¼ cup whole wheat flour
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp canola oil
- 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
- 1 15-ounce can pureed pumpkin
- ¼ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (I used Almond Breeze, which I believe can be found in any grocery store these days)
- ¾ cup canola oil
- 1 ¼ cup cane sugar
- 3 tbsp molasses
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup white flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 ½ tbsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ginger
- 1/8 tsp cloves
Pre-heat oven to 350 and grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.
Make the topping:
Combine all ingredients and mix with your fingers.
Bake the cake:
First combine the pumpkin, almond milk, canola oil, molasses and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Then add the whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt and spices and mix until it’s an even consistency. Add the remaining flour and gently mix with a whisk or a fork. (At this point, feel free to lick the whisk like you did as a child . Since this is vegan, there are no raw eggs to give you food poisoning!)
Pour the batter into the baking pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the batter. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a fork through the center comes out clean.
What was your favorite holiday dessert this Thanksgiving?
It has now officially been one full week since my marathon, which has allowed me some time to recover physically and reflect on the race. I left you off on the morning of the marathon before I left for the race. I’ll pick up from there…
I arrived at the Art Museum area at 6am and had a full hour to walk around, relax myself, and take in the scene. The crowds were pretty thin at this point, but as the sun rose around 6:45 it was clear this was a sold out race. There were so many people around me and everyone was a ball of energy – some running in place or stretching, some pacing back and forth, and others chatting carelessly away with friends as if they were about to take a stroll around town. I fell into the “pacing” category, as I simply could not sit still. I probably walked over a mile before the race even began! It was about 35 degrees outside and it felt good to be moving.
Finally around 6:45 the announcer started calling everyone to get into their corrals. As assigned, I took my place in the second to last corral. While listening to the national anthem I was in awe – I couldn’t believe I was about to run a marathon. I had put 4 months of training into this one day. But really, I knew my journey hadn’t just started 4 months ago. It started over two years ago when I ran 3 consecutive miles for the first time in my life. And then when I signed up for my first half marathon, and then my second, and then my third. And then, of course, back in May when I decided to commit myself to running a full marathon. I had once declared that I’d never run a full marathon, but there I was, with 26.2 miles in front of me. It was incredible.
The gun went off at 7am and but I didn’t cross the starting line until 7:25 (a result of being in the second to last corral). So here are the details of the next 4 hours and 25 minutes my first marathon, mile by mile. The quote I placed in front of each description represents those miles.
The first half:
Miles 1-2: “This seemed like a good idea three months ago, didn’t it??” My only goal was to get warm on these miles. My feet felt funny hitting the pavement since they were so cold from standing around for so long before the race. But once I warmed up, I felt great. Plus, the crowds were pretty thick along these roads since we were winding through residential areas of Philly. It was amazing to see so many people out so early in the morning.
Miles 3-5: “Toenails Are Overrated” LOVE this sign. I saw this and laughed when I realized that I lost three toenails to get to this day. Lovely, I know I’m pretty sure these are the miles I picked up 0.15 extra miles (my Garmin calculated that I ran 26.45 total). I remember it beeping before I got to the mile 5 marker and feeling discouraged that I picked up that much so early on. I was definitely going a little too fast, but the roads felt so narrow and crowded, I just wanted to get around people to a more open area. I quickly realized that wouldn’t happen until mile 13.1 when the half marathoners would finish their race and the roads would get wider along Kelly Dr.
Mile 6: “Run Like You Stole Something” I totally went too fast during mile 6. My family, boyfriend and best friends were all waiting for me towards the end of this mile. I wanted to see them so badly, I ran my fastest mile of the entire race (my third fastest was the next time I saw them). I seriously could not wait to see them. I knew they’d be standing at the corner of the street where I live, but I’m pretty sure I started looking out for them 10 blocks before . They were carefully looking for me, as well. This is my Mom and boyfriend standing on newspaper stands trying to spot me.
Unfortunately, due to my 24 minute delay to the starting line, and a text message tracking system that wasn’t working, they had no idea when I was going to pass them. They were looking out into this sea of runners…
Since I knew exactly where they’d be, I saw them first. I took them by complete surprise when I yelled my brother’s name and threw my jacket at my Dad. This picture is pretty much the only view they got of me, but I was so elated that I saw them.
Mile 7-12: “Trust Your Training” So elated, in fact, that I completely forgot to take my Gu packet at mile 6.5! I didn’t remember until around mile 7.3, and while I felt fine once I took it, this definitely threw me off a little mentally because I had never waited so long to take a Gu in a training run. These miles took us through Drexel’s campus, then passed the Philly Zoo, through Fairmount park, and then a short out and back along West River Dr. towards the Art Museum. I never really studied the elevation chart, and so both miles 7 and 9 surprised me with hills that seemed to go on forever. I saw people around me stopping to walk left and right, but I just kept pushing through as fast as possible. I really still felt great, so I just kept going at the pace my legs were willing to carry me – which at this point was around a 9:40 (still a little faster than necessary to reach my goal).
Mile 13: “Go Melissa!” This is when I knew I’d see my fans again…and so it ended up being my third fastest mile in the race. But I almost missed them again! I was almost past them when I heard my boyfriend yell my name. His job was to take the empty water bottle I was holding and hand me a new, full one. He executed our plan perfectly and I ran off with a huge smile on my face. I was feeling amazing.
I finished the first half in 2:06, which was perfectly on pace with my goal time of 4:15.
It wasn’t until the second half that things took a turn for the worse. More details to come tomorrow!
In case you missed it, here are my marathon pre and post posts from the past week…
And for your entertainment, here are my favorite signs that I saw along the course…
- “Toenails Are Overrated”
- “Run Like You Stole Something”
- “Mommy, Have You Peed Your Pants Yet?”
- “Chuck Norris Never Ran a Marathon”
- “Run Forrest Run!”
- “Humpy Dumpy Had Wall Problems Too”
- “This is Your Moment. Celebrate the Pain.”
- “Pain is Temporary. Pride is Forever.”
- “Trust Your Training”
- “Running is a mental sport. You’re all INSANE!”
- “This seemed like a good idea three months ago, didn’t it??”
- “Hello Stranger. I’m Proud of You.”
- “If it was easy, everyone would do it.”
- “Your Feet Hurt Because You’re Kicking So Much A$$”
- “Run Like an Angry Kenyan”
- “You can quit now, or you can run your a$$ off to the finish.”
- “Beer Station Only!”
And of course any sign that said “GO MELISSA!”
I had the best fans out there
Sunday I officially became a marathoner. And although it didn’t go exactly as I imagined, my experience was amazing, challenging, emotional and humbling.
I finished in 4:25:03, which is a 10:06 pace. I walked through two water stations and once in mile 22 or 24 (can’t remember – it’s a blur) for about 5 seconds before the desire to just finish the race took over me and I started running again. Other than those 3 walking breaks, and a very quick bathroom stop, I ran the entire 26.2.
The race was hard. Harder than any training run I’ve ever done and harder than I ever thought it would be. My main goal for the marathon was to enjoy it the entire time and finish under 4:15 (although I now see that I would only attain the first goal if I attained the second…clearly I need to work on my goal setting ).
The 4:15 goal came from the fact that my pace was 9:30 for two out of my three longest runs (a 20 miler and a 22 miler), and my other long runs were consistently around the 9:35-9:45 range. I figured that if those were my times for training runs, where I wasn’t pushing myself completely, I’d be able to carry that pace during the marathon. Decent logic, right? Well, I forgot to take into account the fact that this was a race – not a training run – and I should always expect the unexpected on race day.
I also wanted to enjoy it. I run because I love running…and so it was important to me to enjoy the course and the crowds, and cross the finish line smiling. This was a lofty goal, but I thought attainable. Other than a not-so-great 18 miler on a humid day in New York, I truly enjoyed every training run. I actually thought the race might even be better than all of my training runs (and for some people it probably is!). That wasn’t exactly the case for me. But now – two days later – I feel so proud that I finished.
More to come tomorrow, including a mile by mile recap!
(Apologies for the delay! It’s taking me a few days to wrap my head around the race and I want to do it justice.)