Monday, May 28, 2012

26.2 miles of Everything!

Well, I did it everyone. Yesterday I ran 26.2 miles and completed the Key Bank Vermont City Marathon. Today I feel as though I'm learning to walk again. Everything hurts and on top of that I have a sunburn on my shoulders. Any position I tried to sleep in last night hurt but I went to bed with a smile on my face. I've had several moments of shock when the realization hits me that I actually did it!

I awoke on Sunday feeling nervous. I remember dressing and looking in the mirror and being afraid. Not just of failing purely, but letting myself down. Sometimes we get accustomed to others letting us down but it hurts so much more when you let yourself down. I don't know if the person that looked back at herself was confident she would finish. I had a hard time sleeping, especially with a frisky raccoon outside trying to get at our empty bird feeders (I know, yet another blogpost), and my mind was far from the race as a way of distraction. I ate a bowl of Irish oats and berries for breakfast and watched that frisky raccoon scrummage through the remnants of the bird feeder before the sun broke through the clouds. My mind was very blank. Then 7am hit and I was a wreck. My brother drove as close as he could to the start line and I realized there was only 15 minutes to find my pace group and use the bathroom. I walked to Battery Park and to my dismay the poratapotties had the largest lines I'd ever seen in all the times I have run the VCM relay. I heard the singing of the national anthem as I was doing my business and prayed I would make it on time. What a way I would started the race! From inside a portapotty? No way. I forced myself through the crowd and found my 4:45 pace group. 

This may sound cheesy but I experienced every emotion possible during this race. I stood there feeling disoriented and couldn't feel my toes. If anyone is familiar with the sensation you get when your around your crush or someone you love well that's what I felt. I was anxious with butterflies, my stomach was doing somersaults and I was slightly panicking. I didn't even hear the start. I started walking with my group and then we were off. After I began the race I realized this was more than crossing an item off my bucket list, even though I did exactly that when I got home, but it was about life. Turning the first corner was a crazy sea of people, runners and volunteers. I couldn't stop smiling. A cynical pace mate, a vet marathoner said to me in passing, "wait till you get to mile 20, you won't be smiling anymore." He was right but we'll get to that later. I felt good during the first part of the race but then again I was prepared for these miles. I even left my pace group for a duration. I almost got to the 4:30 group and ended up in between the two groups for a large portion of the race.

Before I hit the halfway point a few things happened. People started to call my name. I had forgotten that my name was on my bib. Whenever I got around spectators I got shy and even looked down but when called on I would smile and say thanks. At one point I thought I heard someone say chocolate. I looked up at the kind man holding chocolate cookies and gladly took one then a very sweet woman gave me a banana. It always touches me when people do gestures like this because they have no idea how much they're support gets you through this race. I know now and have a new found respect for them and the volunteers. So when did the pain begin? When I got to mile 15 I started to feel extreme tightness in my legs. I passed a disabled man on my way to heartbreak hill. I can't explain how I felt when he looked at me but I knew I had to keep moving. Was this the second wind? Then heartbreak hill came.  I wanted to cry when looking up at the incline that looked like it didn't stop. People were all around me walking. Something else kicked in. This was mile 16 and I had a flashback of when I was 16. Throughout the race I had flashbacks paralleling my 26 years of life and my survival of the race was strangely syncing with my survival in life. I had a rough year at 15 when my beloved grandmother passed and I moved full time to Vermont. When I was 16 life felt like a weight to me and my fragility was scary. I spent most of the year crying and felt in mourning of everything. I thought about this going up that hill at battery park and told myself I wasn't stopping. As everyone around me walked I put my head down and ran. And I made it.

Then, at mile 17 I hit a wall. My legs were so tight I felt as though they were rubber bands stretched to the limit. I kept thinking, 'oh shit, I'm screwed now.' This is when the first thought of quitting came to my mind and I stopped running. I went to the side and stretched and felt as though I would explode. Then I thought, 'Ariel, your family is waiting at the end, how will you get home you fool if you don't run' and 'you'll be embarrassed if you don't make it.' Then I thought of all the strong women in my family that persevere and as corny as it sounds it made me start running after a spell of walking it. I hadn't had my GU (the nasty sports fuel) yet. At that point I knew why. The crap tasted like vitamin enriched sugar and was sticky and got everywhere. Out of nowhere I kept running and felt pretty good so it must have worked. Maybe I had just forgotten the pain? I had lost time and now found myself with my 4:45 pace group again. Before I knew it I was at mile 20. I knew at this point I wouldn't stop. I don't know how I knew this because I just did.

Then out of nowhere I hit another wall at mile 22 and started walking. I felt so mad at myself because off went my 4:45 pacing group and I couldn't do anything but walk in shame. A man to my left asked if I was okay. I tried to put on a brave face but he wasn't buying it. "Your legs sore?" he asked. I told him yes and that it was my first race. He told me that his legs were gone by mile 11 and he had walked to this point. I couldn't believe he walked that far then I had flashbacks of the women I saw in their 70s walking the race. I don't know this mans name but I started telling him my story as we walked together. The fact that I wished I had trained more but because of the rigors of grad school I hadn't. That I was a returned Peace Corps volunteer and that I was running for a charity. He said something to me that struck me, "You got this far right?" He was right, I had. Life has thrown me so many challenges but I had gotten ahead of them and ended up where I am today. Shortly after we past mile 24 I told him I would run again and he joined me. I was honored that he started running with me after having walked a lot of the race then I head him say, "Go get 'em kid," and I didn't see him again.

Mile 25 was here and I smiled, then on the last down hill toward the waterfront I tripped. Thank goodness I didn't fall to my face but the hard landing on my left leg made my left toe throb. I thought I would loose the nail (I haven't and I know TMI). Then I saw a huge crowd of people and turned a corner to the mile 26 marker. I couldn't resist kissing the marker and heard some laughs.

Then I heard the time and realized I was close to hitting 5 hours. Something in me triggered and I was thinking about my first year of grad school and started sprinting. I've faced so much throughout this past year. Before I took off I heard 2 women saying they were going to cry. Oddly enough I felt that way too thinking back. No tears fell but I got goosebumps and everything around me blurred. Next thing I knew I was finished and shaking. Barely walking I heard my name. My brother was there and I smiled realizing that I had done it. Then the pain hit but I'll never look back from this race. My only advice to anyone considering running a marathon is that it isn't a joke and that you really need to train. My training was very limited and I do not recommend that to anyone but I urge people to challenge themselves psychically and mentally. After all, you've gotten this far? Right?


p.s:                                   Race Results
A post Marathon be posted soon ;)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

1st Marathon, am I crazy to do this?

I think I'm crazy. This Sunday, May 27, 2012, I will be running in the 24th Key Bank Vermont City Marathon. Many runners would ordinarily look forward to such a race. To be honest I have mixed feelings. While I'm excited to run as its a passion of mine, I can't help but cringe because I didn't stick to my training regimen. This past year I began the first year in residence of my MA program at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. I really assumed that I would be able to balance school and training etc., but it turns out that was just a poor expectation. Between all the heavy readings, papers, group work, etc., I managed to get in a few runs a week at the very best. In fact the longest run I completed was a 15 flat miler in Burlington, VT during mid-March break. 

So now I sit, with less than a week to go cringing when I think of this race. I shared my concerns with a colleague who ran the London Marathon with very minimal training, in fact less than me. He also shared that this marathon in particular attracts a crowd of people who haven't done proper training. So this not only makes me feel better about my circumstances, but also makes not want to drop out. Given recent news of a 30 year old woman who died and her absolute lack of training, I wonder how I will respond on the course. There are a few things going for me. I'm somewhat in shape but last year would've been the year for me to run the full thing (instead I did a relay leg). I felt like the hulk last year I was so strong.

Thanks to this colleague I could resist googling "how to finish a marathon with modest training." This is the advise I found. This video is a clip from Sean Ogle, a 2011 runner and survivor of the Eugene Marathon, with little training. 
Mr. Ogle finished with an official time of 5:29.05,  with only an 8 mile run "the longest of my life," before quitting his training. He also credited his ego for getting him to the finish line. The other advice I found was: "Running a Marathon with Minimal Training" by Matt Moody, Ph.D. It gives 3 simply stated points:
  1. Energy Sources: Keeping Fuel in tank
  2. Hydration
  3. Pacing     
This race is 26.2 mile or 42k and is on behalf of The Global Medical Relief Fund (GMRF). . GMRF is a small US based NGO that aids children who are missing or have lost the use of limbs or eyes, or have been severely burned, or have been injured due to war, natural disaster or illness. These children are not able to receive the medical care needed and GMRF assists them in this.  I initially donated funds after seeing the segment on 60 minutes. I was inspired after seeing the story of a you boy from Iraq injured from a roadside bomb. Operations change the lives of these children. My initial donation was modest and I wanted to do more so I wrote a letter to GMRF. They suggested I fundraise on their behalf. Some may be wondering what a Race to Raise fundraiser is or why I would torture myself to do it.  A Race to Raise is an event where a runner(s) run on behalf of a designated charity. Runners raise money by requesting funds from the public. At no cost to GMRF, I will be running in the VCM. I am attempting to raise at least $5,000 for GMRF by asking for donations. To learn more about GMRF please see the link: 

Please consider helping by:
  1. Donating: Under 'Dedication' enter: Ariel's Raise to Raise Fundraiser (this is very important as it tracks the funds) 
  2. Hanging some flyers up (see flyer) 
  3. Liking the Facebook Page: 
  4. Spreading the word Encouraging me!  (I appreciate it!)

While I'm excited to find advice, I'm hoping it helps. I have joined a pacing team and I'm carb loading and drinking water/fluids like a fish but this ego thing is stumping me. I've already said to myself if my knee is killing I will walk. Or that I will do a half run/jog. Sad part about all this is that I'm thinking that I won't reach my goal of a time range between 4:00-4:30. I/we won't know how this will go until race day. All can do until then is minimal light walks and relaxation. Worrying will make me feel worse. The last thing to say is that I have will power and the thousands of supporters that come out will help me. I will do my very best to finish this race for the charity I'm running on behalf of and for myself (bucket list) no matter what. 

Looking forward to your comments

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Banning Plastic? Fact or Fiction

In my limited online travels this week I came across an article that screamed to be read. The fact that the entire state of Hawaii is banning the use of plastic bags at checkout counters is not only progress but its nothing short of amazing. As much as I want to believe that the fad of dragging in recycled reusable bags to the grocery store is far reaching and deep rooted, the truth is that it is not. On my home turf of Vermont, soccer moms and penny pinchers (like myself) alike, have used this technique for years. I assumed this was universal but quickly learned otherwise while residing in other areas of the country. Once I was even called a treehugger. Really, now?
The article states that Hawaii is the first-in-the-nation to attempt and success at such a feat. I wonder how well this process could happen in another state.  Say, a place where there are advocates against climate change and its effects. Hawaii is still trying to "collect more public input due to enforcement and cost concerns," but I imagine that since the effort has gotten this far it will stay favorable to consumers. Also the law gives businesses three years to adjust. With these considerations surely this will be successful.

I'll be the first to admit that it does bother me when someone buys one very small item and its bagged. Fact is that bag is most likely to end up in a landfill along with its packaging, which is another blog post. If a minimal effort is made at the individual level we would have no need for plastic. Bottom up all the way!  I'm guilty of getting a bag infrequently but I always feel bad after and make more efforts to bring reusables and try to make sure I reuse the bag as much as possible. The only way we can cut the plastic is by trying. I have to give a standing ovation to the state of Hawaii for standing up and making this a priority. I hope we don't have to wait too long before this catches on. The earth could surely use a break. (See photo)

Until next time

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Better late than never

After a long hiatus, I've returned to the world of blogging. This blog was initially thought of as a quarter life crises blog to be started on my 25th birthday. Needless to say, I'm a bit older than that now but the urge was still there to again expose my ideas and musings to the world. As I type its almost been 24 hours since I finished my first year of graduate school. I've returned to a place of comfort and began that stage of reflection which agonizes over the bitter-sweetness of the past year. It's a fitting time to begin this as I just ended this chapter. Sharing the roller coaster ride of a life I have with the world is scary to me but I feel there is strength in this. I look forward to many more posts ahead and opening up and dissecting my multiple layers. Until next time.