Hop Hop Half Marathon Race Recap and A Marathon Training Check-In

Where does the time go?! I mean, seriously, I feel like it was just a couple of weeks ago that I was putting together my training plan for the Newport Marathon and here I am, only about 4 weeks away from the big day. Is this another one of those signs that I’m getting old? The sensation of time going by so quickly, I mean. It must be.   It’s right up there with my new, annoying need to use the zoom function on my computer screen when I’m reading text these days. (Does anyone else feel like 12-point isn’t what it used to be?!)

Enough with the questions and the lamenting about the passage of time, I have a race to tell you all about. Held on the Saturday before Easter, the Hop Hop Half Marathon served as sort of a trial run for me.   Six weeks out from Newport I wanted to test my fitness level, and even more importantly, my pacing. I struggle with pacing myself evenly and I know that this is going to be a key element in my marathon success.

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I’m going to put it right out there and acknowledge that this was a tough race for me. I did not taper, as I was considering this just part of my training plan, and I definitely felt fatigue in my legs and body when pushing my speed. I also got caught up in a bit of self-doubt about my clothing choices at the last minute, which resulted in me hastily adding an extra layer on top, which I almost immediately regretted after the run got going. I overheated and struggled with the ramifications of that for the majority of the race.

Despite all of that, I only finished 31 seconds short of my half-marathon PR AND I did a relatively consistent job (with the exception of one tough mile) of pacing myself evenly, while staying in tune with my level of effort and my actual pace time. There’s also something to be said about the level of mental focus that I had to hone in on, given the challenges I was having.

Hop Hop Half Medal and Bib - edited

The course was the same as last year, which is to say, it was absolutely enjoyable and peaceful. The route took us along the Columbia River, with what was a clear, impressive, and positively imposing view of Mt. Hood for more than half the route, until we made the turn around. The staff and volunteers from Foot Traffic were great and the logistics of the run all seemed to go off without a hitch. I also was super lucky to cross the finish line when I did. About 10 minutes later, as I was in my car and headed home, the sky absolutely opened up and those still out there were treated to some serious rainfall!

It was a tough race for me – a really tough one, actually. But it served its purpose. Looking at it from the perspective of it being one part of a larger plan and goal, I’ll even go as far as to say it was successful in some ways, too. I feel good having that trial run under my belt – and I hopefully learned a lesson about making last minute wardrobe decisions based on pre-race anxiety!

Stripped: The Experience and Exposure of Running My First Marathon

Nearly a month has passed since I completed my first marathon.  Since then, I have sat down many times with the intention of writing a post about what I learned through the process of training for and completing the 26.2.  My plan was to make a list and offer up my mistakes and successes as tools for others starting their own marathon quest, but every time I’ve started to do this I’ve gotten stuck.

I’ve gotten stuck because while I did learn many things worth sharing, I keep coming back to one key, core lesson.  So that’s what I’ve decided to share with you today.

Me nearing finish 4 - edited

I learned, more than any other thing, what it feels like to be stripped down to the very core of my being.  To be raw, exposed, and so completely of my self.

Here is my journey to that place.

At the start of my race, I imagine I was like many other first-time marathoners.  I had about a million and a half thoughts and feelings running through me, many of them contradictory, all of them clamoring for attention.

There was both excitement and anticipation (obviously). There was fear and apprehension (seems typical).  There was tiredness (who sleeps well the night before a big race?!), but there was also exuberant energy (thank you, adrenaline).

There were the voices of logic and reason (“Remember your training.  Don’t start out too fast.”), of pride (“I am so impressed with myself for getting here.  I am a badass.”), and of skepticism (“Who am I kidding?  I didn’t nearly train enough!”).

There was gratitude (seriously, I’m lucky to have two people here today to support me, cheer me on, and believe in my success), as well as anger (also seriously, certain other people didn’t even bother to text me good luck?!).

And more.

Runners along cars and mile 11 sign post - edited

Then the ‘gun’ went off and over the course of 26.2 miles, it all got stripped away.

First went the adrenaline-fueled, childlike excitement.  After the first 3-4 miles, I had to let it go.  The realization sets in of what I’m doing and I know I need to be focused on the present moment, the lifting and planting of my Mizuno-clad feet.  There is no room for exuberance that hasn’t yet achieved its goal.

Next the apprehension is shaken off.  I’m here.  I’m doing it.  It’s happening.  There is no sound reason to believe I can’t finish, so get your head in the game, Rose (my last name).  You’ve started this; you’re finishing it.

Another few miles down the road and I could feel the anger slipping away.  It ate up too much energy.  It didn’t make people’s actions (or lack thereof) okay, but I needed my energy for the race.  They didn’t get to have any of it right now.

Further on goes the vanity.  Sweaty, knowing as you pass by those clicking cameras that the look on your face will be anything but attractive, but who cares?  A few bad pictures are absolutely worth the end result.

Further still, deep into the race, when inklings of pain and discomfort begin to manifest, all bravado and lingering facades are dropped.  It doesn’t matter anymore if I’m smiling at bystanders, if I’m exuding confidence, or making it ‘look easy.’  All of that has to go because all that matters is what I’m doing – one foot in front of the other, with as much speed and precision as I’m capable of.  Period.

All of this stuff, these extraneous feelings and thoughts that seem so important on so many days and in so many moments suddenly just.  don’t.  matter.

What’s left then without them?

Finish Sign 2 - edited

Well, the simple, honest, and most accurate answer is just Me.

What I learned, you see, is that there is a point in a marathon when all of the expectations, the pressures, the images we create, and the faces we wear, are all gone.

All I was left with – all that I had in those moments – was the truest part of my own self.  Stripped of ego and artifice, I have never been so raw and essentially in tune with my self than I was during those last few miles.

There’s something about that – something incredible about that – testing your limits and pouring the sum of your physical and mental energy into a singular activity, for a sustained amount of time, that strips you of pretty much everything else.

And I can unequivocally say that (despite being pretty generally terrified of being exposed and vulnerable) that state of self-clarity and awareness is amazing. Completely amazing.

It teaches you; at least it taught me.

It taught me about who I am, what matters to me, and what I’m capable of (and I don’t just mean physically).  The wisdom and strength I gained from that experience is unmatched.

And while I may find another time to share what I learned about fueling and training and race day preparation, this lesson is the most valuable one I could have ever hoped to have gotten.

Newport Marathon Race Recap (i.e. I Did It!)

Is there any other feeling quite like crossing the finish line at your first marathon??

Not that I’ve ever experienced.

Me nearing finish 6 - edited

Months of training, hundreds of miles, and hours of mental and physical effort finally peaked for me this past weekend at the Newport Marathon.  And though I was seriously having some pre-race jitters in the 24 hours before the start, I am incredibly proud to say that I did it!  Not only can I say that I did it, but I am pleased with how I performed, so even better.  Before I get into some of the details of the event, here are my final numbers:

  • Finish Time: 4:08:28
  • Overall Place: 384 out of 751
  • Division Place: 36 out of 77
  • Gender Place: 154 out of 385

I had hoped going in that I could finish under 4:15:00 for my first marathon, so I am thrilled that I beat that by several minutes!  I would love to get myself to a sub-4 hour performance, but there is time for that, right?  One thing at a time.

Start Sign - edited

I was definitely nervous going in, though those nerves didn’t really kick in until the night before.  I actually did better then I had expected during my final taper week (though I still didn’t enjoy tapering one bit), but by the time I went to pick up my race packet the night before the marathon, I was all over the map.  I was excited, anxious, doubtful and confident all at the same time (yes, that is possible).  One thing that helped with my nerves was the fact that the race was really well organized.  The packet pick-up was smooth; there was a shuttle the morning of the race that stopped at all the popular hotels, picking up runners and spectators to take them to the start line, and the race started promptly.  All excellent things so kudos to the race director!

The course was beautiful.  Even for someone like me who is TERRIFIED of the ocean and deep water in general, it was gorgeous.   We started out with the first few miles running through the city, then headed down by the ocean and along the bay.  The views were definitely a plus – sparkling water to one side, lush trees to the other, with a smattering of homes, shops, and ocean-front businesses along the way.  The locals were also amazing – many of whom set up outside their homes to cheer everyone on.  To top it all off, the weather was pretty much PERFECT.  After a week or more of cold, constant rain pounding the Pacific Northwest, all was well.  The sun was out, the wind was calm, and temps were moderate.

So, with all of that good energy, how could I not be set up for success, right?

Me waving - edited

At the start, I was eager to go, but still a bit nervous.  But, I settled into a rhythm that I carried pretty well for well over the first half of the race.  I felt good.  I felt loose and strong.  I remember at one point, around mile 13, thinking: This is great!  Maybe it won’t hurt after all!

Oh, that’s funny to think about.  Sometimes I’m just silly.

Anyway, the majority of the way things were really solid and I was pleased with my pace.  I certainly started to notice some pain, though, and realized the error of my earlier thinking.  My left hip and lower back began to ache around mile 18 or so.  It grew steadily until the end of the race and during miles 22-25, I honestly was in quite a bit of discomfort.  My pace slowed significantly (though I never once stopped running).  At that point, though, it was close enough to the end where I could just focus on each individual mile.  I celebrated every little blue mile marker I passed.  When I strode by mile 25, I was thrilled.  That last 1.2 miles was actually pretty amazing.  Knowing that I was that close to finishing, the pain I felt became irrelevant.  I was able to pick back up my speed somewhat and finish with a surge.

Finishing a race with a surge feels GREAT.

Me with medal 3 - edited

When I crossed the finish line I was certainly tired and sore, but I was also thrilled.  I have some great moments in my life, don’t get me wrong, but the feeling of that moment is uniquely special to me.  And it reminds me of how very important running has become to my life.

I’m already thinking about my next races and my future marathons.  I never doubted wanting to run the race or wanting to run the next one.  I knew even in those moments of pain and fatigue that I was ready to do it again.

And again.

And again.

Newport Marathon Training Update: In the Thick of It

Here I am – 7 weeks out from my first marathon and it felt like a good time to share an update on how things are going.  Dare I say it?  Am I un-superstitious enough to say it??  Things are going . . . well.  Pretty damn well, actually.

Now that I’ve said it to others, I’m nervous.

Shoot.

Rounding the turn

Okay, well, I will hope that jinxes are a myth.  As I was saying, things are progressing nicely.  I’ve been steadily increasing my mileage.  Weeknight runs have been upped slightly and my long runs are moving up, too.  I’m in the stretch of training right now where progress is quantifiable – making itself clear as I log paces, splits, and miles.  Before I know it, I’ll be completing my first 20+ miler before settling in for the taper.  It’s exciting and, while a bit nerve-racking, exciting wins out.

I love it when that happens.

The really great thing is that my body feels good.  Attention to recovery after workouts and my overall nutrition have been paying off in supporting my training.  I’ve become close friends with my foam roller, tennis balls (for managing knots in my glutes), weekly yoga cross-training sessions, and compression socks (nothing feels as good as compression socks after a long run).  And, I should mention, Vega Recovery Accelerator and Performance Protein shakes are always stocked in my pantry.

I’m having a blast.

I’m nervous still, for sure.  I spend too much time looking at race time estimators, doubting what they tell me I should be able to do (doubting myself).  I’m still working on that.

I occasionally get upset when I feel like my tempo pace wasn’t what it could have been.  I’m still working on that, too.

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But, overall, I am finding myself as a runner.  I am finding out what feels good, what feels right, for me.  I am finding out that I am capable of a hell of a lot more than I usually give myself credit for.  I am finding out that I love to run without music – tuning in instead to the sounds of my feet, my breath, the birds, even the chatter in my head.  I am finding out how much this sport means to me and this is all pretty incredible.

Maybe I’m in a prolonged state of runner’s high right now, who knows?  But, I hope at least some of this keeps up.

So, 7 weeks to go.  I have little doubt that the next 7 weeks will be a roller coaster of running-related emotions, but I think know I’m up for it.

P.S.  I heart you Boston runners, volunteers, event organizers, cheerer-on’ers, and runners throughout the world who were there with you in spirit yesterday.  May healing ensue swiftly and warmly.