Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wineglass Marathon: The Road to Success is Hard

 A few weeks after running my first ultra-marathon I started to think about the marathon again. I ran one a few years ago at Disney and it took me 6 hours and 15 min. Partly because I was much heavier and less fit, and partly because I stopped at many character stops to take pics. Now that I am fitter, thinner and an ultra-runner, I decided I needed to see how much better I could do at the marathon.

I decided I wanted to run Peak to Creek. My husband ran it last year and had a great finishing time. I loved that is was mostly on dirt and ALL downhill! Unfortunately, the race filled up 10 minutes after registration opened. Never had that happened, and I didn't get in. I was bummed and wasn't sure what to do. Many local running friends were planning to run the Wineglass Marathon. Although this marathon was on roads and not dirt, it was also mostly downhill. The elevation loss was a lot less, but I was told it was a beautiful race with great swag. That weekend hubby and I  discussed it and signed up. The race sold out days later!

Now that I was officially signed up it was time to get my training in high gear. I was already running a lot to build a base and was having a great start to my training. I wasn't nervous about the mileage as I had finished a 34 mile race! I could do 26 miles, right? I started running 8 and 9 mile runs midweek and 14, 16, and more mile runs on the weekend. Most of my runs went well and I was starting to really enjoy the longer miles.

However, training didn't go so smoothly this time round. One morning, two days after a 14 mile training run, I woke up with some pain behind my knee and some swelling. I still drove out to meet a friend for a trail run. Within the first few steps I knew something was wrong. My knee was really hurting. However, it hurt more when walking so I still ran my training run. I decided to go to doctor to get it checked out. I had an ultrasound and nothing out of the ordinary was found. (I probably still need to get an MRI to get it checked out properly.) After a few days pain went away and I kept running.

A few more weeks later I fell down the stairs at work and sprained my ankle. It put me out for about 2 weeks in which I did the stationary bike and did some pool running to keep up my fitness. I came back to training feeling good running 16, 18, and two 20 mile runs. I still had some slight knee pain occasionally and swelling but felt good on my runs. I was ready! And then school started and my lovely preschoolers got me sick. So, my 3 week taper was pretty much me laying around being sick.

I was signed up for a trail half marathon with the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club 2 weeks before the marathon. I decided to run it even though I was feeling horrible. I paid for it and wanted my shirt. Probably not the best idea. I made it through but it was tough. And I felt worse after the race.

Me on the left. I ran the last few miles with some ladies I met during the run.
The last 2 weeks leading up to Wineglass I got in about 3 total runs. But I was confident that the extra rest would make me feel better and give me fresher legs. A few days before the race I was feeling better and ready to rock it.

My husband and I drove up on Saturday to Corning, NY. We decided to take US 15 all the way. It was a beautiful drive and if you ever have time you should drive US 15 through Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York. We were staying in Mansfield, Pa since we registered so late and most hotels in Corning were booked. It was only 30 minutes from the start. The hotel was very nice and clean, however our room was tiny! My bedroom, which is small, was bigger than our room! But luckily the bed was comfy and we had our noise machine to block out the noises we could hear through the thin walls.

We got to the Corning Museum of Glass in the late afternoon and picked up our bibs and fun swag items. I just love all the stuff you get for this race!

We found a local Italian restaurant and got our pasta and meatballs. Wasn't nearly as good as my cooking, but it wasn't terrible. It came with some yummy bread! With nothing else to do we went back to our tiny room and started getting ready. With the chance of rain I decided against a running skirt and chose my shorts and tank top.

After my bottle of Bold Rock hard cider, hubby and I called it a night as we had to be up at 4:30! Considering I never sleep well before a race, I actually got a few good hours of sleep in. We were up at 4ish and started getting ready and packing up. I usually eat a bagel and a banana before a long run and luckily they had a toaster in the lobby. We got packed up and started our drive to Corning where we had to catch a bus to the start. I nibbled on my food all the way finishing my breakfast bar and half the bagel.

We arrived at the start at about 6:15. It was still quite dark which made the porta potties really dark inside! They had a tent set up and chairs, which was really nice, so we settled in and I tried to eat the rest of my breakfast. I got the banana down but could not finish the bagel. Just kept gagging on it. As I commented to my husband I couldn't eat the bagel, some random guy walked up and looked at my food and then looked at me inquiring about my bagel! I told me I just couldn't finish it and he told he would eat it. And so he took my plate and finished my breakfast. Quite odd, right?

About an hour later the rest of the runners we knew showed up and of course we needed a prerace photo.

A last minute potty break and we were ready to go!

The race started right on time with a nice downhill start. I had to hold back as I knew starting fast would kill me, so I pulled back my pace to my plan and kept it slow for the first 3-4 miles. I was feeling good and was excited! I am running a marathon! And then mile 9 came and I hit the wall. I usually hit a few walls during long runs, so I ate my fuel a mile early, took a short walk break and started up. I'll be honest. I  struggled mentally for the next 3 miles but kept going just a little slower than I planned. I even stopped at the medical tent to spray my knee with biofreeze for just in case.

I started feeling better at the halfway point and was glad to get over that wall. And was keeping a decent pace till about mile 16. And this is where my race well downhill, literally and figuratively. All of a sudden I got terrible cramps in my calves. Charly horse type cramps where I couldn't run at all. My foot would get stuck in a down position and my legs would give out. I really have never had that happen before. I stopped at medic and they offered me some tylonel and some biofreeze. I knew my original goal of 4:30-4:40 wasn't going to happen, but I was hopeful I would still finish under 5 hours.

I was really getting upset at  this point. No matter how much I stretched or walked or massaged I could not run, I was crying off and on. I took salt tablets. I ate my fuel. And then the 5 hour pace group passed me and I lost it. I was so upset and disappointed and frustrated. I felt great, but my legs would not work. Finally, my friend, Erikka, texted me and told me to try a 2 minute interval of running and walking. I found I could make it 2 minutes, and not a second more, before my legs cramped. The next few miles were slow...I felt like a turtle but I was making it mile by mile.

Around this time I caught up to my friend Attila who was having his own pain issues. I was so sad to see he was struggling too, but also hopeful we could get through this together. We stuck together for most of the last few miles doing our intervals. Every once in a while I would go a little further and get ahead, and then he would catch up and get ahead but we stayed mostly together urging each other on. Somewhere around mile 24 some strange random man had cups of beer and yes, my friend, I took one. I thought, beer has sodium, right? It couldn't hurt and it was actually really cold and tasted great.

With about a mile or less left I had gotten ahead just a little and knew I was going to finish. I turned a corner, and there it was. The finish line. It was still .4 of a mile away, but I could see it. I really had wanted to run the whole way, but my legs still wouldn't let me. The cramps were still just as bad. So I kept on with my 2 minute intervals and when there was only .2 left I tried to just go for it. And OMG did my leg cramp so bad I had to literally stop and walk to the side of the road and stretch and massage. People were cheering me and urging me and I was crying. I was frustrated. I walked just a bit and finally was able to run the last .1 of a mile over the finish line. And there was my husband waiting for me. I went right into his arms and just cried.

It was over. I did it. Through pain and walls and everything that tried to stand in my way. I cried the most tears during a race ever. I cried a mountain of tears at the end. Having my husband there just made it all better.
A hard earned medal.

My wonderful husband.
My friend Attila, who finished his first marathon!

And to make me feel even better, they had cold diet coke at the finish. I gulped down 2 cans, ate some chicken noodle soup and grabbed one of every food item they had for the ride back home.

I am still quite frustrated that my legs cramped so bad. I have no plans to run another full marathon. One day I do want to run NY, but I want to focus again on fitness and weight loss and run some half marathons before I decide to go for it. It took me 2 or 3 days to decide I would even run again. I even went for a mile run 2 days later with my dog just to get out there. And I enjoyed it and had no cramps.

The Wineglass Marathon was a great race, no matter how terrible it went for me. The on course support was fantastic. The people who came out were great and were along the course everywhere. The swag was awesome and the whole course was beautiful. I had several support people check on me during the race and the post race food and drink was great. I would love to up there again and try the half marathon. I am so thankful for my friends who cheered me on through texts and facebook. And very grateful for my friend Attila who helped me through those last painful miles. And of course, I am am blessed to have such a loving and supportive husband who was there for me when I was so down. And finally we are both blessed to have great daughters who had to deal with us running for hours each week.

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