The Marathon Bump

It seems to be a tradition, every time I run a long distance for the first time I get a bumper sticker for the car. Or well, two really.

See the first time I ran a Half Marathon. I purchased a sticker at the expo, planning to put it on after the race. It turns out that my sister-in-law was also gifting me one, a magnet one. Well my car doesn’t seem to have as much metal as we thought, so the magnet is on the fridge and the sticker on the car.

As I mentioned, they were handing out stickers at the Packet Pick Up of the Blue Ridge Marathon. So I knew I had my 26.2 sticker. Well… I really have three. My husband handed me a little gift after the race, while I was recovering: a black and white 26.2 sticker. He wasn’t sure which one I would like best so he got them both. Needless to say that my car is now all decked up and showing my runner’s pride. Of course now it kinds of look like I ran two… I may need to work on that.

Do you have running bumper stickers on your car?

Blue Ridge Marathon: My First 26.2 (Part 2)

After the Mill Mountain Star the course went back downhill. It wasn’t as steep as Roanoke Mountain thankfully. So I was able to pick up a little speed. Again a beautiful section, going along a pedestrian road, then under the old booth. This section had several switchbacks and entered a residential area so I started seeing more spectators. This is also were the volunteers started handing out GU gels. They did a great job at it, staying on the side and calling out what flavor they were holding. I grabbed one just in case but ended up not touching it. I sipped on my Clif citrus gel from mile 6 to 15 instead since I don’t care for a whole amount of it at once.

At the bottom of the hill we entered the Greenway for the first time. It went right by the hospital and had a cool section with three bridges: the pedestrian bridge we ran on at the bottom, made of wood, right above the metal  railroad bridge and above it the concrete car bridge.

Roanoke has done and amazing job with this Greenway. As I was running it I honestly thought it was better than Asheville’s. It goes all along the river with easy access and it’s very scenic.

I was supposed to meet my husband around my 15 to exchange water bottles, but I never saw him. It turns out that I went a little faster than he had expected and he missed me. I did however come across the Peakwood Base-camp, right after the water station and the third relay transition area. It was hard not to smile. Some locals had set up a true base-camp, Mt Everest style with tents, backpacks, hairy dudes and signs announcing the elevation. I think at first I wondered if it was some sort of occupy Roanoke. But when I realized it was for the runners and just smiled. Great sense of humor and good distraction before the last uphill! I wish my husband had seen it and taken a picture so I could show you.

mm14 8:26:56
mm15 8:31:28
mm16 9:02:82

I knew there was a crazy hill around mile 17.  Crazy as in you just ran 17 miles and you now have to go up 600 feet in 3 miles. Right around mile 17 some great spectators were handing out orange slices. The kids were great holding out trays for easy access. I happily grabbed one, oh the sweet juices! From then on I grabbed water at almost every aid station to refill my water bottle since I didn’t think I would see my husband until the finish.

Until then I had been running all the way except for two aid station so as not to choke to death. But as we started the uphill toward Peakwood I knew this would not last. Truth is I almost started walking on a first steep uphill but at the corner were a bunch of spectators cheering us with music and I felt I owed it to them to run a little more. After that I started a walk/run interval to give my legs a rest. Let’s just say I was not alone. Most of the runners around me just walked. No shame here, we were tired and this was one hell of an uphill. I found out later it wasn’t on the original course but was added because it wasn’t “hard enough”. Well challenge met organizers, that hill is tough especially after already completing that much. The trick is, there is actually two hills. The first one is reached just after mile 18, so you think you’re done as it goes downhill but then it goes right back up and even steeper to reach the true top at mile 19 were a turnaround and great aid station were at.

mm17 10:23:43
mm18 11:18:72
mm19 10:37:16

From then on it was mind over matter. A mix of downhill and flat to the finish. I still felt good though. I even joked with a spectator holding what looked like a bloody mary. I think I said something like “This looks good, will you have one for me at the finish line?”. A girl passed me fast around mile 21, in a tutu, I cheered her, impressed. She smiled and explained she was “only” doing the relay. I told her it doesn’t matter, running is running.

Mile 22 brought me right by our hotel and I finally got to see my husband who got a few pictures.I got to steal a kiss but left him his bottle. I had not trained with his (a Camelback when mine is  Nathan) and at this point refilling at the aid stations had worked great. It was awesome to see him though. To the right was our hotel and a tiny part of me was so tempted to just go there… But thankfully I still felt good and kept on going.

Once I passed the 22 Mile Marker sign I knew that I was now running longer than I ever had. What an amazing feeling! I only had a 10k left, I could do this. We quickly left the road and entered the Greenway again. Things started getting tough after that. I suddenly realized that except for one slice of orange I had not fueled since mile 15! Fool! I stopped right there and swallowed half of my chocolate Clif gel. The next 15 minutes were some of the hardest for me. I think I went pretty close to hitting the wall. In some way the now flat course was harder than the uphill. I had no excuse to walk but needed to. And let me tell you. After 22 miles, walking hurt. I could only walk for so long because it was frankly so painful. We were also now pretty exposed to the sun which made thing more difficult. The first half of the course had been in the 60’s and cloudy. A runner’s dream, but as I hit downtown the sun came out and I was no longer protected by the shade of the residential neighborhood’s trees. I invite you to look at the Mile Marker 24 picture of A Mama’s Goals recap. It summarized exactly how I felt at that point. Oh so close and yet so far to go. A few ladies passed me at this point and I couldn’t care less. I was happy to grab another orange slice at the MM24 aid station.

mm20: 10:05 06
mm21 10:34:63
mm23 (2 miles) 20:14:28 @10:07 pace
mm24: 10:25:53

This is when the quotes I researched became so useful. “You’ve gone too far to quit now I told myself”, and then like a mantra “Run with your heart, run with your heart, run with your heart”. But then we hit mile 25 and I was back. I’m sure it was a mix of adrenalin and the gel hitting my system. I wanted to finish strong so I picked up the pace. While I had been averaging a 10:25 pace in the last two miles, I ran my last mile at an 8:40 pace! The local police was awesome at stopping the traffic and I never had to slow down. Then volunteers announced that around the corner we could see the finish line. I was thrilled. I ran my little heart out. Ahead of me, some of the girls who had passed me had now slowed down, as if they wanted to finish together. So I went for it and passed them all except for that one lady who had passed me a little while ago and was going way too strong for me. But it didn’t matter I wasn’t there to win, I was running my own race.

mm25 10:24:97
mm26: 8:40
mm 26.2 ?? Didn’t stop the watch. When I did it read 4h12’56”

The last hundred feet were lined with spectators cheering us. I didn’t hear it but my husband said the announcer said my name perfectly (which pretty much never happens). I could hear the cheers, but mostly I could see the finish line. I was surprised to see I was going to make it under 4:15 with all the walking too. And I will tell you, I had tears in my eyes as I passed the banner. I was telling myself “I am a marathoner”. Tears of joy and pride. I had made it.

It looks like I chicked a guy right before the finish too… As it turned out the girl in front of me was a member of a relay team… Lovely girls in bright volunteer shirts and with a crown announcing their Miss status congratulated us as they place a finisher’s medal over our heads. It is a beautiful medal too. The word marathon actually shows the course of the race. I will likely treasure this one for years.The finish line was wonderfully organized. They had an area set up for runner’s only with plenty of food and fluids. I went for the orange slices again. Nothing else appealed to me. But I also saw: bagels, shrimps, biscuits, peanut butter, pretzels, chips, chocolate milk and more. I think some of the treats would be great after a half marathon, but after a full I just can’t handle solids. I grabbed wonderfully icy cold water (they kept all the drinks in kiddy pools full of ice cubes) and met my husband who didn’t mind a sweaty kiss. Again I felt proud.

I did take a few minutes to cool off by jogging/walking around the plaza. Someone turned to me and asked: “You’re still running?” Hey, it hurt less than walking to be honest, plus I needed the cool off. I then asked my husband for the Greek yogurt smoothie I had planned on. This was a good call. Easy to drink and a perfect ration of sugar and proteins for me. I will plan to do this again.

I took a few minutes to call my Dad in France to share the news, he said he was pretty sure he had seen me at the StarCam. Then I got to shake hands with the wonderful Pam who seemed as shocked as everyone else that I was running my first marathon. She asked where I was from  and I explained I live in Asheville, so I get to train on hills too. She was excited, it turns out she’s thinking about running the Dupont 50K this year. After that I waited in line for a massage. I was hurting at this point, feeling every bit of lactic acid in my muscles. I was also a little light-headed and thankful to be able to sit. A sweet therapist checked on me to make sure I was ok. I guess the muscle pain was showing but I knew I had not torn anything so I told her I was ok, just tired. It was actually the same therapist who massaged me. And OMG! It was bliss! It hurt at first but I could tell the pain was receding. I had waited longer to get the table massage vs. the chair massage and I’m so glad I did. Can you tell how good this felt from the picture below? I wish I could take those ladies with me at every race!We hung around a little bit after that. Cheered a few people who were finishing around the 5 hour mark. We checked out the Down by downtown music fun and I downed some Vitamin Water and we checked the results that were coming live on a screen. I looked for my name based on my finishing time and saw a 79 next to my name. Wait, what? I finished 79th overall? No way! I told Hubby we had to go to the Award Ceremony because at that point I thought I had a chance for to place in my age group. As you know, it turns out I got 1st place of the 25-29 female. I love the award too:They have a little story behind them. Roanoke is a railroad town, it made it through tough economic times thanks to the Norfolk Southern. It is still a big part of the town today. Well the awards are custom made, little piece of Dog Spike that were used to hold the railroad tracks together. As they were removed they all twisted a little. A local high school has turned this into their welding class project,  adding legs and arms and turning it into this awesome runner piece of art. I remember seeing a picture before the Marathon, thinking how could it would be to take one home. But never in my dreams did I think it would happen.

Things I loved about the Blue Ridge Marathon:

-The course. Challenging but beautiful

-The volunteers. Totally awesome, all 400 of them! Well organized too. I saw this kid volunteer at mile 9ish picking up all our trash in keeping it clean.

-The organization: top-notch. The race started on time. There were plenty of aid stations, food, water, recovery fluid and food, massage therapists, etc.

-The runners I met and the memories I made.

I don’t know if and when I will be back, but I smile every time I think about it. Of course that may have a little bit to do with the runner’s high.

Place Bib Age Name City/State M5.4 M9.8 M15.7 M22  ChipTime  CPace  GunTime  GPace
1. 342  28 Cecile  Asheville NC  48:39  1:33:22  2:26:22  3:31:01  4:13:54  9:41  4:14:07  9:42

Blue Ridge Marathon: My First 26.2 (Part 1)

I woke up early Saturday, unable to go back to sleep. I was far too excited at the thought of the race. Almond butter, banana and bagel made a 5am breakfast. At 6:40 we left the hotel and headed to the start line. We met runners in the elevators who were the first of many to give me a look when I said it would be my first marathon.

I was lucky to make it to the porta-potties before the rush, although they were numerous so I don’t the lines were bad at any point. A little before the start I briefly got to shake hands with Lauren, easily recognizable in her Tough Chick outfit. I then went close to the start line to see the double marathoners finishing their first loop. Yes, a handful of runners didn’t feel that 26.2 miles was enough so they timed a night run of the course to be back on time for the official start.

Bill Rodgers commented a little before the start, hinting that he may come back for a relay next year. My husband stuck around until the beginning of the race and snapped a few pictures for me. Right around 7:30 they blew the horn and off we went. There were many of us since the marathon, half-marathon and marathon relay all started at once. I knew I would have to watch my pace because some people around me were only going to run half the distance.

The first mile was fairly flat. We crossed downtown heading towards the Star which we could see up high on Mill Mountain. I averaged a 9:05 pace which was good. I didn’t want to start too fast. Then we hit the first uphill. A girl was holding a sign addressed to one of the runners, it said “It’s all uphill from here”. Err thanks lady! This is also where I first met Colleen. This salt and pepper hair lady had one of the most wonderful shirts I saw during the race:

Boston Marathon: 26.2 Miles of “Been there… done that”
Blue Ridge MarathonL 26.2 Miles of Serious Hills “Now that’s what I’m talking about”
Under that is an elevation course of the Blue Ridge vs. Boston.

She asked where I was from, I told her and shared that this was my first marathon. She did a double take at that point and asked why I had picked THIS one. I explained I won an entry… I would see her on and off later in the course but she started going faster than I was on that hill.

Miles 1-2 were a fairly gentle uphill heading towards Mill Mountain. We passed the first of many aid stations. At mile 3 the course split, the half marathoner went up to the Star while we continued and entered the Blue Ridge Parkway or really the Mill Mountain Parkway since it’s technically an offspring of the Parkway. What a difference in numbers! It turns out there was about 300 marathoner vs. 515 half-marathoner, not counting the relay teams. I took a sip of Gu Brew at the aid station, then joked to an other runners that this was the limit for “crazies only” since big orange cones marked the entrance of the marathon only course.

mm1 9:05:56
mm2 9:30:12
mm4 18:56:63 @9:28

I loved the next 3 miles. It was a mix of gentle downhill and uphill in the quiet of the parkway. There were a few spectators, but it was mostly the beauty of the mountains. At one point I spotted a photographer and realized he was there for a reason. I turned to my left and was caught off guard by the beauty of the view. Below was the valley still caught in the morning fog. I couldn’t help but smile.

At mile 5.4 I was surprised to see a crowd and a clock. I thought well, that’s nice to get an idea of where we’re at. But then I saw a bunch of runners with bib numbers. Why were they waiting? Had they already gotten back down from Roanoke Mountain? Were they waiting for us to get downhill? I was confused. It took me a few minutes to realize it was in fact the first relay station.My official time there was 48:39.

Shortly after that we took a sharp turn up Roanoke Mountain Rd. This is where things started getting serious. This is also were a lot of people around me started walking. I was feeling fine so I ran all the way. It wasn’t so bad to be honest as steep incline were followed by more leveled one. We had a nice view at a first overlook and another uphill before reaching the top of Roanoke Mountain a little after mile 7 were tons of volunteers cheered us. This was the last time I sipped Gu Brew. I just decided it was too much trouble after spilling some on myself and just stuck to the gels instead. This fun lady, whom I would meet later, stopped at the top for a great picture. The view was pretty amazing.

mm5 8:47:87
mm6 10:37:94
mm7 10:28:06

I knew the uphill would be steep, I didn’t expect it to be that steep however. I took a conservative approach knowing we weren’t even half way through the course. My goal wasn’t to kill myself but finish. Several people went flying down around me, I just ran around an 8:00 pace and was ok with it. There is one thing I learned however, downhill isn’t just hard on the legs. It’s also tough on the GI tract. Before the end of the downhill I knew I needed a porta potty. Thankfully every single station on the course had some, pretty decent ones too since they were all equipped with hand sanitizer. I couldn’t help but chuckle while in there as I heard a volunteer say “Those porta-potties are really popular”. Obviously I wasn’t the only one who felt the downhill. I probably “lost” between 2-3 minute on my pit stop but frankly I wouldn’t have done it any different. I would have lost a lot more time had I pushed through.

mm8 8:38:38
mm9 8:10:46
mm10 8:30:07

We back back toward Mill Mountain. Hitting the relay station again which gave me 1:33:22 at 9.8mi. This section was again a delight. Quiet, closed to traffic; I found it relaxing to be honest. I was at peace. A little after Mile 12 we left the Parkway to head up to the Star. The second hill of the day. This is where I met Pam after hearing her speak with awesome shirt Colleen. Turns out Pam ran Boston Monday and since that wasn’t enough did the Blue Ridge Marathon a few days later. I was impressed. As I passed her I told her: “You are an inspiration” and I meant it. She smiled and said I was. Ok, so an inspiration, sweet and humble on top of it. I love meeting and talking with runners on the course. Colleen passed us as well and I did not see her again until the end.

A little later we hit the Mill Mountain Star. The one I could see from our hotel room. It was our half way point.

mm11 9:14:23
mm12 9:59:61
mm13 9:41:19

to be continued…

Pre-Race Day for the Blue Ridge Marathon

As the days and hours started their count down before the marathon, I started doubting myself. Could I really do this? Not only run my first marathon to the finish line, but run a tough hilly course?
I needed reassurance. So on the road trip I brought along my running book: Asheville Trail Running: Taking Bent Creek and the Mountains to Sea In Stride. I flipped through the pages on our way to Roanoke and I found my strength in it. I could do this. I had done some tough training runs already. I could do this.

I had been set on my outfit: my black Lululemon speedskirt, my fairly new grey Lululemon Race Tank, Saucony Guides 3, trail running socks and all. But then on Wednesday I received an email from my local Lululemon store  and found out they had a special edition of the same tank out. You see I had had to order the grey one online because they didn’t carry it in the store. Online the only one in my size was grey. I wasn’t too excited but I wanted a tank top in case the day was to be warm. When the email came out I said to my husband “I wish they had had it two weeks ago”. His answer was “Well get it then”. We were Thursday and I had to go to work. I told him if he wanted to get it for me that was fine. He didn’t. But then we talked about it again the next day. I didn’t think I would get it because the store opened at 11am and I was hoping to leave before that. Well we left late and it turned out the store had it in my size… I was probably the quickest purchase I’ve ever done. But hey, I figured it would be more visible for my family on the StarCam. No regrets there. I can already tell you the tank worked out great.

Unfortunately on my last two training runs (the 13 miles and 9 miles one, not the 22 miles) I started having chaffing issues with my bra. I hesitated a while on that one. But ultimately decided to take the risk to chafe in a new spot with the same bra but new rather than chafe where the old tag had been.

I had been nervous on the way to Roanoke, but our drive through a small section of the Blue Ridge Parkway put me at ease. The beauty of it soothed my fears and gave me energy. I am so glad we drove that way on the way up, it was beautiful and not too much of a detour for us.Mabry Mill, Blue Ridge Parkway

We got a little lost getting into Roanoke. The signs were not all that clear to be honest. So we turned up downtown instead of the hotel and decided to go ahead and get me all set up for the race.

Packet Pick up was at the Taubman museum. With some roads already closed for the marathon it was a little tricky to find our way around. But in the end we found a great spot by the Visitor Center and only had to go across the railroad walkway to get to the packet pick up.

Now there wasn’t much of a pre-race expo there. Mind you the race is still young, this was only it’s third year. I’m assuming they don’t have that many people aware of the race yet, because I would think it’s a great opportunity to promote your products. This is a great unique race and it attracts some tough runners!

The pre-race pick up took place in the museum lobby. To the left was the bib pick up itself. No wait there at 5pm. Then they had the shirts. And here is going to be my one and only disappointment with the race. The shirt was 100% cotton in men sizes.
Mind you my entry to the race was free due to wining it on Lil’s Runner’s blogs. However… with an entry fee of $80-100 I would expect at very least a tech shirt and hopefully women sizes. When are race organizers going to realize how many women runners are out there and that a lot of serious runners are not that big? Their shirt is going to turn into a garnering shirt or sleeping shirt at best. It’s a shame really because I would have been proud to wear a shirt of my first marathon. Proud to wear it on the run.  I also think that a shirt of the race is a great way to trigger conversations on group runs and therefore advertise the race. Heck I’d be willing to have a $5 extra option to get a tech shirt rather than a cotton shirt.

Other than the race tables itself they had a table selling Gu, Honey Stingers and Body Glide. Good in case you forgot something at home. They did have volunteers handing out some great race-bags stating “Conquer the Blur Ridge” which I loved and some awesome stickers with a skyline of Roanoke and the mountains and either BRM26.2 or 13.1 depending on which one you were running. That one is going to go on my car for sure!

They also had a table from the National College handing out calculator and pens, an area with their main sponsor Foot Levelers by which Bill Rogers was signing books and a table with Roanoke information with a downtown restaurants/shops discount card and course map. So we didn’t stay long but got enough information to be ready for the race.

We then checked in our hotel: the Cambria Suites, recommended by local runner Lauren from Sweat Junkie. I loved the place. While it was a little outside of downtown, it was right by mile 15 and 22 so a great spot for my  husband. The room layout was also perfect with a separation between the bed and living room area which allowed me to go to bed earlier while my husband watched TV.

Sal's BrushettaDinner wise we went to Sa’ls. An Italian restaurant a bit out of the way, located in a strip mall. It was recommended on Tripadvisor.com and I knew I wanted pasta before such a big race. The brushetta was amazing, very fresh and flavorful. My Pasta alla vodka tasted yummy,  Hubby enjoyed his Stuffed Shells and the Garlic Knots were perfect.

I went to bed full and ready to tackle my first marathon the next day.

A Sweet Steel Surprise

I finished my first marathon. Not only my first marathon but America’s Toughest Road Marathon. I am proud. Proud of reaching for the stars. Proud of training hard, listening to my body, listening to my legs and finishing strong.

I met my goal. I finished in 4:13:54 chip time. They had this great screen showing the results of the race as they came in. I was totally shocked to see that I finished 79th. Not sure how that happened. Yes it’s a small race, but still! So we figured we would go to the award ceremony just in case.

The overall winners did a great time. I was proud that I ran and talked with the Masters 3rd female. What an inspiration. She ran Boston Monday and then ran the Blue Ridge Marathon. A rock star in my heart.

Then came my age group. I thought I might have a chance at 3rd place, but it was a different name. The 2nd was a different city too, so I turned to Hubby with eyes that knew I didn’t get in. They weren’t announcing the times which I regretted a little bit. I wanted to know how close I had been.

But then the announcer said 1st of the 25 to 20 group from Asheville, NC…. And I was like OH SHIT! I turned to my husband for a millisecond. Him and I understood right away. There can’t have been that many Ashevillians here right? And then I heard my name. I was flabbergasted. Shocked beyond reason. Here I am, running my first marathon on a course that is advertised as the toughest road marathon and I finish first of my age group?!

The trophy is totally awesome and I also got to shake hands with running legend Bill Rogers.

Full report to come.

Visualizing the Course

When I training for the Half Marathon, I was on my own turf. So it was easy, one of my training run was on the course. However with a 4+ hours drive to Roanoke it was not an option for the Marathon.

Well it turns out the organizers have solved the problem by posting a wonderful video. I am very glad I did not see it prior to signing up for it. It looks both better and worse than I thought. So if you want to know how crazy I am check it out:

Marathon Goals

I can’t go to a race and not have goals. That’s just no who I am. While I understand there is a lot of unknown in a marathon race, especially the first one, I still need to visualize what I aim for.

Now based on my 22 miles run, the McMillan Running Calculator tells me I could finish in 4:16 at a 9:47 pace. That sounds amazing, but I know that while I had some good hills, I didn’t have as much elevation during my training run as there will be during the race. So I’m being a little more conservative, especially since I have no idea how my body will do from mil 22 to 26.2.

My A goal would be to finish under 4:30.

I think it’s doable, I’d have to keep a steady pace and walk only a little. But if I can maintain what I did during training I can do this.

My B goal is to finish under 5 hours.

I see this goal as being the option if it’s a lot tougher than what I prepared myself for. If I need to walk for long periods of time and recover.

My C goal is to finish.

This is after all my firth marathon and I don’t care if I finish it by crawling but I want to finish it.

My race outfit is picked, the car tires rotated, the tank full of gas and I have a bunch of snacks and goodies to take with me. I’m excited and a little stressed but I mostly look forward to tackle my first marathon. I think it’s also pretty fitting for a mountain girl who loves the outdoors and lives by the Blue Ridge Parkway to run a first marathon: in the Blue Ridge, going on the parkway, in the mountains and on Earth Day.

Marathon Inspiration

The countdown is on, as I’m watching the Boston Marathon live this morning, I also look at my own calendar. In 5 days I will be running my first marathon. I must be a bit of a masochist because I didn’t pick a flat course. In fact this is what I read on the last lines of the Release of Liability for the Blue Ridge Marathon:

I understand that this is not a normal marathon, that it includes multiple uphill and downhill portions with a combined elevation change of over 7200′ for the full marathon.

Ah! With all that I know I will need inspiration. Inspiration leading up to the race, to tell myself I can do it. Inspiration to focus on while I run the race, to take me to the finish. Here are a few that I found and that speak to me:

“You’ve come too far to quit“. Oh yes! I agree, I’ve done the entire training program, I can do this. And when I will be racing, every single mile I will run will take me farther, too far to quit.

The marathon…Run the first 10 miles with your head, Run the next 10 miles with your legs, Run the last 6.2 miles with your heart “An advice I will have to try to put into practice.

Success is gain not by strength but by perseverance“, a quote just head over the broadcast of the Boston Marathon. I will persevere, but I will also find my own strength, may it be mental of physical.

You are an inspiration“. This quote was on a sign during my first half marathon. It spoke to me. As runners we do inspire people. I can’t tell you how many of my co-workers have told me that. How one of my colleagues always lets me know every time he goes for a run. He knows I understand and support it. I think as runners we are a community of strangers supporting one another for the love of the sport.

Which quotes inspire you to run?

Perspective

When I heard about other runners fulfilling their 20+ miles I was impressed. It seemed like the ultimate challenge before the marathon. Then I did it myself. It wasn’t easy. I walked at times. I had to catch my breath, stay focused, fuel. But I made it through.

Each time I ran a loop, did a few twist and turns. So even with the big 2.0 attached to my run it didn’t look that long on the map. Maybe it’s because I grew up with kilometers? But even 35km didn’t really mean anything to me. That is until I put it on a map. I first used one in France, from my Mom’s.

And that’s when I was like “Holy Cow! That’s a long way!”. I know how long it takes to drive it (about 30mns), I know how much the landscape changes going from the low elevations to the heart of the Pyrenees. I can run that far?

Then for the fun of it, I also did it here in the US. Starting from West Asheville.It looks like I ran run almost from home, past the airport and all the way to the next big town, aka Hendersonville. To which my husband said: “Well yeah, it’s 15 miles to my work”.

Putting my long runs in perspective really made me realize how much I had achieved. I never thought my legs would be able to carry me this far. I’ve had people telling me recently how good I will feel about myself when I finish the marathon. To be honest with you, yes I will feel so proud of myself. But I also already do. I think it doesn’t matter if one finishes a marathon at this point. To be able to train for it, especially when you think about the fact that there are no crowds to cheer you up during training, no water stations and only a handful of other runners if you’re lucky. So while I do plan to finish, I think that it goes beyond that. I am proud of the journey.

Embracing the Taper

I’ve read a few articles on Runner’s World about the taper to prepare myself. While I did a small taper prior to my first half marathon, I don’t think the difference was as tangible as it is with marathon training.

Going from three weeks in a row with over 30 miles of running to 25 is something I could feel. I know there will be doubts and the urge to run more at some points. I know I will have to shove those thoughts in the back of my mind.

But frankly right now, I’m enjoy it. My body is enjoying the rest and I can tell that my muscles need the break. Yes, there are times when I feel slow. When I looked at my time for the 13 miles “long” run last Saturday on a fairly flat course I was a little concerned. It was a lot slower than I would have expected, but then again I didn’t push it knowing that staying injury free is the most important thing for me right now. With 10 days to go I need to start watching what I eat a little more and prepare myself mentally for what is coming.

Any taper advice?