Sunday, May 22, 2016

Week 1 of back to backs

Now that I am officially done with my road season, I have got to concentrate on getting ready for the Twisted Branch 100k. Which means the great return to back to back long runs. I eventually plan on doing 3 long run's back to  back, but for now I am starting with two. The purpose of the back to back long runs is to accustom the legs to being able to run when they are tired. I have found this method (which is the common way to ultra train) really helps me strengthen as a runner, not only physically but mentally. It is not easy to go out and run when you are tired and sore. So this was Week 1 of them.

Saturday Am: Heading out to Ohiopyle to run the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, do the section dubbed "Gate to 8" by the locals. It is a well known section for it's beautiful views and brutal climbs.

I am headed out with two friends. Stacey is training for the LHHT 50k and has already been out to this section 3 time in her season. Jeramy has never trail ran before, so me being the good friend I am... I drag him to a tough course as his cherry popper. :-) We meet up at the bottom, packs on, shoes checked, introductions made, and off we go.

We head out. We have beautiful weather, it is upper 40's and raining lightly. Just enough to cool you off, and not so much it is drenching.

We start in on the climbs. We talk about the importance of changing your running gate on the ups and downs, and I thoroughly enjoy flying down the hills once we have finished a big climb. We chat about a myriad of topics as we go, you never know what subject will come up on the trails. Mile 6 and we start the big climb up THE BEAST! This is a 2 mile climb that just never seems to stop. Jeramy runs about half of it, and Stacey and I happily hike most of it with an occasional run. I admit my goal by the end of summer is to be able to run most of it, but I am not there yet. We get to the top and have a small celebration then keep going. Stacey and Jeramy pull a bit ahead of me. Just as I suspected, Jeramy is a natural on the trails. So he takes off like a friggin billy goat, or maybe a kid who just found a cool new toy and he is ahead. Stacey and I stick together for awhile, talking about the stuff that girls talk about and we keep a decent pace as we go. Then we get to go back down the hill. I love the downhills, I can go down at a pretty decent pace, they are my strong suit on the trails for sure. So I pay attention and fly down the 2 mile stretch. My quads were ON FIRE ( I 100% just sang that.. think Alicia Keys). I get to the bottom where of course you start climbing again.

Turns out Stacey and Jeramy are both amazing on the uphills. Whereas they are definitely my weak point! They are my goal for improvement this summer. I end up about a half mile behind them from mile 11 to mile 15. During this 4 miles I go through a whole set of emotions. Ranging from happy to be out on the trails, to doubt about my trip this summer. I mean what kind of dumbass plans to spend 5 1/2 weeks crossing the country, running strange trails by herself this day in age. What if I am out on a trail and fall and get knocked unconscious or I break a leg or something. This is dumb. Why can't I keep up with them, fuck, this sucks. Another hill, Oyvey. Okay. Lets go. Aww, downhill. I like downhills, happy downhill. Why I am training for 100K again? Should I not do it? No, I am just feeling sorry for myself, knock it off. Then I see Jeramy and Stacy, we are close to the end and they have stopped to wait for me. We finish up the last mile together. I am definitely tired, I have some work to do! I am seriously out of trail shape. We did the whole run in about 3.5 hours. That is a pretty decent time for that section and my first trip out. We get 4200 feet of elevation gain for the day. Not too shabby. And now that we are done, I am out of my funk am very glad that we came up today to run the trail. These two are great running partners. I look forward to doing more runs with them. They will push me to be better on hills too, which will be great!

After we hit the shower house where we are pleasantly surprised that the pulley showers have hot water, which felt soooooo good, we grab a much deserved lunch at the pub. Black Bean and Tofu burrito, chips and salsa, and loaded french fries for me. Yummy! Say our goodbye's and head back to the city.

I am stiff and need to roll, and definitely am looking forward to a good nights sleep.

Sunday morning I wake up, enjoy some coffee and cereal, load up Waylon and drive to North Park. North Park is a nice easy trail system, minimal technical spots and only 1300 ft of elevation gain on the loop I am planning for the day. And this 10 mile is a great example of why I say back to back really increase your mental strength, because it went as follows:
Mile 1: "OMG this sucks, my legs are sooo heavy".
Mile 1.5 "Well hell, its only mile 1.5".
Mile 2: "Finally."  Stop give W his 2 mile treat and off we go again.
Mile 3: "I could have sworn I did 5 already. This is going to be a long run"
Mile 4: Okay this is getting better, kind of. We pass a girl on the trail, so even though it is a slow run we aren't toooo slow.
Mile 5: "This really is getting better. Picking it up a little bit, half way there. How's W? He's hanging in and still stepping on my feet occasionally so he's good."
Mile 6: "It is the end of the red blue trail. Legs are finally loosening up. Okay, 4 miles left. Lets go."
Mile 6.5, "Forgot about his hill. On a normal run I can run it, not today. Legs are still not feeling ready for that. Just get to the damn top, then it's mostly down."
Mile 7, Yeah baby, only 3 miles left, but man I am HUNGRY!. "
Mile 8: "HOLY MUD BATMAN!" Okay: Confession time: I. Hate. Mud. I have no issue with blood, guts, vomit, etc. I love running technical trails, no issues with rocks, roots, hills, creek crossings, etc, but when I hit a really muddy spot my princess hands come out, I get a disgusted look on my face and "ewewewew" comes out of mouth. I can't help it. And of course, the red trail is always sloppy when it's been raining.  For the next 1.5 miles I am dealing with mud and trying hard to suppress princess tendencies. Waylon of course is LOVING it. He has purposefully ran through every single mud puddle and mud bog the entire 10 miles.
I am a little short of the 10 miles I want so I run around the parking lot, down to the creek that connects to the dam where Waylon enjoys a nice swim while the fishermen 150 yds away give us dirty looks (get over it dude, we are near the falls, we aren't touching your damn fish), cross the creek and wrap back into the trails to finish the last half mile.

The last 3 miles my stomach was growling, I was sooo hungry so I was looking forward to the granola bar I had in my car. Until it wasn't there. I was very sad. So I jump in the car and head home to eat. Waylon is passed out cold after that run. And I am happily laying on my couch looking at my roller and resistance band knowing I need to put in a good 30 min stretch session before bed. It will help, my head knows this, but my lazy ass will put it off a bit longer.

I forgot the how hard the second run can be after a good first run. But I will continue to build, grow, and get stronger as the summer goes on.

And I got to introduce one of my favorite things to a friend which always makes me happy! A new trail runner is on the scene and I am willing to bet he will being killing 50k's in no time!

I am still having some self doubt about training for another 100k and about my trip this summer. But I have a few weeks to work through it. We shall see.

Happy Running

Monday, May 16, 2016

Pacing the Cleveland Marathon

I love pacing, it is such a great way to give back to a community I love. Helping people make their goals and being their "person" for a race to get them there. I especially love pacing marathons, it is awesome watching people hit their 26.2

This is the second year I have paced the Cleveland marathon. Last year didn't go so great, it was hot and humid and long story short I ended up with heat stroke. And just a side note, if you ever have to have your temperature taken after a marathon, there is only one way to get an accurate temp, and lets just say it isn't the most pleasant experience.

So when the opportunity came up to do it again, I said HELL YES! But this time it's going to be better....

Saturday, I load up the car and drop off my keys to my friend watching Waylon and do the 2.5 hour drive to Cleveland. Get there, find *maybe illegal* parking and hit the expo. There I hang at the pacers booth for about an hour talking to runners about their goals and convince people that running with a pacer is worth it. I meet a few people planning to run in my group, the 3:55 group, and talk to them about what to expect. I grab some compression from Sure Sport who graciously gifts pacers with an awesome pair of compression sleeves, grab some new KT tape and a few gels and head to the hotel.

Once I get there I chat with Kim, another pacer who I have roomed with before and absolutely adore. We catch up and then head to the pasta dinner. On the way we run into a few more of the "Pittsburgh crew" who pace every year and we grab a table, We are sitting right next to the Elite Athletes, and another side note... man can those guys put away some food. We spend dinner all catching up, the Pittsburgh crew and a few other pacers, then head back to the hotel.

Pre-race tradition is milk and cookies at 8 pm. We also manage to bring beer so we munch on delicious cookies and drink beer while catching up and meeting the new people on the pace team.
9:30, its time for bed.

5:00 am, Time to get up, get coffee, and get going. The hotel kindly let me use the microwave in the closed off breakfast area to heat up my oatmeal, so now I am ready to go with my race day nutrition. I peek out the window and check the weather app *GASP* Real feel of 30*, winds at 20mph and it is a heavy rain fall. Oh boy... this is going to be fun
6:00 am we head down to the start. Even though the weather is less than stellar we are all in a good mood and pumping each other up for what is to come. Hit the mostly empty porta potty lines, and I am slightly envious of those who have remembered a poncho.

6:30 am we line up in the corrals. We have our pace signs at the ready, get spread out and start to collect our runners. I am co-pacing with Greg. We co-paced together last year too, so we spend a few moments reminiscing about the year before as we also chat with the runners around us.
7:00 am: Gun goes off and here we go. The rain had let up for a minute, maybe two, and now it is back. Not too bad at first. The wind is still nasty and cold but smiles on, watches being checked to make sure we get in our pace groove and away we go through the city of Cleveland.

First 10k we have a large amount of people near us. There is a 10k, a half marathon, and marathon all running together. We have some great guys and gals with us and we get to know them. There is Reed, the college kid who is trying to redeem himself from his last marathon that he admittedly didn't train for. There is the 15 year old from Canada who is running the full with her dad, and who's mom and brother are doing the 10k. We have a few returning runners with us, and a whole bunch of new ones too.  It stays decent enough that I feel comfortable taking off my long sleeve, which since its under my short sleeve means a full outfit change while running. This of course getting turned into a "stripping pacer" joke which keeps the mood light. At mile 3 we come up on a group offering beer. At first they offer cold beer and then change it to "Warm beer here". haha

A little after the 10k mark we get a new weather surprise. Hail or maybe sleet. This becomes a discussion. One of our runners, a man who is easily over 6 ft and 180 pounds says sleet because it's not big enough to be hail. I tell him that "size is relative" which brings a chuckle to the group as we sludge through getting slapped with hail/sleet. I am glad I wore my visor.

The hail ( I am going with hail) turns to genuine sleet after a few miles and finally peters out. However, those winds are still whipping across us. Some areas are "calm" as in 10 mph winds, but there are many areas we are getting 20-30 mph. But, as we go we are talking to the runners, talking about other races they have run, talking about the city of Cleveland and giving advice on staying loose and relaxing. I have to put my long sleeve back on, I am freezing. My fingers hurt from the cold, I have my left hand tucked into my sleeve some so I can't read my pace band, but I am watching my watch and we are good.

Half marathon mark, we are right on pace and Greg and I are still pumped full of energy. We have a quick but much needed break from precipitation and are enjoying it immensely. Then we hit a straight away and with it comes back high wind and a nice mix of rain, hail and sleet all slamming into us. IT IS BRUTAL! The word of the day for the next 4 miles is "Woof". I keep my smile plastered on my face and remind everyone what a great race story they are going to have, and that they are earning their "Bad Ass" badges for the day. By now we aren't even avoiding puddles anymore, we are all soaked! In my head I am thinking "What the fuck is this shit?" I may have even muttered it at one point, but I know it is my job to keep my group positive, so I am yelling and chatting about things, I don't even know what. We have a hand bicyclist near us for several miles and we are trying to keep runners to the left to give him space as well as encourage him as we go.

Turn Around, OH THANK THE GOOD LORD! I sing the turn around song, you know the one "Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit tired of listening to the sound of my tears, every now and then I get a little bit nervous that the best of all the years have gone by, TURN AROUND" (Bonnie Tyler, Eclipse of the Heart) which brings a chuckle. And we have the wind at our backs. It is AWESOME! We have kept the majority of our group and picked up a few. The water stops were kind of mess since the weather has kept a lot of volunteers home, however the the volunteers who came and braved the weather infallibly met us with smiles. I shared my water with runners a couple times when they couldn't get a cup and we kept at it. There are also some brave souls out on the course spectating. I say hi to every single one of them. God Bless them for being out in this weather!

Bathroom stop, damn 2 cups of coffee was a bad idea. This is my 2nd stop (First one was mile 3 and I sprinted to catch up). First time I have ever had to do that... like EVER! But I stop at 18. So did one of our runners. We came out together and I helped him catch up to the group is a wise way. Got back and this is when the run really began.

Reed, our buddy from the beginning, had gone ahead earlier and we catch back up. Our 15 year old has stuck my side like glue and looks awesome. She is talking about doing ultras when she is older. She gets excited when she sees another kid. We talk about how she gets tired of training with adults all the time and guys, so she is excited I am a female pacer. We see a man pushing his child with a disability on the other side of the course and I have our group give a big shout.

Mile 20, group is getting quite. Nope, not allowed. I yell back to see how everyone is feeling and get a few answers. Nope, nuh-uh. Try again. I tell them I need more than that and yell again. This time I get a big cheer. Alright. We are on the countdown. Every time we are coming up to a mile marker I yell out "see that big beautiful blue banner up there, we clicked off another one" and sing out "Another one bites the dust". We keep on trucking through, picking up every runner we can. Anytime I see someone walking I encourage them to join us. Our group is hanging steady. After awhile the rain/hail/snow has stopped and I am able to take my long sleeve back off. I attempt this without giving up my stick and manage to do it fairly gracefully, which I announce to my group gives me serious street cred. I get bonus points for tying it around my waist while holding the stick. This brings some smiles (especially as I make sure I loudly announce it give me a second bad ass badge of the day).

Mile 23 See a photographer, I start yelling "You have to smile, there is photographer." They tried. Although I am sure a few cussed me out in their heads.


Then the bridge. Mile 25. its up up up. I announce we are not going to let this hill get the best of us and we begin to climb. We keep them with us. When they start to drop back, I yell every encouraging thing I can think of and we climb. Ahhhh.. Blessed flat spot. Keep the pace scaled back a bit, we have about a minute in the bank so we can take it easy. We have more to climb. Most of the group catches up and we keep going.

We keep going up that bridge. I tell my group "We just ran through a friggin storm, no hill is going to kill us, LETS GO!" and that is what they did. MILE 26, we are almost home! We power through that finish line with a good group in tow. Some had fallen back on the final hill, but they came on-time regardless. THEY DID GREAT! My girl and her dad thanked me, Reed gave me and Greg a hug, and another couple had huge thanks for getting them through. This is why I pace. Knowing I got to help someone accomplish a goal. I got to make sure they did what they needed to make the goal they wanted. And for some I got to help them get to that finish under 4 hours, even though they didn't hit their original goal.

I talk about the stupidest things when I pace, I make up songs, I comment on the houses and building, I yell at runners along the course, I swear, apologize for swearing, then swear again. Give advice on staying loose and enjoying the miles, tell funny stories about past running experiences, say good morning to every spectator and volunteer I see, and I yell ALOT! I joked (sort of) I am getting Greg ear plugs for next year.

Overall, the weather was crappy but we pushed through and had a lot of fun along the way. I hope to see some of my runners again next year, but hopefully as they start in front of me. There were a few first timers who I know are going to be fast runners once they figure out their training. And there are a few I know I will see in my group again next year, because they told me.

I enjoy pacing Cleveland. It is an interesting city and a good course. Like any race it has its hiccups, but as a pacer I enjoy doing it and can't wait to go back and do it again next year!

So no matter the weather, go out and have fun. Happy Running!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Switching from road to trail brain

Welp, its officially ultra-marathon training season! Last August I ran the Twisted Branch 100k and I am getting ready to do it again! After running the course last year, I learned what I need to do different with my training to do better on the course, and so my training begins and this time with my awesome buddy Waylon by my side.

So what is my training plan? Run Trails, then run more Trails, and finally run even more trails!

Last year I did my big long runs on the trails, most of them at North Park, some at Moraine and some on Laurel Highland. I did my second long runs on the roads, and most of my weekday runs on the roads too. Now I did decent in the race, but I know I can do a lot better. And that means more trail time! So this time around, I will do both long runs on the trails, and as many as my weekday ones on them as I can.

So this weekend I went out, and even though I have been doing some trail work within my road racing, I haven't switched over from road running brain to trail running brain.. and it showed. And this is what happened.....

There is a different way you have to run when you hit technical trails. Your gait is different and your focus has to be different too. I was not even 3 miles into my run when I ate it, HARD! *Sigh*

So here is how this works... When you are trail running you have to pick up your feet more and run with a shorter stride so that you can adjust easily, which is easy to do on the more technical sections because your brain processes "Oh hey,there are a lot of rocks and roots and shit, I need to pick up the feet"... but then you hit a nice little patch that is non-technical and your brain goes "Oh this is nice, I can take a little break"...NO NO NO it can not. Because infallibly it will be the tiniest f'n root on the trail that you catch on and WHUMP, down you will go. And down I went. Both knees bleeding, and the right knee instantly the size of a baseball, making running down hills and over trees a bit harder. But since I was doing 10 miles and sure as shit wasn't turning around, I finished out strong (ish). I did chuckle when I ran into a couple out hiking with their pup at mile 7 who told me to "be careful our there"... yeah.. where were you 4 miles ago? hahaha

Waylon did his longest run to date, his first ten miler. He finished with energy to spare and even took a nice dip in the lake along the way. 
Waylon taking a nice swim

At the turn around point
A very nice woman at a local corner store/grocery hooked me up with a ziplock full of ice and back home we went.

Sunday morning back to the trails. Both knees turning a pretty shade of purple, but taking on an easy, less-technical trail with our buddy Bruce that we often do Sunday trail runs with. And let me tell you I ALMOST ATE IT AGAIN! But before that happened, we had gotten through almost 6 miles, with one "oops I took the wrong trail" moment, and Waylon and I were happily running along. I got all complacent and was rounding a corner, not realizing there was a muddy spot around the turn. I hit that mud and as Bruce put it as he laughed his ass off, ended up at a 45* angle. Luckily I managed to get myself upright without going down, but it was my 2nd lesson of the weekend about getting my brain back into trail running mode.

The other thing that I had to remember to switch is nutrition and hydration. Road running I can go 15-18 miles 0-1 gel and can go without water for longer periods as well. I have to remember that trail running is slower and has more climbing involved, I have to take water and nutrition for both me and Waylon. Never leave home without it! 

Now Waylon is beat and a little bit stiff/sore so he will enjoy a few rest days while I keep getting my miles in. I am pacing the Cleveland marathon next weekend, so I have one last weekend with roads, but it will be my last until August 20th.  I am sure I will have many more WHUMP moments as I often get lost in my own head while running, but it is par for the course with trail running.  Just have to stay focused and pick up those feet! And in the meantime, I will enjoy the beauty that comes with trail running, swollen and bruised knees included. 

So whether you be on roads or trails, Happy Running! 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend

Living in Pittsburgh, I LOVE marathon weekend. Really starting the week going into it as well. I haven't ran the full since 2011, and have never done the half, but am actively involved in the marathon in a different way, a way that I think gives me a fun and unique way of experiencing it.

The Week Before
So many Facebook posts, really I probably could just leave it at that and it would be self-explanatory for anyone that is on Facebook and living in Pittsburgh. But in case you aren't, or are one of the few people who isn't on there... let me tell you how exciting Facebook gets pre-marathon weekend.

If I had to make a list of the things most posted about it would probably be something like this
1.) The weather... OMG the weather posts. Lightening, Rain, Wind, Did I say Lightening? Are they going to delay? Are they going to cancel? How do I deal with running in the rain? Wait the forecast changed five minutes ago- here's the update. Weather on Weather on Weather posts. Slightly controlled panic.
2.) Bib being sold/people looking for bibs. Lots of both of these! People getting last minute injuries, people deciding last minute they want to run. Fortunately Pittsburgh is one of the few marathons that allows transfers up to the day before as long as you pay the fee. (Good For Them!!!). So there is a lot of bib transferring.
3.) Inspirational Quotes and Funny Memes.  Lets get inspired and have a chuckle to decrease the anxiety of race week. I have been known to post a few (I even came up with my own Pre-race poem---*Posted at the bottom*). Takes the edge off and keeps everyone talking.
4.) Outfits, What is everyone wearing? Shorts vs capris? Tank vs sleeves? Poncho vs throw-away? Hat vs visor? "Flat" so and so.
5.) Race preparation: One of the best things about the Pgh marathon is that ALL The neighborhoods come out in full strength and there are a ton of posts by the groups getting ready. The best known neighborhood is Homewood. This year they actually had posters out on the course telling you how many miles until you got to them. They posted many times about the clean up and preparation they were doing.
6.) Bitching. This is usually done by the non-runners, the people who will be inconvenienced by all of the road closures. This is tough as a runner to see. Especially since I know how hard people have trained for this one day, and people are angry that for one day they can't get around with ease *chuckle chuckle* (no such thing in this city). I can't tell you how many people posted things like "Can't they just run around the park?" or "Why do they have to run in the city". I wisely kept my opinions to myself so not to ruin perfectly good friendships, but......

Race Weekend
Saturday- The 5k. I have never personally experienced this, but it is highly posted about so I feel confident talking about it. A lot of the racers use this as their shakeout run. It is part of a series where you can get an extra medal for doing both races. Decent crowd support shows for it and it is a great kick-off to the weekend. It is a nice course and a good amount of people run it.

The Kids Marathon- This is I do every year. 5,600 children were signed up this year, most of whom belong to the Kids of Steel. Through Kids of Steel they train all winter/spring, running 25 miles throughout that time. Then Saturday they get their last 1.2 miles. They start by PNC park and get to cross the bridge, go through downtown and finish on the same finish line as the marathoners. The kids LOVE it. And for many parents it is their big athletic event of the year too. There is a huge mix of everthing from 3 years old to 12 years.
Every year me and my co-coaches run a KoS program and this year we had 54 6th graders who participated and about 30 5th graders. About 30 came to the the city, and we were able to witness them running their mile, utilizing the running advice we have taught them and using the running etiquette of saying "excuse me", " on the left" and "great job" to people as they passed. Then they get to have the finish line experience as they listen to a band, hit the food trucks, and wander around Point State Park.

The Expo- Pittsburgh puts on a helluva an expo! Seriously! I spent two hours there, and probably could have been there longer if I didn't have other stuff to do. If you can imagine a store that has running stuff, it is at the expo. And once you have your running stuff, and have checked out local races, then you can also get some food, order some windows, and get new gutters (no joke!) I am always amazed at how many runners I DON"T know! Seriously! I feel like when I am out running I know a lot of the people I see, then I show up at the expo and I am like "and who are you?"

Race Day
It is so exciting! Up early, out the door at 5am! Pittsburgh has a Full Marathon, Half Marathon, and Marathon Relay. I have created a relay team, and I am leg 1. Head to the North Shore to meet a friend who is doing the full, his gf who is doing the half and we all head over. Now it just so happens that my running group, Steel City Road Runners, has this nifty race day perk that we have our own huge conference room with tables set up, a continental breakfast, and private bathrooms. (Worth every penny of the $40 yearly fee). So we head in and see so many people! I eat my oatmeal (that I had brought) and catch up with my friends. We drop our bags in our specially marked spot, since we also have VIP services for bag drop too! It is time to head to the Start line.

Race Time: 5 Corrals, for the first time ever I am starting in A with the super fast folk. I wander around and say hi to the people I know, I look for a friend from out of town (but don't see him) and get ready to go. Ready, Set ,Go. Runners are off. Man, whose bright idea was it to try to run a fast relay leg the week after a PR marathon? (see previous post)... not bright. But I push through seeing friends along the way.  Hit my relay exchange, hand off to leg 2, grab a porta pottie (which this race has a TON of everywhere!), a glass of water and I jump back onto the course to run the second leg. Here I run into my first person, my friend Jessica who I ran with this winter while she was Boston Training. We run together for a few miles and get caught up about running Boston. How was her experience, any advice on doing it the next year, etc. We run through the NorthSide where Urban Impact is out in force even with the rain and enjoy interacting with them. After a few miles I decide to scale back the pace and say goodbye. Then I run into the 3:30 pacers. One of which is a friend. So I run with them for a little while. Chat about the race, and about how his 50k had gone the weekend before. After awhile I decide to scale back just a bit again, I know how many miles I have ahead of me for the day. I want to take it easy. I run through the West End where they have out a dance group doing the dab as we run by, I cheer, because well you have to really. Then I pass by the rapper who is free styling about running the marathon. I hear the runner next to me  make a snarky comment and I snicker, I can't help it. We head to station square where I have to stop and say Hi to Bob, the owner of Fleet Feet. That is my go-to running store and I have to stop! Then I hit station square where the 2nd relay exchange is, of course my relay runner has already long come and gone but I am able to run into a friend waiting on her second person. We sit and B.S and I shout and cheer for the runners as they pass. She heads out and I start the treck to the finishing line so I can change.

By time I get to the tent I am mile 10 for the day. I change into dry clothes, grab a water and a banana, check my text updates on the gazillion runners I am tracking, and I head out. I run the back roads to avoid the crowds that are several people deep cheering for the half marathoners as they come in. I eventually end back up on the course and I start running it backwards (uphill of course). I get to see the elites coming down and give a shout and then as I run up to mile 22 I am yelling and cheering for every runner coming down. I pass a big group who have a whole cheer set up including blow up Alpacas. Ummm okay, but they are enthusiastic and I end up seeing them many times that day (and appreciating their enthusiasm).

Bloomfield (mile 22) I am standing watching carefully for people, specifically for my buddy Jeremy. He should be the first I see. Then I see Tim, my friend from out of town, I snap a few photos, give him a shout of encouragement, and then return to my vigil waiting for Jeremy. Here he comes, he looks like he is tired. So I jump on the course and off we go. I chatter at him about who knows what for the next few miles ( I have mad talk about random shit skills). I give him stern words about making it to the end without walking and I leave him at mile 24. I start the treck back up to Bloomfield. Hector is next. I find him within a mile, not quite at the top of the hill. I turn around and back down I go with him. He is having some cramping. So I chatter at him for a few miles as well. He is holding a pretty good pace and I pick it up a bit because I know he can handle a little push. We get to almost 25 and I leave him with words of encouragement, and I turn around and head back up to Bloomfield. Ali is next.

Up, UP, and Up I run. As I a climbing I am yelling at every single runner, words of encouragement "You can do it" "You are doing great, keep up the good work" "I know it hurts and sucks, but you made it this far you can make it the rest of the way". As I go I see a lot of people I know and am able to give them a special shout-out.
Here comes Ali, and down I go again. I run with her about 1.5 miles, giving her some "Ambyrisms" alongside with Brittany. When she tells me her legs are going to fall off I tell her "Yes, they are, now lets run". hahaha. And she does, she KILLS it! She is in great hands with Brit, so I turn around and you guess it.. head back up,

Phew. I am now at almost 20 miles for the day and I am super tired of climbing stupid E. Liberty. But up I go again, hollering the whole way. I see more people I know, some who see me (or probably hear me) before I see them. As I am heading back up I see Lesley running with Joe. She isn't feeling great, so I jump in and run a little while with them. She is good with Joe, so I turn around and head all the way back to the top. By this point the spectators and EMT in this area are laughing because they have seen me so many times. I get to the top (after stopping for a beer sample at the Church Brew cheering station (I got a cookie from there earlier), and I talk to a couple out waiting for their kid for a bit. I am waiting for Karen, she is my last person I want to run with. I continue to yell and encourage every runner I can, I know how much the last leg of a marathon feels, hopefully I am helping someone out. We are now in the 4 1/2 + hour of runners, and people are tired. I try to give them the best words I can, anything to help them out as they have 4 more miles to get through. Those four miles are tough!

Then I see my friend Alyssa. Her hip is screwed up. So I jump in, and back down Liberty I go. We chatter away, doing a run walk-method, whatever she needs to do. I am still yelling and encouraging others, but Alyssa has become my person. We joke about how many race photos I am going to be in that day and we make our way down to Downtown. We see another friend who is headed back up (he is doing the same thing as me that day) and I  ask him to look for Karen. I am worried about her and want to make sure I can get to her. I stick with Alyssa for a couple miles, getting through the rough stretch. Then I do my final turn around to find Karen.

I get to Karen and we finish out the race together. As we head into downtown I am yelling at the crowds to get louder, give us some love. The absolute joy and emotion of hearing those hundreds upon hundreds of people raising their voices. in support of complete strangers chokes me up just a little. Karen crosses that finish line like a champion and we celebrate her amazing accomplishment. I have gone a total of 28 miles for the day, and I am surprised I still have a voice.

Now onto the post-race tent. Another perk of my running group, access to the VIP tent with amazing food, changing rooms, and massages if you want one. I meet up with Brittany, get a sandwich and some chips, catch up with runners I saw on the course, and a few that I missed. Then we go grab a beer and head home. Race weekend is coming to a close.

The Aftermath: 
The Facebook posts, the screenshotted photo's from the official race photography sight, the messages checking in and race conversations go for days. Fall marathons are being discussed and plan, the marathon juices are still flowing. Eventually the excitement decreases and the post marathon blues will set in.  Actually as I sit here writing this, I am thinking about the nap I took instead of running today because I am just plain tired from all of the excitement. I am pretty certain my relay team has taken 3rd place in the Co-ed field of 938 teams, so that is exciting! We are already talking about next year :-)

Now onto my next adventure, getting ready for my road tip across America, trail running through as many areas as possible! 33 Days to go!

Happy Running!

T’was the night before race day
And all through the city
The runners were prepping
And pretending not to be giddy

With carbs in their tummies
And water by their sides
They were packing and repacking
All of their supplies

5 gu’s, make it six
Spibelt with phone
Should I grab the  miniature lube?
“I know I’m forgetting something,” said with a moan

Outfit is laid flat
Bib pinned with care
Don’t forget the photo
No runner would dare

Race shoes are checked and set by the door
Dry clothes put in a clear bag
The pre-race jitters are starting to come
And feet are starting to drag

But worry not dear runners
Your training is solid
Trust in yourself
And don’t do anything stupid

Check facebook one more time
Send out that last text
See you in the morning

~Ambyr Hinton~