Thursday, October 22, 2015

My First Marathon: Detroit Free Press Marathon 2015 Recap

Just the title of this post is insane to me.  There are so many words that come to mind of actually running my first marathon; tough, monster, long, amazing.  Before and after the race it sort of has changed back and forth of what I feel about it. But it still hasn't set in what I actually just did.  Having grown up around my Dad running, I never really fully understood the true power of what a marathon really is.  I even remember in March at Shamrock I was standing next to Howie in the J&A tent and asking him all these questions like it was nothing.  Boy was I wrong.  I think until you actually run one you can't really compare anything to it.  I give more props to everyone I know more and more now that I have run one.  The way I think about it is that the more miles you pack on, especially the last 4 miles, and the higher the level of tolerance and power for pain, strength, fortitude, and emotions goes up.  So here is my first marathon recap and please bear with me since it is 26.2 miles of a recap.

Everyone that knows me knows that I am born and raised in Metro Detroit.  I had left Detroit in 2009 and it was the toughest decision for me to ever make.  But without that decision, I wouldn't have all the amazing things I have right now in my life.  So every time I go back to Michigan I get pretty sentimental.  It's my home, they are my people, and everything about me is because of Michigan.  The road trip went great.  We got to Northern Virginia Thursday night late but that was okay.  Avery decided to party all night until 1 AM and we only got like five hours of sleep.  We left Friday morning early and got into Detroit around 3 PM.  I stayed with my best friend, Chuck and his awesome wife, Kelley, all weekend.  We got there and just relaxed before we met my good friend Phil and family and my big brother, Scott and family.  Chuck, Scott and Phil were my three groomsmen (minus Tim) for our wedding.  By the way, we definitely missed Tim on this trip but I would rather spend time hunting with him in December then him taking time off school for this.

Friday night we had dinner out with friends and it was fun the first time all three of my closest friends have got together with all our kids (six kids under the age of 8).  It's funny to think where we were ten years ago.  For dinner I followed Sam Wittenberg's recommendation from a Seminar at Running Etc about marathon nutrition and made sure I loaded up on Carbs two nights before the race.  Dinner was amazing and catching up with my friends was even better.  Not getting home for three years makes the short amount of time you have with friends even better.

Saturday morning we met up with my amazing God Parents Uncle Don and Aunt Shirley.  They have always been there for me.  My Uncle Don worked with my Dad and my Grandfather for many years and I they have always been a part of my extended family.  It was just great to catch up with them and talk.  They absolutely loved Avery.  Avery loved them too.

After Breakfast Avery took a nap and we just relaxed (we didn't get too much of that this weekend).  We met up with my brother and Melissa and had lunch at their house.  I got to meet to check out their house all fixed up and meet their new puppy, Max.

After lunch my brother, family, and Chuck headed downtown to the Expo.  I knew I wanted to enjoy myself and embrace the marathon weekend.  We walked around and they put on a pretty good expo.  I had to get my passport checked to get my bib which was weird.  But it is an "international" marathon and all (Take that Amy Cash).  Everyone had fun at the expo.  Even my brother and Melissa almost got the running fever.  Saturday night we had dinner with the Tickles and just relaxed.  It was funny because I got to watch my best friend freaking out about his first half while I was freaking out about my first full internally.

We met my brother at the Cobo Hall People Mover station and relaxed a bit before Chuck and I headed out.  We left the crew and Chuck and I jogged to the start line.  I had chuck stay next to me because I knew he was a little nervous and I wanted to enjoy the moment of starting with your best friend in his first race.  I reminded him of all the things that everyone reminded me:  No matter what it is a PR, don't go out too fast and enjoy the moment.  We talked for a bit and we both put on our game face.  The one thing the race did have was a sweet electronic start display. 

I started with the 3:55 pace group.  I knew if I had my race I would surpass this pace but I didn't want to go out too fast.  I listened to the advice of my coach (Thanks Ryan) and decided on sticking with a slower pace.  The group was pretty large and it was tough to stay with during the first few miles and up the bridge.  I told myself to stay true to myself no matter what.  The bridge was only two lanes for the bridge and there were a few times I had to jump the curb to negotiate slower runners.  The bridge is as big as it looked.  It didn't affect me but it sure was fun to run down.  Once I got to the other side, I was in the land of Canadian bacon aka where all the 19 year old Americans used to spend time.  Once I crossed the bridge, I left the pace group.

MILES 6-10
Mile 6 through Mile 8 went along the Canadian waterfront and was pretty chilly.  But there was a great amount of crowd support.  By this time, I was chopping off people left and right.  My goal was around 8:45 at this pace but I knew I was going a bit faster.  Miles 8-9 were in the tunnel and got pretty warm in there.  I expected that since I read some other runner's blogs on the race.  Going back up the tunnel was a bit tough but I was fine then too.  Once we crossed back into the US of A, I got pretty amped.  On my way out of the tunnel, I was chanting “Murica, ‘Murica”.  We turned  and headed Southwest and went towards Mexicantown.  This was fun running this part of the course.  They definitely should incorporate more of Mexicantown in the future of the race.  I was still feeling pretty strong at this point.  My GPS lost track in the tunnel and it took a bit too catch up.  But I ran on feel and I know I kept pace.  My watch told me I had a 9 minute mile then a 7 minute mile, so it was clearly catching up on the GPS tracking.

MILES 10-14
Once I got to mile 10, I was getting pretty amped.  I knew I was going to see my family soon for the last time until the finish.  Which means I had the toughest part ahead without any support.  At mile 13 I knew I was getting close and when I saw my family, I felt invincible.  It was awesome to have my brother there too.  When I got close, Avery just lit up and I got to give her a kiss.  There isn't a better thing in this world then your own daughter lighting up when you come running by.  I kissed her and went off.  On my watch, I was at 1:52 for the half, so I knew I was 8 minutes in the bank for my goal of 4:00 (Thanks Kim). 

If you are going to run a race, you might as well enjoy it.  So I decided to take a selfie and send it to the #trainjanda facebook page just to make sure they knew I was alive and also because the Free Press Race up was terrible.

MILES 14-20
Miles 14-20 went through Indian Village and I was pretty nervous because I was feeling really good.  I ran next to a nice lady named Lisa from Syracuse.  I partook in a beer too.  Well, actually just a sip.  At this point, I ran past my HS friend's husband, Matt.  I think I shocked him when I ran past him.  I also went past the 3:50 Pacer and I knew I was tracking well for my goal.

MILES 21-25
At Mile 22, I kind of had a come to Jesus moment.  At this point, I had killed my race and had run further than ever before.  By now, my legs were starting to get tired but I knew I had juice left.  At this point in the race, I was passing a ton of Relay and the US only half runners.  This made it very difficult to pace myself.  I also lost Lisa (hope she did well).  I also called my wife and told her I was doing well.   I knew she would be worrying and I wanted to make sure they didn't miss me at the finish.  I also decided to call the training team via Kim.  When I called her, everyone was still running.  She was really confused when I called her.  She is like, why are you calling me?  I told her, I just wanted to tell her I have ran further than I ever have.  Kim called me back ten minutes later once my buddy Steve finished his half.  Hearing Steve, Kim and Lori's voices really kept me going.  I was in new territory with my mileage and was all alone.  At Mile 24 I lost my music because my phone died from all the roaming in Canada and the tunnel.  I was pretty disappointed but I knew I would be fine.  I will admit, this really sucked at the time.  I had some really good jams to blast me through the last two miles.

The final mile winded through the waterfront boardwalk.  I was pretty excited to run this since it opened after I moved.  A few minutes into mile 26 I started feeling my hands shaking.  I tried to shake it off but I couldn't.  I knew something was wrong because I was starting to get light headed too.  The last half mile was all guts.  I decided I needed to keep pushing because I wasn't going to DNF on the last mile.  I also knew if I did slow down, it would mean it would be longer time to me figuring out my problem.  The last turn of the marathon was a short steep hill that I didn't expect.  At this point, I knew I was dehydrated and it was really tough sledding.  As I made the last turn, I knew I had nothing left and was just hanging on with a thread because everyone was passing me.  I tried to smile and be excited but by the time I finished I knew I needed to get help. 

As I was walking through the finish area, Lori asked me how I was doing.  She knew instantly that I wasn't feeling well.  If she didn't have Avery, she told me she would have jumped the barriers.  The rest was sort of a blur.  I kept asking people for help and where the medic tent was.  I knew I was going through shock because I started to slur my speech.  I finally got my way to the Massage tent and thank god there was a Nurse who helped me out.  She instantly asked my name, my wife's phone number and got enough information to call Lori.  By the time Lori got there they were trying to get as many liquids in me as possible.  Once she got there they stripped me down and put my dry clothes on.  At this point I was hypothermic. My poor brother got here at the same time and he kind of freaked out seeing me in such a bad state. They instantly took me over to the medic tent and kept giving me Gatorade, chocolate milk and bananas.  At one point I was cramping in my hamstrings, calves, quads and shins and also shivering from being cold.  Thank god for a great wife and medic staff who helped me stretch a little bit and help me rehydrate.  After about an hour I knew I was good enough to head out. 

It took me a few days to really figure out what went wrong but I will talk about that later.  Once we left the medic tent, we headed out for lunch and finally got to talk to Chuck about his race.  I was pretty stoked to hear he ran a 2:10.  I had put a ton of pressure of myself for this race.  It was my hometown, my first marathon and I didn't want to let people down.  I felt like everyone was riding on me.  I didn't want to let my pace team down, my running friends who have helped me train down and all of the J&A Training Team down.  My real goal for the race was 4 hours.  Even though I knew I could be faster, I didn't want to put too much pressure on myself.  Instead, I nailed my marathon even with the complications at the last half mile.  I ran a 3:48 marathon and was pretty happy.  I never would have imagined running that quick but I did.  I kept to my plan of running slower the first 5 miles and picking up my pace as the race went on.  I ran my perfect race and I am proud of that.  I also think I represented my family, friends and training team well.  I can't thank them enough for their love and support.

This marathon was the single toughest thing I have ever done.  As an athlete most my life I can say this was tougher than anything I did in high school football and lacrosse.  I would also say that running a marathon is ten times tougher than running a half marathon.  But it is also ten times worth it more after.  Two years ago I would have never fathomed running a marathon in 3:48.  I would ever never even imagined even enjoying it.  But I did.  And for everyone’s question, “Will I do it again?”  Yes, but not for a while.  I want to get my speed up before I attempt again.  But I will be running half marathons like I drink coffee, all day erraday.

For my dehydration issue, I have had a few days to think about it.  I remember listening last year to the nutrition seminar and distinctly hearing to take salt tablets before the race or even during the race.  This is I did not do.  I also think the temperatures being well below my training temps made me think I didn’t need as much water.  As I look back, I probably should of chugged more water.  I did drink water at every station but the temperatures made me feel like I wasn’t sweating as much.  I also probably need to try different types of fuel.  Energy Jelly beans at freezing temps were pretty tough to chew.  I also think I need to eat something more substantial during the race like I have before.  Maybe a clif bar or something.  But I have no should of, could of moments.  I ran my best and couldn’t be any happier with the results. 

I also want to give some thank yous.  So here they go.

Lori, my wonderful wife for supporting me.  Couldn’t of done it without you.  I also want to thank our kids, Avery and Tim.  They are always my motivation to keep pushing myself to a better me every day.  You guys are my everything.

Running Etc. – Thank you for the support.  Especially Drew and Mark at the Virginia Beach store.  Drew since day one has been a positive supporter of not just my running but to anyone who runs.

J&A – Thank you to Jerry and Amy for allowing me to be a pacer.  I never thought it would be so much fun and it has changed my life more than I can explain.

Ryan – Thank you for all the words of wisdom and being the awesome coach you are to the training team.

J. Wade – Thank you for inspiring me.

Kim, Amy, John, Mandy and Steve aka #deezrunninghoez – You guys make running fun.  You are simply the coolest people on the planet and I enjoy every minute I have running and hanging out with you guys.  You made training and running 170 mile months easy.  So thank you.

#teamawesome – I would name a few on here but there is more than just a few of you awesome people.  There are so many of you that I want to thank.  I love every second I get to run with all of you.  I am actually honored to be your guy’s pacer and friend.  I look forward to watching you guys kick some ass at Harbor Lights. 

The rest of #trainjanda – Thank you for embracing what the team is about.  Thank you for making it easy to want to wake up every weekend and go run with you.  Thank you for working hard and accomplishing all your own personal goals.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Being Grateful

If you haven't heard, Hurricane Joaquin was suppose to drop down on Hampton Roads and ruin everything I had planned this weekend. This weekend was supposed to be my 1 year anniversary of my first half marathon, Crawlin Crab. I was pretty bummed. So was my wife, my running friends and everyone else. Even though the hurricane went offshore and it will probably be nice, J&A Racing did the right thing by cancelling it for the safety of the runners and spectators. The sad part is I will miss the rescheduling because it is the same day as my full marathon. I was also bummed because I was going to race and PR again. That won't happen and that kind of sucked.

But then my running buddy, Steve posted an article on Facebook called, 5 THINGS SUCCESSFUL RUNNERS NEVER DO and it dawned on me. #5 was "DON'T FORGET TO BE GRATEFUL" which hit me really hard. Sometimes we get so caught up in this notion that the race is the most important thing. But the last quote said it best, "We forget that the true beauty of running is the ability to do it at all, that our bodies are letting us engage in this wondrous process of rapidly placing on foot in front of the other. To be able to run is a gift and one that should not be taken for granted." For me, that is so true. Last year, I was just happy to finish my first half marathon. And sometimes we just need to be reminded.

So today, I am going to be grateful for everyone I have around me when it comes to running. I am three weeks away from my first marathon and I am super stoked. I have an amazing family that supports me (which I appreciate because I know how much time I have been away somedays). I also have an amazing training team, running partners and pacing group. Instead, I am going to talk about them.

First off, if you follow me on Instagram or on here you probably have noticed the #trainjanda hashtag. Here in Hampton Roads we are pretty lucky to have an awesome running community including our local running store, Running Etc, local running groups like Tidewater Striders, and our local racing company, J&A Racing, which organizes the Shamrock Marathon weekend and many more big running events. The cool part about J&A is that they have a training team. The best part is that I have been part of it since last winter. I didn't really know what I was getting myself into by pacing but it sure has been awesome. We also have an awesome coach in Ryan Conrad who runs the training team. He is the perfect fit to lead and organize a program like this training team. I have been lucky enough to be part of it for almost a year. I am also to call so many of these peeps my friends. So many of them.

I actually have the best group, 12+ minute pace group. Every weekend they come out and keep pushing themselves. Some of them are newbies, some are veteran runners and some are in between. But all of them are awesome. They literally motivate me each week. Do you know how cool it is to run with someone on their longest run ever? Or their fastest run ever? That is all I do every weekend. I get to basically watch them kick ass and be awesome. That is why my group gave themselves the nickname #teamawesome. And they are truly awesome people. I could go on and on about all of them, past and present. I can’t say enough about them because truly they are epitomy of awesome. I also need to thank them for all the great moments I have had with each and one of them.

Then there is #deezrunninghoez. HA. During the Shamrock training team, I didn't really get to meet a lot of the difference pace groups, especially the quicker groups . But after Shamrock the training team kept on meeting up and I starting running with a few around 9 minute pace. At first I was pretty nervous because I didn't think I could keep up because I hadn't run that fast long distance before. One of their favorite stories is me asking them if I could tag along. From April until now, I have been running with them ever since and having amazing training partners is worth its weight in gold. I was just lucky enough to meet these crazy kids. Somewhere along the line we gave ourselves the nickname #deezrunninghoez and it has since stuck. And since it was one of them that gave me the idea of being grateful for what you got, I wanted to talk about each and everyone of them.

John aka Chili Dog himself. John is the silent leader. He is a veteran of running and the Navy. He is typically quiet but pretty funny once he does say something. He is very terrible at calculating distances for runs (My first 16 miler was a wee bit longer thanks to him). But he keeps the eye on the prize every week and keeps us up to date with our countdowns to our races.

Kim aka Juice. I don't even know what to type here. But she is the meaning of being a bad ass. She is a multi Boston Qualifier. She has run like 1,000 marathons and she runs faster on tequila. She also has the biggest heart and most positive personality you could find. She is always a cheerleader not just for me but to every runner she meets.

Amy aka Happy is my long lost DMB pal. She loves to gel numerous times on runs and everytime she does her paces goes up about a minute. She is nicknamed Happy because she literally says hi to everybody we see running (including the little kid on the bike she almost kicked over). She is like the sister I never had.

Steve aka Trouble. I don't know how he got his nickname but I am guessing it came from his wife, Becky. Steve is a machine. First off, he started running about the same time as me and Crawlin Crab was his first half marathon too. Crazy how paths cross. Second, He is also our elderly member of the group. Sometimes he forgets that he's almost twice my age. I really hope I can be as fast as him when I am older. He is just constantly the always a positive guy. And has a great name too. He is the glue of our gang.

Then there is Mandy aka Meghan aka Amy2. Lol. Mandy joined the training team for the fall and she is training for her first marathon too. She started running with us during mid summer and has been killing it too. I actually think she has the most 20 mile runs under her belt (I think she has run everyone's 20 milers even though we are all training for different marathons). Mandy is also another awesome person to talk with and run with.

Somehow they gave me the nickname Beast (As of last night, my official nickname is El Burrito).

But today I am grateful for all these people. As I have to taper the next two weeks, I will think about all the sweat and miles I have put under my feet with all these people and remember how grateful I am to have such awesome running friends. I can't thank them enough.