Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fighting the post marathon blues

Hey guys, it's me, checking in.  It is one of those nights where I am really forcing myself to write.  It's something that I have been doing for the past week now, avoiding blogging.  I've been putting it off for as long as possible.  Writing now about my day to day life, with no more European adventures or no more marathon training feels weird.  I haven't wanted to go back to writing about something besides the marathon experience because I don't want the experience to be over.

Even when I do another marathon (yes, now it is a WHEN), it will never be the same.  The feeling of surprise and happiness and elation, I can't imagine how it could possibly be the same as the first time around.  I'll never get to relive my first marathon again.  I'll never be able to surprise myself or go in with that feeling of "Holy crap, I never knew I could do this!" and it's a bit sad.  I sort of want to stay in this bubble of happiness and marathon glory for a bit longer.  I wish I could pause time and continue to relish what I worked for and accomplished.  However, with every day that goes by, I feel like my window of time to tell everyone, "I just did a marathon!" continues to tick by.

I gave myself until this past Sunday to continue to eat freely in post-marathon triumph and as of Saturday morning I am back to tracking points and trying to be in control of my diet.  I am running again and exercising with a number of runs under my belt already.  And I am moving on.  Blogging is one of the few things I have left to get back to and some part of me just wants to leave my post-marathon blog entries up and just retire right here.  Peace out blogging world, remember me as Katelyn the Triumphant!

But alas, life goes on, and the blog must go on (well, at least until I turn 30, because then what the hell am I going to do?)

Last week was busy getting back in order with "life stuff" which, I am personally terrible at.  I had to get my car fixed up, pay my taxes, pay some bills, do laundry, clean, catch up on work, restock the fridge, see friends, get a pedicure, and you know, all the important things (pedicure counts as "life stuff," right?)  It was busy and productive and kept me occupied.  I was excited to be home and back in a routine and see friends and speak English and tell them about the marathon and yada yada yada.  Also, my coworker made me this, and I love it (and am never taking it of my cube at work...)

Now, in my second week at home, a case of the post-marathon/European adventure blues have set in.  The reality that life is now back to sitting in my apartment by myself cooking dinner for one and catching up on Parenthood while I do laundry is really sinking and it kind of sucks.

I'm doing what you are supposed to though.  I am signing up for races, running, and putting together a new training plan.  Saturday I did a 5-mile run on my own and Monday I did doubles starting with a 3-mile BEAUTIFUL sunrise run in the morning.

In the evening, I tried something new, which is another item on my "beat the post marathon blues" to do list, and went for a run with a local running group.  They were doing a "pub run" so it was a 3-mile run with a mid-run stop at a local pub for a beer.  It was also sponsored by Mizono so I was able to try a pair of their sneakers on the run and also they paid for the beers!  It was a very cool event and nice group of people so I will definitely try to join more of their runs in the future.  As for the sneakers, although I enjoyed getting to take a new pair on a test run, they weren't for me.  My feet felt numb by the end of my run so I think I will stick with my Saucony's for now.  However, I've got to respect their grassroots marketing efforts and for that I'll say that everyone should go out and at least check out a pair of Mizono's!

I also have been trying other forms of exercise.  I went back to hot yoga on Sunday with Jess, and reconfirmed that I do not think hot yoga is for me.  However, I will continue to try it because everyone says how amazing it is for you.... but essentially I just sweat my life away and can barely get through any of the yoga afterwards.  My skin feels good once it is over but I seriously hate it while it is happening!  Side note: doesn't my face look funny in this picture?  I feel like it looks all deformed shaped?  Maybe it was puffy from the hot room...

I'm also looking towards the future as part of my "beat the post marathon blues" plan.  I have signed up for another marathon actually (ahhhh!!!) in October.  I have signed up for a half marathon in September.  I have started to map out training for the Tough Mudder, Ragner Relay, and Boilermaker race that I was already signed up for.  And I have started to set goals for speed, distance, and fitness.

I'm planning trips - weekend trips and longer trips.  I'm organizing happy hours again.  I'm cooking.  I'm throwing myself into work.  I'm doing whatever it is they say that you are supposed to do and I'll keep doing those things.  Yet a lot of times over the past couple of days I've just wanted to be in bed.  Or in a froyo store.  Or inside of a cookie store when the cookies are just coming out of the oven and I am the official cookie sampler for the store.  That's pretty much all I've wanted as of late.  Is that too much to ask?

So anyways... that's about all that's going on over here.  Oh, except that we've been experiencing a stupid crazy swing of weather.  Yesterday was muggy and warm in the 70s and today it snowed.  Oh, and also, yesterday my car hit 100,000 miles.  Yippee.

I have one of those 10-year, 100,000 mile warranties on my car and of course the 100K hits way before the 10-years, so as of yesterday my car was no longer on warranty.  And guess what happens today when I go to leave work?  My car doesn't start!  I swear, there is some sort of conspiracy going on and I'm just sort of waiting for my car to disintegrate at this point.

However, today especially, my car problems are moot points and I want to reiterate that as I think a little bit back to a year ago today at the last Boston Marathon and what a scary, heartbreaking day that was.

I, and my close friends and family, were lucky that day to all have been safe from physical harm, but I don't know a single person -- Bostonian, runner, or otherwise -- who wasn't otherwise emotionally impacted by what happened on the streets of Boston.  I was then, and I am now, humbled by the police and first responders and those who acted bravely and courageously in the face of tragedy.  I am awestruck and admiring of those who were injured and hurt but have pushed on with their lives, facing each day as it comes.  I am blessed to feel a connection to fellow runners and Bostonians alike and am happy to be a part of this community.  I am planning to be in Boston on Monday to cheer on the runners at this coming marathon and really cannot wait to see the many, many people who will turn up to show everyone what it means to be #BostonStrong.  Thinking fondly and respectfully of those who lost their lives last year, their family, their loved ones, and those they knew. #WeRunAsOne

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Paris Marathon Race Recap 2014: My first marathon!!!!

From the moment I arrived in Paris and from the first time I turned around and saw the Eiffel Tower looking over the city, I knew that the week was going to be an incredibly memorable one.  And even as I sit down now to write my thoughts, I am finding it somehow hard to find the right words because the experience of running my first marathon feels so surreal.  The range of emotions that I have experienced over the past few days is so vast.  I guess I will just start with recapping the day.  Get ready though, because this is going to be a long one.

The morning of the marathon began at 6:30 a.m. when my alarm went off.  Daniella, Jess, and I were all running in the race corral for runners who expected a finish time of 4:30-5:00 hours.  And because this race is so large (more than 40,000 participants) they stagger the start time.  Official start time was at 8:45 a.m. but our corral was expected to start at 9:40.  We planned to leave the apartment around 8:00 a.m. to get over to the race at about 8:30 and with so many of us in the small apartment, we needed time to get ready.  All of us wanted to shower before the race, which might seem weird to some people but I find that I like to feel fresh, awake, and clean before races.

There was good energy amongst us in the morning as we got dressed and had breakfast.  I opted to have a breakfast very similar to what I have eaten before many of my long runs and had bought a box of Special K cereal with dark chocolate bits in it.  I ate a bowl and a half of cereal with milk and lots of strawberries and raspberries in it.  I wanted to be sure I had enough to eat because I have experienced getting hungry on some of my longer runs and didn't want that to happen during the race.  I was really happy with my pre-race meal and glad that I kept with a meal that I am comfortable with.  The Special K is simple and easy on the stomach, the chocolate in it gives me a little sugar (which I like before long runs) and the little bit of milk and berries are just packed with good things.  I also sipped a cup of tea and drank water while we were still at the apartment.  It’s important for everyone to know what is best on your stomach and body (which is something that you learn during training) and having just a little bit of caffeine is good for me so I like tea before running.  I wasn't too familiar with this brand of tea here so I just sipped it to get the tiniest bit of caffeine and help relax me.

I opted to wear the outfit that I had posted on the blog a few weeks ago after much debate.  I knew that the clothing worked functionally well for running but I kept going back and forth as to whether I should wear that outfit or something that I run in every day and that are sort of like a “comfort blanket” of running clothes for me.  I went with the fun outfit and honestly, I also wanted to wear what I had posted because many people tweeted and responded on Instagram about it so I thought it would be fun if maybe some of the people I've been connecting with on social media would recognize me (nobody did.)  I also wore a ribbon tied on my wrist that had come in our race packet bags that was supposedly a marathon “wish band.”  But I wanted it for inspiration.  I also wore a bracelet that I had bought on Nice on my right hand that says “Que du Bonheur” written on it which, in French, means “Only happiness.”  I had bought one for myself and one for Jess as a thank you for her support in training that said “Live your dream” in French on it.  On my left hand I also wore a pace instruction band that listed out what times you need to be at for each 5K mark In order to run a 4:30 marathon. And then my favorite part of my outfit was the gold angel pin I wore on my running top.  It was given to me by my mom before I left for Europe when she came out to visit and is so special because it had been given to HER before she ran a marathon in 2004 and she had worn it during her race!  I loved that I was able to wear this for encouragement and inspiration.

And as for the 4:30 race band.  That was sort of a high goal for me.  For each race I run, I like to have at least an A, B, and C type goal.  For this race, my goals were a bit wishy washy because I really had no clue what was going to happen after 20 miles.  I wanted to finish strong and running.  So that was Goal A – finish strong & running.  My Goal B was to break 5:00 hours.  My goal C was to get as close to 4:30 as possible!!  I knew that on a good day, I could run at least a good portion of the race at the 4:30 pace but I wasn't sure what would happen at the end for the final miles and planned to just take the race as it came.  If it felt hard to run the 4:30 pace early in the race, well, then I would just ignore it completely because I didn't want to tire myself out early.

Race morning was fun because I was also able to open a card that my friend Jenna had sent with me from Albany to open race day.  I have been carrying it around and thought it was the sweetest and most thoughtful gesture.  I loved it!  I also woke up to many text messages and e-mails that had come in through the night wishing me luck.  Including a series of great videos from my home girls that really made me smile.  I've written a few times that I've felt blessed and lucky over the past few weeks to have been afforded the opportunity to travel.  But I also must say how thankful I also am for the incredible support that I've had in my life through this training process from EVERYONE in my life.  Many weekend trips with family and friends over the past few months have included some negotiation of when to fit in my training runs.  At work, my manager and team that I spend my whole days with have been incredible in negotiating meeting times and allowing me to fit in my runs during busy work weeks.  SO many people, many of you readers included, have also been there at the right time to give me pep talks, believe in me, and renew my confidence when it has been needed.  It won’t be the first time I say it in this post, but I am so appreciative to everyone for that and the love and outpouring of good luck and well wishes the 24 hours before the race was so wonderful!

Before leaving the apartment, we took our “official” race photos in the apartment (that you saw above) and then head outside to take the train over to the Arc de Triomphe and get ready to run!  As soon as we walked outside, I thought the weather was perfect.  I brought a long sleeved running top with me that I was planning to wear outside before the race started and then throw away.  I didn't even need to put it on at all though because even at 8:00 a.m. the sun was shining and keeping it warm out.  We stopped for a quick photo op in the middle of the road with the Eiffel Tower!

As we walked to the train, we already started to see other runners out and about and heading towards the race as well.  Once we got on the train, it was just filled with marathon runners, which was a cool site to see.  

When we hopped off the train and exited the metro, the escalator brought us right up into marathon central!  In fact, at the top of the escalator the streets of the Champs D’Elysees was so packed with people that everyone was just getting dumped on top of each other because there wasn't much place to move!

We found our running corral, which was in the back of the pack and immediately got in line to use the rest room.  I had also brought a banana with me that I’d wanted to eat a little bit closer to race time so I ate that at about 8:40 as well when we arrived at the race and first wave of people officially started.  The sun was shining bright in the sky while we waited for the race to start, which was great because it kept us warm!!  I actually didn't even need the long sleeved shirt I had brought at all and before we began running, dropped it on the side of the road as a sacrifice to the marathon.

It was kind of funny because the race booklet says that this run is 80% male but we joked that we needed to get faster because our race corral of the 4:30-5:00 hour runners was mostly female.  The male population of runners must be all in the faster corrals!  While we waited in line for the bathroom we took some pictures (including ones where we made a human pyramid to hoist Dani up to take shots with a nice viewpoint!) and started to chat with other runners and met many other first time marathon runners, including an Israeli woman who lives in Manhattan and one girl from the U.K. who it was her first time running a RACE altogether.  She’d never even run a 5K race!  The race itself is broken down as having 138 different nationalities in it! Dani wore her Mexican flag pinned to the back of her jersey and at the last minute, I pinned the U.S. flag to the back of my jersey.  Proud to be representing the U.S.!

We stood in line for the bathroom for about an hour when our corral started to move forward.  The line for the bathroom was still about 50 people deep if not more and that’s when things started to get a little nerve racking.  There were only TWO porta-pottys per race corral, which was just ridiculous, especially for the women.  Men had these little open urinal things to use and once our corral started moving forward women started squatting over the urinals and also just on the side of the road.  There were NOT enough bathrooms and it was getting much closer to our start.

At first we stood our ground in the bathroom line, but then we decided to move forward as corral behind us started to move past and get closer to the start line.  The race was chip timed so your official time doesn't start until you cross the start, whenever that is, but then it becomes challenging to navigate if you are trying to pass people right at the beginning of the race.  We thought that maybe there would be shorter lines in the corrals closer to the start so we moved forward in search of that.  However, the scene around us showed that people were getting more and more desperate because there were just woman squatting on the ground peeing everywhere on the side of the road.

It’s funny, in running, some personal boundaries can become a little blurred the more you get into it.  It’s not something you realize right away when you start running, but eventually, you develop a closeness with runners that is different from other sports.  I think because it is such an individual and mental sport, yet the community aspect of it is tighter than almost anything else and it bonds you.  So, I won’t get in to details here.  But let’s just say that I did not get to use a porta-potty to go to the bathroom before the race and that I will never be able to think of the Champs D’Elysees in Paris the same way ever again….

And then, without much fanfare, the race began!  We crossed the start line, I started my watch, and we started the run down one of Paris’s most infamous streets, the Champs D’Elysees!  The crowd was packed, the weather was great, the course started slightly downhill on a smothered cobblestone road but the scenery was beautiful.  Jess, Dani and I started together and just took it all in running at a comfortable pace.

About 1 mile in when we reached the Louvre, we saw my friend Ally, who I had spent Sunday with.  It was so wonderful to see a familiar face on the course and I was so appreciative that she came out to cheer!  It was amazing!  Unfortunately, we didn't spot each other at any other points in the course, but it was so wonderful knowing she was out there! Thank you Ally!

The first 5K of the race was pretty uneventful.  We stayed together and just sort of took in the crowd around us.  There were many people with their nationalities somehow represented on them.  Dani made some Spanish speaking friends on account of her Mexican flag.  There were also a few French guys running bandit that we chatted with for a little.  And an Italian woman who just started SOBBING for some reason right at the begin.  They didn’t look like happy tears so I am not sure what that was about. Some runners were dressed up in costume including two men dressed as women with full wigs and another guy dressed as a historical figure with tights, bloomers, and old time-y white wig.  It was sort of fun to run nearby those people though because it got the crowds cheering.  The French word for “Go!” or their encouragement cheer is “Allez” so as you run along you saw lots of signs that said, “Allez ____!” and the fans were cheering, “Allez, allez, allez!!!!”

We hit the 5K mark at exactly 32 minutes, which was the pace time for a 4:30, which felt perfect to us because the pace as good and felt comfortable.  Out loud, we’d never really discussed our goals beyond “finishing” but I think Jess and I at least know our running well enough to know that we could maintain 4:30 pace times for a good amount of the miles, even though we never had that discussion.  We also decided to think of the race as 4 10Ks and a 2K cool down.  26.2 miles translates to 42 kilometers and the race had both the miles and the kilometers marked throughout the course.  I actually liked the idea of doing 4 10Ks and liked tracking my run by kilometers because they would go by faster!  A mile seems so long but a kilometer?  Eh, that’s nothing!  (was what I tried to tell myself!)  When Jess said the plan of the 4 10Ks out loud, another runner chimed in and said, “Sounds good to me!” which was funny.

One of the things that we had noticed throughout the whole week in Paris is that they really, really love their sunglasses and eyeglasses here.  It seems like every street has at least one Optics store on it – they are almost worse that Dunkin Donuts in New England!  Jess and I started counting the Optics stores we passed at around the 3 mile mark and the number quickly went to double digits, which was a fun distraction to try and spot them along the course.

It was also funny because on some of the streets, right next to the race people were just going about their normal lives as if a marathon wasn't taking place next to.  At one point we ran past a little street market where people were browsing clothing and picking out vegetables and not paying attention at all to the marathon.  It struck me as odd because I couldn't imagine that scene in New York City or Boston or Chicago or one of the major race cities in the U.S. that are known for their great fans.  The fans in Paris were definitely not to the same caliber as fans at U.S. major marathons I don’t think, but the ones that were there I was so appreciative of.  I got choked up every time I saw a runner see/connect with their cheering section.  It was great for the morale because the fans would generally get louder and it just was always emotional to see them spot one another.  It reminded me of how great it was to have my family at the race I did in Providence last year.

I ran without music for this whole first half of the race as well, there were different drumming bands throughout the course and I was with my friends too.  It was great to just take everything in.
At about mile 5 or 6 we entered into the Paris zoo, which at first was a little ugly as it is under construction.  Also, many people were stopping to pee along the course there.  When we hit the 10K mark, I checked my watch again and we were still right on pace for 4:30 marathon.  After that I randomly saw a friend, Danielle, on the course who I had met up with the day before (more about that later…) and she ran with us for a little bit before we lost one another.  We also chatted with another American from Atlanta who said he signed up for the race drunk one night with his brother who works for Schneider Electric, the marathon sponsor.

Somewhere between mile 7 and 8, Dani mentioned that her shoe was hurting her and then slowed to a stop yelling that she needed to fix her shoe and for us to keep running.  Now, we’d planned to stay together for the race, but I also know my running well enough to know that it is really, really, hard for me stop running and then start again.  I need to just keep moving.  I’d told my friends this before the race so I just kept running, but slowed my pace a little to hopefully let her catch up after she fixed her shoe.  I looked back and saw that Jess was stopping with Dani.  I kept moving, but just at a slower pace hoping that they’d catch back up.  However, it wasn't long before I lost sight of them when I was looking back behind my shoulder and I started to get really panicky trying to figure out what to do.  Should I really slow down?  Should I stop at a water spot and look for them? 

For the next few miles I kept trying to slow my pace and look back for them.  I ran backwards a few different times trying to look around for the girls.  I was worried that they’d be mad I kept going.  I worried that I would need their support later in the race if I kept running.  I worried that I wouldn't be able to be there for them if they needed encouragement in the race.  And I wanted to experience more of the race together.  I had so much anxiety going through my head while also just trying to keep moving forward and keep the momentum that I had going.  A young French girl started chatting with me for a little and I feel bad because I was very distracted the whole time we were talking.  She kept asking me questions though and it was nice to talk for a little bit even though we had a hard time understanding one another.  I wish I had been a better marathon running buddy to her but felt too distracted at the time about what to do about my friends.

At one point in the run at this time when I was alone and still unsure about what to do, things got really quiet.  We were exiting the park and there were no cheerers along this section.  For whatever reason nobody around me was talking to one another, and things were just quiet.  The only thing that you could hear was the rhythmic pound of everyone’s shoes along the pavement.  It was almost eerie.  No cheering.  No talking.  Just running.

When I ran my first half marathon last year in Nashville, there was a portion of the run where I just looked at the runners all around me and had this feeling overwhelm me of “This is insane!!” I remember just looking around me thinking that I was surrounded by tens of thousands of people who were all out on a Saturday morning running mile after mile in the rain for no reason.  And we had all paid money to do it!  It was an almost comical, laughable feeling that I had and I wondered if I would feel that way again.

I think this portion of the Paris Marathon around mile 11 when it was silent was my equivalent to that feeling during the Nashville race.  It wasn't a laughable feeling though.  The sound of running was beautiful.  And it was hypnotic and therapeutic and it was uniting.  Me and all these people from all over the world were united together in that moment, and for these 42 kilometers, to accomplish something.  And we were all doing it for different reasons, with different motives, and different drives, goals, lives and inspiration to make us run.  Yet we were all hitting the road trying to achieve the same thing and were all doing it the same way, by moving forward one step at a time.

A little after that, when I did the halfway point at 13.1 miles or 21 kilometers, I realized that I needed to let the anxiety I was feeling about wondering where my friends were wash away.  I could feel that I was tired and knew that I was going to really need to focus on the race from there out.  My half marathon time was around 2:14-ish and I could see the 4:30 marathon pace group ahead of me so I decided to put my headphones in and get down to business on focusing on having a great second half of the race.

The beginning of the second half of the race we ran along the Siene and it was a really pretty part of the race being right along the water.  We also ran through a couple of road tunnels that sort of freaked me out a bit!  Now, I personally don’t even like driving through those long tunnels where you cannot see the entrance from where you came or the exit where you are getting out so it was a bit weird to run through a few of those.  However, they also had crazy strobe lights going and music blasting in the tunnels.  In some ways that was fun and broke up the race a bit.  It made me wish my friends were there with me to dance to the music but I pushed that thought aside and instead focused on other things making me a little nervous.  For one, I couldn't really see the ground where I was landing my feet and I knew there were water bottles all along the ground because I could hear them being kicked.  I was nervous I would step on one and twist an ankle or something.  It also got pretty warm with all those runners in the tunnel sweating and breathing heating up the place!

After one of the tunnels at about mile 15 I stubbed my toe at the water stop.  I would always try to keep moving and get to the table and grab some waters.  This time the person in front of me stopped short in front of the table and I stubbed my toe on the back of their foot pretty hard.  I could feel my toe getting warm and what I assumed was some blood rushing to my foot but I tried not to focus on it too much.  It didn't hurt, just felt warm.  I was pretty much not too concerned about what was happening with the rest of my body, as long as it was moving forward one foot in front of the other.

On that note, I will share another thought that went through my head a few times at this point in the race… I had been consuming a lot of water at this point and also eating a number of the Gu Chomps to refuel.  I kept being unsure of whether or not I had to go to the bathroom and wasn't sure if I should stop at any point or not to pee.  I tried to just see how far I could go and didn't want to risk stopping and then getting pee shy.  I decided I would stop to pee if I was literally about to burst, which never really happened.  I did at a couple times in the race… how do I say… pass gas? [I kind of quiver as I write this because I hate talking about “bodily functions” but I feel like I want to give you an accurate representation of my whole mental state throughout the race!]  Anyways, so I passed gas once or twice during the race and I really felt like I was a bit of touch with my body that I actually reached back and checked to make sure that I had indeed just passed gas and not shit my pants, for lack of a better way to put it.  Yes, I actually had to check.  What I would have done had that happened?  I have literally no clue.  However, thank GOD, I did not have to worry about that.

Anywho, moving on… [what was I thinking sharing that??]… then I ran past the Eiffel Tower!!!!

It was pretty cool, not gonna lie.  I wish it had lasted longer but we quickly passed by the Eiffel Tower and was then just back to running.  I kept running and mentally breaking up the race into the different 10Ks.  I started getting that excited “I am going to finish this thing!” as I got to the end of the third 10K.  However, I also was a little scared because I didn't want to get ahead of myself – there was still a LOT of race left!  And the dreaded “wall” that everyone talks about when it comes to marathon training was still ahead of me.  Something I found myself repeatedly saying to myself was “run the kilometer that you’re in” and just focus on the actual moment at hand.

When I finished 30K, I decided to then do a “short 2K” run before my last mental 10K.  I used that time to get myself mentally prepared for the last 10K of the race, which I had heard so much about how terrible it is.

When kilometer 32 began – or mile 20 –I was determined to not hit “the wall.”  In fact, that’s one of the things I kept repeating to myself in my head, AND with much more determination than when I usually speak my mantras to myself.  I just kept saying over and over, “I will NOT hit the wall.  I will NOT hit the wall.” And I used a running technique that I had read about to help run a well paced race.  It said to imagine a fishing pole and to throw out a line, “catch” a runner ahead of me, and then reel them in.  I used this technique to keep my pace going and mentally distract myself for a while.  I passed ~10 runners this way, which kept things feeling really strong.  I wouldn't know it at the time but when I looked at my splits after the race, this was actually my fastest mile split of the whole race! After a little bit, the road narrowed a bit and it was tough to pass people.  And from there on, I used every trick in my book to get me through the end of the race.

I counted the number of songs I was listening to.  I chanted about how many kilometers I had left, “4 kilometers done in a 10 kilometer run,  4 kilometers done in a 10 kilometer run, 4 kilometers done in a 10 kilometer done…” I reminded myself what I was running for, "I'm running for me.  I'm running to eat ice cream.  I'm running for my health.  I'm running for my family and friends.  I'm running because I can.  I'm running because it makes me feel good.  I'm running because I never thought I could do this." and everything else I could think of.

Even when I got to 37 kilometers (only a 5K left) I was feeling excited and then would remember, “You still have 3 miles left…” which would sort of be a slap in the face mentally.  I’d again remember to just run the kilometer I was in.

When it got to about 2 kilometers left, my legs felt like they were running through pudding or water or something.  But, there was no way I was not finishing this thing.  I started to get choked up a lot. 
For the end of the race, a lot of it had been through a park with not a lot of spectators along the race course.  Around 2 kilometers left, it started to get more exciting with finishers walking back, people with champagne, and some enthusiastic fans.  I turned off my music and wanted to experience the end of the race in all of its entirety.  And yes, I just started crying for real with about 1.5 kilometers left.

Much of my thoughts for the last kilometer were just, “where the hell is the finish?!?”  because you didn't even actually see the finish line until it was right in front of you. During the final stretch some of the fans cheering read my name off of my race bib and yelled, “Allez Katelyn!” which, I cannot explain enough how wonderful that was to hear. Although I had been crying for a while, I just started sobbing even more when I saw the finish line and as I crossed it.

When I texted this to my friend Ariel after the race she asked if I was crying out of happiness or out of pain.  And I think the tears were out of every emotion that one can possibly feel.  I was crying out of happiness.  I was crying out of pain.  I was crying out of relief, out of joy, out of excitement, out of exhaustion, and out of just pure, overwhelming, cannot contain it all, EMOTION.

Crossing the finish line was an amazing feeling.

People were ushering the runners forward, but I tried to stick around as I didn't want to get the finisher’s t-shirt or the medal until I had my friends with me.  I tried to stick around and found a little spot to just stand and watched as the finisher’s crossed in front of me looking for my friends.  As I watched other people have that moment of emotion and elation as they crossed the finish, I just kept crying over and over again.  Friends finished hand in hand.  Couples kissing.  People hugging.  Others crying.  It was an insanely awe inspiring sight to see.   I stood there crying and all of a sudden the cutest thing happened.  An older French man who had just finished walked by, saw me standing crying, and took each of my cheeks in the palms of his hands, gave me a reassuring shake/nod, kissed me on the cheek and walked away.  Which made me smile, and of course, cry some more.

I didn't think of it at the time, but as I write this, it reminds me of a quote I've heard often, much last year around the Boston Marathon, but it says, “If you are ever losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”  And after watching the finish for a while, I would have to say that couldn't be more true.

After a while, I started checking my phone to see if I could track my friends, since I didn't see them at the finish when I thought that they should be there.  I got nervous and was getting hungry, and started to walk back.  I also knew I really shouldn't be standing still and should be moving.  So I got my finisher’s t-shirt, medal, and grabbed some food and water.  I initially ate 1.5 bananas, some oranges, and some cracker/cookies that they had at the finish.  I called my mom and I cried some more and started panicking a little about finding my friends. 

However, when I got off the phone with my mom, I somehow miraculously saw Jess and ran hobbled over to her.  It was great to see her  and we reunited, talked about the race, and went to get in line for the massage tent that was sponsored by Tiger Balm. 

It was such a great feeling to see Jess after the race but I think we were both just sort of empty of emotions, except for that we had both finished a marathon.  We were able to connect with Dani, whose phone had died, locate Lama, and create a plan to meet up as soon as Jess and I got our cool down massages.

While we waited in line, something sort of funny happened.  There was a woman who was inside of the massage tent legitimately WAILING.  She was yelling as if she was giving birth to a child, it was so bizarre!  Everyone in line was sort of giving each other the side eye wondering what the heck was going on inside of the tent, but we all still stood our place no matter what.

Following our massage, reuniting with all the girls, and grabbing some food (well, just a beer for me!) we decided to make our way back to the apartment.  Not before taking some pictures though (which, Jess was totally not interested in taking, but we made her)

We were so thankful to have Lama with us, because she was like a mother hen leading us little ducklings around Paris as we were all brain dead and just hobbling around.  She directed us, bought us our train tickets and told us where to go, which was great because my mind was not functioning to be able to do all that in the moment!  Just getting down the stairs to the subway was enough of a challenge for us.  The train doors were open as we were at the top of the stairway and normally, you’d just run down the stairs and hop on the train.  However, in this case we were like… umm… yah, we’ll just get the next one.

The train was filled with other marathoners, and all I wanted to do was tell people that I had run a marathon and that we were all a part of this club together.  There was a group of French men I started to talk to and they had no interest in talking back to me, but I insisted on trying.  As exhausted as I was, I was a marathoner!

When we got back to the apartment, we took turns with the showers and while I waited I lay with my legs up in the air, which felt great.  Lama (our savior!) went out to get us some food and water, which I began eating and drinking as I lay on the floor. However, trying to get up was one of the most awkward things I have ever done in my life.  But once I did, the shower felt so good.

We put on cozy clothes after we cleaned up and ate some pretty intense plates of food… fruit, cheese, bread, eggs, salad, etc. all were consumed as we lounged about the apartment stretching, doing yoga (in a very small apartment!), and making phone calls to family and friends.  We also popped a bottle of champagne and toasted to Dani inviting us to run the race, Jess keeping me going through training, me organizing the trip, and Lama getting us home safely and cheering for us.  It was seriously a great afternoon.

Although we had plenty of food in the apartment, we also made plans to go out to dinner with my friend Ally at an Italian pizza place.  After a few hours we put on real clothes and head out for a victory dinner with our medals on.  I planned to wear that thing for as much as I could before hanging it up on my wall when I got home.  I worked SO hard for that medal and was so proud of it.  

A woman stopped Jess as we were walking down the street and asked what they were for, which we were so proud to be able to explain (and also makes me think that she may have seen other people wearing them too!)  I was having a hard time not telling everyone I saw that I had run a marathon that day... which I did to many people, including our cab drivers and our waiters.  Our group even did a little photo shoot with the medals on, which came out amazing if I do say so myself.

And the pizzas?  Well those were pretty freaking amazing as well.

And the company wasn't too bad either.   It was great to see Ally again and I was so appreciative that she had come and cheered for us.  She wanted to hear all about the race, which we were happy to talk about.

Our group laughed and told stories and giggled and essentially sounded like a bunch of crazy people, but it was a meal filled with so much happiness.  Every bite tasted delicious.  Every sip of beer was spectacular.  And almost every story, every laugh, turned into a belly laugh that we couldn't control.  It was the perfect meal to celebrate running 26.2 miles!

We went back to the apartment, had some desserts, and lay down for some much, much needed sleep.

And I have to admit, there was some talk about sleeping with our medals on, although that didn't happen.  However, there was much more talk about “what next?” and mentions of marathons in Dubai, San Francisco, Italy, Spain, Africa… and many more.  You know, one of my friends this week asked me, “How is life post run?” and I replied that things were going great “post PARIS MARATHON” but that there isn't really such a thing as “post run” because there will always be another run.  And after the Paris experience, I am certain there will be more.

So, I know this was long, but I really wanted to record every moment of what's been going on.  I've got lots more to share about the day before and day after the marathon, but hope you enjoyed my moment by moment experience!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Settling back in

Hey guys, it's been a few days so I figured I should check back in and let you know that I'm alive, my legs are still working, and I'm back stateside.  I flew back on Tuesday and went into work yesterday and today for full long days.  I seem to have beat the jet lag for the most part (knock on wood, I'm pretty good at jet lag...) and have just been trying to get caught up with life stuff that I neglected while I was away and keep my head above water with work!

Jess and I kept with our regular routine and met Wednesday morning for a run, despite having only been apart for less than 12 hours!  The snow has finally melted and we were able to run on the bike path again, and followed up the run with coffee & chats.  Although I did not enjoy having to layer up for a run again, I did enjoy getting to see Aubrey.  Plus, I rocked my Paris Marathon t-shirt I had bought at the expo.  Don't you love it?  I do!

I felt good on the run but I think I jinxed myself a little bit thinking that I had made it out of the marathon without injury or real pain.  I was sore but no pain... right now I feel like I stressed something in my hip.  I spent this morning at the gym stretching and foam rolling and I think that might have actually aggravated something.  It's felt a bit inflamed all day today and I can feel it popping around while I walk.  I do not want to aggravate it more and I am pretty disappointed that it's feeling funky.  Fingers crossed there are no problems when I wake up in the morning!

It's a little weird to transition to being home but I am happy to see my friends again and looking forward to spending a full day on my couch this weekend hopefully catching up on some TV shows!  ALSO, I am working on blog entries about the race itself.  I really want to do it justice so they are going to be long and probably will include a lot of detail and information that you won't care about.  But these entries will be for ME to always remember what will probably always be one of my favorite days!

Happy Thursday, talk soon!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Paris Marathon complete!

Hey guys, I just wanted to write a quick note to let you know that I finished the Paris Marathon today in a time of 4:37:25.  It was a completely amazing, out of this world experience and I am so proud of myself.  I cried for the complete final two kilometers of the race.  Happy cries.  And also for about 30 minutes after the race finished as I tried to find my friends and talked to my mom on the phone.

I'll give a full recap when I am back in the States but I am going to spend the next couple of days celebrating and enjoying the rest of my vacation.  I cannot believe that I really did the race and in that time, it was and is, a very, very happy day for me.

Here are a few pics but I wanted to say thank you to everyone who helped support and cheer for me throughout the training.  I couldn't have done it without all of you!!  XOXO.

The fun part.

When this post goes live, I will be running a marathon.  Over the course of the marathon training I have been going through waves of anxiety and questioning myself.  Can I really do this?  Will I be able to healthily finish this race and feel good about myself?  It was less than a year ago on April 24th that I wrote the post "Why this is such a big deal" about my half marathon I was about to run.  The half marathon I ran last year changed something for me mentally.  When I crossed that finish line I thought to myself, "maybe I could run a full marathon."

Before that finish line, running a half marathon was something that seemed near impossible for me.  Now, a half marathon has seemed like a short run to me mentally.

A marathon is the runner's Everest.  It is IT. I've barely been able to call myself a runner mentally and now I am about to climb Mount Everest.  I want to do this marathon and I want to succeed while doing it.

However, no matter what my time is, no matter what happens on the course, I am already a champion.  I have already succeeded because I have gotten to this point.

Happy Running Everyone!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Paris marathon race expo and random musings

So guys, a lot to post today and I think I might do it in bullet points.  Let's get to it.

1.)  On Thursday night late in the evening the rest of our Paris Marathon crew arrived!  You guys remember Dani from posts last year?  Well I hadn't seen her since October when she moved away to California (rude) and our friend Lama I hadn't seen since last year after she moved away to Dubai (ruder!)  Anyways, it was such a fun reunion and we started having a great time with lots of laughs right away.  Also, it's kind of awesome when friends show up with presents from Dubai in the form of super cute tee shirts :) Thank you Lama!

2.)  Yesterday we went to the race expo.  It was a massive affair and so much stuff to look at.  I love these race expos and always look forward to them.  This one was no disappointment and it was exciting to finally be there, surrounded by other runners, and absorbing all the energy.  I kept going back and forth between choking up with emotions and excitement, and wanting to throw up out of nervousness.  At the expos there are always a few things that you will get with every one... lots of opportunities for pictures and there is often a wall where people can write about why they are running or what motivates them.  They get me every time.  There were a few people who had on Boston shirts and seeing them just made me want to cry every time.

3.) Jess and I also ran to the expo yesterday, finishing 2 miles, which was the last of our training runs.  Which means, I COMPLETED TRAINING FOR A MARATHON!  And aside from 2.5 miles that I missed while I was in Romania and didn't have enough time on the treadmill to do a full 8 on a Wednesday (I did 5.5 instead) I seriously did not miss a SINGLE MILE of the training.  I ran through snow, sleet, slush, wind, rain and FREEZING weather.  I seriously need to keep reminding myself of this because it was an insane accomplishment on its own.  I'm really proud of myself for that.

4.)  This morning there was a 5K "Breakfast Run" that runners, friends, and family could participate in.  Jess and I opted not to do a 5K the day before the marathon but Dani and Lama both ran so we went over in the AM to meet them and cheer.  It ended up being a really fun event and everyone was there representing their different countries with flags and cheering.  There was loud music and it was awesome.  I danced a ton and it got rid of some nerves and made me excited for this race tomorrow!  It was also fun because just in our group alone we had a lot of countries represented in our group alone... the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and UAE!

5.)  When I was walking to meet my friends for dinner the other night, I all of a sudden turned around and there was an amazingly beautiful sunset behind me.  Love. It. Here.

6.) Our bags that we got from the race expo had some great stuff in it, including pistachios that I ate almost immediately.  And also a head lamp!  Since we run in the mornings back in Schenectady, head lamps are a MUST and I'm pumped to now have a back up.

We also got a really informative booklet that came with a lot of information about the race tomorrow.  There was a list of important tips to prepare for the race the night before and we've been laughing about one of the items on the list for the past day now.  Hint: prepare your bandages.

7.)  We went to the top of the Eiffel Tower before the race expo as well.  It was amazing!!

8.)  I apparently am really proud of myself for finishing this training plan because I just went to write that down again and then realized that I had written it for #2.  Guys, I COMPLETED TRAINING FOR A MARATHON THROUGH THE WORST WINTER IN AGES!

9.)  This is how you CARB LOAD!

10.)  Throughout Europe these past few weeks I have been wearing these bracelets.  I have a number of different Alex and Ani bracelets and I brought these three because they are special and meaningful to me for this race.  One says "Daughter" one is a "Starfish" and one says, "It's not a sprint, it's a marathon."

11.) These past few weeks have been incredibly amazing.  I cannot believe all the wonderful things I have been able to see and do since I left my apartment at the beginning of March.  I've loved every minute of it.  Over the past 24-48 hours I have started to have some real race anxiety and panic.  I may have cried.  I may have been grouchy.  I may have doubted whether or not I could do this at all.  And by may, yes, yes, I have been totally panicking.  It's been a struggle to get my mind in the right place and I finally think I am there.  I'm really excited and looking forward to the race tomorrow.  As someone posted on my Facebook page, "The marathon is the fun part."  I seriously almost forgot that and as soon as I remembered, I was determined to keep that in my mind.  I did the hard part of the long training runs alone in the cold, so this is it.  This is the fun part!  Happy running people :)

12.) I realized right before posting that I had miscounted, which is why I have 11 items.  There was going to be 10, but then I miscounted.  Then I wanted to do another one so that I could tell you I miscounted.  So... now there is 12.  That is all.