How I ran to Marathon #20

I got a very peaceful nine hours of sleep last night.  A much needed rest from the total chaos of work lately.  Today, I’m off.  So, besides just relaxing and trying to catch up with myself, and blog reading and writing, I will try to get out for a run today.  After all, I can’t forget that I have a pretty monumental marathon coming up in the not so distant future.

My last marathon, the New River Marathon, was over six weeks ago now.  Plenty of down time, plenty of recovery.  Time now to really get serious and focus on the next challenge.  Yep, marathon # 20 is just 32 days away!  Just typing that is just unbelievable to me.  Twenty marathons!  Back in 2010 when I first started cranking out two and three mile runs I never would have guessed that this day would arrive.  It’s a pretty amazing achievement.

I think that because this running adventure I’ve been on is about to hit another big milestone, I have really started lately reflecting back on marathons I’ve run up until now.  Each one has a story, and each one a medal of achievement.  A momento of accomplishment.  My race medals are loosely displayed on a book shelf in my bedroom.  Hung over books.  Dangling from shelves.  Wrapped around nic knacks.  Some days I don’t pay them much mind, but lately I have been looking at them more.  They tell quite a story of my journey.

I trained, I trained hard!  I hit the starting line in Myrtle Beach in February of 2012 with zeal!  Unknowing of where my running journey would take me.  I ran my heart out, completely unaware of what lie ahead.  It hurt, and I could barely walk back to the car, but with a 3:33:24 finish, I knew it wouldn’t be my last marathon.  What a sense of accomplishment.  I felt like I had achieved something very special.  Running that marathon changed me.  I felt like a Super Hero.  I knew about an hour later that Myrtle Beach would not be a one and done marathon for me.

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My inexperience and lack of respect for the distance immediately took over.  A few days later I signed up for another marathon the following month,  I needed that high again.  Marathon #2 at Tobacco Road proved a big bust.  Thinking I was Ironman, I went out with the 3:30:00 pace group, and clipped away great with the pack until about mile 7.  Miles 8-26.2 I quickly learned to respect the marathon distance, as I cramped, and limped, and struggled to a 4:11:27 finish.  I learned a lot that day.  The most important thing I learned was that this journey for me was not going to be all about speed.  I needed more than that.  I needed to learn lessons.

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Each marathon that has come and gone since then has been a learning experience.  Gaining knowledge about myself, and this sport I love.  I continue to love the marathon.  Each one is unique.  One of the things about running that has really come front and center during my journey is that I not only run with my feet, but with my eyes.  I need scenery.  Views.  I haven’t run Tobacco Road again because the course is monotonous and boring.  It’s a shame too, because it is a local race for me.

Once I figured out that speed wasn’t everything I still struggled over the next few races I ran.  Why?  Lack of experience.  Lack of knowledge on how my body responds to and the correct training I need.  It’s all a learning experience that just takes time.  My next marathon, the Outer Bank Marathon several months later was run with Plantar Fasciitis.  An epic fail.  A race I should not have even run.  That 4:13:58 finish still holds the record for my worst finish.  I learned lessons in the OBX though that I still hold on to today.  I listen to my body more now, I train smarter, I eat better, and proper hydration will make or break a race no matter how fast you run.

Marathons #4 and #5 were both finishes over 4 hours.  Asheville was all about the weather (8 degrees with windchill at the start) and Blue Ridge is considered the toughest road marathon in the United States.  Of my four hour plus marathon finishes the Blue Ridge Marathon was my biggest success.  A monumentally difficult course, I almost broke four hours, and ran a great, and smart race.  That 4:04:59 finish I consider one of my proudest accomplishments.

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By this point, my marathon journey was a year and a half in the making, and that 4:04 in Virginia back in 2013 was my last 4 hour plus marathon.  Lessons learned, new skills and techniques put to use.  Live, run, and learn.  I ran my marathon PR later that year at the City of Oaks in 3:32:24, and followed that up with a 3:41:41 in Las Vegas two weeks later.  By the end of 2013 is when I truly felt like I had learned enough lessons to really consider myself a seasoned marathoner.

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So many more races have come and gone since, and I still am enjoying every moment.  As I count down the days to my 20th marathon, I say thanks for my health.  I revel in the journey, as every mile has brought me to where I am today.  Marathon #20 will be run in Colorado on July 19th.  The Rockies Marathon will be a stepping stone for me.  It may get me to Boston.  It may not.  It will be a new adventure, and the perfect way to celebrate my journey.  A journey that will continue for another 20 marathons after that one, if I’m lucky.  With the Chicago and New York Marathons later this year, all I can say is that I am so lucky and proud to call myself a marathoner.

Wrightsville Beach Marathon Countdown

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In just 20 short days I will be running marathon #11 on the coast of North Carolina.  Will I be ready?  I hope to be.

I planned on using a marathon at this time of year to really push toward a Boston Qualifying time.  This may be my chance, and then again it may not.  Coming off my marathon in Hilton Head a few weeks ago, where the focus was not on Boston, I have been getting in a few really good training runs.  The biggest problem I’m having, and it really started at the beginning of the year, is really tight hamstrings.  Honestly, I think I’ve probably injured them a bit.  They tend to loosen up a good bit during a run, but they just feel stretched and strained.  I just am not sure that I will be able to pull off the speed it will take me to get that BQ, not feeling 110%.

Regardless of pace, I plan on giving it my best shot.  I have not run this race before, so this is a first time event for me.  Plenty of great comments abound about previous years, so it should be a great time.  Originally, I planned on participating in the Asheville Marathon, but due to family obligations I had to bow out of that race.  Wrightsville Beach worked out as a perfect replacement.

So, the training plan leading up to the race.  Nurse my hamstrings for sure.  Stretch and roll, and often.  This past week was the first week I gotten in five runs in a weeks time since December.  For that, I am hopeful.  The weather seems to be cooperating, as temperatures have been on the milder side for a week, so that really helped my attitude, in getting me out on the road more often.  I plan on getting in about 20-25 miles both this week and next.  Starting on March 8th, I am taking the week off completely, so that my legs, feet and hamstrings will be as fresh as possible for race day.  That also coincides with a planned vacation, and wow, am I really looking forward to that!  Upon my return, I will have one overnight at home and then head to the beach.

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Ah, the beach…..what a glorious sight that will be.  I know, it’s only been two weeks since I was at another beach, but I am already looking forward to it again.  You can bet that I will be dipping my post marathon feet in the surf immediately following the post race festivities.

Wrightsville Beach will be my third marathon of the year.  All at the coast.  The last two in South Carolina, this one in North Carolina.  It’s actually kind of odd that on race day, there are three Marathons in North Carolina alone.  A busy marathon day around the country, but equally as busy just in my home state.  The Asheville Marathon in the mountains, which I ran last year.  The Tobacco Road Marathon here in central NC, which I ran two years ago, and Wrightsville Beach Marathon at the coast.  I guess locals can pick and choose.  I think it would actually benefit these three races in NC if they weren’t held on the same exact day.  Marathon Maniacs, and wanna be maniacs would flock to NC for easy chances to qualify.  In my opinion, at least one of these races should change to a Saturday from a Sunday, allowing for that elusive double marathon.  Two marathons in one weekend.  Maybe start in the mountains on Saturday, and end at the beach on Sunday.  That would be great!

Well, with less that three weeks to go, I am hopeful.  My plan is in place, and I will execute it the best way I know how.  Enough rambling, time to lace up and hit the road.