Keeping the Pace: Let the Good Times Roll

With tomorrow morning comes a new training session with MIT. New faces, new runners, new goals, new challenges, new triumphs and even new hardships. No more cold or snow (although it is Ohio), no more falling on the ice or shuffling along the trails like a Penguin with 96 layers of clothing on. Nope. It will be sun and summer and humidity and 109 + temperatures and sweating like dogs, for sure (unless you’re like me and you sweat like that anyway). We just figure out how to run in the winter and now we will figure out how to run in the summer – just in time for winter again. And there will be rain, of course, but it’s okay, you already survived 7 floods and a monsoon.

 

And, so it goes. A new adventure waiting, just around the corner. But who could ever forget the roller-coaster we just get off of? It was a splendid season riddled with joy and heartbreak – one that I will not soon (or ever) forget. It was my first season as a Pace Coach for the 13 minute mile group, and I can’t wait to do it again. While these past six months have been some of the worst in my entire life, they have also been some of the best. Thanks to you, Lucky 13’s, and your persistence, dedication, encouragement and perseverance. I have never been more proud to call myself a runner. The personal triumphs you succeeded in this season were astounding – many of you crossing the finish line of your first half marathon ever – after what was undoubtedly a tough training season. Not to mention, you triumphed as friends and teammates to help me get through a loss greater than any I have ever experienced before. When I wanted to quit, you were in fact the ones that kept me going.

 

From start to finish, your strides have taken you on a journey that you should be proud of. And whether you join us again on the trails tomorrow or next season or not at all – I hope you continue on the path you have found yourself on. Have faith and believe in yourself, because you are all wonderful, caring, inspirational people who have the power to succeed in your endeavors.

 

Just look at what you accomplished already –

 

Snow Runs with the Lucky 13’s…
Dark runs too …

 

A weekly dose of humor from our fearless leader, Duane…

 

Fun runs on the trails with friends…

 

Did I mention rainy runs?

 

An Expo party for the stars…

 

Remembering my mother when others forgot…

 

You made it to the Starting Line of Cap City…

 

With smiling faces …

 

And may have cried a little too …
And you finished Cap City …
You have the bling (and a picture) to prove it!
We met Bart Yasso ..

Through it all, you supported one another …

 

Here’s to a great season past and a new one to come!

 

Until the next mile marker,

Pittsburgh Part 3 of 3: Finishing is Forever

Need to get caught up? 

Pain is temporary, Finishing is forever.”

Maybe it was the delirium (I really felt like I was out of body at times), but after Mt. Washington, things started to get very emotional for me. I remember thinking, as Amy and I picked up the pace on even terrain again, there was no way I should be this tired only half way through a marathon. What was wrong with me? I also couldn’t help thinking that I was hungry. Really hungry. If I had food, I knew I would start to feel better. I needed more than GU. My mind began to wonder. My mom had originally planned to be at the halfway point with a banana – a traditional she started on my first 18 mile run which I ran successfully alone. My mom found me on the trails at Mile 15 that day and delivered a banana to me. It was pre-peeled, completely giant and the best banana I ever ate in my life. It caused no stomach issues so I was hooked!

My husband was supposed to meet me halfway to give me a banana (my dad made sure he had like 12, just in case), but I didn’t know exactly where I would find him. I couldn’t help thinking maybe I would see my Mom instead. Maybe she would tell me how she just had to go away for a little while, but she was back just in time because she wouldn’t miss the banana exchange for the world. Where were you, Michael?

Then, out of nowhere, I saw him on the course. He had the camera out and was snapping photos like a madman. He was smiling and said, “I have your banana! I have it!” Amy said make sure I was running for the camera. I think I was – I would run anywhere for a banana at that point. I ate one and Michael said, “That’s it?” and looked at the remaining 11. I think I nodded and laughed. Amy declined a banana. I told him I was tired and the hill sucked. He said, “I know, I just walked up it looking for you.” Why?! I thought. He videotaped us for a minute, asked me some questions about how I was feeling, gave me some water and watched us until we turned the bend into what I’m sure was another hill. At least Mt. Washington was over.

As we came down the hill, I saw we were nearing the next [unofficial] relay point. My eyes scanned the area with excitement – who was next?! I was not disappointed when I saw it was LeDawn. 

The Exchange between Amy, LeDawn and Me.

She was serious, ready to run. The hand-off of Diane’s bib went smoothly. I remember LeDawn asking how I was doing; Amy said something I couldn’t hear. “Oh God,” I thought, “I must be bad.” LeDawn nodded and assumed the position by my side. She asked me how I was doing; I don’t remember what I said. I heard Amy yell, “Do not let her quit. Don’t let her stop.” Yes, don’t. It was hurting.   

And we were off – slowly. I was mostly walking by now. I was trying to keep it quick, to maintain some sort of a decent pace, but my quads were screaming. My foot hurt – the heel, which was something I had never felt before. Mostly, though, my quads were done. They protested for the remainder of the race. I tried to ignore their screaming. It didn’t work.

I didn’t talk very much at first on my leg with LeDawn. She told me about scheming for Operation Pittsburgh and about the ones who couldn’t be there, but were cheering me on from home. She told me she hadn’t slept all night. On top of that, all of these women just finished the Cap City Half Marathon – I didn’t know LeDawn would be with me for the next six miles. She had to be hurting too.

I don’t remember when it happened exactly, but I know I was jogging when I suddenly slowed to a walk (again) and burst into tears. LeDawn looked back at me in horror and said, “What’s wrong?! What happened?!” I wailed, “I miss her so much!!” LeDawn came to my side and hugged me. I think she was crying too and she said, “I know. We all do.” I cried for the next mile or two, it felt like. I couldn’t help thinking how my mom was supposed to be there. Supposed to be in Pittsburgh to watch me run – supposed to be there to cheer my across the Finish Line of what was to be the biggest accomplishment of my life. She never doubted I cold do it. And either did LeDawn. She told me it was okay to let it all out, don’t try to keep it inside. The pain was real and I didn’t have to suffer alone. I told her I know, that’s why I kept whining about my quads. She said, “I was talking about the grief.” It wasn’t until later that I realized what she meant. It wasn’t until later that I realized that was the whole point – everyone was there in Pittsburgh because of me. Because I in fact was not alone.

My mind drifted back and forth between thinking about my mother and worrying about whether or not I would finish the race before the course closed. I was off pace, I knew it and I was running out of what little steam I had left. Don’t. Stop. Miss. Mom. Why? Why are you doing this? Why? Did she have to go? Why? Finish? Why? Does it matter? Now? You have to finish. You don’t have to finish. She would understand. LeDawn understands. Dad does too. You don’t. Faster. Faster. Slow down. That hurts too much. You’re going to loose. Who thought you would win? Mom did. LeDawn does. Keep running. You’re a failure. Run faster.

Eventually, the worry about finishing in time invaded my mind and became first and foremost in my thoughts. It consumed me. I kept asking LeDawn if I was going to finish. She recounts it well, “I loved answering her doubts on my 6 mile trek with her. YES you will finish. YES you can do this. YES you are a MARATHON-GIRL. This is your race – your day! These are things she tells US every week when she coaches our runs together. It was our turn to tell her!” I tried my hardest to believe her. My mom would have. 

I kept moving. I never stopped. It was Mile 20-something when my quads pushed their way into the front of my head. I started asking LeDawn if she thought I had enough time to finish the race. She reassured me again and again and again. WHY couldn’t I believe her?!

From behind us, we hear emergency vehicles and the sound of vehicles. I looked behind me and saw an ambulance, a couple of police cars, a race vehicle and a few other runners. Uh-oh. Cry now or later? LeDawn said, without turning around, “what is that?” I said, “I think it’s the end of the race.” Really? “No, it can’t be,” she said, “You have seven hours.” LeDawn turned around and then looked me dead in the eyes.

“Start running,” she said.

Run?! Somehow I did. LeDawn said the worst that would happen is they would catch us – which they would, eventually – but we would keep running.

They caught up to us. We knew they would. I didn’t find that much energy. The race crew told me I could keep going, finish the race, but the streets were opening and we would have to move to the sidewalks. I was ecstatic. LeDawn looked worried. Keep running, she told me. I tried. On the sidewalks nonetheless. My quads hated every single crack I plodded over. God. This sucks.

Run-walk-walk-walk-jog a little and walk some more. LeDawn and I counted down the miles. She told me I was doing great. She told me I would make it – even if they closed the whole thing down; we were going until Garmin said 26.2. No doubts.  

The next thing I remember we came upon Amy and Mandy and Deb – they were holding signs and cheering me on wildly. My heart soared. It was time for the last exchange. Deb started running with me again. I told her I was worried about finishing. She told me my sister Mollie was supposed to run the last leg with me, but they couldn’t find her. I was happy just knowing she would do that for me after dealing with her own IT Band injuries. It really didn’t occur to me that I might want to worry since they said they couldn’t find her in a very large, very strange city!

Mile 23? Maybe 24? We started coming down the hill and I saw Mollie waiting in the middle of the road. She was dressed to run – a far cry from the jeans and sweatshirt she was wearing the last time I saw her on the way to the start line.  Plus, last I heard after her big finish at Cap City, she was planning never to run again!

Me and Mollie before the race.

The final exchange took place. Mollie asked me how I was doing and I think I gave her an evil stare. We were jogging downhill now – I remember how badly I just wanted to be done. I told Mollie I was never doing this again. She said, “Oh, okay, what about the Goofy?” I don’t think I answered.

My nerves overwhelmed me completely for the first time since the start line, I was worried about finishing. The streets were opening and people resumed normal, Pittsburgh early Sunday afternoon life. We had to stop for traffic and crosswalks and wait for the lights to change, move out of the way of street vendors, and share the sidewalks with pedestrians. My sister said the Finish Line was still up and she knew where to go. She walked the course backwards looking for me. Somehow, I don’t think I believed her that the Finish Line was still up. I looked behind me and saw a few runners trailing behind us. We talked to a woman right behind me who said her husband had already finished the run – she had been talking to him on her cell phone. She was in tears and said she could not finish because it hurt too much. I told her to keep going, we were going to finish and we were all going to make it to that line. She kept up with us for a long time until we started running again. I kept looking back to check on her and she never let us out of her site.

I knew we were coming into the home stretch, even though I could actually see the finish line. I also knew there was a big yellow school bus with “Pittsburgh Marathon” imprinted on the side tailing eerily close to me and my sister. It tried to pull up next to us, but I ran some more. “They are going to make me get on the bus now,” I told Mollie. She said, “What are they going to do? Tell you that you can’t be on the sidewalks?” I tried to laugh.

The bus pulled up in front of us, blocking our path and causing me to come to a complete stop – the first time I did during the whole race. The doors opened and a man jumped out and walked up to us with his arms outstretched in a “Stop” gesture. My sister, standing between me and the man in protest, said before he could even open his mouth, “She’s not getting on that bus.” He said something we couldn’t hear. My sister said again, “Okay, but we’re not getting on that bus.”

I couldn’t hear what the man was saying and for all their screaming to stop, my quads were now begging me to start moving again. The man said this was the last bus. We could keep going, but we were on our own. No more buses. What? We were already on out own. No one would come get us? I didn’t expect them to. I looked at the faces of the other people sitting in the seats and they didn’t look happy at all. They were all staring at me and my sister as the man explained what was happening. “You can keep going, but this is officially the last bus, ladies.” My sister gave him an evil look and said, “Thanks, but we’ll pass on the bus.” He threw his hands in the air and said he was just a volunteer before climbing back on board. The bus lumbered down the street ahead of us. I looked behind me and saw the woman who was following us. She asked if we should have gotten on the bus. I said no and we started moving gain. The three of us hung together for some time – my sister flawlessly navigating the crowded sidewalks and streets. I would have never of found the Finish Line without her. It didn’t even look like there had been a race course.

Runners who had already finished the race passed us going the opposite direction. They were wearing medals and swapping stories with their friends. When they saw we were still racing, they moved to the side – some of them even cheered and clapped and said I wasn’t far. I told someone I had been hearing that for the last 6 miles or so. He said, “Yes! The last six! You’ve got this!”

Another runner zoomed past us – clearly finished, but still running. Geesh, I thought, that must be nice. I heard him talking to the woman behind me. It was her husband. She was crying and saying it hurt – a lot. I could relate. He held her hand and started pulling her along with the help of another guy. “You’re almost there,” I heard him say. She yelled to me, “This is him! My husband! I found him!” I asked him if he thought we would make it and he said, “You bet you will, you all will!” She as clinging to him and we all kept moving. I wondered, “Where was Michael?”

Right in front of me. He came around a corner and fell into stride with Mollie and I. ‘I was getting worried,” he said, “They were closing the streets.” He had my dad on the phone – also worried. Michael said, “Your dad wants you to know, you don’t have to finish. We’re proud of you no matter what.” I think I gave him an evil stare. “I will finish if I have to crawl there.” He told my dad and no one said anything else about not finishing. I screamed to the lady – still behind me – “this is my husband too!” Michael told me I was almost there. This time I was, I could feel it. “They’re waiting for you,” he said, “Medals and all.” A volunteer came right up next to me pointed, “They’re waiting for you – just right there! You can see it now!”

I came down the street and saw the Lucky 13’s right away. They were screaming wildly! I don’t know how they got there before me – I think I was moving really slow.

I started to run. I think I crossed the Finish Line running. The Race Director was there, he gave me a medal and I burst into tears. He got food and water and told me to eat because I needed it. I remember my Dad and Michael and everyone hugging me. Including a guy I didn’t know who said he was there alone, had gotten lost on the course, and was following us since the last few miles. “I wouldn’t have finished without you ahead of me,” he said. The lady finished too. I hugged her and her husband.

There were pictures and people handing me pretzels and bananas and water. 

LeDawn, Deb, Mandy, Duane, Mollie, Me and Amy at the Finish Line.

 

Me at the Finish Line!

Duane told me I did not look like I just ran 26.2 miles. I assured him that I did:

I may or may not have been complaining in this photo. 

I had 917 million different emotions when I crossed the line. And I couldn’t help thinking that I couldn’t believe I just finished a Marathon. No really, a Marathon?

I went up to the race director – who was still ushering some runners in and thanked him for keeping the line open for us. I told him about my mom and showed him my back bib. He gave me a hug and said he would leave the course open all day, if the city would let him. I said I was sorry I took so long.

He looked at me in what I believe was horror (I couldn’t exactly tell through his sunglasses) and said, “Honey, I coach a high school Cross Country team when I am not doing this and let me tell you something – If I onlynot have a team.” worried about my fastest runners, the ones who come in first, I would

I looked at the Lucky 13’s and my family and said, “This is my team.”

I knew my Mom was smiling down from Heaven then. My heart ached to hear her voice, to feel her arms wrapped around me in a bear-hug. “You did it,” she would have said, “I always knew you would.”

I did it, Mom. 26.2 in 2011. Just like you said I would.

Me and my Mom after my first Half Marathon, August 30, 2009

Until the next mile marker, 

Pittsburgh Part 2 of 3: A Race to Remember

I was already awake when the hotel wake-up call service pierced the silence with the insanely loud ringing of the telephone at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday. My alarm clock never did go off.

I took a quick shower to wake up, got dressed, laced up my shoes, put on my Grace Band, woke Michael up and headed down to the lobby to meet Suzi, Duane and my family for breakfast. Somehow I was late too. I ate a non-toasted English muffin with some peanut butter with some watered-down orange juice (not my choosing) and downed about three glasses of lemon water.

Clearly, I was not really ready to be social or to run or anything at 5:30 a.m. on what was only the biggest race day of my entire life:

Seriously, am I really about to cry?

Not to mention, my stomach was a mess. Thanks, Bravo! Or, should I say, thanks nerves!? Regardless of which to thank, I was seriously wondering if I would even be able to make it to the van without using the bathroom, let alone run 26.2 miles. Just my luck, right? Just my worst nightmare. Bathroom issues.

We loaded into the car and headed back into the city. We were supposed to meet Laurel and Kim – two of out MIT teammates – at the Westin, but traffic was stacked up (again) so we grabbed a spot in the first parking garage we came to. My stomach was literally turning in circles. I don’t think anyone could have said anything to calm me down.

Duane followed us in his car and parked near us (not that my eyes weren’t glued to his car or anything).  We all got out and got our bibs situated. I think I stabbed myself with the safety pin about three times before Suzi helped me. I wore the bib in honor of my mother in my back. Suzi pinned in on straight for me and we caught the elevator to street level. It was misty and cool – perfect weather in my opinion. Too bad my stomach wouldn’t cooperate.

Thank you Races 2 Remember

There was the traditional paparazzi photo extravaganza. My mom would have taken 17 pictures with 42 cameras for all of us. Thankfully, Michael, my Dad and Mollie managed without a hitch:

Duane, Me and Suzi.

 

Me and my sister Mollie

The sun was rising and the humidity began to rise only slightly, still, I was slightly worried. I didn’t want to be hot. Clearly, I decided to stick with my blue theme, which is why I am wearing pink. Thank you VSX for a super-comfortable, super-light, feels-like-you-are-running-naked race outfit. I picked it out just Friday and wore it Friday night in order to not have to wear anything new on race day:

Me before the big race!

I checked and re-checked myself. Bibs? Check! Grace Band? Check! Suzi to run the Half? Check! Duane running with as much as his calf would allow? Check! Garmin?! Check! Whew. I thought I forgot it for a second. Sister? Dad? Check! Check!

My mind was spinning. I didn’t want to run today. Not at all. Not this race. Not without my mom there to cheer me on. It hurt. Bad, almost unbearably. I wanted to go home. The thing is, I knew everyone would understand if I did. I knew I had the most acceptable reason in the world for backing down – for running the half at the last minute – for calling it quits. I knew people, especially my family, would understand. My dad told me three weeks ago if I wanted to skip Pittsburgh, he would understand, the money didn’t matter, the time and travel were trivial. I even thought my mom would understand. I, apparently, was the only one who would not.

I pondered my options, I mean really thought about calling game over.

So, there I was, standing alone on a crowded street – runners everywhere – when out of nowhere someone tackled me from behind in a bear hug, arms clenched around my neck. Then another, and another, and another. Four of them. First instinct when this happens to you in a big, strange city with your friend, family and coach staring at you mouths hanging open in disbelief? Run for your life!!!!!

Or, on seond thought, try to figure out what is going on. If you do this, you will be unbelievably and pleasantly shocked! It was the LUCKY 13’s!!!!! I could not believe my misty-eyes as reality sunk in. They came to cheer me on! I was in total shock:

They told me the story piece-meal and it was impressive to say the least. A very pregnant and very ecstatic Mandy drove them from Columbus to Pittsburgh at 2:00 a.m. to make it in time for the start of the race. “I thought you guys might come to the Finish Line, but I never expected this!” I exclaimed. They had planned to surprise me, but amazingly in a sea of over 17,000 people they ran into me on their way to the start line. What?!?!?! Mandy said there was no way they could not tell me they were there. I was thrilled – they were even wearing MIT shirts so I could spot them on the course. Brilliant!

And so it began. My crew it tow, we filtered through the racers and spectators to the start line. We couldn’t find Corral E. We asked about a thousand people before we discovered it was way on the other side of where we already were. They were checking bibs to let people through. It was time to part from our friends and my family. Me, Duane and Suzi set off into a city of strangers. I was nervous.

Then, from out of the blue we heard familiar voices calling our names? What?! It was Laurel and Kim! How was it that we randomly ran into our racing partners at the last minute? Unbelievable. I looked to the Heavens and thought, “Alright, I get it, I’m running this race whether I like it or not. Done deal, no backing out now. Clearly that would be unacceptable to You.” Suck it up, Wyen and run. Got it.

We waited in our corral for what seemed like forever – I do believe it was like 20 minutes or so. I was annoyed that I left my hat at the hotel and it was drizzling harder. Who runs in the rain without a hat? I visited the porto-john again (just how do you spell that?). My stomach was twisting. It was not good.

From what we could tell the race started. We waited some more. We walked, we jogged, we heard screaming spectators. Then we were off. I crossed the start line and started my Garmin. No turning back now. Duane? Check! Suzi? Check! Laurel? Check! Kim? Check! We broke free of the pack. We were flying. Like a 9:50 or something crazy. My mind was screaming, “Rookie mistake! Rookie mistake!” It was too easy to get caught up in the excitement. We kept running fast. I stopped trying to slow down. I think I was enjoying the moment, damn the consequences, this was my day.

Our pace eventually evened out to a 12:15 or so – still a little quick for me with so many miles ahead. That resolved itself with the first hill (or, so I thought it was hill at the time, but it was more like a slight incline). We slowed again. We were feeling the burn. We kept running. Our little pack – just like on Saturday mornings is what I kept telling myself. In the back of my mind, there was worry – what was I going to do when I was alone? I focused on my Grace Band, Mile 2 was for my Mom. I ran it strong. I threw a kiss to the Heavens when it was over. I kept running.

The hills were rough. We started walking them. I remember Laurel telling me it was okay, just keep moving. Duane reminded us to take the inside path. We tried to. Kim pulled ahead, cruising at a nice race pace, but not without waving to us first. It had begun. We were each running our own race.

I slowed considerably. I had way more to go. The pack pulled away. I was cheering them on in my mind. Duane drifted back to run with me. I asked him how his calf was holding up. He said it was great. I believed him – why wouldn’t I? He was running strong.

We were coming up on the first relay exchange – between Miles 5 and 6 maybe? Duane said, “I don’t know about you, but I’m about to call this race quits.” I know I looked at him like he had lost his mind. “I don’t know about you, but I have 20 more miles to go, Duane!” I thought. He slowed again; I thought I saw him limping. “Yup, I’m about done with this,” he said. He almost stopped. “This is it,” I though, “Operation-Run-Pittsburgh-All-By-Yourself-And-Take-All-Day-Doing-It-Too starts right now.” You’ve trained for this, Sara, you ran 18 miles alone and you succeeded. This is just 18 miles with 2 more tacked on.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Deb on the sideline. I screamed to Duane, “There’s Deb – look!” Hi, Deb! Nice to see you, Deb! Duane took off his bib and I remember thinking, “Man, when he is done, he’s done.” I waved goodbye to them. Then, all of a sudden, Deb was running towards us. She grabbed the bib from Duane and put it on. She said, “Hi, I’m Diane today, the bib has a typo in it!” I stared at the two of them in disbelief. “What are you doing, Deb?” I asked. “You didn’t think we were going to let you run Pittsburgh alone, did you?” she answered.

I started crying. I looked behind me and saw Duane cruise to the sideline. He was grinning for ear to freakin’ ear. I wave at him again and again. I looked at Deb, tears in my eyes, and told her I had goose bumps. “How long,” I asked her, “How long did you have this planned?” She said for a couple of weeks. She recounted the planning in great detail. She told me about the ones who couldn’t be there, but wanted to be. She told me all about the people who were rooting for me. It was a perfect plot. She called it Operation Pittsburgh:

Operation Pittsburgh Sign Making Party!

These ladies even thought to get a picture with their Cap City medals, which I wanted, but wasn’t able to get after the race:

Deb, LeDawn, Sarah, Amy and Mandy

Deb ran with me and chatted about the Operation. It was awesome. I got chills every time she told me more about it. Deb kept me laughing through about 5 miles. It was magical for me. The half runners eventually turned off and I was more than thankful for my running partner. Deb said, “What she [Sara] didn’t know was that a Lucky 13 was waiting for her at every relay exchange, so one of us was running with her the whole race. I got to be the one to meet her first. The look on Sara’s face was priceless as she slowly figured out what was going on!! The section I ran was supposedly one of the flatter sections, but there were still a LOT more hills than we’re used to in Columbus. We walked some of the hills, but kept a good overall pace. It was a good run.”

Leg number three – Amy! She was smiling for ear to ear. I got tears in my eyes all over again. The switch of “Diane’s” bib was seamless. People were actually screaming – “Go Diane!” Amy powered forward. No hesitation. I started jogging to keep up. Then, I remembered one thing for our training season – Amy loves hills. This must mean hills. Lots of hills.

And then there was Mt. Washington. Almost a mile of straight up hill. We walked it. Amy in front, literally pulling me along. I was tired already. And I was worried about finishing the race. Amy kept smiling, kept persevering. She never faltered. I told her she was the calming presence of our group. If I could just follow in Amy’s stride, I was golden. She rocked it out to “I Gotta Feeling” up Mt. Washington. Literally. It was amazing. Amy, run Pittsburgh. You already got this course nailed. She made me laugh, but mostly, she calmed my nerves for the next five miles. Amy recounts our trek together beautifully, “So honored to be able to run part of this marathon with Sara! I was lucky enough to be the one to be with her going up Mt. Washington…the killer hill of all killer hills! We decided to walk it! I am soooo proud of her out there today. For her, it was tough mentally and physically, yet she persevered and finished! My time is not exact, but we also did a lot of walking around Pittsburgh trying to figure out where to go!!! I think I got in a good 13 miles today. Amy – run Pittsburgh. Run Pittsburgh and never look back.

Stay tuned, friends, for my half-way-done-life-saver and the miles where I almost fell apart…

Until the next mile marker,

Pittsburgh Part 1 of 3: The Important Part First

By now you probably know, I am a MARATHONER! I don’t think I’ve been so excited in all of my life (I think I said that after my first half, but now I feel like that again, only I ran a full). I have been smiling all day.
The Pittsburgh Marathon Race Report is going to be two parts (unless I get too excited and post it all tonight!). I have a lot to say and I want to take my time writing about my experience.
SO … I decided to get the important part out of the way first – the Expo! You know it’s all about the shirt and the swag and the pre-race-I-could-have-easily-spent-hundreds-of-dollars-there jitters. It was so much fun!
Pittsburgh was about a three hour drive from where I live and by the time we got downtown, I was more than ready to pick up my bib and packet. We got there about 3:30 p.m. or so and while I was certain I would have enough time to pick it up before the Expo closed at 6:00 p.m., the traffic into the city on a Saturday afternoon had me more nervous than I could handle. It felt like most of our time in the car was the last 30 miles of the trip! Columbus is never that crowded on a Saturday – even with our marathon!
My dad dropped Michael (husband) and I off outside the convention center since the line to park was out of control (I found out later is was because the pedestrian crosswalk crossed the street into the convention center garage and practically every car had to stop to let swarms of runners and their families across). With my confirmation ticket in hand – and after stopping to pee twice (yes, twice, it was kind of ridiculous) – I made it into the Expo and darted through the crowd to pick up my bib. The volunteer handed it to me and I remember clinging to it for dear life as I stopped to pick up my shirt and swag.
My bib:
My shirt:
I love the green shirt, but I really wish it was short sleeves so I could wear it this summer instead of having to wait for cooler temperatures in the fall.
The swag:
My Marathon backpack consisted of a sampling of edible goodies, some super-soft (and super-light) Nike socks, a water bottle, pen, blinking light (great for running in the dark, I’m sure!), and an Arctic Ease cold-therapy compression wrap (I hoped I wouldn’t need it).
Mollie (sister) and my dad joined us in the Expo and as soon as we were sure the boys were set to find something to do not shop – we hit the booths!
It was like a Sara’s runner’s paradise – running and shopping all mixed together under one roof with other people who were just as excited as we were!
We met up with Suzi (one of my MIT Lucky 13 buddies) and her family and made plans for a pasta dinner at Bravo after everyone got settled in the hotel.
After that, we the first thing I did was look for a short-sleeved race shirt. Dick’s Sporting Goods was the place to be (clearly, since they were the main sponsor). I found what I was looking for and it fit me perfectly – thanks Nike!
My not-so-official race shirt:
And, I found another shirt that I think will look cute with a pair of jeans this summer. Thanks to my sister for bearing with me through the selection and fitting process. It is made by thrive organics and was a bit pricey at $40 bucks for a T-shirt, but was really going on you only get one first marathon and now I really didn’t have the option to not finish!
Fun shirt front:
Fun shirt back:
Then we found the place where we went a little crazy and spent the most time – Lift Your Sole. IF YOU HAVE NOT CHECKED OUT THESE GEMS YOU NEED TO – NOW! They carry a wide variety of endurance, sport, motivational and inspirational jewelry and accessories that are very reasonably priced for the design and quality. My. New. Favorite. Place.
Of course I had to get something to remember my first 26.2! I liked the winged heart because it reminds me of so many things – my mother who is in Heaven now, my love for running and my wish to let my heart and soul soar in the race I was about to run. The heart is not all the way flat so it does appear to be flying. Plus, I wear a lot of silver and gold and this was just perfect to go with anything I was wearing!
Charm #1:
www.liftyoursole.com
I also found the perfect pendant (on sale!) reminiscent of my mother’s favorite quote by John Bingham, The miracle isn’t that I finished.  The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” It says: 26.2 – COURAGE TO START – STRENGTH TO ENDURE – RESOLVE TO FINISH. Yup, I’d say that was pretty much everything that was about to happen to me in less than 24 hours.
Charm #2:
And then we found it while perusing the various charms and necklaces – a LUCKY 13 charm. I about choked. Mollie and I had a freak-out session right then and there with millions of people standing around. Mollie said the only three words that applicable: Meant to be. I almost called each of my Lucky 13’s to personally tell them of my discovery. I wonder if I can buy them in bulk? I still cannot believe my eyes when I look at it!
The find of the Century Charm #3:
I screamed wildly for Michael and my dad and after showing it to each of them, they responded with the characteristic manly, “Oh, cool” and “Oh, that’s nice.” Then my dad added, “Mom would have wanted you to have a charm.” My mom would have loved shopping at the Expo with us for sure!
After most of the day’s excitement died down, I called up Duane – my personal Pittsburgh/Marathon Coach and Idol (he picked the course, ran a marathon already and got me the best job in the world helping him Coach the 13 minute MIT Pace Group) – and we met Suzi and her family for dinner.
I was pretty nervous at dinner – there was some intense conversation, as you can see:
Mollie could barely handle the stress, herself:
 And just look what it did to Michael:
After dinner we all headed back to the hotel and I laid out all of my clothes and gear for the next morning. Michael had a small freak—pout over our alarm being set at 4:20 a.m., but he quickly got over it (I may have helped with a look) and he even tucked me into bed.
I slept on and off all night, I think. I kept drinking-and peeing-and drinking-and peeing. I was nervous and scared and excited all at once. I checked and rechecked and rechecked my alarm and then gave up and called in a wake-up call to the front desk just to be sure.
I laid awake in bed for awhile thinking about how I was actually more scared then I think I had ever been in my life. Then, I started thinking how I wouldn’t have the one person who always told me I could do it (her last email to me said, We have all the faith in the world in you that you will complete this goal that you have had for so long. You will succeed!!!!) and who always believed in me – my mom – by my side in the morning. I wanted so badly to see her when (well, if) I crossed the Finish Line.
I fell into a restless sleep praying and dreaming that when I did wake up in the morning it would all be a horrendous nightmare and my mom would be knocking at my door at 5:00 a.m. ready to take 279 pictures. I dreamed of her at the start line, even though my mind knew she wouldn’t actually be there.
Yet, I had no idea who I would find waiting for me as I began my journey to 26.2 miles in the morning…
Until the next mile marker (or until I can’t stand it anymore),

TODAY

I am a … 

MARATHONER!

 

Me and Michael at the Finish Line

 

Me and the Lucky 13’s at the Finish Line
Full details to come! I can’t even describe the emotions I have!
Distance

MARATHON – 26.2 miles

Clock Time     7:07:06

Chip Time       6:52:19

Overall Place  4232 / 4271

Gender Place  1606 / 1630

Div Place         372 / 373

10K                 1:23:53

Half                 3:07:2415

Marathon              5:00:25

Div total           373

Sex total           1629

Pace                15:44  

Until the next mile marker,