Am I Ready to Beat the Burgh?

Welcome to May! Crazy. I literally cannot even think beyond May 3 to the fact that my birthday is in 6 days. Nonsense. 

I registered to run the Pittsburgh Marathon 7 MONTHS ago. Over half a year ago, now. Just a month after I ran my first marathon! 

And now, I'm about 50 hours away from hopefully crossing my second marathon finish line. It won't be the same as Wineglass, but this race will be amazing and special in its own ways. 

(Pittsburgh will be great, but I won't love my bib number as much as I loved this one!)

For one, Pittsburgh is a different kind of race. Whereas Wineglass was small and rural, with a few big cheer areas, but mainly solitary miles through upstate New York, Pittsburgh is an urban race with bands and cheerleaders and DJs every few miles. I motivated myself through Wineglass (with the boosts from my grandparents and some cheering from the wonderful volunteers at fuel stations) but in Pittsburgh, I expect the spectators to help motivate me. I'm also slightly worried that the Broadway-themed performance group at mile 6 is going to make me slow down because I want to hear what they're singing. I can see it now - running up to XTreme Teen Broadway after just 6 miles of the race, pulling off the course and saying, "Eh, that was enough for me - now let's sing Spring Awakening and Les Mis!"

While Wineglass was beautifully flat, Pittsburgh's elevation chart gives me anxiety. 5 bridges. I've sat here crunching numbers - elevation, length of the hill, rate of the incline - trying to compare it to hills I've come to know (and hate) - Harlem Hill, Cat Hill, Randall's Island footbridge. But honestly, I'm going to be freaked out going into my corral no matter what, so I'm putting the calculator down! 



Training in the winter vs. training in the summer was my biggest concern going into this and looking back, it's easy for me to say it was no big deal. But I know the only reason I was able to get out of bed on mornings that were in the single digits to put on sneakers (and several layers) was because of the amazing people I'm surrounded by. All winter long my Instagram feed was filled with athletes who braved the cold and got it done. All winter long, the people who have become some of my best friends, were there to meet me at Engineer's Gate on a snowy Saturday morning. All winter long, I had someone who would literally have dragged me out of bed if I needed him to. 

And this time around, it's some of those people who will be there in Pittsburgh with me. I'll get to run into the arms of the one who listened to every complaint, every ache and pain. Who drove me to races and stayed in Friday nights to wake up early on Saturday mornings. Who gave me hugs even when I was horribly sweaty. 

I was also inspired by the crazy November Project badasses I'm surrounded by. They seriously race everything. And they race it fast. But I got an even bigger "WOOHOO RUNNING" boost each and every time a friend texted me about their running progress.  Tina's running more and we got to run a 5K together in Columbus. Staci is training for a 10K. Lauren just ran a 5K and said my blog gave her motivation. Allison ran a 5K and is signed up for her first half marathon. Nicole is doing the Couch to 5K. Melissa just went out her front door and ran a 5K. I'M SO HAPPY that people so important to me are taking the plunge!

I did some things differently this time. The biggest change was my mileage. It was significantly less than during my training for Wineglass and less than what NYRR Virtual Trainer had in store for me. My training almost fell apart early on when I started in January. Looking back, I was crazy to think I could jump right into running over 30 miles in a week. At the height of my long runs (18, 20 and 22) my weekly mileage got up around 30 - and I found that 3 or 4 days of running was my sweet spot - definitely not 5 or 6. 

I foam rolled MUCH more than ever before. It's become a habit that instead of going out to eat lunch during the work day, I foam roll at NYSC for 30 minutes. 5 minutes for each calf, 10 minutes for the rest of each leg. I eat lunch at my desk instead, although on some of the nice spring days we've been having, it's even more torturous to drag myself to foam roll.

Girls hate discussing their weight, but we'll see if the fact that I'm 10 pounds heavier at the Pittsburgh starting line is a good thing, or a bad thing. (It's 10 pounds of pure muscle, surely...)

Yoga. Yep, I hopped on board the yoga train and slowly but surely my opinion on it is changing. For 3 weeks I've consistently gone 3 days a week (last week I went 4!) and the skeptic in me has been convinced of yoga's benefits. Woops.

My sneaker shuffle has changed a bit too - instead of running my marathon in Saucony Guides (a stability shoe) I'll be rocking the Saucony Ride (neutral). I also did a ton of training in New Balance fresh foams. Anything under 10 miles I wore my New Balance, and anything over 10 I wore my Sauconys. Once I get back out for speed work, my Adidas will be my speed shoe. I like this new system! 

I used to run all my long runs in compression socks (CEP). But now, I only wear them to sleep for recovery.  

After a brief stint with insoles - I trashed them (bye $60).  

There were also a bunch of things I should have changed, and didn't. Like the fact that I still have no idea what I should eat the night before a long run. Or the morning of a long run. My plan for marathon morning is - well, I don't really have one in terms of what I'm going to eat. Because stupidly, for my long training runs I rarely ate more than a banana. 

All my grand plans to figure out what upset my stomach while running? After a brief stint as a gluten-free and dairy-free runner, I gave up. But I certainly tested out a variety of racing fuels to figure out what I could stomach, right? Oh, if only. At the Boston Marathon Expo I bought my old go-tos - espresso Clif energy shots - and I tested one out on a 7 mile run, but that's hardly "figuring out my nutrition plan." So come Sunday, it's kind of, "cross my fingers and hope for the best." 

I've packed 4 outfits for Sunday. 4. And I don't know how I'm going to figure out which one to wear. 

I have my foam roller, my lacrosse ball, my stick, my icy hot, some ace bandages, and basically every little thing I could ever need. 

My compression socks are ready for the 8 hour drive. 

I'm officially in crazy mode - one minute I'm terrified, one minute I just really don't want to run 26.2 miles, one minute I just one to cross the finish line with a smile, one minute I want to crush my Wineglass time, one minute I'm having a panic attack at a twinge I felt in my ankle. It's exhausting, quite frankly. 

(I'm smiling because this was the only bridge...)

Mentally, it's very different running marathon #2 because on one hand I know I can do this because I've done it before but I also know that miles 20-26.2 are going to be an extremely unpleasant ~hour of my life. Despite the fact that I've completed a marathon, I still want to scream when I hear, "Trust your training. Trust your body." I don't trust it. Hell, I don't even trust what my watch is telling me most days. 

I know that all the training and preparation and foam rolling and yoga in the world can't guarantee that a race is going to go your way. And so instead of trusting my training and my body, I  trust that whatever happens on Sunday will become another part of my running journey. 

Instead of focusing on the fact that everything could quite possibly go horribly wrong, I focus on all the things that went right along the way. The 25K with Peter, my 22 miler at a pace that got me pumped for Pittsburgh, the slow snowy miles, feeling happy enough while running to sing Katy Perry as a plastic bag floated in our path, More than anything, I'll remember telling Peter during the 25K that I felt like the more I relaxed and tried to take it easy, the faster our pace got. That's a feeling that I hadn't had in what felt like years and I'm happy to say towards the end of training it was happening once in awhile.

Whatever happens on Sunday, it's been a great 16 weeks of running and working out with friends, of getting to know my body better, and of treating it better. It's a strange feeling when double-digit mileage Saturday morning runs just feel normal. When training for a marathon just becomes the lifestyle you want to live. It has become a part of my social life, it gives me structure - it challenges me and motivates me and (mostly) makes me smile. 

(But please legs, can you show up big-time on Sunday?)