Friday, May 25, 2018

Gate City Marathon

On May 20th I finished my first marathon, Gate City in Nashua, NH. I started training for it in January.

If you would like to read the history leading up to it, here are the posts about my training.

Marathon Plans and Progress
Training: The Dull Part, Oh Wait a Half!
Week 9: Quick Update with Pictures
Marathon Training Progress: Mistakes were Made
Marathon Taper
Marathon Spectating
Less than a Week Until Marathon

Onto the Marathon!


I volunteered to help hand out race swag packs, runner number bibs, and chat with other the runners. Then I set out my outfit for the next day, and like a kid at Christmas tried to get some sleep.


The 5am alarm went off too soon for my tastes. I did not want to get up, but I was also wide awake. Since I had everything set out, getting dressed after showering was easy. I ate my pre-race snack of dry oats, almond butter and chocolate chips and drank a few glasses of water. My husband dropped me off at downtown around 6:15 am, just in time for the Gate City Striders(GCS) picture.

After that I found one of my BRF (Best Running Friend), she gets an abbreviation as she will be back again in this story. She was working the check in desk, gave her a hug and then headed off to the 2020 Vision Quest tent. The next 40 mins were a bit of a blur between people, bathroom break and making final decisions on what to carry. I realized pretty quickly I was not in need of my jacket, it wasn't cold at all.

Stepping into the corral I headed to the back since I'm slow, though I decided to not hit the very back this time. I found another running friend and we chatted while we waited. A few words, the anthem was sang and we were off headed north on Main St. My friend is a bit faster and so we separated quickly to run our own races.

The Gate City Marathon is 5 Loops in Nashua. Loop 1 is repeated for Loop 3. You can review the course here if you are curious. Last year I ran loop 3 for The 2020 Vision Quest Relay Team, and I had done a few group runs that used much of loop 2. Loop 4 goes through Mine Falls, which I run often, but not of the trails I generally use. Loop 5 covers my common route into downtown while running, along with the roads I drive to get to south Nashua for my Meals on Wheels route.

Loop 1

I felt great at the start, I was ready, I had my plan and I knew I needed to keep my pace slower than I felt I could run. The last few times I'd run I was running 2-3 minutes a mile(mm) faster than I did in my previous training and I knew if I did that in the beginning I'd burn out before the end. I'd set my watch to the run 3 minutes, walk 1 minute intervals and made sure I followed that plan.
As the pack of runners moved up the hill everyone started to filter to their position, and thin out. Most of the runners around me were running the half marathon. Around Hills Ferry I realized I was trading intervals with a runner from the Greater Lowell Road Runners, we kept switching back and forth which of us was in front, I think she was running 1:1 intervals. Somewhere on this loop I got ahead of her, but I'm not sure when I realized we were not trading places on the course. Around Greely Park I saw my friend I started with about 50 yards ahead, but in a race, 50 yards is an amazing amount of distance and he quickly disappeared. By the time I got to the second water stop I was beginning to question my decision to not carry water in the heat, but I was still doing well. As I headed to the transition area, I was feeling really good and  knew the next time I ran that road I'd be over half done.  1 loop done!

As I was running I started composing a fantastic article about running and chiropractic care. I had all these ideas, that I have since lost many of. I'm hoping as I get back out and run soon, they return to me.

Said hello to a few people, smiled and pictures were taken, then off I went to run loop 2.

Loop 2

The heat was starting to get to me, though the running was still going well. I trained for distance and knew anything under 10 miles is generally just an issue of time to run, not ability. I was pacing myself well. I did begin to realize that wait for a water stop was going to ruin me. 2 miles between stops is perfectly fine, but as a slower runner this meant 24-35 mins between access to water. I saw a fellow Skirt Sports Ambassador for a quick picture. I knew I was doing very well for time, and lucky that because I was going to need those minutes on the second half of the course. At the second water stop I had to pause they didn't have a cup with water ready, only cups with gatorade. I was taking electrolyte pills so I didn't need that. I was more annoyed than I should have been that I had to wait for them to dump a cup and fill it with water and ask for more than 1 pump from the water jug. I waited and drank the slightly gatorade tasting water. I could still see runners in front of and behind me, but they were half marathoners, so I knew they were about to disappear and I'd be alone.

Some where along this route I remembered I promised myself I would get a 26.2 tattoo if I ever ran a marathon. That was back when a 10k was a BIG deal, so I spent sometime thinking about locations and designs, before realizing I am not an artist and should just start looking at fonts.

At transition I begged a fellow GCS member at the elite table for a bottle of water. She had one and this may be the big reason I finished the race. As a note the GCS had a special table for all the GCS runners, and we got treated like elites for this race. I was able to store some fuel there. This may be the first and last time I'm considered an elite runner.

Oh I forgot to mention every time a runner went through the transition area they got a cold wet sponge. Can I just tell you how lovely those sponges were? They were the most amazing gift to receive.

Loop 3

Early on in loop 3 the half marathoners split off. At that point I was more or less alone on the course, aside from passing the wonderful people who had volunteered to be on the course directing runners. I've been there it can be exciting as the bulk of the runners go by, but after that it gets boring. On this loop I crossed the halfway point and had a moment were I realized, if I was running the half marathon I would be done and with a PR no less, but no I had to go for a full marathon, so onwards I ran sipping from my lovely, lovely water bottle.

I stopped in Greely park to use the porto potty. I figured if I had an empty bladder it would be easier to drink more water. My precious water bottle was empty by the second water stop and I asked them to throw it away, this was a mistake, I should have re-filled it.

Sometime on the route near canal st, I saw a pair of runners for a short time before they disappeared ahead of me. This is also when the struggle bus started to hit hard, I was at mile 16 or so. I knew I could do 20, I trusted my training. I took longer walk breaks, I said very bad words to my garmin watch everytime it told me to run, but I kept moving forward. Finishing no longer seemed a definite at this point.

I hit transition, more sponges, saw my BRF and told her I was struggling. She gave me a hug, told me if I needed she would run the last loop with me, smacked me on the butt and sent me down the shoot to loop 4.

Loop 4

This loop headed into Mine Falls. I was hopeful that some shade would be available. I did not realize how far I would run before I entered the trails or how far apart the water stops would get as started to slow down. Early on in the route I was able to get a hug from a friend and some encouragement. I said hello to every dog I met, and I kept moving forward, much more walking than running at this point. Sometime around mile 20 I put my face in my hands and started to cry, I just couldn't do it, was it really worth it. I sent several messages to BRF. I talked to the clouds and asked them where was the rain I was promised. Thunderstorms would have been great, if I was lucky they'd call the race and my DNF wouldn't be my fault.

I did my best to smile for the cameras, even if I felt miserable. I can't wait for the pictures to become available.

This loop felt as if it went on forever. I made a mistake on the rail trail and moved on to the road, so I had to back track a few feet to get back on course.

This loop also had the most new roads for my Run Nashua goal.

As I saw city hall I knew I was close to having company.

Loop 5

As I entered the area I saw friends and most importantly I saw my husband. He wisely let the boys hang out with Grandma and Grandpa. A quick kiss and then I joined up with my BRF to finish this insanity that I started. She handed me a bottle of water and we were off onto the last loop.

I know we walked most of the loop and she told me I was going to run over that finish line. I remember needing to take many breaks to stretch. I'm very glad I saved all those minutes in the beginning because I was going to need them if I wanted my time goal.

My BRF told me knock knock jokes, offered to sing, listened to me whine and kept pushing me forward. She also carried the water bottle because I kept handing it back to her. She kept me on the inside so I didn't fall into traffic.

She informed me that she couldn't believe I was making her run (ok, we walked) Fifield, and I promised she could make me run Browning as pay back. We joked that I could have picked a cooler day to run a marathon and I commented on how this was very much like my first half marathon. She promised me cold wet towels at the end, I ran for the towels. (Side note: They ran out of towels before I finished.)

As we turned onto Main I knew two things, I was going to finish, and I was not going to make my under 6 hour goal. As we got closer we saw the friend I started with now on traffic duty, then I saw family friends walking to downtown, they stopped to video and cheer. Then as I crossed a street very close to the end, all the cars started honking. I was back to running and the finish line was in sight.

I had done it, I finished with a smile! My husband was there, along with my in laws and many of my friends to congratulate me. This story has come to a quick and sudden ending, but that's how my marathon was.  It was long, involved, and then it ended.  So here I sit, staring at the wall of text that was my marathon adventure, and I feel like there should be more here.  Well, they warned me that there would be post marathon blues.  They weren't wrong.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

My first son's birth

I often joked that running a marathon is possible, training helps, but really I just need to know there is no time limit. This is the birth of my first son, an experience that taught me I can handle any endurance challenge(as long as there isn't a cut off time). Tomorrow I find out if I was right about my joke, though I think there is a cut off time.

This has all the gory details and I've changed the names of people to their role in the birth. You have been warned.

Quote: "just give it an hour, you can do anything for an hour, give it an hour and if things don’t improve then we look at other stuff. ... (friends) can support you but you are the one that will have to dig deep into your resources to make this happen"

Summary in case you don't want to read a graphic birth story: 42 hour back labor with no epidural, super intense for the last 2 hours to avoid pitocin, vaginal delivery.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Less than a Week until Marathon

Yesterday was my last long run before the Gate City Marathon.

A quick review of my training progress. Most of the yellow you see at the bottom of the graph is not missing the distance by a mile or two, it's missing the planned distance by many miles. Such as planned 10, ran 3. I've been fairly good with the long run goals, though the 15 mile goal post took a few tries to cross.
Green = Run Completed; Yellow = Less than goal miles; Red = Did not run; Blue = More than goal miles
Honestly, I was beginning to get worried about the race, I haven't run very far in a while, could I still do it. My 12 mile taper run was a complete failure, I got 2 miles and gave up. I realize this is taper talking but knowing and feeling are different.

I spent a weekend doing math, because for some reason math can be comforting. This is the breakdown of when I need to cross each mile or loop to hit my goal times. Since I'm switching to 3:1 intervals, I also calculated out how slow my run can be and still hit my goals. I used the Strava calculator for the mile markers and then math for the loop times.

Miles times and loops on left, interval times on right

For Mother's Day I joined a friend and ran the Nancy Mother's Day 5k. It's a smallish race and had many walkers. While there I bumped into a few more people I knew. My intention was run the race easy, as I was going to run an additional 5 miles after.

My bib plus a new recovery drink I tried. 

I ended up with a 5K PR and came in 4th for my division!!!

I was able to talk while running during the entire race, and I still had enough energy in me to run 5 additional miles at faster than marathon speed!

Yesterday was the confidence boost I needed before the marathon. My primary goal for Sunday is Finish with a Smile!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Marathon Spectating

I'm putting this together in the hope that there are spectators for my marathon, but please do not feel obligated. This just seemed like an easy way to organize all the information and save everyone from last minute questions.

Date: Sunday May 20th, race start is 7am, my likely finish is 12:30-1:30pm
Location: Downtown Nashua is where the bulk of the marathon festivities are. Check out this page for a map of the course and more importantly parking for downtown.

Shirt I got for volunteering in 2015.
If you live in Nashua, the race covers most of the city, if you check out the course, you may find that there is an easy spectating spot right from your home. If you are not sure when to go outside, just figure out what mile marker you are at and then multiply it by 6 or 7. Though I'll like show up if you multiply by 12 or 13. You can make signs to wave, ring cowbells or just say things like "You're doing great" or "you got this", unless you are on mile marker 26.2, do not yell "Almost there". Example if you live near Lake Street(mile 6-7+), you'll want to be out there around 7:30am to see the fast runners and around 8:15am for me(though you might be there waiting.)

Another blogger wrote a great article on spectating a race, if you want a more involved How To. Gate City is still looking for volunteers, which is a great way to spectate and help at the same time. The year I volunteered I got a cool safety orange tech shirt to keep, I would suspect they'll do that again.

Photo Credit: Fellow She Runs This Town Member 

If you chose to hang along the course chances are I'll be able to high five you or maybe stop for a hug.  It will depend on the zone I am in while running. I'm running to finish, not really to make a time goal.

If you want to interact with me, you have two options, run the race(half, full or relay) with me, or the most likely option, be at the finish line when I finish. I am anticipating finishing between 12:30 and 1:30 pm. The specific time will likely depend on how badly I implode on the course that day. There are many possible factors that I can't predict until the day of and even during. I'll have a Road ID live tracker going and my husband will share that on various social media.

The good news is, Downtown Nashua has a large variety of restaurants and coffee shops to relax in while you wait for me to finish. The bars might even be open by noon as well.

Post race, we don't have any plans. I honestly have no idea what I will physically be up for. Once I've gone through my initial recovery routine it is possible I will want to stand by a grill and just eat a never ending supply of steak. I may also want to take a nap in a hot tub. What I know for certain is I will not be willing to ride in a car for more than 10 minutes.

If you can't be at the race, but you want to show your support there are two causes that stand out for me. I honestly can't pick between them, so I will leave to you, the reader, the decision of which you want to contribute towards.

1) I'm running as part of the 2020 Vision Quest team. This also means the shirt to wear during the race decision has been made. Tax deductible(if that is still a thing, I'm not a an accountant) donations can be made on the 2020 Vision Quest page. If you could add in the message "Johanna's First Marathon" that would be awesome. I won't see any of those donations, but I know someone will tell me if that message shows up.

2) Tessa is a very good friend, and sadly has spent most of the last several years fighting to live with complications of a rare disease. She was there when I ran my first 5k in Georgia. She came out and helped Alex entertain two bored toddlers. When Jack was born, she made it to the hospital before we did and then took care of Hal, while I gave birth. Hal was confused, tired and she found cups to stack and play(since we didn't think to pack toys, because the sun wasn't up yet), then when that didn't work, she carried him around "looking" for Mom. Tessa is one of Jack's favorite people. Tessa is currently raising money to travel to Germany for operations that she can't have in the US. With her diseases, there are only a few doctors in this country that will even treat her. If you go to the GoFundMe page you can read all about her struggles.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Marathon Taper

Here I am one week into my "tone it down and taper" for the Gate City Marathon. I never understood all the jokes warning a marathon runner about taper, and how crazy they can be. I mean I tapered for my half but that wasn't a big deal.

Wow. This time around it's nuts. I'm completed food paranoid between my allergies and food poisoning. I saw a tick and freaked out about home much a round of antibiotics would wreck me this close to a race. I had sushi and then panicked for 24 hours that it might have been a mistake. I'm lucky my husband loves me and knows this is temporary.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Hunt for NotCoffee

Guest Blog written by my husband Alex.

“Marriage is hard. Remember that, it’ll be on a test someday.”
-Me, to someone I barely knew who got married years ago.
At the time, I was being sarcastically funny. Well, most likely only THOUGHT that I was funny, we all know the truth here, am I right? I’m right, let’s move on.
This morning as she left for the office Wifeypants asked me to pick her up a small decaf coffee after I dropped the boys off at school. Why decaf? Because caffeine isn’t her friend lately, and we didn’t have any decaf in the house. I said I’d get her one, and off she went. Little did I know what adventure I’d signed up for.
I dropped the boys off, and headed to find NotCoffee. I skipped the Dunkin’s on DWH, because it’s parking lot is a shitshow, and the employees are on par with Moria Goblins. I decided for the Cumberland farms, because its parking lot is expansive and I’d be able to pour my own coffee. Which would remove the awkward social interaction of asking for decaf in the morning.
Cumbie’s has about a dozen taps of coffee that most consider to be technically drinkable, and only one was labeled decaf. Not unexpected, it was 8:50am. Checking for landmines and poison gas jets, I flipped the tap, and nothing happened. There was no coffee to be poured. It’s one of those giant industrial coffee urns, so I knew that it would be at least 10mins before there was coffee ready in it. Plus, I’d have to ask them to brew it and we all know what happens when you inconvenience a gas station employee. Since I wasn’t wearing body armor I set out for the next place that would have coffee. Though in my head I heard Gimli saying that we could take the road through Moria to get coffee at the nearby Dunkies.
Friendly’s was next on DWH, and they have a big sign that says “Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner” so that must mean coffee is available. I mustered up my courage and went inside to ask for decaf. I waited in line as two other folks got coffee and breakfast foods without incident, my spirits were high. This was going to be easy, oh you sweet summer child.
“Hi, I’d like a small black decaf please.” I was brave, I asked for decaf and didn’t stutter or stammer. Things were going good, but then “Carol” behind the register blinked one too many times.
“Decaf?” Crap. She’s onto me, this is a trap. The exit is 15 feet behind me, two men between me and the drive through window, and my astro mech is ready to launch my lightsaber if I nod.
“Yes please.” I smiled like a human, not at all like a robot wearing a stolen meat suit, as a tumbleweed blew through the lobby.
“Uh… I’m sorry sir but we don’t have any decaf brewed right now. If you’ll wait a few mins we can get some started.” Crap, my smile betrayed that I’m a robot on a mission. She’s onto me. Double crap, her manager is aware of me now. Another employee motioned towards an empty glass carafe and nodded that decaf was just moments away. If I was going to escape, the moment had to be now.
“No, I don’t want to trouble you. My wife asked me to get her some decaf on my way into work today, I’ll just have to… OK thanks bye.” My astro mech chirped in frustration, opened a panel on its head and prepared to launch my lighsaber. I shook my head at it, glared, and headed back to the van. The goblins of Moria had decaf, I know they did. But I won’t step foot in that hellhole again. Back on the road, to the next place that serves coffee.
Apparently it’s like a mile before another gas station or another Dunkies. This is New England, how is this possible? Isn’t there a law for this? I had my astro mech, I should get around to naming it someday, or just keep wiping its memory core, plot out the local systems that have coffee. A list of systems popped up on my console.
-Nal Hutta
At that point, I knew I had to do it. There was no turning back, I had to wipe the memory on that smart assed astro mech. Lando’s not a system, he’s THE MAN. Punk droid giving me poodoo. I brought the van into a controlled landing at Starbucks, set my blaster to Vente and walked in. Ready to face the corporate drones of Seattle Orthodoxy. I took my place in line, and waited behind an investment banker, a retired telephone sanitizer, and what could only be the spouse of a middle manager at a company that outsources telephone sanitizers. I picked up a reusable recycled plastic pretend Starbucks cup, it served as camouflage hopefully better than my meat suit did. My time in line came, and I made my move.
“I’d like a small black decaf please.” As soon as I spoke, I realized that I’d made a critical error. I used the English word “Small” when I should have used the Starbuckian dialogue instead. The gig was up, my goose was cooked, any second now I’d be ground up and sold as pesto on wheat toast.
“Would you like me to leave room?”
“No, black please.”
“Yes decaf. My wife asked for decaf, I’ve been to three places this morning, no one had any, and I’ve been questioned about my motives enough already. So yes, decaf, and that cheese Danish please.” Money was exchanged for services, no blasters were drawn, and I left the soulless system of orthodoxy and set sail for my wife with her decaf safely stowed away in the cup holder.
So yeah, you could say, marriage is hard. I passed the test today.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Journal Log: Nashua Soup Kitchen 10k plus Miles

I ran the Nashua Soup Kitchen 10k, here is a mostly cleaned up copy of what I wrote in my paper run journal. I didn't journal clothing, as I did over the winter to figure out winter gear but this is how I collect my thoughts after a run to try and figure out what went well and what can be improved.

4/8 11:20am          16.08; 3:38:16; 13:34            INV2
Soup Kitchen 10K + Miles     36 degrees 7mph   164

Ran to Rivier University to start on miles and hung out with friends before start. 1.89 miles. Ran 10k. Gave jacket to Alex and boys. Finished Race, met up with boys at playground 9 miles done. Ran 2 laps around school with boys. Said Good bye and kept running.  Hard to keep going, felt very lonely. Which was odd since there were people around me all day, but finishing these miles was my goal and something I needed to do. Around mile 13 I headed home. Did 3 laps of my condo development to finish up.  Feet hurt, legs hurt.

Before: Oatmeal/almond butter/choc chips
Sipped water (did this morn than noted in this list)
1 electrolyte pill before race start
1 clif blok during race
1/2 bottle of maple water and 1 banana post race
1 electrolyte pill after race
Water all through out
GU at 11 miles
1 electrolyte pill at 14 miles
1/2 clif blok at 14.5 miles

Protein shake 25-30 grams
smart water 1 liter
tub soak (Epson salts)
3 sausages
2nd smart water

Good Run but hard. Head space rough, music good. Did not eat enough, should have fueled during 10k more than a single clif blok.