The Day I Became a Marathoner

Oh man…you guys, I don’t even know where to start. This was no where near the race I had been dreaming of, but in it’s own way, it was still the perfect race. FYI: This post is longer than long. Grab a mug o’ coffee, and settle in. :) pfchangs2013-282

Let’s back up a bit. Over a month ago, I woke up to a super tight feeling in my hip. It’s something I’ve felt before, and never from running (I think it has to do with sleeping position?), but I’ve never run with that feeling. I woke up to this feeling the day I had an 18 miler scheduled. It hurt for the first several miles, but eventually loosened itself up, and it was fine.

Then a week later, I woke up the morning after a 14 mile run with a horrible pain in my knee that was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I called Coach Susan, freaked out a bit, took a week off running, then came back to run a killer 21 miler that felt absolutely perfect. After that perfect run, I got sick, and didn’t run for an other week until I ran an 11 miler that left my knee back in pain. I took more time off, and tried to run my final “long” 8 mile run, but stopped after 5 because my knee hurt.

I thought that I was okay, that I was not in too much pain, and I was just being cautious. I took a week and a half off running before the marathon. I iced, rolled, stretched, went to PT, and I swore to myself those 10 days off running would cure everything. Then on Saturday morning I ran for 15 minutes with Nicole, and my knee hurt. It hurt while I ran, and it hurt all day afterwards. Regardless, I showed up at the starting line hopeful, and ready to achieve my 4:29:59 goal that I never announced publicly, because I didn’t want to be disappointed if I didn’t reach it.

Nicole and I got to the start ridiculously early, and after over an hour of hanging out, we were on our way to the starting line where I saw Nacho. I screamed when I ran into him, cried a little, cried more during the national anthem, and then we were off. I kept telling Nicole I couldn’t believe we were running a marathon! Almost as soon as we’d taken off, I hear a man call out my name. I turned around and he said “I read your blog!” I about died. I was sosoSO excited! His name is Scott, and he ran Whiskey Row also. He saw my name on my shirt, said hello, and made my day! HI SCOTT!! I hope you had a great race!

Let me tell you, we had such AMAZING support! At mile 1, we saw Nacho, and he told us he’d be waiting for us at mile 9 (I think?), then around mile 3-4 we saw Emily and Lance, and Steve with my mom and Hank. I screamed when I saw my mom because I knew she was coming, but I didn’t know where she was going to be. They were screaming their faces off and taking pictures. I was still so happy here!

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"IT'S MY MOM!!!!!"

“IT’S MY MOM!!!!!”

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All of our long runs, we have been great at starting slow (usually 10:40ish), and gradually working our way down to around 9:30s, averaging around 10 min/miles. For 9 we were perfectly on track, regardless of the fact that my knee started hurting before the mile 1 marker, and that I had woken up with that same tightness in my hip. Our first mile clocked in at 10:30, and we were slowly getting faster, walking through all the water stations, and staying on target.

Mile 9 came in at 10:01, and then we stopped to use the porta potties, and I don’t know if it was the stop or what, but the pain in my knee got bad. Really bad. Like, every step was so painful, and I was starting to limp run. Luckily, we soon ran into Nacho. I was starting to take walking breaks really often, and I told him I was struggling. I tried to convince Nicole to go up ahead, but she insisted we were staying together. As much as I wanted her to go on and get the time I knew she was capable of, I was so relieved that she didn’t leave.

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This is the face of someone you want next to you during a marathon. How can you hate life when your with this freakish cheeriness????

"My name is Nicole, and I am the HAPPIEST RUNNER EVER!"

“My name is Nicole, and I am the HAPPIEST RUNNER EVER!”

I have never been in so much pain while running, and I was legitimately scared, and even started to wonder if this race was worth making an injury worse. I decided it was. There is no question that this was not the “smart” decision, but for me, it was the right choice. When Nacho saw how badly I was doing, he started to run with us. In his jeans. He ran with us for miles. Between miles 10-14, I was just in a bad mental place. I was in so much pain, and I was upset about being in so much pain, and I felt an intense amount of guilt for ruining Nicole’s race. She was staying positive, and trying to snap me out of it. At mile 14, I saw my dad, Hermano and Cindy, and I started crying, but shortly after I finally accepted the fact that I was injured, and I needed to stop waiting for the pain to go away, and focus on running the best I could on that day. pfchangs2013-169

Nacho stopped around mile 15, and told us he would see us on our way back (this was the only part of the course that had an out and back section). At the turn around at mile 16, we saw one of Nicole’s cheering sections, and before we knew it, we were on our way back down Indian School. Then, my stomach started bugging me, and around mile 17, we stopped for the bathroom again. We continued with run/walk/stretch over and over and over.

Just before mile 18, we saw Tim, and when he walked with us for a little while. He is such an inspiration, and he put a lot into perspective for me during this process. It was so nice that he walked with us for a while and encouraged me! He said this was the toughest part of the marathon, and that we were doing great. Soon after, we caught back up to Nacho, and he ran with us even MORE. He refused to let me get down, and kept saying “The Ari I know doesn’t give up”. At mile 19, I saw my dad, Hermano and Cindy again, and I knew that my big cheering section was coming up soon. Nacho continued to run with us up until mile 20.5 where he said goodbye, and said he would see us at the Mill Avenue bridge. I was so amazed, and overwhelmed by his support, and how he was there when I needed him.

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I have no idea when in the race this photo was taken, but I was ready for an other picture.

Just before mile 21, from almost 1/4 mile away, I heard my mother-in-law (I wish there was a cuter term than mother-in-law PS) shout my name. I started pushing with all of my might, and it was almost like a mirage. A HUGE group of friends and family with signs for days shouting “GO ARI AND NICOLE!” I hugged my adorable niece, cried more, and Jason came up beside me, and told me that I was doing great. Steve had told them that I was having a rough time, but they were all great about not asking if I was okay, and just staying positive. Lisa (who is pregnant as can be) and Bethany started running with us and chanting with their signs. It was unbelievable. I felt so incredibly loved, and I was so grateful that I had decided to keep running. I knew quitting wasn’t an option, and mostly because I knew I couldn’t disappoint everyone who had given so much for me to get here.

At this point, exhaustion crept in. I didn’t expect to feel so tired because I had been walking so often, but the pain in my knee had traveled up to my hip and basically my entire left leg had been feeling a mess regardless of stopping at a medic station for ibuprofen, and being handed a mysterious prescription pain pill at mile 19 (don’t try this at home, kids). Every time I tried to pick up my leg, it felt impossible, and all of the sudden it wasn’t just hard because my knee hurt, it was just hard. From this point on, Steve stayed right by us on his bike. He had been on and off throughout the course. Originally I told him I only wanted to see him a few times so I could focus on the race, but when I started struggling, he showed up more and more often, and I was so grateful.

At this point he stayed by our side offering encouraging words. He happened to be wearing a shirt that made him look like he was a medic and someone thanked him for his service! Cracked me up. We saw Nicole’s cheering squad at Mile 23, then Lisa and some other BTB members at mile 25, and Jaime right after. Nacho was waiting at the bridge, just like he promised, and he ran the rest of the way with us, even through the finish line. If you ask me, he deserved it. After 26 miles of pain, we had finally made it. Nicole and I grabbed hands, and ran through the finish line holding hands, just as we had set out to do.

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At first, it didn’t seem real. It wasn’t until I found Coach Susan that it started to sink in, and I started sobbing. I told her that my knee had hurt since the beginning and she hugged me, told me that I was a marathoner, and said “You ran your first marathon in 5 hours with an injury? That makes you a fucking badass. Excuse my language.” Then she told me she loved me, and that she really felt like it was her daughter who was out there. At some point in New York, we decided that I could be her daughter, so now she’s my running mom ;)

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There is so much about this experience that I still can’t even explain. Nicole stuck with me as we watched all of our time goals slip out of sight. Even at the end when the 5 hour pacer got out of our sight (that one hurt), and we watched our last time goal go by the wayside, she never left my side. After five hours and four minutes of running through pain, we became marathoners together, and I couldn’t have done it without her. It may not have been the race I dreamed of, but I experienced love and generosity that blew me away. I discovered a determination and dedication I didn’t know I possessed, and I finished.

I will say this: No matter how much pain I was in or how short my spurts of running were, I never gave up and stopped trying. Even when I could only run for a minute at a time before the pain got bad, I would run for a minute. I am still ridiculously happy, and proud to be a marathoner. I am proud that I pushed through something that would make so many people stop, and I’m proud that after 7 months, it finally became possible. Regardless of the physical pain, I managed to have one of the happiest days of my life, and I feel so undeserving of all of the kindness I have received. People told me that I am an inspiration, but it is the love and kindness I received from the people I love that I really find inspiring. Damn, I am lucky.

Thank you for all the support, and for all the love and comments along this journey. It has been incredible, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me next.

Team Chances Brunch

Saturday morning the team met bright and early at Coach Susan’s house for our last “long” run and a big team brunch/meeting/information overload. When we arrived, I was totally blown away at how decked out her house was!

26.2 jack-o-lantern. Genius.

Shortly after we arrived, we headed out for a quick 40 minute run, then returned to sit down for the big informational meeting while many of the Believe Train Become runners slaved away cooking our breakfast. They’re the best. :) It was still chilly out, so a lot of us huddled in close and gathered around the fire.

Michelle and I love bright shoes. LOOK HOW BRIGHT WE ARE! Okay, she is so much brighter, but mine have so many colors! I love running shoes ;)

Susan started off explaining many of the normal feelings of taper–sluggish, irritable, feeling fat. As she mentioned each one, it was like everyone around me just kept turning to look at me because not 5 minutes before we started, I had been complaining about pretty much every single one. Then Jason just had to be a really awesome friend and make sure to call attention to me and my…issues. Anyway, it was nice to hear it was all normal, and despite the fact that I feel like I’ve gained 9 MILLION lbs the last two weeks, people keep telling me I look smaller, so clearly I have no idea what I’m talking about. Shocking, right? Anyway, one big moment came when Susan surprised us all with these bracelets:

A couple of weeks ago, one of my teammates suffered a major heart attack on one of his long runs. I’ve actually wanted to write about it for a while, but I didn’t want to put him out there on display. Anyway, he is doing FANTASTIC, but clearly cannot run NYC, so Susan got each of us TIMstrong bracelets. She also told us that the reason he IS okay is because he is a runner–because he has taken such great care of his body and is so strong. That is where I really got emotional. I started to think about where my life was heading a few years ago, and how I probably would have ended up dying at a young age from obesity complications if I hadn’t made a change. Sounds dramatic, but I was on a steady weight gain spree with no end in sight, and I am just so glad to be in a place where I am taking care of my body, and more importantly, I am so glad that Tim’s lifestyle saved his life.

As Susan made her way through the overwhelming amount of information, she got to talking about something that really spoke to me: The Voice. We all have it, and it’s always our biggest enemy. Runner or not, we’ve all experienced that negative self talk that tells us we’re not good enough, tells us to give up, and pushes us down. She told us the story of when she was running the olympic trials and she was on the 2nd loop of the 4 loop course. Her voice started, and she was certain she couldn’t do it. She knew up ahead there was a trash can, and legit made a deal with herself that she would run until she got there, then hide behind it. Totally logical. As she got closer, she realized that if she hid behind it now, eventually she would have to come out, and then what? So she didn’t stop. She ran past the trash can, and finished 30th out of the entire country. Then she said

“Most of us quit just before we reach our potential.”

I’m pretty sure I’ve always eventually broken down and listened to the voice, and that I have yet to see what I’m fully capable of. This quote really spoke to me, and I hope I can use it to carry me through the last 10k of the marathon, and any time in life when the going gets tough. I feel so lucky to have such a motivating and inspirational coach!! I know I’ve said it a million times, but every day I feel MORE grateful!

After the information session, we broke for breakfast and then took some team photos.

Then I insisted we all play the camera game…

Well, maybe only like 3 people participated, but I’m pretty sure Susan and Tracie nailed it. Check out their faces!

Your welcome Susan, Tracie and everyone else who played along ;)

I chatted a bit more with some of my teammates, and grabbed my marathon packet (it’s filled with SO MUCH AWESOMENESS!!!).

Jaime, Jason & Me. No double chin. Good photography, Bill.

It was a perfect morning, and a great way to end the training cycle. BIG thank you to Susan and BTB for hosting us! 5 days and counting!

NYC Marathon Training Week 18

Week 1 of taper, check. You know, I read about how everyone hates taper, but this week was kinda nice. I enjoyed a slightly shorter Monday run, still pushed myself at the track, and loved being done with my long run at 7:15 Saturday morning! It was also really great to end a long run and not be totally exhausted. 10 miles felt short, and nice. I could get used to this taper thing! ;) Here’s how it went down:

Monday: 6 mile run. The schedule said “3 miles easy, 3 miles at marathon pace”. WHAT IS MARATHON PACE?!?!?! HOW DO I CHOOSE???? LIFE IS SO HARD!!!! Soooo, I ran 3 miles slow, and 3 miles less slow, ending up with a 10:11 average pace. I was not feeling this run. I had canceled on Nicole so that I could sleep in later, then I had to keep making deals with myself like “Maybe I’ll just run 3 miles….” to get myself out and going, but finally I turned on some relaxing music (because I’m a freak and sometimes I want mellow music while I’m running), and just gave my mind some time to do it’s thing. The run ended up being really good, and a nice reminder that even when I realllllly don’t want to, it’s almost always better to just get out there.

Tuesday: 11 mile bike. Easy ride to coffee with Steve.

Wednesday: Track. Ao about this marathon goal pace. I guess I’ve figured it out? Coach Loken sent me my projected finish time, and it scared the crap out of me. My head immediate filled with “I can’ts” and doubt. I’ve since talked it through with anyone who will listen including my super smart coach (you know the person I actually should talk to about it), and figured out what a realistic goal is mentally for me, and I’m keeping her projected finish time as a dream goal, but trying to run my marathon goal pace miles at that pace. I’m not going to talk about what any of these goals are because when I write my recap about how I ran my first marathon, I want to write it with joy and pride no matter what my finish time is, and if I tell you what I want it to be, and that doesn’t happen, I will feel like a disappointment. Anyway, back to the track. We warmed up, had a mile at marathon goal pace, then 4 x 400s, then an other mile at goal pace, then a cool down. I hit my goal pace miles and they felt easy! It was AWESOME! I also pushed really hard on my 400s running them @ 7:05, 6:57, 6:58, 6:42. The whole workout felt awesome! I completed 5.17 miles in 50 minutes. After track, a couple of people from my team came up to me and told me how much faster I’d gotten!! This is the second time this has happened recently, and it made me feel so awesome!!

Thursday: 3 mile run. Nice and easy recovery run with my speedy friend Ashley. She was practically walking. ;)

Friday: 17.3 mile bike. The usual Friday am bike ride/breakfast/coffee with Nicole.

Saturday: 10 mile run. I came, I ran, I got chased by wild dogs, I ran the second half fast to keep up with my friends, I was done by 7:15 and averaged a 9:57 pace. Ask me about the wild dogs sometime. It’s a really funny story that includes some pretty big embarrassment, but I don’t mind embarrassing myself.

Sunday: Rest. Necessary.

Fundraising update: As you know, I’ve been running with Team Chances to raise money for Chances for Children. I committed to raising $5000, and I’M GETTING SO CLOSE!!! I’ve now raised $4,110 and have just $890 to go thanks to so much support from everyone in my life! Please consider helping me to reach my goal by making a donation or placing an order! Remember that all donations/orders are tax deductible and in the state of Arizona, you can receive a full tax credit ($200 individual, or $400 family) for donations. Thanks to all of you for all the support!! I truly believe I can meet this goal by November 4th!

NYC Marathon Training Week 17

17 weeks of hard work down. 3 weeks of taper to go. I had a lot of thoughts about the training cycle as a whole this week. I was feeling tired physically and mentally. Last week was a step back week, but even though our long run was only 10 miles, running it at race pace made it challenging, and I did not go into this week feeling rested, but I started to realize that maybe that’s the point? If I can run peak week on tired legs, then I can certainly run the marathon on fresh legs, right? I’m guessing that’s why the plans work, but really, what do I know? Basically nothing.

I went to bed last Sunday night thinking about how I had to kill it this week, and make every run perfect because THIS IS IT!! Then I woke up Monday morning totally lacking in motivation. In fact, the only thing that got me to get out of bed for my work outs was knowing that this is the most important week, and after this it will all get easier. Here’s a look at how this week’s training went down.

Monday: 8 mile run. It was a good thing I had plans to run with Nicole, because otherwise it just would not have happened. Something has to be really wrong in order for me to cancel on a friend, but it is so easy to hit the snooze button and roll over when it’s just me. I was NOT feeling it this morning. My legs felt tired from Saturday’s time trial and I was quiet, grumpy, and not a whole lot of fun, but Nicole stayed really positive and pushed me through until the end. I was happy when it was over, but it took me until the moment I was finished to be happy I did it. Ran the first 4 easy, then the next 4 @ 9:46, 9:36, 9:22, 8:30.

Tuesday: Spin. I finally went back to spin! It was a great class, but I just mentally wasn’t 100% in it. I gave it a solid effort and had a good time, but I was just more at like a 90%.

Wednesday: Track–6 x 800. Partner 800s!! YAY!! Stacey and I finally got to complete them together. The way it works is partner #1 (me) runs a lap solo, then partner #2 joins for lap 2. While partner #2 runs their 2nd lap, partner #1 gets a short break. I did a mile-ish warm up over to the track, then completed my 800s @ 8:01, 8:00, 7:42, 7:38, 7:34, 7:22. I was dyyyyying on the last one, but it felt awesome! I did a short cool down jog back and ended up completing 4.4 miles in 37:31 for an average pace of 8:31 including the warm up and cool down! I was stoked!! As soon as I got home, I checked out my paces from the time we did this same work out just one month before: 8:07, 8:08, 8:02, 8:00, 7:58, 7:57. I was so ecstatic to be able to see my improvement!! MAYBE I WON’T BE A SLOW RUNNER FOREVER!!!!

Thursday: Rest. Lots of carbs and compression socks all day long.

Friday: 20.5 mile run. Check it.

Saturday: 15ish mile bike. I literally felt like I had been run over by a truck, but Susan had asked me to bring muffins for the team, so I figured while I was there, I should cheer my friends on. I got my tired legs onto my bike and rode around the canal for almost an hour and a half. It was great to be able to to be there for my friends while they finished the toughest part of the journey as well!

Sunday: Rest. You couldn’t pay me enough to work out today. Rest days are awesome.

Sooooo…..now we taper. Everyone says taper makes you crazy, but I’m sososo excited. My legs are beat. My brain is duuuunnnn. My social life is pathetic. Well, that one probably won’t change. ;) I’m sure after a week or so I will start feeling a little nutty about not running, but for now I can’t wait to tone it way down and give myself a break. My goal is to spend the extra time I would have been running, and focus that energy/time on taking care of myself. Lots of stretching and foam rolling. No skipping PT sessions. Good nutritious food and….no more alcohol (wahhhhh) until after the race. I mean, I’m not a big drinker anyway, and I haven’t been drinking during training except to celebrate long runs, and they’re all over, so there’s really nothing to celebrate until Nov 4. I mean, there’s real life things, but I will celebrate those just fine without. I want to go into the race feeling my very best. Oh and I need to make SLEEP a priority. This 5-6 hours a night business is not cutting it for me.

What do you do differently during taper? How do you prepare for a big race to make sure you go in feeling your best? GIVE ME YOUR AWESOME MARATHON ADVICE!!!!!

Nourish

Sunday evening I went out with some of my awesome teammates to celebrate all of our training, and making it all the way to peak week! Well, we didn’t say exactly what it was that we were celebrating other than actually getting to hang out with each other, but those sound like awesome reasons to celebrate to me ;)

Jason, Wanda, Jaime, Tara, Lisa, Stacey, Moi. And after this lovely evening, I will be throwing out that shirt and NEVER wearing it again.

When we were trying to decide what to do/where to go, we all agreed that some awesome healthy food…and of course some wine. ;) Jaime and Tara eat gluten free, so I suggested Nourish. I first tried Nourish a couple of months ago with Nicole and Emily, and LOVED it! They have a menu filled with healthy options to fit every diet–gluten free, vegan, raw, paleo, you name it!

As soon as I mentioned their air fried sweet potatoes, my friends were all on board!

Heaven.

They have a special air frier that bakes the sweet potatoes at a very high temperature without the potatoes ever touching oil or butter! They do place some oil in the oven, and have a fan that they say infuses the “fries” with the flavor of the oil. They are perfectly crisp on the outside, while soft on the inside–so much better than the kind I make at home! It is kind of magical. The table split a bottle of pinot grigio and an order of the sweet potato fries to start.

I ordered the southwestern rice bowl which was ridiculously good! I don’t know how they get their brown rice to be so soft!!

We ended up spending over 2 hours chatting and talking about, well, running! :)

Jaime & Tara

Stacey & Jason

Lisa & my shiny red face

“Ari take a cute picture of me for my blog! And then out me for asking on the internet!” I believe I was successful on both accounts.

Training buddddddies!

What a fantastic night!! I’m so glad we all had the chance to hang out and do something fun with real clothes on, and eat food that isn’t gu!! Also, I haven’t stopped craving the delicious food from Nourish since we left, so I think an other trip very soon is in order!