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.

It’s Marathon Day

After 7 months, 2 training cycles, $5,000 in fundraising, and countless freak outs, today I will become a marathoner. Today I will achieve what I told so many people I could never do. I can’t wait to soak up every second of this once in a lifetime experience, and while I am out kicking those 26.2 miles in the ass, I wanted to say thank you. I truly believe that if I had never started this blog, I wouldn’t be running this marathon.

Starting Ari’s Menu gave me the courage, and the motivation to run my first half marathon, which sparked the want need to run my first marathon. Throughout my journey, you guys have given me words of wisdom, celebrated my accomplishments, supported me when I doubted myself, and been there through the hard times. I couldn’t do this without you. Thank you for making me better, for reading about my journey, and for all of the comments, love, and support.

The next time I post, I will be a marathoner!

PS: Make sure to head over to Nicole’s blog and send her some love–it’s her first marathon too, and she is my rock!

Marathon Inspiration

Happy 3 Days til Marathon Day of Marathon Week. Yes, every day this week is it’s own holiday. So let’s get with the festivities, and get ourselves all amped up, and inspired to run further than most people like to drive, shall we?

What inspires you?

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I took this picture in DC last weekend. It has no relevance, but I thought it was a pretty backdrop to put quotes on, and that sunshine is symbolic, or something…

When times get tough, as they always do, there are two three things I always tell myself.

1. If it was easy everyone would do it. I am a competitive person. The fact that I have the ability, the drive, and the motivation to push myself in a way that such a small percentage of the population will achieve gives me pride, and fuels the my fire and drive to push through the pain.

2. I can do anything. This is something Ari 2 years ago would have never believed that statement, but it is probably the biggest thing running has taught me. I may not be able to do everything today (BUT WHYYYYY NOT?????), but if I put my mind to it, there is nothing I can’t do. I can do anything.

3. Everything is easier with ruffles on your ass. It’s the truth, and it makes me laugh when I want to cry because my legs hurt.

I am usually able to be my own inspiration in the moment, but I find so much inspiration in reading other people’s stories and journeys. In fact, it was reading the first marathon recap of one specific blogger that inspired me to run a marathon in the first place. I’ve spent the week reading lots of race recaps, especially first marathon recaps, RnR AZ recaps, and pretty much anything written by runners who share my…um, emotionalness. I wanted to share with you guys a few of my favorites in hope that you will find them as motivating and inspiring as I have.

First time marathons:

Ali’s Hamptons Marathon Recap. No matter how many times I read this (and there have been a kind of embarrassing amount), I still cry every single time, and I think “That is what I want my marathon to be.”

Jaime’s Goofy Challenge Recap. The first Team Chances get together, I walked in incredibly nervous and not knowing a soul. I sat down at Jaime’s table, and the rest is history. We clicked right away, and she quickly became one of my closest teammates in this process. Four days ago she not only ran her first marathon, but she ran it the day after running a half marathon in 80* temperatures with Florida humidity. She powered through the toughest first marathon circumstances I can imagine, and powered through! It doesn’t get much more inspirational than this.

Tina’s RnR AZ Marathon Recap. Carrots N Cake was the first blog I started reading. It was the blog that made me want to blog, and RnR AZ was her first marathon. I had read the recap once before, but I went back and read it this week, and it’s definitely a good one.

Theodora’s Chicago Marathon Recap. There’s something about going from being significantly overweight to running a marathon that I feel like you can’t quite understand unless you’ve been there. I can’t quite describe the feeling (yet), but Theodora does a pretty amazing job, and of all of the recaps I’ve read, this one probably resonates the most.

Tina’s Cleveland Marathon Recap. You never really know what can happen on race day, and sometimes things are harder than you ever expected due to circumstances that are beyond your control, but Tina pushed through all of it, and her recap really shows how a race that seems frustrating in the moment is so rewarding in the end. I also love what she says at the very end.

Jamie’s Wineglass Marathon Recap. I know it didn’t end the way she wanted it to, but this is an other good one that reminds me to not give up no matter what, and even in the toughest circumstances, the most important thing is just to finish.

Other inspiring marathon recaps:

Emily’s Eugene Marathon Recap. One day, I would just like to run a 5k at her marathon pace.

Ali’s Manchester City Marathon Recap. How is even her second marathon so freaking inspirational?!

Theodora’s NYCM Recap. I like this one even better than her first one. An other recap that makes me cry every single time.

Sarah’s Eugene Marathon Recap. Let’s just say between this and Emily’s, Eugene is on my race bucket list.

Laura’s Houston Marathon Recap. I love this girl, and she killed it last weekend with some crazy weather conditions!

Other good racing reads:

When my running bestie broke 2 hours in her half marathon.

Caitlin’s first post pardum triathlon.

My girl Stacey’s 19 minute half marathon PR.

Clarinda’s Really Big Half Marathon recap.

 

Have a first marathon recap, or an inspiring race recap you want to share? Link it up! Keep it coming! I’ve been reading these and crying for 2 days, and I’m no where near ready to stop!

 

RnR AZ One Week To Go

FYI: This post has nothing to do with any work outs of training runs I’ve done over the last week. It’s time for me to focus on the mental aspects of the marathon, so here’s a peak into my brain. It’s a hot mess in there, but you get used to it ;)

Can anyone ever confidently say “Oh, I’m TOTALLY ready to run my first marathon!” I’m pretty sure that feeling doesn’t exist, and I’m 100% certain that with how neurotic I am, I would never utter words anywhere close to that. I will say, however, that I’m not worried about whether I “trained well enough” or “did enough”. I am as ready as I could possibly get at this point in my life, and regardless of what happens on January 20th, I have so much to be proud of.

On the flight to NYC, I began a post about things I learned while training for a marathon. I planned to finish it when I got in, and have it go up the day of the race. Well, let’s just say that emotional Post Race Cancelation Ari stepped in, and it’s not even in the data base anymore. If I had one regret over my training cycle, it’s that after the New York Marathon was canceled, a little bit of my spark faded. I didn’t really lose motivation or drive, but the awe and appreciation for my body that came with conquering these new distances faded as I became more focused on the idea that this extended training cycle needed to make me faster, and less focused on the heart of the matter—why I signed up for a marathon in the first place.

I haven’t gone into too much detail on here, although I have gently alluded to the fact that when I first started running, I was in a very bad place with food and body image. I was trapped in a negative cycle, and I honestly didn’t see a light at the end, and I could not bring myself to believe I would be able to lead a different kind of life. Then I discovered running, and I rekindled my passion to be better—the reason I began my healthy living journey in the first place. I began to focus my success on my physical accomplishments, and I found what I had been searching for: freedom.

I am not running this marathon to break any records, and despite the fact that I am document every last second of my training on pretty much every facet of social media, I’m not doing this so you will think I’ve done something special. I am running this marathon to celebrate a point in my journey. A journey that began when I was 9 years old and realized my body was “different”. I originally thought that deciding to tackle a marathon would be the celebration of my weight loss journey, but what I’ve realized is that it is the celebration of something so much bigger.

So no…I’m not “totally ready to run my first marathon”, but I am ready to have a once in a lifetime experience with one of my best friends. And I’m even starting to believe that it might actually happen this time. I haven’t asked Steve if they’re going to cancel it in a solid 72 hours which I would definitely consider progress. ;)

And because this post obviously isn’t long and wordy enough, here are some things I’ve learned while training for my first marathon:

  • I’m stronger than I think.
  • Dinosaurs are hilarious.
  • It’s not easy to find people that you actually enjoy being alone with for 4 hours every week, so if you find someone who clicks perfectly, enjoy it and appreciate the hell out of them (I DO!).
    "Nicole, why is their Christmas so scary???""Don't worry Ari, I'll protect you! Super Nicole to the rescue!"
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  • I am an individual, and my training plan will probably never fit 100% perfectly into my life, and the challenges that each cycle will bring. All I can do is my best, and it won’t kill me to choose drinking wine with friends once in my life over “feeling great” on my stupid recovery run. I was definitely better about this the second time, but the first time around, I had absolutely no social life, and I don’t think my husband/family/friends appreciated me kicking them to the curb. It’s not the nicest way to treat the people I love. I swear there is a way to find balance, but it’s different for everyone, and that’s okay.
  • Comparing myself to others never ends well. And it’s stupid, and kind of rude. It’s best to avoid it at all costs.
  • Coach Susan knows the answers to all of life’s questions. Also, I think my people-pleasing personality is hooked on this whole having a coach business. I had no idea what I was missing, but now I don’t want to go back (and let’s be honest….I probably won’t. Coach Susan > Lululemon running skirts).

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    Although running skirts are pretty awesome…

  • I enjoy running without music. This was the surprise of the century, but I didn’t use my ipod for a single long run the second time around. I do plan on having it on backup for the marathon if I need some extra motivation though.
  • Running should be fun. Last time I checked, this was not my career, and I wasn’t planning to win PF Chang’s. I know, I know, you’re shocked by this revelation. Fun doesn’t mean easy. In my sick and twisted world, “fun” means giving everything I have inside me, laughing with Nicole, enjoying the cheers, and celebrating the success of running a marathon no matter what happens. I plan to have so much freaking fun.
"I'VE GOT THIS!!!!!"

This is what fun running looks like.

Alright friends, now is the time—give me pre-race words of wisdom! Tell me your motivational mantras, what you’ve learned (not necessarily from running, but it could be what you learned in math class), and any other gems of positivity you want to share! 

 

**PS: I am putting together a post this week linking up first time marathon recaps, RnR AZ recaps, and any really inspirational running recaps I come across, because I plan on doing a lot of reading to get motivated. If you have a post, email me the link to ari@arismenu.com if you’d like to be included!**

RnR AZ 2 Weeks to Go

Hey, remember how I used to actually talk about my marathon training? Those were the good ol’ days. Then I just stopped for 3 weeks. Well, I haven’t been writing because there hasn’t been too much to report, other than working really hard to fight off injury and sickness. I could feel really down in the dumps about it, and decide that my training has been ruined forever (that’s pretty typical over in these parts), but actually, I’ll take it now rather than at the starting line. And I haven’t missed a single long run, so I’m honestly not that  worried. I mean, I’m a nervous wreck, but I’m no more nervous than if I had done every run exactly as planned. I’ve been training for 7 months. I can run this marathon. Umm, I just accidentally typed “marathong” which I’m guessing is something completely different. Moving on…

In the last 3 weeks, I’ve probably run 6 times. Right when I decided I wanted to push to make it to 1,000 miles for 2012, I woke up the day after a 14 mile run with a scary knee pain I had never felt before. There was definitely some freaking out, and crazy texts and calls to Coach Susan, my nurse friend Laurel, and anyone else who would listen. Susan told me to take at least 3 days off, and said most injuries can be prevented if you just listen to your body and take time off immediately. I’m not usually very good at that, but as I told EVERYONE about a million times, I can’t not run another marathon. So I listened. I took an entire week off running (WHO AM I??), went to the gym and lifted weights one of the days (more shocking news), and did a 55 mile bike ride on Christmas which was awesome except for the fact that I am pretty sure I need a different seat, like, yesterday. It was pretty painful in all the wrong ways, but I was happy to be doing something “endurancy” and “athletic”.

After my week hiatus, I came back and ran the best freaking 21 miles of my life.

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READY TO RUN!!!

Actually, I’d never run 21 miles before, so I have nothing to compare it to, except for the fact that I did it in less time than it took me to run 20.5 the last time, so that’s a good sign. I actually still can’t get over how much better I felt this time. The last time, after mile 18, it seriously felt like there was glass inside my joints, and every step felt like I was just going to break. It was so incredibly difficult, but this time, I just felt…right. I mean, it was ridiculously tough, but more in an “I’m exhausted, where is the ‘finish line’???” type of way than a “Are you sure there are not shards of glass in my ankles?” type of way. I finally got to run the route I had planned out the first time with Nicole, and she kept me so positive in the middle miles (around 15-17) where I was struggling. By the end we were so pumped that we ran the final mile in something ridiculous like 8:30. I really doubt that will be happening at mile 26, but even after we were finished, I felt energized and I couldn’t believe how great it went.

The next day, I got sick. So then I took more time off, then I ran again and my knee kinda hurt, blah blah blah. Sooooo, I’m just trying to embrace the taper. I felt an injury come on during taper last time, and Susan told me that it really wouldn’t hurt me to take it easier during that time, so that’s what I’m doing. I’ve been training for 7 months, and never missed a long run. My body knows what to do. Sorry, I have to keep reminding myself as well.

So, there you have it friends. Two weeks to go, and I’m feeling the taper craziness in full force, but I know that by this time on January 20th, it will all be worth it. I will finally  be able to call myself a marathoner, and more importantly, I will be able to rewrite my thank you notes (I wrote them after NY, but I hated how pessimistic they sounded, so I decided to wait until after the journey was complete and I could thank everyone who donated for helping me to become a marathoner), and I will be able to feel the reward of crossing the finish line after 26.2 miles. I can’t freakin’ wait.