Getting my Mommy Mojo Back…

My post-marathon days have felt sort of like reanimation… I’m slowly getting my energy, body movement and mental focus back. This weekend was pretty amazing; I didn’t work out at all. I didn’t have to prioritize anything over spending time with my kid. Without running long on Saturday morning, there was time to fit in all the “chores” without missing out on family time, and energy enough to enjoy family time.

(Marathon training wasn’t all bad, but it was a sacrifice. I’ve been enjoying the “decadent” feeling of having time to do all the things I missed.)

That whole Daddy’s Girl forever and Mommy is Chopped Liver shenanigans? Evidently I got my mojo back this weekend and things have been going better. For the most part, we’re in a happy, balanced, “I have two parents and they’re both cool by me” house. I worked hard to be present, be in a good mood and it was fun for all. I am sure there will come a time, maybe in the near future, where I’ll revisit the awesome comments you guys left – heck I used some of them this weekend! 🙂

We started out with Margo’s first soccer class on Saturday (OMG, the cute factor was really unfathomable.) She had a blast and it was really, really fun to watch her with Scott. We had to go out on the field a few times to “save” her from the big scary man coaches. She’s not much for dudes, turns out.

Sunday morning I went to the Raleigh Marathon to cheer for my friends, and repay the scores of anonymous marathoners with some of that encouragement I loved so much during my race. Sunday evening, me and Margo hit the pool together. Super fun! That is so “our thing” and I’m trying to do it every time I have the opportunity!

Getting a pic of Margo when she’s not talking: impossible.

Last night, we had a dance party to the Rock of Ages soundtrack (which Scott threatened to embarrass me with, but I’m owning it. Yes I own the Rock of Ages soundtrack. It’s awesome, not ashamed.) Margo loved it, & even started singing “I love Rock n’ Roll!” We were dancing together to power ballads. & I heard this little number…

“I don’t need to be the king of the world, as long as I’m the hero of this little girl.” 

And I was just content. Yeah, I’m still that so it’s all good. And even if she doesn’t like me sometimes (or for long stretches), I like to think I still will be. Right?


Sightseeing in DC: Toddler Edition

On our trip to Washington DC last weekend, even with the marathon, a toddler and nap schedule and potentially hazardous weather, we had so much fun. DC happens to be one of my most favorite cities ever, and when I finally got to the Mall I was grinning like a fool.

First off… sightseeing in the city in the two days before a marathon. Talk about a half-baked idea! I had such a hard time trying to make sure I wasn’t walking too much or too fast and drinking enough and eating well. It was sort of a pain. And as I laid in bed Friday night (race was Sunday) and my feet gave a little throb of pain, I sorta kicked myself. Even so, there were trade offs; we didn’t do as much as we could have. And, being a family vacay (and one where I was asking Scott and Margo to basically do nothing but watch strangers run on Sunday), I couldn’t do some things I really wanted to do. Like the Newseum. (OMG, I haven’t been to it since it’s been moved and I wanna go soo bad.)

We arrived Friday, and it was sort of a slow day; everything took longer than we anticipated. I got my stuff at the expo, Scott took Margo to the Air and Space Museum. So much driving, waiting, walking and toddler wrangling made it an exhausting day. Hangry Jamie even made an appearance before dinner! The Air and Space Museum wasn’t as huge of a hit was we’d hoped for Margo (at 2 months shy of 3)… she breezed through a lot of it before I got there and wasn’t really interested in backtracking at all. I was sorta sad I didn’t have a chance to look at more stuff there; it’s a fun one. Also worth noting, no nap and lots of driving *may* have tainted the toddler mood. (It definitely did.)

But, Saturday was darn near perfect. We decided to just go slow. Scott had spent so much of Friday carrying Margo (who didn’t nap! Did I forget to mention that?) and he was pretty spent too. We took the metro to see the White House. Margo kept talking about how we were going to see Obama in Washington DC, we couldn’t miss it. Obviously, didn’t see Obama or even get to go in the White House, but it was pretty fun to see it! We walked (meandered) past the Washington Monument to the Smithsonian (didn’t open til 10! Whaaat?) It was a gorgeous fall day… & we were in full parent papparazzi form and got like a bajillion pics.

We also visited the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. This might be my most very favorite museum experience ever… she was so excited about the dinosaur bones and they have a really awesome exhibit of stuffed animals.

Awesome, awesome butterfly house too. You had to pay for it, but it was so worth it for the concentration of butterflies. I’ve been to my share of butterfly houses (*humblebrag*) and I’ve never been so close to them. We were all in a great mood, it was a really awesome museum for her at this age and given her interests (animals and dinos being in the top 5.) We also went a little nuts in the gift shop. What can I say, I love a museum gift shop… We had lunch at the cafe there. Um, holy yummy food. I was shocked… I had a roasted eggplant sandwich and a cupcake. Much more than the hot dog/chicken fingers you’d expect.

I think I’m left feeling torn between wishing we’d had more quality time to do stuff (we didn’t even see half of the Natural History Museum) and being so thankful for what we did get to do. It was awesome family time. We stayed in a hotel in Arlington, and we weren’t particularly close to a metro stop (the “shovel” had to take us there. “Shuttle” for those of you who don’t speak Margo.) We ended up spending our evenings in Arlington/Pentagon City & eating nearby… nothing special.

BUT! Scott is going back to DC for a work trip later this month and Margo and I are most likely tagging along. I’m totally excited to do it all again – with energy! – and also have a nicer, closer (FREE) hotel. Potentially want to hit the zoo (if it’s not terribly cold), American History Museum (first lady gowns! weee!) and, probably Natural History again (we missed the whole buggie exhibit, after all…)

And one of my most very favorite pictures ever:

A sappy post about Twitter & #runnerds

As I’m relaxing and reflecting on my marathon & training (and, you guys, I have so much more time & energy during which to do that! *high five*), I think I left one big thing out of my recap post.

My #runnerds. That’d be my twitter friends who I spend hours with daily, some of whom I’ve never even met. We share a love of running and understand it overlaps with nerdiness at times (who doesn’t LOVE to analyze their Garmin paces and charts!) They’ve been so supportive along the way – posting “atta girl” tweets after I tweet about a morning run, or “it’s okay” encouragement when I had a stinky run. They helped me reach my goal for my Girls on the Run fundraising! No really. I didn’t verbally ask anyone for money and raised $1k. I am so grateful for all of that support (& you can all rest assured those asks are over for a while now.)

And, maybe in the biggest, most awesome manifestation of support, they cheered me on through Frankenblister. As you guys know, I had a major super-blister that was bugging me for the last 16 miles of the race. During a walking break, I tweeted:

@jamiemcq15 Nursing a major toe blister. Send positive tweets. 5 mi left.

The responses, quite honestly, helped me finish. It’s like I had 30 spectators on the side of that stupid bridge to Crystal City in DC with signs made specifically for me. Your little online nudges gave me IRL motivation. If that makes me sound like a loser, I don’t really care 🙂 Scrolling through the responses sort of made me tear up just now.  I didn’t have the energy or presence of mind to reply or even say thank you the day of the race. So, thank you so much for your encouragement; it made a difference to me.

All of the social media community we’ve created around the silly #runnerd hashtag has come to mean a lot too, motivating me to be accountable to my training, and also it was never far from my mind that my splits were being updated to twitter (and texted to a lot of #runnerd friends). I only hope I can give as much back to my friends as they’ve given to me. Being a runner and a nerd are awesome things to be in such good company!


MCM Recap

So, how was the marathon?

I’m sort of at a loss on how to sum it up. It like a range of emotions, physical highs and lows…there’s not really a word for what it’s like to do a marathon. It sucked/was awesome. With that beautiful non-sense, I’ll just go through the day (with pictures!)

We knew going into Sunday that there was a high probability that it’d be raining and/or hurricaning during the race. That was a tough pill to swallow and I went through stages of acceptance on that… ending up at a pretty good place where I didn’t really care what it was gonna do. I picked up a new rain jacket (turns out in the 10 years since I’d bought the one I had packed they’ve started to make them a lot thinner!)

This was the doppler the morning of the race, and I’m pretty sure it stayed just about like this the whole time. Spoiler: we got no rain… a few moments where it was spitting, but nothing bad at all.

I woke up around 5:45, a few min ahead of my alarm. I got all dressed & took my breakfast down to the lobby so as not to wake my cheering squad. I saw the hotel shuttle and took it, not realizing it was taking us to the metro (I ASSumed it was somewhere “near the start” Silly Jamie.) We got there and I had my first minor freakout since I didn’t bring any money.

Lesson: Bring money. Just in case.

So this really nice fellow runner bought me a ticket. Thanks Shauna! It was a pretty bonehead move, looking back. She was all like “I’m here with my husband and kids so I have to be prepared!” And I’m like… “yeah… me too. I’m just a doofus, evidently.” Anyway, kindness of strangers saved me from being late, so there’s that.

We made the mile or so walk from the subway stop to Runners’ Village (which was really just a ton of Porta-potties and the gear check. Waited in line for like 25 min for a toilet and then walked to the start. We missed the official start, but made it up to the 4:30-5 hour corral. It wasn’t a relaxing start, but it all worked out. I ran with Stacey and Brittany for the first 10ish miles, which was so fun. 🙂 (Thanks for the pic, Brittany!)

The first few miles of the course were substantially hillier than the rest (since the rest is almost completely flat). Training in Raleigh, you kind of involuntarily do hills so I wasn’t intimidated. Even so, I hate hills like any sane person so it wasn’t the highlight of the course. Crossing the bridge to Georgetown was really pretty (and I totally peed on the side of the road just before the bridge too – you’re welcome for that detail! And for the show, fellow runners!) There was another long, slow hill in G-town but then we got to the top and a spectator was like “That’s it! It’s all down hill after this!” and… then I smiled. She was right.

Georgetown was awesome. I love Georgetown (who doesn’t!), it’s an adorable downtown stretch and it was SO LOUD and exciting! So fun to have so much crowd support there, definitely one of my favorite stretches of the race.

Next we came up on the Lincoln Memorial and I got a text from Scott that he & Margo were there. (Oh, I can text and run, are you impressed?) Seeing them was a big boost… we had planned on seeing them in Rosslyn, but couldn’t find them so that was a bit of a bummer.

Also right around the Lincoln (in between mile 10 an 11), I started to feel the beginnings of… Frankenblister. It’d been a sort of recurring issue… I’d been using Aquaphor and hadn’t had a bad run since. I said I was going to stop if we saw a Medic tent with Vaseline bc my toe on my left foot was starting to rub. We passed the Medic tent right as we saw Scott & Margo so I was all happy and like “I’ll just get the next one.” The next one was about 4 miles later. And THEY WERE OUT OF VASELINE.

Lesson: Never wait for Vaseline.

It just got worse. I did end up finding some a few miles later. (And to the Marine I grabbed the blob from, I said “OMG, you saved my life.” Good one Jamie, to a guy who’s probably been in a war. Moron.) I’m not sure if it was too late or Vaseline just didn’t do the trick. It didn’t help. By that point I had drifted back from Brittany and Stacey. I was trying as hard as I could to just not think about the blister… I mean, it’s not like I can break a toe from that, or really hurt myself. It’s just a blister. And when I looked at it (during “save my life” Vaseline application), it sorta just looked like a callus. But it hurt so bad. I won’t lie, I definitely cried at one point.

I motored through the mall section, which sorta makes me sad. I was looking forward to that part so much and I was just so preoccupied with Frankenblister that I couldn’t really enjoy it as much as I wanted to. Oh well, whatever.

On the way out of the mall towards the bridge to Crystal City, we passed the Holocaust Museum. Maybe this is super dramatic, but I started thinking about the victims of the Holocaust and how if they had blisters, and they stopped they’d probably be killed. That worked for me. It still hurt me, but I didn’t stop again on account of my toes and I didn’t cry about it again. I’m sure that’s not what the Holocaust Memorial *intended* to provide to society, but it got me through my marathon & Frankenblister.

The bridge to Crystal City (Mile 21ish) was hard: basically no crowd support and it just seemed to go on forever. Crystal City, though, was AMAZING. I was listening to music at this point, but there were several stretches where I couldn’t even hear my music because the cheering and bands were so loud. It was awesome to have that sort of energy when I was so depleted myself!

I started to actually go a little faster in Crystal City (well, it felt like faster, I don’t know if it actually was). I never hit “The Wall.” As I ticked past Mile 22, 23, 24 I just kept trying to think of it in terms of time. Like, in a half hour, I’ll be done. It somehow seemed more manageable that way. And then, the now famous line among my runnerd friends (originating from Kathleen? Heather? I can’t recall)… “I can do anything for 20 minutes.”

I finished strong, and ran up the short hill to the Iwo Jima memorial. (I had to pass so many walkers. Seriously people? I know it’s a hill, but .1 left!!! RUN!) I finished strong. I’m not sure what my official time was, but my Garmin had me 2 min under 5 hours. It’s way slower than I thought I’d finish, but by the end I didn’t care at all. The crowd was SO thick until mile 18? And even then I felt like I was constantly trying to find a space to run the pace I wanted to run without being on someone’s heels or being elbowed. The crowds made running your own race difficult. But, I’m not sure I could have/should have gone any faster than I did.

Woohoo! The other side of the finish.

After the finish… that’s when things started sucking 🙂 I got my medal, high fives from the Marines, photo by Iwo Jima. Then I just wanted to lay down… like a primal, unfightable urge. There was this Marine with a megaphone going around telling ppl NOT to lay down, and I wanted to hurt him (but didn’t have the necessary energy to do so). I found Brittany at the finish and I was so out of it. I collected the food & water and walked with the herd out of the finish area. I found a Medic tent and got some broth. I kept up with my salt (had 5 salt caps over the course of the race and lots of Gatorade…), so I’m not certain that was my issue, but it sorta felt like when I had my salt issue before. They gave me salty chicken broth and a little cot for a few minutes and it helped me perk back up. I still hated walking, but I could at least string together a sentence.

Lesson: I’m not sure. Just have more salt?

Scott and Margo found me and we slogged over to the Finish Festival. I was so happy to see them, I gave Scott a hug and said “Never let me do that again.” We were all so tired and just wanted to go back to the hotel (esp as we were plowing right through naptime). The metro line was up into the street. We went for a taxi, which also had a ridiculous line. When I add up the time I spent getting to and from the race, it’s about the same amount of time I spent running. I guess this is what you get in a 30,000 person race. It was beyond exhausting.

& Re: Frankenblister – it still hurts now, but more like a chafing burn rather than a big blister? And if it is a blister, it’s really far under the skin. I have no clue what went wrong there or how to prevent it. Oh wait, I bet not running that far would prevent it…

So… that’s the long and short of it. I am not sure I did a great job making it sound equal parts awesome and awful, but it was. If not for Frankenblister, it would have been much better, but there’s obviously not much that can be done about it now. I am proud that I did it, that I enjoyed it and mentally overcame the physical challenges (and never hit the wall… unless the end was the wall? IDK.) Am I doing it again? If so, not for a very, very long time.

MCM: I’m ready.

I’m sitting in our darkened hotel room (or, as Margo’s calling it, the “showtell” room… lolz.) and Scott and Margo are napping. We had a wonderful morning, great DC fall weather & pictures, awesome time at the museum. I’m quietly looking at some weather, maps, huffington posts in the dark…

And then it hit me. I’m ready. I really, really am. I spent all day Thursday mulling over the stupid weather and stuff out of my control. I just spent a great day with my family and then it hit me: I got this. I am ready. I’m less stressed today than I have been in weeks, like some sort of zen has descended on me. It’s nearly go time and I’m so alright with that!

Maybe it is that we’re here, in this hotel full of runners, in a city full of runners. Everywhere I look, it’s families with one parent walking around in sneakers and jeans (seemingly the uniform of marathoners in the days before the race.) Maybe it’s the exhaustion of having to do so much to get there & I’m just ready to have it be that time already; so much lead up gets old. I’m so tired of this forecast going back and forth, I’ve decided it just doesn’t even matter.

And when I decided that, I knew I’m totally ready. It can do whatever, but it won’t rob me of my joy in running my first marathon, among a field of 30,000 others who have put in the same amount of sacrifice. I think about how much I’ve given to this training, and multiply it by 30,000. Amazing. No matter what, it’s gonna be great. Sandy can do whatever she wants, I have rain gear.

Why I’m running a marathon (and how you can support me)

One of the realities of living with a 2 year old, I’ve learned, is the nearly constant barrage of “Why”…(the break occurring in the the 11 hours during which she’s asleep.) Over the past 4 months, I’ve been going running every Saturday and most weekday mornings. She sees me getting out my sneakers and knows I’m going running. Our morning convos go something like this, as she’s laying in our bed trying to snooze with her daddy and I’m trying to quietly get all my things together in the dark.

M: “Mommy, you going running?”

J: “Yep, go back to sleep, sweetie.”

M: “Why?”

J: “Because I’m training for the marathon.”

M: “Why?”

I mean, everyone has a motivation for doing something as crazy as training for and running 26.2. You have to. But does everyone get grilled at 6am every time they run? I guess I just have an unfair advantage: daily reevaluation of why the hell I’m doing this.

So the answer? I am doing it because I wanted to prove I can. I am doing this because it’s hard and overcoming a challenge – THE challenge – is empowering and even the training makes me feel good (except for sometimes when it sucks.) I’m doing it for the time to myself. I’m doing it because I’ve always wondered if I can, and I don’t like just putting things off. It’s a great time in my life, and I’m ready to spike the ball and be a marathoner.

It’s not all motivation and envisioning the finish line on the daily though. It’s been ridiculously hard, painful (hi, icebaths…), beyond exhausting and frustrating. But, as I’m so close to the actual race, enjoying a week of tapering (and no more running till Sunday! Woo!) and trying to calm my race day jitters and worries… it’s a mixed bag of feelings for me. All last month, in the weeks leading up to the 20 miler (the peak), I was so tired I was looking to the marathon as THE END. I wouldn’t even think about running after that. I was so excited to just stop, and if I had to run 26.2 miles to have the right to stop, fine.

Now, as I’ve backed off my mileage so much, I’m almost bittersweet about how I’m going to miss it. Miss running with my friends regularly and miss wearing my running clothes and and when will I listen to my audio books? It’s going to be a huge change, and it’s weird. Of course I will still run, but there have been so many days, at least once a week and some weeks more, where I have a scheduled run that I just don’t want to do but I make myself because MARATHON TRAINING SAYS I MUST.  And I respect the marathon training, I do the workouts. (I think I’ve only skipped .4 miles the whole time…honest to Jesus! We joke about how much Margo loves rules, pretty sure that’s all me.)

Ultimately, I believe in the transformative power of running. I believe that this training has changed me, it’s changed what I believe I’m capable of and I know without a doubt that finishing the race will change me. Running in general gives you freedom, power, self-confidence, health and camaraderie. As much as it has sucked some days, I’m so happy I’m doing this. I’ve only thought about not doing it… like maybe twice. 🙂

For all those reasons, and more, I’ve chosen to raise money for Girls on the Run of the Triangle, a local charity that teaches young girls about the positive, transformative power of running. If you want to support me & give me a boost, please make a donation. And a huge thanks to so many of my friends & family who already have, I’m really blown away(and excited) about the money I’ve raised so far! I’ll be matching donations received from now till the race!

So yeah… I’m getting all sappy about it now that it’s almost over. I feel pretty certain I’ll cry when I finish.

Strategery on the Marathon

So, here we go! The marathon is upon us: This Weekend!

I’ve been strategizing (a lot) over the past few weeks about how exactly to run this race. I decided early on that it’s not about time, and it still isn’t. I really didn’t want to set myself up where I’m stressed about time and unable to really listen to my body and, also, enjoy the race. I have never done it before, finishing is the goal and quite an accomplishment.

But, there’s a problem with that. A big part of marathoning is pacing. And I know that I fall prey to going out too fast. And, ergo, a big part of pacing is having a projected finish time. *Sigh* Ok. But, HOW do you estimate how long it takes to run 26.2 if you’ve never done it? (no really, if you know, please tell me) The best I could find was this, the McMillan Running Calculator. It makes calculations based on your other race times at various distances. I’m aiming to run the race at a 10:15-:30 pace. It says my 2:06 half (from June) would equate to a 4:25 marathon. (I dunno about that… but anyway) Realizing that with throngs of people this could be a challenge in the beginning, I’m actually looking at that number more as a ceiling to prevent me from going out too hard. If we go out slower, I won’t sweat it.

Another piece of advice I found online is to do the first half of the race by time, and the second half by feel. I like this. I think using the first 10-13 miles to set my pace and keep me above that 10:15 threshold will help me. Hopefully, I hit mile 10 and feel great and step it up.

My last bit of strategy is to listen to music for the last 6.2 miles only. I’m intending to run the race with Brittany and Stacey, and the excitement of 30,000 others and who knows how many spectators. But, you know, anyone will tell you that the last 6 miles a-sucks and I feel as if I need something exciting to look forward to. Enter: Killer Playlist. I’m working on it, it’s gonna be great! I’m still looking for a few songs, so if you have an amazing rec, I’d love to hear it! Before you say Kelly Clarkson, I’m looking for a notch above that. 🙂 This is for A-game songs only.

And now… fuel. This, as you know, is my big thing! It’s night and day when I do a great job fueling, it almost feels like cheating. I’ve been using the plan I outlined in this post more or less (just … well, more or less depending on the length of the run). It gets different in that on longer training runs, I would stop and refill my fluids at the car, and I don’t see refilling being an option on the race course. I will probably take water & Gatorade from the stands, however, I will also take my Fuel Belt. I mean, how else will I hold all the gu I need and my phone?

I’m going to take a salt tablet at the top of each hour, and try to keep up with the Gu every 40 minutes. I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around how to make sure I’m getting enough liquids, and I don’t like not being able to know how many ounces I’ll be drinking… but I think if I just take water or gatorade at each stop, and have it in my belt I’ll be ok. That feels weirdly loosey goosey for having  been so stringent over the past 2 months about this. I just don’t know how to plan for it… Can any marathon veterans help me with this? How do you keep track of your fluids?