Old Race Recap: 2004 Philadelphia Marathon (my first marathon!)

Blogs really did not exist in 2004.  They kind of did ... kind of.  But not really.  If they had, I so would have had one.  Instead, I had (and have) a message board of a bunch of girlfriends all over the country.  We met when we were planning our weddings around 2001 and are still going strong.  Back in the day, I posted a race recap from my very first marathon, the 2004 Philadelphia Marathon, for the group.  

A couple of things to note:  (1) I did not run with music at this race; (2) this was back when the Philadelphia Marathon was just the marathon and did not have the half option; and (3) yes, that is still the same damn Fuel Belt that I have and use now!   I finished that race in 4:39 and some change.  

Here's my finish photo and the recap cut and pasted from my 2004 self.  Enjoy :)

WOW! Yesterday certainly ranks as one of the most important, monumental, happy, painful (!) and just all around life-defining days in my life. I am still experiencing so much emotion - all of it happy, blissful, euphoric. Each time I step, my legs ache, but those aches are a tangible reminder that I accomplished my goal!! 

I know this is going to be long, so I apologize in advance ... 

Friday I was pumped! Each of your encouraging posts meant so much to me. My friends, my coworkers were also sending me great inspiring emails. 

Saturday I went to the gym and did one last light jog. The gym was playing great music - and the last song that they played while I was on the treadmill was Dancing Queen which I considered an awesome omen. I then went to my grandmom's for dinner (she made chicken & dumplings - perfect carbo-meal!), where my parents had told everyone about the marathon the next day. My husband and I checked into our hotel and I tried to get sleep, but it was difficult. 

SUNDAY MARATHON DAY!!!!! I woke up at 5:45 (the Four Seasons agreed to give us 3 wake up calls - and I set my watch - yes, crazy girl). I had my typical pre-race breakfast of oatmeal, piece of wheat toast with peanut butter, coffee, some gatorade. I got dressed and asked my husband to write my name on my shirt. Which he did. But he spelled my name wrong!! He put "SHANA" (he hadn't had his coffee). I decided I would just cover it with my race number, which was fine. 

We were able to walk the 3/4 mile from the hotel to the art museum. My husband walked with me to keep my jitters down and to keep me company. I immediately got in line for the port-a-potties. There were over 10,000 people signed up ... and the people behind me in line for the port-a-potties were obnoxious! Sort of "Oh ... whatever ... marathons. They are not that bad. I prefer triathlons. I mean, if I do anything less than 8 minute miles, I will be really bummed." So, I tuned them out. I repeated "Calm. Calm. Calm" over and over and just tuned them out and focused on ME. My husband left me to go wait outside the hotel and I found the start and got in my pace group (10 minute milers - go us!). After what seemed like an eternity, the starting gun went off. It took me about 4 minutes to get to the start. I still remember the rush I felt when I heard my chip on my sneaker *beep* as I crossed the start. I got teary ... especially when I saw the tons of people lining the Ben Franklin parkway as I made my way down. I then saw my husband outside our hotel! "Go Shanny! Go get em!!" he screamed! I saw him hit the guy next to him and say, "here's my wife!!". 

I felt fantastic for the next few miles. The crowds were sparse here ... which was fine. I had to keep reminding myself to pace myself. There was so much energy around me with all the runners. It was hard to reign myself in, but I just kept thinking to run smart now, and it would pay off later (and it did). Once we got to South Street (mile 5 or so), the crowds started to get bigger, which was awesome. I had my second emotional moment when a woman was on the street corner, holding a hand-made sign that said, "Thank you for inspiring me." I yelled "thank you!" to her as the tears came down my face. At this point, I turned around to see what was behind me ... and I saw a girl I went to high school with!!! Crazy! We recognized each other and gave each other a huge hug!! 

At this point (mile 6-7) the crowds were intense on Chestnut St. I saw a partner from my law office cheering - he saw me and cheered me on. Then I knew I was coming to the spot where my family would be: 17th & Chestnut. And there they were! And they had made a sign that said, "GO SHANNA" on it .... and they all were smiling and my parents were there - beaming and gave me high fives. It was awesome!!! I kept going - running strong. 

The next few miles were fun too - until about mile 10-11. I had to pee. I had to pee badly. There were no porta-potties. So, I remembered the marathon book that I read: "now is not the time to be modest." So, I figured I had three options: (1) pee in the woods with some of the other brave souls; (2) pee my pants or (3) keep running and pray for a porta-potty. I couldn't wait. So I figured "whatever - everyone has seen what I got." I peed in the woods and felt so much better (and learned that it is always wise to bring Kleenex on the run ....). After we finished mile 12-13, we came out around West River Drive, which leads to the Art Museum, where the family was waiting for me again. They all cheered me on and had a new sign for me! This kept me going. I still felt good and strong. The Art Museum area was packed b/c it was also the finish - it was now around 2 hours, 10 minutes or so, so I knew the elite runners would be finishing - you have to run up Kelly Drive and then do a turn around, so you can see the other faster runners, who have finished the leg that you're about to do. 

I saw the first woman finisher and screamed over to her, "Go girl! You got it! You're the first woman!! You rock!" Later I found out she was Russian and probably just heard me say something to the effect of ... blah girl! bleeh blah blah. You rock!" Miles 15-18 I was still feeling good and strong. The miles ticked off pretty quickly here. And there were lots of spectators who were so awesome. After mile 18, my legs started to hurt a bit. I was running for 3 hours, but I knew that the next leg was the turnaround AND was supposedly filled with fun spectators - were there ever! The crowds in Manayunk were amazing - tons of people, playing music, shouting their heads off, saying "You got it! You're almost there! Go Go Go" I got an orange at one of the water stations, which was the best orange I have ever tasted. I then saw the turnaround. And I hit the 20 mile mark. The woman next to me and I looked at each other. I said, "Just a 10K to go right? Just 6 miles!" She put her arm around me and said, "we have this. it's all mental now." Another emotional moment. 

I had to take a little walk break at this point. I speed-walked and felt better and then started up. I then saw the hill - it's an exit ramp from a busier road. While a lot of people were walking up it, this is when I thanked my training runs and the insane hills that I had to conquer. This hill was teeny in comparison to my training hills -- so I ran up it. Just like I ran up the hill on South Devon Road or Maplewood Road. It was a nice break in my stride b/c the course had been flat for awhile. I got to mile 22 and saw my one coworkers who promised she'd be there. She cheered me on, asked how i felt. I said, "Missy! You are awesome!!! I feel great!" And I did - and it was just what I needed. At this point, I realized "Oh my God - I am past 'the wall' that I thought I would hit!!! I did it!!! Just 4 miles to go!!!" Again - the marathon book helped me. I imagined myself, as the book said, bursting through a brick wall, running strong. I kept thinking - just get to mile 25. At Mile 25, you're at Boathouse Row and near the finish, where all the crowds are. At one point around Mile 23.5, I walked a little again. Some woman came behind me and said, "Oh no you don't. You can do this! RUN! You have trained for this! GO!" So I picked up my leaden legs and ran and yelled, "Thank you for kicking me in the ass!" That was the last time I walked. 

I hit mile 25 and then the crowds picked up. People were everywhere - smiling, cheering! People were yelling, "Just 1/2 mile to go!" then "Just 500 yards" I heard the finish line. Then I saw it. Then I saw my family!!! Then I started crying. I turned the bend and I saw the banner with the time 4:41 or so ... I sprinted - I had to! And I felt myself hit the finish mat and looked up at the camera and put my hands over my head and screamed!!! I forgot to even check my watch time I was so excited!!!! After the race, I went to our hotel, showered and then went home. 

I did not stop smiling the entire race. It was wonderful - I felt good and yes, my legs hurt, but not as much as I thought. The runners, the spectators, and knowing that my friends and family were 100% behind me were what kept me going and kept me smiling. My mind thought back to my friends who have done this before and I wanted to give them a big hug ... and I wanted to give a hug to anyone who is considering running a marathon, b/c it truly is worth every second of training and all the pain and sacrifice. 

When's the next marathon? Sign me up!! I am most definitely doing this again. 

Turns out the next marathon was in 2012 ... but two babies intervened and I was happy to take a bit of a breather from distance running.  I still remember every detail of my first marathon like it was yesterday.  In many ways, it feels like it was yesterday.  In others, it was a lifetime ago.  

See you swoon,

What I Wore {post 55}

It's Friday! I can't believe that next weekend is Halloween.  October has felt a little long to me, but I'm not quite ready for the other side ... Thanksgiving, Christmas, 2015!  Ready or not, they're all coming though.  

My posts have settled into a nice little pattern over the past few months: workout post on Monday; home post on Wednesday; outfit post on Friday.   I think I'll continue this.  And because today is Friday, it's outfit day!  

* Magenta Top, Pinstripe Skirt, Turquoise Necklace *

These are all old pieces from my wardrobe that I threw together.  The skirt is a TJ Maxx find from a few years ago: a navy pinstripe skirt that I had hemmed to above my knee.  I thought a navy tight worked with it.  I like the magenta and navy combo, so I wore the top.  And for a fun pop of color, I added the turquoise bubble necklace from the j.crew factory.

* White Top, Navy Pants, Navy & White Scarf *

I went a little casual this day - I started with the navy ankle pants (because I was coming off of a long run and needed to wear flats).  I saw my navy & white scarf in the closet and figured that would be fun to wear.  A simple white top and my red flats completed the look.

* Coral Cardigan & Grey Dress *

I'm not sure why I took this picture so far away.  Oops.  The dress was a buy from a friend - it's kind of dressy and a bit on the Summery side, so I wore a coral cardigan with it to make it a little more Fall, and work, appropriate.  This was the week before the Steamtown marathon, so I was wearing my flats as much as I could.

Happy weekends to one and all!  

See you swoon,

Kitchen Refresh on the Cheap!

Hello hello ya'll!  I hope everyone is having a terrific morning.

You know my kitchen, right?  I know my kitchen.  My kitchen is perfectly functional, is a very nice size with a space for a table and chairs (which we use all of the time for dinners), and has a ton of potential.  However, the cabinets are builder grade medium oak wood and, having been in a rental for  many years, are pretty worse for the wear.  

As much as I would love to paint them white, I recognize that (a) this is a rental and they do not belong to me and (b) the effort in painting them is really a wasted one, as they need to be replaced and ... this is a rental and they do not belong to me.  Add to that, the trim under the big window in the kitchen is grey.  I'm not sure why ... but it is.  

The rest of the trim in the kitchen is white.  The grey has bothered me.  The cabinets have bothered me.  But I am limited in what I can do.  Still, I put on my thinking cap and tried to figure out how I could make the kitchen easier on the eyes and a bit more "me".  The answer was simple: add cabinet hardware and paint that grey trim white.

The Trim

This was easy enough.  I have a quart of white semi-gloss that I used in the kids' bathroom when I painted that space.   I rolled up the curtains and made that weird grey trim better with a few coats of crisp white.   Easy.  Done.  Why did it take me so long to do this?  Now when I glance over to that window, I smile instead of cringe.

The Cabinets

Sigh.  You *know* these cabinets break my heart.  I am a sucker for white kitchens, but that's just not in the cards.  So I trolled Pinterest for ideas to minimize the oakiness in the oak cabinets.  One of the things that seemed to make a difference was hardware.  Yes, this isn't my house and buying the hardware would be money lost when I eventually move, but I knew I could buy inexpensive hardware and keep the cost low.  That's just what I did.

First, I needed to clean the cabinets.  They were kind of gross and shabby.  I bought good old Murphy's Oil Soap, followed the directions on the bottle and cleaned the cabinets.  They looked (and smelled) great.  Those pictures above are actually taken after I cleaned and polished the wood.  

Then hardware.  I decided to go with simple brushed nickel knobs for the doors and brushed nickel cup pulls for the drawers.  I already had a near full pack of cup pulls in my stash (I had wanted to add them to my first home's kitchen, but we ended up selling before I could).  I bought another pack of the cup pulls at Target. I went with cup pulls because they're substantial and will hide more of the wood.  The knobs are from Lowe's and were $1.60 each - not bad!  They're very simple, and for the look and the price, I couldn't pass them up.  I have 18 doors and 8 drawers.  Total cost for the hardware was a little less than $50.  And I still have a handful of cup pulls left over.  

Installing the hardware wasn't bad (though the cup pulls took a lot longer than the knobs).  It took about 2 hours total.  Here's an action shot that my photographer took while I wasn't looking.

And ... voila!  Look how much better!

Yes, it looks better but it is so much easier to open the doors and drawers!  Part of my frustration with the cabinets has been how annoying it is to have to grab the cabinet doors or drawers themselves to open ... and now, I can simply grab the hardware.

This little tweak has made me so much happier.   The kitchen is done for now.  Depending on how much longer I stay here and how fast I attack my other projects, I may paint the kitchen.  I think a warm white (like Sherwin Williams Alabaster) or a deep dark charcoal (like Sherwin Williams Peppercorn) would look really good in here and tone down the oak.  But that's way down the line, if it happens at all. In the meantime, you'll find me randomly walking in my kitchen and opening the doors and drawers, admiring the new shiny hardware.  Or maybe kicking back with a Hop Devil and thinking about doing that.

yet another picture by my 6 year old paparazzi 
See you swoon,

Faster! Stronger! Tips from me to you.

(I am incredibly proud of myself for resisting the urge to add that's what she said to the title of this blog post)

Happy Monday, all.  Mondays are usually my training recap day, but there isn't much to recap this week.  After the Steamtown Marathon last Sunday, I took off on Monday and Tuesday and rested.  My quads were *killing* me in a way that they haven't killed in years.  I really felt the effects from those 10 miles of downhills, and I had the roughest recovery since my first marathon in 2004.  By Wednesday, and after using my stick roller in the hurts so good way, I was ready for a run.  I met my new running friend from the running club at the local track and we ran 3 miles. It was great.  Thursday I swam a mile in the pool, which felt incredible.  I have missed swimming ... even in the 25 yard pool.  Friday was another easy 3 mile run, followed by a Saturday rest day.  Sunday I ran a shorter long run of 8 miles.  Even though my BQ marathon is done, I am still training for the Philly marathon in about a month.  I'll pace my friend at her first marathon, and I am really thrilled to do that!  Honestly, helping and watching someone you care about reach her dreams is just as gratifying as reaching your own.  

Anyway ... training recap aside, I've gotten a few questions since my BQ about how I was able to cut nearly 15 minutes off my prior best marathon time.  To be honest, I'm not entirely sure.  I know part of it, for sure, has to do with the condition that I'm in after Ironman training.  But I really thought about the question, and I think there's more to it.  Here are some things I did differently this year (and that you can do too without having to train for an Ironman) that I think made a huge difference.  Some tips, if you will.  Who doesn't love tips?

1.  Focus on Form.

This one is absolutely number 1.  I focused on my form, and in particular, on my upper body.  I met some amazingly talented athletes in the past year, and especially at the ETA Coach Lake Placid training camp I attended.  I'm Facebook friends with my fellow camp-mates, and I noticed a common thread in their running photos: they all had a very similar upper body form.  Their shoulders were relaxed, their chest was open, and their arms were nice and low.  I made a point to think about this on my long runs, and I could feel a huge difference.  You can see it, too, I think.  

Here I am at the 2013 Philadelphia Marathon.  Notice how my shoulders are high and my arms are sort of crossed in front of me? 

Compare that with my form at Steamtown.  Shoulders are lower.  Arms are more to the side.  This form opened my chest, allowed me to conserve energy and was far more efficient.  This alone, I think, made the biggest difference in my race.  

2.  Consistent Speedwork.

You have to sweat and you have to get uncomfortable if you want to get faster.  There's no two ways around that.  I had always incorporated speedwork into my marathon training, but for Steamtown, I did it on a regular, weekly basis.  And the speedwork was really tough and took a good hour+.  I also made sure to do it at the track so I could focus on the speed vs. the distractions of having to navigate elevation and terrain changes or traffic.  Speedwork will absolutely make you faster.  Speedwork is absolutely hard work.  I always come off my speedwork workouts completely charged up.  

3.  Cross Training.

In my case, biking and swimming.  I've read, I've been told, and now I've experienced that becoming a stronger biker will make you a stronger runner (but sadly the opposite is not true - being a strong runner will not necessarily make you a strong biker - meh).   Granted, I spent hours and thousands of miles on the bike in the last year.  But all of that biking paid off: my legs have never been stronger.  Usually around mile 18-20 of the marathon my legs feel a little fatigued.  Not so at Steamtown.  I credit biking with that.  

I also think that swimming made a difference.  Swimming has made my core and my arms much stronger.  The great thing about swimming is you can do it as an "active recovery" after a hard workout like running.  So rather than a day off, you can still workout, but it won't tax the body.  I am a huge fan of swimming.   I am also a huge fan of swimming in Mirror Lake in Lake Placid.  Sigh ... gotta go back.  

4.  Hire a Coach.

OK, this should be number 1.  I recognize that working with a coach isn't necessarily feasible or realistic for a lot of people.  And frankly, had I not done Ironman, I wouldn't have worked with a coach.  But ... it works.  As much as I know my body and know running, I am and was woefully uneducated about the science of training.  I followed my workouts carefully (ok, maybe I stopped the aqua jogging) and was surprised at the lack of tempo runs or hard runs.  Most of my runs were at endurance pace - nice and easy.  Everything was carefully planned.  And I have never felt better - both in training and in running that marathon.  I now view working with my coach as an essential part of my training.  It's an investment in me, in what I love to do and a little insurance policy that I am training smart and won't hurt myself.  That's my coach below in the blue.  And I'm behind him on the ground.  See what swimming did to my shoulders? Now you see why I am such a fan.  


Yeah.  All caps have fun.  It is so easy to get into a rut of taking training really seriously, almost too seriously, and losing all the fun in the sport.  I run for sooooo many reasons, but one of them, and it's a biggie, is I love it and it's fun.  So on my training runs, I tried to focus on the fun ... the silly music that I listen to when I run, the pretty sights around me, how good it felt to run.  At the race, I still had fun, even though I had a goal and that goal required me to work hard.  So many people came out to cheer at that race, and I made sure to smile and laugh with them when I saw them.  There were moments of painful hard work, but when people were cheering for me, I returned their energy and smiled back.  It helps.  

There you go!  Tips from me to you on faster running -- it's like running therapy!

A little funny note to end on this fine Monday morning.  My friend Angie has two kids, ages 9 and 7.  She posted the following on my Facebook page:

The kids were watching a nature show about cheetahs that said that humans have better stamina and are surprisingly well suited for running. I heard, " Yeah, like Aunt Shanna," and then, " Right! No cheetah has ever been an Ironman!"

I love it!  And that's right - no cheetah has ever been an Ironman.  Take that cheetah.  Sidebar: the cheetah is without question my least favorite of the large cats. And even if it was, which it is not, I'm an Ironman and the cheetah is not.  

See you swoon,

What I Wore {post 54}

Friday! I love Friday.  I also love pizza.  And treats.

* Pink Pants, Polka-dot Shell, Taupe Ruffle Cardigan *

This was a kind of fun outfit.  I wore my pink pants, which are kind of Spring/Summery but made them more appropriate for Fall with the taupe cardigan and shell.  I think it worked.

* Grey Mini-Skirt, Grey Tights, Wine Sweater *

Just like the above title says, I wore a grey mini-skirt (from Loft outlet) with a wine colored sweater. I like that color combo a lot.  The shoes weren't my favorite (they're suede pumps) but I didn't like the look of boots either.

* Cream Sweater, Skinny Jeans, Booties *

Wearing booties is a tricky proposition, at least for me.  I think wearing them with skinny jeans/pants or leggings or a flouncy skirt is the answer.  I wore this outfit on a Friday at work.  It was fun.  I loooove this top from the Gap.  Ivory is my color.  And it's a shade of white. You all know how much I love white.

Have a terrific weekend, all! See you back here on Monday. 

See you swoon,

Autumn Porch

Hello! Autumn is in full swing around these parts, and I'm loving it, even though it took me awhile to let Summer go.  

One challenge in living in a townhome, versus a single family home, is the lack of outdoor space to decorate for the seasons.  I've kept things very sparse since I lived here, and only added a wreath at Christmas time.  No more!  I decided to spruce things up this Fall and bring in some pretty Autumn accents.  Here's my front porch after I bought some fun Fall decor:

As you can see, there isn't much space to work with.  I decided to use the far end of my steps.  And rather than go with a lot of orange or red, I brought in a lot of white with pops of orange instead.

The black urns and pots are from Home Depot.  They look so nice, but they're very inexpensive.  I bought a white mum, white pumpkin and orange pumpkin from Home Depot too.  The pretty little berries under the white pumpkin are fake and are from Joann's.  

The wreath is also from Joann's.  I made it myself.  I wanted something simple but Fall-like and all of Joann's pre-made wreaths were extremely expensive.  I grabbed a grapevine wreath and some Fall garlands (everything was on sale for 50% off - yay) and just used my glue gun to make it work.  Not bad!

Now here's hoping I can keep these pretty white mums alive!  What about you? Do you decorate for Fall?    And is it just a matter of watering the mums every day or so to make sure they don't die?  

See you swoon,

** BQ!! ** Race Recap: 2014 Steamtown Marathon

I freaking qualified for the 2016 Boston Marathon yesterday!  All that post-IMLP marathon training paid off!  And this finish line picture pretty much says it all. 

Holy crap!  I did it!  Not gonna lie here - I wasn't entirely confident I could do it.  My running has gotten so much stronger and faster (that's what she said), but still ... just 10 weeks post-Ironman Lake Placid?  A 3:45 finish when my prior personal best was 3:56 and change?  Maintaining no slower than 8:34 per mile over 26.2 miles?  But my long runs were feeling really good and my legs were strong and the closer that I got to the race, the more I wanted to just do it and run it and BQ.  And ... I did!

My finish time was 3:42:48.  That's 8:30 per mile!  A BQ time for my age group in April 2016 (which is the next Boston Marathon that's open) is 3:45.  YES!!!  I did it, ya'll! 

Qualifying for Boston has always been one of those goals that I knew I'd work hard to achieve but thought it would take awhile.  At the beginning of this year, I really hadn't planned to even attempt a BQ, but as time went on, I suspected that I would need something big to train for after Ironman.  I worried that I had lost some speed in those last months of training for IMLP, because our coach had us do the run/walk intervals, and it had been a good long time since I ran without stopping.  But, Bill and Amy encouraged me to try, saying you'll be in the best shape of your life - go for it!  I continued to work with my IMLP coach, because I did not want to get injured and I recognized that training for this kind of a goal in such a short period of time after an Ironman might be dicey and pretty taxing on the body.

I picked Steamtown for two reasons: (1) the timing was perfect, as it was smack dab between IMLP and the Philly Marathon (where I'm pacing my bestie Heather at her first full marathon) and (2) the course was supposedly pretty fast with mostly downhill <-- truth.  Steamtown, which is a point to point race from Forest City, Pennsylvania to Scranton, Pennsylvania, is a relatively small marathon (about 2500 racers) and is definitely a net-downhill race.  Before I get into the race recap, I will say that the race is probably my favorite marathon ever.  Yes, the BQ helps, but the course, the race support, the volunteers ... it was all so great.  You essentially run from little town to little town and everyone in those towns comes out and cheers you on.  I have never seen anything like it.  I will absolutely run this course again!  

And another quick aside, Amy came to cheer me on.  With the point to point race, she had to get in the car and drive from viewing point to viewing point and do a little runner scavenger hunt.  I knew generally where she would be and she was there! With cowbell! And signs! OMG the signs.  They were so great.

She also made me dinner the night before and drove me to and from the race.  #TeamAwesomeIsStillAwesome.  

As another aside, just to give an example of how great the area's support of this race is, the local high school where the race start was had these adorable pictures from the elementary school about runners.

My favorite one is "runners are as strong as a tiger."  I am absolutely as strong as a tiger.  

The race starts at Forest City High School.  Before the race, we hung out in the gym, which was nice.  When you got there, you were greeted by the high school's cheerleading squad and a ton of volunteers and were given a bottle of water.  What the what?  This was nice, but after awhile, I was ray to go.  Hence fake-rectangular-smile:

It was 37 degrees at the start.

Weather was supposed to warm gradually to the mid-50s by race end time and was supposed to be sunny.  I knew I would be hot in anything but a tank, but the pre-start was super cold (even for me).  Thankfully Amy and I DIYed these little arm warmers out of socks from the 1980s.  Sweet.  

I wore my new sparkly headband (naturally), my SOAS tri tank (more in a second) and my favorite Nike shorts circa 2002.  I wore the tri tank because the race did not have official nutrition stops and there was no Gu on the course.  I need Gu when I run, and my fuel belt really only holds 4 and I needed 6.  So tri tank it was because of the pockets in the back.  I took the arm warmers off before the race started.  I was a little chilly in the beginning (my hands more than anything) but by mile 3, I was perfectly comfortable.  The DIY arm warmers was a suggestion of the guys at Philly Bikesmith when we were training for Placid.  It is brilliant and no less than 10 people stopped me in the starting chute "Wait. Are those socks??? That's brilliant!". It is.  I am so buying a pack of men's tube socks at Target and will use them as throw away arm warmers.  So much better than wasting a real pair.  

And here we go! 

The race starts with a Civil War cannon, which was so freaking cool.  Mile 1 was kind of a sh*tshow.  So crowded.  So so crowded.  So slow.  However, I am thankful for the slow sh*tshow because it forced me to slow to 8:31 pace.  And that was a very smart [not by me] choice.

Mile 1:  8:31:24
Mile 2:  8:23:24

I kept to the race plan in the first two miles.  Good job, me!  The race plan was to start a little slow - maybe 8:25/8:30.  And then run the remaining 25.2 miles between 8:20 and 8:25.  No faster.  That ... didn't happen.  But it was all controlled.  I knew I needed to hover around 8:31/mile average to BQ, so I set my Garmin's Virtual Partner to 8:31/mile pace and would check it every so often to make sure I was on track or ahead.  

Mile 3:  8:20:90
Mile 4:  8:17:93
Mile 5:  8:15:02

Yah.  See? Yah.  The course is no joke: it is down-freaking-hill for the first 10 miles.  And I am not talking about a la la la little hill.  It is all downhill.  Just down.  At first you are like yes! I am flying like a baby deer on a bicycle!  And then you realize that it only feels that way and baby deer needs to chill the heck out.  I had been warned by countless people about the downhill, so I reined it in (kind of).

Mile 6:  8:23:04
Mile 7:  8:36:93

Miles 6 and 7 I decided to compensate a little for the preceding fast miles.  Around mile 7 was a great sign "this is still way easier than labor and delivery".  Word and I laughed out loud and gave the lady props.

I was feeling ridiculously good and strong here.  So I tried to maintain an 8:20 pace.  I succeeded.

Mile 8:   8:20:69
Mile 9:   8:20:55
Mile 10: 8:18:65
Mile 11: 8:21:33

At the beginning of Mile 12, I decided to break up the pace and give myself a little breather.  Plus, I realized, I still had over half the race ahead of me.  More than once, I calmly admonished myself out loud while running "slow.  slow.  slow."  Mile 12 was one of those miles.

Mile 12:  8:29:46

And then rebound!  The little breather at Mile 12 did the trick because I was RAY TO RACE.  The next miles I can't even describe.  They were amazing and I felt great.  And they were on a packed cinder trail, which was a welcome change for my feet.  I used to train on the Wissahickon Trail in Philly for years, so I'm not unaccustomed to this kind of running.  I got to the 13.1 mark (i.e., half marathon), and my split was 1:50 and change.  I knew I needed to hang on to this pace.  I felt up to it.

Mile 13:  8:15:24
Mile 14:  8:13:08
Mile 15:  8:15:08
Mile 16:  8:20:26

Yay.  I saw Amy around Mile 16 and she was holding the "Hi I'm Shanna" sign.  I literally laughed out loud and it made the next few miles much better because I was still laughing.  Also, somewhere around mile 14 they were handing out ice pops.  ICE POPS.  I have never had this on a race and ZOMG amazing.   The high school kid who handed it to me was like "ice pop?" and I was all GIVE ME THAT ICE POP I CANNOT BELIEVE IT.  He was afraid, and rightly so.  I didn't eat all of it but I must have made an impression because the guy behind me was like "wow, yeah, ice pops huh" and I was like HULK SMASH ICE POP.

Hulk Smash Ice Pop worked.  The next few miles were still really strong.

Mile 17:  8:10:36
Mile 18:  8:15:78
Mile 19:  8:23:23

Once you hit Mile 20, the uphill climbs start.  As with the downhills, I had been warned about some significant climbs at Mile 20, Mile 24 and Mile 25. 

Mile 20:  8:41:27

Mile 20 was my first mile above my targeted 8:31 pace.  This was a hill, but not a bad one.  It was a long, gradual hill that wasn't painful or bad at all.  Honestly, it felt kind of good after all the descending.  

Mile 21:  8:34:77
Mile 22:  8:19:99

Miles 21 and 22 were back to my targeted pace.  I just kept on going.  Running strong.   And then I hit Mile 23 and the final 5K. I looked at my watch, did some quick math and realized that if I ran 10 minute miles from here to the finish, I could BQ.  This took the pressure off considerably, but I have learned the hard way that a race ain't over til it's over.  So I kept pushing.  I'll note that at this point in the race, I had yet to stop and take a walk break.  This was a first for me! On prior marathons, I've usually needed a walk break around Mile 20.  It was also around these mile in the race where I could see the wrecks and effects (descriptions not rap group) from the early 10 miles of downhills.  Tons, and I mean tons, of runners were pulled to the side stretching their quads and hamstrings.  While that did not happen to me at the race or even after the race, because I had controlled the downhills (and I think my body is accustomed to downhills given I live in a super hilly area), I woke up this morning and holy moly cow - my quads were on fire and super tight.  My quads were totally like the "ha ha!" Simpsons guy ... "ha ha! you thought your quads were going to be totally fine! ha ha!"  

Mile 23:  8:44:03
Mile 24:  8:43:97

Yep - slowing down here.  My goal was to run as fast as possible but while still under complete control.  I wanted these miles to be focused and measured and strong.  I knew that I still had a few miles to go and a few uphills and I wasn't about to do anything stupid to mess that up.

Mile 25:  8:55:70

In Mile 25 there was a huge hill and I took my first, and only, walk-break.  I needed some Gatorade, as my bottle in my fuel belt was empty, it was the middle of a hill and I figured that I could afford a 15 second walk break.  This was a good choice. I was able to finish the Gatorade and actually drink it (vs the splash in the face and try to lap it up like a deranged puppy dog and dash that I did at other aid stations when I grabbed the Gatorade) and took a moment to get the legs geared up for more running. This was my slowest mile.  But still under 9:00. Yes!

Mile 26:  8:41:69

Mile 26 had more hills but I knew I was almost done.  There was a huge hill to the finish, but it was lined with spectators who were incredible and you could hear the finish.  They kept yelling, "just over that hill and you're home!".  I ran up the hill, hit the top, saw the 26 mile sign and ...

Mile 26.2:  7:57:00

Yah.  Sprinted like there was a clown car with a handful of mimes and mascots on top chasing me.  I ran hard and then when I saw the finish clock, I pushed harder than I can remember ever pushing at a finish line.  Amy snapped these shots.

When I realized that I had done it, which was before I hit the finish mat, I started to cry and put my hands up and just screamed.  It was surreal.  And incredible.  I crossed the line and when the volunteer put that medal around my neck (possibly one of the best feelings ever in any race, BTW), I grabbed her and then yelled, "I JUST BQed!".   She gave me a huge smile and an enormous hug.  That's the kind of race it was.  Thank you, finish line lady, for cuddling with me a little at the finish line.  Also, thank you Amy for bringing me a Sprite!  I cuddled with that too.  Amy said, "don't open the Sprite fast.  It's been in my pocket for awhile" and I was like WHAT SPRITE OK SPRITE and opened it fast and it was like an exploding fountain of Sprite.  Nice. 

I will absolutely do this race again.  The course (and the variety of terrain and elevation), the spectators and incredible amount of enthusiasm they brought to the day, and the organization of the race itself was truly spectacular.  They even put together a guide for spectators and how to find suggested viewpoints with directions from viewpoint to viewpoint (which came in handy for Amy).  

All of the stars were aligned for a wonderful race: great course, great weather, strong legs, happy runner and happy belly.  I am thrilled.  My running journey has been filled with amazing twists and turns and lots of hard work.  I finished my first marathon in 2004 in 4:39:22, which is almost an hour slower than the one I ran yesterday.  I'm planning to run a handful of (Boston Marathon qualifier) marathons in the early part of next year just to see if I can't go even faster. 

Needless to say, 2016 is a long ways away.  So, while I'm psyched and thrilled to have my BQ, I'm going to keep on running -- trying to get faster and faster and faster.  Nothing is impossible.  Not even reining in your inner baby deer on a bicycle while descending for 10 miles.  :)  

See you swoon, 

Oh, and if you're interested in the absolutely magical tunes that helped me nab that BQ, they are right here below.  Not all of these songs came on, but the shuffle was spot-on perfect.  It was fast when I needed and slow when I needed and just plain awesome.  I admit that I played the theme from the Greatest American Hero twice.  It felt right.  Feel free to take some or all of this playlist for your own use.  It will make you fun fast and happy.  Or maybe it will make you feel rage.  

Ain't No Rest For the Wicked  (Cage the Elephant )
All About That Bass (Meghan Trainor)
All Night Long (Lionel Richie feat. Jimmy Buffett)
All Out of Love (Air Supply)
Annie's Song (John Denver)
Baby, Now That I've Found You (The Foundations)
Baby, What a Big Surprise (Chicago)
Best Day of My Life (American Authors)
Blurred Lines (Robin Thicke)
Break My Stride (Matthew Wilder)
Can't Hold Us (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis)
Chiquitita (ABBA)
Come a Little Bit Closer (Jay & The Americans)
Dancing On the Ceiling (Lionel Richie)
Danny's Song (Kenny Loggins)
Diamond Girl (Seals & Crofts)
Different Drum (The Stone Poneys)
Do You Hear the People Sing? (Les Misérables Original London Cast)
Do You Know the Way to San Jose? (Dionne Warwick)
Does Your Mother Know (ABBA)
Don't Go Breaking My Heart (Elton John & Kiki Dee)
Double Dutch Bus (Frankie Smith)
Dreams (The Cranberries)
Dynamite  (Taio Cruz)
Electric Avenue (Eddy Grant)
Emotion (Samantha Sang)
Eye of the Tiger (Survivor)
Freedom Street (Ken Boothe)
Get Closer (Seals & Crofts)
Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) (ABBA)
Gloria (Laura Branigan)
Grazing In the Grass (The Friends of Distinction)
Happy Together (The Turtles)
Heart and Soul  (T'Pau)
Here I Am (Just When I Thought I Was Over You) (Air Supply)
Holding Out for a Hero (Bonnie Tyler)
I Got a Name (Jim Croce)
I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Whitney Houston)
I'm Coming Out (Diana Ross)
If I Had $1,000,000  (Barenaked Ladies)
If You Leave Me Now (Chicago)
It Takes Two (Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock)
It's My Turn (Diana Ross)
Jumpin', Jumpin' (Destiny's Child)
Knowing Me, Knowing You (ABBA)
Laid  (James)
Let It Go (Demi Lovato)
Let's Hang On (The Four Seasons)
Long Long Time (Linda Ronstadt)
The Longest Time (Billy Joel)
Love In An Elevator (Aerosmith)
My Way (Elvis Presley)
Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now (Starship)
Party In the U.S.A.  (Miley Cyrus)
Penny Lane (The Beatles)
Push It (Salt-n-Pepa)
Rainbow Connection (Kenny Loggins)
Reflections (Diana Ross & The Supremes)
Rock Your Body (Justin Timberlake)
Saturday In the Park (Chicago)
SexyBack (feat. Timbaland) (Justin Timberlake)
Shadows of the Night (Pat Benatar )
Shake It Off (Taylor Swift)
Since U Been Gone (Kelly Clarkson)
Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) (Beyoncé)
Slide  (The Goo Goo Dolls)
Sloop John B (The Beach Boys)
Solitary Man (Neil Diamond)
Son of a Preacher Man (Dusty Springfield)
Stolen Dance (Milky Chance)
Take a Chance On Me (ABBA)
Take Me Home, Country Roads (John Denver)
Talking In Your Sleep (The Romantics)
Theme from "Greatest American Hero" (Believe It or Not) (Joey Scarbury)
Then Came You (The Spinners & Dionne Warwick)
These Boots Are Made for Walkin' (Nancy Sinatra)
Unbelievable (EMF)
While You See a Chance (Steve Winwood)
You Are the Woman (Firefall)
You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine (Lou Rawls)