Monday, October 19, 2015

2015 Columbus 1/2 Marathon

So you know how I mentioned I was wondering how fast I could run on a flat course?  Yeah, well... I ran another half marathon yesterday. The Nationwide Children's Hospital full and Half Marathon in Columbus (aka, The Columbus 1/2 marathon).  A marathon that several years ago used to have the slogan, "flat and fast."  And suddenly I had the opportunity to do the sold out race.  I figured I'd give it a shot.  Worst case scenario, my body wouldn't be fully recovered from my race 2 weeks ago and I would just slow down and have fun (Plan B).  Plan A would play out with me hanging on for dear life.  Kim, who helped pace me 2 weeks ago, was registered for the half as a competitive race walker and was hoping to place within the competitive walkers.  She was aiming for a 2:30 finish.  I just wanted under 2:40.  I decided to follow her and hang on as long as I could.  I told her in advance to drop my like a bad habit if I was weighing her down.

Ever since my very first race back in 2005, I have laid out my clothes the night before, including pinning my number to my shirt so I don't forget it!  Megatron wanted in on the "Flat Amber" picture.
My day started super early.  4:30 am. I ate, got dressed and made sure all of Megatron's meds and meals were listed out.  The Pilot was home but had to leave at 8 am to go to work so my mom was coming over.  I drew up meds and checked my lists for my mom before heading out around 5:45.  My mom came over at 7:30 so The Pilot could sneak out of the house before Megatron woke up.  If he sees The Pilot and then The Pilot leaves, it's bad news.  Megatron gets hysterical so we try to avoid that scene whenever posible.
This group (along with a few others) raised over $16,000 for Habitat for Humanity this season!  Never underestimate the power of like-minded runners. 
Kim, THE Competitive Walker was all ready!
Our running group met up at 6:15 am.  One of our team mates is with the Columbus Police Department and was able to let us into the downtown headquarters so we would have a warm place to hang out, with access to bathrooms.  It was wonderful!  Though his colleagues were probably wondering what kind of friends he has.  Especially when I showed up wearing this.  Oh yes, I went all Macklemore and wore a thrift shop bath robe.  Which I personalized.

It was cold!  As in below freezing cold.  This is the first cold snap of the season so we haven't been animated yet.  Plus, I still have done a test run with a smaller size running tights so I had to wear capris again.  The robe was to keep me warm while we were waiting for the start.

The race started at 7:30 and everyone was divided into corrals based on anticipated finish time.  It took us maybe 10-15 minutes before we actually crossed the start line.  This race is the exact opposite of the Broke Man's Half.  It has all the bells and whistles.  And fireworks.  We were joking that they should skip the fireworks and just lower the cost of the race.  Can you tell we're all racing veterans?!?  So jaded!
Party in Corral C!
Kim, Kat, Samantha, John and I all stuck together.  Kat and John were planning to pace Kim and of course I was along for the right.  I wasn't planning to but ended up wearing the robe over the start line and kept it on for about just shy of a mile!  Once the race started and we weren't jammed into the corral with 20,000 people, it was COLD!  I finally warmed up a little and was about to toss it when Samantha decided she wanted to try on the amazeballs bathrobe.  I shimmied out of it and she slid into it with such ease that you would have though it was choreographed.  A guy behind me was laughing at our little dance.

It was about that same time that someone came up behind me and asked if I was Amber.  I looked and said yes but she didn't look familiar.  I did a quick search in my brain but couldn't pull up her face in my memory.  She then said that she reads the blog!  Haha.  So if that was you and you are reading this, I hope you had a great race!  I then squealed to my friends "I thought my mom was the only one who read my blog!"

We plugged along, trying to get warmed up.  I was not feeling great.  We were running in the low 11s, fast for me, plus my gut was not happy.  It's been weird all week and I told my buddies that the only thing that would hold me back from another PR was my intestines.  By mile 4 I was already thinking about dropping back.  But I really didn't want to run 9 miles by myself.  So I told myself, get to the half way point at least and then slow down if you need to.

Around mile 6 I let them know that I was probably going to drop back but Kat was having none of it.  She threw me her rope.  She was actually carrying a little piece of rope that our friend Krista gave to all of our teammates.  I grabbed on for a second and hung with them.  We saw some of our friends who were spectating/cheering/coaching.  Because this was Kim's big race, our friend Meg jumped into the course and literally started chasing Kim, waving a cow bell at her.  It was hilarious.  The other runners probably thought we were all nuts...which is true.

Then again, just after mile 7, I really wanted to slow down so I gave them a heads up.  And again, Kat, said no and took my hand and pulled me up next to her. It was what I needed to stick closer to them for a little longer.  The longer I stayed with them, the faster I would go.  But I also had to keep checking in with my body to make sure I had enough in me to actually finish!

It was another mile or so that I realized where we were.  The course had changed slightly from last year and I hadn't noticed the change until I realized Nationwide Children's Hospital was coming into view. We were coming up along the opposite side as we did last year.  That meant we would be running along the entire length of the hospital campus.  I was starting to actually hurt at this point and yet again, wanted to drop back but I was nervous about passing the hospital. I wanted to stick with my friends just in case I needed a pep talk.

It was such an emotional experience to run past the hospital. Everything was starting to hurt at that point but I had to keep going.  Because Megatron kept going when things hurt last year.

I feel like I know every corner of that building. We've spent more inpatient days (about 40 nights) there than we have in Pittsburgh.  And day trips?  I wouldn't be surprised if those are in the triple digits.  We have been in inpatient rooms on the surgical unit, GI unit and very often, the PICU.  The GI clinic is our home away from home.  I have found myself in the emergency department, allergy clinic, imaging/ultrasound, interventional radiology, hematology, mothers' rooms (for nursing/pumping) and a classroom to learn home care for a central line and feeding tube/pump. We've even been on the helipad on the roof.  Twice.  I think I've cried in every bathroom, parent lounge, both cafeterias and both parking garages.

I'm super thankful that Kim, Kat and John were there because I might not have felt as strong as I did.  Instead of having a complete meltdown, I simply took a second to look up at the windows on the 2nd (PICU) and 11th (GI) floors, where we spent our darkest days, and then just kept moving.
(Not one of mine or my friends' photos)
I got to run right on past without having to go inside.  Megatron sure has been a fighter but yesterday I felt like I was the one conquering that hospital!!  I had the power this time.
Take that NCH!  I'm in charge today!
We made it passed the hospital and I'm not sure if Kim kicked it into a other gear as we passed the 9 mile marker or if I reeeeeally just needed to slow down. I looked at my Garmin and realized we were running (well, she was walking of course) a 10:45 pace. I knew if I tried to hang on at that pace I wasn't going to be able to finish.  And that wasn't an option.  I slowly faded further and further back.  Kim looked over her shoulder and I waved her to keep going.  I'm pretty certain she nodded and then kept going. I am so friggin' proud of that girl!  She's worked so hard to improve her race walk technique and gain overall strength. I was a very proud coach in that moment as I watched her take off!

It was about mile 9.5 when I was on my own and I instantly started to wonder if I could pull it off.  I took my first walk break.  It wasn't a long break but man was it hard to get going again. My body was really telling me that attempting another PR with just 2 weeks recovery was a bad idea.

Just before mile 11, I started thinking that certainly I would see some friends spectating/coaching.  I kept thinking Katy would pop out of the bushes to run me in.  Then I was thinking about some friends who were spectating in that area last year and in my foggy mental state, I just figured, "oh, they will be in the same place again."  Nope.  Who knows why my brain thought they should still be there (James and Susan, I was thinking about you!!! I was hoping I'd get another stinging high five that I would feel in my hand for a half mile. Haha!!).

I was getting anxious for mile 11. Since the race benefits the hospital, each mile is represented by a patient of the hospital.  It is so fun to see all of the kiddos out cheering for everyone.  Side note, we applied for Megatron to be a "champion" but he wasn't selected.  Which worked out because I'm not sure I would have run if he had been selected.  Anyways, mile 11 doesn't have a single patient representing that mile.  Mile 11 is called the angel mile. It's for the patients who have earned their angel wings. Their families and friends stand out there with pictures of their kiddos who are no longer with them.  It breaks my heart. Even more so because we came so close to losing Megatron.  I also can't help but feel guilty that we got so lucky and those parents have suffered the worst kind of loss there is in this world.  I cried for them.  I tried to pull it together quickly so I wouldn't forgot to breathe.

Once I got into mile 12, I knew I had it in me to PR still. I just needed to hang on.  Luckily I saw a teammate who was spectating and she jumped out onto the course with me for a couple blocks.  It was sooo nice to have a distraction.  Then Samantha reappeared (she was coaching so she dropped off at the 3 mile mark to catch up with some if the rest of the gang) and she ran with me up until there was less than a half mile to go.  I whined that I didn't have the kick to finish like I did at Broke Man's.  She looked at her watched and yelled at me that I didn't need that much kick, I just had to hold on.  She dropped off and I gritted out that last little bit.

Even though I remember how deceptive the finish area was from last year, I still started to pick up the pace. Until I realized I was still further away that I thought.  I saw a sign for 1/4 mile to go.  That seems so short yet so long!  I slowed down until I could actually see the finish line and then I picked it up again to have a really strong finish.

I shuffled toward the medical tent and grabbed a handful of BioFreeze and shoved my hands down my pants.  No shame. My hips hurt so bad and within a minute they were gloriously numb!

I saw Kim and John nearby so I shuffled my way to them.  I think Kim and I both asked each other "did you do it?!?"  The answer was yes!  She got her 2:30 PR goal and my time?  2:34:21!  I took 7 minutes off my Broke Man's time!  That is a total of 15 minutes off my 2012 PR! Now THAT is BIG TIME!!
11:40 average pace?!  Holy moly I've come a long way during this Big Time adventure!  I started out hoping for a 12:40 average pace!
We shuffled our way out of the finishers area, after stopping to stay hello to our friend (my tri coach!) who happens to be the finish line director.    I will say, of all the finish lines I've crossed, this one is by far the best. The area is huge. No bottle necks.  They hand you a space blanket and then a bag to hold all of the goodies they pass out.  Chocolate milk, bananas, bagels.  Even a box full of snacks!

Kim stopped by a tent for the competitive walkers.  Competitive walkers had to leave their names and a special bib they had to wear.  Unfortunately they said it might take a couple days for the walker results to be posted.  Bummer!!

We met up with our friends who were already finished and then I headed off to find a bathroom.  After running that fast and with a gut that was already not feeling so hot at the start, I needed to go!!   I found a bathroom trailer (a trailer with stalls but is really just a fancy portapotty) but the line was soooo long for the women's side.  Naturally.  I got in line and it took me about a minute to realize there was no line for the men's. Now if this was still in the athlete's area, I wouldn't have thought twice about using the men's.  I feel like most men at races don't seem phased by sharing.  Trouble was, this was in a public area so there were spectators using the bathrooms also. I thought it over but my insides answered for me.  I hustled into the men's bathroom.  When I came out, I ran right into an older gentleman all bundled up in a winter parka.  Here someone's grandpa just got plowed into by a girl, who was running out of the men's portapotty.  I apologized and ran out of there!  Keeping it classy.

Once I returned from my bathroom adventure, it was time for me and Kim to officially celebrate our PRs. This race has what is known as the PR gong. If you get a PR, they have an actual gong you get to hit!  So much fun!

My sticker says "I hit the gong!"
Wanting to get home to relieve my mom of toddler duty, I headed for my car.  And quickly was wishing I had parked further away.  I was too close to the race course and because of the road closures, it took me 45 minutes to get from the second floor of the parking garage out into the street because of the traffic.  Then another 25 minutes to get home.  It's normally a 20 minute drive. By the time I got home, all of my muscles were so tight I about rolled out of my car and onto the garage floor.
Super thankful for that box of snacks and the Jimmy John's sample sandwich I got at the finish.  I munched while I waited in traffic.
Later in the afternoon, Katy and I commiserated together via text about our various aches and pains.  And our "runger".  You know, running induced hunger.  Seeing that I earned 35 Weight Watchers points during the race (I usually only have 26 points for the day so I could eat an entire day's worth of points if I wanted to!), I ate whatever the heck I wanted for the rest of the day.  So that means a trip to Arby's, which I haven't had in who knows how long.  Definitely before Weight Watchers!

It was another amazing race weekend. I joked that the only way for me to get some "me" time is to run a race. I think I need to come up with a different hobby so my body can recover!  One person who doesn't care how hard I worked or how tired I was?  Megatron.  After I got home and my mom left, I was on my own with Megatron.  And man is it hard to keep up with a very busy little boy when your body is screaming to just lay on the couch and watch a movie.  Once he was in bed for the night though, that is exactly what I did.  It was a nice end to a great day!
Cat on my lap, ice on my knees.


  1. I'm that random girl who tapped you on the shoulder. :) My name's Amanda and I don't quite remember how I found your blog, but I've been reading for a long time now. (Maybe shortly after you were married?) I was running with my husband and when I spotted you I weighed in my mind whether I should say something or not, at the risk of looking like some sort of crazy blogger stalker. I decided to go for it because if I didn't I knew I'd be kicking myself. Glad I did! Your story has been so inspirational, your son's story has touched my heart. I've done that race for 4 years in a row, and the patient champions are a big part of why I keep coming back. Congrats on your PR!