I’m on the airplane on my way back from Massachusetts. I planned to spend this time getting a much needed nap, but theres a non safety related mechanical error on my plane that has a siren going off, and it cant be turned off until we land, and we’ve got about 2 hours left to this flight. They’ve offered us tissues to stuff in our ears. I wonder how many free flights one gets for some bullshit like this?
So, I am on my way back from Massachusetts, but I actually split my time between MA and NY this trip. I got to MA on Wednesday night and my nerves were already a hot mess. I had been eating and sleeping and training for my first marathon for the past 18 weeks, and I was really starting to freak out that it was actually here. When I landed that night I had a stuffy nose within minutes. Its pretty typical for me to get sick while in MA, especially in the colder months. I was kind of thrown off though because it really was not as cool as it should’ve been. I anticipated a lot of foliage and changing leaves and the trees were practically still green! That’s global warming for ya. When i arrived I had dinner with some friends, I ordered a gluten free pizza without cheese as I didn’t want to eat anything out of my norm or that would give me a belly ache so close to my race. One of my friends gave me a quick leg massage and I got all my stretching in. I love that I have friends that don’t think its weird if I break out a 30 minute stretch session mid conversation. I love it even more that they respect my commitment to my race and there was no pressure to eat junk or drink alcohol either. On Thursday I hung out with my family, who still lives in MA, and continued to eat normal, clean, high carb foods. That night I slept over my sisters with my nieces and nephews and got to bring my niece to school in the morning.
On Friday afternoon my mom, sister, and I packed up the car and hit the road to the Hamptons. Fortunately my sister was willing to split the driving with me so I didn’t have to spend the whole day sitting in the drivers seat. I think they wished my sister had drove the whole time once we hit Friday evening traffic in NYC and they got to experience my road rage first hand LOL but it made for lots of good laughs and memories. What should’ve been about a hour drive ended up taking nearly 7.5 hours with traffic. I was internally freaking out because in all of the ‘first time marathoner training advice’ I had read, everyone stressed the importance of sticking to your routine. Well, for the past 18 weeks my routine was eating dinner by 5, yoga by 6, stretching by 6:30 and bed by 7pm. At 7pm I was still in the car and hadn’t even made it to packet pick up to get my chip and race number yet! A part of me was freaking out. Another part of me was reaaaaaaaallllly trying my best to stay calm and attract a great race to myself.
A few months ago I had won a video contest by Map My Fitness- one of the best route mapping apps I’ve used. The contest was to make a 15 second video about why we run. You can see mine here. The prize for the contest was a pair of sweet UnderArmour sneakers as well as paid admission to any race of my choosing this calendar year. I had been saying I wanted to do a marathon someday, but I was saving money for skin removal surgery so I didn’t want to spend over $100 on race admission. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to sign up for a marathon. I knew I wanted to do skin removal in October, so the race would have to be right before skin removal as no one hosts a marathon in the middle of the summer. Fall is not marathon season in the south because its still too hot down there. Since there were no marathons coming up in Florida I figured one close to MA would be wise because then I could visit my family and take care of my clients up there, and run the race. Kill 3 birds with one stone so to say. I found out that there would be two marathons in New York the last weekend of September. The Hamptons Marathon as well as the Yonkers Marathon. I looked at the courses for both and the Hamptons seemed to have less hills. Since I would be doing all of my training in flat south florida and I didn’t want to completely kill myself in my first marathon, I went with the Hamptons.
The Hamptons Marathon has been voted one of the top 10 best small marathons in the country. It is a Boston Marathon qualifying race, so it’s the real deal. I loved that they have group trainings every weekend for locals, and for those traveling, they kept us in the loop with regular emails and details about the race. They even informed us of the best places for spectators to camp out to see their runners pass. I loved the regular communication leading up to race day.
I invited my mom to come with me as soon as I registered. I had run my first half marathons alone and it actually was a little sad not to have anyone at the finish line to celebrate with me. I knew for my first marathon I would not want to finish 26.2 miles and celebrate with a phone call. I wanted my mom there, and I was thrilled when she agreed to come. I had been wanting to take a girls trip with my mom and sister for years, but between me living over 1000 miles away and my sister having 3 children, it just didn’t work out. I took the chance and invited my sister too and she also agreed! Neither of them had ever been to New York so it would be all of our first time in the Hamptons, and on our way home we would visit the big city.
When I arrived at packet pick up I realized that when Map My Fitness registered me for the race, they accidently put that I was from Austin Texas. The woman who took my ID had to ask someone else if it was a problem and that’s when I got to meet Diane, the woman behind the emails! She said she had been following me on my blog and that it wasn’t a problem that my license didn’t match up with my city they had on file. No other Ashley Romano’s from Texas were there looking for a packet anyway lol. The swag bags were awesome. A nice canvas “Hamptons Marathon” bag and a matching winter hat (wont get much use out of that in Miami, but ill bring it home to MA with me). They also gave us cow bells with the marathon logo on them for spectators to ring to cheer on their runners. My mom and sister were super excited about that! Lol
After packet pick up we went right to the home we would be staying in. I had found a place to rent with airbnb.com. I wanted my own room so I could get to bed without forcing my mom and sister to lay there in silence while I sleep lol. Two hotel rooms in the Hamptons on a Friday night was not in my budget, so I decided to give the bed and breakfast route a try. It worked out great. Our host’s name was Jeff and he had a nice home hidden in the woods right by mile 21. The home was simple and clean but definitely was a man’s home. It got the job done and he was nice and very accommodating, but if he had a womans touch with the decorating and little things, he could probably double his prices and blow his guests away. A great property that just wasn’t quite living up to its potential, however, it was perfect for our needs.
I had packed the same meal I ate the night before every long run I took, so I warmed that up while my mom and sister enjoyed a pizza and some wine. I was having plantains, sweet potato, tempeh, and quinoa with mustard. You would think I would’ve been drooling over the pizza. As good as it looked, I actually wasn’t even a little tempted to have a slice. I felt so in control and like I have come so far. Two years ago I was still finishing large pizzas by myself. There I was, on the eve of my first marathon, turning down pizza so my body would be able to perform at its best. It was actually a proud moment for me.
Lucky for me, my sister is a licensed massage therapist and had agreed to give me a rub down the night before. So I got settled in my room and she worked out some last minute kinks for me. I used my massage stick and rolled on my foam roller, and decided I would rather start to wind down and get a full nights sleep than pop in the yoga dvd, so I went to bed. I was asleep soon after 10pm, thank the freaking Lord because I am not the best sleeper.
5:30am and my alarm is going off. I crawled out of bed, still feeling sleepy. It was still dark out and it was chilly. By the time I made it to the toilet it realized TODAY IS THE DAY! and I was wide awake. I drank my Shakeology and started rolling on my foam roller. Did all my stretches, drank a bottle of water. I had made homemade granola that had nuts and apples and hemp and all kinds of fueling goodness, so I ate that and jumped in the shower. I double checked that my toenails were trimmed and put Vaseline all over my toes, where the seams of my spandex rubbed on my body, and on my nipples (great advice I had read/head in training). I taped up my muscles and got dressed, used the bathroom, and was ready to go. Unlucky for me, I had my period. Lucky for me, I had no cramps.
Mom and Amanda were up by 6:30 and dressed in their BigGirlFitGirl.com tshirts. We decided to take the short mile and a half walk to the starting line so I could warm my muscles up and spend less time walking for a warm up once I was actually on the clock. We saw a bunch of dear that morning on our walk, pretty cool. I also noticed it was getting warmer pretty quickly. When we got to the school the race started at, I got right in the line for the port-a-potty. I don’t know if you’ve ever raced before, but if not, heres a tip- give yourself LOTS of time for the portapotty. There were at least 20-30 potties, yet there was a mob of a couple hundred people waiting to use them and moving VERY slow. Most people get the pre-race nerves that force them to have to poop. And you HAVE to poop. Its impossible to run (especially over 26 miles) if you are about to poop your pants. It’s a known fact among the running community, and although no one likes being in a destroyed and disgusting port-a-potty, no one is judging you for having to do your business in it. Happens to the best of us. And there were obv a lot of the best of us at this race, because that line wasn’t moving. I had been in line 30 minutes and still had about 15 people in front of me when the clock struck 8 and the race was supposed to start. It was extremely annoying because the 5k started 30 minutes after the marathon and half marathon, yet we were all in the same line. People who weren’t running till 8:30 were not being very aggressive when it was their turn to grab an available potty because they felt like they had plenty of time, meanwhile, people like me were behind them missing their race. I thought “ there is no way they will start the race on time with this many people waiting for the bathroom.” When I got to the starting line it was after 8:10 and there weren’t many people lined up at all. I figured we must be starting really late, especially since there was no people lined up and I had never heard a gun shot off. It took me a few minutes to realize that the numbers on the people around me were yellow, yellow was the 5k (blue for half marathon, orange for marathon). I finally asked someone and the race HAD started. There was no “offial start”. No gun was ever shot off. It was a “start when you can, on your own time” race, and that was extremely disappointing. The fact that the course shuts down after 6 hours was also put into play. I did not want to finish after 6 hours because I did not want there to be no more finish line. I didn’t want to technically not finish! Now I was nervous because I had lost over 15 minutes of time and I wasn’t sure if I would finish fast enough. I knew if no one else, my mom and sister would be waiting for me, but I didn’t want to take longer than 6 hours, and now I was down to having 5hours and 45 minutes available to me.
I waved BYE to my mom and sister and took off. It was weird because there was no group of people with me, there was no energy vibrating through the mass of runners, I was just alone. I hoped the course would be clearly marked because there was no one in front of me and my biggest fear was running off course and not realizing it for hours and just ending up lost in the Hamptons. Not having other runners around me was kind of good, because I felt no pressure to keep up with them, I was running my own speed which was good because I had been warned at least a dozen times not to start off too strong. Not to push myself too hard and burn myself out fast. I felt like I was running a nice slow, reasonable pace, until Map My Fitness told me I was at mile 1 only 9 minutes in. I was immediately concerned because I hadn’t reached the mile 1 mile marker. When I did reach it, I was almost a mile and a quarter in, according to my app.
The service in the Hamptons was horrible, so the Pandora station I had been listening to while running for the last 18 weeks was not available. When it did play, it lasted only a few minutes before skipping and searching for the network, so that sucked. I had listened to music my entire training and by mile 3 the skipping and crap were so bad, I shut Pandora off. The hills weren’t super steep, but there were SO MANY OF THEM. My god, I didn’t realize how much a million small hills suck. At once point, another runner told me he estimated we were 6000ft above sea level. I have no idea how accurate he was, but knowing I train somewhere that is like even with sea level made it clear this was going to be a challenge.
I had made a last minute decision to lose my sweatshirt because it was way warmer than anticipated. A lot of racers were complaining, as it was almost 80 degrees and 60 is the ideal running tempterature. I was not complaining because I had trained in Miami through the months of May-September. I was running 20 miles in 95 degrees with 95 percent humidity, so although I didn’t need a sweatshirt, it felt pretty cool to me.
I saw mom and Amanda for the first time around mile 9. They were ringing their bells and having what seemed like a pretty good time. If you plan to run a long race in your life, bring a support system. I got more energy from seeing then than I did from all 5 packets of GU I ate throughout the race. At that point I was definitely starting to feel a little tired and wishing I had music to listen to. I was also fully aware that Map My Run was not entirely accurate. I was a few miles ahead of the official mile markers and that made me very aware that in all my training, I had under run the distance that was called for. My training schedule had me run 20 miles at my longest run. However, if my app was off, I had only run about 18 miles that day. So this meant I was looking at running 8 miles LONGER than I ever had in my training. No bueno. Something that kept me positive other than my family though, was that I WAS passing people. I did not start with the masses and I passed more than a dozen people, some I never saw again.
There were a few guys I ran past a few times, and even one I ran next to for a while. Since I had no music I was much more inclined to talk to people around me, that was different for me. My favorite part was running along a road through a big empty field/marsh and having a conversation with a guy running besides me, with no shortness of breath. We were close to mile 12 at that point and I was still able to carry on a conversation. That is a sign of being physically fit, and it was a proud moment for me!
I thought the race itself would be a little more scenic. There was one gorgeous water view, which I couldn’t capture because my GoPro wouldn’t turn on the morning of the race. Other than that, there were about 2 water glimpses, a bunch of regular houses (no masions or anything youd stereotype to be in the Hamptons), and lots and lots and lots of woods. At some points I didn’t see another human for a good chunk of time and wondered if maybe I had gone off the course, but I never did. I really wished the weather was appropriate for the season because there would’ve been tons of foliage, but it was too warm so the trees were still green.
I really started to feel alone in the woods. I was a little sad and I was very tired. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to finish before they took the finish line away. I went through a few miles between 18-21 where I really felt very alone and a sort of unexplainably sad. I had to get my mind right so I started talking to myself, outloud. I was saying things like “ You are SO well prepared for this.” “I can do this all day” “Quitting is forever” “More than halfway there.” “One more step.” I was super fortunate that my heel and arch weren’t bothering me as they had been in training, but I was feeling soreness in my quads and an occasional sting in my calves. At mile 21, my mom and sister were there cheering for me, and I had to make a quick stop for some muscle loosening. I asked my mom to punch my thighs for me and it helped to loosen them up and they felt a lot better.
My phone died at mile 22. According to Map My Run, I had JUST hit 26.2 miles. So if my app thought that I was at 26.2 and I was really at 22, ny the time I reached 22 it would probably think I ran close to 30 miles. It was then that I realized my time was going to be completely thrown off, as the 20 miles I ran in 4 hours during training was probably only about 17 miles. I had really hoped to finish in under 5 hours and it no longer seemed possible.
At mile 23 I really kicked my affirmations up a notch. I was saying to myself “there is nothing but a 5k standing between you and being a MARATHONER.” God, it actually brought tears to my eyes typing that! I had a few occasions during the second half where I was so emotional that I would being a slight hyperventilation and want to cry, just thinking about what I had done, where I had come from, and what I was about to do. The last 2 miles of the race, according to my Jawbone UP band, I really sped up my pace. Altough I did alternate between jogging, walking, and sprinting in this race, I don’t feel like I ever hit a true wall. I would say the closest thing to it was when I was trying not to have an emotional breakdown in the second half, but I don’t know that my body experienced a physical wall.
When the finish line was FINALLY in sight, I ran my little heart out till I finally crossed it. I was so happy, my mom and sister were there cheering, with only a handful of other people. I finished 5 minutes before they would have removed the finish line. I ran right to my mom and hugged her and my sister and we cried. I felt like I was crying, but I had no tears, I’m assuming I was dehydrated even though I had been drinking water the whole race. I was covered in a thin layer of salt and felt exhausted. I was so caught in the moment that i didnt even hear it, but my family said they announced my weight loss when i crossed the finish line. thats pretty cool 🙂
My time according to the timer we could see was 5 hours and 55 minutes. When I got my final results emailed to me, it said I finished in 5 hours and 42 minutes ( It starts your personal time when you pass the starting line, since I started late, that time was subtracted). According to the app I trained with, I finished 26.2 miles in 4 hours and 33 minutes. Although that distance was off by official marathon standards, I love that time because it shows I maintained my training. I did my 20 mile run(according to Map My Fitness) in just over 4 hours, so to do 26 miles in 4 hours and 33 minutes shows that I was giving my all. The distances were underestimated in my training, but I was able to keep up a pace even faster than I had trained with. Given it was my first marathon and the amount of hills, I am SUPER proud of that.
I was given my medal and a pack of ice, which I tied up on my left leg immediately. I had no heel or arch or knee pain, just muscle soreness. My quads and calves felt SO heavy and the front of my ankles was sore as well. I was feeling pains ive never felt before, most likely because I had done something with my body ive never done before. Distance aside, I killed those hills. We walked to the car and when I went to step into it, it felt like I was stabbed in my right calf. I yelled and stopped getting in, my sister came over and started massaging it, and I got out and did some more stretching before we took off. We were on our way to spend the night in New York City.
I started to feel pretty nauseous and over all terrible pretty quickly. I was pretty sure I needed salt and sugar because I was covered in salt, had been drinking a lot of plain water, and also felt light headed which is how I usually feel when my blood sugar is low. We stopped at a gas station and I got a Gatorade and some pretzels and felt a lot better pretty soon. My mom and sister were telling me stories about seeing people finish with bleeding nipples, and even having to give a guy a ride to the finish line from mile 21 because he was hurting so bad he couldn’t finish. It sucks for him, but it made me that much more proud that I pushed through and finished this thing!
Our hotel in the city was adorable. I felt pretty good so I got showered, my sister rubbed me a little, I used my massage stick, and we headed out. I walked about 20 blocks to Radio City Music Hall, walked a few blocks around Times Square, and we looked for a place for dinner. I had dreams of enjoying a slice of New York style pizza as my treat, but believe it or not, it didn’t happen. New York is NOT the city that never sleeps. It was only 8pm and the pizza place I wanted to go to was closed. There wasn’t another one in the immediate vicinity and I was really starting to lose my steam due to being so hungry. My legs were so sore and walking up stairs was torture. We decided to stay where we were at and eat at the Rockefeller Center Garden Café. I got an amazing dish of sautéed veggies and cold soup, I even enjoyed a root beer with it (cant remember the last time I drank soda). It was delicious, but it wasn’t the pizza I wanted.
That night I couldn’t sleep, I got about 4 hours of sleep while my sister, whos interneal alarm usually has her up at 6:30am with her kids, slept till almost 10! Lol the beds at the hotel were so cozy but my body was aching and I just wanted my own bed. I was up and soaking in a hot bath by 7am. The hot bath definitely helped. Once we got to moving around again, my stiffness subsided.
I could’ve had pizza the next day but I decided I would rather have a big fluffy New York pretzel so I could enjoy the carbs and gluten but skip the dairy and grease. That was also a bust. It was so dry and disgusting. I don’t know if I picked the wrong pretzel guy or if my taste is seriously that much different from when I ate and loved those in the past. So, I didn’t quite do the big indulgence meal after the race like all of my training guides told me I would be forgiven for, but it’s alright. I didn’t run the race so I could stuff my face anyway.
Sunday night I slept like a baby and Monday I was much less sore. By Tuesday I was good as new and didn’t even feel like I had ever run 26 miles up hill. I spent Monday and Tuesday with my Massachusetts clients. Today I had lunch with one of my best friends at one of my favorite vegetarian restaurants- The Garden Grille in Pawtucket, RI. We stopped by the WildFlour Vegan Bakery and she dropped me off at the airport. Just like that, the trip is over and I am returning to florida a MARATHONER!
So, whats next? I’m not sure if I still want to run the Boston Marathon. It’s not that I don’t think I can or I don’t think I am capeable of the amount of training I would need to put in to lower my time enough, but more so, I am not sure I want to make that kind of commitment. I know that in 2015 I want to go for the Spartan Race Trifecta, that will not give me a chance to marathon train. So maybe in 2016 I’ll try to qualify. By then I may have forgotten the sucky parts and only remember the glory, and be much more motivated for such a challenge.
I did document a lot of my training with my Go Pro and in the next few weeks I hope to put together a little baby documentary about it. But more exciting than that is the fact that I have SKIN REMOVAL SURGERY ON MONDAY!!!!!! Fuck a piece of pizza- THAT is my reward!