Monday, May 30, 2011

Bayshore Marathon Recap

I did it! I ran my first marathon!!!
I had an amazing time and it was such an insane ride. But let me start from the beginning.

Saturday morning Sam and I woke up at 5am and each had a pb+j bagel thin with black coffee. If it ain't broke...
After loading Sam up with gatorade, orange slices and extra GU, we headed to Traverse City for the start. The weather was cool, about 55, and raining. We got to the race and headed to the start. I was incredibly nervous at this point! The rain picked up and with the call for marathon start, I headed into the fray.
The Bayshore Marathon is unique in that it's capped to only 2,000 runners (compared to Chicago which boasts over 45,000 slots!). The course is scenic and absolutely beautiful, and the people who come out to cheer are locals. The small size of the marathon makes for great camaraderie and most people run without iPods and spend the race chatting with fellow racers.
Within the first 30 seconds, I found two fellow runners who were going at my same pace. We linked up and ended up running the first 13.1 miles together at about a 10:00 min/mi pace.

Mile 1: 10:09
Mile 2: 10:14
Mile 3: 10:15
Mile 4: 10:04

My strategy going into the race was to take the first half slow, fuel early and just enjoy the ride. I didn't want to burn out or 'hit the wall' post-20 miles. So we took the first 13.1 slow.
Mile 5: 10:02
Mile 6: 9:58
Mile 7: 9:51

We ran into the woods and along the bay. At mile 5 I saw Sam and I couldn't believe how quickly this was all going. The miles flew by as I chatted with my new running buddies about everything from bacteria to Nixon to jet engines.

Somewhere around mile 8 I began to think about how many miles were left. I turned to one of my running friends and wondered, "Do you think we're going to make it?" and everyone around us chuckled. We pressed on.

Mile 8: 9:51
Mile 9: 10:08
Mile 10: 10:20
Mile 11: 10:05
Mile 12: 10:15

I took a GU at mile 5, then accidentally loaded up too much with Gatorade. I switched to water and took another GU at 13.1. Before I knew it, we were turning around and headed back to the start. It was at this point that we took our first walking break, for one minute. This refreshed the mind and legs, and we pressed on.

Mile 13: 10:04
Mile 14: 10:31
Mile 15: 10:20

Heading back, it hit me how sore I was. Even though I had run many a long run with no soreness, in retrospect I realize nearly all of them were pretty flat. The banking and rolling hills of Bayshore left me sore earlier than I expected and with over 10 miles left to go, I backed off a bit on pace.
At this point I had lost one of my running friends but pressed on with an awesome guy named Russ. This was his second marathon and he was pacing me and just great. He kept my mind off of the pain and had lots of encouraging words to say. We saw Sam again at mile 15 and he passed us orange slices. So. Damn. Good. I had another GU around 16 and 21 miles.

Mile 16: 10:51
Mile 17: 10:19
Mile 18: 10:54
Mile 19: 12:35 (bathroom stop)

We began to take short walking/stretching breaks every 2 miles. Each time we stopped, it was so much harder to get going again. By mile 20 I was in shock as to how much pain I was in. It wasn't specific pain (like an injury) but all over soreness. This was much, much harder than I expected. Our walking breaks increased to one minute every half mile. Our running pace without walks was around 9:45 min/mi. The rain, which had stopped earlier, picked up around this point and continued until the end.

Mile 20: 11:26
Mile 21: 11:28
Mile 22: 11:45
Mile 23: 12:16

It was about this point I completely stopped caring about my time. I had made a somewhat lofty goal for myself (that I fell far short of) and realized it wasn't about time. It was about the journey and finishing the ultimate race. I began to try to zone out but every mile marker I passed had me excited. I had never been in so much pain in my life and didn't believe we were actually going to finish until I saw the mile 25 sign.

Mile 24: 12:23
Mile 25: 13.26

With more encouragement from Russ (seriously, I could not have survived without him) we pushed through to the finish. As soon as my feet hit the track, I was so elated to be done that I sprinted to the finish. I didn't hear anything during that time-- just focused on that finish line and powered through.
Mile 26: 13:13
Mile 0.27: 3:10 (11:36 pace with 7:30 sprint at the end!)

And with that-- we were done! I had completed my first marathon in 4:46:06. I was elated.
Special shout-out to Russ-- I could not have done it without you! Marathons are such a journey and true friends are made out there on the course.

After some photos, I hobbled to the food tent I was most excited about-- local Moomer's ice cream! So delicious.
The marathon was the most amazing, painful, difficult, life-affirming and incredible thing I have ever done. I couldn't have picked a more beautiful course, better people or a stronger support crew. After 5 months and over 400 miles of training I am so happy to have achieved my goal. I can't believe that this time last year I had just completed my first 5K at an 11:40 min/mi pace and this weekend I completed a marathon. I'm so, so happy.

And I'm definitely coming back for Bayshore 2012. :)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Final Marathon Preparations

I can't believe the time is almost here! In 36 hours I will be smack dab in the middle of running my first marathon. Holy crap.

Before I can get there though, I have a few last minute things to get ready. First, I spent some of tonight packing all of my gear. Sadly, the weather forecast has changed and its looking like a cooler race temps (50s) with morning showers! Yuck.

The race is over 5 hours away from Ann Arbor, so we're heading up to Traverse City for the long weekend tomorrow. I started with a packing list:
And quickly got to packing. My marathon gear went in first. I'm thinking of wearing the same outfit I've worn for my last two long runs-- the National Half t-shirt and black capris. However, I might swap out a longsleeve for the short sleeve if it's chilly in the morning.
Next I packed fuel. I'm planning on taking 4 GU gels out on the course with me and supplementing with water and gatorade throughout. I also packed a clif bar to eat on the way to the race.
One of my race superstitions this year has been a set of lucky underwear! I've worn this combo on all of my long runs, plus my races. The sports bra is from BFF Kyla's wedding thank you's for the bridesmaids.
After everything was packed, I stretched and worked on some mental psyching up. I have been staring at my medals from my races and thinking about how far I've come. Each race has been an awesome experience and taught me so much about myself. I'm so excited and nervous for this weekend. I know that whatever happens-- I will finish. There is no chance of failure.
Tomorrow we head up North and internet access will be spotty. If you want to follow my race prep or see the results, follow me on Twitter! Last, but definitely not least, thank you so much to all of my friends, family and blog friends who have been incredibly supportive over these last 5 months. I owe this race to all of you. Big shout-out too to my mom for always being proud and encouraging. Love you, mom.
Catch you on the flip side of 26.2!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

4 days until Bayshore

With only 4 days until the Bayshore Marathon, I've been doing lots of online research and checking in with my marathoner friends for support. I'm super excited, but nervous! A fellow Twitter friend has run the Bayshore before and offered me advice this morning.
One way to cure some of the mental crazies I've been having is to check out the course map. The Bayshore marathon is an out and back right along the Grand Traverse Bay in Northern Michigan. It's insanely gorgeous and the number one reason why I chose this race.

The course is fairly flat too, with some hills but no real steep climbs to speak of. The elevation map looks totally manageable.
Another place I've been finding great information is on the Runner's World training website. Some of the articles I love are:

Finally, another way I've been gearing up is by listening to Ultramarathon Man, by Dean Karnazes. Dean is one of the most extreme runners in the world-- he recently ran across America! His autobiography on audiobook has been great inspiration and is full of mental toughness and great quotes. I'm midway through his first 100-mile race right now and it's incredibly inspiring.
One last thing: the weather forecast for this weekend has vastly improved from the earlier predicted "thundershowers" to partly cloudy with a high of 64! Perfect.
How do you prepare for a big event?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Taper Time

After logging between 2o and 40 miles per week for the past few months, it's time to taper for the marathon this Saturday. Last week called for a 50% reduction in mileage and to be honest I was a bit scared. What would I do with all of my extra time? Would I have to stop eating cookies every night past 9pm? Would my fitness level be maintained?

I found that I was able to burn off extra energy and enjoy a lot of great times with friends. Here's some non-running things I've been up to to take the edge off.

Last Monday a bunch of friends and I hit up college night at the local bowling alley. I'm terrible at bowling but it was a great time. We had cheap pitchers and blacklights for the bowling alley. Great times.
Thursday night Sam and I hit up a few Ann Arbor breweries for some pints. We stopped first at Jolly Pumpkin and each had an IPA (Sam's was gluten free!) and shared an amazing tasting plate full of delicious olives, local mushrooms and cheeses. The mustard was insanely spicy but so good.
Later we biked over to Arbor Brewing Company for another beer. I had a New Holland Poet and Sam had the ABC wheat ale.
Friday night I met up with friends again for a mini bar crawl. We started at my favorite dive bar and had pitchers of Miller High Life, darts and free popcorn.
Later our antics turned to shots and karaoke. A fantastic time indeed.

Saturday I hit up Whole Foods. My mom had graciously forgone the Easter basket this year in favor of a gift card to one of my favorite stores. I spent time with friends walking around the store, tasting cheeses and getting gelato.
Afterwards we brought the cheeses home with a baguette and beer for a little tasting. The Chimay Brie was soft and delicious, the 2 year cheddar was sharp and the raw milk bleu was intense!
Finally, Saturday night a bunch of science grad students hit up Asia City Buffet for some sushi. Delicious!

Although last week was fun (and a little alcohol-heavy), it's time to buckle down and get ready for the marathon! I'll be sharing my packing list, playlist and pre-gaming strategies this week, so I hope you're all ready! Meanwhile, does anyone have any tips or suggestions for how to survive (and conquer) 26.2 miles? I'm scared and excited!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Contamination Station

Remember when I posted about my bacteria contamination at work?
Just to recap, bacteria grow on the gelatin-looking nutrients (called agar plates) and create colonies, millions of bacteria in one little speck! Depending on the type of bacteria, the colonies look different. When I'm doing experiments, typically I want to work with just one kind of bacteria. In the above photo, the tiny white colonies have invaded my stock of big white bacterial colonies. Both plates should look the same, but they don't.

That, my friends, is contamination. Bacteria are everywhere, so it's inevitable that different bacteria will get into supposedly "sterile" environments.

Check out the contamination I saw a few weeks ago.

This is what a normal culture of Legionella pneumophila should look like:
And these are what contaminated cultures look like:
Totally crazy, right? It amazes me that bacteria grow so differently-- and can contaminate experiments so quickly! Some of the contaminants here are different colors or shapes, and some aren't bacteria at all.

Take this plate for example:
Recognize that kind of growth? It's a fungus, probably mold. How did it get onto my agar plate? Who knows, but likely from the air or a contaminated lab tool.

Contamination is certainly a problem, but can make for some cool results when you least expect it.

What sort of weird things do you see at work?

Monday, May 16, 2011

20 Miles and 5/3 Riverbank Run 25K

Previous marathon training long runs:

This weekend I ran the longest training run of my marathon training plan, 20 miles. And I totally rocked it out.

I approached the long run a bit unconventionally- I woke up and ran 4.5 miles, then went and ran a 25K (15.5 miles) race to make a total of 20 miles. This added a level of camaraderie, helped me practice mid-race fueling strategies and I even got a medal at the end!
Saturday morning started off like every other: an early wake-up and peanut butter toast. I skipped the coffee because I knew I'd be ingesting caffiene in the form of gels soon enough. The weather was dreary but the rain held off while I ran my first leg, 4.5 miles.

Mile 1: 9:51
Mile 2: 9:50
Mile 3: 9:51
Mile 4: 9:41
Mile 4.5: 9:54 pace

Then I hopped in the car and headed to the 5/3 Riverbank Run in Grand Rapids. On the way there, a downpour started! I made my way to the start of the race and looked outside with trepidation. A soaking-wet 25K did not sound appealing. Miraculously, the rain stopped and held off for the rest of the race! Soon enough, we got started.

The first part of the course ran through the woods and along the Grand River. It was gorgeous scenery, great temperatures (around 56) and everyone around me was happy to be out there. I had a blast during this race!
Mile 1: 9:44
Mile 2: 9:36
Mile 3: 9:33
Mile 4: 10:05
Mile 5: 10:04
Mile 6: 9:41

My fueling strategy was to start with sport beans (around mile 4) and switch to gels as needed. At mile 6, I slowed to eat my first gel, a chocolate flavor.

That gave me a boost to run until I saw my support crew at mile 7! They handed me another gel and I was off.
Rolling hills started and continued for the next few miles. I started to get really tired around mile 11, but pushed on after having another gel. I loved talking with people around me and just enjoying the run.

Mile 7: 10:58 (first gel)
Mile 8: 9:42
Mile 9: 9:38
Mile 10: 9:51
Mile 11: 10:22 (second gel)

Soon enough, we were out of the woods and headed back to downtown GR. My legs were screaming at this point but I alternated Gatorade and orange slices (the BEST mid-race snack!) at the aid stations and continued on. A personal distance record was close!

Mile 12: 9:39
Mile 13: 9:53
Mile 14: 10:02
Mile 15: 9:36
Mile 15.7: 9:45

25K time: 2:34:51
20 mile time: 3:17
Before I knew it, I saw the finish line and dug deep, sprinting through the finish line. I felt absolutely amazing and was so happy to be done! I grabbed as much free food as possible and headed to my friends.
On the way home we stopped for Quizno's veggie subs. Yum.
After a nap and countless amounts of fudge cookies and cheetos, we had a lovely grill dinner of portabellas, roasted asparagus and carrots and a giant salad, plus lots of chips and guacamole. The perfect post-race meal!
It's amazing just how much confidence a strong 20-miler gives me for the marathon. I feel on top of the world and like I can definitely accomplish 26.2 miles in 2 weeks. I can't believe how far I've come and truly feel like I'm in the best shape of my life. I cannot wait for the marathon!!
What are you excited about?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

15 Minute Vegetarian Gumbo

By now, you all know I am a giant fan of quick dinners, like my 10 minute meals or 15 minute risotto. After being in a recipe rut for a few weeks, I whipped up this 15 minute gumbo on Tuesday and have been enjoying the leftovers all week.
Here's what you need for success. The highlight of this meal was the $1.00 package of okra I found on produce clearance!
For 4 servings:
-Quick brown rice
-1/2 large onion
-1 can diced tomatoes
-1 can kidney beans
-1-2 Tbsp cajun spice
-1-2 Tsp chili powder
-Hot sauce to taste
-Salt and black pepper to taste

Start by boiling water and rice for 4 servings of brown rice (according to package). Then, chop and steam vegetables in water until tender.
Stir in entire can of tomatoes (with juice!) and reduce heat. Add spices to taste. Your kitchen smells amazing right now.
While gumbo reduces, add rinsed kidney beans to finished brown rice and mix. I add a little bit of spice in here too so it's not quite so bland.
Once everything is done, spoon rice into a bowl and top with gumbo and extra hot sauce.
This was incredibly delicious. I was really pleased with how the recipe turned out and ate two bowls!

In other news, I've been slowly getting better this week. I've ran twice, a 5 miler and a super hot 10 miler yesterday and I'm feeling mediocre about the 20 miler this weekend. Here's hoping I rock it out!
What's your favorite quick meal?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Down With the Sickness

Continued apologies for the lack of posting lately! My life has been incredibly busy (I'm sure yours has been too!) and I promise to get back on the blogging wagon.
This weekend was Earlham graduation! I went back to campus to see my friends graduate and have a good time.

There was amazing food,
great friends
and lots of good times.
One thing that's been stressing me out lately is the marathon! With only 3 weeks to go, this week is supposed to be my peak marathon training week. Frustratingly, I've been sick for over 2 weeks now! I had a cold, then got better and ran 18 miles. After that, I got sick again and scrapped my 14 miler this weekend for a quick 5-er with BFF Kyla. I felt crappy then too!
Now today I have a scratchy voice and a cough. I took a lot of time off of running last week and am really getting frustrated! Here's what I'm going to do this week to make sure my 20 miler on Saturday is sickness-free.

-Rest: after dropping my mileage by about 50% last week, I'm going to continue to listen to my body and not push it this week. My goal is to run at least twice before the 20 miler on Saturday.

-Eat well: continuing eating nutrient-dense foods and drinking lots of water will help boost my immune system

-Get enough sleep!!
Saturday will be the 2nd of my training races for this marathon! I'll be running the 5/3rd River Bank Run 25K + 4.5 miles to make 20 for the day. I can't wait!!

How do you adjust your workouts when you're sick?
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