Photos on the Run

Do you take pictures while you’re running?  I’ve heard of a lot of people doing this during races and many others frowning upon it.  I don’t feel strongly about it either way, but I do know that I don’t want to carry my phone during a race or lose precious seconds to take a photo.

However, for me, taking pictures during a regular old training run is a different story.  When it started getting cold around this time last year, I needed a little something extra to help motivate me to get out the door for a run in the wee dark hours of the morning.  It was really small, but I decided I would take a picture – just one – each day that I ran.  It was nice to have something else to think about besides how miserable I was to be running (even though I really wasn’t once I started).  I spent a lot of time on each run thinking about what my picture of the day would be.  It was a rough winter for us here in Maine, so it also helped my to try to see some beauty in the gray, desolate landscapes of our neighborhood.

Here are a few of my favorites:

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And I have to throw this one in there.  It’s not pretty, but it was the first peak of bare pavement I’d seen in months, in late February.  It was such a beautiful site at the time.
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I took a picture like that every day for about four months.  It was great.  Then, I finally got a GPS watch (a Polar M400) and slowly got away from carrying my phone and also taking pictures.  It was so beautiful when I started running again last Thursday that I decided to bring my phone and snap a few photos.

I only have a few items of running clothes that have big enough pockets to hold my phone.  It was a bit too warm for a jacket, so it required some creative dressing.
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Unfortunately, it took quite a while for it to get light out, since it was quite a bit cloudier than the day before.  (On a side note, I was feeling quite invincible with my new head lamp and decided to go down a desolate dirt road that I normally enjoy running on in the day light.  Shortly after I turned down the road and started feeling a little nervous, I saw a dark, shadowy figure, dressed in mostly navy.  I hoped feverishly for it to be a tree stump until I saw it starting to move.  I was about to have my worst running experience ever and was on the verge of screaming and sprinting back in the other direction when I realized it was my shadow.  Whew.)

I never seem to be able to capture the beauty I can see with my eyes with my camera, but I enjoyed trying.  Here’s what I ended up with:

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I saw a few really mini cameras at Best Buy recently which intrigued me a bit.  I really don’t like to be encumbered in any way when I’m running, so those are tempting.  Will need to do more research.

Hope you all had a great weekend.  We had a busy one with our youngest daughter’s First Communion and Confirmation, but we did manage to squeeze in a Breakfast Run to Union Restaurant in the fairly new Portland Press Hotel.  Reviews coming soon.

Back to it!

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Today was my first day of running after The Maine Marathon.  It felt great.  Not the pace I would have liked after ten days off, but I’ll blame that on my TRX/Kettlebell/Pliyo class from yesterday.  My next marathon is over four months away, so no real pressure at this point anyway.

The morning was gorgeous.  I think it was our first day with temps under 40 (37 according to my phone), so it made it a bit hard to get going (funny to think that that will seem really warm in a few months), but after about a mile and half, I was really enjoying the cool weather.  It was dark for about half of my run, so I got to try out my new headlamp which worked out great.  Once it was light enough, I could see that the trees in the cemetery where I was running were really almost at their peak of fall color – almost glowing – it was beautiful.  I love running in the fall!

It feels so great to be running again.  The training program that I’ve followed for all four of my marathons (Hanson’s) starts on a Thursday, so it worked out perfectly for me to take 10 days off.  How much time do you take off after a race?  I’ve heard everything from no time at all to 1 day for each mile.  I was glad to have the time off – it seemed kind of like a vacation, but I was starting to feel the effects of not running. It probably seems strange, but it wasn’t just the physical aspects, but I also felt like I was being less tolerant and having a harder time concentrating.  I think having that “thinking” time while I’m running really helps me sort things out, so I can focus on work or whatever later.  And, if I’ve completed a run in the morning, no matter what else happens later in the day, it’s already been a good day!

Thanks for reading and happy running!

Mike’s First Marathon!

How psyched am I?  I ran my first marathon, accomplished my goal time, and love the swag….

Where did this journey begin?  Last September, I strapped on a FitBit with a 10,000 step per day goal.  By the end of that month I started the Couch To 5K (C2-5K) program on my I-phone.  After the St. Brigid School Harvest Hustle 5K on November 1, 2014, Katie introduced me to the magic of the Runkeeper App.  From then I followed the Runkeeper training programs leading to a December PR at the Festivus 5K (Salem, MA) and a New Year’s Day 10K (Hangover Classic in Salisbury, MA)

From there, I was hooked.  I purchased a winter running jacket (Post-Christmas $35 Asics was fantastic!) and had my first runs in “running tights”.  Icy streets and sub-zero temps did not hamper my motivation, and in early April I ran the “Race the Runways” half-marathon in Brunswick, ME (1:55:38; under my 2 hour goal).  By the finish of the Portland Sea Dogs Mothers Day 5K, I was convinced that I would run the Maine Marathon.

The next week I started the Runkeeper Sub 3:45 Marathon Training Plan.  It went so well that by mid July, I switched to the the Sub 3:30 plan (a mistake).  Through summer heat and a couple pairs of Adidas Ultra Boosts I stayed faithful to the mileage, but not the pace of the training plan (I did miss a couple workouts, but my mileage was over the prescribed amount due to some Back Bay Series 5Ks)…

Fast forward to Saturday, October 3rd…Marathon training was complete!  Katie and I did a “keep the legs fresh” two-miler in the morning and went to the Maine Marathon Expo at USM that evening.  For a First Timer, the Expo and Pasta Dinner were electric!  It was great seeing my name listed among the race participants on the wall of Sullivan Gym.  It was especially gratifying to be included among the exclusive group of full marathoners.  The Maine Marathon has 3,500 total participants with 850 being full marathoners.  Six months ago, a half marathon was a HUGE accomplishment, but the full 26.2 now felt like Everest!  I felt like a “real runner” putting on the Maine Marathon shirt knowing I would be running the complete course.  Our event budget was well over-spent earlier that day on some Nike Dri-Fit wool running shirts (review coming soon), but I could not resist the bright orange Maine Marathon embroidered jackets.  The pressure was on to complete the race!

I was the beneficiary of a complete 8 hour sleep on Friday night because I only slept two or three hours Saturday night.  I spent the restless hours listening to 80s classics that I planned to play in my head during the race (no headphones anymore for this Road Warrior!).  Finally, at 5:30am it was prep time for Katie and I.  I “super” hydrated the night before, but still insisted on some more Gatorade along with a morning snack of half a peanut butter covered banana along with some V8 juice (I read that the sodium would help to retain water during the race).

Katie and I headed out to the race at 6:45; an hour before start time.  Fortunately, we were able to find parking on the USM campus; not far from the start line.  We both decided that using the indoor bathroom facilities would be a good start to the day.  The indoor heat (it was 45 degrees that morning) and cleanliness compared to a porta-potty felt great.  No doubt a “CC” (“Confidence Crap” -credit to one of numerous run bloggers out there) was essential to my pre-race checklist.  It is surprising how low the level of conversation goes among runners before a race: “That morning coffee is sure kicking in now…”.

We then walked our way to the start.  I was bursting with excitement at the start.  I barley heard the National Anthem as I was psyching myself up for the starting signal.  At the start, Katie and I shared a Good Luck kiss and started our 26.2 adventure…

During the week leading up to the race, I had visions of matching Katie’s pace during the marathon.  I had run stride for stride with her during some [short] training runs and thought I might be able to keep up with her 3:30 pace.  One mile in, I knew this was a pipe dream.  I kept her in my sights, but by the first water station at 1.6 miles Katie and her CamelBak were gone.  I stuck with to stop and drink at EVERY water station along the way.  I figured that I paid $90 for this race and was going to get every cents worth.  Plus, I was paranoid about not having anything in the tank at the end.

Miles 1-3 were great, but as soon as I hit Route 1 in Falmouth, I felt the “trotts” coming on.  I slowed my pace and hoped for some Porta-Potties.   My prayers were answered at Mile 5 or so.  I sped up and sprinted into an open Porta-Potty and had some salvation.  I guess the early morning “CC” had not cleared Saturday night’s Pasta Dinner.  A minute or so was added to my time, but I came out of there like Superman from a phonebooth and sprinted ahead of a group of runners.

At 6.55 miles was the Half-Marathon turn-around in Falmouth.  The crowd there was amazing, including my favorite sign that had a picture of the immortal Christopher Walken with a “No Walken” statement on it!  There was no gong back at the point and I pushed on towards Yarmouth.

I had an outstanding run from the Half-Marathon point up until Mile 12.  After my bathroom break, I pushed my per mile pace to 8:25.  An exhilarating feeling was passing a seasoned local runner along the way.  Unfortunately, I lost that lead, when the “trots” set in again and I had to hit the Mile 12 Port-A-Potties in Yarmouth.  What a relief though!  I had nightmares of a marathon breakdown with runs down my legs at the finish.  After another minute and a half, I burst out again at a Superman from the Phone booth pace.

By the 13.1 mark I was hitting a runner’s high.  My pace was sub 8:30 per mile and I was cheering on my fellow first time marathoners as well as the National Guard ruck-marchers looking miserable during their 26.2 march (BTW…thank you for your service!).  At this point I was beginning to pass several runners and feeling that I might easily achieve a full marathon at 8:30 pace!

By mile 15, Reality started to set in.  Somewhere at that point, we started our ascent up the hill to Tuttle Road.  There were great crowds on that road (route 88) including a “Free High-Fives” guy, but that hill kicked my ass.  From there on, my pace started to slow despite some motivation from the “26 Mimosas” crowd along the road.  I was still thanking the many spectators and volunteers along Route 88, but I was feeling the miles starting to weigh on my legs.

My plan at the start was to bring 8 Gu Energy supplements to carry me through the race.  I adjusted this to six the morning of the race because I did not have the means to carry such a load.  My first Gu was at mile 5 just before my first CC stop and later had one at Mile 10.  I still had four left by the half way point and had even stashed away a mini-Clif bar, in my pocket, from one of the water stations.  By mile 15 I felt the need to start taking in a Gu every three miles.  The Gu seemed to power me up those hills on Route 88, but I still felt that my tank was approaching empty by the Mile 20 mark.

Despite some struggles, I was still at an 8:30 pace by Mile 20.  I was ecstatic and thought I would just “power” it in for the final 6.2.  How naive I was…

My longest training runs were around 20 miles, so the final 6.2 were unchartered territory for me.  Just after crossing the 20 mile mark I was still at an 8:30 pace, but I started to experience Hamstring Cramps.  I was sure that I was about to pull a hamstring muscle, so I just stopped and stretched them out as best I could.  From that point on, I convinced myself that small strides would serve me best and that at each remaining water station I would drink Gatorade only (I’ve heard post-race that this is not the best strategy).  By Mile 22, the mental fatigue started to set in.  Several students and a parent from the school I teach at (Saint Brigid’s) were at that Water Station and I could not even recall their names. I was out of it!  I dumped some water on my salt-stained face and I continued to run, but still had to take another stop to stretch out my hamstrings due to the pulled muscle fear.  At Mile 24, a colleague of mine (Thank You Jackie Caiola!) was there, but I could barely register a greeting.  My pace had dropped to 8:50 and all I could think of was getting this torture over with.

I finally hit the final mile on Baxter Boulevard.  I had dreams of running this in at a break neck pace, but that was not gong to happen.  Between the pain and mental fatigue, all I could muster were tenth of mile jogs alternating with walks.  I was still at a 9:00 per mile pace which would put me under 4 hours, but even with just a half mile left, I cold have easily been convinced to just quit!
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Finally, I saw the finish with a quarter mile left.  I had plans of a glorious fist-raised finishing pose, but I just ran by a photographer with a “I don’t give a f*** feeling” hoping to at least cross the finish line with the appearance of running.

I crossed the finish line in a mental fog.  I stood in front of a medal presenter for what seemed an eternity.  Finally she put a medal around my neck and directed me to a Space Blanket.  The most Blessed sight was seeing Katie (she rocked the race with a BQ of 3:29!!) who walked me to recovery.  After about a 10 minutes (an eternity) and a chocolate milk I started to feel the ecstasy of completing my FIRST MARATHON!

It has been a long journey, but there is not much to compares to the feeling of accomplishing this first marathon. Although I crossed in a gun-time of 4 hours, 6 seconds, my official time was 3:58:04.  Many at school and around town have congratulated me on beating the four hour mark.  It is a great feeling and I’m actually excited to start training for my next marathon (Austin in Feb 2016) and even my third (Burlington, VT in May)!

Keep Running!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Maine Marathon Review by Katie

This was a great race!  We really lucked out with the weather.  Hurricane Joaquin had been threatening earlier in the week, but it ended up being a beautiful, crisp New England fall day.  We both really struggled with the decision of short vs long sleeves but ended up with short and didn’t regret it.

It was my fourth marathon, but my first in my home state, and Mike’s first marathon ever.  We were both pretty nervous and excited.

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We went to packet pick up the day before.  Parking was easy, volunteers were super-friendly, and there was a pretty nice expo considering the relatively small size of the marathon.  Although it didn’t even touch the Boston and Grandma’s expos, there were at least five different clothing booths which was a lot more than we expected from a one-running-store town.  I do enjoy my shopping and having a lot of options, but it was nice not to be jostled by millions of other runners while looking around.  The goody bags were full of interesting, and kind of random but useful things; vitamins, band-aids, cold medicine.  The race shirt is cool with little icons of Maine things hidden on the side panels.

UntitledWe wanted to have the full marathon experience, so we went to the pasta dinner the night before.  We wanted to mix with some other runners, but sadly, it wasn’t very well attended.  With all the great restaurants in Portland, I probably wouldn’t normally choose mass-produced spaghetti either, but it tasted good enough, and we got the experience.

We only live about a mile from the start, so we really debated whether or not to drive.  We ended up deciding that having the car for a home base would be nice and even walking that mile home after the marathon would be a struggle.  The parking turned out to be easy and plentiful with the USM parking garage open and free for runners.  The university also opened their gym for runners which had bathrooms and showers, so it was nice to be able to hang out inside and warm for a bit before heading to the start line.

There were lots of port-a-potties available, too.  We used both a bunch of times.  There was never more the 4 or 5 people in line which was cool.  After that we were kind of late getting to the start line which was wall to wall people.  We didn’t bother to try to line up in any kind of pace group and just jumped into the fray from where we were standing toward the end of the group.

We only ended up waiting for about 5 minutes from when we lined up until we started which was great for me because that’s when I feel the most nervous.  Nervous-wise, I was totally fine once I started running.

Since the race was so close to our house, we end up running the same or similar routes a lot.  I wasn’t sure how that would be, since I kind of think not knowing is better.  I’m still undecided about which way is better, but it turned out fine knowing the route pretty well.  There were some nice surprises along the way like a stretch near the water around miles 4 and 5 that I didn’t know about and will definitely run again.  And some not nice surprises like there being more hills than I anticipated in the parts that I hadn’t run.  But, I did know when I’d hit the last hill and was almost home, so that was good.

I really started struggling at about mile 23 1/2 or so.  I had my last Gu just before that.  It was chocolate, and no matter how much I liked my lips, I just couldn’t get it all off.  I’m worried it’s probably still there in my finish line photo.  I’m surprised I didn’t get sent to the medical tent for foaming at the mouth with bizarre brown ooze.  Anyway, I knew our two youngest kids were cheering us on at about mile 25, so that kept me going a bit longer.  It was an effort to cross the street and high five them though.  I’ll have to tell them to be on the other side next time.

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Then, finally, on to the finish where the rest was a blur for a while.  I walked (I mean stumbled) back to the car to get my warm clothes.  (They had a baggage tent, too which I would take advantage of next time, since it was much closer.)

There was plentiful food at the end; chocolate milk, bananas, oranges, pizza.  I was most impressed by the pre-peanut-buttered bagels, because who is capable of doing that after a long race?!

We had fun hanging out at the finish; snacking, recovering, waiting for awards in the sunshine and just basking in the glory of our accomplishment and the great running camaraderie.

Best Parts

  • You really can’t beat the scenery in Maine.  The leaves are starting to change color and there were lots of glimpses of the beautiful coast/ocean along the route.
  • I really liked being able to see some of the runners on their way back.  Because it was an out and back course and combined with the half-marathon, I was able to see a lot of the half-marathoners on their way back and quite a few of the marathoners as well.  It was like getting to be a spectator and runner at the same time.
  • The bands were great.  It was hard not to want to stop and listen.
  • The spectators were great – so encouraging and just gave the race such a celebratory feeling.
  • Maine Running Photos!  I’ve never heard of other places having this, but we have this great organization where volunteers take pictures of races all of the state and publish them for free.  They’ve already posted quite a few from this race which only happened two days ago.  Such a great way to relive the experience.

What I would Change
I know it’s snobby, but I like my marathon shirts and medals to say (okay maybe scream) marathon.  This one does, but it also says half and relay with nothing to indicate which one I did.  I also kind of like it when you don’t get the shirt until the end, and it has the word “finisher” on it – preferably in big bold letters somewhere.