Ironman Countdown

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Making the Marathon Decision

A friend from work (who is running her first marathon in this weekend! GO LIZ GO!) read this blog, and was surprised to discover I had only run my first ever marathon last year.  She seemed to think I had done several and was a crazy long distance runner with many years under my belt.  This both tickled me pink (that I give off that kind of vibe) and cracked me up.  I still don't think of myself as a runner, let alone a marathoner, most of the time.  I know that sounds silly, but I have found so many of my friends and Swim Bike Mom team members are similar-minded.  Even though I personally believe that if you run, no matter your pace or distance, with any consistency, you are a runner.... I don't apply that to myself.  Someone will have to psycho-analyze that sometime.

Anyway, this all got me to thinking about why I chose to run the Baltimore Marathon last year.  I know I had been thinking about it over the last several years, and over a bottle(s) of wine with James at some point in 2012, I finally said this thought out loud... but how did this all happen?

You see, somewhere in my late 20's/early 30's, I was so busy:  getting married and having my babies, buying a house, working.... I sort of lost a piece of myself.  I didn't really notice it had happened, what with the busy-ness and all.  But right before I became pregnant with Julia, I finally noticed the weight I had put on, and how I really didn't look like myself anymore. I finally let myself really feel this sort of inner anger and discontentment that had been rumbling around, when I should have been totally fulfilled with my work and my family.  I took a long hard look, and had a moment of total honesty with myself.  I had lost a part of me that was only for me.  I needed to get healthier and find that part of me that answers only to me, that takes pride and happiness in something just for me.  It is sort of hard to explain, but I basically needed to regain my sense of inner peace.

I started running again after I had Julia in August 2011.  At first I use to just "power walk" with her in the stroller when she was a few weeks old.

Julia, 2 mo. old, ready for one of our walks
 Then I started by adding one 3 mile run a week.  Then 2.  By the spring 2012, I was running 2 or 3 afternoons a week, right after work, but only for about 3 miles at a clip.  I did a 5K, and signed up for a 10K.  I did another 10K in the summer, and did a sprint triathlon in the early fall.  The wheels started to turn.  I wanted to challenge myself.  When I have a race/challenge in front of me, it makes me so motivated to go train and run.  My inner-athlete loves to race.  And that inner-athlete kept whispering to me:  "You did 6 miles, why not more?"  That inner athlete is a smart chicky, and I was so glad we were on speaking terms again.

Like most people who run or tri, I also happen to have some real life heroes, cheerleaders and "coaches."

My older sister, Marianne, is a really good triathlete and runner.  I have always admired her, watching her, "as a grown up," continue to race and exercise.  She's done several marathons, many triathlons, and is a yoga devotee.  She has always been my cheerleader in everything I do, and is one of my heroes as well.
Mare & me, Dewey Beach Tri 9/13/14

And then there's Tricia. Tricia the Ironman.  Tricia the marathon runner.  Tricia the encourager of insanity.

after my first ever 20 mile run, Sept. 2013.

In late 2012, I started to run with Tricia more and more.  Our children are in daycare together (and might get married, or kill each other).  And we work together.  She is the person I confide my racing dreams and goals to first.  So on one short run together in the fall, I told her I was thinking of stepping up my triathlon distance and doing an Olympic race (.8 mi swim/25 mi bike/6 mi run) at the Columbia Triathlon.  "DO IT!  DO IT!" says Tricia.  A few weeks after that, I told her I had been contemplating a marathon and asked her if that was just crazy?  "DO IT!  DO IT!" says Tricia.  She said more than that, on both occasions, and was full of wisdom and advice.  But basically, she just cemented what I knew already, that I could do it!

Add to that, in October, 2012, I had signed up to run the Marine Corp 10K with my dear friend Shethir.  We've been friends for 25 years.  Shethir lives in Northern Virginia and had also gotten into running, after she had her second child.  Because we live too far apart to run together or do many races together, we specifically chose this one in DC, sort of a middle ground.  We even got matching tanktops from our alma mater Elizabeth Seton HS.  I think we both run for a lot of the same reasons (i.e. our sanity) so it was such a meaningful race for me, to run it with her.

Shethir & me at the Iwo Jima monument
The MCM 10K is held on the same day/time as the MCM itself.  During our run, Shethir mentioned that running the MCM was on her bucket list.  I told her that I, too, had been seriously considering a marathon, but I wanted to run the Baltimore Marathon since that is my hometown race.  We looked at each other and said "Let's do it!"  We thought it would be perfect:  she could come cheer for me at mine, and two weeks later I could cheer at hers.  We even pinkie swore we would sign up and do our first marathons in 2013.  There were no witnesses to that oath, but we stuck to it!

I am a fairly type-A person; I love schedules and routines; I am a planner by nature.  All of these traits were well-suited for marathon training.  I had my running schedule mapped out for the summer of 2013, and, one by one, ticked off each session.  I hated it during the hot humid summer months, but loved that when September came around, I was able to run 20 miles.  The slow build of miles over several weeks really works.  I used a beginner program from Hal Higdon (available online and FREE!), who is a force in the marathon world.  Working in the runs around my job and my family's schedules was very manageable.  There were some challenges with that, but basically I was able to fit everything in, with little inconveniencing to James and the kids.

On October 12, 2013, I ran the Baltimore Marathon.  It was so amazing.  I was just super happy and excited.  As promised, Shethir and her son Gabe, came to cheer me on, sporting a giant poster cut-out of my head, so I could find them.

Cal Ripken's 8, prior to the start
mile 7, St. Paul Street
I saw my work-friend Jen (mile 7), my sister (mile 11); Tricia (mile 14); my mommy-friend Jen with her family (mile 15); and my Dad, Jack and James (mile 16).  I started sobbing running towards the finish line... not exactly conducive when trying to breathe but couldn't be helped!  It was just such an amazing experience, from training to the medal at the end!

Gabe, Shethir & my giant Irish head

Team Pinkie Swear!

Shethir, around mile 10
And two weeks later, I watched Shethir run her first marathon at the Marine Corp Marathon.  She did so great, and I was totally overwhelmed by the amazing crowd support.  When you finish, a Marine puts a medal around your neck.  How humbling is that?

We celebrated over brunch a few weeks later, wearing our medals the entire time!
spoils of war

I even went up to Philly in November to watch Tricia do her marathon for 2013.  I made a sign so she could find me, involving a photo of our adorable children.  She PR'd, and had a great race!!!

2013.  What an inspiring year... no wonder I decided to do my Ironman around this time... I was surrounded by positivity through racing!  Strong, amazing, supportive women... mommies who work like me... ordinary people doing extraordinary things!

So needless to say, I have found my inner peace, that part of me that had sort of been missing.  I think all mothers go through this at some point.  And running or triathlon may not be the answer for all of us, but it has been for me.  It was such an amazing journey last year, so I knew I would do it again this year.  My inner-athlete has awoken, and I can't wait to see how far we go!


  1. Col, I'm where you were in 2011...I need your inspiration!

    1. Aw Pammy!!! If you want to start running, I can talk you through that. I'll share these two posts that really stuck with me:

      miss you and the little man. yesterday i told jack to stop kicking my seat, and then started laughing. you know why. xoxo

  2. Crazy, isn't it? How you can go from nothing (or something that was a long time ago) to "maybe .. no, DEFINITELY, I can do this..." !