Tuesday, October 21, 2008

MARATHON-Legs, Mind, Heart!

Cheese! Triumph at the ING Hartford Marathon!

Okay, okay you were dying to hear all the details of the marathon and now it's been over a week and you're not so interested anymore, but I still want to write it all down. So beware, long post ahead! Don't worry if you've lost interest. I won't feel bad if you don't comment! :-)

If I've talked to you, then you know the race was awesome, great, amazing. Those are three of the most common descriptive terms I've used when people ask me, "How did it go?" Here's why:

We took Peter Pan bus lines from Penn Station to Hartford, Connecticut. Margaret and Cole were just a little bummed that the bus we ended up getting on was actually a Greyhound and there were no pictures of Captain Hook or Tinkerbell on the outside, but there were comfy seats, and a bathroom, so if you ask me, it was all good.
In it for the long haul.

The freeway had construction, accidents, and holiday weekend traffic, so it took us more than an hour longer than it was "supposed" to, but we saw glorious fall foliage and I held Stella most of the way and kissed her cheeks over and over.
Thought you'd want to see the cheeks I was kissing all day.
Cole likes to kiss them too.

The guy across the aisle from me also struck up some conversation about wanting to be a good family man, like my husband, even though "black people" have a hard time keeping their families together. (He whispered that part under his breath, so as not to offend . . .himself?).

We walked from the bus station to the Expo center to pick up our race packets. Mags and Cole for the Kids K and me for the marathon. The expo was not as exciting as expected, but they gave us cool orange drawstring bags to carry our stuff in and one table had free cheese cubes to sample. I kept noticing all the runners around me, with their sinewy legs and amazingly fit bodies. I started to worry a little, maybe I am not actually ready for this race; I don't have sinewy legs, they still have cottage cheese; I don't appear amazingly fit, my belly is postpartum squishy. But then I noticed a few more people like me and remembered that I had done all the necessary prep, there was no way I would not finish this race.

We hooked up with our friends, the Ortons. Emily and I trained almost every single step of 340 miles together. We have talked about pretty much everything you can imagine during all those miles and runs. And in fact, here is a shout out to her . . . You Rock! I love you! It would have been miserable without her. She drove down with her family (husband and five kids) a little earlier than us and they were swimming at their hotel pool waiting to meet up with us for dinner. We were also waiting for the Astles, Carol came on most of the long weekend runs with us, but is speedy, so did other training without us and had a different race goal (finish in under four hours). We were also planning to see Reagan and Jake and their friend Deanna, as well as Jordan and Erin Colby. Jordan and Erin were stuck in traffic, so they missed dinner. Randy, and Carol made it to join us and we chatted for a few minutes on the street with Reagan and Jake before they head back to their hotel to rest up for the big day.

Luckily we found City Steam Brewery for dinner. They put our three families (nine kids between us) in the back room with the pool table, where we could still hear the live Jazz, but everyone else didn't have to hear us. We ate pasta (of course), bread, and ordered more than we needed in the way of kids macaroni and cheese or chicken finger dinners.

Afterward we took a quick dip in the hot tub, let the hubbies keep the kids down at the pool while Emily, Carol, and I went to get to bed.

From top, clockwise: Eli, Margaret, Me, Sarah jane, Cole, Matt hot-tubbing it at the Hilton

Up in the "runner's only" room we finally heard from Erin and Jordan that they had made it to their hotel. Hooray, we set up a meeting place for the morning and went about our pre-run preparations. I was anxious and excited so we did a little bit of chatting before I could finally get to sleep. My alarm went off the next morning and I didn't even want to stay in bed. Four months of training, hours of running, a hundred little details prepared . . .I couldn't believe race day was actually here. During the night Matt had slipped a card and gift under the door. I took it into the bathroom to read since my roomies were still snoozing in a bit, and cried. In the box he had left a necklace with a little "M" charm, for marathon mom. More than the token, it was the realization that he had supported me through every single run and though often called me crazy, really did admire my dedication.

After dressing, putting on glide, packing up our gels, filling our water belts with sports beverages, and pinning on our numbers Emily, Carol, and I met up with Erin and walked to the start line. Our families were still cozily bundled at the hotels, but we made our way through the masses of runners while someone was giving gurgled announcements over a loud speaker and found the back of the pack. Emily acknnowledged that when they said, "Marathoners, this way," they meant us! The sky was clear and blue and the air was brisk. I knew I wouldn't want my long-sleeves forever, but I was glad I had them then.

Erin Colby, Carol Astle, Me, Emily Orton, pre-race


I didn't hear the gun but everyone started moving toward the start, so we followed. Hundreds of people lined the streets cheering and music blasted. I knew it would be a challenge to keep pace at the beginning of the race, because we would be just so darn excited and I was right. We ran around the big park and some of the Hartford streets and I kept checking my watch and holding everyone back. The Orton family found one of the first cheering stations where they smiled, jumped up and down, took pictures and held up home made signs. After a couple of miles Carol left us so she could reach her goal, and just after four miles Erin had to leave us as the half-marathon course split off from us.

So Emily and I followed the runners, the volunteers, the orange arrows on the streets and ran. One section of the course is an out and back on a beautiful Connectict road. I'd describe it as somewhere between suburban and rural, not to mention breathtaking. These homes were surrounded by giant maple and oak trees in an array of colors from green, to yellow, to orange, to fiery red. Some of the leaves had begun to fall and litter the green manicured lawns with their splashes of color. They had pots of mums on the windowsills, cheery orange pumpkins on the porches, corn stalks leaning against their mail boxes, and happy supportive people cheering for us in their driveways. We ran past kids having Saturday morning soccer games and families drinking hot chocolate after having slept in their backyard in a tent. Idyllic, yes! We talked about it together and to some of the other runners we chatted with along the way, "What are we doing in Manhattan?"

Another thing I loved about the out and back is that we were able to see and cheer for the leaders coming back the other direction, running, no exaggeration, twice as fast as us. We also saw Reagan, Jake, and Carol all right on track to reach their race goals.

People playing live music plus a few DJ's were spread out along the course to help us stay motivated. A young band rocking out, a fifty-something acoustic guitarist keeping it mellow, a middle-aged band covering Neil Diamond all contributed to the party-like ambiance. By the time we were hitting our painful, we still have a long way to go part around mile 18, we had a lot of positive energy stored up from all that had gone before. I received a call from Nate who's in Finland around mile 10, Matt texted me about the Kids K, we met runners from Boston, Los Angeles, upstate and asked questions of people wearing team t-shirts.

Cole and Mags, pre-race.

Cole and Loretta running the Kids K dash.

Margaret posing at the start line. She came in about 15th out of 80.

Impressive focus, no? She ran the 1/2 mile.

We talked politics and came up with some ideas on how to solve the world's problems. All of that filled us, so after being lead back into downtown via service roads, past railroad tracks, and up steep on-ramps that sucked a bit of life out of us we were still able to keep running. Next highlight, we saw the Ortons cheering for us again at mile 22. Emily made a quick stop to peek at her baby Lily and then had a spring in her step. Following that was a table of still cheerful volunteers holding signs and directing us to an aid station with gummy bears, sport beans, and fresh fruit. An orange wedge never tasted so refreshing.

Although my hips were stiff, knees hurting, right glut knotting up, quads burning and I could feel a couple of blisters forming on my big toes there was just NO WAY I WASN'T GOING TO FINISH! In fact none of that even mattered because my spirit felt totally unconquerable. Emily and I recalled a sign from the beginning of the race, my favorite. It read, "Legs, Mind, Heart." I called Matt as planned at mile 25. He told me they were waiting less than a mile away. Emily got choked up, which in turn choked me up and we told each other to stop crying so we could still breathe. I thought I might cry at the end, but because I'd be so spent or in so much pain, but really I was crying because I felt- triumphant!

Around the next bend as we approached our last stretch of road Matt, Margaret, Cole, Stella (sleeping in the stroller) Carol, Reagan, and Jake were there cheering, jumping up and down, holding signs, taking video. I veered over to kiss Matt and hug Mags and we soared up the road and around the corner to the finish line. We heard the announcers were applauding the runners coming in at this point, saying, "We saw the leaders come in two and a half hours ago. These people have been out there running for FIVE Hours! It takes a lot of dedication to do something for five hours." Amen! :-) They called out Emily's name and I looked up at them, wanting to hear my own and one of them put his hand over the mic and said, "What's your name?" Emily and I both called it out together and they repeated, "Heather Herrick. Way to finish it together ladies."

Emily Orton and I, finishing it together!

We took our medals, hugged, and Emily said, "We just did that!" As we walked over to get water she said, "So, that took us four months!" Emily and I were both drenched in sweat, some of it already dry and forming salt lines around our foreheads, but the smile on her face and the tears in her eyes were BEAUTIFUL! Our families came running around the corner past the water station where more hugs were shared, photos taken. Matt asked me how I felt, "Amazing!"
"Are you proud of yourself?"
No hesitation, "YES!"
Then he kissed me, even though I was sweaty and gross.

We hobbled to the food tents and took one of everything: yogurt, cranberry walnut cookie, cup of mac and cheese, cup of apple crisp, potato chips, apple, banana, bagel and cream cheese, and fruit cup. We had to eat as we walked back to the hotel so we'd have time to shower before check out. I did have an adrenaline drop, and got really nauseated during that walk, but after showering, stretching, and eating every last bit of food off that plate I felt good again.

I'll spare all the details of a very long bus ride home, but even that couldn't dampen my mood too much.

More cheek kissing of Stella and Cole would sit by me, now that I wasnn't "fweaty".

Natalie and Victor invited all of the runners and their families to come to their place where she'd prepared a delicioso pasta dinner, with homemade chocolate chip cookies for dessert. We swapped stories from the day and compared battle wounds, talked politics and took turns holding each others' babies.

Left to right: Jake, Deanna, Reagan, Me, Emily, Erin, Carol
Enjoying dinner at the Monreals, gracious hosts extraordinaire!

So all in all, it was AWESOME, GREAT, AMAZING! Thanks to everyone who made it possible. Let's do it again soon . . .errr okay, not too soon!


annie said...

Congratulations, Heather! I hope to do that one of these days, but for now I am sticking to the half. Tell Emily congrats for me too. I miss hanging out with you guys.

Turbo said...

Nice work! I actually have a couple of pictures of you and Emily that I have been meaning to forward. Here are the links pic 1 pic 2
pic 3
pic 4

Reagan said...

Heather, you are so amazing. I seriously still can't believe you did two big races within 9 months of having a baby!I got choked up reading this several times. I look up to your positive attitude, your determination and your all around great spirit! Congrats again on a well deserved achievement. (A huge one)

Heather Anna said...

annie, are you training for a half right now? the half is so much fun. tons of work and hard, but less ummm . . painful. we miss you around these parts too. Lila is so gorgeous! Glad she's doing well.

turbo, thanks for the pics! and reagan you are partly my inspiration. last year when i started training you were so supportive and made me feel like i could do anything. then i got preggers, but still i did it, just a year later! thanks guys! and good work on yours.

Erin said...

Amazing endurance! Congratulations to you! Also, thanks for posting so many pics of the kids. They are just plain adorable! Love you.

Nathan said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I loved reading every last syllable! The pictures were great.

What an exciting and wonderful day. I actually cried reading it. I'm a little emotional still. I think I was so touched for several reasons, first because I am so proud of you! I really am. You worked so hard and I am so proud! secondly, because I know the excitement surrounding a race and it made the whole reading of it that much more palpable, thirdly because I miss you so much! I miss all of you so much! It was so great to see you and the kids and Emily and everyone. WHAT A GREAT DAY! That's how to do it!
And fourth because I am sad I wasn't there... I wish I could've followed through and ran it with you all and shared...
I love you so much Heather. For all the wonderful and amazing things that you are! So many wonderful things--now I can add marathoner!

(p.s. I won't be hurt if you don't comment on my novel length post, either... not too hurt, at least. JK)

annie said...

i am running a half on november 2nd. i'm a little nervous--feeling like i'm not ready. which is probably true, but i plan to do it anyway:)

vdg family said...

Great job Heather! You are amazing! How do you even start training for a marathon? I think I'll start with a 5K and work my way up. Do you still do those? :)

The Giles said...

So this is Ann Marie Giles, from a while back in NYC. I have seen your blog before and popped on it tonight - just had to say CONGRATULATIONS. That is amazing. Seriously! I'm impressed. You're kids are darling.

Heather Anna said...

I love you and miss you too Nate! If you come home soon I'll make you the cake of nutty goodness ;-)

Thanks for popping in AnnMarie. How's life?

Go Annie! Have fun at your race coming up.

nycvdg, start walking, then add some running, work up, then when you can run 30 minutes without stopping you are ready to start training for a race. I really do think anyone can do it if they decide to. how's your third?

Kelly Jo said...

AWESOME!! You are AWESOME!! I almost starting crying reading this. Way to go!

Woods: said...

Congrats! That is really awesome! I'm so proud of you! I kinda wish I was there with you...only if you were doing a half! :) My sister is great. Love her. Nice job on your run! And the kiddies are unbelievably cute! Fun!

Anonymous said...

Wow, you did it! I told Brandon a couple weeks ago that I would run his tenth marathon with him so I need to get cracking. Dad and I were just reading your post and we thoroughly enjoyed the details. We love you and appreciate you keeping us updated on what is going on in your life.


Kaedi said...

Awh, I'm all misty-eyed reading about your experience. You are amazing! Congrats, congrats, congrats. I loved hearing your voice in this post. Well done!!

Anonymous said...

Excellent job, Heather! My heart beat faster and I found myself holding my breath while reading your post!

Congratulations, you did it!

Natalie said...

It was so great to read all about it! It made me feel a bit emotional!

arly said...

I loved reading this. I even cried. At work. Congratulations!

Eryn said...

I'm crying and SMILING for the both of you (emily too). Love you guys. Isn't that the best feeling in the world to accomplish something like that! I'm in awe!!!!! And loved that you blogged about it all!!!!!!

Rachel said...

Heath, I love you! You're my inspiration! I loved running with you last weekend--one of the highlights of NYC!

Marci said...

Great job on the run! I am truly amazed at what you accomplished and I am touched at how sweet the husbands were to step up and help this happen for you (and a gift slipped under the door-wow!). All you ladies are an inspiration. Go Inwood 1st Ward ladies!

Heather Anna said...

Thank you everyone for all your encouraging words and reading my novel of a blog post and even enjoying it!

nyc vdg: start with a 5K if you want. Just to see how fun the race atmosphere can be. It truly is invigorating.

Shane: maybe we can do the 10th all together? wouldn't that be awesome? Lori and I are trying to plan to do one together anyway. I hope we can make it work. And what about Jeffy, is he still on honeymoon hiatus from running? :-)

Anonymous said...

You did so great! So do you have your next race picked out? :-)

Heather Anna said...

My sis Lori and I want to do one together; I'd love to shoot for next Spring, but we'll see what we can work out. It's hard for me to get there in the spring and she's trying to do the Utah sweep, so I may do Desert News with her in July, though it's not my dream race. Marathon in July? Ummm who's crazy?

I want her to come here and do the Long Island, but we'll see. What about you?

Juli said...

What a small world it is!! I never knew that when I read this and cheered with you in your accomplishment, I'd also be cheering about Jake and Reagan (whose mom I have dinner with at least once a week here in South Jordan)!! What an amazing blessing your determination will be to your children as they learn the value of setting and accomplishing goals! You are an amazing woman ... You should be a superhero for Halloween. :)

Katie Lila said...

Tears for your triumph are blurring my vision. I commented to Talmage that you made it sound so euphoric I want to go out and train for a marathon. He promptly told me he'd plan another back-packing adventure instead. You are amazing and I am so proud of you and Emily and Carol. Rock on Marathon-Moms. you should send this to Runners World. Of course I always think your writing is note-worthy... what are little sisters for if not to idolize you?!! Love always, even on the days your caught in the laundry-mat wearing to-big-pants and "ugly, blue crocks". You are bautiful.

MamiJo said...

Congrats to you Heather!!! I admire you so much. You deserve to be proud.
Oh and your Stella and my Max need to get together one of these days, those fat cheeks are so similar.

birdchaser said...

Heather, you rock!

Shannon said...

Talk about inspiration! I think I wrote it on your facebook wall and I'll write it again...you seriously are incredibly inspiring to me!! I want to be like you in so many ways, but mostly I want to have the determination and strength that you have to complete a marathon. Thanks for posting the story - it was awesome to read! :)

Eileen said...

Amazing. My husband has run 3 marathons, but I'm MORE amazed at a marathon mom!

Found your blog from Segullah. Congrats on the huge accomplishment.