Me and the medals
A little over two years ago, certain friends of mine talked and dared me into registering to Portland Half Marathon. I thought that was a crazy talk but I did it anyway. I joined Team in Training for the first time as a Flex Team participant and trained myself to my first ever sanctioned endurance event. 13.1 miles of crazy. I finished, and I was hooked. Fast forward to today, 7 half-marathons and 4 marathons later, my love and passion about running is stronger than ever. I love the races, I love the medals, I love the ups and downs during the training and I love to continue challenging myself, but what I love the most about it, I love the opportunity that I have to inspire and motivate others to do something that once unthinkable for them. To find out how far they can push themselves and to witness the strength that they have, buried somewhere within themselves. No, I’m not a coach by any means. I’m back-of the pack runner, who happen to be a survivor, a mother who work full time and understand the struggle when you have to balance the time between training for your goals, and your responsibility to your job and your family and I love encouraging others with my journey
Portland marathon always have a special place in my heart. I always think of the race that started it all so for me to came back and did my fourth marathon there, with the same person who dared me to love this sport to begin with (I love you, Karen!) made it even more special. I learned some lessons from this race and even beat my personal record by 14 minutes!
The night before the race
I attended Team In Training inspiration dinner with the husband, Karen and Rob. It was your typical pasta dinner hosted by Team In Training OSWIM (Oregon, South Washington, Idaho & Montana) chapter. There were 125 of TNT runners and collectively, we raised a little bit over $250,000 for the event! That’s one grant amount for a research! Pretty impressive! We had our teammate, Kellie, spoke during the dinner and shared her story. She is an amazing person!!
After dinner, we went back to our room and lights out about 9pm. Surprisingly, I wasn’t as nervous as I thought and felt pretty ready.
Honoree Teammates. We are a superhero
Alarm went off at 4:45am. I grumbled, as usual, as it took me about 3o minutes to actually move from the bed and get ready. The husband made my usual pre-run breakfast (english muffin, banana, peanut butter) and filled out my fuel belt bottle with gatorade and water. Love that husband of mine! I slowly got dress, and was out of the door to meet Karen and Rob shortly before 6am. We hung out at the hotel lobby for another 30 minutes and walked to our corral. Rob and I were in the same corral, different than Karen. It was COLD morning. I was so glad that I had my arm sleeves and gloves!
Me with Karen and Rob.
Ready to roll
At 6:55am, all the runners was asked to sing the national anthem together which I thought very neat. 15,000 runners, united together and sang National anthem. I actually got a goose bumps! Corral A and the elite start exactly at 7am and our corral slowly moved towards the start line. That’s when I realized my Garmin watch is dead. Yes, my Garmin watch, the one that I thought was charged all night was dead. I went on panic mode for a moment as I relied on my watch throughout the training session to make sure I stay on pace and I have huge goal for this race. Actually, I have four goals. My crazy, huge and aggressive goal was to finish with 5:30 time. I picked up a pace band from the expo that have all the time I have to hit every miles and that seems doable from my training. My second goal was to finish under 6 hours, which also seems doable. My third goal was to beat my last personal best time and my last goal was to finish, upright and smiling. Yes, I told you it was a huge goals.
I calmed myself and thought — I had my phone with me and my runmeter app will read the pace, distance and time every half miles. I took a deep breath and proceeded to walk to the start line. At 7:25am, I crossed the start line. I was feeling good and enjoy the crowd. I saw the husband on mile 2’ish and gave him my dead Garmin watch and again at mile 4.5 where I ditched my gloves. I was feeling great! I kept looking at my pace band and made sure that I hit the time on every mile and I had to slow down a few times because I was about 2-3 minutes faster than what the time indicated. My legs felt great though and I kept on going. I saw coach Joe and ran with him for a little bit. Around mile 10, I started to feel some tightness on my chest and started coughing a lot. I wasn’t panting my any means, but I knew exactly what it was. It was a sign that the muscle around my airways started to swell and narrowing the air that can go through the airways. Or what we called Asthma. I took my first walk break there to see if that will help, and it did, so I switched to run/walk. Fast forward two miles later, I knew for sure I had an Asthma attack. I wheezed and stopped at the side of the road, took 4 puff from my inhaler, wait for a few minutes and proceed to walk. I looked at my pace band, and that cost me about 5 minutes. The crazy part of me said, well, I’ll make that time up so I started to run faster (like an idiot) because I was so focus on my pace band and not thinking straight.
Coach Glen and I. Mile 22
Mile 13 – 17
I passed mile 13, and thought — okay, now I’m 3 minutes behind. I can make that time and proceed to run even faster (again, not being smart) which last about maybe a quarter mile before I stopped and wheezed on the side of the road again. My chest felt so tight that I had to bend forward, and hold my chest with my hand (or what doctor called it tripod position). I walked and finally came to my senses and ripped the pace band from my wrist. I did 5-1 run walk from mile 14.5 on and survived the St. John’s bridge and felt a little bit better. The view from the top of the bridge was so breathtaking! I can see Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helen and Mt. Hood! I stopped there for a few seconds, just soaking the view and be grateful that I am able to run and appreciate the opportunity to stand there.
I continued to do run/walk for another couple miles and coach Glen found me around mile 20 and started to run with me. I was very grateful for him, because all those not-s0-smart move I did earlier (like running faster-almost sprinting just to make sure I made the time and followed my pace band) aggravated my already inflamed airways. I ran slower on the run part, slow than normal, but I kept moving forward. Coach Glen kept talking to me about many things, distracted my mind, got me gummy bear and very patiently jog/walk with me. We saw TNT tent on mile 22 and that was a Godsend!! They have banana, oranges, pretzel, and candy! I grabbed handful of pretzel, slice of oranges and half banana which gave me a boost.
We continued to jog/walk, and ran into coach Ginny. So happy to see her smiling face!! My knee started to hurt from the tightness of my IT-Band due to quite a stretch of downhill that we had but I kept moving forward and by golly, coach Glen was a lifesaver. He knew I was struggling and was so patiently kept my mind off from it. We talked about some other races he did, about so many things. He engaged my mind during the hardest miles and I had to tell you, it was all mental strength that carry me through. All the messages from Facebook and Twitter that many, many of my friends posted on my FB walls or tweet me — were so helpful. I felt so loved and had so many people cheer me to finish strong. I was hurting, no question about it. I had retractions on my belly, just the bottom of the breastbone as a result of increased use of the chest muscles for breathing, which cause massive headache, in addition to tension headache that I battle everyday and my left knee was in pain but not even once that the thought of quitting enter my mind
Mile 24. Can NOT wait to be done
Mile 24 – Finish
We were heading back to downtown Portland and I knew that I was in a home stretch. With 2.2 miles to go, I had 28 minutes to spare to meet my sub-6 goal. I tried to run faster but after I hit mile 25, I knew that it’s not worth it for me to push it so I went back to my jog/walk strategy. We ran into coach Joe and coach Lisa and I had three of Team in Training coaches ran me in to mile 25.5, where they had to stop. I told coach Lisa that it wasn’t my day as I miss my goals, but she straighten me out. She said “It IS my day. You are out here, about to finish yet another marathon. Embrace it” and boy, I did. I ran the last half miles with so much endorphin. I almost ran past the husband who shouted my name from the sideline, a moment before the finish line. I stopped, kissed him, continued to run, put both of my hand up, looked up to the sky, big smile on my face and cross the finish line.
Shortly after I crossed the finish line, a woman who I never met suddenly hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. She told me that she almost quit the race but she spotted me and was focusing on the word ‘Rock Star’ and ‘Survivor’ on the back of my jersey and that pushed her through the last 2 miles. She thanked me for being her inspiration, because she said, if a cancer survivor can do a marathon, a healthy person like her can do that as well. I hugged her back and teared up a bit. That made my heart melt. THAT’s what running the races all about for me. It’s not the time, it’s not the PR, it’s not breaking personal record (even though I was ecstatic that I PR’ed by 14 minutes!). It’s the opportunity for me to inspire others.
I received my medals, wandered around on the food area and tried to stuff my face with SO MANY FOOD. Portland marathon had the BEST post-race food and made Run Disney event post-race food look like a joke. There’s string cheese, oranges, cold and crispy grapes, banana, bagel and cream cheese, all kinds of chips (doritos, lay), slice of apple, chocolate milk and I think I missed a few. I heard someone called my name, and Rob was walking towards me. He finished about 20 minutes before me and wandered around and wait for me and Karen. We continued to stuff our face with food, and waited for Karen. She crossed the finish line shortly after and we hugged. We did it! My fourth marathon, Karen’s second marathon and Rob’s first marathon!! We were all PR’ed!!
Me, Karen and Rob. We looked so serious
I have learned a lesson (or two) during this race. They are listed below, in no particular order:
- Always, always check all of your gear the night before. Including to make sure your watch is being charged properly. Sometimes it looks like it, but double check to make sure it really is being charged
- Do NOT fixated on the goal. Things happen during the race and sometimes, your body decided to go south, when you want go North. Do a body check every mile (thanks coach Glen!) and re-evaluate. Your goal sometimes need to be adjusted during the race day and it is OKAY not to meet the goal
- Be smart. Run smart. My stubbornness sometimes get in a way and prevent me from thinking clearly (hello, sprained ankle 10 days prior WDW marathon and still run it? Or mile 18 during Goofy challenge after the medical team said they heard ‘crackled’ and that could be a sign of pneumonia and decided to leave the medical tent and walked to the finish line?). I have got to stop being stubborn and be a smart runner.
- Carry a bag of pretzel on a small bag, and put it on your pocket. The race provided gummy bears and pretzel, but they have no pretzel left on the water/food stop when I was there. After 4 pack of Gu, I did not want anything sweet anymore
- Do more of speed work and hills. Do not avoid hills during training. They could be your best friends during race days.
Even though Portland Marathon is part of TNT Fall team event, I have re-direct my fundraising effort towards TNT Spring team event. To date, I raised $8,430 and I will not stop here. Thank you for those who are so generously donated to my fundraising event. If you like to support the cause that very dear to my heart, please visit my fundraising page at: http://pledge.yannirobel.com Every dollar help. No donation is too small, or too big. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.