What an amazing weekend in Austin, Texas! After completing the Nike Women's San Francisco marathon, I'd decided that I'd run one marathon a year. Since my good friend Steph landed a teaching job in Austin - it was easy to decide that the Austin Marathon would be the one for 2014 - which would also be Steph's first. Exciting! On top of that, our friend, Dan, was coming to run the Austin half also! Last year, we all ran the Scenic Trail half in Chattanooga, TN (and several other local races) so we all jumped on this next travel adventure. Plus - this was my first time visiting Austin! There was so much anticipation for this trip and now I'm so sad that it's over and done :( Where did the time go?!
Dan and I flew in on Friday, Valentine's Day. As soon as my plane landed, Steph picked us up from the airport and took us to eat at a food truck - The Blue Ox - where we had the delicious brisket plate. In Austin, there are food trucks everywhere and so many to choose from! I was like a kid in a candy store! While in town, we also hit up Taco Deli (my life will never be the same), Homeslice Pizza, Baby Acapulco's, and Blacksheep Lodge. In addition to the various eclectic food trucks and eateries, Austin is touted as the live music capital of the world. With that said, Steph got us tickets to see a live concert at Emo's featuring White Lies. I was in heaven! Love them!
After an eventful Friday night, we woke up Saturday morning and Steph drove us around the race course. Holy moly those hills!! I was getting nervous. Even with the hills, it's a beautiful course - especially around the capital building. Riding around, you can tell that Austin is such an active city! Once we finished driving the course, we headed over to the expo to pick up our race packets and shop. When there's so much excitement in the air, I just want to splurge and buy everything. I settled on these 2 shirts from Rogue Running and Luke's Locker, as well as my Texas 26.2 ornament and Austin Marathon charm to add to my Tiffany's San Fran necklace - that way I can wear my badges of honor around my neck all the time :) We met up with a few of Steph's running crew at the expo and carbed up for dinner at Maggiano's that night. I was stuffed. I felt like we'd been eating all day - which we did...eat all day.
After dinner and a glass of wine, we crashed to prepare for the big day. Ugh - 4 o'clock came way too damn early! I checked the weather and the forecast called for an overcast day (YES!!) with the highs in the low 70s. Humidity was in the upper 90%, but living in Savannah, I could handle it. We made our way downtown to park and got there around 5:30 and met up with the rest of Steph's running crew. Everyone was excited! I tried to calm my nerves being this was my 2nd marathon and I was still nervous and anxious. We did the pre-race norms of stretching and hitting up the portapotties before the lines got ridiculous. Then it was show time!
We made our way to the corrals and waited for our turn to cross the start line. Steph ran with her crew as their goal was to run it in 4:00. Dan and another Stephanie (who I met this weekend and is from Athens, GA and was also running the full) ran with me. We took it easy, tackling every hill and giving each other high-5s as we conquered each one. Those hills were no joke!! I want to say that was worse than San Fran. But who knows - I told someone it was like giving birth to a child. You tend to forget the pain and the process. In Austin, you couldn't even enjoy the downhill because your sights were already set on the next upcoming hill. They were right there just teasing you. I was proud that I didn't walk up one hill. I ran up each and every one. Stephanie's a trip and had great energy! Once Dan separated from us at mile 11 to complete his half, it was Stephanie and I all the way to the finish. The spectators were wonderful! They all had signs and chanted us on. Our names were on our bibs so it was nice to hear volunteers call us by name. It gave us that extra push! Residents came out blaring "Eye of the Tiger" (I can't tell you how many times I heard that song during the race) and passing out food from orange slices to Oreos to Twizzlers. There were parties in front yards with signs that read "Cocktails for Quitters" and around mile 21, there was a table passing out Jaeger shots. Ha! They were really supportive and so were law enforcement who came out to control traffic. They were very encouraging as we ran past them. It's so nice to see the city come together.
I felt great. I didn't hit that "wall" that everyone talks about and I was so nervous that I would. I repeated mantras in my head to push me along and just soaked in the chants of "You guys look great!" "You look really strong!" "Check out that smile!" "Go Cecilia!" from the spectators and volunteers. At around mile 22, I realized that I had run this entire time without stopping to walk. At mile 24, crazy emotions happened and I started tearing up. In my head I kept thinking - I can't believe I'm almost done. I can't believe I feel this great. I can't believe I ran every hill! I can't believe I'm going to finish another marathon!
At mile 25.5, we had to tackle not one, but three more hills. It was evil. There were 2 photographers perched at the crest of each one. The man running next to me stopped dead in his tracks and screamed, "F*%% that!" I wanted to scream too. Are you kidding me? I had run this entire time, my legs had started to lock up at mile 25, and now this - right before the finish? I took a deep breath and just...ran. Stephanie and I motivated each other saying "We got this!!" and conquered those last 3 hills! We both said once we turned the corner and saw the finish line, we would sprint to the finish and we did! It was awesome to see Dan waiting to cheer us on at the final stretch. It gave me the push to really PUSH it. I ran with all the gusto that I had left in me and crossed that finish line. Then all of a sudden, my eyes swelled up with tears and I couldn't stop. I had completed my second marathon, but not only that, I ran the entire time without stopping. I had set my watch to 25 min run/5 min walk intervals and ignored the alerts on my run. For me, I just dominated this race!! I felt like Super Woman! My Garmin clocked me in at 26.5 miles at 4:47:35. A huge PR considering I completed San Fran in 5:30. I looked over at Stephanie and she had tears in her eyes too. It was the greatest feeling ever. Those tears were me in total bliss and awe of the human spirit and triumph. I can't even begin to describe those emotions, but I crave that high again. I'm really hoping that I get in for Big Sur next year. Also, why do I keep signing up for these hilly marathons?! Once again, it's like childbirth, you forget the pain and relish in the glory.
We all met up with the rest of the crew to offer congratulations. Steph ran her first marathon in 4:17!! She killed it! It was time to celebrate with BEER!!
This weekend I also got to reunite with my old Bay Street Theatre crew who moved from Savannah to Texas within the past year - Lea, Mike, and Sean. It really was nice to catch up with all of them! Here's a picture of the crew at Baby Acapulco's. It was definitely a perfect ending to this wonderful weekend!
What's up next? My legs and body are still sore, but we are on to the Historic Savannah Foundation 10K this Saturday!
I was asked to speak at last night's Savannah Striders' meeting regarding my first marathon experience and my involvement with Team In Training, and also what I've gotten out of being a Strider (amongst other local running clubs too). I was completely flabbergasted that I'd been asked to speak in the first place. Me? Speak to a room full of advanced runners who by far have accomplished so much more? But then I thought about my self-doubt and thought about other members who may share those same insecurities and thus my "message" was born - with the help of this brilliant inspirational quote delivered by Julie Isphording (see top picture). I joked and said this was taking me back to elementary school - SHOW AND TELL!!
Here it is for those that missed the Striders' meeting:
I'm Cecilia Arango and I've been a Strider since December 2012. I joined shortly after completing my 2nd half marathon - both being the Rock n' Roll here in Savannah. After I completed that 2nd half, I was fascinated with running and was looking for ways to improve. I also loved seeing the friendships, the chatter, the energy, and the camaraderie on race day and I so wanted to be a part of this community...and those are the reasons why I decided to join the Striders.
Before I get into my marathon experience and my involvement with Team In Training (TNT), as well as the motivation I got out of being a Strider, I want to preface it all with a quote I found online the other day. It popped up in one of my Facebook feeds. I am a sucker for a good quote! This one is by Julie Isphording - an Olympic marathon runner who ran the first women's Olympic marathon in 1984. It goes like this,
"Running has given me the courage to start, the determination to finish, and the childlike spirit to have fun along the way. Run often and run long, but never outrun your joy of running!"
I LOVE THIS! It embodies how I feel about this sport because you don't have to "WIN" to win. After that 2nd half, I started to discover my joy of running. All of us have our own joys. Some find joy in the value of the experience. Some find it therapeutic. Some find it in the achievement and victory of breaking personal records, the excitement of the competition. Some find joy in traveling experiences. But, I can say that most of us all find joy in being part of a community where we're all striving for that one goal - to cross that finish line!
I strongly believe that in order to find your joy, you must find your confidence. Before I joined the Striders, I was intimidated by running with a group. Would I be too slow? Would I be left behind? Would people be annoyed at me? Would they make fun of how slow I am? These thoughts were terrifying! I had always run by myself so that I wouldn't feel pressured to "keep up", but I found that I wasn't doing myself any favors because I wasn't really pushing myself to do better. Since joining the Striders, as well as Moms Run This Town, TNT, and Crew Mile Markers, it has allowed me to let go of these insecurities and given me the confidence in my running, as well as the determination of I CAN and I WILL. With this newfound confidence and this joy I found in running, I took the plunge and signed up for Team In Training to run my very first marathon - Nike Women's Marathon San Francisco. Go big or go home, right?
It's funny because Jennie Brewster (TNT Coordinator) and I have been Ambassadors for the Savannah Chamber of Commerce for quite some years now. At every monthly meeting, Jennie would announce the TNT schedule and discuss the program and every time I would want to jump out of my seat and scream, "Oooh! I wanna do it!", but that self-doubt and not having the confidence won over - UNTIL LAST YEAR!!
I signed up, met with Jennie, and jumped into it with both feet. Most people are more intimidated by the fundraising portion than they are about training for a half, full, or triathlon. What I tell everyone is - you'd be amazed at the people who will give just by simply asking. I made it personal. My grandfather passed away from leukemia some years back and we fundraised for our Hometown Hero, a cute and bubbly 4th grader - Callie Lee - who also happens to be my TNT Mentors' niece. This really meant a great deal to me! I started my campaign on Facebook and sent direct mail letters. Doing that alone, I surpassed my minimum goal, was elevated to Rock Star status (raising over $1,000 over goal), and was Georgia's Top Fundraiser for this event!
I had custom bids created for my grandfather and Callie and also a grace wristband that I wore dedicating each mile and .2 to honor survivors, victims, and those that were an inspiration to me. It was also part of my fundraising campaign - donate and I would dedicate a mile to honor your loved one. The names came pouring in and it meant so much to me.
TNT also provides Group Training Sessions on Saturday mornings. This is when your participation is key. This is where you build your confidence and develop strong friendships. We had a group of 7 that participated in the Nike event. We had a blast!
So MARATHON!!! This was a big milestone for me! I've always said my first marathon would be a destination run. This event was HUGE - TNT was celebrating its 25th anniversary, Nike Women's Marathon San Fran was celebrating it's 10th anniversary, and did I mention this WAS MY FIRST MARATHON!?! With this being my first, I didn't have any expectations. My goals were to 1) have fun; 2) enjoy the experience; and 3) finish, but finish strong! I did however have a game plan of running the half marathon distance and then switched to intervals of 25 minutes running and 5 minutes walking. It worked out great for me and I never hit that dreaded wall!
I had friends and family at home rooting me on so I carried my iPhone in my spibelt and documented my entire journey - sending texts to update my mileage. I snapped pictures of all the treacherous hills I was about to trek up and the inspirational signs along the course (there was a sign that said, "I run for my family" which I sent to my mom who was hospitalized just days before I left for the trip). I even recorded myself screaming like a banshee running through the finish - completely ignoring my TNT family who cheered me on at the top of their lungs! Ha! I still laugh about it today.
The support along the course is unreal. There were folks decked out in purple cheering you on, runners in their TNT shirts representing the different cities and states, TNT coaches at every corner making sure you're taken care of, and the best part were the survivors, with tears in their eyes, thanking you. It was really emotional! You must do it and see it to believe it! Sign up for TNT!! My slogan for it is: Feel good. Do good!
I DID IT!! I JUST RAN 26.2 MILES!!! I will never forget this day. These memories will last forever and I have made some awesome friends. It's February and we've already completed 3 races together and are looking forward to adding more to our calendars!
Since joining Striders and participating with TNT, last year alone I completed 5 half marathons, my first marathon, my first double pump (thank goodness for those Sunday Strider bridge runs), and my first 6 hour ultra in which I completed 30 miles. I NEVER THOUGHT I COULD DO THAT! This year, I've already signed up for 7 half marathons; determined to complete a 50K; and will be running my 2nd marathon in Austin, TX on Sunday, Feb. 16. I AM HAVING A BLAST!
It's funny because I sent Tharon Lambert (President of the Striders) a text the other day excited that I had brought in another new member and he asked, "How do you do it?" It's simple. I just tell them how much fun I'm having and the benefits of gaining true confidence.
I may not be the fastest, I may not win any awards, and I may not run the longest distance, but what I do have - summed up beautifully by Julie Isphording - is the courage to start, the determination to keep trying, and the childlike spirit of having fun. I hope to never outrun my joy in running and I hope you don't either.
With a going away gathering for a friend/co-worker, to running a half in the cold rain, to Lunar New Year celebrations, to a Jack & Jill baby shower, to Super Bowl festivities - it was just a jam-packed crazy busy weekend! Whew!
This was my first year participating in the Tybee Critz Run Fest. I signed up for just the half. This event is a run fest weekend - a 5K, 10K, half marathon, 2.8 beach run, and a 1 miler. If you do all events, it equals out to a full marathon. Maybe I'll be crazy enough to sign up for the challenge next year...maybe.
I woke up way early than I wanted to on a Saturday morning and first thing I did was check the Weather Channel. Ugh...it was going to be a rainy, gusty, cold run. Boo... Just days before, the weather forecast was showing sunny skies and 70 for race day. What happened?! It was supposed to be a huge contrast to the weather conditions we experienced earlier in the week - what folks were dubbing as the
"s(no)pocalypse". Totally wasn't stoked about running in these conditions at all.
I met up with my running buds, Larry and Helen, and we carpooled to Tybee. We were advised to come early and be parked by 6:30 AM - before the 10K kick-off at 7. Our race didn't start until 8:30 so we killed time sitting in my heated minivan listening to the rain pitter patter on my windshield and watched as my windows fogged up due to the cold. We thought of 101 reasons why we shouldn't run in the cold rain. For a brief moment, we almost - just almost - talked ourselves into putting the car in drive and going back to our warm beds. However, we blamed this blog for not being able to quit. Ha! I had already posted it on my race calendar and mentioned the Tybee half in my last post. Also I had posted a picture of my Tybee race shirt and bib number the night before on Instagram and Facebook. We couldn't quit now. In the wise words of Data from The Goonies, "Shame. Shame. I know your name." There's no way we could not run. We'd hate ourselves for it.
The race ran just a few minutes late and all of us were waiting at the start line jumping and moving around and running in place to keep warm. Once we got going, I was able to warm up around mile 3 - my feet no longer felt like concrete blocks and my hands had finally thawed out. I could feel my fingers again. And then came the damn rain. It rained on and off the entire run and I hated that I forgot my visor at home. Oh well. It also surprises me that I grew up on Wilmington Island and I was running past the lighthouse and the north beach area for the FIRST time. How had I not explored this part of Tybee all these years? Also for the FIRST/WORST time ever, I experienced tummy issues. Alert - Runner TMI! Runner TMI! I had heard several horror stories from fellow runners about their experiences with tummy issues - and now it was happening to me. No!! I could've kicked myself for eating that greasy cheeseburger loaded with blue cheese along with downing a few bottles of beer the night before. It was all hitting me now. When we got around to mile 6, I frantically asked a lady if the YMCA's facilities were open. She said yes, but it was off the course. I didn't care. I had already passed a portapottie, but it was already occupied with 2 waiting in line. I hightailed it to the Y and did the deed. Afterwards, I swear I heard a chorus of angels sing "Halleluiah"! Or it could've been the voice in my head screaming "I told you not to eat and drink that shit the night before a race!"
It was great to see my MRTT ladies volunteering at the mile 12 water stop. My energy was deflated and seeing them made me want to finish strong - which I did! I sprinted through the finish and was so ready for this race to be over. My Garmin had me at 13.4 at 2:07 (I was at 2:05:39 at 13.1). No PRs today. I rewarded myself with a chocolate protein shake, a Corona Light, and some delicious veggie stew and chili. 13.1 (13.4) and done!
Wish me luck as I run my 2nd marathon on Feb. 16 - the Austin Marathon! Dan Finn and I will be flying out to meet Stephanie Roach. It's a reunion - the Sister/Brotherhood of Traveling Shoes!
If you look up the idiom "on-the-run", it means to constantly travel or moving from place to place. Welcome to my life! I get asked the question - "Do you ever sleep?" at least once a week. The truth is - I am always on the run. My weeks are filled with work, training runs, dropping kids off to school and extra curricular activities, traveling out-of-town for races and soccer games, theatre rehearsals, civic duties - you name it. In addition to being an avid runner, I'm a happily married wife, mother of two, an actress, singer, a Fleet Feet CREW coach, and work full time as the Marketing Manager for Thomas & Hutton Engineering Co. I love being on the run!