Thursday, May 17, 2012

My first triathlon...and why my mom is awesome

I am a triathlete!  OK, a sprint triathlete, but an accomplishment anyway.  This is a long post, so if you don't care about the details of a triathlon, you might want to skip ahead a bit to "Overall thoughts".  If you're new to triathlons too, it might be useful to read all of it to help you get a feel for how they work.

Saturday, Dad and I headed out for our first triathlon.  We decided we would finish it together no matter what.  If you haven't noticed, he and I like to take on adventures.  Even though his 60th birthday has come and gone, I'm convinced that every time he has a birthday he gets a year younger.  I do things with my dad that some of my friends can't handle.  It's pretty awesome, right?

Friday after work, Adam and I headed up to Annapolis for TriRock and my parents came in from Virginia Beach.  There was a lot of traffic, so we got to packet pickup just before closing.  When I registered, it never said anything about wave starts by age group, and never having done a triathlon I didn't know this might happen.  So when I saw that my dad and I were in different heats the week before, I called TriRock/Competitor Group and asked if one of us could change into the other person's heat.  After waiting about 10 minutes on the phone, they said no problem, just go to the Solutions deck the day before and they will switch it.  So after getting my tshirt and all the other stuff, I headed over to Solutions.They told me this would be impossible to switch waves, so I was beyond disappointed - I REALLY wanted to do this with my dad.  My dad showed up a few minutes later to the Expo, spoke to someone else, who told him it was easy to switch his wave if he just went back afterward.  Silly Competitor Group - creating drama for no reason.

I spent the night trying to put a million numbers on myself, my bike, my bags, everything.  I had four "tri tats" (remember temporary tattoos as a kid?  It's like that, but huge numbers on your arm, etc), tons of stickers, a running number bib, a swim cap, etc.  I was overwhelmed but amused.  I didn't sleep well but got up at 4:30, ready to go.  Continuing to win "boyfriend of the year", Adam got up with me, got me coffee, kept me calm, and was just generally his great self.  We met our friends Jeff and Amanda (Amanda did Princess half with me last year) and all headed over to the start. 
 My bike and my stuff set up in the transition area.

Everything was really smooth.  I tried to get my stuff set up (which mainly meant looking around at what everyone else was doing and trying to copy it since I was clueless) and chatted with the girls around me.  Since I was in a heat with beginner 25-29 year old females, we were all new to this and all nervous.  They were awesome girls and the time flew while we chatted it up and waited.  We eventually headed to the start (it took awhile, since I was heat 12 and there were 7 minutes between heats).  Your swim cap is a different color for each heat, so the announcer starts making fun of my dad for joining all the ladies in their heat.  I quickly jumped in to defend him that he was my dad, not a creeper, and suddenly the guy was announcing how cute it was to see a father-daughter team out there!

In case you're wondering, wetsuits and swimcaps are NOT flattering.

The water was cold, and the swim was tough.  I've been training about once a week in the pool for a month or so , and built up to a mile, so I was feeling good that this was only 500M.  But as soon as I got in the water, I realized an open water swim was nothing like a pool swim.  Instead of doing a normal stroke, I basically kept my head up most of the time (I know, not good, but I looked around and so were a lot of other beginners).
 Waiting to start

Then with about 100M to go, I got a cramp in my calf.  Thank goodness for a wetsuit, because I wasn't worried I'd drown, but I didn't know what to do because the pain was SO intense.  I was able to make it to the end, and luckily it went away when I was able to put weight on it.
There were definitely a few minutes I thought I'd have to drop out.  Lesson learned: wetsuits are awesome!
Then it was on to Transition 1, which took me way too long.  I got my wetsuit off (not an easy feat), dried off my feet, put on my shoes, helmet, and sunglasses, and headed over to find dad.  We eventually made our way to the 12 mile bike section, which I expected to be my toughest leg.  It didn't disappoint.
 Leaving transition and heading for the bike section!
I decided to buy a bike for the race, since I plan to do a longer tri at the end of the summer.  I got a great road bike - a Specialized Ruby Expert - that I bought used from someone who had barely used it.
I got in one ride about two weeks before the race, decided it needed a tuneup, took it to the shop, and unfortunately didn't get to ride it since.  Bad idea.  Since I had tried out my dad's road bike, I assumed mine shifted the same way.  It didn't.  So like an idiot, I couldn't figure out how to shift the entire race, and it was a hilly course.  It was a disaster.  Every time we had to cross the bridge I wanted to cry, but dad stayed with me the whole time, despite the fact that he can easily go on 40-60 mile bike rides, so this was a joke for him. 

 Finishing up the bike section (thank goodness)
Finally, we finished the bike, quickly changed out our helmet, put on our number bib, and I didn't have to change shoes since I wore running shoes for the biking section (a lot of people have bike shoes that clip into the pedals, but I was way too scared for that).
Final chute!
We were off!  Running was going to be the easiest part for me and tougher for my dad, since he can't run a lot because of an old knee injury.  We took off, and took walk breaks whenever we wanted.  We ended up finishing the 5k at 9:03 pace which was awesome, for a total time of about 1 hour and 37 minute.  My goal was an hour and 45 minutes, so I was thrilled!
OVERALL THOUGHTS on the triathlon...

I finished top ten for beginner females in my age group (much further back when you consider all females in my age group), and my dad was first for beginners in his age group.  Awesome, right?  Overall, there were a lot of glitches I need to work on before I do another one, but the key word being "before", not "if."  As long as I can find an Olympic distance either around here before August or in Chicago at the start of August, I'll go for it!  This was such a great experience, and I am so glad I did it.  Sure, more training would have been great.  I had been swimming about once a week leading up to it, I'd only biked once, and running has been minimal (though I've done more elliptical lately). The race itself was run very well.  I wish there had been chocolate milk at the finish because it's my favorite for refueling after my workouts (check out if you want to learn more about how awesome it is), but other than that I can't complain.

OVERALL THOUGHTS on the weekend...
After that, we headed back to Arlington where Adam's parents joined us so that our parents could meet for the first time.  It was great fun and I think everyone enjoyed the company.  Then Sunday was Mother's Day, so we went to brunch the next day to celebrate our incredible moms, and overall it was one of those weekends you just hope will never end.  If you've read this blog, you should know how much family means to  me, and Adam's family is very similar.  We are both so incredibly lucky to have our parents as role models, and getting to share time with them together and celebrate (there are a lot of wonderful things going on in our lives right now) was a great experience.  I'm not sure I've ever felt closer to my family than I have lately, and I know the Challenge and all of your support has been a huge part of it.

I am so lucky to have a dad as physically healthy and adventures as mine is, and I'm beyond blessed to have such a wonderful, supportive, inspiring mom.  My parents are very different, and yet I couldn't imagine either one being more awesome.  With your continued support, we hope to keep raising awareness about psoriatic arthritis, and my mom will keep fighting the disease.  If we could make her better, we'd do anything to make it happen.  Until then, we're gonna keep doing the best we can and hope for a better tomorrow (or decade from now or whatever it takes)! 

My mom is incredibly strong.  Before leaving her job to raise my sister and me (and pursuing a different  part-time career to make that possible), my mom was an oncology nurse.  This means she helped cancer patients.  That's not an easy job for sure.  It's one I can't imagine doing because of the sadness.  But she always said she loved it because she could make a difference.  People were in such tough situations and needed a nurse who could help them, emotionally and physically.  That was my mom.  She was active in American Cancer Society as well.  When she left that job to become a mom, she was always incredibly active in my life.  Despite having neck surgery when my sister was in first grade and her first back operation when I was in first grade, she she still came to all my track meets (which involve a LOT of boring downtime, as I'm sure you can imagine), she was often room mom, and she was always incredible.  She is the rock for our family whenever we need her.  And despite what she goes through, she is always still there for me.  She was having a bad day when I called panicked about my concussion, and yet she was in the car within a half hour to help me.  She is the reason you're reading this blog, and the reason I will work my best to stay healthy and to make the most of every chance I get in life.  Thanks Mom, for being you.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

USA Half Marathon

It seems like my new race plan is to do a race a month with absolutely no training in between.  Recently I ran the USA half marathon (formerly National before Rock n Roll took it over this year).  I think I have run about five times since 2012 started - not something I'm proud of, but healing has been slower than I hoped or dreamed.  I registered for this race probably around September of last year because it was a great price and because I wanted to keep myself running in 2012 despite the Challenge being over.  I obviously didn't know I'd get a concussion back then though, so as the race got closer, I didn't know what to do.  Their race registration was non-transferrable, so either I ran or I threw the money away. 

As it drew closer, Kristen thought about running but found it was sold out.  Then she found something online that you could enter to win an entry into the race, so she entered and asked me to enter as well so she had a better chance of winning.  Well, what are the odds, I won (she later won too as someone didn't want their prize - crazy!)  So she ended up with a registration to a sold out race and we were ready to go slow and just get ourselves back out there.  If you're not a runner you may not get it, but there's something about the thrill of a race that you just can't get any other way.  And as someone who misses that, there's nothing like "feeling normal" again by getting out and feeling the craziness of 24,000 people around you and pumped to run.
 When will I learn to look normal while running???

The day was very smooth.  Kristen stayed over at our apartment, and Adam drove us over to the start.  There was pretty much no traffic, we parked easily, and then hung out in the Armory for a bit getting ready to start.  Porta potty lines were slow but everything was good, so we headed to our corral.  I think I read that there were 26 or 27 corrals - it was a HUGE race!  Somehow I managed to see my friend Kyle near the start who was running the marathon, which is shocking given the huge crowd.  8 AM rolled around, the national anthem was sung, and corral one was off!  We started in six I believe, which was a pretty good place (though a little too fast given the pace we ran, but not enough that we were in the way of others). 

0.1 miles in I was wondering why I though this was a good idea.  My legs felt so stiff!  I literally hadn't run once since VIFL 14k, which was over a month earlier!  Oh well, I was there and I was going to give it a try.  We made it about four miles before taking a quick walk break, and though I really wasn't feeling great, I also wasn't racing, so there wasn't pressure.  The goal was to finish - walk or run - and I was going to do that.

We had a good time, and were able to talk and laugh some throughout despite our exhaustion.  The rolling hills in this race never seem like a lot on the course map but always feel worse when you're running. The fans were awesome, and the signs were hilarious.  My personal favorites said something about "you're running faster than metro", because DC residents have a very love/hate (more hate) relationship with the metro.  There was a sign with a proposal (I doubt it was real, but who knows), lots of signs for puppies at the finish (my second favorite sign), signs about green beer at the finish, etc.  They gave me a boost when I needed it!  Luckily, this year there were mile markers, the course was not overly crowded, and overall I thought it was really fun.  I know some people don't love Rock n Roll races, but I've always loved them and find them to be my best courses.

We finished in 2:07:50, over 22 minutes slower than my time last year for this race.  Was it disappointing?  For a split second, I thought yes.  And then it dawned on me - I think I might be more proud of this race than last year's race (despite it being a PR then).  Getting back from the concussion for me and starting to get running after Kristen's knee surgery have both been tough battles.  We've both had our frustrations and ups and downs, and though our time is nothing impressive, our determination to get back out there is what makes us both proud.  I think I feel ready to begin training for my half marathon in June (another one I registered for before the concussion).  And through it all, Kristen and I had a great time together and then spent the rest of the weekend enjoying the gorgeous weather, being incredible sore, and seeing the gorgeous cherry blossoms.  Life is good, right??

Monday, March 26, 2012

Visiting Capitol Hill (again)

I hope you weren't silly enough to think that I'd stop working with NPF (or running, kinda) once the Challenge "ended", were you?!  That was just the beginning!  As far as I'm concerned, my mom is still struggling with this disease and it's still taking her freedom and causing a lot of frustration, so why would my work be done?  And the more involved I've gotten with NPF, the more I've realized she's far from the only one. 

The answer, clearly, is I won't.  Sure, I'll run less, but I'll never stop fighting.  I want to see my mom smiling and walking without a cane.  I know a cure is going to take awhile and I'm very realistic, but I also know that we won't get there without funding the research and the organizations that are needed so that we can get better medicines, and then one day, maybe even a cure. 

 I was lucky enough to meet Congressman Moran.  You may remember I wrote about him last year when he ran Dash4Dad!

So that is why I couldn't have been more excited when NPF asked me if I wanted to be involved in another Capitol Hill event.  I checked my calendar, made sure I could get the time off from work, and then happily said yes.  It was a much different format than the larger Capitol Hill Day I did back in June.  This event was originally just for some of the great scientists who are working to fight this disease.  This year, they decided to change it up a bit and bring one advocate from each region of the country (with the exception of our region, which had 2).  Though the scientists weren't in every meeting, ours was a great group which included someone from NPF, the organization which handles the political involvement for NPF, two advocates, and a scientist.  The other advocate has a daughter who has psoriasis and stiff joints, and the effects of the medicine (which will hopefully slow/prevent serious psoriatic arthritis) have caused her to miss almost two full years of school.  It's horrible and serves to remind me why I'm out there.

 Congressman Doyle, our group, and the CEO of NPF

It was a busy few days!  We had a working dinner the first night where we all met each other and then went over what we would discuss and would need to be prepared for the next day.  Though some had never advocated on Capitol Hill, a lot of us had been there before.  The next day we met with seven different congressional offices to share our stories. 
It was SO successful!  We had a lot of congressional aids who listened to our stories, asked questions, and said they would pass along what they had learned.  We were also lucky enough to get to see Congressman Moran, and we had two meetings where the congressman was in the entire meeting to hear our stories and talk to us.  Congressman Doyle, who supports our bill, sat and talked with us, along with the CEO of NPF. 

We also met with Congressman Altmire, who said that he was so touched by our stories that he agreed to sign the bill.  Can you believe that?  That is truly what advocacy is all about.  After we left, some members of our group were teary eyed, realizing how important this was.  It took a lot of strength for my mom to let me share her story so publicly.  It's deeply personal, and involves a lot of frustration.  But this was the reward we needed, when we realized that by telling her struggles we could hopefully change the future for others.  That is why I loved the event, and that is why I won't stop advocating.  Once you hear what my mom's been through, it's hard not to want to get involved.

Congressman Altmire, who was so touched by our stories he agreed to sign our bill!

Afterward everyone had a little downtime at the hotel, but since I wasn't staying there I just hung out in the lobby.  I saw one group who was going to grab drinks nearby, so I joined them for a bit.  Great to spend time with such wonderful people!  Then we went to a great dinner where we socialized and heard more about the scientists and their work.  I metroed home, exhausted but unable to stop smiling.  I called my mom and told her the good news - we are making a difference.  I felt hope, and I felt ready to keep going.

Senator Cardin, Mardia, and me

The next day I was paired with a different team, and I had one meeting with Senator Cardin's office.  We saw him walking in as we were waiting for our meeting, and he kindly took a picture with us and welcomed us.  Another great experience!  After our meeting, I rushed back to the bus to head to NIH, where we heard presentations from the researchers, visited two labs, saw the lab that does genetic sequencing, and discussed how they were working to fight the disease.  Some scientists are looking at the disease from the inside (focusing on the genes) and others are focusing on the outside (the skin).  Admittedly, I understood very little of what they said since I'm not a science person, but I still found this one of the best parts of the day.  They answered questions and patiently tried to explain complicated medical info in understandable terms, talked about what they thought would lead to the biggest breakthroughs, and overall just made us see how important their research is.  Sadly, the day came to a close and it was time to head home, but this was an awesome event and one I won't forget anytime soon.  Thanks NPF for continuing to include me, and I look forward to continuing to advocate in the future!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Fear.  Most people talk about it as if it's a bad thing.  I don't quite agree.  Sure, being SO afraid of something that you don't do it is a problem.  But fear itself, I think, is a great thing. 

A few years ago, I was climbing and rappelling on a rock wall in West Virginia.  Before we started, the instructor looked around and asked who was afraid.  Then he asked who wasn't afraid.  He said "you guys are the ones I'm worried about.  You should be scared."  It basically summed up my feelings.  There is nothing wrong with being afraid, and in most cases, it is healthy to be afraid.  It means you're thinking through the risks and the consequences.  Fear is good.  But only if you don't let that fear win. 

If you compare a list of the most memorable, life changing, happy moments in my life, almost all of them will also fall into the list of the scariest times.  Climbing Mt. Rainier?  Terrifying.  Committing to run twelve half marathons when you haven't even run one?  Oh yeah, I was scared.  Hitting 137 mph in a racecar?  Scary leading up to it, awesome during.  Getting to the starting line of my first half marathon, and then eventually my first full marathon just 8 or so months later?  My heart was racing even before I started running! 

But those events all have something huge in common.  They shaped me into the person I am today, and I don't regret a single one of them.  In fact, I know I'm much stronger and much happier because of all those experiences.  When I was really struggling cognitively after my concussion, my fear was so great that it prevented me from healing.  That's the kind of fear I try to avoid, and I hope next time something scary happens I learn to accept the fear without letting it take over the situation. 

This fall, I will be heading off to business school to get my MBA.  I have been accepted into a few programs and am still trying to decide what the best option for me is next year.  Was I terrified when I applied, and am I scared of all the changes that I will face in the next few months?  Absolutely.  But there isn't a second where I think about not going because I'm scared.  Scary situations often change your life for the better.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

How do you put a year of running into words?  I don't think you can.  So this post is going to be a visual representation and a summary of the fun adventures that filled the year.  Hope you enjoy!

Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis (10K)
November 20, 2010

1) Walt Disney World Half Marathon
Sat, Jan 8, 2011

2) Disney's Princess Half Marathon
Feb 27, 2011

3) National Half Marathon
March 26, 2011

4) Dismal Swamp Stomp Half Marathon
April 16, 2011

(the shirt was massive, so I gave it to my dad)

5) Country Music Marathon & 1/2 Marathon
April 30, 2011

6) Frederick Running Festival
May 7, 2011

7) Alexandria Running Festival
May 29, 2011
1:49:36 (I actually ran over 15 miles to finish, but stopped my watch around 13.1)

8) ZOOMA Annapolis Half Marathon (Kristen's first race!)
June 5, 2011

Dash4Dad 4 miler (Adam's first race!)
June 19, 2011

9) Rock n Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon
Sept 4, 2011
1:45:23 (Rock Encore medal for two Rock n Roll races)

10) Rock n Roll Philly Half Marathon (Adam's first half marathon!)
Sept 18, 2011
1:55:36 (Triple Crown medal for three Rock n Roll races)

Clarendon Day (5K downhill, jog back uphill, 10K run with Adam)
5K - 21:26
10K - 51:10

11) Baltimore Running Festival
Oct 15, 2011
1:44:19 (and Maryland Double medal for Frederick and Baltimore)

12) Marine Corps Marathon (full marathon)
Oct 30, 2011

I also became a member of Team Refuel which is so exciting!  I love to drink chocolate milk after my long runs to recover, so I was honored to be part of the team.

2012 will bring advocating and running, though in smaller doses than 2011.  Look for periodic updates - I'll be going to Capitol Hill and joining some of the top scientists involved in psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis research in March.  Can't wait to tell you all about this experience!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year

They were all for you, Mom.
Happy New Year to all!  What an incredible year it has been.  Admittedly, I have seen some of the best moments of my life and some of the most challenging, all in one year.  I am forever grateful for the lessons I've learned, the great friends I've shared it with, and most of all, the support and love of my family.  Ending the year with a concussion that has basically halted my life has been frustrating.  I've cried and complained and gotten upset more times than I care to admit.  But I've got a great doctor who is helping me to get through it, and hope to be back to a normal life in the next few months (which I hope will include a return to running, though at the moment walking a mile or two is a big enough challenge).  I look forward to 2012.

But beyond that, this has been one of the best years of my life.  I've learned how lucky I am to have supportive friends and family.  We raised over $18,800 this year for NPF.  I am just in awe and I don't even know what to say.  Never ever did I expect to raise that much.  To everyone who made it possible, THANK YOU.   You gave me hope and inspired me, but more importantly, you gave my mom hope, and you gave everyone suffering with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis hope.  That is a lot of money that can make a tangible difference in research. 

To my friends who ran races with me or asked about them or donated, thank you.  This idea of running twelve half marathons in a year was a bit crazy, and yet it worked.  I learned that if you want others to care about something, you have to show them how much you care first.  All in all, our dedicated team completed 26 half marathons, one marathon, and a variety of other small races as a team (some 10k, 5ks, four milers, etc along the way).  Personally, I completed 11 half marathons and a full marathon.  Though disappointing I missed the grand finale in Las Vegas, I still finished the Challenge (plus some!) and couldn't be happier about it. To the key players - Kristen, Adam, and Matt, I am so appreciative for your dedication and tenacity.  I could have never done it without you guys and I hope you had half as much fun as I did this year.  I also need to thank my dad for agreeing to match every donation that we received.  His dedication to helping my mom through this and his desire to fight this disease is inspiring.

I can tell you that I will never be the same after this year.  Though I'm not going to go into all the details on the blog, 2012 is going to bring some big changes in my life (all in a great way), and some of them will be directly shaped by what I learned and realized this year.  Though I was leading a good life before the Challenge, I didn't feel fulfilled.  I now know that helping others and working to make a difference is an essential part of my life and something I want to spend more time doing in the future, whether it be through my career, personal work, or some combination.  

I have learned that you only get stronger by pushing yourself mentally and physically.  This time a year ago, I didn't know if I could finish a half marathon.  Now, I can proudly say I am a marathoner and have never felt so honored as the moment a marine congratulated me and told me I was strong, as if they aren't the greatest heroes in our country. 

I've faced injuries and sicknesses, but every one has made me realize how lucky I am for my health and my strength, and helped me to empathize with the struggles that my mom faces on a daily basis.  The confidence I have gained from running these races will translate into countless other aspects of my life because I now know that limits are only there if you allow them to be there.  And I've seen it in others too; Kristen did incredible in her half marathon (though unfortunately faced knee surgery shortly thereafter that halted her running), Adam went from being challenged by a 4 miler in June to running a great half marathon in September, and Matt went from running very little last year to running 12 half marathons this year.  Everyone has said how much stronger they feel and what a great accomplishment it was and I am so happy for our team.

In all of this, I have tried to adopt an attitude that everything happens for a reason.  My mom's sickness is one of the hardest things my family has faced, but I was determined to make something good happen from it.  Darius Rucker has a song called "This" that I absolutely love.  The lyrics go:

"I don't really know how I got here but I'm so glad that I did,
And its crazy to think that one little thing can change all of it,
Maybe it didn't turn out like I planned,
Maybe that's why I'm such, such a lucky man,

For every stoplight I didn't make,
Every chance I did or I didn't take,
All the nights I went too far,
All the girls that broke my heart,
All the doors that I had to close,
All the things I know but I didn't know,
Thank God for all I missed
Because it led me here to this"

That song is the epitome of how I feel.  When things turn bad, you have to believe it's for a reason and it's all to lead you to something better.  If you can really believe this (which admittedly can be hard sometimes), you can get through anything.  When I look back on some of the toughest moments in my life, they often ended up leading me to the best because of the strength I gained or the changes I made as a result.  Though I sound like I'm slightly digressing from the Challenge, I'm really not.  I sat a little over a year ago pondering how my mom was facing so many challenges and saying "Why her?"  I thought, I cried, I got angry, and then I decided to fight back and create the Challenge.  Though I still wonder why she has to fight such a tough battle, I now know that something good came out of it, and I hope to make even more happen in the future.  Face every day as a way to improve the future. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you.  I am so lucky.  Here's to 2012!

I'm a marathoner!

 Love the medal.  I'm probably biased, but I think it might be my favorite.  I am a marathoner!  I've wanted to run a full marathon for SO long, and as I said earlier, I got a Marine Corps registration back in February since it sold out in 28 hours.  But I had so much going on and life got in the way, and 2 of my 3 longest training runs never happened.  I don't regret it - I chose to drop them - because I just couldn’t handle all of the half marathons and my other commitments while making time for the training runs, and that was the right choice for me.  Yet, I still had put a lot of time into training and I couldn't help but want to run MCM.
 Parachuting to the start with an American flag.  Really great way to start a race.
 The flyover at the start

And I did it!  I crossed running a full marathon off my bucket list!  It wasn't easy.  In fact, it was one of the more painful experiences of my life.  The race started out great for me.  It was a very cold day and waiting at the start made me nervous.  In fact, the day before it had snowed a tiny bit, which is basically unheard of in DC in October.  I ultimately decided to run in pants and a long sleeve shirt, which I think was too much by the end of the race but it wasn't unbearable.
 It was SOOO cold.  And I was SOOO nervous.
As we got going, I started with the 4 hour group with the plan to drop back around the half way mark. I somehow got ahead of the 4 hour pacegroup (the race was crowded and staying with them was honestly taking more effort than it was helping me), and I'm not sure when they passed me but at some point I fell behind them.  I met some nice people, held a few brief conversations, ran up a bridge covered in ice (eesh!), and was feeing solid.  Since I’m used to running much faster for 13 miles, everything felt good and in control.  I got to see Adam a few times, and he even jumped into to run with me for a few seconds and made me feel great.
 Near the start
Here we go!
Then mile 20 happened.  Probably not coincidentally, 20 miles was my longest training run to date, and that training run had ended with me walking into my apartment and bursting into tears.  Not a confidence instilling event. 
It didn't disappoint in this race either, as somewhere in that mile my Gatorade and GU did not stay down.  I'll keep details to a minimum, but things started to go downhill after that.  Then my calf muscles started to spasm and I had to walk really frequently to be able to keep moving at all.  I would tell myself to just run 100 steps and then I could walk 20, but I don’t think I ever even made it to 100 because my calves would spasm so bad.  It was painful, and it was difficult.  But in a lot of ways, that's why I'm even prouder - because I did not give up.  Sure, there's no shame in dropping out, but I wanted and in some ways I needed to do this.  So I did.
I'm so spoiled from being used to the DC views, but this reminds me how great the area is.
The day before the race I picked up my registration (since I'd paid I figured I'd get the tshirt anyway), and it wasn't until we were walking out, a full 15 hours before the race, that I officially decided to run it.  I chose not to tell anyone other than my family or Adam that it was definitely happening.  It sounds silly, but I was afraid that everyone knowing would put too much pressure on me to finish and I wouldn’t drop out if I felt that it was the right choice. My ultimate goal was 4:20, and despite slowing down a TON for the last six miles, I finished in 4:14:30.  Nothing too great, but for me, a huge victory. 
I wasn't giving up!
The marines did a great job with this race, and I’d highly recommend it for anyone looking for a first marathon.  Plus, the crowd support was tremendous.  The pride of having a marine place a medal around my neck and congratulate me, when of course they are incredible heroes, is a moment I will never forget.  Whenever I thought I couldn’t take another step, I thought about how they defend our freedom daily and the struggles they go through that make a marathon seem easy, and suddenly I felt the strength to go on.   
 Calling mom after the race. 
I honestly thought I would cry at the end of the race, but I was too tired to do even that.  I am so proud to have been part of this race and to push my limits.  And of course, I’m now one of those annoying people with the 26.2 sticker on their car!  This was probably one of the greatest moments of my life and I will never ever forget it.  I'm so glad I pushed through and so appreciative of all the support I received.  As always, this one’s for you, Mom.
I wore a sign on my back for the race that said "This one's for you, Mom."
 Celebrating at the finish!