July 26, 2009

Night Before the Second Marathon

When I last left off, I had just woken up from a nice little nap (an hour), and was preparing to get ready for my flight back to New York. First on the agenda was checking in online for my flight – a seemingly easy task, but in this case, not so much. Unlike most airlines, my airline doesn’t set priority by what job you do for the airline (i.e. on other airlines, flight attendants are often first priority and managerial staff is below them). Instead, it’s by time of check in. You can start checking in for your standby flight exactly 4 hours before departure (4 hours, 0 minutes, 0 seconds), so if the flight is very full and there are others on the standby list, you want to be logged in and on the screen just waiting to click “change status” at 3:59:00. I had cut my nap short in order to check in right on time, because I knew the flight was ridiculously full, and I was glad I did – even checking in within one second of when I could do so, I was a bit far down the list (mostly behind people who had tried to get on the morning flight and it was full so they couldn’t). I knew going to the airport that it was going to be cutting it close, but there was nothing I could do but hope for it to work out.

I managed to head down to the hotel gym quickly to do 15 minutes on the bicycle, a trick I learned from a good friend’s boyfriend who’s a professional hockey player – they do it right after games to get the lactic acid out of their muscles. I took advantage of being in a hotel and a city where no one knew me, and was brave enough to bring my netbook down to the gym (there, now you know my secret of how I typed up and got out the race report so quickly). I didn’t have a ton of time, so I only got 15 minutes in on the bike, but the position my hands needed to be in to type on my laptop was pretty uncomfortable anyway, so I was happy to get out of there.

At the airport, I decided to hit up California Pizza Kitchen as my post race recovery food, and was not disappointed. Barbecue chicken pizza? AMAZING. I don’t go to CPK much (not even sure if there is one in NYC), and I know that NYC is famous for their pizza, but I really think CPK is phenomenal. If I had a choice, that would always be my pick for pizza! I was also pleased that the “personal-sized” portion was indeed a reasonably sized portion – probably more calories than I’d normally eat, but not a trainwreck either. After running a marathon, I often struggle to strike the balance between eating as much as I want and then ending up with a stomachache as a result, or depriving myself of decadent treats even though I deserve them. I was happy that what I got at CPK was exactly what I needed – hopefully I’ll be able to find CPK for post-race food in the future!

After pizza, I was on my way back to the gate and getting enticed by the delicious smells of the not one but TWO Cinnabons I had to pass. I stopped at the first one, thinking I’d get maybe just one of their “minis” to taste (though I’ve smelled it frequently, I’ve never actually eaten a Cinnabon); however, I was told they only sell them in sets of six, so it would do me no better than getting one big Cinnabon, and that would just be way too much. However, when I passed the second one, they had bite-sized samples set out on a tray – perfect! A taste was all I needed, and sure enough, they smelled a lot better than they tasted – definitely not worth eating a whole one.

Arriving at my gate, I found it packed with families, so I made it a point to introduce myself to the gate agent and note that I was traveling alone and was well-dressed and ready to hop in the jumpseat in order to get on the flight. I was opting to fly through LA instead of taking the SLCJFK direct, for a few different reasons. The most notable is that the direct flight was later that night and was totally packed – there were low odds that I’d make it on, and with that being the last flight of the night, if I didn’t get on, I’d be stuck. Trying for the LA flight gave me two chances instead of risking it all on one, and also, the LA flight had fewer people on the standby list, so my odds at getting on were better.

Waiting patiently at the gate, I chatted with another non-rev who was trying to get her family of six to New York – ouch, that was going to be rough, particularly since they couldn’t split up. She didn’t make the LA flight, but by some miracle, I found out I’d be getting the last jumpseat on the plane! I was thrilled. Unlike most people, I find the jumpseat extremely comfortable (I think it’s because I tend to sit up very straight and not touching the back of my seat anyway, so the rigid back isn’t a problem), and the only real downside of jumpseat (not being able to read/sleep/do anything other than pay attention) was mitigated by the fact that it was a short flight.

Upon landing in LA, I had a few hours until my redeye back to New York, so I passed the time with a plate of fully loaded nachos and a pint of beer at the airport bar. Getting on the flight to JFK went very smoothly, and I was pleased to even get an exit row seat – plenty of room to stretch out and sleep! So that’s exactly what I did. I was surprised to find that I didn’t sleep quite as well as I had on the outbound flight though. You would think that running a marathon would make me tired enough to just conk out, but I slept in spurts. Still, I woke up on laning feeling fairly rested, so I guess it didn’t matter.

Arriving in JFK, it was now decision time. Should I head back to my apartment for some R&R an perhaps quality time with Boyfriend? Or should I stick with the original plan and attempt the Carrollton Marathon? I was torn. I was planning to do race day registration, and I was staying with a friend, so I wouldn’t be out any money if I didn’t go aside from the minimal $5 processing fee for the standby tickets. Money wasn’t really the issue, nor was giving up – I knew there was no shame in “only” running one marathon that weekend. The real question: could my legs take another 26.2?

My leg muscles were definitely pretty torn up. I didn’t quite have the marathoners’ shuffle going on, but I think that was mostly because I was making an effort to push my muscles to walk normally and not limp. Plus, while I was able to get myself to walk okay on the mostly flat surfaces of the airport terminals, once presented with any sort of slope, I was done for. The slight decline from the jetway to the plane was brutal, and getting back up the jetway after the flight was even worse. I pushed through the pain, knowing that the more I worked my muscles, the faster they’d recover, but boy, it was rough! With all that running through my mind: should I try to run another marathon?

Sane people (like my mother) advised me not to do it. Insane people (like a few other Maniacs I called) said I’d be fine and just to go for it. The third category was most important to me: sane people who have been around me enough to understand my insanity and respect it (like Boyfriend). He listened to everything I had to say and in the end had no strong opinion – he said that either way I went was a good decision, but if he were really pressed to choose, he’d tell me to go for it, because I might regret it if I didn’t. My mother, when I spoke with her, was somewhat outraged with this advice. She hates even the twice a month frequency I do marathons now, and thought two marathons in a weekend would just be a recipe for injuring myself – which she pointed out would take me out for the rest of the season. I definitely didn’t want that, so I took this opinion very seriously.

While I was waiting for my flight and continuing to debate whether it was the right move to go, I grabbed breakfast. I went carb-heavy just in case, with some extra protein to help my muscles heal: an apple, scrambled eggs, sausage, and a ton of baked home fries. However, that decision to eat up ultimately became what tipped the scales: after eating so much and feeling like a cow, I wanted to go run it off. Decision made!

I headed over to my gate, and when I stopped at the customer service desk to have them print me a copy of my new boarding pass, I found out some interesting gossip: Hugh Jackman was going to be on my flight! I took that as a sign that I had made the right move, and quickly headed over to the gate so I wouldn’t miss the celebrity sighting. For all you ladies out there jealous that I got to get up close and personal with the sexy Wolverine, it was pretty anti-climactic. I was really glad I had gotten the heads up, because had I not known that he was flying and exactly which seat he was in, I would never have noticed. Hugh and his family boarded early, before even the pre-boarding people, and while they were escorted on by an airports staffer, it was done so discreetly that I wouldn’t have blinked twice had I not been on the alert for something special like this. When it was my time to board and I walked past seat 5C, all I saw was a guy with a hat and sunglasses on, his head down in a seemingly nondescript book (which upon careful inspection looked to be some sort of script). In our daily internal communications newsletters, we have a section for crewmembers who take pictures with celebrities on our flights (my favorite so far is Kate Flannery, or Meredith from The Office), and while I wanted to ask Hugh for a quick snapshot, I was astute enough to realize that he didn’t want to be recognized, and my request for a picture would likely start a spate of autograph requests from the other passengers. So no pic for me! I contented myself with staring him down from 5 rows back, and then got bored and turned my attention to my fabulous(ly trashy) book, “Total Waste of Makeup” by Kim Greunenfelder.

Once to Chicago, I staved my hunger with an apple – because we were doing dinner at 4 PM and I had eaten a big breakfast around 9, I figured more than that was overkill. While waiting at the gate for my flight to Saginaw (my first time trying to standby on another airline! I was nervous), I saw a guy wearing a Wisconsin Marathon shirt and Brooks sneakers – clearly on his way to do the marathon! I boldly introduced myself, and he responded very positively to my butting in. I love that as runners, we have the kind of camaraderie that allows us to just go up to strangers at the airport and suddenly become friends!

Flying on another airline is risky, because I can’t check the flight loads, and I’m dead last on the priority list. I was nervous about how this trip would work out, but was very pleasantly surprised to not only get a seat, but even get an empty seat next to me and be able to stretch out! It was an extremely short flight – only about 40 minutes in air – so I just barely had time to break out my netbook and type a few more lines of my race report before it was time for landing.

My new friend generously offered to drive me to the packet pickup and then to the dinner, so I opted not to get a rental car while in Saginaw, making this marathon even cheaper than it already was. Once off the plane, we had no problem finding Marina, the Marathon Maniac I was meeting and sharing accommodations with. I had never met Marina before – we had only corresponded through e-mail – so I had no idea what to expect. To my surprise, Marina turned out to be young – a whole year younger than me! I’m always shocked when I find young Maniacs, because as a whole, the club is skewed toward the older set (without looking at any actual statistics, I’d guess the median age is something like 50?). It’s so refreshing to find people my own age who are as into marathoning as I am – definitely makes me feel like less of a weirdo 🙂

While waiting for dinner, Marina and I chatted about races we’ve done, and she told me she’s going for the fifty states too – uh oh! She’s not a super-strict time frame to finish, but my guess is she’ll finish at a younger age than I will (she’s a year younger than me, so she has a lot more time). That means the trick for me now is just to finish before her date-wise; that is to say, if she finishes in 2011 just before turning 25, I’d be happy to finish in 2010 after I turn 25. I know my record (assuming I complete it) is going to be beaten someday by someone, so my goal is just to hold the title at some point, even if it’s just for a few days 🙂

I had organized a big Maniac dinner at Olive Garden, after hearing from the race director that in past years there has been an informal gathering there. Although the dinner was open to anyone, it was largely attended by Maniacs and 50 Staters, with only about a third of the attendees being those who had done fewer than five marathons. At most pasta dinners, I get to chatting with the other (normal, non-Maniac) attendees, and they’re so impressed shocked by how many marathons I’ve done that the conversation tends to revolve around that. It was so refreshing to be not only among the norm, but actually one of the least experienced of the marathoners present! I got a lot of great tips for races and places in the future, all while stuffing myself on neverending salad and breadsticks. Hey, gotta be refueled!

I headed to bed by 10 PM, psyched about the race but worried about my legs, which were still pretty sore. Would the excess carbs get me through 26.2 miles the next day? We’ll see!


11 thoughts on “Night Before the Second Marathon”

  1. My mom is the same way and I only do half-marathons and certainly not EVERY weekend! I think moms are just protective!

    I cant believe you did TWO marathons in one weekend, I can’t wait to hear how the second one went!!

    Also, super cool that you were on the same flight as Hugh Jackman! Too bad you didn’t get a pic!

  2. These cliff hangers are killing me!

    Great race report, I always feel like I am flying through the airport with you, smelling Cinnabon in the air! 🙂

  3. The expo was at some fashion center south of the city and about a 20 bus/walk trip from the start/finish.

    The waves were definitely messy… I guess parts of wave 3 just DIDN”T go or something so then they got thrown in wave 4. Then it took 20 minutes between our 2 waves when it only took about 2 minutes between 1 2 and 3.

    Nooooo the timing thing was never sorted out. I’m getting a little irritated with people telling me “well mayyybe you just ran fast and lost track of pace”… and ran a 15 minute PR???? Without trying? I don’t think so! Sorry to vent but somebody running a lot of marathons like you and I understands that you dont just run a 15 min PR without trying, right? Silly people…

  4. HA! Being a Maniac has its benefits; I know the answer! I know the answer!

    So glad you were able to meet up with a bunch of Maniacs. Happens here all the time, but of course this in Maniac country. As for eating, I’m also glad to read you did. Running a double is NOT the time to go light! That said, it’s better to choose healthy things, natch, but you really need to not only replenish what you’ve lost, but also fuel for the next day. Congratulations!

  5. Ok, so after reading that whole report the one thing that stuck out the most was whether there are CPKs in NYC.

    Good news: there are at least two that I know of. And it’s not like Friday’s where it’s some cheap franchisee who marks up the food horribly. It’s the legit restaurant plucked form suburbia. There is one next to Dylan’s candy shop (3rd and 60th) and the other is in Chelsea…I think.


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