What an experience. My dad and I started Friday morning standing around (*cheering) at November Project DC and I soaked up some last minute good vibes and positivity before heading down to Virginia Beach, where we had dinner with 4 November Project tribes. Saturday morning brought us a shakeout run led by Bart Yasso. This was the fastest group of runners I’ve ever run with, including Mike Wardian (multiple WR holder, including fastest treadmill 50k, completed 30 hours after a prior attempt), Jen Bigham who is a 1:15 half marathoner (Jen’s blog inspired me to take a big chance on this race rather than play it conservatively), and a 12 year old who was chasing a 1:19 half marathon for another World Record. Fortunately, “easy pace “ meant the same to all of us, so we ran a couple miles at 8:00 or so.
Saturday afternoon was spent around the expo, tagging #GrassrootsGear with now the 5 November Project tribes in town. Talk about high spirits.
I was listening to Bart Yasso speak, while wearing a shirt tagged with November Project. A woman came up to me and said that she’s been a couple of times before and that #WorldTakeover is real. I posted about how awesome that was on Facebook, and didn’t think much more of it. We ended up talking more afterwards and took a photo. On the way to dinner, I noticed we happened to follow each other on Twitter, and that we have about a hundred mutual friends through NP. What a small world.
Sunday morning was race day. The start line was about 50 feet from my hotel, and I was still way short on time. The elevator seemed like it was never going to show up, so I ran down twelve flights of stairs instead (not recommended!!!!/#trainingforlife). I lined up and immediately shed my throwaway long sleeve, as I was pretty warm already.
I lined up with the 3:05 pace group, and planned on letting them get ahead of me a little bit. It seemed like a few other runners had the same plan (to negative split the race) which led to some great conversations just behind the main pack, while also helping to block the nasty wind.
The first 4 or 5 miles went perfectly, right around 7:05-7:15 – perhaps a few seconds too fast if anything. I saw Mike Wardian cruising around mile 4 after he hit the turnaround. It was an awesome lift to hear him say “nice job buddy you’re right on pace!” as I certainly was. I saw Jen Bigham just a minute or so later.
After the turnaround, I started to get a side stitch that seemed to get worse with every stride. I tried everything that had successfully made them go away before, with no positive results. I took my first serving of ENERGYbits earlier than planned, at about the 10k (44:10, right on pace) but wasn’t able to get enough water. I tried walking through the next couple water stops, as this had helped in the past. The side stitch hung on until mile 18, getting worse every mile.
Mile 10 brought the boardwalk, with a strong head wind. I tucked in behind a guy probably twice my size, which created a nice barrier for the wind. I turned around and saw 3 other people drafting behind me as well. Someone called out from their hotel balcony “that’s cheating!” but it sure helped.
At the half, I was at 1:33:38 (now my second fastest half), with a goal of 1:33. My coach later said I ran this almost perfectly, and now it was time to pick it up and cover the next 13.1 in 1:30. I saw my dad, who had just run his first half, and he announced he did it in 2:08, which was incredible because he was thinking 2:30. That definitely provided a boost, and helped me pick it up to what was my fastest mile of the day, at 6:58. With the goal of easing into 6:55, and then 6:50, I was off to a great start on the back half. Next miles: 7:03, 7:19, 7:30, 7:55. I had just lost almost two full minutes, but was still in range of a 3:05.
I threw up for the second time (oops TMI) right around there. I was pushing my body harder and for longer than I ever had before, and my fueling was way off. This part hurts the most, because it’s normally my strong suite. I was underhydrated, cramping due to electrolyte loss and sweating and despite taking in Nuun. I have a new respect for anyone who successfully completes a race in different conditions than what they trained in.
Between 19-21 I ran in the 8’s, and then 22-24 were 10-11 minute miles. The run walking started, and I saw a lot of other runners struggling at this point too. The 3:15 pacer passed me around mile 20, and the 3:25 pacer caught me with 2 miles to go.
I dragged on, and dropped to 8:20 for mile 25 as I turned onto the boardwalk. This part was deceptive because I thought as soon as I made the turn, I was done (my watch’s distance had been funky) but I had about a half mile on the boardwalk, as I dropped back down to 7:11 for the final stretch.
My final 10k was 61 minutes, and I crossed the finish line at 3:27. It was humbling, painful and I’m proud of somehow still managing a 7-minute PR. It still hurts to train so hard in such ridiculous conditions as we had in Boston and come up 22 minutes short. To see friendly faces (my dad, November Project VB and others) helped calm me down and realize what I had still accomplished.
Shamrock Marathon was a great weekend and J&A Racing puts on a great race including an 8k on Saturday (and 1 mile run) and a half and full marathon on Sunday. The crowd support is good at the start and end, and there’s plenty of beer available on the course. The marathon starts 90 minutes after the half, and I passed a lot of half marathoners at my mile 10-13 (which was theirs as well) and then the marathoners from my 21-23.5, at that same marathon mile 10-13 spot. It was a nice distraction, especially as I was hurting at that point.
The expo was solid, and I easily spent a decent amount on stuff I actually needed. As a sponsor, Livestrong was there and was selling their $100 gym/travel bags for $20, along with $10 arm warmer/sleeves.
#SeekToInspire – what I really care about
The way I see it though, I had already won. The part I haven’t been telling people is how much I’ve enjoyed the journey and consistent training rather than the time on my watch. So many people have reached out to tell me that they’ve been following my progress and it has inspired them to take on a ridiculous goal for them (BQ, sub 2 half, a big PR, first marathon…) or simply stay consistent with their own training through the worst winter in Boston’s history.
This means a whole lot more to me than any time on my watch ever can. A twitter friend has been tweeting #SeekToInspire lately, using her own journey battling some health issues to inspire others to stay motivated, no matter the situation. We’ve been talking a lot lately and she’s helped me to figure out what’s most important to me.
“I want to inspire others in life. It’s what I do. I’ve lived a very hard life and gone through hell, I’ve overcome so much and I want others to set goals and overcome obstacles and I want to inspire others to do amazing things. Because they can because they want to & not question if it’s possible, and also look to inspire others as they continue along their own journey.”
I put my goal out there and was not afraid of failing. I was proud of the work I needed to put in and I worked my ass off, training 7 days a week, often running in sub zero temperatures, or for 2 and a half hours on an indoor track. If I was able to inspire just one person to set the bar high with a scary goal, then I’ve already won.
@JWLevitt congrats on an awesome run! You inspire me to really leave it all on the line – life is really lived outside the comfort zone!
— Amanda Fakhreddine (@afakhreddine) March 22, 2015
This makes all those early mornings and days where you need 25 pieces of clothing just to run a couple miles, worth it.
Maybe I’ll get the urge to take on another marathon in the near future, but I’ve battled through two so far with the final 5-8 miles of both races being extremely uncomfortable. I much prefer the type of discomfort you get from speed at a shorter distance than the physical type from longer distances, in addition to the success I continue to have. I understand marathons aren’t supposed to feel good, but it’s not the kind of discomfort I enjoy. I LOVE the hurt of the 5k and the half.
I was blown away by the support I got after my race, both from what I posted as well as people who were tracking me on their own. To all of you, thanks – it means a ton. What many of you shared with me helped with a lot of guidance.
For now, I’m excited to get back to November Project and give it 100% 3x a week with some of the most motivating and inspirational people I’ve ever met…
It’s time. I’m sitting on the train headed to DC today, and then Virginia Beach tomorrow for marathon number 2, and to drop a major PR and qualify for Boston in the process.
It’s been an insane winter of training, ranging from running with a face mask in -25 degrees or a 2:45 long run around an indoor track because there simply wasn’t anywhere to get in quality speed work outside. I’m going to draw on that type of mental training when the miles start to get harder this weekend.
I finished last year with a couple of big 5k PR’s, and then totally lost focus and the motivation to run fast without a goal in mind. I decided the BQ would be my next goal, and with a solid base of training for speed in the shorter 5k (dropped PR by almost two minutes to a 17:42 from August through November) with and a whole lot of race day, confidence building repetitions, my coach and I decided to take on the BQ.
My first marathon looked like this, and ended with a nasty uphill climb. I walked quite a bit during the last 4 miles, and while my overall average was 8:12, I was around 10-11 minute miles at that point.
This round of training has been much different. Due to a trip to the Olympics last February, I lost an entire two weeks of training. My 3 longest long runs were 22, 18 and 16 miles. This time around I’ve progressed to 45+ mile weeks (was at 30-35 for first marathon) while adding much more intense speed workouts. I’ve also seriously upped my nutrition game thanks to InsideTracker, which has fueled my ability to recover faster and feel more energized towards the end of harder efforts AND throughout the day after training.
I’ve learned a lot from other runners lately too. I used the mantra “Get Uncomfortable” during the 5k PR in November. It isn’t supposed to be easy! Another thing that has worked has been “it’s hard to hurt when you’re smiling,” which has made me look like a psycho while pushing a 6 minute pace through the hills of Newton along the Boston Marathon course, as well as on a couple tempo treadmill runs at the gym.
My big 5k PR came at a race where I was surrounded by family. My dad was there, as well as my November Project family. The same will be true in Virginia Beach, who just got an official November Project tribe. Despite not actually knowing many of these people prior to race weekend, the community that NP has created is full of incredibly supportive and motivating people.
I read this blog from Deniz, one of the leaders of NP Boston about ten billion times prior to my final 5k PR in the fall. The next day, Evan (another leader) came up to me at the start line and promised to carry me to a PR by pacing me the whole way, which he did. Emily, the 3rd co-leader’s motivating words on the blog and in person have kept me focused and motivated to succeed.
Recently, Shalane Flanagan shared: “My goal is to inspire our next generation to chase down their personal excellence and passion.” The most exciting part of my marathon training this time around is how many people have reached out to say that my focus, determination and progress has been inspiring them to get out there in the snow/wind/cold/rain and set crazy goals for themselves.
That’s what makes it all worth it to me. Personal progress is great, but to be able to inspire others is even better. I’ve had friends decide to sign up for their first marathon, or people on Twitter commit to some crazy goal they’ve been thinking about for months and finally put it out there in writing. My dad is even running his first half this weekend! I’ll remember all of this, as well as much more come race day.
Deniz: “We can only get better if we set the bar high. The part we shy away from is to tell everybody that’s what we want to do. We don’t want to sound cocky. We don’t want to say something, and end up being far away from it and look like a fool. But, that is exactly what we should do: set the bar high and tell everybody about it. That’s how we will get support, that’s how we will inspire others, and that’s how we will excel in what we do.”
As Deniz and Shalane have shared, the real gains come when you verbalize your goals, and not scared to fail. You never know who you’re inspiring.
In about 18 hours I’ll be at November Project DC, after spending Wednesday morning with Project Austin, in Texas. In almost exactly 3 days, if all goes as planned, I will be wrapping up the Shamrock Marathon. Bring. It. On.