Sunday, January 25, 2009

PF Chang's Rock N' Roll Marathon, Part I- the calm before the storm

We arrived to the hotel on Friday afternoon- right downtown, kitty corner from the convention center (and a few blocks north of the Hard Rock Cafe!!). Coach Rick was there to meet us in the lobby and fill us in on a few details. We were assigned to the 18th floor. Out of 31 (yeah, this is a big hotel). We wheel our luggage over to the elevators and hop on, and just as the door is closing, I'm reaching for the "18" button, I realize that the elevator we're on only goes to 17!!! Uh....ok. So Todd and I ride up and get off, expecting to find the "18-31" elevator......but nothing. So back down we go- turns out the 18-31 elevators were on the other side. Derp.

We get settled into the room which was beautiful, and soak it all in. Huge flat panel TV, everything pristine and crisp, and an awesome view!

I was SO anxious to get my corral number changed, that we hopped over to the convention center early so I wouldn't have to wait in line on Saturday (when a majority of the 35,000 plus participants pick up their numbers). I showed my ID, turned in my confirmation sheet, and there I was, participant 9047 with race bib and computer timing chip in hand, and VERY overwhelmed. So many people, so much information to take in- how to properly place my timing chip on my shoe, my gear check bag, zip ties, tags for gear check bags, etc. I thought changing my corral was going to be an ordeal- they don't care if you're moving down, but moving up can be pretty difficult. But not today- I explained that I needed to move from 9 to 8 and they slapped a green dot with an "8" in it, no questions asked. Allrighty, then!

Then it was off to pick up my official t-shirt and goodie/gear check bag. Everything was so streamlined and official- parts of my bib (which is my race number that I safety pin to my shirt) tore off to serve other purposes (how resourceful, huh? And it made it harder to lose things). One small square was my t-shirt ticket- I turned it in to get my official "Marathon" t-shirt. The other part that tore off was my official ticket to attach to my gear check bag. Ok, get this (I loved this part). Every participant is given a goodie bag as they enter the expo- there's all sorts of stuff in there- flyers for upcoming races (Rock N' Roll Seattle has just been introduced!), samples of sports drinks and shaving gel (um, ok), etc. But that exact bag is also the same bag you use on race day to pack extra clothes, nutrition, sandals, and other stuff you may want after the race. You seal it up, attach your tag to it, and then drop it off to the row of UPS trucks at the start line. While you're racing, they're driving your stuff to the finish line! It's the simple things. I was highly amused. parents arrived in town the same afternoon, so we all walked to the Hard Rock Cafe and enjoyed a nice (albeit loud) dinner sitting next to a corduroy jacket that John Lennon wore in the 60's. It was great to have them in town- I was feeling pretty overwhelmed still. Even though this was the weekend that I had been training for during the last 6 months, I was still a bit shell shocked and it was comforting to have them close by. Todd also provided a much needed "grounding source" for me. His ability to remain calm and not get swept away with hype is the perfect yin to my yang- when I don't know what's going on, or if I'm in an unfamiliar situation, I can go from 0 to freakout pretty quickly. In fact, the running joke was that I was "Anxiety Girl" all weekend.

Friday Evening: Jersey Decorating Party!!!! One of our honored heroes, Alex, passed away from Lymphoma in 2006, and her mother was with us all season training alongside the team. That night, she gave us all patches that said "Alex's Angels" and our chapter name on them (Go Desert Mountain States!! Woohoo!!). Ok, so here's another thing about TNT: people LOVE to decorate these purple jerseys- glittery fringe, pictures, puffy paint up the wazzoo, you name it, it's probably been on a TNT jersey. I went the simple route with a hot pink "elsbeth" on the front, and the names of my honored heroes on the back. Uncle Ralph and Granddad, and (unfortunately) the many others who have either survived or lost their battles with blood cancers.

Art, you were on there too. :) One of my honored heroes.

This is where I feel so conflicted. Let me preface this by saying, I LOVE Team in Training, I am so thrilled to be able to train and raise money for such an important cause. HOWEVER: I absolutely *hate* that this is how it has to be. I love being able to run in honor and memory of everyone, and I am proud to be their warrior, but I looked at the list of names on my shirt (and on the ribbons that I carried with me), and I could think was "This is too many people". TOO MANY PEOPLE. I get mad, then sad, then righteous, then overwhelmed, then inspired, then back to being sad again. I feel guilty for hating this part of it. There shouldn't be ANY names on my jersey- or it should be of people who have all survived, not perished from this stupid cancer....But if we don't do this to find a cure, who will? It makes me cry. Stupid cancer.

A quick trip to Coldstone after decorating, then off to bed. Here we are pre-pre-race!

Saturday morning, we all met for a group run at 8am. Turns out every other chapter met in the lobby with the same idea! I chatted with a few girls from the New York City chapter in the elevator. They thought the weather was GREAT, and thought I was crazy for wearing running tights, gloves and long sleeves, but hey, it's all in what you're used to, right? As the different chapters took off in different directions, shouts of "Go Team!!" echoed all over the hotel and sidewalks- it was awesome.

Then, that night, we had the Pasta Party. I was NOT prepared for this at.all. We met my parents in the lobby, and joined the rest of our chapter, all of us wearing our bright yellow "Hey, we're Desert Mountain States!" t-shirts. I could hear this faint roar of noise but had no idea what it was. Mentor Teresa told us not to worry about it, and led us up the escalator to the grand ball room. We were practically knocked over by a solid wall of sound. Every single coach had line up a la "Soul Train" and were cheering us into the ballroom with whistles, cowbells, noisemakers and a tambourine (thanks to Coach Lauren!!)

It looked like this:

A look back to everyone who was behind us. We were the first ones in out of 2000 people. Amazing.

A very surprised Elsbeth and very calm Todd. See his shirt? Yeah, dig it.

Coaches Sarah (Sierra Vista), Lauren, and Brian (he qualified for Boston in December!!)

I'm sorry this one's blurry, a better version is on its way. From left to right: Coach Rick, Mentor Betsy (Alex's mom), me, Coach Sarah, Coach Lauren, Coach Brian. Our coaches were smart. They brought earplugs. :)

The gigantic ballroom that sat over 2000 people, 1065 of which were Team in Training participants.

We got our dinner (which was DELICIOUS), and sat down, soaking it all in. Then we noticed that pictures of honored teammates and heroes were being shown on the screen. Queue the instant tears: pictures of Uncle Ralph and Granddad appeared on screen. I had no idea that they would show them- I'd forgotten that I'd emailed them to Louanne and was so touched that they were there. Mom and Dad were appreciative as well.

So, Team in Training raised over $3.2 million for the P.F. Chang's Rock N' Roll marathon (hereto for now referred to as the PFCRNR), the Tucson chapter contributing $90,000 of it. Since the inception of PFCRNR, Team in Training has raised over $22 million!!! Thank you so much for your support- you are helping save lives, giving a voice to those who don't have one. You have helped ME become a runner for these people, to have one of the most special experiences in my entire life. Words cannot express how grateful I am for your support.

We had several inspirational speakers, including John "The Penguin" Bingham, columnist for Runner's World magazine (, and the chosen speaker (they pick one TNT participant every dinner) was our very own Betsy Stuetze, Alex's mom. There wasn't a dry eye in the place when she talked about her beautiful daughter and her fight for her life.

Then the dinner adjourned and it was off to bed to wake up and meet in the lobby at 5:45 am. I finally had my "holy crap, what am I doing?" moment at our team meeting after dinner when I realized that in 12 hours, I would be running 26.2 miles.

Monday, January 19, 2009

It's done

5 hours, 11 minutes, and 10 seconds. 5:11:10

As I say a lot on this blog, holy crap. It was hot (almost 80 degrees at the finish) and painful (no blisters, though!) but I finished and was able to stick to my interval for the most part.

It was an experience that will never happen again- my FIRST marathon. The magic of the first one has come and gone, but will always be in my heart and the back of my head as I train for more.

IPROMISE I will post a more extensive entry, but I don't have the time right now. There will be pics too!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Last full day in Tucson!

And boy, is it already busy.

After work is going to be crammed with laundry, jersey decorating, packing, and trying not to get hurt (this is harder than it sounds, BELIEVE me).

At our team meeting on Tuesday, our wonderful coordinator, Louanne, told us that the Tucston chapter alone raised almost $90,000. Holy crap. So, to my wonderful contributors and supporters: THANK YOU. You have helped save lives and helped give me a voice to create an awareness about these horrible blood cancers.

We also got our purple race day jerseys (I opted for a shirt, not a singlet- I've been running in shirts the entire time we've been training, so to change it up on Game Day is a bad idea in my book).

I think I really underestimated the amount of information and who needs-to-be-where-and-when stuff that was going to be involved.......we get packets when we check into the hotel, then another packet when we check in at the expo (did I mention I need to change my CORRAL?? Moooooo) to pasta and victory parties and timing chips and gear backs......AACK! Seriously, just get me to the starting line in one piece with my sunglasses and visor and I'm good. Really.

I'm facing feelings of intense anxiety accented with bits of an excited rush (no, I didn't just pee my pants).

Tomorrow we'll go up to Phoenix to check into our hotel (along with 1,200 other TNT participants). We're staying across the street from the Convention Center and it's Arizona's largest hotel, as of September 2008 (when they opened). Check it out!

My mom and dad will be in town too, so we'll get to meet up with them! I'm so excited that they've come down from Idaho to support me- Todd's going to drive them around so all three can take pictures of my FLYING by them. Ok, not flying, but they'll get a taste for the event and the bands (a Buddy Holly tribute band will be there!)

Saturday is a group run in the morning just to get a feel for everything, then we'll walk over as a team and pick up our packets (And I'll change my corral!!!), race numbers, timing chips, and I will spend some hard-earned cash on some well-deserved souvenirs. :)

Saturday night is the pasta party (The Desert Mountain States Chapter will all have matching bright yellow t-shirts, so look for us!)- I'll elaborate more on this afterwards, because I've never been to one, so I don't really know what it's about.

Then Sunday, it's on the shuttle at 5:15 to get to the starting line for when the gun goes off at 7:40.

run run run walk run run some more walk some more drink water and cytomax, eat a salt packet, run run run run run walk run walk walk walk. Rinse and repeat for about oh....5 hours.

Then? The finish line. How glorious (and probably emotional) that will be.

I'll post more if I get the chance, but I just wanted to check in and say holy CRAP, this is really happening, and thank you ALL for your support.

Monday, January 12, 2009

6 days and counting

Tomorrow is our send off meeting/party, where we get our race-day jerseys and information for the hotel.

I will be arriving in Phoenix on Friday afternoon, off to the expo to change my corral #, then soaking it all in until Sunday morning!

Now is the time where I go shopping for "discard warm-ups"- clothes that I can wear while I stand in the corral an HOUR before the race starts and toss aside as we begin running and NOT care that I never see them again. Goodwill lines the streets the first few miles and collects the discarded items to take to their stores. Kinda neat, huh?

I can't believe it's almost here. It seems like only yesterday I called my mom and said, "Um, I just signed up to run a marathon". Now, almost 6 months later (I signed up on July 19th), I am checking "Run a marathon" off my to-do list of life. However, this isn't a one-time thing, I'll be running another one soon!

Let's just focus on this one for now, huh?

Oh, and Phoenix is going to be CRAZY crowded that weekend- Barret-Jackson is going on (you know, the classic car auctions you see on the Speed channel? Might I add that I REALLY want to go to this as well?), some NFL playoff game (holy crap, the Cardinals might go to the Superbowl!), and a marathon with 32,000 participants and even more spectators and volunteers. If you decide to enter Phoenix, may the force be with you.

More later,