Madison Marathon Recap: Part 1

On November 10, 2013, I ran my first marathon.

Writing that sentence is pretty cool. It has taken me a few weeks to process the whole experience. But now I am ready to share it with you. This post will be the first of three detailing race weekend and more.

The Days Leading Up to The Race

The week before the race was uneventful, the normal mix of work and life. The only thing unusual was that I was running less, which made me pretty restless.


The Friday before the race, my family arrived in Madison. My parents and I met at Perkins for lunch, because they don’t exist in MA and my dad really wanted pancakes. After enjoying some delicious food, I headed to the airport to pick up Scott (the now-ex-boyfriend).

Once everyone had arrived and gotten settled in, we headed to the race expo. My dad decided that this did not sound fun, and stayed behind.

The expo was open both Friday and Saturday, but I wanted to get my bib so that I could spend Saturday relaxing. We also figured that Friday evening would be less crowded, and we were right. Upon arriving at Monona Terrace, our first order of business was getting my race bib. It took about 3 minutes, as there were no lines, making this my fastest packet pick-up ever.

My bib thinks I am 21 years old. Ha.

My bib thinks I am 21 years old. Ha.

Next we picked up my race shirt. I was excited that it was a long sleeve tech shirt. Despite having a ton of running clothes, I somehow only own one of these and it is bright orange…I don’t look good in orange. So I was glad to add a new, differently colored one to my wardrobe.

2013-11-21 11.56.20

In Wisconsin, the beer logo must be at least as big as the race name...

In Wisconsin, the beer logo must be at least as big as the race name.

We spent the next 20min looking around at the vendors. My eye was drawn to the booth selling headbands, which are always bright and fun. I had to remind myself, that not only do I already have some running headbands, but I actually don’t like wearing them.

Some money was spent at the official race merchandise booth (thanks mom). Normally I avoid official stuff, as it is often expensive and not very cute. Madison Marathon upped their game this year and had a lot more stuff for sale than in the past! I ended up with two shirts and a visor. My mom ended up with the same visor…we have a lot of matching things.

I've never had a shirt with a map on it!

I’ve never had a shirt with a map on it!

There was a bright pink version, but I am trying to branch out.

There was a bright pink version, but I am trying to branch out.

After the expo, we went out for dinner and then it was off to bed.  I stayed up later than I should have working on a jigsaw puzzle, but it was fun. Unfortunately, I slept terribly that night, which made me nervous because I do not function well without sleep. I blame it on the oft-repeated notion that it’s really how well you sleep two nights before the race that is most important.


Saturday morning was spent planning for Sunday. My family would be spectating along the course and we figured out how they would get around and where they would be. We also spent time thinking about what I would wear and have with me during the race and what they would carry in case I needed something. I am intense about planning, it makes me feel less anxious!

Around 11am, we headed to an early lunch at the Great Dane.  They have a big menu and lots of basic options, so I wouldn’t have to worry about eating anything crazy the day before the race.

Once we had ordered our meals, my mom brought out a large bag stuffed with cards. Apparently in the time leading up to the race she, with the help of some very good friends, collected cards from people in my life wishing me luck on the race. As I read each card, I was overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness, caring, and humor that they held.



I am so, so lucky to have such an amazing group of people in my life and these cards meant more to me than I could ever express in a blog post.  Instead I will share a few examples (I would love to show everyone’s because they are all wonderful, but that would make this an epically long post):

Can't forget my roots

Can’t forget my roots

"My grandma wins the prize for largest card. Also for the most frequent use of quotation marks."

My grandma wins the prize for largest card. Also for most frequent use of quotation marks.

A lovely cartoon from Maia in which I successfully cross the finish line…before collapsing.

A lovely cartoon from Maia in which I successfully cross the finish line…before collapsing.

Beautiful card's from my advisor's daughters. They have already far surpassed my own artistic talents.

Beautiful cards from my advisor’s daughters. They have already far surpassed my own artistic talents.

Dude. Annie embroidered this card. We stared at this one in awe for a while.

Dude. Annie embroidered this card. We stared at this one in awe for a while.

This is not a card…it is the sweetest sweatshirt ever.

This is not a card…it is the sweetest sweatshirt ever.

After lunch, my parents headed to the Badger football game and Scott and I headed to Target. I needed some throwaway clothes to wear while waiting for the race to start and knew that Target sells cheap athletic pants for small boys that fit me perfectly. Totally worth the weird looks I get for buying children’s clothing.

Then we headed to the movies! It was nice to put my feet up as we enjoyed Ender’s Game. I also enjoyed the soft pretzel that I, in a rare moment of brilliance, ordered to go at lunch. It was delicious and not greasy like the ones the theater sells. Not that I am opposed to greasy, buttery pretzels, but it just didn’t seem like a great idea the day before my attempt to run farther than ever before.

After the movie, we made the slow and scary journey back to my house through the sea of Badger fans – seriously, living near an 80,000 person stadium that doesn’t have its own parking is insane!

We spent the evening relaxing in front of the TV (well, watching TV on my tiny laptop) and enjoying a basic meal of turkey burgers and sweet potato fries. This is one of my default dinners, so I knew it was unlikely to cause any serious stomach issues the next day.

The end of the night was spent with me in a panic trying to figure out what to wear the next day. The weather had been weird that week and I wasn’t quite sure how to prepare. After a lot of swearing and second-guessing, I decided on shorts, a t-shirt, arm warmers, a jacket, and gloves. I would also have the throwaway pants I bought to cover my legs early in the morning. My family would carry some additional items, in case the weather changed.

Finally, it was time for bed. I was stressed because I had stayed up later than I wanted to, but overall I was feeling pretty good. Deep down I believed that, barring an emergency, I would be able to finish the race. Maybe not fast or prettily, but I would finish.

In Closing

I shall leave you with the words sent to me by my Uncle Dave, Aunt Ismini, and cousins Jack and Nikolas (apparently Dave isn’t just great at writing books, but also at writing inspiring emails):

“Noelle! Your first marathon, that’s very exciting. I’ve been to Marathon and heard all about the guy who ran the first one and all about what happened to him when he finished and…I mean, well, the Greeks invented democracy and since then things have certainly been…I mean, remember this, no matter what, even if you lose your way and go backwards for a few miles, you’ll still be faster than your mother.”


Trying to Remain Calm

This morning I went for my final pre-marathon run. Just an easy 3.5 miler to shake out my legs. It’s crazy to think that the next time I run will be in a marathon. Everything felt pretty good, well except for the fact that I am not quite adjusted to below freezing temperatures yet.

Now that the race is only a couple days away, it feels like this thing is really going to happen. My parents get into town in about an hour and tonight I’ll pick up my race bib. I don’t know where the time went, it seems like just yesterday that I was registering (okay, I registered back in March so I could pay the super discount price, but it definitely doesn’t feel like its been more than 7 months since then).

Currently I am feeling mentally calm, although my body is really restless. Going from running a lot to resting a lot has left with me with some extra energy! My goal is to stay calm for as long as possible and to keep reminding myself that I have done the preparation and there is nothing more I can do at this point. Mostly I just don’t know what to expect, which is not a feeling I like.

Any words of wisdom?

How do you stay calm before a race or other big event?

Marathon Music

I am working on my playlist for the marathon on Sunday. Crafting a good playlist takes time and thought, so I will be slowly adding to it throughout the week.

My plan for the race is actually to run the first part without music. I have recently done a few runs sans headphones and have really enjoyed it. Can’t believe I avoided going music free for so long!

But I want to have an awesome playlist ready for those tough miles when I need a boost. I have many running mixes, but am trying to include some new/different songs this time. The same songs get old after a while!

These accidentally went through the laundry yesterday. Amazingly, they still work perfectly!

These accidentally went through the laundry yesterday. Amazingly, they still work perfectly!

Some songs, however, must always be on the playlist:

What songs should I add to my list?

Rest Day Reflections #9

One week to go until the marathon! Just three more runs. I am starting to FREAK OUT. My confidence has been slowly waning. This feeling is to be expected, but I still don’t like it!

Week Stats:

Miles Run: 22
Yoga Classes: 2
Strength Training Sessions: 2
Weeks Until Marathon: 1

October Round Up:

Miles Run: 130.6
The most miles I have ever run in a month!  The last few months have gotten me pretty close to my goal of 1000mi for the year.

Almost there!

Almost there!

Sodas: 0
I made it through the whole month without having a soda. There were definitely times when I really, really wanted a cold Coke Zero – but I resisted temptation. In fact, I still haven’t had a soda even though October is over!

Things I am Grateful for This Week:

1) Corn
Not only is corn delicious, but it also has many other important uses. Like making Kraken-shaped corn mazes.

Corn maze! I think the observation deck needs to be taller...

Corn maze! I think the observation deck needs to be taller…

2) NYC Marathon
I love watching marathons. When I was younger, my mom would take me to see the Boston Marathon each year. We would cheer for a while and then drive home just in time to watch the winners cross the finish line. Today, I have had a lovely morning watching the NYC marathon.

Rest Day Reflections #8

It’s now officially two weeks until the marathon. The race is creeping into my thoughts more frequently with each passing day.

I also appear to be coming down with some sort of illness – sore throat, stuffy nose, etc. Not good! When I get sick, it tends to last for a while and I don’t want to be sick while running 26.2mi. I have been making sure to get extra rest, drink lots of water, and take some vitamin C. Plus, I have been washing my hands like a maniac.

In other news, I actually had to wear long pants for one of my runs this week. I typically wear shorts until it is below 40 and we finally had some daytime temperatures in the 30s.

Week Stats:

Miles Run: 30
Yoga Classes: 3
Strength Training Sessions: 2
Weeks Until Marathon: 2
Sodas: 0 (Last night, I almost caved. But I managed to stay strong while others were drinking delicious diet cokes)

Things I am Grateful for This Week:

1) Group Halloween Costumes

I typically dislike dressing up for halloween, because I am terrible at coming up with ideas and not particularly crafty. But when it’s a group costume, I can totally get on board. Last night, some friends and I dressed up as Kiss. It was surprisingly awesome. I was uncertain that we would pull it off, but I am feeling pretty pleased.

My attempt at a mid-70s style Ace Frehley.

My attempt at a mid-70s style Ace Frehley.

"Gene Simmons" rocking the DJ booth.

“Gene Simmons” rocking the DJ booth.

All together now! (Photo by Lyn/Paul Stanley)

All together now! (Photo by Lyn/Paul Stanley)

2) Pumpkins

Pumpkins are one of my favorite things about fall. Not only can you eat them, you can also make jack-o-lanterns!

This is about the extent of my carving skills...and apparently my photography skills aren't much better

This is about the extent of my carving skills…and apparently my photography skills aren’t much better

What are you being for Halloween this year?

Any suggestions for fighting off a cold?

Rest Day Reflections # 7

Yesterday’s 20 miler marked my final really long run before the marathon. For the next few weeks, I will keep running as frequently, but fewer miles.  I am glad to start tapering, my legs need a break…but I know that before long I will be completely stir crazy.

My run yesterday was…interesting. I was in Kentucky for a wedding, so it wasn’t as easy as putting on my shoes and heading out the door. With the help of some friends, I picked out a place to run: The UK arboretum.

The arboretum isn’t huge, but it is connected to some subdivisions. So my 20 miles were spent weaving through the arboretum and the surrounding neighborhoods – over and over and over. At least the arboretum was very pretty and I got to run a lot of hills.

The hardest part of my run was the weather. When I left my hotel at 7:30am, it was chilly. By the time I got to the arboretum, it was 50 and sunny. I started out in a long sleeve shirt, because I needed to warm up a bit. After a few miles, I was warm and changed into my t-shirt (my car was stocked with all sorts of clothes).  Around mile 9, the weather changed drastically. The sun disappeared, it began raining, and over the next 11 miles the temperature dropped by about 10 degrees. But the worst part was the wind, which made it feel so much colder. The last 5 miles were a struggle, and I was so glad when my GPS finally hit 20 miles.

I ran back to my car, excited to be out of the rain and cold. Unfortunately, my fingers were numb and it took me about 5min to open my car door – who knew pushing those little buttons could be so difficult? I changed into some dry clothes and headed back to the hotel, with the heat on full blast the whole way.

Back in my hotel room, I was still chilled. I cranked up the heat in my room and proceeded to take an excessively long and hot shower. Once I was all warmed up, I made sure to hang up my running clothes – there are few things more disgusting than wet running clothes being packed into a suitcase.

The whole bathroom looked like this

The whole bathroom looked like this

There was no time to rest though, I needed to get ready for the wedding! Somehow I managed to spend the next 8 hours wearing in high heels, dancing until midnight.



All in all, I am happy with my 20 miler. It was much slower and not as much fun as my last one. But this run really tested my perseverance and I am proud to have stuck with it!

Week Stats:

Miles Run: 34
Weeks Until Marathon: 3
Sodas: 0

Packing for 20 Miles

This weekend I have my second 20 mile run scheduled. This will be the last really long run before the marathon. My previous 20 miler went well, but I am still nervous to do it again.

This run has an added challenge: I will be out of town for a friend’s wedding. So I will be doing my run in Kentucky!

My plan is to talk to the hotel staff and try to map out a 5mi loop. Then I would repeat the loop 4 times. Might not be the most fun, but I don’t want to stray too far in an unknown place.

This also means that I had to pack for my run.  I am a pretty intense packer (there are usually multiple color-coded lists involved), so my nervousness combined with my hyper-organization made it hard to decide what to bring.

The weather looks like it will be pretty nice all weekend (50-60s), so that did help some – no bulky winter clothes. I wear shorts and short sleeves until it gets into the 40s. But I packed a few different outfit options, just in case.

After taking this photo, I added another shirt...and more socks

After taking this photo, I added another shirt…and more socks

I also needed to pack fuel for the run. I am not even sure what I want to eat tomorrow, much less Saturday, so I made sure to include plenty of options.



Luckily all of my fuel fits neatly inside my water bottle.

It's all in there! So efficient!

It’s all in there! So efficient!

Now that I am all packed, I just need to deal with my nerves!



Rest Day Reflections # 6

It has been a low-key running week. It came at just the right time, since my legs were starting to feel the effects of all the miles.  I took advantage of the extra time to do some foam rolling and stretching. Currently, my legs are feeling pretty good – let’s hope it lasts!

We have a love-hate relationship

We have a love-hate relationship

As of today, there are exactly four weeks until the marathon. I am starting to get nervous. I have one more high mileage week (including a 20 miler), and then I will start tapering. Now that I am a month out, it actually feels real. Which is both exciting and scary.

Week Stats:

Miles Run: 24
Yoga Classes: 2
Strength Training Sessions: 2
Weeks Until Marathon: 4
Sodas: 0

Things I am Grateful for This Week:

1) The Sun
The sun was absolutely beautiful today. We will be having less sun in the coming months, so I am glad to enjoy it while it’s here.

2) Cinnamon Spice Tea
So warm and delicious.



3) Coffee Shops.
When I work at coffee shops, I am significantly more productive than when I work from my office. Which probably isn’t saying much…

Terrified of Twenty!

Tomorrow I am scheduled to go for my longest run ever:

20 miles!

It sounds so scary and I am really nervous!

When I first started running, I felt like this about every long run. I remember when 6mi seemed unattainable. Lately, though, I have felt pretty calm about longer runs and they don’t disrupt my schedule the way they used to. But 20 just feels…different.

In order to calm my nerves, I have prepared myself ahead of time. I have my route mapped out. I have my Garmin charged and my phone ready with podcasts. I have my running clothes out and my fuel packed.

Nom nom nom

Nom nom nom

I am trying to calm myself by remembering that it’s only about 4mi more than my previous longest distance. I have done two 16 milers – one was great and one was terrible. But I know that with every mile, it gets harder to tack one more on.

Luckily, the weather looks like it will be great!

Screen Shot 2013-09-20 at 5.10.50 PM

I am also a little bit excited – 20mi makes my upcoming marathon feel so much more real. It’s also something that, just three years ago, I never could have imagined myself doing.

Do you have a run planned for the weekend? How do you deal with long run anxiety?