Ich bin ein Marathonläufer: Berlin Marathon Recap

16 weeks (well, 11 really because of injury).

625 km/ 388 miles ran during training.

6700 km / 4100 miles flight across the Atlantic.

8 hours unplanned lay-over in Charles de Gaulle airport.

42.7 km / 26.5 miles, mostly in the pouring rain.

5 hours and 1 1 minutes.

                  I earned my first Abbott World Majors stars and I am a marathoner (again!)                      Here are some more details about the end of my marathon journey: 

FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 27th

I had a bit of a bumpy ride to Berlin… Since there are no direct flights to Berlin from DC, I  made travel plans via CDG. But, my giant A380 plane was late and as a result I missed my connection. I was stuck in Paris, normally not a bad thing, but I had to play the wait list game for hours — shocker: all the flights to Berlin were full! — until I manages to snag a spot on a 3 PM flight. It was a bummer because Caitlin and I were supposed to get to the airport at the same time initially and would have cabbed to the hotel together, dropped off our bags and met some DC peeps to go to the expo and get it out of the way on Friday. Instead, we agreed we would go first things in the morning, and as a result miss the Generali Breakfast Run. Womp womp.

Friday was also my parents’ 44th wedding anniversary and they had made dinner reservation at Pauly Saal, a really nice restaurant in Mitte. Luckily I landed just on time, went straight to their hotel to shower and change before heading out to dinner with my suitcase. Dinner was great though by the 5th course I was ready to fall asleep and by 10PM when I finally made it to the Westin Grand I was utterly exhausted. Not exactly the relaxing, settling in day I had anticipated!

SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 28th

Caitlin and I made our way to the expo early. I’m not gonna lie, I expected Germans to run a tighter ship and be better organized but everything still went pretty quickly. We each bought a t-shirt (all the jackets in our size were gone by then…) and took a bunch of pictures.

After that, we headed off to Markthalle Neun, a food hall in Kreuzberg’s Eisenbahnstraße, to grab lunch with Adele, Austin and Rosie (they had to go back to Paris Sunday night so it would be our only chance to see them other than on the course cheering), Victorine and Calla and her parents.

Afterwards, we did a little sightseeing with them but Caitlin and I wanted to head back to the Westin to rest.

We also caught bits of the inline skate marathon, which is the largest inline skating marathon in the world and always takes place on the course the day before. 

In the evening, we headed to Vapiano (did you know Vapiano is actually a German chain?) to grab dinner to go (many many other runners had the same idea sadly ) and had a relaxing pasta dinner in our room.

SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 29th

RACE DAY!! It felt SO luxurious to be able to wake up at 7AM on a race day! I had picked the Westin Grand because a) I was able to pay for our stay using Marriott points b) it was a quick walk to the start and from the finish LINE. Caitlin did not have to be in her coral until 8:20am and me 9:10am so I was able to have a relatively relaxing morning. Breakfast was 2 packets of protein banana oatmeal with a banana and a cup of coffee. I had also brought a Fuel For Fire Fruit & Protein Smoothie Squeeze Pouch that I ate as I walked to the start. Since Caitlin had to leave earlier, I had made plans to meet with a couple other runners in my group at the Westin Bear outside my hotel. One of the girls, Laura, and I ended up staying together until the start and I even caught her as she was running towards the finish line at the end. It was fun to have people, even people I didn’t know before, to hang out with before the race, it made me less nervous and made time pass faster. I also bumped into DC-running celebrity Lien James while in line for the bathrooms! Berlin was her 126th marathon!!! 

I had a couple of goals for the race. Given how bumpy my training had been, just finishing was my main goal. Finishing in a slightly better time than my first marathon was the secondary goal with my reach goal being finishing in under 5 hours with a PR of 30 minutes. Clearly, that one was WAY too ambitious though for the first hour of the race I totally thought i could actually do it. I felt GREAT, I was running each kilometer well under 7 minutes and I was having fun. It started raining pretty early on in the race for me, at first lightly and then a little (and a lot) more strongly. The rain was ok for a while, the gushes of wind a little bit less… One of the cool thing that happened is that I bumped into Alexandra, a fellow Pacers Navy Yards runner that Matt, the group leader, had just introduced me to the week before. She was also on the lookout for her parents who had made the trip too and we ended up running chunks of the race together, sometimes losing each other to restroom or walking breaks then finding each other again. We actually finished around the same time too!

My initial strategy had been to stick with a 5:00 finish pacer but I stayed with Laura at the start so I had to catch up to them on the course. I did and that was good because I was running a little too strong for me and knew I wouldn’t be able to sustain it and could obviously use some help running a more consistent pace. I found the BEST pacer, a super fun lady from South Africa who was signing the whole time. I was so bummed when I had to go the restrooms and lost that group! That was about the half way point, when we were battered by wind and drenched by the rain and when things started to fall apart a little for me. I kept telling myself that I could do this but my body seemed to respond that I couldn’t. My whole body hurt and I was barely at kilometer 20… after that despite how hard I tried, I never ran a kilometer under 7 minutes and started having some really dark thoughts.

Seeing friends and family (my dad was super easy to spot with his French flag!) helped along the way, though I yelled at my mom for trying to take a picture of me at km 35. I was just not in the mood for pictures at that point 😉

Bumping into Alexandra here and there did too, we gave each other little pep talks along the way! I was pretty smart about fueling during the race which helped. I am that weird person who loves GUs. I always start my races with the espresso GU then move on to the caramel machiatto then salted caramel and finally s’mores which tastes a bit like Nutella. For hydration, I stuck with water since nothing-new-on-race day meant staying away from the ultraSPORTS Beetster they were serving. The water stops were total mess and the plastic cups on the ground were super slippery. I did try the “hot” tea at the end. Though it was lukewarm at best I was cold and tired and it felt amazing to drink something hot(ish). They were also serving bananas on the course and I love bananas and I had a couple of half bananas here and there during the race. I hope they have bananas in Chicago! (sadly, they won’t)

By the time I reached the avenue Bundesstraße 2 I had nothing left in me but I knew I was so close and the best way to get out of my misery was to keep going and finish as quickly as I possibly could. Something that helped was that the speakers were playing Voyage, Voyage by Desireless and while I was surprised they would play a French song at the finish line in Germany and at the time I was running there it *totally* gave me a boost just when I needed it.

In the end, I crossed the finish line in 5 hours and 11 minutes, 17 minutes faster than Marine Corps a year ago. Am I disappointed I couldn’t do better? Sure. Am I gonna complain about a 17 minutes PR, especially when I had to miss 5 weeks of training? No. I’m stoked especially since Berlin after all was technically *just* my last “long run” before Chicago.

I did a few things right and a few things wrong and those lessons will be super helpful in Chicago. For one, I will actually stick with a 5 hour pacer from the start to make sure I am consistent throughout the race and don’t start too fast. I also feel like I got a pretty good handle on my pre-race nutrition. I had some socks and bra issues during training and ended up running with another bra than the one I had used during training. That worried me but it worked out and I had minimal boob chaffing this time. My feet were fine too (wearing these socks again in Chicago — sorry cute Chicago marathon feetures!) I can’t say the same about my running belt! I had not trained with it since I had trained with a hydration vest and I had not used an anti chaffing stick on my back… so yeah, lesson learned here! I’m going into Chicago a little less freaked out. I haven’t felt pain since running Berlin and I *just* ran a marathon so I’m not as stressed about whether I can do this or not. I know I can do it. I’d like to do better, obviously, and I’d love to actually meet my under 5 stretch goal but if I don’t, it’ll be ok. I will have had a 17 minute PR for this marathon cycle and that’s not nothing. 6 weeks ago I resumed training after a forced 5 weeks hiatus and I wasn’t even confident I could built up to a full marathon on time for Berlin. But I did the best I could in the time I had. I never gave up and now I can say that I’m a marathoner… again!

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