Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Natalie's First Marathon

I was trying to organize things for my taxes last night and was going through a box of old papers. As I was sorting through everything I found a printed-out copy of this email I sent after my first marathon! It was really fun to read through this, and I since I am running another marathon this weekend I thought I would share my recap of THIS race and then write another recap after the Shamrock Marathon next week.



Dear Friends and Family,

I know I have talked to many of you about the marathon I ran this weekend at Nationals, and I told many of you I would let you know how it went, so rather than tell the story 50 times, I thought I would give you an update this way!

I qualified for the marathon at the NAIA National Track & Field competition in Fresno, CA a few weeks ago and have been really excited to compete. There were six athletes from my team who qualified (in different events), and we arrived in Fresno, CA on Tuesday evening and my race was at 6am on Saturday. It was really nice, because I was able to spend a few days preparing for finals (which are this week), adjusting to the heat, and getting used to waking up so early!

All week I had been hydrating really well. My coach was having us drink mixtures of Pedialyte and Gatorade, and lots of water. It was so incredibly hot in Fresno – averaging about 99 degrees each day.

On Saturday, I had to wake up at 4am in order to eat and get ready for the race. Finally, we got to the track and I had to go through some funny routines to prepare for the race. I had to make sure I had lots of Vaseline on my ankles, armpits, thighs, and chest so that nothing would chafe and hurt during the race. I also wore a visor so that during the race I could pore water on my head and not have it drip into my eyes.

My goal was to run 3 hours and 20 minutes, which I thought was a fairly realistic goal. However, I was a bit nervous, because the longest run I had done in my training was only 2 hours and 30 minutes. Up until about 3-4 weeks before the race, I was actually training more for 10k/half marathon distance, and was only going for 90-100 minute runs each week. I had done three runs over 2 hours, but that was it.

There were 39 girls and over 40 guys who had qualified, and we all started together on the track. The race began with 2 and 1/8 laps on the track, which was nice because we were able to pace ourselves with the 800m distance. The first 16 miles of the race felt great! I was running really consistent 7:20 miles (give or take a few seconds) and felt really strong all the way up to mile 18. Then, it got significantly harder. My body was getting depleted of its glycogen storage, and my legs were definitely feeling it. My coach was on the course, and every 40 minutes or so was giving me a PowerBar Gel, as well as Gatorade, and towards the end of the race, had me drink watered-down, flat Coke to increase my blood sugar levels. Miles 20-24 were significantly slower, and in hindsight, I probably should have gone out about 5-8 seconds slower per mile in the first half so I wouldn't have gone into oxygen debt so bad during these miles.

Nobody had warned me of this (and apparently it is quite common) but I started to go crazy during the race! J I had to start talking to myself in order to stay sane. It makes sense, if you think about it, when your body gets depleted of glycogen, so does your brain, and it starts acting funny. I kept imagining and hearing people behind me, and then I would turn around and absolutely nobody would be there. Or, I would imagine that my feet were really swollen and I would look down and they would be completely normal. I had to keep talking to myself on the long stretches where I was completely by myself. I kept saying, "Come on Natalie, you can do this. Believe in yourself. You're Natalie Hatch. You are great…" etc etc. Remember, this was not a normal road race with lots of runners. Only those who qualified and were on a collegiate team could compete, so by the end the runners were really strung out from each other (and almost 20% of the girls dropped out at some point during the race). We also were not allowed to listen to any form of music during the race, so on those long stretches all by yourself, you could get pretty lonely out there.

Finally, in the last mile, I saw the girl ahead of me and she was walking! I couldn't believe it. It really motivated me to pick up my pace, because there was no way I was going to let somebody beat me who had walked. My last mile was a 7:40, and my last 400 meters on the track was at a 6:00 pace. When I was trying to pass that last girl, I remember thinking I had to do something to motivate myself, so (remember, I had been running fast for over 3 hours now and was going a little crazy) I started singing the Chariots of Fire theme to myself in my head as I passed her. It worked! Although, in hindsight, realize I was going a little nuts at that point.

I crossed the finish line and burst into tears…only for a second though…because then I had to catch my breath. I had finished in 3 hours 24 minutes and 21 seconds…only 4 minutes slower than my goal. Physically, it was probably the hardest thing I had ever done. However, it's hard to explain the feeling of accomplishment that is felt afterwards. I looked over and saw my coach and teammates standing on the side of the track, and they were so proud. It was really an awesome experience. Immediately, my coach got me out of the sun and changed into some dry clothes. I could hardly move! He had to untie my shoes for me because I couldn't even reach over that far. Compared to most of the other runners, I was in pretty good shape (many had collapsed on the fin

ish line), but I was soo sore. My hip flexors felt like they had been through a meat grinder, and were sore just to even touch. Even now, two days later, I feel like a 90-year old woman limping/walking around.

Although I can still barely move (I have to actually lift my left leg up with my hands when I get up or get into a car), and from miles 20-24 I thought I was going crazy, I am so happy that I ran that marathon, and finished so strongly. I learned a LOT and am really excited to run my next one (not in any time soon though – I have to get back to walking normally first!). I think that with a few more miles added to my training I can really prepare for those hard miles at the end, and shave off a lot of time.

I know this was a really long email, but I hope you enjoyed it! I have one more final and one more paper and then I am all done with college and will graduate on Saturday. I would love to hear back from each one of you and get an update on how things are going with you.

Much love,


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cherish Every Moment

I recently stumbled across a friend of a friend's blog that really touched me so much I feel compelled to share their story. I was reading through this blog and seriously had what Oprah calls the "ugly cry" going on as I was reading each post about a very tragic experience in their family. I couldn't stop thinking about my sweet little Lincoln and what would happen if something tragic like this were to happen to our family. I am a strong person, but I don't think I am strong enough to handle something like this.

Ashley and Pat Sullenger had a 2-year old little girl, Preslee, who drowned i
n a canal behind her grandpa's house in Southern Idaho this past summer. In their blog, they have Preslee's "story" in 17 different posts. Each post goes through the few weeks between the actual drowning and her passing. Click HERE to read their story

There are so many things that Lincoln does every day that absolutely warm my heart and make me feel so grateful to be a mother. Here are some of the things I love so much right now and never want to forget:

Lincoln loves when you ask him to be "gentle" and he will gently pat your head. He gets SO excited when you call him a "good boy" and he claps his hands loudly and smiles his huge, dimpled smile.

Lincoln loves when Dad comes home from work. No matter where he is in our little house, as soon as he hears the front door open, he cocks his head, yells, "dadda, dadda, dadda, dadda" and runs (very bow-leggedly) towards the front door. He runs right up to Sheridan and latches onto one of his legs.

Lincoln is such a great eater! He eats anything we try to feed him and he is not afraid to try anything. He also has all of his baby teeth. Some of his favorite foods right now are: apples, salmon, steak, steamed carrots, and fruit snacks.

Lincoln is no longer in a crib, he is in his big-boy bed. He also can open doors. So, every morning between 7 and 8, he crawls out of bed, opens his door, and RUNS into the living room. He is always so happy and excited in the morning and wants to tell me ALL about his dreams (although I have no idea what he is actually saying).

I even love Lincoln's temper tantrums. Ok, I don't actually love them, but they are pretty cute. When Lincoln doesn't get his way he throws himself on the floor and then ROLLS all the way across the room until he hits a wall, couch, chair, etc that stops him from rolling any further.

Probably my favorite time to spend with Lincoln is while we are reading. Lincoln LOVES to read. We read probably 2-3 hours a day. Lincoln is a very, very high energy kid but the one thing that calms him down is reading a book. It is the only way I can get him to sit quietly on my lap. He will sit for 30-40 minutes at a time, as long as we are reading books. He sits on my lap while I read each book and I point to the words as I read them. Lincoln loves to turn the pages. Some of his favorite books right now are: That's Not My Monster, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Old McDonald Had a Farm, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, Mr. Brown Can Moo Can You, and Ten Little Ladybugs.

Lincoln loves to talk in his own language. He talks all the time! And, although he definitely knows what he is saying, we still can't really make out any clear words. He LOVES to talk on the phone to Dad. We call Dad often at work and Lincoln will hold the phone between his head and shoulder and talk to his Dad.

Lincoln has so much fun "dancing" and is so cute. Whenever music comes on tv, he starts waving his hands all crazy in the air, stomping his little feet on the ground, and spinning in circles. American Idol especially triggers his dancing sessions. :)

When I read the Sullengers story tonight, it really reminded me to cherish each moment you have with your children. I love all the little "moments" I get to have with my son every single day. I love staying at home with Lincoln, and seeing his little mind grow and develop. If you are reading this right now, remember to give your kids an extra-long hug before they go to bed tonight and make sure they know how much you love them. Accidents can happen to anyone and you never know how much time you will get with those you love.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

First Race in Two Years!

***Disclaimer: One I started typing it just didn't stop! This is a long post :) Also, SO SAD, but I forgot my camera on this trip, so all the pictures are from my cell phone which explains the bad quality*****

I became pregnant with Lincoln in December 2008 and I have not competed in a race since. For someone who has been a runner since 5th grade, that is a long time to go without racing! But, once you get out of the “competition mode”, it is really easy to stay out of it. I would work out often, and go running occasionally, but I wasn’t training seriously. Finally I decided to just go ahead and register for a marathon. I knew that if I was registered for a race, it would force me to train consistently. As part of my marathon training I decided to run a half marathon in Williamsburg, PA. As this was the first race I had competed in for a long time I was quite nervous!

The race didn’t start until 1pm on Sunday afternoon but I had convinced Sheridan to drive down the night before. Williamsburg is about 2.5 hours from our house and I didn’t want to sit in a car all morning, race 13.1 miles, and then sit in a car all evening. So, I went online and found a room at Motel 6 for $20! What a bargain! Well, we got to the hotel and realized why it was such a bargain. The hotel was quite a dive!! I will say we have stayed in some worse hotels before, but this one was right up there.

I haven’t really had to stay in a hotel with Lincoln since we drove cross-country last year. He is older now and more aware of his surroundings. At around 1am I realized maybe it wasn’t as good of an idea to drive down the night before. Lincoln was seriously up all night, I think because he was just in an unfamiliar place. Finally it was 5:30am and nobody had slept well. Lincoln kept waking up what felt like every 30 minutes and crying. Sheridan was so sweet! He said to Lincoln, “Come on buddy. You and Dad are going to go for a drive. Mom has a big race today and needs to get some sleep”. So they went for a drive and scoped out Williamsburg while I got to sleep in until 9am. I was so happy and it was really thoughtful of Sheridan.

If you have never been to Williamsburg before I would definitely recommend it! It is the cutest little colonial town and only 8 miles from the original Jamestown settlement (all weekend I had Pocahontas songs stuck in my head ;)) There are TONS of restaurants but each one we stopped at had a 45+ minute wait! Finally we just settled on McDonald’s for breakfast and ordered the Breakfast of Champions - coffee and oatmeal. I have had major stomach issues lately on my long runs, so I was really nervous to eat too much, but knew I needed to eat enough to get me through 13 miles of racing.

We drove to William and Mary University and picked up tshirt, map, and beer tickets (this is actually becoming more popular in races to serve beer afterwards.....I have actually even done races before where they hand beer out during the race....so strange to me!) We still had about an hour until the race started so Sheridan and I drove first three miles of course. I started getting nervous when I realized miles 2 and 3 were ALL uphill!! “Uh oh!,” I thought, “What does the rest of the course look like??” But, there really was no turning back at this point. Sheridan kept saying to me, “You are going to have to forget about trying to make your 8:20 min/mile pace. Just take that goal out of your head now so you don’t get disappointed while you are running”. I didn’t really give him a yes or a no, I just started going over everything I knew about hills in my head. All of the sudden I got Pat McCurry’s voice in my head (my cross country and track coach in college):

“run hard all the way through and over the crest of the hill”
“short, quick strides uphill, long strides downhill”
“use your arms for strength on the uphill”
“tuck your head and arms in, and lengthen your stride on downhills”

Sheridan dropped me off at start of the race, I got in the looooong line to use the port-a-johns, and as I was waiting in line I looked down and realized that my hands were shaking with jitters! I laughed to myself as I got excited for the race and started to remember how fun it was to get that race-day adrenaline pumping.

I did my 10 minute warmup, drills and strides. People started lining up for the start line. I lined up near the middle of pack – thinking I shouldn’t start off too close to the start for a 8:20 pace and get passed by all the faster runners.

The air horn went off and instantly I got excited! Took me almost a minute to get to start line and start the time on my watch. It was at this point that I realized I had started too far back. I stayed on the outside edge of the crowds, picking people off, passing them 10 at a time. I was a little frustrated because I kept getting boxed in and was concerned it was going to slow down my first mile time. About halfway through the first mile I knew I was going fast but had so much adrenaline pumping it was hard to slow down. I just maintained the pace I was at and all of the sudden I saw the one mile sign ahead of me, looked at my watch, and though, “Oh crap”….my watch said 7:01. By the time I reached the actual marker my first mile time was 7:13.

I slowed down a little, but then I had a little bit of downhill and thought to myself, “well I might as well open my stride up and go fast on this downhill to gain momentum for the uphill” . Because I had started further back I was steadily passing men and women, which felt good and made we want to keep at the pace I was going. I got to the two mile marker and ran that mile in 7:36. I knew I was going fast, but I felt good and it felt so good to actually compete again, so I decided just to keep with the pace.

Finally I got to the top of the huge two-mile hill (right before the 3-mile marker). There was a water station set up, so I grabbed the Dixie cup of water, drank half and poured the other half on my head (surprisingly it got to 70 degrees on this February 27th day!). At this point the race turned into a 10-foot wide trail through a beautiful wooded area. I loved this part of the race! This trail went appx. through mile 6 or so with up-and-down hills the entire way. I don’t think there was any flat ground on this section. The field really started to thin out at this point and I was mostly running with guys, although there were a few women along the way. I must mention that I am not very strong at hills, so I had a game plan coming into this race. I knew there would be a lot of hills, so I decided I would increase my stride and pick up my pace as much as possible on the downhills and then use that momentum to make it through the uphills. I always would pass people on the downhill and then those people would pass me back on the uphill. Haha! I am sure I was annoying to them, but oh well, if I wouldn’t have picked up the pace on the downhill part they would have been way in front of me, as I never would have made up that missed ground.

So, I have to tell you, in the first four miles I was thinking to myself, “Crap. I am going to have to tell people after the race is over that this is exactly how not to run a race”. I was certain I had started out too fast (remember, I had intended to run 8:20/mile pace which is the pace I will need to run to qualify for Boston, and instead started out at 7:13/mile pace!). However, my competitive spirit was alive and running (no pun intended) so I decided just to keep with the pace.

I got out of the wooded trail at around mile 6 and hit another water station. This area was very rejuvenating because there were a number of spectators cheering and the terrain wasn’t quite as hilly as the first 6 miles. We ran on paved road from about miles 6-8, hitting another water station. I saw Sheridan at that point. As I ran closer to where he was standing with Lincoln I had this huge grin on my face. I think he was shocked when he heard me say, “I am running 7:30 pace!”. He gave me a nice swig of water and I knew I probably wouldn’t see him again until the finish. At one point, probably during mile 8, I felt really good physically, and had a really positive mental outlook. I remember telling myself, “remember how you feel right now and memorize that feeling. When you hit a wall during the marathon (and it is bound to happen) bring yourself back to this moment when you felt so positive”. We headed back onto the wooded trail at about mile 9 and went back to the grueling ups-and-downs with no flat ground to recover from. I just made sure that I really opened up my stride, tucked in my head, and picked up my momentum on the downhills, and then pounded it out on the uphills.

Miles 9 and 10 were the hardest. There was a lot of uphill and my stride started to tighten up a little bit. I never gave up though, ever. I remember thinking to myself, “well, you have made it this far at this pace, if you can just keep with this pace until mile 10 you should be able to finish strong (as I knew there was a lot of downhill at the end)”. I forced myself to stay present and positive. One of the ways I did this was a little corny but it helped! Whenever I saw a spectator I would smile real big and give them a thumbs up. Some “real runners” might laugh at this, or say I was wasting my energy, but that’s alright. It really helped me to keep my mind from thinking negatively! At about mile 10 one of the race organizers was walking in the opposite direction and yelled, “You are female number 18. In the top 20 great job!”. This was so motivating for me!

I knew that miles 2 and 3 were all uphill, which meant there was going to be a decent amount of downhill on the way back. Once I got to mile 11 the downhill started and I felt really good. There was one really tough uphill somewhere around 11.5 miles by the golf course that was SO steep! There were two people in front of me who stopped and walked up it. After that steep hill the final mile and a half was all flat through neighborhoods around William and Mary college. There was no mile marker for mile 12 (unless I just missed it) which would have been nice to gauge how much further I had to run.

Finally I could see the college arena. Spectators were starting to crowd the streets. One group of college girls were wearing shirts and holding signs that said, “Free Hi-Fives!”. I picked up the pace as much as possible (cursing myself for not doing more speedwork in my training) and focused on the person in front of me. I ended up getting passed by a 40-year old guy in the last 200 meters, but kicked it in as much as I could. The course finished inside the sports arena. I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch at 1:39:59!! That is an average of 7:38 min/mile pace! 42 seconds per mile faster than I had intended to run! I was really happy and proud with my time. In hindsight, I actually think I could have gone even faster on those middle miles, but I had intentionally slowed my pace down because I was afraid of dying at the end (well not actually dying, just my pace dying down).

I went through the finisher’s chute, loaded up on Gatorade and headed outside to find Sheridan. We did a 10 minute cooldown together and then stretched. I went back inside to grab a banana, bagel and two of the free beers that all the finishers received! As I was munching on my bagel I heard my name announced over the stadium’s intercom. I looked up to the main stand and to my surprise realized I was being awarded a medal! I had taken second place in my age group (25-29). I walked up to get my medal and they told me that unfortunately the chip timing wasn’t working this year and so the “official” times likely weren’t my true time. I had my own watch going so I knew my time truly was 1:39:59, but this was a little disappointing. I had lined up about 40 seconds behind the start line and my recorded time was 1:40:41. The person who took first in my age group had a time about 35 seconds faster than me, but there is no way to tell if she started right up at the front, or back where I was. Oh well, I am happy with my time and I still got a medal

In conclusion, I have to say that I am so happy I ran this race. It was the first race I have competed in since I got pregnant with Lincoln (over two years ago!). To all my runner friends – if you are like me and had gotten out of running for a while I would strongly encourage you to sign up for a race! Even if it is just a 1-mile or 5k. It was such a thrill to get that “runner’s high” back. I forgot what it felt like to feel nervous before the race, to feel adrenaline pump through your body when the start goes off, to feel the ache of exhaustion as you are giving everything you have in the last 100 meters, and to feel the sense of pride as you hit the ‘stop’ button on your watch and see the time you finished in. To my friends who have never been a runner – I would also encourage you to sign up for a race! A 1-mile or 5k race is a great place to start! Set a goal and put a plan in place to train for the race. There are all kinds of great training programs online or send me an email and, although I don’t claim to be an expert of any sorts, I would love to help you put a training plan together.

I had a great time at this race and would definitely run this course again. I am looking forward to the Shamrock Marathon in three weeks where it is a very FLAT course. Hopefully I will be able to qualify for Boston!

1 – 7:13

2 – 7:36

3 - ?? (didn’t see the 3 mile marker)

4 – 15:20 (average 7:40 per mile for miles 3 and 4)

5 – 7:32

6 – 7:35

7 – 7:45

8 – 7:31

9 – ?? (didn’t see the 9 mile marker)

10 – 15:15 (averaged 7:37 per mile for miles 9 and 10)

11 – 7:44

12 - ??

13 - ??

13.1 – 16:37 (averaged about 7:54 per mile from miles 12-13.1)

I had written my "projected" mile times on my wrist to keep me on track. Ended up not using any of these times!

Sheridan took this photo while he was sitting down in the driver's seat when he dropped me off for the race start.
The medal I was surprised to get after the race!
Lincoln was more interested in the blueberry bagel in my hand then taking a photo :)
Ok....this is right up there with one of the worst photos ever of me but oh well....I was happily exhausted!
Right after the finish....apparently I can't keep my eyes open for a photo these days :)

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