Dear Lord, this was hard. My last ‘full’ was the Catamount Ultra (June), and with that, came injury. The 5,000 elevation gain over 31 miles did my hamstrings in to the point where I was down (completely DOWN), doing nothing for 6+ weeks. I started training again on September 2 (yes, FOUR weeks of marathon training), for the Budapest Marathon. This injury break was the first break from running that I have had in over seven years. Why so much drama? Because dude, when I started running again on September 2, I couldn’t even run two miles with out huffing and puffing, and my legs felt like cinder blocks. 😩 It doesn’t take much to lose your fitness, especially when you’re an old lady. It felt like I hadn’t run in YEARS. I knew that trying to come up in four weeks to run 26 miles was going to be hard, very hard.
My plan was to try to do a balance of Orangetheory Fitness and running, but running would take priority. I also registered for races to keep me honest with my distance and force me to do hard longs. On September 7, I was supposed to run the Old Forge Marathon (already registered for the full months before). I dropped down to the half. This was a doozie. I did a half with only one week of training, ha ha (not recommended). Having zero training, I did a run/walk and finished in 2:56:10–how depressing. It was also a trail race, so I would have been happy finishing in 2:30 because trails take longer. On September 14, I added another race, the Boulder Field 18-Miler. This was another doozie and a technical, and gorgeous, trail race. It was HARD. I finished in 5:0542 (only 18 MILES, not even a full marathon, however, it did take me 25 minutes to cross the ‘boulder field’). I should have finished in about 4ish, but this was technical. The trail races were good training, but with the need to do power-hikes up the steep climbs, I didn’t get the consistent road running that I needed. I felt like it was an okay plan for ‘four week marathon training,’ but nonetheless, my cardio (heart rate), still wasn’t where it needed to be. For a regular marathon, I run at about 155 BPM. I was still in the high 160s, low 170s with any and all training runs. This means walk breaks are inevitable. Brutal.
On to Budapest…
Last March, we were looking for a race for Reilly’s long school break. I started my usual research and low-and-behold, the Budapest Marathon came up. Yes, it’s a long flight (nine hours, to be exact), for a long weekend, but with this being a new route for American Airlines out of PHL, we were able to book all three of us, direct, for 60K points. UN-HEARD-OF. Booked! Going direct was key. This would have been an impossible long-weekend if we had to layover in Europe.
Nish and I visited Budapest exactly five years ago. It was when we used to do ‘three city’ trips, and the minute we arrived on that first trip, not only did we fall in love with the Marriott and the lounge, we knew we screwed up because we didn’t schedule enough time for this beautiful city. We were only there two nights on that trip, so we didn’t even scratch the surface. We were super excited to not only visit one of our favorite hotels again, but to show this beautiful city to Reilly!
We arrived at 8:15 a.m. on Friday morning. The plane was a junky old 767. We were so perplexed that the only charging outlets between the seats were CIGARETTE LIGHTER CHARGERS. Dude, this plane used to have cigarette lighters between the seats. RETIRE this plane, American Airlines!
We arrived and took our mandatory nap until 1 p.m. We knew this would set us straight. Our first day was a great day of exploring and picking up my bib. I was SUPER worried about this race. Not only was I not trained for 26 miles, there was a hard cut-off at 5 hours 30 minutes. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue (unless I were in altitude), but with so little training, I knew I was in the danger zone.
Also surprisingly enough, with our mandatory nap, I found that we were more adjusted than we expected. Normally when we travel over seas, we are broken for days and have to set an alarm to make breakfast by 10:30 a.m. With this trip, we were all up by 9 a.m. each day, with no alarm.
We took advantage of public transportation in Budapest. We used the street cars for everything. The marathon start was one transfer away. Close, but too far to walk. I am amazed that I actually got out of bed at 6 a.m. and got myself to the starting line…all..by…my…self.
On to the race…
I arrived early. I was so excited to meet up with my running friend, Jim Diego. I actually do not know how many races we have done together (a lot), but we met at a race in Alaska in June of 2016–so fun! Jim was super-tuned for this race and I was not, so we went our separate ways! This was an absolutely gorgeous race. The weather was perfect. The city was perfect. The aid stations were perfect. I’m used to chatting along the way, but it’s such an international event, I didn’t know who spoke English. Sometimes I said something and someone spoke back to me in a different language (like German). Ooops. I loved the music of this race. They had percussion bands throughout the city–it was so much better than a giant speaker blaring ‘today’s hits’ (noise nuisance). The percussion bands were so talented and gave the race a nice feel. I loved this race, I had only wished I were tuned to run the whole thing non-stop. I was not.
By the half, I was struggling. It was getting hotter and my heart rate was sooooo high (from the lack of training, I was in the low 170s–which is way too high for me). I made an executive decision to run/walk (no need to drop dead). This slowed things down, and with the 5:30 hard cut-off, I knew I had to keep a strict run/walk, so I ran .75 and walked .25 (to let my heart rate go down), every mile…for 13 miles (soooo brutal). I just don’t enjoy this struggle, but I didn’t fly all the way to Budapest to DNF (‘did not finish’). Jim finished a lot earlier than me and waited on the corner of the bridge as I came in for my long, slow finish. He cheered me on an snapped a picture of my angry, struggle face.
I finished in 5:27:28. Yes, I had 2 minutes and 32 seconds to the cut off. I don’t think I’ve ever finished that close to a ‘finished DNF.’ This means, I still could have crossed the finish line, but because my time was past the 5:30, I wouldn’t have received an official finish time. I would have been recorded as a DNF. Ugh. I pushed to get in, but I was done for. We headed back to our our hotel. Jim and I chatted for a little and we went our separate ways. What a beautiful medal.
We truly enjoyed this little adventure! We loved Budapest and would love to figure out how to visit again some day. It’s such a beautiful city. In our last few days there, we enjoyed more lounge time, more coffee and more beautiful sights. We even visited a thermal bath. It was so relaxing to be in the 90 degree water after the race! Until next time, Budapest!