Wednesday, November 28, 2012

This is what happens when I don't blog for a few weeks!! Long update!!

I had a really wonderful Thanksgiving with Cliff, Kim, Kathy, and Jill! I took way too many pictures of our food but here are a couple. The food and company was awesome!

Pumpkin pie, chocolate pie (tip top left of photo), green bean casserole, cornbread casserole (with lots of cheese!), cranberry sauce, spinach salad, turkey, and mashed potatoes, and deviled eggs! Yum!!

Kim was really excited and wanted to eat but I made them wait so I could take pictures ;)

Post feast food coma!

On Friday, before I left to head home, I got to run around Eugene on Pre's trail! I didn't take any pictures but it's a nice bark dust trail that loops around a park (?) in Eugene. Very pretty and while chilly, it made for a nice outing! I also ended up running 5 miles on the trail, which I'm not sure how I managed since trail maps said it was only 4.

I started up a fun little challenge on Thanksgiving too! It's a running streak where you run at least one mile a day every day from Thanksgiving through New Years. I was hesitant about really jumping in because this is my downtime, but even if I take a few days 'off' and just log a slow mile that's really not a big deal and it still counts. If I start to feel like I really need to take a break though to rest up before I start marathon training I'm at peace doing so. Injury free is my goal!

Today I realized that I'm actually on day 18 of activity of at least 30 minutes a day without a day off. This isn't the running streak, just activity like running and cross-training. On Thanksgiving I only ran 18 minutes so I guess that is one day that was less than the 30 minutes. I have a feeling it averages out to about 45 min to an hour a day though because I've been hitting a lot of yoga classes. I'm pretty surprised at how great I feel! Yoga is not easy but it's been a good complement to running. The stretching and ROM gained in the past 3 weeks have made a difference.

I'm on day #10 of a running streak, but technically it's only #7 of the challenge. I kept thinking that my family was going to think I was nuts for doing this but I realized you all think I'm nuts anyway.

I've been keeping up with my longer runs on the weekends. The girls from my running group this Summer and I have been meeting up for 10+ miles. It is nice to keep the base. The distance isn't the part that is challenging for me, it's the time. I hope that someday I can squirrel away 2 hours to tackle a longer run on my own just to see what it feels like. As such a new runner I really haven't experienced a steady, long run yet. I've gone out and done 11 miles on my own but there was a lot of walking. This was last summer and it's pretty different now! I checked how many miles I've run this year w/my watch and I'm almost at 700. Holy smokes, that's a lot!

Last night was really exciting because I ran 5 1/2 miles with a steady 9:20/min mile pace! I don't usually stop during my shorter runs unless I encounter a light, a quick sip of water at a fountain, or maybe to use the curb or a step for a quick calf extension, but I lucked out last night and kept on past the lights and didn't stop until mile 4 for a super quick stretch. Then I kept on going and finished strong with an 8:40ish min pace. The reason why this was so exciting was because it was a steady run w/a consistent pace except for the boost at the end. Usually I hit this pace on a progression run (where you get faster as each mile goes by) but to hold it was sweet! I had my watch light on so I could check the pace when it buzzed at me for each mile, but I wasn't aiming for anything except comfort. I guess my body just clicked and stayed in that range because it was comfortable. Heart rate doesn't lie either. Once it peaked it stayed steady in Zone 3. How cool is that?!

I love progress. I also am loving the 40F temps and running at night. Don't worry, I wear a reflective vest or jacket, headlamp and a blinking red light on my back. Here is a pic of me last night before I put on my light jacket. It's a silly one but I realized I didn't include any pictures of me in this post so here you go!

So I suppose life has been really positive and uplifting! I haven't gone back to Crossfit yet. I will eventually. Yoga has just been really great and my main goal was to find cross training I loved (that I could afford). That pass covers both Crossfit and Yoga, but Yoga won for now. I'm going to a place that is pretty darn amazing! I tried out a Nia class. It was really intense and overwhelming. I also was incredibly self-conscious and felt awkward stumbling over my feet but this whole story is for another blog post! I'm going to give another instructor a try, likely tomorrow, so we will see how that goes. I shall report back!

I hope everyone else had a wonderful holiday! Stay safe and warm!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Post Marathon daze

Something I've been thinking about over the past week is "what's next?" I'm really grateful to have had the chance to run the Gorge Marathon because I put so much energy and time into training and it was such an amazing experience. This week I've been glowing. This post is kind of reflective and I guess a bit serious - mostly it's because I really need to write this stuff down so I feel more accountable.

Recovery after a marathon is long and something that needs to be respected. For the most part I've been feeling pretty darn great but have been taking it easy. In order to reset a little and let my body rest I'm taking some downtime. This means less weekly miles and maybe some more cross-training. It's tough for me to really get into cross-training as much as I'd like to, but I know in the long run it'll make me a more well-rounded athlete and stronger. I've really only just begun intensely training 6 months ago so if I can get my shi*t together and hit the pool, elliptical (ugh), or take a yoga class then I'm off to a start. I did buy a groupon last month for 30 different classes at a choice of 12 different studios until February 2013. Only 3 of the locations are close to me and they're yoga studios, but for $20 I figured it couldn't be a bad investment even if I only get 10 classes in. So goal number one is branch out and cross-train.

Food has always been a struggle with me. I'm a foodie and I love fresh veggies and healthy whole foods but the past two weeks I feel like I've been eating SO much. Last week I tried to shut up that voice and told myself it was okay because I was eating for the marathon. This week I gave myself a couple days pass to refuel, but I'm well beyond that now and need to get things back in line. Calorie-wise I'm not even really topping out but I know what works for me and what doesn't and anywhere close to 2,000 calories doesn't when I'm not running. At the beginning of this year I used an app on my phone to monitor food and that helped me figure out how much I was consuming and what worked. I really don't want to get back to that and if I keep to goal #1 I won't have to, but I need to step it up a little. I also need to quit my sugar addiction that I somehow gained in the last week before the marathon. Ugh. Ahhh, the holidays and sugar! This is probably the ONLY reason why I don't like living near my immediate family. Hah! Goal number two would be watch my diet, work on cutting off most sugar and get back to cooking every meal. This weekend I stocked up and have been making stuff for the week!

Along with rest I need to go into a little more detail on my running plan. I'm cutting back. Must cut back! Pretty much my entire left side of my body could benefit from rest. My calf tightness is almost non-existent but I can tell with more miles it would come back. I've been diligent about the stretch for that at least. The hip flexor pain I felt during the marathon came back today on what would have been a short quick 2 miler but turned into one and then one limping back. Oh my god, I have no idea how I ran through that last weekend! It certainly made me remember why I wanted to quit for those couple miles. I've got some good stretches for that but it's the sitting at my desk/at home that kills me. I went for an easy 6 mile run yesterday and then proceeded to spend most of my day watching movies in my living room. My futon is comfy but so bad for my back/hips! I need to suck it up and get back to regular proactive stretches and back to the strength training, because when I stop the core exercises I start to fall apart. So I'm saying it again, less miles! I've been hitting about 115 miles a month, with September being 135, so I'm aiming for ~80 for the month of November. Short runs during the week and one long run on the weekends. My next race is December 16th (half) and I would love to PR but my top priority is to cut back miles, rest up and not hit any speedwork for at least 2 more weeks. Goal number 3 is reduce, rest and strengthen the core.

Future marathons! Most people say you shouldn't run more than 2 marathons per year. Ahhh, it's kind of crazy that I'm even thinking about it but I've got a couple races in mind for next fall. I want to get my name in the hat for the lottery for St George but quite a few friends are running Chicago. If I tried to run Chicago though I could likely get Erin to sign up too! Registration doesn't open until February so I've got a few months to think about it and also see what may be financially feasible. Big Sur is only happening because of my tax return. St. George sounds amazing but I wouldn't know until April or May. Failing both of those I'd absolutely run the Gorge marathon again. Chicago sounds like fun but I'm not sure yet if I want to do a flatter less scenic urban marathon. The crazy big crowds sound nice but they also sound a little irritating. Especially the Port-o-potty lines, ick! Maybe my tune will change in a couple months though.

I always thought the people that ran ultra's were inspiring but a little nuts. I've thought about future running plans and realize I'm really a distance runner. I'd like to race another 5k but right now if I did that I don't know if I could hit below 28 minutes. I'll improve with time but it's the longer races that I vibe with. I remember the first time I ran Lacamas last year, my first half, how much I loved running in a race for longer than an hour. Since the marathon is truly a test of mind and not just physical endurance, I had a surprisingly more invigorating and uplifting experience than I thought I would. I didn't go into it thinking I wouldn't want to do another, but I thought I'd feel ready for a break after. Maybe I don't because running is so new for me but it's going to be tough for me to not fall back on logging miles on my feet.

I've been a details girl forever and not exactly a very good 'big picture' person. I get caught up on silly details and it's a downfall of mine. Running right now and kicking it back up in a couple weeks to long 12 - 14 milers would be instant gratification, but big picture says remember to focus on Big Sur! Focus on different exercises. Big picture says time off means you'll come back stronger. There is some trust I'm putting in this process though that is hard because I've not experienced it before. They say that building back up mileage is much easier in subsequent training cycles so I'm putting faith in that and hoping it's true. It's mentally a lot easier for me to just stay in a uber-trained stage, but realistically (physically) for me right now that isn't gonna fly. I'm not a well oiled machine, I'm still trying to figure out how to put the machine together.

As it stands I don't plan to run anything longer than 13 miles until the end of December/early January. I've not figured out my Big Sur training plan yet because I know I won't have someone to run all those miles with. I'm joining up for the year with the Get Fit Live Fit group again, but they changed their name to Run or something. They'll certainly be people to run with there but I'll just be 7 weeks ahead of everyone as they're training for Vancouver USA marathon in June. The 2 season session is $200 and it's pretty much the only thing I'm hoping for Christmas! It's been such a boost having this group around so I'm really looking forward to next year!!

I signed up for the Shamrock run next year! I'm running the 5k again because I'm pretty sure it's going to be the day after a 20 mile run. Hopefully friends or family will come run the race with me again but if not it'll still be fun. Since it was my first 5k in 2010 it's a race that I don't really want to miss. I'm debating Race for the Roses. I really love the race vibe but I don't think I can afford paying for another race that I won't really be able to race. I'm not a big fan of the course either but it's a lovely event. As for other races, if I can I'm hoping to run the Foot Traffic Flat at Sauvie (there is a marathon option and it's scenic and flat but I'm pretty sure I'd die in the heat), Lacamas and the Eugene Women's half. Eugene is flat and I really like the course. There is actually a half there in 3 weeks that is the same course that I'd love to do (it's also $30!) but it's probably a bad idea. The cost sure is tempting though!

I'm hoping to swing time off after Thanksgiving so I can go visit Kim and Cliff again. They're running a Turkey trot 5k that morning that sounds fun but I'd rather stay over the night of Thanksgiving. Mmm pie! Ahhh, goal #2! Alright, this is turning into a bunch of rambles as I've kind of lost my train of thought and am too lazy to edit back and find a better ending.

Goodnight family and friends! I'll leave you with a picture from the last half I ran. I like this one actually! Funny because the race sucked. My pictures from the Gorge are okay. I have a super blurry screenshot from a video of me finishing that I'll post too. The non-blurry picture really isn't that much better but maybe I'll buy it when I have $25 dollars to spend on a picture.

This one is tiny too because I only paid $14 for a small version and I cropped out some people:

And here is me finishing the marathon! I thought I threw my hands up higher but I guess not! Heh!

Monday, October 29, 2012

2012 Columbia Gorge Marathon Recap (long post w/pictures!)

First, I want to address this to friends and family this blog is emailed to. If you've replied to any emails they are not getting to me and haven't been getting to me for at least 3-4 months. I'm not sure why blogger changed the email address to a no-reply email, but if you've sent anything I've not received it. If you reply make sure you put in my email!

Onto the race!!

Everyone's talks about how it's completely normal to not sleep the night before a marathon so I was prepared. My marathon was Sunday so I made sure to pack in a good 9 hours of sleep two nights before. Sleep was hard to come by all week so I knew I'd be a wreck the day before. On Saturday I had my acupuncture appointment and felt really mellow and calm after. I was even tired right after dinner (grilled salmon, avocado and brown rice) and fell asleep by 7pm. I woke up at 1am, well rested and wide awake but knew I had at least 4 more hours before my wake-up so I lazed around then fell back asleep. Somehow the night before my first marathon I slept for 10 freaking hours!

I was starting to get worried something was wrong me with me. I wanted to feel that exciting, "oh my god, I'm about to run a marathon!!" surge that I had felt all last week but it wasn't there. Instead I was very matter-of-fact and calmly put the essentials together, got dressed and ate breakfast like any other day. I even called my dad and read him inane stuff out of the birthday book to waste time before leaving. I think part of me felt like if I didn't feel that adrenaline surge that I wouldn't get through this.

When I left my house for the 75 minute drive it was nasty out. Wind and pouring rain. I actually thought I might die driving out there because my car kept hydroplaning and people were real jerks on the road. It was pitch black and eerie. I thought I might pee my pants I was so on edge. My adrenaline was pumping but for all the wrong reasons, I wanted to save that good stuff for the race!!

As I arrived in Hood River the rain stopped. Poof, gone! It was pretty amazing actually. I caught the shuttle bus up to the start and hung around for about 90 minutes hydrating and hearing most of the other athletes shoot the shit about their Ironman experiences. Awesome. Most of the people I noticed were seasoned athletes doing their XX marathon. Some were being ignorant about knowing that this course was tough. This one guy was like, "oh yeah, I just sign up for marathons to piss off my wife but didn't realize this one had hills". I hope he was kidding. Who does either of those things?? Hills were an understatement.

I finally met a normal girl at the start and chatted with her a bit. She was hoping for a 4 something time though so I knew she wasn't going to become my running buddy, just my right then buddy. I got her to take my picture at the start while we were waiting around.

It was such a pretty area for the start. You could see the menacing dark clouds start to move away off towards the west, near Portland. I made a last minute decision to bring my camera because the weather looked like it was going to hold up until the end.

There were about 280 people that had signed up for the marathon but only 183 showed/clocked a time. This was a tiny race! There were far more half marathoners but I didn't see them at all because we started 2 1/2 miles up at the trailhead and 30 minutes ahead.

We lined up at 9am for a very informal start, the best kind! We were told that the trail was pedestrian only but that most of the course was an open course and to watch out for traffic. They also joked that it wouldn't feel like it was an open course though because there were hardly any cars. I hoped that was the case as I had flashbacks of running on that highway for the Cascade Lakes Relay with big trucks zooming by me.

Since the weather had cleared and it was 60F I shed my jacket and opted for short sleeves and capri's plus my trusty old Glycerin's. I'd been advised to wear the shoe I trained the most in and the Glycerin's have really never let me down. I made sure to check that the shoe's were MATCHING this time too.

The start of this race was all uphill. It was gradual but it slowed me down a lot, which was good. I was in dead last and I didn't care because I knew I was running this race for me and didn't have anything to prove to those Ironman athletes. It was a quiet course and the only noise was the sound of footsteps in the distance and the crinkle of leaves as people ran over them.

The first 4 miles had a lot of up and down's. We gained 525ft and lost 449ft, so it was fairly rolling. I felt strong and comfortable running this course because I had done a lot of hill training and my god, the course was just beautiful. I think I said "WOW!!" around almost every bend. I couldn't believe how breathtaking this area was. I've hiked here a lot (hiked!!) so to be running along such a scenic route was empowering.

It was at the above bend that I made a running friend who was also taking a picture. Her name was Jennifer. In the previous running pictures she is the person wearing a bright yellow vest. She told me that it was her first marathon too but it was likely to be her last. This was kind of a bucket list deal for her and she signed up last year and trained all summer. We decided to run together since we both agreed we were there to soak up the scenery and finish. I was happy to make a running friend as even though I was feeling pretty serene, the course could have easily left one feeling lonely.

At mile 4 you arrive at the Mosier Twin Tunnels and get to run through them! I tried to take a picture but I was running uphill and it was blurry. Here is a picture from TheBeanTeam's Flickr page.

Mosier Tunnels East Tunnel

One interesting thing I noticed around mile 4 was that I hadn't been struggling at all those first 3 miles like I usually do. I wondered if maybe it was a combination of my early wake up time (5am) and all the pretty distracting scenery. Either way it was nice to start the race off so positive!

Whenever I stopped to take a few pictures Jennifer would stop with me. I told her she didn't need to wait for me but she didn't mind. Part of me felt bad though because I am not really the waiting type of person unless we agreed beforehand, but I certainly don't expect anyone else to wait for me either.

After the tunnels from midway through mile 4 and all of 5 we headed downhill into the town of Mosier, population 400. When we were running down that big 500ft hill we turned around to see the 20 mile marker and immediately knew this climb was going to feel like hell coming back. The downhill sure felt nice though! The town of Mosier was tiny and kind of weird. Sorry, Mosier. You were cute, but really tiny towns freak me out a little.

We came out of the valley and started the 6 mile climb up to Rowena Crest. We passed by orchards, vineyards and a lot of farmland. The road was winding and had S-curves but there were a few places where the road was straight and you could see for miles. I kept looking up at the cliffs and wondering if that was where we were going to end up. I'll admit, I was feeling anxious. Miles 6-9 didn't have any elevation loss. We climbed 551ft according to Mr. Garmin. The race directors were right, there really weren't many cars on the road at all!

We could see the Columbia off to our left and Washington was just on the other side. I was looking for Coyote Wall, a hike I did earlier this year, but it must have been closer to the beginning of the course. I always forget how much ground you can really cover when running.

I walked on the steeper parts of the climb. I remember my coach and Deb's advice to go out conservative and power-walk the steep grades. My mile times didn't dip that much and stayed between 11:20 - 12:20. I had set my Garmin to only show my average pace on the entire course and my heart rate. If my heart rate hit over 180 on the climbs I backed off and walked. This strategy worked out really well since the main goal was to conserve energy. I passed about 3 people on the climb too.

Jennifer was steady on most of the climb and it was good to have her there to keep up with someone. I fell behind a little but she would stop at the aid stations for longer so we played tag for a few miles.

There was a bit of a reprieve at mile 10 and we actually hit a small downhill section which made my calves happy. During this mile we passed a lot of the faster runners and most sent words of encouragement. You could definitely tell who was feeling good and who was having a tough race! I was looking forward to where they were on course since they were heading back downhill and looked pretty happy doing so! At the next aid station I took a quick bathroom break and ended up losing Jennifer as I think she did too.

We paid for that downhill on mile 11 though and climbed another 164 feet to the lookout point. What a view!! This was by far the friendliest aid station and they also had fruit. An orange slice never tasted so good. I always wondered what was so amazing about orange slices at a marathon. Everyone seems to love them and they are like gold. I fully understand now. I asked someone to take my picture at the Rowena Crest sign. I'm a little squinty but I was thrilled to have made it!

As I started my trek around the circle viewpoint I took a well deserved break and snapped some pictures. The weather had held up so far and the view was phenomenal. I was looking forward to that nice downhill section coming up and thought to myself that I had completed the hard part! My average pace on my watch was 11:30.

PS: Click on any pictures for a big view!

As I was leaving the circle I saw Jennifer enter. I kept on going and figured she would either catch up or she wouldn't, but I knew I needed to keep on running. The winds picked up on the descent. I fought to keep going and passed a couple more people with smiles and encouragement. We were all in this together.

Miles 13 - 16 were the hardest for me. At the halfway point my time was roughly 2:30. It wasn't the time that bothered me, I felt great about that, it was my left hip. As I tried to pick up the pace a little, closer to 11's on the downhill my hip seized. I had to modify my running and pick up my feet a lot more so that when they hit the ground the shock went up my leg and kind of acted like a release. I found a fence at mile 15 and stretched out briefly. Jennifer caught back up to me and told me she never thought she'd catch me. We both stretched but I had to leave her again because I had to keep on going and she wanted to stretch a little more.

I kept telling myself that once I got to mile 16 everything would feel better. I could run 10 miles. I actually thought about quitting though. Briefly. When I saw the long stretch of road and no one on it I started to feel defeated. At least it was mostly flat, but it sure felt like it was going to take me ages to get anywhere.

This is where I stopped taking pictures. I knew that big hill was coming in a couple miles and I had no idea how I was going to tackle it. This is going to sound really cheesy but at that moment, right before I hit mile 16 the sun came out. While I'm not religious it certainly felt like some sign. The sun hadn't emerged all day and there it was at mile 16, just shining down on me saying, "pull your shit together, you can do this! shine on you marathoner!"

My speed picked back up and I headed back into Mosier and mentally prepared myself for the climb. I was focused and determined and wasn't going to stop until that next aid station. My pace dropped quite a bit on the hill because I had to walk most of it. I didn't care because I just wanted to finish and I was still on track to finish about 5:15.

At the next aid station, mile 20 something I took about a 5 minute break. It was my slowest mile at close to 18 minutes but I needed to regroup. I also needed a bathroom. I forced myself to open my second fig paste (I lost my first 1/2 empty one somewhere on course) and ate about 1/2 of it with some water. I had packed about 8 Swedish fish, some shot blocks and 2 fig pastes and up until then I had gone through the fish that hadn't fallen out, 3 shot blocks and 1/2 a fig paste. I made sure to drink mostly electrolytes up until mile 12 and then I stuck with water. My stomach was not agreeing with me though. I contemplated making myself throw up for a minute because all that sugar was making me feel awful. I was also getting delirious. I remember sitting in the port-o-potty, not able to go to the bathroom and feeling like the ground was spinning. I gave myself another pep talk and walked out of that aid station, let my stomach settle and started running slowly.

My average pace had fallen to about 11:50. During miles 19 - 21 we gained 588ft. Garmin says we lost 220ft too but I sure as heck didn't feel any elevation loss! Hah! I think this was where those tunnels were though and that was downhill. I kept running the downhills and flats and would power walk the climbs. I learned that it was a mental battle to get myself to start running but once I did I felt so much better. My hip wasn't bothering me anymore and my stomach settled by mile 22 but I vowed to not eat or drink any more sugar for the rest of the course. I was fried. Things felt a bit surreal and I think I passed the wall because I was so freaking high on sugar. I definitely walked a lot but only the hills. The absolute hardest part for me though was back on miles 14 and 15. At this point I was determined to finish and finish strong.

The last 4 miles felt great! It started to lightly rain and it was refreshing. My form didn't deteriorate on this course, which I'm sure made a huge difference in how I was feeling in those later miles. I was back on the rolling hills at the start and while my pace was quite a bit slower I was still running most of it. My average pace had fallen to 12:10 but it was a tough course and I knew I had done my best. I could hear Jennifer behind me. She had told me at the 20 mile aid station that she was tired and was ready to walk but I think I pushed her a bit (unintentionally) because there she was still only a couple hundred feet back! I was really proud of her for not giving into the walk.

The last aid station was at mile 23.5. I stopped one last time, grabbed a cup of water and then headed off to finish! Less than a 5k, I could do it!! I felt my second wind and it certainly helped that mile 25 was 310ft of elevation loss! This was my fastest mile at 10:30. I passed 3 people on the downhill and ran the tangents. There was a lovely woman cheering me on as I got to the bottom and she said, "You're looking so strong! Only a little more than a mile left!" I told her this was my first marathon and she said, "Wow!! You are amazing!!". Those words of encouragement were huge and I beamed.

As I went through the little town of Hood River I heard so many cheers. People walking would stop and cheer me on and people in cars would tell me I was almost there. I had on a permagrin and felt like such a winner even though I knew I was one of the last runners coming in. A woman crossing the street even stopped, put down her cup of coffee and clapped for me. After being mostly alone for the last 15 miles besides aid stations, this level of support felt so genuine and heartfelt. I crossed a pedestrian bridge over into the Marina (the end) and encountered a guy who ran out and gave me a daisy and he said, "take this, you're doing great and you're almost done!". A very sweet gesture. I ran out on a muddy gravel road around the point and back down to the finish. I didn't stop running. I was slipping around on wet muddy grass but I didn't care. A few people were standing out in the rain cheering me on. The timer said 5 hours, 18 minutes and 20 seconds. I yelled a big "YAY!!" and threw my hands up as I crossed the finish which got the camera guy's attention. I got my lovely finisher medal, a water bottle and some nice tech socks. I was a marathoner!! I had just ran 26.2 miles and I was still mostly coherent!!

I searched for someone to take a picture of me right after I finished. I was a little out of it so my cheesy thumbs up pose was kind of sideways.

After the race I didn't do much except drive back home. I couldn't stomach food, but I tried. It took me about 40 minutes before I returned to some sense of normalcy and felt like I could drive. It started to pour once I got into my car which made for another scary ride back home. I listened to NPR and they were talking about food which thankfully perked my appetite. Salt never tasted so good. Next time I'm bringing pretzels. And there will be a next time! I was even thinking about Big Sur on the drive back. I'm pretty sure if you're already looking forward to your next marathon that soon after your first, that you had a damn good race!!

My official finishing time was 5 hours 18 minutes and 8 seconds. Total elevation gain was +2,410 feet. Garmin avg pace says 12:06 so I knocked a little off at the end. Besides the hip/stomach issues which faded I'm also happy to report I have no pain, blisters or chafing! My quads were not burning like everyone said they would be on the downhills and my knees were just fine. I'm kind of in amazement since I feel like I should feel more beaten up. I'm walking like a marionette today and my muscles are sore, but that's normal. I've been on air since yesterday and can't believe that only after really being a consistent runner for 6 months (read: 3+ days a week), I just completed my first marathon. And I kicked its ass!! ;)

I should mention I saw Jennifer at the end briefly when she met up with her family. She came up to me and told me that I finished that race really strong and did a great job. I thought about getting a picture with her but she was with her little ones and things were a bit chaotic so I wished her well and told her it was great to have met her. Having race buddies really makes a difference, even if they're only there for a few miles.

Thank you to all my friends and family for your support, inspiration and encouragement. The messages I got before running were so sweet. Yesterday was such a fantastic day for me and I couldn't have asked for a more scenic and special marathon for my first. What an incredible experience. Certainly one that will live on in the memories forever. So next year... do over? You all knew I was crazy, right??

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Race goodies!

I lied, there is one more post. Here is a picture of my bib, bag, beanie and race shirt. The beanie was part of the swag bag but I paid for the shirt. Since I volunteered I was given a 60% discount. The shirt is really nice and perfect for winter running!

Two minutes later as I was sending the picture to my email, Tahini decided to sneak on board to take part of the action. Of course I took a picture.

Ah, kitties!

Quick last minute update

I am home for the night! I was hoping to get in a nice walk but it's pouring and I'd rather not have any sniffles tomorrow. (You just never know!!)

Before every important race I try to see my acupuncturist. She's been really wonderful throughout this season with energy levels and calming nerves. Today I've been in a strange calm space and after seeing her I'm even more mellow. I feel really good right now. I'm actually pretty tired even.

Sadly, it looks like it is going to be raining quite a lot tomorrow so I don't think I'm going to run with my camera. At this point the benefits of having it don't outweigh the cost since it's not waterproof and having to grab it out of a baggy then stuff it back in my pack would be tough. It'll be with at the start and the finish though. If it seems to be dry I'll consider carrying it! I never think to take pictures though, I'm usually really lost in my head. I have limited space in my pack and while I have never gone through more than 1 and 1/3 of the Ignite Naturals Fig Paste I decided to pack two of them. I've also packed 3 shot blocks, a small baggy of Swedish fish and 1/2 of a massive power cookie (Oats and a 3 different seeds: pumpkin, flax, sunflower). The other 1/2 along with my normal greek yogurt, almond milk and garden of life protein mix will be my breakfast! I'm also carrying water and electrolytes for the longer stretches of the climb w/out water, but will stop at all the aid stations.

I'm still trying to decide what to wear. I'll play it by ear though as the aid stations allow drop offs. I've got a basic outfit that works and I'll likely stick to it but add in a lightweight Brooks water repellent jacket if it's pouring when we start and then just drop it at an aid station along the way. I'd like to not have to wear a jacket at all though!

Since I volunteered last night I was able to get a discounted long sleeved quarter zip tech shirt. They had an olive green and a blue color so I went with blue. It's made by Greenlayer which is a great local company! I won't wear it tomorrow but it will definitely get use over the winter.

I'm about to go eat some soup/bread and then in a couple hours making dinner. I decided on something easy and something that I know would work for me: grilled salmon, black beans, tomatoes (salsa), and either quinoa or a little brown rice. I've always eaten fairly light the night before a race and made sure to eat before 7 and that works well!

Just wanted to post one last update for my family - mostly it's an apology if I don't have a lot of pictures. The route should still be pretty but also pretty wet! I'll do what I can :)

Two ways

There are usually two ways we can choose to let things affect us. Some things are easy to brush off while others are a bit more challenging. This is oversimplifying the process a little, but let's face it, you're either affected by something in a negative or a positive way.

Last night as I was volunteering for packet pickup I was with a girl who was pretty much an elite athlete. Honestly I'm not even sure what kind of marathon time you have to pull out to be considered elite but her PR was 2:56. Her MARATHON PR is 5 minutes from my first half marathon time. Jesus. Her half marathon PR is 1:20. She gets free elite entries into races.

She was talking about her training. This girl (I'm not going to use her name) lives and trains in my neighborhood. I'll probably end up seeing her someday. On a regular week she is running 90+ miles. This week her coach told her to run 65 because she was running the half on Sunday and something else today and she was devastated. When I told her I only ran 6 miles this week she looked shocked.

I do want to clarify that I may be painting a picture of someone that we all love to hate. That's not at all how it was. She was very matter of fact and also had a dry sense of humor to boot that I vibbed with, but who couldn't help but to feel intimidated just a little? Especially when she nonchalantly mentioned that she didn't understand why people planned to walk in a marathon, why not put in the hours and train to run it? For some reason I felt defensive. I stood up for myself and said, I'm not walker but I sure as shit am going to likely be walking some of those steep hills tomorrow so hopefully you don't think I shouldn't be running. She assured me she wasn't talking about me but it's tough to tell what she thinks. This person is in a completely different head space than me. She asked if I had a goal time and I felt sheepish when I told her I was hoping to cross the line by 5:30 but I'd be over the moon with 5 hours. But I have no idea what to expect. I just want to finish.

The dumb part is that if I had no idea of her background I would have proudly told her my goal. So why did her background matter that much to me? It didn't mean that I wasn't a runner. All those hours of running and training this summer still count, whether it's at a 7 minute pace or an 11. She even said that people need to understand that you have to build up to the mileage that she is doing. There are people that are mentally there but physically they can't do it yet and that is okay. She told me that if I keep on this route that I still have the next 10 years of my life to peak as middle to long distance women runners peak in their 30's. I knew this but it felt good to hear.

I went into packet pick-up thinking that I would be on air all night and instead I started off feeling inadequate. After about an hour I decided that there were two ways I could take this encounter. I could continue to feel inadequate, overweight, slow, and like a big fat newbie, or I could embrace the fact that I was standing next to someone with so much experience and glean from it. She had been training for at least 8 years. We were both about the same age but this girl had been eating and breathing training for almost all of her 20's. She works at Nike and wakes up and runs 10 miles for breakfast. She has worked hard and gotten to where she is by hours and hours of training. So instead of feeling bashful I asked her for advice and started to feed off her past. I felt lucky to have met such a strong, bad-ass woman who truly has found her calling. Running isn't her "job" but her job allows her to clock those miles.

The point is, I didn't let her psych me out. She wasn't even there to psyche me out but as a painfully new runner I am always humbled and used to playing the role of the slower one. I was in a relationship where my ex was a lot faster and while he claims to be supportive he would say the damnest things that certainly were not supportive. I think when something has affected you like that for awhile it's tough to fully crawl out of that place.

This girl and I were essentially polar opposites. She's the type that would drop out if the race isn't going well because she doesn't want a shit time on her record. I'm the opposite. Unless I'm injured I am going to keep going and I don't care that much about my time. I will crawl to that finish line if I have to. I care about the experience and I care about finishing. We live in very different worlds. I respect and admire her tenacity and dedication but that doesn't mean I'm any less of a runner.

We parted ways and she wished me luck. I came home and reflected a bit and then it really started to hit me, I'm running a marathon TOMORROW! Holy shit! I have running friends, non-running friends, and family that are supportive. I've trained my little butt off all season and I'm ready to go out there and make myself proud. This is about me. It's not about the girl I met last night who will likely pass me even though they start 3 miles and 30 minutes behind us. I'm running my own race and I'm going to run it smart. I've made it this far, and I have so many more years to keep on doing what I've grown to love to do! Wish me luck!!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Less than a week!

Today I think I ate the most carbs that I have in a really long time. It wasn't entirely intentional but I was just so flipping hungry and carbs sounded good. Eating a lot is a bit more justified the week before a marathon, especially eating right. I am going to eat my way through that damn wall as I know being properly fueled makes a difference!

Tapering has been really strange for me so far. I'm a big fat hypochondriac. On Friday I woke up with what I thought was the start of posterior tibial tendonitis and was in tears because it hurt so bad to walk. In an hour I was completely fine. It's hard not to feel completely ridiculous when relaying that story. I've shared a lot of the details and then edited/deleted them because the whole thing makes me feel dumb and unfortunately my boss got to see me all teary eyed and making a doctors appointment. To say I'm a little embarrassed is an understatement. But at the time I swear I felt like I could not walk, let alone RUN 26 MILES. Oh well, I am learning.

Phantom aches and pains are actually really common in the taper cycle. I did feel a bit validated reading articles about this strange issue and also seeing other taper crazy friends post about their decisions to run on the treadmill this last week because they *might* trip outside. That fear though is rooted in something real. My best friend Erin twisted her ankle in a bad way two days before the Toronto marathon two weeks ago. I can't imagine the disappointment she felt. Training for a marathon is a huge undertaking. It takes up your life. It's kind of your baby for 4+ months and you want to see it come the freak out, grow up and take shape. You want to fawn over how exciting the whole thing was and forget how your inner thighs were always rubbed raw before you discovered bodyglide and running capri's, and that you may or may not have peed yourself a little during your 22 miler. (I didn't but know those who have, no judgments here!) Those things just don't matter cause you just had a darn baby ran a marathon! Dramatic, right? I'm pretty certain that I sound like I'm speaking Greek to non-runners. My one runner friend told me that the last 6 miles of her first marathon felt like childbirth all over again. All I can say is lord, I sure hope I don't experience that because childbirth scares me shitless.

Onto something a little more serious that I just kind of want to get out. I've noticed that I am harboring a bit of negativity towards certain people who lack support and I'm working on letting it go. It's not running my life by any means but it's disappointing because I've been truly excited when something awesome comes to fruition in others lives if I am privy to the information. I guess for me it's tough because I've struggled with a lot of self image and weight issues and this is the very first time I have stuck with an exercise type routine on a consistent basis. And liked it. That is huge for me and has been a major source of self confidence. It's just kind of a bummer that certain people who I felt close to don't seem to know how big of a deal this is for me. Of course I'm not going to spell it out for anyone. Most people don't read this blog but hey if you're reading and you've been my friend for awhile and not said anything I'm likely talking about you. I still retain my east coast forwardness and I'm also happy to talk to anyone (and you know I will be honest) but some battles are just not meant to be fought.

This year it's been a big reason why I've been so happy to make running friends. I enjoy that we can all get together and get along so well for having such different lives/backgrounds. The common denominator is pretty awesome. The fact that it's a healthy common denominator and not that we all can take 10 shots of vodka and not pass out is way cooler. It was nice that they said they wished they knew about my race sooner (ha ha, I didn't know for sure either!) so they could drive out and cheer me on/run with me! (I wouldn't expect that anyway as it's 90 min away). These kind of bonds and support from other friends like Aundria, Erin and Trish have really made me re-evaluate the kinds of relationships I need in my life to thrive. So I'm working on letting others go slowly. Or at the very least I'm working on keeping the energy shifted to the positive people in my life. Most of my social time is spent during rock climbing or running and I kind of like it that way. I get an occasionally breakfast or cup of coffee with another friend for catch-up here and there, but it always feels nice to get outside and enjoy life with the people you like spending time with too! I can only do so much though and I don't have to be active to hang out with someone - it's just more likely to happen sooner if we plan something out and about.

So back to my rambles about the marathon! My race plan is even effort and I'm actually going to work more on keeping my heart rate in a certain range on the climbs and the downhills. The flats I'll try to keep at a very conservative pace near 11's for the first 15 miles and if I feel like I can give it more after mile 15, I certainly will but I'm also fine with slowing it down if that's how it goes. Throwing in a big elevation change variable and being a newbie runner is big. But it's exciting big :) I kinda love a challenge! (Ask me though on Sunday if I still feel the same way...)

I'm certainly nervous about the course; who wouldn't be? It's hard for me to know exactly how I'm going to be feeling or how the race will go so the best I can do is be prepared and trust my training. Which I do. I feel (mostly) ready. I'm tackling a big challenge but it feels really exciting to look forward to gutting it out and just basking in the experience. I haven't looked at the weather since a few days ago and don't plan on looking until later this week. The last I checked though it looked like it was going to be mid-50's, partially cloudy and a super low chance of rain. I like rain. It's the wind that scares me! I'm running with my camera though and will definitely be posting pictures as the area is just *gorge*ous!

Since my mind is kind of tunnel visioned this week you may hear from me again before the week is up. I'm debating on how many miles to run this week as well. Most plans say I should be running 10 - 12 but my coach had everyone run 4 and the rest of the week was rest and cross-training. At this point I am embracing the extra rest and thinking two shorter easy (3 mile) runs with a few strides thrown in for good measure sounds like a good plan. On Saturday I'll go out for a walk and maybe skip a little to let out some energy. Ahhhh, okay, I need to get my butt into bed. I've not been sleeping enough!

This post is deserving of my "word vomit" tag.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Girlfriends Race Recap

Yesterday was just not my day. It started out well and I was on track for at least a 2 minute PR but somewhere in mile 9 I started feeling gut cramps and by mile 11 I was in line for a port-o-potty. I was in/out pretty quick (2 minutes) and tried to make up for it at first but then a couple smaller hills came my way and I just was done. Mentally, done.

The morning was a little warmer than I would have liked, but thankfully the rain held off for us. It was about 58F to start and a gray Portland Vancouver day, but the humidity was really high. A good portion of this course took us by the Columbia and the wind was a nice reprieve as I was sweating buckets.

I met up with a friend from Dailymile, Christina, and she met up with her friend, Jolene - also from DM. We took a quick group picture before the race. Christina wasn't racing because of tendonitis in her foot/ankle area but she came out to cheer us on, which was super awesome.


Myself, Christina and Jolene

Usually it takes me a good 3 miles to warm up when I'm racing or going for a long run. Almost all of my half's follow the same pattern. The first 3 miles I am feeling like I went out too fast (even if I didn't) and low-energy. My feet feel heavy and my body tries to barter with my mind. I begin telling myself that it's okay if I slow down or walk, it's just not my day or my race. I sometimes think about quitting. Somewhere around mile 4 though I start to snap out of it. I'm alive and in the groove. The race is enjoyable, my breathing is controlled, posture and form is on point and I feel I could run for hours. It's a magic light switch. It wasn't until later this season that I recognized this pattern and that it happens to me like clockwork every. single. time. I'm not sure why it took me that long to figure out but it's made a huge difference. Now I can I mentally prepare for that hurdle and tell myself that once I hit mile 4 I know I'll feel 10 times better than I do right now at mile 2. And I do.

The weird thing about yesterday was that I didn't have any early mile hurdles in the way of mental barriers. It's possible though that I just didn't have time to think much about them as this race was packed. I spent the first 4 miles passing people left and right. There was a lot of weaving, which is such an energy sap. Frankly, I'm amazed at how consistent my pace was despite this annoyance. There either needs to be a tighter cap on this course or a more organized corral start. 2,500 is simply too many for where we were running.

They tried to start us in 4 corrals based on pace. This was a nice gesture, but it seemed like more people took this as a suggestion as I encountered a ton of walkers in the first mile. Some were walking 4 abroad and wouldn't move. I yelled at a group because I was really irritated that they were obviously walking the race and ignored the pace corrals. It wouldn't have been as much of an issue if they didn't block half of the road. In retrospect I was pretty mean about it but I did try to say "excuse me" first and they ignored it. Runners/Walkers, please be aware of your surroundings! Learn race etiquette!

I caught up to someone who had run in the Get Fit Live Fit training group with me. I wish I could remember her name, but she was always really nice. We chatted for a few minutes, I told her about my plans for the marathon and off I went! We passed each other on an out and back around mile 5 (for me) and she cheered me on. It was a nice boost.

Around mile 3 there was a girl who became my race buddy. I never got her name, but I heard people cheering on a Karen, so I think that may have been her. She came up to me and said she was following the girl in the green skirt, me, for awhile and asked if she could stick with me as I was running a good pace. It was nice to have someone to chat with a little but I lost her somewhere a little after mile 7. This was her 5th year running Girlfriends and her last time was 2:15, so I'm going to guess even though she fell behind, she took home a shiny new personal record! I wish I had seen her after the race as even though she was keeping up to me, she kind of kept me going too.

One thing I noticed was just how sore my arms were. I went bouldering the day before but used my arms a lot more than usual since I didn't want to tire my legs. What a crappy idea! You know how you use your arms for propulsion while running? Well, when they are tired it makes it really tough to run. Especially up hills. I've never been more aware of my arms yesterday as I was in my entire life. Shaking them out didn't really help and I had to keep stretching my fingers so I wouldn't tense my fists (as I accidentally sometimes do) since that made it worse. Lesson learned; that was an incredibly awful feeling.

Besides that though my splits were amazingly consistent for the first 8 miles.

Miles 1 - 8: 9:51 / 9:49 / 9:48 / 9:48 / 9:48 / 9:49 / 9:48 / 9:48

I was aiming for a pace below 9:50. For a 2:10 half (my goal) the avg pace needs to be 9:55. I knew there were a few hills at the end of this race so I figured I'd make up a few seconds ahead of time as I'd likely slow a little on the hills.

Mile 9 came about and I slowed a bit. I remember drinking some poorly mixed Gatorade (extra strong) and when it hit my stomach I felt sick. I started thinking about finding a bathroom but thought I could push on. I knew the culprit was my midnight snack of pita and Lebanese food. Syrupy Gatorade didn't help. I try to eat light the night before and never much after 7pm, but I couldn't sleep, was hungry and broke my rules. Mile 10 came and went and it felt like the longest darn mile I ran. I walked up a pretty measly hill and found a bathroom around mile 11.

Miles 9 - 11: 9:58 / 10:21 / 11:18

I felt better after the BR break and a couple cups of water, but knew I had already threw my PR. Well, not entirely. I could have hit it if I wanted to nail two sub 10's the last couple miles. That wasn't going to happen. My brain said, forget it, and I kept on but walked 1/2 of the last hill at mile 12. As I eased into the finish and the last mile I surged ahead and fed off of the crowd. I also made passing people into a game to occupy myself and keep my mind off my gut and super tired arms. More people passing. Was this ever going to end?? I am not fast but it felt like I was passing people the whole darn race. TOO CROWDED.

Mile 12 & 13: 11:01 / 10:28

My watch buzzed for the 13th mile right before the finish. Was the course short or was it just all of the tight out & back turns? Those throw off GPS a bit. Maybe a combination of both?

I finished the race in a respectable 2:11:41, which is only 26 seconds later than my PR time. It's not that I wasn't thrilled with this time, but I knew I could have done better. I don't really like to blame the bathroom break but ah, that is life. It wasn't really the bathroom break anyway. I think I could have kept going if I wanted to. There were a few other reasons why this just wasn't my race but it's not worth spewing about on my blog. Funny how when you mentally just aren't into something that it's so much easier to just throw your hands up and say "oh well!"

At the end I really started to think about the Marathon and how excited I am for that. I am two weeks out and on my second taper week. Last week wasn't tough because of the race. There was some back and forth on whether I'd try to shoot for a PR yesterday, but I decided to just see what I could do. The marathon is going to be tough no matter what. After yesterday's race I got home and ran about 3 miles for a total of 16 yesterday. It wasn't exactly the same as a straight shot of 16, but my HM pace is over a minute faster than my marathon pace, so it was actually really tough, especially to get going. Splits: 10:59 / 10:58 / 10:32 for the final push (.77).

The interesting thing I've noticed is that most people's time difference between their half marathon and marathon pace is closer to 30 or 40 seconds. Maybe I'm on the safe side with mine, but I'm sticking with what I trained with this season. It's incredibly likely that due to the tough marathon course and normal drag that hits at mile 20+ that my average will be well above this. I'll race as smart as I can and enjoy myself. That's my goal!

They unveiled the handmade finisher medal for the marathon today, isn't it beautiful?

Next up I'll talk a bit about my plan for the next two weeks! Finally I will leave you with one more photo, as no race is complete without a thumbs-up grinning photo of me. This has kind of become a cheesy trademark. Tada!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Columbia Gorge Marathon - T minus 16 days

Well, I've gone and signed up for a marathon! It's October 28th, 2012 and is called the Columbia Gorge Marathon (CGM) <----that is also a link!

Am I totally crazy?
Yes, probably but I'm ready. I've made really great strides with stretching and the PT. My calf is tight but with everything I've been doing, it's been pain-free and my runs have been great! I know I can't do any speedwork right now though as my run on Tuesday was faster (9:10 ish pace) and I felt a little stiffness after that. Not a big deal though as my HM goal pace this wknd is 9:55, but I'm hoping to run 9:45 - 9:50 if I go for a PR.

Two weeks ago I had a decreased mileage week (21 miles) and then last week I ended up running more than I should at 29 miles, as I couldn't help but to run the last 8+ miles of the Portland Marathon with some of my training buddies. How amazing was it to run with them and see them finish? I'm so proud of those ladies!! Running with all those athletes out on the course the last few miles was really inspiring.

Will I be racing this run?
No, not at all. I'm not sure I'll ever "race" a marathon. Hah!

Do I have a time goal?
Not really, but I have a very rough goal of finishing under 5 hours and 30 minutes. Once I share the elevation profile you'll start to understand why! My first goal is really just to finish and I will be immensely proud of that.

Why not chose a flatter, easier course as your first marathon?
There is something about smaller, beautiful courses that really pump me up. The crowd experience can be really exciting, but so can running mostly on your own. The small race encouragement feels very genuine and personal. Besides the goal of just finishing it the course were flat I'd hope to finish close to where I trained this season, at the 11/min mile mark, which is under 4 hours and 50 minutes. I feel like I'd put too much pressure on myself though with something like that and the last thing I want to do is stress when I should be excited. (And oh my god, I am SO excited!!)

Maybe someday I'll be interested in running a flatter course, but who knows if I will even want to run another marathon after Big Sur? I found this race back in August and have been thinking about it since then. The stars aligned and it worked out!

Race perks?
Handmade finisher medals! Homemade soup and bread at the finish! Super cozy long sleeved technical shirt for $25. I didn't order it but they'll probably have one at the race I can buy. THE SCENERY!

Alright, so let's see this elevation profile you're talking about. How tough is it?
Let's just say Big Sur's total elevation gain is about 1100ft over the course of the run and Columbia Gorge Marathon is 2300ft. Big Sur has a steeper grade on Hurricane Point. Big Sur also has the possibility of a lot of wind, but I'm guessing the Gorge does too. Both look incredibly difficult. I like that. Here is the CG's elevation profile:


The last bit is going to be really tough. Especially the steep downhill grade at mile 25. Ouch!

Why this marathon? Why not just stick with Big Sur?
Well, I always said my first marathon would be a spectacular one and I'm certain that the CGM meets that criteria. Running through the beautiful Columbia Gorge on the Mark O Hatfield trail (paved and closed to traffic) among the fall foliage sounds so lovely. Thank you so so much to my dad for making this possible and supporting me along this journey.

Taper Time!
This mean's I'm in the first week of my taper! It coincides well because I am running a half this Sunday. Not sure yet if I'm going to chase a PR on it, but I'll see how I feel then and just plan to have a good time. I'd like to go run 4 miles that night on tired legs to stimulate more marathon training and my last long run, but not the longest run (the 22.4). I won't be worried if that doesn't happen though.

This week I've only run about 3 1/2 miles so it's been a good start. I plan to get out there tonight for another short run at HM pace and then rest Friday and Saturday before the race. Mileage for this week should hover around 22 miles, which is 80% of my avg weekly mileage.

Next week and the week after will both be lots of rest, extra cross-training (yay for the climbing gym!) and keeping up with stretching. Mileage goal for next week is 15 miles. I'm hoping to run an 8-10 miler (easy) that weekend and a couple short runs during the week. Mileage goal for the last week is just one easy run of 3-4 miles and then the Marathon on Sunday!!

The rest/taper is tough. I already know it's tough since I've had the cut back woes, but I am looking forward to this because it's a plan. I kind of feel like I haven't had too much of a plan and now I do. I can reap the rewards from my training, have a great race/experience, and then take a little bit of time off and then start to cycle back up the weekend mileage early December.

Time to carb on up!!

Some other exciting news:

I feel really good about this decision and today I've been on Cloud 9. A few other amazing things happened to me too!

Garmin Watch Replacement/Great Customer Service
I contacted Garmin again and they offered to replace my 405cx because of the really poor battery life I had been experiencing. I told them I would post a glowing blog review of their customer service if they made this right, and they did. Garmin apologized for the product quality and sent me an RMA right away. The new replacement watch will have a year warranty and be sent to me 7-10 business days once they receive my watch by UPS express!

The 405cx is a solid running watch but I couldn't figure out why I wasn't getting anywhere near the 8 hour battery life. I had called their customer support a few months ago and they told me because it was out of warranty that my option was to replace the battery, have 4wks+ of downtime and pay $80. Ouch. A new watch (right now) is $190. I paid $220 originally. Here's the thing though, I had taken really good care of the watch, never gotten it wet (besides I guess, sweat) and only logged 700 miles on it. There was no reason why I shouldn't be getting at least 6 hours of battery life still.

So thank you Garmin. Thank you for making this right and for replying to me so quickly. The customer service I received was wonderful and this is my shout out. I'll post more when I receive the replacement!

Possible New (Free!) Running Shoes
On another note, my co-worker told me that he was going to get comped Asics somewhere down the line because he was doing some work for them. He got my shoe size and it looks like I may be getting myself a pair of new kicks sometime soon! How exciting is that?? After Brooks, I am comfortable in most Asics. (I made sure to let him know I'd need a wide neutral pair) - yay!

This was quite a long update but I wanted to get this out there in blog land! I'll have more time these next few weeks to catch up with everyone and also write a bit. Hopefully the taper doesn't make me too cranky! The cool thing is my first marathon is after most people have run theirs and everything is fresh on their minds, so any advice I can glean, I will take!

Tips/Advice?
This was quite a long update but I wanted to get this out there in blog land! I'll have more time these next few weeks to catch up with everyone and also write a bit. Hopefully the taper doesn't make me too cranky! The cool thing is my first marathon is after most people have run theirs and everything is fresh on their minds, so any advice I can glean, I will take!

Do you have any good tapering tips? Whether how to "cope" or just what you did that worked or didn't work. Was tapering really tough for you or was it a positive experience? What should I be prepared to expect?

Have a lovely weekend to my friends and family!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

PT does not just stand for physical therapy

While doing PT tonight I thought of all the things it should stand for. Pretty tedious. Phucking tough. Painful torture. Pickled thighs. Pie time. Pizza tonight.... if you couldn't tell I went from grumbling to thinking about food. :)

I'm trying to get myself into the habit of making this a regular thing so I've been trying to figure out the best way for that. Likely I'll need to print out an excel spreadsheet with check boxes and tape it somewhere that I'll feel guilty enough to keep up with this religiously. I keep reminding myself a few things: This is a prescription. This is going to make you a stronger runner. If kept up regularly this might also mean your out of pocket costs to see the actual physical therapist will be pretty minimal. Soak up all the information you can get and stick with what works. It's going to take time to see results. This is now a part of your training... for the rest of your life. Get used to it.

Tough love is usually the only thing that works when I'm talking to myself.

If anyone is curious here is the long list of what I'm doing every night for now:
Single Leg Squat (hip stability / quad & glute strength / balance) this one is tough w/my knee creakiness so I usually don't do a full squat
Hip Press (similar to a bridge but lift one leg to ceiling with hips up - hamstring / glutes)
Side Plank Leg Lifts (ouch! - core strength / glutes)
Low Plank / Knee Tuck (core strength / hip flexor strength and ROM)
The Jane Fonda (haha) lie on side, lift leg up and back diagonally (glutes)
Single Leg Deadlift - (balance on one foot, push other leg back and up, hold - hamstring / ROM / balance)
Stairway Hamstring Stretch - one leg on ground, other leg straight up on a stair, foot flexed against step, slide hands up railing and feel the pull
Hip Adductor Stretch (leg bent and placed up on table that is hip height, move leg back for more stretch)
Foam Roller: IT band, quads and hamstrings

It's time consuming and I'll likely drop most of these things back to 3 times a week after a couple solid weeks. I've been strongly considering a gym budget so I can get in some more cross-training right now as well as hit the pool. The downside on this one is, the only gym that has a pool that I can afford is the gym that my ex goes to. I'm not too keen on running into him. Ever.

The stretch that is helping the most right now and is what I'm doing 3+ times a day is:
The Calf Step Stretch! - ball of feet on stairs w/heel off. Drop heel one foot at a time, hold for 60+ seconds both with knee bent (soleus) and knee straight (gastroc/achilles) twice on each side. Oh! This stretch hurts so good!

My sports massage therapist, Colleen, suggested to invest in this rocker apparatus that apparently works well for calf stretching plus increases dorsiflexion (stretching the toes towards head). In my last entry I think I mentioned that my feet stretch only a couple degrees where as the normal foot should flex at least 15. I've been warned that my lack of foot flexibility could put me at risk for plantar fasciitis if I don't loosen up. This funky rocker thing supposedly did wonders for Colleen. I'll happily pay $10 now to use some weird foot rocker if it means increased flexibility! Sold!

Another suggestion was to buy a 4 pack of lacrosse balls to tape together: 3 on bottom as a base w/middle one doubled up to use for focal glute and calf tightness. Sounds good to me!

Clearly I'm pretty eager to ward off any potential injuries even if it means spending a little extra right now to soak up information from as many resources as possible.

What kind of things have you done for PT? How did you learn to stick with the schedule? Is there an exercise or stretch that you really felt you benefited from? I'd love to hear any other suggestions or creative ideas!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cutting Back On Mileage (runner woes)

It's tough to cut back on mileage once you're hitting 30 - 35 miles a week regularly. I've been feeling really great sustaining this but the past 3-4 weeks have had small nagging pains that have forced me to alter my schedule a little. Mostly this has meant more rest time but I've still be running the miles. I'm in a comfortable schedule of running on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and sometimes Sunday and it's really tricky to break that but my knee and calf have been plotting a bit against that!

It started with a really minor ache in my knee on our 20 mile run that I didn't complete. I was okay with that as I know when to push through the miles and when not to since my knee injury in Sept 2011. After getting sidelined for 3 whole months and then slowly working my way back up to anything I knew I wanted to avoid any big alterations to my training schedule from an injury.

The knee thing comes and goes but I started to have a few other things crop up. There was the week where running just felt really weird. That was when my chiropractor adjusted me and told me that my left hip was a bit turned out. He told me I needed to work on stretching my hip flexors as well as loosening up my IT band (with the foam roller). I listened for a couple days. The past few weeks have been calf pain. Nothing major, just little aches. Over the week it traveled down toward my Achilles which caused me to cut a run rather short. Walking back to my car with that dull nagging pain and realizing that this was the fourth week with some minor ailment confirmed to me that I had to talk to someone. I have been pretty darn tired of these weird little aches. They've been small but I know how they can grow and I'm ready to cut anything off at the pass. I'm sure my knee injury last year was a blessing in disguise because it's made me ultra-aware of anything that doesn't feel right.

The main thing that happens to athletes is overuse injuries. This can be exacerbated by a few things like improper shoes, form, or a weak core, but the first place winner for injuries is too many miles and not enough rest. The risk for injuries increases exponentially for newer runners, like me. Because let's face it, I really didn't start any sort of consistent training program until the end of this May. Garmin files prove it. I ran about 170 miles last year total and this year from May - present I've already run 425.

When I started this season I tried very hard to be diligent about my stretches and strength training. As the months wore on though and I settled into a comfortable schedule those exercises kind of dropped into the "when I feel like it" zone. Laziness is a big reason why this happened because I just ran 8 miles darnit, do I really need to spend 10 whole minutes stretching? Do I still really need to keep doing single leg deadlifts, side plank leg raises and bridges? Well, according to the PT I saw yesterday that my coach referred me to, why yes, yes I do!

I'm really thankful for the resources I have been connected with in this program. My insurance doesn't cover PT until my absurdly high deductible is reached and even then they only cover 30%. I was able to be seen by a fellow athlete and runner for a free 20 minute consultation that turned into a 90 minute session with some cold laser treatment, electro-therapy and a lot of awesome information on stretching and discussions about what was likely going on these past 4 weeks: my foot flexibility - or lack thereof. My calves are so darn tight that I can't flex my foot up towards my toes more than a couple degrees. I found out that normal flexibility should be at least 15 degrees. Vince, the PT, told me that I had very strong calves but because I'm built with quite a bit of muscle I absolutely can't skimp on the stretching. I also really need to keep up with the core strengthening exercises I was doing because core strength is so important and likely my glutes aren't pulling their weight. When one thing starts to fail because they're not up to par, it's pretty easy for other parts of your body to overcompensate and BAM! you're feeling aches and pains all over.

The main stretch I'm working on to loosen up my calves and Achilles is a calf extension drop stretch done on a stair. This is when you're on the ball of your foot and drop the heel back over the stair and feel this intensely painful and torturous stretch up your calf. Or at least for me it feels that way. The sad part is that my heel drops like 2 inches, maybe. The good part though is that even after only two days of doing 2 sets for 60 seconds on each side, twice a day, my calves feel a little looser. I was able to run last night in track and felt pretty great!

Vince told me that I really need to think of these stretches and exercises just like a prescription that a doctor might give me. Saying that to me kind of hit home how important consistency really is. It's more important than running at this point. I've also been told to cut mileage in half for the next 3 weeks to let my body rest. I have a half in a couple weeks that I was hoping to set another PR on but he reminded me that I'm 29. I have years and years of setting PR's and running ahead of me if I take care of myself now. Even though I know this, sometimes it really helps to have someone remind you of this. It's so easy to get caught up in the "now" but running is really about keeping yourself strong and healthy for the future. Isn't that one reason why we run in the first place? To stay healthy? Getting some extra rest in now and maybe shifting that focus to some biking, climbing and even swimming could be the difference between myself managing to get by right now with random aches and pains vs coming back as a stronger, faster and well rested runner.

Don't get me wrong though, I'm still running! I want to run. I can blog about what I am going to do all day but it doesn't mean that this isn't tough. Vince said to continue to run on the days that I've been running to keep up with my schedule but cut that distance in half. I need to spend some time thinking about this because our program is up next week and I'd still like to devote my Saturdays to longer runs of 8-12 miles. (Originally I had planned on 12 - 16). But if I plan a 12 mile run that means I only can run 3-5 miles during the week. That... sucks. And honestly, that won't work for me. I've got to figure something out that does work and that likely means giving up the longer weekend mileage for a little bit. I've never been very good at running distances over 6 miles on the weekdays so for now that's at least a good thing!

After my next race I have 2 months until my next half in December. They do a super in depth running analysis at the studio/gym that my coach works at. He is our coach but also is a personal trainer and triathlete superstar so he's awesome to have on board for this too. It's $150, so it's a little pricy, but it would be really wonderful to get some detailed feedback on my running style and what I might need to change or even if I'm on the right track but could use a few tweaks here and there. Both Vince and Jeremy watch you barefoot on the treadmill and in shoes. They make recommendations and then in a month or so there is a follow up. These recommendations would also include a rough schedule going forward. To understand the bio-mechanics of what is going on when I run would be incredibly useful for me because I know there are always things to work on. I'm not a skinny, flat chested, built like skinny dude, runner and that isn't changing anytime soon. I know that I am likely more prone to injuries but with that I know I can get the knowledge to prevent them. If anything I am at least in tune with my body and eager to learn.

Vince made a good point. He said that running for me right now is something I'm clearly passionate about. It's something that is a great outlet and it's fun. The last thing I'd want is to keep running the high mileage weeks right now and end up with an injury that could become chronic that either takes me off the trail or makes running so painful that it isn't fun anymore. The last thing any runner wants to hear is to cut back but while it's tough, I'd much rather take extra time off now than be forced to take time off in February when I'll be full-swing training for Big Sur. Got to keep my priorities in check because I am going to run an awesome first marathon! Maybe not an award winning time, but I will certainly be much happier if those 26.2 are pain-free. (Well, as pain-free as a marathon can be!) Cheers!

Monday, September 17, 2012

The milestones of a runner

This Saturday I ran 22.4 miles. That .4 of a mile is not to be neglected, let me tell you! It was a really tough run and I thought about stopping a lot during the last 6 miles. I ran this run with Deb and Shannon and Deb yelling to "push through" is really what got me through this. I finished the run thinking that I have no idea how people run another 3.8 miles, but I'm guessing the adrenaline does really help on race day. There isn't much of a reward waiting at at the end of a 22 mile training run besides maybe some peace of mind that you just slogged through something incredibly tough and experienced something that only a small portion of the population experiences.

I started the day not knowing what distance I was going for. Last weekend I had quite a bit of knee pain and ran 11 1/2 instead of 20. It was a smart decision then and it was the only reason why I was able to run like I did last week. The problem though last week was that disjointed feeling I kept having. A quick visit to the chiropractor on Friday told me that my left hip was turned out a bit, which was probably causing some of my knee pain, the stiffness and the awful back pain I woke up with that morning. He did his thing and told me I should be better by tomorrow (Saturday), and I was! But I didn't know that until I started running.

My plan was take the first 6 miles, see how I feel and either keep on running or head back and run the second half faster than the first (negative splits). I felt pretty great at mile 6 so I kept on going until 11.2 when we got to the end of the trail and saw my coach. He kind of rolled his eyes at me because he knew the chances of seeing me were pretty high once he saw I brought a water bottle to put in his car "just in case". I checked in and had no knee pain at that point either so I made the decision to finish the run.

Thankfully the last 5 miles of the trail are mostly flat and at a gradual decline. It slowed us down a bit on the way up, but helped to keep our legs moving fast enough and cadence up on the way back. We stopped at the picnic bench when we had 6 miles left to go to drink and take in some carbs. Deb told us we were going to break the 6 miles into two 3 mile sections. When you're running on tired legs it really helps to mentally break up the sections into shorter manageable ones. At mile 3 we didn't stop though, we kept a brisk walk for about a minute and then kept going. The main reason for that was so we didn't cramp up - at that point if you stop you're probably toast. Oh, how I wanted to stop, but I'm so glad she didn't let us.

2 miles left... then 1. I was ready to walk, telling myself that my last longest distance of 18.2 miles was 4 weeks ago. Two weeks prior we ran 17.5 but the jump to 22.4 was pretty significant. I knew if I stopped I'd still be proud of myself, but I also knew I was so darn close!

At 3/4 of a mile she called out "push through it!!!" and maybe it was just her trying to boost herself too, but it worked. Shannon had gotten a blister and Deb had a couple hot spots from rocks on the trail. I luckily had nothing going on except a sore pinkie toe (which I'm used to) and just very tired legs, which we all had. When we reached the gate though it was sweet, sweet victory. I did a final sprint/hobble to it, touched it and shut off my watch, which just hit 0% battery life (talk about timing it just right!!).

Our overall pace on the trail was 11:07, which for a trail is pretty good. Trails are softer, except for when you encounter those darn rocks, but I've read that people are 10 - 20% slower on trails. We weren't that much slower, and I think that speaks to our training. It certainly is a nod to Deb, our awesome friend and pacer. I ignored my watch because GPS and pace is always off in the forest. (My watch clocked about a mile short).

I led us from about mile 12 - 17 when the miles started to get tough for me. Sometimes I need to stare ahead down the trail to focus, and I seem to focus better when I feel like I'm on my own and not watching someone directly in front of me. I don't always feel like that, but I do prefer to be in the front or side by side. This run was by feel and sometimes I felt a little panicky that I was going too slow because I certainly felt like I was dragging, but it looks like we were fine!

Running 22 miles is a big milestone for any runner. Especially for the first time. I'm not sure if I'll run this distance again before Big Sur, but I will run 18's and 20's. I think running 22 miles is more about feeling confident in your mental ability to push through the wall and keep running on tired legs. I'd like to read a bit more about how much actual benefit it is for you physically in a training cycle. Big Sur won't be about time, it'll be about finishing. I feel confident I can finish (it's still 7 months away) but I'm pretty glad I didn't sign up for a marathon this season.

I've had a great training season so far and would have never guessed I really could have made it this far. Going into Saturday with an open mind was the way to go as that's kind of how I've approached this season. I had hoped to go for the distance since June but I kept an open mind. I'm pretty stoked that I really have been able to do it! I'm humbled every step of the way, let me tell you. I have major respect for first timers that tackle these marathon training runs on their own - I am pretty sure my mental fortitude is not strong enough to push past all these walls. Having a couple people to share these runs with has made a huge difference in confidence and I will carry that forward with me.

Erin is running the Toronto Marathon in a few weeks and has been running these long runs on her own. She's someone I know can do it because she's always been a lot stronger than me. I remember when she visited me a few years ago and ran like 7 miles on the track in the rain just to keep up with training. I still can't imagine running 7 miles flat out on the track. (That's 28 laps. Ugh). Her goal is to finish the marathon, but I already know she's going to do really well; Erin has never been a quitter and she's tough. I wish that her and I could run our first marathon together, but we just couldn't work that out. So wish her luck!! Go Erin!!!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Summer heat and into the mind of a runner

7pm and it's still 84F. In the Pacific Northwest the temperatures peak later in the day. I've learned that if a forecast says it should be 90F that day that the thermometer won't hit even close until 3pm and usually will peak at about 5. Some people are better at running in the heat than others, but I'm definitely a big heat wuss. I like 50 degrees, but I'll run in 70 semi-comfortably if it's not sunny.

Last night was a track night so I already had my fair share of hot weather running for the week so it looks like tonight's a bust. I've had a stressful week (work and my car deciding it needed an expensive new radiator) so I'll be thankful when I get a little bit of a breather this weekend.

Tonight though I really wanted to run. Besides it being a normal running day, last night just didn't go very well. It was a long track workout and I got 5 miles in with some speed intervals, but my body felt super awkward. I was like the kid at gym practice who runs into the dodgeball by mistake and gets herself thrown out. I think the best way to explain it in non-joking terms is, my body just felt out of alignment. I have a feeling a trip to the chiropractor would benefit me so I may try to get in there tomorrow.

So, I've already given up on tonight. At 6:50 when I looked at the temp I knew that I just wasn't going to have enough time to run where I wanted to run (15 min drive over) before the sun went down. It sets pretty early now and I want to get about an hour of solid running in if I can, which is about 6 miles, give or take. When you only have XX number of running clothes and 1 laundry day a week you find yourself getting stingy on the quick runs. I love going out there for a couple miles, but only if I know my good clothes are still clean for the longer runs. This weekend is shaping up to be hopefully a couple solid days of long/medium length runs so that's nice to look forward to.

If I can drag myself out of bed early enough tomorrow I'll get a run in, but I'm gonna be honest, I SUCK at waking up before 7am for a run. I don't know how people get up at 5am. Discipline? I don't know... it sounds like torture to me. I like my sleep. Even if I fall asleep tonight before 10, waking up at 6 to do anything but pee and go back to bed is pretty unlikely. I will sleep until 8am, maybe even 8:30 if I can get away with it.

Oddly enough though waking up early on the weekends for running is way easier. I'm guessing it's because I don't have to coordinate a shower so I don't offend my coworkers. Plus the sitting at a desk part all day answering emails to grumpy people about money is kind of a good mood killer. On weekends I can get a nice run in, head home, eat a delicious lunch and then nap or chill out for a few hours before anything socially exciting may happen.

Tomorrow night is out for a run because Saturday morning I'm running with the group. I'm still really undecided on what distance I want to run and at what pace. I guess I'll let my body on Saturday tell me what I'm feeling like doing. It's unlikely I'll go the 22 miles because I didn't do the 20. It's probably more likely that I'll run about 12 with 6 at a slower pace and the last 6 faster (as the last 6 will be on my own). It would be good training! It would also mean Sunday's chances of a nice 7 miler or so are a lot better.

So there you go - that's a peek into the mind of a runner. Well, at least this one. We pretty much think about running a lot. We see trails or nice shaded roads and make a mental note to come back and run them. We're usually thinking about our future runs. Sometimes we're feeling a bit guilty for skipping one. This is completely normal. Think about something you really love to do. Heck, I can even compare it to religion. It's really not that different. You may say a prayer every night at dinner before you eat or every night before you go to sleep... but one night you were rushed at dinner or drank too many glasses of scotch before bed and passed out. Those feelings of guilt are very similar to the feelings of someone who hasn't stuck to their exercise schedule. Even if it's for a fairly valid reason, it's just how it works. We just make sure we'll make it up tomorrow or have a couple super awesome runs over the weekend. Or we will learn to let it go. And that's okay too. When you embark on a 20 week program of doing anything 4-5 days a week it just kind of sticks. But it's a good kind of stick.

All in all though it's probably better I didn't make it out tonight. While I could have used the stress killer I am pretty sore today. I haven't been sore in awhile, so that's reason #12 for why I know my body is out of alignment. I think I'll get some nice stretching in and a quick yoga video or two on youtube. I should probably make a date with the foam roller. I've been avoiding him for awhile; we have a volatile love/hate relationship. I do all the work anyway! Typical. (Of course my foam roller is male. That thing inflicts pain! Haha)

Hopefully after my season is done I'll come back around with some more exciting updates. Not really sure what though! I don't plan to stop running but I may cut down a little bit on mileage for a few months and might pick up hiking again. I like where I'm at now in terms of miles/week but it's always good to rest too! Nothing crazy though - you all are pretty much stuck with hearing about this for a long time. C'est la vie! At least I don't smoke crack. :P