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!