Thursday, December 20, 2012

Calcium Fortified Orange Juice for Leg Cramps

I've decided this topic deserves its own little post because Calcium Fortified Orange Juice is such a miracle elixir to me.

Like many people, I sometimes get leg cramps.

I started getting them occasionally during my pregnancies -- these awful night-time leg cramps that would start as a restless feeling and sometimes escalate to full-blown iron-hard knotted legs -- hip to heel. I hadn't had them often in my non-pregnant life until I became a runner. Then, at random times, they'd flare up and bother me. Usually it is an issue for a few days in a row, or several days over a couple weeks, and then it will subside and not be an issue for a few weeks or longer.

Anyhow, back when I was first getting them in my pregnancies, somewhere I learned that calcium fortified orange juice could help. Orange juice is high in potassium, which has something to do with the cramping, and I am not sure if the calcium was also supposed to help or if I just got the calcium-fortified stuff because most people, especially women, can use all the calcium they can get.

So whether or not the calicium has anything to do with the magical cramp fixing properties of orange juice. Plain old orange juice might work fine, too, but I am sticking with calcium-fortified since I know it works and I benefit from the added calcium.

Anyhow, if I have about 6 oz of the magic elixir in the evening, I WILL NOT EVER get leg cramps that night. If I wake up a dozen times between 10 PM and 3 AM in agony with cramps, then finally convince myself or my husband to go get me orange juice and chug it down, I will sleep blissfully the rest of the night. You'd think after going through this at least 100 times in the past 17 years, I'd know that there is no point in hoping they'll get better and allow me to sleep . . . no, they will not. But, if I get some orange juice, I am golden. There have been nights that were so bad that I actually cried real tears out of exhaustion and discomfort; these were nights when we were (gasp) out of orange juice concentrate in the freezer, so I'd been struggling for many hours trying to sleep. There have even been nights when my husband has gone out in the middle of the night on an orange juice run. This usually happened after hours of my tossing and turning and begging him to rub my legs -- which he would do and is soothing, but will never actually stop the cramping.

I think the running probably has brought the leg cramp business back into my life with frequency since I just sweat so much and exert my muscles so much that somehow the fine balance in electrolytes gets goofed up. That's my best theory, anyway.

I try to have a small glass of orange juice most days, especially when I am running hard. If I do that, I just never have those awful leg cramps. If I neglect it, they start again, and I just mix up a glass of juice and am good to go.

So, anyway, it is a cheap, harmless, healthy trick. If you get nighttime leg cramps (or leg cramps any time), try orange juice. Calcium fortified. If it doesn't work for you, you've lost nothing.

For the record, I always buy frozen Minute Maid, but I would guess that any brand should work.

Hansons Brothers Marathon Plan - for #3

It didn't take me long to commit to Marathon #3. That sub-5:00 is still calling me, and I had been tempted to sign up for the inaugural marathon in my hometown, Reston, VA.

So, March 24, 2013 is Marathon #3 in Reston, VA.

It's rolling hills all the way, so sub-5:00 might be a challenge, but I am taking my training up another notch, and I am going to give it a go. In fact, I am gunning for 4:45 just for the hell of it. It might be a long shot, but I am still going to try.

So, for now, I am going with 4:45 goal time, 10:52 mm goal pace. Here we go!

Once I'd committed to the race, I realized I had exactly 18 weeks between #2 in Philly and #3 in Reston. Since most marathon plans are 18 weeks, that seems like a good fit, but that is forgetting the post-marathon recovery period of about a month. Nonetheless, I figured I could bounce back quickly and then jump into a marathon plan a few weeks in. That's what I am doing. :) I took a week off running altogether, and eased back into it over a couple weeks, and was back to 30 mpw by Week 3, so I feel good.

I had considered a redo of Hal Higdon's Intermediate 1, or taking it up a step with Intermediate 2. Then I was tempted, again, by Pfitz 18/55 or, more likely due to the post-#2 recovery period, Pfitz 12/55. I hated to cut Pfitz short since everyone says the 18 week plans are the gold standard. Plus, the more I read the Pfitz book and study the workouts, the more overwhelmed I was getting with so many varieties of paces and workouts and, also, the variable schedule week to week, which would make planning my regular life even more complex. It is a bit easier for me to wrap my head around a plan that is generally similar week to week rather than one (like Pfitz) that assigns random days off/on and changes up what you are doing on Tuesdays week to week.

In my internet surfing, somewhere I ran across the Hansons Brothers Marathon Plan. I am not sure where I first saw it, but within a few minutes, I'd clicked two clicks on Amazon, and thanks to Amazon Prime, I was reading it 48 hours later. I've devoured it, and re-read sections. I am sold.

So, I have chosen the Beginner Plan instead of the Advanced Plan, even though their book indicates that I should/could handle the Advanced Plan. Well, call me a sissy, but stepping up to 6 days/wk & up to 59 miles per week (compared to 5 days and up to 43 miles per week in HH Intermediate 1), with three days per week with prescribed paces (compared to 1 day, only some weeks, in HH Intermediate 1), well, I think that is plenty of a step up for me for now.

If I thrive on this plan, I'll surely look forward to tackling the Advanced Plan. Next time.

So, that's it, I am doing Hansons Brothers Beginner Plan. I am in the middle of week 5 right now, 13 1/2 more weeks to go until Marathon #3.

Also, I am doing the local Run to Read Half Marathon in Fairmont, WV on January 6th. That'll be at the end of Week 7 of the Hansons Plan, which, according to the book, is actually the ideal time for a tune-up race, although they recommend 5k or 10k, not HM. But, I really want to do this race, and so I am doing the HM and will just trim other work outs in Weeks 7 & 8 to accomodate the extra effort of an HM.

After the recent untimely death of my Garmin 410, I now have a new Garmin 410 along with a new heart rate monitor. (I kill them in about 6-9 months.) I hadn't had a HR monitor in about 8 months, so this is very exciting for my data-obsessed self. I've discovered that, not too surprisingly, my heart rate has become substantially lower at comparable paces since my last HR monitor died. The good news is that I guess I've gained fitness. The bad news is that I seem to have become very comfortable running very easily. I think I forgot how to run hard and push my limits. I'm rediscovering that, lol.

OK, so what about the plan?

Weeks 1-5:

Weeks 1-5 are scheduled as low mileage easy running "base building". If you were/are already running more mileage than the (pitifully low 20ish mpw) called for in the plan, you are encouraged to keep at whatever you were/are doing and then start with the official plan in Week 6.

I think it seems far fetched that anyone who wasn't already running more than the 20ish mpw they call for in Weeks 1-5 could handle the remainder of the plan, which rapidly pops up to 35-40+ mpw. So far, that's the only really lame thing I've seen in the book. I think they should have assumed you had a base of 30 mpw (minimum, really, to handle the mileage soon called for) and then come up with some reasonable workouts for those first 5 weeks, perhaps easing you into the speed work, etc.

Weeks 6-10:

so Weeks 6 to 18 of the Hansons Brothers Marathon Plan generally includes, weekly:

+ 3 easy runs (Mon, Fri, Sat)
+ 1 interval workout (Tues)
+ 1 tempo (race pace) workout (Thurs)
+ 1 long run (Sun)

Hansons has three "Something of Substance" (SoS) workouts each week. The remaining three runs are "Easy" moderate distance (5 to 8 miles) runs.

The interval workouts are done at 5k race pace, with repeats increasing from 12x400m (first week) up to 4x1200m in Week 10. Each of these interval workouts uses 400m recoveries, adds on 1-2 miles of warmup and cooldown on each end, and has a total of 5k pace work of about 3 miles.

Tempo runs begin at 5 miles in Week 6 (plus warm up and cool down of 1-2 miles each) and work up throughout the program, hitting 8 miles by Week 9. By the end, I have tempo runs of 10 miles on Thursdays, so with the wu/cd miles, that'll be a minimum of 12 miles on those days in the later part of the program.

Long runs are done at a specific prescribed pace that, for me, at goal of 10:52 mm (4:45), is about 11:40 mm. This is quite a bit quicker than the Hal Higdon method I'd previously used that had me run long runs very easily, typically, by far, my slowest run of the week. Hansons refers to the long run as a long WORKOUT, not just a long easy run.

Since I will be running a hilly marathon, I am doing long runs at 11:30 on the flats, and will do them at 11:40 when I get the chance to run some on rolling hills.

One notable thing about Hansons is that they limit your long runs to sixteen miles maximum! This is controversial, but I think their reasoning is sound, and I love the overall plan, so I am going to give it a whirl. Their rationale is that:
  1. You should not run a long run of more than 25-30% of your weekly volume. This restricts 20 milers to people running over 65-80 mpw. Elite runners running over those distances can run the 20+ milers. I don't fit in that category. ;)
  2. If you run too long (see #1), that one workout takes so much out of you that the remaining workouts of the week are compromised and you risk injury and/or burnout.
  3. Your other workouts are important.
  4. The "cumulative fatigue" of all your hard work all week makes it so that even when you run "only" 16 miles, you are essentially practicing the LAST 16 miles of a marathon since you come in on tired legs and you are also running at a reasonably challenging pace.
I have to admit that I love the idea of omitting those scary 17-20 mile runs from my training plan. I've BTDT, and I now know I can do them, but they scare the crap out of me every time, and they drain just a bit of the joy out of my life both worrying about them the days before and recovering from them the days after. On the other hand, I adore 12 to 15 mile runs! And, Hansons offers me lots and lots of them. I mean, 16 is almost 15, and I just have to tag one extra mile onto my favorite 15 mile run, and I'll be all set. And all those 12 milers can easily be done on my second favorite 12 mile route. I have visions of lots and lots of great Thursday and Sunday 12 to 16 milers!

Easy runs are run truly easy. For me, at 10:52 mm goal marathon pace, my easy pace is between 12:00 and 13:00 mm. I am allowed to choose which end of that pace range I want for my easy days and miles according to mood, conditions, etc. I appreciate that flexibility!

Weeks 11-17:

These weeks are similar to Weeks 6 to 10, but they replace the 5k pace shorter speed interval workouts of the earlier weeks with Strength intervals instead. These are longer than the speed workouts. These ones start at 1 mile, building up to 3 miles, and then tapering back down to the shorter runs in the couple weeks preceding the marathon. They always total 6 pace miles, with recoveries varying from 400m to 1 mile, depending on the distance of the repeat. They are done at marathon pace - 10 seconds. Like the earlier speed intervals, you again add 1-2 miles of warm up and cool down on each end.

Tempo runs continue to notch up, hitting 9 miles in Week 12 and 10 miles in Week 15. These tempo runs will likely be the most challenging run of the week, I'd think.

Weeks 17-18:

The taper starts at the end of Week 17 and is really just 10 days or so, although a few elements ease up a bit the couple prior weeks. I will reserve final decision until later, but I am inclined to sharpen up that taper a bit, taking it a bit easier those last 14-20 days than prescribed. I'm not sure I am as tough as their typical runner, and I feel like I might need a bit extra time to fully recharge for the race than the schedule allows.

So, that's the big plan.

So far, for the first few weeks I've:

Week 1: Zero running, recovered from marathon #2

Week 2: 22 miles easy

Week 3: 29 miles including first interval (8x400) and tempo (5 miles at MP) workout and my long run at HB pace (11:30) with a fast finish Hal Higdon style

Week 4: 29.5 miles including another interval (7x600) and tempo (3 miles at tentative HM pace of 9:46) workout and long run at HM pace

Week 5 is in progress. Looking like 30-35 miles is likely. So far, it's going great. Third interval workout (5x800) and tempo (5 miles at tentative HM pace of 9:30mm) are done, and I'm looking forward to more good running.

I've been using the tempo runs these first few weeks to play with goal pace for this half marathon on January 6. (I'll revert to the plan's marathon pace plan for those runs as soon as I get through the HM.) My HM PR is 2:11:xx, right at 10:00 mm. I'd like to meet or beat that if possible. In Week 4, I tried 9:46 pace, and it felt pretty manageable, and my HR was low (for HM pace), so this week I did 5 at 9:30. That was pretty hard, but I held on OK, and my HR was still in the low end of where I'd expect for HM pace, so I am thinking that my ideal pace might be close to 9:30.

Next week, I'll give that HM pace one more shot at 9:30 and then make a final pacing decision for the HM, but, for now, I am inclined to start at 9:45 for the first 3 uphill-ish miles, then settle into 9:30 for the remainder (downhill for 3-ish miles, then flat for the rest), allowing myself to add any spare juice after mile 10 if, by some freak occurrence, I actually have any juice left. I might be over-shooting, and I might crash badly, but that's OK. This is just one more learning experience. Either I'll meet my plan, or I'll learn something while I fail to meet it.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Redeemed in Philadelphia: Race Report

Philadelphia Marathon
November 18, 2012
Marathon #2
Official Time: 5:02:57. 11:33 mm average pace.

(PR by over 18 minutes, first was 5:21:08 back in May)

OK, so there is the short version.

Here goes the long version. Grab a cup of coffee, or hop on the treadmill, because it's going to be too long, as usual.

Back Story Part 1: Summer of Sloth

After having a great time running for several weeks post-marathon in May, somehow I just stumbled away from running. Sometime around the end of June, I fell off the running wagon unexpectedly. For about six weeks, I only ran about three times, each time in a race I was previously committed to -- a work event, a team trail run, and some other run that I am forgetting.

Why? I don't know exactly -- but it had something to do with:
1) I hate running in the heat.
2) My mom was having some ongoing scary medical issues, which kept me busy helping with that, and absorbed a lot of my emotional energy, and also depressed me.
3) Over the preceding year, I had gotten more and more behind in "home making" stuff like painting the house, cleaning closets, etc. I did a lot of catching up on home projects.
4) I was feeling blue.

I am not sure which came first: not running or feeling blue, but I do know they feed off each other. And, of course, once that cycle starts, all the ordinary excuses not to run (travel, kids, family, painting the house, whatever) are much harder to resist. So, there went six weeks.

Nonetheless, as my already-registered-and-travel-plans-made-for November 18 marathon loomed closer, I finally jumped on the training bandwagon in late summer, about 14 weeks out from the marathon. I jumped into Week 5 of Hal Higdon's Intermediate 1 Marathon Plan. I didn't really WANT to run yet, but I just decided to run anyway, and, sure enough, motivation came afterwards.

Lesson learned. Again. When in doubt, just RUN! Running feeds motivation.

Back Story Part 2: Hal Higdon Intermediate 1 Marathon Plan

Plan review: It was awesome for me! My legs were solid. NO INJURIES or close calls the whole plan. Rare use of ice and even rarer ibuprofen. I worked hard, but I didn't get hurt. This was AWESOME.

The five days a week of running was really great for me. The long runs on tired legs on Sundays after hard runs Saturdays definitely made for harder Sunday runs, especially at the beginning of the plan when getting used to it, but I know it was great for me, and I held up just fine.

I also started massage therapy with a truly awesome massage therapist, and I am pretty sure that has helped immensely as well.

In any event, I was super happy to complete training and approach the marathon injury free!

I'd been training with a 11:00 goal pace in mind. However, my primary time goal was to get sub-5 hours, so I figured I might start a little slower than 11:00, and either speed up at the end (yah, right?!) if I felt super strong, or slow down some more while still making my sub-5 hour goal. I didn't quite make the sub-5 hour goal, but I came close, followed my general plan well, and I am totally happy with my time and my race.

The Real Story: Race Report!

Race Day!!

Pre-Race Chaos

The race start time was 7:30  7:00.

How exactly did a Type AAA, super-over-planner, get the start time off by 30 minutes? I have no f#$%^ing idea. Anyway, no harm, no foul, and I got an extra 30 min of sleep!

So, according to my minute-by-minute schedule, I woke up and started drinking and eating at 5:45, allowing 15 min to finish consuming stuff, 90 min to digest/dress/travel, and 30 spare min to get to the port-a-potty for a final time and get to the start. Of course, start time was at 7:00, so this was all a bit screwed up.

So, our hotel (Hyatt at Penn's Landing, which was AWESOME), was a short drive from the start, and Steve, my husband, gave me a ride, dropping me off at about 6:40, nearly 50 lesiurely 20 chaotic minutes before the start.

I had arranged to meet my friend, Ted, at this Iroquois statue near our corral. We've met online on my favorite running forum, and had never met IRL. I figured that since I had 45 minutes before the start, I'd get in the long port-a-potty lines before looking for Ted. I got in line, chatting with folks near me, and after a few minutes, I noticed that people were looking really tense and abandoning the line. I was rather confused by their anxiety, and I mentioned to the folks near me, "What's the big rush? It doesn't start until 7:30!" They looked at me funny, and giggled nervously at my joke.

Joke? Huh? What? You say it starts at 7:00? Like, in TEN MINUTES? Oh, well . . . Uh . . . Ooops.

So, I left my place in line, bumming about missing a chance to pee as I really already needed to go, as my timing of all that gatorade at 5:45 counted on me being about to pee now! But, I now only had ten minutes to find Ted (who I'd never met before) until folks started moving!

I hurried over to the corral, and cruised the length of it twice looking for the 5:00 pacer who we'd also talked about meeting near, and after not finding that pacer, I went to the statue and found Ted! Minutes before the start!! Way to plan, Stephanie! No harm, no foul, right?

In the Corral! Gun Goes Off!

We went back to the corral, where Ted's brother, Stephen, was waiting for us, and where a friend from my hometown, Amber, also found us. We now had a little pace group of the four of us! FUN TIMES!

Very soon, the starting gun went off, and we all slowly started walking forward. I knew we'd have a good bit of time (probably close to half an hour) before crossing the start line, and we were moving very slowly. I saw that the porta-potty lines had disappeared, so I jumped at the chance to get to the potty! Moments later, I was back in the corral with my friends, now with a blessedly empty bladder! Simple pleasures!! YAY! It turned out to be very fortuitous that I'd done that, as after leaving the start, the lines at all the porta potties the entire course were really ridiculously long. (That is the one complaint I have about the race -- and that is a major failing!) I would have lost several minutes had I needed to stop again. Thankfully, I did not! I will probably follow that plan in the future for a final pee break -- wait until the start gun goes off, jet out of the corral, pee, jet back to your corral. No harm, no foul, empty bladder! 

So, here I was, walking towards the start line with Ted, Stephen, and Amber. Ted and Stephen were running the half, aiming for 2:30. Amber and I were each running the full, each aiming for sub-5, although I'd been intending to aim for 11:00 mm for the first 20 miles or so, allowing for a bit of a slow down in the last few, while still hoping to get solidly under 5. I had impulsively set my watch pace for 11:10 instead of 11:00, wanting to be conservative to help me be more sure of hitting my sub-5. (11:27 is the required pace for 4:59:59.) It took about 30 minutes before we crossed the starting line.

We're running!

Miles 1 was really slow! Garmin time was 11:52 that minute, and it felt even slower. The sea of people was difficult to maneuver through, especially in a little group instead of solo.

Mile 1 - 11:52*

* NOTE: Garmin times are likely on average 3 seconds faster than my actual time, given that the Garmin tracked 26.36 miles, with an avg pace of 11:30, whereas my actual average pace was 11:33

Mile 2.5 -- My first sighting of my family! At Mile 2.5, the course passed right by our hotel, and my family -- Mom, husband, and all three kids -- were all there cheering! I got a kiss, handed off my fleece and gloves and kept on running! It was SO awesome to be looking forward to seeing them, and then to actually get to see them cheering me!

Mile 2 - 11:19
Mile 3 - 11:09
Mile 4 - 11:18
Mile 5 - 11:17

Mile 5.0 -- Second family sighting and first sighting of another friend, Tim, who was also there to cheer me on! Wow, what a treat to see them again! Big hugs, high fives, and smiles miles wide.

Mile 6 - 11:01
Mile 7 - 11:06
Mile 8 - 11:17
Mile 9 - 11:15

Miles 0 through 9 were smooth sailing with my little gang of pals. It was delightful to chat with Ted, Amber, and Stephen. The miles were very evenly paced, easy peasey. I knew we were going a bit slower than I'd planned, but I really didn't care. It was acceptable, and it was FUN!

There were only two noticeable hills in the course -- mile 8 and mile 10. I knew they were there, but I wasn't worried as they weren't "real" hills in the mind of this WV runner, and, indeed, they were not significant to me.

I had prepared myself to lose Ted & Stephen sometime around mile 10, as I suspected that they might have enough juice left to speed up for their final 5k, whereas I knew I (and Amber) would need to stay steady and slow to get to our 26.2. Things sort of got wonky during the Mile 10 hill. I kept my steady pace up the hill, but I guess the others slowed down a bit, going more by effort than pace. So, I got a few yards on them by the top of the hill, and then Mile 11 was down hill for a while. It was actually a nice significant downhill, and I was not going to miss the chance to rake up a few "free" seconds by letting gravity do some work, so I allowed myself to accelerate down the hill a bit. I guess somewhere in that hill, I got enough distance on my friends that they let me go, and when I realized that had happened, I was too far ahead to give that time and distance up by waiting for them, so I was solo for the rest of the run.

Mile 10 - 11:21
Mile 11 - 10:43

I hit the play button on the iPod for the first time of the day and carried on.

Miles 11 to 15 were my cruise control miles. I was fresh and energized, enjoying my solitary run which wasn't "old" two hours into the run since the first two hours were so delightfully consumed by visiting with my friends! Now I was going to have a little two to three hour solo run. No trouble. I had tunes! By holding back those first ten miles, I had saved myself nice fresh legs.

Mile 12 - 10:56
Mile 13 - 11:08
Mile 14 - 11:07
Mile 15 - 10:57
Mile 16 - 11:16

I was also looking very forward to seeing my family again at Mile 16. They were supposed to be in a Cheer Zone where they would see me at Mile 16 and again at Mile 23. I had chosen this site for them, knowing those were critical miles, and knowing that seeing them would be very helpful in motivating me through those miles that had been so brutal last time.

The scenery was beautiful with some nice color in the leaves in the park along the river, and that hour between losing my little team and looking forward to seeing my family at Mile 16 was flying by. Having the race broken up into chunks when I'd see my cheer squad was so awesome. It broke the race into five chunks -- mile 0-2.5, 2.5-5, 5-16, 16-23, and then the final 3.2. I knew each chunk was doable, and the only one that really scared me was 16-23, and I had my family there book-ending it to pull me through that one tough hour-ish run. I could do it. I had a plan.

Fuck my plan.

I got to Mile 16. I was looking. And looking. Maybe they are later in the mile. Maybe closer to Mile 17? Fuck. Fuuuuck. No family. They are not here. What about my kisses? And my high fives? And my signs? And? Fuuuuuck. Tears welled. Eyes filled. My feet slowed. I was saaaaddd. The emotional roller coaster had begun. Total mind fuck not having them where I expected them. Total.

Over several miles, I worked to keep my shit together, arguing with myself in my head for the entire miles 16 to 20 or so. I told myself that I couldn't get upset or let the race fall apart, because that would just make my husband feel bad. I knew in my head that something had happened, that he was going crazy trying to get there, and that he'd feel really bad for letting me down. He was corralling our three kids and my mom, which is no small feat, and he was an incredible trooper for everything this weekend and in my running altogether, and in life in general. He is the one. He is my anchor. I couldn't let him down. I had to keep my shit together. Run, run, just run. They might be around any corner . . .

Mile 17 - 11:37
Mile 18 - 11:55

Sometime around Mile 18 or 19, I passed Amber on an out-n-back and realized she was a mile or so behind me at that point.

Mile 19 - 11:24
Mile 20 - 11:57

Yeah, those miles were slow as I argued myself into keeping my shit together. They weren't really hard running wise. It was just mental. Between the mind fuck of not seeing my family at Mile 16 and the apprehension of hitting the infamous wall at Mile 20, I was struggling mentally, and it showed itself in my pace.

Mile 21 - 11:20

Did you know they give out beer on this course? There had been a few earlier beer stations, but I don't even like beer. Somehow, around Mile 21, a beer was sounding good. WTF, I am having fun, I am running well, I made it past Mile 20, and now I was cheering up. I just knew that my family would be there at Mile 23 for me, and I was getting excited to see them. I decided that Mom needed a hug from me, and I was planning for that. So, I had a beer. It was delicious. Mmmm. After having it, I figured that if I fell apart in the final 5 miles, I could always blame the beer. ;)

Mile 22 - 11:33
Mile 23 - 12:09

Yah, baby, my family was there at Mile 23! I got my hugs, and I saw their awesome signs for me, and I was able to tell my husband that it was OK that they weren't there at Mile 16, and all was well with the world. Just a little 5k to go. I knew I could do it now. It was getting hard, and I was getting slow, but I knew now that I was going to do this sucker without walking, and I was really happy about it.

The last few miles were hard, and they were slow, but I was doing it. I was OK with it. A couple miles short of the end, the 5:00 pace group passed me, and I knew I was a minute ahead of them, and I had been tracking my pace closely enough that I already knew that I'd need to pull out a couple miles faster than I could handle to get my 5:00, and I'd already sort-of let it go, but when they passed, I was actually relieved and happy to completely let go of that specific time goal, and just focus on continuing to do the best I could and avoid walking. I was actually 100% fine with it. Strange, but that was how it was.

Mile 24 - 12:25
Mile 25 - 12:33
Mile 26 - 13:02

I had asked Steve to run the last bit with me if he could, as I knew it'd be a huge help to me. Sure enough, he showed up around 3/10 of a mile from the end, and I grabbed his hand and never let it go, making him run every last step with me the rest of that race. I was squeezing so hard that I think I might have bruised him. I could feel that energy coming from him, and not a single one of those steps with him by my side was hard any longer. He was with me. I was OK. I was doing this. All was well with the world!

Mile 26.2 - Final 0.36 miles - 11:22 pace

Family, friends, and hugs. It was all good. Back to the hotel to crash.

That night, we went out for a truly divine dinner at Victor Cafe with Tim, Ted, and Ted's family and it was the perfect ending to a fabulous day.

I'm recovering beautifully, with strong legs, eager heart, and open eyes.

Running = good.

Next up?? Still deciding . . . Got a HM in January, and am thinking about another full in March. Last week I was saying I was done with full marathons, but I guess I am not. I love to run.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Perfect Fifteen Miler

15 miles

7:15 am start, 2:49:11 moving time (11:16 mm avg pace), but nearly 3:30 total time with stops for photos, gabbing with strangers, etc.

Opekiska Dam, south to Prickett's Fort along the Mon River Rail Trail, then onwards on the MC Trail past the tunnel, almost to the end. (About 0.1 miles past the tunnel and 0.15 miles from the end of the trail is where I hit 7.5 miles and turn around.)

Today I did my favorite route for 12 to 15 miles, and I did 15 because: the longer, the better.

I have been intending to take pictures along the route, but I hate stopping when I am running, so I hadn't gotten around to it despite months of thinking about it. Today, I had my new (stupid) smart phone with me, and I was running solo so no one would be irritated by my photograph breaks, and it was a beautiful early morning on my favorite route, so I decided to go ahead and do it!

All the stopping wasn't as bad as I'd have thought. It did slow me up, of course, but that probably helped me stay fresh for the run, as I felt strong, relaxed, and happy for the entire run. It was awesome. What a run!

This first pic was taken about 5 minutes into the run, looking back northwards towards the Opekiska trail head. I love this surface. It is crushed limestone over dirt. Soft enough to be a bit easier on the body, but hard enough and smooth enough to make good time. You have about 5 miles of this surface, and then it is pavement once you get close to Prickett's Fort. So, my 15 miler ends up being 5 miles crushed gravel, then 5 miles pavement, then another five miles crushed gravel.

Sweet Pea is wondering why on earth I keep stopping. This is very unlike you, Mom.

The Mon River is on our right all the way to Prickett's Fort, which is about 5.5 miles from where you park at Opekiska. The route to Prickett's Fort is quite level; it's actually a very gradual uphill since you are heading upriver, which is so counter intuitive since you are heading south, but that's WV for you!

There are a handful of homes along the river here or there. I liked this view of the red boat under the tree, just waiting . . .

The mist rising off the river and the reflections caught my eye.

In the winter, I rarely passed more than one or two other bikers, hikers, or runners on the trail in an entire long morning's run. Today, I passed at least 4 or 5 bikers (or rather, they passed me) and at least two pairs of runners, and several walkers. That was as busy as I've seen it (a cool Saturday morning in the summer, no doubt high season), and it is still nearly deserted. I love this route!

Wow. Pretty. Views like these line most of this route.

That is a fine looking dog! (What the hell are you doing, Mom?)

Damn beautiful river. In the cool early morning, I saw a handful of fishermen in boats all between Prickett's Fort and Opekiska. Must be something biting in there, because there sure are a lot of guys getting up early to get their lines in the water!

Now, that is a view I could live with every day. Sweet. I wouldn't mind having a house along this stretch of the river. Not at all.

A kinda' cool view through a bridge up to a tributary. I love all these old train bridges.

As you run south-ish, the river is to your right, and to your left is mostly heavy forest. I love these woods. In the winter and wet seasons, there are dozens of streams trickling out of the forest towards the river, allowing the dog to have plenty of water stops.

I love this bridge! The trail doesn't cross it, but it sure does look pretty from the trail.

On this route, there is now just one wet stream trickling into the river during the summer. It is just deep enough for a drink, but I have to stop running and walk with him into the woods to get him to drink, because he won't stop to drink if I keep moving! Today, I dug out a deeper spot so that it would make a better drinking hole. He drank a little.

Prickett's Fort. Looks really cool. I need to bring the kids here to actually tour the historic fort one of these days, instead of just running by and using the restrooms! Once you get really close to Prickett's Fort (on to the paved MC Trail), there is a bit more of a hill for a mile or so, then it levels out a bit. This hill is nothing by WV standards, but for non WV runners, or folks who avoid hills (why would you do that? They are so fun!), I guess it counts as a bit of a hill for this mile or so as you come into the park. Ironically, I usually run that mile faster than normal, as the first half of the hilly mile is as I am coming up to the bathroom break, so I am happy to be getting my break! Then, when I come out of the break and head back up the rest of the hilly mile, I am fresh from having had my break. Thus, my uphill mile is oddly fast.

Yes, at Prickett's Fort, there are running water, clean restrooms, and even pop machines! So far, these restrooms have been open every time we've run here, even Christmas Eve Day, Sundays, and all through the winter. (During the winter, the water fountains are turned off, but there is still running water in the sinks in the bathrooms.) It is SO AWESOME. I can't train Sweet Pea to drink out of a sink or water fountain, but he will drink out of streams, and . . . much to my dismay, now that summer has hit and a lot of his streams are dry, he has decided that the toilets are really cool water bowls. I've decided that they are probably cleaner than the creek water, so I let it go.

So, after the restroom break, I refill my water bottles with Gatorade powder from the packet in Sweet Pea's pack and water from the fountain, and then we are back on the trail!

About 1.5 miles past Prickett's Fort is this awesome old train tunnel. It is a quarter mile long, about 60 degrees, and just a little slice of heaven on a hot day. I always run really fast in here even though I don't mean to. I think it's the coolness. I love this!

Just a tiny bit after getting through the tunnel, I hit my 7.5 miles and turn around to head back. I get the tunnel again, yay! There is Sweet Pea, leading me homeward.

Nice view looking north (homeward) at the outlet of the tunnel. There's my dog!

OK, Mom, not this again! Come on already! I love this picture.

After another nice water stop at Prickett's Fort, I get a foot shot of me and Sweet Pea. Note that God makes dogs perfect running machines, but me, not so much. I require $55 socks and $120 shoes and a couple band aids on two toes . . . I really love the whole natural running idea, but I can't face the idea of cutting my mileage so drastically to essentially start all over again minimalist. So, I run in major footwear. But, I run!! That's the important thing.

While I was sitting on a stair refilling my bottles, a lady came up and complimented Sweet Pea. (Of course!) We chatted about packs, dogs, parvo, vets, and whatnot for at least 10 minutes. Taking all those stops to take photos had sort of unleashed my I'm-not-in-a-hurry alter ego. I never do that! It was fun. She was really nice. And, then off we go -- me in my gear, and Sweet Pea just the way God made him (plus the pack I make him carry, lol).

Almost back to Opekiska. Look at that dog go.

Around this time, I saw an older fellow walking his bike heading towards me. Knowing that we're at least a mile and a half from any parking areas, I stopped to make sure all was well, just in case he needed a phone call or even a ride somewhere (as my car was now just about a mile and a half away). He was fine, just taking a break to ease some arthritis pain in his hands, had his own phone and snacks, and was happy to chat for a minute. After that final stop to chat, I trotted onwards to the car.

I was feeling fresh and perky. I was really tempted to add a few more miles on to this run. I was thinking of adding just two more, to make it a 17 miler, since my two previous 17 milers were my two worst runs ever, and I need to break that curse, as, for now, I have a firm rule against planning 17 milers. (16 or 18 are fine, just not 17!) So, I figure the time to break the curse is a day like today.

But, I'd already committed to a 4.5 mile run tomorrow (which has since been cancelled! bummer!), and another short/mid length run Monday, so I would be pushing my limits to do run really long today, too, so I figured the responsible and wise thing to do would be to stop at 15. Besides, my dilly-dallying with the camera and gabbing with strangers had made me run late, and I'd started 15 minutes later than planned, so now it was well after 10:00 and the temperatures were rising to my "hot" zone of 70 degrees, lol. If it had still been in the 60s with the sun still low in the sky, it would have been harder to resist the call of a few more perfect miles. As it was, I called it a day and headed home.

One perfect run.
One amazing dog.
I love to run.
I love my dog.
After a run like this one, I love everyone.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Accidental 15 miler

OK, before I cover today's accidental 15 miler, I should back up.

I am working on a 4 phase plan to earn redemption from my disappointing time in Pittsburgh last month.

Phase 1: Recovery from Marathon #1. 4 weeks. Run < 25 mpw with no long runs over 10-12 miles. Emerge uninjured.

Phase 2: Base Building. 6 weeks. Increase running to 5 days per week (from 3) and get mileage to 40ish mpw regularly.

Phase 3: 18 week Marathon Plan. Exact plan TBD. Considering Pfitz 18/55 or Hal Higdon Intermediate 2. Or some made up mish mash. Whatever it is, I'd like 5 running days and more mileage than my last plan (Hal Higdon Marathon 3, peaking at 35 mpw). I'm thinking 45-50 mpw is reasonable peak mileage, but I don't want to start as slow as the HH plans do, but I am not sure I am really fit enough for Pfitz yet, so I am leaving it up in the air for the time being.

Phase 4: Kick some major ass at the Philly Marathon 11/18/12. (Kicking major ass defined loosely as simply not falling completely apart like I did in Pittsburgh. I chose Philly by googling "cold weather marathon," so I am optimistic for cool weather and fast running.)

Phase 1: Recovery is now complete!
During my 4 recovery weeks, I ran 6 miles the first week (on Day 5), 26 miles week 2, 11.5 miles week 3 (hot & lazy), and 25 week 4. I also did about 2 to 4 hours of cross training each weeks (yoga, cardio machines at a gym, and walking).

Recovery phase was a complete success. Legs feel great. I feel great. Mileage is back to reasonable. I am enjoying running. All is well.

So, recovery phase is now complete.

So, now, on to Phase 2: Base Building.

Today was Day 1 of Phase 2: Base Building.

I had today all to myself because my kids and dh are at Cedar Point riding roller coasters (which I dread, fear, and loathe) and, for the first time ever, all the kids are old enough and enthusiastic enough and tall enough to be proper roller coaster companions for my psychotic husband. Thus, I got to be home instead of at Cedar Point!

I'd planned on a regular 6-9 mile run today and I had made an extra walk date with my friend for later in the afternoon.

So, you ask, how does a 6-9 miler accidentally turn into a 15 miler?

Well, it's a long story. First of all, back story, my beloved mom is having some rather worrisome medical issues. Big problem as she lives alone 200 miles from me and across country from my brother. Anyway, I am stressing about it, and things are coming to a head. (Thanks for prayers if you are the praying kind, or for just good thoughts if you are the thinking kind.)

I had nightmares about it all night (besides, I don't sleep well away from dh and this is the 4th night in a row and that sucks), and after 4 hours of "sleep" (coming off being really exhausted from a 4 day guitar/running/YMCA vacay kind of a thing that I'd been out of town for with my son -- he was doing guitar stuff, and I was doing some guitar stuff with him, and running and cross training the rest of the time), I couldn't go back to sleep at 6:30. Crap!

After dealing with the chickens/goats/dogs/cats routines for the morning and talking to Mom for another half hour, I gave up on getting any more sleep and decided to just run first thing because it was BEAUTIFUL, and I really, really needed to clear my head.

60s, breezy, sunny, moderate humidity. Pretty much perfection compared to the hell that was a week ago (90s, humid).

So, I decided to do 10 miles as my surrogate for Tequila, cigarettes, and Xanax, which really would have been a reasonable alternative given the shit storm going on in my head. But, I'd like to live long enough to do a few more things, and so those options are off the table, but running is legal and good for me, so there you go. My self-medication was 10 miles.

But then, if I'm gonna' do 10, I should do 11 to do my fave out-n-back that has a bathroom/water spot at 5.5 miles. But, I don't like odd numbers, so 20 min later, I'd decided 12 was good. At that point, I grabbed a gel, as >10 miles is my cut off for planning some fueling.

Off my dear Dog and I went for 12 miles. Awesome. Smooth, strong, perfect.

Around mile 9, I began sobbing. (This thing with my mom is brutal.) It was cathartic. It is a quiet trail, and noone was in sight. I just let it go. Very good for the soul, which was what I was hoping for. Within a few minutes, the tears had slowed, but the legs just kept rolling, and I was hitting my mile 9-10 groove. That was when I started thinking of ways to extend the run past 12. I started counting time in my head to figure out how much more I could squeeze into my time frame before my walking date at 1 across town.

I decided that it was stupid to rush back to the house to shower just to get to my walking date in time, so I figured I'd take that spare 35 min to run 3 more miles instead. 15 is not an even number, but it is a nice round number, so I am OK with that. LOL, I am really OCD, if you haven't already guessed. (Not diagnosed OCD, but close enough for horseshoes.)

Anyway, miles 9-12 I tried (really hard) to just go Zen runner and not look at my watch. Curiously enough, those miles were as quick or quicker than the rest of the run. (Avg 11:11 pace entire run.) I cheated a couple times, but managed to go about 2 miles w/o looking and then just looked once or twice a mile. Made for more uneven splits, but still averaged around the same or a touch quicker. Then I passed my car, did another 1.5 to turn around for the extra 3, and then zoomed across town to my walking date.

(My goal for this run and for nearly all my runs this phase is to run easy and comfortable. No speed goal.)

So, that's how I had my accidental 15 miler.

I then drove across town and walked 4 miles (about 75 min) with my friend and her adult son, and my legs feel great. Tired, but no pain. No advil or ice on board yet, but I might go there tonight if anything starts hurting.

I am happy to have a good long run distance back. That's the longest run (by 5 miles) since the marathon, and it felt awesome.

To be totally honest, at the risk of proving once and for all that I really am scary, I am 99% sure that I would have done 20 if I hadn't had my walk date to get to, and if I hadn't been in desperate need to talk to my friend. I was actually very tempted around mile 10-11 to get out the phone and call and cancel the date, but I didn't mostly because I needed to talk to her. Besides, I was out of Gatorade. I love her, and I never cancel our walks, but I would have done it if I hadn't needed to talk to her. I know it would have been stupid, but I still would have done it. I don't know if I would have made 26.2, but I was considering that, too. If I'd decided to do that, I'd have just had to retrace my original route, to re-water, which I could have done since I had a spare gatorade packet. (I always carry a spare of everything: blok, gel, gatorade powder, gatorade liquid.)

One nice thing: this accidental 15 miler finally made use of my "spare" gatorade bottle. I always stash 10-20 oz spare gatorade in the dog's pack more than I expect to reasonably need, just in case. Today I finally used it for those last 2 miles! It pays to be prepared. :)

Happy running, everyone.

ps. If you've still got her, hug your mom today.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

26.2 -- First marathon done!

First Marathon
Sunday, May 6, 2012
Pittsburgh Marathon

Indeed, I did it! 26.2 miles, done!

The short story . . .

I was aiming for 4:45, which I had felt was conservative. That would have been a 10:52 mm pace. I decided to start (and possibly stay with) a 4:45 pace group to avoid the classic beginner's error of starting too fast. As you can see from the 5:21:08 time, my plans went seriously awry.

I was paranoid about the weather, and had been checking forecasts incessantly, as I knew that my worst weakness is running in the heat. Media coverage of the recent catastrophically hot Boston Marathon gave me the willies, as it was (and is) my worst nightmare to run in 90 degrees. The only really truly miserable long run (in which I had to take walking breaks) I've ever had was one 17 miler a couple months ago when it was the first hot run of the year. Mid 70s = a miserable slog.

My favorite running weather is 30s to 40s. I think my performance probably starts to decline over 50 degrees, but it really plummets over 70. Forecasts had consistently told me it should be in the upper 50s at the race start, and hit about 70 by the end. I felt optimistic about that, especially as it was also supposed to be pretty cloudy.

Unfortunately, it was closer to 80 by the end of the race. It was also humid and very, very still, with the tall buildings blocking whatever tiny breezes might have been blowing somewhere in the area. The promised clouds never materialized, so it was 100% full sun the entire race. I was hot within a few miles, and by the second hour, I was sweltering.

I considered the oft-told advice of adjusting your pace to allow for less than ideal conditions, but I did not actually realize that the temperatures were as high as they were (as I'd been checking forecasts up until that morning). Instead, I thought maybe it was my imagination that it was infernally hot, so I discounted the idea that it was "too hot" to keep pace, as my brain kept claiming (contrary to the evidence of my suffering body) that it was still in the 60s! Plus, I had really thought 4:40 was a fair goal for me, so the 4:45 (which I'd chosen because there was no 4:40 pace group) should have been conservative. I thought those extra minutes were enough cushion to make up for a "little" heat. Right?! (Wrong.)

It was hotter than I could handle.

I don't know that I could have done any better even if I had slowed down more at the outset. Maybe, but maybe not. I don't know that I could have handled that heat any better going 30 sec/mile slower or even 1 mm slower. It was just really hot! I SUCK at heat! I'd like to be more versatile, and I will work towards handling the heat better this summer, but my temperature regulation has always been a bit wonky, so I am not confident that I will ever be able to run nearly as well hot as I could cool. I would imagine that as I get better overall, I'll get better in the heat, but I don't imagine ever being very comparable. I just think heat slows me down more than the average bear. Time will tell, I suppose.

The dirty details . . .

Hydration/Fuel Belt

I had decided to use my amphipod airstretch belt with two 10.5 oz bottles and two pouches. I could sip all the time, which is what I am used to, and only need to refill about every 5 miles. I could carry all my gels: 5 nasty clif chocolate gels, plus a pack of yummy strawberry clifbloks as insurance if I was too queasy to eat the gels, which happened once on that nasty hot 17 miler. Plus, of course, I had my inhaler, our hotel key card, some cash, Endurolyte electrolyte capsules, and my peppermint essential oil, and a tube of body glide. I was very happy with the belt, etc. Love that thing. It's the bomb. I think I did fine with fueling & hydration.

I also printed out a pace chart which I taped to my water bottles. I don't know that this is particularly useful, as once I was off by a few minutes, it's not like I'd have the energy to catch back up! My gGrmin was so accurate that I think I'd be just as well off to just rely on it if I don't have a pace group.

The People Who Made This Possible

I wanted to remind myself of some names during the race, and at first had thought I'd write their names on my hand. But, the list became too long for that, so I had decided to put the name of a person for each mile on my pace chart. I chose people who've meant something to me on this journey from couch to marathon. I ended up doubling up some of the miles because there were so many people. It is humbling to recognize how many people have helped me along this journey that had felt, for the most part, like a very solitary and soul-digging experience. 

My family, of course, were critical: my three awe-inspiring kids, my dear, dead dad, my dear, living mom, my wise and inspiring athlete/coach/brother, my ever patient, sexy, and completely perfect husband who is nearly always up for whatever idiocy I propose.

(Someone was chatting with him at some point during the race about, "Why do you run?" and he answered, "Because my wife told me to." Gotta love a man with an IQ higher than 99.9% of the population who is still willing to go along with me in nearly everything. And, he's cute as hell. He cooks, too. And, no, you can't have him. He's taken.)

Anyway, my husband got the first mile and the last 0.2, as I knew the only way I could begin or finish anything important is with him by my side. I knew my family was the bomb, so I had dedicated each of those last miles to one of them, since I knew that was when I'd need someone the most. Thank goodness for that, as you will read later.

Also, the real-life running friends who have shared runs and some firsts and maybe even some lasts with me. Running with someone regularly opens the kind of instant-friendship not found easily outside of dorms and school halls. Perhaps it is the endorphins or the agony, or the need to pee in the dirt in semi-public, but running quickly tears down the boundaries that most of us grown-ups carry most of the rest of the time. Conversations rapidly broach topics that you hadn't talked about outside of a therapist's office in years. I love these women. You know who you are.

And the on-line running friends who listen to me whine and hope and dream incessantly about running stuff -- several of whom, from all over the U.S. and even around the world, had signed up to follow my real-time splits. I first thought of running because of some random mentions of Couch25k on a homeschooling board I use, and then I found a wonderful little group of online friends who were also c25k'ers and then c25k graduates. We share all our little trials and tribulations and victories and agonies. We don't "hide" eachother's newsfeeds because of incessant running talk. There, my endless running prattle is appreciated instead of dreaded. These are the only people I've ever met online who I actually think of as friends. I'd love to have them all over for a party and a trail run around my Double Bonkers Hill Loop. Damn thing is they are all over the world. Anyway, they are special people, and they have been invaluable supports to me in my little journey, and I truly enjoy being coconspirators with them on their own running journeys, too. You know who you are, and you also should know that any one of you who can make it to my little slice of heaven any time is welcome to a guided tour of my Double Bonkers Hill Loop and a cookout at my house, and more running the next day, and more food and fun, any time. I love you all, and I hope to actually meet some of you one day.

And, then the family doctor who, several years ago first suggested I lose a few pounds, maybe by running, as he was a runner and had even run marathons back when he had time. Even though I was only 20 # overweight, he was honest enough to tell me the truth that too many doctors never say: those health issues (high cholesterol mainly for me) might be helped if you lost those few pounds. It took me a couple years to listen, but I did, didn't I, Dr. M? The amazing PT who keeps healing me when I tie my body into knots. Without him, I'd never have gotten to my first HM, let alone my marathon.

The best friend from college days who had a near fatal cardiac arrest in her 20s while running -- just a couple years after her beloved only brother had actually had a fatal cardiac arrest while running -- and who now lives her life in a way that shines light through the fucking internet; she is so brilliant and beautiful. My dear friend who is always ready for a walk before, after, around running, and always encourages me in this devotion to my running thing that is not at all her thing -- who just is the kind of friend who makes my life better every time I see her just by being who she is.

So many people who have held me up, pushed me forward, and held my hand through these months. It is truly awe-inspiring to me that I have found so many beautiful souls to share my life with.

I was doing this damn thing alone, but I really was not really alone. I never am. None of us are.

The few days before

Thursday night, I could not sleep for beans. I had been doing a good job getting good rest for the prior two weeks, but my nerves got the best of me, and I got less than 4 hours of sleep, and had a busy work and kid day Friday. Friday night I slept OK, but not enough to make up for the deficit. So, I went into Saturday (before the Sunday race) dragging a bit.

The Expo

It was a bit overwhelming. I am not a big shopping mall kind of a gal (too many people and too much stuff), but if you like shopping malls, then an Expo is your nirvana, because it is like a shopping mall of 90% running stuff!

I did take the chance to look at some hydration back packs and just browse around. There are great discounts on running shoes! About 15-20% off retail on the newest models, so I was a bit sorry I have two pairs of nearly new shoes! We'd had enough browsing after an hour, and so we headed off to dinner (a boring but reliable meal of mostly carbs at an Olive Garden).

The Hotel

We chose a hotel right by the start. I splurged on it, and I was very glad for the location. It was awesome to be able to stay in our room (and own bathroom!) until 20 min before the start time. The Wyndham Grand wasn't a particularly fancy hotel (which it should be for what you pay for it), but it was acceptable and was a great location. I wish it had a bath tub in our room. And better temperature control -- it was hard to get it cool enough. And a fan in the bathroom. (Really!) Other than that, it was good. Nice bed. Clean. That's all we really needed.

Sleeping & Waking

Saturday night, I slept very poorly. My nerves were shot. I was terrified. I regretted ever deciding to do this thing. I wished I could have had a "do over" and skipped the entire idea. Really, truly. I am not exaggerating. At all.

My sweet husband slept constantly and snored loudly, but his easy slumber was deceptive. He was not sleeping peacefully either; he was having nightmares! Two of which woke me up. Between his nightmares and snoring and my nerves, I didn't sleep that much that night either. Possibly a few hours of very broken slumber.

By the time our alarms went off at 5:30, I was still tired, and now also nauseous. Presumably it was all nerves, but I was actually worried I would vomit. I managed to eat my planned pre-race meal of a banana, a handful of pretzels, and 20 oz of Gatorade. Then I settled in to wait 90 min while dressing, peeing, and otherwise getting ready to go. The 90 min window between last drink and last chance to pee worked great again to prevent any needs to stop on course to pee. I was happy to give the plentiful portapotties a skip.

The Start

Getting to the corral (the last one!) 15 min ahead of gun time was plenty early enough. Finding the 4:45 pacer was easy enough, and folks seemed friendly.

My husband stayed with me until we got to the actual start, so it was nice to be able to be with him all that time. It took nearly 20 minutes to get to the line from our place in the last corral!

He was capable of, and did earn, a much faster time than I could get, so we parted ways at the starting line.

(He got a 4:32:35 which I think is incredible for a first marathon, especially considering how short a time we've been running, and the heat, and that neither of us followed a very aggressive plan. Plus, he had some recent injuries, too. He is a natural! I am so proud of him!!!)

Then, we crossed the starting line!

Miles 0 - 6.2

First 10k.  Official split: 1st 10K in 1:07:36 (10:53 mm pace)

These first 10k were right on pace. Following the pacer was extremely helpful, and I amazed to realize that my Garmin was very close to exactly right with the marked route, which it never has been on other races. That was helpful to know, especially later in the race when I lost the pacer (foreboding music starting now).

I felt pretty good. The pace felt comfortable. I was constantly nervous. I was getting really hot, and I thought about that, but I thought I'd be OK since I believed it would be in the 60s the whole race.

I focused on not running into folks and to keeping with my pacer. The crowds were intense, and I had to pay attention to avoid bonking into folks to keep up with my pacer. I also kept my eyes on the ground and on my feet, as I wanted to make sure I didn't slip and fall on a cup or something similar, as a friend had just slipped on a cup the day before in a half and had to DNF due to it! It made me especially aware of where I was stepping.

Miles 6.2 - 13.1

The next 6.9 miles. Official split: HM in 2:22:19 (10:51 mm pace)

I still felt good. I had anticipated "the big hill" in the 11-12th mile, and I had planned to slow the pace back a bit for that hill, so that I didn't lose my steam. Also, I knew I was already hot. Although I knew that "the big hill" (not really big, folks, get a grip, come visit me in the mountains) is more of a gopher mound compared to my favorite local hills, but I also knew that I didn't want to risk using up even a little extra juice just half way into the longest run of my life. So, I had planned to take it a bit easier than I needed to on the hill. I was trying to be conservative! When we were on the steepest part of the hill, and I dialed back my effort a bit, I realized that I could walk about as fast as I was running, and so I forced myself to go ahead and walk for those few minutes. I knew it made sense, and I soon recaptured my pacer, so I didn't lose time, but I hate to walk during runs, so that was a bit disheartening, as it was the first time I was admitting to myself during the race that I really needed to conserve energy because the heat was impacting me so much that I feared for the rest of the race.

Nonetheless, I made it over the hill, on to the flats, with the pacer, and all was relatively well. I was half way through, over the only big hill, and on pace.

Miles 13.1 - 20

The next 6.9 miles. Official split: 20MI in 3:54:54 (11:45 mm pace so far . . . but that works out to 13:28 mm for those 6.9 miles, so I slowed down by over 2 mm, largely due to a mile or more of walking.)

After the HM mark, I lost the pacer right soon. I am not sure how it happened, and I didn't lose them on purpose. I think I got distracted by water stops, and once I lost sight of the pacer, I didn't want to try to catch her, as I had no idea how far ahead she was. Then I lost hope of keeping that pace anyway, so I just let it go.

I started taking walking breaks around mile 15. At first they were short, a minute or so every half mile or so, then around mile 19, I really started falling apart. I walked for about a mile, right over the 20 mile mark. It was not encouraging.

Around then, I met a lovely fellow who I will call RedShirt since I never learned his name, and he was wearing a red shirt. (No relation to the RedShirt extras in the old Star Treks who are always killed off. My RedShirt is alive and well, so far as I know, and was not disposable, at all.) We had passed each other a few times during each of our run/walking intervals over the preceding miles, and I think he greeted me a couple miles back, and we'd since exchanged friendly greetings whenever we passed each other, joking that "I'll see you soon", whenever we trotted ahead, knowing full well that we'd be stopping again and the other would catch back up, as we were each doing similar irregular and suffering run/walk intervals. These were not the kind of planned run/walk intervals that Galloway fans recommend. No, these were the OhMyGodICan't walk intervals mixed with OhShitIfIDon'tRunItWillNeverFuckingEnd runs. We were sole mates. I think it might have been the first time we spoke when I pointed out that, "We have just 10 miles left! That's just a midweek run!" A couple miles later, I pointed out, "Just 7 miles left! That's a quickie run you squeeze in before work!" I was trying really hard to be positive.

Next time we met, we were both walking, and RedShirt complimented the cheerful colors of my outfit. I was wearing hot pink knee socks ($50+ CEP compression socks gift from my brother, and totally awesome), matching hot pink tech t-shirt, and turquoise compression shorts. And hot pink elastics in my pig tails. No one can say I can't color coordinate. I surely looked a lot better than I felt, and I probably looked like complete shit by that time, but I was quite noticeable anyway. No one would miss me if I were lying dead in the ditch. Anyhow, I told him, "Thanks. I feel like a fucking dying flamingo." Thus, we were bonded over dying fowl and foul weather. Match made in heaven.

I pointed out that with just 10k left, we had time to walk the rest of the way and still finish in under the 6 hour time limit. We were somewhat cheered by this consideration. I also offered that I had $40 cash, and I was pretty sure that would get us a cab back to the finish line. Later, I helpfully pointed out an ambulance that would surely give us a ride, but he said we'd have to fall down first, which we agreed would not be hard to manage. Despite my not-very-helpful suggestions, we soldiered on walking together for a mile or so. We discussed our histories, including his history of running this marathon last year, plus several half marathons, and that he was aiming for sub-4 hours, but the heat was killing him, and he'd been puking intermittently for hours at that point. We cooled a bit as we walked. I am very thankful for RedShirt for his company, and I hope he kicks some major ass at his next marathon.

Miles 20 - 26.2

The final 6.2 miles. Official split: FINISH: 5:21:08 (12:15 mm pace so far . . . that works out to 13:52 mm for the last 6.2 miles, so I slowed down even more, again due mostly to increased walking.)  

Sometime in the 21st mile, I thought I could try running again, and RedShirt said he was ready, too, but he very soon decided his stomach couldn't handle it and had to go back to walking, and I went on ahead, assuring him that I'd surely see him soon. Alas, I never saw RedShirt again, as I managed to keep running for about 3 miles at that point.

Somewhere in that last 6 or 8 miles, some incredibly wonderful man had a bag of ice!! I was SO very, very happy about that ice. I took a double handful, rubbed it on my face, and then stuffed a handful in the front of my bra, right between the girls, and another handful in the back of the bra. The next mile while that ice slowly melted was infinitely better. If you are ever a spectator at a hot marathon, for God's sake, bring bags of ice. It was the best thing that happened to me during the race.

There were also several places the last 10 miles where folks had sprinklers out or hydrants spraying. I soaked down thoroughly at every opportunity. I sloshed several cups of water on my head and back every water stop. My feet were actually sloshing in my shoes by mile 20, and that worried me a bit, but they never did blister badly, so I guess no harm was done. I couldn't NOT get wet. I just had to have the little relief from the heat.

Mile 24 was my oldest daughter's mile, and I was happy to be thinking about my spectacularly amazing girl while I got to hear REM's It's the End of The World as We Know It early in her mile, which just so happens to be my one irresistible speedy song. Despite feeling unbelievably spent, I actually somehow still got a huge jolt from that song, and I ran fast for that half mile, passing loads of folks, and then kept on running for the rest of a mile or so. That was about the end of my energy, though. I pooped out, and started walking.

I walked for much of the end of miles 24 and then the beginning of mile 25. It was depressing, slow, and I felt like a failure. By that point, I really didn't give much of a damn about anything, other than just wishing to God that this was over. I guess my total walking distance then was a bit over a mile during those two miles, but I ran so slowly those last several miles that they were all very slow, even though I was running most of the time. I really wanted to cry many times during those last several miles. I thought about going ahead and letting the tears flow, but I thought that would be discouraging to the many sweet kids in the spectators, and, anyhow, it seemed like one more thing to worry about. I don't think I really decided not to cry, but maybe I was just too tired to cry.

There was a nasty dirt strip along the side of a shady underpass. As I walked by it, I thought about how wonderful it would be to lie down there in that nasty dirt in the shade.

After walking most of my son's mile (25), I figured I really had to pull it out and run some of his mile. It would be wrong to just give up his whole mile. He has a gentle heart like his dad, and a tough mind, also like his dad, and he deserved a mom who would pull her shit together and run, damn it. So, I pulled it out, and I ran the rest of his mile.

Then, my baby girl's mile came next. I had so little left in me, but I knew I wanted to run her mile, because she is all fire, and loves to run herself, and I just needed to run for her. I passed the 1-mile-to-the-end sign, and I started running again. I didn't stop again. So, I did manage to run a lot of my baby's mile, too. More than I thought possible.

My husband had the last 0.2 miles, and thinking of him pulled me to the finish line. And, just thanking God that it was ending pulled me to the finish line.

Finish Line, etc:

Anti-climatic gathering of medal, finding of husband at designated spot, near collapse in gratitude that I didn't have to walk any further than I had already to find him, and a rapid retreat to our thankfully nearby hotel. Washing, resting, then delicious dinner at 17th Street Cafe. (I highly recommend the roasted red pepper soup!) My husband and I are both sore and tired, but we appear uninjured. Recovery period is officially underway.

It was over. It was very hard. It was incredibly hard. It seemed too hard.

But, by late that night, I was googling "cold weather marathon".

And, now, a day later, I think I've found the site of my redemption:

Philadelphia. In November. Bring it on. I'll be back, 26.2. I'm not done with you yet.

Thanks to all who helped me get here. I love each of you.

Love, peace, and happy running, fellow travellers.

Friday, April 6, 2012

I want to run every day.

I'd like to run every day. Every blessed day.
I love to run. I love how it makes my head clear. I love how it makes my body tired. My muscles strong. My confidence bloom.

Post marathon, my next plan will be to add a 4th, then 5th, running day each week. I want the run more often. 3 days a week no longer satisfies me.

I would just love to be able to run every day without getting hurt.

I am finding that I don't have a place anywhere that I can talk about my running aspirations and ideas while fitting in. I am sure other runners feel emotional about running like I do, but I sure don't hear about it much. I feel like a gushy new mom, or a girl in first love. I just want to talk about it all the time, drool about it, plan it . . . and at best, I am boring the socks off of all the innocent bystanders. At worst, I am irritating them or offending them.

So, I've decided to do this gushing over here on my blog from now on instead of anywhere else. I figure that noone needs to read this unless the come here on purpose, so I can say whatever I want. If you don't want to hear it, then, by all means, please go read something else!

40 more hours until my next scheduled run, but I am really not 100% sure I can wait that long. I am really, really tempted to do my week's long run tomorrow instead of waiting until Saturday. But, then I'd just be delaying the inevitable, because then there'd need to be 3 days before the NEXT run, since next (training) week doesn't start until Monday. Damn.

I really need to run. Right now. At least tomorrow. Damn.

And, I have to say . . . I really love vinyasa yoga, especially hot yoga, and especially tonight's class since it was 75 min instead of 60 min. But, really, the yoga mellow still only lasts a couple hours for me. A run mellow, now that'll do me for 24 hours for sure. I need my fix. I want my fix.

I want to run. Every. Damn. Day.