Monday, September 24, 2012

Thirty Miles...

I grumbled as the alarm went off at 330am, but knowing that I would be thankful to have my run done by 1030ish. Bleary-eyed, I made my way down to meet Sara under the pitch black, misty skies.

We quietly said our hellos, I stuffed my pack with nutrition, and off we went. I was about to embark on my very first 30 mile run.

The plan was to do one loop of the half marathon course, Sara would deliver me to the race start, and then I would do a second loop of the course, plus 4 miles at the end. I was in charge of the course map (bad plan), and as such, we ended up doing an extra half mile out and back due to a missed turn. We were chatting, laughing, and both feeling good. We kept the pace conservative, as Sara is 6 months pregnant, and I didn't want to blow up during the second half of the run.

At about mile 8ish, we realized that due to my course mis-calculation, there was no way in hell I was making it to the start line on time. I remained firm that I needed the run to be my top priority, and when I hit the start of the race was really irrelevant. I did fuzzy math and figured I'd only miss the start by a couple minutes, which wasn't the case.

As we were making our way towards mile 13, the racers began to come at us in droves. We did our best to hold pace, and I tried desperately not to get anxious; I needed to remember the big picture goal of the day. I took a deep breath, and simply cheered on all the others coming the other direction.

I hit the start of the course when the race clock read 17:XX, and I was of course, dead last (duh). They had packed up the starting line, but I crossed the mat to make it official (I later found out that there was no "net time", it just calculated your time from the gun start to when you crossed the finish line). This was when I knew I was going to have to really make an effort to not chase the race; picking up the pace at the halfway mark of my run would be nothing short of stupid. I would gain nothing, and potentially ruin my entire day.

After a ton of pity claps, and "you can do it!" from the spectators who were left around the start, I started picking off some of the 10k walkers, and about mile 3, found the last racers of the half marathon. I made it a point not to chase the racers as then came into my view, and only a few times had to consciously pull myself back. I was using Healthy Bites mixed in with Clif Bloks as nutrition, with Gatorade and water. It was working beautifully, and my stomach was the happiest it's been on a run in awhile. I loved having the water stops of the race as support, as I could have them help me remove/put things in my Camelbak. The deeper I got into the run, the more confident I became that I would actually finish this run in a good frame of mine. Thrilled.

I smiled when my watched (the new Garmin, which arrived on Thursday. Woop woop for a DOCUMENTED 30-miler!) flipped past 26.2 miles. I had about a mile to go in the "race", and had found Jessica who was chatting to keep me distracted. My body was tired and achy, but simultaneously felt strong. I started to prepare myself mentally for the finish line, when everyone else would be done for the day, drinking their recovery wine, and I needed to continue on.

The transition from the end of the race to my solo miles was a lot less challenging than I had anticipated. I'm assuming it's because I was in such a good mental place. I cracked up when I crossed the finish line of the half marathon and saw the time on the clock. I grabbed a cup of water, and convinced my legs to keep moving forward. A few strange looks from spectators, and I was on my way to do a little out and back to finish out the day.

From there on, I ran for the 30 on the Garmin. I shuffled up the uphills, and tried not to beat up my quads on the downhills. When my car finally came into view, I tried to "push" to the finish. I'm sure I hit 8:30 pace for a hot second.

And just like that, my first 30 mile training run was complete. Most importantly, I nailed my #1 goal of the day - I finished exhausted, sore, achy, AND in a mentally sound place.

My recovery included a big ass glass of sangria Saturday night for my mom's birthday, and it was awesome.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Picture Post - Years of Running...

There were the early years...

Yep, the ONLY race I've ever won.. 
Boston Marathon, 8 months after having Caitlyn..

Twin Cities Marathon, which is probably one of my most favorite races on the planet..

Then there was my PR marathon in 2009...
God, I was so damn happy.. 
And the year that Sara and I ran Boston on Patriots Day at 6am, before the ACTUAL race. These are the things you must do if you don't qualify for the race itself.

There was the LA Marathon, which was insane amounts of fun..

On of my favorite marathon weekends, hands down
Big Sur, which I couldn't find any pictures of. I don't think that was accidental ;)

And of course, Chicago 2011...

While I might not be breaking any world records, I sure do have an awesome time running. Some of my favorite memories are marathon weekends away, running in new cities/states, with great friends.

Happy Training Friends..

Friday, September 14, 2012

I Took a Vacation Day To Run My Own Marathon...

I'm still working on the design of the finisher medal (note: singular), but I'm thinking it'll strongly resemble a wine bottle.

Please allow me to take you on the journey of my first ever solo training marathon.

I had 24 miles on my schedule this week as my long run. Due to Caitlyn scheduling, I had to do it today. I was leery of the timing as I just completed 24 miles this past Sunday up at Pumpkinman, but had no choice. Then when I was mapping out my route last night I thought "hey - why do 24 tomorrow when I can do the full 26.2?". Logical, no? Doing that would also bring my 7 day total mileage to something that started with an 8, and ends with a 0. I know this is only because of the close proximity of super long runs, but I'll take it; I've never seen that number before!  And with that the route was set, cue card made, and to bed I went!

I got up at the hour of ungodly thirty, and went through the motions. I've struggled with nutrition always, so I'm always changing up blocks/gels/beans/etc hoping I'll find the magic potion. Grabbed a fistful of nutrition, $5, my handheld and headed out.

I repeated "stupid slow" and "let the run come to you" no less than 10 times the first mile. I wanted to make sure I had my legs at the end, and that I didn't start chasing the carrot. I glanced down at my Garmin Timex at the mile 1 mark and thought "man I do stupid slow well, they should give out award for THAT.".

My legs usually decide to join the party around mile 4 or 5, so I was waiting to pick them up around the fire station. Two terrible things happend as I past the fire station: (1) my legs were smoking butts and drinking Octoberfest, and (2) there were no firemen outside. Grump. My stomach was also crampy, but there was no way their could have been anything left in it by this point! I used nature's bathroom anyway, took a gel, and moved on.

I continued my feeble attempts to spin the cobwebs out, and when I got somewhere around mile 13/14ish, I pulled over. I had a come to Jesus speech with myself that went something like this "you've done this distance before. Just because you're alone and it's harder doesn't mean you can give up. No, you can not use that $5 to get a cab home. No, you cannot hitchike home. So whatever it takes, you're finishing this damn run. Doesn't matter if it takes 5 hours". And with that, I stormed off, mad at myself.

It's funny how the negotiations between your mind and body don't only happen during races. There was a lot of "if you can run the next 15 minutes straight without complaining, you can pick up the expensive bottle of wine tonight". "the fire station is only 2 miles away. You don't want to WALK by a fire station, that's just embarrassing". "the really fast runner chick lives around here, and you don't want HER to see you walking do you?". And the reason I was doing this? While my legs were tired as hell, they weren't in pain or feeling awful. It was all in my head (and my stomach); it was damn hilly and damn hard to run this long solo. Plain and simple. And I have GOT to learn how to fight through that. If this were easy, everyone would be doing it.

Once I hit 20, and I was on one of my favorite roads, the demons started to give up the fight. While I was exhausted, both mentally and physically, I knew I was going to finish the run. And I did. The crosswalk in front of my house provides me with the best finish line ever.

There was no fanfare, no spectators,no timing clock or finisher medals. As I stopped my Garmin Timex, a small smile spread across my face. I just ran my first training marathon. It was hard, exhausting, and many times I felt like quitting. Instead, I continued to put one foot in front of the other, and fought for every last mile.

Happy Training!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Marathon Training Through A Friend's Eyes..

Spreadsheets were exchanged, comments were made, emails of "Oh my God how am I going to do this?!?" came through my inbox regularly. I smiled as I replied "you're going to be amazed at what you can accomplish". I am not a coach, just a sounding board to a good friend mapping out training for her first marathon.

Through late June and July, Jess marched up through double digit runs, hitting her PDR (personal distance record) with every long run. I read all of her posts with tears in my eyes, remembering MY very first marathon training cycle. I felt every one of her "OMGs" and "I can't believe I'm doing this!", and lived all of her "but 26.2 miles still seems so far away".

On August 21st, she ran her first 20-miler. I remember the beginning of this post, and getting the chills:

20 milers



...holy crap, we actually hit super-ridiculous double-digits this morning.

We celebrated together, through an exchange of about 74000 emails, texts, and tweets. It brought me back to the day I finished my first 20 miler, and not being able to wipe the smile off my face the entire day. I knew what she was going through, and I was so excited to be able to watch her have a very similar experience.

As she charged towards 22 miles, we exchanged many messages about tips and tricks. The one important  message I relayed to Jess was one that I've chanted so many times during a long run:

"Let the run come to you"

So simple, but sometimes so hard to do. At times we get caught up forcing a long run, and manufacturing it to get it just right. Not wanting to have the slightest of errors, we end up "chasing the run" to no avail. I suggested Jess open her mind, and let the run come to her. And with that, she made her first attempt at 22 miles this morning.

She not only ran her first 22 miler of her life, she demolished it. Her words, not mine. And I am so damn proud.

Having this experience with a friend is something pretty damn incredible. Being able to experience all the "firsts", the heartache, and all of the celebrations is awesome. Being able to share all of the knowledge and lessons learned over the past years, and knowing that it might help someone else is such a rewarding feeling.We've talked fueling, lost toenails, socks, and even bra chafage. We've shared the stories of long run hunger, as well as the frustrations of that run that we couldn't get just right.

In 3.5 weeks, Jess will be toeing the line of the Chicago Marathon, which is a race that I absolutely love. It's really the perfect place to experience her very first 26.2 mile distance, and to say I'm excited would be an understatement.

The last few weeks before your first marathon tests your nerves, anxiety and patience. The amount of emotions you can feel in such a short time is pretty surreal. And before you know it, you're waking up race morning, and standing at a line with 40,000 of your closest friends.

Jess - soak up every moment of this experience; you only get to train for your first marathon once. I'm so damn proud of everything you've accomplished, and I cannot WAIT to see that picture of you crossing the finish line in Chicago.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Tale of Two 20+ milers

And only a week apart.

The month of August was simply crazy. I came painfully close to a 200 mile total for the month, had to do the mom/work/train shuffle, and transition from the end of summer to the beginning of fall in our household (oh wait everyone transitions from summer to fall this time of year? Weird.). And then some personal life strife got thrown in right at the end of the month, just to see if I would wave the white flag. I didn't. And here's proof - Caitlyn and I at a end of summer bonfire.

With that, I take you to last week's 22 miler; I was emotionally fragile, and in no mental state to attempt the distance solo. I begged Lisa for company, knowing full well she'd be giving up a peaceful Saturday morning run for a 3+ hour therapy session. She happily agreed (I know, I'm thankful too!), and what.a.disaster. it turned out to be. When you go into a long run already mentally defeated, it's so damn hard to turn it around when the miles get tough. I was the whiniest runner on Earth by about mile oh, say THREE. Throw is complete breakdown at mile 16 that went something like this: "thats it, I'm going home. I suck at running, I suck at life, I don't want to be here anymore, I'm done with this". Complete with ugly sobs and snot everywhere. You're so jealous you weren't there, aren't you? Long story short(ish), Lisa gave me some tough love, we trudged on, and finished before sunset. I fought hard for every step of that run, and was both physically and mentally exhausted by the end of the run.

Today, I decided to head up to Pumpkinman Triathlon, do my long run, and then cheer my heart out for friends. It was finally cool-ish, with low humidity. I was nervous about both coming off last week, and also the prospect of running the distance solo. I shook out the demons, and prepped my body and mind the best I could. However, as I was leaving the house, I swiped my Garmin off the table and it fell on the floor. Yeah, we've all done it 1000 times, but when I picked it up, I had the white screen of death. Nothing. Nada. Completely dead. Super. I cursed for a few minutes, realizing that I was going to have to use the trusty Timex for an uber long run.  It would be a unicorn run; one that's imaginary because there's not an accompanying Garmin file. Please tell me I'm not the only lunatic that thinks this way?

After some good luck hugs and some "hey, I know you because you're my Facebook/Twitter friend and you're really fast and why aren't you as excited to see me as I am to see you" maneuvers, I hit the road. I just went. There was no use in looking at my watch, other than for fueling purposes. It wasn't going to tell me my pace, my distance, my heart rate, or whether I was the fairest of them all. It was merely a stopwatch. So I just ran. My legs felt decent, breathing came easy, and I felt relaxed. Instead of chasing the run, I just let the run come to me.

Before I knew it, I had hit three hours, and I didn't want to stop running. I can't remember the last time this happened actually on a run over 20 miles, and it felt damn good. I had nowhere to be, no real time restrictions, and I wanted to keep going. So I did. I ran for well up into the 20's, and stopped only when the 2nd and 3rd place men had turned onto the road I was sauntering down. And there was no running in circles just to get the Garmin to flip to a certain number. There was no celebratory fist pump (don't lie, I know you do them too) at the end of the run, or a big sigh of relief that you feel when you hit the finish line of any run. I simply stopped running. I stepped off the course, walked to my car, changed into my flip flops, and got back on the course to cheer. It's a unicorn run, baby.

It's again a reminder that while running is a whole lot of leg power, it's also a whole lot of head and heart. And while today's unicorn run really rocked, I know there was a place for my sucktastic run last week too.

Happy Training!