Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Impulse Running Decisions

Race Recovery
I remember thinking during the marathon that I did not see myself doing any more of them.  Truly I had some very negative thoughts floating around in there during pretty much ALL of the second half.  That's two hours worth of negativity!  I couldn't seem to conjure up any of the mental magic my friends had suggested.

Interestingly, though, as with childbirth, the pain is forgotten very quickly.  Within four days, like a fool, I had signed up for my next marathon!  One of my friends in the Running Divas group on Facebook had posted that sign-ups for the 37th Annual Marine Corps Marathon, held on October 28 in Washington, D.C., were opening the next day.  Like a moth to a flame, I was drawn to the idea of an out-of-town marathon in a cooler place and season.  I clicked my way onto the web site and checked out the reviews and the all-important elevation map. Surprisingly, it didn't look too bad.  The reviews were also incredibly positive!  My mind began scheming as to how I might make this work.  "The kids are old enough to enjoy doing a D.C. tour," I reasoned, "and they would definitely benefit academically too."  Right, as if I'm going to feel like walking even one extra step after I finish the race - NOT!  Guess we'd better front-load the sight-seeing.

My next obstacles to overcome were checking with the hubby on the potential for time off work, and trying to see if I could quickly talk anyone else into this insanity.  No one took the bait, but one of the Running Divas was signed up, so I decided I would get to know her some time before the race, and thought maybe we could do a long training run or two together.  Hubby's work thing was iffy, but I still got the green light.

It's a very good thing I made it a point to sign up as soon as registration opened because the race sold out in 2 hours and 41 minutes!  Once I got past all the logistics, I let the reality (of what I had just committed to) sink in: many long, hot Summer training runs, more pressure on myself, more worry about injuries.  Yowsa!  So how many weeks exactly is it until the end of October??

Post-marathon Recovery
I knew that I needed to take it easy so that I could make a full recovery from the marathon.  It was really hard to pass up the chance to run one of the flattest 10Ks around, in which the course is almost exactly where I run every day, and which could have given me that final chance to earn a spot in Corral A for the Peachtree this year.  I knew it would not be wise to run it because my knees were still feeling pretty sore.  Thankfully, reason won out this time, and I passed on it.  I did at least live vicariously through my good friend, Elise, who PR'd on it with a time of 46:48 and got 1st in her AG!  To give you an idea of how fast the runners were, the 3rd place winner in my AG (40-44) came in at 41:49!!!!  Unbelievable!

Today, 2 1/2 weeks after the marathon, I seem to be almost fully recovered.  My war wounds included two massive toe blisters, three purple and black toenails, a pop in my left knee, and some kind of weird knot/bump on the bottom of my left foot at my mid-foot strike.  Luckily, most of these have not slowed me up much.

Upcoming Race
Again, sort of on impulse, I decided to register for the NC Half Marathon coming up this Sunday, March 25, in Charlotte, NC.  I am thrilled with several aspects of this race.  First, I will finally get to meet my super-cool running/blogging/fellow Gator alum/Daily Mile friend, Danielle!  She graciously offered to put me up for the night and to sign up for the race too.  I just can't wait for Saturday to get here!  The other cool aspects of this race are that the course is fairly flat, and that they have the most fabulous moving, blinking finisher medals out there.  Check out the video half way down this page:

Training Plans
My mileage has been so much lower than my pre-marathon weeks.  Even with the marathon and the upcoming half, my March miles will be less than my January or February ones.  That's okay, though.  I should have time to build them back up slowly and to do some speed work.  How do those really fast runners do it??  Will I ever get there?  I'm not sure it's that important to me, but I know I'll still try!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My first ever marathon - DONE!

After checking the forecast for the 15 millionth time (and confirming my worst suspicions for marathon weather conditions), I reluctantly turned off my computer and loaded my bags in the car.  I was meeting two good friends, Elise and Isabel, at noon so we could ride down together to the "metropolis" of Albany (pronounced Aw-BENNY by the locals), Georgia.  I had heard that Albany was one of the flattest marathons around, and so it offered a great course for a newbie like me.

Elise and I, as we collect our bibs and shirts
The ride went quickly as we chatted about all things running.  When we arrived in town, we headed straight to the Hilton Garden Inn to pick up race numbers and browse through the expo.  While I was there, I introduced myself to the pacer for the 8:35 group.  His name was Ryan, and he was from Chattanooga.  His job, as with all pacers, is to keep an even pace throughout the course so that a runner (assuming he or she keeps up) can guarantee a certain finish time.  I was optimistically aiming for a finish of 3:45, and I told him that he was my new best friend!

The rest of the expo was not much to see at all.  We collected some complimentary marathon goodies, checked out our tech tees, and browsed the racks of running apparel.  Ever the optimist, I also went ahead and purchased a "26.2" sticker for my car bumper as a post-race reward.   
Isabel, Elise, and Gail - all smiling and happy to finally be here

 I had to strike a pose in front of this trailer because the hot pink shoes matched my hot pink Brooks PureFlows.  Too bad I wasn't wearing them at the time!  After the expo, we headed to the other side of town and checked into the Best Western.  It was fairly decent, and we immediately started laying out race gear for the morning.  Next we stopped by a Starbucks to have a little brew.  

Before too long, though, we decided it was time to head to Carino's restaurant where we were meeting up with my friend Chris, and his wife, Diana.  Even though we got there early, runners descended upon the place like locusts.  After an hour's wait and several false promises of tables waiting for us, we finally got seated.  Some form of pasta was part of each runner's meal.  Gotta get that final carb. load!

When we returned from our hotel, the weather forecast was still bleak, and a siren even went off that evening while we were watching the weather.  There was nothing left to do but try to get a decent night's sleep.  Although I tossed and turned a bit, I actually did sleep for most of the night.

At 4:30, the alarm rang and we started consuming our last meal before the race, along with coffee (tea for me).  By 5:45, we were dressed, with lotion and Glide stick liberally applied to all possible chafing spots, and were heading for the race start.  Elise, Isabel, and Diana were running the half marathon, and just Chris and I were running the full.  We wished each other well as we headed toward our respective start places.

Fifteen minutes before the start, amid light drizzle, we spotted several streaks of lightning and heard the accompanying thunder.  At that moment, I felt sure the race was going to be called off.  To my surprise, though, everyone continued lining up.  I saw Chris up ahead in the line-up and wished him well.  Then I found Ryan, my pacer, and met the others in my 3:45 pace group.  They mostly consisted of super-tall, super-young FSU students who were all hyped up and cracking jokes.  One of them was 6'7" if he was an inch!  When the start gun went off, it caught me by surprise, and I lunged forward to begin the race.

For the first two miles, I felt really good except for the puddles I had to keep dodging.  Before long, there were too many to dodge and I resigned myself to the fact that I had four hours before me to run in wet shoes.  I carried a disposable water bottle with me to ensure I was at least properly hydrated for the first ten miles or so.  We were a little packed in, so it was hard for me to stay right with Ryan.  The college kids were hurdling over traffic cones just for fun.  It made me tired just watching them.

At about the fifth mile, the tornado sirens started going off.  None of us were too pleased about that.  We took a brief, nervous glance around the sky and determined there was not a twister in the immediate vicinity.  Therefore, we saw there was nothing to do but head forward.

I felt pretty good through mile eight, but after I sucked down my first Accel gel and swished it down with water, I was disappointed to note that I felt a little more tired than I thought I should be.  It was a bit disconcerting to consider how many more miles I had left to go.  I also noted that my feet were already well shriveled and my toes were hurting a little.  As we passed mile ten, I became even more tired and out of breath.

Finally, a little before mile 13, I knew I had to make an adjustment in order to finish the race.  Reluctantly, I watched Ryan get slowly farther and farther ahead of me.  I told myself that I needed to just keep a comfortable pace, and that I would still be able to stay ahead of the 3:55 pace group.

Unfortunately, even my newly-adjusted pace became too fast for me after mile 16.  I couldn't believe that I was feeling this tired this early in the race.  I had done two 20 mile training runs, and had never felt anywhere near this tired at mile 16, or even after finishing the full 20.

I sucked down one more gel and did a whole lot of walking over the next 4 miles.  I swigged down Gatorade at every station.  My spirits were pretty low, and I sure wasn't loving the thought of how much longer I would be pushing forward before I reached the end.

By mile 20, I sort of rallied a bit, and started to negotiate with myself.  I figured that if I could sort of keep somewhere near a 9 1/2 minute/mile pace, I could still have a respectable time.  Doing any complex math was way beyond me by then.

I would run for 3/4 of a mile and then let myself have a short walk break.  Every time I passed people cheering, though, I felt a little guilty for walking, so I tried to make an extra effort to run a bit.  The crowd really did help.  I passed lots of families sitting in their front yards, clapping, waving, and holding up signs, even though it was raining.  Many times I would pass another runner, and then he or she would pass me back as I stopped to walk.  I wanted to talk with them and make a friend, but honestly, I was too tired even to make an effort.  At about mile 22, even the 3:55 pace group passed me.  It was hard to watch them float by, and know that I could not even catch them.  My quads ached terribly, and my feet were miserable.

By mile 24, I let myself believe I was going to somehow make it to the end, and I thought I might even break the 4 hour mark.  I told myself I could run all of 2.2 measly miles.  However, I even had to take one last short walk break with only 3/4 of a mile to go.  I just plain didn't care.  The wind had picked up and the rain was again coming down in buckets for those last 2 or 3 miles.

I managed to sort of fake a smile for the camera as I strolled into the train station.  There might have been a few tears mixed in with that rain, but I was immensely relieved to know the end was so close.  I can see in this photo that my form had deteriorated badly.  At least I still look like I am doing something sort of resembling a run!

The weather truly mirrored my mood at that point.  Here's how it looked and felt that whole morning:

I came around the last corner and eyed the finish line just ahead.  My heart sank, but only a tiny bit, when I saw that the clock read 4-something instead of 3-something.  However, I was happy when I spotted Chris smiling at me beside the finish line, and felt a great relief that I was done with the race.

A very sweet elderly gentleman wrapped his arms around me right after I crossed over the line and gave me the best hug ever!  He then escorted me to the medical tent where I allowed myself to get a couple of minutes of TLC before coming out of the dream state.  Then I went to see if I could still sign up for a massage.  As I sat there waiting, I could feel my legs and lower back truly ache like they never have before. Then it dawned on me that I needed to find my friends.  I couldn't remember where we were supposed to meet.  Finally I remembered that I was going to meet them at the awards ceremony for the half marathon.  However, I had no idea where that was, nor did I have the energy to walk around looking.

Eventually, because I started to get very chilly, I forced myself to stand, and then I staggered forward in search of them.  After limping around aimlessly for several minutes, I began to cry.  I didn't know what to do or where to go, and I began getting colder and colder.  At some point, I found my way to the meeting place, but found that the awards were already done.  At that point, I really started sobbing.  Luckily, my friends were nearby and heard me.  My sobs then turned into cries of relief!

I was so happy when we finally reached the car, and I could take off my sopping wet shoes and socks, change clothes, swallow down some Advil, and scarf down a Marathon bar.  I inspected my toes and confirmed my suspicions.  I had a huge blister on my right big toe, and I had four toenails that were purple.  It was not a pretty sight.  I think I might suffer my first toenail casualty some time in the next couple weeks.

We headed for Waffle House on our way out of town.  I had two eggs and a whole plate-sized waffle which I smothered in butter and syrup.  After burning over 2700 calories that morning, my appetite was really strong!

Today, I am still stiff and sore, but it's not too bad, and I think I will recover nicely.  Although I can't say that I'm dying to do another marathon right now, I wouldn't count out another marathon some time in the future.  It was a huge accomplishment, and it's something I will never forget.  The training was really fun, challenging, and good for me.  I have met so many wonderful fellow runners who have become good friends.  Running gives me peace of mind and keeps me grounded when life gets nutty.  I wouldn't trade this experience for the world!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Monthly Recap & Goals - February

Another month of running, another chance to review and project.

February Highlights:
  • Total miles run: 146 miles
  • Total number of workouts: 18
  • Longest training run: 20.2 miles in 3:15:03 (9:40 pace) on Feb. 12
  • Fastest training run: 6.1 miles in 47:36 (7:49 pace) on Feb. 14 - a personal best
  • Ran Berry Half Marathon in 1:45:54 (8:05 pace) on Feb. 18 - a new PR
February was a bit different from January in a few ways.  I ran a few less miles and took a few more rest days, partly in preparation for, and subsequent to, the Berry Half Marathon.  The two days before the race really helped re-charge my engine and set me up for success during the race.  I highly recommend it!  Because I ran a bit harder than I expected to, I felt I needed a bit more rest time afterward too.  Then, at the end of the month, I caught a cold and took a fall, which hampered another couple of the planned runs.  That, plus needing to rest before the upcoming marathon, has kept me benched more than I thought I would be.

Marathon training has gone very well, with just a couple of exceptions.  First, having the half marathon only two weeks before the marathon was not ideal.  The half took a slight toll on my knees.  I really regret having not done more of my PT lately, and I'm vowing to get back to it after the race like I have done this past week.  Second, the cold and the fall not only took training time away, but also left me with a bit less confidence.  I know I will just go out there on marathon day and do my best, but in the last few days, I've become increasingly nervous about my knees, about my will power, about the stormy weather and wind expected, about the extra-warm temperatures, and about the possibility that I might fall again.  I'm worse than an expectant mother!

Goals review:
  1. Run the Berry Half Marathon on Feb. 18 in under 2 hours.  If I am lucky, I hope to break 1:52.  Well, I guess I knocked this one out of the water - yay!
  2. Plan to run a race every month in 2012.  So far, I'm 2 for 2, with March's race coming up.
  3. Complete my first marathon.  In 2 short days I should be able to cross this one off!
  4. Get a 10K time of 47:59 some time in 2012 so I can be up with the big boys in Corral A for the 2013 Peachtree.  I'll need to wait until later in the year for this one, although my half marathon was only 7 measly seconds off the needed time.  Oh well...
  5. Stay healthy and injury-free.  I'm in a little bit of danger with this one.  I have a feeling my knees are going to need a lot of TLC after the marathon.  I intend to give them all I can.
I know that during the marathon I will think of every single person who means a lot to me and who has inspired me in my running pursuits.  It is a blessing to be encouraged by many friends and fellow runners.  It's good to be understood and accepted no matter how things go.  It is powerful to rest in the knowledge that I will have undertaken the hardest thing I think I have ever attempted in my life.  All of these emotions will be swirling around in my head.

Now I continue to rest and wait.  As soon as I am able, I will post marathon photos and stories!