Week thirteen: Survival

In it for the long run

“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.”
-Emil Zatopek

Song Mood: “The Man” – The Killers

100% humidity.

That is what the weather report said when I woke up Sunday morning for the mother of all the long runs: the 20-miler. I had been pretty lucky this August – the weather has stayed pretty cool for the most part, especially in the morning. The weekends have not been too humid, compared to other summers I can recall. When I saw how nasty it was going to be the weekend of September 16-17th, I couldn’t help but feel it was a bit unfair. This was a big weekend, why couldn’t the weather cooperate!

Because the weather had obeyed for the most part on previous long run days, our start time had been around 7 AM. This served a double purpose of “getting it over with” so we could have some weekend left to enjoy. After feeling how oppressive and miserable the weather was on Saturday at our annual club sponsored race, the time discussed with my training partner kept getting earlier…6:30…6:00.  Yup, time to suck it up.

The sun was not up yet as I drove to our meeting spot. I was pleasantly surprised by how cool the air felt, even though it seemed to surround me like a damp rag. Okay so the conditions were not optimal, but I was determined to get this done and do better than my 18-miler. I had taken a yoga class the night before to keep everything limber but also get into a better frame of mind. I was stressed with the knowledge that I will be starting a new job in a few weeks, but I wanted to leave that where I stood. This run was going to tell me if I can actually finish this marathon strongly instead of falling apart in a weeping mess.

We had a third training buddy who stayed with us for about 9 miles, but then knee problems caused him to fall a little behind us. I was determined to stay with my running partner this time and not hold anyone back. The humidity caused my clothes to hang heavy on my body, my hydration pack felt like a lead weight and I felt like I could drown from breathing in the air, but I pushed through. And when my watch beeped at the 20 mile mark, I realized I had made it. The most I’ve ever run.

The amazing part was I felt okay. My lungs felt like I could keep going, even though my legs and feet were telling me a different story. My glutes had been screaming at me towards the end, making it hard to get any last-minute speed. I was about 10 minutes off from what my training plan wanted me to run, but I didn’t feel as worn out as when I did the 18 miles. Sitting at the bagel place afterwards with all the other long distance runners, I felt tired but not completely dead. I would go on to crash hard later that afternoon, but in that moment I felt like I still had something in the tank to finish out the day. Maybe this marathon training thing isn’t so bad? I may regret this statement later.Long run group

When I got home, all I wanted to do was take a nice long shower. Unfortunately I didn’t have any hot water. I really needed to get clean, so I attempted to wash up splashing ice cold water on my body. I’m not sure if it was the shock of the cold water or just after-effects of not having enough calories in me, but I fell over in the shower. When I got myself out, I wasn’t feeling well. My chest felt tight and I was extremely dizzy. I frantically texted my boyfriend to see if he could help me since I was having trouble figuring out how to let my landlord know about the water. I started feeling a bit emotional, so I laid down on the couch and must have fallen asleep because I was woken up by my boyfriend rushing into my apartment to see if I was okay. Oops. Maybe I had over-reacted with my texts. I swear I am not usually that dramatic. He helped me get something to eat – which I think was really all I needed. I must remember to avoid a sugar crash like this and to eat a proper lunch even if I don’t feel that hungry.

Well anyways, it’s done. It’s time now to taper and keep praying for no injuries. Every time I step off a sidewalk, I hold my breath. I’m constantly looking at the ground for loose objects I could possibly trip over. Before I know it, the day will be here. I think the nerves are just starting.



My training buddy

Perfect Strangers

“And we can build this dream together. Standing strong forever. Nothing’s gonna stop us now”

Running partners. They suffer with you for every miserable mile. They cheer you on when a run is going well. They make that long road less lonely, especially when that road is about 18 or so miles.

This post is for my friend Lori, who I’ve been training with every weekend and some week days too. It’s great to find that special someone, especially when taking on something as big as a full marathon. Our speeds are so similar that people in the running club tend to comment on some “healthy competition” between the two of us. I tend to beat her by a few seconds on some 5K’s, but she is clearly a better distance runner. Our speed similarity made us a good match for our long runs, but there are other things that complement us too. I can get so fixated in the details – I would tell her before the run “Okay if we are supposed to do a 10:40 pace, then at 6 miles we should be at 1 hour 4 min..” and she’ll turn to me and say “Well I’m just gonna run.” Yup sometimes you need to get me out of my own head.

This is her fifth marathon, while this is only my first. Experience alone says she will do better than me. There is a part of me that wants to do as well as her and that small competitive spark is there, I can’t help it. We are following the same training plan, so it’s hard not to compare our runs. But I try to take a step back when it gets too much – she is running her race and I am running mine. We will both get the same medal and the same feeling of accomplishing a major goal.

Track buddies

I had envisioned us starting and finishing this race together, but unfortunately from me she got placed in a higher corral and will be starting the race over a half hour before me. I’m happy for her that she got an earlier start time and would never want her to move back for my own selfish reasons. I had hoped her presence would keep me from going out too fast and furious and killing myself halfway through. She is so grounded and focused when she runs, it’s something I am trying to strive for. In the end, it is probably a good thing that we are not running together, because then I won’t always worried when I fall a step behind or lose focus of why I am there in the first place.

I’m so grateful of all my running friends, who have been there when I get a PR or when I fall and sprain my ankle. They may not be the reason I started running, but they are the reason I continue to do it, week after week. So here’s to all of them, but right now especially to Lori who has to put up with me more than most. You’ve gotten me through this training and without you, I probably wouldn’t be feeling as positive as I do about this race.

Readers – do you have someone that you run with that has helped you with your training or racing?

Week twelve: Focus

“Don’t waste time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.”
-Mary Schmich

The marathon is a month away. It’s hard to believe time has passed so quickly and I’m in the final stretch. Things are becoming so real I want to wrap myself up in bubble wrap just to rid myself of all risk of not being able to run. Every twinge on my body has caused me to pay special attention, worried it’s a sign of something bad to come. The week has gone pretty well, which was a relief after last week. I had some strange new pains in my legs that concerned me and I had visions of waking up and not being able to walk. I decided to go to yoga on Thursday evening and after that, the pains were gone and I was amazed at how great my leg muscles felt. My long run was down to 12 miles, and for the first time I reached the target pace exactly from my marathon training plan.

But I need to keep my focus as it’s easy to go off track. I just recently got a new job that I will be starting in two weeks. It’s exciting, but stressful at the same time – knowing I have to learn a whole new industry and get back into a different routine. It always seems like no matter how much I strive for something new, I’m never fully satisfied in my own career. I’m feeling really positive about this job move though, and I’m really hoping I can stand still for awhile.

Throughout this marathon training, I’ve had to tell myself to focus on myself and my own goals. I listen to what other’s say their marathon times were. I wonder if I can do as well. I read on Facebook what pace people are doing their long runs. I observe people killing it in training and worry I’m not as good. Looking around at others is distracting and only aids in feeling down about myself. People will do better than me, I just have to run my own race. I haven’t quite conquered my own mind yet, but I’m getting close to reeling in my focus. Let’s just hope I can keep everything together as I face the big one in the next week – the 20 mile training run.


Week eleven: WTF

Homer Simpson running

“What the f%ck does WTF mean?”
-Simon Pegg in the movie The World’s End

Song Mood: “Living Dead Girl” – Rob Zombie

What am I doing? I can’t run a marathon.

This is the week where the whole notion seems crazy to me. I was the person in gym class who used to dread the one day we had to run 1.5 miles around a track. And now I’m going to add on almost 25 miles to that? What am I thinking?

I had kind of a rough week. A terrible cold knocked me on my butt, causing me to skip two days of cross-training. I managed to get my running in, but only by breathing through a stuffed-up nose. Besides all that, it was a miserable week at work. Trying to solve a problem with no answer while having my boss raise her voice at me more than once really shakes my confidence. It’s amazing to me how a bad week can affect your training. It seemed to seep into everything I did – from feeling over tired during my hill work out, to wanting to quit during my spin class, and finally my longest run yet – the 18-miler.

My training partner said that some days you have it and some days you don’t. She definitely had it going on that day, pretty much staying on her pace target. I clearly didn’t. When I realized I was struggling at mile 12, I knew something was wrong and everything fell apart from there. Once you have it in your head you are struggling, Continue reading “Week eleven: WTF”

Lost in Park City

“Nations, like stars, are entitled to eclipse. All is well, provided the light returns and the eclipse does not become endless night. Dawn and resurrection are synonymous. The reappearance of the light is the same as the survival of the soul.”
-Victor Hugo

“It’s best not to stare at the sun during an eclipse.”
-Jeff Goldblum

It’s been an amazing week. I got to travel out west to spend some time in Park City, UT and also travel to an extremely scenic national park in Wyoming to see the total solar eclipse. Everything seemed to work out perfectly on my vacation – we got to our destinations on time, the traffic was light and the plane rides uneventful. The eclipse was magical and exceeded all my expectations. However, there was one thing that didn’t go as perfectly as planned  – the 5-mile run that I had to fit into my vacation.

Knowing we would both need to run while we were away, my boyfriend created some routes for us using the Map My Run app. He was able to get a 4.5 mile loop around the resort area for me and I figured I could add a half mile to no problem. The night before, I looked it over and tried to make sense of all the turns and street names. I’m pretty terrible with directions and maps in general, but I liked that it was a loop so I decided to go for it anyway. The sun was out and the air was nice and crisp in Park City, probably due to the elevation. I set out and quickly realized that if I had my phone out while I ran, Continue reading “Lost in Park City”

Week eight: Halfway

Running path

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”
-Theodore Roosevelt

With week 8 over, I realize I am now over the hump for marathon training – I have passed the halfway mark. Eight more weeks and seven more long runs are left (besides that pesky last long run of course). It’s hard to believe where I am at less than two months away. It’s becoming more real, but it’s far enough that the nerves haven’t fully kicked in. Well maybe a little…

With panic not fully setting in yet,  I know that I need to start my mental preparation to try to remain calm as the weeks pass faster than expected. Even though I’ve been working a lot harder than I am used to, I have found moments of zen in my training. There have been times when my cross training didn’t feel hard any more – I was able to keep my cycling pace longer than expected or add more weight to a barbell without even thinking. There were times when I was running just before the sun came up Continue reading “Week eight: Halfway”

Week seven: Adjustments

Monument to British Soldier

“Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war let it begin here.”
-Captain John Parker

I have been sticking pretty strictly to my 16-mile training plan, but following anything completely can be a challenge in itself. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had to change up my long run day for a Tuesday night race which gave me a free Saturday. Since I knew I would be running 10 miles on Tuesday, I decided to use the time to do my speed workout that I would have normally done on Wednesday. I would need a rest day on Wednesday after the race, so I spent my Saturday doing a short 5-mile tempo run. I easily hit my target speed and was feeling pretty good that I decided I would run on Sunday with the easy short run I was going to do on Monday. I did my cross-training on Monday and not running helped save my legs a bit for the race on Tuesday…phew! It all seemed to work out for week six – rest on Wednesday, cross-training on Thursday and Friday and end with 14 miles on Saturday.

Since I had more time allowed for my easy 6-mile run and didn’t need to get to work, I decided to go to one of my favorite places to run – the Battle Road Trail in Minuteman National Park. It’s only 2.25 miles from my house, so on long run days it is possible to get there by foot. But I decided to park at Meriam’s Corner and run to Paul Revere’s capture site and back which would make it just over 6 miles.

Battle Road trail

The park is located in the towns of Concord, Lexington and Lincoln MA, where the start of the Revolutionary war took place. It is amazing Continue reading “Week seven: Adjustments”

Yankee Homecoming 10-mile and the case of the missing playlist

Yankee Homecoming 10-miler

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
-Bob Marley

This past week got a bit confusing since I switched up my 10-mile long run day to run this race on a Tuesday night. The Yankee Homecoming race in Newburyport, MA has apparently been going on since 1960 with varying distances, but now it has settled to a 10-mile course and a 5K course that runners can choose from. As you can imagine for an August race, it has the potential to be a very hot and difficult. This year was no exception, however I feel like it could have been worse weather-wise. It was warm and the sun was shining brightly at the 6:10 PM start, but the humidity was not too bad.

One of the most important things I prepare for a longer distance race is the playlist. I had wanted to use my last 10-mile playlist – the one I made for the Newport race – with just a few tweaks to add some newly acquired songs. Things had been pretty busy lately with work and other obligations I didn’t have time to edit the playlist so I decided to just use it as is. I scrolled through on my phone a few times…oh crap. It was nowhere to be found. I must have not synced that particular list the last time I updated my phone. I was so sick of my other half-marathon lists, I wasn’t sure what to do. I saw one named “15K” and checked the time on it – 1 hour and 45 minutes. Well that should do time wise at least. I cued it up. Shuffle all.

The 10-mile course takes you on a tour of the town of Newburyport, mostly through residential neighborhoods. The residents are all very supportive Continue reading “Yankee Homecoming 10-mile and the case of the missing playlist”

Week six: The push

“Meep meep!”
-The Roadrunner

Song mood: “High” – Young Rising Sons

As I settle into my new routine, the training schedule gets a little easier. I feel like I can push things a little more and I feel myself actually recovering and not just the pain all the time. I took a rest day on Thursday and it felt strange. My body seemed confused and my mind felt guilty that I was not doing anything. I find myself constantly reminding myself that not only are rest days okay, but they are extremely important as well. My body needs to heal.

I definitely needed that rest day. The day before, my training plan called for a 6 mile run. My training partner asked if I wanted to meet her around 6PM at the lake, where our running club has it’s weekly 5K. The plan was to start around 45 min before the actual race and do 2 loops around the course. We were not going to join the race, but figured we would see people we race with on our final loop around. We got a slighter later start because I hit some traffic and my training partner was helping out with registration for the race. We made it around one easy loop and stopped to grab some water at the snack table set up at the finish line. As we went around to make our second loop we saw all the runners lined up for the race. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Continue reading “Week six: The push”

Running with co-workers: Jim Kane Sugar Bowl 5K

Carson Beach

“The best way to appreciate your job is to imagine yourself without one.”
-Oscar Wilde

I don’t love 5K’s.

When I started running more distance races, 5ks became less appealing in general. It feels like pain, pain, pain…then as soon as you start to get into a rhythm, it’s over.

Sometimes they feel just plan pointless.

A few months back, I got an email at work saying our company was organizing a group to run a 5K – the Jim Kane Sugar Bowl 5K. Before my marathon training, I was running a 5K almost every week with my running club. This is no longer the case, as my shorter runs require more mileage. However when I got the email, I thought it couldn’t hurt to throw a fast extra run into the week. I knew I would be deep in marathon training, but I thought it might be a good change to spend some time with co-workers outside of work, at the same time doing something I liked. At past companies I’ve run the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge and it was always a good time, with the run usually followed by  a night out at a bar in downtown Boston.

Tents at Jim Kane 5K
Oh look, it’s the BAA! They had some extremely fast runners on this course.

This race was actually very well run. It took place in South Boston near Carson beach. There was even a pint glass for finishers, which I always like. I was nervous at first since I’m used to having a car at races and I also don’t know Southie too well. I took the subway (the T) from work and packed light so I could take advantage of the free bag check. There wasn’t a lot of communication or information from work on if we would find a place to meet or how we would pick up our bib. Then there was the shirt. They handed me a thick, 100% cotton Hanes beefy tee shirt to wear to promote the company and show we were part of a team. I have no problem wearing a shirt with a company logo, but running in a rough cotton shirt on an evening where it was close to 80 degrees and humid made me a little cranky. I sucked it up and went with it, as many co-workers did.

Teachers Union building
The teacher’s union building was where we had bib pick up. It was nicely air conditioned in there, so I didn’t want to leave.

The course was an out and back on a flat road. It was a fast course where you could definitely PR. I did not do my best. I was deep in week five Continue reading “Running with co-workers: Jim Kane Sugar Bowl 5K”