Week sixteen: Acceptance

Chicago Marathon bib

“I’ve learned that finishing a marathon isn’t just an athletic achievement. It’s a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible.”
-John Hanc

I know this post is late…my last few weeks have been a whirlwind as I finished up my training and actually ran the Chicago marathon. This last week ends with my final long run – 26.2.

This final week the training is taken down a bit, with the speed workout at the beginning of the week and easy runs and cross-training for the remainder so that you are well rested for the big day. Because I had a lot of things to do before my trip to Chicago, my 5 mile workout of 9:30 pace mile repeats were done in pitch black Monday morning. I was nervous about my footing in the dark, but I knew I had to get it done before work. The speed felt good on that cool morning and my legs felt ready for the challenges ahead. This marathon was going to happen and I had finally accepted it. As I slowed down for my cool-down, I think it all finally hit me.

My 4-mile easy last run on Wednesday brought up some emotion as I thought about what was to come. It was about 6:15 AM when I made my way out. I noticed some tightness in my ankles and Achilles. My mind started to wander as my body took over, knowing exactly what to do without needing to think about it. I began to think about the marathon and how amazing it will be to run through the neighborhoods of Chicago. I thought about the challenges of training. Then my mind wandered into challenges I’ve faced in my life. I began to think about people who had hurt me in the past, one in particular who had promised to grow old with me but then discarded me on a whim. I don’t usually think of this person but sometimes my mind tries to resolve things when I am running. I thought about what I had been doing with my life since and realized that no matter where that person was, I would never trade lives with him in a million years. The things I have experienced in the last few years of my life – opportunities to travel to many countries, new friends that I have made, and now being able to run an actual marathon in an amazing city – I felt truly blessed.

Airport at Chicago
At the airport – look at the sign they put up for me!

The night before I left for Chicago I had one more hot yoga session. I hoped the heat from the room would prepare me for what was supposed to be a pretty hot day for a marathon. I needed to feel centered and balanced and I needed to leave my fears and anxieties back at home before I boarded that plane.

Chicago Marathon Expo
The magic of the marathon Expo – did I mention I hate crowds?

It seemed to take forever to get to Chicago – even though I left Friday morning, it was late afternoon by the time I got to the apartment I was staying in. All I wanted to do was get to the Expo, but it seemed everyone I knew had already been there. I felt so tired and rushed, it was hard to enjoy myself, but I did manage to get some cool marathon gear and take some pictures. By the end I was famished, tired and cranky and extremely glad I didn’t have to run the following day. The extra buffer day was key and if I ever travel for a marathon again, I will make sure to include one. This gave me Saturday to have a more relaxing day and make sure I ate properly for the race. I also got to take in a little bit of Chicago. The anticipation of the following day was almost too much to take.

I am going to write a separate post about my thoughts and feelings about the actual marathon, but I will mention now that I accomplished what I set out to do – complete my first marathon. The day itself was challenging for everyone I knew running that race, and I myself did not get my first time goal, or my second for that matter. I did come away with an amazing experience that I did truly enjoy and the notion that I may do another marathon in the future. I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would. It’s almost some strange addiction taking over me – wondering what I should do next. What running goal should I set for the upcoming winter…the spring…the following year? Do I want to spend another summer training or should I take a break? I can’t quite make a solid decision at the moment.

Start of the Chicago Marathon
The excitement at the start of the race! What did I get myself into?

I’ve heard that only 1% of the population has completed a marathon. Looking at how many people were on that course in Chicago it was hard to believe that, but I think it may be true. I am now in that small percentage and that is something that no one can take away.

Chicago Marathon finish
Medal in hand, space blanket around me, feeling accomplished for finishing. Here I am at Buckingham fountain, made famous by the show Married With Children.

 

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Week fifteen: Panic

Firearms photos

“Well, I’m a mushroom cloud-laying motherf#cker, motherf#cker.”
-Samuel L. Jackson in the movie Pulp Fiction

Song Mood: “The Distance” – Cake

I am still sick, this cold really likes to linger.

All of last week I’ve had to deal with a lot. Most of my friends are running this marathon so everyone is in taper-mode. And everyone is cranky as hell, present company included. It didn’t help that I also had my period and had to do my 3AM migraine check every morning. Oh and I started a new job. Great timing.

People have been driving me crazy. Everyone is checking the weather non-stop, saying the marathon will be canceled due to the heat. The weather changes every minute I look at it. It makes it impossible to pack. Everyone is also reminding me that I have to run a marathon soon, which is also not helping. Stronger runners than myself are nervous, which makes me even more panicky. If they are freaking out, what chance do I have? What is this experience going to be for me?

I don’t know what to plan on eating for the last week leading up to the marathon. One source says to eat healthy with plenty of vegetables. Another said to avoid vegetables. Great. Over the weekend, I had slow-cooked a bunch of chicken so I had it on hand during the week, since I’m way too busy to cook. Then I read you are not supposed to eat so much protein. I have almost 1.5 pounds of chicken. I just can’t win lately. All I know is…carbs. Well that I think I can do.

Other than all the random stress and aggregation, this week of training has gone well. I feel strong. My final tempo run felt on point, even with the weather being hot and sticky. My last long run of 8 miles felt really good, even as it started to rain a little. There have been a lot of “lasts” lately as the training winds down. It is both a relief and a panic. Also, I am loving the way my body looks right now. It gives me such joy knowing that all my pants feel a lot looser around my hips and waist and everything is tighter and more stream-lined. I wish I could keep it this way after I’m done training, but I think we all know what will happen…

Twin shirts

 

Lori & I tested out our charity shirts from the American Brain Tumor Association and they worked out quite well. When we went to ask some stranger to take a picture of our matching shirts, he mentioned that his mother had died of a brain tumor. It was a humbling experience – this is really what it’s all about. I’m having some names printed on mine – some friends of mine had love ones taken from this horrible disease. I wanted to carry that with me as I run the 26.2.

At this point there is nothing left to do. I just need to get through my last week of training and make it to Chicago. Then make it through Chicago. Whatever happens, happens, but at least I can say that I did all the work. Other factors aside- weather, mental state, health state – I prepared and trained as best I could.

Just one more long run left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10Ks by the sea: Lone Gull & Salem Road Race

Finish Line Lone Gull

“Together we can face any challenges as deep as the ocean and as high as the sky.”
-Sonia Gandhi

Sometimes cool races come up, but during my marathon training I have really cut back on racing altogether. Since a lot of my friends are from my running club, I hear about fun and exciting races all the time.  Temptation is always around, but I have been trying to stick closely to my marathon plan. However, sometimes races come up that I really don’t want to miss. Sometimes they serve a double purpose in that they happen to fall on weeks where I need to do an easy 6-mile on a Monday. Getting the miles in a day earlier gives me the additional benefit of not forcing a run on a work-day, especially since my commute makes this mileage difficult to accomplish. This is especially true in September, as daylight is running out fast.

I decided to do this race replacement twice in September. Both races  just happen to take place in seaside locations, with wonderful ocean views along the course. The first race was the Salem Road Race, a casually scenic race with an amazing dance party at the end. Food and beer were flowing afterwards (more so the beer), complete with a DJ that loved to talk over all the songs! But they did get some good tunes in and my friends and I stuck around to dance.

I really didn’t want to push it with this race, but it was really hard because two of my friendly competitors just happened to be running this as well. There was a lot of passing each other back and forth and me telling my legs to slow it down. At one point they both appeared along each side of me and as I looked over, I exclaimed “Oh no! It’s the three of us!”

Since this did take the place of my easy run, I decided to focus on the goal of negative splits. I was able to achieve this almost artfully as evidenced by the screen shot below. Even though this wasn’t my best 10K time, I was happy with the result of this race and how great I felt afterwards.

I realized after the fact that I didn’t actually take any photos of the race or the after-party. This one is from the Facebook album:Salem Road RaceThe course mostly looped around some Salem neighborhoods, but there were some nice ocean views as well. I remember turning a corner and suddenly, sail boats! The scenery was pretty, however not as consistently eye-pleasing as the Lone Gull 10K, which took place a few weeks later. I’ve always loved this race – the weather is usually pretty nice since it takes place at the end of September and the course winds around Gloucester mansions and seaside views. It reminded me a little of the Newport race I had done in June.

Lone Gull scenery

The course is definitely not easy, with rolling hills pretty much throughout. I happen to have a horrible cold this day and was very congested. I knew I would have a hard time taking it easy since there were many members of my running club racing. Competition can sometimes get the best of me, even when I feel like death. In fact there were a lot of clubs and groups racing – walking around the parking lot before the race you can see all the club uniforms and group personalities. It kind of felt like high school with all the different cliques walking together.

Lone Gull walk
Something to know if doing the Lone Gull race – the start line is a little bit of a walk through sand to get to, about 10 minutes. Make sure you have time to dump out your sneakers.

I had no goal with this one, I just needed to get the miles in. It was unusually hot and humid for late September and that affected a lot of people’s performance. I was just happy to finish under an hour since I wasn’t feeling 100% and the weather was so unbearable. 59:58. I just made it. Unlike Salem, there were no clean negative splits. My pace was all over the place, going out too fast in the beginning and barely having any real focus towards the middle. I still got to enjoy the views of this race and was glad I could run it. I do wonder how I would have done in better conditions.

Lone Gull running
I think I actually feel worse than I look in this picture. Running while sick is never a good idea, but felt necessary during my marathon training.

After the race, they serve a nice breakfast. It’s a lot more low key than the Salem race, but the food is pretty good and the company even better. Even though I am glad that I mostly stayed away from racing during this marathon training, it felt good to get out a few times. It felt even better getting some running over with during the weekends, freeing up some time during the week. This was especially nice for Lone Gull, which allowed me to get a rest day in that Monday, the day I started my new job. Talk about stress – training for my first marathon, starting a brand new job and being sick on top of everything. Well pretty soon it will be all over – not sure if that thought is helping.

In conclusion, two great races by the sea that should be checked out in the New England area. Different vibes, same ocean.

Week fourteen: The taper

New Legs

“Wake me up when September ends”
-Green Day

I don’t recognize my own legs.

Looking down at them, there seems to be some extra bulges near my knee. I’m pretty sure I haven’t always had these muscles. All I can think when I examine my newly toned areas is, have I done enough?

Now is the time I’ve been looking forward to the most throughout my marathon training. The mileage is going down and my focus is solely on how to make sure I am well enough for this marathon. I thought I would be feeling relief during this taper. Unfortunately, I only feel moody & even more anxious than before.

The week started with a groan as I realized my schedule would be off because of a marketing conference I was attending. Instead of taking a much needed rest day the day after my 20-mile training run, I had to do my 4 mile easy run. It was definitely slow going the first 3-miles as my legs were fairly sore and stiff. I didn’t want to push it too much and risk any injury, so I kept it below my normal pace. But then, Continue reading “Week fourteen: The taper”

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 Continue reading “Week thirteen: Survival”

My training buddy

Perfect Strangers

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

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 Continue reading “My training buddy”

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, Continue reading “Week twelve: Focus”

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”