Now what?

I am still on Cloud Nine from completing the marathon yesterday! I think I’ll be glowing from this for a long time.

Now that September is ending and the four months of very structured marathon training are behind me, it’s time to look at some fall running goals.

This fall, I have three goals:

1. Run the Amica Seattle Half Marathon and best my time from last year. The race is on December 1st, so I have exactly 2 months to train.

2. Run no more than 20 miles a week; aim to average 15 miles a week. There is no reason to exceed 9 mile long runs when training for a half marathon. I’d like to run 3-4 times/week.

3. Run to stay mentally and physically healthy–Beyond work and family life, I have a lot going on this season. I just started a second master’s degree, so I am back in classes. I also have a chorus concert in December. I need to keep my immune system strong!

What are your fall running goals?

 

 

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MARATHON RECAP!

Let me begin by saying that running 26.2 miles is something I never would have ever thought I could do, even one year ago. When I started this blog, running half marathons, and toying with the idea of running a full marathon, I still didn’t believe I would actually run the marathon. When I started training for the marathon four months ago, I entered each week expecting that something would go wrong. An injury, a life complication, sheer exhaustion. Running this marathon was a culminating exercise in proving this negative thoughts WRONG! Because, today, I am a marathoner. And similarly to crossing any threshold requiring a labor of love, from completing a thesis to birthing a child, I stand on the other side a changed person. I am a different runner now… but so much more. With the knowledge that I completed 26.2 miles inside of me, so much more seems possible. If you ever wonder about running a marathon, stop wondering… make it happen. Trust me, if I can do it, you most certainly can.

I ran this race with the same friend that I ran my first half with exactly a year ago (same marathon event). I woke up at 4:30 in the morning to greet her by 5:45 and head to the race start. Meanwhile, Bellingham was beginning to experience the beginning of a wind and rain storm that is poised to set a September record. The wind was howling all throughout the night before the race, rain was beating mercilessly, and branches were falling from trees. So by 6:30 in the morning of race day, conditions were a bit bleak. Thankfully, the starting line was at a tribal school and they opened their huge warm gym to us. There were indoor toilets, and hot beverages. Had my stomach been calmer, I might have enjoyed some coffee!

The first few miles were windy and rainy, but we began after the sunrise, so at least it was not dark. We ran the bay line, and gulls and whitecaps joined the rain in a nice soundscape that I probably would have enjoyed more from inside a warm house… but nevertheless, we ventured on. The first 9 miles we were in relatively good spirits, and the miles passed with ease. My friend chatted with other runners quite a bit, but I felt myself increasingly drawn to focusing ahead rather than to the side. At mile 11/12 we hit a rural out-and-back spit that kicked off a monotonous 5-6 miles in rural flat lands. I was starting to feel tired even then, but I found myself running next to a man easily in his 80’s wearing a Marathon Maniacs shirt. “What number marathon is this?” I asked him. “It’s 434,” he replied with a twinkle in his eye. “Careful,” he warned, “this is quite an addictive pastime.”

After I encountered Father Marathon, I ran a few miles lost in my concentration. At some point in the middle, I planned to change my socks for another pair. It was wet and I wanted to avoid blisters. I got to a tent around Mile 15, and I asked to sit and change my socks. An angel disguised as a race volunteer not only sat me down but actually changed my socks and bandaged the tender parts of my feet. She was so kind. She looked me in the eye and gave me such a needed pep talk, because by Mile 15, I was getting very tired and cold.

Miles 15-18 were the hardest for me. There wasn’t an end in sight, and I started to hit the wall… big time. My running buddy was so supportive and talked me through the wall. In fact, many times during the 5+ hours we ran together, we seemed to have alternating strength to get the other through weakness. I could not have run this marathon alone. At Mile 17, we connected with the half marathon course, and by Mile 18 I was in very familiar territory. I think the last 8 miles were manageable because I had followed those routes so many times on training runs. I was starting to get hungry… very hungry. And the thought of another GU made me wretch. Enter: Marathon angel number two.

A woman was dancing in front of her house cheering us on. She had put (still warm) chocolate oatmeal cookies in plastic bags and hung them from a tree. “Have a cookie!” she yelled. I grabbed that bag and I ran with it, gleefully all the way to Mile 20. That cookie saved my marathon. It was just the right combination of warm, salty, and sugary to give me that extra boost.

They say the real marathon is miles 20-26, and in my case those were not the most difficult, but the most time consuming. I walked more. I was starting to get stiff and cold. At Mile 24, I started to get that lovely GI rumble and cramping, a pain which other long distance runners know all too well. I listened to my music (I listened to none the first 13 miles, but eventually needed some added stimulation), and got through the last two miles of rolling hills. I rounded the bend… and I saw the finish line. The act of actually doing the thing I had imagined all summer in my positive thinking exercises was overwhelming. I couldn’t read the clock because my eyes were already faucets. I saw my best friend running buddy crying on the sidelines waiting for me and I just lost it. I sobbed through that finish line!

My race buddy and I hugged each other and had our cry. Family and friends surrounded us as we waddled to the food/stretching area. I couldn’t get over how tired I was and how happy I was. Accomplishment for something I’ve worked so hard for… this is what it feels like. It feels like rebirth.

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Will I run another marathon? I know I will. And now, I know I can!

Thanks to all my readers for following my marathon training and supporting my journey over the last many months! I look forward to reading about your upcoming adventures in running, and returning back to my regularly scheduled programming 🙂

Tapering is nerve-wracking!

Hello! I am still alive. To tell you the truth, I’ve had to take a little space from running during this tapering time. I put my Runner’s World away, took a little vacation from the blog reading, even held off on the last two chapters of my marathon training guide. Reading about running while not running very much was making me crazy! I am on my final days of tapering, slowly developing a cold (thanks to the start of the school year), hoping it passes quickly, and hydrating like a camel in an oasis. I vacillate between excitement and HOLY SHIT, what am I doing????

My clothes are all laundered and folded in my drawer, waiting for marathon morning.

The GU is purchased. A new Body Glide is ready to be opened.

Rain is predicted for race day. This is a little sad, but I guess I survived a 20 mile run during a downpour, so hopefully this won’t be much worse.

Toenails cut.

Now if this sore throat would just go away, I would feel a little better. The impending threat of a cold is really bugging me. I ran See Jane Run sick last July and decided I am not up for ever doing that again…

Argh, tapering is so difficult and stressful! I ran a 15K the Saturday before last and it did not go well. But then I ran 5 miles the next day and it went a bit better. Two days ago, I went for a trail run and it was really lovely. I was feeling good. I just really hope race day is a good running day.

All right… enough of this worrying. Sunday will be, as my race day running buddy is describing it, the crowning athletic experience of our lives. Or as I prefer to envision it: a 6 mile warmup followed by a 20 mile long run.

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In other news, with temperatures in the 50’s, it’s officially sweater weather in Washington.

Fall is coming!

No big updates; tapering is going well. This Saturday I am running a 15K race, and then running another 15K on Sunday to support the last long run that my running buddy is doing in preparation for her half marathon. The summer is hanging on, so it will be a sunny and warm weekend for running. However… the leaves are changing and… FALL IS COMING!

I am inspired by Stephanie’s recent blog post on Fall. As a fellow adorer of this season, I’d love to take a moment to get excited about it.

 

Whee! Fall! I am excited for:

-Running on a foggy morning.

-Decayed leaves decorating the trails.

-MY FIRST MARATHON.

-Cool temperatures.

-The smell of chimney smoke in the evenings.

-Replenishing my glycogen stores with pumpkin bread and pumpkin ale.

 

 

20 Mile Recap

Yesterday, I had the day off from work and my daughter was at preschool, so I decided to go for my 20 mile run and complete the last long run of marathon training. I ran the two miles from my house to the interurban trail system, and then ran trails all the way to the 10 mile point before turning around to run back. This was a really important experience in many ways. Primarily and obviously, the physical and mental exercise of running 20 miles was solid preparation for the upcoming marathon. My training guide merely suggests two consecutive weeks of 18 mile long runs, but I felt the need to complete one 20 mile run before race day. I am glad I did. I hit highs and lows at different times than I did during a 16 or 18 mile run. The other valuable experience from yesterday’s run was that after a warm and dry summer, there was a complete deluge. It was raining in heavy sheets. The likelihood of some rain on a race day at the end of September is relatively high, so this run… while completely miserable at times due to the weather conditions… prepared me for that possibility.

I approached the distance as 4 blocks of 5 mile intervals. I slowed down every 5 miles to eat GU and drink a Gatorade/water mixture. I averaged 11-minute miles. The hardest point for me was at around 12 miles. It was terribly wet and I was in the thick of the woods with nowhere to go but all the way back home. It was at that point that I conceded and gave myself to the long run. And once I completely capitulated to what was ahead of me, it all somehow eased up. I felt the spirit of the marathon wrap her arms around me and run the rest of the way home, carrying me along. No, I did not consume any mushrooms on my trail run… but I did enjoy this somewhat rare runner’s high-induced visualization. I could actually feel mother marathon’s arms draped around my shoulders (in my head, she looks like Grete Waitz by the way).

Three months ago, my long run was 5 miles. Yesterday I ran 20. I am impressed by what the human body can achieve. I’ve had my ups and downs during training, but I am really happy to be here. I have tons of drops in my jug now. I feel great today and I am thankful that I have not experienced injuries during this training. I credit following a gently progressive training program.

And now, the tapering begins. My mid-week runs will not change this week, but my long run is only 9. My intention for the weeks ahead is to nourish and rest my body for optimal performance on marathon morning.

Week 15: Pass the Kleenex and Chocolate

It’s Tuesday, which means no running tonight, just some fun at Zumba class. I did my first run of Week 15 yesterday–tons of hills. It was a little challenging because I was still a bit sore from the 18-mile run on Saturday. But I made it to the end and I am happy I went. I feel much better today and ready to dance this evening.

I’ve entered the really mushy phase of marathon training. I am oddly emotional about this seemingly interminable time coming to a close. It’s September, the leaves are changing, I can so clearly remember where my thoughts were exactly one year ago as I prepared to run my first half marathon.

I remember seeing this meme around the time I started training for this marathon:

The thing is, I am like a lady in the last weeks of her pregnancy these days. I am simultaneously consumed with the timing of the birth and how it will go down, and mourning the end of this once-in-a-lifetime stage. Training for my very first marathon. I know I’ve slacked with blogging lately, but believe me when I write that these last 15 weeks have been life altering and so very dear to me. I cherish them. I have so much more respect for myself and so much more respect for The Marathon.

See? I told you I was on a nostalgia bender…

To make matters worse, I picked up the book Sole Sisters over the weekend, and I am indulging all of my feelings by reading what is, essentially, Chicken Soup for the Woman Runner’s Soul. Running is such a large part of how I am coming into my own as an adult woman, partner, mother, friend… it is this anchor of my identity now. And the handful of quality friendships I am blessed to be a part of that incorporate running as a shared journey are simply priceless. When two or three women run together, they can accomplish anything. I really believe this. Despite my introverted tendency toward solitude, I am so so very grateful for my running buddies and also just for random women who give me a wave along the trail or get pumped with me before the start of a race. I am looking forward to downshifting my distance a bit this fall and running more often with company. It’s an entirely different and worthwhile experience.

I re-watched the NOVA Marathon Challenge episode. The last time I watched it was right before the half marathon last September. I loved it, but felt disconnected from the story in some ways. This time, I cried a lot. Particularly when the last runners crossed that blue and yellow finish line in the heart of Boston.

Whew, there you are. I am a wreck. However, I intend to kick butt running 20 miles in just a few short days. It’s going to be a great way to end the chapter on these long weeks of training.

18 is a lucky number

I finished week 14 with an 18 mile run, mostly trails, with a friend that is keeping me company for the upcoming marathon. I sit here writing this in disbelief. First, if you would have told me last year that I would run 13 miles without stopping, I would have laughed in your face. If you would have told me I would one day run 18 miles for no medal, I would have walked away. Second, 18 miles was nothing like 16 miles. It wasn’t painful and it wasn’t boring–it was really fun. I enjoyed it immensely! I am sure it was because I had another person with me, but I had that wonderful runner’s high again and again for the first time in awhile. I took the time to stretch and apply both heat and ice therapy to sore spots yesterday, and today I feel really strong. I do not have sharp aches and pains anywhere. The only complaint is some chafing I experienced at the neckline of my sports bra, where I neglectfully forgot to apply body glide (I almost always miss a spot!).

I feel nervous about the marathon, but also prepared. I know that I will need to eat GU about every 5-6 miles. I know hydrating is very important. I know to stop and walk it out or stretch before I get really tired or sore. I can anticipate that I will encounter some walls… but my favorite saying of late is that walls are only as big as you make them.

This upcoming long run will be my last. And I have decided to make it a 20-mile run, even though my book recommends two 18-mile runs. Mentally, I need the experience of hitting 20 before going into this race. During the last long run, I will wear the clothes, down to the bra and socks I plan to wear for the marathon. The fuel belt packed with the exact fuel I will consume. I will load my iPod with the music I will listen to on the marathon, if I decide to listen to some music for some of the miles.

After the last long run, tapering begins. The goal for September is to sleep well, hydrate conscientiously, and eat good complex and rich carbohydrates. This is a time for turning inward, believing in myself, and nourishing my body as the instrument that will accomplish this goal.

I hope everybody is getting in a good run or two this long weekend!