February Recap

February 2016, with its extra day (wonderful!), produced a solid month of running. I was able to reach a monthly mileage total of exactly 100 miles, and within the month I set a new half marathon record, only to beat it by over 8 minutes at a half marathon race a week later. As I reflect on the month, I am feeling gratitude. First, for my wonderful family members, partner and daughter, who support my running daily by giving me the space and time to lace up my shoes without any grief. Second, and importantly, my treasure of a friend and running buddy, who keeps me company through many a mile and is a constant source of inspiration and positivity. Finally, I am thankful for good health. Some winters are worse than others, but I seem to be making it without much sickness this season (knock on wood). Oh, and I guess I am thankful for novelty ice cream treats. Really thankful for those. Because they are the perfect recovery snack in the evening after I’ve come home from a run.

March is off to a good start, and I hope to spend the month enjoying the changing greenery while continuing to run shorter distances (3-4 miles) very regularly (almost daily). While there is temptation to recapture the glory and run a half marathon or something this month, I need to focus on building strength and endurance as I gear up for the Wenatchee Half Marathon (and accompanying retreat with some lovely ladies) next month.

Things in the near future that bring me joy:

-Daylight Savings Time in a mere week! I’ll have some decent daylight for my evening runs!

-Chicago Marathon lottery opens in a week and a half!

-Leaves are growing back! Blossoms are in full splendor!

That’s all for now. Happy trails!

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2015 Recap

2015 shaped up to be a great year for running. Six months ago, as I was battling the zombie death cold that ended up being a raging Mono infection, I thought I would have to hang up my shoes for quite a while. Luckily, my recovery was speedy, and I was able to enjoy a transformative fall season of running and training. On Thursday, New Year’s Eve, I will run my last race of the year, a trail half marathon. I have no time goals for this race (other than to make sure my butt is in a movie seat in time for a matinee showing of the new Star Wars movie). My goal is to simply enjoy the surroundings—icy streams, numerous evergreens, dustings of snow here and there. This race will bring my 2015 total to three half marathons, about a dozen other races, hard-earned PRs in my 5K and 10K distances, and two months (November and this month) of running more than 100 miles a month. I feel strong, committed, and ready to embrace a year of new running challenges in 2016.

Like many other runners, I am sure, I find myself dusting off the calendar (and debit card), registering for the next many events of the new year, and making my long-term plans. For 2016, I would like to:

-Average 1,000 miles for the year, ideally keeping up my streak and running about 100 miles each month (I am giving myself some leeway, because I know life happens and I can’t always run every day)

-Run a half in 2:10 or less. After achieving a 25:12 5K time and a 56 minute 10K time over the last few months, I feel like my time goal of 2:10 is within the realm of possibility. The goal here will be endurance paired with speed.

-Run a marathon. My marathon training was cut short last summer, but I have set my sights on an early fall marathon, which I hope to begin writing about once I register.

-Keep exploring new routes and trails in my own backyard. This year I learned about so many fun running routes—I think the best runs are the exploratory adventures when you get to play geographer and athlete at the same time. I hope to keep finding more pockets of nature with which to become familiar and traverse many times over.

-Stretch and plank. I do not do either of these things sufficiently, but they will keep me from injury and strengthen my core. I am going to set myself up an outdoor “plank” station on the back patio so that I drop down and do it at the end of my runs before coming inside.

I hope to report back soon on how my last race of the year treats me.

Winter running can be a dark and chilly time, but I keep reflecting on how this is the season when we grow our intricate and complex root systems before we can bloom come spring. Happy trails!

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Marathon Training, Week 2

Tuesday- 3

Thursday- 3

Saturday- 9

Sunday- 3

Total Mileage: 18

Week 2 started off very rocky. I woke up on Sunday morning with terrible ear pain. A visit to urgent care soon revealed a nasty ear infection. I spent the rest of the day laid up on the couch alternating between Vicodin and antibiotics. It was not fun. And, I was really upset about not being able to run.

Monday, I was under the weather, but no longer in pain. I spent the rest of the week taking it gentle and slow with my running. By Saturday, I was up for a long run. Happy to report that 9 miles felt great and that, despite my slow down, I did not lose my endurance.

Aside from running, I have been lifting weights a bit each day and also paying particularly close attention to stretching/exercising my piriformis muscles and IT bands. These are the first things to get stiff when the mileage increases, so I am being as proactive as possible.

I felt so good on Saturday, during and after my run. Glad for the return of my health, but also replenished by the distance itself. I love long runs, because they become as they emerge. The experience is shaped by each mile. It is an accomplishment that only the individual can do and know. I often run the same route on my long runs, and there is this liberty in reaching a certain point along the way, where the woods thicken and civilization falls behind. My spirit is nourished in that space.

Temperatures are cooling down just a bit this week, and I look forward to continuing my training!

Marathon Training, Week 1

I want to write about why I decided to train for and run a second full marathon, but will do so a bit later. I find that keeping a journal of training is really helpful as a motivational tool, so I will just launch into a summary of Week 1.

Saturday-3

Tuesday-3

Wednesday-3

Thursday-5

Saturday-6

Total Mileage: 20 miles

This week was all about recovering from one of the worst colds I can remember, and starting to establish a reliable base for increasing mileage. After hardly running the week before last due to illness, it felt really good to hit the trails/pavement and get sweaty once again. The silver lining of getting sick was that my body got a solid chunk of days to rest. I resumed running feeling really good–joints and muscles are pain-free and going strong.

I am working on feeling more comfortable with a slower mile time. After focusing on speed goals the last few months, it is time to switch back to distance goals. This morning, I ran a 10K race 6 minutes slower than my 10K race last month. Last month, I crossed the finish line and was completely spent. This morning, I crossed the finish line and could have kept running. That is one of the lessons I can remember from two years ago when I trained for my first marathon. Save energy for the end, burn your energy slowly, do not fret about notions of speed.

Since today consisted entirely of road running, I am going to kick Week 2 off tomorrow with a trail run. The plan is to achieve a long run of 10 miles during Week 2.

One thing is for sure–I could not do this without the support of family and friends!

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ma daughter

and now we return to our regularly scheduled program…

I am still deciding what I want to train for this summer… marathon or half marathon. So much depends upon how my body feels in the coming months. Pleasantly, other than a blister beneath a toenail, I did not incur any injuries from the Whidbey Island half marathon. My upcoming distance race is a half marathon in mid-June. Because rates for the Bellingham Bay marathon do not go up until after June 30th, I am going to make the decision about which event I will be running after I complete my next half.

I plan to go for a nice run down to the harbor tonight. According to the weather report, it is supposed to be warmer and sunnier later on in the day. I spent the weekend rehearsing and preparing for a chorus concert on Saturday night, so I did not get any miles in. This weekend, I am running a charity 5K on Saturday morning. On Sunday, I plan to enjoy a long run… aiming for 6 miles.

Here is my tentative long run schedule for the next half marathon:

May 3rd– 6 miles

May 10th– 7 miles

May 17th– 8 miles

May 24th– 9 miles

May 31st– 10 miles

June 7th– 12 miles

[Taper 2 weeks]

June 21st– 13.1 miles [race day]

Once thing I need to be more cognizant of is what type of surface I run on while training. I love trails so much, that I often sacrifice miles on the road in order to spend more time in the woods. I know my upcoming half will present a mix of pavement and trails, as did Whidbey.

Which do you prefer… trails or roads?

Acceptance.

Acceptance.

This is the word that guides my reflection today.

I accept my body and abilities for what they are, today. Not what they were, not what they will be. Today I embrace the present of how I am feeling, from the tips of my toes to the top of my head.

I have been struggling with whether or not to run another full marathon this September. The journey of training for a marathon appeals to me for many reasons—but chiefly that the entire process amounts to a rebirth. There is something about the pure tenacity, the closeness to endurance, the span of so many miles by foot that I crave. I am hungry for it.

But today, I listen to my body. I feel the twinge of IT-Band aggravation as I hit double digits in my long run mileage. I go to yoga and to the pool, I ease off of running, knowing that this Saturday is a race and Sunday is a long run of 12 miles. To run 12 miles, I must be delicate with my body. I must nurture and pamper that pesky area of fascia running down my right hip and leg.

I wonder if I can care for my body and train for a marathon this summer.

I wonder if I can responsibly sustain my running practice in the long term if I take on so much mileage.

Acceptance.

I accept that this is what I am navigating now.

I accept the tenderness as a sign that I am in my own body.

I accept what I will learn and gain by strengthening the muscles and form to prevent the injury.

I accept that distance running is the journey of finding joy through the miles… not about the length of the run.

I approach my own uncertainty with fresh eyes.

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The Best Self

When I am in regular running practice, I feel like I am the best version of myself. I do not mean that I feel that I look “best” or weigh “best” or that my speed is “best.” I mean that I feel mentally and emotionally grounded. I approach my work day with a hop in my step. Problems do not seem insurmountable. I sleep at night.

I am dipping my toe back in distance running… my fondest practice. 10K is in a week and a half, and I am repeating the Whidbey Island Half Marathon this spring. Although the thought of running another marathon, to be honest, made me recoil last year, I find that my heart is appreciatively open to tackling the 26.2 once again in 2015 (perhaps I am a biennial marathoner?).

This current cold and dark season is gifting me generously with opportunities to run. Health (knock on wood) is relatively good–with minimal time spend fighting colds. Running buddies are excellent and just the extra peer motivation I need to keep up my practice. A new headlamp is helping me see much better on night runs. Big, daring race goals are keeping the expectations high and the anticipation humming.

Yes, I enjoy being my best self. Here is to another year of running.

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.