T-Minus 5 days and counting…

24 10 2016


Today is Monday, October 24, and the marathon is Saturday.  I’ve made it through the training without injury and I feel like my body is as ready as it’s going to be.  Short of some core work and stretching, one more strength training session and a couple more little tune-up runs, I’m done.

I remember reading a quote way back in 2009 when I was training for my first 10k and so worried that I’d only run 4 consecutive miles prior to the event.  It said something like “it’s better to be 10% under-trained than 1% over-trained.”  I found that to be true when I rocked that 10k and crossed the finish line feeling like I had just won the Olympic Marathon (despite my poky 13:01 pace).  I feel like the only aspect in which I may be under-trained is cross-training because that is what I have neglected when time ran short.  But I don’t think it will make a difference in my ability to finish.

As you can see from my calendar on the Garmin website:
october-runningsince last posting on the day of my 21 miler, I have run as little as 1.35 miles and as far as 10 long slow miles (along with a whole bunch of dog walking).  I’ve done intervals, slow runs and speed work as well as casual no-specific-strategy runs.  I was going to do a 5k at “average effort” a couple of weeks ago but ambition overcame me and I hauled ass instead.  I ended up with another age group award and a new PR.  The weather was nice and it was a beautiful location.  Sometimes that just spurs you on, and off you go.


So October 2016 will probably be a big month when I look back on it, featuring a 5k PR and my first marathon, but something else pretty awesome also happened.  I’m in the cover photo on the latest newsletter for my running club!  How cool is that?!


However, this trifecta of running “firsts” will only be complete when I cross that 26.2 mile finish line on Saturday.

Hurry up 5 days!  Let’s get this thing done!

More later….

The last and longest Long Run … and I survived!

6 10 2016

21-43I called it a dress rehearsal for the marathon,  a 23-mile very slow run which would approximate conditions for the big day.  Using my house as a bathroom/food stop with water bottles and snacks laid out on the kitchen island, I made a series of “between 3 and 4 mile” routes on MapMyRun with home as the starting point and planned to do seven of them (which added up to 22.85 miles — close enough to 23 for me). Since the marathon is also a series of short loops (as are all the races offered by the Mainly Marathons bunch), I figured it would be a perfect simulation.  I even started at 8:00 a.m. which is the same time (7:00 a.m. Mountain Time) the actual race will begin on October 29.

I learned a lot.

First: even though there will be an extremely plentiful aid station handy at that race, I will still want to carry my own water.  I always do.  I feel naked without that little hand held bottle carrier thingie. When I tried to ditch it yesterday, I missed it.

Second:  the ridiculously expensive sports-bra-with-front-pocket that carries my iPhone is not the best choice for a very long run.  It caused upper back pain after about the first 10 miles.  I often use the PEAR Sports heart-rate based coaching and tracking programs when I run, but I will skip that during the marathon.  There’s just no place to carry that giant phone easily for such a long distance. The armband carriers always slide down and that’s a big pain in the ass.  The waist carrier pouch thing makes me sweat more in the heat.  And I won’t need the phone for music anyway because I have an iPod shuffle (two actually since I once lost one and then found it a year later).

Third:  it’s nice to have actual food instead of just gel packs and such.  The Mainly Marathons races always have real food, so I made small ham and cheese sandwiches with pear slices and cookies for my mock aid station.  As long as I didn’t eat too much, I had plenty of energy and my stomach felt comfortable.

Fourth:  my legs will be fine (although tired sometimes) but my feet could be an issue. I ended up switching shoes about halfway through because the higher heel-to-toe drop in my Brooks Addictions got to be a problem.  It felt like running in high heels.  The Saucony Hurricanes (even though they’re older) will be the official shoe but I will bring my Hokas along too, just in case.  I can probably stash them by the aid station should I feel the need to change to something even flatter.

Fifth:  you can’t exactly rely on the MapMyRun maps to be 100% accurate on the distance you will run as an individual. Even though I thought I would get almost 23 miles done, it came up barely 21 and 1/2 (per my Garmin watch) by the time I got done.  Being a little obsessive, I considered getting back out there just to get in that extra mileage but decided not to.  It was 80 and sunny, I was hot and in pain, and no added benefit would have come from it.

So now the taper begins.  My right Achilles tendon is a little cranky today but it’s nothing I can’t baby along and stretch out as the clock ticks down toward October 29.  I’m scared and thrilled; confident and nervous; ready yet wishing it was already over all at the same time.


More later.

MARATHON TRAINING: Month 3 = making Zefram Cochrane proud

2 10 2016

Like the mythical phoenix rising from its own ashes and Zefram’s ship The Phoenix making the first warp flight — that’s how I would describe September’s training experience.  It started out pretty rough.  My right Achilles tendon was achy.  A lot.  More than achy really.  It was pretty much hurting with every step for a while. Eventually I realized I hadn’t been rotating shoe styles as much as I needed to so I started doing that again and it got better.  But first came a two week slump where my attitude seriously tanked due to the daily pain and nagging thoughts of “how on earth are you going to do 26.2 miles with that pain” bouncing around in my head (along with their companions “you cannot quit again” and “you’d better find a way, girlfriend”).  So I spent the first two weeks of the month doing minimal training mileage every other day and stretching on the days in between.  I even stopped strength training for a while because I was devoting all of my workout time to running and stretching.  I wore my dorsal night splint to bed every night and even changed shoe styles at work.  My workout log looked very un-marathon-traininglike:


But eventually my strategy paid off and the pain regressed to a nagging ache and finally dulled to the level I have lived with so many times.  Just in time for my 20 miler on September 18th.

The Fox Valley 20 miler is part of a trio of 13.1, 20 and 26.2-mile efforts that follow along the Fox River in Geneva, Batavia and St. Charles, IL.  It is a beautiful and scenic race that takes place in the fall around the time people are getting ready for the Chicago marathon and looking for that final 20.  It was my first ever 20 mile race.


Quite honestly, I was scared shitless about it for days.  I’ve never run a 20 mile race before.  I’d never even run 20 miles before.  I’d walked it once in maybe 2008 or so, but I wasn’t a runner yet and so it literally took me like 8 hours that time.  I’d done the half-plus-3 in Madison that qualified for my 16-mile training run but on the weekend I was going to do 18 miles, we got company and I had to abbreviate it to 10 miles instead.  And I’d done precious little in the days since because of the stupid tendon.  The last thing I felt was Ready.  But remembering the old saying that “it’s better to be 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained,” I figured I’d just get out there and do it.

And I did!  Holy moly!  I did!  I ran 20 freaking miles!  Of course, I was slow.  And yes, it was grueling.  I didn’t bring enough to eat and it took me longer than I intended and my feet and legs were screaming at me to stop, but I DID IT.


And feeling like a phoenix rising out of the ashes then turning into Zefrem Cochrane’s Phoenix and blasting into warp speed to soar into the heavens, I realized as I crossed that finish line that would be able to do 6.2 miles more on the day of my marathon.  If I could do 20, then I COULD do 26.2  What a confidence builder!


In the days following, I continued daily stretching, shoe rotating and night splinting but also reinstated regular strength training and the previous routine of tempo and interval runs interspersed with light cardio and walking.  And the Achilles tendon pain stayed at a low but tolerable simmer.


On September 25, I ran the Plainfield Harvest 5k which is a local race on my running club’s circuit.  It was quite the family affair with runners, walkers, parents with strollers and even giant inflatable critters. It was hot that day but I had fun.

So that pretty much closes out the final full month of marathon training.  The race is on October 29 which is now less than a month away.  More cross training, stretching and the usual shorter speedier runs are on tap along with a pair of 10-milers and a 23-mile very slow outing whose only function is to give my legs and feet another chance to feel what it’s like to spend 6 straight hours pounding the pavement.

The 23 miler is coming up on my next day off work, 3 days from today.  I’ll report back afterwards once the taper has begun.

In the meantime, as always
Leonard Nimoy 1931-2015 - Live Long and Prosper!




MARATHON TRAINING: Month 2 = android legs and Klingon innards

21 09 2016

klingonNo, I don’t actually have those but I sure would like them.  Can you imagine?  That 8-chambered heart pumping oxygen through the bloodstream while 2 livers full of glycogen power big strong muscles attached to cybernetic legs that never tire.  I’d have speed, endurance and never another case of tendonitis!  But alas, a mere mortal human am I, and thus plagued by fatigue, overuse injuries and believe it or not unexpectedly broken teeth that throw a wrench in the works of your marathon training.  Just temporarily though.  There’s no way I’m letting anything short of my own death stop me this time.  Like I said before, I’m tired of striving.  It’s time to accomplish and get it behind me.

August started out fairly well.  I’d been having some Achilles trouble so I amped up the stretching/yoga sessions and made sure not to do intervals or other intense cardio two days in a row.  For example, I ran a 5 mile tempo run on Monday, August 1; did weight training the next day; yoga the following day; 40:00 of long intervals followed by abs and stretching Thursday, then more weight training Friday and finally a slow 14 miler on Saturday to finish the week before resting with a yoga day on Sunday.  Pretty balanced, right?  It was going great, and I had planned on passing the next 10 weeks in similar fashion.  Then I broke a molar.  It cracked off below the gum line and since it had already been capped and root-canal’d, it had to go.  So I spent an afternoon in the oral surgeon’s chair on August 10 and was directed to immediately cease all forms of strenuous exercise for the next 7 days in order to prevent excess bleeding, dry socket, and other nightmarish consequences equally abhorrent to a dental phobic fraidy cat like me.

After my unintended week off, I returned to training mid-month and entered the Madison Mini-Marathon, a 13.1 miler, as my “16 mile long run” effort on August 20.  Parking 1.5 miles away from the start/finish line tacked an extra 3 miles on to the total and, considering those as warm up and cool down miles, the outing worked just fine as a long run.  It was a bit of a crazy day though.  I got to the race just as it was starting but, having drunk a lot of coffee that morning, suddenly had this urgent need to poop.  So I headed to the nearest porta-potty as the gun went off and got down to business. I took my time because I thought with a lot of people in the race and a wave start, I could fall in at the back of the pack as usual and not miss a timely start.  Oh golly was I wrong!  By the time I reached the corrals, they were empty.  Everyone was off and running and race officials were frantically waiving me along as they closed the start line.  For the first time ever I was the absolute last runner to officially cross, some 9 minutes after the gun had fired.  Holy cow, was that a shock!  I’ve started close to last.  I’ve even finished dead last.  But I have never had to run to catch up to the pack at the freakin’ start line before!

A nice paramedic on a bicycle followed along with me, amiably chatting me up for almost the first 5 miles, while I ran faster that I ever have before in a half marathon.  There was no way I intended to be the last runner for an entire 13.1 miles.  I managed to catch up with the pack around Mile 5 and then surpass them as the race went on.  Now I generally start out slow and pick up my pace at the end so I am used to passing people in the later miles, but on this day I was so frazzled and desperate that I just ran like hell until I was at least halfway through and secure in the fact that I would be once again ONE OF the last ones but not the ABSOLUTE last runner to finish.

Overall it was a nice race, albeit pretty darn hilly, that featured plenty of amenities and wound through the beautiful college town of Madison, WI on an overcast afternoon.  Once again I tried out my PBJ breakfast before, followed by Accel gel packets and sport beans during the race and was able to feel relatively energized throughout.  I carry my own water bottle in one of those hand held hydration thingies and refill it at water stops, so I have water whenever I need it.  Until I found Accel, I experimented with all kinds of stuff — cut up Clif bars, mini Tootsie rolls, Planters Nut-rition packets— and none worked as well.  I’ve also tried Gu gel before but it’s way too thick and sweet for me.  I still end every race hungry as a bear but at least I don’t have major energy dips during the 3-some-odd hours it takes for me to do a half marathon.

A couple of highlights I will always remember are (1) the Bacon Girl at Mile 10 that I swore was an angel because I had surely died and gone to heaven, and
bacon-stop(2) my final stats because I’d almost PR’d without even realizing it!  My finish time was a mere 30 seconds slower than my very first (and fastest) half-marathon!  I don’t really count as a PR the sub-3:00 I scored in Salt Lake City earlier this summer because that course was entirely downhill.  This would have been an honest new record.  Seriously if I’d known, I would have tried harder.  Oh well, maybe next time.


So that’s it for August.  I finished the month still following the cyclic pattern of yoga – run – lift as I continued to juggle good days/ bad days with the Achilles tendon, never giving up even as it slowed me down some.  And the beat goes on…

Next up:
September and The Fox Valley Fall Final 20 Miler



MARATHON TRAINING: Month 1 = a Cadet Picard I’ll never be

22 08 2016

They say the only Starfleet Academy freshman to place first the Starfleet Marathon was a young Jean-Luc Picard who passed up four seniors in the final stretch, uphill no less, to break the ribbon and win the race.  Starfleet_academy_marathon

That will never happen to me.  But I will run a marathon this year.  Anyone who has read this blog from the beginning can tell you I’ve tried and failed to achieve that goal several times over the last five years, but I’m done trying now and this year I’m going to do it.

My first goal of 2016 was to regain full physical fitness as far as chronic injuries were concerned, then train for and complete a half-marathon uninjured.  I did that in June when I ran the AF Canyon half marathon in Utah.  My next goal was to lose a few pounds over the summer (and I have lost a few, very few) and then continue on as if the AF Canyon half was just another long training run which would culminate with 26.2 in the fall.  And I guess I can say:  So far, so good.

After returning from Salt Lake City, I did take a few days off all exercise and did a lot of yoga and stretching.  Having advanced mileage progressively from 10 at the May 28 Soldier Field race in Chicago up to the 13.1 on June 24, I decided to drop back to 10 again for my fortnightly long run and entered a race of that length: the Waterfall Glen Xtreme 10 on July 9.  It was hot and hilly but actually quite a bit of fun.  I was slow too, which is fine, because it was after all just another training run.  I caught up with the people from my running club, had a beer and some conversation and marvelled at how much I had accomplished that used to seem impossible for me — hills, heat and lack of injuries.  It was good and it inspired my confidence to keep going further.

Me running

Race photo by Judith Warren

A couple more weeks passed filled with tempo runs, speed intervals, slow 6 milers (the “long run” I do on alternate weekends between the every-14-day really long runs) and the requisite strength training, core work and stretching.  I had another half marathon planned for late July (a Kalamazoo entry in the Run Michigan Cheap series) but the weather was extremely hot with a predicted high in the 90s that day, and my husband persuaded me to skip it.  I ran 8.67 miles (two-thirds of a half-marathon) here at home around the neighborhood instead, and quite honestly even that was pretty grueling under the relentless sun and 80 to 85 degree temps that developed over the two-ish hours it took me.  By the last mile, I was looking for shade anywhere I could find it and counting the minutes until I was finished.Untitled

Then on August 6, I did a 14-miler on local streets on a less hot yet still not-terribly-comfortable day and I survived fairly well intact. 14miler

Training has continued, featuring the usual routine as described above, and physically my only worries have come from a recurrent ache near the right Achilles tendon at the outside insertion on the heel bone.  The location strikes me as less of an actual tendonitis but possibly a small amount of bursitis in that area.  It is not debilitating though and I can keep it controlled by doing cardio every other day instead of daily along with taping, wearing a support sock and doing more stretching of the posterior chain than I ordinarily think I have time for.  Like my foot doctor told me two years ago:  “when you train for a marathon, you should expect to have some aches and pains.”  I can live with that much because it isn’t really bad.

The next long-miles outing on my calendar (16 in total) included another half-marathon just this past weekend that I did up in Wisconsin.  But I’ll recap that either in a race report of its own or when I talk about Month 2 of Marathon Training the next time I update the blog.

Until then…. Live Long and Prosper, my friends.



Star Trek: Beyond = Simply The Best = Such Trekkie Bliss

1 08 2016

And that is all.


Photo credit to: moviescut.com


Race Report: AF Canyon Run Against Cancer, American Fork, UT – June 25, 2016

5 07 2016

My sixteenth half-marathon was run and 31st state of the 50-state racing goal achieved on June 25 at the AF Canyon Run half-marathon in American Fork, UT.  And what a great race it was!  (I know I almost always say that, but I really do mean it.)

The AF Canyon Run Against Cancer is actually more than one race.  There is a half-marathon that starts up in the canyon itself at 6:00 am, a 10-k, a 5-k, and a kids’ race which start at various times later and conclude in Art Dye Park where all activities, including the previous day’s packet pickup as well as the post-race festival are held. The event is very family-oriented with great food and entertainment, and something to offer for runners of all distances.

Course Map

The half marathon starts quite a distance up in the canyon at 6:00 in the morning.   Runners are shuttled to the start in the pre-dawn hours after parking in Art Dye Park near the finish line festival site.  For a Central Time based visitor like me, it wasn’t too much of a rude shock but locals had to get up pretty early to board within the 3:45-4:45 window.  Since there is no way to get to the start line without riding one of the big yellow school buses, it is essential to be on time.

sunrise over portapotties

Watching the sun rise above the porta potties is a great way to start the day!

The pre-race area was welcoming, albeit chilly, with plenty of portapotties, a food table with bagels and fruit, large jugs of both sports drink and water, and an emcee conducting generous prize giveaways. The items given ranged from simple running gear and attire all the way up to a brand-new treadmill.  Winners were chosen by “the first one to approach the podium with…” various qualifiers ranging from: youngest runner, person wearing purple shoes, person wearing last year’s shirt, cancer survivor and others.  It was a nice way to pass time in the  interval between bus drop-off and gun time.  There was also a truck for gear transport back to the finish line, so any extras brought along did not have to be discarded.  And they even included the bag to put things in as part of your race packet.

start area.jpg

Like others in the start area, I snapped the obligatory pre-race selfie.

Then at 6:00 the gun went off and the fun began.  The first few miles were a steep downhill where I found myself having to actually slow myself because we were pretty much barreling down the mountainside, and I’d been warned of the hefty price my quads would later pay if not careful descending the hill.  As the sun came up and temperatures rose, everyone began to shed extra layers but all were careful to leave them near aid stations or mile markers so as not to litter the beautiful surroundings.

moon and sun

Sunshine and the Moon–just one of the breathtaking vistas that stopped me in my tracks.

Aid stations were plentiful, starting at about mile 2.5 and again approximately every 2 miles thereafter, and each had an assortment of water as well as sports gel, sports drink, and banana halves.  I had brought my own Accel Gel packets to consume along with some dried cherries in a baggie but ended up not needing all of them because of the banana chunks they gave us.  Along the route, there were also signs with funny, inspirational and poignant messages to keep our brains working along with our bodies.  I took a picture of my shadow too because my giant calves looked even bigger than in real life.  (I know.  Crazy.  But all kinds of stuff goes through your mind when running 13.1 miles.  LOL)

signs and shadows

The race wound along the river and down the mountain and through the inspiring beauty of nature, finally coming out of the canyon at about Mile 7.  We turned into a neighborhood that abutted a golf course and featured a trail which we followed much of the rest of the way.  The generous down hill slope also pretty much leveled off at this point and began to resemble the usual suburban rolling landscape.  I don’t have any pictures from that point on because (1) while pleasant, it was not breathtakingly gorgeous and, (2) the effort to maintain my 3:00 run/1:00 walk regimen after almost two hours of running overtook my desire to snap photos.

Soon the Finish Line was in sight and, PR safely in the books, I crossed the grid with a smile.  In fact, almost all of the pics taken by the course photographer found me smiling.  I just loved it that much.  (I say “almost” because there was one spot where they wanted us to make a funny face and I did.)

finish line

All races having been run, the finish line area was crowded with happy racers and their families enjoying a delicious breakfast of Kneaders Bakery french toast, fruit, yogurt, chocolate milk and juice.  Timekeepers at desks were posted nearby to give you a card with your time printed on it, and to direct any age-group winners to a booth where they could collect their extra bling.  I must say, the French toast was stellar!  This ranks with the pancakes-and-a-beer-truck that greeted me at my first ever half marathon in New Orleans and the delicious barbecued burgers from the Sandhills half in Nebraska as one of my top 3 post-run breakfasts.

post run food.jpg

Ordinarily, I don’t hang around much after a race.  I do my run, maybe eat a little food and then return to the hotel to get on with my day.  But this race was special and I wasn’t ready to stop savoring it yet.  It was my first half in over 14 months.  I’d completed an entire training program from start to finish, and I had no aches or pains whatsoever.  The PR was a gift because of the downhill course, but I was riding that high a little bit too.  Ambling through the crowd, I found a photographer with a backdrop and a bunch of funny signs who had people posing so I went ahead and got in line. fast girls have it.jpgAnd then I headed back to the hotel in American Fork to get ready for my flight back home in a few hours.  Unpacking all of my gear from the race and laying it on the bed, I realized what a tremendous amount of extras we received for this half.  There was the usual shirt and medal, but also a pair of sleeves for the chilly descent down the canyon as well as a Mylar warming blanket, the printed card with stats and the gear check back to carry it all in.  That was impressive.

the best bling ever

But even in the face of a fun and exhilarating race with generous bling and a delicious breakfast surrounded by mountains and greenery, there was more to come.  Several days later when I checked for race results, I made the happy discovery that all the photos taken of us during the race were available for FREE to download and keep for ourselves.  There were 25 photos of me and I got to keep them all without having to pay some exorbitant price!  That was the little “extra” that catapulted this race to the top of my Must Recommend To Everyone I Know List.  So that’s what I’m doing.

Anyone who is looking for a well-organized, abundantly-appointed summer half marathon in a beautiful location, this is it. Take it from me and look no further.  In fact, here is the link to the Runner’s Guide to find out even more.

But just so it doesn’t look like I’ve been paid off to do a good review, there were a couple of drawbacks.  The first is the limited number of runners for the half.  You need to sign up early because they do cap the field at a certain number.  The second was some confusion about the address of Art Dye Park.  It was listed differently in a couple of publications and so I first ended up going to the wrong place for packet pickup.  The third is not race-specific but more of a Utah thing.  I had a hell of a time finding beer in American Fork. But that’s really pretty minor.

So that’s it. The first half marathon of 2016 was awesome, and left me ready to keep running, stay uninjured and get on to the next one.