Marathon: The Final Frontier

17 11 2016

From Star Trek TOS:
“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

FINALLY on October 29, 2016, I ended my five-year mission to explore strange new races, seek out longer distances and boldly run where I’d never gone before.

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In well over 7 hours under a hot and intensely sunny sky in Las Cruces, New Mexico, I finally ran the whole 26.2 and finished with a smile.  Once I tried and failed in 2011.  Twice I trained and got injured in 2013 and 2014.  But at last!  I did it.  And I survived.  Now I can put that obsession to rest.
garmin

I didn’t take many pictures because it was too many hours to carry my phone and I knew the battery wouldn’t last as long as I’d be running.  In fact, my Garmin watch barely held up!  It started giving me the low battery signal during Mile 25 and I kept saying “please, please, please, just hang on 10 more minutes!”  And it did.

Like I said before and as you may already know, the Mainly Marathons group does unconventional no-time-limit races in all 50 states and is frequented by many of the Marathon Maniacs and other clubs who are trying to reach personal geographic milestones as well as run races.  Their events are multiple loops with a central aid station that is very well stocked with food, water, sports drinks and even Coca-Cola.  Each race features a 5k, 10k, half-marathon, full marathon, and 50k ultra all on the same course at the same time. You just follow the guidance given and the markers set out for your race, and you’re good.  In my case, I did twelve passes of a 2-point-something mile distance which started and ended at the aid station.  I collected a rubber band each time and turned in all twelve at the end for my formal finish.  I also stopped, ate cookies and quesadillas, refilled my water bottle and/or used the bathroom pretty much each time too.  It was a unique and well-appointed race in a beautiful setting which I would recommend to anyone.  I will most certainly run with this group again, especially since I have about 20 more states to go before I reach all 50.

I made some friends during the outing too.  I ran into a guy from the Marathon Maniacs that I first met when I did the Hatfield-McCoy half about 3 years ago.  He is from Hawaii and we had both done a race at Pearl Harbor that spring.  He remembered seeing me and mentioned it when we first met.  He was at this race too and it was nice to see him again.little-collage  Through a mutual Facebook friend, I also connected with a girl who was doing the half marathon and we ran together through her whole 13.1 miles.  We are pictured here as she finished the half.  And then I met this crazy looking dead guy too.  LOL!  But what was so surprisingly pleasant for me was meeting all of the various runners with unbelievable accomplishments like the lady who has run 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days or the retirees on their 150-somethingth marathon.  When I heard that you repeatedly pass the same people doing these loops and they like to talk to you, I initially thought “oh no, how am I going to be able to do this” because I usually need my music and my 3:00/1:00 timer to keep me on track.  But honestly, having conversations with this utterly fascinating band of runners was very refreshing and a welcome distraction from the sheer pain of the miles and the relentlessly beating sun.

I am also grateful to have finally developed the common sense to follow a training plan as well. When I decided this would be the year I would actually do that, I was able to achieve this long elusive goal without paying a profound physical price.  I think the best part of the training plan though was the fact that I had been doing fairly long distances every other weekend since Memorial Day, and having two 20-milers calendared in the month before the marathon.  I was able to avoid the dreaded “hitting the wall” until Mile 25 at which point I had very little mileage ahead of me when my body said “Stop now! We can’t go another step!” but I had to force it to go anyway.   The relief was only 1.2 miles away and it was probably the best moment of the year when I crossed that finish line.

finish-line

FINALLY!  26.2 miles – I have conquered you.

So that brings us pretty much up to date with my grand running adventures for 2016. I put a major goal behind me, ran all year without injury, and put 3 more states plus DC on the goal list.  Oh, and I also got a new tattoo on my leg the same day as the marathon.  “It’s never too late to shoot for the stars,” a lyric from a Nickelback song.  Nope, it sure isn’t!

before-and-after

More later.

 





T-Minus 5 days and counting…

24 10 2016

timer

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.

channahon

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?!

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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!

proof-collage

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.

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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.

me-and-my-results

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

1 08 2016

And that is all.

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Photo credit to: moviescut.com