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:


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.




Following the Prime Directive

20 06 2016

Starfleet General Order 1 states: “As the right of each sentient being to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Starfleet personnel may interfere with the normal and healthy development of an alien life and culture. Such interference includes introducing superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely.”

Basically it means you should leave well enough alone.  Sage words on any planet, I’d say.  But when it comes to running, it is a thought process I have often failed to follow.   The normal evolution of training progress and healthy development of greater endurance have been so thwarted by my fantasies of superior knowledge (mine over the coach’s) and strength I didn’t really possess, that I’ve spent part of every one of at least the last 5 years somehow injured. This year I decreed I was done with that cycle and gave myself a Prime Directive: follow a training program from start to finish and deviate from it only to do less when necessary but not more –not ever– no matter how easy and harmless it may seem.

I actually started the year with a flare of the left plantar fasciitis that I’ve battled since 2015 August (the last time I let my brain overload my ass) but decided it could heal while I trained.  Oddly enough, it has just about done so.  A couple of times the chronic right Achilles tendonitis that has long plagued me also became an issue but the days off directed by the training plan allowed that to stay in check as well. With the half-marathon coming up Saturday, only one more training run left and no disabling aches or pains, I will proclaim “so far so good” as of now.

This go-round I’ve been using the PEAR app for heart-rate based coaching and following Matt Fitzgerald’s “New Rules” at the Beginner Level, which I chose not because I’m a beginner but because it had fewer total running days each week.  With its standard tempo runs, long runs, speed play, short intervals, long intervals, mixed intervals and basic foundation runs all based on my heart rate and coached in real time, it was the closest to a live trainer I have ever come (and probably ever will).

Level 1 provides fewer Foundation Runs which Fitzgerald defines as “a steady, moderate-intensity run to build basic aerobic fitness” but my long-time favorite trainers from FIRST/Furman Institute label “junk miles” in their book Run Less Run Faster, a  regimen I’ve previously employed but not faithfully followed because of all the planning and mindfulness it requires.  Honestly if Furman had an app that talked in my ear to tell me “go faster” or “go slower” I would have used it instead, but they don’t so I went with PEAR and have not regretted it.

In addition to following a training schedule with 90% compliance from start to finish, I have also done weekly weight training on a 3-day split and some, but not enough, flexibility work.  Taking the longest Long Run up to almost 12 miles for the first time ever is another necessary step I made sure not to shortcut this time, since I plan to continue training for a full marathon in the fall.  I don’t want Saturday’s half to cause an injury for lack of thorough preparation.  I’ve done 13.1 in the past on as much 10 miles max and as little as 7.5 , but this year I was not taking any chances.

Fitzgerald’s training plan is based on his book “The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition,” which I’ve read at least twice.  I have not adhered to the nutrition portion over the past 16 weeks, but will do so in the next few days until  the race.  As counter-intuitive as it may seem for a runner, I don’t do well with the higher carbohydrate diet he and others espouse. For me, a lifelong carb-sensitive endomorph, a 40/30/30 carbs:protein:fat ratio akin to that of The Zone Diet works best.  I strive for that on most days because it helps me avoid food cravings and thus control my weight better.  Three days of carbo-loading before and some energy gels or chews during a race have gotten me through everything over 10k up to now, so I haven’t considered changing.

Along with training, I enjoyed some races around town over the past few weekends and posted a few highlights below.

MAY 28, 2016 – Soldier Field 10 Miler:
an old favorite that I haven’t done in a few years.  Because it was 10-mile Long Run day on my calendar, I took it very slow and just enjoyed being out there in sweet home Chicago.



June 4, 2016 – Sweetness 8k in Aurora IL:
honored Walter Payton of the Chicago Bears and supported charities sponsored by his family. I WON MY FIRST EVER AGE GROUP AWARD!

sweetness collage

June 11, 2016 – Foodie 5k at the Joliet Speedway:
It was hot as friggin’ hell!  I was slow as hell.  No coincidence, that.

Foodie 5k Collage


June 18, 2016 – Minooka Summerfest 5k:
I WON SECOND IN MY AGE GROUP!  But I didn’t even know until later in the day because I left right after the race to go home and clean the kitchen.  I walked away from an actual trophy to do stupid effing housework.  How crazy is that?!  I’ll never leave a race early again!  Now that I’m in the 60-64 age group, suddenly I’m “fast?”  I LOVE IT!  Little ole 12:00 miler me.  Hahaha!



So that’s it.  I did a 45 minute tempo run this morning and have 25 minutes of speedwork on Wednesday, and then I’m done until the half.  As long as I continue to follow my personal Prime Directive, I believe I will remain uninjured when the miles get longer and training progresses all the way up to that 26.2 in the fall.

Next up:
American Fork Canyon Half Marathon, Salt Lake City, UT – June 25, 2016



Godspeed, Mr. Chekhov

19 06 2016